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Posts Tagged ‘judaism’

Rabbi Meir Schuster, the ‘Man of the Wall,’ Dies at Age 71

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Rabbi Meir Schuster, known to thousands of lost Jews as the “Man of the Wall” who provided them with the spark to light up their lives with Torah, died in Jerusalem on Monday at the age of 71 and was buried on Har HaZeitim (Mount of Olives.)

Rabbi Schuster ran the Heritage House, a hostel for the proverbial lost and wandering Jew who, no matter how far away from Judaism, “did” the Western Wall (Kotel).

Rabbi Schuster, later with his assistant Jeff Seidel, gave food and lodging to thousands of young Jews, many of whom had no desire to know anything about Judaism. Many of them simply took up the offer for a free meal and bed with the idea of taking off the next day as if nothing exceptional had happened.

Many of them indeed forget about the rabbi and Heritage House, but many also never forgot and never have stopped thanking God for this man who in his quiet and unassuming way literally saved thousands of Jews from becoming lost forever.

On Rabbi Schuster’s website, people posted their personal stories, which were read to him during his recent treatment for cancer.

Following is the story of a man who is identified as “Reuven”:

I grew up with no knowledge about and no positive feelings for Judaism. In the autumn of 1981, after finishing college, I decided to travel through Europe.

Winter caught me moving further and further south, until I reached Greece. On a boat to Crete, I met some other fellow-travelers who told me that Israel was the place to go. Until then, it had honestly never entered my mind. I liked the thought of wintering on a kibbutz. After a couple of rainy months on the kibbutz, I decided to visit Jerusalem for a day or two.

I had barely entered Jaffa gate when I felt a soft tap on my shoulder. Turning around, I saw a tall, bearded man with a black hat and suit. What in the world did he want from me? “Are you Jewish?” he asked me.

I honestly didn’t know what to answer him. I had told the people at the kibbutz office that I wasn’t Jewish, but they saw right through me. Bored silly at the kibbutz, I had been reading “The Source” by Michener, and was actually, for the first time, getting interested in Israel and the Jewish people.

My hesitation was all he needed to hear. He asked me if I was hungry (what young traveler to Jerusalem on a cold, wet, winter day and a tight budget is not hungry?). For some strange reason I let him lead me to a nearby Yeshiva, which was my introduction to Judaism. It was, in all honesty, the first time in my life that I ever felt, and accepted being Jewish.

Now, 29 years later, living in Yerushalyim with a wife and many children, learning Torah and davening each day, I marvel at what R’ Schuster has been able to do. It was probably only R’ Schuster’s total, unadulterated sincerity and authenticity that disarmed me and convinced me to go with him.

I don’t think anyone else could have done it – I was that wary of ‘religious solicitors’. Had I sensed even a trace of self-interest, ‘charisma’ or ‘charm’ I would have bolted. He made himself into a shaliach for his Creator, and in his inimitable fashion, let nothing else get in the way.

Thank you R. Schuster.

That story has been duplicated hundreds of times over. Most rabbis who try to bring Jews back to Judaism are pushy. Many of them are nudgers and preachers. Rabbi Schuster was the opposite. He was gentle and never asked anything of anyone.

Rabbi Finds 103 Torah Scrolls Stolen from Jews in Hungary

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

A senior Hungarian rabbi said Tuesday he has found 103 Torah scrolls that were stolen from Hungarian Jews in World War II and hidden in a Russian library in Novgorod, east of Moscow.

Russia has not decided what to do with the holy scrolls, which Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation Chief Rabbi Shlomo Koves wants to restore for Jews in Hungary. The Nazi death machine exterminated more than half a million Jews from Hungary, virtually destroying most Jewish communities outside of Budapest.

It was previously known that Russia had stored more than 100 religious texts, some of them more than 500 years old, in the library. Rabbi Koves discovered the Torah scrolls during research at the Novgorod library.

He told a press conference on Tuesday that signs showing the origin of the scrolls have been removed but that he is certain they were stolen from synagogues in Hungary.

“I think it’s the first time in history when such a large collection of Judaica with 100 Torah scrolls in one place was discovered,” Rabbi Koves said. “For seven decades they have been laying naked in those archives, while their only value is for a Jewish community to see them and use them every day.

“And the fact that those scrolls are from Hungary has a special significance this year, which is the 70th year from 1944 when most Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz. For us, finding these Torah scrolls that were connected to our forefathers has a great significance of showing continuity in this community.”

Uproar over Jewish Candidate’s Refusal to Shake Hands with Women

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

An Orthodox Jewish candidate for the European Parliament has caused an uproar in Britain by refusing to shake women’s hands.

Shneur Odze told the members of the right-wing populist UK Independence Party, or UKIP, that he will not shake women’s hands due to his religious beliefs, which proscribe physical contact with any woman other than his wife. Some party activists told the Times of London that they are offended by Odze’s stance and say it will alienate half the electorate.

Senior party officials have called the activists “rude” and “wrong” for not respecting Odze’s beliefs.

Ozde, 31, is fourth on the UKIP’s candidate’s list for member of the European Parliament from the North West of England. The Europe-wide election to the parliament is scheduled for late May.

A party regional organizer, Fred McGlade, resigned from his position with the party to protest the decision to include Odze on the list. He warned Crowther that he would stand down if Odze was chosen by the party because of his attitude towards women

That is how an ignorant person, Jewish or not, judges an Orthodox Jew. He assumes that a Jew thinks women are second-class citizens since a religious man won’t shake her hand. Jews, especially those whose understanding of Jewish law is not even on the level, so to speak, of Reform Judaism, often think the same of Orthodox Jews for not praying together with women.

The nose-in-the-air Jews like to think that when a Jewish man thanks God that he was not created a woman, the man couldn’t possibly be thinking of all the mitzvahs he would not be able to perform if he were a women. He obviously is a sexist who considers women to be the scum of the earth.

If that is the way the snobs look at others, perhaps it is they are sexist for even thinking like that.

Perhaps they are the sexists for not having marital relations according to Jewish law, which protects the woman from lust. Consult your synagogue’s Code of Jewish Law for details.

Perhaps it is the better-than-thou men, and women, who seem to think that “equality” means “sameness.” God must have made a mistake by not allowing men to give birth. On the other hand, as most wives know, if men were to give birth, the world would have ended after the first birth because he wouldn’t go through the pains of labor a second time around.

And it’s the same crowd of people who, when visiting a mosque, are the first to wear proper dress and take off their shoes, but wouldn’t dare cover their shorts in order to respect the customs of Haredi orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

If Ozde does get elected, it certainly won’t be with vote of those who encourage the Women of the Wall to practice secular coercion on the majority Orthodox Jewish population at the Wall.

But there are some, hopefully a majority, in Britain who are not so ignorant. UKIP chairman Steve Crowther told the London newspaper, “We have a policy of tolerance for and acceptance of people’s own religious observance. We do not consider it grounds for complaint. It harms no one.”

In a tweet on Monday, Ozde said, “Thanks for all the supportive emails, calls, texts, its been rather heartwarming Recon it’s had the reverse effect?”

A supporter also tweeted, referring to former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “Pretty standard among very Orthodox Jews. The Chief Rabbi didn’t shake Queen’s hand when he became a Lord.”

The Queen seems to have gotten over it.

JTA contributed to this report.

Yisrael Beitenu MK Says ‘Reform Movement Is not Jewish’

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Likud-Beiteinu Knesset Member David Rotem, chairman of the Knesset Committee on Constitution, Law and Justice, said Tuesday “The Reform movement is not Jewish… they are another religion.”

The Reform Judaism in Israel movement said in an e-mail to its members, “The expression ‘another religion’ was not used by MK Rotem by accident. The Israeli Law of Return uses this exact term to exclude non-Jews from making Aliyah, and therefore according to him, Reform Jews have no place in Israel. ”

Israel Reform Movement’s Executive Director, Rabbi Gilad Kariv responded, “We were witness to this unrestrained declaration of MK Rotem about non-orthodox streams of Judaism. An assertion such as this makes it impossible for MK Rotem to continue to chair discussions on sensitive issues such as conversion, who is a Jew and other topics that are associated with Religion & State matters and the relationship between Israel and the diaspora.”

That may have won over a few Orthodox liberals, but Kariv then showed the Reform movement’s penchant for interpreting the Bible for its own principles of showing how little it knows and quoted Proverbs 3:17, which states, “Its ways are the ways of pleasantness and all her paths lead to peace.” It follows, according to him, “We must all ask ourselves, with which religious heritage MK Rotem identifies.”

Chances are that the MK would answer, “I identify with the Torah and Jewish Law as handed down by sages and Torah scholars and not with some kind of instant heritage created by those whose Judaism is defined by their own personal interests.”

Israel to Offer ‘One-Star’ and ‘Three-Star’ Kosher Ratings

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Israel is scrapping its antiquated and often corrupt kosher certification system and now will offer customers and businessmen three levels of kosher certification.

The degrees of “kasrut” will range from “basic,” enough to feel sure one is not eating anything in violation of the Torah, to mehadrin,” which is “super kosher” for those who prefer to be stringent even when it may not be necessary, and “mehadrin mehadrin,” for those who for whatever reason go to the extreme.

Each certification will carry a Star of David, with rating ratings from “one-star” to three-star.”

A significant change in the system is that owners of restaurants, falafel stands and other eateries no longer will pay the kosher inspector directly. That system made it easy for non-scrupulous businessmen to do away with those nasty interruptions whereby inspectors make sure the vegetables were tithed and the cooking oil is kosher and also made it easy for equally non-scrupulous inspectors to take the money and run to the beach for vacation, or maybe to yeshiva to learn ethics.

Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, Deputy Minister Eli Ben Dahan and Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau announced the new system at a press conference Sunday morning and promised that it will result in lower costs for businessmen,

Every business and restaurant can decide which level of kashrut it wants, and every customer can decide which level he wants,” said Bennett.

All of the kosher certificates will be computerized, and everyone will have an opportunity to check online what restaurants have which level of kashrut.

The differences in kosher ratings will be uniform throughout the country, and the hope is that this will raise the level of trust of the public and encourage them to eat only at kosher facilities.

The lower cost of maintaining a kosher restaurant also will encourage proprietors to ask for kosher authorization.

Thousands of kiosk and eateries in Israel without kosher certification might indeed be kosher today, but many businessmen have balked at paying money for supervisors who often simply do not do their job properly or who enforce stringency that are not always necessary.

Anti-Assimilation Group Begs Bibi: Break up Son’s Dating Non-Jew

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

The Lehava Organization for the Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land appealed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Sunday to break up his son Yair’s relationship with a Norwegian non-Jew.

Yair Netanyahu is dating Sandra  Leikange a fellow student, Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, The Jewish Press reported here earlier today.

Citing the Prime Minister’s late father Ben Tzion as a “Jew and a Zionist who brought up his children with Jewish values,” the organization’s leader Benzi Gopstein wrote in a letter, “It is hard to believe that someone like you would let assimilation through the front door. The repercussions of your son’s actions are far-reaching… What kind of example of this for the son of the Prime Minister of the Jewish State that invests millions of dollars to prevent assimilation in the Diaspora, when assimilation is happening in his own home?”

Gopstein asserted that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s father “would turn over in his grave at the actions of his grandson” and said that even if his non-Jewish girlfriend were to convert, it would not be out of sincerity for Judaism.

Yair Netanyahu actually would be following his father’s example. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s second wife,  Fleur Cate, who  converted to Judaism. They divorced after three years.

Yair is the son of Netanyau’s third and current wife, Sara.

The Prime Minister has made recognition by the Palestinian Authority of Israel as a Jewish state a red line for any future agreement. Presumably, if Yair’s friendship with his blonde-haired Norwegian girlfriend blossoms into marriage, she will convert, and also presumably, in an Orthodox conversion.

That would be an interesting test for rabbis. Jewish law frowns on conversion and demands that a prospective convert show his or her sincerity and ability and desire to live according to Jewish law.

Yair’s  girlfriend reportedly is from a family of Christian evangelists, and her sister lives in Israel, not as a Jew.

Second Orthodox NY High School Allowing Girls to Don Tefillin

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

A second Modern Orthodox high school in New York has announced it will permit girls to wear tefillin during prayer.

The Ramaz School in Manhattan said it will allow girls to wear tefillin during coed worship, going one step further than SAR High School, which drew a flurry of media coverage earlier this week for allowing girls to use the phylacteries during women’s prayer services.

Ramaz, one of the oldest and most prestigious Modern Orthodox day schools in the United States, sent its parents, students and board members an email Tuesday afternoon announcing that it “would be happy to allow any female student who wants to observe the mitzvah of tefillin to do so.”

The email, from head of school Paul Shaviv, noted, “Women should be taught that they do not need to wear tefillin in order to lead Jewishly-religiously meaningful lives, at least equal to men. But they have the right to make their own decisions.”

In an interview with JTA, Shaviv said “a small number of girls” have donned tefillin at the school’s prayer services in past years “without anyone making a fuss,” although none have asked to do so in the past three years.

Shaviv said the school decided for the first time on Tuesday to “formalize” its policy and “clarify our position” because journalists were calling to inquire about it.

“The parental response has been completely positive,” he said.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, longtime principal of the Upper East Side school and spiritual leader of Kehilath Jeshurun, told JTA that no female student has requested to wear tefillin recently, but that if one did “we would honor that request.”

“We’re not encouraging this; we’re accommodating this,” he added.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/second-orthodox-ny-high-school-allowing-girls-to-don-tefillin/2014/01/22/

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