8:12 AM, Apr 9, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
Secretary of State John Kerry has often spoken to the Muslim world during his tenure, particularly during the past year as negotiations with Iran have intensified and conflict with the Islamic State has escalated. But what Kerry has not said during the past twelve months is also significant. A review of the secretary's official remarks and statements noting special dates on Islamic, Perisan, and Arab calendars shows a sharp contrast to his relative silence on Christian and Jewish occasions.
Last June, less than a month from the initial July 20 deadline for the nuclear talks with Iran, Kerry issued a statement marking the beginning of Ramadan. Kerry said that it was a "time for peaceful reflection and prayer, a time for acts of compassion and charity -- universal values and aspiration ingrained in every human heart." In October, again with a rescheduled talks deadline approaching, Kerry addressed a reception celebrating Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage. He spoke extensively of the meaning of that day and how "[t]here’s nothing Islamic about what ISIL/Daesh stands for", pointing out in contrast that Eid is "a moment when Ibrahim is celebrated for not slaying – for being willing to slay his son in order to provide for people and to prove something." Finally, with yet another talks deadline bearing down in March, Kerry took the time to directly address the Iranian people in recognition of Nowruz, the Persian New Year.
In contrast, Kerry made no remarks regarding either of the recent Easter or Passover celebrations. In addition, Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, passed unmentioned last October, and unlike the Iranian New Year, Kerry issued no statement recognizing the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah in September. (Kerry mentioned in passing at the Eid al-Adha reception that "the Jewish religion just went through its holiest moment of the year with Yom Kippur, which is also a moment of huge introspection and re-evaluation," but that's as far as he went.)
Kerry did attend a "Holiday Reception" in December at the State Department, but his recognition of those holidays consisted of simply saying, "Happy Hanukkah, second day of Hanukkah. Merry Christmas." His remarks did not include any words on the meanings of the celebrations, unlike his remarks on Ramadan and Eid. The most recent Jewish or Christian religious occasion marked at length by Kerry was Passover in April 2014, although he did make remarks for Holocaust Remembrance Day in January 2015.
In addition to the overlooked religious holidays, Kerry even passed over the celebration of Israel's independence day last May. This apparent snub is particularly curious since the secretary issued statements commemorating the independence or "national" days of nearly 170 countries in the past twelve months, including marking China's 65th year as the Communist Peoples Republic of China.
When asked to comment on the apparent disparities, a senior State Department official issued the following statement:
The State Department and White House work together to address national days and religious holidays to share the sentiments and best wishes of the American people.
The White House makes statements for major holidays in the U.S. – as it did for the recent Easter and Passover holidays.
Often, Secretary Kerry will also offer remarks or attend events to mark such occasions, as he did this year when celebrating Christmas and Chanukah with the Washington diplomatic corps, the families of overseas Department employees serving at difficult posts, and the State Department press corps, and like he did last year when he attended a Seder at the home of Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer.
New York City’s half-baked inquisition.Feb 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 20 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
In recent years, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg has acquired a reputation as one of America’s most progressive hipster outposts. In addition to the waves of Manhattan refugees who have relocated here, the area gets no shortage of visitors. Most of the visitors, however, don’t venture down Lee Avenue—main street for the Satmar Hasidic Jewish enclave.
Who is Jacob, and what does he mean? Mar 18, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 26 • By DAVID WOLPE
Jacob dreams of ladders. A romantic reading of his story would see the ladder as a metaphor of ascent. This child who begins as a deceiver ends surrounded by his children, and is brought back home to Israel for burial. A preacher would tie it up (as many have) with a nice didactic bow.
What is the meaning, and intent, of Hebrew Scripture?Jan 28, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 19 • By JUDAH BELLIN
Yoram Hazony is frustrated. A scholar at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, he has sought to bring Judaism in conversation with Western thought. The West, he believes, has not returned the favor.
A grand old man of letters meets the literature of Judaism. Nov 26, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 11 • By DAVID WOLPE
Many years ago, Will Herberg spoke of “cut-flower ethics.” He argued that, once unmoored from the religious soil that nurtured them, ethical principles would endure for a while, but would ultimately wither. To assume otherwise is to mistakenly dismiss the catalyzing effect that the idea of God has had on ethical motivation throughout
A document dump for ten centuries of Jewish historyOct 8, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 04 • By SUSANNE KLINGENSTEIN
When Alice fell through her Oxford rabbit hole in 1865, she landed in a world in which the hidden elements of her imagination took on an oppressive materiality.
12:19 PM, May 24, 2012 • By HOWARD SLUGH
On May 7, 2012, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the largest organization of rabbis in the United States, approved a resolution recognizing that the Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation that mandates employers provide access to contraceptives, abortifacient drugs, and sterilizations forces many employers to “violate the injunctions of their religion.” The RCA, which represents more than 1,000 Orthodox rabbis, urged the Obama administration to amend the regulation to protect the religious liberties of all employers.
1:14 PM, Sep 1, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
On his nightly television show recently, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell said that Texas governor Rick Perry is not suitable to be president of the United States because of his connection to one man — Pastor John Hagee of San Antonio, Texas.
Is there a place for religion on the comics page?4:58 PM, Nov 14, 2010 • By MICHAEL TAUBE
On June 5, 2009, The Washington Post posed the following question in a readers’ poll: “Do you think expressions of faith -- and not just satiric references to religion -- belong on the comics page?” Of the 257 participants, 70 percent answered “YES - the funnies are all about personal expression,” while 29 percent replied “NO - I believe in the separation of church and comics.” Should this be considered a surprising result?
The former candidate for vice president tweaks Obama.10:26 AM, Mar 30, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
Sarah Palin put out a statement last night marking the beginning of Passover:
Tonight Jewish families all over the world will gather to celebrate Passover, the story of Exodus and the freedom of the Jewish people from bondage. This holiday reminds us of the sacrifices that are still being made for freedom – the U.S. troops who are away from their families so that we can be with ours, and the Israeli people, who struggle for peace with their neighbors even as they face the threat of war.