Sunday, November 12, 2006

Israel Kills; Beth Israel Celebrates, Honors Gelman

Right: Palestinians sit next to a pool of blood mixed with water in a street of the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun after Israeli tank shells landed in a residential neighbourhood. (Khalil Hamra/Associated Press)

On Sunday, the Israeli Occupation Forces killed a 16-year-old Palestinian boy in an airstrike on Gaza. This comes less than a week after an Israeli artillery massacre of 18 Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun, including 17 members of the al-'Athamna family.

In the face of this, the avowedly Zionist Beth Israel Congregation of Ann Arbor is preparing to celebrate its 90th anniversary (see below for schedule). Because of its support for Israel, the Conservative synagogue has been the subject of weekly protests by Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends for more than three years.

Apparently, Beth Israel's Zionist roots run deep. According to the Washtenaw Jewish News (Nov. 2006):
The history of the congregation goes back to 1913, when a sick rabbi from Palestine was in the University of Michigan Hospital because of a serious accident. Osias Zwerdling was called upon to interpret for the doctors. As Rosh Hashanah approached, the rabbi wanted to celebrate the holidays. Hannah Zwerdling opened their home to a minyan (a group of 10 Jews) rounded up by her husband, Osias, and thus the seeds of Beth Israel Congregation were sown.
According to Jewish Ann Arbor by Richard and Ruth Adler, the visting rabbi was from Jerusalem and named Joseph Slomon. He was in the US "to solicit funds for Jewish institutions" and was injured while on his way to Detroit. Then, as now, Detroit hosted a nest of Jewish racists--a.k.a. Zionists.

A prominent Detroit businessman, Max Jacob, attended the Second Zionist Congress in Basel in 1898, according to "Zionism in Detroit Before the State: The First Fifty Years, 1898-1948" by Aimee Ergas in Michigan Jewish History (vol. 38). In 1903, Dr. Noah E. Aronstam established Detroit's Young Men's Zion Association in order to promote Zionism. A Detroit branch of the "early Zionist socialist group Poale Zion" was formed in Detroit in 1905 and it hosted the organization's national convention in 1910.

Rabbi Abraham M. Hershman, of Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Detroit was:
[A]n ardent Zionist ... In 1908 he organized the Kadimah Zionist Society, whose membership included business and professional men, and shortly thereafter founded the enduring Zionist Organization of Detroit. Through social activities, lectures, classes, and general publicity, the members under Hershman’s leadership actively spread the ideas of Zionism in the Detroit community. Hershman, who also was a pioneer in establishing the Conservative movement in 1913, continued his strong and dedicated leadership as a Zionist until his death in 1959.
Around 1916, Detroit Jewish women organized a chapter of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America. "Miriam Hershman, wife of Rabbi Hershman, was a founder of the Detroit chapter and was elected its first president." Not long after, "more than twenty Detroiters put their Zionist beliefs into action by joining the Jewish Legion, established by the British government in 1917."

And, as Aimee Ergas notes: "The Executive Director of the Zionist Organization of America was the highly regarded Detroiter, Simon Shetzer, who in 1942 called Detroit a 'model Zionist community.' " Ergas continues:
An almost-forgotten chapter in the participation of Detroiters during the pre-State days was their role in an underground ["underground" because it was illegal and committed terrorist acts such as the Haifa and Jerusalem bombings of Arab markets on July 6, 1938 and the King David Hotel bombing] international network for supplying materiel and arms for the inevitable defense [sic] of Palestine that began in 1947. As described in Louis [sic] Slater's book, The Pledge, many Detroiters were among the American Jews instrumental in collecting "souvenir guns," machinery, and trucks—an estimated $10 million worth from Detroit alone over approximately five years—in an effort to support the Jewish homeland.
Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor, although he had "never suffered anything because of the observance of his religion," Osias Zwerdling--Beth Israel Congregation's first president--joined the Jewish supremacist bandwagon to steal Palestine from its majority Arab inhabitants. According to a 1974 profile of him in the Ann Arbor Sesquicentennial Journal, Zwerdling "worked tirelessly for anyone who needed and asked for help ... " including the "State of Israel."

Zwerdling and Beth Israel Congregation were early sponsors of the University of Michigan Hillel, which "was the 3rd Hillel Foundation in North America, established in 1926." Hillel "helps students find a balance in being distinctively Jewish and universally human by encouraging them ... to support Israel ..." Zwerdling was connected to Detroit Zionists through Conservative Judaism, his presidency of the Michigan Synagogue Council, and his wife's membership in Hadassah.

As if to underscore their moral decrepitude, Saturday's frivolities will include the dedication of "A special plaque ... to Charles and Rita Gelman to honor their numerous contributions to Beth Israel Congregation." Charles Gelman founded Gelman Sciences (now under the ownership of Pall Corp.) in 1958 and moved the company to Ann Arbor in 1963, where he proceeded to pollute the ground and surface water near his plant--including drinking water sources for the City of Ann Arbor--with tens of thousands of pounds of1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen.

According to a 2002 article in the Ann Arbor News:
The first well contamination was discovered in 1986, two years after a University of Michigan graduate student discovered dioxane in Third Sister Lake. But it would be more than a decade later - the late-1990s - before a full cleanup got under way, as the environmental, municipal and company officials sparred in court over the details of the pollution and the cleanup.

"Really, no cleanup happened over all those years," said Pall's vice president of corporate environmental affairs, Farsad Fotouhi. "All the while, dioxane was coming out and expanding with the groundwater."
The eventual result was "the largest U.S. groundwater cleanup east of the Mississippi River." Gelman is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, a group which is to ozone depletion and global warming what the Tobacco Institute was to lung cancer and emphysema. Two Charles Gelmans signed a 1998 Global Warming Petition declaring:
We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.
When Gelman retired from Gelman Sciences in 1996, the company had two wholly-owned Israeli subsidiaries--Gelman Sciences Technology, Ltd. and Gelman Research and Development, Ltd.--according to the company's 1996 FEC 10-K. "Gelman Sciences has been doing business in Israel for close to 30 years, according to Bob Roszell, Director of Marketing Research" (see "Cooperation Between Israel and the State of Michigan").

Some of the money that Gelman accumulated while poisoning the environment and trading with the apartheid state of Israel was used to fund the Gelman Educational Foundation, "to help with the education of the Jewish community and its children." The foundation--sole officers: Charles and Rita Gelman--had assets valued at $5.6 million, according to its 2005 IRS 990 form.

As detailed above, Charles Gelman is hardly a model citizen. Of course, Beth Israel is hardly a model faith community and then there is the small matter of the Gelman foundation's $100,000 donation to Beth Israel in 2005--"numerous contributions," indeed!

Check back on this blog for upcoming protest details.

See also:
Schedule - Beth Israel's 90th Anniversary Celebration

November 17
7:30PM Friday Night Service in Honor of 90th Anniversary, featuring BIRS students in 2nd - 5th grades in "Fitting the Pieces of the Puzzle Together."

November 18
09:30AM-1:30PM 90th Anniversary Celebration. 9:30 a.m. Shabbat Services. A special plaque in the lobby will be dedicated to Charles and Rita Gelman to honor their numerous contributions to Beth Israel Congregation. A special Kiddush Luncheon will follow.

7:00PM Gala Celebration in honor of Beth Israel's 90th Anniversary. Dinner is catered by Emily. Music and dancing, the fabulous Yiddishe Cup. $120 per person.
Room: Social Hall

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