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Dutch Community Rediscovers Forgotten Mikvahs

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — A Dutch Jewish organization rediscovered two ancient ritual baths that had been forgotten after the Holocaust.

In reporting about the find Friday, the Crescas Jewish education institute wrote on its website that large parts of the 19th-century ritual baths, or mikvahs, were unearthed last week at a Jewish community building in the northern city of Groningen.

“The mikvahs are an exciting find,” Crescas wrote. “They are remarkably well-preserved. The marble of one of the baths was partially damaged during renovations.”

The mikvahs, which are seven-feet deep, have seven marble stairs, according to Crescas.

The Jewish community of Groningen, which was nearly wiped out during the Holocaust, sold the building in 1952 to the municipality, which renovated the building and rededicated it as a seat of the Jewish community in 1981. The mikvahs were covered up and exposed only recently, after members of the local Jewish community chanced upon blueprints of the building, the RTV Noord television station reported.

“The find is so important because Jewish life stopped here in 1943: the Jews were gone. A few buildings that were essential to the Jewish community remained: the synagogue, the old people’s home, the Jewish school, but the mikvah, which is also essential, was gone. No one knew where it was,” Marcel Wichgers, director of Groningen’s Folkingestraat Synagogue Association, or SFS, told RTV.

SFS was unaware until recently that the two mikvahs lay under the floor of a room it used for storage, Crescas wrote.

The Reformatorisch Dagblad daily described the find as one of the most important archeological discoveries made in Groningen in recent years. The structure is now opened to spectators twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays.

In 1930, the Jewish population in Groningen was 2,408, according to the Amsterdam’s Jewish Historical Museum. In 1951, there were 225 Jews, and currently only a few dozen Jews live in the northern city.

Visiting Dutch Dignitaries Squabble over Israel’s Role in Gaza, PA

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Sunday visit started out fine, with a visit to Yad Vashem (with yarmulke), but then was spoiled by a major disagreement between the Dutch and Israeli premiers over a new security scanner that was to be installed with great fanfare on the Gaza border.

Rutte expected to inaugurate the scanner at the Kerem Shalom crossing, on the border with the Gaza Strip, but that’s probably not going to happen.

“Installation of the Dutch scanner, which would have been used to verify the contents of containers from Gaza destined for export, was postponed after the Netherlands made unexpected demands,” an Israeli official told AFP.

“Technically, there is no problem about the scanner at the Kerem Shalom crossing, through which goods originating in Gaza pass,” the official said, explaining: “The Dutch suddenly imposed political conditions, notably on the percentage of merchandise destined for the West Bank or abroad. These are political issues that need to be resolved at the highest level, which will delay the start-up of the scanner.”

In a lengthy, face to face conversation, Prime Minister Netanyahu told his Dutch counterpart that, as much as he would like there to be normal relations between the PA and Gaza, with goods traveling in both directions, the Arabs “sometimes use this to negative ends.”

Netanyahu gave the example of how the Hamas used too tons of cement which Israel permitted through its border with Gaza, to dig a terror tunnel into Israel, for the purpose of kidnapping Israeli civilians, to be used later in exchange with terrorist killers held in Israeli jails.

Netanyahu conceded that security considerations should not come at the expense of the civilian population in Gaza, but on occasion there’s no avoiding it.

According to Ha’aretz, the past two weeks have been marked by hectic disputes between the Netherlands and Israel over the use of the scanner the Dutch donated for use in the Gaza border crossing. Israeli security officials told the Dutch they wanted a separation between Gaza and the PA, and so the scanner must be used chiefly for goods being exported abroad, and not going to the PA.

The Dutch were making the case that the scanner was fool proof and should offer the guarantee Israel needed to accept shipments from Gaza to the PA. But the Israeli defense ministry stuck to its guns.

Prime Minister Rutte met with Israeli-Palestinian peace organizations Monday morning, and expressed his disappointment of the Israeli stubbornness.

“I don’t understand this decision,” he said. “The scanner was donated by Holland and positioned at Kerem Shalom precisely because of the Israeli security concerns.”

There was also a diplomatic spat Sunday concerning Judea and Samaria, where Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, who is traveling with Rutte, cancelled a planned event rather than accept an Israeli military escort, a Dutch foreign ministry official said.

Timmermans had planned to visit Palestinians in Hebron.

“It was the minister himself who decided to cancel that part of the visit,” Ahmed Dadou, a spokesman for Timmermans, told AFP in The Hague.

“It’s normal to be accompanied by the Israeli military in the part occupied by settlers but it’s not usual in the Palestinian part,” he said.

“Other foreign ministers have previously visited the city unaccompanied by Israeli soldiers in the Palestinian sector and Mr. Timmermans did not want to accept this new condition in order not to set a precedent.”

Netanyahu said that he had not been aware of the planned visit.

“These are not political directives,” he said, according to a statement by his office. “I do not know how we guard foreign dignitaries on visits. We have security details that do what is necessary. Minister Timmermans is a welcome guest.”

Timmermans instead visited a Palestinian dairy in another part of Hebron.

Finally an area of life a Dutchman fully comprehends.

Dutch PM – Unlike Germany, the Netherlands Will Not Separate Products from the Jewish State

Friday, October 4th, 2013

During a press conference with President Shimon Peres on Thursday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte unequivocally stated that products made over the 1967 Green Line, will continue to be labeled “Made in Israel” in the Netherlands, according to a report in JPost.com.

The Dutch position is unlike that of the Germans, who definitely plan to demarcate and label Jewish products differently.

The Germans plan to label product made over the Green Line, the Golan Heights and even parts of Jerusalem, as not made in Israel. The Germans have a lot of experience in separating and marking Jews and Jewish products differently.

It has been pointed out that while the EU is being a stickler on products from Israel, it is not demanding the same for products from other disputed areas around the world. Double standards like that meet the definition of Antisemitism.

Lt. Colonel Shalom Eisner to be Retired

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Lt. Colonel Shalom Eisner, who was suspended from duty in April 2012, after striking a foreign anarchist blocking a highway, has reached a plea bargain with the IDF.

Eisner hit the Danish anarchist with his rifle after the agent provocateur purposely positioned himself directly in Eisner’s face, as Eisner was trying to move the anarchists off the road. The anarchist was part of an organized group of 250 anarchists who were blocking highway 90.

Another anarchist had just broken Eisner’s fingers during the 2 hour confrontation.

Some of the anarchist were also “bumping” their bicycle’s into the IDF soldiers as a “non-violent” provocation.

In the agreement, Eisner will get 2 months of community service without pay. Instead of being discharged from the IDF, he will retire early (preserving his pension), but he won’t be eligible for further promotions.

The well-respected Eisner was supposed to be appointed to head the prestigious Bahad 1 officer’s school, but was instead given a senior position at the Tzeilim army base until this deal was reached.

Unfortunately, the IDF seems to have not learned the two most important lessons from the event, the first is to support your soldiers as they fight the enemy, and the second is that the anarchists immediately dispersed in panic once they realized that the soldiers were prepared to use just a little bit of force to stop them from blocking the highway.

Holland’s Jews Welcome New King With Special Prayer and Blessing

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Holland’s Jews joined millions in the Dutch country on Wednesday and celebrated the coronation of Willem-Alexander as Holland’s new king with a special prayer and an ancient traditional blessing.

On the eve of the coronation, a special traditional ceremony was held in the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam. This ancient synagogue, which is lit only by candles, was lit with orange candles, coordinating with the name and color of the Royal House of Orange. During the ceremony the head of the congregation took out 14 Torah scrolls, and a special prayer was said in honor of the coronation.

The special prayer, which has been distributed among the Jewish communities of Holland in recent days, states, “May He Who grants salvation to kings and dominion to rulers; Whose Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; Who releases his servant David from the evil sword; Who places a path in the sea and a passageway in the mighty waters – may He bless, guard, protect, exalt, raise up and elevate the king Willem-Alexander, may his glory be magnified.”

The prayer was distributed in both Hebrew and Dutch and will be said by Holland’s Jews in synagogues every Shabbat during the Shacharit morning services.

In addition to mentioning the name of the king, the prayer for the welfare of King Willem-Alexander also refers to his wife, his daughters and his mother, the departing Queen Beatrix.

In the words of the prayer: “May He bless… his wife the queen, and their daughter, next in line to the throne, along with the rest of their daughters, and Princess Beatrix the mother of the king, and the entire royal family, may their glory be exalted.”

The prayer also includes a special petition for the Jewish community and its relationship with the royal family: “May the King of all kings, in His mercy, instill in the heart of the king and in the hearts of all his ministers and advisors a spirit of integrity and righteousness, that they may do that which is good for us and for all of Israel.”

Why the EU Refuses to Classify Hezbollah as a Terror Org.

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

The Lebanon-based Islamic organization Hezbollah is one of the most dangerous groups in the world. Recently, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah incited violence against American and European interests over the movie The Innocence of Muslims. And yet, the European Union refuses to follow America’s example and classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization – a move that would enable the E.U. to freeze the group’s assets in Europe.

Several people, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, have been killed, ostensibly in retaliation for the movie, which is perceived to be critical of Muhammad, the 7th century Arab warlord who founded Islam. Instead of calling for calm, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah called for prolonged protests: “The whole world needs to see your anger on your faces, in your fists and your shouts.”

Hezbollah is also involved in terrorist activities in Syria. During a meeting on September 7 in Paphos, Cyprus, the foreign ministers of the 27 member states of the European Union discussed the situation in Syria, including the position which the E.U. should take regarding Hezbollah. While Britain and the Netherlands urged other E.U. governments to join the United States in imposing sanctions on Hezbollah, they were unable to convince the other E.U. members. Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said that Hezbollah should, further, be branded a terrorist organization; he was, however, was isolated with this stance.

This does not come as a surprise, considering the E.U.’s earlier refusal to condemn Hezbollah for terrorism. Last July, Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited the E.U. capital, Brussels, to persuade the E.U. to follow America’s example and classify Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Lieberman met resistance – a lot. He was attempting to isolate Hezbollah after the July 18 suicide bombing at the airport of the Bulgarian coastal resort of Burgas – an attack, and clearly a terrorist one – in which five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed.

According to Israeli and American intelligence sources, the terrorist attack was the work of Hezbollah, upon orders from Iran. Nevertheless, the Cypriot minister of Foreign Affairs, Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, who currently holds the rotating E.U. presidency said that there is “no tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terrorism.” Hence, there was “no consensus for putting Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations.” He emphasized that Hezbollah was an organization with a political as well as an armed wing and that it has representatives in the Lebanese parliament and government.

In 2008, the Netherlands declared Hezbollah and all its branches terrorist entities. Britain considers only its armed wing a terrorist group. Consequently, Hezbollah can operate freely all over Europe, except in the Netherlands. Apart from the Netherlands and the United States, only Canada, Australia and New Zealand have classified Hezbollah as a terrorist group. The European Parliament did the same in a 2005 resolution, but as the latter was non-binding the E.U. has ignored it.

Jacob Campbell, a researcher at the British Institute for Middle Eastern Democracytold the Jerusalem Post: “Within just days of the Burgas bombing – almost undoubtedly perpetrated by Hezbollah – the Presidency of the E.U. Council explicitly ruled out the possibility of listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, insisting that there is no ‘tangible evidence’ to link Hezbollah to terrorism. This ludicrous statement was made despite an earlier resolution adopted by the European Parliament, which cites ‘clear evidence’ of terrorist acts committed by Hezbollah. On this issue, as in so many others, Brussels appears to have its head buried firmly in the sand.”

France is one of the countries that oppose the efforts to blacklist Hezbollah. France, the former colonial power in Lebanon, wants to preserve its diplomatic influence in that country. In 2011, Najib Mikati, a Hezbollah-backed politician, became Prime Minister of Lebanon after Hezbollah toppled the previous government. Even deadly attacks by Hezbollah on French nationals have not persuaded the French government to designate the group as terrorist. Last year, Alain Juppé, the then Foreign Minister of France, accused Hezbollah of attacking French U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon. However, with Hezbollah constituting part of the Lebanese establishment, the French are reluctant to act against it.

The German government, too, refuses to draw the obvious conclusion regarding Hezbollah, although the German domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesverfassungsschutz, has warned that Hezbollah has over 900 active members in Germany. In 2008, the German Interior Ministry restricted the reception of the programs of the Hezbollah television station Al-Manar in German hotels. Al-Manar is used by Hezbollah to recruit terrorists and communicate with sleeper cells around the globe.

Rev. Samuel Myer Isaacs: Champion of Orthodoxy (Part I)

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from “The Forerunners – Dutch Jewry in the North America Diaspora” by Robert P. Swierenga, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1994.

The nineteenth century witnessed a decline in religious observance by most of American Jewry. Changes were instituted in Orthodox synagogues that led many of them to affiliate with the Reform movement. Many religious leaders went along with – and some even encouraged – these changes. There were, however, some men who did their best to maintain traditional Judaism in the face of what at the time seemed an unstoppable tide of change. One such man was the Rev. Samuel Isaacs.

“Isaacs was born on January 4, 1804, in Leeuwarden – the capital city of the province of Friesland in the far northern Netherlands – the son of a prominent merchant-banker, Meyer Samuel Isaacs (Isaks) and Rebecca Samuels, his wife. This devout family had five sons and four became ministers. The Leeuwarden synagogue seated six hundred and was one of the largest congregations outside the main Jewish centers in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague.”

The Napoleonic Wars adversely affected Dutch Jews engaged in trade with London and Meyer Isaacs found himself increasingly in debt starting in 1805. Things were so bad by 1814 that the Isaacs family relocated to London. There, Meyer, who was a well-educated layman in both secular and Torah subjects, became a teacher. In addition, he made sure educated that his sons received excellent religious and secular educations.

Samuel, who was only ten when his family moved to England, was young enough to learn to speak English without a Dutch accent. “This ability later earned him many speaking engagements in America, where sermons and public addresses in English were much preferred to the customary Yiddish or German tongue.”

“After completing his education Samuel taught Hebrew for a time at the Jewish Orphanage of London and then in the 1830s he became principal of a Jewish day school.” In 1839 he married Jane Symmons. At about the same time he was offered the position chazzan at Ashkenazi Congregation Bnai Jeshurun of New York. The result was that Samuel and his new bride sailed for New York a few days after their wedding. The trip took three months.

“The arrival of an English Jewish preacher was indeed a novelty in those days, for in 1839 preaching in the vernacular was a rarity. The Elm Street synagogue near Walker Street [where Congregation Bnai Jeshurun was located] was crowded every Sabbath to hear the new preacher, and not a few non-Israelites were attracted.”[i]

The synagogue thrived under Isaacs’s leadership despite the fact that on a number of occasions groups left the synagogue to form their own minyanim where davening was conducted in accordance with the minhagim of the region where the mispallelim came from. In 1844 a major schism developed. Rather than fight, Chazzan Isaacs, the shamus and at least ten other Dutch families chose to withdraw quietly and form a new congregation which they named Shaaray Tefila.

This new congregation, which was formally organized in 1845, consisted primarily of English and Dutch Jews. Reverend Isaacs served as it spiritual leader until his passing in 1878.

“Isaacs’s long tenure at Shaaray Tefila marked the high point of Orthodoxy in New York Judaism…. Isaacs devoted his pulpit to the defense of pure religion undefiled, calling the faithful to observe the full Mosaic law, the Levitical dietary rules and purification rites, and especially to keep the Sabbath. Honoring the Sabbath was difficult for Jewish retail merchants and clerks because Saturday was the major American shopping day, and state and local Sunday closing laws often kept Jewish businesses closed on that day as well – until they won legal exemptions.

“Reverend Isaacs’s second theme was to uphold Orthodoxy against the new Reform Judaism that German Jews were bringing to America in the 1840s. Among other worship practices, Reform introduced mixed choirs and instrumental music, integrated seating, prayers in English, abolition of head coverings, and confirmation for young women as well as young men. Reform congregations also were lax in enforcing religious discipline and Sabbath-keeping.

“Isaacs challenged these new ideas ‘from the fertile fields of Germany, where everything grows fast, although not always wholesome.’ What is at issue, he warned, is that Jews are ‘assimilating our system to that of Christianity ….’ ”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/rev-samuel-myer-isaacs-champion-of-orthodoxy-part-i/2012/08/01/

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