While many congregations throughout the area held recent rallies in support of Israel, Rabbi Peter Hyman of Temple Sholom in Broomall felt that something was missing. "It seemed to me that we were missing the bigger picture and a greater point," he said. "And the greater point for me was that issues that impact Israel and the Middle East are not microscopic, they are actually global."
"Given the amount of disinformation and the preponderance of spin," he continued, "it was my desire to have a program open to the general public — which means the non-Jewish world as well — where we could address those issues directly, openly, and with a sense that the dialogue provides."
To provide this broader perspective, Hyman joined with other local religious leaders to invite Anti-Defamation League Deputy National Director Kenneth Jacobson to give a talk, titled "Worlds in Collision: America, Israel and Radical Islam," at Temple Sholom on Aug. 22.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the ADL, the Marple Newtown Clergy Association, the Marple Reformed Church and the Trinity Christian Reformed Church, in conjunction with Temple Sholom, sponsored the special informational program.
In his presentation, Jacobson warned that while the two great threats to the 20th century were fascism and Soviet communism, the challenge confronting the free world in the 21st century is Islamic extremism.
And he was careful to emphasize that he was not talking about the religion of Islam; he was only speaking of extremist groups.
He drew some comparisons between today's situation and pre-World War II Europe, when British leader Winston Churchill tried to warn the civilized world of the impending threat from Nazi Germany.
"Because the world did not protect its own interests," stated Jacobson, "the world suffered."
He then noted the similarities to what happened last month in Lebanon.
An Iranian-backed Hezbollah had become extremely dangerous over the years while world agencies turned a blind eye to weaponry being amassed at the Israeli border. Jacobson argued that in initially neglecting to disarm Hezbollah, the international community jeopardized its own internal safety, as well as its long-term interests.
Throughout his talk, Jacobson reiterated that when nations ignore extremism, the consequences are almost always deleterious. During the talk, he said that he felt the most lethal threat is not a continuation of Hezbollah rocket attacks, but a nuclear-capable Iran.
"As terrible as 9/11 was," he said, "it would one day look like a walk in the park" if Iran someday acquires weapons of mass destruction.
He also warned that development of Iranian nuclear weapons would lead to greater nuclear proliferation in the region: "If Iran has a nuclear weapon, you're going to see Egypt and Saudi Arabia develop them."
Despite the dire nature of his warnings, Jacobson expressed hope in the fact that neighboring states have called for a halt to attacks on Israel.
They seem to understand, noted the ADL official, that an all-out war in the Middle East is not in their best interests.