Trump Dragging the Jews and Israel into the scrum, using both as one more weapon in his racist rants.

President Trump, long a trafficker in anti-Semitic stereotypes, treated American Jews to a classic anti-Semitic canard Tuesday afternoon. When asked about two Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who had been barred from Israel at Trump’s own behest, he broke out an oldie but a goodie from the closet of anti-Semitic tropes.

“Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” President Trump told reporters.

Per Trump, Jews are and should be loyal to Israel rather the United States; to show their loyalty, they should vote for a Republican.

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Read more:

This Week Proves It: Politicians Won’t Call Out Anti-Semitism On Their Own Side

New York Jewish Museum’s Discomfort with Religion

The Jewish Museum of New York her latest core exhibition reveals a distance from Judaism indistinguishable from disregard, embarrassment, and disdain.

Menachem Wecker’s essay on Scenes from the Collection, the latest permanent exhibition at the Jewish Museum of New York, talks about the city’s venerable 115-year-old Jewish Museum. Its collection of about 30,000 objects makes this among the most important such institutions anywhere and, according to its website, one of the oldest remaining Jewish museums in the world.

Downstairs, at the museum’s outlet of Russ & Daughters café, customers devouring the herring, knishes, and blintzes are assured that everything on the — also venerable — menu is under kosher supervision.

But for him

Upstairs, however, is a different story. With its recent, ballyhooed revamping of its permanent exhibition, the museum has squandered a priceless opportunity to be the hub for contemporary Jewish conversation, education, and memory. In so doing, it has also departed drastically from its founding mission as a champion of Jewish culture and practice.

Wecker, a relatively young man, is in possession of a Jewish education that is probably atypical of most of the museum’s visitors. By contrast, the art historian who has served as the director of several museums, as Assistant Secretary for museums at the Smithsonian Institutions, and as director of the museum program at the National Endowment for the Arts, Tom L. Freudenheim is a senior citizen who according to his response at the exhibition, risks sounding like the character of the Grumpy Old Man played by Dana Carvey on the old Saturday Night Live — the kind who carries on about how much better things were in the past, and that’s the way we liked it.

He writes in the Jewish magazine Mosaic

In truth, though, I can’t say I really liked it better growing up in a world of Jews who still lowered their voices to whisper the word “Jewish” in restaurant conversations, or who swelled with unseemly pride when the 1950 recording by Pete Seeger and the Weavers of the Israeli folk song Tzena, Tzena, Tzena gave “us” temporary standing on the Hit Parade.

Nowadays, to judge by sources like the 2013 Pew survey, American Jews are less self-conscious about being Jewish. But are they, really? Could it be, instead, that their self-consciousness just runs in directions more in line with today’s rather than yesterday’s cultural norms? Wecker’s ruminations and strictures about the Jewish Museum’s “Jewish problem” — evidenced by its wildly overdone distancing of itself from any taint of “parochialism,” together with its marked condescension toward Judaism itself — invite speculation.

 

There is some history here. When the Jewish Museum first moved toward displaying contemporary art lacking any palpable connection to Jews or Judaism, it was partly following in the  footsteps of Karl Schwarz, the director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum: an institution that opened in 1933 around the same time that Hitler seized power and closed five years later after Kristallnacht. Schwarz’s idea, then quite original, was that, along with showcasing the “material culture” of the Jewish past — ritual objects, books, and other artifacts — a Jewish museum might legitimately start to pay attention to the work of living Jewish artists.

Two decades later in New York, with its transformational 1957 exhibition Artists of the New York School: Second Generation, the Jewish Museum both adopted Schwarz’s idea and went beyond it to include work by contemporary non-Jews and, as often as not, on non-Jewish themes. It thereby established a model that in one form or another continues to this day and that, to be fair, has resulted in a number of remarkable and occasionally even ground-breaking shows.

In doing so, the museum hardly escaped controversy or, especially, conflict with the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), its founding institution and proprietor. In 1947, as Wecker notes, with the opening of the museum in its then-new home on Fifth Avenue, JTS’s chancellor Louis Finkelstein defined its mission as the preservation and celebration of

“the singular beauty of Jewish life, as ordained in the laws of Moses, developed in the Talmud, and embellished in tradition.”

By the 1960s, it had become known instead, and with reason, mainly as an influential venue for the artistic avant-garde.

That transformation needed to be rationalized, and an argument for it was quickly developed. The new argument went like this:

Jews were a cosmopolitan people, interested by definition in a wide range of ideas and areas of cultural creativity both within and outside of the Jewish world.

Often adduced in this context was the example of Commentary magazine, founded in 1945 by the American Jewish Committee as a high-level forum of discussion of both Jewish and non-Jewish issues by writers and thinkers — what we now call “public intellectuals” — many but not all of whom were themselves Jews. Especially after Norman Podhoretz was appointed editor of Commentary in 1960, the magazine’s existence and success were invoked to justify JTS’s support for influential exhibitions at the Jewish Museum less and less related to the vision articulated in 1947 by Louis Finkelstein.

 

Such exhibitions flourished in the mid-1960s under the brief directorships of Alan Solomon and Sam Hunter, years that happened to coincide with my own tenure at the museum as a young curator, aspiring art historian, and ex-rabbinical student. Partly owing to the last-named credential, no doubt, I ended up being responsible for the “Jewish” parts of the museum, and soon became well-acquainted with its by-then considerable collections of Judaica of all kinds — collections that were then, and remain today, second only to the holdings of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

And this brings me back to Scenes from the Collection, so skillfully picked apart by Wecker. I concur with most of his criticisms of the exhibition’s substance. With regard to its presentation of, in particular, material related directly to Jewish religious traditions or values, he is certainly correct to point to the organizers’ shoddy scholarship and connoisseurship. I would only underline his point by stressing that museums thrive or wither not only on the visions of their directors but on the ideas, interests, ambitions, dreams, and scholarship of their curators. (Susan Braunstein, the museum’s longtime Judaica curator, retired some months ago and, although remaining on staff part-time in an emerita position, has yet to be replaced.)

As a counterexample to the latest “core” exhibition, Wecker writes with some enthusiasm about its 1990s predecessor, Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey, which indeed went far toward restoring the focus on the “Jewish” in Jewish Museum. I was never a great fan of that show for one simple reason: at its outset, visitors were invited to ask how Jews had survived for so many centuries and millennia, and were promised that the exhibition would answer that question. In fact, it’s sheer museological vanity to suggest that Jewish survival can be understood via Judaism’s material culture alone.

This stipulation aside, however, the conceptual premise of Culture and Continuity was solidly based: the Jewish Museum does indeed house any number of important works of Judaica — its field of specialty — that cannot be seen anywhere else. Indeed, the same principle underlies permanent exhibitions in most museums. Which is not to say that collections don’t also get temporarily rearranged to suit a curator’s creative idea, or some practical exigency. (For example, parts of the 17th-century Dutch collections in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are currently on view in a two-year special exhibition because of skylight renovations in the main galleries.) But that is secondary, not primary. Permanent exhibitions are all about the core: how, in the end, a museum identifies and presents itself.

 

Where does the Jewish Museum fit here? For me, the real scandal today is that a collection of such size, quality, and historical importance has been reduced from the museum’s main attraction to a resource only for special exhibitions like the airily named Scenes from the Collection. Evidently, in the museum’s current thinking, the core works in its collection are to be seen only in the context of thematic and temporary special exhibitions like this one, surrounded by works of tangential, or arbitrary, or opaque relevance. This rethinking, to put it bluntly, can only reflect a disdain for the museum’s core assets on the part of the institution’s leadership (both the staff and the trustees).

Among those core assets are not only the thousands of items in the collection but the self-understanding of Judaism itself. In his essay, Wecker raises serious questions about the attitude toward Judaism held by the museum’s leaders and stewards. Here, too, a larger cultural phenomenon may be seen at work: namely, a pervasive discomfort, or embarrassment, manifested by many art museums these days, when it comes to Western religion. For obvious reasons, Christianity is the prime example. To take the Met once again, but hardly the Met alone, the reigning but incorrect assumption appears to be that everyone knows the meaning of Christian devotional art, that everyone can readily identify saints by their visual attributes, and that everyone can “read” the allusions and symbols in paintings of the Madonna or the Crucifixion.

Of course that is not the case: many if not most Christians are as ignorant of their religious traditions as are most Jews. Why, then, the silence? After all, explication is available for “exotic” religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and so forth). Only with Christianity and, at the Jewish Museum, with Judaism is a fastidious distance observed — a distance indistinguishable from indifference or, again, discomfort, embarrassment, and disrespect. In each case, the result is an abdication of the opportunity and the responsibility to educate the public about some of the greatest and most important works of Western art.

Tom L. Freudenheim ends with saying

I’m a reasonably well-educated but not especially religiously observant Jew. Nevertheless, like many other Jews, I’m wholly unembarrassed to lay claim to my Jewishness, not only as a matter of ethnic pride but also in my being a legatee of a venerable and quite awesome religious tradition.

American Jews can rightly be proud of, among other things, the Jewish museums that their communities have developed and supported, and that have in turn served as models for other ethnic and group-based museums around the country. As Edward Rothstein, quoted by Wecker, has acutely observed, those many museums spawned by the Jewish example make a point of celebrating the unique traditions and values of their particular sponsoring groups. By contrast (with exceptions, like UC Berkeley’s Magnes Museum), Jews have deracinated their own museums to the point of flaunting not only an ignorance of the Jewish tradition but a disdain for it.

Menachem Wecker gives us example after example from Scenes from the Collection of the feckless and philistine lengths to which the Jewish Museum has gone in its dereliction from its elementary responsibility. Is it too much to propose that the accolades the museum so desperately craves from the art-world cognoscenti might be gained without totally reducing the “Jewish” in its name to the slim and increasingly fraying threads by which it remains connected to its tradition?

Kler the Polish Spotlight on Poland’s Clergy Sexual Abuse

The oh so Catholic Poland now begins for many years later than our country to feel the consequences of the wrong attitude of the Catholic Church towards priests who abused young people.

New research shows that church attendance starts going down very quickly now. The Polish church also for the first time has to pay compensation to a victim of abuse.

In 1980, more than half of Poles regularly went to church, in 1986 it had dropped to a third. Nowhere in the world is church attendance decreasing so massive, the Pew Research Center concludes.

Karol Wojtyla, alias pope John-Paul II, may still be the most popular figure, but the Catholic Church not any more.

From the 28th of September the film “Kler” from the director Wojciech Smarzowski entered in cinemas. He says

I’m just a director. But I would like the church financing system to be open, paedophile priests to be sent to prison and that the Polish Church should finally take responsibility for the victims.

Wojciech Smarzowski – born in 1963. Director of the films ‘Wesele’, ‘Dom zły’, ‘Róża’, ‘Drogówka’, ‘Pod Mocnym Aniołem’. His previous film, “Wołyń” (2016), the president of TVP Jacek Kurski, awarded a special prize at the Gdynia festival.

Tadeusz Sobolewski thinks:

“Kler” will be the Polish “Spotlight“?

Spotlight (film) poster.jpgThe Oscar-winning biographical drama film directed by Tom McCarthy and written by McCarthy and Josh Singer follows The Boston Globe‘s “Spotlight” team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative journalist unit in the United States and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests.

Initially the team believed that they were following the story of one priest who was moved around several times, but soon they came to understand it was a systematic system of the church hierarchy to cover up several sexual abuses of children by Catholic priests in Massachusetts.

For Poland Wojciech Smarzowski believes:

It’s a different situation. It must be remembered that in no country has the Church itself purified itself of the fault. There had to be state help, secular institutions. Anyway, “Kler” is not just a movie about paedophilia. It was important for me to make a movie about people who only distinguish themselves by wearing cassocks. There are three vectors that drive this story: the lust for money – greed, lust for power, and sexual desire.

And since we’ve started from it, let’s take care of this sin. Studies in Germany, which were carried out by secular commissions commissioned by the episcopate, showed that there are 4 percent of priests. paedophiles. But the episcopate provided archives to the commissions. In Australia, the episcopate made available all church archives and it turned out that it was 7 percent. Of course, we did not have any research, but even if only – as in 2014, Pope Francis said – 2 percent. all priests are paedophiles, and so more or less 600 pedophiles in cassocks walk each day between our children.

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A few years ago, three Catholic priests’ fates were joined together by a tragic event. Their lives were miraculously saved. Now, on every anniversary the clergymen meet to celebrate their survival. Each took a different path.
Lisowski is moving up the ladder in the church administration in a big city, dreaming about the Vatican. Standing in his way is the Archbishop, a luxury-loving dignitary who uses political influence to build the largest sanctuary in Poland…
The second priest, Trybus is a rural pastor. Serving in a place full of poverty, he slowly succumbs to human weaknesses.
Kukula is not very successful, either, and despite his fervent faith, loses the trust of his parishioners overnight.
Soon, the clergymen’s paths will cross again, and the events that will take place will have an impact on the life of each of them.

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A Spot at the Kotel Won’t Save Us: A Crisis in American Judaism

Like there are many denominations in Christendom as well in Christianity, man’s world got also so many different divisions in the Judaic world as well people who call themselves Jewish, meaning the race but not being religious and acting against Torah, outsiders should recognise that difference between secular, Zionist-, devout and less devout religious Jews and fundamentalist Jews.

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To remember

  1. In August 2017:  eyes of liberal American Jewish world were fixed on the Kotel.
    leaders of the Conservative, Reform + Reconstructionist movements banded together to demand a mixed-gender space at the Western Wall > clear pushback against  institutional power of ultra-Orthodoxy in Israel.
  2. prominent liberal American Jews threatened to boycott Netanyahu’s government over its refusal to recognize the liberal diaspora.
  3. liberal American Jewish world remains more divided than ever
  4. more American Jews publicly opposing Israel’s occupation of West Bank + Gaza.
  5. masses of Jews are embracing intermarriage + abandoning Israel = death-knell of Jewish peoplehood in America = threaten to dissolve the very ties that make a Jew a Jew.
  6. massive drop-off in support for Israel among American Jewish college students
  7. J.J. Goldberg laments
    “strange metamorphosis of the Jewish spirit over the past century, from hopeful optimism in the face of great suffering to bitterness and suspicion amid plenty…[if], for a half-century after 1917, the dominant mood among Jews in America and Israel alike was one of optimism…in the half-century since 1967, the mood has been increasingly gloomy and cynical.”
  8. Am. Jewry in transition towards a future where communal identity will not be defined by support for Israel, nor will it rest primarily upon markers of blood > decades-long fixation on Israel + endogamy sapped American Jewish identity of the vitality and dynamism it needs to survive.
  9. For too long, mainstream Jewish America turned dictum of Rabbi Hillel on its head
  10. beginning to shake loose inherited normative frameworks +evolve in exciting new directions => New American Jewish identity
  11. Jewish college students supporting BDS + identifying as anti- or non-Zionist.
  12. IfNotNow + Open Hillel publicly + proudly oppose Israel’s occupation as Jews.
  13. Mirroring trends across the Jewish world, many from mixed families + having non-Jewish partners <= no less Jewish than predecessors = product of American Jewish assimilation

Doikayt

(originally published in Tikkun)

“Remember the days of the world; understand the years of each generation” (Devarim, 32:7)

“…that [we] may turn the heart of the fathers back through the children, and the heart of the children back through their fathers” (Malachi, 3:24)

Last month, the eyes of the liberal American Jewish world were fixed on the Kotel. In a rare display of unity and resolve, leaders of the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements banded together to demand a mixed-gender space at the Western Wall, in a clear pushback against the institutional power of ultra-Orthodoxy in Israel. So deep were we stung by this bitter betrayal, that for the first time in living memory, prominent liberal American Jews even threatened to boycott Netanyahu’s government over its refusal to recognize the liberal diaspora.

And yet, even as we are united in condemnation of ultra-Orthodox fundamentalism, the liberal American Jewish world…

View original post 4,472 more words

Grootste misverstand over de islam

In de Volkskrant kwam de Iraans/Amerikaanse Reza Aslan aan het woord. Hij kreeg grote bekendheid in 2013 toen hij op Fox News geïnterviewd werd over zijn bestseller De zeloot – Het leven van Jezus van Nazareth en de geboorte van een religie. Presentator Lauren Green vroeg zich af waarom Aslan, een moslim, in hemelsnaam een boek zou schrijven over Jezus. Hij legde uit dat hij een godsdienstwetenschapper is en gespecialiseerd in het Nieuwe Testament, en dat hij toevalligerwijs ook moslim is. Maar de Fox-presentator was nog steeds niet tevreden:

‘Maar waarom zou u geïnteresseerd zijn in de grondlegger van het christendom?’

‘Omdat dit mijn werk is’,

reageerde Aslan verbaasd terwijl hij zijn handen op zijn borst klemde, alsof er sprake was van een pijnlijk misverstand.

Indien er een atheïst een boek over Jezus of over God zou geschreven hebben zou niemand er van opkijken, maar een moslim blijkt toch iets heel anders te zijn.

Na dat interview schoot Aslans populariteit omhoog en belandde hij in het centrum van het Amerikaanse islamdebat. Hij werd de knuffelmoslim van Amerika.

Aslan kijkt naar onze wereld en stelt:

‘Er bestaat het idee dat de beleving van de islam op de een of andere manier fundamenteel anders zou zijn dan de beleving van het christen– of jodendom. Dat is niet alleen het grootste misverstand over de islam, maar ook de bron van islamofobie, zowel aan de linker- als de rechterkant van het spectrum. De islam wordt behandeld alsof die uniek is, niet divers en eclectisch, alsof deze religie niet onderhevig is aan verandering en ontwikkeling. Alsof de islam niet bestaat uit duizend variëteiten.

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Vindt ook:

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  3. Gelijk gelovenden
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Why are we surprised when Buddhists are violent?

Dan Arnold & Alicia Turner, New York Times, 5 March 2018

05stoneWeb-master768.jpg

The Nya Thar Lyaung reclining Buddha is an important religious site in the Bago region of Myanmar. Credit, Frank Bienewald/LightRocket, via Getty Images

While history suggests it is naïve to be surprised that Buddhists are as capable of inhuman cruelty as anyone else, such astonishment is nevertheless widespread — a fact that partly reflects the distinctive history of modern Buddhism. By ‘modern Buddhism,’ we mean not simply Buddhism as it happens to exist in the contemporary world but rather the distinctive new form of Buddhism that emerged in the 19th and 20th centuries. In this period, Buddhist religious leaders, often living under colonial rule in the historically Buddhist countries of Asia, together with Western enthusiasts who eagerly sought their teachings, collectively produced a newly ecumenical form of Buddhism — one that often indifferently drew from the various Buddhist traditions of countries like China, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Japan and Thailand.

This modern form of Buddhism is distinguished by a novel emphasis on meditation and by a corresponding disregard for rituals, relics, rebirth all the other peculiarly ‘religious’ dimensions of history’s many Buddhist traditions. The widespread embrace of modern Buddhism is reflected in familiar statements insisting that Buddhism is not a religion at all but rather (take your pick) a ‘way of life,’ a ‘philosophy’ or (reflecting recent enthusiasm for all things cognitive-scientific) a ‘mind science.’

Buddhism, in such a view, is not exemplified by practices like Japanese funerary rites, Thai amulet-worship or Tibetan oracular rituals but by the blandly nonreligious mindfulness meditation now becoming more ubiquitous even than yoga. To the extent that such deracinated expressions of Buddhist ideas are accepted as defining what Buddhism is, it can indeed be surprising to learn that the world’s Buddhists have, both in past and present, engaged in violence and destruction.

There is, however, no shortage of historical examples of violence in Buddhist societies. Sri Lanka’s long and tragic civil war (1983-2009), for example, involved a great deal of specifically Buddhist nationalism on the part of a Sinhalese majority resentful of the presence of Tamil Hindus in what the former took to be the last bastion of true Buddhism (the ‘island of dharma’). Political violence in modern Thailand, too, has often been inflected by Buddhist involvement, and there is a growing body of scholarly literature on the martial complicity of Buddhist institutions in World War II-era Japanese nationalism. Even the history of the Dalai Lama’s own sect of Tibetan Buddhism includes events like the razing of rival monasteries, and recent decades have seen a controversy centering on a wrathful protector deity believed by some of the Dalai Lama’s fellow religionists to heap destruction on the false teachers of rival sects.

Read the full article in the New York Times.

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A brief history of Stephen Hawking: A legacy of paradox

A brief history of Stephen Hawking:
A legacy of paradox
Stuart Clark, New Scientist, 14 March 2018

Picture

Stephen William Hawking. 1942 – 2018. – Cosmologist, space traveller and hero.

‘I think most physicists would agree that Hawking’s greatest contribution is the prediction that black holes emit radiation,’ says Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology. ‘While we still don’t have experimental confirmation that Hawking’s prediction is true, nearly every expert believes he was right.’

Experiments to test Hawking’s prediction are so difficult because the more massive a black hole is, the lower its temperature. For a large black hole – the kind astronomers can study with a telescope – the temperature of the radiation is too insignificant to measure. As Hawking himself often noted, it was for this reason that he was never awarded a Nobel Prize. Still, the prediction was enough to secure him a prime place in the annals of science, and the quantum particles that stream from the black hole’s edge would forever be known as Hawking radiation.

Some have suggested that they should more appropriately be called Bekenstein-Hawking radiation, but Bekenstein himself rejects this. ‘The entropy of a black hole is called Bekenstein-Hawking entropy, which I think is fine. I wrote it down first, Hawking found the numerical value of the constant, so together we found the formula as it is today. The radiation was really Hawking’s work. I had no idea how a black hole could radiate. Hawking brought that out very clearly. So that should be called Hawking radiation.’

The Bekenstein-Hawking entropy equation is the one Hawking asked to have engraved on his tombstone. It represents the ultimate mash-up of physical disciplines because it contains Newton’s constant, which clearly relates to gravity; Planck’s constant, which betrays quantum mechanics at play; the speed of light, the talisman of Einstein’s relativity; and the Boltzmann constant, the herald of thermodynamics.

The presence of these diverse constants hinted at a theory of everything, in which all physics is unified. Furthermore, it strongly corroborated Hawking’s original hunch that understanding black holes would be key in unlocking that deeper theory.

Hawking’s breakthrough may have solved the entropy problem, but it raised an even more difficult problem in its wake. If black holes can radiate, they will eventually evaporate and disappear. So what happens to all the information that fell in? Does it vanish too? If so, it will violate a central tenet of quantum mechanics. On the other hand, if it escapes from the black hole, it will violate Einstein’s theory of relativity. With the discovery of black hole radiation, Hawking had pit the ultimate laws of physics against one another. The black hole information loss paradox had been born.

Hawking staked his position in another ground-breaking and even more contentious paper entitled Breakdown of predictability in gravitational collapse, published in Physical Review D in 1976. He argued that when a black hole radiates away its mass, it does take all of its information with it – despite the fact that quantum mechanics expressly forbids information loss. Soon other physicists would pick sides, for or against this idea, in a debate that continues to this day. Indeed, many feel that information loss is the most pressing obstacle in understanding quantum gravity.

‘Hawking’s 1976 argument that black holes lose information is a towering achievement, perhaps one of the most consequential discoveries on the theoretical side of physics since the subject was invented,’ says Raphael Bousso of the University of California, Berkeley.

Read the full article in the New Scientist.

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