Thursday, February 28, 2008

It CAN happen here...

The War on Britan's Jews - Part One

ABC news has reported this week that "A Tanzanian-born Muslim man who dubbed himself "Osama bin London" was found guilty of encouraging his followers to murder non-believers and of running terrorist training camps in Britain". While actual terrorism has not made itself felt here in Australia, Boruch Hashem, the threat is Islamic terrorism is quite real throughout the world.

What has increased in Australia over the last few years is general anti-Semitism especially in Sydney and Melbourne. Over this time we have witnessed anti-Jewish violence on Carslile Street, Bondi Road and other heavily populated Jewish areas reminiscent of the type of incident in Europe in the 1920s and 30s. Obviously it is not as insidious as at those times but, for those of us who grew up in a very tolerant Australian society, it appears quite out of character for this country. Reading reports in the Australian Jewish News the general consensus is that the authorities are not doing enough or are powerless to do anything concrete about this. I tend to suspect that they are actually worried about accusing any particular group of fostering this un-Australian attitude as they are afraid of riots like those that occurred in Sydney.

What is also quite noticeable to me is that the general Australian population is taken in by press reports of these pushy Jews in Israel who are oppressing the poor Arabs (sarcasm intended). They appear to tacitly approve of anti-Jewish violence or at least ignore it. In the light of this I was impressed by the reports on British television made by Richard Littlejohn reporting on anti-Semitism. Littlejohn is an outspoken journalist who doesn't shy away from controversy. These reports mirror attitudes and events in Australia and are very interesting viewing. I have only posted the first of 5 videos here. The others can be seen by following these links:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

"Am Yisroel Chai"

I first saw this on and was impressed by Kevin Rudd's speech to the Yeshiva Sydney "Gala Dinner". Maybe it will silence those who said that Labour would not be a supporter of the Jewish community - but I think not.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Hassidics" Photo Exhibit

Chabad Tribute from Chabad on Vimeo.

The video is 12 minutes long but there are some nice photos.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Saying Sorry

After many years and a lot of angst in the community our government is finally saying "sorry" to the aboriginal people for the "stolen generations". It took 11 years and a change in government but, as one of their first duties, the Rudd government will be issuing the apology in parliament tomorrow.

The text of the apology can be found here.

Between the late 1800s and 1969 the Australian government forcibly took aboriginal children from their parents and placed them in institutions and white foster homes. This was supposedly done for their benefit as the thinking of the time was that it would obviously be better for the children to grow up with "white" people rather than their "uncivilised" families. Many of those "stolen" children were quite traumatised by these events as can be understood. One of the many testimonies:

I was at the post office with my Mum and Auntie [and cousin]. They put us in the police ute and said they were taking us to Broome. They put the mums in there as well. But when we'd gone [about ten miles] they stopped, and threw the mothers out of the car. We jumped on our mothers' backs, crying, trying not to be left behind. But the policemen pulled us off and threw us back in the car. They pushed the mothers away and drove off, while our mothers were chasing the car, running and crying after us. We were screaming in the back of that car. When we got to Broome they put me and my cousin in the Broome lock-up. We were only ten years old. We were in the lock-up for two days waiting for the boat to Perth.
The Bringing them Home report was commissioned by the government in 1995 to investigate the claims of indigenous people and was tabled in parliament in 1997. It recommended that the government apologise to the aboriginal people as well as make reparations to those forcibly removed from their families. The apology is finally to be made tomorrow but the reparations are yet to be decided upon.

To me it is a basic right that families should be kept together (with the obvious exception of abusive relationships). Many Rabbis have come out with statements and droshos in the last week to discuss this. I like the article in last week's Jewish News by Rabbi Chaim Ingram (of the Sydney Jewish Centre on Ageing) where he looks at this from a Torah viewpoint. From that article:

The eighth chapter of the talmudic tractate Baba Kama deals with issues of choveil - wounding or maiming. Five categories of liability are derived from the Torah: Injury (Shemot 21:24); physical pain(21:25); healing costs (21:19); loss of time (21:19); and emotional pain(Devarim 25:11-12).

The Mishna, having made it clear that "wound for wound" (21:25) means monetary compensation, details every aspect of monetary restitution required on all five counts listed above for various categories of people. Then suddenly, in chapter 7, we find the following: "Although he pays him, he is not forgiven for it until he seeks pardon from him." And how do we know that the injured party should not be cruel (and withhold pardon)? Because it says (Bereshit 20:17): "Abraham prayed to God and God healed Avimelech [who had kidnapped Sarah - thus Abraham demonstrated his willingness to forgive even one who had abducted his wife]".

Rambam (Hilkhot Choveil 5:9) expands further: "One who injures another physically (mazik begufo) is unlike one who damages his property (mazik mamono); in the latter case, as soon as he has made monetary restitution he is pardoned. If, on the other hand, he wounded (chaval) his fellow, although he pays him on all five liability counts [as he indeed must], he does not receive atonement... and his sin is not pardoned until he requests and receives pardon from his victim. The victim should not be cruel by withholding forgiveness; this is not the way of the seed of Israel. But as soon as the offender has asked forgiveness a first time, and [certainly] a second time, and the victim knows he is truly repentant, he should pardon him - and all who hasten to forgive are praiseworthy and beloved of the Sages."
In Hilchot Teshuva (2:9), Rambam extends the requirement of asking pardon to one who robs another and derives benefit from the stolen goods causing his victim anguish.

What, though, of one whose victim has died? Rambam makes it clear (Teshuva 2:11) that monetary restitution should be made to the heirs a generation (or several) down the track. However, as far as asking pardon is concerned, Rambam pointedly does not make that an option. Instead he says that the offender must supplicate publicly at the victim's grave.

It would seem that, by implication, the requirement of monetary restitution would apply equally to the heirs (inheritors) of the offender. Nor is it difficult to extrapolate fiscally from the sphere of the individual to that of society. After all, the wealth of a nation survives its administrators. The notions of trans-generational Holocaust "compensation" and Aboriginal lands restitution would appear sound from the Torah standpoint. Moreover, even the concept of trans-generational national confession to God has a Torah precedent. "Aval anachnu va'avoteinu chatanu - but we and our ancestors have sinned" is the phrase with which we introduce the viddui (confession) on Yom Kippur. We will not be held accountable for our ancestors' misdemeanours only if and when we renounce them.

However, the major question is: may the child of a victim extend vicarious pardon for wrongs done to his parent? Do the descendants of a generation of victims have the right to grant forgiveness for crimes perpetrated on their grandfathers and grandmothers? From a Torah standpoint, there appears to be no indication that they do. Maybe for this reason one may be excused for expressing the view that "sorry" can sometimes sound like the most inadequate word in the English language.

Yet that does not detract from the validity of every small step in the right direction.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Mendy Pellin Show - with Jay Leno

It looks like Mendy Pellin has hit the big time. His kooky humour has entertained many of us for last few years. Now he has made it to the big time - prime time TV! The joke is old but he tells it well.

See his other videos here.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Chazonus for your Pleasure

I enjoy chazonus in small doses and found this video on the Dreaming of Moshiach blog. I haven't heard of this chazan but have always enjoyed listening to chassidishe chazonim rather than those more modern.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Aussie Shaliach is an Artist

Rabbi Yitzchok Moully and sons in front of his artwork
(Photo by Bob Makin of the Courier News)

The New Jersey Courier News has an interesting story about Yitzchok Moully, youth director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Basking Ridge, who is also a budding artist specialising in Jewish "pop art". Rabbi Moully is having an exhibition of his artworks which can be seen on his website -

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yeshivah Shul

I noticed on that the downstairs shul of 770 now has a new "Luach Zmanim". The interesting thing to me is that Yeshivah Shul has just had exactly the same "luach" installed in the foyer of the shul. The new eyesore attracted a lot of attention on Friday night - not too much of it positive. This is just one more addition to the shul which does little to enhance it and much more to highlight the run-down state of the rest of the place.

Let's face it. Yeshivah Shul is, and has been, run down for many, many years. Any changes are either over the top - as in the chandelier - or incompletely and cheaply done as in the renovations to the foyer. I understood that the building was going to get a major overhaul but so far nothing has been done except to send architects on junkets overseas.

The Yeshivah Shul is open 18 hours a day and gets huge amounts of traffic from the many minyonim, the kollel as well as the school students. Repairs and enhancements cannot be superficial but must be fitting to the kovod of a shul and built in a way that can cope with the numbers of people passing through the building. Just because someone wants to donate a "gadget", as in the new luach, doesn't mean that it should automatically be accepted.

I, and most other people who daven in the many minyonim on the Yeshivah premises, want to be proud of our shul. This will only come about with a well thought out plan to either completely rebuild the building or renovate it to a standard befitting what a shul should be.

Friday, February 01, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a White...

We don't have to dream because Israel is experiencing snowstorms which are covering much of the high areas of the country. There are photos on various websites and COL has a number here. I like the ones of Sefat in particular some of which I reproduced above - click on them for a larger view.

YNet also has a report, photos and a video of Yerushalayim here.