25 June 2012

How many Jews are real Jews after all?

The Survey says a lot. Last August across Australia, we were all required to fill out the national census from which much is derived. Of note for us Jewish people is this.

Australia's official Jewish population rose by about 10 percent in the last five years to nearly 100,000, according to new census data. The findings of the 2011 census, released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, showed the Jewish population to be 97,335 -- about 0.5 percent of Australia's total population of 22.5 million.

Jewish demographers, however, have long believed the unofficial number of Jews to be between 10,000 and 20,000 more than the census figure for several reasons: 1) the religion question is the only optional question in the census; 2) the question about religion does not list Judaism as a tickle box, so Jews who want to be counted must check "other"; 3) some Holocaust survivors are believed to be less likely to identify themselves; and 4) some unaffiliated Jewish-born people feel it unnecessary to identify their religion.

Australia isn't the only place of Jewish surveying.

Susan Katz Miller wrote today on her blog, picked up by the Huffington Post, "In a new study of the Jewish population of New York, researchers recently acknowledged the existence of the growing cohort of people with complex identities drawing on more than one religion. The Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011 found that rising numbers of people report unconventional identity configurations. They may consider themselves "partially Jewish," or may identify as Jews even while identifying with Christianity or another non-Jewish religion (many more do so now than who so reported in 2002). Of such people with unconventional configurations, 70 percent have a non-Jewish parent (or two)."

"As someone who was born into an interfaith family, and who embraces my interfaith identity, it is gratifying to finally receive recognition from demographers. To learn more about how those of us with interfaith identities think and behave, I hope these researchers will visit my blog On Being Both. Interfaith Parent, Interfaith Child: Notes from a Hybrid Universe."

Miller continues, "The study notes, ... we also see more hybridity -- that is, the confluence of multiple traditions not only in households but even within individuals. Today, more and more individuals feel comfortable adopting elements from multiple religious traditions, and even identifying with several traditions at once. As one of our respondents declared, "I am two religions." In another case, our interviewer noted that the respondent derives from mixed upbringing and "identifies with both.""

From the Huffington Post article again, "Not to seem ungrateful, but I do want to point out that I am not partial to the term "partial." I do not consider myself a "partial" anything. I have never heard anyone describe themselves as "partially Jewish." (The term has unfortunate associations, from partial mastectomy to partial abortion). I am a self-defined full Jew, who also insists on my right to celebrate my birth into an interfaith family. I revel in my hybridity, in my fluid and yet deeply satisfying spiritual practice, and in my participation in an intentional and independent interfaith families community. I raised my children within this community, where they learned about both of their ancestral religions and took pride in their interfaith background. Next year, my book on how and why parents are choosing to educate interfaith children in more than one religion, and how those children feel about it when they grow up, will be published by Beacon Press."

So what about you… are you Jewish? Or even partially Jewish and do you still identify? Or are you like those survivors who don't put ink to paper to self-identify, because of the ink on their arms?

12 June 2012

Silence is (not always) golden

ABUJA, Nigeria— dpa (MCT) At least six people were killed and more than 50 injured Sunday when two churches in Nigeria attacked by unknown assailants.
Authorities said at least five churchgoers were killed in a suicide blast around 11 a.m. as they left a Sunday service in the central city of Jos.

Police said more than 52 worshippers were injured by the explosion, which destroyed the Christ Chosen Church of God

The church's pastor and his family were reported by local media to be critically injured in hospital. Emeka Obi, a witness, said the bomb was detonated by a suicide bomber who drove a car into the entrance of the church.

In a separate attack in the town of Biu in Borno state, gunmen opened fire, spraying bullets into the congregation of a church. Police said scores were injured and a woman died.

No group claimed responsibility for the blasts. Last year, the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram scaled up its attacks on churches, killing dozens in coordinated Christmas Day blasts that hit churchgoers close to Abuja, the capital.


02 June 2012

8020...wait for it

It took 8,020 tries, but on Friday night in Queens, New York, Johan Santana pitched a no-hitter for the New York Mets against the St Louis Cardinals. It took place at Citifield. 8,020? Yes, the Mets did not have a no-hitter in any of their previous 8,019 games in team history.  How many tried? 245 different starting pitchers have played for the team since 1962 when they were created.

And 7 former Mets have thrown no-hitters for other teams after they left New York. Some have gotten close. 4 Mets pitchers lost no-hitters in the 9th (final) inning. 3 of those by Steve Carlton.

Waiting for a great thing to happen is worth the wait. 

The Townsville Bulletin reported this week,  " Skin cancer patients are waiting longer to have surgery in Townsville than both Brisbane and Cairns, despite North Queensland being the skin cancer capital of Australia."

Figure released on the Federal Government's My Hospitals website showed the median surgery waiting times for melanoma patients at the Townsville Hospital was 21 days, compared to nine days at the Cairns Base Hospital and 12 days at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital. Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, with one in two Queenslanders developing skin cancer before the age of 85. Melanoma is one of the most common cancers for North Queenslanders. Townsville GP Dr Greg Canning said while the 21-day wait was within acceptable guidelines, patients still suffered a mental toll."

I read an article today on 'Watchful Waiting" about health concerns and being active in monitoring the health circumstances of a patient/ candidate for certain procedures.  (http://www.cfah.org/hbns/preparedpatient/Vol4/Prepared-Patient-Vol4-Issue5.cfm). I guess it talked to me about similar considerations. If it's worthwhile, it's worth waiting for. 

Yesterday I again read in the Bible, "Then the LORD answered me and said,  “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time;  It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay. " (Habakkuk chapter 2, verses 2-3)

If it's something you believe; if it's something that really matters, you believe and you pray and you dream and you write it on tablets, and you wait. And it might take 8,020 tries. Or in the case of the Jewish people who repeated the story of Genesis since Moses wrote it (about 1500 BCE), In that story we were told that a Messiah would come, and we needed to await him. 

Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) was born in Spain in 1135. He died in Egypt in 1204. In his commentary on the Mishnah (tractate Sanhedrin, chapter 10), Maimonides formulates his 13 principles of faith. They summarized what he viewed as the required beliefs of Judaism and included Number 12. "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. How long it takes, I will await His coming every day."

I believe that the Messiah has already come. His name is Y'shua. And it took 1500 years from the time of Moses until Y'shua came, born of a virgin in Bethlehem, and preached and healed people throughout Israel.  The time had come. The wait was over. But then he told his followers that it was not the time of the establishment of the Kingdom to Israel again, but that he would be killed, executed on a Roman cross, and die for their sins. Then he died. And then on the 3rd day he rose again from the dead and continued to preach of the Kingdom to come. 

And for that day we wait. 

And it will be worth the wait. 

And surely it will come. Jesus will return. 8,020? Wait for it!

01 June 2012

From what well do you source your morals?

I heard a man this morning, an economist from Melbourne, Dr Ian Harper, talking about morals and economics. I know, sounds weird in the same sentence, no? That's what Dr Harper said! He was telling us much of his own personal story which is chronicled in a newly-released book.

He used a phrase that captured my attention. When discussing what bothers us about the overspending in one sector of government and the underspending on other concerns, he asked us something like, "What makes you so upset? Why are your morals bothered at one hand and not on the other? From what well do you source your morals?" That wasn't it, and I will ask for a copy of the talk and eventually receive it, but that was the gist.

(Ian Harper is one of Australia’s best known economists. As a member of the celebrated Wallis Inquiry, he was at the forefront of financial market reform in Australia. In August 2008, Ian left academic life to become a Director of the former Access Economics, following a 25-year career, including 16 years in various roles at the Melbourne Business School. More recently, Ian joined Deloitte Access Economics as a Partner when Deloitte acquired Access Economics in March 2011.)

Then this arvo I received this invented thank you note as a jab at our Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her boyfriend.

Let me ask you to read this, to consider Dr Harper's words, and then tell me, From what well do you source your morals?

 "Dear Australian Taxpayer,
I want to thank the hard working Australian people for paying for my recent vacation in Singapore and Turkey. I had a wonderful time with Julia.  Honestly, you just haven't lived until you have stayed at a 5-Star luxury hotel.

Thank you also for the use of the RAAF VIP jet and the RAAF crew and security staff who tagged
along to be sure we were safe and cared for at all times.

I understand that the fuel usage by the RAAF VIP jet was minimal for this trip, as were the carbon emissions.

Nevertheless, we must ask Australians
to drive smaller, more fuel efficient cars and drive less too, so we can lessen our combined carbon footprint.
I was really exhausted after Julia took me to England for the Royal Wedding last year but it was worth it to meet the Queen and Prince Philip, although we didn’t talk very much, as he was not interested in hair dressing.  So it is always a treat to relax and fly with Julia in the RAAF VIP jet to watch a football match in Melbourne. Fortunately, although Wayne Swan says that all sectors of the community must make sacrifices to ensure that he can meet his budget surplus target, this does not apply to the Prime Minister or Federal Parliamentarians. They will continue to enjoy the whacking great pay rise recently approved by themselves; flying Business Class rather than Economy Class on short trips in Australia (even though there is insufficient time to serve breakfast on the 20-minute flight from Canberra to Sydney);  overseas “study trips” at your expense; Ministers will use the RAAF VIP jet on overseas trips, rather than commercial air services; they will continue to get an enormous pension, and (in Julia’s case) the use of an office, car and driver and the usual travel perks for the rest of her life after she is thrown out of her job next year.

I know times are hard and millions of you are struggling
to put food on the table and trying to make ends meet. So I do appreciate your sacrifices and do hope you find work soon.

Remember, we all have to share the pain of these
economic times equally! 


Tim Mathieson