Posts Tagged ‘Judaism’

Napoleon and the Jews

January 24, 2011
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
 

An 1806 French print depicts Napoleon Bonaparte emancipating the Jews.

The ascendancy of Napoleon Bonaparte proved to be an important event in European Jewish emancipation from old laws restricting them to ghettos, as well as the many laws that limited Jews’ rights to property, worship, and careers.

Contents

Napoleon’s Law and the Jews

The French Revolution abolished the different treatment of people according to religion or origin that existed under the monarchy; the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen guaranteed freedom of religion and free exercise of worship, provided that it did not contradict public order. At that time, most other European countries implemented measures restricting the rights of people from minority religions. The conquests of Napoleon Bonaparte spread the modernist ideas of revolutionary France: equality of citizens and the rule of law.

Napoleon’s personal attitude towards the Jews is not always clear, as some feel that he made a number of statements both in support and opposition to the Jewish people at various times. Historian Rabbi Berel Wein in Triumph of Survival claims that Napoleon was primarily interested in seeing the Jews assimilate, rather than prosper as a community: “Napoleon’s outward tolerance and fairness toward Jews was actually based upon his grand plan to have them disappear entirely by means of total assimilation, intermarriage, and conversion.” This ambivalence can be found in some of his first definitively recorded utterances on this subject in connection with the question of the treatment of the Alsace Jews and their debtors raised in the Imperial Council on April 30, 1806. On the other hand, his liberation of the Jewish communities in Italy (notably in Ancona in the Papal States) and his insistence on the assimilation of Jews as equals in French and Italian society indicate that he was sincere in making a distinction between usurers (whether Jewish or not), whom he compared to locusts, and Jews who accepted non-Jews as their equals.

This attitude can be seen from the letter he wrote on the 29th of November 1806, to Champagny, Minister of the Interior:

[It is necessary to] reduce, if not destroy, the tendency of Jewish people to practice a very great number of activities that are harmful to civilisation and to public order in society in all the countries of the world. It is necessary to stop the harm by preventing it; to prevent it it is necessary to change the Jews. […] Once part of their youth will take its place in our armies, they will cease to have Jewish interests and sentiments; their interests and sentiments will be French.

(It should be remembered that Napoleon, while insisting on the primacy of civil law over the military, retained a deep respect and affection for the military as a profession, and often recycled former soldiers in civilian occupations).

The net effect of his policies, as a result, significantly changed the position of the Jews in Europe, and he was widely admired by the Jews as a result. Starting in 1806, Napoleon passed a number of measures supporting the position of the Jews in the French Empire, including assembling a representative group elected by the Jewish community, the Sanhedrin. In conquered countries, he abolished laws restricting Jews to ghettos. In 1807, he made Judaism, along with Roman Catholicism and Lutheran and Calvinist Protestantism, official religions of France. Napoleon rolled back a number of reforms in 1808 (so-called décret infâme of March 17, 1808), declaring all debts with Jews annulled, reduced or postponed, which caused the Jewish community to nearly collapse. Jews were also restricted in where they could live, in hopes of assimilating them into society. These restrictions were eliminated again by 1811.

Though Ben Weider argued that Napoleon had to be extremely careful in defending oppressed minorities such as Jews, he clearly saw political benefit to his Empire in the long term in supporting them. He hoped to use equality as a way of gaining advantage from discriminated groups, like Jews or Protestants and Catholics. Both aspects of his thinking can be seen in a response to a physician (Barry O’Meara) who asked why he pressed for the emancipation of the Jews, after his exile in 1816:

My primary desire was to liberate the Jews and make them full citizens. I wanted to confer upon them all the legal rights of equality, liberty and fraternity as was enjoyed by the Catholics and Protestants. It is my wish that the Jews be treated like brothers as if we were all part of Judaism. As an added benefit, I thought that this would bring to France many riches because the Jews are numerous and they would come in large numbers to our country where they would enjoy more privileges than in any other nation. Without the events of 1814, most of the Jews of Europe would have come to France where equality, fraternity and liberty awaited them and where they can serve the country like everyone else.

Bonaparte and a Jewish state in Ottoman Empire

During the siege of Acre in 1799, Bonaparte prepared a proclamation declaring a Jewish state in the area of Palestine within Ottoman Syria[1], though he did not issue it. The siege was lost to the Ottoman Empire and the plan was never carried out. Some historians, including Nathan Schur in Napoleon and the Holy Land, believe that the proclamation was intended purely for propaganda purposes, and that Napoleon was not serious about the creation of a Jewish state. Some believe that the proclamation was made in order to win the heart of Haim Farhi, the Jewish advisor to the ruler of Acre, Ahmed al Jazzar, and to bring him over to Napoleon’s side, as Farhi was the actual commander of the defence of Acre on the field. Henry Laurens holds that the proclamation never took place and that the document which supposedly proves its existence is a forgery.[2]

Napoleon’s legacy

Napoleon’s indirect influence on the fate of the Jews was even more powerful than any of the decrees recorded in his name. By breaking up the feudal trammels of mid-Europe and introducing the equality of the French Revolution he effected more for Jewish emancipation than had been accomplished during the three preceding centuries. The consistory of Westphalia became a model for other German provinces until after the fall of Napoleon, and the condition of the Jews in the Rhine provinces was permanently improved as a consequence of their subjection to Napoleon or his representatives. Heine and Börne both record their sense of obligation to the liberality of Napoleon’s principles of action, and the German Jews in particular have always regarded Napoleon as one of the chief forerunners of emancipation in Germany. When Jews were selecting surnames, some of them are said to have expressed their gratitude by taking the name of “Schöntheil,” a translation of “Bonaparte,” and legends grew up about Napoleon’s activity in the Jewish ghettos. Primo Levi said that the Italian Jews often chose Napoleone as their given name to recognize their liberator.

The reactions of the major European powers

The first to object against the creation of the Great Sanhedrin was the Russian Czar Alexander I. He vehemently denounced the liberties given to the Jews and went further still, demanding that the Orthodox Church protest against Napoleon’s tolerant religious policy. He referred to the Emperor in a proclamation as “the Anti Christ” and the “Enemy of God”.

The Holy Synod of Moscow proclaimed : “In order to destroy the foundations of the Churches of Christendom, the Emperor of the French has invited into his capital all the Judaic synagogues and he furthermore intends to found a new Hebrew Sanhedrin. Which is the same tribunal that dared long ago to condemn the Lord Jesus to be crucified.”

In Austria, the Chancellor Metternich wrote “I fear that the Jews will believe (Napoleon) to be their promised Messiah”.

In Prussia, the Lutheran Church was extremely hostile, while in Italy the reactions were less virulent but remained unfriendly.

The reaction of London was unequivocal, rejecting the principle and doctrine of the Sanhedrin.

The Czar was able to persuade Napoleon to sign a decree restricting the freedoms accorded to the Jews on the 17th of March 1808. Napoleon hoped that in exchange the Czar would keep his promise to put pressure on London in order to end the war. But three months later the Emperor effectively cancelled the decree by allowing local authorities to implement his earlier reforms. More than half of the départements restored the freedoms guaranteed to citizens to their Jews.

Jews in Europe

All the states under French authority applied Napoleon’s reforms. In Portugal, the State allowed Jews the same rights as other citizens and authorised them to open the synagogues for the first time in over 300 years. In Italy, in the Netherlands and in the German states, the Jews were able to take their place as free men for the first time in the society of their respective countries.

After the defeat of the Empire at Waterloo, the counter-revolution restored discriminatory measures in many countries. In France however, the Bourbons relegated the Legion of Honour to a minor civilian decoration and replaced it with the Royal Order of Saint Louis as the highest French distinction. Those to be decorated with it were required to prove their Catholic faith, effectively barring Protestants, Jews and Muslims who had received the Legion of Honour from enjoying an equal status under the Restored Monarchy. (The return of the Bourbons was equally accompanied in 1815 by the massacre of Muslim troops who had served Napoleon, in Marseille.)

In the Papal States, Pope Pius VII re-established the ghettos and imposed the wearing of a yellow hat (colour associated with betrayal, and thus Judas Iscariot, but also with prostitutes) and the Star of David.

German faked conversion to board ‘Jewish’ Gaza boat

October 10, 2010

http://goo.gl/DI8j

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL
10/08/2010 03:01

Television producers face flak for false report, say “not customary to pressure people to produce conversion documents before interviews.”

Talkbacks (6)

BERLIN – The German passenger aboard the Irene catamaran that tried to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza last month appears to have invented her conversion to Judaism, Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel newspaper reported on Tuesday.

“Edith Lutz is definitely a Jew, like a smoked pork chop is kosher,” reporter Henryk M.Broder wrote.

The Irene, organized by the British NGO Jews for Justice for Palestinians, supposedly carried a total of nine passengers and crew members, all Jews, to show that not all Jews supported Israel’s Gaza policies. The Israel Navy diverted it to Ashdod Port.

According to the Tagesspiegel report, the German Jewish psychologist Dr. Rolf Verleger asked Lutz if she formally converted to Judaism, and she “did not dispel the suspicion” that she is not Jewish.

The German television program ARD-Magazin Monitor broadcast a widely-seen report in June, in which Lutz was named as a representative of “Jews from Germany”, and as part of a group of Germans Jews who want to show that “they are not in agreement with the policies of Israel.”

Monitor’s producers have been accused of sloppy journalism for failing to diligently factcheck Lutz’s credentials as a converted Jew, and turning her into a representative of Germany’s 106,000 Jews.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily on Wednesday termed the Monitor report “embarrassing” and noted that many German news organizations have paraded Lutz as a “prominent spokesperson for the organization ‘Jews for a Just Peace in the Middle East’ – and she is not a Jew.”

Sonia Seymour Mikich, the editor-in-chief of Monitor, seemed to duck the criticisms in a statement on why the program presented a woman masquerading as a converted Jew.

It “is not customary for Monitor to pressure people to produce baptismal and conversion documents in order to conduct interviews”, she wrote.

Mikich further noted that Lutz wishes to “continue to protect her private life.”

Many German journalists devote a great deal of coverage to fringe Jews who bash the Jewish state.

The popular pro-Israeli blogger website Lizas Welt wrote on Tuesday that Lutz’s tirades against Israel are “what the majority in Germany wants to hear.”

Lizas Welt slammed Lutz’s “verbal attacks on Israel” as including equating the Jewish state’s actions with those of the Nazis.

Lutz has stated that the Israeli government issued her passport without a “deportation stamp.” The word “deportation” in a German context carries a Nazi-era connotation from the time when Europe’s Jews were deported to extermination camps.

Nathan Gelbart, the Berlin-based attorney who heads the German branch of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that “over 7 million people live in Israel’s democracy, which, in contrast to their more than 30 million Arab neighbors, are allowed to openly discuss the controversy surrounding the appropriateness of the sea blockade of Gaza. And Israelis openly discuss the blockade.

“Edith Lutz, whether Jew or non-Jew, is needed in Israel as much as her three backpacks that she sought to bring to Gaza – that is to say, not at all.”

According to a report from Ulrich Sahm, a veteran journalist in Israel, Lutz brought three backpacks that contained stuffed animals, second hand toys and musical instruments on the Irene.

What We Can Learn From the Jewish Genome – Newsweek

June 7, 2010

What We Can Learn From the Jewish Genome – Newsweek.

The DNA of Abraham’s Children

Analysis of Jewish genomes refutes the Khazar claim.

Menahem Kahana / AFP-Getty

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men in front of the Tomb of the Patriarch, where Old Testament prophet Abraham and his son Isaac are thought to be buried.

Jews have historically considered themselves “people of the book” (am hasefer in Hebrew), referring to sacred tomes, but the phrase is turning out to have an equally powerful, if unintended, meaning: scientists are able to read Jewish genomes like a history book. The latest DNA volume weighs in on the controversial, centuries-old (and now revived in a 2008 book) claim that European Jews are all the descendants of Khazars, a Turkic group of the north Caucasus who converted to Judaism in the late eighth and early ninth century. The DNA has spoken: no.

In the wake of studies in the 1990s that supported biblically based notions of a priestly caste descended from Aaron, brother of Moses, an ambitious new project to analyze genomes collected from Jewish volunteers has yielded its first discoveries. In a paper with the kind of catchy title you rarely see in science journals—“Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era”—scientists report that the Jews of the Diaspora share a set of telltale genetic markers, supporting the traditional belief that Jews scattered around the world have a common ancestry. But various Diaspora populations have their own distinct genetic signatures, shedding light on their origins and history. In addition to the age-old question of whether Jews are simply people who share a religion or are a distinct population, the scientific verdict is settling on the latter.

Although the origin of the Jews has been traced, archeologically, to the Middle East in the second millennium B.C.E., what happened next has been more opaque. To sort it out, researchers collected DNA from Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, and Ashkenazi Jews around New York City; Turkish Sephardic Jews in Seattle; Greek Sephardic Jews in Thessaloniki and Athens; and Italian Jews in Rome as part of the Jewish HapMap Project. (All four grandparents of each participant had to have come from the same community.) As the scientists will report in the next issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, the analysis shows that “each of the Jewish populations formed its own distinctive cluster, indicating the shared ancestry and relative genetic isolation of the members of each of those groups.”

Jewish populations, that is, have retained their genetic coherence just as they have retained their cultural and religious traditions, despite migrations from the Middle East into Europe, North Africa, and beyond over the centuries, says geneticist Harry Ostrer of NYU Langone Medical Center, who led the study. Each Diaspora group has distinctive genetic features “representative of each group’s genetic history,” he says, but each also “shares a set of common genetic threads” dating back to their common origin in the Middle East. “Each of the Jewish populations formed its own distinctive cluster, indicating the shared ancestry and relative genetic isolation of the members of each of those groups.”

The various Jewish groups were more related to each other than to non-Jews, as well. Within every Jewish group, individuals shared as much of their genome as two fourth or fifth cousins, with Italian, Syrian, Iranian, and Iraqi Jews the most inbred, in the sense that they married within the small, close-knit community. In general, the genetic similarity of any two groups was larger the closer they lived to one another, but there was an exception: Turkish and Italian Jews were most closely related genetically, but are quite separated geographically.

Historical records suggest that Iranian and Iraqi Jews date from communities that formed in Persia and Babylon, respectively, in the fourth to sixth centuries B.C.E., and the DNA confirms that. The genetic signatures of these groups show that they remained relatively isolated—inbred—for some 3,000 years. The DNA also reveals that these Middle Eastern Jews diverged from the ancestors of today’s European Jews about 100 to 150 generations ago, or sometime during the first millennium B.C.E.

That’s when the Jewish communities in Italy, the Balkans, and North Africa originated, from Jews who migrated or were expelled from Palestine and from people who converted to Judaism during Hellenic times. During that period Jews proselytized with an effectiveness that would put today’s Mormons to shame: at the height of the Roman Empire, as the Roman historian Josephus chronicled, mass conversions produced 6 million practicing Jews, or 10 percent of the population of the Roman Empire. The conversions brought in DNA that had not been part of the original gene pool in the land of Abraham.

The DNA analysis undermines the claim that most of today’s Jews, particularly the Ashkenazi, are the direct lineal descendants of converted Khazars—which has angered many in the Jewish community as an implicit attack on the Jews’ claim to the land of Israel, since it implies that today’s Jews have no blood ties to the original Jews of the Middle East. Instead, find the scientists, at most there was “limited admixture with local populations, including Khazars and Slavs … during the 1,000-year (second millennium) history of the European Jews.”

Of the non-Jewish Europeans, northern Italians were most genetically similar to the Jews, followed by the Sardinians and French. The Druze, Bedouins, and Palestinians were closest to the Iranian, Iraqi, and Syrian Jews. That is evidence of “a shared genetic history of related Middle Eastern and non-Semitic Mediterranean ancestors who chose different religious and tribal affiliations.” Adds Ostrer, “the study supports the idea of a Jewish people linked by a shared genetic history. Yet the admixture with European people explains why so many European and Syrian Jews have blue eyes and blond hair.”

Southern Europeans were the closest genetic cousins of Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Italian Jews, reflecting the large-scale conversion of these Southern European populations to Judaism some 2,000 years ago, when European Jewry was forming. The Sephardic groups share genetic makers with North Africans, probably a result of marriages between Moors and Jews in Spain from 711 to 1492.

Several details of the Ashkenazi genome imply that centuries ago, the population experienced a severe bottleneck, in which the size of a group plummets, followed by a rapid expansion. That jibes with the historical record showing that the Jewish population in Western and Eastern Europe bottomed out at about 50,000 in the Middle Ages and then soared to 500,000 by the 19th century, growing at twice the rate of non-Jews—something called “the demographic miracle.”

Analysis of Jewish genomes has been yielding fascinating findings for more than a decade. A pioneer in this field, Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona, made the first big splash when he discovered that genetics supports the biblical account of a priestly family, the Cohanim, descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses: one specific genetic marker on the Y chromosome (which is passed on from father to son, as membership in the priestly family would be) is found in 98.5 percent of people who self-identify as Cohanim, he and colleagues reported in a 1997 paper in Nature (the PBS science series Nova did a nice segment on that work, summarized here). The Cohanim DNA has been found in both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, evidence that it predates the time when the two groups diverged, about 1,000 years ago. DNA can also be used to infer when particular genetic markers appeared, and suggests that the Cohanim emerged about 106 generations ago, making it fall during what is thought to be the period of the exodus from Egypt, and thus Aaron’s lifetime.

Sharon Begley is NEWSWEEK’s science editor and author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves.