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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘mother’

The God of Global Warming

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin said that the storm was divine punishment for “being in Iraq under false pretenses.”

Not only was a Liberal deity taking a position on WMDs and punishing George W. Bush by evicting a lot of black people from their homes; but the Democratic divinity was paradoxically also committed to progressive housing policies.”This city will be a majority-African American city. It’s the way God wants it to be,” Nagin promised.Bush is out of office. America is no longer in Iraq. And Democrats have been forced to search for new theological explanations for hurricanes, typhoons and volcanoes.

In response to the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan; the green prophets of the left are prophesying that their liberal deity is angry over capitalism and industrialization.

“Whenever Mother Nature wants to send an urgent message to humankind, it sends it via the Philippines. This year the messenger was Haiyan,” The Nation wrote.

The message was apparently that Mother Nature, not to be confused with the nice elderly lady who runs a blog about alternative medicines, really hates prefabricated housing.

“That it was climate change creating the super typhoons that were taking weird directions was a message from Nature not just to Filipinos but to the whole world,” The left-wing magazine claimed.

For those infidels questioning whether Nature (capital N) was really speaking through a struggling lefty publication begging readers for money to pay its postal bills, its expert on typhoon theology had an answer.

“Is it a coincidence, ask some people who are not exactly religious, that both Pablo and Yolanda arrived at the time of the global climate negotiations?”

It is of course the very definition of religious faith to assume that a bearded woman in the sky is sending storms to threaten global climate negotiators (while missing them by two hemispheres and 6,000 miles). A more cynical person might suspect that climate negotiations are arranged around storm season for maximum effect.

The Nation, which regularly condemns “Bible Thumping”, had switched over to “Whole-Earth-Catalog Thumping”; building a religion around a Mother Nature who communicated her wishes through hurricanes and bankrupt liberal magazines.

Pacific Islanders used to believe that volcanic eruptions were angry notes from their volcano gods. The Yaohnanen tribe in Vanuatu on contact with civilization modernized their beliefs, and after encountering a younger Prince Philip decided that he had come from the volcano and that they ought to worship him.

And so the Prince Philip Movement was born. The islanders are modest in their requests of their god. “If he can’t come perhaps he could send us something,” the Yaohnanen Chief suggested, “a Land Rover, bags of rice or a little money.”

The Philippians may seem absurd, but their religion actually took a step forward from worshiping a volcano, which did nothing constructive and just destroyed things leaving the tribesmen to wonder whether the volcano was angry at their unjustified presence in Iraq or the waste carbon emitted by their cooking fires, to worshiping the Duke of Edinburgh, who can do constructive things like send them autographed photos. And perhaps one day a Land Rover.

While the savage tribesmen were approaching the margins of civilization; Prince Philip’s son was reverting to savagery and blaming everything wrong with the world, from local weather to the Syrian Civil War, on the great volcano god of Global Warming.

After some winter storms, Prince Charles announced that, “severe weather conditions in our country are, I have no doubt, the consequences of man-kind’s arrogant disregard of the delicate balance of nature.” It was the sort of statement that would have been commonplace a century ago. The only thing missing was that “Nature” had replaced “God”.The Yaohnanen tribe had moved on from worshiping a volcano god only capable of destruction; but the son of the living god they worshiped seemed eager to find a volcano god to worship. The savages were trying to become civilized, while civilized men were trying to become savages.At the Washington Post, the Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, a former president of the Chicago Theological Seminary and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, gathered the tattered remains of her religion around herself and argued that Typhoon Haiyan was caused by human sin and needed to be atoned for by “confessing” that human beings cause typhoons.

But then Thistlethwaite, displaying less faith in whatever god she believed in than Ray Nagin had in his Chocolate City divinity and The Nation in its typhoon-hurling Mother Nature, added that “These “superstorms” aren’t an “act of God,” but an act of willful disregard for God’s creation.”

That is to say, God is dead. Instead Republicans must confess to the liberal theologians who speak for the superstorms, that they were the ones who made the winds blow. And if they don’t, then the speakers-to-superstorms will also hold them responsible for the next hurricane.

What miracle is the Rev. Dr. Thistlethwaite’s faith in superstorms founded on? Like the storms themselves, it’s a bit circular. “The fact that we are having to invent new language to describe such massively destructive storms, like “Super Typhoon Haiyan” or “Superstorm Sandy” suggests we need to take a different look at such violent storms today and theologically assess the human responsibility for them.”

Using the Rev. Dr. Thistlethwaite’s reasoning, the fact that we have a word for Superman suggests that we need to seriously investigate whether there are superhuman beings among us who can leap tall buildings in a single bound. But worshipers of the liberal God of Global Warming who hates the War in Iraq, white people living in New Orleans and carbon have a looser relationship with facts than Pacific Islander tribes.

The term Superstorm isn’t new. And neither are superstorms. In a listing of storms from 1932 onward, the first one shows up in 1940.

Back at the UN Climate Change summit, which apparently incites Mother Nature to spout off  typhoons like soda bubbles, the representative for the Philippines, Naderev “Yeb” Sano, threw a tantrum and demanded that Global Warming skeptics visit the islands to see the devastation.

Then he announced that he was going on a hunger strike until something meaningful was done.

In 1991, Tropical Storm Thelma killed over 5,000 people in the Philippines.The President of the Philippines has estimated that the death toll from Super Typhoon Haiyan will be less than half that

Before Christianity and Islam, people in the Philippines believed that storms were brought by Saraganka Bagyo, the God of Storms, or Galurâ, a giant eagle who brings storms. Another story has it that they originated from a dispute between the descendants of the sea god and the sky god. Now Carbon has become the new Storm God, bringing bad weather because people won’t do anything meaningful, like cripple their economies and destroy their standards of living to appease him.

Sano, like Prince Charles and Ray Nagin, is reverting to a paganism buttressed by a science so bad that it is indistinguishable from superstition and magical thinking.

Despite the Rev. Dr. Thistlethwaite’s faith in a superstorm apocalypse derived from spending too
too much time watching the Weather Channel, there is no actual pattern of increased storm activity. Nor is Mother Nature targeting UN climate negotiations with typhoons. The only pattern here is the one that a liberal religion that believes in little except human evil assigns to storm patterns.

If the God of Global Warming worshiped by The Nation and the Rev. Dr. Thistlethwaite seems senselessly malicious, it is because it exists in their minds as a reflection of human evil. The left proclaimed the death of God only to find themselves in need of some entity to inflict ruthless punishment on those who did not believe in their left-handed path; which in the absence of the Gulags they were no longer able to do.

Liberalism in act of idolatry built the God of Global Warming in its own image. Like liberals, their deity can destroy, but not create.

The God of Global Warming is the embodiment of liberalism and holds all the politically correct beliefs while carrying out brutal atrocities in the name of the left’s favorite political causes. With a moral logic as flawed as that of its worshipers, it is a deity that kills people in the Philippines for the carbon crimes of Americans and kills people in New Orleans because Bush bombed Iraq.Science only truly began to take off when scientists stopped trying to base it around their preconceived worldviews of how things should be, but began to actually draw conclusions from the data, instead of fitting the data into their conclusions.The human race did not suddenly become much smarter in the last few centuries. Instead our greatest minds learned a little humility and began getting out of the way of the data. Instead of trying to force reality to conform to their philosophy, they experimented with building a philosophy around reality. The left has killed reality-based science, along with so many other human accomplishments.

Global Warming is the worship of the left. It elevates its petty biases against industry and the middle class to the status of a religion. It insists on their right to act as the mediators between individuals and the economy or else the God of Global Warming will unleash her superstorms on the bourgeois infidels.

‘You Murder the Children’: Rav Soloveitchik on Abortion

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

When one thinks of Modern Orthodoxy, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l soon comes to mind for his leadership thereof. In our time, however, Modern Orthodoxy has become a vague term with problematic tendencies. As Rabbi Steven Pruzansky–who has numerous shiurim on Yeshiva University’s Torah website–recently wrote, “Too often, one finds in the Modern Orthodox world grievances of one sort or another against this or that aspect of Torah, as if Jews get to sit in judgment of God and His Torah.”

No issue might better crystallize the dissonance between Rav Soloveitchik’s Modern Orthodoxy and today’s than abortion. Let us consider the great man’s views.

During a shiur on Parashat Bo in 1975, Rav Soloveitchik stated that “to me it is something vulgar, this clamor of the liberals that abortion be permitted,” adding:

“I consider the society of today as insane…I read from the press that in Eretz Yisrael they permit abortions now! Sapir [probably Pinchas Sapir] comes to the US and asks that 60,000 boys and girls should leave the US and settle in Eretz Yisrael. When a child is born, it’s also immigration to Eretz Yisrael, and yet you murder the children.”

Rav Soloveitchik then predicted:

“And if you kill the fetus, a time will come when even infants will be killed…The mother will get frightened after the baby will be born…and the doctor will say her life depends upon the murder of the baby. And you have a word, mental hygiene, whatever you want you can subsume under mental hygiene…And there is now a tendency for rabbis in the US to march along with society, otherwise they’ll be looked upon as reactionaries.”

Similar remarks appear in Reflections of the Rav:

“If the dominant principle governing the logos ["thinking capacity"] is that abortion is morally permissible because only a mother has a right to decide whether she wishes to be a mother, then infants may similarly have their lives terminated after birth. What if the child interferes with the promising brilliant career of the mother?”

These words might be jarring for those who view Rav Soloveitchik as the mild-mannered author of philosophically oriented books like The Lonely Man of Faith. Equally if not more jarring might be Rav Soloveitchik’s statements on sexual morality, which I discussed a few months ago.

Specific to abortion, one might counter that Rav Soloveitchik permitted an unborn child with Tay-Sachs disease to be aborted through the sixth month, but this proves just the opposite, namely: 1) What does this narrow, tragic case indicate about Rav Soloveitchik’s general view of abortion? 2) What does it indicate about Rav Soloveitchik’s view of abortion after the sixth month even in the case of Tay-Sachs? And vis-à-vis those who claim a woman’s absolute right to “terminate a pregnancy” at any point, I doubt such an attempt to (mis)represent Rav Soloveitchik as a “moderate” on abortion would be received agreeably. In this regard, one of Rav Soloveitchik’s sons-in-law, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, shlita, has observed in the context of abortion:

“Even if we were to accept that indeed it is the woman’s own body, we totally reject the conception that she then can do with it as she pleases. This is a completely anti-halakhic perception [emphasis added]. It rests on a secular assumption that, as it were, ‘My Nile is my own; I made it for myself’ (Yechezkel 29:3), as if we are the source of our own existence and therefore the masters of our own being. This is assuredly not the case.”

Rav Lichtenstein summarizes the worldview of that anti-halakhic perception as follows:

“The essence of modern secular culture is the notion of human sovereignty; individual man is master over himself, and collective man is master over his collective… From a religious point of view, of course, eilu va-eilu divrei avoda zara—both approaches are idolatrous. Here one establishes individual man as an idol, and the one idolizes, in humanistic terms, humanity as a whole. The basis of any religious perception of human existence is the sense that man is not a master: neither a master over the world around him, nor a master over himself.”

Yes, Rav Soloveitchik earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Berlin (as likewise Rav Lichtenstein earned a Ph.D. in English literature from Harvard). Yes, Rav Soloveitchik enjoyed classical music (especially Bach). And first and foremost, Rav Soloveitchik was a Torah Jew for whom Halachah was not some intellectual game or cultural style, rather an all-encompassing conviction with profound social implications. Thus his denunciations of abortion, which derived from the same worldview as these remarks in 1953:

Did She or Didn’t She?

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Over the past two days, while the army was shooting into the crowds in Egypt and half of Beirut was lifted by a huge car bomb, and many other awful things were happening, The Jewish Press readership has been dealing with mostly the question of the possibility that a Reform Rabbi named Angela Buchdahl could have attained her high position without the benefit of a Jewish conversion.

It started with an article in The Forward (Angela Buchdahl, First Asian-American Rabbi, Vies for Role at Central Synagogue), that basically suggested Buchdahl was not Jewish according to Jewish law:

But she also engaged Judaism at a time when the Reform movement itself was undergoing dramatic change. Eleven years after Buchdahl’s birth, in a move still hotly debated in all streams of Judaism, including within Reform Judaism itself, the Reform movement overturned more than 2,000 years of tradition that recognized only those whose mother was Jewish as Jews from birth. Others, including those with just a Jewish father, were required to undergo a process of conversion, though this process varied among Judaism’s different streams.

Starting in 1983, as intermarriage advanced steadily among its members, Reform Judaism conferred a “presumption of Jewish descent” on those with one Jewish parent, whether it was a father or a mother. The one condition to this recognition was that it be established “through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith,” according to the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

In many ways, Buchdahl represents the flowering of this revolution in Judaism, and symbolizes a kind of coming of age of its children.

This was coupled with an article in Hadassah Magazine:

Profile: Angela Buchdahl

Though Buchdahl’s mother did not convert, she wanted her children to find a home in the Jewish community. Her father instilled Jewish pride in his children and gave them a Jewish vocabulary, says Buchdahl, but it was her mother who imparted a sense of spiritual yearning and wonder. Her mother’s Buddhism informs her Judaism, she says, noting that Jewish and Korean cultures overlap in their approach to life, their emphasis on giving back and their drive to succeed and to be educated.

So yours truly, enchanted by the concept of the non-Jewish Rabbi, charged ahead. I still believe all the points I was making were right, namely that the Reform  doctrine of patrilineal descent and the “presumption of Judaism” in the case of a the offspring of a non-Jewish woman married to a Jew were on the money.

Except that it turns out Buchdahl may have converted to Judaism after all.

Thanks, first, to our reader Vicky Glikin of Deerfield, Illinois, who wrote:

It is highly unfortunate that your facts and the very premise for this article are plain wrong. Rabbi/Cantor Buchdahl underwent an Orthodox conversion, a fact that you would have easily discovered had you actually been trying to write an intelligent work of journalism.

So I went looking for the misrepresented conversion, and found the following line in the Times (Defining Judaism, a Rabbi of Many Firsts), hidden among long, familiar paragraphs like this one:

Her first reaction was to think about a formal conversion to Judaism, but a second impulse quickly followed: Why should she convert to prove something, when she had been a Jew her entire life? In traditional Jewish law, a Jew is defined through the mother’s line. But over roughly the last 40 years, the Reform movement in Judaism accepted descent through the father’s line as legitimate for Jewish identification, so if a child has a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother who affiliates as a Jew (the mother need not convert if she is involved in synagogue life), the child does not need to undergo a conversion to become a Jew.

But then, the Times revealed: “Eventually, at 21, she did undergo a conversion ceremony, but she prefers to think of it as a reaffirmation ceremony.”

Another clue was in something David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, wrote in his letter today (Hebrew Union Pres. Pulls Fast One in Non-Jewish Rabbi Debate):  ”you assume an article that was written in another newspaper and upon which your author draws for his piece reveals all the facts about her life. ”

Meaning, Ellenson may have known Buchdahl had converted in an Orthodox ceremony, but to concede this would mean that he agrees that it takes an Orthodox conversion to turn even the child of a Jewish father into a real Jew — as shown by the very poster child of patrilineal descent, the subject of our attention these past two days.

I still find the entire affair more than a little bizarre: why should someone who did convert in an Orthodox ceremony be sending out all the signals that they didn’t and that they’re proud they didn’t. Perhaps we’ll find out in the next chapter of this very strange story.

Israeli Engineer Shoots 9-Year-Old Son, Self, in NH (Video)

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Muni Savyon, 54, of Manchester, NH, took out a handgun and shot 9-year-old Joshua of Amherst before shooting himself, around 10 AM, Sunday, the attorney general’s office said.

The father sent an email to a friend saying he was suicidal before the shootings, said Rabbi Levi Krinsky of Chabad Lubavitch of Manchester, who said he knew Savyon. Krinsky said Savyon had been depressed after returning from his brother’s funeral in Israel.

“There’s a lot of sadness and also anger on the part of everyone involved that a father would take his son’s life for no other reason than apparently to spite his mother,” New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin told the Boston Herald.

Muni Savyon with his child (taken from his facebook page).

Muni Savyon with his child (taken from his facebook page).

Muni Savyon had made threats about a year ago to harm himself, his ex-girlfriend and their 9-year-old boy, Joshua Savyon, Strelzin said.

The social worker who was present at the father’s supervised visit with his son was not harmed during the attack, which was captured on video after the boy’s mother had dropped him off. Strelzin said supervised visits are often held at the YMCA, which sometimes uses a metal detector to screen parents, but did not do so yesterday. He said no one suspected Savyon was capable of violence.

Ellen Vig of Billerica, Sayvon’s ex-wife—not the mother of his child—said she has a copy of the letter, written in Hebrew.

“It was his intentions. What he wanted to do with his property,” she told the Boston Herald. “It’s a suicide note.”

Savyon was active in Libertarian causes, Vig said, and was a twice-defeated candidate for the New Hampshire legislature, most recently in February.

“Please keep the Savyon family in your thoughts and prayers as they cope with the unimaginable,” Rep. Peter King, who easily beat Savyon in a special election for the New Hampshire House of Representatives, said from his Twitter account.

Born in Israel, Savyon was a naturalized citizen who lived in several Western states before coming to New England, where he worked as a software engineer, Vig said.


Jewish Survival in the Face of Existential Threats: a Focus on Women

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Women have exercised their inherent gift of intuition and bravery to influence the course of Jewish history from the earliest time recorded.

The dramatic confrontation between Sarah and Avraham over the choice of successor, in effect a struggle over the survival of Judaism, was reenacted a generation later between Rivka and Yitzchak. In the face of his own preference, Rivka, just like Sarah, was intrinsically directed to choose the optimal heir to Yitzchak.

Egyptian Exile and Exodus are pivotal landmarks in the history of our people’s struggle for survival. References to Galut Mitzrayim (Exile in Egypt) and Yetziat Mitzrayim (Exodus from Egypt) are central to the entire corpus of Jewish socio-ethical teaching. Against such background, the rabbinic dictum that “It is to the credit of the righteous women that our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt” (Sotah 11) is quite remarkable. Our rabbis recognized the roles women played in making redemption possible.

The Hebrew midwives, who at the risk of their lives defied the edict of Pharaoh “and let the children live” (Sh’mot 1:17), were rewarded for their great courage, and “G-d granted a bounty for the midwives, and the nation multiplied and grew very mighty” (Sh’mot 1:20). The other women also did their share to ensure survival by keeping their appearance attractive and boosting their husbands’ morale.

Within this context the Midrash focuses on the role of Miriam whose admonishment prompted her own father to resume his marital duty. And so, the birth and survival of Moshe, the Divine instrument of Israel’s redemption, was the consequence of intuitive acts by a number of women which included, besides Miriam and Yocheved, even Pharaoh’s daughter who, by adopting Moshe and providing a Hebrew nurse for him, completed the first phase of Israel’s redemption.

Regarding the next phase of redemption, Matan Torah, the Giving of the Torah at Sinai, our rabbis claim that the women were given the Torah first because it is they who teach their children “the ways of the Torah.” The teachers of “the way” to the next generation hold the secret of a people’s survival. They are the bridge to the Jewish future.

The Biblical precedent established a pattern for women of later generations to have a historically defined role as the vanguard in the struggle of Jewish survival. At every crucial juncture women have stepped into the historical vacuum to provide roles as unseen movers based on their prophetic intuition and their ability “to tune into” the existential self of the Jewish people.

From Rebbetzin Recha Freier who spearheaded a movement which evolved into the Youth Aliyah, a major instrument of rescue for Jewish children during the Holocaust, to Rivka Gruber, teacher, librarian, and social worker, who, after her two sons fell in Israel’s War of Independence, became the founder of a string of settlements in the Sharon Valley, women have been silent movers, creating educational, social, health and welfare infrastructures for the Jewish community.

And how about the women in our present situation of surrounding existential threat, the war of terror in Israel?

That chapter is being written even as we speak. Do you remember the name Chava Shatsky? How could you? She is one among innumerable heroines whose children were murdered by Arab terrorists, one name among hundreds. Her 15 year-old daughter Keren was killed by an Arab terrorist in the Karne Shomron mall on Motzei Shabbat, February 16, 2002.

I happen to remember because of a personal connection. Reading in The Jewish Press that Karen and the other casualties were pupils in Kedumim’s Ulpana Lehava, where someone from my family taught English, I immediately contacted her to offer my emotional support. When I started to speak and my words drowned in tears, it was she who comforted me. Yes, Keren was her pupil, she said, and Keren’s mother, Chava Shatsky, was the chairman of the department at Lehava.

“You must speak to Chava,” she advised me. “Chava will give you chizuk, strength… she gave chizuk to all of us. In our grief over Keren, the faith of Keren’s mother gave us all strength,” the young teacher said. When I expressed profound amazement, she continued: “Yes, it is amazing. Yet there are many other women who react similarly. And these women are the guarantee that we will make it,” she said with pride.

The young teacher’s words helped me. They helped me cope with the grief and face the future. Indeed, these heroic mothers, like Jewish women throughout our history of confrontation with existential threats are the guarantee that we will make it.

If He Is Released, I Will No Longer Be Able to Live

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Editor’s note: Adi Moses was eight years old when she was injured in a Palestinian terrorist attack that killed her pregnant mother and five-year-old brother.

You know the story of my family. In 1987 a terrorist threw a firebomb at the car my family was traveling in. He murdered my mother and my brother Tal, and injured my father, my brother, his friend and myself. It is a story you know. But me, you do not really know. I was eight years old when this happened.

While my father was rolling me in the sand to extinguish my burning body, I looked in the direction of our car and watched as my mother burned in front of my eyes.

This story did not end that day in 1987. This story is the difficult life I have led since then. I am still eight years old, hospitalized in critical condition. Screaming from pain. Bandaged from head to toe. And my head is not the same. No longer full of golden long hair. The head is burnt. The face, back, the legs and arms, burnt. I am surrounded by family members, but my mother is not with me. Not hugging and caressing. She is not the one changing my bandages.

In the room next door, my brother Tal is screaming in pain. I call out to him to count sheep with me so he can fall asleep. Three months later, little Tal dies of his wounds. I am seated, all bandaged up, on a chair in the cemetery and I watch as my little brother is buried.

For many months I am forbidden to be out in the sun because of the burns, so I wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to school. In July and August as well. And under the clothes I wear a pressure suit meant to [prevent hypertrophic] scarring. It is painful and hot and itchy.

Here I am at twelve years old, undergoing another operation to correct a scar that limited movement in my leg. And then I am celebrating my bat mitzvah. And my mother is not at the celebration. So I cry quietly at night and write to her.

I grow older. I don’t like that people in the street stare at me, don’t like it when the cashier at the supermarket asks, “Oh, child, what happened to you?” I don’t like it that every such look and every such question make me run and cry.

I reach the age of fourteen and still live in Alfei Menashe. I have a father, an older brother and friends, I am a good pupil. But I also have unbearable scars. I do not have a mother. So I lay in the road and say to myself that if a car comes, whatever happens, happens. But it doesn’t happen. So I pick myself up and return home. All those years of adolescence, my friends’ preferred activity is to go to the beach. But I don’t go because I have scars. Because I am burnt. And I am ashamed.

Then I am eighteen and want to enlist but I am not drafted. The army refuses to take responsibility for my scars. So I volunteer in the military and serve for a year and a half.

At college I meet new people who, of course, ask me what happened to me. I respond “terror attack.” And they always answer “wow, really? I thought hot water spilled on you when you were little.”

Today I am thirty-four years old, exactly my mother’s age at the time of the attack. From now on she will forever be younger than me. And still, at least four times a week I answer questions about what happened to me.

I am thirty-four years old but the last few days I have returned to being that eight-year-old facing that burning car and waiting for her mother to come out of it. Yitzhak Rabin, who was minister of defense at the time of the attack, promised my dad they would catch the terrorist. And they did. And they sentenced him. To two life sentences and another seventy-two years in prison. And you Cabinet ministers? With the wave of a hand you decided to free him – he who caused all of this story.

Infidel

Monday, August 5th, 2013

I’ve written about Ayaan Hirsi Ali a few times, having heard her speak two years running now at the President’s Conference in Jerusalem. Each time, in her elegant and dignified way, she put the other speakers to shame. There were quiet and short remarks – there is great beauty is simplicity.

Last year, as several American Jews, diplomats and scholars, debated the need for Israel to surrender more, Hirsi Ali was handed the microphone and now, more than 16 months later, her words remain imprinted on my brain, “Even if you give them Jerusalem…EVEN if you give them Jerusalem, there will be no peace.”

Many clapped for this statement and the first thing I did after blogging about her was to promise myself I would learn more. With a great many excuses, a full year past and I was back again this past June at the President’s Conference, thrilled to have another opportunity to hear her speak. The room was packed – not a vacant seat (I grabbed the last three seats and called Chaim telling him he had to come hear this session). After hearing her speak again, I fulfilled that promise by ordering two of her books – “Infidel” and “Nomad.” These contain the story of her life – up to this point, whatever she wants to tell us – but certainly in much more detail than she could provide during her short presentations.

I learned so much about Islam – about that world on the other side of my borders. To be honest, I knew a lot of it, or suspected it – but she gave depth to my knowledge and then took me way beyond. She gave reasons, deeply rooted in Islam and in the Koran. I knew the results; she taught me the cause.

So here, I have a confession – I am a mother, a wife, even a grandmother, if you can believe that…and though I have joined others in condemning it, I only realized in reading her story what female genital mutilation was. I had no idea…and a part of me wishes I still didn’t know. How these men could do this to their daughters; how they could want this in their wives – I honestly and truly don’t understand.

That is, perhaps, the curse of Western civilization – we cannot comprehend the barbarity and because we are so naive, because we cannot understand, we tend to excuse, minimize the acts. We conveniently use the words and condemn the action…but to read pages that describe the act, the pain and suffering of these young girls – then and for years after was a startling revelation, a glimpse into a world that I had never imagined.

Can a mother want to do this to her daughter, as Ayaan’s mother chose to do to hers? How? In God’s name, how? I have never knowingly caused my daughter’s pain. And when they have been in pain, I have felt that pain throughout my body.

As to Ayaan, her story is amazing…what she survived…what she made of herself is a lesson to all of us – even those of us who, by comparison, have been blessed to live with relatively few hardships. I have never known hunger; I have never been beaten. Medical care has always been available, education, food, and love.

There were several things that got to me in her story (I’ve only read Infidel so far; I’m starting Nomad tonight) on so many levels – as a woman, as a Jew, as an Israeli, as a mother.

One of the first things that struck me, even as I found myself deeply involved with her personal story, were the few references to Jews. Until she was well into her 20s, I don’t think Ayaan ever met a Jew. I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry when I read, “In Saudi Arabia, everything bad was the fault of the Jews. When the air conditioner broke or suddenly the tap sopped running,t he Saudi women next door used to say the Jews did it…I had never med a Jew. (Neither had these Saudis.)” What I got from this was something I had already known – they really really hate us. They don’t even know us, but they hate us…go figure.

Another thing that bothered me, though I understood her reasoning, was her journey away from Islam. She describes a religion that demands absolute obedience; a religion that has no mechanism for change over time; and a religion that focuses on punishment and the Hereafter – all you do in this life is preparation for the Hereafter and there are seemingly thousands or more things for which you are regularly threatened to be condemned to hell. It seems almost as if it is impossible to get to this heaven, given the number of restrictions – in action and in thought – that are applied to Muslims.

Ayaan’s brilliant reasoning takes all of this into consideration and reaches a conclusion – there is no hell; there is no hereafter. The Koran was written by man, not be God…and from there – she decides there is no God. I’m simplifying it. For her, it was a journey of thousands of miles and many years. She embraced Islam, searching and searching to justify her beliefs. She found contradictions and still pushed on.

It is written in the Koran that you may beat your wife…and Ayaan properly asks, what kind of God would allow that? It is written that you can cheat and lie to an infidel…and what kind of God would allow that?

And while I agree with her, it is also the point where I lose my way in following her. I won’t argue whether Allah is God and God is Allah, but I will say that the God she describes is not my God. I do believe in God – but not this Allah that she describes. My God has told us to choose life, not death. My God does not allow a man to beat his wife and the value of a life – Jew or not, is important. You cannot cheat or beat a slave and even slaves have an “out” clause to their slavery such that they must be set free after a certain number of years. These are the laws given to my people, by our God, a God we refer to as merciful and just.

A man can sell himself into slavery to pay off a debt, knowing that when the debt is paid, he will be freed. I don’t want to get into a legal comparison of Jewish law versus Islamic law – I am an expert of neither.

But I do believe in the hereafter – only different from what Ayaan was taught. We are taught that God waits to the last minute of your life to forgive any transgressions; the Islam she learned involved having two “angels” over her shoulders, each writing down the good and bad you do – and the list of bad could be as simple as being alone with a man, seeing a movie, etc. If you wear pants, if you show any skin except for your face and hands, certainly not your neck, you are sinful and evil.

I don’t blame Ayaan for walking away from a culture in which a man can take several wives and beat them as he wishes; a culture in which a man can marry off his daughter to a someone she has never met; a culture in which a woman cannot move freely unless she is escorted by a man. I can only hope that had God put me in the same culture, I would have found the courage, as she did, to escape. And she didn’t just escape, she took with her a responsibility to try to help others.

I think it took tremendous courage to walk away, to flee and save herself and thousands of other Muslim women by the work she did in Holland and now does in the United States.

I just wish somehow that along her journey, she could have found a way to keep God. It seems to me that Ayaan’s logical conclusion should have been that if Islam is as flawed as she believes it to be…she should understand that their version and vision of God is flawed too. I do not believe in the God she worshiped as a child and a young woman. Flawed, vindictive, vengeful, and promoting inequality – no, these are not traits of the God that I have known.

This Allah she was raised to worship demanded absolute obedience – compare that to the story of Abraham arguing with God to save the few righteous of Sodom. We have been in a dialog with God for thousands of years – and He listens to us. It is a relationship of love, of gratitude.

In Israel, we have seen too many miracles to do anything but believe in God. Every time a missile hits…it is a miracle because moments before a car passed by, a person left the room, a class was in the library. We have seen it all and we recognize the source. I’m sure we have atheists in Israel, but even among secular Jews here, God is pretty much accepted.

The radio broadcaster will bless the memory of someone who has died; will say, “thank God,” when no one is hurt. God escorts us through our lives here and encourages us to be better, kinder, and more charitable. We are not measured by how many infidels we kill, how many women we force into modesty. This concept of honor killing finds no home in our religion or with our God.

We have seen the horrors of what man can do to man (and to woman) but to blame God for the actions of man seems unfair. There is evil in this world – we all know that. We are given the choice – to choose good and God or to choose evil and work against God.

I can’t explain why bad things happen, but I do believe even the horrible serves a purpose. What was done to Ayaan, and so many others, were terrible, almost unimaginable and yet, didn’t these actions form her into the person she is? Overall, as I read her book, I was left with the impression that she was happy with who she is and what she has done. God, yes, I believe God, gave her a task in this life – one that she accomplishes each time she spreads the knowledge of the culture in which she was raised, each time she forces us to open our eyes and see.

Would she have accomplished what she has, without the challenges along the way? I think the answer is obvious.

What I can say is that there is tremendous comfort in believing that there is a God looking out for you, guiding you, protecting you. And I wish Ayaan could have this comfort. God has a plan – perhaps the greatest evil comes when man attempts to control or redirect that plan; when man attempts to become master of that plan.

Perhaps the irony is that the religion of Islam’s greatest flaw is not that it targets infidels, but that it fails to understand what an infidel is. I would say an infidel is a man who beats his wife, mutilates his daughter, encourages his sons to commit suicide. An infidel is one who is so busy defining God for others, he forgets to understand it is not for us to define God at all.

In carefully defining every aspect of how you live, Islam has succeeded in defining nothing. What the Muslim man fails to realize is that when he blows up a building, murders and terrorizes – and it is he who will go to hell, not the poor woman who was seen talking to a man, not the family sitting in the pizza store in Jerusalem. There are infidels in the world – but these are the people who forsake the love of God, for a culture of death and misery.

(It’s still an incredible book and I highly recommend it…I just wish I could tell Ayaan Hirsi Ali that she is where she is in life…by her own intelligence, her own strength, and by the grace of God…if not Allah.)

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A Call to Action: Shut Down the Claims Conference

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

By Naomi Vilko, MD

Many Jewish Americans are unaware not only of the sordid behavior of the Claims Conference (Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany); they are also unaware of its existence and mission. Established in 1951, the Claims Conference has the tasks of negotiating for compensation and restitution for Jewish victims of Nazi persecution and of distributing payments from the German government to individual Jewish Holocaust survivors and the social services agencies that serve them.

Shamefully, $57.3 million intended for survivors was stolen from the Claims Conference by 31 people – 11 of them employees – over 16 years. [For more information, please read Isi Leibler’s numerous articles covering the Claims Conference scandal on his blog.] Now, influential Jews including Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress and Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel have insisted upon an independent investigation into the Claims Conference fraud as well as a change in its leadership and governance. I am grateful to Rabbi Mark Golub of Shalom TV, Isi Leibler of The Jerusalem Post and staff writers from The Jewish Daily Forward and The Jewish Week who have been following the Claims Conference scandal and pressing for justice for the survivors. I hope that we can mobilize the Jewish community to quickly close this corrupt agency and transfer the funds to another agency who will distribute them in time to help those in need.

Many Holocaust survivors have not received compensation for their suffering and losses because for some of these aging victims, the process is simply too painful; others have not received compensation because the Claims Conference is at best, difficult and obstructionist, and at worst, corrupt. Claims Conference officials have also continued to expand the definition of “Jewish victim of Nazi persecution”. Today, it administers programs providing funds not just to those who survived ghettos, concentration camps, forced labor battalions and death marches, but to anyone who fled Nazi invasion, lived in hiding, or lived under curfew. As a Psychiatrist specializing in trauma, I am well aware that it is difficult to tease out the quantitative and qualitative differences between different traumatic experiences – but I am certain that those who survived concentration camps (the youngest of whom are in their 80s) should receive assistance immediately and without the frustration of dealing with the uncaring staff of the Claims Conference and its various agencies.

My mother and I have dealt with the issue of reparations since my father, a survivor of 5 concentration camps, death marches, Hungarian forced labor and a ghetto, died suddenly in 1962. My father was denied any compensation. As his widow and a survivor herself, my mother appealed, but the appeals were denied. Recently, I again contacted several Jewish agencies in a futile attempt to assist my now 92-year-old mother with paying for her home-care. I was astounded to learn that if she only needed assistance 20 hours/week, she would receive funds, but since she requires 24-hour assistance (which she pays for herself) she will receive nothing to defray the expense. We were advised that she could go on Medicaid and/or be sent to a nursing home.

Jewish social agencies are doing the best they can to help survivors, but they say that they have limited funds. After helping themselves to large salaries and allowing fraud to persist under their noses for over a decade, is it any surprise that the Claims Conference does not have enough funds for the survivors it “claims” to serve? Furthermore, while it is commendable in theory for the Claims Conference to work to expand eligibility for these funds, I must ask: if there is not enough money available to help the survivors who have already been identified, what is the result of such efforts beyond making the bread lines longer?

It is an outrage and an embarrassment that the Claims Conference has continued to operate without oversight, even after failing in its responsibility to adequately investigate and prosecute the fraud for so many years. We must shut down the Claims Conference and transfer the funds to an existing agency, such as the Jewish Federation or the World Jewish Congress that can quickly prioritize the way funds are distributed to survivors. We have an obligation to take care of those who have been tortured and enslaved because they are Jewish – before it’s too late.

There are many survivors who have no children to care for or advocate for them and who live isolated lives in apartments with no services and little human contact. My hope is that raising awareness of the additional psychological trauma survivors experience as a result of the reparations and compensation processes and, specifically, the New York based Claims Conference itself, may lead the Jewish people to take action. Let’s face it: The Jewish people have not adequately taken care of the survivors, who are now extremely elderly and dying. They are entitled to live the last years of their lives with dignity.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-call-to-action-shut-down-the-claims-conference/2013/08/01/

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