Monthly Archives: March 2008

Obama and the Jews

This entry was posted in History on by .

-David Horovitz argues that “McCain is plainly grappling with how best to confound the Islamists’ ambitions. In Philadelphia, it must be said, Obama wasn’t really trying.â€? (The Jerusalem Post)

-While noting that Obama “eloquently highlighted his distinctive, patriotic message of self-awareness, self-criticism and reconciliation�, Gil Troy notes, “He never confronted Jeremiah Wright. He sat silently by as the United Church of Christ to which he belongs passed a resolution advocating divestment from Israel.� (Israel Insider)

-Ali Abunimah expresses his disappointment about Obama moving from being “forthright in his criticism of US policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict� to a “shift into the AIPAC camp.� (Electronic Intifada)

-Rob Eshman sets forth why many Jews are still uneasy with Obama. (Jewish Journal)

-Andrew Silow-Carroll is “intrigued by what the Obama-Wright affair has to say about relationships with our clergy. To what degree are any of us responsible for or implicated in whatever is said from the pulpit and beyond?� (J.)

-And Daphne Ziman sets forth her concerns, which center very much on the church headed by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, with William Ayers, Rashid Khalidi, and the Arab American Action Network. (Jewish Journal)

-But former congressman Mel Levine finds Obama’s record of supporting Israel to be demonstrably solid. (Jewish Journal)

-Edwin Black, noting that “Many critics have long self-censored on Obama’s hate links, even among the Jewish community� says �the real question is how a man described by many as a leading anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-white agitator became one of Obama’s mentors?� (The Cutting Edge News)

Posted on March 25, 2008

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MTV and the Holocaust

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

MTV has two new public service announcements about the Holocaust, which are part of its Think campaign.

Additionally the have a new video, “I’m Still Here” which features Elijah Wood, Ryan Gosling, Kate Hudson, Oliver Hudson, Brittany Murphy, Amber Tamblyn, and Joaquin Phoenix as they share stories from the diaries of young people who experienced firsthand the terror of daily life during the Holocaust.


(HT: JTA)

Posted on March 25, 2008

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The Orthodox Conversion Agreement

This entry was posted in History, Life on by .

-Rabbi Marc Angel calls the recent RCA deal with Israel’s Chief Rabbinate “a complete capitulation� to haredi standards. But others defend it. (The Jewish Week)

-Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, one of Modern Orthodoxy’s elder statesmen says, “I am very much afraid of this system. The RCA is making it more difficult for people to convert just as the Chief Rabbinate has made it more difficult for people to convert in Israel. We are replicating their mistakes.� (The Jewish Week)

-But Moshe Kletenik defends it: “it ensures that its converts will be assured that their status as Jews will not be questioned in the future, whether in Israel or in other major mainstream Orthodox communities….it introduces long overdue standardization and comprehensive record-keeping into the conversion process.� (The Jerusalem Post)

-Rabbi Barry Freundel makes “The case for ‘centralized’ conversions� saying that it standardizes the procedure, while Rabbis Marc Angel and Avi Weiss say this is “Taking power away from the rabbis.� (The Jewish Week)

-And Rabbi Moshe Kletenik decries the criticisms as “incorrect. Worse yet, such critics are publicly undermining a long overdue and eminently reasonable solution that would facilitate the acceptance of such converts into the Jewish people and faith.� (NJ Jewish News)

Posted on March 24, 2008

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Messianic Jews in Israel

This entry was posted in Beliefs, History on by .

Last week, a 15 year-old boy had to have his leg amputated after being wounded by an exploding Purim gift basket. Police are investigating the matter, and it seems likely that the boy was targeted because he is a Messianic Jew.

If it turns out that the boy was, indeed, a victim of Jewish terrorism, it would be another attack added to the unfortunate list of violent acts perpetrated by Jews on Purim.

The story also piqued my interest because the boy’s family lives in Ariel, a large settlement bloc in the West Bank.

Needless to say, Jews for Jesus members are not the first people I think about when I envisage the population of such a community.

Reading up a little, though, I discovered some interesting facts about both Ariel and Messianic Jews in Israel. First, Ariel was founded by secular Israelis and, by at least some estimates, only 10% of current residents are Orthodox. In addition, up to 45% of residents are immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

This last fact may account for the Messianic Jewish presence in Ariel. There are about 15,000 Messianic Jews in Israel and the West Bank today, and according to an article in the Jerusalem Post in 2005, this number is double what it was before the influx of immigrants from the FSU.

In general, Jews tend to be very wary of Messianic Jews and their missionizing ways. But it seems likely (to me at least) that many of these Messianic Jews from the FSU were not religiously Jewish when they immigrated to Israel. Surely, a large number were practicing Christians who happened to have a Jewish grandparent or spouse.

One might argue, then, that these not-originally-Jewish Messianic Jews are a good thing for Israel and the Jewish people. They celebrate Jewish holidays, feel connected to the Land of Israel, and are invested in the destiny of world Jewry — even if they do believe in Jesus.

Posted on March 24, 2008

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The American (and Jewish?) Future

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

In today’s New York Times magazine, Peggy Orenstein looks at the significance of Barack Obama as the first biracial — not just African-American — candidate.

Orenstein is married to a Japanese-American man, and she reflects upon her own daughter’s future:

For the moment, she attends a Jewish preschool (where, as it happens, a quarter of her class, not to mention an assistant rabbi, is Hapa [biracial]) and identifies so strongly with my heritage that my husband has begun to feel uneasy. He recently suggested that, for balance, we enroll her in Dharma school at the Japanese Buddhist church. Let me be clear: he is an atheist who grew up Methodist; I hew to a kind of social-relativist concept of “oneness.� And our daughter is going to spend her days shuttling between two temples?

I sometimes wonder what will happen in another 50 years. Will my grandchildren “feel� Jewish? Japanese? Latino? African-American? Will they be pluralists? “Pass� as Anglo? Refuse categorization?

MORE…

Posted on March 23, 2008

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Purim Questions

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

-Why did King Ahasuerus seek the ministers’ advice when Vashti refused his request, but made do with the servants’ advice for his second decision? And did the latter give him better advice than the former? (Ynet)

-Why did Moredecai not bow? (Jewish Journal)

-Does one satisfy the obligation of listening to Megillah reading via loudspeaker, telephone, or hearing aid? (Fifth Avenue Synagogue)

Posted on March 20, 2008

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Together4Israel Rally

This entry was posted in General, History on by .

Tomorrow night the One Family Fund, along with a number of partners, will try to get one million people online for a rally in support of Israel. While it may be difficult for some to log in because of Purim, it seems like a monumental, global event for the Jewish community.

The broadcast begins at 11:00 pm Israel Time/ 9 p.m. GMT / 5 p.m. EDT / 4 p.m. CDT / 3 p.m. MDT / 2 p.m. PDT.

A schedule of speakers including Alan Dershowitz live from Sderot, Natan Shransky, and Elie Wiesel as well as instructions to log on can be found at the Together4Israel website.

Posted on March 19, 2008

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Purim Lessons & Meaning

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

-Rabbi Sharon Brous says: “Megillat Esther…reminds us that history is capricious and life is fragile; that willing or not, we must confront our powerlessness and vulnerability, our inability to control everything. Or anything.� (Jewish Journal)

-What Purim teaches about seizing the moment. (The Philadelphia Jewish Voice)

-Rabbi Naphtali Hoff says, “Purim… presents the Jewish blueprint for survival in an extended exile. Sefer Ezra, on the other hand, focused on the return to Israel and the rebuilding of the Temple. Matters pertaining to exile were of relatively little consequence to it. Our challenge as Jews residing in exile is to continue to maintain our unique national and religious identity while keeping our focus on our ultimate objective – a final return to the land of Israel and building the third and final Temple in Jerusalem.� (The Jewish Press)

-Avi Shafran says that Purim has a message for the radical fringe of the animal rights movement. (The Jerusalem Post)

-Looking at the Book of Ether’s happy ending, Reuven Hammer says, “But if we are addressing the serious problem of how Diaspora Jews should go about saving their lives and their community in times of peril, I cannot imagine that this is a serious answer.� (The Jerusalem Post)

Posted on March 19, 2008

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Vashti’s Banquet

This entry was posted in General, Holidays on by .

Yesterday night I attended a program at my shul called Vashti’s Banquet. More than 150 women of all ages came to celebrate Purim with belly dancing, Middle Eastern food, and music.

But more importantly, we came together to raise awareness about domestic abuse. Vashti, of the Purim story, was beheaded because she refused to dance naked for and entertain her husband and his friends at his own banquet. And all too many women still today suffer physically and emotionally for defying their husbands.

Many people think domestic violence doesn’t happen in the Jewish community.

This is false.

If you or someone you know is in abusive relationship, please get help.

Jewish Women International has a comprehensive site devoted to this issue as well as local Jewish resources.

Posted on March 18, 2008

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Hazak Hazak V’nithazek: Celebrating Strength Through Inclusion at JTS

This entry was posted in History, Practices on by .

It has been almost a year since the Jewish Theological Seminary announced it will accept students that identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. To celebrate the year anniversary, the school is hosting a day of learning about the issues still ahead in this area.

For those in the New York-area more information can be found here.

Posted on March 18, 2008

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