Ukrainian Jews threatened by anti-Semitic violence


This video says about itself:

Jews upset over Ukraine election

11 November 2012

For the first time the nationalist Svoboda or Freedom party will be represented in Ukraine’s parliament.

The movement which has links with foreign far-right groups like France’s National Front has been accused of anti-Semitism. Their election showing has raised concerns among the Jewish community.

“Unfortunately I have read their speeches and statements not once but many times. So I do not need any proof that they are anti-Semitic,” said Rabbi Pynchas Vyshedski.

More than 800,000 Jews were killed in Ukraine during the Second World War. There remains deep ties with Israel where there is anger at Svoboda’s success, winning parliamentary seats.

“We don’t understand why they gave them the opportunity to go to the election, we understand the democracy of Ukraine but this kind of partiy ought to be out of parliament,” explained Alex Miller head of inter-parliamentary Ukrainian-Israeli committee.

Oleh Tyahnybok was expelled from the centre right Our Ukrainian party eight years ago. In a speech he referred to Jews as being among the enemies of Ukraine.

He now heads Svoboda but rejects the allegation his party is anti-Semitic.

Tayhnabok and his party has forged links with other political groups including that of Yulia Tymoshenko and could be set to be part of a coalition in the forthcoming legislation.

From daily Haaretz in Israel:

Ukraine’s chief rabbi tells Kiev‘s Jews to flee city

Fearing violence against Ukraine’s Jews, the Jewish community asks Israel for assistance with the security of the community.

Published 12:44 22.02.14

Ukraine’s chief rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, called on Kiev’s Jews to leave the city and even the country if possible, fearing that the city’s Jews will be victimized in the chaos, Israeli daily Maariv reported Friday.

“I told my congregation to leave the city center or the city all together and if possible the country too,” Rabbi Azman told Maariv. “I don’t want to tempt fate,” he added, “but there are constant warnings concerning intentions to attack Jewish institutions.”

According to the paper’s report Azman closed the Jewish community’s schools but still holds three daily prayers. He said the Israeli embassy told members of the Jewish community to avoid leaving their homes.

Edward Dolinsky, head of the umbrella organization of Ukraine’s Jews described the situation in Kiev as dire, telling Maariv: “We contacted Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman requesting he assist us with securing the community.”

Protesters in the Ukrainian capital claimed full control of the city Saturday following the signing of a Western-brokered peace deal aimed at ending the nation’s three-month political crisis.

President Viktor Yanukovich is still in Ukraine, a senior security source told Reuters on Saturday following reports his residence was empty and unguarded and his Kiev offices were in the hands of protesters.

The US has vowed to investigate anti-semitic leaflets which ordered Jews to register with pro-Russian authorities in eastern Ukraine, even after it emerged that Jewish residents were not being forced to do so and the alleged authors denied any association with them: here.

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Yiddish play on Polish stage after 100 years


This video says about itself:

Sholem Asch‘s Work

28 March 2013

David Mazower shares his thoughts on which of Sholem Asch’s writings he finds most compelling, emphasizing the ways in which his great grandfather was ahead of his time. Read the full text of Asch’s most famous play Got fun Nekome (God of Vengeance) through our Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library: here.

By Roman Frister in Israsel:

Yiddish play, still contentious after 100 years, to hit Polish stage

Lesbian sex, a brothel, cutting shady deals with the almighty: How will Warsaw take to ‘The God of Vengeance?’

Nov. 24, 2013 | 8:24 PM

A Yiddish play too daring for many theaters of the early 1900s – and still controversial today – is taking to the stage once more in a Polish production next month.

Sholem Asch’s “Got Fun Nekome,” or “The God of Vengeance,” is about a the owner of a brothel who – though not Victorian in business – reaches out to God in hope of a deal to protect his daughter’s innocence.

Completed in 1907, the English-language production arrived only in 1923, when it became the first-ever drama on Broadway to feature a lesbian love scene. The cast was promptly arrested and charged with obscenity.

The play was viewed as so contentious that its own writer, a Yiddish novelist and playwright born to a Hasidic family in Russian-controlled Poland, eventually refused to let it be performed in public.

The new production opens December 19 at Warsaw’s Ester Rachel Kaminska and Ida Kaminska State Jewish Theater. It will be the first time the theater is imposing an age limit on theatergoers: only 16 and up will be admitted.

Director Andrei Munteanu’s “Bog Zemsty,” as the play is known in Polish, will be performed in Yiddish, with simultaneous translation into Hebrew, Polish and English.

In the play, a man who appears to be a good citizen and doting father runs a brothel in the basement of the family home. One of the prostitutes wants to bring his daughter, Rivka, into the business. To atone for his sins, the father funds the purchase of a valuable Torah scroll.

Although Asch was born in the city of Kutno, near Warsaw, and this play is considered one of his best, “Bog Zemsty” is virtually unheard of in Poland. That may be because theaters have shied away from the taboos it raises.

Philosopher Baruch de Spinoza’s birthday today


This video, in English with Portuguese subtitles, says about itself:

Spinoza – The Apostle of Reason (Espinosa – O Apóstolo Da Razão)

An excellent and quite accurate film on Spinoza. The scenes showing Spinoza reading/writing letters is very accurate. They picked two of the funniest of his letters, especially the one on the existence of male apparitions and ghosts. Those writing to Spinoza were Albert Burgh and Hugo Boxel. I highly recommend that people read Spinoza’s letters. There is some excellent philosophy in his correspondence, and lots of laughs.

By David B. Green in Israel:

This Day in Jewish History / Europe’s first secular Jew is born

Philosopher Baruch de Spinoza was banned by the Jewish community of Amsterdam for his allegedly heretical views on God and religion.

Nov. 24, 2013 | 5:06 AM

November 24, 1632, is the day that philosopher Baruch de Spinoza was born, in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam. The son of a family that originated in Spain before the Inquisition, and eventually settled in Holland, Spinoza was banned by the Jewish community of Amsterdam for his original and allegedly heretical views on God and religion. Although he never recanted his beliefs, he also did not convert to Christianity, and continued developing his philosophy, producing a number of works that are studied to this day. As such, he has been called Europe’s first secular – or modern – Jew.

Baruch de Spinoza (after his excommunication, he Latinized his name to Benedict de Spinoza) was the second son of Miguel, a Portuguese-born merchant, and his second wife, Hanna Debora de Espinoza, conversos who re-embraced their Judaism on their immigration to Amsterdam.

Baruch received a traditional Jewish education, but his formal studies ended when he was 17 and joined his father’s import business. It is apparently the beginning of Spinoza’s dealings with the world outside Amsterdam’s insular Jewish community that opened him up to free-thinking Christians like Frances Van den Enden, a former Jesuit who saw his own writings proscribed by the Church. Van den Enden taught Spinoza not only Latin, but also apparently exposed him to the rational thought of Descartes and to the concept of democracy.

In 1654, Miguel de Spinoza died, and Baruch began to run the family business, together with his brother Gabriel. Later, encountering debts he could not repay, he turned to the civil authorities (rather than Jewish ones) in Amsterdam to be recognized as an orphan, so as to be freed of responsibility to his father’s creditors. At the same time, he began lowering his annual contributions to the city’s Jewish community, eventually ending them altogether. These events closely corresponded to a lawsuit with his sister, Rebekah, who disputed his inheritance. Baruch won the suit, but later relinquished the family holdings to her, turned over the business to Gabriel, and took up the profession of optics. Around the same time, Spinoza was shaken by a knife attack, by someone who was apparently outraged by his public expressions of unorthodox views.

On July 27, 1656, the Jewish community of Amsterdam – its parnassim, or secular leaders, not its rabbis — issued its herem (ban) on Spinoza, whom it accused of “abominable heresies” and “monstrous acts,” and cursed “by day and … by night… when he lies down and… when he rises up.” It also forbade any other member of the community from having any contact with him.

Oddly, the writ of herem does not in any way specify Spinoza’s heresies or monstrous acts. Despite its harshness, there is evidence that Spinoza was given an opportunity to redeem himself before it was issued, but he refused the demand that he keep his thoughts to himself. Although there is no evidence that the municipal authorities had pressed the Jewish leadership to deal with Spinoza, it is clear that the Jews were a tolerated minority (they had only recently been permitted to settle in Holland) who were expected to remain true to their faith and keep contact with Christians to a minimum. Spinoza was consorting with non-Jews and discussing matters of theology openly with them.

After being banned, Spinoza left Amsterdam, and no longer lived the life of an observant Jew. Yet, he also did not adopt another religion. Although he moved several times, he spent the last years of his life in The Hague, where he pursued the profession of lens-making and devoted the rest of his time to thinking and writing. He died on February 20, 1677, probably from an illness connected to the glass dust he inhaled from his lens-grinding.

To this day, philosophers are still trying to categorize Spinoza’s teachings, to determine, for example, whether he was an atheist, or a theist or a pantheist.

Clearly, he denied the existence of a God who directly involved in history; his God was impersonal, perhaps co-equal with nature. The human soul, apparently, was not immortal. The Scriptures were written by humans, not God or his agent Moses. Since most of Spinoza’s works were published posthumously, there were likely more personal reasons behind his ostracism.

Almost immediately after he died, his writings were shipped to Amsterdam and published. And almost as quickly, they were banned throughout the Netherlands.

Scottish Jewish-Muslim anti-racist solidarity


This video says about itself:

EDL / SDL Nazi Salutes in Glasgow

Nov 25, 2009

Just 70 supporters of an English Defence League off-shoot called the Scottish (sic) Defence League marched in Glasgow on 14 Nov 2009, and were opposed by 1,500 Anti-Fascists from a broad coalition of community, political, religious, trades union and civil-rights groups, marching under the banner of Scotland United.

By Rory MacKinnon in Scotland:

Jews stand in solidarity with Muslims against fascist SDL

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Edinburgh’s Jews will not stand by while fascists threaten their Muslim neighbours, a leading figure in the capital’s faith community said today.

Sukkat Shalom chairman Norman Crane offered words of support today after the city’s council said it would let the far-right Scottish Defence League march down the Royal Mile next month.

The SDL, known for taunting nazi salutes and racist attacks, plans a provocative march through the heart of the international Fringe Festival on August 17 – and councillors hace approved the demonstration, saying police had reported “no significant public order issues” in recent years.

Mr Crane said he could not understand why the march had been allowed – “freedom of speech, I suppose.”

But he had attended an emergency meeting with anti-racist activists on Monday evening and would “strongly support” any counter-demonstration.

Mr Crane said he understood the way in which groups like the SDL played on tensions in the Middle East in order to present religious conflicts as inevitable in multicultural communities.

But Jews and Muslims in Edinburgh could play a powerful role “in opposition to that message.”

He said: “The more we’re seen to stand together, the better.”

Fellow worshipper Catherine Lyons warned against dismissing far-right groups as irrelevant.

“The EDL and the BNP may seem like insignificant minorities, but, we [are] reminded, the nazis entered the Reichstag with 2.6 per cent of the vote in 1928,” she said.

The pledge follows a statement from the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities last week condemning “the irrational hatred” directed against Muslims.

“We deplore the message of hate of those who seek to stir up racial and religious tension and express our solidarity with all those who are the target of their warped views,” it said.

World’s oldest Torah scroll discovery in Italy


Bologna Thorah scroll

From the BBC:

28 May 2013 Last updated at 19:16 GMT

The University of Bologna in Italy has found what it says may be the oldest complete scroll of Judaism’s most important text, the Torah.

The scroll was in the university library but had been mislabelled, a professor at the university says.

It was previously thought the scroll was no more that a few hundred years old.

However, after carbon dating tests, the university has said the text may have been written more than 850 years ago.

The university’s Professor of Hebrew Mauro Perani says this would make it the oldest complete text of the Torah known to exist, and an object of extraordinary worth.

The university says that in 1889 one of its librarians, Leonello Modona, had examined the scroll and dated it to the 17th century.

However, when Prof Perani recently re-examined the scroll, he realised the script used was that of the oriental Babylonian tradition, meaning that the scroll must be extremely old.

Another reason for the dating is that the text has many features forbidden in later copies under rules laid down by the scholar Maimonides in the 12th Century, the university says.

Israeli extremist violence against praying women


Israeli Women of the Wall, photo: Tovah Lazaroff

From the (Rightist) Jerusalem Post in Israel:

Haredim heckle and harass Women of the Wall during prayer

By JEREMY SHARON, JPOST.COM STAFF

LAST UPDATED: 05/10/2013 10:21

Protestors throw garbage, spit, shout insults at female worshipers as they legally pray for first time at the Western Wall; Three haredi men arrested for disturbing peace; two police officers lightly wounded.

Protests at the Western Wall in Jerusalem opposing the Women of the Wall prayer group ended on Friday morning with the arrest of three haredi men suspected of disturbing the peace, as well as two police officers who suffered light injuries and were treated at the scene. A large number of security forces were at the holy site, attempting to create a human barrier between the men and women‘s sections.

Haredi protesters threw water bottles and other objects and shouted insults at the Women of the Wall activists, according to Israel Radio.

Rabbi Susan Silverman, comedian Sarah Silverman‘s sister who prays with the Women of the Wall, was at the protest where she said that haredi men spit globs of spit on her three daughters. she told The Jerusalem Post. Silverman also said that the haredim threw coffee at the Women of the Wall activists and that a little girl next to her was hit in the head with something hard.

Silverman told the Post that the haredi protesters represent “A fundamentalism and a belief in a single and very narrow view of god that I believe is idolatrous.”

Women of the Wall Spokesperson, Oshrat Ben Shimshon told Israel Radio, “Orthodox rabbis have determined that there is no halachik barrier to women praying with prayer shawls and tefillin and reading from the Torah.” …

Several thousand yeshiva students and haredi school girls convened at the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem to protest the monthly prayer service of the Women of the Wall.

The protesters shouted at the Women of the Wall activists as they were conducting their first monthly service without restrictions after a court ruling two weeks ago reinterpreted existing laws and allowed them to be able to perform their own customs, such as wearing prayer shawls and tefillin, without fear of being arrested.

The idea to send haredi school girls to protest the Women of the Wall was devised by MKs from the United Torah Judaism party earlier this week in consultation with principals of haredi girls schools, on condition the initiative received approval from the leading haredi rabbis.

According to a report on haredi website Kikar Hashabbat, spiritual leader of the haredi world Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman gave his blessing to the proposal on Thursday.

Many participants in the Women of the Wall services don prayer shawls and perform other customs usually performed by men in Orthodox practice, that has until now been prohibited by state law, and as of late, women have been arrested on a frequent basis for wearing prayer shawls during the WoW services.

A court ruling two weeks ago reinterpreted existing laws and the Women of the Wall will on Friday be able to perform their own customs.

At a hearing of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women earlier this week, a representative of the Jerusalem Police confirmed that the police would not act against the recent Jerusalem District Court ruling which decided that WoW’s customs did not contravene “local custom,” that has been the basis for outlawing the group’s non-Orthodox customs.

United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler expressed outrage during the committee hearing at what he referred to as the Women of the Wall’s “provocations.” He asked if the police would allow the right of protest and demonstration against the group’s prayer service.

The Women of the Wall issued a statement on Thursday celebrating their new found freedoms.

“We have the great merit that Israeli women will arrive in their masses tomorrow for the prayer service for the New Month of Sivan. We call on the public which supports us, women and men, to come and pray with us, to liberate the Western Wall and to turn it into to the home of everyone,” the group said.

Israel: The heads of the Reform and Conservative movements will demand that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein investigate the involvement of rabbis on the government payroll in Friday’s violent demonstrations at the Western Wall: here.

An Israeli Jew has been shot dead near Jerusalem’s Western Wall after a guard mistook him for a Palestinian militant, police say: here.

Medieval Afghan Jewish discovery


This video is called Evidence of ancient Afghan Jews: Israel showcases Hebrew scrolls.

From Associated Press:

Israeli library unveils ancient Afghan manuscripts

Published: January 3, 2013

By ARON HELLER — Associated Press

JERUSALEM — A trove of ancient manuscripts in Hebrew characters rescued from caves in a Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan is providing the first physical evidence of a Jewish community that thrived there a thousand years ago.

On Thursday Israel‘s National Library unveiled the cache of recently purchased documents that run the gamut of life experiences, including biblical commentaries, personal letters and financial records.

Researchers say the “Afghan Genizah” marks the greatest such archive found since the “Cairo Genizah” was discovered in an Egyptian synagogue more than 100 years ago, a vast depository of medieval manuscripts considered to be among the most valuable collections of historical documents ever found.

Genizah, a Hebrew term that loosely translates as “storage,” refers to a storeroom adjacent to a synagogue or Jewish cemetery where Hebrew-language books and papers are kept. Under Jewish law, it is forbidden to throw away writings containing the formal names of God, so they are either buried or stashed away.

The Afghan collection gives an unprecedented look into the lives of Jews in ancient Persia in the 11th century. The paper manuscripts, preserved over the centuries by the dry, shady conditions of the caves, include writings in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judea-Arabic

sic; Judeo-Arabic

and the unique Judeo-Persian language from that era, which was written in Hebrew letters.

“It was the Yiddish of Persian Jews,” said Haggai Ben-Shammai, the library’s academic director.

Holding the documents, protected by a laminated sheath, Ben-Shammai said they included mentions of distinctly Jewish names and evidence of their commercial activities along the “Silk road” connecting Europe and the East. The obscure Judeo-Persian language, along with carbon dating technology, helped verify the authenticity of the collection, he said.

“We’ve had many historical sources on Jewish settlements in that area,” he said. “This is the first time that we have a large collection of manuscripts that represents the culture of the Jews that lived there. Until today we had nothing of this.”

The documents are believed to have come from caves in the northeast region of modern-day Afghanistan, once at the outer reaches of the Persian empire. In recent years, the same caves have served as hideouts for Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

It remains unclear how the ancient manuscripts emerged. Ben-Shammai said the library was contacted by various antiquities dealers who got their hands on them.

Last month, the library purchased 29 out of hundreds of the documents believed to be floating around the world, after long negotiations with antiquities dealers. The library refused to say how much it paid for the collection, adding that it hoped to purchase more in the future and didn’t want to drive up prices. The documents arrived in Israel last week.

Comparisons with the other find are inevitable.

The Cairo Genizah was discovered in the late 1800s in Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue, built in the ninth century. It included thousands of documents Jews stored there for more than 1,000 years.

Ben-Shammai said it was too early to compare the two, and it would take a long time to sift through the findings from Afghanistan. He said they were already significant since no other Hebrew writings had even been found so far from the Holy Land.

He said the Jewish community in the region at the time lived largely like others in the Muslim world, as a “tolerated minority” that was treated better than under Christian rule. Afghanistan’s Jewish community numbered as many as 40,000 in the late 19th century, after Persian Jews fled forced conversion.

By the mid-20th century, only about 5,000 remained, and most emigrated after Israel’s creation in 1948. A lone Jewish man remains in Afghanistan, while 25,000 Jews live in neighboring Iran – Israel’s bitter enemy.

The library promises the finds will be digitized and uploaded to its website for all to see.

Aviad Stollman, curator of the library’s Judaica collection, said much more would be gleaned after intense research on the papers, but already it tells a story of a previously little known community.

“First we can verify that they actually existed – that is the most important point,” he said. “And of course their interests. They were not interested only in commerce and liturgy; they were interested also in the Talmud and the Bible,” he said.

“They were Jews living a thousand years ago in this place. I think that is the most exciting part.”

See also here. And here.

New York police attacks Jew in synagogue


This video from the USA is called NYPD Officer Brutally Assaults Man in Synagogue (Guile Theme).

By Stephen C. Webster in the USA:

New York police brutally beat man for sleeping at synagogue

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 9:26 EDT

A confrontation with New York police that was caught on video last week has Jewish community leaders in New York City outraged.

Responding to an anonymous tip about a potentially homeless man sleeping inside The Aliya Institute,

So, if Ehud H. Halevy would have been homeless, would be then have been fair game in the police’s view? Maybe the rabbi of the synagogue is a charitable person, who would provide temporary shelter as the nights are getting colder …

two police officers confronted Ehud H. Halevy on Monday, October 8, and demanded to know what he was doing there. Shirtless and unkempt, he appeared on surveillance video seemingly confused as to why police were demanding he justify his presence and attempting to escort him outside.

When the officers attempted to force his exit from the building, ignoring his claims that he was allowed to be there, Halevy resisted. That’s when one of the officers flew into a rage, putting his fists up like a boxer and launching a flurry of punches.

As the video rolled, Halevy sustained repeated blows from the male officer while a female officer stood by hitting him with a club, then pepper-spraying him. Finally, an upwards of 10 officers ran into the building to ensure the man could not resist any further, and he was taken away.

Video of the incident was released Sunday by the New York blog Crown Heights Info. Appearing at a press conference on Monday evening, Aliya Institute director Rabbi Moshe Feigli demanded that the New York Police Department identify the offending officers and fire them immediately.

“This person had permission to be there,” Feigli said during Monday’s press conference. “Regardless, the behavior of the police department — of two individuals — is beyond comprehension. A very sad moment for me personally. I’m a great supporter of the New York City Police Department, and I continue to be a great supporter, but this behavior is unconscionable, and if not for the video camera to record what happened, we might actually believe that Ehud attacked the police officers, and he never did. He’s charged with felonies, he’s charged with all kinds of crimes, and now I wonder how many other times New Yorkers are charged with serious crimes and there’s no video camera to tell the story.”

Halevy faces charges relating to assault on a police officer, trespassing and resisting arrest, among others.