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."
There is a big, big difference between Christians sharing the gospel and homos trying to sodomize your kids. I am not saying that you should neccesarrily like christian missionary work, but it is certianly not intolerant.
In all, I just don't get what you are so upset about. If a Jew came to my door and tried to convert me, it wouldn't upset me at all. Why does it upset you so much that Christians try to convert Jews?
Undeserved? You remind me of this conversation I had with this guy from Austria a month ago. He is a firm believer that Protocols of Zion is not a fake. His main argument is that Jews got a rough deal in history and there has to be something to justify it. Like I said, pull up crime statistics if you want to support your claim of Odessa being crime central.
Yeah, I'd like to see the stats, but whenever a story breaks out about "Russian" mafia, most of the time there are Jewish names. But they could be not from Odessa, LOL!
Oh? Russia mafia in russia? Or russian mafia in USA?
What if they came to your door daily? Why not just leave people alone with their beliefs? Why not actually try tolerating other people's belief instead of trying to change them?
Do you know of any source? You haven't explained why Odessa was famous for gangsterism. For no reason?
Oh? Russia mafia in russia? Or russian mafia in USA?
"Russian" mafia in USA, of course.
Doubtless, your English is flawless as a rule but I think the word you're looking for here is "choice", not "chosen". =)
I've known Odessa to be famous for its sense of humor and that it had a lot of Jews.. I haven't heard about it being stereotyped for gangsterism.
"Russian" mafia in USA, of course.
Ok. Simple. Vast majority of russian speakers in USA being Jewish..naturally there would be more russian speaking criminals who are Jewish, then not.. Proportions.. Go back to your america's most wanted, and do a search for "russian", see how many come up and then tell me that Jews are disproportionately criminals.
Which newspaper was this? And if you dont' care how we use dating systems between ourselves, then what's all this stink on this thread?
You're comparing the spreading of the Good News that is the Christian liberation from inexorable pagan fate to the normalizing of anal sex between men and boys?
Correct me if I'm wrong, please ... because otherwise I'll suspect such a hateful and awful statement could only come from someone lacking in the charity and peace associated with loving obedience to God's will.
Daily? That would piss me off.
Why not just leave people alone with their beliefs? Why not actually try tolerating other people's belief instead of trying to change them?
Witnessing for Christ is a fundamental tenant of the Christian religion. Christians are commanded by the Lord to spread the good news. Therefore, you are the one who is intolerant of other people's beliefs and trying to change them, by demanding that they renounce a fundamental tenant of their religion.
No it didn't, actually. In fact, we have continued our conversation, and the record clearly shows that. So you might want to apologize to the above poster for lying. The fact is that you say it is intolerant for Christians to practice their religion, which includes missionary work, and you refuse to defend that statement.
Daily? That would piss me off. Reasonable.. and then:
Therefore, you are the one who is intolerant of other people's beliefs and trying to change them, by demanding that they renounce a fundamental tenant of their religion.
Mmmmmm... and you just say that if someone did the same to you you would get pissed off.. mmmm..
Lol. I never considered you to be someone to appreciate literature, spotlighter. But I'll concede the point that you'd probably be much more comfortable burning Jews than burning literature, particularly if the "literature" was old Carto rags :).
So, how goes the site? Selling any colon-cures? And what IS "the Synagogue of Satan"?
1. What does Mmmm mean? Before you said Mmmm Nambla. Now its Mmmm before and after every sentence.
2. There is a difference between knocking on someone's door every single day and what is being discussed here.
My original question was "What's real tolerance?". Unfortunately, Christianity as you described it is not tolerant. I was horrified to learn from the mouth of the american women who were rescued from Taliban prisons, that they did indeed do missionary work in Afhganistan, even though everybody knows that its illegal to do so there.. It is also illegal to do missionary work with children in Israel.. nobody is saying anything about these missionaries breaking laws.. and anyways.. Look, I am not saying that Christians want to convert Jews out of malice or whatever. But no matter what the intent is, I do hope that you can see how it might piss somebody off. Specially went people wont' stop at anything and create such cults as Jews 4 Jesus - that's the worst.
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