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By BERNIE BELLAN

April and May usually see a burst of activity within the Jewish community – as the snow melts and the snowbirds return from their winter hibernation.


These past two weeks were typically busy: Shoah-related events on a wide front; the Kanee lecture featuring Ari Shavit; and the Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration at the Campus.

While commemorating the Shoah and celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut are of great importance, the fact is that it’s difficult to put a new spin on events that, by and large, repeat upon well-rehearsed themes and don’t offer much opportunity for innovative new ideas. The American commentator Peter Beinart has noted that the Shoah, in particular, has become far less important for young American Jews. Even more surprisingly, a recent report found that young Israelis themselves are much less connected to the Shoah, with only one in four of them able to say that they have ever met an actual Shoah survivor.
While Beinart is often regarded with disdain by many members of the Jewish establishment for his insistence on challenging long-held notions about the North American Jewish community, with all due respect to the many individuals for whom the Shoah still ranks as one of the most significant aspects of Jewish identity – if not the most significant, it’s hard to argue with the observation that it simply doesn’t resonate with young Jews the way it once did.
Yet, I give full credit to individuals such as Belle Jarniewski who has worked tirelessly over the years to reach members of the younger generation especially  with various Shoah-related programs, such as the annual symposium she organizes at the University of Winnipeg to learn about the Shoah.
(By the way, I too much prefer the term “Shoah”, since the term “holocaust” has been more and more appropriated by other groups to the point where it has lost some of its one-time significance.)

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On another note, while I found Ari Shavit’s Kanee lecture to be one of the most interesting Kanee lecture yet, I still wonder about his position vis-à-vis Iran. You can read what he had to say about that subject in my report on his talk but, while I can understand his deeply felt reluctance to embrace any sort of a deal with Iran that does not offer absolutely ironclad guarantees that Iran will not be able to develop a nuclear weapon, I simply can’t accept the notion that the world will be better off if the Lausanne deal disintegrates.
As many other commentators have noted, the deal is so vague in so many respects that it is impossible to know what its impact would be if, by some chance, a final deal can be reached by the June 30 deadline. There is the absolutely pivotal question of verification that needs to be resolved, for instance. But, as Time Magazine columnist Joe Kein notes in  the April 29 issue of that magazine: “A deal with the U.S. undermines Iranian hard-liners and gives reformers hope.”
Klein goes on to note the “weird ideological confluence between Likudnik neoconservatives and the Iranian hard-liners in opposition to the deal…It is reflexive, uninformed, pessimistic.”
While Shavit is hardly a “neoconservative”, I found it difficult to understand his outright hostility to the deal – unless, that is, he, like Netanyahu, insists on some sort of process whereby Iran would have no nuclear capability whatsoever. But that is so unrealistic. Every poll taken in Iran shows that the Iranian people take great pride in their nuclear program and would regard it as unthinkable for Iran to abandon that nuclear program entirely. If we’re going to encourage moderate elements in Iran to succeed – and the majority of Iranians are moderate, we have to offer them something that would allow those moderates to say that their country has not been totally humiliated by the West. Sure – the sanctions have taken a terrible toll on the Iranian economy and they have probably delayed the Iranian nuclear program from taking that irreversible step of “breakout” to a full nuclear weapon,  if there is no deal reached whatsoever, are we better off wondering whether Iran is about to go nuclear at any time?
We have already seen the erosion of support for the sanctions that are currently in place, as Russia moves to bolster Iranian defense capabilities by selling that country S-300 missiles, in clear violation of the sanctions. Russia is also positioning itself to become Iran’s primary agent in circumventing those sanctions by agreeing to accept Iranian oil for sale on the world market. Thus, it’s not at all clear that a collapse of the Lausanne deal will simply lead to a perpetuation of the status quo which, since 2012, has meant a freeze in Iran’s nuclear program. Who is taking the bigger risk - Netanyahu (and Ari Shavit) by rejecting out of hand the Laussane deal, or the Western powers that negotiated it , flawed as it might be? In my mind the rejectionists are the ones courting the more extreme danger.

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We had an interesting phone message this week taking issue with something that I wrote in my last Short Takes column, which was that the Human Rights Musuem may have had a crimping effect on this year’s CJA campaign. The person leaving the message argued that most of the money that had been pledged to the museum had been paid quite some time ago, so it wasn’t right to suggest that donations to the CJA campaign were down this year as a result of the museum having sucked so much money out of the community.
That’s a legitimate argument , but one that requires further study, since many of the pledges to the museum were for commitments that were to be paid off over a long period of time.  It might be interesting to know how many donors to the museum cut back their donations to the CJA this past year as a result. In the meantime, what I wrote about that was based upon anecdotal reports – which isn’t always the most reliable way to make a point. But, in the absence of firm evidence one way or the other, I still maintain that the museum has had a dampening effect on donations from the Jewish community to the CJA campaign.

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Two more quick notes:
In our last issue we ran an article by Bill Marantz which some readers found offensive in parts. I admit that there were certain phrases Bill used that probably went over the line of what should be considered acceptable in this newspaper. I apologize for not having edited that column more carefully. It falls upon the editor of a publication to screen out anything that should not be printed. Normally, when I edit any particular issue I pay particular attention to rules of style, grammar and syntax, but not enough attention to references that might be considered a little too colourful for this newspaper.
I admit that I get a kick out of Bill Marantz’s style of writing - which is colourful, to say the least, but that doesn’t mean that Bill doesn’t edge into crudeness at times. I willl try to be more mindful of readers’ sensitivities in the fuure.

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One final note: You may notice that the font (type style) that we are using in this issue is a throwback to the font that was used in The Jewish Post & News for years. A few years ago I decided to try and give the paper a new look by switching to a font known as “Optima”, instead of the traditional “Times” font. A while back one of our readers told me that it was harder on the eyes reading the paper in Optima than it was in Times. I didn’t make the change at that point, but when I happened to engage that same reader in a conversation about fonts recently again, this time he gave me a more elaborate explanation why it’s easier to read something in Times than in Optima. This time I agreed with what he had to say.
Apparently  it has to do with the “serifs” - the  little strokes that are added to letters in fonts such as Times. While serif fonts are generally considered to be more traditional, as it turns out they are easier to read in print publications. As for computer screens, tablets and smartphones, the evidence isn’t conclusive one way or the other.
Here’s something I came across that explains why serif fonts are easier to read in print: “Readability studies have actually founds that serif typefaces are easier to read because the added strokes make each character more distinctive. More distinctive letters are easier for the eye to recognize quickly.”
Is this of earth-shattering importance? No, but I’m always interested in hearing from readers ways to improve the paper, so if it’s a question of using a different font, then I’m open to that as well.