Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lulav - the Old-New Jewish Symbol?

Since the state of Israel has effectively taken over the two most common Jewish symbols - the Star of David on its flag, and the Menorah on its official seal - maybe there is need for a symbol of Judaism that is independent of the State of Israel. If so, I nominate the lulav - the palm frond used at Sukkoth as part of the "four species."

As the Talmud tells, us the four species represent all the human types together, and the holiday of Sukkoth itself is considered a universal holiday, since it is a thanksgiving for the past year's harvest as well as a prayer for rain for the coming years. And rain, as the rabbis point out, falls on all people: Jews and non-Jews alike. In temple times 70 bulls where offered as sacrifices on Sukkoth - symbolizing "the 70 nations of the world." Despite, or perhaps because, of this universal aspect, the lulav was a much beloved symbol of Judaism in the late second temple times and in the century or so afterwards. It appears on many synagogue mosaics from that period, and on various coins issued by Jewish authorities.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Occupy Yom Kippur

Read all about it at Hufpo , 972mag, and Daily KOs.

May this be the beginning of a Shana Tova.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Ashamnu ...
V'Tfilah, Tzedakah, U'Tshuva, Ma'avirin et Roah Hagzerah

From a press release by the Reform Movement:
In the Israeli Galilee Arab village of Tuba-Zangaria, a mosque was set on fire on Sunday evening, October 2, 2011. Israeli President Shimon Peres, visiting the scene of the crime with the two Chief Rabbis, stated that the attack is “contrary to the moral values and spirit” of Israel. The mosque was scrawled with the words “price tag” and “revenge.”

President of the Union for Reform Judaism Rabbi Eric Yoffie said, “We condemn these acts of hatred in the strongest possible terms. They are inexcusable and do not reflect Jewish values at any time, and are especially reprehensible during these, our high holy days. We stand by the State of Israel in her commitment to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice swiftly and to provide safety and religious freedom to all Israeli citizens.”

“The Days of Awe leading up to Yom Kippur are a time of deep reflection for all Jews,” said ARZA Executive Director Rabbi Daniel Allen. “Now is the time to demonstrate that we can help build a more inclusive, pluralistic, democratic Israeli society, especially in the face of criminal actions against an Israeli place of worship.” ...

The Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), in cooperation with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), The Central Conference of Reform Rabbis (CCAR) The Israel Reform Movement (IMPJ) and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), has created a fund to participate in refurbishing the desecrated mosque.
Contributions may be sent to:

Tuba Zangaria Mosque Fund at ARZA, 633 Third Avenue, New York, New York, 10017 or at This fund is an ARZA Unity Project.

So what are you waiting for?

"Tfilah, Tzedakah, U'Tshuva, Ma'avirin et Roah Hagzerah" - Prayer, Charity/Righteousness, and Repentance mitigate the severity of the decree.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Real Anti-Semitism

The official Canadian Jewish Community has gotten itself all worked up over the past few years about “the new anti-Semitism.” That’s the label that is being use to describe opinions and activities that are outspoken in their opposition to the Israeli occupation and/or Israel’s policies towards Palestinians. For many, myself included, this naked attempt to demonize activities that are critical of Israel

Maybe the community should spend more time worrying about the old anti-Semitism. It seems to have reared it head again in Quebec, which sadly has a strong history of anti-Semitism: perhaps more so than the rest of Canada.

According to a story in the National Post , the Quebecor chain of media outlets has been fanning the flames recently.

Quebecor properties [had] an exclusive report that the small, predominantly Jewish Montreal suburb of Hampstead had amended a bylaw to prohibit noisy construction work and lawn-mowing during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Richard Martineau devoted his morning LCN [radio] show to the topic, inviting as a guest a blogger known for his mocking depictions of the Hasidim of Outremont. On his show’s official Facebook page, Mr. Martineau wrote, “A Hampstead resident cannot mow his lawn and do renovations because it would bother his Jewish neighbours who are celebrating a religious holiday” and asked whether people thought that was reasonable.

It was an invitation to anti-Semites to vent their hatred. One commenter on Mr. Martineau’s called for the Olympic Stadium to be turned into a concentration camp, … Another wondered if Hitler was right and suggested Jews should move to Israel if they’re unhappy in Quebec.

On the Facebook page of TVA News, the network wrote “You have to be quiet if you pass through Hampstead the next two days” and invited viewer comments. …

Popular radio and TV host Benoit Dutrizac jumped on the story last week, mocking the notion that Jews celebrate the New Year in the fall. “You’re in Quebec, it’s Jan. 1,” he said when his guest explained what Rosh Hashanah was. Mr. Dutrizac complained that the lawnmower bylaw was evidence that “the Jewish community has all the rights and Quebec society has to shut up.” And he ended the segment by inviting listeners to head to Hampstead and disrupt the holiday.

Honk your horn, make some noise, fart, whatever, any kind of noise to show the Jewish community that it is not the Jewish community that is in charge in Quebec. It’s not them who will determine how we will live as a society in Quebec. That’s just not true. It’s not true that they are going to impose their religious concepts, their religious precepts on the entire society. There are some damned limits.”

One wonders if the Jewish Community will mobilize to fight this real and dangerous anti-Semitism as much as it has mobilized to fight the faux anti-Semitism it claims to see in voices critical of Israel. Somehow I doubt it.

The irony here is that Quebecor is the owner of the Sun Media and chain of right wing tabloids, which are strongly “pro-Israel” and have strongly endorsed the line that most activities critical of Israel are in fact manifestation of "the new anti-Semitism." Suffice it to say, that this has pleased the official Jewish Community. But now it should be obvious: Quebecor might be “pro-Israel” but it is certainly not “pro-Jewish”. This is similar, in some respects, to the Christian Zionists, who support Israel only in so far as Israel is a fulfilment of their notion of Biblical prophecy: a prophecy that included Israel’s destruction in war and the conversion of most Jews to Christianity.

The danger is that the Jewish Community is so focussed on "supporting Israel", that it fails to robustly oppose the real anti-Semitism, which sadly still does exist.