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The Israeli military is mustering battlefield rabbis in what it calls a campaign to promote religious values in its frontline ranks. The move, announced in the latest issue of the military's official weekly magazine, Bamahane, drew fire on Monday from one of Israel's most popular newspaper columnists, who cautioned against creating a "God's Army."
Under the plan, a reserve army rabbi will be assigned to every battalion in the military's northern command, whose areas of responsibility include the Lebanese and Syrian borders. "The assimilation of religion into combat battalions is increasing," said an article in Bamahane, which gave details of the program being implemented after a year-long pilot project.
While rabbis have long served in Israel's military, their roles traditionally have focused on overseeing adherence to Jewish dietary laws in its kitchens, Sabbath observance and religious ceremonies. Now, the Bamahane article said, "the commander of the Golani (infantry) brigade's Battalion 51 does not move a meter without his rabbi."
Jewish and Roman Catholic leaders reviewing their dialogue over the past four decades expressed concern on Wednesday that younger generations had little idea of the historic reconciliation that has taken place between them. The two faiths must keep this awareness alive at a time when the last survivors of the Holocaust are dying and both the Catholic and Jewish worlds are changing in significant ways, they said at the end of a four-day interfaith conference.
Germany ordained its first female rabbi since the Holocaust on Thursday, marking a major step in the reintegration of Jews into modern German life.
In the glare of international media, Alina Treiger followed in the footsteps of Regina Jonas, who in 1935 was the first female to be appointed a rabbi in Germany. Jonas, from Berlin, was murdered by the Nazis in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland in 1944.
The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Rabbi Elliot Dorff is rector of the American Jewish University in California and chairs the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.This article first appeared in the Forward, a Jewish weekly published in New York, and is reprinted with their permission.
By Rabbi Elliot Dorff
This month, Robert Edwards, a professor emeritus at the University of Cambridge, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for developing (along with Dr. Patrick Steptoe, who died in 1988), in vitro fertilization. The technique whereby eggs are removed from a woman, fertilized in a petri dish (hence the name “in vitro,” or “in a glass”), and then implanted into the womb, has enabled people to procreate who would otherwise not be able to have children.
It was almost two years ago that Islamist militants attacked Mumbai and killed at least 166 people. Among them were six Jews, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka. Most non-Jewish readers probably had no idea what a Brooklyn-based Jewish couple was doing there. Many Jews would have known right away -- they were running the Chabad House, one of a worldwide network of Jewish centres run by Chabad-Lubavitch, a Hasidic movement devoted to supporting Jewish life wherever it may be found. (Photo: Indian commandos atop Chabad centre after explosion during militant siege, 28 Nov 2008/Punit Paranjpe)
The news angle to this story is that the Mumbai centre has a new rabbi, just in time for the High Holidays, as reported in my feature here. Rabbi Chanoch Gechtman arrived there recently with his wife Leiky to take up the challenge of filling Holtzberg's shoes. "I still can't quite fathom that they are not here, they were such extraordinary people," he said in an email from Mumbai. After all the damage to the original building, they've moved to another building not far away, but the address is not advertised on their website for understandable reasons.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris witnessed a scene on Sunday afternoon that seemed to be from a bygone age. A rabbi invited to deliver a lecture about Catholic-Jewish dialogue was interrupted by young arch-traditionalist Catholics who began to pray the rosary to make "amends for the outrage" of letting him speak there. Rabbi Rivon Krygier had to leave the nave and retire to the sacristy, where he read his text into a microphone to broadcast it to about 1,200 people who came to hear him. Read our full story here.
Rabbi Krygier, the head of a small Conservative Jewish congregation in Paris, had the grace to recognise that his hecklers were a tiny minority. "They'll say they succeeded in banishing the rabbi to the sacristy," he told the Catholic daily La Croix. "This is an act that has to be taken seriously, but the Christians active in dialogue seem much more determined to continue on this path."
Israeli police said on Friday they were looking into allegations of sexual abuse against one of the country's most famous and politically influential rabbis, in a case that has triggered dramatic headlines this week.
How does a rabbi get involved in dialogue with Muslims? On this blog, we often write about interfaith dialogue, for which personal contact is crucial, without talking much about the background of the personalities involved.
Given the constraints of journalism, that's not surprising. But it does leave out some of the insights I gain from talking at length with rabbis and imams about themselves and their work.
There have been a series of significant and highly publicised events recently in Vatican-Jewish relations.
Visiting synagogues is not getting any easier for Pope Benedict.
Today's meeting with Rome's Jewish community was the third time he has entered a synagogue, which is a kind of a papal record considering that his predecessor Pope John Paul -- probably the first pope to do so since Saint Peter two millennia ago -- made only one such visit himself.
His first synagogue visit, in Cologne only months after his 2005 election, was heavy with the symbolism of a German pope visiting Jews in Germany. At one point, the rabbi referred to an elderly woman in the congregation who had a concentration camp number tattooed on her arm. He did this, though, to say that she could not have never imagined back there in Auschwitz that her son -- a leader of the Cologne Jewish community present at the ceremony -- would one day welcome the pope to a synagogue in Germany. It was tense, but it seemed to be a good start.