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September 24, 2014 / 29 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘European Jews’

Nineteenth-Century Kashrus Observance

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Note: All quotes are fromThe Trend in Jewish Religious Observance in Mid-Nineteenth Century America” by Jeremiah J. Berman, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society (1893-1961); 1947; 37, AJHS Journal, pg. 31 ff. The article is available online at http://www.ajhs.org/reference/adaje.cfm.
 
During the latter part of 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, 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 in this country.
 

This was not necessarily the case, however, for the German immigrants who came in the 1840s and 1850s. Many of them were strict in their observance, doing their best to live according to the Torah. It was only in the 1860s and later, when the Reform movement swept the country, that things changed drastically and ritual observance declined.

 

The first Jewish immigrants were men [and women] of strong Jewish loyalties and generally adhered to traditional Jewish practices. They were quite innocent of reformist ideology. To them Judaism meant living in accordance with the traditional orthodox code. As soon as a handful of these pioneers settled in one place, they usually instituted congregational high holiday worship. Shortly thereafter they bought a piece of land for a burial ground. With little delay they then advertised for a man to come to serve them as reader [Chazan], ritual slaughterer (shochet), circumciser (mohel) and teacher. If their religious practice was technically faulty, as it often was, it was not due to indifference on their part, but to circumstances beyond their control. Evidence of their desire to do their religious duty [comes from] the records we have of their observance of the three basic practices-kosher diet, circumcision and Sabbath.

 

There is considerable evidence that until the latter part of the 19th century many Jews did their best to maintain traditional religious observance when it came to kashrus, ritual circumcision (bris milah) and Shabbos.
 

A licensed shochet was to be found in many settlements with even relatively small Jewish populations. In places where the Jewish population was too small to support a licensed ritual slaughterer, the service was provided by qualified, unpaid individuals who had studied the laws of shechita. In fact, even in the seventeenth century it was not unusual to find baalei batim who were qualified ritual slaughterers.

 

Illustrative is the example of Michael Hart, Indian trader and merchant who, in 1773, set up shop in Easton, Pa. He acted as his own shochet. George Washington once ate a kosher meal. It was when he stopped for lunch at the home of this Michael Hart.

 

In 1846 a Mr. Umstetter served as a volunteer shochet in Norfolk, Virginia. He slaughtered twice weekly for the Jews who lived in this town. Prior to his arrival a number of Jews ate non-kosher food.
 
Samuel Adler, the father of Cyrus Adler, studied the slaughter of fowl with the Philadelphia shochet Leopold Sulzberger before he moved to Van Burn, Arkansas, in 1858. He mastered this skill because he wanted to be sure that his family and the other Jews of Van Buren would have kosher poultry.
 

Congregation B’nai Sholom was founded in Chicago in May 1852 by eleven individuals, many of whom came from the Prussian province of Posen. In 1854 Edward Meirs agreed to serve as the congregation’s unpaid shochet for one year. There was a non-professional shochet in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1858, and in Pueblo, Colorado, in 1870. A letter he wrote gives an interesting description of Jewish life in Pueblo:

 

Pueblo, March 20, 1870.
 
It will afford you some interest to hear from this portion of the world, and to learn that even here there are quite a number of Jews respected and respectable. We are 120 miles south of Denver City, which, as you know, is quite thriving.
 
We have experienced great difficulty in complying with our religious duties, but these are lessening every day. Having learnt Shechitah some years since, I make practical use of it here. We have the finest and the healthiest cattle, requiring but little examination. Of course, as yet we have no Synagogue, and the Sabbath is not observed, but there is a prevailing feeling that we should be Jews in fact, as we are in name.
 

Another advantage we are beginning to have is as it regards circumcision. We were formerly compelled to send young ones 120 miles to have that rite performed, and now I have already officiated several times with success. I have no doubt, that, ere long, it will be in my power to afford you the information, that, even in Pueblo, the Jews observe the dietary enactments, honor the Sabbath day, and conduct themselves in every way becoming the descendants of those who suffered persecution, even martyrdom, for the cause they deemed right. – N.

 

Volunteer shochtim served either isolated families or tiny settlements. Larger communities consisting of 10 or more families did their best to hire professional shochtim. Anglo-Jewish publications often carried advertisements like these:
 
Wanted – Columbus, Ind., Congregation Chisuk Emunah, shohet, baal korah and teacher in Hebrew.  (The Occident, July 6, 1859)
 
Wanted – By the Israelite Congregation of Wilmington, N. C., Chasan, Shochat, and Mohel, and also to take charge of a Hebrew and English school. (The Hebrew Leader, August 2, 1867)
 
Wanted – By the German Congregation Beth Hasholom of Williamsport, Pa., a Chazan, Shochet, and Teacher, who is able to thoroughly instruct the children in German. Must be himself a German. Salary, $600, and perquisites….(The Jewish Messenger, August 19, 1870)
 
Unfortunately, during the latter part of the 19th century a marked change occurred. Many Jews, influenced by the Reform movement, began to disregard the tenets of kashrus. Shochtim began to disappear from settlements that contained only a small Jewish population.
 

People began to openly neglect the observance of the dietary laws both at home and in public. It got to the point where on December 26, 1879, the Anglo-Jewish newspaper The Jewish Messenger published a letter from Reverend H. P. Mendes in which he condemned the serving of non-kosher food at banquets conducted under the aegis of Jewish organizations.

 

 

 

Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008.He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens.Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr.Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

‘The Occupation Made Me Beat My Wife’: Distorting Scholarship to Libel Israel

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Jews have been accused of harming and  murdering of non-Jews since the 12th century in England, when the Jewish convert to Catholicism Theobald of Cambridge proclaimed that European Jews ritually slaughtered Christian children each year and drank their blood during Passover season.

That medieval blood libel, largely abandoned in the contemporary West, does, however, still appear as part of the Arab world’s vilification of Jews – now transmogrified into a slander against Israel, the Jew of nations.

But in the regular chorus of defamation against Israel by a world infected with Palestinianism, a new, more odious trend has begun to show itself: the blood libel has been revivified, but, to position Israel and Zionism as demonic agents in the community of nations, its primitive superstitions are now masked with a veneer of academic scholarship and politicized scientific study.

In March, to cite the latest instance of this trend, the findings of a study conducted by the New Weapons Research Group, a team of scientists based in Italy, were announced on “the use of unconventional weapons and their mid-term effects on the population of after-war areas,” in this case Gaza after Israel’s Cast Lead operations last year.

“Many Palestinian children still living in precarious situations at ground level in Gaza after Israeli bombing,” the study found, “have unusually high concentrations of metals in the hair, indicating environmental contamination, which can cause health and growth damages due to chronic exposure,” and these high levels were the direct result of Israeli bombs.

Moreover, suggested Professor Paola Manduca, one of the investigators, the presence of metals in children’s hair “presents serious problems in the current situation in Gaza, where the construction and removal of damaged structures is difficult or impossible, and,” in case anyone does not know who to blame, “certainly represents the major responsibility of those who should remedy the damage to the civilian population under international law.”

Environmental contamination of children is certainly a critical issue to address and identify, but questions arise from this particular study due to the shabby way the controls and research were conducted.

Was it actually Israeli weaponry that contributed to high metal levels in the hair of the studied group? Are those levels significantly different in Gaza, or do they parallel other high-density cities with refineries, smelters, and other form of pollutants that arise from other, non-military sources?

Was the same group of subjects tested prior to Operation Cast Lead to see changes in the incidence of metals in hair after the incursion? Were groups in other towns, which had not been bombed, tested as well, and how do those levels compare with the test group?

In fact, in a study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences between 1998 and 2000, blood lead levels in children 2-6 years of age in Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority were studied, and, even at that time, “high levels in Gaza were all among children living near a battery factory,” suggesting that other causes may well be linked to metal levels on the children’s bodies.

 

* * * * *

Those who denounced Israel for what was characterized as its disproportionate response to Hamas rocket attacks during the Gaza offensive had other serious accusations, as well: namely, whether or not Israel used white phosphorous as a military tool (allowed by international law) or as a weapon against human targets (which is illegal).

Human rights groups and perennial Israel-haters wasted no time in suggesting that Israel was, in fact, employing the white phosphorous on hapless Gazans, a charge that seemed to be given credence by a recent article in the online journal Torture by J?rgen L. Thomsen and Martin Worm-Leonhard, complete with the misleading title of “The Detection of Phosphorus in the Tissue of Bomb Victims in Gaza.”

It happens, however, that the researchers, whose tissue samples were smuggled out of Gaza by “an acquaintance” and were transported in a most unscientific way, were unable to detect conclusively the occurrence of any white phosphorous in the studied tissue samples, despite their personal belief (and, seemingly, their desire) to have found evidence to the contrary.

 

* * * * *

When brutal military assaults and Israel’s use of weaponry cannot be blamed for causing health damage to non-Jews, Israel-haters are quick to condemn the alleged general oppression of Zionist occupation and brutality as detriments to Arab health and happiness.

In 2005, Psychologists for Social Responsibility took it upon itself to “condemn the Israeli Army’s use of psychological warfare against the Gaza population.” Israel, the group claimed, did so through the use of F-16 jet plane-generated “sonic booms” that are a “particularly pernicious form of psychological warfare.”

While they begrudgingly admit that the reason jet soirees were initiated against the Gazan population in the first place was the hundreds of rockets that had been raining down on Israeli neighborhoods in southern Israel, the psychologists’ concern never seemed to extend to Jewish children, nor did they call for an end to the terrorism that Israeli military operations were attempting to curtail.

But the sonic booms, nevertheless, were unacceptable.

That same year, as part of an unrelenting campaign to discredit Israel’s security barrier and position it as an “apartheid wall” that is emblematic of Zionism’s essential racism, the Palestinian Counseling Center concocted a “scientific” survey of the psychological effects on Palestinian mental health of what it called Israel’s “Annexation and Expansion Wall” on the residents in five villages in the Kalkilya district.

Tellingly, that same year the International Court of Justice had declared the separation barrier illegal, deciding that Israel’s right to defend its citizenry from murder could be trumped by the human rights of Palestinians who might be inconvenienced by the presence of the barrier.

Questionnaires were completed by Palestinians in three age groups: adults 19 years and older, adolescents between 13 to 18 years, and children between the ages of 6 and 12. To no one’s great surprise, the reaction to the presence of the dreaded apartheid wall (actually only a fence for approximately 80 percent of its length) had a profound negative effect on the Arabs who lived on the wrong side of it.

In fact, “the study results reflected a negative correlation between the residents’ exposure to the Wall and psychological symptoms; among the adult group (feeling lonely and somatization); among adolescents and children, positive correlation between exposure to the Wall and psychological symptoms (agitation, verbal violence, nightmares, and concentration problems).”

More ominously, the existence of the wall was blamed for “the emergence of psychological symptoms among the adults, such as feeling of loneliness and other physical symptoms such as difficulty in breathing and stomach pains.”

Instead of evaluating the Palestinian culture of death that is inculcated into children, from kindergarten until high school, in which they are taught to hate Jews and strive for martyrdom, and examining whether those bits of psychological baggage might themselves have a negative effect on emotional growth, any adverse emotional or psychological symptoms were linked to the mere presence of the wall.

The biased findings “showed proportional relation between exposure to the Wall and emergence of psychological symptoms among the adolescents and children, mainly aggressive behavior causing children to act violently toward other children and use impolite language and other mental symptoms such as nightmares.”

If the most serious end result of the wall’s existence was a surge in “impolite language” among Palestinian youth, that was probably an acceptable tradeoff for Israeli citizens, since after construction of the security barrier terrorist attacks on Jewish civilians in Israel decreased by some ninety percent.

Moreover, the very presence of the separation barrier was said to have caused the creation of something the study imaginatively classified as an “institutional ghetto” that resulted in “the ghettoization, oppression, and displacement of a people.”

Ignoring the reason the barrier was there in the first place – namely, to prevent the murder of Jewish civilians going about the business of their daily lives – the researchers determined that the building of the barrier and the ” ‘institutional ghetto’ or segregation of Palestinians has left people thinking not too highly of themselves and thus these people are unable to advance socially and psychologically. With low self-esteem, people feel humiliated and unworthy, which brings inner conflict and psychologically threatening symptoms like depression, suicide and disassociation.”

 

* * * * *

The entire “occupation” has become a target for scientists who attempt to link the general oppression of Zionism with pathologies in Palestinian society.

The author and commentator Phyllis Chesler, a frequent Jewish Press op-ed contributor, recently critiqued a particularly egregious example of politicized scholarship that appeared in Lancet, heretofore a respected British medical journal. Chesler noted that the article, with the biased title of “Association Between Exposure to Political Violence and Intimate-Partner Violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: A Cross-Sectional Study,” revealed “that Palestinian husbands are more violent toward Palestinian wives as a function of the Israeli ‘occupation’ – and that the violence increases significantly when the husbands are ‘directly’ as opposed to ‘indirectly’ exposed to political violence.”

The study, of course, never chose to examine the effect of the conflict on Israeli husbands and wives, who may well share emotional stresses similar to their Palestinian counterparts as a result of the genocidal aggression against them from various jihadist foes, and instead, as Chesler noted, attempted “to present Palestinian men as victims even when (or precisely because) those men are battering their wives,” defining “Palestinian cultural barbarism, which includes severe child abuse, as also related to the alleged Israeli occupation.”

The cultural traditions in the Middle East that enable men to totally dominate family members, treat women as property, and even commit “honor” killings when women shame male family members – all of these, of course, are not included in the emotional equation that might logically lead or contribute to spousal abuse. It is the Israeli occupation, and that alone, that causes such deleterious mental health conditions, “intimate partner violence,” in Palestinian marriages.

Other scholarly publications have been intellectually hijacked with spurious studies that have a fundamental bias to them that discredits the validity of any research.

The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, for example, ran an article titled “The Prevalence of Psychological Morbidity in West Bank Palestinian Children,” written, oddly enough, by a junior surgical resident and a microbiologist.

When members of a group of academics seeking balance in discussion of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, became aware of the bit of defective scholarship, they analyzed the paper themselves and found that it was an example of “weak science, which included the lack of evidence or references, the lack of appropriate scientific design, the choice of nonstandardized test instruments and the inaccurate citing of the psychological literature.”

What is more, the authors’ original thesis, “that ‘settlement encroachment’ was responsible for the problems of Palestinian children,” had relied on the psychiatric “expertise” of linguist Noam Chomsky, whose loathing of Israel is widely known, to help draw the study’s conclusions.

 

* * * * *

Even when Israel is engaged in what would by normal standards be considered as humanitarian aid, as it was with its immediate response to the Haiti earthquake, sending a contingent of medical teams who set up state-of-the-art medical facilities in Port au Prince, those who wish to continually defame the Jewish state were able to invent offense, even in Haiti.

The insidious claim came from peer Baroness Jenny Tonge, health spokeswoman in the House of Lords, who, while praising the IDF on the one hand, also suggested that Israeli soldiers were harvesting organs from Haitian victims. The Palestinian Telegraph, a publication of which Tonge is a patron, ran an article titled “Focus on Israel: Harvesting Haitian Organs” by a Boston-based blogger who seeks “justice for all the oppressed peoples of the world like the long-suffering people of Haiti and the Palestinians,” and who accused Israel of a “crime against humanity,” based, of course on absolutely no evidence or facts.

Last August, a journalist in a Swedish newspaper had made similar allegations which suggested – again without the faintest evidence – that in the 1990s Israeli soldiers kidnapped and murdered Palestinians to harvest their organs and that an investigation was warranted, based solely on the unfounded allegation. Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz at the time understandably characterized it “an anti-Semitic blood libel against the Jewish people and the Jewish state,” yet another example of an effort to portray Zionism and Israel as Nazi-like in its thirst for non-Jewish blood.

Supporters of the Palestinian cause have come to accept the fact that Israel will not be defeated through the use of traditional tools of warfare. Instead, the Jewish state’s enemies in the Middle East, abetted by their supporters in the West, have begun to use different, but equally dangerous, tactics to delegitimize Israel in the hope of eventually destroying it.

By dressing up old hatreds against Jews and repackaging them as seemingly pure scholarship, Israel’s ideological foes have found an effective, but odious, way to ensure that the Jew of nations, Israel, is still accused of fostering social chaos and bringing harm to non-Jews, in the bright lights of the “perverted science” Winston Churchill feared would be unleashed by a Nazi victory in the Second World War.

Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., is director of Boston University’s Program in Publishing. He just finished a book about the worldwide assault on Israel taking place on college campuses, “Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews.”

Title: South African Journeys

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007


Title: South African Journeys

Author: Gita Gordon
Publisher: Judaica Press

 

         Gita Gordon’s fictitious tale of pre- and post-Holocaust migration of European Jews to South Africa is enthralling. An education in the nuances of how the Dark Continent’s Jewish population established itself, South African Journeys is filled with engaging characters, believable and familiar situations, and life lessons about the nobility of the Jewish spirit.

 

         Several disparate lives converge as Jews who fled the Kishinev pogroms meet up with Yiddish-speaking mail-order brides (one of whom plays bait-and-switch), as well as emotionally scarred survivors of Hitler’s war against the Jews. Life circumstances and some shady characters present them all with a challenging array of betrayals and opportunities to advance in life. Characters in the book either practice integrity based on Torahdik values or abandon all decency. Their choices move the story along.

 

         Each character is entirely believable. Heroes, heroines and villains speak realistic thoughts and make easily understandable choices. When an adolescent escapes a deadly ambush in his Russian town and flees to South Africa, we shudder with him when his first employer, an uncle and fellow Jew, manipulates the situation. Despite the teen’s agony at having lost everyone in his immediate family to brutal slaughter, his uncle places him in servitude in a remote town. The orphan overcomes the multifaceted horror by learning how to thrive with his Basuto clientele, dressed in colorful blankets.

 

         As European Jewish females fleeing impending spinsterhood seek their fortunes in the colorful and baffling land of Tabletop Mountain with its many-hued ethnic groups, readers will groan over courtship’s familiarly awkward situations.

 

         Searches for missing relatives, competitions for social prestige that backfire and the beautifully budding loves and accomplishments of quiet, determined men and women make for hypnotic reading. The author’s graceful transitions between time periods, people, places and situations give readers a vivid sense of witnessing the entire drama firsthand.

 

         Many lives are affected by the religious Batya, the sweet-natured sole survivor of a warm, loving and principled family murdered by Nazis. Or is she perhaps not the sole survivor? Read the story to figure out the answer familiar to far too many Jews of the 20th and 21st centuries.

 

         One of the subtleties of South African Journeys is the inevitability of consequences for the choices made by its characters. Those consequences depict justice served with beaming smiles for the brave and honest, comeuppances for the self-serving and superficial. The values of a Torah-based life subtly save more than a few characters in this book. As the story concludes with a resolution for every complication therein, readers will wish that real life could be written by Gita Gordon. This is a legend to be savored from beginning to end.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/title-south-african-journeys/2007/09/25/

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