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Rabbi Bruce Warshal; Interview Part 2

Rabbi Bruce Warshal; Interview Part 2 image Rabbi Bruce Warshal; Interview Part 2 image
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This is the secoud part of a twopart interview with Bruce Warshal. Formerly the rabbi at Betli Emmet Temple, Warshal is best knownfor his talk show program Community Dialogue, on e 3. Warshal recentty moved to a new post in New Orleans, and iliis interview is his summary of what he learned aboul A nu Arborfrpm talkiim to its resident on his show. In thefirst pari, Warshal talked primarily about city politics and the Republican party (See SUN, July 4-18. 1075). liere, hegoes on to deal with the other two partios. Aun Arbor media and his own profeet of a jointly owned JewisH-Christian religieus center. SUN: What do you think about the present tnakeup of City Council? WARSHAL: 1 think the future of the city is in mucli better hands now. because there is a 6-5 DemocraticHRP majority. At least six people on Council will agree to the tact that this city has to be shared by everybody, and one culture cannot begin to step on another. I don't want to wipe out the Republican culture, but I don't want them to wipe out the alternative culture and they tried. lt's a mature analysis of life. You have to look around and say: where am I living. When you understand this your whole way of running the city begins to change. SUN: You said earlier that two out of three parties had screwed it in Ann Arbor. You've already talked about the Republicans. What about the Human Rights Party (HRP)? WARHSAL: HRP made several very fatal errors; first of all in tactics. Going back to the Bea Kaimowitz election (she was the HRP mayoral candidate in the 1973 elections in which the party lost in every race). They took themselves too seriously. They really thought they had a chance to win on the city-wide level. Again, you haVe to look at your surroundings and realist ically analyze how much strength you have and how much you don't. And if you think you can rule the world, and you can only rule in the Second Ward, you're in trouble. Rather than concentrating and building their strength in the First and Second, which they did when they won originally (Nancy Wechsler and Jerry DeGrieck took these two seats in 1972), they went into a city-wide campaign. They did not spend their money where they should have and asa result, they lost. SUN: They raised everybody's expectations to believe that they could win. WARSHAL: They didn't, and worse than that. They had to keep the Second Ward . and they lost it to Carol Jones (Democrat, first elected in 1973, reelected in 1975, each time by defeating Frank Shoichet). First of all, they didn't pour enough money into Shoichet's campaign because they thought they could win a city-wide election. Secondly, they had a weaker candidate. I think Carol's a first-rate Councilperson. In 1973, Carol was nineteen, she's a woman. The Democrats were brilliant - they came along with the right candidate andout-HRPedtheHRP. SUN: Why do you think people became disillusioned with the HRP? ín 1972, whole dormitorios of people would go to the polls and vote for Nancy Wechsler and Jerry DeGrieck. Then a year later that wasn't happening. WARSHAL: ['m nut sure. Obviously there's the national trend somewhere away from radicalism, somewhere towards the middle. And you had all the internal battling within the HRP. They basically didn't produce except for Jerry. I have respect for him - he was a good Councilperson. SUN: After losing in 1973, the HRP narrowly won the second ward with Kathy Kozachenko. What do you think of that? WARSHAL: You know why they elected Kathy? Because the Democrats came up with a weaker candidate. Let's not kid ourselves. SUN: What was her name? Maryann something . . . (Mary Richards, Second Ward Democratie candidate in 1974). WARSHAL: Old what's her name, the law student. She had the same problem in public image that Frank Shoichet had - a very grating, abrasive personality. I know many Democrats voted for Kathy. She is a very nice human being although I don't always agree with her on politics. She's pleasant, she's sincere and she still squeezed through. SUN: But what about her role as a Councilperson? WARSHAL: 1 really like Kathy as a human being and therefore it's very difficult for me to say that I don't think she's a good Councilperson. Kathy has a good mind, but it's the kind of mind that has to sit and think about it - a poetíc mind. Her temperment is such that she really shouldn't be in politics. That's the mistake of the political party; you don't run people who shouldn't be in politics. SUN: Do you think if the HRP had chosen a different candidate that a radical third party could have had more of a chance to succeed? If they chose people who could articúlate their views a little bit better? WARSHAL: I don't know, that's one of those questions. I'm neither, to quote Amos, "a prophet nor the son of a prophet"-that's the book of Amos in the Bible. I don't know because what happened was evitably going to happen as soon as a thrid party came out -the Democratie Party was going to the left. The HRP could have done much better, but I see the end of it in this city after the next election. They'U lose, and then one time after that they'll try and lose again. So we're talking about a life of about two years. SUN: Do you think there'san importance for a third party in Ann Arbor? WARSHAL: Oh, I can be very critical of how HRP's run, but it's done a tremendous service for this city. It jolted the Democratie party to better represent the alternative culture. When the HRP originally came out it was a young image, of students or people of the student age against a very middle class Democratie party. The Democrats were qualitatively different than the Republican party, but it didn't look different - at least not to students. In other words, Bob Harris (Democrat and Mayor, 1971-73) looked very much like Jim Stephenson ( GOP mayor, 1973-75). Now there isa qualitative difference, but when the Democratie party got rid of that kind of leadership - I'm not down on it - and came forth with people who looked the same as HRP and sounded the same as HRP . . . SUN: People like Jones and Wheeler. . . WARSHAL: Yeal.. theii it was inevitable iha! the HRPwasgoing to lose. SUN: What do you think of the present Democratie Councilmembers? WARSHAL: I happen to think the present majonty is supei b. The more I see of Al Wheeler(the curreni Democratie mayor), the more l'm impressed. He isjust a solid human heilig. SUN: Do you think they can hold onto their majority? They would need to take the Fourth Ward net sprint; but a Republican took it this year. WARSHAL: ï rowbridge says he won ii because lio knocked on God knows liow man) doors. Aiinllier important thing he poinled out-where he canvassed. He let't all the Republican neighborhoods alone. He never knocked on my dooi I happen to live aniidsi, if you'll excuse me, a bunch oí Repuhlicans. But Trowbridge knocked un all the Democratie doors. He went into the coops. He cut into the traditionaUy Democratie areas of the Fourth Ward. And l'll be honest with you. I don'i know whether the Democrats will keep the Fourth Ward or not. SUN: Maybe we should move off politics... WARSHAL: l'd like to say this by the way. We've been very harsh on the Rcpublic;iis. but let's take one wlio went to the middle - it can be done, l'll point to Clarence Dukes (former president of the School Board, Dukes was reelected last June). Dukes came on to a Board that was dichotomized - with the liberáis screaming at the so-called conservatives and so on. This was when Ted Heisel was chairman of the Board, and Duane Rankin was on the Board (in 1973-74). Dukes brought that Board to the middle. He accomplished in the arena of school politics what the Republicans had a chance to do in city politics, and didn't. SUN: Let's move on to something else. What is your impression of the media in Ann Arbor. For example, how do you react to the Ann Arbor News? WARSHAL: l've lived in cities with really lousy newspapers. I lived in Cincinnati and I almost gave up daily newspaper reading, it was so bad. But for a small town paper I think the Ann Arbor News is decent. Now I know you weren't expecting that answer. Til teil you this, they have some God-awful portions of the paper and some very good portions. For one problem, it's a newspaper that is sitting on top of all the cultural wealth of this city yet they have absolutely no reviewing worthwhile. SUN: What about their political bias? WARSHAL: Worse than bias, it's inane. There hasn't been an intelligent provocative editorial in that newspaper in the seven years that l've been in this city! And of course they're sitting on top of an intellectual city and they carry no columnists to speak of. My God, Good Morncontinued on page 15 "There hasn't been an intelligent, provo ca - tive editorial in the Ann Arbor News in the seven years l've been in this city!" -Bruce Warshal Warshal continued from page 1 3 mg Michigan carries more exciting columnists - a smalt, put-together, rag-time operation. The News could probably be a first-rate. good, small-town paper, but for some reason they just don't do it. SUN: Do you think their bias extends into their news reporting? They overrepresent the Republican point of view . . . WARSHAL: Probably somewhat. But l"ve seen gieater sinning. Pil teil you who does worse than anything - the Michigan Daily. The Daily is probably the worst edited newspaper in the United States. I used to say that you read the Daily and read the Ann Arbor Néws, and the truth is somewhcre split down the middle. The Daily'i, bias is very often my bias, but that's neither here nor there. They are irresponsible;more irresponsible as editors than the News. SUN: What do you think of the SÜNt WARSHAL: You know I'm a subscriber to the SUN, and 1 like it. But you don't liave the responsibility that theDr or the Vt'ws has. You make it ciear where you 're from to begin with. You're printing bi-weekly to produce a point of view. That doesn't say you don't print truth. it says that you don't have to give equal time to the Republicans or anybody else. That's legitímate, but 1 think the Daily and the News have different standards because they're in a different ball park. SUN: Why don't you talk about the project you've gotten inyolved in, the joint ownership of the church. WARSHAL: 1 think U's very exciting. It's the first time in the world, actually, that a building - a religious structure is jointly owned, fifty-fifty, by a ('hristian and Jewish congregation. As I pointed out in the dedication ceremony. it isn't phoney. I can't stand phoney ecutnenism, "let'sáll get together and love one another." It drives me up a wall. This is joint ownership. put into a third Corporation called Genesis of Ann Arbor. Basically, Beth Emmet Temple is rented from St. Clair's Episcopal Church tbr a fout year period. It canie time in the life of our congregation that we had to have our own building - one, for purposes of room and secondly, for identity purposes. . You can't live off of other people, you have to carry your own overhead. The key choice then was sJiould we grow up like other good, Jewish congregations and build a linie plot of Jewish land that we could envelope ín our arms and cali our own. Or you look around and say, isn't this stupid. We nced anothcr church structure in Ann Arbor like you nced a hole in the hcad. We're sharing this building quite nicely; why don't we just buy half of it. Which cuts down overhead, which means that we have money to put into people, not to put into brick and mortar. It was a natural thing to do, and we get along beautifully. That's wliat I cali true brotherhood because basically you're doing it because it works and because circumstances evolved that you should do it rather than setting up mass experiments. I suspect people who want to set up experiments. Life doesn't work thai way; ' life works by slow steps - living it.