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October 25, 2016 / 23 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish.’

Jewish Practice In The U.S. Military (V)

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

After these turn of events, Goldman weighed his scant options. He considered requesting the Jewish Defense League (JDL) to conduct a protest across from the base, and he had some other not-fully-prudent ideas, but in the end he did the smartest thing that he could have done, which was to contact COLPA who advised him – among other things – not to organize any protests.

Goldman recounts that his predicament – one against the entire military establishment – was at the same time stressful and, oddly, exhilarating. He felt as if the Almighty was tapping him on the shoulder and whispering, “I want you to pull this off for Me.”

Goldman received the slightest of reprieves when the military defense counsel (who was all incredulity that Goldman refused a direct order and continued to walk around the base wearing a yarmulke) argued that the Letter of Reprimand should and could not be placed in Goldman’s file, for at the time of the order’s non-compliance the Defense Counsel was out-of-town.

The council further advised, upon examining the file, that Goldman take immediate advantage of the six days of leave that were coming to him. Simcha complied with this advice, applied for emergency leave – which was granted – providing him with nearly a week’s reprieve.

COLPA’s handling of the case was spearheaded by David Butler who worked for Nathan Lewin. Butler apprised Goldman that they were seeking injunctive relief from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (the correct address for military matters) claiming that the Air Force had violated Goldman’s First Amendment rights under the Free-Exercise Clause.

The district court under Judge Aubrey E. Robinson (the very same judge who had ruled in favor of Rabbi Geller) granted Goldman a temporary restraining order on July 3, 1981, preventing the Air Force from enforcing its headgear regulation.

“There can be no doubt that the Plaintiff’s insistence on wearing a yarmulke is motivated by his religious convictions, and therefore is entitled to First Amendment protection,” Robinson wrote. “Because of the seriousness of the First Amendment allegations,” he continued, “and resulting pressure on the Plaintiff to abandon his religious observances, injunctive relief is appropriate.” Judge Robinson also ordered the Air Force to withdraw the letter of reprimand and negative performance evaluation given to Goldman.

As a restraining order is filed in court it is technically a public matter. Factually, court orders are filed all the time, and no one in the public is the wiser. But in this instance an alert reporter was present – and sensing a serendipitous moment – was going to turn this routine court procedure into a national scoop.

After the termination of his emergency leave, yarmulke-adorned-Goldman returned to the base protected by a court order. No commander appreciates his wings clipped by an underling – how much more so in the wing-sensitive Air Force – and, as always, action begets a reaction.

Simcha Goldman received notice that the courtesy that the Air Force afforded him regarding Sabbath accommodation would be curtailed. The standing arrangement was that he worked one-and-a-half hours later on Thursdays so that he could depart one-and-a-half hours earlier on Fridays (Sabbath observance commences with sundown on Friday and concludes at nightfall on Saturday) in order to spend the Sabbath with his family that lived 90 minutes from the base.

The Air Force could deny Goldman the courtesy, as they were not requiring him to violate his Sabbath. Nothing prevented Goldman from observing the Sabbath by remaining in his office on the base for the duration of the 25-hour period, sans his family.

The fact that the Air Force lost nothing by allowing him to work extra hours on Thursday to compensate for what he would miss on Friday was immaterial. The matter was up to their discretion and this was a fight that Simcha Goldman could not win. The same could be argued regarding the yarmulke, but Goldman was emotionally unable to abandon that battle.

Because of his dogged commitment to principle, he ignored – initially – conventional wisdom which dictated for Captain Goldman to drop out of the Air Force and curtail the wave of hardships that were engulfing him. But no wisdom, conventional or otherwise, was able to dissuade him from fighting for his religious rights.

Alas, prudency would yet prevail. Despite Simcha’s desire to remain in service, it no longer made any sense, and was thrusting him into thornier dilemmas and further jeopardy. Daily. The four-year obligation that he owed the Air Force to compensate for funding his education was completed in August, 1981 and, reluctantly, he retired.

Simcha Goldman’s lawsuit against the Air Force came to trial in late September, 1981. He was suing the Air Force for… the $100 he had been docked in wages by being forced to take emergency leave. This created an interesting, legal paradox.


(To be continued)

Chodesh Tov – have a pleasant month!

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Getting Uncomfortable: The Jewish Search For Meaning On Campus

Friday, September 30th, 2016

After several meetings with a bright and affable Harvard sophomore who made it abundantly clear that he was a “devout atheist,” I was utterly confused.

As a rabbi and the director of MEOR programming at Harvard, I spend the majority of my time working to inspire, educate, and empower the budding Jewish leaders on campus. Though I dress with a modern flair, my rabbinic look, complete with a black velvet kippah, make it clear to all that mine is a traditional, theistic view of life.

Granted, we always met in a trendy coffee shop, and the meeting came with an offer of a hot beverage or even a scoop of ice cream, but he rarely took advantage of those perks. So I wondered what this unabashedly liberal student was really after.

“Why do you meet with me?” I finally inquired.

He fielded my question without batting an eye. It was simple, really. He was in search of purpose and meaning, and was hoping I had a healthy dose of it to spare.

On today’s competitive college campus, the pace is frenetic and allows for little time to focus on “trivial” matters, such as life’s meaning. Many of the students I meet are preoccupied with a great many things. They are hyper-focused on their problem sets, term papers, and numerous extracurricular activities, and are constantly haunted by the invisible voice of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in the social sphere. It’s difficult to have a coherent thought about schoolwork with that kind of noise, and it’s almost impossible to find time to consider the “big questions.”

Even worse, one student recently told me he believes many students have no interest in developing genuine friendships, only welcoming the advances of those who can help them get ahead socially or scholastically. In this setting, it is no wonder that so many students are gasping for spiritual air. Amid all the tumult, a need for quiet arises, as well as a desire to think about something else entirely, something more substantial – even if that something propels them into uncomfortable territory.

Which brings me to the struggle on campus to define the role of college itself. Some believe it is a place for the unabashed intellectual freedom of ideas, no matter their source. As a recent letter from the University of Chicago to incoming students explains: “At U of C, you will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times, this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.”

The opposing view believes that college must provide a comfortable intellectual environment without forcing discomfort, even at the expense of learning. As Harry Lewis, the former dean of Harvard, suggests: “Ensuring that the intellectual and emotional environment is ‘comfortable’ for students is an almost unquestioned priority in American higher education, even at Harvard – in spite of the fact that real learning about values can take place only when one’s own values are challenged.”

In light of events at several American institutions over the past year, it appears as though most colleges agree with Mr. Lewis, making the University of Chicago perspective a minority viewpoint. But this means we have reached a paradox.

For many, the college environment is entirely bereft of meaning, and they begin actively seeking out something they can define as meaningful. But that very search leads to deep questions about life, heritage, and spirituality. Jewish students find themselves questioning the materialistic perspective held by so many in their circles, pondering the implausibility of Jewish survival through the ages, and considering their roles in the global Jewish community. Undoubtedly, these questions will challenge their initial assumptions to the point of internal discomfort, a position that many millennials would deem inappropriate and unfair.

However, this is where love comes in. Institutions are notoriously poor at providing love or forging relationships based on trust. Yet those are the two main ingredients required to create a “safe space” for those who are developing rapidly in an academic jungle, as well as the only true way to coax them into exploring viewpoints and experiences that were non-existent in their formative years.

My job as a campus rabbi is to lead students down that path of internal and external exploration, enveloping them in enough warmth and encouragement that they are not only able to embrace the discomfort the process produces but figure out how to grow from it.

Every student I encounter understands I have chosen this calling because I believe a human being only reaches his or her potential when life is cosmically meaningful and I want them all to reach their greatest potentials because I care. Whether I end up on the same page as a student is essentially inconsequential, as what makes the students great is their willingness to tackle uncomfortable questions. That ability is something they can take with them the rest of their lives. It is, in fact, the key to finding true meaning in every area of life.

I met with the “devout atheist” several more times throughout the semester and slowly realized I was no longer the one asking the questions. One day he asked me the mother of all theological questions: “Why do you believe the Torah is true?” A satisfied smile stretched across my face.

It was at that moment that I knew our meetings had been truly successful. He had asked a question whose implications were cosmic and quite likely immensely uncomfortable. And yet that’s exactly where he wanted to be.

Rabbi Yoni Ganger

Temple Mount Closed to Jews On the Eve of Rosh Hashana, Due to Minor Islamic Holiday

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Israel Police have announced that the Temple Mount will be closed to Jews this coming Sunday, the eve of Rosh Hashana.

Temple Mount activists condemned the decision, which they called another “surrender to the terrorists.”

A police notice tacked on the door to the Temple Mount Thursday morning said: “As is done each year, the Temple Mount will be closed to visitors on Rosh Hashana HaHajira, the Al-Hijra (1Muharram) New Year’s Day.

Al-Hijra, marks the Hegira in 622 CE, when the prophet Mohammed, founder of Islam, moved from Mecca to Medina and established the first Islamic state, marking the beginning of Islam as a monotheistic community.

It is celebrated as the Islamic New Year, but doesn’t rate as high as the two major religious festivals on the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. According to the BBC, there are no specific religious rituals required on this day.

Nevertheless, this coming Sunday evening also marks the start of the Jewish new year and is the second holiest day on the Hebrew calendar, surpassed only by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, 10 days later.

Jews consider this a time of sanctification, rededication and renewal. For the Israeli government to decide to close the holiest site in all Judaism to Jews on this day, in deference to Muslim sensitivities, is a grave move indeed.

It is important to note, however, that the Temple Mount will be open to allow Jews to visit during the Rosh Hashana holiday itself, during regular visiting hours.

Israeli Knesset members and government ministers are not allowed to ascend to the Temple Mount at any time whatsoever, under a directive of the prime minister.

Hana Levi Julian

Shiloh Musings: The USA is Not a Jewish Country!

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

I was born and raised in the USA, the United States of America. And in the second half of the twentieth century, post-World War Two, it was very much a Christian country. The Jewish population was an extremely vocal minority, and if there were any other religions, one rarely if ever heard from them. And although there certainly were quite a few races other than Caucasian aka white, standards of beauty were primarily WASP, emphasizing straight, light-colored hair, small nose, light eyes, thin eyebrows and oval faces. Shoes were made for narrow feet, and the classic sheath dress was most flattering on narrow hips.

When I took on Jewish Sabbath observance and couldn’t take important standardized tests on Saturdays, at least others had already successfully fought that battle, and there were places designated for Sunday testing, PSAT, SAT, College Boards etc.

After Thanksgiving, public places and public schools were decorated for Christmas, even including religious Nativity scenes. And schools had very Christian religious assemblies/pageants. That is until the local Jewish populations got strong and confident enough to stop it. Sometimes all that was done as a “change” was to add a dreidel and Chanukah Menorah to the Nativity Scene and sing “Dreidel Made Out of Clay” along with “Silent Night.”

And many localities which have never had much of a Jewish presence, things never changed. They stayed unabashedly Christian.

Now, America is changing. Local authorities, schools and universities have to deal with the fact that there is religious diversities and the “minorities” aren’t willing to stay silent or quietly assimilate. Isn’t it all so deja vu? That’s how I felt when I saw the following:

Georgia Jewish students riled by homecoming on Yom Kippur

I, personally, solved the dilemma by becoming more Jewish and not trying to live in two separate worlds simultaneously. I also moved to Israel, where not only are the Jewish Holidays the official ones, but the shoes are wider, too.

Batya Medad

The Golem Comes to Life in Berlin’s Jewish Museum [video]

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

A golem (Heb: Shapeless lump) is a creature formed out of a dust or mud that’s brought to life by ritual incantations and sequences of Hebrew letters on a scroll dumped into its mouth. In Jewish lore, after it has been brought to life by a human creator, the golem becomes a helper, a companion, or a rescuer of an imperiled Jewish community. In many golem stories, as in the later Frankenstein tales, the creature runs amok and becomes a threat to its creator.

The myth of artificial life – from homunculi and cyborgs to robots and androids – is the focus of an extensive thematic exhibition about the golem at the Jewish Museum Berlin. This most prominent of Jewish legendary figures has inspired generations of artists and writers to this day.

“Our exhibition presents the golem from a variety of perspectives, from its inception in a Jewish mystical ritual to its role as a subject of popular storytelling in film and its afterlife in artistic and digital realms,” says a museum press release. “The golem symbolizes each era’s dreaded dangers and hopes for redemption. The exhibition uses the golem figure to examine topics like creativity, creation, power, and redemption.”

The exhibition demonstrates the thematic richness of the material, as is apparent from medieval manuscripts, many-layered narratives, and works of art from the last two hundred years. Whether in painting, sculpture, object art, video, installation art, photography, or illustration, the golem is very much alive and, with it, the question of what it means to be human.

The exhibition is being held at the Jewish Museum Berlin’s Old Building, level 1, Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin, September 23,  2016 to January 29, 2017.


Jewish Minor Detained by Jerusalem Police on Suspicion of Prayer

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

A Jewish minor was detained by police on Temple Mount Sunday morning, when he toured the area with a group and was accused of praying to God, which Jews are prohibited from doing there, legal aid society Honenu reported. Honenu attorney Rehavia Piltz is providing legal representation to the minor.

David Israel

Report: US Jewish Donors Mostly Avoid Trump, Favor Clinton

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

The website FiveThirtyEight, whose Editor in Chief Nate Silver is possibly the most trusted odds maker in North America, published a report Wednesday suggesting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is being abandoned by Jewish donors. To measure the relationship between Republicans and Jewish supporters, FiveThirtyEight took in data about campaign contributors, because there’s no other reliable way to measure Jewish voting, seeing as Jews make less than 2% of the US population, so that in a representative sample of 1,000 Americans, which is the accepted norm, you get about 20 people who say they are Jewish, and so pollster don’t really have enough to work with on Jewish voters, except for their donations. The AJC poll released last week claimed to offer reliable information on Jewish voter behavior, but one poll does not a reliable behavior reflect.

The FiveThirtyEight authors were hoping that Studying Jewish political contributors would offer a “useful signal,” because, while they may be an insignificant percentage of the population, Jews make up a much larger share of campaign contributors. So that if one discerned a significant swing in their donation behavior, one might assume the entire tribe is reacting in a similar fashion.

So they looked at every contribution of more than $200 to a federal candidate, in data provided by Catalist, a political data vendor which offers reasonably reliable estimates on whether a US voter is Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu, Buddhist or other. Jews are easier to verify this way, because they often have recognizable names and live in geographic clusters. Yes, Upper West Siders, we mean you, but we don’t mean you, former Senator William Cohen of Maine.

Now the results: in 2012, about 70% of Jewish money and Jewish votes (the total given was $160 million) went to President Obama. But in 2016, out of the $95 million given to presidential campaigns so far by Jewish donors, according to FiveThirtyEight, 84% went to Democrats, only 16% to Republicans, including all 16 losers in the primaries. Meanwhile, discounting the Jewish money donated to primary losers, 95% of all Jewish contributions went to Clinton.

But here is the result that’s the most devastating in terms of Jewish support for Trump: as a percentage of all contributors, Jews made up 18% of Obama’s donors and 7% of Romney’s donors in 2012. In 2016, 20% of Clinton’s donors are probably Jewish, only 3% of Trump’s donors have stood at Mount Sinai.

With such a dramatic shift in numbers, assuming they are reliable (having been following Nate Silver for a while, we believe they are), we can’t discount as “leftists” all the Jews who are sending their $200 donations to Clinton, because they probably aren’t. It’s safer to say that Donald Trump has yet to convince Jewish voters that they can trust him as leader of the free world. They barely trust Hillary, for that matter.


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/report-us-jewish-donors-mostly-avoid-trump-favor-clinton/2016/09/22/

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