A Tribute to a Young Life Cut Short

July 17, 2014

missing-israeli-teenagers-naftali-frenkel-gilad-shaar-eyal-yifrachEnglishThough the tragic kidnap and murder of the three Israeli teenagers Gilda Shaar, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Frenkel seem like ages away, overloaded as we are with images and news from the ongoing war with Hamas, the following two amazing vignettes of Gilad Shaar reached my inbox. They show how even at 16, this young man had earned his place among those of loving hearts and good deeds, someone with ambitions of empathy and lovingkindness.

Rabbanit Mizrachi was at a women’s convention last week. On the stage was a group called “Playback”. They asked members of the audience to share stories which they would then act out.

One young woman got up .This is her story:
“I work as a resource room teacher with children who have learning disabilities. A few years ago a young boy began taking lessons in my resource room. I could not figure out what had brought him to seek my help. He clearly had no difficulty with his lessons and did well on all his tests. Read the rest of this entry »

Do Not Forget, Do Not Shove it Under the Carpet

July 1, 2014

missing-israeli-teenagers-naftali-frenkel-gilad-shaar-eyal-yifrachEnglishWith extreme sadness, I join millions of Jews the world over who mourn the three young men who, simply because they were Jews and reachable targets, had been kidnapped in the bloom of their lives and murdered in cold blood by inhumans, dreggs of humanity. May we find strength in prayer and deed, not to forgive this crime against civilians, and not rest until the perpetrators and their enablers are brought to justice. Meanwhile, I offer these words of prayer,so that G”d may inspire us to labor for justice and that we may keep the memory of those martyrs forever before our eyes. [UPDATE 20140703: Slightly edited, including but not limited to inserting the fathers’ names, as customary for praying for the deceased]

אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים, שׁוֹכֵן בַּמְּרוֹמִים,
הַמְצֵא מְנוּחָה נְכוֹנָה, תַחַת כַּנְפֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה,
בְּמַעֲלוֹת קְדוֹשִׁים וּטְהוֹרִים,
כְּזוֹהַר הָרָקִיעַ מְאִירִים וּמַזְהִירִים,
אֶת נִשְׁמוֹת
יַעֲקֹב נַפְתָּלִי בֶּן אַבְרָהָם,
גִּלְעָד מִיכָאֵל בֶּן אוֹפִיר,
וְאֶייַל בֶּן אוּרִיאֵל
שֶׁנֶּהֶרְגוּ עַל קְדֻשַּׁת הַשֵּׁם
עַל יְדֵי מְחַבְּלִים רְשָׁעִים יִמַּח שְׁמָם וְזִכְרָם,
[בַּעֲבוּר שֶׁנִּתֵּן צְדָקָה \ שֶׁנִּלְמוֹד מִשְׁנַיּוֹת \
תּוֹרָה בְּעַד הַזְכָּרַת נִשְׁמָתָן.]
אֶרֶץ אַל תְּכַסִּי דָּמָם,
וְאַל יְהִי מָקוֹם לְזַעֲקָתָם,
עַד אֲשֶׁר יַשְׁקִיף ה’ מִשָּׁמַיִם
וְיָחוּס עַל עַמּוֹ, אַרְצוֹ וְנַחֲלָתוֹ.

Read the rest of this entry »

In the Paris Jewish community, more women than men are recalcitrant spouses.

May 16, 2014

Englishcouple-falling-in-angerI just saw a letter from the lay president of the Paris consistoir (umbrella organization of the Jewish community, which operates the city wide subsidiary institutions, like the beis din), where Mr. Joël Mergui, the lay president, provides statistics for gittin (religious divorces) and for contentious divorce cases at the beis din. They write more than 400 gittin a year. Of those, last year there were 12 men and 16 women who did not present themselves easily or at all before the beis din, requiring further action. Note the surprising larger number of women refusing to cooperate with the beis din. It’s not just newsworthy because of the breakdown of men vs. women, it’s also about the proportion of problem cases. Out of 400, between 16 and 28 demanded extra attention.

The letter was published as part of their weekly newsletter, downloadable here. Scroll down to “Pour une médiation sereine au service des couples.” Read the rest of this entry »

When we Sell Our Chametz, We Mean It (humor)

April 2, 2014

English157px-Scotch_Whisky_(aka)KNOCK KNOCK!
— Who’s there?
— Fritz Schmidt, your rabbi’s neighbor who purchased your chametz yesterday morning.
— Ah, what do you want?
— Oh, nothing major. I just want to pick up that bottle of islay whiskey you sold me yesterday at a discount.
– (Astonished) That’s all?
– Yes. Well, eh, no. I am also coming to deposit a few frozen pork bellies in that freezer you rented me. I am preparing a party for Easter Monday, but since the stores are closed, I find your freezer very handy…
– (Annoyed) Come in. *Your* freezer is down the hall. Well, at least I know you meant it when you bought that chametz.

Are Freedom of Religion and Human Rights in Conflict?

April 2, 2014

Englishaudio-input-microphone20140327 ECRL Brussels - group photoRecently, I was invited to address an assembly of political and interfaith leaders at a meeting organized by the European Council of Religious Leaders, at the German federal state of Hessen’s representation in Brussels, under the banner of “Welcoming the Other: Equal Citizenship in Europe – the contribution of religion.” It was an opportunity to explore the mounting pressures attempting to limit freedom of religion and tolerance for others in Europe. The title of my lecture was provocatively entitled: “Religious practices and expressions: contradicting human rights?” and below are an audio recording of my talk, as well as my edited and slightly expanded remarks, responding to the question “are there obstacles that prevent people from fully using their rights as EU citizens to live and work anywhere in the EU?”
Read the rest of this entry »

Culture, a Foundation for Torah?

March 25, 2014

EnglishpdfFollowing a discussion on the Avodah mailing list (scroll down to: “How to Teach History”) regarding the popularity of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s teachings in general and his outlook on Western culture in particular, I am making my 2006 paper Culture, a Foundation for Torah? available for download. It was published that year in a festschrift celebrating the 111st anniversary of the founding of the Schomre Thora in Basel. A German translation was included in my 2008 book Ein lärmendes, reissendes Wildwasser.

Welcoming the Other: Equal Citizenship in Europe – the contribution of religion

February 15, 2014

EnglishEU_Council_FlagForthcoming March 27th I will be one of the speakers at a joint event between the European Council of Religious Leaders – Religions for Peace and the German federal state of Hessen’s Brussels office. It will be an opportunity to explore the mounting pressures attempting to limit freedom of religion and tolerance for others in Europe. The title of my lecture is provocatively entitled: “Religious practices and expressions: contradicting human rights?”

This will be another step in our interfaith effort to mitigate and counter the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s Resolution 1952, from the 1st of October 2013, which encouraged legally constraining religious circumcision. Some previous steps undertaken in this matter were described in a previous blog post.