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December 6, 2016 / 6 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘values’

Israeli Ministers Advocate for Better Incorporation of Zionism in School Curriculum

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

by Ilana Messika
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced plans at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting for the 2016-2017 school year scheduled to begin on Thursday with a focus on the need to instill Zionist values in a more effective manner throughout the school curriculum.

“Our goal is to revolutionize education. This revolution will be based on two things—excellence and Zionism,” declared Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Netanyahu claimed that the basis of Zionist education was the study of Jewish heritage, specifically the Bible. “We have to make a supreme effort [to make this a part of the educational system]. It is the basis for our being here, it is the reason we were here, it is the reason we came back here, and it is also the reason we will stay here.”

The prime minister also stressed the importance of a comprehensive education for all of Israel’s youth.

“Whoever receives an education also acquires skills in computing, mathematics, the sciences, English, and in general history. We want to bequeath all of these to all the children of Israel, Jews and non-Jews alike, religious and secular,” he explained.

Netanyahu insisted that students’ potential could be maximized through the implementation of an internet-oriented system that would permit teachers to better interact with students.

Education Minister Bennett also announced that the education system would now function in a more personalized manner with smaller classes and more assistant teachers in kindergartens, amounting to an addition of 4,600 new professionals.

The education minister also discussed the need to better inculcate Jewish-Zionist values into the curriculum.

“We need to highlight our national values, Zionism, love of country and service to the state, and the strengthening of our shared Jewish roots.” Bennett emphasized.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Rav Shimon Schwab: Values And Views

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Several months ago – in the columns of December, January, February, and March – we dealt with the early life of Rav Shimon Schwab, zt”l, his studies in Telshe and Mir, his serving as a rabbi in Bavaria, his leaving Germany due to threats on his life by the Nazis, his escape to America, and his serving as rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in Baltimore from 1936 to 1958.

In 1958 Rabbi Schwab was invited to join Rabbi Dr. Yoseph Breuer, zt”l, as associate rav of the German-Jewish community in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, Khal Adath Jeshurun. This community is widely regarded as the spiritual “continuation” of the pre-war Frankfurt kehilla.

With Rabbi Breuer’s increasing age and infirmity, Rav Schwab took on many leadership roles. After Rav Breuer was nifter in 1980, Rav Schwab led the community until his passing in 1995.

This month we look at Rav Schwab’s values and views.

 

Well Prepared for His Role as Rav

“Rav Schwab combined the ideals of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, architect of Torah Orthodoxy in the Western world, and the intense commitment to limud ha Torah that is the legacy of the great Lithuanian yeshivas.

“Rav Schwab was not a bridge between two worlds, between East and West –bridges are not for living on. He was rather the embodiment of the Eilu v’eilu divrei Elokim Chaim…. He embodied in one person two diverse Torah cultures: the glorious Frankfurt tradition of Rav Hirsch, with its emphasis on adherence to the emes and insistence on putting the stamp of Torah on every area of public and private endeavor…combined with unwavering devotion to intense Torah study, which was the hallmark of the great yeshivas of Lithuania. On the one hand, he absorbed the Chofetz Chaim’s caress; on the other, he observed the admonishment of the alter Gerrer Rebbe who characterized Rav Hirsch as ‘a lebedige mussar sefer.

“His mission was to make this heady blend the reality of authentic Torah life in America. He wished to set an example for the American ben Torah, whether engaged in full-time Torah study or as a working man. Rav Schwab was convinced that Torah im Derech Eretz offers a vision of Judaism ‘in a way that can be accepted…by the five-and-a-half-million uncommitted Jews in the vast spiritual wasteland that is today’s America in a language they can understand.”[i]

The following is from “Rav Schwab on Chumash,” written by his son Rabbi Myer J. Schwab who has kindly permitted me to quote from it.

Master Orator and Teacher

Rav Schwab was a master orator, and many looked forward to his talks at Agudah Conventions. He invariably spoke in English, although I recall being at one talk which he began in Yiddish. Many of the attendees were clearly disappointed and surprised that he was speaking in Yiddish. However, about 5 minutes into his talk, in Yiddish, he said that one must speak in the language people understandand. There was thunderous applause, and he continued the rest of his address in English.

Rav Schwab was at his best when he was lecturing or giving a shiur. As is well known, the Rav offered numerous unique interpretations of Chumash and Tanach, many of which have been recorded in his Ma’ayan Beis Hasho’evah. Posthumously, a series of books – Rav Schwab on Prayer, Rav Schwab on Iyov, Rav on Yeshayahu, Rav Schwab on Ezra and Nechemiah – was published which contain many new insights that were previously unknown to the general public.

“These insights resulted from his da’as Torah, his instinctive feeling for the inner meaning of the words of Torah and Tanach. This sense grew from his thorough knowledge of the language of the Torah and its rules of dikduk, his thorough grounding in Talmud and Midrash, and most of all from his deep piety, all of which were enhanced by his superb and clear mind.”

Dr. Yitzchok Levine

Yael Eckstein: Fierce Fighter For Torah Values

Monday, August 1st, 2016

One look at her face reveals Yael Eckstein’s passion for a world of kindness. Her face also reveals her fiery resolve to help make this world, especially the Jewish world, more embracing and generous. Her methods are manifold: teaching in schools, lecturing to international audiences, personally visiting the elderly and providing vital supplies to the needy.

Yael is the daughter of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which provides great financial assistance to Israel.

From among three sisters, Yael was picked and groomed by her father to assume a leadership position in the Fellowship. In 2010 she was appointed director of program development and ministry outreach. In 2011 she was promoted to senior vice president.

Yet, she considers motherhood a top priority among her activities.  Yael is a mother of three and lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children, where, although she is admired as a high-ranking leader of a major organization and a published writer, she delights in living a family life. As an academic, teaching Judaic Studies, she exclaims with joy: “We not only study the Bible here in Israel, we get to see it come alive.”

Yael Eckstein put into writing her ecstasy at having made aliyah. Her book Holy Land Reflections (2012) is a collection of inspirational insights. Two years later she wrote Spiritual Cooking with Yael (2014).  “Any physical act can be transformed into a spiritual experience with the proper thoughts and intention. In this book you will get the simple and healthy recipes to all of my favorite dishes, and learn how to integrate Bible verses, teachings, and meditations into the seemingly mundane act of cooking. After experiencing this new spiritual cooking experience, not only will cooking become an enjoyable and meaningful experience for you, but the food that you make will be embodied with good and holy energies,” Yael declares with enthusiasm.

In addition, she regularly blogs and writes op-eds for The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Yael had an amazingly extensive education both in Jewish and secular studies from American and Israeli institutions. She took Jewish and sociology classes at Queens College in New York, and biblical studies at Torat Chesed Seminary and Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

As senior vice president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Yael Eckstein oversees all ministry programs and serves as the international spokesperson for the $100-million organization. She has also addressed international events, including a Briefing and Panel Discussion on Religious Persecution in the Middle East in Washington, D.C.

In 2014, Eckstein was named “One of Israel’s 100 Most Influential Women” by Makor Rishon, a conservative Israeli newspaper, and in 2015 she was featured on the cover of Nashim, a prestigious magazine.

“Yael Eckstein is a uniquely gifted professional who has been called to be an ambassador for The Fellowship, an advocate for those in need, and a passionate voice for the vision and mission originally bestowed upon Rabbi Eckstein, the IFCJ’s founder and president, some three decades ago,” said board chairman John French.

Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

Defending Western Values in Brexit’s Wake

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

{Originally posted to New Canadian Media}

“Immigration played a role in the Brexit campaign,” reported The Wall Street Journal.

Since there were only four percentage points between the winning side (to leave the European Union) and the losing side, it is likely that this factor was decisive.

Concerns over immigration have lately been widespread across the West. They seem to have played an important role in Donald Trump’s success in the Republican primaries, and seem to be fuelling the growing popularity of hard right-wing parties in Europe.

These concerns represent a mixed bag. There is undoubtedly some xenophobia, but there are also valid concerns about the risk that immigration places on our liberal values.

I emigrated from Lebanon in 1984. My main motivation was to live in a society that shared my liberal values, where women and gay people are treated more fairly, and where freedom of expression is guaranteed.

Today, I wonder if Canada and the West in general will continue to be a haven for future generations who are fleeing tyranny.

Sharing liberal values

Many of the newcomers do not share the West’s liberal values and do not easily change their outlook once they arrive. As reported in The Guardian in 2009, a Gallup Poll found that “None of the 500 British Muslims interviewed believed that homosexual acts were morally acceptable”.

France fared better in the same poll, and “35% of French Muslims found homosexual acts to be acceptable”.

Both Britain and France have since then legalized same-sex marriage, a step well beyond simply tolerating homosexuality. If Muslims were in the majority in Britain and France, it is unlikely that same-sex marriage would have become the law.

Canadian Muslim reformer, Raheel Raza, wrote in reference to the niqab, “In the 25 years I have called Canada home, I have seen a steady rise of Muslim women being strangled in the pernicious black tent”.

Another Canadian Muslim reformer, Farzana Hassan, wrote in her book “Unveiled”, “To live strictly according to sharia is the goal of conservative Muslim families in Canada. These are the values they are imparting to their young children”.

Equality of cultures

Interestingly, our liberal values often discourage us from fighting back against attacks on these very same values. The politicians who raise concerns about immigration tend to be demagogues, such as Trump and hard right-wingers such as France’s Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National.

If those politicians come to power, however, we cannot trust them to protect our liberal values. Demagogues pander to whatever political stand will get them elected, and hard right-wingers do not favour equal rights for minorities, a core principle of liberal values.

A claim often made by some liberals is that all cultures are equal and, therefore, we have no right to impose our culture on others. Even assuming that this claim is true, it only means that we should not forcefully go into other countries and impose our values there.

It does not take away our right to protect our own culture.

This is not a relationship of equals. It is a relationship of subservience.

For example, extreme conservative Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia expect visitors to comply with their cultural practices, such as women covering up in public, yet we allow visitors and even immigrants to our countries to disregard our values by wearing the niqab in public.

This is not a relationship of equals. It is a relationship of subservience.

Cowering on the sidelines

Moderate Western politicians must protect our liberal values by taking reasonable measures that respect human rights. For example, many Syrian refugees have been welcomed in the West and many more are expected to arrive.

Yet, as noted by Amnesty International, “Gulf countries including Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees”. The West should demand more participation from rich Muslim countries to ensure that refugees find homes that match their social values.

Another reasonable measure might be screening potential migrants based on their existing values and their ability to adapt to Western norms such as respect for LGBT rights and women’s rights. Once they have immigrated, there should be restrictions on some cultural practices.

As both Raheel Raza and another Canadian Muslim reformer Tarek Fatah have demanded, the niqab and the burka should be banned in public places.

Those of us who believe in liberal values have a right and even a duty to protect them. Centrist and left-wing politicians should be at the forefront of this battle rather than cowering on the sidelines, leaving the floor to illiberal politicians.

Defending our values is important not only for the West, but also to potential immigrants who wish to leave oppressive societies. Refusing to fight for our values is dangerous for us and a disservice to new immigrants.

Fred Maroun

Bamidbar: How Can We Transmit God’s Values?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
Bamidbar should open with the stories of the desert, right? But instead, we are told of a census, the camp formation, and the Levites. Huh? Why is this the introduction to Bamidbar? In this week’s video, we dive into the new role of the Levites, and see how it gives us a window into understanding our own responsibility, and our destiny.

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Rabbi David Fohrman

We’re Turning Japanese Now

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

It’s an article of American faith that Japan is an incredibly strange place. The world has been mapped and GPS’ed to death ruining much of the thrill of discovery. There probably aren’t any hidden cities with remnants of lost civilizations lurking in the deserts of Africa or the jungles of South America. That just leaves the land of the rising sun as the X on the map, the strange place that suggests that the world that we know all too well, might still be odder than we can imagine.But Japan isn’t really all that strange. We are.

Depressed post-industrial economy, low birth rate, social disintegration and a society obsessed with pop culture and useless tech toys? A country that has embraced pacifism to the extent that it can hardly defend its own borders? A nation where materialism has strangled spirituality leaving no sense of purpose?We are Japan. And so is Europe. Or rather Japan is the place we all reach eventually.Japan is strange because it aggressively hurled itself into a postmodern void without knowing what was on the other side. It did this with the same dedication that its soldiers once marched into machine gun fire.

Japan had been in a race with the West, as it had been ever since Commodore Perry showed up with a fleet to open up a closed nation. It wasn’t unique in that regard. A lot of countries tried to do the same thing. Most found that they couldn’t keep up with either our technology or our decline. Japan shot past us in both areas. It beat us technologically. And then it outpaced our decline.

In the 80s, there were dire predictions that the future would belong to Japan. America would be broken up and run by a bunch of Japanese corporations. There were even predictions that after the fall of the USSR, the next war would be with Japan. Some of those predictions came from some surprisingly high profile analysts.

The future doesn’t belong to Japan. It may not, at this rate, belong to anyone. Japan hurled itself into the future, but didn’t find anything there.

Korea hurled itself into that same future and found only emptiness. Now China’s elites are rushing into that same void and are beginning to discover that technocracy and materialism are hollow. That is why China is struggling to reassert Communist values even while throwing everything into making Walmart’s next product shipment. Like Japanese and Korean leaders, Chinese leaders are realizing that their technological and material achievements have left their society with a spiritual void.

That isn’t a problem unique to Asia. Asian countries were just less prepared for a rapid transition to the modern age. Europe and America, which had more time to prepare, are still on the same track.

Japan isn’t really a technocratic wonderland. It has a few robot cafes, but not a lot of ATMs. Its tech companies got by on Western products that initially never caught on in the West, like the Walkman and the tax machine. There’s not much of a digital economy and the computer isn’t all that ubiquitous. Daily life for the Japanese these days is usually lower tech than it is for Americans or Europeans.

It’s not as bad as some Gulf Sheikdom where desert Bedouins fire off assault rifles in view of the glittering new skyscrapers whose waste products have to be manually removed from the building, but the strain of a feudal society rapidly transitioning to the modern world is still there, as it is in Russia.

Like Russia, Japan tried to beat us. Unlike Russia it did, only to stop halfway there and wonder what the whole point was.

And that’s the problem. There is no point.

American technocrats talk incessantly of beating China. But what is it that we’re supposed to beat China to? The largest pile of debt? The biggest collection of light rail and solar panel plans? The lowest birth rate and the most homeless farmers? The greatest disastrous government projects?

A country should move toward the future. But it should have a goal that it’s moving toward and a sense of connection with its past values.

The thing we have in common with Japan, China and Europe is that we have all moved into a post-modern future while leaving our values behind and our societies have suffered for it. It is a future in which stores have robots on display but couples are hardly getting married, where there are high speed trains and a sense of lingering depression as the people who ride them don’t know where they are going, and where the values of the past have been traded for a culture of uncertainty.Marriage and children are more extinct in Japan than they are here. They are more extinct in Europe than they are here. And China is still struggling with a bigger social fallout headed its way.Japanese modernism has made for a conservative society of the elderly. That is what Europe nearly had a few decades ago and it is what it would have had if it hadn’t overfilled its cities with a tide of immigrants. Japan survived the consequences of its social implosion only because of its dislike for immigration. If not for that, Japan really would have no future the way that the European countries which have taken in the most immigrants have traded their past and their future for the present.

That conservatism helped freeze Japan in time, that time being the cusp of the 90s when Japan was at its peak, and crippled its corporations and its culture, but also made the return of the right to power possible. It’s far from certain that a conservative revolution can save Japan, but so far it has a better shot at it than we do.

A society of the elderly may be slow to turn around, but it’s less likely to drive off a cliff without understanding the consequences than the youth-worshiping voting cultures of America and Europe. Japanese political culture may be lunatic, but even they wouldn’t have elected a Barack Obama. The prospect of an American Shinzō Abe backed by a right-wing coalition winning are poor. The last time Americans voted for a conservative message was 1980 and even Reagan’s message was leavened by liberal ideas. A genuinely conservative resurgence in which the type of politician who might have run for office in 1922 could become president on a similar platform is nearly inconceivable.

Japan is a long way from fixing itself. As a country and a society, it’s still peering into the abyss.

The cultural eccentricities that Americans fixate on come from a society of young men unmoored from normal human connections, a decline of national values and an obsession with trivial consumerism– all commonplace elements in postmodern American and European life. The difference is that Japan got there first.

The loonier elements of American pop subcultures were predated by Japan. Indeed the latter are often influenced by the former. The same holds true with petty plastic surgeries, a truly epic plague among Asia’s newly rich, and some of the more ridiculous accessories for living a life with no meaning or human companionship, but we’re all going to the same place. Just not at the exact same speed.

The common problem is that our journey has no meaning. The postmodern world of robots, fast trains and handheld computers is shiny, but not meaningful. It’s less meaningful than the earlier technological achievements that saved lives and made ordinary prosperity possible.

We can go fast, but no matter how fast we go, we seem to keep slowing down. That’s what Japan found out. Its decline was social. And social decline translates into a technological decline, because technological innovation is powered by a society, not some soulless force of modernism. Innovation must have goals. And those goals must be more than mere technology. They must emerge from some deeper purpose.

American innovation hasn’t halted entirely because its tech culture had enough purpose to make the latest set of digital revolutions possible. But each revolution has slowed down, becoming another shopping mall with microprocessors, replicating the Japanese problem. And at some point we’ll run out of revolutions and be left with the skeleton of a digital shopping mall that is no longer anything but a place to buy more things.

A healthy culture transmits values. When it stops doing that, it dies. When the values no longer seem to be applicable, than the culture hunts around for new values, it undergoes a period of confusion while its forward motion slows down. That is where Japan is now. It’s where America has arrived.

The values of the left, that are present in both Japan and America, are a cultural suicide pact.The left pretends to add a spiritual dimension to modernism. It has been peddling that lie for two centuries and it has yet to deliver. In countries where it wielded full control, there was neither modernism nor values. Russia destroyed the economic, technological and spiritual potential of generations of its people. China is trying to use Communist values to avoid turning into another Japan, not realizing that those are little better than the collective obligations with which Japan rushed into the future.

As America gazes at the ruins of Detroit and the insanity spewed forth by a digital frontier that increasingly looks every bit as eccentric and toxic as anything coming out of Japan, it is all too clear that we are Japan. There is no unique insanity in East, only a common disintegration of values in the East and the West.

Asia and Europe have both witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations. It isn’t technology that destroys civilizations, but a lack of values.To understand where Japan and Europe are, imagine an America decaying with no new ideas, losing its religion and values, losing its economy and finally its sanity, becoming coldly conformist and inhuman, while its families fall apart and its youth retreats into their own makeshift worlds. That reality is closer to home than we might like to think.America is destroying its values on an industrial scale. In a post-industrial nation, the destruction of values has become one of its chief industries. And while there is value in challenging values, in the conflict and clash of ideas, that requires that values go on existing, or there is no longer anything to challenge. And then there is nothing left but emptiness and madness.

Another stupid product from an infomercial. Another ridiculous politician. Another protest. Another indicator of economic decline. Another day, week, month, year of empty nothingness.

That is the modern abyss. And Japan is waiting for us there.

Daniel Greenfield

France: “Secularism Charter” in Every School

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

“Nothing could be worse than posting a secularism charter on the wall and then the students see around them that what actually happens in school life is the exact opposite of what we tell them.” — Philippe Tournier, Secretary General, French Teachers Union.

The French government has announced a plan to post a “secularism charter” in all public schools in France by the end of September.

The document — which is to appear in a prominent location in all of the 55,000 public schools in France — would serve to remind students and teachers of a list of secular principles underpinning the separation of mosque and state.

Although the initiative has enjoyed a generally positive reception, many observers are saying they doubt the Socialist government of French President François Hollande will have the political willpower actually to enforce secular principles in French schools — with or without a charter.

This skepticism stems from the fact that Muslim children constitute an increasingly large proportion of the 10 million students in the French public school system — and because Muslim parents make up an increasingly important voting bloc in French politics. Muslims, in fact, cast the deciding vote that thrust Hollande into the Elysée Palace in May 2012.

French Education Minister Vincent Peillon, who announced the plan in an interview with the French daily newspaper L’Est Républicain on August 26, said, “Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but not to dispute lessons or to skip classes [for religious reasons]. The charter will be a reminder of [secular] principles. It will be posted in all schools in late September. The law provides for a moral and civic education that promotes freedom from judgment, the capacity to emancipate, and rights and duties. I want to see the return of those values of the [French] Republic in schools in 2013.”

Although the final content of the charter will not be made public until the middle of September, a draft of the list which contains a total of 17 paragraphs has been circulating since July 11.

The first section of the draft list is entitled “The Republic is Secular,” and consists of six rather straightforward paragraphs that mostly echo the French Constitution. Paragraph 2 of the draft, for example, states that, “France is a republic that is indivisible, secular, democratic and social. It ensures equality before the law, on the whole of its territory, for all citizens. It respects all creeds.”

According to Paragraph 3, “The secular Republic is based upon the separation of religion and state. The state is neutral with regard to religious or spiritual beliefs. There is no state religion.” Paragraph 4 states that “Secularism guarantees freedom of conscience for all. Everyone is free to believe or not to believe. It allows the free expression of his beliefs, respecting those of others within the limits of public order.” And so on.

The second section of the list, entitled “The School is Secular,” changes tack by directly confronting Muslim students who take to disrupting classes whenever they do not agree with their teachers on certain subjects.

Paragraph 14 states: “Lessons are secular. To ensure that students are as objectively open as possible to the diversity of worldviews as well as to the extent and accuracy of knowledge, no subject is a priori excluded from scientific and educational inquiry.”

According to Paragraph 15, “No student may invoke religious or political convictions to challenge and/or to prevent a teacher from teaching certain parts of the curriculum.” Paragraph 16 states that “the wearing of conspicuous symbols or dress by pupils as relates to their religious affiliation is prohibited in public schools.”

The draft charter also states that “the secular school offers students the conditions to forge their own personality, exercise their free will and learn about citizenship. It protects them from proselytizing and from any pressure that prevents them from making their own choices.”

Reactions to the announcement have been mixed, with some questioning if or how the measure will be enforced.

The Secretary General of the French Teachers Union, Philippe Tournier, told Radio Europe 1 that while he welcomed the secularism charter in principle, he worried about its implementation. “The intentions are quite positive, but the essential thing still remains: putting into force what [the charter] affirms,” he said. “Nothing could be worse than posting a secularism charter on the wall, and then the students see around them that what actually happens in school life is the exact opposite of what we tell them.”

Soeren Kern

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/france-secularism-charter-in-every-school/2013/09/02/

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