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A Simplistic, Power-driven Religious Zionism Marches Away From Jewish Values – Haaretz

Posted By on May 24, 2017

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Parading through Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter, the Orthodox Jews marching for Jerusalem Day equate Jewish heroism with militaristic nationalism. But there are, and always were, other paths

While some of those Israeli and Diaspora Jews marching triumphantly Tuesday through the Old City on

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A Simplistic, Power-driven Religious Zionism Marches Away From Jewish Values – Haaretz

Opinion – Einat Wilf: Who will give up first in the battle for Zionism … – Jewish News

Posted By on May 24, 2017

A simple counting of 50 years of military occupation might lead reasonable people to believe that it can no longer be considered temporary. But this fails to take account of an alternative time frame: the countdown until the end of Zionism and the State of Israel which is a reflection of the prevailing Muslim, Arab and Palestinian view that Zionism is a historical aberration that will not and must not last.

Given this understanding of Zionism as a temporary historical aberration whose life span is a mere few decades, for the Palestinians to date, it has made sense to repeatedly choose to suffer the daily humiliations of living under a military occupation rather than to accept through a permanent peace agreement that divides the land the far greater humiliation of permanent Jewish sovereignty on land they considered exclusively their own.

As Arabs and Muslims, the Palestinians are not hapless victims, but rather masters of a historical narrative, at the end of which their resistance and patience would be rewarded with victory, in the form of Zionisms disappearance.

The occupation of most of the West Bank by Israel can come to an end then when the Muslim-Arab world alters its view of history, so that rather than Israel being a second crusader state, that is to disappear like the first, it is accepted as the sovereign state of an indigenous people who have come home.

The essence of the conflict between Zionism and the Muslim Arab world is a battle over time in a race of mutual exhaustion. The question that will determine how the conflict is ultimately resolved revolves around who will give up first: will the Zionists give up on their project in the face of unrelenting violent, diplomatic and economic assault, or will the Muslim Arabs in the face of Jewish power and persistence over time give up on their project of erasing the sovereign Jewish presence in their midst, and finally come to accept it as a part of their history, rather than an affront to it? Only time will tell.

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Opinion – Einat Wilf: Who will give up first in the battle for Zionism … – Jewish News

Nice Zionist Patriotic Booster, Moskowitz Prize for Zionism 2017, 5777 – The Jewish Press – (blog)

Posted By on May 24, 2017

Photo Credit: Courtesy

The media is so negative when it comes to idealistic Zionism that we all need some good booster shots periodically, and attending the prize-giving ceremonies put together for the Moskowitz Zionism Prize are just perfect. For various reasons I hadnt been to one for a few years, and Im glad to have come this year.

Yehoram Gaon was the MC, and he did a phenomenal job both singing and providing the necessary introductions and background. Apparently, he had been invited to perform for visiting US President Trump and entourage but respectfully declined because it was at the same time as the Moskowitz ceremony.

The Moskowitz Prize has evolved over the years. It used to be that three people got the main prizes, and the audience was full of their families, friends and admirers. The program stressed the accomplishments of these magnificent individuals and was interspersed with amazingly photogenic and kitschy performances with the backdrop of Ir David, City of David.

This year it was at the much more accessible Sultans Pool, between Jaffa Gate/Mount Zion/Old City Walls and Yemin Moshe. And instead of a variety of awardees, there was just one, the incomparable Moshe Arens. Arens is one of the last of a generation of Israelis, originally from the states actually, who was involved in a totally amazing amount of Israeli History. Yes, hes definitely worth prize recipients, or more.

One of the highlights of the event was certainly Education Minister Naftali Bennetts speech. There was a double theme of the evening, which were that its ten years since the prize began and the fifty years since the Liberation of Jerusalem and the Six Days War.

Bennett gave a personal aspect to this, by telling how the tension and Arab threats before the war, plus the miracles all of my generation and older remember so clearly affected his parents. According to Bennett, pre-Six Days War, his parents were typical unaffiliated assimilated Jews living in America, but the extraordinarily miraculous Six Days War woke up their Jewish identity and changed their lives completely. Thats how they ended up making aliyah and discovering Torah Judaism.

Bennett also voiced a plea to visiting American President Trump to make history and recognize Jerusalem as Israels Capital City.

A large proportion of the audience were teenagers. Schools came to attend, and it wasnt for the Zionism booster shot. There were some popular entertainers, two generations younger than the veteran Israeli star Yehoram Gaon. I whispered to my husband:

Am I the only one who has never heard of these singers?

As soon as the concert part of the evening began, many of us old fogeys left and went home. We had enough fun

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Nice Zionist Patriotic Booster, Moskowitz Prize for Zionism 2017, 5777 – The Jewish Press – (blog)

Are Right-Wing American Jewish Settlers Destroying Zionism … – Tablet Magazine

Posted By on May 24, 2017

In 1848, while visiting England, Ralph Waldo Emerson heard a rumor about Alfred, Lord Tennyson, soon to become poet laureate and in great demand as a dinner guest. Tennyson had apparently agreed to a country-house weekend on three conditions: that he could smoke in the house, not have to come down to breakfast, and not hear any talk about the Irish question.

Nowadays Tennysons third condition would doubtless be no discussion of the Israel-Palestine question. Nothing has ruined more dinner parties than the clichd yelling match during which one Jew insists that the obstacle to peace is Arab intransigence while the other sees Israeli settlements as an unforgivable sin.

If you think the occupation is the chief devil of modern Jewish existence, your stereotype of the settler might well be a religious Jew from Brooklynthe true center of low-rent fanaticismwho enjoys setting fire to Palestinian olive groves. But Sara Yael Hirschhorns new book,City on a Hilltop, a history of American-Israeli settlers, argues that they have always been a diverse bunch: secular, liberal, conservative, religious, and everything in between.

Hirschhorn begins by noting that Americans are overrepresented in the West Bank: They make up about 15 percent of the roughly 400,000 settlers. The huge majority of the first generation of American settlers were young and left-leaning; many fought for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. Only 2 percent were Republicans. Settlement-building was often an extension of their liberal activism: Hirschhorn writes that their desire to make a difference inspired them to establish their own communities beyond the Green Line.

The Six-Day War awakened the first wave of American settlers from their suburban slumbers: 99 percent of American Jews supported Israel against the Arab armies vowing to push the Jews into the sea. Nancy Weber announced in the Village Voice a few days after the war: Two weeks ago, Israel was a they; now Israel is a we. But what could American Jews do for Israel, since it had defended itself so capably against the Arabs? The answerso it seemed to the American settlerswas to act boldly to expand Israels boundaries, just as the early Zionists had done. Hirschhorns interviewees, at their most self-glorifying, see themselves as akin to Trumpeldor at Tel Hai or the halutzimof Degania Alef: Zionist trailblazers. After all, Britain under the mandate tried to prevent Jewish immigration and called it illegal. Whats illegal today will be celebrated tomorrow, the settlers imply.

An American-Israeli couple first came up with the idea of re-establishing a Jewish presence in the heart of the West Bank. During Passover 1968, Rabbi Moshe Levinger and his wife, Miriam, rented a hotel for 10 days in the center of Hebron, where Jews had lived continuously from Biblical times until the 1948 War of Independence. Hebron was the site of the infamous 1929 massacre of the citys Jews by Arabs protesting renewed Jewish settlement in Palestine. Invited by the Levingers, 30 families decided to stay. In 1971, the government relocated them to Kiryat Arba, a former military base on the fringes of the city. But in 1979, Miriam Levinger smuggled a group of 50 women and children back into downtown Hebron. Prime Minister Menachem Begin let them stay, despite vigorous Palestinian objections. Both Levingers spent time in jail, Moshe for killing a Palestinian shopkeeper along with a string of other violent acts, and Miriam for attacking a police officer.

Hebron was, of course, the home of Baruch Goldstein, who, by murdering 29 Muslim worshippers in 1994, forever changed the image of American-born Israeli settlers. Goldstein had attended the Yeshiva of Flatbush and was as home-grown a Jewish Brooklynite as one could imagine. After the massacre, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin memorably denounced Goldstein as a poisonous foreign implant. The Israeli media, across the political spectrum, chimed in with denunciations of Americas religious fanatics. The rabid Jewish-American settler entered the realm of mythology, most memorably in Philip Roths The Counterlife, where a gun-toting, foaming-at-the-mouth rabbi gives long speeches about not knuckling under to the goyim.

Yet the mythic image, Hirschhorn demonstrates, is distant from reality. There were nonreligious settlers too among the Americans, notably in Yamit, a town in the Sinai that was built from scratch in 1975 against a starkly beautiful setting of palm trees, sand, and ocean. Dismantled as a result of Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiations in 1982, Yamit was a close-knit community of about 2,500 that apparently dabbled in free love: One resident interviewed by Hirschhorn, Carole Rosenblatt, reported that there was a swingers circle in the town. When the news came that Yamit was to be destroyed, a wave of divorces and suicides hit the settlement.

Efrat, another settlement built by Americans, was established in the early 1980s in Gush Etzion, where Arab forces massacred over a hundred Jews when they took the area in 1948. Gush Etzion, at that time full of religious Zionists, had suffered greatly from the Arab blockade of Jerusalem. After 1967 many Israelis viewed the area as liberated Jewish territory, since Jews had lived there during the British Mandate.

Efrats spiritual leader was, and still is, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who left the Upper West Sides Lincoln Square Synagogue for a West Bank locale that as of 1980 was still more fantasy than reality for American Jews. In that year, Riskins mother-in-law wrote to his mother, They took us to this empty mountaintop without a living soul. Your son and my daughter looked pleased as punch, as if they were showing off Switzerland, Paris, and New York all rolled into one . theyre living in a Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland dream world.

Efrat currently houses about 9,000 residents, half of them native English speakers. Riskin refused to join Gush Emunim, the religious settlers movement, and he has been adamant that Efrat seized no private Palestinian land, despite newspaper reports and lawsuits suggesting the contrary. I didnt come like a thief at night, he told Hirschhorn. We first checked every inch, we made sure this was Jewish land.

Though he has a reputation as a liberal, Riskin stands opposed to a Palestinian state anywhere in the West Bank. He sees his settlers as the heirs of the civil-rights movement and has pledged himself to nonviolent resistance if the government ever tries to dismantle Efrat. I marched in Selma with Martin Luther King, Riskin says. Now we, the settlers, have become the blacks of Martin Luther King.

Riskin can be contrasted to Menachem Froman, the stubbornly righteous rabbi of Tekoa, a settlement founded in 1979 by 10 squatters that now contains over 600 families. Tekoa was started by Americans, but Froman, who died in 2013, was from the Galilee; he was famous for his willingness to talk to anyone, including the leaders of Hamas. Bearing his kosher hummus and pita in a plastic bag, Froman made his name by breaking bread with the sworn enemies of the Jewish state. He wasnt interested, he said, in who governed the land; instead, he sought peace between Arabs and Jews.

Froman marched against Jewish terrorism in Judea and Samaria, and he doggedly pursued religious dialogue with Muslims. But his path, heroic as it was, cannot by itself heal the rift between Israelis and Palestinians. For years, as you approached Fromans house, you could see graffiti announcing PLOTekoa branch; and some of Hirschhorns interviewees grumble about what they call his navet and publicity-seeking.

Hirschhorns point of view, though implicit, seems clear enough: along with most of the world, including many Israelis, she doesnt think it is desirable for Jews to be living throughout the occupied territories. She sprinkles her book with sharp comments about the settlers willful ignorance of Arab land rights, but she can be a softy at times. She writes about one Hebron resident, Malka Chaiken is not a monster: Shes a very mild-mannered, middle-aged woman who reminds me a little of my mom. The settlers she interviews say that Jews have the right to live anywhere: but, as she points out, talking about ones rights is not enough. One persons rights often conflict with anothers, and preventing a new intifada is reason enough to block someones right to build a house on a hilltop.

As Gadi Taub argued in his book The Settlers, the effort to people the West Bank with Jews shows a serious misunderstanding of Zionism, one shared by most of the settlers that Hirschhorn interviews. Taub remarks that Zionism was never about insisting on the Jewish right to biblical lands. Instead, Zionists focused on Jewish self-determination, which in theory could have happened anywhere. The Zionist movement chose Palestine not because Jews had a religious duty to reclaim the land, but because it was by far the most fitting site for the Jewish nation, a galvanizing symbol for millions of people in need of a homeland.

The Zionist choice was, in fact, correct: Palestine, the hinge between East and West, turned out to be a uniquely apt place to reunite the Ashkenazi and Mizrahi halves of the Jewish nation, which would have surely had a much harder time justifying its existence in, say, Uganda. Ironically, the settlements have turned Israelis back into a quasi-European colonial power imposing its will on the natives.

The temptation among Israelis is to think of settlements as a nearly incidental fact about their country. Its true that the settlers make up only about 5 percent of Israels population, and most of them live in blocs close to the Green Line that will likely always be part of Israel: in Hirschhorns terms they are hardly settlers at all. But Palestinian anger rightly feeds off the fact that Israel favors the interests of West Bank Jews over Arabs: After all, the Jews are citizens and voters. Sooner or later, the imbalance must be corrected, or Israel will face another revolt.

In 2006, Ehud Olmert ran for prime minister, and won, after proposing to unilaterally give up 88 percent of the West Bank and withdraw all Israeli citizens behind the security barrier; two years later, Olmert offered Mahmoud Abbas a little over 93 percent of the West Bank as part of a final status agreement. But times have changed: The peace process has been dead for at least a decade, despite its zombie-like reanimation during the Obama presidency, but that doesnt mean that Israel can do nothing for peace: It can unilaterally dismantle some existing settlements.

Forfeiting the rights of tens of thousand Jews to live in Judea and Samaria would be a small price to pay for the long-term advantage that could come from Israels reduced profile in the territories. After a decade of Hamas rule in Gaza, the Israeli public fears, and with some cause, that giving up territory invites an endless state of war. But is there any reasonable alternative?

Political change will at some point come to the West Bank whatever Israel does, though no one can predict what shape it will take. Political prophecy is a mugs game. But as Hirschhorn shows in City on a Hilltop, we can at least know a dead end when we see it.


David Mikics last wrote for Tablet magazine about Laura Kipniss book on Title IX campus witch hunts, Unwanted Advances.

David Mikics is the author, most recently, of Bellows People: How Saul Bellow Made Life Into Art. He lives in Brooklyn and Houston, where he is John and Rebecca Moores Professor of English at the University of Houston.

Are Right-Wing American Jewish Settlers Destroying Zionism … – Tablet Magazine

Zionism’s Post-1967 Choices – Algemeiner

Posted By on May 24, 2017

An Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

It is noaccidentthat there has been little to no change in the official status quo of Judea and Samaria in the 50 years since the Six-Day War.

Israel has neither annexed nor withdrawn from the West Bank, and holds the occupied territories in a judicial and national limbo. Israels policy towardsJudea and Samaria areboth Zionisms fulfillment, and its potential unraveling.

Zionism began as a secular national movement, which based its claim to the Land of Israel on the historical fact of its being the ancient homeland of the Jewish people. The Bibles founding narratives the tales of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob take place in that land. The kingdom of David, as well as the First and Second Temples, stood there. But heres the catch: these were all situated on theeastside of the 1967 border in Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem, not in Tel Aviv or Haifa.

May 24, 2017 11:30 am

Baruch Kurzweil, the esteemed Israeli literary and cultural critic, understood by the end of the 1960s that a withdrawal from the actual historical seats of Jewish origin would undermine Zionisms inner logic and invalidate it. Once these territories were in its hands, Israel could not give up itsraison dtre. Zionism is thus bound to these parts of the Land of Israel.

On the other hand,Zionism was never simply about founding an independent state that would realize the Jewish peoples right to self-determination, and create a safe haven for the worlds Jews. Historically, classical Zionism, both left-wing and right-wing, set out to establish not only a state, but also an exemplary society.

Israel was meant as a modern and secular interpretation of the traditional Jewish ethos of being a Light onto the Nations. The Jewish state was meant to be democratic, egalitarian, gracious and just. The ways to reach this ideal were debated, but the vision was clear: the modern Jewish political body would be both a national home for the Jewish people, and the envy and inspiration of the world.

It eventually became clear, however, that a state permanently controlling millions of peoplewithout granting them citizenship and equal rights could lose its democratic identity; and it couldnt be a model society. Officially annexing Judea and Samaria would therefore destroy a central element of Zionism.

A different optionannexing the occupied territories, while granting Palestinians full citizenshipwould undermine Zionism from yet another angle, as it would turn the state into a binational entity, nullifying the Jewish peoples (and, of course, the Palestinian peoples) right to self-determination.

As we reach the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, we therefore find Zionism in a struggle not only with international law and opinion, but within itself. Its very rationale is being challenged by any alternative to the present situation. Whichever option is taken, Zionism will forever be transformed.

It is at this point that Israel is witnessing the end of a significant political and ideological evolution. Since 1977, when the Likud Party first took power and replaced the Labor movement at the helm of the country, the voices that have stressed the eternal connection of the Peopleof Israel with the Landof Israel have grown louder.

Stemming from the extreme underground militia movements that Israeli Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir headed before Israels founding, these voices have joined forces with religious Zionisms commitment to tradition (and at times, messianism), and diminished the democratic ethos within Israeli nationalism. Thisis in stark contrastto the Labor Partys Zionism, which had put more weight on civil society and less on land.

The choice that the State of Israel has long been trying to avoid is clear. The tensions created by the competing ideas of a Jewish national state, a democratic state and a Jewish state that includes Judea and Samaria, cannot remain in place much longer.

Something will have to give.

If Israel wishes to remain democratic, it must give up either Judea and Samaria, or the idea of being a national home for the Jews.

If it wants to be a national home for the Jews, it must withdraw either from Judea and Samaria, or from its democratic principles.

If it keeps Judea and Samaria, it will lose either Jewish nationality or democracy.

Fifty years after Israel seized control of Judea and Samaria, our political leadership seems to dread the possibility of giving up these regions, even at the price of quenching Israeli democracy and the Zionist dream of a model society.

It is possible that there really isnt a current Palestinian partner for peace. But certainly not enough is being done by Israel to further an agreement, and to secure the future of a democratic, independent Jewish state. Unless liberal Israeli forces rise and come to the fore, the next 50 years may unfortunately witness Zionism, having come at least partly to its fulfillment, unravel and demise.

Dr. Tomer Persico is a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, which is holding a series of conferences across North America in May, where the issues raised in this essay will be explored in depth by scholars, rabbis and others. For information on these events, go to theHartman website.

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Zionism’s Post-1967 Choices – Algemeiner

The Talmud’s Hot Tub Time Machine – Tablet Magazine

Posted By on May 24, 2017

Literary criticAdam Kirschis readinga page of Talmuda day, along with Jews around the world.

A strange, time-bending moment came in this weeks Daf Yomi reading, in the course of the rabbis extensive discussion of the laws of inheritance. As we saw last week, the order in which a deceased Jews relatives inherit his property was established in the Torah in Numbers Chapter 27, in the episode of Zelophehads daughters. After their father died, these daughters went to Moses claiming that they should be allowed to inherit from him, since he had no sons. Moses brought the question to God, who ruled in favor of the daughters, and laid down a general rule: First sons inherit, then daughters, then brothers, then paternal uncles. The Mishna introduces an important change in this order, however, inserting the father of the deceased as an heir, after his daughters, and before his brothers.

In Bava Batra 119b, the Gemara comments that the daughters of Zelophehad were wise because they spoke in accordance with the momentthat is, they raised their claim at an opportune time. Rabbi Shmuel bar Rav Yitzhak explains what this means: They went before Moses at the moment when he was sitting and interpreting the Torah portion about men whose married brothers had died childless. This is the law about levirate marriage, which says that when a married man dies childless, his surviving brother must marry his widow in order to provide her with a child. (She can also release him from this obligation by performing the ceremony of chalitzah, as described extensively in Tractate Yevamot.)

When it comes to levirate marriage, the daughters of Zelophehad pointed out, sons and daughters have equal legal status. If a man dies without sons but leaves daughters behind, his brother is not obligated in levirate marriage; evidently, daughters are considered sufficient to carry on the family line, even though they will go on to get married and leave their fathers household. If we are considered like a son, give us an inheritance like a son, the daughters of Zelophehad argued to Moses; if not, our mother should enter into levirate marriage. This line of reasoning persuaded Moses to bring the matter to the Lord, who sided with the daughters.

What the Gemara does not point out, but struck me as remarkable, is that the Torah portion that lays out the rule for levirate marriage comes in Deuteronomy, while the story of Zelophehads daughters is in Numbers, which of course precedes Deuteronomy in the Five Books of Moses. In other words, the rabbis envision Moses possessing a complete Torah while the events the Torah recounts are still taking place. While he is wandering the wilderness, in Numbers, he can consult the law code he will not actually deliver to the Israelites until years later, in Deuteronomy.

This seems nonsensical, but it follows inevitably from the rabbis view of the Torah as the eternal center of Jewish life. For them, being Jewish means reading and expounding the Torah; how, then, could Moses, the greatest Jew of all, not have been a Torah scholar? Indeed, at other places in the Talmud, the rabbis even envision the patriarchs studying the Torah, hundreds of years before it was given. Of course, this creates serious logical problems of the kind we now associate with time-travel stories. For instance, if Moses received the entire written Torah on Sinai, he would be able to read in advance about his own death, outside the Promised Land, as a punishment for striking the rock at Meribah. If so, why wouldnt he have avoided striking the rock, thus changing the course of his lifeand falsifying the Torah narrative? I have no doubt that Jewish tradition has answers for such questions; but the Talmuds implicit assumption that Moses was at once the writer of the Torah and a reader of the Torah remains strange, almost eerie.

The discussion of the daughters of Zelophehad leads the rabbis to consider a biblical conundrum. When the Children of Israel arrived in Canaan, how was the land divided up among them? The Torah offers two apparently contradictory accounts. In Numbers 26, we read about how Moses ordered a census of the Israelites according to clan and tribe and instructed that the land should be divided among them. One verse says that this should take place according to the names of the tribes of their fathers; in the Talmuds understanding, this means that the land would be divided among those who left Egypt. But a different verse says the land should be divided unto these: that, to the Israelites who had just been enumerated in the census.

The problem is that the Israelites who departed from Egypt in the Exodus were not the same people who arrived in the Land of Israel forty years later. In fact, the whole reason for the 40 years of wandering was to allow time for the generation of the Exodus to die out. God decreed this as a punishment for the peoples lack of trust, as revealed in the episode of the spies, in Numbers 13-14. When Mosess spies returned from Canaan reporting that the inhabitants were huge and frightening, the Israelites began lamenting that they had ever left Egypt. God, infuriated by the Israelites not for the first time, wanted to wipe them out immediately; but Moses persuaded him not to. Instead, God decreed that the Exodus generation would perish, and their children would inherit the Land.

How, then, do the rabbis explain the two verses? Was the land divided among the Israelites who left Egypt, and then their portions were inherited by their children, as the daughters of Zelophehad inherited his property? Or was the land divided among the Israelites who actually entered the land? The two methods would have very different results: notably, the first would disadvantage families that produced many children in the wilderness. If a man left Egypt and had five sons while in the desert, those five brothers would have to divide one share of the land of Israel between them. Meanwhile, another man who produced only one son in the desert would bequeath him an undivided share. If, however, the division was made according to the number of people who actually entered the land, the five sons of the first Israelite and the one son of the second Israelite would each receive equal portions.

The rabbis offer ingenious solutions to this problem. According to Rabbi Yonatan, this inheritance is different from all other inheritances in the world, for in all other inheritances in the world the living inherit from the dead, but here, the dead inherit from the living. In other words, the Gemara explains in a complicated parable, the land was first divided among the living Israelites who entered it. Then these shares were retroactively transferred to their dead ancestors who had left Egypt at the time of the Exodus. And finally, the living Israelites inherited the land from these ancestors, dividing it according to the laws of inheritance. This was effectively a way of remedying the injustice done to families with many children. It is also a legal fiction, needed for the rabbis to explain how two contradictory Torah verses are both valid. Here is a perfect example of the way the Torahs ambiguity spurs the rabbis of the Talmud to feats of ingenious interpretation.


Adam Kirsch embarked on theDaf Yomicycle of daily Talmud study inAugust2012. To catch up on the complete archive,click here.

Adam Kirsch is a poet and literary critic, whose books include The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.

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The Talmud’s Hot Tub Time Machine – Tablet Magazine

As Connecticut synagogue prepares to close, congregation looks to the future – New Haven Register

Posted By on May 24, 2017

TORRINGTON >> There are a series of plaques on the walls of the Beth El Synagogue on Litchfield Street, each bearing the name of a member of the congregation and their date of death.

On the anniversary of their passing, a small light is illuminated next to their name, and they are announced during the next service in remembrance.

Some of those lights were shining Tuesday afternoon; but the names are disappearing from the wall.

The synagogue is set to close by the end of the year, leading congregants to take the memorials to their loved ones away.


Rabbi Richard Eisenberg said Tuesday that the decision to close was made based on a series of factors, including declining membership, lack of lay leadership, and aging of the congregation.

There are about 70 members of the synagogue, Eisenberg said, and about 15-20 attend the service each Saturday.

The Board of Directors of the synagogue officially made the decision to close, Eisenberg said.

The closure of the religious school operated by the temple was a significant contributor to the fall in attendance, Eisenberg said.

We lost a lot of steam when our religious school closed, said Eisenberg. That was really the first step to our demise.

Patricia Anderson, who has attended services there since 1977, and raised her children in the temple, was keeping watch over the building Tuesday afternoon.

She cited the same demographic trends a declining, aging population in the region as the rationale for the decision.

(Its) very sad. So much work went into establishing and continuing Beth El by so many dedicated people that it is a shame we cant continue any longer, said Anderson.

At one point, Anderson said, 60 students took part in bar and bat mitzvah classes at the temple, and the seven classrooms in the building were used for religious education one for each grade level.

Now, the last bar mitzvah candidate is expected to graduate in the fall.

Both of member Ed Arums sons had their bar mitzvah in the temple, he said Tuesday afternoon, and he has attended services there for more than 35 years.

Im sad, said Arum. Its a sad thing.

Arum said the impending retirement of Eisenberg was a factor in the decision. Congregants did not want to search for a replacement. Eisenberg could not be reached for comment about this later Tuesday. According to the temples website, Eisenberg works as a drug and addiction rehabilitation counselor at the APT Foundation Access Center in New Haven, and is a part-time rabbi at Beth El.

Arum noted that other houses of worship, Christian and Jewish alike, also are closing.

The Hartford Archdiocese recently announced plans to close two Catholic churches in Torrington, and consolidate four parishes into one.

If you look around… unfortunately, its whats happening, said Arum.

Congregants will now have to find a new religious home, Eisenberg said.

Anderson plans to begin attending services in Southbury, she said, while Arum said he might go to West Hartford.

Beth-El served congregants of different religious traditions, according to Anderson Orthodox, Reform from throughout the region, and is the last fully-functional synagogue in the county.

It was founded in 1906, according to the synagogue website, after a handful of Jewish families who lived in Torrington and worshipped together in each others homes before the turn of the century.

Its a monumental decision after 100 years, said Anderson.

Eisenberg expressed sadness at the development as well Tuesday, and noted the temples long history in the community.

Our synagogue has had a sense of pride in being part of the Torrington community for many decades, said Eisenberg. We are sorry that we can no longer provide a Jewish congregation for worship in Torrington.

The building will be sold, according to Eisenberg, who declined to offer specific details about a potential sale Tuesday.

Mayor Elinor Carbone said Tuesday that a primarily-Latino church has expressed interest in acquiring the building.

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As Connecticut synagogue prepares to close, congregation looks to the future – New Haven Register

Florida man negotiating plea deal in plot to bomb Miami-area synagogue – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Posted By on May 24, 2017

(JTA) A South Florida man charged with plotting to bomb a Miami-area synagogue and Jewish school is negotiating a plea agreement, his defense attorney said.

James Medina, 41, has been negotiating with prosecutors on a proposed guilty plea, The Associated Press reported, citing court papers filed last week. He originally had pleaded not guilty.

The FBI arrested Medina, a convert to Islam from Hollywood, on April 29, 2016, while he was approaching the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center with what he believed was a bomb. An FBI informant had furnished Medina with the real looking but fake bomb.

Medinas family and attorney have said he is mentally ill and has previously been committed to a psychiatric hospital.

According to prosecutors, Medina initially planned to attack the 800-member Conservative synagogue and its school with assault rifles on Yom Kippur and was hoping to inspire other Muslims to commit terrorist attacks.

He reportedly told an undercover FBI informant that he was prepared to kill innocent women and children. Medina also allegedly made several videos before the planned attack on the synagogue, including one in which he said goodbye to his family, the Sun-Sentinel reported at the time of the attack.

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Florida man negotiating plea deal in plot to bomb Miami-area synagogue – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Temple Beth Tzedek details plans for new Amherst synagogue – Buffalo News

Posted By on May 24, 2017

The merged congregation of Temple Beth Tzedek and B’nai Shalom plans to build a new, 10,210-square-foot synagogue on North Forest Road that will connect to the existing synagogue on the site.

The construction will allow Temple Beth Tzedek to move from its longtime Getzville Road home, which the congregation is selling to Northtown Automotive. The combined congregation has held services at both locations until the sale of the property at 621 Getzville Road goes through.

Northtown Auto’s purchase of Amherst synagogue to ease Dent’s parking crunch

Temple Beth Tzedek plans to use the proceeds of the sale to pay for the synagogue expansion at 1623 and 1641 N. Forest Road on about 4 acres. The new sanctuary would accommodate 300 worshipers and hold gathering and office spaces, according to plans filed with the Amherst Planning Department.

The congregation also would put in a 100-space parking lot, infrastructure and landscaping, and would remove two houses now located at 1623 N. Forest. The Planning Board could begin to review the project at its June 15 meeting.

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Temple Beth Tzedek details plans for new Amherst synagogue – Buffalo News

Narberth Foundation Awards $20K To Main Line Jewish School … –

Posted By on May 24, 2017
Narberth Foundation Awards $20K To Main Line Jewish School …
Narberth-Bala Cynwyd, PA – The Kohelet Foundation in Narberth's grant will help a Jewish school and synagogue draw in more Jewish families to the Main …

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Narberth Foundation Awards $20K To Main Line Jewish School … –

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