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Ariel Sharon remembered in Chicago as good for Israel but a divisive figure

Rabbi Baruch Hertz Chicago's CongregatiBnei Ruven

Rabbi Baruch Hertz of Chicago's Congregation Bnei Ruven

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Updated: February 13, 2014 7:04AM



Along the United Nations that is Devon Avenue, the death Saturday of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sparked the same kind of divided views Sharon drew in life.

“He did a lot of good for Israel, and he cared very deeply for the Jewish people,” said Rabbi Baruch Hertz of Congregation Bnei Ruven, which is located near a stretch of Devon that also carries the honorary name of another former Israeli prime minister — Golda Meir Boulevard. “We say that it should elevate his soul.”

Some among Chicago’s Muslim community viewed Sharon instead as a ruthless hard-liner.

“He gave the Palestinian people a hard time,” said Usama Abdulwahhab, 43, an immigrant from Iraq.

Elsewhere around the Chicago area, Rabbi Debra Newman of Northfield’s Congregation Am Yisrael called Sharon “one of the great leaders of Israel. There were people, obviously, who didn’t like him because his politics were pretty right-wing, but he’s also the spearhead of the withdrawal from Gaza. So a man who was a warrior was willing to take a risk for peace.”

Sheryl Dworkin, a Jewish Chicagoan, said trips that she has taken to Israel gave her insight into Sharon, a former Israeli defense minister who was his country’s 11th prime minister.

“My understanding from the Israelis I’ve spoken to is the men who served under him would have followed him to hell and back because he was a brilliant general,” Dworkin said. “His entire life was dedicated to the service and security of his country.”

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