April 24, 2001

Center for Jewish Living Hosts Chief Rabbi From Israel

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The chief rabbi for the Israeli settlement town of Efrat came to Cornell yesterday evening to offer “A Jewish Perspective on the Israeli Crisis.”

Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin moved to Israel in 1983, after founding the Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan and assuming a leadership position in the Jewish modern orthodox movement.

Riskin was hailed as a religious centrist, coming to Cornell from a hot spot of Mideast violence.

“He represents what we feel is a very centrist view — he presents both sides of the issue while at the same time giving a uniquely Jewish perspective,” said Leron Thumim ’03, president of the Center for Jewish Living (CJL), a sponsor of the event.

Riskin opened with a portrait of political sentiments in Israel.

“Israel majors in black humor. Optimists learn Arabic, while pessimists learn to swim,” he said.

In light of near daily mortar attacks and suicide bombings in the occupied territories and in Israel proper, he added, “the Israeli populace has never been as united or as firm in its resolve — that you’ve got to remain straight and tall and strong, because we’ve only got one homeland. We’ll compromise, but we won’t give it up.”

While describing himself as an optimist, Riskin foresaw little hope in reaching a peace with the current Palestinian Authority, drawing a distinction between a belligerent, oppressive regime and the Palestinian people it claims to represent.

“The real intent of Arafat is now indubitably clear