Monday, September 13, 2010

The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard (Excerpt)

by M. Anastasia Rosen-Jones with Marge Hulburt

How It Began For Me

In August, 2006, against a background of the wars in Iraq and the Middle East, a Jewish/Muslim controversy broke out in my backyard (Frederick News Post, August 18, 2006 – “Local Muslim Leader Talks Peace”).

As the newly elected, local president of a national Jewish women’s social action organization, I was thrust into the eye of the storm. With no advantageous place to run, I, thus, became a central participant in the drama that unfolded.

Because I am also a psychotherapist (retired), turned community development consultant and social activist, I had the skills and experience needed to resolve this volatile community crisis. By observing what was occurring systemically, I strategically assessed the situation – and -- figured out the proper steps to take. They worked superbly!

With the help of my volunteer corp – and – one single Jewish leader, we were successful. At least, temporarily -- and -- superficially.

However, because this was one of my very first significant community experiences; returning, as I was, to the mainstream after an eight year sabbatical due to my being blind for five years (1998 – 2003) -- and -- recovering from the ordeal for another three years (2003 – 2006), I was particularly vulnerable to the hostilities I saw all around me. And, though I paid a heavy price for my part in the drama, I was greatly transformed by it.

As I search my heart and mind, now, to, publicly, tell my version of the story of this “Middle East Crisis In My Backyard,” my heart is heavy, particularly at this time of the Jewish New Year. I want to tell my story with love and compassion. I will do my best. But this does not come easily to me. The circumstances, as I viewed them, hurt my heart, deeply – and -- called up a lurking shame in me of being Jewish.

Perhaps I expect too much of myself with this, love and compassion, as one of my major goals. Perhaps, given the present state of American Jewry, the controversies presently ravaging the United States in terms of Jewish/Muslim relations in our country and the Middle East, I can only weigh in with an attempt at balance for now.

The balance I seek between the best of my heartfelt desires – and – my very human instincts that hinder my attempts at complete clarity and compassion.

Nonetheless, here is my story – to be posted in bits and pieces on this blog. Hopefully what I am offering will serve all who read it to come closer to one another in peace.

Originally, I wrote this story out in 2007 and 2008. At that time I was telling it, pretty much, as I saw it as a consultant and experienced it as president of the women’s organization. I hadn’t, yet, come to the core of the matter in my heart, however. I hope I can get to more of it here with the informality that blogging offers.

The draft as I completed it in 2008 caused outrage in the local Jewish community. As a result – after much conversation (particularly with Sue), contemplation and negotiation with members of the board of the local, Jewish women’s organization, I promised to keep it quiet for a time.

That time of silence is now past.

There is much that can be learned from what occurred here in terms of modern Jews in America, their relationships with Muslims, the greater community surrounding them – and – with one another. Much that is needed at this critical time in America.
For now, this is my best effort to tell the truth of what I saw; as a key participant in the unfolding drama, as a professional with many years of experience in conflict resolution, as a woman who paid a dear price for my actions – and – now as a former anti-Semitic, recovering Jewish American Princess who must speak her mind.

With conviction in my heart for the well-known Jewish pledge, “Never again!”

I am, after all, "only one, but still I am one."

Dayenu -- it has to be enough.

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