Archive for the ‘Interfaith’ Category

Interfaith ‘Stop the Hate Rally’ planned Sept. 27 in Edison, N.J.

September 12, 2010 Leave a comment

EDISON, N.J. (Press Release)–Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg, pulpit rabbi at Congregation Beth El in Edison, got tired of counting swastikas and hearing antisemitic cat calls when he headed home from synagogue. 

And it didn’t help when hate crimes were dismissed as youthful pranks. Nor does it matter which ethnic or religious group is targeted. “The hate,” says the rabbi, “has got to stop.”

Working with local clergy, the rabbi, who teaches at Rutgers and Yeshiva University, called the Metuchen Edison Clergy Association, who came together and called for a “Stop the Hate Rally” for Monday night, September 27 at Congregation Beth El, 91 Jefferson Boulevard in Edison. The mayor and the chief of police will attend, as will other politicians.“The kids think what they are doing is cool. Unfortunately, they are getting lots of reinforcement from the Internet and current events. Since the community can’t be protected from these obnoxious hate crimes, we, as citizens of Edison, must see how we can change these teen behaviors from the pulpit and in our classrooms. Danger lies ahead if we do nothing.”Pointing to the media, the rabbi notes that baiting Muslims and Latinos, going from verbal violence to physical violence is escalating as elections heat up.  “The behavior of those who feel free to express their xenophobia is an indicator of a failure in our educational system. We are Americans who believe in the Bill of Rights and that all people should be treated with respect and dignity. Our children need to know that and live by that–no matter what race or religion they are.”The rally is expected to raise these issues for discussion, and will be followed up a week later with a talk at Beth El by Dr.Clemens Heni, a political scientist from Innsbruck, Austria, who has written extensively about the Holocaust, antisemitism, the far right and anti-Americanism in Germany. He is currently working on a project about Middle Eastern Islamism after 9/11, financed by the Middle East Forum Educational Fund (MEFEF), Philadelphia.*
Preceding provided by Congregation Beth El in Edison, N.J.

ADL spearheads group to fight bias against building mosques

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release) –Concerned with a disturbing rise in discrimination against Muslims trying to legally build or expand their houses of worship — mosques– across the United States, interfaith and religious leaders have formed a coalition to assist those Muslim communities confronting opposition.

 The Interfaith Coalition on Mosques (ICOM), comprised of individuals and organizations from different faith traditions – Christian, Jewish and Muslim – will provide support and stand with Muslims when their rights are being violated.

“We believe the best way to uphold America’s democratic values is to ensure that Muslims can exercise the same religious freedom enjoyed by everyone in America.  They deserve nothing less than to have a place of worship like everyone else,” ICOM said in its Statement of Purpose. “While we are extremely concerned about discrimination against mosque building in America, we will also recognize that local governments have legitimate concerns regarding zoning planning issues within the framework of current federal, state and local laws.”

From Florida to California, ugly rhetoric has replaced civil dialogue at local government planning meetings and community debates over proposals by Muslims citizens to exercise the rights guaranteed to everyone in America.  “The level of hostility, fear mongering and hate speech is unacceptable and un-American,” the coalition stated.

Working under the sponsorship of the Anti-Defamation League, which initiated the concept, ICOM will carefully monitor incidents of mosque discrimination around the country, gather facts and analyze the information, and speak out when appropriate to help Muslim communities who are encountering prejudice. “We will not take political sides. We will not make decisions based on ideology,” the coalition said in its statement.

Charter members of the group, which is still in formation, are:
Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Chair of Islamic Studies, American University

Dr. Saud Anwar, founder and co-chair of American Muslim Peace Initiative (AMPI)

Rabbi Elliott Cosgrove, Senior Rabbi, Park Avenue Synagogue

Abraham H. Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, founder of Center for Leadership and Learning (CLAL), former chairman, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, Executive Vice President, Auburn Theological Seminary

Bishop Paul Peter Jesup, American Representative for the Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalus Church

Dr. Richard Land, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention

Msgr. Guy A. Massie, Vicar for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs, Monsignor, Diocese of Brooklyn

Dr. Eboo Patel, founder and director, Interfaith Youth Core; member of Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Father Robert Robbins, Director, Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Archdiocese of New York 
Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, Director of Interfaith Affairs for ADL, will coordinate the coalition’s operations.  He will receive complaints about mosque discrimination from ICOM members, ADL’s regional offices, the media, and other credible sources.  ADL experts will investigate each complaint and produce a report that will be shared with ICOM members.  The coalition, which will operate by consensus, will discuss appropriate action to be taken.

Preceding provided by the Anti-Defamation League

Should Pope Pius XII Become a Saint?

August 29, 2010 2 comments

By Fred Reiss, Ed.D.

Fred Reiss

WINCHESTER, California — The Catholic Church has over 10,000 saints and “beati,” or blessed on the roster. Does it really make a difference if there is one more?

The answer is probably not for most rank-and-file Catholics. They already have three  saints per day from among whom they can choose for feasting.

It matters to Jews who remember the actions and lack of actions by Eugenio Pacelli, Vatican Secretary of State until 1939, at which time he became Pope Pius XII. Prior to 1963, the world generally viewed Pius XII as a faithful shepherd to his people during a dark period in the world’s history. The liberal-Catholic writer Graham Green characterized Pius XII as, “a pope who many of us believe will rank among the greatest.”

In 1963, Rolf Hochhuth published his play, The Deputy, which condemned Pius XII and the entire Vatican hierarchy for failing to act to save European Jewry from death camps and the atrocities of the Nazis. John Cornwell’s 1999 book, Hitler’s Pope, continued the condemnation of Pius XII for supporting National Socialism and for failing to act on behalf of Jews. Gabriel Wilensky, author of Six Million Crucifixions, argues that Pope Pius XII actions during World War II can be attributed to the belief that he had more to fear from the survival of godless Communism then from the Nazi regime.

Many Jews and non-Jews believe that making Pius XII a saint is a disgrace. In Israeli’s Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, there is a plaque that delineates the perceived anti-Jewish actions of the Pope during the war. The plaque lists such things as the 1933 Concordat with Hitler to preserve the Church’s rights in Germany in exchange for recognizing the Nazi government, pigeon-holing a 1939 letter against anti-Semitism that his predecessor prepared, abstaining from joining the allies’ denunciation of the extermination of Jews, and failing to intervene in the deportation of Jews living in Rome to Auschwitz.

The sainthood of Pius XII certainly matters to the Vatican. Most Catholic scholars have cautioned the Vatican to move slowly with regard to his sainthood. Yet, for the papacy and the church hierarchy there seems to be a need for urgency. According to Celestine Bohlen, Pope Benedict’s December, 2009 decree moving both John Paul II and Pius XII closer to sainthood is filled with Vatican politics. She wrote that, “Benedict had hoped to satisfy both the conservative and the liberal wings of the Catholic Church”. Pope Benedict’s outward position is simple: Pius XII worked quietly and behind the scenes to rescue Jews from the hands of the Nazi war machine. Benedict is also quick to point out that many Catholics risked their own lives to save Jews.

It also matters to the Pave the Way Foundation, whose website declares, “We are a non-sectarian public foundation, which identifies and eliminates non-theological obstacles between the faiths”. From September 15 through 17, 2008 the foundation held a symposium in Rome to examine the papacy of Pius XII. At the conference, lawyers, linguists, researchers and foreign correspondents, priests and nuns, and even a Rabbi met to report on deeds and acts of Pius XII during World War II. In the proceedings, published under the title, Examining the Papacy of Pope Pius XII, the conference examined twelve commonly-held beliefs about the Pope. These beliefs included such things as the Pope was: anti-Semitic, obsessed with atheistic Communism, did not believe that the Church has an obligation to either protect or care for non-Catholics, and should be condemned for signing an agreement with Hitler in 1933. They also responded to the annotations on plaque at Yad Vashem.

The proceedings concluded that “the controversy about Pius has to a large degree been generated by those who ignore his endless efforts over many years to help victims of Hitler.” For example, the proceedings argue that Pius’ Concordant with Hitler occurred before he became Pope and was actually at the direction of his predecessor, Pius XI. There never was a letter opposing anti-Semitism, only drafts.  The Pope did protest the deportation of the Jews from Rome to Auschwitz. Cardinal Maglione, his Secretary of State, delivered the first protest and the second was delivered through an assistant to German General Stahel.

Since John Paul II abolished the “devil’s advocate” portion of the canonization process, the question of whether or not Pope Pius XII becomes a saint may be more a result of politics than theology. If it is true that Pius’ strategy to save European Jews was to work behind the scenes, then that strategy failed. That alone should disqualify him.

Thousands of Catholics fall into the category called righteous gentiles, Christians who personally risked their lives and the lives of their families to save Jews. Perhaps they are more qualified for sainthood.


Dr. Fred Reiss is a retired public and Hebrew school teacher and administrator. He is the author of The Standard Guide to the Jewish and Civil CalendarsAncient Secrets of Creation: Sepher Yetzira, the Book that Started Kabbalah, Revealed; and Reclaiming the Messiah. The author can be reached through his website,

Was the Holocaust the legacy of the Church’s teachings?

August 28, 2010 2 comments

Six Million Crucifixions: How Christians Teachings About Jews Paved the Road to the Holocaust by Gabriel Wilensky, Qwerty Publishers, San Diego, CA. ISBN 978-0-984-33467-4, ©2010, $27.95, p. 309, plus appendices. Available in Kindle edition

 By Fred Reiss, Ed.D.

Fred Reiss

WINCHESTER, California–Twenty-two of the highest ranking Nazi Party officials were tried from November 20, 1945 to October 1, 1946 in Nuremburg, Germany for crimes against humanity. In the Palace of Justice, the site of the trials, a large wooden cross looks down over the four judge’s chairs. Why a cross? Did it represent right’s triumph over might? The victory of good over evil? Did it symbolize the truth that God was on the side of the allies? Gabriel Wilensky, a life-long student of why the Holocaust happened, and author of Six Million Crucifixions, might reply that the cross deflects the truth that the teachings and preachings of Catholicism built the path to the Holocaust.

In part one of his four-part book, Wilensky begins building his case through descriptions of the actions of the early church, the time when Christianity separated itself early from Judaism. The time when early Christians accepted Jesus as the Messiah, whereas mainstream Judaism did not. To make Christianity acceptable to pagans, Saul of Tarsus, who changed his name to Paul, abolished the Jewish dietary laws and male converts no longer needed to be circumcised. In the fourth century, Constantine forbade Jews from seeking converts. The Council of Nicea replaced resurrection, which stood at the heart of Christianity, with crucifixion. As such, the council focused responsibility on the Jews, and from this point forward sermons excoriated Jews, which often led to violent actions against them.

In the second part Wilensky focuses on Christian anti-Semitism.  Now that crucifixion is Christianity’s centerpiece, the words in Matthew (27:25), “His blood be on us and on our children,” form the basis of the church’s systematic effort to denounce the Jewish people. The church attacked the Jews through sermons, through discriminatory laws, and with symbols. As examples, a belief emerged in the mid-fifteenth century, that the intermixing of blood (Jews marrying Christians) defiles “old” Christians. Two statues stand at the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral. The first, Ecclesia, the church, wears a crown and holds a scepter and the Challis of Christ. The second, Synagoga, is blindfolded. Blind to the knowledge that Jesus is God. A crown lies at her feet. The Jews have been dethroned as God’s people. According to Wilensky, there are over four hundred and fifty anti-Semitic verses in just the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. As often happened, these verses became ground for priests to sermonize and stir Christian against Jewish neighbor.

In Part III, Wilensky notes the similarities between the anti-Jewish actions of the Church and Nazism. The Catholic Church prohibited intermarriage between Jew and Christian (4th century). So did the Nazis. The Church did not allow Jews to hold public office (6th century). So did the Nazis. The Church burned the Talmud and other sacred books (7th century). So did the Nazis. Christians could not patronize Jewish doctors (7th century). So did the Nazis. Jews were distinguished from their Christian neighbors by markings on their clothing (13th century). So did the Nazis. Jews were compelled to live in segregated ghettos (13th century). So did the Nazis. Jews could not obtain academic degrees (15th century). So did the Nazis.

The final part focuses on the actions of the Pope and the Catholic Church during World War II. Wilensky notes the Eugenio Pacelli, first as the Vatican Secretary of State, and later as Pope Pius XII intervened on behalf of Jews who converted to Christianity, but not the Jews. He neither denounced the persecution nor the extermination of the Jews by the Nazi government. He spoke out against the treatment of Polish Christians, but not Polish Jews. He sought clemency for the convicted war criminals. He did not recognize the State of Israel.

Six Million Crucifixions brilliantly explains the anti-Semitic attitude of the Catholic Church and how, over the centuries, its repeated railings against the Jewish people created brutal waves of anger, which led to repeated mass murders of Jews in various locals throughout Europe. More importantly, Wilensky meticulously leads the reader down the Road to Hell, which he unmistakably shows was built by the Catholic Church. If nothing else, Six Million Crucifixions clearly demonstrates that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth!


Dr. Fred Reiss is a retired public and Hebrew school teacher and administrator. He is the author of The Standard Guide to the Jewish and Civil CalendarsAncient Secrets of Creation: Sepher Yetzira, the Book that Started Kabbalah, Revealed; and Reclaiming the Messiah. The author can be reached through his website,

The Jews Down Under~News of the Jews of Australia and New Zealand

August 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

By Garry Fabian

New Zealand Jewish Community goes to court

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, 10 August– The following announcement was released by the  New Zealand Jewish Community:

As we informed the community last week, we filed  legal proceedings against the Minister of
Agriculture, seeking a restoration of the right  to practise shechitain New Zealand.  We are  pleased to report that an interim agreement has
now been reached with the Minister, which will  enable the continued practice of shechita in the  period up to trial (which is likely to take place during 2011).

Court orders were made by consent in the  Wellington High Court this morning, giving legal effect to that agreement. Every effort is being
made to get chicken and local lamb”back on the table”as soon as possible.

The community would like to acknowledge the  tremendous contribution the legal team at Russell McVeagh have made in putting together our
case to achieve this positive outcome in such a short period.

The memorandum was signed by Jewish community leaders Garth Cohen, Michael Stiassny and Geoff Levy.

Church resolution reveals failure of interfaith

MELBOURNE, 13 August -The National Council of  Churches of Australia’s resolution encouraging a  boycott of Israel is absolutely indefensible, and  makes a mockery of both mutual tolerance and  “interfaith” dialogue. It is abundantly clear in  the case of Israel, as in countless instances in Jewish history, an exception has been made of Jews.

If the churches were fair  about their  human rights concerns they would have boycotted  Sudan, Saudi Arabia and so many other Islamic
countries for their real human rights abuses and  treatment and discrimination of non-Muslim minorities.

No mainstream church group has ever openly sided  with Jews, publicly criticising Iran’s President  Amadinajad over his promotion of Holocaust denial and anti Semitic rhetoric or criticising Arab/Muslim anti-Semitism. There are so many other examples of the church’s hypocrisy in singling out the Jewish state as their ‘pet’ cause. Even some Christians who have seen the NCAA statement find it incomprehensible that it
does not mention Palestinian/Hamas discrimination of Christians in Gaza.

Jewish interfaith advocates should start  insisting on some reciprocity and public support for the Jewish narrative in the Israel/
Palestinian, Arab Muslim conflict otherwise they are wasting their time


Contemporary Antisemitism: What We Can Do

Contemporary antisemitism turns Israel into a collective Jew among the nations, demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state. Irwin Cotler
defines its expression in the genocidal antisemitism of Ahmadinejad’s Iran; the political antisemitism  that denies Jews the right to national selfdetermination; the racialised antisemitism that defines Zionism as racism; the legalized antisemitism that makes a mockery of the UN Human  Rights procedures, and the “new protocols of the elders of Zion”, which blames Israel for  everything from 9/11 to swine flu.

But, Cotler argues, we can act. We have  opportunities through Holocaust memory and education, through pressuring for the implementation of the  legal procedures of the Genocide Convention,
through reforming the UN, through government  initiatives and through working to reframe the narrative that blames Israel and Jews for all
Middle East conflict and ignores human rights abuses in other parts of the world..

The Hon. Professor Irwin Cotler MP is an eminent  human rights lawyer and Canadian statesman. A former Canadian Attorney-General and sitting  member of the Canadian Parliament, he has been outspoken on issues of human rights in the  former Soviet Union, South Africa and Rwanda.

The ADC was honoured to host him recently as our ADC Gandel Orator. This special report is an edited transcript of his Oration.

Australian Foreign Minister charts positive Israel course

CANBERRA,  13 August – The diplomatic relationship  between Australia and Israel has resumed on its normal course, less than three months after Stephen Smith expelled an Israeli diplomat from Canberra.

And despite a frosty few months, the two  countries – which both share a desire to see Iran’s nuclear weapons program halted immediately
– never ceased to share intelligence on the rogue state.

In a wide-ranging interview during a campaign  stop in Melbourne, Smith spoke about the resumption of that relationship. He made no
pledges about the foreign policy direction a  future Gillard government would take, but spoke in depth about some of the decisions made over the past almost three years.

“I am now very confident that things are now back to business as usual,” he said of the diplomatic ties between Australia and Israel.

“Often when you have a difficult issue that you’ve got to manage, your capacity to manage that and then to move reasonably quickly off it,
reflects the strength of the relationship.

“Yes it was a difficult time and I obviously  thought very carefully about all of the issues and came to the decision that, as I said
publicly, we could not turn a blind eye to what had occurred.

“I’m very confident now that in terms of agency-to-agency relationship,
government-to-government, nation-to-nation, it is business as usual.”

He added that at no time during the diplomatic impasse, did the two countries stop cooperating to quash the rogue Iranian regime.

“One area [of the Australia-Israel relationship] we did not want to see disturbed was the ongoing cooperation and exchange of information on Iran,” he said.

Asked whether he thought the forthcoming direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians means that the time for peace is right, Smith showed some trademark diplomacy.

“I think your attitude has got to be that it is always right,” he said. “You always have to try and take the opportunity and often when things
appear to be at their worst is often a time when you can move forward.”

“We’re very supportive of President [Barack] Obama’s efforts, we’re very supportive of  Ambassador [George] Mitchell’s efforts and we
make the point to all of the players in the Middle East that it is absolutely essential that we get long-term enduring peace.

“The issues are complex, complicated and there are strong views respectively on both sides, but we can’t give up because solving these Middle East issues is very important to peace and security, peace and stability throughout the entire world,” he said.

Jewish Music Festival hits Sydney

SYDNEY, 16 August – SHIR Madness, Sydney’s first  large-scale Jewish music festival, brought Bondi Beach to life with more than 40 performers from Australia and around the world, eclectic food stalls, kids activities and an art exhibition centred around Bondi Pavilion on Sunday, August 15.

The festival is the brainchild of Gary Holzman, who has dreamed of staging a music festival for many years.

“I’ve always felt there would be somebody better  equipped to put it on than myself, but as it never eventuated, I finally decided to do
something about it,” says Holzman, who is the festival director.

The festival will feature four stages, with musical styles covering klezmer, choral, Latino, Chassidic, Israeli, jazz, cabaret, folk, blues, pop, rock, funk, reggae and rap.

Among the local performers are Deborah Conway, Monsieur Camem­bert, The Mark Ginsburg Band,  Alana Bruce, Joanna Weinberg, the Emanuel choirs and the Sydney Jewish Choral Society.

Leading the line-up of international performers are Israeli singer Ido Lederman, Alex Jacobowitz from New York and the Jew Brothers Band from New Zealand.

Lederman began his music career as lead singer of Israeli rock band Amstaf, and was bass player for the reggae group Hatikvah 6. He will also perform in Melbourne on August 21.

Holzman says: “It’s just going to be an amazing atmosphere and an absolute smorgasbord – what I would call a ‘mixed salad’ of musical delight.

“People should come to appreciate the amazing variety of musical talent within the Jewish community, both from Sydney and from other places as well.

“With the incredible variety of music on offer, a food court full of tempting delights, market stalls, kids entertainment and an exhibition of
Jewish art, this is going to be a fantastic festival for the whole family to come and enjoy.”

Holzman hopes the festival will be an annual event.

“We certainly want to make sure that it’s not going to be a one-off, but will become a highlight of the Sydney cultural calendar.”

One of the international performers from upstate New York is  Jacobowitz, a master of the marimba who has plied his trade across the world, most notably in Germany. An Orthodox Jew, he focuses
on the traditional klezmer music of his ancestors.

“My music is spiritual, natural, totally  unexpected and riveting,” he says. “It brings European music, African sound and Jewish geist together.”

Jacobowitz says his Jewish identity is an integral part of his music.

“Judaism is my spirit, and my spirit energises and breathes life into my music. Whether I’m playing Bach, flamenco or klezmer, my music is 100 per cent kosher.”

Jacobowitz is thrilled to be in Australia and taking part in Shir Madness.

“To be part of the first Jewish music festival in Sydney makes me proud and humble at the same time, and I hope that the music finds a special echo there.”

For AJN Ghetto Blasterz competition winner Shannon Gaitz, Shir Madness is the highlight of her fledgling music career so far.

“I’m extremely excited, especially to be able to get my name and my songs out there,” says Gaitz, 17, from Bondi, who describes her music as country pop.

“It’s very honest – it’s all based on personal experience and very emotional.”
Gaitz is grabbing the opportunity to perform at Shir Madness with both hands.

“It’s just a huge opportunity of being able to get performance experience, especially with my original songs, and I’m going to be playing with
Philip Foxman, he’s my mentor and that’s also a really big honour.”

Gaitz will also spend a day recording tracks at  the Green Sound Music studios in Sydney’s Castle Cove as part of her prize.Sydney band The Naked Parade has been causing quite a stir with its  infectious brand of alternative pop-rock.

Singer Talya Rabinovitz explains with a laugh: “We’ve been told that we are the love child of Jeff Buckley and No Doubt if they went travelling
though Eastern Europe and South America.”

“We definitely have a Middle Eastern vibe to our music, with the violin, melodies and the drumbeats.”

Rabinovitz is excited to be performing at Shir Madness.

“It just looks like an amazing music festival,” she says. “This will be a different age group for us as well –

I know that a lot of my family like my aunts and uncles are coming and they don’t usually come to our gigs. I’m excited to see their reaction and put on a show.”

Local singer Natan Kuchar has spent the past four years plying his trade in the United States.

Kuchar has performed solo at Carnegie Hall, but the humble performer speaks more enthusiastically about his recent album release at a small Surry Hills venue in Sydney.

“It made me feel like people really dig what I have and were really interested in me,” he says. “It was a really great confidence booster and it
helped propel me to apply for Shir Madness.”

Kuchar describes his music as “a really raw sound, merging pop music and soul music.”

“I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from people like Stevie Wonder and Regina Spektor for their  melodies and for their storytelling within their music,” he says.

“I really love to subtly add melodies from synagogue services or from High Holy Days or just lyrics that are found in certain religious texts
that help to support some other kind of contemporary story that I’m trying to tell in my songs.”

Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Clinton condemns Iran’s sentencing of Baha’is

August 12, 2010 1 comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)–The following statement was issued on Thursday by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

“The United States is deeply concerned with the Iranian government’s continued persecution of Baha’is and other religious minority communities in Iran.

“This week, seven Baha’i leaders, who were incarcerated and held for nearly two years without due process, were each sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. The United States strongly condemns this sentencing as a violation of Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“Freedom of religion is the birthright of people of all faiths and beliefs in all places. The United States is committed to defending religious freedom around the world, and we have not forgotten the Baha’i community in Iran. We will continue to speak out against injustice and call on the Iranian government to respect the fundamental rights of all its citizens in accordance with its international obligations.”

Preceding provided by U.S. State Department

ADL seeks world mobilization to help imprisoned Baha’i in Iran

August 12, 2010 1 comment

NEW YORK (Press Release) — The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Wednesday urged the international community to call for the release of seven Baha’i community leaders sentenced to 20 years in prison by an Iranian court. The seven are accused of security violations, espionage and other crimes. Baha’i leaders and human rights activists say the charges are false.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:
“These seven individuals are guilty of nothing more than belonging to the Baha’i faith.  The international community must make clear that this sentencing is an act of great injustice and a clear violation of the freedom of religion upheld by civilized nations.
“This action against the Baha’i community only further exemplifies the mockery of Iran’s membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council. ”
 The League previously called on world leaders to insist upon the release of the seven in May 2008.

The Baha’i community is the largest religious minority subject to persecution in Iran. The Iranian regime considers the Baha’i heretics, and since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power, the persecution of this largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran has intensified, with members of the Baha’i community enduring harassment, cemetery desecration, property confiscation, physical attacks, arrest and imprisonment.

Preceding provided by the Anti Defamation League

Why this rabbi opposes a mosque near Ground Zero

August 6, 2010 5 comments

By Rabbi Ben Kamin

Rabbi Ben Kamin

SAN DIEGO –The case for or against the building of the Cordoba Center (named after one of the largest and most murderous conquests in Muslim history—the 8th century establishment of the Cordoba Caliphate and the attendant genocide of Christians and Jews) roils New Yorkers and Americans alike. 

Left-righteous voices such as The New York Times and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and sundry cloying rabbis have practically broken their editorial and political backs in remonstration against those who are unhappy with the prospect—systemically accusing them of bigotry, Islam-phobia, and really bad manners.

It’s not about building a mosque in New York City—there are innumerable Muslim worship centers, aid societies, academies, recruiting stations, and libraries in the city.  It’s about this mosque.

I have prayed in mosques, been moved by the beauty and sanctity of such houses of God, from California to Europe to the defining Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem.  I am horrified by the small, fractious, lunatic element of Israeli religious society that dares to suggest the razing of the centerpiece, golden Dome of the Rock in that city in favor of building the “Third Temple” along the blueprints of biblical hysteria.

It’s not about building a mosque in New York City—there are innumerable Muslim worship centers, aid societies, academies, recruiting stations, and libraries in the city.  It’s about this mosque.

As Abigail R. Esman has astutely opined: What would be the reaction, say, of people in Beirut if a group of Jews proposed a synagogue on the camps of Shabra and Shatila, where Israeli forces more or less stood by and overlooked the massacre of hundreds in 1982?  Ms. Esman, of Forbes, has also eloquently expressed:

“Everyone who was in New York at the time remembers what happened that day, when 19 Muslim men stopped the world, when ash and dust and human remains coated the streets of downtown Manhattan, when New York became something we never imagined it could be.”

This project, a blot on American memory, is scheduled to climb 13 stories above the collective graveyard of 9/11 and cost $100 million dollars.  History, context, and plain sensibility all cry out against it. 

Why do we remain so naïve?  Why aren’t we angry enough at what was done to our people, our land, our integrity to say—not at the expense of religious democracy,  but in favor of self-respect—NO, not this mosque, not this time. 

Look, I’m embarrassed enough for all of us that nine years of political wrangling, economic jostling, real estate bickering, and just plain greed and indolence amongst the government agencies of New York, New Jersey, Washington, the Port Authority, and so many other small-minded agencies and people have resulted in no real evidence of a replacement tower or towers at the site of the worst terrorist attack in history.

There will be no Freedom Tower shining above New York on September 11, 2011.  And it isn’t bigotry that suggests that there should not be a high-rise Islamic shrine there instead.
Rabbi Kamin is a freelance writer and author based in San Diego.  His column also appears on

EU sponsors interreligious meting on combatting poverty

July 19, 2010 Leave a comment

BRUSSELS (WJC)–Leaders of all major faiths have held their annual meeting with the leaders of the three main EU institutions. Around twenty representatives from the Jewish, Christian Muslim religions – including World Jewish Congress Deputy Secretary-General Maram Stern – as well as from the Sikh and Hindu communities met in Brussels with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, and the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy. They discussed effective ways of combating poverty and social exclusion as an imperative for European governance.

It was the sixth in a series of annual meetings launched by Barroso in 2005. For the first time the meeting took place in the context of the Lisbon Treaty which stipulates that the EU maintains an “open, transparent and regular dialogue” with religion, churches and communities of conviction. 

Barroso declared: “In Europe, several million citizens live at the edge of social exclusion. A poor testimony for one of the richest regions of the world! As Europe recovers from this crisis, I want to see a generation of growth which integrates the most vulnerable into main stream society.” He added: “Churches and religious communities are important providers of social services in EU member states. If we want to combat poverty effectively, it is essential to draw from their long standing and wide raging experience.”

Buzek added: “The promise of a better life for all without exceptions must always be at the heart of the European project. Combating poverty and social exclusion is a task for the partnership of all; local, national and European levels as well as laymen and churches. Our first and foremost priority is to restore social and economic security. Churches have a crucial role to play in this regard. They contribute with a long standing experience in social work with individuals and communities. This experience has never been as valuable as it is today in a time of crisis.”

Van Rompuy said: “We all know that this issue is mainly linked with homelessness, with a better access to the labor market, with the possibility to apply for health services, with, indeed, what can be called “the material conditions of life”. But combating poverty and social exclusion is also, in essence, willing to restore human dignity, the dignity of both men and women. And that is why societal, cultural and ethical questions should also be taken into account.”

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Muslims, Christians and Jews together ponder lessons of the Shoah

June 1, 2010 1 comment

By Jeanette Friedman

Jeanette Friedman

PHILADELPHIA–They came in early spring, like migrating birds from every corner of the world—more than 200 professors and clergymen, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and even atheists and agnostics—to discuss and study the Holocaust and to celebrate and honor the work of the late Rev. Franklin Littell at St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia. They came from as far away as Russia, Bosnia, Israel, France, England, and from across America—California, New York, New Hampshire and Florida. Sponsored by St. Joseph’s, Stockton State College in New Jersey and Temple University, the Conference was founded 40 years ago by Rev. Littell and Dr. Hubert G. Locke, who have been at the leading edge in presenting the latest research in Holocaust and Genocide Studies to the rest of us.

Among the presenters were Dr. Michael Berenbaum, founding director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; theologian Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein, University of Bridgeport; premier Holocaust educator Samuel Totten, the Chambon Foundation’s Pierre Sauvage,  and Holocaust studies pioneers Father John Pawlikowski and Rabbi Irving Greenberg, all of whom paid tribute to Rev. Littell, who died on May 30, 2009.  This was the first conference to take place without him.

The conference was founded in 1970 to create an academic forum for the exchange of information and ideas about the Holocaust between scholars, researchers and educational pioneers; to promote an interfaith, international, interdisciplinary, rigorous intellectual tradition; to encourage continued research on church responses to the Holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry while encouraging and deepening interfaith discussions; to use the Holocaust to determine early warning signs of genocide and to get the information to others through review, editing and publication.

The opening evening was a memorial to Rev. Littell. A poignant 28-minute documentary about Littell was produced and presented by Dr. Sauvage, and earned unanimous acclaim. It was clear from the film, which consisted of clips from the Reverend’s own presentations and one-on-one interviews, that his philosophy of church responsibility in response to the Holocaust, his views of the need for Holocaust education, his passion and his teachings have had a deep impact on the way the Holocaust is taught today in middle schools and high schools. He has also influenced how research and Holocaust and Genocide studies are pursued on the university level.

The opening plenary session was devoted to the “Unfinished Agenda,” outlining the work that must still be done. Breakout sessions covered the lack of safe haven for Jews who attempted to leave Europe; contemporary theology; issues in teaching the Holocaust in primary schools; ethics after Auschwitz; uses of the law; contemporary antisemitism; the use of memoirs; the arts; Peter Bergson; the healing professions during the Holocaust; resistance; the churches’ response to the Holocaust; other genocides; and most interestingly, a Jewish-Christian-Muslim trialogue with participants Leonard Grob of Fairleigh Dickinson University, Henry F. Knight of Keene College, Rochelle L. Millen of Wittenberg University and Khaleel Mohammed of San Diego State University.

As noted by Dr. Marcia Littell, in addition to academicians, participants included survivors, descendants of survivors, community leaders, interfaith clergy and undergraduate and graduate students. In a parallel session, The Teachers’ Institute presented a seminar for high school teachers on Integrating Themes of Rescue and Resistance into the Teaching of the Holocaust and other Genocides.

Those who spoke most movingly during tributes to Rev. Franklin Littell were his devoted widow, Dr. Marcia Sachs Littell; Rabbi Irving Greenberg, one of the first leaders in the Jewish community to begin the movement to remember with his organization, Zachor, and Dr. Elisabeth Maxwell of Remembering for the Future, who is currently working on a searchable survivor testimony database—a central on-line directory of all the testimonies in existing collections.

The Conference’s executive director is Dr. Marcia Sachs Littell of Stockton State College’s Department of Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Dr. Hubert G. Locke is the conference chairman. Honorary Chairman is Prof. Elie Wiesel and the major benefactor is Holocaust survivor Felix Zandman, who, with his wife, Ruta, was presented with the Eternal Flame Award.

Friedman is bureau chief in the greater New York City area for San Diego Jewish World.