web analytics
July 30, 2014 / 3 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 

Posts Tagged ‘church’

Preserving Baltimore’s First Synagogue (Part I)

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from “The Lloyd Street Synagogue of Baltimore: A National Shrine” by Israel Tabak, American Jewish Historical Quarterly (1961-1978); Sept. 1971-June 1972; 61, 1-4; AJHS Journal page 343. The article is available at www.ajhs.org/scholarship/adaje.cfm.

While it is not known precisely when Jews first settled in Baltimore, we do know that five Jewish men and their families settled there during the 1770s. However, it was not until the autumn of 1829 that Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, whose Hebrew name was Nidchei Yisroel (Dispersed of Israel), was founded. This was the only Jewish congregation in the state of Maryland at the time, and it was referred to by many as the “Stadt Shul.”

The original 29 members of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation met in a room over a grocery store located on Bond and Fleet Streets (now Eastern Avenue). By 1835 the congregation occupied a one-story building on High Street and membership had increased to 55. In 1837 the congregation acquired a three-story building on Harrison Street near Etna Lane where it worshipped until 1845 when it built its new synagogue on Lloyd Street.

Rabbi Abraham Rice

Readers of this column likely are familiar with the life of Rabbi Abraham Rice from the articles “Abraham Rice: First Rabbi in America” (November 6, 2009) and “The First Rabbi in America, Part II,” December 4, 2009. Rabbi Rice, the first ordained Orthodox rabbi to settle permanently in America, became the spiritual leader of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in 1840.

Rabbi Rice was known for his piety and upright character and for a number of years he was probably the only person in America qualified to pasken sheilas. He became one of Orthodoxy’s foremost spokesmen at a time when it was under attack from the Reform movement.

“Abraham Rice’s place in the history of American Judaism is secure. The courage and dauntlessness with which he defended the principles of historic Judaism give him a unique place among the pioneers of Orthodoxy in America. His consistent and uncompromising stand in matters of Jewish theology was the strongest factor in stemming the tide of Reform. His devotion to the study of Torah and his depth of talmudic learning made it possible for [halachic] Judaism to gain a foothold on American soil, where for centuries Jewish life was spiritually barren and Torahless. His dedication to Jewish education and his personal instruction of many a youth in this community were responsible for a new generation of enlightened laymen to be raised up who changed the entire physiognomy and religious climate of the Jewish community of Baltimore.” (“Rabbi Abraham Rice of Baltimore, Pioneer of Orthodox Judaism in America” by Israel Tabak, Tradition, 7, 1965, page 119.)

The Lloyd Street Synagogue

Within a few years of Rabbi Rice’s arrival the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation was able to build the Lloyd Street Synagogue, the first Jewish house of worship to be built in Maryland and the third oldest surviving synagogue in the United States.

“There is no doubt that Rabbi Rice was the prime factor in the growth and consolidation of the congregation. It was under his guidance that the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation was able to build its own sanctuary befitting a Jewish community of stature and dignity. The architect commissioned to design the new synagogue was Robert Carey Long, Jr., who achieved renown for the several houses of worship he built in Baltimore at the time. In 1842, Long built the Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church; in 1843, St. Peter’s Catholic Church; and the following year, Mt. Calvary Episcopal Church and the Franklin Street Presbyterian Church. The Jewish community was sufficiently affluent to afford the services of such an eminent architect, and the Lloyd Street Synagogue was completed and dedicated in 1845.”

The synagogue building was built of brick and was sixty feet wide by seventy-five feet deep. It cost about $20,000.

The synagogue contained what was then a most innovative feature – a “Shield of David” that was conspicuously set in the main window of the synagogue above the Holy Ark, in the eastern wall, which everyone faced in prayer.

Isaac Lesser, chazzan of Congregation Mikve Israel of Philadelphia, wrote the following description of the synagogue after attending the dedication ceremonies on Shabbos Parshas Vayelech (September 26-27, 1845):

Last Orthodox Shul in Fall River, Massachusetts Becomes Church

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Congregation Adas Israel, the last of several orthodox synagogues that once served the Jews of Fall River, Massachusetts – will be handing the keys over to a new group of worshippers – congregants of The Word of Life Community Church.

For the first time since it opened its doors in 1959, Adas Israel did not hold Shabbat services at the house of prayer, having sold the building to evangelical Christians for $400,000 through a real estate agent who was also a congregant at the synagogue, according to a regional newspaper, the Herald News.

The pastor of the church, Donat Boucher, moved his followers to the new building after renting several locations since starting his own church out of his dining room in 2007.

Though the 248 seats used to be too few to hold the throngs attending Shabbat and holiday services, young Jews have moved away, until less than two dozen active members passed regularly through the mezuzah-studded doors.

Temple Beth-El, a conservative synagogue, will provide room for Adas Israel’s Orthodox congregants to perform their own prayer services, and will now be the only Jewish house of worship in Fall River.

According to the Herald News, most of the Jewish symbols and plaques have been removed from the chapel, except for some “distinctive Hebrew words affixed to a wall, near a large wooden cross recently installed behind the podium,” reading “Know before whom you stand.”

Ethnic Cleansing of Christians in the Sinai

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

In events being ignored not only by the Egyptian authorities, but also by the mainstream media and human rights organizations in the West, Muslim terrorists have in recent weeks attacked Christian families and forced them out of their homes and businesses in the Sinai town of Rafah. The terrorists have threatened to pursue their jihad against Christians until all of them leave the Sinai.

According to reports from the Sinai, all the Christians who used to live in Rafah have already fled their homes after being targeted by Muslim terrorists.

Christians said that before the Egyptian “revolution,” they enjoyed good relations with their Muslim neighbors and felt safer. But under Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, the Christians in the Sinai were being left alone to confront Muslim gangs by themselves.

Egyptian security forces finally began operating against the terrorists only after 16 border guards were killed several weeks ago, apparently by Muslim jihadis in Sinai. But these forces have not been able to protect the Christian families in Sinai, whose lives been turned into hell ever since the ‘Arab Spring’ arrived in Egypt.

The Egyptian newspaper Al-Yom Al-Sabe (The Seventh Day) revealed that the Christian families were forced to leave Rafah after Muslim terrorists torched the local church. It wrote that the terrorists sprayed graffiti on the walls of the destroyed church calling on Christians to leave Rafah immediately.

The attack on the church was the latest in a series of assaults against Christian-owned homes and businesses.

Ehab Lewis, one of the Christians who fled Rafah, said that not a single Christian has remained in the town. Lewis, a former school teacher, said: “I was in Rafah with my family and we left out of fear for our lives. They threatened to torch my house. They attacked my neighbor’s shop and destroyed everything inside. He too was forced to run away.”

Lewis said that all the Christians in Rafah had received death threats before fleeing. “We were afraid to send our children to school,” he recounted. He and other Christians accused the Egyptian authorities of turning a blind eye to their plight. Instead of confronting the Muslim terrorists, the Egyptian authorities advised the Christian families to move to the town of Al-Arish in Sinai.

“This is not a solution,” said Father Kuzman, a local leader of the Christian community. “Why are we being asked to leave our holy land? The solution is for the authorities to impose law and order and protect their citizens. The government should not leave the border open to armed groups.”

Father Michael George said that the ethnic cleansing of Christians Sinai was taking place as the Egyptian authorities did nothing.

Christian families living in Sinai say they miss the good old days before the “Arab Spring,” when they were able to lead lives that were relatively normal.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

The Atrocity of Ignorance and Fanaticism

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

First let me state the obvious. I am not a Christian. I do not believe in Christian theology. I am a Torah-observant Jew with a Torah-observant theology. So the idea of a Trinity is anathema to me and I certainly do not believe in the divinity of Jesus.

That said, I am absolutely appalled at what has happened to a church in Israel recently. The expression of hatred towards Christian beliefs and institutions rivals that of pre-Holocuast Germany of the mid 30s. Anti-Christian graffiti on the walls of a church and the recent public tearing up of the Christian bible by a Knesset member [MK Michal Ben-Ari -Ed.] are acts reminiscent of the anti-Semitic graffiti seen on the walls synagogues and Jewish owned businesses in Germany.

Unfortunately, I can all too well understand why this is happening. It is a culture of hatred of the goy (non-Jew) that permeates certain circles. And a history of anti-Semitism perpetrated against our parents, grandparents and great grandparents going back for centuries in Europe – pre-dating the Reformation.

The Church had always had it in for the Jews back then. Persecutions were often sourced in what the Church saw as heresy on our part for denying the divinity of Jesus. They either wanted to convert us or destroy us. That finally came to a head during the Holocaust where Christian Germany with centuries of hatred imbedded in their souls – ingrained in them by previous generations underpinned the Nazi determination to annihilate us. Even though the expressed hatred was entirely racial, not religious.

So it is not a surprise that certain Jews react reflexively to non-Jews by hating them. Nor is it surprising why that hatred produced this kind of activity. When hatred is ingrained in this historical way we cannot expect tolerance. I am reminded of a tape I once heard by a Chasidic Rav saying that even though we must have good relations with gentiles, we must hate them!

That is incorrect. There is no mitzvah to hate non-Jews. There is a mitzvah to treat all of humankind with the dignity they deserve as God’s creations, created in His image! There is instead a mitzvah to enlighten the nations with the morality, values, and ethics of the Torah. In fact according to one source I saw, the reason for our lengthy exile is precisely for that purpose – to get the rest of the world to believe in God and to appreciate the truth of the Torah.

Why doesn’t the segment that fosters the kind of hatred displayed in the above mentioned acts abide by any of this? In certain cases historical experiences combined with an insular lifestyle and lack of education prevents them from seeing reality.

In other cases, it is simple fanaticism as seems to be the case here. Some of the graffiti indicates that this was done by fanatic settlers of Ramat Migron and Maoz Esther as a ‘price tag’ operation for the police closing down two structures in Migron.

This is an outrage! No matter how justified these illegal settlers feel they are in building illegal settlements, and no matter how angry they are at the Israeli government for doing it, they have no right to retaliate. Certainly not against innocent Christians!

They probably think this is a Mitzvah. But they are wrong. This is a completely immoral act that is inexcusable!

The Christian world of today does not hate us. Many of them, such as the Evangelical community embrace us. And since Vatican Two, Catholics no longer believe in the doctrine that blames us for the crucifixion. We are now considered their ‘older brother’ religion. These new attitudes are clearly and constantly expressed in tangible ways. Relations have never been better. While there still may be pockets of Christian anti Semitism – they are relatively few in number and in any case non violent. (With the obvious exceptions of fringe groups like the neo-Nazis and the KKK.)

But the people who do this kind of thing either don’t know any of that, or don’t care. They will say that all this ‘love’ is false. Or that is it just a ruse to convert us. Most of them will not however be stupid enough to act on it – especially as an act of revenge against the government! But you only need a few who do. And that is what seems to have happened here.

Important Moments In Becoming A Ba’al Teshuvah (Conclusion)

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Feeling more alone than at any time since arriving in New York, I looked inside myself for anything that could anchor me to bring me back to who I was, to move away from illusions of romance to my central sticking point. Suddenly and unexpectedly, being a Jew meant more to me than anything else in the world.

I said to Susan, “Do you have these parties to try to draw people to your church?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, happy with what she was doing and with the fact that I understood her actions.

“What if a person is not interested in the Church?” I asked.

“Oh,” she said, as if she had called up a mental checklist. “I think you want to talk with our social worker.”

Now we’re getting somewhere, I thought. A medical professional trained to help people realize their place in the world would obviously understand that this church isn’t for everybody.

Upon being introduced to the social worker, I was pleased to see that she looked like a level-headed person, someone I hoped would want to help people – particularly vulnerable people – get back on track.

After a little small talk, I got right to the point. “What happens when someone Jewish comes to your church, comes to you, and they’re lost, confused and looking for answers? Being a professional and a social worker, do you steer them to some Jewish organization that can help them?”

Smiling, she said, “No. Our church is equipped to help them with what they’re going through.”

A chill went down my spine. I thought of all the lonely and lost Jewish people who have come to these parties, people like me, who have been positively affected by all their kindnesses, leading them perhaps to give up thousands of years of connection to who they are. And the saddest part is that they wouldn’t even know what they were giving up.

“Can’t we just think of this as one big orchestra?” I asked her. “Each group has their own instrument to play. The Jews have their own instrument to play.”

She just looked at me and smiled, frustrating me more.

“At least let them find out what their own faith says about their issues before they would consider something else,” I implored.

Again she smiled and said, “You should really meet our priest. He’s Jewish, you know.”

This was one of those moments when you either laugh or cry.

“Sure, I’d like to meet him,” I said.

She left, and a minute later she was walking through the crowd with a 30ish man who was receiving all kinds of positive greetings from those in attendance. When introduced to the priest, I was struck by his calm, sweet demeanor.

He said to me, “I understand you have questions. Ask me anything you like.”

I blurted out, “How did you become the priest here?”

He smiled. “Good question,” he said, with eyes twinkling.

“Growing up Jewish,” he began, “at a certain point – my early 20s – I had a crisis of faith. I began to question whether there was a God in the world. I was deeply hurt by this.

“I had to do something. So I came upon the following idea: I would use Catholicism as a vehicle and an experiment to see if there was a God in the world.”

Now he was smiling broadly. He added, with enthusiasm, “And I do see Him now!”

A very obvious question came to mind and I blurted it out. “Couldn’t you have used Judaism as a vehicle to see if there was a God in the world?”

His blissful countenance was no more. He looked confused, as if he was trying to answer the question but couldn’t find the words.

No longer confused myself, I left the party and thought about what had transpired during my subway ride home.

I couldn’t get out of my mind how many fellows Jews we could be losing.

That Shabbos, at my once-a-month Beginner’s Service, I happily absorbed all that had happened. I felt like I had been deprived of water in the desert and had now come to an oasis. Perhaps it was the little I had learned at this service that helped me withstand Susan’s beauty and her friends’ warmth.

Important Moments In Becoming A Ba’al Teshuvah (Part I)

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

You don’t become a ba’al teshuvah overnight. There were many events in my life that contributed to the deepening of my religious commitment, including a party I attended with young, beautiful church members who tried to make me one of them, and how I met their “Jewish priest.” (I’ll discuss both experiences during the course of this continuing column.)

Two key factors helped me in my religious progression: I come from a family that practiced chesed on many levels and, since childhood, I’ve had an intellectual curiosity that seeks the truth.

As a playwright and humorist when I moved from Philadelphia to New York to further pursue my creative dreams, little did I know, thank G-d, what I was getting myself into. A little over two years after arriving in the Big Apple, I was religiously observant. And my parents, who had given me such a strong foundation in the trait of kindness – so important to religious Jewish observance – showed me yet more kindness by accepting my new lifestyle.

At Lincoln Square Synagogue, where my religious growth had been accelerated by my attendance in the beginner’s service led by Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, I was often asked what had led me to become shomer Shabbos. I’d answer that I was writing plays whereby the main character was trying out so many different lifestyles, but by the end of the play, he was returning to synagogue. I decided to follow his lead.

Looking back, there was one evening that ultimately played a major role in my religious growth. It’s time to go back to the day of the church party. Earlier that day, I was alone writing at an eatery. Relatively new to New York, being alone was a recurring theme in my daily life. At least while I was writing I didn’t experience the loneliness and lack of connectedness to others that I felt strongly at other times.

My focus on writing was suddenly interrupted by the sound of nearby sweet, feminine laughter. I looked up to see two beautiful women at the next table. Having walked down the aisle at my chuppah around eight years prior and seeing my marriage within my faith break up in divorce, I was not overly particular as to the religion of a woman I’d meet – particularly if she was stunningly attractive. And the two women next to me were beauty pageant material.

You can’t go out with two ladies at a time, so I paid attention to the one closer to me. I was surprised by how eagerly she responded to my repartee, considering the fact that we were perfect strangers. Usually, even with the best of my witticisms, there would be a longer period of time breaking the ice – perhaps with a few smiles at first and a begrudging response to one of my observations. While being careful with a new guy who’s trying to chat her up is the common modus operandi of women I’ve encountered, this lady (I’ll call her Susan) was laughing and verbally responding right from the get-go.

I passed it off to my irresistible charm and sense of humor, but as I would later learn there was something else going on. During the enjoyable conversation, she mentioned something about being involved with a church in the neighborhood. But I was so taken by her looks and personality (and by her singular wonderful trait of laughing at all of my jokes) that her religious affiliation barely registered.

Then she said something that made me feel good all over. She invited me to a party that she and the other woman were attending that night.

“Yes” was my reply, a millisecond after Susan was done talking.

“Oh good,” she said, obviously very happy that she would see my face there.

“It’s a lot of fun. We play board games. We talk. Everybody gets along.”

It sounded good to me, as I could not remember the last party I had been to. Then I quickly went over in my mind whether I had another commitment that night. No, I was scot-free. And aside from some proofreading work in the early parts of the next three days, I was free to spend time with Susan during the rest of those days. The same applied to all day on Friday and on Saturday after 11:30 a.m. (I spent one Saturday morning a month attending a beginner’s service at a synagogue in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.)

Report: Western Governments Fund Anti-Israel Church Activism

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

A report published on Monday by NGO Monitor reveals that several European governments, as well as the United States and Canada, have been providing funds for church-based efforts to delegitimize Israel, starting at the 2001 UN Durban Conference, and continuing with boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) over the past decade.

These tax-payer funds are disbursed as grants to church-based humanitarian NGOs, which then transfer these funds to highly politicized pro-Palestinian NGOs.

The report mentions Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, located in Jerusalem, founded in 1989 and led by Anglican Canon Naim Ateek. Sabeel seeks to build a critical mass of influential church leaders who will amplify its message that Israel is solely culpable for the origin and continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Through its international “Friends of Sabeel” network Sabeel hosts numerous church-based conferences in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia each year where it promotes its agenda to large audiences of Christians.

Sabeel works with pro-Palestinian activists within different denominations, such as the U.S. Presbyterian Church’s Israel-Palestine Mission Network, the Episcopal Church’s Palestine Israel Network, the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries, and World Council of Churches.

The report accuses Sabeel of using anti-Semitic deicide imagery against Israel, and of disparaging Judaism as “tribal,” “primitive,” and “exclusionary,” in contrast to Christianity’s “universalism” and “inclusiveness.”

The report says the Dutch government grants hundreds of millions of euros annually to Dutch church-based aid organizations such as Kerk in Aktie (KIA), the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), and Cordaid. These groups disburse these funds to NGOs around the world, including Sabeel.

The report points out that Sabeel lists Kerk in Aktie among its donors. KIA claims to support Sabeel in order to promote the voice of Palestinian Christians within the church.

The Swedish government’s International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) has been providing substantial aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza since 2000. Much of this aid is funneled through Diakonia, Sweden’s largest humanitarian NGO.

Sabeel’s website states, “Diakonia is closely associated with Sabeel” and credits this relationship for changing the direction of Swedish foreign policy toward Israel.

The Canadian government’s Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) provided $44.6 million to the Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (Development et paix) for the five year period 2006 to 2011, some of which has been donated to Sabeel. For the period 2011-2016, CIDA granted Development and Peace $14.5 million.

In its 2011 annual report, Sabeel listed Development et paix as a donor without specifying the amount.

According to its 2010-2011 Annual Report, Development and Peace granted $180,000 to the “Palestinian Territories” without specifying the recipients.

The National Endowment for Democracy, mostly funded by the U.S. Congress, granted the Holy Land Trust (HLT) $124,300 (2009, 2010, 2012).

The Holy Land Trust (HLT) is a signatory to the 2005 “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS” and supports the Kairos Palestine document. Similar to Sabeel, HLT conducts highly politicized tours to the region targeting church leaders and the international community, claiming to provide “cross cultural and experimental learning opportunities in both Palestine and Israel.”  HLT’s influence is felt in churches across the globe.

For the complete report go to: BDS IN THE PEWS: European, U.S. and Canadian Government Funding Behind Anti-Israel Activism in Mainline Churches.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/report-european-canadian-and-u-s-governments-fund-anti-israel-church-activism/2012/07/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: