Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category

Italian rabbis accuse biblical conference of fueling anti-Judaism – The Daily Tribune

ROME Two leading Italian rabbis have accused a Bible organization of promoting anti-Semitism by inviting scholars to debate the roots of Judaism at a Venice conference.

The theological conference, People of a Jealous God: Coherence and Ambivalence of the Ancient Religion of Israel, and will be in September, organized by the Italian Biblical Association.

Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, emeritus president of Italys Rabbinical Assembly and former chief rabbi of Milan, has released a letter sent to conference organizers in which he accused them of promoting intolerance and resentment of Judaism.

The conference will examine the role of the Hebrew God, Yahweh, in the evolution of faith and examine elements of the Torah and Jewish and Muslim philosophy, before looking at elements of the Bibles New Testament.

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In his letter, Laras described the program as a defeat for Jewish-Christian dialogue.

He said the scheduled topics revealed an undercurrent of resentment, intolerance, and annoyance toward Judaism and a minimization of the Jewish biblical roots of Christianity.

It saddens me that those who raise objections, doubts, concerns and outrage about these kinds of programs are always Jews, reduced to the thankless and disagreeable task of having to act as dialogue policemen, instead of influential Christian voices, he said.

Laras, a university professor who taught Jewish history and philosophy, also said the conference promoted Marcionism, referring to the school of thought espoused by Greek theologian Marcion who believed the Old Testament God was angry and wrathful while the New Testament promoted a loving, merciful God.

Milans chief rabbi, Alfonso Arbib, also expressed concern about the conference and its intentions.

Theological arguments have been used in the past as a weapon against the Jews: the vengeful God of the Jews, the God of justice as opposed to the God of love, used as anti-Jewish propaganda, Arbib said.

When arguments of this kind are used, it raises our alarm, Arbib said. Through Jewish-Christian dialogue the Catholic Church has overcome these arguments. It seems that now they are coming back.

Luca Mazzinghi, president of the hosting association, said the criticism was completely unjustified.

The organization has around 800 members, including academics and other experts, and is recognized by Italys Catholic Bishops Conference.

Those who created this controversy without thinking about contacting either the president or the organizers wanted to create political, ideological and religious implications which are completely unrelated, Mazzinghi said, adding:

As there is absolutely no anti-Semitism or attack against the Jewish faith or Judaism in general, we strongly reject any objections to our agenda.

Josephine McKenna covers the Vatican for RNS

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Researcher to talk about Judaism’s local legacy | News … – Sharonherald

NEW CASTLE Ground was broken for New Castles first synagogue in 1894.

The doors will be locked on the citys last one in nine months.

In between, generations of Jewish families have worshipped, raised families, conducted business and left a legacy that will be recalled by Eric Lidji at 7 p.m. April 5 at the Lawrence County Historical Center.

Lidji will talk about The History of Judaism in Lawrence County as an extension of the work he does as a consultant for the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, as well as a researcher for the Small Towns Jewish History Project, which is documenting Jewish life in small towns throughout western Pennsylvania.

Lidji also has been working with Temple Hadar Israel which will close after a final Shabbat service Dec. 30 in his role as a Rauh consultant. He conducted and compiled 11 oral histories from Temple Hadar Israel members that are available along with historical information and photos at www.jewishfamilieshistory.org/town/new-castle.

According to Lidji, there were once about 490 Jewish communities across the U.S. with triple-digit populations, and of those 490, about 44 almost 10 percent were in western Pennsylvania.

Thats a large enough sampling that you can start to look at patterns and themes and you can distinguish what is a local story vs. a regional story, he said. So what Im going to be doing is looking at that larger national and regional story, but Im going to be looking at it through the lens of three communities in Lawrence County New Castle, Ellwood City and Wampum.

Lidji called the three communities pretty textbook within that context, and noted that the first Jewish families began arriving in New Castle in the 1850s.

Theyre really just families who have settled there for business purposes, he said. Then in the 1880s and 1890s, enough of them have come and started to settle there that you get the makings of a community. First its a prayer group, then they organize a congregation, then they build a synagogue.

That story of families coming together to make a community and then building something that is increasingly stable is something that you see across the country.

However, one thing that set New Castle apart from many other such communities was that until 1997, it had two Jewish congregations.

Thats not unheard of, he said, but it was rare.

Growth

According to the Rauhs website, Tifereth Israel was founded on New Castles South Side in 1894. The Orthodox congregation built an initial synagogue on Home Street, then a new one in 1909 on South Jefferson Street. It stayed there until 1958, when it opened the Moody Avenue building that is now home to Temple Hadar Israel. The congregation was formed by the 1997 merger of the Orthodox-turned-Conservative Tifereth Israel and the Reformed Temple Israel, whose synagogue sat just one block west. Temple Israel was chartered in 1927.

The merger was spawned by New Castles declining Jewish population, which had reached its peak in the late 1950s but not before carving out a thriving commercial district on the citys South Side. In a list compiled for the Rauh website, longtime congregant Sybil Epstein cited a list of Jewish-owned businesses that included three department stories, six drug stores, several furniture stores, three grocers, five jewelers and various other businesses and professionals such as doctors, dentists and lawyers.

Decline

But with the arrival of the 1960s, the Jewish population began its decline. At that time, said Temple Hadar Israel President Sam Bernstine, around 300 families would turn out between the two synagogues for the high holidays. Today, though, only about 45 individuals show up for those same celebrations, while just 10 to 20 attend weekly Friday or Saturday services.

Lidji can offer no easy explanation for the decline either in New Castle, or in other small-town Jewish communities around western Pennsylvania.

When we started, our hypothesis was pretty simple, he said. We guessed that we would find in each town there would be some major economic engine that disappeared, and then people were leaving the area. But as we started to dig around we found that its not quite as simple as that.

There are little university towns in western Pennsylvania whose economies maintained some stability, and they didnt maintain their Jewish community, either. Youd almost have to go family by family, but my gut tells me that in a lot of cases, these families were able to send their kids to colleges, sometimes very prestigious colleges, and those children might have come into contact with opportunities they decided to take, and those opportunities could be anywhere in the world. It may have been that they just decided they wanted to pursue those, rather than stay in the town that they had grown up in.

Community

In his presentation, Lidji said, he will be looking at families who helped, through their businesses, create a prolonged period of stability within the Jewish community. And no such discussion would be complete without mention of the Raffel Brothers, New Castle natives who founded Arbys in nearby Boardman, Ohio, and the Warner Brothers, Youngstown residents who opened their first movie theater in New Castle.

In his research, though, he is more interested in learning how individuals come together to form a community, what the community looks like and how it functions, and how it responds to change.

One of the reasons why New Castle is interesting to me is because the way that they handled their growth is similar to a lot of other towns, but the way that they handled their shrinking was unique, he said. The willingness of the two congregations to merge is not something that happens in every town, and in some towns, the inability to merge hastens the decline of the community because they couldnt support that many institutions.

Now, the synagogue serving the remnant of the two congregations is closing, and when that has happened in other towns, Lidji said, there frequently is a feeling of failure that he doesnt believe is justified.

Part of what these communities were trying to do was preserve very ancient traditions in a setting that was not immediately amenable to those conditions, he said. It was pretty easy in a big city for Jews to keep their traditions because in some cases they were living in neighborhoods that were almost entirely Jewish, and it was almost like part of their culture their daily culture, not even so much a religious one. And they had, in many cases, their pick of rabbis and all of the opportunities you would need to make a Jewish life easy.

The small towns, they didnt have that a lot of times. These congregations often were led by laity who were not trained religiously and they did not always have all the accouterments of Jewish life, such as kosher meats or ritual objects.

New Castle, though, carved out nearly 125 years from incorporation to dissolution, and they only stopped because they no longer had any children who needed to be moved through the system, which in some sense means that their mission has been accomplished.

So even though it can feel very sad for these communities to close, it should be bittersweet, not sad, because they really achieved something that is fairly remarkable.

CNHI News Service

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Parshat Vayikra: The Trouble with SacrificesThe Jewish Press … – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Does Judaism really need animal sacrifices? Would it not be better off without them? After all, the sacrificial cult seems to compromise Judaism. What does a highly ethical religion have to do with the collecting of blood in vessels and the burning of animal limbs on an altar?

No doubt Judaism should be sacrifice-free. Yet it is not.

So, is the offering of sacrifices Jewish, or not? The answer is an unequivocal yes. It is Jewish, but it doesnt really belong to Judaism.

If Judaism had had the chance, it would have dropped the entire institution of sacrifices in the blink of an eye. Better yet, it would have had no part of it to begin with. How much more beautiful the Torah would be without sacrifices! How wonderful it would be if a good part ofSefer Vayikrawere removed from the biblical text; or had never been there in the first place.

So what are these sacrifices doing there?

The Torah doesnt really represent Judaism. Not in its ideal form. Not in all its glory.

There are actually two kinds of Judaism. There is the Judaism of today and the Judaism of tomorrow. There is realistic Judaism and idyllic Judaism. What fills the gap between them is the world of Halacha. Halacha is the balancing act between the doable and the ideal; between approximate means and absolute ends; between whatisand whatought to be. It is a great mediator, and a call for hope.

The Judaism of today is a concession to human weakness, but at the same time a belief in the greatness and strength of man. It calls upon people to do whatever is in their power to climb as high as possible, but warns them not to overstep and fall into the abyss. Judaism asks of humans to be magnificent beings, but never angels because to be too much is to be less than.

But Judaism also believes that people may one day reach the point where whatwasimpossible mightbepossible. Whatought to bemay someday become reality. It is that gap that Halacha tries to fill. Indeed, a mediator.

Many people believe that concessions to human weaknesses are incompatible with the divine will, which should not be compromised by human shortcomings.

But Judaism thinks otherwise.

Judaism is amused by Baruch Spinozas ideal world in which passions and human desires have no place, since they upset the philosophers good life ofamor intellectualis Dei(the intellectual love of God). Spinozas philosophy is so great that, with perhaps a few exceptions, it is not viable. He proved the shortcomings of his own philosophy when he became enraged at the political murders of the Dutch influential De Witt brothers in 1672. He told the great philosopher Gottfried Leibniz that he had planned to hang a large poster in the town square, readingultimi barbarorum(extreme barbarians), but was prevented from doing so by his hostess who locked the door on him, as she feared that Spinoza himself would be murdered! (K.O.Meinsma,Spinoza En Zijn Kring:Historisch kritische Studin Over Hollandsche Vrijgeesten in Dutch [Den Haag, 1896] p. 358, fn. 1)

Perhaps SpinozasEthicsis the ideal, but how immature to believe that it is attainable. How different hisEthicswould have been had Spinoza married, fathered children, and understood the limitations of daily life.

Halacha is pragmatic. It has no patience for SpinozasEthicsand no illusions about human beings. Indeed, it expects people to extend themselves to the limit, but it acknowledges the long and difficult road between theisand theought-to-be. And it understands all too well that theought-to-bemay never be reached in a persons lifetime.

Judaism teaches that the Divine limits itself out of respect for the human being. It was God Who created this imperfect person. So He could not have given theEthicsof Spinoza at Sinai; only Divine, imperfect laws that deal with the here-and-now and offer just a taste of theought-to-be. Judaism teaches that if the perfect is unattainable, one should at least try to reach the possible; the manageable; that whichcanbe achieved. If we cant do it all, let us attempt to makesomeimprovement. If you must wage war, do it as ethically as possible. If universal vegetarianism is inconceivable, try to treat animals more humanely and slaughter them painlessly. That isdoableJudaism.

True, this is not the idealindeed, the Torah is sometimes an embarrassmentbut its all that Godcouldcommand at Sinai. Its not theought-to-beJudaism, but its abetter-than-nothingJudaism.

The great art is to make thedoableJudaism, with all of its problems, as ethical as possible; and instead of despairing about its shortcomings, to live it as joyfully as we can. As Spinoza has taught us, Joy is manspassagefrom a lesser to a greater perfection(Ethics, 3, definitions 2 & 3). Oh, Baruch, did you forget your own insights?

Sacrifices are not part of theought-to-beJudaism. They are far removed from the Judaism that Spinoza dreamed of. But they are a realistic representation of thedoablewith an eye toward theought-to-be.

In one of his most daring statements, Maimonides maintains that sacrifices are a compromise to human weakness. The ancient world of idol worship was deeply committed to animal sacrifices. It was so ingrained in the way of life of the Jews ancestors that it was impossible to go suddenly from one extreme to the other, and the nature of man will not allow him to suddenly discontinue everything to which he is accustomed (Guide for the Perplexed, 3:32). Therefore, God permitted the Jews to continue the sacrificial cult, but only for His service, and with many restrictions, the ultimate goal being that with time the Jews would be weaned from this trend of worship; from theisto theought-to-be.

By making this and similar statements, Maimonides no doubt laid the foundations for Spinozas dream of an ultimate system of ethics, just as he planted the seeds of Spinozas pantheism. But Maimonides realized that the time had not yet come; that it was still a long road from the reality to the dream.

In contradiction to his statements in theGuide for the Perplexed, Maimonides, in his famousMishneh Torah, speaks about the need for sacrifices even in the future Temple (Hilchot Melachim, 11:1). I believe he thus expresses his doubt that theought-to-beJudaism will ever become a reality in this world.

Maimonides did not live in the Dutch town of Rijnsburg, in an iron tower far removed from the real world, as did Spinoza. Maimonides lived in a down-to-earth world full of human strife, problems and pain. He was a renowned halachist, and he knew that the halachic system is one that instructs man to keep both feet on the ground while simultaneously striving for what is realistically possible.

Still, perhaps the institution of sacrifice is grounded in deep symbolism, the meaning and urgency of which escapes our modern mentality. The fact that idol worshipers made use of it in their abominable rituals doesnt mean that it cant be of great spiritual value when practiced on a much higher plane, something deeply ingrained in a part of the human psyche to which modern man no longer has access. And yet, it doesnt contradict the fact that itought to bedifferent, so that even the higher dimensions of sacrifices become irrelevant. When Judaism and SpinozasEthicswill one day prevail, there will indeed be no need for sacrifices.

But what happened in the meantime? The Temple was destroyed and sacrificial service came to an end. Is this a step forward, or backward? When religious Jews to this day pray for the reinstatement of sacrifices, are they asking to return to the road between theisand theought-to-be; between the dream and its realization? Or, are they praying to reinstate sacrifices as a middle stage, only to eventually get rid of them forever?

We need to ask ourselves a pertinent question: Is our aversion to sacrifices the result of our supreme spiritual sophistication, which caused us to leave the world of sacrifices behind us? Or, have we sunk so low that we arent even able to reach the level of idol worshipers who, however primitive we believe them to have been, possessed a higher spiritual level than some of us who call ourselves monotheists?

This question is of great urgency in a modern world that slaughtered six million Jews and continues to slaughter millions of other people. Have we surpassed the state ofisand are we on our way to theought-to-beJudaism? Or, are we on the brink of a Judaism that is not even at the stage ofisbut rather in a state of regression, while we convince ourselves that it is in a state of progression? (*)

Indeed, a haunting question; one that we cannot escape.

***

Footnotes:

(*) For a discussion about the various positions on sacrifices, see Rabbi Meir Simcha Hakohen of Dvinsk in his classicMeshech Chochma, Introduction to Vayikra. Concerning the contradictions in Maimonides understanding of the sacrifices, see my bookBetween Silence and Speech: Essays on Jewish Thought(Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1995) chap. 1. See also Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazis explanation, in hisMaasei Hashem, on the frequent expression that sacrifices must be brought with a pleasant aroma to the Lord, which is included, with my commentary, in my first volume ofThoughts to Ponder: Daring Observations about the Jewish Tradition(NY-Jerusalem: Urim Publications, 2002) chap. 42.

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Local musician and filmmaker finds niche combining Judaism and the arts – Jewish Community Voice

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER

Voice shore editor

Sally Mitlas (left) with Rabbi Yaacov Orimland of Young Israel of Margate and his wife, Rebbetzin Suey Orimland, at the JCC Community Purim celebration. Amazing! said one man; Just like the Russian dancers in Fiddler on the Roof, said another woman, as they watched two male dancers turn and do low kicks while balancing bottles on their hats at the Community Purim Party at the JCC on March 12. The dancers, along with a talented group of Klezmer musicians and a juggler performing during cocktail hour, were supplied by Mitlas Productions, an entertainment company started by Sally Mitlas.

Our niche is that we combine the best of both worlds Jewish and American, said Mitlas, who moved to Margate last fall. We advertise that we can go from the warmth of Havdalah to todays hottest hits.

Mix together Judaism, the arts, and a load of creative talent, and you get Sally Mitlas. Music. Film. Art. She has brought her Judaism and creativity to all of these media and won accolades for her work.

Two of her documentary films, A Hero in Heaven, and A Green Kippahboth about Americans who gave their lives for Israelare frequently shown in Israel and elsewhere in the world on Yom Hazikaron, Israels Memorial Day. Her extensive knowledge of Yiddish music and traditions has also made Mitlas a sought-after performer at traditional simchas. At a wedding this summer in Italy, she will be performing a traditional Eastern European Krenzel or crowning ceremony, singing Yiddish songs and presenting a crown of flowers to parents who are marrying off their youngest child. She has also won awards for micrography calligraphy using tiny Hebrew letters.

Mitlas, whose production company is based in the Philly area, decided to relocate to Margate after spending a summer here. I know it sounds funny but it reminded me of being in Israel. I liked being by the sea. I liked being able to ride a bike everywhere, said Mitlas, who does much of her work in coffee shops, on computer, communicating with performers and editors all over the world.

It didnt take long for her to find a spiritual home at Young Israel of Margate. Rabbi Orimland and his wife are so exceptional, said Mitlas, who does not consider herself to be Orthodox but felt embraced by the community there.

Mitlas grew up in a very loving, Jewish traditional household that valued Judaismso much so that when her teenage brother did not seem connected to his Jewish roots, their parents sent him on a 6- week Gratz College program to Israel to rediscover them. He came back with a kippah on his head and hasnt taken it off since! she said.

Her brothers trip to Israel had an enormous impact on Sally, who was then 12. Thats what started my passion for Israel and Judaism, said Mitlas, who describes herself as an ardent Zionist. The souvenirs he brought back for hera record album he got from El Al Airlines featuring a famous recording of Shuli Natan singing Jerusalem of Gold, and a micrography poster also changed her life.

The poster inspired Sally to learn micrography. She quickly became accomplished at doing artistic designs using tiny Hebrew letters, and went to Israel for the first time after winning a free trip there with a micrography competition.

Shuli Natans recording inspired Sally to want to learn guitar and sing. She got a guitar and six months of guitar lessons for her Bat Mitzvah, and Sallys mother, who grew up in a Yiddish-speaking household, taught Sally the songs she knew. My mother taught me all the Yiddish folk songs. While everyone else was listening to the BeeGees, I was listening to Theodore Bikel!

Mitlas began performing, eventually getting hired to perform at weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Ultimately she opened her own entertainment company and hired other musicians to work with her. When making videos of these events became popular, she first subcontracted with videographers but then learned to create her own event videos.

A Hero in Heaven was her first documentary video. One day I heard a local boy was killed while serving in the IDF in the second Lebanon War, Mitlas recalled. After doing some research on the boy, I realized his mother worked across the hall from me. I didnt know her name, but we would say hello. Moved by the boys story, Mitlas attended his memorial service. She then approached the family about making a documentary about their son, and they agreed. Since then, she said, It has been shown every Memorial Day in Israel. It was a tremendous honor. The film has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for lone soldiers in the IDF whose families live outside of Israel.

After that, Mitlas went on to create films for the Israeli Consulate, Israel Bonds, philanthropists, and more.

One thing led to another. This has been my life. Im artsyIm into the arts. Im able to tell stories through film, and Im able to create happiness through music.

She is also able to bring Jewish tradition to life in a meaningful and joyous way at simchas and other events. In addition to offering musical entertainment for events, her company also specializes in doing an authentic Havdalah and horas that are long, delicious, meaningful, spiritual and authentic. Klezidelphia, the Klezmer band that performed at the Community Purim Party, is also a unique offering of Mitlas Productions. On Simchat Torah, she noted, a Philadelphia synagogue hired Klezidelphia to wander up and down Broad Street playing traditional Jewish music.

The Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties may be drawing on Mitlas creativity yet again in creating a combined Yom Hazikaron commemoration and Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) celebration that will take place on May 1. However, exact plans for the event have yet to be determined, said Federation Executive Director Kirk Wisemayer.

Notably, Mitlas will not be calling Margate home for much longer. A change in her business now requires her to spend more time in the Philly area, and the commute is just too long. But she still plans to stay connected to our local community. Im still a member of Young Israel, and Im still going to be involved, said Mitlas.

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Pakistan’s interior ministry allows man to change religion from Islam to Judaism – India Today

In a rare move, Pakistan’s interior ministry allowed 29-year-old Fishel Benkhald to practice the religion of his “choice and preference”- Judaism.

Pakistan’s ministry of interior recently responded to his application seeking conversion/correction of his religion from Islam to Judaism in his national identity documents.

Fishel was born to a Muslim father a Jewish mother in Karachi in 1987 and in the country’s top database authority he is registered as a Muslim because of his father’s religion, reported PTI.

Recently, he applied for a change in religion and asked National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to correct his faith in a Smart Card he had applied for last year.

NADRA was apparently in a fix over this issue and further asked the ministry’s opinion on correcting the religion and allowing him to practice Judaism. The ministry responded saying that “the applicant may be allowed to practice religion of [his] choosing and preference”, reported the Express Tribune.

Although the interior ministry has given a green signal but NADRA has not acted on it yet. “I haven’t received my Smart-Card ID from NADRA as of now”, Fishel told India Today.

An Express Tribune report said that NADRA usually turns down such requests especially from Muslims. But interior ministry’s approval might help Fishel’s case. There are very few Pakistani Jews and usually hide their identity from the public. In fact, their records are also treated as top secret.

Fishel, though, has mentioned himself as a Jew in the religion column during the census in the country.

Also read: Pakistani man ‘forgives’ Indian youths found guilty of murdering his son in UAE

Also read: Pakistan arrests more than 100 Indian fishermen off Gujarat coast

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Last Jew in Pakistan – Breitbart – Breitbart News

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I studied Islam in childhood. But I never practiced it as a religion, declared Fishel Benkhald from the city of Karachi, reports the Express Tribune.

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Benkhald had long been registered as a Muslim, but Pakistans interior ministry has reportedly allowed him to change religions.

The applicant may be allowed to practice [the]religion of [his] choosing and preference, decided the ministry after Benkhald urged the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to allow him to identify as a Jew in his national identity documents, reports the Express Tribune.

However, the latest U.S. State Department Report on International Religious Freedomnotes that it is Pakistans policy not to allow citizens, regardless of religious affiliation, to travel to Israel.

Still, the Pakistani government acquiesced in an unusual move and allowed Benkhalds conversion request.

The Press Trust of Indian (PTI) concedes, Although the interior ministry has given the green signal, NADRA has yet to issue a smart card after correcting Benkhalds religion.

In Pakistan, the government still officially considers Benkhald a Muslim.

Faisal, as he is known in his current identity documents, was born to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother in Karachi in 1987. He was registered as a Muslim due to his fathers religion, mentions PTI.

Under normal circumstances, the Muslim-registered Karachi native would have been deemed an apostate had he identified himself as a Jew, adds the Indian news outlet.

The international media has labeled Benkhald the last Jew in Pakistan.

Nonetheless, an unnamed Pakistani official from NADRA, which keeps records of the population, is quoted by the Express Tribune as saying that a tiny Jewish community has managed to survive persecution in the predominantly Muslim country by maintaining a low profile.

Benkhalds native Karachi was once home to the largest concentration of Jews in Pakistan nearly 2,500 at the beginning of the twentieth century, reports the Jewish Virtual Library,a division of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise.

However, the small Jewish community in Pakistan has nearly met the same fate of its counterparts in neighboring Muslim-majority countries who were completely wiped out by Islamic extremists.

Pakistans hostility toward Israel and Zionism has not waned, points out the virtual library. The increasing influence of extreme Islamists have further undermined the security of the Jewish community.

The organization reveals that a tiny Jewish community of about 200 people still lives in Pakistan.

Citing the top Islamabad official from NADRA, the Express Tribune reports that the identity details of the Jews in Pakistan are treated as top secret.

The Pakistani official reportedly placed the number of registered Jew families in Pakistan at 745.

Some Jewish families do remain, but they prefer to pass themselves off as Parsis [followers of the ancient Zoroastrian religion] due to the intolerance for Jews in Muslim Pakistan, mentions the Jewish Virtual Library.

Echoing the organization, the U.S. State Department notes that religious minorities, particularly Christians and Jews, continue face discrimination and persecution in Pakistan.

According to reports from the Jinnah Institute and other monitoring organizations, some public school textbooks continued to include derogatory statements about minority religious groups, including Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Christians. The monitoring groups said the teaching of religious intolerance remained widespread, reported the State Department in 2015.

Seemingly acknowledging the existence of the Karachi native who was recently allowed to convert to Judaism, the State Department also reported, A Pakistani Jewish activist in Karachi has received some media coverage, but most of the historic Jewish community has emigrated.

As a show of Muslim solidarity with Arab states, Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and often joins Arab-initiated moves against the Jewish country in the United Nations.

The founding of an Islamic state [Pakistan] immediately prior to the establishment of the State of Israel created a rising feeling of insecurity within the Pakistani Jewish community By 1968, the number of Jews in Pakistan had decreased to 250, almost all of whom were concentrated in Karachi, where there was one synagogue, a welfare organization, and a recreational organization, reports the Jewish Virtual Library.

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Meet Rabbi ‘Willy’ Wolff, Germany’s ambassador of Liberal Judaism and now, movie star – The Times of Israel

BERLIN (JTA) For many Germans, Rabbi William Willy Wolff is the first Jewish religious leader they have ever met.

And hes the perfect man for the job. Diminutive, with a disarming chuckle and twinkling eyes, Wolff, who turned 90 in February, effortlessly breaks down that uniquely German condition of Berhrungsangst literally fear of contact with others.

Wolff, who fled Nazi Germany as a young boy and returned in 2002 to work in the former East Germany, is the first rabbi many Germans today have encountered. Its in part because of his interfaith outreach over the years as one-time head rabbi, serving three liberal Jewish communities in the former East German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

He is really a gifted ambassador for Judaism, said Hans-Jrgen Abromeit, a Protestant bishop who has worked often with Wolff on interfaith programs and calls him a fatherly friend.

More recently, however, Wolff has reached a new level of prominence thanks to German director Britta Wauer. Her documentary, Rabbi Wolff A Gentleman Before God, has been playing in theaters across the country. One of the top-grossing German documentaries in 2016, it will have its North American premiere in May.

Since the films release, the apparently tireless rabbi has been zigzagging around Germany with Wauer talking with dozens of audiences and signing copies of her accompanying book, Rabbi Wolff and the Essence of Life.

Hes not transmitting a narrow religion but humanity, said a starstruck woman after a screening and discussion in the former East Berlin. I like the calmness with which he approaches life.

Cover, Rabbi Wolff and the Essence of Life. (Courtesy)

Wolff may indeed appear calm, but hes also incredibly energetic and he comfortably embodies multiple identities: an Englishman, a German, a Jew; a Holocaust survivor with a spirit of joie de vivre.

The Berlin native in an interview with JTA described his family he had a twin brother, Joachim, and an older sister, Ruth as strictly Orthodox and culturally German. His father attended an independent Orthodox synagogue that attracted Jews who were unhappy with the increased liberalization of the official community.

The family fled Nazi Germany for Holland in September 1933 after Wolffs mother learned that the local tailors daughter, Magda, had married Hitlers propaganda minister.

My mother was afraid that because of the indirect connection with [Josef] Goebbels, we might be on an early list for deportation, Wolff said.

In 1939, they left Amsterdam for England, where Wolff and his brother attended the Hendon County Grammar School. When the schools deputy headmistress summoned students to discuss their career plans, Wolff said he wanted to be a rabbi or a journalist. He became both.

The headmistress, thinking Wolff was quite good at French, got him a one-year scholarship to the French Lycee in South Kensington. Wolff learned typing, shorthand and French there.

The skills would prove to be invaluable. With the war still raging, Wolffs typing and language abilities English, German, Dutch, French (he later added Russian) landed him a job with the Reuters news agency on the outskirts of London in a radio listening station that picked up Russian and German broadcasts. He worked there from 1944 to 1947.

There were no Allied correspondents [on the Axis side], so this was a way to get hints of official attitudes, Wolff, who later attended the London School of Economics, told JTA.

In 1954 he started working at the Slough Observer, and eventually joined the staff of the Daily Mirror, moving from domestic issues to foreign policy.

An overwhelming majority of Germans have accepted responsibility for the consequences of that past

Wolffs decades of work as a journalist included trips abroad with British prime minister Harold Wilson and foreign secretary Michael Stewart. Returning from one such trip in the late 1960s, they stopped in Bonn to meet with German foreign minister Willy Brandt.

It was the first time Wolff had set foot on German soil since his family had fled the country.

I was grateful, and even a little proud, to be living and working in Germany, a country where the events of the past had become unimaginable, he told Wauer. An overwhelming majority of Germans have accepted responsibility for the consequences of that past and that gave me a feeling of security.

Meanwhile, toiling as a journalist, Wolff drifted from the Orthodoxy of his youth.

Balloons from the art project Lichtgrenze 2014 (lit. lightborder 2014) reflected in a puddle next to remains of the Berlin Wall at East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany, Friday, November 7, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Steffi Loos)

I have enormous respect and deepest admiration for all biblical scholarship, he said, but the more I got involved with text, the more clear it became to me that every word could not have come from God because God contradicts himself from one book to the next.

Plus, his parents split up. Wolffs mother lived with a man without marrying him until after his father died.

That, too, was unacceptable to some of my Orthodox friends, he said.

In 1979, Rabbi Sidney Brichto, a leading figure in British liberal Jewish circles, asked Wolff to edit the movements newsletter. He realized then that he wanted to return to his early dream of becoming a rabbi.

It became clear to me that every word could not have come from God because God contradicts himself

I found out about Liberal Judaism known globally as Reform or Progressive which had not been respected by my father or by the Orthodox circles and when I found out about that I suddenly thought, well, maybe I could make a contribution there, he told JTA.

Brichto ultimately recommended Wolff to the Progressive Leo Baeck College in London.

Wolff was ordained in 1984. He served at several London synagogues when he learned something unexpected: Germany needed rabbis.

For the first time since World War II, the countrys Jewish population was really growing due to the influx of former Soviet Jews after the unification of East and West in 1990. The postwar population of some 35,000 had grown to more than 240,000; synagogues were being built. The Union of Progressive Jews in Germany counts around 4,500 members.

In the spring of 2002, Wolff was tapped by a member of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and appointed head rabbi for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, serving liberal Jewish communities in Schwerin, Rostock and Wismar. Three years later he was elected deputy chair of the General Rabbinical Conference, a liberal body in Germany that works parallel to the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference there.

In this photo taken Tuesday, October 14, 2014, Israelis attend a gathering encouraging others to immigrate to Berlin in Tel Aviv, Israel. (photo credit: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Commuting to his three communities in Germany and his home in Henley on Thames, England, Wolff led services and also represented Judaism in public a role he hopes he has done with dignity.

Whether or not I have succeeded is for others to say, he said.

Whether or not I have succeeded is for others to say

East Germany can be tricky terrain to navigate; for Jews and non-Jews, the scars of recent history are fresh.

The two dictatorships first the Nazis and then the communists I think left quite deep and hidden wounds, Wolff said.

Wolffs contract as head rabbi in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern ended two years ago, but he continues to work as a volunteer. He has also found another, unexpected role: movie star.

This file photo taken on January 13, 2016 shows the main grounds of the Communist Free German Youth (FDJ-Freie Deutsche Jugend) school complex, built in the 1950s, near the Bogensee lake, north of Berlin, taken on January 13, 2016. (John Macdougal/AFP)

He met Wauer, who is not Jewish, when she was working on her first film, In Heaven, Underground, about the historic Weissensee Jewish Cemetery in the former East Berlin.

Wauer wanted a rabbi to say a few things about halacha [Jewish law], such as why we dont have two coffins in the same grave, and no other rabbi in Berlin would play ball with her, Wolff said.

The documentary was released to acclaim in 2011. Wolff, with an on-screen presence one reviewer described as pure gold, became a favorite among audiences, some of whom started asking Wauer to make a film about the rabbi himself.

The two dictatorships first the Nazis and then the communists I think left quite deep and hidden wounds

The popular result profiles Woolf as he shuttles between England and Germany, conducts services, attends the Ascot races in a dapper top hat, and digs through the piles and piles of books and periodicals that crowd his Henley bungalow.

Not one to dwell darkly on the past, Wolff acknowledges one regret: If there is anything I regret then it is the fact that I never married and never created a family, he told Wauer. I can hardly believe that I am as old as I am but have no children or grandchildren.

As for his newfound fame from Rabbi Wolff A Gentleman Before God, Wolff told JTA, I take these things in my stride, and I lose no sleep over it.

After a 2016 screening in Berlins Kino Toni, the audience, virtually all non-Jews, flocked around a small table holding their copies of the accompanying book for the rabbi to sign.

I dont see any bitterness in him, a woman commented later. He is a very important ambassador for people in Germany who know nothing about Judaism and have many clichs in their heads.

Rabbi Willy Wolff is the star of one of the highest-grossing documentaries in Germany of 2016. (Toby Axelrod/JTA)

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Meet Rabbi ‘Willy’ Wolff, Germany’s ambassador of Liberal Judaism and now, movie star – The Times of Israel

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Selling Judaism, Religion Not Included – Bloomberg

In 2015, while traveling in Israel with 80 young tech professionals, Meghan Holzhauer fell in love with Shabbat dinner, the ancient Friday night tradition in which Jews bless candles, challah, and wine, then share a meal with loved ones. She was so inspired, in fact, that she started spreading the love. In March her travel startup, Canvus, took 40 young professionals to Mexico City, where they celebrated a multicultural Shabbat dinner. Shes now organizing a hip-hop Shabbat for 400 people attending a social justice conference in Atlanta in June. A lot of Jewish rituals are about honoring friends and family, she says. You feel part of something bigger.

Photographer: Tim OConnell for Bloomberg Businessweek

Holzhauer isnt Jewish. She was raised Christian-light by nonpracticing parents, she says, and has no interest in converting. As she explains it, a non-Jew finding inspiration in the Sabbathor traveling to Israel for that matterisnt so different from the millions of non-Buddhists who practice yoga or go on meditation retreats to India. Its the latest way that ancient traditions are meeting modern life, she says.

If there ever was a moment when Shabbat was poised to become the new yoga practice, its now. Interfaith marriage rates among American Jews have jumped from a little more than 40 percent in the 1980s to 58 percent in the period from 2000 to 2013. Thats a lot more newlyweds (plus their families and friends) with exposure to Jewish ceremonies and rituals. Call them Jew-adjacent, Jew-curious, or just Jew-ish.

Jewish culture is in the mainstream, its popular, and thats something any brand would want to jump on, says Danya Shults, 31, founder of Arq, a lifestyle company that seeks to sell people of all faiths on a trendy, tech-literate, and, above all, accessible version of Jewish traditions. Arq is a portal for interfaith couples, their friends, and their families to find relevant, inclusive, aesthetically elevated information and products. It offers holiday-planning guides; Seder plates designed by Isabel Halley, the ceramicist who outfitted the female-only social club the Wing; and interviews with Jewish entrepreneurs, as well as chefs who cook up artisanal halvah and horseradish. Theres also an event series, including a weekend retreat in the Catskills in upstate New York that Shults says is inspired by Jewish summer camp but more Kinfolk-y, referring to the elegantly twee lifestyle magazine.

Shults grew up in an observant home, attended a Jewish day school, and became fluent in Hebrew. Then she got engaged to a Presbyterian. We never really found a [religious] community that matched what we were looking for, especially for me, says Shultss now-husband, Andrew. Many of the synagogues that purported to be inclusive turned out to have an agenda, such as trying to get Andrew to convert or cultivating the couples political support for Israel.

Shults covers her eyes and performs the traditional Shabbat blessing over the candles.

Photographer: Tim OConnell for Bloomberg Businessweek

The troubles didnt end there. Shults tells the story of one non-Jewish friend who went shopping for the couple by Googling chic Jewish wedding gift and found the results to be either totally out of style or far too didactic and preachy. Cool, inclusive presents did existShults knew that muchbut they werent easy to find. Thus, Arq was born. My ultimate test case was my husband, Shults says. Would he discover this? Read this? Go to this event?

Arq may be the most ambitious new company hoping to court the Jew-curious community, but its not the only one. There are secular dinner and dating platforms that draw on Jewish clichs such as the opinionated mother and the gut-busting holiday meal; resources to plan an interfaith wedding and help an interfaith family find a nonschlocky menorah; companies offering trips that take young secular professionals to Israel; and even a matzo company that aims to make unleavened bread the next pita chip. Most of these outfits are less than three years old. Not that long ago, it would have felt dirty to talk about branding Jewish culture, says Aliza Kline, executive director of OneTable, a social dining app that helps people of all religious backgrounds celebrate inclusive Shabbat meals.

Bubby brings old-fashioned matchmaking to the app age.

Source: Bubby

Of course, there has long been a mainstream taste for Jewish humor and food (see: Seinfeld, bagels, challah French toast), but the fervor is something new. I see rabbis doing really creative things, saying, Come in and try this out, says Rabbi Ari Moffic, who directs the Chicago branch of a swiftly growing national network called Interfaith Family. You can do Jewish, she says, even if youre not Jewish. You want to unplug? Its called Shabbat, and were the experts on it.

Moffic understands why this kind of cultural marketing would make many rabbis uncomfortable. As a rule, Jews dont proselytize to non-Jews. But Moffic and the others in the cultural-marketing camp have decided that enlarging the tent is the best way to keep young Jews inside it. The focus on a single community can so easily become exclusive, says Kline, who estimates that 10 percent to 15 percent of OneTable guests arent Jewish. But through technology, were seeding hundreds of new communities.

That was the idea behind Arq as well. The name, inspired by Noahs Ark, is an allusion to diversity. With so many different animals in one boat, Shults explains, the best way forward is a compromise. For its model, the company draws on elements from well-established lifestyle portals such as Goop and Food52, up-and-coming jewelry resource Of a Kind, and parenting advice site Fatherly. To varying degrees, these sites fuse e-commerce with storytelling, but they also present themselves as community platforms. For the time being, Shults is relying on brand partnerships and events to support her business. I dont want to have to scale at an ungodly pace, she says of her decision not to seek funding.

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Shults started the company in late 2016, less than a year after quitting her job as director for marketing and community at the venture capital firm Spark Capital LLC, and it has already made several high-profile partnerships. Arq has linked up with the wedding registry company Zola Inc. to curate Jewish presents that dont look as if they come from the synagogue gift shop; with the home design site Apartment Therapy, on a series of Judaica-focused home tours; and with the feminist/LGBTQ-friendly wedding-planning site Catalyst Wedding Co., on an interview series with couples who are diverse in every imaginable way. Arq-branded events have included a couples salon series in partnership with Honeymoon Israel, a nonprofit that sends nontraditional (interfaith, same-sex) couples on trips to Israel, and a womens lunar retreat, based on the ancient Jewish practice of women celebrating one another around the new moon.

Honeymoon Israel helps interfaith couples celebrate their nuptials in the Jewish homeland.

Source: Honeymoon Israel

In addition, Arq hosts dinners with Bubby. Co-founder Stephanie Volftsun says the tech-enabled matchmaking service is inspired by the time-tested tradition of the Jewish matchmaking yenta and aimed at expanding the notion of what a Jewish couple should look like. Were all about being open to people who are different, which then means that non-Jews are drawn into our food, culture, and traditions, she says.

Not every Jew-ish company has such a social mission, however. The Matzo Project has taken as its task getting unleavened bread out of the ethnic food aisle. We want it to be more than something that very pious Jews eat at Passover, says co-founder Ashley Albert. The companys offerings include matzo flats and chips in salted, everything, and cinnamon-sugar flavors, as well as a matzo butter crunch bar. Its also about to release a vegan matzo ball soup kit. Like Bubby, Matzo Project has made the Jewish grandma central to its brandingthough in its case, shes more Long Island than old country. Each box features a cheeky cartoon granny in pearls and Iris Apfel glasses, with a word bubble that reads, Would it kill you to try something new? Albert, who also owns Brooklyns popular Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, and her Matzo Project co-founder, Kevin Rodriguez, a former product designer for Vera Wang, have received encouraging feedback on their branding from ethnic Italians and Koreans as well as Jews. Grandma is sassy, smart, and strong, Albert says. A lot of people know a version of her.

OneTable organizes Shabbat dinners in cities across the U.S.

Photographer: Elaine Moran

Products from the Matzo Project, which started a year ago, are available at New Yorks Eataly and Dylans Candy Bar, San Franciscos Bi-Rite minichain, and specialty stores in places as far-flung as Wyoming. Most of these retailers, Albert says, have never carried matzo before. She and Rodriguez have also talked their way into a handful of Whole Foods Markets, but finding a national distributor that gets the mission has been more challenging. Albert understands why people persist in treating matzo as a specialty food. But like the founders of Bubby, OneTable, and Arq, she thinks its only a matter of time before the foreign becomes familiar. When I was a kid, pita was a really unusual ethnic food, she says. It was part of somebody elses culture. Now its part of all our cultures.

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Selling Judaism, Religion Not Included – Bloomberg

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Judaism, Atonement, and God’s Nonviolence The RavenCast – Patheos (blog)

What does Jewish spirituality have to teach us about navigating the current American political crisis?

In the latest episode of the RavenCast, I sat down with Vanessa Avery, a Hebrew Bible Scholar and Diversity and Organizational Consultant. Vanessa holds degrees from the University of Exeter, Yale Divinity School, Kings College London and McGill University. She uses mimetic theory to interpret the Bible and to help businesses inspire generosity, empathy, creativity, hospitality, strength and courage.

Vanessa is the author of many articles, including Atonement and the Book of Jonah, Jewish Vaccines Against Mimetic Desire, Watchmen and Mimetic Theory, Whither Girard and Islam and Engaging Difference: Exercises and tips for creating Experiential Learning Environments. And theres a great article about Vanessa and her organizational consulting titled Why is scapegoating so common at Work? You can learn more about Vanessas consulting workshops and you can contact her through her website, Transcendence Education.

*How Vanessa has helped businesses diversify and end scapegoating practices.

*The connections between being a diversity consultant, mimetic theory, and the Hebrew Scriptures.

*The Bible is full of violence, but Vanessa claims that the Bible also holds the antidote to violence. How can that be?

*On the Jewish Day of Atonement, Jews are commanded to listen to the book of Jonah. Vanessa explains why the book of Jonah is crucially important to understanding atonement.

*The connection between justice and mercy in Judaism.

*How the book of Jonah can help us navigate the current American social crisis.

Stay in the loop! Like Teaching Nonviolent Atonement on Facebook!

Link:
Judaism, Atonement, and God’s Nonviolence The RavenCast – Patheos (blog)

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Italian rabbis accuse biblical conference of fueling anti-Judaism – The Daily Tribune

ROME Two leading Italian rabbis have accused a Bible organization of promoting anti-Semitism by inviting scholars to debate the roots of Judaism at a Venice conference. The theological conference, People of a Jealous God: Coherence and Ambivalence of the Ancient Religion of Israel, and will be in September, organized by the Italian Biblical Association. Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, emeritus president of Italys Rabbinical Assembly and former chief rabbi of Milan, has released a letter sent to conference organizers in which he accused them of promoting intolerance and resentment of Judaism. The conference will examine the role of the Hebrew God, Yahweh, in the evolution of faith and examine elements of the Torah and Jewish and Muslim philosophy, before looking at elements of the Bibles New Testament. Advertisement In his letter, Laras described the program as a defeat for Jewish-Christian dialogue. He said the scheduled topics revealed an undercurrent of resentment, intolerance, and annoyance toward Judaism and a minimization of the Jewish biblical roots of Christianity. It saddens me that those who raise objections, doubts, concerns and outrage about these kinds of programs are always Jews, reduced to the thankless and disagreeable task of having to act as dialogue policemen, instead of influential Christian voices, he said. Laras, a university professor who taught Jewish history and philosophy, also said the conference promoted Marcionism, referring to the school of thought espoused by Greek theologian Marcion who believed the Old Testament God was angry and wrathful while the New Testament promoted a loving, merciful God. Milans chief rabbi, Alfonso Arbib, also expressed concern about the conference and its intentions. Theological arguments have been used in the past as a weapon against the Jews: the vengeful God of the Jews, the God of justice as opposed to the God of love, used as anti-Jewish propaganda, Arbib said. When arguments of this kind are used, it raises our alarm, Arbib said. Through Jewish-Christian dialogue the Catholic Church has overcome these arguments. It seems that now they are coming back. Luca Mazzinghi, president of the hosting association, said the criticism was completely unjustified. The organization has around 800 members, including academics and other experts, and is recognized by Italys Catholic Bishops Conference. Those who created this controversy without thinking about contacting either the president or the organizers wanted to create political, ideological and religious implications which are completely unrelated, Mazzinghi said, adding: As there is absolutely no anti-Semitism or attack against the Jewish faith or Judaism in general, we strongly reject any objections to our agenda. Josephine McKenna covers the Vatican for RNS

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Researcher to talk about Judaism’s local legacy | News … – Sharonherald

NEW CASTLE Ground was broken for New Castles first synagogue in 1894. The doors will be locked on the citys last one in nine months. In between, generations of Jewish families have worshipped, raised families, conducted business and left a legacy that will be recalled by Eric Lidji at 7 p.m. April 5 at the Lawrence County Historical Center. Lidji will talk about The History of Judaism in Lawrence County as an extension of the work he does as a consultant for the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, as well as a researcher for the Small Towns Jewish History Project, which is documenting Jewish life in small towns throughout western Pennsylvania. Lidji also has been working with Temple Hadar Israel which will close after a final Shabbat service Dec. 30 in his role as a Rauh consultant. He conducted and compiled 11 oral histories from Temple Hadar Israel members that are available along with historical information and photos at www.jewishfamilieshistory.org/town/new-castle. According to Lidji, there were once about 490 Jewish communities across the U.S. with triple-digit populations, and of those 490, about 44 almost 10 percent were in western Pennsylvania. Thats a large enough sampling that you can start to look at patterns and themes and you can distinguish what is a local story vs. a regional story, he said. So what Im going to be doing is looking at that larger national and regional story, but Im going to be looking at it through the lens of three communities in Lawrence County New Castle, Ellwood City and Wampum. Lidji called the three communities pretty textbook within that context, and noted that the first Jewish families began arriving in New Castle in the 1850s. Theyre really just families who have settled there for business purposes, he said. Then in the 1880s and 1890s, enough of them have come and started to settle there that you get the makings of a community. First its a prayer group, then they organize a congregation, then they build a synagogue. That story of families coming together to make a community and then building something that is increasingly stable is something that you see across the country. However, one thing that set New Castle apart from many other such communities was that until 1997, it had two Jewish congregations. Thats not unheard of, he said, but it was rare. Growth According to the Rauhs website, Tifereth Israel was founded on New Castles South Side in 1894. The Orthodox congregation built an initial synagogue on Home Street, then a new one in 1909 on South Jefferson Street. It stayed there until 1958, when it opened the Moody Avenue building that is now home to Temple Hadar Israel. The congregation was formed by the 1997 merger of the Orthodox-turned-Conservative Tifereth Israel and the Reformed Temple Israel, whose synagogue sat just one block west. Temple Israel was chartered in 1927. The merger was spawned by New Castles declining Jewish population, which had reached its peak in the late 1950s but not before carving out a thriving commercial district on the citys South Side. In a list compiled for the Rauh website, longtime congregant Sybil Epstein cited a list of Jewish-owned businesses that included three department stories, six drug stores, several furniture stores, three grocers, five jewelers and various other businesses and professionals such as doctors, dentists and lawyers. Decline But with the arrival of the 1960s, the Jewish population began its decline. At that time, said Temple Hadar Israel President Sam Bernstine, around 300 families would turn out between the two synagogues for the high holidays. Today, though, only about 45 individuals show up for those same celebrations, while just 10 to 20 attend weekly Friday or Saturday services. Lidji can offer no easy explanation for the decline either in New Castle, or in other small-town Jewish communities around western Pennsylvania. When we started, our hypothesis was pretty simple, he said. We guessed that we would find in each town there would be some major economic engine that disappeared, and then people were leaving the area. But as we started to dig around we found that its not quite as simple as that. There are little university towns in western Pennsylvania whose economies maintained some stability, and they didnt maintain their Jewish community, either. Youd almost have to go family by family, but my gut tells me that in a lot of cases, these families were able to send their kids to colleges, sometimes very prestigious colleges, and those children might have come into contact with opportunities they decided to take, and those opportunities could be anywhere in the world. It may have been that they just decided they wanted to pursue those, rather than stay in the town that they had grown up in. Community In his presentation, Lidji said, he will be looking at families who helped, through their businesses, create a prolonged period of stability within the Jewish community. And no such discussion would be complete without mention of the Raffel Brothers, New Castle natives who founded Arbys in nearby Boardman, Ohio, and the Warner Brothers, Youngstown residents who opened their first movie theater in New Castle. In his research, though, he is more interested in learning how individuals come together to form a community, what the community looks like and how it functions, and how it responds to change. One of the reasons why New Castle is interesting to me is because the way that they handled their growth is similar to a lot of other towns, but the way that they handled their shrinking was unique, he said. The willingness of the two congregations to merge is not something that happens in every town, and in some towns, the inability to merge hastens the decline of the community because they couldnt support that many institutions. Now, the synagogue serving the remnant of the two congregations is closing, and when that has happened in other towns, Lidji said, there frequently is a feeling of failure that he doesnt believe is justified. Part of what these communities were trying to do was preserve very ancient traditions in a setting that was not immediately amenable to those conditions, he said. It was pretty easy in a big city for Jews to keep their traditions because in some cases they were living in neighborhoods that were almost entirely Jewish, and it was almost like part of their culture their daily culture, not even so much a religious one. And they had, in many cases, their pick of rabbis and all of the opportunities you would need to make a Jewish life easy. The small towns, they didnt have that a lot of times. These congregations often were led by laity who were not trained religiously and they did not always have all the accouterments of Jewish life, such as kosher meats or ritual objects. New Castle, though, carved out nearly 125 years from incorporation to dissolution, and they only stopped because they no longer had any children who needed to be moved through the system, which in some sense means that their mission has been accomplished. So even though it can feel very sad for these communities to close, it should be bittersweet, not sad, because they really achieved something that is fairly remarkable. CNHI News Service

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Parshat Vayikra: The Trouble with SacrificesThe Jewish Press … – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Does Judaism really need animal sacrifices? Would it not be better off without them? After all, the sacrificial cult seems to compromise Judaism. What does a highly ethical religion have to do with the collecting of blood in vessels and the burning of animal limbs on an altar? No doubt Judaism should be sacrifice-free. Yet it is not. So, is the offering of sacrifices Jewish, or not? The answer is an unequivocal yes. It is Jewish, but it doesnt really belong to Judaism. If Judaism had had the chance, it would have dropped the entire institution of sacrifices in the blink of an eye. Better yet, it would have had no part of it to begin with. How much more beautiful the Torah would be without sacrifices! How wonderful it would be if a good part ofSefer Vayikrawere removed from the biblical text; or had never been there in the first place. So what are these sacrifices doing there? The Torah doesnt really represent Judaism. Not in its ideal form. Not in all its glory. There are actually two kinds of Judaism. There is the Judaism of today and the Judaism of tomorrow. There is realistic Judaism and idyllic Judaism. What fills the gap between them is the world of Halacha. Halacha is the balancing act between the doable and the ideal; between approximate means and absolute ends; between whatisand whatought to be. It is a great mediator, and a call for hope. The Judaism of today is a concession to human weakness, but at the same time a belief in the greatness and strength of man. It calls upon people to do whatever is in their power to climb as high as possible, but warns them not to overstep and fall into the abyss. Judaism asks of humans to be magnificent beings, but never angels because to be too much is to be less than. But Judaism also believes that people may one day reach the point where whatwasimpossible mightbepossible. Whatought to bemay someday become reality. It is that gap that Halacha tries to fill. Indeed, a mediator. Many people believe that concessions to human weaknesses are incompatible with the divine will, which should not be compromised by human shortcomings. But Judaism thinks otherwise. Judaism is amused by Baruch Spinozas ideal world in which passions and human desires have no place, since they upset the philosophers good life ofamor intellectualis Dei(the intellectual love of God). Spinozas philosophy is so great that, with perhaps a few exceptions, it is not viable. He proved the shortcomings of his own philosophy when he became enraged at the political murders of the Dutch influential De Witt brothers in 1672. He told the great philosopher Gottfried Leibniz that he had planned to hang a large poster in the town square, readingultimi barbarorum(extreme barbarians), but was prevented from doing so by his hostess who locked the door on him, as she feared that Spinoza himself would be murdered! (K.O.Meinsma,Spinoza En Zijn Kring:Historisch kritische Studin Over Hollandsche Vrijgeesten in Dutch [Den Haag, 1896] p. 358, fn. 1) Perhaps SpinozasEthicsis the ideal, but how immature to believe that it is attainable. How different hisEthicswould have been had Spinoza married, fathered children, and understood the limitations of daily life. Halacha is pragmatic. It has no patience for SpinozasEthicsand no illusions about human beings. Indeed, it expects people to extend themselves to the limit, but it acknowledges the long and difficult road between theisand theought-to-be. And it understands all too well that theought-to-bemay never be reached in a persons lifetime. Judaism teaches that the Divine limits itself out of respect for the human being. It was God Who created this imperfect person. So He could not have given theEthicsof Spinoza at Sinai; only Divine, imperfect laws that deal with the here-and-now and offer just a taste of theought-to-be. Judaism teaches that if the perfect is unattainable, one should at least try to reach the possible; the manageable; that whichcanbe achieved. If we cant do it all, let us attempt to makesomeimprovement. If you must wage war, do it as ethically as possible. If universal vegetarianism is inconceivable, try to treat animals more humanely and slaughter them painlessly. That isdoableJudaism. True, this is not the idealindeed, the Torah is sometimes an embarrassmentbut its all that Godcouldcommand at Sinai. Its not theought-to-beJudaism, but its abetter-than-nothingJudaism. The great art is to make thedoableJudaism, with all of its problems, as ethical as possible; and instead of despairing about its shortcomings, to live it as joyfully as we can. As Spinoza has taught us, Joy is manspassagefrom a lesser to a greater perfection(Ethics, 3, definitions 2 & 3). Oh, Baruch, did you forget your own insights? Sacrifices are not part of theought-to-beJudaism. They are far removed from the Judaism that Spinoza dreamed of. But they are a realistic representation of thedoablewith an eye toward theought-to-be. In one of his most daring statements, Maimonides maintains that sacrifices are a compromise to human weakness. The ancient world of idol worship was deeply committed to animal sacrifices. It was so ingrained in the way of life of the Jews ancestors that it was impossible to go suddenly from one extreme to the other, and the nature of man will not allow him to suddenly discontinue everything to which he is accustomed (Guide for the Perplexed, 3:32). Therefore, God permitted the Jews to continue the sacrificial cult, but only for His service, and with many restrictions, the ultimate goal being that with time the Jews would be weaned from this trend of worship; from theisto theought-to-be. By making this and similar statements, Maimonides no doubt laid the foundations for Spinozas dream of an ultimate system of ethics, just as he planted the seeds of Spinozas pantheism. But Maimonides realized that the time had not yet come; that it was still a long road from the reality to the dream. In contradiction to his statements in theGuide for the Perplexed, Maimonides, in his famousMishneh Torah, speaks about the need for sacrifices even in the future Temple (Hilchot Melachim, 11:1). I believe he thus expresses his doubt that theought-to-beJudaism will ever become a reality in this world. Maimonides did not live in the Dutch town of Rijnsburg, in an iron tower far removed from the real world, as did Spinoza. Maimonides lived in a down-to-earth world full of human strife, problems and pain. He was a renowned halachist, and he knew that the halachic system is one that instructs man to keep both feet on the ground while simultaneously striving for what is realistically possible. Still, perhaps the institution of sacrifice is grounded in deep symbolism, the meaning and urgency of which escapes our modern mentality. The fact that idol worshipers made use of it in their abominable rituals doesnt mean that it cant be of great spiritual value when practiced on a much higher plane, something deeply ingrained in a part of the human psyche to which modern man no longer has access. And yet, it doesnt contradict the fact that itought to bedifferent, so that even the higher dimensions of sacrifices become irrelevant. When Judaism and SpinozasEthicswill one day prevail, there will indeed be no need for sacrifices. But what happened in the meantime? The Temple was destroyed and sacrificial service came to an end. Is this a step forward, or backward? When religious Jews to this day pray for the reinstatement of sacrifices, are they asking to return to the road between theisand theought-to-be; between the dream and its realization? Or, are they praying to reinstate sacrifices as a middle stage, only to eventually get rid of them forever? We need to ask ourselves a pertinent question: Is our aversion to sacrifices the result of our supreme spiritual sophistication, which caused us to leave the world of sacrifices behind us? Or, have we sunk so low that we arent even able to reach the level of idol worshipers who, however primitive we believe them to have been, possessed a higher spiritual level than some of us who call ourselves monotheists? This question is of great urgency in a modern world that slaughtered six million Jews and continues to slaughter millions of other people. Have we surpassed the state ofisand are we on our way to theought-to-beJudaism? Or, are we on the brink of a Judaism that is not even at the stage ofisbut rather in a state of regression, while we convince ourselves that it is in a state of progression? (*) Indeed, a haunting question; one that we cannot escape. *** Footnotes: (*) For a discussion about the various positions on sacrifices, see Rabbi Meir Simcha Hakohen of Dvinsk in his classicMeshech Chochma, Introduction to Vayikra. Concerning the contradictions in Maimonides understanding of the sacrifices, see my bookBetween Silence and Speech: Essays on Jewish Thought(Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1995) chap. 1. See also Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazis explanation, in hisMaasei Hashem, on the frequent expression that sacrifices must be brought with a pleasant aroma to the Lord, which is included, with my commentary, in my first volume ofThoughts to Ponder: Daring Observations about the Jewish Tradition(NY-Jerusalem: Urim Publications, 2002) chap. 42. – Sponsored Le-ilui Nishmatah shel HaZekenah Miriam Robles Lopes Cardozo eshet HaRav HaAbir Neim Zemirot Yisrael Abraham Lopes Cardozo, by her daughters Judith Cardozo-Tenenbaum and Debbie Smith

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Local musician and filmmaker finds niche combining Judaism and the arts – Jewish Community Voice

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore editor Sally Mitlas (left) with Rabbi Yaacov Orimland of Young Israel of Margate and his wife, Rebbetzin Suey Orimland, at the JCC Community Purim celebration. Amazing! said one man; Just like the Russian dancers in Fiddler on the Roof, said another woman, as they watched two male dancers turn and do low kicks while balancing bottles on their hats at the Community Purim Party at the JCC on March 12. The dancers, along with a talented group of Klezmer musicians and a juggler performing during cocktail hour, were supplied by Mitlas Productions, an entertainment company started by Sally Mitlas. Our niche is that we combine the best of both worlds Jewish and American, said Mitlas, who moved to Margate last fall. We advertise that we can go from the warmth of Havdalah to todays hottest hits. Mix together Judaism, the arts, and a load of creative talent, and you get Sally Mitlas. Music. Film. Art. She has brought her Judaism and creativity to all of these media and won accolades for her work. Two of her documentary films, A Hero in Heaven, and A Green Kippahboth about Americans who gave their lives for Israelare frequently shown in Israel and elsewhere in the world on Yom Hazikaron, Israels Memorial Day. Her extensive knowledge of Yiddish music and traditions has also made Mitlas a sought-after performer at traditional simchas. At a wedding this summer in Italy, she will be performing a traditional Eastern European Krenzel or crowning ceremony, singing Yiddish songs and presenting a crown of flowers to parents who are marrying off their youngest child. She has also won awards for micrography calligraphy using tiny Hebrew letters. Mitlas, whose production company is based in the Philly area, decided to relocate to Margate after spending a summer here. I know it sounds funny but it reminded me of being in Israel. I liked being by the sea. I liked being able to ride a bike everywhere, said Mitlas, who does much of her work in coffee shops, on computer, communicating with performers and editors all over the world. It didnt take long for her to find a spiritual home at Young Israel of Margate. Rabbi Orimland and his wife are so exceptional, said Mitlas, who does not consider herself to be Orthodox but felt embraced by the community there. Mitlas grew up in a very loving, Jewish traditional household that valued Judaismso much so that when her teenage brother did not seem connected to his Jewish roots, their parents sent him on a 6- week Gratz College program to Israel to rediscover them. He came back with a kippah on his head and hasnt taken it off since! she said. Her brothers trip to Israel had an enormous impact on Sally, who was then 12. Thats what started my passion for Israel and Judaism, said Mitlas, who describes herself as an ardent Zionist. The souvenirs he brought back for hera record album he got from El Al Airlines featuring a famous recording of Shuli Natan singing Jerusalem of Gold, and a micrography poster also changed her life. The poster inspired Sally to learn micrography. She quickly became accomplished at doing artistic designs using tiny Hebrew letters, and went to Israel for the first time after winning a free trip there with a micrography competition. Shuli Natans recording inspired Sally to want to learn guitar and sing. She got a guitar and six months of guitar lessons for her Bat Mitzvah, and Sallys mother, who grew up in a Yiddish-speaking household, taught Sally the songs she knew. My mother taught me all the Yiddish folk songs. While everyone else was listening to the BeeGees, I was listening to Theodore Bikel! Mitlas began performing, eventually getting hired to perform at weddings and bar mitzvahs. Ultimately she opened her own entertainment company and hired other musicians to work with her. When making videos of these events became popular, she first subcontracted with videographers but then learned to create her own event videos. A Hero in Heaven was her first documentary video. One day I heard a local boy was killed while serving in the IDF in the second Lebanon War, Mitlas recalled. After doing some research on the boy, I realized his mother worked across the hall from me. I didnt know her name, but we would say hello. Moved by the boys story, Mitlas attended his memorial service. She then approached the family about making a documentary about their son, and they agreed. Since then, she said, It has been shown every Memorial Day in Israel. It was a tremendous honor. The film has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for lone soldiers in the IDF whose families live outside of Israel. After that, Mitlas went on to create films for the Israeli Consulate, Israel Bonds, philanthropists, and more. One thing led to another. This has been my life. Im artsyIm into the arts. Im able to tell stories through film, and Im able to create happiness through music. She is also able to bring Jewish tradition to life in a meaningful and joyous way at simchas and other events. In addition to offering musical entertainment for events, her company also specializes in doing an authentic Havdalah and horas that are long, delicious, meaningful, spiritual and authentic. Klezidelphia, the Klezmer band that performed at the Community Purim Party, is also a unique offering of Mitlas Productions. On Simchat Torah, she noted, a Philadelphia synagogue hired Klezidelphia to wander up and down Broad Street playing traditional Jewish music. The Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties may be drawing on Mitlas creativity yet again in creating a combined Yom Hazikaron commemoration and Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) celebration that will take place on May 1. However, exact plans for the event have yet to be determined, said Federation Executive Director Kirk Wisemayer. Notably, Mitlas will not be calling Margate home for much longer. A change in her business now requires her to spend more time in the Philly area, and the commute is just too long. But she still plans to stay connected to our local community. Im still a member of Young Israel, and Im still going to be involved, said Mitlas.

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Pakistan’s interior ministry allows man to change religion from Islam to Judaism – India Today

In a rare move, Pakistan’s interior ministry allowed 29-year-old Fishel Benkhald to practice the religion of his “choice and preference”- Judaism. Pakistan’s ministry of interior recently responded to his application seeking conversion/correction of his religion from Islam to Judaism in his national identity documents. Fishel was born to a Muslim father a Jewish mother in Karachi in 1987 and in the country’s top database authority he is registered as a Muslim because of his father’s religion, reported PTI. Recently, he applied for a change in religion and asked National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to correct his faith in a Smart Card he had applied for last year. NADRA was apparently in a fix over this issue and further asked the ministry’s opinion on correcting the religion and allowing him to practice Judaism. The ministry responded saying that “the applicant may be allowed to practice religion of [his] choosing and preference”, reported the Express Tribune. Although the interior ministry has given a green signal but NADRA has not acted on it yet. “I haven’t received my Smart-Card ID from NADRA as of now”, Fishel told India Today. An Express Tribune report said that NADRA usually turns down such requests especially from Muslims. But interior ministry’s approval might help Fishel’s case. There are very few Pakistani Jews and usually hide their identity from the public. In fact, their records are also treated as top secret. Fishel, though, has mentioned himself as a Jew in the religion column during the census in the country. Also read: Pakistani man ‘forgives’ Indian youths found guilty of murdering his son in UAE Also read: Pakistan arrests more than 100 Indian fishermen off Gujarat coast

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Last Jew in Pakistan – Breitbart – Breitbart News

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER I studied Islam in childhood. But I never practiced it as a religion, declared Fishel Benkhald from the city of Karachi, reports the Express Tribune. SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER Benkhald had long been registered as a Muslim, but Pakistans interior ministry has reportedly allowed him to change religions. The applicant may be allowed to practice [the]religion of [his] choosing and preference, decided the ministry after Benkhald urged the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to allow him to identify as a Jew in his national identity documents, reports the Express Tribune. However, the latest U.S. State Department Report on International Religious Freedomnotes that it is Pakistans policy not to allow citizens, regardless of religious affiliation, to travel to Israel. Still, the Pakistani government acquiesced in an unusual move and allowed Benkhalds conversion request. The Press Trust of Indian (PTI) concedes, Although the interior ministry has given the green signal, NADRA has yet to issue a smart card after correcting Benkhalds religion. In Pakistan, the government still officially considers Benkhald a Muslim. Faisal, as he is known in his current identity documents, was born to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother in Karachi in 1987. He was registered as a Muslim due to his fathers religion, mentions PTI. Under normal circumstances, the Muslim-registered Karachi native would have been deemed an apostate had he identified himself as a Jew, adds the Indian news outlet. The international media has labeled Benkhald the last Jew in Pakistan. Nonetheless, an unnamed Pakistani official from NADRA, which keeps records of the population, is quoted by the Express Tribune as saying that a tiny Jewish community has managed to survive persecution in the predominantly Muslim country by maintaining a low profile. Benkhalds native Karachi was once home to the largest concentration of Jews in Pakistan nearly 2,500 at the beginning of the twentieth century, reports the Jewish Virtual Library,a division of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. However, the small Jewish community in Pakistan has nearly met the same fate of its counterparts in neighboring Muslim-majority countries who were completely wiped out by Islamic extremists. Pakistans hostility toward Israel and Zionism has not waned, points out the virtual library. The increasing influence of extreme Islamists have further undermined the security of the Jewish community. The organization reveals that a tiny Jewish community of about 200 people still lives in Pakistan. Citing the top Islamabad official from NADRA, the Express Tribune reports that the identity details of the Jews in Pakistan are treated as top secret. The Pakistani official reportedly placed the number of registered Jew families in Pakistan at 745. Some Jewish families do remain, but they prefer to pass themselves off as Parsis [followers of the ancient Zoroastrian religion] due to the intolerance for Jews in Muslim Pakistan, mentions the Jewish Virtual Library. Echoing the organization, the U.S. State Department notes that religious minorities, particularly Christians and Jews, continue face discrimination and persecution in Pakistan. According to reports from the Jinnah Institute and other monitoring organizations, some public school textbooks continued to include derogatory statements about minority religious groups, including Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Christians. The monitoring groups said the teaching of religious intolerance remained widespread, reported the State Department in 2015. Seemingly acknowledging the existence of the Karachi native who was recently allowed to convert to Judaism, the State Department also reported, A Pakistani Jewish activist in Karachi has received some media coverage, but most of the historic Jewish community has emigrated. As a show of Muslim solidarity with Arab states, Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and often joins Arab-initiated moves against the Jewish country in the United Nations. The founding of an Islamic state [Pakistan] immediately prior to the establishment of the State of Israel created a rising feeling of insecurity within the Pakistani Jewish community By 1968, the number of Jews in Pakistan had decreased to 250, almost all of whom were concentrated in Karachi, where there was one synagogue, a welfare organization, and a recreational organization, reports the Jewish Virtual Library.

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Meet Rabbi ‘Willy’ Wolff, Germany’s ambassador of Liberal Judaism and now, movie star – The Times of Israel

BERLIN (JTA) For many Germans, Rabbi William Willy Wolff is the first Jewish religious leader they have ever met. And hes the perfect man for the job. Diminutive, with a disarming chuckle and twinkling eyes, Wolff, who turned 90 in February, effortlessly breaks down that uniquely German condition of Berhrungsangst literally fear of contact with others. Wolff, who fled Nazi Germany as a young boy and returned in 2002 to work in the former East Germany, is the first rabbi many Germans today have encountered. Its in part because of his interfaith outreach over the years as one-time head rabbi, serving three liberal Jewish communities in the former East German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. He is really a gifted ambassador for Judaism, said Hans-Jrgen Abromeit, a Protestant bishop who has worked often with Wolff on interfaith programs and calls him a fatherly friend. More recently, however, Wolff has reached a new level of prominence thanks to German director Britta Wauer. Her documentary, Rabbi Wolff A Gentleman Before God, has been playing in theaters across the country. One of the top-grossing German documentaries in 2016, it will have its North American premiere in May. Since the films release, the apparently tireless rabbi has been zigzagging around Germany with Wauer talking with dozens of audiences and signing copies of her accompanying book, Rabbi Wolff and the Essence of Life. Hes not transmitting a narrow religion but humanity, said a starstruck woman after a screening and discussion in the former East Berlin. I like the calmness with which he approaches life. Cover, Rabbi Wolff and the Essence of Life. (Courtesy) Wolff may indeed appear calm, but hes also incredibly energetic and he comfortably embodies multiple identities: an Englishman, a German, a Jew; a Holocaust survivor with a spirit of joie de vivre. The Berlin native in an interview with JTA described his family he had a twin brother, Joachim, and an older sister, Ruth as strictly Orthodox and culturally German. His father attended an independent Orthodox synagogue that attracted Jews who were unhappy with the increased liberalization of the official community. The family fled Nazi Germany for Holland in September 1933 after Wolffs mother learned that the local tailors daughter, Magda, had married Hitlers propaganda minister. My mother was afraid that because of the indirect connection with [Josef] Goebbels, we might be on an early list for deportation, Wolff said. In 1939, they left Amsterdam for England, where Wolff and his brother attended the Hendon County Grammar School. When the schools deputy headmistress summoned students to discuss their career plans, Wolff said he wanted to be a rabbi or a journalist. He became both. The headmistress, thinking Wolff was quite good at French, got him a one-year scholarship to the French Lycee in South Kensington. Wolff learned typing, shorthand and French there. The skills would prove to be invaluable. With the war still raging, Wolffs typing and language abilities English, German, Dutch, French (he later added Russian) landed him a job with the Reuters news agency on the outskirts of London in a radio listening station that picked up Russian and German broadcasts. He worked there from 1944 to 1947. There were no Allied correspondents [on the Axis side], so this was a way to get hints of official attitudes, Wolff, who later attended the London School of Economics, told JTA. In 1954 he started working at the Slough Observer, and eventually joined the staff of the Daily Mirror, moving from domestic issues to foreign policy. An overwhelming majority of Germans have accepted responsibility for the consequences of that past Wolffs decades of work as a journalist included trips abroad with British prime minister Harold Wilson and foreign secretary Michael Stewart. Returning from one such trip in the late 1960s, they stopped in Bonn to meet with German foreign minister Willy Brandt. It was the first time Wolff had set foot on German soil since his family had fled the country. I was grateful, and even a little proud, to be living and working in Germany, a country where the events of the past had become unimaginable, he told Wauer. An overwhelming majority of Germans have accepted responsibility for the consequences of that past and that gave me a feeling of security. Meanwhile, toiling as a journalist, Wolff drifted from the Orthodoxy of his youth. Balloons from the art project Lichtgrenze 2014 (lit. lightborder 2014) reflected in a puddle next to remains of the Berlin Wall at East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany, Friday, November 7, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Steffi Loos) I have enormous respect and deepest admiration for all biblical scholarship, he said, but the more I got involved with text, the more clear it became to me that every word could not have come from God because God contradicts himself from one book to the next. Plus, his parents split up. Wolffs mother lived with a man without marrying him until after his father died. That, too, was unacceptable to some of my Orthodox friends, he said. In 1979, Rabbi Sidney Brichto, a leading figure in British liberal Jewish circles, asked Wolff to edit the movements newsletter. He realized then that he wanted to return to his early dream of becoming a rabbi. It became clear to me that every word could not have come from God because God contradicts himself I found out about Liberal Judaism known globally as Reform or Progressive which had not been respected by my father or by the Orthodox circles and when I found out about that I suddenly thought, well, maybe I could make a contribution there, he told JTA. Brichto ultimately recommended Wolff to the Progressive Leo Baeck College in London. Wolff was ordained in 1984. He served at several London synagogues when he learned something unexpected: Germany needed rabbis. For the first time since World War II, the countrys Jewish population was really growing due to the influx of former Soviet Jews after the unification of East and West in 1990. The postwar population of some 35,000 had grown to more than 240,000; synagogues were being built. The Union of Progressive Jews in Germany counts around 4,500 members. In the spring of 2002, Wolff was tapped by a member of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and appointed head rabbi for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, serving liberal Jewish communities in Schwerin, Rostock and Wismar. Three years later he was elected deputy chair of the General Rabbinical Conference, a liberal body in Germany that works parallel to the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference there. In this photo taken Tuesday, October 14, 2014, Israelis attend a gathering encouraging others to immigrate to Berlin in Tel Aviv, Israel. (photo credit: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) Commuting to his three communities in Germany and his home in Henley on Thames, England, Wolff led services and also represented Judaism in public a role he hopes he has done with dignity. Whether or not I have succeeded is for others to say, he said. Whether or not I have succeeded is for others to say East Germany can be tricky terrain to navigate; for Jews and non-Jews, the scars of recent history are fresh. The two dictatorships first the Nazis and then the communists I think left quite deep and hidden wounds, Wolff said. Wolffs contract as head rabbi in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern ended two years ago, but he continues to work as a volunteer. He has also found another, unexpected role: movie star. This file photo taken on January 13, 2016 shows the main grounds of the Communist Free German Youth (FDJ-Freie Deutsche Jugend) school complex, built in the 1950s, near the Bogensee lake, north of Berlin, taken on January 13, 2016. (John Macdougal/AFP) He met Wauer, who is not Jewish, when she was working on her first film, In Heaven, Underground, about the historic Weissensee Jewish Cemetery in the former East Berlin. Wauer wanted a rabbi to say a few things about halacha [Jewish law], such as why we dont have two coffins in the same grave, and no other rabbi in Berlin would play ball with her, Wolff said. The documentary was released to acclaim in 2011. Wolff, with an on-screen presence one reviewer described as pure gold, became a favorite among audiences, some of whom started asking Wauer to make a film about the rabbi himself. The two dictatorships first the Nazis and then the communists I think left quite deep and hidden wounds The popular result profiles Woolf as he shuttles between England and Germany, conducts services, attends the Ascot races in a dapper top hat, and digs through the piles and piles of books and periodicals that crowd his Henley bungalow. Not one to dwell darkly on the past, Wolff acknowledges one regret: If there is anything I regret then it is the fact that I never married and never created a family, he told Wauer. I can hardly believe that I am as old as I am but have no children or grandchildren. As for his newfound fame from Rabbi Wolff A Gentleman Before God, Wolff told JTA, I take these things in my stride, and I lose no sleep over it. After a 2016 screening in Berlins Kino Toni, the audience, virtually all non-Jews, flocked around a small table holding their copies of the accompanying book for the rabbi to sign. I dont see any bitterness in him, a woman commented later. He is a very important ambassador for people in Germany who know nothing about Judaism and have many clichs in their heads. Rabbi Willy Wolff is the star of one of the highest-grossing documentaries in Germany of 2016. (Toby Axelrod/JTA)

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Selling Judaism, Religion Not Included – Bloomberg

In 2015, while traveling in Israel with 80 young tech professionals, Meghan Holzhauer fell in love with Shabbat dinner, the ancient Friday night tradition in which Jews bless candles, challah, and wine, then share a meal with loved ones. She was so inspired, in fact, that she started spreading the love. In March her travel startup, Canvus, took 40 young professionals to Mexico City, where they celebrated a multicultural Shabbat dinner. Shes now organizing a hip-hop Shabbat for 400 people attending a social justice conference in Atlanta in June. A lot of Jewish rituals are about honoring friends and family, she says. You feel part of something bigger. Photographer: Tim OConnell for Bloomberg Businessweek Holzhauer isnt Jewish. She was raised Christian-light by nonpracticing parents, she says, and has no interest in converting. As she explains it, a non-Jew finding inspiration in the Sabbathor traveling to Israel for that matterisnt so different from the millions of non-Buddhists who practice yoga or go on meditation retreats to India. Its the latest way that ancient traditions are meeting modern life, she says. If there ever was a moment when Shabbat was poised to become the new yoga practice, its now. Interfaith marriage rates among American Jews have jumped from a little more than 40 percent in the 1980s to 58 percent in the period from 2000 to 2013. Thats a lot more newlyweds (plus their families and friends) with exposure to Jewish ceremonies and rituals. Call them Jew-adjacent, Jew-curious, or just Jew-ish. Jewish culture is in the mainstream, its popular, and thats something any brand would want to jump on, says Danya Shults, 31, founder of Arq, a lifestyle company that seeks to sell people of all faiths on a trendy, tech-literate, and, above all, accessible version of Jewish traditions. Arq is a portal for interfaith couples, their friends, and their families to find relevant, inclusive, aesthetically elevated information and products. It offers holiday-planning guides; Seder plates designed by Isabel Halley, the ceramicist who outfitted the female-only social club the Wing; and interviews with Jewish entrepreneurs, as well as chefs who cook up artisanal halvah and horseradish. Theres also an event series, including a weekend retreat in the Catskills in upstate New York that Shults says is inspired by Jewish summer camp but more Kinfolk-y, referring to the elegantly twee lifestyle magazine. Shults grew up in an observant home, attended a Jewish day school, and became fluent in Hebrew. Then she got engaged to a Presbyterian. We never really found a [religious] community that matched what we were looking for, especially for me, says Shultss now-husband, Andrew. Many of the synagogues that purported to be inclusive turned out to have an agenda, such as trying to get Andrew to convert or cultivating the couples political support for Israel. Shults covers her eyes and performs the traditional Shabbat blessing over the candles. Photographer: Tim OConnell for Bloomberg Businessweek The troubles didnt end there. Shults tells the story of one non-Jewish friend who went shopping for the couple by Googling chic Jewish wedding gift and found the results to be either totally out of style or far too didactic and preachy. Cool, inclusive presents did existShults knew that muchbut they werent easy to find. Thus, Arq was born. My ultimate test case was my husband, Shults says. Would he discover this? Read this? Go to this event? Arq may be the most ambitious new company hoping to court the Jew-curious community, but its not the only one. There are secular dinner and dating platforms that draw on Jewish clichs such as the opinionated mother and the gut-busting holiday meal; resources to plan an interfaith wedding and help an interfaith family find a nonschlocky menorah; companies offering trips that take young secular professionals to Israel; and even a matzo company that aims to make unleavened bread the next pita chip. Most of these outfits are less than three years old. Not that long ago, it would have felt dirty to talk about branding Jewish culture, says Aliza Kline, executive director of OneTable, a social dining app that helps people of all religious backgrounds celebrate inclusive Shabbat meals. Bubby brings old-fashioned matchmaking to the app age. Source: Bubby Of course, there has long been a mainstream taste for Jewish humor and food (see: Seinfeld, bagels, challah French toast), but the fervor is something new. I see rabbis doing really creative things, saying, Come in and try this out, says Rabbi Ari Moffic, who directs the Chicago branch of a swiftly growing national network called Interfaith Family. You can do Jewish, she says, even if youre not Jewish. You want to unplug? Its called Shabbat, and were the experts on it. Moffic understands why this kind of cultural marketing would make many rabbis uncomfortable. As a rule, Jews dont proselytize to non-Jews. But Moffic and the others in the cultural-marketing camp have decided that enlarging the tent is the best way to keep young Jews inside it. The focus on a single community can so easily become exclusive, says Kline, who estimates that 10 percent to 15 percent of OneTable guests arent Jewish. But through technology, were seeding hundreds of new communities. That was the idea behind Arq as well. The name, inspired by Noahs Ark, is an allusion to diversity. With so many different animals in one boat, Shults explains, the best way forward is a compromise. For its model, the company draws on elements from well-established lifestyle portals such as Goop and Food52, up-and-coming jewelry resource Of a Kind, and parenting advice site Fatherly. To varying degrees, these sites fuse e-commerce with storytelling, but they also present themselves as community platforms. For the time being, Shults is relying on brand partnerships and events to support her business. I dont want to have to scale at an ungodly pace, she says of her decision not to seek funding. The most important business stories of the day. Get Bloomberg’s daily newsletter. Shults started the company in late 2016, less than a year after quitting her job as director for marketing and community at the venture capital firm Spark Capital LLC, and it has already made several high-profile partnerships. Arq has linked up with the wedding registry company Zola Inc. to curate Jewish presents that dont look as if they come from the synagogue gift shop; with the home design site Apartment Therapy, on a series of Judaica-focused home tours; and with the feminist/LGBTQ-friendly wedding-planning site Catalyst Wedding Co., on an interview series with couples who are diverse in every imaginable way. Arq-branded events have included a couples salon series in partnership with Honeymoon Israel, a nonprofit that sends nontraditional (interfaith, same-sex) couples on trips to Israel, and a womens lunar retreat, based on the ancient Jewish practice of women celebrating one another around the new moon. Honeymoon Israel helps interfaith couples celebrate their nuptials in the Jewish homeland. Source: Honeymoon Israel In addition, Arq hosts dinners with Bubby. Co-founder Stephanie Volftsun says the tech-enabled matchmaking service is inspired by the time-tested tradition of the Jewish matchmaking yenta and aimed at expanding the notion of what a Jewish couple should look like. Were all about being open to people who are different, which then means that non-Jews are drawn into our food, culture, and traditions, she says. Not every Jew-ish company has such a social mission, however. The Matzo Project has taken as its task getting unleavened bread out of the ethnic food aisle. We want it to be more than something that very pious Jews eat at Passover, says co-founder Ashley Albert. The companys offerings include matzo flats and chips in salted, everything, and cinnamon-sugar flavors, as well as a matzo butter crunch bar. Its also about to release a vegan matzo ball soup kit. Like Bubby, Matzo Project has made the Jewish grandma central to its brandingthough in its case, shes more Long Island than old country. Each box features a cheeky cartoon granny in pearls and Iris Apfel glasses, with a word bubble that reads, Would it kill you to try something new? Albert, who also owns Brooklyns popular Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, and her Matzo Project co-founder, Kevin Rodriguez, a former product designer for Vera Wang, have received encouraging feedback on their branding from ethnic Italians and Koreans as well as Jews. Grandma is sassy, smart, and strong, Albert says. A lot of people know a version of her. OneTable organizes Shabbat dinners in cities across the U.S. Photographer: Elaine Moran Products from the Matzo Project, which started a year ago, are available at New Yorks Eataly and Dylans Candy Bar, San Franciscos Bi-Rite minichain, and specialty stores in places as far-flung as Wyoming. Most of these retailers, Albert says, have never carried matzo before. She and Rodriguez have also talked their way into a handful of Whole Foods Markets, but finding a national distributor that gets the mission has been more challenging. Albert understands why people persist in treating matzo as a specialty food. But like the founders of Bubby, OneTable, and Arq, she thinks its only a matter of time before the foreign becomes familiar. When I was a kid, pita was a really unusual ethnic food, she says. It was part of somebody elses culture. Now its part of all our cultures.

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March 28, 2017   Posted in: Judaism  Comments Closed

Judaism, Atonement, and God’s Nonviolence The RavenCast – Patheos (blog)

What does Jewish spirituality have to teach us about navigating the current American political crisis? In the latest episode of the RavenCast, I sat down with Vanessa Avery, a Hebrew Bible Scholar and Diversity and Organizational Consultant. Vanessa holds degrees from the University of Exeter, Yale Divinity School, Kings College London and McGill University. She uses mimetic theory to interpret the Bible and to help businesses inspire generosity, empathy, creativity, hospitality, strength and courage. Vanessa is the author of many articles, including Atonement and the Book of Jonah, Jewish Vaccines Against Mimetic Desire, Watchmen and Mimetic Theory, Whither Girard and Islam and Engaging Difference: Exercises and tips for creating Experiential Learning Environments. And theres a great article about Vanessa and her organizational consulting titled Why is scapegoating so common at Work? You can learn more about Vanessas consulting workshops and you can contact her through her website, Transcendence Education. *How Vanessa has helped businesses diversify and end scapegoating practices. *The connections between being a diversity consultant, mimetic theory, and the Hebrew Scriptures. *The Bible is full of violence, but Vanessa claims that the Bible also holds the antidote to violence. How can that be? *On the Jewish Day of Atonement, Jews are commanded to listen to the book of Jonah. Vanessa explains why the book of Jonah is crucially important to understanding atonement. *The connection between justice and mercy in Judaism. *How the book of Jonah can help us navigate the current American social crisis. Stay in the loop! Like Teaching Nonviolent Atonement on Facebook!

Fair Usage Law

March 28, 2017   Posted in: Judaism  Comments Closed


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