Archive for the ‘Jews’ Category

Joyous Indian Jews hail PM Modi’s OCI move – Times of India

TEL AVIV: Indians in Israel, specially Jews, have expressed “joy” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi “surpassing” their expectations in addressing some of their key concerns and making them feel proud of their roots.

“I was almost in tears. We knew that Prime Minister Modi has tried to invigorate the Indian diaspora across the world and make them feel proud of their roots. He has connected so well with them everywhere he has gone and has not forgotten to reach out to them,” Yona Maliker, who immigrated from Seoni, a place near Nagpur, 33 years ago, said.

“It was joy beyond belief to hear at the way he passionately talked about our connection with our motherland. It is a historic visit the Indian Jews will remember for a long time,” Maliker said.

Modi “touched the nerve” of all Indian communities living in Israel by bringing up stories that they could relate to.

“He had something cheerful to say about the Bene Israel, the Cochinis, the Baghdadis, the Bnei Menashe but also did not disappoint Indian students and a small group of caregivers who work in Israel,” Brajesh, a student from Bihar at the Hebrew University noted.

“Extending the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards to all Indians in Israel, irrespective of their army service, is the ‘biggest gift’ I think he could give us and he didn’t disappoint,” Sybil Ezekiel, who immigrated to Israel from Kolkata in 1970 where she studied at Jewish Girls School, he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced yesterday that people of Indian origin in Israel will get the OCI cards even if they have undergone the compulsory army service in the country.

“I want my children and my nephews and nieces, who all take pride in their Indian descent to stay connected to our roots. Everybody in Israel has to serve in the army and that cannot be the reason for denying them OCI. The prime minister touched our hearts with the words he used while extending us this gift,” she said.

Sam Satamkar, a 70-year-old Indian Jew of Bene Israel, who came all the way from Beersheva in southern Israel said that the Indian Premier “surpassed” all expectations by even going ahead to make an announcement regarding opening of an Indian Cultural Centre in Israel.

Noah Massil, who was the founder President of Organisation of Indian Jews in Israel and the editor of a Marathi journal, Maiboli, a magazine that was referred by Modi in his speech, was “overwhelmed” at the announcement regarding the Indian cultural centre.

“We have reached out to Indian and Israeli authorities regarding the creation of such a thing and pursued it for many years. Prime Minister Modi has fulfilled a long cherished dream which will help keep our next generation engaged with our motherland,” Massil said.

A lot of Indian Jews, who attended Prime Minister Modi’s event yesterday, said the way the Indian premier went around talking about the Indian Jews has helped “raise their stature” and “made them feel proud”.

“We always took pride in our roots. We always tried to tell everybody that ours was the only country that never discriminated against the Jews. Our ancestors lived there in harmony with respect,” David Nagani, a bus driver in Jerusalem from the Bene Israel community, said

“But people hardly listened to us because India never came out in the open so strongly regarding its ties with Israel and the diplomatic relations were established so late,” he said.

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Joyous Indian Jews hail PM Modi’s OCI move – Times of India

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New Study: Europe’s Rising Antisemitism Forcing Jews to Leave or Hide – Algemeiner

The kosher supermarket in Paris where four Jews were killed in a terrorist attack in January 2015. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org Why do half of French Jews want to leave France? Because the recent rise of violent antisemitism has made French Jews justifiably concerned about their personal safety.

A University of Oslostudypublished in June is one of the most methodologically sophisticated and comprehensive reports exploringthe growth of Europes antisemitism problem.

Authored by Dr. Johannes Due Enstad of the Center for Research on Extremism, the study documents violent antisemitism from 2005-2015, analyzing seven countries: France, the UK, Germany,Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Russia.

July 6, 2017 3:02 pm

According to the study, many European Jewsfeel unsafe as a direct consequence of violent antisemitism, and as a result one in five Jews in Sweden and the UK, one in four in Germany, and half of the Jews in France have considered emigrating. In 2015, 10,000 Western European Jews departed for a new life in Israelthe largest number leaving Europe since 1948.

The study found that there has been aconsistently elevated level of antisemitism in Europe during the last two decades as compared to the 1990s.

French Jews are more likely than German, Swedish and British Jews to have personally experienced a violent attack in the final five years covered by the study. Although the incidence of antisemitism inFrance is the highest, reportsabout personal attacks during the studys final five years inSwedish and German Jews is not far behind. The largest gap in antisemitism is between British Jews and Jews living in Norway, Denmark and Russia.

According to the report, Jews in France and Sweden are more likely to not attend Jewish events or visit Jewish sites because they do not feel safe. More than half of the Jews in France and Sweden avoid wearing, carrying or displaying things that would cause others to recognize them as Jews, according to the study. This behavior does not rise to the same levels in Germany and the UK, but substantial numbers of Jews in those countries also avoid doing things in public that would label them as Jews out of fear for their safety.

Among French Jews, the elevated level of fear probably comes from France having experienced more violent, dramatic and fatal antisemitic incidents than other European countries. The barbarous attack on a Jewish school in 2012 inToulousewhere three Jewish children and a rabbi were killed undoubtedly contributed greatly to the insecurity of Frances Jews. Mohammed Merah, the 23-year-old terrorist who carried out the Toulouse attack, said he wanted to kill Jews because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

More recently, the head of theJewish community of MarseilleFrances second-largest citytold his fellow community members not to appear in public in any way that would identify them as Jews.

And who is responsible for the attacks on Jews in Europe? In every country studied, except for Russia, the perpetrators are disproportionately of Muslim background. A British study cited in the University of Oslo report notes that the proportion of Muslim perpetrators often increases in the wake of trigger events in the Middle East.

In what might be considered a clumsy attempt to downplay antisemitism there, German authorities do not classify anti-Israeli incidents as antisemitism. This results in absurdity. If any country should know better, it should be Germany.

The only country in the study where antisemitic incidents are not disproportionately perpetrated by Muslims is Russia, and according to the study Jews do not fear to express their Jewish identity when appearing in public there. This appears to perplex the studys author, as Russia contains both large Jewish and Muslim populations.

Yet, in my view, the issue is easily resolved. In Russia, the large Muslim and Jewish populations live in the same country, but are generally separated by a vast expanse of land. Most Muslims live in the Eurasian Caucasus region, while most Jews live in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. This isnt the case in the other European countries profiled in the Oslo report.

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New Study: Europe’s Rising Antisemitism Forcing Jews to Leave or Hide – Algemeiner

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The Nazis Built A Luxury Camp To Lull Jews Then Slaughtered Them – Forward

(JTA) WESTERBORK, Netherlands (JTA) Nothing about the footage that Rudolf Breslauer filmed here on May 30, 1944, suggests that it was taken inside one of Europes largest Nazi concentration camps.

In the film by Breslauer, a German-Jewish inmate of the Westerbork camp in Hollands northeast, prisoners are seen playing soccer enthusiastically in team uniforms, complete with a referee in a special outfit.

A middle-aged man wearing a suit and a boy who may have been his grandson stroll cheerfully in the sun past spectators. In other segments, inmates are seen putting on theater performances, working in modern factories and even going to church an activity undertaken by many German Jews before the Holocaust, including some who had converted to Christianity just before or during the Holocaust in a vain effort to escape persecution by the Nazis.

The film is one of only two cinematic works known to have been produced inside a functioning concentration camp for Jews theotherwas in Theresienstadt.

Commissioned by Westerborks commanders for propaganda purposes, Breslauers film is a rare documentation of the sophisticated facade employed by the Nazis at the camp, where 75 years ago they began carrying out the systematic murder of three quarters of Dutch Jewry the highest death rate in Nazi-occupied Western Europe. Westerbork served as a so-calledtransit camp from which 100,000 Dutch Jews were shipped to Nazi death camps in Poland.

The subterfuge maintained the illusion that the camps inmates were sent to work camps, giving them hope and an incentive to comply with orders that helped ensure Westerborks deadly efficiency, according to Johannes Houwink ten Cate of the University of Amsterdam, who is among the worlds foremost experts on the Holocaust in the Netherlands.

According to ten Cate, the deceit extended far beyond the possibly staged scenes that Breslauer captured with his camera (Breslauer was sent to Auschwitz with his wife and three children in 1944. Only their daughter Chanita survived the war).

The size of Camp Westerborks hospital, which was one of the best and largest hospitals of its kind, symbolizes the Nazi lie that Jews were going to be put to work further east, ten Cate told JTA in an interview last week ahead of the 75th anniversary of the first death transport out of the camp, which took place on July 15, 1942.

It was one of a great many German efforts focused at making sure that Jews did not understand what the Nazis were up to, headded.

These efforts paid off, according to HennyDormits, 87, a Holocaust survivor who lived in the camp with her family for two years before they were sent to Theresienstadt.

While Jews in many other parts of Europe were subjected to violence, torture, abuse and murder in camps, in Westerbork, people were not abused, they were treated correctly, she said during an interview for Dutch television in 2011. She spoke at the former living quarters of Albert Gemmeker, the Nazi commander of Westerbork, which is the only part of the camp that still exists today.

The Germans did everything possible to keep people calm here so no one was afraid, Dormits recalled. And so when people were shipped off in cattle carts, everyone assumed wed be going to another work camp.

Westerbork included many amenities that Jewish concentration camp inmates elsewhere could only dream of, including permits to leave camp without supervision given exclusively to people with family still inside the camp, so they would not escape and cabaret productions with musical instruments.

But it was the quality of medical treatment in Westerbork that clinched the illusion, according to Dormits.

People were operated on here by the best doctors, they would be hospitalized for entire weeks as they healed, and when they were all better they were put on a transport, she recalled in the documentary. This was the make-believe world in which we lived.

This form of deception was extremely effective, according to Dirk Mulder, the director of the Camp Westerbork Memorial Center, a nongovernmental organization with state funding that is responsible for commemoration and educational work in the former camp.

The message of the hospital was, We Germans have the best intentions for you, get better in this large hospital so we can put you to work elsewhere, Mulder said in the Dutch documentary.

Still, not everyone was duped. Gemmeker, who had a friendly relationship with the Jewish filmmaker Breslauer, once told the cameraman something that made Breslauer realize the transports were a one-way ticket, according to Chanita Moses, Breslauers daughter. Her father did not say exactly what Gemmeker told him, she told the Dutch television film crew.

Philip Mechanicus, a Dutch Jewish Holocaust victimwho secretly chronicled his stay in Westerbork before he was murdered, wrote about his tremendous fear of when he would be shipped out.

On Sept. 13, 1943, a 65-year-old woman in Mechanicus barracks committed suicide, he wrote. She was put on a list of deportees to Theresienstadt, prompting her daughter to volunteer to leave with her mother. The mother killed herself to prevent her daughter from making the sacrifice, wrote Mechanicus, who died in 2005.

Camp Westerbork originally was set up in 1939 as a detainment facility by the Dutch government in a remote, rural area of the country for fewer than 2,000 Jewish refugees who fled Nazi Germany. Two years after the Germans invaded in 1940, they took over the space and massively increased its capacity. They treated the first German inmates as a preferred prisoner population. And they set up am unarmed Jewish policing unit that was responsible for taking people to the trains to be shipped off to death camps in the east.

Today, what used to be the camp grounds in a grassy flatland borders a large radioobservatory. A memorial area contains informational plaques and several monuments, including a German cattle car of the sort used to transport Jews and a statue featuring railway tracks that curl up heavenwards.

Whereas elsewhere in Europe former Nazi camps were preserved and used as educational exhibits about the Holocaust, the original barracks and facilities of Westerbork were used for housing refugees from Indonesia in the 1970s until the facilities were stripped for wood.

The failure to preserve Westerbork was part of a greater reluctance in the Netherlands, where many non-Jews felt victimto the Nazi occupation, to acknowledge the uniqueness of the Jewish tragedy, according to ten Cate. He said the Dutch also were reluctant to look at the role of ordinary Dutchmen, including police officers who rounded up Jews.

This began to change in the 1990s, making wayfora wave of renewed interest in the Holocaust in recent years. But the belated timing means that Amsterdam is one of Europes very last capital cities to receive a Holocaust museum: It opened last years and is still in its infancy stages, ten Cate noted.

Back in Westerbork, Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomon Jacobs, whose parents survived the Holocaust in hiding and who often speaksabout the genocide at the former camp to schoolchildren, told JTA in April that the camps story is a constant reminder against giving in to wishful thinking.

When disaster happens slowly, in installments, people have a tendency to accept each installment, said Jacobs, who in 2014 shocked many Dutchmen when he said that anti-Semitism in the Netherlands means he would advise his congregants to live in Israel or the United States. This is what happened here. So I think we cannot afford to stay silent and just hope for the best.

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PBSO not treating death of MMA fighter, Orthodox Jew as hate crime – Palm Beach Post

BOCA RATON

Authorities have said they are not investigating as a hate crime Monday nights slaying of Aaron Rajman, a professional mixed martial arts fighter and an Orthodox Jew, at his family home west of Boca Raton.

Rajman, 25, was fatally shot at about 10:25 p.m. Monday, the Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office said. It reported several men went into the house, a fight broke out, and the men drove off after the shooting. As of midday Wednesday, the agency had not reported any arrests or named suspects.

Im heartbroken. I cant believe there would be anybody that would do this to him, former girlfriend Emily Imber, Rajmans former girlfriend, sobbed on Wednesday. He didnt have an enemy that I knew of. Ever.

For five years, Rajman was with Imber, managing director of the Fighters Source, the South Florida-based MMA promotions outfit, as well as the womans young son, now 9.

He helped me raise my kid for those five years, and afterward he still played a role in his life, Imber said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in just 17 hours, an online contribution page hit its $20,000 goal for Rajmans funeral, with 321 people donating $20,345 by midday Wednesday.

Wow thank you everyone! Today, I was able to give Rabbi Bukiet $10,000 to reserve Aarons plot, organizer Sam Pollack posted. He will be buried next to his father! We hit the goal in under 24 hours! I promised everyone I wouldnt sleep until this goal is hit! Means a lot to the family! Im with Lauren now! If you can all see how thankful she is, would bring you all to tears!

Lauren is Aaron Rajmans mother. Rabbi Zalman Bukiet is director of Chabad of West Boca Raton.

He was kind and gentle, a special person. May his memory be for a blessing, one person wrote on the page, repeating a popular Jewish sentiment for someone who has died.

What to say everytime i think of it my eyes well up w tears A Jewish beacon of Light and to the Jewish community has returned to Hashem, another wrote. Hashem literally the name is a popular term Jews, especially Orthodox ones, use for God.

Rajman was one of only a few Orthodox Jews in the sport. It was pretty special to watch him walk into a ring with a yarmulke on, said a friend, who did not want his name used.

Rajman was born in New York and moved with his family to Florida as a pre-schooler, Emily Imber said. She said his parents later divorced, and for the last few years, hes shared a home with his mother, his mothers aunt and his younger brother. He also has an older brother. A family friend, Jonathan Lirette of Margate, said Rajmans father died of cancer about four years ago.

Imber said Rajman was always religious ever since he was a kid.

She said that, like most MMA fighters, he had no trouble reconciling the idea of pounding people into submission one minute and sharing drinks and back slaps with them afterward. And she said Rajman, who taught self-defense to children both in gyms and in one-on-one classes, was mindful of what he saw as the historical role of self-defense in the Jewish tradition.

Jews had to fight their way for everything, Imber said. He definitely believed fighting in self-defense was one of the most important things people could do.

Shihan Anthony Medina (Shihan is a Japanese martial arts title for instructors) said Wednesday that Rajman did administrative work for Fighters Source. He said Rajman wore his faith on his sleeve. He refused to fight on Saturdays the prime fight day but also the Jewish Sabbath and promoters bent over backwards for him.

According to the fight website Sherdog, Rajman was a 145-pound featherweight who trained at American Top Team in Coconut Creek and had an amateur record of 8-1 and a professional record of 2-2. Another site, The Underground, said he had an amateur record of 8-1.

Nice outside the ring, tough inside

In a sport teeming with aggression, Rajman always was upbeat, his peers at American Top Team recalled Wednesday from Coconut Creek.

Even when he took a hit in the cage, said Lamar Brown, 27, a lightweight who trained alongside Rajman, he was always smiling, never had a bad day. But as nice as he was outside the cage, he was just as tough inside it. He said Rajman brought this incredible level of intensity to the sport.

Rajman had trained at American Top Team for at least seven years. And while he and his peers fought alone, they trained together, and bonds grew.

These are the guys you sweat with, you bleed with, Brown said. Outside the gym, he said, Rajman would occasionally hit the beach or box with Brown and others from the gym.

Its hard for some people to understand how God can be brought into something like this, Brown said, pointing to a gym with three dozen men tossing each other to the ground with Jiu Jitsu moves or throwing punches. But Aaron was a big believer in God and he carried that with him into the cage. That was inspiring.

Delano Felipe, a featherweight at American Top Team, sparred with Rajman about a year ago, and took a hit to the ear that caused a cauliflower, or external blood clot often seen in mixed martial artists and boxers.

When he realized what he did, he said, Man, Im sorry, Felipe recalled. Then he hugged me. That was the kind of guy he was.

Staff writer Paige Fry contributed to this story, which was reported by Eliot Kleinberg in West Palm Beach and Lulu Ramadan in suburban Boca Raton and Coconut Creek.

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PBSO not treating death of MMA fighter, Orthodox Jew as hate crime – Palm Beach Post

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PM Modi’s visit holds special meaning for Indian Jews in Israel – Times of India

RAMLA (ISRAEL): At a curry house in central Israel, a poster welcoming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets patrons even before they encounter the rich scent of spices wafting from the kitchen.

Modi’s three-day visit which started on Tuesday – the first ever of an Indian premier to Israel – is a landmark moment for the Jewish state, a country seeking the friendship of powerful allies and customers for its advanced military equipment.

But for members of the small Jewish Indian community in Israel, the trip is a cause of genuine excitement and a unique opportunity to increase their visibility.

“There’s not a single (Indian) household that’s not talking about it. This is all people are talking about,” said Elazar Ashtivker, owner of the Maharaja restaurant in the city of Ramla, south of Tel Aviv.

“It’s historic,” he said.

The fast-talking 33-year-old’s parents, who were born in India, opened the restaurant in its first incarnation in the 1980s because they felt “the community was in decline”.

Initially, the restaurant served the Indian community nearly exclusively.

But in the 1990s the trend of Israelis travelling to Asia after completing their military service became wildly popular, and many returned home with a taste for the Maharaja’s spicy delicacies.

The restaurant serves what Ashtivker calls “mainstream Indian food” but also sells peppers, vegetables and imported spices.

The wording on the poster is in the colours of the Indian flag and invites members of the Indian community, in Hebrew and English, to a July 5 meeting with Modi in Tel Aviv.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” Ashtivker said. “Everyone has signed up and everyone is going.”

“If you looked for Indians in Israel on the 5th you won’t find any. They’ll all be at the convention centre,” he said with a laugh.

Estimates put the number of Jews of Indian origin in Israel at about 100,000, according to Eliaz Dandeker, a historian and author documenting the community.

Even those of Indian origin born in Israel maintain a “deep connection” to their ancestral homeland, said Dandeker, including through music, cinema, food and cultural events.

Events in Israel have featured appearances by Indian actors.

Jews made their way to India over the course of the last 3,000 years, and by and large have not suffered religious and racist persecution in the country.

They began coming to Israel en masse in the late 1940s and early 1950s for religious and other reasons.

Many of them settled in rural communities to become farmers, while others moved to peripheral towns throughout the country.

In the first years following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, many Indian immigrants abandoned their names and traditions as part of the era’s “melting pot” ideal.

“There’s more openness today” to Indian culture, the 34-year-old Dandeker said. “The younger generations want to know more.”

In his spice shop near the Maharaja, Shaul Divekar, who emigrated from India as a child, scoops red lentils from a sack into a plastic bag, chatting from behind his counter with two customers.

The conversation fluctuates between the goods that arrived from India and the prime minister who is about to.

Divekar proudly notes he is in charge of one of the seven buses taking Indian Israelis from Ramla to Wednesday’s meeting with Modi.

“He’s special,” Divekar said of Hindu nationalist Modi, a Bollywood music video playing on a laptop behind the cash register.

“He likes Jews,” proudly offers a tall bearded man in his 30s standing nearby the Indian DVD collection in Divekar’s store, his Hebrew heavy with an Indian accent.

Dandeker, the historian, notes that Jewish Indians in Israel have been called the “invisible Jews” since they are neither Ashkenazis from Europe nor Sephardis from Africa and the Middle East.

While members of the community have reached prominence in Israel in fields including medicine and the military, “a lot of them don’t stress their origins”.

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The Origins of the Jews exchange, part 2: On the gaps between the Jewish public and the scholars – Jewish Journal

Steven Weitzmanis the Abraham M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literaturesand the Ella Darivoff Director of the Katz Center of Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Weitzman received his Ph.D. from Harvard University after completing his B.A. at UC Berkeley and spent several years teaching in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University, where he served as director of its Jewish Studies program for six years. Before moving to Penn, he was the Daniel E. Koshland Professor of Jewish Culture and Religion and the director of the Taube Center for Jewish Studies at Stanford University. Professor Weitzman is the author of several books, including Surviving Sacrilege: Cultural Persistence in Jewish Antiquity (Harvard University Press, 2005);Religion and the Self in Antiquity(Indiana University Press, 2005);The Jews: A History(Prentice Hall, 2009); and a biography of King Solomon (Yale University Press, 2011).

The following exchange will focus on Professor Weitzmans new book,The Origins of the Jews: The Quest for Roots in a Rootless Age(Princeton University Press, 2017). You can find part 1 right here.

***

Dear Professor Weitzman,

At the end of your last answer, you said the following:

I must acknowledge that the book will probably frustrate some readers, especially those who want a clear-cut answer or want to be reaffirmed in what they already believe. If I was to offer an accurate and comprehensive depiction of the scholarship, I would have to introduce readers to theories and information at odds with how some Jews see themselves and consider some challenging ideas and ways of thinking.

My second-round question: where, in your opinion, are there the biggest and most substantial gaps between the general Jewish publics perception of their origins and the scholars? What information and debates are most at odds with how some Jews see themselves?

Yours,

Shmuel

***

Dear Shmuel,

For decades, archaeologists from places like Tel Aviv University have been challenging the conventional understanding of Jewish origins by calling into question the existence of Abraham and the other ancestors described in Genesis, the Exodus from Egypt, Joshuas conquest of Canaan and other events known from the Bible. Archaeologists have also challenged the Bibles claim that the earliest ancestors of the Israelites came to Canaan as outsiders by uncovering continuities between ancient Israelite culture and earlier indigenous Canaanite culture. Many archaeologists now hold that the earliest Israelites were in fact Canaanites who came to see themselves as non-Canaanites for some reason.

This kind of research isnt exactly new, but it remains unfamiliar to many people and continues to upset and provoke opposition because of the way it challenges Jewish self-understanding. This challengethe clash between how people see themselves and how their history has been reconstructed by scholarshipis part of what can make it difficult for readers to have an open-mind about some of the scholarship I am describing in the book.

The problem here isnt just that people are working with different understandings of what counts as a fact or who counts as an expert: the real gap runs deeper than that, reflecting a clash between different ways of thinking about origins.

My understanding of my own origin as a Jew is one I absorbed as a child. Why do I attend the Passover meal every year and try to visualize myself as if I had been present during the Exodus? Why do I feel kinship with Jews in Tel Aviv or Paris who I have never met? It is in part because of an origin story I learned as a child from parents and Hebrew school teachers who taught me that Jews share ancestors who went through the Exodus and were present at Sinai together. This answer to the question is something I imbibed early on from the people who shaped my sense of identity, and it is tied up with my feelings for them.

Secular scholarship, on the other, tends to be skeptical of the kinds of origin stories told by earlier generations, and this is true not just of how it accounts for the origin of the Jews but for how it explains the creation of the universe, the origin of humanity, and so forth. Apart from wanting to be true to reason and the evidence, scholars initially embraced such theories because they were seeking to liberate themselves from the grip of religion and tradition, of having to think in certain waysbecause the Church or rabbinical authorities told them they had to think in that way. To challenge the biblical accountto argue that the world originated in a way that was different from what religious tradition taughtwas to challenge religions power to define what was true and to assert ones freedom from its control.

The clash between these approaches to originreligious/personal versus secular/scholarlyis one reason why I expect the research I am reporting on will provoke frustration and anger from some readers: some of this scholarship challenges their religious beliefs or their beliefs about who they are, and it can be hard to think clearly about the subject because the scholarship can feel like an attack on ones sense of identity and feeling of connection to ones forbearers.

Another reason for a divide between the scholarship and some parts of the public is political, the way the scholarship has become part of Israels conflict with the Palestinians.

In one chapter, I look at a book entitledThe Invention of the Jewish Peopleby Shlomo Sand which provoked controversy a few years ago because of its critique of Zionism. Sand makes his argument against Israel by trying to disprove the origin story which he believes underpins Zionisms claim to the land of Canaan and justifies Israels mistreatment of the Palestinians. I subject Sands approach to critique, but it should be noted that the right has produced its own share of origin stories that can be critiqued on the same grounds. I just read a report about a book calledA History of the Palestinian Peoplethat was a best-seller on Amazon last week before it was removed from the site. What was offensiveabout the book is that it is completely blank, the authors way of arguing that the Palestinians are not a real people and have no real historyan argument that other scholars have made in more conventional ways. This is Sands argument in reverse, applied to the Palestinians instead of the Jews, and it is wrong for very similar methodological and historicalreasons even though it is coming from the other side of the political spectrum and makes its argument in a different way.

Here I am sympathetic to those who want to keep their distance from the scholarship. To me, it is fair to be skeptical of scholarship that wants to be accepted as true because of its appeal to the facts and yet so clearly misrepresents those factsor buries themto advance a particular political argument. This book is not an attempt to convince the public to accept thescholarship: it is an effort to present its pros and cons to helpreaders form their own informedopinions.

The scholarship I review can never answer the question of Jewish origin in the personally satisfying way that religion canin truth, it may never be able to answer the question at alland that may be a reason for some readers to simply ignore it. But for me, as a scholar and as a Jew committed to learning as a supreme value, I think the best way to counter objectionable or confusingscholarly ideas is not to brush them off but to learn about them and engage them.

Steve Weitzman

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Author of mysterious Voynich manuscript was Italian Jew, says scholar – The Guardian

Literary whodunnit a page from the Voynich manuscript. Photograph: Alamy

One of the worlds most confounding literary mysteries may finally be, in part, solved: the author of the mysterious and as-yet untranslatable Voynich manuscript has been identified as a Jewish physician based in northern Italy, an expert in medieval manuscripts has claimed.

The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated book printed on vellum written entirely in an indecipherable script, leaving scholars and code-breakers scratching their heads since it re-emerged a century ago.

Writing in the foreword of a new facsimile of the 15th-century codex, Stephen Skinner claims visual clues in each section provide evidence of the manuscripts author. If proved true, Skinner believes his theory will help unlock more secrets of the coded manuscript.

The scholar draws evidence for his theory of the authors identity from a range of illustrations in the manuscript, particularly a section in which naked women are depicted bathing in green pools supplied by intestinal-like pipes.

The doctor, whose work includes editing the spiritual diaries of the Tudor mystic John Dee, believes the illustrations show communal Jewish baths called mikvah, which are still used in Orthodox Judaism to clean women after childbirth or menstruation.

Pointing to the fact that the pictures show only nude women and no men, Skinner told the Guardian: The only place you see women like that bathing together in Europe at that time was in the purification baths that have been used by Orthodox Jews for the last 2,000 years.

He believes the drawings were of an invention designed by the mysterious author that aimed to ensure an efficient supply of clean water to a mikvah. I think there is no other explanation for what they are: it is either rank fantasy by the author which doesnt really fit with the medical, herbal and cosmological sections of the manuscript or it is a mikvah, he said.

Other evidence Skinner uses to support his theory include the lack of Christian symbolism in the manuscript unusual at a time of deep religious superstition, as the Inquisition enforced orthodox religion and punished any hint of heresy. There are no saints or crosses, not even in the cosmological sections, he said.

Considered in addition to the absence of religious symbolism, Skinner said, visual clues in the manuscript suggest its author was a Jewish physician and herbalist. Many of the plants depicted, alongside astrological charts, are medicinal herbs, such as opium and cannabis. In those days, doctors had to be astrologers as well, so they could determine the nature of an illness and treatment.

Although Jews were persecuted in the Inquisition, they were in demand as doctors due to their knowledge of Mediterranean botany, he added.

A visual clue to the geographical origin of the manuscript in northern Italy lies in a sketch of a castle with a swallow-tail on one page. The unusual design, Skinner believes, is a Ghibelline fortification found only in castles in northern Italy in the 15th century. Many of the regions towns, such as Pisa, had significant Jewish populations and could have inspired the Germanic style of some of the illustrations because the ruling family was allied to the German Holy Roman Emperor, instead of the pope.

He admitted his theory will have to be rigorously tested by other scholars, but added that he felt 85% certain he was right. Skinner, who is an expert in medieval esoteric manuscripts, said he was now searching European Jewish books from the period for similar language, codes, scripts or linguistic patterns to those in the Voynich.

Should he succeed, Skinner will have solved a problem that has frustrated academics, cryptographers and computer programming experts since it was discovered in 1912 by the Polish collector Wilfrid Voynich.

Although there were allegations that Voynich had faked the book, the vellum and ink has been carbon dated to between 1404 and 1438. The authorship of the manuscript has led to heated debate with characters as varied as Dee and Leonardo da Vinci being posited as responsible for the manuscript.

Dee has also been suggested as a possible owner of the Voynich manuscript, a claim refuted by Skinner because the Tudor doctor and mystic was a notorious vandal of manuscripts that came into his hands. The ladder-like symbol of his ownership is not on there and he hasnt written anything on it, he said, adding: A temptation is always to find a name that everyone recognises, but I think it is unlikely to be by anyone famous.

Skinner is hopeful that facsimiles of the manuscript will help decode it. If it is in bookshops, someone might pick it up and recognise something in it that they are working with in another field of scholarship, he said.

Asked what secrets he hopes it will reveal, he cited the medieval use of willow bark which provided the basis of aspirin: It would be lovely if the herbalist section provided cures for things that we have forgotten about.

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Author of mysterious Voynich manuscript was Italian Jew, says scholar – The Guardian

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Jew | people | Britannica.com

Alternative Titles: Yhdh, Yehudi

Jew, Hebrew Yhdh, or Yehudi, any person whose religion is Judaism. In the broader sense of the term, a Jew is any person belonging to the worldwide group that constitutes, through descent or conversion, a continuation of the ancient Jewish people, who were themselves descendants of the Hebrews of the Old Testament. In ancient times, a Yhdh was originally a member of Judahi.e., either of the tribe of Judah (one of the 12 tribes that took possession of the Promised Land) or of the subsequent Kingdom of Judah (in contrast to the rival Kingdom of Israel to the north). The Jewish people as a whole, initially called Hebrews (Ivrim), were known as Israelites (Yisreelim) from the time of their entrance into the Holy Land to the end of the Babylonian Exile (538 bc). Thereafter, the term Yhdh (Latin: Judaeus; French: Juif; German: Jude; and English: Jew) was used to signify all adherents of Judaism, because the survivors of the Exile (former inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah) were the only Israelites who had retained their distinctive identity. (The 10 tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel had been dispersed after the Assyrian conquest of 721 bc and were gradually assimilated by other peoples). The term Jew is thus derived through the Latin Judaeus and the Greek Ioudaios from the Hebrew Yhdh. The latter term is an adjective occurring only in the later parts of the Old Testament and signifying a descendant of Yehudhah (Judah), the fourth son of Jacob, whose tribe, together with that of his half brother Benjamin, constituted the Kingdom of Judah.

In the modern world, a definition of Jew that would be satisfactory to all is virtually impossible to construct, for it involves ethnic and religious issues that are both complex and controversial. In daily life, for example, those who consider themselves Jews are generally accepted as such by Jews and non-Jews alike, even though such persons may not observe religious practices. While all Jews agree that a child born of a Jewish mother is Jewish, Reform Judaism goes beyond Orthodoxy and Conservative Judaism in affirming that a child is Jewish if either one of the parents is a Jew.

From a purely religious standpoint, Gentile converts to Judaism are accepted as Jewish in the fullest sense of the word; but in Israel the rabbinate has often placed obstacles in the registration of Jews who were not converted under the supervision of Orthodox rabbis. For this reason the chief rabbinate of Israel has been confronted in recent years with perplexing problems regarding the religious status of certain immigrants. The Supreme Court of Israel, however, has been making incursions into rabbinic interpretations of personal status. Citizens of the State of Israel are called Israelis, a term carrying no ethnological or religious connotations.

…idea greater than the sum of the policies of which it was composed, Christendom best represents Europe as envisaged by those who thought and wrote about it. The existence of vigorous Jewish communitiesat times persecuted, as in Poland in 1648, but in places such as Amsterdam secure, prosperous, and creativeonly serves to emphasize the essential fact: Europe and…

Before the 11th century the Jews faced little persecution, lived among Christians, and even pursued the same occupations as Christians. The Jews restricted status after that time encouraged many of them to turn to moneylending, which only served to increase Christian hostility (Christians were forbidden to lend money to other Christians). Because the Jews often undertook on behalf of rulers…

The 16th century also witnessed a continuing deterioration in the status of western Jews. They had been expelled from England in 1290 and from France in 1306 (the first of several expulsions and readmissions). Riots and killings accompanying the Black Death (the Jews were accused of poisoning the wells) had pushed the centres of German Jewry (the Ashkenazim) to the east, into Poland, Lithuania,…

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Jew | people | Britannica.com

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Synagogue membership drops to lowest level in 30 years as … – Telegraph.co.uk

Membership of synagogues has fallen below 80,000 for the first time in 30 years as “mainstream” Jews marry out of the community, a report has found.

Despite a growing number of synagogues membership numbers have fallen by 20 per cent in a generation as more Jews become secular after marrying non-Jewish partners.

The report, by The Institute for Jewish Policy Research and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, found that declining birth rates and increasing intermarriage mean the Jewish community is shrinking.

It said: “For certain sections of the community, the age at which people are choosing to have children is increasing and the number of children being born is declining.

“The overall effect of such trends may reduce the tendency of Jewish people to join synagogues.

Intermarriage also impacts on decisions about joining a synagogue, raising the question as to whether non-Jewish partners are welcomed by communities.

“Other factors also play their part: for example, the rise of more individualistic approaches to life and sceptical attitudes about the role of organised religion in society.

“Such shifts have led to Jewishness increasingly becoming a matter of choice rather than of birth, and making Jewish identity far more fluid’.”

While less observant communities are getting smaller, the report also found that strict Orthodox communities, also known as haredi, are growing, in part due to high birth rates.

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Synagogue membership drops to lowest level in 30 years as … – Telegraph.co.uk

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Joyous Indian Jews hail PM Modi’s OCI move – Times of India

TEL AVIV: Indians in Israel, specially Jews, have expressed “joy” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi “surpassing” their expectations in addressing some of their key concerns and making them feel proud of their roots. “I was almost in tears. We knew that Prime Minister Modi has tried to invigorate the Indian diaspora across the world and make them feel proud of their roots. He has connected so well with them everywhere he has gone and has not forgotten to reach out to them,” Yona Maliker, who immigrated from Seoni, a place near Nagpur, 33 years ago, said. “It was joy beyond belief to hear at the way he passionately talked about our connection with our motherland. It is a historic visit the Indian Jews will remember for a long time,” Maliker said. Modi “touched the nerve” of all Indian communities living in Israel by bringing up stories that they could relate to. “He had something cheerful to say about the Bene Israel, the Cochinis, the Baghdadis, the Bnei Menashe but also did not disappoint Indian students and a small group of caregivers who work in Israel,” Brajesh, a student from Bihar at the Hebrew University noted. “Extending the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards to all Indians in Israel, irrespective of their army service, is the ‘biggest gift’ I think he could give us and he didn’t disappoint,” Sybil Ezekiel, who immigrated to Israel from Kolkata in 1970 where she studied at Jewish Girls School, he said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced yesterday that people of Indian origin in Israel will get the OCI cards even if they have undergone the compulsory army service in the country. “I want my children and my nephews and nieces, who all take pride in their Indian descent to stay connected to our roots. Everybody in Israel has to serve in the army and that cannot be the reason for denying them OCI. The prime minister touched our hearts with the words he used while extending us this gift,” she said. Sam Satamkar, a 70-year-old Indian Jew of Bene Israel, who came all the way from Beersheva in southern Israel said that the Indian Premier “surpassed” all expectations by even going ahead to make an announcement regarding opening of an Indian Cultural Centre in Israel. Noah Massil, who was the founder President of Organisation of Indian Jews in Israel and the editor of a Marathi journal, Maiboli, a magazine that was referred by Modi in his speech, was “overwhelmed” at the announcement regarding the Indian cultural centre. “We have reached out to Indian and Israeli authorities regarding the creation of such a thing and pursued it for many years. Prime Minister Modi has fulfilled a long cherished dream which will help keep our next generation engaged with our motherland,” Massil said. A lot of Indian Jews, who attended Prime Minister Modi’s event yesterday, said the way the Indian premier went around talking about the Indian Jews has helped “raise their stature” and “made them feel proud”. “We always took pride in our roots. We always tried to tell everybody that ours was the only country that never discriminated against the Jews. Our ancestors lived there in harmony with respect,” David Nagani, a bus driver in Jerusalem from the Bene Israel community, said “But people hardly listened to us because India never came out in the open so strongly regarding its ties with Israel and the diplomatic relations were established so late,” he said.

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New Study: Europe’s Rising Antisemitism Forcing Jews to Leave or Hide – Algemeiner

The kosher supermarket in Paris where four Jews were killed in a terrorist attack in January 2015. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. JNS.org Why do half of French Jews want to leave France? Because the recent rise of violent antisemitism has made French Jews justifiably concerned about their personal safety. A University of Oslostudypublished in June is one of the most methodologically sophisticated and comprehensive reports exploringthe growth of Europes antisemitism problem. Authored by Dr. Johannes Due Enstad of the Center for Research on Extremism, the study documents violent antisemitism from 2005-2015, analyzing seven countries: France, the UK, Germany,Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Russia. July 6, 2017 3:02 pm According to the study, many European Jewsfeel unsafe as a direct consequence of violent antisemitism, and as a result one in five Jews in Sweden and the UK, one in four in Germany, and half of the Jews in France have considered emigrating. In 2015, 10,000 Western European Jews departed for a new life in Israelthe largest number leaving Europe since 1948. The study found that there has been aconsistently elevated level of antisemitism in Europe during the last two decades as compared to the 1990s. French Jews are more likely than German, Swedish and British Jews to have personally experienced a violent attack in the final five years covered by the study. Although the incidence of antisemitism inFrance is the highest, reportsabout personal attacks during the studys final five years inSwedish and German Jews is not far behind. The largest gap in antisemitism is between British Jews and Jews living in Norway, Denmark and Russia. According to the report, Jews in France and Sweden are more likely to not attend Jewish events or visit Jewish sites because they do not feel safe. More than half of the Jews in France and Sweden avoid wearing, carrying or displaying things that would cause others to recognize them as Jews, according to the study. This behavior does not rise to the same levels in Germany and the UK, but substantial numbers of Jews in those countries also avoid doing things in public that would label them as Jews out of fear for their safety. Among French Jews, the elevated level of fear probably comes from France having experienced more violent, dramatic and fatal antisemitic incidents than other European countries. The barbarous attack on a Jewish school in 2012 inToulousewhere three Jewish children and a rabbi were killed undoubtedly contributed greatly to the insecurity of Frances Jews. Mohammed Merah, the 23-year-old terrorist who carried out the Toulouse attack, said he wanted to kill Jews because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. More recently, the head of theJewish community of MarseilleFrances second-largest citytold his fellow community members not to appear in public in any way that would identify them as Jews. And who is responsible for the attacks on Jews in Europe? In every country studied, except for Russia, the perpetrators are disproportionately of Muslim background. A British study cited in the University of Oslo report notes that the proportion of Muslim perpetrators often increases in the wake of trigger events in the Middle East. In what might be considered a clumsy attempt to downplay antisemitism there, German authorities do not classify anti-Israeli incidents as antisemitism. This results in absurdity. If any country should know better, it should be Germany. The only country in the study where antisemitic incidents are not disproportionately perpetrated by Muslims is Russia, and according to the study Jews do not fear to express their Jewish identity when appearing in public there. This appears to perplex the studys author, as Russia contains both large Jewish and Muslim populations. Yet, in my view, the issue is easily resolved. In Russia, the large Muslim and Jewish populations live in the same country, but are generally separated by a vast expanse of land. Most Muslims live in the Eurasian Caucasus region, while most Jews live in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. This isnt the case in the other European countries profiled in the Oslo report.

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The Nazis Built A Luxury Camp To Lull Jews Then Slaughtered Them – Forward

(JTA) WESTERBORK, Netherlands (JTA) Nothing about the footage that Rudolf Breslauer filmed here on May 30, 1944, suggests that it was taken inside one of Europes largest Nazi concentration camps. In the film by Breslauer, a German-Jewish inmate of the Westerbork camp in Hollands northeast, prisoners are seen playing soccer enthusiastically in team uniforms, complete with a referee in a special outfit. A middle-aged man wearing a suit and a boy who may have been his grandson stroll cheerfully in the sun past spectators. In other segments, inmates are seen putting on theater performances, working in modern factories and even going to church an activity undertaken by many German Jews before the Holocaust, including some who had converted to Christianity just before or during the Holocaust in a vain effort to escape persecution by the Nazis. The film is one of only two cinematic works known to have been produced inside a functioning concentration camp for Jews theotherwas in Theresienstadt. Commissioned by Westerborks commanders for propaganda purposes, Breslauers film is a rare documentation of the sophisticated facade employed by the Nazis at the camp, where 75 years ago they began carrying out the systematic murder of three quarters of Dutch Jewry the highest death rate in Nazi-occupied Western Europe. Westerbork served as a so-calledtransit camp from which 100,000 Dutch Jews were shipped to Nazi death camps in Poland. The subterfuge maintained the illusion that the camps inmates were sent to work camps, giving them hope and an incentive to comply with orders that helped ensure Westerborks deadly efficiency, according to Johannes Houwink ten Cate of the University of Amsterdam, who is among the worlds foremost experts on the Holocaust in the Netherlands. According to ten Cate, the deceit extended far beyond the possibly staged scenes that Breslauer captured with his camera (Breslauer was sent to Auschwitz with his wife and three children in 1944. Only their daughter Chanita survived the war). The size of Camp Westerborks hospital, which was one of the best and largest hospitals of its kind, symbolizes the Nazi lie that Jews were going to be put to work further east, ten Cate told JTA in an interview last week ahead of the 75th anniversary of the first death transport out of the camp, which took place on July 15, 1942. It was one of a great many German efforts focused at making sure that Jews did not understand what the Nazis were up to, headded. These efforts paid off, according to HennyDormits, 87, a Holocaust survivor who lived in the camp with her family for two years before they were sent to Theresienstadt. While Jews in many other parts of Europe were subjected to violence, torture, abuse and murder in camps, in Westerbork, people were not abused, they were treated correctly, she said during an interview for Dutch television in 2011. She spoke at the former living quarters of Albert Gemmeker, the Nazi commander of Westerbork, which is the only part of the camp that still exists today. The Germans did everything possible to keep people calm here so no one was afraid, Dormits recalled. And so when people were shipped off in cattle carts, everyone assumed wed be going to another work camp. Westerbork included many amenities that Jewish concentration camp inmates elsewhere could only dream of, including permits to leave camp without supervision given exclusively to people with family still inside the camp, so they would not escape and cabaret productions with musical instruments. But it was the quality of medical treatment in Westerbork that clinched the illusion, according to Dormits. People were operated on here by the best doctors, they would be hospitalized for entire weeks as they healed, and when they were all better they were put on a transport, she recalled in the documentary. This was the make-believe world in which we lived. This form of deception was extremely effective, according to Dirk Mulder, the director of the Camp Westerbork Memorial Center, a nongovernmental organization with state funding that is responsible for commemoration and educational work in the former camp. The message of the hospital was, We Germans have the best intentions for you, get better in this large hospital so we can put you to work elsewhere, Mulder said in the Dutch documentary. Still, not everyone was duped. Gemmeker, who had a friendly relationship with the Jewish filmmaker Breslauer, once told the cameraman something that made Breslauer realize the transports were a one-way ticket, according to Chanita Moses, Breslauers daughter. Her father did not say exactly what Gemmeker told him, she told the Dutch television film crew. Philip Mechanicus, a Dutch Jewish Holocaust victimwho secretly chronicled his stay in Westerbork before he was murdered, wrote about his tremendous fear of when he would be shipped out. On Sept. 13, 1943, a 65-year-old woman in Mechanicus barracks committed suicide, he wrote. She was put on a list of deportees to Theresienstadt, prompting her daughter to volunteer to leave with her mother. The mother killed herself to prevent her daughter from making the sacrifice, wrote Mechanicus, who died in 2005. Camp Westerbork originally was set up in 1939 as a detainment facility by the Dutch government in a remote, rural area of the country for fewer than 2,000 Jewish refugees who fled Nazi Germany. Two years after the Germans invaded in 1940, they took over the space and massively increased its capacity. They treated the first German inmates as a preferred prisoner population. And they set up am unarmed Jewish policing unit that was responsible for taking people to the trains to be shipped off to death camps in the east. Today, what used to be the camp grounds in a grassy flatland borders a large radioobservatory. A memorial area contains informational plaques and several monuments, including a German cattle car of the sort used to transport Jews and a statue featuring railway tracks that curl up heavenwards. Whereas elsewhere in Europe former Nazi camps were preserved and used as educational exhibits about the Holocaust, the original barracks and facilities of Westerbork were used for housing refugees from Indonesia in the 1970s until the facilities were stripped for wood. The failure to preserve Westerbork was part of a greater reluctance in the Netherlands, where many non-Jews felt victimto the Nazi occupation, to acknowledge the uniqueness of the Jewish tragedy, according to ten Cate. He said the Dutch also were reluctant to look at the role of ordinary Dutchmen, including police officers who rounded up Jews. This began to change in the 1990s, making wayfora wave of renewed interest in the Holocaust in recent years. But the belated timing means that Amsterdam is one of Europes very last capital cities to receive a Holocaust museum: It opened last years and is still in its infancy stages, ten Cate noted. Back in Westerbork, Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomon Jacobs, whose parents survived the Holocaust in hiding and who often speaksabout the genocide at the former camp to schoolchildren, told JTA in April that the camps story is a constant reminder against giving in to wishful thinking. When disaster happens slowly, in installments, people have a tendency to accept each installment, said Jacobs, who in 2014 shocked many Dutchmen when he said that anti-Semitism in the Netherlands means he would advise his congregants to live in Israel or the United States. This is what happened here. So I think we cannot afford to stay silent and just hope for the best.

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PBSO not treating death of MMA fighter, Orthodox Jew as hate crime – Palm Beach Post

BOCA RATON Authorities have said they are not investigating as a hate crime Monday nights slaying of Aaron Rajman, a professional mixed martial arts fighter and an Orthodox Jew, at his family home west of Boca Raton. Rajman, 25, was fatally shot at about 10:25 p.m. Monday, the Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office said. It reported several men went into the house, a fight broke out, and the men drove off after the shooting. As of midday Wednesday, the agency had not reported any arrests or named suspects. Im heartbroken. I cant believe there would be anybody that would do this to him, former girlfriend Emily Imber, Rajmans former girlfriend, sobbed on Wednesday. He didnt have an enemy that I knew of. Ever. For five years, Rajman was with Imber, managing director of the Fighters Source, the South Florida-based MMA promotions outfit, as well as the womans young son, now 9. He helped me raise my kid for those five years, and afterward he still played a role in his life, Imber said Wednesday. Meanwhile, in just 17 hours, an online contribution page hit its $20,000 goal for Rajmans funeral, with 321 people donating $20,345 by midday Wednesday. Wow thank you everyone! Today, I was able to give Rabbi Bukiet $10,000 to reserve Aarons plot, organizer Sam Pollack posted. He will be buried next to his father! We hit the goal in under 24 hours! I promised everyone I wouldnt sleep until this goal is hit! Means a lot to the family! Im with Lauren now! If you can all see how thankful she is, would bring you all to tears! Lauren is Aaron Rajmans mother. Rabbi Zalman Bukiet is director of Chabad of West Boca Raton. He was kind and gentle, a special person. May his memory be for a blessing, one person wrote on the page, repeating a popular Jewish sentiment for someone who has died. What to say everytime i think of it my eyes well up w tears A Jewish beacon of Light and to the Jewish community has returned to Hashem, another wrote. Hashem literally the name is a popular term Jews, especially Orthodox ones, use for God. Rajman was one of only a few Orthodox Jews in the sport. It was pretty special to watch him walk into a ring with a yarmulke on, said a friend, who did not want his name used. Rajman was born in New York and moved with his family to Florida as a pre-schooler, Emily Imber said. She said his parents later divorced, and for the last few years, hes shared a home with his mother, his mothers aunt and his younger brother. He also has an older brother. A family friend, Jonathan Lirette of Margate, said Rajmans father died of cancer about four years ago. Imber said Rajman was always religious ever since he was a kid. She said that, like most MMA fighters, he had no trouble reconciling the idea of pounding people into submission one minute and sharing drinks and back slaps with them afterward. And she said Rajman, who taught self-defense to children both in gyms and in one-on-one classes, was mindful of what he saw as the historical role of self-defense in the Jewish tradition. Jews had to fight their way for everything, Imber said. He definitely believed fighting in self-defense was one of the most important things people could do. Shihan Anthony Medina (Shihan is a Japanese martial arts title for instructors) said Wednesday that Rajman did administrative work for Fighters Source. He said Rajman wore his faith on his sleeve. He refused to fight on Saturdays the prime fight day but also the Jewish Sabbath and promoters bent over backwards for him. According to the fight website Sherdog, Rajman was a 145-pound featherweight who trained at American Top Team in Coconut Creek and had an amateur record of 8-1 and a professional record of 2-2. Another site, The Underground, said he had an amateur record of 8-1. Nice outside the ring, tough inside In a sport teeming with aggression, Rajman always was upbeat, his peers at American Top Team recalled Wednesday from Coconut Creek. Even when he took a hit in the cage, said Lamar Brown, 27, a lightweight who trained alongside Rajman, he was always smiling, never had a bad day. But as nice as he was outside the cage, he was just as tough inside it. He said Rajman brought this incredible level of intensity to the sport. Rajman had trained at American Top Team for at least seven years. And while he and his peers fought alone, they trained together, and bonds grew. These are the guys you sweat with, you bleed with, Brown said. Outside the gym, he said, Rajman would occasionally hit the beach or box with Brown and others from the gym. Its hard for some people to understand how God can be brought into something like this, Brown said, pointing to a gym with three dozen men tossing each other to the ground with Jiu Jitsu moves or throwing punches. But Aaron was a big believer in God and he carried that with him into the cage. That was inspiring. Delano Felipe, a featherweight at American Top Team, sparred with Rajman about a year ago, and took a hit to the ear that caused a cauliflower, or external blood clot often seen in mixed martial artists and boxers. When he realized what he did, he said, Man, Im sorry, Felipe recalled. Then he hugged me. That was the kind of guy he was. Staff writer Paige Fry contributed to this story, which was reported by Eliot Kleinberg in West Palm Beach and Lulu Ramadan in suburban Boca Raton and Coconut Creek.

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PM Modi’s visit holds special meaning for Indian Jews in Israel – Times of India

RAMLA (ISRAEL): At a curry house in central Israel, a poster welcoming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets patrons even before they encounter the rich scent of spices wafting from the kitchen. Modi’s three-day visit which started on Tuesday – the first ever of an Indian premier to Israel – is a landmark moment for the Jewish state, a country seeking the friendship of powerful allies and customers for its advanced military equipment. But for members of the small Jewish Indian community in Israel, the trip is a cause of genuine excitement and a unique opportunity to increase their visibility. “There’s not a single (Indian) household that’s not talking about it. This is all people are talking about,” said Elazar Ashtivker, owner of the Maharaja restaurant in the city of Ramla, south of Tel Aviv. “It’s historic,” he said. The fast-talking 33-year-old’s parents, who were born in India, opened the restaurant in its first incarnation in the 1980s because they felt “the community was in decline”. Initially, the restaurant served the Indian community nearly exclusively. But in the 1990s the trend of Israelis travelling to Asia after completing their military service became wildly popular, and many returned home with a taste for the Maharaja’s spicy delicacies. The restaurant serves what Ashtivker calls “mainstream Indian food” but also sells peppers, vegetables and imported spices. The wording on the poster is in the colours of the Indian flag and invites members of the Indian community, in Hebrew and English, to a July 5 meeting with Modi in Tel Aviv. “There’s a lot of excitement,” Ashtivker said. “Everyone has signed up and everyone is going.” “If you looked for Indians in Israel on the 5th you won’t find any. They’ll all be at the convention centre,” he said with a laugh. Estimates put the number of Jews of Indian origin in Israel at about 100,000, according to Eliaz Dandeker, a historian and author documenting the community. Even those of Indian origin born in Israel maintain a “deep connection” to their ancestral homeland, said Dandeker, including through music, cinema, food and cultural events. Events in Israel have featured appearances by Indian actors. Jews made their way to India over the course of the last 3,000 years, and by and large have not suffered religious and racist persecution in the country. They began coming to Israel en masse in the late 1940s and early 1950s for religious and other reasons. Many of them settled in rural communities to become farmers, while others moved to peripheral towns throughout the country. In the first years following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, many Indian immigrants abandoned their names and traditions as part of the era’s “melting pot” ideal. “There’s more openness today” to Indian culture, the 34-year-old Dandeker said. “The younger generations want to know more.” In his spice shop near the Maharaja, Shaul Divekar, who emigrated from India as a child, scoops red lentils from a sack into a plastic bag, chatting from behind his counter with two customers. The conversation fluctuates between the goods that arrived from India and the prime minister who is about to. Divekar proudly notes he is in charge of one of the seven buses taking Indian Israelis from Ramla to Wednesday’s meeting with Modi. “He’s special,” Divekar said of Hindu nationalist Modi, a Bollywood music video playing on a laptop behind the cash register. “He likes Jews,” proudly offers a tall bearded man in his 30s standing nearby the Indian DVD collection in Divekar’s store, his Hebrew heavy with an Indian accent. Dandeker, the historian, notes that Jewish Indians in Israel have been called the “invisible Jews” since they are neither Ashkenazis from Europe nor Sephardis from Africa and the Middle East. While members of the community have reached prominence in Israel in fields including medicine and the military, “a lot of them don’t stress their origins”.

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The Origins of the Jews exchange, part 2: On the gaps between the Jewish public and the scholars – Jewish Journal

Steven Weitzmanis the Abraham M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literaturesand the Ella Darivoff Director of the Katz Center of Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Weitzman received his Ph.D. from Harvard University after completing his B.A. at UC Berkeley and spent several years teaching in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University, where he served as director of its Jewish Studies program for six years. Before moving to Penn, he was the Daniel E. Koshland Professor of Jewish Culture and Religion and the director of the Taube Center for Jewish Studies at Stanford University. Professor Weitzman is the author of several books, including Surviving Sacrilege: Cultural Persistence in Jewish Antiquity (Harvard University Press, 2005);Religion and the Self in Antiquity(Indiana University Press, 2005);The Jews: A History(Prentice Hall, 2009); and a biography of King Solomon (Yale University Press, 2011). The following exchange will focus on Professor Weitzmans new book,The Origins of the Jews: The Quest for Roots in a Rootless Age(Princeton University Press, 2017). You can find part 1 right here. *** Dear Professor Weitzman, At the end of your last answer, you said the following: I must acknowledge that the book will probably frustrate some readers, especially those who want a clear-cut answer or want to be reaffirmed in what they already believe. If I was to offer an accurate and comprehensive depiction of the scholarship, I would have to introduce readers to theories and information at odds with how some Jews see themselves and consider some challenging ideas and ways of thinking. My second-round question: where, in your opinion, are there the biggest and most substantial gaps between the general Jewish publics perception of their origins and the scholars? What information and debates are most at odds with how some Jews see themselves? Yours, Shmuel *** Dear Shmuel, For decades, archaeologists from places like Tel Aviv University have been challenging the conventional understanding of Jewish origins by calling into question the existence of Abraham and the other ancestors described in Genesis, the Exodus from Egypt, Joshuas conquest of Canaan and other events known from the Bible. Archaeologists have also challenged the Bibles claim that the earliest ancestors of the Israelites came to Canaan as outsiders by uncovering continuities between ancient Israelite culture and earlier indigenous Canaanite culture. Many archaeologists now hold that the earliest Israelites were in fact Canaanites who came to see themselves as non-Canaanites for some reason. This kind of research isnt exactly new, but it remains unfamiliar to many people and continues to upset and provoke opposition because of the way it challenges Jewish self-understanding. This challengethe clash between how people see themselves and how their history has been reconstructed by scholarshipis part of what can make it difficult for readers to have an open-mind about some of the scholarship I am describing in the book. The problem here isnt just that people are working with different understandings of what counts as a fact or who counts as an expert: the real gap runs deeper than that, reflecting a clash between different ways of thinking about origins. My understanding of my own origin as a Jew is one I absorbed as a child. Why do I attend the Passover meal every year and try to visualize myself as if I had been present during the Exodus? Why do I feel kinship with Jews in Tel Aviv or Paris who I have never met? It is in part because of an origin story I learned as a child from parents and Hebrew school teachers who taught me that Jews share ancestors who went through the Exodus and were present at Sinai together. This answer to the question is something I imbibed early on from the people who shaped my sense of identity, and it is tied up with my feelings for them. Secular scholarship, on the other, tends to be skeptical of the kinds of origin stories told by earlier generations, and this is true not just of how it accounts for the origin of the Jews but for how it explains the creation of the universe, the origin of humanity, and so forth. Apart from wanting to be true to reason and the evidence, scholars initially embraced such theories because they were seeking to liberate themselves from the grip of religion and tradition, of having to think in certain waysbecause the Church or rabbinical authorities told them they had to think in that way. To challenge the biblical accountto argue that the world originated in a way that was different from what religious tradition taughtwas to challenge religions power to define what was true and to assert ones freedom from its control. The clash between these approaches to originreligious/personal versus secular/scholarlyis one reason why I expect the research I am reporting on will provoke frustration and anger from some readers: some of this scholarship challenges their religious beliefs or their beliefs about who they are, and it can be hard to think clearly about the subject because the scholarship can feel like an attack on ones sense of identity and feeling of connection to ones forbearers. Another reason for a divide between the scholarship and some parts of the public is political, the way the scholarship has become part of Israels conflict with the Palestinians. In one chapter, I look at a book entitledThe Invention of the Jewish Peopleby Shlomo Sand which provoked controversy a few years ago because of its critique of Zionism. Sand makes his argument against Israel by trying to disprove the origin story which he believes underpins Zionisms claim to the land of Canaan and justifies Israels mistreatment of the Palestinians. I subject Sands approach to critique, but it should be noted that the right has produced its own share of origin stories that can be critiqued on the same grounds. I just read a report about a book calledA History of the Palestinian Peoplethat was a best-seller on Amazon last week before it was removed from the site. What was offensiveabout the book is that it is completely blank, the authors way of arguing that the Palestinians are not a real people and have no real historyan argument that other scholars have made in more conventional ways. This is Sands argument in reverse, applied to the Palestinians instead of the Jews, and it is wrong for very similar methodological and historicalreasons even though it is coming from the other side of the political spectrum and makes its argument in a different way. Here I am sympathetic to those who want to keep their distance from the scholarship. To me, it is fair to be skeptical of scholarship that wants to be accepted as true because of its appeal to the facts and yet so clearly misrepresents those factsor buries themto advance a particular political argument. This book is not an attempt to convince the public to accept thescholarship: it is an effort to present its pros and cons to helpreaders form their own informedopinions. The scholarship I review can never answer the question of Jewish origin in the personally satisfying way that religion canin truth, it may never be able to answer the question at alland that may be a reason for some readers to simply ignore it. But for me, as a scholar and as a Jew committed to learning as a supreme value, I think the best way to counter objectionable or confusingscholarly ideas is not to brush them off but to learn about them and engage them. Steve Weitzman

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Author of mysterious Voynich manuscript was Italian Jew, says scholar – The Guardian

Literary whodunnit a page from the Voynich manuscript. Photograph: Alamy One of the worlds most confounding literary mysteries may finally be, in part, solved: the author of the mysterious and as-yet untranslatable Voynich manuscript has been identified as a Jewish physician based in northern Italy, an expert in medieval manuscripts has claimed. The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated book printed on vellum written entirely in an indecipherable script, leaving scholars and code-breakers scratching their heads since it re-emerged a century ago. Writing in the foreword of a new facsimile of the 15th-century codex, Stephen Skinner claims visual clues in each section provide evidence of the manuscripts author. If proved true, Skinner believes his theory will help unlock more secrets of the coded manuscript. The scholar draws evidence for his theory of the authors identity from a range of illustrations in the manuscript, particularly a section in which naked women are depicted bathing in green pools supplied by intestinal-like pipes. The doctor, whose work includes editing the spiritual diaries of the Tudor mystic John Dee, believes the illustrations show communal Jewish baths called mikvah, which are still used in Orthodox Judaism to clean women after childbirth or menstruation. Pointing to the fact that the pictures show only nude women and no men, Skinner told the Guardian: The only place you see women like that bathing together in Europe at that time was in the purification baths that have been used by Orthodox Jews for the last 2,000 years. He believes the drawings were of an invention designed by the mysterious author that aimed to ensure an efficient supply of clean water to a mikvah. I think there is no other explanation for what they are: it is either rank fantasy by the author which doesnt really fit with the medical, herbal and cosmological sections of the manuscript or it is a mikvah, he said. Other evidence Skinner uses to support his theory include the lack of Christian symbolism in the manuscript unusual at a time of deep religious superstition, as the Inquisition enforced orthodox religion and punished any hint of heresy. There are no saints or crosses, not even in the cosmological sections, he said. Considered in addition to the absence of religious symbolism, Skinner said, visual clues in the manuscript suggest its author was a Jewish physician and herbalist. Many of the plants depicted, alongside astrological charts, are medicinal herbs, such as opium and cannabis. In those days, doctors had to be astrologers as well, so they could determine the nature of an illness and treatment. Although Jews were persecuted in the Inquisition, they were in demand as doctors due to their knowledge of Mediterranean botany, he added. A visual clue to the geographical origin of the manuscript in northern Italy lies in a sketch of a castle with a swallow-tail on one page. The unusual design, Skinner believes, is a Ghibelline fortification found only in castles in northern Italy in the 15th century. Many of the regions towns, such as Pisa, had significant Jewish populations and could have inspired the Germanic style of some of the illustrations because the ruling family was allied to the German Holy Roman Emperor, instead of the pope. He admitted his theory will have to be rigorously tested by other scholars, but added that he felt 85% certain he was right. Skinner, who is an expert in medieval esoteric manuscripts, said he was now searching European Jewish books from the period for similar language, codes, scripts or linguistic patterns to those in the Voynich. Should he succeed, Skinner will have solved a problem that has frustrated academics, cryptographers and computer programming experts since it was discovered in 1912 by the Polish collector Wilfrid Voynich. Although there were allegations that Voynich had faked the book, the vellum and ink has been carbon dated to between 1404 and 1438. The authorship of the manuscript has led to heated debate with characters as varied as Dee and Leonardo da Vinci being posited as responsible for the manuscript. Dee has also been suggested as a possible owner of the Voynich manuscript, a claim refuted by Skinner because the Tudor doctor and mystic was a notorious vandal of manuscripts that came into his hands. The ladder-like symbol of his ownership is not on there and he hasnt written anything on it, he said, adding: A temptation is always to find a name that everyone recognises, but I think it is unlikely to be by anyone famous. Skinner is hopeful that facsimiles of the manuscript will help decode it. If it is in bookshops, someone might pick it up and recognise something in it that they are working with in another field of scholarship, he said. Asked what secrets he hopes it will reveal, he cited the medieval use of willow bark which provided the basis of aspirin: It would be lovely if the herbalist section provided cures for things that we have forgotten about.

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Jew | people | Britannica.com

Alternative Titles: Yhdh, Yehudi Jew, Hebrew Yhdh, or Yehudi, any person whose religion is Judaism. In the broader sense of the term, a Jew is any person belonging to the worldwide group that constitutes, through descent or conversion, a continuation of the ancient Jewish people, who were themselves descendants of the Hebrews of the Old Testament. In ancient times, a Yhdh was originally a member of Judahi.e., either of the tribe of Judah (one of the 12 tribes that took possession of the Promised Land) or of the subsequent Kingdom of Judah (in contrast to the rival Kingdom of Israel to the north). The Jewish people as a whole, initially called Hebrews (Ivrim), were known as Israelites (Yisreelim) from the time of their entrance into the Holy Land to the end of the Babylonian Exile (538 bc). Thereafter, the term Yhdh (Latin: Judaeus; French: Juif; German: Jude; and English: Jew) was used to signify all adherents of Judaism, because the survivors of the Exile (former inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah) were the only Israelites who had retained their distinctive identity. (The 10 tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel had been dispersed after the Assyrian conquest of 721 bc and were gradually assimilated by other peoples). The term Jew is thus derived through the Latin Judaeus and the Greek Ioudaios from the Hebrew Yhdh. The latter term is an adjective occurring only in the later parts of the Old Testament and signifying a descendant of Yehudhah (Judah), the fourth son of Jacob, whose tribe, together with that of his half brother Benjamin, constituted the Kingdom of Judah. In the modern world, a definition of Jew that would be satisfactory to all is virtually impossible to construct, for it involves ethnic and religious issues that are both complex and controversial. In daily life, for example, those who consider themselves Jews are generally accepted as such by Jews and non-Jews alike, even though such persons may not observe religious practices. While all Jews agree that a child born of a Jewish mother is Jewish, Reform Judaism goes beyond Orthodoxy and Conservative Judaism in affirming that a child is Jewish if either one of the parents is a Jew. From a purely religious standpoint, Gentile converts to Judaism are accepted as Jewish in the fullest sense of the word; but in Israel the rabbinate has often placed obstacles in the registration of Jews who were not converted under the supervision of Orthodox rabbis. For this reason the chief rabbinate of Israel has been confronted in recent years with perplexing problems regarding the religious status of certain immigrants. The Supreme Court of Israel, however, has been making incursions into rabbinic interpretations of personal status. Citizens of the State of Israel are called Israelis, a term carrying no ethnological or religious connotations. …idea greater than the sum of the policies of which it was composed, Christendom best represents Europe as envisaged by those who thought and wrote about it. The existence of vigorous Jewish communitiesat times persecuted, as in Poland in 1648, but in places such as Amsterdam secure, prosperous, and creativeonly serves to emphasize the essential fact: Europe and… Before the 11th century the Jews faced little persecution, lived among Christians, and even pursued the same occupations as Christians. The Jews restricted status after that time encouraged many of them to turn to moneylending, which only served to increase Christian hostility (Christians were forbidden to lend money to other Christians). Because the Jews often undertook on behalf of rulers… The 16th century also witnessed a continuing deterioration in the status of western Jews. They had been expelled from England in 1290 and from France in 1306 (the first of several expulsions and readmissions). Riots and killings accompanying the Black Death (the Jews were accused of poisoning the wells) had pushed the centres of German Jewry (the Ashkenazim) to the east, into Poland, Lithuania,…

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Synagogue membership drops to lowest level in 30 years as … – Telegraph.co.uk

Membership of synagogues has fallen below 80,000 for the first time in 30 years as “mainstream” Jews marry out of the community, a report has found. Despite a growing number of synagogues membership numbers have fallen by 20 per cent in a generation as more Jews become secular after marrying non-Jewish partners. The report, by The Institute for Jewish Policy Research and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, found that declining birth rates and increasing intermarriage mean the Jewish community is shrinking. It said: “For certain sections of the community, the age at which people are choosing to have children is increasing and the number of children being born is declining. “The overall effect of such trends may reduce the tendency of Jewish people to join synagogues. Intermarriage also impacts on decisions about joining a synagogue, raising the question as to whether non-Jewish partners are welcomed by communities. “Other factors also play their part: for example, the rise of more individualistic approaches to life and sceptical attitudes about the role of organised religion in society. “Such shifts have led to Jewishness increasingly becoming a matter of choice rather than of birth, and making Jewish identity far more fluid’.” While less observant communities are getting smaller, the report also found that strict Orthodox communities, also known as haredi, are growing, in part due to high birth rates.

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