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August 20, 2014 / 24 Av, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘shofar’

Coalition Chair’s Letter of Praise for 100 Shofars Protest in NYC

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Protesters who plan to demonstrate today at the world’s largest shofar-blowing event in history in New York City have drawn praise from the Israeli government coalition chairman, who expressed his admiration for their “courage.”

Israeli government coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin  is “deeply moved” by demonstrators who are to gather to protest participation in the Israel Day Parade of groups promoting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

In a letter sent to Richard Allen, founder of JCCWatch – organizer of the rally being held in New York – Levin praised the rally, set for Tuesday April 29 at  5 pm, “courageous stance of so many friends of Israel involved in the parade, calling to delegitimize those who delegitimize Israel.

“It is not logical or reasonable for Israel supporters to condone or overlook or indirectly cooperate with BDS groups which represent the antithesis of support for Israel. Refusing to recognize the State of Israel’s sovereign right to develop and maintain an independent legal position on any issue of national importance is not legitimate.”

The UJA-Federation and Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) which sponsors the annual Israel Day Parade, agreed this year to permit a number of anti-Israel groups to march this year in the parade, setting off a tsunami of protest over their participation. Among those  are:

  • Partners for Progressive Israel: which encourages the public to boycott Ahava Cosmetics, SodaStream and wine from nine Israeli vineyards.
  • The New Israel Fund: which finances NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that promote BDS activities against Israel. NIF funds Machsom Watch, the Coalition of Women for Peace, Women Against violence, Social TV and Mossawa, all of which signed a letter to the Norwegian government pension fund, urging it to divest from Israel.
  • B’Tselem: A major recipient of funds from NIF, the group has produced the anti-israel video shown at Israel Apartheid Week events held at various universities around the world. The organization’s board chairman, Oren Yiftachel, has publicly called for “effective sanctions” against Israel.

The rally, promoted as the “largest shofar blowing event in Jewish history,” is set to take place this afternoon (April 29) at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time (New York City) in front of the UJA-Federation building at 130 East 59th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues. Participants are urged to bring their shofars to the rally. Those who do not have a shofar but who wish to participate can receive one to use on site.

Scheduled speakers include Rabbi David Algaze from the World Committee for the Land of Israel / Havurat Yisrael; Richard Allen, JCCWatch; Dr. Paul Brody of the Jewish Political Education Foundation; Helen Freedman of Americans for a Safe Israel; Beth Gilinsky of National Conference on Jewish Affairs; Mort Klein, head of Zionist Organization of America; Robert Muchnick of Manhigut Yehudit, and Lauri Regan of Endowment for Middle East Truth.

Women Wearing Tefillin Is Really Not Such a Big Deal

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

I wouldn’t quite call it a trend, but a growing number of women and girls in the Orthodox Jewish community are interested in wearing tefillin publicly. Two Modern Orthodox schools have made public statements that indicate they will allow, not encourage or discourage, their students to wear tefillin.

This has generated a lot of discussion, mostly negative, from within the Orthodox Jewish community. Some of the JewsNews sites have reported this bit of news in a very negative way. Some, to the very liberal side of Orthodox Judaism have embraced the decision.

The halachic background is not overly complex. Technically, tefillin should fall into the same category as all other time bound mitzvos. Lulav, Shofar, Sukkah, and daily prayer are also time bound mitzvos and are voluntary for women. The conclusion in the Talmud exempts women from tefillin. Some rishonim explicitly permit tefillin for women. Some explicitly prohibit it. The Rema famously discourages it. That is, he does not prohibit it, he just advises against it. Some of the Achronim explain why it would be prohibited or advised against.

Some people are assuming their intentions are less than perfect. That’s complete conjecture and not something worth discussing. But I think the halachic arguments are important. I also think that working out whether it’s permitted or prohibited is vital. But I think it’s misplaced in the context of the current issue. The discussion right now should not be whether it’s good policy or against our best interests to allow women to wear tefillin.

Instead, the discussion should be whether we tolerate women who want to wear tefillin in Orthodox Judaism. In other words, even if I disagree with their decision, is this something worth the cost of declarations and opinions that cast these women and these institutions in a negative light?

We already disagree on plenty of things and we can get along just fine. Some eat kitniyos on Pesach, others do not. Some use the eruv, some do not. Some open soda cans on Shabbos, others do not. Some visit rebbes and ask for blessings, others do not. Some go to Uman, others do not. Some say Kabbalas Shabbos, others do not. Some do Yom Kippur Katan, others do not. Some do every segula, some do none. There are literally hundreds of things that already divide us in practice. Yet we are capable of carrying on as a group. I don’t see why a few women putting on tefillin should be such a drastic decision that it means more than eating in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeres vs. not eating in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeres.

In other words, what are the stakes here? And why are they being presented as so great? What is going to happen if a few women wear tefillin? What’s the dire consequence that we must avoid at all costs?

I don’t see it. I think those who don’t want women to wear tefillin should just not wear tefillin or even teach their daughters that they don’t think they should wear tefillin. But I don’t see how doing a mitzvah can make someone unorthodox.

If an opponent of women wearing tefillin found out his daughter started wearing tefillin, would the daughter be disowned? I can’t imagine. So why are we disowning other daughters?

The opposition must identify something objectively wrong that will happen if we tolerate a few women wearing tefillin. Or even if we tolerate many women wearing tefillin. Until they’ve done so, I don’t think we can allow this difference to divide us. We’ve been able to avoid completely breaking apart over a million other things. I don’t accept that this particular issue is so vital that it must break us up now.

Women of the Wall ‘Corralled’ by Police, Drowned Out by Megaphones

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Women of the Wall blew a shofar at the back of the Western Wall Plaza and raised a Torah scroll at the plaza’s gate as they completed their service under a heavy police barricade.

Police wouldn’t let them bring a Torah scroll into the service, but before entering the plaza, the group sang as one woman held a scroll at the plaza’s gate.

One small step for woman holding scroll. No discernable big step for anybody.

Police acted on the side of caution, because, as they had done a month ago, thousands of seminary girls packed the plaza by the Wall and prayed quietly during Wednesday morning’s service.

None of the young women blew a shofar or pass the Torah around, but they did say Hallel, and Mussaf, quietly.

So police decided to barricade the 300 or so Women of the Wall and their male supporters at the back of the plaza, far away from the Wall, behind a heavy police barricade, a 15-foot buffer zone and two lines of police, according to the JTA report.

A WOW statement complained that they were “corralled into a small pen in the Western Wall Plaza, 150 meters from the Kotel. This, despite requests of Women of the Wall and MK Aliza Lavie, chair of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women (Lavie in a letter to Minister of Internal Security Aharonowitz), to allow women to pray freely, according to their tradition at the holy site.”

Photo credit: Miriam Alster

Photo credit: Miriam Alster

Meanwhile, over at the men’s section, Haredim blew whistles and chanted insults. One Haredi guy chanted psalms into a megaphone, disrupting the WOW service.

The WOW statement accused Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, appointed administrator of the Western Wall and holy places, of leading prayers and addressing worshipers over this loudspeaker while the WOW attempted to pray together.

“The sound system is for public use,” they wrote, “and yet never in 25 years has it been used on Rosh Chodesh, until last month. Rabinowitz chose to use his status to take a biased and discriminatory stance: to drown out women’s prayer in favor of his own.”

In other words, a kind of Mutually Assured Disturbance was observed by both sides.

Women of the Wall chair Anat Hoffman said, “We will not forget that the Torah is exiled from the Western Wall, due to the discriminatory misuse of power by Rabbi Rabinowitz. Israel is the only democracy in the world that by law prohibits women from reading Torah. Unfortunately, the only people who felt at home today at the Kotel were the ultra-Orthodox worshippers and the police and Rabinowitz collaborated towards this end.”

Except, whenever this reporter asks the WOW to comment on the similarities between their case and the exile of Jews from setting foot freely, much less praying, on the Temple Mount, they clam up and declare those are totally different things. Freedom is freedom is freedom, unless you are a religious hypocrite, with whom this country has been richly blessed.

JTA noted that over the two Rosh Chodesh days, last month and today, a new status quo has developed at the Wall during the Women of the Wall attempted service: Orthodox girls arrive en masse and pray quietly next to the Wall, Police place Women of the Wall under a heavy barricade, and protesters try to interrupt them.

Two months ago, the protesters were “raucous and violent,” meaning they threw chairs at the WOW, this time things were relatively civil. And by the time WOW leader Hoffman blew the shofar, most of the protesters had already dispersed.

“More than ten women blew shofar together at the Kotel, as is traditional in the Jewish month of Elul preceding the high holy days,” reads the WOW statement. “The sounding of the ram’s horn symbolizes Women of the Wall’s perseverance and determination to see justice for women at the Western Wall, in Israel and around the World.”

Not so much justice as a little bit of civility. You don’t want to be drowned out by megaphones, please don’t do stuff that upsets folks who have been davening here since 1967. It appears the WOW are learning a hard lesson of what happens when you really awaken a Haredi lion from his/her slumber. It’s been known to bite.

Let’s hope nobody forgot to say Ya’aleh V’yavo – which you can always say later, during benching.

‘Jesus Prayers’ in Legislature Upset Florida’s Jewish Delegates

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Jewish legislators in Florida are seeking an end to prayers that often open the daily legislative session with references to Jesus Christ. They want prayers to be “all-inclusive.”

Rep. Jim Waldman told House Speaker Will Weatherford on Friday the “J.C” moment offends them, but Weatherford’s initial reply was that every cleric, whether Jewish, Christian or other, can pray as he wish. Nevertheless, he will consider the request.

A one-page guide to all clerics suggests that they refrain from “preaching or testifying” and that she should “be especially sensitive to expressions that may be unsuitable to members of some faiths.”

Statements about the “father, son and holy spirit” are too much for Waldman, who said that Jewish colleague Rep. Kevin Rader usually enters the legislature only after the prayer is completed in order to avoid a “JC moment.”

“It’s just not non-denominational. I don’t care that it’s optional. That shouldn’t be the limit test. It should be inclusive. And it’s not inclusive,” he told the Palm Beach Post.

The issue has come up before in the Florida legislature, most blatantly in 1997 when an evangelist took the opportunity in his benediction to attack divorce and abortion and cite Jesus as “the true God, the only God.”

Rep. Waldman said, “This year more so than others, every time the prayer comes up, it’s in Jesus’ name. This is my seventh year talking about it, and it’s getting to be too much. It would be nice to have an inclusive prayer.”

Christian News quoted the Speaker as saying, “Every member, Republican and Democrat, has an opportunity to pick a person to come on their behalf. We had a rabbi last week who didn’t pray in Jesus’ name. …We don’t choose the prayers for them…. I hear your concern but I can’t tell someone how to pray.”

Waldman disagrees and says clerics can be told how to pray. “It’s supposed to be non-denominational. I mean, that’s the law actually, it’s supposed to be non-denominational, not proselytizing, and it’s just not been….For Jewish members, it’s an insult.”

One possible way of settling the issue might be for a rabbi to open a legislative session by blowing the shofar. It would be interesting to see how many Christians would stand solemn with their heads bowed during 30 blasts of the shofar, ending with a long “Tekiah Gedolah.”

Is there a Muslim in the crowd?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/floridas-jewish-delegates-upset-over-jesus-prayers-in-legislature/2013/04/28/

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