Wednesday, September 30, 2015

In his memoirs Isser Harel noted that it was easier for Mossad agents to infiltrate Eichmann’s Nazi circle in Argentina than it was to infiltrate Haredi communities....

In 1960, a young Israeli boy, Yossele Schumacher, was abducted by his Orthodox grandparents and hidden from his secular parents and the Israeli authorities. Within a few weeks all Israelis knew of the case. The press widely publicized the story, and the Knesset debated its implications. The Israeli police avidly sought the 8-year-old boy and searched every Orthodox community in Israel for him. His epic would last until, and beyond, a milestone event celebrated 50 years ago this month.

Yossele’s grandparents were recent immigrants to Israel from the town of Uman in the Soviet Union, and unlike the great majority of their Russian co-religionists, they had kept alive the Hasidic traditions of their forebears. Members of the Breslov sect of Hasidim, they were determined to bring their grandson up in that Hasidic tradition. The boy’s parents, however, had settled in a secular kibbutz, and they strenuously objected to the grandparents’ plans for their son. The grandfather, Rabbi Nachman Shtarkes, asked his ultra-Orthodox associates to hide Yossele, his daughter’s son. This they had managed to do for a brief period by moving him from place to place within Israel’s Orthodox enclaves. Now with the Israeli police frantically searching for Yossele, Rabbi Shtarkes and his supporters sought to smuggle the boy out of the country. For both the ultra-Orthodox factions and the Israeli government, the stakes were high. The ultra-Orthodox—and especially the Neturei Karta, the most extreme of the anti-Zionists—were convinced that returning Yossele to his parents was part of a nefarious government plot to secularize as many Orthodox children as possible. Orthodox leaders had made similar accusations about the children of Yemenite and Moroccan immigrants. The Israeli government saw the hiding of Yossele as a direct challenge to its authority to govern all factions of the state’s varied religious mosaic.

Determined to smuggle Yossele out of the country, his abductors were faced with a serious problem. Who in the small Haredi community of that period would have the expertise and documents necessary to smuggle a young child to another country?

In what must have seemed to some Haredim an act of divine intervention a woman appeared on the ultra-Orthodox scene who would be willing and able to spirit Yossele to safety. This was Ruth Ben David, whose given name was Madeleine Feraille. She was a 40-year-old French woman with a story remarkable even in Israel, a state with many remarkable post-WWII stories. At 20 she had served in the French Resistance. She later raised her son Claude on her own, had managed an import-export firm, and had attended graduate schools in both France and Switzerland. And in the early 1950s, after a long and arduous spiritual journey, she converted to Judaism.

Yet within a few years, Ben David became convinced that the political and cultural ideas dominant among Israeli Jews were a betrayal of the Jewish tradition. She described Zionism as “the thesis that nationalism should replace the Torah as the basis of the Jewish people” and condemned the Zionist movement as “a calamitous mistake.” Israel, in her eyes, was “a mundane, materialistic, secular culture.” Having decided to live in Jerusalem, Ben David was dismayed to find that the state’s presentation of Jewish Jerusalem was decidedly secular in character. She wrote that “for the purpose of tourism, the government of Israel does not refrain from calling their part of Jerusalem ‘the Holy City,’ though they do not themselves believe in any holiness.”

But joining the Haredim as single woman was not a very practical move. With no employment prospects before her, and with her son Uriel to support, Ben David was dependent on her new religious community. In France she had been an independent woman. Now she was joining a community in which women had little agency, power, or influence. Her new community’s ideology was one of resistance to modernity, including resistance to the emancipation of women. How would that community assimilate a thoroughly modern woman?

Ben David’s mentor in the Neturei Karta, Rabbi Abraham Elie Maizes, was keenly aware of Ben David’s dilemma—and of the ultra-Orthodox community’s dilemma in its face-off with the Israeli authorities. He summoned her to his study in Jerusalem. Ben David was immediately brought into the community’s highest level of power and authority. Asked to participate in a conspiracy, one that seemed tailor-made for her, she was, in a sense, treated like a man, and a worldly, capable, man at that.

In her memoirs Ben David recalled that while sitting in Rabbi Maizes’ office and waiting for him to describe her task, she “became progressively more convinced that something of the greatest importance, something fateful, was under way.” The rabbi appealed to Ben David’s sense of destiny, telling her that “there is a great mitzvah before you, and as I see it, only you can carry this through.”

As the task was explained to her, Ben David was at first shocked and then exhilarated. Rabbi Maizes told Ben David that her experience in the French Resistance, her knowledge of European languages, and her commitment to ultra-Orthodox Judaism, made her the ideal person to smuggle Yossele out of Israel and “save” him, and hence many other children, from secularism. Only through her actions could “Torah-true Judaism” resist the secular power of the state.

Rabbi Maizes, who had survived both the Nazi and Communist regimes with his religious faith intact, saw Israeli secularism as yet another historical threat to the Jewish tradition. In his view, Israeli government threats to Jewish religious life had to be resisted with zeal and subterfuge. A Jewish government that persecuted Orthodox Jews was no different from a Fascist or Communist government. It was in fact worse. For it was violating the oath that the Jewish people were not to “rebel against the nations” and take action toward their own political independence.

When Ben David spoke of the logistical difficulties she foresaw, Rabbi Maizes invoked destiny and the will of God. “I do not know which means you will find, but I know that you are the one destined to do this. God has led you up till now on your long way. He will lead you and the child. You act, and we all shall pray for you.” As the result of this interview, Ben David became embroiled in the “Yossele Affair” of 1960 to 1962.

The Israeli authorities saw the refusal to hand over Yossele Schumacher as a serious challenge to the authority of the state, and it was determined to find him. In 1960 Israel’s Supreme Court decided in favor of Yossele’s parents and ordered Rabbi Shtarkes to hand over the boy. Yossele’s grandfather refused and was jailed. Soon Ruth Ben David found herself pitted against Israel’s much-vaunted security and intelligence services.

It was easier for Mossad agents to infiltrate Eichmann’s Nazi circle in Argentina than it was to infiltrate Haredi communities
The Shin Bet, the internal security services, searched for Yossele in Orthodox neighborhoods, villages, and kibbutzim. But they searched in vain. And the Shin Bet’s operatives were mocked by those whose houses were searched. Yossele, it was soon assumed, must have been smuggled out of the country; he was nowhere to be found. During their searches for the boy, the police and army were taunted by groups of children singing the words “Where is Yossele?” set to a popular Hasidic niggun.

Prime Minister David Ben Gurion then turned to the Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence agency. In 1960 its operatives had captured Adolph Eichmann and brought him to trial in Jerusalem. In 1962, after Eichmann had been brought to trial, Israel’s prime minister reasoned that it was a small matter for the Mossad to find a missing Jewish child. There were a limited number of ultra-Orthodox communities throughout the world. Surely Israel’s spies could infiltrate one of them and find out where Yossele was hidden.

In committing herself to the Neturei Karta cause and agreeing to smuggle Yossele out of Israel, Ben David also involved her son Uriel in the conspiracy. Uriel was 20 years old at the time, and having spent years at Orthodox yeshivot was eager to help his mother smuggle the boy out of the country. And according to Ben David’s account of the case, Yossele himself was eager to cooperate in his own disappearance. “This 8-year-old boy was already a little man, gifted with intelligence and a will above his age. He understood very well what was going on, and he knowingly participated in the fight for his faith.” According to Ben David’s account, Yossele told her, “I don’t want to be with my parents, who don’t want to let me stay with them anymore. They don’t want me to be a proper Jew.”

As she later explained it the essence of the plan was for Ben David “to bring Yossele unnoticed out of Israel by having ostensibly brought with me a daughter when entering the country with whom I would then quite naturally and quite obviously be taking out when I left.”

Ben David took Yossele out of Israel in June of 1960. In the meantime, the Israeli police continued to search for him. A year later, the boy was still missing. Rabbi Nachman Shtarkes, his grandfather, had been released from jail, and the government of Israel seemed impotent in the face of ultra-Orthodox defiance. The prime minister voiced fears that a rebellion by religious fanatics was a distinct possibility. He again urged Isser Harel, head of the Mossad, to ramp up the search for the boy.

But Harel’s agents, some of whom had participated in the kidnapping of Eichmann two years earlier, were unable to infiltrate those ultra-Orthodox communities suspected of harboring Yossele. When Mossad agents attended religious services in these communities they were quickly identified. The Mossad had no agents who had mastered the intricacies and nuances of Orthodox Jewish law and custom. When discovered, these agents were summarily and angrily ejected from the synagogues and study halls. In his memoirs Isser Harel noted that it was easier for Mossad agents to infiltrate Eichmann’s Nazi circle in Argentina than it was to infiltrate Haredi communities.

And where was Yossele while the Mossad was searching for him? Ben David had taken Yossele, disguised as a girl, to Switzerland and enrolled him in a yeshiva there. As she saw it, Yossele’s best chance for concealment was among other young ultra-Orthodox boys. And his disguise when traveling was as a girl, her daughter “Claudine,” named, of course, after her own son Claude (now Uriel). The plan had the added benefit of continuing Yossele’s religious education and strengthening his ultra-Orthodox identity. When word came to her that the Mossad was looking for Yossele in Switzerland, she spirited the boy to Brussels and then to Paris. Each time she traveled, she presented the child as her daughter Claudine. When the Mossad focused its search on the Haredi community of Paris, assembling 40 agents there, Ben David took Yossele to New York and hid the boy with a family of Satmar Hasidim in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She then returned to France.

The Mossad, anticipating that Ben David might try to hide the boy in the United States, had asked the FBI the year before to cooperate in the search for Yossele. In the summer of 1962 FBI agents searched the summer caps located in the Catskill Mountains of New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. That summer I was a camper in one of those camps, Camp Agudah in Ferndale, NewYork. I vividly remember the agents searching our camp grounds and our rustic cabins. The boys, myself among them (and it was a boys-only camp), were singing loudly while the search was going on. But it wasn’t in prayer or greeting. Rather, we were singing, “Where is Yossele?”—the song from Israel’s ultra-Orthodox communities that our camps counselors had taught us a few days before the search. But I’m afraid that the cultural reference was lost on the strapping FBI agents who seemed pleased that we accepted their visit with equanimity, and perhaps even with celebration.

Ben David and the other conspirators who hid Yossele Schumacher and spirited him from country to country managed to keep the boy hidden for almost three years. Ben Gurion was losing patience with the Mossad and its head of operations, Isser Harel. Fascination with the Yossele case was widespread throughout Israel and Jewish communities worldwide. Ben David later said that “the Yossele affair had become an everyday topic throughout the country, and indeed, throughout the Jewish world.” “The affair,” she wrote, “dominated the minds of the Israeli public. It became a matter of prestige for the police, the government, and for Ben Gurion himself.” The tensions raised by the Yossele affair were exacerbating secular-religious tensions within Israel, and many Orthodox Jewish religious leaders called on his kidnappers to release the child. Ben David began to feel isolated and condemned. “Loneliness joined my helplessness and together surrounded me, gripping me even tighter.”

In mid-1962 the Mossad caught up with Ben David in Paris. By that time Yossele was no longer in Europe. He was living with a family in the Satmar community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Ben David, interrogated by the team that first questioned Adolf Eichmann, denied any connection to the “Yossele affair.” When presented with evidence that she had smuggled Yossele out of Israel disguised as her daughter, Ben David proudly admitted her complicity but refused to divulge the boy’s current whereabouts. She only relented when Harel, head of the Mossad, told her that her son Uriel, now serving in the Israeli Army, had divulged his mother’s involvement in the case. She felt betrayed and realized that the kidnapping had failed.

Ben David told Harel where Yossele was living with a Hasidic family in Brooklyn, information he relayed to the U.S. Attorney General, Robert Kennedy. Kennedy instructed the FBI to give their full cooperation with Mossad. In September 1962, FBI agents, accompanied by Mossad operatives, took Yossele into custody and flew him to his parents in Israel. Ben Gurion was relieved; some would say triumphant. The ultra-Orthodox rabbis and their followers had been defeated, at least temporarily.

In her memoir, The Guardians of the City, Ben David wrote, “After the Yossele affair I was accepted by the residents of Meah Shearim as a member of the community. I had earned my place among them by fighting in the battle for Judaism. But their admiration for me was mixed with misunderstanding. I was different. No woman in Meah Shearim spoke many languages; none had attended university. It didn’t matter to them that I had accomplished these things before I had discovered the Torah. And I was the first convert they had encountered. Therefore, despite their admiration of me, they were open to gossip about my past, some of it spread by the Israeli security services.”

The insular, separatist, and anti-Zionist communities of Jerusalem’s Meah Shearim neighborhood could not fully embrace a woman as unusual as Ben David. But her will to be accepted—and her bravery—changed their minds. Despite the fact that Yossele had been found by the Mossad and returned to his parents, Ben David’s participation in the kidnapping made her a heroine among ultra-Orthodox Jews and drew her closer to the leadership of anti-Zionist Orthodoxy. So close, in fact, that some of the leading rabbis of the movement sought her hand in marriage.

 Though she was a convert, competition for her hand was vigorous.

In 1963, a year after Yossele’s whereabouts were discovered by the Mossad and the FBI, Ben David came to Israeli and Jewish public attention in a spectacular and unanticipated manner when she agreed to marry Rabbi Amram Blau, a 68-year-old widower with 10 adult children and the leader of the Neturei Karta. That she was a very attractive woman in her mid-forties did not hurt. A formal betrothal agreement was drawn up, but the marriage was delayed for two years. Among those objecting to the marriage were Rabbi Blau’s children. And it seems, also among the objectors, some of Blau’s rabbinic colleagues who had sought Ben David’s hand before he had and had been turned down by “the righteous convert.”

And so it was that in September 1965, in a small private ceremony held in the predominantly Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, Ben David was married to Rabbi Blau. He was 70 years old; his bride 45. He was the spiritual leader of the most rigorously Orthodox, anti-Zionist, and separatist Jewish group in Jerusalem; she was a convert from Catholicism and an independent and forceful woman who had fought in the French Resistance and defied the agents of the Mossad. Rabbi Blau too had been defying the Israeli authorities, in his case since 1948.

Until his death in 1974 Blau and his Neturei Karta colleagues continued to defy the authorities. His wife Ruth Ben David (now Ruth Blau) survived him by 26 years. Like her husband (from whom she was separated after only a few years of marriage), Ben David never recanted her views and she never apologized for the abduction of Yossele Schumacher.

Adapted from Shalom Goldman’s Jewish-Christian Difference and Modern Jewish Identity: Seven Twentieth Century Converts, Lexington Books, 2015.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pope - Year 2015 (l'misparam) "GOD WEEPS" - UOJ (original post) Year 2006 - "The Heavens finally broke down and cried with the victims! But not the gedolim...they were at dinners!"

PHILADELPHIA — Pope Francis apologized to victims of clergy sexual abuse in a private meeting on Sunday, and called himself “overwhelmed by the shame,” pledging that “every one responsible will be held accountable.”

“I regret this profoundly,” he said, speaking to bishops and seminarians on the last day of his trip to the United States. “God weeps!”

The pope said survivors of abuse by priests “have become true heralds of hope and ministers of mercy. Humbly, we owe each of them and their families our gratitude for their immense courage for making the light of Christ shine over the evil” of child sex abuse by priests, according to an early translation.

The pope also told them, “I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted,” according to a transcript of his remarks released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The betrayal was a terrible violation of human dignity.” He said he regretted that some bishops failed to protect children, and found it “disturbing” that some bishops themselves were abusers.

"The Heavens finally broke down and cried with the victims! But not the gedolim...they were at dinners!"


All Ashkenazi Jewish women should be tested, because we have it at least 10 times the rate of the rest of the population: Up to one in 400 women is BRCA-positive, as opposed to one in 40 Ashkenazi Jews...

The Breast Cancer Gene and Me

I DID not know I have the BRCA mutation. I did not know I would likely get breast cancer when I was still young, when the disease is a wild animal. I caught it fast and I acted fast, but I must have looked away: By the time of my double mastectomy, the cancer had spread to five lymph nodes.

I had eight rounds of the strongest chemotherapy there is for breast cancer. Two months later, my body still tingles from the blast. My insides are shimmering. I am reconfigured.

I have six weeks of daily radiation coming up. I have scans all the time. I have waiting rooms in my future, full of Golf Digest and Time from four months ago and that same issue of W that’s always there. I have waiting ahead. If you don’t like waiting, cancer is not for you.

I could have avoided all this if I had been tested for the BRCA mutation. All Ashkenazi Jewish women should be tested, because we have it at least 10 times the rate of the rest of the population: Up to one in 400 women is BRCA-positive, as opposed to one in 40 Ashkenazi Jews.

It seems I am the designated driver at my Seder table.

I could have had a mastectomy with reconstruction and skipped the part where I got cancer. I feel like the biggest idiot for not doing so.

The statistics vary wildly, but they are scary at the low end: According to a 2012 article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the lifetime breast cancer risk for BRCA carriers is between 56 and 84 percent. From where I am, if you are BRCA-positive, you get breast cancer — because, voilà.

All I know is I have the BRCA mutation most unexpectedly, and, still in my 40s, I had the kind of cancer that meant three surgeries in six months.

I did not know I was a carrier because I do not fall within testing parameters. Most insurance companies cover testing specifically for Ashkenazi Jewish women only once we present with breast cancer. Before that doomed moment, testing is only for women who have a family history of BRCA or who have had breast cancer at a young age, or who have close relatives with the disease.

But that is not how mutations operate. They are sneaky.

I could not have guessed I am BRCA-positive. My mother has not had breast cancer, nor has her sister, nor did her mother. My first cousin — my mother’s sister’s daughter — did have breast cancer at the same age as I did, but not as a result of BRCA.

I did not think of my father in this situation, or perhaps I did not think of my father at all, as I last saw him in 2001. At the time he told me to beware of gum disease, and maybe something else. But I know his mother lived to be an old woman, and she did not die of breast or any other cancer, and my father made no mention of anything going wrong with his sister.

A 2009 Genetics in Medicine study of Ashkenazi women with breast cancer in New York found that about 10 percent carried the BRCA gene — but of these, only 50 percent “had any family history of breast cancer among the first or the second degree relatives.”

I assume that the BRCA mutation comes from my father’s father, and after a couple of generations of silence, it expressed itself through me. This happens frequently. Which is why insurers should cover BRCA testing for all Ashkenazi Jewish women. Protocols for health care professionals must be amended.

“A large percentage of women who have the gene would not have been eligible to be tested,” said Elisa Port, chief of breast surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center, co-director of the Dubin Breast Center and author of “The New Generation Breast Cancer Book.”

“Anyone can be tested if you are willing to pay for it,” she told me. “For most insurance companies, you cannot get tested just on the basis of being an Ashkenazi Jew. Now the push is toward testing Ashkenazi Jews, because the hit rate is above 2 percent.”

The science is ahead of policy: A University of California, Los Angeles, study published this month found that for every 10,000 Ashkenazi Jewish women tested, 62 breast cancers are averted. In Dr. Port’s view, all women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent should get tested, because “every BRCA patient that develops breast cancer is a failure of prevention.”

According to Force, an advocacy group concerned with hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, an estimated 90 percent of BRCA carriers do not know that they are. That means untold thousands of people in the United States don’t realize they are likely to get a bad case of breast cancer.

The BRCA mutation entered the Jewish community in Poland some 500 years ago, and because the Jews of Eastern Europe lived in isolated communities, they incubated it among themselves. Entire families of women were wiped out by breast cancer, and no one knew why as they buried their dead.

Even though the 14 million Jews of the world today have scattered and intermarried, the BRCA mutation still disproportionately affects Ashkenazi Jews.

Jewish organizations have done too little about BRCA. Hadassah, one of the largest and oldest Jewish women’s groups, has supported research on BRCA, but so much for that. In April, its president, Marcie Natan, released a statement titled “Testing Is Not for Everyone.”

“The test sounds simple enough,” she said, “but understanding what to do with the results can be a complicated, gut-wrenching journey.” Yes, it can. But not nearly so much as cancer.
As Dr. Port said on National Public Radio this week, however early a BRCA-related breast cancer is detected, it is “associated with the risk of death.”

If you have the BRCA mutation, you want to know.

I wish I had done what I did anyway, except without the whole cancer part. I am not sure why anyone with the BRCA mutation would not opt for a prophylactic mastectomy.

Breast cancer is considered especially sensitive because it involves breasts, which are special. I loved my breasts: I posed topless on the cover of my book “Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women,” so I must have. But I love the new breasts I have now more. I had nipple-preserving surgery, which is often a possibility. My new breasts are more real than real.

I recovered from drug addiction in 1998, and that will teach you to take any disaster as a day in the life. But now I live in the atmosphere of cancer.

According to the PET scan, I am cancer free. I am cured. But cancer plays hide and seek in wunderkind ways. It is the sparkle of dirt at the bottom of the dustbin that never gets tossed.

But I live in an age of miracles and wonders, when they cure cancer with viruses. If I ever meet cancer again, I will figure it out. You see, I am very Jewish, which is to say, I am Jewish: I am undefeated by the worst.
But I would have preferred to skip this. That would have been much better.


Friday, September 25, 2015

"The idea that you have to share the identity with the subject of your art is a primitive one, particularly in music"....

How an Anti-Semitic, Gentile Composer, Created 'Kol Nidre' and 'Moses'

Any performance, much less an American one, of Max Bruch’s oratorio “Moses” from 1895 is a rarity. Yet this is a fabulous and important piece of music. First, however, one fact that no Jew interested in classical music ever seems to want to believe must be mentioned: Bruch was not Jewish.

He may have written the iconic music for “Kol Nidrei” and it may be his most famous work, but his Protestant credentials would have more than satisfied the Nazis. More surprising, Bruch also was not particularly philo-Semitic, unlike his friend Johannes Brahms. He was typical in his everyday anti-Semitism, and even a bit nastier than some.

So the question arises: What was he doing writing “Kol Nidrei” and a massive oratorio on a subject central to Jewish religion and history? Bruch’s oratorio, the story of Moses, begins at Mt. Sinai and ends with Moses’ death. It is about the birth of the Jewish nation and the search for its home.

By the time Bruch got around to writing this oratorio in the 1890s, the whole notion of a work for chorus and orchestra based on a biblical theme was considered old fashioned. There had been all too many failed attempts at setting the Moses story to music. A contemporary of Felix Mendelssohn, A.B. Marx — a music theorist and himself a Jew— wrote a massive oratorio on the subject that was a colossal failure and the source of a personal breach between Marx and Mendelssohn. The only lasting biblical oratorio written in the 19th century in German-speaking Europe was Mendelssohn’s own “Elijah.”

The easiest way to think about a non-Jew setting “Moses” to music is to remember that George Gershwin, the composer of “Porgy and Bess,” was, after all, not black. The expectation that Bruch must have been Jewish in order to write this oratorio or “Kol Nidrei” derives from a distorted perception of the place of Jews in late 19th- and early 20th-century Germany. Bruch’s choice of Jewish subjects and even Jewish materials was a reflection of the extent to which Jewish assimilation into Germany was successful, our retrospective post-Holocaust history notwithstanding.

Jews were a crucial part of German culture. They were eager participants in amateur musical societies, and they represented a disproportionate share of the audience for concerts. The accommodation that assimilation represents is no different from the accommodation and symbiosis that blacks in America have lived with for more than a century. It demands that the object of prejudice feel at home despite daily encounters with racism.

The persistence of racism and prejudice have not gotten in the way of African-American writers, painters and musicians succeeding and their “white” counterparts freely availing themselves of the materials of African-American culture. So it was in the Germany of the 1890s with Jews.

Bruch was known as a major defender of a musical aesthetic and tradition that was explicitly critical of Richard Wagner and the rage for all things Wagnerian that had come to dominate the musical culture of the 1890s. Bruch allied himself with Johannes Brahms and Brahms’s close friend, the Jewish-born violinist Joseph Joachim, who was a colleague of Bruch in Berlin.

These composers and musicians believed in the continuing validity of traditional genres such as the symphony, sonata, quartet and oratorio, and classical norms with regards to musical composition. They rejected what they saw as the subordination of music to verbal narration in the Wagnerian music-drama. They held fast to the traditions of Viennese musical classicism and the early romanticism of Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann.

These staunch anti-Wagnerian beliefs in matters of music coincided with skepticism about the politics associated with Wagner and his followers. Bruch and Brahms were far more liberal, and admired the English political system. To Bruch, the promise of German unification had been thwarted. Under Otto von Bismarck, it had not led to a constitutional monarchy in the English style. Among the “national liberals” in the decades after 1871, the national part overwhelmed the liberal part, and the national became tied to the autocratic and defined in terms of racial superiority and cultural chauvinism.

For so-called musical conservatives like Bruch and Brahms, patriotism and even the deep conviction that German musical tradition was the greatest of all did not lead them to abandon a fundamentally tolerant and cosmopolitan attitude that was resistant to the race-based nationalism propagated by Wagner.

One can speculate that “Moses” is about charismatic leadership per se and therefore provides a veiled metaphor for the career of Bismarck. Bismarck, whose iron grip and will helped forge Imperial Germany, had been dismissed in 1890. By the mid-’90s, Bismarck had become a focal point of criticism against what were blind and stupid policies of Emperor Wilhelm II, who fired him. What made Moses a wonderful subject in the ’90s was that German citizens had come to depend on larger than life leadership and believe less in the processes of politics. Their faith in the charisma of one man to guide the state would lead to disastrous consequences.

The music of Bruch’s “Moses” is therefore organized in an explicitly anti-Wagnerian and traditional manner. There is not one continuous musical fabric but a sequence of set numbers. In Bruch’s neo-Handelian emulation of “Israel in Egypt,” to which “Moses” might be regarded as a latter-day sequel, there is nevertheless an imposing sense of drama that was unwittingly influenced by Wagner. For the audiences of the 1890s, listening to “Moses” made them think of Wotan, and hearing Aaron, they could not but compare that tenor role to Siegmund or Siegfried.

By the 1890s, Bruch had already written many fine oratorios. “Moses” was one of his last. His first, a setting of Homer’s “Odyssey,” was a great success. It used Greek myth to celebrate the unification of Germany in 1871. Odysseus’s homecoming to Penelope became a metaphor for German unification. A quarter century later, Bruch used a biblical framework to express the mixture of sadness and triumph that accompanied the 25 years of success for the empire. In “Moses,” the years in the desert, the residues of slavery, the uncertainty about the future, and the protagonists, including the ever-present chorus representing the people of Israel, reveal the full range of human emotion from despair to triumph. Bruch’s “Moses” may be an oratorio, but it has more than its share of opera in it. It follows a model clearly articulated by Mendelssohn in “Elijah.” Both composers believed that music, when combined with a great text and story, did not require the apparatus of the theater. It did not require a change in musical procedure so that it could narrate and be self-consciously dramatic in the style of Wagner. Yet Bruch’s “Moses” is a true drama, and a poignant and moving one at that. It marshals all the craftsmanship of musical art accumulated by the 19th century in a manner that pays just homage to precedent.

Will Bruch’s “Moses” ever rival “Messiah” in popularity? No. But it deserves a regular place in the all too narrow repertoire of professional and amateur choruses. Choral societies would do well to look into Bruch’s oratorios, not only “Moses,” for a welcome respite from the routine defined by the endless repetition of a few standard works.

And Jews, no matter their various religious persuasions, should come to “Moses” with the same bemused tolerance with which our fellow African-American citizens purchase tickets to “Porgy and Bess.” For all the revisionist criticism Gershwin’s opera has suffered for its lack of authenticity, it is a great piece of music, and a tribute to the human imagination. The idea that you have to share the identity with the subject of your art is a primitive one, particularly in music. The music of Aaron Copland, a gay Brooklyn-born Jew, has become the voice of a muscular patriotism and the landscape of Appalachia and the American West. In Bruch’s score, more than a little of what makes the biblical figure of Moses so mesmerizing, particularly to Jews, comes to life through music. So we might as well forgive him for being a prejudiced non-Jew; he nonetheless clothed the essential narrative of the Jewish nation in music of eloquence, drama and beauty.

Leon Botstein is the president of Bard College and the music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra for whom he is conducting Max Bruch’s ‘Moses’ at Carnegie Hall on March 27 at 8:00 PM.

Read more: http://forward.com/culture/194853/how-an-anti-semitic-composer-created-kol-nidre-and/#ixzz3mhNIDpb4

"The two other works of Bruch which are still widely played were also written for solo string instrument with orchestra: the Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra, which includes an arrangement of the tune "Hey Tuttie Tatie", best known for its use in the song "Scots Wha Hae" by Robert Burns; and the Kol Nidrei, Op. 47, for cello and orchestra (subtitled "Adagio on Hebrew Melodies for Violoncello and Orchestra"), which starts and ends with the solo cello's setting of the Kol Nidre ("All Vows ... ") incantation which begins the Jewish (Ashkenazic) Yom Kippur service. This work may well have inspired Ernest Bloch's Schelomo (subtitled "Hebrew Rhapsody") of 1916, an even more passionate and extended one-movement composition, also with a Jewish subject and also for solo cello and orchestra.

The success of Kol Nidrei led to the assumption by many that Bruch himself was of Jewish ancestry — indeed, as long as the National Socialist Party was in power (1933-1945) his music was banned because he was considered a possible Jew for having written music with an openly Jewish theme. As a result, his music was largely forgotten in German-speaking countries. There is no evidence, however, that Bruch was of Jewish origin. As far as can be ascertained, none of his ancestors were Jews. Bruch himself was given the middle name Christian[1]:15 and was raised Protestant.[1]:109"


Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Great Pervert Race - Jonathan Rosenblatt, Rabbi or Congregation Who Stayed?... There was embarrassment when The New York Times at the end of May made public the rabbi’s longtime habit of inviting teenage boys, and later young men, to shower and join him in the sauna for private talks after playing racquetball...

In Riverdale, Split Deepens Over Rabbi 
Jonathan Rosenblatt

On High Holy Days, hundreds choose to pray elsewhere as Rabbi Rosenblatt presides at RJC.

Ludwig “Lou” Bravmann, a prime force behind the direction and financial stability of the Riverdale Jewish Center for decades, says that lately he wakes up in the middle of the night “feeling terrible, depressed — I’ve never felt this bad.”

At 90, after more than 45 years of daily prayer attendance and lay leadership at the 600-family Modern Orthodox synagogue, he has resigned from the board of the congregation and is praying on the High Holy Days at a newly formed service a few blocks away.

The service, now known as The Riverdale Minyan and made up of more than 100 families, was created this summer as a response to widespread dissatisfaction among some members of RJC over decisions made in the last three months by the rabbi, Jonathan Rosenblatt, and its lay leadership.

On Rosh HaShanah, making the trek with a wheelchair and walker, Bravmann was one of an estimated 240 adults, almost all RJC congregants, and 40 children, who prayed at an Orthodox service in a room rented in a nearby Reform temple. A similar service was scheduled for Yom Kippur, and efforts are under way to find a more permanent space for the group to use for Shabbat, and perhaps daily, services — a potentially stunning blow to the makeup and sustainability of the RJC, which was founded more than 60 years ago.

The source of disappointment and distress for Bravmann, and the reason he and the others — including Jack Bendheim and two other former presidents of the congregation and a former assistant rabbi — came together to pray is the action centering around Rabbi Rosenblatt, the RJC’s long-admired spiritual leader of three decades.

There was embarrassment when The New York Times at the end of May made public the rabbi’s longtime habit of inviting teenage boys, and later young men, to shower and join him in the sauna for private talks after playing racquetball. Since then the congregation has gone through a series of tactical shifts over how to respond to media reports. It has struggled with whether to praise or criticize the whistleblower who publicly called out the rabbi’s unusual behavior, and it was conflicted about whom to trust and whom to blame when the lay leadership of the congregation shifted from calling for the rabbi to step down to supporting his commitment to continue in his pulpit.

An impetus for the new minyan, one organizer explained, was “concern that the noise around the rabbi was having a negative effect on new families with young children moving into Riverdale, which over time could have serious consequences” for the congregation and SAR, the Modern Orthodox community day school. (An estimated 30 percent of its student body comes from RJC families.)

While an apparent majority of RJC members remains loyal to the rabbi and insists the criticism has been overblown, others are frustrated by what they consider to be a lack of transparency as key decisions about the rabbi’s status were apparently made by a handful of leaders in private.
Most poignant, perhaps, are those who say they have lost their faith in the rabbi, shaken that he is holding on to his position even as the flock he has led and tended to is divided over his presence. Even stalwart supporters had hoped Rabbi Rosenblatt, seeing the empty pews and growing dissension, would step down from his pulpit for the good of the congregation. But that was not to be.

The High Holy Day season, a time designated for seeking — and granting — forgiveness, is bringing out strong emotions this year for many longtime congregants, including Lou Bravmann.

“I suggested his name to the selection committee chairman” three decades ago, Bravmann said of Rabbi Rosenblatt (no relation to this writer) in a conversation we had the other day. “I had good contact with him over the years. But I think that the rabbi, whether he did anything [inappropriate] or not, should step down from the pulpit.

“The congregation and its leadership is guilty, I among them, for not taking care of this” years ago, he continued.

“We should have seen … listened to what was going on. I spoke to the rabbi briefly in 1996. I said I’ve heard rumors and I suggested that he get some help. I didn’t hear about it again for years, when I heard he was going to the sauna with the rabbinic interns,” an issue that came to light in the last several years.
Rabbi Rosenblatt, who declined to comment for this article, addressed the issue publicly in late June when he told a packed audience at RJC that he felt “fragile and embarrassed” for the “shame” he has brought his family and community. He described his behavior with boys and young men as “lapses of judgment” and said, “That I have been a source of desecration of the Divine Name and of a noble calling brings me nearly to despair.”

He concluded his 20-minute address by saying, “I still love being a rabbi. I still believe I have contributions to make. In short, with God’s grace, I am ready to serve Him, and with yours, I am ready to continue to serve Him here.”

Most of those in the audience stood and applauded at the conclusion of the rabbi’s talk. But the situation soured as attention focused on the actions — or inaction — of the congregational board, which initially voted 34-8 to seek an amicable resolution with the rabbi. It was widely presumed that the congregation would buy out the rabbi’s contract, which extends through August 2018. But when it became clear that Rabbi Rosenblatt intended to stay, and it was learned that, according to New York State law, a church or synagogue cannot terminate a religious leader in mid-contract without a full vote of the membership, RJC’s top lay leaders opted not to risk splitting the congregation over such a vote.

“It would likely further inflame the community and risk permanent fracture,” RJC’s president, Samson Fine, told me on Monday. He said there was no move among the membership for a congregational vote.
There was no board vote, either. And more than a dozen board members resigned their posts (though they retained their synagogue membership), complaining that the decision over the rabbi’s status had been made without the full board’s input.

“This summer was a time of high emotion,” Fine said, “and some of the extreme and polarizing views expressed hampered our efforts to have constructive dialogue with the community and with the rabbi.” For the most part, he added, life goes on as usual at RJC. He said that contrary to some rumors and reports, “the shul’s finances are satisfactory to maintain our current level of activities. We are on sound financial footing.” He pointed out that only a handful of members have resigned and that regular congregants and those who now attend The Riverdale Minyan celebrated a bar mitzvah together at RJC last Shabbat, and there was no discernible tension.

Still, the reverberations from the reports of Rabbi Rosenblatt’s activity with young men and his insistence on keeping his pulpit are likely to continue for some time. The RJC is doing its best to look forward, and not dwell on the embarrassing episode. The Riverdale Minyan families hope to stay together and expand their numbers in a new, if temporary, home. And local rabbis and school administrators who have long welcomed Rabbi Rosenblatt to their pulpits and classrooms no doubt are reviewing their policies toward inviting him. In this High Holy Day season is all forgiven, if not forgotten, or will there be some tangible consequences for the rabbi’s admitted “desecration of the Divine Name?”

Meanwhile, Lou Bravmann is saddened by the turn of events and disappointed with Rabbi Rosenblatt’s decision to stay put. “What he is doing now,” he said, “is the worst he could do for his legacy.”


Read more at http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/gary-rosenblatt/riverdale-split-deepens-over-rabbi#YiUe8WQW4HufqkyU.99

Monday, September 21, 2015

But of the 14 preventable diseases that young children are vaccinated against, Dr. Offit said, “the only one you could reasonably say does not kill is mumps.” And mumps can cause permanent deafness and sterility in men after puberty, he said. The other 13 diseases can be deadly. “Tetanus kills, rubella kills unborn children, measles kills, hepatitis B virus kills,” Dr. Offit said....

Vaccine Issue Arises at Republican Debate, to Doctors’ Dismay

Donald J. Trump at the Republican debate on Wednesday night. Mr. Trump claimed that vaccines could be linked to autism, a contention disputed by scientists

When Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist in Tennessee, flicked on the television last night to catch the end of the Republican debate, he watched a scene that felt unsettlingly familiar: A candidate was talking about vaccines and autism.

Dr. Schaffner has spent much of his career trying to debunk the contention that childhood shots can cause serious medical conditions, but he had hoped that national soul-searching this year after an outbreak of measles at Disneyland had moved the country past some of these old notions.

“I think it’s sad,” said Dr. Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, who said he cringed through the autism exchange at the end of the debate. “I would have hoped, since two of the discussants were physicians, that there would have been a ringing discussion about safety and value of vaccines, and an affirmation of the schedule set out by the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
For infectious disease doctors around the country watching the exchange, it felt a little bit like “Groundhog Day.” In 2011, during the last election cycle, Michele Bachmann, at the time a leading Republican candidate, called the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer “dangerous,” setting off a controversy that damaged the image of vaccines and set back doctors working to promote them as safe.

Opponents of a mandatory vaccination bill in California outside the state capitol in June. 
This time, it was Donald J. Trump who vigorously asserted a connection between vaccines and autism, telling an emotional story of an employee whose “beautiful” baby fell ill with a fever after having a vaccine and, he said, became autistic. While the two candidates who are doctors — Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist, and Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon — said that childhood vaccines were safe and important, even they shied away from the strict schedule set out by the medical profession.

“We have extremely well-documented proof that there’s no autism associated with vaccination, but it is true that we are probably giving way too many in too short a period of time,” Mr. Carson said. “I think a lot of pediatricians now recognize that and are cutting down on the number and the proximity in which those are done.”

Mr. Paul agreed. “One of the greatest medical discoveries of all time were vaccines,” he said. “I’m for vaccines, but I’m also for freedom. Even if the science doesn’t say bunching them up is a problem, I ought to be able to spread my vaccines out a little bit, at the very least.”

Doctors watching the debate were despairing.

“I was thinking: There’s a reason why we have a schedule,” said Dr. Saad Omer, an infectious diseases expert at Emory University in Georgia. He watched the beginning of the debate, then stopped to do work, but ran back in to turn it on again when some vaccine expert friends started posting on Facebook about the back-and-forth on the stage.

Camero Fierro, 1, received the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella at a doctor's office in California  in January.
“I had hoped was there would have been a stronger endorsement of the schedule,” he said. “It’s not one person’s opinion. It’s not even just the government’s opinion. It’s based on very broad scientific advice.”

Still, the endorsement by Mr. Paul and Mr. Carson of delaying vaccines is in keeping with what many pediatricians and family physicians reluctantly do behind closed doors. If parents demand an alternative schedule, physicians often agree to postpone one or more vaccinations. A recent survey of a nationally representative sample of 534 primary care doctors found that a third said they “often” or “always” allowed parents to delay vaccinations or space them out.

The downside is that this leaves children vulnerable to potentially fatal infections like measles and whooping cough.

“When you delay vaccines, you increase the period of time in which you are susceptible to those diseases,” said Dr. Paul A. Offit, a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “We are seeing the effects of that. The outbreak we saw this year in Southern California was among parents who had chosen to delay or withheld vaccines for their children.”

In a bit of political jockeying, Mr. Carson suggested at the debate that only vaccines that “prevent death or crippling” were very important. “There are a multitude of vaccines which probably don’t fit in that category, and there should be some discretion in those cases,” he said.

But of the 14 preventable diseases that young children are vaccinated against, Dr. Offit said, “the only one you could reasonably say does not kill is mumps.” And mumps can cause permanent deafness and sterility in men after puberty, he said. The other 13 diseases can be deadly. “Tetanus kills, rubella kills unborn children, measles kills, hepatitis B virus kills,” Dr. Offit said.

He lamented, “Why is it that everyone on that stage got vaccines wrong last night?”


Friday, September 18, 2015

When a faith community follows a path that endangers children, those children have few if any defenses. Only other adults can help them....

The Plight of Children at Risk in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Communities and the Failure of Government and Pandering Politicians to Protect Them


Children in religious communities may be at risk

Children in the United States are routinely sacrificed on the pyre of their parents’ faith by pandering politicians without a moral compass. Children don’t vote but insular religious communities often vote as a bloc mandated by the male officials at the top, and that fact is not lost on power-hungry politicians like those in Utah who let the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) patriarchs marry off girls and abandon boys so that the men will have a better place in heaven. The same relationship between elected officials and the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities exists: there are known risks to children but these politicians look the other way as they are feted by the rabbis and a community that keeps children at risk.

It is the time of year when Jews observe a series of important religious holidays beginning with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I submit this column as a subject to be pondered in the midst of celebration and reflection.

As with the FLDS, the ultra-Orthodox communities have put children at risk due to inadequate medical treatment, educational neglect, and mostly undeterred child sex abuse. In an interesting twist, the gender most severely affected in this community is male. Boys are at risk of herpes infection from metzitzah b’peh, or MBP and boys are less educated than girls because their education is focused on the Torah rather than secular subjects. Both, however, are at risk of sexual abuse. As in every community, that risk is significantly higher for the girls than the boys. Therefore, boys and girls in this community need prompt attention from the authorities, and politicians pandering for bloc votes need a conscience check.

MBP Rule Repeal: Leaving Mohels to Use Oral Suction Following Circumcision
Last year, I wrote here about the risk posed to male infants in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community who are subjected to the religious practice of MBP: the practice of following circumcision by a mohel with the mohel engaging in oral suction on the wound. The practice creates a foreseeable risk that the infant will contract herpes, which at such a tender age can be deadly or cause permanent disability. At the time, the New York Health Department had issued the weakest of prevention strategies by requiring mohels to produce an informed consent form to the parents as a prerequisite to doing the procedure. It was a typical political grandstand by which Mayor Bloomberg and his Health Department were saying they intended to protect these children at risk while they created an unenforceable and toothless policy they knew the community would ignore.

In fact, some in the community did pay attention and filed a lawsuit alleging a violation of religious liberty. The Second Circuit mistakenly agreed in Central Rabbinical Congress v. New York City Dept of Health & Mental Hygiene, because the policy was specific to one faith. So the Department went back to the drawing board for the protection of this voting bloc and not infants, and simply repealed the MBP informed consent rule.

There is no reason to expect the Health Department to do anything else for these at-risk infants. They have sailed to the bottom of the slippery slope of unaccountability. Therefore, prevention seems out of the question.

The only hope for these children is if doctors report such infections in young infants recently circumcised to the authorities and then the authorities choose to investigate and prosecute when a child dies or is permanently disabled. Former Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes made noise about such an investigation but he never pursued it, which brings his treatment of this issue into line with his studious refusal to prosecute child sex abuse perpetrators in the community. The other possibility is a serious public information campaign, but that is hampered by the next problem.

Educational Neglect: Failure to Teach English and Other Secular Subjects
The reporter who deserves a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering risks to children in the ultra-Orthodox communities, Hella Winston, recently released her in-depth reportage on the failure of the ultra-Orthodox to educate their children in secular subjects, including English. She tells the story of boys who can’t speak English, do simple math, or know any history or science, because they spend the vast majority of their school day studying Torah, or religious texts, instead of even the basics in secular subjects.

The result is that children are deeply disabled from being able to function in the larger community, and have virtually no chance of ever making their own decisions regarding faith or community.

The failure of most New York and New Jersey officials to ensure that these children are educated is attributable in part to the wrongheaded free exercise decision at the US Supreme Court, Wisconsin v. YoderAs I have discussed in God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty and elsewhere, this is the only decision in which the Supreme Court applied strict scrutiny to a neutral and generally applicable law (Wisconsin’s compulsory education law).

The result is that the Supreme Court cleared the Amish to take their children out of school after eighth grade and to move them into an agrarian life. The decision is based on unrealistic and foolish assumptions about the unfailing goodness of the Amish (which is not to criticize the Amish per se but rather to point out they are human). Unfortunately, all religious parents gained a toehold on refusals to adequately educate and a route to incapacitating their children. Children in these communities are virtually walled off from the outside world, and the ones who do choose to leave suffer dearly for their lack of education.

Yoder, however, does not stand for the proposition that children have no rights. Prince v. Massachusetts before it stated baldly that parents may not make “martyrs” of their children. Elected officials have an obligation to ensure that they do not.

Much of the educational neglect in this community has occurred with federal, state, and local officials fully aware of what is happening. Finally, New York City is looking into the issue. For the sake of the children and our future as a society, may New York do significantly more for these children than it has on the MBP issue.

Sex Abuse: Weak District Attorneys Put Children at Risk
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes was widely criticized for his failure to prosecute child sex abusers in the ultra-Orthodox communities for political reasons. It was a primary reason he lost to Kenneth Thompson, the current Brooklyn D.A. Last month, 107 rabbis signed a public statement agreeing to report child sex abuse directly to the authorities, with a number from the community, but the list is missing the heavy-hitter leaders in this world.

Agudath Israel, however, is notably silent on the issue. The community also has engaged in extreme practices to persuade those that do come forward to be quiet as I discuss here. Thompson has cut some sweetheart deals with defendants from the community that led many who had championed his cause to wonder if he will make a difference for the children being sexually abused in the faith, for good reason.

For example, witness-tampering is usually deeply disfavored by prosecutors, and Thompson did initiate an investigation into it in the Lebovits sex abuse trial in April 2015. Yet, the investigation was closed without prosecution. The victims of child sex abuse in this community desperately need a champion in law enforcement.

When a faith community follows a path that endangers children, those children have few if any defenses. Only other adults can help them. When their faith-filled parents can or will not protect them, in the United States they become the responsibility of the government and elected officials. When the government and vote-pandering politicians turn the other way, these children suffer.

The time has come to rip off the rose-colored glasses and to treat children in every setting as humans with rights—even if religion is in the picture. Their suffering and disabilities are our problem.

Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, and the author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty and Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children. She also runs two active websites covering her areas of expertise, the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, www.RFRAperils.com, and statutes of limitations for child sex abuse, www.sol-reform.com. Professor Hamilton blogs at Hamilton and Griffin on Rights. Her email address is hamilton02@aol.com.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

One of Mike Huckabee’s top snake handlers, has decided to leave the sinking campaign, sources reported Thursday.

Top Snake Handler Leaves Sinking Huckabee Campaign

LITTLE ROCK, AR—Dealing yet another blow to the former Arkansas governor’s presidential hopes, Dalton Hobbs, one of Mike Huckabee’s top snake handlers, has decided to leave the sinking campaign, sources reported Thursday. “This guy was one of the most loyal campaign staffers on the Huckabee team, and no longer being able to rely on his extensive experience with handling poisonous cottonmouths at stump speeches and town halls is a loss Huckabee really can’t afford right now,” said a campaign insider who wished to remain anonymous, adding that Hobbs had been at the candidate’s side using the power of Scripture to protect himself from the serpent’s bite since Huckabee’s brief Senate run in 1995, but had reportedly become frustrated in recent weeks by the campaign’s apparent lack of focus and inability to make headway in a crowded GOP field.

 “Sure, Huckabee can find somebody else to warm up the crowds by drinking strychnine and speaking in tongues, but he’ll never really be able to replace Dalton. He was a key member of the campaign’s brain trust.” At press time, Huckabee had reportedly suffered another major setback as word broke that several of the campaign’s leading faith healers had bolted for the Cruz camp.