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Posts tagged ‘Jewish’

The Strangest Scripture in the New Testament.



As a Jewish person, I can tell you that the word baptism conjures up horrible images for my people. From the early years of Catholicism, Jews were forced to be baptized as Christians. Sometimes it was under the threat of death. Other times the consequences of not being baptized was “merely” being thrown out of your home and country.

For example, the Spanish Inquisition declared that Jews who would not convert to Catholicism (and thus be baptized) must leave the country.

In some cases, Jews were kidnapped and forcibly baptized—one being the son of a rabbi in 1762. The worst case was in Russia just two centuries ago. The Russian empire kidnapped Jewish males from the age of 12 for military service. “The number of forced or virtually forced baptisms which resulted, probably exceeded all similar cases in other lands throughout history.”

He Did What?

Because of this thuggish history, Jewish people tend to cringe when they simply hear the word baptism. When news gets out of a Jewish person coming to faith in Yeshua and willingly getting baptized, they are disgusted. And it’s understandable, based on the history. But it wasn’t always like that.

And that leads us to what I consider to be the strangest verse in the entire Bible:

“How can anyone object to these people being baptized in water?” (Acts 10:47).

Who are “these people,” and who is talking? The speaker is the Jewish apostle Simon Peter, and he is referring to Gentiles at the home of Cornelius. It was a major controversy for Gentiles to be baptized as believers in Yeshua. This had not yet been done. For the first nine years, the gospel was preached exclusively to Jews.

Simon Peter, after a vision and a word from the Lord (Acts 10), slightly confused, goes to the house of this Roman soldier and shares with the people in the house the message of Yeshua. The Holy Spirit falls upon these people in the midst his sharing. The Jewish believers witness this and are stunned—Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit!

Simon Peter declares, “How can anyone object to these Gentiles being baptized in water?” This was a major controversy that wasn’t settled for another 10 years at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15).

Reverse Controversy

But since when is baptizing Gentiles controversial? Can you imagine someone objecting at, say, First Baptist Church that they are baptizing non-Jews? That would be ridiculous. However, if they were baptizing large numbers of Jews, that might make some waves.

What most people—Jews and Gentiles—do not know, is that baptism (or water immersion) is Jewish. Long before Queen Isabella sought to compel the Jews of Spain to convert and be baptized, the Jews of Israel would wade through the waters of immersion.

When John the Baptist, the Jewish prophet, came preaching repentance through baptism, we have no record of anyone protesting, “What is this strange new tradition you are evoking?”

Water immersion was already a major part of Judaism. The Torah teaches that priests would need to be immersed in water as part of their consecration (Ex. 29:4-9). Before any Jewish man could bring a sacrifice to the temple in Jerusalem, he would first have to walk though a mikvah, a water immersion tank, to symbolize ritual cleansing.

Immersing 3,000 People Without a River

Furthermore, have you ever wondered how Simon Peter and the apostles immersed 3,000 Jewish men in one day in Jerusalem? Jerusalem is not Tel Aviv or a city in Galilee, where the Mediterranean Sea or the Jordan River could be utilized. Jerusalem sits on a mountain. There are no lakes, rivers or seas nearby. However, archeologists have unearthed nearly 50 mikvot—immersion tanks—that were used in temple worship. With 50 tanks receiving 60 people each, 3,000 could be immersed in a matter of hours. Without these Jewish mikvot, it would have been impossible.

Today, mixing Judaism with an act of water immersion, as we see among the Jews of the New Testament, is like mixing oil and water. But in the first century, it was not like that. The controversy of their day had nothing to do with Jews being immersed, butGentiles! And Simon Peter heard from other Jewish people almost immediately after he did the “unthinkable”—baptizing Gentiles into the body of Yeshua.

The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (Acts 11:3)

How strange is this?.


Ron Cantor is the director of Messiah’s Mandate International in Israel, a Messianic ministry dedicated to taking the message of Jesus from Israel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Cantor also travels internationally teaching on the Jewish roots of the New Testament. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua, a Hebrew-speaking congregation in Tel Aviv. His newest book, Identity Theft, released last year. Follow him at @RonSCantor on Twitter.

For the original article, visit

Palestinian Spokesman: ‘Arab States Will Never Accept Jewish State’.

Image: Palestinian Spokesman: 'Arab States Will Never Accept Jewish State'Palestinian women shout slogans during a protest against the resumption of peace talks with Israel on Jan. 14 in Gaza City.

By Elliot Jager

The top foreign policy spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, Riyadh al-Malki, told Radio Palestine that “The Arab states will never recognize the Jewish state,” Israel Radio reported.
According to al-Malki, Arab League foreign ministers told Secretary of State John Kerry in the course of weekend meetings in Paris that this was the united Arab stance.
Kerry has been trying to get support for a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel from the Arab foreign ministers, Arutz 7 reported.
The League of Arab States is comprised of 22 members all of whom are also constituents of the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference — countries which officially identify themselves as Muslim.
The Arab position is that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would waive the claim that Arab refugees from 1948, when Israel was created, and their descendants, now numbering roughly five million, should always have the right to live in Israel.
The long-standing Israeli position is that should a peace accord be signed Arab refugees ought to be resettled in the State of Palestine or in the surrounding Arab countries where they live.
In addition to Palestinian claims that their refugees be allowed to re-settle in Israel proper, other stumbling blocks to an accord include Palestinian insistence that there be no Israeli presence — civilian settlements or military outposts — in the strategic West Bank, and that east Jerusalem along with its surrounding neighborhoods be declared the capital of Palestine.

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© 2014 NewsmaxWorld. All rights reserved.

Why Can’t We See the Church’s End-Times Role?.

Star of David

In my last article on the unique roles between Israel and the church, I spoke of the analogy of a wedding and emphasized the pandemonium that so often can precede the ceremony itself. It is actually this time and during this hour that before Christ is to return to the earth as the bridegroom that He wants His bride to focus upon.

We need to fully address the relationship betweenJew and Gentile to bring forth healing and reconciliation to the many issues that keep us separate, including much of the divide that the enemy himself is also fueling to keep us apart from our roles. Please click here to review part 1 and part 2 to gain a fuller understanding of the roles of Israel and the church in the last days.

The Prodigal Son Through Jew and Gentile Brothers

To continue, let us take a look at the story of prodigal son, reflecting upon the Jew and Gentile sons through the New Covenant thus far. (See Luke 15:11-31.) The Gentile has mostly received it first, who in this analogy is the older son and has been faithful to oversee His Father’s house (the church). However, at this time and the time coming, the Jewish son now returns in full repentance, as is prophesied through the word of G-d, thus fulfilling G-d’s covenants and promises to Israel, as they must come into a spiritual awakening and cleansing, which has been written and foretold despite their resistance. For Yeshua has said that He will not return until they say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the L-rd.”

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be … great” (Zech. 12:10-11, NIV).

For G-d’s words and covenants must be fulfilled, please also read Ezekiel 36:22-28 to fully understand this context from the Scripture. For while G-d has always planned to restore Israel spiritually so that they actually come in at the end to redeem His Jewish family, the emphasis on these Scriptures makes clear to us that it is not only for their sake, but rather for the sake of His holy name that His words, promises and covenants to restore them must be fulfilled.

This in itself is crucial for us to comprehend at this time, because His plan is to show His glory to the world through their rebirth. Therefore, if we truly want the L-rd to be glorified upon the earth, we must come into agreement with Israel’s spiritual awakening, making it our top priority. Because it is this plan as well as our association to it that will help to usher in the end time outpouring upon the earth along with the L-rd’s return. For what does Scripture tell us that Israel’s reconciliation will be but resurrectionpower! (See Romans 11:15.)

Referring back to the prodigal story, let us reflect upon the different reactions here between the father and the son to fully see this picture between the heart of man through the brother and the heart of G-d through the Father. Because only operating in the Father’s heart will enable us to fulfill our role to love Israel as our own. This must take place first within us through the Spirit in a family reconnection that can only come through faith.

What a dramatic difference here in the way in which the father and the son respond, and we will never be able to love Israel through the heart of the brother, which has so clearly reflected the church’s response to Israel through the ages as well as the weaknesses of our own humanity. I address this issue in its entirety in my new book The Ezekiel Generation (on bookshelves this month), which I would encourage you to read.


Has Our Bloodline Been Affected From the Past?

I know this is a difficult, delicate and sensitive matter for us to process from our past, for we cannot undo what has been done. While we are not responsible for anybody’s actions other than our own, this does not necessarily remove the influence of our ancestral past if it has not been properly renounced and repented of, as the sins of the fathers travel to the third and fourth generations and can still influence us and our actions (Ex. 20:5).

Sometimes in our own walks, do we not have to overcome or renounce our own ancestral influences (the sins of our fathers or mothers)? I know I have done so with things my parents or grandparents moved in. And so it is the same with anti-Jewish sentiment, which has unfortunately been very strong in the bloodline of the church from the past. Just look at racism, for example, and how it had its effects on all believers.

As a result, I believe the enemy has been using this against us without our knowledge, which I am bringing to light at this time. For the devil can only attach himself or his strongholds to some form of disobedience, which in this case has been keeping us veiled and separate from our own role to love Israel as ourselves and to provoke them to jealousy (Rom. 11:13-15). I believe it is this generational bloodline issue that has been clouding and blinding our spiritual sight regarding Israel to the unity that the Father is looking to bring now amongst His family, so that He may work His will through us so the end may come.

I ask you in all honesty and sincerity and only raise these issues for the sake of G-d’s healing and reconciliation, because there is no condemnation in Christ. However, I believe that our bloodline needs to be cleansed from the past, and it is preventing us from coming into the great role to help G-d release His breath and life back into His first born child (Ezek. 37:9-11).

But how can we honestly expect to have clean and pure revelation and understanding regarding Israel and the church and end-time theology when our own church history has been so dark toward the Jewish people? When our own ancestral actions toward them have been in complete contradiction to our calling to release G-d’s mercy back to them, to draw them to jealousy through our own intimate relationship with their G-d, who is now our G-d? After all, whose vine are we grafted into? And is the family of G-d complete without Israel’s awakening? (See Romans 11.)

This is why I believe the church has not yet gotten the full download from G-d regarding Israel and theend times, because the enemy has been using the bloodline to keep us apart. He has been using the actions of our ancestry against us. I call this generational anti-Semitism, and one does not necessarily have to be anti-Semitic to still be affected by it—although when this is in our bloodline, it is much easier for us to be anti-Semitic.

Alternatively, when generational anti-Semitism is in the bloodline, I believe it allows the enemy to cloud and confuse, so much so that we can even love Israel and yet still be confused regarding our theology. This so easily explains why in our modern day, amongst many of our evangelical groups as well as many other believers, there is almost a romantic association to the land and yet still no real connection to our unique role, which is to help give them life. We seem to be more concerned about the land than we are to reach the people, which is of much greater significance.

If the enemy can keep us separate from this calling, which I believe starts in prayer and repentance, it enables him to keep dominion. He knows when Israel comes in, he is finished, because the L-rd is coming back! Just think for a moment of those churches located in more heavily populated Jewish areas. How can they not have a special focus and burden in wanting to somehow reach the Jewish people? And yet this is so often not the case. Could there be something wrong with this picture?

Up to this point in our theological positions, we have not yet seen any personal connection between the church and Israel in the end times, that G-d is going to redeem them all by Himself. However, as I have already pointed out in earlier articles on this subject, I believe this is in great need of correction, as both the Father and the Son are waiting for our earnest intercession that can only come through a spiritual reconnection in His family—through us receiving the Father’s heart for Israel.

I believe now is the time for us to address these delicate issues and to allow the Holy Spirit to break off any ungodly influences from the past that this generational bloodline issue is still causing. For certain, this is a most sensitive subject but one that we must be willing to face, because judgment always begins in the house first (1 Pet. 4:17). Please earnestly take this matter to prayer, whether you agree with it or not.

To be continued …


Grant Berry is a Jewish believer in Yeshua/Jesus and author of The New Covenant Prophecy and The Ezekiel Generation. He has founded Reconnecting Ministries with the specific focus to help the church reconnect spiritually to Israel and considers it vital to the kingdom of G-d in the last days. His message focuses on the unity, love and healing that the Father wants to bring between Jew and Gentile yet clearly points out the differences and misunderstandings between the two groups. Now is the time to look more carefully into this mystery to make way for healing and reconnection in the Spirit. For more information, please visit

1 in 5 American Jews Do Not Believe in God.

Jewish synagogue
One out of five Americans who consider themselves culturally or ethnically Jewish say they do not believe in God or they do not follow any particular faith. (Temple Israel)

One out of five Americans who consider themselves culturally or ethnically Jewish say they do not believe in God or they do not follow any particular faith, in a sign of the changing nature of American Jewish identity, according to a study released on Tuesday.

The Pew Research Center survey found vast differences among generations—with 93 percent of Jewish Americans born between 1914 and 1927 saying they identified as religiously Jewish, compared with just 68 percent of Jews born after 1980.

A total of 22 percent of U.S. Jews said they were atheist, agnostic or simply did not follow any particular religion—numbers similar to the portion of the general public that is without religious affiliation.

“The numbers are interesting, but I am not surprised by the news that a significant number of the emerging generation of Jewish adults are what the survey calls ‘Jews of no religion,'” said Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson, president of the Wexner Foundation, a Jewish philanthropy group.

“They are not connected to Jewish life the way their parents or grandparents were,” said Abrahamson, who was given an advance copy of the report. “I don’t think this means we count them out.”

The U.S. Jewish population, including those who are non-religious but who identify as Jewish based on ethnicity, ancestry or culture, counts about 5.3 million people or 2.2 percent of American adults, the Pew study said.

But the percentage of U.S. adults who say they follow the Jewish faith has dropped by about half since the 1950s, the survey found.

Orthodox Population May Grow
Orthodox Jews, the smallest of the three major Jewish denominational movements, are also the youngest and have the biggest families. This suggests that their share of the Jewish population will grow, according to the study.

“The study testifies to some disturbing demographic vital signs for non-Orthodox Jews,” said Steven Cohen, a professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. “The next generation will be much more heavily Orthodox than this generation.”

An adviser to Pew, Cohen said that Jews with no religion were “very unengaged in the Jewish community and Jewish life” and said non-Orthodox Jews should promote social ties among unmarried younger adults.

The survey also found that intermarriage rates, the rate of Jews marrying non-Jews, has risen substantially over the last five decades, with non-religious Jews much more likely than religious Jews to have a non-Jewish spouse.

Among Jews who have married since 2000, nearly six in 10 have a non-Jewish spouse, compared with just 17 percent of those who married before 1970.

This has consequences on the next generation, as more than one-third of intermarried Jews say they were not raising their children as Jewish.

Abrahamson said that the fact that Jews of no religion still call themselves Jews suggests a new category that needs to be explored and understood by other Jews, especially Jewish leaders.

She called the survey a wake-up call for the Jewish community to work to “build wider doors, to listen to new voices, even in the midst of some discomfort about what those voices might (be) saying.”

The survey was conducted among 3,475 U.S. Jews between February and June, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker

© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

A Grandmother’s Secret: My Connection to Israel.


Offshore oil rigs
Offshore oil rigs

It’s a great pleasure to address the global community of Israel Forever, but before I do that, let’s rewind.

First, I’m not Jewish. I was born and raised in a Christian home, in the suburbs of Chicago, the oldest of six kids.

On a rare quiet afternoon in my house, when I was 10, my mother sat me down and told me to watch a movie and to come find her when it was over. The movie was Schindler’s List. About 195 minutes later, I found my mom, drinking coffee in the kitchen, with my grandma (my mother’s mother). My grandma sat me down and said something like this to me:

“Do you know where you come from? On your father’s side, you’re Irish, but on my side of the family, you’re Dutch. Our family lived in the Netherlands and Belgium, and back then there were lots of Jews in our family. But now that you know that”—she held her finger to her pursed lips—“Shhhhhhh … you can’t tell anyone.”

I felt like my grandma just rocked my world—like she changed my life.

I grew up in a Bible-reading Christian house that honored both the Old Testament and the New. A whole new world was opening up to me with this revelation about my heritage, and I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone?

Well, Grandma and I have reached an understanding, and instead of hiding that information, I would rather shout it from the rooftops.

I did not have any details at the time, but I have uncovered some of my distant Jewish roots through genealogical research. That being said, I was raised—and I am—a Christian.

But starting that day, as a 10-year-old, I possessed a deep-seated desire to help and serve Israel and the Jewish people. It sat dormant in me, but while growing up I would leap to the defense of Israel and Jews in conversation. Through the years, this was further cultivated by my mother, who taught us to revere the Old Testament and show love and respect to Jewish people.

As a young man, I served in the Navy and studied history and international relations in school. In the Navy, I served in Japan and became fascinated with the culture and language. In graduate school, at the University of Chicago, I decided to distinguish myself as an expert on Japan by writing my master’s thesis on the U.S.-Japanese alliance.

Before I could finish my thesis, however, I became completely fixated on Israel—even though I had never been there. Especially interesting to me were the articles about the massive natural gas fields off the coast of Israel. Some commentators believed these was prophesied, and they quoted verses from the Torah, such as: “For they shall partake of the abundance of the seas and of treasures hidden in the sand” (Deut. 33:19).

I read everything I could get my hands on regarding oil and gas in Israel. Soon, I was bored with my thesis research. I finished grad school and took a job in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Department of Commerce, where I would focus on international trade.

My background with Japan and language skills landed me assignments related to Asia, but I was drawn to Israel.

Some nights, I would wake up and run to the computer to see what was happening in Israel. Some nights it was difficult to sleep. I had no peace. I yearned to help Israel, but without resources, connections or a Jewish last name, what could I do?

I continually searched for ways to help as I became acquainted with my new position at the Commerce Department. One day, I met a woman named Karen Dubin, who worked there and was organizing a trade mission to Israel. I was fascinated with her project and volunteered to help, even though it had nothing to do with my job description.

Unfortunately, Karen passed away in 2011. I eventually got a chance to do a short rotation in Karen’s former office, where I received a request one day to assist with an oil and gas trade mission to Israel with Senator Landrieu and companies from Louisiana.

The day I received that request, all the articles I read on the natural gas discoveries came back to me, and I knew how I might be able to help Israel. Senator Landrieu’s mission was a huge success, and it helped let the world know about the incredible potential for oil and gas in Israel.

I want to bring more companies to Israel and help Israel achieve energy independence.



David McCormack lives and works in Washington D.C., is a “virtual citizen” of Israel and is excited to help bring U.S. oil and gas companies to Israel. His views do not represent the U.S. Department of Commerce.

For the original article, visit

Spring Semester Enrollment Begins for FOI Institute.

Bible flipping

With the start of 2013, The Friends of Israelmarks its 75th anniversary as an organization and its Institute of Jewish Studies has begun another year of providing Biblically grounded education about God’s Word, His plan of salvation for the Jewish people, and what the Bible says will happen in future eras. Enrollment for the first Spring 2013 semester is now open, with five classes available for students to choose from.

“As The Friends of Israel marks its 75th year as an organization, we are humbled to begin another year of teaching God’s Word and Biblical prophecy to people,” said Clarence Johnson, Director of The Friends of Israel’s Institute of Jewish Studies. “As The Institute has developed as an outreach of The Friends of Israel, we have been blessed to be able to move to an online format that allows us to serve students with solid teaching that is based in the Bible and honors God’s plans for and use of the Jewish nation as His Chosen people. I look forward to the impact that the Institute can have in peoples’ lives in the days ahead, as the Lord allows.”

Topics covered in the Spring I semester range from prophecy to Biblical Studies to current events taught from a Biblical perspective. Courses for the first spring semester include:

  • Between the Testaments
  • The Promised Land for a Chosen People
  • Messianic Prophecies
  • The Middle East Conflict
  • The Tabernacle: Shadows of the Messiah

Students and those interested in learning more or enrolling in Spring I 2013 classes can do so online at

The Institute of Jewish Studies began in 1986 on the campus of The Friends of Israel’sinternational headquarters in southern New Jersey. Conceived as a one-year Bible study program with a strong emphasis on studying the Bible in its historical and cultural context, the program emphasized a proper understanding of the Jewish people and the land of Israel as essential to recognizing the plan and purposes of God.

In 2009, IJStransitioned to online-only classes, providing the same, high-quality education provided on campus for 23 years to students around the world at an affordable cost. The curriculum is structured to provide a diverse offering of courses with a unique Jewish emphasis.

For more information on the first spring 2013 term, visit For additional information about the Institute of Jewish Studies or other programs offered by The Friends of Israel,visit or call 800-257-7843.


Germany approves bill to protect male circumcision.

  • FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2012 file picture mohel doctor Yacov Gassinovitch, center, is surround by other Rabbis and relatives as he holds eight days old Jonathan during the boy's circumcision at synagogue in Berlin. German Parliament is expected to vote on legislation clarifying the legality of infant male circumcision for religious reasons. The government drew up the legislation after a court in June ruled the practice could amount to criminal bodily harm — prompting outrage in Germany's Jewish and Muslim communities. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

    Enlarge Photo

    Associated Press/Markus Schreiber – FILE – In this Oct. 29, 2012 file picture mohel doctor Yacov Gassinovitch, center, is surround by other Rabbis and relatives as he holds eight days old Jonathan during the …more 


BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday that explicitly permits male infant circumcision, ending months of legal uncertainty after a court ruling that the practice amounts to bodily harm led to an outcry from Jewish and Muslim groups.

Germany‘s government moved swiftly to draft a law following the Cologne regional court decision in June. The ruling didn’t amount to a ban but raised fears of possible prosecutions.

The head of Germany’s main Jewish group expressed relief at the vote, which passed with 434 lawmakers in favor, 100 against and 46 abstaining.

“The circumcision law finally restores legal certainty,” said Dieter Graumann, the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews. “What’s important for us is the political message of this law, which is that Jewish and Muslim life is still welcome here.”

Restrictions on religiously motivated circumcision would have been particularly sensitive in Germany because of the country’spersecution of Jews and other minorities during the Nazi period.

Proponents of the law, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, noted that failure to protect circumcision would have risked making Germany the only country in the world to ban a practice that Jews and some Muslims consider an ancient and essential part of their religious traditions.

The new law grants parents the right to have their sons circumcised by a trained practitioner. Once the boy reaches six months of age, the procedure needs to be performed by a doctor.

Some critics of circumcision in Germany have argued that the right of the child to bodily integrity trumped a parent’s right to make a decision on his behalf.

A minority of left-wing lawmakers in Parliament proposed that parents should have to wait until the boy is 14 so he can give informed consent, noting the procedure is irreversible.

Such a delay would have contravened Jewish religious law, which requires that boys are circumcised on the eighth day after birth in a ceremony seen as their entrance into a covenant with God. Muslims also usually perform the procedure early in a boy’s life.

Germany, a country of some 82 million people, has a population of about 250,000 Jews and about 4 million Muslims.


By FRANK JORDANS | Associated Press

Russian Museum Sparks Jewish Culture Revival.

russian jewish revival
The Moscow museum, which opened this week, tells the history of Jewry through people’s stories, which come alive in video interviews and interactive displays.

In czarist times, Geda Zimanenko watched her mother offer the local police officer a shot of vodka on a plate and five rubles every Sunday to overlook the fact that their family lived outside the area where Jews were allowed to live.

Then came the Bolshevik Revolution and Zimanenko became a good Communist, raising her own son to believe in ideals that strove to stamp out distinctions of race and religion. Her grandson, born after the death of dictator Josef Stalin, was more cynical of Communism and felt the heat of growing Soviet anti-Semitism.

Now the 100-year-old matriarch’s great-grandson, brought up after the fall of the Soviet Union and in a spirit of freedom of conscience, is fully embracing his Jewish roots: He works at Moscow’s new Jewish museum, Europe’s largest and Russia’s first major attempt to tell the story of its Jewish community. The four generations of Zimanenko’s family are a microcosm of the history of Jews in Russia over the past century, from the restrictions of imperial times through Soviet hardship to today’s revival of Jewish culture in Russia, a trajectory that is put on vivid display at the Jewish Museum and Center of Tolerance.

The museum, which opened this week, tells the history of Jewry through people’s stories, which come alive in video interviews and interactive displays. The journeys of people like the Zimanenko-Rozin family are traced from czarist Russia through the demise of the Soviet Union. The $50 million museum was built under the patronage of President Vladimir Putin, who in a symbolic move in 1997 donated a month of his salary—about $5,600—to its creation.

Putin has promoted Russia as a country that welcomes Russian emigrants back into its fold. Early in his presidency, he encouraged the repatriation of Russians who left in the wake of the 1917 Revolution as well as ethnic Russians left stranded in former Soviet republics, now independent states.

In Poland, which is undergoing a similar revival of Jewish culture, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews is due to open next year in the heart of the former Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw.

The Moscow museum’s portrayal of Russia as a safe and welcoming place for Jews today may run counter to the beliefs of some emigres and their descendants who were raised on dark stories about pogroms and discrimination in Russia. And while there’s no doubt that anti-Semitism has declined dramatically in Russia, there remains a strong strand of far-right sentiment that expresses itself in acts against Jews, as well as against dark-skinned foreigners.

To Borukh Gorin, chairman of the museum’s board, the history of Russian Jews is much more complex than the stark narrative of anti-Jewish oppression. The museum does not dwell on the “victimization of Jewish history,” he said.

“It’s about what actually happened,” said Gorin. “And what happened was complicated. There were pogroms, but there was also an active role of Jews in Russian public life—scientists, writers, journalists, Jews awarded with the country’s highest honors.”

By 1917, the Russian Empire had the largest Jewish community in the world, more than 5 million people. Most of the Jews were confined to the Pale of Settlement, the area of the Russian Empire stretching across what are now western Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Poland, beyond which Jews were not allowed to live. Today, only about 150,000 people who identify themselves as Jews live in Russia.

Zimanenko, feisty and talkative even at 100, was the daughter of Marxists and the granddaughter of pious Jews. Most of her life, she was true to Communist ideals and never thought much about her Jewish identity.

“If somebody asked me about my nationality then, it’d take me a while to remember that I was Jewish,” she said. “We were all Soviet people.”

But like other Soviet Jews, Zimanenko was reminded of her roots when Stalin’s repressive regime “foiled” the so-called Doctors’ Plot in 1952, accusing a group of prominent Moscow doctors, predominantly Jews, of conspiring to kill Soviet leaders. Their trial unleashed the first major wave of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, triggering dismissals, arrests and executions among Jews.

Zimanenko’s son, physicist Anatoly Rozin, said the family had such a strong faith in Communism and Stalin that they genuinely believed in the plot: “No one could doubt it. We were a Communist family.” In 1956, three years after Stalin’s death, the authorities admitted that the doctors had been framed.

Anatoly Rozin, now 78, is still an atheist and does not feel much affinity for his Jewish heritage, although he remembers being exposed to “everyday” anti-Semitism since childhood when neighborhood children called him and his brother names.

Anti-Semitism in the final decades of the Soviet Union was never official policy, but Jews had greater difficulty winning admission to university and traveling abroad.

Anatoly’s nephew and Zimanenko’s grandson, 47-year-old Mark Rozin, was also brought up in a family that was very “distant” from Jewish traditions and Judaism. Although he had no firsthand experience of the discrimination that led hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews to emigrate in the 1970s and ’80s, he said that the shared burden of inequality and suspicion allowed him to relate to other Jews.

There was a certain bond based “on the assumption that you faced some restrictions, you were not allowed to do what others did, that’s why you had to study harder than others, for example,” said Mark Rozin, a psychologist. In that sense, “you were always reminded of your nationality, but that didn’t bring you closer to the traditions.”

Scores of his friends and distant relatives took advantage of their Jewish roots to secure permission to leave the Soviet Union for Israel, but he said most left for “freedom and opportunity,” and not because of the Jewish faith.

Mark Rozin and his uncle also were allowed to emigrate, but decided against it.

“I’m a man of this culture,” said Anatoly Rozin, referring to the Soviet Union. “Leaving seemed impossible at the time.”

These days, Zimanenko falters when she tries to pronounce the words “bar mitzvah,” only to be corrected by her 24-year-old great-grandson, Lev Rozin. For him, having to get permission to travel or being barred from university for being Jewish is something from another planet.

Russia in recent years has seen a dramatic decrease in displays of anti-Semitism, down to isolated cases of violence and vandalism. In a survey conducted last year by the respected Levada Center, 8 percent of those polled said they believed Jews should be barred from living in Russia, down from 15 percent in 2004.

Members of the Zimanenko-Rozin family said they felt no anti-Semitism in Russia today, but only members of the youngest generation have been eager to explore their roots. Lev Rozin, who works in the museum’s children’s center, said he began to identify himself as a Jew in his teens after attending a Jewish youth camp in Hungary. His two younger siblings attended the same camp.

The revival of Jewish culture in Russia has been driven predominantly by young people, which is reflected in the staff of the Jewish Museum. The museum’s development director, Natalya Fishman, is just 22.

“In our family, it’s the younger generation that is trying to rediscover our roots,” Lev Rozin said. “I try to keep my Friday nights free, I don’t eat pork and try to observe some Kashrut (Jewish dietary) rules.”

For his father, Jewish identity is more than religion or customs.

“It stems from a feeling of belonging to your family, its roots, Grandma’s stories,” Mark Rozin said. “By talking to Grandma and learning about her life, we’re getting closer to the Jewish culture.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.



German MPs vow to protect circumcision after court ban.

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  • Head of the Conference of European Rabbis Pinchas Goldschmidt (R) and Rabbi Avichai Apel address a news conference after a meeting in Berlin July 12, 2012. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz vHead of the Conference of European …

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany‘s lower house of parliament is set to pass a cross-party resolution on Thursday to protect the religious circumcision of baby boys after a district court ban on the practice outraged Muslims and Jews.

              The main political parties have attacked the ruling by a Cologne court and conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s government has promised a new law to make clear doctors or families will not be punished for carrying out the procedure.

              The speed with which lawmakers agreed on the terms of the motion underscored sensitivity to charges of intolerance in a country haunted by its Nazi past.

              The draft resolution demands that “the government present a draft law in the autumn … that guarantees that the circumcision of boys, carried out with medical expertise and without unnecessary pain, is permitted”. The new law would overrule the Cologne decision.

              Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, a member of Merkel’s Free Democratic (FDP) coalition partner, said Germany had a duty to protect religious customs and promote tolerance.

              “The resolution shows that we live in a cosmopolitan and tolerant country,” Westerwelle told reporters. “It would be inexplicable … if Jewish citizens in Germany were not allowed to circumcise their boys.”

Merkel has said Germany risked becoming a “laughing stock” if Jews are not allowed to practise their rituals.


About 120,000 Jews are registered as living in Germany along with around 4 million Muslims, many of whom are from Turkey which has also criticized the court ruling.

              Germany’s Central Council of Jews described the Cologne ruling as an “unprecedented and dramatic intrusion” on religious freedom and the Central Council of Muslims in Germany called it a “blatant and inadmissible interference” in parents’ rights.

              However, a poll released on Thursday suggested almost half of Germans support a ban on the religious circumcision of boys. The YouGov survey showed 45 percent wanted to end the Islamic and Jewish tradition. About 42 percent were against a ban and 13 percent had no opinion.

              The Cologne court, ruling in the case of a Muslim boy who suffered bleeding after circumcision, said the practice inflicted bodily harm and should not be carried out on young boys, although it could be practised on older men with consent.

              This is not acceptable under Jewish religious practice, which requires boys to be circumcised from eight days old, nor for many Muslims, for whom the age of circumcision varies according to family, country and tradition.

              The cross-party resolution condemns other “damaging and immoral procedures” carried out on children and young people including female genital mutilation.

              It will be rushed through in the same sitting as a vote on aid to Spain for which MPs were recalled from their holidays.

              (Editing by Gareth Jones and Andrew Heavens)


ReutersBy Madeline Chambers | Reuters 

Christians Report Lowest Growth Rate in Israel.

January 20, 2012

According to a recent report from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, Christians have the lowest growth rate among the Israeli population, the Religion News Service reports.

 The Christian growth rate, 0.9 percent, ranks behind the Jewish rate of 1.7 percent and the Muslim rate of 2.7 percent.

 About 154,000 Christians live in Israel, about 2 percent of the population — a percentage which has remained relatively stable since the mid-1980s.

The estimated birth rate for Christian women is also the lowest among the religious groups; the average number of children born to a Christian woman is 2.1, compared to a Jewish woman (3.0) and a Muslim woman (3.8).

By Religion Today.

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