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: Dean Peachey, Professor of Conflict Resolution Studies at Menno Simons College. He was a leader of the the three part interfaith worshop that took place over In May 2009 at the University of Winnipeg.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Editorial: Being Open to Israel: Response to Brenda Suderman’s Article In the Winnipeg Free Press

By Rhonda Spivak, November 1, 2009

Do any of our readers remember Brenda Suderman’s article in the Winnipeg Free Press on Saturday May 17, 2009 entitled Peace Talks on the Prairies ?
It was about a three part interfaith workshop put on by the Winnipeg Mosaic, for  about 40 Muslim, Jewish, and Christian participants entitled “Longing and Lament” about  Middle East peace.

Well-it so happens that yours truly registered as one of the participants and I’d  love to tell you about what happened  at the workshops but  all participants were asked  by the organizers not to report on them, so as to ensure everyone felt comfortable to open up and be candid.

Well, for me, the very reverse has happened since,  now that the workshops are over, I can be very candid about something  I  read in Brenda Suderman’s column that rather got my attention, and I think calls for a response.

There were three workshop leaders at the interfaith dialogue:  Dean Peachey, representing the Christian religious tradition, led the workshops along with two other Winnipeg Mosaic members: former Brandon University counselor Bruce Sarbit, who is Jewish, and Natasha Mohammed, who has Hindu and Muslim roots.

Here’s what Suderman wrote that Bruce Sarbit said (in advance of the workshop):

In addition to the interfaith aspect of the workshops, Sarbit says he's looking forward to discussions with fellow Jews who hold views other than his own, something that doesn't always happen within the Jewish community.

"I'm hoping to talk to people with a different orientation, not only left-wing intellectuals," says Sarbit of his goal for the workshop. "I'm open to the argument from Zionism and the need for a Jewish state and from arguments from non-Jews."

 What does it mean exactly when Sarbit said “I’m open to the argument from Zionism and the need for a Jewish State ?”  I think that what it appears to mean is that the very existence of the state of Israel for Sarbit is debatable, but “he’s open to it.”

After 61 years of Israel being recognized as a member state of the world, Mr. Sarbit appears to be telling us that “he’s open to it.”  Well-I’m sure most Israelis are grateful for Mr. Sarbit’s openness.

Let me say in response- that I am open to there being a Jordan and a Saudi Arabia and an Egypt.  Hey-I’m even open to there being a Canada (as opposed to making Canada and the United States ‘one big state’ since, after all, they are pretty similar in many ways). I could also be open to a Palestinian state but not   unless it is beside Israel, as opposed to overtaking Israel or being lumped together in some kind of single  bi-national state, which I think would end up being a Palestinian state with a Jewish minority.

I have been on the look out to see if Mr. Sarbit wrote in to the Winnipeg Free Press to correct what Suderman quoted him as saying, but so far haven’t seen anything.  Please tell me if something came in that I’ve missed.

Mr. Sarbit is welcome to write in and tell me what he meant by the comment exactly, and if he believes there should be a Jewish State in the Middle East or not. If not-then at least we’ll know—since some of our community may want to know the views of the sole Jewish workshop leader of the group is.

In the event that Mr. Sarbit doesn’t recognize the existence of the State of Israel, I don’t mind saying that I’ll be the first to lament his view.
there’s one other thing I noticed about Suderman’s article that I wanted to raise.  Did anyone notice Mr. Sarbit 's comment  about how there isn’t always open dialogue in the Jewish community among Jews of differing views ?  It’s interesting that no where in Suderman’s article does it say anything about open dialogue within the Winnipeg Muslim community.  How come that issue wasn’t taken up by Suderman in regards to the Moslem, and Christian communities?  Is our community the only one that ought to be labeled as the debate stiflers?  

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.