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Isolation in the Jewish state

March 3, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–Despite the fact that Israel defines itself as a “Jewish state,” and does not insist on a separation between religion and the state, it is more secular than that other country that does proclaim a separation. Despite unknown sums of money poured into religious education and the support of synagogues (and a bit of public money spent on institutions of the Christian, Muslim and Druze communities), more Israeli Jews identify as secular than religious. Issues that are hot buttons in the United States, like homosexuality and abortion, are less troublesome here. Until recently one could say that Israel had bi-passed the quarrel about evolution.

No longer.

A week ago the man with the exalted title of Chief Scientist in the Ministry of Education proclaimed his opposition both to global warming and evolution, and promised to assure that the school children of Israel would not be brainwashed in either. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1151223.html

All of Israel’s ministries have a “chief scientist.” One wonders if their task is to ride herd on the lesser mortals on the ministry’s payroll, or if it a job for the minister to give a supporter with scientific credentials. This scientist has a PhD from the Technion, and worked in the field of aeronautics. No less important was his two decades activity in the Likud Party, including an unsuccessful run for a seat in the Knesset. The current Minister of Education is a Likud Member of Knesset, who until now seemed competent in his job. He has distanced himself from his appointee’s comments, but he has not yet taken steps to unappoint him.

According to the chief scientist.

“There are those for whom evolution is a religion and are unwilling to hear about anything else. Part of my responsibility, in light of my position with the Education Ministry, is to examine textbooks and curricula . . . If they keep writing in textbooks that the Earth is growing warmer because of carbon dioxide emissions, I’ll insist that isn’t the case.”

 “Another scientific field that is problematic is biology, or life and environmental sciences. When your doctrine is based on Darwin’s theory of evolution and its implications, you are standing on unreliable foundations – that is, there is no God, there was only something primeval, and then there are certain random developments which led to the apex of all creation, the human being.

“Today I am pleased that more and more scientists engaged in pure science, rather than being employed in the name of an ideology, are reaching the conclusion that the world must have a master. Nothing is given to chance.”

The people who have won more than their share of Nobel Prizes are roiling in protest. The Rector and President of The Hebrew University have sent us all a note asking that we spend a few minutes in class talking about the controversy. Their letter emphasizes the role of the university as the home of rational science. It describes the accomplishments in medicine and physics that derive from an evolutionary perspective, admits the controversies about global warming, and asserts that science provides room for challenge and continuing research. They conclude with a firm condemnation of the chief scientist, and his failure to recognize the distinction between science and belief. They assert that there is room for both in the university, provided they are not confused, and urge the Minister of Education to assure that in every Israeli school the students learn the essence of the scientific method so they can judge correctly what is known about evolution and global warming.

Some of those sentiments may penetrate the schools for the Orthodox, while not much is likely to get into those for the ultra-Orthodox.

There may be no better demonstration about the isolation of the latter community than a picture of youngsters costumed for a Purim party in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Sharerim.

The Jews Down Under–Roundup of Australian Jewish News

February 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by Garry Fabian 
 
A Jewish light to indigenous nations

SYDNEY, 18 February – Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson has hailed the achievements of the Jewish
community as an example for indigenous Australians.
 
The director of Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership highlighted aspects of the community that could benefit the first Australians, in a speech to the American Bar Association in Sydney last week, and then in an article in The Australian
 
“For the future, I have always drawn upon the example of the Jews,” Pearson said. 
 
“They are a community who have never forgotten history and they never allow anybody else to forget history; they fight staunchly in defence of the truth; they fight relentlessly against discrimination; but they have worked out as a
people that they never make their history a burden for the future, they defend racism, but they never make racism their problem.”
 
As well as remembering history and avoiding being defined through racism, Pearson added that the idea of maintaining culture in a diaspora could also be adopted by the indigenous peoples. 
 
“They have maintained an identity as a community and a sense of peoplehood, religion, tradition, culture and history, while at the same time engaging at the cutting edge of whatever the world has to offer,” he wrote in The Australian.
 
In his speech he said: “I want Cape York to be the point of gravitation, to be home, to be the heart for our people, but I want our young members in the future to orbit around that heart and to engage in the world.”
 
Mark Leibler, the co-chair of Reconciliation Australia and a former mentor of Pearson, said the comments “serve to remind us of things that we hold dear.” 
 
“It is interesting that someone from the indigenous community can make these vivid comparisons,” Leibler said.
 
When asked to reflect on whether, based on Pearson’s comments, the Jewish community can do more to help lift the life expectancy and quality of life of our Aboriginal compatriots, Leibler said: “The Jewish community has been fairly
actively involved in working with indigenous communities, but [we] have to be careful foisting our experience on others. The greatest help is to provide an example.”
 
Leibler, a senior partner at Arnold Bloch Leibler, has spent decades working with the indigenous communities and has visited Cape York with Pearson, who completed his articles with Leibler. 
 
“All he thinks about is what he can do to improve the lot of his people,” Leibler said.
 
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Gutnick challenges Yeshiva leadership 
 
MELBOURNE,  18 February – One of Melbourne Chabad’s most influential figures, Joseph Gutnick, has signed a petition challenging the Yeshivah Centre’s leadership.
 
Rabbi Gutnick is among a group of Yeshivah members calling on the leadership to remove a controversial sign at the back of the synagogue.
 
These members want to see the centre, led by Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Telsner -­ the son-in-law of the late Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner -­ be run more along the lines of a democracy.
 
The sign has the words to a short prayer known asYechi. Yechi has been recited for centuries, but recently has been hijacked by the more messianic Chabadniks to signify the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson as the Messiah. 
 
“I feel very strongly that it should be removed,” Rabbi Gutnick said.
 
The Yechi sign has been up in the synagogue for a number of years with little controversy, but the matter came to a head last month when Rabbi Telsner ostracised the “Moshiach Men” from Melbourne’s Chabad community.
 
The group comprises a few families who are convinced the Lubavitcher Rebbe is the Messiah and are vocal in spreading their message. The Moshiach Men raised the ire of the Chabad community when they circulated footage of
themselves feasting on a fast day, claiming that because the Messiah had come, the fast was no longer necessary. 
 
“[These men] started at the Yeshivah and this sign is part of it,” said Rabbi Gutnick, who has held a seat at the shul for 18 years. 
 
“The Rebbe’s greatness is not depicted in this sign, it comes from the amount of Chabad Houses and Jewish schools … that sign takes the Rebbe’s great work and puts it into a slogan.” 
 
The petition has been circulated by Yeshivah shul members Yudi New and Menachem Vorchheimer.
 
Vorchheimer told The AJN he believes the sign, and its associated fringe supporters, are “divisive and damaging” to the Yeshivah Centre.
 
When asked if he thought the petition would work, Vorchheimer replied: “In a democracy it would work, but the Yeshivah Centre has been hijacked.”

The current Yeshivah leadership was not elected, rather it includes men believed to have been appointed by Rabbi Groner before his death.
 
The group comprises Rabbi Binyomin Cohen, Rabbi Avrohom Glick, Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Groner, Shmuel Gurewicz, Rabbi Telsner and Rabbi Shimshon Yurkowicz.
 
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Maccabi triumphs against Moriah Old Boys 
 
SYDNEY.  17 February -The Maccabi Kings and Moriah Old Boys (Mob) touch football teams will finish the regular season in the Eastern Suburbs Touch Association’s top division with the honours even after the Kings’ 5-2 win over the Mob on February 4.
 
It was a convincing performance by the Kings, who showed their class and patience by coming back after the Mob started the match with two lucky long-range tries.
 
Perfect Mob defence forced Maccabi to squeeze a pass, which Paul Meltz snapped up for a length-of-the-field intercept. He combined with Daniel Kochan soon after to catch Maccabi napping on a turnover of possession.
 
But that was where the highlights ended for the Old Boys. A stunted attack barely caused Maccabi to raise a sweat in defence, while the Kings attacked with verve and intent. Danny Glattstein slid over untouched to pull one back before the break.
 
Maccabi broke the game open in the second half, with David Krantz finishing off brilliantly in the far corner, while Yotam Hatzvi’s no-look flick pass allowed Yoni Sonnabend to slice the defence open for a scintillating try.
 
Glattstein sealed the result with an outrageous step past the Mob defence, while Ben Glattstein and Ben Nemeny kept the Old Boys on their toes with lively displays.
 
It assures the Kings of at least a finals spot in the Division Two playoffs, while keeping them in touching distance of qualifying for the Division One playoffs by finishing in the top four.
 
The Mob has endured a dismal month to start 2010, and must win this week if they want to maintain their record of never missing a finals series.
 
Monday’s mixed match between the Maccabi Lions and Mobags was washed out.
 
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ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION ON PURIM RCV STATEMENT (Rabbinical Council of Victoria) 
 
MELBOURNE, 19 February – Purim is one of the most joyous festivals of the Jewish calendar. The mitzvot of charity to the poor, mishloach manot, festive meals together with family and friends, and the reading of the megillah all help to create a true Jewish spirit and an ambiance of happiness. Indeed, when these mitzvot are fulfilled in accordance with
the letter and spirit of the Torah, the entire month of Adar is imbued with inspiration and a true sense of joy. However, there is also a sombre side to Purim which is often left untold. There are unfortunately some in the community who believe that the only way to experience the joy of Purim is through the excessive consumption of alcohol. Not only is this belief unfounded, it can create a tremendous Chilul Hashem (Desecration of G-d’s name) and contravenes one of the most basic mandates of the Jewish faith by endangering one’s life and the lives of others. The Rabbinical Council of Victoria wishes to therefore make it abundantly clear to all members of the Jewish community, particularly Jewish teenagers and young adults, that excessive alcohol consumption which can lead to endangering one’s life or the life of others as well as the possibility of the Chilul Hashem often associatedwith intoxication, is unequivocally prohibited at all times according to Halacha, including on Purim. Although the Code of Jewish Law does encourage drinking wine during the festive meal in order to enhance the joy of Purim, by no means does this override the severe prohibitions of Chilul Hashem and/or placing oneself in danger, both of which are the most serious of transgressions. As Rabbis, we urge parents and educators to communicate this message to their children and students, and most importantly to lead by example through their own responsible behaviour. We strongly caution adults and youth leaders against the misguided practice of supplying alcohol to minors with the belief that this somehow constitutes the mitzvah of spreading joy during the festival of Purim.

Let us hope that the festival of Purim is celebrated this year in the manner in which our Sages had intended, according to both the letter and spirit of our holy Torah.
 
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Hezbolah TV network investigation reopened 
 
CANBERRA,  22 February – A decision by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to reopen its investigation into the TV channel al-Manar has been welcomed by the Jewish community.
 
The Lebanese-based network, which is Hezbollah’s media outlet, is available in Australia via satellite, but has been banned in the United States and many parts of Europe.
 
ACMA chair Chris Chapman said the watchdog will revisit its probe of the channel, with public submissions and wider sampling of content.
 
The inquiry will once again check whether al-Manar is breaching Australian anti-terrorism laws. It will also look at revamping its regulatory arrangements for future investigations.
 
Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) president Robert Goot welcomed the new inquiry and said ECAJ would work with interested organisations to ensure their concerns are addressed. 
 
“It is gratifying that the scope of the investigation, as announced by ACMA, incorporates the breaches of licence conditions by al-Manar that were specified in ECAJ’s formal written submission to the government.”
 
After an initial investigation, ACMA’s decision last September to give the green light to al-Manar drew the ire of Jewish communal groups and the Coalition’s communications spokesperson, Senator Nick Minchin.
 
The regulatory authority has conceded it reopened its investigation amid public concern about the limited number of al-Manar shows reviewed, and the lack of specialist knowledge at ACMA, which caused it to overlook an advertisement recruiting funds for an arm of Hezbollah.
 
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein also welcomed the review. “Al-Manar is a station owned and operated by a terrorist organisation, which airs programs espousing hatred of Jews and glorification of terrorism.” 
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Warning over threat of demonisation of Israel 
 
MELBOURNE,  22 February – Professor  Gerald Steinberg rates the “soft-power” threat against Israel as high as the military threat posed by Iran, or by Hamas and Hezbollah.
 
The danger, which he called “the threat of demonisation and delegitimisation”, has become more visible since the release of the Goldstone Commission Report in September last year. 
 
“It’s like a virus that is spreading and it is an enormous concern in Israel,” Prof Steinberg said, adding that the Goldstone report was the trigger that “made Israelis wake up”.
 
The president of NGO Monitor ” a group that holds non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to account
over their stance towards Israel ” said he had noticed an increase in soft-power tactics by Israel’s enemies for a number of years.
 
Soft power includes propaganda, information campaigns and measures such as optional boycotts by trade unions, which attempt to influence outcomes without resorting to a military, or hard-power, campaign.
 
The Bar-Ilan University politics professor said increasingly it is NGOs that are leading the way on these type of campaigns.
 
He highlighted organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Oxfam -” some of the world’s most reputable global lobbyists –- as the worst culprits of bias and slander against Israel. 
 
“These are very serious, professional operators and they have very clear agendas,” he said. “It is not just about Israel, but Israel is the dominant focus.”

“NGO Monitor,” he said,” is able to highlight the inaccuracies put forward by these groups very easily.  Google is a wonderful thing”.
 
One investigative campaign by NGO Monitor last year showed that HRW has employed anti-Israel activists in senior Middle East-focused roles.
 
Steinberg also spoke about links between NGOs that push liberty and freedom while at the same time maintaining relations with Arab dictatorships.
 
He decried the focus of these groups, claiming none had written about kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. “They don’t care about Israelis,”he said. “They care about politics, radical politics.””

 
Prof Steinberg was in Australia as a guest of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. In addition to delivering the Hans Bachrach Memorial Oration, during his visit he met with incoming Australian ambassador to Israel Andrea Faulkner and several federal politicians.
 
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7th graders to lead Megillah reading at Etz Rimon

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment

CARLSBAD (Press Release)–Temple Etz Rimon’s Friday Night service Feb 26th will feature the 7th graders leading much of the service including reading of the Megillah. Congregants and children are asked to come in costume and be prepared to cheer the hero, and boo the villian.  Groggers will be provided.  More details available from the congregation at (760) 929-9503

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Preceding provided by Temple Etz Rimon

Temple Solel to host Purim carnival Feb. 28

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

CARDIFF BY THE SEA, California (Press Release)– Temple Solel will host its annual Purim Carnival on Sunday, February 28 from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. The carnival—which raises funds for religious school and Hebrew students on financial assistance—will showcase a Pony Hop, inflatables, and a 9-Hole Mini Golf Course. With over 15 other exciting activities, games, and cakewalks, this year’s event has something for people of all ages. The general public is invited to attend, and ticket discounts are available. The temple is located at 3575 Manchester Avenue in Cardiff, with overflow parking at Mira Costa College and free shuttles to and from the temple. This is a great way to spend an afternoon of fun, food, and games with family and friends. For more information, contact Tarra Schulman at yotarra@hotmail.com .

Beth Am sets Purim events February 27 and 28

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)–A festive Purim Carnival will be held at Congregation Beth Am on Sunday, February 28, 2010 from 11 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.  The Jewish Learning Center is hosting this family event at the synagogue at 5050 Del Mar Heights Road, in Carmel Valley. Come in costume and join in the celebration! Costumes are optional.

This fun-filled day includes carnival games, food, crafts, prizes, a game truck with Guitar Hero, Wii, X-box and Playstation,  hamentashen, friends, family and fun.  

The community is welcome!  Ticket Wrist Bands will be available for sale at the door. They are $20 each for unlimited play. For further information contact Anat at 858-481-2869. 

On Saturday, February 27,  come in costume and join Rabbi Matthew Earne and Rabbi David Kornberg for the Congregation Beth Am family Megillah reading at 6:30pm. and traditional Megillah reading at 8:30pm.