7/31/10

Mosque Boxing Match: Joe Klein (Time) v. Abe Foxman (ADL)

Joe Klein lands a hard series of knock-out punches on Abe Foxman's chin. Down he goes. Foxman will be down for the count.
The Defamation League
Posted by Joe Klein Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 8:16 am

The journey of the (Anti-)Defamation League from beacon of tolerance to slightly potty geyser of toxic foolishness continues apace. Two years ago, Abe Foxman--the ADL's very much over the hill president--accused me of anti-semitism for pointing out the Israel-first tendencies of more than a few neoconservatives, especially when it came to plumping for war with Iran (if you don't believe me, read anything--anything--that the goofy harridan Jennifer Rubin writes about Israel or President Obama over at the Commentary blog). Then, earlier this year, Foxman accused David Petraeus of being anti-Israel for making the indisputable point the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict doesn't make life any easier for US troops fighting in the region. And now Foxman has hit the jackpot, joining the intolerant know-nothings who are seeking to block the establishment of a mosque--actually an Islamic center-- near Ground Zero. The tragedy here is that the Islamic Center is precisely the sort of institution that the Anti-Defamation league traditionally supported:

7/29/10

Tikun Olam blogger under attack -- תקון עולם

Tikun Olam-תקון עולם blogger, Richard Silverstein, is under attack for disclosing classified Israeli information.
Tikun Olam Suffers DOS Attack After Exposing Former IDF Torturer - The gremlins were very unhappy with Yossi Gurvitz and me yesterday for exposing the identity of Doron Zahavi as the military intelligence agent...
We do not know all the details but we do know that (1) we are not related to the intelligence agent and (2) we find it objectionable that Silverstein is under attack.

The blog is unreachable at 10:30 PM, 7/29/2010.

Cool iPhone iPad App - Museum of Natural History

Gizmodo praises a cool new iPhone/ iPad app. It guides you around the museum, even helps you find a rest room.
...the American Museum of Natural History Explorer, an app for iPhones and iPod Touches which uses over 300 Wi-Fi hotspots to triangulate your position inside the museum—a feat of "indoor GPS" the museum claims is the first of its kind, and, if it's not, it's the most usable implementation of it I've come across—takes the stress out of finding the particular piece of history you're looking for. ..
Hat tip to Barak.

7/28/10

Is NBA Star Amar'e Stoudemire Jewish?

Yes, NBA star Amar'e Stoudemire is a Jew. JPost has the story [hat tip to Barak].
...The 28-year-old NBA superstar had announced his plans to come to Israel via Twitter on Tuesday as he was boarding his flight.

“This is going to be a great trip,” Stoudemire wrote on his Twitter feed, “@Amareisreal.”

“The holy land. Learn about it,” he wrote, adding, “ze ha’halom sheli” – Hebrew for “this is my dream.”

With the 2009-10 NBA season over, and a $100 million deal signed earlier this month with the Knicks, the 6-foot, 10-inch, 249-pound (208-centimeter, 113-kilo) athlete decided to visit.

“I don’t really consider myself to be a religious person, but rather a deeply spiritual individual,” Stoudemire told the Post.

“I have been aware since my youth that I am a Hebrew through my mother, and that is something that has played a subtle but important role in my development,” he went on.

“I have never hid my spiritual roots,” he said. “They just weren’t something that came under the spotlight.”

Stoudemire added that he had always channeled his spirituality through the way he played basketball.

“I am proud to be a Hebrew and embrace my Jewish background,” he said Told that his new status might give him more “street cred” in his new home – as New York has the largest Jewish population outside of Israel – Stoudemire laughed deeply and said, “I look forward to that.

This season is going to be great, and bonding with the New York fans is going to be special also.

“I’d like to thank all my fans in Israel and my supporters worldwide,” he added. “I plan on having a great vacation and learning a whole lot as well.”

Stoudemire’s Twitter announcement had both the sports and Jewish worlds abuzz on Wednesday, with news organizations and bloggers speculating as to what a Jewish Stoudemire might mean.

“#1 Jewish athlete of all time” was the most common online response to the news, although others expressed hope that Stoudemire would join his NBA colleague, small forward Omri Casspi – who plays for the Sacramento Kings – on the Israeli national basketball team....more...

7/26/10

Times: Does Film Director Oliver Stone Hate Jews? Is Oliver Stone Jewish?

Does director Oliver Stone hate Jews? Does he like Hitler? Who knows? We hope not. The man makes some awesome movies.

Is Oliver Stone Jewish? Here is how Wikipedia explains his religion, "[His] father was Jewish and his mother a Roman Catholic of French birth, and Stone was raised an Episcopalian as a compromise (but has since converted to Buddhism)." Isn't Hollywood grand?

A blog post at the Times (by BROOKS BARNES yet compiled by DAVE ITZKOFF whatever that means) sums up the current Oliver Stone imbroglio.
Oliver Stone found himself the catalyst of an online brush fire on Monday after he made comments published in The Sunday Times of London that were interpreted as anti-Semitic. In an interview with The Times to promote his documentary “South of the Border,” which is about South American politics, Mr. Stone defended Hitler. “Hitler was a Frankenstein, but there was also a Dr. Frankenstein,” he said. “German industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support. Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people.” Mr. Stone then proceeded to discuss what he called “the Jewish domination of the media,” adding with an expletive that Israel had messed up “United States foreign policy for years.” Bloggers quickly picked up on the comments, and the American Jewish Committee issued a news release condemning him. “By invoking this grotesque, toxic stereotype, Oliver Stone has outed himself as an anti-Semite,” the committee’s executive director, David Harris, said in the release. Mr. Stone, whose next Hollywood movie, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” will be released by 20th Century Fox on Sept. 24, has stirred controversy with his comments in this arena before. In January the director told a gathering of television critics that “Hitler is an easy scapegoat” while discussing his Showtime nonfiction mini-series, “Secret History of America.” At that time the Simon Wiesenthal Center harshly rebuked him for the remarks. A spokesman for Mr. Stone was not immediately available to comment. 

Are Burqas Kosher?

Are burqas kosher?

To us the notion is bizarre that some Jewish women would cover their faces with their garments, in imitation of some Muslim women.

According to the blog "A Mother in Israel" who cites the source "Hadrei Haredim" that is what is happening in some neighborhoods of greater Jerusalem in Israel in 2010 (in Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem and Elad).

We can't say that this is a trend. But wow, these anecdotal accounts ought to wake up some of our friends who deny that there is a culture war going on in Judaism, and that we need to make clear that this behavior is by no stretch of the imagination a valid expression of Judaism.

So no, burqas are not kosher. They are not benign expressions of modesty. Wearing a burqa is an outright antisocial misogynist action of another faith that is rejected in all forms of real Judaism.

7/25/10

WSJ Reports Return of Rev. Ted Haggard

We wonder why the Wall Street Journal sees fit to covering the return to the ministry of the disgraced preacher Rev. Ted Haggard, "Humbled Haggard Climbs Back in Pulpit" by Stephanie Simon. The Journal is not known for its coverage of the religion beat.

Recall with Ms. Simon who precisely is this Rev. Haggard:
... Mr. Haggard was forced to resign nearly four years ago as president of the politically powerful National Association of Evangelicals and to step down from the megachurch he founded, after admitting that he had bought methamphetamine from, and had a sexual encounter with, a gay prostitute.

Once one of the most prominent church leaders in the U.S., Mr. Haggard confessed in a tortured letter, calling himself "a deceiver and a liar" who had long wrestled with desires he described as "repulsive and dark." He signed a contract promising to follow a path laid out by fellow clergy: to find a new career in a new state and to stay away from pastoral work....
Now, why does the leading business newspaper see fit to follow this story? The obvious answer is that the WSJ sees religion as just another business. And this then is an uplifting story of a disgraced businessman rebounding from bankruptcy to reenter the world of commerce.

Only this would not happen in most business environments. If suddenly and inexplicably paroled, Bernard Madoff would never be permitted to climb back into the investment business. Yeah. Religion is different. No standards.

What bothers us most in the story is the way it accounts for dishonesty that continues in the Haggard story line. Instead of fessing up to major sins (repeated violations of the sexual code of his own church) and taking credit for serious repentance (and moving on), Haggard minimizes his waywardness (it was a single instance of a massage gone wrong) and proclaims that he "over-repented."

Okay then. We've read lots of theology books from Judaism, Christianity and the other religions of the world. Credit Rev. Ted with a brand new idea in religion. He sinned a little and then repented too much.

We ponder just how weak is the church leadership in Colorado Springs to allow this guy back into town. The article informs us that some wacko NY theologian defends Haggard thusly:
"He has a humility of spirit and a recognition of how gripping sin can be in a person's life," said Paul DeVries, president of New York Divinity School, an evangelical seminary in Manhattan.
What humility of spirit? No, now this lying fraud minimizes and denies his sins. You can't have it both ways - minimize and recognize. Unless honesty, logic and consistency are outside your theological worldview.

7/24/10

Was Ran Baratz Sacked by Hebrew U for his Right Wing Politics?

Ran Baratz appears to be an accomplished young philosopher with a PhD from Hebrew University. He was teaching there as an adjunct. He was not renewed.

This matter was first brought to our attention by Rabbi Jeffrey Woolf in an enigmatic Facebook posting on the situation.

We know that in the USA adjunct teaching employment is at-will. No reason need be given by a department for non-renewal. In most cases it is assumed that adjunct teaching is close-ended, not ongoing.

Now Baratz claims that he is a victim of persecution by Hebrew University due to his right wing politics. Richard Silverstein investigated the allegation and comments on his blog, Tikkun Olam.

Instant Talmudic Analysis: If Baratz is so desirable then the right wing Shalem College, where he holds a fellowship, should snap him up and hire him as a tenure track professor on the spot.

If this is a fake victim ploy by a non-renewed adjunct named Baratz, designed to try to make the liberal establishment look bad, then Baratz' career in academe is toast.

7/23/10

YouTube Video: Is the Ground Zero Mosque Kosher?


Some lunatics want to stop the building of an Islamic Community Center in downtown Manhattan. Those nutty Republicans are always looking for enemies.

Hat tip to the intelligent blog post at the New Yorker, Close Read, Live From Ground Zero, Posted by Amy Davidson.

We add that it's a great idea to have a Muslim building downtown.

Consider it an insurance policy against a future attack. So yes, we believe that the so-called Ground Zero Mosque is kosher.

New Yorker Cartoon: The Bris-A-mole Video Game

7/22/10

Times Magazine Jeffrey Rosen on Internet Gossip

The Times Magazine front page story next Sunday, "The Web Means the End of Forgetting" By JEFFREY ROSEN, cites the Talmud, as if a statement here or there in that large composite literature represents a core value accepted by all authorities.

We suppose it sounds nice to cite some ancient wisdom, but it sure does nothing for us to illuminate the issues he seeks to explore, namely how to remove personal information from the Internet.

We have no clue what were the "Talmudic villages" that Rosen talks about. We never heard the term before. Rosen invented the notion, filled in one or two ideas he gleaned from Talmudic sources as if they were practiced in his imaginary towns and went off on his merry way.

If that is indicative of the rest of his claims and information in this article, then it is a work of random imagination with no connection to any reality of past, present or future and no insight in what is a troubling trend in modern communications.
...FORGIVENESS
In addition to exposing less for the Web to forget, it might be helpful for us to explore new ways of living in a world that is slow to forgive. It’s sobering, now that we live in a world misleadingly called a “global village,” to think about privacy in actual, small villages long ago. In the villages described in the Babylonian Talmud, for example, any kind of gossip or tale-bearing about other people — oral or written, true or false, friendly or mean — was considered a terrible sin because small communities have long memories and every word spoken about other people was thought to ascend to the heavenly cloud. (The digital cloud has made this metaphor literal.) But the Talmudic villages were, in fact, far more humane and forgiving than our brutal global village, where much of the content on the Internet would meet the Talmudic definition of gossip: although the Talmudic sages believed that God reads our thoughts and records them in the book of life, they also believed that God erases the book for those who atone for their sins by asking forgiveness of those they have wronged. In the Talmud, people have an obligation not to remind others of their past misdeeds, on the assumption they may have atoned and grown spiritually from their mistakes. “If a man was a repentant [sinner],” the Talmud says, “one must not say to him, ‘Remember your former deeds.’ ”

Unlike God, however, the digital cloud rarely wipes our slates clean, and the keepers of the cloud today are sometimes less forgiving than their all-powerful divine predecessor....more...
PS Mr. Rosen, before you celebrate the enlightened values of your fictional Talmudic hamlets, try suppressing any bit of the gossip about the biblical figures of ancient Israel that spice up our sacred literature from Genesis to II Kings and beyond.

Was Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole Jewish?

No, the lyrical Hawaiian singer Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole, despite his name, was not a Jew.

IZ's recording with ukulele accompaniment of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World" is just one of the sweetest songs of all times. It reached #12 on Billboard's Hot Digital Tracks chart the week of January 31, 2004 and passed the 2 million paid downloads mark in the USA in September, 2009. It's well worth the 99 cents.

IZ died tragically at age 38. Wikipedia reports, "The Hawaii State Flag flew at half-staff on July 10, 1997, the day of Kamakawiwoʻole's funeral. His koa wood coffin lay in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu. He was the third person in Hawaiian history to be accorded this honor, and the only one who was not a government official."

7/20/10

Times: Frank Rich Says a Premature Kaddish for Mel Gibson

Not so fast Frank Rich. Don't go saying Kaddish for Mel Gibson.

Rich wrote on Sunday recalling how Mel got away with so much in another era long ago - namely in 2004 - when he released his film on Jesus.

Aside: We loved the idea of a hit Hollywood movie in Aramaic. And we hated the anti-Semitic overtones that it had - but that was not Mel's fault. Blame all that on the Gospels themselves.

Rich nostalgically opines in his op-ed, "The Good News About Mel Gibson" (ha-ha, clever title):
...It was into that tinderbox of America 2004 that Gibson tossed his self-financed and self-directed movie about the crucifixion, “The Passion of the Christ.” The epic was timed to detonate in the nation’s multiplexes on Ash Wednesday, after one of the longest and most divisive promotional campaigns in Hollywood history.

Gibson is in such disgrace today that it’s hard to fathom all the fuss he and his biblical epic engendered back then. The commotion began with the revelation that his father, Hutton, was a prominent and vociferous Holocaust denier and that both father and son were proselytizers for a splinter sect of Roman Catholicism that rejected the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, including the lifting of the “Christ-killers” libel from the Jews. Jewish leaders and writers understandably worried that “The Passion” might be as anti-Semitic as the Passion plays of old. Gibson’s response was to hold publicity screenings for the right-wing media and political establishment, including a select Washington soiree attended by notables like Peggy Noonan, Kate O’Beirne and Linda Chavez. (The only nominal Jew admitted was Matt Drudge.) The attendees then used their various pulpits to assure the world that the movie was divine — and certainly nothing that should trouble Jews. “I can report it is free of anti-Semitism,” vouchsafed Robert Novak after his “private viewing.”

Uninvited Jewish writers (like me) who kept raising questions about the unreleased film and its exclusionary rollout were vilified for crucifying poor Mel. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News asked a reporter from Variety “respectfully” if Gibson was being victimized because “the major media in Hollywood and a lot of the secular press is controlled by Jewish people.” Such was the ugly atmosphere of the time that these attempts at intimidation were remarkably successful. Many mainstream media organizations did puff pieces on the star or his film, lest they be labeled “anti-Christian” when an ascendant religious right was increasingly flexing its muscles in the corridors of power in Washington. ...more...
That was then, this is now. Rich believes that Gibson has been disgraced and that the right wing cadre that supported him have imploded and are no longer influential. Yisgadal viyisqadash...

As they say in Hebrew, "Haleveye" -- if only that were true. We hope it is....but...

Unfortunately, we feel around us the simmering heat of right wing anger ready to boil over or explode. And that is within the Jewish community vis a vis Obama and the current administration. We can but wonder what kind of lava is waiting to erupt from the Christian right and where all that will end up when the rumbling volcano of animosity does blow. Don't say Kaddish for Mel just yet.

Times: Cultural Study of the Sabbath


Judith Shulevitz wrote an article in the Cultural Studies series in the Times, "Creating Sabbath Peace Amid the Noise." We appreciate aspects of her book on the Sabbath, as we said in a prior post.

So nu, what's in this article? Two anecdotes about Jews who have their own ideas of the Sabbath, one from a Brooklyn Heights couple and one from a Persian Jew on the Upper West Side. Then for balance, Shulevitz appends two anecdotes about Christians who observe some sort of Sabbath. Voila, we have a "Cultural Study."

We are reminded that there actually are real cultural methods for analyzing and understanding the ideas and practices of the Sabbath. We served on a doctoral committee at the University of Minnesota for a thesis that applied leisure studies theory to the Jewish Sabbath and concluded that it was in large measure a deliberate and periodic re-creation of a wilderness experience within an urban culture. That was an actual "study" with references to a literature and theories.

As we suggested, Shulevitz has produced an essay that is mostly a faux study with charming anecdotage. That's too bad because her book has a whole lot more content and thoughtfulness (although intermixed with heavy doses of personal spiritual reflections). We find it discouraging that a writer apparently had to dumb down her presentation for the readers of the New York Times.

So here is a sample from the start.
THERE are people for whom the Sabbath never went away — Seventh-day Adventists, Hutterites, Jews whose fathers and mothers never stopped walking in the ways of their fathers and mothers.

And then there are the rest of us. The Sabbath, Jewish or Christian, is a distant memory for many Americans, the recollection of a quaintly tranquil day when stores were closed, streets were quiet and festive dinners were had. The Sabbath would seem to have no place in our busy, beeping world. The very word tastes musty in the mouth, as if it were a relic from another place and time...more...
We stop here since all this is problematic to begin with. The traditional Sabbath today is practiced as it was observed centuries ago. It is a relic-Sabbath -- and it is a relic from the past. Like a Renaissance Fair or Colonial Williamsburg, some people with no musty taste in their mouths do reenact the ancient Sabbath in modern times and that is the point of it all. But what then is the meaning of the original Sabbath?

We need a lot of work on this essay, Ms. Shulevitz. More accurate description would help it. And a layer of actual academic analysis based on real social and cultural theory would be nice. And yes, even a summary of Orthodox apologetics defending the reenactment of the Sabbath in today's world would help this article.

We do like the illustration that accompanies the article.

7/18/10

Is Chelsea Clinton Jewish?

Is Chelsea Clinton Jewish? Not yet, as far as we can tell, Chelsea is not yet a Jew.

The daughter of secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton is planning to marry a Jew, Marc Mezvinsky, on Saturday, July 31 (yes it is Shabbat, not usually a time for a Jewish wedding).

To us, Mr. Mezvinsky looks like a yeshiva bochur (student) in this picture from the Times.

It appears that the couple will wed in Rhinebeck, New York. We know the town well. Our mentor, Professor Jacob Neusner and his wife Suzanne live there. Jack teaches at Bard. We've visited the village many times. Most recently for a conference at Bard we stayed over at the Beekman Arms Inn. It's not as if there is much of a choice since it seems to be the only hotel in the town. The Times reports that the Inn is sold out for the 31st and recalls that Bill and Hillary ate there on August 12, 2008.

Even though they live nearby, we don't think Jack and Suzanne will be attending the wedding. Jack is a staunch Republican and was a supporter of George Bush. His son Noam worked in the White House for Bush as a speech writer. Be that as it may, Rhinebeck and the region as a whole is a pretty liberal area, quite a hospitable setting for the Clinton wedding.

The Sunday Styles section in the Times has an article By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and NATE SCHWEBER on the wedding plans. The operative paragraph for us at this blog is the following:
And, this being New York, the topic generating more speculation than any other is not the dress or the flowers, but religion: Mr. Mezvinsky is Jewish, raising questions about whether a rabbi will participate (likely) and whether Ms. Clinton, like her mother a practicing Methodist, will convert (unlikely).
Of course as an Orthodox rabbi (non-practicing), we are concerned with how this wedding will affect the future of the Jewish people and specifically the continued enrollment of Jewish children at Yeshivas and of Jewish families as members of Jewish congregations and as donors to Jewish charities etc, etc.

Meanwhile, we will be watching and will let you know what we find out, although surprisingly we still have yet to receive an invitation.

7/17/10

Times Op Ed: Rabbis Making War on Judaism

What a wonderful militant Judaism op-ed by Alana Newhouse in the Times, "The Diaspora Need Not Apply." It seems one could not put her case more forcefully, that radical right wing Orthodox should not be empowered to decide exclusively and restrictively who is a Jew. An example from her strident essay:
...On Monday, a Knesset committee approved a bill sponsored by David Rotem, a member of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, that would give the Orthodox rabbinate control of all conversions in Israel. If passed, this legislation would place authority over all Jewish births, marriages and deaths — and, through them, the fundamental questions of Jewish identity — in the hands of a small group of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, rabbis.

The move has set in motion a sectarian battle that is not only dividing Israeli society but threatening to sever the vital connection between Israel and the American Jewish diaspora.

The problem is not simply that some of these rabbinical functionaries, who are paid by the state and courted by politicians, are demonstrably corrupt... Rather, it is that the beliefs of a tiny minority of the world’s Jews are on the verge of becoming the Israeli government’s definition of Judaism, for all Jews....
Yet, we think she did not go far enough.

We think that the rabbis who are usurping the power to decide who is a Jew are actually engaging in a war on Judaism - the forms of Judaism that are more liberal, modern and welcoming than the type of religion that they represent. The rabbis in question have never recognized progressive Judaism as an authentic expression of the faith. Reform and Conservative Jews are members of legitimate religions, they will say with Talmudic smirks, but just not affiliated with any real forms of Judaism. Heh, heh.

Well, these guys are plainly waging war on their fellow Jews.

Or worse. These guys are making it hard for people to become Jews. These guys want fewer Jews in the world.

Reminds us of the ridiculous rhetoric of the intermarriage alarmists of our day and age. Intermarriage is a "spiritual Holocaust," they say. When in fact intermarriage was and is a statistical gain for the Jewish people.

New York magazine put the question, "Are American Jews Disappearing?" on its front cover in July of 1997. We will soon need a Kaddish for American Jews, we observed back then, if we were to believe Rabbis Ephraim Buchwald and Norman Lamm -- and a vocal cadre of their cohorts -- as quoted in that story. The soaring intermarriage rate will lead to the disappearance of our community they said thirteen years ago. It is a “spiritual holocaust.”

We are still shaking our heads so many years later at this egregious misuse of the Holocaust metaphor.

Well, to even the score, here is our retort. "Are Israeli Jews Disappearing?"

Yessir, youbetcha. The restrictive interpretation of "Who is a Jew" by the Orthodox rabbinic exclusivists in Israel will lead to the diminishing of our Israeli Jewish population, and a lessening of the Jewish population worldwide.

It is nothing short of a, "Jewish population Holocaust."

Wow, there, that feels good. We waited a long time to give that one back to those out-there meshuggenah Orthodox rabbinic rhetoricians.

TBR: Is it Kosher to Pray for the Health of an Atheist?

It may of may not be kosher to pray for the health of an atheist. It certainly is an ironic thing to think about. So this reminds us of a favorite song, "Isn't it ironic" by Alanis Morisette
It's like rain on your wedding day
It's a free ride when you've already paid
It's the good advice that you just didn't take
Who would've thought... it figures ...

Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out
Helping you out.
In the Times Book Review, "Don't pray on me" by Jennifer Schuessler:
When Christopher Hitchens announced recently that he would be undergoing chemotherapy for esophageal cancer, bloggers began debating whether it would be appropriate to pray for the famous atheist and author of “God Is Not Great.” “Hitchens MUST outlive Kissinger,” the British columnist Johann Hari wrote on Twitter, referring to the man Hitchens, in his memoir “Hitch-22” (No. 15 on the hardcover nonfiction list this week), calls a “liar, murderer, war criminal, pseudo-­academic” and — perhaps most unforgivably — “bore.” But Hari added: “I forbid everyone from praying for him. He would HATE that.” While Hitchens himself doesn’t seem to have issued any official directives, prayers have rolled in from Elizabeth Scalia (no relation to the Supreme Court justice) at First Things, Greg Kandra at The Deacon’s Bench and Pat Archbold at The National Catholic Register. (Pray, but “keep it to yourself,” one commenter advised Archbold. “He will know the difference when he converts.”)

Jeffrey Goldberg, a colleague of Hitchens’s at The Atlantic Monthly, consulted the rabbinical authorities and decided that prayer was O.K. On his blog, Goldberg quoted the advice of David Wolpe, a Los Angeles rabbi who has publicly debated Hitchens on a number of occasions: “I would say it is appropriate and even mandatory to do what one can for another who is sick; and if you believe that praying helps, to pray. It is in any case an expression of one’s deep hopes. So yes, I will pray for him, but I will not insult him by asking or implying that he should be grateful for my prayers.” Meanwhile, one commenter on The Times’s ArtsBeat blog came up with a nontheological solution. “The small, blue glowing matter in my brain is beaming quarks to your vital spirit,” one “Coldheart” from Kingston, N.Y., wrote to Hitchens, adding — perhaps in a nod to the prayermongers — “Protect yourself at all times.”

7/16/10

Time: Glenn Beck's War on Christianity (He's Not Jewish)

Time has turned its reporters loose to cover Glenn Beck's recent attacks on Christianity.

No, he is Mormon, not Jewish.

1. From Elizabeth Dias' story, "Glenn Beck's Latest Heresy"... “If you just tuned in, boy, this has got to be the weirdest damn episode you've ever heard on the Glenn Beck program,” Glenn Beck admitted late last night, as he took another shot at Christian social justice missions...

2. Follow up from Dias, "Faith-Based Group Fires Back at Glenn Beck":
One hundred thousand faithful Americans are telling Glenn Beck that enough is enough. This summer as Beck travels the United States solo and with Bill O'Reilly, Faithful America--a multi-faith justice organization--has rallied its members to push back against Beck's anti-Christian-social-justice message. When Beck makes stops in South Carolina, New York, New Jersey, and Washington D.C., the group's provocative new ad will follow his trail and challenge his words as “piecemeal gospel” on local Christian radio stations....

Instant Talmudic analysis:

As long as Beck stays on TV, all of this attention makes him richer. The only way he loses is if he is excommunicated from the communications industry. And as long as he brings eyeballs to FOX, he sells stuff for their advertisers. He wins. Organized religion and civil society loses. Thanks a lot FOX.

[We are seriously worried because we know someone sane who actually took his book on CD out from the library to find out why he is such a big best seller. OY VEY CUBED.]

7/15/10

Is the iPad Good for Academia?

Yes, the iPad is good for academia, says Alex Golub at Inside Higher Ed, and it has the Talmud (we don't know precisely what app he is talking about):
The iPad for Academics
By Alex Golub

Teachers and students have always been an important market for Apple — a fact made clear by the tremendous amount of spit and polish that went into the new education website the company recently unveiled. But honestly: What do Apple’s slickly produced promo videos of adorable multicultural elementary schoolers have to do with us? And just how relevant is their newly-released iPad for what we do? Do academics really need to shell out five hundred bucks for what is essentially a big iPod touch?

After having used an iPad shortly since its release I can safely say that the device — or another one like it — deserves to become an important part of the academic’s arsenal of gadgets. Choosing to plop down the money for an iPad is like Ingrid Bergman’s regret over leaving Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart. You will do it: not today, not tomorrow, but soon — and for the rest of your life.

At base the iPad is an anything box that replaces a seemingly endless plethora of other things you already own: It's a TV, a radio, an MP3 player, a compass, a flashlight, a level, a deck of cards, a calculator, a photo album, an alarm clock, a Bible, the Talmud (yes, the Talmud has been ported to the iPad)... the list goes on and on...more...

Beyond Belief: (Times) Vatican Rules Equate Pedophilia and Ordaining Women

Our new category is "Beyond Belief" which will be reserved for especially heinous violations by organized religions of the canons of reason and requisites of fairness.

After an Orthodox Jewish rabbi declared the ordination of women as rabbis a capital offense in April, we thought we had reached the low point in religious discourse and reasoning for this year. But no. The Catholic Church is not sloughing off in the race to the misogyny of the middle ages.

Here then is our first post in the new category, a report in the Times that the Vatican Rules Equate Pedophilia and Ordaining Women. The Times links to the actual publication at the Vatican of new internal rules:
Art. 5

The more grave delict of the attempted sacred ordination of a woman is also reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

1° With due regard for can. 1378 of the Code of Canon Law, both the one who attempts to confer sacred ordination on a woman, and she who attempts to receive sacred ordination, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.

2° If the one attempting to confer sacred ordination, or the woman who attempts to receive sacred ordination, is a member of the Christian faithful subject to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, with due regard for can. 1443 of that Code, he or she is to be punished by major excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.

3° If the guilty party is a cleric he may be punished by dismissal or deposition[31].

Art. 6

§ 1. The more grave delicts against morals which are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are:

1° the delict against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue committed by a cleric with a minor below the age of eighteen years; in this case, a person who habitually lacks the use of reason is to be considered equivalent to a minor.

2° the acquisition, possession, or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors under the age of fourteen, for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology;

§ 2. A cleric who commits the delicts mentioned above in § 1 is to be punished according to the gravity of his crime, not excluding dismissal or deposition. ...more...

Jewish Apps We Wish We Had

David Pogue, the Times tech guru, has a clever article today on the apps that people wish that they had for the Apple iPhone - iPad, "Apps We Wish We Had."

We wondered what Jewish apps do we wish we had?

How about "Is it Kosher?" - you point your iPhone camera at a food and it tells you if it is approved by the rabbis, which rabbi etc. Or how about "Shuckle-meter" to alert you if you are swaying back and forth too vigorously during davening (prayer). Or "Are they Jewish?" - point the phone at someone's face (what did you think?) and they check a database...

Any other ideas? Use the comments or email us....

7/13/10

The most breathtaking swimming pool in the world opens in Singapore


See the report here:
...the infinity pool seems to end in a sheer drop, it actually spills into a catchment area where it is pumped back into the main pool. At three times the length of an Olympic pool and 650ft up, it is the largest outdoor pool in the world at that height.

It features in the impressive, boat-shaped 'SkyPark' perched atop the three towers that make up the world's most expensive hotel, the £4billion Marina Bay Sands development in Singapore.

Was George Steinbrenner Jewish?

No, George Steinbrenner was not a Jew. The colorful former owner of the New York Yankees passed away today at the age of 80. He was a Christian, and apparently his children are Methodist.

There actually is a web site, Is George Steinbrenner Jewish? which asks and answers the question and takes up various and sundry Jewish baseball issues (and now needs to be renamed.)

Jewish actor Billy Crystal in 2008 wrote this about Steinbrenner in the Times:
...I was on my way to Game 4 of the 2001 Series, Yankees vs. Diamondbacks, when my mother had a stroke.

The doctors at the hospital told us to go home, not to exhaust her as she strained to make sense of what had happened. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. How can you be, when your mother isn’t sure who you are? I am not a religious man, though I love my religion. Praying doesn’t come easily to me.

I went to the Stadium that afternoon because it made sense. I went to the area where we sat that day in 1956.

Alone among the 55,000 seats, I prayed. I sat there saying to myself, “Dad, if you’re here, help me get through this.” Mr. Steinbrenner saw me. He was the first one I told about her illness. A few moments later, he handed me an autographed team ball. “Give this to her from me.” Joe Torre personalized one to her as well. She passed away a week later.

George had Bob Sheppard recite her name on Old Timers’ Day as a member of the Yankee family who had left us. It sounded as if God himself announced her name in heaven. Our entire family were George’s guests that day. We will never forget him for that....more...

The Cynical Coverups of the Corrupt Curers

The average citizen ought to recognize by now simply by reading the news that the cynicism of a corrupt organization is beyond morality in ways that it is difficult to measure and hard to imagine.

We juxtapose two especially depressing stories of long-term ongoing and persistent evil.

For some details of how a curer covered up bad data, see "Diabetes Drug Maker Hid Test Data on Risks, Files Indicate," by GARDINER HARRIS, "The drug giant SmithKline Beecham found in a study as early as 1999 that its diabetes medicine, Avandia, posed risks to the heart, but it never made the information public."

This cover up of data may not be a crime. Selling drugs that can cause heart problems may be legal. But the behavior described in the Times is cynical and self-serving, certainly unethical and immoral.

The Times also reports worse behavior in the unfolding child abuse scandals of the Catholic church, "Abuse Took Years to Ignite Belgian Clergy Inquiry," by DOREEN CARVAJAL and STEPHEN CASTLE.

The church purports to cure people of sin and to bring its members redemption. Surely the acts that this organization covered up were illegal, perverted and abominable.

We grew up wanting to believe the Hollywood version of corruption and evil. In that worldview the gangsters were identifiable and distinct. They belonged to the mob or the mafia or the cosa nostra. When Michael Corleone for instance in the classic film The Godfather stood in church at his child's baptism while his henchmen carried out violent acts of revenge against other mobsters, we were supposed to sense the contrast of the evil gangster in the midst of the purity of the church.

Now every day we uncover in the media how drug companies whose missions are to cure disease and churches whose missions are to cure sin -- how these institutions are corrupt in their essence and cynical in their action.

All this reminds us of a biblical verse that describes the state of affairs in the world before the great flood: "Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence (Genesis 6:11)."

7/11/10

The Mah-Jongg (mainly Jewish) Tradition in Atlantic Beach

During our summers growing up in Atlantic Beach, we used to watch with an odd fascination from afar as the ladies played the mysterious game of mah-jongg all day long. Now the next generation carries on the tradition and the Times takes note and even tries to explain.
At These Cabanas, ‘The Tiles That Bind’
By JOSEPH BERGER
ATLANTIC BEACH, N.Y.
Summer Rituals
A weekly series on what makes summer summer for people in and around New York.

ON a blazing afternoon, the Silver Point Beach Club was as indolent as molasses, with some sun worshipers stretched out coma-like on lounge chairs and others, slightly more upright in lawn chairs, dipping drowsily into the latest romance novel. The only sounds were the snap of flags in a muscular ocean breeze, a seagull’s haunting cry and the din of the surf.

But then came some more-exotic noises.

“Two bam!”

“Two crak!”

“Four dot!”

It was the sound of mah-jongg, a call that, for some New Yorkers, is as redolent of summers past as a mint julep on the veranda is for Mississippians. At Catskills bungalows and the Rockaway and Brighton Beach shore, the sharp but soothing clack of mah-jongg tiles has been heard since the 1920s, when this Chinese parlor game first began to fascinate Jewish women.

At Silver Point, an unpretentious collection of hundreds of cabanas and lockers set along the Atlantic shore, five women — Joyce Cohen, Cora Sue Kaufman, Lonnie Parker, Susan Mingelgreen and Laurie Sheinberg — play throughout the summer. The women, most of whom are retired teachers from the Five Towns area of Nassau County, clack their tiles during the rest of the year as well. But summertime lends a special flavor to mah-jongg, with the baking sun, the sweet smell of tanning lotion and the brine-seasoned air...more...

The Islamists and the Nazis

Paul Berman opines eloquently  in the WSJ about the Nazi influence on Isalmist antiSemitism. (Hat tip to David S.)
What You Can't Say About Islamism
American intellectuals won't face up to Muslim radicalism's Nazi past.
By PAUL BERMAN

In our present Age of the Zipped Lip, you are supposed to avoid making any of the following inconvenient observations about the history and doctrines of the Islamist movement:

You are not supposed to observe that Islamism is a modern, instead of an ancient, political tendency, which arose in a spirit of fraternal harmony with the fascists of Europe in the 1930s and '40s.

You are not supposed to point out that Nazi inspirations have visibly taken root among present-day Islamists, notably in regard to the demonic nature of Jewish conspiracies and the virtues of genocide.

And you are not supposed to mention that, by inducing a variety of journalists and intellectuals to maintain a discreet and respectful silence on these awkward matters, the Islamist preachers and ideologues have succeeded in imposing on the rest of us their own categories of analysis.

Or so I have argued in my recent book, "The Flight of the Intellectuals." But am I right? I glance with pleasure at some harsh reviews, convinced that here, in the worst of them, is my best confirmation.

No one disputes that the Nazis collaborated with several Islamist leaders. Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, orated over Radio Berlin to the Middle East. The mufti's strongest supporter in the region was Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Banna, too, spoke well of Hitler...more...

7/10/10

Forward: Lebron James Moves from One Jewish Owned Team to Another

Thank you to the blog at the Forward for making this clear:

"The Heat’s owner is Mickey Arison, an Israeli-born billionaire. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner, Dan Gilbert, is a Jewish-American mortgage magnate (he owns Quicken) who sent Cavs fans an epic letter last night promising to win a championship before LeBron does. He won’t, but you should be rooting for him to."

We talked around the shabbos table today about whether Gilbert was crazy for writing that letter. Yes we said, crazy like a fox. He deliberately is turning the NBA into a pro-wrestling-like-circus, promising a smackdown, and his strategy will undoubtedly magnify ticket sales and increase league revenue. We love it.

7/8/10

Is the NBA Miami Heat's Lebron James Jewish?

No, as far as we can tell Lebron James basketball superstar of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and now of the Miami Heat, is not a Jew. He was the NBA's Most Valuable Player this in 2009!

Yes, Lebron is going to Miami! And Lebron may be a Talmudist!

According to Time Magazine he is a fan of the Talmud. He nominates a businessman from Ohio for the TIME 100 list thusly:
LeBron James
The NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist is a past TIME 100 honoree
Jay Schottenstein, an Ohio business leader and philanthropist, has supported the translation and elucidation of the Talmud Bavli into English, Hebrew and French. The Schottenstein Edition of the Talmud is now utilized by more than 2 million people worldwide.
Never mind that the he uses the mysterious "elucidation" word instead of the more normal "commentary." And never mind that there is no way that they have sold 2 million copies of the Schottenstein Talmud. And mind you not that the fancy-bound book set is "utilized" by many Orthodox Jews mainly as an enhancement to the interior decoration of the bookshelves in their dens. And never mind that both the Life in Israel blog and Beliefnet have no idea why LeBron mentions the rich Jewish guy.

We have some theories, none conclusive, about why LeBron nominated Jay. You can rest assured that as soon as we solve this first rate mystery, we will let you know.

Meanwhile here is an update from the Sports by Brooks blog (warning - not very sophisticated):
It’s probably not likely that LeBron is ready to convert. At least not now, since he does have playoff preparations to worry about. Still, it’s interesting to wonder what changes would happen if King James joined the chosen people.
The Cavs’ in-game dances would exclusively feature the Horah. And concessions at Quicken Loans Arena would start serving Manischewitz wine. And instead of “Charge!”, the jumbotron would encourage fans to shout “L’Chaim!”
[repost from 5/4/09]

Times: Why does Peter Applebome hate Teaneck?

Sigh? We'd like to know two things. First why does this writer hate Teaneck? He tries so hard to find the cloud for this silver lining.

Second, what kind of a mayor do we have? He turns down an opportunity to be interviewed by the Times! No guts, no glory!
Brotherhood and Politics, Consorting!
By PETER APPLEBOME
TEANECK, N.J.

You’d like to think there’s just a feel-good story in the unlikely selection of Mohammed Hameeduddin as mayor of this diverse Bergen County town that is increasingly a stronghold of Orthodox Jews.

And, on balance, that’s probably the bottom line: a Muslim, who first got involved in local politics when his mosque was planning to expand, was picked by his fellow town council members, 5-to-2, as the town’s new mayor on July 1.

7/5/10

Gone Sailing

 
Yes it was hot out but it was a holiday weekend and our friends have a J24 sailboat and we just had to go out sailing on the Hudson River.

7/3/10

Some Democrats Get More Religion, Some Egyptians Want Less

Seems as if the Times is the best religion newspaper around this weekend.

Two more items:

Charles Blow, "Rise of the Religious Left," says:
According to a Gallup report issued last Friday, church attendance among blacks is exactly the same as among conservatives and among Republicans. Hispanics closely follow. Furthermore, a February Gallup report found that blacks and Hispanics, respectively, were the most likely to say that religion was an important part of their daily lives. In fact, on the Jesus question, nonwhite Democrats were roughly twice as likely as white Democrats to believe that He would return to earth by 2050...more...
And an article about secularism in Egypt, "Ismail Serageldin Seeks an Arab Age of Reason" by MICHAEL SLACKMAN, explains, "Ismail Serageldin, who directs the successor to the library of Alexandria, uses his position to counter what he calls 'pseudoreligious fanaticism.'”

Oy Vey: Evangelical Christians Buy the Beliefnet Internet Site

We are sad to see this happen. Beliefnet was a progressive and pluralistic enterprise. The Times reports:
On June 25, Mr. Murdoch’s News Corporation sold the pioneering religion Web site to the owners of Affinity4, a company run by evangelical Christians and, according to its Web site, is dedicated to “the sanctity of the family.” It is another owner and another incarnation for Beliefnet, an online magazine that has survived since 1999 by nurturing every aspect of our conflicted spirituality....more...

Hey Times, Are the iPhone iPad Religion and Atheism Apps Any Good?

The Times has a page one article on iPhone (work on iPad too) Religion and Atheism Apps.

It's more a piece about the culture wars in general with a hook into several iPhone apps. The apps appear from the descriptions and reviews on iTunes, to be electronic flash card files on the subject with nothing much creative in either the content or the presentation. But you won't read about whether they are good or bad apps in the Times.

Not a very good page one story.

To see a really fine presentation of content on the iPad, try out the free sample Wired Magazine app.

You say Bikini and We say Burqini


Muslims on the beach in Australia taking part in an outreach program called On the Same Wave, which started a year ago.

Two Orthodox Jewish women were seen swimming laps at the TSC last week in long dresses. That reminded us to repost this article.

Leave it to the Australians to invent the burqini. A young muslim woman became a Surf Life Saver. The Times reports, Australian Muslims Go for Surf, Lifesaving and Burqinis:
For her and other women, the biggest obstacle, she explained, was what they would wear. That was solved by a local fashion entrepreneur, Aheda Zanetti, who designs “dynamic swimwear and sportswear for today’s Muslim female.”

For Surf Life Savers, Ms. Zanetti, whose label is Ahiida, came up with a two-piece outfit made of spandex, form-fitting but fully covering, even the hair. Ms. Laalaa pulls her hair back into a bun and hides it under a bright red hood that is an extension of the long-sleeved yellow top...
[repost from 3/9/07]

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Must Apologize to America on the Fourth of July

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach calls himself America's Rabbi and is noted as by Newsweek as the sixth most influential rabbi in America. The rabbi is full of moral advice for everybody of note from celebrities like the late Michael Jackson and Britney Spears to politicians and to pundits like Tom Friedman of the New York Times in the case in point.

Boteach has just now mounted one of his highest horses to preach to Friedman about Israel. He demands that Tom apologize for making comments critical of Israeli actions and policies. He call Friedman's recent article ("War, Timeout, War, Time ...") a slander and a "blood libel" against Israel -- quite an terrible accusation if you understand Jewish history.

Boteach's accusations against Friedman are way off base. Tom is a great friend of Israel, a supporter of Zionism, a graduate of the Minneapolis Talmud Torah and a fine, upstanding and proud Jew.

He needs to apologize for nothing. He has not slandered Israel or done anything untoward. He expressed an opinion on the editorial page of the Times. Rabbi Boteach apparently does not understand what slander is. It's hard to convince us that an essay heavy in rhetoric and labeled opinion can ever be mistaken for an act of slander.

Be that as it may, in the refutation of Friedman, the rabbi first appears to say that Israel did not perform wrong acts, but even if they did kill civilians, it's meager compared to what the US did in its wars.

So on this patriotic weekend, wherein we celebrate the great nation of America, Rabbi Boteach decided to go off on a tirade including this:
Want to talk about brutal? In Operation Gomorrah of July 1943, the U.S. Air Force and Britain's Royal Air Force carpet-bombed Hamburg, killing some 50,000 civilians and practically destroying the entire city. The bombing created a whirling updraft of super-heated air, bringing about a 1,500-foot-high tornado of fire that incinerated thousands of civilian noncombatants.

In February 1945, when Hitler and Germany were headed to certain defeat, the U.S. Air Force and the RAF sent 1,300 heavy bombers over Dresden, dropping 3,900 tons of high explosives that destroyed nearly the entire city center and killed approximately 250,000 civilians. Six months later, on Aug. 6 and 9, President Truman ordered the atomic destruction of two Japanese cities, killing 90,000 to 166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000 to 80,000 in Nagasaki.
This course of action was praiseworthy for our leaders to follow, according to Boteach because, "...they had to make a terrible choice between the lives of their own countrymen and those of the civilians of enemies sworn to the destruction of Western democracy."

Now, we don't think you can slander in an op-ed. But you sure can act in bad taste. And to rub in our American faces the accusation, "Want to talk about brutal?" and to rehearse the mass civilian slaughter that came about by US actions, and to do this on our most patriotic holiday, that is truly tasteless, a breach of good manners, a travesty of civics and an all-around a badly timed and poorly executed act.

America demands an apology from America's titular rabbi.

[PS: We could easily argue that Israel benefits when it is accused of brutality. That sort of reputation intimidates Israel's enemies. And the IDF ought to thank Friedman for bolstering their tough reputation. So we don't follow any part of the Rabbi's thinking.] [Hat to to David S.]

7/1/10

Teaneck Has a Muslim Mayor - Mohammed Hameeduddin

From Ruthie Levy via Mimi:

Teaneck has elected a Muslim Mayor - Mohammed Hameeduddin.

The new deputy mayor is an Orthodox Jew, Adam Gussen.

We wish them the best.