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>JN
>ISRAEL FAXX
>PD Nov. 25, 1994, V2, #211

Dead Sea Scrolls on CD-Rom

For many years, access to the Dead Sea Scrolls were controlled by a small group of scholars. Now, the ancient documents are available on an animated computer disk from Israel's Antiquities Authority. Many biblical experts believe that the scrolls found in caves near the Dead Sea starting in 1947, could shed light on ancient Jewish sects and groups that may have influenced early Christian thought.

Snipers Shoot Palestinian Policeman

A Palestinian secret police captain was shot in the legs Tuesday when gunmen hidden in an orange grove opened fire. There was no claim of responsibility for the shooting. Hamas fundamentalists have threatened to attack police unless action is taken against Palestinian officers who killed 12 people during a riot Friday. Gunmen also opened fire at two Israeli army posts, one at a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip and the other at a position in the West Bank, Israel Radio said. There were no injuries.

The Islamic groups oppose Arafat's peace accord with Israel.

Small Town America's Jews

By Chuck Rich (Washington)

From sundown on November 27 until the night of December 5, the candles of Chanukah symbolize the survival of the Jewish people. The same might be said for the menorahs in the windows of small towns and rural areas across the United States.

Christianity in its various forms is the predominant religion in the US. So this Christmas season can be a challenge for Americans who are not Christian. This can make it difficult for non-Christian minority groups to maintain their unique cultures and customs and pass them on to their children. The problem is even more pronounced in America's small towns and rural areas, where minority religions tend to make up a particularly small portion of the population.

It's estimated that there are six million Jewish Americans, out of a US population of more than 250-million. Like many of the country's minority groups, Jews tend to live in major metropolitan areas, much as their ancestors did when they came to America and looked for work. Many of the nation's small towns and rural areas have few or no Jews. And those Jews who live there might have to make a special effort if they want to be involved with a synagogue. Rabbi Jerome Epstein, chief executive officer of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, says religious worship or education can be a long way from home.

"If a Jew lived in a community where he was the only Jew, or maybe [there were] one or two other families, they would go to the nearest congregation with which they could identify. And that sometimes meant, especially even when they had young children, they had to provide religious school education for those children. The family would often have to travel two or three times a week, an hour, an hour and a half, to bring their children to religious school."

Epstein says their small numbers may create a special bond among Jews in America's small towns and rural areas. And at this time of year, the menorah that holds the Chanukah candles can be a symbol of their pride:

"I find that in the smaller communities, people are much more diligent about putting the Chanukah menorah in their window, and letting people see that they are Jewish, and letting people understand that they are celebrating and that they are observing in their own way."

In Richland, Wash., Carl Berkowitz is an active member and past president of Beth Shalom, the only Jewish congregation in that part of the state. Of the 200,000 people living in the area, Berkowitz estimates that 300 families are Jewish. Only about 70 of those families are members of Congregation Beth Shalom. They're too small to hire professional help such as a rabbi. So, many members pitch in: "All services are led by the members and put together by the members. The principal of our religious school is a substitute math teacher. The person who handles the physical facilities is a consultant for a waste-management firm. Just everything is done by volunteers."

Berkowitz says that Chanukah is probably the only Jewish holiday that the general population in Richland, is aware of. So even though Chanukah is a minor religious observance, it takes on added significance for Richland's small Jewish community ... And its non-Jewish neighbors.

I think most people in a small town don't know there's a Jewish presence. When they hear names like Cohen or Berkowitz, they will typically assume they're Polish or European ancestry, but not of a Jewish ancestry. At the time of Chanukah, when suddenly we don't want our kids up there [in public school] participating in the Christmas plays, or sitting through a lot of religious services, suddenly they become aware that there is a Jewish presence here. And I think, stating again that it's a minor religious holiday, it's probably a major cultural one, because it makes the Christians aware that there are others within this country who are different and have different beliefs, and live them in much the same manner as our Christian neighbors live their beliefs."

The observations of Carl Berkowitz about his small-town Jews are echoed by Simcha Prombaum of Lacrosse, Wisc. During the week he works in advertising, but on Sabbath and other Jewish holidays, he's the cantor -- the singer who leads religious services -- for Congregation Sons of Abraham. The next closest Jewish congregation is more than 66 miles away. Prombaum says the Lacrosse metropolitan area has about 50,000 people, of whom about 150 are Jewish. Of those, 40 families are members of the synagogue. Prombaum says that's a rather high proportion of actively involved people.

"When you're in a small town, you have a greater sense of Jewish self, because 'you are it.' And you are doing all the work. And you don't have other people who are doing or identifying for you. So the percentage of those who are involved is greater. So even at worship, on a Saturday morning, say, we have a higher percentage of membership attending than you might find in some of the larger cities."


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