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Restoring Egypt’s Synagogues

Farouk HosnyJust in time for the festival of Pesach, Egypt’s culture minister says that it will shoulder the costs of restoring the country’s synagogue’s.

Farouk Hosny says that his ministry views Jewish sites as much a part of Egypt’s culture as Muslim mosques or Coptic churches and the restorations would not require any foreign funding. This marks a turn in attitude for the Egyptian artist and culture minister.

On Sunday, the 12th century Ben Maimon synagogue, named after Maimonides, was rededicated in a ceremony including half a dozen Egyptian Jewish families who fled the country long ago.

Ben Ezra SynagogueHosny committed his ministry to restoring all 11 synagogues across Egypt, three of which have already undergone renovation. The most visited synagogue is that of Ben Ezra – located in Cairo’s Christian quarter near a number of old churches, was restored some years ago.

“There were some lectures on the Jewish sites in Egypt and the temple. It was nice, emotional and nostalgic,” said Raymond Stock, an American “close” to the Jewish community in Cairo.

The Jewish community of Egypt, which dates back millennia and at its peak in the 1940s numbered around 80,000, is down to several dozen, almost all of them elderly. The remainder were driven out decades ago by mob violence and persecution.

Synagogue, CairoEgypt and Israel fought a war every decade from the 1940s to the 1970s until the 1979 peace treaty was signed. None the less, Egyptian vibrations remain deeply unfriendly to Israel, and anti-Semitic stereotypes still appear in the Egyptian media.

Last September, Hosny blamed a conspiracy “cooked up in New York” by the world’s Jews when he lost a bid from becoming the next head of the U.N.’s agency for culture and education.

During this time, Hosny’s candidacy raised an outcry because of a threat which he had made in the Egyptian parliament in 2008 to personally burn any Israeli book he found in the Alexandria Library.

Shooting At American Synagogue

shooting in US synagogueThis last Thursday morning at the Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic synagogue, in North Hollywood, a gunman opened fire and shot two people in the legs. The shooting happened at about 6:20 am, around the time of morning prayers, and the two casualties were both men in their thirties. This attack happened just 10 miles away from a Jewish Community Center which was the scene of another shooting in 1999. The Israeli consulate in Los Angeles said that the shooter was an African American male wearing a hooded sweatshirt. The man was seen earlier having an argument with two Jews in the synagogue’s parking lot.

Meanwhile, in related news, a U.S. jury indicted James Von Brunn on Wednesday, an 89 year old, World War II veteran, white supremacist, who opened fire inside the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.
Brunn killed a museum guard named Stephen T. Johns, before he was shot in the face (thereby incurring wounds from which he survived). He was indicted on seven counts of first-degree murder and could face the death penalty.
The last time such violence against Jews happened on American turf was in 2006, when a mentally ill gunman burst into a Seattle Jewish center, killing one woman and wounding five others; this attack coincided with the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

While these incidents are indeed very frightening, the Anti-Defamation League conducted a phone survey last week – the results of which expressed that anti-Semitism in America is at a historic low, with only 12% of Americans openly prejudiced toward Jewish people. The level of anti-Semitism measured in this survey matches that of the same survey taken in 1998, and is the lowest in the 45-year history of this particular poll. The first time that the survey was conducted in 1964, 29% of Americans were said to have “held anti-Semetic views”.

The poll was taken between Sept. 26 and Oct. 4 and consisted of 1,200 adult participants. It further showed men were more likely to be anti-Semitic than women, and that African Americans had higher tendencies to be anti-Jewish than any other ethnic group in the population.

Kick-ass rabbis team up to defend synagogues

GaryHigh Holiday season is always a stressful time for Rabbis, but the word “stressful” usually describes how they feel about their sermons, the High Holiday appeal, the synagogue’s financial situation, the latest pow-wow the Rabbi got into with the president of the board, those sort of things. But this year, a group of Rabbis is taking their stress-coping strategies to a new level and teaching congregants how to beat up terrorists that may otherwise infiltrate a group of Yom Kippur worshippers and harm them.

The group is called the International Security Coalition of Clergy, founded by Rabbi Gary Moscowitz. Yes, he’s a black-belt and a former NYPD officer. In a quote that I happen to really like, he said “Jews are not like Christians. If I turn my cheek, I’m coming around to make a kick.” I second that. Nobody’s messing with me anymore.

What inspired Moscowitz to do this? It was an event last May when police discovered a terrorist organization of American Muslims planning to attack New York City synagogues.

He claims he doesn’t fear Muslims specifically, but extremists in general. “We’re just worried about the safety of the houses of worship that are being threatened with rhetoric on regular basis and extremism,” Moscowitz said.

His course is a 100 hour martial arts course that will hopefully turn Jewish worshippers into lethal weapons that defend their houses of prayer. Or something of the sort. At the beginning, nobody took him seriously, but he was just interviewed on Fox News and there’s even a video on Foxnews.com about him.

The course teaches rabbis and synagogue-goers how to take down a terrorist who succeeds in entering the houses of worship, use tables as means of defense against gunfire, and to pull out a handgun while performing a flip.

“A terrorist could put a yarmulke on, say, ‘Happy holidays,’ and blow the place up,” he warns. That’s why he’s not relying only on the police.

Female IDF soldier barred from saying Kaddesh in army synagogue

IDF Soliders
She only wanted to say the mourner’s kaddish for her grandmother, who had just passed away. But when the young woman tried to do so in a synagogue at her base, she was barred from doing so, and was so affected by the rejection, that she left the base to say kaddish in a synagogue during the customary 7 day shivah mourning period. The head of the IDF‘s Halacah or ritual department, Rabbi Eyal Krim, ruled instead that the young soldier could pray in a classroom, together with a group of women soldiers – but not together with her male comrades.

This incident, now all over Jewish international news media networks, is nothing new, except for the fact that the young woman came from a religious background – Masorati or traditional that is. Growing up in Masoriti youth groups in Israel, including one known as Noam, she had simply been used to praying together with male worshipers, as well as taking an active part in prayer services. She suddenly found herself cast as a “second class” worshiper, and not even allowed to say that very prayer that gives respect to those who have departed from this life – the Kaddish.
Now comes the dilemma that is very relevant nowadays, especially for young people who grow up in non-orthodox religious circles – even though they may consider themselves to be very observant within the doctrines in which they have been active, the religious establishment simply says to them “sorry Charley, on the best tuna goes into Starkist tuna” or : “only men can fully pray, and say Kaddish in an orthodox Shul.
Back to “square one” for the girls. For sure, observant people (orthodox, that is) will disagree whole heartily with this article; and there is where the dividing line is and will continue to be. And women in the orthodox synagogues will have to continue to sit separately (often in an upper deck or gallery), and forced to recruit a male congregant to say the prayer that they should so much be entitled to say themselves, out of respect for the dead.

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