JUDAISM: An Intolerant Religion?
Christopher Jones writes: Could Robert Whealey please elaborate on his statement that the "Jews of America" were historically one of its most tolerant groups? Tolerant of whom? While many secular Jews in America may have been and still hopefully are tolerant, intelligent people, Judaism is an extraordinarily intolerant religion. [And in particular of outcast Jews] I cannot think of another world montheistic faith that would forbid using the telephone on the Sabbath in the case of an emergency and much less if that telephone call might help a goyim. More and more, I believe that we are confusing the terms culture and religion. Obviously our cultures are permeated with religious symbolism, attitudes, etc., but real intolerance comes from dogmatic religion. The problem is when an ethnic or simply popular culture assimilates religious intolerance and transforms it into a secular faith, like bolshevism. To say that somehow, the Jews of America became disaffected with Israeli fundamentalist politics as exemplified by the Likud governments, is also somewhat misleading, to say the least. Led by their cultural ties to their perceived ancestral homeland and the religion, there has never been a greater presence of Jews in our everyday lives as Jewish pressure groups across theWestern world play "Inquisition" over "antisemites" big and small. Even the term "semite" is a gigantic misnomer that perhaps in a small, almost imperceptible way reinforces the orthodox cultural hold over Jews: while the majority Ashkenazis are not semites, Hebrew, the ancient language of Israel, is classed as a semitic language. I wonder what orthodox Rabbis say about Aramaic.
RG; The story of the Ashkenazis is curious. In the 12th century they constituted only 6.8 % of Jewry. They reached parity with Sephardism about 1700. Now they make up about 86% of all Jews, the largest concentration being in the US. The term Ashke-nazi derIves from an imaginary identification of Germans with Ashkenaz (Genesis 10:3). How Jews came to view Ashkenaz as the ancestor of the Germans is a mystery. Hitler would not be amused. How the Askenazis grew so in numbers is also a puzzle. Perhaps there were a large number of converts.
Christopher Jones said Judaism is an extraordinarily intolerant
religion. [And in particular of outcast Jews] I cannot think of another world
monotheistic faith that would forbid using the telephone on the Sabbath in the
case of an emergency and much less if that telephone call might help a goyim. Adriana Pena replies: If Mr. Jones considers appalling that a group would forbid making a phone call on Saturday, what would he call a culture that determine where people sat in the bus, or where they drank water, or used the bathroom, based on an external characteristic like the color of their skin? All cultures make sense to those inside of them, and look weird from those outside, and before Mr. Jones starts pointing at the mote in the Jew's eyes, he might consider the beam in the Southern gentlemen's eyes. RH: Segregation is legally dead, but Orthodox Judaism has not changed. Having to use different facilities cannot be compared with a life and death crisis. Jesus answered this question when he was accused of curing a man on the Sabbath; The sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
RH: The American Jewish philosopher and theologian Joshua Heschel lived from 1907 to 1972. Unless age is affecting my mind, I thought that Jesus lived before then. Here is what the Columbia Encyclopedia says about Heschel: b. Warsaw, Poland. He succeeded Martin Buber as director of the Central Organization for Jewish Adult Education in Frankfurt and then taught in Warsaw and London before going to the United States in 1940. He taught philosophy and rabbinics at the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, and in 1945 became professor of Jewish ethics and mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, where he remained until his death. He developed an influential philosophy and theology that sought to renew the ability to grasp the reality of the relationship between God and humans, and of the holiness of life. He played a significant role in the civil-rights movement and in the Christian-Jewish dialogue. Heschel’s major works are Man Is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion (1951), God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism (1955), The Prophets (1962), Who Is Man? (1965), Israel: An Echo of Eternity (1969), and A Passion for Truth (1973).
Hank Levin adds this footnote to his piece on the Sabbath (Eudora wordcheck insists that it be spelled with a capital, but Hank must follow the Jewish practice of not so doing). He says: I did not elaborate on Abraham Joshua Heschel. He wrote an important treatise on the sabbath which agreed precisely with the statement that you made. However, this statement comes originally from Mark 2:27 as attributed to Jesus who was referring to the Jewish practices of the time (before the advent of Christianity). RH: I clearly said I was quoting Jesus.
Christopher Jones denounced the Sabbath restrictions placed on Orthodox Jews, which could even endanger human life. Hank Levin replied: Only a small proportion of Jews accept the extreme position of the Orthodox on celebrating the Sabbath by avoiding all worldly activities. But, even for these, any ritual can be violated when a life is at stake including the lives of those who are not Jewish. There is no Jewish custom that cannot be violated when a life is at stake. Christopher comments: No doubt Hank is right, but the progress of talmudic Orthodoxy in both the US and in Likud Israel should not be underestimated. For example, the Jerusalem real estate market is booming thanks to an influx of retiring US rabbis who want to spend their retirement in eyesight of Judaism's holy places. Apparently the big success story is a sabbath proof elevator that stops automatically at each floor. I have also heard that Los Angeles is becoming the center of American Jewish conservatism. I recommend Israel Shahak's book, Jewish History, Jewish Religion, The Weight of Three Thousand Years, published by Pluto Press in London in 1994. On page 1,
" . . . This book, although written in English and addressed to people living outside the State of Israel, is, in a way, a continuation of my political activities as an Israeli Jew. Those activities began in 1965-6 with a protest which caused a considerable scandal at the time: I had personally witnessed an ultra-religious Jew refuse to allow his phone to be used on the Sabbath in order to call an ambulance for a non-Jew who happened to have collapsed in his Jerusalem neighbourhood. Instead of simply publishing the incident in the press, I asked for a meeting with the members of the Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem, which is composed of rabbis nominated by the State of Israel. I asked them whether such behaviour was consistent with their interpretation of the Jewish religion. They answered that the Jew in question had behaved correctly, indeed piously, and backed their statement by referring me to a passage in an authoritative compendium of Talmudic laws, written in this century. I reported the incident to the main Hebrew daily, Haaretz whose publication of the story caused a media scandal.
"The results of the scandal were, for me, rather negative. Neither the Israeli, nor the diaspora, rabbinical authorities ever reversed their ruling that a Jew should not violate the Sabbath in order to save the life of a Gentile. They added much sanctimonious twaddle to the effect that if the consequence of such an act puts Jews in danger, the violation of the Sabbath is permitted, for their sake. It became apparent to me, as drawing on knowledge acquired in my youth, I began to study the Talmudic laws governing the relations between Jews and non-Jews, that neither Zionism, including its seemingly secular part nor Israeli politics since the inception of the State of Israel, nor particularly the policies of the Jewish supporters of Israel in the diaspora, could be understood unless the deeper influence of those laws, and the worldview which they both create and express is taken into account. The actual policies Israel pursued after the Six Day War, and in particular the apartheid character of the Israeli regime in the Occupied Territories and the attitude of the majority of Jews to the issue of the rights of the Palestinians, even in the abstract, have merely strengthened this conviction."
Gore Vidal describes Israel Shahak so; "Needless to say, Israel's authorities deplore Shahak. But there is not much to be done with a retired professor of chemistry who was born in Warsaw in 1933 and spent his childhood in the concentration camp at Belsen. In 1945, he came to Israel; served in the Israeli military; did not become a Marxist in the years when it was fashionable. He was - and still is - a humanist who detests imperialism whether in the name of the God of Abraham or of George Bush. Equally, he opposes with great wit and learning the totalitarian strain in Judaism. Like a highly learned Thomas Paine, Shahak illustrates the prospect before us, as well as the long history behind us, and thus he continues to reason, year after year. Those who heed him will certainly be wiser and - dare I say? - better. He is the latest, if not the last, of the great prophets."
Marc Miller writes: I have no interest in joining issue with Christopher Jones about Jews or Judaism. Christopher constantly relies on sources that have been critically assessed elsewhere without revealing their contested (and often fraudulent) nature. I think that is true of the references to Shahak and the claims about Orthodox Jews and acting to save any life (Jewish or non-Jewish on the Sabbath). See
You may share the link if you think that would help debate, but, again, I have no interest in joining issue on the WAIS list with Christopher on this topic, RH: There is a big difference between contested and fraudulent. The fact that Haaretz published his article and a reputable publisher published his book suggests that Shahak cannot be dismissed as a fraud. I was unable to download the article Marc cites.