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Jewish Community Had Better Learn to Compromise, Says Rabbi Israel Singer

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
September-October 2002

Rabbi Israel Singer, president of the Conference of Material Claims Against Germany, says that the Jewish community had better learn how to compromise or it will find its position extremely compromised.  

According to the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California (reprinted in Washington Jewish Week, Sept. 5, 2002), “In a speech ... that won a standing ovation from the B’nai B’rith International Convention in San Francisco, Singer exhorted several hundred listeners to not let the Jewish community cloister itself with those who say what it wants to hear.”  

Singer, whose negotiations with the German government have resulted in billions of dollars in Holocaust restitution payments, said: “We can’t look back at the days of lonely suffering and isolation with longing. It stank. It was horrible. We can’t afford to remain an isolated people. ‘Settlement’ and ‘dialogue’ are words Jews need to learn in order to live in a broader world and have friends. We need to learn it in regard to Catholics and Protestants, not just the fundamentalist (Christians) who have the same view of Israel we have.”  

The same, he said, goes for Moslems. While dialogue with Arabs and Moslems may now seem hopeless, Singer reminded his audience that the same could have been said 50 years ago about establishing relationships with Catholics, or even a decade ago with Russia.  

He declared: “In Russia, we decided not to let their 1 million Jews be the hostages of the 21st century. I went to Russia 47 times and went to jail nine times. And I tell you I’m proud. Ten years ago, if someone told you the Russians were deciding which Jewish organizations they were going to participate with ... you’d have all looked at yourselves and me as being stark raving mad. Don’t laugh; one day in our time negotiations with Arabs and Muslims will bring peace. ...”  

Singer also admonished the B’nai B’rith audience not to assail Israeli peace activists: “When we reject or humiliate or attack or insult those people in Israel who have attempted to do things other than fight (militarily) for peace, we should think again. Because that, too, is a policy that is supported by patriots, by heroes and by a very large part of the Israeli public.”  

To see eye to eye with Muslims, Jews will have to make serious sacrifices, said Singer. He recalled concessions he made when negotiating with the Germans and said, “If I were to take a maximal position pushed by some of my colleagues, those people now receiving pensions would have to wait yet another 55 years, the way they did the first time.”  

If fighting anti-Semitism and in behalf of Israel, Singer urged his audience not to lose sight of what they’re fighting for. If Judaism is reduced to nostalgia over “the good books read by our grandfathers with beards who lived in another world” then “we will know that we have failed.”  

Including the children of intermarried couples, Singer estimated as many as 15 million Jews may reside in the U.S. He noted that, “I’m not making a judgment about intermarriage ... Those people are Jews. It’s a fact.” He stressed the need to “find a way to educate our children to know why it is worth being a Jew and what being a Jew is all about.”

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