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‘Nazi Grandma’ convicted in Berlin of Holocaust denial …

Posted By on November 24, 2017

JTA – Ursula Haverbeck, a well-known historical revisionist and neo-Nazi, was again convicted of Holocaust denial.

Haverbeck, 88, was convicted in a Berlin district court on Monday and sentenced to six months in prison, Deutsche Welle reported.

The conviction was for saying at an event in the city in January 2016 that the Holocaust did not occur and that there were no gas chambers at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp, which she said was a labor camp. Haverbeck said she will appeal the conviction.

Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany.

She is scheduled to go on trial in the western German town of Detmold for the third time, after twice being convicted of incitement to hatred there for denying a genocide of the Jews during World War II.

In November 2016, Haverbeck was convicted by a court in Verden on the basis of numerous articles she had published in the local newspaper Stimme des Reiches, or Voice of the Reich, in which she denied that the Holocaust occurred. The previous month, a court in Bad Oeynhausen sentenced Haverbeck to 11 months in jail for incitement to hate. In September 2016, the court in Detmold sentenced her to 8 months in prison. And the previous year, a court in Hamburg sentenced her to ten months in jail. She has appealed all of these decisions as well and has not spent any time in jail on the convictions.

German media call her the Nazi grandma, according to DW.

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‘Nazi Grandma’ convicted in Berlin of Holocaust denial …

Cholent – Wikipedia

Posted By on November 24, 2017

Cholent (Yiddish: , tsholnt or tshoolnt) or Hamin (Hebrew: ) is a traditional Jewish stew. It is usually simmered overnight for 12 hours or more, and eaten for lunch on Shabbat (the Sabbath). Cholent was developed over the centuries to conform with Jewish laws that prohibit cooking on the Sabbath. The pot is brought to a boil on Friday before the Sabbath begins, and kept on a blech or hotplate, or placed in a slow oven or electric slow cooker, until the following day.

There are many variations of the dish, which is standard in both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi kitchens.[1] The basic ingredients of cholent are meat, potatoes, beans and barley. Sephardi-style hamin uses rice instead of beans and barley, and chicken instead of beef. A traditional Sephardi addition is whole eggs in the shell (huevos haminados), which turn brown overnight. Ashkenazi cholent often contains kishke (a sausage casing) or helzel (a chicken neck skin stuffed with a flour-based mixture). Slow overnight cooking allows the flavors of the various ingredients to permeate and produces the characteristic taste of cholent.

Max Weinreich traces the etymology of cholent to the Latin present participle calentem, meaning “that which is hot” (as in calorie), via Old French chalant (present participle of chalt, from the verb chaloir, “to warm”).[2][3] One widely quoted folk etymology, relying on the French pronunciation of cholent or the Central and Western European variants shalent or shalet, derives the word from French chaud (“hot”) and lent (“slow”). Another folk etymology derives cholent (or sholen) from the Hebrew shelan, which means “that rested [overnight]”. This refers to the old-time cooking tradition of Jewish families placing their individual pots of cholent into the town baker’s ovens that always stayed hot and slow-cooked the food overnight. Yet another etymology is Old French chaudes lentes, “hot lentils”.

In traditional Jewish families, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi, cholent or hamin is the hot main course of the midday Shabbat meal served on Saturdays after the morning synagogue services. Secular Jewish families in Israel also serve cholent. The dish is more popular in the winter. Cholent may be served on Shabbat in synagogues at a kiddush celebration after the conclusion of the Shabbat services, at the celebratory reception following an aufruf (when an Ashkenazi Jewish groom is called up to the Torah reading on the Shabbat prior to the wedding) or at bar and bat mitzvah receptions held on Shabbat morning.

Lighting a fire and cooking food are among the activities prohibited on Shabbat by the written Torah. Therefore, cooked Shabbat food, such as cholent or hamin, must be prepared before the onset of the Jewish Shabbat by some as early as Thursdays and certainly not later than Friday afternoon. The pre-cooked food may then be kept hot for the Shabbat meal by the provision in the Rabbinical oral law, which explains that one may use a fire that was lit before Shabbat to keep warm food that was already cooked before Shabbat.[4][5]

It is interesting to note that Rabbi Zerachiah ben Isaac Ha-Levi Gerondi (Hebrew: ), the Baal Ha-Maor (author of the book Ha-Maor), went as far as to write that “he who does not eat warm food (on Shabbos) should be checked out to see if he is not a Min (a heretic)”.[6] The reasoning beyond such austerity is that the Karaites interpreted the Torah verse, “You shall not [burn] (Heb: bier the piel form of baar) a fire in any of your dwellings on the day of Shabbat” to indicate that fire should not be left burning in a Jewish home on Shabbat, regardless of whether it was lit prior to, or during the Sabbath. In Rabbinic Judaism however, the qal verb form baar is understood to mean “burn”, whereas the pi`el form (present here) is understood to be not intensive as usual but causative. (The rule being that the pi’el of a stative verb will be causative, instead of the usual hif’il.) Hence bi`er means “kindle”, which is why Rabbinic Judaism prohibits only starting a fire on Shabbat.

Ashkenazi-style cholent was first mentioned in 1180, in the writings of Rabbi Yitzhak of Vienna.[7] In the shtetls of Europe, religious neighborhoods in Jerusalem and other cities in Israel before the advent of electricity and cooking gas, a pot with the assembled but uncooked ingredients was brought to the local baker before sunset on Fridays. The baker would put the pot with the cholent mixture in his oven, which was always kept fired, and families would come by to pick up their cooked cholent on Saturday mornings. The same practice was observed in Morocco, where black pots of shina (see Variations below) placed overnight in bakers ovens and then delivered by bakers assistants to households on Shabbat morning.[8] The unique cooking requirements of cholent were the inspiration for the invention of the slow cooker.[9][10]

Hamin () (pronounced amin), the Sephardi version of cholent popular also in Israel, derives from the Hebrew word “hot”, as it is always served fresh off the stove, oven, or slow cooker. The origin of this name is the Mishnaic phrase tomnim et hachamim (Hebrew for “wrap the hot things”),[11] which essentially provides the Rabbinical prescription for keeping food hot for the Sabbath without lighting a fire.[4][5]

In Germany, the Netherlands, and European countries the special hot dish for the Sabbath lunch is known as schalet, shalent, or shalet.[8] These western Yiddish words are straight synonyms of the eastern Yiddish cholent.[12]

The Jewish people of Hungary adapted the Hungarian dish slet to serve the same purpose as cholent. Because of the similarity in function and name, slet is commonly confused with cholent or mistaken to be the same dish. This, however, is not the case.

The key ingredients in slet are:

Slet is probably the older of the two. It was likely modified by the Jewish people living in Pannonia when the Magyars arrived[13] and introduced it to them.

In Morocco, the hot dish eaten by Jews on the Sabbath is traditionally called shina or skhina (Arabic for “the warm dish”;[14]Hebrew spelling[15] ). S’hina is made with chickpeas, rice or hulled wheat, potatoes, meat, and whole eggs simmering in the pot.[8]

In Spain and the Maghreb a similar dish is called adafina or dafina, from the Arabic d’fina or tfina for “buried” (which echoes the Mishnaic phrase “bury the hot food”).[14] Adafina was popular in Medieval Judeo-Iberian cuisine, but today it is mainly found as dafina in Jewish communities in North Africa.

The Sephardic Jews of the Old City of Jerusalem used to eat a traditional meal called Macaroni Hamin that consists of macaroni, chicken and potatoes. It was traditionally flipped upside down when served just like Maqluba.

In Bukharan Jewish cuisine, a hot Shabbat dish with meat, rice, and fruit added for a unique sweet and sour taste is called oshi sabo (or osh savo).[16] The name of the dish in Persian or Bukharian Jewish dialect means “hot food [oshi or osh] for Shabbat [sabo or savo]”, reminiscent of both hamin and s’hina.

Among Iraqi Jews, the hot Shabbat meal is called t’bit and it consists of whole chicken skin filled with a mixture of rice, chopped chicken meats, and herbs.[8] The stuffed chicken skin in tebit recalls to mind the Ashkenazi helzel, chicken neck skin stuffed with a flour and onion mixture that often replaces (or supplements) the kishke in European cholent recipes.

There are many recipes for cholent. Ingredients vary according to the geographic areas of Europe where the Jews lived and especially the personal preferences of the cook. The core ingredient of a traditional cholent is beef, usually shoulder, brisket, flanken, or any other cut that becomes tender and flavorful in long slow cooking. The meat is placed in a pot with peeled potatoes, any type or size of beans, and grains (barley, hulled wheat, rice). The mixture is lightly seasoned, mainly salt and pepper, and water is added to the pot to create a stew-like consistency during slow cooking.

While beef is the traditional meat ingredient, alternative meats may include chicken, turkey, veal, frankfurters, or even goose (echoing the French cassoulet). Other vegetables such as carrots, sweet potato, tomatoes, and zucchini may be added. Spicing may be enhanced to include paprika, peppercorns, and even tomato sauce. For additional flavor and browning, some cooks add unpeeled onions or a small amount of sugar caramelized in oil. Some are known to add also beer or whiskey for extra flavor.

A common addition to cholent is kishke or helzel. Kishke is a type of kosher sausage stuffed with a flour mixture, chicken or goose fat, fried onions and spices. Traditionally, kishke was made with intestinal lining from a cow. Today, the casing is often an edible synthetic casing such as that used for salami or hot dogs. Helzel is chicken neck skin stuffed with a flour-based mixture similar to kishke and sewed with a thread and needle to ensure that it remains intact in long cooking.

Sephardi-style hamin calls for whole, stuffed vegetables in addition to meat or chicken. Whole vegetables such as tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant halves and zucchini are stuffed with a mixture of beef and rice, and are then placed into the pot with meat or chicken and chickpeas. Sephardim also add spices such as cumin and hot peppers.

The ingredients and spiciness of hamin varies from area to area. Iraqi Jews prepare their version of cholent, known as tebit, with a whole chicken stuffed with rice. Jews from Morocco or Iberia make a version called adafina or dafina, which calls for spices like garlic, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and pepper, as well as whole eggs that turn brown and creamy during the long cooking process. The Spanish cocido (‘stew’) containing chicken and chickpeas is a likely offshoot of the traditional hamin of the Spanish Jews. Yemenite Jews have developed various kinds of puff pastry cooked for ten hours, including jahnoun and kuban (eaten in the morning of the Sabbath rather than at mid-day, with dairy meals).

Sephardi-style hamin typically includes whole eggs in the shell, which are placed on top of the mixture in the stewing pot and turn brown in the course of all-night cooking. The brown eggs, called haminados (gevos haminadavos in Ladino, huevos haminados in Spanish), are shelled before serving and placed on top of the other cooked ingredients. In a Tunisian version, the brown eggs are cooked separately in a metal pot on the all-night stove with water and tea leaves (similar to tea eggs). Haminados can be cooked in this way even if no hamin is prepared. The addition of tea leaves, coffee grinds, or onion skins to the water dyes the shell purple and the white a light brown, giving the egg a smooth creamy texture. In Israel, brown eggs are a popular accompaniment to ful medames (a dish of mashed broad beans) and they may also be served with hummus (a dip of mashed chickpeas mixed with tahini) and in a Sabich sandwich.

Cholent is the subject of poem by Heinrich Heine. He writes (using the German word schalet for cholent), “Schalet, ray of light immortal! / Schalet, daughter of Elysium!” / So had Schiller’s song resounded, / Had he ever tasted schalet. / For this schalet is the very- / Food of heaven, which, on Sinai, / God Himself instructed Moses in the secret of preparing… (trans. Leland).[17]

In the play “La Gran Sultana”, first act (Jornada Primera), Miguel de Cervantes mentions the North-African Hamin, which he calls “borona”, in the voice of anti-semitic character Madrigal, who had surreptitiously inserted ham into a Jew’s Cholent: “y en una gran cazuela que tenan de un guisado que llaman borona, les ech de tocino un gran pedazo” (“and in a great pot they had of a stew they call borona (a vegetable stew), I threw in a large piece of pork fat”). It’s been said that Cervantes was a man of many cultures, but this and other details about the customs around Hamin in that same play, imply the author had great familiarity with North-African Jewish culinary customs.

In Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman, a novel about preservation of the memory of a Polish town before the Holocaust, Minka Pradelski describes how the various cholents of the town of Bedzin were brought to the town baker on Friday afternoon to be placed in the large oven of the bakery so that they would cook and remain hot until ready to be eaten the next day for the Sabbath meal.[18]

In the episode entitled “Boxed In” on the television show NCIS, Ziva David prepares cholent for Gibbs, McGee and Abby.[19]

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Cholent – Wikipedia

All Jews Are Ashkenazi – TV Tropes

Posted By on November 24, 2017

If there is a Jew in any mainstream media (and the odds are better than you might think), he or she will most likely be portrayed as Ashkenazi, even when that portrayal does not fit that character’s background or the setting. Oy vey!This means that the Jew will be apparently of Central or Eastern European descent, will probably eat gefilte fish and bagels with lox, and may drop Yiddish words into their speech. The names of Jews will almost always end with -berg, -man, or -stein or contain the syllable “Gold”. These “Jewish names” are actually Germanic names adopted by Ashkenazi Jews (the trend began with 18th century Austrian officials forcing Jews to adopt local last names to resident Jews who were still following the patrimonial formatnotee.g. Abraham, son of Tevye. The trope is so pervasive that viewers from outside Germany, Poland or Russia tend to think only Jews have these names.In real life, while seventy to eighty percent of the world’s Jewish population are in fact Ashkenazim, there are many other Jewish ethnicities, including the Sephardim (Iberian), the Mizrahim (Middle-Eastern; there may, depending on who’s counting, be more Mizrahim in Israel than Ashkenazim), the Temanim (those from Yemen in particular), the Kaifeng Jews (Chinese), and the Habashim (Ethiopian). Indeed, there are Jews from almost every country and culture, with their own distinct names and customs. And this is not even counting converts, who can (and do) come from every cultural background imaginable.The trope has its origins in America, where Jewish culture, especially in New York and Los Angeles, is dominated by Ashkenazi tradition. This was not always so, however. In 1850, the considerable majority of Jews living in English-speaking countries were Sephardim, which can make works from this period with Jewish characters a bit confusing (even leaving aside the near-constant antisemitism). It was only in the late 19th and early 20th century that a great number of Ashkenazi Jews immigrated to the United States (and to a lesser extent, Western Europe) to flee from persecution in eastern Europe. The trope is also used to avoid leaving viewers wondering why a given character behaves like a Jew but looks like an Arab.In historical works, this can sometimes be a case of Translation Convention.note For example, the Jewish innkeeper in I, Claudius presumably spoke Latin with a recognizably Jewish accent of that era (based on his native Aramaic or Eastern-Mediterranean-Greek); arguably, having the character speak with a cliche Yiddish accent was a simple way to depict this, like giving the low-class Roman soldiers Cockney accents.Note that this trope is not about the simple presence of Ashkenazi Jews in a work, but rather about the implicit or explicit assumption that all Jews are of Eastern European descent (e.g. by having Jewish characters speaking with Yiddish accents where their background and/or time period would make this improbable). Please do not add examples along the lines of “Character X is Ashkenazi” when it is nothing remarkable. Similarly, it’s not worth listing an “aversion” if a work just happens to have a Jew who’s Sephardi or Mizrachi.Comic Books

These new immigrants were a crude and noisy people. But they were intelligent, resourceful and innovative, an ideal trait for life in this big and open country that was often crude and noisy itself but where opportunity was so abundant. The hard-working newcomers thrived. They were Ashkenazis, just one rung below the Sephardics on the Jewish social ladder.

Hah! A dentist with a college degree she wants yet!

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All Jews Are Ashkenazi – TV Tropes

Abuse Scandal Plagues Hasidic Jews In Brooklyn : NPR

Posted By on November 24, 2017

Joe Diangelo, 28, says he was sexually abused at a mikvah, a bathhouse usually used by women for ritual cleansing, when he was 7. He no longer has contact with his family. Coburn Dukehart/NPR hide caption

Joe Diangelo, 28, says he was sexually abused at a mikvah, a bathhouse usually used by women for ritual cleansing, when he was 7. He no longer has contact with his family.

Joel Engelman, 23, says he was sexually abused at his Jewish boys’ school when he was 8. Coburn Dukehart/NPR hide caption

Joel Engelman, 23, says he was sexually abused at his Jewish boys’ school when he was 8.

Initially seen as a radical movement at its founding in the 18th century, Hasidic Judaism, now has a distinct identity and following and draws on the principles and teachings of Orthodox Judaism.

The corner of Rodney and Lee streets in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is near the heart of the Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in New York. Coburn Dukehart/NPR hide caption

The corner of Rodney and Lee streets in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is near the heart of the Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in New York.

Engelman, about age 7. Courtesy of Joel Engelman hide caption

Engelman, about age 7.

Joel Engelman and Joe Diangelo are driving through their old Brooklyn neighborhood. Williamsburg is a place from another time and country. The shop signs are in Hebrew. The men scurry by in long black coats; their hair hangs in corkscrew curls. Married women wear wigs to cover their heads.

Engelman and Diangelo haven’t been here in years. They just met a few weeks ago, but as they begin swapping stories and the names of family members, they realize they have a lot in common. Both men are in their 20s, both were raised as strict Hasidic Jews, and both fled their upbringing for the same reason.

“Are you ready for this?” Engelman asks Diangelo, glancing at his friend in the back seat.

“Yeah,” Diangelo says, his breath quickening. “Yeah, I’ll do it, just a quick pass by.”

Diangelo grows quiet as we approach a nondescript brownstone building: a synagogue.

“See the Hebrew sign?” he says, pointing. “You go downstairs, and that’s where the mikvah is.”

The mikvah is a bathhouse usually used by women for ritual cleansing. But in some Hasidic communities, like this one, fathers bring their young sons on Friday afternoons before Shabbat begins. Twenty-one years ago, when he was 7, Diangelo recalls going to the mikvah with his father to find the place packed with naked men and boys.

“And I was in the tub, and I had my back turned, and somebody raped me while I was in the water,” he says. He takes a shaky breath. “And I didn’t know what happened. I couldn’t make sense of it, really.”

Diangelo says he never saw the man who abused him. These days, monitors are posted by the bath to stop any sexual activity. But back then, the boy was on his own. He told no one but began refusing to go to the mikvah. He left Orthodox Judaism when he was 17. He changed his name from Joel Deutsch and cut almost all ties with his family and friends.

Now, Diangelo wears black leather and mascara. He plays in a rock band and takes refuge in the heavy-metal lyrics of Metallica.

“There are so many songs, you know. They have a latest song, which is called ‘Broken, Beaten & Scarred,’ and one of the verses is: ‘They scratched me, they scraped me, they cut and raped me.’ ” He laughs wearily. “And that’s my life right there. When I listen to it, it gives me strength.”

Allegations Of Abuse

For these two men, this is a tour through aching secrets and violent memories. Diangelo and Engelman are unusual because they let their names be used. But they believe that sexual abuse is woven throughout this Hasidic community.

For Engelman, the loss of innocence came at school.

“This is it, right here,” he says.

Engelman parks his car across from the United Talmudical Academy, a hulking building on a desolate street. This was the yeshiva, or Jewish boys’ school, that Engelman attended. Engelman says he was 8 years old, sitting in Hebrew class one day, when he was called to the principal’s office. When he arrived, he says, Rabbi Avrohom Reichman told him to close the door.

“He motioned for me to get on his lap, and as soon as I got on the chair, he would swivel the chair from right to left, continuously,” Engelman says. “Then he would start touching me while talking to me. He would start at my shoulders and work his way down to my genitals.”

Engelman says this occurred twice a week for two months. He told no one for more than a decade. Reichman was, after all, a revered rabbi. Four years ago, he told his parents. And a year ago, when he heard that Reichman had allegedly abused several other boys, they confronted Reichman. When the school heard about it, they gave the rabbi a polygraph.

“He failed miserably,” Engelman says. “So they told me, ‘This guy is gone. This guy has to go.’ ”

But a few weeks later, a religious leader from the school approached Engelman’s mother, Pearl. He posed an astonishing question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad was the molestation?

She was speechless. Then she says, the man continued, ” ‘We found out there was no skin-to-skin contact, that it was through clothing.’ So he’s telling me, ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, this was maybe a 2 or a 3, so what’s the big fuss?’ ”

The school hired Reichman back. That was in July 2008 one week after Joel Engelmen turned 23 and could no longer bring a criminal or civil case against the rabbi.

An Open Secret

Reichman and school officials declined to be interviewed for this story. But Rabbi David Niederman, who heads the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, says the school did its due diligence. He says the allegation was thoroughly investigated by an independent committee of lay people and rabbis.

“I’m convinced that they made a serious investigation,” he says. “They felt that it’s not credible.”

Now Engelman has filed a long-shot civil suit against Reichman and the school, claiming they broke an oral contract.

Reichman’s attorney, Jacob Laufer, says the lawsuit is baseless and that the community is fully behind the rabbi.

“Even after these accusations were publicly made,” he says, “the parents continue to compete among themselves for the opportunity to have their children be educated by Rabbi Reichman.”

The Reichman case is not isolated. Four ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Brooklyn have been sued or arrested for abusing boys in the past three years. That’s a tiny fraction of the actual abuse, says Hella Winston, author of Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels. She says that in researching her book, she encountered dozens of alleged victims who told her sexual abuse is an open secret in the Hasidic community. But the community is so insulated and the rabbis are so powerful that few dare to come forward.

“If I become known as an informer, then people also won’t want to have anything to do with my family,” she explains. “They won’t want to marry my children, won’t want to give me a job. This is the fear.”

But more and more accusations against rabbis have begun to circulate. Last August, politician and radio talk show host Dov Hikind devoted an hourlong program to sexual abuse. He interviewed Pearl Engelman, who spoke under an alias, about her son’s case.

The calls flooded in. Hikind, who is an Orthodox Jew himself, represents this area in the New York Assembly. He says after the show, people started showing up at his office with their stories.

“Fifty, 60, 70 people,” he says, “but you got to remember for each person who comes forward, God only knows how many people are not coming forward.”

Ongoing Investigations

Hikind refuses to release the names of alleged perpetrators, although he is working with the district attorney’s office. He says the people who confided in him are afraid to go public, which creates a perfect situation for abusers.

“If you’re a pedophile, the best place for you to come to are some of the Jewish communities,” he says. “Why? Because you can be a pedophile and no one’s going to do anything. Even if they catch you, you’ll get away with it.”

“To me, it does not make sense,” says Niederman, of the United Jewish Organizations, “that so many people have been violated and for so many years they have been quiet. Something does not add up. It’s being blown out of proportion big time.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes says he has 10 active sexual abuse cases involving Orthodox Jews including a school principal who was recently arrested on a lead from Hikind. And Hynes says there could be many more. Yeshivas are private schools, which means they don’t have to report accusations of sexual abuse to civil authorities.

“I’ve got no way to know if there’s a pattern of concealing the conduct,” he says.

Hynes says the Jewish leaders like Catholic bishops try to handle these affairs internally, through a rabbinical court. It’s a practice that infuriates him.

“You have no business taking these cases to religious tribunals,” Hynes says. “They are either civil or criminal in nature. Or both. Your obligation is to bring these allegations to us and let us conduct the investigation.”

Hynes says he’s trying to work out a memorandum of understanding with the rabbis, in which they promise to bring the prosecutor every allegation of abuse.

Pearl Engelman is skeptical: The rabbis have hardly been forthcoming in her son’s case. Still, she loves her community and worries these allegations have tarnished it.

“This is a community of the most wonderful people, hardworking people who lead righteous lives,” she says. “And it’s just a few corrupt people who give us a bad taint.”

Her son Joel isn’t so sure it’s that few. Anyway, for him, any remedies come too late.

“Pretty much, I left my childhood here,” he says. “After I left here, I had a totally different picture of school, religion and life.”

But Engelman hopes that his story will shine a light on the secret and, perhaps, protect the next generation of children in this community.

February 2, 200912:00 AM ET

Hasidic Judaism found its roots in Eastern Europe in the mid-18th century, at a time when Jewish people were experiencing persecution in the Polish kingdom. Seen as a radical movement, a challenge to the tradition of scholarship and the rejection of worldly pleasures of the Jewish elite, early Hasidism emphasized mysticism, emotion, faith and joy. Prayer, song and dance were parts of worship.

The movement was initially led by Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, known more commonly as the Baal Shem Tov, or Besht. The Baal Shem Tov, which in Hebrew means “Master of the Good Name,” won widespread support among all levels of Jewish society for his ideas of inclusion through invocation of stories, folklore, sermons and fables.

“The Hasidic movement was initially a populist movement,” says Sylvia Barack Fishman, professor of contemporary Jewish life at Brandeis University. “It realized that the vast majority of Jewish men and women did not have the financial means or the leisure to perform text study. But Hasidic Judaism said there were other equally valid ways of drawing closer to God besides text study. One way was through the joyous worship of God.”

The practice of Hasidism today looks different from when it was founded, though many of the principles of community, deep spiritualization, music and lifestyle remain the same.

“The idea of joyous prayer, singing, dancing and spiritual feelings became, within Hasidic Judaism, an alternate route to Jewish excellence,” Fishman says.

Modern Hasidic Judaism has broken up into dozens of movements, each led by a central figure, or rebbe, who serves as both a spiritual and political leader. Hasidic movements are located around the world, with the Lubavitchers, in Crown Heights, N.Y., among the most prominent.

The tenets of Orthodox Judaism play a strong role in Hasidism, as religious observance, rituals and the Torah, or the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, are centerpieces of Hasidic culture. Hasidic Jews believe in following the literal word of God and the 613 commandments as found in the Torah as closely as possible.

Hasidic life focuses on cultural institutions, including the school, prayer house, ritual bathhouse and the study house, and dress is traditional, with men wearing long black coats and beards while women wear scarves and modest clothing.

Everyday life is deeply religious, and Hasidic Jews engage in ongoing study and regular prayer. Hasidic Jews believe in the presence of God in all things, so almost every action throughout the day is accompanied by a prayer, including such actions as washing one’s hands and eating.

Hasidism places emphasis on the intent of the prayer, as mood and feeling are central to the religious experience. As such, Hasidic worship frequently involves music and dance in a celebratory and joyous mood.

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Abuse Scandal Plagues Hasidic Jews In Brooklyn : NPR

Judge Ruchie, the Hasidic Superwoman of Night Court – The …

Posted By on November 22, 2017

Most Hasidic women do not pursue high-profile success in the outside world. They are taught their most sacred role is to maintain the religious sanctity of their home and raise their children. What a woman does in order to enhance her glory is not put herself out as an example to other people in the public domain, but rather in private, in the home, said Samuel Heilman, a professor of sociology at City University of New York and an expert on the Orthodox and Hasidic communities.

The men are in the forefront, they run the world, and we are the power behind the throne, said Pearl Engelman, 70, a great-grandmother in the Satmar Hasidic sect in Williamsburg, who broke that paradigm several years ago by speaking publicly about a cover-up of child sex-abuse cases in the ultra-Orthodox community.

Women are generally permitted to work outside the home to support their families, so long as they comport with religious rules. And Judge Freier felt she could do all that was expected of her as a Hasidic woman and be a judge, a paramedic and a voice for change, too.

Everyone was waiting to see, What is she going to do? Judge Freier said of the wary attitude toward her after she became a judge. And Im the same. I dress the same, I still cook and I still bake and I do whatever I always did. Whatever we consider important traditional Hasidic values, I didnt let go. So I guess it was an eye-opener for everyone.

She is a good barometer of how this community is going through a transition, Mr. Heilman, the sociologist, said. It might seem glacially slow from the perspective of the outside world, but clearly she is a sign of the growing power of women, of the impact of democracy and an open society.

A few minutes before her 5 p.m. shift on a recent evening, Justice Freier arrived at Brooklyn Criminal Court on Schermerhorn Street. She is only 5 feet tall, and slender. She was dressed formally, with a dark wig covering her hair to meet the modesty requirements of her sect, and a tailored business suit, its skirt reaching below her knees.

It was a half-hour drive from her home but a universe away from Borough Park, where men with side curls and women pushing strollers speak Yiddish on the streets. Here there were police officers and court officers in bulletproof vests. In a narrow hallway, Judge Freier conferred briefly with another female judge about a case. She was ushered into an elevator used to transport prisoners, and strode to her chambers through a warren of hallways divided by metal fences.

She will pray, as she does three times a day, before she takes the bench. Her rebbetzin, a female religious mentor such as the wife of a rabbi, had given her a special prayer. That people shouldnt malign me or put me in positions, or ask for things I shouldnt do, she said. That I should make the right decisions, because we are all human beings, and dont have any ability to see the future.

There are precedents for what Judge Freier has accomplished, but not many. In Israel, a small group of ultra-Orthodox women have formed a political party to run for office, despite opposition from rabbis who still disapprove of women entering public life. In 2013, a Hasidic woman in Montreal ran for a local City Council seat and won. And in the Bible, there is a female judge in the Book of Judges: Devora, or Deborah, a prophetess who calls the Israelites to battle. But there has not been a female ultra-Orthodox judge for centuries, certainly not within the Hasidic movement, which was founded in 18th-century Eastern Europe.

Judge Freier recalled that her rebbetzin told her, If God gave us Devora, the judge, if we have that in our history, that means that Ruchie Freier should be a judge. Thats it!

Yet Justice Freier is careful not to call herself a feminist. For her, it is a radical charge that would imply she wants to overstep and reject traditional gender boundaries. That could lead to community members ostracizing her and her family, which could limit her ability, for example, to arrange marriages for her two unmarried daughters.

So she stays away from controversial gender issues. She does not want to be a judge in a religious rabbinical court, a strictly male domain that rules over many civil matters for ultra-Orthodox Jews. She does not pray in the mens section of the gender-segregated synagogues. She does not want to wear a Tallis, a traditional male prayer shawl, as some Reform Jewish women now do.

I wanted to succeed, but I wanted to do it from within my community, she said. I love Borough Park, I love the people here. I didnt want to break away.

Just after 5 p.m., Judge Freier took the bench. She would see a steady stream of turnstile jumpers, low level assault cases, drug users and order-of-protection violators until 1 a.m. A swirl of public defenders, prosecutors and police officers surrounded her.

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Judge Ruchie, the Hasidic Superwoman of Night Court – The …

The Talmud |

Posted By on November 21, 2017

The Talmud (Hebrew for study) is one of the central works of the Jewish people. It is the record of rabbinic teachings that spans a period of about six hundred years, beginning in the first century C.E. and continuing through the sixth and seventh centuries C.E. The rabbinic teachings of the Talmud explain in great detail how the commandments of the Torah are to be carried out. For example, the Torah teaches us that one is prohibited from working on the Sabbath. But what does that really mean? There is no detailed definition in the Torah of work. The talmuidc tractate called Shabbat therefore devotes an entire chapter to the meaning of work and the various categories of prohibited work.

The Talmud is made up of two separate works: the Mishnah, primarily a compilation of Jewish laws, written in Hebrew and edited sometimes around 200 C.E. in Israel; and the Gemara, the rabbinic commentaries and discussions on the Mishnah, written in Hebrew and Aramaic, which emanated from Israel and Babylonia over the next three hundred years. There are two Talmuds: the Yrushalmi or Jerusalem Talmud (from Israel) and the Bavli or Babylonian Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud, which was edited after the Jerusalem Talmud and is much more widely known, is generally considered more authoritative than the Jerusalem Talmud.Rabbi Yhudah HaNasi (Judah the Prince) is thought to be the editor of the sixty-three tractates of Mishnah in which the laws are encoded. The main editor of the Gemara is generally assumed to be Rav Ashi, who spent over fifty years collecting the material. The final revision and editing were most likely undertaken by Ravina (500 C.E.)

The Talmuds discussions are recorded in a consistent format. A law from the Mishnah is cited, followed by rabbinic deliberations on its meaning (i.e., the Gemara). At times, the rabbinic discussions wander far afield from the original topic. The Rabbis whose views are cited in the Mishnah are known as Tannaim (Aramaic for teachers), while the Rabbis quoted in the Gemara are known as Amoraim (explainers or interpreters). The Talmuds, especially the Talmud of Babylonia, also contain a good deal of aggadah: commentary on biblical narratives, stories about biblical figures and earlier Rabbinic sages, and speculations concerning physical reality and human nature. In short, anything that was of interest to the Rabbis wound up in the Talmud, which in turn became a kind of encyclopedia of the Rabbinic mind.

As books of law, the Talmuds differ greatly from the Mishnah in style and approach. The Mishnah states its rules in a straightforward manner, usually not supporting them with scriptural references or other argumentation. The Talmuds (and this is especially true of the Babylonian Talmud) are dialectical: their predominant form is debate, in which propositions are raised, attacked, refuted, and modified through the give-and-take of argument and counterargument.Thus for example, if a person wanted to find out about the laws related to Rosh HaShanah, one would go to the tractate called Rosh HaShanah and would find there numerous laws and customs related to the festival. Likewise, if one wanted to find the laws and customs about Shabbat, one could go to the tractate of the same name.

Correct answers emerge out of the process of argument that fills the Talmud and all the books written to explain it. They are tentative conclusions whose rightness is based upon the ability of one school of thought to persuade the community of Rabbinic scholars that its point of view represents the best understanding of Torah and of Gods demands upon us.

As the earliest rabbinic interpretation of the Bible, the Talmud is indispensable to understanding the laws and customs still practiced today. The Talmudic discussion and its conclusions provide us with the origins of our many laws and customs. Studying the Talmud can help us search for the many important issues and values that are essential to a thinking and committed Jew. To study Talmud is to take ones part in the discourse of the generations, to add ones own voice to the chorus of conversation and argument that has for nearly two millennia been the form and substance of Jewish law.

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Spanish and Portuguese Jews – Wikipedia

Posted By on November 21, 2017

Spanish and Portuguese Jews, also called Western Sephardim, are a distinctive sub-group of Iberian Jews who are largely descended from Jews who lived as New Christians in the Iberian Peninsula during the immediate generations following the forced expulsion of unconverted Jews from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497.

Although the 1492 and 1497 expulsions of unconverted Jews from Spain and Portugal were separate events from the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions (which was established over a decade earlier in 1478), they were ultimately linked, as the Inquisition eventually also led to the fleeing out of Iberia of many descendants of Jewish converts to Catholicism in subsequent generations.

Despite the fact that the original Edicts of Expulsion did not apply to Jewish-origin New Christian conversos, as they were legally Christians, the discriminatory practices which the Inquisition placed upon conversos, which were often lethal, placed pressure on many of them to also emigrate from Spain and Portugal in the immediate generations following the expulsion of unconverted Jews.

The Alhambra Decree (also known as the Edict of Expulsion) was an edict issued on 31 March 1492, by the joint Catholic Monarchs of Spain (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) ordering the expulsion of all unconverted practicing Jews from the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, including from all its territories and possessions, by 31 July of that year.[1] The primary purpose of the expulsion was to eliminate the influence of unconverted Jews on Spain’s by then large Jewish-origin New Christian converso population, to ensure that the prior did not encourage the latter to relapse and revert to Judaism.

Over half of Spain’s Jewish origin population had converted to Catholicism as a result of the religious anti-Jewish persecution and pogroms which occurred in 1391. As a result of the Alhambra decree and persecution in prior years, it is estimated that of Spain’s total Jewish origin population at the time, over 200,000 Jews converted to Catholicism, and initially remained in Spain. Between 40,000 and 80,000 did not convert, and by remaining Jewish were thus expelled. Of those who were expelled as unconverted Jews, an indeterminate number eventually nonetheless converted to Catholicism and returned to Spain in the years following the expulsion[2] due to the hardships many experienced in their resettlement. Many of Spain’s Jews who left Spain as Jews also initially moved to Portugal, where they were subsequently forcibly converted to the Catholic Church in 1497.

Most of the Jews who left Spain as Jews accepted the hospitality of Sultan Bayezid II and, after the Alhambra Decree, moved to the Ottoman Empire,[3] where they founded communities openly practising their religion; they and their descendants are known as Eastern Sephardim.

During the centuries following[4] the Spanish and Portuguese decrees, some of the Jewish-origin New Christian conversos started emigrating from Portugal and Spain, settling until the 1700s throughout areas of Western Europe and non-Iberian realms of the colonial Americas (mostly Dutch realms, including Curaao in the Dutch West Indies, Recife in Dutch areas of colonial Brazil which eventually also fell to the Portuguese, and New Amsterdam which later became New York) forming communities and formally reverting to Judaism. It is the collective of these communities and their descendants who are known as Western Sephardim, and are the subject of this article.

As the early members of the Western Sephardim consisted of persons who themselves (or whose immediate forebears) personally experienced an interim period as New Christians, which resulted in unceasing trials and persecutions of crypto-Judaism by the Portuguese and Spanish Inquisitions, the early community continued to be augmented by further New Christian emigration pouring out of the Iberian Peninsula in a continuous flow between the 1600s to 1700s. Jewish-origin New Christians were officially considered Christians due to their forced or coerced conversions; as such they were subject to the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church’s Inquisitorial system, and were subject to harsh heresy and apostasy laws if they continued to practice their ancestral Jewish faith. Those New Christians who eventually fled both the Iberian cultural sphere and jurisdiction of the Inquisition were able to officially return to Judaism and open Jewish practice once they were in their new tolerant environments of refuge.

As former conversos or their descendants, Western Sephardim developed a distinctive ritual based on a melding of the remnants of the Judaism of pre-expulsion Spain, which they had practiced in secrecy during their time as New Christians, and influenced by Judaism as practiced by the communities (including Sephardic Jews of the Ottoman Empire and Ashkenazi Jews) which assisted them in their readoption of normative Judaism; as well as by the Spanish-Moroccan and the Italian Jewish rites practiced by rabbis and hazzanim recruited from those communities to instruct them in ritual practice. A part of their distinctiveness as a Jewish group, furthermore, stems from the fact that they saw themselves as forced to “redefine their Jewish identity and mark its boundaries […] with the intellectual tools they had acquired in their Christian socialization”[5] during their time as New Christian conversos.

The main ‘Western Sephardic Jewish’ communities developed in Western Europe, Italy, and the non-Iberian regions of the Americas.

In addition to the term “Western Sephardim”, this sub-group of Sephardic Jews is sometimes also referred to also as “Spanish and Portuguese Jews,” “Spanish Jews,” “Portuguese Jews,” or “Jews of the Portuguese Nation.”

The term “Western Sephardim” is frequently used in modern research literature to refer to “Spanish and Portuguese Jews,” but sometimes also to “Spanish-Moroccan Jews”.

The use of the terms “Portuguese Jews” and “Jews of the Portuguese Nation” in areas such as the Netherlands, Hamburg, Scandinavia, and at one time in London, seems to have arisen primarily as a way for the “Spanish and Portuguese Jews” to distance themselves from Spain in the times of political tension and war between Spain and the Netherlands in the 17th century. Similar considerations may have played a role for ethnic Sephardic Jews in the French regions of Bayonne and Bordeaux, given their proximity to the Spanish border.

Another reason for the terminology of “Portuguese” Jews may have been that a relatively high proportion of the families in question had Portugal as their immediate point of departure from the Iberian peninsula, regardless of whether the remoter family background was nonetheless Spanish, since Portugal was the first place of refuge and transit point for many Spanish Jews immediately following their expulsion from Spain.

As the term “Sephardim” (when used in its ethnic sense) necessarily connotes a link with Spain, the distinguishing feature of “Portuguese Jews” or “Jews of the Portuguese Nation” was the added link with Portugal. Thus, as a subset of the Sephardim, “Portuguese” and “Spanish and Portuguese” could be used interchangeably. Finally, almost all organised communities in this group traditionally employed Portuguese rather than Spanish as their official or working language.

In Italy, the term “Spanish Jews” (Ebrei Spagnoli) is frequently used, but it includes descendants of Jews expelled as Jews from the Kingdom of Naples, as well as “Spanish and Portuguese Jews” proper (i.e. Jews descended from former conversos and their descendants).

In Venice, Spanish and Portuguese Jews were often described as “Ponentine” (Western), to distinguish them from “Levantine” (Eastern) Sephardim from Eastern Mediterranean areas. Occasionally Italian Jews distinguish between the “Portuguese Jews” of Pisa and Livorno and the “Spanish Jews” of Venice, Modena and elsewhere.

The scholar Joseph Dan distinguishes “medieval Sephardim” (15th and 16th-century Spanish exiles in the Ottoman Empire who arrived as Jews) from “Renaissance Sephardim” (Spanish and Portuguese former converso communities who arrived as New Christians), in reference to the respective times of each grouping’s formative contacts with Spanish language and culture.

The term Sephardi means “Spanish” or “Hispanic”, and is derived from Sepharad, a Biblical location. The location of the biblical Sepharad is disputed, but Sepharad was identified by later Jews as Hispania, that is, the Iberian Peninsula. Sepharad still means “Spain” in modern Hebrew.

The relationship between Sephardi-descended communities is illustrated in the following diagram:

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Spanish and Portuguese Jews – Wikipedia

What Is the Talmud? | My Jewish Learning

Posted By on November 21, 2017

Talmud (literally, study) is the generic term for the documents that comment and expand upon the Mishnah (repeating), the first work of rabbinic law, published around the year 200 CE by Rabbi Judah the Patriarch in the land of Israel.

Although Talmud is largely about law, it should not be confused with either codes of law or with a commentary on the legal sections of the Torah. Due to its spare and laconic style, the Talmud is studied, not read. The difficulty of the intergenerational text has necessitated and fostered the development of an institutional and communal structure that supported the learning of Talmud and the establishment of special schools where each generation is apprenticed into its study by the previous generation.

In the second century, Rabbi Judah the Patriarch published a document in six primary sections, or orders, dealing with agriculture, sacred times, women and personal status, damages, holy things, and purity laws. By carefully laying out different opinions concerning Jewish law, the Mishnah presents itself more as a case book of law. While the Mishnah preserved the teachings of earlier rabbis, it also shows the signs of a unified editing. Part of that editing process included selecting materials; many of the traditions that did not make it into the Mishnah were collected in a companion volume called the Tosefta (appendix, or supplement).

After the publication of the Mishnah, the sages of Israel, both in the land of Israel, and in the largest diaspora community of Babylonia (modern day Iraq), began to study the both the Mishnah and the traditional teachings. Their work consisted largely of working out the Mishnahs inner logic, trying to extract legal principles from the specific statements of case law, searching out the derivations of the legal statements from Scripture, and relating statements found in the Mishnah to traditions that were left out. Each community produced its own Gemara which have been preserved as two different multi-volume sets: the Talmud Yerushalmi includes the Mishnah and the Gemara produced by the sages of the Land of Israel, and the Talmud Bavli includes the Mishnah and the Gemara of the Babylonian Jewish sages.

In some ways, the Talmud was never completed; the Tosafist commentators during the middle ages extended to the whole of the Gemara the same kinds of analysis that the sages of the Gemara had performed upon the Mishnah. Other commentators, like Rashi, sought to explain the text in a sequential manner.

Many modern scholars have begun applying the tools of literary and linguistic analysis to the text of the Talmud. Some have used these tools to focus on the underlying uniformity and consistency of the text, while others have done sophisticated analysis of the sources and alleged history of the text. Still others have examined the literary artistry of the Talmud. Many scholars have, with varying degrees of success, tried to use the Talmud as a source for historical inquiry.

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The Oral Law -Talmud & Mishna – Jewish Virtual Library

Posted By on November 21, 2017

The Oral Law is a legal commentary on the Torah, explaining how its commandments are to be carried out. Common sense suggests that some sort of oral tradition was always needed to accompany the Written Law, because the Torah alone, even with its 613 commandments, is an insufficient guide to Jewish life. For example, the fourth of the Ten Commandments, ordains, “Remember the Sabbath day to make it holy” (Exodus 20:8). From the Sabbath’s inclusion in the Ten Commandments, it is clear that the Torah regards it as an important holiday. Yet when one looks for the specific biblical laws regulating how to observe the day, one finds only injunctions against lighting a fire, going away from one’s dwelling, cutting down a tree, plowing and harvesting. Would merely refraining from these few activities fulfill the biblical command to make the Sabbath holy? Indeed, the Sabbath rituals that are most commonly associated with holiness-lighting of candles, reciting the kiddush, and the reading of the weekly Torah portion are found not in the Torah, but in the Oral Law.

Without an oral tradition, some of the Torah’s laws would be incomprehensible. In the Shema’s first paragraph, the Bible instructs: “And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.” “Bind them for a sign upon your hand,” the last verse instructs. Bind what? The Torah doesn’t say. “And they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.” What are frontlets? The Hebrew word for frontlets, totafot is used three times in the Torah always in this context (Exodus 13:16; Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18) and is as obscure as is the English. Only in the Oral Law do we learn that what a Jewish male should bind upon his hand and between his eyes are tefillin (phylacteries).

Finally, an Oral Law was needed to mitigate certain categorical Torah laws that would have caused grave problems if carried out literally. The Written Law, for example, demands an “eye for an eye” (Exodus 21:24). Did this imply that if one person accidentally blinded another, he should be blinded in return? That seems to be the Torah’s wish. But the Oral Law explains that the verse must be understood as requiring monetary compensation: the value of an eye is what must be paid.

The Jewish community of Palestine suffered horrendous losses during the Great Revolt and the Bar-Kokhba rebellion. Well over a million Jews were killed in the two ill-fated uprisings, and the leading yeshivot, along with thousands of their rabbinical scholars and students, were devastated.

This decline in the number of knowledgeable Jews seems to have been a decisive factor in Rabbi Judah the Prince’s decision around the year 200 C.E. to record in writing the Oral Law. For centuries, Judaism’s leading rabbis had resisted writing down the Oral Law. Teaching the law orally, the rabbis knew, compelled students to maintain close relationships with teachers, and they considered teachers, not books, to be the best conveyors of the Jewish tradition. But with the deaths of so many teachers in the failed revolts, Rabbi Judah apparently feared that the Oral Law would be forgotten unless it were written down.

In the Mishna, the name for the sixty-three tractates in which Rabbi Judah set down the Oral Law, Jewish law is systematically codified, unlike in the Torah. For example, if a person wanted to find every law in the Torah about the Sabbath, he would have to locate scattered references in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Indeed, in order to know everything the Torah said on a given subject, one either had to read through all of it or know its contents by heart. Rabbi Judah avoided this problem by arranging the Mishna topically. All laws pertaining to the Sabbath were put into one tractate called Shabbat (Hebrew for “Sabbath”). The laws contained in Shabbat’s twenty-four chapters are far more extensive than those contained in the Torah, for the Mishna summarizes the Oral Law’s extensive Sabbath legislation. The tractate Shabbat is part of a larger “order” called Mo’ed (Hebrew for “holiday”), which is one of six orders that comprise the Mishna. Some of the other tractates in Mo’ed specify the Oral Laws of Passover (Pesachim); Purim (Megillah); Rosh haShana; Yom Kippur (Yoma); and Sukkot.

The first of the six orders is called Zera’im (Seeds), and deals with the agricultural rules of ancient Palestine, particularly with the details of the produce that were to be presented as offerings at the Temple in Jerusalem. The most famous tractate in Zera’im, however, Brakhot (Blessings) has little to do with agriculture. It records laws concerning different blessings and when they are to be recited.

Another order, called Nezikin (Damages), contains ten tractates summarizing Jewish civil and criminal law.

Another order, Nashim (Women), deals with issues between the sexes, including both laws of marriage, Kiddushin, and of divorce, Gittin.

A fifth order, Kodashim, outlines the laws of sacrifices and ritual slaughter. The sixth order, Taharot, contains the laws of purity and impurity.

Although parts of the Mishna read as dry legal recitations, Rabbi Judah frequently enlivened the text by presenting minority views, which it was also hoped might serve to guide scholars in later generations (Mishna Eduyot 1:6). In one famous instance, the legal code turned almost poetic, as Rabbi Judah cited the lengthy warning the rabbinic judges delivered to witnesses testifying in capital cases:

“How are witnesses inspired with awe in capital cases?” the Mishna begins. “They are brought in and admonished as follows: In case you may want to offer testimony that is only conjecture or hearsay or secondhand evidence, even from a person you consider trustworthy; or in the event you do not know that we shall test you by cross-examination and inquiry, then know that capital cases are not like monetary cases. In monetary cases, a man can make monetary restitution and be forgiven, but in capital cases both the blood of the man put to death and the blood of his [potential] descendants are on the witness’s head until the end of time. For thus we find in the case of Cain, who killed his brother, that it is written: ‘The bloods of your brother cry unto Me’ (Genesis 4:10) that is, his blood and the blood of his potential descendants…. Therefore was the first man, Adam, created alone, to teach us that whoever destroys a single life, the Bible considers it as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a single life, the Bible considers it as if he saved an entire world. Furthermore, only one man, Adam, was created for the sake of peace among men, so that no one should say to his fellow, ‘My father was greater than yours…. Also, man [was created singly] to show the greatness of the Holy One, Blessed be He, for if a man strikes many coins from one mold, they all resemble one another, but the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, made each man in the image of Adam, and yet not one of them resembles his fellow. Therefore every single person is obligated to say, ‘The world was created for my sake”‘ (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5). (One commentary notes, “How grave the responsibility, therefore, of corrupting myself by giving false evidence, and thus bringing [upon myself the moral guilt of [murdering] a whole world.”)

One of the Mishna’s sixtythree tractates contains no laws at all. It is called Pirkei Avot (usually translated as Ethics of the Fathers), and it is the “Bartlett’s” of the rabbis, in which their most famous sayings and proverbs are recorded.

During the centuries following Rabbi Judah’s editing of the Mishna, it was studied exhaustively by generation after generation of rabbis. Eventually, some of these rabbis wrote down their discussions and commentaries on the Mishna’s laws in a series of books known as the Talmud. The rabbis of Palestine edited their discussions of the Mishna about the year 400: Their work became known as the Palestinian Talmud (in Hebrew, Talmud Yerushalmi, which literally means “Jerusalem Talmud”).

More than a century later, some of the leading Babylonian rabbis compiled another editing of the discussions on the Mishna. By then, these deliberations had been going on some three hundred years. The Babylon edition was far more extensive than its Palestinian counterpart, so that the Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli) became the most authoritative compilation of the Oral Law. When people speak of studying “the Talmud,” they almost invariably mean the Bavli rather than the Yerushalmi.

The Talmud’s discussions are recorded in a consistent format. A law from the Mishna is cited, which is followed by rabbinic deliberations on its meaning. The Mishna and the rabbinic discussions (known as the Gemara) comprise the Talmud, although in Jewish life the terms Gemara and Talmud usually are used interchangeably.

The rabbis whose views are cited in the Mishna are known as Tanna’im (Aramaic for “teachers”), while the rabbis quoted in the Gemara are known as Amora’im (“explainers” or “interpreters”). Because the Tanna’im lived earlier than the Amora’im, and thus were in closer proximity to Moses and the revelation at Sinai, their teachings are considered more authoritative than those of the Amora’im. For the same reason, Jewish tradition generally regards the teachings of the Amora’im, insofar as they are expounding the Oral Law, as more authoritative than contemporary rabbinic teachings.

In addition to extensive legal discussions (in Hebrew, halakha), the rabbis incorporated into the Talmud guidance on ethical matters, medical advice, historical information, and folklore, which together are known as aggadata.

As a rule, the Gemara’s text starts with a close reading of the Mishna. For example, Mishna Bava Mezia 7:1 teaches the following: “If a man hired laborers and ordered them to work early in the morning and late at night, he cannot compel them to work early and late if it is not the custom to do so in that place.” On this, the Gemara (Bava Mezia 83a) comments: “Is it not obvious [that an employer cannot demand that they change from the local custom]? The case in question is where the employer gave them a higher wage than was normal. In that case, it might be argued that he could then say to them, ‘The reason I gave you a higher wage than is normal is so that you will work early in the morning and late at night.’ So the law tells us that the laborers can reply: ‘The reason that you gave us a higher wage than is normal is for better work [not longer hours].'”

Among religious Jews, talmudic scholars are regarded with the same awe and respect with which secular society regards Nobel laureates. Yet throughout Jewish history, study of the Mishna and Talmud was hardly restricted to an intellectual elite. An old book saved from the millions burned by the Nazis, and now housed at the YIVO library in New York, bears the stamp THE SOCIETY OF WOODCHOPPERS FOR THE STUDY OF MISHNA IN BERDITCHEV. That the men who chopped wood in Berditchev, an arduous job that required no literacy, met regularly to study Jewish law demonstrates the ongoing pervasiveness of study of the Oral Law in the Jewish community.

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The Oral Law -Talmud & Mishna – Jewish Virtual Library

Part Asian-American, All Jewish? : Code Switch : NPR

Posted By on November 21, 2017

Sociologists Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt look on during their son Ari’s bris. They’ve worked together to research how kids with mixed Asian-American and Jewish heritage think about faith. The Kim-Leavitt family hide caption

Sociologists Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt look on during their son Ari’s bris. They’ve worked together to research how kids with mixed Asian-American and Jewish heritage think about faith.

I was five years old when my mother threatened to give me away to journalist Connie Chung.

Chung and her husband, Maury Povich, had just announced their intention to adopt a half-Chinese, half-Jewish child. At this, my mother, watching on TV in our living room, did a double take. She looked at the screen. Then she looked at me, her half-Chinese, half-Jewish, fully-misbehaving daughter. “How would you like to go live with that woman?” she said.

It was then that I had a startling realization: I was special. Not special in the way that everyone’s kids are special I mean really special. I, with my chubby Chinese cheeks and frizzy Jewish hair, was a unique snowflake, shaped like the Star of David, dusted with matcha green tea powder.

“I’m special!” I announced. “Famous people want to adopt me!”

Mom rolled her eyes as if to say, oy vey.

Only later would I learn the truth: Not everyone was as thrilled about my heritage as I was. The problem was mainly on the Jewish side. As I grew up, announcing I was Jewish often felt “like trying to cross a border with borrowed credentials,” in Joan Didion’s words. “But you don’t look Jewish!” came the incredulous reply. Some even implied that the union that produced me was nothing less than a threat to the Jewish people that I was what was wrong with Judaism today.

This view, it turns out, is ancient. “You shall not marry (gentiles), you shall not give your daughter to their son … because he will lead your son astray from Me and they will serve strange gods,” it is said in Deuteronomy. Thousands of years later, many still share this opinion.

“Intermarriage is a serious concern,” Steven Cohen, a professor at Hebrew Union College, told me recently. “It weakens Jewish commitment and diminishes the number of people who identify as Jews.”

Cohen was referring to the fact that children of intermarried Jews tend to be less religiously Jewish than those born to two Jewish parents, as found in the Pew Research Center’s 2013 Portrait of Jewish Americans. But there’s another way of looking at it. While they may be less religious, more and more mixed-race Jews are choosing to identify as Jewish. Among the adult children of intermarried parents surveyed, as many as 59 percent identified as Jews.

Kosher or not, no amount of hand-wringing will change the fact that intermarriage is happening. Since 2005, 6 in 10 Jews who married chose a non-Jewish partner, according to the Pew report. Faced with this reality, even staunch anti-intermarriage scholars are beginning to make concessions. Upon realizing that I was a mixed-race Jew, for instance, Cohen still encouraged me to marry Jewish. He also assured me that even if I didn’t I would still be welcomed by the Jewish community.

Mazel tov?

Two scholars on the forefront of understanding the changing face of Judaism are Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt, sociologists at Whitman College in Washington state. For the last decade, Kim and Leavitt have trained their attention on the intersection of Jewish and Asian cultures. This is no coincidence: The two are a Korean-Jewish couple, raising two Reform Jewish children. Every week, they celebrate Shabbat dinner, observe the Sabbath as a day of rest and perform the Havdalah service as a family.

President Barack Obama puts his arm around Rabbi Angela Buchdahl during a White House Hanukkah reception in Dec. 2014. Buchdahl, who is Korean-American and Jewish, leads New York City’s Central Synagogue. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP hide caption

President Barack Obama puts his arm around Rabbi Angela Buchdahl during a White House Hanukkah reception in Dec. 2014. Buchdahl, who is Korean-American and Jewish, leads New York City’s Central Synagogue.

Kim’s and Leavitt’s interest began when, flipping through the The New York Times style section, they noticed something strange. Suddenly, it seemed that more and more couples looked like them. Jewish-Asian pairings filled the news, from “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua and husband Jed Rubenfeld to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.

Some children of these marriages are grown up and in the news, too. Angela Buchdahl, the wildly popular Korean-American rabbi of New York City’s Central Synagogue, has written about facing challenges to her faith as a young adult.

“I did not look Jewish, I did not carry a Jewish name and I no longer wanted the heavy burden of having to explain and prove myself every time I entered a new Jewish community,” Buchdahl recalled in a 2003 essay in the journal Sh’ma.

Once, she even told her mother she wanted to give up Judaism. “Is that possible?” her mother asked.

“It was only at that moment that I realized I could no sooner stop being a Jew than I could stop being Korean, or female, or me,” Buchdahl wrote.

The affinity between Jews and Asians has some grounding in culture, according to Kim and Leavitt. In 2012, they published a study that sought to explain what draws these two ancient cultures together. Both Asians and Jews, they found, shared deeply ingrained values of academic achievement, strong family ties and frugality. There are also fewer religious barriers: While Asian-Americans may subscribe to a philosophical system like Buddhism, less often do they have overt religious beliefs that clash with Judaism.

As the pair began to raise their two children Ari, 6, and Talia, 3 their questions changed. How would Jewish values translate to mixed-race kids, they wondered?

Sociologists Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt with their children Talia and Ari. The Kim-Leavitt family hide caption

Sociologists Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt with their children Talia and Ari.

“This was the logical next step,” says Leavitt. “We wanted to know how these kids are going to make sense of the different strands of who they are.” So they decided to do something novel: ask the kids themselves. For their next study, published last month in the Journal of Jewish Identities, Kim and Leavitt conducted in-depth interviews with 22 children of Jewish-Asian marriages.

What they found flew in the face of the scenario Cohen described. Overwhelmingly, the young adults they talked to considered themselves Jews no “ish” about it. The majority grew up going to Hebrew school or Jewish day school, attending synagogue, celebrating the High Holidays and feeling part of a larger Jewish community. Half had been bar or bat mitzvahed. Most wanted to pass on a sense of Jewish identity to their own children.

“These kids are Jewish, they really are,” says Kim.

Unfortunately, a strong sense of personal Jewishness didn’t stop the haters. At school, in the synagogue and in casual conversation, respondents recalled getting the same doubtful looks and comments that I did. If it wasn’t “Funny, you don’t look Jewish,” it was “Oh, you must mean half-Jewish.” (This is usually the case when your father is Jewish; in more traditional strains of Judaism, it is believed that Jewish identity flows through the maternal line.)

Refreshingly, the respondents managed to turn these confrontations into opportunities. “They felt that they had to assert their Jewishness in a much stronger way,” says Kim. “So they’d end up saying, ‘I am legitimately Jewish, and you’re wrong in your assumptions about me and Jews.’ “

As an exploratory first paper, the study was limited. Besides the small sample size, almost all of the participants had Chinese or Japanese heritage, and none were raised Orthodox Jewish.

Nevertheless, Kim and Leavitt’s approach is “highly original and needed,” says Keren McGinity, the editor of the journal in which the work was published, and a Jewish historian at Brandeis University who specializes in intermarriage. “The very idea that there can be multi-racial, multi-ethnic Jews is a wake-up call.”

Far from being “diluted,” these mixed-race Jews saw themselves as critical to what today’s Jewish values are all about. For them, “multi-raciality and Jewishness are intrinsically tied together,” the authors wrote.

“These kids are thinking about being Jewish in a variety of ways,” says Leavitt. “Spiritually, religiously, culturally, ethically. It’s a huge smorgasbord of what parts of Judaism they draw on to connect with.”

“What Do You Mean, ‘Half-Jewish’?”

This question is always a tricky one. Do I cite my grandmother’s matzo ball soup? My love for the lilt of Hebrew prayer? The fact that I was so drawn to my Jewish roots that I ended up working for a Jewish magazine? Like Buchdahl, I can no more explain what makes me feel Jewish than what makes me feel Chinese, or female, or human. I usually go with, “It means I really, really like Chinese food.”

The point, for Kim and Leavitt, is that today’s Jews have a choice. For millennia, being Jewish was like being pregnant: You either were, or you weren’t. But as the number of Jews with hyphenated identities continues to rise, that idea needs rethinking. Maybe it isn’t an all-or-nothing affair. Maybe the question shouldn’t be, “Are you Jewish?” but: “How are you Jewish?” Maybe, for some, being chosen can be a choice.

Rachel is a writer and editor at Moment Magazine, an independent Jewish magazine. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, WIRED, New Scientist and Slate. Follow her on Twitter at @rachelegross.

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Part Asian-American, All Jewish? : Code Switch : NPR

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