Archive for July 2009

American Jewry and the Holocaust

July 14, 2009

Hasia Diner, professor of American Jewish History at New York University, has written a book to dispel a long-time myth. Historians have been claiming for years that the Holocaust had no place in Jewish life and culture in the 1950’s. The myth states that Jews preferred to bury the memory of the Holocaust in order to assimilate into American culture. The memory was then rekindled in the 1960’s as a response to Arab claims on the land of Israel.

Prof. Diner grew up in the 1950’s and remembered that the Holocaust was a constant presence in her childhood so she decided to investigate this myth. What she found were numerous memorial projects from every segment of American Jewry and in multiple languages. American Jews were engaged with the Holocaust and with providing help to its survivors. According to Diner, the myth was created because of political agendas but has no basis in reality.


News Round-up

July 9, 2009

A few items of note:

1. Today is the fast of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz (Seventeenth of Tammuz) which commemorates the breaking down of the walls of Jerusalem and the end of the siege on the city. The Talmud is undecided as to whether this event occurred on this date prior to the destruction of the First Temple, but this is the agreed upon date for the Second Temple.

2. The Codex Sinaiticus Project has gone live. Here is the description from the website:

Codex Sinaiticus

Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript – the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity – is of supreme importance for the history of the book.

The Codex Sinaiticus Project

The Codex Sinaiticus Project is an international collaboration to reunite the entire manuscript in digital form and make it accessible to a global audience for the first time. Drawing on the expertise of leading scholars, conservators and curators, the Project gives everyone the opportunity to connect directly with this famous manuscript.

3. The Copper Scroll is under discussion by Robert Cargill on the Bible and Interpretation site. He explains the difficulty in deciphering the meaning of the Copper Scroll and describes the newest attempt by amateur archaeologist to “crack its code.”

4. And, lastly, Raphael Golb has pleaded not guilty to charges that he stole identities in order to discredit his father’s academic adversaries. Background on this story can be found on this blog in a post called “Scrolls and Scandals.”

Children of Buchenwald

July 7, 2009

Kenneth Waltzer is writing a book about the rescue of the children of the Buchenwald concentration book and he shares a summary on History News Network. The 904 boys who were liberated from Buchenwald in 1945 were kept alive by veteran prisoners who had a good relationship with the Germans in the camp.

Among these boys were two who went on to became famous – Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel and head of Yad Vashem, and Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize winner. Rabbi Lau chronicled his experiences in the memoir Do Not Raise a Hand Against the Boy (2000). Elie Wiesel tells his story in Night (Hill and Wang 1958; 2006).

What an amazing story of bravery! Prisoners who were fighting for their own survival put themselves at risk to save these boys and although they couldn’t save them all, 904 men owe their lives to their sacrifices.

Why I Moved to Israel (5)

July 6, 2009

If you haven’t been following this series, you can go back and read the first, second, third and fourth post now.If you have been, you know that guest posters from different walks of life and different parts of Israel have been sharing their reasons for moving to Israel. If you would like to contribute your own post, leave a comment below.

Guest post by Gil Reich

The simple answer is I thought that’s what G-d wanted me to do. Someone once told me to try to find a single page in Sefer Dvarim that didn’t say something about “these Mitzvot are to be performed in the Land of Israel.” I couldn’t. I think that says something.

I know there are some people who are scared by the idea of doing something because G-d said so, especially those that believe the canard that most killings in the world are done in the name of G-d. Not true. In fact, most killings in the world were done in the name of pagan or atheistic ideologies whose goals included the destruction of the Jewish G-d and His people. OK, so there were also many religious killings in the name of the destruction of the Jewish G-d and His people. But I digress.

On the other side, I know many Jews who somehow doubt that we’re supposed to live here. I admit to finding it remarkable how some Religious Jews debate what kind of Mitzva, if any, you fulfill by living in Israel. As if it matters. The entire Torah is based on the premise of the Nation of Israel in Israel. The storyline of the Torah is of the Nation of Israel observing the Torah in Israel. Halacha is about combining the Torah’s big ideas with the detailed ideas. The big ideas include loving your neighbor, loving G-d, being kind to widows, orphans, and strangers … and living in Israel. Beyond that, when you live in Israel every time you make a purchase, or pay your taxes, or smile at your neighbor, you’re fulfilling other Mitzvot like v’Chai Achicha Imach. And the Torah even provides the story of the Spies to teach us that even when our greatest religious leaders rationalize a heter to live outside of Israel, or an Issur to live in Israel, they’re wrong. And to the Religious Jews who reject Zionism and publicly support Ahmadinejad and Arafat … well, I hope they spend eternity with them. Too harsh? Seventy faces to Torah? That’s not what G-d said to the Spies.

I used to be on the other side of this issue. My family spent a year in Israel when I was 10, and I was completely miserable. When my sister returned from Orot all Zionistic, I made fun of her a lot, and waited for the brainwashing to wear off (it didn’t). I’d go to Bnei Akiva and criticize them for their hyper-focus on Aliyah at the expense of other issues. And when my year in Gush convinced me that I needed to make Aliyah, I came up with a nine-year plan that would leave me plenty of time to get over it.

But a year later some funny things happened. I spent a Shabbaton with people just back from their year in Israel, and I saw the spark that I had already lost. And I noted that I had tried to work out a plan to get to Israel earlier because of a girl (that didn’t work out), and I couldn’t justify not making the same efforts to get to Israel earlier because of G-d.

So I told myself that if I could graduate that year I would make Aliyah right afterwards. No big risk here since this would involve three very unlikely things. Getting 29 credits for my year in Israel (nobody else in my school ever got more than 6), getting a passing Physics Lab grade (it was pretty clear that I had earned my F), and being able to work out a 21 credit schedule for the last semester. Was it a deal with G-d? I guess. And when the last semester’s schedule of courses was announced, I remember playing with it like a puzzle, but there was just no way of fitting in 21 credits. And then I got the 29 credits for my year in Israel. And the Physics Dept. chairman gave me a D (I was never so thrilled to get a D). And at the last minute, the school announced one more 3 credit course where the students would determine the hours. And all of a sudden, I was graduating in May. Part of me says it was a coincidence. The other part thinks that G-d called my bluff, and that this was one of two times in my life where G-d crossed the line between subtle intervention and blatantly flaunting the odds to push me in a certain direction. Am I crazy? Probably.

So why did I make Aliyah? I guess you can decide which of these reasons is true:

– Because I thought it was G’d’s will

– Because I thought G-d called my bluff and forced my hand

– Because I’m nuts

Maybe they’re all true. And to some degree I went kicking and screaming. I was in Israel for my sister’s wedding the summer before my Aliyah, and I cried because I was so bored and unhappy and couldn’t believe I had to move here. And I loved — and still love — America, its values, its culture, and its sports leagues.

But here’s the punchline. G-d fulfilled all my hopes and desires. A few months after my Aliyah I met the beautiful and wonderful woman with whom I just celebrated our eighteenth anniversary. Thank G-d we’ve been successful professionally, and even get to travel. Even silly things like my sports addiction worked out. After a five-year blackout in the early 90s (which for a Mets fan was probably a blessing) the Web and satellite TV gave me as much sports access as I ever had. And as I write this I hear my (thank G-d) wonderful children laughing with their friends. In another year my daughter will begin Sherut Leumi,and a year later my son, who has the courage that I never did, will proudly join the army where his zchut in defending the Nation of Israel will trump anything I’ve done in my life. So my sacrifices were temporary, even illusory. And I thank G-d for the opportunities, the support, the wonderful gifts He bestowed on me and my family — and perhaps even more so, for the feeling that I’m living with the courage and integrity He desires, and according to His will.

Interview with Moshe Dayan

July 6, 2009

Watch this video to find out how Moshe Dayan felt about his eye patch!

WEJEW Video and Mediashare Community – Moshe Dayan UpClose

Shared via AddThis

Auschwitz as the Symbol of the Holocaust

July 5, 2009

Prof. Timothy Snyder of Yale University claims that Auschwitz is the wrong symbol of the Holocaust. He says that the reason it has become the symbol is as a result of the large number of survivors who lived in democracies after the war and were able to tell their stories. However, the greatest number of victims were Poles, many of whom didn’t survive. Those who did were locked behind the iron curtain after the war, unable to publish or speak about their experiences.

Read the full article at History News Network.

Zionism in the Diaspora

July 2, 2009

Michelle Nevada (that can’t be her real name) is angry that commenters on her last article on Israel National News said she has no right to express an opinion on internal Israeli affairs because she doesn’t live in Israel. According to Nevada, Jews can be Zionists no matter where they live and should remain as connected to Israel as possible. This includes having opinions on internal Israeli matters and not just supporting Israel no matter what.

Her main point is this:

Israel is not like the other nations. An Israeli has no other nation but Israel; but all the other Jews in the world have two nations: the nation they live in, and Israel. Israel belongs to me just as much as it belongs to any other Jew in the world, Israeli or not. If those commentators were indeed Zionists, then they would understand this point.

The idea that Jews living outside Israel should not interfere in Israeli business is not a new one. Nevada herself says she has encountered it numerous times in the comment sections of articles she has written. If Israelis want Jews to be connected and involved with Israel, it stands to reason that they cannot put a limit on that involvement. It doesn’t make much sense to expect full support but not allow for criticism, opinions and suggestions as well.

As long as Jews live in the Diaspora, there will be a Diaspora Zionism. Although Diaspora Zionism is difficult to define, it would seem logical that the Jews in the Diaspora should define it, not the Jews in Israel. And if that Zionism includes commenting on what’s happening in Israeli politics or society, shouldn’t Israelis be willing to accept that?