Friday, March 22, 2019

The Roots of Anti Semitism-History’s Oldest Hatred

The Roots of Anti-semitism-History’s Oldest Hatred

A renewed anti-Semitism, disguised as the demands of “intersectionalists” against the privileged ( read “Jews”) on the left, with the violence of “White-supremacists” on the other, has once again reared its head.
In this light, I present here rough notes on anti-Semitism in its various manifestations over history, gathered from various sources.
First, on the occasion of my father’s Yahrzeit, I am posting his essay on the roots of modern anti-Semitism. A copy of the original is posted at the end of this post.

This  essay on the topic of anti-Semitism, was published in the National Jewish Monthly of the B’nai B’rith. It is interesting to note, however, that the editorial staff denounced the position my father took on this topic in a sidebar directly adjacent to the column.
The following is a transcript of the article:

Anti-Semitism Is Based On New Factors, Not Religion
By Rabbi Dr.  William Weinberg  c early 1960’s

Neither Hitler, nor the Dreyfusards, nor the anti-Semitic right-wingers who between the two World Wars grouped themselves around the daily “L’Action Francaise,” fought under the faded banner of the church. We must not be deceived by smuggled-in pieties. Nazism’s anti-Jewish ideology was not based on the theological antagonism between the Pharisees and Jesus. The Nazis did not adorn themselves with the symbol of the cross but with the swastika, which stood for many things but not for Christian myths or beliefs. Hitler was not a modern Torquemada, and the gas chambers were not regarded by him as auto-da-fe, a place for burning heretics.
It is wrong in our day and age to identify anti-Semitism, primarily, with religious intolerance, though the words are still used interchangeably, especially by Jews. The religious wall turned long ago into a “paper curtain.” If we are still excluded from some clubs or neighborhoods, it’s not for our disbelief in Jesus. The idea that hostility toward us is, mainly and directly, the result of religious intolerance, is a product of frustration. The seed of anti-Semitism is undoubtedly Christian; the root and branches are not. Creeds are not the insignia of our present-day civilization, and the Christ-killer myth rarely, if ever, pops up in conversations. To the best of my recollection, no Nazi ever threw the New Testament at me, nor did any Russian anti-Semite, during the four years I was a refugee in the Soviet Union. Anti-Semitism is essentially a-religious, thoroughly secularized and materialistic.
We are under a spell and look in the wrong direction. Out of fear of another Holocaust, we have put up a warm blanket of belief that if only the churches got less nasty, most Jew baiting would disappear. And yet I venture to say that if every trace of religious discrimination against us were wiped away overnight, it would have the same effect as a heart operation on a broken leg. In September 1938, Pope Pius stated clearly, “Anti-Semitism is…a movement in which we, as Christians, cannot have any part whatever…. Spiritually we are Semites.” Did this noble statement prevent the Germans, the Ukrainians, the Poles, and Lithuanians from slaughtering Jews? Does the contemporary left- or right-winger pay much attention to church statements? Does the average Catholic study them?
Modern anti-Semitism is primarily a secular movement, and large parts of it are anti-Christian…. We must look for friends who themselves are power factors, for men ready to protect their liberties, law, and peaceful procedures for the redress of their grievances—within the framework of our Constitution.
We need an increased realism and sobriety with which to approach the modern varieties of Jew hatred. This is a job for politicians, political scientists, criminologists, and psychopathologists rather than for theologians.
The Bible is strikingly silent on what motivates us to evil. We are told of Cain and Abel, “Vayomer Kayin el Hevel Akhiv”—“Cain said to Abel, his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him.” The Hebrew word Vayomer (and the word said) introduces a quotation, yet there is no quotation. What is it that Cain said to Abel? What did Abel say back to him? What were they talking about? The Bible does not care. It only cares that Cain and Abel were brothers and one brother killed the other.
What mattered to the biblical scribe was not the cause of the quarrel, but the consequence. The world spent years in bloodshed because of this act of Cain against Abel in the twentieth century.

Pre-dates Christianity
The Bible already hints at the problem of a minority in a foreign land. In the case of Jospeh, Potiphar’s wife harps on the tune of “ Hebrew who plays with us”; Pharaoh: “They have become numerous and too powerful, they will join with the enemy against us(and leave us!).
First known case of Jew-baiting-an attack on the Jewish colony at Elephantine, year 400 BCE!
Blood libel- first propagated by Antiochus supporters against Jews-reported by Apion, the first systematic anti-Semitic theoretician, in 1st century Egypt, but much older-Jews capture a  Greek for sacrifice.
Culture clash- Jews spred through Greek and Roman societies- a large number in Rome and Alexandria.  Very popular. Jewish ideas make inroads, 1 in 10 of Roman Empire are Jews-many more are “ Jew-lovers.” But there is a reaction, especially in Alexandria.  Manetho-about 3rd century BC proposes theory of Jews as a nation of robbers and lepers. Tacitus- around year 100- despises Jews.

Religious Anti-Semitism- Anti-Judaism- against an idea, not against a people

Christianity- note-Modern Christians have changed greatly in their preaching , especially the Catholic Church, as well as the major Protestant denominations.
The conflict among Jews between the Jesus people and the bulk of Jews becomes a conflict in which the two sides try to put more distance between them. As the Roman Empire turns on Jews and on Rabbinic Judaism in particular (Deuterosis), the early Christian texts reflect a re-editing, to place the blame, on Jesus crucifixion, from the Romans, to the Jews, “ His blood be upon us and upon our children.” Deicide ( God-killer) and the Jew condemned to eternal wandering become the regnant motif.
The conflict is flamed by the early church thinkers. Church Fathers, such as John Chrysostom, went further in their condemnation John Chrysostom held, as most Church Fathers did, that the sins of all Jews were communal and endless, All Church Fathers applied the passages of the New Testament concerning the alleged advocation of the crucifixion of Christ to all Jews of his day, the Jews were the ultimate evil. John Chrysostom went so far to say that because Jews rejected the Christian God in human flesh, Christ, they therefore deserved to be killed: "grew fit for slaughter."
The split is grounded in Roman law-Theodosius code: In 404, Jews were excluded from certain governmental posts.[5] In 418, they were barred from the civil service, and from all military positions.[6] In 425, they were excluded from all remaining public offices, both civilian and military—a prohibition which Justinian I repeated.
Continued in 1215 Lateran Council  Jews are forced to wear distinct clothes( yellow badge A Moslem practice.) Practices incorporated demeaning to Jews.
BUT- also, defense of Jews rights-  Sicut Judaeis  (the "Constitution for the Jews") was the official position of the papacy regarding Jews throughout the Middle Ages and later. The first bull was issued in about 1120 by Calixtus II  The bull forbade, besides other things, Christians from coercing Jews to convert, or to harm them, or to take their property, or to disturb the celebration of their festivals, or to interfere with their cemeteries, on pain of excommunication.

Islam- Much of Islamic preaching continues in this same path path-Unfortunately for Islam and the world,  it had adopted the tropes of Christianity. Level of out-spoken anti-Semitism is greater by all means, even in countries that had no major Jewish settlement such as Indonesia or Malaysia!

Mohammed- rose to power with Jewish allies- and then, when they fail to back him, he turns on them. What starts as a result of political power struggle becomes magnified into a fight between Islam and Judaism.
Intensified in the Hadith( Oral traditions)-Especially of Al Bukhari, who is considered authority behind most Islamic militants today. This statement is part of the charter of Hamas, for example
The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (the Boxthorn tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews. (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim).Sahih Muslim41:6985, see also Sahih Muslim41:6981Sahih Muslim41:6982Sahih Muslim41:6983Sahih Muslim41:6984Sahih al-Bukhari4:56:791,(Sahih al-Bukhari4:52:177)
Even with Islamic tolerance-limits-
Jizya tax-dhimmi status. 2) Yellow badge 3) Even in Golden Age of Spain-- periods of forced conversion and explusioon- Almohades-forced conversions. Pogroms in Cordoba and Granada
In Shiite regions- extreme intolerance-1) Jews are impure. 2) Exile of Jews from capital of Yemen, Sana-Galut Mauza 1600’s.3) Iran-strong laws restricting Jews, Forced conversion in Isfahan 1600’s, Mashad 1800’s.
On the one hand, Moslem rulers wanted Jews; I e. Sultan Suleiman invited Jews into the Ottoman empire with open hands. On the other hand, as Islamic world interacted with west, anti-Semitism gets stronger and is deeply ingrained- even before the rise of State of Israel.
Current manifestations: both Sunni and Shiite:
The esteemed President of Malaysia:  In a speech made before the Organization of the Islamic Conference shortly before he left office, Mahathir claimed "the Jews rule the world by proxy: They get others to fight and die for them."[80] “We are up against a people who think. They survived 2,000 years of pogroms not by hitting back but by thinking. They invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power. . . .”(NY Times
Ayatollah Khomeini was obsessed with Jews,in a book he published in 1970: “The Jews...wish to establish Jewish domination throughout the world since they are a cunning and resourceful group of people, I fear that... they may one day achieve their goal.” Hukumat-i Islami (Islamic governance),

Secular anti-Semitism: Modern roots

Economic anti-Semitism: Jews as a relatively successful population are targeted as threat,  not to lower classes, but to upper & middle classes. For example, Jew as money-lender, financier, made it financially worthwhile for English barons to promote expulsion of Jews form England, 1200’s, as way of eliminating debts, taking over Jewish loan against other land owners. Pogroms of 1648 Poland- Jews served as “arenda” superintendents for Polish lords over Ukrainian Cossacks. Russia- end of 19th century- one of largest group pushing for laws against Jews-the merchant classes who could not compete against Jews who could afford to buy/sell lower prices because they lived frugally and saved. Karl Marx- Jew as huckster, as the worst example of capitalism. Persecution of Jews in USSR as corrupt swindlers( Book, Judaism Unembellished- 1962, official Soviet imprimatur)

Nationalist anti-Semitism- especially 19th century- failure of concept of Europe”, “ All Men are Brothers”. Term anti-Semite invented by William Barr to describe his new movement ( it may have been a Jewish scholar who first coined it). The Jew as a distinct and permanently alien nation has no place inside the host nation. European form moves on to rising Arab nationalism, which begins to see the Jew as alien- Farhood in Baghdad. The denial of rights to Jews in the newly freed colonies of North Africa. Albert Memmi-great ideologist of Tunisian independence, colleague of Franz Fanon: “We would have liked to be Arab Jews. If we abandoned the idea, it is because over the centuries the Moslem Arabs systematically prevented its realization by their contempt and cruelty. It is now too late for us to become Arab Jews. Not only were the homes of Jews in Germany and Poland torn down, scattered to the four winds, demolished, but our homes as well. “. . . Never, I repeat, never - with the possible exception of two or three very specific intervals such as the Andalusian, and not even then - did the Jews in Arab lands live in other than a humiliated state, vulnerable and periodically mistreated and murdered, so that they should clearly remember their place.( reprinted in various places).

Judeophobia- The Psychological Basis of Anti-Semitism goes far beyond common xenophobia, the fear of strangers. Hatred of the Jew is psychological phenomenon- Freudian perspective-- Jew as the father figure who must be destroyed.  The Jew as demonic, possessed of supernatural powers- the Jew kills the son of God, drinks blood, poisons wells, controls Empires. The Jewish male has designs on the gentile woman, the Jewish female uses her wiles to undermine government leaders. In the the 20th century, it morphed into the modern racial version of Nazism, its most virulent form, leading to the destruction of one-third of all Jews.
The racial basis of anti-Semitism has its roots in Spain after the Expulsion, when the idea of “Pure blood”, ( Limpieza de Sangre”, became a tool of the Inquisition and of power-players to root out Jews by ancestry.

Left anti-Semitism-

Deep roots, starting with Jewish leaders- Marx himself.
The famous Polish Jewish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg specifically repudiated any concern with the plight of the Jews in a letter written in 1917, in which she indicated that the exploited of Asia and Africa were “so much closer” to her than the Jews that “I cannot find a special corner in my heart for the ghetto; I feel at home in the whole world.” In “Are the Jews a Race?,” the only book on the Jewish question written by a major Marxist theoretician, Karl. Kautsky, who was also of Jewish origins, criticized Juda ism as the major source of medieval thinking left in the modern world, one which must “dissolve . . . and disappear.” And like Marx, Kautsky wrote about Judaism: “The sooner it disappears, the better it will be, not only for society, but also for the Jews them selves.”
Poland- purge of Jews from major positons-1968, Gomulka, mass arrests, purges form power, expulsion-25,000 left. Similar- Hungary 1950s, Czech during communist takeover.
In Germany, New Left students, in a sickening replay of the behavior of their Nazi predecessors of 192833 (university students were the first stratum in Germany to back the Nazis, giving them majorities in stu dent council elections as early as 1931), chant as they parade: “Mach die Nahe Osten rot; schlag die Zionisten tot” (“Make the Near East Red; smash the Zionists dead”).
Jean Bauberot, former leader of the French Student Christian Association and currently editor of Herytem, a New Left journal, wrote in the MayJuly, 1969, issue that to “demonstrate the intricacies of the Palestine problem” leftists must “use expressions which, taken by themselves, appear to resemble certain lines from ‘Mein Kampf.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

( 1970 -original paper for Dr Moshe Davis-written c 1980, during debate on acceptance of women at JTS- abridged and published in Jewish Spectator, 1982)

Proposal for a Conservative Mechanism for Creative Adaptation

The Conservative Movement has come to a cross-road since the tabling of resolution on the ordination of women as Rabbis by the faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary. At stake, even more than the issue of women's status within Judaism, is the purpose and meaning of the Conservative Movement: what is to be the rational for adhering to tradition or to change, what is to be its process for decision making, and what its direction for the future.

It is the contention of this paper that the mechanism of direction be kept as open and flexible as possible as to allow a maximum of responses to the needs of Judaism entering the Twenty First Century. The following is a discussion of the nature of change within Judaism in modern times, the question of making projections into the future, and a methodology for coping with the task. Hopefully, this will serve as a stimulus for healthy debate within the Movement that will lead to a clearer self-understanding.

The most recent "earthquakes" of Jewish consciousness have been the Holocaust and the birth of Israel. To these events, no formal theological or halakhic response has seriously developed, not only within the Conservative Movement, but in American Judaism as a whole (Viz Robert Hammer, " Not to Mourn " Conservative Judaism,  Vol.25, Summer, 1971).

Mordecai Kaplan, in his the symposium of Response,of Winter, 1970, suggested that Judaism was still reeling from the impact of the Emancipation, some two centuries ago. Similar thoughts have been developed by David Rudavsky in Emancipation and. Adjustment, and Jacob Neusner in Judaism in a Secular Age.

The crisis of modern Judaism must be traced back even farther; the sense of "gevalt"„ which has become in our generation a reflex, can be seen to be rooted in early modern times as early as the late 15th and 16th centuries. Certainly that is the case of European Jewish history. One can say that since the Spanish expulsion, the Jewish people have been faced with constant internal challenge to the fundamentals of belief. The past centuries have seen the rise and demise of .radical Lurianic mysticism, the Sabbatian movement, the Frankists heresy, the anti-intellectual revolt of Hassidism; all of this preceded the modern developments of Reform, Haskalah, Neo-Orthodoxy, and so forth.

The solution. of the "Jewish problem" was an issue long before the Zionist theoreticians began to speak of its resolution, or before Hitler's perversion of the issue.

At no point, from early modern times till now, is it possible to speak of a "normative Judaism"; the early Reform is as Jewish a model as is Habad,, and both are less radical than their Sabbatian predecessors.

To be aware of having been in a state of continued crisis is insufficient; there must be an adequate response at each step that meets the needs of the generation in each case. Toynbee proposed that a civilization must constantly meet new challenges and respond to them in order to survive.

We may question if, indeed' in modern times, we are above the laws of history (or sociology or economics.)  With each response in each age, we may have lost some of the resiliency of the preceding era. Early Reform was a. response to the Enlightenment and Emancipation; Conservatism in America, a response to the dislocation, socially and spiritually, of East European immigrants; Zionism, a response to the revival of nationalism and the death of universalism in the 19th and 20th century. Each response was sufficient in its time for the needs of Jewry. Yet each may have left Jewish civilization weaker than before.

As new challenges arise, will any of the various bodes, movements organizations create a form of Judaism or forms of Judaism that will have vigor and. vitality to maintain the Eternal People? Will the Conservative Movement, which lays claim to having inherited the mantel of 'normative" Judaism, be able to come to grips with the future? As much as we are affected by the past Emancipation or Holocaust or the rebirth of Israeli we are even more directly affected by developments of the Present. Our Weltanschaunq changes as rapidly as the Paris haute contour change designs. A summary glance of the "relevant issue" that have the front pages of popular media and attention over the past several years is sufficient: the race to the moon; Civil Rights; domino theory;counter culture; Death of God; the imperial Presidency; the Great Society;the Limits of Growth; Born again Christianity.

The list can go on extensively. Each theme becomes, in its moment, the regnant concern of all educated, sophisticated people, and then spreads to the public at large by the time the. "cultural elites" have moved on to new outlooks.

Life-styles change as quickly as the ZEITGEIST. The flight from the city became a flight from suburbia; gratification from a two- car garage has become gratification from a small gas-saver.The study of science as a popular avenue -of academic studies has been replaced by an emphasis on the Master of Business Administration.

The American Jew dwells in the mist of a maelstrom.
Whether it is ideology that determines the structures of society, or the machinery of production that determine our beliefs can be left to Engel or Marx for debate. Certainly, the number of factors, each of different weight and direction, that affect the American Jew are legion. The open society makes possible a breakdown of familial and community identity and the destruction of traditional bonds, while "Holocaust" and "Israel" serve to strengthen the Jewish identity. A strong Jewish identity, at the same time, is no longer incompatible with inter­marriage, even when the other partner remains a non-Jew.

What approach shall the Conservative Movement take in such an era?

Many have proposed "agendas” for Judaism, such as Eli. Ginsberg's Agenda for American Jews. Jacob Neusner suggested a better defined, more unified Conservative Movement to be able to play a significant role in a fragmented Jewish community ( Judaism in a Secular Age, "Agenda for Conservative Judaism , pp.I41 ff)
Can there be an agenda? The unified field theory proved elusive for the genius of Einstein; I fear that a unified agenda may also be elusive.

Prophecy has progressed from the ecstasy of Saul dancing and singing to Isaiah’s majestic poetry to its modern form, charts and statistics of the "think tank". The procedure is not to deliver the "ultimate word", but to establish multiple possible and probable scenarios. Such was the approach of a book, The Year 2000. a project of the Hudson Institute (Kahn and Weiner). Looking back over the past millennia, they discerned thirteen trends in Western Civilization, among which are the accumulation of scientific and technological knowledge. population growth, urbanization, literacy, and an increasing tempo of change.

Given these thirteen trends, it was difficult for them to project definitely for even a few decades; they proposed instead„ plausible alternatives. First, a Standard World, based. on fairly unchanging. continuation of present trends; secondly, eight. Canonical variations, subdivided into three groups. In addition to this, they suggest the possibility of scientific developments unforeseeable. at present. that could radically alter all predictions, - and even offer some nightmare scenarios.

The Conservative Movement must be able to deal with all eventualities,  especially those that touch upon the core of Jewish existence , ­the decline of traditional religion and the regeneration of religious inquiry. Both are not future eventualities, but realities occurring simultaneously, with which we must be able to come to grips.

A Methodology for Conservative Judaism.
Given a multi-faceted picture for the coming decades, it will be difficult, if not impossible for the Conservative Movement to adopt a strong, clear - cut position on any issue that will be acceptable to the Movement as a whole. By the time that all the various branches and wings of the Movement have fully taken size of situation and need, approached a degree of unity and agreement, and undertaken an organized response to the specific issue, that issue may itself have disappeared, been replaced by another issue radically different, or, have come to such a point that the Conservative stance, by the time it is achieved, is irrelevant or ignored.

Turn -abouts in public thought and interest can occur in five year cycles, (or even shorter); the Conservative Movement judging by the contents of Mordecai Waxman's Tradition and Change is still debating many of the same issues of fifty years ago. The question of the status of women has been an issue for many years now; attitudes toward mixed marriages, a makat medinah for a decade, are yet being formulated. Israel has been a State for over thirty years, and only recently has there been an attempt to create a Conservative Zionist Movement; The Holocaust has yet to elicit a specific development from within the Conservative Movement. (Both topics are mentioned in passing in Seymour Siegel's Conservative Judaism and Jewish lay) published by the Rabbinical Assembly.)

Nevertheless, the Conservative Movement has become the largest of the major variants of American Judaism, despite its lack of ideology or resolution (or perhaps because of it). Marshall Sklare promulgated his well-known contention that the movement grew because of a fortunate social and economic development in American Jewry ( Conservative Judaism: An American Religious Movement)

We must take it seriously, with the realization that the current forms of Reform and Orthodox are equally products of American society. Each Rabbi and his (or her) congregation has, in Conservative Jewry, developed a working ideology that has fit the needs of the particular congregation at its particular moment in history.

We bear burden, as a consequence, of appearing parve, neither Reform nor Orthodox, and feel apologetic, as we express "What is Conservative Judaism" to those wishing to learn while standing on one leg. The very strength and hallmark of Judaism, which we are proud to flaunt - namely its openness to ideas and development - becomes, in terms of Conservative Judaism, it appears, its shortcoming,

We need a new conception of Conservative Judaism to fit the reality of our movement. Our uniqueness is our being "holistic" a more contemporary term than "Catholic Israel" we deal with the entire being of Judaism. Jewish Community Center and Federations can only deal with the body; Jewish intellectualism ( a la New York Jews.) Jewish secularism, Yiddishism, can deal only with the mind, as can an only academic approach to, Judaism; the classical Reform and today's left wing Reform on the one hand, and Baalei Teshuvah Yeshivot, the Hasidic: and Yeshivah movements concentrate on the heart.

 In our terms, as Rosenzweig postulated, "Nothing Jewish is alien." Herein is our hallmark; Peoplehood; a faith in one God; a commitment to expressing that faith in life of mitzvot.

Reform originally denigrated peoplehood, and has not, today, developed a commitment to that which has held true throughout Jewish history: an expression of the faith through a pattern of life. Orthodoxy, in its various manifestations has peoplehood: faith, and the commitment to a life of mitzvot but this is at the cost of mind - at the expense of bifurcating critical thought from Judaism: of a split mentality. All developments within Conservative Judaism ,in all its manifestations, are reflections of these fundamental characteristics; hence, of all expressions of modern Judaism, secular or religious, only Conservative Judaism can claim to be not a "sticking to ritualism" nor a watering down of Judaism" but rather to be the most legitimate of all Jewish developments in our time. Such self-surety must stand at the base of Conservative Judaism.

Within these considerations, all variations of Conservative Judaism are not only tolerated, but welcome. Rather than being a sign of organizational weakness, vacuity, or lack of purpose,.,. this reflects the true "attire of classical Judaism. It is the Essence of Judaism.."

At the beginning, I posited that since early modern times, the fabric of Jewish life has been sorely worn; however, even in the best of times, the Jewish outlook has been a variegated as Joseph's -"coat of many colors." We are only now discovering that instead of the unitary image presented by the Mishna and Talmud of Judaism in the time of the Second Temple and thereafter, there was a highly dynamic religion of many different trends. Even within the forerunner of classical Judaism, Pharisaism, there is the divergence between the schools of Hillel and Shamai; the Talmud records,"Elu ve Elu",both are of divine authority. The Conservative Movement is oft described as the Pharisaic movement of our day, and we must recognize, then, that within ourselves, there are many legitimate schools of thought, and Elu ve Elu , all are right, and must be given free room to develop. If, in Temple times, there was a Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, so, in present structure of the Conservative movement, legitimization must be made for a Beit Mordecai,Belt Heschel, Beit Shaul, and the structure must be arranged to enable each to flourish, unimpeded by the other.

A variety of possible constructs comes to mind. One could, for instance, consider certain central planks, to which, in general, the different Batim of Conservative Judaism could assent, with liberty to interpret the implications of these planks left explicitly open. One could take Mordecai Kaplan's four areas of agreement (see Waxman, Tradition and Change, pp.214-215): 1)Eretz Yisrael, 2) The primacy of Religion, 3) The maximum plenitude of Jewish content, 4) The encouragement of scientific learning.

Under the plank of Eretz Yisrael, one could find a group which considers Israel to be the effective exclusive, legitimate center of the Jewish people; one could also accept a group which would see Israel as an equal focus in the Jewish ellipse with American Jewry as the other focus. Under primacy of religion, there could be a wide variety of theological schools: pantheistic, naturalistic, trans-natural, existential, traditional. Under maximum plentitude, one could conceive of groups for whom Halakha is the central concern, to be relatively unchanged, to those who would make extensive changes but only in accord with traditional methods of exegesis, to those who would remake halakha entirely, based on contemporary conditions. In the area of scientific inquiry, there could also be a range from limited acceptance of scientific criticism on the Bible, to acceptance as "written under divine inspiration" to an understanding of Bible as the expression of human yearning for the divine.

An alternative model for the structuring of Conservative Judaism could be derived from the philosopher Wittgenstein who suggested that, in search of the understanding of groups, one should not look for universal characteristics:
“We see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail. . .   "family resemblances". "An example of his concept is to picture a set with the features ABCDE, with members in that set, edcba„ each of which have four of the five features, with one missing in each member. Thus                                         .
(from Wittgenstein, The Philosophical investigation, Edited by.George Pitcher, pp.188-189)

Under such a format, we might posit many positions, most of which would have to be accepted by each Bayit within the Conservative Movement. For example, one might place on one plane, all possible concepts within Conservative Judaism (only a few are listed herein):
God as spiritual being
God as power for salvation
God as I-Thou
Torah as revelation of God
Torah as search for God
Torah as binding
Torah as guiding
Halakha with moderate change
Halakha reconstructed

One can conceive of a Bayit which would include A,E,G, and I; their platform could be: "We conceive of God as a spiritual entity which elicited from the Jewish people the Torah, a guiding source of authority, and in recognition of this, a Jew follows the Halakha as revised extensively to meet the changed needs of modern society."

Or Bayit BEFH-: "We see God as the power that makes for salvation, and the Torah as the search of the. Jewish people for God. The Torah, as the product of the Jewish People, is binding in authority, and Jewish law, as the expression of the people, shall be followed with only slight modification."
The possibilities are legion.

Such a structure exists, informally, in that the members of the Movement, and their various bodies, are of radically different dis­positions. This is particularly so of the hard core of the Movement, the members of the Rabbinical Assembly, who can best serve as the leaders of the movement, by being both learned and in touch with the realities of American Jewry. By providing a structuring to give expression to this great variety, confusion can be changed to direction and action.

It would be possible to produce a multiple of Battim in the style of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, along several parameters: strictness or liberalness of interpretation of Jewish law; traditional philosophical, Rabbinic, or non-traditional theology; ethnic or universal oriented; high synagogue or low synagogue (Havurah) oriented; rational or mystical. For example, along three-dimensions of observance, theology, and ambience (religious - mystical or ethnic-secular), one can see the following grouping

The old demarcation - Left - Right .- Center - is of no validity in such a structure.

There is no canonicity to this grouping; many more or fewer division could be accommodated according to various modalities; some could closely be aligned with others and some could be at variance with every other one. Such a structure would be flexible enough to allow for creative development in several directions at once. Certain Battim would increase in backing with time, others might shrink or be merged, yet, given the rapid changes facing the American Jewish community, could regrow or be revitalized to match a new reality.
The individual Jew, at present lost in attempt to define for himself what it means to be a Conservative Jew, would then have specific "concepts", tendencies, "trends" to identify with and chose as meeting his/her Jewish needs and beliefs.

To structure and co-ordinate such an organization would require administrative ingenuity and talent, which can easily be found in the Rabbinical Assembly. An example might be taken from American Orthodoxy, which, according to Charles Liebman (Orthodoxy in American Jewish Life; AJYB 1965 ), although splintered into many small groups, has been experiencing a revival and is thriving despite predictions of immanent demise made a few decades ago.

We could not afford, however, to leave things to the will of heaven and structural anarchy; the roof organization would be vital. Jewish educattion is too costly a venture to split, as goes for the training of Rabbinate, or the machinery for placement position papers and policies vis a vis the rest of the Jewish community or the general public.

This multi-formed approach should be better able to coordinate the varied institutions that are now growing in American Jewry within, or independent of, formal synagogues. A new United. Synagogue would. then be commissioned to reflect the divergencies, and house under one roof, the following types of Betei Knesset:

1)    The standard large synagogue/Hebrew school/ center complex which would meet the needs of people who are looking for either the programming variety possible in such a large institution, or who are looking, admittedly, for a less intense Jewish involvement -suffice with a pleasant service, a good school, and some pleasant social gatherings. This should not be scoffed at, as through these, we reach the great bulk of the Jewish community.

2)    The large standard synagogue, with all the above facilities, coordinating, as its main aspect, or in addition to its regular programming, Havuroth, as is the case in many large synagogues today. The different Havuroth could give expression to the different manifestations of Conservative Judaism, while all sharing the same central facilities.

3)    Independent Havuroth, which succeed in drawing people into Jewish life who would otherwise remain untouched by more traditional Jewish structures. Since the Havurah has started to become a movement of its own, with a national convention, it would be vital for the Conservative Movement to be able to work through this vehicle.

4)    Stiebel complex. In Jerusalem, there are many buildings which house several services, simultaneously, or in succession, of different colorings -Hasidic, straight davening, Yekish. Each one reflects the different mood, traditions, and backgrounds of the worshippers gathered therein, yet they are all brought in proximity and fellowship by being under one roof, constantly intermingling upon entering, leaving, and just milling around. Some synagogues have several services in recognition of different needs of the congregants; rather than be considered a sign of lack of cohesion, it should be a source of pride. Under one roof, there could be a highly traditional service ("orthodox"), a standard Conservative service, of choir, Cantor, and Rabbi, cum sermonis; an alternative service emphasizing variation in music, creative readings, different formats for seating; a purely meditative service, of as yet unimagined format, since it is better to .meditate in shul, than in ashram. All could run simultaneously, with all members entering together, and following services, rejoining for a joint Oneg Shabbat or Kiddush, wherein would be preserved the atmosphere of a congregation and community.

5)         Jewish outreach centers. We are embarassed by the drive and success of those most committed to avoiding the. Twentieth Century in being able to reach out to people who have had no traditional background. Both the Baptists and Habad put us to shame. In Houston, there is a Main Point, a joint outreach project of the local Southern Baptist churches; in this facility, every program and course is offered to the young person, especially the single, with no strings attached, with no membership fees, but with a lavish helping of religion. Habad has done equally well in attracting Jewish students who had no previous Jewish connection. Not everyone is searching for the intense authoritarianism of a Habad„ but many young adults, singles, or senior adults, are waiting for someone to reach out to them. Half of all Jews belong to no synagogues, yet most Jews, in surveys call themselves "Conservative"; they have to be pulled in with an open arm, not a call for dues.

Under such an approach, Conservative Judaism will be able to legitimately be viewed as normative Judaism, reflecting both the histor­ical pluralism which has been Judaism's intellectual hallmark and the will to expressing Jewish faith accordingly. This will allow freedom of conscience, not _only for. those who feel that certain categories of.halakhka are immutable but also for those who believe, as well, that halakha must be adjusted where necessity demands; one need not close out the other. Under such an approach, those within the Reform movement, who "lean" towards Conservatism will find, within it, a body of like-minded colleagues among who will feel entirely at ease; Reconstructionism could, with full intellectual integrity, reunite, keeping it’s own identity; those among the Orthodox, who have recognized the intellectual arguments of modern criticism, will find the way open to aligning themselves within those groups .in the Conservative movement whose attitude to halakha is similar, without feeling themselves involved with colleagues who, in their eyes, would be too radical. Sitting in the center and opening to new blood in both directions, the Conservative Movement could serve to become the Sanhedrin for mainstream variants of Judaism in the Twenty-first Century.

 " We are one" would not be a slogan for the mindless melting of ideology and surrender of principles, but instead, the practical meeting of creative bodies for common goals. Chancellor Gerson Cohen, in referring to the tabling of the proposal to ordain women has offered hopes of seeing the time when we shall be able to tolerate differences within our ranks. To adopt such an outlook would be to concretize that hope. It would be revolutionary, and be justifiable, as in the words of the previous Chancellor: "Revolutions can be justified in only one way, by being successful."

Article as published in Jewish Spectator, summer 1982

Monday, February 25, 2019

Do Jews and Romance Mix?

Do Jews and Romance Mix?  Topic Notes

We are in love with love. But whose concept of love?
I have seen a lot of texts on human relations that tries to pin the blame on “ Judeo-Christian” theology. I say, leave us Jews out of it. You will see why.

Blame it on Romance
We start with Romance,  Greek and later European Christian concept, which arise from the thought that the ideal is greater than the real. The idea of justice is greater than justice. The ideal of beauty is greater than physical beauty. Therefore, the idea of love is greater than physical love.

Helen of Troy will never satisfy Paris, as she can not be perfect ( she dumps him, according to some versions). Therefore, the object of desire can never be obtained physically. 

The idea of love is greater than physical love.  Hence, courtly love. The knight who is pledged to his lady, Don Quixote enamoured of his Dulcinea.

Take Dante Alighieri and Beatrice. He saw her on a bridge when she was only 9; he fell in love,  greeted her on the street, but never met with her. He married Gemma, but loved Beatrice.

But woe to the lovers who consummate their love.
Sir Lancelot loves Queen Guinevere, wife of Arthur, and the kingdom falls apart.
Romeo and Juliet are the star crossed lovers who loved not wisely but too well.
It contyinues into modern years. A recent Polish movie, Cold War, shows two paramours who love each other madly, can’t live without each other, can’t live with each other, and commit mutual suicide. They die happily ever after.

Hence, love’s eternal fail, ancient and modern.

Western civilization was also burdened by another aspect of Geek thought.
Greeks ( such as Aristotle) perceived the sense of touch as inferior to other senses. Hence their heirs, the early Christian thinkers, looked down upon physical sex . This impacted Jewish thinkers as well; the great intellect , the Rambam , disparaged” chush hamishush”. ( To be discussed further on).

They didn’t like their wives:
Hesiod, the Greek poet and father of Greek mythology says of half of humanity,women : “ the deadly race and tribe of women who live amongst mortal men to their great trouble, no helpmeets in hateful poverty, but only in wealth.”
It is interesting to note that “ helpmeet” as used in this translation, is the same word used, in English translation, to describe Eve. For the Greek, no helpmeet, for the Hebrew, the helpmeet.
Whence Woman?
Pandora is no gift- she is the Trojan horse of the gods-
Pandora, the first woman, was created by Zeus to punish man because the blessing of fire had been stolen by Prometheus from Olympus. Zeus gave humans “an evil thing for men as the price of fire.” Thus  woman was created endowed with numerous beguiling and seducing gifts which would plague humanity from then on.
Their greatest philosopher didn’t think highly of women:
Aristotle states in his work Politics "as regards the sexes, the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject.” Women are "more mischievous, less simple, more impulsive ... more compassionate ... more easily moved to tears ... more jealous, more querulous, more apt to scold and to strike ... more prone to despondency and less hopeful ... more void of shame or self-respect, more false of speech, more deceptive, of more retentive memory [and] ... also more wakeful; more shrinking [and] more difficult to rouse to action" than men.”

For Us Jews
Male and Female
We are created together, in Chapter 1 of Genesis, both are “ Adam:, male and female !
Chapter 2 gives an “expanded version” of the creation. Adam is lonely and God brings all the animals of the garden to Adam. None satisfy him. He then creates Eve out of Adam’s “Tzela”( rib or side) and we have now “ Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.” At this moment, we are told, man abandons his parents and clings to his wife. This bind is the transition form child to adult.
In Rabbinic thinking, the difference between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 is squared away by the image of an androgynous human, bound in a face to face embrace of male and female entities, joined at the “tzela”, not a rib, but the organ of procreation. Separation of the two entities is the first step for self-fulfillment, while the reunion of the two marks the completion of that fulfillment.

What is the original sin?
Here we split with the historic Christian church
 Eve is Adam’s answer to existential loneliness, and we are told that both are “Erom”,naked, and unashamed.
In the very next line, we are introduced to the snake, who is “Arum”-Clever!
Was the sexual relationship the result of the snake’s machinations ; was it the original sin?
Said Rabbi Joshuia ben Karcha, the text comes to tell us what prompted this wicked creature: He saw them engaged in “ Derekh Eretz” ( the way of the world, in other words, copulation) and desired them! ( Bereshit Rabbah 85:2)

Their relationship began before the fruit, not after!

The early Christian fathers saw sexuality as the outcome of the original sin. Desire is the seat of the first sin. For the Rabbis, human desire, passion, was created by God as he shaped( Va-Y-Yetzer) the first Adam. He shaped Adam  with two letter Yods, to indicate that both “ yezter”, the impulse to good and the impulse to bad are of divine origin, and essential for the human being.

For us, wife and lover are one and the same

There is an odd comment on the story of Lemech, the killer of Cain, and of his two wives,,Ada & Tsila ( Genessi, Ch. 4)

Rabbi Azariah said in the name of Rabbi Yehudah bar Simon: this is what the men of the generation of the Flood would do: each of them would take two wives, one for procreation and one for pleasure. The one who was for procreation would sit as if she was a widow …and the one that was for pleasure would drink a cup for sterility so that she did not bear [children], and would sit by him adorned like a prostitute.  ( Bereshit Rabbah 23:2)

Midrash used past to reflect on present. The scholar knew of the Greek concept of Hetaera, a female companion, both intellectually and sexually, who attended the symposium banquet with the men, and spent the night with them afterwards, while the dutiful wife stayed at home with the kids.  This idea pervaded many societies.For example, in medieval Japan, the ideal wife was a modest mother and manager of the home; by Confucian custom love had secondary importance. For sexual enjoyment and romantic attachment, men did not go to their wives, but to courtesans. It continues to modernity. Recall the funeral of  French President Mitterrand—both wife and mistress walk by the funeral bier.

Rabbi Azariah was teaching us that we Jews, as couple, are to love each other, for family and for love, together. Never was the wife/mother to be locked away as a “living widow.”

Is there“ Romance” in the Bible ?
Isaac and Rebecca find refuge among the Philistines ( Gen 26:8) Abimelech, the king, looks out the window and sees Isaac “metzahek”, playing with Rebecca. That word for play connotes, in Biblical Hebrew, love-making, in broad daylight, of all things!  (This leads to a Rabbinic discussion on just what is appropriate, during broad daylight, between husband and wife).
Jacob sees Rachel at the Well, and without so much as a blink, he single-handedly rolls away the stone over the well that required a band of shepherds to move. (Gen: 29:10). Such is the power of love, that he, a fool for love, works for 14 years as servant to his father-in-law!
What could be more romantic than the book, the Song of Songs, so very physical, sensual,so
fixed on the bodily attraction of the two central figures. Therefore, it is the ideal metaphor for the
love between God and the people Israel, so that Rabbi Akiba therefore declared it the Holy of
“Let me be a seal upon your heart, Like the seal upon your hand. For love is fierce as death, Passion is mighty as Sheol; Its darts are darts of fire, A blazing flame.
Vast floods cannot quench love, nor rivers drown it. If a man offered all his wealth for love, He would be laughed to scorn. (8:6-7)”

From whence  do we derives our obligations for conjugal relations?

Exodus 21 deals with the laws of indentured servants and makes a clear distinction between a man and a woman. The woman was to be regarded as a wife, for either the lord, or for the lord’s son, and was required to be given the same status as any other wife. The text summarizes that requirement:”  Sheera,Ksuta v Onata lo Yigara”- as with all wives( mishpat habanot), she may never be deprived of proper food, clothing, and conjugal relationship.

From this, our Rabbis determine what is the minimum obligation a husband has to his wife – but not vice versa!
One who vows to separate from his wife , Beit Shammai say, two weeks. Beit Hillel say one week. Students who leave for the purpose of studying Torah without the consent of their wives [have] thirty days; laborers, one week. [The law of providing sexual] pleasure [to one's wife] that is stated in the Torah [is as follows]: one at leisure, daily; laborers, twice a week; donkey drivers, once a week; camel drivers, once every thirty days; navigators every six months; these are the words of Rabbi Eliezer Mishnah Ketubot 5:6
( The only exception for delay is niddah, the menstrual impurity-- two weeks on, two weeks off. This results in a heightened desire for the wife and a greater chance of fertlity. It is the direct opposite of Catholic rhythm  method of birth control.)
Hence, the Talmid Chacham was obliged once weekly, and that day was Shabbat. The song” Never on a Sunday” could never have been a hit as “never on Shabbat”.
Did our sages have illusions about marriages turning sour?
They were realists:
When love was strong, we could have made our bed on a sword-blade; now that our love has grown weak, a bed of sixty [cubits] is not large enough for us.
( Sanhderin 7a).

The relation between husband and wife was a matter of serious study:

On a similar note, the Gemara relates that Rav Kahana entered and lay beneath Rav’s bed. He heard Rav chatting and laughing with his wife, and seeing to his needs, i.e., having relations with her. Rav Kahana said to Rav: The mouth of Abba, Rav, is like one whom has never eaten a cooked dish,i.e., his behavior was lustful. Rav said to him: Kahana, you are here? Leave, as this is an undesirable mode of behavior. Rav Kahana said to him: It is Torah, and I must learn.( Talmud Bavli Berakhot 72a)

So how do we look at physical intimacy?

One of the great classics of marital relations was the Iggeret Hakodesh”, the Sacred Letter ( commonly attributed to the great commentator and philosopher, Ramban, Nachmanides, but more probably the work of a great Kabbalist, Ibn Gikatilla). It was reproduced by many other Jewish writers, a tribute to its widespread acceptance.

Here is an excerpt of one key part:

Know that this connection (between make and female) is a holy and clean thing when it is as it should be, in the right time and in the right intention. Do not think that in a proper relationship there is a disgust and ugliness, for the proper union is known as “knowledge”, and not for nothing is it so named . . .This is not the case when the teacher ( Rambam, Maimonides) wrote  in the “Guide for the Perplexed” ( Moreh Nebuchim)  in praising the Aristotle for what he said that sense of touch is a disgrace to us. God forbid, it cannot be as the Greek said, for this Greek’s opinion has a taint of heresy that is not immediately noticed , for if he truly believed that world was created afresh, this useless Greek would not have said such a thing! . But all of followers of the  Torah believe that God created everything as His wisdom decreed, and did not create anything that would be disgusting or ugly. If he would claim  that the union  is a disgusting thing, then the very body parts would be disgusting as well. . . How could  the Holy One create something that is a deficiency or a curse, God forbid, but rather all  God's actions are perfect.”

What is kosher sex( as rabbi Boteach has phrased it)?

  Shulkhan Arukh  Even Haezer 25, in the comments of Rabbi Isserles, that made the code authoritative among Ashkenazim as well as Sephardim: 
 He may do with his wife whatever he wishes. He may have intercourse whenever he wishes, he may kiss any part of her body that he desires, he may have k-darka [typical] or lo kdarka   [atypical] intercourse, or stimulate himself with other parts of her body, ..

(Most importantly, he adds, the wife's interest comes first:)

 He may not have intercourse without her consent, and if she is not interested he should appease her until she is interested.

To sum, back to the theme of Romance, all of this is wrapped up in songs of the Jewish people down through the ages, themes of longing and yearning, all wrapped up, as in the last song, with the classic Jewish concept that love is the prototype of religion:

Romanceros  Ladino ( Ladino Love songs)
Los Bilbilicos
Los bilbilicos cantan
Con sospiros de amor
Mi neshama y mi ventura
Estan en tu poder
La rosa enflorece
En el mes de mai
Mi neshama s’escurece
Sufriendo del amor
Mas presto ven palomba
Mas presto ven a mi
Mas presto tu mi alma
Que yo me vo morir
The nightingales sing
With sighs of love
My soul and my fate
Are in your power
The rose blooms
In the month of May
My soul darkens
Suffering from love
Come quickly my dove
More quickly come to me
Come, you my soul,
For I will surely die

Dort unten in veldl dort zenen gevaksn
Margaritkelech ilent un kleyn,
Mit vaysinke zimen, mit vaysinke shtralen,
Mit vaysinke...tra la la.

Gegangen iz Chavale, farcholemt farzunken,
Tsulozn di goldblonde tsep,
Gegangen zich zuchendik, murmelnd farzunken
Dos lidele...tra la la la.

Then, there is the eternal tale of the young man and young woman who
Yiddish - DAISIES
Deep in the woods there grow
Daisies small and hidden,
With stems so pale and petals white,
So white...tra la la la.

Little Chava wanders about as in a dream,
Her golden blond braids undone,
moving about, seeking, and murmurs in thought
A little song...tra la la la.

A good-looking young man comes upon her,
His eyes are black as coal,
There is a twinkel in his eye and gaily he answers
Her little song...tra la la la.

"Tell me my young girl, what have you lost,
What might you find in these woods?"
"I'm looking for daisies," Chavale blushes,
She blushes so...tra la la la.

"You are still seeking, my maiden,
and yet I have found
The most beauteous daisy of all--
A daisy with braids and jewels for eyes,
Such eyes"...tra la la la.

"O tell me my maiden if one may stroke you,
If you will go hand in hand,
Maybe one may kiss you
or maybe embrace you,
Or perhaps even...tra la la la."

"Let me go, I must not,
my mother says I must not,
She is angry, my mother, and old,"
"What mother, which mother,
there's nothing but young trees here...tra la la la.

"You love me?" "I love you."
"You are shy?" "I am shy."
"Love me then shyly and hush--"
And look how the golden locks mix
with the dark/pitch black ones...tra la la la.

The sun has long gone,
the young man gone too,
Still the girl sits alone inthe woods,
Her look dreams afar and she murmurs in thought
A little song...tra la la la.

From Yemen comes a prayer by Rabbi Shalom Shabazi, written as a romantic love poem, to express the longing for redemption
איילת חן—A graceful doe ( also- the Morning Star)

אילת חן בגלות תסמכני
ובלילה, ובלילה בתוך חיקה מלוני
אילת חן בגלות תסמכני
ובלילה, ובלילה בתוך חיקה מלוני
לכוס יינה אני תמיד מזומן
ונתערב, ונתערב חמד יינה בייני
לכוס יינה אני תמיד מזומן
ונתערב, ונתערב חמד יינה בייני
שתו דודים לעומתי ושכרו
והעירו, והעירו לשכל רעיוני
שתו דודים לעומתי ושכרו

English Translation: A graceful doe supports me in exile/ And here in her bosom she’ll lodge me./ To drink from her cup I am always prepared,/ She mingles her wine with my lees. /Before me, my friends, drink and be drunk,/ Rouse the reason that’s sleeping within me./ There in her palace sits the daughter of kings, Her table ready for those who are with me./ For every lover there comes a time to part, But with ardor my love shall recall me./ He adorns his lady with grace and with kindness, In paths of grace and of kindness he leads me./ For my beloved I spread out the clouds of the heavens, My desire she never denies me./ Fifty are her gates, solid and firm, and with The favor of Leah her wisdom sustains me. /She arouses Rachel’s love for her children, Unto the tenth kingdom’s secret she’ll raise me./ God, hasten to bring unto thine people salvation, And may my tongue be made pure within me. /Thy great peace shall encompass those whole of heart, The sons of the pure man, a charm unto thee.