Michigan History, Summer 1972; Bad Axe Michigan: "An Experiment in Jewish Agricultural Settlement" (PDF)
The Kansas Historical Quarterly, Autumn 1968; Beersheba Kan.: "God's Pure Air on Government Land" (PDF)
(RNS) — Fifty-five years ago, on Oct. 28, 1965, an extraordinary global religious “game changer” took place in Rome.
At the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, after three years of intense deliberation and debate, the world’s Roman Catholic bishops voted overwhelmingly that day to adopt the historic declaration titled “Nostra Aetate (In Our Time).”
The proclamation, promulgated by Pope Paul VI, set in motion a revolution of the human spirit and sparked a serious and systematic effort by the Catholic Church as well as other Christian bodies around the world to transform their past bitter relationships with Jews and Judaism.
The English translation of the original Latin text, only 624 words in length, rejected the ancient lethal and odious charge that the Jews were “Christ killers.” (It was the Roman occupiers of the land of Judea who executed Jesus.)
The specific term “anti-Semitism” (hatred of Jews and Judaism) appears in “Nostra Aetate”: The church, it reads, “ … decries hatred, persecution, (and) displays of anti-Semitism directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”
The declaration also specifically called for “mutual understanding and respect” and the establishment of “biblical and theological studies” as well as “fraternal dialogues” between Catholics and Jews.
Pope Paul VI in 1963. Vatican City official photo/Creative Commons
This June marks 60 years since my rabbinical ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. However, those six decades have not diminished my appreciation of the rabbinic mentors who symbolically escorted me to rabbinical school and upon whose shoulders I stand to this day.
My journey began when I was a 6-year-old student at Temple Rodef Sholom in Pittsburgh during Sukkot 1940. While standing on the building’s front steps, Rabbi Solomon B. Freehof, the congregation’s senior rabbi, handed me a bright red apple to commemorate the fall harvest holiday.
I proudly took the rabbi’s gift home, where it was treated as a sacred object, sitting on our mantelpiece as long as nature would allow.
The following year, my father was called to active Army duty and stationed at Fort Belvoir near Alexandria, VA, where we joined Temple Beth-El, the local Reform congregation. But Rabbi Freehof’s influence remained strong in our home, because Rodef Sholom regularly sent us printed texts of his sermons and book reviews.
Even as a youngster, I appreciated his beautifully crafted phrasing, his command of Jewish sources, and how his love of Shakespeare was woven into many of his writings -- and during the darkest days of World War II, Rodef Sholom’s rabbi always ended his sermons with realistic hope. His public book reviews attracted audiences of both Jews and Christians, numbering between 1,500 and 2,000.
The four power International Military Tribunal (IMT) took place in Nuremberg, Germany between November 1945 and October 1946. Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union joined the United States in bringing 24 Nazi leaders to justice after the end of World War II.
Three U.S. accounts – Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), Nuremberg (2000), and The Nuremberg Trials (2006) – present the IMT as a triumph of the American justice system. But Soviet participation in the trial, if noted at all, is usually portrayed as negative, crude, and obstructionist.
Indeed, at the time many Americans believed the USSR should have been tried for its own criminal behavior, especially the wartime massacre of 22,000 Polish military officers in the Katyn Forest; the Soviets falsely claimed the Nazis committed the slaughter. In addition, in August 1939, the USSR and Nazi Germany signed a non-aggression pact that divided Poland between the two dictatorships and gave Hitler the green light to invade Poland a month later, launching World War II.
Francine Hirsch, the Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has written a brilliantly researched, compelling narrative, Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg: A New History of the International Military Tribunal after World War II, that shatters the negative perception of the Kremlin’s role in the Nuremberg Trial. She asserts the USSR was central in establishing the pioneering legal framework required for the IMT.
Alan Dershowitz is arguably America’s most famous law professor and defense attorney. His celebrated clients have included Claus von Bulow, Jeffrey Epstein, Patty Hearst, O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson, and Harvey Weinstein. Dershowitz is a familiar voice and face on television, where he usually presents controversial legal views that draw attention and debate.
Although he was a supporter of Barack Obama, Dershowitz ultimately broke with him because he believed the president “engineered” a “pernicious” anti-Israel United Nations Security Council resolution in late 2016. However, Dershowitz backed Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House and has opposed efforts to impeach President Trump. He seems to enjoy being unpredictable in staking out provocative positions.
He is not, however, unpredictable on matters involving Israel. In his new book, Defending Israel: The Story of My Relationship with My Most Challenging Client (All Points Press), Dershowitz underscores his love affair with and his passionate defense of the world’s only Jewish state: “There was never a time that Israel was not part of my consciousness.”
The 80-year-old lover of Israel describes his youthful attraction to Zionism and, after 1948, his commitment to the survival and security of the newly independent Jewish state. He grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn, attended Yeshiva University High School, Brooklyn College, and graduated first in his Yale Law School class. For many years he was a distinguished Harvard Law School professor.
(RNS) — Joe Biden, a Roman Catholic, is running for the United States presidency. It hasn’t happened very often; there have only been three others nominated in our national history.
The first was New York Gov. Alfred E. Smith in 1928, followed by Massachusetts Sens. John F. Kennedy in 1960 and John F. Kerry in 2004.
Biden has openly described how his deep religious faith sustained him through the dark moments of his life, especially the tragic deaths of his first wife and two children. Biden is, in many ways, doubling down on his faith during his campaign, in the hopes of attracting Catholic faithful and religious voters who may see President Donald Trump’s use of faith as hypocritical.
In fact, Biden is counting on his Catholicism to be a boon to his campaign — but that hasn’t always been the case for Catholic presidential hopefuls.
It certainly was not for Smith, who ran against U.S. Commerce Secretary and Republican Herbert C. Hoover. Back then, the religious bigots publicly charged that the New York governor’s religious loyalty to Pope Pius XI superseded his faithfulness to the Constitution and made him unfit, even dangerous, to sit in the Oval Office.
The obscene anti-Catholic attacks on Smith came not only from members of the anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic and anti-African American Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups. There were also strong anti-Catholic feelings deeply embedded among the clergy and laity of many Protestant denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Methodist Church.
(RNS) — Japan became the only nation to have suffered an atomic bomb attack when, 75 years ago, our nation struck Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Three days later, a second bomb fell on Nagasaki.
In Hiroshima, more than 140,000 Japanese died when the B-29 Enola Gay dropped its single bomb. Because of Nagasaki’s hilly terrain, “only” 70,000 people were killed. The war ended days later without the need for a military invasion of the Japanese home islands.
In the early 1960s, when both sites still showed the devastating effects of the American nuclear raids, I was sent as an Air Force chaplain to Japan. My duties there included monthly visits to the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission facilities in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the staff, mostly American medical personnel, included enough Jewish families to constitute small viable congregations at each location.
The ABCC had been established by the U.S. Public Health Service in 1948 to study two separate control groups: individuals who survived the atomic bombs and those who were not exposed to radiation. Not surprisingly, those who lived through the attacks were struck by cancer, birth defects, heart disease, skin deformities, genetic abnormalities, psychiatric problems and other maladies far in excess of the unexposed group.
Ben Katchor, an American cartoonist and illustrator best known for his critically acclaimed comic strip Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, begins The Dairy Restaurant (Schocken Books, 2020) with the Garden of Eden story. He speculates whether Adam and Eve were the world’s first vegetarians, and we follow his journey through time to America’s ubiquitous Jewish dairy restaurants – and their ultimate demise.
With his humorous illustrations on nearly every page, Katchor presents an extraordinary range of facts, from the curative properties of milk and vegetarianism to the reason Jewish religious law prohibits consuming meat and milk together to the origins of the first public restaurants in France. He also explains why dairy products are linked to the spring Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot, and he gives a shout out to Sholom Aleichem’s most famous fictional character, Tevye the Dairyman.
Dairy restaurants, especially in New York City, expanded as millions of Jews arrived on our shores from Eastern Europe between 1882 and 1924. These eateries were believed to be healthy, sanitary, and affordable alternatives to venues that served meat and poultry.
Rabbi James Rudin
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