The other day I blogged about my gut discomfort with the class-action lawsuit brought by children of Holocaust survivors, asking the German government to pay for their psychotherapy.
Now I’ve had a couple of days to think about why I reacted negatively to this, and here’s what I think it is: the presumption that monetary compensation can right some of the most heinous wrongs in history.
That, of course, could raise questions about general Holocaust reparations, as well, but here I think the founders of the Claims Conference were sensitive to this.
When in 1951, the presidents of 23 Jewish organizations got together to organize talks about restitution, they “made clear that these talks were to be limited to discussion of material claims, and thus the organization that emerged from the meeting was called the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany — the Claims Conference.”
The focus on material claims makes sense. The goal was to make sure Holocaust survivors received some financial aid to help them rebuild their lives. The goal was not to fix spiritual and psychological wounds or to give the Germans the opportunity to atone for their sins.
When we drift beyond the material, into the realm of the spiritual and psychological, we are saying that Holocaust reparations could actually repair. But money cannot bring kapparah for the Germans; justice cannot be bought.
- A look at the extensive splits within the religious establishment in Israel, and their increasing inability to deal with challenges from both the secular world and from the Reform/Conservative movements, and the decreasing influence that the Rabbinical establishment has, even though they retain considerable institutional power. (The Jerusalem Post)
- A new book looks at the diversity of Haredi society by analyzing its internal dialog, especially in terms of the impact of recorded sermons and the overall attitude toward the media, attitudes toward and impact of newly observant Jews, â€œchanges in the Haredi attitude to the Holocaustâ€¦ the mass entry of Haredi women into the workforce â€¦ the penetration of modern Israeli culture into ultra-Orthodoxy.â€? (Haaretz)
- When a new pork-selling supermarket opened in the Netanya city center, haredim chained themselves to the supermarket’s doors. The Netanya City Council then approved a bylaw prohibiting the sale of pork in the city. Said an opponent: “The supporters of the law want to force norms befitting Iran.” (Ynet)
- Rabbi David Ellenson, the president of Hebrew Union College (HUC), the Reform Movement’s rabbinic seminary, comes to Israel to talk about religious pluralism in the past,and of the dangers of ignorance, even among secular Israelis. (Haaretz)
Today’s offering of Harry Potter is a look at the new book Harry Potter and the Torah. No, it’s not a mysterious eighth book in the official Rowling series. Rather, in his commentary of HP and Judaism, author Dov Krulwich asks us:
Do you know that there are Jewish perspectives on mudbloods, owl post, ghosts, magic wands, the rights of magical creatures, and avada kedavra? (MORE)
(It’s okay. I recognize that some of our readers may not know what a mudblood is. There’s always time to learn.)
As Kanye West so eloquently rapped in “Never Let Me Down”, “Racism is still alive, they just be concealing it.” When it comes to racism towards Jews, Europeans do not “be concealing” anything. In fact, a recent survey found that negative attitudes towards Jews in Europe have increased over the past year. Not to mention three blatant anti-Semitic incidents over the past week alone:
1. In Ukraine, a Rabbi was attacked, and the same day another group launched a verbal assault and an attempted break-in at a local Jewish school.
2. In Berlin, a Jewish Holocaust memorial was vandalized.
3. In Russia, swastikas were painted on the fence in front of the Jewish Agency building.
The threat of anti-Semitism in Europe is alarming. What can be done to subdue these anti-Semitic viewpoints in Europe?
While people’s opinions may not be changing, institutional attitudes have a come a long way over the past fifty years. The Polish government is not only helping to fund a Jewish museum, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, but they funded a Krakow Jewish Festival. The event attracted over 13,000 people, though about 85% of participants were not Jewish. When non-Jewish organizer Janusz Makuch was asked if he thought anti-Semitism in Europe was still an issue, he replied:
“I’m not naive, of course it is,” he conceded. “This is a process, and it will take a long, long time. On the other hand, when you compare Poland with whatâ€™s been happening in the rest of Europe, ask yourself: Could you imagine such a huge open-air Jewish concert in any other European country today?”
Is Makuch correct? Can it be that the Poles are the most progressive Europeans vis-a-vis anti-Semitism?
(Matt Ring is the summer intern at MyJewishLearning.com)
My quest for Harry Potter news continues. As I noted in my blog yesterday, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, comes out this Shabbat. This presents a problem for our fellow Harry Fanatics in Israel who won’t be able to get the book until the Sabbath is over:
With Israelis already clamoring for “Deathly Hallows,” many bookstores are planning to launch the book on time anyway. That has drawn fire from Orthodox Jewish lawmakers, including Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai, who threatened to fine any store that opens Saturday.
“Israeli law forbids businesses to force their employees to work on the Sabbath, and that applies in this case as well. The minister will fine and prosecute any businesses which violate the law,” said Roei Lachmanovich, a spokesman for Yishai, of the ultra-0rthodox Jewish Shas party. (MORE)
Some Israeli lawmakers don’t want the book to be released in Israel ever:
“We don’t have to be dragged like monkeys after the world with this subculture, and certainly not while violating our holy Sabbath,” Avraham Ravitz of the United Torah Judaism Party said in a statement.
I guess he won’t be seeing the movies, either.
- The Shabazi shul in LA has â€œno sign and no front door.â€¦The Shema prayer â€¦ is â€¦ not a melody. It’s a tribal chant. You feel like you’re walking through the desert, exhausted, and you’re pleading with God to give you strengthâ€¦Even the Hebrew sounds different: emet is pronounced amat, kadosh is gothosh, chalom is cholemâ€¦When they read from the Torah, they do a duet with an Aramaic translationâ€?, and 6 year olds are called up to their own aliyah.
- Given that the Reform movement has “recognized and supported the need for women’s space,â€? why is the idea of doing the same for men seen as problematic, especially in view of â€œthe increasing absence of men actively participating in temple lifeâ€??
- Says Rob Eshman, Editor-in-Chief at the Jewish Journal of LA, â€œIf studios have focus groups and politicians have tracking polls, Jewish editors have Kiddush.â€? (Jewish Journal)
- In what was once the very WASPy Southampton, Long Island, Rabbi Marc Schneier, says â€œIâ€™m an Orthodox rabbi with a Conservative congregation and a Reform membership.â€? And the Reform-affiliated Jewish Center of the Hamptons, in East Hampton is being led, for the moment, by a graduate of Yeshiva College. (Forward)
- At the oldest African-American congregation in the U.S. a battle over the congregationâ€™s leadership is resolved after more than 30 years, but a new legal battle over proposed sale of the building has roiled matters even further, and the membership slips perilously close to none at all. (The Jewish Week)
- Rabbi Toni Shy is the new Rabbi at what will then be the largest Conservative congregation in the world to be served by a woman rabbi, replacing the former rabbi who is off to prison for three years. (NJ Jewish News)
- A struggle between those that want to keep a synagogue Conservative, those who want to switch to Orthodox, and those who want it to become â€œa Russian Jewish cultural centerâ€? now heads into court, hinging on the results of a long delayed, and disputed, election. (The Jewish Advocate)
- An Orthodox Jew visits LAâ€™s eclectic Shtibl Minyan, finding an agreeable minyan mixing heart-felt and highly participatory davening and social action. (Jewish Journal)
After listening to the clip (which you can hear here), I had a few questions for Rabbi Herzfeld, which he was kind enough to answer.
DS: You, as a rabbi, are undoubtedly extremely busy. With all your pastoral duties, you probably have to pick your “causes” and the time you spend on them very carefully. Why did you decide that fighting Jews for Jesus was worthwhile? Are they really such a threat to Jews and Judaism?
SH: The Jews for Jesus and their affiliates have 33 congregations in the Washington-Baltimore area. They are a growing movement with a lot of money at their disposal. Their goal is to convert as many Jews as possible. Their method is to attract Jews to their church by disguising their churches to look like synagogues. Are they really such a threat? I see the individuals who sit in my office and tell me that their children have been caught in the tentacles of this group. Or I see their own embarrassment as they admit that they themselves were caught up with this group. I see their pain and I get angry. A fundamental principle of activism is that we must speak out against evil.
To my mind, this group â€“through their deceitful and manipulative methods and through their goal of drawing as many Jews as possible away from Judaism — represents wickedness. I went out to the streets to condemn them because they are wrong. It is that simple.
(Huppah at a JFJ wedding. Yes, that’s a cross in the background.)
DS: I’ve always had the sense that, as a community, we blow their influence out of proportion. But, certainly, I may be wrong. Are your grievances a matter of principle or a concern that Jews for Jesus may actually pull a large number of Jews away from Judaism?
I don’t want to judge people who have been traumatized by Holocaust-survivor parents, but I’m not sure I can help it. This just rubs me wrong:
Children of Holocaust survivors are suing Germany to pay for their psychotherapy.
The lawsuit, involving some 4,000 plaintiffs, was filed Monday in a Tel Aviv court. The children of survivors argue that they have been scarred being raised by parents who experienced the Nazi Holocaust, and as a result Germany should pay for their psychological therapy. (MORE)
The frenzy has finally hit me. After seeing, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix this weekend (in 3-D, no less), I’m fully engrossed in theories and plot discussion about book 7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which comes out this Shabbat.
After addressing the the issues of Dumbledore’s death and the Neville Longbottom prophecy, Rosenberg gives us another take on the ultimate question of Harry’s survival:
“In the words of the apocryphal Harry Potter Rabbah: To what may this be compared?
To a king who had a son and wished to teach him to stand up against evil. First, he hid his face from him. Then he assigned him teacher after wise teacher, but just as the boy began to appreciate them, they too were taken away. And then he sent the evil one to test him, saying to his court: If the evil one prevails, I shall wear sackcloth and ashes, but if my son should prevail, we shall all live Jewishly ever after.”
- Pointing out that â€œThe Golan â€¦ has been Israeli for 40 years, double the time it was in Syria’s hands..â€¦ It has neither a foreign people nor a demographic problem,â€? Nadav Shragai argues that the Golan should be seen as legitimately Israeli, not Syrian, and that it should thus not be used as a bargaining chip for peace. (Haaretz)
- Akiva Eldar looks at the broader question of how much Syria should reasonably be expected to do prior to peace discussions, and as part of a peace deal. (Haaretz)
- In the North, people assume that war will come again, but the government is not preparing them: â€œThe shelters are a painful subjectâ€¦In Maghar and in the Old City of Acre [Arab, and primarily Arab respectively], for example, not a single public shelter has been built since the war.â€? (Haaretz)
- The deputy commander of the northern front during the Second Lebanon War argues that Israel needs to do more to prevent war with Syria. (Ynet)
- Foreign Minister Livni argues against talks with Syria. (The Jerusalem Post)
- Majdi Halabi argues that Hizbullah’s control in Lebanonâ€™s south is absolute in civilian matters, and in military affairs. They are preparing for war which will surely come, he concludes. (Ynet)