Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Sunday 22 June 2014

Interfaith With Islam: A Melbourne Temple with questions to answer?

Temple Beth Israel, the flagship congregation of Progressive Judaism in Melbourne, was founded in the interwar period by a small group of native-born Australian Jews but consolidated and shaped by refugees from Nazism and the great Rabbi Dr Herman Sanger.   It has long been a leader in interfaith dialogue.

For much of the Australian public over the decades, the Temple's rabbis, in particular the widely-admired Dr Sanger and his equally distinguished (and pro-Zionist) successor,  Rabbi Emeritus Dr John Levi, represented the face of Australian Judaism, with their willingness to engage with the wider world and their approachability.  In consequence, they were long, for countless journalists in Melbourne and Victoria, the "go-to" Jewish leaders whenever a comment regarding an issue of relevance to Judaism in Australia was required.

The Temple has continued to participate in interfaith activities, broadening the approach from dialogue with Christians to dialogue with other creeds as Australian society has grown increasingly diverse.

The Temple is also a pioneer in gender equality, with female rabbis and female cantors and female presidents and board members long a feature of its scene, as are some female congregants who  choose to wear kippot and tallitot.

This month, the Temple held a much-advertised and much-anticipated event:
"TBI will once again be taking the lead in creating a whole new world of interfaith dialogue and exploration through the June 15 2014 concert “Sacred Music – A Celebration”.  Based around Ernest Bloch’s major Jewish work, Avodat Hakodesh, followed by a series of psalms and prayers common to various religious traditions, TBI will be hosting the first Victorian gala interfaith choral concert – Sacred Music Concert....
What better metaphor is there than bringing hundreds of musicians and audience together in singing in harmony the words “grant us peace and blessing” in Hebrew (Sim Shalom), Latin (Dona Nobis Pacem) and Arabic (Hablana Asalem)?...."
What indeed.

But this laudable and magnificent occasion contained an element in its program that is on the face of it troubling, as described in the online magazine Jews Down Under by Pam Hopf.  She writes, inter alia:
'[T]he second half of the concert took on a different dimension, bringing “something new to TBI’s sanctuary, the Muslim call to prayer, and a chanting of the 55th Surah of the Koran. With this recitation Abdul Aziz al Mathkour and Brother Waseem Razvi of the Islamic research Education Academy (IREA) revealed many points of commonality between Judaism and Islam in its languages and texts”
Excuse my cynicism, but what points of commonality can possibly exist when Surah 55 describes how Muslim men will enjoy deflowering virgins in paradise, whilst the unbeliever will suffer the torments of hell.
For a community that prides itself on being progressive, particularly with regard to gender issues, it’s hard to see how they can condone this Sura, especially as there is no promise that women can equally enjoy endless sex. The progressives constantly berate orthodox Jewry for separating men and women during prayer, yet apparently have no problem endorsing men using women for sex, which smacks of hypocrisy. Moreover, if they truly believe in interfaith tolerance, they should surely object to the fate that awaits non-Muslims....'
 Temple Beth Israel needs to address Pam Hopf's criticism.  The secular Left, including, to their utter shame, its female members, prove time and time again that when the choice is between the upholding of women's rights and the appeasement of misogynistic Islam, the latter wins over the former.  Surely a religious bastion of female equality is not following suit?


  1. Thanks Daph

    Pam's post has gone into orbit. a couple of the 'big boys picked it up.

    1. I see Vlad Tepes is one of them.

    2. Yes. Vlad Tepes has picked up from me before. We have to help one another.

      This is a disgrace. Why do we tolerate these people.?

      The AJDS is also one this week. I wrote to them berating them for no publishing a word about the kidnapped boys. The haven't had the decency to up one word on their FB page or web site.
      Boy have they managed to have a field day about their visit to Canberra to lobby MPs with the Advocacy for Palestine Group. Then something about Christine Milne and the Greens and another about some event or other in Gaza.

  2. Shirlee, it would of course be churlish not to acknowledge that a great deal of forethought and hard work must have gone into the organisation of this otherwise splendid. concert. But that the Temple should tolerate the recitation on its premises of a male supremacist, triumphalist Islam Surah is unconscionable. If the Temple merely shrugs at the concern Pam has raised and fails to address them it really will be regrettable. I see that a commenter on your website has suggested that TBI is increasingly "irrelevant". Alas, that is a charge I am hearing quite often, from people who believe that its emphasis on "social justice" has taken the Temple into politically correct but naive and foolish ventures of the leftist sort, to put it no stronger.
    I had a good look at the IREA Facebook page that Pam links to in her article. Of course, unlike Judaism Islam is a proselytising religion and IREA members were recently out proselytising on the Mornington Peninsula. The Facebook page reveals that they made a number of women converts - what struck me that these women were persuaded to convert after a brief discussion, and one at least took away a Quran so that she could learn more about her new faith. Imagine converting to Islam without having read the Quran first! There must be so many lost souls out there who would like a faith to fall back on. I often wonder whether they would have flocked to Judaism had the late American Reform rabbi Alexander Schindler's proposal some decades ago for an outreach program come to fruition - those ex- or nominal Christians for whom the concept of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus are stumbling blocks in their adherence to Christianity might well have found a satisfying spiritual homeland in Judaism...and a few thousand more supporters of Israel would have been made!.

  3. If a Jew wanted to say this traditional morning recitation at the Temple all hell would break loose

    "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast not made me a woman"

    Go figure.


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