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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘judaism’

Shabbat Saved a Jew from the Malaysia Airlines Death Flight

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

(JTA) The popular travel discount blog Dan’s Deals is circulating a story that a Jewish passenger who was supposed to be on the missing Malaysia Airlines plane was switched to an alternative flight because his Orthodox Jewish travel agent in Israel refused to book him on an itinerary that would have him traveling on Shabbat.

Under Orthodox Jewish law, facilitating someone else’s Sabbath desecration — boarding an airplane — is as forbidden as desecrating the Sabbath oneself.

Here’s the email exchange on January 13 and 14 between the passenger, identified as Andy, and the travel agent. The emails were posted online by Dan’s Deals with the identifying details removed.

Andy: One amendment, I need the KUL-PEK flight a day later. I need the extra day in Kuala. once that is set you can lock in.
Travel Agent: I wish I can give you a day later, but you know I just don’t like flying Jews on Shabbat. I can take that leg out if you want and you book yourself.

Andy decides to book the flight himself but later changes his mind:

Andy: I reconsidered, you are right I should be more observant, I’ll manage without that day in Kuala. Since I’ll have an extra night in PEK Any recommendations for a good Friday night dinner in Beijing?
Agent: Ok, glad to hear. Try this: http://www.chabadbeijing.com/

Then, on March 8, Andy writes:

Holy God,
You sure heard what happened to MH370
I cannot stop thinking about this.
This is a true miracle for the books. You are a true life saver…
I cannot think anymore! We’ll talk later this week. Don’t know how to thank you enough
(See the full email exchange here.)

When I tried to verify the authenticity of the story with Daniel Eleff of Dan’s Deals, he sent me this message:

At this time the travel agent and the passenger are opting to remain anonymous. There has been a fair amount of negative feedback and they are choosing to wait until the fate of the flight in known to determine if they’ll go public.
I have personally verified the story and can vouch for its authenticity. The emails I posted with time stamps are unaltered except to remove identifiable information.

NY Man Pleads Guilty to Violently Forcing Husbands to Free ’Agunot’

Monday, March 10th, 2014

A New York personal trainer has pleaded guilty in federal court to being part of a group of men who used violent means in exchange for pay to force Jewish men to give their wives religious divorces.

David Hellman, 31, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J. and could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison with a fine of $250,000 at his June 12 sentencing hearing.

Nine other men, including two Orthodox rabbis, were arrested in October 2013 as part of an FBI sting operation. The ring charged some $60,000 for its services. According to a complaint filed in court, the men kidnapped and beat up recalcitrant husbands until they agreed to the religious divorce.

Hellman was charged with “traveling in interstate commerce to commit extortion,” and the others were charged with kidnapping, Reuters reported, citing court documents.

Orthodox Jewish women waiting for a divorce, or “get,” granted by a rabbinical court, are known as “chained women” or “agunot” because recalcitrant husbands refuse to sign the divorce documents, although some husbands, and wives, withhold a get in order to gain more favorable terms for alimony or custody of children.

Arabs Riot on Temple Mount ahead of Feiglin’s Debate on Jewish Prayer

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Knesset Member Moshe Feiglin may have single-handedly ditched  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework on Tuesday by brining to the Knesset floor a debate on the prohibition against  Jews praying on the Temple Mount.

In advance of the historic debate, the first time the issue ever has been discussed on the floor of the legislature, Arabs rioted and threw rocks at police, who dispersed them with stun grenades and tear gas and arrested three rioters. The violence forced the closure of the Temple Mount to Jews and tourists. Score one for the Muslims.

In Jordan, opposition leaders called on the monarchy to tear up the peace treaty with Israel.

The Temple Mount is the most untalked about core issue in the so-called negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The “status of Jerusalem” is a known basic issue, but there is simply nothing for negotiators on both sides to talk about when it comes to the Temple Mount.

It evokes more emotions than all other issues combined. The Oslo War, popularly called the Second Intifada, erupted after Ariel Sharon ascended the Temple Mount in his campaign for Prime Minister  in 2000. The violence was due to happen in any event given the refusal of Yasser Arafat to accept then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer for almost all of Judea and Samaria and most of the areas of Jerusalem that had been occupied by Jordan between 1949 and the Six-Day War in 1967.

Arab riots on the Temple Mount have become more regular as the “peace process” comes closer to another death, following the death of the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap, among other snake oil remedies..

The more Muslim clerics and Arab leaders claim that the Jewish Holy Temple never existed and that the Jews have no connection with the site, the more they are arming  themselves with hate and lies that spell “war.”

All it takes is MK Feiglin to set them off, and if Tuesday’s debate is his only accomplishment  in the current Knesset session, it will be far greater than almost all combined  acts of his 119 colleagues

Israel conveniently washed its hands of responsibility for the Temple Mount after the 1967 war and gave Jordan the right to be custodian through the Islamic Waqf.

Buoyed by the Chief Rabbinate prohibition of Jews praying or even ascending the Temple Mount because of several issues relating to Jewish law on the ruins of the Holy Temple, the Arab world tightened its enforcement against Jews trying to do so.

Many national religious rabbis allow Jews to walk on certain parts of the Temple Mount, and MK Feiglin has been doing so for years. He was barred from the Temple the past year until earlier this month, when he resumed his monthly habit of immersing in the Mikveh and visiting the holy site.

Prayers, of course are forbidden, lest Allah be upset over hearing the Shema Yisrael prayer. No prayer books are allowed, and police remove anyone who starts moving his lips. The Supreme Court has questioned the discrimination but has not issued any direct order that allows Jews to pray at the site.

Feiglin brought the issue to the Knesset after having easily secured the required signatures of 30 Knesset Members to debate the issue.

Tuesday’s discussion, was a debate and nothing more and nothing less, but it was more than enough for the Arab to press the riot button.

Arab MKs in boycotted the discussion, which may have been their best strategy since anything they say makes them look even dumber than they are.

The Arab paranoia of Jews ascending the Temple Mount stems from the same attitude that prompted Jordan to ban Jews from all holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria until the War in 1967.

Ancient Mikveh Discovered In Spain

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

A 15th century mikveh was discovered at the location of the last synagogue in the old Jewish quarter of Girona in Catalonia, Spain.

The discovery of the Jewish ritual bath is significant since there are very few preserved mikvehs left in Europe, and it further highlights the importance of Girona’s rich Jewish heritage.

Girona is a town near Barcelona which was known for its thriving Jewish community before the expulsion of Spain’s Jews in 1492.

A recent archeological dig permitted the discovery of the mikveh at the site of the synagogue, which was founded in 1435 and abandoned in the summer of 1492, when the expulsion decree was carried out by King Fernando against the Jews of Spain .

It forced the community of Girona, consisting of about 20 families, to sell the synagogue along with the surrounding community spaces before fleeing the country. Thanks to records of the sale, the exact location of the synagogue, which now houses the Museum of Jewish History in Girona, is known.

Israeli ambassador to Spain  Alon Bar attended the public presentation of the finding, along with the Minister of Culture of the Government of Catalonia Ferran Mascarell, and Girona Mayor Carles Puigdemont.

“I commend the discovery of more evidence of a Jewish presence and want to encourage this cultural treasure in order to maintain links between our peoples,” said Bar.

According to officials at the museum in Girona, very few ritual baths of this type have been preserved in Europe and in the Mediterranean area; they have been found in Sicily, Montpellier, and Besalu which is also in Catalonia.

Avigdor Lieberman Warns US Jews ‘You Are Facing a Catastrophe’

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

American Jews are facing nothing less than a demographic catastrophe, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asserted on Tuesday in a speech at the Jerusalem meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

He quoted recent surveys that show that there are 6.1 million Jews in Israel and slightly less than 5.5 million in the United States, not including those who claim affiliation or identity with Judaism.

Lieberman emphasized that no Jew – whether in the Diaspora or in Israel and whether Reform Conservative or Orthodox – “is illegitimate and should be placed outside of the tent,” but he added. “There is a significant rise in those who have little or no Jewish content in their lives, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish.”

He pointed out, “The intermarriage rate has reached a high of 58% for all Jews, and 71% for non-Orthodox Jews, a huge change from before 1970 when only 17% of Jews intermarried.”

Attachment to Israel is markedly higher among older Jews, with only 32% of respondents under the age of 30 sharing the idea that “caring about Israel as an essential part of what being Jewish means to them.”

Lieberman then put the cards on the table and categorically stated they are stacked against the Diaspora.

“For many years, Israeli officials have called on our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, like many of you gathered here tonight, to donate your time, energies and funds to Israel,” he said. “However, I turn to you today and say that, while we are enormously and forever grateful for your assistance, we believe it is now time to concentrate on the challenges facing your own communities, especially those emanating from the dangerous trends in the Jewish community demonstrated in the recent survey.”

Lieberman was being kind. He could just as easily have said, “You American Jews sit as armchair generals for Israel, undermine our government’s struggle by deciding how we should deal with the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world while you don’t see that the ground in the Diaspora is crumbling under your feet.”

In more diplomatic language, he said, “Above all discussions on Iran and the Palestinians, your discussions with the Israeli Government and the Jewish Agency should be focused on saving future generations.”

Lieberman stated that education is the key to fighting “assimilation, intermarriage and disengagement” but that “Jewish children are being kept from the Jewish classrooms because of the exorbitant and prohibitive costs of Jewish education in the United States.”

“On my last visit to New York, I met with a Russian Jewish family in Brooklyn,” Lieberman told his audience. “They told me that for their three children to attend good Jewish schools it would cost them around $100,000. They simply could not endure such costs. They are not alone. This situation is being replicated across the Jewish world, whether in the United States, Russia, France, Argentina, or elsewhere. If this situation persists, we will lose another six million Jews in a generation or two.”

He said that most Israeli diplomats abroad shun local Jewish schools and instead send their children to learn at international schools because the standard is higher.

“Sadly this is also reflective of the general Jewish population in places like the United States, where only around 12% of Jewish children attend Jewish schools, and when the Orthodox children are removed from the equation; it drops down to no more than a few per cent,” he added.

Lieberman proposed the creation of a global network of Jewish schools with a superior standard, and he committed the Israeli government to budget $365 million a year in matching funds for the project.

He also is looking forward to massive aliyah “The creation of an international network of Jewish schools is only the first part of my vision,” Lieberman declared. “In addition, my goal is to bring an additional 3.5 million Jews from the Diaspora in the next ten years so that the Jewish population in Israel will exceed 10 million.”

Jews are undoubtedly a major influence in American life, but the number of Jews who are Jewish “in name only” spells a dismal future for the Diaspora.

One of the most self-serving ways to deny the future is to accept the definition of a Jew as anyone who considers himself Jewish. That kind of identity is temporary, at best.

Jewish institutions and organizations maybe boasting larger numbers, but the meaning of Jewish is becoming emptier.

What Lieberman essentially told the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem Tuesday was, “Wake up. It’s later than you think.”

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.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/rabbi-finds-103-torah-scrolls-stolen-from-jews-in-hungary/2014/02/18/

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