"Our founding American fathers probably could not have predicted that an Asian-American female rabbi would be blessing a Chanukah Menorah in the White House for an African American President. It’s a miraculous country we live in." -Rabbi Angela Buchdahl


anonymous asked:

I've got issue with your "fact" that christians and jews were treated "well" during the islamic empires period. It's a myth that is very popular on tumblr. Yes, there was some toleration in most islamic states but the level of toleration differed significantly from state to state and period from period. Non-muslims had to pay a special tax, could not carry arms, had to wear distinct clothing, women were often forced into marriage/slavery. No mass genocides does not equal being treated well...

well, it’s not really a “myth” because i learned that when studying history, it’s not something i read on tumblr. I understand tumblr has a tendency to fetishise us non-Europeans and to often use such examples to uncritically paint non-European civilisations as utopias and to act as though only Europeans were guilty of racism and intolerance, and we must be careful not to fall into such simplistic dichotomies.

You are right that they were not treated exactly like Muslims and it wasn’t utopian, but the reason I say they were treated relatively well is because they did have a specific legal status that accorded various protections like being free to practice their religion, and how they were not forced to abide by Islamic law. This kind of tolerance is striking in an era where conversion at the point of the sword was the norm, when we consider how centuries later, Christian sectarianism would cause widespread bloodshed in Europe during the Reformation, in a time where it was normal for religious minorities to be expelled from places. It’s kind of sad “no mass genocides does not equal being treated well” is the standard back then, but we have to remember 800 years ago there was really no universal concept of human rights as we understand it, and genocides were very often normal. Religion held a much bigger sway over the world and was very much a stronger justification for murdering non-believers. What I wanted to highlight is that next to the 20th century Ottoman Empire’s genocides of its Christians, next to the modern problem of Islamic extremism, next to ISIS’s current religious intolerance- Islam has historically had very different views towards non-Muslims.

So, as much as the Islamic extremists such as ISIS like to pretend they are returning Islam to its roots, the truth is Islam during the era of the caliphates was more tolerant of non-Muslim minorities than they are.

this is just a random thought but i always feel like “uhhhh” whenever I see people say things like “Judeo-Christian God” and I pretty much hate the phrase.

Because it seems to be used to erase the third Abrahamic religion and make it look like Islam is some distant religion instead of uh, having the SAME ROOTS as Judaism and Christianity? I feel it’s often used to perpetuate anti-Muslim sentiments. Also it kind of feels like there’s a bit of a racial dimension at hand when people erase Christianity’s Middle-Eastern origins.

Also it seriously makes me uncomfortable when in Europe a lot of Christian communities were complicit in antisemitism for centuries (and still are). And in that context, some US politicians (like Sarah Palin) who ID as Christian fling around the term “Judeo-Christian” to use as a cudgel against Muslims. That’s just insidious, really- multilayered oppression and cynical usage of people as pawns.

Fun fact: during the era of the islamic empires, christians and jews were treated well generally because they were “people of the book” (i.e they worship the same creator, islam simply believes the quran is the most accurate version of god’s word). The world as we know it today was not always so.

Some interfaith conflict in the Israeli Parliament:

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein says he refused to display a Christmas tree in the parliament because of the “painful memories” it evoked among Jews.

Edelstein told Israel Radio Thursday such a public display of a Christian symbol could be construed as offensive.

Earlier this week, Edelstein rejected the request of a Christian-Arab lawmaker. He said the parliamentarian could display a tree in his office and party’s conference room.

Edelstein says the initiative is part of an Arab campaign to chip away at Israel’s Jewish nature. He warned that if he had agreed he would then likely face further requests to display a cross and crescent in parliament.

Edelstein has a point, of course.  He’s quite right that as soon as the state agrees to adopt the symbolism of a particular religion, it then risks the appearance—if not the active adoption—of favoritism towards the selected group, and others will complain.  

But what’s strange about this incident is that Israel pretty clearly has a favored religion already.  Judaism is the official state religion of Israel in everything but name, and it’s obvious to anyone that examines the relationship between State and religious authorities in the country.  To highlight an example that came up recently, Jewish religious authorities are given state funding to investigate marriage seekers, in order to prevent the “wrong” kind of marriages from occurring, including marriages involving “individuals of questionable Jewishness.”  Haaretz made the following helpful chart at the link above to explain Israel’s marriage system:

Basically, Israel’s religious authorities are paid by the state to subject citizens seeking marriage licenses to something akin to a religous purity test.  Anyone who fails or refuses is denied a marriage license and may seek a civil union.  But you can only get a civil union if you declare yourself as “no religion” on a state form, which a lot of religious people are clearly not going to be comfortable doing.  All of this, unfortunately, is done with the blessing of the Israeli Government, which remains forever fearful of any type of cultural assimilation that could cause Israel to lose its “Jewish nature,” to use Edelstein’s term.

These are just more examples of how Israel’s obsession with remaining a “Jewish State” creates a quagmire for the Government of Israel.  Religious Judaism is obviously a very important part of Jewish identity, so a significant part of the Israeli Government’s attempts to maintain the “Jewish nature” of Israel includes subsidizing the activities of Jewish religious authorities.  Unfortunately, this sometimes inures to the detriment of Israeli citizens, including Jewish Israelis who may be subjected to invasive and humiliating investigations by religious authorities seeking to “authenticate” a couples’ Jewishness before they’re allowed to receive a marriage license.

I’m not anti-Christmas. I’m really, really not. But tonight, since I’m staying with my roommate until I fly home tomorrow, I really wanted to light real Channukah candles, spin dreidels, fry up some latkes- the whole shebang. But the grocery stores and the dollar stores didn’t have Channukah candles so I settled for tacky-looking birthday ones. And no one had dreidels, or gelt- or any type of chocolate coin-, and there wasn’t even any potato pancake mix.

And its the heart of my holiday tonight, four down, four to go, but whenever I walk outside all I see are Santas and Jesuses and reindeer and trees. Whenever I walk outside all I hear are carols and “merry christmas”es. Heck, I can’t even listen to Channukah songs on YouTube without having to sit through a Christmas commercial first.

And you know what? It kind of hurts. It feels like you’re that kid on the playground who no one will talk to or play with. It feels like you were waiting on a friend who never showed up. It feels like not existing, not being valued. I mean, when I was trying to find something, anything, that was Channukah and kept coming up blank, I was honest to God crying. Because its so lonely to not be acknowledged.

And people, well-meaning, good people, tell me to celebrate Christmas with them. To set up a tree and hang the ornaments  and set a stocking up on the mantle and wear a fluffy sweater with snowflakes on it. But that feels like selling out. It feels fake. It feels dirty to me, to toss aside my culture and my religion and my heritage just so that I can feel like I exist. I can’t do it, and I won’t. I don’t hate people for celebrating their holiday, I don’t hate Christmas or Christianity or any deviation of it.

I just hate feeling so empty.

Chanukah in New Zealand is a little different from how Americans celebrate it, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, there are so few of us here- six thousand is a pretty generous estimate. I believe there’s a grand total of two synagogues on the mainland, as well. This means that people in New Zealand are barely aware we exist, which leads to questions like ‘So where’s your… hat thing?’ and ‘Are you sure you’re Jewish?’ (For the record, I’m pretty sure.) Without a sizeable Jewish community, we slide beneath the radar, beneath notice. We have to constantly affirm our Judaism, wear it like a badge of honour, shout it from the rooftops if we must. As our schools close down, as our foods are outlawed, as more and more of us leave for America and Israel, it begins to seem as though this is not a country where Jews can thrive.

It’s not easy to be Jewish, and it never really has been. But as long as we celebrate who we are, as long as we commemorate those who have gone before us and await with excitement those yet to come, we can remain, and we can thrive.

My family doesn’t do big things for the holiday- I know for a fact I’ve seen some of our gifts in the aisles of Vinnie’s and CoinSave- but I’m glad of the fact that we celebrate at all, that by lighting candles and spinning dreidels we can remember our history, and face the future with hope.


On December 17, 2014, President Obama celebrated the second night of Hanukkah in the East Room of the White House.

Ugh I’m getting so frustrated writing my Chanukah fic

And it’s not even anything to do with the fic, I’m really enjoying the fic itself

It’s that I keep feeling like I have to constantly dial myself back- I can’t make the characters TOO Jewish, can’t get into TOO much depth with this holiday (even though that’s the fucking point of it) or I’ll be shoving it down people’s throats and no one will be able to relate to it or want to read it

Even though I know perfectly well that if I was writing one of the thousand Christmas fics that crop up during this season I wouldn’t be feeling that way

But that’s how it’s been coded to me by this fucking country my whole freaking life.  Chanukah was this oddity that my peers vaguely learned existed, but nobody cared for more than an hour because Christmas is what it’s all about, everybody celebrates Christmas!  (Tbh, I was lucky as fuck that I’m of mixed heritage and celebrate both or I probably would have been miserable every December).

It’s the same goddamn thing as how boys’ experiences are considered universal but stories about girls are considered a niche that only girls can relate to, or how you can show a straight couple having sex in a movie but the second a same-gender couple holds hands, the movie is “shoving it down your throat”

And it’s not even logical because I’ve gotten nothing but positive responses on the first chapter (and even a “THANK YOU!”)- nobody is censoring me yet, but I’m doing it to MYSELF because that’s how I’ve been trained my whole life to think


shakingsphere replied to your post “this is just a random thought but i always feel like “uhhhh” whenever…”

A lots of Jewish people dislike the term as well, as they feel it erases Judaism, and makes it seem like a form of Christianity. The term Abrahamic makes more sense if you must group then together imo

thanks for sharing that perspective! “judeo-christian” has always made me uncomfortable for various reasons and now that’s another reason not to use it.

yeah, it’s like I’ve seen the term “Abrahamic religion” used by anthropologists, historians etc. I pretty much see Judeo-Christian only used by some politician who is probably Islamophobic. It seems like a kind of insidious divide-and-conquer type of dog whistle.

I agree Abrahamic makes sense because it kind of uses the name a figure who does exist in the Quran, Torah and Bible as a point of origin. It therefore doesn’t privilege one over the other or reek of erasure.

In 5th grade my jewish friend explained the difference between Judaism and Christianity

"Like, the first half of everything is the same. But y’all think Jesus is the messiah and to us he’s just another jew. We’re still waiting for the messiah. That’s why we watch the news - the messiah could show up any day now! In fact, he could be coming RIGHT NOW!" and then she grabbed her backpack and ran to her house yelling "ANY DAY NOW!!!"

Chanukah is de facto a major holiday for us in America. The big American-style Chanukah is a lot of fun. Recognize why Chanukah has become what it is in America, but don’t tie yourself into knots over it.

Be proud that we keep our traditions in any form at all in a world that puts such pressure on us to disappear.

Make fun of goys who think it’s Christmas.