THE BIBLE IS A JEWISH BOOK
Even the New Testament was almost wholly written by Jews (with the apparent exception of Luke's writings). And there are few moral teachings in the New Testament that are not also in the Torah. So the past hostility between Christians and Jews is quite absurd and very sad. Sanity has however broken out. Most Christians who take the Bible seriously do these days support Israel and oppose antisemitism.
And some Jews too are now recognizing the community of interest between Jewry and Christendom. Below are three essays from three Jewish writers that express a wholehearted appreciation of the world that Christianity has created. It is easy for me to express appreciation of Christianity -- even though I am an atheist -- as I still have the warmest memories of my Christian youth and a head full of scriptural quotations. But the journey that Jewish writers have to make to come to a similar appreciation is a longer and therefore more impressive one.
A Plea for "Merry Christmas"
By Yaacov Ben Moshe
I am a Jew. I grew up in an observant Jewish home in which we greeted Christmas with a mixture of fascination, respect and irritation. Jackie Mason once said, "I don't understand something about Christmas; maybe you can explain this to me? Why is it that this time of year you Christian people bring all of the trees inside the house and take all the lights and put then outside". I have always loved that line. It captured my general feeling of bemusement about the whole Christmas celebration. I didn't get it....
I've grownup, though, and I've grown into a new perspective on this whole matter question and, today, when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, I have a new response. It's really simple-
I stop what I am doing
I thank them very sincerely
I wish them a Merry Christmas in return.
Here's why: I have come to see quite clearly that even if there are politically correct, multi-cultural, morally relativistic, post modern progressive busybodies who would like us to believe that our Christian friends' and Neighbors' spontaneous Christmas wishes are somehow injurious to us and our culture, they are nothing of the kind. A sincere "Merry Christmas is better for you than the blandest, most guarded "Happy Holidays"
You see, the U.S. was founded by Christians. Not just any Christians. The early colonists were both devout and independent. They were fervent Protestants whose purpose in coming here was to leave the Kings, Priests, state religions and archaic laws of the old world behind. They came here to build a country where every man could read scripture for himself and be his own priest, where he could be free to elect political leadership that he could follow gladly. Ultimately, that enterprise gave rise to the constitution and form of government we have today. At two hundred years old it is still the one in the entire world that best honors the individual and guarantees his rights.
It was these fiercely independent Protestants who set the tone for the nation in which we now live. It is important to remember that they were deeply religious people. When Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and the rest decided that there would be no Official Religion in this country they were aiming for Freedom of Religion not Freedom from Religion. They meant the freedom to practice your religion after the dictates of your conscience .
This is why America has become the destination of choice for any one wishing to escape repression or lack of opportunity elsewhere in the world. That's why Jews have gravitated here for two hundred years. But we are in danger of forgetting how this all works and I think this whole Merry Christmas thing is a symptom of that amnesia.
Fortunately, though, Jews do have a collective memory of stories if we just listen to them. My grand father told me stories about life in turn-of-the(last)-century Eastern Europe so I know what he escaped by coming here (not to mention that he was not in Zhitomir, his home town, thirty years later when the Waffen SS slaughtered thirty six thousand Jews there in one day!). I also have a friend who came here from Leningrad in the Seventies. He has told me many stories. Just few months ago, I worked with a client named Miriam who told me how she grew up in newly-born Israel after her family was expelled from Morocco in 1948. Each of these stories and so many others just like them have convinced me that The United States of America, as conceived by her Protestant founders, has been a miracle and a blessing to the entire human race. It has been especially important to the Jewish people.
We Jews are barely over one percent of the population here. We (a lot of us anyway) take pride in our contribution and participation to America's dynamism. We point with satisfaction to the fact that the founding fathers of this country were inspired and informed by our holy book which they called The Old Testament. Many of them read it in the original Hebrew, something few of us modern Jews can do.
But why do I need to explain this? Why don't we all understand the centrality of the Protestant ethic to the goodness of America? Partly, it's because of a lack in the educational program. But it's also because our media, whose responsibility it should be to make us aware of the important events and issues. But the media is often found to be doing just the opposite.
In the media, America is assailed daily for her imperfections; and if not assailed, then damned by the faintest of praise. The media's emphasizes the imperfections instead of the achievements- the discords not the harmony. Hasn't America (and her allies) banished the Taliban to isolated caves and mud huts in remotest Waziristan? Didn't we free Afghan women to live more normal lives without the threat of torture, rape and summary execution for the crime of being female? Can't, now, Afghans to grow beards to their own liking, listen to music, laugh in public send their daughters to school and have simple human dignity? Oh, well, yes, the press will whine, but there is still poverty, the occasional bombing and we never caught Osama bin Laden. Well then, have we also not saved thousands of Kurds, and non Baathist Muslims in Iraq from the depredations of Saddam and his two evil sons- people who raped and murdered fifteen year-old girls and put their political enemies (alive and feet-first) into industrial shredding machines just to hear them scream? Perhaps, but our press prefers to talk about a few incompetent American soldiers (who were punished for their stupidity) deriding and humiliating their Iraqi captives at Abu Ghraib and equating that with the horrors of Saddam.
I am one Jew who is all for the kind of spirit and strength of character that gets expressed at this time of year by wishing each other "Merry Christmas". I'll certainly take it over Allah HuAkbar. Give me Peace on Earth" and "Good Will Toward Men" over "Eternal Jihad" and "Dhimmi Status for Infidels" anytime.
If we do anything this holiday season, we need to loosen up and get a perspective on this "Merry Christmas" thing. It is not the people who say "Merry Christmas" and mean it that we need to be discouraging in America at this time. It is the people who find something wrong and suspect in the energy, enthusiasm and good-will that animates that "Merry Christmas" that we need to discourage....
By saying "Merry Christmas" in public we are not agreeing that Jesus was the son of God, we are just acknowledging that some very good people believe it. When we say it, that does not constitute accepting Jesus as our personal savior; it does show his followers that we see them as fellow countrymen, friends and brothers-in-arms in the defense of the highest ideals of our civil society. What is the problem with that?
BY THE LIGHT OF THE WHITE HOUSE MENORAH
By Jeff Jacoby
On the seventh night of Hanukkah in 1944, my father was in Auschwitz. He had been deported with his parents and four of his five siblings to the Nazi extermination camp eight months earlier; by Hanukkah, only my father was still alive. That year, he kindled no Hanukkah lights. In Auschwitz, where anything and everything was punishable by death, any Jew caught practicing his religion could expect to be sent to the gas chambers, or shot on the spot.
Like other Jewish holidays, Hanukkah was often chosen deliberately by the Nazis as an occasion for murdering Jews. In *Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust,* the historian Yaffa Eliach recounts one such slaughter: "The men selected were marched outside. SS men with rubber truncheons and iron prods awaited them. They kicked, beat, and tortured the innocent victims. When the tortured body no longer responded, the revolver was used. . . . The brutal massacre continued outside of the barracks until sundown. When the [Nazis] departed, they left behind heaps of hundreds of tortured and twisted bodies."
On the seventh night of Hanukkah in 2007, I was in the White House. President and Mrs. Bush have made it an annual tradition to host a Hanukkah celebration in addition to the customary White House Christmas parties, and my wife and I were honored to receive an invitation to this year's reception. It was in every way a beautiful and festive event. It was also an unmistakably Jewish one, from the lavish buffet dinner prepared in a meticulously "koshered" White House kitchen, to the Hebrew songs performed by the Zamir Chorale, to the several hundred guests drawn from every segment of the American Jewish community. There was even a spontaneous worship service in the Green Room, where at one point about two dozen guests assembled for Ma'ariv, the Jewish evening prayers. All this in a White House richly decorated for Christmas and occupied by a president who is devoutly Christian. It is hard to imagine a more compelling illustration of the American culture of religious tolerance and freedom.
Earlier in the evening there had been a menorah lighting in the Grand Foyer of the White House. Hanukkah commemorates the victory of Jews who fought long ago to preserve their religious identity in the face of an oppressive government determined to erase it, and President Bush spoke of the ongoing struggle for religious liberty today. "As we light the Hanukkah candles this year," he said, "we pray for those who still live under the shadow of tyranny."
He described his private meeting earlier in the day with a small group of Jewish immigrants to the United States. "Many of these men and women fled from religious oppression in countries like Iran and Syria and the Soviet Union," Bush said. Among those in attendance was Baghdad-born Ruth Pearl, who was 15 when her family -- like so many other Jewish families in the Arab world -- was forced to flee from Iraq. She and her husband Judea, the parents of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, had come to the White House with their family menorah, which Daniel's great-grandfather Chayim had taken with him when he escaped Poland for Palestine in 1924. Daniel was murdered in 2002 by Islamist terrorists in Pakistan; his only crime, observed Bush, "was being a Jewish American -- something Daniel Pearl would never deny."
Auschwitz, Baghdad, Poland, Pakistan: In so many places, across so many generations, to be Jewish has meant to be oppressed, excluded, terrorized. More than most people, Jews know what it means to be a hated and persecuted minority. And more than most, therefore, they have reason to be profoundly grateful for the United States and its blessings. America is what the Jewish sages called "malchut shel chesed" -- a benevolent and generous nation. In the long history of the Jews, America has been a safe harbor virtually without parallel. Nowhere in all their wanderings have the Jews known such freedom, peace, and prosperity.
So I strolled about the White House last week, gazing at the portraits of past presidents and first ladies and listening to the Marine Band play "I Have A Little Dreidel." By the light of the White House menorah, I thought about my father, and about the unimaginable distance from the hell he knew in 1944 to this place of joy and warmth where I found myself in 2007. I was overcome with a feeling of gratitude so intense that for a moment I was too choked up to speak. To be an American and a Jew is truly to be doubly blessed.
The massive assault on Judeo-Christian values
This could be the last generation of Western civilisation if we discard our religious roots, warns Mark Braham from Australia
Post World War II, tens - hundreds? - of thousands of Europeans and UK residents headed for what they believed would ensure a better future for their children and/or grandchildren in countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa
These countries benefited from the influx of these migrants, a high proportion of them possessing tertiary education, technical skills or professional qualifications. One former European I met, when asked why he had chosen to migrate to Australia, replied, "I wanted to get as far away from Europe as possible, and I had never heard of New Zealand."
By far the most sought-after immigrant countries were, and remain, the English-speaking democracies. All, of course, were inhabited by populations which had developed their own unique culture, but what they shared was a democratic system of government and loyalty to traditional Judeo-Christian values.
The latter have been steadily watered down and undermined over the past 50-60 years. The increasing migration from Europe is adding to its cultural problems - under threat from an increasing and multiplying Muslim minority, who not only reject traditional European values, but democracy itself.
The irony is that the leaders of the massive assault on Judeo-Christian values - atheist intellectuals, journalists, media scriptwriters, academics - would be the first to be liquidated under an Islamic government.
We face a far greater danger from proselytising atheists than we ever did from communism. In the English-speaking democracies, the anti-communists included a powerful establishment and strong church leaders with loyal congregations. Post-World War I, there had been a lowering of standards, but the churches had largely retained their strength; hypocrisy was rampant, such was the homage vice paid to virtue.
Post-World War II, the 'sixties marked the beginning of the major onslaught on established standards of morality, soon to be accompanied by the atheistic assault on the sexual and marital standards of Judeo-Christian civilisation.
The churches were divided worldwide, even by such a fundamental issue as heterosexual marriage and the stability of family life, so basic an issue it preceded Sinai and is one of the Seven Universal Laws given by G-d to Noah and applies to all mankind.
The Seven Noahide Laws prohibit: (1) idolatry, (2) blasphemy and cursing the name of G-d, (3) murder, (4) robbery and theft, (5) immorality and forbidden sexual relations, (6) cruelty to animals, and require: (7) the establishment of a justice system and courts of law to enforce the other six laws.
The threat to our civilisation was recently highlighted by the revelations of Mark Mullins, English barrister and London chairman of the Christian Lawyers Fellowship (see his article, "Christian freedoms under attack", News Weekly, October 13, 2007). Such has been the attack on Christian freedoms in the United Kingdom - evidence of the weakness of organised religion, by which I mean God-fearing people who are possessed of vision and can see where we are headed - that this could be the last generation of Western civilisation.
In his 1998 book, America's Real War, Rabbi Daniel Lapin heads a chapter, "The Curious Rise of Anti-Christianism". He writes: "If the term 'Anti-Semitism' is to retain any intellectual and moral integrity, we must also today admit to the term 'Anti-Christianism'.
"Attacking freedom of belief: Prominent in assault against traditional Judeo-Christian values, I am sorry to say, were a number of Jewish organisations. In fact, it was the ferocity and unfairness of the attacks that brought me, and many others, into the fray.
"One famous battle in this cultural tug-of-war came in 1994 with the publication of two volumes that I consider biased and bigoted. The Political Activity of the Religious Right in the 1990s: A Critical Analysis, published by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), harshly criticised religious Christians because they, among other things, 'adamantly oppose social acceptance of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle'. Whether one thinks homosexuality is right or wrong, the AJC was attacking the right of Christians to freedom of belief.
"Since those beliefs are based on the Bible in which I too believe, I felt I could not remain silent while the AJC suggested that Judaism somehow supported the acceptance of homosexuality. For over three thousand years Jewish tradition and Jewish law have been unambiguous about homosexuality; now an organisation with the word 'Jewish' in its title was vilifying Christians for taking the authentic Jewish position on homosexuality. I felt I had emigrated to Alice's Wonderland, where logic and rationality were completely turned around.
"I reminded Americans that, although many Jews (whose real faith is secular humanism) support the homosexual agenda, this tells us as much about Judaism as the entertainer Madonna tells us about the Roman Catholic faith.
"The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) similarly published a book filled with unfair and untrue defamation of religious conservatives. It contained such unrestrained invective as, 'The religious Right brings to the debate over moral and social issues a rhetoric of fear, suspicion and even hatred.' As a rabbi and a Jew, I was embarrassed at the tone of both these books. Had any Christian association published anything comparable about the Jewish community, cries of anti-Semitism would have rung out far and wide - and been justified.
"I found myself unable to ignore the above diatribes, so the organisation I head, Toward Tradition, published a repudiation of the sentiments in a large paid advertisement in the New York Times that was signed by fifty prominent Jewish conservatives and called for Jewish conservatives to band together.
"The response was overwhelming. Letters poured in from Conservative and Reform Jews all over the country who, because of their traditional values, had been made to feel unwelcome in their synagogues and local Jewish establishments. Many Orthodox Jews contacted us with gratitude for telling America that the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League did not represent them.
"Several Reform rabbis wrote to pledge support while asking to remain anonymous for fear of being fired were their conservative political leanings to be known." (Rabbi Daniel Lapin, America's Real War, Oregon, US: Multnomah Publishers, 1998).
Fearing for the future
I write this article in the middle of the run-up to the Australian federal election on November 24. I fear for the future, not only of the country of my adoption, but Western civilisation, which means democracy. I am of course aware that, to put it crudely, democracy means "might is right"; but it has worked for centuries in the English-speaking world because the British and those of British stock, or who had adopted British culture, shared what John Howard refers to as our "core values" and what we know better as Judeo-Christian values; but in a secular age, under siege from atheist intellectuals, today's counterpart of the communist traitors of the 1930's, even historical accuracy must be covered up as prime ministers are forced to find phrases which are politically correct.
Let me illustrate my concern about the future of democracy with two stories, both close to home. First the good news: my doctor for over 30 years, is a religious and erudite Orthodox Jew. He bulk-bills pensioners, makes home visits and is on call for genuine emergencies at nights and weekends.
He attends daily services in synagogue early morning and evening, every day. When he is leading the congregation in prayer he leaves his mobile phone with me to take calls and ask patients to call back in, say, half an hour.
His son, who is equally religious and even more learned, is an undergraduate at the University of NSW. In order to say his afternoon prayers he finds a quiet corner in the university grounds; one day, a Muslim undergraduate, bent on the same mission, laid his prayer mat next to him and said his prayers. They have since struck up a close friendship. This could only happen in a democracy.
My second story is about my local member of parliament, Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal member for Wentworth and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, a man I have long admired. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. The product of a state school, who went on to become a Rhodes scholar, lawyer, journalist and finance expert, he has been widely spoken of as prime ministerial material.
Wentworth has two significant minority groups - Jewish and gay; either could decide the outcome in what has become a marginal seat since the map was redrawn. As I am the oldest surviving member of the South Head Synagogue in Rose Bay, founded by my late father in 1948 (it is today one of the two major synagogues in the eastern suburbs of Sydney), I have a good idea how the Jewish community will vote. The chief rabbi of South Head, Rabbi Benzion Milecki OAM, a native of Melbourne, is a distinguished scholar with an international reputation among his peers. He has the courage of his convictions, is an accomplished writer and powerful speaker.
The Labor candidate for Wentworth, George Newhouse, is the former mayor of Waverley; he is also a Jew.
Because Turnbull has proved so competent in his job, is so respected for his background, education and engaging personality, he has certainly retained, and probably increased, the traditional Jewish Liberal vote in Wentworth. The days are long past since highly respected local Jewish parliamentarians of the calibre of Syd Einfeld and Abe Landa personally carried an important Jewish Labor following. There is certainly an awareness among Jews of the threat to Western civilisation from the liberal-left, and, despite Kevin Rudd's Christian roots and obvious distance from the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic ravings of one or two Labor figures, Jews have a high regard for John Howard and Alexander Downer.
Scorn poured on PM
Newhouse did not endear himself to the Jewish community when he brought in a speaker at the Waverley new citizens' ceremony who poured scorn on the Prime Minister's call to Australians to pray for rain. Rabbi Milecki spoke from his pulpit, wrote and published on the internet, his contempt for a speaker who could scoff at the PM's appeal.
He said: "Firstly, I would like to emphasise how lucky we are to have a Prime Minister, who is not only a great supporter of Israel and Jewish causes, but who is also not afraid to profess his belief in G-d and to urge others to do so. While belief in G-d cannot replace political competence, it most certainly enhances it.
"There will of course be those who will criticise any involvement of religion in the political process. Yet we would do well to bear in mind that, while we all want freedom of religion, and the ability to believe in any way we choose, freedom of religion does not equate with freedom from religion. I therefore applaud the Prime Minister for making his request at this critical time."
This important message recalls an event that helps to balance the leftist black armband version of Australian history, and reminds us that the bulk of our major foundations of hospitals, aged homes, soup kitchens, missions to the poor . were brought into being by the churches, that is by religious people who, in contrast to atheistic intellectuals, put their money where their mouth was.
Samuel Cohen, a 19th-century member and auditor of the Jewish Philanthropic Society, was member for the NSW Legislative Assembly for Morpeth in the Hunter Valley. There was to be a general election in 1860 and an important issue was the Robertson Land Bill. John Robertson wanted to introduce a policy of "No settlement before surveying of land".
Cohen was in favour of the bill, but its second reading was to be debated on a Friday night, the Jewish Sabbath. His speech in the House was reported: "I will not take part in proceedings on my Sabbath. I believe the electors, as fathers of families, would rather not place a man in the House than see him degrade himself by showing that he had no respect for his religion.
"I believe I am addressing an enlightened community, divested of prejudices against a man's religion. I credit them with understanding that I would not lie on my bed comfortably and think that in the eyes of my own child I was a degraded being.
"The majority religion here expends thousands of pounds to propagate among the heathens the principles of religion and its belief in one true God . Some may sacrifice their religion to further their interest, but I am not one of those, and if my position depends on a sacrifice of my religious belief, I would decline your votes.
"If the carrying of the Land Bill depends on my vote on the Sabbath, I will not be recording it. Since I have been in New South Wales, I have protected your Sabbath, and I will protect my own, even if you do not help me! I will protect my Sabbath against a mountain of strength. If I were engaging a servant, and he asked for time off for, say, Christmas, would I say to him, 'If you leave your work for those days I will dismiss you'? And would the electors take that position with me and dismiss me from their service because I respected my Sabbaths? Is that kind? Is that generous? Is that just?"
At this point there were interjections of "Religion forever!" On the opposite side of the House was another Jew, the member for Orange, Saul Samuel, who was one of the strongest voices in opposition to the Bill. He rose to say that he too could not attend on Friday night, hence the absence of both Cohen and himself would not affect the voting. (Louise Rosenberg, Of Folktales and Jewish Folk in Australian History, Melbourne: Printworthy, 2004).
Let us once again hear from genuinely religious members in the parliaments. In Jewish law, should a duck appear to have a physical defect it is tested by placing it in a stream of running water. If it swims against the current, it is kosher.
Nutty bureaucratic Britain again
Woman 'cured' by prayer can't get benefits stopped because government computer doesn't recognise miracles
When June Clarke walked again after six years in a wheelchair, the committed Christian put it down to the power of prayer. But when she shared the good news with benefits officials, they refused to stop her incapacity allowance - telling her their computer "didn't have a button for miracles". With the Government pledging to crack down on "sicknote Britain", it seems remarkable the 56-year-old received more than œ3,500 she did not even want.
Mrs Clarke, from Plymouth, slipped on a wet floor at her workplace in 2000. She badly damaged her hip, pelvis and spine and had to give up work and draw incapacity benefits as her symptoms worsened. Her husband Stuart, 58, a pastor at Hooe Baptist Church, said that he prayed every day after the accident that God would "bring my wife back". The prayer seemed to be answered when his wife attended a Christian conference in January last year. Within hours, Mrs Clarke was able to fold away her wheelchair and stop taking painkillers.
When she realised she was permanently cured four months later, she contacted the Government's Industrial Injury Department to put a stop to her benefits. But the department continued to give her œ600 a month - and she ended up being paid œ3,600 in incapacity benefits for a period when she was in perfect health.
"After I got healed in January 2006 I went to the doctor to check it out with him," she said yesterday. "He said wait six months. "But after four months I felt uncomfortable taking benefits when I didn't need them. I contacted the offices to ask to come off the benefits." But officials told her that the system was unable to recognise an apparently miraculous recovery. Mrs Clarke had been awarded an allowance for life and the computer wasn't programmed to allow the payments to end until her death. "They said: 'We haven't got a button to push that says miracle'."
She then saw a government doctor, who was baffled about her recovery but declared her fully fit. The allowance was stopped and Mrs Clarke has since been able to repay the money by working as a carer. Mr Clarke said that he found the couple's battle with the benefits system amusing, if frustrating. "We would have loved to have used the money for a good cause," he said. "But it wasn't ours to spend. It can't be often that a government department gets a complaint about unwanted cash."
A spokesman from the Department for Work and Pensions said: "Each case is treated individually. When a customer contacts us to say they no longer require or need to claim benefits we ask for a letter of confirmation for security reasons."
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.