You’ve got your rousing church choir, your multi-denominational trio of rabbis quoting Torah, and, above all, your pleas to please, please, please be nice. Welcome to AIPAC.Click here for the rest of the article...
In response to several anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine, the site of ongoing social upheaval, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement:
The events in Ukraine are deeply concerning for all who value human rights. We pray that the unrest will be resolved in a peaceful and democratic manner and without further loss of life. At the same time, we are also greatly troubled by several recent incidents of anti-Semitism that have shaken the Ukrainian Jewish community. The vandalism including swastikas and graffiti reading ‘Death to the Jews’ on the synagogue in Simferopol in the Crimea region this past Friday is unacceptable and serves as a bitter reminder that anti-Semitism continues to plague too many Jewish communities.
Our prayers are with the families of two men in Kiev who were killed while walking home from synagogues, to the members of the Giymat Rosa Synagogue in Zaporizhia, located 250 miles southeast of Kiev, that was firebombed a little over a week ago, and to all Jewish men, women, and children in Ukraine who fear being targets of anti-Semitism. We call on local and national leaders to delegitimize anti-Semitism and religious intolerance throughout the world and to take immediate and tangible steps to ensure the security of Ukraine’s Jewish communities.
Beneath banners invoking historic calamities from the Egyptian enslavement to the Holocaust, hundreds of thousand of haredi Orthodox men gathered on the streets of Jerusalem to recite psalms and penitential prayers as they inveighed against an enemy they consider on par with Hitler and the ancient pharaohs.Click here for the rest of the article...
Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, a chief rabbi of Ukraine, accused Russia of staging anti-Semitic “provocations” in Crimea in order to justify its invasion of the former Soviet republic.Click here for the rest of the article...
NEW YORK (JTA) — Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, a chief rabbi of Ukraine, accused Russia of staging anti-Semitic “provocations” in Crimea in order to justify its invasion of the former Soviet republic.
At a press conference in the Manhattan office of the United Jewish Communities of Eastern Europe, Bleich compared Russia’s behavior to that of the Nazis prior to the Anschluss invasion of Austria in 1938.
“Things may be done by Russians dressing up as Ukrainian nationalists,” he said, adding that it’s “the same way the Nazis did when they wanted to go into Austria and created provocations.”
Bleich, a vice president of the World Jewish Congress, also announced the creation of an aid effort, KievRelief.org, to fund security for synagogues and mosques and to provide humanitarian relief for all Ukrainians.
Bleich, who moved to Ukraine in 1989 from Brooklyn, was slated, along with other Ukrainian political and religious leaders, to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday. He said he will urge Kerry to be assertive with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to move the G8 Summit to Kiev, as a show of solidarity with Ukrainians, and to consider sending military support to Ukraine. While acknowledging that Americans are “war-weary,” he said Ukrainians need “boots on the ground to protect democracy” and to prevent “the cold war from getting hot.”
Asked about anti-Semitism among Ukrainian nationalists, particularly two far-right parties that have been included in the new government, Bleich acknowledged concerns but said the Jewish community has received assurances from top government leaders that their safety will be protected.
“The Russians are blowing this way, way out of proportion,” he said, referring to the issue of anti-Semitism among some Ukrainian nationalist factions.
He said that Ukrainians were united in response to the Russian intervention.
“There were many differences of opinion throughout the revolution, but today all that is gone,” he said. “We’re faced by an outside threat called Russia. It’s brought everyone together.”
A senior Chabad rabbi in Australia who was accused of raping a student inside a synagogue in the 1970s will not be charged.Click here for the rest of the article...
SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — A senior Chabad rabbi in Australia who was accused of raping a student inside a synagogue in the 1970s will not be charged.
Detectives in Melbourne confirmed Friday that they have closed an investigation into Rabbi Avrohom Glick, who was then deputy principal of Yeshivah College in Melbourne.
Rabbi Glick, 67, vehemently denied allegations that he raped a student and forced him to perform oral sex, when police questioned him in December.
He was released pending further inquiries but was suspended from Yeshivah College.
Rabbi Glick is visiting America, but his niece, Chevi Levin, said justice had triumphed.
“Today, Hashem’s help and guidance has set an innocent man free,” she posted on her Facebook page. “And today, well, today is the day that Rabbi Glick gets his life back.”
David Werdiger, a relative by marriage, took aim at Tzedek, the advocacy organization for Jewish sex abuse victims, which has been accused of fueling the rape allegations.
“At what point does zealous victim activism cross the line to vigilantism and vengeance,” Werdiger wrote on a blog on Sunday.
Tzedek CEO Manny Waks is the only victim in Australia to have gone public with his story, alleging in 2011 that he was molested by two officials at Yeshivah College.
“The board of Tzedek has decided that no public statement should be issued regarding this matter,” Waks said.
Lawyers for Rabbi Glick launched a defamation suit against Waks last December, alleging the rabbi’s name was “brought into hatred, contempt and ridicule” in several online posts.
Two former employees at the college, David Kramer and David Cyprys, were jailed last year for sex crimes against multiple students, prompting Yeshivah officials to apologize “unreservedly” to victims.
Hassan Shakur fled Darfur and arrived in Israel, only to find himself stuck in limbo in the Holot detention facility. But instead of feeling negative or bitter, he’s focused on getting an education.Click here for the rest of the article...
Several hundred French Jews including dozens of community leaders have called for the re-election of a chief rabbi of France within three months.Click here for the rest of the article...
(JTA) — Several hundred French Jews including dozens of community leaders have called for the re-election of a chief rabbi of France within three months.
The community leaders made the call in a letter they sent last month to Joel Mergui, the president of the Consistoire – the French Jewish institution responsible for providing religious services, the French news agency AFP reported Monday. French chief rabbis are elected by a Consistoirial committee.
“The election must take place during the first semester of 2014 so that a legitimate chief rabbi of France is chosen to express the voice of Judaism during the difficult period we are experiencing,” they wrote. Another 500 people have signed an online petition conveying the same message.
The position has remained essentially vacant since April, when Gilles Bernheim handed in his resignation after admitting that he had committed plagiarism and claimed unearned academic titles. Rabbis Michel Gugenheim and Olivier Kaufmann have filled in as chief rabbis since then.
The cosignatories of the letter wrote that Consistoire regulations state that reelection must take place within six months of the post becoming vacant.
The Consistoire, which employs the chief rabbi and other religious services providers, has a central office in Paris and 18 regional branches, one of which is the Paris Area Consistoire.
In their letter, the 50 community leaders said that ongoing plans to unite the Paris Area Consistoire with the central office — both of which are headed by Mergui – may lead to further postponement of the appointment of a chief rabbi. One source told AFP on condition of anonymity that the unification would “allow Mergui to keep control of the institutions” and possibly determine who is elected.
Thousands of haredi Orthodox men have gathered at the entrance to Jerusalem as part of a mass prayer rally and protest against a bill that would require yeshiva students to serve in the military.Click here for the rest of the article...
France’s Jewish Defense League has published a eulogy of Baruch Goldstein which celebrates a massacre he perpetrated against Palestinian worshipers in Hebron 20 years ago.Click here for the rest of the article...
For parents of children with special needs, the synagogue can be an unwelcoming place. Laurie Levy writes about her own frustrations and the need for inclusion.Click here for the rest of the article...
A joint delegation of observant Muslims and Jews made the case to the Danish ambassador to the United States that his country’s ban on ritual slaughter was harmful to its reputation.Click here for the rest of the article...
The following was sent on Friday afternoon as an email on behalf of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. The bottom of this post includes a link to donate to help Jewish communities in Ukraine during this time of crisis.
This morning, as our community members arrived at the synagogue center in Simferopol, they discovered Antisemitic slogans stating “Death to the Jews” painted all over the doors of the synagogue, as well as damage to windows and other parts of the building.
As the unrest in Ukraine unfolds, concerns for the safety and well being of our communities in the Ukraine is growing steadily, especially in the rural areas and Crimea.
As seen on the news, the Crimean peninsula is considered of strategic importance to Russia, and at the time of this newsflash it seems that Russian troops have occupied the main airports and centers of power in the capital and surroundings. This violent atmosphere has quickly given rise to harassment and attacks on our communities.
Rabbi Michael Kapustin says, “The city is occupied by Russians. Apparently Russians intend to take over the Crimea and make it a part of Russia. If this were the case, I would leave the country. In this case I will leave this country since I want to live in democratic Ukraine. In the meanwhile, in spite of all our hesitation,s my family has decided to stay. If anyone comes tonight I will be in the synagogue to light the candles. Wider Shabbat services will not take place due to security reasons.”
According to Anatoly Gendin, chair of the community, “Clearly, it was important for the anti-Semites to commit this crime. Since the crisis began prices went up by 30%, pensions aren’t being paid. As usual, Jews are blamed reason of these disasters and Jews are held responsible. I am afraid to think how this will progress. ”
As the situation is unsafe, the community has instructed all members to stay indoors and stock up on food and supplies.
The WUPJ has initiated an emergency campaign to support our communities through this crisis, and hope to provide urgently needed security measures, supplies and equipment to the communities. If you are interested in joining this effort please donate now.
We hope and pray that quiet will return soon to the streets of Ukraine, as Shabbat settles in on the streets.
Ose Shalom Bimromov, may the One who makes peace in the heavens, help bring peace here on earth, for all the Household of Israel and for all God’s creations.
Mike Grabiner, Chairman of World Union for Progressive Judaism
Anne Molloy, Chair of WUPJ FSU Committee
Alex Kagan, Director of WUPJ FSU Program
To make a contribution, please visit WUPJ GIVING. If you’re using a credit card, please mark “Kiev Appeal” in the box that says, “Enter description.” Please call Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor with any questions or concerns: 212-452-6531 or email@example.com.
Unknown individuals painted swastikas and the phrase “Death to the Jews” on a synagogue in the Crimea region of southern Ukraine.Click here for the rest of the article...
NEW YORK (JTA) — Yeshiva University said it will grant rabbinic ordination to a student after previously threatening to withhold it over his having once hosted a so-called “partnership minyan.”
“An agreement has been reached and the student will be receiving Semikha,” Rabbi Yosef Blau, a senior counselor at Y.U.’s seminary, told the Forward in an email, referring to ordination.
The Forward received confirmation of the move from the university’s media relations director.
In a partnership minyan, women lead many aspects of the Sabbath service and are called to the Torah. Most halachic sources prohibit the practice, including Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a rosh yeshiva at RIETS.
Rabbi Menachem Penner, acting dean of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, or RIETS, had previously sent a letter to the student ordering him not to participate in partnership minyans “nor create a public impression that he supports such activities in normative practice,” The New York Jewish Week reported Thursday. The letter was posted on The Jewish Channel’s website.
The student, who is identified as Shalom in the letter dated Jan. 13, has chosen to remain anonymous. He told the Jewish Week that he had intended to host the partnership minyan at his home only once in his home at the request of his then-ailing wife.
The letter indicated that the student will not be a “musmach,” or graduate, of the seminary unless he is able to subscribe to the principles laid out therein, including to “defer, in matters of normative practice, to the opinions of recognized poskim,” or decisors of Jewish law.
News of the letter spurred objections from some Modern Orthodox rabbis.
ROCKVILLE, Md. (JTA) — Increasing numbers of Jewish institutions are starting to pay attention to the disabled in our midst. The needs of this part of our community were in the communal spotlight this February, thanks to it being Jewish Disability Awareness Month.
As with so many categories of Jewish teaching, the traditional Jewish approach to disability is a mixed bag. Several categories of the disabled, like the cheraysh (deaf-mute) and the shoteh (mentally deficient and/or insane) are neither obligated by the body of mitzvot (Jewish commandments) nor qualified to serve as witnesses in legal proceedings, essentially being placed in the same category as minors. The blind are obligated by the mitzvot but are not allowed to offer testimony in a trial.
In other places in our tradition, a disability or a disease is seen as a punishment from God for bad behavior. Leprosy is the punishment for tale-bearing. Similarly, in the Talmud (Taanit 21a) a story is told of Nahum Ish Gam Zu, who had no hands, no feet and was blind in both eyes. These disabilities were not birth defects but were rather divine punishment inflicted on Nahum at his own request because he felt guilty for not being quick enough to feed a beggar who ended up dying.
A third way that the Jewish tradition discusses disability is essentially used as a theological trump card. It is a way of saying that God’s agency in the world is far more significant than human agency. Thus despite the fact the Moses is said to be “slow of speech,” possibly a person with a speech impediment, he nonetheless offers the most important words in the biblical story. The rabbinic commentators use this to make the point that Moses is simply an agent for God, serving as God’s spokesperson in the earthly realm.
None of the above three Judaic treatments of disability are particularly sensitive by 21st-century standards. I also fear what a disabled person, one who takes Judaism very seriously, concludes from such treatment in our sacred texts.
From a theological perspective, I am far more comfortable with the theology implicit in Rabbi Harold Kushner’s “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” than I am with theological assumptions of the biblical and rabbinic texts. For Kushner, God does not cause disability, orchestrate natural disasters or punish human transgression with disease. Rather, God is the source of comfort to whom we turn when trying to cope with such setbacks. God is a source of healing, not of affliction.
Many parts of classical Judaism are products of the thinking of earlier generations that may not fully reflect the most enlightened understanding of our time. Yet there is one insight on the issue of disability where Judaism was not only centuries ahead of its time but where the insight is still well beyond the way most of us behave in the realm of disabilities.
The Jewish tradition prescribes a blessing upon meeting different kinds of people: a king, a wise person, a Torah scholar. The prayer prescribed upon meeting a person who is disabled or who suffers from a deformity is: “Praised are You, Creator of the Universe, who makes people different, one from the other.” Amazing!
The insight inherent in this bracha is that no two people are alike, that each of us is “differently abled.” One person can play piano; another might be skilled at computers; another can fix a toilet. A young man who was a member of my first congregation had Down’s Syndrome. Every week when he greeted me at synagogue, he offered me the most wonderful smile and the biggest hug that any person has ever given me. I came to look forward to Ben’s expression of unqualified love that was not the least bit calculated or contrived. It was his gift.
I suspect that our discomfort with people with disabilities may have something to do with our fear of being in that situation ourselves one day. One might imagine that it would make us more compassionate. But denial may be an even more powerful emotion that we trigger when confronted with a circumstance that we are not prepared to confront.
If we take to heart the Jewish teaching about every person made in the image of God and recall that one person is no better or worse than the other, simply “differently abled,” we might be better able to open up our hearts and our institutions to a wider swath of humanity.
We’d all be better for it.
(Rabbi Sid Schwarz is a senior fellow at Clal and director of the Rene Cassin Fellowship Program for young adults on human rights and Judaism. He is the author of “Jewish Megatrends: Charting the Course of the American Jewish Community” (Jewish Lights, 2013))
Yeshiva University, previously said to be withholding ordination from a student who held a partnership minyan in his home, now says it will grant the student ordination in March.Click here for the rest of the article...
The rabbinical school of Yeshiva University is withholding the ordination of a student who held a partnership minyan for his wife in their home.Click here for the rest of the article...