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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Jews in Europe: Do Not Come To America!

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from People Walk on Their Heads: Moses Weinberger’s Jews and Judaism in New York, translated from the Hebrew and edited by Jonathan D. Sarna, Holmes Meir Publishers, Inc., New York, 1982.


There was a time when many European Jews viewed America as a treife medina (a non-kosher land) from the perspective of traditional Jewish religious observance. It was felt that it was virtually impossible to remain observant in America, and many Jews proved this was indeed the case, as they or their children abandoned much of their religious practices once they arrived here.

One can gain insight into the state of Yiddishkeit in America during the latter part of the nineteenth century from the writings of Rabbi Moshe Weinberger (1854-1940). Rabbi Weinberger came to New York from Hungary in 1880. (A sketch of his life was provided in last month’s column.) Rabbi Weinberger was a keen observer of the American Jewish scene and in 1887 published his controversial book Ha-Yehudim veha-Yahadus be-New York.[i]

“Written in Hebrew and directed to his brethren in Europe, Weinberger scorned American society as materialistic, sorely lacking in appropriate family values, and a spiritual danger to religious Jews. Contemptuous of Jewish life in America, as well, Weinberger cautioned his former countrymen about the poor standards of kashruth and Jewish education and the low level of Talmud knowledge of Jewry’s religious functionaries. He lamented America’s magnificent synagogues, which some Jews felt compelled to build, and chided Jews for the extravagance of luring cantors with inflated salaries to fill normally empty synagogue pews.”[ii]

His message to Jews in Europe was blunt: Stay Home! “As far as Weinberger was concerned, New York City was America in microcosm. What he learned about the one he applied to the other. In addressing his peer group abroad, he generalized accordingly: Nothing will be left for you to do save dressing in black, wrapping yourself in shrouds, and rolling from darkness to abyss: from factory to sweatshop to itinerant peddling. For such great successes you don’t need America! You don’t need to endanger your life by crossing great stretches of water! There, in your homeland and your own little city, you can do just as well if you only work diligently and put all fears of shame behind you.” (Pages 5 -6)

Regarding the religious situation in America Rabbi Weinberger wrote: “In all other lands a man is required by the government to belong to the kehilah [community] of the area where he lives, and like it or not it levies taxes upon him. In America, any man may cut himself off from his community, taking no part in it whatsoever.” (Page 8)

“In America one relies for everything on three laymen. They are found by inspecting everyone who displays haughtiness and greed, talks big, leaps forward to barge into other peoples’ conversations, has a tall and handsome appearance, and can’t speak gently to his fellow human beings…. He is placed at the head of the community, given a golden scepter, which in this country is in the shape of a mallet, and with it he rules his people; he is at once their ruler and judge.” (Page 14)

“A mohel or marriage officiator here must be conscious of the world around him and the work ahead of him. He must know how to drive a chariot properly, how to select sure-footed horses, and how to find two or three of those transient characters known as nosei kelim [armor-bearers]. He must understand that nothing is more valuable or useful in America than smooth talk and vulgarity. He must realize that in New York, unlike the rest of the world, one spends even what one doesn’t have. He who thoroughly understands all this may be sure of a place in this world: he will gather great riches, and never find himself without means of support.” (Page 17)

These are certainly very harsh words, and the reader may wonder if perhaps there is some level of exaggeration. However, most of Rabbi Weinberger’s contemporaries found his descriptions of Jewish life in New York to be for the most part accurate.

“Ephraim Deinard [1846-1930], the cantankerous bibliophile and Hebraist, thought that Weinberger’s portrait fit all big cities in America – ‘it will serve as a trustworthy guide for those writing the history of Jews in the New World.’” (Page 23)

Sadly, Rabbi Weinberger’s book gives many examples to back up his words in the areas of kashrus, education, the workplace, personal religious observance, and the role of synagogues. One such example is the following Pesach story:


The story is told of one immigrant who arrived here and barely supported himself and his wife by renting a small grocery on one of the streets. Came the month of Nisan [the Hebrew month in which Passover falls] and he did as he and all faithful Jews always did: he searched through everything that might contain chomets [leaven], and slowly began to remove it to the basement and attic in order to make room for the Passover goods that he had ordered a month before.

On the morning before Passover, the merchandise arrived, all properly weighed and measured just as he had requested in his letter to the dealer. But to his great astonishment, no Passover certification appeared: not from the head of the bes din, not from some individual dayan [judge], not from anybody at all. He was brokenhearted –and furious. “Surely some horrible error has occurred,” he cried angrily. “Doubtless some confused clerks are to blame.” But what could he do? There was no time to go out to obtain new holiday merchandise, for customers had already gathered and were coming in. If sent away empty-handed, they would never return.

There remained but one solution: to race to the nearest grocers and to borrow the needed merchandise, or actually to purchase it from them at full price. This proved impossible, however. To a man, the grocers claimed that they had enough only for their own needs, and had to look out for themselves. And so, while his wife stood full of misery in the store, he ran around town like a madman. Half a day passed in turmoil and confusion. Finally they closed their doors.

“Four days later, even before light had dawned on the first of the intermediate days of the holiday, he was already standing at the large supply house on S – Street. Still enraged and furious, he fought with the supervisors and those higher up. They swore to have sent him everything he needed for Passover, but to no avail. They showed him a special place on the first floor where a sign on the wall read PASSOVER G[ROCERIES], and there was his name.

“But where is the Passover certification?”

Finally the owner of the supply house came out, brought him to his office, gave him a seat, and in a soft, earnest voice said, “I see, my friend, that you are as green as can be. You just arrived in this country, and you know nothing of its ways. Be aware of the fact that, aside from flour, there is no Passover merchandise in New York. Many Jews who would never dream of drinking c[offee] or eating s[ugar], or dried fruit on Passover, and who place in their store windows and advertisements large signs reading PASSOVER G[ROCERIES] are actually lying. The words are a deception and fraud. Since many of the storekeepers who do business with us requested it, we were forced to act as you saw. Not that it helps us any, but – as you too now understand and will know for the future – it does benefit the storekeepers in the Jewish areas.’

A new year came, and he knew what lay ahead. Though snow still covered the earth, he already had a sign prepared in gold letters ready to hang in the window before the holiday. But his wife, who came from a good family in the Hungarian state, felt most distressed and argued with him daily. “How is it possible,” she asked him, “to stock s[ugar] on Passover without any proper certification? Did the sages in our country dwell on this problem in vain? Did the gaon from Szerem waste his time troubling himself about it? And what about the dried fruits: do you know where they came from? Would the Jews back home have used them? Does America have a special Torah for itself?”

Her husband listened and proceeded to burn his sign before her eyes. Now he is among those working to bring about improvements in those matters where the Torah strictly demands proper Passover supervision.” (Pages 74 – 75)

Sadly, this was the state of Yiddishkeit on the Lower East Side during that latter part of the 19th and the first part of the 20th centuries.


[i] For a translation of this work see People Walk on Their Heads, Moses Weinberger’s Jews and Judaism in New York, translated from the Hebrew and edited by Jonathan D. Sarna, Holmes Meir Publishers, Inc., New York, 1982.

[ii] Orthodox Judaism in America, A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook by Moshe D. Sherman, Greenwood Press, 1996, page 215.

Dr. Yitzchok Levine

NATO ‘Looking Forward’ to Working With Trump

Monday, November 21st, 2016

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says he is “looking forward” to working with the new administration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump this coming year.

Stoltenberg made the remark while speaking at the NATO summit Monday in Istanbul. He said he spoke with Trump on Friday by phone.

During that call, the president-elect promised America’s “strong support” for NATO and the security of Europe. Trump also pointed out the “importance of increased defense spending among European allies” during the conversation.

All members of the alliance pledged to allocate two percent of their GDP towards defense spending during the 2014 NATO summit in Wales, Stoltenberg reminded the membership Monday.

Hana Levi Julian

The Amazon River – Golan Heights Version

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

A fish farm at the Nov Moshav, Golan Heights, Northern Israel.

The farm breeds the tropical fish Discus, which were originally found in the Amazon river.

The fish are sold at domestic markets, as well as exported to Europe.

The work is around the clock as feeding of the fish is repeated several times a day, as well as the cleaning of the tanks and sorting of the fish by size and color. It is important that the water in the tanks is maintained at an exact temperature.

The farm was founded by the late Nathan Kinsborsky and his wife Hagar, in the year 2000. Today, Hagar runs the farm with the help of her two children Noam and Zohar.

Amazon Fish on the Golan

Amazon Fish on the Golan

Amazon Fish on the Golan

Amazon Fish on the Golan

Photo of the Day

Massive Cyber Attack Knocks Out Major US Internet Sites, Then in Parts of Europe

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

A mega cyber attack on the eastern United States late Friday knocked out the internet via simple devices such as digital recorders and webcams, rapidly spreading to the rest of the country and then to parts of Europe.

Internet giants such as PayPal, Twitter, Spotify, as well as other customers of the Dyn infrastructure company in New Hampshire were down across the Eastern Seaboard at first, but then the malfuction spread rapidly across the internet to other sites.

Dyn is a firm that acts as a kind of distributor or switchboard for internet traffic. The company’s chief strategy officer, Kyle York, told Reuters, “The complexity of the attacks is what’s making it very challenging for us.” The Flashpoint security firm is assisting Dyn with analyzing the attack, Reuters reported Saturday.

The company said the attacks were coming from millions of internet addresses, which called it an especially potent type of distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS). Such an attack involves flooding the target with so much junk traffic, the targeted address freezes up.

Users were also unable to reach CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Yelp, Mashable and some sites hosted by Amazon.com Inc.

The hackers used home devices previously infected with a malicious code – in this case, Mirai code that was dumped on to the internet a month ago – – that caused outages that began in the United States, but quickly spread across the country and then to Europe.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have launched an investigation into the breach.

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said at a briefing on Friday that it was not yet clear who was behind the attack. The comment came in response to a question about whether the breach was part of “what seems to be an escalating cyber war with Russia.”

Earnest replied, “I know that the Department of Homeland Security … is monitoring this situation. And they’ll take a close look at it. But at this point, I don’t have any information to share about who may be responsible for that malicious activity.”

Users in some areas of Western Europe were unable to make payments on the PayPal site late Friday as well. There was no indication that Israel was affected by the cyber attack.

Hana Levi Julian

Kremlin Prepares for ‘Nuclear War’ As White House Considers ‘Cyber Attack’ as Middle East Hangs Between

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

Russian media is warning citizens to prepare for war – specifically, nuclear war – and ordering officials to prepare the nation’s bomb shelters and ensure that citizens have reviewed proper use of their gas masks.

“If it should one day, happen, everyone one of you should know where the nearest bomb shelter is,” said one newscaster on the state-run NTV television news channel. “It’s best to find out now.”

This past week Russia also announced a move to transfer nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to Kalininigrad, between Poland and Lithuania, its northern European enclave. The transfer places the missiles within striking distance of western European capitals.

Russia also test-fired three intercontinental ballistic missiles, and earlier this month announced it would hold joint “anti-terror” military drills with Egypt “in a desert environment.” Moscow is moving in to train with Egypt in military strategies, equipment and personnel and build a closer relationship Cairo, in a way similar to that in which it began with Syria years ago.

Moscow’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin claimed that tensions are at their worst since 1973, but not as bad as they were during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. “Despite the fact that we have a serious disagreement, we are continuing [to work together] in other areas – sometimes successfully,” he told reporters this weekend. However, he added that the crisis has followed a list of conflicts between the Kremlin and the White House.

“It’s a lack of basic respect,” Churkin said, “and a lack of in-depth discussions on political issues.” Among the issues he cited were the recruitment of Ukraine and Georgia for membership in NAT, and the ousting of Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. All, he said, were incited by the United States.

The U.S., meanwhile, has said it is considering a cyber attack in retaliation for a Kremlin-backed cyber snoop into American elections, and an outright hack attack against electoral data banks and the Democratic National Headquarters. The Kremlin has warned that any such attack would be met with a “harsh response.”

A number of news analysts have said that relations between Moscow and Washington have reached their lowest point since the Cold War, in fact.

According to ABC News, Russia has conducted a nationwide civil defense drill since September that has involved some 40 million citizens, preparing them for a panoply of disasters that run the gamut of war scenarios, including nuclear fallout, and announced who would run the nation should war break out. One of the simulations involved that specific scenario, in fact.

American logic dictates that Russia would not run a civil defense drill for 40 million people for the fun of it. But Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, quoted by ABC News, says that all this is part of the grand show that may be necessary to inspire Russian lawmakers to raise a little cash for a decent military budget – which is up for renewal – when the economy is slow.

“Tensions are going to rise and rise and rise,” he said. “The good news is, no one really wants a war. But it’s going to be a good show.”

Hana Levi Julian

‘Anti-Semitism in Europe As Important As Climate Change’

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

On the eve of the Jewish new year, dozens of members of the European Parliament and heads of Jewish organizations gathered in the European Parliament to discuss the rise of anti-Semitism.

The delegates gathered for a conference focused on “The future of the Jewish communities in Europe,” attended by European Parliament President Martin Schulz and his deputy, Antonio Tajani (EPP, IT).

“The European Union sometimes has a reputation for talking a lot but delivering little,” observed “Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the European Jewish Association (EJA).

“We are on the threshold of the Jewish new year, and unfortunately many of Europe’s Jews live in fear,” said Margolin. “Putting the army outside of our synagogues, radio stations, schools and shops is of course a welcome step to protect the lives of Jews – but this is just a temporary solution that does nothing to change the root cause of the problem.

“The crisis – and it is a crisis – affecting Jews across Europe – deserves the same attention as the EU institutions give to the economic crisis or climate change.

“That starts with a properly funded EU program, that teaches future generations about Jews, the Holocaust and the contributions that we, this small people, have made to the world.

Hana Levi Julian

Europeans Turn to Israel to Spur Lagging Economies

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

By Andrew Friedman/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – About 60 ministers of education from a range of OECD countries gathered Sunday in Jerusalem for a three-day program to explore Israel’s culture of entrepreneurship.

Participants in the Global Education Industry Summit, hosted by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, said that Europe’s business culture has largely stagnated in recent years. They added that for economies looking to develop tools for a rapidly changing technology marketplace of, Israel provides a model.

“We’ll we have to find ways to bolster innovation in Europe,” said Bartek Lessaer, policy analyst for the European Commission Directorate General for Education and Culture told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).  “We’ve been stagnating for several years. We know the Israeli economy has been very innovative – we’re here to learn how things are done here. We’d like to learn more about the linkage between business and public investment, and more efficient ways of engaging public money to stimulate new solutions to old problems.

Speakers at the opening plenum session at the Israel Arts and Science Academy campus in Jerusalem included Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Nobel Laureate Prof. Yisrael Aumann and concluded with a panel discussion featuring school principal Itai Benovitch and two honor role students.

Asked about the nature of Israel’s start-up culture – several delegates noted that many countries pride themselves on advanced science education programs, but have not developed the same reputation for technology advancement – Bennett and Aumann pointed to elements of the Israeli experience to explain the discrepancy.

“Israel is the number two superpower in the technology world, after California,” said Prof. Aumann. “Compare our story to China: They have an outstanding engineering curriculum, but there is a lack in basic science education. But basic, fundamental science is the driving factor here – it creates curiosity and wonder. Those things bubble up and inspire questions, which inspire people to apply [their knowledge].”

Education Minister Bennett then apologized to the professor for an “open display of Israeli ‘chutzpah’, saying the country’s entrepreneurial culture is a byproduct of a  culture norm in Israel that are largely absent overseas.

“First of all, we are trained to question authority here. We foster a culture of debate, and young people are expected to have confidence that their ideas have value.

“Second, When I served in an elite commando unit in the IDF, we were trained to deal with hostage situations. If the door was locked, we were expected to go in through the window. If the window wouldn’t open, we had to drill a hole in the roof. If that didn’t work – well, we had to do something else. The expectation was clear: Get It Done was the expectation. Period.

“That is the secret of the start-nation,” said Bennett.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/europeans-turn-to-israel-to-spur-lagging-economies/2016/09/25/

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