Monthly Archives: July 2016

Siddur Sim Shalom

Siddur Sim Shalom refers to any siddur in a family of siddurim published by the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. How do they differ from Orthodox siddurim?

Siddur Sim Shalom for Weekdays

Changes and innovations in “Siddur Sim Shalom” (1985) and in “Siddur Sim
Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals” (1997)

Birkhot HaShakhar – Morning Blessings: Three of the early morning berakhot were modified to praise God for having created each individual in God’s image, a free person and a Jew, rather than the conventional version which express gratitude for not having been created a woman, a slave or a non-Jew.

Birchot Hashachar morning blessings

Conventionally Birkhot HaShakhar contains a number of passages describing sacrifices in ancient times which can only be recalled, but not carried out. This section on sacrifices is much shorter in Conservative siddurim; In their place is the Talmudic teaching that deeds of loving-kindness now atone for sin; they draw upon rabbinic tradition to emphasize teachings about atonement and necessary behavior. [Harlow]

Texts that have been added to this part of the service include Leviticus 19:2, 14-18, Avot de Rabbi Nathan, 11a and Tractate Sukkah 49b.

An innovation in Conservative prayer books is a liturgical response to the creation of the modern State of Israel. It was felt that this should be made in a manner which is integral to the fabric of the service; Such a liturgical model already existed: Al HaNissim, which is added to the service on Purim on Chanukah. Thus a new, third Al HaNissim was composed, adapting the language and style of the standard Hebrew text to produce a text that is used on Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. A Torah and Haftarah reading for this day is also indicated.

Recalling Sacrifices in the Musaf Amidah: “Siddur Sim Shalom” presents multiple alternatives for the Shabbat Musaf; the Orthodox version which explicitly prays for the resumption of animal sacrifice in a rebuilt Temple is not one of them.  Siddur Sim Shalom changes the phrase na’ase ve’nakriv (we will present and sacrifice) to asu ve’hikrivu (they presented and sacrificed). The petition to accept the “fire offerings of Israel” is removed from the Amidah.

“Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals” does not present multiple
services; it presents one musaf for Shabbat, for festivals, and for Rosh
Hodesh. Within each service, the reader is offered a traditional text, as
well as an alternative text which eliminates mention of sacrifices. The
traditional Y’hi Ratzon meditation (“May it be your will, Adonai our God,
and God of our Ancestors, that the Temple be restored in our day…”)
following the Musaf Amidah is restored.

Other changes in Musaf: Following the view of Rav Saadiah Gaon, the Hebrew word ba-olam (in the world) is added to the daily prayer for peace at the end of the Amidah, making explicit the traditional Jewish concern for universal peace.

Tahanun – supplications following the weekday morning Amidah. The earliest
sources about saying Tahanun is from the Tosefta in Berakhot; The Geonim
viewed this section as optional, the contents were flexible as well. In his
Siddur Maimonides also makes it clear that there are various customs and he
is merely citing his own custom. [Golinkin]  Originally this point in the
service was considered appropriate for the personal supplications of each
individual, and it still is. Over the years, however, certain stylized
passages were printed as the fixed text; these contain references to the
physical desolation of Jerusalem and statements of extreme self-abasement.
To reflect present reality, such statements have been deleted, other
passages have adapted or abridged, and brief portions of supplications by
Rav Amram and Rav Saadiah Gaon have been added. These are closer to us in
spirit than many passages of later origin which were canonized by the
printing press. One’s own prayers are appropriate, and traditional.

Egalitarian Hebrew formulations: The language of liturgical formulas in
Siddur Sim Shalom reflects the reality that in many congregations both men
and women participate in the service. Some prayers include references to
both the patriarchs and the matriarchs. Passages designed for use on Simchat
Torah include texts appropriate for formally designating women as well as
men as honorees on that occasion.  The prayer on behalf of the congregation
(recited after the Torah reading on Shabbat) has been emended to reflect the
fact that women as well as men are members of the congregation. The Mi
Sheberakh prayers contain forms for both male and female readers. The
meditations prior to putting on the tallit and tefillin provide masculine
and feminine forms. [Harlow and Rubenstein]

Some Hasidic influence appears in Siddur Sim Shalom. The blessing for the new moon (kiddush levanah) appears at the end of the Sabbath liturgy. Another mystical element is the Raza DeShabbat, the “Vision of Shabbat”, which precedes the Sabbath evening service. Taken from the Zohar, this passage depicts the enthronement of the Shekhinah. [Raza DeShabbat is only in the 1985 edition ]

Several of the alternative meditations which follow the amidot stress joy, and request freedom from atzvit (sorrow) in classic Hasidic fashion. In fact, a number of these passages are based on the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. Some benedictions for mitzvot are preceded by kavanot (meditations) which were introduced into the liturgy by the Kabbalists. [Rubenstein]


David Golinkin “Siddur Sim Shalom – A Halakhic Analysis”_Conservative
Judaism_ Vol.41(1) Fall 1988 p.38-55

Jules Harlow “Introducing Siddur Sim Shalom” _Conservative Judaism_
Vol.37(4) Summer 1984 p.5-17

Isaac Klein “A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice” JTSA, New York, 1992

Jeffrey Rubestein “Siddur Sim Shalom and Developing Conservative Theology”
_Conservative Judaism_ Vol. 41(1) Fall 1988 p.21-37

Jeffrey Rubestein “Ethics and the Liturgy of the Conservative Movement”
_Judaism_ Winter 1991 Vol.40(1) p.95-114





Who are the Kararites? What is their religion (Karaism)?
In what ways is Karaism similar to Judaism, and in what ways is it different?
Do Karaites claims to be Jews?
Do Karaites claims to be modern-day Sadduccees?
Do all Karaites accept that Anan Ben David was the father of their movement?


Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd edition, 2006.

The name “Karaites” was not applied to the sect until the ninth century; the precursor of the sect was known as “Ananites,” from the name of its founder, ʿAnan b. David. The sect appears to have come into being as the result of a combination of factors: the amalgamation of various heterodox trends in Babylonian-Persian Jewry, which clashed with the efforts of the heads of the Babylonian yeshivot to consolidate their position as the exclusive and central authority of Jewish law; the tremendous religious, political, and economic fermentation in the entire East, resulting from the Arab conquests and the collision of Islam with world religions.

The Karaite sect absorbed both such Jewish sects as the Isawites (adherents of *Abu ʿIsā al-Iṣfahānī) and *Yudghanites, who were influenced by East-Islamic tendencies, and other anti-traditional movements.

The Karaites themselves, however, trace their origin to the first split among the Jewish people, at the time of *Jeroboam; the true law had subsequently been preserved by the descendants of Ẓadok, who had discovered a portion of the truth. The process of this discovery of the truth was then continued by the exilarch ʿAnan (thus al-Kirkisānī and others).

The unhistorical, fanciful, and biased Karaite sources also influenced the reports of Arab authors. Rabbanite sources, on the other hand, give their own one-sided version of the emergence of the Karaite schism, ascribing it exclusively to ʿAnan’s personal ambition and the injury his pride suffered when his younger brother Hananiah was elected exilarch.

The absorption by ʿAnan’s movement of many elements of an older, extra-talmudic tradition was pointed out particularly by A. Geiger and R. Mahler.

As a matter of fact, ʿAnan’s system included many laws that are quoted from old rabbinic authorities in the Mishna, the Talmud and other tannaitic and targumic sources but were not accepted (e.g., the lex talionis, i.e., the literal interpretation of “an eye for an eye” principle in the criminal law).

Anan cannot, however, be described as a “reformer” of Judaism in the modern sense; far from easing the “yoke of traditional law, he made it more difficult to bear:

he did not recognize the minimum quantities (shi’urim) of forbidden foods fixed by the rabbis; he introduced more complicated regulations for the circumcision ceremony; he added to the number of fast days; he interpreted the prohibition of work on the Sabbath in stricter terms; etc. He was particularly severe with regard to the laws on marriage between relatives, ritual cleanliness, and relations with non-Jews.

In his interpretation of Scripture, he made use of the 13 hermeneutic principles of R. *Ishmael b. Elisha, adding to them the principle of analogy (hekkesh, Ar. qiyās; the latter, perhaps, under the influence of Abu Ḥanīfah, the founder of the Ḥanafite school of Muslim jurisprudence).

The dictum quoted in Anan’s name by *Japheth b. Yeli (commentary on Zech. 5:8), “Search well in the Torah and do not rely on my opinion,” is composed of two clauses: the first in Aramaic, and the second in Hebrew. The second clause, though, is not found in the oldest MS of Japheth’s commentary and seems to reflect a somewhat later development. The first half was possibly designed to uphold the Holy Scriptures as the sole source of the law through a process of thorough investigation; notwithstanding, the fragments of Anan’s Book of Precepts contain several references to the definitive authority of Anan’s own interpretations of Biblical verses.

In the wake of Anan’s activity, numerous groups and parties were formed, mainly in the eastern parts of the Caliphate. Some of them shared the designation “Karaites,” and soon, as related by Kirkisānī, it became impossible to find two Karaites who held the same opinions on all religious issues.

Anan’s adherents, in the stricter sense, called themselves Ananites (Arabic ʿanāniyya, sometimes applied by Muslim authors to Karaites in general) and remained few in number (in Iraq, Syria and Spain). They seem to have disappeared some time during the 11th century.

Anan’s descendants, who, like Anan before them, were given the honorific title of nasi (“prince”) by their contemporaries, lived first in Jerusalem, and then, from the early
11th century, for the most part in Egypt. The names of his son, *Saul b. Anan, and his grandson, Josiah b. Saul b. Anan, are known from the prayer for the dead in the Karaite Sabbath and festival liturgy; neither seems to have had any role in the further development of the sect. Saul is also mentioned in Sefer ha-Kabbalah, by Abraham ibn Daud, and Josiah in Eshkol ha-Kofer, by Judah Hadassi, and in Gan Eden, by Aaron b. Elijah the Younger of Nicomedia. Karaite traditions about Anan’s emigration to Jerusalem and his settlement there refer possibly to his great-grandson, whose name was Anan.

As the non-Rabbanite, proto-Karaite movement did not recognize any single leader, it was not long before many groups arose in its midst, in opposition to the Ananites. Thus, in the first half of the ninth century, the ʿUkbarites, whose founder was *Ishmael of ʿUkbara, came into being in ʿUkbara, near Baghdad, at the time of the caliph al-Muʿtaṣim (833–842).

Ishmael was violently opposed to Anan, “often denouncing him as a fool and an ass.” Nothing of Ishmael’s writing has been preserved, and the little known about him and his school derives almost exclusively from the reports of al-Kirkisānī, at whose time (second half of the tenth century) the group was probably no longer in existence. In his teaching, Ishmael rejects, inter alia, the Masoretic variants (keri and ketiv, the reading of certain words in the Bible in a manner that differs from their spelling).

….It follows that in the 9th century and the beginning of the 10th, the Karaite movement was a conglomeration of various anti-Rabbanite groups, some of which had sprung up after Anan’s death. Al-Kirkisānī gives a vivid description of the countless differences on questions of religious ritual obtaining among the various Karaite groups, some of which still existed in al-Kirkisānī’s time.

In order to counter the Rabbanite arguments in polemics with the Karaites, based upon these heterogeneous views, al-Kirkisānī concludes his description with a characteristic observation: the Karaite readers of his work, he states, had no reason for concern, for in this respect there was a great difference between them and the Rabbanites:

“They [i.e., the Rabbanites] believe that their laws and regulations have been transmitted by the prophets; if that was the case, there ought not to exist any differences of opinion among, them and the fact that such differences of opinion do exist refutes their presumptuous belief. We, on the other hand, arrive at our views by our reason, and reason can lead to various results.”

The many sects which had come upon the proto-Karaite or early Karaite scene after Anan disappeared as fast as they had sprung up, without leaving any noticeable trace upon the
movement. By their gradual self-liquidation, however, they prepared the ground for the consolidation of a well-defined, uniform doctrine which has subsisted to this very day as Karaism.

The outstanding representative of the new movement in the ninth century was Benjamin b. Moses *Nahāwendī (from Nehavend, Persia; c. 830–860), who laid the groundwork for
the new development of Karaite doctrine and was also the first Karaite writer to employ, according to some sources, the term Kara’im (Benei Mikra).

Rabbanite scholars, such as Saadiah Gaon and Judah Halevi, regard Anan and Benjamin as the fathers and founders of the Karaite sect; Arabic and Karaite authors also refer to Karaites as Aṣḥāb ʿAnān wa-Binyāmīn (i.e., followers of Anan and Benjamin). The Karaites themselves put Benjamin almost on the same level as Anan, and in the memorial prayer (zikhronot) Benjamin’s name follows immediately upon those of Anan, Saul, and Josiah.

It was Benjamin, in particular, who turned the free and independent individual study of the Scriptures into a basic principle of Karaism. In theory it became possible for Karaism to tolerate differing interpretations of the Bible. Benjamin also differed from Anan in making no special efforts to maintain a hostile attitude to the Rabbanites and stress a fundamental opposition to them. He sought to base each law upon the Bible (without differentiating between the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa) and freely borrowed from the Rabbanites (although he declared such regulations as not binding upon Karaites). Furthermore, he advised his coreligionists to adopt the Rabbanite view in cases where the Bible did not provide a clear prescription.

Benjamin is also the first Karaite to whom Karaite sources ascribe statements concerning dogmas and religious philosophy. Seeking to remove all taint of anthropomorphism
from the conception of God, he embraced in his exegesis of the Bible ideas that are reminiscent of *Philo’s theory of the Logos (which he may have known in Arabic translation or by the way of the Maghāriyya – the cave dweller – sect, mentioned by al- Kirkisānī; see also *Sects, Minor). Accordingly, the creator of the world, its builder, and its guide, was an angel created by God to represent His will; it was this angel who performed the miracles, revealed the Law, etc., and it is to this angel that the anthropomorphic passages in the Bible refer.

*Daniel b. Moses al-Qūmisī, who lived toward the end of the ninth century, seems to have been the first eminent Karaite scholar to settle in Jerusalem. He was the first to make the“mourning in Zion” a basic tenet and a hallmark of Karaism. In an epistle ascribed to him he fervently urged Karaites in the Diaspora to immigrate to Ereẓ Israel. In the same epistle he also expounded his particular positions on halakhic issues and, perhaps for the first time in Jewish history, proposed a set of normative, binding beliefs (“articles of faith”). He opposed Benjamin’s method of Bible exegesis and denied the existence of angels, interpreting the term malakhim as natural forces employed by God to serve as His emissaries (cf. Psalms 78:49; 104:4).

Opposing also Benjamin’s leaning toward Rabbinic halakhah, he called for strict adherence to the literal sense of the Scriptures. This may also explain his fight against Anan, whom he had at first revered as “first among the sages” (“rosh ha-maskilim”), only to denounce him later as “first among the fools” (“rosh ha-kesilim”). Yet in his commentaries there are cases of alternative and homiletic interpretations.

It may be assumed that it was his attitude to Anan that caused al-Qūmisī’s exclusion from the Karaite memorial prayer, in spite of the great respect in which he was held by later Karaite writers. al-Qūmisī wrote commentaries on several books of the Bible, but of his commentaries only the one on Minor Prophets survived almost complete. He also taught that, in case of doubt, the more rigorous interpretation of the law should be accepted.


In the tenth century, when Karaism was already fairly consolidated, the movement adopted an aggressive attitude, designed to spread its doctrine. This was also the golden age of Karaite literature (with most of the Karaite works of this period being written in Arabic). Karaite attempts to gain mass support for their beliefs among the Rabbanites (which, however, seem to have attracted only a few converts of no particular distinction) brought forth, on both sides, an apologetic and polemic literature.

There were in this period (ninth and tenth centuries) a considerable number of outstanding Karaite theologians, religious teachers, grammarians, lexicographers, and biblical exegetes. Rejection of secular sciences, which Anan had advocated, was not followed by all Karaites. Some Karaite scholars became active participants in the flourishing Arabic culture. Others (e.g. al-Qūmisī, Salmon ben YeruIim ) prohibited any
engagement in “foreign” books and sciences as leading to heresy.

In view of the special significance attached by Karaism to the study of the Bible, the Karaites dedicated themselves with great zeal to massoretic and grammatical exegetic studies and must have had a stimulating influence upon Rabbanite scholars. The view of Jewish historians (such as J. Fuerst, S. Pinsker, H. Graetz) that some of the first and most appreciated Jewish massoretes and grammarians (notably Aharon ben Asher), and biblical exegetes had been Karaites, has been discussed again in recent research and probably proven correct.

The greatest Karaite mind of the tenth century was Abu Yūsuf Yaʿqūb al-Kirkisānī, whose work on religious law, Kitāb al-Anwār wa-al-Marāqib, particularly its opening chapter, represents one of the foremost sources for the history of the Karaite sect.

*David b. Boaz, a descendant of Anan, attained great repute as a biblical commentator, and is also said to have composed a work (in Arabic) on the basic doctrines of religion. In the second half of the tenth century, David b. Abraham *Alfasi, a native of Fez (Morocco) who emigrated to Ereẓ Israel, became known as a lexicographer and biblical exegete. At the end of the century *Japheth b. Eli in Jerusalem translated the entire Hebrew Bible into Arabic and added his extensive commentary, becoming the most important Karaite Bible commentator. Japheth’s son, Levi b. *Japheth, in addition to Bible commentary, also wrote an important book of precepts (extensive fragments of the Arabic original and the medieval Hebrew translation survived).

One of the most active opponents of Rabbanism, and especially of Saadiah Gaon, was *Salmon b. Yeruḥim (mid-tenth century). In a similar vein was the work of *Sahl b. Maṣliaḥ ha-Kohen, a skillful and eloquent Karaite missionary who wrote a commentary on the Pentateuch and was a religious teacher; his Hebrew introduction to his Arabic-language book of precepts contains important information on the Karaite community in Jerusalem.


The decline of Karaism in the East began in the 12th century. No original writer of any significance came to the fore there after the first half of that century, even in the field of religious law. The only exception was in Egypt, where the Karaite communities (mainly in Cairo and Alexandria) still numbered members who possessed considerable financial means and had good political connections, or belonged to the intellectual or professional elite. When *Maimonides took up residence in Cairo their influence, social and religious, decreased, as well as their public standing. Notwithstanding, the Karaite community in Egypt remained the largest in the Islamic east until modern times. Also living in Egypt at this period was Moses b. Abraham *Darʿī, the outstanding Karaite poet of his time.

Other Karaite writers who lived in Egypt (mainly in Cairo) in the 12th to 15th centuries, such as *Japheth al-Barqamānī, Japheth ibn Naghīr, *Israel ha-Ma’aravi, and *Samuel b. Moses *al-Maghribī, played no independent role in the further development of Karaism.

In the Byzantine Empire, on the other hand, Karaism succeeded in gaining a firm foothold. A massive Karaite literature of translation came into being here, produced mainly by former disciples of Jeshua b. Judah who, for the most part, were residents of Constantinople. The most eminent among them was *Tobias b. Moses ha-Avel (known as “ha-Oved” [the worshiper] and also as “ha-Maʿtik” [the translator]) whose major work was the translation of the Arabic writings of Jeshua, as well as of Joseph b. Abraham al-Baṣīr. He also wrote a commentary on the Pentateuch, Oẓar Neḥmad, based primarily upon the works of David b. Boaz and Japheth b. Ali. The only other name to be preserved is that of *Jacob b. Simeon, one of the most prominent Karaite translators of this period.

To this period belongs also the work on Hebrew linguistics entitled Meʾor ʿAyin, by an anonymous author. It seems to have been based on Arabic works of the Golden Age. It survived in a single MS, copied in 1208 (published by M. Zislin, 1990). Prominent religious scholars and biblical exegetes active in Byzantium in the 12th century were Jacob b. Reuben, author of a Bible commentary, Sefer ha-Osher, which consists largely of excerpts from Hebrew translations of works of earlier Karaite authors, especially those of Japheth b. Ali (part of the commentary on the Prophets and the entire commentary on the Writings was printed at the end of the edition of Mivḥar Yesharim by Aaron ben Joseph, 1836); Aaron b. Judah *Kusdini (from Constantinople), of whose works there survives only a responsum on marriage laws; and Judah b. Elijah *Hadassi, author of Eshkol ha-Kofer, an encyclopedic summary of Karaite theology, one of the most important works of Karaite literature and, undoubtedly, the outstanding Karaite work in Hebrew. Most Byzantine Karaite translations and original works of that period contain a considerable number of Greek glosses, or other phrases, which constitute very important evidence of early Medieval Judeo-Greek.

….In the second half of the 13th century, Karaism in the Byzantine Empire entered a period of spiritual florescence. It was in this period that *Aaron b. Joseph ha-Rofe (“Aaron the Elder”), one of the most important Karaite biblical exegetes, was active; highly revered by his coreligionists, he was given the title of “ha-Kadosh” (“the Saint”), most probably for his work in arranging the hitherto unstable Karaite liturgy into an organized ritual, valid to this day. His commentary on the Bible, Sefer ha-Mivḥar, is regarded as the classic Karaite work in Bible exegesis; it shows the influence of Abraham ibn Ezra’s commentary.

*Aaron b. Elijah of Nicomedia (“the Last Aaron”), a codifier, biblical exegete, and religious philosopher who lived in the first half of the 14th century, was regarded by the Karaites as the “Karaite Maimonides”; he was the author of Gan Eden, a systematic code of Karaite law and belief, corresponding in its significance for Karaism to the Turim by R. Jacob b. Asher; of Keter Torah, a Bible commentary which has enjoyed, for many centuries now, a status and prestige comparable to that of Rashi’s commentary among Rabbanites; and of Eẓ Ḥayyim, which attempts to refute the Aristotelian views of Maimonides by a religious philosophy, which, while familiar with Aristotelian terminology and concepts, is basically committed to Muʿtazilite Kalām.


A new epoch in the history of the Karaites was opened by the incorporation of Lithuania and Crimea (1793 and 1783, respectively) into Russia. Until then, the external history of the Karaites had been similar, and parallel, to that of the Rabbanite Jews; both considered each other as Jews and regarded even the most violent polemics between them as an internal Jewish quarrel. Wherever the Karaites had taken up residence, they had been treated as Jews. For example, a decree issued by Grand Duke Witold in 1388 describes the Karaites of Troki as “Judaei Trocenses” and grants them the same special legal status as that accorded to Jews of Brest-Litovsk and other Lithuanian communities.

The decree was reconfirmed by King Sigismund I of Poland in 1507, for both Karaite and Rabbanite Jews in Lithuania. In 1495, Grand Duke Alexander expelled both Jews and Karaites from Lithuania, and both were admitted into Poland by his brother, King John Albert. John’s successor, Alexander, in turn permitted the return of both Jews and Karaites to Lithuania. During the Chmielnicki persecutions, hardly any difference was made between the two groups.

In Lithuania, Poland, and Volhynia, the state taxes payable by Jews and Karaites had to be remitted in a lump sum; the Karaites would hand their taxes over to the Rabbanite Jews, and these would add their own taxes and transmit the whole sum to the government. Under the Tatar khans and the Ottoman Turks, Rabbanite Jews and Karaites in the Crimea also had the same legal status.

It was only at the end of the 18t century, when Russia conquered the Crimea, that a difference in status was made between Rabbanite Jews and Karaites under the law. In 1795, Empress Catherine II relieved the Karaites of the double tax imposed upon the Jews, and also permitted them to acquire land. Thus the 1795 law created a wall of separation between Jews and Karaites, each group enjoying civil rights to a different degree (although legislative decrees continued to refer to Karaites as “Jews”).

Inequality before the law of the two groups was further expanded in 1827, when the Crimean Karaites, like the Crimean Tatars, were exempted from the general military draft law enacted by Czar Nicholas I, a privilege that was not extended to the Jews. In 1828, exemption from military service was also granted to the Karaites of Lithuania and Volhynia. In their attempts to improve their legal status, Russian Karaite leaders had at first refrained from resorting to attacks upon Rabbanite Jews; this policy was changed in 1835, when the Karaites, in appeals and memoranda to the Russian government, began to stress their fundamental difference from other Jews, namely their refusal to accept the validity of the Talmud.

They also claimed to possess qualities which distinguished them from other Jews: that, contrary to the Rabbanites, they were industrious people, honest in their behavior and loyal to the throne. In 1835 they succeeded in having the Rabbanite Jews of Troki expelled from the town, on the basis of ancient Lithuanian privileges which granted them the sole right of settlement there.

They also achieved a change in their official designation; instead of “Jews-Karaites” they first came to be called “Russian Karaites of the Old Testament Faith” and eventually simply“Karaites. The special legal status accorded to Karaites, as compared with the other Jews, was also influenced by the difference in their social and economic situation.

Whereas the Jews in the Crimea were mainly peddlers and artisans, the Karaites were wealthy landowners, deriving their income from tobacco plantations, orchards, and salt mines, and maintaining good relations with the authorities. In 1840 the Karaites were put on an equal footing with the Muslims, and were granted an independent church statute. Two dioceses were established, each headed by a ḥakham, with residences at *Feodosiya (Crimea) and Troki respectively; the ḥakhamim were laymen, elected by delegates from all Karaite communities. Each community also elected its ḥazzan, who performed religious functions and served as an assistant to the ḥakham. Finally, in 1863, the Karaites were given rights equal to those of the native Russian population.

On Jan. 9, 1939, the German Ministry of the Interior expressly stipulated that the Karaites did not belong to the Jewish religious community; their “racial psychology” was considered non-Jewish. This decision was subsequently applied to France. In Eastern Europe the Nazi Einsatzgruppen during World War II received orders to spare the Karaites, who enjoyed favorable treatment and were given positions of trust and authority with the German occupation authorities. On Oct. 6, 1942, the ruling of Jan. 9, 1939, was extended to the Crimea and the Ukraine, where the majority of Karaites lived.

The Karaite question continued to be debated by the German authorities who queried the Rabbanite scholars Zelig *Kalmanovitch, Meir S. *Balaban, and Itzhak *Schipper on the origin of the Karaites. In order to save them, all three gave the opinion that the Karaites were not of Jewish origin. The behavior of the Karaites during the Holocaust period vacillated between indifference to the Jewish cause and some cases of actual collaboration with the Germans. No adequate study, however, has been made on this subject.

Obsession with bugs in vegetables

Keeping kosher is how Jews bring holiness into eating. It is spiritually empowering, and shows our commitment to a 3000 year old tradition. Unfortunately, some Orthodox rabbis in the last 50 year have created unrealistic stringencies that make it impossible for Jews to eat healthy diets: these new stringencies make it nearly impossible to eat any fruits or vegetables, due to fears of insects.

Another story : “The War on Vegetables”, The Forward, Leah Koenigh

In an article on his website, Luke Ford writes about a new right wing Orthodox obsession with insects in food.

Jonah Lowenfeld writes in The Jewish Journal:

“The presence of even one whole bug, dead or alive, can render an entire vegetable treif — unkosher. On this matter, Orthodox rabbis are unequivocal. From a Torah perspective, eating a Big Mac or eating a salad with insects in it, the salad is worse,” Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz, who runs the nonprofit Kosher Information Bureau, told me when I met him at his home office in Valley Village.”
– 1/25/2012, Can we afford kosher lettuce?

Shaking My Head

The above is nonsense. Orthodox rabbis have different positions on bugs. The historical Jewish position on bugs in fruits and vegetables is that you wash them until you see no bugs and then you are free to eat. Bugs that you can’t see with your naked eye are not treif.

As we drink water and breathe air, we ingest microscopic bugs. This is not a sin. If we eat a salad with insects in it that we can not sin, we are not committing a sin. I challenge anyone to present a traditional source that says otherwise….

The Jewish Journal reports: “…the RCC’s guidelines recommend that people use lightboxes.”

Do you think our ancestors in Eastern Europe used lightboxes to check for bugs? What about the Israelites in the desert 3200 years ago?

The Jewish Journal publishes: ““You have to wash [the fruit or vegetable] with a food detergent,” Muskin said about checking non-certified vegetables.”

Do you think our Orthodox ancestors washed fruit and vegetables in food detergent? Many Jews in Eastern Europe were so poor that they could not afford wine for kiddush. Do you think they bought food detergent or vinegar with their last funds to clean their fruits and vegetables.

I can use a magnifying glass and examine tap water or distilled water and find bugs. Drinking this water is not a sin. If you examine meat or cheese or you name it with a magnifying glass, you’ll likely find tiny bugs.

Rashi’s teshuvot (rabbinic rulings) were published in 1943. About 500 copies were printed. Rashi says that you wash vegetables and this removes all the bugs prohibited by the Torah.

The Rashba says you wash them and check them and any bug visible is prohibited but anything not visible is not prohibited. Reb Moshe Feinstein’s position was essentially the same as the Rashba’s. When this bug insanity started in Lakewood in 1982, Reb Moshe would have nothing to do with it.

Worrying about bugs is a way to avoid the real challenges to the Jewish community such as Biblical criticism (and modernity’s other intellectual challenges), agunot (chained women) and converts.

Los Angeles has an Orthodox community of about 30,000 to 40,000, less than 10% by the most generous of standards. Ask anyone who grew up in Eastern Europe before WWII if anyone washed vegetables with soap or vinegar? Many of these people did not have running water.

Most communal Modern Orthodox rabbis in the United States don’t know much and they’re intimidated by their right-wing so they go along with this bug nonsense.

On a related subject see Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy: The author asserts that contemporary Orthodox Jewish religion and practice has undergone a major and profound change in nature during his lifetime. Where observance of Jewish law was once organic and transmitted through family tradition as much as by text and rabbinic literature, it has now become disconnected from family practice and connected only to the written word, the author explains. He explores the contours, sources and implications of this shift as pertains to Jewish (especially Orthodox Jewish) culture, philosophy, spirituality, education and relationship to the surrounding world.


Why Don’t I Criticize Israel?

This essay is a transcript from a podcast by Sam Harris, American atheist author, philosopher, and neuroscientist.

Dr. Harris He is co-founder of Project Reason,  and author of The End of Faith (2004), an atheist rejection of all forms of organized religion. He is not Jewish or a Zionist, but has a very logical and important message on why he stands with Israel against anti-Zionist/anti-Semitic attacks.

israel Jordan Mandate of Palestine 19221

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Why is it that you always take the side of the Israelis over that of the Palestinians? Now, this is an incredibly boring and depressing question for a variety of reasons. The first, is that I have criticized both Israel and Judaism. What seems to have upset many people is that I’ve kept some sense of proportion. There are something like 15 million Jews on earth at this moment; there are a hundred times as many Muslims.

…Whatever terrible things the Israelis have done, it is also true to say that they have used more restraint in their fighting against the Palestinians than we—the Americans, or Western Europeans—have used in any of our wars. They have endured more worldwide public scrutiny than any other society has ever had to while defending itself against aggressors. The Israelis simply are held to a different standard. And the condemnation leveled at them by the rest of the world is completely out of proportion to what they have actually done.

…The truth is that there is an obvious, undeniable, and hugely consequential moral difference between Israel and her enemies. The Israelis are surrounded by people who have explicitly genocidal intentions towards them.

The charter of Hamas is explicitly genocidal. It looks forward to a time, based on Koranic prophesy, when the earth itself will cry out for Jewish blood, where the trees and the stones will say “O Muslim, there’s a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him.” This is a political document. We are talking about a government that was voted into power by a majority of Palestinians. [Note: Yes, I know that not every Palestinian supports Hamas, but enough do to have brought them to power. Hamas is not a fringe group.]

The discourse in the Muslim world about Jews is utterly shocking. Not only is there Holocaust denial—there’s Holocaust denial that then asserts that we will do it for real if given the chance.

The only thing more obnoxious than denying the Holocaust is to say that it should have happened; it didn’t happen, but if we get the chance, we will accomplish it. There are children’s shows in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere that teach five-year-olds about the glories of martyrdom and about the necessity of killing Jews.

And this gets to the heart of the moral difference between Israel and her enemies. And this is something I discussed in “The End of Faith.” To see this moral difference, you have to ask what each side would do if they had the power to do it.

What would the Jews do to the Palestinians if they could do anything they wanted?  Well, we know the answer to that question, because they can do more or less anything they want. The Israeli army could kill everyone in Gaza tomorrow. So what does that mean? Well, it means that, when they drop a bomb on a beach and kill four Palestinian children, as happened last week, this is almost certainly an accident. They’re NOT targeting children. They could target as many children as they want. Every time a Palestinian child dies, Israel edges ever closer to becoming an international pariah. So the Israelis take great pains not to kill children and other noncombatants. [Note: The word “so” in the previous sentence was regrettable and misleading. I didn’t mean to suggest that safeguarding its reputation abroad would be the only (or even primary) reason for Israel to avoid killing children. However, the point stands: Even if you want to attribute the basest motives to Israel, it is clearly in her self-interest not to kill Palestinian children.]

Now, is it possible that some Israeli soldiers go berserk under pressure and wind up shooting into crowds of rock-throwing children? Of course. You will always find some soldiers acting this way in the middle of a war. But we know that this isn’t the general intent of Israel. We know the Israelis do not want to kill non-combatants, because they could kill as many as they want, and they’re not doing it.

What do we know of the Palestinians?

What would the Palestinians do to the Jews in Israel if the power imbalance were reversed? Well, they have told us what they would do. For some reason, Israel’s critics just don’t want to believe the worst about a group like Hamas, even when it declares the worst of itself. We’ve already had a Holocaust and several other genocides in the 20th century. People are capable of committing genocide. When they tell us they intend to commit genocide, we should listen.

There is every reason to believe that the Palestinians would kill all the Jews in Israel if they could. Would every Palestinian support genocide? Of course not. But vast numbers of them—and of Muslims throughout the world—would. Needless to say, the Palestinians in general, not just Hamas, have a history of targeting innocent non-combatants in the most shocking ways possible. They’ve blown themselves up on buses and in restaurants. They’ve massacred teenagers. They’ve murdered Olympic athletes. They now shoot rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas.

And again, the charter of their government in Gaza explicitly tells us that they want to annihilate the Jews—not just in Israel but everywhere. [Note: Again, I realize that not all Palestinians support Hamas. Nor am I discounting the degree to which the occupation, along with collateral damage suffered in war, has fueled Palestinian rage. But Palestinian terrorism (and Muslim anti-Semitism) is what has made peaceful coexistence thus far impossible.]

The truth is that everything you need to know about the moral imbalance between Israel and her enemies can be understood on the topic of human shields. Who uses human shields? Well, Hamas certainly does. They shoot their rockets from residential neighborhoods, from beside schools, and hospitals, and mosques. Muslims in other recent conflicts, in Iraq and elsewhere, have also used human shields. They have laid their rifles on the shoulders of their own children and shot from behind their bodies.

Consider the moral difference between using human shields and being deterred by them. That is the difference we’re talking about. The Israelis and other Western powers are deterred, however imperfectly, by the Muslim use of human shields in these conflicts, as we should be. It is morally abhorrent to kill noncombatants if you can avoid it. It’s certainly abhorrent to shoot through the bodies of children to get at your adversary.
But take a moment to reflect on how contemptible this behavior is. And understand how cynical it is. The Muslims are acting on the assumption—the knowledge, in fact—that the infidels with whom they fight, the very people whom their religion does nothing but vilify, will be deterred by their use of Muslim human shields.

They consider the Jews the spawn of apes and pigs—and yet they rely on the fact that they don’t want to kill Muslim noncombatants.

Now imagine reversing the roles here…. Imagine the Israelis holding up their own women and children as human shields. Of course, that would be ridiculous. The Palestinians are trying to kill everyone. Killing women and children is part of the plan. Reversing the roles here produces a grotesque Monty Python skit.

If you’re going to talk about the conflict in the Middle East, you have to acknowledge this difference. I don’t think there’s any ethical disparity to be found anywhere that is more shocking or consequential than this.

And the truth is, this isn’t even the worst that jihadists do. Hamas is practically a moderate organization, compared to other jihadist groups. There are Muslims who have blown themselves up in crowds of children—again, Muslim children—just to get at the American soldiers who were handing out candy to them. They have committed suicide bombings, only to send another bomber to the hospital to await the casualties—where they then blow up all the injured along with the doctors and nurses trying to save their lives.

Every day that you could read about an Israeli rocket gone astray or Israeli soldiers beating up an innocent teenager, you could have read about ISIS in Iraq crucifying people on the side of the road, Christians and Muslims.

Where is the outrage in the Muslim world and on the Left over these crimes?

Where are the demonstrations, 10,000 or 100,000 deep, in the capitals of Europe against ISIS? If Israel kills a dozen Palestinians by accident, the entire Muslim world is inflamed. God forbid you burn a Koran, or write a novel vaguely critical of the faith.

And yet Muslims can destroy their own societies—and seek to destroy the West—and you don’t hear a peep. [Note: Of course, I’m aware that many Muslims condemn groups like ISIS. My point is that we don’t see massive protests against global jihadism—even though it targets Muslims more than anyone else—and we do see such protests over things like the Danish cartoons.]

So, it seems to me, that you have to side with Israel here. You have one side which if it really could accomplish its aims would simply live peacefully with its neighbors, and you have another side which is seeking to implement a seventh century theocracy in the Holy Land.

There’s no peace to be found between those incompatible ideas.

That doesn’t mean you can’t condemn specific actions on the part of the Israelis. And, of course, acknowledging the moral disparity between Israel and her enemies doesn’t give us any solution to the problem of Israel’s existence in the Middle East…

… again, you have to ask yourself, what do these groups want? What would they accomplish if they could accomplish anything? What would the Israelis do if they could do what they want? They would live in peace with their neighbors, if they had neighbors who would live in peace with them. They would simply continue to build out their high tech sector and thrive.

What do groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and even Hamas want? They want to impose their religious views on the rest of humanity. They want to stifle every freedom that decent, educated, secular people care about. This is not a trivial difference. And yet judging from the level of condemnation that Israel now receives, you would think the difference ran the other way.

This kind of confusion puts all of us in danger. This is the great story of our time. For the rest of our lives, and the lives of our children, we are going to be confronted by people who don’t want to live peacefully in a secular, pluralistic world, because they are desperate to get to Paradise, and they are willing to destroy the very possibility of human happiness along the way. The truth is, we are all living in Israel. It’s just that some of us haven’t realized it yet.

antisemitism for web anya

Maimonides on Angels

Maimonides uses the words “angel”, “miracle”, “God” and “providence” … but he utterly disagrees with the traditional, perhaps Orthodox, definition of those terms.

Dore Abraham and the three angels

Rabbi Simchah Roth, זצ״ל, of blessed memory, discussed this issue in his famed Mishnah Rabin Study Group. Here he gives and an introduction – and then quotes Maimonides at length. Quite stunning.

I do not think anyone will find it difficult to understand why Rambam sees every physical reference to the Deity, even the remotest, as being pure metaphor and not to be understood literally. God does not sit, God does not speak, God does not really have “a strong hand and an outstretched arm” – the list of examples could be endless.

As far as Rambam is concerned all such expressions are no less obviously metaphoric than for us, say, lines such as John Donne’s “Death, be not proud … Death, thou shalt die” or Homer’s “Gossomer-clad dawn”.

Death is not really a personal entity, and neither, of course, is the dawn, so the dawn cannot wear any clothes at all! And even the most patriotic American knows, when singing “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing”, that the home of liberty is not listening, cannot listen.

“It is all pure metaphor, simile and anthropomorphism” as Rambam so lucidly put it.

Now let us ask how this Deity, whose verity is so incomprehensible to us that we can only speak of God in metaphoric terms – how can this Deity be associated with angels? Maimonides writes:

Now you already know that it is very difficult for people to apprehend, except after strenuous training, that which is absolutely devoid of physicality… Because of the difficulty of this matter, the books of the prophets contain statements whose external sense can be understood as signifying that angels are corporeal, that they move, that they have human form, that they are given orders by God and that they carry out God’s orders…
[Rambam, Guide for the Perplexed, 1:49]

All forces are angels. How great is the blindness of ignorance and how harmful! If you told a person who is one of those who deem themselves one of Israel’s sages that the Deity sends an angel, who enters the womb of a woman and forms the fetus there, he would be pleased with this assertion and would accept it and would regard it as a manifestation of greatness and power on the part of the Deity… But if you tell him that God has placed in the sperm a formative force shaping the limbs … and that this force is a “Mal’akh” … the man would shrink from this opinion…
[Ibid. 2:6]


Rick Dinitz sent me the following:

Rambam’s distinction is too subtle for me. Please explain what difference it makes to Rambam’s hypothetical sage whether God sends the angel directly into the womb, or God places the angel in the sperm and the angel arranges transportation to the womb  where it does its work.

I responded to Rick privately as follows:

Moreh Nevukhim [“Guide for the Perplexed”] was originally written in Arabic with Hebrew quotations and phrases interspersed. When the phrase “Chakhmei Yisrael” occurs in the middle of an Arabic sentence in the Guide, experience – gradually built up throughout the work – teaches us that the term here is being used in a derogatory fashion. What Rambam was saying was that most “religious” people are prepared to believe in angels but are not prepared to believe that the forces of nature are the angels – the messengers of God through which the purposes of the Deity are effected. He explains that this is why the Bible, intended for a “mass readership”, accords angels the humanoid physicality that it does. He thinks that the perceptive intellectual will perceive beyond that.

Rick Dinitz subsequently sent the following commentary, which is our shiur for today:-

Thanks for explaining the idiom. I mistakenly thought that by calling them “sages in Israel” Rambam was holding them up as paragons of intelligence. Now I understand that Rambam is actually using the phrase to deride those self-styled “sages” who can’t recognize angels for what they are. (They wouldn’t know an angel if it bit them on the nose, unless the angel were wearing fluffy white wings and a halo.)

If so, then I think Rambam would agree that the cellular machinery that unfolds DNA from a single cell into a full-blown human infant is indeed a Mal’akh [angel] – faithfully (and
mechanistically) executing God’s will in the physical world. On the one hand, our language of science speaks of cells, molecules, amino acids, codons, genes and their expressions. On the other hand, our religious language speaks of angels forming the fetus in the womb. In Rambam’s reality, both languages are correct – all the reproductive machinery of molecular biology is in fact one kind of Mal’akh, doing God’s will. Yes?  [Yes! – Simchah Roth]

(Of course science in Rambam’s time did not speak of DNA in the same way that we do, but his phrase “God has placed in the sperm a formative force shaping the limbs” reflects contemporary science as he understood it. He sees no contradiction between the languages of science and religion.)

We can also understand the “Mal’akhei ha-Sharet” [Ministering  Angels] of [the liturgical poem] “Shalom Aleikhem” as mechanisms of God’s will. As a midrash teaches us, two Mal’akhim follow us home each Erev Shabbat [Sabbath Eve] – one that promotes good for us, and one promotes evil against us. If they find the home ready for Shabbat, the “good” Mal’akh blesses us by saying “so may it be every Shabbat,” and the “evil” one answers “Amen.” If they find the home is not ready for Shabbat, or God forbid, that Shabbat is not even observed in this home, then their roles are reversed; the “evil” Mal’akh “blesses” us by saying “so may it be every Shabbat,” and the “good” Mal’akh answers “Amen.” (Could you please refer me to a source text for this midrash?)

[Gemara, Shabbat 119b – Simchah Roth]

I understand these Mal’akhim as a religious expression of human momentum and inertia. We are creatures of habit, and these Mal’akhim re-inforce our habits regarding Shabbat and our preparations for it. They do their jobs, and bless us in whichever way is appropriate based on the state of our home when Shabbat arrives.

So we can understand the song as a way to explicitly recognize our interaction with these angels, expressing our confidence and satisfaction in their work – which is, after all, both the result of our preparatory work, and also an expression of God’s will. In verse one, we greet them; that is, we recognize them for what they are, we remember that the outcome of their work is in our hands, but that our ability to influence them (for this week) is finished (though we can still influence the result in subsequent  weeks).

….The song and its midrash portray an intricate dance in which God’s will and our human free will spin in and out of one another – each one both leading and following the other. God reconfirms our free will by affirming the consequences we have earned – “This is how you want Shabbat to be, then so be it.” We have free will, but each choice restricts our future options – breaking free of a deeply entrenched mode of behavior requires great determination. How much simpler life would be, if only we could be like angels, with no choice other than to do God’s will. But that is not God’s will for us; rather, we must make our own choices, and welcome the angels that cheer us on when we make  God’s will our will.

How to Criticize Israel Without Being Anti-Semitic

I found this on Tumblr, by Peter Vidani

How to Criticize Israel Without Being Anti-Semitic

If you’ve spent any time discussing or reading about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I guarantee you’ve heard some variation of this statement: OMG, Jews think any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic! 

In the interests of this post, I’m going to assume that the people who express such sentiments are acting in good faith and really don’t mean to cause pain to or problems for Diaspora Jewry.  For those good-faith people, I present some guidelines for staying on the good side of that admittedly murky line, along with the reasoning why the actions I list are problematic.  (And bad-faith people, you can no longer plead ignorance if you engage in any of these no-nos.  Consider yourselves warned.)  In no particular order:

  1. Don’t use the terms “bloodthirsty,” “lust for Palestinian blood,” or similar.  Historically, Jews have been massacred in the belief that we use the blood of non-Jews (particularly of children) in our religious rituals.  This belief still persists in large portions of the Arab world (largely because white Europeans deliberately spread the belief among Arabs) and even in parts of the Western world.  Murderous, inhumane, cruel, vicious–fine.  But blood…just don’t go there.  Depicting Israel/Israelis/Israeli leaders eating children is also a no-no, for the same reason.
  2. Don’t use crucifixion imagery.
    Another huge, driving motivation behind anti-Semitism historically has been the belief that the Jews, rather than the Romans, crucified Jesus.  As in #1, this belief still persists.  There are plenty of other ways to depict suffering that don’t call back to ancient libels.
  3. Don’t demand that Jews publicly repudiate the actions of settlers and extremists.
    People who make this demand are assuming that Jews are terrible people or undeserving of being heard out unless they “prove” themselves acceptable by non-Jews’ standards.  (It’s not okay to demand Palestinians publicly repudiate the actions of Hamas in order to be accepted/trusted, either.)
  4. Don’t say “the Jews” when you mean Israel.
    I think this should be pretty clear.  The people in power in Israel are Jews, but not all Jews are Israelis (let alone Israeli leaders).
  5. Don’t say “Zionists” when you mean Israel.
    Zionism is no more a dirty word than feminism.  It is simply the belief that the Jews should have a country in part of their ancestral homeland where they can take refuge from the anti-Semitism and persecution they face everywhere else.  It does not mean a belief that Jews have a right to grab land from others, a belief that Jews are superior to non-Jews, or any other such tripe, any more than feminism means hating men.Unless you believe that Israel should entirely cease to exist, you are yourself Zionist.

    Furthermore, using “Zionists” in place of “Israelis” is inaccurate and harmful.  The word “Zionists” includes Diasporan Jews as well (most of whom support a two-state solution and pretty much none of whom have any influence on Israel’s policies) and is used to justify anti-Semitic attacks outside Israel (i.e., they brought it on themselves by being Zionists).  And many of the Jews in Israel who are most violent against Palestinians are actually anti-Zionist–they believe that the modern state of Israel is an offense against God because it isn’t governed by halakha (traditional Jewish religious law).  Be careful with the labels you use.

  6. Don’t call Jews you agree with “the good Jews.”
    Imposing your values on another group is not okay.  Tokenizing is not okay.  Appointing yourself the judge of what other groups can or should believe is not okay.
  7. Don’t use your Jewish friends or Jews who agree with you as shields.
    (AKA, “I can’t be anti-Semitic, I have Jewish friends!” or “Well, Jew X agrees with me, so you’re wrong.”)  Again, this behavior is tokenizing and essentially amounts to you as a non-Jew appointing yourself arbiter over what Jews can/should feel or believe.  You don’t get to do that.
  8. Don’t claim that Jews are ethnically European.
    Jews come in many colors–white is only one.  Besides, the fact that many of us have some genetic mixing with the peoples who tried to force us to assimilate (be they German, Indian, Ethiopian, Italian…) doesn’t change the fact that all our common ancestral roots go back to Israel.
  9. Don’t claim that Jews “aren’t the TRUE/REAL Jews.” 
    Enough said.
  10. Don’t claim that Jews have no real historical connection to Israel/the Temple Mount. 
    Archaeology and the historical record both establish that this is false.
  11. Don’t accuse Diasporan Jews of dual loyalties or treason. 
    This is another charge that historically has been used to justify persecution and murder of Jews.  Having a connection to our ancestral homeland is natural.  Having a connection to our co-religionists who live there is natural.  It is no more treasonous for a Jew to consider the well-being of Israel when casting a vote than for a Muslim to consider the well-being of Islamic countries when voting.  (Tangent: fuck drone strikes.  End tangent.)
  12. Don’t claim that the Jews control the media/banks/country that isn’t Israel.
    Yet another historical anti-Semitic claim is that Jews as a group intend to control the world and try to achieve this aim through shadowy, sinister channels.  There are many prominent Jews in the media and in the banking industry, yes, but they aren’t engaged in any kind of organized conspiracy to take over those industries, they simply work in those industries.  The phrase “the Jews control” should never be heard in a debate/discussion of Israel.
  13. Don’t depict the Magen David (Star of David) as an equivalent to the Nazi swastika.
    The Magen David represents all Jews–not just Israelis, not just people who are violent against Palestinians, ALL JEWS.  When you do this, you are painting all Jews as violent, genocidal racists.  DON’T.
  14. Don’t use the Holocaust/Nazism/Hitler as a rhetorical prop.
    The Jews who were murdered didn’t set foot in what was then Palestine, let alone take part in Israeli politics or policies.  It is wrong and appropriative to try to use their deaths to score political points.  Genocide, racism, occupation, murder, extermination–go ahead and use those terms, but leave the Holocaust out of it.
  15. In visual depictions (i.e., political cartoons and such), don’t depict Israel/Israelis as Jewish stereotypes.
    Don’t show them in Chassidic, black-hat garb.
    Don’t show them with exaggerated noses or frizzled red hair or payus (earlocks).
    Don’t show them with horns or depict them as the Devil.
    Don’t show them cackling over/hoarding money.
    Don’t show them drinking blood or eating children (see #1).
    Don’t show them raping non-Jewish women.The Nazis didn’t invent the tropes they used in their propaganda–all of these have been anti-Semitic tropes going back centuries.  (The red hair trope, for instance, goes back to early depictions of Judas Iscariot as a redhead, and the horns trope stems from the belief that Jews are the Devil’s children, sent to destroy the world as best we can for our “father.”)
  16. Don’t use the phrase “the chosen people” to deride or as proof of Jewish racism. 
    When Jews say we are the chosen people, we don’t mean that we are biologically superior to others or that God loves us more than other groups.  Judaism in fact teaches that everyone is capable of being a righteous, Godly person, that Jews have obligations to be ethical and decent to “the stranger in our midst,” and that non-Jews don’t get sent to some kind of damnation for believing in another faith.  When we say we’re the chosen people, we mean that, according to our faith, God gave us extra responsibilities and codes of behavior that other groups aren’t burdened with, in the form of the Torah.  That’s all it means.
  17. Don’t claim that anti-Semitism is eradicated or negligible.
    It isn’t.  In fact, according to international watchdog groups, it’s sharply on the rise.  (Which sadly isn’t surprising–anti-Semitism historically surges during economic downturns, thanks to the belief that Jews control the banks.)  This sort of statement is extremely dismissive and accuses us of lying about our own experiences.
  18. Don’t say that since Palestinians are Semites, Jews/Israelis are anti-Semitic, too.
    You do not get to redefine the oppressions of others, nor do you get to police how they refer to that oppression.  This also often ties into #8.  Don’t do it.  Anti-Semitism has exclusively meant anti-Jewish bigotry for a good century plus now.  Coin your own word for anti-Palestinian oppression, or just call it what it is: racism mixed with Islamophobia.
  19. Don’t blow off Jews telling you that what you’re saying is anti-Semitic with some variant of the statement at the top of this post.
    Not all anti-Israel speech is anti-Semitic (a lot of it is valid, much-deserved criticism), but some certainly is.  Actually give the accusation your consideration and hear the accuser out.  If they fail to convince you, that’s fine.  But at least hear them out (without talking over them) before you decide that.


While little known to most Jewish people today, many classical texts of rabbinic Judaism taught the ancient view that the Earth is the center of the universe, and that the Sun, other planets, and stars all revolve around the Earth. This idea is called geocentrism.  Ever since Copernicus in the 1400s, and especially since galileo in the 1500s, we have known that this idea is false.


Geocentrism today is rejected by all non-Orthodox Jewish groups, and one would imagine most if not all of Modern Orthodoxy. However, some Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) groups still teach geocentrism. Here are Chabad Lubavitch essays teaching that the earth is the center of the universe:

This belief can be found in other Hasidic and non-Hasidic Orthodox groups. According to the survey a large percent of college-attending Orthodox Jews believe that the earth is the center of the universe, and that the Sun and other planets revolve around us.

“Of particular interest was the item “Which is true? The Sun revolves around the Earth [or] the Earth revolves around the Sun (Figure 8). Only 22 of 173 answered that the Sun revolves around the Earth. Geocentrism is fast returning as a centrist Orthodox belief, so the paucity of geocentrists among these college students is a strong indication of their (relatively) modern Orthodox status”

“…The Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists is largest organization of its type with over 1500 members. Its website is Dr. Avi Rabinowitz, a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from New York University, who defended geocentrism in “Geocentrism” in B’Or‑Ha’Torah Volume 5E 1986 spoke at its convention in August 19–21, 2005. See Rabinowitz’s article, Egocentrism & Geocentrism; Human Significance & Existential Despair; Fundamentalism and Skepticalism.”

It has been scientifically proven that geocentrism is wrong in many ways. First, within our own solar system, it is our Sun which is the center: planets, comets and asteroids revolve around it. This is called heliocentrism. Secondly, our solar system is just one of a billion star systems in the Milky Way galaxy, all of which are slowly rotating around our galaxy’s center. Beyond that our galaxy is merely one of billions of other galaxies, most of which also contain billions of stars each.

Here is a well written article from Discover Magazine about why geocentrism is wrong, and the fundamental flaw in logic that geo centrists make

Geocentrism? Seriously? Discover Magazine

It is a common error to misunderstand Einstein’s special theory of relativity. Many people believe it proves that we can never prove that the earth goes around the Sun. Therefore the ancient statements in the Bible and Talmud implying that the earth is the center of the universe are still justified.

But this is wrong on two counts. One, it contains a fundamental misunderstanding of what choosing a frame of reference means. For further discussion of this point, see the link to the essay on Discover Magazine that I posted separately. Secondly, it’s not just a matter of choosing coordinate systems. We have direct observation evidence that it is the earth revolving around the Sun, and not the other way around.

These are subtle effects that were not measured until the 1800s, but they have been confirmed time and again. Direct measurement showing what is the center, and what is not, has been possible for close to 200 years now. This is a well written summary of the evidence for Heliocentrism: Is there a proof that the Earth moves? Ask An Astronomer

From the Union of Orthodox Congregations (Modern Orthodox), see book reviews on

New Heavens and a New Earth: The Jewish Reception of Copernican Thought, By Jeremy Brown, Oxford University Press, and Torah, Chazal and Science, By Moshe Meiselman. Israel Bookshop Publications