Talia Carner: “Centrality of Israel to Our Jewish Identity”

Jewish identity is informed by Jewish values — and Israel, said Talia Carner in a recent presentation at Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor on Long Island.

A seventh-generation Sabra, Ms. Carner is the author of books including Jerusalem Maiden, China Doll, Puppet Child and, the most recent, Hotel Moscow. That book tells the story of the daughter of Holocaust survivors who travels to Russia shortly after the fall of Communism there.

“What does it mean today to be Jewish?” said Ms. Carner in opening her September 8 talk entitled “Jewish Legacy — Burden or Privilege.”

In addition to being an author, Ms. Carner is a board member of Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at of Brandeis University. HBI, in describing itself on its website, says it “develops fresh ways of thinking about Jews and gender worldwide by producing and promoting scholarly research, artistic projects and public engagement. The world’s only academic center of its kind, the HBI provides research resources and programs for scholars, students and the public. The Institute publishes books and a journal, convenes international conferences and local programming, and offers competitive grant and internship programs.”

Ms. Carner is also a member of committees that work for Israeli causes. She is involved, too, in several anti-domestic violence and child abuse intervention organizations.

Further, she is a long-time businesswoman, formerly the publisher of Savvy Woman magazine. She has been a consultant to Fortune 500 companies. And she has been an adjunct professor at the Long Island University School of Management.

Also, she has been a lecturer for the US Small Business Administration and the US Information Agency, for which she has been on missions to Russia.

Her husband is Ron Carner, president of Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel. They live in Manhattan and Bridgehampton on Long Island. They have four grown children.

“Being Jewish is not necessarily defined by DNA,” said Ms. Carner at Temple Adas Israel. “Jewish values” that “keep seeping through time and again” are key to a Jewish identity, she said.

Among these values, she said, are seeking to “safeguard the Earth” and tikkun olam, repairing the Earth, “looking for ways to make it as perfect as we can.” And there is tzedakah — and its “pursuit of justice” with a “righteousness that is not passive. We look for places to pursue justice.” And integral to tzedakah are “compassion” and “giving.”

Jews “help the poor while making sure they keep their dignity.” She spoke of the Biblical admonition to “leave the corners of your land unlocked so the poor can get choice produce.”

Then there is the “centrality of Israel to our Jewish identity,” said Ms. Carner. With the creation of the State of Israel, Jews can now “walk tall,” said the native Israeli. No longer is there any need for Jews to “adopt the identity of victims.”

Moreover, to “love thy neighbor” is imbued in Judaism, she continued.

Also part of Jewish values is “treating animals in humane ways.”

And in endeavor after endeavor, “we are right up front — everywhere.” The contributions of Jews are amazing, Ms. Carner commented, considering the relatively small number of Jews in the world.

And the “households” of the People of the Book typically have books.

Even famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, a non-observant Jew, saw Judaism as vital to his — and his family’s — existence. She quoted Freud as saying “if you do not let your son grow up as a Jew, you will deprive him of the sources of energy that Judaism provides.”

Born in Tel Aviv, Ms. Carner served in the Israel Defense Forces. She received a B.A. from Hebrew University in Jerusalem in psychology and sociology and a Master’s degree with a concentration in economics from Stony Brook University.

Kirkus Reviews said of Hotel Moscow, copies of which Ms. Carner signed at her appearance: “An American investment adviser, on a mission to counsel businesswomen in post-glasnost Russia, encounters corruption, organized crime, and extreme sexism. In 1993, the Russian economy is reeling under the extreme measures introduced by Boris Yeltsin to shock the country into capitalism… In the seedy, bug-infested Hotel Moscow, where Brooke’s group is housed, service and meals are grudging and skimpy, respectively. The only child of Russian Jews who survived the Holocaust, Brooke is also shocked by the unapologetic anti-Semitism she observes.” Kirkus concludes that “the novel sheds much-needed light on this turbulent period in Russian history.”

About the Author
Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury who has specialized in investigative reporting for 45 years. He is the host of the TV program “Enviro Close-Up,” the writer and presenter of numerous TV documentaries and the author of six books.