Generous Orthodoxy  

Friday, October 19, 2007

Jews, Turks, and the Armenian genocide

More about the Armenian-Turkish controversy later, but in the meantime here is an excerpt from today's Times which illustrates why we love the Jewish people and value with our very lives the gifts that God has given to the world, through them, as the very foundation of our Western values. Point: passionate debate is not only permitted but assumed. Second point: strength emerges from such debate. Third point: embedded in the Judeo-Christian tradition is our central religious value: the defense of the defenseless, whoever they may be.

The argument among American Jews concerns the recent uproar in Turkey about the proposed US Congressional resolution identifying the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide. The Jewish Anti-Defamation League has taken a stand against the resolution, infuriating many Jews.

Jews in Lexington, Mass. pulled out all the stops at their recent selectmen's meeting. Here is an excerpt from today's article by Neela Bannerjee, "Armenian Issue Presents a Dilemma for U. S. Jews":

Dr. Jack Nusan Porter, the genocide scholar, said the differing views among Jews on the resolution stemmed in part from whether they saw Israel as particularly vulnerable. “I see Israel as a strong nation,” Dr. Porter said, after speaking for cutting ties to the Anti-Defamation League at the Lexington [Mass] meeting. “Jews are strong. They don’t have to be intimidated by politics.”

The complex of considerations weighed heavily on Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe of Temple Isaiah, who after weeks of thought decided to back the genocide resolution. “It’s very hard for me to support a position that could be detrimental to Israel,” he said. “But for me as a Jew, I have to take seriously Jewish values, and they require us to do what is right and righteous.”

Some Jewish residents pointed out that the local Anti-Defamation League chapter took a stand for the resolution and should not be punished for the national leadership’s policy; but Vicki Blier, another member of Temple Isaiah, said in a phone interview that the Anti-Defamation League had to be held accountable for its views.

“If this were an organization that were denying the Holocaust, would they be allowed to do anything in town, even if what they are doing is the most beneficial of programs?” Ms. Blier said. “In my experience, Jews are at the forefront in the recognition of injustice. Jews have always stuck their neck out for others.”