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December 11, 2016 / 11 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘religious’

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

“Go For Your Dreams And Don’t Compromise Your Religious Standards”: Rachel Freier Is Not Your Typical Civil Court Candidate

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

It was the week of erev Shavuos and Rachel “Ruchie” Freier was getting ready for the holiday just as any typical chassidic homemaker would. Over our conversation on the phone, she told me how she was busy preparing to bake challah, kugel, and other sumptuous delicacies for Yom Tov. Her children and grandchildren living nearby her home in Brooklyn were expected to be there for the seudos.

All this seems typical, but Ruchie Freier is not your typical Borough Park balabusta. The married mother of six is a real estate attorney, a community activist, and a current candidate for civil court judge in Brooklyn’s fifth judicial district, which includes Borough Park, Kensington, Midwood, Ocean Parkway and 21 other Brooklyn neighborhoods. If elected, Freier will likely be the first chassidic female judge in New York, perhaps in the United States.

“My mother always said that as long as it’s legal, moral and not against the Torah, just do it and do it the best way you can,” Freier said. “I grew up believing that I would do whatever I am allowed to do and succeed with Hashem’s help.”

The other contenders for the post include Mordy Avigdor, a former counsel to Agudath Israel of America who also has worked with former Congressman Anthony Weiner and current Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, and Jill Epstein, who currently serves as principal law clerk to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes. The election will take place in the September 13 primary.

At her law offices in Brooklyn and Monroe, Freier specializes in transactions, financing properties, and residential and commercial properties. She is licensed in New York, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, and has experience in both the private and pro bono sectors.

“My knowledge and experience is broad-ranging,” she said. “I have years of experience in contracts and closings, transactional law, litigation, corporate law, trust and estates, family law and personal injury.”

Freier’s experience in the legal field started with modest beginnings. Born and bred in Brooklyn, Freier began her career as a legal secretary after graduating from the Bais Yaakov of Borough Park. She then started working as a legal secretary, advanced to become a paralegal, and eventually continued on to college and law school, all while raising her growing family.

Freier explained, “Attending college after high school was not the norm and at the time there were no separate women’s college programs in Brooklyn. Because graduates didn’t go to college, our high school trained us in legal stenography. I worked in the legal field for a number of years and loved it! After my husband finished his studies at kollel and received his BA from Touro, I realized it was now my turn. I began Touro College at age 30 and graduated six years later, majoring in political science and directing the Women’s Pre-Law Society. Afterward I attended Brooklyn Law School.”

It was at law school when Freier became intrigued with the idea of becoming a judge. “Since I was a kid, I wanted to become a lawyer,” she explained. “Then as I was studying law, the idea of becoming a judge began to percolate…. My interest in becoming a judge was a natural progression.”

The seeds began when she studied Constitutional Law. She remarked, “In law school I really appreciated the opportunity to learn Constitutional Law under William Hellerstein; he made the law come alive through his enthusiastic teaching style. And as a Jew, I believe that we have a mission to carry out justice in the world.”

Among her role models are her uncle Judge David Schmidt (now retired), as well as Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Noach Dear. “Without my uncle’s encouragement and the encouragement I received from my husband and family, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have already,” she said.

Atara Arbesfeld

Faith is the Joy of Religious Doubt and Uncertainty-Part II

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Faith means striving for faith. It is never an arrival. It can only burst forth at singular moments. It does not arise out of logical deduction, but out of uncertainty, which is its natural breeding ground.

To have faith is to live with unresolved doubts, prepared to rise above ourselves and our wisdom. Looking into the Jewish tradition with its many debates, one clearly understands that those who deny themselves the comfort of certainty are much more authentic than those who are sure.

Faith means that we worship and praise God before we affirm His existence; we respond before we question. Man can die for something even as he is unsure of its true existence, because his inner faith tells him it is right to do so. This honest admission of doubt is not only the very reason why it is possible to be religious in modern times; it is the actual stimulus to do so.

We need to understand that faith is “the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises” (1), and “we can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand” (2).

To believe is not to prove, not to explain, but to yield to a vision.

Of course belief cannot be credo quia absurdum est. It has to make sense and have a lot to say for itself in terms of knowledge and wisdom. Still, just as no building stands on rock-bottom, but on unsure pillars deeply driven into the ground so as to resist an earthquake, so must belief have enough strength to prove its worth without ever reaching absolute certainty.

Faith is like music. It is true because of its beauty not because of its intellectual certainty. Is it not created from impossible paradoxes, as well as a great deal of imagination that surpasses rationality and scientific or historical facts?

The truly great need no synthesis. They absorb whatever experience offers them. Their intensely creative personalities act like a fiery furnace, melting away contradictions. What emerges is either a harmonious whole or a creative parallelism with parts that mutually fructify and supplement each other. The truly great do not need to trim edges, as it were, to make genuine experiences fit with each other. They preserve them intact. And if their experiences appear contradictory, they build an emotional bridge spanning them allowing both the landscape and the water to be seen. Lesser mortals resort to logical means of harmonization (3).

The aim of halacha is to teach us the art of living with uncertainty. Halacha was not meant for those who are sure, because nobody can act out of certainty.

The most challenging question in all of life is what do you do and what do you believe when you are not sure. It is that notion that moves the scientist, the philosopher, and most of all the religious personality. We must destroy the security of all conventional knowledge and undo the normalcy of all that is ordinary. To be religious is to realize that no final conclusions have ever been reached or can ever be reached.

Halacha is the upshot of un-finalized beliefs, a practical way of living while remaining in theological suspense. In that way, Judaism doesn’t turn into a religion that either becomes paralyzed in awe of a rigid tradition, or evaporates into a utopian reverie. This dynamic can only come about when Jewish beliefs consist of fluid matter, which halacha then turns into a solid substance. The purpose of halacha is to chill the heated steel of exalted beliefs and turn them into pragmatic deeds without allowing the inner heat to be cooled off entirely. Jewish beliefs are like arrows, which dart hither and thither, wavering as though shot into the air from a slackened bowstring, while halacha must be straight and unswerving but still adaptable.

Indeed, we should be careful not to make faith into an intellectual issue. It is much more than that. The moment we look down on those who continue to have unshakable faith, considering them primitive in face of the many challenges, we have overlooked an important dimension of real faith. Besides the fact that such an attitude reflects arrogance, it also misses an important point: Faith is always more than just thinking about faith. Yes, those people who have lost their faith yet still hold on to it, honestly attempting by way of discussion and study to give their lost faith a new shape, should be deeply respected. At the same time, we should not forget that they are searching for something that the “simple” believer already has.

When we place the reflection on faith higher than the direct experience of faith, we are involved in a purely intellectual endeavor. The search for faith can only be genuine when it is personal, deep, and emotional, and the intellect only plays a small part. The accompanying qualities must be humility, the notion of inadequacy, and a strong urge to find authentic faith.  Genuine belief is a way of living, not an academic undertaking. It is an experience in which the whole of the human being is engaged.

Doubt only appeals to the intellect. The intellectual approach to faith is always a barer form of existence than faith itself. The reason is obvious. Besides our critical assessment, the other human faculties remain idle. Trust, hope, love and the notion that one is part of something bigger no longer play a role. Instead, life becomes nothing more than only itself. When doubt and skepticism are no longer the most important faculties through which one seeks religious faith, only then is it possible to actually find it. Skepticism, though it has its place, should not be at the center of one’s search. In today’s climate there is a certain gratification in going to the extremes of genius and brilliance until one nearly loses that which one would like to discover.  Intellectual thought and scientific discovery can never cover the sum total of the inner life of man. When one prays, one is involved in something that the intellect can never reach. When one studies Torah and hears its divine voice, it becomes something different than what academic study can ever achieve. It is in a separate category, which is closed to the solely scientific mind.

It is crucial that we see these facts for what they are. Only when we realize that intellectual certainty is not the primary path toward finding religious truth, will we be able to deal with our new awareness that the transitional phase we now experience has great purpose and has to be part of our religious struggle and identity. It won’t be easy. Novelty, as always, carries with it a sense of violation, a kind of sacrilege. Most people are more at home with that which is common than with that which is different. But go it must.

1. Samuel Butler and Francis Hackett, The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (Nabu Press, 2010)

   p. 27.

2. Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2010) p. 81.

3. Rabbi Professor David Weiss Halivni, “Professor Saul Lieberman z.l.,” Conservative

   Judaism, vol. 38, (Spring 1986) pp. 6-7.

 

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Haredi Party Spearheading Effort to Protect Israeli Religious Charities from US Tax Authorities

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

The heads of charity organizations in the ultra-Orthodox society, commonly known as Gemachim, received at least a temporary measure of relief from the Knesset Finance Committee, chaired by MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ), ahead of a new amendment of the Income Tax Act that takes effect in September and compels Israeli financial institutions to report through the local tax authorities on the Israeli financial affairs of US citizens. The amendment is the result of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance (FATCA) agreement between Israel and the US, which was a prerequisite for continued cooperation between Israeli and American financial institutions.

It’s not much, but MK Gafni demanded that the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Israel order the banks to give the Gemachim time until the end of June to resolve their status as public institutions, which he hopes would allow them to exclude themselves from the FATCA rules. Gafni envisions a tweaking of the amendment to exclude groups with deposits of less than $50 thousand, or holdings worth less than $50 million.

According to Chairman Gafni, the new regulations could bring the collapse of the Gemachim. “The Israeli government signed an agreement with the US government without considering the disastrous consequences for one of the most important enterprises of the Jewish people that has existed for millennia — the charity and mutual aid societies,” Gafni said, explaining that the Gemachim are “the only means at the disposal of a person under financial duress to receive an interest-free loan to get back on his feet.”

MK Israel Eichler (UTJ), Chairman of the Public Petitions, summoned Dr. Ilan Steiner, Director of the Bank of Israel Currency Department, to his committee hearing, to warn him against another aspect of the US attack on these charity institutions. According to Eichler, banks are being forced under pressure from foreign governments to close the accounts of Gemachim accounts, “in the name of ‘fighting terrorism’ and stopping money laundering, the IRS and the American government have become supervisors of all bank accounts around the world including in Israel. Everyone has to go through their inspection, so the Gemachim have received a letter that they will not be able to keep their bank accounts anymore.”

MK Eichler told Dr. Steiner: “I hope that the Bank of Israel find a way to abide by the agreements with the US while not mixing up the Gemachim with the war on terror. The banks must not become a burden and a restriction on associations and charity organizations who want to help people and do not engage in terrorism. There are limits to the madness of the banking system. We must not allow the charity organizations and Gemachim to be paralyzed by American pressures.”

The issues of compliance regarding money laundering and the war on terror stem from the side benefits of an IRS act that was intended to make sure US citizens who make money abroad share some of it with Uncle Sam. According to the IRS, FATCA targets tax non-compliance by US taxpayers with foreign accounts, focusing on individuals’ reporting about foreign financial accounts and offshore assets, as well as by foreign financial institutions about financial accounts held by US taxpayers or foreign entities in which US taxpayers hold a substantial ownership interest.

Using the US’ enormous economic clout, FATCA bullies the world’s financial institutions into reporting on their American clients to Uncle Sam. Under FATCA, to avoid being withheld upon, foreign financial institutions must register with the IRS and agree to report to the IRS about their US accounts, including accounts of foreign entities with a substantial US ownership. Foreign institutions that enter into an agreement with the IRS to report on their account holders may be required to withhold 30% on certain payments to foreign payees if such payees do not comply with FATCA.

Talk about working for the Yankee dollar.

According to The Marker, Gemachim stand to suffer three different ways from the new law: instead of permitting a Gemach to transfer money into their accounts, they could now be questioned regarding the source of the funds and whether or not tax was paid on them in the US; each deposit could be subject to harassment by the bank, in order to verify that it is not part of a money laundering scheme; and the Gemach could be saddled with a new definition as a financial institution, and as such would be compelled to report on its fund sources to the IRS or face criminal sanctions.

JNi.Media

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