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Sunday, December 27, 2009

forced circumcised - Happy Hannukah Penis

The Hanukkah Story

Published: December 10, 2009

Tonight Jewish kids will light the menorah, spin their dreidels and get their presents, but Hanukkah is the most adult of holidays. It commemorates an event in which the good guys did horrible things, the bad guys did good things and in which everybody is flummoxed by insoluble conflicts that remain with us today. It’s a holiday that accurately reflects how politics is, how history is, how life is.

It begins with the spread of Greek culture. Alexander’s Empire, and the smaller empires that succeeded it, brought modernizing ideas and institutions to the Middle East. At its best, Hellenistic culture emphasized the power of reason and the importance of individual conscience. It brought theaters, gymnasiums and debating societies to the cities. It raised living standards, especially in places like Jerusalem.

Many Jewish reformers embraced these improvements. The Greeks had one central idea: their aspirations to create an advanced universal culture. And the Jews had their own central idea: the idea of one true God. The reformers wanted to merge these two ideas.

Urbane Jews assimilated parts of Greek culture into their own, taking Greek names like Jason, exercising in the gymnasium and prospering within Greek institutions. Not all Jews assimilated. Some resisted quietly. Others fled to the hills. But Jerusalem did well. The Seleucid dynasty, which had political control over the area, was not merely tolerant; it used imperial money to help promote the diverse religions within its sphere.

In 167 B.C., however, the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, issued a series of decrees defiling the temple, confiscating wealth and banning Jewish practice, under penalty of death. It’s unclear why he did this. Some historians believe that extremist Jewish reformers were in control and were hoping to wipe out what they saw as the primitive remnants of their faith. Others believe Antiochus thought the Jews were disloyal fifth columnists in his struggle against the Egyptians and, hence, was hoping to assimilate them into his nation.

Regardless, those who refused to eat pork were killed in an early case of pure religious martyrdom.

As Jeffrey Goldberg, who is writing a book on this period, points out, the Jews were slow to revolt. The cultural pressure on Jewish practice had been mounting; it was only when it hit an insane political level that Jewish traditionalists took up arms. When they did, the first person they killed was a fellow Jew.

In the town of Modin, a Jew who was attempting to perform a sacrifice on a new Greek altar was slaughtered by Mattathias, the old head of a priestly family. Mattathias’s five sons, led by Judah Maccabee, then led an insurgent revolt against the regime.

The Jewish civil war raised questions: Who is a Jew? Who gets to define the right level of observance? It also created a spiritual crisis. This was not a battle between tribes. It was a battle between theologies and threw up all sorts of issues about why bad things happen to faithful believers and what happens in the afterlife — issues that would reverberate in the region for centuries, to epic effect.

The Maccabees are best understood as moderate fanatics. They were not in total revolt against Greek culture. They used Greek constitutional language to explain themselves. They created a festival to commemorate their triumph (which is part of Greek, not Jewish, culture). Before long, they were electing their priests.

On the other hand, they were fighting heroically for their traditions and the survival of their faith. If they found uncircumcised Jews, they performed forced circumcisions. They had no interest in religious liberty within the Jewish community and believed religion was a collective regimen, not an individual choice.

They were not the last bunch of angry, bearded religious guys to win an insurgency campaign against a great power in the Middle East, but they may have been among the first. They retook Jerusalem in 164 B.C. and rededicated the temple. Their regime quickly became corrupt, brutal and reactionary. The concept of reform had been discredited by the Hellenizing extremists. Practice stagnated. Scholarship withered. The Maccabees became religious oppressors themselves, fatefully inviting the Romans into Jerusalem.

Generations of Sunday school teachers have turned Hanukkah into the story of unified Jewish bravery against an anti-Semitic Hellenic empire. Settlers in the West Bank tell it as a story of how the Jewish hard-core defeated the corrupt, assimilated Jewish masses. Rabbis later added the lamp miracle to give God at least a bit part in the proceedings.

But there is no erasing the complex ironies of the events, the way progress, heroism and brutality weave through all sides. The Maccabees heroically preserved the Jewish faith. But there is no honest way to tell their story as a self-congratulatory morality tale. The lesson of Hanukkah is that even the struggles that saved a people are dappled with tragic irony, complexity and unattractive choices.


Comparing 'fanatic' Maccabees to modern 'Jewish hard-core'

By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent

Last Update: 14/12/2009 11:00

Hanukkah is one of the most beloved holidays within Jewish-American circles. However, one man - researcher, journalist, and commentator David Brooks - has ignited an expected flame around Festival of Lights tables across America this year.

A New York Times op-ed piece, "The Hanukkah Story," penned by Brooks and published during the holiday's first eve, is stirring heated debate table-side, as well as in the Jewish blogosphere.

Some readers declared their holiday "officially ruined," calling on Brooks to be ashamed, while others praise him for shining a light on the true nature of the lovable winter festival.

In his article, Brooks seeks to trace the historical underpinnings of Hanukkah, thus refuting its governing myth of "the story of unified Jewish bravery against an anti-Semitic Hellenic empire."

The writers emphasizes the fact that the Maccabean Revolt took place in a time of internal Jewish discord which culminated in what he sees as a Jewish civil war.

While the Maccabees, who the writer says are "best understood as moderate fanatics," were "fighting heroically for their traditions and the survival of their faith," Brooks emphasizes the fact that the language they chose to justify their rebellion was in fact that of Greek law.

"They were not the last bunch of angry, bearded religious guys to win an insurgency campaign against a great power in the Middle East, but they may have been among the first," Brooks wrote in his New York Times article.

While Brooks' moral to the Hanukkah story - that there is no such thing as a clean victory - isn't necessarily new, some more inflammatory comments did seem to hit a nerve with his readers, including his mentioning of the forced circumcisions the Maccabees conducted on Hellenized Jews and the idea that "Rabbis later added the lamp miracle to give God at least a bit part in the proceedings."

One reader went as far as arguing that Brooks "be content to see pigs slaughtered before a statues of Zeus and Apollo in the Temple," while others wrote they considered his article a personal affront, one which threatens to spoil the taste of the traditional holiday doughnut.

"What an inappropriate article," wrote Valerie from New York in her comment to the Brooks' op-ed. adding that the piece "quotes history while fully distorting the facts - and attempts to take the joy out of a beautiful holiday with a tradition of hope and renewal."

"In spite of your 'faux' intellectualism, this will be a beautiful night of family gatherings, of embracing our friends, our children and grandchildren," Valerie added.

A reader from Evanston declared his holiday "officially ruined," adding, however, that he did "appreciate the history lesson, as well as the honesty. Hard not to wonder what other lies my Sunday School teacher told me."

This latest comment made a direct reference to Brooks' article, where the writer attacks "generations of Sunday school teachers," while also mentioning the fact that West Bank settlers tell the story as one which shows how the "Jewish hard-core defeated the corrupt, assimilated Jewish masses."

A reader from Corning, New York, said he admired Brooks' "courage in attempting to clarify the complexities of this religious/political experience."

"I wish, growing up, I was taught about the mix of the spiritual and the nasty in Catholic history. You'll probably catch hell for your honesty," the reader added.

Some readers who were postivily impressed by the article, which they considered thought-provoking, were surprised to find out that they were unable to upload its link to the social networking service Facebook, as some agile readers had already reported the piece as "offensive content."

Another commentator said he was "shamed by Mr. Brooks 'Story,' saying that although he considered himself to be "well-educated and a history buff, but I thoughtlessly assumed that Hanukkah is a happy holiday."

"I'm aware that there must be other views, but I'm also aware that Mr. Brooks is not simply telling an old story; he's telling us about human history, ourselves, and where we are now, a nation divided by religions and politics and wars in a world just as divided. And yet we are preparing for holidays, all of which were born from cataclysmic violence, humans feeding the earth with the blood of humans - all for 'good' causes," the reader added.


Rabbi sexual cringe

Last update - 16:34 24/12/2009
U.S. rabbi involved in sex scandal led fight against Israel conversions
By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondent
Tags: Israel news, Jewish world

It is hard to imagine a more embarrassing situation in which to find an exclusive ultra-Orthodox organization - a group that was a standard-bearer in the fight against "breaches in the wall of conversion" and "the penetration of complete gentiles into the vineyard of Israel."

These breaches pale into insignificance in comparison with the accusations against the man who heads the organization itself: according to the claims, Rabbi Leib Tropper of Rockland County abandoned the apparently stringent Halakhic standards of his Haredi organization and established a conversion process based on his most private impulses.

A report in the New York Post earlier this week revealed a sensational story about "a prominent Orthodox rabbi has been caught on tape discussing his apparent love affair with a shiksa he was converting to Judaism."

The woman involved is 32-year-old Shannon Orand of Houston, who still seeks to convert from Christianity to Judaism. The bulk of the report deals with embarrassing comments that the rabbi made during a phone call, during which he was recorded demanding the woman perform a number of sexual services for himself and his friends in exchange for granting her a conversion certificate.

Only at the very end of the Post report is it mentioned that at the start of the month, Rabbi Tropper resigned from his position as head of the Eternal Jewish Family organization, which dealt with conversions. But the connection to the group is in fact the story's punch line, making the affair another incident in the ongoing crisis in the world of conversion.

This connection also explains the extent to which an alleged case of blackmail has rocked the rabbinic world in Israel and the United States, and also has a complex relationship with the business dealings of the chairman of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, Brazilian Jewish entrepreneur Guma Aguiar.

Rabbi Tropper's stated goal in founding the Eternal Jewish Family was to "fortify the walls of conversion," amid an ideological debate between the Haredi and national camps in Israel. While functioning as a well-known rabbi in the New York area and head of the Kol Yaakov yeshiva, Rabbi Tropper enlisted wealthy Jews in the Haredi fight against to non- ultra-Orthodox conversions, especially those carried out by special conversion courts in Israel headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman.

As such, the doors of senior Haredi officals were thrown open to him, including that of Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv, a leader of the Lithuanian Haredi sect, and rabbi Tropper himself had the title of gaon ("most learned") bestowed upon him by the ultra-Orthodox press - all because of his efforts and comments against conversions by the Conversion Authority, against the "infiltration" of gentiles into the people of Israel.

When news of the affair began to emerge two weeks ago, posters denouncing Tropper were plastered across the Haredi city of Bnei Brak, whose title commanded: "Leave impurity." The text's anonymous authors threatened that if he did not quit the organization, "We will publicize our voice aloud, accompanied by pornographic pictures and shocking video clips." The rabbi did indeed announce his resignation, but failed in his efforts to hush up the affair.

It was leaked to American Jewish bloggers, the audio tape was posted on YouTube, and the Post published the story (under the headline "Tal-mood for love: Sex-tape rabbi tries to 'share' hottie," referring to one of Tropper's demands in the tape).

The current scandal is not the first in which the Eternal Jewish Family and Tropper have been involved. Tropper recently accused Aguiar of assaulting him in a Jerusalem hotel in April while the rabbi served as a prosecution witness against the businessman in a civil suit in Florida. Aguiar - who recently resigned from the organization - is accused of entering Rabbi Leib Tropper's room at the David Citadel Hotel, assaulting him and threatening to cause him further harm.

At the time of the alleged attack, Tropper was testifying at Aguiar's trial on embezzlement charges brought before a Florida court by the businessman's uncle, Thomas Kaplan.

As part of a war of slander between the pair, a notice was published in the Haredi newspaper Hamevaser, according to which rabbis close to Aguiar gave up their stringent halakhic demands with regard to his wife. The notice alleges that the businessman is "married to a woman who underwent a very dubious conversion."

Tropper's associates claim that Orand, the tape and the posters are all connected to this legal dispute. One of the associates told Haaretz that, "Guma Aguiar succeeded in throwing Rabbi Tropper to the trash."

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