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Newest female Progressive rabbi

The ordination of SA’s new Progressive rabbi was held on an auspicious day. The 160th anniversary of the Jewish Theological Seminary Breslau, the 140th yahrzeit of Abraham Geiger (founder of Reform Judaism) and the 75th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland. It is also the 5th anniversary of the Foundation of Abraham Geiger College where she studied

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ANT KATZ

PICTURES BY STEVE LURIE FOR SAJR

Rabbi Julia Margolis became the third South African woman to be ordained as a rabbi and the first to serve in South Africa, when she and six other new rabbis and cantors, were ordained in Poland on Tuesday.  The ceremony, hosted by the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam Germany, was held at the White Stork Synagogue in Wroclaw, Poland, on September 2 and poignantly took place 75 years since the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

Margolis was born in Moscow, in the former Soviet Union. At the age of 12 her family made aliyah and she completed her high schooling in Israel and served as an educational officer in the army (IDF).
In 2000, after her release from IDF she earned a bachelor´s degree from Ben-Gurion University in Jewish History, Islam and Art. Margolis then went on to complete her master´s degree in Jewish Studies in 2005.

She was raised in a family with deep roots in the Progressive movement – her mother was the first Russian-speaking female rabbi in Israel. Julia herself worked in the Progressive movement in Israel and has represented the movement in summer and winter camps all over the world.

Ordination - Julia proudly displays her certificate
RIGHT: Julia Margolis proudly displays her ordination certificate in Poland on Tuesday

Rabbi Margolis became involved with the Progressive movement in South Africa in 2009. 

During her internship, she worked as rabbinical assistant at Beit Emanuel, and since 2011 she has been working for the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) in different synagogues, as well as performing in life cycle events.

 
Her thesis focuses on a book of Menachem Finkelstein “Proselytism – Halakhah and Practice”.

Margolis will now be working at Bet David in Morningside, making her the only female rabbi currently holding office in South Africa.

Rabbi Margolis lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two daughters.

Studied in Germany

She studied to become a rabbi at the Abraham Geiger College in Germany. Geiger (1810 – 1874) was the founder of Reform Judaism.

Ordination - Julia and Mom FULL

LEFT: Julia Margolis with her mother Rabbi Helena Rubinstein of St Petersburg and Rabbi Rob Jacobs of Bet David in Sandton

In a joint message issued by the SAUPJ and the SAAPR (SA Association of Progressive Rabbis) today, the two organisations say they “would like to wish Rabbi Julia Margolis a hearty mazal tov on receiving her rabbinic ordination (smicha) from the Abraham Geiger College on 3 September 2014 in Wroclaw Poland.” They also give Rabbi Margolis’ new email address: rabbi.margolis@betdavid.org.za for anyone else who would like to communicate with her directly.

The ordination event was held on an auspicious day, being the 160th anniversary of the Jewish Theological Seminary Breslau, the 140th yahrzeit of Abraham Geiger and the 75th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland. It is also the 5th anniversary of the Foundation of Abraham Geiger College 

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 The historic White Stork Synagogue in Wrocław, Poland,
was Abraham Geiger’s pulpit for many years

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Aaron

    Sep 3, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    ‘One would think that the reform movement wouldn’t make a big deal about female rabbis. Why the fuss?’

  2. Vivian

    Sep 4, 2014 at 8:00 am

    ‘Mazel Tov! Rabbi Julia Margolis!’

  3. Dion

    Sep 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    ‘What is the size of the reform community in SA? They seem largely ineffective.’

  4. Jim

    Sep 4, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    ‘@Dion, very small. ‘

  5. Spencer

    Sep 5, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    ‘DO NOT JOIN HANDS WITH THOSE PROMOTING INTERMARRIAGE ASSIMILATION AND NON-OBSERVANCE. AND I AM NOT IMPRESSED BY ABRAHAM GEIGER’S PRETTY CHURCH- THE GREATEST TORAH GIANT IN GERMANY CALLED GEIGER A LIAR, TRYING TO UPROOT THE JEWISH FAITH. IN FACT GEIGER DID NOT CALL HIMSELF JEWISH BUT RATHER \”A GERMAN OF THE MOSAIC PERSUASION! \” WAY TO GO GEIGER- IT DIDN’T SAVE YOUR CATHOLIC CHILDREN FROM THE GASCHAMBERS….

    WE ARE WITNESSING A SELF-IMPOSED HOLOCAUST OF ASSIMILATION IN THE USA DUE TO HIS AND HIS MOVEMENT’S ACTIONS.

    SPEAKING OF WHICH REFORM HAS NEVER BEEN ZIONISTIC UNTIL THE MID 2OTH CENTURY- BEFORE THAT THEY REJECTED ZIONISM BECAUSE IT WOULD EFFECT THEIR STATUS IN THEIR COUNTRIES OF DOMICILE- READ THE \”PITTSBURGH PLATFORM OF REFORM\”. STEPHEN WISE, THEIR REFORM LEADER PREVENTED RABBIS PROTESTING THE HOLOCAUST FROM SPEAKING TO ROOSEVELT OVER THE JEWS PLIGHT IN EUROPE.

    OUR SAINTLY SOUTH AFRICAN CHIEF RABBI, LOUIS RABINOWITZ WAS QUITE RIGHT WHEN HE EXPLAINED REFORM’S \”FUTILITY\” AND HOW REFORM IS THE \”HALF-WAY HOUSE TO CHRISTIANITY\” (SEE BOOK \”TO REACH FOR THE MOON: THE SOUTH AFRICAN CHIEF RABBINATE OF LOUIS RABINOWITZ\”) SHEER EVIL. PEOPLE ATTENDING BET DAVID: DO NOT BE FOOLED. YOU CAN GO TO REGINA MUNDI CHURCH IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR ANOTHER VERSION OF CHRISTIANITY- EVEN IF YOU HAVE A CHARISMATIC FEMALE CLERIC. JOIN RABBI SUCHARD’S SANDTON SHUL IF YOU WANT YOUR GRANDCHILDREN TO REMAIN JEWISH.

  6. Rabbi Greg

    Sep 6, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    ‘Mazal tov to my newest colleague!’

  7. Rina

    Sep 6, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    ‘Mazal tov to rabbi Julia. Her mother Yelena  is a marvellous rabbi and an intelligent person. Her daughter rabbi will follow the lead. ‘

  8. david

    Nov 4, 2014 at 5:51 am

    ‘What a pity that ‘Spencer’ had to spoil the wonderful occasion and achievement of the New Rabbi Julia Margolis, who has joined the elite in South Africa.

    Rabbi Suchard and Regina Mundi  have no bearing on her accomplishments whatsoever .

    We welcome her with open arms , as a peer of Rabbi Suchard and all other Rabbis

    It’s bad enough to live with the awful beliefs of the Arab Nations. Do we need an internal divide as well

    A Jew is a Jew is a Jew, and long it be so.  ‘

  9. Karen

    Nov 21, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    ‘I am more than disgusted at Spencer’s remarks about Reform Judaism. How dare he say it is a half way house to Christianity? How dare he imply that I, as a committed Reform Jew, am any less of a Jew than he is? I was born  Jewish and chose the Reform philosophy at the age of thirteen because it was the most meaningful and spiritual to me. When I immigrated to Canada twenty one years ago, my family continued to be involved in the Reform movement here. We joined a wonderful, supportive Shul, where we were welcomed as part of the family. I studied for two years, and did my adult Bat Mitzvah at the age of 55, a defining point of my life as a Jewish woman, who is now able to study and read Torah and perform the Mitzvot just like every other adult in my community. I attend Shul every Shabbat – Friday and Saturday. We keep Shabbat as a family, always kindling the Shabbat candles, I am in Shul for all the holidays, and we perform acts if Tikkun Olam within our community and beyond. We are strong supporters of Israel, as are most Reform Jews, and I feel sure that Israel benefits greatly from the support of many Reform Jews throughout the diaspora. So, Spencer, I am as a Jewish as you are, whether you like it or not, and as an Orthodox Jew, you should be practising some tolerance for those who are of your tribe, but may interpret things in their own way. It does not make us lesser Jews at all. We are proud JEWS, albeit Reform Jews, who will continue to flourish and bring up our children and grandchildren as Jews. We are here to stay, so get used to us! A Jew IS a Jew, is a Jew.’

  10. Melvin Kaplan

    Nov 23, 2014 at 9:32 am

    ‘Spencer, Spencer, Spencer,

    Only a South African could take the narrow position that you have. I can not imagine such a view coming from an Orthodox Israeli, U.S.A., European or any other Orthodox diaspora Jew. Your (S.A.) Orthodoxy is unorthodox!

    You are blind if you think that Conservative or Progressive Jewry is “those promoting intermarriage assimilation and non-observance” any more than

    Orthodox.

    That “we are witnessing a self-imposed holocaust of assimilation in the U.S.A.” (and elsewhere, for that matter) is without question one of the biggest problems facing world Jewry today. I believe the number is something close to 2,000 self-identifying Jews a day.

    But the truth is that while less than 20% of Jews in the world identify themselves as being Orthodox, almost half of those lost to Jewry were born into Orthodox

    homes.

    I have not been to S.A. for years, but I am guessing that most of your community are still non-Orthodox in practice – yet too ashamed to call themselves anything else in name. So they will drive to their Orthodox synagogue on Shabbos.

    Oh, and FYI, there are no “Reform” Jewish communities in S.A. (unless they have been founded recently but have no internet footprint). What you have there is a Progressive Jewish community.

    They pray from exactly the same Torah that you do – written by the same sofers. So what if their interpretations of some sections may be more modern than yours? Surely, for example, their belief in only observing one day for a Chag, as Orthodox do in Israel, makes sense today?

    I have to agree with Karen on this, as I too, am disgusted! Karen refers to the Reform movement which she is part of in Canada. S.A.’s community is Progressive. Similar in nature to Reform, but more Progressive Jews make aliyah and keep kosher homes than Reform say the statistics.

    Finally, speaking of statistics, let me ask you this: if you extract the Heredi community from the Orthodox, How would you propose – as a purported Zionist –

    that we keep an Israel, an army, a currency, a language, a culture, and so many other things alive if you are going to only recognise that there are somewhere around one-and-a-half-million Jews in the world who are Zionists.

    Wake up, my friend, we were born into Judaism together. Self-identifying Orthodox Jews in the IDF wouldn’t be able to hold back Cyprus! And, with the notable exception of Jews in South Africa, I do not know of any other Jewish community in the world, including (actually, especially in) Israel, from which such an uneducated opinion could have emanated.

  11. Alchemist

    Apr 28, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    ‘Pretty horrified at the ‘synagogue’ with statues and church like paintings…..if they dont want to be compared to Christianity how about removing these blasphemist things from their prayer rooms???? Shocked!’

  12. tony

    Jul 2, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    ‘to put an end to this futile discussion.

    If your reform – YOU ARE NOT JEWISH. PERIOD!

    and that goes for ‘rabbi’ greg, aswell’

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Jewish News

Chassidic lego on offer

An American Jewish mother came up with the idea to build a Star Wars-inspired Lego shul – including the Legovitcher Rebbe and chassidim. She is trying to crowdfund her “Beis Death Star”, titling her episode “The Brickovicher Rebbe Returns”. In the illustration the Legovitcher Rebbe is seen leading his chassidim into battle…

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Tobey Finklestein dreamed up the idea and she’s trying to make it something with which other parents and kids can have fun with. She started a Kickstarter (online crowdfunding) appeal to pay for the project and have it on the market by Pesach. The self-described “Jewish-Asian tiger mom” said she came up with the idea after her 10-year-old came asking for the “Lego Death Star”.

StarWars 1-3Now he is likely to get a Jewish version of it. 

Those who donate (a minimum of $18) to help build the first intergalactic shul – Beis Death Star Kochav Chaim – will be rewarded with their “very own Brickovicker Chasid,” she says.


A Brickover Rebbe

So far just $333 has been pledged by 11 backers towards Toby’s goal of raising $1 200. The offer expires on March 26.

Funders each get their own, unique Chassid, built of Lego bricks, says Tobey. Not only that, she also promises to throw in extras for the bigger backers. These include:

  • A fly rubber streimel compatible with most Lego minifig heads and a custom torso assembly bearing the “Chassid” logo
  • A personalised certificate of lifetime membership to Beis Death Star Kochav Chaim, including:
    • An invitation to our Chanukahs Habayis (inauguration)
    • A mission from the Brickovicker Rebbe
    • Self-determination of your Brickovickers Special Power
    • Discounted High Holiday seats
    • Access to the Brickovicker community on Facebook to share the exploits of Brickovickers far and wide, received when you order your Brickovicker and become a founding backer ($18+):

Tobey says her goal is to have a little fun with her family, build and disseminate her own woman-owned and operated sect of Chassidim, and generate enough revenue to build the first intergalactic shul with her kids.


StarWars


StarWars Rebbe leads the charge


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Dershowitz hopes Trump will make him proud

Prominent Jewish commentator on Israel, lawyer and academic, Alan Dershowitz, a lifelong Democrat, said in Detroit last week that his “greatest hope is that four years from now I’ll be proud to cast a vote for Donald Trump. As a patriotic American I want him to succeed.

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“I can predict exactly what will happen in the next four years. It will be unpredictable. That is both Trump’s strength and his weakness,” he said at the city’s Temple Bet El. 

Turning to the Middle East, Dershowitz said: “The primary obstacle to peace is the Palestinians’ unwillingness to recognise Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. 

“(Former President Barack) Obama was wrong when he said that Israel was created because of the Holocaust. Israel was created because of Zionism, a movement that long predated the Holocaust.

“I think President Obama honestly believes that he has done what is good for Israel. He is wrong. Jimmy Carter hates Israel. He is anti-Israel. President Obama is not. But the Security Council Resolution is just dumb. They could have taken the Jewish areas of Jerusalem out of the resolution, but they didn’t.”

The four main settlement blocs could all be incorporated into Israel and traded for other land. The farther-flung settlements were a provocation, but the settlements were not the primary obstacle to peace. 

“In the last eight years Israel’s military has remained strong and it has maintained a qualitative edge over other armies. The US supported Israel when it went into Gaza. Nobody should call Barack Obama anti-Israel. Nobody should call Barack Obama anti-Semitic.”

He said nobody yet knows what Obama’s role would be as a former president. Some former leaders have had immensely positive roles after their terms. It was important for Israel to try to increase its ties to China, Russia, Africa, South America…

“We have a great weapon, emet, truth. We need to teach our children not the propaganda, but the nuances, the complexities and they will be prepared to make the case for Israel,” he stressed. 

“The case for moving the embassy is strengthened by the Security Council Resolution. The threat of violence should not deter us. That encourages more acts of violence.”

Americans should take a stepped approach – state the policy of moving its embassy to west Jerusalem and talk to Arab allies about it. It should not just be moved now.

The American Jewish advocacy group, J Street, had “moved left of the hard left in Israel. They supported the UN Security Council Resolution. Nobody in Israel supported the UN resolution. It declares the Kotel and the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem to be occupied territory. I do not consider J Street to be a pro-Israel organisation.” 

Dershowitz had strong words for the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement (BDS).

“No university in the US will accept BDS, because we will fight fire with fire. If you implement BDS against Israel, we’ll implement BDS against your university.”

 

By courtesy of Detroit’s Temple Beth El Assistant Rabbi Megan Brudney and Cantor Rachel Gottlieb Kalmowitz

 

  • Former South African Tessa Goldberg was the Beth El executive director for many years.

 

 

 

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Berlin highlights divide among German Jewry

Even before the deadly attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Jews in Germany were divided in their approach to the arrival of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Muslim countries since 2014.

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TOBY AXELROD

Citing a Jewish moral duty to aid the displaced, many Jewish organisations, synagogue groups and individuals have rallied to help the newcomers, including asylum seekers fleeing the civil war in Syria. But some Jews have warned that the influx of immigrants risks importing to Germany the homicidal anti-Semitism of Muslim extremists who attacked Jewish targets in France, Belgium, Denmark and beyond.

In Monday’s attack, a man described by the Islamic State terrorist group as one if its “soldiers” killed 12 people and wounded 48 by plowing a stolen truck through the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church market. While police hunt for suspects, the attack is likely to further polarise competing views on Muslim immigration in German society in general – especially among Jews who fear they will be among those targeted by Islamists here.

Following the attack, whose perpetrator is presumed to be at large, the top priority is to take on “this army of Muslims from the wildest part of the earth,” said Pavel Feinstein, a member of Berlin’s Jewish community who supports the far-right Alternative for Germany party, whose manifesto from April declares that “Islam is not part of Germany.” AfD, as the party is known, also is accused of being a hotbed for anti-Semites.

Feinstein, 56, told JTA that he came to espouse the AfD view after hearing the slogan “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” being chanted at an anti-Israel demonstration two years ago in Berlin.

“They weren’t just Islamists, they were also normal Muslims, students and so on,” he recalled. “And no one was charged or punished.

“Up to then I felt at home in Berlin. And now this feeling is gone.”

The hostility expressed by Feinstein, an artist who immigrated to Germany from the former Soviet Union with his family in 1980, may be more common among Russian-speaking Jews, who constitute the largest of the three contingents that make up Germany’s present-day Jewish population of some 200 000. And such views are likely to only harden after the attack, in which one Israeli was wounded. His wife remained missing on Wednesday and was feared to be among the dead.

Feinstein’s sentiment seems less prevalent among Jews who grew up after the Second World War in a society whose youth were taught to reject any semblance of the murderous Nazi xenophobia and anti-Semitism. His rhetoric seems to be even rarer among the 7 500 Israelis living in Berlin, some of whom say they left for Germany partly over what they see as Israel’s rising nationalism.

To be sure, many Russian-speaking Jews, including Sergey Lagodinsky, a Green Party politician and member of the Berlin Jewish Community Council, do not subscribe to Feinstein’s embrace of a far-right vision. Meanwhile, among Jews with deeper roots in Germany, many speak openly and clearly of the risks connected to massive immigration from Arab countries, as do some of Berlin’s Israeli Jews.

Jews of all backgrounds here tend to be “sceptical” of the wisdom of letting in large numbers of Muslims, as has been the policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Lagodinsky said. But Russian-speaking Jews in Germany generally express this “through a more populist way”, including by “engaging with populist parties and ideas”, he added.

Russian speakers of all religions, who make up a large minority of several million people in Germany, are not the only ones showing a proclivity to populism amid what some pundits are calling Germany’s immigration crisis.

On the eve of a big election year in this country, the immigration issue is bolstering AfD, which the mainstream representatives of Jews in Germany reject for the xenophobic and sometimes anti-Semitic rhetoric of some of its members.

While the AfD missed the 5 per cent mark needed to enter parliament in the last federal elections in 2013, polls from before the market attack predicted the party would win 16 per cent of the vote next year. The party currently holds seats in 10 of Germany’s 16 state parliaments, up from five a year ago.

Against this background, terrorist attacks may well cost the centrist Merkel her post and send Germany swinging harder to the right than it has in decades. Her decision in 2015 to allow into Germany 800 000 immigrants from the Middle East has already come under attack even inside her own party amid a string of incidents involving that population – including last summer’s brutal axe attack in Würzburg by a 17-year-old from Afghanistan.

Commenting on the attack, the Berlin director of the American Jewish Committee, Deidre Berger, told JTA that she was worried about the “more than 100 000 unaccompanied minors” among the asylum seekers who “are highly susceptible to the easy answers of radical Islamist ideology.”

Such events have also brought to a head tensions over this issue within the Jewish community, where some members describe the influx of Muslim immigrants as an existential threat.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany, which is the country’s main Jewish umbrella group and has also organised activities to assist Middle Eastern asylum seekers, has warned against a rightward tilt as an answer to the terrorist threat. And Charlotte Knobloch, 84 – a child survivor and head of the Munich and Bavarian Jewish communal organizations – told JTA that the AfD is “totally out of the question for Jewish people”.

On the other hand, in October 2015, the council’s president, Josef Schuster, said in a widely read interview with Die Welt that “there is now fear that with people of Arab origins, anti-Semitism in Germany could increase. I share this concern.” Schuster said the issue should be addressed by emphasising integration initiatives among the newcomers. He also said he supported a magnanimous policy toward asylum seekers, though he added that “eventually” a quota would have to be agreed upon.

But his remarks exposed him to heated criticism by some Israelis In Berlin. Several dozen of them, along with non-Israeli activists, protested Schuster’s remarks at a rally in November 2015 outside the council’s offices, carrying posters of Anne Frank and of the biblical quote “Love Thy Neighbour”.

“I cannot stand by when the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany assumes a far-right position, supports limiting refugee quotas and instrumentalises anti-Semitism, homophobia and sexism while pretending to speak for ‘the Jews’ in Germany,” wrote Shaked Shapir in Berlin’s Hebrew-language magazine, Spitz, which devoted an entire edition to discussing Schuster’s 2015 remarks.

German officials have been careful not to speculate as to whether the church market attack is connected to radical Islam, as many here believe. The caution appealed to some Israelis in Berlin, who contrasted it with what they regard as a tendency to jump to conclusions in Israel.

“We like the fact that in Berlin it is more calm. They are still investigating, and we will wait,” said Ido Porat, who lives here with his wife and their two small children.

While most Jews in Germany don’t see the influx of migrants from Middle Eastern countries as an invasion, the issue is nonetheless particularly divisive to their communities, according to the German Jewish historian Michael Wolffsohn.

“Every conscious Jew knows or remembers what refugee problems are all about,” he said. “At the same time every conscious Jew knows that many Muslims are more hostile to Jews than, say, Eskimos.”


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12 die, 50 injured in Berlin truck carnage

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