Menachem Z. Rosensaft: Jerusalem: The heart of Israel, the heart of the Jewish people

Source: Washington Post, 11-29-10

We all have our lines in the sand. One of mine is the insidious historical revisionism – akin to Holocaust denial – that seeks to undermine and negate Jewish claims to and rights in Jerusalem. This campaign is part and parcel of a broader international campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel whenever and wherever possible.

In yet another step in the attempted political and spiritual dejudaization, for lack of a better term, of Jerusalem, Al-Mutawakel Taha, a senior official in the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information, writes in a recent study that the Western Wall “was never part of the so-called Temple Mount,” but rather “is in fact the western wall of Al-Aksa Mosque.” Jews, Taha contends in the study posted in Arabic on the Ministry’s Web site, have no claim on the Western Wall which he unilaterally seeks to convert into “a Muslim wall and an integral part of the Aksa Mosque.”

In Taha’s fallacious rewriting of history, the Jewish religious attachment to the Western Wall only dates back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration. Never mind the overwhelming archaeological evidence that the Western Wall is indeed a retaining wall of the Second Temple, and that the Al-Aksa Mosque was built atop the Temple’s ruins. Never mind that according to Christian sources, Jews have regularly come to the Temple Mount to mourn the Temple’s destruction and have prayed at the Western Wall since at least the third century of the Common Era.

Never mind that, as Karen Armstrong wrote in Time magazine in 2001, “In the 16th century, Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent permitted the Jews to make the Western Wall their official holy place and had his court architect Sinan build an oratory for them there.” Never mind that less than 100 years later, according to a contemporaneous account by a Jerusalem Jew, “The City of God contained more of our people than at any time since the Jews were banished from their country. Many Jews came daily to live in the City, apart from those coming to pray at the Western Wall.” Never mind that in his 1837 book, Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petraea and the Holy Land, American explorer John Lloyd Stephens described how “the chief rabbi of Jerusalem . . . accompanied by a Gibraltar Jew who spoke English” took him to “what they call a part of the wall of Solomon’s temple . . . . I saw that day, as other travelers may still see every Friday in the year, all the Jews in Jerusalem clothed in their best raiment, winding through the narrow streets of their quarter; and under this hallowed wall, with the sacred volume in their hands, singing in the language in which they were written the Songs of Solomon and the Psalms of David.”

Just so that we all sing from the same hymnal, the Western Wall is not the only vestige of the Temple. In September 2008, archaeologists announced the excavation of remnants of the Southern Wall on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion. And Robinson’s Arch, located near the Western Wall and where non-Orthodox Jewish groups are allowed to pray, is another very concrete Temple relic.

But the Jewish people’s attachment to Jerusalem far transcends its archaeological dimension. During an 1891 visit to Palestine, the Zionist thinker and theoretician Ahad Ha-Am wrote to his family that: “I am now in Jerusalem. I cannot express to you, even in a small way, my emotions at being here. Every step, every stone speaks to me of our history. Mount Zion, the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives. Only when one is here does one realize how foolish it is of our opponents, the Arabs, to think that we will ever give up on Jerusalem. It is the heart of the Land of Israel, the heart of the Jew.”…READ MORE

Tobin Belzer: Young adults reinvent Jewish identity in the modern world

Young adults reinvent Jewish identity in the modern world

Source: The Daily Sundial, 11-29-10

The lecture, “People of the Face(book): How Young Adults are Reinventing Jewish identity,” led by Tobin Belzer, focused on how Jewish young adults are putting off their church and marriage for later in life. Photo Credit: Britten Fay / Staff Reporter

More and more young Jewish adults in America are putting off their church and marriage for later in life.  Dr. Tobin Belzer of the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion & Civic Culture wanted to offer some perspective on this phenomenon, particularly for contemporary Jewish Americans, in her lecture Monday in Sierra Hall.

“The Jewish community has totally mastered engaging young Jews from pre-school through college,” Belzer said.  “But some people leave college and say, ‘Oh, I’ll be Jewish or Catholic or Muslim again when I’m married.’”

Speaking to Dr. Amy Shevitz’s American Jewish Experience class at CSUN, Belzer said there is a rising proliferation of organizations that exists to bring those people who might miss the more traditional life arc back to their communities.

In the past, many religious people followed the traditional path of their parents by marrying young, joining a church, having children and thus the process starts all over again.

But the fast pace of the modern world shows young people putting this off for a variety of reasons.  They are busy working on their careers and other priorities, or interests get in the way. They can find friends and community through outlets other than a church congregation, and it may just not seem as much of an obligation as in the past….

“We found, across religions, that the same things are attracting young adults (to these organizations): making them feel like their presence was valued.  They are made to feel like active members and could take on ownership of leadership roles,” Belzer said.

It may surprise some people that young, secular adults spend their time on the internet pretty much the same as anybody else their age, and this sense of belonging they are finding elsewhere has some concerned about a growing disconnect between generations of religious people, Belzer said.

“Community is now manifested most strongly through social networks,” she said.

Another reason for the flight from the church may simply be the cost, Belzer added. Traditional synagogues have membership dues, usually on a sliding scale based on salary.  It can be very expensive and there is some controversy over this high cost to belong, but it comes with a history.

“The assumption has always been that it is a community responsibility to pay for the community,” said Amy Shevitz, religious studies professor. “Before the modern period, Jews were not part of the mainstream cultures; they were isolated and had to take care of their own.”….READ MORE

John R.M. Lawrence Reviews Leonard Rogoff: N.C. Collection: State’s Jewish history

Source: The Daily Reflector, 11-28-10

Just as every community is a sum of its constituent parts, the history of North Carolina has been built upon the traditions of many different peoples…

As the young state evolved, its Jewish citizens were involved in every major movement from the Civil War to civil rights. These many contributions are highlighted in a new book produced by the Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina and the University of North Carolina Press, “Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina.”

Professor Leonard Rogoff traces the experience of Jewish peoples in North Carolina, from the isolation of pioneering peddlers of the earliest periods of settlement to the development of thriving communities in the 20th century. His combination of thorough documentation and exquisite illustrations will serve as an excellent model for other regional ethnic histories. His lively narrative brings to life the difficulties of immigration and assimilation as well as the challenges of preserving cultural tradition. In many ways, the story is that of developing new identities and communities, both Jewish and Southern. Along the way, the story touches on the contributions of many from eastern North Carolina, from the 1809 defense of religious liberty by Jacob Henry of New Bern to the Brody family sponsorship of medicine in Greenville.

In addition to the book, The Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina has sponsored the creation of an 82-minute film. The East Carolina University community and the general public are invited to a showing of the film “Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina” at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Room 2409 of J.Y. Joyner Library. Light refreshments will be served. Rogoff will introduce the film and discuss the Down Home history project. Copies of the book and the film on DVD are available for purchase…READ MORE

Book discusses Jewish vilification Michael Berkowitz’s book deals with the Nazi fabricated myth of Jewish criminality.

Source: The Daily Evergreen, 11-10-10

Professor Michael Berkowitz from the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London gave a lecture regarding his published book “The Crime of My Very Existence: Nazism and the Myth of Jewish Criminality” on Monday night in CUE 203.

“(The book) deals with the Nazi myth of Jewish criminality, which played an important role in the Nazi effort to justify the Holocaust,” WSU History professor Steven Kale said. “It also contributed significantly to the way the Germans themselves thought about the Holocaust as an event and process.” The book covers visual and criminological discourses and concerns vital strains of Nazism from the idea that Jews deserved their fate because they were criminals, Berkowitz said. This claim, along with the idea that Jews were united in a conspiracy against the Nazis, was a significant weapon in the Nazi arsenal, he said.

Berkowitz examined the history of criminality charges against the Jews and its part in both stimulating and rationalizing excessive violence and murder.

Nazis found that singling out Jews for their “racial otherness” did not automatically trigger the Jew’s expulsion from society, Berkowitz said.

“The Nazi’s anti-sematic program, I argue, had a more improvisational character that is often assumed and that it emerged in no small measure through trial and error,” he said. “The criminality charge was a consistent motif in this process.” The Nazis took pains to charge individual Jews with specific crimes until 1938, when it was decided that “the Jew was outside the law,” Berkowitz said. The crimes were often focused on obscure aspects of tax laws and currency exchange regulations.

The Nazis exploited their racist agenda while making it seem as if the Nazi state was simply zealous in applying the letter of the law, he said.

Berkowitz’s study was based in part on photographic material that had not often been historically analyzed. Even in some of the most iconic Holocaust images, there are some issues with basic terms of identification, he said…. READ MORE