Skip to comments.School apologizes for burning New Testament
Posted on 12/24/2001 4:49:53 PM PST by dlt
BEIT SHEMESH (December 25) - The organization that administers Orot school in Beit Shemesh issued an apology yesterday for publicly burning a copy of the New Testament a student received from Christian missionaries.
"Everybody knows we made a mistake," said Jordana Klein, spokeswoman for Sha'alei Torah. "We wouldn't do it again. We don't think it's the right thing to do."
The book-burning took place in the school courtyard the week before Hanukka, after a teacher in the boys' school found that one of his sixth-grade students had brought in a Hebrew copy of the New Testament.
The student received it from local missionaries who, according to Klein, have been active in proselytizing Beit Shemesh children.
"The teacher said: 'God sent it and He gave us the privilege, and we'll be able to burn the New Testament," said Ariel Lesnick, 11, who is in the class.
The teacher consulted with the principal, Rabbi Yair Bachar, said Klein. After receiving approval, the teacher - whose name Klein refused to divulge - took his class outside.
Then, Lesnick said, "We took a few sticks and we burnt it." The teacher emphasized that the book-burning was an anti-missionary activity and not an anti-Christian one, Lesnick said.
After receiving calls from angry parents, Bachar reconsidered the decision, which Klein described as "too hasty." He consulted rabbinic authorities on the issue and decided to appoint Rabbi David Spector - rabbi of the Givat Sharet neighborhood of Beit Shemesh - as a permanent rabbinic decision-maker for the school.
Spector ruled that missionary material should be burned, but it is the sole responsibility of the owner to burn it and the burning should take place in private.
"It was appropriate to burn the New Testament in private," wrote Spector in his ruling. He cited traditional and modern rabbis, including Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who wrote that he had burned missionary texts, which he called "books of incitement and brainwashing." Such burning is permissible even if the texts include the name of God, Spector said.
The teacher said that if missionary material were found in the school again, it would be thrown into the garbage rather than publicly burned, said Lesnick.
The Education Ministry was not aware of the incident, said spokeswoman Orit Reuveni.
"In principle, the ministry condemns book-burning as an educational act," she said. "We are not aware of this incident, but we will investigate the matter in depth."
Wayne Firestone, director of the Anti-Defamation League here, said the apology is a positive reaction to the school's "inappropriate" decision.
"The issue of conversion obviously is a sensitive one, and school officials are entitled to make requirements to try to protect their students from inappropriate materials entering the school," he said.
"At the same time, the symbolic and actual imagery of burning any books is really an inappropriate reaction to any offensive material. We're encouraged to hear that the school has issued an apology, and we hope that from the apology, they can send a better message to their own students about tolerance of other religions."
Since the burning, Bachar has addressed teachers, parents, and students - particularly the sixth-grade class - about the issue. He emphasized that the school is not against Christians but against Christian attempts to convert Jews, said Klein. The school is also planning programs to increase tolerance, she said.
The student who brought the New Testament in is not the only one missionaries have targeted. After the book-burning, one of the other students in the class said missionaries came to his home and hung a crucifix behind the mezuza, said Lesnick. The family told the missionary they didn't want the crucifix and returned it, he said.
"We obviously have a missionary problem," said Klein. "We weren't even aware of how big a problem it is in our school."
The students that missionaries approach are generally among the native Israelis and immigrants who make up about 40 percent of the student body and tend to live in old Beit Shemesh, said Klein. That section is poorer than the newer section populated mostly by Anglos, who comprise 60 percent of the student body.
The Anglo-Israeli divide may have contributed to a difference in the approach to burning the New Testament. Lesnick, whose family immigrated from New Jersey four years ago, saw that distinction among the boys in his class. "The Israelis thought it was the right thing to do, but for the Americans, you're used to seeing [non-Jews] every day, and you don't do that to somebody that's just a little different than you," he said.
His father, Marc, also noted the difference nationality may have made in the decision. The teacher, he said, is an Israeli who has never left the country. But as an American, he said, "This is not the type of education I want my kids to have. In America, they let you practice your religion, you let them practice their religion, and you kind of coexist."
Book-burning may also invoke different images for Anglos than for Israelis. "The idea of burning in general in our minds has to do with Kristallnacht and the KKK and so on," he said.
But once he brought the issue to the attention of the school, said Marc Lesnick, it "very quickly took the matter really seriously and dealt with it properly afterward."
Lesnick found out about the burning when Ariel came home from school. "My son got home from school that night, and he actually said to me, 'Dad, you know what we did today? Well, we burned the New Testament.' I said, 'You're joking,'" said Lesnick.
He discussed it with the teacher, and a few days later Bachar came to his home to talk about the incident. Lesnick is glad that they have told him they would "definitely not do this again."
Rev. Ray Lockhart, director of the Jerusalem-based Israel Trust of the Anglican Church, said burning the New Testament so publicly was "going over the top somewhat." Lockhart, whose organization focuses on ministry to the Jews, added that it's preferable to get a signed statement from parents before giving Christian scriptures to a minor.
"Clearly no Jewish person would want to see the Tanah being burnt, and would feel that whoever did it, it was an affront to their beliefs," he said.
But the school's apology, said Lockhart, mitigates the offense. "I think it shows that it's sometimes good to have second thoughts, and to recognize that we can all make mistakes in the way we make a response off the cuff without really thinking through all the implications."
The instances of this sort of thing (book burnings) are so rare, as to have made it newsworthy in the first place.
Because anyone who talks about some debt being due from this unpleasant incident need go no further than that to demonstrate that any 'bill' has been paid in full. If that is not enough for them, the full story would not change them either.
Sounds like a new sort of good soldiers.
Private BurnSvejk, LOL!
When the muzzle touches their temple.
Out of curiosity, was any of this info talked about or learned in Ukraine?
It's very interesting to me how the one major faith which does not (and, by all rights, should not) proselytize has such disproportionate influence in obtaining government decrees against the public display, even, of other faiths.
I guess their runner-up, as it were, would be the Patriarch of Moscow who -- somehow dissatisfied with the government proclamation that netted the rebuilding of his Cathedral and home with corporate funds -- petitioned and obtained a ruling from the State that only the State Faith could be practiced in public though other faiths were tolerated in private.
For him it's a smack in the face when someone else is using a Christian reference when "writing about a Jewish event", that is he's forcing someone to use BCE/CE. It's not about him not having a choice, it's about someone else not having a choice.
Isolated case. Puuuhlease... someone on FR "suggested" something.. So? look at the history. If you want to talk about sentiments, I think I can find more on sentiments of people against Jews, then the other way around.
Well, that's an interesting topic, too vast to discuss within this thread. You can join in in the future when something relevant comes up.
Russia for example is historically anti-semetic. But I am not bringing it up till now, as to not to imply that I have pre judged you and that your sentiments were revealed to me because you are russian.
If you accept that Jews are historically anti-Russian or anti-Polish, then your statment may be just an observation of a reaction. If you don't accept that, than your statement is self-serving.
Scepticism? Where's my scepticism. I'll repeat for you again, because you appear to be slow. Most of the first americans were Christian. Yet, freedom of speech AND freedom of religion were the first american values. Going by your logic, this country is historically WASP, and you being Russian Orthodox... well, you get the drift.
Since you are being slow, let me explain. This country was founded by Christians and while it wasn't legislated, that was the character of the country. With Christians being the majority, that has always been prefered by the majority of the population. WASP is not a religious phenomenon, and WASPs have a lot in common with other Christians from Europe. But because this is not legislated, militant minorities take advantage of that to impose their will of removing Christian references to suit their religious preferences.
There are always many Jewish names on either side. Which allows people like you spin any issue in every each way. My grandmother's grandfather was killed by Petlurovzi. Some family on my father's side owned a factory prior to revolution and had to run to South America when communists took over. My mother's grandfather was a communist (with Kotovsky), he was killed by Stalin in 1939. A lot of my family was killed by the nazi's in WW2, etc. As you see, you can spin my family any way you like. Some ran from the communists, some ran with the communists, etc,etc,etc.
Just because a large fraction of Russian Jews didn't like the Communists, doesn't change the facts, that Bolshevism was sympathized with by a large fraction of Jewish population and they saw it as saving them from oppression.
Most families in russia, Jewish or not, had a communist in the family. In fact, if you listen to communists in Russia today, they will blame Jews for their failure... STILL TO THIS DAY.
Commies today in Russia reflect the changing character of Communism in the Soviet Union, with it migrating from being represented by Jewish Bolsheviks of the Bolshevik revolution period, to a more nationalistic one. It was inevitable given the minority status of the Soviet Jews, and given that Stalin removed so many of them from positions of power. I don't see any contradictions. Communism was, on average, favored by the Soviet Jews at one time, and then eventually when it wasn't benefitial to them anymore, they became refusniks and anti-Communists.
Tops capitalists were and are Jewish as well. What's your point?
When Communism was "good for the Jews", they were Commies.
This is a very intersting thread. A lone teacher burns new testament because someone tried to preach Christianity to his student. And rightly you are outraged because no one should be burning a holy book. You are not however outraged that someone is trying to convert Jews in a historically Jewish state of Israel. Yet, some Jew in USA doesnt' want to use a Christian date, and you are outraged, that he is living in a (according to you) historically Christian country and etc.. You see the parallel?
I see that you still haven't comprehended that it's not a Jew who doesn't want to use a Christian date, but a Jew who doesn't want someone else to use a Christian date, because it's a "smack in the face".
You told me and started to theorize why I asked you. I find it kind of amusing how you misinterpert the simplest of things.
Oh? There were quite a few churches in Odessa, but not a single temple (keep in mind, that odessa was 30-40% Jewish at one point)
How many temples were there before Bolshevik revolution, and how many churches?
That's a very good guess. Shows that you know that there were no temples and no Jewish schools in USSR, yet you still attempt to show that Bolsheviks were anti Christian, where in reality they were more anti religion (any religion).
Bolsheviks were anti-religion, but what motivated them right after the Bolshevik revolution, was destroying the traditional Russian culture. Christians were persecuted MUCH MORE than Jews, with thousands of priests executed and churches destroyed.
Not at all. Being Jewish is an ethnicity as well as a religion.. You are even trying to prove it by saying that Jews that are not religious have something else in common?
You'd have to do better than quote from your memory.
Guy, you need to chill out with a nice cold bottle of Baltika
I have finally found someone from Brighton Beach, who emigrated from Odessa. Finally my stereotypical Ukrainian Jew is on FR!
It's ironic, that Brighton Beach residents may be more Soviet now than folks in Russia. Tell me, why do they dress like low-life "gopniks" in Russia would, in Adidas pants and leather jackets?
I find the belief in own special status having a pagan character too. Many primitive tribe believe in their special status and have their own tribal gods.
You either refuse to believe what you read, or you think people are too stupid. There are more than 1 person involved in the burning. And they had to consult a rabbi, after the outrage, whether they did anything wrong (no, it wasn't obvious to them). And as the rabbi pointed out, bibles should be burned in private.
My wife went to Bob Jones and lasted one year. She transferred to another college where the students were not "monitored" constently.
Not created equal? Excuse me? That's exactly the kind of crap the breed anti semitism. If anything Christianity spreads that not all human beings are created equal. For one to be "saved" he has to become a Christian. How equal is that? There is nothing of sort in Judaism. If you want to convert to Judaism, that's fine. If it doesn't, then that's fine too, it doesn't affect anything. Easy as that.