Archive for the ‘Christian’ Category

Baptist Leaders ‘Strengthen Connection to Israel’ on Bridge-Building Mission – Breaking Israel News

Fourteen U.S. Baptist leaders returned from Israel this week after learning about the Jewish state beyond the headlines and building Christian-Jewish bridges, in a mission, Feb. 13-20, organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship).

The Baptist leaders toured Christian and Jewish holy sites including the Western (Wailing) Wall and Old City of Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, Masada, Caesarea, Muhraka (Horn of Carmel) and Meggido. The group also made a special visit to Israels Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.

Visiting the Holy Land of Israel is a great privilege. We are so grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn about the Jewish homeland and our Christian heritage and to strengthen our connection to the Israeli people and most importantly, to G-d, said Rev. Samuel Tolbert, a trip leader and president of the National Baptist Convention of America (NBCA).

The Baptist leaders were the most recent major Christian group to visit Israel with The Fellowship. In the summer of 2015, The Fellowship hosted 21 top ministers of the Detroit-based Pentecostal group the Church of God In Christ, while in in Jan. 2016, it brought 22 top clergy of the Washington, D.C.-based Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC), the movement of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to Israel. In May of last year, 26 leaders of the NBCA the second-largest African-American Baptist group also visited Israel with The Fellowship, and last Sept. The Fellowship brought 22 leaders from the Bahamas-based Global United Fellowship (GUF) to Israel.

We were honored to host these outstanding Baptist leaders in Israel, said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of The Fellowship. By experiencing the spiritual power of the Holy Land, they deepened their own faith while strengthening the profound historic bonds between the Christian and Jewish people.

The Fellowship was formed in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews, and build broad support for Israel. Today The Fellowship is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel and Jewish needs around the world.

Participants in this months mission included Tolbert, Rev. Derick Brennan of Philadelphia; Rev. Dr. Jason Coker of Jackson, Mich.; Rev. Earlene Coleman of McKeesport, Pa.; Rev. Gary Dollar of Glen Carbon, Ill.; Dr. Brian Ford of Columbia, Mo.; Dr. Jim Hill of Kirkwood, Mo.; Rev. Forestal Lawton, of Kansas City, Mo.; Rev. Steven T. Mack, of Camden, N.J.; Dr. Harry Rowland of Decatur, Ga.; Rev. Doyle Sager of Jefferson City, Mo.; Rev. Napoleon Smith of Albuquerque, N.M.; Rev. Julian K. Woods of Lake Charles, La.; and Rev. James E. Victor, of Arlington, Va.

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Baptist Leaders ‘Strengthen Connection to Israel’ on Bridge-Building Mission – Breaking Israel News

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February 22, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

How Solving an Ancient Mystery Is Bringing Jews and Christians Together – CBN News

The Vatican and Rome’s Jewish community are teaming up to celebrate a symbol of Judaism depicted on one of the world most famous historical artifacts, but lost to the world for two thousand years.

The menorah was a seven-branched candelabra made of solid gold that served as one of the sacred vessels in the Holy Temple.

In 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and looted the temple of its treasure, including the menorah, bringing many of the artifacts back to Rome.

This triumphant procession is depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome.

The location of that menorah has been the subject of intense speculation for centuries as it is both historically and culturally important.

According to some scholars it remained in Rome until the city was looted by Vandals in 455. Others say it was destroyed in a fire. Still, there are some accounts that it was taken to Carthage and then modern day Istanbul.

In 1818, the Tiber River was searched for precious objects, in part because of a report that the menorah sank in a shipwreck.

This new exhibit, “Menorah: Worship, History, Legend,” includes about 130 artifacts, including a 2,000-year-old stone block found by archaeologists in an Israeli synagogue.

“This is a historic event,” said Ruth Dureghello, the president of Rome’s Jewish community. The menorah has connections to Rome, she added, “so such an important exhibit could only start here.”

The purpose of the exhibit is to trace the history of the menorah and its influence on Christian art and artifacts.

Because there are close ties between the Jewish and Christian faiths, menorahs have been used in churches as liturgical items according to the deputy director of the Vatican Museum and one of the curators of the menorah exhibit.

“Menorah: Worship, History, Legend” will open in May and will be presented at the Vatican Museums and at Rome’s Jewish Museum.

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February 21, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

Catholics and Jews mark history of the menorah with first joint show – Religion News Service

exhibit By Josephine McKenna | 3 hours ago

ROME (RNS) A 2,000-year-old stone block unearthed by archaeologists froman Israeli synagogue in the town of Magdala will be featured in the first-ever joint art exhibit mounted by the Vatican Museums and Romes Jewish community.

The block, featuring a relief of a menorah beside two jugs, will be part of an exhibit titled Menorah: Worship, History and Myth, tracing the history of the seven-branchedsymbol of Jewish faith (not to be confused with the nine-branched candleholder used during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah) and its influence on Christian art and artifacts.

The exhibit was announced Monday (Feb. 20) by Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican body responsible for promoting Christian unity; Romes chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni; and officials from the Vatican Museums and the Jewish Museum of Rome.

Koch welcomed the initiative, saying it underscored the spiritual heritage of the Catholic Church and the positive interfaithdialogue between the Vatican and the Jewish community.

This is an interesting initiative from a cultural point of view and its ideological symbolism, said Di Segni. Although the menorah is essentially considered a Jewish symbol, it also has a history in the Christian world.

But the joint initiative of the two faiths will do little to solve the mystery of what happened to the original menorah stripped from the Second Temple in Jerusalem by marauding Roman soldiers and carried back to ancient Rome in 70 AD.

Depicted in the Arch of Titus relief inside the Roman Forum to mark the conquest, the menorah is thought to have been stolen by invading vandals in the sacking of Rome in the fifthcentury.

Nevertheless, it was during the Roman Empire that the menorah became a strong cultural and religious symbol for Jews, appearing on graves, sarcophagi and catacombs on the outskirts of the city.

Mapp Scola Catalana, 1835. The blue-colored Jewish fabric with gold script comes from the Catalan Schule, a place of worship that preceded the Jewish synagogue in Rome.

The exhibit, which runs May 15 to July 23 at both the Vatican Museums and the Jewish Museum of Rome, features 130 items, including paintings, documents and candlesticks.

We have some great works of art, including six or seven bronze candlesticks which also show the Christian tradition of the menorah, said Arnold Nesselrath, deputy director of the Vatican Museums. Many Christian churches simply pointed to their Jewish roots this way.

Nesselrath said the exhibit was important to show how religions can work together and challenge perceptions of religious conflict.

Fundamentalism is not inherent in religion, Nesselrath said. We want to do this exhibition to show we can do something positive together and there is a long history of 2,000 years of mutual reference.

(Josephine McKenna is RNS Vatican correspondent)

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years’ experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.

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Catholics and Jews mark history of the menorah with first joint show – Religion News Service

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February 20, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

In Trump’s America, Christian proselytizing is another form of oppression – LGBTQ Nation

First Lady Melania Trump read from a script that includedThe [Christian] Lords Prayer as part of her introduction of her husband at a rally in Florida, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. She did this at a time when Donald has consistently marginalized Muslims, and when reported hate crimes against Muslims and Jews (in addition to Blacks, Latinx, and LGBTQs) has continually increased since Trumps election.

Where is thesupposed separation of church and state? Trump has, though, fortified the already solid and impenetrable wall between mosque and state and synagogue and state.

During Trump and Pences inauguration ceremonies, six religious clergy offered prayers and Biblical readings atop the balcony of the U.S. Capitol, interspersed by Trump and Pence placing their left hands on a stack of Bibles during their swearing-in ceremonies. Ending the festivities, sounds emanated from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Clergy invited to read and offer prayer at the inauguration included five Christians and one Jew. As I watched the proceedings on TV, I questioned whether I was viewing a presidential swearing-in or, rather, attending an evangelical tent revival as clergy invoked the name of Jesus at least eight times.

Not wanting to exclude Muslims, he said during his inaugural address, in usual Trump fashion, We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.

Trumps continual marginalization of Muslims in his rhetoric and in his attempts to impose travel bans against people from the seven majority-Muslim countries where he has no direct business ties are testaments (pun intended) to his feelings about the followers and precepts of Islam.

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day (27 January 2017), throughout his ceremonial speech commemorating the Holocaust, Trump denounced the horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror while never once mentioning Jews and anti-Semitism.

While the Nazis targeted several groups for interrogation, incarceration, and death, the regime singled out the Jewish people for mass genocide as their final solution. Though Trump has only a limited grasp on world history, we should at least assume that even he would know this basic fact.

During a campaign rally speech, in West Palm Beach, Florida, October 14, 2016, Trump said, in part:

The Washington establishment and the financial and media corporations that fund it exist for only one reason: to protect and enrich itself.For those who control the levers of power in Washington, and for the global special interests.This is a conspiracy against you, the American people, and we cannot let this happen or continue. This is our moment of reckoning as a society and as a civilization itself.

Donald Trump may not have a general grasp of politics and history, but he certainly understands how to use of the propaganda of fascism to sway public opinion. Donald will never admit to lifting the sentiments and words almost verbatim from the notorious Protocols of a Meeting of the Learned Elders of Zion.

The Protocols area fabricated anti-Semitic text dating from 1903 that was widely distributed by Russian Czarist forces to turn public opinion against a so-called Jewish Revolution for the purpose of convincing the populace that Jews were plotting to impose a conspiratorial international Jewish government.

The white nationalist website, The Right Stuff, celebrated Trumps Florida speech. Lawrence Murray wrote an article affirming that somehow Trump manages to channel Goebbels (Nazi Minister of Propaganda) and Detroit Republicanism all at the same time.

During his recent marathon and rambling White House press conference, Trump was asked by Jake Turx, an orthodox Jewish reporter, about the recent spike in reported anti-Semitic incidents across the country. Turx made it clear, using an agreeable tone, that he was not charging the President of anti-Semitism:

Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I havent seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their zayde, (an affectionate Yiddish word for grandfather).

At this point, Trump said, Thank you.Turx then asked his question:

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In Trump’s America, Christian proselytizing is another form of oppression – LGBTQ Nation

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‘Textbook teaches Christian, not Jewish connection to Jerusalem’ – Arutz Sheva

The Hotam organization criticizes the Education Ministry for introducing textbook presenting Jerusalem as equally holy to three religions.

Yedidia Ben Or, 20/02/17 17:29

Rabbi Amital Bareli, the head of the Hotam organization, sent a letter to Education Minister Naftali Bennett criticizing a sixth grade textbook which presented Jerusalem as equally holy to the three religions and even referred pupils to the New Testament.

The Hotam organization is dedicated to restoring Judaism’s values to the public arena and maintaining Israel’s spiritual development in consonance with its economic, social and scientific development.

Bareli stated that the educational unit designed to teach Jerusalem’s heritage as the historic capital of Israel was worthy and would add a Jewish significance to pupils’ attachment to the city, but the book “In the Paths of Jerusalem” written by Ben Zvi Institute did not aid the adoption of these values.

“In the chapter dealing with Jerusalem written by Tamar Hayardeniit is impossible to find even an allusion to the connection between the Jewish people and the narrative regarding the holiness of Jerusalem,” said Bareli. “Hayardeni presents the approaches of the different religions as an observer in order that they can choose which of them they wish to identify with the city.

Hayardeni sends pupils to the New Testament to find information about Christian ‘Saints’ and to see the description of Jesus’s birth. She also refers to the “connection between David and Jesus: Jews believe that the Messiah will be a descendant of David and so do the Christians.”

Bareli claimed that this both weakens the basis of the Jewish nation to maintain sovereignty over Jerusalem and also weakens the connection of school children to Jewish tradition. He added

“We may yet be sorry to find a generation to whom Jerusalem means nothing from a national and traditional point of view and this absurdly when the Education Ministry has taken upon itself the task of transmitting the values of Jerusalem to Israeli pupils. I call on you, Minister Bennett, to investigate the matter properly and ascertain if there is a place for such a book in the educational unit on Jerusalem.”

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February 20, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

United Nations Identified as Christian vs. Muslim Battleground for Final War of Messiah – Breaking Israel News

For they have consulted together with one consent: against thee do they make a covenant. Psalms 83:6 (The Israel Bible)

(Breaking Israel News)

In a startling lecture, a noted rabbi labelled the anti-Israel movement prevalent in global politics today as the first stage in a two-part End of Days prophecy, noting that this stage, a Christian-Muslim alliance, is ending as Americas new president severs ties with the Islamic world. Another rabbi agrees, suggesting the absurdity that has come out of the anti-Israel UN is only an indication that the next stage, a Muslim-Christian conflict, will be even stranger.

Rabbi Zamir Cohen, a noted scholar and head of the Beitar Illit Yeshiva, stated that in the End of Days, Christianity and Islam will separate into two distinct groups working in unison against the Jewish People as part of a pre-Messianic two-stage political process

They will come together against Israel, said Rabbi Zamir Cohen, a noted scholar and head of the Beitar Illit Yeshiva, in a recent lecture. He went on to describe a second stage of the process in which the alliance was broken and the Christians began helping the Jews. When they come against us, there will break out a conflict between them, and then they will strike at each other.

Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf, a prominent Jewish educator and bestselling author, agreed, saying that the first stage has already happened: Islam and Christianity have aligned against Israel and the union has manifested in a notoriously anti-Israel international body.

The epicenter of this united effort against Israel is most apparent in the United Nations, stated Rabbi Apisdorf to Breaking Israel News.

This alliance defies logic, the rabbi said, citing a recent speech by Nikki Haley, the newly appointed US ambassador to the UN. A newcomer to the UN, Haley was astounded at what she saw at her first Security Council meeting.

The prejudiced approach to Israeli-Palestinian issuesbears no relationship to the reality of the world around us, Haley said in a press conference last week. The double standards are breathtaking.

Rabbi Apisdorf agreed with Haleys assessment, saying that the UN joint effort against Israel was unrealistic and absurd, but it had been prophesied to be so. He quoted the Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, a French rabbi from the eleventh century known by the acronym Rashi.

In his commentary on the first verse in Genesis, Rashi predicted that in the end of days, the non-Jews would all come together, uniting in order to dispute the Jews right to the land of Israel. The UN did exactly this, claiming there is is no connection between Judaism and Jerusalem, a claim that would have been thought absurd just a few years ago.

Rabbi Cohen believes the first stage, the unity of Arabs and Christians, is nearing its end, and that the second stage has already begun. In his lecture, Rabbi Cohen said the second stage would begin when a leader arose to unify the Christians against Islam.

According to our prophecies, some revolutionary Christian leader will arise who will be disgusted by everything that is happening, said Rabbi Cohen. He will unite the Christian world around him, that is to say Islam will turn into one group, and Christianity into one group.

In a previous lecture given just after the US elections, Rabbi Cohen speculated that Donald Trump might indeed be this prophesied leader. He noted that President Trumps unrestrained style of speech is precisely what will join Christians together against the alliance with Islam promoted by the previous president.

This is unprecedented, something we have yet to see in the world, a leader who stands up and says that he has had enough of the trespasses of Islam, Rabbi Cohen said.

A conflict focusing the combined forces of Christianity and Islam against Israel is a terrifying prospect, but according to Rabbi Cohen, this conflict, the war of Gog and Magog, serves a definite purpose.

If we look at it from the side of a divine accounting, what purpose does the conflict serve? the Rabbi asks. When it comes time for the Moshiach (Messiah) to come, let it come, without this conflict.

Rabbi Cohen answered his own question by stating that the main purpose of the war of Gog and Magog is to pay back the Gentiles for all the troubles they caused the Jews throughout history.

The Christians and Muslims will split, becoming two groups that strike each other, explained Rabbi Cohen, but the conflict can take two forms: one that will be difficult and painful for the Jews and another form in which the Jews escape unharmed.

If the Jews correct our mistakes, our blemishes, then the war of Gog and Magog will come only to pay back the other nations for the evil they did to the Jews in the past. If, on the other hand, the Jews have not fixed themselves, then God will use the war of Gog and Magog to pressure us to return us to the correct path.

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United Nations Identified as Christian vs. Muslim Battleground for Final War of Messiah – Breaking Israel News

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What A 19th-Century Christian Educator Taught Me About Jewish Home Schooling In Age Of Betsy DeVos – Forward

The contentious confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary provoked a fair number of outraged folks to threaten to exercise their own right to school choice and home-school their children. Timing-wise, this announcement coincided with Orthodox Jewish parents starting to get their tuition bills for the next school year. One friend in New York City, a working mother with two toddlers, will be shelling out almost $42,000 next year just in tuition for less than full days in school (plus nanny costs). That is just ridiculous, she complained to me. I could just fire my nanny and hire an entry level teacher for that.

Generations ago the English did exactly that, and called the woman a governess. And it is the woman who spearheaded the governess educational philosophy who I intend to follow when I create my own future home school (as, currently, my children are a touch young for a curriculum).

There are a dozen or more popular home school philosophies and methodologies, including classical education, Montessori and unschooling (where students direct the lesson plans), and countless more companies with products marketed toward home-schoolers, selling everything from educational toys to math programs. The program we will follow, conceived by Charlotte Mason (1842-1923), eschews most of the trendier (and pricier) options in the American home school market.

In 1984, a book by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay titled For The Childrens Sake introduced Mason to mainstream audiences, popularizing her theories for a new generation of parents. Masons method is best known for its two main attributes: a dedication to appreciating the very best that the arts (literature, art, music) has to offer and a reverence for nature, for it is the truest expression of Gods hand in our lives, which we can see with every snowfall, every sunrise and sunset, and more.

We attempt to define a person, Mason wrote, as quoted on the Charlotte Mason Institute website, the most common-place person we know, but he will not submit to bounds; some unexpected beauty of nature breaks out; we find he is not what we thought, and begin to suspect that every person exceeds our power of measurement.

Sitting in a conference room in Maryland recently, listening to Carroll Smith, director of the Mason Institute, lecture on the finer points of how to deliver a Charlotte Mason education, I realized these were the same things that drew me to Judaism as a young child namely, an appreciation for reading and for God in our everyday lives.

One of the keys to a Mason education is the reading of living books, books written by one author who takes a special interest in his or her subject. For example, if youre studying the Civil War, read a literary narrative either by someone from that time period or from a contemporary expert on the subject instead of just a broad textbook. Depending on age, a student might read a firsthand account of fighting for the Union or the South, or James Swansons best-seller, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase For Lincolns Killer, which recounts the search for John Wilkes Booth.

Mason explained that it is living books above all others that engage readers, spark the imagination and remain in our memory long after theyve finished the last chapter. After each reading, the student narrates what has just been read, or retells the story. How did God impart His laws and lessons to the Jews? Through a narrative story: the Torah. And how do we still learn it? By narrating the story over and over and over in classrooms, in living rooms, in synagogues, at Seder tables. This is what God demanded of us in Deuteronomy 6:6 and 7: These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

In an article on parenting for MyJewishLearning, Rabbi Nachum Amsel said, Possibly the most important educational principle for a Jewish parent to adhere to is the notion of bringing up each child according to his or her unique personality, character traits and talents (Proverbs 22:6). 1Mason concurs. A cornerstone of her educational philosophy is this: Children are born persons. What does this mean? Children are not empty vessels. Our methodology should therefore match our beliefs, and a school environment filled with textbooks and worksheets is not how we can impart a tailored education to a unique child.

As with many home school communities, the Charlotte Mason world is Christian dominated. Every book written on her philosophy is from a Christian point of view. And at a recent conference in suburban Maryland that attracted about 150 audience members, Im pretty certain I was the only Jew.

In fact, Mason experts frequently discuss the dearth of Jewish families who follow Masons teachings. While God is a central part of Masons work, those who follow her teachings also have a lot of Jesus Christ thrown into the mix. Still, given the high levels of unhappiness with education choices facing many Jewish families, its remarkable that home-schooling hasnt caught on more among Jews.

Considering the shared philosophical views between Mason and our religion, if more Jewish families were aware of the option, and of her beliefs, this might no longer be the case.

__Bethany Mandel is a regular columnist for the Forward. Follow her on Twitter, @bethanyshondark_

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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February 19, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

Jewish Theology A Primer (Especially for Christians) Part I – Patheos (blog)

Perhaps a better title for this next series of posts would be Jewish theologies because its hard to argue that theres really one Jewish theology. How many Jewish theologies are there? Well, to adapt the old joke, if you have three Jewish theologians, you have at least six (or more) Jewish theologies.

Over the next several posts, Id like to offer insights on Jewish theology especially for Christians. Why? For two primary reasons: 1) I have many, many Christian friends who I dialog with theologically and philosophically; 2) I believe that most Christians would benefit from engaging, and even applying, some of the ideas, approaches, methodologies, and themes of Jewish theology into their own Christian contexts and self understanding.

I believe that Jewish approaches to theology have much to offer Christians. Besides, the conversation is hopefully interesting to Jews, too.

In this first post, Id like to explore the oddness of Jewish theology and how authority in Jewish theology operates and doesnt operate.

The Oddness of Jewish Theology

I wont pretend to be able to do Jewish theology justice in just a few blog posts. A few thousand years of wisdom isnt easy to summarize or treat lightly. Besides, Jewish theology covers all of life how to treat animals, when to harvest trees, how to love your neighbor, what not to eat, how to wage war, how to value peace, the relationship between spouses, the nature of God, the meaning of redemption, and so on.

Doing theology doesnt garner the same attention and interest in most Jewish circles as it does in Christianity. One reason for this is that Jews dont have a religious culture that revolves around theological discussion (Discussion? Yes, Formal theological discussion? No.) Another reason is that Judaism understands itself as a peoplehood connected through history, practice, and values, whereas Christianity, while certainly community oriented, is rooted more in ideas about the world, God, and Jesus, rather than an ethnic-cultural identity. Youre a Christian based on what you believe. Youre a Jew according to other criteria.

Jewish scholar Louis Jacobs offers this:

Jewish theologydefined as the systematic consideration of what adherents of the Jewish religion believe or are expected to believeis notoriously elusive, so much so that voices have been raised to question whether there really is any such thing. Certainly there is no department of Jewish theology, as there is of Christian, at any university. Even in the foremost higher institutions of specifically Jewish learning, such as the Hebrew Union College, the Jewish Theological Seminary and Yeshiva University in the USA, Jews College and Leo Baeck College in the UK, where Jewish theology can hardly be ignored, the subject is often treated with amused tolerance as peripheral to the major interests of both teachers and students. The Queen of the Sciences may have been dethroned in Christendom, but, judging by their neglect, many Jewish teachers deny that she ever enjoyed regal status in the first place. Louis Jacobs

Additionally, Jewish theology is diverse not all Jews would agree with my interpretations or the views of other Jewish thinkers for that matter.

Further, no Jew can definitively speak for another Jew in terms of theology. Each Jewish branch, each community approaches matters with nuance, difference, and a particular style. My vantagepoint is Reform Judaism and therefore, my theology will be appropriately colored by the Reform tradition although my insights apply beyond the Reform context.

Authority in Jewish Theology

There is no central Jewish authority no rabbi, text, book, or committee that conveys a binding Jewish orthodoxy. Judaism, likewise, is not creedal there isnt a list of beliefs one must subscribe to in order to be Jewish or to be acceptable in most Jewish communities.

Granted, some Orthodox Jewish communities will insist that there is a set of required Jewish dogma along with a group of orthodox rabbis who may authoritatively pronounce on them. But these groups are small within Judaism, and the bulk of Jewish theology and sources especially the Talmud thousands of pages of rabbinic commentary seem to demonstrate otherwise. The Talmud rarely sees the rabbis agree and the nature of the conversations are open ended.

Like Catholicism, Judaism has sacred writings (Torah) and tradition (Talmud, teaching, scholarship, practices, rituals, liturgy). Like Catholicism, Judaism has a long history of rich and beautiful observances. Like Catholicism, many Jews have a sacramental view of their religious rituals and practices. And like Catholicism, halakhah is somewhat ( this is a little bit of a stretch) akin to Canon Law. Yet unlike Catholicism, there is no Jewish magisterium and no Jewish pope.

Then how is unity realized? How is Jewish tradition and meaning preserved?

I think the best answer is to realize that Judaism is an ongoing, few thousand years old, conversation. To be part of that conversation is a voluntary undertaking and to engage it is to accept the parameters and topics of that conversation, traditionally outlined under the three broad headings of God, Torah, and Israel. Which for Catholics and other Christians might be God/Jesus, Scripture, and Church.

Underneath those broad headings, discussions about revelation, the nature of God, morality, liturgy, ritual, blessings, scripture scholarship, observance and a whole host of other issues takes place.

Like Anglicanism and Christian Eastern Orthodoxy, consensus plays a large role in establishing theological parameters and context. While no single authoritative religious institution makes decisions for all forms of Judaism, a consensus develops among communities, rabbis, scholars, and, over time, enough people join the common cause so that a given position becomes commonplace although, not binding.

There isnt a theological litmus test. Ones theological opinions and offerings may be rejected by other Jews; they will almost certainly be argued with by other Jews argument and engagement is perhaps the foundational method for Jewish theology.

When I explain this to some people, especially Christians, the response is often, well, then the Torah is your authority, right? To which I reply, No. Torah is part of the written record of the ongoing conversation, and serves as a primary parameter for meaningful Jewish dialog. Yet Torah is a set of writings, and a set of writings can never be authoritative Jews dont do Sola Scriptura writings always require interpretation, and Judaism has no infallible or authoritative interpreters every Jew interprets for themselves. (We were way ahead of Luther.)

Another common response, isnt your rabbi in charge? Dont the rabbis decide these things? Again, the answer is, No. Rabbis are trained to teach and interpret, and various groups of rabbis will offer commentary and opinion, but again, in most forms of Judaism, these opinion, or responsa are not binding. (Also, Christians are often surprised to learn that strictly speaking, a rabbi isnt necessary for a Jewish wedding, liturgy, blessings, or even conversions.) Rabbis can and should guide the community in theological matters and questions of observance, but theyre not granted or imbued with any special religious authority. Some Orthodox communities do give their rabbis binding authority, but thats particular to their specific community.

Sources of Unity

How does Jewish theology not descend into chaos then, wonder many not accustomed to a lack of central authority?

Part of the answer is the Jewish focus on orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy. Granted, this distinction is somewhat artificial, but it does convey a reality. Jews tend to be more or less united in their practice lighting Shabbat candles and observing the Sabbath. Celebrating the (many) Jewish holidays. Engaging Torah (and Talmud, and Jewish authors and thinkers.) And practicing well established Jewish values such as hospitality, love of neighbor, care for the needy, and seeking to end oppression of all kinds.

Another part of the answer is how many synagogues function. The word synagogue comes from Greek and implies one view or a unity of perspective or community. The synagogue is more than the meeting place for worship its, in theory, the center for the Jewish community. Its activities, discussions, socializing, and worship all which help create a common life would help promote unity within the community despite diversity of beliefs.

Finally, as mentioned above, Jewish theology has fairly distinct parameters Torah, halakhah, holidays, a distinct history, the notion of God, Israel, traditions, texts, and so on. Various Jewish thinkers and sages have offered various ideas and meanings within these parameters, but theyve stayed within the lines so to speak. Someone who tries to take the conversation too far off topic would likely be pulled back in or eventually ignored. And Jewish theological reasoning relies heavily on Jewish sources sui generis arguments rarely find traction.

There are Christian communities that operate in similar style. One thinks of various Baptist groups, Congregationalists, and even, to some degree, the Episcopal Church. But even within these denominations, the parameters of orthodoxy would be somewhat tighter than that found in Judaism.

In our next posts, I hope to discuss some of these parameters and offer Jewish insights concerning their role and meaning.

As always, I enjoy engaging with you feel free to comment. Id especially enjoy hearing from Christian reads on these topics. And dont feel you need to agree with me to engage. As long as the comment is on topic and respectful, Ill do my best to respond to you.

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Jewish Theology A Primer (Especially for Christians) Part I – Patheos (blog)

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February 18, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

Christian Genocide Survivors Deserve Support and Priority – Morning Consult

When I visited Erbil, Iraq, in December with a congressional delegation determined to find out why Christians had often been excluded from U.S. aid programs, Archbishop Nicodemus Daoud of Mosul told us that Americans generally care more about endangered frogs than about endangered Christian communities.

He has a point.

Christians have lived in the region for almost 2,000 years. Many still speak the language of Jesus. But although they, and other minority communities, are now seriously endangered, some Americans seem more worried that they might get priority than that they might disappear completely.

The Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh and its antecedents imposed a strict religious test and then targeted minority religious communities for elimination. At best, these communities fled, but lost everything in the process.

Those who are outraged that we might now prioritize them are forgetting Americas proud tradition of prioritizing genocide survivors, and the dark moments when we ignored them.

After horrifically refusing admission to Jewish refugees on theS.S. St. Louis in 1939, the United States later changed course and numericallyprioritized displaced European Jews. They had suffered a uniquely horrible targeting even if there were more German, French and Italian refugees, who were also displaced and suffering.

During and after World War I as well, the U.S. government worked with Near Eastern Reliefto aid Armenian and other Christian communitiestargeted for genocide by the Ottoman Empire. The American people solidly supported the effort.

Itis notun-American to prioritize those who have been targeted for genocide because of their faith. It has been seen as quintessentially American for a century.

And religious persecution has long been a key qualifier for refugee status under our immigration laws.

When theLautenberg amendmentwas renewed with bipartisan support in 2015, no one was outraged. It prioritizes for asylum those who are Christian, Jewish and Bahai, as well as other religious minorities from Iran.

Notably, the Obama administrations official policy was also to prioritize Christian and other religious minority refugees from Syria. Knox Thames, the Obama administrations State Department special advisor for religious minorities, wrote in October 2015:

Due to the unique needs of vulnerable religious minority communities, the State Department has prioritized the resettlement of Syrian Christian refugees and other religious minorities fleeing the conflict.

The policy failed to deliver. Only abouthalf of one percentof Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S.in fiscal year2016 were Christian though they make up 10 percent of the Syrian population.Yazidis and Shia Muslims were also profoundly underrepresented.Again, there was no uproar over the stated policy, and little coverage of its failure.

So the outrage is new, but policies claiming to prioritize Christians and other minorities are not.

What is deeply troubling is how often U.S. government aid overlooked the needs of these minority groups since 2014.

Last year, our government for only the second time in history formally declared an ongoing situation was a genocide. Secretary of State John Kerry explained that this genocide was one of religious persecution, saying: The fact is that Daesh kills Christians because they are Christians; Yezidis because they are Yezidis; Shia because they are Shia.Those words should have triggered Americas duty to help these targeted groups.

Instead, Christians and other small communities targeted by ISIS genocidal campaign have often been last in line, not first,to get U.S. government assistance.

While the U.S. government and the United Nations have spent heavily on humanitarian relief in the wake of ISIS, the largest community of displaced Christians in Erbil has received no money from our government or from the UN, according to Archbishop Bashar Warda, who is caring for tens of thousands of those displaced there.

It is the same story for many Yazidis.

In Iraq last spring, I met Yazidi families living next to an open sewer in Ozal City. Except for two kilograms of lamb in 2014, they had receivednothingfrom the U.S. government, andnothingfrom the UN. Only Iraqi Christians themselves overlooked by these entities had helped them.

Far from receiving priority, communities most at risk of disappearing have received nothing at all from our government.

The reason U.S. and UN officials gave in Iraq this past May for overlooking these groups was that their aid prioritized only individual needs. If someone was hungry, they got aid, but the fact that a group could disappear entirely was never even considered.

Helping everyone typically means aid is sent to major refugee camps, resulting in thede factoexclusion of minority communities, since they have been targeted by extremists within these camps, and thus avoid them. It effectively means many religious minorities receivenohelp.

That American government aid to these groups is long overdue has until now been a subject of bipartisan agreement, not controversy.

The fact is that Americas lack of response to religious minorities has allowed ISIS program of eliminating these people from the region to continue.

While ISIS may applaud American inaction toward these communities over the past two years, neither the religious minorities in the Middle East, nor the judgment of history will do the same.

Giving preference does not mean helpingonlygenocide survivors. But not giving them preference likely means they will soon be beyond help.

They could soon be completely eradicated.

Will anyone be outraged then?

Andrew Walther is the vice president of communications for the Knights of Columbus andhas been involved in humanitarian aid, public awareness and public policy initiatives for those persecuted by ISIS since 2014.

Morning Consult welcomes op-ed submissions on policy, politics and business strategy in our coverage areas. Submission guidelines can be foundhere.

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Christian Genocide Survivors Deserve Support and Priority – Morning Consult

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February 17, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

Baptist Leaders ‘Strengthen Connection to Israel’ on Bridge-Building Mission – Breaking Israel News

Fourteen U.S. Baptist leaders returned from Israel this week after learning about the Jewish state beyond the headlines and building Christian-Jewish bridges, in a mission, Feb. 13-20, organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship). The Baptist leaders toured Christian and Jewish holy sites including the Western (Wailing) Wall and Old City of Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, Masada, Caesarea, Muhraka (Horn of Carmel) and Meggido. The group also made a special visit to Israels Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem. Visiting the Holy Land of Israel is a great privilege. We are so grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn about the Jewish homeland and our Christian heritage and to strengthen our connection to the Israeli people and most importantly, to G-d, said Rev. Samuel Tolbert, a trip leader and president of the National Baptist Convention of America (NBCA). The Baptist leaders were the most recent major Christian group to visit Israel with The Fellowship. In the summer of 2015, The Fellowship hosted 21 top ministers of the Detroit-based Pentecostal group the Church of God In Christ, while in in Jan. 2016, it brought 22 top clergy of the Washington, D.C.-based Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC), the movement of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to Israel. In May of last year, 26 leaders of the NBCA the second-largest African-American Baptist group also visited Israel with The Fellowship, and last Sept. The Fellowship brought 22 leaders from the Bahamas-based Global United Fellowship (GUF) to Israel. We were honored to host these outstanding Baptist leaders in Israel, said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of The Fellowship. By experiencing the spiritual power of the Holy Land, they deepened their own faith while strengthening the profound historic bonds between the Christian and Jewish people. The Fellowship was formed in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews, and build broad support for Israel. Today The Fellowship is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel and Jewish needs around the world. Participants in this months mission included Tolbert, Rev. Derick Brennan of Philadelphia; Rev. Dr. Jason Coker of Jackson, Mich.; Rev. Earlene Coleman of McKeesport, Pa.; Rev. Gary Dollar of Glen Carbon, Ill.; Dr. Brian Ford of Columbia, Mo.; Dr. Jim Hill of Kirkwood, Mo.; Rev. Forestal Lawton, of Kansas City, Mo.; Rev. Steven T. Mack, of Camden, N.J.; Dr. Harry Rowland of Decatur, Ga.; Rev. Doyle Sager of Jefferson City, Mo.; Rev. Napoleon Smith of Albuquerque, N.M.; Rev. Julian K. Woods of Lake Charles, La.; and Rev. James E. Victor, of Arlington, Va.

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February 22, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

How Solving an Ancient Mystery Is Bringing Jews and Christians Together – CBN News

The Vatican and Rome’s Jewish community are teaming up to celebrate a symbol of Judaism depicted on one of the world most famous historical artifacts, but lost to the world for two thousand years. The menorah was a seven-branched candelabra made of solid gold that served as one of the sacred vessels in the Holy Temple. In 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and looted the temple of its treasure, including the menorah, bringing many of the artifacts back to Rome. This triumphant procession is depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome. The location of that menorah has been the subject of intense speculation for centuries as it is both historically and culturally important. According to some scholars it remained in Rome until the city was looted by Vandals in 455. Others say it was destroyed in a fire. Still, there are some accounts that it was taken to Carthage and then modern day Istanbul. In 1818, the Tiber River was searched for precious objects, in part because of a report that the menorah sank in a shipwreck. This new exhibit, “Menorah: Worship, History, Legend,” includes about 130 artifacts, including a 2,000-year-old stone block found by archaeologists in an Israeli synagogue. “This is a historic event,” said Ruth Dureghello, the president of Rome’s Jewish community. The menorah has connections to Rome, she added, “so such an important exhibit could only start here.” The purpose of the exhibit is to trace the history of the menorah and its influence on Christian art and artifacts. Because there are close ties between the Jewish and Christian faiths, menorahs have been used in churches as liturgical items according to the deputy director of the Vatican Museum and one of the curators of the menorah exhibit. “Menorah: Worship, History, Legend” will open in May and will be presented at the Vatican Museums and at Rome’s Jewish Museum.

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February 21, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

Catholics and Jews mark history of the menorah with first joint show – Religion News Service

exhibit By Josephine McKenna | 3 hours ago ROME (RNS) A 2,000-year-old stone block unearthed by archaeologists froman Israeli synagogue in the town of Magdala will be featured in the first-ever joint art exhibit mounted by the Vatican Museums and Romes Jewish community. The block, featuring a relief of a menorah beside two jugs, will be part of an exhibit titled Menorah: Worship, History and Myth, tracing the history of the seven-branchedsymbol of Jewish faith (not to be confused with the nine-branched candleholder used during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah) and its influence on Christian art and artifacts. The exhibit was announced Monday (Feb. 20) by Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican body responsible for promoting Christian unity; Romes chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni; and officials from the Vatican Museums and the Jewish Museum of Rome. Koch welcomed the initiative, saying it underscored the spiritual heritage of the Catholic Church and the positive interfaithdialogue between the Vatican and the Jewish community. This is an interesting initiative from a cultural point of view and its ideological symbolism, said Di Segni. Although the menorah is essentially considered a Jewish symbol, it also has a history in the Christian world. But the joint initiative of the two faiths will do little to solve the mystery of what happened to the original menorah stripped from the Second Temple in Jerusalem by marauding Roman soldiers and carried back to ancient Rome in 70 AD. Depicted in the Arch of Titus relief inside the Roman Forum to mark the conquest, the menorah is thought to have been stolen by invading vandals in the sacking of Rome in the fifthcentury. Nevertheless, it was during the Roman Empire that the menorah became a strong cultural and religious symbol for Jews, appearing on graves, sarcophagi and catacombs on the outskirts of the city. Mapp Scola Catalana, 1835. The blue-colored Jewish fabric with gold script comes from the Catalan Schule, a place of worship that preceded the Jewish synagogue in Rome. The exhibit, which runs May 15 to July 23 at both the Vatican Museums and the Jewish Museum of Rome, features 130 items, including paintings, documents and candlesticks. We have some great works of art, including six or seven bronze candlesticks which also show the Christian tradition of the menorah, said Arnold Nesselrath, deputy director of the Vatican Museums. Many Christian churches simply pointed to their Jewish roots this way. Nesselrath said the exhibit was important to show how religions can work together and challenge perceptions of religious conflict. Fundamentalism is not inherent in religion, Nesselrath said. We want to do this exhibition to show we can do something positive together and there is a long history of 2,000 years of mutual reference. (Josephine McKenna is RNS Vatican correspondent) Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years’ experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.

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February 20, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

In Trump’s America, Christian proselytizing is another form of oppression – LGBTQ Nation

First Lady Melania Trump read from a script that includedThe [Christian] Lords Prayer as part of her introduction of her husband at a rally in Florida, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. She did this at a time when Donald has consistently marginalized Muslims, and when reported hate crimes against Muslims and Jews (in addition to Blacks, Latinx, and LGBTQs) has continually increased since Trumps election. Where is thesupposed separation of church and state? Trump has, though, fortified the already solid and impenetrable wall between mosque and state and synagogue and state. During Trump and Pences inauguration ceremonies, six religious clergy offered prayers and Biblical readings atop the balcony of the U.S. Capitol, interspersed by Trump and Pence placing their left hands on a stack of Bibles during their swearing-in ceremonies. Ending the festivities, sounds emanated from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Clergy invited to read and offer prayer at the inauguration included five Christians and one Jew. As I watched the proceedings on TV, I questioned whether I was viewing a presidential swearing-in or, rather, attending an evangelical tent revival as clergy invoked the name of Jesus at least eight times. Not wanting to exclude Muslims, he said during his inaugural address, in usual Trump fashion, We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth. Trumps continual marginalization of Muslims in his rhetoric and in his attempts to impose travel bans against people from the seven majority-Muslim countries where he has no direct business ties are testaments (pun intended) to his feelings about the followers and precepts of Islam. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day (27 January 2017), throughout his ceremonial speech commemorating the Holocaust, Trump denounced the horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror while never once mentioning Jews and anti-Semitism. While the Nazis targeted several groups for interrogation, incarceration, and death, the regime singled out the Jewish people for mass genocide as their final solution. Though Trump has only a limited grasp on world history, we should at least assume that even he would know this basic fact. During a campaign rally speech, in West Palm Beach, Florida, October 14, 2016, Trump said, in part: The Washington establishment and the financial and media corporations that fund it exist for only one reason: to protect and enrich itself.For those who control the levers of power in Washington, and for the global special interests.This is a conspiracy against you, the American people, and we cannot let this happen or continue. This is our moment of reckoning as a society and as a civilization itself. Donald Trump may not have a general grasp of politics and history, but he certainly understands how to use of the propaganda of fascism to sway public opinion. Donald will never admit to lifting the sentiments and words almost verbatim from the notorious Protocols of a Meeting of the Learned Elders of Zion. The Protocols area fabricated anti-Semitic text dating from 1903 that was widely distributed by Russian Czarist forces to turn public opinion against a so-called Jewish Revolution for the purpose of convincing the populace that Jews were plotting to impose a conspiratorial international Jewish government. The white nationalist website, The Right Stuff, celebrated Trumps Florida speech. Lawrence Murray wrote an article affirming that somehow Trump manages to channel Goebbels (Nazi Minister of Propaganda) and Detroit Republicanism all at the same time. During his recent marathon and rambling White House press conference, Trump was asked by Jake Turx, an orthodox Jewish reporter, about the recent spike in reported anti-Semitic incidents across the country. Turx made it clear, using an agreeable tone, that he was not charging the President of anti-Semitism: Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I havent seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their zayde, (an affectionate Yiddish word for grandfather). At this point, Trump said, Thank you.Turx then asked his question:

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February 20, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

‘Textbook teaches Christian, not Jewish connection to Jerusalem’ – Arutz Sheva

The Hotam organization criticizes the Education Ministry for introducing textbook presenting Jerusalem as equally holy to three religions. Yedidia Ben Or, 20/02/17 17:29 Rabbi Amital Bareli, the head of the Hotam organization, sent a letter to Education Minister Naftali Bennett criticizing a sixth grade textbook which presented Jerusalem as equally holy to the three religions and even referred pupils to the New Testament. The Hotam organization is dedicated to restoring Judaism’s values to the public arena and maintaining Israel’s spiritual development in consonance with its economic, social and scientific development. Bareli stated that the educational unit designed to teach Jerusalem’s heritage as the historic capital of Israel was worthy and would add a Jewish significance to pupils’ attachment to the city, but the book “In the Paths of Jerusalem” written by Ben Zvi Institute did not aid the adoption of these values. “In the chapter dealing with Jerusalem written by Tamar Hayardeniit is impossible to find even an allusion to the connection between the Jewish people and the narrative regarding the holiness of Jerusalem,” said Bareli. “Hayardeni presents the approaches of the different religions as an observer in order that they can choose which of them they wish to identify with the city. Hayardeni sends pupils to the New Testament to find information about Christian ‘Saints’ and to see the description of Jesus’s birth. She also refers to the “connection between David and Jesus: Jews believe that the Messiah will be a descendant of David and so do the Christians.” Bareli claimed that this both weakens the basis of the Jewish nation to maintain sovereignty over Jerusalem and also weakens the connection of school children to Jewish tradition. He added “We may yet be sorry to find a generation to whom Jerusalem means nothing from a national and traditional point of view and this absurdly when the Education Ministry has taken upon itself the task of transmitting the values of Jerusalem to Israeli pupils. I call on you, Minister Bennett, to investigate the matter properly and ascertain if there is a place for such a book in the educational unit on Jerusalem.”

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February 20, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

United Nations Identified as Christian vs. Muslim Battleground for Final War of Messiah – Breaking Israel News

For they have consulted together with one consent: against thee do they make a covenant. Psalms 83:6 (The Israel Bible) (Breaking Israel News) In a startling lecture, a noted rabbi labelled the anti-Israel movement prevalent in global politics today as the first stage in a two-part End of Days prophecy, noting that this stage, a Christian-Muslim alliance, is ending as Americas new president severs ties with the Islamic world. Another rabbi agrees, suggesting the absurdity that has come out of the anti-Israel UN is only an indication that the next stage, a Muslim-Christian conflict, will be even stranger. Rabbi Zamir Cohen, a noted scholar and head of the Beitar Illit Yeshiva, stated that in the End of Days, Christianity and Islam will separate into two distinct groups working in unison against the Jewish People as part of a pre-Messianic two-stage political process They will come together against Israel, said Rabbi Zamir Cohen, a noted scholar and head of the Beitar Illit Yeshiva, in a recent lecture. He went on to describe a second stage of the process in which the alliance was broken and the Christians began helping the Jews. When they come against us, there will break out a conflict between them, and then they will strike at each other. Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf, a prominent Jewish educator and bestselling author, agreed, saying that the first stage has already happened: Islam and Christianity have aligned against Israel and the union has manifested in a notoriously anti-Israel international body. The epicenter of this united effort against Israel is most apparent in the United Nations, stated Rabbi Apisdorf to Breaking Israel News. This alliance defies logic, the rabbi said, citing a recent speech by Nikki Haley, the newly appointed US ambassador to the UN. A newcomer to the UN, Haley was astounded at what she saw at her first Security Council meeting. The prejudiced approach to Israeli-Palestinian issuesbears no relationship to the reality of the world around us, Haley said in a press conference last week. The double standards are breathtaking. Rabbi Apisdorf agreed with Haleys assessment, saying that the UN joint effort against Israel was unrealistic and absurd, but it had been prophesied to be so. He quoted the Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, a French rabbi from the eleventh century known by the acronym Rashi. In his commentary on the first verse in Genesis, Rashi predicted that in the end of days, the non-Jews would all come together, uniting in order to dispute the Jews right to the land of Israel. The UN did exactly this, claiming there is is no connection between Judaism and Jerusalem, a claim that would have been thought absurd just a few years ago. Rabbi Cohen believes the first stage, the unity of Arabs and Christians, is nearing its end, and that the second stage has already begun. In his lecture, Rabbi Cohen said the second stage would begin when a leader arose to unify the Christians against Islam. According to our prophecies, some revolutionary Christian leader will arise who will be disgusted by everything that is happening, said Rabbi Cohen. He will unite the Christian world around him, that is to say Islam will turn into one group, and Christianity into one group. In a previous lecture given just after the US elections, Rabbi Cohen speculated that Donald Trump might indeed be this prophesied leader. He noted that President Trumps unrestrained style of speech is precisely what will join Christians together against the alliance with Islam promoted by the previous president. This is unprecedented, something we have yet to see in the world, a leader who stands up and says that he has had enough of the trespasses of Islam, Rabbi Cohen said. A conflict focusing the combined forces of Christianity and Islam against Israel is a terrifying prospect, but according to Rabbi Cohen, this conflict, the war of Gog and Magog, serves a definite purpose. If we look at it from the side of a divine accounting, what purpose does the conflict serve? the Rabbi asks. When it comes time for the Moshiach (Messiah) to come, let it come, without this conflict. Rabbi Cohen answered his own question by stating that the main purpose of the war of Gog and Magog is to pay back the Gentiles for all the troubles they caused the Jews throughout history. The Christians and Muslims will split, becoming two groups that strike each other, explained Rabbi Cohen, but the conflict can take two forms: one that will be difficult and painful for the Jews and another form in which the Jews escape unharmed. If the Jews correct our mistakes, our blemishes, then the war of Gog and Magog will come only to pay back the other nations for the evil they did to the Jews in the past. If, on the other hand, the Jews have not fixed themselves, then God will use the war of Gog and Magog to pressure us to return us to the correct path.

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February 20, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

What A 19th-Century Christian Educator Taught Me About Jewish Home Schooling In Age Of Betsy DeVos – Forward

The contentious confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary provoked a fair number of outraged folks to threaten to exercise their own right to school choice and home-school their children. Timing-wise, this announcement coincided with Orthodox Jewish parents starting to get their tuition bills for the next school year. One friend in New York City, a working mother with two toddlers, will be shelling out almost $42,000 next year just in tuition for less than full days in school (plus nanny costs). That is just ridiculous, she complained to me. I could just fire my nanny and hire an entry level teacher for that. Generations ago the English did exactly that, and called the woman a governess. And it is the woman who spearheaded the governess educational philosophy who I intend to follow when I create my own future home school (as, currently, my children are a touch young for a curriculum). There are a dozen or more popular home school philosophies and methodologies, including classical education, Montessori and unschooling (where students direct the lesson plans), and countless more companies with products marketed toward home-schoolers, selling everything from educational toys to math programs. The program we will follow, conceived by Charlotte Mason (1842-1923), eschews most of the trendier (and pricier) options in the American home school market. In 1984, a book by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay titled For The Childrens Sake introduced Mason to mainstream audiences, popularizing her theories for a new generation of parents. Masons method is best known for its two main attributes: a dedication to appreciating the very best that the arts (literature, art, music) has to offer and a reverence for nature, for it is the truest expression of Gods hand in our lives, which we can see with every snowfall, every sunrise and sunset, and more. We attempt to define a person, Mason wrote, as quoted on the Charlotte Mason Institute website, the most common-place person we know, but he will not submit to bounds; some unexpected beauty of nature breaks out; we find he is not what we thought, and begin to suspect that every person exceeds our power of measurement. Sitting in a conference room in Maryland recently, listening to Carroll Smith, director of the Mason Institute, lecture on the finer points of how to deliver a Charlotte Mason education, I realized these were the same things that drew me to Judaism as a young child namely, an appreciation for reading and for God in our everyday lives. One of the keys to a Mason education is the reading of living books, books written by one author who takes a special interest in his or her subject. For example, if youre studying the Civil War, read a literary narrative either by someone from that time period or from a contemporary expert on the subject instead of just a broad textbook. Depending on age, a student might read a firsthand account of fighting for the Union or the South, or James Swansons best-seller, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase For Lincolns Killer, which recounts the search for John Wilkes Booth. Mason explained that it is living books above all others that engage readers, spark the imagination and remain in our memory long after theyve finished the last chapter. After each reading, the student narrates what has just been read, or retells the story. How did God impart His laws and lessons to the Jews? Through a narrative story: the Torah. And how do we still learn it? By narrating the story over and over and over in classrooms, in living rooms, in synagogues, at Seder tables. This is what God demanded of us in Deuteronomy 6:6 and 7: These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. In an article on parenting for MyJewishLearning, Rabbi Nachum Amsel said, Possibly the most important educational principle for a Jewish parent to adhere to is the notion of bringing up each child according to his or her unique personality, character traits and talents (Proverbs 22:6). 1Mason concurs. A cornerstone of her educational philosophy is this: Children are born persons. What does this mean? Children are not empty vessels. Our methodology should therefore match our beliefs, and a school environment filled with textbooks and worksheets is not how we can impart a tailored education to a unique child. As with many home school communities, the Charlotte Mason world is Christian dominated. Every book written on her philosophy is from a Christian point of view. And at a recent conference in suburban Maryland that attracted about 150 audience members, Im pretty certain I was the only Jew. In fact, Mason experts frequently discuss the dearth of Jewish families who follow Masons teachings. While God is a central part of Masons work, those who follow her teachings also have a lot of Jesus Christ thrown into the mix. Still, given the high levels of unhappiness with education choices facing many Jewish families, its remarkable that home-schooling hasnt caught on more among Jews. Considering the shared philosophical views between Mason and our religion, if more Jewish families were aware of the option, and of her beliefs, this might no longer be the case. __Bethany Mandel is a regular columnist for the Forward. Follow her on Twitter, @bethanyshondark_ The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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February 19, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

Jewish Theology A Primer (Especially for Christians) Part I – Patheos (blog)

Perhaps a better title for this next series of posts would be Jewish theologies because its hard to argue that theres really one Jewish theology. How many Jewish theologies are there? Well, to adapt the old joke, if you have three Jewish theologians, you have at least six (or more) Jewish theologies. Over the next several posts, Id like to offer insights on Jewish theology especially for Christians. Why? For two primary reasons: 1) I have many, many Christian friends who I dialog with theologically and philosophically; 2) I believe that most Christians would benefit from engaging, and even applying, some of the ideas, approaches, methodologies, and themes of Jewish theology into their own Christian contexts and self understanding. I believe that Jewish approaches to theology have much to offer Christians. Besides, the conversation is hopefully interesting to Jews, too. In this first post, Id like to explore the oddness of Jewish theology and how authority in Jewish theology operates and doesnt operate. The Oddness of Jewish Theology I wont pretend to be able to do Jewish theology justice in just a few blog posts. A few thousand years of wisdom isnt easy to summarize or treat lightly. Besides, Jewish theology covers all of life how to treat animals, when to harvest trees, how to love your neighbor, what not to eat, how to wage war, how to value peace, the relationship between spouses, the nature of God, the meaning of redemption, and so on. Doing theology doesnt garner the same attention and interest in most Jewish circles as it does in Christianity. One reason for this is that Jews dont have a religious culture that revolves around theological discussion (Discussion? Yes, Formal theological discussion? No.) Another reason is that Judaism understands itself as a peoplehood connected through history, practice, and values, whereas Christianity, while certainly community oriented, is rooted more in ideas about the world, God, and Jesus, rather than an ethnic-cultural identity. Youre a Christian based on what you believe. Youre a Jew according to other criteria. Jewish scholar Louis Jacobs offers this: Jewish theologydefined as the systematic consideration of what adherents of the Jewish religion believe or are expected to believeis notoriously elusive, so much so that voices have been raised to question whether there really is any such thing. Certainly there is no department of Jewish theology, as there is of Christian, at any university. Even in the foremost higher institutions of specifically Jewish learning, such as the Hebrew Union College, the Jewish Theological Seminary and Yeshiva University in the USA, Jews College and Leo Baeck College in the UK, where Jewish theology can hardly be ignored, the subject is often treated with amused tolerance as peripheral to the major interests of both teachers and students. The Queen of the Sciences may have been dethroned in Christendom, but, judging by their neglect, many Jewish teachers deny that she ever enjoyed regal status in the first place. Louis Jacobs Additionally, Jewish theology is diverse not all Jews would agree with my interpretations or the views of other Jewish thinkers for that matter. Further, no Jew can definitively speak for another Jew in terms of theology. Each Jewish branch, each community approaches matters with nuance, difference, and a particular style. My vantagepoint is Reform Judaism and therefore, my theology will be appropriately colored by the Reform tradition although my insights apply beyond the Reform context. Authority in Jewish Theology There is no central Jewish authority no rabbi, text, book, or committee that conveys a binding Jewish orthodoxy. Judaism, likewise, is not creedal there isnt a list of beliefs one must subscribe to in order to be Jewish or to be acceptable in most Jewish communities. Granted, some Orthodox Jewish communities will insist that there is a set of required Jewish dogma along with a group of orthodox rabbis who may authoritatively pronounce on them. But these groups are small within Judaism, and the bulk of Jewish theology and sources especially the Talmud thousands of pages of rabbinic commentary seem to demonstrate otherwise. The Talmud rarely sees the rabbis agree and the nature of the conversations are open ended. Like Catholicism, Judaism has sacred writings (Torah) and tradition (Talmud, teaching, scholarship, practices, rituals, liturgy). Like Catholicism, Judaism has a long history of rich and beautiful observances. Like Catholicism, many Jews have a sacramental view of their religious rituals and practices. And like Catholicism, halakhah is somewhat ( this is a little bit of a stretch) akin to Canon Law. Yet unlike Catholicism, there is no Jewish magisterium and no Jewish pope. Then how is unity realized? How is Jewish tradition and meaning preserved? I think the best answer is to realize that Judaism is an ongoing, few thousand years old, conversation. To be part of that conversation is a voluntary undertaking and to engage it is to accept the parameters and topics of that conversation, traditionally outlined under the three broad headings of God, Torah, and Israel. Which for Catholics and other Christians might be God/Jesus, Scripture, and Church. Underneath those broad headings, discussions about revelation, the nature of God, morality, liturgy, ritual, blessings, scripture scholarship, observance and a whole host of other issues takes place. Like Anglicanism and Christian Eastern Orthodoxy, consensus plays a large role in establishing theological parameters and context. While no single authoritative religious institution makes decisions for all forms of Judaism, a consensus develops among communities, rabbis, scholars, and, over time, enough people join the common cause so that a given position becomes commonplace although, not binding. There isnt a theological litmus test. Ones theological opinions and offerings may be rejected by other Jews; they will almost certainly be argued with by other Jews argument and engagement is perhaps the foundational method for Jewish theology. When I explain this to some people, especially Christians, the response is often, well, then the Torah is your authority, right? To which I reply, No. Torah is part of the written record of the ongoing conversation, and serves as a primary parameter for meaningful Jewish dialog. Yet Torah is a set of writings, and a set of writings can never be authoritative Jews dont do Sola Scriptura writings always require interpretation, and Judaism has no infallible or authoritative interpreters every Jew interprets for themselves. (We were way ahead of Luther.) Another common response, isnt your rabbi in charge? Dont the rabbis decide these things? Again, the answer is, No. Rabbis are trained to teach and interpret, and various groups of rabbis will offer commentary and opinion, but again, in most forms of Judaism, these opinion, or responsa are not binding. (Also, Christians are often surprised to learn that strictly speaking, a rabbi isnt necessary for a Jewish wedding, liturgy, blessings, or even conversions.) Rabbis can and should guide the community in theological matters and questions of observance, but theyre not granted or imbued with any special religious authority. Some Orthodox communities do give their rabbis binding authority, but thats particular to their specific community. Sources of Unity How does Jewish theology not descend into chaos then, wonder many not accustomed to a lack of central authority? Part of the answer is the Jewish focus on orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy. Granted, this distinction is somewhat artificial, but it does convey a reality. Jews tend to be more or less united in their practice lighting Shabbat candles and observing the Sabbath. Celebrating the (many) Jewish holidays. Engaging Torah (and Talmud, and Jewish authors and thinkers.) And practicing well established Jewish values such as hospitality, love of neighbor, care for the needy, and seeking to end oppression of all kinds. Another part of the answer is how many synagogues function. The word synagogue comes from Greek and implies one view or a unity of perspective or community. The synagogue is more than the meeting place for worship its, in theory, the center for the Jewish community. Its activities, discussions, socializing, and worship all which help create a common life would help promote unity within the community despite diversity of beliefs. Finally, as mentioned above, Jewish theology has fairly distinct parameters Torah, halakhah, holidays, a distinct history, the notion of God, Israel, traditions, texts, and so on. Various Jewish thinkers and sages have offered various ideas and meanings within these parameters, but theyve stayed within the lines so to speak. Someone who tries to take the conversation too far off topic would likely be pulled back in or eventually ignored. And Jewish theological reasoning relies heavily on Jewish sources sui generis arguments rarely find traction. There are Christian communities that operate in similar style. One thinks of various Baptist groups, Congregationalists, and even, to some degree, the Episcopal Church. But even within these denominations, the parameters of orthodoxy would be somewhat tighter than that found in Judaism. In our next posts, I hope to discuss some of these parameters and offer Jewish insights concerning their role and meaning. As always, I enjoy engaging with you feel free to comment. Id especially enjoy hearing from Christian reads on these topics. And dont feel you need to agree with me to engage. As long as the comment is on topic and respectful, Ill do my best to respond to you.

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February 18, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed

Christian Genocide Survivors Deserve Support and Priority – Morning Consult

When I visited Erbil, Iraq, in December with a congressional delegation determined to find out why Christians had often been excluded from U.S. aid programs, Archbishop Nicodemus Daoud of Mosul told us that Americans generally care more about endangered frogs than about endangered Christian communities. He has a point. Christians have lived in the region for almost 2,000 years. Many still speak the language of Jesus. But although they, and other minority communities, are now seriously endangered, some Americans seem more worried that they might get priority than that they might disappear completely. The Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh and its antecedents imposed a strict religious test and then targeted minority religious communities for elimination. At best, these communities fled, but lost everything in the process. Those who are outraged that we might now prioritize them are forgetting Americas proud tradition of prioritizing genocide survivors, and the dark moments when we ignored them. After horrifically refusing admission to Jewish refugees on theS.S. St. Louis in 1939, the United States later changed course and numericallyprioritized displaced European Jews. They had suffered a uniquely horrible targeting even if there were more German, French and Italian refugees, who were also displaced and suffering. During and after World War I as well, the U.S. government worked with Near Eastern Reliefto aid Armenian and other Christian communitiestargeted for genocide by the Ottoman Empire. The American people solidly supported the effort. Itis notun-American to prioritize those who have been targeted for genocide because of their faith. It has been seen as quintessentially American for a century. And religious persecution has long been a key qualifier for refugee status under our immigration laws. When theLautenberg amendmentwas renewed with bipartisan support in 2015, no one was outraged. It prioritizes for asylum those who are Christian, Jewish and Bahai, as well as other religious minorities from Iran. Notably, the Obama administrations official policy was also to prioritize Christian and other religious minority refugees from Syria. Knox Thames, the Obama administrations State Department special advisor for religious minorities, wrote in October 2015: Due to the unique needs of vulnerable religious minority communities, the State Department has prioritized the resettlement of Syrian Christian refugees and other religious minorities fleeing the conflict. The policy failed to deliver. Only abouthalf of one percentof Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S.in fiscal year2016 were Christian though they make up 10 percent of the Syrian population.Yazidis and Shia Muslims were also profoundly underrepresented.Again, there was no uproar over the stated policy, and little coverage of its failure. So the outrage is new, but policies claiming to prioritize Christians and other minorities are not. What is deeply troubling is how often U.S. government aid overlooked the needs of these minority groups since 2014. Last year, our government for only the second time in history formally declared an ongoing situation was a genocide. Secretary of State John Kerry explained that this genocide was one of religious persecution, saying: The fact is that Daesh kills Christians because they are Christians; Yezidis because they are Yezidis; Shia because they are Shia.Those words should have triggered Americas duty to help these targeted groups. Instead, Christians and other small communities targeted by ISIS genocidal campaign have often been last in line, not first,to get U.S. government assistance. While the U.S. government and the United Nations have spent heavily on humanitarian relief in the wake of ISIS, the largest community of displaced Christians in Erbil has received no money from our government or from the UN, according to Archbishop Bashar Warda, who is caring for tens of thousands of those displaced there. It is the same story for many Yazidis. In Iraq last spring, I met Yazidi families living next to an open sewer in Ozal City. Except for two kilograms of lamb in 2014, they had receivednothingfrom the U.S. government, andnothingfrom the UN. Only Iraqi Christians themselves overlooked by these entities had helped them. Far from receiving priority, communities most at risk of disappearing have received nothing at all from our government. The reason U.S. and UN officials gave in Iraq this past May for overlooking these groups was that their aid prioritized only individual needs. If someone was hungry, they got aid, but the fact that a group could disappear entirely was never even considered. Helping everyone typically means aid is sent to major refugee camps, resulting in thede factoexclusion of minority communities, since they have been targeted by extremists within these camps, and thus avoid them. It effectively means many religious minorities receivenohelp. That American government aid to these groups is long overdue has until now been a subject of bipartisan agreement, not controversy. The fact is that Americas lack of response to religious minorities has allowed ISIS program of eliminating these people from the region to continue. While ISIS may applaud American inaction toward these communities over the past two years, neither the religious minorities in the Middle East, nor the judgment of history will do the same. Giving preference does not mean helpingonlygenocide survivors. But not giving them preference likely means they will soon be beyond help. They could soon be completely eradicated. Will anyone be outraged then? Andrew Walther is the vice president of communications for the Knights of Columbus andhas been involved in humanitarian aid, public awareness and public policy initiatives for those persecuted by ISIS since 2014. Morning Consult welcomes op-ed submissions on policy, politics and business strategy in our coverage areas. Submission guidelines can be foundhere.

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February 17, 2017   Posted in: Christian  Comments Closed


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