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January 24, 2017 / 26 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘religious’

Emes Ve-Emunah: A Religious Community in Crisis

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

{Originally posted to the Emes Ve-Emunah website}

I agree with Monsey resident, Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer. The Lohud article on the problems of Ramapo is balanced and fair – just as he said it is.

Ramapo is a town in Rockland County, New York that includes the hamlet of Monsey. Based on this article, it is about the last place I would ever want to live.

I have been to Monsey a few times and was impressed at the ‘country life’ flavor of that village which gave religious Jews an opportunity for the suburban lifestyle combined with the Orthodox amenities that make it possible for a religious Jew to live there. Those primarily being Shuls within walking distance, religious schools, Kosher food stores, and Kosher restaurants.

It was interesting to me that the Chasidim that first came there and were used to (and I thought preferred) the city life of Brooklyn actually chose to abandon it for life in suburbia. Brooklyn concrete was traded in for tree lined streets; sprawling front lawns and backyards; and homes with attached garages.

One of my close friends from Chicago that moved to New York back in the 80s sought to live in a place that would not be the stereotypical concrete jungle for which Brooklyn is famous (infamous?) He found Monsey to be ideal. He bought a home located at the time in a growing Modern Orthodox Community near Rabbi Moshe Tendler’s Shul. That is no longer the case, he tells me. The Modern Orthodox are being squeezed out by the rapidly growing Chasidic community.  It is that rapid growth that is causing some major problems and conflicts.

This is not news. The conflict came to a head a few years ago when the religious Jews who had been elected to the East Ramapo Board of Education were accused of biasing their decisions to favor their religious schools – thus short-changing the public schools whose student base was diminishing. I am not here to discuss that sad event. Suffice it to say that each side has its own version of what caused their particular problem. I mention it only in the context of the strife that now seems to exist in this part of the world.

The exponential and relatively rapid population growth (both internal and external) of Ramapo is a problem with many facets.

Growth requires housing. In many cases housing that can accommodate large families. So there has been an explosion of housing developments toward that goal that have ignored the needed infrastructure to make living in those communities anywhere near as pleasant as it once was. Far from it.

I recall this exact complaint being made by a Charedi individual who lives in a community like that and who published his thoughts in the Charedi media. This is more than corroborated by the Lohud article. Multi unit buildings are going up where existing streets cannot possibly accommodate the additional traffic that the increased numbers of residents present.

And as if that weren’t enough, there have been more than a few building permit violations where limitations imposed by those permits are completely ignored by developers – without sanction.

There are the houses that are purchased and converted to Yeshivos which are unsafe and against zoning laws.

These issues are not only upsetting to the non-Jews of Monsey. They are upsetting to some of the religious Jews living there too. In one case a Modern Orthodox Jew who is a long time resident of Monsey is suing a Shul that is responsible for one such conversion.  And he has the support of his Orthodox rabbi!

And then there is the uncontrolled sprawl of growing populations that need to go beyond the borders of the pre-existing neighborhoods. They seek new areas to eventually become the new ‘Frum’ area.

That causes the existing non Jewish residents to react – fearing their hamlets being turned into the chaos that now exists in places like Monsey. But even without the chaos, they don’t want to see their neighborhood shops closing or being converted into shops that serve only the religious community. Even of those shops that they might frequent – they would be closed on Shabbos – a big shopping day for non Jews or non religious Jews. They don’t want to see all of their restaurants disappearing and replaced by Kosher ones. They don’t want to see less churches and more Shuls.

Most of these people are not anti=Semites. They have had no particular animus to religious Jews. They are people who fear major changes to the character of their secular neighborhoods. They see religious Jews coming in converting their town into a Chasidic enclave whose culture is radically different from that which they are used to. And they don’t want to move out of a home they have been living in for decades.  Can anyone blame them for being upset?

What about the right of people to live wherever they choose regardless of their religion?  Don’t they have the right  and to buy a home in any neighborhood they choose and to build institutions in those neighborhoods designed to accommodate their needs?

Of course they do. And with their exponential growth that right is accompanied by need. Does that give them the right to take over a town even by legal means? Perhaps. But doing that does not win any friends.

When combining all these factors, you get a breaking point. Which the Lohud article says Ramapo is in.

This is not to impugn everyone. But there are a few guilty parties here that deserve to be highlighted. Even though it isn’t entirely their fault, they have in my view contributed the most to the problem.

There are the unscrupulous developers that skirt the law by violating the terms of their building permits.

There are those that buy homes for purposes of creating a yeshiva or other religious institution and violate the zoning laws.

There are those who build without considering the infrastructure requirements – like wider roads and more parking availability.

There are those that build structures adding on to homes that block access to emergency vehicles.

I believe that these individuals deserve the lion’s share of the blame. But even good people that do not do anything wrong – looking only to accommodate their legitimate housing needs contribute to the problem. We are talking about rights versus rights.

That is exacerbated by a perceptions of bias (whether true or not) on the part of a school board dominated by religious Jews elected by a town full of people that do not use the public school system that board is primarily designed for.

The problem is that when 2 sides are competing for their rights in way that will drastically affect their lives a lot of acrimony is built up. What to do about it – I don’t know.

I wonder how many people that live there agree with Yehuda Weissmandl. The following excerpt that gives his take on the issue – I think – sums things up pretty well:

“I’ve watched (the Hamlet of) Monsey evolve into a little city,” lifelong resident Yehuda Weissmandl said during a recent speech to the national convention of Agudath Israel of America, a leadership and policy organization of ultra-religious Jews.  “Explosive growth of these proportions triggers explosive backlash,” said Weissmandl, a Hasidic Jew who is president of the East Ramapo Board of Education, a developer and a landlord. The tension sometimes erupts into acts of hatred. News stories on Ramapo and Rockland frequently attract thinly veiled anti-Semitic comments. Critics of developments for Hasidic and other ultra-Orthodox Jews are compared to Nazis. Ugly rhetoric about Jews in Rockland is common on social media. In some instances, street graffiti declaring “No Jews” or similar words have defaced property for-sale signs. Powerful fireworks have been exploded outside the homes of rabbis in New City.  “Is it only hate? Absolutely not,” Weissmandl said in his speech to Jewish leaders. He said those who have lived in the area their entire lives are afraid of change. “They used the schools, used the shopping, and (now) the stores are closing down, neighbors are changing,” he said. “They’re petrified, and they’re reacting to it.”

Harry Maryles

Jews 2nd Largest Religious Group in 115th Congress

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Out of the 535 members of the incoming US Congress, 30 are Jews, following the 485 members of both houses who define themselves as Christian, according to the Pew Research Center. Jews make up 2% of the US adult population but account for 6% of Congress.

Jews also account for 50% of the Supreme Court.

Lagging behind are the Mormons (who are kind of Christian), with 13 members, Buddhists (3), Hindus (3), Muslims (2), and 1 each: Unitarian Universalists and Unaffiliated.

Among the 293 Republicans elected to serve in the 115th Congress, 291 identify as Christians; there are two Jewish Republicans – Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee, both serving in the House.

The 242 Democrats in Congress include 28 Jews, and those three Buddhists, three Hindus, two Muslims and one Unitarian Universalist. The Democratic delegation also includes the only member of Congress who describes herself as unaffiliated, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona.

In fact, according to Pew, the group that’s most underrepresented are the religiously unaffiliated, which accounts for 23% of the general public but is represented by only 0.2% of Congress.

Two-thirds of Republicans in the new Congress (67%) are Protestant, 27% Catholic. 42% of the Democratic members are Protestants and 37% Catholics.

JNi.Media

Religious Leaders Call for Negotiation, not Legislation on Muezzin bill

Monday, December 5th, 2016

By Andrew Friedman/TPS

MK Yehuda Glick called a bill proposal to limit loudspeakers “unnecessary” and said noise issues between neighboring communities in Israel should be solved via dialogue, not legislation, and said that the word “Shalom” is both one of Judaism’s names for God, and forms part of the word Yerushalayim, Hebrew for Jerusalem.

Speaking at a Knesset conference co-hosted with MK Zouheir Bahaloul (Zionist Camp), Glick said that at first glance the bill seems like a fair attempt to address a simple social issue, but upon closer inspection it provides a view into some of the deepest issues facing Israeli society.

“Muslims feel the bill is yet another Israeli attack on their community and an act of ‘war’ against Islam. Many Jews feel that Muslim opposition to the measure stems only from a desire on the part of many Muslims to show Israeli Jews that they are strong.

“In actual fact, when I speak to my Muslim friends, it is clear that there is good will on all sides to both preserve religious freedoms and to be considerate of all people in the pre-dawn hours. We can deal with the Muezzin issue without hurting or offending anyone,” Glick said.

Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun, a resident of Alon Shvut and a founder of Ofra (as well as a frequent critic of the religious Zionist community) said the path to compromise on this issue will come when “all believers in one God [decide] to speak one language.

“If we start with prayer – we can go very far… There are harder issues, but one God is a joint language… we can find a way to be considerate, we can find answers if believers choose to speak a joint language of one God.

The bill, tabled by MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), proposes to ban loudspeakers for early-morning calls to prayer. It was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation last Monday but has been met with severe criticism from Arab MKs, Arabs, and human rights organizations who say the bill is “racist.” Ultra-Orthodox politicians also opposed the bill because they were afraid it could be applied to sirens announcing the Sabbath, but they have since rescinded their opposition.

Residents of Lod, a mixed Jewish-Arab city, noted that no Muslim religious leaders from her city attended the session.

“We have tried and tried and tried to speak to Muslim leaders in Lod, but there is simply nobody to speak with,’ she said. “The sheikhs in Lod simply won’t listen, they aren’t willing to talk about it, they aren’t willing to come to any agreement. I am absolutely opposed to the current bill, but I also note that it is no surprise that the push for the law originated in Lod.

“We have come up against a solid wall [of intransigence],” added another resident of the city. “I’m opposed to this law, but the function of legislation is to address situations and individuals who aren’t prepared to compromise or even to recognize that there is a problem.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Report: Leftwing Reporter Tried to Derail Religious Brigade Commander with False Accusations

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter, former commander of the Givati infantry brigade and currently Chief of Staff of Central Command, and one of the most prominent IDF Orthodox senior officers, was the target of a political assassination attempt by Israel’s Channel 10 reporter Raviv Drucker, according to Winter’s attorney Oded Savorai, who spoke to Army Radio Sunday.

Savorai accused Drucker – dubbed by Ynet “the thorn in Netanyahu’s side” over a series of insulting and embarrassing reports about the PM and his wife Sara – of trying to incriminate Brig. Gen. Ofer in a case involving the shooting death of an innocent Arab boy.

The entrapment attempt took place four years ago, according to Savorai, when Winter was commander of the IDF Northern Division, and a soldier carrying a concealed recording device came to his office and tried to get the commander to admit having ordered him to shoot the boy.

According to Savorai, the soldier told Winter, “I can’t sleep well nights, it comes back to me in my dreams.” Apparently, “he expected that Ofer would admit something that had never happened, or, more plausibly, that Ofer would ask him to whitewash the story, but Ofer did the opposite.”

Instead of trying to hide anything, the commander offered the soldier help and psychological care. “Ofer’s office manager immediately recognized something suspicious about the man who had just entered to see him, and dug into his smartphone which he had to leave behind,” Savorai related, suggesting she discovered suspicious signs showing he was deceitful.

Drucker posted a response in his Facebook page essentially confirming the story, but adding that the soldier in question had approached his program staff with complaints about Winter murdering the Arab child. Drucker insists that it was the soldier who insisted on meeting up with Winter to try and record him confessing to a crime that never happened.

Drucker accused Brig. Gen. Winter of sending his surrogate out to besmirch the reporter’s good name in advance of an Exposé on Winter being prepared by Drucker.

In July 2014, as commander of Givati in Operation Protective Edge, Winter caused a public debate on the place of the Jewish religion in he IDF when he issued a message to his troops that recalled biblical calls of historic Jewish commanders to their soldiers: “History has selected us to be at the forefront of the fight against the terrorist Gazan enemy, who curses and swears and blasphemes against the God of Israel […] I raise my eyes to heaven and recite with you, Sh’ma Israel, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad.”

“God, the Lord of Israel, please send us success in our path,” Winter continued, “for we are going to fight for Your nation Israel against the blaspheming enemy.”

Under Winter’s command, the Givati Brigade exposed dozens of terror tunnels and other Hamas infrastructure.

JNi.Media

The Curse of Religious Boredom

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

“Man is the only animal that can be bored.” (Erich Fromm, The Sane Society [New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1990] p. 24)

Psychologists tell us that one of man’s greatest enemies today is boredom. Sometimes, when reading a paper or popular journal; watching television or a DVD; using an MP3 or an iPod; or posting on Facebook every hour to inform our friends of what we just did, we are confronted with the most absurd manifestations of monotony and apathy. Believe it or not, there are people who spend their time rolling around Europe in a barrel and couples who dance the salsa for hours upon hours in order to break a record. Others seek entry into the Guinness Book of World Records by developing the stunning art of eating more ice cream than any human since the days of pre-historic man.

We common people are obviously deeply impressed that at least some geniuses have grasped the ultimate meaning of life. They have accomplished what nobody ever dreamed was humanly possible.

What is boredom? It is a disorder that has stricken our modern world, as a result of our wishes being too easily and too quickly satisfied. Once the need has been fulfilled, we immediately feel the pressure of new urges because we cannot live without them. We are like deep-sea fish. We thrive on atmospheric pressure, and without it we are lost. Since people in Western cultures are easily able to satisfy most of their desires, they begin to look for absurd pursuits to satiate their new appetites.

It is remarkable that in the last 50 years we have transformed most beneficial occupations into anti-boredom devices. Take the case of brisk walking. This was a very healthy undertaking until we decided to turn it into a contest in which people are forced to walk harder than they are really able to. Some end up in hospital, while others commit suicide because they failed to break the record. On several occasions, it was suggested that these people be fined because while running their heads off they didn’t notice the flowers along the road, or the beautiful landscape. This was, however, completely rejected on the grounds that those who won the race received flowers in the end, and this time from the hands of a pretty young lady. Even more preposterous is the case of swimmers who try to cross the English Channel between Calais and Dover in record time. They seem unaware of the ferry service that would get them there much faster.

Of course, if this is done because it is great fun and a way to relax or raise money for a charitable cause, it should have our full support; but if it’s done out of sole boredom, it becomes self-destructive.

Even more problematic is the fact that thoroughly bored people often disturb their fellow human beings in ways that are completely distasteful. They make others pay the price for their failure to deal with their own boredom.

It has become a common experience, among people seeking a quiet corner on this planet, that after setting up a folding chair on a tranquil spot at the seashore or in a forest, intending to listen to the waves of the sea or the blowing of the wind, the peace is suddenly disrupted by the blasting of an iPod with speakers turned up to maximum volume. Looking in the direction from which the noise is coming, one sees young people lounging in their folding chairs and smiling as if to say, “Go ahead. Make our day!”

The parents of these teenagers will say that it disturbs them as well, but they’re unable to do anything about it. “But youth, of course, must have its fling!” (Gilbert & Sullivan, The Mikado, Act I, Part VIII) This is the well-known excuse for children who do the totally unacceptable. It tolerates chutzpah, which then necessitates therapy required for the further development of youngsters who will otherwise be unable to become respectable members of society. Anyone unwilling to grant them their fling is depriving the world of future geniuses and deserves to suffer intense guilt feelings.

It is remarkable how many parents seem to believe that their children should indeed have their fling so as to guarantee their proper development. This is even more surprising since these very people fanatically cut the grass and bushes in their gardens, understanding that otherwise the vegetation would grow wild. It never occurs to them to apply similar standards when attempting to educate their children. When reading about the wantonness of today’s youth, they simply shake their heads in dismay.

Having one’s fling should mean proving that one is a mature human being, as in the German expression ausleben, which means to live out one’s potential. A particular strength people have, potentially, is to care about other human beings. Those who have not made use of this capacity have not yet “flinged,” since one of the most beautiful aspects of humanness has been withheld from them.

Our Sages make a very interesting point (Eruvin 65b) when they say a person’s character can be tested in three different ways: be-kiso, be-koso, uve-ka’aso – by his pocket (Is he a miser or a spendthrift?); by his cup (How does he hold excessive alcoholic intake?); and by his temper (Can he control himself when provoked?). But according to one of the Sages, there is a fourth test: af be-sachako – also by how he plays, meaning how he spends his free time.

One of the great blessings of our day is that more and more young people are starting to realize that life is not just about Facebook. Many of them are showing a keen interest in matters of the spirit. Lectures on religion and philosophy in famous universities and other places of learning are becoming increasingly popular. Young people are looking for existential meaning and a high-quality spiritual mission.

In Israel, we see a large number of secular young men and women interested in studying Talmud, Midrash, and Jewish philosophy, in their attempt to understand what it means to be a Jew and what Judaism has to offer the world.

Most interesting is the fact that young people are finding their way back to Judaism in rather unconventional ways. Official outreach programs are losing their grip on Israeli society. Much of the time they have bitterly failed because they tried to put highly talented and creative people into a suit of armor that didn’t fit them. Some of these outreach programs are being replaced by a new phenomenon: Jewish self-discovery. It is not uncommon to see young, bareheaded men with long hair and earrings wearing tzitzit (specially knotted ritual fringes that are attached to each corner of a four-cornered garment, which religious Jews wear under their shirts. See Bamidbar 15: 38-40.); others insisting on eating kosher but never entering a synagogue; young women lighting candles Friday afternoon but not observing Shabbat – praying with great fervor and going off to a party. There are even committed atheists who will enthusiastically join prayer sessions. And women, whose dress code perhaps leaves much to be desired, sincerely kissing mezuzot before entering a shopping mall or gym.

Surely, not all of this is a sign of maturity; no doubt, in certain cases it is superstition. Still, what we observe is that many people are searching for a sense of authenticity.

It is an aversion to religious plagiarism that keeps these people out of mainstream Judaism and the conventional synagogue. Repetitious prayer is a killer when it is not accompanied by discovery and novelty. By paving their own way, these people develop a fresh approach to what Judaism is really all about – open to new adventures. They are keenly aware that one cannot inherit Judaism but only discover it on one’s own through an often difficult spiritual struggle, and even warfare.

The religious establishment can make no greater mistake than interfering in this development and giving advice. By trying to force one’s views on these people, it will uproot the seeds that have been carefully planted. “You will always find some Eskimos ready to instruct the Congolese on how to cope with heat waves,” said Stanislaw J. Lec. (Unkempt Thoughts [New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1962])   

The religious establishment needs to realize that with regard to Jewish practice many people have generally fallen victim to boredom. Today, show and ceremony have become too much part and parcel of Judaism. Ceremonies are for the eye, but Judaism is an appeal to the spirit. The only biblically required ceremony in today’s synagogue service is the blessings of the priests, and even then members of the congregation are asked to close their eyes! (Heschel)

In biblical days, the prophets were astir while the world was sleeping. Today, the world is astir while the synagogues are sleeping.

Blessed are the young people who are waking up. Facebook is great, but it will not ignite a fire in our souls and will not conquer enduring boredom. Maybe we’ll realize this when the secular seekers show us the way. May they succeed!

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Securing a Future for Religious Minorities in the Middle East

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

{Originally posted to the JNS website}

You have to wonder if the barbarians fighting under the flag of the Islamic State still believe that 72 virgins will be waiting for them in paradise once they become “martyrs.”

I say this not because the leaders and foot soldiers of ISIS have suddenly woken up to the possibility that this belief is based, according to several scholars, on a mistranslation of the relevant verse of the Qu’ran; that would be expecting too much of them. I say this because they have already had a taste of that paradise here on earth, as a result of their campaign of genocide against the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq and Syria. One aspect of this horrific slaughter has been the kidnapping of thousands of Yazidi women and girls to serve as sexual slaves to these savages.

A recent report from the U.N. Human Rights Council – a body that spends most of its time condemning Israel for alleged human rights violations – sheds some light on both the scale and the nature of the genocide, which was ignored by the international community for far too long. The campaign against the Yazidis was launched by ISIS over two years ago, in Aug. 2014, when its forces began an assault upon the Yazidi villages in Sinjar, a district in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh. At least 5,000 Yazidis have been killed during the genocide, while 3,200 women and children remain in ISIS captivity. About 70,000, estimated to make up 15 percent of the overall Yazidi population, are reported to have fled Iraq.

The stories related by the U.N. report will be depressingly familiar to anyone who has studied genocide over the last century. Men and boys are either executed or forcibly converted, while women and girls exist solely for the use and pleasure of ISIS terrorists. The manner of the persecution is gruesome. “After we were captured, ISIS forced us to watch them beheading some of our Yazidi men,” said one 16-year-old girl. “They made the men kneel in a line in the street, with their hands tied behind their backs. The ISIS fighters took knives and cut their throats.”

Despite this reign of terror, the Yazidis have not been destroyed as a distinctive group. Before the ISIS attacks began, around 700,000 Yazidis are said to have lived in Iraq, the largest single concentration of the religion’s followers. Kurdish in terms of their ethnicity, the Yazidi faith is described by scholars as syncretic, which means it combines elements of other religions, including Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. Based on that, it’s worth noting that ISIS isn’t the only Islamist group that regards the Yazidis as infidels. The theology of more mainstream Islamist groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, assigns them a similar status.

Presently, the main focus for the Yazidis is the rescue of their women and girls from the clutches of ISIS. Often this is done through ransom payments, involving middlemen who collect huge sums from their families – one recently reunited family paid a total of $34,000 for their two daughters – which are then paid to ISIS. After their release, both girls said they didn’t expect that they would see each other again, describing their captors as “dirty and abusive,” who subjected them to regular beatings.

What this illustrates is the need for greater physical security for the Yazidis, as well as for other religious minorities in the region, if and when ISIS is defeated. Without that concrete measure, continued religious and ethnic conflict in the Middle East will target vulnerable minorities first and foremost.

For that reason, the decision of the Iraqi parliament on Oct. 4 to reject Yazidi and Assyrian Christian appeals for separate provinces should spark concern. “The Iraqi people reject any decision that partitions the Nineveh province. The people of the city determine the destiny of their city in the post-Islamic State (IS) stage,” said Ahmed al-Jabra, a Sunni member of parliament, justifying the vote. Conveniently, for the Sunni Arab population, the vote also means that Yazidis and other minorities, who have been dispossessed from the region, will be reluctant to come back. Viyan Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament, has already said that Yazidis will be wary of returning to the Nineveh province without significant changes in its administration.

It was Dakhil who first alerted the world to the slaughter of the Yazidis in 2014, when her emotional plea to the world to save her people went viral on the internet. In a speech earlier this year at the U.N. in Geneva, arranged by the dedicated staff of the U.N. Watch nongovernmental organization, Dakhil declared, “The international community has to support us, to call upon the U.N. Security Council to recognize what is happening to us as genocide, and to refer our case to the International Criminal Court.” And there are signs that process is in motion, with both the U.S. and British governments formally acknowledging that the Yazidis have experienced a genocide in the legal sense of the term.

What is worrying is that measures to protect the Yazidis from future brutalities have been set back by the Iraqi parliament decision. As Jews from Middle Eastern countries know only too well, being a minority in the midst of profound instability in Arab and Muslim societies is not a fate anyone would want. The only way to protect yourself is by exercising some significant degree of self-determination, including the right of self-defense, secured by international guarantee. After all, we Jews were only able to say “Never again” once we secured the means to prevent further persecution, in the form of the state of Israel. The other religious minorities of the Middle East deserve no less.

Ben Cohen

Far East Meets Middle East in Summit for Religious Leaders

Monday, September 12th, 2016

By Michael Zeff/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – Over 20 religious leaders from east Asia arrived in Israel Monday for a four-day summit in Jerusalem. Participants came from countries such as China, South Korea, India, and Japan, representing spiritual traditions of Taoism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Jainism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. Throughout the upcoming week, they will come face to face with Arab and Israeli religious leaders of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

“It is time to expand the Israel-Asia dialogue from only diplomatic and economic spheres to religion, spirituality and faith,” summit coordinator Simona Halperin told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “This is a first meeting in history between the religious leaders of Judaism and those of the eastern faiths.”

The summit was a joint project between the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the American Jewish Committee and the World Council of Religious Leaders (WCRL). Notable guests included the president of the Buddhist Association of China, Xuecheng, Swami Avdeshanand Giri, spiritual leader of millions of Indian Hindus, and Bawa Jain, Secretary-General of the WCRL.

President Reuven Rivlin greeted summit participants.

“Welcome to Jerusalem, the holy city to the religions of the sons of Abraham,” Rivlin told the guests. “Your arrival is a very special event, for many years the interaction between our religions hardly even existed.

“This is no longer the situation, as your visit today shows,” Rivlin said.

Xuecheng and Swami Giri also addressed the summit, saying religious leaders should take a leading role towards solving worldwide social and environmental challenges.

“I’m very happy to be here,” said the Swami. “We have a saying in our colloquial tongue: ‘When you have dialogues, then the wisdom dawns and knowledge comes.’ Dialogue imparts clarity.”

Xuecheng expressed his hope to make lasting friendships among religious leaders in Israel. “Only if we make true friends we can really set the goal of mutual respect and understanding. the Chinese religions are working very hard to call out other religions to help in the construction of a peaceful world,” he said.

According to Halperin, during the four days of the summit the religious leaders will meet with rabbis from all Jewish streams, as well as with Muslim, Druze and Christian leaders. The group will tour holy sites and discuss current events including global warming, the environment, the status of religion in contemporary society, the role of religion in peacemaking and more.

“Our spiritual worlds are very close to each other in that they are not missionary religions which makes them very open and tolerant,” Rabbi Daniel Sperber, a professor of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University and Orthodox rabbi. “I feel a unity and comradery between our peoples, more so than with the western world and Christianity.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/far-east-meets-middle-east-in-summit-for-religious-leaders/2016/09/12/

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