Beyond the Cusp

April 12, 2014

The Death of Zionism in America

This coming week we will hold our Passover Seder and say the words as we have traditionally for near two thousand years, “Next year in Jerusalem.” How many of us even think for a moment that we really desire to hold our Seder next year in Israel, let alone make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Pesach? Have those words become simply a sign of our dedication to some quaint notion of a hope which only arises when we as Jews are facing duress and something we simply say when our lives are secure and comfortable? If that had become our truth, then we would serve G0d and the honesty He most certainly treasures to stop muttering these words which many of our mothers and fathers in generations before us spoke as an honest yearning and likely with a small tear in their eyes knowing that such was probably beyond their ability and that there was no Eretz Yisroel to return to anyhow.

 

But what are the excuses today? Are we really far too comfortable in our Diaspora lives or is it something far worse; is it because we no longer have the hunger and desire for returning to our ancestral home, the place the L0rd our G0d gave to us after visiting the Ten Plagues upon Egypt and giving us the Ten Commandments and Torah to guide our lives in the Land of Milk and Honey? Has the spark and inspiration that guided our forefathers’ lives through desperate times of persecution when even holding the Seder was forbidden and they held theirs in hushed tones for fear the neighbors might hear our retelling of the greatest story ever told finally lost its last glow. Now, when we throw open our doors and invite all who wish to join in our celebration of freedom no longer fearing for our very lives have we gotten so free from fear that we have lost all memories of how, as we will also say on this Seder night, that “Every generation there is one that will rise up against us.” Are we so content in our comfort that we refuse to heed that warning believing that it no longer holds any relevance in our enlightened time? Are we so haughty that we believe as did our fellow Jews did in Europe as they felt safe in their assimilated lives and many of whom were even warned of the coming evil by Ze’ev Jabotinsky in 1938 telling of waves of persecution and super-pogroms were imminently coming to Poland and eastern Europe and that for the sake of their safety and their lives the Jews should leave for Palestine as soon as possible. Are you telling yourself the same falsehoods which our forefathers have repeatedly said and believed even mere months before the coming tragedy which would threaten their very existence, “It cannot happen here as we are honored members of the society holding jobs as teachers, lawyers, physicians and are accepted amongst our non-Jewish friends.” If you are fortunate enough to have the diaries from your ancestors, please reread them and see what they uttered just before their world was turned upside-down.

 

This reminder of times past will not be heeded by any in America or elsewhere throughout the world as many Jews are not only assimilated but happily ensconced within the fabric of their exiled existence and attained a level of calm and apparent acceptance that they have lost any concern or desire to return to their home, Israel. They will point to the dangers they perceive threaten Israel and they are not completely without reason to point such out. At least in Israel the soldiers met on the streets, often carrying their weapons with them, are soldiers who are trained to defend Israel and her citizens within including, or actually especially, her Jewish citizenry. Passing one of these soldiers in Israel gives one a sense of belonging and a degree of safety that is difficult to describe. It is a feeling of belonging, of being home. In Israel there are no politicians calling for the banning of items of religious wear, including yarmulkes, nor are there people demanding the end of Shechita calling it a form of cruelty. Yes, such madness has not come to America and the United States is not Europe. The events and problems of anti-Semitism which is growing more prevalent across Europe is not such a problem here in our neighborhoods. These same words were likely spoken not that long ago in the Ukraine, Rabbis in the Ukraine have downplayed the evidence of a growing anti-Semitism there. Then there is the increasing awareness of anti-Semitism in France where the Jewish population increasingly is leaving France with many coming home to Israel. Should one actually take an in-depth measure of trends even in the United States they would see a troubling increase in acts victimizing Jews growing in frequency and severity such as the Knockout the Jew game which has spread to numerous major cities. Make next year the year you came home and hold your next Seder in Israel if not actually in Jerusalem. Listen and believe the words uttered for centuries at the conclusion of the Seder service, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

חג פסח שמח

בשנה הבאה בירושלים

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

November 11, 2013

A Look at the Future for the Jews and Christians of Europe

There have been numerous studies and commentaries pertaining to the rising anti-Semitism in much of Europe. There have also been eulogies for the Christian and Catholic Churches in Europe and often mentions of another church or cathedral being put up for sale and often being transformed into Mosques. This transformation mirrors the events in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Spain, Turkey and other locations where Islam spread during their periods of expansion as they conquered these lands and transformed them from Christian nations into Muslim majorities and dwindling Christian presence. Similar such occurrences are currently being witnessed in Egypt with the Coptic Christians, the Christians of Lebanon and the Christians of Bethlehem under Palestinian autonomy. The story is often told about the empty pews of the churches throughout most of Europe and the advance of secular statist humanism where the human is worshiped as the ultimate pinnacle of creation and the State is seen as the end all and arbiter of rights, privileges and petition which is nothing more than another variation of worship. The Christians have yet to face the animus which is being felt by the Jews in Europe.

That is where a recent survey taken of European Jews reveals the extent of the discomfort, one could say persecution, felt by the majority of Jews in Europe. Some of the statistics from the survey found that sixty-six percent of European Jews considered anti-Semitism “a fairly big or very big” problem in their country; seventy-six percent said anti-Semitism had worsened in the past five years, with abuse especially prevalent on the Internet with it particularly present in social media, especially where aliases hide the perpetrator’s real name; France, Belgium and Hungary reported the highest rates of anti-Semitism in the media and political life, as well vandalism and open hostility in public; twenty-one percent of people said they had experienced verbal or physical abuse in the last year for being Jewish; almost half feared experiencing public insults or harassment in the next year, with as close to twenty-three percent saying they purposely avoided Jewish sites or celebrations as they might not be safe; eighty-two percent of people did not report abuse or discrimination they had experienced to the authorities feeling it would be useless as nothing would be fully investigated and it would have no real effect on their situations; large number of European Jews are considering leaving because of the persecution they experience in the countries; the belief was found to be valid that a clear link between the demonization of Israel and attacks on Jews in Europe exists; sixty-eight percent of the Jews reported they have avoided appearing identifiably Jewish in public for fear of attack or harassment; eighty-two percent of those surveyed say they have heard Israelis being likened with Nazis; many of those respondents who had witnessed anti-Semitism saying that it had come from the Left with fifty-seven percent of those in Britain, sixty-two percent of those in Italy and sixty-seven percent of those in France said they had heard anti-Semitism from someone on the Left; racism against Jews from the Muslim community was reported by fifty-one percent of Jews in Sweden, fifty-six percent of Jews in Britain and seventy-three percent of Jews in France; and thirty-one percent of Jews had either considered or attempted emigration specifically as a result of anti-Semitism, while in France the figure is just below half.

Between these numbers and the known high rate of assimilated Jews who no longer practice their religion and the high rate of intermarriage, it is very likely that the end of a Jewish presence beyond some small communities of Orthodox and Hassidic Jews will remain in Europe by the middle of this century and certainly by its end. The truly frightening revelation is that the Jews in the United States are following this very trend, though with far less prevalence of the anti-Semitism, and outside the very religious communities the numbers of practicing and Shabbat Synagogue attending Jews is rapidly dwindling where these communities may soon also disappear. The one thing that might change these trends and force many Jews back to their faith is the rise of anti-Semitism, oddly enough. Should it become systemic and be enacted into law, something which has already begun in Europe with the bans on Kosher slaughter (Shechita) as well as bans on Circumcision, two basic tenets of the Jewish faith, the Jews might, as has occurred numerous times in their history, return to their religion and reestablish close communities living as separate from the mainstreams of society and eventually relocating most likely to Israel. Some might claim that this is exactly what was predicted would occur once the Jewish State was reestablished and that all of this is simply coming to fruition of the ingathering of the Jews to Eretz Yisroel. They would also point to the return by the Ethiopian Jewish community, the Bnei Menashe Jews from India and the Yemeni Jews to Israel in the recent past and still continuing in the present and many expect that more of the lost tribes from the northern kingdom of Israel (also called Samaria) will be found and brought home as well as the rest of the Jews from the southern kingdom of Judah. That is an area where I must depart as such events are beyond the reach or control of mortal humans and as such must simply be hoped for and attempt to assist where and when able but not to the point of believing that our actions can produce such results, that is decided in another dominion.

Beyond the Cusp

June 27, 2011

The Two Faces of the Netherlands

This week had the climax of one of the longest running controversies in recent history ending with the Dutch Court’s decision that Geert Wilders was not guilty of hate speech and his commentary, though possibly distasteful to many and even insulting and offensive to select groups, was none the less permissible in the forum of free political debate. This decision has been countered with the debate in the Dutch Parliament over whether ritual religious slaughter is inhumane to the animals as it does not stun them before slaughtering. Where this debate was originally depicted as being against the Muslim practice of Halal slaughtering, it has come to light that the vast majority of Muslims have no compulsion against stunning the animals first except in a rare ultra-religious minority while this law would render the only Shechita (Kosher) facility illegal forcing religious Jews either to have to buy their meat products outside the country or refrain from eating any meat or fowl as there would be no source for Kosher meat.

With these two opposing stories, it leaves one to wonder in which direction the Netherlands is turning. Should the Dutch Parliament pass the law next week against religious ritual slaughter, it will most definitely place another hot potato right back into the Dutch courts for final arbitration. This time, the actual existence of the Jewish community of the Netherlands will stand in the balance of that determination. But, let us first celebrate the decision to uphold freedom of speech, more importantly, political speech, by the Dutch courts. They were able to recognize that the law that was intended to protect people from harm, intimidation and abuse by making taunting, hateful speech directed in a personal manner was being twisted and manipulated in order to prevent speech to protect actions more egregious than the speech originally targeted. With the original charges and affiliated death threats against Geert Wilders, as well as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the late Theo van Gogh and others, that the Netherlands may have collectively lost their minds. The latest Dutch election had started to renew my faith in the Netherlands, but this verdict vindicating Geert Wilders and other small events may be signs that Europe just may be beginning to come to their senses. Perhaps there may be hope, but that depends on other factors too.

Those other factors bring us to the vote coming this Tuesday in the Dutch Parliament as to whether or not to ban religious ritual slaughter. Not all that long ago, Shechita was referred to as the most humane and painless manner in which to slaughter an animal while keeping it safe for consumption. Now, Shechita is facing being outlawed in the Netherlands, and a similar motion was recently tabled for the time being by the European Union and New Zealand found themselves needing to reverse their decision to ban religious ritual slaughter and this debate is happening in a number of other jurisdictions. What is so deceitful about the call in the Netherlands to outlaw religious ritual slaughter are two-fold. First, it will affect only one butchering house in all of the country, the sole producer of Kosher meats and fowl for religious Jews. Second, the extents where misdirection and outright deceit and personal attacks have been used by those proposing this measure have been sufficient to taint their efforts and possibly their reputations. The two “scientific reports” upon which their argument was based were intimated to have come from the reputable agricultural University of Wageningen but were instead produced by Wageningen UR, an NGO which took a name similar to the University for obvious purposes. Since this has come to light, the author of the study admitted that his study cannot be considered true factual scientific research. Since then, Professor Joe Regenstein of Cornell University and Professor Temple Grandin of Colorado State University (possibly the finest large animal veterinary school in the world) have raised a number of critical questions about the validity of the study in question. Karen Soeters, the head of the Scientific Research Institute of the Party for the Animals, suggested that Professor Regenstein was biased and also belittled any evidence submitted refuting her party’s original claims and premises. These points do tend to throw a suspicious light upon the true reasons behind continuing to push this legislation that will only be effective in closing the sole Jewish religious ritual slaughterhouse in the Netherlands. This tends to remind me of the upcoming ballot referendum in San Francisco to criminalize circumcision.

Beyond the Cusp

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