Wednesday November 22, 2017

Known for 1986 Nuclear disaster, Chernobyl also has a deep Jewish Legacy

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Jewish kids and teacher in Ukraine 1941. Image Source: Jewua.org

Chernobyl’ is small city located in keiv oblast in Ukraine where lot of big things have happened in the past. Chernobyl is city where 1986s catastrophic nuclear accident happened. This nuclear accident happened due to flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately trained personnel.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJ4rs_xCMe8

But before all that Chernobyl was use be place Rabbinic Dynasty lived. It said that Markham Markham Twersky is the first twersky of the Dynasty. He was born around 1730 and came to Chernobyl in 1770s as preacher. Later Markham Markham became Chernobyl’s Rebbe.

“He wrote a book called ‘the light of the eyes’ is the foundation of the Hasidic ideology in those days” said Yitz Twersky, descendant of Twersky.

Markham Markham had 8 sons each then went to different Ukraine rabbinic chords there. This was the begging of the great rabbinic dynasties.

Until the middle of 20th century through the times of holocaust there was always a Twersky presence in Ukraine.

“My grandfather was the rebbe of a city in southern Ukraine. In 1941 when the german’s came in the city was bombed and everyone was gathered into a school” said Yitz Twersky

Entire jewish population was target by the Nazis including all the rebbe’s, intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, leaders. They were told that they will be moved into labour camps but instead they were massacred. Mass killing like these wiped out entire families. The twersky family in southern Ukraine also lost many members of their family.

Yitz twerksy’s father rebbe Yacob Josheph Twersky moved to the United States after surviving the second World War, the death of his parents and years in concentration camps.

“When I was in college , I was taken to rebbe’s funeral  then one led to another and I started researching who my family was , who were the people at the funeral, how we are related and that started a 30 years of introspection, learning lot of things about myself and twersky family. So I started at the New York public library where in those days they had phonebooks and I actually withdrew manually every phonebook, wrote down every twersky’s name and started making calls. And Started making family tree’s and searching other record books.” Said Yitz Twersky.

Over the last 30 years Yitz has been gathering his family history and searching for other descendants. According to Mr.Twersky’s estimate there are about 50,000 people wh belong to the twersk family.

“I have documented 25,000 people 15 years ago, I have stopped the documentation of the rabbenical  descendants. I kind of decided to marry and have five kids.” Said Yitz.

What unites all the known twersky descendant is their strong connection Chernobyl no matter how far they live.

-by Bhaskar Raghavendran

Bhaskar is a graduate in Journalism and mass communication and a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter handle: bhaskar_ragha

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World’s Oldest Board Game Backgammon Being Used by Jerusalem Double to unite Jews and Arabs

Backgammon is acting as a peace maker between Israelis and Palestinians. Every one in Middle-East irrespective of one's religion has an attachment with this game.

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Backgammon- An ancient board game that is acting as a bond to unify Jews and Arabs.
Backgammon- An ancient board game that is acting as a bond to unify Jews and Arabs. Pixabay.
  • An ancient game turning out to be a peace maker between Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem
  • Backgammon is a deeply rooted game in the Middle-East, which is uniting segregated neighbors
  • Backgammon is one of the oldest board games in the world

Jerusalem, September 11, 2017: No one had ever imagined the power of Backgammon. And about how this ancient game could act as a game changer in the Middle-East.

Backgammon is one of the world’s oldest board games that is currently being used to bring back peace in the Middle-East.

Jerusalem Double project is a series of Backgammon tournament that takes place in Jerusalem. It is an inter cultural initiative by Jerusalem Foundation to create more interaction between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel is the only Jewish state in the world which is located just at the east of Mediterranean Sea. Jew is a word used for those people who profess Judaism irrespective of the place they live in.

Palestinians consist of the Arab population that hails from the land which is now controlled by Israel. They want to establish a state by the name “Palestine” on all or part of the land, which is currently controlled by Israel.

“We wanted to bring Jews and Arabs together beyond the daily grind. We wanted to create a joint cultural event in which everyone can share and we wanted to create cross over between neighborhoods that for generations have been completely segregated”, believes Zaki Djemal from Jerusalem Foundation.

Jerusalem Double chose Backgammon as a medium to break the walls between the Jews and Arabs because Backgammon is deeply rooted in the Middle-east. It is highly accessible and inclusive.

Initially, the project Jerusalem Double had faced a lot of resistance from both the communities. But, they went against the wind and left no stone unturned to make this project work. As a result, the Backgammon proved to be a catalyst towards a positive change.

In 2106, when the first Backgammon championship had happened, only 150 people showed up. But this time, 250 people participated in the tournament and competed for a cash prize of 6,000 USD.

Play can create empathy between strangers and apparent enemies and it can give us the confidence that we need to trust in each other and in the world we have been slighted, even after we have experienced pain, suffering, and fear said Zaik Djemal.

Backgammon is an outstanding initiative towards a peaceful morning in the Middle-East.

-prepared by Shivani Chowdhary of NewsGram. Twitter handle: @cshivani31

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Nazi Protests in American Soil and Obsession with Jews: “Unite the Right” Rally in Charlottesville (US) suffuses with Anti-Semitism and Anti-Black Racism Logic

This Saturday, However, was not like the usual Saturdays. In the world outside, Swastikas were being displayed and slogans were being shouted

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Anti Semitism and white supremacy
A man holding up a sign reading "Deplorables and Alt-Right Unite". Wikimedia
  • “Unite the Right” rally on August 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia was about protecting a statue of Robert E. Lee
  • The rally soon suffused with anti-black racism and anti-Semitism
  • President Trump blamed both the sides for the violence 

New Delhi, August 23, 2017: The “Unite the Right” rally On Saturday, August 12, in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was seemingly about protecting a statue of Robert E. Lee, spreading the message of white supremacy, was soon suffused with anti-black racism and anti-Semitism.

Saturday evening in a Jewish home is a sight to watch. Some look forward to restart their work, others pleased to use their cell phones again. Whatever it be, the end of Sabbath is an auspicious time when the holiness leaves, giving way to the regular week again. One makes the best of this time, to be able to deliver the approaching week happily, the reason why people at this time wish each other a “Shauva Tov,” or a good week.

This Saturday, However, was not like the usual Saturdays. In the world outside, Swastikas were being displayed and slogans were being shouted.

“I was in Israel and as I breathed the spices our sages teach us to comfort our soul while we lose our Shabbat spirits, this ritual barely prepared me for the news that was waiting on the other side. I turned my phone on, only to learn that a rally of White Supremacists and neo-Nazis took place in Charlottesville, Virginia and that those in attendance were shouting that ‘Jews will not replace us’ I realized immediately that it was not, in fact, going to be a shavua tov,” Said Jessica Spengler in a report published in Manhattan Jewish Experience website.

President Trump, two days later, blamed both the sides for the violence in Charlottesville. “I think there is blame on both sides. You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now,” He said, according to The New York Times report.

In a reaction to which, “Our president not only held counter-protesters to the same moral deficiency as the Nazis themselves but also claimed that not all people at the Unite The Right rally were antisemites. That might technically be true but not the kind of unequivocal condemnation of racism and bigotry we need to hear from the top,” Jessica mentioned.

ALSO READ: Jewish cemetery becomes the fresh hunt of rising Antisemitism in US

“I rarely speak of Israel as a safe haven also since America has been a safe option for Jews for as long as I’ve been alive. The 1800’s saw large waves of immigration to the land of Israel due to the pogroms occurring in Eastern Europe. The rising anti-Semitism reinforced in Europe by 20th century Fascism brought, even more, refugees to what would eventually become the Jewish State. But here’s the kicker: as a Jewish American, I never had to put myself in their shoes. After all, we live in America! But the images of white supremacists and neo-Nazis marching with swastikas in America in 2017 jolted me and got me thinking…maybe Israel is still needed as a safe haven even for us?” Jessica who’s herself a Jew living in America added.

Jessica believes it’s our responsibility to confront racism and all forms of bigotry, particularly anti-Semitism. She finds it important to speak against the bigotry in America but holds, that to continue to strengthen Israel is equally essential.

– prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha

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What is the relation between Religion and Drug use?

Is there a connection between religion and drugs? Do some religions advocate drug use? 11 religions and their views on drugs will surprise you.

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Relationship between Religion and Drug use
Relationship between Religion and Drug use. Pixabay
  • Buddhists are meant to refrain from any quantity of fermented or distilled beverages
  • The goal of Jainism is to escape the cycle of reincarnation
  • Ayahuasca is used by South American tribes as part of a powerful religious experience

August 12, 2017: Throughout the history, Religion and Drug use have been seen as intertwined but the nature of this relationship has changed over time, from one place to another, one religion to another and with changing times. It’s true that Alcohol and other drugs have played some crucial part in the religious rituals of numerous groups. Some religions have specific laws, others have interpretations from religious texts, while some religions have no official message about the use of narcotics.  In this article, we will explore the relationship between religion and drug use as per different religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism and many others.

Buddhism

Buddhism is not in favor of drug use.  Though it offers suggestions on how one should try to lead their life. Buddhism make a valid point that alcohol and drugs should be avoided.

According to the fifth precept of the Pancasila, Buddhists are meant to refrain from any quantity of “fermented or distilled beverages” which would prevent mindfulness or cause heedlessness. The Pali Tipitaka (Buddhist scriptures) says, “I undertake the training rule to abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness.”

The Dalai Lama has stated, “drug use hurts the mind’s ability to be introspective, which leads to unintended and unguided consequences”.

Jainism

Followers of Jainism are instructed to abstain from anything intoxicating, unless for a medical purpose. The pollution of the mind should be avoided so as to avoid disrupting the state of the Supreme Being called Jina (Conqueror).

Jainism has a strict diet that is vegetarian and also excludes some vegetables like onions, potatoes, carrot, and radish, basically all root vegetables. Unlike some other religions, Jainism does not allow alcohol use as the process of alcohol formation involves fermentation, which includes microorganisms, thus it is not considered vegetarian. This is because they follow the principle of non-violence. The goal of Jainism is to escape the cycle of reincarnation. The spiritual effect, or Karma, of violent actions, stop them from attaining this. Mahavira, also known as Vardhamana, was the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankara (who achieved salvation) of Jainism, said, “Kill not, cause no pain. Nonviolence is the greatest religion.”

Hinduism

Hinduism has one of the most intertwined connections with narcotics use in its origin. Arthashaastra of Kautilya (an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, written in Sanskrit) states, ‘The mind of a drunken person becomes confused, then the confused mind commits sins…a wise person should never even try wine and other intoxicants.’

While there are some Hindus who still use marijuana or psychedelics most of the Hindus dissuade their use. Soma, a drink with psychedelic properties, is directly mentioned in the Vedas (the first Hindu texts). Some images of the god Shiva depict him with a marijuana pipe. While there is no direct religious text denying them, leaders declare it hurts the ability to achieve spiritual harmony. Again, the goals of spiritual harmony and drug use are seen as contradictory. Laws of Manu an ancient Hindu text states that ‘He must not get willfully addicted to any… substances of self-gratification; he must try to overcome such dependence through will power.’

Also Read: Are you addicted to Drugs? Well, it may cause Tooth Decay and periodontal Disease

Islam

Islam is one religion which has a strong stance against the use of any substance, with direct quotations in the Quran about it. “Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer.” Therefore, many Muslims are taught to be completely substance free. Under Islam, it is considered to be haram (unlawful). Quran states, ‘concerning wine and gambling…as per them is a great sin…the sin is greater than the profit.’ Though some Muslims argue the Quran only bans alcohol and if the Quran does not explicitly deny something, it is permissible.

Interestingly some extremist Islamic groups like ISIS give their fighters amphetamines and justify it by saying that it is being used for a higher authority and has medicinal purposes.

Sikhism

Sikh doctrine is one of the few religions to specifically mention drug use. It is not vague about the prohibition of drugs, Bhagat Kabir said, “Those mortals who consume marijuana, fish, and wine – no matter what pilgrimages, fasts, and rituals they follow, they will all go to hell.”

As per Sikhism use of alcohol, wine and other recreational drugs used with the intention of creating or enhancing recreational or religious experience are condemned by the Sikh Gurus. Recreational drugs like LSD, PCP, tobacco, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy as well as inhalants like shoe glue, gases, aerosols, shoe glue, solvents etc are abhorred in Sikh religion.

The reason given is that the intoxicants affect your ability to focus on God all the time. Gurbani talks in the Guru Granth Sahib that “Those who do not use intoxicants are true; they dwell in the Court of the Lord.” There is an exception though, the Nihang of Punjab, a Sikh military order, used marijuana in meditation. But, this was banned in 2001 by the ruling body of Sikh clergy. The leader of the Nihang at the time refused to follow the ruling and was excommunicated. Its use for meditation is still continued by some Nihang.

Catholicism

There is no official doctrine on drugs in Catholicism. The Bible does not directly state not to smoke marijuana. Though, the Catholic Church has strongly been against the use of drugs and also for the nonprescription use of it. Pope Francis, the current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, said, “Every addicted person brings with them a distinct personal history, which should be listened to, understood, loved, and, where possible, cured and purified. We cannot fall into the injustice of classifying them as if they were objects or broken junk.”

Pope Francis has called drugs “evil” and does not support their legalization. His approach, matching his more liberal style, has been to focus on saying “yes” to spirituality.

There are several lines of Scripture recommending a sober mindset in general. New American Bible states, “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Though it’s confusing, how can the Catholic Church say no to drugs while allowing alcohol in their ceremonies? The answer is moderation. The Catholic Church argues consumption of alcohol can be moderated, while most narcotics cannot, which is the reason they allow the use of alcohol versus other substances. This does not mean it is encouraged. As most priests encourage sobriety.

Also Read: Formulate a National Action Plan to Combat Drug Abuse among Children, says Supreme Court

Christianity

Christianity has the same view as that of Catholicism: No substance use, although alcohol is okay in moderation. However, there are Bible passages indicating total non-use of it: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.”

Shamanism

The variation between different belief systems means there are different variations on the use of drugs according to different religions. Some religious practices directly involve the use of psychotropic drugs. The Native American Church uses Peyote (small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids) to have spiritual visions and as a part of their religious ceremonies. They are legally allowed to use drugs this as its part of their religion. Other groups appreciate the influence of alcohol as a part of the natural world.

Ayahuasca (one of the most powerful hallucinogens on the planet) is used by South American tribes as part of a powerful religious experience. This has gained them popularity globally, with thousands of tourists venturing to partake in the drug and the unique ritual.

Shinto

Shinto has an intimate connection with alcohol; it’s an ethnic religion of Japan. There is no mention of narcotics in the religious texts, so it’s left to their personal choice. Sake- the liquor of the gods is consumed at special occasions such as births or weddings. There is even holy sake called Omiki and practitioners drink this when visiting a shrine.

Given the high alcoholism rate in Japan and few seeking treatment, it is unclear if this practice should continue or not. It may be linked to cultural practices that go way beyond the religion. There is some historical evidence that marijuana was used for religious ceremonies, but it was not consumed. There are no moral absolutes in Shinto. The main ethical code is to follow Kami (spirits/deities). But even the Kami makes mistakes and are contradictory at times.

Shinto does try to eliminate impurities. This is called Tsumi and stands for pollution or sin. While there is no specific mentioning of narcotics, it can be argued they are Tsumi. This would require a cleansing ceremony, potentially using alcohol. But, it’s uncertain how many Shinto followers abstain from drug use.

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Judaism

In Judaism, the body belongs to God; therefore, the body must be treated with respect and dignity. While alcohol can be consumed at festivals and ceremonies, like the Sabbath, it must be done in moderation. All other substances are banned in this religion.

Baha’i Faith

The Baha’i Faith explicitly prohibits drug use, Kitáb-i-Aqdas or Aqdas (central book of the Baha’i Faith) states, “Beware of using any substance that induceth sluggishness and torpor in the human temple and inflicteth harm upon the body. We, verily, desire for you naught save what shall profit you.”

Alcohol is also prohibited. Baha’i scholars state this comes from purity of the soul. They believe the spiritual effect on an individual is far graver than the legal consequences or health effects of drug abuse. The sale and trafficking of such substances is also forbidden

Other religions like Rastafarianism (Africa-centered religion) which allow the use of marijuana for worship and as a part of religious rituals, Wicca  (contemporary Pagan new religious movement) there is no official rule condoning or denying drugs and Taoism (Chinese religion)  doesn’t condone drug use.

– prepared by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08

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