The Conspiracy

Reform rabbi on Israeli council; no Arabic allowed; and more. [Required Reading]

No Arabic allowed? | Photo by Flickr user gwilmore (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Reform rabbi added to religious council in Israel [Times of Israel]

Mazel tov to the most recent addition to one of the many religious councils in Israel: a position typically held by Orthodox authorities.

“Rabbi Alona Lisitsa said she did not feel hostility from the rest of the representatives — all Orthodox — of the local religious council, according to reports.

The Reform Mevasseret Zion Congregation put forth Lisitsa’s name to join the council nearly a year ago. The appointment was delayed in the Religious Affairs Ministry, until the courts got involved and ordered the ministry to approve the appointment.”

Wait… isn’t Arabic an official language? [Haaretz]

Let’s let this strange report from Haaretz speak for itself. For the full report, click the link above.

“Arab teachers and students working in Kfar Sava’s Meir Medical Center have been forbidden to speak to each other in Arabic, which is an official language in Israel. Haaretz learned that three Arab families whose children were hospitalized in the center filed a complaint with the hospital management.


‘We don’t speak Arabic among the staff here, at the [Education] ministry’s instructions,’ the supervisor said.

The parents wrote to the hospital management demanding an explanation. ‘As parents we felt humiliated and alienated,’ they wrote, referring to the supervisor’s comment. ‘This is supposed to be an ideal place for coexistence, where the two peoples can meet, and need each other’s support to get through the ordeal in one piece. We expected to hear Jewish teachers talking Arabic, not preventing Arab teachers from talking in their own language, which would make it easier for the children from the Arab community and make their stay in the hospital more pleasant,’ they wrote.

The Education Ministry insists there was no instruction forbidding teachers to discuss things in Arabic and said the allegations were untrue. Every Arabic-speaking child receives treatment and lessons from Arab teachers, according to his needs, ministry officials said.”
Is the Jewish Left done for? [Tablet]
Are certain expressions of Judaism (particularly in the Western world), often linked to a liberal worldview, built on a false premise. In this piece from Tablet Magazine, Adam Kirsch explores the thoughts of political theorist Michael Walzer:

“Looked at another way, however, the softening mainstream liberalism of American Jews can be seen as the feeble remnant of what was once a fiery and uncompromising leftism. Indeed, as historian Tony Michels said at the YIVO conference, the history of American Communism ‘cannot be understood without Jews.’ But the mood of the conference was best summed up in the title of the keynote address, by the political philosopher Michael Walzer: “The Strangeness of Jewish Leftism.” What was once a proud inheritance now seems like a problem in need of a solution. For many Jews, it remains axiomatic that Judaism is a religion of social justice and progress; the phrase ‘tikkun olam’ has become a convenient shorthand for the idea that Judaism is best expressed in ‘repair of the world.’

In his speech, and in his new book In God’s Shadow: Politics and the Hebrew Bible, Walzer offers a contrary vision of traditional Judaism, which he argues ‘offers precious little support to left politics’—a truth that he recognized would surprise those who, like himself, ‘grew up believing that Judaism and socialism were pretty much the same thing.’ If a leftist political message cannot readily be found in the traditions of Judaism, it follows that the explosion of Jewish leftism in the late 19th century was actually a rupture with Jewish history, and potentially a traumatic one.”

Judaism and pluralism [JTA]
Edgar Bronfman, in this op-ed from JTA, explores what pluralism means to the Jewish way of life, and how it can empower all Jews to find their unique expression of the faith.

“Jewish pluralism, to me, is about finding your place in the story of our people. All Jews share a narrative going back to the patriarchs and matriarchs who created us, and they are wonderful and complex stories to share, study and learn. Jewish texts root you in the world and allow you to understand yourself, your values and your culture, all the while speaking to our modern lives with ancient wisdom.

Every Jew, regardless of belief and practice, should be able to see themselves in the narrative, values and rituals — in all their permutations — that bind us together as the Jewish people. We have an obligation as Jews to educate ourselves about our shared texts, common history and the traditions we have inherited.

At the heart of my Jewish beliefs is the tradition of questioning. Questioning is how we begin to learn. We Jews constantly discuss complex issues about how to live a moral and meaningful life, and seek guidance from sources ranging from our sacred texts to our most assimilated activists. We debate openly and are not shy, nor should we be.”

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