Hungarian maestro will hold UK antisemitism debate

Ivan Fischer, who has been touring his Budapest Festival Orchestra around Hungary’s abandoned synagogues, will hold a public debate in a London synagogue on June 12 on the topic of ‘the rise of antisemitism in Europe today’.

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        • A synagogue is not a place of worship. It is a house of study. There’s a difference.

          Do not confuse a synagogue with the Temple, which hasn’t existed since the Romans destroyed it in 70CE.

          • Speak of what you know. A synagogue is a house of worship. Often with separate rooms for learning or Hebrew lessons or educational discussions.

            For concentrated study boys will attend a Yeshivah, sometimes in Israel, while girls will attend a Seminary.

            The Temple doesn’t come into it, except for fond realisation of how magnificent it must have been … a huge stone and marble edifice that housed thousands of ardent worshippers and resounded with fanfares and choruses. Thankfully, its ritual animal sacrifices are absent from present-day services.

            Synagogues world-wide replicate the Temple on a far more modest scale but still have prayer and devout worship at the core of their purpose. Nobody confuses them with the Temple.

          • Apparently Mr. Greenberg does not wish a reply, as there’s no “reply” button under his message (although that could be a fault of the software, which limits nesting). So I am amplifying my own comments:

            “Speak of what you know.” I am an orthodox Jew by birth and background. This is a subject in which I have some experience.

            “A synagogue is a house of worship.” If you consider Jewish prayer, as selected and prescribed by rabbinic tradition, to be worship, then you might have misconstrued the meaning of the word “worship”, or misunderstood the purpose of Jewish prayer. In any case, a synagogue is not needed in order to say the prayers, and most of them can be said without even a minyan (the minimally acceptable “community” that is required for certain public prayers).

            The very word “synagogue” comes from the Greek word meaning “assembly”. It is true that one (large-ish) room in a synagogue usually houses copies of the Torah scrolls that are used for public readings during prayer services; that is not a form of worship, but of education. We are commanded to hear portions of the Scripture read several times each week so that we do not forget it; in many synagogues (more so in Reform and Conservative than in Orthodox ones), the readings are followed by explanations and even discussions. That is study, not worship.

            If you examine the portions of the Hebrew Bible that describe how to worship, you will find that they all *require* the Temple, because other shrines have been forbidden. That Reform Jews have chosen to name their synagogues “temple” neither changes the function of the present buildings nor enables them to be used for the rituals that took place in the Temple in Jerusalem.

            Synagogues, and rabbinic prayer services, were created to maintain some form of Jewish community coherence in the Diaspora (the portion of the Jewish population living outside of Israel after the Babylonian captivity). They have persisted for the same reasons they were created — because we cannot go to Jerusalem to worship, whether because of distance or because the Temple no longer exists. Instead, the family has become the center of Jewish life, and study the way of preserving Jewish literacy.

            Jewish prayer, almost entirely, consists in expressing gratitude for the holiness of the mundane world, and in remembering that we are the means through which God works his will in the world. These are also the purpose of the Sabbath, which could be thought of as the fundamental Jewish prayer.

            I expect dissent and disagreement on all of these points. As the saying goes, “Put three Jews in a room, get five political parties.”

        • Perhaps Ivan Fischer meant “discussion,” not “debate.” But let’s stick to the term in the story above.

          It appears as though you are saying that the pro-anti-Semitism side in a pro/con debate would be at a disadvantage in a center of Jewish activity. It is, of course, disgusting that you think that there is an positive side to anti-Semitism.

          That aside, this alleged unbalance doesn’t matter. It is possible to have a rational discussion, or even a debate, in a religious center, whether it is a mosque, a DoJo, a Cathedral, a Quaker Meeting House, a synagogue, or a temple (a term that Reform Jews, such as myself, still use). There is no scorecard.

          • I totally share your disgust about anyone who sees a positive side in antisemitism. Instead of attacking me for something I definitely don’t believe and didn’t state, why didn’t you ask me for clarification? After all, we often write hastily – at least I do.

            We are here to exchange thoughts, not attack each other. Thank you to you and Mark for your thoughts.

          • Works both ways, brother. I wrote “It APPEARS as though you are saying that the pro-anti-Semitism side in a pro/con debate would be at a disadvantage in a center of Jewish activity.” That is exactly how it appeared to me when you asked for neutral ground for this “debate.” Instead of saying that I attacked you, you could correct the appearance, which you now have.

  • A conversation can resolve misunderstandings and ill feelings. Sometimes we have to take a leap of faith and trust good intentions of the other – especially if love of music is our bond. The courageous are always willing to make the first step, myself included. It is the life itself. We go through hard experiences and we can have good ones.

    • Not to forget, sometimes the opportunity to apologize is the only thing one is asking for. Forgiveness is the virtue of the brave.

  • I’ve really enjoyed seeing this conductor and orchestra at the Musikverein. Splendid musicians!! What I find totally enigmatic is why anti-semitism is on the rise. I mean, who’d have thought….?

    • When people get stressed their hatred surfaces and they turn to traditional targets. The odd thing is that there aren’t really enough Jews here in Europe to get properly anti-Semitic at. It’s time for people to update their hatreds.

      • But that is what is happening: now the target is ‘The Muslems’. Which complicates things because quite some muslems are antisemitic. The same sentiments which created the poisonous collective hatred towards ‘Jewry’ is now projected upon the muslems: they don’t belong to western society, they are going to take over our world, we have to get rid of them etc. As the locals were, at the time, blind for the general assimilation of jews, you see the same blindness today when thousands go in the streets for their pegida rallies – trying to save the West.

    • Ethnic hatred is on the rise, at least in Europe and the US. Right extremist parties have been gaining ground in elections. A substantial factor in Trump’s rise has been his genuine anti immigrant, anti muslim and racist rhetoric, which was in sharp contrast to the veiled rhetoric of his professional politician opponents.

      • For your information anti-semitism in Europe is on the rise because of Islamic Extremist or the Far Left. The Far Right has nothing to do with it.

        • My point is that the far right successfully capitalizes on ethnic and religious prejudice.

          But how can Islamic extremism contribute to antisemitism? I can understand how it can contribute to Islamophobia- no matter how irrational and misplaced that is.

          • All I know is that some middle eastern countries have called for the annihilation of Israel. I couldn’t support any country or people who openly call for death and destruction, and who have terrorists as their ‘government’ – so no sympathy from me for anything Palestinian or Iranian. Sorry Daniel, but there it is.

          • So no sympathy for, say, the great Iranian harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani? How can you generalize? Just because the loudest and sometimes the most unconscionable voices are being amplified, doesn’t mean they represent an entire ethnic or religious group, or even a majority.

          • Islamic extremism is the main threat for Jews in Europe today concerning personal safety. Islamic patrols are harassing and assaulting Jews in the streets, it happens all the time here in Sweden where there is a Synagogue. Jews are in practice not allowed to exhibit any external sign of being Jewish, and religious holydays are dangerous days for them.

          • @Pianofortissimo:

            I can understand what a horrible threat for Jews islamic extremism is. Has always been.

            But is there in a Sweden any rise of antisemitism among the general population?

          • @Petros Linardos:

            No there is no rise of anti-semitism among the general Swedish population. The “Nazis” are very few and have no say in Sweden. Note that our so-called “far right” party, the Sweden Democrats, has a pro-Israel attitude.

        • “For your information anti-semitism in Europe is on the rise because of Islamic Extremist or the Far Left. The Far Right has nothing to do with it.”

          Might I suggest a visit to Hungary and some chats with ordinary locals? You will find among those native, European, Christian people who vote Fidesz or Jobbik (right and far-right parties, respectively) and who are directly opposed to Islam, plenty who will unabashedly tell you that the Jewish hand controls the world. It isn’t hard to find their analogue in Poland, either.

    • The only debatable issue, and I trust Fischer to be honest about it, is that fair criticism of the Israeli government and support for Palestinian rights are not anti-Semitic.

      • When they get rid of Hamas I believe the people of Israel will talk to them. At the moment it’s too dangerous dealing with terrorists.

      • Since Israel is supposed to be a secular, Western-style democracy, antisemitism is, strictly speaking, not a political issue, in spite of many people making it so.

          • Formally it is a western-style liberal democracy and indeed secular, the population consists of people of Jewish, Muslem and Christian religion, and also some Greek Orthodox groups I believe, and adherents of the Atheist Religion.

  • Fischer should return to Washington, DC and hold one of these events. Recently, a city councilman blamed changes in the climate on Jewish financiers. At a rally on the steps of the city hall that was intended to “heal” the community, a speaker from the Nation of Islam called Jews “termites” after calling a DC city councilwoman a “fake Jew.”

    • You realize that was a hardcore Democrat? Prepare to be doxed and digitally crucified. Welcome to the “high tech lynching.”

    • I read the “Autobiography of Malcolm X” years ago and that was full of anger and hatred. I believe he was connected with The Nation of Islam. There’s nothing like good old envy, resentment and jealousy to set off waves of violence. And the mindset “if I can’t have it neither can you”!

      That’s alive and well today all around the world.

  • I’d like it if Ivan Fischer would discuss why his brother’s Mahler, so far, is turning out to be as good or better than his – oh wait! My bad! – that’s the Mahler industry taking over yet again (and don’t forget the third, unrelated Fischer in Salt Lake City).

    • Actually, it’s pretty easy to forget the third, unrelated Fischer in Salt Lake City.

  • @Petros. Of course I’ve got sympathy for the millions of innocents. But it’s not a generalization to say Palestine in in the hands of vicious terrorists. You cannot do business with these fanatics.

    And as for Jews: I never stop thanking god for their incalculable contribution to arts, motion pictures, music, science, medicine and technology. Here’s a few listed here in just one spot:

    • OK, now you are clear. The way you worded it before didn’t distinguish between government and people.

      I was also misunderstood on another matter, apparently because of writing hastily.

      “There’s nothing like good old envy, resentment and jealousy to set off waves of violence.” – To those factors I would also add despair. No shortage of it among the disenfranchised white rural Americans without college degrees.

      • You mean “the deplorables” in the “fly-over states”? The very heart of the country, I would think.

        • Generally speaking, the division goes along the lines of urban and rural. You see that division even in liberal states like Massachusetts or conservative states like Texas. Many of the central states are far more rural, so they naturally have a higher concentration of impoverished populations. Rural areas are the last to benefit from economic growth. The disparity has been gradually growing in the last 30 years and is being exacerbated by the current administration.

          Trump’s policies have not shown any sign of benefiting the disenfranchised classes, quite unlike financial investors. But his anti-immigrant, anti-muslim, racist, pro-gun rhetoric gives them emotional satisfaction. The same applies to the trade war rhetoric. The economic impact is another matter: farmers will be hurt by the trade wars in due course.

          • As for “deplorables”: there are always good people at any walks of life, obviously including white uneducated poor Americans, in rural or urban areas. I personally see that every day. So to generalize is, well, deplorable.

            But to call “deplorables” those who hate ethnic or religious groups different of their own, that is spot on, no matter how politically incorrect.

  • To MARK: Yes, nesting does not allow more than four replies to be published. I take your points thanks. If I re-defined the synagogue as a place of prayer and learning, it would be nearer the truth.

    Putting three Jews in one room would indeed produce a thread too copious for Slipped Disc.

  • So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. Really big thank you for starting this up, this website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality.

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