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Posts Tagged ‘honor’

Honor Violence in America

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Aiya Altemeemi, aged 19, suffered a punishment last February that none of her schoolmates in Phoenix, Arizona could have imagined: her father cut her throat with a kitchen knife. When she escaped to her bedroom, her mother and sisters followed, tied her to her bed, taped her mouth shut, and beat her. And this was not the first time: previously, when Aiya had expressed reservations about marrying the 38-year-old man her parents had chosen as her husband, her mother had shackled her to the same bed and burned her with a hot spoon. Despite such treatment, Aiya, who arrived from Iraq with her parents around three years ago, soon after announced to stunned reporters that she understood why her mother had assaulted her: “Because I talked to a boy, and that is not normal with her, that is not my religion. My religion says no talking to boys.”

Alhough Aiya’s was among the few to receive media attention, stories like hers are far more common than most people would imagine. In what is known as “honor violence,” mistreatment includes not just beatings, but acid attacks, setting a woman on fire, severing her nose from her face — particularly in Pakistani and Afghan communities — and other forms of mutilation.

Such incidents, which occur mainly in Muslim and Hindu families, have been the focus of attention in Europe for several years — largely thanks to the efforts of Somali-Dutch activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who first brought the problem to light some ten years ago in the Netherlands. Since then, research has uncovered disturbing statistics: 400 to 600 incidents of honor violence are recorded annually in the Netherlands alone, with around 12 honor killings a year each in Germany and the Netherlands. And in England, where the directors of one center say they receive 500 calls for help from victims of honor violence every month, and where police estimate there are between 3,000 and 17,000 incidents of honor violence each year, a recent report contends that one-fifth of all South Asian immigrants believe that “certain acts thought to shame families were justification for violence.”

Americans, however, have been reluctant to accept the notion that honor violence occurs on US soil, just as – until recently – they insisted that the radicalization of Muslims in Europe was not a problem that could confront Americans. But with events such as Nidal Malik Hassan’s 2009 attack at Fort Hood and the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, we’ve learned otherwise: radical Islam is alive and well in these United States and with it, religious and culturally-based violence against women.

CBS News has reported that, “According to a survey, the [Virginia-based] Tahirih Justice Center conducted of more than 500 social service, religious, legal, educational and medical agencies last year, 67 percent responded that they believed there were cases of forced marriage occurring among the populations they serve, but only 16 percent felt their agency was equipped to deal with the situation.” Yet no one had ever investigated the problem.

Now Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) has introduced a bill that promises to make clear just how big the problem is, and – if necessary – to develop programs to address it.

Those who have experience with the issue say that such programs are sorely needed: while Americans are growing more aware of honor killings, they are less conscious of honor violence — a more insidious but even larger phenomenon. Moreover, domestic violence shelters and services are not adequately suited to handle the problem, which encompasses more complex and dangerous situations, and which often require a different kind of outreach: honor violence victims are often immigrants with little or no understanding of the resources available, few outside contacts, and in the case of Muslims, are often not even allowed access to the outside world except when accompanied by a male family member.

More significantly, in cases of honor violence, the entire family –- even the entire community –- is involved. Where a domestic violence victim can often find shelter with a friend or family member, such refuge is usually impossible for these women. “What do we do with a teenager runaway? Ninety-nine percent of the time, we take her home,” Peoria, Arizona, Detective Chris Boughey told CBS. “But some of these girls end up getting killed.”

A Unanimous Senate Awards Wallenberg Congressional Gold Medal

Friday, July 13th, 2012

The U.S. Senate voted unanimously to award Raoul Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award given by Congress.

The vote was part of an effort to confer the honor upon Wallenberg in time for the 100th anniversary of his birth in August. The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved awarding the medal in April. The measure now goes to President Obama for his signature.

“Raoul Wallenberg’s courageous actions were a shining example of selfless heroism at a time when others stood mute in the face of unimaginable horror,” said Kathy Manning, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, which had led advocacy for the medal. “That this legislation passed with such broad bipartisan support is a reflection of how deserving Raoul Wallenberg is of the Congressional Gold Medal.”

The legislation was introduced in September by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.).

Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat in Budapest during the German occupation in 1944, issued Swedish travel documents – known as “Wallenberg passports” – to at least 20,000 Jews, and also set up more than 30 safe houses for Jews. Other diplomats from neutral countries collaborated in the effort.

The details of Wallenberg’s fate have remained a mystery. He disappeared while being escorted out of Hungary to the Soviet Union. The Soviets claimed that he died of a heart attack in 1957, but other evidence indicated that he was killed in Lubyanka prison or that he may have lived years longer.

The Congressional Gold Medal has been conferred since the American Revolution to honor “the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.” It was first awarded to George Washington.

Awardees need not be Americans. Past honorees include Simon Wiesenthal, Natan and Avital Sharansky, the Dalai Lama, and Burmese democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Pinchas: Zealous For Hashem

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

In a moment of zealousness, Pinchas earned eternal honor for himself and his family. As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains, such is the power of zeal in the service of Hashem and His Torah.

“Pinchas Ben Elazar Ben Aharon the kohen turned away my wrath from upon the sons of Israel by his zeal for my sake in their midst; and I did not bring destruction upon the sons of Israel because of my jealousy. Therefore, say, behold, I give to him my covenant of peace” (25:11-2). This is a special proclamation of acclaim. Though Moshe certainly approved of Pinchas, Hashem here teaches the necessity to render public recognition to the righteous.

“And they shall justify the just, and they shall condemn the wicked” (Devarim 25:1) actually means that the just shall be held up to public view as men all should admire, and that the wicked must be held up as examples of scorn and public shame. Thus, in the rare instances when a prophetic Bat Kol was heard during the Second Sanctuary era, we find an instance (in the Gemara in Sanhedrin) when this miraculous phenomenon was used to point out the excellence of Hillel; and similarly, a Bat Kol came forth later to proclaim the excellence of Shmuel the Little (ibid.).

“Hashem encourages the meek” (Tehillim 147:6) (i.e. the righteous) “but He lowers the wicked to the ground” (ibid.). “Condemning the wicked, and justifying the righteous” (I Kings 8:32): this is a principle of all the narrations of the Scriptures concerning the righteous.

Against every good man (or good deed) there will always be detractors and opponents, or at best the people will fail to appreciate properly the worth of the righteous and their deeds. Here in these verses Hashem supplies a model of how to react to the deeds of the righteous and how highly we should admire their personalities and publicize their importance.

Pinchas is commended for being jealous (i.e. his zeal) for Hashem, and this jealousy was especially commended for being performed in their midst, meaning in open public demonstration. This quality of public open speech or action on behalf of Hashem is especially prized. Moshe became angry when he saw any infraction of Hashem’s Torah and was constantly commended by Hashem; we understand that Moshe was protecting the sons of Israel from the consequences of Hashem’s wrath.

When Moshe, during the episode of the golden calf, broke the Tablets, it was a monumental deed of jealousy for Hashem’s honor, and this prepared the way for the final pardon that was granted for that transgression. Similarly, when Abraham prayed that Sodom be spared destruction, Hashem consented if there would be ten righteous men, but the condition was made that they be righteous men in the midst of the city (Bereshis 18:26), meaning that they openly and publicly demonstrated their disapproval of the sins of the city. Just as the ketoret brings forgiveness from Hashem’s retribution, even more does public action for the honor of Hashem and His Torah bring forgiveness. This is the highest ketoret of all.

In the following verse, a covenant of priesthood is bestowed upon him and his posterity. But the covenant of peace for Pinchas himself is a separate covenant whereby he is assured of peace throughout his lifetime (Bamidbar Rabbah 25:1). Why was Pinchas granted an assurance of peace throughout his lifetime? Because he brought peace to the sons of Israel. This is twice stated: 1) He turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel and 2) he was zealous for his G-d and atoned for the sons of Israel (25:13). The second statement is added to explain the priesthood was bestowed upon him because he atoned for the sons of Israel, therefore he and his posterity shall atone for Israel as kohanim. Thus we learn that the man who is zealous for Hashem and His Torah is considered as one who brings peace to Israel and protects them against misfortune; and therefore he deserves a long life of enjoying the fruits of his deeds.

Pinchas was active even in the days of the War of the Concubine at Giveah (Shoftim 20:28). Similarly, though Eliyahu Hanavi departed from men (II Kings 2:11), he was rewarded in not having to die like other men (ibid.) because he was zealous for Hashem (I Kings 19:10); and in our tradition the deathless Eliyahu appeared to the Sages numerous times. Men such as these have brought upon Israel the assurance that our nation would continue deathless.

Choosing Shame Over Honor

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Lives can change in 60 seconds, worlds end and new ones begin. Sixty seconds is all it can take sometimes. Sixty seconds where you don’t pay attention on the road as a child runs after a ball; 60 seconds for a couple to become a family as a child is born and placed in his mother’s arms for the first time; 60 seconds when an ill-prepared rescue attempt can turn to disaster and strong men who came in peace can be turned into victims of an ongoing war called terror.

On September 4, 1972, Palestinian terrorists violated the spirit and purpose of the Olympics, bringing violence and death to 11 Israeli athletes. This happened in Munich, in Germany.

To remember, to read about those tragic hours of terror is to read about courage and bravery on the part of the Israelis at they struggled, within themselves, to save their teammates. Those who saw them in the hours before the bungled German rescue attempt, spoke of the dignity of the Israeli athletes. In their deaths, they showed the best of what Israel is and the best of what Israel had brought to the Olympic Games. In dignity, the Israeli team departed after the massacre, and in great shame, the world continued to play as if…as if nothing had happened.

There was no honor among the Palestinian murderers, no honor in gunning down and murdering innocent, unarmed athletes that came to celebrate what was supposed to be the one moment in time the world would join to pursue sports and not war. In their actions, the Palestinians showed the worst of Palestinian society.

Of the German actions, I cannot write. I want to believe their incompetence was not a sign of apathy. I want to believe there was honor in their trying to save the Israelis, the Jews, who had come to German soil to participate in the world games. I want to believe and sometimes I do. I can only imagine their horror that Jews, including at least one Holocaust survivor, had become victims of terror on German soil. I want to feel bad for them but while they may or may not have been responsible for the ultimate failure of the rescue (and the horrendously inadequate security that allowed this to happen in the first place), my heart is too full with sorrow to find compassion for their dismay.

And finally, there was no honor in the cowardice and insensitive actions of the International Olympics Committee – then, and now. They failed – from the start, through the attack, and after. They failed to adequately prepare; they failed during the negotiations. They failed, most dramatically, in recognizing the magnitude of the horror that had played out before their eyes. They failed, and evenworse, lack even the dignity to admit that in their actions, they sanction forgetting or ignoring the results of their failures.

The Palestinian group came to murder, and murder they did. I remember the Munich Olympics, though I was a young girl at the time. I remember waiting for hours hoping the Israelis would be released. Believing that Jews would not die as hostages on German soil. I remember wishing they would let the Israeli army come in and save them but having faith that the Germans could beat terrorists. I was wrong. The German army wasn’t allowed to run the operation – this was done by two politicians and a police officer. Later it was learned that it’s possible some of the hostages were even killed by the German police.

I remember the bungled attempt the Germans made to save the Israelis, of begging to be told that somehow at least one had survived. I remember the joy when we heard the hostages were all safe…and the incredible agony of learning not a single one had survived. I remember the fury when I later read that the “sharpshooters” were not trained professionals but merely men who had shot competitively on weekends. This is what they sent to fight terrorists!

And finally, I remember in the midst of my tears the absolute sense of betrayal and shock to hear that the games would continue, even as Israel pulled into itself to bury its dead.

Israel’s Medal of Freedom

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award that exists in the United States. It is bestowed by the President in a ceremony of honor and respect. The award was created in 1945 and was more recently re-titled the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It can be given to anyone – including someone who is not a citizen of the United States.

President Shimon Peres will soon receive the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Hussein Obama. Peres has already taken one noble stand in telling Obama that he is accepting the medal on behalf of the entire State of Israel: “I have come here as the representative of the whole of the State of Israel to say thank you for the great friendship that America has demonstrated towards Israel.”

Medal of Freedom – named for the fact that there are few things Americans (and Israelis) value more than their freedom. It is an honor – bestowed on a noble person, someone who acts bravely to protect the interests of their country, world peace, humanity.

According to a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding signed between Israel and the United States, Israel was entitled to vital information related to its security. The United States was breaking that agreement, withholding strategic information that Israel should have been given. A man, an American, and yes, a Jew found out and went to his superiors. He asked why Israel was not being given this information and, according to sources, was told, “Jews get nervous talking about poison gas; they don’t need to know.” Yes, Jews do get nervous about poison gas…call us crazy but even this rather human tendency does not undercut the fact that Israel had a right to know, and the US had an obligation to honor its agreement.

When he could not find another way, Jonathan Pollard leaked this information to Israel…yes, he turned over secret US documents to an ally. What vital information was contained in these papers? Well, sources say it included information about Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Iranian nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare capabilities being developed for use against Israel. It also included information on ballistic missile development by these countries and information on planned terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian targets.

American government officials caught on and Pollard was arrested in 1985. But here is where it gets tricky…Pollard never had a trial. He was never charged or indicted with most of the charges people think he has been convicted of doing. Before it came to a trial, Pollard was encouraged by both the Israeli government and the US government to accept a plea bargain that would save the embarrassing details from coming to the surface – that the Americans had broken an important agreement with an important ally; that Israel had spied on a valued ally.

Since he was never given a trial, Pollard was never found guilty – rather, he pleaded guilty to one charge. No, not treason, not harming the United States. He was never charged with compromising codes, agents or war plans. The one charge that he pleaded guilty to was one count of passing classified information to an ally, without intent to harm the United States. That is all.

After Jonathan Pollard admitted guilt for this minor charge the US broke the plea bargain agreement and sentenced him to life in prison with no opportunity for parole. He was not released even for a few hours to attend the funeral of his father; he remains isolated in prison.

No one in the history of the United States has ever received a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally – not before nor after Jonathan Pollard. The median sentence for this offense is two to four years. Jonathan Pollard has served more than 26 years.

It is time for Jonathan Pollard to be set free. Whatever crimes he committed, he did so out of a deep love of Israel and the knowledge that he was only passing to Israel what it should have been given in the first place. He has served his time and what might once have been considered justice has now become injustice.

On Wednesday, Shimon Peres will receive the Medal of Freedom – I urge him to thank President Obama and the United States and then, on Thursday, to go visit Jonathan Pollard and give the Medal of Freedom to him. Freedom is nothing if it is at the expense of others; justice for some is not enough. Israel cannot accept such an honor from the United States so long as the US continues to hold Jonathan Pollard in captivity.

Suspended For Being Too Jewish?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=55

My earliest thought of Judaism came in Catholic school, when I cussed out my grade three teacher for being an anti-Semite.

I was no Biblical expert at the age of nine, but even my cursory understanding of the Bible told me that Christians had a heck of a lot in common with Jews.  But my grade four brain, trapped in a grade three class, couldn’t yet formulate the brilliant observations of a Dennis Prager or Rabbi Joseph Telushkin about the Jewish foundation of ethical monotheism that Christians and the rest of the world inherited.  Or the passionate Christian defense of Judaism from the great Pastor John Hagee (for whom I have had the great honor of writing; more on that later).  No, I just stood up and cussed out my grade three teacher for crapping on Jews.

Perhaps that was the first indication of my latent Jewish tendencies: not what I said to my teacher, but my instinct to stand up and say it.  Outspokenness.  A rather Jewish trait, I’m told, which did not serve me well at any level of school, anywhere (I bounced around to every school in town, and to one of them twice).  Witness my suspension notice for “persistent opposition to authority,” and my Grade 3 report card, which observed that I have “a good religious knowledge but fails to relate to his peers due to his ‘superior’ attitude.”

So it appears, as early as grade three, that I was already exhibiting early-onset symptoms of “chosenness.”

Chabad Of South Broward Holds Siyum

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

A siyum in honor of the conclusion of Seder Zeraim, the first of six orders of the Mishnah, was held on April 24, Iyar 2, at the Chabad of South Broward located in Hallandale Beach. The Mishnah is the basis of the Oral Torah. Zeraim deals primarily with agricultural laws.

Iyar 2, the date of the event, commemorates the birthday of Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn, the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the Rebbe Maharash (1834-1882). Iyar 2 also marked the day 17 years ago that the eleven months of Kaddish for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M Schneerson (1902-1994) was completed.

Every morning after the second minyan, a Mishnah is studied in the shul. Dubbed the “New York Mishnah,” this small daily class enables participants to fulfill the mitzvah, even if they’re rushing to work.

The study began three years ago, at first with five tractates. The first letter of the five tractates spelled out Yisroel, in memory of the late brother of Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus, Rabbi Yisroel Tennenhaus, z”l. After the first five tractates were concluded, the study of Zeraim began.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/south-florida/chabad-of-south-broward-holds-siyum/2012/05/10/

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