Category : Other Faiths

(FT) Holocaust survivor Charlotte Knobloch on the rise of anti-Semitism and rebuilding Jewish life

[Charlotte] Knobloch is right to worry about time. Even the most cursory examination of her life would require days, not hours. Born in 1932, the year before the Nazis took power, she witnessed the pogroms of November 1938, and went on to survive — miraculously — the regime’s systematic attempt to murder the Jews of Europe, by hiding in a German village and pretending to be Christian.

While initially after the war she was determined to leave the land of the perpetrators, she stayed in Munich, raised a family, joined the board of the local Jewish community, and embarked on a late career of advocacy culminating in a stint as president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews. Above all, she became a builder: the cluster of constructions that grace the Jakobsplatz today are to a large extent the fruit of her vision.

“Sometimes I catch myself thinking this cannot be true. Every day, when I arrive here, I draw such happiness from seeing the synagogue, and the museum and the community centre,” she tells me as she spoons up her eggs. “What is amazing is not just that we have this, but that it has become so accepted. When the tourist buses stop here, I often hear the Munich guide say: ‘And here you can see our synagogue.’ I cannot imagine anything more beautiful.”

For Knobloch and many others, the decision to build a new temple in the city where Hitler plotted his rise to power was deeply significant. It was, she tells me, the moment she decided to “unpack her suitcase” — to finally admit to herself she had made Munich her home, despite the past.

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Posted in Germany, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-Ed) Ross Douthat–The Return of Paganism: is there actually a genuinely post-Christian future for America?

…lately I’ve become interested in books and arguments that suggest that there actually is, or might be, a genuinely post-Christian future for America — and that the term “paganism” might be reasonably revived to describe the new American religion, currently struggling to be born.

A fascinating version of this argument is put forward by Steven D. Smith, a law professor at the University of San Diego, in his new book, “Pagans and Christians in the City: Culture Wars From the Tiber to the Potomac.” Smith argues that much of what we understand as the march of secularism is something of an illusion, and that behind the scenes what’s actually happening in the modern culture war is the return of a pagan religious conception, which was half-buried (though never fully so) by the rise of Christianity.

What is that conception? Simply this: that divinity is fundamentally inside the world rather than outside it, that God or the gods or Being are ultimately part of nature rather than an external creator, and that meaning and morality and metaphysical experience are to be sought in a fuller communion with the immanent world rather than a leap toward the transcendent.

This paganism is not materialist or atheistic; it allows for belief in spiritual and supernatural realities. It even accepts the possibility of an afterlife. But it is deliberately agnostic about final things, what awaits beyond the shores of this world, and it is skeptical of the idea that there exists some ascetic, world-denying moral standard to which we should aspire. Instead, it sees the purpose of religion and spirituality as more therapeutic, a means of seeking harmony with nature and happiness in the everyday — while unlike atheism, it insists that this everyday is divinely endowed and shaped, meaningful and not random, a place where we can truly hope to be at home.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Wicca / paganism

(FT) Anti-Semitism prompts 40% of European Jews to consider emigration

Close to 40 per cent of European Jews have considered leaving their home countries over the past five years because of rising anti-Semitism, according to a poll released on Monday. Of those who said they had considered emigration, two-thirds said they had considered moving to Israel. One in 10 had considered the US and another tenth had considered a move to a different EU country. The survey, which was conducted by the EU agency for fundamental rights (FRA), highlights growing concern among Jewish communities in Europe, with almost 90 per cent of respondents saying that anti-Semitism has increased since 2013.  The Jewish community in France — which has suffered a number of high-profile deadly attacks in recent years — appears to have been especially shaken: almost 80 per cent of French Jews told pollsters that anti-Semitism in the country had “increased a lot”, the highest proportion in Europe. But there was also a marked deterioration in Germany, where 44 per cent of Jews said they had thought about emigrating, up from 25 per cent five years ago.

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Posted in Europe, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(City Journal) Gerald Russello–Our New Religion: Humanitarianism is displacing Christianity, but without its redeeming effects

Paradoxically, now that humanitarianism has fully cut itself loose from Christianity, its categories and language have inserted themselves back into Christian thought. This infiltration prevents Christians at times from noticing that they’re arguing not in Christian categories but humanitarian ones. Almost every national bishops’ conference in the West, for example, speaks the language of humanitarianism. Mahoney sees this as the problem with much of Pope Francis’s language as well— too often, the language of mercy is emptied of theological content, and condemnations of “rigidity” seem to echo a rights-based view of the person. This trend is problematic because humanitarian language is antithetical to the Christian message, and also because it elides the sharp criticism of humanitarian thinking offered by, among others, Pope Emeritus Benedict. Benedict clearly distinguished between authentic Christian teaching and the “humanitarian moral message” in his Introduction to Christianity and his Regensberg lecture, both of which Mahoney discusses. Mahoney calls for the return of an older way of reasoning about our moral selves, which involves a transcendent dimension through which we can know our obligations to ourselves and one another.

Mahoney acknowledges that many of his co-religionists already accept his message—but why should atheists care that humanitarianism seeks to replace Christianity, when they reject the significance of the West’s moral collapse? Mahoney explains, using the powerful witness of Solzhenitsyn, that without a divine warrant, humanitarianism points to tyranny and the negation of true politics. We may already be seeing what a post-Christian politics might look like. The humanitarian religion of the twenty-first century will not be the same one as that of the twentieth; rather than Soviet Man, it will elevate the “woke” protester or Twitter provocateur. Both the authoritarian and racialist Right and the identity-obsessed Left offer glimpses of a post-Christian politics, and neither is a model for a healthy democracy.

Indeed, as Christianity fades, we don’t see a decline in religious fervor or doctrinal vigilance. Humanitarianism is itself a religion, and as Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule has argued, modern secularism has its own eschatology (the eternal overcoming of “hatred”), its own sacraments and holidays, and various prohibitions and commandments, usually centered around specific groups. Coupled with the rise of various would-be pagan religions and the cult of the self, these movements represent a retreat from rational reflection on politics.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Books, History, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Atlantic) Beth Kissileff–Pushing Back the Darkness in Pittsburgh

I was walking somewhere I was afraid to go, even though I had been there many times before. But I had not been to a religious service at the Tree of Life synagogue—where my husband is the rabbi of New Light Congregation—in more than 30 days, since a shooter killed 11 people in that spot.

Though it was not quite 6 o’clock on Sunday evening, the first night of Hanukkah, the winter darkness enveloped my neighborhood. I walked past the shopping district, the dry cleaners, my dentist’s office, and the home of my husband’s college roommate. All was familiar, yet I was scared to be outside in the open air with a group of Jews. If we had been targeted inside, where our Torah scrolls and prayer books were and where we were not being public about our faith, wouldn’t this be a provocation, a taunt to anti-Semites, wherever they lurk, to come and get us? A therapist told me to use my rational mind and remember that this was the only event of its kind, the only synagogue shooting that had happened in the United States. That is true, but when it happens at your own place of worship, statistics and rationality take a back seat to raw fear.

As I walked down Shady Avenue, approaching the corner of Wilkins, I saw the police barricades at Northumberland Street, a block before the synagogue. I told a police officer that I was glad to see him, and that I was scared to be here. He told me I did not need to be afraid.

That has been the message I have gotten in so many ways over the past few weeks….

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Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(NPR) A Grieving Pittsburgh Focuses On Community And Light In Hanukkah Celebrations

The 9th annual “Latkepalooza” at Congregation Beth Shalom in Pittsburgh is open to families across the Jewish community.

There’s plenty of fried food, face painting and carnival-style games.

Seventeen-year-old Ariel Holstein runs the putt-putt game. For him, the past five weeks have been intense. He says there was a lot to take in after police say a shooter killed 11 people at the nearby Tree of Life Synagogue in October.

“I went to all the vigils and I helped out, I helped set up,” he said. “It was very heartbreaking and I thought we had to come together as a community.”

Since the shooting, there have been youth-led events like rallies and prayer services. Young people have also been engaging in ongoing conversations with each other and in their classrooms about rising anti-Semitism.

Holstein said the dialogue has helped with the healing. But now, it’s Hanukkah, the first major Jewish holiday since the shooting, and it’s nice to take a break.

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Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) Bari Weiss–Europe’s Jew Hatred, and Ours

On Tuesday, a CNN poll about the state of anti-Semitism in Europe startled many Americans — and confirmed what Jews who have been paying attention already knew about the Continent.

Not 74 years since the Holocaust ended, a third of respondents said they knew only a little or nothing at all about it.

The poll, which surveyed more than 7,000 people across Austria, France, Germany, Britain, Hungary, Poland and Sweden, didn’t only discover ignorance. It exposed bigotry.

Nearly a quarter of the respondents said Jews have too much influence in conflict and wars. More than a quarter believe that Jews have too much influence in business and finance. Nearly one in five believe that most anti-Semitism is a response to the behavior of Jews. Roughly a third say Jews use the Holocaust to advance their own goals. Just 54 percent say Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state.

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Posted in History, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(Lancashire Telegraph) Blackburn Cathedral promises no repeat of Islamic call to prayer

The controversial incident, involving a white-robed Muslim cleric or Imam, took place during a pre-Armistice Day concert by the town’s music society.

It came during a performance to 400 people of Karl Jenkins’ work The Armed Man (A Mass for Peace) which included the often-omitted second movement containing the call to prayer.

This was given by a local Imam and contains the phrase ‘there is no other God but Allah’.

Following a film of the event in the nave on Saturday, November 10, being posted on the internet, the Cathedral authorities came under criticism from Christian traditionalists. The Rev Kevin Logan, former vicar of Christchurch in Accrington, said: “It was inappropriate. It was wrong but we are all fallible and make mistakes. It should not happen again.”

The Dean of Blackburn, the Very Rev Peter Howell-Jones, said: “I only found about the inclusion of the Islamic call to prayer minutes before the performance.

“It was inappropriate and should not have happened in the Cathedral.

“I am sorry it took place and I am sorry if anyone was offended by it.

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Posted in Church of England, England / UK, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) British Jews apply for foreign passports as ‘insurance policy’

Thousands of British Jews have applied for foreign passports since 2016, driven mainly by a desire to retain EU citizenship after Brexit but also by fears over rising antisemitism and the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn coming to power.

New figures obtained by The Times show that more than 3,600 Britons have applied for German nationality under a 2015 scheme inviting the descendants of those driven out on religious, racial or political grounds by the Nazis to reclaim citizenship, with most applications from Jewish people.

Michael Newman, of the Association of Jewish Refugees, said those who fled the Third Reich for Britain might find it “emotionally or psychologically difficult” to reclaim German citizenship, but their children and grandchildren wanted to enjoy freedom of movement after Brexit. Some had also raised fears of rising antisemitism.

More than 180 British Jews of Sephardic heritage have applied for Portuguese passports and more than 50 have been granted Spanish passports under 2015 schemes to restore citizenship to descendants of Jews persecuted in the 15th century. The Jewish Community of Oporto said it received “thousands” of inquiries from British Jews.

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Posted in England / UK, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(OCR) Fired Muslim awarded $3.2 million in discrimination suit against Loma Linda University Medical Center

The complaint contends Strode and Gonzalez harassed Lizarraga through 2015 because of his Islamic beliefs, at times referring to him as a terrorist and calling him other derogatory names, and complained he was “too slow” due to his medical condition..

“Mr Strode and/or Mr. Gonzalez often told the plaintiff, ‘Why don’t you quit?’ or ‘You are going to get fired anyway,’ ” the lawsuit alleges.

After Lizarraga’s work restrictions were lifted, Strode and Gonzalez increased his workload and assigned him tasks that should have been undertaken by other workers, says the complaint.

“Despite this unreasonable and unfair workload, plaintiff still completed it, ” according to the suit. “Still, Mr. Strode and Mr. Gonzalez would unjustly complain to the plaintiff that he was too slow and continued to tell him he should quit.”

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Posted in Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Economist) Anti-Semitism in the West Jew-hatred keeps mutating to survive

Michal Bilewicz of the University of Warsaw outlines three categories of anti-Semitism. The “traditional” kind is based on Catholic teaching (since abandoned) that Jews killed Christ, and on medieval blood-libels (accusations that Jews killed children to mix their blood with Passover flatbread). The second, “modern”, sort is based on a belief in conspiracies by powerful Jews. The last kind, “secondary” anti-Semitism, holds that Jews abuse the history of the Holocaust. Others seek to categorise the miasma differently: eg, as racist, economic, cultural and religious; or explicit and coded; or soft and violent.

Many see a “new anti-Semitism” that developed after Israel’s victory in the six-day war of 1967. The Soviet Union and its vassals purged Jews on the grounds that they were Zionists and thus agents of America. This overlaps with Muslim Jew-hatred, which not only denounces Israel but also presents Jews as the enemies of Muslims since the time of the Prophet Muhammad. This form has proven the most murderous in recent decades. Global jihadists say they are fighting against “Jews and Crusaders”. In the West anti-Semitic acts by Muslim migrants tend to spike with rises in Israeli-Palestinian violence. Speaking at a protest against the war in Gaza in 2014, Appa, a Dutch-Moroccan rapper, blurred the line between politics and religion: “Fuck the Zionists! Fuck the Talmud!”

A wave of jihadist attacks against Jewish targets in Europe in 2012-15 resulted in 13 deaths in France, Belgium and Denmark. Increased security, and caution by many about revealing their Jewish identity, led to a drop in attacks on Jews. Attention shifted to anti-Semitism on the radical left. Britain’s Labour Party, the main opposition and political home of many Jews, has torn itself apart this year over which kind of criticism of Israel should be regarded as an attack on Jews. Jeremy Corbyn, its left-wing leader, agreed only grudgingly to accept that utterances repudiating Israel’s right to exist, or accusing it of behaving like the Nazis, were anti-Semitic.

Yet it is odd that right-wing anti-Semitism, obsessed with Jews at home, and the left-wing variety, focused on Jews in Israel, survive at all. The number of Jews in the world is quite small—about 6m apiece in Israel and America, and another 2.5m scattered elsewhere. Indeed, some talk of “anti-Semitism without Jews”.

The Pittsburgh murders were a stark reminder of the threat lurking on the far right, particularly among white supremacists who lump Jews in with blacks, Muslims and other minorities as objects of hatred. American far-right groups benefit from a greater degree of free speech than do European ones—and easy access to guns.

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Posted in Globalization, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) Dana Horn–American Jews Know How This Story Goes

“There are no words.”

This was what I heard most often last weekend from those who were stunned by the news: 11 people were murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh — believed to be the largest massacre of Jews on American soil. But there are words for this, entire books full of words: the books the murdered people were reading at the hour of their deaths. News reports described these victims as praying, but Jewish prayer is not primarily personal or spontaneous. It is communal reading. Public recitations of ancient words, scripts compiled centuries ago and nearly identical in every synagogue in the world. A lot of those words are about exactly this.

When I told my children what had happened, they didn’t ask why; they knew. “Because some people hate Jews,” they said. How did these American children know that? They shrugged. “It’s like the Passover story,” my 9-year-old told me. “And the Hanukkah story. And the Purim story. And the Babylonians, and the Romans.” My children are descendants of Holocaust survivors, but they didn’t go that far forward in history. The words were already there.

The people murdered in Pittsburgh were mostly old, because the old are the pillars of Jewish life, full of days and memories. They are the ones who come to synagogue first, the ones who know the words by heart. The oldest victim was Rose Mallinger, 97….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Judaism, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology: Scripture, Violence

(NYT) Jewish Leaders, in Call for Unity After Shooting, Welcome Outsiders to Shabbat

In preparation for the first Sabbath following the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Jewish leaders are signaling that they do not plan to close off their communities out of fear.

Instead, many are encouraging Jews and non-Jews alike across the country to attend services on Friday night or Saturday, spreading the hashtag #ShowUpForShabbat across social media as an invitation to all. The campaign, started by the American Jewish Committee, is meant to offer a space for people to express grief over the massacre and show solidarity with the victims, said David Harris, the chief executive of the organization, which is a Jewish advocacy group.

Last Saturday, a holy day of rest in the Jewish faith, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue in the Jewish enclave of Squirrel Hill, killing 11 congregants. The rampage was among the deadliest against Jews in the United States.

“We want to send a powerful message to anti-Semites that Americans are outraged, whether these Americans are Jewish or non-Jewish,” Mr. Harris said. “It was not only an assault on the Jewish community, it was an assault on American values.”

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Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture

(GR) Ira Rifkin–Pittsburgh surprised many: But not those who repeatedly reported rising American anti-Semitism

Some 15 years ago I wrote a piece on anti-Semitism for an online Jewish publication that began as follows: “It is an irony of Jewish life that it took the Holocaust to give anti-Semitism a bad name. So widespread was international revulsion over the annihilation of six million Jews that following World War II anti-Semitism, even of the polite variety, became the hatred one dared not publicly express. But only for a time.”

Saturday’s synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh underscored how anti-Semitism is no longer the hatred one dares not publicly express — though that’s been obvious for some time to all who cared to recognize it. I’ve tried to make the point in numerous GetReligion posts.

The details of what happened in Pittsburg, on the Jewish Sabbath, are by now well known, thanks to the wall-to-wall coverage, much of it sympathetic, detailed and excellent — including their understanding of the Jewish religious and communal aspects.

The extensive coverage is entirely appropriate, I’d say. Because more than just a display of vicious anti-Semitism, what happened in Pittsburg was an American tragedy. It underscored how threatened the nation is today by our corrosive political environment.

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Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) ‘We will not be broken:’ Emotional vigil held for victims of Squirrel Hill synagogue shooting

To an audience of more than 2,000 inside Soldiers & Sailors Hall and many more gathering in the damp weather outside, after all the dignitaries had spoken, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers told of his night of restlessness, of wrestling with Scripture.

When he has sleepless nights, he said, he often turns to the Psalms. But there was no night like Saturday night, just hours after Rabbi Myers survived the deadly gunman’s attack on his Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

He thought of the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”

“Well God, I want!” he said, his voice reverberating through the hall during Sunday’s interfaith vigil in honor of 11 victims killed and the six wounded Saturday at the Squirrel Hill synagogue building shared by three congregations.

“What I want you can’t give me,” he continued. “You can’t return these 11 beautiful souls. You can’t rewind the clock.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence