Monday, December 20, 2004

Monday Reads

Arthur Chrenkoff has "Good News from Iraq" part #17 posted today. (Also available at Opinion Journal and Winds of Change.)

Lots of bloggers and columnists are weighing in on the on-going debate about whether Christ can be mentioned in the public square during the month of December:
A couple of noteworthy items about Judaism in America
  • Powerline provides a history lesson in "Teaching the Free Man":
    American Jews are celebrating their three-hundred and fiftieth anniversary here. The first Jewish community in North America was established in New Amsterdam (New York) in 1654. In 1658 fifteen Jewish families arrived in Newport, Rhode Island. By 1759 their numbers and resources had increased sufficiently that they undertook the construction of what has become America's oldest synagogue, the Touro Synagogue of Newport.

    In 1790 Rhode Island became the thirteenth state to ratify the Constitution and complete the Union. To mark the occasion, President Washington made a ceremonial visit to Newport when Congress recessed in August. Newport welcomed Washington with open arms. In Newport on August 18, according to James Thomas Flexner, Washington "completely fatigued the company" by walking, fortified by the wine and punch served in four different houses along his route, briskly from nine in the morning until one in the afternoon.

    In anticipation of Washington's visit to Newport, the congregation prepared a letter welcoming Washington for presentation to him at a public event on the morning of August 18. The letter was authorized by the congregation's board and signed by its president, Moses Seixas. It is Washington's magnificent letter responding to Seixas's that is known as a testament to religious freedom and that has become famous as one of the classic statements of religious toleration in America.

    The congregation's letter to Washington is not so well known. Ironically, however, the most famous line in Washington's letter is an echo of the congregation's letter to Washington. By far the most striking feature of the congregation's letter is its expression of sheer gratitude to Washington for the religious freedom afforded by the United States (pre-First Amendment).
  • Betsy's Page excerpts from Dennis Prager's piece in yesterday's LA Times, "Born-Again President -- White House Hanukkah":
    As a yeshiva graduate, I never thought I would live to see identifying Jews, let alone Orthodox rabbis, so happy to be in a room with a menorah and a Christmas tree. Yet that signified a sea change taking place in American Jewish life — the realization that Christianity is no longer the enemy or the great Other but, for the first time in 2,000 years, a great ally.
    This realization has yet to dawn on many Jews. The memory of almost two millenniums of European, i.e., Christian, anti-Semitism culminating in the Holocaust is seared deeply in Jewish hearts and minds, and it is very hard for most Jews to truly believe that the cross is a friend, not an invitation to a pogrom.

    But American Christianity has never been like European Christianity in its attitude toward Jews and Judaism. Jews have been equals and honored as such from even before the creation of the United States. Many of the founders studied Hebrew; Thomas Jefferson wanted the Seal of the United States to depict the Jews' exodus from Egypt; Yale University's insignia is in Hebrew; a verse from the Torah (Leviticus) is inscribed on the Liberty Bell; a rabbi attended George Washington's inauguration — the list of pro-Jewish expressions in U.S. history is endless. But perhaps most telling is the fact that although there have been any number of Christian countries and there are many secular ones today, it is the U.S. that calls itself Judeo-Christian.