11/30/09

JTA: Do Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky Live at the Jewish Theological Seminary?

We just got home from teaching at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and can attest that we did not see Chelsea and her beau Marc there. But the way JTA words their story (below), that is where the couple now lives.

We suppose that we wish them a mazal tov. Will Chelsea convert? We don't really care.

Kushner-Trump now this. Do we see a new felon-shiksa pattern emerging here, i.e., Your dad goes to jail for a felony and then you marry a famous non-Jewish girl?
Chelsea Clinton to wed Jewish boyfriend
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Chelsea Clinton is engaged to marry her Jewish boyfriend of two years.

Clinton, 29, the only daughter of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, became engaged over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, 31.

Mezvinsky, who works for Goldman Sachs, is the son of former U.S. Reps. Ed Mezvinsky (D-Iowa) and Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinksy (D-Pa.). The elder Mezvinsky recently served a prison term for swindling $10 million from investors in a series of Nigerian e-mail scams. He was released in 2008.

Mezvinksy and Clinton met in Washington in 1993, and both attended Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. Clinton, a Methodist, was seen attending Yom Kippur services in September with Mezvinsky at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where they both now live.

The couple announced their engagement last Friday in a mass e-mail to friends, a Clinton spokesman said, according to media reports.

11/29/09

Talmud and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

If you haven't read Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values lately (or ever) you need to do so.

In his exploration of a metaphysics of quality, Pirsig gives clear priority to the "classical" approach to life over the "romantic" approach.

He gives preference to the notion that to understand and deal with life one needs to be a hands on mechanic and not give your responsibility to specialists and remove yourself several stages from experience, reality and responsibility.

The quality of life deepens as one is immersed directly in the maintenance of responsibilities.

Now, this philosophy has some relationship to the Talmud and to Talmudic living, we are sure. But that's not where we are heading today.

At hand, we have a book to comment on, What is Talmud: The Art of Disagreement, by Sergey Dolgopolski.

This book is about some aspects of the Talmud as filtered mainly through two media: (1) an introductory work to the Talmud by Rabbi Izhak Canpanton (d. 1463) and (2) several 20th century post-modern philosophers.

The author makes grand and sweeping claims that are way beyond the scope of his 273 page dissertation. He claims to uncover the essence of Talmud (not the Talmud) and the nature of disagreement exposed therein. He proposes that he has done this through reference to a handful of random Talmud texts and closer attention to that student's manual by Canpanton.

Now, Mr. Pirsig would not be happy to hear about this approach. Dolgopolski shows no interest in getting his hands dirty taking apart the actual engine of Talmud texts. He's given over much of the responsibility for knowing how the vehicle runs to third parties. And true, he does read the repair handbook and parse it with vigor.

But yikes, I would not claim to be able to write a book about, "What is Motorcycle" based on reading about the machines and closely examining the maintenance manual.

There is an extensive literature about Talmud out there - libraries of books - rishonim, achronim, philosophers from the middle ages to the present, apologetics, and then the scholarship of the German wissenschaft and modern academic Talmud scholarship in the US and Israel. None of that seems to be of more than passing interest to Mr. Dolgopolski.

And lest we forget, the subject of argumentation is one part of the personality of (the) Talmud. I dunno. Many of my friends know how to disagree about things. I would not proclaim that to know how they argue is to appreciate their essences.

Oh yes, one more thing. Talmud that we know, with or without the "the", is central to the definition of a religion called rabbinic Judaism. Dolgopolski cares not a whit to look at that characteristic of the corpus. He dissects a study guide and proclaims he has control of the essential knowledge of a rhetorical system, its religion omitted.

Canpanton may be quite an astute educator, perhaps even a philosopher. Yet, his voice is one of many in the history of ideas that runs through the sea of Talmudic discourse and reasoning. His may indeed be a, "radical reaffirmation of the traditional sources in terms of their authority and their rationality." But we sure don't prove that by stipulation alone.

And you know, even if the repair manual is really faithful to the machine, I still prefer to know that the man who wrote the manual and the man using it and working on my BMW -- that they have actually ridden the machine themselves and felt the wind whistling through their hair.

So if you want to read a book about a manual about (the) argumentation in the Talmud, this may be the perfect volume for you. It doesn't get much more Romantic than that.

If you want to know the Classical feel of acceleration up a mountain on a sleek well-tuned bike, you won't find that here.

11/28/09

Times: Kabbalah brought Jesus Luz and Madonna together


 Here is a celebrity and her boyfriend at a Jewish mystic's tomb in Israel. 

Now, the Times is not a gossip sheet, nor is this blog interested in such mundane matters as celebrity pairings. But if Kabbalah is involved, well that is a whole other story for us.
...Jesus Pinto na Luz, who has two younger brothers, moved frequently as a child, especially after his parents split when he was almost 5 years old.

“I grew up with many ups and downs,” he said. “I also saw the beauty of people who were living an intellectual life and also people who were humble and had nothing.”

As a teenager he pursued modeling and acting, working odd jobs, including as a salesman at a surf shop in Ipanema.

“When I was a teenager, I thought I couldn’t do nothing in my life,” he said. “I felt very hopeless. And then something started to happen.”

He studied Buddhism and yoga and an ex-girlfriend introduced him to kabbalah. “I’m just looking for something to make me strong, and kabbalah has given me that,” he said. “I’m looking for something to make me comfortable and happy in my life.”

In 2006, he spent six months in New York, living with an aunt and learning English.

When he met Madonna, also a kabbalah devotee, last December, she had been divorced from the filmmaker Guy Ritchie for one month...more, "For Madonna’s Boyfriend, Fame by Association"...

Is Shlomo Sand Jewish?

No, Shlomo Sand cannot be Jewish.

By his own definition in his recent book, the Jewish people is an "invention" which a person cannot be part of, an imaginary entity which has no claims to any particular peoplehood and an invented fantasy with no legitimate reason to have established the Jewish State of Israel.

Ironic that Sand is by all of the definitions which he rejects, definitely a Jew and quite an enigmatic part of the Jewish people.

Sand teaches at an imagined Jewish university which presumably pays him in make-believe shekels and lives in that fictional Jewish state and speaks a concocted Jewish language.

The Hebrew version of his unfortunate book (In English: "The Invention of the Jewish People") was a best seller in the Israel which he derides.

The Times has an appropriately quizzical account of the book and its author.

We never know what to make of one of our self-hating brethren who relishes his notorious obnoxiousness for no purpose other than his own self aggrandizement. We make note of the sad cultural fact and move on.

D'Souza's Evidence: Is there life after death?

Newsweek reviewed Dinesh D'Souza's new book (Life After Death: The Evidence) which answers the question, Is there life after death? Yes, there is, he says.
...D'Souza takes it as given that we are all consumed with wondering what will happen to us after death, the way all Europeans were in medieval times, and D'Souza himself still is. Believers, of course, need no convincing on the subject of life after death, so D'Souza must address himself to skeptics, who presumably have made their peace with the expectation of personal annihilation. Skeptics may object to D'Souza's mode of argument, which is to state a proposition, present the evidence for both sides with an elaborate if spurious show of impartiality, and proceed briskly to the conclusion that his own preference is obviously the winner. But on some level, D'Souza believes, even skeptics would like to be convinced...
Update: We add a few of our own observations now that we have read the book. What comes through in it is a great energy and intellect with a triumphal mission to fulfill. Look at me, says the author. I am literate and know philosophy, biology, physics, biology, neuroscience, sociology, psychology, ethics and more. And from each discipline I can find evidence to support my belief that there is life after death. EVIDENCE. And in the end, in 16 pages this author proclaims his belief in Jesus' resurrection as the most compelling evidence.

The book is not an honest treatise. It presents argumentation and rhetoric, innuendo, clever insinuation and sophistry and yet not a single shred of evidence.

This book will dazzle and comfort the believer with its citations of dozens of learned and scientific tomes. We do not think the book is meant to convince the searcher, nor will it serve that purpose.

All said and done, this effort reminds us once again that Christianity took up the single area of religion that Judaism had elided - the mystery of death - and built upon that with a simple narrative of a dying and rising savior - a powerful world wide religious empire.

Some of us Jews are occasionally wondering how this happened - how we had the nearly exclusive franchise to Western religion and watched as it slipped from our grasp, based mainly on a tale of life after death.

11/27/09

Tzvee's Talmudic Bookshelf


Talmudic scholarship for your holiday reading enjoyment!

Is God a laissez faire anti-regulation Republican?

After sending a professor friend of ours an email about an op-ed about Judaism that he wrote, we got back an acknowledgment, "Thanks for your comment, a worthy challenge ---"

Actually no, the email was not meant to be worthy or a challenge. It was us sending our opinion with no foundation or basis to the writer who published his opinion without any foundation or basis. If that qualifies as a worthy challenge, then indeed we have lost the last thread of serious discourse in religion.

On the global theological front, The Bergen Record reported three stories today that together have made us ask, Is God a laissez faire anti-regulation Republican?

1. God has done nothing to regulate the sexually abusive abominable behavior of his Catholic Priests. A new report from Ireland is astonishing.

2. God has done nothing to prevent 77 deaths in storms during the Hajj of his Muslim worshipers. 

3. God has provided no moral beacon of regulation for his Jewish trafficker in human organs.
Newstracker: Alleged kidney broker snagged in NJ corruption sting faces Dec. 8 court date The Record

Accordingly we ask what indeed is God's political affiliation these days?

Perhaps he once was a liberal democrat and now has reverted to his conservative republican roots.

11/26/09

Best Buy's Muslim Happy Eid Ad


They had Hanukkah menorahs all over their ads last year. We think this is good and normal. Bravo Best Buy.
Best Buy's ad pleases Muslims, upsets critics
BY NIRAJ WARIKOO The Record SPECIAL FROM THE DETROIT FREE PRESS

DETROIT — A Thanksgiving ad by Best Buy that wishes readers a Happy Eid has upset some critics but pleased American Muslims.

Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday, happens to fall this year on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the one of the busiest times of the year for retailers.

In the ad, Best Buy says to "Shop Thanksgiving Day at BestBuy.com," according to a copy posted on Crunch Gear.

Right above in smaller print, it says "Happy Eid al-Adha."

Some protested the ad on Web forums at Best Buy's Web site.

"Clearly the liberal/PC culture in your corporate offices is biased against Christians and traditional American values," wrote one poster.

Muslim-Americans welcomed the ad, seeing it as a sign they are increasingly part of the American fabric.

"Thanksgiving and Eid al-Adha are now sharing the same spiritual and social space," Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement Tuesday.

Best Buy spokeswoman Erin Gunderson defended the ad, saying "Best Buy's customers and employees around the world represent a variety of faiths and denominations."
More on it here from MN.

11/25/09

CHE: Twitter Infiltrates the University Lecture Hall

I had a student send me an email during class recently. I had offered the class more extensive feedback on essay assignments to anyone who asked for it. The student shot off from her laptop an email to me with that request a minute later.

I asked the class to take it easy on laptop use during class - or I might ban note-taking and laptop-using. During earlier decades I used to forbid pen and paper note-taking during some classes. I told students they will remember everything that I say - so they don't need notes. I wanted to see faces, not the tops of heads, during class.

CHE writes about two professors who allow students to submit questions via twitter during their lectures. Interesting idea - I guess. Actually, the article is a bit unfocused. I had trouble extracting 140 coherent characters to quote from it...
The moment is telling. Opening up a Twitter-powered channel in class—which several professors at other universities are experimenting with as well—alters classroom power dynamics and signals to students that they're in control. Fans of the approach applaud technology that promises to change professors' role from "sage on the stage" to "guide on the side." Those phrases are familiar to education reformers, who have long argued that colleges must make education more interactive to hold the interest of today's students.

The unanswered question, though, is whether that theory can work in practice, in a room packed primar ily with 18- to 22-year-olds who can seem more interested in high grades than in high-mindedness...more...
Hey! Tzvee is on Twitter....

11/24/09

Buddhism's Gift to the World: Mindful Meditation

We practice mindful meditation and can say that it can greatly improve your life. From the Times...
Lotus Therapy
By BENEDICT CAREY

The patient sat with his eyes closed, submerged in the rhythm of his own breathing, and after a while noticed that he was thinking about his troubled relationship with his father.

“I was able to be there, present for the pain,” he said, when the meditation session ended. “To just let it be what it was, without thinking it through.”

The therapist nodded.

“Acceptance is what it was,” he continued. “Just letting it be. Not trying to change anything.”

“That’s it,” the therapist said. “That’s it, and that’s big.”

This exercise in focused awareness and mental catch-and-release of emotions has become perhaps the most popular new psychotherapy technique of the past decade. Mindfulness meditation, as it is called, is rooted in the teachings of a fifth-century B.C. Indian prince, Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha. It is catching the attention of talk therapists of all stripes, including academic researchers, Freudian analysts in private practice and skeptics who see all the hallmarks of another fad.

For years, psychotherapists have worked to relieve suffering by reframing the content of patients’ thoughts, directly altering behavior or helping people gain insight into the subconscious sources of their despair and anxiety. The promise of mindfulness meditation is that it can help patients endure flash floods of emotion during the therapeutic process — and ultimately alter reactions to daily experience at a level that words cannot reach. “The interest in this has just taken off,” said Zindel Segal, a psychologist at the Center of Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, where the above group therapy session was taped. “And I think a big part of it is that more and more therapists are practicing some form of contemplation themselves and want to bring that into therapy.”

At workshops and conferences across the country, students, counselors and psychologists in private practice throng lectures on mindfulness. The National Institutes of Health is financing more than 50 studies testing mindfulness techniques, up from 3 in 2000, to help relieve stress, soothe addictive cravings, improve attention, lift despair and reduce hot flashes.

Some proponents say Buddha’s arrival in psychotherapy signals a broader opening in the culture at large — a way to access deeper healing, a hidden path revealed.

Yet so far, the evidence that mindfulness meditation helps relieve psychiatric symptoms is thin, and in some cases, it may make people worse, some studies suggest. Many researchers now worry that the enthusiasm for Buddhist practice will run so far ahead of the science that this promising psychological tool could turn into another fad.

“I’m very open to the possibility that this approach could be effective, and it certainly should be studied,” said Scott Lilienfeld, a psychology professor at Emory. “What concerns me is the hype, the talk about changing the world, this allure of the guru that the field of psychotherapy has a tendency to cultivate.”

Buddhist meditation came to psychotherapy from mainstream academic medicine. In the 1970s, a graduate student in molecular biology, Jon Kabat-Zinn, intrigued by Buddhist ideas, adapted a version of its meditative practice that could be easily learned and studied. It was by design a secular version, extracted like a gemstone from the many-layered foundation of Buddhist teaching, which has sprouted a wide variety of sects and spiritual practices and attracted 350 million adherents worldwide.

In transcendental meditation and other types of meditation, practitioners seek to transcend or “lose” themselves. The goal of mindfulness meditation was different, to foster an awareness of every sensation as it unfolds in the moment.

Dr. Kabat-Zinn taught the practice to people suffering from chronic pain at the University of Massachusetts medical school. In the 1980s he published a series of studies demonstrating that two-hour courses, given once a week for eight weeks, reduced chronic pain more effectively than treatment as usual... more
//repost from 5/08//

11/23/09

Mozart's entire musical score free on internet

Now this is a good use of the Internet. Thank you HP - we saw The Magic Flute at the Met not long ago.

Mozart's entire musical score now free on internet

LONDON - Mozart's year-long 250th birthday party is ending on a high note with the musical scores of his complete works available from today for the first time free on the internet.

The International Mozart Foundation in Salzburg, Austria has put a scholarly edition of the bound volumes of Mozart's more than 600 works on a website
http://dme.mozarteum.at.

The site allows visitors to find specific symphonies, arias or even single lines of text from some 24,000 pages of music.

"We had 45,000 hits in the first two hours...we would not have expected that," programme director Ulrich Leisinger told Reuters in a telephone interview.

A user who types in "Pamina" from Mozart's opera "The Magic Flute" will see the music for all five arias she sings, as well as critical texts discussing those passages.

The version appearing on the internet is a digitised copy of the New Mozart Edition published by Barenreiter, of Kassel, Germany.

It is considered the "gold standard" of Mozart editions and Leisinger said Barenreiter was paid US$400,000 ($581,550) for the digital publication rights.

The financial backing came from the Packard Humanities Institute of Los Altos, California.

"We hope we will be able to convince other people besides us to present their original materials online as well," he said.
- REUTERS

11/22/09

Times' Frank Rich on Palin, Israel and Blankfein and the Cross

We like Frank Rich's writing and his politics. He is for the people we are for, and against the people we are against.

He also is not the most rigorous thinker on the planet.

Consider this week how he works Israel and Goldman Sachs into his column on Sarah Palin.

Rich sticks these two random Palin planks into his column this week:
Her argument for why “Jewish settlements” should be expanded on the West Bank was that “more and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.” It was unclear what she was talking about — unless it was the “rapture” theology that requires the mass return of Jews to settle the Holy Land as a precondition for the return of Christ.
Then he interjects this offensive comment, for reasons that we cannot fathom:
Her ever-present booster Continetti, writing in The Weekly Standard, suggested that she recast the century-old populist outrage of William Jennings Bryan by adopting the message “You shall not crucify mankind upon the cross of Goldman Sachs.”
Rich can surely tell us that Palin may be for settlement expansion because of her religious delusions. But Rich ought to make it much clearer that her rapture delusions are dangerous fringe theologies that all of us ought to fear and denounce.

We also think it is utterly appropriate to denounce and oppose the rapacious greed of large Wall Street firms who have made-off with much more money than Madoff and yes, under shady and questionable totally legal programs.

However, Rich certainly ought to make it clearer that it is wrong, incendiary and dangerous to apply crucifixion imagery to a Jewish-founded and Jewish-led business like Goldman Sachs.

Rich sure as heck seems to want to show us that he does not understand religion or the power and danger of some nasty religious ideas and images.

11/20/09

Locus, Focus and Davening

The core of Jewish liturgy is davening - the recitation and performance of Jewish prayers. With my class at JTS we now are exploring the ancillary aspects of the rituals, namely the places of davening, synagogues, and the states of mind associated with davening, namely kavvanah, forms of concentration.

This raises a question: to what degree are locus and focus ancillary and in what respects are they part of the core of the process of davening?

And more interesting. There are a variety of visions of the function of locus and focus at work in the system of davening.

Once you start to look for them, you see in the world of liturgy the distinctive conceptions of the minds of the various distinctive archetypes of the minyan of daveners.

Times: In Talmudic move lesser Rubashkin charges are dropped after conviction on greater charges

The Talmudic principal here is "קים ליה בדרבה מינה"...if you eat stolen food on Yom Kippur you are not liable for the theft... the greater offense subsumes the lesser.
Iowa: Immigration Charges Dropped in Raid Case

A federal judge dismissed dozens of immigration charges against the former manager of a kosher slaughterhouse, at the request of prosecutors who won a conviction last week against the man on multiple counts of financial fraud. Prosecutors said a conviction in that case would not affect the term of the man, Sholom Rubashkin, because he was convicted of the charges with the longest sentences. Both cases stemmed from a raid at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in Postville in May 2008. Investigators found 389 illegal immigrants working at the plant.
///hat tip to yochanan iii///

11/18/09

Rabbi Ariel on davening with women: "Men are not able to concentrate..." and the same applies to golfing

I knew that eventually the real reason would come out for the construction of the mechitzah in Orthodox synagogues and for the prohibition of women in leading prayers.

A Ramat Gan rabbi has cleared it all up for us. It's to compensate for a problem that Orthodox men have, "Men are not able to concentrate..."
Ramat Gan chief rabbi slams 'radical feminist' egalitarian minyanim
Matthew Wagner , THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 19, 2008

Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel said Tuesday that it is prohibited according to Jewish law to take part in an "egalitarian" or "partnership" minyan that permits women to read from the Torah or lead the congregation in prayer.

Ariel was reacting to the publication of The Guide for the Halachic Minyan by Michal and Elitzur Bar-Asher. The guide is a compilation of halachic sources on how to integrate women into prayer while at the same time purportedly adhering to all Orthodox strictures.

This is not the first time Ariel has proscribed attending partnership or egalitarian minyanim. Last summer, in a series of articles, Ariel publicized his opinion, specifically mentioning the Shira Hadasha minyan in Jerusalem, one of several "halachic egalitarian" minyanim in Israel. "These minyanim are the product of radical feminist agendas," said Ariel. "And they are a departure from normative Judaism."

Jewish law prohibits giving women the opportunity to read publicly from the Torah out of respect for the community [kvod hatzibur]. Ariel interprets kvod hatzibur to mean "distraction," including sexual distraction.

"Men who come to the synagogue to pray do not want to be distracted by the prominent appearance of women," said Ariel. "I do not necessarily mean only sexual distraction, although that is a real possibility since too many women dress provocatively these days.

"Rather I mean that women attract a lot of attention from men, both intentionally and unintentionally, on many different levels. And this hurts the quality of the prayers because men are not able to concentrate as well..."

And the Times today reports that a similar concentration problem apparently extends to men golfers in Massachusetts (not necessarily Orthodox Jewish men).
Barred From Men’s-Only Event, Woman Sues Public Golf Club
Elaine Joyce, a champion amateur golfer, and her father were not allowed to play in a tournament at the Dennis Pines course because the tournament was not open to women....more....
It's clear then that men are not able to concentrate when a woman is around. //repost from 2/19/08//

11/16/09

Miami Beach's Fontainebleau Hotel: Solid Swimming Pool - Leaky Finances

We were in Miami Beach to attend a wedding this weekend and had a chance to check out the high profile Fontainebleau Hotel mainly because it boasts one enormous swimming pool. We call it a great place to swim (~75 yards long).

But what is with those tall guards all over the deck and the open pool side cabanas with flat screen TVs? We wondered if this was a scene come to life from Woody Allen's film Sleeper. A friend observed that many of the guests looked like they were affiliated with shady elements, whatever that means.

And now we learn from the Miami Herald that although the utterly swank hotel has undergone in solid reality a total renovation, it stands on the shakiest of financial footings, as the owners teeter on the verge of bankruptcy.
Fontainebleau hotel's glitzy rebirth tarnished by debts
The Fontainebleau hotel's grand launch -- with fancy parties and lingerie models -- is a dim memory as financial challenges mount a year later.
BY DOUGLAS HANKS
A year ago, developer Jeffrey Soffer presided over the most lavish hotel opening in South Florida history as supermodels, pop singers and movie stars celebrated his $650 million renovation of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

Just weeks from his 41st birthday, the real-estate heir joined family friends James Caan and George Hamilton in the VIP section for a private concert by Mariah Carey. Victoria's Secret models sashayed in a televised lingerie show hosted by Heidi Klum.

Exactly 12 months later, the $5 million weekend bash seems a mere financial footnote as Soffer confronts mounting challenges at South Florida's largest resort.

Among them:

• Contractors claiming more than $60 million in unpaid bills.

In court papers and interviews, contractors say they were ordered to work double- or triple-time to get the Fontainebleau ready for the Nov. 15, 2008, Victoria's Secret show, but that the resort stopped paying its bills at roughly the same time.

• The possibility of bankruptcy.

For the first time, a senior Fontainebleau executive on Saturday said publicly that bankruptcy was an option under consideration as the resort tries to reduce its $660 million construction loan and settle the contractor claims.

Last year, the investment arm of the Dubai government paid Soffer's ownership group $375 million for a 50 percent stake in the Fontainebleau. That deal gave the Dubai entity, part of Nakheel Leisure, the option to take over restructuring negotiations if there were problems with the resort's loans.

Days ago, Nakheel exercised that option, said Hamza Mustaffa, Nakheel's managing director. On Saturday, he said Nakheel and Soffer were waiting for recommendations from a restructuring consultant on the next step, and that one of the options could be a Chapter 11 filing that would let the resort continue operating while forcing creditors to negotiate.

``We haven't made a decision right now if we're going to file, or if we're not going to file,'' Mustaffa said.

While Nakheel has officially replaced Soffer as the lead negotiator with Fontainebleau's banks, Mustaffa said Soffer remains in charge of the hotel and that the partnership is solid.

``This is not us saying, `Jeff, you're out and we're in,' '' Mustaffa said while praising Soffer's role as the Fontainebleau developer. ``We've been working together.''...much more...

Times: Hobbes' Leviathan Complete in Hebrew Causes a Stir?

Some questions came to mind when we read this learned virtual roundtable discussion about the new and complete edition of Hobbes' Leviathan in Hebrew.

First, what do the previously missing passages say that is so challenging and how have Israelis, religious and secular, responded to them?

Second, is there an unexpurgated Arabic translation and how has the Arabic reading public, religious and secular responded to that? (If no, then how would we imagine that they would respond?) 

And also, has this book really caused a stir in Israel or is this little debate colored by wishful hype emanating from the Shalem Center?

11/15/09

Times: New Jewish-Muslim Book about the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Any cooperative venture on this matter of political sensitivity is by definition a positive thing. Of course, extremists on both sides will burn this book. Accordingly, we recommend you buy the book and support the project.
Unusual Partners Study Divisive Jerusalem Site
By ISABEL KERSHNER
JERUSALEM — At the heart of this contested city, the holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, has become, for many, the epicenter of the conflict between Israel, the Palestinians and the wider Muslim world.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, and the Old City, in 1967.

The mere mention of the place stirs passions and memories of centuries of bloodshed. Its alternative names evoke the depth of religious devotion and the competing claims.

Many of those contradictions are encapsulated in a new book, “Where Heaven and Earth Meet: Jerusalem’s Sacred Esplanade,” to be published here on Monday. The book is a collection of essays by renowned scholars on the history, archaeology, aesthetics and politics of the place that Jews revere as the location of their two ancient temples, and that now houses the Al Aksa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam...more...

11/14/09

Bergen Record: Dar-ul-Islah mosque in Teaneck adds security precautions after Ft. Hood Shootings

There are fears of a backlash against Muslims in the aftermath of the shootings at Ft. Hood.
Area mosques step up security after massacre
BY ELIZABETH LLORENTE
At the Dar-ul-Islah mosque in Teaneck, congregants are being extra vigilant these days — looking for anything that might signal a potential attack or vandalism.

Mosque officials have also asked Teaneck police to patrol the surroundings more.

In Paterson, mosque officials at the Islamic Center of Passaic County are also stepping up scrutiny of suspicious activity around the mosque, even if it's just an unfamiliar car in the parking lot or on the street near the place of worship.

Across the nation, mosques are taking heightened security steps following the shooting last week at Fort Hood, Texas, that left 13 dead and dozens of others wounded. Muslim and Arab organizations advised mosques to increase security after learning that the suspected shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was Muslim — and that they could be at risk of bias attacks.

"There was a car by the mosque that we didn't know," said Mohamed El Filali, ICPC's outreach director. "I saw a man by the car and I told the imam, 'Maybe I should go out and see what he's doing.' [The man] said he was trying to fix something on his car. I asked if he needed help. He said no, and I went back inside.

"We have the regular security we've always had; the cameras are rolling, people have their eyes more opened. We have not received any particular threat, but we're just taking extra measures for safety."

Condemning violence

Hasan's religion has become an issue since investigators said the psychiatrist allegedly made efforts to reach out to radical Islamists.

Muslims and others, including President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, have stressed that religion should not be seen as the cause of the massacre, and that Islam condemns violence.

The Dar-ul-Islah mosque has made a point of condemning the Fort Hood shooting on its Web site, as well as reiterating that Islam is about peace.

"We're suggesting that mosques nationwide ask for stepped up police patrols in their area," said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington. "Some mosques have received threats, but we haven't seen a major backlash except for e-mails, hate e-mails."

Madoff - Time Magazine's Man of the Year?

We don't think this is a serious suggestion. But hey. If you want to sell magazines.

Merkin, Madoff and Dwek make Forward Top 50 in Scandal Category

That was the scandalous year that was. So bad, the Forward added a category for Scandal and had no trouble deciding who ought to be featured. Some scandals quickly cool and fade away. These will linger and simmer for years.

Scandal

 
Losing: Convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff and financier and money manager J. Ezra Merkin.

Bernard Madoff
Bernard Madoff leapt this past year from relative obscurity to prominence: He’s probably the most hated landsman in American Jewish history. Meyer Lansky had his gang; the Rosenbergs had their comrades and supporters. Madoff, 71, has only his fellow inmates in the North Carolina federal prison where he’ll spend the rest of his life. Madoff, who founded his own Wall Street investment firm in 1960, pleaded guilty in March to operating what has been called the largest financial scam in history. He admitted that he had spent years running a gigantic Ponzi scheme, taking cash from new clients to pay off earlier ones without ever investing their money. As a result, thousands of ordinary people lost their life savings. “I knew what I was doing was wrong, indeed criminal,” he said in his plea allocution. Madoff contended that he began his scam in 1991 and acted alone. However, others — including his brother, Peter; his sons, Mark and Andrew; and a niece, Shana — are suspected of involvement. Also suspected: hedge-fund manager J. Ezra Merkin, a prominent Jewish philanthropist who had associated with Madoff since the early 1990s. Neither Merkin nor Madoff family members have been charged, and all have denied any wrongdoing. Madoff’s scheme collapsed late in 2008, just months after the financial crisis hit and new clients dried up. It is estimated that clients lost a staggering $65 billion (at least $45 billion of it in paper losses from fake profits). Among the hardest-hit were Jewish institutions he had worked with, including Yeshiva University and Hadassah. Several private foundations collapsed altogether, in turn wreaking havoc among the charities they supported. The only people left with kind thoughts of Madoff were the late-night comics who have turned his name into a perpetual punch line.

J. Ezra Merkin
When the Madoff scandal broke last December, questions arose about the actions of J. Ezra Merkin, scion of a family of major Modern Orthodox philanthropists, chairman of GMAC, and money manager to a slew of prominent Jews and Jewish institutions. Investors in his funds claimed to have had no idea that Merkin, 55, had entrusted $2.4 billion of their money to Bernard Madoff. This year, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, New York University and New York Law School are among those who are suing Merkin for his alleged role in funneling money to Madoff. They allege that Merkin got rich off investment fees while feeding billions of dollars from non-profit endowments and individual fortunes into Madoff’s billowing Ponzi scheme. Since the scandal broke, Merkin has lost control of his hedge funds, stepped down as chairman of GMAC, resigned as president of the prestigious Fifth Avenue Synagogue, and sold off his extensive collection of paintings by the artist Mark Rothko. He also resigned his seat on the board of directors at Yeshiva University, where the influential Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik once held a chair sponsored by Merkin’s father, Hermann. But some question who is truly at fault here — Merkin or the credulous investors who didn’t question their steady returns. And what about the Ramaz School and Y.U., which saw no conflict of interest in allowing Merkin to serve on their boards and, in Y.U.’s case, on its investment committees, while allowing him to “manage” — and earn fees on — millions of dollars worth of their donated income? As the legal process unfolds, Merkin’s apparent role as a conduit between Madoff and Jewish institutions is likely to take center stage.

Solomon Dwek
No one could have predicted Solomon Dwek’s spectacular second act. Dwek, the son of a prominent Syrian rabbi, was disgraced in 2006 after bouncing a check for $25 million. He was charged with bank fraud and forced into bankruptcy after his real-estate business went bust. His failure as a real-estate mogul led directly to a new career, as a cooperating witness in a sprawling FBI sting. This summer, Dwek emerged as the informant whose secretly recorded conversations led to the arrest of 44 prominent rabbis and politicians in New Jersey and Brooklyn on charges ranging from corruption to money laundering to organ trafficking. Pages of criminal complaints chronicle the exploits of “the CW,” or cooperating witness, reportedly Dwek, as he allegedly brokered payoffs and kickbacks. He is said to have been given an Apple Jacks cereal box filled with $97,000 as part of a money-laundering scheme. Those charged in the investigation include three New Jersey mayors, two state assemblymen and five rabbis. The arrests reshaped New Jersey politics, and exposed Dwek’s insular Syrian Jewish community to unwanted public scrutiny. Many Syrian Jews reacted angrily, denouncing Dwek for allegedly informing on his own people. Dwek, 36, has kept an understandably low profile since the arrests, but his work will keep federal investigators and prosecutors busy for years to come.

Sholom Rubashkin Goes Directly to Jail

The verdict in the Kosher slaughter scandal could put the culprit in prison for 1,255 years.
Rubashkin awaits bail ruling
By GRANT SCHULTE
Sioux Falls, S.D. - Sholom Rubashkin will spend this weekend in the Woodbury County Jail in Sioux City until federal agents move him back to eastern Iowa for more court hearings, a U.S. Marshals Service spokesman said Friday.

The former vice president at Agriprocessors Inc., the northeast Iowa slaughterhouse, was moved to the jail one day after his conviction on 86 felony business fraud charges. Rubashkin was taken into custody immediately after his conviction and sent overnight to the South Dakota State Penitentiary, a state prison in Sioux Falls.

Bill Kiesau, a supervisory deputy with the U.S. marshals, said agents will return Rubashkin to the Cedar Rapids area - he did not know which jail - for a bail hearing Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

A South Dakota jury convicted Rubashkin on Thursday on all but five of the 91 federal charges, after more than two days of deliberation. The maximum sentence for his combined convictions adds up to 1,255 years.

U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade denied a request by defense lawyers to continue Rubashkin's release on bond, pending a second trial on 72 immigration-related charges.

Defense lawyers Guy Cook and F. Montgomery Brown insisted in court papers filed late Thursday that their client was not a threat or a flight risk.

Rubashkin "remains steadfastly committed to his community both in Postville, Ia., and the larger religious Jewish community," they said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan Jr. argued in court that Rubashkin might flee if released. Lawyers will debate his status at the Wednesday hearing.

Rubashkin was charged with bank, mail and wire fraud, making false statements to a bank, money laundering, and ignoring an order to pay livestock providers in the time required by law.

A sentencing for the 50-year-old has not been set.

News of the conviction continued to ripple through northeast Iowa on Friday. U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley said the verdict was just.

"This week's verdict allows the community of Postville to finally see some closure and marks an important step forward for our country's broken immigration system," Braley said in a statement. "Our government cannot allow employers to break the law and take advantage of cheap labor."

Sister Mary McCauley, former pastoral administrator at St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Postville, said she felt a sense of relief with the verdict. She commended jurors for "listening with open minds and hearts to both sides of the issue and then coming to a decision that they believed to be just."

She added: "There are really no winners in such a case since lives have been changed and dreams shattered forever."
[hat tip to yochanan iii]

11/11/09

Is Lou Dobbs Jewish?

No, judging from his background we feel it is safe to say that Lou Dobbs is not a Jew.

Dobbs claims he was born in Childress County, Texas, son of Frank Dobbs, a co-owner of a propane business, and Lydia Mae Hensley, a bookkeeper. When Dobbs was 12 he claims his family moved to Rupert, Idaho. He claims to have attended Minico High School in Minidoka County, and claims to have earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Harvard University in 1967. We have not seen his birth certificate or his high school or college transcripts and diplomas, so we cannot vouch for any of these claims.

We cannot watch this guy on CNN.

UPDATE: And we won't be able to - because he is leaving!

He calls himself as a populist but we call him a droner, incessantly babbling on subjects that are out of the mainstream. He spouts off his personal views on American immigration policy, international trade and off-shoring.

Of late Dobbs has been under fire for joining the kooky birthers in questioning the birthplace of President Barack Obama.
Lou Dobbs challenges his own CNN network
By DAVID BAUDER (AP)

NEW YORK — He's become a publicity nightmare for CNN, embarrassed his boss and hosted a show that seemed to contradict the network's "no bias" brand. And on top of all that, his ratings are slipping.

How does Lou Dobbs keep his job?

It's not a simple answer. CNN insists it is standing behind Dobbs, despite calls for his head from critics of his reporting on "birthers" — those who believe President Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States despite convincing evidence to the contrary. The "birthers" believe Obama was born in Kenya, and thus not eligible to be president.

Dobbs' work has been so unpopular that even Ann Coulter has criticized him...more...
//orig post 8/5/09//

11/9/09

Was Martin Heidegger a Nazi?

Yes, philosopher Martin Heidegger was a Nazi. A newly translated book argues that his work should be shunned and that all work based on his philosophy is tainted. We agree.

From the Times:
An Ethical Question: Does a Nazi Deserve a Place Among Philosophers?
By PATRICIA COHEN

For decades the German philosopher Martin Heidegger has been the subject of passionate debate. His critique of Western thought and technology has penetrated deeply into architecture, psychology and literary theory and inspired some of the most influential intellectual movements of the 20th century. Yet he was also a fervent Nazi.

Now a soon-to-be published book in English has revived the long-running debate about whether the man can be separated from his philosophy. Drawing on new evidence, the author, Emmanuel Faye, argues fascist and racist ideas are so woven into the fabric of Heidegger’s theories that they no longer deserve to be called philosophy. As a result Mr. Faye declares, Heidegger’s works and the many fields built on them need to be re-examined lest they spread sinister ideas as dangerous to modern thought as “the Nazi movement was to the physical existence of the exterminated peoples.”...more...

11/8/09

Times: British Jews in a civil war over conversion


Raw Jewish identity politics at play in Britain. And this is not such a complicated case. It's a shame they let this issue get so far and become so public without reaching a conciliation within the community.
Who Is a Jew? Court Ruling in Britain Raises Question
By SARAH LYALL

LONDON — The questions before the judges in Courtroom No. 1 of Britain’s Supreme Court were as ancient and as complex as Judaism itself.

Who is a Jew? And who gets to decide?

On the surface, the court was considering a straightforward challenge to the admissions policy of a Jewish high school in London. But the case, in which arguments concluded Oct. 30, has potential repercussions for thousands of other parochial schools across Britain. And in addressing issues at the heart of Jewish identity, it has exposed bitter divisions in Britain’s community of 300,000 or so Jews, pitting members of various Jewish denominations against one another.

“This is potentially the biggest case in the British Jewish community’s modern history,” said Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle newspaper here. “It speaks directly to the right of the state to intervene in how a religion operates.”

The case began when a 12-year-old boy, an observant Jew whose father is Jewish and whose mother is a Jewish convert, applied to the school, JFS. Founded in 1732 as the Jews’ Free School, it is a centerpiece of North London’s Jewish community. It has around 1,900 students, but it gets far more applicants than it accepts...more
[hat tip to mimi]

11/6/09

Thanksgiving Hagaddah and Thanksgiving Mishnah for Jews

I. Thanksgiving Hagaddah

In 2006 if you checked your NY Times Magazine or your New Yorker Magazine at this time you found a copy of America's Table stapled inside.

It was a "Thanksgiving Reader" that you could take to the dinner table and take turns reading.

Sounds like a Passover Hagaddah, no? You can go to the AJC web site and download the booklet as a PDF file.

The Jewish Standard had an article by Lois Goldrich about the booklet which described how the project took shape. The contents as described by Goldrich are,
The format — a "universal" narration, which remains constant each year, accompanied by profiles of men and women whose lives "illustrate the power of diversity and democratic values" — was designed to help Americans find common ground in a world where, often, differences are considered threatening, said Schept. The people profiled are recommended by AJCommittee chapters and are largely drawn from their interfaith contacts.
I found the readings so-so. There are so many classical statements of our "diverse roots and shared values" that could have been used in the booklet. And many stories of great Americans that should have been included. Take a look. Maybe it works for you.

II. Thanksgiving Mishnah

One year when I was teaching a course called Intro to Judaism at the University of Minnesota I asked the students to write a little creative assignment -- a Mishnah chapter for Thanksgiving based on what they were studying in their course readings.

The text we used was meant to teach the characteristics of the Mishnah is chapter 8 of Berakhot which contains the disputes between the Houses of Hillel and Shammai concerning the detailed order of the rituals and mannerisms of the Sabbath meal.

All the students did a wonderful job devising their own Mishnahs -- except for one. Surprisingly she was an Israeli student who actually knew what Mishnah was even before taking my course.

Here is the twist. When she came to me to discuss why she could not do the assignment she said, "Sure I know what is Mishnah. I learned about it in school is Israel.

"The problem is that I just came to the US and I have no idea what is Thanksgiving."

Ah, the problems of teaching at the multi-national midwestern university. [Annual repost.]

11/5/09

Picture of a Pile of Murdered Jews on a Banner - "National Socialist Health Care Dachau Germany 1945" at Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman's Anti Health Care Reform Protest Rally


Just broadcast on MSNBC - An outrageous picture of a pile of murdered Jews on a banner labeled - "National Socialist Health Care Dachau Germany 1945"displayed by people attending Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman's Anti Health Care Reform Protest Rally.

I cannot think of any more offensive violation of human dignity in the pursuit of a perverse political agenda.

11/3/09

Was Claude Lévi-Strauss Jewish?

Yes, the great anthropologist who just passed away at age 100, Claude Lévi-Strauss was a Jew and the grandson of a rabbi.

The Times' obituary article describes with great clarity the methodology and substance of his work and the highlights and impact of his career, including the following:
...Claude Lévi-Strauss was born on Nov. 28, 1908, in Belgium to Raymond Lévi-Strauss and the former Emma Levy. He grew up in France, near Versailles, where his grandfather was a rabbi and his father a portrait painter. His great-grandfather Isaac Strauss was a Strasbourg violinist mentioned by Berlioz in his memoirs. As a child, he loved to collect disparate objects and juxtapose them. “I had a passion for exotic curios,” he says in “Conversations.” “My small savings all went to the secondhand shops.” A large collection of Jewish antiquities from his family’s collection, he said, was displayed in the Musée de Cluny; others were looted after France fell to the Nazis in 1940.

From 1927 to 1932, Claude obtained degrees in law and philosophy at the University of Paris, then taught in a local high school, the Lycée Janson de Sailly, where his fellow teachers included Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. He later became a professor of sociology at the French-founded University of São Paulo in Brazil...more...

11/2/09

Scripture in the Prayers of the Synagogue

It seems obvious to us that scriptural passages from the Tanakh should be cited liberally in the prayers of the synagogue. The Tanakh is replete with examples of prayer and praying.

There is a short book of collected essays on the subject that calls the process of using biblical verses in Jewish prayer "scripturalization". We call it citing and interspersing Tanakh passages into prayers.

Just to see how the verses of scripture are interspersed in the prayers more graphically for the Shaharit service (morning prayers) we put the references into a spread sheet.

Our columns are prayer name, page in Koren/Sacks Siddur, biblical (or occasional Talmudic) source, and comment (on whether or not it uses a full chapter).

In the cases listed - there is little to no distinction or demarcation between the rabbinic prayers and the earlier biblical passages. Some uses of scripture are obvious and stand out and some intermingling of verses is seamless and would not be recognized by the average reader without a reference to point it out.

The choice of what verses and chapters to use was not accidental. Accordingly they analysis of the materials tells us a great deal about the theology of the framers of the prayer services.

We also wanted to have handy a catalog of the explicit annual Torah and Prophetic readings in the synagogue. So we culled this table and put it out there as well. It is based on a yearly cycle that most Orthodox synagogues employ. Keep in mind that the triennial cycle of Torah readings was practiced until the middle ages.


The processes by which the prophetic materials were selected appear for many instances to be based on a straightforward thematic coherence with the Torah portion for the week. Beyond that, where selection is not based on obvious associative principles, by examining the selections we can learn something about the theological agenda of the later synagogue leaders who canonized the haftarot.

Was Leo Frank Jewish?



Yes, Leo Frank was a Jew. He was convicted of a murder and then lynched in Georgia by an angry anti-Semitic  mob in 1915.

The story will be dramatized on PBS TV show tonight.
Television Review
Reverberations of a Trial and Its Shocking Aftermath
By NEIL GENZLINGER

“This case has it all,” someone will often say about a particularly gruesome or scandalous court proceeding — the O. J. Simpson trial, for instance, or anything involving John Gotti Jr. But you won’t find a case with more “all” than the one nearly a century ago surrounding an Atlanta pencil factory superintendent named Leo Frank. It is mesmerizingly recreated and explored Monday on PBS in “The People v. Leo Frank,” a film by Ben Loeterman that even those already familiar with this ugly piece of history are likely to find unsettling. ...more...

11/1/09

Gawker and Radaronline.com: Nobody Shows up as Public Rejects Misuse of Religion by Celebrities Jon Gosselin and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

New Yorkers are remarkable people with a strong sense of propriety. That was proved tonight as our local people ignored an evening of confessions with Jon Gosselin and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

BREAKING NEWS: Jon Gosselin Changes Mind On Appearance; Sparse Crowd Shows Up

Jon Gosselin had a last minute change of heart and showed up for his confessional with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach at the West Side Jewish Center in New York Sunday night.

Gosselin's appearance was announced days ago but the Jon & Kate Plus 8 star got cold feet as the 7 PM Sunday start time approached and he almost didn't make it. He eventually did, looking nervous and more than 30 minutes late. He blamed the NYC Marathon traffic for his delay.

Maybe he shouldn't have bothered. The hall that had been booked for the event was only about one-quarter full, one eyewitness told RadarOnline.com. "And of that, there were about 75 media people there and only about 50 members of the paying public."

Tickets were advertised for $25 in advance or at the door, but with so few fans attending, they didn't even bother to collect at the door, the source said.

Gosselin spoke for more than an hour....
But wait. It gets worse. Gawker, not happy that people voted with their feet went out of its way to seriously disrespect the rabbi and his celeb. Really - have they no respect for the clergy?
Jon Gosselin's Public Shot at Forgiveness With Celebrity-Obsessed Rabbi Shmuley

"I feel guilty," Jon Gosselin laments to "America's Rabbi," Shmuley Boteach. Rabbi Shmuley talked to Jon on his bima about asking the world for forgiveness. We dispatched. Our Black Ops spy to the scene. One word: Wow. This is absurd.

Jon Gosselin is an incredible, oblivious ass, and this Rabbi is a ridiculous fameball crook.

Forget the fact that Gosselin—not Jewish—sought out a Magical Jew to help him sort out his problems, and forget the fact that this Rabbi, who was once a punchline on 30 Rock, who has nine children, who is a fame-mongering celebrity in his own right, embraced this with open arms. Just go to the game tape and you'll see. [Video - spy quality]

Gawker Black Ops video intern Sergio Hernandez, who went armed with $20 for admission and a FlipCam, described the scene as such:
Gosselin was 40 minutes late. A strange British woman who was inappropriately underdressed for a synagogue told us he was "stuck in traffic" and "delayed by the New York City marathon," and there was buzz that Gosselin had actually canceled his appearance. He did, eventually, show up to a stampede of paparazzi and entertainment cameras (by my count, at least Entertainment Tonight, Extra, TMZ, and FOX News were all there).

The event was, ostensibly, a discussion about the effect of fame and celebrity on religious and moral values. Jon opened by saying he wasn't a fameseeker and neither asked for nor invited his newfound celebrity (but nonetheless thanked the cameras in the room for showing up.)

Then Shmuley brought up Jon's divorce and basically tried to get him to blame his marital problems on fame and the pressure from TLC to draw in more ratings. Gosselin, for the most part, was pretty gracious about not villainizing Kate too much; he talked about going to therapy and learning about the mistakes he made during their marriage.

But Shmuley, who peppered the discussion with way too many smug, self-referential jokes, basically tried to excuse Jon's post-divorce, uh, behavior, with Kate's emasculation. Of course, you'd think if Shmuley and Gosselin hated all this attention so much, they might've, you know, not prostrated themselves in front of a few dozen cameras and charged $20 a person for it? But what would be the fun in losing out on that?

Especially interesting that Shmuley tried to paint TLC as the Bad People, because, you know, he's kinda been in bed with them before. And did they cancel Shalom In The Home? Well, it aired two seasons, and hasn't been on the air since 2007. So: you tell me. Again, a crook. Also: a misogynist, a snake-oil salesman, and a publicity whore. Come to think of it, that might be both of them. I'm not sure which behavior here begets the other, but whatever it is, wherever it comes from, this can't be good for The Kids, The Jews, and I don't know, Anybody Who's Ever Devoted Faith To Anything. This is really, really sad.

Video: Check Writer and Mega-Blowhard Michael Steinhardt Disrespects Jewish Leadership for Doing Gournisht


A highly flawed self-serving survey came out claiming a program called Birthright Israel which sends Jewish youth on free trips to Israel has diminished intermarriage.

Nonsense. The kids who elected to go on these trips already decided to affirm their Jewish identities by choosing to participate. The program's cohort is skewed from the get-go towards those youth who decided being Jewish is a high value. The program itself probably had little to  no measurable effect on these already decided committed young people.

About this softly articulated but strongly insulting video clip, Steven I. Weiss says, "Billionaire philanthropist Michael Steinhardt delivered a bold speech indicting Jewish leadership for not doing enough on Monday. The speech came at an event touting a study claiming Birthright Israel, which was founded in part by Steinhardt, has ... achieved quite a lot to combat intermarriage."

The notion that Birthright created change and nothing else matters is just baloney. Guys like Steinhardt want to feel good about the checks they wrote. Credible researchers are happy to oblige with studies that validate the expenditures and programs. Nobody faults a rich guy for wanting to feel good about his lucre at the end of his greedy life. Philanthropy can be a virtuous afterthought of a life of bullying and stepping all over weaker and more naive people.

What is going to change the appalling level of Jewish education in the non-Orthodox world Steinhardt asks? Simple. Get Jews to read more books every day. Taking a trip is a nice vacation and recreation and yes may be informative. But it ends and the youth go back and either they read books or they don't. Schools and courses and tedious hard study will alleviate ignorance.

Three minutes of saying, "I did something useful by writing a check and none of you guys do anything meaningful in your sustained careers," - well the only reasoned answer those Jewish professionals and academics can possibly have to that claim is, "Go to hell Steinhardt."

Video: The Jewish Channel Newsdesk Week in Review

These guys like Steven I. Weiss at TJC are doing a great job and getting better at it each week.