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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Only Israeli Judaism is Authentic!


So said Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua in May 2006, at the American Jewish Committee's (AJC) Centennial Symposium.

He reiterated similar sentiments in the clip below.



Unsurprisingly, many both in Israel and the world Jewish community disagreed.

In response, the AJC complied a booklet of responses, both for and against what A.B. Yehoshua said, entitled: The A. B.Yehoshua Controversy: An Israel-Diaspora Dialogue on Jewishness, Israeliness, and Identity

It makes for a good read.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Israel's Dancing Robots



No, I'm not talking about the current Israeli government.

I'm talking awesome, Bukharian-Jewish, young-religious, Robocup-scoring genius machines that make Israel look GOOD!! Don't you just love good news?

Israeli students shine at international robotics dancing competition
Three students of robotics from the Or Avner Yeshiva High School were congratulated by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week for their victory in Robocup, the Robot World Cup Initiative Dancing Challenge held in Atlanta, Georgia last month.

Gabriel Yisraelov, Itzik Yalizerov and Alex Chaimov beat 50 teams from 23 other countries with their creations Mommy, Mafrat and Brownie the dog.

Olmert was treated to an exclusive performance in which the robots, dressed in the traditional Bukharian dress of their creators' native land (all three immigrated to Israel from Bukharia, Uzbekistan), twirled to a slow song about the coming of the Messiah. Olmert was as impressed as the Robocup audience in the US, which gave the Israeli team a standing ovation.

Moti Meir, the winners' teacher, said that "Or Avner nurtured them and dedicated all of its resources toward helping them."

The 11th RoboCup tournament, held at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, consisted of two challenges, explained Chaimov. In one, each country's team competed against all the others. In the second, three teams had to work together to program a new dance for all their robots.

Teamed with Japanese and American students, the Israelis proposed a wedding. Dan the American robot would marry Mafrat - to Mommy's disapproval. Brownie would come to the lovebirds' rescue, barking at Mommy. The Japanese robot would join in the dancing when the couple finally got married.

Chaimov, 16, who built Mafrat, arrived from Bukharia just two-and-a-half years ago. The Bukharian natives' interest in robotics began before RoboCup. Chaimov created a "smart room," where motion sensors trigger lights to turn on when people enter the room and off when people leave. He hopes to develop a breakdancing robot next year - in the 11th grade.

Yisraelov devised a menora that lights up with realistic flames, which turn on and off in the correct order. Yalizerov invented a robot that is able to sense the color black, following any thick black line.

Diamond billionaire Lev Leviev, the Bukharian-born supporter of the Or Avner schools, called the three students his "dearest diamonds."

"None of this would have been able to happen if the school hadn't paid for our materials and our flight to Atlanta," said Yisraelov.

RoboCup is an international research and education initiative, and the first official games were held in Nagoya, Japan in 1993. Since then, the annual games were hosted by different countries around the world including France (1998), Australia (2000), Germany (2006).

You can view another article on this story at the Chabad website - apparently, Ohr Avner is a Chabad school. Way to go!

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Torat Yisrael Parshah Sheet


In Israel, there are many weekly publications that find their way to synagogues every Shabbat. Most of these "Parshah Sheets" are in Hebrew.

image of this week's Torat Yisrael weekly Parshah SheetThe main one in English has a lot of Torah, but not many Neo-Zionist nationalist issues. A friend and I recently started a new English Parshah Sheet to bring ideas from the Torah related to the Land of Israel, and look at nationalist issues from a Halachic (Jewish law) perspective. Appropriately, we are called Torat Yisrael.

This is our 3rd week and already we have had 2 members of this blog write for us, as well as people from Elon Moreh to Chevron (kind of like Avraham's journey). This week features an article about Techelet from Rav David Bar-Hayim that was referred to in an earlier blog post. Every week there is also an Eretz Yisrael Photo of the Week by me. This (and last and IY"H next) issue also features a front cover ad for this blog (see image below)! We are circulating around Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh (and RBS), maybe also some yishuvim this Shabbat. If you live in Israel and want us to distribute to your shul, let me know. In any case, you can view each week's issue on our website - www.TorahFromZion.com. Shabbat Shalom!
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Thursday, February 08, 2007

New Study: 7.4 Million U.S. "Jews" (Yes, I Used Quotes)


When a study claims there are 7.4 million Jews in America Neo-Zionists get scared. Why? Simple. Because previous studies have suggested two conclusions:

1. Only Orthodox Judaism is growing. All other factions are either intermarrying into oblivion or identifying less and less with the Jewish people and

2. Overall the Jewish population in America is shrinking and has no future. (Remember Zeev Bielski and A.B. Yehoshua?)

Other studies have suggested that due to many factors the Jewish population in Israel is growing. This would mean in a few years the majority of those who are halachiclly considered Jewish will reside inside Israel and therefore many halachot will become Torah obligations, not just Rabbinic ones, and that the ingathering of the exiles can be considered complete.

Yet a study just came out that makes this remarkable "7.4 million Jews" claim. Here's how the NY Post reports it:

POPULATION SURPRISE FOR JEWS
By RITA DELFINER

February 8, 2007 -- America's Jewish population is far larger than previous estimates, a new survey shows.

There are as many as 7.4 million Jews in the United States, researchers at Brandeis University said yesterday.

They said the last authoritative survey was taken in 2000-01 and erroneously put the figure then at 5.2 million Jews. It counted practicing Jews; people who said they had no religion but thought of themselves ethnically as Jewish; and anyone with even one Jewish parent.

The Brandeis survey used the same categories and came up with 6 million to 6.4 million, a figure higher than would be expected by normal birth rate. But the researchers said their figure could shoot up to between 7 million and 7.4 million by adding an additional 1 million people who "might be considered Jewish" based on their backgrounds as kids of intermarried parents.

The Brandeis researchers said the earlier survey grossly undercounted non-Orthodox families, did not include "substantial numbers of young and middle-aged individuals" and was wrong to say the Jewish-American population had been in a state of decline since 1990.

"Our analyses tell us that the Jewish community is larger and more diverse than most had thought," said Brandeis Professor Len Saxe.


On the surface this new study seems to declare that:
1. Non-Orthodox Jews are doing great too, and
2. Orthodox Jews are overrated, and
3. The Jewish population in America is growing!

For those of us that follow halacha however this study does not disprove the previous conclusions, (that the ingathering of the exiles will soon be halachically complete) and may even strengthen them.

First let's get something out of the way. What is a Jew according to this study?

The same thing that was a Jew according to the NJPS.

And I quote from that study:

"For purposes of this report, a Jew is defined as a person:
-Whose religion is Jewish, OR
-Whose religion is Jewish and something else, OR
-Who has no religion and has at least one Jewish parent or a Jewish upbringing, OR
-Who has a non-monotheistic religion, and has at least one Jewish parent or a Jewish upbringing."(page 13)

The halachic definition of a Jew is one whose mother is Jewish or one who halachically converted.

The study (which you could download and read for yourself here) relies heavily on unproven assumptions. Previous studies, they claim, underestimated non-Orthodox Jews because they must be harder to reach. That's solid logic if I ever heard it. Got a lower representation than you wanted? Just say, "oh, well, obviously there are more. We just can't reach them."

Look forward to this headline: "Pinchas proves extraterrestrial life exists." See I did a study. I called beings and asked them if they are extraterrestrial life forms but since AT&T doesn't provide long distance service to other planets they are a bit harder to reach. Not wanting to underestimate them I included them in my results.

Here's how they concocted this argument. Are you ready for this?

1. "Families with several school age children, typical of many Orthodox families, have more people available to answer the telephone and may be more likely to be at home. This makes them easier to reach." (page 19)

2. "This fits with our earlier conclusion that non-Orthodox Jews may be more difficult to reach than non-Jews (particularly for telephone surveys) because of their socio-economic distinctiveness." (page 29)

Okay, okay. I know. Purim came early this year! Now after you've stopped laughing and caught your breath it gets better. These researchers are clearly disconnected from the Orthodox Jewish reality, namely that we have a life too and don't sit at home all day waiting by the phone for that survey researcher to call us.

The researchers claim that prior studies "systematically undercounted certain groups..." Namley, "...young adults (18-29 year olds). Young adults are particularly difficult for telephone surveys to reach. An increasingly serious research problem is that these individuals are the most likely to use cellular telephones as their exclusive personal telephone." (page 20)

And we all know that non-Orthodox 18-29 year old Jews use cell phones far more than their Orthodox counterparts. After all, we Orthodox Jews all have black beards and live in Lanchester, Pennsylvania and build barns and plant corn.

What this study shows is that all new studies will begin including more and more people as Jews when they are halachiclly not Jewish at all. And that in fact the halachiclly Jewish percentage of these results will continue to shrink.

Consider this:

"There is increasing evidence, for example, that more intermarried families are choosing to raise children Jewishly. If that trend continues, it portends an increase in the Jewish population." (page 31).

To me it portends an increase in the non-halachic "Jewish" population.

The paper concludes:

"Acknowledging the controversial nature of the present findings, we hope that this report will provoke productive discourse. The larger, more diverse, character of the population suggests that debate about the future of the Jewish community in America needs to encompass multiple viewpoints that address the concerns of the different groups making up the overall community. It suggests, as well, a broadened set of discussions with other Jewish communities around the world, in particular, Israel." (page 34)

In English: Israel should become (or remain) less connected to G-d because so many American "Jews" are.

"Just as Jewish identity is regarded as fluid, and may change in intensity over the lifespan, the character of the population, too, may shift as norms about marriage, child-rearing and religious practice evolve." (ibid.)

In English: Israel should accept, if not encourage, intermarriage, having less kids, and not believing in G-d.

They are the ones that are scared. They need to keep telling themselves it's safe to be a non-religious Jew in America today. They keep telling themselves their future is bright. They should know better. They do know better.

Neo-Zionism is winning. Torah Judaism is winning.

Keep the Torah! Make Aliyah!

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