Global Study Shows Jews Were Affected by Covid-19 Worse than Non-Jews in First Wave and The agenda that undermines America’s bond with the Jews and Where are Shimon and Levi today when we need them? and 'Be a Light' - a moving song for Hanukkah Day five today
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Capella music ensemble comes out with a new moving single for the upcoming holiday of lights.
In the days leading up to Hanukkah, the Kippalive band in collaboration with 'Beit Issie Shapiro' has come out with an exciting music clip - "Be a Light."
"This is an amazing organization that is one of the world's leaders in the field of special needs and people with disabilities," say band members.
"Each of these children was born to shine," they add, "...everyone can make a difference."
Shchem – Where Is Shimon? Where Is Levi?
"Shall he make of our sister a harlot?"
(Genesis 34: 31)
Some 3,500 years ago, an abomination was done to a Jew in Shchem. Dinah, daughter of Jacob, was raped by Shchem, the son of Chamor. Upon hearing of the obscenity, Dinah's brothers – Shimon and Levi – went into the town and slew every male.
Last month, an abomination was done to a Jew in Shchem. A Jewish soldier was murdered when an Arab dropped a huge rock on his head from a rooftop. Upon hearing of the obscenity, Dinah's brothers – Chief of Staff Dan Shomron and the general in charge of the Central command, Amram Mitzna – toured the scene of the murder, swore that the Arabs would pay "a high price" ( the exact words of Shomron were: "There is no doubt that we will react in this area in a way that will make it not worthwhile for local people to throw stones and the price will be heavy. Every reaction is possible. You will see this in the days to come") – and then proceeded to blow up the upper roof of the building from which the rock was dropped and brick up windows overlooking the alley.
As they did so, Arabs in adjacent buildings whistled and shouted, "Allahu Akhbar, Allah is great," and former Mayor Hafez Touquan said: "This has no deterrent effect whatsoever."
The shame of Israel, the Hillul Hashem – desecration of the Name – lies in the fact that today there is no Shimon, there is no Levi. There is only Dan Shomron who – as Chief of Staff, to our dishonor, and thus committed to crushing the intifada whose aim is to wipe out Israel – instead tells the news media that "the intifada cannot be defeated since it comes from nationalist roots." There is only Amram Mitzna, the disgrace of a soldier who, in the middle of the Lebanese war and following the Sabra and Satilla massacres of Arabs by Arabs, condemned the Israeli Defense Minister before a press conference in Beirut and then left his post and went home to his kibbutz, Ein Gav.
What a "high price" the Arabs of Shchem have paid. A roof, two houses blown up and windows bricked up and an area sealed – and the Arabs laughing and happily shouting Allah is great! "High price." What a fraud, what a lie. And how it typifies the entire government of deceit. They have no policy, they have no answers.
Where is Shimon? Where is Levi? Where is the Jewish knowledge that an abomination against a Jew has been done here and it must be dealt with in the only way that the Jew-haters understand? When Jacob heard of the act of Shimon and Levi he protested – not because it was immoral, as so many foolish Jews say, but – for practical reasons: He feared the retribution of the people of the land, saying, "You have brought trouble on me to make me odious among the inhabitants of the land … and I being few in number, they will gather themselves together against me, and slay me" (Genesis 34:30). No, not a moral argument, for there was nothing immoral about the act of Shimon and Levi. Jacob was simply afraid of the reaction of the gentiles around him.
And the reply of Shimon and Levi resounds throughout the ages: "Shall he make of our sister a harlot?" And Jacob is silent. There is no answer. For his sons are right . . .
Hillul Hashem! To defile a Jewess and treat her as a whore! Such a thing cannot be even if there is danger, because in the case of national Hillul Hashem, danger is set aside. And this was even when the Jews were a small minority in the midst of many gentiles. Even then, the demand to wipe out Hillul Hashem transcended danger. How much more so, when there is a State of Israel and an army that controls the city of Shchem! And how much greater is the Hillul Hashem that we bring on ourselves by our humiliating refusal to do that which we should – wipe out the terror by killing the murderers and driving out all the rest.
And the Or HaChaim in his commentary goes further: "To the contrary, there will be danger for them among the nations; when the latter will see that one low person ruled over Jacob and did as his pleasure, then the Jews would not be able to survive among the nations. And it is through this [the killing of the people of Shchem]that fear of the Jews will be on the nations and they will tremble before them."
Of course. It is only true punishment and a heavy hand of Jewish terror that is the way to terrify the nations who would otherwise wipe out Israel. It is the way of Shimon and Levi that not only leads to the natural terror of the gentile but also to G-d's approval: "And the terror of G-d was on the cities that were round about them and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob"(Genesis 35:5).
What the pathetic and humiliating policy of Shomron and Mitzna and their employers – Rabin and Shamir and Arens – has done has been to lift terror from the Arabs and give them confidence and contempt for the Jews. By this deadly and terrible policy, so couched in gentilized and Hellenized concepts of "morality" that is, in fact, repulsive murder, we guarantee the future blood of Jews. Because there is no Shimon and Levi, the Arab is unafraid and he thus will murder more Jews tomorrow, secure in the knowledge that the pathetic kibbutznikim of the army and the Hellenized political leaders of Likud and Labor will speak loudly and then do nothing to crush the Arab. It is the Arab who threw the rock that murdered the soldier but it is Shamir and Arens and Rabin and Shomron and Mitzna who are the accomplices. Their Jewish hands are red and filthy with Jewish blood.
And finally, a comprehensive understanding of Shimon and Levi for those who claim that they sinned when they killed the people of Shchem and were therefore cursed by their father.
The fact is that their father (as mentioned above) never castigated them on moral grounds but only out of practical fear of the nations. The fact is that they replied to him and he was silent, accepting their cry that no gentile could make of their sister a harlot. The fact is that G-d did not punish them but, to the contrary brought terror on the gentiles around them.
And the fact is that when G-d commanded the tribes to choose special and distinctive flags that they would fly proudly as they camped and traveled in the desert, the Rabbis tell us (Bamidbar Rabbah 2): "Shimon [the tribe of Shimon] had a flag whose color was green and had drawn on it the city of Shchem."
The city of Shchem? This was the flag of Shimon as commanded by G-d? This was what the ALL Mighty wished Shimon to wave on high for all to see? No, hardly a sin, but rather, as in the commentary of the Maharzu: "Because of their bravery and self-sacrifice in Shchem. And even though Levi was with him Shimon was the older and the main one. And this [flag] is his praise for his zealousness against the abomination of immorality."
And Maimonides explains the actions of Shimon and Levi (Hilchot Mlachim 9:14), and his words are brought down in the Ramban (Breishit 34:13): "The sons of Noah are commanded to uphold laws . . . and because of this all the people of Shchem were worthy of death since Shchem stole [Dinah] and they saw it and knew of it and did not try him."
And the Ramban gives his own reason as follows: For the sons of Jacob, since the people of Shchem were wicked people and blood for them was as water, wished to avenge themselves on them with an avenging sword. And they killed the king and all his servants who were obedient to him."
In any event, since it is clear that Shimon and Levi not only did not sin but, indeed, followed G-d's law, why then did Jacob apparently, curse them when he said: "Instruments of violence are their swords. Let my soul not come into their council . . . for in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they uprooted an ox" (Genesis 49:6)
The answer is that, again, their actions against the people of Shchem, who had acquiesced in the abomination against Dinah, were totally justified. And that is why Jacob, after first protesting and then hearing their reply, was silent and agreed. But later, after learning that the same two sons had also intended to kill Joseph, and Shimon threw him into a pit that was teeming with snakes and scorpions (see Breishit Rabbah 84, and Rashi on Genesis 49:6. Who explains the words "And in their self-will they uprooted an ox." As referring to Joseph who was symbolized as an ox in Deuteronomy 33:17. "The firstling of his herd grandeur is his, and his horns are like the horns of a wild ox"), he then realized that their motivation in all that they did was violence and anger for its own sake. That is why they sinned – not because of the act itself but because their motivation was violent anger and this was manifested even against their own brother. And so he cursed, not them but their anger and their self-will.
No, those who dare raise their hand in abomination against Israel, whether through rape of Dinah or murder of a soldier, have raised their hands against the people of G-d. Hence against the ALL Mighty Himself. It is a Hillul Hashem that demands vengeance and punishment. Shimon and Levi destroyed the desecrators, and forever did the flag of Shimon eternalize the act.
But there is no Shimon and Levi today. There is only Shomron and Mitzna and Shamir and Arens – small people, unworthy to carry the flag of Sanctification. Their pitiful reaction is worse than nothing. It adds to the humiliation, to the Hillul Hashem. It spits in the grave of the murdered soldier and guarantees that others will follow him
The casbah where the soldier was murdered should have been razed to the ground and all the inhabitants of the city told that blood is on their heads and to flee before the sword of Shimon and Levi returns. Out! Out of the land! Shall our sister be as a harlot? Shall our brother the soldier be as one whose blood is cheap? We need a Shimon and Levi today. We need a government in Israel that understands that this is precisely its role
The agenda that undermines America's bond with the Jews
The four-year interlude under President Donald Trump is clearly viewed as an irritating setback that must now be reversed.
(December 3, 2020 / JNS) Among those who understood the depth of former U.S. President Barack Obama's hostility to Israel, there's understandable anxiety about the Obama retreads and acolytes among the foreign policy and security nominees being chosen by the prospective president-elect, Joe Biden.
Obama's hostility is assumed to derive from his left-wing mindset which regards Israel, falsely and ahistorically, as a colonialist occupying power. He demonstrates this in his new memoir, A Promised Land, in his profoundly distorted account of the origins of the modern State of Israel.
There is, however, a deeper reason why both Obama and the left find Israel so intensely problematic, and why a Biden presidency will once again have Israel in its cross-hairs. This isn't about foreign policy. It's about the program for America itself.
The core of the left's agenda is to remake the Western world; and the agenda of Obama and the American left is to remake America.
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Their target is the Western nation-state and its culture. The core precepts of that culture are articulated and enshrined within the different histories, laws, religions, institutions and traditions of individual Western nations.
The left, however, deems the Western nation-state to be evil because it declares itself superior to cultures that don't share its values while excluding those who don't belong to it.
Hence the left's constant undermining of immigration laws in their attempt to erase national borders; their refusal to grasp that citizenship is a bargain between the citizen and the state to which he or she belongs; and their savage denunciations of those who uphold such notions as racists or xenophobes, in order to erase their voices altogether from the cultural conversation.
The nation, its specific attributes and the borders that define its territory must instead give way to a Kumbaya vision of the brotherhood of man expressed through transnational institutions and laws.
Much of this erosion of Western values has already been achieved, in schools and universities, through the culture wars. Obama's strategy in his eight years in the White House was to weaponize this agenda through the presidency.
The four-year interlude under President Donald Trump is clearly viewed as an irritating setback that must now be reversed. In his memoir, Obama writes that he is "not yet ready to abandon the possibility of America."
This should chill the blood of all who care about defending America and the Western culture that it leads. For what Obama means is that his project in remaking America is unfinished, and he now sees the chance to complete that transformation.
He writes: "I'm convinced that the pandemic we're currently living through is both a manifestation of and a mere interruption in the relentless march toward an inter-connected world, one in which peoples and cultures can't help but collide.
"In that world—of global supply chains, instantaneous capital transfers, social media, transnational terrorist networks, climate change, mass migration and ever-increasing complexity—we will learn to live together, co-operate with one another and recognize the dignity of others, or we will perish."
Alliances and co-operation between nations committed to the same values of freedom, democracy and innate respect for life are indeed all to the good.
What Obama is eulogizing, however, is a world in which the boundaries between nations are blurred, transnational corporations and institutions rule America, and representative democracy—as the political vehicle for a nation's identity and culture—is evacuated of power and meaning.
Beneath his honeyed euphemisms, his agenda raises the "possibility" of an America whose historic self-image as the "exceptional nation" is condemned as racist, whose desire to defend itself is dismissed as xenophobic aggression, and which is all too eager to "recognize the dignity" of those who pose a mortal threat to America and the West.
This agenda brings the left into a headlong confrontation with both Israel and Judaism itself.
Judaism is the ultimate particularist culture. As was noted by the former British Chief Rabbi, the late Jonathan Sacks, the people who are always in the way of any universalizing agenda are the Jews. This is something that progressively minded Jews, who form the majority of the American Jewish community and who have effectively made a religion out of liberal universalism, simply cannot understand.
The principal target of liberal universalism is the Western nation-state, which was supposedly brought into being in 17th-century Europe. The belief, however, that the nation was essential to safeguard life and liberty was pioneered thousands of years ago by the Jews.
The template for the nation-state was the ancient kingdom of Israel, composed of a particular people in their own land bound by their own laws, which expressed the history, traditions and principles that formed their shared identity and purpose.
As Yoram Hazony observes in his book The Virtue of Nationalism, ancient Israel, which formed a nation out of the unification of tribes, laid down a formula for national unity that created England in the ninth century, the Dutch Republic in the 16th century and, in the 18th century, the United States of America.
The profound influence of the Hebrew Bible on America has been dwelt upon at length by the New York Rabbi Meir Soloveichik. In his preface to the book he helped edit, Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land, he records how the founders of the United States constantly turned to the Hebrew Bible as their shared heritage and foundational text.
Soloveichik writes: "From the Puritan fathers to the American Framers, from slavery to abolition, from the Liberty Bell to America's celebration of national Thanksgiving, the Hebrew Bible is one of America's formative books, reflecting in the new continent, in the new nation, in America's rebirth of freedom, the moral and narrative inspiration of ancient Israel."
A nation, however, ceases to exist as such if it cannot defend itself within its own borders. One reason why Israel falls foul of the Western left is that it is single-mindedly determined to defend itself as a nation.
By contrast, if Biden becomes the 46th president, he will undermine his country's defenses. He has said that he will undo policies introduced by Trump to deter illegal immigrants and which aimed to restore the integrity of the notion of citizenship.
He has pledged to revoke Trump's restrictions on immigration from eight countries—six of them Muslim—which are viewed by the Department of Homeland Security as presenting a terrorist threat to America.
He is also reportedly rethinking the role of the military in the way America deals with the world, and is looking for a defense secretary who will share his aim to "de-emphasise the military as an instrument of national power."
Instead of promoting his nation's strength, he will therefore advertise its weakness—and he will call this virtue.
He will not just be undermining the security of his country. He will also be taking an ax to the Jewish roots of America's idea of itself as a nation.
That's the context in which to frame his anticipated coolness towards Israel—the nation-state of the people who, whenever a society succumbs to any universalizing ideology, are always to be found in the way.
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for "The Times of London," her personal and political memoir, "Guardian Angel," has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, "The Legacy," in 2018. Go to melaniephillips.substack.com to access her work.
Global Study Shows Jews Were Affected by Covid-19 Worse than Non-Jews in First Wave
Jews in parts of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy, and Belgium were particularly badly affected during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with communities in London, Manchester, Scotland, Stockholm, Milan and Brussels showing unusually high mortality levels at that time.
Jewish mortality rates were noticeably higher than among non-Jews in all of these places during the March to May 2020 period, and at least twice as high as might normally be expected at that time of year. However, other communities – in selected parts of Germany, as well as Rome, Vienna, Budapest and Melbourne – showed little or no excess mortality at all, and in many cases appear to have fared slightly better than the non-Jewish populations around them. In Israel too, mortality rates were normal at this time.
In between these two poles, several other Jewish communities – Paris, Strasbourg, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Toronto, Montreal and Florida – had somewhat elevated mortality rates, but not at the levels seen in the worst affected areas, and at similar rates to those found among the wider populations living around them. The data on Jews in New York were somewhat anomalous – there was significant excess mortality, but at a much lower rate than among others in the city.
The study, which draws on data from Jewish burial societies all over the world and utilizes the excess mortality method to assess the impact of COVID-19 (i.e. the extent to which the number of deaths observed in a given population at a given point in time deviate from the norm) finds no common pattern among Jewish populations. Indeed, report authors Dr Daniel Staetsky from JPR and Dr Ari Paltiel from Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, conclude that Jewish mortality patterns during the first wave largely followed the patterns seen in the areas in which they live.
Staetsky and Paltiel also caution against speculation about why Jews were disproportionately affected in some places, but rule out two candidate explanations: that Jewish populations with particularly elderly age profiles were hardest hit, or that Jews have been badly affected due to any underlying health issue common among them. They consider the possibility that Jewish lifestyle effects (e.g. above average size families, convening in large groups for Jewish rituals and holidays), may have been an important factor in certain instances, noting that these are unambiguous risk factors in the context of communicable diseases. While they suggest that the spread of the virus among Jews "may have been enhanced by intense social contact," they argue that without accurate quantification, this explanation for elevated mortality in certain places remains unproven.
The report also includes a strongly worded preface from Hebrew University Professor Sergio DellaPergola, the Chair of the JPR European Jewish Demography Unit, and the world's leading expert in Jewish demography. In it, he expresses disappointment at "critical shortcomings in the measurement of the incidence and spread of the virus" in many countries, including Israel, which provided a "grossly inadequate basis for assessing the variable patterns of the epidemic and the policies to be adopted to counteract it." He further highlights the importance of systematically testing representative samples of the population at the national and local levels, and, in Jewish community contexts, of routinely gathering Jewish population vital statistics. He states: "If there is one lesson for Jewish community research that emerges out of this crisis it is that the routine gathering of vital statistics – the monitoring of deaths, as well as births, marriages, divorces, conversions, immigrants and emigrants – is one of the fundamental responsibilities community bodies must take."
Commenting on the report's findings, JPR Executive Director, Dr Jonathan Boyd, said: "By focusing on Jews in many different parts of the world, this report offers a unique perspective on the incidence and spread of the virus that is designed not only to help community leaders shape their responses to the ongoing challenges, but also to make a contribution to epidemiological research. The pandemic has laid bare the critical importance of thoughtful, systematic data collection and analysis, and we remain steadfastly committed to that goal."