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December 11, 2016 / 11 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘christmas’

Happy Aliya Day, Everybody!

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Today Millions of American Jews woke up with the sense of excitement that only happens when two essentially contradictory holidays take place on the same day, like Hanukkah and Christmas, Passover and Easter.

It so happens that on the day the United States is celebrating its Election Day, Israelis are joyously marking Aliyah Day. And should the results of today’s elections drive US Jews to make Aliyah, then the connection is absolutely self-explanatory.

Yom HaAliyah-Aliyah Day is an Israeli national holiday celebrated annually on the seventh of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan. This date in itself is a celebration of the unique connection that existed during the time of the Second Temple between the Jews of Israel and their brothers and sisters in the diaspora: the rainy season officially begins on the rabbinic calendar on Shmini Atzeret, the holiday that seals the string of high holidays from Rosh Hashanah until Sukkot. But the rabbis decreed that we not begin to actually pray for rain until the 7th of Cheshvan, to allow the Babylonian Jews who just celebrated in Jerusalem to return home before it started to rain.

Strangely enough, the Knersset legislation known as the Aliyah Day Act 5776-2016 states that on the 7th of Cheshvan the country will celebrate the Israelites’ entrance into the Land of Israel on the 10th of Nissan. We called up the Knesset Aliyah Committee, and blessed Tzipi, who picked up the phone with “Happy Aliyah Day,” which absolutely made her day. As to the discrepancy between the two dates, she explained that the Cheshvan date was picked because the Nissan date falls on a school holiday, which is also a Knesset holiday, just before Passover. So they went with Cheshvan 7, when everybody is still fresh and full of zest at the start of the season.

Also, Cheshvan 7 usually falls on the week of Parshat Lech-Lecha, in which our biblical patriarch Abraham was told by God to leave his home and his family and go up to the Land of Israel.

So, if you want to show up your Israeli friends today, just wish them a Happy Aliyah day and watch them squirm…

JNi.Media

Which Is Worse for Jews: Halloween or Christmas?

Monday, October 31st, 2016

The weeks before both fall and winter American holidays, Halloween and Christmas usually bring a harvest of articles in Jewish print publications and online debating just how far outside what is proper for a Jew to do would be taking your kid trick-or-treating or attending your office mate’s Christmas dinner. Obviously, neither issue is a problem for Orthodox Jews: you don’t take your kid begging for goyeshe candy and you don’t eat your buddy’s goyeshe goose, end of story. Everyone else, though, seems to experience the worst angst of life in diaspora on those two dates. So the purpose of this roundup of some Jewish views is not to decide whether either options are recommended for a healthy, self-aware Jewish family to engage in, but rather which of the two is worse.

Or, to cut to the chase, which of the two is more repugnant to a Jewish person, the tradition of All Hallows’ Eve (a.k.a. All Saints’ Day), or the celebration of the birthday of that man from Nazareth whose mother claimed she dated God.

Both Halloween and Christmas have deep roots in pagan tradition. Halloween was a Celtic holiday celebrated by the druid priests of Gaul and Britain, marking the end of the summer harvest season with fruits and drink. Christmas began as the Roman feast of the Saturnalia and the birthday of the sun god, set on the winter solstice, December 25.

So, both holidays began as pagan feasts and were later adopted by the Catholic Church which scrubbed them off and sanctified them as good, proper Christian dates. Although in neither case the Church was not unable to wipe off the nasty roots of either day.

In other words, had most Jews been invited to partake in an event that were described to them as celebrating both pagan and Christian values, they would have balked, for sure. The problem is that both days are sold to US Jews as much more fun than all that. The website MyJewishLearning cites a Jewish author who wrote: “One of my fondest memories of kindergarten was the first Halloween celebrated at school. I marched proudly from room to room in our elementary school in my Wilma Flintstone  costume as a participant in the Halloween parade. The anticipation of the event was overwhelming, exciting and the fun was anything but sinister…. To say that participating in Halloween leads to devil worship is like saying taking Tylenol leads to crack addition.”

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, writing for Chabad.org, reminds his Jewish readers of Purim, the Jewish holiday when kids get to dress up and party, but how different are Halloween and Purim from one another: demanding treats instead of giving to charity, scaring instead of rejoicing, dressing up as demonic creatures instead of as positive, historic figures (that last one may need some verification).

The ReformJudaism.org website is surprisingly similar to Chabad.org, in reminding readers about Purim, and in offering them information about the distinctly non-Jewish and quite sinister origins of the holiday. They encourage families to have a discussion of whether or not they’d like to celebrate Halloween, and how much money to spend on said celebration. They also suggest parents highlight the fun of giving to others at the door, instead of taking; recommend donating last year’s costumes to shelter children; and suggest posting a tzedakah box at the door where you’ll put in a coin for every visitor who rings the bell.

That’s the common line that runs through much of the debate on Halloween and American Jews: reminders of those original druids and their crazy parties, notes on the Catholic Church adopting the date, and, inevitably, recognition that kids will be kids, let them have their fun, what’s the worst that can happen.

What about Halloween’s more respectable neighbor, two calendar pages over? It’s not as easy to dig up Jewish websites that treat Christmas as lightly as they do Halloween, despite the fact that their historic origins and ideological foundations are identical: both are pagan holidays turned Christian.

Rabbi Jen E. Krause of New York‘s 92nd St. Y told Time Magazine back in 2013 that although she prefers that Jews celebrate Hanukkah rather than Christmas, she understands why US Jews don’t wish to feel left out: “For Jewish Americans, it would be almost like not being a part of Labor Day or Memorial Day or Fourth of July weekend.”

The Ask the Rabbi Interfaith Family section of About.com has a question from a Jewish woman married to a Christian man, with children, who is troubled by an invitation to her in-laws’ for Christmas dinner: “We have always explained it as something that grandma and grandpa do and that we are happy to help them celebrate, but that we are a Jewish family. What is your opinion? How should a Jewish family deal with Christmas especially when Christmas is such a production during the holiday season?”

The Rabbi’s answer, alas, treats the Christmas dinner as an organic extension of the Trick-or-Treat outing: “Your in-laws are not asking you and your family to attend Christmas mass in church with them nor are they foisting Christian beliefs on your children. It sounds like your husband’s parents simply want to share the love and joy they experience when their family gathers in their home at Christmas. This is a good thing and a great blessing worthy of your unequivocal and unambiguous embrace! Rarely will life give you such a rich and teachable moment with your children.”

Clearly, there is only one safe escape for US Jews from the trap of Christian ideology, which is set by every facet of American popular culture and plucks every string in the heart of an American Jew: stay away. If you thought Christmas is really bad to celebrate, but Halloween is OK, you were probably wrong. It is impossible to paint lipstick on either of these pigs, but in the competition between Halloween and Christmas over which of the two holidays is more dangerous Halloween wins out, hands down, because it doesn’t look dangerous.

Interestingly, many US Christians shun both holidays on the grounds that they’re both not really Christian but pagan celebrations. Shouldn’t we be at least as religiously consistent as our Evangelical neighbors?

JNi.Media

Left, Right, Agree: Intermarriage Marks Demise of US Jewish Community

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

There’s a strange air of delight in the manner in which Steven M. Cohen describes the failure of the attempts over the past several decades to embrace the intermarried families (Welcomed, but uninterested: America’s intermarried Jews reject Jewish outreach, Ha’aretz, Oct. 26, 2016). The entire article feels like a death announcement delivered via a singing telegram. Cohen’s facts are sound, his conclusions are absolutely on the money, but does he have to sound so happy?

It comes down to this, Cohen states: 72% of non-Orthodox American Jews marry non-Jews, and over 20 years, the community’s attempts to embrace those intermarried families have failed completely.

The bulk of non-Orthodox Jewish institutions have “radically revised their policies, practices, and ethos to invite the intermarried,” writes Cohen, including in the same effort all kinds of non-traditional families, such as the LGBTQ Jews and “others who challenge the legacy notions of engaged Jewish families and individuals.” According to him you can’t throw a stone at a Jewish institution website on your computer screen without crashing the words “diverse,” “welcoming,” and “inclusive” somewhere in there. But they’re not interested, apparently.

Using the great, eye-opening Pew study of 2013 (A Portrait of Jewish Americans), Cohen points out that the signs of Jewish life in intermarried Jewish families are fast diminishing. 80% of non-Orthodox Jew+Jew couple with children belong to synagogues — only 16% of Jew+goy do. On High Holiday services, 92% of J+Js with kids show up for the services, only 32% of J+gs do.

Only 26% of J+g parents say being Jewish is very important to them — compared with 75% of J+Js. 13% of J+gs feel very emotionally attached to Israel, as opposed to 45% of J+Js. 33% of J+gs say they fast on Yom Kippur, 90% of J+Js do. 4% of J+gs light Shabbat candles, 60% of J+Js do. And 85% of J+gs have a Christmas tree at home, only 6% of J+Js. Only 31% of J+Gs give their children a Jewish education, compared with 90% of J+Js.

In short, once a Jewish person marries a non-Jewish person, there’s no stopping the process by which he or she and their offspring will move outside the Jewish community and into the community at large. It’s interesting to note in this context that the departure from the Jewish timeline does not have to do with faith, nor with observance. Those are more likely to serve as social markers than as dependable tools in preventing the religious drift. The only thing that virtually guarantees that one’s children remain connected to the Jewish community is one’s spouse.

Here is where Cohen’s astute and fearless observation is finally trapped by his political beliefs: “Those who seek to increase the participation of the intermarried in Jewish life need to stop importuning the institutions, and turn their sights elsewhere,” he concludes. “We need to recognize that few of the intermarried either attach to Jewish institutions or care very much about them.” Instead, he insists, Jewish families are where new Jewish families are grown: “Rabbis, committee chairs and educators can help,” he points out, “but parents and grandparents are critical to fully integrating their intermarried family members in Jewish life.”

It’s a sweet sentiment, and Cohen probably knows a handful of cases where the loving and non-judgmental family of the Jewish spouse made a difference in keeping the children in the Jewish realm. But the reality of the figures he cites suggests that in most cases, the most loving and accepting parents have also failed to make a difference — unless you would suggest that those 96% of families of mixed couples that don’t light Shabbat candles have all sat Shiva over them, an unlikely notion.

What works for the Orthodox in avoiding the sad drift of intermarried couples is the fact that the community and the families do not tolerate this possibility at all. The very idea of intermarriage is repulsive to Orthodox Jews, and the entire community is organically set up around the idea of the J+J exclusive union. If Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist communities kept all their religious differences except for the tolerance of intermarriage, they, too, would still be with us in fifty years.

JNi.Media

O’Malley Upgrades – or Downgrades – Jesus from ‘Palestinian’ to a ‘Refugee’

Friday, December 25th, 2015

Jesus was “a refugee child who fled death gangs,” according to Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley.

O’Malley can forget about the Orthodox Jewish vote. His crass comment that managed to implicate Biblical Jews as “death gangs” also once again re-event Jesus into a politically correct figure.

The Palestinian Authority reinvented Jesus as a the first “Palestinian” in recent years,  but PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas this year settled  for simply calling him “a symbol for all Palestinians.”

It is not clear what the symbol means to the Palestinian Authority, but the Abbas regime does not look like it has any chance of being resurrected.

A recent poll by the respected  Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research revealed that only 45 percent of respondents support “the two-state” proposal and 65 percent believe that it is no longer practical.

As for Abbas, he is in the cellar among the respondents. If elections were held today, six years after Palestinian Authority Arabs were supposed to vote for a chairman, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would handily defeat Abbas by a 10-point margin.

O’Malley’s Christmas Eve comment on Jesus as a refugee was a barb to Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who wants to deport hundreds of illegal immigrants.

Trump is not the only one. The Department of Homeland Security reportedly is planning to deport hundreds of immigrants from Central America who fled violence.

Nevertheless, O’Malley tweeted:

A Christmas Refugee Roundup sounds like something [Trump] would concoct. Remember: Jesus was a refugee child who fled death gangs.

 

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

ISIS Threatens to Attack Palestinian Authority during Xmas Holiday

Friday, December 25th, 2015

The Palestinian Authority is under a threat of Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists planning to carry out terrorist attacks against during the Christmas holiday season, Israel radio (Voice of Israel) reported Friday.

PA security forces have arrested dozens of extremists.Massive PA forces have been deployed throughout Bethlehem, where Christmas Eve prayers and festivities passed without major incidents

ISIS-linked terrorists are plotting to murder tourists with rifles and bombs.

However, the ISIS threat against the Arab citizens and the Palestinian Authority regime exists through Judea and Samaria. Threats including those in the name of ISIS< have been posted on social media.

The Abbas regime is not Islamic, leaving it ripe for attacks by fundamentalists.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

In Bethlehem, ‘Silent Night’ Over Terrorist Murders of Israeli Civilians

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

City officials in ancient Bethlehem geared up Thursday to welcome Christians to the birth site of the founder of the faith – but hate was there way ahead of them.

Nearly every international journalist arriving in the Palestinian Authority-controlled biblical city for Christmas Eve has written newly twisted descriptions of the violence that has sent rivers of blood flowing in the streets of Israel and the roads of Judea and Samaria. One of the silliest is also as damaging as it is subtle, in that its writing style is held to a passive voice. And since the journalist works for a wire service, the article is flashed around the world to a readership of millions.

The Associated Press article penned by Daniella Cheslow was posted on the Yahoo! news website Thursday evening, and bore numerous references to Israelis killing Arabs, with the implication that the deaths were unwarranted, beginning with the headline, “Christians in Bethlehem mark Christmas amid violence.”

Example: “an outburst of Israeli-Palestinian violence dampened the typically festive mood” – as if Israelis deliberately went out hunting Arabs, rather than the other way around.

Example: “Before the celebrations began, Israeli authorities said three Palestinians involved in attacks against Israelis were killed in violence across the West Bank. Another Palestinian was killed in clashes with Israeli troops, a Palestinian hospital official said.” The aforementioned “Palestinians” were not just “involved” parties in those killings; three were the actual murderers and a fourth was directly attacking; all were killed in self-defense. The spurious passivity in which the paragraph is written appears to be a deliberate attempt to mask the mindless hatred that has been whipped up among so many of the Arab youths by their leadership.

Example: “Bethlehem has been a focal point for clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters during the three month-long wave of violence that has gripped the region. While the annual festivities in the city’s Manger Square were set to go on, other celebrations in the city were cancelled or toned down because of the violence.”

Hardly. First of all, the so-called “Palestinian protesters” have been attackers, hurling rocks, boulders, and firebombs (Molotov cocktails) at Israeli soldiers guarding the entrance to Rachel’s Tomb, the gravesite of the biblical matriarch Rachel, which under the Oslo Accords is to remain accessible to Israelis and Jews regardless of who controls the territory.

But in terms of which area has been the focal point of terror, the holy city of Jerusalem claims that dubious honor due to the countless efforts by Arab agitators both in and out of the mosques to ignite riots in the city’s Arab neighborhoods.

As for celebrations ‘cancelled or toned down’ in Bethlehem because of violence: it is very convenient to lay the blame at Israel’s doorstep, but the excuse does not wash well, given the facts. If Arab residents of Bethlehem insist on rioting and attacking Israelis one cannot expect people to feel safe on the street. Tourists don’t want to come to a place that is scary, though a few hardy souls might come to prove their loyalty. One such British citizen went to Beit Sahour — but he quickly regretted that decision.

Still, blaming Israel is always the mainstream media’s first fallback position. Nice try. Better to look at reality: celebrations are indeed ‘cancelled or toned down’ because tourism is down, due to the violence. Tourists don’t like violence.

“We’re in Bethlehem celebrating Christmas … This is the birthplace of the king of peace so what we want is peace,” Rula Ma’ayah, Palestinian Authority Tourism Minister told the Associated Press on Thursday. Yes. “This is a ‘peaceful’ uprising,” Ma’ayah’s boss, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas said on November 16.

Actually, the Palestinian Authority government pays high monthly stipends to convicted terrorists incarcerated in Israeli prisons after they murder Israelis. The more victims wounded and murdered in an attack, the higher the salary. An entire department is devoted to the care and support of convicted Arab terrorists in the PA government, in fact. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.

“Since mid-September, Palestinian attacks have killed 20 Israelis, while Israeli fire has killed 124 Palestinians, among them 85 said by Israel to be attackers. The rest were killed in clashes with Israeli forces,” wrote Cheslow.

Again, a very slick way of depersonalizing the murderous attacks on Israelis by Arab terrorists, by assigning the blame to “Palestinian attacks.” We won’t talk about the actual Arab killers who are dirtying their hands with the sharp knives that are cutting into the human flesh of their victims, mind you. Let’s not talk about that.

Well, it was actually Arabs from the Palestinian Authority who deliberately murdered those 20 Israelis. Frankly, had other Israelis not been as vigilant and as well-armed as they were, there could have been many, many more dead. Funny how Ms. Cheslow neglected to write about the hundreds of wounded.

According to the Israel Security Agency, in the past three months there have been more than 120 stabbings, 75 grenade and petrol bomb attacks, 46 shootings and 30 vehicular terror attacks, to be precise. Arab terrorists have murdered 21 people and wounded 272 others in the past three months.

While we’re on the subject, it is even more interesting that these statistics are rarely — if ever — mentioned on any site other than JewishPress.com or that of the State of Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Isn’t it odd that so many mainstream news agencies who pride themselves on quality news coverage never manage to find both sides of the story when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict?

Hana Levi Julian

‘Bad Timing’ of Christmas Hurts Chanukah Sales

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

Observant Jews cringe every year that Chanukah and Christmas overlap, leading to sacrilegious combinations of customs, but the kosher industry is losing out when the two holidays are totally separate, such as this year

Chanukah beings next Sunday night, December 6, and ends eight days later, almost two weeks before the Christians holiday.

Industry experts say that Chanukah is the third most important holiday on the Jewish calendar, following Passover and the High Holy Days, according to Kosher Today.

It reported:

Some industry officials believe that the calendar is not in their favor and prefer a Chanukah date that is close to Christmas. Next year, for example the first day of Chanukah falls on Christmas eve, the reason many non-traditional kosher customers buy kosher as gifts for Jewish friends and co-workers.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/bad-timing-of-christmas-hurts-chanukah-sales/2015/11/28/

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