Full Text JBuzz Transcripts September 24, 2014: Canada’s PM Stephen Harper’s Statement on Rosh Hashanah

JBUZZ TRANSCRIPTS: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA ON ROSH HASHANAH

Source: PM.gc.ca, 9-24-14

Ottawa, Ontario

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement to mark Rosh Hashanah:

“This evening marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, which is the start of the Jewish New Year.

“Rosh Hashanah is an important time of celebration and personal reflection for people of the Jewish faith, during which families and friends gather together to count blessings, take stock of the present and look forward with hope to the year ahead.

“It is my sincere hope that Jews in Canada and around the world enjoy peace and prosperity in the coming year, especially those in Israel who endured conflict over the past few months.

“On this hopeful and joyous occasion, I would also like to pay tribute to the Jewish community in Canada for the immense contributions they continue to make to our society in all areas of endeavour.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, Laureen and I wish everyone celebrating Rosh Hashanah health, happiness, harmony and prosperity.

“L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu.”

– See more at: http://pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2014/09/24/statement-prime-minister-canada-rosh-hashanah#sthash.FCAv50DV.dpuf

Full Text JBuzz Transcripts September 23, 2014: UK PM David Cameron’s message for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur 2014

JBUZZ TRANSCRIPTS: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur 2014: David Cameron’s message

Source: Gov.uk, 9-23-14

The Prime Minister has recorded a message to mark Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The full message is as follows:

I want to send my best wishes to everyone in Britain and around the world marking Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

These High Holy Days give us a chance to look back – and to look forward. To look back at the immense contribution Jews make in Britain: excelling in every field, contributing in every community, and living by those values – of decency, tolerance, hard work and responsibility – that are so central to the Jewish faith and to British life.

And they give us a chance to look forward to a future free from conflict and prejudice. That means lasting peace in the Middle East – a future where families don’t live in fear of rocket attacks. And it means wiping out prejudice in this country, because we will not tolerate anti-Semitism in Britain. No disagreements on politics or policy can ever justify racism or extremism in any form. As long as I’m Prime Minister, we will do everything we can to tackle this, and to ensure we learn the lessons of the past, as the Holocaust Commission, led by Mick Davis, is doing so effectively.

Around the world, Britain stands for diversity and cohesiveness. When mosques came under attack, who helped defend them? British Jews. When a synagogue was under threat from closure, who helped save it? British Muslims. This says a lot about who we are in this country – and it’s something we can celebrate and build upon.

So as we look back and look ahead, let me wish everyone a happy New Year. G’mar Tov and Shanah Tovah.

חדשות

ראש הממשלה הבריטי בברכה לראש השנה

אני שולח את ברכותי לאלה המציינים את ראש השנה ויום כיפור, בבריטניה וברחבי העולם.

״הימים הקדושים הללו הם הזדמנות להסתכל על העבר, ולהביט קדימה. להסתכל לאחור על התרומה האדירה של היהודים בבריטניה: מצטיינים בכל תחום, תורמים בכל קהילה, וחיים על פי ערכי הגינות, סובלנות, עבודה קשה, ואחריות – ערכים כה מרכזיים באמונה היהודית ובחיים הבריטיים.

״הם גם מעניקים לנו הזדמנות להביט קדימה לעתיד חופשי מסכסוך ומדעה קדומה. כלומר שלום יציב במזרח התיכון – עתיד בו משפחות יחיו ללא איום של ירי רקטות. ומיגור דעות קדומות במדינה שלנו, מכיוון שלא נתיר אנטישמיות בבריטניה. חוסר הסכמה בנושאי פוליטיקה או מדיניות לעולם לא יצדיק גזענות וקיצוניות בשום צורה.

כל עוד אני ראש ממשלה, נעשה כל שביכולתנו להתמודד עם זה, ולהבטיח שלקחי העבר יילמדו, כפי שעושה ביעילות כה רבה, הוועדה לנושאי שואה בראשותו של מיק דיוויס.

“ברחבי העולם, בריטניה מייצגת גיוון ואחדות. כשמסגדים עמדו תחת מתקפה, מי הגן עליהם? היהודים בבריטניה. כשבית כנסת ניצב תחת איום סגירה, מי עזר להצילו? המוסלמים בבריטניה. זה מעיד על האופי של המדינה שלנו – וזה משהו שאנחנו יכולים לחגוג ולצמוח ממנו.

אז בעוד אנחנו מסתכלים אחורה ומביטים קדימה, אני רוצה לאחל לכולם שנה טובה וגמר חתימה טובה.”

Full Text JBuzz Transcripts September 23, 2014: President Barack Obama Wishes The American Jewish Community a Sweet, Happy, and Healthy New Year

JBUZZ TRANSCRIPTS: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Wishing You a Sweet, Happy, and Healthy New Year

Shanah Tovah from the White House! On Wednesday evening, Jews in the United States and around the world will begin celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

The High Holidays offer the Jewish community a moment of pause, a time to reflect on the previous year and recommit to the unending task of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. Together, working with people of all faiths, we can bring greater peace and prosperity to the world in 5775.

In his 2014 video message for the High Holidays, President Obama extends his wishes for a sweet new year and discusses why this time of year is so significant.

Watch on YouTube

Read the remarks:

Hello. As Jews across America, Israel, and the world gather together for the High Holidays, Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to you and your families for a sweet and happy new year.

My good friend Elie Wiesel once said that God gave human beings a secret, and that secret was not how to begin but how to begin again. These days of awe are a chance to celebrate that gift, to give thanks for the secret, the miracle of renewal.

In synagogues and homes over the coming days, Jews will reflect on a year that carried its shares of challenges. We’ve been reminded many times that our world still needs repair. So here at home we continue the hard work of rebuilding our economy and restoring our American dream of opportunity for all. Around the world, we continue to stand for the dignity of every human being, and against the scourge of anti-Semitism, and we reaffirm the friendships and bonds that keep us strong, including our unshakeable alliance with the State of Israel.

So let’s approach this new year with new confidence and new hope. Let’s recommit ourselves to living out the values we share as individuals and as a country. Above all, let’s embrace this God-given miracle of renewal, this extraordinary opportunity to begin again in pursuit of justice, prosperity, and peace. From my family to yours, shanah tovah.

Full Text Israel Political Brief September 23, 2014: President Reuven Rivlin’s Rosh Hashanah message — Transcript

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Rosh Hashanah message from the President of Israel

Source: MFA, 9-23-14

MFASummaryNew

Message from the President of the State of Israel to the Jewish Communities of the Diaspora on the occasion of the New Year – Rosh Hashanah 5775

Brothers and sisters,
Leaders of the Jewish communities of the Diaspora and their friends,
According to Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah represents a time of personal, community and national soul-searching. In the shadow of the events of the past months, this year, here in Israel, these days of reflection are reaffirmed and take on a special meaning.
With the kidnapping and murder of the four teenagers: Naftali, Gilad, Eyal and Muhammad; and the ongoing campaign in southern Israel in the background, the citizens of Israel and their leaders were faced with difficult dilemmas: the responsibility to defend our homes and land, alongside the concern of harming innocent people; the commitment to enable a free democratic dialogue, versus the need to set clear limits to restrain manifestations of inflammatory behavior and incitement. Israel had to respond to the threats of terror organizations from the outside, while maintaining its image and values as a Jewish and democratic state that is committed to international law and is dedicated to providing all its citizens with equality and dignity, Arabs and Jews alike.
The resilience of Israel is not based on its military strength, but emanates from the liberal, democratic and Jewish values on which it was founded. Even at a time when Israel is required to mobilize its military front, it cannot ignore its home front and the surge of violent political manifestations of incitement and hate in its streets. Israel’s leadership and Israel’s society are judged not only by their military resiliency, but also by their civil resiliency, not only in normal times, but also in times of crisis.
In the course of Operation Protective Edge, I felt that Israel was not alone in the arena. Leaders of the free world and many of the members of the various Jewish movements and communities stood shoulder to shoulder with Israel, supporting its duty to defend its citizens and identifying with its efforts to restore peace to Israel’s southern communities.
On the threshold of the New Year, I want to thank you, leaders and members of the Jewish communities, for your support of Israel’s soldiers and its home front, and especially its southern communities. It is with much anticipation that I hope we shall continue to stand together in the face of the challenges awaiting the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora in the future, generated by a sense of mutual responsibility and partnership.
Dear Friends,
The coming year is marked by Jewish tradition as a shmita year, a sabbatical year for land and man. The observance of shmita serves to slow down the economic race and utilitarianism, and see in others, a human being. I pray that this year the gates of our hearts will open to let in compassion, generosity and mutual responsibility. May the coming year bring the sound of joy, a symphony of miscellaneous Jewish voices that will unite us all as a family, community and people.
כתיבה וחתימה טובה!
Shana Tova Ve’Metuka,
Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin

Full Text JBuzz Transcripts April 30, 2014: President Barack Obama Announces May As Jewish American Heritage Month

JBUZZ TRANSCRIPTS: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

President Obama Announces May As Jewish American Heritage Month

Source: JP Updates, 4-30-14‎

President Barack Obama issued Wednesday a Presidential proclamation announcing the month of May as the Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM).

 

A national month of recognition of the more than 350-year history of Jewish contributions to American culture, JAHM acknowledges the achievements of American Jews in fields ranging from sports and arts and entertainment to medicine, business, science, government, and military service.

For thousands of years, the Jewish people have sustained their identity and traditions, persevering in the face of persecution. Through generations of enslavement and years of wandering, through forced segregation and the horrors of the Holocaust, they have maintained their holy covenant and lived according to the Torah. Their pursuit of freedom brought multitudes to our shores, and today our country is the proud home to millions of Jewish Americans. This month, let us honor their tremendous contributions — as scientists and artists, as activists and entrepreneurs. And let all of us find inspiration in a story that speaks to the universal human experience, with all of its suffering and all of its salvation.

This history led many Jewish Americans to find common cause with the Civil Rights Movement. African Americans and Jewish Americans marched side-by-side in Selma and Montgomery. They boarded buses for Freedom Rides together, united in their support of liberty and human dignity. These causes remain just as urgent today. Jewish communities continue to confront anti-Semitism — both around the world and, as tragic events mere weeks ago in Kansas reminded us, here in the United States. Following in the footsteps of Jewish civil rights leaders, we must come together across all faiths, reject ignorance and intolerance, and root out hatred wherever it exists.

In celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month, we also renew our unbreakable bond with the nation of Israel. It is a bond that transcends politics, a partnership built on mutual interests and shared ideals. Our two countries are enriched by diversity and faith, fueled by innovation, and ruled not only by men and women, but also by laws. As we continue working in concert to build a safer, more prosperous, more tolerant world, may our friendship only deepen in the years to come.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2014 as Jewish American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to visit http://www.JewishHeritageMonth.gov to learn more about the heritage and contributions of Jewish Americans and to observe this month, the theme of which is healing the world, with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

Full Text JBuzz Transcripts April 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day

JBUZZ TRANSCRIPTS: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Statement by the President on Yom HaShoah

Source: WH, 4-28-14 

On this Yom HaShoah, I join people of all faiths in the United Sates, in the State of Israel, and around the world in remembering the six million Jews – innocent men, women and children – who were senselessly murdered during the Holocaust, as well as all the victims of Nazi brutality and violence.

Even as we mourn those whose lives were taken, this day also provides us with an opportunity to honor those who emerged from the darkness of the Shoah to rebuild their lives in new communities around the world.  I am honored to have the opportunity to address survivors of the Holocaust, along with many of those who have worked so hard to preserve their testimony and share their stories, when I speak at the Shoah Foundation next week.  On this Yom HaShoah, let us recommit ourselves to the task of remembrance, and to always oppose anti-Semitism wherever it takes root. Together, we must give enduring meaning to the words “Never Again.”

Full Text JBuzz Transcripts April 27, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Speech at Yad Vashem on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day

JBUZZ TRANSCRIPTS: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Address by PM Netanyahu at Yad Vashem

Source: PMO, 4-27-14

יום ראשון כ”ז ניסן תשע”ד

Photo by  GPO

The last time I visited Yad Vashem I accompanied the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper, a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people. We went through the exhibition rooms which present heartbreaking documentation of the destruction of European Jewry.

Today in my office, I met Fela, an 82 year old Holocaust survivor. It was important for her to tell me on this day of her memories as a child of seven who was forced to leave her two year old sister. Those memories are always with her. She told me, “I don’t remember what happened yesterday or the day before that, but as is the way of memories at my age, I remember the sad, tearful eyes of my two year old sister whom I left behind to die”.

I met Shalom, an 89 year old Holocaust survivor who told me how, aged 13, he left home at Mila 18 in the Warsaw Ghetto. Conditions in the ghetto were deteriorating. So he, a young boy, decided to leave. He said, “Mother objected and wailed but Father was quiet. He stood up, put his hands on my head, blessed me and told me to save myself”.

All the exhibition rooms here are filled with such heart-wrenching stories.

When we left Yad Vashem, I told the Prime Minister of Canada that my supreme duty as the Prime Minister of Israel is to ensure that there will be no more memorial sites like this, that there will never be another Holocaust.

I have said here many times that we must identify an existential threat in time and take action against it in time.

Tonight, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, I ask: Why, in the years preceding the Holocaust, did the overwhelming majority of world leaders and Jewish leaders fail to detect the danger in time?

In retrospect, all the warning signs were there: the strengthening of the Nazi regime year after year; the horrific anti-Semitic propaganda which grew stronger with each passing month; and the murderous attacks on Jews which began as spurts and became a giant wave.

In retrospect, a direct line connects the racial laws and the gas chambers.

Few world leaders, notably Churchill, understood the enormity of the threat to humanity posed by Nazism. Few among our leaders, primarily Jabotinsky, warned against the imminent destruction facing our people. But they were widely criticized, their warnings disregarded and dismissed as the rantings of doomsayers and warmongers.

How is it possible that so many people failed to understand reality? The bitter, tragic truth is this: It is not that they did not see. They did not want to see.

And why did they choose not to see the truth? Because they did not want to face the consequences of that truth.

During the 1930s, when the Nazis were gaining momentum, the trauma of the First World War was still fresh. Twenty years earlier, the people of the West experienced a terrible trench war, which claimed the lives of 16 million people. The leaders of the West therefore operated on the basis of one axiom: Avoid another confrontation at any cost. Thus they laid the ground for the most horrible war in history.

This axiom of avoiding conflict at any cost was adopted not only by the leaders. It was shared by the peoples themselves, and primarily by the educated elites.

In 1933, for example, the year Hitler rose to power, a meeting was held by the students of Oxford University, an institution which produced generations of British leaders. Following a heated debate, the students voted for a resolution stating that they “would under no circumstances fight for their King and Country”.

This resolution passed by an overwhelming majority a mere ten days after Hitler entered the Chancellor’s office in Germany. The message reverberated in Berlin.

This example illustrates the West’s feeble response to the rise of Nazism.

Month after month, year after year, more and more information was received in London, Paris and Washington about Nazi capabilities and intentions. The picture gradually became clear for everyone to see.

But they had eyes and could not see, they had ears but could not hear.

When you refuse to accept reality as it is, you can deny it.

This is precisely what the leaders of the West did. They dismissed the murderous Nazi rhetoric as internal German politics; they downplayed the seriousness of the danger of the Nazi military build-up, claiming that it was the result of the natural will of a proud nation that should be recognized and accepted.

The reality was clear, but it was enveloped in a bubble of illusions. This bubble burst when the Nazis launched their blitzkrieg on Europe and Africa.

The price of illusion and wishful thinking was very steep. By the time the leaders of the West finally acted, their peoples paid a terrible price. World War II claimed the lives not of 16 million people, the horrific number of victims during World War I, but of 60 million, including one third of our people, who were butchered by the Nazi beast.

Citizens of Israel, my brothers and sisters,

Has the world learned the mistakes of the past?

Today we again face clear facts and a tangible threat. Iran calls for our destruction. It is developing nuclear weapons.

This is the reason it is building underground bunkers for enriching uranium. This is why it is constructing a heavy water facility to produce plutonium. This is the reason it continues to develop inter-continental ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads which will threaten the entire world.

Today, like then, there are those who dismiss Iran’s extreme rhetoric as serving domestic purposes. Today, like then, there are those who view Iran’s nuclear ambitions as the result of the natural will of a proud nation, a will that should be accepted.

And today, like then, those who make such claims are deluding themselves. They are making an historic mistake.

Fateful talks are currently being held between Iran and the world powers. This time too, the truth is evident to all: Iran seeks an agreement that will lift the sanctions and leave it as a nuclear threshold state with the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons within several months at most.

Iran wants a deal that will eliminate the sanctions and leave its capabilities intact.

A deal which enables Iran to be a nuclear threshold state will bring the entire world to the threshold of an abyss.

I hope that the lessons of the past have been learned, and that the desire to avoid confrontation at any cost will not lead to a deal that will exact a much heavier price in the future.

I call on the leaders of the world powers to insist that Iran fully dismantle its capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons, and to persist until this goal is achieved.

In any event, the people of Israel stand strong. Faced with an existential threat, our situation today is entirely different than it was during the Holocaust.

Today, we have a sovereign Jewish state. As Prime Minister of Israel, I do not hesitate to speak the truth to the world, even when faced with blind eyes and deaf ears. It is not only my right, it is my duty. I am always mindful of this duty, never more so than on this day, in this place.

On the eve of the Holocaust, some Jews avoided speaking out to the world’s nations, fearing that the struggle against Nazism would become “a Jewish problem”. Others believed that if they kept silent, the danger would pass.

They kept silent, and disaster struck.

Today, we are unafraid to speak the truth to world leaders. As is written in the Bible: “I will speak of your testimonies before kings, and I will not be ashamed… listen, for I will speak the truth.”

Unlike the Holocaust, when the Jewish people were like a wind-tossed leaf and utterly defenseless, we now have great power to defend ourselves, and it is ready for any mission.

This power rests on the courage and ingenuity of the soldiers of the IDF and the men and women of our security forces. It is this power that enabled us, against all odds, to build the State of Israel.

Look at the remarkable achievements we have made in the 66 years of our independence. All of us – scientists, writers, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, employees, artists, farmers – the entire people of Israel, each one in their own field –  together we have built a glorious state. The spirit of the people of Israel is sublime, our accomplishments tremendous. Seven decades after the destruction of the Holocaust, the State of Israel is a wonder of the world.

On this day, on behalf of the Jewish people, I say to all those who sought to destroy us, and to all those who still seek to destroy us: You have failed, and you will fail again.

The State of Israel is stronger than ever. It is a state that seeks peace with all its neighbors and it pulsates with an iron will to ensure the future of our people.

“The people will arise like a lion cub and raise itself like a lion…and Judea will dwell securely”. (Numbers 23:24; Jeremiah 23:6).

 

 

JBuzz News August 30, 2013: A Prayer of Atonement

JBUZZ NEWS: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

A Prayer of Atonement

Source: Huffington Post, 8-30-13

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, Jewish congregations around the world confess their communal transgressions….READ MORE

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

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

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 Op-eds March 23, 2013: Rabbi Brad Hirschfield: 13 things you need to know for Passover 2013

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

13 things you need to know for Passover 2013

1. When does Passover 2013 begin and how long does it last?

2. What is Passover all about, and is it the same as Pesach?

3. Why is Passover the Most Celebrated Jewish holiday in America?

4. What’s a “Passover Seder”?

5. Why is Wine So Prominently Featured at the Seder Meal?

6. What is Matza?

7. Why Eat Bitter Herbs in the Midst of Celebrating Freedom?

8. Is Passover Only for Jews?

9. Was the Last Supper a Seder?

10. How are Passover and Easter related?

11. Passover and Our Founding Fathers

12. Moses Was A Hero to the Pilgrims

13. What the Word Egypt Really Means and Why It Matters for All of Us….READ MORE

JBuzz News February 10, 2013: Alexander H. Joffe: BDS and the Jewish Studies Trap on Brooklyn College’s Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Event

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

For more on the controversy over Brooklyn College’s Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Event see complete news coverage on Israel Advocacy 101

Alexander H. Joffe: BDS and the Jewish Studies Trap

Source: The Algemeiner, 2-8-13

The recent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) event at Brooklyn College featuring professional Palestinian Omar Barghouti and celebrity anti-Israel academic Judith Butler was true to form. A dual purpose was served. For one, students and staff were treated to calls for the destruction of Israel, conducted in a quasi-academic setting, with the implicit endorsement of the institution. Second, as always, trap was sprung on opponents of such campus abuses. Having successfully planned the event and represented it as an intellectual exploration of the one state solution, in which Israel is made extinct, the inevitable complaints regarding its one-sidedness and borderline antisemitism were met with the usual howls of censorship and demands for academic freedom. Politicians became involved on both sides. City Council members were opposed to the campus and tax dollars supporting an anti-Israel recruitment rally. Mayor Bloomberg then came out in favor, and with characteristic tact and insight, condemned the event’s content and scolded the presumably close-minded opponents, wittily telling them to apply to school in North Korea….READ MORE

JBuzz Op-ed May 21, 2012: Dovid Katz: An Open Letter to Yale History Professor Timothy Snyder

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

An Open Letter to Yale History Professor Timothy Snyder

Source: Algemeiner, 5-21-12

Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University, the author of the famous (and controversial) book “Bloodlands” was brought to Lithuania last week for a symposium on the Holocaust attended also by the director of YIVO in New York. In the course of the same week, the Lithuanian government repatriated, reburied with full honors and held a series of events honoring the 1941 Nazi-puppet prime minister who signed off on the German order for all Jews in Kaunas (Kovno) to be forced into a ghetto.

Dear Tim,

Greetings, and sorry we missed each other in Vilnius this time. I write in the context of our ongoing and respectful conversation, which started in the Guardian (thanks to Matt Seaton, and prominently including Efraim Zuroff) back in 2010 (I, II, III, IV); continuing through our meeting at Yale, the Aftermath Conference in Melbourne, Australia, in 2011 (thanks to Mark Baker, and with participation of Jan Gross and Patrick Desbois), and more recently, via my review of your book Bloodlands (along with Alexander Prusin’s The Lands Between), in East European Jewish Affairs.

In that review, I dealt with a number of areas of disagreement that are on the table concerning the Holocaust in Eastern Europe and the efforts underway to use state funds to downgrade it in a number of countries, particularly the Baltics.

But these debates are inherently separate from the troubling issue on which I’m addressing you today: the ongoing instrumentalization and abuse of your important work by well-oiled government-financed ultra-nationalist and often antisemitic forces in Eastern Europe who have (wrongly) found in your work the ammunition for a discernible slide in the direction of the Double Genocide movement, which reached its zenith with the 2008 Prague Declaration (critiques here), and in the direction of positing the sort of “complexity” that is regularly invoked, particularly here in the Baltics, as euphemism for what is now called Holocaust Obfuscation.

There is, alas, in nationalist and antisemitic circles in some East European states a movement to sanitize or actually glorify local Holocaust collaborators and perpetrators (who were after all, usually quite reliably “anti-Soviet” and “anti-Russian”). In Lithuania alone, this effort has gone hand in hand with a tragic effort to concurrently blame the victims by trying to criminalize, in the absence of any evidence, Holocaust survivors who are alive because they joined the anti-Nazi resistance. Not one of these kangaroo cases has yet led to a public apology, not even to 90 year old Dr. Rachel Margolis in Rechovot, who still dreams of one last visit to her native Vilna.

As reported in DefendingHistory.com last September, a foreign-ministry hosted event in Vilnius in September 2011 included a speech by a leading local historian in which he claimed (wrongly) that your book offers support for the condemnation of Jewish partisans who fought against the Nazis. In May 2011, a historian speaking on Lithuanian radio boasted that “It’s not all hopeless” because of Bloodlands.

Even before that, in late 2010, a far-right film production cited you as an expert consultant in a project to glorify the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) perpetrators who unleashed murder and mutilation of Jewish civilians in dozens of Lithuanian towns before the Nazis even arrived (and who announced their intentions before the war even started). (I trust you withdrew from that project, and offer my belated congratulations for so doing).

But that episode somehow connects with this week. The same ultranationalist filmmakers recently announced their premiere on Sunday 20 May 2012 in Kaunas of a new “documentary” (promo clip here) adulating Juozas Ambrazevičius (later Brazaitis), the 1941 Nazi puppet “prime minister” in Kaunas who signed off on orders for the setting up of a concentration camp for Jews, and the requirement that “all the Jews of Kaunas” be moved within four weeks to a ghetto.

The new film premiered yesterday in Kaunas as the grand finale of four days of Lithuanian government financed events (May 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th) focused on the reburial with full honors and the elaborate honoring of the World War II Nazi puppet prime minister.

What do these events have to do with you, or with the director of Yivo from New York who joined you? Directly speaking – absolutely nothing. In fact, people in the Jewish community here in Vilnius feel certain that when you (and he) accepted the invitations for the May 2012 symposium and related events here in Lithuania that you had no idea your presence would coincide with the long-planned glorification of a major Holocaust collaborator.

But when such things happen, it becomes necessary to react, if not by postponing one’s trip then by speaking out unambiguously with moral clarity.

Events featuring a Yale historian and the head of Yivo, coming at the same time as the state-sponsored events to honor the collaborator, have been used, first:  to deflect foreign and diplomatic attention from the Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis outrage, which has drawn protests this past week from B’nai B’rith, the Wiesenthal Center, an international petition, and critically, the remnant Jewish Community of Lithuania; second: to use your appearance to legitimize those events. After all, if a Yale professor and the head of Yivo are happy to appear the same week about the Holocaust and not come out publicly and firmly against the concurrent glorification of the collaborator, well, then it can’t be such a big deal…

It was sad that neither of you publicly condemned the Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis events during your symposium on the Holocaust in Lithuania. However, it did come up in an interviewer’s question to yourself.

According to the interview published on 15min.lt on 18 May 2012 (and for the sake of the Almighty, please do tell us if they misquoted you), your answer to the question about the repatriation, honoring and reburial of the Nazi puppet prime minister underway during your visit was as follows:

“I am going to choose my words very carefully here. I think before you rebury anyone, you should think very very hard and probably wait a very very long time because once you rebury somebody once, you can’t rebury them again.”
Is that really all you have to say to Lithuanian society, during your visit here, regarding the latest in a litany of government sponsored events to honor collaborators and perpetrators of the Lithuanian Holocaust and not seldom to use your own name and book as artillery?

During this past week, very courageous Lithuanian citizens (who remain here and may even have to face this or that consequence in their careers) have raised their proud voices in dignified protest. They include the members of parliament Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis and Algirdas Sysas; member of the European Parliament Leonidas Donskis; political scientist  Darius Udrys; former editor of the Jewish newspaper here, Milan Chersonski; dozens of Lithuanian citizens who have signed Krystyna Anna Steiger’s petition; and, not least, the small remnant Jewish community itself, which issued a bold statement in partnership with the Jewish museum.

As a famous professor soon returning to Yale, would it be too much respectfully to ask you to reconsider your public reaction to the week’s events. You can phrase this much more eloquently and elegantly. Here is just a first thought:

“There are certainly many historical complexities, but as a true friend of Lithuania, I have to tell you frankly that state financing of the honoring of a Nazi-puppet prime minister on whose watch the mass murder of Lithuanian Jewry got underway, one who actually signed orders separating out for persecution and worse those citizens who were Jewish, is the worst possible message your government could be sending. It is a tragic mistake, and if I had known it would coincide with my visit, I would have asked to come some other week out of respect for the victims of the Holocaust. As someone who passionately shares your cause of educating the West about Stalinist crimes, I have to tell you that this sort of thing undermines that noble effort through and through.”

Wishing you, as ever, the best of everything,

Dovid

Dovid Katz was visiting professor in Judaic studies at Yale in 1989-1999. From 1999 to 2010 he was professor of Yiddish language, literature and culture at Vilnius University, Lithuania. He is based in Vilnius, where he edits wwwDefendingHistory.com. His personal website is http://www.dovidkatz.net.

JBuzz Feature May 20, 2012: Was Christopher Columbus secretly a Jew?

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Was Columbus secretly a Jew?

Source: CNN, 5-20-12
Christopher Columbus bids farewell to his son Diego at Palos, Spain, before embarking on his first voyage on August 3, 1492.
Christopher Columbus bids farewell to his son Diego at Palos, Spain, before embarking on his first voyage on August 3, 1492.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sunday marks the 508th anniversary of the death of Christopher Columbus
  • Charles Garcia: Columbus was a Marrano, or a Jew who feigned to be a Catholic
  • He says that during Columbus’ lifetime, Jews became the target of religious persecution
  • Garcia: Columbus’ voyage was motivated by a desire to find a safe haven for Jews

Today marks the 508th anniversary of the death of Christopher Columbus….

Recently, a number of Spanish scholars, such as Jose Erugo, Celso Garcia de la Riega, Otero Sanchez and Nicholas Dias Perez, have concluded that Columbus was a Marrano, whose survival depended upon the suppression of all evidence of his Jewish background in face of the brutal, systematic ethnic cleansing.

Columbus, who was known in Spain as Cristóbal Colón and didn’t speak Italian, signed his last will and testament on May 19, 1506, and made five curious — and revealing — provisions….

The evidence seem to bear out a far more complicated picture of the man for whom our nation now celebrates a national holiday and has named its capital.

As we witness bloodshed the world over in the name of religious freedom, it is valuable to take another look at the man who sailed the seas in search of such freedoms — landing in a place that would eventually come to hold such an ideal at its very core….READ MORE

JBuzz Op-eds May 1, 2012: Steven Windmueller: A Perfect Firestorm For Anti-Semitism

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

A Perfect Firestorm For Anti-Semitism

Steven Windmueller

Steven Windmueller

The story of world Jewry covering the past six decades must be defined as one of achievement and recognition. American Jews have achieved extraordinary success and influence, and Israel, despite threats to its existence, has flourished as a democracy, and absorbed and resettled millions of Jews. Yet, as the world marks the 80th anniversary of the rise of Nazism, the status of Jews in the world seems to be seriously eroding.

During this period international politics was influenced by the powerful motif of memory. The images of past atrocities that tarnished the 20th century created a baseline for moral action. Over time, though, the power and integrity of this historical record has seemingly faded.

Earl Raab, a prominent social scientist and communal professional, once posited that two factors aligned together could create a serious threat to the Jewish people. An unstable economy and a growing set of tensions between Jerusalem and Washington would present, according to Raab, the “perfect firestorm” for potentially accelerating anti-Semitism and in creating a destabilizing environment for Jews in this nation and beyond. Both factors seem to be in play at this time….READ MORE

JBuzz Quotes April 20, 2012: Deborah Lipstadt: New Jersey Holocaust Commemoration Serves as Reminder to ‘Never Forget’

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Holocaust Commemoration Serves as Reminder to ‘Never Forget’

Annual event at Teaneck High School featured author, professor and historian Deborah Lipstadt

Source: Patch.com, 4-20-12

At Thursday’s 32nd Annual Holocaust Commemoration, family, friends and members of the community repeated a promise to the Holocaust survivors in attendance that they would never let the world forget about the murder of 6 million Jews.

The Teaneck Holocaust Commemoration Committee, a division of the Jewish Community Council of Teaneck, hosted the event, which featured a candle-lighting ceremony with survivors, their children and grandchildren, and the reading of the names of those who perished in the Holocaust.

Committee officials describe their event as the largest in Bergen County because it attracts about 1,000 people….

MASTERMIND BEHIND THE DEPORTATIONS

The main speaker for the night was internationally recognized author, professor and historian Deborah Lipstadt, who is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and author of “The Eichmann Trial,” and other books that focus on the topic of Holocaust denial.

Lipstadt said she attends many Holocaust Commemoration events across the U.S. “But I know of no other community that does it as well and has such a response and such a turnout and a cross-community representation as you do here in Teaneck,” she said.

Lipstadt spoke about the captivating trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann, whom she described as the chief operating officer in charge of the deportation of Jews from all of Western Europe.

“And then in the final year of the war when it was clear that the Germans had lost, he personally oversees the decimation, the destruction, the murder of much of Hungarian Jewry, and in approximately 7 to 8 weeks time, the murder of 400,000 Jews at Auschwitz,” Lipstadt explained. “He is in charge of organizing the deportations, getting them out of their homes, moving them into the camps, distributing their possessions; he is the mastermind.”

Sometime after the war, Eichmann eventually ends up in Argentina. He is later found, transported to Israel, charged with “crimes against the Jews and crimes against humanity,” and is found guilty and executed in 1962.

Lipstadt said the most striking thing about the trial was that Holocaust survivors were allowed to be witnesses.

“They told the story of the “Final Solution” in its entirety,” she said. “These people speaking in the first person singular told their story one after another after another.”…READ MORE

JBuzz Op-ed April 6, 2012: Rabbi Brad Hirschfield: 8 things you need to know about Passover 2012

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

8 things you need to know about Passover 2012

Source: Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, Fox News, 4-6-12

Passover is the holiday which celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and the next stage in the unfolding biblical story of the Children of Israel. In 2012 it begins on Friday night, April 6.

Here are eight things you may want to know about it:

1.What is Passover and is it the same as Pesach?

Passover and Pesach are the same thing. One is simply English and the other is Hebrew. In either case, it is the holiday which celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and the next stage in the unfolding biblical story of the Children of Israel.

After centuries of slavery, Passover celebrates the passage into freedom for an entire people. The specific “passing over” for which the holiday is named refers to the way in which God passed over, or protected, the homes of the Israelites during the night they prepared to leave Egypt, as the last of the Ten Plagues was being visited upon the Egyptians.

2.When does Passover begin and how long does it last?

Passover 2012 begins at sundown on Friday, April 6. That is the date according to the Gregorian calendar. According to the Jewish calendar, Passover always begins on the 15th of Nissan, which is, according to the Hebrew Bible, the first month in the ancient Israelite calendar.

The holiday lasts for 7 days in Israel and 8 days everywhere else, reflecting a long-held custom honoring the fact that maintaining an accurate liturgical calendar far from Israel, where Jewish religious authority was centered in ancient times, was not so simple before people had modern communication technology.

3.What’s the deal with Matzah?

Matzah is the flat, cracker-like, unleavened bread which has become the central symbol of Passover, especially since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, and the end of the Paschal sacrifice.

The Bible specifically commands eating Matzah on the first night of Passover, and prohibits all leavened products the entire week of the holiday.

Like most great and durable symbols, Matzah invites multiple, and even contradictory interpretations. Sometimes referred to as “bread of poverty”, Matzah recalls the food that the Israelites ate when they were slaves. It also recalls the rapid liberation of the Israelites, which happened so fast that they did not even have time to allow the bread for the journey to rise before setting out from Egypt.

4.What does the word Egypt mean and how can knowing that help you?

Egypt, is not “Egypt” in the Bible. In the original Hebrew, it is called “Mitzrayim”, which means tight places, or in narrow straights. To be in Mitzrayim/Egypt is not simply to be a slave in a story from long ago.

It is the paradigmatic experience of being stuck between a rock and a hard place – an experience which virtually all people have at some point in their lives. Passover reminds all people that while getting jammed up can, and likely will, happen to each of us, there is always the possibility of redemption and release.

Whoever you are, and whatever faith you follow, Passover invites us to take stock of where we are stuck, and seek the help we need to get un-stuck.

5.Why is Passover the most widely celebrated ritual among American Jews?

American Jews, not to mention increasing numbers of others, celebrate Passover because it just works.

To put it simply, Passover is about freedom, family, and food. At least that is how it works for most people, and what more could one ask for in a holiday?

But it’s more than that.

Nowhere, and at no time, in 3,000 years of Jewish history have Jews known the kind of centuries-long freedom and security which are the American Jewish experience. The Passover story of freedom — of the journey from oppression to opportunity — is also the American story at its best, not just for Jews but for all people, and it rings deeply true when it is told at Seder tables across this nation. It makes perfect sense that this holiday has “won,” at least for now.

6.How is Passover celebrated, or, What’s a Seder?

Seder is the Hebrew word for ‘order’ and it refers to the carefully ordered Passover dinner party/symposium, typically held at home, which brings people together to experience the move from slavery to freedom in story, song, and conversation – especially the raising of questions about what it means to go free and to be free.

The evening is anchored by rituals including drinking, over the course of the evening, four cups of wine recalling the four times when the Israelites are described as being redeemed, eating the Matzah, and also bitter herbs, meant to evoke the bitterness of slavery. Those bitter herbs are dipped in a bit of sweet apple or date relish, reminding those gathered of the sweetness that can be found at even the most difficult of times, and of the promise of even greater sweetness to come.

7.Was the Last Supper a Seder?

The Last Supper is often explained, based on readings of the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, as having been a Passover Seder. Certainly the time of year at which Jesus came to Jerusalem fits, and the communal meal at which he gathered his disciples is suggestive of something like a Seder, with ritualized eating, drinking and teaching through conversation. Of course, those are also regular features of any classically Jewish meal of religious import. Also, according to the Book of John, the Last Supper was the day before Passover. Scholars can continue to fight this out, but one thing is clear: both the Last Supper and the Seder point to power of celebrating ones most deeply held values in the presence of those about whom we care, in the context of a freely offered table.

8.How are Passover and Easter related?

While the tradition of calculating the date of Easter based on the date of Passover ended many centuries ago, the holidays share some very deep truths of which all people can avail themselves. Who doesn’t need to be reminded that however dark and cold the winter has been, the promise of spring — of rebirth and renewal is always there? Whether discovered in the story of a nation that goes from freedom to slavery and back to freedom again, or in the story of one who lives, dies and is born again, we must all locate how to celebrate that life holds more possibility and potential than we first imagine — that there is reason for hope, and that in celebrating triumphs of hope from the past, we can unleash new stories of hope in the present and in the future.

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield is the author of “You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism,” and president of Clal-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

JBuzz Op-eds March 7, 2012: Brad Hirschfield: Purim celebrates the good and bad in all of us

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Brad Hirschfield: Purim celebrates the good and bad in all of us

Source: WaPo, 3-6-12

Purim 2012 begins at sundown this Wednesday, March 7, and all I can say is thank you God! Of course that’s a bit ironic because despite the fact that both this holiday and its story appear in the Hebrew Bible, God is never mentioned. That’s right, among other reasons to love this holiday is that from its very inception, and to this very day, it could be shared by believers and non-believers alike.

Why is that so important? Maybe it’s the fact that each day brings new stories in which faith and/or faithlessness are used by politicians and their proxies to vilify those who don’t share their beliefs. Perhaps it’s because the language of who is evil and who is good are being used more and more to describe conflicts both at home and abroad. Perhaps it’s simply that I cling to the notion that we don’t have to demean those with whom we have genuine disagreements, or even those with whom we may need to do battle – cultural or physical.


Schoolchildren wear costumes during a parade ahead of the Jewish holiday of Purim outside the Bialik Rogozin school in south Tel Aviv March 6, 2012. At Bialik Rogozin, children of migrant workers and refugees from 48 states are educated alongside native Israelis. (NIR ELIAS – REUTERS)

Whatever the reasons, and it’s actually a combination of all of the above, Purim reminds us of a key insight –one which doesn’t shrink from difference, or even the need to fight existential foes –and it all comes down to knowing that we are one. Even in a world where people speak of good guys and bad guys, sometimes appropriately so, those same people are part of a single human family. Truly knowing that fact should change how we battle, when we battle, how long we battle, etc., whether with words or with weapons….READ MORE

JBuzz Op-eds February 28, 2012: Jonathan D. Sarna: General Ulysses S. Grant’s Uncivil War Against The Jews

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Jonathan D. Sarna: Gen. Grant’s Uncivil War Against The Jews

Source: NY Jewish Week, 2-28-12

Ulysses S. Grant.
Ulysses S. Grant.

The surprising tale of how he turned into ‘America’s Haman.’

Purim serves as an appropriate moment to recall a man known for a time as “America’s Haman.” That Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s story ended very differently than the story of Haman in the Book of Esther reminds us how America itself is different, and how often it has surprised Jews for the better.

On Dec. 17, 1862, as the Civil War entered its second winter, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issued the most Haman-like order in American history: “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.” Known as General Orders No. 11, the document blamed “Jews, as a class” for the widespread smuggling and cotton speculation that affected the area under Grant’s command. It required them to leave a vast war zone stretching from northern Mississippi to Cairo, Ill., and from the Mississippi River to the Tennessee River.

Less than 72 hours after the order was issued, Grant’s forces at Holly Springs, Miss., were raided, knocking out rail and telegraph lines and disrupting lines of communication for weeks. As a result, news of General Orders No. 11 spread slowly, and did not reach company commanders and army headquarters in Washington in a timely fashion. Many Jews who might otherwise have been banished were spared.

A copy of General Orders No. 11 finally reached Paducah, Ky. — a city occupied by Grant’s forces — 11 days after it was issued. Cesar Kaskel, a staunch union supporter, as well as all the other known Jews in the city, were handed papers ordering them “to leave the city of Paducah, Kentucky, within twenty-four hours.” As they prepared to abandon their homes, Kaskel and several other Jews dashed off a telegram to President Abraham Lincoln describing their plight.

Lincoln, in all likelihood, never saw that telegram. He was busy preparing to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. The irony of his freeing the slaves while Grant was expelling the Jews was not lost on contemporaries. Some Jewish leaders feared that Jews would replace blacks as the nation’s stigmatized minority.

Kaskel decided to appeal to Abraham Lincoln in person. Paul Revere-like, he sped down to Washington, spreading news of General Orders No. 11 wherever he went. With help from a friendly congressman, he obtained an immediate interview with the president, who turned out to have no knowledge whatsoever of the order, for it had not reached Washington. According to an oft-quoted report, he resorted to biblical imagery in his interview with Kaskel, a reminder of how many 19th-century Americans linked Jews to Ancient Israel, and America to the Promised Land:

“And so,” Lincoln is said to have drawled, “the children of Israel were driven from the happy land of Canaan?”

“Yes,” Kaskel responded, “and that is why we have come unto Father Abraham’s bosom, asking protection.”

“And this protection,” Lincoln declared “they shall have at once.”

General-in-Chief of the Army Henry Halleck, ordered by Lincoln to countermand General Orders No. 11, chose his words carefully.  “If such an order has been issued,” his telegram read, “it will be immediately revoked.”

In a follow-up meeting with Jewish leaders, Lincoln reaffirmed that he knew “of no distinction between Jew and Gentile. To condemn a class,” he emphatically declared, “is, to say the least, to wrong the good with the bad. I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners.”…READ MORE

Israel Political Brief December 20, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Hanukkah Statement

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Statement by the President on Hanukkah

Source: WH, 12-20-11

Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Hanukkah around the world.

This Hanukkah season we remember the powerful story of a band of believers who rose up and freed their people, only to discover that the oil left in their desecrated temple – which should have been enough for only one night – ended up lasting for eight.

It’s a timeless story of right over might and faith over doubt – one that has given hope to Jewish people everywhere for over 2,000 years.  And 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, and to believe that through faith and determination, we can work together to build a brighter, better world for generations to come.

From our family to the Jewish Community around the world, Chag Sameach.

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield: The 411 on Hanukkah and Why It Matters for Jews and for America

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield: The 411 on Hanukkah and Why It Matters for Jews and for America

Source: Fox News, 12-20-11

What is Hanukkah and does it really matter? What if you’re not Jewish? Does it still matter? The answer is yes to all of the above. First some basic information.

Hanukkah 2011 begins on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which corresponds, this year to sundown on the evening of December 20th. Why does the holiday begin then – not at midnight? Because in the Jewish calendar, the day begins at sundown.

It’s actually pretty cool to imagine that something is beginning when most people think its ending. It’s about asserting new possibilities when others may not see them. It’s related to Christmas too, but more on that below.

What is the story of Hanukkah? The story of Hanukkah is that of a four-year war in the land of Israel, which lasted from 167 BCE – 163 BCE. Some accounts portray a battle between oppressed Jews and the imperialist descendants of Alexander the Great, when the latter became increasingly harsh with those living under their rule. Other accounts tell of what was essentially a civil war between those Jews who collaborated with their Pagan masters and those who did not. Either way, the holiday story culminates in the re-taking of the Jerusalem Temple and the re-establishment of its sacred service.

Why is Hanukkah eight days long? Hanukkah lasts eight days for two reasons, one well-known, and the other much less so. According the better known story, the holiday lasts eight days in honor of the eight days that oil, which should have lasted only one day, continued to burn in the newly re-dedicated Jerusalem Temple’s menorah (sanctuary candelabrum).

According to a lesser known account in the Book of Maccabees (part of the Apocrypha — writings which are part of the biblical canon for Catholics, but not for Jews and Protestants), when the Temple was taken back by the Jews, they celebrated the eight day holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles), which they had not been able to observe when Pagans controlled the institution. There is a good possibility that was the basis for declaring the new holiday of Hanukkah as an eight day festival….READ MORE

Rabbi Yaakov T. Rapoport: Dual theme is reflected in Hanukkah; often repeated prayer reflects the meaning

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Rabbi Yaakov T. Rapoport: Dual theme is reflected in this holiday; often repeated prayer reflects the meaning

Source: Syracuse Post Standard, 12-20-11

Rabbi Yaakov Rapoport, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Central New York in Syracuse.

Hanukkah occurred after the conclusion of the Hebrew Bible during the period of the Second Temple, approximately 200 BC. It being called A “minor” holiday means that it is not part the five books of Moses and does not have the Biblical restrictions of the Sabbath and other Holy Days. “Minor” does not mean that it is unimportant.

The emphasis of Hanukkah is on the Jews recapturing the Holy Temple, which the Syrian Greeks had desecrated, and the miracle of finding just one vial of oil sealed with the seal of the high priest, and the oil burning miraculously for eight days, until new oil could be procured. Even so, the rabbis and Jewish tradition have made strong reference to the battles that were waged against the Syrian Greeks, as we see in original Hebrew sources.

Maimonides — the greatest codifier of all of Jewish Law — in his laws of Hanukkah states clearly that the festive meals that are eaten during Hanukkah are to commemorate the battles won.

Also in the ancient Al Hanissim prayer, written shortly after the Hanukkah Miracle, that is recited four to five times a day during Hanukkah , we read, “In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanancq the high priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the wicked Hellenic government rose up against your people Israel to make them forget your Torah, and violate your will … You waged their battles, You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few … the wicked into the hands of the righteous. You made a great and holy name for yourself in your world and effected a great deliverance and redemption.” It is only after this lengthy description of the battles, does the prayer continue to describe the miracle of the oil….READ MORE

Zachary Braiterman: Hanukkah moves Jewish people today with the universal civic ideals of freedom, identity and citizenship, SU professor says

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Zachary Braiterman: Hanukkah moves Jewish people today with the universal civic ideals of freedom, identity and citizenship, SU professor says

Source: Syracuse Post Standard, 12-20-11

zach.jpg
David Lassman / The Post-Standard Syracuse University associate professor Zachary Braiterman, a member of the Religion Department, poses at the Hall of Languages.

Zachary Braiterman is an associate professor at Syracuse University in the Department of Religion. His research interests are in the areas of modern Jewish thought and culture; medieval Jewish philosophy; classical Jewish sources and art history. Hanukkah begins at sunset today and The Post-Standard asked him to write about the history and meaning of the holiday and how it plays out today.

Funny things have happened to the holiday of Hannukah.

With no basis in Hebrew scripture, Hanukah was once a minor festival that became a big deal in America. It is an eight day festival celebrated by the lighting of candles of a special menorah or candelabrum, holiday parties at home and in the synagogue, the eating of fried potato pancakes with sour cream or apple sauce, and a game played with the famous spinning dreidel top. From modern Israel comes the custom of eating sugary, jelly doughnuts. In America, lavish gifts are given to assuage Jewish children for Christmas.

The basic storyline chronicles ancient Judean politics. Soon after the death of Alexander the Great, ancient Judea was ruled by a Greek imperial state based in modern day Syria. According to the story, the emperor Antiochos turned the Temple in Jerusalem into a pagan shrine and proscribed the practice of Judaism. Under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, the Jews rebelled against Greek rule, retook the Temple, and rededicated it to the service of God.

In the twentieth century, historians began to shed new light on these events. Historians no longer view the Maccabean revolt as simply a struggle between Jewish monotheism versus Greek paganism. In this newer version, the Syrian Greeks exploited a conflict within ancient Jewish society between those Jews who sought to resist Greek culture versus those Jews who sought to assimilate or accommodate it. With the Temple service now secure thanks to the revolt, the successors to the Maccabees became active promoters of the very Greek culture against which the Maccabees rebelled.

In this historical light, Hanukah actually celebrates the conclusion of a civil war in ancient Judea. Indeed, civil strife fueled by palace and Temple politics marked the entire period following liberation from Greek rule. But no one today really remembers any of this, at least not practically….READ MORE

Jon D. Levenson: The Meaning of Hanukkah

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Jon D. Levenson: The Meaning of Hanukkah

A celebration of religious freedom, the holiday fits well with the American political tradition.

Source: WSJ, 12-16-11

The eight-day festival of Hanukkah, which Jews world-wide will begin celebrating Tuesday night, is one of the better known of the Jewish holidays but also one of the less important.

The emphasis placed on it now is mostly due to timing: Hanukkah offers Jews an opportunity for celebration and commercialization comparable to what their Christian neighbors experience at Christmas, and it gives Christians the opportunity to include Jews in their holiday greetings and parties. What’s more, the observances associated with Hanukkah are few, relatively undemanding, and even appealing to children.

The story of Hanukkah also fits the political culture of the United States. Its underlying narrative recalls that of the Pilgrims: A persecuted religious minority, at great cost, breaks free of their oppressors. It wasn’t separatist Protestants seeking freedom from the Church of England in 1620, but Jews in the land of Israel triumphing over their Hellenistic overlord in 167–164 B.C., reclaiming and purifying their holiest site, the Jerusalem Temple.

Examined too casually, the stories of Plymouth Colony and Hanukkah seem to show heroes fighting for universal religious freedom. But the heroes of the Jewish story fought not only against a foreign persecutor. They also fought against fellow Jews who—perhaps more attracted to the cosmopolitan and sophisticated Greek culture than to the ways of their ancestors—cooperated with their rulers.

The revolt begins, in fact, when the patriarch of the Maccabees (as the family that led the campaign came to be known) kills a fellow Jew who was in the act of obeying the king’s decree to perform a sacrifice forbidden in the Torah. The Maccabean hero also kills the king’s officer and tears down the illicit altar. These were blows struck for Jewish traditionalism, and arguably for Jewish survival and authenticity, but not for religious freedom.

Over time, the stories of the persecutions that led to this war came to serve as models of Jewish faithfulness under excruciating persecution. In the most memorable instance, seven brothers and their mother all choose, successively, to die at the hands of their torturers rather than to yield to the demand to eat pork as a public disavowal of the God of Israel and his commandments.

To the martyrs, breaking faith with God is worse than death. In one version, their deaths are interpreted as “an atoning sacrifice” through which God sustained the Jewish people in their travail….READ MORE

Jonathan D. Sarna: American Jewry’s Data Problem

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

 

Jonathan D. Sarna: American Jewry’s Data Problem

There’s been no national census of Jews since 2001 and none is planned for the indefinite future.

Source: WSJ, 12-2-11

Do we need a new nationwide count of America’s Jews?

It has been 10 years since anyone conducted a census of American Jewry—and no major organization has plans to conduct another one soon. (The official U.S. Census can’t ask questions about religion.) This means that the Jewish community may indefinitely lack the kind of data required for communal planning—how many Jews there are, where they live, whom they are marrying, what Jewish religious movements they adhere to and so forth.

Gathering such data is no easy task. Whereas many Christian churches calculate membership as the sum of all those they have baptized or who have made public declarations of their faith, Jews see themselves as a people embracing religious and nonreligious members alike. Thus life-cycle ceremonies and synagogue membership are insufficient proxies for membership in the Jewish community.

When the United Jewish Communities (now known as the Jewish Federations of North America) surveyed the nation in 2001, the organization pegged the Jewish population at 5.2 million. But the $6 million effort was fraught with problems: Data were lost, the response rate was low, the design was controversial, and the results contradicted those of other studies. One prominent researcher, the late Gary Tobin, characterized the survey as “utter nonsense,” while some others charged its organizers with manipulating population and intermarriage figures in order to raise more money….READ MORE

Moshe Sokolow: Thanksgiving: A Jewish Holiday After All

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Moshe Sokolow: Thanksgiving: A Jewish Holiday After All

Source: Jewish Ideas Daily, 11-23-11

Thanksgiving

In 1789, in response to a resolution offered by Congressman Elias Boudinot of New Jersey, President George Washington issued a proclamation recommending that Thursday November 26th of that year “be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation.”

In New York City, Congregation Shearith Israel convened a celebration on that day at which its minister, Gershom Mendes Seixas, embraced the occasion: “As we are made equal partakers of every benefit that results from this good government; for which we cannot sufficiently adore the God of our fathers who hath manifested his care over us in this particular instance; neither can we demonstrate our sense of His benign goodness, for His favourable interposition in behalf of the inhabitants of this land.”

While the celebrations at that venerable Orthodox synagogue continue unabated to this day, other American Jewish appreciations of Thanksgiving have ranged from the skeptical to the outright antagonistic. In an essay entitled “Is Thanksgiving Kosher?” Atlanta’s Rabbi Michael Broyde examines three rabbis’ halakhic positions on the subject: that of Yitzhak Hutner, who ruled Thanksgiving a Gentile holiday and forbade any recognition of it; that of Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who regarded it as a secular holiday and permitted its celebration (particularly by eating turkey), and that of Moshe Feinstein, who permitted turkey but prohibited any other celebration because of reservations over the recognition of even secular holidays.

Newly presented historical information, however, may swing the annual autumnal pendulum back in favor of participation in what now appears to have begun as a holiday with both a patent Jewish theme and associated rituals. In his recent book, Making Haste From Babylon, Nick Bunker reveals an item of particular significance for both Jewish observers and critics of Thanksgiving….READ MORE

Puritans

And from this Psalme, and this verse of it, the Hebrues have this Canon; Foure must confess (unto God) The sick, when he is healed; the prisoner when he is released out of bonds; they that goe down to sea, when they are come up (to land); and wayfaring men, when they are come to the inhabited land. And they must make confession before ten men, and two of them wise men, Psal. 107. 32. And the manner of confessing and blessing is thus; He standeth among them and blesseth the Lord, the King eternal, that bounteously rewardeth good things unto sinners, etc. Maimony in Misn. Treat. Of Blessings, chap. 10, sect. 8.

Moshe Sokolow, professor of Jewish education at the Azrieli Graduate School of Yeshiva University, is the author of Studies in the Weekly Parashah Based on the Lessons of Nehama Leibowitz (2008).