Widgets Magazine

Actor Michael Douglas and activist Natan Sharansky talk Jewish identity

Actor Michael Douglas and Jewish activist Natan Sharansky held a conversation titled “Jewish Journeys” on Tuesday night in CEMEX Auditorium. The talk focused on the changing face of Jewish individuality and the two men’s shared goal of supporting college-aged students in identity issues.

Douglas, known for producing “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and starring in “Wall Street,” among other films, was awarded the 2015 Genesis Prize, dubbed the “Jewish Nobel Prize” by Time Magazine, along with $1 million. Douglas donated his award money, which was doubled to $2 million by an anonymous donor, to Avenues to Jewish Engagement for Intermarried Couples and their Families.

Sharansky was a former political prisoner of the Soviet Union for nine years, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and is the current Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel.  

As a member of the Genesis Prize selection committee, Sharansky said the organization looked for “people who appreciate their Jewish heritage and tradition and can explain to the young generation about the connection between universal values within Israel and Jewish values.”

Actor Michael Douglas and Natan Sharvansky speak at an even (Courtesy of Robert Reeves)

Actor Michael Douglas and Jewish activist Natan Sharansky speak at an event called “Jewish Journeys,” sponsored in part by Hillel. (Courtesy of Robert Reeves)

Douglas became the candidate for the prize as his own reconnection with Judaism reflected the changing definition of Jewish identity today. His reconnection occurred when his son Dylan began delving deeper into the faith and asked for a bar mitzvah, a coming-of-age ceremony for Jewish boys. Douglas’s story showcased that supporting adolescent exploration of identity was something important for his family.

Both Douglas’s and Dylan’s recognition as Jews despite their paternal link also highlighted a shift occurring in Jewish culture. There is a reform movement to be more inclusive in the designation of Jews. Douglas’s father was Jewish but his mother was not. According to traditional Jewish law, only the children of Jewish mothers can be considered Jewish. Because of this, Douglas claimed he thought of Judaism as “not necessarily an open, embracing and welcoming faith.”

However, he considered the Genesis Prize an opportunity to renew his spirituality and a way to broadcast the impact of marriage between Jews and non-Jews.

“This incredible catharsis came over me,” Douglas said. “I’m recognizing the fact that inclusion and interfaith marriage must be more important than I had ever realized.”

According to The Jerusalem Post, the overall rate of Jewish intermarriage in the U.S. is 58 percent, with a high of 71 percent for non-Orthodox Jews.

Just as Douglas’s reception of the Genesis Prize represented the shifting trends in identifying Jews, Sharansky echoed the need for a more inclusive definition.  

“What a great lesson or reminder to our community that we have to be all as welcoming and that it’s never too late for anyone to be part of our mutual exodus,” Sharansky said.

He also suggested that people, especially the younger generation, fortify their values and beliefs in order to assume responsibility for their own identities.

“You can define your identity by strengthening your life as part of your community, by learning more and trying to see what are the values [of your identity],” Sharansky said. “If you really want to change the globe, start by strengthening your identity.”

Today, Israel is experiencing the largest influx of Western European immigrants since the modern state of Israel was created in 1948, according to CNN. The increasing number of migrants also contributes to the question of what defines an Israeli. But for Sharansky, immigration is not an obstacle for Israeli identity but merely another part of it.

“Israel has experience at integration like no other state,” Sharansky said. “Seventy-five percent of the population immigrated. Society is very open to more and more people from very different backgrounds.”

Legislation also reflects the changing face of Jewish religion in Israel. This past weekend, the Israeli government agreed to open up prayer space at the Western Wall – considered the most important Jewish site, according to Sharansky – for non-Orthodox Jews. They will also now allow men and women to share the same site.

“Interdependence between Jews of the globe and Israel is as big as never before,” Sharansky said.

The talk was partly sponsored by Hillel at Stanford in celebration of its 50th anniversary. For Douglas and Sharansky, it was the second in a three-part series. The two also held similar conversations at Brown University and University of California, Santa Barbara, Douglas’s alma mater.

 

Contact Ariel Liu at aliu15 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • mxm123

    Natan Sharansky, one of the greatest proponents of Apartheid in Israel. Genesis Prize given by the Genesis Foundation sponsored by a trifecta of Russian oligarchs with ties to Putin along with Netanyahu the enforcer of Apartheid.

    All to talk about “values”. Of course all hosted by the Hillel. Cause after all the “values” espoused by Sharansky which include open theft of Palestinian land seem to meet the Hillel guidelines of censorship.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/27/world/europe/russians-establish-1-million-jewish-prize-with-israel.html?_r=0

    Being friends with Sharansky has its benefits. All in the name of “values” of course.

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/sharanskys-double-standard/

    “As minister of the interior in 1999, he refused to extradite two Russian Jews living in Israel who were former NKVD officers charged with massacring dozens of civilians in Lithuania prior to World War II.”

    ” As minister of the interior, Sharansky played a key role behind the scenes in undercutting Barak at Camp David.”

    ” In June 2004, in a move Ha’aretz reported in an article aptly entitled “Like Thieves in the Night,” Sharansky and another minister met secretly and declared large tracts of Arab land in Jerusalem to be abandoned and therefore subject to confiscation. The land was not really abandoned. Rather, the Palestinian owners could not assert their claim because their property was on the wrong side of Israel’s security fence….. Labor Member of Knesset Amram Mitzna simply labeled it “theft.””

    ” The Scotsman tied Sharansky’s Yisrael B’Aliyah to Russian mafia figure Grigory Lerner.”

    “In July 2000, the Israeli paper Ma’ariv revealed that the U.S. Treasury Department had provided documents to the Israeli government showing that over $300,000 had been transferred by an American nonprofit organization to an Israeli filmmaker to make a campaign film for Sharansky in violation of Israeli election laws. Sharansky refused to co-operate with that investigation..”

  • Juan Rabinovits

    The “occupied territory of the West Bank” is not occupied. Judea and Samaria are part of the sovereign State of Israel according international agreement signed by the government of Turkey and recorded in the Treaty of Lausanne which legalized the San Remo Accords. The government of Turkey as signatory to this binding treaty gave up all claim to its former territories and the Mandate for Palestine came into legal force. And thus ‘Jewish Palestine’ was established by the League of Nations on September 16th 1922 as Eretz-Israel. Once and for all Israel was legitimized as the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This subsequent partition plan of 1947 was merely a proposal and totally rejected by the Arabs. It has no legal standing whatsoever. The San Remo agreement and the Treaty of Lausanne are Israel’s Magna Carta and are in full force to this day. No country may try to change the legitimate borders of another country by intimidation, coercion or force. There is no occupation. Only Jordan occupied the Judea and Samaria but later withdrew.

  • Juan Rabinovits

    The “occupied territory of the West Bank” is not occupied. Judea and Samaria are part of the sovereign State of Israel according international agreement signed by the government of Turkey and recorded in the Treaty of Lausanne which legalized the San Remo Accords. The government of Turkey as signatory to this binding treaty gave up all claim to its former territories and the Mandate for Palestine came into legal force. And thus ‘Jewish Palestine’ was established by the League of Nations on September 16th 1922 as Eretz-Israel. Once and for all Israel was legitimized as the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This subsequent partition plan of 1947 was merely a proposal and totally rejected by the Arabs. It has no legal standing whatsoever. The San Remo agreement and the Treaty of Lausanne are Israel’s Magna Carta and are in full force to this day. No country may try to change the legitimate borders of another country by intimidation, coercion or force. There is no occupation. Only Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria but later withdrew. In Syria Shiites are killing Sunnis and Muslims are being slaughtered because one Jihad is different than the other. Israel is the safest place for Arabs to live in the Middle East. Jihad is mutually assured destruction. And this, this is the real genocide. The Sunnis are segregated from the Shiites. And vice versa. They both think the others do not have the right to live on the face earth because they are heretics. Israel has sovereignty over all the land from the river to the Sea.

  • Alum

    Interesting that values are brought up. Take a look at what Palestinian media is saying: celebrates the murder of civilians, stabbing attacks on Jews, glorifies “martyrdom.” If there’s anything Palestinian supports should avoid bringing up it’s values.

    http://www.palwatch.org

  • mxm123

    I’ll be glad to preview what is in the Hasbara website called PalWatch. However do you think there would be any discussion on Israeli apartheid and Sharansky’s role and “values” ? Cause on initial purview i couldn’t find it.

    Does it mean Apartheid is OK?

  • Never forget

    The bigotry here is unfathomable, that Arabs/Palestinians can go live anywhere ( and demand the ‘host’ entities make accommodations for their customs) but there is literally a penalty of death to sell or rent an apt to Jews in Palestinian areas is the height of hypocracy. While Israel has 20% Arab/Palestinians, the PA demands an ethnically cleansed area completely devoid of Jews.

  • Never forget

    So do you consider the theft of European or American land by Muslim immigrants there?

  • Never forget

    It means there is no apartheid in Israel.

  • mxm123

    The dishonesty in the above statement is breathtaking. Our forgetfully “Never forget” omits the fact that millions of Palestinians have no such rights. And he wants full rights for Israelis in land that is being stolen from Palestinians and not part of Israel.

  • mxm123

    You mean PalWatch doesn’t talk of Israeli settlements and Apartheid so there is no Apartheid ! Do you read the North Korean Govt. website to determine if that is a free country ? Just wondering.

  • Justice Not Propaganda

    mxm123: a troll with no connection to Stanford university. I see you’ve moved on from your troll work on the Brown article. Are they paying you well to spread lies and propaganda? Now shoo, you annoying gnat.

  • mxm123

    You mean there’s no Apartheid in Israel ? Awwwwww

  • Justice Not Propaganda

    Same old tired lies and unfounded accusations from the terrorist-supporting pig mxm. Of course, the accusation of apartheid has no basis in reality and has been discredited over and over and over again is forums worldwide, with (get this) facts and evidence. But to a subhuman pig troll like mxm, who jumps from site to site spreading his lies and hatred, facts and evidence have no place.

  • mxm123

    You mean to say we could’ve relied on you and possibly the Hillel to point out Sharansky was labelled a thief in Israel by Israeli newspapers ?!!!!

  • Matt McLaughlin

    sorta like Pete Rose advocating for the Baseball Hall of Fame

  • Alum

    There is no Apartheid in Israel. If anything, there’s discrimination the other way: it’s much more dangerous for Jews to go into any Arab neighborhood/town than for Arabs to go to the Jewish neighborhoods. Arab terrorists murder Jews ONLY because they are Jews. I highly doubt the the elderly people who were killed by knife-wielding terrorist would be considered military targets. Neither would be the Jewish children who have been attacked on purpose just because they are Jews. So please, skip the Apartheid argument.

  • mxm123

    Millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza stripped of all their rights and shoved into ghettos and you still pretend there’s no Apartheid. What was your major in college ? Fiction ?

  • Justice Not Propaganda

    That’s the first correct thing you’ve said. Thank you for finally acknowledging it.

  • Justice Not Propaganda

    Diversion. “Millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza stripped of all their rights and shoved into ghettos and you still pretend there’s no Apartheid. What was your major in college ? Fiction ?” You seem to be unaware that both of those groups have their own elected governments – the PA in the WB and Hamas in Gaza. If you have any issues with their rights, take them up with Abbas and Hamas.

  • mxm123

    Thanks for acknowledging the my sarcasm at the claim there’s no Apartheid in Israel. You’re getting there.

  • mxm123

    Their own elected governments !!!!!!! That would be like claiming prisoners who elect their representative are a free people.

  • Justice Not Propaganda

    Lovely. When it suits your purpose, the PA and Hamas are legitimate. When it doesn’t, then they’re not. Definition of hypocrisy. Nothing I didn’t expect from a defender of terrorists.

  • Justice Not Propaganda

    So then instead you’re acknowledging that you’re a clueless liar. So either way you lose and I win. End of argument.

  • mxm123

    Actually i was congratulating you on accepting my sarcasm. What happened, change of heart ?

  • mxm123

    You can’t even accept that Israel is the Occupational Authority. That displays your dishonesty.

  • Justice Not Propaganda

    No change of heart. I never accepted any of your lies. You made a statement implying you finally recognized the extensively-proven truth that there’s no apartheid in Israel. So I congratulated you. You’re the one who had the change of heart and claimed you were being sarcastic.

    It’s really simple. Either you accept the truth that there’s no apartheid in Israel or you’re a clueless liar. Which is it?

  • Justice Not Propaganda

    No reason to accept a lie. And as for dishonesty, I’ll leave that to you. You appear to be very good at it.

  • mxm123

    Read it again, Bro !!!

  • mxm123

    The Occupational Authority is now a lie !!!! Do you accept the sun rises in the East, or would you call that a lie if it suits your fanaticism ?

  • Justice Not Propaganda

    You keep trying to weasel out of it but you can’t. Either you claim that Israel’s an apartheid state, which makes you a dirty liar, since that’s been widely proven to be false, or you agree that she’s not an apartheid state, in which case you would be correct and join the many people who acknowledge that there’s no apartheid in israel. You can’t have it both ways.

    So, do you accept the truth that there’s no apartheid in Israel or are you a filthy clueless liar?

  • Justice Not Propaganda

    Nice sob story. Too bad for you it’s all fantasy. I guess your major in college was Propaganda.

  • Justice Not Propaganda

    Do you acknowledge that the Jordanians ethnically cleansed Judea and Samaria of Jews in 1947-48 so the land rightfully belongs to the Jews? Do you acknowledge that the vile terrorist attacks being perpetrated against innocent Jewish civilians every day are just that — vile sick terrorist by subhuman pieces of shit who deserve to be eliminated on the spot? If you’re not human enough to acknowledge these things, then please go F-off.