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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘cultural’

Obama’s Cultural Rape

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Rape is an ugly word, an even uglier deed. I don’t use the word lightly or easily. Rape is a crime of violence, not passion; of destruction. The intent is to take the soul, destroy the body. It is an injustice beyond measure, a violation of humanity. No, I’ve never been raped but I know women who have been.

When someone uses the word “holocaust” – even without the capital letter, it bothers me because too often it is thrown around easily and rather than elevate the crime, it diminishes, just a bit, the Holocaust. I think rape is the same way – people use the word so freely, it takes away from when a real rape is inflicted on a person.

And yet…and yet, I’m going to use it here because it is the only word I can think of that applies, and the man ultimately responsible for this rape, this cultural rape – is Barack Hussein Obama – and yes, I’m using his middle name because he felt fine using it in Cairo and other places. And perhaps, just a little, that middle name plays a role in what he is about to do.

The full story, credit for it, comes from and goes to Caroline Glick in her article in the Jerusalem Post, “Our World: A miracle and an Outrage.” The gist of it is – by some miracle, 2,500 years of heritage, of holy books and more survived the devastation and the almost entire complete exile of the Iraqi Jewish community. Saddam Hussein (yeah, there’s that name again), stole over 2,700 Jewish books and writings from the Jewish community. He stored them in some basement to rot and by some miracle, invading US troops found the waterlogged remains.

Amazingly enough, the troops and leaders realized the magnitude of what they had found and the collection was taken to the States, refurbished, renewed, reclaimed at a cost of $3 million dollars. I don’t know how, but I’m willing to raise the money to pay the Americans back for this kindness.

But…here comes the outrage about which Caroline Glick wrote. The American government proudly put their accomplishment on display. Good for them. The exhibition at the National Archives runs through January – that is the scheduled date of the cultural rape about to take place. On or around that time, Obama and the State Department feel it is their responsibility to return the archive to its rightful owners. And I commend them for this decision as much as I condemn them for being too stupid to know who those rightful owners are. No, Mr. President

I believe that the Israeli Ambassador to the United States should request an immediate meeting with the United States President. I believe our Prime Minister must, in no uncertain terms, make it clear that the owners of the archives are the Iraqi Jews – who live primarily in Israel and that to send the archives, these holy books, “back” to Iraq is tantamount to destroying them. Obama might as well blow them up in Washington for all that sending them back to Baghdad will accomplish.

It is hard to believe that caring human beings would not do all in their power to stop a rape they know is about to take place – well, here’s our chance. We know where, we know when – now it is up to each of us to stop it.

Obama – what do you want to stop this travesty? Do you want 3 million dollars? We will raise it. You want a request from the Iraqi Jewish community – I’ll see to it. You want the Israeli government to request it – Bibi, please, do this before it is too late.

Just was what was stolen by the Nazis has long been recognized as belonging to the victims of the Holocaust, the archives belong to the Jews from whom Saddam Hussein stole them. They are not, and never were, the legacy of Iraq – rather, they are the legacy of a small community that was all but hounded into exile, only to re-establish themselves in Israel.

The archives should be donated to the community here in Israel, to a museum they established as a true legacy to what was once a thriving Jewish community. These holy books never belonged to the Iraqi government, Saddam Hussein, or the greater Iraqi people. To deny the rightful owners, to turn these books over to the Iraqis is an abomination, a cultural rape of 2,500 years.

Please help – write to Washington and demand that the archive be given to their rightful owners, the Iraqi JEWISH community, largely represented in Israel and no where else.

Please write to your Congress representatives and ask them to add their voices against this injustice.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

Chinese-Israeli Cultural Relations Blossoming

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

According to China’s Ambassador to Israel, Gao Yanping, “Culture goes beyond borders. Cultural exchanges constitute an important and dynamic part of China-Israel relations. Now the momentum is set. I am convinced that with our joint efforts the China-Israel cultural cooperation is bound to blossom.” To this end, the efforts of Israeli Barry Swersky are helping Chinese-Israeli cultural ties bud into fruition. In partnership with the Chinese Embassy and the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in China, Swersky is arranging an exhibition in Israel exploring the future of Chinese art through the eyes of young artists. Swersky is also fostering a collaborative relationship between CAFA and Israel’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design.

Swersky explains, “I have felt that Israeli cultural organizations, whether artists or orchestras, are seeking more ways to go to China. They went to China and started to look for contacts. They have been successful.” He added, “As the cultural organizations become more interested in China, they have found their way into China. People are discovering each other, so there is a greater flow. There are museums in China presenting Israeli artists.”

Since 2008 Swersky has been promoting Chinese-Israeli cultural exchange. Among Swersky’s many projects is a TAO Beijing Dance Company performance with noted Israeli oud player Yair Dalal, joint master classes for gifted young Chinese and Israeli pianists, and construction of sculptures in Haifa and Haifa’s twin city, Shanghai, in a project proposed by Israeli artist Peter Jacob Maltz.

Swersky is not the only Israeli to be active in Israeli-Chinese cultural relations, as Israeli singer David D’Or has developed a solid audience in China and Israel Sinfonietta Be’ersheva has performed there twice. According to Swersky, “Already in May 1993, Israel and China signed a cultural agreement. In 2011, the governments agreed on a program for the years 2011 to 2015, a program which in general terms covers subjects such as culture and art, cultural events, museums and exhibitions, cinema and television, publication and literature.”

“Governments place great emphasis on ‘soft power,’” Swersky explained. “The identification with some elements of culture always helps Israel have a strong image in dance and music. It’s part of a country’s image.”

Eitan Press contributed to this report.

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A Holiday of Resistance

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

The first night of Chanukah marks the beginning of a holiday that for many of its celebrants has no identity, that celebrates ‘celebration’, with no thought to what it is celebrating. For many Americans, Chanukah appears to overlap with Christmas, but there is no similarity between the two other than the season. The more appropriate analogy is to the 4th of July overlaid with Thanksgiving, a celebration of divine aid in a military campaign against tyrannical oppression.

The overt militarism of the Chanukah story has made it an uncomfortable fit for many Jews who have found it easier to strip away its dangerous underlying message that a time comes when you must choose between the destruction of your culture and a war you can’t win. In those dark days a war must be fought if the soul of the nation is to survive.

There are worse things than death and slavery, the fates waiting for the Maccabees and their allies had they failed, the fates that came anyway when the last of the Maccabees were betrayed and murdered by Caesar’s Edomite minister, whose sons went on to rule over Israel as the dynasty of Herod.

Nations can survive the mass murder of their bodies, but not the death of their spirit. A nation does not die, until its soul dies, and the soul of a nation is in its culture and its faith, not in the bodies of its citizens.

Tonight that first candle, that first glimmer of flame over oil, marks the night that the Maccabee forces entered Jerusalem, driving out the enemy armies and their Jewish collaborators, and reclaiming their people’s culture and religion.

The light of the flame was a powerful message sent across time, that even in the darkest hour, hope was not lost. And Divine Providence would not abandon the people. Time passed the Maccabees fell, Jerusalem was occupied and ethnically cleansed over and over again, and still the menorah burned on. A covert message that still all hope was not lost. That Israel would rise again.

Israel had used signal fires and torches held up on mountain tops to pass along important news. The lighting of the menorah was a miniature signal fire, a perpetuation of the temple light, its eight-day light a reminder that even the smallest light can burn beyond expectation and light beyond belief and that those who trust in G-d and fight for the freedom to believe in Him, should never abandon hope.

That divine signal fire first lit in the deserts by freed slaves has been passed on for thousands of years. Today the menorah is on the seal of the State of Israel, the product of a modern day Chanukah. The mark of a Jerusalem liberated in a miracle of six days, not eight. Six as in the number of the original temple Menorah. And the one on the seal as well.

For those liberals who believe that Jewish identity should be limited to donating to help Haiti, agitating for illegal aliens and promoting the environment; Chanukah is a threatening holiday. They have secularized it, dressed it up with teddy bears and toys, trimmed it with the ecology and civil rights of their new faith. Occasionally a Jewish liberal learns the history of it and writes an outraged essay about nationalism and militarism, but mostly they are content to bury it in the same dark cellar that they store the rest of the history of their people and the culture that they left behind.

Holidays aren’t mere parties, they are messages. Knots of time that we tie around the fingers of our lives so that we remember what our ancestors meant us to never forget. That they lived and died for a reason. The party is a celebration, but if we forget what it celebrates, then it becomes a celebration of celebration. A hollow and soulless festival of the self. The Maccabees fought because they believed they had something worth fighting for. Not for their possessions, but for their traditions, their families and their G-d. The celebration of Chanukah is not just how we remember them, but how we remember that we are called upon to keep their watch. To take up their banner and carry their sword.

Hamshushalayim 2012 Theme: ‘Humor’

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Hamshushalayim is the central cultural festival of the winter season in Israel that attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year and offers a unique combination of hundreds of quality cultural events coupled with tourist and culinary attractions, all concentrated into four fun packed weekends during December. Thanks to a sweeping collaboration of Jerusalem’s cultural institutions, tourist centers and culinary venues, the festival-goers of Hamshushalayim are invited to spend the weekends enjoying the city till the late hours of the night.

The central theme of Hamshushalayim 2012 is ‘Humor’ – for your enjoyment in the capital, the festival will feature shows of Israeli, Jewish, Yerushalmi, bible and international humor, stand-up comedians, satire, story telling and jokesters, comedies, cabaret, humorist literature and poetry, humor in art, pantomime comics, laugh yoga, and funny theatrical tours for all the family.

Israel’s finest artist, producers and comedians will descent on Jerusalem to entertain and make you laugh: Gavri and Uri Banai on Humor in the Jerusalem theatre, Dan Almagor exploring the origins of Yerushalmi humor in a series of seminars at the YMCA. Yossi Alfy with Yerushalmi laughter stories. Caricaturist Michel Kichka in the Tower of David. A mad stand-up marathon at The Incubator Theatre. Classic comedy performances at the Khan Theatre. Movie laughter mayhem at the Cinematheque, humor in literature and poetry at Agnon House. Special shows for children at the Train Theatre, and much more.

Visit their website.

Tel Aviv Opening Cultural Center to Southern Residents

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

6:08 PM Tel Aviv mayor, Ron Huldai announces that Tel Aviv is opening its cultural centers to residents of the South, free of charge, including the Camari Theatre, HaBima, Beit Lessin, and many others.

After Rishon L’Tzion, looks like they might need to open their bomb shelters too, in the near future.

It’s Halloween, Let’s All Idol-Worship Tonight!

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Tonight, Jewish youth all over the world – except in Israel– will celebrate the pagan holiday of Halloween.

Halloween is also called All Hallows’ Eve, because, for the gentiles, it is a hallowed evening, the eve of All Saints’ Day, a day which honors all Christian saints.

The Encyclopedia Britannica explains that in ancient Britain and Ireland, the Festival of Halloween was also celebration of the end of the fertile period of the Celtic goddess, Eiseria. It is said that when Eiseria reaches the end of her fertile cycle, the worlds of the dead and the living intertwine. This supposedly happens on October 31. Masks are worn to show respect for the Goddess Eiseria, who, like most Celtic gods, does not wish to be seen by human eyes. This is one of the reason behind Halloween costumes and for the holiday’s omens, spirits, demons, and witches.

This date was also New Year’s Eve in both Celtic and Anglo-Saxon times, and was the occasion for one of the ancient fire festivals when huge bonfires were set on hilltops to frighten away evil spirits. The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day, and the festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, black cats, fairies, and demons said to be roaming about.

It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favorable time for divination concerning marriage, luck, health, and death. It was the only day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes. These pagan observances also influenced the Christian festival of All Hallows’ Eve, celebrated on the same date.

Jewish Law states:

A Jew should not follow the customs of the gentiles, nor imitate them in dress, or in their way of trimming their hair, as it says, ‘You shall not walk in the customs of the nation which I cast out before you’ (Lev. 20:23), and ‘Neither shall you walk in their statutes’ (Lev. 18:3). These verses all refer to one and the same matter of not imitating them. A Jew, on the contrary, should be distinguished from them and recognizable by the way he dresses, and in his other activities, just as he is distinguished from them in his knowledge and his beliefs, as it is said, ‘I have set you apart from the peoples’ (Lev. 20:26). (See, Rambam, Laws Regarding Idol Worship and the Ordinances of the Gentiles, 11:1).

When it comes to the question whether Jews can take part in gentile holidays, the halachic discussion differs between clearly religious holidays like Xmas, which are forbidden, and purely secular holidays like Labor Day, which are permissible. Halloween’s religious origins and pagan history place it in the category of gentile holidays that are forbidden to celebrate.

Though Halloween in America has been secularized and commercialized to the point where it is now a frivolous time of costumes, candy, and pranks, it is still celebrated in places like Scotland and Ireland as a Celtic festival of the spirits, and in other places as a holiday honoring the Christian saints. Therefore, there is good reason for telling the kids that “Trick or Treating” is a no-no for Jewish children.

The law prohibiting our participation in gentile holidays and customs comes to protect our special Jewish holiness and cultural distinction. If you allow your kids to participate in the pagan rites of a gentile culture, they are likely to grow up with pumpkin heads instead of Jewish heads.

On the other hand, if you try to safeguard our distinction as Jews and not let your children go “Trick or Treating” with all the other kids in the neighborhood, there’s a good chance that they will grow up hating both you and Judaism for turning them into freaks in the eyes of their friends. Either way, as a Jewish parent, you lose.

What’s the solution? Move to Israel. The only place you will see a pumpkin here is in the supermarket (a small yellow one that looks more like a squash). If you truly love your children and don’t want them growing up with pumpkin heads, then the only solution is to bring them to Israel where they will grow up with Jewish holidays like we’re supposed to.

Rosenblatt v. Silverman: A Culture War

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The numerous comments we’ve received on Rabbi Rosenblatt’s Open Letter to Sarah Silverman are fascinating. Once you get past the expletives, you can learn a lot about the culture that produced them. The statements and the tone of the comments demonstrate the differences, even the massive gap between Jewish culture and Jewish-American culture.

Rosenblatt addressed a public figure who has no problems exposing her inner self and saying whatever is on her mind on any subject, no matter how offensive or inappropriate it might be to anyone. Rosenblatt questioned what her underlying motives might be and offered what he believes is the answer. He couched his message, as Silverman sometimes does hers, using his notion of Judaic values and cultural identity.

And that’s when it hit the fan.

Certainly it’s permissible, possible, even easy to disagree with Rosenblatt’s explanation and worldview. I certainly expected to see some intelligent conversations developing around the article. But why all the openly hostile obscenity?

Silverman’s father’s foul mouthed reaction was the first indication that Rosenblatt had inadvertently hit a very raw nerve.

By and large, the commenters were using an obvious double standard. They claimed the Rabbi crossed the line. The Rabbi was offensive. The Rabbi was [fill in the obscene word], and followed it up with their thoughts on Judaism (in some cases displaying ignorance and hatred).

Yet, Silverman, who prides herself on her “potty mouth” and crossing the verbal line on many social mores is untouchable and can do no wrong.

When Sarah Silverman, on video, propositions Sheldon Adelson, using her doggie in mock soft-porn as substitute for the elderly billionaire — that’s humor and acceptable.

When Rabbi Rosenblatt tells Sarah Silverman to get married and have children — that’s an expression of hatred and intolerance.

The question is, why?

I propose that many of the Jewish-American commenters got so upset because the Rabbi crossed a line. But the line he crossed was not about his views on motherhood, but rather his views on the role of the Rabbi and of Judaism.

Judaism, to some of those commenters, belongs locked in a box in a synagogue, and should never be allowed out to offer any moral observations, opinions or guidelines that disagree with the most permissive of Western cultural values.

As expressed by some of these commenters, Silverman actually represents “Judaism” to them.

Some of them might have a list of humanitarian/liberal values and call them Jewish values, while taking traditional Jewish values like Shabbat and Kashrut (as well as Judaism’s own social values), and relegating them to archaic, comical, even dark places in the culture.

For them, Judaism is Liberalism. A definition and identity where anything is permitted, alongside a strong pride in their cultural/ethnic identity as Jews, regardless of whether that identity actually represent a Jewish value system, or an accident of birth.

The question is certainly open as to whether the Rabbi was right or wrong in his analysis of Silverman, but one thing is clear, Rosenblatt rattled something deep and painful in the psyches of those who define themselves as cultural/ethnic Jews, without any actual Judaism to go with it.

Finally, we don’t moderate comments on our website, because we believe in the free exchange of ideas. But as our guests, we request that you refrain from obscenities and Antisemitism in your remarks.

One Judaism, Two Perspectives on Dressing Modesty

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

When it comes to modesty in dress there is a wide variety in the way various segments of Orthodox Jewry put it into practice. But the basics are the same for all. Without getting into the details of the basic Halacha, I will just say that modesty for women requires that she cover those parts of the body that are considered “her nakedness” (Erva). Those are the biblical parameters which apply in all places – at all times in public. The rabbinic parameters (Tznius) go beyond the biblical requirement and are relative to the culture where one resides.

So that in places like Iran, a Jewish woman may be required to follow the modesty customs of that culture which go far beyond what is biblically required. In places like America, the biblical and rabbinic parameters are the same. Modesty in western cultural terms do not meet even the biblical Erva standard.

Some of the more right wing segments of Orthodoxy insist on taking matters of Tznius to much greater lengths than Halacha requires – even those that live in westernized cultures like America and Israel. For example, even though an exposed lower leg below the knee is not considered Erva, Chasidic – and many other Charedi communities require that it be covered anyway. And consider it highly immodest if a woman’s leg below the knee is fully exposed.

Which brings me to two articles in the Forward. One by Judy Brown, a woman who is Charedi. The other by Simi Lampert who is Modern Orthodox. It is interesting to see the similarity of attitude expressed by both.

One might think that a Modern Orthodox woman would be put off by the attitude expressed by the Charedi woman. But in both cases they seem to be saying the same thing. Which is that they understand the purpose behind those modesty rules. And both expressed the desire to follow them.

Both women have the desire to look attractive by western cultural standards and have tried on immodest clothing in private just to see how they would look. Both thought they looked great, and both would never consider wearing such clothing in public. They both feel a level of comfort in following the modesty rules.

The difference between them is cultural and not Halachic. In the Charedi culture, the idea of not wearing stockings is considered a Tznius violation. So much so that when an error in perception was made about the Mrs. Brown not wearing stockings even though her legs were covered below the knee, all hell broke loose. Here is how she tells the story:

[T]he young man passing by the yard declared that he had seen me with bare legs. Like a careless whore…

It was Tuesday, mid-August, a (very hot) day… I filled up the baby pool for my children in the yard settled on a plastic chair with cherry ices and dunked my legs in the pool, right where the water spurted from the hose.

It was then that the Hasid passed. It was then that he saw me — beige pantyhose transparent, legs seemingly bare — and, looking quickly away, hurried to tell the rav. I had not seen him at all. I did not know of the bewildered chaos going on in his mind until later that night, when my husband came home and stared at me quizzically.

The rav had called, he said. Could it be true? That I had sat outside with no pantyhose at all?

Of course she was wearing stockings and it was just a misperception on the part of a passerby. The point here is how seriously this Chumra is taken in the world of Chasidim. As ‘modern’ as Mrs. Brown became in other areas, this area is sancrosanct to her.

This would never happen in Modern Orthodoxy. Of course modern Orthodox Jews do not have the infra structure or the desire to dictate how its members dress. As Mrs. Lambert points out:

If my rabbi approached my husband about what I was wearing in my own yard, I’d almost definitely move. The very next day.

While both communities follow the same Halachos of modesty there is no mechanism, or really any pressure in Modern Orthodoxy that would force a violator to adhere to Halacha. One will find that modesty laws are occasionally breached by those I would call MO-Lite. The kind of guilt described by Mrs. Brown does not exist in MO circles, at least not on the level she seemed to have about it.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/one-judaism-two-perspectives-on-dressing-modesty/2012/08/30/

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