FaithWorld

Israeli military enlisting frontline rabbis, critic warns creating against “God’s army”

(A Jewish rabbi instructs an Israeli Border Policeman to recite prayers as he prays in the neighborhood of Gilo on the outskirts of Jerusalem October 23, 2000./Peter Andrews)

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.”

Read the full story here.

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Catholics & Jews discuss their future dialogue, possible Muslim trialogue

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(Collège des Bernardins, site of the ILC meeting in Paris, 2 March 2011/Tom Heneghan)

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.

The International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC) met in Paris to discuss the future of the dialogue begun after the Catholic Church renounced its anti-Semitism and declared its respect for Judaism at the Second Vatican Council in 1965.

Germany ordains first female rabbi since Holocaust

rabbi 1Germany 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. (Photo: Rabbi Alina Treiger during her ordination in Berlin November 4, 2010/Odd Andersen/Pool)

The Ukrainian-born Treiger said she was thrilled to be ordained, at a ceremony at a synagogue in Berlin, with President Christian Wulff and hundreds of people in attendance, two centuries after the birth of Liberal Judaism in Germany.

Guestview: Catholics, Jews and petri dishes

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

edwardsThis 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. (Photo: Professor Robert Edwards, July 26, 2003)

Indeed, since Louise Brown, the first baby conceived through IVF, was born in 1978, some four million children have been conceived using this technique. Today between 1% and 2% of all babies born in the United States and other developed countries each year are conceived through IVF.

New rabbi for Mumbai Jewish centre attacked in 2008

narimanIt 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.

gechtmanThis could be a daunting assignment, but Gechtman, 25, seemed eager to get to work. “People really believe in this city. It’s a place with a lot of energy; it’s full of life,” he said. “There is really an endless amount of work to be accomplished. And the Holtzbergs set the bar very high.” The work is literally endless — a couple that goes out on an assignment like this is expected to stay permanently. The commitment for the “shluchim,” as these emissaries are called, is supposed to be for life. And it’s a job for both the rabbi and his wife.  Running a Chabad House means offering services such as kosher Sabbath dinners, Torah classes, youth programmes, day care facilities, summer camps and women’s ritual baths. It’s an open house for any Jew who wants to participate — locals, expatriates or tourists passing through the city.

Ultra-trad Catholics upset rabbi’s lecture in Paris cathedral

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Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, 6 Aug 2009/Jacky Naegelen

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.” krygier

Rabbi Rivon Krygier/Adath Shalom

The warm round of applause that Krygier received when he returned to the nave after the lecture bore that out. At the same time, arch-traditionalists such as Rev. Régis de Cacqueray, head of the French section of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) congratulated protesters for their “courage” and said: “The Paris cathedral is neither a synagogue nor a Masonic temple.”

Sex abuse claims against famed rabbi grip Israel

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Ultra-orthodox Jewish men praying in the Old City of Jerusalem, 11 March 2008/Yiorgos Karahalis

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.

Mordechai Elon – known as “Rabbi Motti” by viewers of his popular TV show and by many young men in the West Bank settler movement — has vehemently denied the accusations by a group of fellow rabbis who say their aim is to combat sexual harassment by authority figures.

How does a rabbi get involved in dialogue with Muslims?

abdullah-and-visotzky-2

--- Rabbi Visotzky and King Abdullah in Madrid, July 2008 ---

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.

One of these rabbis, Burton Visotzky of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, has now filled in part of this gap for me by giving a video interview to the Journal of Interreligious Dialogue. Vistozky is an occasional blogger for our GUESTVIEW series of outside contributions.

Out of the spotlight, Israel and Vatican negotiate holy sites

Vatican flag in Jerusalem, Reuters photo by Baz Ratner

Vatican flags raised outside Jerusalem's Old City before Pope Benedict's visit, 6 May 2009/Baz Rattner

There have been a series of significant and highly publicised events recently in Vatican-Jewish relations.

Pope Benedict put his predecessor Pius XII along the road to Roman Catholic sainthood last month, angering many Jews who accused the wartime pope of turning a blind eye to the Nazi Holocaust.  Benedict defended the move this week during his first visit to Rome’s synagogue, which prompted Israel to ask the pope to open up the Vatican archives covering Pius’ reign between 1939-1958.

Visiting synagogues is not getting easier for Pope Benedict

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Pope Benedict at Rome's main synagogue, 17 Jan 2010/Osservatore Romano

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. pope schneier

Pope Benedict receives gift from Rabbi Arthur Schneier in New York, 18 April 2008/Max Rossi