Home of Israeli Secular Humanistic Leader Vandalized

Home of Israeli Secular Humanistic Leader Vandalized January 21, 2016

Prof. Yaakov Malkin speaking at The Birmingham Temple Congregation for Humanistic Judaism (“The Atheist Rabbi’s” congregation).

This is the sort of “breaking news” that I don’t usually blog about, but in this case it’s personal.

Prof. Yaakov Malkin, one of the great leaders of Secular Humanistic Judaism in Israel (and father of Rabbi Sivan Malkin Maas), woke up this morning to find his Jerusalem home vandalized.

From Haaretz:

A Star of David and the phrases “Psalms 139: 21-24” and “Destruction of Amalek” were scrawled on the fence surrounding his home. A knife and an envelope containing a threatening letter were also found at the scene, reading “a Jew whose hands are bloody resides in your street. This Jew received a severe warning.”

The letter to Malkin said, among other things, that “this is a warning for you to immediately end all atheist and heretic activity that you take part in or lead. You must absolutely and immediately stop your actions to dismiss and incite the people of Israel from their God.”

“Should you continue your actions following this warning, know that you are yourself choosing to forsake your fate and future. Do not cross the line. This isn’t a futile warning, it is completely and absolutely serious, treat it as one. You will not receive another warning,” it said.

The letter was signed, “your brother who brings to you the word of God your creator and king, the father still waiting for your return to him.”

Prof. Malkin was a dear friend of Rabbi Sherwin Wine who worked closely with him to build Secular Humanistic Judaism in Israel. His daughter, Rabbi Sivan Malkin Maas, is the dean of Tmurah, the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism – basically the Israeli arm of our movement – in Israel.

The movement has not been the subject of too many such attacks. Rabbi Maas told Haaretz:

… that the family hasn’t received threats in recent years and that it is unaware of people who are harassing them. However, she said that “last Yom Kippur, we published an article on the ways to mark Yom Kippur in a secular manner, and it made a very big impact. We are now engaged in activity relating to a secular Tu Bishvat. You never know what could wake these extremists.”

“The word ‘fear’ isn’t one that I relate to, but there definitely is concern. We will continue to focus on positive Judaism,” she added.

Since those early days when Prof. Malkin and Rabbi Wine worked together, Tmurah has grown by leaps and bounds. Obviously, its increasing prominence and attractiveness to secular Israeli Jews is threatening to religious extremists. Hopefully, more moderate religious voices will condemn this attack.

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