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Muslims Have Many Allies Against Hate Crimes

Image via Wikipedia - Click for fullsize

Image via Wikipedia – Click for fullsize

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

The FBI reports that hate crimes against Muslims in the USA rose in 2015 to their highest levels since the aftermath of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. In 2015, there were 257 incidents of anti-Muslim bias compared to 154 incidents in 2014, an increase of 67%.

The total is second only to the surge in anti-Muslim hate crimes following the 9/11/01 terror attacks, when 481 incidents against Muslims were reported. Fortunately, Muslims have many allies in the Anti-Hate Crime fight.

Scapegoating (blaming innocent minorities for widespread discontent and anxieties within the majority population) is wide spread in the USA so there are many different groups of people who are victims of hate crimes; which are not just directed against Muslims.

Attacks against LGBT, immigrants, blacks, women and Jews have also increased.

Jews have a very long history of being scapegoated for the ills of various European states, and are especially aware of the danger of scapegoating as an ill-conceived way of solving problems in the general society.

Thank God the anti-haters are now getting aroused, and that Jews are well represented among those opposing the attempt to scapegoat all Muslims for the sins of a very violent politicized few.

Although hate crimes against Muslims rose by 67%, in actual numbers, the 257 incidents of anti-Muslim bias were less than 5% of the total 5,850 reported hate crimes, and just under 22 percent of the 1,402 anti-religious hate crimes.

Of the 5,850 reported hate crimes in 2015:
59.2 percent of all victims were targeted because of bias against race or ethnicity;
19.7 percent were victimized because of bias against religion; and
17.7 percent were targeted because of bias against sexual orientation.

There are lots of hate filled individuals in America; and they have lots of different groups that they can hate. Often they hate several different scapegoats.

Of the 1,402 victims of anti-religious hate crimes:
52.1 percent were victims of crimes motivated by their offenders’ anti-Jewish bias.
21.9 percent were victims of anti-Islamic (Muslim) bias.
4.3 percent were victims of anti-Roman Catholic bias.
3.6 percent were victims of anti-Eastern Orthodox Christian bias.
3.4 percent were victims of anti-Protestant bias.

Religious-based hate crimes increased by 23% from 2014 to 2015. Many people expect that hate crime incidents for 2016 will rise by at least 1-3,000.

On the other hand, the Anti-Defamation League, which combats anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, saw a 50-fold increase in online donations on the day after the election.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties and outreach group, gained more than 500 volunteers in the two days after the election.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which supports women’s reproductive rights, received donations from nearly 200,000 people in the week after the election, about 40 times more than in a typical week, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which defends the civil rights of individuals, said on Monday it had received more than $7 million from about 120,000 donations over the five days after the election. During the same period after the 2012 election, the group collected less than $28,000 from 354 donations.

And George Soros says he will commit $10 million from his personal foundation to combat the rise in hate crimes. Mr. Soros, a Jewish Holocaust survivor and an immigrant originally from Hungary, said he was “deeply troubled” by hundreds of reports of possible hate crimes since the election — including many Nazi swastikas spray-painted on cars and buildings.

And going well beyond the norm, the Jewish head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an anti-bigotry group, has vowed to register as a Muslim if the USA creates a database of Muslim Americans. The idea of a Muslim database arose in November 2015, when Mr Trump told a reporter he would “certainly implement that. Absolutely”.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, said: “If one day Muslim Americans will be forced to register their identities, then that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim”.

Let us all follow the example of Jonathan Greenblatt, and the words of Pope Francis who delivered a ringing plea to the world and his own Catholic Church to reject “the virus of polarization and animosity” and the growing temptation to “demonize” those who are different.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: www.rabbimaller.com


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Flip that tired old New Year’s resolution thing

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New Year’s Day: it’s that magical time when people traditionally make grandiose promises, set ambitious new goals that soon fall by the wayside.

Again.

How many failed diets, how many unused gym memberships and dusty pieces of “miracle” exercise equipment result from this tradition?

Enough, I say. Enough!

Unless it’s sustainable, and sustainable in reality – not just in your impulsive imagination – such “resolutions” are huge wastes of time and energy. They’re also soul-killers. They set you up for failure. They teach you that goals and failure are one and the same. Bad, bad, bad!

So here’s your choice. You can slog along with all the other lemmings and endure yet another round of such futile, annual self-flagellation, OR you can try something different. A new approach is just the thing when an old one fails you. Learn and adapt! That’s how life gets better and better is, well…

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Peace on Earth

Image via Tumblr / hymncharts.com

Image via Tumblr / hymncharts.com

Late last night there were just a handful of stores open in my area. I drove out to the all night pharmacy to pick up some last minute items for tonight’s feast. The rattle and din of the usual Christmas traffic had all died down. And I felt it. I finally felt it!

The Christmas spirit!

When I got home that magical feeling finally hit home. A quiet city. Children asleep in their beds, dreaming of new toys and, I guess in the 21st century, all the latest gizmos. Also to remember on a night like that are the poor who have no one to celebrate with. I wondered about a man at my parish who lives outside in the harsh winter cold. Was he desolate? Happy? I can’t know.

I recall one Christmas when I lived by a Salvation Army Mission in downtown Ottawa. One man who simply went by the name “Animal” yelled out loud Christmas morning,

IT’S CHRISTMAS!

That really summed it up for me. A street person, yelling out in joy, that is was Christmas morning. Animal knew what it was all about.

Merry Christmas to everyone who wishes to celebrate it!

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Image via Tumblr


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A Modern Miracle of Hanukah Dedication?

By Rabbi Allen Maller

This is the true story of retired Army Major Mike Neulander, from Newport News, Virginia, and who is now a Judaic silversmith.

In the fall of 1990, I received notice that I would be transferred to the First Cavalry Division, which was headed for Saudi Arabia. Then as now, Jews were forbidden to enter the country. But our Secretary of Defense told the king of Saudi Arabia, “We have Jews in our military. They’ve trained with their units and they’re going. Blink and look the other way.”With Kuwait occupied and the Iraqis at his border, King Fahd did the practical thing. We shipped out.

But there was a problem. Normally the dog tags of Jewish servicemen are imprinted “Jewish.” But the army, fearing that this would put Jewish soldiers at great risk should they be captured, substituted “Protestant B” on the tags. I didn’t like the whole idea of classifying Jews as Protestant-anything, and so I decided to leave my dog tag alone. I figured if I were captured, it was in God’s hands. Changing my tags was tantamount to denying my religion, and I couldn’t swallow that.

In September 1990 I went off to defend a country that I was prohibited from entering. The “Jewish” on my dog tag remained as clear and unmistakable as the American star on the hood of every Army truck.

A few days after my arrival, the Baptist chaplain told me. “I just got a secret message through channels,” he said. “There’s going to be a Jewish holiday. You want to go? It’s at 1800 hours at Dhahran Airbase.”

The holiday turned out to be Simhat Torah, a holiday that I hadn’t celebrated since I was a kid. Services were held in absolute secrecy in a windowless room. We couldn’t risk singing or dancing. We were strangers to one another in a land stranger than any of us had ever experienced, but for that brief hour, we felt at home.

The next time I was able to do anything remotely Jewish was Chanukah. As Rabbi Romer talked about the theme of Chanukah and the ragtag bunch of Maccabee soldiers fighting Israel’s oppressors thousands of years ago, it wasn’t hard to make the connection to what lay ahead of us. There, in the middle of the desert, inside an green tent, we felt like we were Maccabees.

We blessed the candles, praising God for the miracles He performed, in those days and now. And we sang the special blessing, the Shehecheyanu, thanking God for keeping us in life and for enabling us to reach this season. The feeling of unity was as pervasive as our apprehension. I felt more Jewish there on that lonely Saudi plain, our tanks and guns at the ready, than I had ever felt back home in a synagogue.

That Chanukah in the desert gave me the urge to reconnect with Judaism. I felt religion welling up inside me. I know that part of my feelings were tied to the looming war and my desire to get with God before the unknown descended on us.

The soldier sitting beside me stared ahead at nothing in particular, absentmindedly fingering his dog tag. “How’d you classify?” I asked, nodding to my tag. Silently, he withdrew the metal rectangle from beneath his shirt and held it out for me to read. Like mine, his read, “Jewish.”

During the remaining months before we returned home I never met a Jewish soldier whose dog tag was “Protestant B.” Maybe I had experienced a modern miracle of Hanukah dedication

Thanks to rabbimaller.com


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Is Spirituality for Losers?

I liked this tweet because over the years some folks have confronted me in one way or another, saying things like “What if you’re wrong and there is no afterlife? You’ll have wasted your whole life, investing yourself in something that doesn’t exist!

My response to that person was that my spirituality enriches my life, here and now. And Arti Gupta’s response to a similar kind of skepticism is, I think, appropriate for the Christmas season.

For me, Christmastime includes quiet reflection on the birth of Christ. Not that I’m against party people in Santa hats who couldn’t give a hoot about Jesus. That’s fine too. But for me, there’s so much more than mere revelry.

Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr


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Today’s Top Tweet – Is Religion Bad For Mental Health?

This may seem a superficial story, lumping all religions together under the heading of “religion.” But it does make some distinctions.


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Today’s Top Tweet – Is psychiatry “fixated” at a base level of human understanding?

Is psychiatry “fixated” at a base level of human understanding? Generally speaking, I would say yes and no.

Yes… because individual spirituality is often suspect in psychiatric circles. We’ve all heard the phrase “magical thinking.” Problem is, some people really are on the edge, and not in a good way. So that only reinforces psychiatry’s potential marginalization of sane, non-violent individuals who might be pioneers in redefining how we, as human beings, relate to God and all of creation.

No… because psychiatry does recognize recognized religions. That means it’s okay, from the psychiatric perspective, to identify with traditional “Catholics”—a social group that tends to closet or turn a blind eye to in-house gays while at the same time calling homosexuality disordered. Contradictory?

Having said that, there are always exceptions. Some psychiatrists no doubt are more open-minded and aware than others. Contrary to what the APA and other “Royal Colleges” would have us believe, there is variation among psychiatrists, just as there are exceptions and variations among Catholics and Catholic priests.

Sociologically, psychiatry is a lot like a religion. And its ever-changing DSM∞ is reminiscent of new interpretations of religious scripture. If practitioners in a given “school” deviate too far, they’re out. So even those who think freely must toe the line or lose their jobs, in both psychiatry and religion.