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January 24, 2017 / 26 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Joseph’

Vayigash: The Epic Confrontation Between Judah and Joseph

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Judah once allowed a son of Rachel to be taken, but in this week’s parsha, he offers to sacrifice himself instead of Benjamin, because Jacob’s soul is bound up in the soul of Benjamin. Where do we see the same language used centuries later? In this video, Rabbi Fohrman explores a fascinating Biblical echo and helps us answer, what is heroism?

This video is from Rabbi David Fohrman.

For more on Vayigash, see https://goo.gl/Rrl5mZ

Link to last week: https://goo.gl/rQtjRZ

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Rabbi David Fohrman

The Judaism Of Joseph Pulitzer

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

His name is emblematic of the journalism profession itself. Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911), revered and reviled in equal measure, is best known for perfecting the art of investigative reporting; introducing the techniques of “new journalism” to the newspapers he acquired; his crusades against big business and corruption; and, at a time when industrial capitalism was on the rise, his bold and courageous support of anti-trust enforcement.

His New York World revolutionized journalism with its signature blend of muckraking investigations; crusading editorials; sensational crime, disaster, entertainment, and human-interest stories; staged news stunts; and colorful graphics. The bane of the corrupt politicians and well-heeled oligarchs who controlled America and a hero to the labor movement, he was a champion of the freedom of the press on the one hand and an enthusiastic practitioner of yellow journalism on the other.

The fierce competition between his World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal opened the way for mass circulation newspapers that depend on advertising revenue and appealed to the reader with multiple forms of news, entertainment, and advertising. Pulitzer also innovated the extensive use of illustrations and the development of the sports pages.

A leading national figure in the Democratic Party, was elected as a New York congressman, serving one term (1885-86).

Today, however, he is best remembered for establishing the Pulitzer Prizes (1917) through the bequeath of prize money to Columbia University to recognize American achievements in journalism, photography, literature, history, poetry, music, drama, and cartooning. He also donated money to found the Columbia School of Journalism.

Perhaps equally important, however, Pulitzer’s life stands as a metaphor for Jewish achievement and success in America in the face of vile and unremitting anti-Semitism.

Until recently, historians blindly accepted Pulitzer’s dubious account of his ancestry – that his father was a Hungarian Jew from Budapest and his mother “a devout Roman Catholic.” Though he was generally reticent when it came to discussing his ethnic and religious origins, he told biographers he was Jewish only on his father’s side and that therefore, in accordance with the matrilineal descent rules of traditional Judaism, he was not really a Jew.

However, due to contemporary research into his background, no doubt remains that his mother, Elize Berger, was born to a family of Jewish traders in Pest and raised there as a Reform Jew. Among other evidence, researchers have uncovered any number of official records, including passports and issued passes that conform Pulitzer’s mother was a Hungarian-born Jew.

Moreover, recently discovered Hungarian-Jewish archival materials show that Pulitzer was born in Makó and was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth; that he received a traditional upbringing as a Reform Jew; and that he attended a government-funded Jewish grammar school in Makó, which significantly reduced the importance of Jewish tradition. Each member of the Pulitzer family was registered by the official community Jewish registry as “Israelitic” under religion and as “Jewish” under nationality.

The assimilated Pulitzer’s efforts to distance himself from his Jewish background seem deliberate; he married an Episcopalian, raised his children as Protestants, never expressed any particular religious views (except perhaps Enlightenment-type skepticism), and never seemed to identify with anything remotely related to the faith of his ancestors. Yet, perhaps because his life was indelibly marked by the anti-Semitism he experienced growing up in Hungary, he not only crusaded to expose anti-Semitism in Russia, he also donated huge sums of money to Jewish victims of Russian pogroms and staunchly supported the unjustly convicted French artillery officer Captain Alfred Dreyfus.

Though his Jewish background undoubtedly played an important role in shaping his lifelong dedication to social justice, these acts in support of Jews may be attributed to his inherent sense of social justice rather than to his Judaism.

Pulitzer’s ambivalence toward his Judaism proved no defense, however, against the anti-Semites. After leaving Hungary to join the Union army during the U.S. Civil War (1864), when he served in a German regiment under General Philip Sheridan (his passage to America was paid for by Union recruiters), he was almost court-martialed for defending himself against the anti-Semitism of his fellow soldiers and officers. After the Civil War, he made his way to Missouri where, after working as a waiter, taxi driver, and caretaker of mules, he became a journalist, was elected to the state legislature as a Republican, went to law school, started a law practice, and quickly gave it up after purchasing the St. Louis Dispatch (1878); through it all, he was still called “Joey the Jew.”singer-010617

After purchasing the New York World in 1883 and serving for a brief time in the House of Representatives, Pulitzer remained the subject of regular anti-Semitic attacks and slurs, most notably from the vituperative Charles A. Dana, editor of the rival New York Sun, who called him “Judas Pulitzer” and one who “tries to repudiate his birth and ancestry.”

Enraged about being crushed by Pulitzer in the venomous circulation wars, Dana sought to alienate the New York Jewish community from Pulitzer’s New York World by viciously attacking its owner and publisher as “a renegade Jew who denies his breed, race and religion.” In all fairness, Dana was not far off the mark in this regard, as we have shown; even the Hebrew Standard editorialized that “Pulitzer is a Jew who does not want to be a Jew.” Dana frequently reprinted the Hebrew Standard editorial in the New York Sun under the banner headline “Pulitzer Repudiated by his own Race.”

There were frequent anti-Semitic media caricatures of him with an exaggerated “Jew-nose” and the widely-read publication The Journalist called him “Jewseph Pulitzer,” describing him as “combing his hair with his devil’s claws” and hiding in the shadows “to escape turning rancid in the hot sun.”

Exhibited here is an extremely rare June 9, 1877 correspondence to fellow journalist Julius Chambers, which is among the handful of surviving letters from Pulitzer’s early life:


Many thanks for your epistle. I will do the same for you whenever you come as near being cremated as your humble servant. What a graphic description you would have written! I hope you are well mentally, physically, morally, and pecuniarily. I have no doubt you are steadily and surely though perhaps only inwardly and invisibly developing toward that literary fame which I am sure must be in store for you, and so far a share of which you already possess. How many editions of your book were printed in this country?


Chambers (1850-1920) was an American author, editor, journalist, travel writer, and crusader against psychiatric abuse who served as an editor at the New York Herald before accepting Pulitzer’s invitation to serve as managing editor of the New York World. According to an article by Chambers, most of Pulitzer’s early letters were destroyed in a St. Louis fire on his 30th birthday, with our exhibit here being one of the only surviving pieces from that period. A year before our letter, Chambers had gained Pulitzer’s admiration after publication in 1876 of A Mad World and its People, a path breaking investigation into alleged abuses of the mentally ill. The work stoked Pulitzer’s reporter’s instinct, hence the inquiry: “How many editions of your book were printed in this country?”

Saul Jay Singer

AlephBeta: Parshat Miketz: Why Didn’t Joseph Write Home?

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

After Joseph was sold into slavery, why didn’t he ever get in touch with his father? In this video, Rabbi Fohrman will help us attempt to look at the story through Joseph’s eyes, and explore the possibility that Joseph assumed his father was in on the plot. This new perspective helps us understand Joseph, and also his unique relationship with Pharaoh, who becomes the father figure in Joseph’s life.

This video is from Rabbi David Fohrman.

For more on Miketz, see https://goo.gl/D6CWyX

Link to last week: https://goo.gl/jdcF5E

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Rabbi David Fohrman

TORAH SHORTS: Parshat Miketz: Joseph, Social Economist

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016
But while they prate of economic laws, men and women are starving. We must lay hold of the fact that economic laws are not made by nature. They are made by human beings. -Franklin D. Roosevelt

Joseph correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, warning of seven years of plenty followed by seven year of famine. Pharaoh was so impressed by Joseph’s abilities that he appointed Joseph as his Viceroy and put him in charge of the Egyptian empire. Joseph takes the reins of the kingdom and distinguishes himself by creating storehouses for the grain, overseeing the orderly sale and distribution of the grain during the famine, and successfully managing and developing the overall Egyptian economy.

Rabbi Hirsch, in his commentary on Genesis 41, points out two noteworthy economic policies that Joseph instituted during the years of famine.

The first policy was that people had to pay for the grain that he distributed. Though the storehouses of Egypt were overflowing with “uncountable” amounts of grain, Joseph still charged the starving population for it. Rabbi Hirsch explains that had Joseph handed the grain out for free, it would not be valued by the population. People don’t value or appreciate handouts as much as something that they have to pay for.

The second policy was that Joseph sold only enough grain to each family to feed that family. He did not sell wholesale. There were only retail sales. He wanted to prevent a situation of hording, speculative buying and enterprising capitalists cornering the grain market.

Although socialists may have preferred free handouts and capitalists would have preferred freer access to wholesale deals, investments, a fluctuating market, speculation, and letting their capital work for them, Joseph’s policies insured that Egypt survived the famine.

A balanced economic policy seems to have been exactly what the country needed.

Shabbat Shalom and Chanuka Sameach

Rabbi Ben-Tzion Spitz

Vayeishev: Who Really Sold Joseph?

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Although we grow up learning that the brothers sold Joseph, a closer look at the text, and at the accompanying Rashbam, complicates that understanding. In this week’s parsha course, we unravel the sale of Joseph and discuss the implications of such a theory: what is blame? Where does responsibility begin? And most importantly, how do I make moral decisions?


This video is from Rabbi David Fohrman.

For more on Vayeishev, see https://goo.gl/lS6tyr

Link to last week: https://goo.gl/54ABM8

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Rabbi David Fohrman

Former Chief Rabbi of France Joseph Sitruk Dead at 72

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Rabbi Joseph Haim Sitruk, who served as Chief Rabbi of France from June 1987 to June 22, 2008, passed away at age 72. Born in Tunis, Sitruk graduated with an ordination from Seminaire Rabbinique of France in 1970, and was appointed Rabbi of Strasbourg. In 1975, Joseph Sitruk became Chief Rabbi of Marseille. He was later given the post of assistant to the Chief Rabbi of France, Rabbi Max Warchawski, and in 1987 was elected to the post of Chief Rabbi as successor to Sephardi Chief Rabbi René Sirat. Sitruk was only the second Sephardi chief rabbi of France. He was elected to serve three 7-year terms altogether, until in 2008 he lost his bid for a fourth term to Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, who had previously run against him in 1994 and failed.

In 2001 Rabbi Sitruk suffered a stroke and after his recovery took the additional name Haim, following the traditional Jewish protection against illness by altering or changing one’s name.

Rabbi Sitruk left a wife and nine children.

Stéphanie Le Bars wrote in Le Monde back in 2008 that despite his being Orthodox, which means he did not hold religious and a moral authority over all Jews in France, his charisma earned him a certain reverence, especially among Sephardi Jews.

David Israel

Analysis: Thursday the Hon. Judge Joseph Haim Shapira Decided to Outlaw Hate

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

“Racism is baseless hatred of the stranger just for being a stranger, on the basis of difference in race or national ethnicity,” opens the Special Audit Report “Education for a Shared Society and Prevention of Racism,” submitted Thursday by State Comptroller and Ombudsman, the Hon. Judge Joseph Haim Shapira.

That’s not the dictionary’s definition of the term, it is, “Racism is the belief that some races of people are better than others (Webster).” According to this calmer and probably more useful definition, it’s OK for me to believe that my race (or ethnicity or any other form of identity) is better than anyone else’s, and as long as I don’t advocate harm to those others, I am entitled to my belief.

But Israeli law, according to Judge Shapira, defines as racism “persecution, humiliation, debasement, expression of hatred, hostility or violence, or causing a quarrel with a group or parts of the population, all because of color or race or national-ethnic origin.”

It’s a flawed definition, which inevitably leads to bad laws and bad audit reports, which, in the end, will have nothing to do, in the end, with any noticeable shift in people’s behavior. The proof is in the pudding, which in our case are the Auditor’s recommendations. They read like the welcome wall at a re-education camp on the outskirts of Saigon, circa 1975.

For instance, the Ministry of Education must create one body that will be authorized to impose education for a shared society and prevention of racism, complete with a high-level steering committee to set policy and for follow-up on implementation, with established metrics for a methodical examination of racism in the education system. This superior body will prepare a long-term and mandatory system-wide action plan to promote education for a shared society between Jews and Arabs, with the necessary budget and human resource allocation.

Just reading this paragraph, you know there’s nothing real in it. You know not one teacher or one child will actually change the way they examine the reality of their identity, but a small army of teachers and the bureaucrats that watch them will take home a paycheck.

I searched the Shapira report for the word “Arabic.” It is not mentioned once. The fact is that most Arab kids know more Hebrew than do Jewish kids, who aren’t particularly interested in the Arabs’ culture or language. That’s not racism, that’s ignorance. And ignorance is exactly the kind of problem the ministry of education can manage. How about a mandatory five weekly hours of Arabic for the Jewish students? Being versatile with the other’s language is the most essential step towards acknowledging and even understanding the other. If hatred is borne by fear and fear in turn is borne by the unknown, just force those students to learn the other side’s language.

The second auditor’s recommendation brings up education for a shared society and prevention of racism through a required cluster of knowledge courses such as civics, homeland and history, to insure that all students in the education system will be exposed to the issue and its different aspects throughout their years in the system.

What happens when the information in this additional knowledge course conflicts with other courses being taught concurrently? Jews study about the 1948 War of Independence, Arabs about the 1948 Catastrophe. These lessons in history always come packed with identity and with a strong negative notion of the other. Judge Shapira insists that “the Ministry of Education must act and turn the subject [of preventing racism] into an inseparable part of educators’ training process.” Do teachers now obscure the parts of history that may fail to qualify as enhancing the love of the other? How do we teach about the 1929 Hebron massacre without value judgments? Were there hateful people in Nazi Germany? If hate is defined as a value to be discouraged, how should we hate evil?

Judge Shapira has one good idea, which doesn’t really require a whole pro-love administration to make it happen. He recommends that the Ministry of Education increase the opportunities for inter-sectorial meetings and integrate teachers from different sectors in the framework of education of the “other” sector, and especially, increase the number of meetings between Arabs and Jews and the number of Arab teachers employed in the framework of Jewish education and vice-a-versa.

It’s a splendid idea, although not for the faint of heart. Assigning Jewish school jobs to Arab teachers fresh out of college and likewise Arab school jobs to new Jewish teachers would likely make them better teachers—unless they quit because their tires were cut for the fourth time in the school parking lot. They will probably become better citizens as well.

The politics of the left rears its ugly head in several spots along the report, and it is most noticeable in Judge Shapira’s recommendation that the Ministry of Education must cooperate with the numerous NGOs “working for a shared society and prevention of racism. This process should be conducted in partnership with the organizations themselves and in accordance with a consistent, long-term policy,” instructs Judge Shapira.

Because, let’s face it, no one knows better than Israel’s leftwing NGOs how to spread peace and the love of the other — provided he or she are not settlers.

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/analysis-thursday-the-hon-judge-joseph-haim-shapira-decided-to-outlaw-hate/2016/09/22/

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