Israel: The Haredi establishment’s threat to constitutional democracy and equal rights

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

The Haredi establishment’s threat to constitutional democracy and equal rights: No marginal issue

The sex discrimination against women in public spaces is just the beginning of the havoc the ultra-Orthodox are wreaking on Israeli society

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Veteran political analyst Anshel Pfeffer has published an incisive analysis of the dynamics now playing out on the right and far-right of the Israeli political spectrum, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu losing those who used to be his natural political partners: Liberman, Bennett, Shaked, Smotrich (“Netanyahu is Running Out of Natural Partners,” Haaretz, August 13, 2019). The Haredi establishment, he notes, is taking up that slack, however much it has been a reliable partner of his until now.

Pfeffer’s otherwise incisive analysis contains an appalling throwaway line about the Haredi establishment, one that expresses an all too common perception: “[Netanyahu] granted them total hegemony in the narrow areas of public policy and communal autonomy they care about.”

Narrow areas?

The ongoing dismissal, in particular on the left, of the threat to constitutional democracy posed by the religious establishment is a serious danger in its own right. Ben Gurion can be excused for not realizing the danger in giving blanket draft exemption to yeshiva students —  65 years ago. There is no excuse for such blindness now.

The Haredi establishment uses institutions of government, like the courts, and certainly, coalition politics, to further its own narrow, sectoral interests, while having no fundamental loyalty to these institutions. Deputy Minister of Health Litzman, who does not take a “deputy” salary, but a full one, and who has used his office richly (pun intended), for Haredi interests, as he defines them (the victims of the Haredi rapists he has protected, according to a pending indictment, are also Haredi), is “Deputy,” rather than full Minister, because his boss, the Gerer rebbe, and he, do not recognize the State of Israel. The State’s payouts, however, they very much recognize.

The threat to public space — in the news just this week, in the ruling of a court against sex discrimination in a public space in Afula — is huge and ongoing. As the Israel Women’s Network and other groups have noted, this is a war of attrition. Newly minted Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich said this himself when, after a flurry of outrage about his call for a theocracy here, he acknowledged that such is not possible now — but that piecemeal steps can be and will be taken. This is why it is so important for Smotrich and his ilk not just to be members of Knesset but ministers, who have  broad discretion, staff, and budgets at their disposal. As with the abortion struggle in the US, piecemeal steps are the means to a larger goal.

If it is acceptable to discriminate against women in public space, we are back to demands for sex discrimination in buses, sidewalks, etc. We already struggle against demands for sex discrimination in universities and in the army, refighting the conclusion long ago reached on the basis of too much sorry experience, that there is no such thing as “separate but equal”; any such demands necessarily and inevitably entail discrimination. The Haredi establishment makes an argument for privilege: its religious “needs” and sexual objectification of women take precedence over equal civil rights. Marginal issue?

The Haredi establishment fully supports immunity legislation for Netanyahu, not only as a quid pro quo for his favors but because Minister of Interior Arye Deri, is under police investigation for serious financial crimes and Deputy Minister of Health Yaacov Litzman is too, with the police investigative unit recommending indictment.

The Haredi establishment backs legislation to gut the authority of the Supreme Court by giving the Knesset the power through simple majority vote to override any Supreme Court ruling. This would end the separation of powers and the very meaning of a Supreme Court as the arbiter of constitutionality.

The Haredi establishment runs a vast patronage system in the yeshivas and in the Chief Rabbinate. Keeping Haredi males illiterate and financially dependent on it is the base of that establishment’s power: perpetuation of this system is its call on the public purse. Its right to continue depriving that population of basic secular education — math, English, civics, history — is therefore, its prime demand, which government after government, yes, Labor-led, too — grants, with the rest of us paying for it with our taxes not once, in ever escalating subsidies, but perpetually, to support a growing, impoverished population. Why do yeshiva students get automatic exemption from army or alternative service and university students do not? Equal rights?

Study after study has shown the inflation of prices we pay for food in order to support the patronage system which is the kashrut kingdom of the Chief Rabbinate.

To dismiss all this as some marginal issue is beyond comprehension and effectively, collusion with the abuse the Haredi establishment hopes to keep perpetuating.

While Netanyahu, increasingly cornered by various dynamics, may be further sidling up to the Haredi establishment, his opposition in the Blue and White party is hardly showing awareness of, or determination about, the threat to constitutional democracy, equal rights, or rational government, posed by the Haredi establishment.

All this is anything but a marginal issue and, whereever we are on the political spectrum, we minimize it at our peril.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shulamit S. Magnus is a professor of Jewish history and an award-winning author of books on Jewish modernity and on Jewish women’s history.
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About BDS and Congressional and Other Manipulations

So many resolutions in Congress about BDS; ostensibly, these are about being for and against boycotts and the right to boycott though it is clear that, without mentioning BDS or Israel, specifically, that is what all this is about.

For some, it’s hard to follow the moves till now but the various motions and anti-motions are just beginning. All this has become a political live-wire between the Republican and Democratic parties, with the Republicans sensing a juicy opportunity to exploit Democratic division and paint that party as anti-Israel, or even ant-Jewish, facts be damned. When Jews and Israel, the Jewish state, become stand-ins for dividing lines between major parties and segments of popular opinion, it is not good news for the Jews. Some have felt that a choice between Jewish and constitutional, democratic commitments is what is called for in this moment. That is not true, at all.

There is no contradiction between upholding the Constitution and the constitutional right to free speech, including speech with which one disagrees, and supporting the right of individuals, or states, or the Federal government, not to give their private business, or government business, to entities that boycott Israel. Either boycotts are ok or they aren’t. And they are.

The question is selective use of them, and in particular, in this case, the language used in supporting them, and disgusting analogies that are employed, that are intended to serve, and that serve, to demonize Israel. Not to oppose specific policies but to continue an obscene discourse, promoted about no other state or people on earth, about a “right to exist.”

BDS, of course, is marketed as boycotting only Israeli products from over the Green Line but anyone with an honest interest in all this needs also to be aware of the founding history and continued purpose of BDS, which has nothing to do with selective boycott or specific Israeli policies, but with deliberately misleading people about the founding history and continued purpose of BDS. Anyone who wants to dissociate from settlements or products from over the Green Line cannot credibly dissociate from the larger context in which organized efforts to this end are being waged. Which does not mean that individuals can’t follow their consciences about this but that they need to be aware of their bedfellows, whose “conscience” may be running on an entirely different agenda.

Google, “BDS,” if you never have, and see what comes up; try to get the BDS founding charter. See the language used by the organization itself to define its goals; the dishonesty. Here is cut-and-paste, with interpolation by me, in caps:

“Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. (DOES THIS INCLUDE SELF-GOVERNING JEWS?).

“Israel is occupying and colonising (SIC) Palestinian land, (NOTE THE FAILURE TO DESIGNATE WHAT PALESTINIAN LAND IS INTENDED. THAT EXCLUSION IS QUITE DELIBERATE, SINCE THE FOUNDERS OF BDS CONSIDER ALL OF ISRAEL, PRE-1967, TOO, “PALESTINIAN LAND,” AND EQUATE ZIONISM WITH “SETTLER COLONIALISM” OF, E.G., THE BOERS IN SOUTH AFRICA. THE ISSUE IS NOT THE WEST BANK , OR 1967, AS IT IS FOR SO MANY WHO SEEK TWO STATES FOR TWO PEOPLES, THAT IS, A NEGOTIATED END TO THE NATIONALITY/ LAND CONFLICT HERE, BUT ISRAEL ITSELF. WHY DON’T BDS’ FRAMERS JUST COME OUT AND SAY THIS, THAT THE GOAL IS THE END OF ISRAEL? BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE A HARDER SELL TO NICE, LIBERAL PEOPLE, WHILE MISLEADING PEOPLE IS SO MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE), discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. (OK, IN CASE YOU MISSED IT OR DID NOT WANT TO TAKE MY WORD FOR IT IN THE ABOVE COMMENT, HERE IT IS, THE RIGHT OF RETURN AND THE END OF ISRAEL. THIS, WHILE NO SIMILAR CLAIM HAS BEEN OR IS BEING PRESSED IN OTHER NATIONALITY CONFLICTS AND ABOUT OTHER STATES, NOT LEAST, ARAB STATES, CREATED SINCE THE END OF WORLD WARS ONE AND TWO. PALESTINIAN ADVOCATES, TO BE SURE, ARE ENTITLED TO MAKE AN EXCEPTIONAL CASE FOR THEIR CAUSE BUT THE REST OF US SHOULD BE AWARE THAT THAT IS WHAT THIS IS). Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law. (NICE! COMPARE ISRAEL, WITH ARAB MKS, MEMBERS OF THE SUPREME COURT, THE MEDICAL AND UNIVERSITY AND BANKING  ESTABLISHMENTS, ON THE BEACHES AND IN THE SWIMMING POOLS, IN THE BUSES, TRAINS, STREETS, CAFES, THEATERS– WITH APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA– OR NAZI GERMANY. BY ALL MEANS, DON’T CONFINE THE DISCUSSION TO THE OCCUPATION REGIME ON THE WEST BANK; MAKE IT ABOUT ISRAEL ITSELF. NEEDLESS TO SAY, DON’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THE CORRUPT, REPRESSIVE, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (PA), NEVER MIND, HAMAS; OR ABOUT SEVERAL PEACE DEALS THAT THE PA REJECTED, UNDER WHICH THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN A PALESTINIAN STATE, WITH A CAPITAL IN JERUSALEM, SEVERAL TIMES OVER, LONG AGO.)

“BDS is now a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Thirteen years since its launch, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.” NOTE THE SLEIGHT OF HAND IN THE FINAL WORDS HERE, WHICH CHARACTERIZE ISRAEL’S EXISTENCE AS INHERENTLY ILLEGITIMATE.

Me again, straight up:

It’s a free country and people are free to support, or oppose, boycotts, or other political and economic activities, as they wish. Many liberals are pushing to boycott US states that have recently passed legislation banning abortion. That is their right. And individuals and governments can choose where they give their business: either boycotts are ok or they aren’t; it can’t be had both ways. Telling people they can’t support boycotts, punishing them via employment or other measures, is clearly unconstitutional. It is also politically, stupid.

It is stupid for people who support Israel to align that support with anti-constitutional , anti-democratic, anti-liberal measures. It may be more than just stupid; it offends the Jewish principles of many. But at the least, it is does not serve Israel’s interests, indeed, is very counter-productive to those interests. And to those of Diaspora Jews. This tactic is a set-up  for charges of that old, Jew-hating canard of Jewish “dual loyalty; or for accusations of “self-hatred” and “assimilation.” All this is lose-lose for Jews and we should not allow ourselves to be played like this.

We CAN, and indeed, must walk and chew gum at the same time . This may be, indeed, is, challenging, but not in fact, that complicated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shulamit S. Magnus is a professor of Jewish history and an award-winning author of books on Jewish modernity and on Jewish women’s history.
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Palestine: Abbas Thinks Everyone Is An Idiot And A Fool

Palestine: Abbas Thinks Everyone Is An Idiot And A Fool

 

I have to admit that this letter I am writing to you tonight is one based within a little bit of upset-ness. Earlier today I reblogged an article from the Saudi Newspaper Asharq al-Awsat about comments from the Palestinian President Abbas and the stupidity of his comments is causing me to write this article to you tonight. For it is my belief that Mr. Abbas thinks that everyone who might hear or read his words are idiots and or fools. Mr. Abbas said and I quote “Palestine is for Canaanites and outsiders must leave.” I realize that there are a lot of people who don’t know what a Canaanite even is as people who aren’t familiar with the first few books of the Old Testament would probably have never had any reason to care or know about those folks from so long ago. The exception may be some of the people who live in the Middle-East now, mainly the Palestinians and the Israelite’s. Mr. Abbas’s comment also shows very plainly that he and the Palestinians have no intention of ever allowing there to be any such thing as a Nation of Israel. Giving land for piece is pure stupidity as all they will ever do is to keep attacking anyone who is not Islamic believers. This is exactly what happened when Israel turned over the West Bank and Gaza to them, the Palestinians simply used this land as a new base to continue their attacks on the people and Nation of Israel. There will never be a true peace between the two ever because Islamic believers will never ever let it be so.

 

Mr. Abbas now says that they, the Palestinians are modern day Canaanites and that only they have the right to live in the land of Canaan, or modern day Palestine. He is using this ideology for the purpose of saying that the Palestinian people’s linage goes back before the Hebrew (Israeli) peoples claim to the land when through God’s power He brought them out of the land of Egypt with Moses at the helm. This is because their claim to the land from the time of Mohammed in the seventh century when Islamic raiders took over the whole Middle-East does not go back before the time of the Nation of Israel. In the past the Islamic believers simply have said that there never was a Nation of Israel, disallowing all of Israels people from having been there before Islam was born. They have stated this theology ignoring all written and physical evidence of what they were saying was a total lie. So, now it appears that Mr. Abbas is trying another angle, but, for anyone to believe what he is saying now they would have to be ignorant (un-knowledgeable) of the Old Testament writings. One can easily say that the Islamic people don’t believe in the teachings of the Bible anyway so what would that matter. Good point except that they do honor Abraham and Moses as being Prophets of God. They believe parts but then disavow other teachings all around them. What Mr. Abbas is hoping for is that you, I, and everyone else of the planet is either an idiot and or a fool. In truth everyone that is alive today is an idiot meaning un-knowledgeable about somethings and or many things. Being an idiot on a subject matter is a whole lot different than being stupid, meaning that you are just mentally unable to learn. I looked up the meaning of stupid at Dictionary.com and for the word Fool it says: A person who lacks judgement or sense. And: a person who has been tricked or deceived into appearing to act silly. When I looked up the definition in the Bible it says: Those who misuse wisdom. And foolishness: A disregard of final issues. In other words, they don’t actually care what the truth is, thus showing themselves to be foolish or a fool.

 

I am going to give you a little bit of Biblical input to help you build your knowledge on the matter of the Canaanites and of the Hebrew people, God’s chosen people, the Israelite’s. I am not going to get into copying down ever word written in each paragraph but I will give you a very good detailed base in which you can then easily look up each paragraph that I list to help you understand. I believe that the information that I am going to give you straight from Scripture will open your eyes to the understanding as to why, even if the modern day Islamic believers or Palestinians claim to be of the bloodline of the Canaanites that they are not the ones to be the legal residents of the land of Israel, Palestine. Mr. Abbas knows this, he is just hoping that you and I are all idiots who can be easily fooled.

 

Starting with the first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis.  Chapter 12 verses 6 and 7. Written as 12: 6-7. (1) This is when Abram (later named Abraham) was sent into Canaan, the land was occupied by the Canaanites. (2) God said to Abram “unto your seed I will give this land.”

10: 19 God describes the borders of Palestine in which the 7 Nations of the Canaanites lived. This would be the future borders of the land of Israel once they came up out of Egypt with Moses. Current day Israel is but a small sliver of the land that belongs to the Biblical Nation of Israel.

Genesis 15: 18-21 God tells Abram that He will give the land (what is considered to be Palestine) to his seed and God will DRIVE OUT THE NATIONS THAT ARE NOT HIS SEED, INCLUDING THE CANAANITES!

Exodus 3: 6-8 God talked to Moses at the Burning Bush. There God refers to the Hebrews (Israelite’s) who were slaves in Egypt as “His people” telling Moses that He will bring them to the land of Canaan and plant them there.

Deuteronomy 7: 1-2 In verse one God told Moses for “the People to go and possess the land” from those who current inhabited it. (2) “God will deliver them (the inhabits) to you and you shall smite (kill) them and utterly destroy them, you shall make no agreement with them, nor show mercy to them.”

7: 6 God speaking: “For you (Hebrews) are a Holy People to Himself above all people who are upon the face of the Earth.”

7: 16 God Speaking to Moses about the Canaanites “destroy them, show no pity.”

There are three people who are called the “Fathers of Israel” they are Abraham (Abram), Isaac his son and Jacob, his son. God changed Jacobs name to Israel and the 12 Tribes of Israel are named after the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel. The following passages are where God gave promises to each of them.

Abraham Genesis 12: 1-3

Isaac Genesis 26: 2-3

Jacob Genesis 28: 10-13

Israel Exodus 3: 8

 

Joseph while in captivity in Egypt in Genesis 40: 15 Referring to his homeland (Palestine) as “the land of the Hebrews.” This was several hundred years before the birth of Moses.

Exodus 15: 14-17 Palestine: all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. (17) Canaan is Israel’s inheritance.

Hebrews 11: 9 (New Testament) The Apostle Paul speaking of Abraham “by faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.”

 

For President Abbas to say that his people (of the PA, Palestinian Authority) are the descendants of the Canaanites thus being Canaanites themselves, thus the rightful owner of the land of Palestine either he is an ignorant and or stupid fool in this regard or he simply believes that you/we are.

 

 

Who Was The Prophet Malachi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

 

Malachi (d. 312 BCE) was a member of the Great Assembly during the beginning of the second Jewish commonwealth and was considered the last Jewish prophet.

Who Was Malachi?

Some opinions in the Talmud maintain that Malachi was Mordechai,1 the hero of the Purimstory, but referred to as Malachi because of his position as viceroy of Persia—a designation similar to that of an angel (“malach”) who is subordinate to G‑d.2 Another view, supported by many authorities,3 is that Malachi is a pseudonym for Ezra the Scribe,4 while a third perspective identifies Malachi as neither Mordechai nor Ezra, but a third prophet entirely.

Some contemporary authors suggest that the name Malachi is a reference to the final prophecy of his book which opens with the words, Hineni sholeach malachi (“Behold I send My messenger”).5

The Book of Malachi

The Book of Malachi comprises three chapters of prophecies exhorting the Jewish people to better their ways and portending future upheavals should they fail to do so. It is the last of the series of 12 prophets known collectively as Trei Asar (“twelve”) or Minor Prophets.

Some suggest that the prophecies ascribed to ChaggaiZechariah, and Malachi were actually transmitted to the prophets of preceding generations but publicized by Chaggai, Zechariah, and Malachi who had received them by tradition.6 In the interim, Jeremiahprophesied and was the last to do so.7 Nevertheless, the Talmud still ascribes the conclusion of the prophetic period to Malachi because his prophecies were published at a later date.8

An alternate perspective is that prophecy continued, albeit in minute measure, during the lifetime of Chaggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Indeed, the Talmud teaches that these prophets prophesied during the second year of King Darius’ reign9 regarding the rebuilding of the Temple.10

The Withdrawal of Prophecy

The life of the prophet Malachi is an important turning point in Jewish history, as it marks the close of the glorious era of Jewish prophecy.11 The Talmud teaches, “After the last prophets Chaggai, Zechariah, and Malachi died, the Divine Spirit of prophetic revelation departed from the Jewish people.”12

Nevertheless, the works of the Talmudic era testify to the continued presence of Divine inspiration amongst the Jewish people well after Malachi’s demise. Moreover, many medieval Jewish works point to the possibility of achieving Divine inspiration should one be worthy of it.13 Although varying in degree and intensity from that of the prophets, Divine inspiration is a subcategory of prophecy,14and the Talmud’s statement limiting prophecy to the pre-Malachi era therefore implies only a general decline in the spiritual efficacy of subsequent generations without precluding the possibility of exceptional individuals attaining prophecy.15

Read: Why Are There No More Prophets?

Love by Choice

Although small in size, the prophecies of Malachi are noted with great interest in Jewish thought, beginning with the very first line—a sententious statement that is most telling of G‑d’s unique relationship with the Jewish people:

I have shown you [Israel] love, said the L‑rd. But you ask, “How have You shown us love?” After all—declares the L‑rd—Esau is Jacob’s brother; yet I have accepted Jacob and have rejected Esau.

This declaration conveys a fundamental principle of Jewish thought: While from a human vantage point it may appear that Esau and Jacob are brothers—equals—and that Jewish identity and Jewish destiny are not guided by Divine preference, Malachi informs us that the Jewish people were singled out by G‑d to be His people. Rabbi Yosef Albo explains that the love described by G‑d in these verses is supra-rational; it cannot be justified by logic alone. It is a love of choice.16

The Chassidic masters further develop this teaching, considering the unique qualities of Divine choice. Unlike human choice, which is an exercise in decision-making based on specific advantages and characteristics of an object or experience, G‑d’s choices are made within His essence which is not contingent upon anything else.17 As such, His love of the Jewish people is unconditional and eternal; as G‑d is eternal so is His chosen people.

Read: Who Is a Jew? Solving the Mystery of Jewish Identity

No Changes

Another of Malachi’s noteworthy prophecies speaks to the heart of Jewish theology:

For I am the L‑rd—I have not changed; and you are the children of Jacob—you have not ceased to be.18

The prelude to the daily prayers includes the following declaration of Malachi’s:

You were the same before the world was created; You are the same since the world has been created.19

G‑d’s enduring and unchanging existence is the fundamental principle of faith upon which the entire edifice of Judaism stands. More specifically, it involves the recognition that the act of creation does not redefine G‑d in any way.

Maimonides writes:

He who is everlasting, constant, and in no way subject to change; immutable in His Essence, and as He consists of naught but His Essence, He is mutable in no way whatever; not mutable in His relation to other things: for there is no relation whatever existing between Him and any other being . . and therefore no change as regard; such relations can take place in Him. Hence He is immutable in every respect, as He expressly declares,” I, the L‑rd, do not change”20: i.e., in Me there is not any change whatever.21

Chassidic teachings expound upon this and explain that since the world is truly nullified in its entirety in relation to G‑d, and is wholly united with Him, He remains one after the world was created as He was prior to its creation.22

Malachi also implies that G‑d’s immutability is what drives the eternal nature of the Jewish people (“And you are the children of Jacob—you have not ceased to be”). Even if worldly affairs seem to indicate that G‑d has abandoned His people, we are reminded by Malachi that G‑d does not change and His love for His people always remains intact. And just as it is impossible for Him to cease to exist, so will the Jewish people eternally endure.23

The eternality of the Jewish people leads us directly to the final lines of Malachi’s prophecy, which tell of the Messianic redemption:

Lo, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord, that he may turn the heart of the fathers back through the children, and the heart of the children back through their fathers…24

FOOTNOTES
1.

Megillah 15a.

2.

Maharsha, ibid.

3.

See Targum Yonatan, Malachi 1:1; Rabbeinu Chananel, Megillah ibid. Rashi, Malachi 2:11. Tosafot, Ketubot 16a, Bosar d’Kansinu; Yevamot 86b., Mipnei Mah. Kuzari, 3:65. Meiri, Avot 1:1. Cf. Radak, Malachi, ibid.

4.

Megillah 15a.

5.

See Otzar Yisrael (Eisenstein), Malachi (vol. VI p. 209). Encyclopedia l’Toarei kavod b’Yisrael, p. 1550.

6.

This is in line with the teaching of the Midrash that all prophecies were initially transmitted at Sinai and were later revealed by the prophets when the time was ripe (See Rashi, Malachi 1:1).

7.

Midrash Aggadah, Bamidbar 30:15. Pesikta d’Rav Kahana, p. 116a.

8.

See Midrash Aggadah ibid. stating, “The prophecies were deposited with them [for safekeeping].”

9.

Megillah 15a.

10.

See Chaggai 1:1. Radak, ibid.

11.

Bava Batra 14b.

12.

Yoma 9b. Sotah 48b. Tosefta ibid, 13:4; Sanhedrin 11:1.

13.

See Pirkei Giluyim, introduction to She’elot uteshuvot Min Ha-Shamayim (Margolis), pp. 25-41.

14.

Likutei Sichot, vol. XIV, p. 73, note 20.

15.

See Likutei Sichot ibid. where the language of the Talmud is demonstrated to be most precise in that the word chosen for the removal of prophecy is nistalkah, meaning withdrawn, as opposed to batlah (“annulled”), or paskah(“curtailed”). Cf. Griz Ha-Levy, Malachi ibid.

16.

Sefer Ha-Ikarim 3:37.

17.

See Torah Ohr p. 120c, Likutei Torah (Gimel Parshiyos) 37a, Ohr Ha-Torah Bereishit vol. III, pp. 565a, and Likutei Sichot vol. IV p. 1341, vol. VII p. 25, vol. XXXVI p. 50.

19.

See Yalkut Shimoni, Va-Etchanan sec. 836.

21.

Guide to the Perplexed I:XI.

22.

See Sha’ar Ha-Yichud Ve-Ha-Emunah ch. VII.

23.

Rambam, Igeret Teiman, sec. U’kvar hivti’ach.

Poway And The Struggle For Americas Soul

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

 

If you’re a Jew in America today, there’s a good chance you’re concerned. First, the largest hate-driven massacre of Jews in American history occurs in Pittsburgh. Then, precisely six months later, with an almost identical fingerprint of hatred, a deadly attack on a synagogue in Poway, California.

Whose problem is this?

The Jewish people are no weaker for these attacks. Synagogues are not about to empty out because of a handful of disturbed, poisoned minds—and much to the contrary. As for those whose lives were taken, all very special Jews, all missed terribly: Don’t call them victims. There’s an honored title in Jewish tradition for any Jew who lost his or her life simply for being a Jew: A Kadosh. A holy Jew. Jews don’t die as victims, we die with dignity. That is why we are still alive.

My contention is that this is not a Jewish problem. It’s the World’s problem. Both these attacks, along with many other violent crimes of hatred in recent years are symptoms of a malicious disease spreading unabated in America, in Europe, and in the world at large.

But that’s a problem that we, as Jews, are going to have to assist in healing. For our own best interest, as well as for the interest of this country, and for the entire world.

America is suffering. According to FBI figures, hate-crimes rose 17% last year, with similar increases over the previous two years. All this while other forms of violent crime continue to decrease. Something’s wrong.

Jews are an obvious target. Like the canary in the coal mine, we tend to get hit the hardest. And yes, these are acts of rabid antisemitism. But if we want to solve anything, we need to take a broader perspective. Muslims, Christians and others have been under siege as well. Just a few days before the Poway shooting, a young war veteran plowed into a crowd crossing the street in Sunnyvale, California. He told police he thought they were Muslims.

Is there a medicine for this plague?

In the sixties, seventies and eighties, violence was increasingly on the rampage in America in a way not seen since the days of the Wild West. Ideas for quick fixes and long term solutions abounded. The Rebbe’s prescription, unique and counterintuitive, was this: Fix the education system. How? Introduce a moment of silence every day into the school curriculum, and take it seriously.

Why do I think that’s a good fit for today’s plague of hate-driven violence?

Think about it: America is divided over gun law restrictions, yet there is one point that enjoys universal consensus: Gun restrictions alone are not enough. Because the problem is not the gun. The problem is the mind of the person that holds the gun.

What has the American school done for the mind of that criminal?

We taught him how human beings first appeared on the planet. Did we teach him to be a human being? Did we teach him to respect another human being?

We taught him to use his mind to solve problems with numbers. Did we teach him to apply his mind—rather than his fists—to solve problems with people?

We taught him anatomy. Did we teach him that a human life is more than the sum of blood, guts and bones? Or did we, perhaps inadvertently, teach him that the notion of a human soul has no place in the educated mind?

We taught him about laws and prisons. Did we teach him that even if you’re so smart that you don’t get caught, you’re still wrong? Did we give him a conscience?

Did we ever demonstrate to him that these are the things that really matter in life—more than math, more than science, even more than the niftiest technology? Did we ever give him a chance to stop and think about himself, about his life, about his family, about everything that bothers him in life? Is there a space and time for thinking about life in his school?

That’s all that a moment of silence in school is about. And, yes, it works wonders. Ask those who work in schools where it’s been implemented. They will tell you that a moment of silence means that a child will go home and ask Mommy and Daddy what he should think about. It means that a child will share with his teacher the troubles he’s going through. It means the school becomes a place not just for the child’s mind, but for his heart and his soul.

Or take it from this 2013 report on the Moment of Silence program at Paul Robeson High in Brooklyn, N.Y., that described it as “an ongoing, transformative experience.”

“…The Moment of Silence provided the students an opportunity to become more mindful and reflective of their experiences inside and outside the classroom. The students have become more introspective in their writing and have a greater appreciation, empathy, and understanding of their peers . . . Students have also gained a greater understanding of educational objectives.”

Jews have to adapt to the times. The knee-jerk reaction, reinforced through thousands of years of history, has been to huddle down and strengthen the internal steel grid when under attack. But America in 2019 is not Shushan, not Rome, not medieval Spain, not Poland.

It’s that attitude that prompted some Jews to believe that if Judaism were to be safe in America, G‑d had to be kicked out of public school. They failed to realize that, in the times we live in, the opposite is true. A moral society demands a notion of an objective, supreme Judge, an “eye that sees and an ear that hears”—even if you don’t get caught by the police or the media. When that notion is lost, so is America’s soul. And that’s when the madness begins.

A moment of silence doesn’t impose prayer or belief in a Creator on anyone. But it opens the child’s mind to search for meaning, and hopefully, for G‑d’s presence in the world. And there’s a good chance the child will talk to parents and grandparents and discover that they once had faith in their lives.

True, anti-semitism never died, even in America. But here we have a voice, a well-respected voice, and therefore a responsibility to our host country. Isn’t this why we were given a Torah? Isn’t this is the core mission of our people here in this world—to be a light to the nations, who will finally come to realize that the world has a Creator who cares about how we treat His world?

We can use our voices to heal America. Let America’s schools nurture the humanness of America’s children. Let children know the meaning of silence, just enough silence that they can hear their own hearts pounding inside. Let America have a soul again.

Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected

Image caption Israel has established more than 100 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.

Israelis go to the polls on Tuesday and Mr Netanyahu is competing for votes with right-wing parties who support annexing part of the West Bank.

The settlements are illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Last month the US recognised the occupied Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967, as Israeli territory.

Israel has settled about 400,000 Jews in West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem. There are about 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Palestinians want to establish a state in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

What happens to the settlements is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians – Palestinians say the presence of settlements make a future independent state impossible.

Israel says the Palestinians are using the issue of settlements as a pretext to avoid direct peace talks. It says settlements are not a genuine obstacle to peace and are negotiable.

What exactly did Netanyahu say?

He was asked during an interview on Israeli TV why he had not extended Israeli sovereignty to large settlements in the West Bank.

“You are asking whether we are moving on to the next stage – the answer is yes, we will move to the next stage,” he said.

“I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty and I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements.”

A spokesman for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told Reuters: “Any measures and any announcements will not change the facts. Settlements are illegal and they will be removed.”

Presentational grey line

Potentially explosive comments

By Sebastian Usher, BBC Arab affairs editor

These comments by Benjamin Netanyahu are potentially explosive over an issue that has helped stall peace efforts for years.

They will resonate with several parties with which he’ll try to form a coalition government if he wins the biggest share of votes.

But the very idea of annexation will rouse new Palestinian fury, as well as international condemnation.

Mr Netanyahu may have been emboldened by the Trump administration, which just last month recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Presentational grey line

What is the political background?

Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is in a tight race with the new centre-right Blue and White alliance.

However other parties, some of which support annexation, could end up being kingmakers when they try to form a governing coalition.

In Mr Netanyahu’s own Likud party, 28 out of the 29 lawmakers running for re-election are on record as supporting this approach. Until now the prime minister was the only exception.

What is the situation of peace negotiations?

Mr Trump’s administration is preparing to unveil a long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which US officials say will be fair.

However the Trump administration has carried out a series of actions that have inflamed Palestinian opinion and generally pleased Israel.

In 2017 Mr Trump announced that the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning decades of official US policy.

In response Mr Abbas cut off relations with the US, saying the US could no longer be a peace broker.

Last year the US stopped contributing to the UN Relief and Works Agency(Unrwa), which has been looking after Palestinian refugees since 1949.

In March President Trump officially recognised Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.

On Saturday, speaking at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, he warned a Democratic victory in 2020 could “leave Israel out there”, in an effort to make the case to Jewish voters to support his re-election.

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since 2014, when a US-brokered attempt to reach a deal collapsed.

Netanyahu: Denying Israel’s right to exist is the ‘ultimate’ anti-Semitism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Netanyahu: Denying Israel’s right to exist is the ‘ultimate’ anti-Semitism

Reacting to poll on hatred of Jews in Europe, PM refrains from criticizing right-wing governments accused of employing anti-Semitic tropes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the official state ceremony held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem marking Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 11, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the official state ceremony held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem marking Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 11, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that denial of Israel’s right to exist is the “ultimate” form of anti-Semitism.

Asked in an interview with the CNN to react to a poll from the network indicating over 20 percent of Europeans believe Jews have “too much influence” across the world, Netanyahu accused the extreme left and radical Islam of perpetuating the world’s oldest hatred, while refraining from criticizing right-wing leaders accused of using anti-Semitic tropes.

“I’m concerned because I think anti-Semitism is an ancient disease that rears its ugly head. It first attacks the Jews, but it never stops with them. It then sweeps entire societies,” he said.

Despite this concern, Netanyahu commended “most of the European countries’ governments” for working to combat anti-Semitism, specifically naming German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Netanyahu focused much of his criticism of European anti-Semitism from what he dubbed “new anti-Semitism,” which he differentiated from the “old anti-Semitism in Europe that came from the extreme right.”

Protesters on the Place du Chatelet in Paris demonstrating against Israel, April 1, 2017. (Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

“There’s also new anti-Semitism that comes from the extreme left and also the radical Islamic pockets in Europe that spew forth these slanders and lies about Israel, the only democracy in this entire region, the only one that has the courts, human rights, rights for all religions, gays, everything, I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” he said.

Asked about Hungary and Poland, whose right-wing leaders have been accused of employing anti-Semitic imagery, Netanyahu said he did not believe the two countries’ governments were doing so and said the real problem is calls for Israel’s destruction.

“I don’t think they do and I think that ultimately the real issue is can we tolerate the idea that people say that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist, which I think is the ultimate anti-Semitic statement,” he said.

“Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, anti-Israeli policies, the idea that the Jewish people don’t have the right to a state, that’s the ultimate anti-Semitism of today,” Netanyahu added.

Netanyahu’s focus on denial of Israel’s right to exist was notable in comparison to other reactions to the CNN survey, which focused on the historical persistence of anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism is one of the oldest diseases – racism being another such disease – for which there is no vaccine,” Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog said in statement. “This disease must be fought before it spreads, and becomes a pandemic. History teaches that if anti-Semitism isn’t dealt with at an early stage, it will threaten people’s lives, as we saw in Pittsburgh.”

“The teaching of the most horrific mass murder in history — the Holocaust of the Jews in Europe during the Second World War — must be taught as part of any curriculum in schools throughout Europe. Especially its lessons and conclusions.”

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust remembrance center, said in statement it was “troubled by the lack of Holocaust awareness and the state of anti-Semitism in Europe” revealed in the CNN survey.

Thousands of protesters attend a rally against anti-Semitism near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Sunday, September 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, Pool)

“The survey highlights the troubling fact that many entrenched hateful anti-Semitic tropes persist in European civilization, 75 years after the end of the Holocaust,” Yad Vashem said in a statement. “While anti-Semitism does not necessarily lead to genocide, anti-Semitism was central to the Nazis’ worldview and the basis for their ‘Final Solution’ to eradicate all Jews and their culture from the face of the earth.”

Yad Vashem said the survey shows the need to “intensify broad-based efforts in the area of Holocaust education and awareness, which is essential to any effort to contend with anti-Semitism.”

Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told CNN that “there will always be people who have anti-Semitic feelings and I don’t know if the number has grown, but this new situation today is they feel that it’s more acceptable socially that they can express these opinions out loud.

“The feeling beforehand was, ‘This is what I believe but don’t tell anyone,’” he added. “It was not perfect but at least there was a social taboo against anti-Semitism.”

Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is also minister for Diaspora Affairs, struck a similar note to Netanyahu.

“We have always known that for many, being anti-Israel is a natural extension of their anti-Semitic beliefs. This has an impact both on their attitudes to history and to the present,” he said.

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Hindus, Jews celebrate joint festival of lights At Chicago Synagog

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Two holidays, one theme: Hindus, Jews celebrate joint festival of lights

Bringing together two diverse communities and highlighting strong Israel-India relations, over 400 people gather in Chicago to simultaneously honor Diwali and Hanukkah

  • Candle lighting with Rabbi Sidney Helbraun & Acharya Rohit Joshi at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    Candle lighting with Rabbi Sidney Helbraun & Acharya Rohit Joshi at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
  • The crowd enjoying the program at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    The crowd enjoying the program at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
  • Learning how to do a Hindu dance at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    Learning how to do a Hindu dance at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
  • Standup comedian Samson 'Mahatma Moses; Koletar performs at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    Standup comedian Samson ‘Mahatma Moses; Koletar performs at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
  • The crowd enjoying the program at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    The crowd enjoying the program at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
  • Jewish dance lessons at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    Jewish dance lessons at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
  • A Diwali diya and Hanukkah menorah shine side by side at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    A Diwali diya and Hanukkah menorah shine side by side at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)

CHICAGO — A joint Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights drew over 400 people to a suburban Chicago synagogue on Sunday, as together they honored the similarly-themed holidays of Hanukkah and Diwali.

The evening, which featured speakers, candle lighting, food from both cultures, dance lessons, and the world’s only Indian-Jewish stand up comedian, was hosted by Temple Beth-El in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Illinois.

The Chicago event has inspired similar gatherings nationwide — from a December 8 celebration in San Francisco, to events being planned in New York, Atlanta and Florida. The Chicago organizers also look forward to organizing a collective celebration of Purim and Holi, the Hindu spring festival, in 2019.

“I think we connect over a shared sense of pain and overcoming adversities,” Sunil Krishnan told The Times of Israel as people mingled before the program. Krishnan, who is Hindu, made the nearly two-hour drive from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to attend the event.

“I don’t know much about the Hindu religion, but I’m fascinated by it,” said Margaret Geber, a Jewish woman who came with two friends. “I love the feeling of hope and the energy of the room as people are getting to know each other.”

The crowd enjoying the program at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)

Highlights from Sunday’s program included speeches by human rights activist Dr. Richard Benkin; Indian Consul Head of Chancery D.B. Bhati; and Aviv Ezra, the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest.

Bhati drew parallels between Diwali’s festival of lights and the lights of Hanukkah, while Ezra highlighted the 26 years of diplomacy between Israel and India. That relationship has “grown in even more profound ways” since India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited each other’s respective countries last year, Ezra said.

Candle lighting with Rabbi Sidney Helbraun & Acharya Rohit Joshi at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)

The idea for the joint festival began five years ago when Peggy Shapiro, Midwest executive director of StandWithUs, invited leaders of the Indian community to her house for dinner to celebrate the 65th anniversaries of Indian and Israeli independence.

“The problem is, what food do you serve?” joked Shapiro.

“When we got together that night at my dining room table, we found such commonalities in our communities,” Shapiro said.

“I learned a bit more about India and the Jewish community there — India is one of the only places in the world that has never had anti-Semitism,” she said (presumably attributing the horrific 2008 attacks on the Mumbai Chabad House to Islamic terrorism, rather than specific hatred against Jews).

Snacks are served at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)

Prasad Yalamanchi of the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation also spoke about India’s support for Israel and stressed the shared experiences between Hindus and Jews, including the staggering losses that both communities faced due to persecution.

“We need to get together, Hindus and Jews, to protect our heritage and civilization for future of generations,” he said to roaring applause.

Shapiro then introduced “someone that nobody has ever heard of, but appeals to everybody — the world’s only Indian-Jewish stand-up comedian, Samson Koletar, aka Mahatma Moses.”

Koletar poked fun at Jewish and Indian stereotypes to the delight of a mixed crowd that apparently had a common appreciation for self-deprecating humor. And like any good comedian, Koletar didn’t spare himself, laughing about people’s confused reactions to his mixed Indian-Jewish heritage.

Standup comedian Samson ‘Mahatma Moses; Koletar performs at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)

Rounding out the speeches, Dr. Souptik Mukherjee — a researcher who has long been an advocate for Hindu-Jewish relations, and who has contributed to Israeli media — spoke about the 2,500 year history of Hindu-Jewish relationships.

“[Our] two communities today unite to celebrate values dear to us all, of coexistence, tolerance, gender equality, mutual respect and respect for each other’s culture and faith,” Mukherjee said.

The festival concluded with traditional Hanukkah and Diwali desserts, followed by dance lessons from each culture.

Dr. Souptik Mukherjee speaks at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)

“It’s really wonderful to have this event in our synagogue, and see new faces in here,” noted Mandy Herlich, the director of lifelong learning at Temple Beth-El.

Chicago’s Festival of Lights was sponsored by the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation, Param Shakti Peeth of America, Sewa Interational, Shir Hadash, StandwithUs, Temple Beth-El, TV Asia, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America.

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Newly revealed letter shows a fearful Einstein long before Nazis’ rise

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Newly revealed letter shows a fearful Einstein long before Nazis’ rise

Following assassination of Jewish friend and German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, celebrated physicist warned of ‘dark times brewing’

This June, 1954, file photo shows renowned physicist Albert Einstein in Princeton, N.J. More than a decade before the Nazis seized power in Germany, Albert Einstein was on the run and already fearful for his country’s future, according to a newly revealed handwritten letter. (AP Photo, File)

This June, 1954, file photo shows renowned physicist Albert Einstein in Princeton, N.J. More than a decade before the Nazis seized power in Germany, Albert Einstein was on the run and already fearful for his country’s future, according to a newly revealed handwritten letter. (AP Photo, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — More than a decade before the Nazis seized power in Germany, Albert Einstein was on the run and already fearful for his country’s future, according to a newly revealed handwritten letter.

His longtime friend and fellow Jew, German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, had just been assassinated by right-wing extremists and police had warned the noted physicist that his life could be in danger too.

So Einstein fled Berlin and went into hiding in northern Germany. It was during this hiatus that he penned a handwritten letter to his beloved younger sister, Maja, warning of the dangers of growing nationalism and anti-Semitism years before the Nazis ultimately rose to power, forcing Einstein to flee his native Germany for good.

“Out here, nobody knows where I am, and I’m believed to be missing,” he wrote in August 1922. “Here are brewing economically and politically dark times, so I’m happy to be able to get away from everything.”

The previously unknown letter, brought forward by an anonymous collector, is set to go on auction next week in Jerusalem with an opening asking price of $12,000.

As the most influential scientist of the 20th century, Einstein’s life and writings have been thoroughly researched. The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, of which Einstein was a founder, houses the world’s largest collection of Einstein material. Together with the California Institute of Technology it runs the Einstein Papers Project. Individual auctions of his personal letters have brought in substantial sums in recent years.

This undated photo released by the Kedem Auction House, shows a copy of a 1922 letter Albert Einstein wrote to his beloved younger sister, Maja. The previously unknown letter, brought forward by an anonymous collector, is set to go on auction next week in Jerusalem with an opening asking price of $12,000. In the handwritten letter, Einstein expressed fears of anti-Semitism long before Nazis’ rise. (Kedem Auction House via AP)

The 1922 letter shows he was concerned about Germany’s future a full year before the Nazis even attempted their first coup — the failed Munich Beer Hall Putsch to seize power in Bavaria.

“This letter reveals to us the thoughts that were running through Einstein’s mind and heart at a very preliminary stage of Nazi terror,” said Meron Eren, co-owner of the Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem, which obtained the letter and offered The Associated Press a glimpse before the public sale. “The relationship between Albert and Maja was very special and close, which adds another dimension to Einstein the man and greater authenticity to his writings.”

The letter, which bears no return address, is presumed to have been written while he was staying in the port city of Kiel before embarking on a lengthy speaking tour across Asia.

“I’m doing pretty well, despite all the anti-Semites among the German colleagues. I’m very reclusive here, without noise and without unpleasant feelings, and am earning my money mainly independent of the state, so that I’m really a free man,” he wrote. “You see, I am about to become some kind of itinerant preacher. That is, firstly, pleasant and, secondly, necessary.”

Addressing his sister’s concerns, Einstein writes: “Don’t worry about me, I myself don’t worry either, even if it’s not quite kosher, people are very upset. In Italy, it seems to be at least as bad.”

Later in 1922, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics.

This undated file photo shows famed physicist Albert Einstein (AP Photo, File)

Ze’ev Rosenkrantz, the assistant director of the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech, said the letter wasn’t the first time Einstein warned about German anti-Semitism, but it captured his state of mind at this important junction after Rathenau’s killing and the “internal exile” he imposed on himself shortly after it.

“Einstein’s initial reaction was one of panic and a desire to leave Germany for good. Within a week, he had changed his mind,” he said. “The letter reveals a mindset rather typical of Einstein in which he claims to be impervious to external pressures. One reason may be to assuage his sister’s concerns. Another is that he didn’t like to admit that he was stressed about external factors.”

When the Nazis came to power and began enacting legislation against Jews, they also aimed to purge Jewish scientists. The Nazis dismissed Einstein’s groundbreaking work, including his Law of Relativity, as “Jewish Physics.”

Einstein renounced his German citizenship in 1933 after Hitler became chancellor. The physicist settled in the United States, where he would remain until his death in 1955.

Einstein declined an invitation to serve as the first president of the newly established state of Israel but left behind his literary estate and personal papers to the Hebrew University.

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Historic Jewish Enclave Rings Out With Gunshots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Used to Hearing ‘Shabbat Shalom,’ a Historic Jewish Enclave Rings Out With Gunshots

Image
Tammy Hepps, Kate Rothstein and her daughter, Simone Rothstein, 16, prayed not far from the Tree of Life Synagogue.CreditCreditJeff Swensen/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH — Saturday morning in Squirrel Hill has for more than 100 years meant certain familiar rituals. The handing out of prayer books as latecomers quietly arrive at temple, the genial shouts of ‘Shabbat shalom’ across neighborhood streets as friends spot old friends after services.

This is the heart of Jewish Pittsburgh, one of the most deeply rooted Jewish neighborhoods in America. And on this Saturday morning, it was the site of what one of the city’s chief federal law enforcement officers called “the most horrific crime scene I have seen.”

Tree of Life, an understated temple on a rising street of tidy brick houses and pumpkin-decorated front porches, was a revered and historic Jewish institution in a neighborhood full of them.

After Saturday’s massacre, this meant a grief deep and wide. Everyone knew someone, or someone who did. The Jewish Community Center, a few blocks away from Tree of Life, became a command post of sorts, with grief counselors, law enforcement officials, Red Cross volunteers, extended families, members of various synagogues and food, lots and lots of food.

Down the street from the temple, a woman who belonged to Tree of Life was sobbing, surrounded by other women. A SWAT truck pulled down the street.

“It definitely brought everybody together in the way that really awful things do,” said Jess Nock, 38, a lawyer who has worshiped at Tree of Life for eight years.

[A man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue where three congregations worshiped.]

She spent the morning at the center, where information was difficult to follow. People arrived looking for others — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. One family learned of the shooting from their son, who was in Israel and saw it on the news. Some Orthodox Jews in the community, who do not use phones on the Sabbath, would surely not know about it for hours.

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Law enforcement officers secured the scene at the Pittsburgh temple.CreditAlexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via Associated Press

“Every time somebody would say “Do you know where…” Ms. Nock trailed off. She had heard the worst about at least one member. But she did not know what had happened to many others.

Squirrel Hill is an old neighborhood, beginning as the quiet and leafy retreat of the better-off, who chose to take the trolley home after work and leave the smog-choked streets of downtown Pittsburgh. Prosperous German Jews followed, moving their temples with them and creating a vibrant culture that, unlike in so many other American cities, never decamped for the suburbs.

“It’s one of the only Jewish communities in the country that has stayed within the city,” said Barbara S. Burstin, a history professor who has written several books on Jewish Pittsburgh.

There are kosher bakeries and delis along Murray Avenue, and three Jewish day schools of different denominations. On Saturday mornings, Orthodox men in black hats and overcoats walk the sidewalks. More than a dozen temples — Reform, Orthodox and Conservative — dot the neighborhood, “all bumping up within a few blocks of each other,” Professor Burstin said.

[Read more about the shooting suspect, who frequently reposted anti-Semitic content on social media.]

The population of the neighborhood might not be majority Jewish anymore — there are more Asian restaurants along the main drag now than Jewish ones — but it is home to more than a quarter of all Pittsburgh area Jewish households, according to a 2017 report.

The Tree of Life congregation, originally formed in 1864, moved to Squirrel Hill in 1952. It thrived in the heyday of American Conservative Judaism, but like many houses of worship in big cities, it has seen its membership dwindle.

In recent years, to make better use of the space, two other synagogues were invited to worship at the building. Now all three do, in different rooms on Saturdays, all getting together in the atrium afterward.

A former rabbi at Tree of Life, Chuck Diamond, suspected that perhaps 25 or 30 people would have been there at the start of services, when the shooting broke out. Others would have arrived later, entering easily.

Image

People attended an interfaith vigil in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Credit Jared Wickerham for The New York Times

“It’s not the type of place where you’re going to walk in and people are going to look at you and say ‘Wait, I don’t know you,’” Ms. Nock said. “And locked doors: no way. There’s nothing less welcoming than inviting people to a door that’s locked.”

That the killer chose Tree of Life has baffled many in the community. There are much bigger temples in the area, and others with more visible congregations.

“This is not an obvious target in the Jewish community,” said Richard Brean, a retired general counsel for the steelworkers’ union and a lifelong resident of Squirrel Hill.

[From a Texas church to a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, houses of worship have become sites of mass shootings.]

But the members of Tree of Life had prepared for the possibility of violence, if only in theory, in the way so many schools and workplaces have in recent years. A year and a half ago, the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh hired a former F.B.I. officer to serve as a security director; he had trained dozens of organizations on how to plan for active shooters. The members of Tree of Life had developed such a protocol last year.

Anti-Semitic incidents had happened in the neighborhood before, recalled Shlomo Perelman, 68, who was walking down a street not far from Tree of Life not long after the shooting. Mr. Perelman recalled a rabbinical student being shot some 25 years ago.

But this was not about Squirrel Hill. It was about the country that surrounded it. “It’s not about the neighborhood,” said Mr. Perelman. He added, “The times are really changing.”

On Saturday night, several hundred people gathered for a candlelight vigil in a light rain at the intersection of Murray and Forbes Avenue, where nearby restaurants — a Turkish kebab house, a ramen bar and a bohemian tea cafe — were a testament to the area’s diversity.

“I am a different Jew today than I was yesterday,” said Sophia Levin, 15, one of several teenagers who spoke. “Anti-Semitism was something that happened in history, that happened in other places,” she said, her voice breaking.

“Tree of Life used to be just a synagogue that my grandparents went to, that my Mom grew up in, that we would go to on high holidays,” she said. “And today I feel like it’s something different.”

Trip Gabriel contributed from Pittsburgh.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Torrent of Gunshots Shifts Reality: ‘I Am a Different Jew Today’ . Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Netanyahu defends freezing Western Wall deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Blaming ‘ultra-Orthodox street,’ Netanyahu defends freezing Western Wall deal

PM tells US Jewish leaders in Tel Aviv that spats over the site and conversion can easily be overcome and that he’s worried more by the loss of Jewish identity in the Diaspora

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jewish federation's annual General Assembly in Tel Aviv, on October 24, 2018 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jewish federation’s annual General Assembly in Tel Aviv, on October 24, 2018 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Addressing North American Jewish leaders in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his controversial freezing of a compromise deal to expand the pluralistic prayer platform at the Western Wall, blaming pressure from the “ultra-Orthodox street,” and arguing that religion and state issues in Israel have always been settled with “ad hoc compromises” and “slowly evolving arrangements.”

While the agreement — made in January 2016 and suspended a year and a half later — will not be fully implemented, he vowed that a new “refurbished” prayer platform will open very soon.

Dismissing the discussion over the wall and other contentious matters, such as conversion, as issues that can easily be “overcome,” Netanyahu said the biggest problem facing world Jewry today was the loss of Jewish identity, and that the development of Jewish consciousness and pride in the minds of young Jews was the Diaspora’s most important mission.

Asked about Diaspora Jews’ concerns regarding the lack of religious pluralism in Israel, Netanyahu replied by noting that even the country’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, had failed to bridge the gap between the secular majority and an ultra-Orthodox minority, without which he was unable to form a government.

“These are two conflicting principles — you can’t resolve it with a unifying principle. You resolve it by a series of ad hoc compromises, and they evolve over time,” Netanyahu said at the closing plenary of the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual General Assembly.

“From time to time, the status quo is challenged. It evolves in step-functions. By the way, most of human progress until recently has been step functions. You sort of settle on a status-quo and it goes up to a certain point, and then it changes,” he continued.

On the matter of who would be authorized to perform conversions to Judaism, Netanyahu said that during his first term as prime minister he had found a good compromise with the Yaakov Ne’eman Commission, which survived for 20 years before it was challenged. The current government then commissioned a report by Moshe Nissim, which Netanyahu said was a “good compromise,” but added that he is currently unable to pass it. “It depends on the political realities,” he said.

Turning to the Western Wall, he recounted negotiating a compromise deal calling for a pluralistic prayer platform at the holy site that would be “accessible in an uplifting way” to everyone. That blueprint included the creation of a joint entrance to all three prayer areas — the pluralistic one and the two gender-separated sections to be used by Orthodox worshipers.

“We had technical drawings, the whole thing. Part of that [agreement] had explanatory notes, when I brought it to the government, which would imply an indirect recognition in Israel of the Conservative and Reform streams,” Netanyahu said. “And that was okay. People agreed. Then it was challenged, immediately, by the ultra-Orthodox street, and they basically said, you know, ‘Choose: You have a government, no government.’”

Netanyahu also said that members of the opposition may attack him for caving to the pressure, but that he has proof that they had themselves had made offers to the ultra-Orthodox parties “that exceed the ones given by Likud.”

Rather than canceling the agreement, he merely suspended it, Netanyahu said. “Keep it there. Don’t cancel it. But move with what the agreement actually says you do, which is refurbish the plaza.”

Netanyahu noted that work started on Tuesday to put back the boulder that fell out of the wall on to the egalitarian platform in July.

“This should speed up the conclusion and I expect the plaza to be completed [soon],” he said. “We finished nearly all the regulatory work, which was just impossible, but we’re getting there. That plaza will be there, refurbished, new, safe, very beautiful.”

Israel is and will remain the home of all Jews, the prime minister went on, to applause from the audience. “I don’t care whether they’re Conservative or Reform or Orthodox, and I don’t care if they’re completely secular or non-believing.”

The egalitarian prayer platform at the Western Wall’s Robinson’s Arch archaeological area. (Eilat Mazar)

The balance between religion and state in Israel is different from the system that exists in the US or elsewhere, he went on, “But it is what it is here. This is what we have: a series of slowly evolving arrangements.” Ultimately, those arrangements reflect the “evolution of the Israeli electorate,” he said.

Toward the end of his appearance, as his host, outgoing JFNA chair Richard Sandler, was about to bid the prime minister farewell, Netanyahu asked to make another point, stressing what he said really worries about him about Diaspora Jewry.

“What I’m concerned with when it comes to the Jewish people is one thing, and that’s the loss of identity. It’s not the question of the Wall or conversion; we’ll overcome that. It’s the loss of identity,” he said.

Paraphrasing an article by Ammiel Hirsch, Netanyahu said that those who are not concerned with Jewish survival will not survive as Jews.

“There is some basic truth to that,” he said. “Jewish survival is guaranteed in the Jewish state, if we defend our state. But we have to also work at the continuity of Jewish communities in the world by developing Jewish education, the study of Hebrew, having the contact of young Jews coming to Israel.”

What is needed is a new approach, suitable for the internet age, that will help Diaspora Jews “understand that their own future as Jews depends on continuous identity,” Netanyahu said.

“It’s protecting Jewish identity and developing Jewish consciousness that is the most important thing. It transcends politics; it touches on the foundations of history,” he concluded. “We’re one people. Let’s make sure that every Jewish child in the world knows how proud they should be to be Jews.”

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