Sunday, August 30, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Adon Olam Medley


This Adon Olam Medley was recorded in June 2007 at St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Mishnah as a Response to Catastrophe

The Mishnah as a Response to Catastrophe
The Mishnah reflects an attempt by the rabbis to create an eternal Judaism, unaffected by the kinds of catastrophes that had afflicted the Jewish people in the preceding two centuries.
By George Robinson

Robinson’s emphasis on the Mishnah as a response to catastrophe reflects both the traditional description ascribed to Sherira Gaon and the modern writing of Jacob Neusner (whom he credits). Some may consider his assumption about early rabbinic academies to be anachronistic, but otherwise Robinson’s description reflects much of current scholarship on the Mishnah. Reprinted with permission from Essential Judaism: A complete guide to beliefs, customs, and rituals, published by Pocket Books.

As they had in times of crisis before, the religious leaders of the Jewish people turned their gaze inward [after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE] and found strength in Torah. And as they had before, they adapted to a new situation. The synagogues had evolved as a response to the Babylonian Exile. Ezra had used the "scroll of Moses" as a rallying point for the Jewish masses.

Now the rabbis would turn their attention to the codification of Jew­ish law, shifting the focus of Judaism from Temple to Torah, to creating a Judaism whose invisible walls could not be breached by any intruder, no matter how heavily armed.

In the period following the destruction of the Second Temple, the rabbis would establish the canon of the Tanakh, set the basic structure of the prayer service, and begin the lengthy process of codifying the Law, of creating the Oral Torah.

There had been collections of halakhic [legal] rulings in the past. Rabbi Meir had recorded and arranged the rulings of his mentor, Rabbi Akiba, in the second century C.E. Tannaim of earlier generations had also collected oral rulings, particularly those handed down in their own academies. But it was Judah Ha-Nasi (also known as Judah the Prince and Rabbi) who undertook the monumental task of creating a compre­hensive book of halakhah up to his time, the Mishnah (from the Hebrew shanah/to repeat, "teaching by oral transmission").

Over a roughly 20-year period between 200 and 220 C.E., Judah Ha-Nasi created a veritable constitution, an authoritative guide to Jew­ish law for judges and teachers to use. By doing so, he and the rabbis with whom he worked were asserting the continuing uniqueness of the Jewish people. At the same time, they were creating an authoritative version that would be the center of discussion, classification, and interpretation for generations to come.

But it did more. Not only did the Mishnah present a practical solution to a real-life problem—creating a manageable handbook of legal opinions—it also sent a message to the Jewish people in a time of darkness. With its focus on the immutable nature of worship—the endless rhythms of the Jewish calendar, the unchanging problems of ritual cleanliness and impurity—the Mishnah presented Judaism as a faith and practice not bound by the fleeting passage of historical time.

Bar Kokhba is defeated? The new moon still will come this month and need to be welcomed on Rosh Chodesh [the first of the new month]. The Romansoppress us yet again? Spring still means Pesach and summer Shavuot. Whether Jerusalem is in the hands of the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, or the Turks, Jews will still get married, give birth and be born, eat, work, and die, and the rituals that govern those realities must be themselves governed. Thus the Mishnah is a book of "an eternal present," as it has been phrased by Jacob Neusner.

Essentially, the Mishnah is a collection of legal rulings and opinions, written in what has come to be known as Mishnaic Hebrew. Distinct from biblical Hebrew grammatically and, to some extent, in vocabu­lary, Mishnaic Hebrew has been proven by archaeological finds to have been the everyday language of the Hebrews of Judea at the time of Bar Kokhba. However, when the centers of rabbinic learning shifted to the Galilee, where Aramaic was the common tongue, Mishnaic Hebrew was destined to become a dead language, and by the end of the tannaitic period it had.

The Mishnah is divided into six sedarim (orders), a structure that the Tosefta (a supplementary collection compiled anonymously in the same period) and both the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds will follow. This order also gives Talmud one of its nicknames, shas, an acronym derived from shishah sedarim (six orders). Each of the Orders, in turn, has between seven and 12 subdivisions called masechtot (tractates, sing. masechet), of which the Mishnah contains 63. The tractates are divided into perakim / chapters, and the smallest units are designated as mishnayot (sing. mishnah) in the Babylonian Talmud or halakhot in the Palestinian Talmud. The tractates are given in order of length, beginning with the ones with the most chapters and continuing to those with the fewest.

Each of the six orders is named in a way that suggests one of its pri­mary topics. The first order, Zeraim (Seeds) deals particularly with laws of agriculture. The second order, Mo'ed (Appointed Seasons), covers the laws governing the festivals, fast days, and the Sabbath. The third order, Nashim (Women) primarily is concerned with laws governing marriage, divorce, betrothal, and adultery (although this order also contains the tractates Nedarim [Vows] and Nazir, which deals with the Nazirite vows of asceticism). The fourth order is Nezikin/Damages, and is largely con­cerned with what modern Anglo-American courts would call civil and criminal law, but also includes laws governing the treatment of idola­ters, and the most commonly read tractate of the Mishnah, Pirkei Avot (Sayings of the Fathers), a collection of ethical maxims. The fifth order, Kodashim (Holy Things) covers such Temple-related matters as sac­rifices, ritual slaughter, and the priesthood. The sixth and final order is Tohorot /Purities, and the majority of the tractates within it deal with issues of ritual purity and impurity.

Several things are immediately apparent from a survey of the six orders of the Mishnah. First, the structure of the book, despite some attempt at a systematic organization, is more than a bit haphazard. In part, the problem lies in Judah's decision to incorporate large sections of material intact from earlier sources; earlier collections often grouped rulings by their authors rather than subjects. For instance, in the middle of the Tractate Rosh Hashanah, we find a series of rulings from Yohanan ben Zakkai that have nothing to do with the festival of the New Year. However, the structure also reveals the associative tech­niques that were often typical of the rabbinic mind at work; the order Nashim includes betrothal and marriage, wouldn't it make sense to include other laws governing vows as well? After all, each of these kinds of vows—betrothal and marriage, legal and financial—involved what was considered in ancient times to be a transfer of title to property [marriage is a transfer which is related but clearly distinct from a property transfer—ed.]. On the other hand, within each tractate only one subject is pursued.

Second, the prominence given to issues relating to the Temple—vir­tually the entirety of Kodashim and sections of all the other orders except Nashim—suggests that the Tannaim were committed to preserv­ing Jewish continuity in the face of disaster. Perhaps the Temple had been destroyed more than 100 years ago, but they would carry on as if it were eternal, as sure as the turning of the earth. (Not every great Jewish thinker agreed with this focus on the long-defunct cultic rituals. Abraham Ibn Ezra, for one, decried scholars who devoted their time to the study of halakhah that had no practical relevance.)

Third, in its unusual focus on the quotidian—laws governing agri­culture, criminal and civil law, rules governing the nuts and bolts of religious observance—the Mishnah is an elegant reminder of one of the governing principles of Judaism as a belief-system: that everything we do, no matter how mundane, has a spark of the holy within it. If we run through the areas of concern expressed in the tractates of the Mish­nah, we can see how its worldview shaped Judaism.

Mishnah & Tosefta

Mishnah & Tosefta
Which came first?
By Alieza Salzberg

Both the Mishnah and the Tosefta are anthologies that record laws attributed to sages from the tannaitic period (0-200 CE). The Tosefta (which literally means "addition") has traditionally been characterized as a text that provides explanation for murky sections of the Mishnah--its more dominant and well-studied counterpart. But not all scholars accept this theory, and a few fundamental questions about these two texts remain up for debate: Why were both texts necessary? Which really came first and what was the purpose of the second? Literary comparisons of the Mishnah and Tosefta may shed light on the poetics and politics of their composition.
The Texts

The most obvious differences between the Mishnah and Tosefta are in their length and verbosity. The Mishnah is brief, composed in short sentences, and provides legal opinions with little explication. By contrast, the Tosefta often includes additional details, reasons for laws, or further permutations concerning their application.
Tosefta
While the Tosefta follows the Mishnah's structure, adhering to the same six sedarim (orders) organized by topic, frequently the Tosefta veers away from the Mishnah's arrangement to include entire sections by association, which do not appear in the Mishnah. For instance, in the opening of tractate Niddah (1:4), the mention of nursing as an indicator of menstrual purity leads the Tosefta (2:7) to include a collection of laws concerning nursing, remarriage, birth control, and other issues of sexual conduct which are entirely absent from the Mishnah.

All the extra material in the Tosefta renders it three times as large as the Mishnah. This pattern has lead to the traditional explanation that the Tosefta was composed as a commentary or companion text to fill in details left out by the Mishnah--a theory advanced by rabbis and scholars ranging from Rav Sherirah Gaon (906-1006), to 20th century Hanoch Albeck. However, others have contested this belief, suggesting that additional material attests to the Tosefta's independence from the Mishnah; if the Tosefta is not a simple commentary perhaps it predates the Mishnah.

Several phenomena suggest that the Mishnah, even in its brevity, is more developed, and hence composed later, than the Tosefta. The Mishnah more frequently includes conceptual statements that summarize concrete laws, a sign of further maturation. For example, on the topic of searching for bread before Passover, both texts record a debate over which rows of a wine-cellar must be searched; only the Mishnah adds the conceptual rule: "Any place that one doesn't store hametz, does not need to be searched" (Mishnah Pesahim 1:1). Further, the Mishnah often picks sides in a debate indicating a majority and minority opinion, while the Tosefta records multiple opinions side by side.

These comparisons suggest that the Tosefta may be older than the Mishnah, and that it preserves a point in history before one legal position became mainstream. Bar Ilan Professor Shamma Friedman has developed Y. N. Epstein's (1878-1942) hypothesis that an earlier draft of the Mishnah served as the source material for both works, and that the Tosefta more closely resembles this earlier draft.

According to a similar theory, advanced by JTS professor Judith Hauptman, the Tosefta was a commentary on this proto-Mishnah and was in circulation when the Mishnah was composed. The two developed simultaneously, yet independently. These theories are compelling, but no text of a proto-Mishnah has been found to confirm them.
History of the Debate

According to a number of rabbinic sources, the canonization of the Mishnah started when Rabbi Akiba began organizing legal material into categories and requested all students to report to him on differing opinions. According to the Talmud, anonymous statements in the Mishnah were formulated by Rabbi Meir, while anonymous Toseftot are attributed to Rabbi Nehemiah, both students of Rabbi Akiba (Sanhedrein 86). Rabbi Judah the Prince is credited with the final editing of the Mishnah, likely based on the earlier collections. The Talmud hints that that Tosefta was edited by Rabbi Hiyyah and Rabbi Oshaya, who lived in Israel during the transition between the tannaitic and amoraic periods (Sanhedrin 33a), though it is unclear whether this comment refers to a text identical to our own.

Another source of information is the Letter of Rav Sherirah Gaon, a responsum concerning the history of rabbinic texts. Rav Sherirah explains that the Tosefta was compiled later to fill in questions that arose from the brevity of the Mishnah. He presents the Tosefta as less authoritative than the Mishnah, yet originating from the same central voice.

Modern scholars are skeptical about the history advanced in the Talmud and in Rav Sherirah Gaon's letter, since both have an ulterior motive to strengthen the authority of the Mishnah from which the Talmud and all subsequent Jewish law stems.

The picture academics paint today is a bit more complicated. While the basic question of which text influenced which is ultimately a mystery, most contemporary scholarship agrees with Epstein, Friedman, and Hauptman, that the structure of the Mishnah and Tosefta were set by a proto-Mishnah from which both drew material.

From this proto-Mishnah, it is believed that Rabbi Judah the Prince compiled the Mishnah we have, making many editorial decisions, including changing language, format, and voicing support for specific positions that fit his worldview. But earlier versions were preserved and eventually compiled into the Tosefta. Therefore the final editing of the Tosefta is later than the Mishnah, but the Tosefta preserves early source material--more varied and representing more diverse opinions--that wasn't subject to the red pen of Rabbi Judah.
On Canonization

Jewish discourse continually swings between formulating an authoritative canon and fostering open debate. While the Tosefta ostensibly preserves many voices excluded from the Mishnah, the Tosefta too does not record everything. Indeed the Talmud quotes many tannaitic teachings absent from the Mishnah; some are recorded in the Tosefta but others appear nowhere else in rabbinic literature.

For the curious minds of the talmudic Rabbis, these uncanonized opinions were not out of bounds, even though they were named baraitot- outsiders - because they were located outside of the Mishnah. The talmudic conversation continued beyond the Mishnah's attempt to streamline legal authority, just as the commentary on Jewish texts has continued to flourish throughout the centuries.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tarantino And The Limits Of Revenge

Based on historical reality? Brad Pitt, as an American lieutenant during World War II, leads a Jewish unit in “Inglourious Basterds.”
by Eric Herschthal
Staff Writer

In interviews about his new film “Inglourious Basterds,” which follows Jewish American soldiers on a mission to massacre Nazis, Quentin Tarantino has been balancing perilously (disingenuously?) between two contradictory positions: on the one hand, he has said he’s tired of Holocaust films that show Jews solely as victims. “We’ve seen that story before,” he told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, “Let’s see Germans that are scared of Jews.”

But he has also tried to deflect serious criticism that his film is, as one critic put it, “ridiculous and appallingly insensitive.” Tarantino bills his film as a “spaghetti Western with World War II iconography,” as if to suggest it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

If it were a pure spoof, like Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator,” he might just be able to get away with this. But because “Inglourious Basterds” is not a comedy, and is instead a cinematic mongrel — part Hollywood parody, part horror flick, part genuine Holocaust tragedy — it begs for more thought.

A film in which Hitler, Goebbels and the entire top echelon of the Nazi regime are incinerated in a movie theater may be dismissed as an indulgent irony, even if an awfully crude one. But when Jews seen hiding beneath floorboards get betrayed by their gentile guardian and are then murdered on the spot, you are breaching the bounds of entertainment and being deliberately provocative. Not to expect a serious discussion would mock the viewers’ intelligence.

So what is the problem with “Inglourious Basterds?” Some have said that by having Jews commit war crimes against Nazis — scalping prisoners of war, beating them to death with baseball bats, carving swastikas into their skulls — you invite sympathy for Nazis. But Tarantino’s Nazis hardly seem in want of pity. They are no less caricatures than the superhero-like Jews who beat their heads in. The problem is simple: Tarantino conflates revenge with justice. And it is precisely because he is such a good filmmaker — “Basterds” is as thrilling, suspenseful and gut-wrenchingly entertaining as any other film he’s made — that you feel that maybe it’s OK to allow yourself one bashed-in Nazi head. A little schadenfraude, just this once. What with the other six million?

Tarantino makes no claims to historical truth, but it helps to ground his story in facts. In truth, something similar happened — legions of Jews hunted down and murdered Nazis during and after the Holocaust. Several noteworthy books, like Rich Cohen’s “The Avengers” (Knopf, 2000) and Howard Blum’s “The Brigade,” (HarperCollins, 2001) have covered their story in full. Those books, in addition to interviews with historians and aging Jewish soldiers suggest, however, that the “real face of Jewish vengeance,” to borrow a line from the film, is both more frightening and more pained than anything in Tarantino’s film.

“There really was a very wide range of responses to the Nazis,” said Deborah Dash Moore, a historian at the University of Michigan and author of “GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation” (Harvard University Press, 2004). Of the 500,000 Jewish Americans who fought in the U.S. military during World War II, there were those who “used the cover of war to take revenge,” she said. “They shot civilians. They lined Germans up and shot them,” just like the Nazis had done to Jews.

But Dash Moore emphasized that cases of extreme, even sadistic revenge were by far the exception. To highlight them would be to distort the picture. “The ways in which they did take revenge was often more subtle.” She mentioned one example from her book where a Jewish soldier had captured several Nazi prisoners of war then walked them back behind U.S. lines. As the GI trailed the prisoners, he whispered in German: “I am a Jew.” The Germans immediately fled in fear, and were shot trying to escape. “It was sweet revenge, pouring salt on the bitterness of defeat and blotting out Nazi calumnies that Jews were too cowardly to fight,” Dash Moore writes.

In her book, there is a more troubling case too: Samuel Klausner, a religious Jew who said he dropped a bomb on a German town that he knew was not a military target. In a letter home to his parents, he wrote: “This evening there is one less town in Germany. I dropped my own personal bomb right in the center of town. ... I took great pleasure dropping that bomb,” he wrote, “even though I knew it would not hit any military target.” He justified his actions like this: “It was just a small part of a repayment for 5,000,000 Jews.”

Cohen’s book “The Avengers: A Jewish War Story” tells a revenge tale more fully, while also noting the consequences: Jewish acts of vengeance made Zionists uneasy since they knew it would hurt the cause of statehood. He focuses on partisans Abba Kovner, Ruzka Korczak and Vitna Kempner as they escape from the Vilna ghetto and form a paramilitary group that fought alongside the Lithuanian and Russian armies. After the war, several wanted to take justice into their own hands and formed a Nazi-hunting group called Nokmim, Hebrew for “the avengers.”

The group planned to poison the water supply of several German towns, but was thwarted by someone suspected of being a Zionist informant. Kovner was arrested by the British military before the plan went through, but the group’s backup plan eventually succeeded: a partisan disguised as a baker snuck into a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp where he rubbed arsenic on 3,000 loaves of bread. He then fled, anxiously awaiting the result. It remains unknown how many died, but The Associated Press reported days later, on April 26, 1946, that “nineteen hundred German prisoners of war were poisoned by arsenic in their bread early this week in a United States camp and all are ‘seriously ill.’”

But for every tale of juicy revenge, there are those haunted by the experience. Robert Abzug, a historian at the University of Texas in Austin and author of “Inside the Vicious Heart: Americans and the Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps” (Oxford University Press, 1985), said that the story of vengeance is incomplete without accounting for the psychological consequences. “Of course, it would be great to out-Hollywood Hollywood here, but it seems to me the real story lies in the feelings of confusion, horror, revenge, guilt, and kinship that the situation bred among Jewish GIs,” Abzug wrote in an e-mail interview.

There were also instances in which Jews at first reacted out of spite, then reversed course and acted on hope. Blum’s “The Brigade” traces the stories of three Jews who fought in the Jewish brigade, a group of 5,000 Palestinian Jews who volunteered for the British military. Blum centers his book on three that turned to vengeance killing after the war but eventually became emotionally traumatized by the experience. Instead, they began rescuing Jewish orphans and resettling them in Palestine. For them, forming a Jewish state offered another kind of justice.

In an interview, the 87-year-old Guy Stern, a German Jew who fled to the United States in 1937, told of yet another kind of justice. He volunteered for a special interrogation unit trained at Camp Ritchie, in Maryland. “One of the first incumbent guidelines was that you never touch anyone,” he told The Jewish Week in a phone interview from Detroit, where he now lives. The United States, he was told, signed onto the Geneva Conventions, which stipulated the rules of war. Plus, he added, “We as Jews believed in justice ... and justice must be served unless we fall into the same trap as the perpetrators.”

But one of his last assignments highlights the limits of justice, even the nobler kind he tried to embody. While Stern was stationed in Germany just after the war’s end, he managed to visit his hometown of Hildesheim. He inquired about his family — his parents, brother and sister — none of whom escaped with him before the war. All of them, he found out, died in the Warsaw ghetto. He realized some of the Germans in the town must have been informants liable for war crimes, and could identify at least one former SS soldier. Stern turned him over to the British authorities, but was not hopeful about him being tried. The British solider “said he would relay the information,” Stern said. “That’s all I could do.”

That is glimpse into the reality of postwar justice. Of the 13.2 million Nazis eligible for arrest after the war, only 300 ever faced anything like serious punishment. The official avenues of justice proved just as tenuous as those based on revenge. And that is what makes the Holocaust a perpetual horror, a travesty without end. Tarantino — and anyone who attempts to make art out of it — could use that sobering reminder. The war is not a symbol —“iconography”— for anything. It is a tragedy that permits no fantasy, one that defies imagination.

No, It Is Not That Hard To Be A Jew.

No, It Is Not That Hard To Be A Jew.
Ideological and tactical optimism about the state of Judaism and Zionism.
By Gil Troy

This article was written in response to Enrique Krauze's working paper, It's Still Hard to Be a Jew, which was presented at the Bronfman Vision Forum's Judaism as Civilizations: Belonging in Age of Multiple Identities, a project of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation.

Es iz schwer tzu sein a yid. It is hard to be a Jew. I hate Sholom Aleichem's weary expression; to me it reeks of herring and Holocaust, of Jewish weaklings and wimps, of Diaspora and despair. It does not speak to me as an American (and an American historian), privileged to be part of one of the greatest success stories in world history. Nor does it speak to me as a Jew born over a decade into Israel's existence, viewing Israel and Zionism as one of the last century's great redemptive stories.The expression reminds me of my debate with my late Polish-born grandfather. Having fled the Polish army during the First World War, arriving in the Golden Medina, America, just before the immigration restrictions of the 1920s began, he saw anti-Semites behind every tree. He embraced what the great historian Salo Baron dismissed as the lachrymose view of Jewish history, seeing the Jewish experience as a vale of tears. In contrast, I, a post-Auschwitz New York Jew and Zionist, appreciated the triumphs shaping Jewish history as well as the tragedies.
Reasoned Optimism

My stance is both ideological and tactical. Ideologically, I consider the phenomenon of Jewish continuity and the story of rebuilding Israel as among the great miracles of human history. I delight in seeing Jews in New York living the most modern, technologically-sophisticated, culturally-enlightened, intellectually-rich life any human being has ever dreamed of, while being able to pray three times a day, study Talmud in sleek corporate board rooms, and eat kosher food in trendy restaurants. And I marvel at most Israelis' quality of life, building equally sophisticated lives in the Jewish people's ancient homeland.

At the same time, strategically, given our modern culture's lures and happy talk, I do not believe we will inspire a next generation if we make Judaism all about oppression and dilemmas. I have seen from working with Birthright Israel participants that members of this generation want to pursue their own particular Jewish journeys rather than be burdened by the ancestral guilt trip.
A Daniel Pearl Jew

I am not a Pollyanna. I have studied the horrors of the past, am acutely aware of the identity dilemmas of the present, and have experienced the renewed anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism of today. I often call myself a Daniel Pearl Jew. Like the murdered Wall Street Journal correspondent who was approximately my age, I was born into the post-Auschwitz covenant wherein the non-Jewish world implicitly promised to end anti-Semitism, only to see that covenant broken when the Palestinians turned from negotiations back toward terror starting in September 2000 and the world blamed the Jews for defending themselves. Like Pearl, I felt protected from anti-Semitism, and in many ways from the vicissitudes of history itself, as an American, as a graduate of America's elite schools, and as a professor at McGill University.

The ugly Islamicist anti-Semitism that led to Pearl's beheading outraged me. The indifference or even rationalizations of such violence from so many academic colleagues and other supposedly sophisticated Westerners left me feeling betrayed.

The question, however, is how centrally does this renewed anti-Semitism loom in my Jewish identity, how do I balance what Naomi Shemer famously called the dvash, the honey, with the oketz, the sting.

Similarly, I reject a "it is hard to be a Jew" worldview that sees Israel only through the lens of Palestinian suffering, or even of Palestinian attacks. I acknowledge the moral strains arising from the Palestinian problem but do not see them as completely defining Israel or modern Zionism.

Yasser Arafat's central conceit was to make every conversation about Israel become about him and his people. It worked on most of the world; it worked for too many Jews from the right and the left. I, for one, refuse to give him or his people that victory. Again, I do not minimize the tension, the suffering on both sides, or even the sins on both sides (although I don't equate them and reject the condescending, one-sided narrative that absolves Palestinians of any responsibility for their plight). Still, my experience with Israel and with Zionism is not only through the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Life in Israel is too multi-dimensional, too rich, too successful, too complex, to be so simplistic, reductionist, bleak, and hard.

In my Judaism and my Zionism, I am a romantic utilitarian. I am moved by being part of a continuing 4000-year-old conversation about who we are, where we are going, and what the meaning of life is through this Jewish framework. I can get goose-bumps from experiencing the timeless tableau of Torah study, from the modern miracle of young kids speaking Hebrew in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City or on the beaches of Tel Aviv, from the depth and breadth of the Jewish experience. That is the romance. But I am also pragmatic.

I believe that human beings need communal groups, and that those communal groupings need a vision. I am not arrogant enough to claim that my--our--Jewish, Zionist communal grouping is the most virtuous or that this Jewish, Zionist communal vision is necessarily the best. But it works, and it's mine, and it beats the me-me-me, my-my-my, more-more-more, now-now-now nihilism and materialism of modern life.

So, when I look at our Jewish situation today, and consider our future, I do not say Es iz schwer tzu sein a yid--it is hard to be a Jew. Instead, I channel the words of the non-Jew Balaam, from Numbers 24, who, when sent up the mountain to curse the people of Israel instead said: Mah tovu ohalekha Ya'akov--How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!
Gil Troy is professor of history at McGill University and a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington DC. His latest book is Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents.

Mah-Jongg Jewish women have kept the game alive in North America.



By Meredith Lewis

Four women sit around a table, each with a card of various numbers and colors, arranged like a secret code. Tiles are exchanged like a perfectly choreographed dance: left, across, right, then right, across, left. Tossing tiles into the middle of the table, the players call out mysterious names--"Four Crak! Three Bam! Eight Dot!"--until the winner finally shouts "Mah-jongg!"

To the uninitiated, the process is foreign. To those familiar with the game, this is just a typical evening with the girls, evenings that have been happening in America for nearly 100 years.



There's no question that scores of Jewish women have played mah-jongg, a betting game that requires matching domino-like tiles into rummy-like patterns. From the tenements of New York City to the bungalows of the Catskills and the vast American suburbs, Jewish women have kept alive a game that otherwise fell out of fashion in the 1920s.

And yet the Jewish mah-jongg connection is hard to explain. As one Internet writer asked: "How on earth did a 19th century Chinese parlor game come to be a favorite pastime for middle-aged Jewish women?"
The Rise and Fall of Mah-jongg

Mah-jongg's precursors may be centuries old, but the game most Americans know dates back only about 150 years. Around 1846, a servant of the Chinese emperor combined the rules of popular card games of the time, and replaced cards with tiles to create mah-jongg. The name itself means sparrows--an allusion to the pictures of birds often engraved on the tiles.

The advent of mah-jongg coincided with China's opening to foreign traders, after the First Opium War (1837-1842). One American businessman, Joseph Babcock, traveled to China on behalf of the Standard Oil Company in 1912 and brought the game back to America. He changed the numbers on the tiles to numerals with which Americans are familiar (1, 2, 3, etc.) and by 1920, Abercrombie and Fitch, then a sporting and excursion goods store, was the first place to sell mah-jongg in America.

Throughout the 1920s, the game was a popular craze. Over time, to make the game more difficult and exciting, playing groups made up their own "table rules." As these homemade regulations became more complex and convoluted, players eventually became turned off by the game and the challenge of ever-changing rules. By the end of the decade, the mah-jongg fad had died.
A Jewish Trend

But Jews, particularly Jewish women, did not let go of the game.

In 1937, a group of Jewish women formed the National Mah Jongg League (NMJL), which to this day strives to maintain consistency in the game. Each year the League issues a card listing winning combinations of tiles (which change every year) and standard regulations. This stability helped the game to survive. But Jewish involvement in the League doesn't fully explain the Jewish mah-jongg phenomenon.

According to Anita Luu and Christi Cavallero's book, Mah-jongg: From Shanghai to Miami Beach, "Throughout World War II the game continued to be played among Jewish women's circles as it increased in popularity and became more prevalent in their lives." While their men were off at war, Luu and Cavallero explain, women found mah-jongg to be an inexpensive form of communal entertainment. In the urban setting of New York, the game quickly spread from friend to friend, mother to daughter.

Lois Sandberg, head of the American Mah-Jongg Association, supports this theory and adds that the proximity of Chinatown to the Lower East Side allowed for Jewish women to see the appeal and near-addictive nature that mah-jongg had on their Chinese neighbors, still playing the game native to their homeland.

Another group of historians suggests that Jews who fled Nazi Europe and made it to Shanghai got involved in local culture and adopted the game. Once those refugees immigrated to America in the mid-20th century, they helped keep mah-jongg alive.

A completely different theory comes from Ruth Unger, current president of NMJL. She believes that the game was perpetuated in part because it is a philanthropic money-making endeavor for Jewish organizations, notably synagogue sisterhoods and Hadassah chapters. These groups sell mah-jongg rule cards and receive donations from the League. In order to sell enough cards, they have had to keep people interested in playing the game, so they continue to teach mah-jongg to their members.
Bungalow Memories

mah jongg tiles

Perhaps the most important factor in mah-jongg's survival is the role it played in the bungalow colonies, popular Jewish vacation sites in the mid-20th century. In Borscht Belt Bungalows: Memories of Catskill Summers, Irwin Richman describes the Jewish vacation culture there: "By the middle of the century, mah-jongg had spread from the city to the suburbs and the vacation resorts, it went along with the Jews. The click, click of tiles and phrases like 'five bam' and 'two crak' filled the air many an afternoon at the large colonies."

New City, New York resident Joan Cooper fondly recalls spending childhood summers at these colonies, where her mother and friends would play mah-jongg every weekday, until Friday afternoon, when husbands and fathers drove up from New York City.

"The women would sit with big hats covering their face and the straps untied on their bathing suits, so they didn't get any tan lines," says Cooper. "The best time to ask something from Mom was during her games. She'd always give me a little money just to make me go away."
Mothers, Daughters, Friends

Those litte kids watching the games eventually grew up to become the next generaton of mah-jongg players. Yet many of them didn't think they'd follow in their mothers' footsteps. When Cooper was asked who taught her to play mah-jongg, she interupted her weekly game to call her sister, who, of course, was at her own mah-jongg game. They both weren't certain, but assumed they learned from their mother. Cooper says emphatically, "We never wanted to be those old farts playing mah-jongg. Look at us now."

Ruth Unger seems to agree: 'Women didn't want to play a game they thought was a frivolous thing their mothers played. They wanted to do great things with their lives. I don't care who you are, or where you're from, nobody wants to be like their mothers. However, the game is persistent and seductive, and poetic justice is usually served when the daughter who has strayed ends up liking it far more than her mother ever did." (From Shanghai to Miami Beach)

As newer generations take up the game, they learn that many true friendships can develop from it. And that's not frivolous at all.

In the documentary Mah-Jongg: The Tiles that Bind, seasoned players say that mah-jongg is their life. As women play for years and decades with the same people, they share life events--marriage and divorce, the birth of children and then grandchildren, work and retirement.

It's even said that when the last woman of a mah-jongg groups dies, it's her job to "bring" the mah-jongg set with her to the World to Come.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Did Jews invent the violin?

Did Jews invent the violin?
Aug. 20, 2009
ELANA ESTRIN , THE JERUSALEM POST

From Fiddler on the Roof to the ubiquitous fiddler in the works of painter Marc Chagall to world-renowned musician Itzhak Perlman, the violin has long been associated with the Jewish people.

What accounts for this connection? The answer is still unclear, but scholars believe that Jewish ties to the violin may go back to the very beginning.

"It doesn't look like the violin is of Italian origin. It looks like it's of Jewish origin," says Monica Huggett, a violinist and artistic director of the Historical Performance Program at the Juilliard School in New York City.

The origin of the violin has always been murky. Scholars have suspected that the violin's precursor, the viol, was invented in Spain in the second half of the 15th century - before the Jews were expelled. Then, shortly after the Spanish expulsion, the viol showed up in Italy, where it quickly developed into the violin we know today. But who brought the viol to Italy, and who is responsible for its development into the violin, have largely remained a mystery.

In the last few decades, some scholars have concluded that Jewish musicians were the ones responsible. The violin seems to have originated in Italy in the first half of the 16th century, around the same time that the expelled Spanish Jews would have settled there. And the viol seems to have traveled the same path and at the same time that the Jews fled Spain.

While few scholars have published research backing this theory, the idea is beginning to strike a chord in the music world. At a biannual violin symposium at the Juilliard School in May, which draws the world's top violinists, Huggett presented a keynote lecture outlining the history of the violin. She excitedly announced to the roughly 100 violinists in the audience that she's waiting for more research to be conducted that would definitively add the violin to the list of Jewish achievements.

The first to propose this theory was Roger Prior, 73, a retired lecturer from the University of Belfast. He's written two articles and a book about Jewish musicians around the time of the violin's origin.

"Did you know that there's no reference to the violin in Spain in the 16th century? When the Jews were pushed out of Spain, one of the obvious places they went to was Italy. That's where the violin seems to have been developed. That's the reason for linking the Jews and the violin. I think that's been quite well-documented," Prior says.

Prior serendipitously came to unravel the mystery of the Jewish musicians while researching a different discipline and a different part of Europe - the court of King Henry VIII. Around 1983, as a lecturer in the University of Belfast's Department of English, Prior was researching the identity of the "Dark Lady," the mysterious woman mentioned in several of Shakespeare's sonnets. Noted British historian A.L. Rowse suggested that the Dark Lady was a woman by the name of Emilia Bassano, and Prior began investigating her biography.

He noticed parallel language describing her and Shylock, the Jewish moneylender in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. It led him to suspect that Bassano was Jewish. He began to gather evidence confirming his hypothesis, but didn't expect to find that several members of the Bassano family were the original members of the wind consort at King Henry VIII's court. That discovery led him to the king's Jewish string consort.

HERE'S HOW the story goes: In the early 16th century, King Henry VIII began a campaign to increase the prestige of the English court. He started by hiring prestigious Italian musicians, and in 1540 a group of six Italian viol players showed up at his doorstep. Prior's research concludes that most of these viol players were probably Spanish or Portuguese Jews who had fled to Italy after the 1492 Spanish expulsion. Since Jews seem to have been leading viol players around the same time that the viol developed into the violin, Prior concludes that Jews may have played a role in the creation of the violin.

"I haven't got any definite proof, but there's an awful lot of evidence that the viol players were Jewish," Prior says.

One piece of the puzzle Prior points to is a historically mysterious event in English history. Scholars have always known that in 1541, Henry VIII was told that there were "Marranos," Portuguese Jews who formally converted to Christianity but still practiced Judaism in secret, living in London. He had these crypto-Jews imprisoned. Prior says that Henry normally wouldn't hurry to imprison crypto-Jews, but the circumstances were exceptional; he was trying to win Charles V's favor at the time, and thought that prosecuting "secret Jews" would prove himself as a Catholic. Charles's English ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, praised the arrests. But suddenly, Charles's sister and even the king and queen of Portugal wrote to Chapuys as advocates of the prisoners. In the end, the crypto-Jews were released.

Though this story has long been known, the identity of these secret Portuguese Jews has always been a mystery - that is, until Prior connected this account to his research of Henry VIII's viol consort. First, he noticed that the records used to support the arrests came from Milan, which is where many of the viol players lived before coming to England.

Prior also studied a chilling letter Chapuys wrote in 1542, referencing the imprisoned Portuguese Jews: "Most likely, however well they may sing, they will not be able to fly away from their cages without leaving some of their feathers behind."

According to Prior, this cryptic sentence is no longer a mystery: The birds Chapuys refers to must be a metaphor for musicians - namely, the Jewish viol consort of King Henry's VIII's court.

Though the songbird reference strongly suggests that the prisoners were musicians, what does Chapuys mean when he says that the prisoners can't leave "without leaving some of their feathers behind"? Prior thinks that he may be referring to the deaths of two of the musicians while in prison. Here, another piece of the puzzle comes together.

John Anthony, a Jewish sackbut (early trombone) player, and Romano of Milan, a viol player, both died in prison. Anthony drew up a will, using the four members of the royal viol players as witnesses. Prior noticed two oddities in the official record of his will two days after his death: Anthony's name suddenly appears as "Anthonii Moyses," and one witness's name, Ambrose of Milan, suddenly becomes "Ambrosius deolmaleyex." Prior quickly concluded that Anthony was Jewish, since "Moyses" was a common Jewish name meaning "son of Moses."

The trickier name to unravel was the enigmatic name "deolmaleyex." Prior thinks that an incompetent English clerk butchered the name in a failed attempt to write down "de Olmaliah" or "de Almaliah," which Prior says is the Sephardi version of "Elmaleh." Prior presumes that the two probably changed their names to John Anthony and Ambrose of Milan to hide their Jewish identities. Most likely, he suspects, they revealed their real names in prison because they had nothing to hide anymore since they were imprisoned for being Jewish. And, on his deathbed, John Anthony probably figured he had nothing to lose.

It's probably no coincidence that most of Henry VIII's court musicians were Jewish. According to Prior, Henry probably chose Jewish musicians because they didn't owe allegiance to either the Catholic Church or the Lutheran Church and were therefore more likely to be reliable servants for the English court. Another possibility is that at that time in England, Jews were renowned for being excellent musicians. Jewish musicians, in turn, saw England as a safe place of refuge from the Inquisition.

THERE'S FURTHER evidence that the violin may be of Jewish origin. It's based on Prior's second theory: that the renowned Amati family was Jewish. The Amatis are famed for being the first makers of the modern violin (and for teaching Antonio Stradivari, widely regarded to be the best violin craftsman in history). If the Amatis were Jewish, this could once again point to the violin being of Jewish origin since they were the earliest prominent makers of the modern violin.

Once again, in collecting evidence about the Amatis, Prior looked to their last name. He consulted Bibliografia Ebraica, a book of Jewish-Italian names by Carlo Barduzzi, which posits that the Hebrew surname "Haviv," which means lovable or likable in Hebrew, is equivalent to the Italian surname "Amato," which means beloved in Italian.

"Their last name may be evidence of the Jewish connection with the violin. They may have chosen the name, of course. I think it's the Jewish habit of taking positive-sounding names which bring good luck," Prior says. Despite this evidence, he acknowledges that it's not enough to verify for certain that the Amatis were Jewish.

At this point, Prior's theories are only theories. One skeptic is Prof. Alexander Knapp, an ethnomusicologist from the University of London who specializes in Jewish music. He contends that there is not sufficient evidence to conclude that the violin is of Jewish origin.

"As far as I understand, the viol existed in Italy and lots of other places throughout Europe. One can't say it existed in Spain and was then brought to Italy. Even if it was, it doesn't mean to say that Jews are the only ones who played the viol. So the violin could have been invented by others, then the Jews traveled. But other people traveled too, like gypsies. So I think it's unrealistic, wishful thinking to say that," Knapp says.

WHETHER OR not Jews were instrumental in creating the violin, some of today's leading violinists have their own theories about Jews' historically disproportionate affinity for it. These violinists, needless to say, are Jewish, too.

"The violin has always been a Jewish instrument," says Russian-Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman. "I hope I'm not perceived as chauvinistic, but it's a fact of life: The greatest violinists who ever lived were Jewish. I do feel that I am the next link. I carry on the tradition, to the best of my ability of course. I feel the weight of generations on my shoulders."

That tradition includes 17th-century Jewish virtuoso violinist Salamone Rossi (credited with being one of the first composers of violin music), and three of the leading violinists in the 19th century: Joseph Joachim, to whom Johannes Brahms dedicated his violin concerto; Ferdinand David, to whom Felix Mendelssohn dedicated his violin concerto; and Henryk Wieniawski, who was a virtuoso violinist and composer of significant works for the violin.

The list of the 20th century's leading violinists is heavily dominated by Jews, each considered to be among the best violinists of all time: Jascha Heifetz, Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh, Nathan Milstein and Mischa Elman, among others. And many of today's leading violinists carry on the torch in the world's concert halls, including Itzhak Perlman, Shlomo Mintz, Pinchas Zukerman, Gil Shaham, Joshua Bell, Hagai Shaham and Vadim Gluzman.

What accounts for the phenomenon? There are about as many theories as there are Jewish violinists. A popular theory posits that the Jews have historically been a mobile people and therefore have preferred a mobile instrument. So why is there no strong connection between the Jewish people and, say, the flute?

"The flute hasn't captured the Jewish imagination as much as the violin has," Knapp conjectures. "String instruments have a certain intensity and passion, and capture the feelings of the heart in a way that's intense and immediate."

Israeli violinist Hagai Shaham suggests that this "intensity and passion" of the violin is well-suited to Jewish music. And he has an answer for why the clarinet, which is both portable and important in klezmer music, has not been picked up by as many Jewish musicians.

"Jewish music in general is much more expressive. The violin is a much more sophisticated instrument than the clarinet - it's much more versatile. And there are more job possibilities for a violinist, since there are many more violin seats than clarinet seats in an orchestra. The violin was a better bet," Shaham says.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, when career paths for Jews were limited, the potential for job opportunities was a strong selling point for taking up the violin.

"At least for Russian Jews, that was the only way out of settlements," Gluzman says. "If you were accepted into the St. Petersburg Conservatory, that was your way into the big city. So the violin became a tool of hope, because it was convenient. They were the children of hope: Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz, David Oistrakh, Nathan Milstein. That was the way for them and their families to move and have the legal right to bigger cities."

He adds that this inevitably led to competition among families: "Every Jewish momma had to have her son play the fiddle; otherwise she'd be losing to the mom next door."

Shaham says that Jewish families in recent history were prepared for the challenge to rise to the top.

"Jewish society is very competitive; it strives for excellence. Part of the culture of excellence was that young kids from the age of three were sent to study in the heder [Hebrew school]. Education, discipline and perfectionism were very important. It yielded good results, and they applied it also in musical studies," Shaham says.

IF A culture of excellence and discipline accounts for the number of leading Jewish violinists, this same cultural tradition could account for the recent surge in leading Asian violinists.

"In the 20th century, it was part of the Jewish culture - everyone studied the violin. In recent years, we have Asian violinists in great numbers because everyone studies violin there," Shaham says.

A further link between Judaism and the violin may lie in the hassidic musical tradition.

"The root of it is in the hassidic tradition, of course," Gluzman says. "Hassidism gave importance to celebration in music. The violin was the instrument, next to clarinet and bass drum, depending on what they had in the village at the time. They played music to celebrate everything, from births to weddings."

Yet another consideration is the musical tradition in the synagogue.

"It may be that the violin appeals to the Jewish soul because of the intensity of its music. Maybe it recollects the intensity of the hazan's voice," Knapp says.

The jury is still out on the origins of the violin, and the reasons for the remarkable affinity Jews have had to this instrument. But there's one more theory, proposed by a simple dairy farmer named Tevye.

"A fiddler on the roof: sounds crazy, no?" Tevye begins in the opening of the popular musical which has become synonymous with Jewish life. "But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say, every one of us is a fiddler on the roof - trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy... And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition! Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as, as... as a fiddler on the roof!"

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Israel sends emergency aid to Taiwan

Israel sends emergency aid to Taiwan
Aug. 17, 2009
Rebbeca Baskin , THE JERUSALEM POST

This image released by the Taiwan Military News Agency shows an extensive area of mudslide in the village of Alishan, central Taiwan, where Typhoon Morakot hit, on Saturday.
In the wake of Typhoon Morakot, the deadliest storm to hit Taiwan in recorded history, Israel has sent a shipment of emergency aid to the southern part of the island, the area hardest hit.
According to Xinhua news, the typhoon has killed some 126 people in Taiwan and left 61 missing.
Raphael Gamzou, head of the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, "When the scale of devastation was beginning to unfold, I established a contact with the government and told them that our contribution would be water solutions. Water, indeed, is one of the main issues. I have been in contact with the coordination center in Kaohsiung [a city of some 1.5 million people in southern Taiwan]... and we were in contact with the Taiwan water company representative at the coordination center."
"We suggested... [that the representatives] pick what we would donate, so it would be useful."
The representatives chose two types of products from Israeli company Water Sheer - large containers that hold between 700 and 1,000 liters of water, and advanced water purification systems. The products were donated by the Foreign Ministry.
The shipment arrived in Taiwan on Friday, and the Israeli team was quick to bring the aid to where it was most needed.
"On the 16th, I was already in Kaohsiung with my team to demonstrate how to operate [the equipment]. We even translated the instructions into Chinese," says Gamzou. "We went to two villages and delivered water from our containers."
According to Gamzou, the shipment was met with a very warm reception.
"We were very fast [in bringing our aid], and were praised by the local media for being the first country to have its shipment on the ground... The response here of both media and public is extremely warm, and praising Israel for being so efficient, and bringing over its knowledge, expertise and innovative ideas... Many people, Taiwanese and others, [have come to me to] praise the government and people of Israel."
Israel and Taiwan cooperate closely on issues such as culture and trade, and the Taiwanese "are incredibly friendly to Israel... [and] this expression of solidarity of the government and people of Israel will strengthen friendly sentiments," Gamzou adds.
Israel has a proud tradition of providing aid to countries around the world in times of need. Notably, ZAKA first-response teams were dispatched to Turkey in 1999 following a massive earthquake in Izmir which left some 17,000 people dead. Two Turkish families were so grateful that one named its newborn son Israel and the other named its newborn daughter Ziona.
Elan Miller contributed to this report.
This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1249418628379&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hava Nagila Texas Style

The CUFI Cornerstone singers sing the popular hava Nagila Texas style(without Pancho & Juan)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Israel is hated not for her vices but her virtues.

The Israel Test
by George Gilder
Israel is hated not for her vices but her virtues.
Like the Jews throughout history, Israel poses a test to the world. In particular, it is a test for any people that lusts for the fruits of capitalism without submitting to capitalism's imperious moral code. Because capitalism, like the biblical faith from which it largely arises, remorselessly condemns to darkness and death those who resent the achievements of others.
At the heart of anti-Semitism is resentment of Jewish achievement. Today that achievement is concentrated in Israel. Obscured by the usual media coverage of the "war-torn" Middle East, Israel has become one of the most important economies in the world, second only to the United States in its pioneering of technologies benefiting human life, prosperity, and peace.
But so it has always been. Israel, like the Jews throughout history, is hated not for her vices but her virtues. Israel is hated, as the United States is hated, because Israel is successful, because Israel is free, and because Israel is good.
As Maxim Gorky put it: "Whatever nonsense the anti-Semites may talk, they dislike the Jew only because he is obviously better, more adroit, and more capable of work than they are." Whether driven by culture or genes -- or like most behavior, an inextricable mix -- the fact of Jewish genius is demonstrable. It can be gainsaid only by people who do not expect to be believed.
Charles Murray distilled the evidence in Commentary magazine in April 2007. The Jewish mean intelligence quotient is 110, ten points above the norm. This strikingly higher average intelligence, however, is not the decisive factor in overall Jewish achievement.
The three-tenths of 1 percent of the world population that is Jewish has contributed some 25 percent of notable human intellectual accomplishment in the modern period.
What matters in human accomplishment is not the average performance but the treatment of exceptional performance and the cultivation of genius. The commanding lesson of Jewish accomplishment is that genius trumps everything else. Whatever the cause of high IQ, as Murray explains, "the key indicator for predicting exceptional accomplishment (like winning a Nobel Prize) is the incidence of exceptional intelligence... The proportion of Jews with IQs of 140 or higher is somewhere around six times the proportion of everyone else" and rises at still higher IQs.
The great error of contemporary social thought is that poverty must result from "discrimination" or "exploitation." Because Jews tend to be overrepresented at the pinnacles of excellence, a dogmatic belief that nature favors equal outcomes fosters hostility to capitalism and leads inexorably to anti-Semitism.
The socialists and anti-Semites have it backwards. Poverty needs little explanation. It has been the usual condition of nearly all human beings throughout all history. What is precious and in need of explanation and nurture is the special configuration of cultural and intellectual aptitudes and practices -- the differences, the inequalities -- that under some rare and miraculous conditions have produced wealth for the world. Inequality is the answer, not the problem.
In his book Human Accomplishment Murray focused on the fact that the three-tenths of 1 percent of the world population that is Jewish has contributed some 25 percent of notable human intellectual accomplishment in the modern period. Murray cites the historical record:
He then proceeds to more recent data:

The achievements of modern science are heavily the expression of Jewish genius and ingenuity. If 26 percent of Nobel Prizes do not suffice to make the case, it is confirmed by 51 percent of Wolf Prizes in Physics, 28 percent of the Max Planck Medailles, 38 percent of the Dirac Medals, 37 percent of the Heineman Prizes for Mathematical Physics, and 53 percent of the Enrico Fermi Awards.
Jews are not only superior in abstruse intellectual pursuits, such as quantum physics and nuclear science, however. They are also heavily overrepresented among entrepreneurs of the technology businesses that lead and leaven the global economy. Social psychologist David McClelland, author of The Achieving Society, found that entrepreneurs are identified by a greater "need for achievement" than are other groups. "There is little doubt," he concluded, explaining the disproportionate representation of Jews among entrepreneurs, that in the United States, "the average need for achievement among Jews is higher than for the general population."
"Need for achievement" alone, however, will not enable a person to start and run a successful technological company. That takes a combination of technological mastery, business prowess, and leadership skills that is not evenly distributed even among elite scientists and engineers. Edward B. Roberts of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School compared MIT graduates who launched new technological companies with a control group of graduates who pursued other careers. The largest factor in predicting an entrepreneurial career in technology was an entrepreneurial father. Controlling for this factor, he discovered that Jews were five times more likely to start technological enterprises than other MIT graduates.
For all its special features and extreme manifestations, anti-Semitism is a reflection of the hatred toward successful middlemen, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, lenders, bankers, financiers, and other capitalists that is visible everywhere whenever an identifiable set of outsiders outperforms the rest of the population in the economy. This is true whether the offending excellence comes from the Kikuyu in Kenya; the Ibo and the Yoruba in Nigeria; the overseas Indians and whites in Uganda and Zimbabwe; the Lebanese in West Africa, South America, and around the world; the Parsis in India; the Indian Gujaratis in South and East Africa; the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire; and above all the more than 30 million overseas Chinese in Indonesia, Malaysia, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
Capitalism overthrows theories of zero-sum economics and dog-eat-cat survival of the fittest. Thus, as in the United States (outside the academic arena), anti-Semitism withers in wealthy capitalist countries. It waxes in socialist regimes where Jews may arouse resentment by their agility in finding economic niches among the interstices of bureaucracies, tax collections, political pork fests, and crony capitalism.
Socialist or feudal systems, particularly when oil-rich and politically controlled, favor a conspiratorial view of history and economics. Anti-Semitism is chiefly a zero-sum disease.
As Walter Lippmann eloquently explained in The Good Society, capitalism opened a vista of mutually enriching enterprise with the good fortune of others creating opportunities for all. The Golden Rule was transformed from an idealistic vision of heaven into a practical agenda. From Poor Richard's Almanack to rich Andrew Carnegie's autobiographical parables, all were rediscovering the edifying insights of the author of Proverbs.
Judaism, perhaps more than any other religion, favors capitalist activity and provides a rigorous moral framework for it. It is based on a monotheistic affirmation that God is good and will prevail through transcending envy and hatred and zero-sum fantasies. Judaism can be plausibly interpreted as affirming the possibilities of creativity and collaboration on the frontiers of a capitalist economy.
The incontestable facts of Jewish excellence constitute a universal test not only for anti-Semitism but also for liberty and the justice of the civil order. The success or failure of Jews in a given country is the best index of its freedoms. In any free society, Jews will tend to be represented disproportionately in the highest ranks of both its culture and its commerce. Americans should celebrate the triumphs of Jews on our shores as evidence of the superior freedoms of the U.S. economy and culture.
The real case for Israel is as the leader of human civilization, technological progress, and scientific advance.
In a dangerous world, faced with an array of perils, the Israel test asks whether the world can suppress envy and recognize its dependence on the outstanding performance of relatively few men and women. The world does not subsist on zero-sum legal niceties. It subsists on hard and possibly reversible accomplishments in technology, pharmacology, science, engineering, and enterprise. It thrives not on reallocating land and resources but on releasing human creativity in a way that exploits land and resources most productively. The survival of humanity depends on recognizing excellence wherever it appears and nurturing it until it prevails. It relies on a vanguard of visionary creators on the frontiers of knowledge and truth. It depends on passing the Israel test.
Israel is the pivot, the axis, the litmus, the trial. Are you for civilization or barbarism, life or death, wealth or envy? Are you an exponent of excellence and accomplishment or of a leveling creed of frenzy and hatred?
This essay is based on George Gilder's new book, The Israel Test. This article originally appeared on www.american.com

Friday, August 14, 2009

The sermons

In a large Florida City, the rabbi developed quite a reputation for
his sermons, so much so that everyone in the community came every
Shabbat.

Unfortunately, one weekend a member had to visit Long Island for his
nephew's bar mitzvah. But he didn't want to miss the rabbi's sermon.
So he decided to hire a Shabbas goy to sit in the congregation and
tape the sermon so he could listen to it when he returned.

Other congregants saw what was going on, and they also decided to hire
Shabbas goys to tape the sermon so they could play golf instead of
going to shul. Within a few weeks' time there were 500 gentiles
sitting in shul taping the rabbi.

The rabbi got wise to this. The following Shabbas he, too, hired a
Shabbas goy who brought a tape recorder to play his prerecorded sermon
to the 500 gentiles in the congregation who dutifully recorded his
words on their machines.

Witnesses said this marked the first incidence in history of
artificial insermonation.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Escape from Sobibor

Escape from Sobibor starring Alan Arkin, Joanna Pacula and Rutger Hauer. Sobibor was a Jewish concentration camp in World War II that was created for the sole purpose of exterminating as many Jewish people as quickly as possible - part of Hitler's notorious final solution, which called for eliminating the Jewish people from Europe. Most estimates believe that 260,000 people were killed in the Nazi gas chambers at Sobibor - making it a small sized operation compared to Auschwitz or Dachau. What makes Sobibor so noteworthy - the escape on October 14, 1943 when over 300 of the 600 Jewish prisoners escaped into the Polish death camp and lived to tell their story. The film does a remarkable job of telling the story of these determined heros - and heroines who refused to give into despair, and hoped in spite of a hopeless situation. The film was nominated for 5 Emmy Awards, and Won the Golden Globeaward n 1988 for Best Motion Picture made for TV.

LikeTelevision Embed Movies and TV Shows

Language and Poetry in the Middle Ages

Arabic was the spoken and written tongue of the Jews in the medieval Muslim empire, a fact that encouraged cultural exchange and the development of new forms for Hebrew poetry.
By Mark R. Cohen

The following article is reprinted with permission from Medieval Jewish Civilization: An Encyclopedia (Routledge).
Language as Cultural Gateway

Jews in the Fertile Crescent had spoken Aramaic for centuries, using Hebrew and Hebrew‑Aramaic as their literary languages. By the tenth century, Arabic had superseded both of these as the unified spoken and written tongue of the Jews. This contrasts revealingly with Europe. There, Jews adopted local dialects (French, German, etc.) for speaking purposes. But they did not use Latin, the language of most written culture, for literary pur­poses. Rather, they continued to employ rabbinic Hebrew for their writings.

Jews in the East were less uncomfortable with Islam as a religion, and anti‑Jewish polemics in Ara­bic were far less prevalent and less inimical than Latin polemics against the Jews and Judaism. More­over, Arabic represented the means of acquiring secular culture (medicine, science, historiography, belles lettres, secular poetry, etc.), to which Jews were powerfully attracted. One should add that Arabic is so close to Hebrew linguistically that its adoption for everyday as well as formal literary purposes must have seemed relatively effortless.

Jews mostly wrote Arabic in Hebrew characters, which they apparently found easier than Arabic script and perhaps more "Jewish," in that it allowed them readily to punctuate their writing with Hebrew words, phrases, or classical Jewish citations, as was so common and often necessary. But Jewish comfort with the Arabic language stretched to a certain liberty with the religious vocabulary of Islam. Such a prominent paragon of rabbinic leadership as Sa'adyah, for instance, could refer unselfconsciously to Torah as shari’a (the Islamic term for the holy law), to the Jerusalem‑oriented direction of prayer as Kibla (Muslims use this word for Mecca), and to the Jewish hazzan as imam.

Proficient knowledge of Arabic eased Jewish ac­cess to the innumerable volumes of Hellenistic writ­ings that were being translated into Arabic during the 'Abbasid period, thanks to the efforts of Oriental Christians. It similarly made it possible for the Jewish intelligentsia to become part of the multi-denomina­tional cultural elite of the Arab world. Jewish intel­lectuals frequented the courts of Muslim rulers, forming a veritable Jewish courtier class, best known in Muslim Spain but also existing elsewhere. Jews sat alongside Muslims and Christians in erudite "ses­sions" (called majlises), wherematters of the intellect, including religion, were discussed and debated in a fairly impartial manner.
The Bible Makes a Comeback

This social and cultural integration left its mark in numerous ways. One was the restudy of the Bibleand its elevation to a distinguished position in the Jewish curriculum. After having been long pushed into the background by the study of Jewish law, Jews observed the reverence that Muslims lavished on the Koran and the Arabic language in which it was written.

With so many foreigners in their empire (Greeks, Syrians, Persians, Spaniards, Berbers, Jews, etc.) coming over to their parlance, Arab scholars in­vestigated and described the grammar ofthe Arabic language. This included, for the first time, creating vowel signs for the‑-like Hebrew‑-consonantal, nonvocalic Arabic script, A primary reason for this was to ensure the proper pronunciation of the Koran

Jews followed suit, though it is likely that Karaite emphasis on the centrality of the Bible formed an­other stimulus to this emulation. In the early Islamic period, Jews in both Babylon and in Palestine worked toward establishing vowel signs and other notations to guide the proper recitation of the Torah. Our Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible is the prod­uct ofthis enterprise (it represents the system devel­oped in Tiberias, Palestine).

Hebrew grammarians, imitating their Arab counter­parts, delved into the structure ofthe classical Hebrew language. How many letters constituted the root of a Hebrew word; five, four, three, less? Debates among Hebrew philologists lent spice to the project, which eventually determined the linguistic makeup of the biblical language as it has been ever since understood.
Wine, Women, and the Song of Songs: Medieval Hebrew Poetry

Emulation of Arabic poetry produced intriguing results. Jews living in the Arabic‑speaking world were enormously impressed by the poetry of the Arabs and self‑consciously contrasted it with their own liturgi­cal verse. The latter expressed only religious senti­ments, its thematics drew heavily on talmudic and midrashic concepts and words, and its locus of performance was restricted to the synagogue. Its most conspicuous poetic convention was a rhyme syllable at the ends of lines.

Arabic poetry adhered closely to its classical language and had both meter and rhyme. Its themes oflove, wine, women, war, friendship, and parting gave expression to values of secular Arabic leisure life, set in a garden rather than in a mosque, and went hand in hand with the courtier society that Jews had come to admire and wish to reproduce among themselves. Rather than adopting Arabic for this purpose, however, the Jewish poets chose to write in Hebrew. But, still emulating the Arabs, they wrote solely in classical Hebrew, the language of the Bible, eschewing the postbiblical language and tal­mudic allusions of pre‑Islamic Jewish religious verse.

Inventively, they figured out how to adapt Arabic quantitative (syllabic) meter to Hebrew, to clothe genres of Arabic poems in Hebrew garb, and to describe in biblical vocabulary (with some neologisms borrowed from Arabic) the secular themes that had captivated their imagination. They also wrote religious poetry according to Arabic conventions, adding some new theological concepts current in the Muslim milieu.
Mark R. Cohen

Medieval Hebrew Manuscripts

The rich variety of Jewish manuscript styles opens a window onto Jewish culture before the printing press.
By Eli Barnavi

Reprinted with permission from A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People, published by Schocken Books.

In the manner of other Mediterranean civilizations, the ancient Hebrews first used scrolls made of papyrus and later of leather parchment. Abundant samples are provided in the collections of papyri from Yeb (Elephantine), Assuan and Edfu in Egypt, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the fragments found in the Judean Desert.

During the first centuries of the Christian era in the west and the Middle East, the scroll was gradually replaced by the codex: folded sheets sewn together in the middle--the book. The codex had obvious advantages over the scroll which was written only on one side of the parchment and was awkward to handle. By the fifth century AD the use of the scroll had disappeared almost entirely.

Image from a medieval edition of the Passover Haggadah. Photo: Ms. 444 First Cincinnati Haggadah, Klau Library, CincinnatiHebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

The Jews, however, were slow to adopt the codex; its spread is attributed to Christianity. There are no extant Hebrew codices dated prior to the ninth or tenth centuries. But from the late Middle Ages thousands of manuscripts were preserved, written in Hebrew in a wide variety of styles from all over the diaspora.

These surviving texts of both religious and secular works are but a minute portion of Jewish literary production during those centuries. Outstanding proof of the enormous amount of Jewish writing is provided by the Cairo Genizah--the immense archive containing over 50,000 worn and damaged books produced by the single community of Fostat (Old Cairo) in 250 years.

A treasure of invaluable historical and literary importance, the Genizah manuscripts are also objects reflecting the material and artistic culture which produced them. In these hand‑written books are harmoniously combined diverse technologies and handicrafts, the art of design and graphic creativity, the principles of two‑dimensional architecture and aesthetic traditions, literary and calligraphic styles, the art of illustration and illumination--a magnificent introduction to Jewish cultural history of the early Middle Ages.

The dispersion of a literate Jewish population contributed to the particularly wide geographical dissemination of Hebrew writing. Hebrew characters were also used for texts in other languages such as Aramaic or Arabic and German Jewish dialects. Hebrew books were produced in Christian Europe, in Muslim Spain, in North Africa, in the Near and Middle East, and as far as central Asia. Each geo-cultural area produced its own style in the art of the manuscript, exhibiting both the uniqueness and cohesion of the Jewish community as well as the influence of the local environment: Latin in western Christendom, Greek in the Byzantine sphere, Arab in the Muslim world.

The rich variety is particularly evident in the three types of script--square, mashait (intermediate), and cursive--but is revealed in other material and aesthetic elements as well: the parchment and later the paper, the ink, the collation of the sheets, design of binding and title page, illumination, and illustration. Over time six principal types evolved: Ashkenazi (France, Germany, England, and cen­tral Europe); Italian; Spanish (Iberian peninsula, Provence, and North Africa); Byzantine; Oriental; and Yemenite.

The Second Commandment, prohibiting the making of "graven images," did not prevent illumination of manuscripts during the Middle Ages. The style of illumination was dependent on contemporary fashions in each region. Thus it is difficult to define a Jewish style, although there are certain distinctively Jewish motifs.

For example, animal‑headed figures became one of the main Jewish motifs in southern German Hebrew illumination of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The absence of capital letters in the Hebrew script led to the decoration of initial words, or sometimes whole verses. Another peculiar Jewish element was the use of minute script to form geometric or floral design.

The spread of the printing press in the sixteenth century signaled the end of the manuscript as an independent art. Although unpublished texts--and in more impoverished regions even printed works--continued to be copied by hand until recent times, these were essentially imitations of printing.

The traditional division into types of script disappeared not only because of the printed letter, but also as a result of the expulsion from Spain and the settlement of Iberian Jews in other places. Neverthe­less, the art of the manuscript was revived in the eighteenth century in central Europe and in Germany with the fashion of copying illuminated Passover Haggadot and books of blessings.

The tradition of copying the Pentateuch on scrolls to be read in synagogues, as well as phylacteries, mezuzot, and divorce bills, continues to this day. Written in minute script, following strict rules, this work is done by specially trained expert scribes (sofer setam).

Was There a "Jewish Hat?"

Manuscript illustrations, family seals, and rabbinic decisions all indicate that Jewish men in most of medieval Christian Europe wore special hats.
By Norman Roth

Social historians recognize the social importance and transformative nature of clothing. When the attire of a group is regulated, whether by authorities inside of our outside of that group, the regulation is meant to send a message about, for example, modesty or status. The styles of Jewish hat in medieval Christian Europe, voluntary and not, sent varied messages. The following article considers the hats and their implications. It is reprinted with permission from Medieval Jewish Civilization: An Encyclopedia (Routledge).
Hats Were In by The 12th Century

Jewish Hat

In general, Jews in European countries did not wear any clothing that was distinctive or different from that worn by their Christian neighbors, though perhaps they dressed somewhat more lavishly, particularly the women. The one exception to this, peculiarly, was the so‑called Jewish hat. Much ink has been spilled in attempts to explain this curious phenomenon and to give fanciful, and wrong, explanations and descriptions.

Jewish custom, which only in the early modern era became law, and only then for Ashkenazic Jews, was that males should cover their heads, especially at synagogue services and often (though not universally) while studying. At some period it became customary to wear a cap or hat at all times, at least outdoors. We do not know when this custom developed, but Isaac B. Moses Or zarua of Vienna (ca. 1180-ca.1250) already mentioned the hat of the Jews.

Lacking iconographic or other evidence for an earlier period, all that we can say with certainty is that by the mid‑thirteenth century Jews were wearing hats, often simply a soft cap with a peak, but also what appears (in manuscript illuminations) to be a hat of stiff material with a distinctive point on the top. We have already noted the pointed caps worn by Babylonian (Persian) Jews*, and it is not unlikely that this custom survived among northern European Jews; however, the "harder" hat version may have been the result of special legislation, certainly in Germany, and probably in England and France, requiring Jewish men to wear such hats. Drawings in 13th‑century German law codes show Jews bearded and wearing such hats, and these early laws specifically mentioned that they must wear them on leaving the synagogue and when taking oaths.
Points, Horns and Straps

The provincial council of Breslau enacted a provision (1267) requiring Jews to wear "the horned hat" that they earlier had been accustomed to wear, but that they had "presumed in their temerity” to stop wearing (this law applied also to Poland). In some manuscript drawings a cap, unpointed, may be seen secured around the chin with cloth or a strap (a clear example of such a strap may be seen in the late‑13th‑century seal of a Jew of Regensburg). The explanation for this seems to be found in a responsum of Meir B. Barukh of Rothenburg (ca. 1220‑1293), who ruled that it is permissible to go out in the street on the Sabbath wearing tall hats that cannot be blown off by the wind, even though the brim protrudes in order to cover the wearer from sun or rain (it is nonetheless not considered a "tent" which would be forbidden), but those that are not so secure on the head must be attached with a strap. [Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg was the foremost Ashkenazic talmudic and legal authority of his time.]

The hats appear to have been made from cloth, although some have suggested metal in certain cases. Israel Isserlein (1390‑1460) wrote about hats woven of straw and whether they are suitable as head covering for pray­ers. Jews sometimes adopted the “Jewish hat” as a prominent feature of their personal seals. Some French illuminators show a wide variety of Jewish hats, including one in a sky blue color with a small brim and soft pointed peak (in colors such as pink and bright red-orange), and a black hat with a wide brim and no peak at all.
Spain and Italy Were Exceptions

Jews in Spain did not wear this special “Jewish hat” at any time. In Aragon-Catalonia, at least in the thirteenth century, it was customary to wear a kind of hood with the point flopping down in the back and to the side. Although some sources refer to “distinctive dress” worn by Jews in Italy (to differentiate them form Christians), contemporary illustrations show no evidence of this, nor was the hat worn there.

* As the famous reliefs of the Dura‑Europa synagogue [built around 245 C.E. in present-day Syria] demonstrate, Jews in the Persian Empire wore a mixture of Greek and Persian clothing. The so‑called Jewish hat of medieval Europe (chiefly in Germany, France, and England) appears actually to have originated in the Persian hat, soft and with a brim and slight conical point on top. This may be seen also in the Dura paintings, as well as in a sixth‑century (C.E.)Egyptian wall painting portraying the miraculous story of the three children saved from the furnace (Daniel 3.21) and in pottery figurines from China (ca. 618­-907) representing, presumably, Jewish merchants.

Wisdom

Everybody likes a kidder but nobody loans him money.
- Arthur Miller

To turn $100 into $110 is work. To turn $100 million into $110
million is inevitable.
- Edgar Bronfman

Never go to bed mad - Stay up and fight.
- Phyllis Diller

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere,
diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.
- Groucho Marx

Vote for the man who promises the least; he'll be the least disappointing.
- Bernard Baruch

I have had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it.
- Groucho Marx

I'm Jewish. I don't work out. If God had wanted us to bend over, He
would have put diamonds on the floor.
- Joan Rivers

As long as the world is turning and spinning, we're gonna be dizzy
and we're gonna make mistakes.
- Mel Brooks

Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.
- Henry A. Kissinger

A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.
- Milton Berle

Give me golf clubs, fresh air and a beautiful partner, and you can
keep the clubs and the fresh air.
- Jack Benny

I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve
that either.
- Jack Benny

Remember-you can't beam through a force field. So, don't try it.
- William Shatner

We have to believe in free-will. We've got no choice.
- Isaac Bashevis Singer

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jascha Heifetz plays Hora Staccato

Remix Earth Wind and Fire~Boogie wonderland

Perceptions of Jews by Renowned Gentiles

#1
"Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can
deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable
and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world."

-- Winston Churchill

----------------------------------------------------------
-#2

"The Jew is that sacred being who has brought down from heaven the
everlasting fire, and has illumined with it the entire world. He is the
religious source, spring, and fountain out of which all the rest of the
peoples have drawn their beliefs and their religions."

-- Leo Tolstoy

----------------------------------------------------------
-#3

"It was in vain that we locked them up for several hundred years behind
the walls of the Ghetto. No sooner were their prison gates unbarred than
they easily caught up with us, even on those paths which we opened up
without their aid."

-- A. A. Leroy Beaulieu, French publicist, 1842

----------------------------------------------------------
-#4

"The Jew gave us the Outside and the Inside - our outlook and our inner
life. We can hardly get up in the morning or cross the street without
being Jewish. We dream Jewish dreams and hope Jewish hopes. Most of our
best words, in fact - new, adventure, surprise, unique, individual,
person, vocation, time, history, future, freedom, progress, spirit,
faith, hope, justice - are the gifts of the Jews."

-- Thomas Cahill, Irish Author

----------------------------------------------------------
-#5

"One of the gifts of the Jewish culture to Christianity is that it has
taught Christians to think like Jews, and any modern man who has not
learned to think as though he were a Jew can hardly be said to have
learned to think at all."

-- William Rees-Mogg, former Editor-in-Chief for The Times of London and
a member of the House of Lords

----------------------------------------------------------
-#6

"It is certain that in certain parts of the world we can see a peculiar
people, separated from the other peoples of the world and this is called
the Jewish people....

This people is not only of remarkable antiquity but has also lasted for
a singular long time... For whereas the people of Greece and Italy, of
Sparta, Athens and Rome and others who came so much later have perished
so long ago, these still exist, despite the efforts of so many powerful
kings who have tried a hundred times to wipe them out, as their
historians testify, and as can easily be judged by the natural order of
things over such a long spell of years. They have always been preserved,
however, and their preservation was foretold... My encounter with this
people amazes me..."

-- Blaise Pascal, French Mathematician

--#7----------------------------------------------------------

"The Jewish vision became the prototype for many similar grand designs
for humanity, both divine and man made The Jews, herefore, stand at
the center of the perennial attempt to give human life the dignity of a
purpose."

--Paul Johnson, American Historian

----------------------------------------------------------
-#8

"As long as the world lasts, all who want to make progress in
righteousness will come to Israel for inspiration as to the people who
had the sense for righteousness most glowing and strongest."

--Matthew Arnold, British poet and critic

----------------------------------------------------------
-#9

"Indeed it is difficult for all other nations of the world to live in
the presence of the Jews. It is irritating and most uncomfortable. The
Jews embarrass the world as they have done things which are beyond the
imaginable. They have become moral strangers since the day their
forefather, Abraham, introduced the world to high ethical standards and
to the fear of Heaven. They brought the world the Ten Commandments,
which many nations prefer to defy. They violated the rules of history
by staying alive, totally at odds with common sense and historical
evidence. They outlived all their former enemies, including vast
empires such as the Romans and the Greeks. They angered the world with
their return to their homeland after 2000 years of exile and after the
murder of six million of their brothers and sisters.

They aggravated mankind by building, in the wink of an eye, a
democratic State which others were not able to create in even hundreds
of years. They built living monuments such as the duty to be holy and
the privilege to serve one's fellow men.

They had their hands in every human progressive endeavor, whether in
science, medicine, psychology or any other discipline, while totally
out of proportion to their actual numbers. They gave the world the
Bible and even their "savior."

Jews taught the world not to accept the world as it is, but to
transform it, yet only a few nations wanted to listen. Moreover, the
Jews introduced the world to one God, yet only a minority wanted to
draw the moral consequences. So the nations of the world realize that
they would have been lost without the Jews.. And while their
subconscious tries to remind them of how much of Western civilization
is framed in terms of concepts first articulated by the Jews, they do
anything to suppress it.

They deny that Jews remind them of a higher purpose of life and the
need to be honorable, and do anything to escape its consequences. It is
simply too much to handle for them, too embarrassing to admit, and
above all, too difficult to live by.

So the nations of the world decided once again to go out of 'their' way
in order to find a stick to hit the Jews. The goal: to prove that Jews
are as immoral and guilty of massacre and genocide as some of they
themselves are.

All this in order to hide and justify their own failure to even protest
when six million Jews were brought to the slaughterhouses of Auschwitz
and Dachau; so as to wipe out the moral conscience of which the Jews
remind them, and they found a stick.

Nothing could be more gratifying for them than to find the Jews in a
struggle with another people (who are completely terrorized by their
own leaders) against whom the Jews, against their best wishes, have to
defend themselves in order to survive. With great satisfaction, the
world allows and initiates the rewriting of history so as to fuel the
rage of yet another people against the Jews. This in spite of the fact
that the nations understand very well that peace between the parties
could have come a long time ago, if only the Jews would have had a fair
chance. Instead, they happily jumped on the wagon of hate so as to
justify their jealousy of the Jews and their incompetence to deal with
their own moral issues.

When Jews look at the bizarre play taking place in The Hague, they can
only smile as this artificial game once more proves how the world
paradoxically admits the Jews uniqueness. It is in their need to
undermine the Jews that they actually raise them.

The study of history of Europe during the past centuries teaches us one
uniform lesson: That the nations which received and in any way dealt
fairly and mercifully with the Jew have prospered; and that the nations
that have tortured and oppressed them have written out their own
curse."

--Olive Schreiner, South African novelist and social activist

----------------------------------------------------------
-#10

"If there is any honor in all the world that I should like, it would be
to be an honorary Jewish citizen."

--A.L Rowse, authority on Shakespeare

Perceptions of Jews by Renowned Gentiles

#1
"Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can
deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable
and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world."

-- Winston Churchill

----------------------------------------------------------
-#2

"The Jew is that sacred being who has brought down from heaven the
everlasting fire, and has illumined with it the entire world. He is the
religious source, spring, and fountain out of which all the rest of the
peoples have drawn their beliefs and their religions."

-- Leo Tolstoy

----------------------------------------------------------
-#3

"It was in vain that we locked them up for several hundred years behind
the walls of the Ghetto. No sooner were their prison gates unbarred than
they easily caught up with us, even on those paths which we opened up
without their aid."

-- A. A. Leroy Beaulieu, French publicist, 1842

----------------------------------------------------------
-#4

"The Jew gave us the Outside and the Inside - our outlook and our inner
life. We can hardly get up in the morning or cross the street without
being Jewish. We dream Jewish dreams and hope Jewish hopes. Most of our
best words, in fact - new, adventure, surprise, unique, individual,
person, vocation, time, history, future, freedom, progress, spirit,
faith, hope, justice - are the gifts of the Jews."

-- Thomas Cahill, Irish Author

----------------------------------------------------------
-#5

"One of the gifts of the Jewish culture to Christianity is that it has
taught Christians to think like Jews, and any modern man who has not
learned to think as though he were a Jew can hardly be said to have
learned to think at all."

-- William Rees-Mogg, former Editor-in-Chief for The Times of London and
a member of the House of Lords

----------------------------------------------------------
-#6

"It is certain that in certain parts of the world we can see a peculiar
people, separated from the other peoples of the world and this is called
the Jewish people....

This people is not only of remarkable antiquity but has also lasted for
a singular long time... For whereas the people of Greece and Italy, of
Sparta, Athens and Rome and others who came so much later have perished
so long ago, these still exist, despite the efforts of so many powerful
kings who have tried a hundred times to wipe them out, as their
historians testify, and as can easily be judged by the natural order of
things over such a long spell of years. They have always been preserved,
however, and their preservation was foretold... My encounter with this
people amazes me..."

-- Blaise Pascal, French Mathematician

--#7----------------------------------------------------------

"The Jewish vision became the prototype for many similar grand designs
for humanity, both divine and man made The Jews, herefore, stand at
the center of the perennial attempt to give human life the dignity of a
purpose."

--Paul Johnson, American Historian

----------------------------------------------------------
-#8

"As long as the world lasts, all who want to make progress in
righteousness will come to Israel for inspiration as to the people who
had the sense for righteousness most glowing and strongest."

--Matthew Arnold, British poet and critic

----------------------------------------------------------
-#9

"Indeed it is difficult for all other nations of the world to live in
the presence of the Jews. It is irritating and most uncomfortable. The
Jews embarrass the world as they have done things which are beyond the
imaginable. They have become moral strangers since the day their
forefather, Abraham, introduced the world to high ethical standards and
to the fear of Heaven. They brought the world the Ten Commandments,
which many nations prefer to defy. They violated the rules of history
by staying alive, totally at odds with common sense and historical
evidence. They outlived all their former enemies, including vast
empires such as the Romans and the Greeks. They angered the world with
their return to their homeland after 2000 years of exile and after the
murder of six million of their brothers and sisters.

They aggravated mankind by building, in the wink of an eye, a
democratic State which others were not able to create in even hundreds
of years. They built living monuments such as the duty to be holy and
the privilege to serve one's fellow men.

They had their hands in every human progressive endeavor, whether in
science, medicine, psychology or any other discipline, while totally
out of proportion to their actual numbers. They gave the world the
Bible and even their "savior."

Jews taught the world not to accept the world as it is, but to
transform it, yet only a few nations wanted to listen. Moreover, the
Jews introduced the world to one God, yet only a minority wanted to
draw the moral consequences. So the nations of the world realize that
they would have been lost without the Jews.. And while their
subconscious tries to remind them of how much of Western civilization
is framed in terms of concepts first articulated by the Jews, they do
anything to suppress it.

They deny that Jews remind them of a higher purpose of life and the
need to be honorable, and do anything to escape its consequences. It is
simply too much to handle for them, too embarrassing to admit, and
above all, too difficult to live by.

So the nations of the world decided once again to go out of 'their' way
in order to find a stick to hit the Jews. The goal: to prove that Jews
are as immoral and guilty of massacre and genocide as some of they
themselves are.

All this in order to hide and justify their own failure to even protest
when six million Jews were brought to the slaughterhouses of Auschwitz
and Dachau; so as to wipe out the moral conscience of which the Jews
remind them, and they found a stick.

Nothing could be more gratifying for them than to find the Jews in a
struggle with another people (who are completely terrorized by their
own leaders) against whom the Jews, against their best wishes, have to
defend themselves in order to survive. With great satisfaction, the
world allows and initiates the rewriting of history so as to fuel the
rage of yet another people against the Jews. This in spite of the fact
that the nations understand very well that peace between the parties
could have come a long time ago, if only the Jews would have had a fair
chance. Instead, they happily jumped on the wagon of hate so as to
justify their jealousy of the Jews and their incompetence to deal with
their own moral issues.

When Jews look at the bizarre play taking place in The Hague, they can
only smile as this artificial game once more proves how the world
paradoxically admits the Jews uniqueness. It is in their need to
undermine the Jews that they actually raise them.

The study of history of Europe during the past centuries teaches us one
uniform lesson: That the nations which received and in any way dealt
fairly and mercifully with the Jew have prospered; and that the nations
that have tortured and oppressed them have written out their own
curse."

--Olive Schreiner, South African novelist and social activist

----------------------------------------------------------
-#10

"If there is any honor in all the world that I should like, it would be
to be an honorary Jewish citizen."

--A.L Rowse, authority on Shakespeare