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** Israel ‘expects’ its chess players to make history by playing in Saudi tourney**
World Chess Federation says it is making ‘huge effort’ to ensure visas are approved for upcoming competition in Riyadh

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Israeli chess players could make history by participating in a tournament in Saudi Arabia after the international chess governing body on Tuesday said it was pushing to allow it to happen.

A spokesman for the Israel Chess Federation told AFP seven players had filed requests for visas to participate in the games to be held in Riyadh on December 26-30 as part of the world rapid and blitz chess championships.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have no official relations. The presence of Israelis there would be highly unusual, and comes as officials from the Jewish state increasingly hint at covert ties with the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

Israel and Saudi Arabia share a common fear of Iran’s attempts to increase its influence in the region.

Georgios Makropoulos, deputy president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), said that the papers of the seven Israeli chess players — five men and two women — had been handed to the Saudi organizers “and the visa status is currently pending.”

“We are making a huge effort to assure that all players get their visas,” Makropoulos said in a Tuesday statement.

The Israeli chess federation said it “supports FIDE’s policy to hold the tournament in Saudi alongside FIDE’s commitment to ensure the participation of Israelis would not be subject to limitations,” spokesman Lior Aizenberg told AFP.

“We expect the Saudis, aided by FIDE, to approve our requests for visas to play,” he said.

Aizenberg noted the Israeli chess federation chairman Zvika Barkai had discussed the issue of the Saudi visas with Makropoulos as well as with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who recently visited Israel.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said he didn’t believe there would be a problem for the Israelis to participate in the Riyadh games if the visas were granted.

Israeli athletes often face difficulties when competing around the Middle East due to hostility toward their country.

In a recent incident, an Iranian wrestler was lauded by his government after he intentionally lost  an international bout at a tournament in Poland over the weekend to avoid having to face an Israeli opponent.

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** {Note from Rabbi Panitz: It is hard to imagine anything more antithetical to the message of Thanksgiving than the hate-filled message of American neo-Nazis such as Richard Spencer. It is gratifying to see that “middle Americans” understand and act upon the American value of respect for ethnic and religious diversity, a value that is incompatible with the fascist state preached by Spencer. Commendations to the owners of the Maryland farm where Spencer showed up to speak, after a deceptive booking of the farm for a “corporate event”. Upon learning of Spencer’s ruse, those owners promptly shut down the event and refunded the money to Spencer’s group. Bravo, Rocklands Farm, and Happy Thanksgiving!}
Richard Spencer hosted an event at a Maryland farm. Halfway through, everyone was kicked out. 15 / 26
Washington Post – Washington Post The Washington Post
Perry Stein

A weekend conference organized by white nationalist Richard Spencer was shut down after the owners of the Maryland farm he rented discovered he was behind the event.

The think tank that Spencer leads, the National Policy Institute, hosted the conference for about 100 people at Rocklands Farm, a winery and events venue in Montgomery County. Spencer said in an interview that a third-party logistics company contacted Rocklands Farm on behalf of the National Policy Institute this month and didn’t reveal that white nationalists were affiliated with the event when they booked it. The company told the farm’s management only that it was a “corporate” gathering, according to Spencer.

The conference started about 11 a.m. Sunday and was scheduled to continue until 8 p.m. Caterers at Rocklands Farm served brunch, and participants recapped 2017. At about 4 p.m., Spencer said, someone working the event learned that Spencer was there, and management told everyone to leave.

“We didn’t lie, we didn’t deceive, and we certainly did not break any rules while we were there,” Spencer said. “We had sharp words and were obviously disappointed, but there was no confrontation of any kind.”

The farm refunded the group’s money after asking it to leave.

The owners of Rocklands Farm didn’t comment on the incident beyond a statement on their website Monday, which says it proudly does “business according to family values, including welcoming people of all backgrounds, race, ethnicities, cultures, and religions.”

The statement continued: “Throughout our history of hosting private events, we have never had to ask a group to leave. However, yesterday, November 19, we discovered that a private event held here was, in reality, a gathering of an organization that is strongly in opposition to our values. We immediately and politely asked the group to leave. We are grateful that the group agreed to peacefully leave.”

The National Policy Institute booked space at Rocklands Farm after the property manager at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, a federal facility in the District, told the organization that it couldn’t host its conference at the building. The two sides had been in communication for months before a private management company rejected the request over safety concerns.

Spencer’s public appearances have been a lightning rod in recent months, both for the content of his speeches and questions over free speech. His events often attract large numbers of protesters.

The University of Florida reluctantly agreed last month to allow Spencer to speak on campus after initially rejecting his request. Spencer and his lawyer challenged the initial decision, citing First Amendment concerns. The university paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for security at the event.

Spencer described the Rocklands Farm gathering as a policy conference, in which attendees paid $225. Spencer said before the event that it was to feature Daniel Friberg, the European editor of AltRight.com, and Kevin MacDonald, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “the neo-Nazi movement’s favorite academic.”

The organizers didn’t publicly disclose beforehand that the event would be held at Rocklands Farm, Spencer said. Instead, organizers arranged for vans to pick up attendees at various locations and drive them to the farm.

After Rocklands Farm management told them to leave, those vans then shuttled the conference attendees to another private space outside the District before they then went to dinner at a restaurant, Spencer said.

“I’m not mad, but if I were a business owner, I would not do that,” Spencer said. “If communists came to my establishment, but they were civilized, I couldn’t imagine kicking them out. So I’m certainly disappointed, but we are not going to retaliate. It’s just life in 2017 for us.”

Spencer was one of the leaders of a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville in August. The march at the University of Virginia — with participants chanting “Jews will not replace us!” — touched off violence between demonstrators and counterprotesters that turned deadly the next day when a man drove into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring others. Two police officers who were monitoring the protests died when their helicopter crashed.
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[Note from Rabbi Panitz: Amidst the growing scandal of sexual improprieties brought to the attention of the American public in the past month, a still-more disturbing subset of accusations of adult men behaving improperly with children and teens calls for special attention. We have seen Christian religious fundamentalists quoting selectively from the pre-modern texts in their religious tradition, to defend their political favorites. The following article, while a few years old, speaks to our own day. In careful and non-polemical analysis, it shows how the definition of the proper age for women to marry was once lower, but that as Jews, we ought to insist that only adults marry, and certainly that women, let alone girls, not be forced into marriage.] Please click the link below to access the article.

** Child marriage? | Shmuly Yanklowitz | The Blogs | The Times of Israel (https://templeisraelva.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=483892614cb7718af81d3231b&id=efee6e4e63&e=0defe36426)
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blogs.timesofisrael.com/child-marriage

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Weekly Message from Rabbi Panitz 

 

Kristalnacht: The View from 2017

This evening, the Jewish world will observe the sad anniversary of Kristalnacht, the night in which Nazi Germany physically attacked the synagogues and the Jewish community of Germany. How does that event resonate today?

My answer is to look back, not only 79 years, to the infamous state-sponsored pogrom, but 125 years, to the moment when anti-semitism went mainstream in pre-Nazi Germany. That happened in 1892, at the “Tivoli Congress” of the German Conservative Party. Here is a brief, encyclopedic account of that event:

The Tivoli Congress took place in 1892 and was named after the
Tivoli Brewery on the Kreuzberg (https://templeisraelva.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=483892614cb7718af81d3231b&id=12cc6be920&e=0defe36426(Tempelhofer_Berge)&data=02%7C01%7Cdagurlzrmine%40hotmail.com%7Cad9047bc36534549af1008d5276eef87%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636458279769302475&sdata=9s6qrDSwdTRbNuFX0NPrYp6IhPIPfdUGIAnRL%2FlIIAw%3D&reserved=0) in Berlin (https://templeisraelva.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=483892614cb7718af81d3231b&id=f1afed3e45&e=0defe36426) in whose festival venue the
German Conservative Party (https://templeisraelva.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=483892614cb7718af81d3231b&id=15adc471bb&e=0defe36426) first adopted anti-semitism (https://templeisraelva.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=483892614cb7718af81d3231b&id=44ba920d5b&e=0defe36426) as part of its political
program…From the congress the Tivoli Program was developed. This
was a party manifesto whose first clause included the words “We fight
against the often obtrusive and corrosive Jewish influence on our
national life. We demand Christian authorities for the Christian people
and Christian teachers for Christian students.”

Ever since 1945, thoughtful Americans have asked, “Could it happen here?” I have always been confident that American democracy, with far stronger roots than those of Weimar Republic Germany, would withstand the combination of demagoguery and hyper-nationalism that gave Nazism its traction. Now… I am less confident.

What changed? The 2016 election gave the Radical Right a sense that its moment had arrived. There’s a straight line to be drawn from the coy inclusion of avowed anti-semites in the winning electoral coalition of 2016, to Richard Spencer’s followers giving the Nazi salute in their post-election celebration, to the sharp spike in anti-semitic actions in early 2017, as reported by the ADL, to the “Jews will not replace us” chant of the Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville this past August.

Now, none of this is the same as the main body of American Conservatism embracing anti-semitism, as the official German Conservative party did in 1892. But the desire of the Radical Right to become part of the American mainstream political spectrum has received far too much cover, from the highest quarters, for us to feel entirely safe.

Demagogery, hyper-nationalism, and anti-semitism: if we, as a society, leave the raw materials for an explosion in place, then we are vulnerable to accidental, as well as deliberate, detonation.

Kristalnacht is always about Nazi Germany. But it is also always about what can happen when anti-semitism is winked at, anywhere and anytime.

On guard, America!

Rabbi Michael Panitz

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The Protestant Reformation at 500: Good for the Jews? Bad for the Jews?

Exactly 500 years ago, on October 31, 1517, a feisty German monk, Martin Luther nailed 95 debate propositions on the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg, the university town where he taught. At the time, no one would have said that a new era was beginning, but in retrospect, it is common to date the beginning of the Protestant Reformation from that moment. Luther’s hoped for debate never happened, in the narrow sense, but in the broader sense, it broke apart the medieval world of Christendom and paved the way for the world we, as modern Westerners, call home.

As Jews, we see events from the angle of an often persecuted minority, and that gives us the standing to offer some judgments that the mainstream sometimes overlooks or prefers to ignore. We have a particular history in connection with the Protestant Reformation.

In the short run, it was bad. In the intermediate term, it was still bad. But in the long term, it paved the way for something good.

We ought to remember that even before the Reformation, times were hard for Jews in the western half of the Christian world. Jews had already been expelled from England, France, Spain and Portugal. In states where our ancestors still resided, it was not a matter of principled toleration, but of pragmatic calculation. Often, continued Jewish presence in a given state was a matter of the ruler overriding the objections of his anti-Jewish town councils and peasantry to keep Jews on hand as a convenient source of tax revenues. Jews were taxed at far higher rates than Christians. Horrendous blood accusations and periodic outbreaks of mob violence against Jews were sporadic, but always dreaded.

The Reformation made a bad situation worse. Luther himself, initially mild in his writings about Jews, turned into the harshest and most vulgar of anti-Jewish polemicists when his reforms failed to produce the wave of Jewish conversions he had envisioned. During the last decade of his life, he wrote about Jews in vile and hateful terms, comparing Jews to apes, pigs, animal excrement, and—worst of all, for him—the Devil. The low point was his 1543 pamphlet, “Concerning the Jews and their Lies.” (Readers may recall that this was one of the anti-Semitic pamphlets that I discovered in the volunteer book cart at Leigh Memorial hospital last winter—I wrote a column about that. Thankfully, I have never seen any other such pamphlets at any of the hospitals in our area—and I check often.)

Luther was, unfortunately, an influence in the growing association of incipient German nationalism with anti-Judaism. His German translation of the Bible helped to unify the Protestant portion of the German-speaking states of Central Europe and to kindle a sense of nationhood among them. Unfortunately, the toxin of Luther’s anti-Judaism was mixed into the recipe of nationalism, and it continued to poison it into the Nazi period.

Roman Catholic rulers during the Reformation Era spanned a gamut, some less harsh to Jews than others. As part of their counterattack against the Protestants, the Popes, initially relatively tolerant of their Jewish subjects, became much more intolerant after 1555. Catholic, Bavarian dukes were intolerant, enforcing the expulsion of Jews, but at the same time, Catholic kings of Poland were quite tolerant, inviting Jews to settle in their country. The Catholic Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, tried to assert the medieval protection of the Jews of the Empire (in exchange for the prerogative of taxing them, apart from local authorities), and issued a pro-Jewish constitution in 1544. But with a coalition of French enemies, states-rights German Protestant princes and jihadist Ottoman Turks pressing the Empire from all sides, Charles V lost his fight to reassert the authority of the medieval emperors. Charles V abdicated, and in 1555, his brother and successor, Ferdinand,
made peace with the rebellious Protestants, in order to line them up to defend against the Turks. That peace treaty gave each local ruler the authority over the religious life in his state, and so, for the next two and a half centuries, German Jews were at the mercy of the changing whims of a host of local rulers.

The other leading light of the Protestant Reformation, John Calvin, had no love for Jews, but he wrote about them in terms no harsher than the (non-Lutheran) standard of that zealous and bigoted age. (I know, this is faint praise…) His essential criticism of Jews was that they resisted the correct interpretation (his interpretation, of course) of Scripture, because “God had struck them with a special blindness.”

But while Calvin had no program of ameliorating the condition of the Jews, the ultimate effect of Calvinism was to create the conditions for a major reevaluation of the position of the Jew as a minority within Christian society. That is because Calvinism defended the right of the individual Christian to interpret Scripture differently from the State Church… not surprising, given that Calvinists fought a lengthy civil war in France, a predominantly Catholic country throughout that era. Eventually, what was “sauce for the goose became sauce for the gander”. Freedom of conscience extended to Christians was ultimately extended to non-Christians as well, first—in the 17^th century– in the Dutch Republic and in Roger William’s colony of Rhode Island, and ultimately—by the end of the 18^th century– in the new United States of America and in Revolutionary France.

This is not the whole story, of course. We would need to add the effects of the Commercial and Scientific Revolutions of the 17^th and 18^th centuries, of the Enlightenment, an intellectual revolution with social and political consequences, and of the secularization of society over the past two centuries, to tell a fuller story of how Jews came to feel, finally, at home in the West (maybe too much at home, to judge by the assimilation rates we struggle with today!)

But whereas Luther’s anti-Jewish thinking resurfaced in Germany again and again, most explosively in 1933, Calvin’s personal anti-Judaism was submerged in the general development of Protestant, Calvinist thought. The latter could lead to the intolerance of the Salem Witch hunt, but it could, and did, also lead to the idea that the State has no business interfering in matters of private religious conscience. That initially helped only fellow Christians, but eventually, it paved the road for the acceptance of the Jew in Western society. And—let it be acknowledged—after the trauma of Nazism, contemporary Lutherans have been forthright in rejecting the bigoted invective of Martin Luther. In 1983, on the 500^th anniversary of Luther’s birth, a Scandinavian conclave of Lutheran bishops specifically repudiated their founder’s anti-Judaism, even as they celebrated those of his writings that they regard as constitutional for their movement.

As Jews, we dare not forget—history matters.

Shalom,

Rabbi Michael Panitz

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