on a recent visit to the natural history museum, i was struck by the number of hijabs, kippot and crucifixes on display. unfazed by fossils, geological displays of the age of the earth, australopithecine skulls and the marble statue of darwin that gazes enigmatically over the entrance hall, they gamely queued for the dinosaur exhibit, children in tow, back and forth beneath the massive skeleton of diplodocus, eager to expand their knowledge of the universe. it was an inspiring sight and one that i found immensely encouraging given the current level and tone of debate between religion and science. nobody appeared to be there to tell their children “and these are the fake animals G!D Placed in the earth to Test our faith”. everywhere were children asking clear, in some cases unsettling questions about how things came to be.
david t from harry’s place forwarded me this cartoon by eli valley, whose satirical strips appear monthly in the leading us jewish magazine “the forward”.
scary kiruv cartoon
on reading it, i didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. on one hand, it’s a caricature of the position of the kiruv (“outreach”) organisations, but on the other hand, once you start digging into their theology, their internal politics, their fundraising activities and their influence on the jewish community and israeli politics, it’s hard not to find them scary.
for those of you who aren’t aware of it, this has not been a good couple of years for the orthodox, “strictly-”orthodox and ultra-orthodox communities. corruption around kosher slaughterhouses and conversions, sex scandals, money-laundering, drug smuggling, you name it. all the usual justifications are made, of course, all the usual people accept them and all the usual people sneer at them.
in such an environment, it’s extremely helpful to be able to point to people who can stand up and say in no uncertain terms: this isn’t right. excusing it is even worse. as it says in the Mishnah: where there are no men, at least you should try and act like a man. i am encouraged to see at least some orthodox rabbis swimming against the tide of denial although, of course, not that surprised to see the perennial awkward squad-nik and contrarian (and my own much revered teacher) rabbi jeremy rosen, writing in haaretz:
This is a guest post by Raziq
Guru Nanak Dev
In today’s times there is much debate about extremism and religious intolerance. Terrorist acts committed in the name of religion and religious intolerance seems to be on the rise. In these uncertain times we can all learn lessons from the teachings of Baba Guru Nanak.
Baba Guru Nanak was born in India to a Hindu family in the 15th century. From a young age, he had both Hindu and Muslim friends. This helped him to gain a good understanding of Hinduism and Islam. Throughout his life he was accompanied everywhere by two close friends, one was a Muslim and the other a Hindu. He was once asked “who is better a Hindu or a Muslim”? he replied ‘neither, if they don’t do good deeds then they are both in darkness’.
An MCB statement from last month contained a heart-warming interfaith message to members of other religions:
This year, the month of Muharram falls close to both Christmas and Hanukkah, and at this time, we extend our warmest wishes to the Christian and Jewish communities. As a revered Prophet for Muslims, we also remember that Isa (as) or Jesus dedicated his life to serving his community, and spreading the message of peace and freedom. In Hanukkah we are again inspired towards sacrifice in the face of oppression.
The month of Muharram is one that holds a rich and powerful history for Muslims, and the Muslim Council of Britain marks this month as one that should inspire us towards the search for truth and justice and sacrifice in the way of the communities that we are part of.
Two weeks later, they are advertising the following Event:
This is a cross-post of an article by Jai from Pickled Politics
I think a few more things need to be stated for the record in relation to Rajinder Singh [the Sikh who is supporting the
The venerable Guru Gobind Singh
BNP]. While his reaction is understandable from a “flawed human nature” perspective, considering the apparent loss of his father during Partition, it isn’t justifiable, either from a general moral perspective or indeed from a specifically Sikh perspective. Let me give an example of another Sikh who suffered immense personal tragedy at the hands of Muslims, in some cases explicitly claiming to be acting in the name of Islam.
Also posted in History, Sufism
oh, this is just too feckin’ much. i’ve long been aware of the ideological excesses of rabbi yitzhak ginsburgh, but his disciple rabbi yitzhak shapiro of the west bank settlement of yitzhar has really done it this time. according to the left-leaning israeli daily ha-aretz:
Rabbi Yitzhak Shapiro, who heads the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in the Yitzhar settlement, wrote in his book “The King’s Torah” that even babies and children can be killed if they pose a threat to the nation.
Shapiro based the majority of his teachings on passages quoted from the Bible, to which he adds his opinions and beliefs. “It is permissable to kill the Righteous among Nations even if they are not responsible for the threatening situation,” he wrote, adding: “If we kill a Gentile who has sinned or has violated one of the seven commandments – because we care about the commandments – there is nothing wrong with the murder.”
Also posted in Obscurantism
the well-known jewish blogger dovbear has written a very interesting piece here in answer to the following question:
Why do solid Jews get so insecure around caftans and fur hats?
obviously, this is the sort of uniform he’s on about:
a frummily-dressed and therefore "proper" jew yesterday
the answer he gives is, in part:
It seems to me to be a mixture of perhaps four things. First, we are all brought up to admire frumkeit. Even wholly non-practising Jews look at Rabbis with respect and – at least until the whinging, preaching, chumras and demands for money become too much – affection. And the Charedim are ritualistically frum, which is actually how we define frumkeit. A man who davens 3 times a day, wears arba kanfot and is careful what he eats – that’s a frum man. A man who always looks after the sick, goes miles to do nachum aveilim and is always there when someone needs support – that’s a mensch. Different.
an unusual story but one i thought was worth mentioning. i often go on about “grass-roots” initiatives, but i think this is exactly the sort of thing i am talking about; simple, effective and able to build social capital from the ground up:
Magid, who grew up in Sudan, said he did not meet someone who was Jewish until after he had moved to the U.S. in his 20s, and he never imagined having such a close relationship with a rabbi. But he said the relationship with the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation has affected him and his members. Beyond being tolerant, the synagogue and its members have been welcoming.
He said one member of the mosque told him, “Next time I see a Jewish person I will not look at them the same.”
i’m not affiliated with the elijah interfaith institute (Elijah Interfaith: Elijah Interfaith Website ), but i do know the boss and strongly approve of his work. i’d appreciate it if any of you could fill out this survey.
Also posted in Activism, Politics