The Jewish Federation has been running a poll to recognize “Jewish heroes.” My friend and colleague, Cecilie Surasky, had been doing rather well in the voting. And then, suddenly, she was simply deleted.
She disappeared without a word, without notice and without explanation. The deletion came the day after San Francisco’s major Jewish weekly, J, published an article remarking on Cecilie’s being in the running and in the top 10 in polling in her category. And then, in classic Orwellian fashion, Cecilie became an unperson in the poll.
Obviously as a former JVP staffer I’m outraged. But one can’t help laughing at the stupidity of the Fed here. I mean, on Yom Kippur eve, no less, they give the absolute definitive example of muzzling to none other than the founder and driving force behind Muzzlewatch, the blog which describes its purpose as “Tracking efforts to stifle open debate about US-Israeli foreign policy.”
And they wonder why they’re losing the new generation of Jews?
On one level, it was of some interest that the Fed allowed Cecilie into the competition in the first place. But when she was demonstrating that she has significant support within the Jewish community, and was acknowledged in that by a mainstream Jewish newspaper, well, that just carries open debate and exchange of opinions too far for the Fed.
On the other hand, as Cecilie points out, they have no problem with the presence in their poll of a rabbi, one Manis Friedman, who characterizes Torah values as justifying killing women and children, and advocates Israel doing just that. As Cecilie put it:
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.”
The reality is that Cecilie Surasky is reclaiming the definition of Jewish identity from people like Manis Friedman. And that is not only good for the Jews, it’s good for everyone.