21 December 2011

The 'Iranian Schindler' who saved Jews from the Nazis

The 'Iranian Schindler' who saved Jews from the Nazis, by Brian Wheeler (BBC News, 21 December 2011)

Thousands of Iranian Jews and their descendants owe their lives to a Muslim diplomat in wartime Paris, according to a new book. In The Lion's Shadow tells how Abdol-Hossein Sardari risked everything to help fellow Iranians escape the Nazis.
Link: The 'Iranian Schindler' who saved Jews from the Nazis

Global Christianity A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population

Global Christianity A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life)

A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 2.18 billion Christians of all ages around the world, representing nearly a third of the estimated 2010 global population of 6.9 billion. Christians are also geographically widespread – so far-flung, in fact, that no single continent or region can indisputably claim to be the center of global Christianity.

A century ago, this was not the case. In 1910, about two-thirds of the world’s Christians lived in Europe, where the bulk of Christians had been for a millennium, according to historical estimates by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.2 Today, only about a quarter of all Christians live in Europe (26%). A plurality – more than a third – now are in the Americas (37%). About one in every four Christians lives in sub-Saharan Africa (24%), and about one-in-eight is found in Asia and the Pacific (13%).

09 November 2011

Ramayana Row Divides India

Ramayana Row Divides India, by Sudha Ramachandran (Asia Times, 10 November 2011)

India's liberal intellectual tradition has received a stunning blow with the removal of an essay that celebrates diversity from Delhi University's BA history (honors) syllabus. The decision marks the "surrender of academic freedom to political pressure", eminent Indian historian Romila Thapar has lamented. The essay in question is the late A K Ramanujan's Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translations. Written in 1987, the essay drew attention to the "astonishing" number of "tellings" of the Indian epic, Ramayana (the story of Ram) over the past 2,500 years in different languages, regions and mediums.

"Just a list of languages in which the Rama story is found makes one gasp: Annamese, Balinese, Bengali, Cambodian [Khmer], Chinese, Gujarati, Javanese, Kannada, Kashmiri, Khotanese, Laotian, Malaysian, Marathi, Oriya, Prakrit, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan - to say nothing of Western languages. Through the centuries, some of these languages have hosted more than one telling of the Rama story. Sanskrit alone contains some 25 or more tellings belonging to various narrative genres. If we add plays, dance-dramas and other performances, in both the classical and folk traditions, the number of Ramayanas grows even larger," Ramanujan wrote.
Link: Ramayana Row Divides India

Synagogue rises from ruins in German town with Jewish tradition

Synagogue rises from ruins in German town with Jewish tradition, by Igal Avidan (Deutsche Welle, 8 November 2011)

Jews had lived in Speyer for 1,000 years, before being deported and murdered in the Holocaust. A former church has been converted into a new synagogue, which is making the community visible once again.

"We are here and we don't want to hide from anybody," said Daniel Nemirovski, who manages the affairs of the organization known as the Jewish Community of Rhineland Palatinate.

Here, on the pastureland not far from the main station in Speyer, is the former home of the Catholic St. Guido Foundation. After it was closed in 1996, it suffered the same fate as an adjacent church. In that same year, new immigrant Jews founded their cultural association.

Frankfurt architect Alfred Jacoby converted the abandoned church into a synagogue for the area's new Jewish population. He finds it particularly appealing to be involved with this re-establishment of Jewish life in the area. "My design has connections with the Christian history of Speyer," he said.
Link: Synagogue rises from ruins in German town with Jewish tradition

Blessing a Building — Building a Blessing: How the New Synagogue in Mainz Has Its Cake and Eats It Too

Blessing a Building — Building a Blessing: How the New Synagogue in Mainz Has Its Cake and Eats It Too, by Gavriel Rosenfeld (Jewish Daily Forward, 29 September 2010)

The construction of a new synagogue is always an occasion for celebration, so it was with particular pomp that the Rhineland city of Mainz recently dedicated its new synagogue and Jewish community center. The dedication ceremonies, held September 3, featured an array of German politicians, including German President Christian Wulff. Many of them blessed the new building and underscored its symbolic significance. Yet, while the synagogue received its share of blessings, it also gave physical expression to them in its architectural form. Designed by the German-Jewish architect Manuel Herz, Mainz’s striking new synagogue complex traces its inspiration back to the third “blessing” in the Amidah — the Kedusha. The connection between the word and the synagogue’s appearance is not immediately obvious. But Herz’s drawings for the building reveal that its sawtooth form partly derives from the jagged pattern produced by the word’s five Hebrew letters: kuf, daled, vav, shin and hay.
Link: Blessing a Building — Building a Blessing: How the New Synagogue in Mainz Has Its Cake and Eats It Too

08 November 2011

Eid: Being LGBT and Muslim

Eid: Being LGBT and Muslim, by El-Farouk Khaki (Huffington Post, 7 November 2011)

Eid in Arabic means feast or festivity. Muslims celebrate two religious Eids: Eid ul-Fitri is the celebration at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. It is the more festive celebration after a month of abstinence and self-control; children receive money (Eidi) or presents and new clothes, so do some adults. Everyone will wear his or her finery.

The Eid that we are celebrating now is the more somber festival and has multiple names including Eid al-Adha or Eid e-Qurban (both meaning Festival of Sacrifice) and Eid ul-Hajj (Festival of Hajj). It celebrates the end of the Hajj or the pilgrimage to Mecca during which Muslims around the world celebrate along with the almost 3 million pilgrims in Mecca.

The story of Eid ul-Adha is mostly narrated as the story of the miracle of God replacing Abraham's son with a ram at the moment of intended sacrifice by Abraham of his son Ismail. The miracle is celebrated with the sacrifice of an animal and the distribution of the meat to family, community and the poor. It is a grand tale of patriarchy and submission.
Link: Eid: Being LGBT and Muslim, by El-Farouk Khaki (Huffington Post, 7 November 2011)

03 November 2011

Watch the Hajj Live on Youtube

The Hajj is an ancient ritual, but now, through the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information's YouTube channel, millions of people from around the world will be able to experience and comment on the event via livestream on Youtube.


Exploring Ties Between Halacha and Shariah

Exploring Ties Between Halacha and Shariah, by Ben Sales (The Jewish Daily Forward, 2 November 2011)

Abraham and Isaac — or, as some would have it, Ibrahim and Ishmael — took center stage when some of America’s most prominent Modern Orthodox rabbis and Muslim imams discussed their respective legal systems and foundational texts, and their implications for Jewish-Muslim relations today.

The October 30 seminar “Ancient Texting” brought together 15 rabbis expert in Halacha, or traditional Jewish law, and 15 imams steeped in Shariah, traditional Muslim law, for a recent daylong seminar at Manhattan’s historic Temple Emanu-El, a Reform congregation. While much of the day’s discussion was theoretical and textual in nature, conversations often revolved around issues concerning both communities. The speakers also touched on areas of conflict between them, such as differing positions regarding Israel, and problematic texts in the tradition of each faith.
Link: Exploring Ties Between Halacha and Shariah

02 November 2011

Where Did Religion Come From?

Where Did Religion Come From? By Robert N. Bellah (SSRC, The Immanent Frame)

When an interviewer for the Atlantic Monthly blog asked me “What prompted you to write this book?” I apparently replied, “Deep desire to know everything: what the universe is and where we are in it.” I don’t deny that I said it—it’s just that I would have thought I would have given a more pedestrian reply, because I am a sociologist, with a Ph.D. in my discipline and some 40 years experience as a professor at Harvard and Berkeley. And I am quite aware that early in the last century Max Weber, in a famous 1918 talk called “Science as a Vocation,” warned that “science has entered a phase of specialization previously unknown and this will forever remain the case.” It does seem that he didn’t apply this dictum to himself, but he was talking about the future when huge projects like his own would no longer be possible. So what is this “deep desire to know everything” in a world of super-specialization? When I look at books like Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God, Nicholas Wade’s The Faith Instinct, Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought. and Scott Atran’s In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion, recent books that might seem parallel to my own new book, I can only say Weber was right—these books should not have been written, or, to be charitable, they may be good journalism but they are not serious contributions to understanding.
Link: Where Did Religion Come From?

01 November 2011

Holy smoke: Islamic preachers are drawing on a Christian tradition

Holy smoke: Islamic preachers are drawing on a Christian tradition (The Economist, 29 October 2011)

Screaming hordes of teenage girls are a common sight at pop concerts and film premières. They are less usual when waiting to hear a religious preacher. But such girls—one gasping “I can see him, I can see him” through the folds of her niqab—awaited Moez Masoud, an Egyptian televangelist, recently in Cairo. He is part of a growing band of Islamic preachers who are true celebrities, says Yasmin Moll, a researcher at New York University, who attended Mr Masoud’s talk.

They draw on a Christian tradition pioneered in the 1950s by such preachers as Billy Graham. For the past ten years Amr Khaled, an Egyptian one-time accountant turned televangelist star, has led the way. Previously television preachers fitted the stereotype of white-haired, bearded sheikhs in white robes, monotonously exhorting the faithful, in classical Arabic, to follow the strictures of Islam more exactly.

In 2001 Mr Khaled burst onto screens with his show “Words from the Heart” and his brand of modern, moderate piety. Sharp-suited, mustachioed and speaking colloquial Egyptian, Mr Khaled and his audience (of men and women) discussed the concerns of young Muslims, such as whether Islam forbids cinema-going.
Link: Holy smoke: Islamic preachers are drawing on a Christian tradition

Holy relevance: Faith can influence economic behaviour—but not always directly

Holy relevance: Faith can influence economic behaviour—but not always directly (The Economist, 29 October 2011)

As Protestant Europe, in its own eyes virtuous and thrifty, wrestles with the debt problems of the continent’s Catholic and Orthodox countries, the idea that religious affiliation may influence the way people save, work and spend is more appealing than ever. The toppling of Arab tyrants has lent urgency to a similar enquiry: do Islam and Islamism permit the legal and social conditions that make for prosperity?

Clearly many modern religious leaders have strong ideas about economics. In western Europe, organised Christianity often acts as a modest voice in the ranks of the egalitarian left. This month’s anti-banker protests in London initially found a friendly base for their tent city at Saint Paul’s cathedral. (In recent days, Richard Chartres, the bishop of London, has asked them to leave, while acknowledging that they had raised important issues.) In America religious voices both praise and decry the capitalist order. Also on the borderline between economics and ethics, many religious leaders have taken up the cause of climate change, and urged people to change their behaviour—though this week an Australian cardinal, George Pell, bucked that trend by addressing a group of climate-change sceptics in London.

But all the most interesting theories about religion and behaviour refer to unconscious influences. The best-known was devised by Max Weber, a father of modern sociology, who drew a connection between the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. Noting that Protestant parts of Germany were doing better (in the 19th century) than Catholic ones, he thought the “inner loneliness” of Protestants—who can never be sure if they are saved in the eyes of God—made them work harder. Unlike many other forms of faith, Protestantism has no mystical rite to absolve sin.
Link: Holy relevance: Faith can influence economic behaviour—but not always directly

U.S. Hispanics Choose Churches Outside Catholicism

U.S. Hispanics Choose Churches Outside Catholicism, by Barbara Bradley Hagerty (NPR Morning Edition, 19 October 2011)

As their numbers grow, Latinos are not only changing where and how they worship; they're also beginning to affect the larger Christian faith. You can see evidence of that in the Assemblies of God, once a historically white, suburban Pentecostal denomination. When you walk into the denomination's largest church, it's sensory overload: The auditorium is jam-packed with hundreds of Latino worshipers singing in Spanish, swaying and dancing.

In little more than a decade, New Life Covenant Church in Chicago has grown from 68 people to more than 4,000 members; it had to abandon its old building and meet in Clemente High School. When you include the other churches New Life has started, its membership comes to some 12,000 people.
Link: U.S. Hispanics Choose Churches Outside Catholicism

Dalai Lama: Inner Peace, Happiness, God and Money

The Dalai Lama on Inner Peace, Happiness, God and Money

29 October 2011

Averroes (BBC Podcast)

Averroes (Ibn-Rushd) (BBC Podcast [45 minutes])

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosopher Averroes who worked to reconcile the theology of Islam with the rationality of Aristotle achieving fame and infamy in equal measure In The Divine Comedy Dante subjected all the sinners in Christendom to a series of grisly punishments, from being buried alive to being frozen in ice. The deeper you go the more brutal and bizarre the punishments get, but the uppermost level of Hell is populated not with the mildest of Christian sinners, but with non-Christian writers and philosophers. It was the highest compliment Dante could pay to pagan thinkers in a Christian cosmos and in Canto Four he names them all. Aristotle is there with Socrates and Plato, Galen, Zeno and Seneca, but Dante ends the list with neither a Greek nor a Roman but 'with him who made that commentary vast, Averroes'.

Averroes was a 12th century Islamic scholar who devoted his life to defending philosophy against the precepts of faith. He was feted by Caliphs but also had his books burnt and suffered exile. Averroes is an intellectual titan, both in his own right and as a transmitter of ideas between ancient Greece and Modern Europe. His commentary on Aristotle was so influential that St Thomas Aquinas referred to him with profound respect as 'The Commentator'.
Link: Averroes (Ibn-Rushd) (BBC Podcast [45 minutes])

Islamic Philosophy Online

Islamic Philosophy Online

Welcome to the premier Islamic philosophy resource on the Web. We are dedicated to the study of the philosophical output of the Muslim world. Islamic philosophy is also sometimes referred to as Arabic philosophy or Muslim philosophy. This site contains hundreds of full-length books and articles on Islamic philosophy, ranging from the classical texts in the canon of Islamic philosophy to modern works of Muslim philosophy.
Link: Islamic Philosophy Online

27 October 2011

Baptism brings together Muslims and Christians in Drenka celebrations

Baptism brings together Muslims and Christians in Drenka celebrations, by Essam Fadle (Daily New Egypt, 1 September 2008)

Last month, 49-year-old Om Khaled was on her way to the Virgin Mary Monastery in Drenka, Assiut to baptize her three-month-old son. The Muslim woman, following an age-old tradition in her hometown, was fulfilling a vow to God (nadr) to baptize her son according to Christian rituals if she were to ever get pregnant.

During the monastery celebrations, held every year from Aug. 7 to 21, Muslims making similar vows flock to the monastery, where the Holy Family is believed to have taken refuge during their visit to Egypt. According to Father Yacoub Suleiman, spokesman of the Virgin Mary Monastery, about 40 Muslims seeking to baptize their newborns arrive every day. The number reaches 100 during the last three days of celebrations.
Link: Baptism brings together Muslims and Christians in Drenka celebrations

All about the Hajj

25 October 2011

Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority

Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority (issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace)

Primary Text: Unofficial Preliminary English Translation

News Reports/Summaries:

Survey highlights struggles of young Hispanic Catholics

Survey highlights struggles of young Hispanic Catholics (National Catholic Report, 24 October 2011)

Currently, Hispanics make up 45 percent of the millennial generation of U.S. Catholics. Within the next generation, it is likely that Hispanics may become the majority among American Catholics. We begin this essay with a description of the demographics that distinguish this youngest generation of adult Catholics.

Hispanic millennials differ from non-Hispanic millennial Catholics in important ways: Only a minority of Hispanic millennials (39 percent) have never been married, while among non-Hispanics a majority (62 percent) have not been married; twice as many Hispanics (27 percent) as non-Hispanics (12 percent) are living with a partner. Nowhere is the gap between the Hispanic millennials and the descendents of the great waves from Europe more evident than in years of school completed. Twenty-nine percent of the Hispanic millennials but only 3 percent of non-Hispanics have not completed high school; 9 percent of Hispanics but 35 percent of non-Hispanics have a college degree or more.
Link: Survey highlights struggles of young Hispanic Catholics

Jesus at Occupy Wall Street: ‘I feel like I’ve been here before’

Jesus at Occupy Wall Street: ‘I feel like I’ve been here before’ by Lisa Miller (Washington Post On Faith Section, 20 October 2011)

What would Jesus think of the occupiers, who have been derided by their opponents as a ragtag group of tax evaders, interested only in sex, drugs and rock and roll? In the flesh, their unsavory appearance can make the heart of even the most convicted lefty hesitate before embracing their cause.

The Jesus of history would love them all. What Jesus really said, and what he meant, are the subjects of culture’s greatest controversies, but one thing is sure. Jesus gave preferential treatment to society’s outcasts. Lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes — all would attain heaven before the ordained elites. Jesus believed that God was about to right the world’s wrongs with a great upheaval — soon — and at that time, a radical reversal of the social order would occur. As he says in the gospels, the meek will inherit the earth.

Jesus would have sympathy, too, with the occupiers’ first complaint: that in America, the poorest have too little and the richest too much. In first-century Judea, a powerful ruling class held nearly all the wealth and most people lived at subsistence levels.
Link: Jesus at Occupy Wall Street: ‘I feel like I’ve been here before’

Battling for Gay Rights in Allah's Name

Battling for Gay Rights in Allah's Name by Kari Huus (MSNBC)

Like other aspiring reformers before her, Ani Zonneveld takes positions that make her unpopular with her religion's spiritual leaders, in this case America's Islamic elders. Not only does she lead prayers — a task normally reserved for men — but she is an outspoken advocate for gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims. Later this year, she plans to officiate at the Islamic wedding of a lesbian couple, which is perfectly acceptable by her reading of the Quran.

“The community we are building is very different from most of the mosques you would walk into,” said Zonneveld, a 49-year-old Malaysian-born singer-songwriter. “We are very inclusive of all Muslims, gay Muslims, mixed-faith couples. … We also don’t segregate (the genders) when we pray, and we allow women to lead prayer. Our values are very egalitarian and we really live those values out.”

Muslims for Progressive Values, which Zonneveld co-founded in 2007 with Pamela Taylor, a feminist American Muslim, is based on 10 principles. They include a commitment to equality of genders and for LGBTQ (or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) people, repudiation of militarism and violence and the need for “critical engagement with Islamic scripture.”
Link: Battling for Gay Rights in Allah's Name

The Jewish District in Medieval Vienna (German narration)

The Jewish district in medieval Vienna (Vimeo video with German narration)

In the Middle Ages Vienna was home to a thriving Jewish community, one of the largest and most important in Europe. Famous Rabbis taught and worked here and made Vienna into a center of Jewish knowledge. This lively and creative environment was forced to an abrupt end in 1420-21 with the expulsion and murder of the Viennese Jews. This virtual tour allows us to walk through the Vienna of the 14th Century and showcases the Jewish festivals and customs of that time, helping us understand how the life of this medieval Jewish community was organized.
Link: The Jewish district in medieval Vienna

23 October 2011

Anglicans and Old Catholics

On Anglicans and Old Catholics:
  • Part 1: The Origins of Old Catholicism
    This year is the 80th anniversary of the agreement between Anglicans and Old Catholics, best known as the ‘Bonn Agreement’. Originally, the relations between the Anglican Communion and the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht were called an intercommunion, but since 1961 the term ‘full communion’ is being used. The anniversary that falls this year is a good opportunity to pay some attention again to Old Catholicism and its special bond with Anglicanism on our blog. The establishment of the Old Catholic churches – we wrote about it last year here - is usually being related to the aftermath of the First Vatican Council. The Old Catholic were those Catholics that refused to accept the doctrine of Papal Infallibility and the Universal Jurisdiction. One has to remember, however, that the origins of Old Catholicism lay much earlier. We shouldn’t forget, above all, that every church which really deserves to be called by that name has its roots in the church of the first centuries. For both Old Catholics and Anglicans this is especially important. The former bishop of Old Catholics in Germany, Joachim Vobbe, said once that “it applies to every church that it begun on the day of Pentecost”.

  • Part 2: There is no way towards unity, unity is a way
    Swiss Old Catholic theologian, Urs Küry (1901-1976), wrote: “if we want to determine more precisely the attitude of the Old Catholic Church to the Anglican Communion, we have to start with the agreement concluded in Bonn in 1931″. Since we are writing this post on its 80th anniversary, such attitude would seem logical, but, like in the case of the history of Old Catholicism, we would like to reach deeper into the problem. As we mentioned, the Dutch Roman Catholic Church of the Old Episcopal Order (which was the official name of the “Jansenistic” church in the Netherlands) perceived Anglicans as Protestants, and, likewise, Anglicans saw their sister church rather in the Dutch Reformed Church, even though the doctrine of that church resembled in so many points Puritan teachings. Significant is what happened in Utrecht during World War II, which was a decade (!) after the conclusion of the Bonn Agreement. When the Nazis interned priest-in-charge, the local Anglican Congregation asked the Reformed Church for pastoral care, even though there were then three Old Catholic parishes in Utrecht, including the cathedral parish.

Islam in China

Islam in China: A Website on All Things Chinese, Muslim and Islamic

Islam in China is a website on all things at the intersection Chinese, Islamic, Muslim and everything in between. The aim of this website is to explore the culture, history and traditions of Chinese Muslims regardless of their ethnic background.
Link: Islam in China: A Website on All Things Chinese, Muslim and Islamic

12 October 2011

Saudis Listen to Call for Green Hajj

Saudis Listen to Call for Green Hajj, by Joseph Mayton (Green Prophet, 20 June 2010)

For far too long, Osman explains, “we have believed that no matter what happens the world will always be there as if it is permanent like God, but the reality is that we are destroying it and if we don’t take action soon, it will be gone. Or at least we will be.” What better place to begin educating and imprinting a sense of environmentalism than a place where three million Muslims visit each year to carry out one of the five pillars, or obligations, of Islam?
Link: Saudis Listen to Call for Green Hajj

Occupy Wall Street protesters have a sukkah

Occupy Wall Street protesters have a sukkah (JTA, 12 October 2011)

A sukkah was erected in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. The sukkah, which was built Wednesday at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, was sponsored by Occupy Judaism NYC, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, Kolot Chayeinu and CBST.
Link: Occupy Wall Street protesters have a sukkah


Anarca-Islam, by Mohamed Jean Veneuse (Anarchist Library)

NB: A thesis submitted to the Department of Sociology. Queen’s University Kingston, Ontario, Canada (August, 2009)

As an anarchist and a Muslim, I have witnessed troubled times as a result of extreme divisions that exist between these two identities and communities. To minimize these divisions, I argue for an anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian Islam, an ‘anarca-Islam’, that disrupts two commonly held beliefs: one, that Islam is necessarily authoritarian and capitalist; two, that anarchism is necessarily anti-religious. From this position I offer ‘anarca-Islam’ which I believe can help open-minded (non-essentialist/non-dogmatic) Muslims and anarchists to better understand each other, and therefore to more effectively collaborate in the context of what Richard JF Day has called the ’newest’ social movements.
Link: Anarca-Islam

Study: Teens leave churches seen as judgmental

Study: Teens leave churches seen as judgmental, by Adelle M. Banks (USA Today News, 7 October 2011) [RNS]

New research by the Barna Group finds they view churches as judgmental, overprotective, exclusive and unfriendly towards doubters. They also consider congregations antagonistic to science and say their Christian experience has been shallow.

The findings, the result of a five-year study, are featured in You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith, a new book by Barna president David Kinnaman. The project included a study of 1,296 young adults who were current or former churchgoers.

Researchers found that almost three out of five young Christians (59 percent) leave church life either permanently or for an extended period of time after age 15. One in four 18- to 29-year-olds said "Christians demonize everything outside of the church." One in three said "Church is boring."
Link: Study: Teens leave churches seen as judgmental

Eruv Tavshilin

Eruv Tavshilin (Chabad.org)

It is forbidden on a holiday to do any act in preparation for the following day,1 even if the following day is Shabbat. However, the sages created a halachic device, called an eruv tavshilin, which allows one to cook food on a holiday day for use on a Shabbat that immediately follows it.

If a holiday day -- whether the first or second day of a holiday -- falls on a Friday, an eruv tavshilin is set aside on the day preceding the holiday (Wednesday or Thursday afternoon), so that we will be permitted to prepare for Shabbat (cooking as well as any other necessary preparations) on the holiday. Only one eruv is required per household.
Link: Eruv Tavshilin

Cooking Defines Sephardic Jews at Sukkot

Cooking Defines Sephardic Jews at Sukkot, by Julia Moskin (New York Times, 11 October 2006)

LIKE its trees, Brooklyn’s sukkahs sprout in unlikely places. All over the borough, observant Jewish families spent the first week of October building sukkahs, outdoor rooms with open roofs, in preparation for the holiday of Sukkot, which began last Friday and ends this Friday. Perched on asphalt roofs and in concrete gardens, they will eat under the stars for a week to commemorate the Jews’ biblical wanderings in the desert.

For one food-loving community within Brooklyn’s sizable Jewish population, Sukkot has additional significance. “We always cook a lot, but for Sukkot, we do even more,” said Aida Hasson, who grew up in Beirut and is part of Brooklyn’s tight-knit community of Middle Eastern Jews.
Link: Cooking Defines Sephardic Jews at Sukkot

06 October 2011

Steve Jobs' Mantra Rooted in Buddhism: Focus and Simplicity

Steve Jobs' Mantra Rooted in Buddhism: Focus and Simplicity, by Susan Donaldson James (ABC World News, 6 October 2011)

Long before Steve Jobs became the CEO of Apple and one of the most recognizable figures on the planet, he took a unconventional route to find himself -- a spiritual journey that influenced every step of an unconventional career. Jobs, who died Wednesday at the age of 56 of pancreatic cancer, was the biological child of two unmarried academics who only consented to signing the papers if the adoptive parents sent him to college. His adoptive parents sent a young Jobs off to Reed College, an expensive liberal arts school in Oregon, but he dropped out and went to India in 1973 in search of enlightenment.

Jobs and his college friend Daniel Kottke, who later worked for him at Apple, visited Neem Karoli Baba at his Kainchi Ashram. He returned home to California a Buddhist, complete with a shaved head and traditional Indian clothing and a philosophy that may have shaped much of his corporate values.
Link: Steve Jobs' Mantra Rooted in Buddhism: Focus and Simplicity

05 October 2011

An Ethically-Challenged Apple?

An ethically-challenged Apple?
  • Apple admits child labour was used to build iPods and iPhones in Chinese factories (Daily Mail, 27 February 2010)

    Technology giant Apple has admitted that child labour has been employed at some of the factories that build its iPods, computers and mobile phones. An audit found that at least eleven 15-year-old children were found to be working in three factories that supply Apple in the last year. It said that child workers were now no longer being used at the sites, or were no longer underage.

  • Steve Jobs Ignored Poisoned Workers' Plea for Help at Apple Factory, by Ray Downs (The Christian Post, 1 September 2011)

    Two years ago, workers at a factory in Suzhou, China, were poisoned when Taiwanese electronics supplier Wintek, which was working under contract with Apple to make the touchscreens, replaced alcohol with N-hexane in the manufacturing process to speed up production. Prolonged exposure to N-hexane has been known to cause damage to the central nervous system, and when workers affected by the chemical wrote to Jobs, asking him for help in medical treatment and compensation for lost wages, they allegedly never heard back from anybody at Apple, much less Jobs.

  • The Dark Side of Apple: One Man's Monologue of Misery, by Asher Moses (Sydney Morning Herald, 30 September 2011)

For the past 15 months or so Daisey been touring the world stunning audiences with his two-hour tale of the appalling conditions and underage labour that goes into making our iPhones, iPods and iPads. The show, the Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs (review), has been running since Saturday at the Sydney Opera House and is due to conclude on Sunday.

Imperial History of the Middle East

Imperial History of the Middle East

Abstract: 5,000 years of Middle East history and empire building in 90 seconds.

Link: Imperial History of the Middle East

Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals

Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 2006)

By all accounts, pentecostalism and related charismatic movements represent one of the fastest-growing segments of global Christianity. According to the World Christian Database, at least a quarter of the world's 2 billion Christians are thought to be members of these lively, highly personal faiths, which emphasize such spiritually renewing "gifts of the Holy Spirit" as speaking in tongues, divine healing and prophesying. Even more than other Christians, pentecostals and other renewalists believe that God, acting through the Holy Spirit, continues to play a direct, active role in everyday life. Despite the rapid growth of the renewalist movement in the last few decades, there are few quantitative studies on the religious, political and civic views of individuals involved in these groups.

To address this shortcoming, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, with generous support from the Templeton Foundation, recently conducted surveys in 10 countries with sizeable renewalist populations: the United States; Brazil, Chile and Guatemala in Latin America; Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in Africa; and India, the Philippines and South Korea in Asia. In each country, surveys were conducted among a random sample of the public at large, as well as among oversamples of pentecostals and charismatics.
Link: Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals

02 October 2011

Preachers confront 'last taboo': Condemning greed amid Great Recession

Preachers confront 'last taboo': Condemning greed amid Great Recession, by John Blake (CNN Belief Blog, 1 October 2011)

The Great Recession is more than an economic crisis. It has become a spiritual dilemma for some of the nation’s pastors and their parishioners, religious leaders say. Three years after an implosion of the nation’s financial system helped push the country into its worst economic nosedive since the Great Depression, pastors are still trying to figure out how to address people’s fears from the pulpit.
Link: Preachers confront 'last taboo': Condemning greed amid Great Recession

Cross-Cultural Health Care: Case Studies

Cross-Cultural Health Care: Case Studies

These case studies investigate concepts of culture and their impact on health beliefs, discuss the impact of the patients' social and cultural factors on their ability to access health care, and explore how health care providers can work effectively with patients from culturally diverse backgrounds.
Link: Cross-Cultural Health Care: Case Studies

28 September 2011

26 September 2011

Digital Dead Sea Scrolls

Digital Dead Sea Scrolls Official Site

The Israel Museum welcomes you to the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Project, allowing users to examine and explore these most ancient manuscripts from Second Temple timehttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifs at a level of detail never before possible. Developed in partnership with Google, the new website gives users access to searchable, fast-loading, high-resolution images of the scrolls, as well as short explanatory videos and background information on the texts and their history. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence, offer critical insight into Jewish society in the Land of Israel during the Second Temple Period, the time of the birth of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. Five complete scrolls from the Israel Museum have been digitized for the project at this stage and are now accessible online.


19 September 2011

It’s not ‘class warfare,’ it’s Christianity

It’s not ‘class warfare,’ it’s Christianity, by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite (Washington Post On Faith, 19 September 2011)

This is what the Bible actually says about the economic practices of Jesus’ followers: “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common... There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.” Acts 4:32-35.


Capitalism isn’t “God’s Plan,” it’s an economic system that runs on the human desire for more, our own self-interest. This is not necessarily evil. It can actually be a very productive system, but it is not beneficent. In order for there to be good values in our economic life, capitalism needs to be regulated so it does not wreck the whole ship with unfettered greed (as happened in the banking industry starting in 2008), and it needs to be supplemented with social safety nets and tax policy to achieve an approximate (not absolute) “freedom from want” as in Franklin Roosevelt’s wonderful phrase. It was Roosevelt who translated “freedom from want” into a series of government programs to make it a reality such as Social Security, unemployment insurance, aid to dependent children, the minimum wage, housing, stock market regulation, and federal deposit insurance for banks.
Link: It’s not ‘class warfare,’ it’s Christianity

15 September 2011

The Future of Neurotheology

The Future of Neurotheology, by Andrew Newberg (Science+Religion Today, 24 December 2010)

Neurotheology is still very early in its development. Truly combining neuroscience with religious and spiritual phenomena was only possible with the advent of modern brain imaging techniques. Before the development of these techniques, the rudiments of neurotheology were developed based primarily on animal models and speculation. Today, we have begun to uncover substantial information regarding the relationship between the human brain and religious and spiritual practices and experiences

In the next five years, neurotheology will likely continue to advance our understanding of how the brain is associated with religious and spiritual phenomena. Most likely, the brain imaging studies that have become an important aspect of neurotheology will continue to expand. There are many types of practices and experiences that remain to be evaluated using brain imaging techniques. Traditions might be compared, as well as the wide variety of practices within each tradition. Imaging studies, along with other clinical studies, will help us better understand not only what happens in the brain at the time of a particular practice, such as meditation or prayer, but also how such practices affect us over time. Already, we understand that practices like meditation and prayer can lower anxiety and depression, and even help the brain remember better. Such improvements are associated with long-term changes in the brain’s function. Thus, religion, spirituality, and God all can change your brain.
Link: The Future of Neurotheology

14 September 2011

A Jew, a Muslim and a Christian Woman Dialogue

A Jew, a Muslim and a Christian Woman Dialogue, by Renee Ghert-Zand (Foward, The Sisterhood Blog, 13 September 2011)

Just before the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I noticed that a new blog called “SheAnswersAbraham” went live on the Web. The timing was not coincidental, as it is a deliberate effort by a group of three women – a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim – to put an interfaith conversation about sacred texts out into the world with positive energy.

Each Friday, a different sacred text will be the subject of commentary and personal reflection from each of the three faith perspectives. The sources of the texts will follow a rotation through the different traditions. The first text discussed was “And God said, ‘Let us make a human in our image, according to our likeness….’”from Genesis 1:26.

The authors of the blog want to be known only by the pseudonyms “Tziporah,” “Grace,” and “Yasmina.” Readers can glean some basic information about their backgrounds from the short bios posted on the blog.
Link: A Jew, a Muslim and a Christian Woman Dialogue

China's influence in Africa includes church construction

China's influence in Africa includes church construction, by Fredrick Nzwili (Episcopal News Service, 14 September 14 2011)

At All Saints Roman Catholic Basilica in Nairobi, African workers were recently singing lively Christian worship songs as they broke ground for the construction of a new office block for the Nairobi archdiocese.

However, they were not working for an African or British construction company. China Zhongxing Construction is building Maurice Cardinal Otunga Plaza, one of many church contracts Chinese construction companies have won in recent years as China has expanded its influence in Africa. Now, Chinese firms build many bridges, roads and stadiums across the continent.
Link: China's influence in Africa includes church construction

Pastrami Egg Rolls and the Jewish Love of Chinese Food

Pastrami Egg Rolls and the Jewish Love of Chinese Food, by By Josh Ozersky (Time, 14 September 2011)

The scene was a freakish one at RedFarm the other night. The tiny modern Chinese restaurant, which opened a few weeks ago in Manhattan, was a veritable who's who of the food media. Rachael Ray was at a table next to mine; Top Chef's Gail Simmons was sitting next to me with RestaurantGirl.com's Danyelle Freeman; Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman was a couple of tables away. And circulating freely about the room, making small talk and working the crowd, was neither the chef, the brilliant Joe Ng, nor the owner, Jeffrey Chodorow, but instead a portly, bespectacled Chinese-food nerd named Ed "Eddie Glasses" Schoenfeld, who had put the restaurant concept together. Ng, who lets his cooking do the talking, is essentially a silent partner.

Now, if you're wondering how a Jewish guy from Brooklyn has come to be the public face of a Chinese restaurant, then you probably aren't Jewish. The connection between Jews and Chinese food is so well established that it's been commented on in academic papers and mused about by Chinese and Jewish thinkers alike. There was even a Gilmore Girls episode about it, and what more proof can you need than that? Eddie Glasses is merely the most extreme expression of the trend, a Jewish guy who made himself, by sheer geekery, a Chinese-food guru.
Link: Pastrami Egg Rolls and the Jewish Love of Chinese Food

12 September 2011

For Muslim family, faith complicates grief for loved one lost on 9/11

For Muslim family, faith complicates grief for loved one lost on 9/11, by Jessica Ravitz (CNN, 29 August 2011)

His smiling image has been cut out of a snapshot and carefully added to a photo of his father, so it looks as if the boy is standing beside the man. It smacks of a bad Photoshop job, but it gives the two a shared moment, even though they never met. The boy's sister, Fahina, created the montage. She is 15 and clings to scant memories and aging photographs. But Farqad, almost 10, has nothing.


Farqad was born two days later, after terrorists hijacked planes and killed nearly 3,000 -- including 38-year-old Mohammad Salahuddin Chowdhury, who worked atop the North Tower of the World Trade Center.


"I can't imagine not having any memories," said his firstborn, Fahina, unable to hold back her sobs. "Someday, Farqad's going to search online and see everything. I have to help him understand."


"For a Muslim person to go through this, it's something no one can understand," she said, the tears still falling. "Extremists used the religion as an excuse to do terrible things. It's so much easier to be mad at people than to get to know them."
Link: For Muslim family, faith complicates grief for loved one lost on 9/11

05 September 2011

Jewish bikers meld leather, chrome ... and faith

Jewish bikers meld leather, chrome ... and faith, by Jennifer Miller (Washington Post, 30 July 2011)

On a Friday morning in May, Betsy Ahrens, 64, rode through the streets of Virginia Beach on a friend’s bright red Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. Ahrens was just one of 250 bikers to travel through the city by police escort that day, and pedestrians gawked, slack-jawed, at the processional. Drivers halted at intersections, aiming their cellphone cameras. A few people waved at Betsy, but tentatively, as though to greet a biker — however friendly she seemed — would be to welcome in potential chaos, the volatility associated with leather and chrome.

As the snake of bikes wound past strip malls and quaint neighborhoods, Ahrens wondered what the onlookers were thinking. She hoped they could make out the Judaism-themed patches fixed to the riders’ leather jackets: the blazing insignias of the Lost Tribe, the Jewish motorcycle club of Richmond and the Tidewater region of Virginia; the Chai Riders of New York City and its environs; the Hillel’s Angels of New Jersey; and Shalom n’ Chrome of Charleston, S.C. Ahrens decided that next year, her cohorts needed to fly more Israeli flags from their bikes.
Link: Jewish bikers meld leather, chrome ... and faith

29 August 2011

Coming Out Twice: Sexuality and Gender in Islam

Coming Out Twice: Sexuality and Gender in Islam: A Conversation with Scott Kugle, by Susan Henking (Religion Dispatches, 24 August 2011)

As scholar Scott Kugle knows well, to be both Muslim and gay means the possibility of having to “come out twice”—with the likely chance of encountering either homophobia or Islamophobia (or both), depending on the context.

But in recent years, a new discussion of Islam and sexuality has emerged, led in large part by professor Kugle, who teaches South Asian and Islamic Studies at Emory University. Having written many books on Islam, including Homosexuality in Islam: Islamic Reflection on Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Muslims (2010), he is currently working on a collection entitled Voices of Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Muslim Activists (forthcoming in 2012, NYU Press).
Link: Coming Out Twice: Sexuality and Gender in Islam: A Conversation with Scott Kugle