Monthly Archives: July 2005

How Jewish Is Chabad’s Jewish Children’s Museum?

The New York Times reports:

Children_with_moshiach_flag_1Before the [Crown Heights-based Jewish Children’s M]useum opened, some Jews worried that the Lubavitchers would show only their version of Jewishness and try to make people think that was what all Jews were like. Others thought the Lubavitchers might use the museum to recruit people. That would not be allowed. Most of the money to build it came from the city and state governments, and groups cannot use government money to spread their religion.…

In the lobby was a big photo of a man with a hat and a gray beard, the Lubavitchers’ leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Rabbi Schneerson died in 1994, but many Lubavitchers think he will return soon. They call him Moshiach, which means messiah.

Below the photo, on a television monitor, children chanted, "Nation of Israel, have no fear, Moshiach will be here this year." On the museum’s ticket counter were subscription fliers for a Lubavitcher children‘s newspaper. "Kids love to read the Moshiach Times," the fliers said.

"It’s as if you went to a church of evangelicals and their version of Christianity was the only version there is," Professor Heilman said. The executive director of the museum, Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson, said the museum’s mission was education, not evangelism.

"The city and the state gave us big money for this project because they agree that it’s all about tolerance and understanding," he said. "Nothing is done so that a kid should feel, ‘They’re trying to indoctrinate me.’ If not for the rebbe’s picture here, you wouldn’t know it’s a Lubavitch museum."




Filed under Chabad Theology, Lies, Spin and 'Creative' PR, Territorial Disputes

Chabad Moves In On The Council Of European Rabbis

The following article from Yated Ne’eman was sent to me by a reader:

Last Wednesday, The [Chabad-run] Center of European Rabbis held a conference in Brussels on the state of Jewish cemeteries throughout Europe. Second and third-tier diplomats from 23 countries were in attendance as well as a number of rabbanim, dayanim and askanim from around the world.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the general secretary of the Center, said, "Ways will be discussed to assist the terrible state of Jewish cemeteries in European countries."

Rav Moshe Gorelick, the general director, said, "I believe that with combined forces of European rabbis, European communal figures and askanim from Eretz Yisrael, East European governments can be harnessed for this lofty goal."

A number of Israeli VIPs attended, including Rabbi Menachem Porush and Deputy Minister of Transportation Rabbi Shmuel Halpert.

R’ Menachem Borkis presented a plan to the audience concerning the preservation of 50 cemeteries in Europe. There are 20,000 Jewish cemeteries throughout Europe, most of which are in total disrepair and many of which serve as local garbage dumps and hangouts.

Many are unaware that the Center of European Rabbis is a Chabad organization formed several years ago whose founding articles demand allegiance to Chabad principles even though a number of other rabbis and dayanim have been invited to join to give the impression that the body represents the full range of Orthodox groups.

The group represents itself to European government as a leading body of European rabbis, which has led many to confuse it with the far older,  body of European rabbis, the Council of European Rabbis, which was founded in 1957.

The [Chabad-run] Center frequently adopts the agenda that the Council has been working on for years.

Rabbi Abba Dunner, the general director of the Council, expressed his surprise at the need for the summit. "Why is there need to reinvent the wheel?" he asked. "We have been working on the topic of preserving Jewish cemeteries for decades. The leading experts in this field is London-based Rav Elyakim Schlesinger of the Organization for the Preservation of Cemeteries in Europe, and U.S-based Rabbi Shlomo Besser of the Organization for the Designation and Overview of Cemeteries in Europe. The first organization has been in existence for at least 15 years, and the second one for several years. Why is there a need for new summits and organizations to deal with the problem? What are non-Jewish government officials to think when one group has been dealing with them on the issue for years and then suddenly another group wants to negotiate with them on the same agenda?"

When the Yated called up Rabbi Dunner for his response, he was in Slovakia meeting with Mr. Alexander Slafkovsky, the mayor of Lipovsky-Mikolas, concerning arranging legislation to stop construction work on a demolished local Jewish cemetery which is now a park. The mayor agreed to set up a memorial plaque and will devise a route through the park which least disturbs the graves.

Rabbi Dunnerís visit to Slovakia followed a visit in Hungary with the Minister of Culture to push forward legislation prohibiting the desecration of any cemetery. Rav Schlesinger has also recently met with the Russian ambassador in London concerning the cemetery desecration in Kaliningrad.

"We believe in the old shtadlonus [intercession, lobbying] methods rather than in conferences with low-level diplomats which may provide headlines but accomplish nothing," Rav Dunner explained. "The only way to accomplish something is to meet with ministers and prime ministers. Anyone less may look good in print but means nothing."

Repairing and protecting the remaining Jewish cemeteries of Eastern Europe is very important and, if Chabad can help with that, well and good. But to run off half-cocked and act on their own after others have spent years working on the issue is wrong, and smacks of another Chabad attempt to dominate Europe at all costs. Shame.

Leave a comment

Filed under Chabad Theology, Haredim, Territorial Disputes

Will A Secular Sabbath Save Israel?

Judith Shulevitz writes in Slate:

Jerusalem on a summer Saturday can stun you with its sweetness—its taste of the world to come, the rabbis liked to say—or leave you sweaty and bored. It depends on how you spend it. If you follow the flow of foot traffic to some gorgeous old synagogue packed with enthusiastic young Jews, then get yourself invited to a leisurely luncheon underneath a spreading tree—and if you like that sort of thing—then you may thank the God who invented the Sabbath and the rabbis who made it the law of the land. If you’re stuck with two sick children in a guesthouse that serves no meals on Saturday, as I was a few weeks ago, you’ll be less grateful.

Keeping the Israeli Sabbath is hard work, even if you aren’t a tourist, particularly if you’re unmoved by its pleasures. Hence the dislike of many secular Israelis for Saturday—the streets cleared of buses, the shuttered grocery stores, the understaffed hospitals—as well as for the black-hatted men in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods who stone Sabbath-breakers and who have in Israel’s half-century of existence twice brought down governments for violating Sabbath laws. And hence my surprise when I learned that other secular Israelis have begun ­treating the Sabbath as a national treasure in need of preservation.

In a column in the Jerusalem Post two years ago, the nonreligiously-observant writer Hillel Halkin noted that so many Israelis now shop at malls on Saturday it seemed silly to complain about it—and then he complained about it. (Hundreds of stores at Israel’s 45 malls violate Saturday closing laws, and Saturday has become the biggest shopping day of the week.) As a struggling writer and father of two, he said, he used to take solace from the ban on getting and spending, especially on Friday nights—the only night of the week he failed to wake up in a panic "because the next day was a day on which you could not do anything about money anyway." A week without a break from acquisitiveness, he added, rather grandly, "is bad for the human spirit and it is bad for Israeli society."

Several prominent secular Israeli intellectuals have lately expressed the same thought. Like Halkin, and like American adherents to the back-to-simplicity movement, these secular Israeli Sabbatarians want to save the Sabbath from consumerism. They also want to remove it from the exclusive control of Israel’s Orthodox rabbis. Ruth Gavison, a Hebrew University law professor who has been working with a prominent Orthodox rabbi to draft a proposal for a less stringent Sabbath, told me that devising a Sabbath that even the nonpious could enjoy was part of a larger effort to rescue Israeli society. From what? I asked. >From the widening chasm between secular and religious Israelis, and also from those who no longer see a rationale for a Jewish state, she explained. What does the Sabbath have to do with the legitimacy of Israel? I asked, somewhat surprised. A viable Jewish state must have an authentically Jewish public culture, she replied.

At the legal level, Gavison’s idea is simple. She would codify permission for much of the noncommercial activity that already goes on and enforce the pause in commercial activity and industry already prescribed by law. Restaurants, concert halls, art galleries, and movie theaters would stay open—not just in cities and towns that have made special arrangements to do so, but throughout the country. Buses would run, which they do not do now. Malls would be closed.

Gavison’s vision of a unifying Jewish public culture is less clear. She herself isn’t sure what she means. Like many Israeli intellectuals, who model themselves on their European, not their American, counterparts, Gavison takes a high-minded approach to culture. She imagines bigger audiences for music, art, and theater; more meetings of affinity groups; more salons devoted to Jewish texts. One Jewish holiday celebrated in a semisecular way that might serve as an example is Shavuot, which commemorates God’s giving of the Torah to Moses at Sinai. It’s an occasion marked by all-night study sessions held not just at synagogues, but also at theaters and conference centers and other public venues. My stay in Jerusalem coincided with Shavuot this year, and I saw the streets come alive at 11 p.m. with the rather astonishing apparition of Israelis of all kinds, not just the religious, roaming from lecture to lecture in small groups under the Jerusalem moon, seeking enlightenment on subjects as varied as the Bible and politics.

Underlying Gavison’s dream are the revived ideas of Ahad Ha’am, the late 19th-century Zionist who argued for a cultural, rather than political, Zionism—an Israel based on a positive Jewishness rather than on ethnic nationalism and anti-anti-Semitism. What he was calling for isn’t clear either, though anyone who has ever found himself on a synagogue mailing list will be familiar with his sociological aperçu on the Sabbath: "More than Israel has kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Israel."…

Will a secular sabbath save Israel?

[Hat tip: Gershon Michoel.]

Leave a comment

Filed under Israel

NYC’s Worst Slumlords Haredi?

GodolHador notes that this list of New York City’s Top 10 List Worst Slumlords is dominated by haredim. In fact, it seems to me that (at least) 5 of the 11 are haredim. But, as GodolHador points out, what do we care? After all, they’re only stealing from goyyim.

So, nu? Where’s the policy statement from the American Moetzet / Agudath Israel opposing this disgusting behavior? Why are the Novominsker, et al, silent? Avi Shafran, should we follow the money?

Leave a comment

Filed under Haredim

Instigator Of Sharon ‘Death Curse’ Future King?

The ‘Sanhedrin’ headed by Chabad rabbi Adin Steinsaltz has within it the rabbi who inacted a ‘death curse’ – Pulsa Dinura against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But, worse than that:

… For the past several years a group called the Monarchists has
conducted extensive research into the lineage of several families in an
effort to discover who has the closest bloodline to the biblical King
David – a requirement for any future Jewish king.

Rabbi Yosef Dayan from Psagot, known for his recent threats to
place a death curse on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is said to be a
leading candidate to become the "king of Israel."

"Dayan has the best lineage to King David," several members of the Sanhedrin told The Jerusalem Post.
They say he has two documented ancient sources which draw a direct line
between him and the males in his family to King David some 3,000 years

"Many people can show they are descendants of King David, but
they cannot show that the line is only male," one Sanhedrin member
explained. "That makes Dayan the leading candidate to become king."

The Monarchists have consulted with non-Jewish experts on
lineage. They concurred that, without a doubt, Dayan is a direct
descendent of the House of David.

The only question now is how to establish the Jewish monarchy in spite of the presiding democratic government.…

I guess a Pulsa Dinura might be considered an answer to that question. Sick.


Filed under Chabad Theology, Israel, Jewish Leadership

Chabad To Launch ‘Official’ Anti-Disengagement Campaign

According to the Jerusalem Post, Chabad has decided to launch an official anti-Disengagement campaign:

On Wednesday afternoon, the Chabad emissaries of Israel met at Nir Etzion, a kibbutz north of Tel Aviv, to launch the campaign.

should not be seen as a change in Chabad’s opinion about
disengagement," said [Chabad spokesman Rabbi Menachem] Brod. "From the very beginning, we opposed the
plan, but tactically speaking, we were waiting for the right time to
come out openly against it."

"The main problem is that we have no money to fund the campaign," he said.

Ahhh. But what did Rabbi Brod say two months ago?

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post in May, Brod said
that Chabad was distancing itself from active and open opposition to
disengagement for fear it would hurt Chabad’s Jewish outreach
activities. "Chabad exists to bring Jews closer to Judaism, whether
they have right-wing or left-wing political views," Brod said. "If Jews
are alienated from Judaism as a result of our anti-disengagement
activities, if they end up not celebrating Pessah or Rosh Hashana, that
is also pikuah nefesh [life-threatening] in our eyes." …

Matti Wagner continues:

The campaign is likely to galvanize and unify a movement that
has suffered from a schism between extremist, messianic members and the
more moderate mainstream camp. Chabad leadership hopes to incorporate
some of its fringe elements in the present campaign in an attempt to
redirect energies that have been focused elsewhere toward a joint

Let me posit the following reasons for Chabad’s now ‘official’ involvement:

  1. The messianists have the Chabad street behind them. The vast majority of Chabadniks are opposing Disengagement loudly, clearly and publicly – even when the ‘official’ leadership told them not to. This ‘official’ sanction is about covering the ‘official’ Chabad leadership’s collective behind – and protect their fundraising base.
  2. ‘Official’ Chabad sees the possibility of (or has been promised) a large cash inflow.

Either way, it’s all about the money.


Filed under Chabad Theology, Jewish Leadership, Lies, Spin and 'Creative' PR

Ha’aretz: Pulsa Dinura Ceremony Fake, Invented By Neturei Karta

Shahar Illan has an article in today’s Ha’aretz debunking the Pulsa Dinura (‘kabbalistic’ death curse) ceremony. It seems that the ‘ancient’ ritual was made up 50 years ago by a leader of the haredim:

It should be recalled that the Haredi newspaper
"Mishpacha" (Family) published three months ago the results of a study
that found that there was no kabbalistic basis for the pulsa denura
ceremony. It is a ceremony that was invented in the early years of
Israel’s statehood by one of the then-leaders of the Haredi public, who
made an especially dramatic adaptation of the good old excommunication
ceremony. Excommunication isn’t such a scary matter, but pulsa denura
sounds at least as mysterious as a voodoo rite. And all the rest is

Who was that haredi leader? Rabbi Amram Blau, the leader of the vehemently anti-Zionist fringe group Neturei Karta.

So, the "Pulsa Dinura" ceremony is really a version of a 15th century excommunication rite:

And an article by Dov Schwartz and Moshe Blau, on the origins of the Pulsa deNura
ceremony. As my friend Blau explained it to me, the content of the
ceremony is the excommunication formula which was published in the
Sefer Kolbo (though not in Orhot Hayim. I told him to check the
manuscripts of OH, which contain an entire section that was not
published). The scary name and mystical trappings were added by his
great-uncle, Amram Blau, as a tool in his various political struggles.

(To answer a question posed by Miriam Shaviv, excommunication must take place during the day, preferably at noon, just like any other Beit Din / court procedure.)

(First seen on Bloghead.)


Filed under Haredim, Israel, Thuggery and Dirty Tricks