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March 14, 2003     Jewish News
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March 14, 2003
 

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4 Southeastern Virginia Jewish News March 14, 2003 Purim - "fascinating" Jewish holiday that recalls reversal of fortune by Aaron B. Cohen Haman-think. When the space where anti-Semitism reared its also grave danger in silencing must be killed, or everything is CHICAGO, March 4 -- On II Adar 14/March 18 we'll cele- brate Purim, that fascinating Jewish holiday when we recall our reversal of fortune in ancient Persia, when those who sought to destroy the Jews were hoist on their own petard. Purim is fun. Kids dress in costume. People exchange gifts of food (mishloach manot) and give tzedakah. We get rowdy at the reading of the Megillah (Scroll of Esther), drink a wee too much schnapps, and laugh in the face of adversity. Laughing after a close call with catastrophe is an acquired skill, one that the Jewish people have had ample opportunity to practice. Given the world these days, that skill may continue to stand us in good stead. With war and terrorism hanging over our heads, it's too soon to think about scenarios for celebration. It is time, though, to affirm our principles and to confront our adversaries. Two recent episodes-one trag- ic and one banal-come to mind as emblematic of modern-day shuttle Columbia came apart during re-entry, killing Israel's first astronaut along with his six American colleagues, there were those in the world who chose to see the tragedy as a kind of divine retribution. Purim is fun. Kids dress in costume. People exchange gifts of food (mishloach manot) and give tzedakah. "With the fall of the Colum- bia, a thought arose in my heart. Anyone who sought to elevate the Jews on whom Allah has cast humiliation and misery will be struck by humiliation and by divine wrath," wrote Sheikh Dr. Ali AI-Tamimi, an American citizen, on the website www.alfajr.com {translation by MEMRI.org}. How repulsive. Space was not the only venue head. A recent case of Haman "in your face" on a college campus gave cause to rattle greggors in advance of the Purim holiday. The Daily lllini, the independent student newspaper at the Univer- sity of Illinois at Urbana-Cham- paign, published a crazed, ranti- ng, anti-Semitic letter in the Jan. 22 issue under the outrageous title, "Jews Manipulate Ameri- ca," which the editor herself bestowed. Students, parents, alumni, Hillel staff, faculty, and Jewish community leaders raised the roof; responses ranged from writing letters to the editor, to canceling advertising in the pub- lication, to calling for suspension of its distribution on campus, to reaching out to the Chancellor. Adding insult to injury, Angie Leventis, editor in chief, defend- ed the decision to publish based on a pernicious argument. She wrote: "We are committed to giving all people a voice in our publication-even those views we find vile, distasteful or simply ridiculous. It is difficult to read what many feel is racist, hateful or immature speech. But there is these views based on the opinion of the editor or editorial staff. What is hate speech to one mem- ber of a society is free speech to another." Talk about moral relativism run amok. Her rationale brought to mind what Israeli author Amos Oz said in a conversation, published in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, regarding two worldwide waves of extremism-the one exempli- fied by Sheikh Tamimi, and the other advanced by Leventis. "One form of extremism engenders another," Oz said. "Either there is only one truth and whoever does not share it Medical needs CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 the National Academy of Sci- ences-Institute of Medicine. He was the third Israeli selected for membership, and the first in Pub- lic Health Administration. Only five foreign associates are elect- ed annually to this prestigious body. Dr. Penchas's presentation is open to the entire community. true and everyone is equal, so murderers, too, have the right to murder." The story of Purim certainly teaches us about the danger of the former kind of extremism. It's something from which we Jews have suffered more than our share, and against which, thanks to the State of Israel and its strong relationship with the U. S., we're able to fight. How we deal with the second kind of extremism is a whole new megillah, which we now must learn to write. Aaron B. Cohen is Executive Editor of JUF News, Chicago. Comments ? jufnews @juf .org Prepare to laugh, sing, and join together in the embrace of her moving presence... Debbie Friedman in Concert! Sunday, March 23rd 7pm at Congregation Beth E1 422 Shirley Ave., Norfolk $25 per ticket in advance $30 at the door Call 489-1371 or stop by the JCC to get your tickets? Presented by the JCC Forum 7300 Newport Ave. Norfolk, VA 23505 489-137 I www.jccshr.org