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Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category

I got an email last week from a researcher working for the Fritz Bauer Institut in Frankfurt. She is looking for photos of pre-Shoah Jewish life in the area. This is the email I got:

**** Search for private photos from Hesse *****
( the areas around Frankfurt,Darmstadt, Wiesbaden,
Kassel, Fulda, Marburg, Hanau, Giessen, etc.)

This is to announce the development of a new photo web site:

BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST – PHOTOS OF JEWISH EVERYDAY LIFE IN HESSEN

We are appealing for help with our search from private sources for copies of pre WW II photos originating from the Hessian territories (today the State of Hessen).

Please have a new look at your family heirlooms and share your photo treasures with us. All details can be handled according to the wishes of the owner or provider.

Advice for the technical procedures will be given. And please pass this request on to other persons with family ties to Hesse.

Old photos for young Germans

German school books often use (negative) stereotypes of Jews in history to explain victimization over the centuries.

And Holocaust teaching mostly speaks about abstract victims of
persecution or simply of numbers.

To overcome these shortcomings in education, and to allow for empathy and a more personal understanding, teachers and students should be supplied with a different sources as well.

As a contemporary approach, on-line tools are to be developed, a new photo database will be created which will provide images of real people. They will be seen as individuals, with faces and their names, in family settings or small groups, and in their home towns and villages.

Once, before the Nazi period, there was a thriving Jewish population in Hesse. How did Jews live here in over 300 small and medium size villages, towns and cities? This will be shown with photos of individuals, families, and activities in their communal environment.

Pictures of everyday life, religious events, festivities, of business and sports and other forms of public life will be presented. Visual
impressions will be amended by textual descriptions and comments.

This will contribute to a more accurate image of the diversity and also the normality of Jewish existence in the decades before 1933. But the years after the Nazis took over will also be documented. Thus the beginning of the Nazi persecution and its effects on Jewish life can be estimated more accurately. Photos of the emigration and escape are welcome as well.

For technical quality it would be good to have the photos in 300 dpi or 600 dpi (original size) uncompressed.

If your photos are already scanned in a lower dpi version you can send them and I will find out if that also would be okay for the project. That always depends on the original photos.

For each photo I would like to have some short information, if possible of course

  • who is on the photo , year of birth, place of birth if possible
  • if it is a group only the main figures
  • where was it taken? Which city or village
  • was it taken in the house of the family, or in barn or (if possible)
  • when taken – around what year??
  • occasion of taken the photo
  • occupation of the person like cattle trader or so
  • later emigrated from Nazi-Germany to which country
  • later perished in the Holocaust

If your photos are already scanned in a lower dpi version you can send them and I will find out if that also would be okay for the project. That always depends on the original photos.

This is a project of the *** Fritz Bauer Institute *** Education
Department 

www.fritz-bauer-institut.de

The Institute is a Research And Documentation Center For The History And The Impact Of The Holocaust, Education Department, in Frankfurt/Germany

www.fritz-bauer-institut.de/english.htm

For further information please contact Monica Kingreen:

M.Kingreen@fritz-bauer-institut.de or Kingreen@gmx.net
phone +49 (0) 69-798 322 31     fax +49 (0) 69–798 322 41

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Friday is Yom Yerushalayim – the day (by the Jewish lunar calendar) that Jerusalem was re-taken / conquered / liberated / occupied in the 1967 “Six Day War“. In Jerusalem they are having all the celebrations tomorrow because Friday is a short day. However the real day is Friday.

In the circles I mix in it is considered a (rather) minor religious festival although in Israeli society at large it generally unnoticed outside of Jerusalem and the religious zionist community.

In honor of this (and for want of better inspiration), my next picture will be a Jerusalem one. Yesterday I bought the canvas (100×40 cm)  and this evening I hop to make a start, even if only to gesso the canvas ready for work.

The picture is a view of the Old City of Jerusalem taken from the lookout in the Citadel also known as Migdal David (The Tower of David). BTW the tower was most definitely not built by anyone called David. This is just a misnomer that has stuck and it has become a Jewish religious symbol of Jerusalem despite it being a mainly muslim and the tower itself is the minaret of a mosque.

JmPanorama100x40-420

This is the picture. I know it look kind of weird and what are all those “Demo” notices on it? The picture is a mosaic of pictures from my phone – I took a whole 360° panorama there. I then perspective-corrected it using some free demo-wear add in the Paint Shop Pro and this is the result.

I still have to think about exactly how I’m going to do this painting as there is a lot of detail and I am not feeling so photo-realistic right now. It will get some kind of impressionistic treatment. Keep tuned.

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Tonight is the (very) minor festival of Lag Ba’Omer. Lag Ba”omer is such a minor festival that no one really knows why we celebrate it. There are three theories (that may be connected in some way):

  1. Rabbi Akiva had 24,000 students who died because of a lack of respect between them and they stopped dying on Lag Ba’Omer. Therefore we celebrate.
  2. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai died on Lag Ba’Omer. He is attributed with having written the Zohar, therefore we light big bonfires to make loads of light.
  3. The crusaders marauded the Jewish communities of France whilst on their way, during this period.

All of these expanations are pretty strange.

For the first one, 24,000 is a rather large number of students and it is kind of wierd that they would die because of disrespect when Rabbi Akiva is the big rabbi of loving your neighbor. What maybe gives us the clue to what really happened is that Rabbi Akiva was a supporter of the Bar Kokhva rebellion and it is just possible that the deal with the students dying is a code for Bar Kokhva’s soldiers being killed in battle together with either a statement that they jumped at the cahnce to be the first to go to battle without defering to each otehr or maybe a statement that if they were unsuccessful then that was because they still hadn’t learned the lesson of the destruction of the Temple that was attributed to being caused by sinat hinnam.

As for Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s jahrzeit, this is apparently very tenuous and a relatively new invention. What may be the connection is that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was a student of Rabbi Akiva (although after the supposed death of his 24,000 students), so maybe this is where the connection was made.

I have no idea whether the crusade explanation is historically correct, but it is possible that this was added in because of the existing tradition of the “students” of Rabbi Akiva killed by the plague/Romans.

Anyway it is all a good reason for a party.

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Rafi G wrote a post yesterday about the latest haredim vs. everyone else fight in Beit Shemesh. The proposal has been made to create a shomrei shabbat section in the Beit Shemesh cemetery. This is something that exists in other places as a way for the Orthodox community to define the the line between “us” and “them” in burial and not allow “them” to be buried amongst “us”.

Here the action is opposite. They are the newcomers and they want to make sure that “they” won’t be subjected to being buried amongst “us”.

This has of course caused a small uproar in the local press, though I get the feeling that like most of these issues, it is going way over the heads of the majority of citizens. A columnist – David Louk – wrote an article attacking the proposal on the grounds of its divisiveness and that it is halakhically unnecessary (none of the distinguished rabanim of Beit Shemesh have ever seen the need for it till now). Last week the haredi extremist camp hit back with an equalkly long article explaining that unity is not the be-all and end-all and that the halakha does require it and that they will fight for truth and their rights, etc.

The whole issue is based on a gemara in Sanhedrin 46 that discusses where and how to bury people who have been executed (harugei beit din). They are not buried in their family plots and  the gemara raises the issue of not burying resha’im together with tzaddikim. Not only that but different levels of executed resha’im need to be buried separately. From here we get to the halakha in the Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh De-ah kuf-tzadi-tet) that:

אין קוברים רשע אצל צדיק, שנאמר אל תאסוף עם חטאים נפשי. ואפילו רשע חמור אצל רשע קל, אין קוברים. וכן אין קוברין צדיק ובל שכן בינוני וכשר אצל חסיד מופלג.

Incidentally, if this leaves you feeling uncomfortable the Arukh HaShulhan (Yoreh De’ah shin-samekh-bet) says:

ואין קוברין רשע אצל צדיק, אפילו רשע חמור אצל רשע קל. וכן אין קוברין צדיק, וכל שכן בינוני, אצל חסיד מופלג. אבל קוברים בעל תשובה אצל צדיק גמור.

Seeing as someone may have had hirhurei teshuva before he died and would therefore be considered a baal teshuva (Gemara Kidushin 49b) that solves that one (assuming you want to solve it).

And what of “ameich kulam tzaddikim“? and what of koneh olamo be-shaah achat, and what will be of the tzaddikim nistarim?

The problem is not one of unity but of hillul hashem. It is one of people coming with a message of uncompromising division, judgment and hatred in the name of God and his Torah.

When newcomers come along and start telling people what to do they resent it. When they come in the name of halakha and claim that the local respected rabonim don’t know the right thing to do, they resent it even more. When they come in the name of halakha (she-kol derakheiha darkei no’am) and claim that even their beinonim are too big tzadikim to be buried next to the locals, they get incensed.

And so do I.

Don’t they understand that lo ba-esh hashem? How long will it take for these sikrikim to understand that their way leads to more hurban?

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I am currently reading a book by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – “To Heal a Fractured World, The Ethics of Responsibility“. I enjoy very much Rabbi Sacks’ writing as he is a big rationalist a thoughtful philosopher and a great writer.

I read a passage yesterday in chapter 8 which is about darkei shalom (ways of peace) which is Judaism’s framework for doing good to people who are outside the covenantal community. He is discussing why we do not recite a berakha (blessing) before doing mitzvot bein adam le-haveiro (commands relating to interpersonal behavior). He discusses first the option that it is because the mitzva require two to do it (the giver and the receiver) and therefor no single person can recite a blessing. He reject this and goes on to discuss a more fundamental difference between mitzvot bein adam la-makom and bein adam le-haveiro. He writes the following:

There is an obvious difference between the two types of command. In the case of commands between us and God, what matters is is the act and the intention with which it was performed… Intention gives the act the characteristic essential to a religious deed in Judaism, namely that it is a response to a command of God. For an act to be holy, it must be designated and dedicated as holy… In that minimalistic sense, intent is necessary.

An act between us and another human being however has a different character. What matters is not the act but the result… The point of the command is its effect on th world, on the other person, not the transaction in the soul between the agent and God….An intention defines the nature of an act, but here what matters is not the act but its outcome.Kantian or Kierkergaardian purity of will is irrelevant. We are not commanded to give to the poor primarily for the salvation of our souls, but for the sake of the poor.

His conclusion is that mitzvot bein adam le-haveiro are not blind decrees but universal rules of conduct, who “cause blessing” rather than needing a blessing and whose purpose is primarily in their effect.

My problem with this is a contradiction with the answer to the basic qusetion of why the world is imperfect. This he relates to in chapter 6 where he discusses tikkun olam (mending the world). The world is imperfect in order to give us a purpose of trying to mend it and get to the perfection by ourselves. If the world was perfect (like if we had no free will) then it would have no purpose because God doesn’t need robots. If the purpose of mitzvot bein adam le-haveiro was just their effect then God would have done it himself.

I would hold that while what he says is true, it is only one side. We are given mitzvot bein adam le-haveiro in order that we will do then and in perfecting the world also perfect ourselves. If I do a good deed and it is undermined in some way so that it’s effect isn’t full, it still has value in that it has changed me. Under this explanation the reason we don’t make a berakha is slightly more subtle. If I am doing an act that is supposed to refine me, then the last thing I want to do is to stand back a second and concentrate on my kavannot (intentions) and proudly proclaim “blessed is God who commanded me to do x”. Firstly, I may have second thoughts if I think about it too much, but more importantly it will promote a smug self-conscious satisfaction that destroys all the personal effect that the act will have on me.

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It is reported today in YNet that the vaad hatzniyus has been posting signs on shops round Meah Shearim requiring women to be dressed according their private dress code.

Shop keepers who tried to refuse were warned that if they didn’t hang the signs they would be boycotted. The general haredi public would of course follow the boycott for fear of their wives and daughters getting verbally abused and their children thrown out of school.

We already have this in the Ramat Beit Shemesh shopping precinct, only thankfully the boycott cannot be enforced outside of RBS Bet, so those who didn’t hang the signs go about theior business as usual.

Where is the police? How are these Taleban thugs allowed to continue to get away with this blatantly illegal threatening behavior?

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By coincidence Climate Progress had a post yesterday about environmental action by faith communuities in the US. I looked at one of the links – lo-Watt Shabbat. Not amazingly exciting. I’m looking for an halakhically acceptable solution for wasting less electricity keeping an urn of hot water and a hot-plate heated over Shabbat.

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