Thursday, March 09, 2006

Shafran's Purim article

JNW: There’s more than passing irony in the fact that the most infamous anti-Semite of antiquity, the hater whose downfall Jews celebrate on Purim, was a prominent official of an empire centered in modern-day Iran. Like the Persian royal adviser Haman, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reeks with his own considerable animus for Jews, having not only endorsed the destruction of the Jewish state but called into question the murder of 6 million Jews not 70 years ago.......Haman, more than 2,000 years ago, was more subtle, preferring snide insinuations to outlandish conspiracy theories. And he focused on Jewish cohesiveness and dedication to Jewish law. A glance at the Arab media’s cesspool of anti-Semitic (but Muhammad-free!) caricatures suffices to show that it disproportionately inspires images of black-hatted, black-cloaked and bespectacled men carrying oversized volumes of Talmud. That fact, like the example of Haman, should serve to remind us how ugly is the derision of Jewish practices and ideals. It’s something even we Jews may not always sufficiently realize. Take a recent article in an Israeli newspaper. It reported how a mobile communications company has seen fit to offer a cell phone without Internet access, in order to capture a larger share of the haredi, or “ultra-Orthodox” market (which, out of concern for clear Jewish standards of propriety, prefers its phones to be just phones). The article’s tagline reads in part: “Company succumbs to haredi pressure.” Pushy, those haredim. At just about the same time, an Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics survey revealed that, among the country’s Jewish volunteers, 36 percent were haredis; 27 percent non-haredi religious; 14 percent traditional; and 13 percent secular. Nevertheless, Israel’s Orthodox are routinely, and almost exclusively, depicted negatively. Now there’s a Jewish tradition it would be hard for anyone (except perhaps Haman) to disparage. And what a powerful opportunity it presents for disowning intra-Jewish negativity. Those of us who are haredis should consider sending such mishloach manot to Jews who are not, and vice versa. Not only will that help bring us all closer, it will help us merit that Mr. Ahmadinejad and company more quickly meet the fate of Haman and his. Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.
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