9/28/06

For singing out loud

A Jewish Standard reader agrees this week with my opinion:

For singing out loud

Tzvee Zahavy writes, "Bring back the chazzan" (Sept. 15). I agree. I think Dr. Zahavy has hit the nail on the head. What we need is more decorum in shul. While it is important for all Jewish men to know how to daven, we should leave the "real" davening to the professionals.

I, for one, would love to come to shul and have a professional chazzan and choir daven. However, let’s be honest — most people would not. When I informally ask my friends and neighbors if they would like to come to shul and have a real chazzan daven, most admit to preferring root canal. All just beg me to give them enough advance notice so they can arrange to daven elsewhere. The beauty and artistry of a good chazzan is lost on most of the under-50 set. I was brought up on chazzanut and can tell the difference between Koussevitzky, Rosenblatt, Serota, and my favorite, Pinchik. But most of my generation don’t know and don’t care.

Another problem: Pick any great chazzan; listen to him chant the prayers. What do you hear? Oh my, that’s right; he repeats words. Some time over the last 50 years this has become taboo. I don’t know when or why, but that taboo has cheapened the art. If repeating words was good enough for the masses in Vilna or Warsaw it surely is okay for us in Teaneck.

So, I agree with Dr. Zahavy. I have had enough of the Do-It-Yourself davening. I am tired of playing Name That Tune with kedusha and really fed up with all the "dye-dy’ing" (or is it "nye-ny’ing" or "yubabbu’ing"?) just to make a tune work. As we begin 5767 lets commit ourselves to returning to our roots, to bringing back the chazzan and davening as our ancestors did — with kavanah (respect).

Arnon D. Steinhart
Teaneck

9/27/06

Amazing Video! Race Car Driver Survives - What Church Does She Go To?

Katherine Legge survived unscathed an unbelievable race car crash. I'd like to know what church she goes to! From KL news:

British Champ Car rookie and Crash.Net columnist Katherine Legge walked away from the biggest accident of her career on Sunday at Road America after a possible rear wing failure pitched her off the track and into a series of sickening somersaults.

Legge's accident, which occurred in the closing stages of the Road America Grand Prix, not only robbed the PKV Racing driver of a potential career best finish but also gave her PKV crew a huge repair job to complete before the penultimate round of the series in Surfers Paradise.

Running sixth with less than ten laps remaining around the spectacular but daunting four-mile road course, Legge's car suddenly snapped sideways towards the wall, possibly as a result of a rear wing failure, and then proceeded to tear itself to pieces in a series of frightening barrel rolls.

“I am a bit shaken, but I'm okay…as you can see,” she said after returning from the mandatory trip to the infield care centre. “All my bits are intact, so that just goes to show how strong Champ cars are. It was a big impact, but hopefully everything will be fine for the next race at Surfers Paradise.”

Legge went on to say, “I don't think you are really aware of what is going on when you have a situation like I had. All of a sudden the car just sped up and hit the wall. Then I see the ground and there is dirt coming into the cockpit…and I see the fence…honestly you are thinking what is going to happen next.

“I think I saw parts breaking off all around me. And I think I saw the engine split away because the thing I was thinking about the most was that the car was going to catch fire, which it did. Then when the engine went away and I though okay that's good. To be honest I think I had my eyes closed for lots of it, but it is a bit scary.”

Retaining her sense of humour, Legge concluded by saying, “The only problem I am having now is I banged by knee a little bit against the bulkhead. It is just a bit of bruising which won't look too attractive in my dress at the Atlantic's banquet tonight.”


Here is the video:

Chevy Chase to play drunk anti-Semitic Mel Gibson on L&O

Chevy Chase
From the NY Times site:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - While Mel Gibson secretly roams the United States testing reaction to his latest movie, ''Apocalypto,'' one of television's longest running shows has decided to incorporate his recent legal troubles into an episode.

Staying true to its ``ripped from the headlines'' style, ``Law & Order,'' says it will air an episode on November 3 starring comedian Chevy Chase as a celebrity who is pulled over for drunk driving and then delivers an anti-Semitic rant at the arresting officers.

But ``Law & Order'' creator Dick Wolf said that while a viewer could draw comparisons to Gibson's anti-Semitic comments after being arrested for drunk driving last July, the TV story goes a bit further.

In the ``Law & Order'' episode, the Chase character turns out to have blood on his shirt belonging to a Jewish woman who had been the producer of his failed sitcom.

Gibson pleaded no contest to drunk driving charges and was placed on probation. He is currently getting ``Apocalypto'' ready for release in December by showing it to test audiences. Over the weekend, he screened it in Oklahoma and Texas.

9/26/06

Closet Jewish Senator Proud of Eating Ham Sandwich

Sen. George Allen is fighting for his political career.Marc Fisher writes in the Washington Post about, "Sen. Allen's Diet of Pork Chops, Ham Sandwiches and Crow." We are witnessing the self-destruction of a Republican senator. Hooray. May they all hang by the noose in Allen's office.
...knowing that his mother was raised Jewish, Allen said otherwise. Not good.
But very much in character. "George Allen grew up in a football family, where the playing field is always level, and the past doesn't matter," Moline said. "So he is clueless about the symbolism of the Confederate flag and clueless about hanging a noose in his office and clueless about the power of the word 'macaca.' When you have parents who want to close off the past, that's what happens to you."

Maybe in that context, Allen's comment to the Richmond Times-Dispatch last week makes sense. His Jewish heritage is "just an interesting nuance to my background," Allen said, adding: "I still had a ham sandwich for lunch. And my mother made great pork chops."
Allen looks more and more Jewish every day.

9/21/06

Jew attacks Muslim in Minnesota Race

Paul WellstoneThere's a big rumble going on in Minnesota politics. The Dems nominated Keith Ellison in the 5th district. Keith is a black muslim, a onetime follower of Farrakan. As I blogged previously, Keith was endorsed by the Jewish newspaper in Minnesota, The American Jewish World. That is news.

The Republicans put up Alan Fine, a Jew, to oppose Ellison. I knew Fine when I was living in Minneapolis. He is a great human being.

Unfortunately the Republicans in Minnesota don't have a good media advisor. Alan has not been prepped properly on how to avoid the pitfalls of injecting religion into politics. I've seen his website where he posted videos of interviews that he gave to the press. Oy vey. He needs coaching. It may be too late for him in this campaign. He has put both feet into his mouth and nobody has told him to pull them out.

Al Fine stood up and spoke against Ellison as if he was speaking for the Jews of Minnesota. Whoa there. He has no business speaking for the Jewish community. That was a mistake that reminded me of Rudy Boschwitz's similar gaff years ago which cost him an election. Fine stepped right into it. He wrapped himself in the community and declared his own opinions blessed.

It is no mistake for Fine to speak out against Farrakan and his supporters. It is no mistake for Fine to harp on the facts of Ellison's record. Ellison has tried to soft-pedal his fiery past political affiliations. There is no reason for Fine to back off from attacking that.

Yet, there still are two enigmas to explore in this political race. First, why do publisher Mordecai Spector of the American Jewish World and other prominent Minnesota Jews support Ellison?

What did Ellison do to convince them that he has repented from his previous life of supporting black racist leaders?

Second, what motivated Ellison to align with Farrakan in the first place? If he indeed supported the Farrakan agenda, what made him change?

And more to the point, what guarantee does he offer that he won't change back?

The NJDC blog calls for Fine to apologize for his attacks on Ellison. Nonsense. Politics is an adversarial game. Their complaint that Fine is divisive just does not have any teeth.

Another blog pro Ellison notes his endorsement: Democracy For Minnesota: Keith Endorsed by American Jewish World! But a commenter there goes to town on Ellison (who used to call himself Ellison-Hakim):

Anonymous said...

What kind of idiots - or worse yet, Judenrats are you? Hakim is a Farrakhanist thug.

Would you support him if he were white and a follower of David Duke posing as a supporter of Israel? Sounds like you might.

This guy is nothing more than a plantation slave of the Islamonazis. And you're going along for the ride.

But of course, this is the party that could have nailed Bin Laden a dozen times over before 9/11 except its President was too busy playing with a JAP wannabe bimbo or sending B-52s to bomb Belgrade instead of terror camps in Afghanistan. When we finally had Bin Laden in our gunsights, Pervert Bill, his pet pig, the self-loathing Maddie, and Sandy Burglar all said we can't do it because Yasser would have gotten upset.

That's your party, folks. The party also that drove Lieberman out in favor of a Neo-Fascist WASP coward.

So now you've got the Farrakhanist Black Nazi. Care to start sieg heiling? Maybe Grand Kleagle Byrdie will help you.

Yet another blogger MN Publius comments on the odd endorsement by the AJW:

This endorsement is not representative of the Jewish community, and was not even conducted as normal newspapers do. The publisher of the AJW interviewed only Keith Ellison, and did not interview the other candidates. He did not have questionnaires. He simply attended the JCRC debate, consulted the web, and made the decision on his own. I called the publisher, Mordecai Spector, and he told me this himself.

Many people in the Jewish community have serious concerns about Keith Ellison.
This "endorsement" will not assuage them.
Far Right Wing Republican web sites are out in force against Ellison, as this opinion in FrontPage magazine.com: Farrakhan's Candidate by Andrew Walden shows,

In a clear sign of the deepening Unholy Alliance between the Democratic Party Left and Islamist extremists, Minnesota’s Democratic Party has nominated for U.S. Congress a “former” member of the Nation of Islam who has defended membership in the Bloods street gang, and called cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal and leftist terrorist Sara Jane Olson “freedom fighters.”
Fine has posted videos of his TV interviews. IMHO he does not come across well, but you can see for yourself on his site. "See actual unedited September 15 interview with Mike Binkley from Channel 5 and Rochelle Olson from the StarTribune (taped by a Fine campaign staffer): click here. Click here to see how KSTP interpreted that interview."

The University newspaper attacks Fine for stepping in the doo-doo of religious politicking with its opinion, Identity politics: Left and right - Minnesota Daily, heralded, "Divisive identity politics is on the political right - just look at Alan Fine, who sought to use religion to inflame the electorate."

Unless Minnesota politics has changed completely since Wellstone upset Boschwitz in the 1990 senate race, the Fine campaign is doomed.

Here for the record, is what I said in the American Jewish World in 1990 after the upset:

Boschwitz Attack on Wellstone's Jewishness Backfires

In an eleventh hour letter on November first "To Our Friends in the Minnesota Jewish Community" 72 supporters of Senator Rudy Boschwitz assaulted challenger Paul Wellstone's Jewishness. They said he, "has no connection whatsoever with the Jewish community or our communal life." It was the most blatant invocation of religion as an issue in the surprisingly close senate race.

Minnesota voters rejected this outrageous violation of the conventions of American political discourse. Boschwitz was the only incumbent in the Senate this year to be turned out of office at the polls.

The "Jewish Community" letter echoed the nasty tone of the Senator's campaign advertisements. The dispatch from the Boschwitz camp aimed to link Wellstone with Jesse Jackson and through him with black interests, anti-semitism and even with Saddam Hussein. In the offensive reference that most deeply disturbed and horrified most Twin Cities Jews and non-Jews alike, the note claimed of Wellstone, "His children were brought up as non-Jews."

Many of the 72 signatories of the letter were familiar community leaders often linked with local Federation for Jewish Service leadership. A strong implication in the message was that Jews should support Boschwitz in his political campaign because he was active in the past in "our communal life," that is, the Federation fund-raising campaign.

Boschwitz had been leader of the Federation for Jewish Services fund drive before entering his first Senate race. He had recently raised $7.2 million for his re-election effort. Voters at large in the state, and Jewish voters, rejected the excesses of the Boschwitz big-money machine.

Wellstone, a Carleton College Professor, raised less than $1 million and travelled across the state in a green bus he had bought for $3800. He forcefully advocated those liberal values that for three generations have been associated with Jewish communal life and politics.

9/20/06

Zealots attack on dig site repelled by women in shorts

Zealots Attack Dig Site
September 14, 2006
This story has been withdrawn because of a possible inaccuracy.

The Biblical Archaeology Review pulled this story. Why? We don't know. We find comical the use of a "scantily clad female" to repell the Orthodox.

Zealots Attack Dig Site
September 12, 2006

The only direct damage to an Israeli archaeological site this past summer came not from Hezbollah katyushas, but from some extremist ultra-orthodox Jews. (By no means are all ultra-orthodox Jews extremists.)


Dig Director Rami Arav looks on as an Israeli policeman attempts to persuade extremist ultra-Orthodox vandals to leave Bethsaida.

On June 29, members of Atra Kadisha, known for their violence at archaeological sites, visited the excavation at Bethsaida, north of the Sea of Galilee, and entered the area closed to visitors where archaeologists were excavating. They demanded that all excavation be stopped because the site "was a Jewish cemetery of our forefathers." Dig director Rami Arav asked them to leave, but they did so only when Arav recruited the assistance of a scantily clad female volunteer to approach them. As they left, they threatened reprisal: "Let's see how you will kick out 50 of us."

The next morning at 5:30 a.m. five vans arrived with black-coated thugs armed with knives. They broke down the fences on the site, entered the areas being excavated, vandalized the excavation equipment and trampled the freshly-dug areas, destroying walls, pushing down boulders, and using their knives to cut the ropes and excavation tarpaulins. For good measure, they pulled down signage.


Damage caused by religious zealots at Bethsaida dig.

Within half an hour, the police arrived. They made no arrests, took no names, but simply persuaded the thugs to leave.

"I have no idea why they came to Bethsaida," said Arav. There are no tombs at the site—Jewish or otherwise.

Efforts to reach Rabbi David Schmidl, the leader of Atra Kadisha, for comment were unsuccessful.

9/17/06

Jewish Outrage Over Olmert-Kebab Art

Recall last year when all of Islam was up in arms because of some cartoons? Well Jews can get upset by art too. But ironically in my town some Jews would like this!

AUSTRALIAN Jewish leaders have expressed outrage over an artwork in a Sydney gallery, which shows four images of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s head skewered by a kebab stick.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff said the painting, titled Ehud Olmert Kebab, is “obscene” and “crosses the line of acceptable decency”.

“Political commentary and debate are part of a democratic society, but to have an artwork that depicts anybody’s head on a skewer ... is offensive.”

Alhadeff added that the exhibition at the Mori Gallery, which includes multimedia works by 45 Arab artists in response to the recent war in Lebanon, is “indicative of a double standard”. The show is titled t’fouh, an Arabic expression meaning “to spit on you”.

9/16/06

Orthodox Blogger Discovers that Hitler Mudered Reform Jews

Rabbi Menken at the Orthodox Cross-Currents blog made an amazing discover just yesterday. He discovered that Hitler killed Jews even though they were Reform:

I saw this first the Washington Post, but it’s in the JPost as well: “The first rabbis since the Holocaust were ordained in Germany on Thursday, the latest marker in the gradual return of Judaism to a nation where most vestiges of Jewish life were once eradicated.”

The Rabbinical School is called the “Abraham Geiger College,” which I find unfortunate and particularly distasteful for a Jewish institution in Germany. Geiger is considered one of the early Reformers, to be certain—but his vision and message were completely refuted by Hitler and the Nazis. Geiger and his group “believed that people hated Jews because Jews acted strangely, differently;” Hitler picked out typical, church-going Germans who happened to have a single Jewish grandparent. Geiger believed that if Judaism were made into a religion of “reason, science, and aesthetics, they would enable Jews to remain both modern and Jewish;” Hitler celebrated the Jews’ development of reason by calling the Jewis (sic) “wily” and “the great masters of the lie.” Geiger “sought to remove all nationalistic elements (particularly the ‘Chosen People’ doctrine) from Judaism, stressing Judaism as an evolving and changing religion;” Hitler wrote of the Jews that “their whole existence is based on one single great lie, to wit, that they are a religious community while actually they are a race…” It is reported (but as yet unconfirmed) that Geiger was even responsible for coining the phrase “Berlin is our Jerusalem;” Hitler’s response to that requires no elaboration.
So while the rest of the Jewish world now celebrates the revival of Jewish culture in Germany we have found one Rabbi Menken who "finds it unfortunate and particularly distasteful" that the German rabbinical school that trained the new Reform rabbis is named after Geiger.

After all - he "reasons" - Hitler proved that Geiger and Reform Judaism were wrong. Being Reform you see did not save the Jews from Hitler.

Thus Rabbi Menken thinks that Hitler read Geiger and tailored the Holocaust to disprove him.

He did his research - linking to the definitive sources of Wikipedia and the Jewish Virtual Library - so how could we disagree?

Amazing work.

9/15/06

Is the Nazi Pope Planning a New Crusade?


He's No Teddy Bear

The AP reports:
Muslims around the world expressed outrage Friday over Pope Benedict XVI's comments on Islam, with Turkey's ruling party accusing him of trying to revive the spirit of the Crusades and scores taking to the streets in protest.

Pakistan's parliament unanimously condemned the pope and the Foreign Ministry summoned the Vatican's ambassador to express regret over the remarks.

The Vatican said the pope did not intend the remarks — made in Germany on Tuesday during an address at a university — to be offensive.

Benedict quoted from a book recounting a conversation between 14th century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and a Persian scholar on the truths of Christianity and Islam.

"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the pope said. "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'"

Benedict did not explicitly agree with the statement nor repudiate it.

The comments raised tensions ahead of his planned visit to Turkey in November — his first pilgrimage to a Muslim country.

Several obvious points.

Point: When you quote someone, that means you agree with him. The reporter has inserted a subtle pro-pope apologetic into her story.

Point: What do you expect from a German man who was a member of the Hitler Youth? Hatred and racism are in his blood.

Point: All religions are based on condemnation of the competition. Progressive branches tone it down. Orthodox branches in every religion thrive on the conflict and the competition with the other side. They derive their nourishment from the act of attacking the infidels and the heretics.

Point: This Pope's statements will lead to bloodshed.

9/14/06

Nazism Defeated Again: Rabbis Ordained in Germany

Three men were ordained as rabbis today in Dresden, Germany. This is one more important step in healing the evils of the Holocaust. The Times of London reported on the impending event last week.

Germany's ordination of rabbis hailed 'a miracle'
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

THE first rabbis since the Second World War will be ordained in Germany next week in what is being described in German papers as a “miracle”.

The ordinations of the three rabbis are to take place on Thursday in Dresden. They are all graduates of the new Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, near Berlin.

Baroness Julia Neuberger is to preach at the ordinations and those assisting in the ceremony will include Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism in the UK, and Professor Mark Saperstein, the new principal of Leo Baeck College, in London, Britain’s seminary for the Reform and Liberal movements.

The ordinations represent a vital step towards healing the wounds caused by the Holocaust.

The seminary, inaugurated in 2000, is an attempt to meet the need of Germany’s 100,000 Jews for home-grown rabbis.

Jews in Germany numbered 600,000 before the Second World War. About half got out or survived in other ways. The rest were killed. Only 12,000 Jews remained in Germany. The last seminary was shut in 1942 and no rabbis have been ordained since.

Russian immigration in the 1990s has been largely responsible for the resurgence of Germany’s Jewry, but congregations have been struggling to find rabbis to serve them.

The 100 congregations in Germany are served by about 25 rabbis, most from abroad. Those synagogues without permanent rabbis survive through the services of laymen and women, by borrowing rabbis from neighbouring towns or importing them from abroad for high holy days.

The only German-born new ordinand next week is Daniel Alter, who is in his mid-forties. A former teacher, he will serve a congregation in Oldenburg.

Dr Tom Kucera, an immigrant from the Czech Republic, will serve a liberal congregation in Munich.

Malcolm Matitiani, 38, will be returning to his synagogue in Cape Town. The ordinations will cement the close relationship between English and Germany Jewry.

The students’ mentor has been William Wolff, of the Mecklenburg Vorpommern congregation, former rabbi of the Wimbledon and District synagogue, former political journalist and a former finalist in The Times Preacher of the Year Award. The Briton has been helping them to reconnect with the past of liberal Judaism in Germany, while preparing them for an inclusive Judaism that welcomes arrivals from the former Soviet Union.

In a recent sermon in Hanover, Rabbi Wolff described the ordinations as “an event that will write history for many generations to come”.

Baroness Neuberger, whose grandparents were among those who fled to London, is due to describe how, although she was born and brought up in London, she feels she is a “German Jew”. She is expected to say: “There can be no greater pleasure than to see this rebirth of Jewish life, this reaffirmation of Germany as home to one of the world’s significant Jewish communities. It cannot be like it was before. But we have here a college, born out of the Enlightenment, born out of the German reform movement, strongly affected by the scientific study of Judaism.”

Her planned speech, disclosed to The Times, continues: “Perhaps we will once again see that extraordinary German Jewish symbiosis. Perhaps once again, with these new rabbis, this rebirth, we will see talent spring forth and a capacity for cultural and intellectual endeavour to find a modus vivendi with a religious life that is not orthodox but is demanding.”



9/13/06

$100 Million Gift to Yeshiva U

The AP reports via the NY Times:

Man Gives 100M to Yeshiva University

NEW YORK (AP) -- An oil executive has donated $100 million to Yeshiva University -- the largest gift in the school's 120-year history -- to further undergraduate Jewish education, the university announced.

The donation of Ronald P. Stanton, chairman of petrochemical and fertilizer fuel company Transammonia Inc., will create a fund overseen by university president Richard M. Joel to recruit top faculty, renovate and acquire university facilities and support research and scholarship.

''We are extremely grateful to Ron for his historic beneficence, as well as his steadfast confidence in Yeshiva University's mission,'' Joel said Wednesday. The contribution will ensure the 7,200-student school remains a top-tier American research university, he said.

The university has three undergraduate schools, including a women's college and business school, and graduate programs including Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
This gift is certainly one of the largest received by any University this year. Based on 2005 figures it would be in the top 10 or 20 in size to a university.

The gift also puts Mr. Stanton in the big show of oil philanthropy along with T. Boone Pickens and David Rockefeller who gave $229M and $225M respectively last year, making them numbers 5 and 6 on the top 60 list of donors.

Source details and database at the CHE - How the Wealthy Give.

9/11/06

9/11: The Jews Did It

The Jewish Standard (from JTA) has three stories this week on continuing conspiracy theories starting with: Jews and 9/11: The lie that won't die -

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are synonymous with wanton destruction. But they also produced an offshoot that seems virtually indestructible.

In addition to causing massive loss of life, the attacks spawned a host of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that implicated the Jews and Israel in the bloodshed.
It's an important side to the overwhelming media attention to the day.

9/7/06

Minnesota's Jewish Newspaper Endorses Muslim Candidate for Congress

[UPDATE 9-13-06: He won the primary.]

There are red states and there are blue states and there is Minnesota. Jesse Ventura. Paul Wellstone. Rudy Boschwitz. Minnesota has a history of political individualism.

Now the latest news from Lake Wobegon. The state's Jewish newspaper, The American Jewish World, has endorsed a Muslim candidate for Congress. Here is the text from the candidate's web site:

“Regarding the 5th District DFL Primary, there are three fairly conventional candidates who would bring particular strengths to service in the U.S. House and would likely provide competent representation for their constituents. However, voters could make an emphatic statement – one that would gain national and international attention – by casting their ballots for Keith Ellison. The 43-year-old state representative would bring a singular passion and intelligence to the job of representing citizens of Minnesota Fifth District; in many ways, Ellison represents the progressive populist vision that Minnesota lost with the untimely passing of Paul Wellstone in 2002.”

“Ellison acted as the lawyer for the House DFL caucus in an ethics proceeding against former representative Arlon Lindner, who contended that gays were not victims of Nazi oppression in the Holocaust. Ellison understands the importance of guarding against Holocaust denial and revisionism, and links the lessons of the Shoah to more recent cases of genocide in Rwanda and Darfur. Further, he supports the State of Israel and the continuation of U.S. aid to Israel. He holds to the mainstream position of a negotiated two-state solution regarding the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“We all know that nobody is perfect and no political candidate is without shortcomings. We are now in Elul, the last month of the Hebrew year and the month preceding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur…During this period of heightened spirituality, we find ourselves considering the choices before us as citizens of a free nation. We cannot take our civil liberties for granted, especially in the face of well-reported government actions to curb our constitutional rights and consolidate political power. In the trying times ahead, we will need courageous political leadership and we must hold our elected representatives accountable.”

“We think that Keith Ellison has the attributes to be a dynamic and effective representative in Congress. In Ellison, we have a moderate Muslim who extends his hand in friendship to the Jewish community and supports the security of the State of Israel. He is a person with a vision of a more humane and equitable society and he is the candidate we favor in the Fifth District DFL election.”
Jews back a Muslim for Congress. Any way you slice and dice it that is classic news.

9/6/06

Israeli Neuropsychologists Find the Sarcasm Lobe

In a recently published paper, The Neuroanatomical Basis of Understanding Sarcasm and Its Relationship to Social Cognition Israeli scientists described how they have unraveled the neuroanatomy of sarcasm:

The authors explored the neurobiology of sarcasm and the cognitive processes underlying it by examining the performance of participants with focal lesions on tasks that required understanding of sarcasm and social cognition. Participants with prefrontal damage (n = 25) showed impaired performance on the sarcasm task, whereas participants with posterior damage (n = 16) and healthy control (n = 17) performed the same task without difficulty. Within the prefrontal group, right ventromedial lesions were associated with the most profound deficit in comprehending sarcasm.

In addition, although the prefrontal damage was associated with deficits in theory of mind and right hemisphere damage was associated with deficits in identifying emotions, these 2 abilities were related to the ability to understand sarcasm. This suggests that the right frontal lobe mediates understanding of sarcasm by integrating affective processing with perspective taking.

Next challenge: the first sarcasm-otomy....

9/3/06

Found Among the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Prayer for Surfing the Internet

It is always appropriate to recall the classical prayers at this time of year.


Okay it's really not in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It's a recent traveller's prayer for those who are surfing the Internet. However in these days of repentence we should take some time to reflect on our activities.

May the coming year be a peaceful one online and offline for all of us.

9/2/06

Jewish Week v. Rabbi in Denial

Rhetoric, I can deal with.

But when you put your published words into the published words of other people's articles, well that just is not something I can abide.

So here is one high profile Rabbi whose job it is to defend the name of the "Orthodox". And here is one Jewish weekly newspaper. And they are arguing about a woman.

The rabbis says as follows in his letter to the newspaper:
(09/01/2006) Hardly News

The hiring of a woman as the spiritual leader of a congregation belonging to no Orthodox synagogue group and named after Conservative Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, a former chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, hardly constitutes “charting new territory in the terrain of religious practice” (“Woman to Lead Halachic N.Y. Shul,” Aug. 18).

Kehillat Orach Eliezer may consider itself “halachic”; so, justified or not, does the Conservative movement itself. But that movement has long accepted women in religious leadership roles and so this particular congregation’s move is something less than groundbreaking. Oddly, back in 2002, The Jewish Week also trumpeted the “taboo-breaking” nature of this very congregation — calling it an “Orthodox shul” — for its enlistment of women as public chanters from the Torah, a practice at irreconcilable odds with “Orthodoxy” —i.e. halacha.

If The Jewish Week wishes to report on Orthodox women with important responsibilities, there is certainly no dearth of such role models in bona fide Orthodox shuls and communities, filling the most basic but vital positions of wives and mothers — and in the roles, too, of spiritual guides and lecturers (for other women, in keeping with traditional halachic norms). There is really no reason — other than to promote a social agenda — that a Jewish newspaper should be seeking to portray a congregation as something it is not.

Rabbi Avi Shafran
Director of Public Affairs Agudath Israel of America
New York, N.Y.
So let's see if the rabbi is exaggerating just a little bit.

In 2002 the JW did use the term "Orthodox Shul" in its story headline. One for the rabbi.

But the story then says, the shul is "Orthodox in practice" and then explicitly explains, "The 10-year-old congregation is not officially affiliated with the Orthodox movement but describes itself as halachic, or adhering to traditional interpretations of Jewish law." One for the JW.

In 2006, well the rabbi ought to take another look.

The article, from the first paragraph, is quite clear, and not at all as the rabbi mischaracterizes it:
With the hiring of a woman as spiritual leader, an Upper West Side congregation — largely Orthodox in practice though not in name — may be charting new territory in the terrain of religious practice.

In a decision that could be seen as fracturing the stained-glass ceiling or at least rendering a tiny fissure, Congregation Kehilat Orach Eliezer (KOE) has hired Dina Najman-Licht, a scholar of Jewish law with an expertise in bioethics, as its rosh kehillah, or head of community.
One more for the JW.

But the rabbi on this very topic wrote some nasty things about the JW and published them in the Jerusalem Post and elsewhere:

UNFORTUNATELY, there is a pattern of precisely such carelessness in certain ostensibly neutral Anglo-Jewish publications (which, in turn provide fodder for far more widely read media like The New York Times). And it is both journalistically and Jewishly treif.
We say to the rabbi, show us the "pattern of precisely such carelessness." It looks to me like they don't say what you say they say.

And even if what you said were true, show us where it says in the Shulchan Aruch that this makes the newspaper "Jewishly treif." It seems to this writer that perhaps the rabbi ought to tone down the rhetoric because that's all he has here. Rhetoric.

And out there, well out there we have real enemies. The Jewish Week is just not one of our enemies. Really, it isn't.

"You Nazi. You are Just Like Hitler": Zahavy's Lemma to Nyhan's Corollary to Godwin's Law

Time Magazine Blogger Brendan Nyhan adds a twist to the famous law of comparison:

Godwin's law, which states that, as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches inevitability.

Let me propose Nyhan's corollary: As a foreign policy debate with conservatives grows longer, the probability of a comparison with the appeasement of Nazis or Hitler approaches inevitability.
Conservatives!? Whoa there a minute Brendan!!! We need to add a lemma to your corollary.

Let's call it Zahavy's Lemma.

When you accuse a conservative of a Godwin's Law violation in accord with Nyhan's corollary, they will inevitably shoot back at you, "Hey, Liberals do it too, you hypocrite. Gotcha."

As indeed they do.

Video: Omar Won't Let his al-Qaeda-Brother-Adam (Assam the American) Ruin His Life

The AP Reports:
CAIRO, Egypt - An American thought to be an al-Qaida activist appeared in a videotape with the terror group's deputy leader Saturday and called on his countrymen to convert to Islam and for U.S. soldiers to switch sides in the

The 48-minute video, posted on an Islamic militant Web site, had footage of al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, and of Adam Yehiye Gadahn, a 28-year-old American who the FBI believes attended al-Qaida training camps in Pakistan and served as an al-Qaida translator.

First I thought I'd make a video and post it here inviting all Moslems to convert to Judaism. But then I thought, nah.

Then I figured I'd post the video from the AP here. But they don't allow their videos to be shared -- because they want you to watch their video breakfast cereal ads on their AP site. Well la-di-da.

So I looked for the video on Google Video and came up with nothing. But on Youtube I hit paydirt.

Here is the video of the brother of the Adam, the American convert to Islam and member of al Qaeda. This is Omar Gadahn -- a resident California and an employee of Target.

He says about his terrorist brother, "I don't let his life ruin mine." Bravo.