Religious Fundamentalism At Work – The Western Wall – A Strip Search

 

Outcry as women asked to lift skirts, shirts at entrance to Western Wall

From the Times of Israel

Liberal Jewish groups say 4 female rabbinical students were intimidated, humiliated ahead of Women of the Wall prayer service

Guards at the entrance to the Western Wall complex in Jerusalem “strip searched” four female rabbinical students on Wednesday ahead of the Women of the Wall’s monthly prayer service at the holy site, liberal Jewish groups said.

The Israel Religious Action Center, which serves as the legal arm of the Reform Movement in Israel, said the four students of Hebrew Union College were delayed and questioned by guards, then were asked to lift up their shirts and skirts. “Four female rabbinical students strip searched while trying to enter the Western Wall Complex,” it declared in a press release.

The director of the IRAC said the searches were “a new low” for the Western Wall rabbinate, which is strongly opposed to the Women of the Wall.

“This is a new low for the Rabbi of the Kotel trying to intimidate, humiliate, and exclude liberal women trying to pray at the Western Wall. Despite today’s events these four brave Jewish leaders will continue to love Israel, the Wall, and justice,” Rabbi Noa Sattath said in a statement, using the Hebrew term for the Western Wall.

“Today we are submitting formal letters of complaint to the Attorney General and the Prime Minister’s office demanding they act to address the events of this morning,” she added.

Women of the Wall said the search of the four women was illegal.

“These searches go against [Supreme Court] Judge Rubinstein’s decision which states that body searches on Women of the Wall are illegal without a serious security threat. A few of these students, who were visiting the Kotel for the first time, were shocked by the incident and the difficult experience imposed on them,” the group said in a statement.

Religious media outlets said the women were smuggling Torah scrolls on their persons, which Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch called a “desecration.”

“Today, the first of the [Jewish] month of Elul, all the red lines were crossed. They smuggled holy Torah schools wrapped around their bodies, they hid whistles in their private parts, and for what? For the “sanctity” of the civil war at the Western Wall,” he said in a statement.

At the prayer service, women read from a Torah scroll and blew 15 shofars, activities that are vehemently opposed by ultra-Orthodox Jews, who hold that only men may do these things.

“We sounded the shofar today in order to knock down the walls of apathy, exclusion, silencing and discrimination…We look to the Supreme Court, that has proven itself as the ‘responsible adult’ in the state, to lead to a just solution to our basic demand for equal rights for women at the Wall,” Women of the Wall head Anat Hoffman said.

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Members of Women of the Wall blow shofars during a prayer service marking the first day of the Jewish month of Elul, on August 23, 2017, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

The High Court of Justice is set to hear a petition on the pluralistic prayer section at the Western Wall, which was brought by the Women of the Wallafter the cabinet voted to freeze the deal in June.

The decision to freeze the agreement coincided with a High Court deadline for the state to respond to petitions on its failure to implement the agreement and construct the mixed-gender plaza near Robinson’s Arch.

It also came amid pressure from Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox lawmakers to dial back the plan to establish an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, which was approved by government ministers in January 2016.

The cabinet’s decision was met with widespread dismay from liberal groups and Diaspora Jews.

Prime Minister Benjamin defended the move, with an aide to the premiersaying that it will in fact help push the deal forward, and that Netanyahu had no choice but to halt the agreement as a result of pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties, whose support he needs to maintain his ruling coalition.

Last week, the US State Department released its International Religious Freedom Report for 2016, which criticized the Western Wall rabbi over “guidelines for religious observance mandating separation of women and men, with the women’s section being less than half the size of the men’s section, and the government continued to enforce these rules.”

The report, which was completed before the suspension of the deal on permanent pluralistic prayer area, also criticized the prohibitions against bringing in privately owned Torah scrolls to the Western Wall plaza, and on women “accessing the public Torah scrolls or giving priestly blessings at the site.”

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Jewish Fundamentalism and Mafia Bosses – Another Blogger’s Take… And Heilman’s Book

http://jewishcurrents.org/o-my-america-khasidic-rebbes-as-mafia-bosses/

O MY AMERICA: KHASIDIC REBBES AS MAFIA BOSSES

by Lawrence Bush

Discussed in this essay: Who Will Lead Us?: The Story of Five Hasidic Dynasties in America, by Samuel C. Heilman (University of California Press, 2017, 269 pages).

 

AS MY WIFE AND I were driving this week on the New York State Thruway, a magnificent double rainbow with a full 180º arc pushed through the clouds and diverted us to the Sloatsburg rest stop for a good look. We parked on the roof deck, hopped out of our car, and found ourselves in the company of some twenty or thirty khasidic men gathering in a corner of the parking lot for evening prayers before heading to their homes in Kiryas Joel, New Square and other ultra-Orthodox enclaves in Orange and Sullivan counties.

Susan and I had our smiling faces turned upwards towards one of the best displays of water-and-light refraction that we’ve ever seen, but the men in black barely glanced skywards as they hurried over to where their fellows were reading and rocking. (There were no women; among Skver khasidim of New Square, women are not allowed to drive.) I wondered how many of them had ever in their lives taken the opportunity to recite the Jewish blessing for seeing a rainbow: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheynu melekh ha’olam zokher ha’brit v’ne’eman bivrito v’kayam b’ma’amaro (blessed is God, etcetera, for remembering the covenant — the rainbow being the sign of the renewed covenant in the Biblical story of Noah). Surely all of them knew it, but they seemed intent on practicing that ultra-Orthodox thing of being indifferent to the aesthetics of the natural world.

Poor stooges: leading lives of strict sex segregation, ridiculously prohibitive rules of female modesty, absurdly large families, a 65 percent poverty rate (within a community that is rich in real estate and other resources), fealty to mystical, messianic nonsense, and utter obsession with their rebbe. Am I being biased or uncharitable in this assessment? Having just read Samuel C. Heilman’s Who Will Lead Us?, I would say no, not at all. Although Heilman, America’s most prolific portraitist of Orthodox Jewish life, refuses to “judge” or even dig underneath the surface of the stories he tells (“[T]his book,” he writes in his prologue, “is not a consideration of the writings, ideological arguments, and teachings of Hasidic rebbes or the spirituality that animates followers’ attachment to them”), Who Will Lead Us? authenticates every negative feeling I’ve ever carried about the cultish Jewish fundamentalism of khasidism.

 

HEILMAN’S BOOK traces the history of the dynasties of Hungary’s Munkacs khasidim, Vienna’s Boyan and Kopyczynitz sects, the Bobovers of Poland and Brooklyn, the Satmarers of Hungary, Brooklyn, and upstate New York, and the Lubavitchers, who are the most well-known and worldly of khasidic groupings. In each instance, a late-18th-century democratizing movement that sought to move Judaism out of the hands of “learned” and legalistic rabbis and into the hearts of the common folk via joyous worship devolved within a generation or two into a cult movement, religiously inflexible, dead-set against modernity (and, in most cases, against one another), and utterly in thrall to a rabbinical “court” consisting of the rebbe, his family, his lieutenants, and his enforcers.

“Ultimately, Hasidim viewed their leaders as model individuals to be emulated and embraced with devotion (dvekut),” Heilman writes. “In return, the rebbes would (sometimes miraculously) provide for their followers the blessings of children (bonei), health (chayei), and livelihood (mzonei). Hasidism held that the material and spiritual well-being of the entire community was part of the rebbe’s responsibility.” He continues:

In some cases, even the rebbe’s smallest gestures were judged as having cosmic significance, and his Hasidim dwelt endlessly on the meaning of them. . . . Every detail mattered in this drama, in which both the observers and the observed were certain heaven was involved because the [rebbe] was after all able to ascend spiritually to the highest regions and powers. . . The longing to be near him even competed with the Hasid’s attachments to his own family, so that men left home, wife, and children to spend extended time near their master.

The chief building blocks of this relationship are notes of supplication (kvittels), accompanied by monetary gifts (pidyon nefesh) and ongoing donations of a portion of each household income (ma’amad); attendance at the rebbe’s weekly table (tish) and any and all other opportunities for “face time” with the holy man; constant testimonials about his magnificence and miracle-making power; and bonding around ideologies that include a rigid anti-Zionism (Israel is a form of humanistic idolatry, a human interference with God’s plan for bringing the messiah), a belief in the imminence of messianic salvation, and a loathing for, and paranoid fear of, the temptations and corruptions of the modern world.

 

ULTIMATELY, these movements resemble nothing so much as mafia families minus the guns (though enforcers, shtarkers, often have a role to play in enforcing the rebbe’s will and enforcing conformity among the khasidim). In Heilman’s book, the essential corruption and powermongering of khasidic sects are implicit in his narratives of succession, in which sons and son-in-laws compete for control over the multi-million-dollar properties and institutions of aging, failing rebbes — wealth established through the contributions of followers, control over the resources of their Orthodox Jewish lives (school tuitions, kosher butchers, etc.), and fundraising from outside sources who view khasidism as uniquely authentic Judaism.

Mixed in with the gang wars of succession are also moving episodes of coping with Nazism and the Holocaust. Some of the escape stories of rebbes and their courts are just short of miraculous (usually entailing multiple acts of bribery more than derring-do) — and the khasidic retelling has eliminated the “just short of.” Ironically for movements that made a demon of Zionism, Palestine loomed large, right alongside America, as their sanctuary.

Few such ironies or critical interpretations are explored in Heilman’s narrative, however. Who Will Lead Us?acknowledges bloc voting and its influence among the khasidim, but fails to identify the quid pro quibusdemanded by them for their votes. Heilman notes the “conspicuous wealth and consumption of the rebbe as well as his stable of philanthropists who pay him tribute,” but never discusses how that wealth interacts with the endemic poverty of khasidic households as well as the “millions of public dollars” finagled “for health, welfare, food stamps, and public housing” — nor how khasidic wealth and power can dominate in communities that are non-khasidic and subject people outside the community to shoddy housing, reduced school budgets, and suspicion and hostility.

Heilman also identifies the confining rules faced by khasidic followers, especially women and girls, without exploring the crippling effect of these rules, particularly regarding education, on those who seek escape from their cults. In this regard, Heilman’s own son, journalist Uriel Heilman, does a far better job: In a recent portrait of several refugees from khasidism in Hadassah magazine, the younger Heilman describes “cloistered, Yiddish-speaking enclaves” in which people “frequently find themselves ill-equipped for life in the wider world: Their English may be substandard, they have little secular education and few marketable skills.” “It’s like being an immigrant from . . . North Korea,” says one of his contacts.

Says another, who grew up as a Belzer, prayed two doors down from his home at the Vishnitz shul and studied in the Sanz yeshiva in Brooklyn: “‘I grew up with all these flavors, different extreme versions of the same bullshit.’”

Fundamentalism of the Haredi Kind – The Haredi Brand of Hamas, Next they Start Teaching Children to Blow Themselves Up…

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http://www.jpost.com/israel-news/politics-and-diplomacy/kill-next-woman-soldier-you-see-says-flier-against-haredi-idf-service-494466

‘Kill next woman soldier you see’ reads flier against haredi IDF service

In a severe escalation of incitement against haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment in the IDF, a flyer was recently distributed in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods that called for the murder of women soldiers, IDF commanders and anyone involved in recruiting haredi men into the army.

Until now, the campaign against haredi IDF service has refrained from calling for violence, sufficing instead with severe incitement and vitriolic verbal attacks against haredi soldiers, officers and recruiters.

The flyer, however, is very different from materials normally printed and distributed by such groups. Some doubt has surfaced as to whether the flyers were part of the central anti-enlistment campaign because its wording is unlike that of standard pashkavillim, public notices commonly used in the haredi community.

It was also not professionally printed, as are regular pashkavillim and anti-haredi military service materials.

The flyer, titled “A Ruling of Jewish Law,” instructs young haredi men who are drafted into the IDF: “If they take you by force to the army of destruction, it is permitted for you and you must do the following actions: Take the rifle that you received and kill any woman soldier you come across so she merits [the precept of] ‘be killed instead of transgressing.’ Kill any [IDF] commander who holds you [in the army] by force. Kill anyone who drafts or entices or helps [to draft haredi men].”

The notice also said that soldiers should kill themselves in order to fulfill the precept of ‘be killed instead of transgressing,’ which in normative Jewish law applies only to instances in which one must murder, engage in forbidden sexual relationships or commit idolatry.

Police are investigating the source of the pamphlet, which incites to violence.

For the last four years, extremists in the ultra-Orthodox community have waged a campaign against haredi men serving in the IDF out of belief that the state is trying to eradicate their religious identity by secularizing them in the army.

Ultra-Orthodox IDF soldiers, officers and officials involved in encouraging haredi enlistment have frequently been subjected to verbal abuse, physical assault, harassment and even death threats. Flyers, posters and booklets inciting against haredi IDF enlistment have been published and disseminated in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

A poster that is certainly part of the anti-enlistment campaign, which was disseminated earlier this week in Bnei Brak and Beit Shemesh, promises as much as NIS 810 to haredi children if they verbally abuse haredi soldiers.

The poster lauded an incident last month in which a haredi child engaged in abusive behavior toward a haredi soldier and was detained by the police.

The poster noted that the child’s behavior was “in keeping with the Torah and the instructions of the leading rabbis who have ruled that one must disgrace [haredi soldiers].”

“Remember pure children! You are on the side of Torah, the side of God, you will be victorious! These evil people will not succeed in destroying your future,” reads the poster, which refers to haredi soldiers as “hardak,” an insult meaning weak-minded haredi.

“But, so that we too will have a portion in your massive merit, we have decided to grant to all children who they dare to put in a police patrol car – because he fulfilled the religious commandment to shout ‘hardaks get out’ – a present or voucher worth NIS 530, a number that has the numeric value of ‘hardaks get out now,’” states the poster.

Any child struck during the arrest, the poster promises, will receive a further award of NIS 290, the numeric value of “fist.”

Only those under the age of 15 qualify for the reward, which will be delivered to the child’s house, according to the poster.

Police have stepped up efforts in recent months to counter assaults against haredi IDF soldiers, conducting arrests and investigations against those behind the incitement campaign.

http://www.jpost.com/israel-news/politics-and-diplomacy/kill-next-woman-soldier-you-see-says-flier-against-haredi-idf-service-494466

Ultra-Orthodox Resorting to Violence over Prayer at the Western Wall

 

Are we really to believe that we are any better than fundamentalists from any religion?

The above video is of an Ultra-Orthodox man ripping up a Prayer Book to Protest Western Wall Bat Mitzvah. Is this not what we have so many times condemned the fundamentalists of other religions for doing? Are we any better?

Non-Orthodox Jews Give up on Western Wall Compromise, Sue Israeli Government

Read more: http://forward.com/news/israel/344670/non-orthodox-jews-give-up-on-western-wall-compromise-sue-israeli-government/#ixzz4EJ5Lpm30

According to the agreement, the new section, to be known as Ezrat Israel (the section for all of Israel), was to have been established to the south of the main Kotel Plaza, in an area popularly known as Robinson’s Arch. Furthermore, to symbolize the equality between the sections, a new, unified entrance to all three areas, was to be constructed.

But since the government’s decision, which passed despite the opposition of the ultra-Orthodox parties in Netanyahu’s coalition, these parties have been pressuring the government to pull out of the agreement. They warn of “bloodshed” if the government continues to ignore the incitement against them. In June, speaking on an Israeli radio station Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, rabbi of the Old City, declared that “there cannot be any compromise with the Reform,” and called upon the entire ultra-Orthodox public to “prevent the Reform from desecrating our holy spaces.”

Also in June, Rabbi Amar, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, held a protest prayer at the area marked for the egalitarian worship, and put up a separation between men and women. With tears in his eyes, he denounced the planned new plaza as an “unforgivable wrong” and promised to be “vigilant” in the face of the “desecration” of the Western Wall.

In past weeks, ultra-Orthodox protestors have attacked liberal worshippers several times, as police stood by. Last week, during prayers by Women of the Wall, a women’s group that prays in the women’s section but, in contradiction with ultra-Orthodox custom, prays aloud, a man dressed in ultra-Orthodox garb publicly and gleefully tore apart one of their prayer books

Fundamentalism in Judaism – YOU ARE NOT A JEW!

Fundamentalism in Judaism – A Slippery Slope

Lost Messiah June 24, 2016

We have been covering ultra-Orthodox Jewish fundamentalism in recent weeks as it has become more prevalent and more imposing upon other Jews and non-Jews alike.  We see little difference in some circles between ultra-Orthodox fundamentalist Jews and Muslims and have illustrated our point in several articles.

On June 23, 2016, The New York Times published an article questioning the divide between “[Israel’s] increasingly strict ultra-Orthodox religious establishment and Jews abroad over the age-old question of “who is a Jew.”” What we find most disturbing about the article is the “criteria” by which a Rabbi must be ordained to perform conversions, which is set by a the Rabbinate in Israel. Like all things ordained (OU certification) we believe that there is a slippery slope created when a single rabbinate gets to choose which universities and places of higher learning are deemed “kosher” enough to perform conversions.

Are the Rabbi’s hands clean enough to make such determination? At what point does this become a business endeavor enshrouded in religious garb? Are we placing too much power in the hands of too few? Are we not setting the stage for Judaism to adopt extremist values over Torah values, many of which in our view are antithetical to extremism? At what point will the Jews have imposed upon them the Jewish equivalent of Sharia law?

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Who Is a Jew? Maybe Not Woman Converted by Esteemed New York Rabbi

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/24/world/middleeast/israel-rabbinate-jewish-conversion.html?_r=1

JERUSALEM — Critics of Israel’s chief rabbinate have long complained that scores of American converts to Judaism have trouble getting approval to marry in Israel. Now, one such case with a celebrity connection could break open the rabbinate’s longstanding secrecy over which foreign rabbis are approved to conduct conversions.

The case involves an American who, shortly after her Orthodox conversion in New York, became engaged to an Israeli, only to have the local rabbinical court in his hometown reject her status as a Jew when they tried to register for marriage.

As it turns out, the rabbi who signed the woman’s conversion certificate also converted Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and officiated at Ms. Trump’s 2009 wedding to Jared Kushner, the newspaper publisher now planning the presumptive Republican nominee’s potential transition to the White House.

The rabbi, Haskel Lookstein, is one of the most respected Orthodox rabbis in New York, where he has led Manhattan’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun for decades, after taking over the pulpit from his father. He recently received an honorary doctorate from Israel’s Bar-Ilan University in recognition for what it called “the influential role he has played in deepening Jewish values and heritage among American Jewry.”

The case raises the question of whether Ms. Trump — who said in a Vogue magazine interview last year that she and her husband were “pretty observant,” keeping kosher and the Jewish Sabbath — would be accepted as Jewish herself in all quarters in Israel.

More broadly, it illustrates a growing divide between Israel’s increasingly strict ultra-Orthodox religious establishment and many Jews abroad over the age-old question of “who is a Jew” that has complicated Israel’s relationship with the diaspora for decades.

The Israeli rabbinate, which controls Jewish marriage and most Jewish burial sites in the country, does not recognize non-Orthodox streams of Judaism like Reform and Conservative, with which the majority of affiliated American Jews identify. In rejecting Rabbi Lookstein’s conversion and those of others in similar positions, the rabbinical authorities now risk alienating Jews abroad who practice modern Orthodoxy according to Halakha, or Jewish law.
Continue reading the main story

“Ten years ago, if an Orthodox rabbi in good standing performed a conversion, it would have been a given that it would be accepted here,” said Rabbi Seth Farber, the founder of Itim, an Israeli organization that has been critical of the rabbinate and is pressing the case of Rabbi Lookstein’s American convert.

He added, “I’d say this is unprecedented in Jewish history, that one group of rabbis rejects another.”

Itim handles up to 150 cases a year of modern-Orthodox converts from the United States who are struggling to get married in Israel or are experiencing other issues with the religious establishment. As Rabbi Farber put it, “Almost everyone has problems nowadays.”

The American convert, who is appealing her case to Israel’s supreme rabbinical court, declined to be interviewed, and the rabbis discussed her situation on the condition that she not be identified in order to protect her privacy.

Her supporters said that she converted just over a year ago, after about a year of study, and soon met the man who would become her fiancé in Petah Tikva, a bedroom community near Tel Aviv. The rabbinical court there first ruled in April that her conversion was invalid.

After a preliminary hearing in the supreme rabbinical court in Jerusalem, Rabbi Itamar Tubul, the director of the chief rabbinate’s department of personal status and conversion, wrote a letter to the Petah Tikva court saying that the conversion certificate signed by Rabbi Lookstein was “approved by the chief rabbinate of Israel.” (Two other Kehilath Jeshurun rabbis also signed the certificate.)

But the Petah Tikva court issued a second ruling against the conversion on June 8, saying that it had found no mention of Rabbi Lookstein on its lists of approved rabbis.

Rabbi Lookstein, 84, is now in an emeritus position at Kehilath Jeshurun, which has a membership of 1,100 families, and is considered one of the most established and mainstream Orthodox rabbis in America.

In a telephone interview, he said that this case was a first for him, though he was not aware of anyone else who had been converted by him or his colleagues at Kehilath Jeshurun who then tried to marry in Israel.

“The irony is that this woman is very meticulous about her religious observance,” Rabbi Lookstein said. “She is as Jewish as I am, and as Jewish as the rabbis signed on the certificate, except in the eyes of the Petah Tikva rabbinate.”

“The bottom line,” he added, “is that the rabbinate in Israel is not respecting and honoring the work of the Orthodox rabbinate in America on conversion.”

Rabbi Lookstein said he expected that the woman would ultimately win her appeal and be able to marry in Israel. “But the battle is taking so much out of this woman and causing such pain at a time when she should be happiest in her life,” he lamented, adding that the Petah Tikva rabbis were perpetrating “a terrible sin” because ”the Torah is very explicit that a convert should be treated with love and never afflicted.”

The case has not only roiled American Jewish leaders and Israeli critics of the rabbinate’s monopoly, it has unfolded into a byzantine power struggle between the Petah Tikva court and Rabbi Tubul’s department, with each side accusing the other of overstepping its authority.

Rabbi Tubul said that the office of the chief rabbinate was “in shock” over the challenge posed by the local Petah Tikva court and that he had advised the convert to appeal to the supreme rabbinical court in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Tubul denied that the rabbinate was rejecting modern Orthodox rabbis, and said that “dozens” of rabbis in America were approved to conduct conversions.

The list of such rabbis has long been shrouded in secrecy. Itim, Rabbi Farber’s group, recently sued the rabbinate in a Jerusalem civil court to force it to make the list public. The rabbinate provided a partial list of rabbis it said had been certified over the previous six months; Rabbi Lookstein and other major Orthodox rabbis in the United States were not on it.

Rabbi Tubul said that he was pushing to have a list of approved rabbis published on the chief rabbinate’s website. Among the main criteria for getting on the list, he said, are that rabbis overseas be ordained in a seminary recognized for high standards of learning, and conduct themselves and their congregations according to Orthodox religious law.

Rabbi Lookstein received his ordination in 1958 from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in New York, which is part of Yeshiva University.

“People who do their work in a God-fearing manner and with clean hands will receive the recognition of the chief rabbinate of Israel,” Rabbi Tubul said.

 

 

Who is a Jew?

Competing answers to an increasingly pressing question

http://www.economist.com/news/international/21593507-competing-answers-increasingly-pressing-question-who-jew

SLIGHT, bespectacled and friendly, Rabbi Itamar Tubul makes an unlikely frontiersman. But his colleague Ziv Maor, a spokesman for Israel’s chief rabbinate, argues that as head of the department of personal status and conversions, Rabbi Tubul plays as big a role in protecting the state as the Israel Defence Forces. On his desk in Jerusalem lie the testimony of a rabbi in Finland and a ketubah (marriage certificate) from Germany. Rabbi Tubul’s job is to determine whether the subjects of these documents, and many others, are Jewish.

Who is a Jew? This question is becoming ever more pressing for Jews around the world. It looks like a religious issue, but is bound up with history, Israeli politics and the rhythms of the diaspora. Addressing it means deciding whether assimilation is a mortal threat, as many Jews think, or a phenomenon to be accommodated. The struggle over the answer will shape Israel’s society, its relations with Jews elsewhere, and the size and complexion of the global Jewish community.

For Orthodox Jews like Rabbi Tubul, the solution is simple and ancient: you are a Jew if your mother is Jewish, or if your conversion to Judaism accorded with the Halacha, Jewish religious law. Gentiles might be surprised that for Jews by birth this traditional test makes no reference to faith or behaviour. Jews may be atheist (many are: apostasy is a venerable Jewish tradition) and still Jews. Joel Roth, a Conservative rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, likens this nativist criterion to that for American citizenship: Americans retain it regardless of their views on democracy or the constitution. Some strict rabbis even think that a child is not Jewish if born to a devout mother but from a donated gentile egg.

As some Jewish leaders privately acknowledge, this formula has uncomfortable racial undertones. Their response is that it causes no harm to others. Perhaps, but in the secular world it can be awkward. A few years ago, for example, state-funded Jewish schools in Britain were obliged to change their admissions codes after they were judged to have violated the Race Relations Act. And the halachic rules are increasingly troubling to Jews themselves.

For many Israelis, the rabbis are the problem. In a concession designed to widen support for the new state, when Israel was founded its secular rulers left matters of marriage, divorce and burial in the rabbinate’s hands. It decides who is eligible for these rites, as well as carrying them out—so would-be brides and grooms must demonstrate their Jewish credentials. Supplying the necessary documents and witnesses can be inconvenient and galling: people resent having to prove what they know to be true. Immigration has made the system seem not just irksome but unsustainable.

For example, the Ethiopian Jews who migrated to Israel in the 1980s-90s, risking their lives and losing relatives along the way, have faced persistent doubts as to whether they are properly Jewish in doctrine and descent. “I feel that I’m the Jew I want to be,” protests Fentahun Assefa-Dawit of Tebeka, an advocacy group for the 130,000-strong community. “I don’t want anyone to tell me how to be Jewish.” Western migrants, too, are sometimes doubted. The rabbinate considers some American rabbis too lax to vouch for their congregants and rejects their testimonies; it deems many overseas conversions inadequate. Many Israelis worry about the impact of such disdain on the diaspora’s political and financial backing for their state.

Jewish Fundamentalism, Another Case – in – Point 2008

religous fundamentalis

Are We Really so Different?

 Lost Messiah must credit Richard Silverstein and Tikun Olam for the historical perspective and eloquent insights. Please view the site. Silverstein is beautifully eloquent and the pure definition of a journalist, whether or not you agree with his perspectives. We’ve had eight years to consider his comments and we have apparently done a grossly inadequate job of learning from history.

 

On December, 8, 2008 Richard Silverstein the author and editor of Tikun Olam posted an article regarding a Long Island Orthodox Jewish Columnist who advocated for the killing of Muslims. On December 18, 2008 he published a follow-up article.

Today, following a massacre in Orlando, we posted a video wherein a Chabad member advocated for the killing of members of the LGBT community, on the generally same anti-Biblical grounds.

Previously, we had posted several posts about radical Jewish fundamentalism, including a post with videos of Rabbis preaching the killing of Muslims using basically the same agruments the Islamic Fundamentalists use for killing Jews. This is a subject particularly relevant whether you accept that the Orlando shooter committed this act of atrocity because he was a Muslim terrorist or because he was mentally unstable and hated the LGBT community. Either way, what happened in Orlando was a hate crime of epic proportions.

As a Jewish community or as members of a blogosphere which criticizes and scrutinizes the ills of the Jewish community, Lost Messiah believes that these articles have relevance in the picture they paint of extremism and its cross-religious scope. While the articles posted below are historical they are nonetheless very much a part of today’s religious extremist parlance.

It has been nearly 8 years since Silverstein posted the below two articles but the same articles could have just as easily been posted today. They reflect in vivid color current events if not equal than magnified. 

We would be remiss were we not to ask the question: are we in a state of increasing fundamentalism and extremism within ultra-Orthodox Judaism or are these isolated incidents. Is this a sign of the diminishing state of Judaism? We find it unsettling.

You take a stab at judging for yourself.

 

Long Island Jewish Columnist: ‘Kill Muslims’

When you read stories like the one I’m about to tell, it makes you wonder about the editorial judgment of the staff of some American Jewish newspapers.  The Five Towns Jewish Times published yesterday, The Appropriate Response To Islamic Terror (the newspaper doesn’t have the courage of its publishing convictions and has removed the original article–I’ve linked to a cached version) by Lawrence Kulak. It’s a long, rambling discourse on Islamism and Muslim terror that advocates killing Muslim civilians in retaliation for Islamists killing western civilians.

Apparently, some Arab American activists picked up on the article and noticed a few glaring statements that simply boggle the mind:

…The only way to deal with Islamic terrorists is the same way in which they deal with their victims. Muslims believe in the literal interpretation of the Biblical doctrine of an eye for an eye, and they do not have respect for anything perceived as a lesser standard of justice. They killed our innocents, and unless we kill theirs, they will go on killing ours. The Torah, however, preaches a doctrine which, if implemented by the West, could finally put an end to all Islamic terror: If somebody is coming to kill you, rise up and kill him first.

Hard to believe the newspaper’s editor didn’t stop when he saw the italicized phrase.  Unfortunately for him, CAIR noticed it and the paper is going to be in a considerable amount of hot water.

In addition, the problem with Kulak’s understanding of the Talmud’s (not the Torah as Kulak claims) dictum, which he apparently believes is the equivalent of the Bush Doctrine’s justification of pre-emption–is that he is wrong.  The Talmud speaks of rising up to kill someone who is coming to kill you in the most literal sense.  It does not mean for you to take the statement figuratively (though many on the Jewish far-right do).  In other words, it would never justify murdering Islamists (even moreso innocent Muslim civilians) because they have expressed hostility to Jews or even, God forbid, attacked Jews in the past.  Halacha would demand that you know that specific Muslims are coming to kill you before it would be permitted for you to kill those specific individuals (and certainly not other Islamists).  And the statement is certainly not meant as justification for religious war against Islam or even Islamists.

The Arab-American community has rightfully called on New York’s Jewish community to denounce both the column and the editors who endorsed the sentiments in allowing them to see the light of day.  Let’s see whether Abe Foxman and David Harris understand the impact that such Jewish racism has on the public discourse.

Of course, the rest of Kulak’s articles is full of specious generalizations about Islam which he probably gleaned from Jewish “experts” on Islam like Daniel Pipes and Frontpagemagazine.  Here he claims that the Pakistani state targeted India in the Mumbai terror attack:

Muslim countries are routinely targeting innocent civilians via their terrorist proxies and leaving the standing armies of nations alone. This is more or less what recently occurred in Mumbai, India.

Kulak conveniently drops any reference to Lashkar e Taibe, the Pakistani terror group generally believed responsible for Mumbai.  Why bother to differentiate?  It’s all Al Qaeda to Kulak:

The Mumbai attack signifies a change of course for Al Qaeda…

Here Kulak, the anti-terror expert, proffers advice India never asked for:

…The Mumbai attack [was]…an attack on India’s sovereignty…As such, it cries out for some type of retaliatory attack by the Indian government.

India’s foreign minister pointedly rejected the author’s advice saying there would be not attack against Pakistan.  Thank God, there are cooler heads in India policymaking circles than in the suburban Long Island Jewish community.

Here, Kulak urges the western nations whose citizens were murdered in Mumbai to launch an invasion of Pakistan to destroy Lashkar and any Pakistanis who stand in their way:

…The attack on the foreign nationals of Israel, the United States, and Great Britain…constitutes an act of war against these countries and therefore legitimizes the infiltration of Pakistani territory for the purpose of pursuing the aggressors. While a generalized war with Pakistan should not be contemplated or pursued, it may be unavoidable…

The retaliation that is undertaken should strike hard at the…properly identified terrorist commanders and fellow terrorists of those identified in the attack, in a series of sustained surprise attacks over a period of time that is aimed at total eradication of the entire network that coordinated this attack. Any and all collateral damage in the form of casualties to friends, relatives, or anyone connected to the lives of these terrorists should be swiftly ignored. Public opinion and what is written in the newspapers should also be ignored by nations seeking to avenge the death of its innocent civilians.

When terrorists undertake to hide behind a sovereign government and to attempt to hide within its borders, it becomes the responsibility of that government to take swift action to flush them out and to neutralize them. Pakistan has obviously not done this…It must now step aside and let the foreign governments whose citizens have been mercilessly attacked take the proper course of action.

Spoken like the true armchair warrior Kulak undoubtedly is.  He won’t have to be flying the sorties or infiltrating the terror bases or spilling his guts when he’s attacked by Pakistanis defending their homeland from such attack.  He won’t be defending himself from the inhabitants outraged that western nations have trampled over Pakistani sovereignty.  Though if a Pakistani succeeds in infiltrating New York to get revenge, he might get caught in a terror attack.  Then he’d be yet another statistic in the holy war between Islam and the west.  And he’d be playing into the Al Qaeda plan and playbook.

The Jewish author clearly favors all out war against Islam.  Even George Bush comes in for criticism for being too “soft” on the religion:

President Bush also delivered a setback to his own war on terror when, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, he labeled Islam a peaceful religion…

In the following twisted passage, Kulak argues that Barack Obama is committed to killing Osama bin Laden because the president-elect knows this will create a Muslim martyr and thereby further the goals of “Muslim radicals:”

…If…Barack Obama is really sympathetic to the Muslims radicals, it might also explain why his main promise in continuing Bush’s war on terror was to pursue this archterrorist through the hills of Pakistan. If Bin Laden is killed and hence martyred, it will only bring honor to himself and his family, who will be very much intact and alive. That will only give rise to more militant imams and more terrorist leaders.

This is how Kulak justifies collateral damage when the U.S. attacks and kills innocent Afghans in the pursuit of terror suspects.  In the process he commits a travesty in mischaracterizing the hilchot milchama:

In terms of Jewish law…a nation may defend itself with whatever means necessary, even if it includes causing death to civilians.

Jewish law states that a nation should defend itself with weaponry commensurate to the danger it faces and an army must do its absolute utmost to avoid killing civilians.  So much for the niceties of actual Jewish halacha.  Don’t let them get in your way, Mr. Kulak.

The reason why it’s important for the Jewish community to speak out about garbage like this is because lately the world has become a tinder box of religious hate: Hebron, Mumbai, etc.  While Kulak’s views may be in the minority in our community, he is by no means alone.  In fact, many national Jewish leaders probably aren’t quite as outspoken or radical in their views.  But they would find much to sympathize with here.  That’s why we need to let the world know that Jews don’t hate Muslims.  They don’t want a holy war against Islam.  They don’t want to invade Muslim countries.  If we remain silent then the Islamists will fill in the picture for us and we won’t like the image one bit.

The reader who provided this story tip also discovered through online research that a Lawrence Kulak was involuntarily hospitalized in New York State under a 1991 disagnosis of bipolar disorder.  Research indicates that both the Lawrence Kulak who was hospitalized and the one who wrote this article are (or were) lawyers.  If I were a newspaper editor and knew this information, I think I would’ve exercised due care and deliberation before publishing.  The ideas expressed here (and possibly the author himself) are in extremis.  But then again, I think we can say that the state of Muslim-Jewish and Israeli-Arab relations are also in extremis and I wouldn’t denigrate or diminish Kulak’s views by attributing them to a mental condition.  They are dangerous precisely because they are shared by so many other Jews.

Long Island Orthodox Jewish Paper Defends Killing Muslims

Once again let me say I find astonishing the near total silence of the organized Jewish community and media to Lawrence Kulak’s diatribe against Islam published in the Long Island Orthodox paper, Five Towns Jewish Times.  In his guest column, he claimed that if Islamists kill innocent non-Muslims that Muslim innocents should similarly be targeted for murder.  Essentially, an invitation to anti-Muslim mass murder:

“The only way to deal with Islamic terrorists is the same way in which they deal with their victims. Muslims believe in the literal interpretation of the Biblical doctrine of an eye for an eye…They killed our innocents, and unless we kill theirs, they will go on killing ours. The Torah, however, preaches a doctrine which…would finally put an end to all Islamic terror: if somebody is coming to kill you, rise up and kill him first.”

The fact that Kulak was diagnosed in 1991 with a bipolar disorder and hospitalized at a mental health facility never appears to have factored into the publisher’s editorial decision about publishing the piece.  Not only has the 20,000-circulation paper’s editor not distanced himself from the column (though he HAS strangely removed it from the website), he has gone on the counter-attack against the Muslim organization which first brought the world’s attention to Kulak’s hate speech, CAIR.

The Muslim defense organization has a lot of nerve pointing out the deficiencies of the Jewish paper’s editorial when CAIR won’t denounce every single terrorist act ever committed by a Muslim against anyone. It doesn’t matter than CAIR HAS in fact denounced Muslim terror. They haven’t denounced the particular Muslim terrorists who most exercise Gordon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. So instead of taking responsibility for the hash he’s made of things, Gordon decides to blame the Muslim victim for his attack.

In my own post about this I wrote that Kulak’s piece was a meandering anti-Muslim rant.  If possible, Larry Gordon, the paper’s editor, wrote an even more lugubrious, non-responsive reply.  The most relevant passage is this one:

The editorial staff of the Five Towns Jewish Times decries the notion of any support of terrorism, and we fully support the United States government’s War on Terrorism. As an Orthodox Jewish weekly, the 5TJT also rejects the demonization of Muslims, both in this country and abroad. If any such implication of supporting the terrorization or murder of innocent Muslims who do not support terrorists or terrorist activities was made by an article in the 5TJT, it was due simply to a poor choice of words—a slip of the author’s pen, if you will. Read in its entirety, the article is clearly conveying the message that members of a community that supports terrorists and allows them to remain in its midst should not expect to escape retaliation.

For the editor, the fact that Kulak clearly advocating killing Muslim “innocents” is a mere “poor choice of words–a slip of the author’s pen.”  Somehow Gordon transmutes Kulak’s phrasing into a hardly less offensive locution that Muslim members of communities supporting terror deserve retaliation.  Kulak advocated western nations and Israel invading Pakistan to exterminate Muslim militants.  Gordon’s articulation would also justify such egregious violation of international law.  So what has his warped apologia gained?  Not much.

To make matters worse, the paper has published a defense Kulak wrote of his column in which he included this memorable contradiction of the passage I quoted above:

I never advocated the wanton killing of innocent Muslims…

Has he forgotten this passage?  “They killed our innocents, and unless we kill theirs, they will go on killing ours.”  I thought killing innocents was automatically “wanton” killing.  Or has somehow Islamist terror caused the killing of Muslim civilians to become acceptable?

The ADL, the ony Jewish group to respond in any way to this Jewish publishing outrage, published a generic objection that wasn’t even attributed to a staff person:

We were shocked by Lawrence Kulak’s suggestion that Jews should kill innocent Muslim civilians to counter Islamic terrorism.

Regardless of one’s views on terrorism, to even entertain the notion of responding in kind is morally reprehensible and appalling. It is unfair to hold innocent Muslims responsible for the radical views of an extreme minority.

In the Jewish tradition, words have consequences. In this case, Kulak’s words crossed the line.

“Crossed the line.” That’s as bothered as the organized Jewish community seems to be by Kulak’s Islamophobic hate.

I’m pleased to note as distinguished a theologian as University of Chicago professor Martin Marty has denounced the Five Towns diatribe in Sightings his weekly newsletter:

Kulak is unsentimental in his “kill them all” approach…The problem of making a principle of this…is that the…counter-belligerents who read this…editorial–and read them they do–find occasion to raise the price, engage in more indiscriminate violence, and that, in turn…impels us to raise it still higher and engage in ever more violence…We all know that in all wars, including those we call “just” or “good,” there are “collateral damages” and deaths of innocents. However, making a principle out of doing so, and especially doing so on religious grounds, only invites more violence. Then there are no eyes to trade for eyes, teeth to exact for teeth, while hatred and violence triumph.

If Martin Marty finds this important enough to write about why can’t Jewish organizations? Why can’t Abe Foxman actually sign his name to the ADL denunciation of this malarkey? Why can’t we Jews tell the world in no uncertain terms that the Kulaks and any Jewish paper that publishes him do not represent us in any way shape and form?

I note that Reb Kulak discovered my denunciation of his work and published his own diatribe here:

I would love to personally drive you and Marty into Gaza and then return several hours later to watch the vultures pick at the remains. (and later watch the vultures drop dead from ingesting poison)

That’s slightly less murderous than advocating mass killing of Muslim innocents, but not much.  Thanks to RM for the links and some background research for this post.

 

 

Chabad Jew Celebrating the Deaths in Orlando

Are our Fundamentalist Jewish Counterparts Any Different than the Worst Kind of Fundamentalist Muslims?

Is the man speaking in this Video an Aberration or is this Feeling Shared by Mainstream Chabad?

Lost Messiah, June 14, 2016

We are posting this video which leaves little to be said. It should be viewed with great urgency. For many of us it represents nothing more and nothing less than an embarrassment to who we are as Jews and a sense of despair.

To those of us non-Jews or simply conscientious observers, this represents a slow destruction of a people, a decline in what was once the Jewish conscience, a peaceful moral compass.

We view this video and those like it as nightmarish in its/their implications.

Are our ultra-Orthodox Jewish counterparts one day going to demand that their wives be clothed in Burkhas, claiming the fundamentalist version of a Jihad? Are they going to be praying to a G-d who many of us understand is peace-loving, finding portions within Jewish texts to justify murder?

Orlando represented, for anyone with a conscience, the senseless killing of human beings. Orlando was an act carried out by a single man out on a violent and brutal mission and there was, in our view, nothing G-d loving in the events that transpired. For a Chabad Jew to turn it into something justifiable is unthinkable.

Are we in the process of viewing a demise in the Jewish morality? Are we now giving a justification, for anti-Semitism of the worst kind? You might be surprised by your response.