President Trump Cancels North Korea Summit

by Dr. Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | The threat of North Korea is just one of the challenges we face as a nation (Images: Getty Images).

Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting. Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”

With these words, President Trump notified Kim Jong Un yesterday that he was canceling their June 12 summit in Singapore.

This decision followed a series of ominously worded statements from North Korea. Their senior envoy for US affairs had threatened to call off the summit and warned that their regime could “make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined.” The envoy also described Vice President Pence as a “political dummy.”

The White House says back channels for discussions with North Korea are still open but states that the regime must first change its rhetoric.


A “challenging threat environment”

The threat of North Korea is just one of the challenges we face as a nation.

Russia is believed to have 4,300 nuclear weapons, followed by the US with 4,000. There are 9,400 nuclear weapons in military arsenals, with another 5,600 awaiting dismantlement. Nearly 4,000 nuclear weapons are operationally available; 1,800 are ready for use on short notice.

The largest Russian bomb, if dropped on New York City, would kill 7.6 million people.

In addition, China is expanding its economic and military power and influence. Proxy wars in the Middle East involving Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel threaten to escalate.

Dan Coats, the US Director of National Intelligence, testified earlier this year before a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: “We face a complex, volatile and challenging threat environment. The risk of interstate conflict is higher than any time since the end of the Cold war–all the more alarming because of the growing development and use of weapons of mass destruction by state and nonstate actors.”

A nation worth protecting

The challenges of our day show why the men and women of our military are so important to our nation. More than 1.4 million Americans are serving on active duty today. Each of them has taken an oath to defend each of us.

Over America’s history, more than 1.1 million men and women have fulfilled that oath at the cost of their lives. Their memory lives in our gratitude. All we do this Memorial Day weekend to honor their sacrifice is so much less than they did to deserve it.

How does God want us to observe this important tradition?

One: Minister to the families of fallen soldiers. Scripture tells us that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). He wants us to be the presence of Jesus as we serve and pray for those in grief.

Two: Pray for wisdom for our military and civilian leaders. In these perilous times, claim the biblical promise: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God” (James 1:5).

Three: Pray for peace among nations. Pray for Kim Jong Un and other world leaders to follow Jesus. Make Paul’s prayer yours: “May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).

Four: Make America a nation worthy of their sacrifice. When I meet military veterans, I tell them that our nation owes them an unpayable debt. They often respond by encouraging me to make America a nation worth dying for.

Scripture calls us to set the example: “Be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15).

“An estate to be preserved”

Noah Webster has been called “the father of American scholarship and education.” On the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, he delivered a remarkable oration in which he pointed to the values and examples of the patriots whose sacrifice purchased America’s freedom.

At one point, he turned to “the youth of our country, who were not spectators of the distresses of the war.” His charge to them is just as relevant for us: “Let them consider that upon them has devolved the task of defending and improving the rich inheritance, purchased by their fathers. Nor let them view this inheritance of National Freedom and Independence, as a fortune that is to be squandered away, in ease and riot, but as an estate to be preserved only by industry, toil and vigilance.”


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Israeli Blacklist of US Rabbis Points to Widening Rift

Associated Press | Israel's Chief Rabbinate compiles a blacklist of overseas rabbis, including Rabbi Avi Weiss, right, an Orthodox clergyman in New York.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has compiled a blacklist of overseas rabbis whose authority they refuse to recognize when it comes to certifying the Jewishness of someone who wants to get married in Israel.

The list, obtained by The Associated Press, includes a number of prominent Orthodox rabbis in North America. Among them are a social activist in New York who has advocated for greater rights for women, a Canadian rabbi who is friendly with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a close colleague of the rabbi who converted Ivanka Trump.

The list, which includes 160 rabbis from 24 countries, is another sign of a deepening rift between overseas Jewish communities and Israeli religious authorities.

Tensions have already been mounting between the world's two largest Jewish communities since the Israeli government last month froze plans to create an expanded egalitarian prayer section at Jerusalem's Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray.

The rollback of a deal reached last year to open up the holy site to liberal streams of Judaism was seen as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's capitulation to pressure by his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners. Those ultra-Orthodox partners also control Israel's Chief Rabbinate.

Jews who immigrate to Israel are required to provide the government's Interior Ministry with proof of Judaism in the form of a letter from a rabbi. But those who wish to wed in Israel face an additional hurdle.

While the Interior Ministry's criteria are clear-cut and inclusive, the ultra-Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate takes a much stricter line.

For instance, it does not recognize the validity of Reform or Conservative Judaism, which is practiced by the vast majority of North American Jews.

The Chief Rabbinate's blacklist included not only Reform and Conservative rabbis overseas, but some of the most prominent Orthodox rabbis as well.

Rabbi Avi Weiss, an Orthodox clergyman based in Riverdale, New York, who advocates a "more open and inclusive Orthodoxy," said he was unaware of the list and could think of no reason why he was placed on it.

"The whole thing seems to be nonsensical on every level," Weiss said. Although he said he didn't find it personally painful, its existence was "tragic" because it only served to "alienate" fellow Jews.

Another member of the list, Rabbi Adam Scheier, who leads an Orthodox congregation in Montreal and has ties with Trudeau, called it "an affront to the hard work and devotion of so many of my colleagues – of all denominations."

The blacklist, he said, appeared to be "one of the many cases in which the Chief Rabbinate has carried out its function without transparency or process."

Rabbi Daniel Kraus of Kehilath Jeshurun, a major Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan, also is on the list. Kraus serves with Haskel Lookstein, the rabbi who converted Ivanka Trump. Lookstein's name was not on the list, and while his conversions have been questioned by the rabbinate in the past, they are now accepted.

Also rejected were rabbis teaching at Yeshiva University, the flagship university for the U.S. Modern Orthodox movement, a rabbi with the Chabad movement at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and prominent Modern Orthodox rabbis pushing for greater openness in Judaism.

In March 2016, an Israeli court ordered the rabbinate to release a list of rabbis whose testimony it had approved to ITIM, the Jewish Life Advocacy Center, an organization that helps Israelis deal with the rabbinate's bureaucracy. ITIM asked the Chief Rabbinate for the names of rabbis whose letters were approved and rejected in 2016 at the beginning of this year. The rabbinate complied in April.

ITIM founder Rabbi Seth Farber charged that the rabbinate has no explicit criteria for determining the Jewishness of people who wish to marry in Israel.

"There's little rhyme or reason," Farber said. "These are peoples' lives at stake."

A single rabbinate official, Rabbi Itamar Tubul, is responsible for determining the validity of rabbinical letters testifying to marriage applicants' Jewishness. Neither the Chief Rabbinate's spokesman nor Tubul's office responded to requests for comment.


Making the Most of Lent

by Rev. Ketlen Solak, Brandywine Collaborative Ministries (image source)

Lent this year begins Wednesday, February 10 and ends Saturday, March 26, during this forty-day journey, we will do our best to walk “The Way” – that is, we will do our best to follow Jesus more closely. Most of us will observe Lent in some manner, perhaps by spending more time in study, prayer, fasting, or by embracing something new that helps us grow spiritually.

The Church calls us to celebrate Lent for that very purpose – for the purpose of deepening our spiritual experience. The season of Lent gives us the opportunity to follow Jesus as he deliberately walked toward Jerusalem knowing that there he would inevitably face the suffering of betrayal, humiliation, torture, and death. Lent gives us the opportunity to remember more keenly the courage, the generosity, and the priceless gift of Jesus.

Hence, on Ash Wednesday we receive the invitation to observe a Holy Lent, which is an invitation to set time apart to engage in the types of spiritual enrichment that I have already mentioned. Yet, for many of us, Lent has arrived at a time when life is particularly difficult and painful. In this case, Lent is a time to simply remember that Jesus understands – a time to remember that Jesus has tasted pain and suffering, and that Jesus is walking the way with you.

No matter where we are in terms of our experience of life, I pray that the Holy Spirit will give us the measure of hope and strength that exactly fits our need. I also pray, as we observe Lent together, that each one of us will gain greater insight about the magnificent grace of God, and that our hearts will be moved anew by the power of Holy Spirit – that our hearts will be moved to new depths of gratitude and adoration for the One who first loved us and has fully demonstrated the meaning and cost of love.

The Rev. Ketlen Solak was called in 2014 to serve as Covenant Rector of the Brandywine Collaborative Ministries (BCM). Solak is leading the work of the three linked parishes of Brandywine Hundred, Wilmington: Calvary, Hillcrest, Church of the Ascension, and Grace Church. Ketlen graduated from the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) in May of 2005 and was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Virginia in June of that year. She has a deep passion for music and enjoys to sing.