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A Look at Jewish Traditions at Home and Abroad

Winter 2013/Adar 5773

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Table of Contents 4

Rabbi’s Corner Has science disproved Judaism? ................. 4 by Rabbi Avner Engel and Sam Lurie


Politics Stay alive with a .45, for every Jew a .22 ... 5

If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.”

by Lea Luterstein

President Obama’s war on the wealthy: a Jewish take ....................................... 6-8 by Alan Naroditsky


Feature Kosher for Passover Angel Food Cake ............. 9 by Birtu Belete

The Passover Seder: from “shrouds” to scallions ..................................................... 9-11 by Devorah Friedman


Israel Injected racism or negligence: the Ethiopian-Israeli population’s struggle with infertility-causing contraceptive ............... 12-13 by Tessa Nath

– Mark Twain, September 1897

Israel’s lack of constitution: a divisive debate over the state’s identity .................... 14-15 by Miriam Pinski

Results of the 2013 Israeli elections: coaltion or conflict? ..................................15-16 by Rachel Menitoff

Israel: an Arab state a discovery of oil ........................................... 17 by Yona Remer


Jewish Society Who is a Jew? Exploring the different denominations ...... 18-19 by Alexa Lucas

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Ha’Am Winter 2013 Adar 5773

Editor-in-Chief Tessa Nath Managing Editor Alan Naroditsky Senior Content Editors Diane Bani-Esraili Jacob Elijah Goldberg Content Editor Miriam Pinski Layout Editors Alexa Lucas Nicole Rudolph Staff Writers Devorah Friedman Alexa Lucas Lea Luterstein Rachel Menitoff Yona Remer Contributing Writers Rabbi Avner Engel Sam Lurie App Manager Nicole Rudolph Social Media Manager Birtu Belete Photographers Talia Kamdjou Andrew Rosenstein Videographer Camille Benfredj Ha’Am Magazine 118 Kerckhoff Hall 308 Westwood Plaza Los Angeles, CA 90024 © 2013 UCLA Communications Board Published with support from Campus Progress/Center for American Progress (online at

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[Rabbi’s Corner]


¼ days, a year on High is 365,250 our years” (Otzar Hachaim 86b-87b). This alone is not significant until we take into account that the creation of Adam and Eve began in the 7,000 years before the end of human history. Performing a simple calculation, he deduced that the universe is 15 billion years old, in agreement with the view of contemporary science! All time before Adam is in “G-d” years. One day is 1,000 years to G-d, and when 1,000 is multiplied by the number of days in a solar year (365.25), we arrive at 365,250 — the number of “divine years” in a single “human solar year.” The age 42,000 is then multiplied by the conversion factor 365,250 to arrive Photo by Michael Gorodetskiy Jewish Awareness Movement Rabbi Avner Engel (left) and Sam Lurie (right). at the age of the universe at the time of the creation of Adam, namely 1.53*10^10, or about 15.3 billion years. Not bad for a calculation completed in the 13th century, long before Darwin was born!

Has science disproved


Rabbi Avner Engel and Sam Lurie Contributing Writers

The Biblical narrative of a six day creation and a six thousand year history of the universe is so obviously wrong that it requires us to go up to every religious person, grab them by the shoulders, and shake them out of their small-mindedness. “FOOL, have you not seen the archaeological evidence that shows human remains from hundreds of thousands of years ago? Is the same science that you trust to go on an airplane, a car, and a bridge, no longer good enough because your grandmamma said that her bible knows better? Are you such a conspiracy nut that you think that the 2013 NASA estimate of the universe’s age of 13.7 billion years is off by thirteen billion, six hundred ninety-nine million, nine hundred ninetyfour thousand years?”

Conflicts between science and religion result from misinterpretation of the Bible.” — Maimonides

(Compare to modern science’s view of 14 billion years).

The Oral Torah says that there were actually 974 generations of man before Adam was even created (Talmud Chagiga 13b-14a). It also states that the life expectancy was around 1,000 years, and we see that Eve gives birth to Cain and Able at 130 years old. The Torah is telling us that the modern human form was 974 generations, each generation being 130 years, placing the age of the modern human at approximately 127 thousand years ago. According to science, although anatomically modern humans appeared around 200,000 years ago in Ethiopia, the first humans who showed signs of behavior that differed from earlier Homo Heidelbergensis were the advanced Mousterians — the fossil record shows that they appeared around 120,000 years ago.

A famous Kabbalistic work, Sefer Hatemunah, states that human history will span 49 thousand years. A 13th-century Jewish Mystic expands on this idea. . “I, the insignificant Yitzchak of Acco, have seen fit to write a great mystery that should be kept very well hid- The account of the beginning [i.e. Genesis 1] den. One of God’s days is a thousand years, as it says, is natural science but so profound that it is ‘For a thousand years are in Your eyes as a fleeting cloaked in parables.” yesterday (Psalms 90, 4).’ Since one of our years is 365

— Maimonides

The discerning reader will have noticed the previous assertion of a universal age of 42,000 divine years when Adam was created and wonder how this fits in with the literal six days as described in the first chapter of the Torah. The Oral Torah (Talmud Chagiga Ch. 2) explains that there are two different calendars that we may refer to when discussing the age of the universe. There is the one generated from earth’s frame of reference which begins with the creation of Adam and Eve, and another, the first six days of creation, from G-d’s frame of reference. Before there was any scientific approach that contradicted the six day narrative, the rabbis of old had a problem with literal Creationism; indeed, the Jewish approach is non-apologetic. Gerald Schroeder, an MIT physicist (and theologian), explains in his seminal book, “Genesis and the Big Bang,” how what may have been just six days on earth were actually millions upon millions when accounted for in G-d’s frame of reference. Einstein taught us that time is relative, but not only does time change depending on the speed of the observer and the observed, time also changes when space is stretched out. As Dr. Schroeder writes, “The general relationship between nucleosynthesis, that time near the beginning at the threshold energy of protons and neutrons when matter formed, and time today is a million million… so when a view from the beginning looking forward says, ‘I’m sending you a pulse every second,’ would we see a pulse every second? No. We’d see it every million million seconds. Because that’s the stretching effect of the expansion of the universe.” The Oral Torah states that Adam achieved full status as a man on the seventh hour (out of 12 “hours”) of the sixth day of Creation (Talmud Sanhedrin 38b). This time is 5 days + 7/12 days. Multiply that by Schroeder’s conversion factor from Einstein’s time dilation of a “million million,” or 1*10^12. Divide the result by the number of days in a solar year, 365.25, to achieve 15.29 billion years, in agreement with Yitzchak of Acco’s calculations of many centuries ago.

(Compare to modern science’s view of 14 billion years).

Having now considered what the rabbis of old have said about the age of the universe and the age of the human race, should we still shake the fanatics by their shoulders to get them out of their idiocy? There just might be something to their crazy tradition if they were able to come up with an age of 15 billion years before Darwin, Huxley, or any other “modern scientist” was even born. A great Torah scholar known as the Netziv said it best: “There are many secrets of nature which are discovered in every generation by scientists…in doing so, they give glory to the Holy One.”

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Lea Luterstein Staff Writer In the bitter debate that followed the most recent school shooting, a clear answer has emerged: to protect ourselves, we must be armed. We look to the shining beacon of democracy and bulwark against the savage Jihadist forces that froth around it — Israel, a nation that, in its short history as a state, has outlasted and learned from much tragedy. Unfortunately, Israel has learned from experience about protecting its citizens — and the best mode of protection is to put defense in the citizens’ own hands and ensure self-reliability and action in the tiny time span when life relies on individuals and not on often too-late backup. In Israel, teachers and parents who serve as school aids are armed with semi-automatic firearms whenever they are on school grounds. According to World Net Daily’s Charl van Wyk, since the country adopted this policy in the 1970s, attacks by gunmen at Israeli schools have become non-existent. The main contrast in gun policies between the United States and Israel is a situational one: there is a great difference in the existential threats that face the people of America and Israel, and to find this difference, one only needs to look at the origin of gun rights in both countries — the fight against tyranny versus the fight against terror. Americans are guaranteed the right to bear arms in the Constitution, to ensure that they are able to rise up against a tyrannical government. It is a huge necessity for many Israeli citizens to bear arms (and know how to use them) as a response to Arab extremist terror attacks. Israel has rarely had school shootings — as much an effect of deterrence through gun ownership as any other societal cause. However, despite the differences in circumstances, the idea of banning guns completely is absurd. Both societies require gun owners to be registered, and both societies have criminals and the mentally ill. So, both societies face the problem that some liberals do not seem to grasp: completely outlawing gun ownership leads to the disarming of law-abiding citizens, and nothing else. Criminals and the mentally ill do not apply for permits, they do not register their firearms, they do not publicize who they are going after, and they certainly do not come in for psychologi-

cal analysis. Federal registration might seem like a great idea (to those who fail to see that it is yet another government invasion of privacy), but the mentally ill and those intent on doing harm do not register their guns, and therefore, do not submit to background checks, psychological analysis, and other requirements that would deem them safe to own a gun. So why does Israel’s technically stricter screening process work? People in Israel trust their government to do everything to protect them and their freedom. The people of America have lost trust in the government to do the same. One should examine the Israeli requirement that all adults must be trained to be part of the military. Those who wash out and are deemed a danger to society are prevented from owning guns. There needs to be an American system of eliminating the potential for the criminal and/or mentally ill to obtain guns, and neither psychoanalysis nor a ban is going to do it; Israel’s system handles this problem much more effectively than “psychological checks” or a full-scale elimination of gun ownership rights. Israel’s policy is successful because it is based on a chain of personal account-

ability. Yes, there is a larger vetting process — according to The Jewish Press, “like applicant drivers, potential gun owners must undergo extensive, well structured training on the proper handling, storage and use of their weapon, before being allowed to even buy one”

of these principles to modern society, principles that are as relevant today as they were 250 years ago, at the time of America’s inception. The United States can and should draw from Israel’s approach to emphasize the huge personal responsibility involved in

People in Israel trust their government to do everything to protect them and their freedom. The people of America have lost trust in the government to do the same.”

— but the process is not restrictive, unlike the gun ban and confiscation that Democratic senators are trying to impose on the citizens of America. In the simplest terms: Israel understands the point of gun policy. The duty of a government is to protect its citizens, and the best way to ensure protection is to place the duty into the citizens’ own hands, so that they are fully self-reliant, especially when the threat may come from the government itself. For now, it seems like only an argument of principles, but the outcome of the gun control debate — and the implementation of more stringent or more lax policies — paves the way for the prosaic application

possessing and potentially using a firearm. Looking to a nation so well versed in self-defense would be a great and timely advance, especially in light of the recent senseless and preventable violence that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Israel is in a very different situation than America is in, but the idea of an armed and knowledgeable citizenry (especially in schools) is applicable to every country and citizenry’s safety. Rabbi Meir Kahane, a controversial but extremely popular Israeli and American politician, put it best: “for every Jew a .22, stay alive with a .45.” Every person who values his own safety, security, and integrity should be armed.

“An off-duty soldier in Jerusalem” by Justin McIntosh, 2004 (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

ARMED CITIZEN: An off-duty Israeli soldier waits at a Jerusalem bus stop.

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WAR President Obama’s

on the wealthy:


a Jewish take

Alan Naroditsky

Managing Editor Whether we realize it or not, the United States’ post-2008 political and social landscape has revolved almost exclusively around money. In fact, money has always been one of the central elements of human civilization. As prominent historian and author Niall Ferguson writes in “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World,” “the ascent of money has been essential to the ascent of man.” In a healthy and flourishing economy, few question the integrity of the laissezfaire economic model (a free market undisturbed by government intervention) as long as it brings prosperity to the masses. However, in these difficult times, politics have largely evolved into a fierce debate between free market capitalism and the abstract notion that we can call “economic morality.” In the 19th century, writer and historian Thomas Carlyle nicknamed economics “the dismal science” in response to scholar and economist Thomas Malthus’ depressing prediction that humans would die of starvation as population growth would begin to outpace the growth and availability of the food supply. Luckily for the human race, Malthus erred in his economic prognostication, but the cynical nickname caught on. Today, perhaps the moniker is more appropriate in describing economics as a social science largely devoid of moral or ethical considerations — not because economists are blasé about the state of human virtues, but simply because morality is not quantifiable and thus cannot be integrated with any meaningful economic models. Since the Obama administration took office in 2008, the government has been on a dubious mission to infuse American capitalism with morality. On June 29, 2011, President Obama gave a speech to address the rapidly approaching debt

ceiling deadline and propose some debtreduction ideas. After the speech, it seemed as though the culprit behind the financial struggles of ordinary Americans had finally been apprehended. This is, of course, a reference to the droves of corporate jet owners roaming the streets, hunting for destitute families to swindle. Sarcasm aside, Obama proclaimed that “the tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires; tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners.” During the course of the speech, the president mentioned the phrases “corporate jet owners” and “millionaires and billionaires” several times — a detail which was immediate-

Obama goes on to say that “I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up tax breaks that no other business enjoys. I don’t think that’s real radical. I think the majority of Americans agree with that.” The last point is the only part of the conjecture the president was right about — it is undoubtedly true that a majority of Americans (controlling the minority of the country’s wealth) would ardently welcome a tax increase for the wealthy. The most important implication of the above quote from the president is a reference to “fairness.” In a video recorded shortly after his reelection in 2012, Obama said that he is committed to re-

I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up tax breaks that no other business enjoys. I don’t think that’s real radical. I think the majority of Americans agree with that.” — President Barack Obama ly noted by a multitude of news sources and attentive listeners. Juxtaposing a verbal illustration of the nation’s fiscal problems with the repetition of “corporate jet owners” serves to antagonize the super wealthy in the eyes of already-struggling middle class Americans and justify the proposed redistribution of wealth. Obama drove his point home by accusing the deeply malevolent corporate jet owners of “cut[ting] some kids off from getting a college scholarship…[and stopping to fund] certain grants for medical research.” Perhaps it should be mentioned (as a side note) that President Obama himself introduced the tax breaks for corporate jets in a stimulus package in 2009 in an attempt to encourage the growth of business and airline manufacturers.

duce our debt in a way that “[…] asks the wealthiest Americans to contribute and pay their fair share.” The president’s nearly manic obsession with the phrase “fair share” is troubling, since the concept is highly abstract and completely arbitrary (as is his meaningless designation of families making over $400,000 per year as “rich,” regardless of geographical cost of living considerations). Many people who contribute immensely to the economic growth of the U.S. have expressed grave concerns over the president’s plan, and even more economists caution that imposing excessive taxes on the nation’s job creators may result in financial catastrophe. If an obese patient comes to a doctor for appetite management advice, it is rather unlikely that the doctor would

recommend increasing the frequency of liposuctions in lieu of reducing the patient’s ruinous diet of excess. In a spending crisis, similar logic applies — America cannot spend its way out of a spending crisis, the way that an obese person cannot eat his or her way out of obesity. President Obama’s campaign cast him as the financial doctor who has the antidote for the ailing economy, yet he is prescribing liposuctions (taxing the rich) instead of the slow and painful diet-andexercise process necessary to return the country’s debt to a manageable weight. The danger inherent in Obama’s war on the wealthy is already manifesting itself — affluent Americans are fleeing the hostile fiscal atmosphere and seeking refuge in more tax-friendly nations. One of the most publicized examples involves Facebook co-founder and billionaire Eduardo Saverin, who left the United States to avoid heavy taxation. While still low, the number of Americans renouncing their citizenship has grown by over 250 percent over the past 10-12 years. As Eric Fry writes in an article featured in “The Daily Reckoning,” “[Four years ago,] surrendering U.S. citizenship was absolutely unthinkable. But not anymore. Now it is ‘thinkable.’” On a less drastic note, many millionaires are considering a move away from California (where they face a nation-high 51.9 percent federal-state income tax on earnings over $1 million) to other, more fiscally forgiving states. Finally, other countries that have begun to lean in the socialist direction (such as France, under Francois Hollande) have witnessed their top earners absconding to more favorable tax climates as well. We can engage in an endless philosophical discussion about whether or not the rich are maliciously hoarding wealth, but such a debate falls well short of a practical solution to our real-life problem. Like it or

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[Politics] not, greed (the desire to increase wealth beyond basic need) is an inherent human trait and the cornerstone of capitalism. Unlike socialism, capitalism is not deluded by the naïve idea that humans are innately receptive to collective equality and selflessness, or even that they should be; instead, the free market economy harnesses the intense power of greed and wields it to benefit the market participants. As people strive to accumulate wealth, they will inevitably create opportunities for others to prosper as well. According to capitalism, it is completely irrelevant that a business owner creates jobs to pursue selfish financial goals — it only matters that the jobs are created. In this way, economics can be viewed as bereft of ethics; economic efficiency endeavors to benefit the greatest amount of people, regardless of motivations or intentions. For most people, the incentive to create jobs is almost always monetary gain, not benevolent glory. Therefore, if

“[Four years ago] surrendering U.S. citizenship was absolutely unthinkable. But not anymore. Now it is ‘thinkable.’” —Eric Fry Journalist and International Equities specialist

the rich perceive an excessive tax rate, they will not absorb financial losses out of the goodness of their hearts, but simply seek more auspicious circumstances

and take their job-creating power with children’s health and education between the president as failing to contribute their them. We cannot fight human nature. 2003 and 2007. “fair share.” If we want to shy away from Larry Ellison and Michael Dell are the top givers and view a wider perspecThe Jewish Perspective both Jewish — maybe that explains their tive, CNBC reports that a recent Bank charitable inclinations and sets them of America study has shown that 95 perLet us revisit the issue of greed for a apart from the pack? cent of American millionaires donated moment. In the opinion of our president Not exactly. Perhaps the most striking to charity between 2009 and 2011, givand many Americans who voted for his examples of selfless charity are Berk- ing about nine percent of their incomes reelection, the well-heeled members of shire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and each year (according to the report, this our society definitely deserve a tax in- Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, neither number sank from well over 10 percent crease to combat their greed and ensure of whom is Jewish. Buffett has pledged in 2007 due to the economic collapse). that they pay their “fair share.” Does a approximately $40 billion (about 80 per- Judging by the numbers, something does Jewish perspective confirm this conclusion? will only dominate the material world and will The Jewish Virtual Library states that work and innovate if there is the ability to appropriate according to Jewish law, Jews are obligatthe fruits of one’s labor.” ed to contribute at least 10 percent of their after-tax (net) income to charitable causes — Corinne and Robert Sauer, Director of the Jerusalem each year. As cited in “The Wall Street Institute for Market Studies, and chair of Department of Journal,” Larry Ellison, founder and chief Economics at the University of Southampton executive officer of Oracle Corp. (one of the largest computer technology companies), took home an astronomical $1.84 cent of his net worth) to health, education not add up — at least according to Jewbillion in compensation during the 2000- and humanitarian causes, while Gates ish law. 2010 decade. However, “Businessweek” has given away $28 billion (about half A different CNBC article reports that a reports that between 2003 and 2007, Elli- of his net worth). recent study conducted by the Chronicle of son gave or pledged $193 million, mostly Cumulatively, the four men (Ellison, Philanthropy attempts to prove that “midto research on aging and diseases. His do- Dell, Buffett and Gates) are responsible dle-class Americans give a larger share of nation (spread across five years) constitutes for the creation of almost 600,000 full- their income to charity than the wealthy.” a little over 10 percent of his total pre-tax time jobs and have donated or pledged The study claims that people who make besalary for the entire decade. The percent- over $70 billion to all sorts of worthy tween $50,000 and $75,000 per year conage grows substantially if calculated as a causes. Adding up the total donations tribute 7.6 percent of their discretionary proportion of his after-tax salary, as Jewish by the top 50 U.S. philanthropists and income (money left over after taxes and all law stipulates. dividing by their collective net worth necessary living expenses), while people Michael Dell, founder and chief exec- shows that on average, the top 50 have making over $100,000 per year donate 4.2 utive officer of Dell Inc. (one of the most donated a whopping 28 percent of their percent of their discretionary income. On a prolific producers of personal comput- entire wealth. superficial level, the study’s argument that ers), has amassed a formidable net worth Granted, these men are the paragons “the wealthy are meaner and more selfish of over $14 billion, but that did not stop of philanthropy in our society, but they than the non-rich” seems to have at least him from donating or pledging $674 mil- are still part of the group of “millionaires some sort of merit. lion (4.6 percent of his total net worth) to and billionaires” harshly condemned by However, this conclusion omits a simple arithmetical point. Suppose person A makes $50,000 per year and person B makes $100,000 per year. Although person B makes exactly twice the salary of person A, person B almost certainly has more than twice the discretionary income left over after necessary expenses (simply because the cost of “necessary expenses” such as food, housing, utilities, etc. increases but does not double if income doubles). Therefore, if person A donates 7.6 percent of his discretionary income, person B would have to donate less than 7.6 percent to double person A’s donation and make the two people “equally” charitable. Also, people who make substantially more than $100,000 per year will often use their discretionary income to start businesses and create jobs, while people that make $50,000 per year will rarely have enough left to create employment opportunities.

G r a p h b y A l a n N a r o d i t s k y, d a t a f r o m w w w. n a t i o n a l r e v i e w. c o m

*In this study, wealthy is defined as making at least $200,000 and/or having at least $1 million in net worth.

...continued on page 8...

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G r a p h b y A l a n N a r o d i t s k y, d a t a f r o m w w w. b u s i n e s s w e e k . c o m

The Chronicle of Philanthropy report analyzed above is indicative of the infuriating propaganda that starts from President Obama, seeps into the media, and is quickly brainwashing parts of an entire nation into a class war against the rich. As a genuine community organizer, Obama has constructed a collectivist agenda that rallies the country’s poor

Of course, if taken literally, the property rights of U.S. citizens are not being threatened at the moment — but a tax increase that is justified by an entirely subjective theory (that the rich are not paying “enough”) can easily be viewed as a violation of property rights. In addition, Corinne and Robert Sauer conclude that according to Judaism, “the

However, the gift-giving obligation, called Tzedakah, is more subtle than, and should not be confused with, income redistribution. Income redistribution aims at reducing income inequalities because income disparities are seen as unfair or immoral — this is not the Jewish view.” — Corinne and Robert Sauer and middle classes around a hatred for the rich and the fallacy that the wealthy do not deserve what they possess. Not only is class warfare an ironclad recipe for economic disaster, it is also cardinally opposed to the Jewish perspective on economics and capitalism. In “Judaism, Markets, and Capitalism: Separating Myths from Reality,” Corinne and Robert Sauer articulate a fundamental set of principles to represent what they call “Jewish economic theory.” They note that “private property rights are essential and must be protected. Man was given the potential to create, but the Jewish sages clearly recognized that man will only dominate the material world and will work and innovate if there is the ability to appropriate the fruits of one’s labor. To motivate man to fulfill the commandment to participate in the act of creation, the granting and uncompromising protection of private property was recognized to be essential.”

accumulation of wealth is a virtue not a vice.” They write that “the Talmud teaches, ‘one who benefits from his own labor is greater than one who fears heaven’ (Berachot 8a, Avot 4:1). In the Torah, productive and virtuous workers are repeatedly rewarded with great wealth. […] Wealth, accumulated honestly, is a signal of great effort, skill, and success in partnering with God in the creative process. The wealthy individual has been unusually successful in elevating the material world and in expressing the divine image.” Finally, they state that “the praiseworthiness of wealth accumulation in no way implies that Judaism is not interested in the plight of the poor. All individuals are required to help the poorest members of society through charitable gifts. However, the gift-giving obligation, called Tzedakah, is more subtle than, and should not be confused with, income redistribution. Income redistribution aims at reducing income inequalities because income

disparities are seen as unfair or immoral — this is not the Jewish view.” For many wealthy Americans who have not yet decided to escape President Obama’s tax plan, Tzedakah (charity) is the one of the first items on their budgets to get the axe. Leonard Mezhvinsky, chief executive officer of Sieger Property Development LLC (a San Francisco Bay Area real estate development firm), confirms the simple logic: “If you have less money left over after taxation, it is clear that there will be less money going to charities and other discretionary items that people spend money on.” Mezhvinsky agrees that people will not sacrifice to preserve a fixed level of donations: “you’re obviously not going to be able to cut on your housing, because you’re not going to switch from a threebedroom to a two-bedroom — you’re not going to jeopardize your quality of living.” The bottom line, Mezhvinsky notes, is that “people create budgets and

Tzedakah. The eighth and lowest level is “when donations are given grudgingly,” while the first and highest level is “to help sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or establish themselves in business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.” While most “millionaires and billionaires” are deeply rooted in the first level of Tzedakah by creating jobs and giving generous donations, President Obama’s insistence on increasing the tax rate forces them to downsize their businesses and reduce the magnitude and frequency of their donations. Maimonides might say that since additional taxation is akin to “giving grudgingly,” the president’s tax scheme dislodges the wealthy from the first level of Tzedakah and pushes them down into the eighth level. From a purely Jewish perspective, a

...people create budgets and they follow them. If the expenses exceed their budget, they will need to cut the budget somewhere, and the first thing they go to is discretionary expenses — and donations are certainly one of those.” — Leonard Mezhvinsky CEO, Sieger Property Development LLC

they follow them. If the expenses exceed their budget, they will need to cut the budget somewhere, and the first thing they go to is discretionary expenses — and donations are certainly one of those.” According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the great medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides specified eight levels of

large number of wealthy Americans do not deserve being covered by the blanket of contempt sewn by the president. Nevertheless, President Obama has become the self-appointed magistrate of financial equality — an act that incites class warfare and heralds an uncertain and dangerous economic future.


Kosher for Passover Angel Food Cake

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Birtu Belete

Social Media Manager Enjoy this delicious, healthy alternative to traditional, calorieladen desserts. This cake has such a great texture you will forget that it is kosher for Passover. Ingredients 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 1 teaspoon lemon zest 1/2 cup matzo cake meal 1/2 cup potato starch 12 large egg whites (about 1 1/2 cups), at room temperature*** 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 3 pints strawberries (about 2 pounds), hulled and thinly sliced Yield: 8-10 servings Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 40 minutes Parve Photos by Birtu Belete Directions: Preheat oven to 325°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Combine 1 cup of sugar with the lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until mixed evenly; set mixture aside. Thoroughly sift the matzo cake meal and potato starch and put into a large bowl. Sift another time with remaining ½ cup of sugar. Using a standing mixture or handheld mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat the egg whites for about 1 minute, or until frothy (make sure that the bowl and whisk are clean or the egg whites will not beat properly). Add lemon juice and salt and beat for about two minutes or until whites just begin to form soft peaks. Gradually add sugarzest mixture, and then continue to beat until egg whites are glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Gently fold dry ingredients into whites, adding a quarter of the mixture at a time. Transfer batter into a 10-inch tube pan with removable bottom. Tap pan on counter to burst any air bubbles and bake about 35 to 40 minutes. Carefully transfer cake from pan and let it cool for about 1½ hour. In a large bowl, combine strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar. Refrigerate for at least twenty minutes. Place cake on a serving platter and garnish with macerated strawberries. Slice with a serrated knife and enjoy! *** Leftover egg yolks can be used to make a custard or a different, more indulgent dessert.

The Passover Seder: Devorah Friedman Staff Writer

The kids troop in, the adults sit down, and the Seder begins. Wine, matzah, and vegetables are all standard fare at the Seder table, but from there, customs split and crisscross into different routes along the road to Nirtzah (conclusion of the Seder), and depending on where your family is from, you will hit each other with onions, chant in Yiddish, or walk around outside with a loaded bundle. And while everyone eats charoset, recipes are vary by region, verily; combining ingredients like bananas, coconut, and even brick dust. The Seder (lit. “order,” referring to the set order of the service) itself comes from the Biblical commandments (Exodus 13:5) of eating the Pesach (Passover) offering with matzah and bitter herbs and to tell the Pesach story. Originally, while the First and Second Temples stood, Sedarim were communal affairs, with numerous nuclear and extended families getting together. However, after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE), when the holiday and Pesach offerings could no longer be brought or Jews ascend to

from “shrouds” to scallions

Jerusalem en masse, it was made into a smaller, family affair. At this point, the traditional Seder setup had not yet been solidified – people simply told the Pesach story and ate the matzah, roast lamb, and bitter herbs – but much of it was in place by the time the Mishnah (earlier part of the Talmud) was redacted in 220 CE by Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nasi. The main text of the Haggadah was finalized by 280 or 360 CE (or even earlier, since according to some scholars, it was compiled by the same Rabbi Yehudah mentioned above). When the Roman military commander Titus, under the emperor Vespasian, conquered and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, the Jews were scattered into different areas of Europe and the Middle East, gradually moving toward two distinct communal centers: Ashkenaz (France-Germany, later Eastern Europe) and Sepharad (Spain and North Africa), which developed distinct cultures and sub-cultures. Pesach customs grew in relation to Biblical and Talmudic interpretation and were influenced by local differences and restrictions. The Seder,

in particular, contains many different tom of visiting the local Rabbi before the customs and practices that have devel- Seder; some would even dress up with oped over time. staffs and sacks, like the Jews leaving Egypt!

Before the holiday

There is a fairly intercultural custom of buying new clothing in honor of the holiday, and the Talmud recommends that a married man buy his wife new jewelry for the same reason. Some men have the custom of wearing a kittel, or white robe (Scott-Martin Kosofsky’s The Book of Customs calls it a “burial shroud”), which symbolizes purity, at the Seder. In the Levy family, my own family’s neighbors (from Tunis, Tunisia), the head of the household wears a long, Arab-style tunic to the Seder, for similar reasons. People also try to prepare special foods or buy expensive meat for Pesach. Mrs. Bath-Khen Hamburg, a family friend, relates how her grandparents, from Yemen, would slaughter a whole lamb. “It was traumatic [to see],” she laughs, “but it was such a big honor for them, for the holiday.” In Djerba, Tunisia, there was a cus-

The Seder Plate The Shulchan Aruch (lit. “set table” – Code of Jewish Law) quotes Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, stating that the Seder plate (also called a ke’arah) is set up with charoset, bitter herbs, a hard-boiled egg, roasted bone and three matzos. Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer of Vilna would also add the karpas (leafy vegetable) and chazeret (second type of bitter herb). Some Yemenites bypass the plate entirely and simply lay the dishes of symbolic foods on the table itself. A recent practice among some people includes an orange on the Seder plate; this was introduced by feminist scholar Susannah Heschel as a symbol of inclusion toward homosexuals. Another version explains it as showing support for women in the rabbinate, although Heschel denies this.

...continued on page 10...

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The Seder 1. ‫ — קדש‬Kadeish: the blessing of Kiddush over wine

have a similar custom — the Seder plate is briefly rested on the heads of those seated before being removed, to represent the burden of slavery being lifted. Before breaking the middle matzah, Mr. Levy recites a phrase in Arabic, which Mrs. Levy explains as meaning “Great miracles happened today.” He tries to break it into the shape of the Hebrew letter yud, which represents G-d’s name. In Djerba, after the middle matzah was broken, a member of each household would go to the neighboring homes with the encouraging reminder Some people head to the sink to that the Mashiach (Messiah) is on his wash, single-file. Others, like my ma- way. ternal grandparents, carry a cup, water, and bowl around the table to be “served” — a facet of one of the night’s themes of luxury. There is a Persian custom of a certain individual pouring the water: Mrs. Orly Kashani (another family friend) describes how in Tehran, “the person who is of the age of getting marHere is where we ask the famous ried” would do the honors in the hope question, “Why is this night different of finding the right one soon! from all other nights?” But depending on the country or even region, you will hear Mah Nishtanah in different languages — English, Spanish, Yiddish, Ladino, or literary Arabic — in addition to Hebrew. The original “second” language was Aramaic, which is no Ashkenazim dip the vegetable longer widely spoken among Jews. (typically parsley, although other vegMrs. Levy says that her mother, from etables may also be used; Soviet Jews Bombay (Mumbai), India, adhered would dip potatoes when nothing else to the family custom of putting some was available into salt water). Some matzah and maror into a bag, right beSephardim use vinegar; others, like fore asking the Questions, giving it to Ashkenazim, use salt water. the children present, and asking some questions of their own in order to bring the Exodus to life. Magid is also where the famous Sephardi — predominantly Persian — custom of whipping one’s Sedertable neighbors with scallions comes in by the Dayeinu song. It’s a reminder of Much symbolism is in play here, the whippings the Jews were punished with the three matzos (some used to with in Egypt for not fulfilling labor include a fourth for Soviet Jewry) quotas, but, says Mrs. Kashani, it is representing, among other interpreta- also the fun part of the Seder! tions, different types of Jews. Mrs. Nicole Gabay, Rabbanit of Congregation Adat Yeshurun in North Hollywood, describes a Moroccan custom of passing the plate of matzos over the heads of all present, who exclaim, “This is how Hashem [G-d] helped the Jews out of Egypt, and this is how He will bring us out of the Galut [Diaspora].” Flowers may also be used. The Levys

2. ‫ — ורחץ‬Urchatz: washing of hands without a blessing (unlike Rachtzah, later)

5. ‫ — מגיד‬Magid: the telling of the Pesach story

3. ‫ — כרפס‬Karpas: green vegetable

4. ‫ — יחץ‬Yachatz: breaking of the middle matzah

6. ‫ — רחצה‬Rachtzah: washing of hands again — this time with an accompanying blessing

7. ‫ — מוציא‬Motzi: blessing over bread (matzah), immediately followed by... 8. ‫ — מצה‬Matzah: specific blessing over the matzah, which is eaten dipped in charoset Today, the most commonly eaten type of matzah is the hard, thin, crunchy type that people not in my matzah-loving family complain is simply edible cardboard. However, Yemenites eat a unique kind of matzah — the original type, from the earliest days of matzah baking, before it was modified for technical reasons to become the boards you buy at Ralphs. Yemenite matzah, says Mrs. Hamburg, the kind her mother would buy in Israel, is more like pita: thin pita — not fluffy — but soft and chewy, with high water content. Because of the flour-to-water ratio, it spoils quickly, and so “it would have to be made fresh every time, for the holiday part [the first day, in Israel], and then for Chol Ha-Moed [the Intermediate Days, during which creative labor may be done], they would make more.” Tunisian matzah, in direct contrast, is famously thick and hard — difficult to chew. Some Moroccans bake their matzos into the shapes of certain Hebrew letters, hinting at names of G-d. The custom in Chabad is to not allow matzah to come into contact with moist material, says Rabbi Dovid Gurevich of Chabad at UCLA, since any unbaked flour in the matzah might become leavened. “We don’t dip matzah into charoset,” he continues, and when they uncover the matzos during the Seder (the matzos are covered and uncovered for display at specific interludes during the Seder), they are cautious to move their goblets of wine away. Charoset — this condiment practically deserves a section of its own!

It is made to represent the mortar the Jews would slather onto bricks in order to build “storage cities for Pharaoh, Pithom and Raamses” (Exodus 1:11), and recipes vary by region and even city. Mrs. Gabay’s Moroccan recipe calls for grinding dates, almonds, walnuts and apples, and adding sweet wine; others mix chopped raisins and prunes in as well. For Persian-style charoset, Mrs. Kashani mashes dates, apples, bananas, walnuts and hazelnuts with pomegranate juice or paste; some families also add sweet wine and/or pistachios. Gibraltarians and Greeks grind a (very) small amount of (cleaned) brick dust into their charoset, to further emphasize the historical connection. Mrs. Levy’s Tunisian recipe involves mashing dried fruits, nuts and wine — no spices added. Syrians mix boiled, softened dates with wine, walnuts, matzah meal and spices.

Typical Ashkenaz combining grated o with walnuts, wine, an interestingly diffe namese cook cocon almonds, raisins, dri plums, and Surinam jam) with wine and add peaches or pine found in your typic and-wine mix!

9. ‫— מרור‬ bitter h dipp cha




zi recipes involve or chopped apples and spices. And — erent style — Surinut meat, walnuts or ied apples, prunes or m cherries (or cherry d spices. Some even eapple — fruits not cal chopped-apple-

Page 11 Winter 2013



Customs and interpretations vary as to exactly what constitutes maror. The most common custom, among Sephardim and Ashkenazim alike, seems to be using romaine lettuce stalks. However, Mrs. Hamburg describes her family’s Yemenite custom of using a Even though this part of the Seder is different leafy, “weedy” vegetable — possibly endive — and my own (Ash- not formally structured, it has its own kenazi) family uses vast quantities of set components as well. Rabbi Moshe Isserles writes in the Code of Jewish tear-jerking raw horseradish. Law that it is customary to begin the meal with hard-boiled eggs, similar to that on the Seder plate and with the same purpose: in memory of the festival-offering, which would have been brought along with the Pesach-offering. Some dip their eggs in salt water, symbolizing tears of sorrow at being unable to bring this offering. Ethiopians have the unique custom of eating roast lamb at the Seder, in remembrance of the roast lamb of the Pesach-offering. After those Jews who were dispersed to Ethiopia had already been taken away from contact with other Jewish communities, the Talmud forbade serving any kind of roast meat — especially lamb — at the Seder, in order to preserve the memory of the offering and show awe for the Temple, away from which no offering could be brought.

— Maror: herbs, also 10. ‫ — קורך‬Korech: ped in “sandwich” of aroset maror, matzah, and charoset



and keep them awake (some Sedarim go pretty late!) and curious. In particular, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan deplored the practice of having children recite the Four Questions — and then sending them off to bed before they could learn the answers. There is a Yemenite custom (among some), however, not to allow the Afikoman to be “stolen” because encouraging theft, even in play, may still be encouraging theft. Chabad also keeps this custom, and the Gurevich family simply removes the Afikoman from the table. There are numerous customs regarding the Afikoman. Some Sephardim bundle it into a bag and send it outside with the children, who then return and describe to the adults their “journey” out of Egypt and into Israel. In Israel today, some families even walk around the block, carrying pillowcases, to reenact the Exodus. When I attended a Seder in a Jerusalem suburb, we all walked outside after excited children and waved to the other families making their trek. Ms. Rivka Apfel, a student at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, describes an unusual family custom based on a passage in the Talmud: “When we break the Afikoman,” she says, “we keep the other half on our doorpost all year long.” The matzah “décor” serves as a reminder of Gd’s omnipotence. A custom among Kurdish Jews is to tie the Afikoman to the arm of a son whose parents hope he will marry within the year, based on the regional practice of the groom tying the ketubah (marriage contract) onto the bride’s arm. After the Afikoman is negotiated, returned, and eaten, a cup of wine is poured in honor of Eliyahu Ha-Navi (Elijah the Prophet). Some Moroccans have the custom of leaving this cup on the table throughout the night. A recent practice is to also pour a cup This is when children extort mon- of water “for Miriam the Prophet.” ey and treats from their hapless parents and elders after finding and then “stealing” the Afikoman from wherever the head of household hid it: they refuse to give it back until promised a prize. This custom seems to follow the Talmudic opinion that children are the guests at the Seder, and much of it was designed to engage them

‫— שולחן צורן‬ Shulchan Orech: “set table” – also known as dinner!

12. ‫ — צפון‬Tzafun: “hiding” of the Afikoman (piece of the broken middle matzah), then its “finding” and eating; the opening of the door to Eliyahu Ha-Navi (Elijah the Prophet)

13. ‫ — ברך‬Bareich: the blessing after the meal

14. ‫ — הלל‬Hallel: excerpts from Psalms, praising G-d 15. ‫ — נרצה‬Nirtzah: short prayer expressing the hope of “Next year in Jerusalem!” Chabad custom is not to recite the paragraph explaining that the Seder has been completed, because, explains Rabbi Gurevich, it never truly ends, as the spirit of questioning and personal growth continues throughout the year.

After the Seder Following the Seder and post-Seder songs, many, especially Sephardim, have the custom of reciting the Song of Songs, which describes in allegorical poetry the love between G-d and Israel. The last goblet of wine drunk, the last song sung, and the last children nodding off at the table…the Seder concludes. Rich with differences, animated with tradition, it comes again the next year.

Many thanks to Ms. Rivka Apfel, Mrs. Nicole Gabay, Rabbi Dovid Gurevich, Mrs. BathKhen Hamburg, Mrs. Orly Kashani and Mrs. Sheryl Levy for graciously consenting to be interviewed, and Mrs. Allison Friedman for her assistance.

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racism or

Injected negligence? The Ethiopian-Israeli population’s struggle with infertility-causing contraceptive

Tessa Nath


The Problem: Needles. Unexplained injections. A contraceptive that can ultimately render the female infertile. Sounds eerily reminiscent of fertility experiments performed in concentration camps on Jewish prisoners, leaving their reproductive organs maimed or destroyed entirely, forcing survivors to give birth to disabled children, or depriving them of the joy of parenthood altogether. Jews have often reflected on atrocities committed during the Holocaust and stood staunchly under the motto “Never Again.” But then how do we explain the recent release of news that Ethiopian women in Israel have been injected with Depo-Provera birth control shots, which, according to Drug Information Online, “[are] a form of progesterone, a female hormone that prevents ovulation (the release of an egg from an ovary). This medication also causes changes in [a woman’s] cervical mucus and uterine lining, making it harder for sperm to reach the uterus and harder for a fertilized egg to attach to the uterus.” Ethiopian women taking Depo-Provera are essentially lowering their fertility while under the pretense that the drug is only acting as a temporary form of birth control, not a permanent solution. As Ha’Aretz reports, about two months ago, “on an Educational Television program journalist Gal Gabbay revealed the results of interviews with 35 Ethiopian immigrants. The women’s testimony could help explain the almost 50 percent decline over the past 10 years in the birth rate of Israel’s Ethiopian community. According to the program, while the women were still in transit camps in Ethiopia they were sometimes intimidated or threatened into taking the injection.

‘They told us they are inoculations,’ said one of the women interviewed. ‘They told us people who frequently give birth suffer. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.’” This is completely unacceptable conduct for a democratic nation, and frankly, it is an embarrassment to Jews everywhere — a people who promote social responsibility and a mission of healing the nations. As Itzik Dasa, head of Tebeka (an organization that provides legal aid to Ethiopians and that, along with five other organizations, plans to collect Ethiopian women’s testimonies in order to com-

the Israeli Health Ministry’s current actions appear to finally expose their guilt. According to The Times of Israel, “last month [Israel’s Health Ministry] ordered the country’s [Health Ministry officials] to stop prescribing the drug to Ethiopians unless they are fully aware of the potential side effects, which can include decreased bone mineral density and difficulty getting pregnant for up to two years after the injections stop.” The injection was originally introduced to immigrants with the advice that raising children in Israel would be difficult and expensive, and that decreasing the number of children in a family would

They told us they are inoculations. They told us people who frequently give birth suffer. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” — anonymous Ethiopian woman

pile a court case), phrased it, “This story reeks of racism.” Less radically, Shlomo Molla, Ethiopian immigrant and Former Israeli lawmaker, attributes the administering of Depo-Provera to carelessness rather than overt racism: “It was a failure of the Health Ministry. It shouldn’t have given the women what they received in Ethiopia automatically,” he said. Israel’s Health Ministry previously denied the practice of forcibly injecting Ethiopian women, first brought to the forefront five years ago when Yedioth Ahronoth Ahronot published a report that showed a disproportionate number of Ethiopian women received DepoProvera injections every three months in lieu of the traditional daily pill. Despite the original lack of immediate action in 2008 to stop the practice,

ease the transition into the new country. “I do not know why offering family planning would be considered negative or even controversial, especially since our [Joint Distribution Committee {a Jewish humanitarian organization}] program is 100 percent voluntary,” Dr. Rick Hodes, in charge of the JDC clinic in Gondar, told The Times of Israel over e-mail. He stressed that the internationally-funded clinic offers patients the option of either the pill or the injection, and promotes universal access to treatments for reproductive health.

History of Ethiopian Jews: Although born with a different hue than the dominant Ashkenazi Jewish de-

mographic in Israel, Ethiopians in Israel are Jews — therefore, it is discrimination not for religious reasons, but for purely racial and cultural reasons. While it in no way vindicates Israeli doctors, it is worth noting that Ethiopian Jews have been separated from the Jewish majority for so long, that for the average observer, the ties are difficult to recognize. Therefore, we sometimes forget that we are not throwing stones at some far off enemy, but rather driving the knife further into our own hearts. According to the Jewish Federations of North America, “For more than 2,000 years, Ethiopian Jewry, called Falashas or outsiders by their neighbors, maintained their Jewish beliefs and practices in the remote hills of Gondar, away from the regulation of ruling dynasties and dominant religions.” There are several theories about how Ethiopian Jews, or Beta Israel (House of Israel) as they called themselves, are connected to the rest of the Jewish world. The Jewish Virtual Library lists four prominent theories: “the Beta Israel may be the lost Israelite tribe of Dan; they may be descendants of Menelik I, son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba; they may be descendants of Ethiopian Christians and pagans who converted to Judaism centuries ago; or they may be descendants of Jews who fled Israel for Egypt after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and eventually settled in Ethiopia.” After generations of separation, the twentieth century saw the reunification of Beta Israel with the rest of the Jewish world. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “in the early 1980’s, Ethiopia forbade the practice of Judaism and the teaching of Hebrew. Numerous mem-

Page 13 Winter 2013

[Israel] bers of the Beta Israel were imprisoned on fabricated charges of being “Zionist spies,” and Jewish religious leaders, Kesim, were harassed and monitored by the government.” In light of this, the Israeli government sought to save as many of their Jewish brethren as possible from oppression, organizing Operation Moses in Nov. of 1984, when 7,000 Jews were rescued and smuggled out of Ethiopia and into Israel. Operation Moses saved primarily women, young children and the sick, and it was not until Operation Solomon in 1990 when the rest of the Ethiopian Jews were allowed to leave Ethiopia under the pretense of family reunification. And thus, the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel was born.

tions and stereotypes about the Ethiopians’ cultural preferences. Meyers writes, “Multiple doctors have told us students to remember that Ethiopian patients don’t believe that they have been treated unless they are given an injection, and to remember to treat them with injections instead of pills whenever possible.” Are Israeli doctors hiding behind a thinly-veiled racial bias? Or do they truly believe that the experience of receiving an injection will convince Ethiopian patients that they have been treated, and thus, incite some sort of placebo effect? Regardless of the answer, the bottom line is that doctors need to be able to effectively communicate with their patients in order to ensure that they are treating the real people in front of them

Multiple doctors have told us students to remember that Ethiopian patients don’t believe that they have been treated unless they are given an injection, and to remember to treat them with injections instead of pills whenever possible.” — Sarah Meyers, Ha’Aretz

Nevertheless, despite being airlifted into Israel in several well-planned, topsecret rescue missions by the Israeli Defense Forces, Ethiopian Jews have not been able to successfully integrate themselves into the community, facing both economic and social hardships.

Cultural Clashes: A linguistic barrier ostracizes Ethiopian Jews — especially the older generation that spent most of their lives in Ethiopia. In the case of the Depo-Provera injections, it might just be a question of doctors not being able to communicate with their patients, and not blatant racism, especially since the Health Ministry does not admit to having ordered the injections in the first place. As Sarah Meyers points out in her Ha’Aretz article “‘Ethiopians like injections’: Stereotypes, language barriers and a failure of care,” the problem with treating Ethiopian women with Depo-Provera is not just that they may face harmful side-effects, but that they are unable to understand what the doctors are doing in the first place, making it impossible for them to have any say in the procedure. In light of this, doctors are forced to treat their patients based on assump-

— instead of simulacrum fabricated by their medical stereotypes. According to the UCLA Language Materials Project, 40,000 people in Israel speak Amharic (a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia), which makes up approximately 0.5 percent of Israel’s population. Although not a substantial portion of the linguistic demographic, there are simply too many Ethiopian immigrants fluent only in Amharic, compared to the small number of translators available. According to the Ha’Aretz article “Welfare system lacks Amharic speakers in community hubs,” even in communities like Kiryat Malakhi, where 15 percent of the residents are Ethiopian, only one social worker speaks Amharic. A possible solution to the problem would be to hire more translators, but even with 17.4 million Amharic speakers (15 million of whom are monolingual) and, conceivably, far fewer who would voluntarily live in Israel, this seems highly improbable.

A Similar History: Though admittedly, the following claims are based mainly on speculation and a few personal histories, in 1994, The Independent reported Rabbi Uzi Meshulam’s accusations that Yemenite

children were stolen from their parents and adopted by Ashkenazi Jews both from within Israel and abroad. While the Israeli government maintains that these claims are largely unfounded, several Yemenite women weave tales of woe similar to those of the Ethiopian women — both wronged by a culture in which they had only begun to step foot. Some people speculate that tales of people stealing Yemenite children are born out of the Yemenite Jews’ unease living in and adapting to a new land, as well as dealing with the hardships and discrimination they faced upon arrival. Nevertheless, Yemenite immigrants, such as Rachel Darshan, have chilling tales to tell. According to The Independent, “When she arrived in Israel in 1952, the family was sent to a camp and the babies taken away to nurseries. One day, when Rachel went to feed five-month-old Yoessef, he had disappeared. The nurse said he had been taken to hospital with a sore throat. ‘A few days later they said he died.’ The family was not shown the body or given a death certificate, although a false certificate was issued eight years later which, she says, contained inaccurate information. Rachel has nothing to remember her child by, but says: ‘All I know is he was beautiful.’” Yemenite Israeli Ainat Engel, wife of UCLA Jewish Awareness Movement Rabbi Avner Engel, maintains that whether or not the claims are true, the alleged kidnappings could not have been government mandated, since the IDF would not immediately jeopardize the safety of people they had just spent countless resources to rescue. “To say it was a conspiracy, to say that the Israeli government had some racist plot is ridiculous. It was probably some small group who caused harm. In every place in the world there [are] always bad people, but do I think Israel is less racist than the U.S.? Yes, because there’s a commonality of everyone being Jewish.” Both the Ethiopian Jews and the Yemenite Jews were airlifted out of their respective countries and brought to Israel, at the monetary and human expense of the Israeli Defense Forces. They were brought into a land they had only dreamt about — and were forced (implicitly or explicitly) to assimilate into the

dominant culture. While we hope that all this was done for the good of bringing in the lost tribe, of bringing in Jews who had been previously exiled from the Holy Land, Israel’s immigration practices speak strikingly to the contrary. We wait for brothers to stop fighting brothers. We wait.

Israel ’s lack of constitution

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a divisive debate over the state’s identity

Miriam Pinski

Content Editor “We hereby declare that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), and until the setting up of the duly elected bodies of the State in accordance with a Constitution, to be drawn up by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the first day of October, 1948, the People’s Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People’s Administration, shall constitute the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called ‘Israel.’” Or, at least, that was how it was supposed to happen. Instead, the Provisional Government became the de facto official government, and the Declaration of Israel’s Independence has become the de facto constitution. But just as the nation’s founders procrastinated the monumental task of drafting a constitution, so has every Israeli government since. The clash between the religious and the secular, though an oversimplification, is the heart of the struggle over the constitution. The religious in Israel would prefer government life to be based purely on the Torah and Halakha, whereas the more secular prefer a constitution that defines a separation between state and religion. Creating a constitution can define a nation: is it democratic and secular, or does it follow the original Jewish constitution — the Torah? Defining “Jewishness” would be a nearly impossible task, further complicated by differentiating being an Israeli from being a Jew (about 20 percent of the population is not Jewish). This is even more challenging now than when Israel was founded, as “Jewishness” was more generally accepted by

the founders as a secular, nationalist concept. Today, there is a necessary tension in the concept of a Jewish democracy, which is not to say it cannot be made to work. According to Israeli author and politician Avraham Burg’s 2012 opinion piece in The New York Times, “because Israel has never created a system of checks and balances between these two sources of authority (the democratic state and the Jewish state), they are closer than ever to a terrible clash.” Unlike the United States, which functions on a civic model in which the notion of

tion of laws passed by the different Knessets. Basic Laws can be passed with a supermajority (61 members of Parliament) that defines the relationship between the branches of government, the civil-military relationship, human rights, and the status of Jerusalem. However, until 1988, these laws were not listed together, nor have they ever been referred to as a constitution. Furthermore, they can be repealed or amended with the required majority, which allows for uncertainty and possible instability in the government. In Israel, the Declaration of Inde-

Because Israel has never created a system of checks and balances between these two sources of authority [the democratic state and the Jewish state], they are closer than ever to a terrible clash.” — Avraham Burg, Israeli author and politician

nationhood is based on citizenship, Israel uses an ethnic model in which biological kinship forms nationhood. The task of creating an Israeli identity is further complicated by economic issues. Although Israel was founded on socialist principles, the government has progressively liberalized the economy since the 1960s. This capitalism has disintegrated much of the welfare state, and, according to a March 2012 Bank of Israel report, net income inequality is increasing at a rate faster than the average rates of similarly developed countries. When determining the identity of the nation, it is unclear whether the founding principles of a more egalitarian, socialist state would be emphasized, or whether the recent capitalist, individualist model of civic duty would define Israel. The Harari Proposal, reached on June 13, 1950, resolved to create a constitution slowly, as an accumula-

pendence has been used in the absence of a Bill of Rights, as it outlines the basic principles of the state, such as ensuring the equality of all citizens, regardless of religion, gender or race. The two most significant Basic Laws were passed in the 12th Knesset in 1992: Securing Human Dignity and Freedom, and Freedom of Occupation, which includes a clause stipulating that Israel is both a democratic and a Jewish state. After these laws were passed, the Supreme Court, under Justice Aharon Barak, dramatically expanded its influence in regulating Knesset legislation. The court justified striking down laws that they deemed violated normative human rights standards. In the 1996 case Bank Mizrahi v. The Minister of Finance, Barak’s court ruled that Basic Laws are superior to ordinary legislation. For example, Barak’s court prohibited the Israeli military use of torture, or “moderate physical pressure.”

However, in a series of Supreme Court decisions, the Declaration of Independence was deemed not to have the validity of a constitution, and therefore was not supreme law. A lack of constitution led to a lack of cohesion between branches of government, since without a constitution, the division of power is not defined. This has created a power struggle between the Knesset and the Supreme Court. Since the Jewish state does not have clear constitutional limitations, the court system was given expansive powers. Under Justice Barak, the lack of separation of powers allowed the Supreme Court to become an activist court, pushing for legislation under the two new quasiconstitutional Basic Laws. Further justification is the Jewish history of placing great value in the judicial process. Deuteronomy 16:20 states “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof,” (Justice, justice you shall pursue). According to Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, executive director of Hillel at UCLA, a constitution would have to define the separation between church and state. This protects both religion and government from corruption. If laws are passed to force certain religious behavior, citizens who are not religiously-inclined will not become more religious, but only come to resent the institutions that enforce those laws. A constitution lays the framework for how a democracy will succeed. Without one, the aspirations for democracy in Israel are weakened or threatened. A slew of laws passed in the past year reflects the precarious nature of democracy in a state lacking a clear democratic framework. For example, in Oct. 2011, the Knesset passed a law requiring Palestinians and other non-Jewish citizens to swear allegiance to Israel

Page 15 Winter 2013

[Israel] as a “Jewish and democratic state.” Ironically, such an oath fails to reinforce Israel as either of those attributes. The oath is not required for Jews, who are automatically given citizenship thanks to the Right of Return, and therefore is inherently anti-democratic and discriminatory against Palestinians. As to whether a constitution should be created, Professor Arieh Saposnik is divided: “One part of me fears the assaults on basic democratic rights. The other part of me says the Israeli democracy has largely been able to fight off its biggest threats.” The current political spectrum in the Knesset, and

the uncertainty of who holds majority power in Israel, makes the process of defining Israel’s identity fraught with tension. Current efforts are underway to draft a constitution. Private groups are drafting their own versions. The Institute for Zionist Studies’ constitution secures the Jewish-Zionist nature of the state and calls for more land to be given to Jewish settlements. On the other side of the spectrum, the Adalah draft written by the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel defines the state as “democratic, bilingual, and multicultural” rather than Jewish, demands the right of

return for all Palestinians, and allows Jewish immigration only in the case of “humanitarian reasons.” The most promising effort, it seems, comes from within the Knesset. Since May 2003, the Constitution by Broad Consensus Project has been spearheaded by Knesset member Michael Eitan, who chairs the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee. The Committee aims to protect basic human rights, to allow for greater minority participation in government, and to define the structure and limits of power of government. Although I recognize my bias as an American citizen, I strongly be-

lieve that a constitution would create greater stability in Israel. A constitution would safeguard minority rights against a possible tyranny of the majority. It would institutionalize limits on the branches of government, particularly between the Knesset and the Supreme Court. Most importantly, it would define the values of the Israeli community. A constitution would instill a legal common denominator among citizens and emphasize basic civic duties. This sense of collectivity would allow for mutual respect and national unity, ultimately easing social tensions and political rifts.

Results of 2013 Israeli elections: coalition or conflict? Rachel Menitoff Staff Writer

Unpredictability is often the name of the game in a political election. If this is the case in general, it is even more so the norm in the State of Israel. In the January 22 Israeli elections, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud Beiteinu (a merged party of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud and ultra-nationalist Israel Beiteinu formerly headed by Avigdor Lieberman) received the largest single number of seats (31), down from the 42 seats it held in the outgoing Knesset. While Likud Beitenu’s win was expected, the diminution of its plurality was not. Professor David N. Myers, chair of the UCLA Department of History, commented, “The elections reveal that Prime Minister Netanyahu was not quite as omnipotent as had been assumed. That said, he is still the dominant force in Israeli politics.” Because Netanyahu’s party received the largest number of votes, he has been called upon by Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, to form an incoming gov-

ernment with coalition partners from other parties. Anticipating success, Netanyahu announced, “I thank you for giving me a chance, for the third time, to lead the State of Israel. It is a great privilege and a great responsibility.” A most striking election result is

observes, “Once the public thought that Netanyahu was a shoo-in, it assumed his victory and looked for a fresh face that would be focused on issues that he has not prioritized. This explains the meteoric rise of a new party [Yesh Atid]...”

Once the public thought that Netanyahu was a shoo-in, it assumed his victory and looked for a fresh face that would be focused on issues that he has not prioritized. This explains the meteoric rise of a new party [Yesh Atid]...” — David Makovsky, political scientist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy

the rousing and unanticipated second place finish of newcomer Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid (There is a Future) Party, with 19 seats. In assessing the results, David Makovsky, a political scientist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy,

With regard to the nuts and bolts of the rest of the election results, it was unforeseen that the liberal Labor Party, led by Shelly Yachimovich, would receive as few as 15 seats. While Yachimovich abandoned Labor’s perennial issue of advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in favor of working to satisfy

Page 16 Winter 2013

[Israel] middle-class Israelis who took to the streets in 2011 to protest the exorbitant cost of living and other economy-related frustrations, Monday morning quarterbacks argue that her insistence that she would never join a coalition with Netanyahu may well have suppressed the magnitude of her vote. After all, many felt that she and her party would then be irrelevant, when all was said and done. Kadima, a powerhouse centrist party under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (who has been in an irreversible coma for the last seven years) and then under his successors, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and then former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, barely eked out two seats. Livni, who abandoned Kadima this election cycle in order to create the new Hatnua Party, which focuses on the peace process with the Palestinians, won six seats. The ultra-religious and nationalist parties that have been part of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition in the previous Knesset aggregated 30 seats. Of these parties, the ultra-nationalist right-wing Jewish Home Party, led by Naftali Bennett, gained 12 seats. The conventional wisdom is that Netanyahu will likely ally himself with centrist Yesh Atid and other parties (which may or may not include some of the ultra-religious ones) to form a majority coalition. His government will then be more balanced than it has been and less reliant on the strength of the Haredi parties. Lapid has reassured Netanyahu that he will not participate in a blocking majority in which rival parties prevent the prime minister from forming a cohesive coalition. Lapid’s gesture

thoritatively about his resolve to refine the imperfections of the multiparty system and to provide greater economic opportunities, Netanyahu proved more vague and ambivalent with regard to his contemplated initiatives toward peace, citing that he will work to promote security and diplomatic responsibility. A cornerstone of Lapid’s platform is his conviction that ways must be found for the ultra-Orthodox to share in the burden of Israel’s external and/ or internal security by joining the Israeli Defense Forces or taking on a mandatory civilian service alternative. It will be incumbent on Prime

[Netanyahu’s] agenda, whose central plank is stasis, will remain government policy. I do not foresee significant change or progress on two key fronts: the Palestinians and the quest for social justice.”

Minister Netanyahu to buy into Lapid’s initiative if they become political partners. The ultra-Orthodox are expected to fight tooth and nail against Lapid’s proposal. While criticizing Netanyahu’s handling of peace efforts, reaffirming his commitment to restarting negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, and insisting he will not serve as a fig leaf in a hard-line government, Lapid has not positively spelled out a plan for jump-starting peace talks. Indeed, he realizes that while a majority of Israelis express a willingness and/ or desire that an independent Palestinian state be established alongside Israel, there are widespread doubts, even among many Israelis far to the

While speaking authoritatively about his resolve to refine the imperfections of the multiparty system and to provide greater economic opportunities, Netanyahu proved more vague and ambivalent with regard to his contemplated initiatives toward peace, citing that he will work to promote security and diplomatic responsibility.”

Photos from top to bottom: “Benjamin Netanyahu” by @netanyahu 2013 (Public Domain); “Shelly Yachimovich” by ‫ צחי לרנר‬2008 (Attribution); “Leader of the Opposition Tzipi Livni” by Itzik Edri 2009 (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0); “Yair Lapid” by Alon Ron, Ha’Aretz 2013 (Attribution); “Naftali Bennett at The Israel Project’s pre-election foreign-policy debate” by Mati Milstein 2013 (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0)

goes a long way toward securing Netanyahu’s renewed prime-ministership. Lapid will likely play an active role in the partnership. In rationalizing and putting the best face on his tepid reelection, Netanyahu says that his plan is to extend a hand to all people across the political spectrum. To that end, he said, “We must establish a government that is as broad as possible and I’ve already started out on that task.” While speaking au-

ing Palestinian State that may one day reemerge as a hostile enemy, no matter what is negotiated at the time of a mutually acceptable resolution to the impasse. The likely coalition of Netanyahu and Lapid provides opportunities that may not have been available to Netanyahu in the past, when he was hemmed in by those further to the right than himself. It will test his sincerity and determination and the earnestness of his initiatives to work toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It will truly assess the firmness of Netanyahu’s promise of a broadly-based government serving

left of center, that peace in the foreseeable future is possible. There are real questions as to whether there are potential partners for peace on the Palestinian side and whether the radical Hamas and moderate Fatah factions will be able to reconcile with each other, and then, on top of that, accept the existence of a Jewish state. Finally, it is not clear whether Israel feels it is worth risking its security needs by acquiescing to a neighbor-

the needs and wants of all. UCLA’s Myers, though, is skeptical. “[Netanyahu’s] agenda, whose central plank is stasis, will remain government policy. I do not foresee significant change or progress on two key fronts: the Palestinians and the quest for social justice.”

Postscript, as we are about to go to press: In a totally unlikely and unanticipated move that could pull the rug out from under Netanyahu, Lapid and Bennett have recently announced an alliance. They have proclaimed that neither party will join any coalition without the other. These seemingly strange bedfellows both favor requiring the ultra-Orthodox to serve in the army or render equivalent civilian service. Regarding peace overtures to the Palestinians, they are diametrically opposed to one another. Though Lapid is theoretically open to the process and ultimately to a two-state solution, Bennett’s bedrock position is opposition to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. How stable this new partnership can be is anyone’s guess. Whether Netanyahu can lure either Lapid or Bennett to his camp with promises of significant cabinet portfolios is another. A major concern is whether the bizarresounding union might make it impossible for Netanyahu to put together a viable coalition. In fact, it may make Likud Beitenu’s victory at the polls a pyrrhic one. Only time will tell.

Page 17 Winter 2013


Israel: the next Arab state a discovery of oil

Yona Remer Staff Writer

It is commonplace among the leaders of the young state of Israel to jokingly remark about the endowment of the nation’s natural resources. Perhaps Golda Meir’s quip best illustrates this frustration: “Let me tell you something us Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!” Until recent discoveries, Israel’s energy industry had been relegated primarily to imports, which have proven costly and unreliable. Events like the Oil Embargo of 1973 (a result of the Yom Kippur War), and, more recently, the continuous disruption of the transportation of natural gas via pipeline in the Sinai from Egypt, reflect the fragile state of Israel’s ability to meet its energy demands. Since the 2011 Egyptian revolution resulting in the ouster of Prime Minister

ploration firm, is slated to begin production at Tamar and Dalit this year. According to Israel National Gas Lines (INGL), the first week of production of the Tamar field is expected to save the Israeli energy industry nearly 500 million NIS (over $130 million). The Israeli government boosted its projection of 2013’s Gross Domestic Product to 3.8 percent from 3.0 percent as a result of the growing natural gas sector. Ultimately, the opportunities presented by the discovery prove far greater in scope than enhancing domestic consumption. With the development of the necessary infrastructure, a future of oil exportation could enable the Israeli economy to grow significantly. In fact, according to Haaretz, Jordan recently approached Israel as a potential recipient of Israeli natural gas. Similarly, Cyprus expressed interest in develop-

The discovery and commercial viability of Israel’s natural gas fields prove to be potential game-changers for the region’s development and a bright spot for the Israeli economy.”

Hosni Mubarak, terror cells operating in the Sinai have bombed the pipeline that supplies Israel and Jordan with natural gas a staggering 15 times. However, recent discoveries of offshore natural gas fields put Israel in a position to become more energy independent and even a primary actor in the Mediterranean energy industry. The commercial viability of three large natural gas fields (Tamar, Dalit and Leviathan) possess the capacity to meet Israel’s domestic energy demands for the next 150 years, according to Bloomberg Business. Noble Energy Inc., an American-based ex-

ing offshore gas and commercial partnerships with Israel. The discovery and commercial viability of Israel’s natural gas fields prove to be potential game-changers for the region’s development and a bright spot for the Israeli economy. Nevertheless, many proponents point to a series of obstacles facing the nascent Israeli energy industry. For starters, for a nation without any preexisting infrastructure and expertise in the field of oil production and export, initial investment and a steep learning curve could account for unforeseen costs and a heightened risk of

“ENI Oil Platfrom Bouri DP4” by Cipiota, 2008 (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0)

DRILLING IN THE DEEP: An oil rig off the coast of Israel.

an unprofitable enterprise. A recent report issued by a renowned think-tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, estimates that each oil field will likely cost upwards of $100 million and require a $2 billion commitment from Israel for risk capital. Furthermore, with 19 new wells scheduled to begin production throughout 2013, environmentalists are raising alarms about the potential implications of a disastrous spill. Drilling at depths that far exceed that of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster (an underwater spill that took 87 days to cap in the Gulf of Mexico), Israel must take extraordinary precautions to avoid a similar environmental catastrophe. To add yet another complication to the viability of this project, the greatest concern of the Israeli government is one that has remained a constant presence in the region for decades — security. The prospect of vulnerable targets offshore causes tremendous anxiety for the Israeli government and military, which are faced with the daunting task of defending installations far beyond Israel’s land boundaries. How Israel will navigate these murky waters remains unclear. Nevertheless, Israel’s current position warrants a degree

of cautious optimism. With the resources available to achieve energy independence and break from susceptibility to foreign markets, the Israeli economy is poised to grow. Moreover, the prospect of further regional economic integration could serve to add an impetus for a renewed commitment to peace and stability. The tools of international economic cooperation, necessary for the development of the gas fields in the Mediterranean, often facilitate an unheralded level of trust between nations. If successful, the development of these fields will require extensive collaboration between nations and force an exchange of hostilities for partnerships, especially in demarcating maritime borders and constructing a potential Mediterranean pipeline. As Golda Meir famously expressed, the Israeli nation has long been condemned to a position of tremendous resource scarcity. With the opening of the spigots in the Mediterranean, there are new opportunities to change the dynamics of the Israeli economy. However, the government of Israel must work tirelessly to ensure that this blessing remains a blessing and does not devolve into a curse — avoiding treacherous pitfalls will require constant diligence.

Campus Progress funds, trains, and mentors students running a diverse and growing group of progressive campus media organizations. For more, visit

Page 18 Winter 2013

[Jewish Society]

noun 1. [insert definition here] The Haskalah


For centuries, religion was at the center of Jewish people’s lives. That is, until the late 18th century — the beginning of the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment. The Haskalah was an intellectual movement that began in Germany, Poland, and Central Europe, and encouraged Jews to study secular topics, explore rationality, and assimilate into European society. The father of this movement, Moses Mendelssohn, was a philosopher of the European Enlightenment. He insisted that Judaism was not an authoritarian religion and was open to changing with the times. Mendelssohn even prompted the translation of the Torah into German. His movement strongly influenced both the Reform and Zionist movements.

Orthodox Judaism is the most traditional version of modern Judaism. Orthodox Judaism accepts the written Torah and the oral laws of the Talmud. Orthodox Jews maintain a strong interpretation of the Jewish laws and live their lives in a strict Halakha-abiding manner, including a strict dress code, a kosher household, observation of the Sabbath, and more.


Reconstructionist Judaism was initially an offshoot of the Conservative movement. The denomination is based on Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan’s definition of Judaism as “an evolving, religious civilization.” In 1922, Rabbi Kaplan insisted that the prayers and rituals of Judaism be “reconstructed” around the changing social and historical climate as Since the Haskalah, Judaism has he created the Society for the Advancespread out into many denominations. The ment of Judaism in New York City. Reform movement began in Germany in the early 1800s in response to the rigidity of the Orthodox lifestyle. Sermons were recited in German instead of Hebrew, In lieu of these denominations, there music was added to the services, and the are other branches of the religion that dietary laws of Kashrut were abandoned Jews may subscribe to. With varying — justified by the rationale that ethical degrees of adherence to Halakha come behavior, not ritual behavior, was most different definitions of what makes a important. Also, the Talmud was rejected person Jewish. Therefore, it is imporand replaced by the ethical teachings of tant to look at what a multitude of Jews the Prophets. Today, Reform Judaism and Jewish scholars consider the definhonors G-d, the Torah, and Israel, while ing aspect of what being a Jew truly supporting the diversity of Jews and vary- means — whether it is the way a person ing methods of practice. practices the religion, or whether it is simply the intrinsic identity with which someone is born. Although the laws of Judaism are Conservative Judaism takes a more laid out in the Torah, many of the difmoderate position in between Reform and ferences between the denominations Orthodox Judaism. Conservatism mainarise from the various interpretations of tains the tradition of Judaism but allows the ancient text. The Torah illuminates for modernizing the religion with the the stories of the Jewish people and times. Generating the new denomination, uses these stories to establish the rules, Zacharias Frankel split from the Reform morals and ethics that the followers movement of Germany in the 1840s in an must incorporate into their lives. The effort to preserve more of the traditional largest questions that follow are: Who aspects of Judaism. His movement acwrote the Torah, and what is the deeper cepted both the Talmud and the Torah, meaning of the words? Is a person truly but recognized that the practices could Jewish if he or she does not follow the vary culturally. Conservative Jews obtext completely? There is technically serve the Sabbath and some dietary laws, no single answer, since many Jews see but maintain leniency in lifestyle. these issues very differently.


The Issue


Who is a

Jew? Alexa Lucas Staff Writer

In the book of Leviticus 16:16, it states, “G-d dwells amongst them in the midst of their impurities.” According to the Talmud, Sanhedrin 44a, “a Jew, although he has transgressed, is a Jew.” In these terms, regardless of a person’s disobedience of the written religion, if he or she is born Jewish, he or she is a Jew. Another big question is: Do one or both parents pass on Judaism to the child? In Deuteronomy 7:3-4, the Torah states that “You shall not intermarry with them…For he will turn your son from following Me, and they will worship the gods of others, and the wrath of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will quickly destroy us.” These lines do not explicitly disclose the mother as the bearer of Judaism, yet Rashi, a prominent medieval rabbi, explains how the wording leads to such an interpretation: “Your daughter’s son, born of a heathen man, is called ‘your son,’ but your son’s son born of a heathen woman, is not called ‘your son,’ but ‘her son.’” Therefore, according to Rashi’s interpretation, a person is only born Jewish if the mother is Jewish.

Torah Interpretation

Jew [joo]

“ “

According to UCLA students,

Jewish is...

Judaism is the taste of your bubbe’s matzo ball soup, the feeling of being wrapped in a tallit, and the excitement of meeting another Jew unexpectedly.” — Meredith Duncan

I think what makes me a Jew is not only my love for Jewish holidays, Jewish culture, and of course, warm challah bread, but also my relationship with this world that mirrors the ideals of the Jewish people.” — Lizzie Matusov

Page 19 Winter 2013

[Jewish Society]

Exploring the different denominations

According to many Conservative and Orthodox Jews, G-d is considered the author of the Torah — therefore, the Torah is divine law. G-d revealed the Torah to many other nations in seventy different languages, but the Jews were the only nation to accept the text, earning the title of “the chosen people.” The text contains many commandments — some are explained through logic and reason, while others are left to the understanding of G-d’s authority. Many followers of the commandments believe that the Jewish people are a product of the Torah, and to maintain Judaism, it is their duty to follow G-d’s word. Others do not see the Torah as divine law. Seventeenth century philosopher Baruch Spinoza believed that the Torah is simply political law transcribed by a plethora of authors during various periods of Jewish history. Thus, the Torah is “primitive, unscientific, particularistic and subversive to progress and reason.” Spinoza posits, “the Torah is a product of the Jewish people, not the other way around.”


The traditions that I grew up with make me similar to others, so I feel a strong connection with other Jews.” — Dustin Randolph I am Jewish because I believe in the moral teachings and life guidance that the Hebrew cannon and the history of the Jewish people provide. I do not expel myself from the Jewish faith because I enjoy bacon; that is not what connects me to my religion.” — Stephen Leicht

Current Rabbinic Interpretations Providing a Reform interpretation of Judaism, Cantor David Shukiar of Temple Adat Elohim explained that even though someone is born Jewish, this does not mean that he or she is automatically a Jew. “I believe that we all must choose to be Jewish each and every day. Being Jewish means that we actively work to better our world. Simply being born doesn’t accomplish this,” said Shukiar. Rabbi Ted Riter of Temple Adat Elohim believes that G-d “inspired” the Torah, yet it was still “written by human hands.” According to him, “[The Torah] is our G-d experience as people, and thus, divinely inspired.” Shukiar also commented, “Simply because G-d authored our Torah does not mean I accept that each and every story is an actual event. The lessons to me are the same whether the Red Sea parted or not.” It is his commitment to utilize the Jewish teachings to improve the world and to educate children that everyone has an obligation to heal the world. “My Jewish identity is stronger because I believe that I should not stand idly while others suffer. As a Light unto the Nations, we are the example others will follow,” explained Shukiar. In Shukiar’s opinion, Reform Judaism allows for its followers to make informed choices about what aspects of the religion are most meaningful in their own lives in order to form strong Jewish identities. “For example, we cannot simply reject wearing a kippah. How can you know if wearing a kippah is meaningful if you have never tried it? We should try it, live with it, experience it and then see if it enhances our Jewish identities,” Shukiar insists. Reform Judaism is not defined by a responsibility to follow all the mitzvot. It is the individual’s pursuit of a closer relationship with G-d by figuring out which mitzvot are most meaningful to that person. “Reform Judaism generally holds that Judaism is an evolving religion continually refining our understanding of what God is calling us to do in this world. In practice, we uphold a belief in repairing this world through social action, equality and inclusivity. We believe that Judaism is a tradition of intention and not to

be followed passively or without great care,” said Riter. “The hard part is that many choose to not observe certain parts of Judaism without experiencing them first. I do not believe that this is Reform Judaism. That is not an informed choice. We are Israel, those who wrestle with God to seek out our own deeper meaning in Judaism,” said Shukiar. Orthodox Rabbi Jacob Rupp of UCLA’s Jewish Awareness Movement explained how his denomination views Judaism. Not only does he believe G-d is the author of the five written books within the Torah, but he also believes that G-d is the author of the oral Torah and all relevant subsequent legal codes. When asked how he defines a Jew, Rupp replied, “According to Jewish law, Shulchan Aruch, a person is Jewish if a person’s mother is born Jewish or if they perform a Halakhically acceptable conversion.” Still, to delve into Judaism, one cannot simply attain the status of Jew. “An honest conversion is more than bathing in a mikvah for men and women and a bris for men. The honest acceptance that the potential convert will follow all of the commandments is a true conversion.” In accordance with the defining aspect of a Jew, Rupp added that according to the Talmud, a Jew is a Jew regardless of practices or ideology. “That being said, there are certain important components of Judaism. There is a Jewish culture and [there are] Jewish values. These values are expressed in the Torah and in subsequent rabbinic works.” Rupp explained that the Orthodox denomination views the focus of Judaism as a strong relationship with G-d through mitzvot. “The way to get close to G-d is by doing the things he tells us to do. Judaism is a relationship. In a relationship you do things that the other party wants even if you do not agree or want to do those things. For example, if G-d says [to] keep kosher, you cannot get close to G-d through eating unless it is kosher.” Orthodox Judaism is different from many other denominations because the interpretation of the Torah does not change with people or social trends. “These commandments are forever relevant because G-d is not bound[ed] by time and so if he tells us to do something, it is just as relevant as what he told the Jews to do in the desert,” said Rupp.

The front cover photo of an art piece titled “Micrographie: Dessin Fait avec des Écritures du Rabbin Verner 1891-1901” and back cover photo of “Bandelette de Torah” were taken at The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme by staff photographer Andrew Rosenstein. Located in a townhouse built in the 1600s in the heart of Paris, the museum opened in 1998 and serves as an important effort to preserve Jewish history in Europe.

Ha'Am Winter 2013  

A Look at Jewish Traditions at Home and Abroad

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