In a show of unity in the face of mounting international Arab extremism, as well as anti-Israel sentiment on America's college campuses, some 800 people turned out for last weekend's sold-out screening of "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Welcoming those to the March 26 event – organized by Aish Philadelphia, the Jewish Community Centers, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Hillel of Greater Philadelphia and Akiba Hebrew Academy – Michael Wachs, one of the evening's sponsors, said that "the true blessing of this event is Jews standing united as one. 'Obsession' is a wake-up call."
The film, which received top honors at the 2005 Liberty Film Festival, was directed, edited and co-written by Wayne Kopping of South Africa. Rabbi Raphael Shore, director of Aish International, was the co-producer and co-writer.
'Death to the Jews!'
With archival footage, the film graphically displays acts of terrorism and slaughter around the globe, including the Sept. 11 plane crashes in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., and bombings in Jerusalem, Madrid and London. Radical Islamic imams are shown spewing hate for America and the Jews; young children are seen screaming, "Death to the Jews!"
The film intersperses the acts of terrorism with interviews with experts, including Steven Emerson, executive director of The Investigative Report; Itamar Marcus, editor of Palestinian Media Watch; and former federal prosecutor John Loftus.
It also draws parallels between radical Islam's war on the West and Nazism. Footage compares huge rallies in Germany in the 1930s and '40s to those in the Mideast today, both with stiff-armed salutes and shouts for the destruction of the Jews.
As part of his introduction of the guest speaker, Gary Erlbaum – co-chair of Federation's Center for Israel and Overseas – noted that "Judaism allows us to make choices."
"Where do we go from here?" he then asked.
"The humanitarian gesture is to stand up for ourselves and the people of Israel," offered Erlbaum. "Tell everyone you can that the world is a dangerous place."
In his speech, Prager pointed out the ways anti-Semitism finds expression on the campuses of the United States. He specifically mentioned Harvard, Columbia and the University of Chicago.
"They are home to the enemies of the Jewish people," he said. "Jews venerate the university. However, our colleges are morally inverted, and teach that America and Israel are the enemies."
He also told the audience to take the moral imperative and to reject the need of always being politically correct.
After absorbing Prager's arguments, Annamerle Bellah of Wynnewood agreed with the speaker's sentiments.
"There is urgency for Jews to lose our apathy," she said before quoting the talmudic sage Hillel. "If we are not for ourselves, who will be? If not now, when?"
Penn student Michael Halassa, a Jordanian-Christian Arab, said "the movie was not strong enough. Nothing there surprised me. We were taught to hate in school."
Rabbi Yaakov Couzens, director of Aish Philadelphia, praised the community example of unity and cooperation of the five partner organizations in putting together the event. He made it clear why the film was shown at Penn, and why student tickets were underwritten by the event's organizers.
"Students are in an intellectual learning mode," stated the rabbi, who plans to show the film at other Philadelphia-area schools. "Far too many professors are giving anti-Israel and anti-America views.
"What students learn will affect whom they marry, their politics, and their daily values," he continued. "All of the partner organizations are working to see that those values include a love of Judaism and Israel."
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