Can Liberal Judaism Survive?

 

If the decline of non-Orthodox Judaism is to be reversed, knowledge, ritual, and observance must become as central as social justice to Conservative and Reform Jews.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Conservative Judaism, Jewish ritual, Reform Judaism, Tikkun Olam

 

Is the White House Suppressing the bin Laden Documents for the Sake of the Iran Deal?

 

When U.S. troops raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, they captured a large trove of files, but the administration has tightly restricted access to them. Those who have seen the documents report that they contain important information about Iranian support for al-Qaeda, as Stephen Hayes and William Kristol write:

We have been told by six current or former intelligence officials that the collection of documents captured in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound includes explosive information on Iran’s relationship with al-Qaeda over the past two decades, including details of Iran’s support for al-Qaeda’s attacks on Americans. . . . Contacted about the status of al-Qaeda’s Iran network earlier this spring, two intelligence officials confirmed that it was still functioning and still critical to al-Qaeda operations. . . .

The Obama administration does not want the bin Laden documents released. To date, the administration has made public fewer than 150 documents out of more than a million, despite a statutory requirement to expedite the release of the collection. Remarkably, members of Congress, including those on the intelligence committees, do not have access to the documents. Republicans in Congress share the blame for this. . . .

Not to demand these documents—not to insist on having access to them despite all the administration’s protestations and obfuscations, not to allow the American people to understand the whole truth about the Iranian regime with which the administration has negotiated this agreement—would be an abdication of responsibility on the part of Congress that history would judge harshly.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Al Qaeda, Barack Obama, Iran, Iran nuclear program, Osama bin Laden, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Was the Gaza Disengagement Worth It?

 

No, writes Shmuel Even. Ten years after Israel evacuated troops and civilians from Gaza, the area remains a source of terror attacks, and Israel continues to be condemned for defending itself (article begins on p. 75):

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip created a new reality that contributed to the Hamas takeover, a steep rise in weapons smuggling, the strengthening of terrorism, and the ensuing cycle of escalation. [T]he terrorism in the West Bank (and from there to Israel) can serve as a partial standard for comparison, [since no disengagement took place there]. The West Bank saw a steep drop in the number of terrorist attacks and Israeli casualties, following the security measures taken [there] and the end of the intifada. . . . [By contrast], the force of terrorism from Gaza and [Israeli involvement in] military operations intensified.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza withdrawal, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror

 

There Should Be No Tolerance for Jewish Terror

 

Last week, a group of Jews burned down a house belonging to a Palestinian family in the village of Duma, killing an eighteen-month-old child. Jonathan Tobin writes:

To the extent that [Israeli] authorities failed to monitor sufficiently, and stop, potential killers before they acted, there is probably plenty of blame to pass around. But it is wrong to say that the government has not acted against settler extremists where their actions escalated from mere rhetoric to actual terrorism. Indeed, if you listen to many settlers, they believe that the IDF is more interested in stopping Jews from attacking Arabs than in protecting settlers from Arab terror. . . .

But at this point . . . more than lip service is needed for the effort to combat Jewish extremism. The settler movement, as well as its political supporters, must come to grips with the virus of Jewish terror and thoroughly wipe it out. Tolerance for those who might justify such horrible acts—especially the radical minority who do so in the name of Judaism—must come to an end.

But even as those who care about Israel condemn Jewish violence and applaud efforts to ensure that the extremists are isolated and, where necessary, prosecuted, we should not lose sight of the fact that much of what is being said about the crime in Duma from Palestinian and anti-Israeli sources is deeply hypocritical.

Unlike the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the Israeli government does not applaud terrorists; it seeks to prosecute them. There will be no parks or sports teams named after those who killed a child in Duma as there are for Palestinians who kill Jews. Nor will there be programs on Israeli television and radio extolling the deeds of the killer.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Settlements, Terrorism

Does the Torah Prescribe Genocide Against the Canaanites?

 

So one is often told on the basis of statements in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua, the latter of which is said to describe an actual policy of extermination carried out by the Israelites against the non-Israelite inhabitants of Canaan. But both claims, argues Reuven Kimelman, rest on selective or inaccurate readings:

The popular reading of the [Israelites’ behavior toward the] Canaanites filters it through the prism of Deuteronomy. . . . In actuality, the biblical data are much more ambiguous [than generally assumed], making the most destructive comments the exception, not the rule. . . . With regard to the extermination of the seven nations of Canaan . . . the biblical record is . . . not of one cloth. The clarification of their status in the Bible requires a systematic treatment of all the data book by book. . . . Exodus’ position on the elimination of the Canaanites is a gradual dispossession by God, not by the Israelites.

Read more at Seforim

More about: Canaanites, Deuteronomy, Genocide, Hebrew Bible, Joshua, Religion & Holidays

Looking for Traces of Rashi in Troyes

 

As the home of Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (better known as Rashi), the great 11th-century commentator on the Bible and Talmud, the French city of Troyes attracts a steady trickle of Jewish tourists. But aside from a monument to Rashi placed there in 1990, and a cemetery, no physical sign of medieval Jewish life remains. Liam Hoare writes:

It is possible to walk in Troyes today in the footsteps of Rashi, as I did when I was shown around the town on a sunny Saturday afternoon. . . . But any physical heritage, any traces of the Troyes of the time of Rashi, were erased by the great fire that ravaged the town in May 1524, when a quarter of the city was reduced to ash and 7,500 people were displaced. . . .

At the time of Rashi, Jews lived in Troyes under the auspices and protection of the counts of Champagne. Their role in the economy of Troyes over time became that of the money lending, although Jews were also involved in trade and commerce, the town being a center for the manufacture of cloth, leather, and wine. But the history of the medieval Jewish community of Troyes comes to an abrupt end with the final expulsion of Jews from France in 1394. Troyes, therefore, has a historical role as a cradle of Jewish thought, but its physical religious heritage today is decidedly Christian.

Read more at eJewish Philanthropy

More about: History & Ideas, Jewish history, Middle Ages, Rashi, Tourism