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Posts Tagged ‘Dutch’

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 ….’ ”

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.

Polish AG Looking into Ritual Slaughter’s Constitutionality

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Poland’s attorney general has asked the country’s Constitutional Court to investigate the constitutionality of ritual slaughter.

Andrzej Seremet said that he believes the minister of agriculture, who allowed an exemption to Polish law to accommodate ritual slaughter, violated the constitution.

Under Polish law, animals must be stunned before slaughter; the only exception is ritual slaughter. Islamic and Jewish law require that animals be conscious at the time of slaughter.

The Polish Ministry of Agriculture authorized the use of ritual slaughter several years ago, but animal rights activists say that a Polish animal protection law does not allow it. Earlier this month, activists who have been protesting ritual slaughter for the last several weeks asked the country’s prosecutor to investigate whether the ministry is violating the law by allowing ritual slaughter.

Animal rights activists believe that allowing ritual slaughter in Poland is illegal because it is not regulated by government act but by the authorization of the minister of agriculture.

The chief rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, told JTA that he has trust in the Polish legal system.

“We are convinced that the Constitutional Court shall consider the matter also in the context of the freedom of religion, particularly the right to maintain customs and traditions of national minorities,” Schudrich said. “As a rabbi I must say that shechitah – Jewish ritual slaughter – is executed with the greatest care about the animals.”

Earlier this month, the Dutch government signed a deal with Jewish and Muslim leaders to allow ritual slaughter. A bill that had passed the Dutch parliament’s House would have forbidden it.

Santorum, Dutch Euthanasia And Goldstone

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum stated recently that ten percent of those who die in the Netherlands are killed by euthanasia. He added that half of these cases were involuntary.

Since 136,000 people died in the Netherlands in 2010, Santorum was essentially claiming that Dutch doctors kill close to 7,000 mainly elderly people per year without their permission. Over the course of a few years, this would make the Dutch medical profession a far bigger murderer of civilians than Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

There were many loud protests from the Netherlands stating that Santorum’s claims were false, as euthanasia is applied on 2.5 percent of all dying people per year. There are also no exact data on how many people were killed without their permission. A contributor to Forbes, however, pointed out that when applying certain calculations, Santorum’s claims may not have been so far off.

Whatever the exact figure, there are hundreds of cases every year of euthanasia in the Netherlands in which the patient is not asked his or her permission.

Let us now employ a bit of fantasy and assume that Muslim states were intent on assailing the Netherlands. They would claim in the United Nations Human Rights Council that such killings are a severe breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These states could easily muster a majority to have the UNHRC appoint a commission of inquiry into this matter.

Who would be better qualified to head such a committee than the Grand Master of Flawed UNHRC Reporting, Judge Richard Goldstone? As his report on Israel was a classic exercise in distorted methodology, its model would be followed. His committee of inquiry would include one member who had already condemned the Netherlands on euthanasia and another who was generally hostile to the country.

Goldstone and his associates would set out with their proven procedural methods. The commission would reach its conclusion on the basis of what it “saw, heard and read.”

The commission had accepted hearsay in the Gaza war investigation; it would thus do the same in the Dutch situation.

As there are many medical doctors in the Netherlands who consider euthanasia immoral, a number of them would likely testify and present the “facts” about its abuse. (The refusal of these doctors to commit euthanasia has already led to another contested initiative – a system of mobile euthanasia units that will travel around the Netherlands to respond to the wishes of sick people who want to end their lives.)

Some individuals appearing before the Goldstone commission would tell of how family members had asked for involuntary euthanasia to be carried out on a patient in order to lay their hands on his inheritance.

As hearsay is accepted as evidence, I could also appear before the commission. I have a Dutch acquaintance who told me how hospital doctors exercised extreme pressure on her to authorize euthanasia on her mortally ill husband. She stated it was only because she has a son who is a doctor and another who is a lawyer that she had resisted their coercion.

As tens of babies born with an open back have been killed by Dutch doctors in recent years, there would likely be other doctors who would testify to the Goldstone commission that children born with that affliction have been unjustifiably characterized in Dutch society as “misfits.” Others who might appear before the commission would be from Helping Hands, a Christian organization that works for better protection for the handicapped.

Due to the commission inquiry, the international public argument on euthanasia would be widened. There would be articles stating that there have been quite a few doctors in history who were also mass murderers. They would then refer to Josef Mengele of Auschwitz infamy. This theme of doctors who murder could be extended to the late Haitian dictator Papa Doc François Duvalier and Bashar al Assad, as well as many other lesser known figures.

If Goldstone were consistent, the report would be damning. After some time had passed and major damage to The Netherlands was done, he would write an article recanting part of his report, just as he did concerning Israel.

All of this of course, is purely a thought experiment. Deeply flawed UNHRC reports only focus on the one country it condemns consistently – Israel. All other countries, including the Netherlands, needn’t worry.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Dutch Government Opposes Anti-Israeli EU Report

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

The European Union, the supranational organization of the 27 most developed European nations, is one of the most outspoken and frequent international critics of Israel. Its reports on the situation in the Middle East are often so unfair and biased that not only have they drawn the ire of Israel, they have also angered the government of one of the EU’s six original founding states, the Netherlands, which no longer wants to endorse the reports emanating from the EU mission in Ramallah.

Last December, the EU heads of mission in Ramallah authored a report on the situation in Jerusalem in which they accused Israel of trying to destroy chances for peace with Palestinians by snatching control of East Jerusalem through the construction of Israeli settlements. “If current trends continue, the prospect of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states becomes increasingly unlikely and unworkable, undermining a two-state solution … [Israeli actions] provide fuel to those who want to further radicalise the conflict,” the report stated.

It noted that the 790,000 Arabs living in Jerusalem suffer from overcrowding, dirty streets and poor sewage, that Palestinian children in Israeli-run schools are forced to use books which are “edited” for “sensitive” content, that ambulances with Palestinian patients are subjected to “unnecessary and potentially life-threatening delays” and that archeological projects put “emphasis on biblical and Jewish-Israeli connotations of the area while neglecting Arab/Muslim claims of historic-archeological ties.”

The report advocated that the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, propose legislation “to prevent/discourage [EU] financial transactions in support of settlement activity,” “ensure” that Israeli vegetables from settlement farms do not get preferential import tariffs in the EU, and that EU countries “share information on violent settlers … to assess whether to grant entry into EU member states.”

This report came barely a week after another report which had accused Israel of monopolizing farm land and water in the Jordan Valley in a bid to drive out native Arabs, while another recent EU paper had accused Israel of eroding the civil liberties of Arab-Israeli citizens.

Last January, Israeli information minister Yoel ‘Yuli’ Edelstein questioned the accuracy of the EU reports which are drafted without Israeli input. Edelstein said these surveys are part of a decades-long “attempt to undermine [Israel's] very legitimacy.

Last week it was revealed that the EU ambassadors in Ramallah had composed yet another report. This time they accuse Israel of not doing enough to stop aggression from Jewish settlers against Palestinians. The report claims that the Jewish violence is rapidly increasing, while “the Israeli state … has so far failed to protect the Palestinian population.”

According to the report, Jewish attacks vary from gunfire to throwing stones and garbage at Arabs, including children, burning homes and mosques, killing livestock and uprooting olive trees. The report says that the attacks resulted in three Palestinian deaths last year. “There has been no widespread response from the Palestinian side,” the EU report states, although it admits that Palestinians killed eight Jews (including five members of one family). The aim of the Jewish attacks is to “effectively force a withdrawal of the Palestinian population, … thereby increasing the scope for settlement expansion.”

The Netherlands declined to endorse the report, forcing the non-Dutch EU diplomats in Ramallah to add the footnote: “the NL [Netherlands] places a general reserve on the document.” A senior Israeli official also dismissed the report. “It’s unacceptable,” he said. “We had numerous cases over the past year when Israeli citizens, including schoolchildren, were brutally murdered by Palestinians and I think for the Israeli public these reports would have more credibility if they were more neutral.”

The fact that the Dutch openly distanced themselves from an EU report angered the other EU countries. “We are witnessing the toughest position the Netherlands has ever adopted,” one EU diplomat told the Dutch newspaperNRC-Handelsblad. “Moreover, it is a position which resembles the toughest position within Israel.”

It is, however, not the first time that Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal has stood up for Israel. Last September, he managed to stop European diplomats at the UN reaching a common position on the status of human rights in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The Dutch government is a minority government of Liberals and Christian-Democrats, backed by the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders. Both Uri Rosenthal, who is Jewish, and Geert Wilders, who is not Jewish, are politicians who are personally acquainted with the situation in Israel. Rosenthal’s wife is an Israeli citizen. Wilders spent a year living in Israel, including in a Jewish settlement in the Jordan valley.

The Dutch government is not only on a collision course with the EU over Israel, but is also pushing for stricter immigration rules. European immigration rules are to a large extent set by the EU and not by the member states. While the Dutch insist on stricter regulations, the European Commission and other EU members are so far unwilling to address the issue.

Netanyahu Visits the Netherlands, Praises Strong Stance on Iran

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, on a two-day trip to the Netherlands, lauded the support of the Dutch government in efforts to frustrate Iranian nuclear ambitions.

“The one issue in which we stand together is in opposing Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” Netanyahu said in a speech at the 17th-century Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam. “I thank the Dutch government for their strong stance on sanctions against Iran.”

Netanyahu also repeated an invitation to PA President Abbas to immediately revive direct talks.

 

Time For The Dutch To Finally ‘Fess Up

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

A new poll finds that two-thirds of the Dutch people are opposed to their prime minister apologizing to the Jewish community for the misconduct of the wartime government in exile in London.

Only 27 percent of those polled were in favor of such apologies.

Dutch governments have consistently ignored requests to fully admit the extent of the involvement of the Dutch in the persecution of Jews during the Second World War.

Even in the past several days some Dutch historians tried to inflate beyond proportion the importance of a few general remarks on this issue by the current Dutch Queen Beatrix in March 1995 in the Knesset.

She said there were many Dutch who had resisted the Germans, but they were the exceptions and that “the people of the Netherlands could not prevent the destruction of their Jewish fellow citizens.”

Later that year on National Memorial Day, she said that “Thinking about the Holocaust should fill us with shame.”

This pales next to what French President Jacques Chirac said a few months later: “France committed the irremediable. It broke its word and delivered those it protected to their executioners. We maintain toward them an unforgiveable debt.”

Two years later, Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was even more explicit, saying, “Not even one German soldier was necessary to carry out this disgrace.”

When then-Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende came to Israel in 2005 for a ceremony at Yad Vashem, I raised the issue of apologies in a short conversation. Balkenende asked me for a letter on this issue. I only received a formal acknowledgement from his staff for it.

Meanwhile, at the same event, Belgium Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt repeated his apologies for the collaboration of Belgians with the German occupiers – apologies he had already expressed in 2002.

On that occasion, Balkenende merely said that “the deportation of most of Dutch Jewry was a pitch-black chapter in Dutch history and that coldness and indifference toward the Jews had been dominant.” A month later, he admitted that Dutch authorities had collaborated with the occupiers. The emphasis of his words was more on those who took risks for other people than on the many Dutch traitors.

Several Dutch historians claim that wartime history is primarily an issue for historians. None of them explained why they haven’t asked for government apologies to the Jewish community for 65 years. The Dutch apologies issue has been raised publicly again due to statements by former deputy prime ministers Els Borst and Gerrit Zalm in my recent book Judging the Netherlands: The Holocaust Restitution Process 1997-2000 ( Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2011).

After the Dutch daily DePers published their quotes on January 4, Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party, requested Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologize to the Jewish community. This news went global, carried by hundreds of media outlets including most major American ones and the official Chinese press agency.

What happens if the Dutch government follows majority opinion and doesn’t apologize? Most likely this will lead to more international exposure of Dutch misconduct in many areas.

Included will be how the Dutch government in London took a year and a half to inquire about the fate of deported Dutch Jews from the Polish government, which resided in the same building. Or how in 1944 Henri Dentz, a Dutch official in London, could not find anyone in the government or even at the Red Cross to read his report which revealed that 90 percent of deported Dutch Jews had been murdered.

Much attention will also be focused on Dutch Queen Wilhelmina, who regularly spoke to the Dutch people from London via radio for four years. Only three times during that period did she devote attention to the Jews: in total, 5 sentences. Before the war, she opposed the establishment of a center for German Jewish refugees in a location she considered too close to her palace. The distance was twelve kilometers.

Another issue to mention again is Dutch postwar misconduct during the postwar restitution process. Prime Minister Kok, under pressure, apologized for this in 2000 but added that except for one case, the wrongdoing was not intentional. There are, however, many more examples of postwar bad intentions toward the Jews.

A very different type of potential exposure concerns the never-properly-investigated Dutch war crimes during “police actions” in Indonesia in the late 1940s. More than 100,000 people were killed. The Dutch government has recently apologized to the inhabitants of one village, Rawagede, where all native males were executed without a trial. There are several similar cases about which little is known, such as the mass murders in South-Sulawesi.

Prime Minister Rutte would be well advised to consider all of this when he decides whether or not to apologize to the Jewish community.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published 20 books. Several of these address anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/time-for-the-dutch-to-finally-fess-up/2012/01/11/

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