20 June 2008

Heartland Jews Amidst Flooded Iowa

Chabad Flood Relief

1,000 pounds of meat donated by Agriprocessors distributed by Chabad through the Red Cross

more photos here

Its been called the greatest flood in Iowa history, a "500 year flood". Cities have been submerged, lives lost, homes washed away in torrents of rain, thunder and tornadoes. It seems like daily a new story of a levy on the verge of collapse or giving way to the rush of out of control rivers, stills the hearts of Americans. People await the answers to their prayerful calls for help.

In response, Americans have donated money and volunteered for relief operations. Yet two stories on opposite ends of a spectrum have caught my attention. While in no way to diminish in any way the suffering, displacement and heart break experienced by the people of Iowa, I was moved by thoughts of gratitude for the actions taken by the Jewish community in Iowa, namely the Chabad Flood Relief
program. It seems that everytime, no matter where a disaster occurs, a Chabadnik is there managing a volunteer effort, sending food, coordinating contacts between the disaster victims and their families, and in some cases actively involved in rescue operations not to mention serving in a pastoral role.

Iowa's Jewish population according to the Jewish Virtual Library is all of 6,140 (I would venture there are street blocks in Brooklyn with equivalent census numbers) out of a state population of 2,966,334 registering 0.2 percent of the state's population (including Postville). Jews, no matter how well represented in the overall population seem to always contribute to the cause when the chips are down. However, Jews are already pretty visible in Iowa these days, thanks to the media coverage of the Agriprocessors ICE bust. It should be noted (see picture above) that Agriprocessors donated 1,000 pounds of meat to the relief effort. I wonder if those people who refuse to buy Rubashkin meat and who look forward to every opportunity to skewer the company and it's founding family, would accept Agriprocessor meat in times of need? Is it good enough only when you have lost everything? How about a mere "thank you"?

This leads me to the next not so nice subject found in the IsraelEnews report below.

Anti-semitic attack on Mikey Weinstein`s home; Jewish vet blamed for Iowa flood - IsraelEnews.

How ironic, in light of the above relief operation story to find this piece of nostalgic antiJewism. Nostalgic, in a sense that in these days, religious Jews are led to believe that they have nothing to fear from their Christian neighbors and for the most part this is true. Maybe it makes a difference when Jews point out a fundamental difference, a irreconcilable separation between Jewry and Christian doctrine. Jews as children of G-d and American citizens have a right to oppose and reject missionizing. This is indeed an issue which has been brought to public attention in Israel of late. And in America, where proselytizing has always gone on, it seems that some Christians do not take too kindly to being told to go the hell away.

Intruders attacked the Albuquerque home of Mikey Weinstein, a leading critic of fundamentalist Christian activity in the armed services. The attack came after nightfall, according to Weinstein, who said family members heard someone running across the roof; they subsequently found a swastikas and a cross scrawled next to the front door.

Weinstein has reported receiving dozens of threatening telephone calls in the years since he filed a lawsuit against the Air Force for religious coercion of Air Force Academy cadets and established the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which represents members of the armed services who have been subjected to aggressive fundamentalist Christian proselytizing. Authorities are investigating the attack on Weinstein's home.

Meanwhile, in flooded Iowa City, neighbors today blamed a disabled Jewish veteran for the rising water. David Akiva Miller, who is fighting the Veterans Administration over aggressive Christian proselytizing during his hospitalization (see our earlier report), was buying groceries on Sunday when an older couple, also shopping, approached him. In an email, Miller wrote that
The man said something to the lady I couldn't quite make out, and they turned around and stepped back towards me. The man said to me, "You're that Jewish fella that's been stirring up trouble over at the Veterans Hospital, aren't ya?" (Okay, I'll admit I kind of stick out in Iowa City with my long beard, kippah and tzit tzit.) I said, "Excuse me?" And he said, "It's because of folks like you that we got this flood." Mikey Weinstein's Military Religious Freedom Foundation is representing Miller in his struggle with the Veterans Administration.

David Akiva Miller is a disabled Navy veteran and an observant Jew. When he moved to Iowa City and went for care at the Veterans Administration Hospital there, he endured repeated efforts by Protestant chaplains to evangelize him in his hospital bed. Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, held a news conference with Miller in Iowa City and declared his support for the vet -- including a lawsuit, should that become necessary.

Not to drag a drama play into a disaster story, but I wonder how wide spread these thoughts are amongst our non-Jewish neighbors? I would like to think such ideas are not very common however world history begs to differ. But since there are those from within Jewry (see Lazar Brody's comments) that the natural disasters that have occurred in America in the last few years are punishments for forcing unneeded and unwanted negotiations on Israel than I guess the Iowa flood conspiracies can be filed in the "all's fair..." category. Rabbi Brody, I presume has explanations for the natural disasters that occurred in America and elsewhere prior to the last 10 years or so.

Now, I am not one who insistently says that HaShem does not have a plan for the world, that reward and punishment is a fable, and that the biblical promises given to the Patriarchs an eternal promise that those that bless the Jews will be blessed is untrue. It is very much true. I am not in a position to point to specific events and say, "see there is the proof". Maybe Rabbi Brody can. Maybe the Rebbe could (probably did), all is in divine hands. What we can say is that the efforts of one Jew to prevent other Jews from being evangelized in a US military hospital or in the military in general is hardly the reason for a 500 year flood. If anything, we would like to say it is the reverse. I hope the "neighbor" buying groceries is afforded the opportunity to read this. Those who bless you, will be blessed, those who curse you, I will curse.

Coralville, Iowa DOT

Cedar Rapids - ENS Newswire

Counties declared disaster area by Governor Culver's Proclamation.

General flood information - Iowa Governor's office

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What Words Offend Arabs? The Truth.

Children's Poetry Booklet Recalled After Arabs Complain
(Israeli censorship kowtows to Arabs.
When Will We Tell The Truth Without Fear)

(IsraelNN.com 7 Sivan 5768/June 10, '08) Ynet's web site and Arab complaints against a ten-year-old boy's poem about terrorists has resulted in the recall of all of the Nes Ziona municipality's children's poetry booklets.

Ynet boasts that its coverage of the poem resulted in its being recalled.

The text of the poem (Ynet's translation):

Ahmed's bunker has surprises galore: Grenades, rifles are hung on the wall. Ahmed is planning another bombing!What a bunker Ahmed has, who causes daily harm.Ahmed knows how to make a bomb. Ahmed is Ahmed, that's who he is, so don't forget to be careful of him.We get blasted while they have a blast!Ahmed and his friends could be wealthy and sunny, if only they wouldn't buy rockets with all their money.

Poetry competition director Marika Berkowitz, who published the booklet, was surprised at the protests and told Ynet: "This is the boy's creation and this is what he wanted to express. Of course there should be a limit, but I think the there is no racism here. 'Ahmed' is a general term for the enemy. These are the murmurings of an innocent child."

The Education Ministry told Ynet: "The local authority that published the booklet should have guided the students in a more correct manner through the schools. The district will investigate the issue with the local authorities."
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