Category : Judaism

(WSJ) Tevi Troy–A Minyan in the Time of Social Distancing

Losing a parent is always difficult, especially as important financial and religious arrangements must be made during a time of intense grief. A global pandemic doesn’t help. But when my mother died on March 3, my family still had no idea how difficult it would be to stay safe while still honoring her in the Jewish tradition.

The Jewish response to death is communal. The local community comes together to support the mourners, who open up their home for a week of shiva. During this time the kaddish, or Jewish prayer for the dead, is recited at services three times a day. The mourner then may leave the home but remains obligated to say the kaddish three times daily for 11 months. According to Jewish law, these obligations must be fulfilled in the presence of a minyan, or prayer quorum of 10 men over the age of 13.

The current coronavirus crisis creates a challenge for those wishing to adhere to these Jewish mourning customs, especially in light of Judaism’s prioritization of public and individual health over ritual obligation. In Maryland, where I live, synagogues closed their doors last weekend to services and other community activities. In New Jersey, communities could not have communal prayer services in the home or even outdoors. In the interest of safety, similar changes are occurring throughout the country.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Judaism, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) Meir Soloveichik–Queen Esther, a Hero for Our Time

Here we must understand how different the Book of Esther is from every other book in the Hebrew Bible. In this tale no mention is made of the divine; the Jews inhabit a world devoid of revelation. Whereas in every other scriptural tale political engagements are under prophetic instruction, in the Persian court God gives no guidance to the Jews facing a terrible danger. Esther, Rabbi Soloveitchik wrote, faced an unprecedented question: “How can the Jew triumph over his adversaries and enemies if God has stopped speaking to him, if the cryptic messages he receives remain unintelligible and incomprehensible?”

In this sense, Esther is the first biblical figure, male or female, to engage in statesmanship. Previous heroes — Moses and Elijah, Samuel and Deborah — are prophets who are guided and guarded by the Divine, but Esther operates on instinct, reflecting a mastery of realpolitik. As Isaiah Berlin wrote in his essay “On Political Judgment,” great leaders practice affairs of state not as a science but an art; they are, more akin to orchestra conductors than chemists. Facing a crisis, they “grasp the unique combination of characteristics that constitute this particular situation — this and no other.” Esther is the first scriptural figure to embody this description, emerging as a woman for all seasons, a hero celebrated year after year.

Purim thus marks the fragility of Jewish security, but also the possibility of heroism in the face of this vulnerability. It is therefore a holiday for our time. Around the world, and especially in a Europe that should know better, anti-Semitism has made itself manifest once again. As Esther’s example is celebrated, and Jews gather in synagogue to study her terrifying tale, we are reminded why, in the face of hate, we remain vigilant — and why we continue to joyously celebrate all the same.

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Posted in Judaism, Theology: Scripture

(Sightings) Russell Johnson–Martin Buber’s Hope in Polarized Times

At Carnegie Hall in 1952, Buber gave a lecture titled “Hope for this Hour.” His goal was to give an honest assessment of life during the escalating Cold War. He announced, “The human world is today, as never before, split into two camps, each of which understand the other as the embodiment of falsehood and itself as the embodiment of truth.” Buber does not advocate a centrist position between these two camps, nor does he here weigh in on the disputed points between them. Rather, Buber analyzes how this disagreement over economic philosophies is a site of polarization. He makes three points that are relevant for “this hour” in our social landscape.

First, we need to be critical of the way disagreements are framed. In polarization, Buber says, a person is “more than ever inclined to see his own principle in its original purity and the opposing one in its present deterioration, especially if the forces of propaganda confirm his instincts in order to make better use of them.” He continues, “Expressed in modern terminology, he believes that he has ideas, his opponent only ideologies. This obsession feeds the mistrust that incites the two camps.” Put differently, polarization attenuates critical thinking, making us all too easily satisfied that our commitments are right because they are superior to those of our opponents. We also become less sensitive to distinctions and concerns of the other side, since we think we already know what really motivates their political behavior. Mistrust snowballs, then, as each side believes the other side is intentionally misrepresenting reality. The first thing we need in polarized times, Buber writes, is “criticism of our criticism.” Unless we hold ourselves to a high standard when inferring the motives and concerns of the other side, suspicion will get the better of truth.

Second, we need “individuation,” which means not treating the other side as a monolith but recognizing that each person has unique convictions. This idea is central to Buber’s philosophy of dialogue. One effect of polarization, he argues in “Hope for this Hour,” is the transformation of ordinary mistrust into “massive mistrust.” It is normal and even necessary to treat with suspicion the claims of a person who has shown themselves to be untrustworthy. We should be leery of an individual who has made a pattern of playing fast and loose with the truth. However, any transition from distrusting an unreliable individual to distrusting an opposing camp is not a change of degree but of kind. The other side’s speech becomes guilty until proven innocent. “One no longer merely fears that the other will voluntarily dissemble, but one simply takes it for granted that he cannot do otherwise.” Polarization is not extreme disagreement, but the erosion of the conditions—like trust—necessary for working through disagreement.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Philosophy, Politics in General

(NYT) ‘Most Visible Jews’ Fear Being Targets as Anti-Semitism Rises

A rabbinical student was walking down a quiet street in Brooklyn last winter, chatting on the phone with his father when three men jumped him from behind. They punched his head, knocking him to the ground before fleeing down the block.

When police officers arrested three suspects later that night, the student, a Hasidic man who asked to be identified by his first name, Mendel, learned that another Hasidic Jew had been attacked on the same block in Crown Heights just minutes before he was. Video of the earlier attack showed three men knocking a man to the ground before kicking and punching him.

The victims in both attacks were “very visibly Jewish,” said Mendel, 23, who has a beard and dresses in the kind of dark suit and hat traditionally worn by Hasidic men. That, he said, made them easier targets.

“You could ask everyone if they’re Jewish,” he continued, “or you could just go after people who you don’t have to ask any questions about because you can just see that they dress like they’re Jewish.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

(NYT) ‘I Lose Sleep Over This Building’: A Rush to Make Synagogues Safe

The East Midwood Jewish Center in Brooklyn needs $250,000 to replace its aging roof and another $250,000 to repair the water-damaged ceiling of its sanctuary, its director said. Then there is the aging boiler — the size of a small apartment — that has needed $20,000 worth of maintenance so far this winter.

Looming over those everyday concerns is something more existential: keeping everyone in the 96-year-old building alive and well at a time of rising anti-Semitism in New York and around the country.

Enhancing security for Jewish institutions, and how to pay for it, has become an urgent issue for religious leaders and local and state governments.

“I lose sleep over this building every night because I care about this institution and I want to protect it and I need the money to do it,” said Wayne Rosenfeld, the executive director of the synagogue, which provides Hebrew lessons for 50 students twice a week and social events for 150 older people on weekdays.

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

(NYT) George Steiner, Prodigious Literary Critic, Dies at 90

George Steiner, a literary polymath and man of letters whose voluminous criticism often dealt with the paradox of literature’s moral power and its impotence in the face of an event like the Holocaust, died on Monday at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by his son, Dr. David Steiner.

An essayist, fiction writer, teacher, scholar and literary critic — he succeeded Edmund Wilson as senior book reviewer for The New Yorker from 1966 until 1997 — Mr. Steiner both dazzled and dismayed his readers with the range and occasional obscurity of his literary references.

Essential to his views, as he avowed in “Grammars of Creation,” a book based on the Gifford Lectures he delivered at the University of Glasgow in 1990, “is my astonishment, naïve as it seems to people, that you can use human speech both to love, to build, to forgive, and also to torture, to hate, to destroy and to annihilate.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, France, History, Judaism, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Esther Brown–Scrolls Of Hate And Hope

My mother and grandparents survived the Holocaust. When I was growing up, I resented how often they read anti-Semitism into seemingly innocuous exchanges. “They will always hate us,” they warned. I naively dismissed their anxiety as paranoia, and questioned their capacity to move beyond their own pain. Now I recognize how wrong I was.

Anti-Semitism is hardly a thing of the past; it’s a constant, vicious drumbeat—and it’s louder today than it has been in decades. Anti-Semitism—cloaked and overt, polite and crass—has permeated discourse for millennia. The recent rise in anti-Semitic violence should force us to reevaluate not only the way non-Jews regard Jews, but also the way Jews have come to see themselves through the eyes of those who despise them.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., displays a “Scroll of Hitler”—Megillat Hitler, in Hebrew. It tells of the rise of Hitler, the requisition of Jewish property, and the Nazi attempt to deport Jews from North Africa. The Megillat Hitler was written by Prosper Hassine, a scribe from Casablanca. There is a copy of the scroll on display at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. This copy, according to the museum’s archives, was once owned by the Corcos family. They fled to Casablanca from Florence in 1939, hoping to escape the fate of other European Jews.

The scroll is modeled after the Scroll of Esther, a biblical story that has its own Hitler: the Persian courtier Haman.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(ABC Nightline) Important but difficult Viewing– The Children of Auschwitz: Survivors Return 75 years after Liberation

Take the time to watch it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Germany, History, Judaism, Military / Armed Forces, Poland, Religion & Culture, Violence

David French–‘And No One Will Make Them Afraid’ When Jews are under violent attack for building a home in this land, it repudiates the American promise

Indeed, it’s not only the most American of stories—of people welcome nowhere else coming to a land that promised them liberty, it’s a story of unique resonance to American Jews dating back to our nation’s founding. As New York Times editor and writer Bari Weiss relates in her outstanding and moving book, How To Fight Anti-Semitism, George Washington wrote to a Rhode Island Hebrew congregation all the way back in 1790 that American Jews “possess alike liberties of conscience and immunities of censorship.”

America is Israel’s closest ally. America is the home of the second-largest population of Jewish people in the world, behind only Israel. And now, in communities where Jews have lived and thrived for generations, they don’t know if they’re safe. They don’t know if they’ll be victimized by random, vicious attacks. Even worse, those attacks aren’t coming from a single movement that can be identified, isolated, and defeated. They come from radical left and radical right. They come from Americans black and white. The ancient hatreds have re-emerged to such an extent that I’ve heard more than one friend question whether this land can truly remain their home.

In fact, one of the central political, cultural, and spiritual challenges of our time is reassuring Americans increasingly divided by religion and still divided by race that this nation is, indeed, home.

That’s America’s 400-year challenge with an African-American population that endured 246 years of slavery, 99 years of widespread legal discrimination following Appomattox, and has lived only 56 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

That’s America’s challenge as increasing diversity is accompanied by increasing cultural clashes, and the omnipresent human will to power prefers victory and domination over pluralism and accommodation.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Violence

(BBC) You owe it to yourself to listen and watch this piece about Auschwitz survivor Max Eisen

Posted in Canada, Germany, History, Judaism, Poland, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Church Times) Faith leaders call for unity, 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz

THE 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz should be used “to come before God in worship, conscious of our need for forgiveness, but committed to action that would seek the common flourishing of all”, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

In a statement released this week, in advance of Holocaust Memorial Day on Monday, Archbishop Welby said: “The Holocaust, the Shoah, remains a unique stain on the history of Europe, and a chilling reminder to me of how millennia of Christian anti-Jewish hatred could provide a seedbed for such evil.”

The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) has released a prayer for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day. It was launched at an event in the House of the Lords on Monday, where it was read by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally.

The chair of the CCJ, the Bishop of Lichfield, Dr Michael Ipgrave, said: “Through prayer, we will be asking Christians to remember the pains of the past, and to recommit to a better future for all people, and, in particular, of course, to commit themselves to combating anti-Semitism, which is such a scourge in our society and our world.”

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Posted in History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

(BBC) Dozens of world leaders attend the the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp at the Yad Vashem remembrance centre

The Fifth World Holocaust Forum is the largest diplomatic event in Israel’s history.

More than 40 dignitaries attended and laid wreaths, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, US Vice-President Mike Pence and the Prince of Wales, who is making his first official trip to the Holy Land.

In the opening address, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin thanked them “for your commitment to remembering the Shoah [Holocaust], for your commitment to the citizens of the world, to those who believe in the dignity of man”.

He said their countries should not take for granted the common values that people fought for in World War Two, such as democracy and freedom, saying that Jewish people “remember because we understand that if we do not remember then history can be repeated”.

“Anti-Semitism does not only stop with Jews,” he warned. “Racism and anti-Semitism is a malignant disease that dismantles people and countries, and no society and no democracy is immune to that.”

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Posted in Defense, National Security, Military, History, Israel, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

(WSJ) Marina Gerner–Simon Wiesenthal’s story is example of how Jews can find hope in dark times

In an obituary, the British-Austrian journalist Hella Pick wrote that Wiesenthal always liked to be addressed as “Mr. Engineer.” But when he was asked why he didn’t return to architecture after the Holocaust, he said his belief in God and the afterlife prevented him. The millions who died in the camps, reunited in the afterlife, would ask their fellow Jews what they had done: “You will say, ‘I became a jeweler.’ Another will say, ‘I smuggled coffee and American cigarettes.’ Still another will say, ‘I built houses,’ but I will say, ‘I didn’t forget you.’ ”

For those horrified by the recent attacks against Jewish communities, Wiesenthal’s story raises important questions: Who will stand up for their Jewish neighbors? How will legal justice be served? And how can we maintain spirituality amid persecution? There are many ways of being resilient, but forgetting is not an option.

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Posted in Eschatology, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Intruder in Monsey Screamed ‘I’ll Get You’ in Machete Attack on Jews

When he was caught, the intruder was still covered in the blood of his victims — five Hasidic Jews he had stabbed wildly with a machete at a rabbi’s home while candles on the Hanukkah menorah still burned.

He had concealed his face with a scarf when he burst into the home in this Hasidic community in the New York suburbs at about 10 p.m. on Saturday, the police and witnesses said.

“At the beginning, he started wielding his machete back and forth, trying to hit everyone around,” said Josef Gluck, 32, who was at the home of the Hasidic rabbi, Chaim Rottenberg, for the celebration of the seventh night of Hanukkah.

Mr. Gluck said the assailant screamed at him, “Hey you, I’ll get you” during the attack.

In terror, people fled the living room. Mr. Gluck recalled dashing into the kitchen, picking up a small child and then going down a back porch. Mr. Gluck returned, saw an older victim bleeding heavily and then tried to confront the attacker.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Terrorism, Violence

(WSJ) Ari Lamm–The Christian Hanukkah Tradition

Christians focused almost exclusively on the theme of martyrdom. In particular, they were fascinated by a narrative found in 2 Maccabees about an anonymous Jewish woman and her seven sons who allowed themselves to be tortured and killed by Antiochus rather than violate their faith. Early Christian writers understood the Jewish martyrs as role models, who achieved the ultimate goal of escaping this world for a better one. According to Ambrose, the fourth-century bishop of Milan, the mother could have encouraged her sons to avoid death, “but she considered that her maternal love lay in [urging] her sons to a life that is everlasting rather than an earthly one.”

The authoritative story of the Maccabean era in Jewish tradition is quite different. Jewish rabbinical literature in antiquity didn’t focus at all on the Maccabean martyrs in the context of Hanukkah. Instead it emphasized the role of the Jewish fighters and what happened after their victory. Like the Christian retellings, Jewish tradition focused on the partnership between man and God. But rather than locating that partnership in heaven, it identified it here on earth.

Jewish tradition’s emphasis on the Hanukkah miracle of the oil reinforces this point. In a story popularized in American culture by Jewish celebrities like Adam Sandler, rabbinical literature records that when the Jewish fighters finally recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem, they sought to rekindle its seven-branched oil lamp, best known by its Hebrew name, menorah. Although they only had enough oil for one night, it lasted miraculously for eight nights until the Jews were able to procure a new supply. This tradition focuses on temporal existence. The miracle of the menorah allows the Jews to work at resuming their regular lives here on Earth.

While Christian tradition connected the story of the Maccabean era to the Temple’s menorah, it did so in a different way. In praising the Maccabean martyrs, the Syriac Christian writer Severus of Antioch wrote: “Not so [truly] did the candlestick of seven lights which made glorious the temporal Temple give light, as did this woman with the seven human lights, her sons, give light to the Church.” Severus played down the significance of the Temple’s menorah by comparing its seven branches with the seven martyrs who left this world behind.

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Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Theology

(WSJ) Michael Gotlieb–A Rabbi Walks Into a Presbyterian Church

As a Jew, I have a deep love for and admiration of Christianity. I identify with Jesus’ protests against mechanized, nascent rabbinic practice, and the well-established priestly cult of his day. Jesus knew what many committed Jews have long known: Rabbinic law runs the risk of becoming an end unto itself. Halacha, the Hebrew term for Jewish law, doesn’t directly translate to “law.” It means “way” or “path.”

Unfortunately for too many Jews, Halacha became a veil—an intermediary—between the individual and God. Rulings on Jewish law are frequently engulfed in a labyrinth of casuistic hairsplitting debate. Great rabbinic minds often have been diverted away from timeless moral issues only to rule on the superficial, like whether aluminum foil or bottled water is kosher.

My time at Brentwood Presbyterian also has made me reflect on the decline of Christian affiliation in the U.S. Christianity has become increasingly marginalized alongside Judaism.

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Posted in Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Other Churches, Presbyterian

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s response to the Chief Rabbi’s Statement

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Labour antisemitism: Corbyn not fit for high office, says Chief Rabbi Mirvis

Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism allegations makes him “unfit for high office”, the Chief Rabbi has said while warning that the “very soul of our nation is at stake” in next month’s general election.

In an unprecedented intervention into politics, which he describes as “amongst the most painful moments” of his career, Ephraim Mirvis says that “a new poison” has taken hold in Labour “sanctioned from the very top”.

In an article for The Times today, the Chief Rabbi says that the Labour leader’s claim to have dealt with all allegations of antisemitism is “a mendacious fiction” and the way that the party has handled the claims is “incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud”.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Church of England teaching document calls for repentance over role of Christians in centuries of antisemitism

Christian theology played a part in the stereotyping and persecution of Jewish people which ultimately led to the Holocaust, a new reflection on Christian-Jewish relations issued by the Church of England acknowledges.

The teaching document, entitled God’s Unfailing Word, is the first authoritative statement on the subject from the Church of England. It speaks of attitudes towards Judaism over many centuries as providing a “fertile seed-bed for murderous antisemitism”.

It urges Anglicans and other Christians not only to repent of the “sins of the past” towards their Jewish neighbours but to be alert to and actively challenge such attitudes or stereotypes.

The document, published by the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission, encourages Christians to rediscover the relationship of “unique significance” between the two faiths, worshipping one God, with scriptures shared in common.

The Christian-Jewish relationship should be viewed as a “gift of God to the Church” to be received with care, respect and gratitude, it makes clear.

Read it all and make sure to follow to the link at the bottom to the full document.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism

(Channel 7 Denver) Pueblo white supremacist arrested in ‘domestic terrorism’ case after plans to bomb synagogue

A white supremacist from Pueblo was arrested Friday when he met up with three undercover FBI agents in an attempt to bomb the Temple Emanuel synagogue in Pueblo as part of what he called a “racial holy war” and to wipe the synagogue “off the map” in what the FBI says amounts to “domestic terrorism.”

Richard Holzer, 27, made his first court appearance at 2 p.m. Monday at the U.S. District Court of Colorado. Court records show he faces one count of attempting to obstruct religious exercise by force using explosives and fire.

According to a criminal complaint , undercover FBI agents had been talking with Holzer since September and had been tracking multiple Facebook accounts of his in which he talked to other white supremacists through private messages about attacking Jewish people and other minority groups.

Among the messages he wrote was one in which he said, “I wish the Holocaust really did happen,” and another in which he said he was getting ready to shoot people while showing pictures of him holding guns and white supremacist regalia.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(Vatican News) Abrahamic religions: no to euthanasia, assisted suicide, yes to palliative care

“We oppose any form of euthanasia – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional act of taking life – as well as physician-assisted suicide – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional support of committing suicide – because they fundamentally contradict the inalienable value of human life, and therefore are inherently and consequentially morally and religiously wrong, and should be forbidden without exceptions.”

Representatives of the Abrahamic religions made the statement in a position paper that they signed and released in the Vatican on Monday regarding end-of-life issues, such as euthanasia, assisted suicide and palliative care.

The term, Abrahamic monotheistic religions, derives from the Old Testament biblical figure Abraham who is recognized by Jews, Christians, Muslims and others.

They categorically condemned any pressure upon dying patients to end their lives by active and deliberate actions.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Islam, Judaism, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Post-Gazette) ‘We are still here’: Jewish community, city come together to remember and repair one year after attack

Wounded, but still healing. Still here.

Still praying, studying Torah, volunteering on behalf of immigrants and others who are needy, still honoring their beloved martyrs, still doing acts of mercy and devotion.

At every turn Sunday, the Jewish and wider Pittsburgh community defied a gunman’s contempt as they honored the memory of 11 martyrs a year to the date of the deadly attack on three congregations meeting at the Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

Participants began the day with numerous volunteer activities throughout the Pittsburgh area. Several gathered in the afternoon for a series of Torah study sessions. Throughout the day, a steady stream of people stopped to pay respects at the scene of the synagogue at the intersection of Shady and Wilkins avenues.

Read it all and take a look atthis piece also.

Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Economist) Drawing the line between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel

One reason debate over Israel gets heated is that both sides question each other’s motives. Supporters of Israel note that anti-Semites often cloak their prejudice in criticism of the Jewish state. They say some views—like saying that Israel should not exist—are by definition anti-Semitic. Pro-Palestinian advocates retort that charges of Jew-hatred are intended to silence them.

Such mistrust has grown in Britain and America, as anti-Semitism has resurfaced at both political extremes. On the left, legislators in America have accused pro-Israel colleagues of dual loyalty, and implied that Jewish money bought Republican support for Israel. In 2012 Jeremy Corbyn, now the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, defended a mural depicting hook-nosed bankers.

The right has used similar innuendo, often by linking liberals to George Soros, a Jewish investor. Muddying matters more, Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has also denounced Mr Soros. In America right-wing anti-Semitism also takes a more explicit, occasionally violent form. In 2017 marchers in Virginia chanted “Jews will not replace us.” And in 2018 a shooter at a synagogue in Pittsburgh killed 11 people.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Judaism, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Violence

(NR) German Interior Minister: Yom Kippur Shooting was Anti-Semitic Attack

German officials called a live-streamed shooting at a synagogue Wednesday in the city of Halle an anti-Semitic attack after the gunman denied the Holocaust and denounced Jews on the stream before embarking.

Two people have been killed and another two are seriously injured, according to Reuters, and a suspect is in custody. The gunman attempted to force his way into the synagogue, but was unsuccessful after finding the gates shut. The man then went on a shooting spree, killing a woman outside and a man in a nearby kabob shop.

Max Privorozki, Halle’s Jewish community chairman, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper that approximately 75 people were in the synagogue observing Yom Kippur, known as the Day of Atonement which is the holiest day of the Jewish year and is marked by fasting and solemn prayer.

“We saw via the camera system at our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator with a steel helmet and a gun tried to shoot open our doors,” he said. “We barricaded the doors from inside and waited for the police.”

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Posted in Germany, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

Rabbi Sacks’ pre-Selichot address: “An Unforgiving Age”

Please take the time to listen to it all–carefully.

Posted in Judaism, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Allan Ripp–The Life of a Rabbi With ALS

Using the same eye-gazing program, Yitzi painstakingly writes his weekly Torah commentaries. It sometimes requires a day to complete a column that once would have taken two hours. One recent piece addressed whether someone can be commanded to love another in the same way as loving God. “To be loved, is to be understood,” Yitzi concludes. While he has rabbinical dispensation to use his computer on Shabbat, Yitzi often refrains and rests his strained eyes from the intense workouts. “He communicates differently on Shabbat, looking at everyone’s faces directly; it’s more pleasant,” Dina says. She adds that she still detects the mischief and happiness of the man she married in 1996.

Shlomo Bistritzky —a fellow Chabad rabbi in Westlake Village, Calif.—grew up in Brooklyn with Yitzi. “If you want to see what a beautiful soul looks like, go meet Rabbi Yitzi,” he says. “Everyone who visits approaches nervously with acid reflux but leaves feeling uplifted. As his body has failed him, his joyous spirit shines through.”

When his symptoms first appeared in 2012, Yitzi and Dina were living in the California desert town of Temecula. They had moved there in 1999 to establish a Chabad house, which grew from their living room to a storefront serving a growing Jewish community. Yitzi was an active pulpit rabbi—overseeing Hebrew school and adult education, along with weddings, births, funerals and daily prayer services. He composed songs on guitar and was usually the last one dancing on holidays. He counseled families during the financial crisis and took extra jobs to support his own brood. This included work as a chaplain in a state hospital for the criminally insane and as a supervisor of kosher operations at a dairy farm a half-hour up the road.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Judaism, Religion & Culture

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–Taking a New Look at the Book of Deuteronomy

Hence the program of Deuteronomy, which is fundamentally about the creation of a good society based on collective responsibility, or, as the opening phrase of the Preamble to the United States Constitution puts it, forming a group of “We, the people” under the sovereignty of God. The good society is the essential precondition of spiritual individuals, “since man, as is well known, is by nature social.”

Such a society is to be based on justice and tzedaka, meaning more than merely procedural justice, but in addition what we would call equity or fairness. Nor is that society to be based on abstract principles alone. Instead it is grounded in collective memory and active recall, in particular through celebrations at the Temple at various points of the year.

Underlying this thesis — that the life of faith requires a society dedicated to goodness as a whole — is the poignant story of Noah in the book of Genesis. Noah is the only person to be called righteous in the entire Hebrew Bible, but in the end Noah saved only his family, not his generation. He kept his own moral standards intact but failed to be an inspiration to others. Individual righteousness is not enough.

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Posted in Books, Judaism, Theology: Scripture

(Tablet) As the leading targets of hate crimes, Jews are routinely being attacked in the streets of New York City. So why is no one acting like it’s a big deal?

The incidents now pass without much notice, a steady, familiar drumbeat of violence and hate targeting visibly Jewish people in New York City.

Early on the morning of June 15, a Saturday, two men in a white Infiniti drove around Borough Park, a vast, traditional Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in central Brooklyn. Surveillance footage posted on the local website BoroPark24 showed a man jumping out of the car’s passenger side as someone in a shtreimel and long black jacket walked down the sidewalk in their direction. As the car idled, the passenger approached the Jewish stranger, lunged at him in a linebacker-like stutter-step, and then darted to the waiting vehicle, which promptly sped away. Levi Yitzhak Leifer, head of the Borough Park Shmira neighborhood patrol, said there were at least six and as many as nine reported incidents that night involving the same vehicle. Beresch Freilich, a rabbi who serves as a community liaison with the NYPD in Borough Park, said that some of the targeted individuals sensed a violent intent: “The car passed by going back and forth, and they felt it was trying to run them over.”

On a Saturday night in mid-January, Steven, a student and member of the Chabad Hasidic movement in his late teens, was returning to his apartment on Empire Avenue after a trip to the gym. (Nearly all victims interviewed for this piece asked to be identified by first name only, due to their involvement in ongoing legal cases). Steven saw what he described as a “rowdy group” of between six and eight “older teens” gathered on the sidewalk on a poorly lit stretch between Schenectady and Troy avenues. One of the teens sucker punched Steven in the back of the head as he walked past. “At first I honestly thought a car ran into me—it was such a blow.” Steven was then struck in his right cheek and fell to the sidewalk. He realized he was outnumbered but some irrational part of him couldn’t accept the insult.

“I charged towards them like in a frenzy, with blood on my hands and my face, and I started trying to give him a thing or two,” he remembered of his run toward his main attacker. They exchanged a few blows before the entire group fled. The teens made no attempt to rob Steven, and there was no clear motive for the assault. In retrospect, given the force of the first strike against a vulnerable spot on his head, Steven thinks the attack could have gone much worse for him. “I was very, very lucky,” he said.

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

(Local Paper) Emanuel AME church, shooting survivors form bonds with other traumatized houses of worship

Monday will mark four years since an angry young man with murderous intent slipped into Emanuel and headed for 12 people settling in for Bible study. He sat with them for about an hour, not speaking, until they shut their eyes for closing prayer.

Then he pulled out a gun.

Nine people died that night, including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a state senator who was sitting beside the killer.

And the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., a retired minister who led the study most Wednesdays.

And Myra Thomson, who led it for the first time that night.

And Susie Jackson, at 87 the oldest among them to die.

And her nephew Tywanza Sanders, the youngest at 26.

And their cousin Ethel Lance, the church’s sexton, a mother of five.

And the Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, mother of four.

And the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, mother of three.

And Cynthia Graham Hurd, mother of none but mentor to hundreds in her decades as a beloved librarian.

Nine families, the survivors and the church’s entire congregation found themselves thrust into a journey through what the Bible calls “the valley of the shadow of death.” Then they relived their losses anew with each mass shooting in America, including the Pulse nightclub massacre almost one year to the day after their loved ones died.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Guardian) All Germans urged to wear kippah in protest against antisemitism

Germans of all faiths and none are being urged to wear kippah skullcaps on Saturday as a symbol of solidarity with the Jewish community, after a steep rise in antisemitic attacks.

Protests across the country have been called by the government’s antisemitism ombudsman after he triggered a heated debate when he warned Jews last week not to wear the kippah because of the increasing likelihood of being attacked.

The German tabloid newspaper Bild has been one of the most vocal supporters of the protests, even publishing a cut-out kippah for readers to download and print.

Felix Klein, who was appointed as antisemitism ombudsman a year ago, told German media last week: “I cannot recommend that Jews wear the kippah whenever and wherever they want in Germany, and I say this with regret.”

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Posted in Germany, Judaism, Religion & Culture