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Analysis: Rabbi calls ADL leader Jews' 'worst enemy'

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Wednesday, 28 March 2001 18:54 (ET)

Analysis: Rabbi calls ADL leader Jews' 'worst enemy'

 WASHINGTON, Mar. 28 (UPI) -- Calling secular Judaism's preoccupation with
victimhood "liberalism with a circumcision," an Orthodox rabbi has given the
"Our Own Worst Enemy Award" to the head of the Anti-Defamation League.

 An ADL official has dismissed the characterization.

 Rabbi Daniel Lapin is president of Toward Tradition, a group based in
Mercer Island, Wa., that describes itself as "a coalition of Jews and
Christians dedicated to fighting secular institutions that foster
anti-Semitism, harm families, and jeopardize the future of America." The
group bestowed the "award" upon ADL National Director Abraham Foxman on

 "The award is given to a Jewish American who exemplifies those cultural
forces that most endanger Jewish continuity, substituting unhealthy values
for Judaism itself," Toward Tradition said. "Children thus grow up to
dismiss Jewish identity as, for example, merely with an obsession with death
and persecution, or as liberalism with a circumcision."

 "I think Abe Foxman means well," Lapin said. "But he's deluded by
liberalism, a worldview preoccupied by victimhood."

 The rabbi called attention to Foxman's letter that appeared in the March
23 editions of the New York Times. In it, the ADL leader compared the
newspaper ads by conservative activist David Horowitz -- who opposes
monetary reparations to American blacks for being the descendants of slaves
-- with Holocaust deniers.

 "Put that together with Foxman's statement last week about the 'big
eruption' of anti-Semitism in New York, and so on, and you get the picture
of a guy who's not in close touch with reality," Lapin said.

 The rabbi was referring to a March 21 New York Times story in which Foxman
was quoted as saying: "Anti-Semitism is a disease, and we have seen a big
eruption of that disease in New York." Foxman based his remark on an ADL
survey that says anti-Semitic incidents rose by about 49 percent in New York
City last year.

 David Klinghofer, Toward Tradition's editorial director, questions the
survey's validity. Many of the incidents recorded are not crimes, he said,
but rather "anything anybody perceived as anti-Semitic." The ADL "gets paid
(by contributors) according to how much anti-Semitism it finds," Klinghofer
told United Press International Wednesday.

 Toward Tradition said that Foxman's "tireless efforts" to convince
American Jews that they are beset by "a phantom anti-Semitism," when their
own experience suggests otherwise, "have helped to confirm many in the
belief that being a Jew has to do mainly with being oppressed and hated."

 The American Jewish Committee's annual study for 1999 reported that
anti-Semitism is the main concern of 62 percent of American Jews, up 5
points from 1998. This belief pertains "notwithstanding the strength of
democratic institutions and legal protections in the United States," AJC
President Bruce M. Ramer said at the time.

 The study, which was summarized in a June 9, 1999, story in the Washington
Times, also revealed that American Jews give a low priority to religious
observance and believe recalling the Holocaust is the key to being a Jew.

 In its story, the Times quoted Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, humanities
professor at New York University, who believes Jews are "absolutely free and
equal" in America.

 "I deplore the survey results," Hertzberg said. "When you say: 'Remember,
we have enemies,' it simply feeds a neurosis. I maintain that Jewish life is
not fear, but affirmation."

 Toward Tradition's National Director Yarden Weidenfeld also said that
traditional Judaism, as taught by Lapin, celebrates life. Foxman's approach
constitutes the real threat to American Jewry, Weidenfeld told UPI in a
Wednesday phone interview, because young American Jews who associate their
religion with death and misery are more likely to marry Gentile partners.
The real danger is assimilation, Weidenfeld said.

 ADL Assistant National Director Ken Jacobson dismissed Toward Tradition
and its positions. "At some level, I might not want to dignify the
comments," he said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "I don't really think
that Rabbi Lapin and his organization represent anything significant in the
Jewish community."

 But Jacobson quickly overcame his reluctance. He denied that Foxman's
letter likened Horowitz to Holocaust-deniers because Foxman did not assert
that Horowitz denied the existence of slavery.

 "We were concerned about the denigration of blacks and the slave
experience that was implicit in the Horowitz message" opposing reparations,
Jacobson told UPI. "It's only like ... the Holocaust denial theme in the
sense that, in both issues, there are things that were offensive, and a
newspaper isn't obligated under the First Amendment to print every ad."

 Jacobson was referring to student editors of campus newspapers. Of course,
the First Amendment constrains only government, not newspapers or
advertisers. In response, Weidenfeld said the students' ignorance of the
Constitution "is their problem" and has nothing to do with Holocaust denial.

 Toward Tradition said it picked Foxman "from among other representatives
of the Anti-Semitism Industry" because of his role in former president
Clinton's pardon of fugitive tax evader Marc Rich.

 Citing Friday's Newsweek report, the group said: "After the ADL received a
$100,000 check from the Rich Foundation, Foxman wrote to Bill Clinton urging
the pardon." In doing so, Foxman "joined other leading Jewish liberals who
had benefited from the billionaire's largesse. The ensuing scandal was a
comfort to true anti-Semites who say that Jews buy and sell justice," Toward
Tradition said.

 On Saturday, the New York Times reported that Foxman said the previous day
that he was wrong to have lobbied for Rich.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
All rights reserved.

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