From the news media:
On the eve of Pope Francis’s visit to Auschwitz, a US rabbi has called on him to remove a Catholic church from the premises of the Nazi death camp. The letter sent from Rabbi Avi Weiss, national president of AMCHA-Coalition for Jewish Concerns. Weiss says the presence of the church at the former death camp site is a “clear violation” of a 1987 agreement between Roman Catholic cardinals and Jewish leaders, which he says “stipulates in clear language that ‘there will be no permanent Catholic place of worship on the site of the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.’”
Rabbi Weiss is wrong, and the World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder is right.
From the news media:
Pope Francis visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau former Nazi death camp in Poland, in what the World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said was an important signal to the world.
In a statement Friday, Lauder praised the pontiff, who has forged ever-closer ties between the Catholic Church and Jews since his election in 2013. “Pope Francis is one of the closest allies Jews have today in the fight against anti-Semitism, bigotry and hatred,” Lauder said. “He is a true friend of the Jewish people, a man who reaches out to others and embraces them. Never over the past 2,000 years have Catholic-Jewish relations been better.” The pope’s visit “sends an important signal to the world that this dark chapter must never be forgotten and that the truth about what happened seven decades ago must not be obfuscated,” Lauder added.
The late pontiff John Paul II, who was born in Poland, visited Auschwitz in 1979. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, visited in 2006. “Pope John Paul II came here as a son of the Polish people,” Benedictus said. “I come here today as a son of the German people. For this very reason, I can and must echo his words: I could not fail to come here.”
I am, the author of this post, commenting on Holocaust-related events not as a historian, a rabbi or a spiritual philosopher – I am commenting on these events as a Jew who belong to the community of Holocaust survivors whose extended family lost about 30 people in Holocaust.
Yes, I know the local people who called themselves Christians murdered most of my expended family – yes, mostly locals who followed their dark anti-Semitic inclinations did it. Why? The answer is well known – before the WWII, we had almost no friends among the Christians to defend us the Jews as members of the God’s human community – or even as the people, who created the foundation of Christian faith. It was not our fault that we did not have Christian friends – that is how the history has played itself for the last two millenniums.
However, the WWII and Holocaust, and then Islamic assault on the “infidels” who are mostly the Jews and Christians, created a spiritual environment for spiritual unification of Jews and Christians in a contemporary Judeo-Christian civilization. That is the only way to make future holocausts almost impossible.
Nevertheless, many rabbis still prefer having their communities isolated from the entire Judeo-Christian world and Rabbi Weiss has acted as a sort of their representative. It looks like, those rabbis believe that the Jewish faith is not strong enough to not only survive but also flourish in the presence of other challenging faiths. However, that is contrary to the Torah guidance and the mission of Jewish people as the Chosen.
I am with a non-rabbi Ronald Lauder and with former President of World Jewish Congress Edgar Bronfman who believe in a strong Jewish faith capable to flourish and advance itself in the Judeo-Christian realm and be spiritually friendly with Christianity and Christian people. That is the only way for creating a better world for everybody and eliminating the possibility of future holocausts.
We the Jews have to encourage the Christian leaders to visit Auschwitz, to pray with us, to create various spiritual Judeo-Christian organizations for fighting anti-Semitism and advancing a framework for building a better world for everybody with everybody.
The concept of Supreme Power over us the humans called God is vital for our human wellbeing. It is vital even for those who call themselves atheists. It is vital mainly not for the purpose of praying to God and asking for guidance and favors but most importantly for accepting God as the unchallenged source of our moral rules, which cannot be changed by us the humans.
That is why it is difficult for me to understand the reason for an orthodox rabbi Donniel Hartman to dethrone God from the first to the second place in Judaism.
From the news media:
Donniel Hartman, the head of an orthodox educational powerhouse, Shalom Hartman Institute, argues that the great monotheistic religions are fatally flawed — by an obsessive focus on God that overwhelms what should be our prime imperative, to live decent, moral lives.
Donniel Hartman insists his resonant call to put God second is not some superficial provocation. Rather, it is issued out of a conviction that “the more we put ethics first, the more I am a religious person” and the less that God is “a destructive force in our lives.”
The rabbi Hartman’s innovations are what indeed we need in Judaism and in other religions, for Jews and Gentiles, namely – to teach how to live decent, moral lives and how and why to put the ethics first. That is indeed necessary and long overdue – to bring back the true meaning of the duties of the Chosen, which are to build a better world for everybody with everybody – the world where the complete majority can live decent, moral lives along the lines of Torah/Bible guidance. However, to do all that we need to have God at the first place in our lives.
In order to decide whether we live decent, moral lives we have to define common basic characteristics of decency and morality. Those characteristics have to be alike for Jews and Christians of different spiritual streams from the ultra-Orthodox to the ultra-Atheists. In the Judeo-Christian world, without One God at the first place with His Torah/Bible-codified rules for decent, moral behavior, it is impossible to have decent, moral lives. The current rules for “decent, moral behavior” are different for many Jewish communities as well as for many Christian communities.
Here are just a few examples. Some believe in the decency of socialism-inspired redistribution of wealth with the “helping hand” of the government while the others support free-market capitalist system with the mitzvah/charity helping hands. Some believe in the absolute morality of “do not do to the others what I do not want to be done to me” while the others consider to be just the severe punishment of devilish people. Some believe that only a family of man-woman-children is decent and moral while the others do not see anything wrong with a gay family. Some believe the decency demands considering a person to be Jewish if he himself believe so while the others trust in a rabbi’s decision on the Jewishness.
Thus, what principles are decent and moral enough to be used for building a better world for everybody, even for everybody inside the Jewish nation? I do not see any other approach but – in the course of competitive spiritual and peaceful discussions – to find it in the guidance of God at the first place.
The history tried to do it without God as was done for example in Stalin’s Russia, in Hitler’s Germany and in Mao’s China and the result was millions and millions of murdered people.
From the news media:
An Israeli rabbinical court did not accept a conversion by an Orthodox rabbi who also helped Ivanka Trump become Jewish.
In the latest case exemplifying the tension between Israel’s rabbinate and Orthodox groups in the Diaspora, a religious court prevented the marriage of an Israeli man and an American woman, who converted under a well-respected New York rabbi, Haskel Lookstein.
And in an unusual twist, which has brought the case into the limelight, Lookstein is also the rabbi who converted Ivanka Trump and officiated at her wedding to Jewish real-estate scion Jared Kushner, an advisor for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
That is one more example of bad moral rabbinical prescripts as the result of removing God from finding proper Torah/Bible-guided decisions.
At Mount Sinai, some human tribe had become Jewish since it decided to follow the God’s prescriptions on “decent, moral lives”. If somebody decides now to follow these prescriptions, this person is Jewish by God’s definition, and no human rabbinical court can change it.
When I visit the Western Wall for prayers and inspiration, I always observe here Jews, and even non-Jews, of different “colors” – in completely white/black uniforms and in just colorful t-shorts – trying to find here the meaning of their individual lives. Everything looks peaceful and inspiring.
Then I read in the news media:
Clash between Haredi and non-Orthodox Jews at Western Wall. The Western Wall plan continues to spark riots: Today, hundreds of Reform and Conservative Jews arrived at the Western Wall in order to hold an egalitarian prayer service in protest of the decision to delay the plan. At the holy site, they encountered dozens of Haredi Jews who shouted and whistled in order to disrupt their prayer service.
Women of the Wall have been fighting a 25-year long battle “to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.”
In what may have been his first words on the subject in Hebrew, Netanyahu said: “At a time when we are continuing in our efforts to reach a solution that will allow every Jew to feel at home at the Western Wall, there are those who would prefer to divide our people and even declare that other Jews are wicked or not Jews at all. We must reject these words and these inappropriate acts that are opposed to the fundamental spirit of the State of Israel.”
At the Western Wall, the Jews are expressing and strengthening their faith – they are not here because the Jewish law is compelling them to do so. At the Western Wall, the Jews are as inspired faithful individuals – not as an organized group led by a rabbi or somebody behaving like a rabbi.
However, sometimes a rabbi or somebody behaving like a rabbi lead to the Western Wall an organized group that disrupts the Western–Wall harmony of the faithful – with the goal of strengthening his/her religious group and membership and with clear knowledge that it disrupts the Western-Wall harmony of faithful. Those official and nonofficial rabbis put their business-based professional interests above the Jewish faith.
That is a well-observed troubling general trend in the “professional Judaism” – the rabbis of multiple different streams and sub-streams are interested more in emphasizing their difference to attract more members and money instead of searching for and strengthening the common foundation of Jewish faith which is the “design” of the God-guided better world for everybody.
From the news media:
“I don’t plan to leave any money to my children,” the Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman recently announced.
Mr. Fridman, a Jewish businessman who made his money in oil, banking and telecoms, isn’t exactly known for penny-pinching. A prolific philanthropist, he helped found the Russian Jewish Congress in 1996 and is a co-founder of the Genesis Prize, often called “Jewish Nobel Prize”.
But when it comes to his four children, aged between ten and 22, Mr. Fridman explained he feels inheriting his wealth would hamper them. Instead he plans on giving his fortune away to charity.
From the news media:
Mr. Donald Trump, an American billionaire who made his money on excellent real estate developments, supports 23 charities. Among them are Children with AIDS, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Paralyzed Veterans of America, St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters.
All his adult children – Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump – are active in his businesses and charities and most probably will inherit his business empire and charitable work.
Who is right – Mr. Fridman, who does not leave any money to his children to force them starting from “zero” on their own, or Mr. Trump, whose children continue Trump’s creative and charitable work?
It looks like from the canons of Jewish faith, Jewish Mr. Fridman is wrong and Christian Mr. Trump is right, and here is why.
The family is the most important collective unit in Judaism where children are learning from the parents the moral fundamentals – how to define GOOD and how to support it. The Torah/Bible-guided creative work and mitzvah/charity are among very important GOODs, and the children should learn in the family the spiritual greatness of creative work and mitzvah.
Mr. Fridman is one of the creators of the post-Soviet banking and communication systems in Russia that enormously benefited Russian economy and well-being of ordinary Russians. Of course, the Russian authoritarian governing system does not let the Russian economy to be truly prosperous and beneficial to all … but that is a completely different story. The work of Mr. Fridman might be another excellent example of the Jews fulfilling their role of the Chosen to create a better world for everybody … although I am sure Mr. Fridman does not think of himself as one of the Chosen. What is truly strange that Mr. Fridman does not want this children continue his honorable creative and charitable work … of course, if he is not forced by the Russian government to do so that may be the case in Russia.
Mr. Trump is one of the best world-renowned creators of beautiful real estate developments, which make human life more accomplished and enjoyable. His work has made him a very rich person and he spends sizable portion of his wealth for charitable work. What is most important, his creative and charitable work is the life of his entire family as supposed to be if we follow the Judeo-Christian moral traditions.
To understand both the true nature of anti-Semitism and how to fight it, we have to get back to the Torah-based essence of Jewish mission of the Chosen. In the era of the politically correct equality of everything and everybody, we are trying to leave this subject to the history or to the internal Jewish religious rituals. In doing so, we deprive ourselves from the opportunity to find the true nature of anti-Semitism and how to fight it.
One of the contemporary very influential rabbis:
What then is anti-Semitism? It is not a coherent set of beliefs but a set of contradictions. Before the Holocaust, Jews were hated because they were poor and because they were rich; because they were communists and because they were capitalists; because they kept to themselves and because they infiltrated everywhere; because they clung tenaciously to ancient religious beliefs and because they were rootless cosmopolitans who believed nothing. Anti-Semitism is a virus that survives by mutating. In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated because of their religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries they were hated because of their race. Today they are hated because of their nation state, Israel. Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism.
The rabbi is wrong. Anti-Semitism is not a set of contradictions. It is the expression of adversary feelings toward the Jewish people for their invisible God-guided work of convincing the Gentiles to change their understanding of the essence of human existence – from whatever the Gentiles believed in to the Torah/Bible based understanding.
That is at the core of the Jewish mission of the Chosen for all Jews – from atheists to ultra-orthodox. The Jews as the Chosen are not on a mission to rule the world – they are on a mission to change the world without expecting the appreciation of the world. For the entire Jewish people, it is a possibly genetically driven mission impossible to stop.
The rabbi says that anti-Semitism is not a coherent set of beliefs but a set of contradictions, and that is wrong. In order to prove that is wrong, we have to get back to the essence of the Jewish mission of the Chosen. That is the mission of creating a God-guided better world for everybody.
The Torah did not specify the political and social framework for this better world but specified one crucial principle: all the humans are created in the image and likeness of God who is Free Creator not bounded by “too many rules”. Therefore, various groups of Jewish people have been competing from the very beginning and are competing now for a most suitable framework for a better world – the framework where the maximum possible conditions for a human individual to be free, creative and not bounded by “too many rules” – in the image and likeness of God – would be achieved.
Could a society of poor people not restrained by any material possessions be free and creative in the image of God that rabbi Joshua (future Jesus Christ) tested?
Could a society of rich people who have already everything be free and creative in the image of God that many mitzvah-driven Jews tested?
Could a Communist society with the equal distribution of collective wealth provide the creative freedom for everybody in the image of God that Karl Marx tested?
Could a Capitalist society with the equal distribution of individual opportunities provide the freedom for everybody in the image of God that Torah/Bible-guided American founders tested?
Should the Jews try all in the above alone in isolation before presenting their discoveries to the non-Jews as the orthodox Jews are doing, or the Jews have to incorporate themselves into the non-Jewish societies to work together with them as the reform Jews are doing?
The Jews have been trying to test all that by introducing their ideas to various Gentile communities from the very beginning. Some communities liked the ideas and tested them together with the Jews. However, the other communities resisted. They have resisted since the Jewish ideas have been changing their well-established traditions, which were based on much lesser individual freedoms. They believed it is not bad to have a human superior above them (dictator, business owner, religious leader, political guru, president, government, etc.) who is taking care of them and is making them not responsible for all bad things that may happen.
The result of this resistance? Yes, it is what we called anti-Semitism. Therefore, anti-Semitism is not something contradictory and difficult to understand – anti-Semitism is a normal reaction of a normal people to something what is trying to change their way of life. If it is so, a logical way to stop anti-Semitism is to stop changing the world. However, the Jews cannot do it – it is their God-designed, and probably genetically supported, destiny.
Nevertheless, there is a way to mitigate the force of anti-Semitism. This way is for the rabbis to work with the Gentiles to let them understand and accept the Jewish mission and work together on creating a God-guided better world for everybody.