Category : Judaism

(BBC) Chief rabbi: Labour should toughen up anti-Semitism code

The code does endorse the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism and includes behaviours it lists as likely to be regarded as anti-Semitic – but critics point out that it leaves out four examples from that definition:

Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country
Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour
Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations
Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis

Chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis attacked the omission of these examples and said it was “astonishing that the Labour Party presumes it is more qualified” to define anti-Semitism than the Jewish community.

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

(AS) Bill Murchison–Is Anti-Semitism Creeping Back Under Episcopal Church Auspices?

I return to the so-called Israeli question: the acid test of logic, saying nothing of decency and generosity. The infection of anti-Semitism appears to be spreading. As if “the Jews” somehow — as used to be asserted by the brain-deprived — league and conspire and plot and plan to take over the world. I think we must not tax my fellow Episcopalians — at this present time —with outright anti-Semitism; that is, with the desire to put the Jews in their place. At General Convention, they affirmed, formalistically, Israel’s right to exist within secure borders. Then, without a sideways glance at Palestinian vows to eradicate Israel, and at the street violence constantly to be feared, and often witnessed, the Episcopal resolutions slammed Israel for measures intended to keep the peace: measures sometimes violent, sometimes ham-handed but generally efficient.

The problem is not American in isolation. It is international. It is political. In the July/August issue of Commentary, Melanie Phillips, the British journalist, asks whether the Jews of Europe should ponder leaving — given the recrudescence in their homelands of squalid anti-Semitism, practiced by the left. The same left, more or less, that dominates the national hierarchy of the Episcopal Church. “The symbiosis,” she writes, “between hatred of the Jewish state and hatred of the Jews is now part of the DNA of the progressive world.” It arises “because the West is in trouble. And a society in trouble always turns on the Jews.”

The Phillips thesis delves deeply into the moral flabbiness that seems, in 2018, to characterize judgment of rights and wrongs in the relationships of nations and people jostling each other in the communist twilight, seeking to distinguish friend from adversary and competitor.

A certain clarity in foreign policy — so he claims — lights up the mind of Donald J. Trump. More than anything else, it underscores the unclarity, the confusion muddying up 21stcentury life.

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Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, General Convention, Israel, Judaism, Religion & Culture

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on ‘The Great Partnership’ between Religion+Science

The human mind is capable of doing two quite different things. One is the ability to break things down into their constituent parts and see how they mesh and interact. This is often called “left brain” thinking, and the best example is science. The other, often called “right brain thinking,” is the ability to join events together so that they tell a story, or to join people together so that they form relationships. The best example of this is religion.

To put it at its simplest: science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. And we need them both, the way we need the two hemispheres of the brain.

Science is about explanation, religion is about interpretation. Science analyses, religion integrates. Science breaks things down to their component parts; religion binds people together in relationships of trust. Science tells us what is, religion tells us what ought to be. Science describes; religion inspires, beckons, calls.

Science practices detachment; religion is the art of attachment, self to self, soul to soul. Science sees the underlying order of the physical world. Religion hears the music beneath the noise. Science is the conquest of ignorance. Religion is the redemption of solitude.

One way of seeing the difference is to think about their relationship with time. Science looks for causes of events, and a cause always comes before its effect. How did the window break? Because I threw a stone at it. First came the throwing of the stone, then came the breaking of the window. Science looks back from effect to cause.

However, human action is always looking forward….

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Posted in History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–Seeing What Isn’t There: A Reflection on the Sending out of and Reporting back from the Spies in Canaan (Numbers 13)

His name is Aaron T. Beck and he is the founder of one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy yet devised: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. He discovered it through his work at the depression research clinic he founded in the University of Pennsylvania. He began to detect a pattern among his patients. It had to do with the way they interpreted events. They did so in negative ways that were damaging to their self-respect, and fatalistic. It was as if they had thought themselves into a condition that one of Beck’s most brilliant disciples, Martin Seligman, was later to call “learned helplessness.” Essentially they kept telling themselves, “I am a failure. Nothing I try ever succeeds. I am useless. Things will never change.”

They had these thoughts automatically. They were their default reaction to anything that went wrong in their lives. But Beck found that if they became conscious of these thoughts, saw how unjustified they were, and developed different and more realistic thought patterns, they could, in effect, cure themselves. This also turns out to be a revelatory way of understanding the key episode of our parsha, namely the story of the spies.

Recall what happened. Moses sent twelve men to spy out the land. The men were leaders, princes of their tribes, people of distinction. Yet ten of them came back with a demoralising report. The land, they said, is indeed good. It does flow with milk and honey. But the people are strong. The cities are large and well fortified. Caleb tried to calm the people. “We can do it.” But the ten said that it could not be done. The people are stronger than we are. They are giants. We are grasshoppers.

And so the terrible event happened. The people lost heart. “If only,” they said, “we had died in Egypt. Let us choose a leader and go back.” God became angry. Moses pleaded for mercy. God relented, but insisted that none of that generation, with the sole exceptions of the two dissenting spies, Caleb and Joshua, would live to enter the land. The people would stay in the wilderness for forty years, and there they would die. Their children would eventually inherit what might have been theirs had they only had faith.

Essential to understanding this passage is the fact that the report of the ten spies was utterly unfounded.

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Posted in Judaism, Psychology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) When Living Your Truth Can Mean Losing Your Children

The questioning went on for days. Did she allow her children to watch a Christmas video? Did she include plastic Easter eggs as part of her celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim? Did she use English nicknames for them, instead of their Hebrew names?

This grilling of Chavie Weisberger, 35, took place not in front of a rabbi or a religious court, but in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, during a custody battle with her ultra-Orthodox Jewish ex-husband after she came out as lesbian and decided to leave the ultra-Orthodox fold. The stakes could not have been higher. In fact, the judge, Eric I. Prus, eventually ruled that she should lose custody of her children, largely because she had lapsed in raising them according to Hasidic customs.

Ms. Weisberger’s case, which was reversed on appeal in August, is still reverberating through New York courts that handle divorce and custody matters for the state’s hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

A New York State appellate court ruled that Justice Prus had erred in making religious observance the paramount factor when deciding custody. The court also said he had violated Ms. Weisberger’s constitutional rights by requiring her to pretend to be ultra-Orthodox around her children, even though she was no longer religious, in order to spend unsupervised time with them.

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Posted in Children, Judaism, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(WSJ) Joe Lieberman–A Holiday for the Rule of Law

A doctor, an engineer, and a lawyer get into a debate about whose profession is the oldest. The doctor argues that it’s medicine: “There must have been a doctor in the Garden of Eden to help God transform Adam’s rib into Eve.”

“Oh no,” the engineer shoots back. “Before that there must have been an engineer who assisted God in changing primordial chaos into the order of the universe.” Then the lawyer chimes in: “You’re both wrong. There must have been a lawyer there first to create the chaos.”

Sure, some lawyers’ behavior merits such jokes. But many play a crucial role in maintaining the rule of law, which creates order. A good legal system makes the difference between a civilized society and a chaotic one, and it all began when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.

For Jews, now is the perfect time of year—between Passover and the much less observed holiday of Shavuot—to contemplate the role of law in our lives.

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

(Economist) Anti-Semitism in Europe may not in fact be rising

…in Ukraine, where the history of anti-Semitism is as bloody as anywhere, just 5% are unwilling to see Jews as citizens. Unlike Catholic Poland, Ukraine is multi-religious (though mainly Orthodox Christian) and has a substantial Jewish population, of around 300,000. Vyacheslav Likhachev, a sociologist who monitors anti-Semitism, says that apart from a fad for neo-Nazi youth subculture a decade ago, it has not really caught on. Radical-right parties with anti-Semitic ideologies have rarely won more than 1% of the vote. More recently, he points out, “because of Russian aggression they have a real enemy. They don’t need conspiracy theories about the Zionist Occupation Government.”

Indeed, in most countries, anti-Semitism rises or falls in concert with nationalism and identity politics. David Feldman of the Pears Institute notes the importance of “competitive victimhood”, in which claims of oppression by Jews, Muslims and other groups step on each others’ toes. Dariusz Stola, head of the Polin Museum of Polish Jewish History, says the same is true in Poland, where the national story is one of victimisation by Germany and Russia. It is more accurate, he thinks, to see anti-Semitism as part of a general wave of chauvinist sentiment since the migrant crisis of 2015; levels of hostility to Muslims, gays and Roma have risen too. Says Mr Stola: “Xenophobia is not selective.”

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Posted in Europe, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT) In Berlin, a Show of Solidarity Does Little to Dampen Jewish Fears

After an attack on a young man wearing a kipa in a trendy Berlin neighborhood, the leader of Germany’s largest Jewish organization urged Jews to wear baseball caps instead. It was just too dangerous, he said, to walk around openly with a kipa or skullcap, a sign of devotion.

In a country that has spent 70 years fighting the legacy of the Holocaust, the backlash was swift: We are all kipa wearers. Berliners, including the mayor, and other Jewish groups participated in demonstrations on Wednesday in which people of all faiths donned skullcaps in solidarity.

“Today the kipa is a symbol of the Berlin that we would like to have,” Mayor Michael Müller told a crowd of hundreds of people outside the Jewish community center in western Berlin. It is, he said, “a symbol of tolerance.”

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Posted in Germany, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–‘I’ve been doing Thought for the Day for thirty years but I never thought that in 2018 I would still have to speak about antisemitism’

It’s happened because of the rise of political extremism on the right and left, and because of populist politics that plays on people’s fears, seeking scapegoats to blame for social ills. For a thousand years Jews have been targeted as scapegoats, because they were a minority and because they were different. But difference is what makes us human. And a society that has no room for difference has no room for humanity.

The appearance of antisemitism is always an early warning sign of a dangerous dysfunction within a culture, because the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.

At the end of his life, Moses told the Israelites: don’t hate an Egyptian because you were strangers in his land. It’s an odd sentence. The Egyptians had oppressed and enslaved the Israelites. So why did Moses say, don’t hate.

Because if the people continued to hate, Moses would have taken the Israelites out of Egypt, but failed to take Egypt out of the Israelites. They would still be slaves, not physically but mentally. Moses knew that to be free you have to let go of hate. Wherever there is hate, freedom dies. Which is why we, especially leaders, have to take a stand against the corrosive power of hate.

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

(Guardian) Traditional Antisemitism is back, global study finds

Feelings of insecurity are widespread among European Jews as a result of the resurgence of the extreme right, a heated anti-Zionist discourse on the left and radical Islam, according to a global study of antisemitism.

Last year the number of recorded violent antisemitic incidents fell by about 9% compared to 2016 – and by almost 50% compared with the 2006-14 average – but there was a notable increase in harassment and abuse, according to a survey published by the Kantor Center.

The report highlights a strengthening of the extreme right in some European counties, “accompanied by slogans and symbols reminiscent of the 1930s” and “the intensity of the anti-Jewish sentiments expressed in a variety of ways […] especially on street demonstrations”. It says this may explain a discrepancy between the levels of fear among European Jews and the actual number of incidents.

“Expressions of classic traditional antisemitism are back and, for example, the term ‘Jew’ has become a swear word,” it says.

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Posted in Globalization, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Holocaust Is Fading From Memory, Survey of Americans Finds

For seven decades, “never forget” has been a rallying cry of the Holocaust remembrance movement.

But a survey released Thursday, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, found that many adults lack basic knowledge of what happened — and this lack of knowledge is more pronounced among millennials, whom the survey defined as people ages 18 to 34.

Thirty-one percent of Americans, and 41 percent of millennials, believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust; the actual number is around six million. Forty-one percent of Americans, and 66 percent of millennials, cannot say what Auschwitz was. Only 39 percent of Americans know that Hitler was democratically elected.

“As we get farther away from the actual events, 70-plus years now, it becomes less forefront of what people are talking about or thinking about or discussing or learning,” said Matthew Bronfman, a board member of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which commissioned the study. “If we wait another generation before you start trying to take remedial action, I think we’re really going to be behind the eight ball.”

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Posted in Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, History, Judaism, Poland, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Violence

(WSJ) Deborah Gastfreund Schuss: Learning to Pray When Words Fail–Disorders like aphasia pose a challenge for adherents of speech-based faiths

Julie Shulman decided to study linguistics because she wanted to help people with speaking disorders. She never imagined how personal this mission would become. After graduating from Israel’s Bar-Ilan University in 2000, the Maine native headed to Massachusetts for a master’s degree and job in speech therapy. Her husband, Ayal Shulman, worked as a business-development manager for an Israeli startup in Brookline. They returned to Israel in 2009—with promising careers and three young children.

Two weeks after their return, Mr. Shulman, then 37, suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. Despite the initially grim prognosis, his cognitive function is intact. But his speech is limited to sentences of three or four words, and his reading and writing abilities are limited.

Along with Mr. Shulman, at least two million people in the U.S. live with aphasia, according to the National Aphasia Association. Some 180,000 acquire the disorder every year. The condition, which produces a disconnect between what the brain wants to convey and what is actually expressed, often strikes survivors of strokes or head trauma without affecting their intelligence. The incidence is growing because medical advancements enable people with such maladies to survive at higher rates. Yet cures for the ensuing handicaps remain elusive.

Ms. Shulman —an Orthodox Jew deeply immersed in her faith—wanted to enhance her husband’s practice of Judaism. Today she helps reintegrate others suffering from aphasia into communal religious participation.

 

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Judaism, Language, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Economist Erasmus Blog) For Dutch Jews, an overdue reassurance and an ancient dilemma

Amsterdam’s’S city hall, built in the 1980s, sits amid what were once the dense slums of the city’s old Jewish neighbourhood, just off the Jodenbreestraat (“Jew Broad Street”) and across from the stately Portuguese synagogue (pictured). Jews began moving to Amsterdam in the 16th and 17th centuries, fleeing persecution in Iberia and Poland, and they played a crucial role in developing the city’s culture of religious tolerance and political liberalism.

By 1941 they numbered 79,000, a bit under 10% of the population. The city’s Jewish heritage is still heard in its Yiddish-influenced slang, its nickname (Mokum, from the Hebrew “makom”, or place), and the chants of its football fans: the local team, Ajax, is popularly known as “the Jews”. But when Amsterdam holds its city-council election on March 21st, the Jewish vote will be a negligible factor. Three-quarters of the city’s Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, and by 2013 the community had shrunk to under 6,000, less than 1% of the population.

Nevertheless, on March 6th Amsterdam’s Jews scored a big political gain. In a ceremony at the city’s Jewish Cultural Centre, candidates representing all ten significant parties running in the local elections signed an accord promising to honour the concerns of the Jewish community. The parties pledged to respond decisively to anti-Semitic incidents, provide security to Jewish residents and institutions, and ensure that every student in the city is taught the evils of anti-Semitism and the history of the Holocaust. “Nothing like this agreement has been done anywhere else in Europe,” said Ruben Vis, secretary of the NIK, the Dutch umbrella organisation of Jewish communities, which negotiated the accord.

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Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, The Netherlands

(Wash Post) Anti-Semitic incidents soared in 2017, marking nation’s largest single-year increase, report finds

Anti-Semitic activities in the United States shot up an unprecedented 57 percent last year, marked by hate crimes in schools and bomb threats against Jewish institutions, according to a report released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League.

The ADL’s 2017 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents identified 1,986 examples of anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism and assault in 2017, the largest single-year increase and the second-highest number since it started tracking the data in the 1970s.

Vandalism was up by 86 percent, and incidents targeting Jewish schools, community centers, museums and synagogues had surged by 101 percent since 2016, the report found. The number of anti-Semitic incidents in K-12 schools has roughly doubled each year for the past two years, the report said.

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Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture

Rabbi Chaim Jachter–Why is Megillat Ester Written in Such a Secular Style?

The twentieth-century philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell, an outspoken atheist, was once asked what would happen if, after his death, he would unexpectedly find himself before God, who would be ready to punish him for his heresy. He replied that he would say that God did not supply sufficient evidence for His existence. I believe that Megillat Ester provides a response to such superficial thinking. The Megillah teaches that there is abundant evidence of Hashem’s existence and mastery of the world for those who make the correct choice to discern Hashem’s hand operating behind the superficial, secular mask.

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Posted in Judaism, Theology: Scripture