| Friday, 30 September 2011 00:00|
| Rabbi James Rosenberg|
I am standing in an elegant, open-to-the-sky, stone shrine – members of Chabad call it the Ohel – facing the large tombstones of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh and most probably last Lubavitcher Rebbe, and his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzhok Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe. It is a hot and sticky Sunday morning in late August here at the Montifiore Cemetery in the Cambria Heights section of Queens.
I have found a place on one side of the square structure, squeezed among a crowd of men and boys, whose rather formal attire and peyyes, side locks, suggest that the majority are Lubavitcher Hasidim. Most are chanting in Hebrew from the Book of Psalms – some slowly, some rapid fire – creating a kind of musical cacophony not unpleasant to the ear. On the opposite side of the Ohel, behind the elaborately carved tombstones, stand a number of modestly dressed women and girls.
While a partial roof covers a section of the Ohel, most of us visiting the graves and the monuments marking them are exposed to the weather; this central space is filled with a deep pile of hand-written notes – many torn into pieces – requesting that the Rebbe intercede with God Himself on behalf of sick and troubled loved ones. Suspending my disbelief, at least for the moment, I hear the faint echo of that story in Genesis, which tells of Jacob’s dream of a ladder connecting heaven and Earth: “Mah norah ha’makom ha’zeh! How awesome is this place!”
| Tuesday, 20 September 2011 02:24|
| Rabbi James Rosenberg|
Many readers of The Jewish Voice & Herald know Dr. Carol Ingall, currently the Dr. Bernard Heller Professor of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. During the many years that Ingall and her family lived in Providence, she was a strong advocate for the advancement of all forms of Jewish education. An involved member of Temple Emanu-El, Ingall offered her time and her talent to its rich program of adult Jewish learning. In 1980, she joined the staff of our local Bureau of Jewish Education (now part of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island), serving as its executive director from 1985-1990.
Ingall is the editor of “The Women Who Reconstructed American Jewish Education, 1910-1965,” published in 2010 by Brandeis University Press. As editor, she has written a thoughtful and thought-provoking introduction as well as three of the 10 essays – each one exploring the contributions of an extraordinary woman to American Jewish education. The first chapter, by way of exception, focuses upon two women social workers, Ethel Feineman and Grace Weiner, who were active in San Francisco’s Jewish settlement houses primarily during the second decade of the 20th century.
| Friday, 02 September 2011 13:19|
| Rabbi James Rosenberg|
We will never forget where we were when we first heard the news on that fateful Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 2001. I happened to be in a doctor’s office when I saw on TV one of the towers of the World Trade Center implode before my disbelieving eyes. No! No! This can’t be happening. I must be watching a movie; but I haven’t paid for the ticket, and there is no exit from the theater.
I was frightened, disoriented, unhinged, “unstuck in time” like Billy Pilgrim, the antihero of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s 1960s classic, “Slaughterhouse Five.” But even in my radical confusion, I had enough presence of mind to say to my doctor: “The United States as we have known it has just come to an end. From this moment on we will always feel vulnerable. We know now that it CAN happen here.”
During those first few days of sorrow and pain, I took comfort in the powerful words of the 20th century Israeli poet, Avraham Shlonsky: “I swear this night of terror/ Shall not have passed in vain;/I swear this morning I’ll not live unchanged,/As if I were no wiser even now, even now.”
| Friday, 19 August 2011 16:05|
Rabbi James RosenbergJoseph Braude is a Providence native son. This past June, Spiegel & Grau, a division of Random House, published his second book, “The Honored Dead: A Story of Friendship, Murder, and the Search for Truth in the Arab World.” Pre-publication promotional material categorizes the book as “narrative non-fiction.”
In his book, Braude tells the true story of being embedded for four months in early 2008 within the police force of Precinct 5 in Casablanca, Morocco, now a city of about 3.2 million inhabitants. At the heart of this page-turner lies the murder of a 46-year-old Moroccan Berber, Ibrahim Dey, in the warehouse of a wealthy Jew. The confessed killer is Al-Raddad Murtazig, an Arab private in the Rapid Intervention Forces.
Braude finds himself embroiled in this case because of his deepening friendship with Muhammad Bari, who – like his murdered friend – is also a Berber. Bari, wrote Braude, “lives with his wife, eight children, and a litter of kittens in a $26-a-month clay and concrete flat” in Casablanca. Bari, along with Braude, becomes obsessed with getting to the truth of Dey’s murder; but the involvement of Berber, Arab and Jew compels the authorities to treat this case as a matter of “national security,” thereby increasing the level of bureaucratic obfuscation.
Braude seems to have a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the Middle East and North Africa in general and of Morocco in particular. As background for his narrative, for example, he writes of the impact of the May 16, 2003 terrorist attack in Casablanca and the massive police action in that same city on April 10, 2007. He informs us that 40 percent of the nearly 32 million Moroccans are of Berber descent and have their own language known as Shilha. We learn that the Jewish population of Morocco, which was 265,000 in 1947, is now reduced to about 5,000. To provide a context for the wheeling and dealing in Casablanca’s Precinct 5, he tells us that, “[Sixty] percent of Moroccans surveyed in 2006 reported having found it necessary to pay a bribe during the previous year.”
| Friday, 05 August 2011 17:02|
| Rabbi James Rosenberg|
Kenan Malik, a British writer and broadcaster, contributed a grimly prophetic op-ed piece to the July 7 issue of The New York Times under the title “Assimilation’s Failure, Terrorism’s Rise.” According to Malik, “[m]ulticulturalism has become a fraught issue throughout Europe in recent years” in such countries as Great Britain, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands; he adds that the attack on multiculturalism is a coded way of attacking immigration and immigrants – especially, of course, Muslims.
Central to Malik’s sophisticated and compelling analysis is his contention that “multiculturalism has come to have two meanings that are rarely distinguished. On one hand, it refers to a society made diverse by mass immigration, and on the other to the policies governments employ to manage such diversity. The failure to distinguish between these meanings has made it easier to use attacks on multiculturalism as a means of blaming minorities for the failure of government policy.”
Some European nations have devised multicultural programs that divide their citizenries into “ethnic boxes”; in such cases, echoing the manner in which medieval European rulers dealt with their ghettoized Jews, today’s European governments have chosen to deal not with the needs of individual citizens but rather with “so-called community leaders, often the most conservative voices, who [owe] their position and influence to their relationship with the state.”