Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Mormon blogs about her neighbour the rabbi

A nice post about the Rabbi Gedaliah Anemer who died earlier this year and was for half a century was an important leader of the Greater Washington area.

And the obituary in the Washington Post:
Gedaliah Anemer, 78;
Chief rabbi of greater Washington
By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gedaliah Anemer, 78, a rabbi who led the D.C. area's oldest and largest Orthodox Jewish synagogue and was considered the chief rabbi of greater Washington, died April 15 at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring after a stroke.

Rabbi Anemer (pronounced AIN-uh-mer) led the Young Israel Shomrai Emunah synagogue for more than 50 years and was instrumental in establishing a large Orthodox Jewish enclave in the surrounding Kemp Mill neighborhood of Silver Spring. Known as an inspiring teacher and spiritual guide, Rabbi Anemer founded the Yeshiva of Greater Washington, an Orthodox high school and center of Jewish studies.

He was an internationally respected authority on Jewish law and was the head of the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington, an Orthodox body that supervises Jewish dietary and religious rules. He was considered the mora d'asra of the Washington area's Orthodox community, or the chief rabbi to whom all others deferred.

"When it came to communal issues, he was the ultimate decider," said Rabbi Ari Israel, executive director of the University of Maryland Hillel, a Jewish student center. "He cared for more than the letter of the law. He understood that the letter, spirit and personality of the law are all intertwined."

Rabbi Anemer came to Washington in 1957 to lead a Hyattsville congregation that later moved to Northeast Washington. In 1961, he settled in Silver Spring and began to hold services in his basement while continuing to lead his synagogue in the District. Because Jewish law prohibited him from riding in cars on the Sabbath, Rabbi Anemer walked almost seven miles each way to conduct services.

The D.C. synagogue was closed as the Silver Spring Orthodox community began to grow, and Rabbi Anemer established a Jewish school, or yeshiva, in 1964. The girls' school opened one year before the boys' school.

"I fondly call myself the first student," Sarah Maslow, an assistant principal at Reservoir High School in Howard County, recalled Wednesday. "He came to my parents and said, 'We need a first student.' "

Six-feet tall, with a big black hat, bushy beard and booming voice, Rabbi Anemer had a commanding presence. He taught advanced classes on the Talmud, or Jewish law, until his death at the yeshiva, where many of his students came to revere him.

"He demanded a lot from us, but he also had a great sense of humor," Maslow said. "He was a wonderful teacher."

In 1974, Rabbi Anemer's synagogue moved to its current location on Arcola Avenue, and the Kemp Mill Orthodox population expanded from a few dozen families to an estimated 5,000 residents today. "He was not only the pillar, founder and leader of the community but he pulled us all forward," said Israel, who grew up in Kemp Mill. "He started all that literally with his own hands." Gedaliah Anemer was born March 19, 1932, in Akron, Ohio, and began his religious training in New York City at age 9. Three years later, he entered Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, from which he graduated in 1952. Before coming to Washington, he led a yeshiva in Boston.

Survivors include his wife, Yocheved Bagley Anemer of Silver Spring; two sons, Zev and Yisroel Anemer, both of whom are rabbis in Brooklyn, N.Y.; two daughters, Ottie Kahana of Baltimore and Chaya Weber of Brooklyn; and a sister.

Rabbi Anemer was well known to other Orthodox leaders throughout the United States, Canada and Israel and was often consulted for his wide knowledge of Jewish laws and customs. To his followers in Kemp Mill, however, he remained the fatherly neighborhood rabbi who knew the name of every grandchild and who had an uncanny way of sorting out personal problems.

"It seemed like he could see every single person's needs, personally," said Maslow, who had known Rabbi Anemer since his arrival in Washington. "He deeply cared about each person. He deeply cared about the Jewish people. He deeply cared about a world where people did the right thing."
* * * *

And talking about being a Shabbos Goy, this picture just landed - from Flatbush NY:

Rabbi Yossi Braun - as you've never seen him before...

Thanks to Chabad blog "Circus Tent" (strange name), here is a photograph (circa 1990) of the recently elected member of the Crown Heights Beth Din, Sydney's Rabbi Yossi Braun. The post at that link also gives some interesting biographical details about the rabbi, his education and his family.
A "Chassidisher bochur" by all accounts. (The comments section touches upon the 'controversy' about what happened to the peyos.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Community pranked by Yavneh year-12 students

One has to hand it to today’s youth – they sure come up with some smart ideas.

The above letter spread around town like wildfire on Monday and by the feedback received here at AJNWatch most were hoodwinked into believing that it was genuine.

And why not? Everything in that letter could have actually been stated by Roy Steinman and/or the school board. And no doubt they would, even there wouldn’t be the Mizrachi connection to Kosher Australia.

And after all, most of them do not deny that they quite happily partake in foods and establishments approved by Kosher veYosher. (We suggest that readers see for themselves next time they are out shopping at Kraus, Alex or Tempo etc.) 
As we hear it, KV’s supervision is not aimed at the Adass or Yeshiva market but indeed the Mizrachi/Yavneh modern orthodox crowd, who seek more lifestyle opportunities to expand their eating practices.
The Galus Australis blog also features this clever hoax and has quite a few comments. Here is one that we thought was interesting:

Malki Rose says:
...A good chunk of people spent recent days wanting to congratulate either Mizrachi or Roy Steinman personally on a decision many of them referred to as “finally common sense has prevailed”, making reference to their joy at seeing the end of all the “political nonsense”.

Many of them felt stupid and embarassed when they found out it was a prank. They no longer saw the letter as brilliant or clever or remotely funny. I think they felt disappointed that it hadn’t been so.… and concerned that the letter had caused many of them to ‘out’ themselves as closetted supporters of KVY.

Funnily enough, I received several very excited emails from brand new clients one after the other enquiring about making an order, just before I found about this and didn’t quite understand why the sudden interest in ordering from MWL.

Eventually I saw a copy of the letter and wondered if this had been why…

- Guess what? Yesterday afternoon all these “new” clients emailed me to say, rather apologetically, that they would not be seeking my services after all.

Interesting, if nothing else. I guess its back in the ‘kashrut closet’ they go….. at least until the adults come to the same conclusion as a group of 17 year old, alleged, children.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A story of one of the heroes of the holocaust, Rav Michoel Ber Weissmandl zt"l: "Had you cried earlier..."

A lesson that many parents should heed.
Cry now - or cry later...                   (Hat tip - SBA News list)
In his sefer Chaim Sheyeish Bahem, Horav Yitzchak Shraga Gross, Shlita, relates a story that occurred concerning Horav Michoel Ber Weissmandel, zl, the Nitra Rosh HaYeshivah, who was known for his tireless efforts on behalf of Klal Yisrael during and after World War II.

Two business partners came and shared with him an all too common tragedy. Each had a son who was prepared to marry out of the faith. The fathers, although no longer observant, maintained a "strict" outlook on assimilation. Shabbos and kashrus represent one thing, but to marry a gentile - that was the bitter end. Needless to say, they were beside themselves with grief.

Rav Weissmandel inquired about the Jewish education their sons had received and how much time the fathers had spent learning with their sons. Regrettably, the story was similar to what had happened to many of those who either settled in communities where there was no Jewish education, or who exhibited apathy and, at times, anger after the war which caused them to sever their relationship with Judaism as a religion.

Rav Weissmandel listened to their story and told them he would like to share a story with them.
After World War I, new territorial borders were set up between communities. In some instances, many regions that had originally been part of one country, suddenly were transformed into two countries.

In one city where there was a large Jewish population, the Jewish cemetery was separated from the rest of the community. Hence, the cemetery was in one country, while the "living" lived in another country. This caused a problem for the Chevra Kaddisha, members of the Jewish Sacred Burial Society. While they waited for all the red tape to be cleared between the two countries, the deceased would remain unburied, which is a violation of Jewish law. Finally, a special dispensation was made for the members of the Chevra Kaddisha whereby they could go right through without being subject to needless time-consuming inspections.

Once word got out regarding the special leniency enjoyed by the Chevra Kadisha, a group of gentile smugglers decided to take advantage of the "burial" laws. They filled a coffin with contraband, posed as members of the Jewish Chevra Kadisha, and smuggled goods into the next country, all under the watchful eye of the inspectors. This ruse went on for months, as the gentile smugglers made a thriving business out of their "burial society".

One day a young inspector became suspicious, because the pallbearers just did not give the impression that they were really sad. "Where are you going?" he asked.
"We are about to bury a fellow Jew in the cemetery," they responded.
"You do not look very sad to me. You have been joking and laughing the entire time that I have been looking at you. I do not think you are going to bury any body," the inspector told them. "Open the casket, so that I can see the body," he challenged.

"No, no, we cannot do that. It would be against Jewish law to open the casket," they countered.

The young officer did not believe them, and he decided to seek out his superior.

The smugglers became disconcerted and started to beg and plead with him not to make them open the casket. Now, the young inspector was convinced that they were lying. He called the lieutenant who had very little patience for this band of crooks.

"Open the casket now!" he said.

The casket was opened, and the deceased turned out to be expensive contraband.

The culprits began to cry and plead for mercy, "We made a mistake. It was the first time. We have to feed our starving families."

They promised that they would never do it again. All of the usual excuses were rendered to cover up their lies - to no avail.

The lieutenant turned towards them and said, "You are right that you will never do it again, because by the time you get out of jail, you will be too old to do anything. It is a shame that you cried too late. Had you cried before when you were carrying the casket, then you would not have had to cry now."

Rav Weissmandel completed the story and looked at the two men, saying, "I wish with all my heart that I could help you. Your tears are very moving, and I am sure they are from the heart. Regrettably, they are too late. Had you cried years earlier, when your sons were growing up, and had you been concerned for their Jewish education, then you would not have to cry now."

A meshugaas in our community. Why do Jewish parents give their kids weird names?

We have long wondered why so many Jewish parents think it is “cool” to humiliate and discomfit their children by subjecting them to outlandish and peculiar names. And this, despite being Jewish – which gives them twice as many opportunities to find a respectable 'normal' name for their newborn – from the vast array available for Australians and Jews.

Week-after-week birth notices in the AJN include strange, weird, odd, bizarre and sometimes absolutely idiotic names embossed upon the life of a tiny innocent baby who will have to hide, explain or change it at some stage(s) of his/her life. Why are so many parents subjecting their offspring to such an unnecessary burden? Isn't life complicated enough for the young ones? Why add to their issues?

One wonders if and what those parents were drinking or smoking when they came up with the inspiration to tag their child this way.

Here's our message to all new parents: You have a meshugaas for nutty names? Fine. Change your own and that of your spouse. But please, leave the little kids alone!

And what about all those 'androgynous' names, where one cannot make out if the newborn is a male or female!? 

Meanwhile to give you some of idea of the unusual names acquired by the newest members of Melbourne's Jewish community, here's a selection from the most recent edition of the AJN: Sienna, Coco, Winter Star, Hudson, Eden-Eddie (for a girl), Eden Mikey (for a boy).

We invite readers to add their favourite strange names from future and past issues (especially Sydneysiders, as we rarely see that edition of the AJN), via the comments area.

We found that the following article, by one of our favourite journalists, Lawrence Money of The Age, very pertinent to our theme. (BTW, what's a sensible chap like him doing at THAT paper?)

Welcome to the nutty name generation

Lawrence Money  THE AGE

When playing the nutty name game, spare a thought for the one who will carry it for life.

'IS THAT a misspelling or did your parents make a blue?'' I asked Micheal, a waiter at Melbourne's RACV Club. He glanced at his brass name badge and smiled a smile that told of a lifetime of torment. ''Parents,'' he said. ''I think mum must have still been feeling the effects of the anaesthetic.'' Micheal was not sure if his mum wanted ''Michael'' but he's been Micheal for 30 years now, a veritable pioneer of the nutty name generation.

Thirty years ago nutty names were an oddity, now they are almost compulsory. You get your nutty spellings of standard names (Filip, Robburrt, Peetar) and then you get your nutty spellings of nutty names (Gharddio, Wawldogger, Mooneigh). You can only imagine what waiters' name badges will look like when this generational wave comes through.

Look, it's understandable, I guess. Excited first-time parents, enthused by the latest name fad. But they don't appreciate that here is a decision that will stretch on long after they themselves are gone. That poor 50-something Lillbetgh Smith may feel some small animosity at the funeral of her dear papa after half a century of hell and a possible 40 or more to go? (Why, dad, why??)

Years ago as In Black and White columnist on the old afternoon Herald, I found that nutty names were of a different nature. Rather than crazy spelling they were often vocationally weird. For example, the systems manager of the Melbourne Fire Brigade in the early 1980s was a bloke named Bernd Pohl. Mr Oosting was a Dutch-born beekeeper in Tasmania. I came across a bloke named William Clyde Main, a Ringwood sewerage contractor. He was listed in the Yellow Pages as W. C. Main.             [More here]

Rupert Murdoch - a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people

About time he took over Fairfax media...

No ceasefire means no peace in war on Israel
Rupert Murdoch   The Australian October 16, 2010

THE Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 in response to something we cannot imagine in America today: the lynching of an innocent Jew. In the century since then, the league has fought anti-Semitism wherever you have found it. You have championed equal treatment for all races and creeds. And you have held America to her founding promise.

So successful have you been, a few years ago some people were beginning to say, "Maybe we don't need an ADL any more".

That is a much harder argument to make these days.

My own perspective is simple: we live in a world where there is an ongoing war against the Jews. For the first decades after Israel's founding, this war was conventional in nature. The goal was straightforward: to use military force to overrun Israel. Well before the Berlin Wall came down, that approach had clearly failed.

Then came phase two: terrorism. Terrorists targeted Israelis both home and abroad from the massacre of Israeli athletes at Munich to the second intifada. Terrorists continue to target Jews across the world. But they have not succeeded in bringing down the Israeli government nor weakened Israeli resolve.

Now the war has entered a new phase. This is the soft war that seeks to isolate Israel by delegitimising it. The battleground is everywhere: the media, multinational organisations, non-government organisations. The aim is to make Israel a pariah.

The result is the curious situation we have today: Israel becomes increasingly ostracised, while Iran - a nation that has made no secret of wishing Israel's destruction - pursues nuclear weapons loudly, proudly and without apparent fear of rebuke.

For me, this ongoing war is a fairly obvious fact of life. Every day, the citizens of the Jewish homeland defend themselves against armies of terrorists whose maps spell out the goal they have in mind: a Middle East without Israel. In Europe, Jewish populations find themselves targeted by people who share that goal. And in the US, I fear that our foreign policy only emboldens these extremists.

There are two things that worry me. The first is the disturbing new home that anti-Semitism has found in polite society, especially in Europe. The second is how violence and extremism are encouraged when the world sees Israel's greatest ally distancing herself from the Jewish state. When Americans think of anti-Semitism, we tend to think of the vulgar caricatures and attacks of the first part of the 20th century. Now it seems that the most virulent strains come from the Left. Often this new anti-Semitism dresses itself up as legitimate disagreement with Israel.

In 2002, Harvard president Lawrence Summers put it this way: "Where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists, profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent."

Far from being dismissed out of hand, anti-Semitism today enjoys support at both the highest and lowest reaches of European society from its most elite politicians to its largely Muslim ghettos. European Jews find themselves caught in this pincer. We saw a recent outbreak when the European Trade Commissioner declared that peace in the Middle East is impossible because of the Jewish lobby in America. Here's how he put it: "There is indeed a belief - it's difficult to describe it otherwise - among most Jews that they are right. And it's not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East." He did not suggest the problem was any specific Israeli policy. The problem, as he defined it, is the nature of the Jews. Adding to the absurdity, this man then responded to his critics this way: anti-Semitism, he asserted, "has no place in today's world and is fundamentally against our European values".

Of course, he has kept his job.

Unfortunately, we see examples like this all across Europe. Sweden, for example, has long been a synonym for liberal tolerance. Yet in one of Sweden's largest cities, Jews report increasing examples of harassment. When an Israeli tennis team visited for a competition, it was greeted with riots. So how did the mayor respond? By equating Zionism with anti-Semitism and suggesting that Swedish Jews would be safer in his town if they distanced themselves from Israeli actions in Gaza.

You don't have to look far for other danger signs: the Norwegian government forbids a Norwegian-based, German shipbuilder from using its waters to test a submarine being built for the Israeli navy; Britain and Spain are boycotting an OECD tourism meeting in Jerusalem; in The Netherlands, police report a 50 per cent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents.

In Europe today, many of the most egregious attacks on Jewish people, Jewish symbols and Jewish houses of worship have come from the Muslim population. Unfortunately, far from making clear that such behaviour will not be tolerated, too often the official response is what we've seen from the Swedish mayor, who suggested Jews and Israel were partly to blame themselves. When Europe's political leaders do not stand up to the thugs, they lend credence to the idea that Israel is the source of all the world's problems and they guarantee more ugliness. If that is not anti-Semitism, I don't know what is.

That brings me to my second point: the importance of good relations between Israel and the US. Some believe that if America wants to gain credibility in the Muslim world and advance the cause of peace, Washington needs to put some distance between itself and Israel.

My view is the opposite. Far from making peace more possible, we are making hostilities more certain. Far from making things better for the Palestinian people, sour relations between the US and Israel guarantees that ordinary Palestinians will continue to suffer. The peace we all want will come when Israel feels secure, not when Washington feels distant. Right now we have war.There are many people waging this war. Some blow up cafes. Some fire rockets into civilian areas. Some are pursuing nuclear arms. Some are fighting the soft war, through international boycotts and resolutions condemning Israel. All these people are watching the US-Israeli relationship closely.

In this regard, I was pleased to hear the State Department's spokesman clarify America's position this week. He said the US recognises "the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people." This is an important message to send to the Middle East. When people see, for example, a Jewish prime minister treated badly by an American president, they see a more isolated Jewish state. That only encourages those who favour the gun over those who favour negotiation.

Ladies and gentlemen, back in 1937, a man named Vladimir Jabotinsky urged Britain to open up an escape route for Jews fleeing Europe. Only a Jewish homeland, he said, could protect European Jews from the coming calamity. In prophetic words, he described the problem this way. "It is not the anti-Semitism of men," he said. "It is, above all, the anti-Semitism of things, the inherent xenophobia of the body social or the body economic under which we suffer."

The world of 2010 is not the world of the 1930s. The threats Jews face today are different. But these threats are real. They are soaked in an ugly language familiar to anyone old enough to remember World War II. And these threats cannot be addressed until we see them for what they are: part of an ongoing war against the Jews.

Rupert Murdoch is chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, publisher of The Australian. This is an edited extract of his speech to the Anti-Defamation League in New York on Wednesday

Friday, October 15, 2010

Promoting surrogate Kaddish services?

From JL:

I just picked up this week's issue of the AJN and felt uncomfortable seeing how the Yeshiva is promoting a "Kaddish Reciting Service".

Sure, I understand the need for this in a situation where the niftar doesn't have a male relative who can say Kaddish for him or her. But surely promoting such a service to all is only encouraging and giving comfort to individuals who, without it, would feel a religious and/or traditional obligation to attend Shul during the year of mourning or on a Yahrzeit but now find a "charitable" and respectable way of getting out of fulfilling a halachic requirement towards a parent or relative.

I think that the Rabbonim at the Yeshiva must reconsider whether encouraging Kaddish-by-proxy is appropriate. It wasn’t so long ago when most - even non-religious - Jews attended Shul daily during a time of mourning. I feel that it would be far more appropriate for the Yeshiva to be encouraging that practice to return.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to express my opinion, and I’d be happy to hear what others have to say about this.                                                                               John L