12/31/06

President Carter's book: "Indefensible" "Moronic" "Laughable"

Dershowitz v. Carter. D makes a rhetorical point. C won't debate him. Why D, would C debate you? C was president of the US. You are who you are. So why not just attack the guy for his corrupt content and leave out the rhetorical flourishes? Hat tip to Neil.

Why won't Carter debate his book?
By Alan Dershowitz December 21, 2006 Boston Globe

YOU CAN ALWAYS tell when a public figure has written an indefensible book: when he refuses to debate it in the court of public opinion. And you can always tell when he's a hypocrite to boot: when he says he wrote a book in order to stimulate a debate, and then he refuses to participate in any such debate. I'm talking about former president Jimmy Carter and his new book "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid."

Carter's book has been condemned as "moronic" (Slate), "anti-historical" (The Washington Post), "laughable" (San Francisco Chronicle), and riddled with errors and bias in reviews across the country. Many of the reviews have been written by non-Jewish as well as Jewish critics, and not by "representatives of Jewish organizations" as Carter has claimed. Carter has gone even beyond the errors of his book in interviews, in which he has said that the situation in Israel is worse than the crimes committed in Apartheid South Africa. When asked whether he believed that Israel's "persecution" of Palestinians was "[e]ven worse . . . than a place like Rwanda," Carter answered, "Yes. I think -- yes."

When Larry King referred to my review several times to challenge Carter, Carter first said I hadn't read the book and then blustered, "You know, I think it's a waste of my time and yours to quote professor Dershowitz.

He's so obviously biased, Larry, and it's not worth my time to waste it on commenting on him." (He never did answer King's questions.)

The next week Carter wrote a series of op-eds bemoaning the reception his book had received. He wrote that his "most troubling experience" had been "the rejection of [his] offers to speak" at "university campuses with high Jewish enrollment." The fact is that Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz had invited Carter to come to Brandeis to debate me, and Carter refused. The reason Carter gave was this: "There is no need to for me to debate somebody who, in my opinion, knows nothing about the situation in Palestine."

As Carter knows, I've been to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, many times -- certainly more times than Carter has been there -- and I've written three books dealing with the subject of Middle Eastern history, politics, and the peace process. The real reason Carter won't debate me is that I would correct his factual errors. It's not that I know too little; it's that I know too much.

Nor is Carter the unbiased observer of the Middle East that he claims to be. He has accepted money and an award from Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan , saying in 2001: "This award has special significance for me because it is named for my personal friend, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan." This is the same Zayed, the long-time ruler of the United Arab Emirates, whose $2.5 million gift to the Harvard Divinity School was returned in 2004 due to Zayed's rampant Jew-hatred. Zayed's personal foundation, the Zayed Center, claims that it was Zionists, rather than Nazis, who "were the people who killed the Jews in Europe" during the Holocaust. It has held lectures on the blood libel and conspiracy theories about Jews and America perpetrating Sept. 11. Carter's acceptance of money from this biased group casts real doubt on his objectivity and creates an obvious conflict of interest.

Carter's refusal to debate wouldn't be so strange if it weren't for the fact that he claims that he wrote the book precisely so as to start debate over the issue of the Israel-Palestine peace process. If that were really true, Carter would be thrilled to have the opportunity to debate. Authors should be accountable for their ideas and their facts. Books shouldn't be like chapel, delivered from on high and believed on faith.

What most rankles is Carter's insistence that he is somehow brave for attacking Israel and highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people. No other conflict in the world -- not even the genocides in Rwanda and Sudan -- evokes more hand-wringing in the media, universities, and human rights organizations than the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Jimmy Carter isn't brave for beating up on Israel. He's a bully. And like all school-yard bullies, underneath the tough talk and bravado, there's a nagging insecurity and a fear that one day he'll have to answer for himself in a fair fight.

When Jimmy Carter's ready to speak at Brandeis, or anywhere else, I'll be there. If he refuses to debate, I will still be there -- ready and willing to answer falsity with truth in the court of public opinion.

Alan Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard University. His most recent book is "Preemption: A Knife that Cuts Both Ways."

Times: Israel Economy Strong. No Catastrophe Looming.

I live in Teaneck, NJ, a highly educated mainly Orthodox Jewish community. My friends lean to the right politically and have a habit of bashing the government of Israel. Olmert is often called a moron, an idiot, a failure, etc. The way they make it sound, Israel is going to hell in a handbasket. This is a version of what some call "Catastrophic Zionism." These people who believe in CZ love and support an imaginary Israel that is one step from catastrophe.

I sit and listen and then say that the facts tell a different story. The government is sound, the society is solid and the economy is good. Israel has problems and is doing a very good job of managing them. There will not be "peace" with the Arabs but there are a lot of intelligent leaders managing the conflict.

Sorry friends. You can go ahead and inhabit your CZ universe. Reality reports to us that there is no looming catastrophe.

Here is page three of the NY Times today on the Israeli economy. Not a bad year-end report:

Amid Political Upheaval, Israeli Economy Stays Healthy
By GREG MYRE
JERUSALEM, Dec. 26 — For Israel, it has been a typically tumultuous year: Ariel Sharon, then the prime minister, collapsed into a coma on Jan. 4, the radical Islamic group Hamas won Palestinian elections later that month, and Israel fought a monthlong war in Lebanon this summer.

But despite the political turmoil and spasms of violence, Israel, it seems, has figured out how to keep its economy charging forward.

It was the country’s third straight year of strong growth, with the economy expanding nearly 5 percent. The stock market has been hitting record highs; unemployment is at a 10-year low. Israel’s central bank is lowering interest rates to 4.5 percent on Jan. 1, putting them well below rates in the United States, an almost unprecedented development. The Israeli shekel is trading at 4.2 to the dollar, its strongest level in five years.

Further, Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor, paid $4 billion for an Israeli company, and Donald Trump is developing a 70-story luxury residential tower on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

“Israelis look at the economy, and they’ve essentially been through these disturbances in the past, and they know the economy is pretty robust and it tends to come back,” said Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel. “Things that happen here have a smaller impact on markets than I think they would abroad.”

While the Israeli economy has been thriving, the Palestinian economy has moved in the opposite direction, contracting by an estimated 10 to 15 percent this year, according to the Palestine Monetary Authority.

For Israel, the business that best illustrates the economy’s resilience this year is the company Mr. Buffett bought, Iscar Metalworking Company, a global leader in the manufacture of precision metal-cutting tools.

In May, Mr. Buffet bought 80 percent of the company, which has its headquarters on an isolated hilltop in northern Israel that offers a panoramic view of the nearby border with Lebanon.

Barely two months later, a cross-border raid by Hezbollah guerrillas ignited 34 days of fighting that pushed Israeli troops into Lebanon and drew heavy rocket barrages against northern Israel.

One rocket slammed into the Tefen Industrial Park, where Iscar is situated, causing minor damage to a building belonging to another company. Many more rockets crashed nearby during the weeks of war.

Many Iscar workers moved their families away from the border region, but the company maintained production, with only occasional slowdowns.

“It took us a brief time to adjust, but we didn’t miss a single shipment,” said Eitan Wertheimer, Iscar’s chairman. “For our customers around the world, there was no war.”

The northern city of Haifa came under almost daily rocket attacks, and ships stopped entering Haifa’s port, the country’s largest. Some exporters shipped their goods by air at much higher expense in order to meet deadlines.

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, which has been setting records throughout the year, seemingly shrugged off the war; it was slightly higher at the end of the conflict in August than before it started in July.

At the beginning of the year, Israel’s economy was forecast to grow at around 5.5 percent, and will come in at about 4.8 percent, according to Mr. Fischer, who attributed the dip to the war.
The article goes on - I recommend that you bookmark the Times country page for Israel.

12/30/06

Video: Actual Saddam Hanging

Google Video; better delivery:


Revver - same video:

From Revver - Graphic warning. High traffic - slow response. Poor quality uncensored cell phone video.

Makes me think of Purim.

The AP reported:

The floor dropped out of the gallows, there was a crash and the chamber erupted in shouting.

"The tyrant has fallen," someone called. The video showed a close-up of Saddam's face as he swung from the rope.

Then came another voice: "Let him swing for three minutes."

Asked if Saddam suffered, Haddad told the BBC: "He was killed instantly, I witnessed the impact of the rope around his neck and it was a horrible sight."

Play Ball: Israel Baseball League Nears Reality

With team names like Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, Netanya Tigers, Petach Tikva Pioneers, Jerusalem/Gezer Lions, Haifa/Nahariya Stingrays and Tel Aviv Lightning the new Israel Baseball League is ready to sell tickets.

New baseball league says Israel is next frontier for the sport
BY SARAH LARIMER THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MIAMI -- Ivan Gluck is a utility man who can pitch and play first and third base as well as the outfield. But at 67, the Holocaust survivor said he'd settle for being waterboy in a fledgling baseball league that looks to export America's pastime to Israel.

"I'm not looking for stardom," he said. "I just want to make the team."

The enthusiastic but unsuccessful Gluck was one of 65 hopefuls at Friday's tryout for the Israel Baseball League, which welcomes Jews and those of other faiths. Organizers hope to start play this summer, and want to turn the violence-torn country with only one full-sized baseball diamond into the next great baseball nation.

"Hopefully, the region will be stable so we can play ball in the summertime," said player development director Dan Duquette, a former general manager for the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos. "But you know, baseball could very well be a unifying force for the country. And wouldn't that be something if it was?"

The league has attracted castaways from major league teams, former college and high school players who never got their shot at pro ball and regular fans looking for a chance.....

12/29/06

Onion: Top Sports Story of the Year?

It's funny (and even funnier if you've taught at a big university).

Florida State University To Phase Out Academic Operations By 2010
September 14, 2006 Onion Sports

SARASOTA, FL—Bowing to pressure from alumni, students, and a majority of teaching professors of Florida State University, athletic director Dave Hart Jr. announced yesterday that FSU would completely phase out all academic operations by the end of the 2010 school year in order to make athletics the school's No. 1 priority. "It's been clear for a while that Florida State's mission is to provide the young men and women enrolled here with a world-class football program, and this is the best way to cut the fat and really focus on making us No. 1 every year," Hart said. "While it's certainly possible for an academic subsidiary to bring a certain amount of prestige to an athletic program, the national polls have made it that our non-athletic operations have become a major distraction." FSU's restructuring program will begin with the elimination of the College of Arts and Sciences, effective October 15.

12/28/06

LGF: Surprised that docs show Arafat a killer

C'mon now LGF. Did you think that Arafat was a saint?

So now we have official documents that attest that he was a killer and terrorist. But we knew that all along. What is with this make believe act, now that the proof is more official?

DECLASSIFIED
PA/HO Department of State
E.O. 12958, as amended
May 4, 2006

SECRET
NO FOREIGN DISSEM / CONTROLLED DISSEM

THE SEIZURE OF THE SAUDI ARABIAN EMBASSY IN KHARTOUM

In the early evening hours of 1 March 1973, eight Black September Organization (BSO) terrorists seized the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum as a diplomatic reception honoring the departing United States Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) was ending. After slightly wounding the United States Ambassador and the Belgian Charge d’Affaires, the terrorists took these officials plus the United States DCM, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador, and the Jordanian Charge d’Affaires hostage. In return for the freedom of the hostages, the captors demanded the release of individuals, mostly Palestinian guerillas, imprisoned in Jordan, Israel, and the United States.

The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and the head of Fatah. Fatah representatives based in Khartoum participated in the attack, using a Fatah vehicle to transport the terrorists to the Saudi Arabian Embassy.

Initially, the main objective of the attack appeared to be to secure the release of Fatah/BSO leader Muhammed Awadh (Abu Da’ud) from Jordanian captivity. Information acquired subsequently reveals that the Fatah/BSO leaders did not expect Awadh t be freed, and indicates that one of the primary goals of the operation was to strike at the United States because of its efforts to achieve a Middle East peace settlement which many Arabs believe would be inimical to Palestinian interests.

Negotiations with the BSO terrorist team were conducted primarily by the Sudanese Ministers of Interior and of Health. No effort was spared, within the capabilities of the Sudanese Government, to the secure freedom of the hostages. The terrorists extended their deadlines three times, but when they became convinced that their demands would not be met and after they reportedly had received orders from Fatah headquarters in Beirut, they killed the two United States officials and the Belgian Charge. Thirty-four hours later, upon receipt of orders from Yasir Arafat in Beirut to surrender, the terrorists released their other hostages unharmed and surrendered to Sudanese officials.

The Khartoum operation again demonstrated the ability of BSO to strike where least expected. The open participation of Fatah representatives in Khartoum in the attack provides further evidence of the Fatah/BSO relationship. The emergence of the United States as a primary fedayeen target indicates a serious threat of further incidents similar to what occurred in Khartoum.

Video: Tricky-Dick Nixon - out-takes at his resignation

After this --> Ford!

12/27/06

Hitler Comedy by Swiss Jew

Oy. Mel Brooks and The Producers have company. JTA links to the DW-World report:

Jewish Filmmaker Breaks Taboos with Hitler Send-Up

Both German and Jewish sensitivities are to face a severe test next month with the launch of a comedy movie in German that turns Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler into a clown with 90 minutes of juvenile jokes.

The title, "Mein Führer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler," gives a foretaste of the send-up, in which a fictional Hitler, depressed in 1944 at losing his war, invites a Jew from a concentration camp to live with him and coach his public speaking.

Stills released so far show scenes of Hitler training his German shepherd dog to do "Heil Hitler" salutes or lying in the bath playing with a toy warship.

The movie's Jewish director, Dani Levy, has admitted that while he could never make a funny Holocaust movie, he thinks there is nothing wrong with a parody about the Holocaust's Nazi authors.

Levy, 49, who is Swiss-born but has lived in Berlin since 1980, says he checked the script first with his mother, a Holocaust survivor, to make sure he was not too off-key with the jibes. ...

Big Snow in Israel


None here in NY. Better skiing in the Golan Heights!

Ha'aretz:

...Snow began accumulating at Mount Hermon Tuesday morning, and is expected to spread overnight throughout the northern Golan Heights and Galilee mountaintops, reaching the central mountains and Jerusalem by this afternoon. Forty centimeters accumulated at the upper cable car, and 10 centimeters accumulated at the lower one. Officials hope to open the site for skiers by week's end.

According to meteorologist Nahum Malik, "there is a chance" the snow will even stick in Jerusalem. Temperatures Wednesday will not rise above 4 degrees, Malik said, before falling again to 1-2 degrees, and reaching zero in the evening.

Temperatures dropped Tuesday afternoon to 5 degrees in Safed (a decrease of six degrees from the day before), 3 degrees in the northern Golan Heights, 11 in Haifa, and 12 in Tel Aviv....

12/26/06

Jews live long and prosper

Why do some Jews live past 90? The UK Daily Record has the answer:

GENE AIDS THE ELDERLY
A LONGEVITY gene linked to living to 90 or beyond also helps the very old to think clearly.

Researchers in the US examined 158 people of eastern European Jewish descent who were aged 95 or older.

Those who possessed the gene variant were twice as likely to perform well in a standard mental test than those who did not.

Further evidence emerged when the same scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York looked at a younger group of 124 eastern European Jews aged 75 to 85.

Within this group, those who did not go on to develop dementia were five times more likely to have the favourable genotype.

To what extent the gene variant is found in the wider non-Jewish population remains to be discovered.

Teheran Asskissing Rabbi from Monsey NY

You won't believe it. Where does one of the Teheran asskissing rabbis live? Monsey NY! Credit FOX News for the story:

Ahmadinejad Handshake Leaves Rabbi's Neighbors Crying Foul
By Sara Bonisteel

MONSEY, N.Y. — The photograph is jarring, to say the least. Why on earth would a rabbi from New York travel to Tehran to embrace Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a man who says the Holocaust never happened and that Israel should be annihilated?

In Rockland County, N.Y., a short drive north from New York City, "love thy neighbor" has been a hard commandment to follow in the weeks since a contingent of fringe religious leaders set out to shake the Iranian president's hand.

This small suburban county has the highest percentage of Jews in the nation, and many if not most of them have been seething since leaders of the ultra-Orthodox sect Neturei Karta attended the Holocaust conference in Tehran and seemingly lent their support to known Holocaust deniers.

Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss led the Neturei Karta delegation to Iran's capital on Dec. 11 to participate in a two-day conference on whether the Holocaust occurred. Among the other attendees were former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke and French professor and gas-chamber denier Robert Fuerisson.

"This kind of cozying up to tyrants, it's really unconscionable," said Holocaust survivor Walter Greenberg, 73, who lives in the county, only about 20 miles north of New York City.

Israel's Nobelist Nonsense

Once I was on the shuttle bus at the U of MN between the east and west banks of the Mississippi. It was one of those 30 below January days. Just as we were about to pull away a professorial type man - who I knew to be a University Professor of Economics came up to the door of the bus. He said something to the driver. The driver answered. I could not hear what they said. But a moment later the driver closed the door and the bus pulled away and the brilliant professor remained standing at the bus stop in the frigid cold.

So this is my parable for you. Apply it if you dare to the case at hand. Two brilliant Israeli Nobel Laureates standing at the bus stop in the cold. The bus pulled away a long time ago. They have no clue about the realities of the world. They live in their minds. They inhabit their intellects. That is what they should be doing. It is their job. Yet some journalist decides that they need a platform to express their utter confusion about the state of affairs at the bus stop.

So they were given a platform and they proclaimed their pessimism. The bus doors have closed and they will not reach their destinations. But all those on the bus -- those who are not so fortunate to be so brilliant -- they are already there.

The State of Israel is a miracle -- the most massive miracle in all of history. Brilliance in chemistry or mathematics apparently prevents these two men from seeing that. Too bad. Here is the report of their pessimism -- their doom and gloom. Pay no attention to it.
Two Israeli Nobel Prize laureates foresee a gloomy future for the state
By Ynetnews
From a political point of view, they are poles apart, but on one topic Prof. Yisrael Aumann and Prof. Aharon Ciechanover are of the same opinion: Pitiful and failed leadership is leading Israel to destruction What worries them most is the deterioration in academics and education. "There is a close connection between the sinking of the Israeli spirit and the downfall of the State," they warn. Everything here seems lacking in values, temporary, one patch on top of another, a thin bandage that can be torn off with any breeze."
I heard Aumann at a NY synagogue recently. He has no savoir faire. He is not sophisticated and worldly. He has no credentials beyond his academic knowhow. And the way he applies his academic skills is highly questionable. He clearly lets his biases guide him to his conclusions. As I said, ignore his doomsaying. He and his friend are a source of pride and inspiration to all Israeli academics. But at the same time, they are not credible prognosticators about the future of the State of Israel.

Israel stocks up due to rate cut and better outlook

Good economic news for Israel.

By Robert Daniel, MarketWatch

TEL AVIV (MarketWatch) - Israeli stocks rose after the Bank of Israel surprised the capital markets with a sharper-than-expected interest-rate cut, then followed up by lifting its economic-growth estimates and cutting its expected unemployment rate.

The Bank of Israel's rate cut - half a percentage point to 4.5% instead of the widely expected quarter point -- also had a bit of the effect Israel's manufacturers had hoped for, as the shekel, which has hammered the dollar this year, weakened. The bank had cited lower-than-target inflation and the shekel's strength against the dollar for the reduction.

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's benchmark TA-25 index rose 0.61% to 937.03, the TA-100 index added 0.59% to 933.08, and the Tel-Tech index of 15 top technology issues tacked on 1% to 365.36.

Avnery: Israel is in Asia not in Europe

Uri Avnery is "An Israeli author and activist. He is the head of the Israeli peace movement, 'Gush Shalom'." He's carried the torch of the left for 60+ years. This essay, Sorry, Wrong Continent, argues that Israel has no choice but to rethink its relationship to its geographic context, namely Asia. This excerpt from the concluding sections of the essay gives you part of his take on the rhetoric of the right and how to respond to it.

... LATELY IT has become fashionable for politicians and commentators in Israel to speak about the danger of annihilation that hovers, or so they claim, over Israel. It is hardly believable: the State of Israel is a regional superpower, its economy is robust and developing, its technological level is one of the most advanced in the world, its army is stronger than all the Arab armies combined, it has a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons. Even if the Iranians were to obtain a bomb of their own, they would be mad to use it, for fear of Israeli retaliation.

So where does this fear of annihilation come from in the 59th year of the state? A part of it surely emanates from the memory of the Holocaust, which is deeply imprinted in the national mentality. But another part comes from the feeling of not belonging, of temporariness, of the lack of roots.

That has, of course, domestic implications, too. Consciousness also affects practical interests. The assertion that we are a European people automatically reinforces the position of our ruling class, which is still overwhelmingly Ashkenazi-European, over and against the majority of the citizens of Israel, who are of Asian-African Jewish and Palestinian-Arab descent. The profound disdain for their culture, which has accompanied the state from its first day, facilitates discrimination against them in many fields.

A CHANGE affecting the consciousness of a community is not a short-term proposition. It cannot be achieved by decree. This is a slow and gradual process. But at some stage we shall have to start it, and first of all in the education system....

12/24/06

Israelis: how to turn a human ear into a radio speaker.

From the Jewish Standard's topflight science editor:

» Hands-on science turns on students
By Dr. Miryam Wahrman Published 12/21/2006 Community , Science & Technology

On her first trip to Israel, Ridgewood resident Michelle Kortenaar learned how to turn a human ear into a radio speaker. And when she returned to New Jersey, she brought that skill, and many other novel science teaching strategies, back to her physics and biology classes at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union in West Orange. She learned the unique approaches to hands-on science teaching at a summer institute for teachers sponsored by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel....

12/23/06

Manischewitz to make exodus from Jersey City to Newark

Josh Lipowsky writes in the Jewish Standard about the impending matza factory move:

Manischewitz to make exodus from Jersey City to Newark

Critics Savage Jimmy Carter

"When words collide" is Lois Goldrich's excellent story on the new Carter book in this week's Jewish Standard:

Critics challenge Jimmy Carter

The furor over former President Jimmy Carter’s book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid" is not abating, and the Jewish community is voicing frustration over the author’s apparent unwillingness (some say "inability") to acknowledge the book’s factual inaccuracies and omissions.

In fact, say those Jews who have met with Carter, his statements have become even more extreme since the publication of the book.

Released in November, Carter’s book has come under intense criticism from Jewish organizations that have blasted everything from its title — which evokes comparisons to apartheid South Africa — to its scholarship, which has been described as shoddy and riddled with errors.

12/22/06

Not the Israeli Rosa Parks

Oy vey. Bloggers in the real world and critics of the weird aspects of religion have started to take note of the bizarre spitting match on a bus in Israel.

Let me say this. Based on the email Miriam Shear circulated after the event, she is no Rosa Parks. She was not pacific in her protest. Religion-based gender bias is not the same as socially-based racial bias. Israel today is not the American South in 1955. Israeli women are not going to boycott Egged buses for 13 months and sue in court for rights.

Orthodox men do have real problems. They need to learn manners and civility. They need to reform their attitudes and practices regarding women.

And yes. Islam is worse. That is no excuse.


Slap: Prager Censured by Holocaust Board and Backs Off

Only the president can remove a member of the Holocaust Museum panel, according to the Times. The insinuation is that the board would have fired the man for his incendiary comments about Rep. Ellinson's intent to swear in to congress on a Koran.

Prager finally backpedals a bit, according to the Times, saying he was just trying to make a point about the bible, implying that he did not really mean what he was saying, raising the question, does he ever really mean what he is saying or does he just spout off constantly to keep himself employed as a wingnut commentator?

I've expressed my views here several times on why Prager is wrong. He ought to own up to his mistaken views, retract them and apologize. If not, he ought to resign from the board of the museum.
Holocaust Museum Rebukes Member for Koran Comment
By RACHEL L. SWARNS

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 — The board that oversees the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here publicly distanced itself on Thursday from a member who recently condemned the first Muslim elected to Congress for planning to use a Koran during the private part of his swearing-in ceremony.

In November, the board member, Dennis Prager, a conservative commentator and radio show host, said that Keith Ellison, the newly elected Muslim member of Congress, should give up his post if he could not take his oath on a Bible, which Mr. Prager said was the traditional religious text of the United States.

In its resolution, the council’s executive committee criticized Mr. Prager’s remarks as “antithetical to the mission of the museum as an institution promoting tolerance and respect for all peoples regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity.”

Mr. Prager, one of 68 members of the board, known as the Holocaust Memorial Council, was appointed to the unpaid post by President Bush, and is serving a five-year term, which expires in 2011, said Andrew Hollinger, a spokesman for the council.

Mr. Hollinger said Mr. Bush had the sole power to remove Mr. Prager.

On Wednesday, Representative Virgil H. Goode Jr., Republican of Virginia, was sharply criticized by Congressional Democrats and Muslim Americans for warning that Mr. Ellison’s election to the House posed a serious threat to the traditional values.

Critics of Mr. Goode and Mr. Prager noted that the Constitution specifically bars any religious screening of members of Congress and that the actual swearing in of those lawmakers occurs without any religious texts. The use of such texts occurs only in private ceremonies that take place after lawmakers have officially sworn to uphold the Constitution.

Mr. Goode stood by his comments on Thursday and told Fox News that he wanted to restrict legal immigration to the United States “so that we don’t have a majority of Muslims elected to the United States House of Representatives.” (Mr. Ellison, a lawyer who converted to Islam as a college student, is an African-American, not an immigrant.)

Mr. Prager said Muslim American groups and others had pressured the museum board. “Everybody knows there’s no bigotry in what I said, but they felt they had to do it,” he said in an interview.

“I completely respect Congressman-Elect Ellison’s right to take an oath on the Koran, and regret any language that suggested otherwise,” Mr. Prager added in a statement, emphasizing that he began reaching out to the Muslims 20 years ago. “My entire effort in the Keith Ellison matter has been to draw attention to the need to acknowledge the Bible as the basis of America’s moral values. Judeo-Christian values are the greatest single protection against another Holocaust.”

In response to questions about Mr. Bush’s reaction to Mr. Prager’s remarks, Nicole M. Guillemard, a spokeswoman for the White House, said by e-mail that President Bush “respects religious freedom and the right to free speech.”

Ms. Guillemard did not respond to questions about whether Mr. Bush believed that Mr. Prager should resign or be removed.

Yikes: Secular Humanist Rabbis Ordained in Israel

Jpost reports on new rabbis. The discussion appended to the article is a hoot.

Secular rabbis to be ordained in J'lem
Etgar Lefkovits, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 21, 2006

In an unprecedented event in Israel, seven secular Jews who view Judaism as a culture, as opposed to a religion, will be ordained as rabbis Friday in Jerusalem.

The ceremony, which will be held at the Israel Museum, comes after the ordainees completed three years of study at the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism in Jerusalem. Twenty five additional students are currently studying at the program.

The organization, which promotes "secular humanistic Judaism," is closest to the Reconstructionist Judaism movement in the United States, said Oren Yehi-Shalom, 35, who will be ordained at the ceremony. Yehi-Shalom said that the participants do not pray to God, but believe in man's humanity.

The group's Web site lists the belief in God "as a literary character," citing the Dutch philosopher Spinoza, who is recognized as the founder of modern Biblical criticism.

Yehi-Shalom, who was born to a secular family in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva, said he was approached by the organization while working in the field of education and completing his masters at Bar-Ilan University.

Those who will be ordained on Friday will work in the field of education, and will officiate at religious ceremonies that will not necessarily include God in them. The group has carried out dozens of such marriage and bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies in Israel, where no Jewish certification is needed to take part, and only a declaration of desire to undergo such a ceremony is needed.

The ceremonies would carry no legal standing in Israel though, and would be symbolic at most, since even Conservative and Reform marriages - not to mention marriages by the more left-leaning Reconstructionist Movement - are not recognized by the rabbinate.

Still, the ordination of the secular rabbis is bound to attract the ire of the Orthodox establishment in Israel, which has a virtual monopoly over religious issues such as marriages, divorces, and burials.

12/21/06

Regan: Jews = Rodents

Regan is the victim!? Anyway, Judith does not know how to open a mezuza, says the spokesman. The NY Daily News tabloids it up for the fired publisher.

Slurs? Rat's not true, says Regan

Two more insiders have come forward to claim that Judith Regan has made anti-Semitic slurs, but her lawyer says the former Harper-Collins publisher is a victim of the 'big lie.'

Embattled publisher Judith Regan is defending herself against new claims that she made anti-Semitic slurs.

Two publishing insiders allege the woman behind that O.J. Simpson book regularly compared Jewish people to "rodents."

"I heard her say it multiple times," one source told us. "She thought Jews looked or acted like rats. She called them 'rodentia.'"

Another source said, "I can attest to that. She would call them 'rodentia.' She would just say it in passing. Did I ask her why? I didn't even want to go down that road with her."

Regan insists that she never uttered those words.

Her powerhouse lawyer Bert Fields said, "She unequivocally denies saying any such thing. She never called Jews rodents or said they looked like rodents. It's absolutely false. It's a lie."

Fields also denied an anonymous claim, posted on Gawker.com, that Regan "was constantly muttering about 'Jew agents' in the office and once claimed to staffers that, as a joke, she went through her old apartment building on the upper West Side, took all the Torah scrolls out of the mezuzahs at the doors and replaced them with torn-up dollar bills."

"It's absurd," said the lawyer. "First, I couldn't open a mezuzah if I tried. But I know she didn't do it. I don't think she even said it as a joke."

Regan was fired last week after she ranted that a "Jewish cabal" was "conspiring" to smear her in the media and ruin her career, a spokesman for her former employer claimed on Monday.

News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch axed Regan — who made millions for his HarperCollins company — after the tirade, which was aimed at a Jewish attorney for the publishing house, Mark Jackson. Fields has denied she ever used the expression "Jewish cabal" and insisted, "She was trying to say to Jackson that Jews particularly should understand, because of the Holocaust, what it's like to be a victim of the 'big lie' in the media."

One of the people who claims Regan uttered the "rodentia" comment allowed, "I wouldn't call her anti-Semitic. She was anti-everything. She would use stereotypes against anyone she was mad at: blacks, gays, Irish. It was across-the-board discrimination."

Fields, who is Jewish, said, "I've known Judith for many years. She uses colorful language, but I've never heard her use any racial or religious slurs. I can't speak about sexual orientation."

Fields accused HarperCollins execs of "conducting a smear campaign" against his client. "There are a lot of people she's had fights with," said Fields. "If I find out who's saying this stuff, I will sue them."

Fields also blamed HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman for reneging on a promise to let Regan star in a Bravo reality show. " [Friedman] did it for some trumped-up reason," said Fields, "as we will demonstrate in our suit against HarperCollins. We've been holding our fire. But there's going to be a lot about Jane Friedman."

News Corp. spokesman Gary Ginsberg insisted, "There's no smear campaign."

Regan Boasted of Mezuzah Vandalism

Another bizarre twist to an already twisted story. The woman who wanted to publish O.J.'s book, Judith Regan, allegedly "boasted of removing the scrolls from her neighbors' mezuzas and replacing them with torn pieces from dollar bills."

This blogger has learned that when asked about this boast, she reportedly began to reply, "If I did it..." Here is the story from the NY Times business pages.

Previous Incident Reported Involving a Fired Publisher

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 20 - Judith Regan, the publisher who was fired last week by HarperCollins in the wake of what executives called anti-Semitic remarks, was investigated and reprimanded three years ago for making an anti-Semitic remark at work, two top executives at HarperCollins have said.

According to the executives and another person involved in the incident, Ms. Regan was investigated in the spring of 2003 after an editor complained that she had boasted of removing the scrolls from her neighbors' mezuzas and replacing them with torn pieces from dollar bills.

A mezuza is a small slender case containing a scroll inscribed with a prayer that many Jewish families place beside their front doors.

The two executives said the company's investigation had corroborated the employee's account and Ms. Regan was reprimanded at the time.

A spokeswoman for HarperCollins, Erin Crum, declined to confirm the account. "We do not comment on personnel issues," she said.

A lawyer for Ms. Regan, Bert Fields, denied that she had made the remark. The story, he said, stemmed from testimony given by a witness during Ms. Regan's divorce from Robert Kleinschmidt but she had had nothing to do with the incident.

Mr. Fields said Ms. Regan had not been investigated or reprimanded over an anti-Semitic remark at work.

The furor over Ms. Regan began last month after the News Corporation, the parent company of HarperCollins Publishers, canceled a planned book and television special featuring O. J. Simpson discussing how he hypothetically might have killed his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald L. Goldman.

Last week, Ms. Regan was abruptly fired after a heated telephone conversation with Mark Jackson, a lawyer for HarperCollins, in which she reportedly made anti-Semitic remarks.

On Monday, Mr. Fields promised to sue HarperCollins for breach of contract. "She would never issue any anti-Semitic remark, and she didn't," Mr. Fields said at the time. "It's an outrageous lie to cover the fact that they have no possible basis for terminating Judith."

Mr. Fields acknowledged last week that during the phone conversation, Ms. Regan drew attention to the fact that her boss and others involved in the aborted O. J. Simpson project were Jewish.

Still, several people who worked with Ms. Regan, none of whom would speak for attribution because they feared being sued or subpoenaed, questioned whether she was anti-Semitic. They said her personal style was frequently abusive, but that she offended everyone equally.

"She was an equal opportunity insulter of everyone," said one editor, who worked for ReganBooks for three years. "I did not think of her as a generalized racist."

But the two HarperCollins executives said that many employee complaints had been filed against Ms. Regan, including the one that resulted in a reprimand.

In that incident, an editor at ReganBooks, an imprint of HarperCollins, said that in early May 2003 she was in Ms. Regan's office when the publisher made the remark that "she and her former husband would go around their apartment building, changing mezuzas with bits of dollar bills," according to an individual involved in the investigation, whose account was confirmed by the two executives.

The editor immediately reported the incident to Greg Giangrande, an executive in the human resources department, who started an inquiry that led to Ms. Regan's reprimand.

The incident was not the first time that the editor had complained about ethnic slurs made by her boss, Ms. Regan, the two executives at HarperCollins said. In addition, two former employees said they had received cash settlements as part of a negotiated deal to leave in the wake of their complaints against Ms. Regan. They and others questioned why HarperCollins had tolerated the publisher's behavior.

Sharon Waxman reported from Los Angeles and Julie Bosman from New York.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/21/business/media/21book.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

12/20/06

A Cheery Chrismukkah to you

I was just asking someone today whether everyone forgot about the invention of the OC TV show called Chrismukkah. Here is a story about its current status from the Baptist Standard.

Chrismukkah? Hybrid holiday shows tension in religiously blended families
By Hannah Elliott
Associated Baptist Press

DALLAS (ABP)—There’s a new winter holiday on the rise, and it could be the perfect opportunity to enjoy Fa-La-La-La Latkes, Blitzen’s Blintzes, and Christmas trees filled with “menorahments.”

It’s not Christmas. And it’s not Hanukkah. It’s both. And the humor and religious syncretism behind the hybrid holiday “Chrismukkah” cut to the heart of modern-day tensions in American society.

According to the United Jewish Communities’ National Jewish Population Survey, roughly 31 percent of married Jews in the United States have non-Jewish spouses. For Jews who married after 1995, the intermarriage rate is nearly 50 percent.

Chrismukkah was invented for Jewish-Christian families who decide to celebrate both holidays. The term had its first wide pop-culture appearance in 2003, thanks to a mixed-faith family featured on the now-canceled Fox television show The O.C.

But several new books are taking the holiday at least semi-seriously, reflecting the increasing number of American families that blend Christianity and Judaism.

Chrismukkah: The Official Guide to the World’s Most Beloved Holiday by Gersh Kuntzman, and Chrismukkah: Everything You Need to Know to Celebrate the Hybrid Holiday by Ron Gompertz, both extol the virtues of the Dec. 15-25 celebration. Judaikitsch: Tchotchkes, Schmattes & Nosherei by Jennifer Traig and Victoria Traig also highlights the new holiday alternative.

Gompertz, a Jew who moved from New York to Bozeman, Mont., founded the website http://www.chrismukkah.com/. He is married to the daughter of a pastor in the United Church of Christ, and the couple has decided to raise their daughter in the Jewish faith.

Gompertz’s family chooses to celebrate Hanukkah. But in addition to lighting the menorah and frying latkes—that’s a traditional Hanukkah potato pancake—they add a Christmas tree.

“Frankly, it’s fun to challenge the status quo and question tradition,” he said. “Chrismukkah has gotten people talking, allowing expression of diverse opinion, and it’s helped bring Jewish intermarriage issues to mainstream cultural awareness.”

While he sits on the board of directors for Bozeman’s synagogue and calls himself “a proud Jew,” Gompertz recognizes compromise as a key part of fostering a good marriage with his wife, Michelle. It’s one of the reasons they launched the website as a project to express their views as a “real interfaith family.”

“While we are typical in the sense that … we never had a political or theological agenda, we certainly don’t believe we represent the beliefs of all interfaith couples,” he wrote on his website. “That said, it has been a nice surprise to find how many others share our beliefs and values. We’ve found that by celebrating both December holidays … we manage to keep peace and harmony within our family.”

Chrismukkah fans say the event celebrates both Christian and Jewish beliefs, even if it is a bit tongue-in-cheek. It’s a state of mind for the season—a “multicultural mish-mash of the cherished holiday rituals we grew up with,” Gompertz wrote. And that’s one of the reasons the website is popular, he said.

But the reason Gompertz likes his new holiday is exactly why Chrismukkah critics dislike it.

In 2004, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and the New York Board of Rabbis issued a joint statement disparaging the holiday for misrepresenting the spiritual aspects of Christmas and Hanukkah.

“Chrismukkah is a multicultural mess that glosses over the historical significance of both Hanukkah and Christmas,” said William Donohue, the Catholic League’s president.

“In this vein, we would agree with the recent statement on mixed marriages prepared by the U.S. Catholic-Jewish Consultation Committee. It branded attempts to raise a child simultaneously as both Jewish and Catholic a ‘violation of the integrity of both religious traditions, at best, and, at worst, syncretism.’ From a Catholic perspective, anything which contributes to this phenomenon should be resisted, and that would include Chrismukkah.”

The term has also been used disparagingly in recent years by some as a way to describe the commercialization of Hanukkah and the dominance of commercialized Christmas in American culture.

Rabbi Jeremy Schneider of Temple Shalom in Dallas said Hanukkah is ultimately about maintaining a Jewish belief system in the face of a larger majority belief system surrounding the Jewish community. To create a “hybrid” holiday, he said, insults both Christianity and Judaism.

“Even if the majority of Christians do not take their religious symbols seriously, that does not give Jews license to adopt them and proclaim them secular or American symbols,” he said in an e-mail interview. “I urge my congregants to (imagine) how we would feel if Christians started wearing a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl, or a yarmulke, a Jewish head covering, and ‘de-Judaized’ them for their own purposes.”

In an essay called “Confronting the December Dilemmas,” Ron Wolfson said that by adopting Christmas and its customs, Jews introduce symbols and traditions into their families that are foreign to Judaism. Wolfson is a Jewish educator and president of Synagogue 3000, a Jewish networking and resource center with offices in New York City and Los Angeles.

Christmas celebrates the birth of a Messiah whom Jews do not recognize, and Hanukkah celebrates the right not to assimilate into the dominant non-Jewish culture—the very thing that Jews who celebrate Christmas are doing, he said.

“Many Jewish educators will advise parents to give children who want to celebrate Christmas a very important message: Christmas is someone else’s party, not ours,” Wolfson wrote. “Just as we can appreciate someone else’s birthday celebration and be happy for them, we can wonder at how beautiful Christmas is, but it is not our party.”

Jewish people have many more holidays than just Hanukkah to celebrate, Wolfson continued. It may be difficult to convince Jewish children that they don’t need to trim a Christmas tree or wait for Santa, but once they have experienced the meaning and beauty of their own Jewish traditions, he said, children “will understand that to be Jewish is to be enriched by a calendar brimming with joyous celebration.”

Who knows? The kids might not even miss that kosher fruitcake.

News of religion, faith, missions, Bible study and Christian ministry among Texas Baptist churches, in the BGCT, the Southern Baptist Convention ( SBC ) and around the world.

12/19/06

Diet Rules From Israel: Hang on your fridge

אם אוכלים משהו ואף אחד לא רואה - אין בזה קלוריות.

אם אוכלים עוגת קצפת ושותים משקה דיאט - הקלוריות של העוגה מבוטלות על-ידי המשקה דיאט.

אם אוכלים בחברת מישהו והוא אכל יותר ממך - הקלוריות שלך לא נחשבות.

אוכל שאוכלים למטרה רפואית (שוקו חם, גוגל-מוגל, דייסה, ברנדי) לעולם אינו כלול בספירת קלוריות.

אוכל הקשור לצפייה בסרט (פופ-קורן עם חמאה, סוכריות, שוקולד) לא נחשב, כי הוא חלק מחבילת הבידור.

בחתיכות קטנות של עוגיות אין שומן: תהליך שבירת העוגיה גורם להיעלמות השומן.

בדברים שמלקקים מהסכין או מהכף אין קלוריות בזמן ההכנה - כגון השוקולד על הסכין בזמן הכנת כריך שוקולד.

מאכלים מאותו צבע הם בעלי ערך קלורי שווה, לדוגמה: פטריות ושוקולד לבן, תרד וגלידת-פיסטוק, לבן וקרם בוואריה.

במאכלים קפואים (ארטיקים, גלידות וכד') אין קלוריות כי הקלוריות הן יחידות של חום.

בהצלחה

Announcing Charedi Air

Attempt-at-humor email that is making the rounds:

In view of El Al's handling of the recent unfortunate situation of potentially having aircraft and passengers stranded on Erev Shabbat in the aftermath of a general strike in Israel, I propose that a new Charedi airline should now be established offering the following facilities:-

Strict pre flight passenger religious profiling. Booking available through Haimishe Travel Agents only, positively no Internet booking or check in facilities. No airport (or any other) taxes.

Flexible departure times, Magen Avraham, Gra, Rabbenu Tam etc.

* Security personal to be replaced by modesty police to check appropriate attire.

* Exclusive Platinum check in desk for all passengers.

* Unique "Maso Umattan" desk to negotiate upgrades and denied boarding compensation.

* Flight check in to commence 90 minutes after scheduled departure time.

* Unlimited checked in and hand baggage allowances.

* Only 279 Passengers may be booked for seating on any flight. Additional passengers may board right before takeoff to "Standing Room Only" area for "Simchas Ya'aleh V'yavo".

* Arrival at the departure gate 15 minutes after the last call positively encouraged.

* Frequent flyer "Middos Points" awarded on the basis of in flight Blatt Gemora learned. Bonus points available for the most original new Chumras submitted to the Board.

* On board fully equipped Beis Hamidrash offering running Minyanim, shiurim and live video links to your Rebbe. Unrestricted use of mobile (Kosher) phones, absolutely no Internet access.

* Pilots cabin will be reconfigured to hold 3-5 baby seats (in addition to normal cabin crew).

* Emergency under seat inflatable vests will now come in black or dark navy as Yellow is not a Tznisudik color.

* To offset operating expenses Charedi Air will lease its planes from a reputable Brooklyn car leasing establishment (don't worry about excess mileage).

* Four unique travel classes ranging from the exclusive Rambam First Class for Gedolei Hador only; Shelita Class for Dayanim and senior Rabbonim; Kolel Class for those who have been in full time learning for at least 30 years and Yeshivishe Class with optional seating. Women will be seated at the rear of the hold (subject to receiving permission to board from the modesty police). Women deemed to be immodesty dressed or wearing wigs with Indian hair will be relegated into overhead compartment.

* Mashgichim Temidim to replace flight attendants offering a choice of cuisine with outstanding Hechsherim ranging from Bedatz to Monsey Super Glatt.

* No refreshments will be served on the following Taanesim:- Taanis Esther, Tzom Gedalyo, Asoro BeTeves, Shivo Osor BeTammuz and Hey Iyyar.

* To prevent the possible desecration of the holy Shabbos (chas v' sholom) flights will only be scheduled on Monday to Wednesday. In addition flights will not run on the following days:-Erev Yom Tov, Yom Tov Sheini Shel Golyus, Isru Chag, Purim, 1-10 Av (until after Chatzos). Schedules are subject to disruption after Purim during which time aircraft will be thoroughly Kashered for Pesach.

*Floor of plane should be granite, hardwood, imported Italian tile or thick carpet.

*Seat belts will be replaced by "Seat Gartels".

*"Pre flight" safety video will be replaced by professional make and female actors (all shoimer shabbos who will depict instructions).

*Free retouching of passport pictures for single girls 16 and over.

*Lighting should be chandeliers.

*All cabin crew should be either Hispanic or polish with shared passport.

*First class isn't booked, it's auctioned for a tzedaka.

*Baby carriages don't have to be stored, they can be left in the aisles.

*Planes are allowed to double and triple park on runways if pilot has to "run into terminal for just a second."

Carter: He was worse than Bush

Remember Jimmy Carter? He was our president in 1979 and in May of that year Time Magazine wrote

For yet another week, gas stations almost everywhere kept short hours, closed on the weekend or limited sales to a few gallons because supplies were short, by 5% to 20% of 1978 levels. In most states it was enough of a pinch to make gasoline a major topic of concern, but not enough to force Americans to change lifestyles. In California, however, long lines of cars formed at every open pump, as angry and panicky motorists tried to buy every drop available.
One of the great oil powers in the world, and the US in 1979 had a shortage of gasoline!!!!!! And mortgage rates were 17%! Yes 17%

In the history of our country, Jimmy Carter was our worst president.

Now to cap off his terrible legacy, he calls Israel an "apartheid" state in his new book.

Let history record that a chazer bleibt a chazer and a peanut farmer bleibt a peanut farmer.

Really Biblical: Take your oath while holding your male member

There has been an outcry about what's the proper way to swear in a America, a country that some say must be united by the bible. We've written about it several times in this blog.

Of course if you really want to perform a biblical oath you might want to consider this manner, as summarized by R. David Freedman.

"Put Your Hand Under My Thigh" - The Patriarchal Oath

By R. David Freedman
In Genesis 24:2-9 Abraham has his servant Eliezer put his hand under the Patriarch's thigh to swear "by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth" that the servant will not arrange a marriage for Abraham's son Isaac with a Canaanite woman. Similarly, in Genesis 47:29-31 the dying Patriarch Jacob has his son Joseph swear to him that he will bury Jacob not in Egypt, but alongside Jacob's own parents in the Cave of Machpelah; and the oath-taking ritual again calls for putting a hand under the Patriarch's thigh.
Talmudic tradition1 takes these verses to indicate that the oath was sworn while the circumcised membrum of the Patriarch was held in hand, and derives from this interpretation the rule that all Jewish oaths must be sworn while some ritual object is held in hand. Ordinary people must hold a Torah scroll; scholars may hold any ritual object.

In the Times Herald Record today (New York's Hudson Valley and the Catskills) there is an opinion by Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist that she calls, "The wolf who cried racist."

It is a balanced column that rightly notes with criticism the showboating aspect of Dennis Prager's crusade against Keith Ellison for his desire to swear on the Koran. She also notes with praise the desire by Prager, a Jew, to live in a bible based culture rather than a Koran governed society.

In multi-culti America, there's no worse offense than being a "racist," and no word has suffered more abuse.

We've had a taste of that recently as Muslim and Jew have slugged it out over whether a Koran can be used at a private swearing-in ceremony for Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress.

Dennis Prager, a popular talk show host and columnist, who happens to be Jewish - as well as a thoroughly decent fellow - wrote a column recently protesting Ellison's insistence on injecting his religious preference into an American tradition:

"Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. ... If you are incapable of taking oath on that book (the Bible), don't serve in Congress."

Prager has been pilloried from all sides. In the blogosphere, he's been called everything from racist to Islamophobic. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch called Prager a "bigot" and a "schmuck," and is demanding his resignation or removal from the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, on which both men serve.

Most entertaining has been a similar demand from CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), lest Muslims worldwide get a negative impression about "America's commitment to religious tolerance."

Irony must be basking.

CAIR routinely demonstrates intolerance for any opinion deemed insensitive to its views and targets individuals and institutions for cyber-posses and technomobs. Ask any cartoonist who has drawn an image of you-know-who.

Back through the looking glass, Prager says his objections have nothing to do with race or religious intolerance but with a concern for American solidarity. His premise is that the country is in danger of unraveling if we continue to erode traditions that are the common threads of the republic.

Prager asserts that the Bible has been used for swearing-in ceremonies since George Washington. Which is true, except when it isn't.

Not every elected official has used the Bible, including some Jews (Koch, a U.S. representative from 1969-77, used a Hebrew Bible for his initial swearing-in) and some Quakers, including Herbert Hoover, whose beliefs prohibit the swearing of oaths.

The U.S. Constitution, meanwhile, leaves plenty of wiggle room for those who prefer not to make religious statements. Eugene Volokh, constitutional law professor at UCLA, has written that requiring someone to swear on the Bible would violate the Constitution's provision that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

It appears that Prager is, at least technically, wrong. But his concerns are not those of a hatemonger. Prager is merely the quarterback in the latest scrimmage over ideas in post-9/11 America.

There is a growing sense, both here and in Europe, that Western civilization is under siege by the radical Muslim world, the expressed goal of which is to convert the rest of us. There's not much wiggle room in Sharia law for optional religious practices. Or, we note, accessorizing wardrobes.

On a certain level, one can understand Prager's view that introducing the Koran into American government is a taunt to traditional values.

On another level, those same values allow us to see Ellison's legitimate wish to swear on the holy book of his choosing. What Christian or Jew duly elected in a predominantly Muslim country would want to be forced to swear on a Koran?

The punch line, of course, is that our religious tolerance is shared by few Muslim nations, some of which won't allow a Bible to enter the country. Our better angels may yet be our worst enemies.

Obviously, Ellison could forgo the Koran and affirm as others have. That he insists on the Koran is probable cause to infer that he's trying to make a statement and assert himself as a Muslim in the U.S. Congress.

Before 9/11, that singular act might not have drawn attention. But that was then.

Hoisting the red flag, as Prager has done, isn't an act of bigotry ? or even schmuckery. It is the understandable reflex of a man, who, as Prager himself puts it, knows that a Bible-swearing nation has been, and will be, a better place for Jews to live than one that swears on the Koran.

Genius is not required to grasp that concept, but civility is critical to debating these issues. Name-calling and showboating righteousness - or demanding punitive action against those who voice an unpopular opinion ? is the wrong way up a dead-end street.

Radical Islam loves that sort of dogmatic intransigence.

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist. Her e-mail address is kparker@kparker.-com.

http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061219/OPINION/612190324

12/18/06

Invest in True Religion Stock

I discovered recently that you can trade True Religion on the Nasdaq stock market. It trades under the symbol TRLG.

This is of course just an apparel company with stores from coast to coast. Not to be confused with Judaism or Christianity or Islam, which are religions that various folks like to label as "true".

Last Wednesday I saw a business story about the firm, "Not Much to Worship at True Religion". Seems the stock is at a 52 week low and the analysts are punning away at the company.

The story reports, "True Religion is a Los Angles based high-end denim company which designs, develops, manufactures, markets, distributes and sells denim jeans and other apparel, including corduroy jeans and jackets, velvet jeans and jackets, skirts, shorts, t-shirts, sweaters and sportswear. In other words, it’s a parent’s worst nightmare if your kid is into this fashion because jeans for example are priced in the $150 plus range."

Let me join in the pun: parents are just praying that their children don't ask for them.

12/17/06

The Jews: Funny SNL Video spoof of the trailer for the Mel Gibson movie Apocalypto

Funny SNL Video spoof of the trailer for the Mel Gibson movie Apocalypto.

Best 2006 Jews-is-News Opinions Picked by NY Times' Brooks

Thse are the Best 2006 Jews-is-News Opinions as picked in his column today, "This Age of Anxiety," by NY Times' David Brooks:

Finally, there was the sense the forces of decency were losing ground to primordial ugliness, especially anti-Semitism. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote a fevered essay on the power of the Israel Lobby, which cleared ground for a million anti-Semitic rants. Jimmy Carter has just published a book intended to make Israelis look like racists.

I’m not sure the classic essay on this latest recrudescence has been written, but Anne Applebaum had a useful piece in Slate called “
Holocaust Denial Is No Joke,” and Adam Garfinkle has a comprehensive look at “The Madness of Jewcentricity” in The American Interest.

It all adds up to quite a gloomy — though well-crafted — collection of essays, culminating in a National Journal piece by Paul Starobin called “
Beyond Hegemony” on life in an age of declining American power.

I have to say, I’m as pessimistic about the Middle East as the next guy, but most of this broader existential gloom about America is absurd. The U.S. is in extraordinarily strong shape economically and socially. And whatever their short-term strengths, the Sadrs of the world simply do not have a social model that large numbers of people will want to live under.
I'm not Brooks' biggest fan, but he does pick good essays.

And of course you gotta read Frank Rich today. He meanders as ususal through the wilderness of conservativism, picking wild berries and delightful fruits to entertain us. He argues that right-wing misuse of religion has run its course and saner heads are bouncing back into the fray. Maybe?

No one more dramatically so, perhaps, than Rick Warren, the Orange County, Calif., megachurch leader and best-selling author of “The Purpose Driven Life.” He has adopted AIDS in Africa as a signature crusade, and invited Barack Obama to join the usual suspects, including Senator Brownback, to address his World AIDS Day conference on the issue. This prompted predictable outrage from the right because of Mr. Obama’s liberal politics, especially on abortion. One radio host, Kevin McCullough, demonized the Democrat for pursuing “inhumane, sick and sinister evil” as a legislator. An open letter sponsored by 18 “pro-life” groups protested the invitation, also citing Mr. Obama’s “evil.” But Mr. Warren didn’t blink.

Among those defending the invitation was David Kuo, the former deputy director of the Bush White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. In a book, “Tempting Faith,” as well as in interviews and on his blog, the heretical Mr. Kuo has become a
tough conservative critic of the corruption of religion by politicians and religious-right leaders who are guilty of “taking Jesus and reducing him to some precinct captain, to some get-out-the-vote guy.” Of those “family” groups who criticized Mr. Obama’s appearance at the AIDS conference, Mr. Kuo wrote, “Are they so blind and possessed with such a narrow definition of life that they can think of life only in utero?” The answer, of course, is yes. The Christian Coalition parted ways with its new president-elect, a Florida megachurch pastor, Joel Hunter, after he announced that he would take on bigger issues like poverty and global warming.

But it is leaders like Mr. Hunter and Mr. Warren who are in ascendance. Even the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs at Mr. Haggard’s former perch, the National Association of Evangelicals, has joined a number of his peers in
taking up the cause of the environment, putting him at odds with the Bush administration. Such religious leaders may not have given up their opposition to abortion or gay marriage, but they have more pressing priorities. They seem to have figured out, as Mr. Kuo has said, that “politicians use Christian voters for their money and for their votes” and give them little in return except a reputation for bigotry and heartless opposition to the lifesaving potential of stem-cell research.

The axis of family jihadis — Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association — is feeling the heat; its positions get more extreme by the day. A Concerned Women for America mouthpiece called Mary Cheney’s pregnancy “
unconscionable,” condemning her for having “injured her child” and “acted in a way that denies everything that the Bush administration has worked for.” (That last statement, thankfully, is true.) This overkill reeks of desperation. So does these zealots’ recent assault on the supposedly feminizing “medical” properties of soy baby formula (which deserves the “blame for today’s rise in homosexuality,” according to the chairman of Megashift Ministries), and penguins.

Yes, penguins. These fine birds have now joined the Teletubbies and SpongeBob SquarePants in the pantheon of cuddly secret agents for “the gay agenda.” Schools are being
forced to defend “And Tango Makes Three,” an acclaimed children’s picture book based on the true story of two Central Park Zoo male penguins who adopted a chick from a fertilized egg. The hit penguin movie “Happy Feet” has been outed for an “anti-religious bias” and its “endorsement of gay identity” by Michael Medved, the commentator who sets the tone for the religious right’s strictly enforced code of cultural political correctness.

Such censoriousness is increasingly the stuff of comedy. So are politicians of all stripes who advertise their faith. A liberal like Howard Dean is no more credible talking about the Bible (during the 2004 campaign he said his
favorite book in the New Testament was Job) than twice-married candidates like Mr. McCain are persuasive at pledging allegiance to “the sanctity of marriage.”

For all the skeptical theories about the Obama boomlet — or real boom, we don’t know yet — no one doubts that his language about faith is his own, not a crib sheet provided by a conservative evangelical preacher or a liberal political consultant on “values.” That’s why a Democrat from Chicago whose voting record is to the left of Hillary Clinton’s received the same
standing ovation from the thousands at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church that he did from his own party’s throngs in New Hampshire. After a quarter-century of watching politicians from both parties exploit religion for partisan and often mean-spirited political gain, voters on all sides of this country’s culture wars are finally in the market for something new.

12/16/06

Oy - Time Punts on Person of the Year - It's Me?

We know: "It was not the first time the magazine went away from naming an actual person for its 'Person of the Year.' In 1966, the 25-and-under generation was cited; in 1975, American women were named; and in 1982, the computer was chosen." Still, this seems like a cop out.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - You were named Time magazine "Person of the Year" on Saturday for the explosive growth and influence of user-generated Internet content such as blogs, video-file sharing site YouTube and social network MySpace.

"For seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, Time's Person of the Year for 2006 is you," the magazine's Lev Grossman wrote.

The magazine has put a mirror on the cover of its "Person of the Year" issue, released on Monday, "because it literally reflects the idea that you, not us, are transforming the information age," Editor Richard Stengel said in a statement.

Can the Holocaust Happen Again -- Here?

One time I apologized to my class at the University of Minnesota because I felt I had alarmed them.

In the final lectures of my course of one hundred and ninety students called, "Introduction to Judaism," we discussed the impact on the demography of the Jewish people, and we talked about the philosophical meaning of the destruction of the European Jewish community during the Second World War. These events and circumstances have become known to us as the Holocaust.

More and more over the years, the Holocaust has assumed greater importance in the curriculum of this course. Some years ago I spent one lecture on the subject. That year we devoted four hours to issues related to the horrors and tragedies of a dark era just a single generation ago.

As part of the process of our discussion in the course I summarize the events and trends in European history and culture which lead up to the establishment of the death camps where millions of Jews were murdered, and of the crematoria, where their bodies were burned.

We discuss the issues of the Holocaust against our understanding of more than one thousand years of European Anti-Semitism. We examine then the philosophical and theological responses to the trauma of the Holocaust and try to understand what meaning it all has for the contemporary Jew and for all Americans.

In the midst of our lectures describing the facts of the destruction, questioning why the Holocaust happened, how it happened, and what it means, a student in the first row of the class raised her hand and asked with trepidation, did I, the instructor of the course, think that the Holocaust could happen again?

Without hesitation, I said yes. And I proceeded to explain why I thought so and how I thought it could occur.

The Holocaust was not an accident of history. It was not carried out by a few madmen in the midst of the confusion of war and terror. The most horrible aspect of the Holocaust was the organization and bureaucracy the Nazis created to carry out the murder of so many innocent civilians.

Recent books and films dealing with the subject bring out how banal and everyday were the activities associated with the murder of millions. Claude Lantzman's nine hour documentary, Shoah, to be shown here in Minneapolis at the Uptown theater beginning April 13, brilliantly brings home the point.

Common bureaucrats in all levels of public service signed the memoranda ordering the slaughter of the Jews. And the average citizen of Europe assisted in carrying out the orders. Many shared in the destruction of the Jews, each in a little, sometimes merely trivial way. After the fact, no one accepts responsibility for the crimes because every individual was just a part of a larger machine.

Can it happen again? Can the murder of millions of innocent men women and children happen again? I said yes to my student. Look at your neighbor, your friend, your relative. Someone you know works in the bureaucracy we call the military industrial complex. Perhaps he or she builds part of a missile, a guidance system, or works on some design problem with direct military application. Are they not bringing the reality of the next Holocaust closer

Maybe, I said to my class, your cousin goes to work every morning in an ICBM missile silo here in Minnesota or in North Dakota. When, God forbid, the order comes from the Officer to push the button, or turn the key, or enter the code, he or she, your friend or relative, will do it and will launch the missile and murder one million or more innocent civilians in Moscow, or Leningrad, or Berlin, or Prague.

I said, there is no doubt in my mind that another Holocaust can happen and will happen unless you students, the future hope of our state and nation do all that you can to bring peace. And then we went on to continue our lecture, on to the next question.

A few days later, while I was walking through the corridors of the University, I recalled the look I saw on the faces of some students after I calmly described how it could happen again. It was the look of discomfort, of worry, even of alarm.

I felt I had done the wrong thing. I had told them what no one should tell them. That mass murder and death are ordinary things, banal parts of governmental memoranda. That they may be preparing to take part in the process. And worst of all, I insinuated that even if they try, there is nothing they can do to stop or divert the process.

I came to class and asked, as I usually do, if there were any questions about the material assigned for the day. But instead of answering the questions, I stopped and apologized. I said I was sorry I answered as I had when asked whether it could happen again. I said I do not know what will happen in the future and should never try to predict.

I asked the students to please forget. I assured them that we would confine ourselves to the task of understanding Jewish history and thought and not try to extend our lessons beyond that.

Looking at their faces again, I knew they would not forget.

Crimes, Misdemeanors and Philanthropy

“Behind every great fortune is a great crime,” my friend Charlie used to assure me on the golf course as we discussed the meaning of life. He exaggerated to make his point that it is commonly understood that people break laws in the pursuit of wealth. Lately we don’t have to look far to find proof.

When the wealthy donate the products of their ill-gotten gains to charities we face some meaty moral issues. Do yeshivas, synagogues and federations have the obligation to investigate the source of the munificence that donors offer? How far must they go to be sure that the money is clean and that the donor is not a crook? Are there circumstances when accepting money from a scoundrel is morally right?

In a recent local example Harold Kushner, a billionaire real estate developer and businessman in Essex County, made substantial donations to Jewish charities including Yeshiva University and a local yeshiva, subsequently named after him, the Kushner Academy. Now said individual has been arrested for allegedly paying prostitutes in an effort to suborn the perjury of witness that could testify that he made illegal contributions to political candidates.

This is not a “great crime” but the full story of Kushner’s fortune has not yet unraveled. We may derive some moral guidance in today’s scandal ridden times at what some people argued regarding earlier ill-gotten gains.

Back in the eighties New Yorker, Ivan Boesky made millions of dollars through the exploitation of illegal insider information. He did not earn his fortune honestly and through hard work. We know that he broke laws with impunity.

And worst of all we know that with his dirty fortune he sought and was accorded notoriety and prominence in our community. Boesky served as president of the New York Federation fund drive, as member of the national Holocaust Memorial Council, and as a prominent supporter of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

A troubling question was raised then as it should be again now, what should the community do? According to the New York Times of November 28, 1986, the insider trading scandal stirred an ethics debate. This was surprising since the public discussion of morality always has been rare in American society and has been virtually nonexistent in the American Jewish community.

One issue that was raised in the controversy back then was whether the activities of the so-called "corporate raiders" were at all ethical? Arguments on both sides supported the self interests of the raiders on the one hand and of the entrenched corporate managers on the other. Whoever was right, one thing was clear. This aspect of the process of amassing great wealth in a short term was not an exclusively theological or religious issue. Surely this was not a problem that was likely to be handled intelligently by theologians.

The rabbis certainly could attempt to sort out what should be done with the "dirty money" earned by unscrupulous persons who have transgressed the statutes of our land?

Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, executive director of the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative rabbis, was quoted in the New York Times in 1986 as saying, "There have to be some limits to the prevalence of greed." He suggested a "moral retooling" beginning with a summit meeting of rabbis, cardinals and priests. No one disagreed with this call to justice, echoing, if only weakly, the exhortations of Israel's classical prophets.

Note well however that the summit was not held. What if we now held the meeting? On the top of the agenda of any forthcoming moral summit conference or continuing debate of public morality within the Jewish community, we must place several problems:

  1. Should philanthropic institutions, rabbinic seminaries, holocaust memorials, synagogues and schools accept donations of "dirty tzedakah"?
  2. How far, we must ask, should an institution go to investigate the source of every munificent gift?
  3. Once we have discovered that funds received by an institution derived from theft, embezzlement or swindling, should we give those funds back, refuse to make use of the fruits of iniquity?

If we put these questions on the agenda the preponderant responses will be that we must look more closely at the sources of monetary donations, we must scrutinize more carefully their sources. But on the subject of returning illegally earned monies already donated to the Federation, the yeshiva, or other philanthropic recipients, we will find understandable resistance.

Two paths of argument will emerge. One voice will argue that laundering illegal funds by donating them to worthy causes is good. It cleanses the soul of the donor and allows for some worthy outcome for reprehensible behavior. These gifts serve as sin-offerings of a sort. And anyway, some may say, who can determine whether a dollar given to charity came from a shady deal or a legitimate one? If the charity doesn't take the money, or keeps it and doesn't give it back out of revulsion, and if the Federation and UJA don't use the proceeds of scandal for purposes of ultimate good, then someone else will surely use the money and maybe not for such seemly purposes. And furthermore, the recipient needs to grow and do more of its consecrated work. The local agencies supported by Federations need more funds for their worthy purposes. And the UJA needs the money it has received to do more good for social welfare in the State of Israel.

Very few who will raise their voice against this practice will dare to contend that stolen money must not be accepted in any form into the organized community. Few will say that by accepting stolen funds one desecrates the sanctity of a cause; that by honoring the crook, one sanctions immorality. Few will argue that the most effective way to limit greed and corruption is to use the sanctions of society against the immoral elements who would want to be accepted into our organized and orderly world.

Yet where do we draw the line? Will we continue to accept money from the Boeskys, Levines, Kushners and their friends? Will we name Yeshivas after them? Will we hold these people up as models of behavior for our younger generation?

Perhaps we should demonstrate our moral abhorrence of greed and criminality by rejecting the corrupt and sending back to them the fruits of their corruption with a reminder of an age-old message like that of the prophet Malachi at the end of chapter one, the Haftarah of Parashat Toledot:

"You bring (to the Temple) what has been stolen or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from you hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished; for I am a great King says the Lord of hosts, and my name is feared among the nations."

To continue to be a great nation we must uphold our moral standards, even when the cost is great. We must set the highest standards for ourselves, our children and for the world around us. That has always been the destiny and primary mission of the Jewish people.
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Tzvee Zahavy was ordained rabbi at Yeshiva University and holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Brown University.