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November 30, 2015 / 18 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘church’

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.

Fearing Anti-Mormon Prejudice, Romney Plays Down His Religion

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney’s Lacrosse moment awaits him.

The Democratic convention in Los Angeles was where Joe Lieberman made history as the first Jewish candidate on a major ticket on Aug. 17, 2000. But two days later, history came to life in Lacrosse, Wis., the little college town where Lieberman walked – and pointedly did not drive – to the local synagogue on his first post-nomination Shabbat.

Townspeople came out of their homes to shake the vice presidential candidate’s hand, congratulate him and express their admiration for his adherence to the traditional tenets of Sabbath observance. The Middle American scene affirmed for Lieberman the country’s openness to different faiths.

By contrast Romney, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, seems to prefer silence in handling his Mormonism in public. It’s a stark contrast to both Lieberman and Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic who in 1960 famously said he would not take political guidance from the Vatican.

“It’s clear his campaign made a decision that it is not interested in talking about his Mormonism, not its doctrines or theology, his experiences as a church leader, how it shaped his family,” said Patrick Mason, the chair of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif. “He’s always said ‘I’m not running to be pastor in chief.’ ”

In fact, Romney on the trail has even cut off questioners when they ask about his religious beliefs.

There was nary a hint of Mormonism during his one term governing Massachusetts, from 2003 to 2007, said Nancy Kaufman, then the director of the Boston-area Jewish Community Relations Council and now the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women.

“It was never an issue – it never even came up during the campaign,” Kaufman recalled of her many meetings with Romney and his staff on issues such as faith-based initiatives, health care, Israel and Iran divestment. “The only thing I ever heard about it was when we went to receptions and there was no wine.” Mormons abjure alcohol.

That lack of conversation about Romney’s religion is clearly no longer the case. In an e-mail complaint last year to the Washington Post about a story that detailed Romney’s leadership in the Boston-area Mormon community, his Jewish spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, substituted “Jew” and “Jewish” for Mormon in an attempt to underscore what she depicted as the complaint’s intrusiveness and offense. The New York Times has reported that the Romney campaign challenges reporters, “Would you have written this about a Jewish candidate?”

Some experts on Mormonism say the answer should be yes and add that Romney should welcome the scrutiny, especially because of his deep involvement in his church, as a young missionary in France and then as a bishop in Boston.

“His experience as a church leader provides some humanizing narrative of working with people who are unemployed, poor, immigrants,” Mason said. “People in America respect faith.”

Romney should be prepared to accept even greater scrutiny because Mormonism is less well known and much younger than Judaism, said Ryan Cragun, an expert in the sociology of religion at the University of Tampa and a former Mormon.

“Judaism has been around for thousands of years, many people have been familiar with it,” he said. “The same cannot be said of Mormonism. It’s a young religion, it has a number of quirks and oddities, and people want to know more of that.”

Mason agreed, but added that Romney should avoid the particulars of Mormon theology while focusing on broad principles of shared faith with other religious communities. Romney seemed to be doing that last month when he delivered the commencement speech at Liberty University, the evangelical school in Lynchburg, Va., founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Making common Christian cause against secular encroachment served Romney well, Mason said.

“It showed this common language of faith,” he said. “When he leaves [specific] theology out of it, he does well with the evangelicals.”

The approach could be critical for Romney with the GOP’s evangelical base, whose distaste for Mormonism may have been evidenced in Romney’s difficulties in winning primary states in the South this year.

The Anti-Defamation League in tracking anti-Mormon prejudice has found negative attitudes among about a quarter of the population, according to its national director, Abraham Foxman.

Methodist Conference Could Vote on Israel Divestment Motion

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Close to 1,000 delegates from around the world, representing 11-million members, are gathered at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference being held in the Tampa, Florida.

Throughout the 11-day session, delegates will debate the future of the Methodist church, which has experienced a significant participation decline in the United States. Over the last 40 years, US membership has dropped to 8 million, according to church officials.

Four years ago, the conference rejected a divestment motion. But the issue is being pushed again by anti-Israel members, objecting to “illegal settlements, segregated roads, checkpoints, a separation wall, home demolitions and other realities of occupation.”

Methodist Church Unanimously Rejects Divestment Resolution

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

The United Methodist General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBPHB) voted unanimously against divestment from three companies which do business in Judea, Samaria, and the Golan Heights, according to a report by the Israel Action Network, a project of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard came under attack by several bodies within the United Methodist Church, which recommended the religious organization sell all their shares in the companies.

GBPHB commended the companies for their human rights policies and codes of conduct.  The Caterpillar Company was acknowledged for providing equipment which “improves the lives of the Palestinian people,” according to the Israel Action Network report.  It was also noted that Caterpillar does not sell construction equipment to Israel, but rather to the US Foreign Military Sales Program.  Hewlett-Packard was complimented on its record of environmental friendliness, and Motorola Solutions was praised for its work in conflict areas such as Eastern Congo.

The Methodist vote took an opposite approach from that of the Presbyterian Church, which voted in 2004 to divest from Israeli companies.  In June of that year, the Presbyterian Church General Assembly issued one resolution stating that “the occupation… has proven to be at the root of evil acts”, and another calling on the US government to prevent Israel from building a separation barrier.  The assembly also adopted policies rejecting Christian Zionism.  In 2006, the Presbyterian Church backtracked, stating that it would only invest in companies involved in peaceful work in Israel and Arab occupied territories.

The World Council of Churches and United Church of Christ have also adopted divestment policies.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America rejected a pro-divestment resolution in 2005.

ADL Praises Mormon Church Prohibition of Holocaust Victims’ Posthumous Baptism

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

The Anti-Defamation League on Friday welcomed a letter from Mormon Church leaders, to be read during services this Sunday, in which they remind LDS members that Jewish Holocaust victims should not be submitted to the church’s online genealogical registry for proxy baptisms.

“Without exception,” reads the letter from LDS President Thomas S. Monson and other church leaders, “church members must not submit for proxy temple ordinances any names from unauthorized groups, such as celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims.  If members do so, they may forfeit their new family-search privileges.  Other corrective action may also be taken.”

The church directive comes in the wake of attempts by some members to submit the names of famous Jews – including diarist Anne Frank, slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, the parents of the late Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, and relatives of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel – for proxy baptism in violation of Mormon Church policy.

ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman, himself a Holocaust survivor, lauded LDS for their move and added: “As two minority religions who share histories as the target of intolerance and discrimination, we will continue to work with each other to bring greater understanding and respect to both of our faith communities.”

As Woody Allen once put it, ” The lion and the lamb shall lie down together but the lamb won’t get much sleep.”

Mormons Posthumously Baptized Anne Frank: New Claim

Friday, February 24th, 2012

The Toronto Star reported that researcher Helen Radkey, a former Mormon who revealed the Wiesenthal baptisms, said this week she found Anne Frank’s name in proxy baptism records dated Feb. 18, showing the ritual was performed in the Dominican Republic.

The new allegation came just a week after the LDS apologized for posthumously baptizing the parents of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal in temples in Arizona and Utah last January.

The Mormon church immediately issued a statement which did not mention Frank by name.

“The church keeps its word and is absolutely firm in its commitment to not accept the names of Holocaust victims for proxy baptism,” the Salt Lake City-based church said. “It is distressing when an individual willfully violates the church’s policy and something that should be understood to be an offering based on love and respect becomes a source of contention.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/mormon-posthumously-baptized-anne-frank-new-claim/2012/02/24/

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