7/31/07

Yalla Ya Nasrallah - A Rhythmic Serenade from Israel

It was a year ago that we posted this and it took off like a rocket. So here it is again...

You will not see this video on American TV. It is quintessentially Israeli. And somehow... well just watch it.



(Hats off to the Heading for Sinai blog.)

7/30/07

Hey P. Diddy: Wanna Hire Tzvee.Diddy?

He needs an assistant...Remember 2007, the summer of YouTube?

First we submitted our TV debate questions to presidential candidates via YouTube.

Then we applied for a job with P. Diddy via YouTube.

Then, well what next?
Hip hop star P. Diddy has advertised for a new personal assistant - with a video on his MySpace website.

The rapper asked hopefuls to post their applications on YouTube.

The video-sharing site has since been swamped with clips of people explaining why they would be perfect for the unique role.

Now the star - real name Sean Combs - will ask fans to help him choose a winner by voting for their favourites online.

He has warned the eventual winner that they are in for a tough job, as he tends to "scream, go crazy, keep you up late and have you sleep-deprived".

Despite the warning, 10,000 people have applied for the post.

7/29/07

Shuls Crop the Holocaust out of our history

Note: I spoke to Jules Harlow at Jack Neusner's 75th birthday party today and so I am rerunning this post.

Despite the magnitude of suffering of the Jews of Europe, and how recently the events occurred, synagogue prayers and rituals for the most part ignore the Holocaust, or treat it superficially.

True, it is fitting that we commemorate Yom HaShoah in many communities in a public school auditorium or other secular gathering place with speeches and ceremonies to make the event more accessible and universal to our neighbors.

Thinking about the new museum just dedicated at Yad VaShem and about the celebration of Yom HaShoah, I raise an issue near to all our hearts: isn't it time to institutionalize properly our memorial of the Shoah in the synagogue service?

How can we go day after day to pray and not officially recognize directly and explicitly the epochal tragedy that epitomizes modern Jewish and all of contemporary human suffering?

How can we talk of the servitude in Egypt at our seders and contemplate Passover in our shuls and virtually ignore the slavery of the Holocaust?

Notably we must recall that American Conservative Judaism developed a Kaddish for death camps over 30 years ago. Based in part on the last passages of Andre Schwarz-Bart's 1960 novel, The Last of the Just, the rite was originally incorporated into the Martyrology of the Mahzor for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, of the Rabbinical Assembly (1972). Rabbi Jules Harlow, editor of the Mahzor described the new kaddish to me as follows:
We interrupt these words [of the traditional Kaddish], this statement of faith, with the names of places where Jews were slaughtered, places which therefore cause us to raise questions, to have doubts. The tension is resolved, liturgically, by the last four lines, whose words are uninterrupted by the names which give rise to questioning, thus concluding in a framework of faith.
The original Aramaic text alternates with a register of the sites of extermination in this moving prayer as follows (cited from the Siddur Sim Shalom, ed. Jules Harlow, 1985):
  • Yitgadal
    Auschwitz
    ve'yitkadash
    Lodz
    Sh'mei raba
    Ponar
    b'alma di v'ra khir'utei,
    Babi Yar
    v'yamlikh malkhutei
    Maidanek
    b'hayeikhon u-v'yomeikhon
    Birkenau
    u-v'hayei d'khol beit yisrael,
    Kovno
    ba-agala u-vi-z'man kariv,
    Janowska
    v'imru amen.
    Y'hei sh'mei raba m'vorakh l'alam u-l'almei almaya.
    Yitbarakh v'yishtabah
    Theresienstadt
    v'yitpa'ar v'yitromam
    Buchenwald
    v'yitnasei v'yit-hadar
    Treblinka
    v'yit'aleh v'yit-halal
    Vilna
    sh'mei d'kudsha,
    Bergen-Belsen
    brikh hu l'ela
    Mauthausen
    min kol birkhata v'shirata,
    Dachau
    tushb'hata v'nehemata
    Minsk
    da-amiran b'alma,
    Warsaw
    v'imru amen. Y'hei sh'lama raba min sh'maya v'hayim aleinu v'al kol
    yisrael, v'imru amen. Oseh shalom b-m'romav, hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu v'al kol
    yisrael, v'imru amen.
Harlow explained to me in 1989 that there are intentionally seventeen places named, signifying that life, represented by the Hebrew Chai, numerically eighteen, "can never be complete, can never be the same, after such slaughter."

In another version, the more extensive Kaddish of the Martyrology of the Day of Atonement, this new Kaddish includes Kishinev, Hebron, Mayence, Usha and Jerusalem, places where Jews were slaughtered during other tragic historical eras.

Why have Orthodox, Reform and Reconstructionist synagogues not developed some equivalent prayer or ritual? Why are we so eloquent in prayer and piyyut and davening and sermonizing and yet so ritually mute and liturgically speechless about the Shoah?

It is long overdue that the meaningful new Kaddish of the Conservative Machzor be institutionalized in all of our weekly synagogue liturgies, long overdue that it become a widespread potent ritual.

Every congregation - Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Hasidic - ought to rise and recite this Kaddish every week. It would be fitting on Shabbat Morning to recall the darkness of the Holocaust right before the chazzan intones the Prayer for the State of Israel, the liturgy that notes the beginning of the glimmer of our redemption.
[repr. from 2005, 2006]

7/25/07

New Yorker Calls Doctor Gloom Avram Burg a Zionist Apostate

I just love it when a man is so arrogant he thinks he can worry about a whole nation all at once. And not only take on that responsibility! He can also see the future!

For a person to say that Zionism is not the same today as it was in 1948 - that is not apostasy. What is Remnick talking about in this essay? What does he think Burg is saying that is so controversial? Israel faces problems?

Burg is talking nonsense - utter garbage - when he purports to represent the spirit of a nation. The State of the State address ought to be given by the president or prime minister - not a man who quit politics out of disgust or depression or both.

Hey. Every country is beset by problems, internal, external, economic and social. Jimmy Carter's malaise was his own - not mine or that of the public at large. And he was president!

This guy Burg is a quitter and his whole attitude reeks of the stench of sour grapes. He could not make it to prime minister. He ran out of gas. So he just stipulates that the country is awful.

Well let me tell you about the real Israel. Its fruit is large and sweet and giants live in the land. Wow is it strong and beautiful and one of the best countries in the world in innovation, education, culture, religion, art, science, military might.... what is it that Burg wants or expects from Israel?

Here is a choice teaser. Read the New Yorker article and see if you agree with me.
In this atmosphere of post-traumatic gloom, Avraham Burg, a former Speaker of the Knesset, managed to inflame the Israeli public (left, right, and center) with little more than an interview in the liberal daily Ha’aretz, promoting his recent book, “Defeating Hitler.”
That's enough for doctor gloom ....feh.

7/24/07

Haaretz: Rabbis Do Not Want to Rebuild the Temple

"The rabbis gave up first," writes Nadav Shragai in Haaretz concerning the question of sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

Well yes they did. For political and practical reasons. Restoring the Temple would empty the synagogues and the Yeshivas. It would transfer the center of sacrality back to the Temple. Nobody wants to put themselves out of business.

Some quotes from Shragai,
This prohibition has been convenient for Israel's governments, all of which banned Jewish prayers on the Temple Mount (with the exception of visits) for reasons of preserving public order and preventing conflict.

Even Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the leader of the settlers movement, denied Jews entry to Temple Mount. Only recently has a group of religious-Zionist rabbis dared to change a ruling. But this is too little and perhaps too late.

Sovereignty cannot be exercised on Temple Mount when the sovereign is halakhically banned from entering the place where he wishes to exercise it. The sovereignty on Temple Mount either exists or it does not.

Haaretz Op-Ed: Ben Gurion's Marriage Monopoly Mistake

Civil marriage is coming to Israel one way or another. It may take five or fifty years but it is coming. It's because of what I call rabbinic RAFU - Rabbis always foul it up. No matter how good they have it, they manage to lose it.

Ben-Gurion's mistake
By Asher Maoz

On August 23, 1953, the government discussed a proposed law that would give the rabbinate a monopoly over the marriages and divorces of Jews. A few cabinet ministers, among them justice minister Pinchas Rosen, opposed granting exclusivity over marriages to Orthodox rabbis, on the grounds that they are unnecessarily strict.

Among other things, the cabinet discussed the demand by marriage officiants that the bride bathe in a mikveh (ritual bath) before the marriage ceremony. The deputy prime minister, Moshe Sharett, related that his mother, who got married in Ukraine, his own wife, who married in London, and his daughter, who married in the United States, were not required to do so, even though they were married in Orthodox ceremonies.

Golda Meir, the minister of labor, called the demand for ritual baths "savagery, and I don't know whether they ever observed this even in the Middle Ages." And she added: "Now I want to say that there is also proteksia (favoritism) in these matters. My daughter got married and she didn't go through this procedure. The whole procedure of the rabbi who performed her marriage ceremony was humane and simple and it dignified the occasion. But there are girls who don't have a mother or a father in the government, and they have to go through this whole path, which is a shame and a disgrace." ....more

7/22/07

Teaneck Sliding to the Right

As reported previously in the Jewish Standard and now in the Bergen Record...

Teaneck synagogue divides sexes to survive
By JOHN CHADWICK
STAFF WRITER

A venerable Conservative synagogue in Teaneck, aiming to attract the township's burgeoning Orthodox Jewish population, has begun using a partition to separate men and women during some of its worship services.

The Jewish Center of Teaneck's decision to use separate seating -- a staple of Orthodox Judaism -- reflects the travails of a landmark synagogue struggling to keep pace with a transformed Jewish community.

Indeed, the congregation's president said the move is necessary for the synagogue's survival.

"If we do not make this change, this place will at some point fold or fail, because the demography of this town is predominantly Orthodox," Howard Wang said. "And in order for us to get any growth and development, we need the young Orthodox families to come here."

The synagogue -- Teaneck's first -- flourished in the 1960s and 1970s with a membership of 1,400 that included prominent local leaders such as Matthew Feldman, the late mayor and state senator. ... more

7/20/07

Five stars. Best free software award: Logmein.com

I use Logmein pro often from everywhere. It gets 5 stars in my rating book. I don't own any equity in the company.

Here is their blurb:

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• Open remote files • Access from any browser
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• Support remote users • 100% FREE to use!

7/18/07

Pagan Harry Potter Launch Violates the Sabbath

Harry Potter's Israel launch pits wizard vs rabbis
Wed Jul 18, 2007 2:09PM EDT

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Harry Potter, the world's most famous boy wizard, has fallen foul of Israel's rabbis.

Plans to launch the last installment in the best-selling children's book series in Israel over the Jewish Sabbath have drawn threats of legal action by a religious government minister.

Israeli stores have pledged to go ahead with the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" at 2 a.m. on Saturday (2300 GMT Friday), noting that it will be part of a global media event for a book expected to be the fastest-selling in history.

"We will hold the launch as planned because we are contractually bound to do so. The book will go on sale here at the same time as in other places around the world," Alona Zamir, a spokeswoman for the Steimatzky book chain, said on Wednesday.

The Sabbath runs from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, during which pious Jews shun business dealings. While most Israelis are secular, the country's shops generally close over the Sabbath out of convenience, a sense of tradition, or to avoid paying mandatory fines and overtime to staff.

Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai, whose ultra-Orthodox party Shas is an important member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition government, said he would dispatch inspectors to report on stores that take part in the book launch.

"It is forbidden, according to Jewish values and Jewish culture, that a thing like this should take place at 2 a.m. on Saturday. Let them do it on another day," he told Israel Radio.

"We will certainly issue fines and prosecution orders, but I hope it won't come to that," Yishai added.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is the seventh and last adventure for the boy wizard created by British author J.K. Rowling. Many religious Jews have tried to prevent their children from reading the books, citing its "pagan" content.

Fake Rabbi Soldiers?

Fraud by a religious organization is not a good thing.

But I don't understand the underlying premise here. Even if the degrees were real, why should soldiers get a raise for obtaining a rabbinical degree?

There is no possible professional benefit for the State to have a soldier who knows Talmud.

Justice Ministry uncovers rabbi ordination fraud
Ministry considering indicting senior member of Rabbinate, police, military, prison service officers in wide range ordinations fraud
Aviram Zino
Published: 07.18.07, 13:33 / Israel Jewish Scene

The Jerusalem district prosecutor's office announced Wednesday that it's ready to indict in what it now called the "rabbis' case".

"The Justice Ministry along with the National Fraud Unit (NFU), Military Police and the Police Investigation Unit (PIU), had conducted a comprehensive, complex, four-year investigation into the fraudulent ordination of military and police personnel as rabbis," a statement by the ministry said.

Since 1999, and as part of the Ministry of Education's wage agreement with the Teacher's Association, the ministry has acknowledged "advanced religious studies" accompanied by a rabbi's certification as grounds for additional pay benefits.

Various educational facilities aimed at training armed forces personnel as rabbis were soon established. Student at these schools were ordained by the Chief Rabbinate, making them eligible for pay benefits.

"Following a lead given to the ministry, the Department of Financial Crime in the NFU began investigating senior members at the Rabbinate as well as those attending the schools providing rabbi certifications," said the statement.

"The evidence gathered revealed that some of the suspects formed 'colleges' where armed forces personnel attended religious studies classes… with the cooperation of the Chief Rabbinate's director of ordinations, the suspects received false documents stating they graduated a five-year program in a Yeshiva licensed to ordain rabbis.


"These documents were presented to their superiors (in the armed forces), making them eligible for benefits reaching hundreds of millions of Shekels."

7/17/07

Ellenson: Brilliant Leader

David Ellenson. Brilliant man.
Until ignorance divides us
By Yair Ettinger

Last Friday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert received three guests in his office, all with the double-barreled title of rabbi and professor: They are well-known scholars among American Jews and fairly well-known in Israel: Rabbi David Hartman, who heads the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and is associated with liberal Orthodoxy; Rabbi Arnie Eisen, the chancellor of the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS); and Rabbi David Ellenson, the president of Hebrew Union College (HUC), the Reform Movement's rabbinic seminary.
This Reform rabbi cites my teacher in a compelling context:
Before the conference participants, Ellenson also mentioned Rabbi [Joseph] Soloveitchik and his famous essay distinguishing between "a covenant of fate" and "a covenant of destiny": "Most Jews in the world would not agree with it today, but there is a covenant of fate. Jews who are willing to immigrate to Israel and be part of the Jewish people, who pay taxes, who defend the state in the IDF, who identify themselves as Jews, what benefit would be gained by the Jewish people if we don't accept them? Rabbi Kalisher's responsa is very relevant and can guide us in our era."

7/12/07

RW is Ruining Religion

The right wing led by Bush is ruining religion. When you push and bully, you get backlash.
Here it is:
A camp they can believe in
Ohio's Camp Quest lets young atheists enjoy summer fun with like-minded children
By Ron Grossman
Tribune staff reporter
Published June 27, 2007
CLARKSVILLE, Ohio -- At the same time youngsters at Bible camps across the nation are reciting, "Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep," kids at Camp Quest are climbing into their bunks, confident there is no one out there to hear those prayers.

Proudly proclaiming the motto "Beyond Belief," Camp Quest bills itself as the nation's first sleep-away summer camp for atheists. Founded in 1996, it has inspired four similar camps across the nation for children whose parents are either opposed or indifferent to religion.

MORE...

7/8/07

Tom Friedman: Let's Trade Mitzvah and Averah Credits

A yiddishe kopf. Friedman writes about carbon credit trading and makes a humorous somewhat sarcastic case for trading credits for all misdeeds, not just pollution.
Live Bad, Go Green
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

Over dinner with friends in London the other night, the conversation drifted to global warming and whether anything was really being done to reverse it. One guest, Sameh El-Shahat, a furniture designer, heaped particular scorn on programs that enable people to offset their excessive carbon emissions by funding green projects elsewhere. “Who really checks that it’s being done?” he asked. And how much difference does it really make?

But then he hit on an ingenious idea: If people really want to generate money to plant trees or finance green power, why not have them offset their real sins, not just their carbon excesses? We started to play with his idea: Imagine if you could offset the whole Ten Commandments.

No, really, think about it. Imagine if there were a Web site — I’d call it GreenSinai.com — where every time you thought you had violated one of the Ten Commandments, or you wanted to violate one of them but did not want to feel guilty about it, you could buy carbon credits to offset your sins.

The motto of Britain’s Conservative Party today is “Vote Blue, Go Green.” GreenSinai’s motto could be: “Live Bad, Go Green.” That would generate some income.

Here’s how it would work: One day, you’re out in the backyard mowing the lawn and suddenly you covet your neighbor’s wife. Hey, it happens — that’s why “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” is one of the Ten Commandments. No problem. You just go to GreenSinai.com and buy 100 trees in the Amazon or fund a project to capture methane from cow dung in India — and, presto, you’re free and clear.

Obviously there would be a sliding scale. Taking God’s name in vain or erecting an idol might cost you only a few solar water heaters for a Chinese village, whereas bearing false witness or stealing would set you back a pilot sugar ethanol plant in Louisiana.

As for adultery, well, I think that’s where the big money could be made. My guess is that we could achieve a carbon-neutral world by 2020 if we just set up a system for people to offset their adultery by reversing deforestation of tropical rain forests or funding mega wind and solar power systems in China and India.

O.K., O.K., more seriously, I raise this issue of carbon offsets because they’re symptomatic of the larger problem we face in confronting climate change: everyone wants it to happen, but without pain or sacrifice. On balance, I think carbon-offsetting is a good thing — my family has purchased offsets — if for no other reason than it directs resources toward clean technologies that might not have been funded and, therefore, moves us down the innovation curve faster.

But the danger, argues Michael Sandel, Harvard’s noted political philosopher, “is that carbon offsets will become, at least for some, a painless mechanism to buy our way out of the more fundamental changes in habits, attitudes and way of life that are actually required to address the climate problem.”

“If someone drives a Hummer and buys carbon offsets to salve his conscience, that is better than driving the Hummer and doing nothing,” added Mr. Sandel, author of “The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering.” “But it would be even better to trade in the Hummer for a hybrid. The risk is that carbon offsets will make Hummers seem respectable rather than irresponsible, and distract us, as a nation, from harder, bigger changes in our energy policy.”

People often refer to the current climate buzz as “a green revolution,” but the very term revolution suggests a fundamental break with past habits, attitudes and public policies. Yet, when you suggest a carbon tax or a higher gasoline tax — initiatives that would redirect resources and change habits at the scale actually needed to impact global warming — what is the first thing you hear in Congress? “Impossible — you can’t use the T-word.”

A revolution without sacrifice where everyone is a winner? There’s no such thing.

Katherine Ellison wrote a wonderful piece on this topic for Salon.com in which she quoted Stephen Schneider, the Stanford University climatologist, as saying: “Volunteerism doesn’t work. It’s about as effective as voluntary speed limits. No cops, no judges: road carnage. No rules, no fines: greenhouse gases. We’re going to triple or quadruple the CO2 in the atmosphere with no policy. I don’t believe offsets are just a distraction. But we’ll have failed if that’s all we do.”

There’s a saying at the Pentagon that “a vision without resources is a hallucination.” For my money, the green revolution today is still a hallucination.

7/6/07

The Great Chutzpah Race

"No - you have more chutzpah!"

When politics mimics an SNL skit...in the 90's there was a skit on SNL wherein James Woods, a ventriloquist, trades, "No, you're the dummy" back and forth with his dummy.

That was the whole skit.
Bush Spokesman: Clintons Have "Chutzpah"

Tony Snow Mocks Bill And Hillary Clinton For Criticizing Bush's Libby Decision; Libby Pays $250K Fine
Really, a pox on both your houses.

7/4/07

Kudos to the Forward for its Webby

Yes, I used the K-word. I hate the K-word. It is so fake.

Nothing fake about recognition by one's peers. The Forward has won such an honor from the famed Webby awards.

You could say that in total four Jewish newspapers won. In addition to the Forward, you might count as Jewish The Post, The Village Voice and maybe The Onion (just because all humor is Jewish).

Anyway, the other online newspapers to win were -

KURIER ONLINE
http://www.kurier.at
Telekurier Online Medien GmbH
LANACION.com
http://www.lanacion.com
LA NACION
New York Post
http://www.nypost.com/
Questus
The Jewish Daily Forward
http://www.forward.com
the FORWARD
The New Zealand Herald
http://www.nzherald.co.nz
Shift
The Onion
http://www.theonion.com/
The Onion
The Village Voice
http://www.villagevoice.com
Village Voice Media, LLC