By Donald H. Harrison
Philip Paulson, who since filing his
famous suit against the Mount Soledad Cross, has often felt he was the
"most hated man in San Diego," is not Jewish. He's an
Atheist. In a recent exchange of letters with jewishsightseeing.com, he
shared some comments about the Jewish community which I thought our readers
would find most interesting. He wrote:
"As an Atheist, I have always felt comfortable with Judaism, because
Judaism and the various Jewish sects are non-proselytizing religions, which
requires one to have a Jewish mother. No
Jewish person, except Messianic Jews for Jesus, have ever attempted to convert
me to become a Jew of Choice.
"Moreover, I have always been interested in and strongly support the
nation of Israel. Based on my view of history, the secular Jews have led the
people of Israel from the War of Liberation to Statehood..."
Paulson's comments are very flattering, especially from a man whose own life
expectancy is quite short given a recent diagnosis of terminal liver
cancer. Even in the best of health, Paulson wasn't one to mince words,
and now that he's facing his demise, hecertainly has no reason to.
There are just two points that I'd like to add to what Paulson says
here. First, there seems to be general agreement in the Jewish community
that if a person converts to a different religion—such as when a Jew becomes
a "Jew for Jesus" or a "Messianic Jew"—that person is no
longer a Jew, but a Christian (albeit in a different-than-usual wrapping).
Similarly, when a Christian converts to Judaism, he or she is a Jew. By
formal processes, religions can be and are changed.
On the next point, concerning Judaism and Atheism, there seems to be a
consensus—if not so broad an agreement as there is concerning people who
convert to other religions—that one can be both Jewish and an Atheist—that
a disbelief in God is not necessarily a disqualification to membership among
the Jewish people.
One of the most
fascinating and agreeable groups that I have covered in San Diego County is
the Humanistic Jewish Congregation which believes that humanity has been and
continues to responsible for its own destiny.
The symbol of the Humanistic Jews is a Humanorah (Human + Menorah) with the
center candle holder representing the head of a person, the candleholders on
either side representing humanity's upraised arms. Thus, with its arms
and head, humanity holds up the platform of civilization.
For Jewish Humanists and, I suspect, for many of us who belong to synagogues,
a central aspect of Judaism is our sense that whether we be religious or
non-religious; Americans, Israelis, or citizens of other nations; and
regardless of the hue of our skin, that all of us have a common bond linking
The concept, taught by the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, the late
Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, is called "Peoplehood." We Jews are a
People. Maybe we should say a Family, one that quarrels at times, one
from which some members occasionally run and hide, but one in which we feel
that intimate emotion of belonging.
So, if Philip Paulson feels comfortable with us Jews, probably it is because
we Jews also feel comfortable with him. The philosophy to which he has
dedicated his life may not be the dominant stream in Judaism, but it is one of
* * *
B SDSU Prof. Lawrence
Baron, author of Projecting the Holocaust
Into the Present, is becoming recognized as one of the world's leading
authorities on movies dealing with the Holocaust. On May 22, he gave a
keynote address at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Israel on
the subject, and two days later spoke at Ben-Gurion University about how
movies depict such rescuers as Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler. He also
has written the entry for the Encyclopedia Judaica on Holocaust cinema,
and more recently has been invited to write an essay on the subject for American
Historical Review (the journal of the American Historical Association) and
another essay on film for the Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies.
Lee Ben-Yehuda write to
tell us that she and her husband, Amnon, are among the Founding
Supporters of musician Jacqui Silver's latest creative venture:
"Silver Pathways to Music, Inc., a non-profit organization to bring
musical education to San Diego—to its seniors, its at-risk children and to
the public at large. Jacqui and Silver Pathways will present “Music
from the Golden Age” at the Jewish Family Service's College Avenue Senior
Center (4855 College Avenue) on Thursday., Sept. 14th at 1 P.M. to about 3
P.M." My question: A silver pathway, a golden age—is
this supposed to be a great Musical Alloyance?
H Not having yet tasted
it, I can't speak for their beer, but I love their puns. Celebrating its
10th anniversary as a beer maker is the Shmaltz Brewing Company, distributors
of HE'BREW. Writes the company's publicist, Ali Waks:
"Conceived and based in San Francisco, and brewed and bottled in New
York, HE'BREW Beer has sold over two million beers and has become an
interdenominational phenomena since its humble beginnings of 100 cases
personally delivered out of Jeremy Cowan's Grandmother's Volvo." In
San Diego, it won't "ale" you to "hop" over to any of
these outlets to taste the Jewish-themed beer: Beverages & More #36, 925
Camino De La Reina Ave.; City Deli & Bakery, 535 University Ave.; Jimbo's
Naturally; 12853 El Camino Real; Pacific Liquor House, 2931 El Cajon
Blvd; and Sheila's Cafe, 4577 Clairemont Dr.
J Glenda Sacks Jaffe,
who has been involved in numerous community projects under auspices of the
United Jewish Federation, has taken on a new role: She has become the
staff person for Chai South Africa, a unique organization that recognizes,
among other missions, that elderly Jewish South Africans who have remained in
that country still require assistance—even though the younger generations of
their families may have moved away to seek opportunities in places like La
Jolla and Tel Aviv.
K Do you want to get a
head start on the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, which will guarantee crowds
at the San Diego Natural History Museum next July through
December? The curator of the exhibit, Risa Levitt Kohn, who also
is director of the Judaic Studies program at San Diego State University, has
worked out a series of programs with the Agency for Jewish Education. At
AJE's Jan. 21 Limmud (Community Day of Learning), there will be an
initial lecture, "Introduction to the Discovery of the Dead Sea
Scrolls." Thereafter, in conjunction with the Astor Judaica Library at
the Lawrence Family JCC, these talks are scheduled: Feb. 5:
"Life and Thought at Qumran According to the Scrolls;" March 12:
"Judaic Religions, the Second Temple, and the Scrolls;" March 26:
"The SD Natural History Museum Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition: Curator's
Overview: Part 1;" April 23: "The SD Natural History Museum Dead Sea
Scrolls Exhibition: Curator's Overview: Part 2." Noah Hadas,
AJE's director of adult education, is the man to ask for more
information. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Judy Persky was fascinated by
an article on research done at the Technion in Israel that as wine may help
ward off heart attacks, so too might pomegranate juice ward off
diabetes. Here's the
link. My biggest question: how does it taste?
Israel Emergency Campaign Co-Chair Claire Ellman with Mao
and Robert Shillman, and with co-chair Andrew Viterbi and Yossi Olmert at a
recent reception at the Shillman home in Rancho Santa Fe
S Robert and Mao Shillman recently
had an intimate gathering in their Rancho Santa Fe home for a fellow who once
was best known as an expert on Israeli politics, the Arab-Israeli conflict and
on Radical Islam. But nowadays the distinguished guest, Yossi Olmert,
is known by another description: The prime minister's brother.
The quiet August 29 get-together was sponsored by the Israel Emergency Fund of
the United Jewish Federation whose leaders are taken with the Shillmans not
only for their hospitality At the onset of the Israel Emergency Campaign
during the war known as Lebanon II, Robert surprised a fundraising meeting by
right there and then writing a check for $1 million.
Michael Stern, the director of marketing for Jewish Family Service, is
hoping that in your photo album, or framed on your wall, or perhaps in a trunk
somewhere, you have some historic photos of Jewish San Diego. Over the
long hallways of the new JFS building, expected to open later this year,
the organization hopes to create a permanent exhibit depicting San Diego's
Jewish history. The Jewish Historical Society of San Diego is helping
JFS with this project. If you have any photos you can share, please e-mail
Stern at email@example.com.
Strom, a San Diego klezmer musician who has written
authoritative books about the Eastern European culture in which klezmer
flourished, now is teaching a course on the history of this Jewish jazz form
on Monday afternoons at San Diego State University. According to the course
description, "Klezmer is no longer heard only in catering halls and
synagogues; it can be heard in serious music clubs and concert halls and as
the soundtrack to modern dance, Broadway theatre and Hollywood films. World
class musicians and composers of the past and present like Sidney Bechet,
George Gershwin, Cab Calloway, Paul Robeson, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, John
Zorn, Carlos Santana, and many others have incorporated klezmer motifs into