Tuesday, March 19, 2019

New database of German refugee Rabbis in America lists both father and son

I am honored to announce the website listing of German Refugee Rabbis to the United States posted by the Ludwig Maximillian University of Munich.
My father, Rabbi Dr. William Weinberg, is listed, as so am I, possibly the only Rabbi on the list born after the Shoah!

This was just announced:

Leo Baeck Institute Invites to a Presentation of the New Database German Refugee Rabbis in the United States, 1933-1990

We are pleased to announce the publication of the online Digital Humanities Database „German Refugee Rabbis in the United States, 1933-1990” (http://mira.geschichte.lmu.de/ /). It was a research cooperation between Dr. Cornelia Wilhelm of the Department of Jewish History and Culture, the Center for Digital Humanities at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit√§t M√ľnchen and the Goldstein Goren Center for American Jewish History at NYU and was funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

Here is the site:
Rabbi William Weinberg

Rabbi Norbert Weinberg

Friday, January 11, 2019

An Open Letter to Congresswoman Tlaib

An open letter to Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib
Dear Congresswoman Tlaib,
Congratulations on becoming the first Congresswoman of Palestinian origin. “ Tahanina”, or as we say, “ Mazal Tov.” If things in 1948 had turned out as the UN planned, with two entities, one for Jews, one for Arabs, without the bitter fighting that ensued, perhaps we could have sat down to really celebrate, have some pita and hummus, drink coffee with “hel”( cardamom), shout “ kululoo” for you. After all, so many Israelis, Jews, as well as Arabs and Druze, shared the same language, and the main language of Israel, Hebrew, is “ kissing cousin” to your Arabic. Even our gene pool (including those blond-haired, blue eyed European colonialist white invading Jews) is more similar than either of us care to admit.
Sadly, your people have been led down a thorny path by their leaders, and your family back in the West Bank have inherited their disasters.
So, please let me address some thoughts to you.
First, it is with great pride that I recognize that you could swear your oath to uphold your duties on the copy of the Quran owned by President Jefferson. Please keep in mind, that the right, to express your faith, without any restrictions or interference by the State, did not come easily. When the first Jews came to these shores, in 1654, they had to prove their value to the Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam. Even after Jefferson’s famous Statute on Religious Liberty of Virginia became the basis for the First Amendment’s freedom of religion, Jews still had to struggle for many generations, till they could hold elected office in some states, reach high rank in the military, or travel freely in the pursuit of a livelihood (General Grant’s famous foul-up in Tennessee).This was true for Quakers, Baptists, Mormons, and Catholics as well( think of JFK). Your rights, regardless of your religion, are built upon the backs of others.
Which is why I found your quip about “ Dual Loyalty” in regard to the debate on banning BDS to be especially disgraceful. It is more befitting of a David Duke. It certainly sounds duplicitous as you, yourself, at your victory party, wrapped yourself in a Palestinian flag. Now, it is very common, in the course of American history, that descendants of various immigrant groups showed signs of pride and affection for the country of their origin- Irish for Ireland, Italians for Italy, and I would not begrudge a Palestinians affinity for fellow Palestinian Arabs ( Jews were Palestinians until 1948; my brother-in-laws birth certificate says so).
However, It is not common to support a movement whose express goal is to eliminate another state, as the BDS organizers, and you yourself, have stated openly.
I note that you quickly back-tracked on your statement, to claim it was in reference to lawmakers who were not loyal to the Constitution. It is ironic that the progressives, such as in your Democratic Socialists of America ,are among the most vocal to advocate truncating rights of free speech or religion--for others.
(Just an aside, as an irony of history, your movement’s founder, Eugene V Debs, was a white racist, who wanted to keep African Americans down, and keep out immigrants, such as Chinese and Jews. The movement was later taken over by truly great figures, such as Michael Harrington and Irving Howe, and then almost died out, literally of old age).
And speaking of duplicitous, when you began your campaign, you claimed to be in favor of a two -state solution, one for Israelis, and one for Palestinians. Fine, that’s what Israelis accepted in 1948. But, once your campaign picked up speed, you switched, to a one state solution, with the right of return for all Palestinians, so that there would, in effect, no longer be a State of Israel. Even JStreet dropped you like a hot potato.
Now, please allow me to correct some clear racial profiling you have created in your speeches.
This is from an interview you gave in the run up to your successful election on August 14, 2018:
“…Seeing the unequal treatment in Israel, in the different colored license plates for Palestinians; and even in the ocean. When I was 19 and with my family and some of them had head scarves on, we all jumped in the water and the Israelis jumped out as if my cousins were diseased. “
There is this transcript of an interview you gave just after your election, on Nov. 18, to UK ‘s Channel 4 News:
Look I am a person that grew up in Detroit where every single corner of the
district is a reminder of the civil rights movement. I can tell you when I was 12 years old I sat there with my mother when she was shifted into a line with all the other brown people and then all the other folks you know mostly citizens of Israel and another section, and the way that she was treated less than that, inequality.

You were born in 1976, so that this 1st experience of yours at age 19 occurred in 1995, just 2 years after Paris accords, after Israel opened the doors of Gaza and West Bank to Palestinian Authority with great expectations. And what happened?  Israelis were being murdered as they boarded buses. My daughter was a student at the Hebrew University that year, and it was her good fortune not to have taken the bus when it was bombed. Instead, she often took the buses of east Jerusalem( Arab) to get around, as it was less likely that the terrorist would bomb their own!
I had lived in Kfar Sava at that time, and till that time, there had been a free flow of people from the “ West Bank” to Israel proper, until the PLO’s henchmen started planting bombs and we had to have parents take turns watching our children’s schools for any suspicious objects. One family was burned to death in their car as they drove near the neighboring town of Kalkiliyah.
So, to jog your memory, I am posting a list at the end of this letter, just of bombings of Israeli civilians boarding buses in that same period, after Israel had begun the process of giving the Palestinians the foundation work for a future state, that period in which you were surprised by Israelis jumping out of the water.*

And those license plates-well, first, they were given your people by Jordan. The Israelis kept separate registration because they kept the area under Jordanian civil law, not Israeli law. Now, your people asked for, and got, separation from Israel, under the Paris accords, eagerly agreed to by the Rais ( top man) himself, Yasser Arafat. It’s not Israel’s fault that the Palestinians asked for separation!
You gave the second interview when you were 12, which would have been in 1988.  The line you are referring to, the only line I can imagine, is the line getting in to Ben Gurion airport. Yes, there are two lines- one for citizens, one for non-citizens, just as in the US. Was there extra scrutiny of Arabs, especially those who were “ Jordanians” ( after all, Jordanian law still held in the land that had been occupied by Jordan from 1948-1967).?  That was following a previous decade of bombing and terror attacks on airplanes and airports by the PLO and its allies.
As for identifying with “ browns”, keep in mind, that at that around that time, in Detroit, the African-American community felt itself exploited by the local Arabs
. ''They exploit us,'' said Robert Walls, a senior official in the city's Neighborhood Services Department. . . . When the subject of Arab merchants arose, the conversation turned angry.
''Let me tell you about overcharging,'' Gaines  [ one of the city officials at the meeting) said. ''They operate on pure greed.'']
''It is greed,'' said Smith-Gray. ''And it's the way they act toward us. You can go into some stores where kids have to walk with their hands at their sides'' - presumably an antishoplifting measure. https://www.nytimes.com/1990/07/29/magazine/the-tragedy-of-detroit.html
Your fellow Arabs were the whites at that time. In fact, Arabs were labelled as white on the US census as a result of a lawsuit—in 1915!
As for “ brown”- most Israelis are “brown”, just as Ahed Tamimi and many other Palestinians are “fair-skinned” or have blue eyes.( Centuries of invasions by Greeks, Romans, Arabs,  Vikings, Franks, and so on have left their mark).
Now, as to Israelis jumping out of the water—perhaps your confusing this with the experience of Jews in Iran and Yemen, when they lived under Shiite rule, and were considered ritually impure and untouchables. You see, in Israel, they can have a judge of Arab origin, George Karra, preside over the trial of the President of Israel; that’s not what apartheid regimes do. I was in Israel this past summer, during Ramadan, and repeatedly saw, in the evening, at sunset, at the end of the daily Ramadan fast, Arabs  sitting at the same restaurants with Jews, and shopping freely in the same stores. Nobody was “ jumping out”.
I took these pictures this summer.
Do these pictures look like the South under Jim Crow or Apartheid in South Africa?
 Which is woman is Jewish, which Muslim in this Jerusalem eyeglass shop? In case you have trouble determining which is which, the Jewish woman is on the left, the Muslim woman on the right. It’s all in how the scarf is wrapped.

Black-skinned, white-skinned, who cares, on a Jerusalem street- but both have the tzizit hanging out!

In sum, Hon. Congresswoman Tlaib, before you speak of Jewish dual loyalties, please keep your story straight. Stop using racial dog whistles and stop pitting “ browns” against “Jews”.
Maybe, one day, we will be able to get together over a cup of coffee with “hel”.
Inshallah, Im Yirtzeh Hashem, God Willing,.
Salaam, Shalom,
Rabbi Norbert Weinberg


Palestinian bombings of Israeli civilian buses 1994-1996.

1994 (5 bombings)

April 6, 1994
April 13, 1994
October 19, 1994
November 11, 1994
December 25, 1994

1995 (4 bombings)

Death toll
January 22, 1995
April 9, 1995
Vicinity of Kfar Darom
July 24, 1995
August 21, 1995

1996 (4 bombings)

Death toll
February 25, 1996
February 25, 1996
Jerusalem Central Bus station
March 3, 1996
Jaffa street, Jerusalem
March 4, 1996
Tel Aviv

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Common Christian Misconceptions About Judaism--Ones that We Fall For

Common Christian Misconceptions About Judaism-Ones that We Fall For

Even highly educated people are wont to believe anything malicious about Jews- last week, New York Times, published an interview with accomplished writer, Alice Walker. She proudly pointed out to the interviewer that her favorite book, the one most important was one written by David Ickes, And the Truth Shall Set You Free. It turns out, that the book is a modern rewrite of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Yes, even highly praised and influential people, who have experienced oppression and hatred themselves, can have warped and twisted ideas about us Jews.
Now, we are approaching Dec 25, the day, which for Christians, as Christmas, is the birth of the Savior, who quite importantly, lived and died as a Jew, it is valuable to reflect on some common misconceptions Christians have of Jews, and thereby, learn something about Judaism for ourselves.

Some thirty-five years ago, the US suffered a major terror attack. At that time, the LA Times ran a headline” US Bars ‘ Eye for an Eye’ on Terrorists.” A State Department Official made mention that the US could never be as swift as Israel to retaliate, as it does not believe in an eye for an eye,” It is not an Old Testament country”
 The implication is that the US is a morally superior nation because it is Christian nation, whereas Israel, which is Jewish, is morally inferior.
There is no other way to interpret the statement, which distinguishes New Testament from Old Testament.

 He certainly was ignorant of American moral history, which, as a New
Testament country, based on love and forgiveness, wiped out entire Indian tribes, enslaved the black, firebombed Dresden and Tokyo, dropped the A-Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 Let not the kettle call the pot black.

He was also ignorant of religious history and the Bible, as are many people, including our own fellow Jews, because he had no understanding of what the moral requirements of the "Old” Testament are on warfare or what the meaning of “eye for eye” is.

This all serves as a reminder to us of how much education and teaching still must be done, both in the left and the right., across the board. We have excellent relations with Christian clergy, and many Christian educators have attempted to straighten things out, but from the clergy to the congregants there is often a chasm a mile wide. Certainly, we, as Jews, should know what some of the common misconceptions are that Christian held and may still hold about Judaism.

1)    An “Old” versus a “New” Testament.
. As a Jew, we can never use such a term. We don't have an "Old" Testament. Old means worn out, no longer valid, as in an old car, or an old coat. It is replaced by the New, in Christian thought, in other words, better, as in "New car" or "new coat".

 This is a distinction which has its roots in the earliest of church teachings, that saw Judaism as an outmoded, no longer valid, system of belief. It was termed
” super session”, whereby the “Church” has superseded the “Synagogue”. ( In Islamic thought, the Quran has superseded both Jewish and Christian scriptures.) The  Synagogue is depicted in medieval statuary as a blind-folded woman.

The "Old Testament" means the Old Dispensation, the one that didn't work, the one that was given to Moses and was valid only till Jesus came, and instituted a New Dispensation.

In practical matters, most of historic church teachings on Judaism referred to us as a vanquished and vanished religion and people. Church texts assumed that we vanished with the year 70, with the destruction of Jerusalem This was adopted by many modern non-religious historians, such as Arnold Toynbee, who declared the Jewish people to be a “Syriac fossil.”. Jews should have disappeared long ago. The idea that, as a religion and a people, we continued to grow and mature, and develop was totally ignored, because until the past century, Christianity refused to grant us any validity whatsoever. Our only function was to serve as a proof of what happened to us because we rejected Jesus.

Again, while the Vatican and many Protestant Churches did much to change these positions, old assumptions die out slowly.

2)    Jews are strict, exacting, wanting their eye for an eye.
. Shakespeare put it bluntly;Shylock, the Jew, wants his pound
of flesh, whereas the Christian preaches “The quality of mercy
is not strained.”
 What does an eye for an eye. mean? After all, Christians never
repudiated the morality of the Bible, of our text; they repudiated
the religious details and obligations, but never the moral principles,
so an eye for an eye becomes an issue for Christians as well.

Every precept in the Bible comes to correct an existing condition.
One thousand years before time of Moses, in the oldest civilization, Sumer, there
was no such thing as an eye for eye; one can buy off a crime. For example, if a citizen killed another citizen, he could, instead of being killed, pay off the damage. A wealthy citizen would be spared but a poor citizen would be executed.
Then, in the time of Abraham, in Babylonia, Hammurabi tried to right wrongs in his famous code. It was the ancient Babylonian who formulated the principal of "an eye for an eye".
Thus, if a house collapses, and the son of the owner is killed, they shall take the son of the builder, and kill him instead. Quid pro quo; tit for tat. A fair exchange, but what fault was it of the son of the builder?
There was still the matter of social class. “If a commoner strikes the eye of
Commoner, he shall have his eye struck out„ but if a nobleman strike the eye of a commoner, he shall pay compensation.” There was no equality of justice before the law in this understanding of “eye foe eye”.

In the sense of the Bible, an “eye for eye”, a quid pro quo, can’t be distorted by rank or nobility; it is a radically new principal on which all justice , including American justice stands. It is not a Jewish principal, alone. It is a universal legal principal now. An eye for an eye, not a head for an eye; the punishment cannot exceed the crime. Not an eye for commoner but a dollar for a noble; there is no difference between a noble’s eye and a commoner’s eye, or between a man's eye and a woman's eye; all are of equal worth before the Law. Therefore, the noted father of international law, Hugo Grotius ,saw this as the basis of all fair and equitable law.

This was clear in the year 1300 before the common era, yet, in so called “New Testament” societies, including civilized England up to two centuries ago, or in this society, up .to the last century, a man could be hung for the crime of petty theft or for horse-stealing.

Victor Hugo in Les Miserable told the story of the relentless hounding of a man for the theft of some bread to feed his family. Had the French followed the “Old Testament” in France, the central character would have returned the bread and paid a small fine to the owner. The society, in turn, would have seen to it that he could feed the family. That is “0ld” Testament legalism.

Was an eye for an eye ever enacted?
The section in which “eye for eye” is first mentioned, in Exodus, is part of a discussion of a practical case, of two citizens in a fight. If one of the two is injured, the other is not injured in exchange. Rather “eye for eye” is invoked to clarify what the law itself determines, “rak shivto yiten ve.rapo yerapeh”, He shall pay for the loss incurred by disability and for medical expenses. Later, the Sages included compensation for pain, embarrassment, and loss of future income from the injury.

There were some, the Sadducees, interpreted it literally. -The Rabbis, the Pharisees, refuted this position. If an “eye for an eye” means “identical loss”, since when do we know that your eye is equal to my eye, or that your arm is equal to my arm. There is no possible equation. Therefore, it can only intend compensation, a fair and adequate repayment for damages done.

3)    Resist not evil?
This contrast of “eye for eye” versus mercy is an extension of an argument already heard in the New Testament, put in the mouth of Jesus:” You have heard it said ‘An eye for an eye ‘, yet l say unto you ,’Resist not evil, but whosoever smite you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also’."
(Jesus is not being original here; he is quoting Lamentations, Eicah,”’ I gave my cheek to the one who smote me.” Here, the :” smiter” is God, and reference is to accepting the punishment that  the author has incurred. Similarly, “ if someone wants to take your cloak, give him your tunic as well”, is a quote from Proverbs).

The statement “Eye for Eye" was used by the aforementioned State Department spokesman  to denigrate Judaism, in contrast with the noble stance of Christianity, yet this nation at no time recognized its moral obligation to "Resist not evil". Not only has this nation rejected the preaching of Jesus, “Resist not evil", but every Christian institution, with the exception of a very few, such as Quakers, has outspokenly declared " Resist evil”, and rightly so!  The “New” Testament is surely pushed back, on this issue, in deference to the “Old”.

4)    Love your enemy?
Yet another statement of Jesus is taken to refer to the superiority of Christianity: “You have heard it said: Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”

I challenge any one to find me one sentence in our side of the Book in which we are commanded to hate an enemy.

 It has been suggested that Jesus was speaking as a Jew, to a Jewish audience, and was himself preaching Judaism on this point; in other words, he was denouncing the militant groups, the "Kanaim", the Zealots,  on the fringes of the Jewish
community, who were preaching militancy and revenge against the Roman rulers. He was speaking as a Jew against Jewish extremists. (Indeed, one of his followers was known as “ the Zealot”, a reference, perhaps to his having come from that party over to the Jesus party.)

Well, what about the enemy? On the contrary, the Torah states categorically,”  If you see the donkey of your enemy lying under his burden, you shall surely help him to raise his donkey again." and “You may not hate your brother in your heart or bear a grudge.”

What of “ Love the stranger’? The Torah states, "You shall love him, as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Israel; Jesus knows this very well and is restating it to his followers.

5)    Law versus Love
Judaism is a religion of dry law, whereas Christianity is a religion of love-
Over and again, the prophets preached Chesed-love and though the Rabbis of old established Gemilut Hasadim, unconditional deeds of love ,as one of the three foundations of the world, alongside God's teaching, Torah, and the worship of God, Avodah.

6)    Text Box:  Law versus faith
Judaism is a religion of dry legalism, whereas Christianity is the religion of uplifting faith This perspective is in utter disregard for the magnificence of religious imagination of the Prophets, the Psalms, the Midrash of the Rabbis, the poetry of the Siddur, the songs of the medieval Rabbis, or the speculation and imagination of the Kabbalah.

Judaism is a religion of the law, whereas Christianity is a religion of faith. In the teachings of the early church fathers, the laws of Moses and Israel were a burden to be done away with, a punishment of the children of Israel, who were a nation of sinners.  In alI of Jewish thought, the observance of the teachings of the Torah, the Halakha, was the freest and highest expression of faith, as a joy, not a burden, as a privilege, and not a punishment

The early Church teachings have been corrected by modern church leaders. Yet much remains to be done, when educated intellectually enlightened people spout the same failed platitudes about us Jews.  The greatest failure of all, though, is the failure of our Jews to know what a rich treasure is ours, the treasure we have shared with the world.