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The United Church of Canada’s accord with B’nai B’rith prevents it from supporting justice in Palestine – Mondoweiss

Posted By on July 9, 2020

Last year, Trinity St. Paul, a downtown Toronto United Church caved to pressure from Bnai Brith to cancel an event booked by the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM).

This should not have been surprising given the United Church of Canada 47-year-old cooperation agreement with Bnai Brith.

Last week, a United Church group that supports peace for Palestine and Israel outlined the situation that led to the congregation denying the Palestinian group rental, and provided an apologetic resource called managing opposition. No statement was made by the congregation.

There is of course no indication from the United Church that it plans to publicly denounce its almost half-century agreement with the pro-Israel lobby.

Following the Naksa, which means setback in Arabic and is used to refer to the 1967 war, the Israel lobby in Canada worked to silence those who continued to speak of the right of return. This was the case when in 1973, the United Church of Canada signed an agreement with Bnai Brith. This agreement was put in place to attempt to silence Rev. Dr. A.C. Forrest, the then editor of the United Church of Canada on right of return, and his publication of the The Unholy Land. It was meant to squash the support for Palestine by the grassroots of the United Church.

In 1971, the United Churchs committee on international affairs had asked the Canadian secretary of state for external affairs toreport on Israeli bonds, including the amount, the mechanism used to transfer them from the country, tax exceptions and charitable status. This along with several other Palestine items were passed at the United Church General Council meeting in 1972. Based on information in the United Church archives, there was immediate external pressure from Israel lobby groups into permanently stalling implementation of these grassroots approved motions.

Records between pro-Israel groups show that they were surprised the United Church would not just reverse these decisions, but that they were not worried as they had been given assurance by the United Church moderator and general secretary that while the decisions from general council could not be reversed, they could make sure resolutions would not be implemented.

Over the decades to follow, church staff would mention that they had to get an agreement from the Canadian Jewish Congress or other pro-Israel lobby groups before they could proceed with Palestine-related work. Not surprisingly, an analysis of the implementation of the resolutions passed at general council meetings shows that essentially none of the resolutions passed over the last six decades have been implemented, or if they have it has been in a very minor way that was not sustained.

If the resolutions approved over the years by the United Church of Canada had been put in place there would be support for both the right of return and for equal rights for those in historic Palestine, and acceptance that Zionism is racism. However, this is not the case. The church opposes the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS). The church also refuses to name apartheid or genocide, saying such terms are unhelpful.

In 2012 at its General Council, the United Church passed a resolution indicating that it would divest from companies involved in the illegal military occupation of Palestine. However, that same motion said that actions should not compromise Jewish demographic integrity. It is not surprising that the Israel lobby is not too concerned about the United Church taking action on the motions approved.

In 2009, the Palestinian Christian community issued a call to support the Kairos Palestine Document to the worldwide Christian community. No church in Canada took up that call. In 2017, Palestinian Christians made another call to the World Council of Churches including support for BDS. The United Church of Canada moderator, Jordan Cantwell was in Bethlehem and responded that it was complicated and would take much discussion.

In response to the 2017 call, a consultation by the United Church of Canada finally began in 2019. This included a policy paper that does not reflect the motions passed by the church over the years, nor does it reflect a response to the actual calls from the Christians in Palestine. Just Peace Advocates and the Canadian BDS Coalition have responded urging the church to denounce their agreement with the pro-Israel lobby and to embrace the requests from Christians in Palestine.

The challenge is that even as organizations like the United Church once supported the right of return, they quickly succumbed to the Israel lobby.

What would be a real surprise, would be if the United Church of Canada responded to requests to denounce their agreement with Bnai Brith and ended any other implicit or explicit agreements with the pro-Israel lobby. Even more surprising would be if the United Church implemented the policy approved by their grassroots over the last half century and took their lead from the requests from Christians in Palestine.

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The United Church of Canada's accord with B'nai B'rith prevents it from supporting justice in Palestine - Mondoweiss

Jewish Times Voted Second-Best Jewish Newspaper in the Country – Atlanta Jewish Times – Atlanta Jewish Times

Posted By on July 9, 2020

Your very own Atlanta Jewish Times was voted second-best weekly Jewish newspaper in the U.S. last week, receiving nine of the top prizes for Jewish journalism from the American Jewish Press Association. In the AJPAs 39th Annual Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism on July 2, the AJT garnered four first-place awards, three second place and two honorable mentions. The AJPA conference was supposed to be held in Atlanta June 28 to July 2, culminating with the awards, but was held virtually instead because of the worldwide pandemic.

The AJTs second place for General Excellence, Best Newspaper, pitted it against all Jewish newspapers regardless of circulation. The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, which falls into the division of newspapers with circulations over 15,000, won first place.

The AJT won for three submitted publications in 2019: the Passover edition, Arts & Culture theme featuring Marilyn Monroe on the cover, and 40 Under 40 issue.

Get The AJT Newsletter by email and never miss our top storiesFree Sign Up

All winning AJT awards are as follows:

Excellence in Commentary: Dave Schechter for his From Where I Sit columns: A Club No One Wants to Join, Thank You, But Leave My Name Out of It, and Norbert Friedman, zl, An Appreciation.

Excellence in writing about Social Justice and Humanitarian Work: Dave Schechter for Dignity Can Be Photographed and Nourished about preserving the memory and dignity of Holocaust survivors.

Excellence in Feature Writing: Bob Bahr for his work for The Jewish Marilyn Monroe Gone but not Forgotten,

Excellence in Arts and Criticism News and Features: Bob Bahr again for his work The Jewish Marilyn Monroe Gone but not Forgotten,

Excellence as Best Jewish Newspaper in the U.S.:Michael Morris, Kaylene Ladinsky, Roni Robbins and Lilli Jennison

Excellence in Writing about Food and Wine: Martine Tartour for for Holiday Celebrations French Sephardic Style.

Excellence in Writing about Sports: Roni Robbins and Eddie Samuels for the AJTs package on the Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.

Excellence in Interfaith Relations Reporting: Bob Bahr for Atlantas New Approach to Interfaith Families.

Excellence in Writing about Seniors:Eddie Samuels for Senior Addiction Close to Home.

To read the full list of winners, their winning entries and judges comments, visit


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Jewish Times Voted Second-Best Jewish Newspaper in the Country - Atlanta Jewish Times - Atlanta Jewish Times

How to beat the virus? It’s in the Talmud – Jewish News

Posted By on July 9, 2020

Right, we have a problem; 500 of us have died of the virus and thats considerably more than should have. Why the disaster, with 500 families in mourning.? The classic Jewish answer is to ask a rabbi; you get an answer a responsa and the rabbi might well quote a Rabbi who died a thousand years ago. there is no time limit to a responsa in Judaism.

So where do we look for an answer to todays problem? How about the 6th century Talmud. You think Im joking. How can a body of laws, 1,500 years old, have relevance today, when were dealing with a previously unknown virus?

Well, we have something like 600 plus laws and over 200 of them are to do with medicine. The Egyptians, the Romans and the heathens believed that if you caught a disease, it was the punishment of the gods and nothing could be done about it. The Biblical Jew, though, set out to find cures and a lot of the doctors were rabbis. Good Queen Bess had three Jewish doctors and popes, emperors and kings followed suit over the years.

How good were they?If you look up the book of Samuel youll find that the Jews were warned that the plague which was hitting the Philistines, was being brought by the rats; they didnt know that in Britain till the early 20th century.

So what are we told to do to avoid something like this virus?

First of all we are told to wash our hands. Sounds familiar? Remember Seder night? Well, were supposed to wash our hands pretty regularly. Most people didnt wash. There was one bathroom and two toilets in the whole of Louis XIVs Palace of Versailles. The Rothschilds had a bath and used to lend it to Kings in Germany, having it trundled through the streets to everybodys surprise. Mostly, though, nobody washed

You could still get a nasty virus. What to do then? The Talmud is clear; you isolate the patient. Sounds familiar again? Isolate them and theres a good chance they wont pass it on to somebody else. Well never know how our 500 victims caught coronavirus, but somebody had to give it to them. Today you can get a test if you have any kind of coronavirus symptom. Do what the Talmud says.

Then there are two further relevant laws in the Talmud. One is dina de malchuta dina. That means that the law of the country in which we Iive is to be the law of the Jews. The government didnt make it a law that everybody should stay home to avoid the R level going over one, but we should have done it because it was as near a law as they could make it.

There is one more law in the Talmud which is particularly valid in the present crisis. Thats pekuach nefesh. That you can break any Jewish law if there is a danger to life. Those people who are taking part in services in the hotel in Bournemouth are breaking pekuach nefesh.

Maybe it wont result in fatalities. Please G-d that will be the case. It might not be, however. Those 500 fatalities caught coronavirus from somebody. If theyd stayed home, they might well have still been with us.

As Jews, weve been accused over the centuries of bringing the plague because we often didnt get it as badly as the neighbours. Jewish houses had to be scrupulously clean; look at getting rid of the hometz before Passover.

As many as 50,000 Brits will have died from this pandemic and, percentagewise, weve lost more of the community than our numbers justify. Is there any doubt that if wed followed the laws in the Talmud we would have done better.

It isnt about what kind of Jew you are; from Charedi to Liberal. Its about a lot of very clever ancestors who came up with the right answers. They went so far as to make it a law that every Biblical Jewish soldier had to be given a spade to bury their effluent. We will not go into what happened at the Palace of Versailles. At Balmoral after the First World War, the Prince of Wales didnt have a bathroom.

Im staying locked down until the virus has disappeared. The vast majority of the Jewish fatalities were over 65.

Derek is an author & former editor of the Jewish Year Book

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How to beat the virus? It's in the Talmud - Jewish News

Why the great Talmudists valued contrary opinions – San Diego Jewish World

Posted By on July 9, 2020

By Rabbi Dr. Michael Leo Samuel

CHULA VISTA, California The Talmud has always been a champion of free speech. It is a unique document of human history where rabbis engage philosophers, wise women, emperors, Roman centurions, and a host of other people as they debate the meaning of life and the message of Judaism.

Rabbinical discourse is dialectical. It presents a no-hold-bars approach to virtually any topic, from war and peace to the laws governing sexual relations. But be forewarned: the Talmud is not for the faint of heart.

When we study the Talmud, there is seldom unanimity on any given topic. In fact, you could say unanimity is something undesirable for the students of the Talmud. Unanimity tends to diminish the dialectical tension of a text; subsequently, the reader is prevented from experiencing the exhilaration and energy that originally sparked these kinds of discussions. The pursuit and process of questioning for the sake of veracity and relevance is not only desirable but necessary. Disputations, raucous debates, and the polyvalence of interpretation have animated Jewish and Christian discussions since the days of Late Antiquity.

One 16th-century rabbinic scholar, Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi, exhibited integrity transcending the parochial world he inhabited, and called upon his readers to show an independence of thought that challenged the theological correctness of his era. His prescription for honesty and intellectual truthfulness can certainly apply to our own generation as well:

In R. Ashkenazis opinion, one may surmise that the truth can always stand up to scrutiny. All the various approaches concerning the origin and redaction of the Pentateuch have much value and wisdom to impart. Early rabbinic exegetes deserve considerable credit for pointing out many textual anomalies that require clarification. Granted, many of the Midrashic answers given may not be grounded in a realistic understanding of the text, but the questions they raise regarding the texts meaning are important. Conflicting interpretationsespecially in a dialogical settingfrequently draw attention to nuances and ideas that one participant or interpreter may have overlooked or failed to take adequately into account. Conflicting interpretations also expand the text and force each participant to re-articulate earlier stated ideas that take into account the criticisms of the other side. In the midst of a discussion, one party may see the truth in an oppositional point of view.

The need to occasionally acknowledge interpretive fallibility is an essential feature if one is to arrive at a truth. The absence of consensus is not a negative thing per sein fact, quite the opposite. Contrary to Aristotles law of non-contradiction;[2] namely, a thing and its opposite cannot both be true,[3] rabbinic wisdom believes that truth is best served when contrarian interpretations challenge one another.[4]

Truth is frequently discovered through a process of adversity and contradiction. Regardless of how a person interprets a classical text like the Bibleor for that matter any great work of literaturethere will always be somebody else who will interpret it differently. Disagreement is something that is not only endemicit is inevitable. Whenever a new idea or approach is introduced, attention is drawn to aspects of a text that one might have overlooked or failed to take adequately into account. Argumentswhether they happen to be contrarian or supportiveforce a person to modify an earlier stance. By the same token, one persons ideas may have an equally powerful influence on someone else. While interpretation typically refines the next interpretation, controversy remains our constant companion.

How should one respond to this conundrum? If unanimity is really the goal, what incentive would there be for new interpretive ideas? Conversely, dissent is not necessarily indicative of a communications breakdown. Oftentimes a consensus of a people may be predicated upon an error (e.g., Ptolemys geo-centric view of the universe is but one obvious example). The desire to create a stable consensus can threaten to immobilize a person(s) or a society in error.

Dissent can be beneficial, and often leads to new discoveries and ideas. Moreover, dissent ensures that there will be some sort of accountability on the part of the originator. This would explain why peer review is a necessary process whenever new articles on any subject are introduced. A community of readers and interpreters create a network that produces alternative viewpoints worthy of reflective consideration. Differences of insight do not necessarily mean disagreement on the core issues of a story or discussion. Throughout Jewish and Christian exegetical traditions rarely have there been a stable consensus. If this was the case in ancient times, why should it be any different today? The focus of scholarly dissent may change over time, but the fact of disagreement does not go away; indeed, it is a necessary part of the learning process.

Critical reading demands that questions ought to serve as the focal point of a discussion. Socrates was a master in stimulating dialogue and challenging his students to define their positions on any given subject. In the academic setting, the pursuit of truth and wisdom cannot be mediated through a monologue, but only through a dialogical relationship. In light of this, we can boldly say that questioning the great thinkers of the past need not undermine faith; on the contrary, it has the potential of strengthening it. Whether in a religious or in a secular context, the fear of new ideas in many ways undermines wisdom. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts of the Socratic and Talmudic milieu to the Western world is the need to question everything that is believed to be the truth. The fluid nature of Judaic theology demonstrates a historical resiliency that has the innate ability to maintain its structural and spiritual integrity against any wave of modernity or textual criticism.

The reason, why I wrote this article, is to bring to your attention that there are many young people who find the principle of free speech threatening to their world-view. Ben Shapiro, as many of you know, is an Orthodox political commentator. While some of you may not agree with what he has to say, he was brutally attacked when he went to speak at U.C. Berkeley. This has happened to other thinkers. We have seen this with other conservative thinkers who have been treated similarly.

Harper Magazine posted an excellent article A Letter on Open Justice and Debate. In it, prominent intellectuals call out what they believe is a societal shift toward intolerance and ideological conformity. If the letter is to be believed, we are, as a society, sliding away from the ideal of a marketplace of ideas and toward what the letter refers to as the consensus. [5]

The voices of this article are mostly liberal professorsthey are not conservative in their thinking. Yet, even the professors are fearful of the new intolerant climate in media and advocated for the possibility of good-faith disagreement without fear of professional retribution. The letter was signed by left-wing figures such as Noam Chomsky, New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, and The Handmaids Tale author Margaret Atwood. The main point of the letter was to support the free exchange of ideas and push back on retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. The articles best point reads:

What is disturbing here is the fear of new ideas threatens to unravel one of our countrys most important rightsthe right to have an opinion. We see this today among the Antifa demonstrators who are methodically trying to destroy the historical monuments of our national history. Not even Frederick Douglas, black Americas greatest 19th-centurycivil-rights leader was immune. The legions of Antifa and BLM demonstrators toppled Douglas monument, as they have with the other great abolitionists of American history.

This should come as no surprise since the leaders of these movements consider themselves trained Marxists. [6]

Young people in their intellectual zealotry are promoting an authoritarian ethic that does not bode well for the future of our country.

It is ironic that all this is happening during the Three Weeks leading to TishabAv, aholiday that commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temple. In the case of the Second Temple, the Talmud makes it abundantly clear that the zealots prevented a possible peaceful accord between the Romans and the Jews.

God protect us from the Zealots of our time.



[1] Cited from Alan Dershowitzs The Genesis of Justice (New York: Time Warner, 2000), 18-19.

[2] See, e.g., Aristotle, On Interpretation c.12: But since it is impossible that contradictory propositions should both be true of the same subject, it follows that it may not be is not the contradictory of it may be. For it is a logical consequence of what we have said, either that the same predicate can be both applicable and inapplicable to one and the same subject at the same time, or that it is not by the addition of the verbs be and not be, respectively, that positive and negative propositions are formed . . . (The Basic Works of Aristotle, Richard McKeon ed. [New York: Modern Library Philosophy, 2001], 55).

[3] Aristotle actually derives this idea in Platos Republic, speaking through the character Socrates, who observes: Its plain that the same thing wont be willing at the same time to do or suffer opposites with respect to the same part and in relation to the same thing (The Republic 436b).

[4] R. Baruch Epstein makes this exact point in his Torah Temimah Commentary on Numbers 11:11:

Many of wondered how the Sages could have said, This point of view and that point of view are the words of the Living God! How is it possible for both to be right when one says something is permitted while the other argues that it is forbidden? As mentioned elsewhere (cf. Torah Temimah on Song of Songs 2, note 54) contrasting opinions serve to clarify the truth. Without contradiction, the truth would never truly be understood. Hence, each perspective constitutes the words of the Living God. The Divine will creates dialectical tension that is necessary whenever people attempt to clarify the truth.


[6] See also:

*Rabbi Dr. Michael Leo Samuel is an author of books on Philo and Maimonides and is the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shalom in Chula Vista. He may be contacted via


Why the great Talmudists valued contrary opinions - San Diego Jewish World

Turn to Tractate Shabbat for wisdom navigating the pandemic – Forward

Posted By on July 9, 2020

Four months ago, those of us who take part in Daf Yomi opened Tractate Shabbat to begin a 157 day journey through the longest volume of the Talmud. Daf Yomi is the practice of reading a page of Talmud everyday. The seven year cycle takes readers through 2,711 winding, nuanced and fascinating pages of ancient wisdom. Each page is a life, blending languages and opinions, moving from law to lore and back again, granting us direction even all these years later.

It is in Tractate Shabbat that we consider the type of work we can and cannot do on the Sabbath, the proper prayers to say, the foods we eat, the texts we study and much more.

I have been thinking a lot recently about the fact that it is precisely this tractate that has wisdom to guide us as we collectively navigate a global pandemic. We look to Tractate Shabbat, a tome based on the very notion of stopping, as the entire world has come to a standstill. It remains hard to fathom that, for months now, the idea of school and work and play, not to mention celebrating birthdays, marking major milestones, remembering loved ones, has been far from typical. All that we knew has stopped, prompting a kind of worldwide Sabbath. Weve slowed down, maybe read a bit more, maybe spoken with God a bit more.

Scattered throughout the Shabbat-specific teachings of this tractate are a series of stories about some of our finest and most iconic teachers.

Thirty pages in, we find a story that aims to showcase the enduring patience of Hillel, one of the greatest of sages. Two students bet each other that they can finally aggravate the otherwise composed rabbi. Question after berating question follows and Hillel refuses to become agitated. He deems each of their questions significant, remaining calm and steady.

Just a few lines later we find a would-be convert who seeks out Hillel to gain even a passing understanding of the Torah. Hillel famously responds: What is hateful to you, do not do to another. That is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary. Now go and study.

In the first instance we find a figure of remarkable patience. I wonder how Hillel would fare in todays maddening world. Would he finally be flustered? What would he say about those who still refuse to wear a mask?

We are not up against imposing Roman rule as our ancestors were two-thousand years ago, but we are up against daily realities that challenge both every ounce of our patience and our very sense of security. Peoples response to or lack of response to the pandemic has pushed us to the brink once and again. The Jewish emphasis on patience, born of 40 years of wandering the wilderness, 40 days of waiting at Sinai, generations who hoped for a return to Israel, is a patience that we should aim to hold tightly today, even on those days when its hard to do so.

The second story has us pay witness to Hillels ability to crystalize five books, fifty-four portions, and six hundred and thirteen mitzvot, into a concise aphorism. Years later we might consider his advice. How are we treating each other these days? Are we making space for those who are vulnerable? Are we extending a hand to those whose lives have been made hard because of the color of their skin or their sexuality or their religion or gender? Are we speaking up? Are we making time? Are we being kind to ourselves?

Later in Tractate Shabbat, on page 115, we are taught that one may rescue sacred writings from a fire on Shabbat. Normally we would stay away from fire altogether on Shabbat as well as distance ourselves from even the perceived work of trying to salvage material objects.

I believe we live in a time when we must actively rescue faith from those who would sully it with hate speech and exclusion. If ever there were a time to hold faith up high as a vehicle to not only engender patience and perspective, but bring greater peace, greater healing, and greater hope to our world, now is that time.

Benjamin David is the rabbi of Adath Emanu-El of Mt Laurel, NJ. He is a cancer survivor, avid runner and writer. He and Lisa are the proud parents of Noa, Elijah, and Samuel.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.


Turn to Tractate Shabbat for wisdom navigating the pandemic - Forward

Don’t hide from the sins of St. Louis – America Magazine

Posted By on July 9, 2020

I will pour forth tears until like a river they reachUnto the tombs of your most noble princes,Moses and Aaron, on Mount Hor, and I will ask: Is thereA new Torah, that your scrolls may be burned?

This is part of the lament Shaali Serufah Baesh, O you who are burned in fire, written by Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg in the aftermath of the burning of thousands of copies of the Talmud at the French royal court in Paris in 1242 and recited to this day by Ashkenazi Jews on the fast day Tisha BAv. King Louis IX, whom Catholics know as St. Louis, ordered the burning after a rigged disputation in which a Jewish convert to Christianity debated a rabbi about whether the Talmud was blasphemous.


This was the first such disputation but not the last, always held in the shadow of Christian political power. Talmuds burned across Europe into the early modern eraand Jewish people were at times burned as well. Nor did St. Louiss persecution of French Jewry end with destroying their sacred books. Under the pretext of combating usury, he threatened to arrest and expel all Jews in his kingdom; he forced Jews to wear a badge on their clothing, in accordance with a decree of the Fourth Lateran Council.

Tisha BAv falls at the end of July this year, but the 13th-century lament became painfully relevant a month earlier, when people in St. Louis, Mo., protested a statue of the citys namesake. Some Jewish leaders called for the statues removal. On June 27 crowds chanted, Take it down! while Catholics rallied to protect the statue, including praying the rosary at its base. The archdiocese issued a statement arguing, For Catholics, St. Louis is an example of an imperfect man who strived to live a life modeled after the life of Jesus Christwith no mention of the persecution of Jews.

The archdiocesan statement describes St. Louis welcoming beggars to the royal table, washing their feet, paying for their needs; the saint worked with lepers, built hospitals and served some of his kingdoms lowliest subjects. St. Louiss charity is startling: personal, lavishthe true medieval touch.

But the archdioceses defense of the citys patron saint, in which persecuting Jews becomes an abstract imperfection, does the saint himself a disservice. Louis is in heaven now; he knows that his humiliation and persecution of the Jews was evil. As the archdiocese notes, canonization is not a declaration that every decision a person made was holy. Saints have been complicit and even active participants in social evils of their time. It is especially necessary to confront this truth in its specifics when the evils they succumbed to are still with us, like racism, misogyny, protection of sexual abusersas with St. John Paul IIs support for the Rev. Marcial Macieland hatred of the Jews.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by Americas writers and editors.]

We are in a season of statue-razing. It began as a revolt against the widespread presence of statues of Confederate generals and other defenders of slavery, but crowds have also protested statues in Boston and Washington, D.C., which show a kneeling slave being freed by Abraham Lincoln. In San Francisco, protesters toppled a statue of Ulysses Grant, who held one man in slavery for two years before freeing him in 1859 and also helped win the Union victory in the Civil War. A San Francisco protester even vandalized a statue of Miguel de Cervantes, whose sole connection to slavery is that he himself was enslaved.

It might be tempting, therefore, to assume that St. Louis is a victim of ignorance. Maybe those chanting around his statue did not know anything about medieval French Jewry until they looked him up on Wikipedia. Maybe St. Louis is like the Roman poet who had the ill luck to share the name of an opponent of Julius Caesar. At Caesars funeral, a mob captured the poet; Shakespeare has him defend himself with I am Cinna the poet!, but the mob cries out, Tear him for his bad verses! Is St. Louis just a convenient target?

It doesnt matter. First of all, even those who think some protesters concern for Jews is disingenuous should concede that Rabbi Susan Talve, who has called for the statues removal, is sincere. So are those who read reports of the statue controversy in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, The Times of Israel and other Jewish news sources. Actual Jewish people want to know if Catholics have really rejected our shameful history of persecution, as we promised in Nostra Aetate.

Moreover, this is not about protesters integrity. It is about ours. If there is one thing a church facing a catastrophic sexual abuse crisis needs, it is willingness to admit the sins of our heroes. If our first instinct is to defend the church, not to defend the truth or the victims, have we really learned the lessons of the abuse crisis?

I was raised somewhere between secular and Reform Judaism and converted to Catholicism as a young adult. Many of the medieval disputationsshow trials of the Jewish religion and communitywere led by Jewish converts to Catholicism. That is one way to understand our responsibility as converts: to defend the truth we have come to know. A better way is shown by Jewish converts of the 20th century, like Cardinal Aaron Jean-Marie Lustiger or Rassa Maritain. These French Jews defended Christ by defending the Jewish people.

Jewish Catholics should have always been advocates for the Jewish people, not weapons against them. Catholics should have always been shields for the vulnerable, not persecutors. The protests in St. Louis give us a chance to speak the whole truth. Willingness to be totally honest here will make our churches safer for everyone who has been harmed by Christians. Failure to be honest will further alienate those who believe Catholics care more about our public image than about truth or justice.

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Don't hide from the sins of St. Louis - America Magazine

Fast of the 17th of Tammuz: Times and customs – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 9, 2020

Thursday marks the fast of the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, a day commemorating a number of tragedies in Jewish history and the start of a mourning period known as the Three Weeks, when many Jews traditionally follow some mourning customs.

Five tragedies are said to have occurred on the 17th of Tammuz: the breaking of the tablets of the Ten Commandments by Moses, the cessation of the daily offering during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, the burning of the Torah by Apostomos, the placing of an idol the Temple in Jerusalem and the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Romans in 69 CE after a long siege. According to the Jerusalem Talmud, the Babylonians also breached the walls of Jerusalem on this day.

During the three weeks, many Jews begin following mourning customs, including avoiding haircuts and shaving, not listening to music and not getting married. Many also avoid risky or dangerous activities and traveling.

Additional restrictions are practiced starting from the first day of the Hebrew month of Av until the ninth day of the month, the fast of Tisha B'Av, commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, among other calamities. Eating meat and drinking wine and wearing freshly laundered or new clothes is prohibited. Joyous activities, such as bathing for pleasure and buying new items, are avoided or prohibited. One should consult their rabbi for any questions about Jewish laws and customs during this time.

Fast Start and End Times: (According to MyZmanim. There are varying customs)


Start: 4:14 AM

End: 8:30 PM

Tel Aviv

Start: 4:15 AM

End: 8:32 PM


Start: 4:11 AM

End: 8:34 PM


Start: 4:24 AM

End: 8:24 PM


Start: 4:18 AM

End: 8:30 PM

New York

Start: 3:47 AM

End: 9:19 PM (According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, those who have trouble fasting may eat at 9:09 PM)

Los Angeles

Start: 4:19 AM

End: 8:51 PM (According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, those who have trouble fasting may eat at 8:43 PM)

Original post:

Fast of the 17th of Tammuz: Times and customs - The Jerusalem Post

This Friday Is Special. Here’s Why –

Posted By on July 9, 2020

Friday, July 10, 2020, is super important. Not just because of what happened on this day (significant things happened on every day of the calendar), but because of what will happen.

On that day (18 Tammuz on the Hebrew calendar), around the world, hundreds of thousands will begin anew to study Maimonides Mishneh Torah a digest that encompasses all the Torahs laws and directives as part of an annual study program that begins its 40th cycle on this date.

Over the course of the next 11 months, we will continue to learn through the 14-volume compendium, absorbing a detailed and sweeping tour-de-force of the entirety of biblical and rabbinic law.

Rambam (also known as Maimonides) was a Talmudist, philosopher, doctor and rabbi born in Spain who flourished in Egypt in the 12th century.

Among his many works was the Yad Hachazakah, a 14-volume compendium of the totality of Jewish law, culled from Torah, Talmud, Midrash and the other teachings of the rabbis who preceded him.

In 1984, the RebbeRabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memoryinstituted a daily study cycle, whereby the entire work (often simply referred to as Rambam) is completed on a regular basis.

Hebrew texts, English translations, audio classes, video lectures and more are all available on the Daily Study page. Here is some of what you can find:

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan preparing for his class.

In the spring of 1984, the RebbeRabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memorycalled for an innovative addition to the daily study schedule of every Jewish man, woman and child. He suggested that everyone study a portion of Mishneh Torah.

While many people had been turning to the 14-volume work to supplement their study of the Talmud or Jewish law, it was not being studied as a text on its own. Maimonides work was somewhat neglected, as the chief rabbi of Israel, the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, wrote at the time: The Rebbe brought Rambam back from being a book for scholars to being a book for the masses to study.

The Rebbe brought Rambam back from being a book for scholars to being a book for the masses.Part of the reason for this neglect was because the Mishneh Torah includes many laws that are not relevant today for daily lifelaws that only applied during Temple times and will again be pertinent during the Messianic Era. So people turned, instead, to the works that focus on Jewish laws that are immediately applicable.

But it was for precisely this reason that the Rebbe recommended studying the Mishneh Torah: It gathers all of Jewish law in a concise and clear fashion. Every individual is commanded to study the entire Torah, a goal not within reach for most people. However, it is possible to study the whole Torah as compiled by Maimonides.

The Rebbe suggested that the Mishneh Torah should be studied straight throughfrom beginning to endand that this be done according to an organized schedule.

One of the principal elements in the study of Rambam is the unification of Jewry, the Rebbe was quoted in The New York Times as saying.

In a talk on April 28, 1984, the Rebbe explained that when everyone studies the same thing on the same day, their learning is united across continents. The Rebbe added that when different people study the same topic, they will come to discuss and debate it. This friendly and scholarly debate, the Rebbe said, will bring people closer to each other, contributing to unity among Jews.

Large numbers of Jewish people around the world immediately took it upon themselves to study the Mishneh Torah on a daily basis. Torah scholars and Chassidic masters issued their recommendation to join this new study cycle. Many Jewish dailies and weekly newspapers began printing the study schedule for the Mishneh Torah together with other existing daily study schedules.

When everyone studies the same thing on the same day, their learning is united across continents At the completion of every cycle, hundreds of celebrations take place in locations spanning the globe. Torah scholars from every segment of the Jewish community join these gatherings, delivering in-depth analyses on sections of Rambam.

The people praising [Maimonides] were centuries removed from the life of Maimonides, who was born 851 years ago in Cordoba, Spain, read The New York Times on March 6, 1986, following the celebration of the second completion of the cycle, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City. Yet, after intensely studying his work this last year and applying his teachings, they gathered yesterday to celebrate the wisdom of the sage known to them as Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, the Rambam.

The article continued that since Rabbi Schneerson instituted the program, studying Maimonides has become an integral part of many Jewish households.

Now is the perfect time to get started. Join the daily Rambam program today!

Originally posted here:

This Friday Is Special. Here's Why -

In Defense of King Louis IX | Thomas F. Madden – First Things

Posted By on July 9, 2020

The current iconoclastic moment in the U.S. has taken an odd turn here in the city of St. Louis. As protesters across the nation tear down or deface statues of Confederate generals and American founders who owned slaves (among others), the statue that has drawn the most attention in St. Louis is one depicting a medieval man who did not know that America existed.

The Apotheosis of St. Louis is a massive equestrian statue inspired by the citys namesake, King Louis IX, who ruled France from 1226 until 1270. It portrays the king seated on his horse and adorned in a Romantic imagining of a triumphant Crusaders garb. In 1764, the French founders of the city of St. Louis gave it that name to honor their king, Louis XV, and his patron saint. Like Joan of Arc, St. Louis was revered by the French of the eighteenth century as a person of heroic virtue. The modern statue was originally a plaster sculpture executed by Charles Henry Niehaus for the 1904 Worlds Fair, hosted by St. Louis. After the fair had concluded, the organizers recast the sculpture in bronze and placed it prominently on Art Hill in Forest Park, the site of the fair. It immediately became the beloved symbol of the city, only edged out slightly in the 1960s by the new St. Louis Arch.

So, what is wrong with this statue? Plenty, according to the authors of a petition. Louis IX was a rabid anti-semite [sic] who spearheaded many persecutions against the Jewish people. The petitioners also blame him for giving inspiration and ideas to the Nazis seven centuries after his death. And finally, Louis was vehemently Islamophobic and led a murderous crusade against Muslims. The petition demands that the statue be removed and that the city change its name.

The petition never received much support. It struggled to garner even a thousand signatures, while counter-petitions have attracted thousands. But the demand was so audacious that local news media could not keep away. In response, a group of Catholics mobilized to protect the statue with vigils and prayers. At one such event on June 27, St. Louis police had to form a barricade between Catholics praying the rosary and protestors demanding that the statue be removed. Tempers flared and protestors punched one of the Catholics after the police left the scene. Since then, an increasingly large group of Catholics has come to the statue every evening to recite the rosary and offer prayers for peace. For the moment, those prayers seem to be working. There has been no further violence. On June 30, the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis stated that the removal of the statue will not erase the history, but our present-day collaboration can help us move forward. And the mayor of St. Louis, Lyda Krewson, has made clear that she does not favor removing the statue or changing the citys name.

As a medieval historian, I always cringe when medieval people are judged by modern standards. Their world was very different from our own. Yet the virtue and piety of St. Louis IX of France have always seemed to transcend his age. The crimes leveled against him in this petition are at best misleading. Although praiseworthy today, religious toleration was regarded as dangerous in the Middle Ages. Yet Louis IX (unlike other medieval rulers) still obeyed the Catholic Churchs admonition that Jews were not to be harmed. Like St. Paul, Louis hoped for the conversion of the Jews. Indeed, more than once he served as a godfather for the baptism of a converted Jew. From a modern perspective, Louiss part in the burning of the Talmud in Paris in 1240 is indefensible and certainly constitutes persecution. The theologians at the University of Paristhe best minds of their agejudged that the Talmud contained heresy and blasphemous references to Jesus. From Louiss medieval (not modern) perspective, it was a threat to his kingdom and a hindrance to the conversion of the Jews. That does not excuse it. Louis followed the advice of churchmen, yet as St. John Paul II eloquently expressed it, those churchmen made grave errors. The pope sought pardon for the sins committed by not a few (Catholics) against the people of the Covenant. He continued, We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood.

As for the eastern Crusades, they were wars aimed at recapturing territories in and around the Holy Land that had been conquered by Muslim armies. Louiss first Crusade (124850) was a response to the conquest of Christian-controlled Jerusalem by a Turkish and Egyptian force in 1244. After the Holy City was taken, the victors massacred the Christian inhabitants and desecrated the churches. Louiss Crusade was set to punish Egypt for that attack and ultimately restore Jerusalem to its Christian king. It failed. Louiss army was defeated, and he was thrown into prison until his wife, Queen Margaret, paid 400,000 bezantsliterally a kings ransom. After the Crusade, Louis spent the next four years in the Holy Land trying to stabilize the situation for Christians. He even struck up an alliance with his former Muslim captors in Egypt.

Left unmentioned by Louiss modern detractors is his lifelong devotion to issues of social justice in a world that cared little for such ideas. At his own expense, he continually paid to feed and clothe hundreds of Pariss poor. Every evening he shared the royal table with local homeless and usually insisted that he wash their feet before they left. He established several hospitals for the poor and homes for battered women and ex-prostitutes. He personally visited lepers and washed their sores. After his humiliation in Egypt, Louis refused to don the rich regalia of the French crown, dressing simply and living humbly for the rest of his life. He was the sort of person, like Mother Teresa or John Paul II, whose reputation for piety and virtue was so great that contemporaries had no doubt he would one day be a saint. He was canonized in a record 27 years.

What both sides have overlooked about the statue, I believe, is that this triumphal equestrian image was never meant to depict a medieval saint. Its title says it all. An apotheosis is a coming into greatness or an ascent into glory, and that is certainly what the statue evokes with its horse proudly sauntering forward and the king triumphantly holding aloft his sword. Yet the real Louis IX suffered humiliating defeats in his Crusades. In truth, this statue, which presided over an international gathering to celebrate a new century of progress, has nothing to do with the Middle Ages. It was a symbol of the city of St. Louis, which in 1904 was one of Americas most prosperous urban centers. The attendees of the Worlds Fair saw in this sculpture the promise of confident progress for St. Louis and the world. Even the sword, held with the blade down in a gesture of peace, was a sign of hope for the future. Those who commissioned the statue and those who viewed it had little interest in medieval kings; they were focused on building a bright and prosperous future.

The Apotheosis of St. Louis is not religious art nor was it meant to be. Rather, it was designed to evoke civic pride. Catholics can confidently look to the life of St. Louis IX for his example of Christian charity and seek his intercession in the struggles of our age. But we should take care not to confuse the sacred with the profane. Let the city of St. Louis have its proud, beautiful, and triumphant symbol of modern progress. Catholics will always have the humble and pious king who, although not perfect, still devoted his life to the service of Christ and his Church.

Thomas F. Madden is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University in St Louis, Missouri.

Photo byRyan Ashelinvia Creative Commons. Image cropped.

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In Defense of King Louis IX | Thomas F. Madden - First Things

The huppah – a beloved object of Jewish art – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 9, 2020

The huppah, the Jewish bridal canopy, is one of the most beloved objects of Jewish art. It is steeped in history, customs, symbolism and beauty. It is both the actual bridal canopy and the ceremony. Here we will focus on the huppah as an object of Jewish art. The Hebrew word huppah means covering, or that which floats above. It is based on the root word hafah, which means to cover or hide, similar to the word hafaf, meaning to protect. It intended as a roof or covering for the bride and groom at their wedding. It is open on all four sides as Abrahams tent was, to welcome strangers from all directions.Originally, the wedding ceremony was held outdoors, with the hope that the couple would be blessed with a large family, as Gods blessing to Abraham. I will greatly bless you, and I will exceedingly multiply your children as the stars in heaven. It is also reminiscent of the sukkah the temporary structure erected for Sukkot. Like the sukkah, the huppah reminds the bride and groom that they are protected by God alone and that God is their only haven and support.In the Talmudic period, the grooms fathers would set up a royal purple tent or use gold and luxurious scarlet cloth for their sons huppot. An especially moving ceremony involved planting a cedar tree on the occasion of a sons birth, and a pine tree when a daughter was born. When the child married, the branches and leaves from the tree were then used to make the huppah.The medieval community often used a parochet, the embroidered curtain covering the Torah ark. But over time, it was felt to be inappropriate to use a sacred object for the bridal chamber. It then became the custom to marry under a tallit, the prayer shawl, which was frequently a gift from the brides family to the groom.To define the space as sacred, a covering was used to avoid the appearance that the bridal couple were marrying in the marketplace, which was considered indelicate and unacceptable at that time.Prior to the 16th century, the huppah consisted of a veil worn by the bride. Later, it was a cloth spread over the shoulders of the bride and groom. An eminent Polish rabbi in the 16th century wrote the portable marriage canopy was widely adopted by Ashkenazi Jews as a symbol of the chamber where marriages originally took place.It is an ancient concept, and the Talmud considered it biblically required for marriage. THERE IS great symbolism in the huppah as attested in the Bible, Chabad, hassidim and Kabbalah.God constructed 10 huppot for Adam and Eves wedding, according to the Midrash. Ten is a mystical number in Kabbala referring to the 10 divine attributes through which God relates to the physical world. The huppah is considered a symbol of Gods love above the married couple. The traditional huppah features an open sky above acknowledging God as Creator, who infuses marriage with deep spirituality and cosmic significance.It is said that the couples ancestors are present at the huppah ceremony and that the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, graces every huppah ceremony. Unlike many other Jewish ritual objects such as the tallit or mezuzah that follow strict Biblical instructions, the only rule about the huppahs construction is that it be a temporary structure made by human hands. The cloth huppah was originally draped around the bride and groom but was later spread out over their heads. The single cloth under which the couple are joined thus symbolizes both the new household they are forming and represents the public recognition of their new status as man and wife.Huppot are diverse and reflect personal taste, budget, community influence, season and settings. Huppot vary from simple cloths to elaborate tapestries and embroideries, quilts sewn by family members, to spectacular floral creations. The materials depend on taste, budget and the ceremonys location. Over centuries, the appearance of huppot has changed dramatically. While some abroad are totally floral, normally they are fashioned from fabric: cotton, lace, organza, wool, silk, satin or velvet. White, symbolizing purity, is the most accepted color, while hassidic weddings utilize dark blue velvet. Some huppot are embellished with popular motifs in Jewish art, including Stars of David, pomegranates representing abundance, scenes of Jerusalem and texts and images from the sheva brachot (seven marriage blessings).The Great Synagogue of Rome boasts a majestic huppah in pale green floral brocade, lined in satin with a scalloped valance trimmed in gold fringe. HAND-HELD HUPPOT can be used in the processional, the poles carried by four friends or relatives represent the communitys support in years to come. Poles can be made of metal or wood and can be carved, painted or wrapped in ribbons or flowers and greenery. Wedding halls, caterers and many synagogues generally provide a large huppah, often raised on a stage. Huppot can be rented online, complete with poles and stands. It is a mitzvah to beautify all Jewish ritual objects (hiddur mitzvot), and the huppah is no exception. After the wedding, a huppah can become a wall hanging, a bed canopy or a bedspread. Some couples loan theirs for weddings of family and friends, and some have raised their huppah for a baby-naming or brit milah ceremony. Customs too have changed over time and in Jewish communities around the world. Many of the customs are still cherished and practiced today.In Yemen, the Jewish practice was not for the groom and his bride to be secluded under a canopy (huppah) hung on four poles, as is widely practiced today in Jewish weddings, but rather in a bridal chamber that was, in effect, a highly decorated room in the house of the groom. This room was traditionally decorated with large hanging sheets of colored, patterned cloth, replete with wall cushions and short-length mattresses for reclining. Their marriage is consummated when they have been left together alone in this room.In the Italian Jewish wedding it is traditional to use a crocheted tablecloth or a bed covering which, after the ceremony, will be used in the couples home. In fact, the Italian phrase, sotto la coperta, (or under the covering) signifies the bridal canopy from ancient times.Let the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride be heard.The writer is an American interior and textile designer and Judaica artist, based in Jerusalem.

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The huppah - a beloved object of Jewish art - The Jerusalem Post

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