Following the publication of our article in the Hakirah Journal, on the RCA Siddur, there ensued a learned correspondence, some of which was published in the most recent Hakirah volume, XXIX. Here is the most substantial response we penned, which may also be most interesting to readers.
On the 17th of December, the grand chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled1 in favor of the regional governments of the Flemish and Walloon regions of Belgium, finding their prohibition of shechitah without stunning is legal. This is a tragedy for Jewish communities throughout Europe. It was Belgium’s Jewish community last hope for a quick resolution of the Shechitah crisis, which had come into force on January 1st 2019.
By Rabbi Dr. Aton Holzer and Chief Rabbi Arie Folger
The journal Hakirah recently (Vol. XXVIII) published an article I wrote together with Rabbi Dr. Aton Holzer (that’s Rachel Holzer ‘s husband) related to our work for the RCA Siddur Avodat haLev, which appeared in 2018 with Koren. (For eigtheen months, I was the project manager and led several committees, while Aton was the absolutely most active member of any of those committees. I served under the two senior editors, Rabbis Heshie Billet and Basil Herring. Rabbi Herring went on to shepherd the siddur through a significant rewrite after we switched to another publisher, and dedicated seven or eight years to the project). Beyond a general review of the siddur and some behind the scenes peek, we explore kabbalistic concepts for prayer and the siddur, as well as nussach hatefillah and music.
The following article appeared in the Jewish Press during the carnival season. It’s a fair bet that next year, many floats will thematize the Covid-19 pandemic, the lockdown, the economy, and I am sure Corona beer will make appearances, too. Unfortunately, during the present pandemic, we are presently witnessing a resurgence of particularly pernicuous old Antisemitic tropes, blaming Jews for Covid-19. This builds off the unglorious tradition of the evil libels of poisoning wells. Let’s just hope that in the Aalst carnival organizing committee sanity and respect will prevail, and that the constituting groups will finally abandon the overt and covert Antisemitic tropes.
In the following article of mine, which was published in the recent Jewish Press’ Kosher Food Supplement (but so far not available on their site), I explore some challenges of keeping kosher in Europe. It’s easier than ever, but you still need to explore some issues. This is written primarily for a North American adience, but there is a lot in it for Europeans, too.
Keeping kosher in Europe
Twenty-three years ago, I undertook a fifteen hundred mile road trip with a couple of friends. The three of us were Europeans and for the first time, we undertook such a long road trip without packing food rations for an army; we were traveling in the United States. Even though our trip would take us places where there was no significant Jewish community we knew of, we could rest assured that any supermarket would be generously stocked with thousands of products supervised by the leading American kashrus agencies. When we were left wanting for deserts, we ended up adding OU certified baby foods to our shopping carts. The stuff is actually edible and can taste just fine. It‘s better than the sugar overloaded stuff that passes for adult desserts.
Back in our home countries, we would never do that unless we wanted to become frutarians. Yours truly has repeatedly gone on vacation with two weeks‘ supplies of vacuum packed meat, canned tuna, odorous, pungent, delectable cheeses, hoards of Read the rest of this entry »
In the following article of mine, which was published by the YU Lamdan, I explore the question of whether more is always better in religion. I do so through the lense of the halakhic literature on the voluntary fulfilment by women of those mitzvot of which they are exempt, namely a subset of the time bound positive commandments. In the process, I document the high regard halakhic sources have for such piety by women, and also explore some of the key sources of the disagreements regarding whether women ought to recite blessings upon voluntarily fulfilling commandments of which they are exempt. As is well known, Ashkenazim encourage the recitation of those blessings, while Sefardim mostly do not, but I do document a whole slew of Sefardi authorities who sided with the Ashkenazi practice on this issue. Back to the general question, I conclude that more is not always better, and that being stricter or seemingly act more piously is therefore not necessarily better. Instead, we need to weigh in a multidimensional manner the halakhic advantages and disadvantages of any voluntary stricture. Read the rest of this entry »
The following essay of mine was presented at the international peace meeting entitled Peace Without Borders in Madrid in September 2019, an interfaith meeting organized for the last 30 years by the Sant’Egidio Community, a Catholic lay organization. I attended representing the Conference of European Rabbis.
Around 1990, a euphoria filled the Western world. The Cold War had come to an end, the West (which also included many countries in the east) had won, and most of the eastern bloc countries became liberal democratic free market societies. It looked like we were going to enter a permanently peaceful era, termed by Francis Fukuyama the End of History.
Unfortunately, in many regards, it is the competing and generally less appealing prediction of Samuel Huntington that became realized, the Clash of Civilizations. We are witnessing the reemergence of ancient prejudices and feuds as drivers for contemporary conlficts.
As religious people, our natural disposition is to pray, to cry out to our Father in Heaven for a blessing of peace and brotherhood. Surely, in our increasingly secular world, in which the practice of prayer has declined dramatically during the past century,1 religion may just provide such answers to contemporary challenges that were mostly overlooked. So is prayer the answer to our quest for peace? Prayer surely opens gates of inner peace, can it also unleash the loving torrents of brotherhood?
Though I will argue that in some ways, prayer can truly be helpful in this quest, I would like to first warn against the effectiveness of prayer in solving human conflicts. Read the rest of this entry »
Opening remarks to the conference An End to Antisemitism!,
University of Vienna, 19th of February 2018
By Arie Folger
Hatred of Jews has been justified because they are poor and because they are rich, because they are powerful and because they are weak, because the are healthy and because they are ill, because they are geniuses and because they are devoid of wisdom, because they are pious and because they are godless, because they hew to high morals and because they are degenerate. In short, Jews have been hated simply because the are.
On August 31st 2017, Rabbis representing the Rabbinical Council of America, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Conference of European Rabbis presented a declaration to Pope Francis, entitled From Jerusalem to Rome, Reflections of 50 Years of Nostra Aetate. That declaration includes a somewhat lengthy theological and historical introduction. To someone not steeped in the fine points of Jewish Christian dialogue, be he Jew or gentile, the finer theological points made in the introduction may be a little mystifying. Here is a short paper about our declaration — How and Why the Declaration From Jerusalem to Rome Came About. Read the rest of this entry »