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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘JTA’

Exacting Vengeance on the Gentiles?

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Once again we are treated to the sight of very religious looking Jews acting like a street gang. A statue of a cross with a figure of Jesus on it was defaced by a group of Breslover Chasidim in Uman. The cross was recently erected opposite the grave of the founder of this Chasidus, Rav Nachman of Breslov – located in the Ukrainian city of Uman. From JTA:

“To exact vengeance on the gentiles,” reads the message, which was scrawled across the torso of a figure of Jesus. A further inscription on Jesus’ leg reads, “Stop desecrating the name of God.”

This kind of thing would not surprise me if it were being done by extremists from a community that embraces an isolationist lifestyle. But although they are hardcore Chasidim who dress and look much the same as Satmar Chasidim – Breslovers do a lot of outreach. I would expect them to know how to behave in a more civilized manner. They must have had a socialization process that taught them that or they could not do outreach. And yet here they have acted in a completely uncivilized way.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise that a Christian symbol near their venerated Rebbe’s grave site was desecrated with graffiti. I guess their socialization process goes just so far. A statue of Jesus so close to their Rebbe’s grave site was too much to handle.

I don’t know why the Ukrainian Government chose that site for its statue. I don’t think it was a wise decision. But at the same time, I don’t think it was necessarily meant to ‘stick it’ to the Breslovers either. It was probably just not a well thought out plan.

I can understand why these Chasidim felt outrage. They consider the Breslover Rebbe’s gravesite to be so holy that make annual pilgrimages to it. Tens of thousands of Jews (mostly Breslover Chasidim) from all over the world visit it during Rosh Hashanah – one of the holiest times of the year. It is almost as though they were making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem’s Holy Temple. Seeing the sight of Jesus on a cross must have made them feel like they were seeing Avodah Zara in the Beis HaMikdash.

The outrage is understandable. But their expression of it is inexcusable. It is the kind of behavior that can bring tragedy upon the Jewish people. Uman is not Jerusalem. R. Nachman’s gravesite is not the Beis HaMikdash. The citizens of Uman are their hosts. Breslovers are guests. And the guests have just defaced the image of the god their hosts worship.

The more responsible Breslover leadership has apologized. Sort of. From JTA:

“We respect other religions, and don’t wish to damage symbols of other religions. But, unfortunately, not all of our coreligionists understand this. They could break or destroy the cross. That would lead to a genuine war between hasidim and Christians. We cannot allow that, so we request that the cross be moved to a different location,” said Shimon Busquila, a representative of the Rabbi Nachman International Fund…

It may have been a legitimate request. But it was made too late. If made at all it should have been made politely before the statue was vandalized. Nonetheless the deputy mayor of Uman agreed with it.

On the other hand the citizens of Uman were so outraged by the vandalism – that they will have no part of moving the statue. They promised retaliation against Rav Nachman’s grave if it is moved. I can’t say that I blame them.

I think the point to be made here is contained in the response made by Shimon Busquila: ‘…not all of our coreligionists understand this’.

That is exactly the problem. Why don’t they understand this? It is not enough for a leader to simply say that some of their co-religionists do not understand the consequences of being uncivilized – thereby damaging the property of their hosts.  Especially their religious symbols. No matter how upsetting it is to them.

The Chasidim who did this are taught to hate non Jewish religious symbols much more than they are taught to behave in civilized ways when encountering them. So when they get upset at the sight of one of those hated symbols, they react in ways that bring ill repute upon – and ill will against – our people. They do so without thinking or perhaps even caring about the consequences.

White House Menorah From Hurricane Sandy Shul

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

For the second time in office, US President Barack Obama has used a Hanukkah menorah from a hurricane-ravaged area to conduct the official White House Hanukkah celebration.

The 90-year old, seven-foot brass menorah was brought from the Conservadox Temple Israel in Long Beach, NY, one of the religious items which was not destroyed in Hurricane Sandy, according to a report by JTA.  It was untouched by the elements due to its location on an upper floor of the synagogue.

The menorah used by the Obama administration in 2010 came from a New Orleans synagogue ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

“This 90-year-old menorah survived, and I am willing to bet it will survive another 90 years, and another 90 years after that,” Obama was quoted by JTA as saying before the lighting of the candles Thursday night at the White House Chanukah party. “So tonight, it shines as a symbol of perseverance, and as a reminder of those who are still recovering from Sandy’s destruction — a reminder of resilience and hope and the fact that we will be there for them as they recover.”

Jarrod Bernstein, Director of Jewish Outreach at the White House, chose the menorah for the lighting ceremony during a family visit in New York, where he formerly served under Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a community outreach official.  His wife, Democratic National Committee Finance Director Hildy Kuryk, recommended finding a menorah from a NY synagogue hit by Hurricane Sandy.

“The story of what’s going on there — the rededication and re-sanctification of these communities, there’s definitely a correlation” with Chanukah, Bernstein was quoted as saying.

Temple Israel has reportedly sustained $5 million in damage, only a portion of which will be covered by insurance.

French Jewish Leader: Banning Circumcision Will end Jewish Life in Europe

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

French Jewish leader Richard Prasquier said that banning circumcision in Europe “would inevitably mean the end of Judaism” there.

“You can seek a ban but you need to understand the consequences: The inevitable disappearance of Jewish life from Europe,” Prasquier on Thursday told a European Parliament conference on religious freedoms.

Pasquier has been president of the CRIF since 2007.

CRIF (Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France) is an umbrella body comprising all French Jewish groups, that was originally created in 1944 under the Vichy Regime. Nowadays, this national federation, made up of 62 Jewish organizations, is the voice of the organized French Jewish community.

France has Europe’s largest Jewish community, numbering between 500 and 800 thousand.

The conference, titled “Freedom of Religion and/or Mutual Respect in Europe,” was jointly organized by the European Parliament and the European Jewish Association.

Prasquier said attacking circumcision “is telling Europe’s Jews to pack their suitcases and leave” and that includes “Orthodox, traditional, or non-observant such as myself.”

He was replying to a question by Diane Luquiser, one of the conference’s 50 participants, who asked why Judaism could not “adapt to modern times” and abandon the practice “which hurts children.”

Prasquier revealed he was circumcised 11 years after his birth in Poland in 1945.

“Circumcising me was a difficult decision for my father, a Pole who had to drop his pants when the Nazis caught him,” he said. “That kind of difficulty is a reality which we would not like to see repeating itself.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association – the Brussels-based organization behind the conference – said that allowing Jewish and Muslim rites is “necessary for mutual respect.”

Over the past year, ritual circumcision of underage boys has been briefly banned in a Swiss hospital and in some Austrian hospitals after a court in Cologne ruled in June that such circumcision amounted to a criminal offense.

Last month, the German cabinet passed a draft law to permit ritual circumcision and clarify the legal situation.

JTA content was used in this report.

GOP Senators Set to Punish the Palestinians and the UN

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Republican U.S. senators introduced the first efforts to penalize the Palestinians and the United Nations should the body affirm enhanced Palestinian status.

The amendment language, first reported on the Americans for Peace Now website, was introduced by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wy.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

“The first shot has been fired in the much-anticipated Congressional battle to punish the Palestinians for seeking to upgrade their status at the UN – and to also punish any UN agencies and any countries that support them,” writes APN blogger Lara Friedman.

Language proposed this week as an amendment to S. 3254, the National Defense Authorization Act would punish both the PA and the UN for a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian “observer state.”

The PLO is set to submit its bid for non-member observer state status today, Thursday.

Friedman reports that the GOP amendment seeks to compel the president to cut U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority by 50% if the PA “seeks at any time after November 25, 2012, at the United Nations General Assembly or any other United Nations entity status different than the status it held on November 25, 2012″ – with the cuts continuing “until permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are fully resolved.”

Next, the same amendment will compel the President to cut by 50% U.S. “appropriated contributions to any United Nations entity” that upgrades the Palestinians’ status after November 25, 2012, and those cuts as well will continue “until permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are fully resolved.”

Finally, to complete the package, the amendment compels the president to cut by 20% U.S. assistance to any country that after November 25, 2012 votes to grant the Palestinians full membership in the UN, or votes to grant them non-member state status, or votes to otherwise “alter” the status of the Palestinians at the UN “that interferes with the resolution of permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” and those cuts will continue until the country in question “votes at the United Nations to revert the status of the Palestinian mission back to the status it held on November 25, 2012.”

According to Friedman, the amendment permits the President to waive this one category of cuts (but not the others) for national security reasons.

Could be a meaningful step towards balancing the budget…

According to JTA, a separate amendment to the same bill introduced by Barrasso, Lee, Inhofe and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would cut off all funding should the Palestinians succeed in their bid to change the PLO’s status.

U.S. law institutes total cuts to Palestinians and the United Nations in the case of full Palestinian U.N. membership, but so far has had no provisions to penalize an upgrade to observer status.

As of Thursday morning, the PLO is still a non-member observer entity, but this will most likely be changed later in the day.

JTA content was used in this report.

Israeli DM Ehud Barak Quits Politics, Leaves Door Open For Comeback

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

At a dramatic press conference in Tel Aviv on Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced his resignation from politics.

Barak said he would remain in his post until the establishment of the next government, following the January 22 elections. While he dispelled speculation suggesting that he would join up with other parties, Barak left the door open for a comeback by not saying explicitly that he would not return to politics. He said he was “at peace” with his decision, but that it did not come “without its misgivings.”

The political echelon responded quickly to Barak’s announcement, with Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich expressing her sorrow over Barak’s resignation even before the press conference ended.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also voiced his appreciation for the outgoing minister, saying, “I thank him for his cooperation and I very much appreciate his longtime contribution to the security of the state.”

But not all the responses were sympathetic. MK Danny Danon (Likud) issued a statement shortly after the announcement, declaring, “Thank God we are rid of this nuisance.”

Likud minister Yuli Edelstein echoed his colleague’s sentiments, saying, “Today is a day of independence for Likud.”

“Barak will go down in the annals of Israel’s governments as the worst defense minister in the history of the Jewish settlement enterprise. His conduct was rife with egotistical and political considerations, all at the expense of the Jewish settlers,” said Edelstein. “I wouldn’t be surprised if, at the first opportunity, he will find a reason to return to politics and to his evil ways.”

The Strong Israel faction, headed by rightists Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari, also issued a celebratory response, adding that “now Netanyahu and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman will be able to approve all the construction plans for Judea and Samaria that had gotten bogged down on Barak’s desk. Or, alternately, it may emerge that Barak was only a fig leaf and that it was the prime minister himself who was responsible for the mistreatment of the settlers.”

Some on the other side of the political spectrum were no less critical of the resigning minister. “Barak played a dual role in the political system,” said Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On. “I commended him as the one who normally blocked extreme policies, but sometimes he was the one who spearheaded extreme moves and pushed them forward.”

Hadash Chairman Dov Khenin said, “Ehud Barak was the pillar that made possible the existence of the most extreme rightist government in Israel’s history…. Barak’s political maneuvering cannot mask his culpability for the four difficult years of frozen diplomacy, the damage he caused to the possibility of peace with the Palestinians and the general economic and social deterioration.”

The news even elicited a response from Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, who said Barak’s resignation was proof that Israel’s recent Gaza Strip offensive, which Barak led, had been a failure.

Barak’s political career may have been over even if he had not decided to retire. His small, centrist Independence Party faction was polling poorly and it is possible Barak would not have made it into the next Knesset had he decided to run again.

As prime minister from 1999 to 2001, Barak withdrew Israeli forces from southern Lebanon and offered unprecedented Israeli concessions, including in Jerusalem, to Yasir Arafat and the Palestinians at the unsuccessful Camp David peace summit. In the 2001 elections following the outbreak of the second intifada, Barak was soundly defeated by Ariel Sharon and then resigned as head of the Labor Party.

Barak mounted a political comeback in 2007, recapturing the leadership of a weakened Labor Party. He returned to government as defense minister, a post from which he has emphasized the threat from Iran’s nuclear program and ordered two military operations in Gaza – 2008’s Cast Lead and the recent Pillar of Defense.

– Israel Hayom/JNS; JTA; Jewish Press staff

Moroccan Ghosts Hacked Reform Congregation Websites

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

When I started reading this JTA story, I was sure the offenders were some vigilante Satmars, avenging Orthodox Judaism:

“The websites of several congregations hosted by the Union for Reform Judaism were hacked and linked to anti-Semitic websites.

“Following the weekend hacking, the URJ pulled down the websites for scanning and clean-up, according to Mark Pelavin, the URJ’s senior advisor to the president.

“In an e-mail to JTA, Pelavin said the sites were set to be brought back online by Monday evening, adding that URJ made some changes to its security protocol.”

But then the writer revealed that the hackers appear to be a group calling itself Moroccan Ghosts, according to Jeffrey Salkin, the Anti-Defamation League’s New Jersey community director.

Since March, Moroccan Ghosts has hacked some 82 websites, mostly in the United States, but also in France, Britain, Vietnam, South Africa, Germany, Spain and China, the ADL said. The Facebook page of Moroccan Ghosts includes graphics reading “Free Palestine,” as well as an Israeli flag ripped in half and on fire.

A member of the group, a 17-year-old hacker from Morocco who calls himself King Neco, in an interview from over the summer with Eduard Kovacs on the Softpedia website, identified as part of the organization’s objectives “Defending Palestine and Jerusalem ‘al Qods.’”

Not meaning to sound callused about the suffering of fellow Jews, but the cure for this could be simple: the Reform congregations should contact the Moroccan Ghosts and explain to them that they, the Reform, mostly feel very similarly about defending Palestine, etc., as they do, and that their real enemy are the non-Reform Jews. Go hack those extremist right-wingers and leave us alone.

It works whenever Arab hackers attack the Haaretz site – they always call back to apologize when they realize they hit one of their own.

Jewish Toy Store Owner Donates $10,000 Worth of Toys to Sandy Victims

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Toys to Discover, a Jewish-owned toy store on 18th Avenue in Borough Park gave away over $10,000 worth of toys to children affected by hurricane Sandy.

On the weekend of November 18, owner Yonasan Schwartz handed out over 600 packages of toys to Brooklyn and Long Island children whose homes were heavily damaged or destroyed by the epic storm.

In an interview with JTA, Schwartz said he “decided… to do a little sharing” after witnessing the destruction, handing out gift packages including two types of building blocks, Jewish children’s books, colorful children’s bandages, Jewish figurine toys, and kitchen play sets.  The total value of each package was approximately $150.

Schwartz told JTA he had planned to hand out 500 packages, but quickly put together another 100 after requests from Seagate and Far Rockaway showed more children were in need of some cheer.

Schwartz said he would continue to offer deep discounts to anyone coming into his store and saying they were affected by the storm.  He expressed his hope that the new toys would fill the holes in the children’s hearts left by the loss of their old toys.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-toy-store-owner-donates-10000-worth-of-toys-to-sandy-victims/2012/11/26/

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