Is Peace Possible Today?

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Last week I attended the CIJR sponsored talk by Moshe Kedar in Montreal.

The title of the talk is Israel at 70. Prof. Kedar actually explains how Israel became Israel and then brings us up to date regarding the current state of Israel in the Middle East. His is an optimistic picture based on the ideas of a historian and an insider of the Israeli intelligence apparatus.

To skip the introduction start watching the video at 9:25 min.

And for those who wonder whether peace is worth fighting for and whether it is even possible, I offer this gift: A choir of thousands which got together in a huge stadium to sing together on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the declaration of the Independent State of Israel. The dividends of peace are available to all of us all over the world if we only cooperate together for the sake of peace: A stadium full of Israelis young and old singing together a hymn of gratitude – “All Kol Aileh” For all of these, the honey and the bee sting, the sweet and the bitter….The song actually has English subtitles – A prayer for Peace and its dividends.

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I am writing this one day after President Trump cancelled the JCPOA/Iran Nuclear Agreement. In spite of the intransigeance of Iran and the tragedies unfolding today in Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Gaza, I dare to believe and we must all continue to hope and pray and work for an umbrella of peace that will cover all the world speedily and in our time.

Cantor Moshe Kraus Speaks at Faith Temple and Shaftesbury High School in Winnipeg

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Moshele de zinger cover

Pastor Rudy Fidel and his wife Gina were so impressed with Cantor Kraus’ memoir of his life experiences “Moshele: Der Zinger: How My Singing Saved My Life”, that they organized a week of events for Cantor Moshe Kraus and his wife to speak in Winnipeg. I accompanied them on this trip as part of my work to create a documentary featuring Cantor Kraus’ life story which has many twists and turns. On Wednesday, September 12, 2017, Cantor Moshe Kraus, age 95, spoke to a gym full of students at Shaftesbury Public High School. The event was followed and broadcast on the CBC evening news that same evening.

On Sunday morning Cantor Kraus was welcomed at Pastor Rudy’s Church, Faith Temple.  by Pastor Rudy, Indian Chief Baird and Chief of Chiefs, Jerry Daniels, and a klezmer band.At 10:35 min. into the event seen below, Cantor Kraus shares another one of his many stories – this one about a Hungarian Bishop who came to visit him during the German occupation of Hungary during WWll…

Why Were Copies of the Talmud Burned in Medieval Europe?

 

For those of you who are not aware of medieval theology and its imperial struggles, Talmudic books were burned in the public square from the early to the late middle Ages by Christian Papal authorities all over Europe. The Talmud was first condemned by Pope Gregory IX and burning Talmudic books were first burned at the stake in 1240 AD.

I quote from the Jewish Virtual Library: Christian Jewish Relations: Burning of the Talmud

  1. In 1236 a Jewish apostate, Nicholas Donin, submitted a memorandum to Pope Gregory IX listing 35 charges against the Talmud. These included allegations that it contained blasphemies of Jesus and Mary, attacks on the Church, pronouncements hostile to non-Jews, and foolish and revolting tales. They asserted that the Jews had elevated the Oral Law to the level of divinely inspired Scripture, and that this impeded the possibility of their conversion to Christianity. Gregory thereupon ordered a preliminary investigation, and in 1239 sent a circular letter to ecclesiastics in France summarizing the accusations and ordering the confiscation of Jewish books on the first Saturday of Lent (i.e., March 3, 1240), while the Jews were gathered in synagogue. Any other persons having Hebrew books in their possession who refused to give them up were to be excommunicated. He further ordered the heads of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders in Paris to ensure that “those books in which you find errors of this sort you shall cause to be burned at the stake.”…The last auto-da-fé of the Talmud took place in Poland, in Kamenets-Podolski in the fall of 1757. 

What do you make of the above quote Any other persons having Hebrew books in their possession who refused to give them up were to be excommunicated.“. Yes, non-Jews were reading and owning Hebrew texts in Hebrew at the time.

The question comes up “Why”. Why burn Talmudic books?

Christian dogma asserted that since Jews were the original Christians, their continuing practice of the Jewish religion negated Christianity as the superior religion. Moreover, it was posited that the Second coming of the Messiah could not arrive until the whole world, but especially the Jews were converted to Christianity. For as as long as Jews continued to practice their Jewish religion, this negated Paul’s idea that the Jewish religious law was no longer necessary and was superseded by the Christian faith which no longer required the performance of Jewish Torah Law known to Jews as “mitzvot”. “Mitzvot”  are what Jews think of as G-d’s direct behavioral demands first stated in the Torah, often translated as “laws”. These “mitzvot” were first written down in the “Torah” which is known to Christians as the Five books of Moses. These Torah laws were interpreted and elaborated on and discussed over the centuries by the rabbis and these discussions are known as the “oral law”.  “Jewish Law” that is referred to in the Christian New Testament is this oral law debated in rabbinic seminaries and Jewish courts of the 1- 3rd century AD. This Rabbinic Oral Law, was first compiled in written form 300 AD as six tractates of Talmud. It was written down because following the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Rabbis feared that this lore would be lost. Jews believe that both the Torah and the Oral Law were handed down at Sinai. i.e. The written Torah and the Oral Law are not separable, but together comprise the understanding of the normative Jewish tradition that has survived over the last two thousand years since the destruction of the Temple. The first written Talmud was put together and written down in the land of Israel and is known as the Jerusalem Talmud. The second version of the Talmud was compiled in ancient Babylonia (currently know as Iraq) and is designated as the Babylonian Talmud. It was compiled in the 6th century AD. Both of these texts continue to form the groundwork of normative Jewish religious tradition.

Antisemitism: For the Curious

I have written many posts about antisemitism because it is so infuriating. Lies about Jews and Judaism and Israel spoken with authority, such that one is easily deceived.

Here is a brief history by Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.that I am reprinting so that you can never say that you were not warned.

Antisemitism is a form of senseless irrational hatred towards Jews couched as truth. And that is the infuriating aspect of it that it is no longer politically incorrect to espouse antisemitic views, longstanding irrational hatreds against Jews.

What are these irrational ideas about Jews? Is it true that all blacks are lazy? Is it true that all Jews are rich? that Jews control the media and US foreign policy. That jews are treacherous and disloyal? That Jews kill Christian children to use their blood to make matzo on Passover? Many people in the world in the past and the present  espouse these beliefs about Jews.

If Jews are so rich and so powerful, how did Hitler manage to murder 6 million of them in such a short space of time?
and what is this obsession with Israel described as an immoral, apartheid driven genocidal entity?  Why did an obscure academic organization called the American Studies Association recently vote to endorse a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli universities. The self-appointed moralists were purportedly outraged over the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. Given academia’s past obsessions with the Jewish state, the targeting of Israel is not new. Yet why do the professors focus on Israel and not Saudi Arabia, which denies women the right to drive and only recently granted them the right to vote? Why not Russia, which has been accused of suppressing free speech, or India, which has passed retrograde anti-homosexual legislation? The hip poet Amiri Baraka (aka Everett LeRoi Jones) recently died. He was once poet laureate of New Jersey, held prestigious university posts and was canonized with awards — despite being a hateful anti-Semite.
After Sept. 11, 2001, Baraka wrote a poem that suggested Israel knew about the plan to attack the World Trade Center. One of his poems from the ‘60s included this unabashedly anti-Semitic passage: “Smile, jew. Dance, jew. Tell me you love me, jew … I got the extermination blues, jewboys. I got the hitler syndrome figured.” Yet that did not preclude The New York Times and National Public Radio from praising him after his death.
Trendy multicultural French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala is known for his anti-Semitic provocations and for making a gesture that has been described as an inverted Nazi salute. He recently quipped of a Jewish journalist: “When I hear him talk, you see … I say to myself, gas chambers … a pity.” Auschwitz is now a joke? Not only do people talk of it as a joke, they say the Jews are using the Holocaust for personal gain, and even lying about its extent. Several years ago, David Irving,  an English historian was convicted of libel in an English court for publishing that there were no crematoria at Auschwitz and that the murder of  6 million by the Germans is greatly exaggerated. Sadly it was the Germans themselves who were so sure of the correctness of their hatred towards jews that they kept careful records of  their evil deeds.
Antisemitism has existed since ancient times because the Jews have always been different, adhering to their own peculiar laws, and always a minority among world powers such as Rome, Egypt and Persia.
As Christianity gained ascendance over Rome, the church was obsessed with negating Jewish theology and demonizing Jews. Mohammed also had to explain why Jews did not accept his prophesy. And so he compares them to apes and monkeys and antisemitism is used to fuel Arab hatred away from their despotic rulers.
Real life Jews and Israelis have multiple identities and multiple attitudes towards the state of Israel, towards the Jewish religion but the anti-Semites paint all Jews and Israel with the same negative brush. Oh and yes even some Jews agree with them. Even that does not make their mythical fantasies about Jews true.
What is true is that immediately after the Holocaust, it became politically incorrect to express antisemitic thoughts or ideas. Sadly since about 1995, it has become more and more fashionable and even politically correct to express hostility towards Israel, to question its right to exist, to smear it with a Nazi and genocidal apartheid label and we see the rise of antisemitic attacks on Jews and their property and their human rights to dignity.
We see these thoughts and ideas propagated on the internet and in books and films and Youtube videos and also in rising antisemitic attacks on Jews and their property, all over the world. It is this acting out that is most worrying.
We see the extent to which antisemitism has become politically correct in the responses to Harper’s visit to Israel in Canada in the Canadian papers. Many of them were shocked and disappointed by his support of Israel asking whether his stance was “balanced”. He is the only world leader who has grasped the insidious nature of the Arabs’ hatred of Jews, and how that is what is keeping a state of war alive between Israel and the Arab population: a hostility that Israel has been contending with since it inception during the war of  1948 and 1967 and the continuing violence against Israel which the Palestinians have not abjured. to this day.
It is hardly anti-Semitic to focus on problems between Israel and the Palestinians, or even to pressure the Israelis. It becomes so, however, when problems elsewhere are simply ignored, and Israel alone is singled out to be chastised. The record of the United nations vis a vis Israel amply demonstrates this. I have the statistic but I won’t bore you with them.
Has the United Nations ever focused on the 13 million Germans who were ethnically cleansed from Eastern Europe about the same time that thousands of Palestinians left what became Israel? Would the American Studies Association boycott Chinese universities over the absorption of Tibet?
Is the world really troubled about divided capitals such as Jerusalem? If so, why not an international conference on the Turkish occupation of a divided Nicosia on Cyprus?
Can’t Mr. Kerry use shuttle diplomacy to settle who owns all those disputed rocky islands that have led China and Japan to the brink of war?
Nazis and racists in our time, spearhead Jewish hatred, based on ancient crackpot defamations that date back to the Jewish Diaspora in Europe since the Roman destruction of Judea.
Victor Davis Hansen, a classicist and historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University writes in his blog “the cowardice of political antisemtism:
“ lately, anti-Semitism has become more a left-wing pathology. It is driven by the cheap multicultural trashing of the West. Jewish people here and abroad have become convenient targets for those angry with supposedly undeserved Western success and privilege.
Aside from the old envy, and racial and religious hatred, I think cowardice explains the new selective anti-Semitism. Mr. Kanye West would not dare slander radical Muslims, given the violence and threats against European cartoonists and filmmakers who have dared to create work perceived as insulting to Islam. The American Studies Association would not call for a boycott of Russia despite its endemic persecution of homosexuals. After all, Russian President Vladimir Putin is as unpredictable as Israeli politicians are forbearing.
Mr. Kerry is not rushing into Damascus to stop the bloodletting that has claimed far more lives than all the Palestinians lost in 70 years of conflict with Israel. Syrian President Bashar Assad, Shiite terrorists and al Qaeda would not listen politely to Mr. Kerry’s pontificating sermons.
The sort of anti-Semitism we see from buffoons such as Dieudonne M’bala M’bala is appalling, but the double standard to which Israel is held in matters of foreign policy by those who should know better is in many ways even more galling.”
What is to be done about it? We need to talk about it and expose it as we are doing here. Silence is aquiescence and we dare not be silent.  We know where that leads.

As Hemingway wrote;

Ask not for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee.
And don’t think this does not include you:
As martin NieMoller, a German pastor says:
First they came for the communists
And I did not speak out,
Because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
The they came for the Jews
But I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me
And there was no one left to speak for me.

by Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jan/15/hanson-the-cowardice-of-the-new-anti-semitism/#ixzz2rkvMq5mn

And this was just published: It says the same truth, only more bluntly. Antisemitism is an “industry of lies” that are reported as truth.

industr

 
The Industry of Lies is about antisemitism today: one of the greatest frauds of recent decades – a fraud of historic, even epic, proportions. When almost half of all Europeans believe that Israel treats the Palestinians just like the Nazis treated the Jews, when leading politicians assert that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the central cause of violence in the world, and when prominent intellectuals argue that Israel is an apartheid state, the unfortunate reality is that the lies are winning.
 
As a result, Israel has become the devil incarnate in the eyes of many otherwise good and reasonable people – people who genuinely want to see peace but inadvertently contribute to the continuation of the Israeli-Arab conflict. The tragedy is that they are neither helping the Palestinians nor promoting agreement or reconciliation. Instead, they lend legitimacy to the most fallacious claims of the most extreme activists, thereby empowering radicals who have no interest in attaining peace.
 
Israel is not free from flaws. However, this book draws a clear distinction between legitimate criticism and the “industry of lies” that has emerged from two unlikely sources – the media and academia, undermining their reputations as bastions of truth and knowledge. Ben-Dror Yemini presents an in-depth analysis of the many inaccurate and malicious accusations leveled against Israel and refutes them one by one in this thought-provoking and well-researched volume that invites us to rethink the causes and consequences of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
     

Israel and the World: 73 years after the Shoa.

Screen Shot 2011-12-19 at 3.28.34 PMThought: Words: Action:

Today is Yom Hashoa ve Hagvura – The day Jews both mourn and celebrate. They mourn the destruction of more than six million innocent men, women, and children, hunted down for the sole reason that they were Jews (the Shoa) and the Gvura (courage and heroism) the courage of  all those who fought to survive. Every moment of continuing life every day required courage everywhere during this period and great courage was required and offered by all those who fought to defeat and saw the defeat of the vicious enemy –  Nazi Germany.

This day always comes shortly after celebration of the Passover holiday, commemoration of the miraculous Jewish liberation from slavery three thousand years ago. Regardless of whether you believe the exodus from Egypt actually happened or not, we have to acknowledge with the reader of the Passover Hagada that “if we had not been freed, we and our children and our children’s children would still be enslaved: but tonight we celebrate as free men and women.”

Last night I attended the annual shoa commemoration project of the Montreal community. Every year, six survivor families are chosen to light a candle and to share their story. Each survivor, flanked by their families, tell their story on a short prerecorded video. No matter how often one attends these programs one is consistently awed by these stories of survival and redemption.

When I returned home I saw two programs on PBS  ((Public Broadcast Station). One program (Nova) visits the city of Vilna/Vilnius to attempt to find the underground traces of the Great Synagogue of Vilna over which a school has been built. This documentary tells the story of the destruction of the culture of Vilna, which was also known by Jews as the New Jerusalem, and the murder of the 70,000 Jewish residents of Vilna, and the heroic survival of 8 of the 80 last Jews of Vilna – 76 men and 4 women who were tasked with burning the bodies of their brethren, while imprisoned in a deep pit over several months,  just before the arrival of the Russians. These 76 men and four women who realized that they too would be executed at the end of their task, succeeded in creating a secret underground tunnel which led from the pit in which they were imprisoned into the forest for a last ditch effort at escape. Only eight of the eighty persons survived this escape through the tunnel. And the whole episode became a legend which survived only as a “tale” told by the survivors.  A group of scientists returns to the site and succeeds in uncovering the remains of the tunnel thus verifying their story. At the end of the show, we see the eight survivors, now living in various parts of the world, reunited with each other.

The next program was a 90 minute production called GI-Jew, which told the story of the 500,000 Jewish American men and 20,000 Jewish American women who enlisted and fought in the American army to destroy the Nazi scourge and to save whoever could be saved from the Nazi onslaught. Among them were 1,000 Jewish American Rabbis who served as American army chaplains. Throughout the war they accompanied the troops and organized services for soldiers, and upon liberation for survivors. And victory was not at all assured over 5 long years of war in Europe and the Far East.

Whether you believe in the G-d of Israel or not, something has enabled the Jewish people to survive every attempt at destruction and to continue to thrive for the last three thousand years. I believe what has enabled them to survive and to thrive is the ideology of the Torah, which lays out a vision of justice and compassion for all living beings, individually and in community, and for the planet itself.

Yes, I was born a Jew to parents who lived through the terrible time of the Shoa in Europe. I have struggled with the issues of the Shoa (Holocaust in Hebrew) my whole life. What have I learned from this over the course of my lifetime? The lesson I take away from this is that the ideas of Torah are mightier than the sword. What are these ideas? First, the idea of a G-d interested in humanity, who has “an eye that sees and an ear that hears”. It is a G-d who prescribes rules for communal living, which include prohibitions against murder and theft, and also legislates that one is not to covet the goods and assets of one’s neighbor, including his wife. Also one where individuals and communities struggle with the right path that will conform to this G-d’s ideas of truth, justice, and compassion. And in this world, there is  also room for human error and correction without resorting to violence. The torah prescribes economic principles as well as how to deal with murderers and those who may kill accidentally. It prescribes a code of behavior for the common man, for the King and the priest and it tells us how to regulate time, weekly, monthly, and by the year. The laws of Sabbath and  dates of the holidays are thus prescribed. And it does this whil also giving us a narrative history of the Jewish people from their beginnings as a family to the creation of the nation in the dessert following the exodus and laws for dealing with the settlement of the land of Israel, whose boundaries are also described in the Torah.

We see that those who have missed out on the precepts of truth justice and mercy described in the Torah and who revel in the power of the sword, have repeatedly been doomed to the ash bin of history. This is evident in the demise of the powerful empires that did not know G-d or mercy or justice, such as the Assyrian Empire, the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, the Spanish Empire, The French Empire, the German Reich, the Soviet Empire, etc. What is the remedy to all this fighting and destruction? One thing and one thing only: for every one to lay down their arms and to acknowledge that life, liberty, and happiness can only come to those who lay down their arms and struggle to improve the lot of their human compatriots. This is the most powerful idea, and the idea of redemption prescribed by the Hebrew prophets.  It is what we pray for at the end of the seder – for everyone to lay down their arms and to acknowledge the rule of the G-d of justice and compassion. Jews of course are aware of vengeance but we are admonished to leave retribution and vengeance up to the Almighty alone.  Our duty is to get on with our lives in a productive way. We leave vengeance to the Almighty as is discussed in this blog regarding Jewish views on vengeance. blog.

…The prophet rehearses the classical Jewish teaching that even a merciful and patient God will ultimately wreak powerful, unanswerable retribution upon the enemies of His chosen people.

 Following Torah prescriptions would work much better than war crimes trials, and better than hollow statements often made by politicians and human rights activists regarding peace and “never again”. Only organized actual disarmament by all rulers and civilians and working towards improving the lives of all, as prescribed in the Jewish Bible (Torah) will bring us to a just world where violence is renounced and the lion can lie down with the lamb as detailed in the biblical book of Micah chapter 4 verses 2 and3

verse 2: Many nations will come and say,
“Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD
And to the house of the G-d of Jacob,
That He may teach us about His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For from Zion will go forth the law,
            Even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

verse 3; And He will judge between many peoples
And render decisions for mighty, distant nations.
Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they train for war.

Redemption lies in getting the agreement of all peoples to lay down their arms in the name of justice and compassion and the rule of the Transcendent Law:  And I believe that the amazing thing is that this actually lies within our power today but we do have to start the ball rolling:  the right hashtag? – the right call  to all leaders and to all individuals to lay down their arms? to embrace love between man and man via the amazing instrument of the internet ? Is it possible?  I am envisioning setting a date in the near future for this to happen at the same moment all over the world – Like New Years Day during World War one when both sides spontaneously lay down their arms on the battlefield and celebrated together – “Peace on earth good will to men”. The Rabbis have said that if all the nations were to observe one Sabbath, at the same time, it would be a signal that the Messianic times had arrived.

Who will join me in this project?  How long can we all continue to deal with the effects of hatred, war and destruction? Wouldn’t a world focused on feeding the hungry and clothing all of the poor be a much better kinder world for all of us!

As i shared this post with my friends, many responded “its too idealistic, it will never work”. I believe that it can work and will work. Who could have dreamed seventy years ago that we would have a Jewish State that is not only able to defend itself but has become the strongest nation in the Middle East and a powerhouse for agriculture, water purification, medicine, pharmacology, technology, and humanitarian aid, – truly  “a light unto the nations”.

 

And here is another post which I discovered today illustrating the “gvura” heroism of those who took action and resisted the Nazi onslaught:

With Eternity in their Hearts

The story of young women at the outset of their lives who, when challenged by history, responded with remarkable courage. The Jewish “Couriers” who were real life “Wonder Women”.

 

The three couriers (from the left) – Tema Sznajderman, Bella Chazan, Lonka Korzybrodska (Photo – Ghetto Fighters House Archives)
 

During the Holocaust, Jewish resistance groups employed women as messengers to communicate with the world outside the ghettos. Daniel Seaman tells the story of three daring young women—Tema Schneiderman, Lonka Kozybrodska, and Bella Chazan—who risked their lives to help their people:

In December 1941, Tema, Lonka, and Bella were. . . invited to the Christmas party at Gestapo headquarters in the then-Polish city of Grodno, disguised as Polish Catholics. . . . [Before the war, all three had been] members of their local chapters of the [Zionist-socialist] He-ḥaluts Dror Jewish youth movement. . . . Once the war broke out, the youth movements, with their elaborate network of connections, proved to be an unexpected asset for the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe that were deliberately isolated [from one another] by the Germans.

Tema, Lonka, and Bella, like several other female members of the youth movement, were the natural choice to serve as the link between the communities, known as the “couriers” (k’shariyot in Hebrew). Disguised as non-Jews, they risked their lives to move from ghetto to ghetto, traveling through treacherous territory, transporting documents, papers, money, ammunition, and weapons across borders and into ghettos. . . .

Not long after that evening, the dangers of the tragic era would inevitably catch up with them and their luck would run out. First Lonka, who in June 1942 was caught at the border crossing at Malkinia. She was interrogated as a member of the Polish Underground, [her captors not realizing that she was a Jew], and held in the [notorious] Pawiak prison in Warsaw. When she failed to arrive at her expected destination, Bella set out to look for her. She too was captured at the same border crossing and also sent to Pawiak. Bella and Lonka never revealed their identities, never broke, never exposed secrets though tortured severely. They never broke character either, [maintaining the ruse that they were Polish Gentiles].

Of Tema’s fate, it is known that she was transferred to the Treblinka extermination camp after being captured in the Warsaw Ghetto on January 18, 1943, during one of her many daring excursions to the place. She most likely perished there.

While Lonka died in Auschwitz, Bella survived and lived to the age of eighty-two in Israel.

And this was a comment posted following this article by Nancy Rexin Evans who shares the story of her own Mother who also had risked her life and joined and underground movement.

Nancy Rexin Evans says:

This article was heart-wrenching and brought tears to my eyes as I read about this brave young woman and brought memories of my own mother, a 19 year-old non Jewish woman with a huge Jewish heart and a lot of ‘chutzpa getting angry at this ‘new fangeld upstart Adolph and his brown-shirts, a group of thugs going about, beating up people and going after Jews, her own friends included. She and others joined an underground movement where they started to print and distribute anti fashist flyers, getting people out, etc. She was caught after being betrayed by her best friend and room mate, arrested and interrogated for several months yet never gave away any names. Subsquently, she was sent to Ravensbrueck, outside of Berlin, afterwards to a labor camp from where the Americans liberated her. One of the soldiers became my dad. Two things stayed with me when Grandmother told her that the Jews were God’s chosen and to always remember that and that during Christmas, which the guards celebrated celebrated a Jew. She was so so sickened by that blasphemy. The night before she died she made me promise to never forget the Jews and always stand up for them and Israel which we visited shortly before her passing, overwhelmed how beautiful Israel was. She would speak to schools, churches, the media, etc. about what happened and how survivors rebuild their home land. “Am Yisrael Chai” indeed.
May we always remember! Never Again!. Thank you for this article and the bravery of those young women who should make us ashamed whenever we complain about little inconveniences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosh Hashana: Jewish New Year: What it Means to Jews and to Non-Jews

Rosh-Hashanah-pomagraniteRosh Hashana is an unusual holiday since it is both communal and personal. In one of his brief talks Rabbi Steinmetz explains that the only time a Jewish community is obligated to hire a Rabbi and organize public prayer is for Rosh Hashanah. And yet Jews are of all different stripes and persuasions. This was amusingly brought home to me by a humorous Rosh Hashana e-mail:

Shana Tova
Author Unknown

To modern, ultra & just plain Orthodox Jews, Charedi Jews, Misnagdim, Conservative, Conservadox, Reform & ConForm Jews, Reconstructionist,Gartel Jews, non-Gartel Jews, Jews with sheitels & without, Tichel Jews, Sheitel, tichel & hat Jews, converted Jews, adult & child Jews, Frum from birth Jews, Baalei Teshuva, Satmar, Agudah, black hat, kipa s’ruga, Mir, Munkacs, BelzBeta Yisrael, Bobov, Chaim Berlin, Y.U. Jews, payos in front of the ear Jews, payos in back of the ear Jews, kipa only in shul/ hat in shul/ no shul at all Jews, Mizrachi Jews, Jews by choice, Bathrobe on Friday night Jews, Likud Jews, Labor Jews, Meimad Jews, Ten Lost Tribes Jews, cardiac Jews, Irish Jews,Black Jews, White Jews, 3-day-a-year Jews, Rav Nachman Jews, Rav Shlomo Jews, Neturei Karta Jews, Hasidim, Telz, Lakewood & Ner Yisrael Jews, Chofetz Chaim Jews, zaftig Jews, skinny Jews, Fremeiners, Dinevers, Kook-ies, JTS, RJJ, HUC, HTC, MTJ, BMT Jews, Celebrity Jews, Generation X,Y & Z Jews, NCSY Jews, Solomon Schechter Jews, Chinuch Atzmai Jews, Fackenheim Jews, Yitz Greenberg Jews, Kahane Jews, Feminist Jews, Chauvinist Jews,egalitarian Jews, traditional Jews, Kaddish-zuger Jews, political Jews, intellectual Jews, ignorant Jews, tomato Jews & orange Jews, Shinui Jews, Shas Jews, Israeli Jews, American Jews, Persian Jews, Russian Jews, Galitzianers, Litvaks, Polacks, Birthright Jews, single Jews, married Jews, wish I was married Jews, Greener Jews,  Redder Jews, Scandinavian Jews, South of the Border Jews, Italian Jews, Bald Jews, Hairy Jews, Canadian Jews, Latino Jews, Ladino Jews, Jews in kapatas, Jews in T-shirts, Jews in sandals, Jews in gym shoes, Jews in cowboy boots, Hungarian Jews, Czech Jews, Jews on the Hungarian-Czech Border Jews, Ashkenazim, Sefardim, Yemenite Jews, Afrikaaner Jews, Romanian Jews, Zionists, non-Zionists, anti-Zionists, post-Zionists, Jews with an accent, Jews who speak perfect Midwestern English, Hebrew, Native American Jews, Anglo-Saxon Jews, French Jews, German Jews, Greek Jews, Indian Jews, Chinese Jews, Jews who like David Levy Jews , Wannabee Jews, Conspiracy Theory Jews,Japanese Jews, Shayna Panim Jews, Meesekite Jews, Closet Jews,Shnorrers, Baalei Tzedaka, Tzadikim, Baynonim, Rashaim, Chacham-Tam-Ayni Yodea Jews, Chevramen & Forbisseners, kvetching Jews, Guta Neshama Jews, Vizhnitzer, Ger, Gerer, Chabadnik, Kohenim, Levi’im, Yisraelim, Machers, Mavens, & Pashet Jews, Manchester, Melbourne, Jerusalem and Toronto Jews, EVERY KIND of Jew in this vast Universe.

Jews are argumentative and fractious and often divided, But on Rosh Hashanah we come together to pray for ourselves and for the community. The Jewish community is never an isolated community. We live and have lived in every corner of the world and we are an integral part of every conversation. This year, the world is divided indeed, from the Iran nuclear deal being debated in the US Congress as we speak, to the refugee crisis engulfing Europe and Canada, and the ongoing internecine Islamic wars in the Middle East, and Africa, it is hard to find one’s bearings as a Canadian, as a Jew, whether living in Israel or in the diaspora.

What is the glue that holds us Jews together? Rabbi Steinmetz spoke yesterday about the “Covenant or Contract – Brit in Hebrew” that Moses lays out for the Jewish people – the Sinaitic contract passed down by Moses at the mountain to the Israelites in the dessert.

The words of this brit, covenant or contract are quite beautiful: Chapter 29 v. 9 – 14 Deuteronomy reads as follows:

10“You are standing today all of you before the Lord your God: the heads of your tribes,d your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, 11your little ones, your wives, and the sojourner who is in your camp, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, 12so that you may enter into the sworn covenant of the Lord your God, which the Lord your God is making with you today, 13that he may establish you today as his people, and that he may be your God, as he promised you, and as he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 14It is not with you alone that I am making this sworn covenant, 15but with whoever is standing here with us today before the Lord our God, and with whoever is not here with us today. “

Chapter 29 v. 9 – 14 Deuteronomy

Rabbi Steinmetz spoke about the startling declaration : “It is not with you alone that I am making this sworn covenant, 15but with whoever is standing here with us today before the Lord our God, and with whoever is not here with us today. ”

Those who are not here with us today” is generally interpreted to mean “all future generations” whose souls are also considered to have stood at Sinai.

Rabbis have asked the question, how can a contract be avowed for those who are not here with us today? And yet the Sinaitic covenant has been passed down and continues to be upheld by ongoing generations and communities. This Rabbi Steinmetz explains is the greater miracle than the question often posed “are Jews  disappearing in our time?” as posited by Pew statistics.

As many of you  know blowing of a ram’s horn or shofar is emblematic of Rosh Hashana.

I even wrote a blog about this not so long ago. Everything you wanted to know about the shofar but were afraid to ask.

Rabbi Asher Jacobsen in his communal class last Friday, spoke about a talmudic discussion about what kinds of shofars are permissible for the Rosh Hashanah services. For a horn to be kosher 1. it has to have the characteristic of self hollowing. (Apparently when a ram’s horn is soaked in water the matter inside the horn simply dissolves leaving a hollowed out instrument.) 2. Traditionally it is a Ram’s horn that is chosen and the ram is a kosher animal. The Talmud asks the question can we use the horn of an animal other than the ram? And what if the permissible horn is from an animal that is not kosher?

Apparently in the face of scarcity, all three are permissible i.e. 1, A ram’s horn, 2. A hollow horn from another kosher animal other than the ram and 3. a hollow horn from a non-kosher animal.

Rabbi Jacobsen  then quoted from a text that compares the three types of horn to three types of Jews: 1. The horn from a non-kosher animal is compared to the Jew who is a Jew only because of anti-semitism. He is defined by a negative outside world. And that world reminds him that he is Jewish. 2. The hollowed out horn from an animal other than the ram parallels the Jews who defines himself as a Jew due to history – legacy. 3. The kosher horn, the Ram’s horn reminds the Jew of the famous Abrahamic contest with G-d, the Binding of Jacob, where Abraham agrees to follow G-d’s word even to the extent of sacrificing his son and heir.  At the very last moment when Jacob is already bound to the altar, G-d calls out to Jacob, not to touch his son, but to sacrifice the ram caught in the bushes instead. As the Rabbi pointed out, this test is a very personal and private test. The binding of Jacob occurs on a lonely mountain top with no witnesses other than the two principals. And this represents the Jew who in spite of it all has accepted the covenant of Abraham and Moses at Sinai.

So why do we have so many divisions and how can we understand it?

David Nirenberg in a U. of Chicago Harper Talk, “Can History Help Us Think about religious conflicts.” brilliantly exposes the ambivalence and variability of theological interpretations of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, within their historical contexts from ancient times to the present. Listening to his talk which is an hour long offers true hope for peace among those of every religion. He points out brilliantly from various sources how in the present and in the past those who stick to their own and only their own interpretation can and have gone astray. And yet is able to assert “Holding onto faith while allowing for different versions of that faith: that’s the true art of any scholar.”

His is a powerful lesson for continuing to mine the wisdom of all of our ancient traditions with hope that one day, we may truly find a personal and a communal G-d that is one and the same that can unite us with all mankind.

May we all unite — without a fight! — and together ignite G-d’s great light.
May we see a sweet and blessed year together with a  true peace.

Shanah Tovah U’Metukah!
Hope you enjoyed this,
Love,

Just an addendum: Here is Rabbi Sacks explaining how the individual can follow his personal path via Rosh Hashanah related practise. Cultivating the Inner Self

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Speech and Fake News on Campus

In this post I  explore academia, professors, and their legitimate sounding papers and books that may even use legitimate concepts but apply these concepts fallaciously. I refer to the left, using the ideology of “colonialism” to apply to Israel, and the Palestinian strategy of applying the South African ideology of “apartheid” to the Israel/Palestine conflict, and plain deceptive media like “Electronic Intifada”

Over the years, I have become acquainted with Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of The Electronic Intifada, Jewish Voices for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voices for Peace, Israel/apartheid conferences.

Here are some images of Omar Barghouti.

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Image result for omar barghouti
And here is his bio on wikipedia:
Omar Barghouti is a founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and a co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Wikipedia
Born: 1964, Qatar

Note that his first degree was from Tel Aviv University. He is identified with the website Electronic Intifada whose Home page has the following screen today: December 25, 2015 and is an example of the misleading media which employs classic antisemitic methods of lying and deception about the truth of what is going on.

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Of course they don’t tell you that on Christmas eve there were three separate attacks, car jammings and knife attacks on IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians as reported here in The Times of Israel. The Israel news report lists the incidents, the attackers and their victims, and the condition of both attackers and victims.

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This is how it was reported in the Israeli press.

One person was lightly injured Thursday morning in a suspected car-ramming in the West Bank north of Jerusalem, Israeli officials said, the third attack in as many hours Thursday morning.

The army said a car tried to hit soldiers and border police at the Adam junction next to the Rama army base. The driver was shot and killed at the scene, an IDF statement said.

The incident was the third attack of the day after two separate stabbing incidents, also in the West Bank.
Earlier Thursday, a Palestinian stabbed and injured two security guards at an industrial park outside the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Guards at the site shot and killed the attacker during the incident, police said.
One victim, 24, was listed in serious condition after suffering several stab wounds to his upper body. A female guard, also 24, was listed in moderate condition with a stab wounds to her upper body, according to police and the Magen David Adom rescue organization.
Less than an hour later, a Palestinian man attempting to stab soldiers with a screwdriver was shot and killed near the West Bank city of Hebron Thursday morning. The army said the assailant, “armed with a screwdriver, approached a checkpoint near Hebron and attempted to the stab security forces.” The soldiers opened fire on the man, killing him, the IDF said.

Sadly, Since September, Israel has endured hundreds of knife attacks and car rammings on civilians in many cities both inside Israel the West Bank. There have been many dead and many injured on both sides. However clearly the aggressors are the stabbers and terrorists. And the world media largely ignores it because of its anti-Israel bias. Some people call anti-Israel bias – antisemitism. So there you have it!

 

Eyeless in Gaza: how fake media works

eyeless in gaza

The fake news coming out of the Palestinian Media and their supporters is often not at all reported or recognized in the Western Press.  A worthy documentary on this subject Eyeless in Gaza was recently released. I happened to catch it when it was screened by the Student Society of St.John’s University, Manhattan, NY.

The film reports that “In reporting the Gaza War of 2014, these quotes appeared in the international media: “They’re calling it a massacre”, “Children and civilians comprised the vast majority of the 200 killed”, “All innocent people. All of them civilians”, “Israel is targeting a number of different places including hospitals.” This information formed international opinion yet all the above quotes are proved to be influenced by the systematic intimidation and persecution of the Gaza reporters, both local and Western media.The producers interview Palestinian civilians and journalists, Hamas leaders, UN officials, military analysts and Israeli spokespeople to arrive at these troubling conclusions.

The film is now available on I-tunes for sale or rent. I challenge you to watch this documentary and share it with your  colleagues.

finally we have a name for this kind of “news”.

Liar liar fake news

And just to further prove my point about the repressive tyranny that is currently going on in Gaza. I just saw this article about refugees fleeing Gaza not because of Israel but because of What the Gaza administration is perpetrating on its citizens.

 

Antisemitism: Rational or Irrational?

Antisemitism has been at times likened to a disease or a mutating virus.israel apartheid dry bones

Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Laureate and Auschwitz survivor, made the remark, “The world has changed in the last 2,000 years, and only antisemitism has remained … The only disease that has not found its cure is antisemitism.” (1)

Where does antisemitism come from and why? Is antisemitism rational or  irrational. This is the sixty four million dollar question and the answer is: – “it is both rational and irrational”.

The Goals and Purpose of Antisemitism

To the propagators  of antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, antisemitism is understood to be a powerful psychological weapon in the interest of national policy.This is very rational and goal directed. Both Hitler and the current day jihadists/Palestinians, understand this very well. Hermann Rauschning, who claimed to be Hitler’s ‘confidant’, said in the mid-1930s:

“Anti-Semitism … was beyond question the most important weapon in [Hitler’s] propagandist arsenal, and almost everywhere it was of deadly efficiency. That was why he had allowed Streicher, for example, a free hand. The man’s stuff, too, was amusing, and very cleverly done. Wherever, he wondered, did Streicher get his constant supply of new material? He, Hitler, was simply on thorns to see each new issue of the Stürmer. It was the one periodical that he always read with pleasure, from the first page to the last”.[10]

 

And now here is the deceptive and irrational part exemplified by deceptive books and newspapers, such as the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Hitlers’ Mein Kampf (which was largely based on the previous book and Der Sturmer, the antisemitic German newspaper which began its publication in Germany in 1924. I quote from wikipedia: 

“Beginning in 1924, Streicher used Der Stürmer as a mouthpiece not only for general antisemitic attacks, but for calculated smear campaigns against specific Jews…Streicher orchestrated his early campaigns against Jews to make the most extreme possible claims, short of violating a law that might get the paper shut down. He insisted in the pages of his newspaper that the Jews had caused the worldwide Depression, and were responsible for the crippling unemployment and inflation which afflicted Germany during the 1920s. He claimed that Jews were white-slavers and were responsible for over 90 percent of the prostitutes in the country. Real unsolved killings in Germany, especially of children or women, were often confidently explained in the pages of Der Stürmer as cases of “Jewish ritual murder.”

One of Streicher’s constant themes was the sexual violation of ethnically German women by Jews, a subject which served as an excuse to publish semi-pornographic tracts and images detailing degrading sexual acts. These “essays” proved an especially appealing feature of the paper for young men. With the help of his notorious cartoonist, Phillip “Fips” Rupprecht, Streicher published image after image of Jewish stereotypes and sexually-charged encounters. His portrayal of Jews as subhuman and evil is widely considered to have played a critical role in the dehumanization and marginalization of the Jewish minority in the eyes of common Germans – creating the necessary conditions for the later perpetration of the Holocaust.”

Although Julius Streicher was able to escape the consequences of his writing during Nazi times. (He was frequently sued for libel but manged to evade guilty verdicts): in 1945 he was one of the nine Nazis tried and found guilty by the Nuremberg Tribunal. Julius Streicher was one of the nine Nazis who were convicted  for “Crimes against Humanity.” and died on the gallows.

Joshua Muravchik in his book “Making David into Goliath” documents the pro-Palestinian leanings of the EU. Is this political stance rational or irrational? Joshua Muravchik points to the policy of appeasement of Palestinian hijackers by European states in the wake of Palestinian terror attacks such as the plane hijackings which were so ubiquitous in the 1960’s and the Munich Olympics terror attack in 1973.

In an interview based on his book Joshua Muravchik  notes:

We know that several European governments made quiet deals with the Palestinians to keep the violence off their soil. One barometer of this was that in virtually every case – and there were dozens – where the perpetrators were taken into custody after a hijacking or terror act, they were soon released. This was sometimes in exchange for other hostages who had been seized by the terrorists and sometimes as part of some other diplomatic deal. This was a measure of how much governments, particularly European governments, didn’t want to be embroiled in a conflict with these groups and were inclined to make concessions to keep things quiet.

Thus for policy reasons, European nations have turned a blind eye towards the anti-Israel terrorism on their own soil and on Israeli soil. Of course, this policy has come back to bite them big time. As many have noted “antisemitism may begin with the Jews but it never ends with the Jews.”

These are the Rational Purposes of Antisemitism: What about the Irrational Aspects? What about those ideas prevalent since the middle ages and into the present time, that Jews use human blood to create matza (unleavened bread) for Passover. Can any rational person believe this? And then there are the even more outlandish internet videos on youtube that spew lies about Jews and Israel the following is just a very abbreviated list:•  

 ARE THE JEWS ALIEN LIZARDS ? I thought it was a crazy idea until I studied it by Neo triestowarnyou 124,198 views 
 1:20:59

•    Where have the Rothschilds disappeared to? by The Bilzerian Report 1,373,332 views 
 21:03

•    Michael Collins Piper vs Eric Jon Phelps – The Great Debate: Zionists or Jesuits? by Reasonable Doubtt 28,625 views 
 1:26:06

•    Should the British stop tolerating intolerance? (The Big Questions, 15/6/14) by Islam & Islamicate 58:50

(By the way I have not watched all of these but any brief look  at the titles will advise you of the nature of the content.)

And then there are the conspiracy theory antisemites highlighted inthese kinds of videos.

•    The Protocols Of The Learned Elders Of Zion by ZeroSixtyFive 40,721 views 
 3:21:38

•    Evidence that The Protocols of Zion are Genuine, 1of4 by TheRapeOfJustice 10,258 views 
 14:57

But we have not yet talked about the most significant driver of antisemitism, the emotional psychological driver. It is well known that emotional arguments suffused with fear and anxiety have a powerful hold on individuals both children and adults and take precedence over critical thinking. The best example of this is the claim that “Jews murdered Jesus”. This calumny is what motivated Christian antisemitic pogroms as it was promoted by the Christian church to the masses who then felt justified in hating and murdering Jews through many centuries of Christian church influence.

 

Benny Morris at McGill

Benny Morris, the Israeli historian of the 1948 war in Israel, recently spoke at the first  meeting of this year’s series of lectures sponsored by ISGAP, The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism

Benny Morris flyerBenny Morris, an Israeli historian, was the darling of the anti-Israel left for supporting the Arab narrative about ht

In addition to describing both sides of the war, the players and their motivations, He asked the question: “Was the war by the Arabs against the establishment of the State of Israel (1947-1948) in the area that was called Palestine during the governance of the English Mandate, an Islamic Jihadi war?” He has uncovered evidence that it was. He has uncovered broadcasts from the Allimah of Al-Azhar University, one of the the highest Islamic authorities, calling for a Jihad against the Jews immediately after the partition announcement in the United Nations.

At the same time, he pointed out how the armies that were unleashed against the nascent State of Israel, in addition to their Muslim anti-Jewish motivations, also had their particular agendas. Israel alone was fighting for survival. And this is why she had the absolute motivation to win at all cost, and did win. And the

This lecture brought out the largest audience ISGAP has ever had at Mcgill. Hecklers showed up prior to the lecture objecting to Prof. Morris giving his talk. They shouted loudly and we were not sure whether he would be able to speak, but finally they were persuaded to leave.

After the talk there was a lively question period. One question that I found very interesting was a question from someone, who could have been a professor, asking Why ISGAP, the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism invited Benny Morris, a professor of Israeli history. Unfortunately Israel’s history then and now is filtered through the lens of Jew-hatred. Even though critics of Israel love to proclaim that “criticism of Israel is not antisemitism”. The BDS movement’s focus on destroying the Jewish State is very close to it. And this person’s objection to hearing the scholarly talk of a historian speaks for itself.

And by the way, Benny Morris has been vilified by both sides for his historical analysis and it is a credit to the Institute that they invited him to speak.

I am writing this a day after the Horrific Paris attacks. As I listen to the CBC and BBC all still appear to be confused by the attacks. Israel has been dealing with this kind of terrorism since its inception and even today the mainstream media is not reporting the hundreds of attacks perpetrated in Israel by the Palestinians, inspired by their Jew baiting, Israel baiting Imams. Over 609 attacks have been documented in Israel during the months of September and October of this year and even today we received news of a murder of a father and a son attacked in their van.

This article says it best How Many More Wake-Up Calls.

And here is a post if you needed any more confirmation about the antisemitic, anti-Israel incitement that goes on everyday over the internet.

Fortunately we now have organizations like PAL WATCH – Palestinian Media Watch who are there to document and expose these purveyors of hatred towards Israel and Jews everywhere.

And here is the video recording of the talk by Benny Morris at McGill University, Montreal, November 2015

https://vimeo.com/147348120