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Women’s Division ponders Mideast peace, celebrates leadership

By Andrea Waxman
of Chronicle Staff

May 9th, 2008

Julie Sadoff accepts the Ann Agulnick Young Leadership Award from Women’s Division President Idy Goodman. Pho Andrea Waxman.

Julie Sadoff accepts the Ann Agulnick Young Leadership Award from Women’s Division President Idy Goodman. Pho Andrea Waxman.

Is the Middle East ready for peace? That is the question that Linda Scherzer, media consultant and former Mideast correspondent for CNN and Israel Television, addressed as she spoke to some 130 women gathered at Brynwood Country Club for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation Women’s Division annual meeting on Thursday, May 1.

A veteran journalist who covered the first Palestinian intifada, the Gulf War and the Mideast peace process of the 1990s, Scherzer is the only North American ever to work as an on-air correspondent for Mabat, Israel Television’s Hebrew news program. There, she covered Arab and Palestinian affairs.

In addition, Scherzer traveled to Damascus twice to report on Syrian attitudes toward the peace process and produced a one-hour documentary “Through the Eyes of Enemies: Is the Middle East Ready for Peace?” which explored opinions in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt toward Israel.

Fifteen years ago, following the first Palestinian intifada, Scherzer said that she and her fellow journalists in the region believed that peace was on the way.

“The Arabs were in direct negotiations with the Israelis. In 1993, the Syrians were able to speak openly about Israel.... Conditions were not perfect but the most important leaders wanted peace,” Scherzer said.

But, she said, “I was wrong.” She and her colleagues were focused on the story with the photo opportunity — the 1993 Arafat-Rabin handshake — but “ignored the big picture.”

That picture would have revealed that Palestinian children were being systematically educated to hate Israel and the Jews, Scherzer said.

She blames the failure to achieve peace then on one man, Yasser Arafat. “[He] left his people depleted and demoralized … and Hamas is the legacy,” she said.

Scherzer said that prospects for peace are especially dim now because “[Arabs] believe it is a mathematical impossibility for six million Jews to live surrounded by millions of Arabs.” They believe that, in the end, Israel will not be able to survive as a Jewish state, she said.

Scherzer concluded that the Middle East was not ready for peace then and it is not ready now. “It will take another generation. Maybe, God forbid, another war.”

Nevertheless, the state is thriving in so many ways. Calling her self an optimist, Scherzer said, “It is only a matter of time before good people on both sides are able to make peace. Let us hope it happens in our lifetime.”

In his opening remarks, MJF president Bruce Arbit noted that it was Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

While we are thinking about where we have come from, we also think about where we have gone, Arbit said. “Gone is the time of powerlessness. We have a Jewish state, an unapologetically strong nation.”

But the establishment and building of Israel comes with a cost, Arbit said and cautioned “we need to reconcile ourselves to the stubbornness of this fight.”

Leadership award

Women’s Division president Idy Goodman, who accepted the gavel for a second one-year term, thanked the volunteers and said that her first year as president was “an amazing year of learning, creating new relationships, and developing exciting new initiatives.”

She noted that this year’s board meeting focus was on women in leadership. “We have explored qualities of female leadership, learned about leadership styles and the power of team leadership and studied the leadership qualities of women in the Torah,” Goodman wrote in her annual report.

Past president and nominating committee chair Sue Strait presented the Women’s Division’s slate of officers and board members for 2009 and the members voted to accept it. The 2009 campaign chair is Andrea Schneider and vice presidents are: Eileen Graves, Sharyl Paley, Susan Pittleman, Jill Plavnick, Lauri Roth, Marci Taxman and Leslie Usow.

Outgoing campaign chair Audrey Bernstein reported that the Women’s Division has raised $2.2 toward its 2008 goal of $2,375,000.

Mequon native Julie Sadoff was honored with the Ann Agulnick Young Leadership Award, which is given annually to a young woman in the community who has demonstrated outstanding qualities of leadership, a deep awareness and commitment to the challenge of Jewish communal life and a dedication to the continuity of the Jewish people.

A marketing consultant and mother of two daughters and one son, Sadoff is currently a co-president of the National Council of Jewish Women, a member of the executive committee of the Jewish Women’s Endowment Fund and the Women’s Division board and a volunteer at the Milwaukee Jewish Day School.

Upon accepting her award, Sadoff spoke about the quality of activism and leadership that has been modeled for her by her parents and her husband’s family, whom she credits as the inspiration for her commitment to the community.