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Is JDL's New Patrol Really a New Dawn?

August 05, 1990

While reading David Haldane's article on Irv Rubin and the Jewish Defense League ("JDL's New Patrol," July 23), I found myself recalling a warm morning in May when I was introduced rather abruptly to Rubin and his style of public demonstration. I was immediately put off and was ready to throw the Constitution, and the First Amendment in particular, to the wind.

I will never forget that day for many reasons. What an honor it was to be the First Crucifier, an acolyte, serving in the same service as one of the most humble and gracious servants in the world--South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I was proud, joyful, and in complete awe of this man, who risks his life to battle oppression and hatred among the human family and has been duly recognized for his peacemaking efforts by no less an authority than the Nobel Institute.

As the acolytes, banners, flags, choir and clergy recessed from the nave of All Saints Episcopal Church onto the streets of Pasadena, the throng of people outside applauded and cheered in a show of respect and love.

As their esteemed visitor passed them, glory and grace turned to fear and ugliness. The two other acolytes and I were shoved out of the way. Rubin and his colleagues were shouting and verbally accosting Archbishop Tutu in a very threatening manner, hissing, "What about the Jews, Tutu?" . . . "Jew Hater!" . . . and much worse.

Instead of being able to greet the eager congregation, the archbishop was quickly escorted to a safer place.

It is obvious that the JDL's reputation is thwarting the effectiveness of other respectable Jewish advocacy groups, yet JDL fills a void as well. There must be found, in this situation, a medium for passionate expression in a civilized manner.

Rubin and the Jewish Defense League caused a great deal of nervousness and disappointment among the congregation and the people in charge of the service. However, with the gracious and kind manner in which Archbishop Tutu deals with situations, even in the face of threat and harsh words, he presented himself as such a man again, saying: "That is all right . . . in my country they would not be allowed such a freedom . . . I understand their frustration."

It is to Rubin's credit that attempts at reconciliation have been made by him if they are, in fact, genuine. I hope that others are as forgiving and understanding as Archbishop Tutu.



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