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Showing posts from November, 2016

A Father's Daughter

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Parashat Lech Lecha Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
A Father’s Daughter
There is something Biblical about the trajectory of my late father’s life. Born in Amsterdam in 1903, in a devout Protestant family, he was the only one of five his siblings not born in Grand Rapids, Michigan (USA). Breaking with a long family tradition to train for the ministry, my father embraced science and reason and studied medicine instead. In the 1930’s my father was an ambitious young family doctor with a dream to become a psychiatrist.

During the mid-to-late 1930’s, my father travelled to Germany for reasons unknown to me; perhaps they were related to his profession. Family history recounts that he had a chance to witness Adolf Hitler speak and that my father, intrigued by how such a cruel demagogue could sway so many, went to the rally. My father intellectually, morally and ideologically rejected everything Hitler stood for but found Hitler mezmerising. After witnessing Hitler speak; he understood what a danger thi…

Standing at the Wall

Parashat Noach Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
Taking a Stand at the Wall
Recent events taking place at the Western Wall two made me feel a particular type of embarrassed regret. Last January, Nathan Sharansky, the well-respected political activist and Soviet Refusenik, helped broker a compromise on behalf of the Jewish Agency between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox denominations (including Women of the Wall) with regards to accessing the Western Wall. The conditions of the compromise were that the Western Wall would remain in the hands of the Ultra-Orthodox while the Southern part of the Wall, also known as ‘Robinson’s Arch’ would be made available for egalitarian prayer as per the custom of the Reform and Conservative Movements. The government promised to start construction works on Robinson’s Arch (which at the moment is a not very accessible archaeological site) and hoped to complete the project in a year or two. This was met with great enthusiasm in the non-Orthodox world and I must admit th…