About Talking Tachlis

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Years ago, the national offices of the American Jewish Committee dispatched one of its finest to Detroit to have a heart to heart with our community on the dangers of promiscuity.   Not adolescent or teenage promiscuity, mind you.  No, Yehudit Barsky, AJC’s resident terrorism expert,  came here to address the troubling penchant of communal institutions to engage in indiscriminate outreach with interfaith dialog partners about whom we knew, and from which we expected,  distressingly little.
Since then,  Ms. Barsky has been back to brief our community about the increased risks to Jews here in the US and globally from radical Islamist terrorists.  Her assessment: "US Jews must wake up to homegrown terror threat” should certainly jar those in Jewish leadership she charges “are slow to open their eyes to this reality.”  It is a vital must-read going forward and also an important reminder of the importance of her admonition to our community years ago.
Ms. Barsky warned communal leaders not to be seduced by the temptation of outreach for outreach’s sake.  She stressed the critical importance of proper due diligence and vetting to determine whether interfaith 'partners' satisfy what should be certain non-negotiable baseline criteria.  Not rocket science.  Simple self-respect.   Bridge-building should be a two-way  street.  Don’t jump into bed with people who hate you or want to kill you or your children because you are Jewish.  Don’t legitimize those who don’t recognize the right of self-determination and legitimacy of the Jewish State of Israel.  Don’t be willfully blind to terror apologetics.
The ‘code of conduct’ she outlined for our community was also woven into part of an interview with the Jerusalem Post.  The article,  headlined Expert: Saudis have radicalized 80 percent of US mosques”, was published in December of 2005, but is just as instructive today as it was then.  After  discussing the influence of Saudi Wahhabism in radicalizing US mosques and the danger of “extremist organizations” which “claim the mantle of leadership” over American Muslims, Ms. Barsky cited the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) as two such “pro-Saudi and pro-Muslim Brotherhood” organizations.
Both were named by the US Department of Justice as unindicted co-conspirators for their roles as Muslim Brotherhood front groups funneling money in this country through the Holy Land Foundation to Hamas in the nation’s largest terror-financing trial.  And both, despite their history of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel,  terror-supporting activity, continue to make dangerous inroads with unwitting or worse, abetting metro Detroit Jewish institutions.
“When advising colleagues on interfaith work with their Muslim counterparts,“  the Jerusalem Post noted, “Barsky tells them to ‘proceed with caution, [since] some of the [extremist] organizations have concluded that interfaith dialogue is a good way to spread the ideology.’ “She continued, “Take time to learn who they are and what they’re saying.  It’s more complicated than just respecting each other.”
Barsky explained that Jewish groups must be wary not to fall prey to radical Islamist groups reaching out to exploit interfaith partnerships so as to earn Jewish cover or legitimacy. Though it’s been five years since Ms. Barsky exhorted Americans to “change the way they think about Wahhabi Islam,”  the public, and the Jewish community in particular, seem not to have heeded her warning. 
Indeed, her words were prophetic:
“The United States has a hard time understanding the exremists’ ideology.  Americans don’t like to interfere in the religion of other people.  But the reality is that this isn’t religion, but a politicized radical ideology.  It’s very dangerous.  If we don’t understand that [these groups] are dangerous, we’re going to suffer the consequences.”
We have seen our communal leaders trespass across these guidelines time and again, leaving our community increasingly more vulnerable.  We have witnessed in disbelief as they reach out, seemingly desperate for acceptance, to those who have demonized the Jewish people and/or the Jewish state.  And we have waited in vain repeatedly for our so-called frontline organizations to stand up and strongly defend our community, our children, when hostile groups or individuals cause us affront…and danger. We know the “sha- still” mentality of shtetl Jews didn’t save .  We should learn.  Each time we fail to respond to a new assault on our communal welfare and security and instead let it just slide, each slide adds up and it doesn’t take too long before the ground starts shifting and we are helpless in a landslide.
We will explore these troubling patterns in coming posts, but feel it important to build our blog on a common understanding of bedrock principles.  Ms. Barsky has led the way.  Let us hope we can inspire our communal organizations and agencies to follow.  


Heed Wakeup Call

We have excerpted from a letter to the editor of the Detroit Jewish News that was published in the 12/30/10 edition of the Jewish News.  A wake-up call indeed!
The failure of Metro Detroit's Arab American organizations to condemn Helen Thomas' anti-Semitic diatribes is as much as indictment of our community as it is theirs. Our Jewish organizations have dedicated time, energy and resources to bridge-building with Muslim and Arab groups and leaders, ostensibly to foster mutual respect and understanding...
Where is the outcry from "outreach partners" cultivated by our Federation-supported Jewish Community Relations Council, our synagogues, Hillels, the Children of Abraham project, the Greater Detroit Interfaith Round Table and others?
Instead of diverting our community's precious resources to groups and individuals who condone anti-Semitism and thus are complicit in its propagation, we would be well advised to focus instead on asserting for ourselves and defending our children and grandchildren from such menacing hatreds.

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