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Author Topic: Protestant B = Jewish on Gulf War Dog Tags
gentleben
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Got a version of this in my e-mail as "whether true or not, its a good story." I was able to find the article in the authority cited by the e-mail (Hadassah Magazine), but still have my doubts. Anyone ever here of this, either in the Gulf War or any other time when US troops had to place Jewish soldiers in Arab countries?

quote:

Last Look: Savoring a Private Zion
By Debra B. Darvick
--------------------------------------------------
Dog tags. When you get right down to it, the military's dog tag classification forced me to reclaim MY Judaism. In the fall of 1990 things were heating up in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. I'd been an Army captain and a helicopter maintenance test pilot for a decade and received notice that I'd be transferred to the First Cavalry Division which was on alert for the Persian Gulf war. Consequently, I also caught wind of the Department of Defense "dog tag dilemma" vis-Š-vis Jewish personnel.

Then as now Jews were forbidden by Saudi law to enter the country. But our Secretary of Defense flat out told the King of Saudi Arabia, "We have Jews in our military. They've trained with their units and they're going. Blink and look the other way." With Kuwait occupied and the Iraqis at his border, King Faud did the practical thing. We shipped out, but there was still the issue of classification.

Normally the dog tags of Jewish servicemen are imprinted with the word "Jewish." But Defense, fearing that this would put Jewish soldiers at further risk should they be captured on Iraqi soil, substituted the classification "Protestant B" on the tags. I didn't like the whole idea of reclassifying Jews as Protestant anything and decided to leave mine alone. I figured if I were captured, it was in God's hands. Changing my tags was tantamount to denying my religion and I couldn't swallow that. In September 1990 1 went off to defend a country I was prohibited from entering. The "Jewish" on my dog tag remained as clear and unmistakable as the American star painted on the hood of every Army truck.

A few days after my arrival, the Baptist battalion chaplain approached me. "I just got a secret message through channels," he said. "There's going to be a Jewish gathering. A holiday? Simkatoro or something like that. You want to go? It's at 1800 hours at Dhahran Airbase."

Simkatoro turned out to be Simchas Torah, a holiday that hadn't registered on my religious radar in eons. Services were held in absolute secrecy in a windowless room in a cinder block building. The chaplain who helped keep us together during the war led a swift and simple service. We couldn't risk singing or dancing, but Rabbi Ben Romer had managed to smuggle in a bottle of Manischewitz. Normally I can't stand the stuff, but that night the wine tasted of Sbabbos and family and Seders long gone. My soul was warmed by the forbidden alcohol and by the memories swirling around me and my fellow soldiers. We were strangers to one another in a land stranger than any of us had ever experienced, but for that brief hour we were home.

Only Americans would have had the chutzpa to celebrate Simchas Torah under the noses of the Saudis. Irony and pride twisted together inside me like barbed wire. Celebrating my Judaism that evening made me even prouder to be an American, thankful once more for the freedoms we have. I'd only been in Saudi Arabia a week, but I already had a keen understanding of how restrictive its society was.

Soon after things began coming to a head; the next time I was able to do anything remotely Jewish was Hanukka. Maybe it was coincidence, or maybe it was God's hand that placed a Jewish colonel in charge of our intelligence unit. Colonel Lawrence Schneider relayed messages of Jewish gatherings to get to us immediately. Had a non-Jew been in that position the information likely would have taken a back seat to a more pressing issue. Like war. But it didn't. When notice of the Hanukka party was decoded, we knew about it one-two-three.

The first thing we saw when we entered the tent was food, tons of it. CARE packages from the States ó cookies, latkes, sour cream and applesauce, and for some funny reason, cans and cans of gefilte fish. The wind was blowing dry across the tent but inside there was this incredible feeling of celebration. As Rabbi Romer talked about the theme of Hanukka and the ragtag bunch of Maccabee soldiers fighting Jewry's oppressors thousands of years ago, it wasn't hard to make the connection to what lay ahead of us. There in the middle of the desert inside an olive green Army-issue tent pockmarked with holes, we felt like we were the Maccabees. If we had to go down, we were going to go down fighting.

We blessed the candles, acknowledging the King of the Universe Who commanded us to kindle the Hanukka lights. We said the second prayer praising God for the miracles He performed bayamim hahem bazman hazeh, in those days and now. And since we were assembled on the first night of Hanukka, we also sang the third blessing, the Shehehiyanu, thanking God for keeping us in life and for enabling us to reach this season.

We knew war was imminent. All week we'd received reports of mass destruction, projections of the chemical weapons likely to be unleashed. Intelligence estimates put the first rounds of casualties at 12,500 soldiers. I heard those numbers and thought, "That's my entire division." I sat back in my chair, my three cans of gefilte fish at my feet. I had tucked a trio of letters addressed to "Any Jewish Soldier" into my back pocket. There we were in the desert about to go to war, singing songs of praise to God Who had saved our ancestors in battle. The feeling of unity was as pervasive as our apprehension, as real as the sand that found its way into everything from our socks to our toothbrushes. I felt more Jewish there on that lonely Saudi plain, our tanks and guns at the ready, than I'd ever felt outfitted with talis, prayer book and yarmulke in shul.

That Hanukka in the desert solidified for me the urge to reconnect with my Judaism. I felt religion welling up inside me. Any soldier will tell you there are no atheists in a foxhole and I know a good deal of my feelings were tied to the looming war and my desire to get with God before the unknown descended in the cloud of battle. It sounds corny but as we downed the latkes; and cookies and wiped the last of the applesauce from our plates, everyone grew quiet, keenly aware of the link with history, thinking of what we were about to do and what had been done by soldiers like us so long ago.

The trooper beside me stared ahead at nothing in particular, absentmindedly fingering his dog tag.

"How'd you classify?" I asked, nodding to the tag. Silently he withdrew the metal rectangle and its beaded chain from beneath his shirt and held it out for me to read. Like mine, his read "Jewish."

Somewhere in a military supply depot I'm sure there are boxes and boxes of dog tags, still in their wrappers, all marked "Protestant B."

Debra B. Darvick's retelling of Retired Army Major Mike Neulander's "war story" is from her book in progress on contemporary American Jewish experiences. To participate contact Darvick, who lives in Birmingham, MI (http://www.jewish-stories.com). Neulander is now a Judaica silversmith in Newport News, Virginia.



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Kathy B
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The book is: A Jewish Life: Fifty-Two Stories of Joy, Meaning, and Connection. "Mr. Neulander is now a Judaica silversmith in Newport News, VA"

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Gunpilot
The Red and the Green Stamps


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It's not real clear which words are Ms. Darvick's, and which are MAJ Neulander's. It sounds like someone took a story, filled it out, exagerrated it a bit(glurgified maybe?), and is sharing it with the world. A couple of things:

Aren't Jewish people forbidden from writing God? I've seen it written as G-d, even in a newspaper column by a rabbi. Maybe it's just certain Jewish people who believe this, though. Feel free to enlighten me.

This part:

quote:


Somewhere in a military supply depot I'm sure there are boxes and boxes of dog tags, still in their wrappers, all marked "Protestant B."

is absoulutely false. Nothing is engraved (stamped, really) into an I.D. tag until all the information is available, then the whole tag is made all at once. An Army Major would almost certainly know this. But Debra Darvick might not.

In over twelve years in the Army, I've never, ever heard of "Protestant B". And are Jewish people really forbidden from entering Saudi Arabia? That sounds a little ULish to me as well.

Gun"Shalom"pilot

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colin sky
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
But our Secretary of Defense flat out told the King of Saudi Arabia, "We have Jews in our military. They've trained with their units and they're going. Blink and look the other way.
This obviously wasn't the same secretary of defense who supported "Don't ask, don't tell."
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RangerDog
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by Gunpilot:
It's not real clear which words are Ms. Darvick's, and which are MAJ Neulander's. It sounds like someone took a story, filled it out, exagerrated it a bit(glurgified maybe?), and is sharing it with the world. A couple of things:

Aren't Jewish people forbidden from writing God? I've seen it written as G-d, even in a newspaper column by a rabbi. Maybe it's just certain Jewish people who believe this, though. Feel free to enlighten me.

This part:

quote:


Somewhere in a military supply depot I'm sure there are boxes and boxes of dog tags, still in their wrappers, all marked "Protestant B."

is absoulutely false. Nothing is engraved (stamped, really) into an I.D. tag until all the information is available, then the whole tag is made all at once. An Army Major would almost certainly know this. But Debra Darvick might not.

In over twelve years in the Army, I've never, ever heard of "Protestant B". And are Jewish people really forbidden from entering Saudi Arabia? That sounds a little ULish to me as well.

Gun"Shalom"pilot

Yes jewish people are not allowed in the KSA. I worked with a guy there whose last name was Goldstein and he had to "prove" that he wasn't jewish. (which he wasn't)

The practice (what ever that means) of any religion other than Islam is strictly forbidden.

Yes the Saudis were told to get over it during the war.

My dog tags only have a letter "P", I never thought about what others had on theirs, but my war was in South East Asia, long ago. I was a REMF for the Gulf conflict.

Ranger "inshalla" Dog

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Warlok
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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there are no rules or set designations about what goes on a dog tag in that area. It is up to the members wishes and is imprinted along with all the other data onto a blank slug... I've seen tags that say "pagan" "druid" and a number of other things besides the "traditional" religions. The whole purpose of even havign that on there is to give someone who is injured or dying the spiritula help/support that they desire.

Even if the related story was true, the chaplain would have no way of knowing what was on various peoples tags and therefore who to invite... I suspect they did have gatherings as described, but I also suspect the whole unit knew it and those that didn't attend, probably helped keep the secret and distract attention -- as is the method with most good units.

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dofwai
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Warlok:
Even if the related story was true, the chaplain would have no way of knowing what was on various peoples tags and therefore who to invite...

He would have access to the DA form 93's though (record of emergency data). Just from memory, I believe those have religious preference on them.

I have also heard stories that Chaplains weren't called Chaplains over there (officially), they were called "Morale Officers".

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Elkhound
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by dofwai:
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Warlok:
[qb]

I have also heard stories that Chaplains weren't called Chaplains over there (officially), they were called "Morale Officers".

Some Christian countries have chaplains at the embassies to SA; officially they are "Cultural Attaches". (RC priests with the Spanish & Italian embassies, an Orthodox priest at the Greek embassy, a Lutheran minister at the German Embassy, etc.) (A friend who used to work for ARAMCO told me this.)

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kessira
The Red and the Green Stamps


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This story does have something of the ring of truth to me. I know that openly practicing Christianity is forbidden in Saudi Arabia. Guess where I became a Christian? Yep. Dhahran. During the 1970's. Christians there had to hide the fact that we met for Bible study (we called it a coffee hour), we had to hide the fact that we went to church (As far as the gate guard at the compound knew, we visited with friends there every Friday. Well, we didvisit with friends...) and we became experts at hiding our Bibles in every available nook and cranny. We lived with the knowledge that the police might raid any gathering at any moment, and deport us. Every minister that I heard about in the country had a 'day job' occupation which was listed on the visa and regularly practiced in everyday life, so that they were all pretty much tentmaker missionaries. It does not surprise me that the US military would provide as much religious freedom as it could to personnel of every faith, even when stationed in a restrictive country. And it does not surprise me that military personnel of different faiths would work together to pull off a celebration like the one described. So, a few facts about the Jewish soldiers' status in this story might be embroidered or badly remembered. At bottom, though, based on personal experience it sounds like the truth.
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kessira
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Gunpilot:

This part:
[qb]
... And are Jewish people really forbidden from entering Saudi Arabia? That sounds a little ULish to me as well.

Gun"Shalom"pilot

Yes, Pilot, not only are Jewish people forbidden from entering SA, but so are products from companies that market to Israel, like Coca-Cola. (I spent most of my childhood there, and I'm still a Pepsi drinker to this very day.) And if you're planning on throwing a barbecue with spareribs and beer, you can forget about doing it in Dhahran. Mind you the Saudi Champagne on New Year's is a tradition I still keep...
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pinqy
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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1st: Why would it matter what's on the dog tag? Were the Saudis supposed to check every one? They didn't. No one ever read anything on my tags either in Saudi Arabia or in Kuwait. Since no Saudi would ever read a dog tag, the US would hardly be concerned with what they said.

2nd: Well, there is no second (since it's already been pointed out that dog tags are not pre-marked).

Oh, and the chaplains were still called chaplains and still wore a the appropriate religious symbol in lieu of rank on their headgear.

pinqy

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Winter Solstice Hanukkah Christmas Kwanzaa & Gurnenthar's Ascendance Are Coming!

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Otters kinda look like rats
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Yep, you can pretty much put whatever you want on a dog tag. My friend Jeremy had "PUNK ROCK" put on his for religion.

I'm pretty sure I've seen Arabic Coca-Cola cans brought back as souvenirs from KSA, and I know it was a popular fad for GI's to have their dog tags dipped in gold for novelty purposes from local gold dealers off-base.

This whole story sounds funny, and I've never heard it before. I think there would have been an uproar during the first deployment during Operation Desert Shield, or at least someone would have spoken up in the 13 years of duty rotations since.

Dog tags are worn around the neck, under the fatigues, and minted in English. They way the letters are pressed into the metal also makes it difficult to read unless you are really looking at it up close. The chance of it being accidentally seen would by a local national would be miniscule.

This story would make a whole lot more sense if the Protestant-B tags were used for Jewish troops in case they were captured by the Iraqis.

In his autobiography, "Bravo Two Zero," British Special Air Service Sgt. Andy McNab talks about how his Iraqi interrogators were absolutely convinced he was an Israeli soldier (despite his English accent, his uncircumsized penis, and his British Army desert fatigues) and beat the crap out of him, and even sic'ed a sadistic dentist on him.

When he finally convinced them he was a British Christian and not an Israeli Jew, they backed off a bit.

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Gerard
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Regarding jews not authorized to enter Saudi Arabia: one of our most popular singer, Eddy Mitchell, was set to do a concert there for the french troops involved in Desert Shield/Storm. Because of his religion, he was forbidden to enter, and had to do his concert on the bridge of an aircraft carrier, concert that was televised to the troops there.
But such facts are not unknown. I learned recently that australian customs tried to keep black american soldiers to enter Australia during WW II (Australia had for a long time a very selective immigration policy).

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Otters kinda look like rats
The Red and the Green Stamps


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The story is begging to smell a little fishy...

According to a profile on the National Museum of American Jewish Military Heroes website:
quote:

Deployed to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield in 1990, Lisa discovered that the Saudis opposed the presence of both women and Jews. For diplomatic reasons, American women were asked to wear traditional black gowns and cover their hair. Military officials also asked Jewish soldiers to "use discretion" when practicing their religion in Saudi Arabia.

On principle, Lisa refused to cover her hair or refrain from participating in Jewish religious activities. "We didnít flaunt our practices, but [my religion] was important to me, especially considering the grim odds [for survival] predicted at the beginning of Desert Storm", Lisa said. "The Saudi religious police were constantly following me around. Unfortunately, we got the biggest opposition within our own government because officials didnít want to offend the Saudis."

http://www.nmajmh.org/supplies/womcat59.html

Italics and bold are mine.

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Felessan
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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quote:
Originally posted by Gerard:
Regarding jews not authorized to enter Saudi Arabia: one of our most popular singer, Eddy Mitchell, was set to do a concert there for the french troops involved in Desert Shield/Storm. Because of his religion, he was forbidden to enter, and had to do his concert on the bridge of an aircraft carrier, concert that was televised to the troops there.
But such facts are not unknown. I learned recently that australian customs tried to keep black american soldiers to enter Australia during WW II (Australia had for a long time a very selective immigration policy).

As I understand it, black American soldiers weren't kept out of Australia during the war.
Of interest in this regard is an article I saw recently in which a noted Australian commentator (Ronald Conway, IIRC) writing of his wartime memories recalled the infamous "Brown-Out Strangler" murders of 1942; he wrote that they were committed by a black GI. The actual killer, Edward Leonski, was white...
On topic; black musicians visiting in the 1950s were deported for the "crime" of consorting with white women (who were branded as prostitutes for being found having mere social contacts with black men).
This whole sordid period in Australian social history is not one I'm proud to relate.

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Double Latte
Happy Holly Days


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Thanks for that link, Otter!

IIRC, women were/are also forbidden to drive cars in SA, and US soldiers were instructed that only males were to drive the jeeps and other vehicles when out in public. It is one of many sore spots women in the military are fighting against. "We risk our butts here for you and you expect us to live like second-class citizens?"

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God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked
The good fortune to run into the ones that I do
And the eyesight to tell the difference.

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Otter the Klown
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Double Latte Juggler:
Thanks for that link, Otter!

IIRC, women were/are also forbidden to drive cars in SA, and US soldiers were instructed that only males were to drive the jeeps and other vehicles when out in public. It is one of many sore spots women in the military are fighting against. "We risk our butts here for you and you expect us to live like second-class citizens?"

I always wondered if the USA would have respected South Africa's "customs" if we had deployed troops there during Apartheid.
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Fernanda
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Otters kinda look like rats:
Yep, you can pretty much put whatever you want on a dog tag. My friend Jeremy had "PUNK ROCK" put on his for religion.

Did you ever know anyone with JEDI on their dogtag? [Wink]
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GI Joe
Jingle Bell Hock


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quote:
Originally posted by Otter the Klown:
quote:
Originally posted by Double Latte Juggler:
Thanks for that link, Otter!

IIRC, women were/are also forbidden to drive cars in SA, and US soldiers were instructed that only males were to drive the jeeps and other vehicles when out in public. It is one of many sore spots women in the military are fighting against. "We risk our butts here for you and you expect us to live like second-class citizens?"

I always wondered if the USA would have respected South Africa's "customs" if we had deployed troops there during Apartheid.
It isn't really a matter of "respect," is it? Forces are allowed into a country under the terms of a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which dictates the legal relationship of the host government to the individuals and organizations of the guest armed forces. So it is more a matter of what laws the sovereign host government is willing to waive in their application to foreign friendly troops.

As a practical matter, the more desperate a host nation it is, the more tolerant it may be. Hence, during Desert Storm/Shield, a nervous Saudi Royal Family thought it prudent to turn a blind eye to our use of females, inclusion of non-Islamic chaplins and the presence of US troops of Jewish faith. With the war over, back to the old ways.

But again, it isn't so much a matter of merely respect for customs as it is a matter of legally observing the host nation's sovereignty. It's their country, and we are subject to their laws, except to the degree that exceptions can be negotiated under the SOFA.

The question I think you meant to raise was, at what point do offensive national practices rise to such a level of repugnance that they outweigh our other foreign policy interests?

Interesting point. Principles are important, but where do practical concerns fit in? When stationed in Korea, the unit I was with took the principled road and assigned a US soldier of Japanese extraction as a liaison to a Korean unit, despite the famous Korean bigotry against Japanese. The Koreans were insulted and kept our man so closely under observation he was virtually under tent arrest; our unit got insulted over the treatment; and no coordination ever got effected. In some cases it is hard to see where in-your-face standing up for some principles serves any good at all.

To me the military gets a bum rap on the Saudi issue. Seems to me like they are trying to look out for our women as best they can in a bad situation. After all, if a US woman violates Saudi religious law, she ends up in a Saudi Islamic Court facing Islamic justice, and we have absolutley no ability to intervene in that setting. Does anyone really want to see that happen? [Anybody remember the line in "The Quiet Man: "Here's a nice stick to beat the lovely lady!"] Legally the Saudis hold all the cards, and at least for now, we need them more than they needs us. No chance we're gonna get them to waive their law on this issue; no leverage. Like I said before, seems to me the military is just trying to keep its folks out of trouble in a difficult environment.

It's got to be annoying for females serving over there, but at some point as a professional, you just gotta suck it up and drive on. No, no. I forgot, you can't drive. Ah, well, let the guys in the unit drive on for you? No. Ah, the hell with it. Go ahead and drive. Just be careful. I hear it's an additional 150 whacks if you're caught driving with a cell phone in one hand, a double latte mocha twist in the other and failing to signal a turn.

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Koshka
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by Gunpilot:
Aren't Jewish people forbidden from writing God? I've seen it written as G-d, even in a newspaper column by a rabbi. Maybe it's just certain Jewish people who believe this, though. Feel free to enlighten me.

When I was growing up, Mom worked as the private secretary for an Orthodox lawyer. There was a rabbinical court in town once (a meat wholesaler was selling nonkosher meat as kosher), and she typed some of the notes. Yes, any reference to God was written "G-d". I know the rabbis on the court were Orthodox, do you know about the columnist? It may be an Orthodox thing.
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The Witchfinder General
The Red and the Green Stamps


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I've never quite understood the G-d thing as practiced by certain Jews. I thought it was just Yahweh/Jehovah that they weren't allowed to defile. Unless this is another example of rabbinical nitpicking.
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Cat Grey
Happy Holly Days


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quote:
Originally posted by The Witchfinder General:
I've never quite understood the G-d thing as practiced by certain Jews. I thought it was just Yahweh/Jehovah that they weren't allowed to defile. Unless this is another example of rabbinical nitpicking.

My understanding of it (which is probably incomplete; I picked it up whilst corresponding with a couple of Rabbis) is that it's essentially a courtesy. Originally, it was the G-d's name that was considered holy: not to be spoken aloud, only to be written on sacred documents, etc. In particular, there is a prohibition against destroying any document which has the Name on it.

Now, "God" isn't the divinity's name; it's his title, loosely akin to referring to G.W. Bush as "Mr. President." However, the original pronunciation of the Name has been lost for centuries, and many people nowadays use "God" as if it were a name... So most Jews (at least the ones I know) omit the vowel, essentially treating the title as if it were the Name.

So it's basically just a way of showing respect for the sacred. (I've long been suspicious that it's also because of the fear that if you use the full version, you might get His attention. ...But that's definitely not the traditional explanation.)

Cat "clear as mud, right?" Grey

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The Witchfinder General
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Cat Grey:
quote:
Originally posted by The Witchfinder General:
I've never quite understood the G-d thing as practiced by certain Jews. I thought it was just Yahweh/Jehovah that they weren't allowed to defile. Unless this is another example of rabbinical nitpicking.

My understanding of it (which is probably incomplete; I picked it up whilst corresponding with a couple of Rabbis) is that it's essentially a courtesy. Originally, it was the G-d's name that was considered holy: not to be spoken aloud, only to be written on sacred documents, etc. In particular, there is a prohibition against destroying any document which has the Name on it.
I don't know how Jews put up with Rabbis. A "courtesy"? Nah, Rabbis have long been a kind of lawyer and like lawyers like adding bits, altering bits and overinterpreting them... mainly to keep themselves in work and in power. It's a nonsense, just as the whole business of not eating cheese burgers is (Moses (or whoever wrote the Torah) didn't write that at all).

I think Jesus and the Karaites had some sense of this two thousand years ago.

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candy-colored rossdawg
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I understand where you are coming from with this but isn't this the case with most organized religions?
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The Witchfinder General
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by candy-colored rossdawg:
I understand where you are coming from with this but isn't this the case with most organized religions?

I'd say so, but it's particularly bad in Judaism, notably the stricter kinds. I remember seeing a rabbi being chased off a Kibbutz because he was being such a pain in the backside. Rabbis have in some cases a virtual protection racket going with the whole Kosher certified business.
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