Category: Magazine

Should French Jews Fear Their Identity?

Zvi Ammar, the leader of Marseille’s Jewish community, called on male Jews to stop wearing the Jewish skullcap or kippa “until better days”, noting prominent security threats and locals’ fears for their safety.

His warning came the day after a man who proclaimed to act in the name of the Islamic State terrorist group attacked a Jewish teacher who was wearing a kippa.

“Unfortunately for us, we are targeted. As soon as we are identified as Jewish we can be assaulted and even risk death. We have to hide ourselves a little bit,” Ammar said.

However, other Jewish leaders rejected the call along with France’s chief Rabbi Haim Korsia who was quoted as saying: “We should not give [the haters] an inch, we should continue wearing the kippa.”

“He [Ammar] knows as well as I do that wearing a kippa or not will not resolve the issue of terrorism,” added Joel Mergui, President of the Israelite Central Consistory of France. “If we have to give up wearing any distinctive sign of our identity, it clearly would raise the question of our future [as Jews] in France.”

Anti-Semitic acts have soared in France in recent years, increasing by 84 percent in the period between January 2015 and May 2015 compared to a year earlier, according to official statistics.

Written by: Inbal Zlotnik

Liberty, equality and tolerance! (Except for the Jews of course)

Exactly one year ago, a young French Muslim opened fire in Hypercacher kosher food superette”- a kosher supermarket in Paris, killing 4 Jewish people and holding few more hostages. This horrible terror attack is just one example of the concerning rising in antisemitic incidents in France over the last few years.

Recently, research on antisemitism in France has revealed that in 2014, there were 851 registered attacks carrying antisemetic nature. This number is almost double the incidents in 2013, in which 423 incidents were reported. Although xenophobia is a well-known problem in France, mainly because of the wide range of religious and cultural groups within the French people, antisemitism is “proudly” the number one xenophobic activity, with 51% of all racist incidents in 2014.

Some of these brutal attacks can be seen as an aggressive (and of course non-legitimate) criticism of Israel. One can draw this conclusion due to the fact, that there is a clear rise in complains against antisemitic attacks during times of “peaks” in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. For example, during the war in Gaza in the summer of 2014. However, make no mistakes- French Jews still experience “classic” antisemitism. For Example, the ideas that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to France, and that they exploit the Holocaust.

What do the French leaders have to say about all this? In April 2015, during a visit to Paris suburb, Creteil, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced that his government will strengthen laws against racism and antisemitism. He also declared that France will invest 100 million euros in a program attempting to fight antisemitism.

 

Written by: Atar David

Iran – Exactly What You Thought

It’s no secret that Iran (or as it goes by its official name – The Islamic Republic of Iran) is not Israel’s best friend. The rivalry between the two countries is well known, stemming in the last few years mainly from the Iranian nuclear program and Israel’s objection to it. In addition the two countries see themselves as fighting for dominance in the region, and therefore the Anti-Semitic atmosphere in Iran should not come as a surprise, despite the rich Jewish history of Iran.

On one hand, the presence of Jews in Iran dates all the way back to biblical times. The books of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah contain references to the life and experiences of Jews in Persia.  Persian Jews have lived in Iranian territory for over 2,700 years. It seems that the Jewish communities in Iran lived peacefully. During the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, many Iranian Jews joined the revolutionaries in order to rid their Jewish identity and join the utopia that the revolution promised. For those who chose to keep their Jewish identity, the Iranian revolution completely eradicated anti-Semitism from its midst and attacks on Iranian Jews or their synagogues was very rare.

On the other hand, nowadays Jews in Iran are regarded with relative tolerance; however the exact opposite is presented towards Jews around the world. This anomaly is disturbing; Jews are treated fairly in Iran by the civilian population but are forbidden of associating themselves with the State of Israel. In addition the Iranian regime continues to slander Israel publicly. Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League‘s national director claims that “Fantastical anti-Israel and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have been a mainstay in the state-run Iranian media since the Islamic Revolution in 1979”. One of the latest examples can be seen in Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has recently claimed that Israel was behind the November terrorist attacks in Paris, while official state media falsely reported that Jews had advance knowledge of the attacks. Khamenei was also quoted as saying “I am telling you… God willing, there will be no Zionist regime in 25 years. Second, during this period, the spirit of fighting, heroism and jihad will [should] keep you worried every moment.”

Iran also provides stage for foreigner figures that represent harsh Anti-Semitic lines of thought. For example Mark Dankof, a former fringe Republican Candidate for Congress, is now a commentator in the State-run TV station in the Islamic Republic. Dankof consistently preaches Anti-Semitic propaganda to the masses. As part of his “liberal” preachings, Dankof claimed that “The key Jewish role played in the mainstreaming of abortion, LGBT, and pornography in the United States may be documented in Google search” and that “it should not be ignored that the victories for abortion on demand and LGBT rights are reflective of the disproportionate influence of Jewish power, money, and activism in the United States.”

Besides providing the stage for former radical fringe candidates, the Iranian authorities also plan to hold another Holocaust cartoon contest to take place in 2016. The contest is a tradition, which took place in 2006 and whose goal is to mock the crimes of Nazi Germany and cast doubt on Jewish suffering during the Holocaust. The new contest will highlight the “hypocrisy of the West”, where debate on the Holocaust is allegedly restricted despite traditions of free speech.

 

Written by: Atar David

Antisemitism in 2015

When most people hear the term “antisemitism”, they think about the Holocaust. Some think of the expulsion of 900,000 Jews from their native Arab countries in 1948, or the 250,000 Jews expelled from the Soviet Union during WWI. Although there have been many extreme cases of antisemitism throughout Jewish history, antisemitism is not something of the past. In 2015, there were many cases of extreme antisemitism all across the world.

2015 got off to a rough start. On January 9th, four Jews were murdered at a kosher deli in Paris by a terrorist affiliated with ISIS. Unfortunately, antisemitism is nothing new to the French. In fact, in 2015, there have been more antisemitic attacks against French Jews than any other nationality (excluding Israelis). Many people are beginning to wonder if after a thousand years of French Jewry, Judaism in France is coming to an end. Aliya from France is on the rise. In 2015 approximately 8,000 Jews immigrated to Israel, perhaps attempting to escape this antisemitism. (Ironically, they moved to the only country in the world with more antisemitic occurrences.)

Later in 2015, Jewish Reggae singer, Matisyahu, was scheduled to perform at Rototom Sunsplash Festival on August 22nd in Valencia, Spain. On August 16th, the festival issued a statement canceling his performance. This came as a result of the anti-Israel group BDS pressuring the festival into demanding that Matisyahu, who is not Israeli, publicly support the creation of a Palestinian state, which he refused to do. On August 19th, the festival reversed their decision, and apologized to Matisyahu.

Today's sad reality...

One of the most antisemitic incidents of 2015, was the EU’s decision to label Israeli products, produced in the Golan Heights and the West Bank. The EU claimed that this decision was made simply because the land is disputed. We’re all still waiting for them to label products from Western Sahara, Tibet, Kashmir, Cyprus and many more.

Although European antisemitism is the most ancient, there is no place on Earth where it hasn’t reached. On February 4th, antisemitic posters were hung all over Brazil’s capitol, Brasilia. The posters called Jews “murderers, criminals and thugs”.

Two days before, on February 2nd, similar posters were hung in Buenos Aires. The posters read “A good Jew is a dead Jew”. Staying in Argentina, On October 18th in Conception Del Uruguay, a Jewish cemetery was desecrated with a swastika.

We like to think of the US as one of the most liberal and tolerant countries in the world, and for the most part it is. Across college campuses, people have become more accepting and tolerant than ever, accepting of all minorities except Jews. The number of antisemitism incidents in American college campuses is on the rise.

The phrase “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” was found in a campus restroom at the University of California in February.

On March 18th a residence hall at Purchase College, SUNY was vandalized with swastikas and other hateful graffiti.

In May at Drexel, a student came back to his residence hall to find a swastika and the word “Jew” taped next to his Israeli flag.

These are just some examples showing why Jewish students across American colleges are feeling more inclined than ever to hide their Jewish identity.

We can only hope that 2016 will be a more peaceful year for Jews, and for people of all faiths across the world.

 

Written by: Ari Schwartz

Sources:  www.adl.org

 

 

Anti -Semitic Art, Past to present- the barrier between freedom of speech and hatred

Anti -Semitic Art

Between legitimate expression and hatred

From aboriginal cave paintings in Australia to multimillion dollar movies produced in Hollywood, humans have always found a way of expressing themselves beyond words. Colours, sounds, structures and symbols combine to tell a story. But the stories don’t always have a fairytale ending, not every piece of art is suitable for children to view, and some are actually works of hate and incitement.

Works of art are a diverse range of human activities, and the products of those activities, usually involving imaginative or technical skill. In their most general form, these activities include the production of works of art, the criticism of art, the study of the history of art, and the aesthetic dissemination of art. What happens when the line between expression and hatred is crossed?

Art influences our opinion

Art is generally understood as any activity or man-made product, with a communicative or aesthetic purpose—something that expresses an idea, an emotion or, more generally, a world view.

It is a component of culture, reflecting economic and social substrates in its design. It transmits ideas and values inherent in every culture across space and time. Its role changes through time, acquiring more of an aesthetic component here and a socio-educational function there.

Art is a metaphor for any expression, idea and belief. Art is away to sand massage with no words. When we come across one piece of art, we come across an entire world. Therefore, art is a direct way to influence opinion and ideological thought.

 

The use of art as an expression of ideology

Art can be a social agent for political ideologies and propaganda. Rayen & Kellner (1990) investigated the art of cinema in representation of ideologies and political manners in their book Film, Politics and Ideology. In this book, the researchers claim that the art of cienema is highly connected to global political processes in Western society. The art of film, or any art in that manner, is a medium for social thought on the human reality in subjects of religion, social economics, war, race, ideologies, sex and gender.

In this article I will discuss anti-semitism in the art of painting before World War II (from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance and the 20th century), the propaganda of the third Reich and the modern use of anti-semitic art. At the end of the article, I will discuss the barrier between freedom of speech, and the use of art for ideologies of hate.

 

Anti-semitism in the art of painting before World War II

Professor Bernard (2015) claims that artists during the Renaissance stripped Jesus, his messengers and his family of their Jewish roots. Bernard claims that removing his Jewish identity is an anti-Semitic act, and a distortion of biblical history.

This claim by Bernard, is an example where we see the connection between religion, ideology and art. We see how one religion can use the medium of art to influence the minds, beliefs and emotions of its believers. The fact that Jesus was stripped of his Jewish identity in many paintings, shows us how important it was for the Christians in that era to be different than the Jewish community. What better way to differentiate Christians from Jews than the use of visual art?

Another example of anti-semitic ideology using art, can be seen in the Renaissance manifestation of the Jewish character, a manifestation that lingered until modern and post modern times of Western society.

When Bernard spoke about “the Jewish character”, he was referring to Jesus at first and afterwards to Jewish people in general. When we think about Jesus, we usually picture a Caucasian man with broad shoulders, light brown hair and beard. This representation of Jesus in our mind, is influenced by the Renaissance Christianity that had stripped Jesus from his Middle Eastern appearance. This, Bernard claimed, was an act of ancient anti-semitism.

Bernard claims that Christianity did not appear by itself. It was connected to the Jewish religion. A connection that had been seized by the Renaissance anti-semitic art. This distortion of biblical history created by art, continued for hundreds of years, contributing towards the separation of Jews and Christians, while spreading the ideology of Jewish hatred for decades to come.

One of the most common forms of Jewish hatred is the demonization of the Jewish character. This is still common in modern social media. To prove that the Renaissance separation of Jesus from his Jewish roots was an anti-semitic act, Bernard mentioned another apparent form of anti-semitism, the demonization of the Jewish character. As mentioned in “The Dark Mirror”, a book by Sara Lipton, who studied anti-Jewish iconography of Renaissance art.

Today, it is common to believe that there is no connection between art history and ideology. Both, Bernard and art historian, Sara Lipton oppose this belief. They each prove throughout their work, that Renaissance art was indeed anti-semetic.

Art historian, Lipton claims in her book – Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish – that the representation of the Jewish character in Christian art, from the Middle ages until the Renaissance was filled with anti-semitic ideology. This anti-semetic art, they claim, was responsible for Jewish hatred and persecution.

Lipton claims that in the thousand years that followed the crucifixion, there was no difference between Jewish characters from the Old Testament, and Christian characters in the New Testament. This Similarity between the characters in art changed in the Middle ages. Artists began to differentiate between Jews and Christians by using stereotypical symbols of Jewish people: Pointed hats, crocked noses and beards.

The reason there is a big difference between Christian and Jewish characters, according to Lipton, lies in the desire to break away from Judaism, and for Christianity to be an independent and superior religion. This desire for Christianity to transcend Judaism, was promoted by priests who spread the idea that the Jews were blind to the prophecies of their religion (the coming of the Messiah). They believed that the true Messiah came in the form of Jesus Christ. For this reason, according to Lipton, the art of Middle ages and Renaissance showed the blindness of the Jewish religion to the true faith of Christianity.

Anti-semitism in art, during the Middle ages, created a barrier between the Jewish and Christian communities in Europe. Pointy hats and beards were symbols of differentiation between Jews and Christians, even though historically, Jewish people did not look like this.

This hatred of Jews, Worsened in the 12 century across Europe, by demonizing the Jewish nation. The art of that era portrayed the Jewish people as Christianity’s worst enemy, and created a model of Jewish men, woman and children as monsters.

 

Anti-semitism in art, in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries

The strongest anti-semetic propaganda was during World War II, during the 20th century. The Nazi ideology wasn’t against Judaism as a religion, but against Jews as a race. (For more information on the Nazi ideology, please read the linked article Nazi ideology).

Even though Nazi propaganda wasn’t a direct work of art, but a mean of cheap publication (using mostly flyers, posters and newspaper cartoons), this was a modern example of demonization of the 20th century Jew. (For more information of the third Reich propaganda, please read the linked article Nazi propaganda).

Something that strongly influenced anti-semetic propaganda during the third Reich, was a documentary called “The eternal Jew” (1937). This film was used to spread the Nazi ideology against the Jewish people. The movie showed documentary footage of the Jewish population in Nazi occupied Poland. Similar to the Jewish demonization that Occurred during the 12th century across Europe (which used the art of painting to show the ugliness of the Jewish society), the movie accomplished this by using the art of cinema. (For more information on the movie and book, please read the linked article, the eternal Jew book, the eternal Jew movie.

 

Modern anti-semitism and art

When we think about anti-semitism, sometimes we think about it in the past tense, which would means that anti-semitism no longer exists. It would mean that Jewish hatred disappeared, and no longer exists. However, in the post modern era of the 21st century, there was an uprising of direct anti-semitism across the globe. The post-modern manifestation of the anti-Jewish ideology is the world-wide demonization of Jews. This demonization is similar to the demonization in the Middle ages. The only difference is that today’s hatred is spread much easier and faster, with the use of the internet and social media. (For further reading of modern anti-semitism, please read the linked article modern anti Semitism)

As mentioned before, one of the most efficient ways, used to spread anti-semitism in the Middle ages and renaissance was art. Today’s art, in forms of painting, sculptures, cartoons, movies and more, are contributing to anti-semitism. Furthermore, in modern art, Jewish artists are persecuted for their ethnicity. Their art is sometimes destroyed because of their Jewish identity. To conclude, I would like to address two cases of anti-semitism in modern art. One is the artwork of a Jewish artist, which was destroyed by anti-semitic graffiti. The other, is a Jewish sculpture who planted anti Semitic sentences in his art.

The British Indian sculpture Anish Kapoor who has Jewish roots, created a statue named “The Queen Vagina”. This sculpture is very famous, and was covered many times in the French media because of the statue’s location (The statue is placed in the gardens of King Louis XIV’s palace). This famous statue was vandalized by graffiti artists, who sprayed anti-semitic sentences across the statue. Kapoor, who didn’t succumb to the hatred, responded by covering the statue with golden leafs. He didn’t remove the sentences, in order to highlight intolerance in today’s society. (more details on the story)

Other example is in the story of artist Jaume Plensa. Plensa created a statue called “Spillover II”. The statue, which is located in a suburb of Milwaukee, is of a man sitting. The man is made out of many English letters. One day, while visiting in town, a New Jersey blogger came across the statue and noticed that some of the letters created anti-semitic sentences. The blogger, full of rage, wrote about his experience and created a mass internet response, which eventually caused the reliving of the statue.

What does this mean?

While doing research for his book, Professor Bernard interviewed an art history professor.  Bernard was shocked to hear his response, “There is no connection between ideology history and art, art is art”. This claim caused Bernard to research even deeper for anti-semitic ideology in renaissance art. This claim by the art history professor is why it’s so important not to accept art as art. With critical thinking, we can search for hidden ideologies, because art is definitely more than just art, and definitely more than freedom of speech. Museum exhibits and images of Facebook – all contain messages, not all are positive. Sometimes art is life itself, so we need to embrace the beauty of expression and accept the barrier between hatred ideology and freedom of speech. Never will we accept anti-semetic art.

 

Written by Ynon Mager

Six Reasons why Hanukkah is the best

Hanukkah is probably one of the best known Jewish holidays. It’s awesome and fun even if you’re not a Jew there are many ways that everyone can relate to this holiday. Here are 6 reasons to enjoy the celebration of lights.

1. Sufganiyot – (Donuts – in Hebrew)1

When else can you eat doughnuts for dinner? Never!
Hanukkah is the only holiday you can eat as many doughnuts as you want! (The calories don’t count!) You eat so many doughnuts a day and it doesn’t count…

They are so delicious and tempting! Typically the popular Sufganyiot are filled with jelly but recently Israeli bakeries have begun to experiment and go a bit wild trying different fillings and toppings.

2. Dreidels

2 If you don’t know how to spin a dreidel, Houston we’ve got a problem! The dreidel is the official game for kids during Hanukkah. People also sometimes gamble on chocolate coins (if the sufganyiot were not enough for you!) The Hanukkah dreidel is marked with four Hebrew letters, each letter stands for a Hebrew phrase: Nes Gadol Hayah Po , A Great Miracle Happened Here, referring to the miracle of oil the Menorah’s oil (Candelabra in the temple) which lasted for 8 whole days.

3. Family

The best excuse to get together all your extended family fits in well with the Hanukkah tradition. Lighting the menorah and enjoying the fire of the candles has become a favorite pastime for many Jewish families.

Playing with dreidels and eating sufganiyot – you don’t get a lot of opportunities to do that with your family!

4. Latkes (Fried potato dish)

1
Since we remember the miracle of oil – most traditional food is typically fried. Yes a lot of fried food in Hanukkah, this is the tradition!
Latkes are fried potato pancakes – a savory treat indeed! Very very sweet and yummy.

5. 8 Day Holiday

Hanukkah lasts for 8 days – this is probably the best part! Unlike other holidays which are over before you even realize they begun, Hanukkah lasts so long that by the end you can’t even bear to stomach another latke or sufganiya! you can no more see sufganiot or latkes.
So think about the eating celebration 8 times.

6. Gelt (Chocolate Coins)

Chanukah_gelt
It’s a Hanukkah tradition for children to receive chocolate coins or Hanukkah gelt (Yiddish for money) wrapped in gold tin foil. This is given to little kids as money and when you’re a kid this is treasure for you.
Being a kid this is just like an extra allowance!

Pogroms – Then and Now

A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group, particularly one aimed at Jews. In the past, it took form in the gathering of anti-Semites, who destroyed Jewish businesses, burnt down synagogues, lit up a pile of Jewish books, and tried to massacre as many Jews as they could.

Nowadays, it seems as if our society has become more educated and evolved, and this type of violence doesn’t exist anymore. This perception only gives legitimacy to the New Anti-Semites, who gather to perform the exact same actions, but disguise their anti-Semite nature behind words like “legitimate criticism” and “frustration.”

What is the Shchita (Kosher Slaughter)?

Every now and then the issue of religious ritual slaughter, namely Jewish (Kosher) and Muslim (Halal), reaches the headlines. In six European countries, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Poland and Denmark (and also New Zealand) Kosher Schitah is considered inhuman and thus forbidden.

Surprisingly, however, this struggle is not new at all. The first known struggle began in 1864 in Germany and it was launched by Animal Cruelty Prevention associations. In the 1880s, 150 years ago, anti-Semites joined forces with these Animal Protection Societies to campaign for anti-Shchita legislation to be passed in Switzerland, Germany and Scandinavia.

According to Jewish law and to Muslim law, slaughter of animals and birds is carried out with a single cut to the throat, rather than the more widespread method of stunning with a bolt into the head before slaughter. However, many Muslim authorities accept reversible stunning, such as electro-stunning, prior to the cut.

Jewish authorities reject that in accordance with the Jewish dietary laws (Deut. 12:21, 14:21, Num. 11:22), claiming the Jewish slaughter causes minimum pain to the animal, therefore there’s no need in stunning the animal before. Animal welfare organizations have shown that pre-stunning fails to stun in between 9 and 31% of cases. When an animal is ‘miss-stunned’ it suffers enormous pain and distress.

A basic demand of Kosher Schitah is the animal must be killed “with respect and compassion” and in that the least painful method of slaughter possible would be used (Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, III:48). It is a branch of a wider Jewish ideal of Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim (which literally means: “the suffering of living creatures”); this ideal bans inflicting unnecessary pain on animals.  It is linked in the Talmud from the Biblical law requiring people to assist in unloading burdens from animals (Exodus 23:5).

A few other manifestations of this ban include: Resting on the Sabbath also means providing rest for the working animals; Feeding one’s animals before she or he sits down to eat; the working animals must not be muzzled at harvest time, so that they can eat of the harvest as they work; Sports like bullfighting and hunting are forbidden by most rabbinical authorities as they are considered “a culture of sinful and cruel people” (rabbi Ovadiah Yosef);  Milking a cow on Shabbat is generally prohibited on Shabbat unless unmilking it will cause it an immense suffering; All animals must be kept in adequate living conditions; the Torah forbids plowing with a cow and donkey together as they are not equally fit and strong and eventually the weaker donkey is bound to suffer (Ibn Ezra).

Judaism, however, doesn’t only demand Jews from inflicting unnecessary pain on animals, since it presents a similar demand to non-Jews as well. This is why one of the Seven Laws of Noah is the proscription on eating a limb from a living animal (Gen. 9:4), an act which is considered cruel and vile.

In terms of Sechitah, it must result in a rapid drop in blood pressure in the brain and loss of consciousness, rendering the animal insensible to pain and to exsanguinate in a prompt and precise blow of a very sharp knife (called halaf). Therefore there are five forbidden techniques which disqualify the kashrut of an animal:

Shehiyah (delay or pausing) – A pause of hesitation during the incision of even a moment makes the animal’s flesh unkosher. The knife must move in an uninterrupted sweep;

Derasah (pressing) – Derasah is the forbidden action that occurs when the shochet (butcher) pushes the knife into the animal’s throat, chops rather than slices, or positions the animal improperly so that either its head presses down on the blade as it expires or the shochet must push the knife into the throat against the force of gravity;

Haladah (digging or burying) – Haladah occurs if the shochet either accidentally cuts into the animal’s throat so deeply that the entire width of the knife disappears in the wound, uses a knife that is too short so that the end disappears in the wound, or if a foreign object falls over the knife so the shochet loses sight of the incision;

Hagramah (slipping) – The limits within which the knife may be applied are from the large ring in the windpipe to the top of the upper lobe of the lung when it is inflated, and corresponding to the length of the pharynx. Slaughtering above or below these limits renders the meat unkosher; Iqqur (tearing) – Iqqur occurs if the shochet accidentally uses a knife with an imperfection on the blade, such as a scratch or nick, that causes a section of blade to be lower than the surface of the blade.

Breaching any of these five rules renders the animal as a “Nevelah” (carrion); the animal is regarded in Jewish law as if it was a carrion thus forbidden to be eaten. These requirements express the quest for the least vicious method of killing an animal. It was introduced more than 3,000 years ago, many centuries before electricity was invented.

These compassionate slaughter methods are only a part of the religious dietary laws, which follow a basic essence of avoiding the eating of cruel animals or cruel gastronomic combinations. For example all Jews refrain from eating blood following the biblical prohibition (Gen. 9:4, Lev. 3:1-17, Deut. 12: 22- 25), stating “the life of the flesh is in the blood…for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11). And indeed today science proved that taking blood samples enables to know a great deal about the physical health of the owner of that blood.

The blood supplies nutrients to empower the body, oxygen to make those nutrients work and other mechanisms to remove impurities. Eating it is considered cruel, and that’s why Jews for example have to roast thoroughly livers and heart, blood packed organs, before eating them so they won’t eat any trace of blood.

Another main relevant prohibition is that which forbids eating mixtures of milk and meat (Basar be-chalav). It is stressed out three times in the Torah in three different citations (Ex. 34: 26, 23: 19 and Deut. 14:21) to accentuate its moral stance in Jewish perception. Some of the rabbis, such as the Philo of Alexandria, Nahmanides, Rashbam and Rabbi Kook, interpreted this prohibition as a tool to distance Jews from the cruel act to cooking a calf in its mother’s milk. In fact it is a religious reminder that milk was not meant to serve as a spice for the cooking of the meat but to nourish and feed the young animals’ offspring.

Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar compared the practice of cooking of animals in their mother’s milk to the barbaric slaying of nursing infants. The Sforno argued that using the milk of an animal to cook its offspring was inhumane, based on a principle similar to that of Shilu’ach ha-Ken (Launching from the Nest), the injunction against gathering eggs from a nest while the mother bird watches (Deut. 24:7-7). Kabbalah explains it’s cruel since it mixes to separate forces of life.

The entire complicated laws of the dietary religious system are meant to educate one to refrain from gluttony and meat lust. That’s why not all fish are allowed to be eaten, and same goes to animals and chicken. In fact all carnivore animals which hunt other animals are generally non-Kosher, due to the aspiration of not wanting to be affected spiritually by their cruel trait of preying.

This factual background was the base of a doctoral dissertation focusing on the kosher Schitah and the minimum pain it inflects upon animals, written by rabbi Levinger a few years ago. That work was presented to the Dutch government, and it subsequently led to the abolishment of the law forbidding kosher Schitah. We hope that European governments will follow lead in understanding the morality of Schitah.

 

BY DAVID ANTEBI

 

Jewish Burial

Since the very beginning of the Jewish people thousands of years ago, although many options were available, Jews have always insisted on burial. Whoever visits Israel today, will find an abundance of graves scattered along the Galilee and around Jerusalem, mainly of righteous Jews who lived in the past. But today there voices that oppose Jewish ground burial, claiming cremation is preferable on environmental ground mainly.

The popularity of cremation continues to grow among people of all faiths. There are a few reasons for that: Burial seems to waste land and pollute the environment; a sense of guilt by the deceased children who don’t live close by; Cremation seems quicker and cleaner; and cremation seems — and often is — cheaper than burial.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the cremation rate in the United States has risen from 9.72 percent in 1980 to 38 percent in 2009. This fact is problematic in the eyes of rabbis across the US, since it contradicts Jewish requirement to bury the dead in ground. In fact there are two commandments concerning burial: one obligates ground burial while the other forbids refraining from such a burial (Deut. 21: 23). This applies not only for Jews, but also for non-Jews (Joshua 8: 29).

The idea behind this creed is the Jewish basic belief that: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:19). One of the Jewish Midrash sources (Pirkey de-Rabbi Eliezer, chap. 21) tells that after Abel was murdered by Cain, Adam and Eve sat to weep and lament over him, not knowing what to do with the first dead in history. Then came a crow that his friend died, and it took his friend, dug a hole in the ground and buried his body in front of their eyes. Only then Adam said “I’ll follow the suit of this crow” and moved on to bury Abel’s body. It is also told in the Bible that Abraham had buried Sarah “in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre” (Gen. 23:19).

Furthermore, burial is a Torah commandment. Deuteronomy 21:23 discusses the rare case of an evil criminal who is put to death. Even in that extreme case, the command is given, “You shall surely bury him,” teaching a general principle for all cases. The obligation to bury is so strong that even the high priest — who zealously avoided all contact with all forms of death — must personally give the dead a proper burial if no one else can do so. The Talmud, Maimonides, and the Code of Jewish Law all codify the commandment to bury the dead.

The grave of rabbi-singer Shlomo Carlebach in Jerusalem is piled with stones left by visitors.. Credit: TorahTemima/ Wikipedia.

The grave of rabbi-singer Shlomo Carlebach in Jerusalem is piled with stones left by visitors.. Credit: TorahTemima/ Wikipedia.

Beside the rabbis, some environmentalists advocate for cremation and oppose ground burial. But there are those who offend ground burial from environmental reasons, simply because, contrary to common perception, cremation is bad for the environment.

Cremation uses a tremendous amount of fossil fuels — over one million Btu’s (British thermal units) per hour with an average cremation lasting between one and a half and two hours, sometimes more – a tremendous amount of energy at a time when, finally, society is realizing it needs to lower the use of fossil fuels. Furthermore, cremation released toxic chemicals into the air.

Some people claim cremation is cleaner and a more respectful way for the body to be consumed. Professor however Stephen Prothero explains: “Think of the horrors … of the crisping, crackling, roasting, steaming, shriveling, blazing features and hands that yesterday were your soul’s delight. Think of exploding cadavers. Think of the stench of burning flesh and hair. Think of the smoke. Think of the bubbling brains. Then you will be gripped by ‘paralyzing horror’ at even the thought of ‘submitting the remains of … dear departed relatives to its sizzling process.’ Cremation [is], in a word, repulsive: ‘There is nothing beautiful in being shoved into an oven, and scientifically barbecued by a patented furnace’”

Being eaten by worms is not pleasant either, and it’s not as though burial is ‘less gross’. On a physical level, they are both pretty disgusting. Burial, however, is a natural process of decomposition that occurs to every human being. Cremation is loud, violent, and unnatural. In addition, many Jews feel uncomfortable with cremation as it reminds them of the Holocaust, where Nazis used to get disposed of Jews in the crematoria. The sentiment is that Jews should not disrespect their bodies in the same way.

Jewish cemetery "Heiliger Sand" in Worms, Germany. Credit: Wikipedia.

Jewish cemetery “Heiliger Sand” in Worms, Germany. Credit: Wikipedia.

Doron Kornbluth sheds some more light regarding Jewish perception: “When a body is buried, the ground is opened up. A tear in the earth appears. The gaping hole declares, “Something is not right here — there is a tear in the human fabric of life. Take note, world, don’t rush through this moment. Recognize the loss. Remember the life.” When the body is gently placed in the ground, a new message is given — the calm return to nature, the source of life The earth, the dirt, is indeed “the Mother of All Life.” The earth provides our sustenance, like a mother who gives birth to and feeds her young. And to it all creatures return, to begin the cycle once again”.

 

Written by: David Antebi.

The Front Line in a War of Words

wikipedia-logoTake a second and try to remember your life before the emergence of Wikipedia. How did you settle all those small daily arguments? Where did you seek information when something caught your attention? The trouble surely surfaces as biased information is willfully incorporated into Wikipedia articles in a bid to educate millions for hatred. SFI picks up the gauntlet.

Wikipedia was founded in January 2001, and quickly established itself as the main source of information for hundreds of millions worldwide in more than 285 different languages. 12 years after its outset, Wikipedia ranks as the 6th most popular website on the internet, with an average increase of 5% in daily hits since 2013. Wikipedia who encompassed 20,000 articles at the end of 2001, now has 35 million (!) different articles on various subjects, 20% of those in English, which are edited by 33.5 million subscribed users. Thus far, those editors made 1.3 billion edits, when the keyboard remains ready for action… With internet accessibility on the rise globally, notions, ideas and ideals are widespread and shake the earth under authoritarian dictatorships as witnessed most recently in the “Arab Spring”. Hence, the power of knowledge highlighted, or as Sir Winston Churchill once put it: “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it”.

Dubbed by scholars as “Lethal Obsession” and “the longest hatred”, Antisemitism’s roots date back to the ancient era, though some of the modern manifestations have gone through significant fine-tuning. Nowadays, the Arab-Israeli conflict has become a magnet for Antisemitism. Though the dispute over what should be distinguished only as anti-Israel propaganda stimulates this current discussion, all interlocutors could agree that the Arab-Israeli conflict draws global attention, while the counterparts would not agree even on the basic historic facts. While different agendas on writing historiography are not the topic of this piece, one surely understands the ample fruitful land for individuals to implement biased information over the subject in Wikipedia articles. Once read by millions, as the conflict hits the headlines everywhere at all times, this deliberately implemented misinformation could result in an anti-Israel reaction that normally leads to anti-Semitic response and utterly motivates radical individuals to perpetrate hate crime in some cases. As we are all aware of the possible slippery slope into violence, SFI operatives flashed the pan and joined the hard fought frontier of the Wikipedia “editing war”. Now, it’s your time to be drafted…

res

Evidently, one does not need a PhD in order to become a Wikipedia subscriber who is eligible to edit articles. You too could simply subscribe to Wikipedia, find a field you’re proficient in, it could be anything that pops up in your mind, and once you are subscribed, all you have to do is click on the “Edit” button and instantly become influential. Yep, it is that simple. Editing in Wikipedia is quite straightforward, but it is most important to rely on trusted sources. Therefore, your neighbors’ blog as a source of information won’t qualify, unless he is a bigwig in his field of action. Our advice is to supply the reader with as much trusted knowledge as possible, since we understand that he or she would independently decide what to take out of the info provided to them. Additionally, we respect Wikipedia as an important tool for millions worldwide; therefore we do not wish to damage it ourselves.

One of the weak points of social networks is the tendency to inherently start discourses with people who share similar notions with you, as most of them are your friends, and people naturally tend to bond with others who are in agreement with them. The chance to become a Wikipedia editor enables you to become influential not only to the people on your personal social networks, but also to million others; use it wisely.

 

Written by Nimrod Assouline.