Tag Archives: Orthodox

Juda Engelmayer at AIPAC 2013 on with Edwin Black

At the 2013 AIPAC convention, Edwin Black of the IBC Channel interviewed Juda Engelmayer on Israel’s politics and the world view on the Jewish State.

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And the Winner is: A Deafening Silence that Shames us all

Just a shout out to my father, Shammai (Sheldon) David Engelmayer for his recent win of The American Jewish Press Association’s Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism.  The award was in its Category 4:

Award for Excellence in Editorial Writing – Division A. Newspapers over 15,000 circulation and all Magazines/Websites.

First Place
Jewish Standard, Teaneck, NJ

A Deafening Silence” by Shammai Engelmayer and Larry Yudelson

Comments: A stirring pair of editorials denouncing the silence by both American Jews and Israeli officials in the face of unacceptable violence by ultra-orthodox Jews against Jewish school children in the town of Beit Shemesh.

See the Editorial here

or read below:

Editorial

Published: 13 October 2011
Imagine this scene: A Jewish girls’ school opened in a town that serves as a suburb of the capital of Country Y. The neighbors were not pleased. To begin with, they wanted the building for their own children. In addition, they objected to the religious persuasion of the school and its students.

So every day, from the second day of school, mobs of neighbors protested, screaming “sluts” and other unconscionable epithets as the girls exited the building in the afternoon. Some of the protesters threw eggs and bags of excrement at the girls and at the school, to punctuate their points.

How do you think world Jewry would react?

How should we in America react? Should we call upon the Anti-Defamation League or the Simon Wiesenthal Center to demand intervention from the White House? Should we lobby the U.S. State Department to publicly condemn the behavior of Country Y and to insist that Jewish human rights be observed there?

Perhaps we should demand that the United Nations investigate. Perhaps, too, we should stage a massive demonstration in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza.

We would do just those things if the country in question were Belgium, or Belaraus, or Bahrain. As we report on page 14, however, the country is Israel, which may explain why we have heard and read precious little from those only too quick to condemn even a hint of anti-Semitism anywhere else in the world.

The flashpoint is a school for girls in Beit Shemesh, a town near Jerusalem. The town’s rigidly Orthodox charedi community objects to the presence of a modern Orthodox school in their neighborhood. Is it because this is a Jew vs. Jew conflict — or worse, an Orthodox vs. Orthodox conflict — that there has been so pronounced a silence from the organized Jewish world?

It is not acceptable that little girls are being screamed at by grown men.

It is not acceptable that little girls must pass through a gauntlet of angry men who are armed with bags of excrement.

It is not acceptable that Jewish leaders both here and in Israel remain silent about this disgrace.

American Jewry needs to let the Israeli leadership know that our concern for Jewish schoolchildren extends to Israel — just as we would protest if the harassment took place in Moscow or Marrakesh.

Israel’s leaders need to understand that by tolerating charedi violence, the State of Israel is undercutting the Zionist rationale of providing a secure homeland for the Jewish people.

The pride we take in the high level of aliyah from our own community turns sour when we see former neighbors of ours, such as Englewood native Esther Boylan Wolfson and her family, being subjected to what can only be called anti-Semitism in their new Israeli homes. “It’s a confrontation with a kind of evil that frankly I’ve never experienced,” she told The Jewish Standard. That is not why the Moriah graduate and her family moved to Israel 14 years ago.

Protecting nine-year-olds from assault should not be the sole responsibility of the parents and the neighbors.

Where is the Israeli government in this?

When it came time to integrate schools in the American South, it was clear which side President Dwight D. Eisenhower was on. Where does Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stand in the Beit Shemesh case?

Only Israel’s Ministry of Education has acted with any sense of justice and equity. The charedi mayor of Beit Shemesh suggested that the violence would end if the school moved somewhere else and the building was handed over to the charedi community. We applaud the ministry’s rejection of that offer, which is nothing less than extortion.

We would applaud even louder if the deputy minister of education — a representative of the charedi Agudath Israel party — would join the parents in protecting the schoolchildren and condemning the violence. He will not do so, however, because charedi leaders say they do not want to identify with what they see as anti-charedi elements. Translated, that means the modern Orthodox.

Would we accept that as an excuse for refusing to denounce anti-Semitism anywhere else in the world?

In America, as in Israel, the leadership of the charedi community needs to be called upon to declare on whose side they stand: with the hooligans, or with the girls?

A spokesman for Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Avi Shafran, when questioned by The Jewish Standard on Tuesday, condemned the harassment as inappropriate and a violation of Jewish law.

Yet he defended the silence: “I do not believe that a decision to not condemn behavior necessarily implies tolerance of said behavior,” he said.

We disagree, taking the Talmud’s word that “Silence is like assent.”

 This article was reprinted from the Jewish Standard where it first appeared.

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The Souls in the Land are the Only Reasons for the Land

Juda Engelmayer March 8th 2012
Salim Joubran
Salim Joubran

It was May 7, 2004, when Salim Joubran was given a position on Israel’s Supreme Court. The day that he became the first permanent member of the Court from the Israeli Arab community should have been the day the world realized that Israel was in fact a democracy like none other in its region. Justice Joubran knew that as well, and he also knew what Israel was why it was formed and how he managed to rise through its ranks as a Christian and not a Jew.

It would seem odd, or possibly some act of defiance, when the New York Times carried a story about Justice Joubran earlier this week, presumably refusing to sing the Israel national anthem because the words “Nefesh Yehudi homiyah,” which means “A Jewish soul still yearns,” do not apply to him.

The anthem was not new to him when he became a lawyer, nor when he became a Supreme Court judge. It may indeed be an uncomfortable concept to sing, let alone believe by one who is not Jewish. It highlights the delicate tightrope Israel walks in its pursuit of peace and prosperity through the promotion of democratic statehood.

For Jews, living in Israel ironically removes Jewish identity from the everyday life of the average Jew. Unlike most places, where for many, Jewish identity is worn on our sleeves so to speak; on our heads actually for some, but also with the often uncomfortable vacation requests at work, among the other unique aspects of Jewish life. In Israel, Jewish holidays are the State holidays and no one really feels out of place donning a skullcap. With Judaism all around, maybe the overtly Jewish words should, or maybe other ubiquitous Jewish symbolisms should be removed to make those not of one of the 12 Tribes feel as comfortable.

There is a movement among a growing group of secular Israelis, Jewish ones mostly, to eliminate the Jewishness from the State itself. The fights between the ultra orthodox and those less so have been growing to the point where they have made the front pages of some of the world’s most antagonistic-to-Israel media venues. These differences only enhance the calls by the secular Israelis, as they see the belligerence of the right toward Zionism, secularism and modernity growing, and an unyielding intransigence when it comes to economic or social contributions beyond their own communities.

In the efforts to highlight the extremist nature of Israel, as they print their political opposition to such issues as Judean and Samarian expansion and retaining defensible borders, leftist media take the truly offensive nature of the assaults on women and secular Jews by these pockets of Hareidim and promote them as the mainstream occurrences of the Jewish state.

That serves Israel’s detractors as it equates the Jewish state with the radicalized Islamic countries that purport to see her smothered. The fact is that when relatively small extremist activity perpetuated by Jews occurs it is often promoted to a grander degree and with more international disdain than the malignant fanaticism that everyday Arab men, women and children face each day in many of the countries that challenge Israel’s existence. Those nations often get a free pass from criticism, as Israel is held to a different standard. Yet, I digress into a whole other topic altogether.

Jewish identity is so prevalent in Israel through its population and character that the argument is made asserting Jewish identification markers built into its government and national themes, like the Hatikvah are not needed.

The debate rocks between Israel’s left and right. While some want to make it harder for non Jews and non-believing Jews to participate, some on the left urge making Israel more inclusive; essentially, making it nothing more than the United States on the Mediterranean.

Israel’s Declaration of Independence ensures “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” The irony, however, is that this issue was sparked over an Arab judge from Haifa who has a permanent seat on The Jewish state’s highest court. Some would argue that he has been treated as Israel declared it would. The judge, for his part, just stood quietly while others made the issue of his choice.

These are difficult considerations and the resulting answers are not clear, nor do they follow conventional logic. To be a true democracy, Israel would needs to cede its Jewish identity, but to do so, would make it impossible for Israel to remain a Jewish homeland, safe from future persecution and expulsion. As history keeps repeating, majority populations will at some point turn on its Jewish citizens.

Jews have been pushed in every location on earth, and treated as pariahs throughout history. They have been jailed, tortured, forced to renounce their religion and beliefs or just killed for being Jews. Yet, they endured as a people and have outlived their ancient enemies, and are poised to face their new ones, whoever they are.

Born from the Levant where the G-d Abram had worshiped offered to make him a great nation if he left his home and family, the Jewish religion and the specific land are unequivocally tied to one another. This makes the Jewish yearning for Israel not just a slogan, but a compulsion as strong as the belief in G-d itself. It is the main reason why when Theodore Herzl were searching for a land the Jews could emigrate to, escaping the Russian pogroms in 1905, the Seventh Zionist Congress rejected the Uganda Program, believing that only in Israel could Jews truly be free.

Israel is, therefore an anomaly and needs to be treated as one. It is not as any other country, because it is not merely about acreage and capricious borders, but an ancient calling said to be made by the G-d of the oldest monotheistic religion in the world.

Fanatical Hareidim aside, for secular Jews to feel that the religious nature of the country is too cumbersome, for non Jews to feel that the Hatikvah is too Jewish, or for both to want to make Israel a secular sanctuary, the only answer has to be no.

One can be irreligious in Israel and still be its prime minister. One can be an Arab in Israel and be a Supreme Court judge, weighing in on the most important matters affecting the internal working of the country. Yet, if the Judaism is taken out of Israel, Jews may as well be in Florida and not suffer, struggle, fight, and not remember those who died creating, defending and living in the land where Jews are destined to call home.

Israel devoid of the Soul of the Jew is nothing more than soil and sand, and certainly not worth the blood, sweat and tears of the countless who have poured all three into its building; creating the hope for the Jews and an oasis in the gloom of the Middle East.

Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR

 

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When the greater good isn’t good enough

When we hear comments such as, “Mussolini made the trains run on time,” or “Madoff was a prominent philanthropist,” does anyone today take those as actual excuses for bad behavior? As a world, should we slap them on the wrist and say the greater good was served, making the evils inconsequential?

In this day and age it is hard to imagine anyone real throwing these two a lifeline. So why in some circles, and often Orthodox Jewish ones, do we allow “He may be guilty at times of what I would consider ‘tough love’ … perhaps going overboard and embarrassing people, but … he cares deeply about the students and wants to keep them on the straight path,” to be an excuse when it comes to our children and Torah education?

When I was a child in yeshiva on the Lower East Side, we had rabbis who hit us. Second grade was known for the yardstick knuckle smack down, and parents never complained when their kids came home with bruises on their hands. For me, it wasn’t until fifth grade when our rebbe, known for smacking his students, whacked me so hard that someone in my family took notice.

My mother probably thought the rabbi was doing her a favor, and never said a word. My uncle, at the time, a charming looking Burt Reynolds type, with a thick mustache, chest hairs coming out of his 1970s collared shirt, mirrored aviators – you get the picture, walked in to class one day and called the rabbi outside for a minute.

(Read More in the Jewish Star)

Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR

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‘They have turned away from what I commanded them’

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai he saw a people decadent and corrupt who had forgone the Judaism which G-d had given them. Prior to his descent, G-d saw this happening and told Moses, “Saru Ma’Hair, Min HaDerech Asher Tzvitem – they have turned away quickly from the way that I commanded them,” as he directed Moses to go down and set the people straight.

As the Jews worshiped the golden calf, they proclaimed that it was the G-d who brought them out of Egypt. How soon they forget!
It did not take too long for the experience of the Exodus to leave the people and for their faith to be challenged to the point of creating a G-d whom they thought spoke to them at that moment. They could have just abandoned religion and worship, but they still sought a higher power, and created it in the manner that they thought best. That seems to have happened again.
Too bad there isn’t a Moses today!
Not idolatry, but if we looked around at our Jewish communities today we could see clear signs of misdirected faith that causes people to act in ways that are not characteristic of a Jewish people who believe in “V’ahavta L’raiacha kamocha,” to love others as we wish to be loved ourselves – a rule that Jews sing about, quoting Rabbi Akiva, “This is a great principle of the Torah”. When we see what is happening in Bet Shemesh these days, it becomes all too clear that Jews have lost their way, and on their new paths, developed rules that have redefined the essence of modern Judaism.

Read more in the Jewish Star

Juda Engelmayer is public relations executive with the NY PR firm, 5W Public Relations where he runs a corporate, public affairs and crisis communications group.

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