Teaching Judaism in Indonesia

Sept. 19 2019

Last summer, Alan Brill, an American rabbi and professor of Jewish studies, taught a course on comparative mysticism at Indonesia’s Gadja Mada University. He also visited several Islamic colleges, as well as some Christian and Hindu ones, where he lectured on the basics of Judaism. He describes the moderate and tolerant form of Islam that predominates in Indonesia, and comments on the attitudes and perceptions of his erstwhile students and colleagues:

Judaism is no longer officially recognized as a religion since there are not many Jews in Indonesia. They were briefly included at the founding of the state before they emigrated to Australia and the U.S. There is a trend of recent conversions to Judaism clustered in several cities, which deserves its own discussion. There are also Muslim Judeophiles who study Hebrew and Jewish books.

[Most Indonesian Muslims] do not accept the stringent interpretations of theology and shariah that arose in the Middle Ages and afterward. . . . When I asked Muslim graduate students in my classroom, or local Muslims in the city of Jogja (Yogyakarta), how they felt about the anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, or anti-Hindu writings of the medieval theologian and jurist ibn Taymiyyah, or similarly intolerant conservative Islamic thinkers, they answered that these writing have no authoritative status and are followed by Salafist Muslims, but not by themselves.

At each Islamic college, I visited, I began my talk by introducing myself and my religious background as a Jewish American, a rabbi, and a professor. And in each place, I began by recounting how the medieval Fatimid traders who originally brought Islam to Indonesia included Jews among them. We have responsa from the Cairo Genizah permitting wives back home in Egypt to remarry after Indonesian shipwrecks. Indonesians understood these as analogous to the similar fatwas permitting remarriage for the Muslim traders.

I was repeatedly warned to prepare for abrasive questions from the students about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But these questions never came.

Read more at Book of Doctrines and Opinions

More about: Indonesia, Judaism, Moderate Islam, Muslim-Jewish relations

Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy