14 April 2016 - 6 Nisan 5776 - ו' ניסן ה' אלפים תשע"ו
Emotional European Maccabi Games take place in Germany E-mail

The 14th European Maccabi Games took place in Germany for the first time, from 27 July to 5 August. Well over 2,300 Jewish athletes from 36 countries took part. It was Europe’s biggest Jewish sporting event.

The Games, which date back to 1929 and take place once every four years, alternating cities in Europe, are an initiative of the Maccabi World Union (MWU), which promotes amateur sports as a means to bring Jews closer to Judaism and Israel. More commonly known as the “Jewish Olympics”, the Games involve 19 sporting disciplines ranging from football to fencing.

This year, seven decades after the fall of the Nazi regime and half a century since the start of diplomatic relations between Israel and the German Federal Republic, the European Maccabi Games were held in Berlin. In a statement published before the Games, German chancellor Angela Merkel wrote: “In view of the past, Germany may truly be thankful for the restored diversity of Jewish life in our country and for the renewed trust of the guests from abroad.”

The Games’ opening ceremony took place on 28 July in Berlin’s Waldbühne, an amphitheatre built in the 1930s at the request of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The ceremony’s guest of honour was German president Joachim Gauck, who said he was very happy and moved by the fact that Berlin, which once discriminated against and humiliated Jewish athletes, is now hosting a Jewish sporting event.

Some of the most poignant moments as athletes and organisers from the 36 countries stood together in the stadium and sang the Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. The Kaddish, the Memorial Prayer, was recited by the Chief Rabbi of Berlin, Haim Yitshak Ehrenberg, for those who perished during the Holocaust. The climax of the ceremony was the lighting of the Maccabi torch by descendants of the Jewish athletes who 79 years earlier were prevented from taking part in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Nancy Glickman, daughter of Marty Glickman, the famous sports broadcaster and Olympic athlete, lit the flame that officially launched the 2015 European Maccabi Games. Glickman senior had travelled to Berlin as part of the 1936 US Olympic relay team but, along with fellow Jewish athlete Sam Stoller, was suddenly replaced at the last minute in a movewidely believed to be an effort to avoid embarrassing Adolf Hitler.

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Ancient Hebrew scroll deciphered E-mail

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced recently that advanced technologies have, for the first time, made it possible to read the contents of a burnt scroll that was found 45 years ago in archaeological excavations in the Holy Ark of the synagogue at Ein Gedi, on the western shore of the Dead Sea. Surprisingly, the scroll is a 1,500-year-old copy of the beginning of the Book of Leviticus.

The parchment scroll was unearthed in 1970 in archaeological excavations in the synagogue at Ein Gedi, headed by the late Dr. Dan Barag and Dr.Sefi Porath. However at that time, due to the scroll’s charred condition, it was not possible to either preserve or decipher it.

After recent extremely challenging efforts that lasted over a year, the scientists and researchers were amazed to see verses from the beginning of the Book of Leviticus suddenly coming back to life.

The Lunder Family Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Center of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which uses state-of-theart and advanced technologies to preserve and document the Dead Sea scrolls, enabled the discovery of this important find.

It turns out that part of this scroll is from the beginning of the Book of Leviticus, written in Hebrew, and dated by C14 analysis to the late sixth century CE. To date, this is the most ancient scroll from the five books of the Hebrew Bible to be found since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, most of which are ascribed to the end of the Second Temple period (first century BCE-first century CE).

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From the ends of the earth – journey of Indonesian Jewish descendants back to G-d E-mail
ARISE, SHINE, for thy light is come,
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, DARKNESS SHALL COVER THE EARTH,
And gross darkness the peoples;
But upon thee the LORD will arise,
And His glory shall be seen upon thee.
And nations shall walk at thy light,
And kings at the brightness of thy rising.
Lift Up thine eyes round about, and see:
They all are gathered together, and come to thee;
Thy sons come from far,
And thy daughters are borne on the side.
(Isaiah 60:1-4)

“Darkness Shall Cover The Earth”

It is not clearly known how early Jews came to Asia, or Indonesia in particular. The earliest account on Jewish traders coming to Indonesia was written in the book “Aja’ib al-Hind” (Wonders of India). The writer, Buzurg ibn Shahriyar, mentioned a Jewish trader, Sihaq ibn Yahuda from Sohar in Oman. It is written that the merchant travelled to China from Sohar between 892 and 912 CE, returned to Oman with great wealth, and travelled to China again only to be killed on the way in Sumatra, Indonesia. This book is available in English titled The Book of the Marvels of India published by East-West Publications, London, 1981.

After the Spanish expulsion, Jews fled Europe and arrived in South America. As persecution followed them there, some of the Jews in Peru fled once again by ship. After the currents carried them to Japan, the younger and stronger ones continued on the journey and found the island of Papua, where they finally settled. They assimilated, and today, their descendants can still be found there. When the Dutch East Indies was established in 1602, Jewish merchants from all over Europe came to Indonesia, mostly on Java island. Many too assimilated here, and today we find descendants of those Jewish merchants from mostly Holland, and other parts of Europe, such as Poland, Hungary, Turkey and so on.

Not many know of the hidden Jewish history of Indonesia dating back to 400 years ago. Besides the Synagogue in Surabaya, which was torn down in May 2013, legacies such as individual Jewish burial and cemetery, and even Japanese concentration camps for Jews and Jewish descendants, are plenty.

One of the legacies left by a Jew is the home town where I grew up. I moved there after my family and I returned home from Germany. The town is located on the outskirts of East Jakarta and is called Pondok Gede. The name itself is an Indonesian term which means “big house”. It refers to a mansion that belonged to a Polish Jew named Iehoede – read “Yehude” – Igel (1755-1835). He was a low ranking security guard turned wealthy goldsmith and later changed his name to Leendert Miero. The area, Pondok Gede, was named after Miero’s estate.

Although Jews were officially allowed in the Dutch East Indies in 1782, many still hid or denied their Jewish heritage. Some did not live according to the Jewish faith and assimilated. A revival of Jewish life eventually occurred when the Association for Jewish Interests in the Dutch East Indies was established in 1927.

It was about the same year that the Jewish newspaper Eretz Israel was first published in Padang, Sumatra. The revival did not last long. In WWII, when the Japanese came, Jewish life died once more and stayed buried for 70 years, until many Jews left for the Netherlands, UK, US, Australia and Israel. Today, the association of Indonesian Jews in Haifa, “Tempo Doeloe”, have members who are firsthand witnesses of those times. After the war, there was almost nothing left of Jewish life in Indonesia.

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