Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Anti-Semites are alive and well and still operation

Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Appreciate All You Have

Try imagining your life without all that you presently have. If you can master this ability, then you will appreciate what you do have to such a degree that you will live a life of constant joy.

If you were lost in a wilderness without food and water - and then found some bread, you would enjoy that bread more than the most sumptuous meal! Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm wrote that he personally had such an experience, and it was like living in paradise. You will always be able to feel that joy if you use your mind wisely.

Today, spend a few moments imagining what it would be like if you had absolutely nothing: no family, no friends, no possessions, no money at all, no knowledge, no eyes, ears, hands, feet - absolutely nothing. Continue this exercise until you actually feel it.

Then do the second half of the exercise: Imagine yourself obtaining what you presently have, one item at a time.

Love Yehuda Lave

Why the Top U.S. Rabbi Condemned the President … in 1935

By Rafael Medoff

On Rosh Hashanah, the most prominent rabbi in the United States devoted his sermon to condemning the president of the United States over his response to a recent controversy involving an anti-Nazi protest. Sound familiar?

A 1966 U.S. stamp of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In fact, the year was 1935, and the president was Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The rabbi, Stephen S. Wise, was the head of the American Jewish Congress, a leader of the American Zionist movement and spiritual leader of Manhattan's Free Synagogue. He was arguably the most prominent rabbi and Jewish leader of his era. Wise was also one of the founders of the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, and a staunch supporter of President Roosevelt and the New Deal.

The notion of publicly criticizing the president, whom he adored, was anathema to Rabbi Wise — until the day the S.S. Bremen came to town.

On July 26, 1935, the German ocean liner sailed into New York's harbor, proudly flying the swastika flag, the notorious symbol of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. It was greeted by crowds of anti-Nazi protesters, some of whom burst past the police lines. They tore down the Nazi flag and hurled it into the water. Six of the demonstrators were arrested.

But when the protesters were arraigned before New York City Magistrate Louis Brodsky on Sept. 6, Brodsky dismissed the charges on the grounds that tearing down the Nazi flag was justified. It was the S.S. Bremen that was guilty, the judge declared; it had engaged in "gratuitously brazen flaunting of an emblem which symbolizes all that is antithetical to American ideals." Hitler's ship was the equivalent of "a pirate ship with the black flag of piracy proudly flying aloft," Brodsky ruled.

The German press was furious. Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels' newspaper, Der Angriff, called Judge Brodsky "an Eastern Jew" who promoted "Jewish-communistic agitation." The Berlin newspaper Boersen Zeitung accused Brodsky of "incomparable impudence and brazen-faced provocation of the honor of the German people." The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung blasted Brodsky's ruling as "an unheard-of insult to Germany."

Hitler's ambassador in Washington, Hans Luther, demanded an official U.S. government apology. And he got one. Secretary of State Cordell Hull sent the Hitler regime a note expressing "regret" at Judge Brodsky's ruling.

American Jews were shocked and dismayed by the Roosevelt administration's position. For the first (and last) time, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise publicly challenged FDR's policy concerning the Nazis.

In his Rosh Hashanah sermon, Wise said the "horror" of the Nazis' recent enactment of anti-Jewish laws "was made more full of horror by the act of our own government in apologizing with exaggerated profuseness and abjectness to the Nazi regime for a word of disrespect and contempt for that regime, uttered in the course of a judicial decision from the bench of the lower criminal court of our city. Such apology would have come more fitly if our government had ever uttered one brave word in condemnation of the program and the practices of the Nazi regime."

President Roosevelt did not utter "one brave word" against the Nazis' persecution of the Jews from the time Hitler rose to power, in early 1933, until after the Kristallnacht pogrom, in late 1938. The reason for his silence was that FDR was keenly interested in maintaining good diplomatic and economic relations with Nazi Germany. That was a higher priority for the Roosevelt administration than Hitler's persecution of the Jews or his aggressive actions against Germany's neighbors.

That's why Secretary Hull apologized to the Nazis again, in 1937, when New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia called Hitler a "fanatic who is threatening the peace of the world." That's why President Roosevelt personally forced Interior Secretary Harold Ickes to remove critical references to Hitler and Nazism from several of his speeches in the 1930s.

And that's also why the Roosevelt administration actively undermined American Jewry's boycott of Nazi goods. The administration quietly permitted goods made in Nazi Germany to be labeled as having been made in a particular city or province, rather than requiring that they be stamped "Made in Germany," so that some consumers would not realize they were buying German products. The policy was altered only when the boycott activists threatened to sue.

For the president and his advisers, political expediency trumped all other considerations. Some things never change, one might say.

Rafael Medoff is founding director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, and author and editor of 17 books about Jewish history and the Holocaust.

Revolutionary Ruling Permits Genetic Testing of Halachic Jewish Status

Photo Credit: Photomontage using copyright free images

The Eretz Hemdah Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies in Jerusalem has recently published a collection of responsa (Bemareh Habazak pt. 9), which rule, among other things, that it is possible to determine the Jewish status of a man or a woman based on a unique genetic test, makor Rishon reported Friday. Should this ruling be embraced by Israel's Chief Rabbinate, it would provide many olim from the former Soviet Union a valid means to prove their Jewish ancestry.

"Testing the Mitochondrial genome, which is transmitted exclusively through the female germ line, makes it possible to identify relatives," Rabbi Yosef Carmel, the Rabbinical Dean of the Eretz Hemdah, told Makor Rishon. "If it can be proven that a Jane Doe is the offspring of a Jewish mother, her own offspring would also be recognized as Jews (from birth)."


According to Rabbi Carmel, "some 40% of European Ashkenazi Jews carry a genetic mark that suggests they are the offspring of four mothers who immigrated to Europe from the Middle East a millennia ago. Chances are high, statistically speaking, that anyone able to prove that they are the offspring of those four mothers is Jewish according to halacha."

Rabbi Carmel explained that for the purpose of validating an individual's Jewish heritage a statistical probability is sufficient, rather than a "clear sign." In his view, once one has been identified as Jewish with this method, they are no longer required to go through a conversion process to become Jewish.

The ruling could resolve hundreds of thousands of pending cases in which olim to Israel from the former USSR are unable to prove their Jewish ancestry and even though they are eligible for an Israeli citizenship, the Chief Rabbinate would not recognize them as Jews for the purpose of marriage, burial, giving testimony, and a variety of additional endeavors that require one to be Jewish in Israel.

Rabbi Carmel believes his ruling would absolve about 40% of Russian olim of the need to convert in order to receive recognition as Jews.

The statistical portion of the ruling was approved by Rabbi Professor Nathan Keller, a graduate of the Einstein Institute of Mathematics in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a researcher of probabilistic combinatorics and cryptography; and the genetic research was approved by Professor Karl Skorecki, the Director of Medical and Research Development at the Rambam Health Care Campus..

Rabbi Carmel and his colleague, Rabbi Moshe Ehrenreich have been lobbying the Chief Rabbinate to accept their research and ruling. They say the initial response from the Rabbinate has been positive, but an official response is yet to be issued.

What is Behind the Refusal to Stand for the Anthem?


Photo Credit: screenshot

{Originally posted to Gatestone Institute}

The debate about whether football players should stand for the national anthem moved to the center of the national conversation last month. On Sunday, September 24, scores of National Football League players, knelt, sat or stayed in the locker room while the Star-Spangled Banner was played. What used to be a rote exercise that began all sports events suddenly became seen as an indicator of sympathy for the Black Lives Matter movement or antipathy for President Donald J. Trump.


The most telling moment in the controversy, however, may have come a day later, when one NFL player felt compelled to apologize. The contrarian was not one of those allegedly protesting the nation's perceived shortcomings. It was, instead, a player who stood at attention and with his hand over his heart while the anthem was played.

Alejandro Villanueva was in the spotlight because he chose to stand and salute in sight of the fans — and the television cameras — at the entrance to the field while the rest of his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates stayed in their locker room. Within 24 hours, his number 78 Steelers jersey became the league's best-selling merchandise. Villanueva was apparently quickly shamed by his team into expressing regret.

In the aftermath of his public browbeating, it did not take much deep analysis for many Americans to see that the factor that separated Villanueva from his teammates was his military service.

A graduate of West Point and a veteran of three tours of service as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan, Villanueva is an outlier not only in terms of the NFL, but also as far as most Americans are concerned.

According to the Pentagon's Defense Manpower Center, active service members make up only 0.4 percent of the population of the United States. Even more telling is that more than 44 years after the Selective Service effectively ended conscription, the percentage of veterans has plummeted. In 2015, it was reported that only 7.3% of Americans had served in the military at some point during their lives. With each passing year, as the last veterans of World War Two and Korea pass away and with even the youngest Vietnam-era service members entering their seventies, this percentage will decline. Most Americans know nothing of what the military's sacrifice entails and are apparently prone not to value what those who serve in the military are defending. Ironically, surveys show the military to be the most respected of contemporary American institutions.

At the same time, opinion surveys continue to show a decline in expressions of patriotism, such as pride in the values of America or in being American. That number reached a historic low in April of 2017 when Gallup reported that only 52% of respondents said they were "extremely proud" to be Americans.

Gallup's numbers showed Democrats and millennials polled on the question of how they felt about America were less likely to express pride in their country than Republicans or older Americans. As college students have been increasingly shielded from knowing positive values that America has brought to civilization, the resulting impact on the culture cannot be considered a surprise.

Of course, to some of those who refuse to stand for the anthem, kneeling is a public reproach to racism that still exists in the US as well as in many other societies, as well as a supposed expression of patriotism in accord with the American tradition of free speech, honoring dissent.

One does not have to be a veteran to love one's country or to embrace its symbols. Dissent, even in forms that are offensive to many, can also be declared expressions of democracy.

Moreover, Trump's demand that NFL owners players be fired — they are not his to fire — doubtless caused many players to join the protesters as a way of demonstrating their antipathy for an unpopular president rather than resentment toward police forces accused of targeting African-Americans for death (often without any basis in statistics or the facts of controversial cases, such as the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri).

The teaching of what used to be called civics or history has declined to the point where Americans know very little about their roots or how a republican form of government works. At the same time, public education in the post-Vietnam era, as well as textbooks often developed with the "help" of dubious sources ( here, here, here and here) have also emphasized America's flaws while undermining the sense that it is a place worth defending.

As the sports world has gone from being a sector of the culture where patriotic gestures were transformed from universally accepted time-honored rituals to the occasion for leftist "virtue signaling," it is worth wondering if the battles over the anthem are more the natural outcome of a popular culture that no longer teaches Western values or requires either a draft or any kind of national service.

Modern Orthodoxy In Crisis: Synthesizing Religion And 21st-Century Identity


Photo Credit: Dr. Moshe Krakowski
Dr. Moshe Krakowski

By nearly any measure, American Modern Orthodoxy is facing an identity crisis.

The recent Pew data indicate that fewer and fewer Jews who consider themselves Orthodox label themselves as Modern Orthodox. Recent scholarship has suggested what most Modern Orthodox leaders and educators already know firsthand: students in Modern Orthodox schools are at best apathetic to their religious studies and in many cases outwardly hostile to them.


Though there is no systematic data that directly confirms this phenomenon, a robust body of anecdotal data suggests that Modern Orthodox youth frequently choose to adopt either fervently Orthodox or non-Orthodox identities rather than synthesize the world of modernity with a world of religious service.

I have spent many years studying how culture, worldview, and identity affect education. It is no exaggeration to say that the most important aspects of schooling emerge not from analyses of competencies in math or science, Talmud or Jewish law, but in what has been termed "the hidden curriculum" – the aspects of school that implicitly shape basic communal norms and attitudes.

The choices that schools, particularly religious schools, make – about modes of study, structure of the day, type of content taught – implicitly encode socio-religious norms and expectations in the school's educational platform and worldview.

These norms reflect – and help create – specific patterns of engagement in society.

For better or worse, recent scholarship shows that Modern Orthodox students come to school carrying with them foundational 21st century American assumptions about autonomy and individual choice. These assumptions make a religious curriculum that is premised on an appeal to authority seem distant, arbitrary, and, most important, irritatingly burdensome.

Students do not identify with the hero of Modern Orthodox life, the brilliant religious scholar who synthesizes the best of high culture into a sophisticated Weltanschauung, nor do they identify with a less exalted synthesis of simple, yet meticulous, religious observance coupled with engagement in popular culture and society.

For the most part, students reject the possibility of an externally imposed orienting framework, whether religious or secular; instead, they wish to choose for themselves how to make meaning in the world.

This is a big problem for Modern Orthodox religious life, and, in my view, one that has no simple comprehensive solutions. The crisis confronting Modern Orthodoxy is truly a crisis of existential identity, which is something that cuts across every aspect of life and cannot be localized only in schools.

My research (in both fervently Orthodox and Modern Orthodox schools), however, has shown that schools can and do have the capacity to shape students' identities, and can substantially impact students' relationships to religious study and practice.

The question is how.

In a recent academic article, I looked at the effect of one pedagogical and curricular approach that has been shown to impact identity in secular subjects, such as science and math: problem- or project-based learning.

PBL (as both are called) is a practical application of the theory of constructivism. This learning theory draws on abundant evidence demonstrating that all learning is active; not that people must be active in order to learn, but that as people learn, their minds actively connect new knowledge to pre-existing knowledge and build complex knowledge structures.

PBL builds on this insight by embedding learning in real-world contexts that present opportunities for numerous mental connections, so that knowledge doesn't stay disconnected but is deeply embedded in a context that gives it meaning.

In these curricula, students are asked to solve problems or create projects prior to having learned anything relevant to the subject, and figuring out what they need to know in order to complete the task is itself a major part of the learning process. All the learning that takes place comes only to serve the task at hand.

This approach to learning has many other cognitive benefits. Because students have taken ownership of the learning process, they are substantially invested in the outcome, and genuinely want to figure things out. This is important because a central feature of human nature is curiosity; if you can show someone a genuine problem to be solved, solving that problem produces a feeling of pleasure and accomplishment regardless of whether the material was interesting to him previously.

Moreover, allowing students to struggle and fail before arriving at the right answers has been shown to produce deeper, longer lasting learning (think of the classic arrangement of learning with a study partner for a few hours before attending a text-based lecture, rather than after).

But from a Modern Orthodox perspective even these substantial cognitive benefits may be outweighed by the socio-religious benefits of PBL. PBL curricula engage students in religious study in ways that build connections between religious texts and practices and students' own interests and perspectives.

Religious study then becomes a part of students' identities, as they autonomously engage in a range of secular and religious activities to pursue meaning in the world. As they engage in projects (such as writing guidelines for their community on what's kosher at Starbucks) students reason in deeply personal, individual, and idiosyncratic ways while remaining firmly rooted in the cultures of both modernity and religion.

Their autonomy is never threatened, but their identity is nonetheless directed at the incorporation of religious study into everyday life – a traditional Modern Orthodox goal.

For years, the Modern Orthodox synthesis has been difficult for schools to implement in any practical way. Instead of religious obligation, students internalized a model of personal meaning-making. PBL in Judaic subjects acknowledges this reality – but instead of fighting it, co-opts it; PBL gives students a way to incorporate a religious reality into a 21st-century identity. When religious practices no longer feel oppressive and externally imposed, they have the ability to speak for themselves, and their intrinsic meaning becomes a part of students' individual and personal meaning.

I do not mean to suggest that this is in any way a panacea, and the model has yet to be adopted and tested broadly, but it has potential. Considering the dearth of other solutions, and the pervasiveness of the problem, it might be time for schools to consider giving PBL a shot.

When Jewish justices got the Supreme Court to shut down on Yom Kippur

September 29, 2017, 4:44 pm
Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer listening to President Barack Obama deliver his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress in the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 28, 2014. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

See you Friday after Simchat Torah and Shimni Asazret in Israel. Out of Israel it is two days creating the final three day religious holiday of the year.

Love Yehuda Lave
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