Thursday, 31 May 2012

Canadian politicians are increasingly pro-sodomy

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. Proverbs 14:34

More evidence that the judgement of God upon Trudeaupia (still officially known as Canada) is already under way, as reported by Andy Radia of Yahoo News, May 30, 2012:

Something significant is happening in the province of Ontario.

Ontario's Liberal government did an about face and is now telling publicly funded Catholic schools that they must allow their students to call anti-homophobic clubs "gay-straight alliances".

The change in the Liberal government's new anti-bullying bill — the Accepting Schools Act — is part of a government initiative to create a "safe and accepting climate" in all schools.

It's not only a bold move by premier Dalton McGuinty, but an indication that it's no longer taboo for Canadian politicians to proactively support gay rights.

Canada is no longer the country it was in 1970's, when police across the country used to raid gay bathhouses and arrest patrons.

We are far removed from 1975, when a special joint committee on Immigration Policy recommended that "homosexuals no longer be prohibited from entering Canada".

Canadians - including our politicians - have evolved.

Pride day celebrations now take place across the country with politicians from all political stripes.

Even the Conservatives - not known for their enthusiastic support of the LGBT community - in recent years have shown signs of being more 'gay-friendly.'

Several Conservative MPs, including Cabinet ministers Vic Toews, John Baird and Rona Ambrose, appeared in an "It Gets Better" video released last year dedicated to the memory of Jamie Hubley, an Ottawa teenager who killed himself after battling depression and taunts about being openly gay.

And, earlier this year - after a fury over a legal loophole that could have meant the end of gay marriages of foreigners in Canada - Stephen Harper came out and said said his government has no plans of revisiting the issue of same-sex marriage.

The politicos may be buoyed by public opinion.

It appears the vast majority of Canadians believe that gay rights should be protected.

Out of the 1,007 Canadians that responded to an Angus Reid poll in March, 59 per cent agreed that same-sex marriage should continue to be legal, as opposed to 14 per cent that believe same-sex couples should no longer receive legal recognition.

There will always be segments of the population opposed to gay-rights legislation, but McGuinty is showing that politicians are now less concerned about those voter groups.
It should be kept in mind, as far as polls are concerned, that pollsters can obtain the result they want by phrasing the question in a certain way; and the dirty little secret of pollsters (admitted by Ipsos-Reid in a presentation to prospective recruits a dozen or so years ago) is that 70% of the people they contact refuse to talk to them.

White House regrets Obama's mention of "Polish death camp"

Don't you think this story would have received much more attention and the remark in question much more criticism if it had been made by Dan Quayle instead of B. Hussein Obama? As reported by Ron Kampeas of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 30, 2012:

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- The White House expressed its regrets about President Obama's use of the term "Polish death camp."

In a statement Wednesday morning, Tommy Vietor, the spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said the president "misspoke" during his presentation of a posthumous Medal of Freedom a day earlier to Jan Karski, a Polish resistance fighter who was among the first to report German atrocities in his country.

"He was referring to Nazi death camps in Poland," Vietor said. "We regret this misstatement, which should not detract from the clear intention to honor Mr. Karski and those brave citizens who stood on the side of human dignity in the face of tyranny."

During the ceremony, Obama said of Karski, "Fluent in four languages, possessed of a photographic memory, Jan served as a courier for the Polish resistance during the darkest days of World War II. Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale, and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself. Jan took that information to President Franklin Roosevelt, giving one of the first accounts of the Holocaust and imploring to the world to take action."

Poles insist on the term "Nazi death camps" to describe facilities such as Auschwitz and Sobibor.

In a tweet reported first by BuzzFeed, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said that Obama "will apologize for this outrageous error," ascribing it to "ignorance and incompetence."

Other officials also weighed in with outrage on social media.

Holocaust historians say the record of Polish behavior during the Holocaust is vexed and contradictory. There was much collaboration with the Nazis, and the resistance did little to protect Jews until 1942, reflecting the pervasive anti-Semitism that infected the country before the German invasion in 1939.

Karski himself in his first dispatches fretted that native Polish anti-Semitism would frustrate efforts to save the Jews. In a February 1940 dispatch quoted in The Holocaust Encyclopedia, Karski said that Nazi anti-Jewish measures were creating "something akin to a narrow bridge upon which the Germans and a large portion of Polish society are finding agreement." A Jewish-Polish resistance would encounter "serious resistance" among large parts of Polish society, he reported.

On the other hand, once the scope of the genocide became clear, some of the Polish resistance sought to rescue Jews.

The Anti-Defamation League in a statement Wednesday praised the White House for its "regrets" on the matter.

"The misnomer 'Polish camps' unjustly implies that the death camps in Poland were built in the name of the Polish people rather than by the Nazi regime," the ADL said. "While the White House acknowledged that the president misspoke, the administration should turn this mistake into a teachable moment for American public and explain more fully why the expression 'Polish death camps' offends our strong ally, Poland, and distorts the history of the Holocaust."

More than 90 percent of Polish Jewry's prewar 3.5 million Jews was wiped out in the Holocaust, and efforts by Jews to return to their homes after the war were in some cases met by pogroms instigated by neighbors who had taken over their properties.

The tiny community that persisted in postwar Poland lay low, in part because anti-Semitism was still pervasive. Only in recent years, after the fall of communism, has the community undergone a minor revival.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews arrested for disrupting infrastructure work in Galilee

As reported by Maor Buchnik of Ynet News, May 30, 2012:

Six ultra-Orthodox men were arrested for disrupting infrastructure works taking place near Habakkuk's Tomb in the Galilee. The offenders claimed they were trying to prevent the desecration of Jewish graves located in the area.

The ultra-religious group arrived at the construction site, which is being supervised by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) due to concerns the work could damage archeological artifacts, on Wednesday afternoon.

According to the police, the protesters called members of the construction crew "robbers" and interrupted their work. The officers who responded on the scene arrested six of the protesters, aged 25-30, all of whom reside in central Israel.

An IAA official said he was unfamiliar with the details of the incident.

On Tuesday, unidentified assailants desecrated an ancient synagogue located at a national park near Tiberias. The vandals shattered antique mosaics and daubed slogans on the walls. The IAA said that the incident came in response to archeological works that the assailants believe are damaging to Jewish burial sites.

Late last year, unidentified vandals torched a receptacle containing antique artifacts located in an archeological dig near Afula.

An activist belonging to the ultra-Orthodox Atra Kadisha movement, which opposes the archeological works, said at the time that the exploratory projects violate an agreement reached between rabbis and the IAA.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

50 years ago: Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann is executed in Jerusalem

On May 31, 1962, Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, 56, was executed in Jerusalem. On December 15, 1961, a three-man Israeli court panel had sentenced Mr. Eichmann to death by hanging, four days after being convicted of all 15 charges against him. The charges were:

1/Causing the enslavement, deportation and murder of Jews;
2/Causing the deaths of millions of Jews;
3/Putting millions of Jews in ghettos, labour and concentration camps with the aim of destroying them (the Jews, that is);
4/Sending thousands of Gypsies to extermination camps;
5/Causing the inhuman treatment, deportation and murder of Jews in Axis-occupied areas;
6/Inflicting physical and mental harm on millions of Jews;
7/Planning a program for sterilization of Jews;
8/Deporting 100 Czechoslovakian children from Lidice to Poland, where they were killed;
9/Persecuting Jews on religious, racial, political and national grounds;
10/Appropriating Jewish property by force;
11/Deporting over 500,000 Poles;
12/Deporting 14,000 Slovenes;
13/Being a member of the SS;
14/Being a member of the Nazi Security Police;
15/Being a member of the Gestapo.

Go here to see an article about Gabriel Bach, the prosecutor in Mr. Eichmann's trial.

Ambrose University College hires Jesuit-educated contemplative spirituality proponent as its new president

Ambrose University College in Calgary, Alberta is the denominational school for both the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada and Church of the Nazarene Canada. I've been suspicious of Ambrose's direction ever since it adopted its name in 2007.

I previously posted on Ambrose's affinity for contemplative spirituality here and here; the reader may want to consult those posts for background information. For more on contemplative spirituality and spiritual formation, search those terms at Lighthouse Trails Research Project. For more detailed information on lectio divina, go here and here.

Ambrose University College issued the following announcement on May 7, 2012:

The Board of Governors of Ambrose University College announced today that Dr. Gordon T. Smith has been appointed the next President. Dr. Smith’s term will commence August 1st, 2012.

Currently the President and CEO of reSource Leadership International,
Dr. Smith previously served as Academic Vice President/Dean and Associate Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College.

Dr. Smith brings to Ambrose experience from a three-decade career in Christian higher education. A distinguished author and pastor, Dr. Smith earned his Master of Divinity degree at Canadian Theological Seminary and a PhD in Philosophy from Loyola School of Theology, Manila, Philippines.

The Board of Governors was assisted in selecting the next president by the unanimous recommendation of the search committee, as well as by the public input the search committee solicited prior to undertaking the search. Through town hall meetings, and both direct and online submissions, the search committee gathered valuable feedback that supported the search process.

The Ambrose Board of Governors also received ratification of Dr. Smith’s appointment from the founding denominations: the Board of Directors of The Christian and Missionary Alliance and the Board of Governors of Canadian Nazarene College.
It came as no surprise to this blogger that an internet search revealed Ambrose's new president to be a proponent of contemplative spirituality, and alarm bells went off in my mind when I noticed Loyola School of Theology in Dr. Smith's resume. I'd never heard of the school, but I suspected that it was named after Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, and my suspicions were were confirmed by their website:

LST: A Jesuit, Filipino, and Asian Ecclesiastical Faculty of Theology

For half a century, Loyola School of Theology (LST) has been providing quality theological and pastoral education under the direction of the Society of Jesus.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online defines Jesuit as:

1: a member of the Roman Catholic Society of Jesus founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in 1534 and devoted to missionary and educational work

2: one given to intrigue or equivocation

The "Spiritual Exercises" of Ignatius of Loyola have long served as a foundation and introduction to contemplative spirituality. I haven't read any of Gordon T. Smith's books, but a quick glance at descriptions of some of his books leaves no doubt that Dr. Smith is a proponent of contemplative spirituality, and in particular, the "spiritual exercises" of Ignatius of Loyola:

Alone with the Lord

A guide to a personal day of prayer

This small booklet is intended to teach Christians how to spend a full day in the presence of Christ. Readers are given the opportunity to practise various spiritual disciplines and then to journal what God is speaking to them.

The Voice Of Jesus
A comprehensive exploration of the place of discernment in the life of the Christian and of the church.

Jesus takes it for granted that you will hear his voice. But how do you hear it? How do you separate it out from the cacophony of other voices you hear everyday, including those of your own desires? Is your experience of Jesus' voice something purely subjective, or is it something you can talk about with others and have them confirm?

Building on the rich spiritual tradition that spans the diversity of history and theology from Ignatius Loyola to John Wesley to Jonathan Edwards, Gordon T. Smith helps open your ears and heart to the depths of the inner witness of the Spirit. By learning to attend to the Spirit, Smith urges, you will learn to hear and heed the voice of Jesus in everyday life.

Written with warmth and wisdom, this book speaks to the mind and heart of every Christian who longs for a closer, more intimate walk with Jesus.
The pro-Jesuit site Evangelicals on the Ignatian Way listed The Voice of Jesus among its recommended books.

Dr. Garry Friesen, a professor at Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Oregon, had this to say about another of Dr. Smith's books:

Listening to God in Times of Choice: The Art of Discerning God's Will

Author: Gordon T. Smith
Publisher: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.
View: Synthesis of Traditional and Wisdom Views

The Forward is by a Jesuit who lauds the book's insights from John Wesley and Ignatius of Loyola. Smith's doctoral dissertation compared Wesley and Ignatius. The book is about the "art of discerning God's will." The main theme is that God relates to us as a friend and we must learn to listen to God's voice in our innermost being.

Smith positions himself between the traditional view ("Blueprint school", 15) and the Wisdom view (or "school" illustrated by Decision Making and the Will of God, 16). He rightly notes that what I call the traditional view "is recent in historical terms" (102). Smith goes back further in spiritual history to try and correct both views.

Smith rejects the traditional view which undercuts "the presence and voice of God in the times of choice" (16)." But his descriptions of the voice of God sound exactly like the traditional view: "prompting", "impressions", "still small voice", "inner witness", "subjective" speaking, "hearing God's voice", "peace of God".

His mystical orientation is clear. "God does not have a mouth; he does not speak audibly. Rather, God 'speaks' to us through our feelings, impressions left on our minds" (52). This description is much different than the biblical examples which he gives to show that God speaks to us (17-18). His examples don't argue for impressions: Abraham Gen. 12; Samuel 1 Sam. 3:10; Balaam Num 22:21-23; Philip led by an angel Acts 8; by a prophet Acts 13:2. Smith has substituted impressions for the biblical examples of direct revelation by prophet and even audible voice...

...Smith also differs from the traditional view concerning the certainty which you can have of God's guidance. The traditional view says that you can be certain, but Smith says, "In this life we will not have absolute, unambiguous peace and rational certainty that we have divine guidance" (65). If we are not sure, then we must "trust God and make our choices despite the lack of absolute certainty. We cannot wait until every questions is resolved before we act" (67).

Smith is realistic about how subjective his method is. Discussing the peace of God, he says, "But consolation may be from God, or it may reflect the deceitfulness of the Evil One, masquerading as good. Or it could reflect our own confused desires and misguided motives. It may even reflect nothing more than what we had for breakfast" (57).

Smith strongly urges the reader to "Test everything" (57). This helps transform his mysticism into something more like "discerning". He encourages the believer to test every feeling, impression or sense of peace. The believer's mind must be washed with Scripture, and motives must get a "ruthless" examination to be sure God's glory is the goal (64). Reason must evaluate the impressions. "Reason .. guides us--but reason comes to terms with the feelings and impressions that are left on our inner person." Our impressions should be judged by the church and he recommends a "clearness committee" (82).

His conclusion to the method of discernment is "(1) rational consideration of the options and obstacles, (2) extended time in prayer and reflection, and (3) accountability and discussion with others" (85). This is a careful process, and it is hard to imagine a sinful or foolish impression making it through the tests. The process seems to narrow you down to impressions that are wise and godly. And who is against that? I do not call such impressions the pure voice of God (nor give them authority), but anything that is wise and godly can be followed with confidence...

...His mysticism has so much muscle that it is almost palatable.

On July 20, 2011, Dr. Smith posted a paper titled Theological Education as Formation in Wisdom, which includes the following:

And the genius of a spiritual practice is the realization that transformation is incremental. Practices foster a knowledge of God, of self, of the and other and of the created order. They are a means by which we know the grace of God by which we are transformed and made new. These “patterned activities”, to use the language of Dykstra and Bass gradually and incrementally lead to transformation. And critical to this discussion is that these are not merely activities of an individual, but of a community. But the fruit of these practices is known over time, as slowly but surely the truth, wisdom, is formed within us.

But this is not a new conversation or new insight for the church. This contemporary discussion of the “practice” of theology is but a newer version of an ancient conversation, one that is eloquently captured by the brilliant study of the quest for learning and wisdom within the monastic tradition: John Leclercq’s The Love of Learning and the Desire for God. This study of monastic culture may well be more relevant than ever, partly because the monastic movement is rightly providing a counter balance to the pragmatism of western (and Evangelical) approaches to theological formation and, further, because in a post-Christian secular society, the monastic cultivated practices that may well have remarkable relevance for the church and for theological education today. Leclercq reminds us that the genius of the monastic movement was the unqualified affirmation that the purpose of study and learning and indeed of all spiritual practice is union with God in Christ...

...Second, the monastic movement made engagement with the Scriptures foundational to all learning. And yet, it is not biblicism, for their study of the Scripture was complemented by their engagement with the theology and wisdom of the church fathers – one might say that what anchored their learning was the primacy of the Scriptures, yes, but a study that was guided by the theological heritage and tradition of the church.

It is important to affirm, though, that their study of Scripture was never as an end in itself; one came to Scripture from prayer and the Scriptures in turn informed their practice of prayer. And thus the whole contemporary practice of ‘lectio divina’ is really an ancient practice, fostered by the monastic movement and an essential spiritual practice for the church today and for every student in a theological school: the capacity to read the Scriptures in prayer, with attention to grammar and exegesis, but with ultimate attention to the one who is revealed through the ancient text.

And third, what impresses us from Leclercq’s study of monasticism is that for all his celebration of the monastic approach to learning, he does not pit monasticism against scholasticism. To the contrary, he affirms that scholasticism is almost a necessary counterpart to monastic culture, with the scholastic diligent focus on the grammar of Scripture, and the recognition of the need to draw on non-Christian sources for our learning, including philosophy. Bernard of Clairveaux insisted that we are not wise until we live in the fear of God and are drawn up into the love of God. And thus monastic theology is the essential
completion of scholastic theology.15 And yet Leclercq also noted that monastic theology needed
scholastic theology in order to engage the times, the culture, and social and intellectual context in which theology is to be lived and expressed. And Leclercg has an oh-so-brief a appendix in which the theological work of St. Anselm is celebrated and celebrated precisely because his genius was that he was both a scholastic – a first class scholar on the public stage – but also deeply monastic, a lover of God and a man of prayer.

And then, fourthly, we must beware of succumbing to the common stereo-type that monasticism was
about disengagement and not about the call of the Gospel and of the church to mission and specifically to mission to the city and to the urban poor. In a sense it was about disengagement; one stepped aside from the demands of the world for study, prayer, contemplation and the focused practices of a disciplined Christian community. While what I have just described might be an accurate description of the Benedictine tradition – though even there, one must be cautious, in that this particular monastic tradition did have an extraordinary commitment to hospitality – this observation is simply not accurate for later monasticism. I think of the Friars, who left the cloister, whose houses of life and worship were located in
the very heart of the cities, and whose lives – think of the Franciscans and the Dominicans, for example – were marked by profound commitment to the urban poor, in word and deed.

And then we have the Society of Jesus, the first apostolic order, that left the monastary, yet sustained the commitment to prayer, study but always with the resolve to be, as they put it, “contemplatives in action.” It would not be an overstatement to describe this order as the greatest missionary order in the history of the church.
Sacred Listening: Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola
By James L. Wakefield
was published in 2006. This book has a front cover endorsement by Eugene Peterson, endorsements by Open Theology heretic Greg Boyd and Jesuit Armand Nigro, and this by Gordon T. Smith:

James Wakefield has provided us with a remarkably helpful introduction to praying with the Spiritual Exercises, readable and eminently helpful, insightful and practical. Also notable: he builds on the best scholarship on the Exercises and makes it accessible to Christians of all traditions.

Gary Gilley has provided a review of this book from a solidly biblical point of view.

Among recent lectures delivered by Dr. Smith were one on March 9-10, 2012 to the contemplative Urban Sanctuary in Edmonton, and this:

February 22: Beirut, Near East School of Theology: “What Can Evangelicals and Protestants Learn from Ignatian Spirituality?”

Thomas H. Green, S.J., a professor of philosophy and theology at Loyola School of Theology, is the only speaker listed at Open Hearts, Open Minds. He and Dr. Smith conducted this joint seminar (joint seminar, that is, not debate):


A joint seminar by Fr. Thomas H. Green S.J. and Rev. Dr. Gordon T. Smith
May 12, 2007 at the Bayview Glen Alliance Church

One of the great insights of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, was in the area of discovering God’s will for our lives. His rules for discernment, incorporated into his famous work, “Spiritual Exercises,” continue to be studied, discussed and practiced today, some 500 years after they were first written. In the last few decades, there has been a resurgence of interest in retreats following the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius and in the whole area of spiritual formation and spiritual direction. Our whole-day seminar this year brings together two of the leading experts on these topics and promises to be not just informative and challenging but perhaps even life changing. Join us for a day of learning, reflection and fellowship with others on the spiritual journey.

In addition to promoting contemplative spirituality, the new president of Ambrose University College promotes sacramentalism and the social gospel. In the paper Theological Education as Formation in Wisdom, which I cited earlier, Dr. Smith goes so far as to praise liberation theology, which is just Marxism in Christian (especially Roman Catholic) dress:

When we speak of mission, we speak, at the very least, of the following:

That the mission of God is the restoration of the beauty and glory of the created order, and, even more, of the fulfilment of creation. Thus those who identify with the mission of God will speak of the concern of the church for the environment.

Also, to speak of the mission of God is to reference the one to whom all authority has been given: Jesus the Christ, who now reigns above and is inaugurating a kingdom of justice and peace.

Then also to speak of the mission of God is to speak of the church as an instrument of God to witness to and embody this kingdom. This, of course, suggests that the church is not an end, but a means to an end; and though an necessary end, it suggests that “church growth” or “denominational extension” are not at the heart of the mission of the church.

When this missional vision has been picked up by theologians and educators in theological schools in the global south what has emerged is a common theme around what is often spoke of as “transformational” leadership and ministry. And what in particular has been highlighted is that we cannot speak of mission without a commitment to justice, compassion and social responsiblity: that we witness to the reign of Christ through word and deed.

Probably no voice has emphasize the relationship between wisdom and social responsibility as profoundly as that of the liberation theologians of Latin America. Jon Sobrino, for example, speaks of “political holiness”. Our vision of life and work and wisdom must be through the lens of the in-breaking of the reign of Christ, Sobrino insists; and if we are discerning we will see that the God of all mercy, embodied in the radical mercy of Jesus, has what Sobrino and his liberationist colleagues speak of as a “preferential option for the poor”, and that indeed the poor are the locus of God’s presence in the world. Voices like that of Rene Padilla have rightly observed that when the vision of liberation theologians is one-sided and only speaks of economic justice, that it is essentially a half truth. But if the alternative is to only speak of“personal salvation” all we have is another half truth. A Padilla puts it: God loves justice, and nobody that has been born from God can remain indifferent to exploitation and injustice, poverty and huger that afflict his neighbour.” To Padilla’s credit, he was sounding this prophetic word as a lonely voice in 1974 at Laussane I, the first of three major conferences on evangelical global mission, and he was still insisting on this perspective at Laussane III, in South Africa in 2010.

I was struck recently work of the Virgina Fabella (Filipina, Maryknoll sister). In conversation with other Asian women theologians, including Chung Hyun Kyung of Korea, she speaks of doing theology in recognition of the salvific value of women’s active suffering as she cogently describes the poor women of Asia who are doubly oppressed – because of class and gender. But what her wisdom calls for is an active solidarity with these women wherein a passive identification with Christ’s sufferings leads to a struggle, in the name of Christ, on behalf of the suffering poor.

In May of 2011 I participated in a conference sponsored by the Asia Theological Association that brought together theologians and educators from Asia, Latin America and North America. And one could not miss that those from Asia and Latin America pressed the point: theological education with integrity needs to take account of the deep suffering that is found in the cities of Asia and Latin America. Urban theological education in the city has to respond to the cry of the city. And it needs to equip pastoral leaders to be agents of spiritual and social transformation in the city. And these were Evangelical theologians and church leaders insisting on this – voices that in the past might have emphasized, as Padilla put it, “personal salvation” and evangelism and church growth. Now we are seeing an insistence on the essential counterpoint between word and deed. As Leslie Newbigen has stated somewhere, when you only have half the truth you really have no truth at all and that thus we cannot pit social responsibility
against each other.

And so this leads me to ask how our approaches to theological education, in both the West and the global south will bring together partnerships with compassion ministries and active approaches to social justice. Wisdom is not ultimately wisdom until it is practiced; it is not a matter of mere knowledge, but of knowledge lived, in truth and in justice. And contemporary approaches to theological education in the global south and, increasingly in the rest of the world, are recognizing that this needs to be integral to a theological curriculum.
See my post Ambrose University College and "Transformation," and search the term at Lighthouse Trails Research Project.

Ambrose University College continues to offer courses in contemplative spirituality.

The following are listed in Ambrose's 2012-13 calendar. The number in parentheses indicates the number of hours of instruction per week, while the letter denotes how often the course is offered: A=annually; B=biennially; O=occasionally.

REL 360 Spaces of the Heart (3) A
An advanced study dealing with selected disciplines and rhythms of the spiritual life. The content of the course includes the discussion of the nature of spirituality and the practice of various contemplative spiritual disciplines and rhythms such as meditation, fasting, solitude, silence, journal keeping, autobiographical writing, discernment, waiting and suffering.

REL 361 Streams of Christian Spirituality (3) O
A survey of the various paradigms in which the spiritual life has been understood and experienced in the Christian church from apostolic times to the present. Special emphasis is given to certain movements within Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism that have focused on the nurture of the spiritual life.

REL 364 Prayer Paths to God: The History and Practice of Christian Prayer (3) B
An advanced course which studies the historical theology and practice of Christian prayer as it pertains to understanding the role of prayer within the spiritual life. The course is taught from an ecumenical perspective and includes a prayer practicum in the lectio divina (praying with scripture).

REL 365 Into the Wasteland: Exploring the “Desert/Wilderness” Experience in Christian Spirituality (3) B
An examination of the “desert/wilderness” experience in various traditions of Christian spirituality. An integrated biblical/historical/theological/formational approach to the subject is used to assist the student in understanding the nature and purpose of the “desert/wilderness” experience in the spiritual life of the church and the individual. A special feature of the course is a one-day guided silent retreat. Note: Class Limit of 20 students

REL 366 Spiritual Companions (3) B
An advanced course that gives consideration to the practice of spiritual direction in various Christian traditions from ancient to modern times and the influence of outstanding spiritual mentors of the twentieth century. Attention is also given to the nature, objectives and dynamics of spiritual direction as experienced in a practical context.

REL 368 Exploring the ‘Dream Experience’ in Christian Spirituality (3) B
This course will survey the significance and understanding of the “dream experience” in both eastern and western Christian traditions. Special emphasis is placed on the role of the dream in the spiritual journeys of prominent Christians, the dream and death experience as well as developing a Christian approach to dream interpretation integrated with an understanding of one’s own spiritual journey.
Note: Class Limit of 20 students.

REL 371 The Church and Contemporary Spiritualities (3) B
This is a course designed to acquaint the learner with a number of influential alternative spiritualities within Western culture and to challenge the student to consider carefully the role of the Church, particularly in the light of these approaches to spirituality. Beginning with a brief history of Christian spirituality, the course then will consider some major features of contemporary spirituality outside the institutional Church, with special attention being given to the nature and function of ritual, myth/narrative (sacred texts), symbolism and sacred space. Finally, the course will move the student towards an understanding of some of the ways in which the Church can or needs to respond to the spiritual quests within contemporary society.
Charles Nienkirchen teaches REL 365; here's an example of what Dr. Nienkerchen emphasizes:

Bridging Church and Academy: Cross-Pollinating at the Midwest CMA Prayer Retreat

March 10, 2012 - At the Elkhorn Resort and Conference Centre in Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba, Dr. Charles Nienkirchen shared insights on renewal and spiritual vitality at the annual Canadian Midwest District Prayer Retreat. 158 pastors, spouses and district staff from Christian and Missionary Alliance churches in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Manitoba engaged with Dr. Nienkirchen in public conversations, private half-hour spiritual direction sessions, and two keynote presentations. The cornerstone talks were entitled The Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Call to Transformed Living…Nothing Less and Living Heartfully: The Key to Spiritual Living with Vitality and Longevity.

Despite his full teaching schedule, Dr. Nienkirchen relishes opportunities to connect with the church outside the classroom: in fact, he views the integration as part of his overall vocation. “Doing church retreats keeps me in touch with the pulse of those who are actually walking the sidewalk of church ministry in a variety of societal contexts where they have to respond to the many faces of human need. It also allows for these church workers to hear an ‘outside voice’ and receive some fresh stimulation and possibly new perspectives through an experience of continuing education.”

With an ecumenical retreat ministry that spans more than 25 years, Nienkirchen has personally invested in exploring Christian spirituality. Sabbaticals in Oxford, England; the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem; Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary in South India; and attending a School for Spiritual Directors at a New Mexico Benedictine Abbey have taken him to spiritual and physical deserts to learn more about prayer and spiritual renewal.
It's obvious that Gordon T. Smith is a perfect fit for Ambrose University College; the college will undoubtedly continue in its leftward and Romeward direction under Dr. Smith's leadership.

March 7, 2020 update: Finally, after all these years, I've gotten around to my long-overdue addition to this post concerning the suspicious circumstances surrounding the departure of Gordon T. Smith's predecessor as president of what is now Ambrose University. The History & Traditions page of Ambrose's web site states:

Dr. George Durance resigned as president in 2009 and Dr. Gordon T. Smith was introduced as President on August 1, 2012.

The perceptive reader will notice that there is no mention of the period between Dr. Durance and Dr. Smith. To paraphrase a famous passage from the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of Silver Blaze by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

"Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the mention of Howard Wilson in the history of Ambrose University."

"President Wilson wasn't mentioned in their history."

"That was the curious incident."

The following articles may help to fill in the gap; the links are now dead, but I'm leaving them in as evidence that they once were available. Dr. Durance was succeeded by Howard Wilson, a native of western Canada who occupied an executive position at Fuller Theological Seminary in California. As reported by Fuller Theological Seminary, July 23, 2009:

Howard Wilson, Fuller’s executive vice president for administration, has been appointed president of Ambrose University College in his native Canada. After 12 years of service at Fuller, Wilson concludes his tenure on July 24, to begin his new role in Calgary August 4.

On July 22, a festive send-off event at Fuller’s Pasadena campus—complete with a Canada-themed Jeopardy game, maple-flavored refreshments, and decorations in Canadian red and white—celebrated Wilson and his many accomplishments at Fuller.

Wilson joined Fuller in 1997 as director of admissions. He served as vice president for student life and enrollment management and vice president for student life and administrative systems before being appointed executive vice president for administration. In recent years he has served as project manager for several significant building projects on campus: the Chang Commons housing facility, a student services building, and, most recently, the David Allan Hubbard Library which opened in May 2009.

“Thank you for the many significant contributions you have made to Fuller Theological Seminary,” Provost Sherwood Lingenfelter said to Wilson at the send-off event. “Most at Fuller don’t realize the many, many things Howard has been involved in over the years. He has been a real blessing to all of us, and it is great to see how God has used his magnificent gifts here at Fuller—and will continue to use them in his new position at Ambrose.”

Wilson holds a Bachelor of Science degree from LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, and a Master of Divinity from Providence Theological Seminary in Manitoba, Canada. He has worked in higher education administration for the past 23 years in several capacities, including service at the executive level at LeTourneau University and Providence College and Theological Seminary in addition to Fuller.

Wilson has always been deeply committed to students and their needs. In addition to his other duties at Fuller, he served as mentor to the All Seminary Council student government body and taught courses in leadership development.

Wilson also served as an elder at Glenkirk Presbyterian Church in Glendora, California, and was active in leadership in the Presbytery of San Gabriel, where he led an effort to plant a Mandarin-speaking Presbyterian congregation. He is on the board of the National Consortium for Continuous Improvement in Higher Education, and has filled volunteer leadership positions with the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities and the North American Coalition of Christian Admissions Professionals. He is married to Vivian and has two daughters in college.
As reported by NCN News in 2009:

Alex Baum, chair of the Ambrose University College Board of Governors, announced May 4 that after an extensive international search, Howard Wilson has been appointed as president of Ambrose University College effective August 1.

"Our Board of Governors is very pleased that Mr. Wilson has agreed to assume the role of president at Ambrose," Baum said. "Mr. Wilson has an extensive background in Christian higher education at the undergraduate and seminary levels, as well as pastoral experience. We look forward to the strong leadership he will provide in helping Ambrose fulfill its mission to educate students who will serve Christ in the church and in the world."

Commenting on Wilson's appointment, Franklin Pyles, president of The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada, said, "We are happy to welcome Howard Wilson and his wife, Vivian, back to Canada to lead the Ambrose team. Howard's deep experience with the various levels of administration, his profound walk with God, his interface with issues facing the church today, combined with his personal interest in students, creates an expectation in all of us of leadership that will take Ambrose into the future with great strength. We are so grateful for God's provision in giving us a new president and I personally look forward to working with him in the immediate future."

Clair McMillan, national director of The Church of the Nazarene Canada, said, "I join with the entire Church of the Nazarene Canada and our friends in The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada in offering congratulations to Mr. Howard Wilson on his election as the next president of Ambrose University College. Mr. Wilson comes to us with a wealth of experience in local church ministry as well as in Christian higher education."

Wilson is presently executive vice president for Administration at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Previous administrative responsibilities at Fuller included vice president for Student Life and Administrative Systems and vice president for Student Life and Enrollment Management.

Prior to his service at Fuller, Wilson was dean of Enrollment Management at LeTourneau University, dean of Students at Providence College and Seminary in Otterburne, Manitoba, and senior pastor at Bethesda Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

He received his formal education at LeTourneau University and at Providence Theological Seminary where he was the top graduating student.

Wilson has also served in a variety of professional organizations, including:
North American Coalition of Christian Admissions Professionals
Commission of Chief Enrollment Officers, Council of Christian Colleges and Universities
Student Personnel Administrators Network, Association of Theological Schools
National Consortium for Continuous Improvement in Higher Education
He has consulted widely with educational institutions in strategic planning, administrative structure, website development, and education marketing, including Biola University, Aquinas School of Theology, Claremont Graduate School, and Washington Theological Union.

Wilson is a Canadian citizen, born in Winnipeg, and is married to Vivian (27 years). They have two children, Naomi, a junior at Houghton College (New York), and Bethany, a high school senior. Wilson is an ordained elder and deacon in the Presbyterian Church and is presently a member of Glenkirk Presbyterian Church in Glendora, California.

Wilson will succeed George Durance as president. After more than 12 years as president, Durance announced last summer that the 2008-2009 academic year would be his last and he would return to missionary service.

Riley Coulter, former president of Nazarene University College and former co-president of Ambrose, currently serves as the school's chancellor. According to Ambrose's web site, Coulter represents Ambrose at Nazarene gatherings across Canada and is also directly involved in providing continuing education for Nazarene pastors...
Howard Wilson resigned as president in July 2011, just two years into a four-year term; his resignation was so sudden that they didn't have a replacement ready, and chancellor (and former president of Canadian Nazarene College) Dr. R. Riley Coulter served as interim president until Dr. Smith was installed. As reported by Ambrose University College, July 12, 2011:

President Wilson’s resignation was announced to the Ambrose constituency on July 11, 2011.

Mr. Wilson was appointed by the Ambrose Board of Governors and the denominational boards of directors in April 2009 and he transitioned full-time to Ambrose in August 2009. During his time at the institution he made a significant contribution to the spiritual ethos on campus and underscored the commitment to Christ and students with the “Ambrose is all about Jesus…all about students” values stone that sits in the foyer of the academic building on campus. Part of that commitment to students expressed itself in his support of efforts to move the Ambrose Lions athletic teams to the next level with membership in the Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference, achieved earlier this year.

The Residence and Education Centre will be an enduring symbol of President Wilson’s tenure at Ambrose. In the fall of 2010 the Board of Governors gave final approvals to the construction project which is now nearing completion and will be home to residence students in September.

We appreciate President Wilson’s time of service at Ambrose and trust that, as he moves on to a new challenge, he and his family will experience God’s leading.
The suddenness of Pres. Wilson's resignation (and lack of an immediate replacement), and the following article, from the Calgary Herald, July 13, 2011, indicate that scandal was involved:

School officials are staying silent on the sudden resignation of Howard Wilson as president of Ambrose University College, a private institution.

"There's no way we can say it was this or that without spilling everybody's dirty laundry," said spokesman Wes Campbell.

A disagreement between the president and the school's board of governors led to the resignation, he said, without elaborating.

According to the government, Ambrose receives public funding only for its diploma degrees and as an independent institution, is not required to make its hiring and firing decisions public.
The Fall/Winter 2011 issue of Ambrose's magazine Anthem, the first issue published after President Wilson's resignation, includes a column by chancellor and acting president Coulter, but no mention of President Wilson's resignation--in fact, no mention of Mr. Wilson at all. The only places at the Ambrose website where you'll find any mention of Howard Wilson are the pdf reproductions of the Fall/Winter 2010 and Spring 2011 issues of Anthem, which contain his columns. Otherwise, Mr. Wilson has been so "disappeared" from Ambrose's history that it reminds this blogger of the way the Soviet Union used to alter photographs to remove individuals who had fallen into disfavour and/or been executed.

Gordon T. Smith's installation as president of Ambrose University College was attended by five previous presidents of Ambrose and/or its predecessor schools, Canadian Bible College/Canadian Theological Seminary and Nazarene University College. The Fall/Winter 2012 issue of Anthem mentions the ceremony; go to page 19, and you'll see a photo of Dr. Smith with his five predecessors. Conspicuous by his absence--from the photo, and apparently, from the ceremony--is Dr. Smith's immediate predecessor, Howard Wilson, despite the fact that he was known to still be living in Calgary at the time. To quote Sherlock Holmes out of context, "Most singular! Most remarkable!"

Mr. Wilson remained in Calgary for two years after his resignation before obtaining employment elsewhere. That in itself isn't suspicious; he may have been collecting remaining salary from Ambrose, and may have been content to stay in Calgary until his daughters graduated. However, when Mr. Wilson did obtain another position, it was as a vice president of Dordt College (which became Dordt University in 2019), an institution in Sioux City, Iowa affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church. As reported by Dordt College, March 22, 2013:

After a national search, Dordt College has named Howard Wilson, formerly the president of Ambrose University College and Seminary in Calgary, Alberta, its new vice president for enrollment management. Wilson, who has 25 years of experience in higher education, spent 12 years at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he was “mentored and nurtured in the Reformed worldview” by Dr. Richard Mouw. He held several leadership roles at Fuller, his final position being executive vice president for administration.

“We’re pleased to welcome Howard to the Dordt College community,” said Dordt College President Dr. Erik Hoekstra. “His lifelong alignment with Dordt’s mission and his experience in a variety of institutions of higher education will bring a wealth of experience to our campus.”

Wilson has led enrollment efforts at a number of institutions of Christian higher education. He comes to Dordt at a time when the college has experienced healthy and increasing enrollment even while some private institutions are experiencing enrollment concerns.

“Howard joins an outstanding admissions team at Dordt College,” Hoekstra adds. “His leadership—combined with the skills, talents, and energy of our current staff—will be a wonderful combination.”

Wilson sees that Dordt, with its strong academic reputation, clear commitment to a Christian perspective in all aspects of the college, and a supportive constituency, is likely to thrive in the years ahead. “I believe that Christian education is the most complete and satisfactory form of education, in that it develops the whole person, engaging the mind, heart, and spirit,” Wilson says.

Along with his academic credentials, Wilson is an advocate of the LEAN management system. He currently also is a licensed minister in the Christian & Missionary Alliance in Canada and has served as an ordained deacon and elder in an evangelical Presbyterian congregation. He received his master of divinity degree, as well as an honorary doctor of divinity degree, from Providence Theological Seminary in Otterburne, Manitoba. He earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration with an industrial management emphasis from LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas.

Wilson and his wife, Vivian, live in Calgary, Alberta, and will relocate soon to Sioux Center. They have two daughters, Naomi, 24, and Bethany, 22.
Howard Wilson is still at Dordt University, as Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer. To go from vice president of a major seminary in the United States to president of a college in his home country of Canada, to--after a premature resignation and two-year interval--vice president of what some might call a "cow college" in Iowa is a downward career move, which this blogger finds very suspicious.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

20 years ago: The death of Sam Kinison

On April 10, 1992, Sam Kinison, 38, a former Pentecostal preacher who had become a popular standup comic, was killed in a highway accident in California when hit by a drunk driver. Mr. Kinison, who was twice-divorced, had married his third wife just five days earlier, and was driving with cocaine and other substances in his system.

Mr. Kinison, like his father, became a Pentecostal preacher, but, unlike Moses, chose to reject the things of eternity in order to "enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." (Hebrews 11:25b). Mr. Kinison abandoned preaching and became a comedian of the foul-mouthed, politally-incorrect variety that was in vogue in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I never heard or saw his act, since I did not then, and do not now, care for that kind of comedy. In addition to his appetites for alcohol and drugs, Mr. Kinison fathered a child out of wedlock by the wife of his best friend and opening act, Carl La Bove--which wasn't revealed until years after the La Boves got divorced. Mr. La Bove got sick of paying child support for years, and DNA tests overwhelmingly indicated that Mr. Kinison was the child's father.

Sam Kinison is remembered by his family--with an official website--and is, I suspect, forgotten by, or unknown to, just about everybody else, with the possible exception of students doing research into late-20th century popular culture and its more vulgar aspects. I wouldn't want to trade places with him.

South Korean Christians love Israel

As reported by Michael Orbach of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 25, 2012:

KFAR MENACHEM, Israel (JTA) – It’s become a mainstay of Saturday nights on the Ben Yehuda Street pedestrian mall in Jerusalem.

Between the crowds of Israeli revelers and American teens at the frozen-yogurt shops, a group of Koreans singing hymns vies for attention.

It’s one of the most public signs of Israel’s small but growing community of South Koreans, many of whom come to the Holy Land because they are evangelical Christians. Not far from Ben Yehuda, there is a Korean restaurant on nearby Shamai Street and five small Korean churches.

“Israel reflects the truth of the Tanach,” Yung Doo, a Korean man in his late 30s who moved to Israel two years ago with his family to pursue a graduate degree in Bible studies, said, using the Hebrew word for Bible. “This is the land of David and Saul.”

While official estimates are hard to come by, South Korea’s ambassador to Israel, Ilsoo Kim, estimates that there are about 800 Koreans in about 300 families living in Israel. The number, he said, has been growing in recent years. They mainly reside around the French Hill and Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhoods in the Jerusalem area.

“Many have lived here quite a long time,” Kim said. “This reflects their feelings.”

Most Koreans in Israel are visitors to the country on multiyear student visas. Many study Bible at Israeli universities or at Holy Land University, a Christian graduate school that caters to Asians. Roughly 30 percent of Koreans are Christian.

A handful have come to Israel to stay. Kim OK Kyung, 67, is a gregarious Korean-American transplant who arrived from New Jersey three years ago with her husband, a pastor, who had just retired from his church.

“There is no place in the world like Jerusalem,” said Kyung, who calls herself Hannah, after the mother of the biblical Samuel, and peppers her speech with quotations from the Bible.

“He who blesses the children of Abraham will be blessed and he who curses Israel will be cursed,” she said, citing a passage in the Bible often quoted by evangelical Christians. “The president of Iran cursed Israel. I want to see what will happen to him.”

Some Koreans here have had difficulties adjusting to life in the Jewish state.

“It’s not easy to approach Israelis,” said Eunah Hur, who spends her day learning Hebrew in Jerusalem and attends a messianic church near her apartment. But it’s possible “to have good relationships. Israelis are warm and loyal,” she said. “We have a specific word for these relationships – ‘jung.’ It’s different from love and friendship.”

There are a number of similarities between Israeli and Korean cultures: a strong focus on education, a proficient high tech-sector, compulsory military service for males and, perhaps most importantly, an existential threat from neighbors.

“The North invaded once in 1950,” Kim said. “Then the 1967 war took place and people saw what Israelis were doing: overwhelming their enemy’s forces. Our teachers told us to learn from Israel. If [the North] invades, we have to do the same thing. Our memory of Israel started that day.”

Both Israel and South Korea also are in similar straits due to their limited natural resources, he said. “Without natural resources how can you have results? Human capital,” Kim said.

South Korea and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1962. Today, the trade volume between them is roughly $2.5 billion annually; it is especially heavy in automobiles and cell phones. In 2007, Korea-based Samsung acquired Transchip, an Israeli chip design firm that specialized in image sensors in digital cameras. Israeli streets are filled with Korean-made Hyundais and Kias. Korea also buys Israeli weapons to the tune of almost $50 million a year, according to Kim.

Hyounju Ji, who lives in Kibbutz Kfar Menachem, is one of an estimated 40 Koreans in Israel married to Israelis. As a volunteer at the kibbutz 13 years ago, she met the man who would become her husband. She married him over her parent’s objections.

“Korea is a really closed society. They don’t like mixed couples,” she said. “Israeli and Korean character is very similar. They’re both so proud of their people and want to keep their uniqueness.”

On May 10, while Israeli Jews marked Lag b’Omer, many Koreans in Israel gathered at Kfar Menachem to host their own celebration. Many were taking a day off from Bible-related graduate programs to observe Family Day in Korea and the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Israel.

They played games of Jokgu, a competitive mix between soccer and tennis, and ate a meal with homemade kimchi, Tok Pokkum rice soup, and a Korean-style barbecue called bulgogi.

Helen Kim, a sociologist at Whitman College in Washington State and a second-generation Korean-American who studies the relationships between Asians and Jews, said she is not surprised by the Korean identification with Israel.

“There is a massive evangelical presence in Korea,” she said. “There is a general acceptance or understanding and looking to as Jews as really smart, well-educated, financially strong people. For a country that has experienced a lot of economic and political change over such a short time that hasn’t always been on the upswing, it’s not surprising that they would look to Jewish texts and to the Jewish people as examples of a people that have weathered the worst of all storms for close to 6,000 years.”

Haredi Orthodox extremists suspected in attack on 4th century synagogue in Tiberias

As repoted by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 29, 2012:

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- An ancient mosaic on the floor of a fourth century synagogue in Tiberias was irreparably damaged.

Some of the mosaic tiles at the Hammat Tiberias synagogue in northern Israel were smashed into tiny pieces and other parts were deeply scratched in an attack that occurred between Monday night and Tuesday morning. Graffiti also was sprayed on the site.

The damage reportedly will cost millions of dollars to repair.

Haredi Orthodox extremists opposed to archeological excavations of ancient graves are suspected of causing the damage, according to reports. Graffiti at the site read, "on each grave -- a site” and “a response over the years.”

The mosaic is the earliest such synagogue mosaic to have been discovered in Israel.

Rare ancient jewellery discovered at Megiddo

As reported by The Associated Press, May 28, 2012:

Israeli archaeologists have discovered a rare trove of 3,000-year-old jewelry, including a ring and earrings, hidden in a ceramic jug near the ancient city of Megiddo, where the New Testament predicts the final battle of Armageddon.

Archaeologists who unearthed the jug during excavations at the site in 2010 left it in a laboratory while they waited for a molecular analysis of what was inside. When they were finally able to clean it, pieces of gold jewelry – a ring, earrings, and beads – dating to around 1,100 BC poured out.

Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University, who co-directed the dig, said that the find offers a rare glimpse into ancient Canaanite high society. He said the fact that the jewelry was found inside the jug suggested that the owner hid them there.

Finkelstein said the jewelry likely belonged to a Canaanite family. "We can guess that it was a rich family, probably belonging to the ruling elite," he said.

Tel Aviv University called the trove "among the most valuable ever found from the Biblical period," adding that one piece in particular, a gold earring decorated with molded ibexes, or wild goats, is "without parallel."

It said in a statement this week that the objects were either owned by Egyptians living in the area or inspired by the Egyptian style of the period.

Aren Maeir, an archaeologist at Bar Ilan University, said that because the raw materials used are not from the area, the find "tells us about international relations ... and about technical traditions used at the time."

Megiddo was an important trade center in ancient times. According to the New Testament, Megiddo will be the site of the final apocalyptic battle between good and evil.

Oldest evidence of Bethlehem's existence unearthed in Jerusalem

As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 23, 2012:

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- The first and oldest ancient artifact providing tangible evidence of the existence of the city of Bethlehem was discovered during archaeological excavations in Jerusalem.

A clay seal, called a bulla, was discovered in soil near the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem inside the City of David archaeological park. The bulla, measuring about 1.5 cm, included three lines of ancient Hebrew words including the words Beit Lechem, which is Bethlehem.

"This is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods,” according to Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The bulla was likely affixed to a tax shipment of silver or agricultural produce sent from Bethlehem to the King of Judah in the eighth or seventh century B.C., according to Shukron.

Bethlehem is mentioned in the Bible as the place where the foremother Rachel was buried. It was also the site of King David's anointing.

6th century Christian relic found in Jerusalem

As reported by The Associated Press, Nov. 1, 2011:

Israeli archaeologists say they have found a tiny, 1,400-year-old token of Christian faith among the remains of an ancient road in Jerusalem.

The finding, an exquisitely made 0.8 inch-by-0.6-inch (2 centimeter by 1.5 centimeter) box of bone with a cross carved on the lid, was likely carried by a Christian believer around the end of the 6th century A.D.

When its lid is removed, the remains of two portraits are still visible in gold and paint - a man and a woman, possibly Jesus and Mary.

Archaeologist Yana Tchekhanovets of the Israel Antiquities Authority said Sunday that the box is the first well preserved example of its kind and is important because it shows that icon use was not limited to church ceremonies in Byzantine times.

Israeli rabbinical court rules that man's correspondence on Facebook constitutes infidelity

As reported by Itay Blumenthal of Ynet News, May 28, 2012:

A woman who presented the rabbinical court with extremely suggestive correspondence between her husband and other women on Facebook convinced judges that his actions constitute infidelity.

The court subsequently ruled that the husband must pay damages of NIS 150,000 shekels (roughly $40,000.)

The man and woman, who are both in their 30s, met on a dating website. After some months they decided to turn a new leaf in their lives, get married and raise together their children from previous marriages.

Yet six months after the marriage, the woman discovered that the husband continued to correspond with other women on the dating websites and on Facebook and decided to divorce him.

At court, the woman accused the husband of causing the marriage to fail. “He had physiological problems in bed,” she told judges. “He refused to take pills, drank alcohol and smoked pot.”

The woman also charged that for a long time the husband avoided looking for work, instead spending long hours in front of the computer. The husband for his part claimed that his wife refused to have marital relations with him.

“She would not shower, and had telephone conversations with another man,” he claimed.

Attorney Amir Zvulun, who represented the woman, presented the rabbinical court with extremely suggestive correspondence from the man to other women on Facebook to prove that he was unfaithful to his wife.

Rabbinical court judges said the husband’s response to the wife’s accusations proved that he admitted to what he did. His claim that he was not caught “with his pants down” was rejected by the court.

The judges ruled that the husband caused the failure of the marriage and in a precedent setting ruling ordered him to pay damages.
This ruling is in line with concerns expressed by Orthodox rabbis at an assembly of haredi Orthodox Jewish men that filled Citi Field in New York--home park of the New York Mets baseball team on May 20, 2012. As reported by Ben Sales of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 21, 2012:

NEW YORK (JTA) -- ..."The Internet even with a filter is a minefield of immorality," said Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, a haredi Orthodox lecturer and rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Meor Yitzchok in Monsey, N.Y. "This issue is the test of the generation. Your strength at this gathering will determine what Judaism will look like a few years from now."

The rally to caution haredi Orthodox Jews about the dangers of the Internet drew a crowd of more than 40,000 men to the stadium, most of them wearing black hats. The group organizing the rally, Ichud HaKehillos LeTohar HaMachane, or Union of Communities for Purity of the Camp, barred women from attending -- consummate with the haredi practice of separating the sexes.

In Yiddish and English speeches, rabbis from haredi communities in the United States, Canada and Israel decried the access that the Internet gives haredim to the world outside their community. Speakers called the Internet “impure,” a threat to modesty and compared it to chametz, or leavened bread, on Passover.

Almost no rabbi directly addressed pornography, which is prohibited by traditional Jewish law. Several speakers also lamented the Internet’s potential to distract men from learning Torah.

To a man, each of the rabbis who spoke said that Jewish law forbids Jews from browsing the Internet without a filter that blocks inappropriate sites. The speeches in Yiddish were broadcast with English subtitles on the stadium’s JumboTron.

Rabbi Yechiel Meir Katz, known as the Dzibo rav, compared the threat of the Internet to the dangers that Zionism and the European Enlightenment posed in the past to traditional Jewish life.

“A terrible test has been sent to us that has inflicted so much terrible damage” on haredim, Katz said. The Internet poses a greater threat to haredim than secularism did, he said, because “in previous challenges we knew who the enemy was. Today, however, the challenge is disguised and not discernible to the naked eye.”

The crowd ranged in age from small children to senior citizens. One participant, Yitzchok, said that although the speakers focused on the Internet problem rather than solutions, the event was “inspiring.”

“This is a beginning,” said Yitzchok, 43. “They’re coming to raise awareness. Every situation is different, everyone requires some filter.”

While haredim must limit their internet access, "many people do need to use it," he added.

Evolutionists keep betting on a longshot that keeps on not paying off

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Psalms 14:1a (also Psalms 53:1a)

It's been more than 150 years since Charles Darwin published his hypothesis of evolution, and the fossil record still shows species appearing abruptly and fully-formed; scientists keep changing their minds on whether Archaeopteryx was a bird; experiments with fruit flies keep producing fruit flies; and the missing links of man's alleged ancestors are still missing. Nevertheless, Richard Leakey keeps the evolutioinst faith, and insists that confirmation is just around the bend, as reported by Frank Elman of The Associated Press on May 28, 2012:

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Noted paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey predicts skepticism over evolution will soon be history.

Not that the avowed atheist has any doubts himself.

Sometime in the next 15 to 30 years, the Kenyan-born Leakey expects scientific discoveries will have accelerated to the point that "even the skeptics can accept it."

"If you get to the stage where you can persuade people on the evidence, that it's solid, that we are all African, that colour is superficial, that stages of development of culture are all interactive," Leakey says, "then I think we have a chance of a world that will respond better to global challenges."

Leakey, a professor at Stony Brook University on Long Island, recently spent several weeks in New York promoting the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya. The institute, where Leakey spends most of his time, welcomes researchers from around the world dedicated to unearthing the origins of mankind in an area rich with fossils...

...Now 67, Leakey is the son of the late Louis and Mary Leakey and conducts research with his wife, Meave, and daughter, Louise. The family claims to have unearthed "much of the existing fossil evidence for human evolution."

On the eve of his return to Africa earlier this week, Leakey spoke to The Associated Press in New York City about the past and the future.

"If you look back, the thing that strikes you, if you've got any sensitivity, is that extinction is the most common phenomena," Leakey says. "Extinction is always driven by environmental change. Environmental change is always driven by climate change. Man accelerated, if not created, planet change phenomena; I think we have to recognize that the future is by no means a very rosy one."

Any hope for mankind's future, he insists, rests on accepting existing scientific evidence of its past.

"If we're spreading out across the world from centres like Europe and America that evolution is nonsense and science is nonsense, how do you combat new pathogens, how do you combat new strains of disease that are evolving in the environment?" he asked.

"If you don't like the word evolution, I don't care what you call it, but life has changed. You can lay out all the fossils that have been collected and establish lineages that even a fool could work up. So the question is why, how does this happen? It's not covered by Genesis. There's no explanation for this change going back 500 million years in any book I've read from the lips of any God."

Leakey insists he has no animosity toward religion.

"If you tell me, well, people really need a faith ... I understand that," he said.

"I see no reason why you shouldn't go through your life thinking if you're a good citizen, you'll get a better future in the afterlife ...."

Leakey began his work searching for fossils in the mid-1960s. His team unearthed a nearly complete 1.6-million-year-old skeleton in 1984 that became known as "Turkana Boy," the first known early human with long legs, short arms and a tall stature...

...Leakey, who clearly cherishes investigating the past, is less optimistic about the future.

"We may be on the cusp of some very real disasters that have nothing to do with whether the elephant survives, or a cheetah survives, but if we survive."

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Israeli Attorney General decides not to prosecute King's Torah authors

As reported by Aviad Glickman of Ynet News, May 28, 2012:

Nearly a year after police launched an investigation into the publication of the King's Torah, a book that stated that it was permissible to kill non-Jews when their presence in Israel endangers Jews, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided to close the criminal case against the authors and its supporters "due to lack of sufficient evidence as required in criminal law."

The attorney general ruled that it was impossible to determine that the publication of the book was done with the intent of inciting to racism as the law demands.

Weinstein stressed that when the matter involves the publication of a halachic ruling or halachic books, and out of consideration for the principle of religious freedom, criminal proceedings must be avoided when possible.

Yet the attorney general also stated that it was "obvious that the decision to close (the case) was not in any way an expression of acceptance for the serious statements presented in the book. The opposite is true, the statements are, according to the attorney general, deserving of condemnation and denunciation."

The book stirred controversy for stating that it is permissible to kill a non-Jew if his presence endangers Jewish life. Some rabbis within the religious community supported the statements while others hinted that the statements were dangerous.

Police launched an investigation into the matter and authors Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur were investigated over suspected incitement to violence and racism.

Other rabbis investigated in connection with the affair included Rabbi Dov Lior, Yitzhak Ginsberg and Rabbi Yaakov Yosef who expressed their support for the book.

Over the last two months the State Prosecutor's Office examined whether there was room to indict the book's authors, something which could create a major furor within the Zionist-religious community.

The prosecutor's office was of the opinion that indictment would be problematic as it is hard to prove that the authors intended to act with violence, and in a case like this, intent must be proven.

The decision is within Weinstein's purview and so the case will now be closed.

Mr. Glickman reported on May 25, 2012:

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein will most likely decline to indict the authors of The "King's Torah," a book that claims that in certain situations it is permissible to kill non-Jews, Ynet learned on Thursday.

The book stirred controversy for stating that it is permissible to kill a non-Jew if his presence endangers Jewish life. Some rabbis within the religious community supported the statements while others hinted that the statements were dangerous.

Police launched an investigation into the matter and authors Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur were investigated over suspected incitement to violence and racism.

Other rabbis investigated in connection with the affair included Rabbi Dov Lior, Yitzhak Ginsberg and Rabbi Yaakov Yosef who expressed their support for the book.

Over the last two months the State Prosecutor's Office examined whether there was room to indict the book's authors, something which could create a major furor within the Zionist-religious community.

The prosecutor's office was of the opinion that indictment would be problematic as it is hard to prove that the authors intended to act with violence, and in a case like this, intent must be proven.

The decision is within Weinstein's purview and at the moment it is likely that he will decide not to file indictments.

In addition to the police investigation in the matter, a petition to indict the rabbis was also presented by the Reform movement.
Mr. Glickman posted a report on that petition on April 2, 2012:

The Reform Movement, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, Professor Asa Kasher and several other Jewish groups filed a High Court petition Monday urging the criminal prosecution of rabbis Yitzhak Shapira, Dov Lior, Yitzhak Ginsburg and Yosef Elizor.

The four penned the controversial book "The King's Torah," which the petition says contains racist statements that constitute incitement and sedition.

The petition further asked the court to issue an injunction against future printings of the book.

"The 'King's Torah' is overflowing with grave racist statements, which incite violence against Arabs and other minorities in Israel, thus constituting sedition," the petition said.

The authors "advocate the killing of Arab children and babies in order to achieve the highest form of execution of the 'vengeance mitzvah'; as well as the bombing any area where terrorists reside even at the expense of innocent lives," the petition said.

"The King's Torah" was first published in 2010 and has been the focus of legal controversy.

The petition criticizes the "Judiciary's failure to prosecute the authors… This disgraces the rule of law in Israel and undermines its foundations. The court must order the State Prosecution to indict the authors," the petitioners argued.

"In a time when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is affecting the Israeli public's everyday life, it is unfortunate to see how various elements chose to advocate violence.

"This is doubly true when it comes to religious leaders who use their title to disguise sedition," the petition concluded.
Mr. Glickman posted a report on a revised edition of the book on July 5, 2011:

Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira of Yitzhar, who wrote in 2009 that it is permissible for Jews to kill non-Jews (including children) who threaten Israel, says that changes may be made "in popular sections" in the next edition of his controversial book, "King's Torah."

According to the rabbi, the book should be written in a clearer way, which would make it easier for the public to understand the author's intentions.

"I have no regrets, not about the book and not about what God Almighty creates with its publication," Rabbi Shapira said in an interview to Kol Hai Radio, which will be broadcast soon.

"I do believe that had it occurred to me that the book would be distributed to such a wide and distant audience, I would have added in several sections a slightly bigger clarification."

The rabbi addressed the killing of children, which was one of the reasons he was suspected of incitement, as were Rabbis Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef who endorsed the book.

According to the book, "Hurting small children makes sense if it's clear that they'll grow up to harm us, and in such a situation – the injury will be directed at them of all people."

Shapira explained in the interview, "Assuming that at a time of war I must kill children in order to win – otherwise my soldiers will die, then killing the enemy's children is the right thing to do rather than have my soldiers killed…

"If I believe there is an evil king, a tyrant, who is involved in many unjustified wars, and I want to win the war, and my way is for his children to be hurt in order to weaken his spirit and have him stop sending his soldiers to war – then it's permissible."

When can one kill a goy

The rabbi went on to slam Israel's combat ethics. He expressed his hope that a Torah-based practical combat plan would be distributed to the public in the future, "in order to let the public judge whether what the Torah says is more acceptable then what all kinds of legal advisors and people of ethics say…

"I think that people who read the plan will realize that what the Torah says is much more sincere than 'purity of arms' (IDF's official doctrine of ethics). I think that calling it 'purity of arms' is a disgrace – it's putting human life in risk.

"The Jews are wise people; they will come to their senses. The conscious and behavioral revolution will take place easily and pleasantly, and I hope we won't have to experience difficult things for it to happen. We can't go on acting like we're acting today, because then the situation of the Jews here will be worse."

The Yitzhar rabbi strongly criticized Israel's legal system and former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak. According to Shapira, Barak decided to confront the Torah with all his might, as did Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.

Answering a question presented by interviewer Assaf Gavor, the rabbi clarified that his book includes a halachic innovation because it thoroughly examines when it is really permissible to kill a non-Jew and when he and when it's forbidden.

He said that there was an erroneous understanding that sometimes "when one reads the Halacha in different places, one might think that you can kill gentiles freely, without any problem whatsoever."

Conservative Jewish tourists complain about discrimination by hotels in Israel

It seems that some Jewish guests are more equal than others in Israeli hotels, at least according to Conservative Jews. As reported by Ynet News, May 21, 2012:

A new resolution was passed by the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis, at its National Convention in Atlanta earlier this month that calls upon Israeli hotels to treat all denominations of Judaism equally.

Over the past year, there has been an increasing number of cases when Conservative Jewish groups have wished to pray in Israeli hotels and have been denied the use of hotel-owned Torah scrolls if the service was not in accordance with Orthodox practice.

In some cases the hotels have offered to locate a Torah scroll from outside the hotel at an additional fee to the guests. In other cases, it became necessary for guests to make arrangements on their own.

As part of the resolution, the Rabbinical Assembly calls upon the Israeli Hotel Association and all Israeli hotels to treat Jews of all denominations equally and to afford Jews and all groups of non-Orthodox streams any of the rights and privileges afforded Orthodox guests.

In addition to that, the RA calls upon Conservative Jewish groups to patronize hotels that follow this policy and urge other arms of the movement and other denominations to adopt a similar policy to effect change.

The Assembly will also notify the Israel Ministry of Tourism, the Israeli Hotel Association and Israel tour group operators of the newly-adopted policy.

The resolution states: "The Rabbinical Assembly call upon the Israeli Hotel Association and all Israeli hotels to treat Jews of all denominations equally and to afford Jews and all groups of non-Orthodox streams any of the rights and privileges afforded Orthodox guests including the use of a synagogue and a Sefer Torah."

It goes on to note: "The Rabbinical Assembly call upon all Masorti/Conservative groups to patronize hotels that follow this policy."

Since its founding in 1901, the Assembly has been the creative force shaping the ideology, programs, and practices of the Conservative movement, and is committed to building and strengthening the totality of Jewish life.

There are more than 1,250,000 members of the Conservative movement, consisting of 1600 rabbis and 850 congregations worldwide, most of which reside in the United States.

"Conservative rabbis bring Jews to Israel from around the world to celebrate Judaism and support the State of Israel," said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly.

"Israeli hotels should be seeking ways to support the Jews who do so much for the Jewish country we love rather than preventing our worship and study."
More liberal Jewish organizations have also complained about their treatment by Israeli hotels, as reported by Kobi Nahshoni of Ynet News, April 11, 2012:

Representatives of the non-Orthodox Jewish movements in Israel have complained to the tourism minister and the minister of public diplomacy and diaspora affairs against Israel's hotels, which they claim are systematically discriminating against tourist groups from abroad by not allowing them to hold prayer services according to their customs.

In a letter sent by Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and Yizhar Hess, the executive director and CEO of the Masorti Movement to ministers Stas Misezhnikov and Yuli Edelstein, they claim that many hotels refuse to allocate a room for prayer services or a Torah scroll for reform or conservative guests, in contrast to the trivial manner in which the service is offered to Orthodox guests.

"The attitude is insulting and humiliating, "Kariv and Hess stated in the letter. "The majority of the Jewish nation is not Orthodox, rather it is reform or conservative…and here, they come to a hotel in Israel to find that their Judaism, the one which led them to visit Israel and love it – is treated with contempt and worthy only of concealment."

The two noted that some of the hotels argue that the reason for the discrimination stems from concerns over the possibility that their kosher certification would be revoked. "If in fact kashruth supervisors in hotels or the local rabbinates are in fact doing so it is a blatant deviation from authority that has no legal basis," the noted.

The two movements summed up their plea to the ministers: "We ask that you find the proper public manner in which to make it clear that this is an invalid policy that is not compatible with the law, a policy that damages relations with Jews in the Diaspora and the image of the State of Israel as a Jewish democratic state."

Executive Director and CEO of the Masorti Movement Yizhar Hess said: "There is no connection between the rules of kashruth and their enforcement in the kitchen and the activities in other departments of the hotel. Soon the kashruth supervisor will ask to make sure that none of the guests is watching TV on Shabbat …if it wasn't so sad it would be funny.

"The kashruth monopoly gives the supervisors a great deal of power. If he wishes to, the supervisor can remove the kashruth certificate and leave the hotel owners at a loss. It's extortion, maybe even extortion and intimidation. Apparently, kashruth supervisors are the real hotel managers in Israel."

Hess protested against what he termed the scornful, arrogant and condescending treatment towards groups of non-Orthodox tourists and claimed that it was absurd that the Jewish State was the only place in the western world where there was no freedom of religion for Jews.

The kashruth division at the Chief Rabbinate stated in response that there was no directive stipulating the kashruth certificate would only be given if reform and conservative Jews were excluded. It added that it was possible that these are specific cases connected to local rabbinates and their customs.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Divisions among Belgian Jews mirror divisions within Belgium itself

As the saying goes, where there are two Jews, there will be three opinions. Add to that the divisions that already exist in Belgium, and you end up with a situation as reported by Cnaan Lipshiz of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 29, 2012:

BRUSSELS (JTA) ...With the Dutch-speaking Flemish half of the country increasingly at odds with the French-speaking part, Belgium’s corresponding Jewish communities are finding themselves at loggerheads as well...

...a recent rupture in relations between Belgium's Flemish and French-speaking Jewish communities, each with approximately 20,000 members, has exposed some profound ideological differences between the two communities, particularly on Israel.

The trigger was Belgium’s decision in March to join Austria as the only two EU countries to vote in favor of a U.N.-led investigation of West Bank settlements.

Belgium’s Flemish and French-speaking Jewish communities long have maintained a modus vivendi for cooperation under which they always approached federal authorities together. But on the vote on the U.N. probe, the two communities broke with each other.

Flemish Jews, represented by the Forum of Jewish Organizations, or FJO, met with Belgium’s justice minister and released a statement saying that “the Jewish community was shocked and appalled” by the vote.

By contrast, French-speaking Jews, represented by the Umbrella Organization of Jewish Institutions of Belgium -- known by the French initials CCOJB -- did not condemn Belgium’s vote. Instead, CCOJB’s president met a Belgian Foreign Ministry official who concluded that Belgo-Israeli relations were “warm and frank.”

The ministry “regrets certain disagreements are being used to import the conflict to Belgium,” CCOJB informed its members in a statement.

“The meeting at the foreign ministry would’ve gone differently had we been invited,” Eli Ringer, honorary chairman of the Antwerp-based FJO, told JTA. He noted that CCOJB, the organization representing Francophones, recently added to its board a member of JCall, a left-leaning Jewish group that describes itself as pro-Israel but also is critical of the Israeli government. JCall was modeled after J Street in the United States.

“I hope we can once more speak with one voice on the federal level,” Ringer said.

It was hardly the first dispute between the two Jewish communities. In December, Ringer criticized CCOJB for hosting as a guest of honor at a gala a Belgian politician who had equated Israel and Nazism. He called the move “unwise.”

Joel Rubinfeld, the previous president of CCOJB, says the two organizations have reached a point of an “open row.” Relations between the groups “have never been worse,” he said. His CCJOB successor, Maurice Sosnowski, declined to be interviewed for this article.

The Jews of Antwerp and Brussels long have been different. Jews from Antwerp tend to be more religious, tight-knit and hawkish on Israel, while their Brussels coreligionists are more liberal, according to laymen and leaders from both communities. Antwerp has 13 Jewish schools compared to three in Brussels.

Linda Levy’s father, a diamond dealer, is one of approximately 18,000 Jews living in Flanders. Most Flemish Jews in Antwerp are Orthodox and speak Flemish or Yiddish at home as well as French and Hebrew.

“I was raised in a largely secular home, but our family in Brussels thinks I’m some kind of religious authority because I’m from Antwerp and I light Shabbat candles,” Levy said.

Her husband, Bernard, hails from the Brussels Jewish community of about 20,000. Most of its members are concentrated in and around the French-speaking federal capital, where they lead secular lives.

The split between the Jewish communities of Belgium mirrors what in recent years has become a national woe: the widening gulf separating Flemish and French-speaking Belgians.

One of the first big splits hit the Belgian Socialist Party in 1978, two years before the creation of the Flemish Region and the onset of Belgian federalism, when the party split in two. There not only are two socialist parties now representing Francophones on the one hand and the Flemish on the other, but two Christian Democratic parties, two liberal parties and even two green parties. The secessionist New Flemish Alliance wants the Flemish part of the country to pull out of Belgium altogether.

The very creation of a separate institution representing only Flemish Jews was itself a part of the same process. Founded 50 years ago, the CCOJB umbrella group used to represent -- nominally, at least -- Jews from both Flanders and Wallonia, the French-speaking region of the country. But in 1993 the Flemish community splintered off and formed FJO, reflecting the sentiment that Jews from Antwerp were not really represented in the main community umbrella group.

Michael Freilich, editor in chief of Belgium’s leading Jewish publication, Joods Actueel, says the two communities inhabit two distinct political universes.

Due to the political system, “in Flanders you can only vote for Flemish parties and in Wallonia only for French-speaking parties, even though parties from both regions sit in government,” Freilich said. “This means politicians who matter to Wallonians don’t matter to Flemish and vice versa. It’s very difficult to lobby together when you inhabit two different, parallel political realities.”

Belgium’s political crisis resulted last year in a new world record: Belgium went for 541 days without an elected government because Flemish and Wallonian representatives could not reach a compromise. That was one of several crises since 2007 that has caused many in Belgium and elsewhere to doubt Belgium’s sustainability as a unified state.

Then there are intercultural gripes.

“The problem is that there are a few people in Brussels who are still used to thinking of French speakers as the elite and of Flemish speakers as provincial,” Ringer said.

The chairwoman of FJO, Kouky Frohmann-Gartner, put it more bluntly in an interview for Joods Actueel in October: “Those in Brussels think they’re better,” she said.

Yet Ringer says he is optimistic about the future of relations, at least among Belgium's Jews.

“Every time the Brussels community gets a new president, they decide they need to represent the whole of Belgium. Then they get over it,” he told JTA. “We’re a small community that needs to work together to overcome similar challenges.”