10/31/07

Video: A Giuliani Sentence is a noun a verb and...


Biden does not like Giuliani.

Video: The Most Miraculous Play in All of College Football


Trinity v. Millsap. Razzle Dazzle Extraordinaire!

Five Star Video Take on Ann Coulter: FedEx me to heaven like a perfected Jew

Thanks to JTA for alerting us to this great spoof...



Voice of 'Obama Girl' takes Jewish tack
Ben Harris

NEW YORK (JTA) -- Nearly 4 million people have heard her voice on the Internet video smash "I Got a Crush on Obama," in which a sultry admirer confesses her love for the presidential candidate.

Another 3.5 million have watched her video "My Box in a Box," a parody of a Justin Timberlake number from "Saturday Night Live" whose real title is unprintable here.

Now Leah Kauffman, who wrote the lyrics and sang on the Obama Girl and Box videos, has moved in front of the camera -- with her Jewish nose playing a prominent role -- to battle conservative flamethrower Ann Coulter's recent assertion that Jews should perfect themselves by becoming Christians.

In "Perfected," a video released last week on the Web site YouTube, Kauffman responds to Coulter's recent comments the only way she knows how -- with humor.

"Instead of responding with anger," the Temple University senior tells JTA, "I responded with satire."

The video, produced by the Web site BarelyPolitical.com, had been viewed more than 280,000 times as of Tuesday morning, only five days after it was first posted. The site paid Kauffmann a sum she won't disclose, though she insists it's not "extravagant." She also won't say what her next project is, claiming she was sworn to secrecy.

"I can't tell you, I'm sorry," she said. "We're not finished."

What she can tell us is that she's Jewish and was offended by Coulter's comments.

In the video, Kauffman mocks the right-wing firebrand by pretending to want to be just like her: a liberal-baiting purveyor of hate.

"When I was growing up I was very insecure," Kaufman croons in the video's opening lines. "Didn't know where I fit into this world. As I grew older I found my place and finally my nose grew into my face. Then I saw Ann Coulter on the TV screen and she said if you want to be perfect you should be just like me.

"I know I'm just a Jew, but we could be best friends forever," she continues. "Wanna come over later and watch 'Seinfeld' together. You could teach me to hate liberals, The New York Times and what they say. We could crank-call John Edwards and tell him he's gay. I would do anything to be just like you. FedEx me to heaven like a perfected Jew."

A Philadelphia native, Kauffman began performing at her synagogue, Beth Sholom. For her brother's bar mitzvah, she wrote a song that poked fun at the fact that he used to play with Barbie dolls.

But her musical aspirations are not mere jokes. On Friday night she will premiere selections from her yet-to-be-released CD "Modern Monster" at a club in Philadelphia. She's been working on the tracks for about a year with money made from her political songwriting.

"It's kind of like a big deal to me," she says.

Reviews of the CD aren't available yet, but Kaufmann has received plenty of feedback about the Coulter song. Most of the comments have been positive, she says, but one piece of hate mail sticks out in her mind.

"I guess the best one was this guy on MySpace," she said. "He sent me a picture of him, like, holding a rifle. He said, 'Yeah, I'm from Arkansas. You better watch out. You should love Ann Coulter.' "

10/29/07

Chief Rabbi Wraps Self in the Union Jack

I thought that the idea was that the chief rabbi teach Judaism, represent Jews and give trite sermons. I'm just not comfortable at all with this kind of preaching by the British CR.

JTA: Far right praises British chief rabbi

A new book by Britain's chief rabbi has received accolades from the far right for his views on multiculturalism.

In "The Home We Build Together: Recreating Society," released on Oct. 25, Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks writes that multiculturalism encourages individual ethnic groups to define themselves as victims and has led to segregation instead of integration.

After excerpts of the book were printed in the London Times, message boards for far right groups such as Stormfront White Nationalist Community included comments saying that Sacks' work was helping them out "big time" even though he was a Jew.

Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, Britain's most mainstream and organized far-right political party, called the book "important and welcome."

But London's Deputy Mayor Nicky Gavron, a strong supporter of Britain's Jewish community, criticized the work, saying that attacks on multiculturalism feed on ignorance about other cultures and religious faiths, which can lead to intolerance. Other human rights groups have accused the chief rabbi of making the statements merely to garner publicity for the book.

In his defense, Sacks told the Jewish News in London that he saw multiculturalism as a form of separation and stressed that he was proposing the creation of a unifying culture, calling for a "national Britishness day."

10/28/07

Professor's Bad Writing Ruining Rutgers' Reputation

The subtitle in an article by a Rutgers professor today in the New Jersey section of the Times says, "Football Fans are ruining the school's reputation."

But I think that this professor's bad writing is ruining Rutger's reputation.

When I went to school we had to take a course in "composition and rhetoric." Professor Dowling seems to have abandoned the rhetoric part of his profession.

Here's why.

The article title is "Rutgers Gets Blitzed." That implies there is some sort of rush against the school that has threatened its quarterback. The essay never backs that line of argument up.

The article starts by lamenting the loss of a student to Brown because Rutgers made cuts in non-revenue sports. Then it laments the general budgetary cutbacks for physical plant and course sections (presumably adjunct-taught). Then it laments the plans to spend money on the football stadium.

Next we are told of a growing faculty fear that talented students are not choosing Rutgers - I guess that's because they spend money on revenue sports. But then the article shifts to another issue - "disruptive students" who are "howling obscenities at opposing teams." Yikes. Imagine that.

After a Rutgers sports history lesson recalling the good old days, the professor invokes the evils of the athletics boosters. The result of their rising influence has been that he has seen the "defiant crudity and anti-intellectualism of football booster culture become dominant on campus." He never rpovides the evidence of this dominance, unless he thinks he has by telling us that some drunken students shouted somewhere in Piscataway.

It's either/or for this professor. And he knows that if you have, "large numbers of party-animal students who, as they’ll be the first to tell you, 'hate school'” well then you cannot have at the same place and time, "real and meaningful education." And because of student rowdiness the, "best faculty members depart for better institutions."

So I guess Professor Dowling is packing up and leaving then - or - is he not going anywhere because he doesn't fall into the "best" category?

It's a fact that sports and academics are not intertwined the way Dowling suggests; that students decide where to attend based on many criteria and sports is one of the least important. It's also a fact that few professors pay any attention to college sports. Salary levels and respectability in their disciplines are the criteria that matter. It's also a fact that acceptable civility and crudity is in the eyes of the beholder.

Here's the essay.
October 28, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
Rutgers Gets Blitzed
By WILLIAM C. DOWLING

New Brunswick

ABOUT a month ago, as the Rutgers football team rose to 10th place in the national polls, I thought about a student who recently transferred to another college. He’d come to us with a 1570 SAT score. He chose Rutgers for its math and philosophy departments.

But we couldn’t keep him. Along with his superb academic credentials, this student played one of the so-called non-revenue sports — crew, swimming, tennis, fencing — recently eliminated in the name of budgetary stringency. When the news came, he applied to Yale, M.I.T. and Brown. Accepted at all three, he chose Brown.

The budgetary stringency is real. This year alone, a $66 million shortfall has led to huge staff layoffs and cancellation of more than 400 course sections. Rutgers undergraduates go to class on a grimy, decaying, traffic-choked campus. Still, the budget crisis hasn’t prevented a lavish expenditure on the revenue sports. Estimates of the amount spent on the athletics build-up run from $250 million to $300 million.

Recently, the administration announced plans for a $116 million stadium upgrade with corporate sky boxes. Even such “little” expenditures as the $88,000 spent on trinkets for boosters and state legislators when Rutgers played in a minor bowl game don’t seem so little to those sitting in deteriorating classrooms.

Among faculty, a growing fear is that students like the one who transferred to Brown have begun to avoid Rutgers. It’s not an idle worry.

A group of Williams College analysts led by Gordon C. Winston has argued that what is called the theory of peer effects plays a decisive role when talented students are choosing colleges. Such applicants understand intuitively that, as Professor Winston puts it, “students will learn more, think more carefully and perform better by associating with academically strong fellow students.”

A corollary holds that very bright students will, whenever possible, avoid universities dominated by unmotivated or actively disruptive students. In recent years, I’ve heard many colleagues complain that such students are increasingly dominant at Rutgers, where their belligerence and incivility — arriving late, playing video games, talking on cellphones and sleeping in class — have become commonplace. In the minds of most faculty members, there’s little doubt that big-time athletics, by attracting students whose idea of “college” is drinking beer, painting their faces and howling obscenities at opposing teams, is a major reason.

Last month, for instance, the president of Rutgers found himself writing a letter of apology to the superintendent of the United States Naval Academy because fans in the Rutgers student section directed obscene chants at the midshipmen during a game. A few weeks ago, a mother of two young boys wrote the student newspaper because she hadn’t much enjoyed hearing Rutgers students screaming profanities during a game against Cincinnati, or having her sons watch as the police handcuffed and ejected brawling, drunken undergraduates.

It wasn’t always this way. Founded in 1766, Rutgers was long a magnet for serious New Jersey students of modest means. In addition, the school has a history of genuinely collegiate athletics. The first college football game in America was played between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869. For more than a century, its main rivals were teams that today make up the Division I-AA non-athletic-scholarship Patriot and Ivy Leagues. Only in 1994, under pressure from powerful athletics boosters, was Rutgers pushed into the Big East Conference, with its million-dollar coaches, lavish training facilities and elaborate athletes-only tutoring programs.

In the 1990s, worried that Rutgers was on its way to becoming just another Division I-A sports factory, a group of bright and resourceful students organized Rutgers 1000, a campaign to resist the corruption of professionalized college sports. Drawing strong faculty and alumni support, their protest attracted national attention. Rutgers 1000 disbanded only in 2002, when the appointment of a new president convinced the students that Rutgers would return to its core values.

In the years since, however, as the institutional center of gravity has gone on shifting toward big-time athletics, a new generation of intellectually serious undergraduates has once more found itself being shoved to the margins of institutional life.

That’s why I was heartened last week when a group of students announced they were reviving Rutgers 1000. Watching the school’s rise in the national rankings, they’d seen the defiant crudity and anti-intellectualism of football booster culture become dominant on campus.

More important, these students had glimpsed an essential point: the real issue at the heart of the big-time athletics controversy is a violated ideal of democratic education. To talented students from less-than-wealthy backgrounds, a state university is often the only realistic college choice. But a public university that puts professionalized sports at its symbolic center inevitably draws large numbers of party-animal students who, as they’ll be the first to tell you, “hate school.”

Poisoned by resistance to real and meaningful education, such a university soon finds itself adding remedial sections, dumbing down its curriculum and watching as its best faculty members depart for better institutions. Outnumbered and abandoned, bright and motivated students have nowhere to turn. Before that happens at Rutgers, the students told me, they are ready to fight.

William C. Dowling, a professor of English at Rutgers, is the author most recently of “Confessions of a Spoilsport.”

The professor might be well-served to read the business article, SKYBOX U by Joe Nocera, in the Times' Play magazine today about the arms race in college stadium building.

Front Page NY Times: Rich US Jew - Paypal Founder - Can't Sit Still

Paypal Founder Max Levchin needs to compete and win...
...Mr. Levchin, who is now 32, is typical of a new generation of junior titans in Silicon Valley who might be called the prematurely rich — techies worth tens of millions of dollars, sometimes more, at an age when many others are just starting to figure out what to do with their lives.

The Internet, a low-overhead medium with a global reach, has greatly accelerated the wealth creation phenomenon, producing a larger breed of multimillionaires even younger and richer than in the past.

They are happy to be wealthy, of course, but many of these baby-faced technology tycoons often seem indifferent to the buying power of their money, at least at this stage of their lives. Instead, nearly all of them have chosen to throw themselves back into a start-up, not so much because they want a spectacular new home or a personal jet — though many of them do — but because they are in a competition with themselves and one another.

“For most of us, doing it again means surpassing what we’ve done previously,” said Peter A. Thiel, Mr. Levchin’s partner at PayPal, who also has started a new business, a hedge fund called Clarium Capital. “And that can be a really high bar.”

Even among this jittery group of overachievers, Mr. Levchin stands out. In part that is because outdoing PayPal may be an all-but-impossible goal. Mr. Levchin acknowledges that he has already earned more money than he could ever spend. But he said he would not consider Slide.com, the photo and video sharing site he founded in 2005 that is still in its start-up phase, a success unless it is ultimately worth, in real dollars, “at least $1.54 billion”— the price eBay paid for PayPal.

“Otherwise,” he asked rhetorically, “what have I learned?”...more...

10/25/07

The Times: Smart White Ethnic New Yorkers Talk About a Clever New Book

To promote a new book by Joshua Zeitz, three smart white ethnic New Yorkers got together on a panel. The book apparently has some interesting theses such as the notion that NY's Jews, "placed disputativeness and radicalism and liberalism at the heart of their identity." I very much disagree with that but he is entitled to his opinion.

Mr. Chan's vivid account of the panel will help you mid-westerners (Yochanan!) understand the NY experience....
October 25, 2007, 2:24 pm
White Ethnic Politics: Irish and Italian Catholics and Jews, Oh, My!

By Sewell Chan

An Irishman, an Italian and a Jew walked into the grand auditorium of the New York Academy of Medicine on Wednesday evening – not to tell jokes (or be part of one), but to engage an audience of some 400 people in a discussion about white ethnic groups and their evolving roles in the politics and culture of New York City.

The panelists — Edward I. Koch, mayor from 1978 to 1989; Pete Hamill, the journalist and author; and Frank J. Macchiarola, schools chancellor from 1978 to 1983 — had been invited by the Museum of the City of New York to reflect on a new book, “White Ethnic New York: Jews, Catholics and the Shaping of Postwar Politics,” by the historian Joshua M. Zeitz.

Dr. Zeitz gave a brief overview of his book’s thesis by telling two stories about how a Jew and a Catholic growing up in postwar New York recalled learning very different lessons from the same Biblical story about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Jew learned from a rabbi the value of dissent and resistance from Abraham’s questioning of God about the decision to obliterate the two cities. The Catholic learned from a schoolteacher about the fate of those, like Lot’s wife, who defy God’s instructions.

“Irish and Italian Catholics and Jews shared the same city streets, they shared the same institutions, to lots of people they looked the same,” Dr. Zeitz said. “But they came at culture and politics from fundamentally different viewpoints.”

At their height in the mid-century decades, the three groups numbered, it is estimated, about four million — accounting for two-thirds of the city’s white population and perhaps half of the total population.

And yet these groups often spent their lives apart. Two-thirds of Catholic children in New York City from the 1940s through the ’60s attended parish schools, while about 95 percent of Jewish children attended public ones. Separate youth organizations, professional clubs and even veterans groups highlighted the uniqueness of each group.

Dr. Zeitz summarized his book’s thesis:

Many second- and third-generation Jews, throughout the 20th century, as they fought for political power, placed disputativeness and radicalism and liberalism at the heart of their identity. In coming to politics from this viewpoint, they tended to clash with Italian and Irish Catholics who emphasized order, social hierarchy and an allegiance to an organic sense of community.

The political and social struggles of the era were, about “not just power, passion and privilege,” Dr. Zeitz argued, but ideology. For instance, when Mayor John V. Lindsay, a white Protestant and a Republican, faced a re-election challenge in 1969 from Mario J. Procaccino, an Italian Catholic, Mr. Lindsay tried to court voters by highlighting the theme of his own dissent on the Vietnam War — and “the right and obligation of people to protest against an unjust war.” .... more

10/24/07

Video Debate: Does the Israel Lobby Run America?

Thanks to Pete Cervieri of Scribe Media for letting us know about their publication of the video last year of the (10/11/2006) debate at Cooper Union in New York City. Unfortunately the matter has not died down. The M-W axis of evil has published the nefarious thesis as a book now.
Last March, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt published an article in the London Review of Books. Entitled “The Israel Lobby: Does it Have too Much Influence on US Foreign Policy,” it drew swift charges of anti-Semitism in the editorial pages of American newspapers.
I have always sided with those who judged this article anti-Semitic back then, saying, "The charge of a malevolent organized Jewish conspiracy is the most blatant form of anti-Semitism."

One of the nefarious authors and these five others debated the "Lobby":
John Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago.

Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Israeli foreign and security minister and the author of Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy.

Martin Indyk is Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution.

Tony Judt is Erich Maria Remarque Professor in European Studies and Director of the Remarque Institute at New York University.

Rashid Khalidi is Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies and Director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University.

Dennis Ross is Counsellor and Ziegler Distinguished Fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace.
This is a state-of-the-art video. Nice job Pete. And the debate was excellent. It seemed to me that Judt and Mearsheimer were clobbered by the others even though the crowd cheered for them.

Here's the link and here is the first segment is embedded below.

10/23/07

The Times on the Christian-based Colorado Rockies

I don't like mixing sports and religion. Period.

General Manager Dan O’Dowd says his Christian faith leads him to seek out players with strong moral values.

Rockies Place Their Faith in God, and One Another
By BEN SHPIGEL
Players on the Colorado Rockies, once described as an organization that adhered to a “Christian-based code ...

Chief Rabbi: Multiculturalism is Dead

The Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs has published a new book essentially making the case that, "Multiculturalism is Dead."

Extract: Now's the time to tell a new story of Britain Without a common ethnicity or a single overarching religious system, we need a new national story to tell us who we are

Extract: Wanted: a national culture: Multiculturalism is a disaster

Chief Rabbi aims to be politically incorrect: Sir Jonathan Sacks has written a book seeking an end to multiculturalism. He discusses his reasons with our correspondents

In the interview we encounter some good British criticism such as,

Much of talking to Dr Sacks is like this: tantalisingly provocative ideas wrapped in layers of obfuscation, then swaddled in an erudite sweep of references. Finally, after much prodding, he explained what he meant about faith schools not being good for society: “Because there is no counter pressure.” ie, the schools do not take strong enough steps to look outward. “They [Early 20th-century Jewish schools] wanted their kids to be good Englishmen and women, that’s what my parents wanted for me. I think that today there is just too little content to that idea . . . I just am aware that communities are turning inward.”

10/22/07

The Religious Angle to the Bizarre: Monkeys Kill Indian Deputy Mayor

How can there be a religious angle to such a strange story about Rhesus macaque monkeys causing the death of a politician in New Delhi? Well, "Devout Hindus believe monkeys are manifestations of the monkey god Hanuman and feed them bananas and peanuts."

Here is the dramatic tale,
Indian Official Killed After Monkey Attack

(CBS/AP) Wild monkeys attacked a senior government official who then fell from a balcony at his home and died Sunday, media reported.

New Delhi Deputy Mayor S.S. Bajwa was rushed to a hospital after the attack by a gang of Rhesus macaques, but succumbed to head injuries sustained in his fall, the Press Trust of India news agency and The Times of India reported.

Neighbors said Bajwa was reading newspaper on the terrace of his residence in east Delhi on Saturday morning when a group of three to four monkeys closed in on him. “The monkeys came all of a sudden. Bajwaji tried to shoo them away and in the process fell off the terrace,” neighbor Anand Suri told ExpressIndia.

Many government buildings, temples and residential neighborhoods in New Delhi are overrun by Rhesus macaques, which scare passers-by and occasionally bite or snatch food from unsuspecting visitors.

Last year, the Delhi High Court reprimanded city authorities for failing to stop the animals from terrifying residents and asked them to find a permanent solution to the monkey menace.

Part of the problem is that devout Hindus believe monkeys are manifestations of the monkey god Hanuman and feed them bananas and peanuts - encouraging them to frequent public places.

Over the years, city authorities have employed monkey catchers who use langurs - a larger and fiercer kind of monkey - to scare or catch the macaques, but the problem persists.


Apparently, last year's campaign to banish the monkeys did not work - Macaque Monkey "Gods" to be Moved from New Delhi ... These monkeys are also known as macaques. That's the species made famous recently by Senator George Allen in his "Macaca" slur ...

10/21/07

Yeshiva Takes on a Village and Wins a Federal Case

In a strangely written and confusing article, Peter Applebome describes the process by which a Yeshiva, Westchester Day School, won a federal court ruling last week after previously having been denied approval by the town to expand. There is something odd about the way Applebome writes and I just cannot put my finger on it.

A Court Decision Elbows a Village in Favor of Religious Rights

10/20/07

Articles and Reviews of Jewish Interest from the Times


He Returns, With a Buzz By DAVE ITZKOFF After nearly a decade of standup shows, Jerry Seinfeld is back in a big-budget animated film as the voice of a bee.

Painfully Religious ... Review: "Now Shalom Auslander has entered the ring, flying off the ropes, pro-wrestling style, with his memoir, “Foreskin’s Lament,” a no-holds-barred affront to the G-d whose name is never uttered by the faithful under Jewish law."

Minnesota content (nothing Jewish but hey I worked in Dinkytown for 18 years): Here in Dinkytown a review of 'The Sabotage Café' By JOSHUA FURST
Reviewed by FIELD MALONEY. A novel about a runaway in the Minneapolis punk rock scene.
Movie review of “Terror’s Advocate,” Barbet Schroeder’s chilling, mesmerizing documentary about the French defense lawyer Jacques Vergès.
Speak No ‘Evil’ By DAPHNE MERKIN Why can’t we call the diabolical by its proper name?

And the best for last - a great article about the Lebewohl family deli business - Jack was in my class at YU -
A Counter History By ALEX WITCHEL Will there ever be room again for an old-style, family-run Jewish deli?

10/16/07

Einstein: The Jew and the Genius

The journal Science and the Spirit has a gem of an article about Albert Einstein in the December 2005 edition, entitled...The Jew and the Genius: "At the age of twelve, Einstein abandoned Judaism, refused to become a bar mitzvah, and vowed never again to set foot in a synagogue."

Karen C. Fox describes the man: "The world's greatest scientist possessed perhaps the world's least predictable mind. Over the course of his lifetime, Albert Einstein consistently demonstrated the maddening ability to challenge convictions, embrace contradictions, and see the error of everyone else's ways."

One passage indicates how complex was his Zionism:
"This is very awkward, very awkward," Einstein muttered to himself as he paced the floor of his Princeton, New Jersey, home. It was 1952, and Einstein had been offered the presidency of Israel following the death of Chaim Weizmann.

Meanwhile, 5,700 miles away, many Israeli leaders were equally distraught. "What will we do if he accepts?" they whispered. For better or for worse, they were never forced to find out. Einstein turned down the offer, telling the Israelis that he didn't have the skills for politics, but explaining to his stepdaughter Margot, "If I were to be president, sometimes I would have to say to the Israeli people things they would not like to hear."

Indeed, he regularly did tell Israelis things they didn't want to hear, specifically, criticisms of Israel's hostilities toward its neighbors. When Einstein decided to leave Germany in 1932, many in what is now Israel were angry that he chose to move to the United States rather than take a position at Jerusalem's Hebrew University; Einstein cited the Israeli treatment of Arabs as one of the reasons for his decision. Later, in the fall of 1948, Einstein went so far as to include his signature on an open letter, printed in The New York Times, that compared the tactics used by Menachem Begin's political party to those of the Nazis. This was one of the harshest comparisons Einstein could have made, and yet he still claimed to love Israel deeply.
In the same issue Katharine Dunn write about Faith-Based Space saying that, "Some of the world's leading cosmologists believe they will solve the biggest mysteries of the universe with the laws of physics and the lens of the telescope. Others cast their eyes to the heavens and cite God as an explanation for what we cannot prove or understand. All of them agree: The truths of life will reveal themselves - if only we're observant." She goes on,
"Professor!" Kerr reportedly called out to Einstein as discussion heated up. "I hear that you are supposed to be deeply religious." To that, the story goes, Einstein replied: "Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible, and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious."

"Religious," but without a traditional God. Einstein did not pray, nor did he have faith in a deity who interfered in day-to-day life. Rather, as he told Rabbi Herbert Goldstein of the Institutional Synagogue in 1929, he believed in "Spinoza's God, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists." By the time he was fifty, Einstein's view of God had been so greatly influenced by the seventeenth-century Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza - who had altogether rejected the Judeo-Christian personal God - that he, too, believed it was the universe that was ultimately divine.


repost from 11/14/05

10/15/07

Pinup Bible Calendar Revisited

[My first and perennially popular post on this "religion" story was on 12/6/05. I've googled without success now to see if the project was repeated in 2007 or will be for 2008.]

This story says, "Blog Me." But where do we order it?

BBC NEWS Asia-Pacific Youths reveal racy Bible calendar: The creators said they wanted to appeal to a younger generation
A German Protestant youth group has put together a 2006 calendar illustrated with erotic scenes from the Bible.

The 12 re-enacted passages feature a bare-breasted Delilah cutting Samson's hair and a nude Eve offering an apple.

The Nuremberg-based group said they wanted to represent the Bible in a way that would entice young people.

Nuremberg pastor Bernd Grasser said: 'It's just wonderful when teenagers commit themselves with their hair and their skin to the bible.'

'There's a whole range of biblical scriptures simply bursting with eroticism,' said Stefan Wiest, 32, who took the racy photographs.

Anne Rohmer, 21, wearing garters and stockings, posed on a doorstep as the prostitute Rahab.

'We wanted to represent the Bible in a different way and to interest young people,' she told news agency Reuters.

'Anyway, it doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that you are forbidden to show yourself nude.'

Have Online Newspapers Gotten it Right Yet?

Kirkville blog asked two years ago, "Why Haven't Online Newspapers Gotten it Right?" Quite frankly, I'm not sure they haven't. The issue is -- as Bill Clinton might say -- what the "it" is? Here are some possible goals for newspapers in print or on the web:
1. Disseminate news and opinion in a clear and timely manner
2. Make a profit through advertising or sales of content
3. Reshape society through promoting a political or social agenda
Number 1 will always be the overt aim; number 2 the constant struggle; and number 3 the topic we normally don't discuss.

Slashdot continued this debate with lively digressions on a variety of subjects such as why it still is so hard to format online content? Remember that Slashdot is a site for computer geeks who often have their own agendas. On the other hand, they are perhaps the heaviest consumers of Internet news.

I must admit that most of the news I read now is through aggregated feeds on Yahoo or Google or through other resources. The feeds lead me to the sources sites and from there I may venture futher in the newspaper itself.

I've been involved in web publishing since 1997 when I edited the Jewish Communications Network for a year. We were a successful boutique online magazine with a "borrowed" news feed -- links to the mainline news sources with some annotations.

For nearly two years I'm involved in a project that brings a fine community newspaper to the web - the Jewish Standard. We are keeping the site to the design simplicity that most of the experts praise. And each section of the paper has its own RSS feed -- anticipating the syndication that is inevitable in any successful venture of online publication.

Every day is a new and changing challenge in this fast-paced industry.

[slightly modified from original post of 12/28/05]

10/14/07

Star Tribune: Ann Coulter v. Desmond Tutu

Quite an interesting contrast by Nick Coleman in Minnesota: "The archbishop and Ann Coulter: Blame it on a computer glitch"
It's easy to tell if Ann Coulter is defaming someone: Her lips are moving.
By Nick Coleman, Star Tribune

It's easy to tell if Ann Coulter is defaming someone: Her lips are moving.

Coulter was on a cable TV show Thursday, saying that Christians (apparently, she includes herself among their number) are "perfected" Jews, and that America would be better if we were all Christians.

I suggest that the public affairs office at the University of St. Thomas immediately issue a new press release: "St. Thomas Bans Ann Coulter; Unexplained Computer Glitch Led to Mistaken Banning of Most Reverend Desmond Tutu."

Here's what a St. Thomas flak could say: "Ann Coulter is a foul-mouthed font of hate speech and bigotry. We have no idea how on Earth we accidentally confused her with a Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Man of God who presided over the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa. But there will be a thorough check of our hardware and software systems before we ban anyone else."

Computer error is the only possible explanation for the decision to ban Tutu from St. Thomas after having permitted the Coultergeist to speak on campus just two years ago.

I was present for Coulter's mud-slinging, during which she called Democrats traitors, suggested they should be executed, mocked Muslims, praised right-wing demagogue Sen. Joseph McCarthy (oblivious to the fact she was speaking on a campus that launched the career of liberal antiwar Sen. Eugene McCarthy) and threatened dissenting students with ejection, sending a bouncer into the balcony to shut up the few who dared to jeer.

Coulter's performance led the president of St. Thomas, the Rev. Dennis Dease, to condemn "hateful speech" that "goes against" college principles and "contributes to the growing dark side of our culture -- a disrespect for persons and their sincerely held beliefs."

Yes. The same Dennis Dease who uninvited Tutu, then reversed himself. The invitation has been re-extended now, but the damage has been done.

To be fair to Dease and his university, we should remember that St. Thomas has a long and proud history of openness. When Jews were not welcome at many private schools and anti-Semitism was openly preached in Minnesota, St. Thomas supported Jewish educators. In those days, Catholics and Jews both were discriminated against, and it is natural and good that St. Thomas is still on guard.

St. Thomas, like most other colleges, is a center of debate in many struggles, and it is no surprise that it might be stampeded into banning Tutu. No surprise. Just disappointment.

Tutu's criticisms of Israel seem no different than criticisms from former President Jimmy Carter and many Jews, both in Israel and in the United States. But Tutu can speak for himself, and if he has said things that appear to be anti-Semitic, he can be asked to explain himself, or to apologize. At least with Tutu, the Anglican cleric who has praised the contributions Jews made to the fight against apartheid that helped free his country from racial government, you can expect to hear thoughtful answers.

With Ann Coulter, you can expect only head slaps.

She was paid $50,000 by a right-wing foundation to spew hatred on Minnesota campuses in 2005, including at St. Thomas, and she took the money and ran. No apologies offered. Now, with her latest foul remarks on CNBC, she at least has provided St. Thomas with a little bit of help.

By making it clear what real anti-Semitism looks like.

Criticizing Israel does not make you anti-Semitic. And supporting Israel doesn't mean you are not anti-Semitic.

Maybe you only want to "perfect" Jews by converting all of them to Christianity.

I still like what the head of St. Olaf College said after Coulter dumped her garbage here.

What a college wants, said St. Olaf's president, Christopher Thomforde, is "an intersection between faithfulness and respect, along with intelligent critique and analysis. The issues are highly complicated, and to just sort of incite people is not helpful."

By that Lutheran standard, there is no comparison between Desmond Tutu and Ann Coulter. Knowing which to invite, and which to shun, should be easy:

One is a philosopher. The other is a fool.

Jewish World Review Needs Perfecting - carries 445 Ann Coulter Columns

Ultra Orthodox and ultra right wing Benyamin L. Jolkovsky in his Jewish World Review has published 445 articles by Ann Coulter going back to 1/10/00.

This is the what wingnut Coulter said last week on TV as quoted by Media Matters (and lots of others):
During the October 8 edition of CNBC's The Big Idea, host Donny Deutsch asked right-wing pundit Ann Coulter: "If you had your way ... and your dreams, which are genuine, came true ... what would this country look like?" Coulter responded, "It would look like New York City during the [2004] Republican National Convention. In fact, that's what I think heaven is going to look like." She described the convention as follows: "People were happy. They're Christian. They're tolerant. They defend America." Deutsch then asked, "It would be better if we were all Christian?" to which Coulter responded, "Yes." Later in the discussion, Deutsch said to her: "[Y]ou said we should throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians," and Coulter again replied, "Yes." When pressed by Deutsch regarding whether she wanted to be like "the head of Iran" and "wipe Israel off the Earth," Coulter stated: "No, we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say. ... That's what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws."
Is the JWR, published by unperfected Jews, now going to purge or keep Ms. Coulter?

10/13/07

Times Magazine Money Issue Features Sholom Auslander, Syrian Jews and Daphne Merkin

The best Jewish newspaper in America has plenty to read this week.... about Jews and money, not that there is anything wrong with that. Did you know that Jerry Seinfeld was part Syrian Jew?

‘Are You Talkin’ to Me?’ By SHALOM AUSLANDER
The Sy Empire By ZEV CHAFETS
The Syrian Jews of Gravesend, Brooklyn, rear their children to marry other Syrian Jews and make a fortune (the boys, anyway).

And of course Daphne Merkin's true confession about the two $500 sweaters that she bought in the Hamptons and how she misses her little house in Atlantic Beach. Why did mummy sell it? Boo hoo. ... Lives: Money Always Talks

10/11/07

Bergen Record: Yudelsons' Ben Yehuda Press is Growing

Well-deserved coverage for our local Jewish publishers (but a dumb title to the story). > Book list.
Atheists welcome at this publisher
By JOHN CHADWICK

The group of Jewish thinkers, mystics and theologians share little in common.

One is an atheist who edits the liberal Jewish Currents magazine -- which, generations ago, was the publication of choice for Jewish communists.

Another is an Orthodox rabbi who once jumped a fence at the site of the former Auschwitz death camp in Poland to protest the presence of a Roman Catholic convent.

A third is a rabbi known for her contemplative approach, employing Jewish mystical sources, as well as Buddhist, Christian, Islamic and Native American traditions.

But Lawrence Bush and Rabbis Avi Weiss and Shefa Gold share one thing: They're writers whose work has found a home with an obscure but growing publishing company run from a home in Teaneck.

Larry Yudelson and his wife, Eve, started Ben Yehuda Press several years ago, building up an eclectic, idiosyncratic stable of authors who span the breadth of American Jewish thought.

Bush, for example, traces his atheism to the insurgent Jewish Left of his parents' and grandparents' generations. Weiss, meanwhile, is a major figure in the modern Orthodox movement in New York City. Gold is active in the liberal Jewish renewal movement that seeks to reinvigorate Jewish spiritual practices.

"We made a decision that we want all voices," Eve Yudelson explained. "We think they are all important. We think they all have something to say. And the feedback we're getting is that they're changing people's lives."

Indeed, readers are starting to take notice, even though the books are available mostly online and at select bookshops.

Gold's 2006 book, "Torah Journeys," was praised by several noted spiritual figures, including Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and the Jewish Buddhist writer Sylvia Boorstein.

Gold, who grew up in Paramus as Sherri Katz, takes a highly introspective approach in the book, examining the weekly Bible portions and treating each story as a symbolic narrative on the human condition. She encourages readers to embrace the text as an allegory for their own lives.

"Moses is born within us at a moment of despair, when we have ... been forced into the narrowest possible definition of self," she wrote of Exodus.

Gold, who lives in New Mexico, said she was dreading having to hawk her work to a publisher, in part because the book isn't easily pigeonholed.

"It comes from a Jewish orientation, but it's really built out of my experience as a seeker," she said. "It has been criticized for being too open to the language of other traditions."

But the Yudelsons, who are both traditional, observant Jews, said they were impressed by Gold's command of scripture and her alternative vision.

"Her book hit us in the soul," Larry Yudelson said.

Yudelson, 43, said his religious upbringing and career as a journalist prepared him for the diverse world he now oversees as a publisher.

He attended a rigorous Orthodox yeshiva as a teenager, but later worked for a Jewish news service covering all the major branches of Judaism.

"The whole thing opened me up much further," he said. "I was covering Reform rabbis saying things that, in the context of orthodoxy, didn't make sense. I had to read through it and get to that internal place where it made sense."

Eve grew up in Queens, committed to Orthodox Judaism, but intrigued by other faiths.

"You are strong when you can open yourself up to somebody else's truth," she said. "It doesn't need to negate you."

Indeed, their latest book is Bush's "Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist."

The author examines his spiritual journeys and those of the baby boom generation and concludes with a reaffirmation of his atheism.

When shopping around for a publisher several years ago, Bush said he was warned that a book on atheism might be a tough sell.

The Yudelsons, however, had no such qualms.

"My atheism is imbued with Jewish tradition, and they recognized that," Bush said.

On the other end of the spectrum is "Tanakh Companion," a book of biblical studies by Weiss and other teachers at a Manhattan rabbinical school.

All told, the Yudelsons have 13 book projects, some of which are published and others in galley form. Larry Yudelson said starting the company seemed like a natural progression from journalism and working on Jewish educational Web sites.

The couple, who have five children, still work from home in an office overflowing with papers, computers and books.

"This is a calling," Larry said. "We've all experienced that moment of falling in love with a book and wanting to tell people about it. Now we're making it possible for other people to have that book."

*************************

Publishing couple expanding

When a Teaneck couple opened their own publishing business several years ago, they started small.

Larry and Eve Yudelson, who founded Ben Yehuda Press, printed limited numbers of their Jewish-themed books and offered nominal advances to their authors.

Distribution was also limited, with most of the books sold online or in a small assortment of bookstores.

"By printing a limited number of copies we didn't have that initial risk of making a bad decision," Larry Yudelson said.

The low-budget approach is starting to change. The couple, who typically do all the editing and layout in their home, have begun outsourcing some of the work. They are also approaching the big retailers, such as Barnes & Noble, to distribute their books.

10/9/07

The Yarmulke Discount Scam

Here is the offending text from "Yarmulke Ruse" in the Ethicist column of the Times Magazine 11/26/06:
I stopped patronizing a mail-order company when it began including editorial content about Jesus in its catalog, finding that inappropriate. I now plan to visit a camera store owned and staffed by Orthodox Jews. Although I am an observant Jew, I do not regularly wear a yarmulke, but I’m considering doing so in the hope of preferential treatment, maybe even a discount. Hypocritical? Ethical? --R.K., New York

Answer:

What’s most lamentable about your scheme is not its hypocrisy — although there is that — but its deceit: you would present yourself to be what you are not, someone who regularly wears a yarmulke, an object of religious significance. What’s more, in ethics, intent counts, and yours is simply to cadge a discount, to be what genuine yarmulke-wearers might describe as, if not a ganef, certainly a shnorrer.

As far as tactics go, I’m skeptical that a discount for the Orthodox is on offer. And that’s as it should be. To give a price break to co-religionists is no different from imposing a price hike on nonbelievers. Ads boasting “Baptists Pay 10 Percent More” would not be appealing marketing or, for that matter, legal.

You might argue that what you propose is no more deceptive than acting courteously when you really feel antisocial. Dr. Johnson called politeness “fictitious benevolence” and was all for it: “It supplies the place of it amongst those who see each other only in publick, or but little. Depend on it, the want of it never fails to produce something disagreeable to one or other.” But politeness merely withholds the expression of your feelings, a matter of style; it does not falsely proclaim your beliefs, a matter of substance.

I myself would never wear a cat costume to a pet shop hoping to entice the animal-loving staff into offering me a discount on a squeaky toy. I might wear it socially, but that’s between me and my therapist.

UPDATE: R. K. went to the store bareheaded.
What is wrong with this question and answer? Just about everything.

Here's what I see wrong with it.

1. "I stopped patronizing a mail-order company when it began including editorial content about Jesus in its catalog, finding that inappropriate." By including this sentence the Ethicist implies that there is an ethical issue to this decision. He does N O T discuss this point -- he just leaves it out there. It has no purpose in the query that follows -- other than to portray Jews as chauvinistic and biased against religious Christians. It would have been nice to see some discussion by the Ethicist of whether it is ethically correct for Christians to use an electronics catalog to promote their religious agenda. I'd like to see what an Ethicist has to say about using a discount electronics catalog to promote religion. I think it is wrong and stupid -- like shooting yourself in the groin. Bottom line -- by including this sentence, the Ethicist has set up anyone who decides anything based on religious preferences as an ethically challenged bigot. I say to the Times: correct this man before he violates all canons of journalistic principles again.

2. "Although I am an observant Jew, I do not regularly wear a yarmulke, but I’m considering doing so in the hope of preferential treatment, maybe even a discount." Look Mr. Ethicist, he IS an observant Jew. There is nothing hypocritical or deceitful about it if he chooses to appear in this store with a yarmulke. And for sure there is no element of thievery ("ganef") or begging ("shnorrer"). This fellow is at worst taking a SHORTCUT to tell the salesmen that he is an observant Jew. And I can assure you that this is of NO AVAIL. I have a relative whose BROTHER is a manager at J&R and HE can't get a discount!

3. What is unethical about saying anything to receive a discretionary courtesy discount? We are not talking here about someone who claims falsely to be an employee or a member of the military or a clergyman or a member of the AAA. We are talking about the act of negotiating a better price for a purchase. The Ethicist seems to have lost all contact with reality here. THERE IS NO ETHICAL DILEMMA.

4. "To give a price break to co-religionists is no different from imposing a price hike on nonbelievers. Ads boasting “Baptists Pay 10 Percent More” would not be appealing marketing or, for that matter, legal." WHAT? What in the world prompts you Mr. Ethicist to go off on this tangent? Religion is not at issue here. Electronics is a highly competitive market segment. Discounting is common, price matching is common. It would be moronic to encourage a person to pay more for an item than he ought to. In fact, by inhibiting the buyer from using any and all acceptable means to obtain the best price in the market, the Ethicist is violating ethical norms. Again -- the discount we are discussing -- if any -- is a discretionary mark up or mark down. If the Ethicist inhibits you from getting the best deal -- he is simply abetting a sketchy practice of sellers adding ADP to a price -- ADDITIONAL DEALER PROFIT to what should be a lower market price.

5. "But politeness merely withholds the expression of your feelings, a matter of style; it does not falsely proclaim your beliefs, a matter of substance." Look, we said it clearly. You don't understand what wearing a yarmulke is all about. If a person says he is an observant Jew and then he walks into a store wearing a yarmulke there is no false pretense here. When he spends the rest of the day NOT wearing a yarmulke, that we might discuss as an ethical misrepresentation. But not this. Ethicist, you don't have a clue about this, do you?

6. "I myself would never wear a cat costume to a pet shop hoping to entice the animal-loving staff into offering me a discount on a squeaky toy. I might wear it socially, but that’s between me and my therapist." You surely ought to schedule some extra therapy sessions. You have just compared wearing a yarmulke to wearing a cat costume. If that is what you think - get thee quick to a therapist. It's a kooky thing to say, it's a stupid thing to say, it's an antisemitic thing to say. And again, you ought to be chastised for saying it.

7. And finally, "UPDATE: R. K. went to the store bareheaded." This is not an update. Why? Because you did not tell us whether or not he received a discount.

End of the story: This writer speaks for the NY Times and considers this case to be an ethical dilemma. And then he discusses it in highly questionable manner. Boy are we in ethical trouble!
UPDATE - The Ethicist replies to our criticisms:

Thanks for the interesting note. We do disagree about pretty much every point you made. I'm afraid you raise far too many questions for me to take up ... but I would like to make just one brief comment: I do not, as you assert, speak for the NY Times. Mine is a column of opinion in which I speak only for myself. My folly, if any, cannot be laid at anyone else's door.

RC

- repost from 11/26/06

10/8/07

Israel to Palestinians: Here are the Keys to (East) Jerusalem

Since the first time I lived in Israel on a research leave in 1978, I have believed that the Israeli government was prepared to give the Arabs the keys to Jerusalem if the price was right. It pained me to realize that since I was a strong young idealistic mystical Jerusalem-lover. The emphasis should not be placed on the "was" in that sentence, rather on the "strong". I have learned to spread my admiration for Israel more widely and have become less mystical and less idealistic as I matured.

The interesting irony in today's headline news is the fact that the wingnut hawks support putting Jerusalem on the negotiating table.
Israel may OK division of Jerusalem
JERUSALEM - Senior Israeli officials expressed support Monday for the transfer of Arab parts of Jerusalem to Palestinian control, offering a concession on one of the most contentious issues in the Mideast conflict. The offer appeared to fall short of Palestinian calls for a full Israeli withdrawal from key areas of the holy city...

Cabinet minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the hawkish Yisrael Beitenu, said the party supports Ramon's offer on Jerusalem as long as the Palestinians agree to let Israel maintain control of West Bank areas of Jewish settlement blocs. The Palestinians want a future state to include the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

"Within this framework, we are willing to exchange refugee camps that are in the Jerusalem municipal boundaries," Lieberman told Israel Radio.

Lieberman holds a popular Israeli view that the Jewish state must give up the outlying areas of Jerusalem, where tens of thousands of Palestinians live, in order to preserve a Jewish majority in the city.

UPDATE: OLMERT DENIES REPORT OF PARTITION OFFER (NEWSDAY):

"Olmert spokesman David Baker told Newsday the partition of Jerusalem has not been a part of the Prime Minister's discussions with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas."

10/7/07

Kugel Publishes a Cholent

james kugel's new book How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now is a best seller.

what is the book in question? kugel simply publishes his lecture notes, adds footnotes, and then concludes that traditional bible study and modern bible criticism are not compatible (meaning that they better not get married, i presume).

800 pages to tell us that apples are not noodles. ahh but if you mix them together and add some cinnamon and bake, then you have a kugel!

i have read the kugel appendix and the orthodox pamphlet  in this confused book by this confused author. of course that has led to a confused thread of discussion. this whole mess shows again why learning should never be equated with understanding.

the pamphlet on orthodox assimilation on campuses is quite hilarious. from it you'd think that jewish studies leads to sex at the hillel; but do it quick and stay away from kiruv and stay home altogether or just go to grad school and don't forget the year in israel and if we had more time we'd write something that makes sense.

kugel actually wrote an erudite book on how not to read the bible, i.e., instead of the parsed and nuanced understandings that centuries of intelligent minds have reached on each individual book and problems inherent in them, throw all your learning into one big kugel - okay his name should be cholent - but it is not - warm it over and serve it. or as one review says "Refreshingly undogmatic and often witty, Kugel brings an intimate knowledge of the Hebrew Bible to illuminate small points as well as large." those little beans and chick peas taste just as good as those cubes of meat.... another review: "by the end of his introductory course, readers will have met all the major biblical figures" mmm aren't they tasty and spicy too?

if you are confused you ought to be. the book does not fit into a discipline. it's idiosyncrasy in 2.2 pounds of paper. granted that after 20 years of teaching at harvard kugel has the right to engage in this, and to have a bestseller and make a living. people who buy and read it have the right to enjoy it or, more likely, to be confused and intimidated by it.

finally who could disagree with the review that says, "Geared to both the specialist and the general reader, this is an indispensable guide to a complex subject"? feint praise indeed.

10/6/07

Stupid Jew - strategic affairs minister Avigdor Lieberman - thinks Israel is a Concentration Camp

Stupid Israeli strategic affairs minister Avigdor Lieberman thinks Israel is a Concentration Camp. That's the only conclusion I can draw to make any sense out of one of the stupidest most vulgar remarks ever made by a politician anywhere.

Kapos were Jews who worked for the Nazis in the death camps. Lieberman says that leftists in the Yesh Gvul movement who call for an inquiry into the Israeli attack in Gaza that killed civilians -- these activists are kapos.

So apparently they are working in a death camp to help Nazis kill Jews. Lieberman engages here in such bizarre rhetoric, such vulgar political talk, it takes my breath away. And it scares me that his meshuggenah party has eleven seats in the Kenesset.

Here is the story:
Israeli MP urges sacking of minister after 'kapo' remarks
JERUSALEM (AFP) — An Israeli lawmaker called on Saturday for extreme right-wing minister Avigdor Lieberman to be sacked after he likened members of a pacifist group to the "kapos" of Nazi concentration camps.

"Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should fire Lieberman, because his presence in government is a threat to Israeli democracy," Zehava Galon of the left-wing secular party Meretz told Israeli radio.

"His incitements of hatred recall those which led to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin," he said, referring to the Labour prime minister gunned down in 1995 by a Jewish extremist opposed to peace with the Palestinians.

Galon's comments followed remarks by Lieberman on Israeli public television in which he compared members of the pacifist group Yesh Gvul to "kapos," prisoners who worked for the Nazis in their death camps.

Lieberman, strategic affairs minister in Olmert's coalition government, had lashed out at Yesh Gvul over accusations that Israeli general Doron Almog committed war crimes against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The war crimes allegation arises from a 2002 Israeli air strike on Gaza which killed 14 civilians, including eight children, as well as its intended target, a Hamas leader.

Almog, the now retired commander of Israeli forces in Gaza, subsequently evaded arrest in Britain when he remained on an El Al plane during a stopover at Heathrow airport following a tip-off from an Israeli diplomat.

Lieberman is the leader of the ultranationalist Russian immigrant party Yisrael Beitenu, which has 11 MPs in the 120-member Knesset.

Yesh Gvul (There is a Limit) describes itself as a peace group "campaigning against the occupation by backing soldiers who refuse duties of a repressive or aggressive nature."

"We have been calling for an independent inquiry in Israel about the bombing for the last four years," said Yesh Gvul spokesman Yoav Hess, who described Lieberman's attack as "revolting" and said the association was contemplating filing a defamation suit against the minister.

Israel's state prosecutor's office told the Supreme Court last month it would agree to setting up a commission of inquiry into the air strike, following pressure from Yesh Gvul.

10/1/07

An open letter to the president of Iran

This is a moving and powerful response in the Jewish Standard. The author asks can the president of Iran help the author find his uncle, Boroch Jeszya Miedzinski, who, until now, was believed to have been killed by Nazis in 1944 at Chelmno, a death camp outside Lodz, Poland? This photograph was affixed to to a Lodz Ghetto ID card.

An open letter to the president of Iran: "Dear President Ahmadinejad:
Allow me to introduce myself to you. My name is Robert Stevens and I am a 27-year-old child of Holocaust survivors. The purpose of my letter is not to criticize you for being anti-Semitic, or for wanting to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, or for making an international statement defaming the legitimacy of the Holocaust by calling it a myth. Instead, I just wanted to ask you for some advice..."

...Continued in the Jewish Standard.

- repost from 2/19/06

Philip Roth Attacked and Excommunicated at Yeshiva University


VI. The Holocaust in the Discourse of Popular American Jewish Culture

The role of the Holocaust in the civil discourse of American Jews comes more sharply into focus through critiques in contemporary imaginative fiction. It plays an important role in popular Judaic non-systemic (counterculture) folk representations. Consider the blunt example of the writings and experiences of Philip Roth. (Cf. Young, pp. 109-112, for further discussion of Roth.)
Roth in The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography (New York, 1988, pp. 127-130) recounts an anecdote that he calls his "excommunication" at a Yeshiva University symposium on fiction he participated in New York in 1962. At this "trial" he tells us he was grilled mercilessly by a moderator and audience who began after him with the question: "Mr. Roth, would you write the same stories you've written if you were living in Nazi Germany?" As framed, the query was merely a cloak for a dagger aimed at the heart of Roth's literary expressions. The questioner transparently meant, "Are you not a self-hating Jew?" Roth was so shaken by the attack, he could not respond at the time. Instead, he says, he has given his answer many times over in the fiction he has published, in his discourse, since that incident.

Of course, Roth could have answered easily and obviously. He was a product of Jewish cultural processes over several generations in an American democracy. He wrote for an American non-racist audience. He was nurtured on the great achievements of English literature. Jews within German society had no such nurture and faced an openly hostile racist culture. Roth could only have written his oeuvre for us. We read him, understand him, despise him or laugh with him and respond to his characters and caricatures.

Through his fiction he challenges the basic discursive truths of Judaic life and, in my view, allows us to better judge their cultural value and purpose. Roth's recent parody of Holocaust memory within American Judaism and the Zionist setting was also one of his most radical. In The Counterlife he developed the following.

The book's protagonist Nathan Zuckerman finds himself on a jet flight from Israel sitting next to Jimmy Lustig, of the West Orange Lustigs. Jimmy is a psychotic reversioner returning from study in the Diaspora Yeshiva. He plans to hijack the plane to Germany and issue a press release aimed at "regeneration for the Jews," (Philip Roth, The Counterlife, New York, 1988, pp. 188-9)

FORGET REMEMBERING
I demand of the Israeli Government the immediate closing and dismantling of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's Museum and Remembrance Hall of the Holocaust. I demand this in the name of the Jewish future. THE JEWISH FUTURE IS NOW. We must put persecution behind us forever. Never must we utter the name "Nazi" again, but instead strike it from our memory forever. No longer are we a people with an agonizing wound and a hideous scar. We have wandered nearly forty years in the wilderness of our great grief. Now is the time to stop paying tribute to that monster's memory with our Halls of Remembrance! Henceforth and forever his name shall cease to be associated with the unscarred and unscarable Land of Israel!
ISRAEL NEEDS NO HITLERS FOR THE RIGHT TO
BE ISRAEL!
JEWS NEED NO NAZIS TO BE THE REMARKABLE
JEWISH PEOPLE!
ZIONISM WITHOUT AUSCHWITZ!
JUDAISM WITHOUT VICTIMS!
THE PAST IS PAST! WE LIVE!

In the novel, but a few pages later, Jimmy backs off. The press-release was just an irrepressible, offensive Jewish joke. As Jimmy says, "Come on, you think I'd be crazy enough to f--k around with the Holocaust? I was just curious, that was all. See what you'd do. How it developed. You know. The novelist in me." (Ibid., p. 193)

Roth's artifice is an inversion of remembrance. He casts the scene in terms of the most visible contemporary context of political violence - airline hijacking. Roth pits recent reversionary forms of Judaism against accepted American communal forms, and against State-sponsored monumental discourse. These fictive memories have undoubtedly been shaped and cultivated under the repression of the corporate personality of the system of civic American Judaism. Roth's characters express as their response a fierce struggle over the acceptance or rejection of the central belief system.

Cited from my,
Judaisms and Memories: Systemic Representations of the Holocaust -- keynote address, Conference on the Effects of the Holocaust on the Humanities, University of Minnesota, March, 1989.

- repost from 4/25/06

Zionism in a Nutshell

Dr. Z's Zionism in a Nutshell

The modern age in Europe in the 19th century followed in the aftermath of the French revolution. A half century or more of great change took place across the continent. The French revolution brought the Enlightenment to Western Europe--the age when society moved out of the former period of time and became receptive to the new ideas associated with the revolution and with the new themes and philosophies of society. While society was in the process of being reshaped by radical ideals and revolutionary events, beneath the surface the old attitudes and prejudices continued.

Universalism was a prevailing idea that through the actions of revolution and change, the universal goals of mankind would be achieved. After the French Revolution, especially after 1848, this concept of universalism was supplanted by a new wave of romantic rationalism--in the wake of the reunification of the German and Italian nations.

Nationalism grew over the course of the century and eventually led to two world wars. It exerted a powerful force over the imagination of the peoples in Europe including many prominent Jewish thinkers mainly in the Zionist ideology of the period. A perverse spin-off of nationalistic thinking was the rabid and dogmatic racism which arose within Western Europe.

Nationalism, Universalism, Socialism, Racism were each to have been able to further the march of history forward to the ultimate time, the end of days, the redemption of the world, the end of all travail. In this milieu Zionism developed and grew.

Let me provide some basic definitions and aspects of the Jewish community in the 19th century in Europe: "emancipation" means freedom--in specific freedom from slavery (e.g. the Emancipation Proclamation). For our historical setting it connotes the attainment of the basic rights of citizenship for the Jews. Beginning in France and spreading across the European countries the Jews were for the first time given equal rights to live as citizens. Previously, they lived in self-contained units, i.e. towns of small size with their own social institutions, schools, charitable organizations, medical help and so on, the small Shtetlach we have studied. Emancipation for the Jews came in the wake of the French Revolution. Both Jew and Gentile greeted the idea of emancipation. The Jews hoped that equal rights and citizenship would bring an end to anti-Semitism. The Jew would be equal and no longer subject to persecution. The Gentiles hoped that the kindness of extending a hand to the Jews would be the enticement needed to further their hopes of converting the Jews to Christianity. Few opposed the emancipation of the European Jewish Community.

With the new freedom the Jews pursued the ideas and ideals of the Western thinkers. To the traditional, religious adherent of Judaism, Enlightenment of the mind to new ideas and philosophies, especially to the current philosophies of the nineteenth century, which were hardly sympathetic to religion, and not at all kind to Judaism, was dangerous. It contradicted the goals of the established religious group. A few binary pairs form the basic vocabulary of modern Jewish thought in the Enlightenment: East Europe/West Europe; Reform/tradition; Anti-Semitism (racism)/national hope; Diaspora/refuge in a homeland.

The idea of Zion is at the center of Jewish thought going back to the Tanakh. For instance:
If I forget thee O Jerusalem let my right hand lose its cunning, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.
By the waters of Babylon there we sat, there we mourned for the land of Israel.

The exiles in the Diaspora longed for many millennia to return to a homeland. The rabbis carried over the idea of returning to Zion into their own reformulation of Jewish thought 1500-2000 years ago. In the liturgy, the prayers which they arranged for the synagogue and the home of the rabbinic Jew, they placed the idea of Zion. The Jew prays through the words of an anonymous rabbi,
Gather us from the four corners of the world--to Jerusalem. Return rulership to the Jew, return the land to the Jew, give the chance for the messianic age to dawn----for the son of David to rule, and by so doing to redeem the Jews.

What was so peculiar about the situation of the Jews in Europe in the 19th century that lead them to conclude that then was the proper time for the rebirth of the active Zionist Ideal? The Zionists perceived a situation intolerable at worst and unfulfilling at best for the Jews of Europe. The earliest thinkers alluded to the anti-Semitism of the times.

Anti-Semitism and the Birth of Modern Zionism

One of the basic ideological systems of modern Europe was anti-Semitism, although its extent is sometimes underestimated. It entailed more than just a hatred of Jews as individuals and went beyond single instances of persecution and discrimination. Anti-Semitism was a full-blown system of belief and policy of government officials. Political anti-Semites asked, who was responsible for the ills of the time? Who was standing in the way of redemption? The answer was always the same: the Jews. The solution many proposed was the same: eliminate the Jews from society; then it will improve.

Anti-Semitism was more virulent in Eastern Europe than in the west. Indeed, physical attacks against Jewish communities and villages were commonplace. In Western Europe, anti-Semitism was more sophisticated, more ideologically based, and more an official part of local and national policy. However, in both eastern and western Europe, the Christian Church added fuel to the fires of the anti-Semite. For centuries the Church had preached hatred and resentment against the Jews, whom Church leaders saw as the heirs of the Pharisees of Gospel literature.

Scholars have attempted to explain in other terms why Jews were singled out. Some believe it was due to the nature of the Jewish community, where Jews were well-organized in self-sufficient, internally-governed, tightly-linked communal structures. Because the community had its own institutions -- synagogues, charitable organizations, schools, care for young and old -- it was a small world of its own.

Anti-Semitism became more intense as the nineteenth century moved forward. The reaction of the Jews was limited to three choices: they could live in an essentially unbearable situation in Europe; they could try to change society, as many did through active participation in political movements, such as socialism or anarchism; or they could leave for another homeland. Many dreamed of Palestine; some went. Many others immigrated to America.

In Eastern Europe, life became more difficult for Jews after the assassination of the Czar in 1881. Because the Jews were blamed for many ills of society, this political event led to increased pogroms and further persecution. In Western Europe, anti-Semitism gradually became an acceptable and even fashionable way of thinking. To be a member of the intellectual aristocracy of the times, a person could not help but accept prevalent racial ideas -- especially the idea that the Jews were key contributors to all of society's ills. For the betterment of mankind, the anti-Semite concluded, Jews had to be expunged from society.

Zionism provided the most positive alternative for Jews in Europe. Early Zionists proposed that Jews could only be at home in a land of their own. Out of that land and the society they would create, they could contribute to the betterment of their situation. Zionist thinkers proposed that from the example of this new society, the world would learn and be saved. Thus Zionism would eventually usher in a redemptive era for Jews and for all humanity.

Zionism took many forms in its early development. There were socialist, political, religious and cultural Zionists. But in time it was the political Zionists who took the initiative. They proclaimed that through political action they would have the best chance to bring the Zionist dream of a Jewish state to reality.

Theodore Herzl made the dream more of a reality. In 1897 he convened the first Zionist World Congress at Basel, Switzerland. In the midst of pomp and ceremony, and with little real power behind him, Herzl boldly proclaimed, "Here the state was founded". He believed that it would be a matter of routine to convince European heads of state to accept the ideals of Zionism. Indeed, Herzl could not envision any rational leader who might reject the requests of the Zionist activists. Surely, he thought, the leaders would accede to an idea that would remove the Jews from Europe, a goal they so often sought. Herzl hoped that the age of redemption could be achieved through the ideals of the Zionist. But Herzl miscalculated. It wasn't until fifty years later, after the world had allowed the destruction of European Jewry during World War II that the state of Israel was founded on the positive ideals Herzl and his colleagues had laid out at Basel. Israel brought to fruition many of the positive ideals they sought: a unified nation, a common language and culture, and a better world.

Zionism was a radical new movement within Judaism. For centuries no one proposed that the Jews would reestablish their own homeland. But in nineteenth-century Europe, Jews flocked to the Zionist leaders. In fact, many considered Herzl a king among the Jews. Even if the state was never achieved, many believed at the turn of the century that the movement had at least restored national dignity to the Jews. In Europe every people had dignity. But the Jews were not included in the ultimate goals of any of the European nations. Through Zionism, the Jews had established ultimate goals for a utopia of their own.

Finding the Sources of Deliverance

Let's now make some larger observations about the history of Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism is a meta-historical system, that is, history did not figure centrally in the thought of Talmudic rabbis. What mattered most was the meaning of everyday life. For instance, the rabbis paid close attention to the notions of their religious system that dealt with sacred time, sacred space, purity, the meal, and ritual. Further, they sought to interpret the symbolic structures of reality. For rabbinic Judaism everything on earth had a counterpart in heaven. All of creation was joined together through parallel lines of being.

Throughout its history, Judaism has been concerned with messianic component of life. Rabbis from the first to the nineteenth centuries hoped for the culmination of time. Actually, throughout Jewish history there are many variations of thought on the subject of messianic redemption. For example, Rabbi Yohanan b. Zakkai, one of the founders of rabbinic Judaism in the first century, said, "If you are in the process of planting a tree and someone comes and announces, 'the Messiah has come', first finish planting, then go and greet the Messiah". The exilarchs and rabbis in Babylonia also confronted in different ways the issue of messianic hope.

Over the centuries of the Middle Ages many messianic pretenders arose and declared that they were about to bring in the age of redemption. Many rabbis proclaimed that they had calculated the secret time of the coming of the Messiah. He would come, they said, in a year or a decade, usually at some time just beyond the present. Of course the basic idea of national redemption through a messiah, or an anointed one, goes back to the classical prophecy of the Tanakh.

In the nineteenth century the two newest movements of the Jews, Reform Judaism and Zionism, carried forward the messianic hopes of Israel. Reform Judaism concentrated on the message of the prophets. Its leaders called for dedication to ethics and for restoration of the basic values of Judaism. They proclaimed that Jews no longer needed to live their lives within the structures of rabbinic Judaism. Instead, they could accept the new ideas of Reform and live a kind of religion in the messianic mode. Reform placed a great deal of emphasis on belief in the coming redemption, combined with practice ordinary life interpreted only through the eyes of contemporary society. Reform Judaism rejected the rabbinic concept of the world.

Zionism in many of its expressions also abandoned the rabbinic ideals. Most Zionists cared little about the higher meaning of reality; instead they sought to understand and interpret the higher meanings of world history. The Zionist vision was a clear new drama of Jewish life. The destiny of the Jews was to found an ideal state.

In this new drama the Jews were the central actors, the Gentiles (persons of non-Jewish faith or of non-Jewish nations) the supporting characters. The rabbis had no role in this script. Their teachings, symbolic structures, and practices and precepts had no meaning for the Zionists. Judaism for the Zionists was completely directed towards a historical view of reality. And in history, the Jews looked forward to the coming of a new era.

The rabbinic Jew also found a place within Zionism, for religious Zionists continued utilizing the structures of rabbinic Judaism. They employed the festivals and the laws to interpret the meanings of life and of history. They also attached a more mystical significance to the ideals of Zionism. The land -- Israel -- and the language -- Hebrew -- endowed life with a higher reality.

These leaders, along with others in the Zionist movement, discovered new values for the Zionist. They saw fulfillment in working the land. Digging, planting, and cultivating became positive religious activities. In Europe many Zionists were middle - and upper - class members of society -- professionals and businessmen. But in Israel they worked the land.

The state of Israel today combines elements from both the "secular Jews", oriented within the society, together with the "religious Jews", who accept the rabbinic world view and add to it revolutionary new aspects. Many of the internal political and social problems of Israeli society grow out of the combination of so many approaches within one framework.

reposted from 4/30/06

I may never understand love because Commentary charges to view its content


So I see this article that looks interesting in my agglomerator and it is by some fella named Soloveitchik. So I go to read it and the magazine wants from me twenty bucks.

Okay so I read the abstract for free and say to myself that we are seventy one years past Nygren's book of 1936 so what value could there be in this article anyway? But maybe just because I am too cheap, so now I will never understand love.
Of Priests, Rabbis, and Wives
Meir Soloveichik
October 2007
Abstract –

When Benedict XVI issued his first papal encyclical on Christmas day last year, it was greeted by a fair amount of surprise. The new pope, an outspoken theologian of a pronounced conservative bent, had not chosen to write on an obviously headline-grabbing issue like the priestly ordination of women or homosexuals. Instead, he focused on an age-old question—the nature of love—which he treated in a measured, philosophical manner. But if that was one surprise, for some readers another surprise lay in what he had to say.

Like other Christian thinkers before him, Benedict took care to distinguish between love for one’s own, such as the love of a man for his wife, and the unmotivated and unearned love for that which is not one’s own, for the outsider. According to the Swedish Protestant theologian Anders Nygren, whose influential book on the subject was titled Eros and Agapé (Swedish edition 1930-36), these two forms of love are diametrically opposed: one preferential and selfish, the other generous and open. Indeed, the two types also encapsulate a stark difference between Judaism and Christianity. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Nygren wrote, “love is exclusive and particularistic”; Christian love, by contrast, “overleaps all such limits; it is universal and all-embracing.”

Note: this abstract was auto-generated and may contain errors.

About the Author - Meir Soloveichik is a doctoral candidate in the philosophy of religion at Princeton and associate rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York. He contributed “Of (Religious) Fences and Neighbors” to the March COMMENTARY.

Glatt Kosher Subway in L.A.

Here is the article from public radio (thanks Yitz).....

Subway's kosher outlets are on a roll

Kosher Subway shop in Los Angeles

The Subway chain is trying to sandwich in some new growth to its 21,000 locations. Stacey Vanek-Smith takes a look at a kosher Subway that has opened right here in Los Angeles.

Listen to this Story
  • Jonathan Sedaghat, 26, and Sammy Aflalo, 25, are the owners of Los Angeles' new glatt kosher Subway.

TEXT OF STORY

BOB MOON: A whole lot of people are "eating fresh" these days -- Subway has more restaurants than any other fast-food chain in the country. Of course, those 21,000 locations can make it tough to keep growing. So Subway is finding new markets overseas.

TV AD AUDIO [In German]: "Fresh, fresh, eat fresh!"Jonathan Sedaghat, 26, and Sammy Aflalo, 25, are the owners of Los Angeles' new glatt kosher Subway.

Hmmm -- didn't know they say "Eat Fresh" the same way in German... Aside from expanding across the sea, the chain is trying to sandwich in some new growth here at home.

Stacey Vanek Smith takes a look at a kosher Subway that's opening this week right here in Los Angeles.


STACEY VANEK SMITH: It was "friends and family day" at L.A.'s newest Subway yesterday. The restaurant was packed with people from the mainly Jewish neighborhood. It was 21-year-old Maxine's first meat sub.

MAXINE: I had a whole wheat pastrami sandwich, toasted. It was excellent -- really, it was like melting in my mouth. It was amazing.

Keeping kosher means no pork and no mixing meat and dairy. So no cheese on the subs here. Twenty-six-year-old owner Jonathan Sedaghat says he got bored with the kosher restaurants in his neighborhood. So he teamed up with his friend, 25-year-old Sammy Aflalo. Aflalo says the Orthodox community is a strong, untapped market.

SAMMY AFLALO: All these Orthodox people, all the kids, they all watch the same TV programs as everybody else. But their whole life, they can't eat here.

Opening a specialty Subway has some unique challenges. Aflalo and Sedaghat had to find special meat. They invested in a sink so customers could wash up and say a prayer before eating. And then there were all the approvals.

AFLALO: Everything not only has to be certified by Subway, but more importantly, also by Kahilla, which is our kashrut, our certification company. So every product -- from every sauce to the meat -- has to be approved by them.

Those approvals cost money, and that special meat costs about three times more than the meat other Subways use. That means the sandwiches at the kosher Subway are a couple bucks more than they are at regular restaurants. But Sedaghat and Aflalo expect their customers will be quite happy to shell out a little extra for a kosher sub.

SEDAGHAT: People are psyched. I constantly get e-mails and calls every day . . .

AFLALO: All day. . .

SEDAGHAT: All day. . .

AFLALO: All day. About 20 phone calls a day . . . .

SEDAGHAT: . . .Minimum.

This isn't Subway's only kosher restaurant. The first one opened last year in Cleveland, and there are two more in New York. Thomas Coba is the chief operations officer for Subway. He says the company has also launched halal locations in New Jersey.

THOMAS COBA: We're able to attract more customers that maybe we wouldn't have gotten if we didn't make the modifications.

Coba says tapping into minority markets is a great way to expand Subway's brand inside the U.S. And, he says, it's good experience for overseas growth.

COBA: This gives us an additional advantage, when we can modify our menu and know that we have acceptability of the product. It's something that will really play out in our growth over in other countries.

It's certainly a win-win for Subway, says food consultant Ron Paul. He says franchisees take on all the financial risk and Subway can tap their knowledge of local markets.

RON PAUL: In order to maintain good franchisee relations, you have to be willing to try ideas that they have.

Like a schwarma sub -- That's an innovation Aflalo and Sedaghat are offering at their franchise. Other fast-food companies don't seem to be following Subway's lead just yet. But COO Thomas Coba expects the competition will likely want to take a bite out of a market that Jewish authorities say is worth as much as $100 billion.

Coba says Subway's kosher restaurants are thriving, and maybe not just because of the food.

FEMALE CUSTOMER: It's a great place to meet people and to find a husband -- a kosher husband.

In Los Angeles, I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace.