The Center for Jewish History is currently showing an exhibit dedicated to the life and work of Raphael Lemkin. If his name isn’t quite familiar to you, rest assured, you’re not alone. In any event, you certainly know the one word that’s become synonymous with him: genocide. In 1943, Lemkin invented the term. And in 1951, he saw to it that the United Nations make it a punishable crime.
In a world of rather frequent natural disasters, the earthquake in Haiti and its eerie, hellish aftermath retains the ability to shock, reminding us of the fragility of life and even civilization itself. And yet, if we will call earthquakes “acts of God,” there is some solace in seeing how so many of us have responded in a way that ironically can only be called the image of God and all that’s holy.
In recent weeks we have commented on the longstanding debate over whether there is too much redundancy and duplication in the Jewish communal world — comments that have touched a raw nerve, judging by the e-mails we’ve received and the blogs we’ve read.
So it’s nice to report on a Jewish organization that has had more than its share of woes in recent years but is now experiencing a kind of rejuvenation, thanks to a membership energized by the national debate over health care reform.
The Obama administration’s decision this week to increase airport inspection of U.S.-bound travelers from 14 countries — 13 of them Muslim — considered more likely to include terrorism suspects is a tacit acknowledgment of a politically incorrect and controversial assumption: that there is a correlation between Muslims and terror attacks.
There are good reasons why Jewish groups like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and the American Jewish Committee have been active advocates for comprehensive immigration reform. More than most, the Jewish community understands America’s role as a safe haven and land of opportunity for those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Going back to John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign, when he had to make it clear that he wouldn’t govern by the dictates of his Catholic church, through the rise of the Christian right, through numerous debates, from abortion to end-of-life issues, few things have rattled Jews more than the prospect of undue interference by religious leaders upon the nation’s lawmaking. After all, religion thrives on absolutes while politics thrives on compromise.
As Iran continues a policy of delay and division in the face of international concern about its nuclear weapons program, it is time for the Obama administration to reconsider one element of its strategy. That would be to find ways to support a growing movement within Iran that rejects the repressive rule of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the entrenched fundamentalist clerics in power.
As we have said before, there are no easy answers as Iran moves ever closer to the nuclear threshold.
The most surprising finding from a new census of Jewish day schools for the current academic year is that while enrollment has declined, the drop has not been nearly as steep as many educators and communal officials had predicted.
At a meeting on Tuesday here convened by the Avi Chai Foundation, representatives of Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and community day schools discussed why and how most schools were able to retain students at a time of serious economic recession and what lessons can be learned going forward.
It’s been a year — a long and difficult one for many — since Bernard Madoff became an international symbol of greed and immorality. And it has been a year of fitful recovery from a financial meltdown that brought the nation to the brink of catastrophe.
Have we learned from our mistakes? Are we — as individuals, a community and a nation — taking the steps necessary to prevent a recurrence of these disastrous events? The answers are mixed, but on the whole positive.