Monthly Archives: July 2007

Paying for Justice…and Therapy

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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.

Posted on July 19, 2007

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Religion in Israel

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  • 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, “changes in the Haredi attitude to the Holocaust… the mass entry of Haredi women into the workforce … 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)

Posted on July 19, 2007

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Harry Potter Frenzy: Day 3

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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.)

If you’re interested in a preview, check out this excerpt from the Washington Jewish Week on whether Dumbledore‘s bird Fawkes the Phoenix made it on to Noah‘s Ark.

Posted on July 18, 2007

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Anti-Semitism Revisited

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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 what’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)

Posted on July 18, 2007

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Harry Potter Frenzy: Day 2

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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.

Posted on July 17, 2007

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Shul News

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Posted on July 17, 2007

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Jews for Jesus: Interview w/Shmuel Herzfeld

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Last week, NPR’s “Heard on the Street” featured a “debate” between Jew for Jesus Larry Dubin and Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of The National Synagogue.

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 –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.

jfj_huppah.jpg

(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?

Continue reading

Posted on July 16, 2007

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Who will pay for my therapy?

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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)

Posted on July 16, 2007

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Harry Potter as Midrash

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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.

To hold us Potter fans over until the weekend, Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg has provided us with some additional reading. He asks if the stories of Harry Potter were midrash, how would it all end? (MORE)

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.”

Posted on July 16, 2007

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Syria and the North

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Posted on July 16, 2007

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