Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Canary Mission to employers - Don't Hire Radicals!

The video posted on the Canary Mission website makes it crystal clear that their goal is to prevent "radicals" from getting jobs once they have graduated from college or graduate school. After showing a few clips of people at anti-Israel demonstrations shouting horrible antisemitic slogans (e.g., one young woman is shouting "Go back to the ovens"), the narrator says:
A few years later these individuals are applying for jobs within your company. There's no record of their membership of radical organizations. No one remembers their yelling profanities on campus or attending Jew-hating conferences and anti-American rallies.All evidence has been eradicated and soon they will be part of your team.
This campaign assumes that if an employer does not like someone's politics, he or she is perfectly justified in not hiring that person. This may be legal (I don't know if discriminating against people on the basis of their political beliefs or activism is covered by anti-discrimination laws anywhere), but unless it can be proven that a person's politics would prevent him or her from doing a good job, it seems blatantly anti-democratic to me.

US Supported Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen destroys regional archaeological museum

I received this notice from the Agade list serve and thought it was worthwhile to reproduce, about the human and historical consequences of the current war in Yemen. The US is supporting the Saudis in their campaign against the Shia Houthis. This is from the Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues blog, written by Paul Barford, who is a British archaeologist "living and working in Warsaw."

Dhamar, Yemen Museum Destroyed

The Dhamar Regional Museum in Yemen, the main museum of the Dhamar governorate, has been destroyed in a Saudi airstrike last Thursday. The Museum, built in 2002, is the repository of all work done in the province. Together with the building, it is not clear how much of the collection of pre-Islamic antiquities, including a number of dedicatory stelae and also the material produced by the Chicago Oriental Institute's work from 1978 onwards (see here too) have been lost. Some of the museum's artefacts were recently digitalised by CASIS an EU-funded project.
Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen in the last 62 days to bring its ally, fugitive president Mansour Hadi, back to power. The airstrikes have killed, at least, 3,912 Yemenis, according to FNA's independent tally. According to a recent report by Freedom House Foundation, most of the victims of the deadly Al Saud campaign are civilians, including a large number of women and children. Thousands of residential buildings have been destroyed, and hundreds of civil and public facilities were reduced to rubble as a result of the bombardments by Saudi warplanes on the Yemeni cities and towns, the group said.
The city of Dahmar, 100 km to the south of Sana'a, was one of the famous Arabic and Islamic culture and scientific centres in Yemen. 

We decry the many atrocities committed by Da'esh - massacres of Yezidis, Christians, Shiites and others in Syria and Iraq, their enslavement of Yezidis and Christians, taking women as sex slaves, and their destruction of antiquities that are part of the historical heritage of all humanity - but our supposed allies are bombing in Yemen in such a way as to kill many civilians, destroy residential buildings, and now also destroy antiquities.

Why those opposed to BDS should oppose Canary Mission

And on a far less pleasant topic than the previous post, a website called Canary Mission has just gone live. This website has published information about a number of students about their support for the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions - directed at the state of Israel). Why have they done it?

From their "About" page:
  • ....We pursue our mission by presenting the actions of hate-fomenting individuals and organizations - clearing up the ambiguity that surrounds their activities on campus and beyond. Our hope is that by shining a bright light on radicals and their activities, the public can clarify for themselves the nature of such affiliations.
  • ....We believe in the right of employers to know which potentially threatening organizations prospective employees were affiliated with during their time on campus. 
  • Canary Mission provides freely available material gathered from completely accessible and unrestricted sources. We have chosen to collate this information into a concise and unambiguous format for the consumption of prospective employers and the public at large.
From this mission statement we can see that the purpose of the website is not merely to publicize individuals (almost all of whom are students) who support the BDS movement, but to threaten their future livelihood.

I am no fan of BDS or SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine), but I do not believe that students who support BDS should have their livelihoods threatened by this biased, very one-sided presentation. This website reduces people to one particular political viewpoint that they hold, and assumes that because of that viewpoint, they could be dangerous for future employers to hire. Remember Senator Joseph McCarthy? This is what he did. He smeared people as communists (none of whom he was able to prove were communists) and called for their dismissal from U.S. government service.

In almost all cases, people's political views and activism are totally irrelevant to their employment. For example, if a Ph.D. student in chemistry supports BDS, is that a reason that he or she should be turned down for a job in a chemistry lab?

Those of us who oppose BDS should not engage in McCarthyite tactics against those we disagree with politically. We should take on BDS as a political movement, and argue against it and organize against it based on why we think BDS proposals are wrong. We should never engage in ad hominem attacks on individuals, nor should we threaten people who advocate BDS in any way. The United States is a democratic country, and we should seek to defeat political ideas and actions that we disagree with through democratic means.

Appreciation of the Pseudepigrapha 1: 2 Enoch: God's Face and the Creation of Humans

I'm currently working on my chapter on the Testament of Job, Joseph and Aseneth, and Philo's On the Contemplative Life, and I keep coming across great passages from those and other pseudepigraphic works, so I thought I would post some of my favorite passages for the enjoyment of my readers.

Great passages from 2 Enoch

All translations from F. I. Andersen, "2 Enoch," in James H. Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepgrapha, volume 1 (published 1983).

According to Genesis, humans are created in the image of God. 2 Enoch takes this idea and likens God's face to the human face, which is God's image, and which should not be treated with contempt.

Chapter 44:
The Lord with his own two hands created mankind; and in a facsimile of his own face. Small and great the Lord created. Whoever insults a person's face insults the face of the Lord; whoever treats a person's face with repugnance treats the face of the Lord with repugnance. Whoever treats with contempt the face of any person treats the face of the Lord with contempt. 
In this passage, 2 Enoch likens the human face to the divine face, but in order to emphasize the fiery and frightening nature of God. This passage is reminiscent of the Shi'ur Qomah traditions ("stature/measure of the body") in Jewish mystical texts.

Chapter 39:3-5 (short recension):
And now, my children, it is not from my own lips that I am reporting to you today, but from the lips of the Lord who has sent me to you. As for you, you hear my words, out of my lips, a human being created equal to yourselves; but I, I have heard the words from the fiery lips of the Lord. For the lips of the Lord are a furnace of fire, and his words are the fiery flames which come out. You, my children, you see my face, a human being created just like yourselves; I, I am one who has seen the face of the Lord, like iron made burning hot by fire, emitting sparks. For you gaze into (my) eyes, a human being created just like yourselves; but I have gazed into the eyes of the Lord, like the rays of the shining sun and terrifying the eyes of a human being.
This last paragraph is from what is the called the "Adam Septipartite" tradition (i.e., Adam in seven parts), developed in medieval Christian literature (and thus probably not part of the earliest 2 Enoch texts).

Chapter 30:8 (long recension):
And on the sixth day I commanded my wisdom to create man out of the seven components: his flesh from earth; his blood from dew and from the sun; his eyes from the bottomless sea; his bones from stone; his reason from the mobility of angels and from clouds; his veins and hair from grass of the earth; his spirit from my spirit and from wind.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Same Sex Marriage now legal in Ireland!!

Ireland Votes to Legalize Same Sex Marriage: This is really an amazing story. It never occurred to me that Ireland would vote to approve same-sex marriage. Growing up in the 1960s-early 1970s, I always thought of Ireland as a very conservative country, its mores directed by the values of the Catholic Church (which was true). Those same conservative mores had a heavy effect in my home town, Cambridge, Mass. I know that people think of Cambridge as a very liberal, but in the 1960s and early 1970s city politics were pretty evenly balanced between liberal and conservative voting blocs. Many Irish and Italian Catholics lived in the city, and many students went to Catholic elementary schools and high schools.

Gay pride flags in windows in Ireland (Source:
While Massachusetts was the first state in the US to legalize same sex marriage, that did not mean that the conservative people who ran the local St. Patrick's Day parade wanted to permit Irish LGBT groups to participate. The Boston area is now very different than it was when I was growing up in Cambridge in the 1960s-early 1970s, but it is only this year, 2015, that the first LGBT group marched in the St. Patrick's Day parade. Two groups, Boston Pride and Outvets, a gay veterans group, marched this year.

Boston Pride marching in this year's St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston.
Outvets marching in this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston
Have a happy gay day, with plenty of green beer!

Medieval Jewish community of Worms, Germany

Thursday, May 14, 2015

"Long Live Israel!"

When I went out for a walk today, I found this graffiti written on the side of a planter in the Bochum Uniforum, much to my surprise. It says "Long live Israel!" in German. I hadn't noticed it before, so perhaps someone wrote it to celebrate Israeli Independence Day, which is today (according to the secular calendar).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bochum Jewish cemetery

Today I paid a visit to the Jewish cemetery in Bochum, on Wasserstrasse. It is a consolidated cemetery that includes burials and headstones from two other cemeteries that were moved in the post WWII period. I saw headstones from the late 19th century up to this year.

There is a clear division between the pre-WWII burials and those very few that came after the war, and then burials since the early 1990s. Those buried during the war include 52 Jewish forced laborers who died working in Bochum factories.

There are also memorial headstones for those killed by the Nazis.

The post-1990 burials are almost entirely of Jews from the former Soviet Union.

Here are some pictures of the headstones.

This is one side of a stone in the Jewish section of the Bochum, Germany, cemetery, for Eliezer Lipman, son of Ephraim Weiss, who was murdered by the Nazis on January 10, 1945 (Tevet 25, 5705). 

This photo depicts the other side of the gravestone in the previous photograph. Eliezer Lipman was the husband of Yital Glick (her maiden name), and the son of Leah Zimmerman (her maiden name).

This gravestone memorializes Yital bat R. Jacob Judah ha-Kohen Glick, and her children, Shmuel Benzion, Avraham Yehoshua, and Devorah-Hinda Tila; Leah bat R. Jacob Zimmerman, her daughter Rachel and her husband Hayyim Moshe ben Shelomo Zickerman, and their children Shelomo, Eliezer Lipman-Jacob, who were murdered by the Nazis on 22 Sivan 5704 (1944). "May God avenge their blood."

These are gravestones for two men who had worked as forced laborers in Bochum and died there. The one on the left is for Alfred Hofmann, born on January 1, 1945, and died on March 11, 1945. The abbreviation below his name says "May God avenge his blood." This abbreviation is on all of the stones for the forced laborers who died at the hands of the Nazis.

The one on the right is for Isidor Davidovits, born on May 31, 1911, died on March 14, 1945.

This is the gravestone of Kalman Rosenberg, born on April 5, 1897, died on December 5, 1944, another of the forced laborers.

Gravestone of Ella Neuberg-Lilienthal, who died on September 8, 1923, and three family members who died in the Holocaust and two who survived in Holland.

Alfred Neuberg died in Sobibor on May 21, 1943; Karl Neuberg died on March 31, 1944 in Auschwitz; and Lise Neuberg-Spiro died in the middle of 1944 in Poland. Two other relatives, Walter Neuberg (d. March 26, 1994) and Geertie Neuberg-Zijlstra (d. March 10, 1993), lived in Brielle, Holland.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Charlotte Salomon, "Life? Or Theater?"

I went to the city art museum in Bochum last week and saw a wonderful exhibit of Charlotte Salomon's autobiographical artistic voyage, "Leben? oder Theater?

All of her artistic work is now in the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, and this is their introduction to her life and work:
Charlotte Salomon (1917-1943) grew up in middle-class German-Jewish Berlin. As a girl she led a relatively carefree life, until the Nazi coup in 1933. In spite of this she almost completed her studies at Art Academy. In January 1939 Charlotte fled from Germany and went to stay with her grandparents who were living in the south of France. They had quitted Nazi Germany earlier, in 1933. Following the outbreak of World War II, in 1940, Charlotte's grandmother committed suicide. Only then was Charlotte told that her mother had ended her life in a similar way, in 1926.
Charlotte, then 24 years old, came to terms with her turbulent family past as well as her experiences as a Jew living in Berlin, in a most unusual manner. She felt herself faced with a choice: either to end her life or to undertake 'something really extravagantly crazy'. She went into retirement, as it were, and in a burst of wild creative energy, started to paint. So it was that, outdoors in the sunshine of southern France, she produced a series of almost eight hundred gouaches (watercolours).

Between 1940 and 1942, in eighteen months of concentrated work, she painted her life's story, titling it Life? or Theatre? "And she saw with eyes awakened from a dream all the beauty that surrounded her, saw the sea, felt the sun and knew that for a period she must disappear from the human scene and that she had to make every possible sacrifice in order to create her new world from out of the unfathomable depths." 
In October 1943, at the age of 26, Charlotte Salomon was killed in Auschwitz.
Here are a couple of examples from the collection:

Life or Theater?
Self-portrait, 1940

Kristallnacht, 1938