Monday, April 28, 2014

Yom HaShoah - "What if there had been an Israel?"

One of the false claims you sometimes here is that the State of Israel was created in response to the Holocaust, the Daily Beast has an interesting column on that topic.

In fact the opposite is true, the Holocaust only happened because the State of Israel hadn't been created earlier in the Century.

With that in mind, I thought the following article from the Pittsburgh Press in 1919 very interesting. It talks about a Jewish state for 20,000,000 Jews, the approximate Jewish population before Hitler destroyed a third of our people. And talks about the proposed future borders of the state, borders that make today's "Greater Israel" proponents look like minimalists.
Also interesting that the it assumes that the Jewish state would be referred to as "Palestine", at that time the only people who identified themselves as "Palestinian" were the Jews living in Eretz Yisrael. The Arab Palestinian National Movement had not yet been invented.

Certainly a lot of food for thought in the article...

Room for 20,000,000 Jews in New Jewish State Formed in Palestine

International News Service Stall Correspondent.

London. Dec. 20.-There is room for 20.000.000 inhabitants in the new Jewish state being created in Palestine, according to Max Nordeau, famous French aviator, who is keenly interested in arousing interest of Jews in this project throughout the world.
  This is the hour before the dawn for the Jews, thanks to the English-speaking nations, declared Dr, Nordeau today. "For 1,000 years the Jews have looked for the coming or the Messiah and I feel that his coming is about near. I hope it will not prove a false Messiah.
  "The Jews are just beginning to realize what this Zionist movement really is. Zionism for the Jews is
their real salvation. The Jews of the world have assimilated the habits and customs of all nations. but they realise that Palestine is their real home. The masses of Jews hail this movement, and it there should be any deception it would be tragic. Those not wanting to go to Palestine may easily remain where they are and God bless them.
  “It is expected that a method will be devised of giving citizenship in the new state of Palestine to Jews who
do not wish to go there right away. A system of taxation has been proposed, also, by which Jews would
contribute to the support of the Palestine government whether they live there or not, it they secure citizenship papers.
  "There is going to be competition for space in Palestine. The boundaries of the new state probably will
be defined after the lines of the Bible. We do not anticipate a return of the whole Jewish people from the
outside world, but it is already known that the territory which the new state will possess between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates river, will hold 20,000,000 souls. The Bolsheviks and the Jews have severed their bonds and now hold nothing in common

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bread on the Seder Plate?

Life in Israel has a link to an interesting interview with MK Ruth Calderon or Yesh Atid.

Ms Calderon is an interesting person with a strong connection to Judaism and Jewish sources. She made a name for herself in her maiden address to the Knesset when she gave a Talmud Class which showed her familiarity and respect for Jewish scholarship.

In the video, the guests on the talk show are discussing how they conduct a seder. Not surprisingly, Ms Calderon said that she has several haggadot that she uses during the seder and analyzes the text, however she also said that she has an Orange and often a piece of bread on the seder plate.

An orange on the Seder plate has long been a symbol of Jewish Feminism. She expended it to refer to support for single-sex families. I'm not sure why people think that the seder is the correct opportunity to promote the political cause of the week; there are "green Haggadot", "feminist Haggadot", "Pro-Plaestinian Haggadot", "Jews-for-Jesus Haggadot". You name the political or social cause, there is a haggada to make that the emphasis of the seder.
Many of these are important causes, but I never understood why we have to take a 3000 year old ceremony filled with meaning, and make it a ceremony about a different cause. If you want to make a ceremony to protest global warming - fine, an excellent idea - but if the only way you can do it is by hitching a ride on one the most powerful ceremonies held in Jewish households all over the world, you are cheapening both ceremonies.
The seder is filled with powerful themes such as liberty, nationhood, connection to family and Jewish tradition and Jewish history, and connection to the G-d who took us out of Egypt. If these themes don't speak to you, making the ceremony about a different unrelated social cause is insulting to both the seder, and to the social cause.

What was more worrying about Ms Calderon's seder is she said that she said that she includes bread on the Seder Plate to remind the participants of all those who are hungry and don't have food. What is upsetting about this, besides the obvious halachic problems, is that one of the themes of the Seder and Matza itself is "Bread of Affliction" - all those who are hungry are invited to join the Seder. One of the important preparations of Pessach is "Kimcha D'Pesscha" - providing food for the needy to make sure that no one is hungry on Seder night.
Instead of emphasizing these points that are already explicitly in the Haggada and Jewish practice, Ms Calderon decided to invent a new practice that is deliberately against traditional Jewish practice. There is a lack of humility in the statement that even though we have a tradition that has been handed down for 3000 years, and was filled with meaning to Jewish families throughout history and in all corners of our exile, yet she can rewrite it to make it better, not by adding a commentary or discussion to thy existing scholarship, but by openly defying the tradition. I would have expected more respect from for someone with so much knowledge and understanding of Jewish tradition and scholarship.