Jim Cooper's Orange County; Jewish Heritage An Orange County View.
The program that you've just seen with another broadcast in the PBS series heritage civilization and the Jews it's more than a story of one ethnic religious group. It's a 3000 year history of man including the amazing story of the Jewish people and their interactions with all countries of the world. In that long tenuous thread called civilization. How does that 3000 year heritage come into play in Orange County which now is the fastest growing Jewish community in the nation. I'm Jim Cooper and I'll talk about it today with special guests on the Jewish heritage and Orange County view. Minute of. The monumental PBS series narrated by the eloquent Abhi band trace the Jewish contributions of civilization and social and moral ideas in commerce the
arts medicine science literature and philosophy as well as religion. It has special interest to Orange County which in the past 40 years has grown from an area with almost no Jews to today's estimated population of 100000 views about 5 percent of the county's 2 million population. What values and contributions from their heritage are inherent in this dynamic and growing Jewish community in Orange County. What diversity and vitality does it offer into Orange County's pluralistic society. Let's meet our special guests to ask those questions. Rabbi Robert Jeremiah Bergman is executive director of the new Jewish community center in mid Orange County in Garden Grove. He's also founding president director of Merck cause national service center for adults and family education. He spent three and a half years in Israel doing doctoral research and in 1051 in 52 served on the home desk of the new Islam post as chief translator even lecturer in Judaic studies at California State University at Fullerton for 15 years and he's a scholar in residence at the Congregation B'nai Israel in Tustin.
Reverend Joseph Maurice Melito is vice chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange which now serves Orange County. He's also the diocesan director of marriage preparation serving all local Catholic churches. He studied Hebrew Greek and Biblical Theology at Harvard University. He's a member of the Jewish Law Association and the Jewish Genealogy Society and other Catholic and Jewish societies. Michael Catherwood served as president of the Jewish Federation the Warrens County in 82 to 84 and as chairman of the United Jewish welfare fund in one thousand eighty one thousand nine hundred two. His father escaped Nazi persecution during World War Two flying from Holland to England where Michael with Born both his grandparents died in the Holocaust. He has been successful locally in the record and music sales business and now serves much of his time with philanthropic work. Dr. George Benedict Gross is president of the Academy of your day Christian and Islamic Studies and a visiting lecturer with the school of humanities University of California at Irvine Ray's introduced a new discipline the judeo christian islamic
interaction. His doctoral dissertation was on foundations for dialogue between Judaism Christianity and Islam. We're all very highly qualified people I feel to talk about this subject. I'd like to have your reactions on that. The great popularity of this PBS series that focuses on the whole 3000 year impact of the Jewish people on civilization. Rabbi I think we should hear from you from comments on what this means that let all people know about that. An enormous story is that it's an exceptional story and it was exceptionally well told. The most relevant part I think to us in Orange County today is the period of our nomad society that period was considered the matrix of all Jewish values and applied to this day. And if there was a notion of equality it grew up there and that nomad society
where there were no rich and no poor no royalty and no commoners in those days not even priests and laity. And in later generations when we became farmers and began to forget some of those simple nomad principles the whole prophetic movement arose and the prophets reverted back to the Nomad day. He the rabbis in that Alma tried to preserve that tradition and if you study Jewish law today and Israeli law today involving real estate and things like that you will find that the old principles of the Nomads that God is the ultimate owner of all land is the basis of it. In Orange County today you have a Jewish community. That's trying both to establish roots here and find its roots. That's interesting idea find his Jewish roots find its Jewish roots say that that is not always the dilemma of the Jewish people to try and hold on to their Jewish values and
still be assimilated into the larger population it's around 95 percent of the people in this county are not Jewish and you interact with them what what about that dilemma. Well you know what we had as you were talking Rabbi something it reminded me of something we have a concept called so doc on the back of the docket and and it's a concept that we don't have a concept of charity in Judaism Irad there is a concept of justice that it is just for those that can to help those that unfortunately are not able to help themselves. And that concept here in Orange County has created a situation where over a period of 20 years which is about the time our Jewish Federation has existed we have grown in the ability to raise funds to help others a thousand fold. That to me as a thousandfold what with your will to give us an idea what your gross amount of money that was raised to help you as well for the last year. Well in the for instance the last I'll go back over the 20 year period
for 62 to 80 to 62 we raised on a county wide basis $2000 and in one thousand eighty two is two million dollars. Amazing. And that money goes to help all the Jewish welfare projects. It's it's really divided approximately equally between here Orange County helping all of the myriad needs and also going abroad to help Soviet Jews. Yes we when we have to resettle them to help Jews say in Argentina about Gary Sorry if I'm in Orange County Oh yes at Israel especially when you want to go to Israel. I know that the Catholic Church is a very dynamic ecumenical movement. Certainly Christians and Jews come together in groups like the National Conference of Christians and Jews. What about your perspective as a non-Jew to comment on this contribution to Orange County from this culture. Well my own feeling would be that you know one thing that this whole epic has shown us is that the
suffering that can happen to anyone especially to this people of persecution when the religious leaders have for bed their people to associate with the other people. And so the other people become very distant very foreign very strange and all kinds of myths and and odd perspectives to develop about them. And then when things go wrong those people can be blamed for that. And this whole series has pointed out that time after time how the Jewish people were persecuted by the peoples of the world including the Christians whenever something went wrong. I would think that nowadays we have a different view. We have the religious leaders encouraging socializing between Christians and Jews. We have the religious leaders encouraging an understanding between the people and this will in its own way dissipate anti-Semitism and dissipate some of their tendencies to persecute.
It's exciting to me when we have a meeting of the National Conference of Christians or Jews of which I'm a member you might see Monsignor Salman open a meeting with a blessing and you might see Rabbi pheromone or someone from one of the rabbis given up blessing on the clothes and work on projects real projects together. For example Brotherhood and joined together working around a table to have schoolchildren in Orange County write essays on what the meaning of brotherhood is. Oh yeah so we've had like where where the rabbis come into account like a school system and and answer questions and that's productive use of the children and also priests will go to a synagogue and answer questions of those children. Yeah it's very important why shouldn't children know about the great religions and that comes out I guess into your work too because there's this third one that you get involved in Islam. All of these religions teach moral values and yet we've seen a lot of bloodshed in the world particular in the Mideast about the where the three regions come into clashing. What I've got to say has a long background with me that is nearly 14 years.
I've come to see that for us to mutually understand one another. We are not in a position to leave anybody out. In particular the three need each other. That is Judaism Christianity Islam. There are ways in which each of these contribute to each other and that's what we're talking about today in Orange County. They contribute to each other's well-being when they communicate as 5 million a million of us saying why are we communicating I guess that's the question. Up to a point there are 20000 Muslims in Orange County. That also is a little known figure. And they're newer than the Jewish community. And from my perspective as a Christian I Presbyterian I was about 1 percent something like that and one percent. I don't have any preference between Judaism or Islam. You're a Christian. Yes I'm Presbyterian minister. But what I
see is that in our time the third partner in the Abraham Family that's a good way to put it is a very important to include. Very Bergmann introduced the reality that basic Jewish values have their source in the Nomad days and back in those days. A little further back than Moses we're looking at the Abraham tradition and we have Isaac who carries the covenant line and the covenant promises both the Judaism and Christianity and then we have Ishmael. So part of the question is what do we do with Ishmael and in today's world what do we do with the Muslims. And I we talking to each other and are we working together rather than using energy to be divisive. We're not talking with one another to any extent. What is being done I know that I'm alive as a vampire in the questions and years are talking to each of us.
His lamp in Orange County as I am aware of them and I spoke in the mosque and Dr. Siddiqi the director of the mosque is speaking in my place my class you see at this moment I believe that they are open to more communication and more interaction then as it is there's more work to be done that way there is more going on on a constructive side or positive definitely and it is a current and immediate opportunity and will enrich off enrich all but also enrich each one in their interior understanding. I found in my work with Jews and Muslims that I understand my Christianity better and others have told me the same about their life in Judaism or Islam. There's really something here that is mysterious and wonderful about how we can bless each other. Orange County had a lot of problems let me let me in and name a few of them their problem that cut across all of the religions you're talking about. Orange County has a very serious problem of drug abuse that
causes a couple of us who live in our photo to be worried about that. Alcoholism poverty the need for more cultural growth all of our civic needs better education. Those are things that we're all interested in the Catholics are interested. The Protestants are understood certainly the Jews are interested. How does the Jewish community help address of these problems are not necessarily religious problems but they're problems that we all face too to bring moral I suppose a moral force to bear on these problems. Of course that the Jewish Federation as the umbrella organization for the Jewish community of Orange County. It helps raise the funds that then are used to address these needs. The first agency that was founded here in Orange County was the Jewish Family Service which addresses the problems and the needs of families in distress. Jewish or not Jewish to get well actually yes it is Jewish and non-Jewish that are helped and even though the name is Jewish Family Service we
have reached out to and help on a continuing basis people who are Jewish rabbi Bergman knows better than anyone that quality of work that's been done through the Jewish education bureau which again was initially funded by the Federation to reach out to our youngsters especially to work with those youngsters who after their bond bought Mitford's yet continue to keep them involved in Jewish learning in Jewish education. The funding of social centers by the Jewish community center that Rabbi Bergman is heading is one of two there's a second in South Orange County the director for that is funded by the Federation. So it runs the whole gamut needs. How would you answer that question about attacking problems that we all face in Orange County. 50 years ago alcoholism
wasn't a Jewish problem. There were Jewish alcoholics but so few that they didn't even appear on the statistical charts. The same was true for divorce and certainly the same was true family dissolution for America yes for narcotics. Living in the open society as we have and becoming part of the open society many of our families have lost the footing that they had infirm Jewish values and especially when they moved away from home and grandparents and cousins and uncles and so forth. And today alcoholism is a very serious Jewish problem and narcotics was a serious problem with our youth in the 60s. I don't think it's a serious problem now though it still exists with some but divorce runs rampant and that is that divorce is just as much against Jewish law as it.
It's not against Jewish law. The Bible says provides for divorce the Jewish Torah provides for divorce because in a polygamous society what a man can have many wives. So when he got tired and wanted to send her away. But the Jewish God values the Torah says if a man is going to send his wife ways going to give her a bill of divorce so she can remarry. So divorce is not against Jewish law but the people who gave the world divorce just didn't use it. I'm my mother was divorced when I was two. She was a rare specimen. Today the Jewish divorce rate is almost up to the other. So this is an obsession of some of us. Yeah the media especially and of our Jewish community and I would be a community agency as the Jewish community does as the Jewish religion as I understand it has a great value places a great value on the on the sanctity of the family absolute importance of the family. That responsibility is why this challenge is so great to us now. That's why our family is a Jewish Family Service has a counseling service available so you don't have to be rich to afford it.
Do you have some observations on that. This business of the comment that both of you I do have some observations not so much on on specifically the divorce law that will is a right problem the crime problem alcoholism. I see poverty problem. All right I would have objected. Another problem or opportunity education. The love of learning and learning which has been characteristic of the Jewish people for centuries is no accident. Their commitment to the Torah and that even the study of Torah itself is worship and all of these are values that come together and the honor given to the rabbi over the centuries. The teacher has reinforced that and the contribution of the Jewish people to the professions and the science and the research for I talk about that for out of proportion to their numbers. Now I want to give a specific About Orange County having it in against the educational theme already Bergman has taught brilliantly at Cal State Fullerton for a number of years and is introducing a spend of course
in the spring very novelty thing which he can speak about but I think it's appropriate for me to speak of rabbit. Dr. Morton Thurman Sherman was one of the three a triumvirate that started the Religious Studies Department at Cal State Fullerton. And he's a very dear friend of mine. And the fact he brought me into academic life. That religious studies department there has had a lot to do with conveying the best values to young people in North Orange County for a long time. That's a that's a very positive story very positive. And Dr. Furman has said more than once many times in fact that his vision of what it was doing there was to help a Jew be a better Jew a Christian be a better Christian and whatever their religion was to fulfill the best in their own tradition. And I think that typifies
some of the best values in Judaism and is expressed right here. And he also Brotherhood the idea the concept of brotherhood should run through all three great religions of your time. So long as we have a basis for it and we find it and embrace it you know we must have a substantial basis and I think that's what he was working on others. He also began a course on interreligious relations there and he introduced that at UCI as well. And he wasn't alone in this I mentioned Ari Berman's been with him a long time and that and there are others and I think that that kind of view is an orange county not just a religious studies because there are others in higher education others is most significant. Fighting leader like you to respond and that the question the how this kind of working together can address problems that the whole county faces. I just think that you know we don't want to make this do simplistic. The point is that marriage and family life go right to the source of that which is marriage and family life. And our view would be
that you know family the religious values of that family have to be shared with the children and with the whole family. And we cannot separate that and say Well son to a religious school or to a temple or a church and they'll teach them that separates it from reality. The parents the parents have the primary obligation to share with their children religious values and that means that the family itself must already have that religious value. Now when we talk about Jewish or Catholic family life. We're talking to different kinds of people some people have that and they can share that. Some people don't have that they have some kind of loose federation. But I do know that since the Second Vatican Council has re-emphasized for Catholic people to return to our roots to return to the Scriptures and the biblical basis
of Catholicism that every parish has prayer groups every Catholic parish has Bible classes. And as these people are introduced to the Scriptures they automatically are introduced to Jewish values. They're automatically brought back to the Jewish roots of Christianity and the Jewish roots of Catholicism in a way that encourages Brotherhood not in a way that encourages and tiptoeing chorus Yeah no no no I don't think and this encourages us as brothers and as related and not at all as separated and so this has had an influence on Gothic people. I'd like to bring it up to other other values that we find in Orange County. For example our cultural life our education life our business life our medicine those kind of people in that and they come across and all of our fields can you want to comment on that Michael about you know you know one of the things I and I think this
this is certainly been true for the Jewish community in letters that are examples that the Jewish community takes its place and did he work very hard in the sciences of course at the universities. Culturally some of the leaders in helping to found and to fund the our new Orange County Center for Performing are harming our Jewish JON ROUSE Elaine Redfield. These people were the president of that organization very very active in that. So throughout throughout the those fields but I would like to go back for just a minute to one other thing that we were talking about because I think it ties into the Heritage Series right. And that is that syncs of family and tradition and shared values that we were talking about I think in a pluralistic society like ours. Yes. Knowing who you are through education knowing who you are through our religion and being proud of who we end up being proud of that then gives you that inner strength to be able to go out and help your fellow
man throughout our community. And I think that you know all of those areas culturally in the sciences educationally the Jewish community those people especially who feel strong about who they are and are proud of their Judaism can go out and take their rightful place throughout Orange County. I should I should add a load that. The number of Jewish teachers in primary schools junior high schools senior high schools colleges and universities is awesome. Really. So to that extent you can do your part a lot of learning which originally was a love of Jewish learning has spread to all areas of learning including the medical sciences and the radical sciences and so if I want to know that I could just emphasise here though is that you know over the death camps the Nazis had work makes free. In other words if you work hard enough you show you are of value to the state. And I would hate to have that considered translated nowadays that the Jewish
community is a value to our state. If you are teachers if you're doctors if you are counselors we don't have to prove our worth. The point is that Jewish community exists and has values that that enrich our lives rich our lives and the Jewish community doesn't have to produce statistics to prove that. And to that prove itself one of the certainly one of the products that we like to think that brotherhood. Promotes is to attack bigotry and yet not be to give you this quote that comes up in the last of the PBS series because this will be dealt with in the last of the series and heritage. Today nearly one quarter of the world's Jews are still denied the right to practice their religion openly. Now obviously that doesn't exist in our community but do we still have work to do to build Brotherhood and to fight bigotry to fight discrimination to fight anti-Semitism. Is there still homework for all of us to do in a sense of brotherhood. We're on the we're on the second story. We passed the first story. But we've got
maybe 18 more stories to climb but we have reason for confidence now at least in our society here. We have 100 stories to climb if you're talking about Ethiopia or Russia Russia where 300000 Jews are still alive I'm convinced that figures so far below I'm convinced there is at least a million to 2 million still there and that that and that means work for all of us to at least talk about it. You have this is a very big thing. There are millions of Muslims in the Soviet Union as well. They want to get they want to emigrate also. Well we're talking about Jews that wanted 300000 who have applied and there's those applications have been on file have I 20 years I know I'm putting in that in the concourse we've got the Afghanistan problem as a dozen people but the Christians are under a cloud there also in terms of worship and the establishment of any new churches or their education religious education is denied denied.
So I think we can see there that the three Abrahamic traditions are all under a cloud and I saw a video. And yet we should be talking about this this whole thing of the concept of this brotherhood is that we should be taught speaking up for tolerance mutual respect and against bigotry anti-Semitism and this group even when it appears recently in our political campaigns and to raise anti-Semitism anti-Semitism in our in the in someone who wants to be president of the United States right for the hour this snowman is talking about and I was rising again to say that the Holocaust never happened. We ought to be a committee want to speak out against that and that's discussion dialogue and education. Yes I think everything. Thanks for mentioning dialogue and I think I would say like The Three Musketeers. I mean Judaism Christianity Islam and three Mouseketeers one for all all for one if we ever get to that place. We will have cleared the air for the human race in so many ways. That's a dream. As long as our muskrats are unloaded. Absolutely. But that to the left and I know it. You know what I'm saying but I'm thinking and hoping and we all are doing the same on that.
All right and that on that note of a dream to not just believe in brotherhood but be a committee of one to speak out about it. Time's almost up now and I want to thank all of our guests for this very stimulating discussion on the Jewish heritage and Orange County view. Please join me on Friday at 8:30 pm when I'll tell the story of score a group of retired executives who donate their time to help people start successful new businesses in Orange County. I'm Jim Cooper. Thanks for being with us. Your.
- Jim Cooper's Orange County
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Director: Ratner, Harry
Guest: Bergman, Robert
Guest: Melito, Joseph
Guest: Pinto, Michael
Guest: Grose, George
Host: Cooper, Jim
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