Tony Greenstein | 23 October 2011 | Post Views:

Cecile Surasky – 4th in Poll for Jewish Heroes is Removed – Rabbi Manis Friedman who Advocates the Murder of Palestinian Children is Legitimate

You couldn’t make it up. The Jewish Federation of North America, controlled of course by Zionist functionaries, allows Cecile Surasky of Jewish Voices for Peace, a Jewish organisation in the Bay Area of San Francisco, to stand in a poll for Jewish Heroes.

When they are alerted to the fact that, god forbid, Surasky supports a peace which doesn’t involve dispossession of the indigenous people and worse opposes racism inside and outside Israel, then her candidacy is pulled. Number 4 at the time she simply disappears in the best Orwellian traditions

Cecile Surasky, who was probably as surprised as anyone that she was allowed to stand in the first place, has achieved far more than she could ever have imagined. She has thrown the spotlight on the undemocratic, secretive and dishonest nature of Zionist politics and how they operate. The idea that the Jewish communities these self-elected functionaries purportedly serve, could be allowed to exercise their own judgement obviously was an idea too far.

But if Surasky was deemed ineligible then the same cannot be said for one Rabbi Manis Friedman, who in 2009 unburdened himself to The Moment. In an unguarded moment this cuddly Rabbi well known for bringing Bob Dylan into the Lubavitch fold, let slip that he would like the Palestinians – men, women and children – treated like Amalek of old. He would like to see them slaughtered.

So we have a situation whereby a Jewish Peace Campaigner is debarred from standing, nay even pulled whilst the vote is going on, but a Jewish Nazi is perfecly entitled to continue standing.
Need one say more?

Tony Greenstein

Tablet Magazine
JFNA would honor several unsavory folks, if they pass political litmus test
By Allison Hoffman|October 12, 2011

Three years ago, in the midst of a large-scale rebranding and efforts to get hip with Facebook, the Jewish Federations of North America launched a national online campaign to solicit nominations for a new Jewish Community Hero award, which came with a $25,000 cash prize and a shout-out at the annual Federation convention. As one of the 2009 semifinalists enthused, “This project has only winners.”

Well, that was then. Last week, just before Yom Kippur, the organization quietly removed one of the top ten vote-getters, Cecilie Surasky, the deputy director of the provocative Bay Area group Jewish Voice for Peace, from the ranks of eligible competitors. Federation spokesman Joe Berkofsky told JTA that Surasky was deemed ineligible because of her group’s support for the Israel boycott, sanctions and divestment movement (BDS), which Federation has invested heavily in countering. JVP countered that Federation changed its eligibility rules specifically to disqualify Surasky—and pointed out that the leader board currently includes Manis Friedman at number four, and that Friedman, a Chabad rabbi from Minnesota, made news in 2009 when, in response to a question about how Jews should treat Arabs, he told Moment:

I don’t believe in Western morality, i.e., don’t kill civilians or children, don’t destroy holy sites, don’t fight during holiday seasons, don’t bomb cemeteries, don’t shoot until they shoot first because it is immoral. The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle). The first Israeli prime minister who declares that he will follow the Old Testament will finally bring peace to the Middle East.

At the time, Friedman walked his comments back, saying they were “irresponsible.” His nomination statement doesn’t mention the brouhaha, focusing instead on a blurb Bob Dylan gave Friedman’s 1990 book on kosher sex, Doesn’t Anyone Blush Anymore?

Meanwhile, JVP is getting its own kind of award: a concrete example of the Jewish Establishment’s willingness to upset the apple cart when it comes to left-wing groups but not right-wing ones.

Here’s the thing: we all know that Americans generally, and Jews specifically, are splintering into ever-smaller interest and affinity groups. Instead of finding a way to make the case to younger, unaffiliated Jews for sustaining a single umbrella group that can claim to represent the broad interests of American Jewry, whatever they may be, Federation has instead, and with the best of intentions, succeeded in building a terrific soapbox ready for exploitation by the best-mobilized voices out there, however marginal or objectionable they may be to the vast majority of their fellow Jews.

Just look at the current top vote-getter in the volunteer category: Leah Rubashkin, who happens to be the wife of Sholom Rubashkin, who is currently serving a 27-year federal prison term for financial fraud in the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking scandal. Rubashkin has become a cause célèbre among Orthodox Lubavitchers, who believe he was unfairly sentenced, and it seems his wife’s nomination is entirely about getting some mainstream publicity: her brief nomination statement says she is a hero for staying positive through her husband’s incarceration, and adds that “we pray with Leah for the day when she will truly rejoice alongside her husband Reb Sholom Mordechai.”
This is not a way to increase Federation’s relevance to mainstream, maybe-observant Jews under 50—the people who the Facebook contest were presumably supposed to attract in the first place. Worse, it demeans the very real and very important accomplishments of other nominees, like Randy Gold, an Atlanta father who began advocating for more thorough genetic screening of Jewish couples after his daughter was born with a preventable genetic disorder. But, never mind, Federation has an app for that, too: the final winners won’t be picked by open online voting, but by a panel of judges that includes Tablet Magazine contributor Mayim Bialik and sister-of-Facebook Randi Zuckerberg.

What does Chabad Rabbi Manis Friedman have that I don’t have? Is it the beard? The religious authority? Or is it the record of advocating for the killing of Arab women, men and children? Why does he get to stay on the Jewish Federation’s much promoted Jewish Heroes competition list, while I was unceremoniously deleted- without explanation- this morning, less than 24 hours after a story about my nomination appeared in JWeekly, the Bay Area Jewish paper.

Friedman and I have been running in the top ten for Jewish communal professionals for weeks. And though he’s a rabbi and I’m not, I was nominated by a young rabbinic student sincere in his commitment to a Jewish future. Heck, I even once helped raise thousand of dollars for the Fed after going on a mission to Israel– and my uncle was once a 6-figure fundraiser for the Federation and board member. But my nomination represents hundreds if not thousands of Jews in communities across the US who are heroically working to make equality between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis a reality.

Which is, presumably, why it was nixed and my organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, made subject to a modern day form of Jewish banishment. This despite the competition’s tagline: “We honor those making strides to repair the world.” (Picture at left: my nomination page now says Page Not Found and is blank. Here is the cached version-what it used to look like before today. [this has also disappeared! – TG] And I’m off the leaderboard completely.)

But what about Friedman, who still remains riding high at number 4 on the leaderboard? [in fact number 3 now! TG]

While he has written a lot about love, and famously brought Bob Dylan to Chabad–which gives him hipster points–that’s not what Friedman is most famous for. When asked by Moment Magazine a few years ago, “How Should Jews Treat Their Arab Neighbors?”, this was Friedman’s response as reported in the Forward:

“The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle),” Friedman wrote in response to the question posed by Moment Magazine for its “Ask the Rabbis” feature.

Friedman argued that if Israel followed this wisdom, there would be “no civilian casualties, no children in the line of fire, no false sense of righteousness, in fact, no war.”

“I don’t believe in Western morality,” he wrote. “Living by Torah values will make us a light unto the nations who suffer defeat because of a disastrous morality of human invention.”

Yes, Arab men, women and children don’t even rank as civilians. After a firestorm of criticism, he gave a half-hearted apology which the people who know him well didn’t find compelling.

So, what exactly are we to conclude about Jewish Federation values? There are numerous examples of policing on the left (banning groups like JVP and other human rights organizations) while remaining wide open to supporters of illegal settlements and even groups that arm settlers and giving standing ovations to the most right-wing and destructive Prime Minister in Israeli history. Though they do not openly advocate settlements, declared illegal by international law and considered by many to be the number one barrier to peace, they have defacto historically been one of the great supporters of the settlement project.

But something else is true here- groups like JVP are fully committed to nonviolence. Not so for Friedman and supporters of offensive Israeli militarism. And so when nonviolent Jewish activists are violently attacked by other Jews, (attacks on Palestinians are daily occurrences) whether in Anatot- or the Jewish Federation General Assembly – or in Congress – or at a community meeting – and communal Jewish professionals remain silent, this silence speaks volumes. The same can be true here. What does it say that nonviolent leftists are being shunned and banished?

When I look back on the wise and amazing work of JVP members over the decades- everything we said came true. We said the occupation must end, the settlements must stop, all citizens must be treated fairly- that otherwise there would be more bloodshed and that Israel would become a pariah. It doesn’t feel good to be right, not one bit. But the knee-jerk and policing response by much of the institutional Jewish world has already been shown to be wrong. And self-destructive.

My family has a tradition of Hasidic rabbis who didn’t look or likely think that differently from Rabbi Friedman. But my parents’ generation and certainly my generation has changed in our thinking and values to embrace a more universalist view of humanity while still being committed to Jewish continuity. That generational change is being repeated literally millions of times over all over the world. Look at this amazing video of young Jewish adults and their statement of values and identity. You’re looking at the future.

Disappearing JVP’s/my nomination is the perfect metaphor for an older generation’s fearful attempt to disappear an entire generation. Their children and certainly grandchildren are increasingly embracing the values of equality, going to the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem to see for themselves the horror wrought by the illegal occupation and a dream built in many ways on the backs of Palestinians.

But we can’t be so easily disappeared with the click of a mouse. Not by a long-shot. And frankly-speaking as someone who cares deeply about a Jewish future– the Federation should be thankful for that.

There is real irony that this happened on erev Yom Kippur. It is traditionally a day when even non-religious Jews seek forgiveness, from Gd or from people in our lives who we have wronged. What a way to begin a day of introspection.

Cecilie Surasky, [email protected]
Deputy Director
Jewish Voice for Peace

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Tony Greenstein

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