JBuzz Musings January 6, 2014: Pope Francis formally announces May trip dates to Israel, Middle East

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Pope Francis formally announces May trip dates to Israel, Middle East

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Although for months it was widely speculated that Pope Francis would make a trip to Israel in spring 2014, the Pope himself announced on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 that he will make a trip to Israel, Bethlehem, and Amman, Jordan…READ MORE
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JBuzz News May 20, 2013: Jonathan Marc Gribetz: Telling Jerusalem’s story through its many conquests

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Telling Jerusalem’s story through its many conquests

Source: NJ Jewish News, 5-20-13

Professor Jonathan Marc Gribetz questioned whether permanently holding the city of Jerusalem is an attainable goal. 

	Photo by Debra Rubin+ enlarge image

Professor Jonathan Marc Gribetz questioned whether permanently holding the city of Jerusalem is an attainable goal. 

Photo by Debra Rubin

“The history of Jerusalem is the history of conquest,” said Jonathan Marc Gribetz, “and that past has demonstrated that it is a place where religion and politics are almost inextricable.”

Gribetz, assistant professor of Jewish studies and history at Rutgers University, spoke May 6 about the conflicting identities of Jerusalem during a program at Highland Park Conservative Temple-Congregation Anshe Emeth….READ MORE

JBuzz News April 30, 2013: Pope Francis and Israeli President Shimon Peres: Hopes for resumption of peace talks

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Pope and Israeli President : Hopes for resumption of peace talks

Source: Vatican Radio, 4-30-13

Pope Francis on Tuesday received in audience at the Vatican the Israeli President Shimon Peres and held talks on a variety of issues concerning the Middle East. President Peres also met the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertoni and Archbishop Dominque Mamberti, Secretary of Relations with States.

Please find below an English translation of the official communique on the talks released afterwards by the Holy See’s Press Office:

“During the cordial talks, the political and social situation in the Middle East—where more than a few conflicts persist—was addressed. A speedy resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians is hoped for, so that, with the courageous decisions and availability of both sides as well as support from the international community, an agreement may be reached that respects the legitimate aspirations of the two Peoples, thus decisively contributing to the peace and stability of the region. Reference to the important issue of the City of Jerusalem was not overlooked. Particular worry for the conflict that plagues Syria was expressed, for which a political solution is hoped for that privileges the logic of reconciliation and dialogue.

A number of issues concerning relations between the State of Israel and the Holy See and between state authorities and the local Catholic communities were also addressed. In conclusion, the significant progress made by the Bilateral Working Commission, which is preparing an agreement regarding issues of common interest, was appreciated and its rapid conclusion is foreseen.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting between Pope Francis and President Peres, Israel’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Zion Evrony spoke to Vatican Radio’s Susy Hodges about their talks and in particular about the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Syrian conflict and the long-standing bilateral talks between Israel and the Holy See on tax and economic issues.

Listen to the extended interview with Ambassador Evrony by Susy Hodges: RealAudioMP3

Ambassador Evrony says Israel “really hopes” for an early resumption of the stalled peace process between the Jewish state and the Palestinians. “There’s nothing that that the people of Israel want more than peace … peace with our Palestinian neighbours is one of our main goals,” he says.

Ambassador Evrony also talks about Israel’s concerns over the Syrian conflict, saying the crisis there “is first and foremost a humanitarian crisis.” “It is tragic,” he continues, “to see the bloodshed and human suffering and see a brutal dictator massacre his own people.” The Israeli Ambassador also spoke of his country’s concern about the issue of chemical weapons in Syria and said he is worried that “these chemical weapons could end up in the wrong hands.”

Turning to the question of the bilateral discussions between Israel and the Holy See over various economic and tax issues, Ambassador Evrony said “there was reason to be optimistic” concerning these long-standing issues although he added “there is still some work to be done” before a final conclusion can be reached.

JBuzz News April 5, 2013: 6 survivors to represent 6 million at Yad VaShem Holocaust Rememberance Day / Yom HaShoah ceremony

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6 survivors to represent 6 million at Holocaust ceremony

Source: Ynetnews, 4-5-13

Entitled “uprising and rebellion in the Holocaust” and on the backdrop of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Sunday evening will open Holocaust Remembrance Day activities and the main ceremony at the Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad VaShem….READ MORE

JBuzz News March 28, 2013: Israel’s Jewish population passes 6 million mark

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Israel’s Jewish population passes 6 million mark

Israel becomes world’s largest Jewish center, with six million Jews; United States in second place, France third. ‘World’s Jews on decline,’ expert says

Source: Ynetnews, 3-28-13

Israel’s population has crossed the eight million threshold over Passover, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Thursday. With six million Jews, Israel has become the world’s largest Jewish center.

The remainder of the population is comprised of 1.6 million Arabs, 350,000 non-Arab Christians and others, mostly olim or relatives of olim from the former USSR, whose religion is not listed in the Interior Ministry‘s census.

At the start of 2012, Israel was home to 7.836 million people, after a growth of 1.8% from 2011….READ MORE

JBuzz News March 27, 2013: Rabbi Herschel Schacter Dead at 95; Cried to the Jews of Buchenwald: ‘You Are Free’

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Rabbi Herschel Schacter Is Dead at 95; Cried to the Jews of Buchenwald: ‘You Are Free’

Source: NYT, 3-26-13

via Yad Vashem

Rabbi Herschel Schacter leading the Shavuot prayer service for survivors in the Buchenwald camp in Germany in 1945.More Photos »

The smoke was still rising as Rabbi Herschel Schacter rode through the gates of Buchenwald.

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Buchenwald’s Liberation, as Seen by Louis Nemeth

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Rabbi Herschel Schacter in 1999.

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It was April 11, 1945, and Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army had liberated the concentration camp scarcely an hour before. Rabbi Schacter, who was attached to the Third Army’s VIII Corps, was the first Jewish chaplain to enter in its wake.

That morning, after learning that Patton’s forward tanks had arrived at the camp, Rabbi Schacter, who died in the Riverdale section of the Bronx on Thursday at 95 after a career as one of the most prominent Modern Orthodox rabbis in the United States, commandeered a jeep and driver. He left headquarters and sped toward Buchenwald….READ MORE

JBuzz News March 26, 2013: President Barack Obama hosts White House Seder dinner on first night of Passover

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President Obama hosts White House Seder dinner on first night of Passover

The first family planned to use a Seder plate given to First Lady Michelle Obama from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.

Source: AP, 3-26-13

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama held a Passover Seder dinner in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House on Monday for family, staff and friends.

Pete Souza/The White House

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama held a Passover Seder dinner in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House on Monday for family, staff and friends.

President Barack Obama marked Monday night’s start of Passover with a private Seder at the White House.

Obama started the tradition as a presidential candidate in 2008 when he joined Jewish staffers celebrating on the campaign trail. He’s continued it every year since with a small group of aides and friends. He told Israelis during a visit last week he wanted the tradition at the White House so his daughters could experience it.

SEDER27N_2_WEB

Pete Souza/The White House

President Obama began hosting an annual Seder dinner for his Jewish staff when he was on the campaign trail in 2008….READ MORE

Full Text JBuzz News March 25, 2013: US President Barack Obama’s Passover Message

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Statement from the President on Passover

Source: WH, 3-25-13

 

As we prepare for our fifth Seder in the White House, Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Passover here in America, in the State of Israel, and around the world.

Tonight, Jewish families will gather with family and friends to celebrate with songs, wine, and food. They will read from the Haggadah, and retell the story that makes this holiday so powerful.

Last week, I visited the state of Israel for the third time, my first as President. I reaffirmed our countries’ unbreakable bonds with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I had the chance to speak directly with young Israelis about the future they wanted for their country, their region, and the world. And I saw once again how the dream of true freedom found its full expression in those words of hope from Hatikvah, lihyot ‘am chofshi be’artzeinu, “To be a free people in our land.”

Passover is a celebration of the freedom our ancestors dreamed of, fought for, and ultimately won. But even as we give thanks, we are called to look to the future. We are reminded that responsibility does not end when we reach the promised land, it only begins. As my family and I prepare to once again take part in this ancient and powerful tradition, I am hopeful that we can draw upon the best in ourselves to find the promise in the days that lie ahead, meet the challenges that will come, and continuing the hard work of repairing the world. Chag sameach.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder Dinner for family, staff and friends, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, March 25, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

JBuzz News February 28, 2013: Five authors named Sami Rohr Prize finalists

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Five authors named Sami Rohr Prize finalists

Source: JTA, 2-28-13

Five authors from three countries were named the finalists for the 2013 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.

The Jewish Book Council on Wednesday announced the nominees for their works of Jewish fiction.

The nominees are Shani Boianjiu, for “The People Of Forever Are Not Afraid”; Ben Lerner for “Leaving Atocha Station”; Stuart Nadler for ” The Book of Life”; Asaf Schurr for “Motti,”  translated by Todd Hasak Lowy; and Francesca Segal for “The Innocents.”…READ MORE

JBuzz News December 18, 2012: Dead Sea Scrolls available in online library

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Dead Sea Scrolls available in online library

Source: JTA, 12-18-12

The Dead Sea Scrolls are now available online….READ MORE

JBuzz News November 22, 2012: Julien Bauer: Canadian Montreal University Professor Target of anti-Semitic Vandalism

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Canadian Professor Target of anti-Semitic Vandalism

Source: Jewocity.com Blog (blog), 11-20-12

Canadian Professor Target of anti Semitic Vandalism Canadian Political Science Professor Julien Bauer was the target of anti-Semitic vandalism this week….READ MORE

JBuzz News November 10, 2012: Steven Windmueller: Ira Sheskin: Republicans make inroads, but most Jewish voters stay with Democrats

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Republicans make inroads, but most Jewish voters stay with Democrats

Source: Broward Politics (blog), 11-10-12

The vote shift from 2008 to 2012 was “nothing huge and dramatic,” said Ira Sheskin, of Cooper City, a geography professor at the University of Miami where he’s also director of the Jewish Demography Project….READ MORE

JBuzz News October 17, 2012: Ruth Wisse: Harvard Professor: Jews Should Vote for Romney

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Harvard Prof: Jews Should Vote for Romney

American Jews who care about Israel should vote for Mitt Romney, says Ruth Wisse, a Harvard professor of Yiddish and comparative literature….READ MORE

Menorahs lighted in New York, nation’s capital

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Menorahs lighted in New York, nation’s capital

New Yorkers light a massive menorah in Manhattan on Tuesday to mark the beginning of Hanukkah.
New Yorkers light a massive menorah in Manhattan on Tuesday to mark the beginning of Hanukkah.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The world’s largest menorah is lighted in New York
  • The nine-branched candelabra is 32 feet tall, 28 feet wide and weighs 4,000 pounds
  • A menorah also is lighted in Washington
  • The White House menorah lighting dates to 1979 with President Jimmy Carter

From big balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to a big Christmas tree at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center, the Big Apple is known for going big around the holidays. And on Tuesday, the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, New Yorkers went big again, lighting a massive menorah outside the south side of Central Park.

The nine-branched candelabra is 32 feet tall, 28 feet wide, weighs 4,000 pounds, and is considered the world’s biggest, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman, director of the city’s Lubavitch Youth Organization, said the gold-colored steel structure is equipped with oil lamps and has special glass chimneys to protect the flames from wind.

The Brooklyn-based group has coordinated the lighting ceremony since it began in 1977, then coinciding with the administration of Abraham David Beam, the first Jewish mayor of New York City.

The massive structure was designed by renowned Jewish artist Yaacov Agam, according to Butman.

During the celebration, one candle is lighted the first night, and an additional candle is lighted each subsequent night for eight nights, earning Hanukkah the name “The Festival of Lights.”

“The menorah is a symbol of inspiration not only for the Jewish people, but all people, regardless of race, color or creed,” Butman said.

In the nation’s capital, a special lighting ceremony near the White House also marked the start of the holiday.

“Tonight, as families and friends come together to light the menorah, it is a story that reminds us to count our blessings, to honor the sacrifices of our ancestors,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “To believe that through faith and determination, we can work together to build a brighter, better world for generations to come.”

The White House menorah lighting dates to 1979 with President Jimmy Carter.

Fire Ravages Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun Prominent N.Y. Synagogue

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Source: JTA, 7-12-11

A fire has badly damaged one of New York City’s most prominent synagogues.

The four-alarm fire broke out in Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper East Side at around 8:30 on Monday night, according to the Associated Press.

The fire caused the synagogue’s roof to collapse and severely damaged the building’s top floors. The New York Fire Department reportedly is concerned about the massive 110-year-old building’s structural integrity.

The fire was brought under control an hour after it began. Four firefighters sustained minor injuries quelling the blaze, The New York Times reported.

The cause of the fire, which fire officials think began on the roof or top floor, has not yet been determined.

The synagogue building had been undergoing renovations. Religious articles had been removed prior to construction, so no Torah scrolls were damaged in the fire.

Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun is an Orthodox synagogue and one of the city’s most prominent Jewish congregations. It is led by Rabbi Haskell Lookstein, a leading figure in American Modern Orthodoxy.

MFA makes amends in probable plundering — Artwork believed stolen by Nazis

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Source: Boston Globe, 6-27-11

The MFAs investigation of its works with little ownership history led to a payment for this 17th-century oil portrait.
The MFAs investigation of its works with little… (Museum of Fine Arts)

The Museum of Fine Arts has agreed to pay restitution to the heir of a Jewish art dealer killed at Auschwitz after determining that a 17th-century Dutch painting in its collection was once owned by him and was probably plundered by the Nazis.

With the deal, which culminates a more than decade-long investigation by the museum, the MFA remains at the leading edge of an emerging museum practice to proactively research works with little ownership history and make amends if they are found to have been acquired under questionable circumstances. Since 2004, the MFA has returned three other works seized during World War II.

In this case, the MFA agreed to pay an undisclosed sum and, in exchange, the heir of Walter Westfeld agreed to allow the museum to keep the oil portrait of a man and woman by Eglon van der Neer.

“They should be commended for both acknowledging there might be some questions in this work and seeking information about them, and then pursuing the questions until they were resolved,’’ said James Cuno, the director of the Art Institute of Chicago who will become president of the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles in August….READ MORE

Holy Matzo! The World’s Largest Matzo

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Source: NY Jewish Week, 6-15-11

(Photo: Peter Morehand)

This Tuesday, Manischewitz daringly went where no other matzo maker has ever gone. The company attempted to bake (or should we say build?) the largest matzo in history — 336 times a regular matzo sheet — in honor of the opening of its new headquarters, in Newark, N.J. Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz (pictured above), chief rabbi of Manischewitz, shows us just how big the giant matzo was (that’s a regular sheet of matzo his holding, folks). Israel’s chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, blessed the plant and the town’s mayor, Cory A. Booker, joined the event. The matzo, which was baked in a 200-foot-long oven, was divided up after the ceremony for everyone to sample.

Manischewitz is currently in the process of registering the matzo with the Guinness World Records, which will decide if it’s actually the biggest ever made. So what does it take to make a claim of the world’s largest matzo? See the details, below.

Flour: 27.6 lbs.

Water: 8.3 lbs.

Total weight of matzo: 25.3 lbs.

Width: 41 in.

Length: 24 ft.

Surface area: 11,808 sq. in. (82 sq. ft.)

Baking temperature: 620°F

Cooking time: 204 seconds

Handlers required: 6 people

Why the Pope’s Rejection of Jewish Blame for Death of Jesus Matters

Source: Time, Reuters, 3-3-11

Pope Benedict XVI waves during his Wednesday general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican on March 2, 2011

When Pope Benedict XVI writes that the Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus, what’s important is less the passage itself than the man who set it down on paper.

By tackling the subject in a book to be published March 10, Benedict, who has struggled in his relations with the Jewish community, doesn’t so much state something new — the affirmation that the Jewish people as a whole were not responsible for the crucifixion is an old one, uncontroversial in the modern Catholic Church — as lend the idea the ecclesiastical equivalent of a celebrity endorsement. “The significance is in the author,” says Joseph Sievers, professor of Jewish history at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. “He brings together an awareness of the issues in the texts themselves with the history of how these texts have been interpreted through the last 2,000 years.”

Indeed, the Catholic Church has considered the Jewish people free from blame since at least 1965, when the Second Vatican Council wrote that while “the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.”

The difference this time is that rather than being buried deep in a document of dense text, where it can easily be overlooked or ignored, the argument is being laid out by a man whose every word is pored over as an indication of church doctrine. “Most Catholics don’t read the church’s documents,” says Rabbi David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs at the New York–based American Jewish Committee. “The book will certainly be far more widely read.” Benedict’s most recent book, Jesus of Nazareth, was a best seller when it was published in 2007. The passage about the crucifixion will appear in its sequel, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection….READ MORE

Jonathan Sarna: The Jewish ‘Library of Congress’ Bounces Back From Debt, Then Advances Campaign

The Jewish ‘Library of Congress’ Bounces Back From Debt, Then Advances Campaign

Source: The Forward, 2-2-11 — 2-11-11

Facing a looming deadline to pay off $30 million in tax-exempt bonds, the Center for Jewish History has raised every dollar needed to settle its outstanding debt, the organization’s leadership announced on January 24. It is no small accomplishment for any not-for-profit in the current economic climate, particularly for one that, in recent years, has dealt with management woes and struggled to avoid a merger.

“We feel secure that we’ve gotten our message out to a substantial number of people,” Bruce Slovin, the center’s founder and chairman, said in an interview. “We’re going to embark on new projects and can work on the substance of the center.”

The center is a consortium of five organizations: the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Sephardi Federation, the Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Its campus, near Manhattan’s Union Square, opened in 2000.

With 150,000 square feet of on-site archive space, and another 10,000 square feet off-site, some 100 million individual documents and artifacts, and 500,000 volumes in its library, the center, which bills itself as the Jewish version of the Library of Congress, is the largest Jewish historical collection outside Israel.

But it has also had vocal critics, including the prominent American Jewish historian and Forward columnist Jonathan Sarna. Yet, Sarna said that the success of the center’s fundraising campaign has changed his perspective.

For many years, Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University and a member of the AJHS’s academic council, argued that building the institution was a mistake. “The money, I said then, should have gone into scanning the documents [owned by the respective consortium members] rather than creating bricks and mortar as a memorial to the donors,” he said. “Now that it’s financially viable, it’s perfectly clear that it has found a place. One goes there and sees a variety of scholars and interested New Yorkers doing research.”

Sarna called the center “unquestionably the most important Jewish archive in the country and one of the most important in the world.”

Before raising the $30 million, which took 15 months, the center faced a debilitating financial burden. Terms for renewing its letter of credit were poor, and paying the required principal and interest on the existing credit line necessitated taking $1.5 million from its endowment each year. All this interfered with the center’s ability to raise operating funds — funds that otherwise might go toward creating new public programs and making archival materials available online….READ MORE

National Yiddish Book Center alters focus, cuts staff

Source: JTA, 1-3-11

The National Yiddish Book Center, amid a change in focus, has laid off four employees and closed its bookstore.

As part of its strategic change from saving and restoring ancient Yiddish texts to educating people about them, the center in Amherst, Mass., made the layoffs in December, the Amherst Bulletin reported.

The cut positions include the director’s personal assistant, a major gifts officer, the bookstore manager and a designer of the center’s magazine, according to the newspaper. The center’s vice president and program director also resigned, leaving the center with 16 employees.

A rise in administrative costs was a part of the reason for the layoffs, center president Aaron Lansky told the Bulletin.

The center, in operation since 1980, has collected more than 1 million Yiddish volumes.

Nicholas de Lange: Bible discovery reveals links with Jewish scholars

Source: Cambridge University News, 12-30-10

Experts at Cambridge University have made a major discovery about the history of the Bible.

Researchers have been studying ancient biblical manuscripts in the University Library, and have found that a version of the Bible written in Greek was used by Jewish people for centuries longer than originally thought.

The documents, known as the Cairo Genizah manuscripts, were discovered in an old synagogue in Egypt and were brought to Cambridge at the end of the 19th century.

They have now been brought together digitally and posted online, enabling scholars worldwide to analyse them for the first time.

Prof Nicholas de Lange, professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Cambridge University, has been leading a three-year study into the ancient fragments.

He said: “The translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek is said to be one of the most lasting achievements of the Jewish civilization – without it, Christianity might not have spread as quickly and as successfully as it did.

“It was thought that the Jews, for some reason, gave up using Greek translations and chose to use the original Hebrew for public reading in synagogue and for private study, until modern times when pressure to use the vernacular led to its introduction in many synagogues.”

Prof de Lange’s research has discovered that some of the manuscripts contain passages from the Bible in Greek, written in Hebrew letters. The fragments date from 1,000 years after the original translation into Greek – showing that use of the Greek text was still alive in Greek-speaking synagogues in the Byzantine Empire, the Greek-speaking eastern part of the Roman Empire.

Prof de Lange said the research offered a rare glimpse of Byzantine Jewish life and culture, and also illustrated the cross-fertilisation between Jewish and Christian biblical scholars in the Middle Ages.

He said: “This is a very exciting discovery for me because it confirms a hunch I had when studying Genizah fragments 30 years ago.”

US Jews in decline? No, says survey

Source: The Jewish Chronicle, 12-29-10

The number of American Jews is growing, not declining, according to a new study from Brandeis University.

Leonard Saxe, a professor at Brandeis’s Steinhardt Social Research Institute, found that the number of Americans who identify themselves as Jewish has risen from 5.5 million in 1990 to 6.5 million.

Mr Saxe made his estimate by analysing data from 150 surveys taken by the US government and polling organizations. It challenges the finding made in a 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey conducted by the Jewish Federations of North America, which estimated that the US Jewish population had declined by 300,000 over a decade.

The new research project which Saxe unveiled last week in Boston also examined a sample of 1,400 Jews surveyed by Knowledge Networks, a polling firm, and found that 80 per cent identify as Jews on the basis of religion, while the remaining 20 per cent choose another criterion to define themselves as Jewish.

Those who identify on the basis of religion were far more likely to marry a Jewish partner and to participate in Jewish events like barmitzvahs, Jewish weddings and shivahs, the survey found.

Timothy Naftali: On Tapes, Nixon Rails About Jews with Henry Kissinger

Source: NYT, 12-10-10

Oliver Atkins/National Archives

President Richard M. Nixon at his desk in the Oval Office, where a secret taping system had been installed.

Richard M. Nixon made disparaging remarks about Jews, blacks, Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans in a series of extended conversations with top aides and his personal secretary, recorded in the Oval Office 16 months before he resigned as president….

These tapes, made in February and March 1973, reflect a critical period in Nixon’s presidency — the final months before it was “devoured by Watergate,” said Timothy Naftali, the executive director of the Nixon Library.

Mr. Naftali said that there were now only 400 hours of tapes left to released, and that those would cover the final months before the tape system was shut down in July 1973 after Alexander Butterfield, who was a deputy assistant to Nixon, confirmed its existence to the Watergate committee.

Mr. Naftali said he intended to have those tapes — actually, given changing technologies since Nixon’s time, CDs, and available for listening online at the library’s Web site — released by 2012.

An indication of Nixon’s complex relationship with Jews came the afternoon Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister, came to visit on March 1, 1973. The tapes capture Meir offering warm and effusive thanks to Nixon for the way he had treated her and Israel.

But moments after she left, Nixon and Mr. Kissinger were brutally dismissive in response to requests that the United States press the Soviet Union to permit Jews to emigrate and escape persecution there.

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Mr. Kissinger said. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

“I know,” Nixon responded. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.”

In his discussion with Ms. Woods, Nixon laid down clear rules about who would be permitted to attend the state dinner for Meir — he called it “the Jewish dinner” — after learning that the White House was being besieged with requests to attend.

“I don’t want any Jew at that dinner who didn’t support us in that campaign,” he said. “Is that clear? No Jew who did not support us.”

Nixon listed many of his top Jewish advisers — among them, Mr. Kissinger and William Safire, who went on to become a columnist at The New York Times — and argued that they shared a common trait, of needing to compensate for an inferiority complex.

“What it is, is it’s the insecurity,” he said. “It’s the latent insecurity. Most Jewish people are insecure. And that’s why they have to prove things.”…READ MORE

University of Toronto under fire over ‘Jewish racism’ thesis

Toronto university under fire for accepting thesis

The University of Toronto has come under fire for accepting a master’s thesis that calls two Holocaust education programs “racist.”

Written by Jenny Peto, a Jewish activist with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, the thesis attacks the March of Remembrance and Hope, through which young adults of diverse backgrounds travel with Holocaust survivors to sites of Nazi atrocities in Poland, and March of the Living Canada, part of an international program that takes young Jews and survivors to Poland and Israel.

Peto argues the programs cause Jews to believe they are innocent victims. In reality, she writes, they are privileged white people who “cannot see their own racism.”

The “construction of a victimized Jewish identity,” she argues, is intentional; it produces “effects that are extremely beneficial to the organized Jewish community” and to “apartheid” Israel.

She further questions “the implications of white Jews taking it upon themselves to educate people of color about genocide, racism and intolerance.”

Irving Abella, a well-known Canadian historian and former president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, told the Toronto Star that the thesis is “not scholarship, it’s ideology. It’s totally ahistorical; I found it full of untruths and distortions and held together by fatuous and very flabby analysis. It borders on anti-Semitism.”

Abella added, “I’m appalled that it would be acceptable to a major university.”

Holocaust survivors involved in both programs also have denounced the paper as hurtful.

In a letter to University of Toronto President David Naylor, retired University of British Columbia sociology professor Werner Cohn said the thesis “makes wild charges against [Peto’s] fellow Jews without a shred of evidence,” the Canadian Jewish News reported.

Peto, who was part of a group that tried to occupy Toronto’s Israeli Consulate in 2009, said the controversy is a smear effort by “right-wing, pro-Israel groups and individuals.”

“This is not the first time I have been dragged through the mud by pro-Israel groups,” she told the Star, “and I am sure it will not be that last.

JBuzz: Hanukkah Special, Party at the Obama White House

https://jbuzz.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/jbuzzheader.jpg

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of JBuzz. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Judaic Studies at Concordia University.

Menorah Lighting

Ben Retik lights the Menorah as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama take part in the Hanukkah Candle Lighting ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Dec. 2, 2010 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

HANUKKAH 2010

IN FOCUS

  • The first night of Chanukah at the National Menorah Washington, DCLubavitch.com
  • The Festival of Lights: Hanukkah Stories From Across the Nation – PBS Newshour, 12-3-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • White House hosts Hanukkah party: President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hosted a party Thursday marking the second day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Obama offered condolences to those who have died in a forest fire in northern Israel before recounting the story of the Maccabees fighting in the Temple in Jersualem watching a day’s worth of oil burn for eight.
    “That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair,” Obama said. “As the Talmud teaches us, so long as a person has life, he should not abandon faith.”
    Among those attending was Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew, who replied, “we’re still talking,” when asked about the status of tax-cut legislation. When asked what night of Hanukkah a deal would be reached, Lew replied: “Aren’t we lucky to have a whole week?”
    The party featured a menorah from Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans, which was found caked in dirt and mold after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Obama said. Its candles were lit by Susan Retik, whose husband died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and her family…. – Politico, 12-3-10
  • President Obama’s Hanukkah Celebration: The President and First Lady hosted a little gathering Thursday night in the East Room to celebrate Hanukkah. Included on the list of 500 guests, one-third of the Supreme Court justices- Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan. Several Jewish members of Congress and other elected officials and members of the military were there too. The menorah for the event was loaned to the White House by New Orleans’s Congregation Beth Israel. It was one of very few items to survive Hurricane Katrina. It was found by cleanup crews in horrible condition but was restored and re-lit for the first time three years ago…. – CNN, 12-3-10
  • Menorah retrieved from Hurricane Katrina muck in Lakeview is part of White House Hanukkah celebration: Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of Jewish survival, and on Thursday, President Barack Obama and some 500 notables, mostly Jewish, celebrated the second of the holiday’s eight nights by lighting a menorah fished from the muck of Congregation Beth Israel’s flooded synagogue in Lakeview after Hurricane Katrina.
    Describing the Hanukkah candles as tiny reminders of “the importance of faith and perseverance,” the president told the festive assemblage in the East Room that “the menorah we’re using tonight, and the family who is going to help us light it, both stand as powerful symbols of that faith.” “This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans,” Obama said. “Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold. And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.”… – The candles were lit by Susan Retik and her family…. – Times-Picayune, 12-2-10
  • White House Hanukkah ceremony features menorah salvaged from Lakeview: President Barack Obama and dozens of guests tonight will celebrate the second night of Hanukkah by lighting a menorah fished from the muck of Congregation Beth Israel’s flooded synagogue in Lakeview. But for a few bits of ornamental silver that once decorated its ruined Torahs, the blackened menorah was the only sacred object in ritual use the congregation was able to save, said Rabbi Uri Topolosky, who will attend the ceremony with his wife, Dahlia.
    At Beth Israel, the restored menorah has become precious — the sign of their own ordeal and recovery, Topolosky said. The congregation also saved a display menorah, now at the Presbytere, Topolosky said. But the 53-year-old restored menorah at the White House — technically, it is a nine-branched “hanukiah” — is the one the congregation uses to commemorate ancient Jews’ recovery and reconsecration of their temple in Jerusalem…. – NOLA, 12-2-10
  • Gov. Schwarzenegger Joins Chanukah Celebration at Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and local leaders of the Jewish community today joined Chabad of Sacramento to celebrate Chanukah at the 17th Annual Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony.
    “The message of Chanukah is ‘light’ and is about optimism and hope, even in the face of darkness and crisis. That is especially meaningful to me because I am a big believer in the spirit of optimism and hope,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “We all know there is darkness in the world, especially in these challenging times, but one tiny candle can light a room, and one act of kindness can change a life. It is so important that we reach out and help each other through these tough times.”
    This year, guests at the Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony participated in a “reverse toy drive.” The Governor joined West Coast Chabad Director Rabbi Shlomo Cunin in passing the gifts out for the toy drive during today’s ceremony. Chabad has asked guests of the ceremony to present these gifts to children in need…. – Lubavitch, 12-3-10

QUOTES

  • President Obama Hosts A Hanukkah Celebration at the White House: Remarks by the President at a Hanukkah Reception:
    Now, tonight, we gather to celebrate a story as simple as it is timeless. It’s a story of ancient Israel, suffering under the yoke of empire, where Jews were forbidden to practice their religion openly, and the Holy Temple — including the holy of holies — had been desecrated.
    It was then that a small band of believers, led by Judah Maccabee, rose up to take back their city and free their people. And when the Maccabees entered the temple, the oil that should have lasted for a single night ended up burning for eight.
    That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair. And in the 2,000 years since, in every corner of the world, the tiny candles of Hanukkah have reminded us of the importance of faith and perseverance. They have illuminated a path for us when the way forward was shrouded in darkness.
    And as we prepare to light another candle on the menorah, let us remember the sacrifices that others have made so that we may all be free. Let us pray for the members of our military who guard that freedom every day, and who may be spending this holiday far away from home.
    Let us also think of those for whom these candles represent not just a triumph of the past, but also hope for the future — the men, women and children of all faiths who still suffer under tyranny and oppression.
    That’s why families everywhere are taught to place the menorah in public view, so the entire world can see its light. Because, as the Talmud teaches us, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.”
    This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans. Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold. And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.
    And that feeling is shared by Susan Retik. It’s a feeling they know all too well. After her husband, David, was killed on September 11th, Susan could have easily lost herself in feelings of hopelessness and grief. But instead, she turned her personal loss into a humanitarian mission — co-founding “Beyond the 11th,” a group that reaches out to Afghan widows facing their own struggles.
    So on this second night of Hanukkah, let us give thanks to the blessings that all of us enjoy. Let us be mindful of those who need our prayers. And let us draw strength from the words of a great philosopher, who said that a miracle is “a confirmation of what is possible.” –
    WH, 12-2-10WH, 12-2-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gil Troy: This Hanukka let’s celebrate Liberalism and Zionism: Let’s face it. Although Hanukka’s basic plot has not changed for 2,000 years, the Hanukka we know and love is a twentieth-century invention. Hanukka’s themes of heroism and power, both physical and spiritual, were Zionist ideas; traditionally, the Rabbis thanked God for the eight-day oil miracle. When the Zionist revolution reevaluated Judaism a century ago, the Maccabees’ story proved that Jewish history was not just about anti-Semites oppressing us and rabbis teaching us but our own warriors defending us. The Maccabees were hometown heroes, rooted in Israel’s ancient soil, willing to fight, if necessary, for their homeland, their beliefs, their freedom. At the same time, our festival of lights became our popular response to the seasonal malady of Christmas envy. Boasting eight nights, meaning eight gift-giving opportunities, Hanukka helped Jews trump their Christian neighbors.
    Considering that pedigree, this Hanukka we should celebrate the happy marriage of liberalism and Zionism. We can fight the trendy claim that liberalism and Zionism are increasingly incompatible without doing violence to the Maccabean story. Emphasizing a liberal-Zionist rift, in a world fighting the dark clouds of Islamic totalitarianism, ignores the shared enlightenment past of both Zionism and liberalism, as well as the light liberal Zionism can generate today….
    There is yet another added bonus that can result from rededicating our commitment to both liberalism and Zionism this Hanukka. Both modern liberalism and modern Zionism struggle with the tension between materialism and altruism, the selfishness of the “I” and the self-sacrifice of the “us,” the desire to take and the need to give. As Hanukka, like its seasonal partner Christmas, has degenerated into what the historian Daniel Boorstin called “festivals of consumption,” the question “what did you get” has eclipsed the more important holiday questions “what does this mean?” and “did you grow?”
    Traditionally, during Hanukka Jewish communities rededicated themselves to Jewish education. In that spirit, parents gave children “gelt” or coins to sweeten the experience of Torah study. In the early 1900s, many Jews used Hanukka as an opportunity to donate the modern equivalent of the “shekel,” the Biblical coin representing the power of responsibility, the importance of being counted, to the Zionist cause. This Hanukka let’s remember the best of both the liberal and Zionist traditions. This Hanukka, let’s look for opportunities to give not just get. This Hanukka, by doing that, we can redeem not just these two noble movements, but ourselves. – Jerusalem Post, 12-3-10
  • HOWARD JACOBSON: Hanukkah, Rekindled: TONIGHT, Hanukkah begins. The word — Hanukkah — is lovely, but what’s the festival itself for? What does it do? But Hanukkah?
    Everyone knows the bare bones of the story. At Hanukkah we celebrate the Maccabees, also known as the Hasmoneans, who defeated the might of the Syrian-Greek army in 165 B.C., recapturing the desecrated Temple and reconsecrating it with oil that ought to have run out in a day but lasted eight. Indeed, Hanukkah means “consecration,” and when we light those candles we are remembering the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
    But how many Jews truly feel this narrative as their own? I’m not asking for contemporary relevance. History is history: whatever happens to a people is important to them. But Hanukkah — at least the way it’s told — struggles to find a path to Jewish hearts.
    Those Hasmoneans, for example …. The Maccabees are fair enough: they sound Jewish. Scottish Jewish but still Jewish. There was a sports and social club called the Maccabi round the corner from where I was brought up in North Manchester, and as a boy I imagined the Maccabees as stocky, short-legged, hairy men like the all-conquering Maccabi table tennis team. But “Hasmoneans” rang and rings no bells.
    Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Hanukkah doesn’t draw on events described in the Hebrew Bible. The Book of Maccabees, from which the story comes, is in the Apocrypha, the non-canonical, more esoteric books of sacred scripture. There’s a reason it never made it out of there: I won’t say it’s spurious, but it doesn’t quite feel authentic…. – NYT, 12-1-10
  • Latke vs. Hamantaschen: An Age-Old Debate: It’s a debate that’s spanned the centuries – at least about half of one – and brought professors, writers and philosophers to the table to argue their cases on one of the most essential questions in modern scholarly discourse. Which one is better: the latke or the hamantaschen?
    The famed latke-hamantash debate first launched at the University of Chicago in 1946, and since then it’s been argued at such esteemed academic institutions as Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins. First conceived as a way to shore up a sense of Jewish community, nowadays the debate is as a way for scholars to blow off some steam, poke fun at academia and support their favorite potato- or flour-based foodstuff…. – Patch.com, 12-3-10
  • Hanukkah in public spaces: Although many people have come to identify public menorahs with Hanukkah itself, a recently published book argues that the holiday’s celebration today has been largely defined by just one slice of the Jewish population.
    “Whatever people associate with Hanukkah in the public space is Chabad,” says Maya Balakirsky Katz, associate professor of art history at Touro College in New York and author of The Visual Culture of Chabad. “In the last few decades, Chabad has provided the public image of Hanukkah in America, possibly in the world.” According to Katz, many Jews balk at Chabad’s conspicuous display of religion in the diaspora and consider it “embarrassing, if not also dangerous.” “They pushed religion into the public space and presented it as the Jewish image,” Katz says. “Before Jews even had a chance to react, it became the Jewish holiday image. I think the only people really invested in challenging Chabad’s right to light are other Jews.”
    “Chabad emissaries take comparisons between their giant menorahs and Christmas trees in stride,” Katz says. “Comparisons between their menorahs and the Israeli national symbol make them more nervous.” Katz’s book devotes an entire chapter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s decision to promote menorahs with diagonal branches in sharp contrast to the arced, half-moon branches of the menorah on the Israeli national emblem. The Rebbe claimed his inspiration was an argument by the medieval theologian and physician Maimonides that the original Temple menorah had diagonal branches.
    “For Houston Jews and Jews everywhere, I think the Rebbe initiated a rebirth to diasporist culture; you can proudly be a diaspora Jew and have a whole other material culture that’s not only connected to Israel,” Katz says. “That is definitely going to be part of his legacy. He gave birth to a very proud religious diaspora material culture.”
    Whereas Katz’s book addresses Chabad’s appropriation of Hanukkah as a means to forge an American-Jewish religious material culture, Zaklikofsky focuses on the mitzvah, commandment, of lighting the menorah as a testimony to what he considers a historically documented miracle…. – Houston Chronicle, 12-2-10
  • Southern Jews Put Their Spin On Soul Food: The eight-day Jewish holiday of Hannukah began earlier this week and with it comes culinary traditions of the season. A new book describes how Jews in the American south have blended traditional Jewish fare enjoyed around the holidays with southern cuisine. Host Michel Martin speaks with Marci Cohen Ferris, author of “Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South”…. – NPR, 12-3-10 Download MP3
  • Dianne Ashton: American Hanukkah Traditions Focus on Children: Newswise — Hanukkah isn’t a hugely important holiday on the Jewish calendar, but modern day celebrations of the Festival of Lights do work to get today’s children–and adults–excited about Judaism, according to Dianne Ashton, a professor of religion studies at Rowan University. Author of a book on Hanukkah in America to be released next year by New York University Press, Ashton says two Cincinnati rabbis led a movement to “Americanize” Judaism in the 1860s. That movement included promoting the idea of a fun holiday festival for Jewish children.
    “One of the rabbis said Jewish children shall have a grand and glorious Hanukkah, a festival as nice as any Christmas, with songs, dramatics, candle lighting, ice cream and candy,” says Ashton, whose book examines Hanukkah from 1860-2000. “This really shifted Hanukkah from primarily an observance of Jewish adults to a festival seen as particularly important for Jewish children, a way to keep them interested in Judaism.”… – Newswise, 11-30-10
  • Rethinking the “Jewish Christmas”: Hanuka is back! Perhaps some wonder when it ever was gone. According to Jenna Weissman Joselit, the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and professor of history at George Washington University, “Well into the 1880s, Chanukah fared poorly in America, a victim of neglect.” She quotes the despairing voices of 19th century American rabbis, in an article for Reform Judaism magazine (Winter 2008): “‘The customary candles disappear more and more from Jewish homes,’ lamented Rabbi Gustav Gottheil in 1884. ‘Kindle the Chanukah lights anew, modern Israelite!’ declared Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler just a few years later. ‘Make the festival more than ever before radiant with the brightness and beauty of love and charity.'” Instead of kindling Hanuka candles, Americans “were adorning their homes with greenery and parlor illuminations and eagerly exchanging gifts in the spirit of Christmas. The purchase of Christmas gifts, commented the Jewish Daily Forward in 1904, ‘is one of the first things that proves one is no longer a greenhorn,'” the Jewish studies professor writes….
    The historian continues her survey of the festival’s rise, noting that in the 1950s, “American Jews no longer had to dread the ‘cruel month’ of December. Chanukah’s accoutrements had grown to include paper decorations, greeting cards, napkins, wrapping paper, ribbons, and phonograph records. And in the years following World War II, the outside world increasingly freighted Chanukah with the same cultural and social significance as Christmas, yoking the two together in demonstration of America’s ‘cultural oneness.’ Public school educators in particular convened a ‘holiday assembly’ on a ‘compromise date’ in December in which a Christmas tree and a ‘Menorah candle’ as well as the singing of Chanukah hymns and Christmas carols figured prominently.”… – American Jewish World, 11-26-10