Iranian president tweets Rosh Hashanah greeting

5 09 2013

rosh hashannah

By Yoel Goldman/Times of Israel

Reform-minded Hasan Rouhani wishes ‘all Jews, especially Iranian Jews’ a blessed new year.

Jews around the world received an unexpected holiday greeting on Wednesday — from new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani.

Rouhani, considered by some to be a relative reformer, took to his Twitter account to say, “As the sun is about to set here in #Tehran I wish all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah.”

During this year’s presidential election campaign he condemned his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s verbal attacks against Jews as “hate rhetoric.”

The tweet was accompanied by a 2011 photo of an Iranian Jew praying at Tehran Synagogue.

The office of the recently elected Iranian president has not denied that the account, @HassanRouhani, is his and it is believed that it would not persist without his approval.

A 2012 census revealed that there were fewer than 9,000 Jews left in Iran.

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani waves after his swearing-in ceremony at the parliament, in Tehran, August 4, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani waves after his swearing-in ceremony at the parliament, in Tehran, August 4, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The Iranian president said last month that his countrymen elected him to change the country’s foreign policy and shift away from the bombastic style adopted under Ahmadinejad.

“People in the June 14 elections declared that they want a new foreign policy,” the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.

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Imams Visit Auschwitz, Pray For Holocaust Victims

30 05 2013
Muslim Imams during prayer for Holocaust victims at Auschwitz

Muslim imams during prayer for Holocaust victims at Auschwitz, Poland

Muslim leaders from across the globe paid tribute Holocaust victims this week during a visit to Auschwitz, the former Nazi concentration camp, where they prayed at the Wall of Death for those who were killed by genocide and suffered under violent anti-Semitism.

The imams, who hailed from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bosnia, Palestine, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey and the United States, performed Islamic prayers while facing Mecca as part of a Holocaust awareness visit funded in part by the U.S. State Department.

“What can you say? You’re speechless. What you have seen is beyond human imagination,” Imam Mohamed Magid, President of the US-based Islamic Society of North America, told Agence France-Presse.

“Whether in Europe today or in the Muslim world, my call to humanity: End racism for God’s sake, end anti-Semitism for God’s sake, end Islamophobia for God’s sake, end sexism for God’s sake… Enough is enough,” said Magid, who leads the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Northern Virginia.

The visit, which runs through Friday, is scheduled to include a tour of Warsaw’s new Museum of the History of Polish Jews, a kosher dinner with Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, and a meeting with the Polish Righteous Among the Nations. The group of imams, which includes Muzammil H. Siddiqi, president of the Fiqh Council of North America and the former president of the Islamic Society of North America, is also scheduled to meet with Muslim, Jewish and Catholic leaders in Poland.

“We thank [the imams] for their willingness to come. Our task is to encourage proper understanding between our faiths in ways that stress our common humanity,” said Rabbi Jack Bemporad, who is the Executive Director of the New Jersey-based Center for Interreligious Understanding and is leading the visit. “Understanding our particular histories will help us better understand each other so that we can unite in combatting prejudice against all religions.”

“I think that the imams that came here having very little knowlege in many cases of the Shoah are now convinced that any kind of Holocaust denial or Holocaust revisionism is simply out of the question,” Bemporad said.

Ahmet Muharrem Atlig, a Turkish Muslim and former imam, said that despite being educated in “much informaiton about Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Holocaust,” the visit was a “turning point” for him.

“As soon as possible, I will bring my family here … I will organize Turkish imams and muftis to go to Holocaust sites. My people don’t know what happened here. It’s not an agenda. It’s a reality. This is not Jewish heritage, it’s world heritage. Jewish people were mostly affected but the lessons are global,” Atlig said.

“The US imams told us that their trip was transformative and they shared their experiences with their American Muslim communities. We thought a trip with an international group of imams and religious leaders to be of vital importance,” said Catholic University of America law professor Marshall Breger, an Orthodox Jew and former Reagan White House liaison to the Jewish community who helped organized both trips.

“Increasing compassion and preserving man’s humanity starts with unveiling falsehoods that shore up bigotry. Unfortunately, one of those is Holocaust denial. Muslims and millions of others also suffered and Holocaust denial denies them, too, not just Jews who perished,” Breger said.

Source: Huffington Post





HUNGARY: Christians Churches Fight Right Wing Anti-Semitism

14 05 2013
Main synagogue in Budapest, Hungary

Main synagogue in Budapest, Hungary


By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

BUDAPEST, May 14 (Reuters) – When Hungarian radical right-wingers rallied against a Jewish conference in Budapest in early May, a well-known Protestant pastor hid behind the stage while his wife stepped up to the podium to denounce Jews and Israel.

Lorant Hegedus could have preached the same anti-Semitism as his wife, a deputy for the populist Jobbik party in parliament. But his part in launching the rally may cost him his role as the far-right’s favourite clergyman.

With anti-Semitism on the rise here, Christian churches are working with the Jewish community to counter the provocations against Jews and the Roma minority that have won Jobbik support among voters fed up with the country’s economic crisis.

The Hungarian Reformed Church has begun proceedings that might end up defrocking Hegedus and depriving him of his high-profile base at the Homeland Church on the upscale Freedom Square, near the central bank and the United States embassy.

“This is a permanent provocation,” Gusztav Bolcskei, the Church’s presiding bishop, said of Hegedus’s political activity. “It has nothing to do with the Gospel.”

Hungary’s small community of 80,000-100,000 Jews appreciates the Christian support. “We’re satisfied with the actions of the churches,” said Peter Feldmajer, who stepped down as head of the community on Sunday.

“I think, at the end of the day, he will be fired,” he said.

Hegedus declined to be interviewed for this article.

RELIGION IN POLITICS

Supporter of Hungarian far right party Jobbik

Supporter of Hungarian far right party Jobbik

Anti-Semitism has deep roots in Hungary, which began passing anti-Jewish laws in 1920, more than a decade before Nazi Germany. About half a million Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust, which the Christian churches failed to oppose.

Other trends that resonate with sections of Hungarian society are a tradition of vibrant nationalism after centuries of foreign domination and, more recently, a strong resentment against the country’s largest minority, its 700,000 Roma.

With the country in economic crisis and voters disillusioned by the previous Socialist governments, Jobbik tapped these emotions to win 17 percent of the votes in the 2010 election.

While conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban has condemned anti-Semitism and rapped Jobbik in recent comments to an Israeli newspaper, he shied away from denouncing the party in a May 5 speech to a World Jewish Congress assembly here only minutes after WJC President Ronald Lauder urged him to do so.

“If Orban goes too hard against Jobbik, he’s worried he won’t be able to scoop up Jobbik’s voters,” said Robin Shepherd, author of a study for the WJC on neo-Nazi parties in Europe.

Neutralised in public during the four decades of communism that ended in 1989, religion has crept back into Hungarian politics in recent years as Orban’s Fidesz party stresses the country’s Christian roots while Jobbik fans resentment of Jews.

This has come despite a dramatic fall in church affiliation. Census figures show that self-declared Roman Catholics dropped from 54 to 39 percent of the population between 2001 and 2011 and self-declared Reformed from 16 to 12 percent.

The Jewish community remained stable at 0.1 percent.

DIFFICULT TO DEFROCK

The resurgent mixture of nationalism and anti-Semitism has presented a challenge for the Reformed Church, which has a strong patriotic tradition rooted in opposition to the Catholic Habsburgs plus church laws allowing wide leeway to its pastors.

Its national leadership has denounced anti-Semitism several times but failed a decade ago to oust Hegedus, whose father was bishop of Budapest at the time. It renewed the effort to defrock him last month after he called for the anti-Jewish rally.

“According to our democratic rules, this should start at the church district level,” Bolcskei said. If the district agrees to move against a pastor, the case then goes up the hierarchy and through church courts before a final decision.

“It can be done, but it’s a very long procedure,” he said.

Thanks to regular dialogue between Jews and Reformed Church leaders, Feldmajer said he understood why Bolcskei – who he said was “totally with us” – could not easily expel Hegedus.

He thought only about 10 percent of Reformed preachers and congregants harboured anti-Semitic views, a figure that matches pollsters’ estimates of Jobbik’s core political support, and hoped the Church leadership could change their minds.

CARDINAL CRITICISED

Hungaran Cardinal Peter Erdo

Hungaran Cardinal Peter Erdo

“It’s easier in the Catholic Church,” said Feldmajer, who praised Cardinal Peter Erdo for his strong support for the Jewish community “not just in a closed room but also in public.”

Jews used to feel some hostility from some Catholic clergy, he said, but that faded away after Erdo became archbishop of Budapest a decade ago, he said.

The Catholic bishops issued an open letter before the 2010 election warning against “neo-pagan tendencies” in some political parties, a clear reference to some Jobbik ideologues who hark back to Hungary’s pre-Christian history.

Erdo, who was frequently mentioned earlier this year as a possible successor to retired Pope Benedict, joined the 2012 Budapest March of the Living to remember the Holocaust.

“I’ve received some hostile letters and criticism in some newspapers saying that the Catholic Church is not patriotic enough,” the cardinal said. “There are also people who say Jesus Christ was not a Jew. Come on, this is crazy.” (Editing by Anna Willard)





On Thanksgiving, Jews And Muslims Volunteer Together Despite Middle East Violence

22 11 2012

Muslim and Jewish volunteers feed the homeless at the Greater New York Muslim-Jewish Feeding the Hungry event at St. Mary’s Eipsocopal Church in New York City. RNS photo courtesy Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

By Lauren Markoe/Religion News Service

WASHINGTON, USA – It’s an idea that feels particularly touching this Thanksgiving: American Jews and Muslims banding together to help the homeless and other needy people.

The interfaith collaboration has been going on for five years, but the recent exchange of rockets between Gaza and Israel is weighing especially hard on both communities this week. That’s why a joint session of sandwich making or a group visit to a nursing home has taken on added significance.

“In this time of warfare it was a beautiful experience to see the two come together,” said Haider Dost, a Muslim student at Virginia’s George Mason University who worked with Jewish students to feed the homeless Sunday (Nov. 18) in Franklin Park, just blocks from the White House.

The Franklin Park event is one of more than 17 Jewish-Muslim “twinning” volunteer projects across the nation in the days surrounding Thanksgiving fostered by the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

One of those projects forged a new partnership in Northern Virginia between the McLean Islamic Center and Temple Rodef Shalom that saw, on the weekend before Thanksgiving, children from both the mosque and synagogue together cleaning up a Maryland park. That night, members of the two congregations dined together, with the Muslim host and the temple’s rabbi both offering up prayers for peace in the Middle East.

Both the Muslims and Jews in the room tacitly understood that the dinner conversation should not veer into the violence between Jews and Muslims now dominating the news from the Middle East.

“If we were fast friends who had known each other for years already, maybe we could get together in the midst of the conflict and share our feelings,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Saxe of Rodef Shalom. “While there are bombs falling, maybe it’s not the time to start that discussion. But the political situation made it all the more crucial that we get together.”





German court outlaws religious circumcision

27 06 2012

Members of the high priesthood place their hands to bless a baby
after a Rabbi performed a ceremonial circumcision (AFP/File, David Furst)

BERLIN — Circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to grievous bodily harm, a German court ruled Tuesday in a landmark decision that the Jewish community said trampled on parents’ religious rights.

The regional court in Cologne, western Germany, ruled that the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents”, a judgement that is expected to set a legal precedent.

“The religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised,” the court added.

The case was brought against a doctor in Cologne who had circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy on his parents’ wishes.

A few days after the operation, his parents took him to hospital as he was bleeding heavily. Prosecutors then charged the doctor with grievous bodily harm.

The doctor was acquitted by a lower court that judged he had acted within the law as the parents had given their consent.

On appeal, the regional court also acquitted the doctor but for different reasons.

The regional court upheld the original charge of grievous bodily harm but also ruled that the doctor was innocent as there was too much confusion on the legal situation around circumcision.

The court came down firmly against parents’ right to have the ritual performed on young children.

“The body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision,” the court said. “This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs.”

The decision caused outrage in Germany’s Jewish community.

The head of the Central Committee of Jews, Dieter Graumann, said the ruling was “an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination.”

The judgement was an “outrageous and insensitive act. Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practiced worldwide for centuries,” added Graumann.

“This religious right is respected in every country in the world.”

Holm Putzke, a criminal law expert at the University of Passau, told the Financial Times Deutschland that the ruling was “enormously important for doctors because for the first time they have legal certainty.”

“Unlike many politicians, the court has not allowed itself to be scared off by charges of anti-Semitism or religious intolerance,” added Putzke.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that nearly one in three males under 15 is circumcised. In the United States, the operation is often performed for hygiene reasons on infants.

Thousands of young boys are circumcised every year in Germany, especially in the country’s large Jewish and Muslim communities.

The court specified that circumcision was not illegal if carried out for medical reasons.

© 2012 AFP







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