8/31/10

Is Gmail's Priority Inbox Kosher?

Yes, Gmail in general is kosher because it is so good at eliminating spam.

And we all know that spam is not kosher. The actual product Spam was a canned meat made largely from pork invented in Minnesota by Hormel Foods. We used to pass by the Hormel factory where they processed Spam when we went out golfing in Austin MN, home of the Spam museum and the headquarters of Hormel.

According to historians of the Internet, junk mail became known as spam because of a deliberate association with a 1970 Monty Python sketch about a cafe where every dish had spam in it.

Now, Gmail has become glatt kosher (a higher level) because it has launched a priority inbox filter which separates Bacn from your more important emails. Bacn is per Wikipedia, "Email which has been subscribed to and is therefore not unsolicited, but is often not read by the recipient for a long period of time, if at all. Bacn has been described as 'email you want but not right now.'" As Google tells us:
Gmail has always been pretty good at filtering junk mail into the “spam” folder. But today, in addition to spam, people get a lot of mail that isn't outright junk but isn't very important—bologna, or “bacn.” So we've evolved Gmail's filter to address this problem and extended it to not only classify outright spam, but also to help users separate this "bologna" from the important stuff. In a way, Priority Inbox is like your personal assistant, helping you focus on the messages that matter without requiring you to set up complex rules.
See the Gmail blog post here for more details. It's rolling out now. More help here.

This feature has passed our rigorous inspection and now has our official rabbinic certification as "Kosher."

8/30/10

Is Golf Jewish?

No, according to a recent article in the New Yorker (John McPhee, The Sporting Scene, “Linksland and Bottle,” The New Yorker, September 6, 2010, p. 47), golf is not Jewish, it is Presbyterian.
On the second day of play at the Open, Jerris and the writer walked the course with David Hamilton, who lives in St. Andrews and is a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. Hamilton mentioned certain “Presbyterian features” of the course—the Valley of Sin, the Pulpit Bunker, the bunker name Hell—pointing them out...more...

Watching Golf and Tennis

In the past two days we got to attend the Barclay's PGA Golf event in Paramus and the US Open Tennis competition in Flushing.

Both are remarkable spectator sport events. We were struck by what seemed to be a light spectator turnout at the golf match, and what appeared to be a heavy attendance at the tennis matches.

The energy at both venues was electrifying - sports at its finest and the business of sports entertainment and marketing at its most professional.

In case you are wondering, Maria Sharapova is not Jewish. Shahar Peer of Israel (16th seed) is Jewish, and she won her match today.

8/29/10

Is Glenn Beck a Christian?

No, Glenn Beck is not a Christian. He is a Mormon.

Mormons, like commentator Glenn Beck and politician Mitt Romney, are not Christians.

For sources of varying authority on this question see: here, here, here and for the rest, here.

It is fair to clarify this black-and-white fact about Mr. Beck because he has been raising all sorts of antagonistic questions about President Obama's religion. He held a rally this weekend that was framed as a religious event, when in fact all it did was inject religion into our public political rhetoric as a means of fostering a sugar-coated patently white racist agenda.
After Washington rally, Beck assails Obama's religion
Conservative commentator Glenn Beck voiced sharper criticism of President Obama's religious beliefs Sunday than he and other speakers offered from the podium of the rally Beck organized at the Lincoln Memorial a day earlier.

By Felicia Sonmez

WASHINGTON — Conservative commentator Glenn Beck voiced sharper criticism of President Obama's religious beliefs Sunday than he and other speakers offered from the podium of the rally Beck organized at the Lincoln Memorial a day earlier.

During an interview on "Fox News Sunday," which was filmed after Saturday's rally, Beck claimed that Obama "is a guy who understands the world through liberation theology, which is oppressor and victim."

"People aren't recognizing his version of Christianity," Beck added...more...
... and see this rather scathing take down of Mr. Beck by Mr. Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
I Have a Scheme
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Beck himself recognizes that most Christians do not accept him as a Christian. See the tough Chris Wallace interview of Beck on Fox.

8/24/10

The iPad gets Religion

A nice summary article from by Nick Santilli of Gigaom, the Apple Blog, on religion apps for the iPad....


 
Some of the religious apps are audio-based, while others provide brief moments (“thought of the day” style) of inspiration. There are the standard works for reading, as well as full-on study aids to really dig in deep. There are even some religious-themed comic books, if that’s more to your taste. Of course, these various options are used at the whim of individual developers, so not all features and delivery methods are available in every religion.

Audio

Covering both hymns and music, as well as readings of the texts and talks, there are some good choices for those who want to use the iPad speakers (or headphones):

Quick Inspiration

Days are busy, but if you want a quick bit of inspiration before you start your day, these apps should deliver:

Standard Books

If you’re just looking to read the Good Word on your iPad, these apps are probably a good place to start:
Serious Study
With lots of great features, these iPad apps should get you kick-started for some serious religious study:
There are likely other great apps for serious study for other religions, but as they lie outside my own personal purview. I decided it’s best left to devotees of those faiths to suggest their own in the comments.
Obviously there are many, many more app choices out there. Using the iPad as a platform for religious study means more than just reading the printed (or in this case, digital) word. Many offer online syncing of bookmarks, additional resource downloads, highlighting/note taking, audio passages, and even group study tools. So take your time in perusing the many options to find out which app’s features best suit your needs.
As an interesting aside, I’m seeing more and more iPads appearing at my own worship services on Sundays. The portability and flexibility of the device obviously allows for ease of planning, administration, study, and note taking: all of which fit the bill for many attending church services. I’ve even seen the iPad being used for Sunday School lessons and presentations. The versatility of Apple’s latest device is certainly finding a home in nearly every facet of people’s’ lives.

Is Hebrew Jewish?

Yes indeed, Hebrew is Jewish.

The Times declared a few months ago that the time has come for The Web Way to Learn a Language (article by ERIC A. TAUB).

The sites that the Times recommends offer instruction in many languages, including modern Hebrew.

These three "Introduction to Classical Hebrew"
courses linked here are our own independent study courses in Biblical Hebrew. You can download them for free.

We based these courses on
Kittel, et. al., Biblical Hebrew, first edition. The book has since then been published in a second edition.

These are originally university level courses and they now are available to anyone who wants to study the language of the Hebrew Scriptures, men and women, young and old, laypeople, ministers, seminary and yeshiva students.

Here are the links to our course materials and other relevant background materials:

Independent Study Courses (PDF)

Introduction to Judaism
Introduction to Classical Hebrew 1104
Introduction to Classical Hebrew 1105
Introduction to Classical Hebrew 1106

Texts

The Beruriah Traditions

Syllabi

Jewish Studies Network H-Judaic Syllabi
Teaching Mishnah, Midrash and Talmud at the University


PowerPoint Lecture
The Pharisees

8/22/10

Times Video and Reviews: Laughter Yoga, Zionist Beginnings, Christianity Clashes With Islam


We don't know what this is all about, but we like it!

On more serious notes, no laughter here, we know what these are about and they look good!

‘The Balfour Declaration’ By JONATHAN SCHNEER Reviewed by TOM SEGEV- A comprehensive study of the British government’s decision to support Zionism. Excerpt

‘The Tenth Parallel’ By ELIZA GRISWOLD Reviewed by LINDA ROBINSON - A fascinating journey along the latitude line in Africa and Asia where Christianity and Islam often meet and clash.

8/20/10

Times Debate: When Should a Professor Retire?

tenureThe Times has an online feature called, "Room for Debate." One topic this week was particularly incisive, about aging professors who won't retire.

Especially in an era of downward economic contraction, it is imperative to the health of a society that older employees in all professions retire in a timely manner to make room for the next generation of workers.

Here is how the Times frames this debate. It's worth a read through all seven contributions and the comments to them.

The Professors Who Won't Retire

If tenured professors are retiring later, with some working well into their 70's and beyond, does that block the career paths of their brilliant young students? A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education examined the effects of the aging professoriat, and quoted administrators who said that turnover was crucial to hiring new professors. A TIAA-CREF faculty survey found that nearly one-third of the professors polled said that they expected to work until at least 70, compared with about a quarter of American employees generally.

While professors of any age despair at the limited opportunities for their students, do they see themselves as influencing this tight market? Are they? What are other factors involved?

Is Barack Obama Jewish?

Yes, we believe that President Barack Obama is a Jew.

People widely erroneously believe that Obama is either a Christian or a Muslim.

It is a little known fact that he is Jewish, but we have our evidence.

First off, here is the latest picture of him from Politico. It's obvious to us that Barack is saying the core Jewish Shema prayer, covering his eyes in the traditional pious manner to enhance his concentration.

We've seen pictures of Barack in Israel wearing a yarmulka. He's appointed Jews to his White House staff (e.g., Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod). He's appointed a Jew to the Supreme Courl (Elana Kagan). His wife's cousin is a rabbi. And of course, he has a Jewish (biblical) name. We have our own fine Jewish son named Barak (without the "c").

Since becoming president, Politico reports that Obama has yet to visit a Mosque and that he rarely goes to Church.

Politico's report about Obama's religion concludes,
Some analysts say the mistaken views about Obama aren’t shocking because the American public has long been susceptible to inaccurate views that are hard to dispel. In 2003, for example, close to 70 percent of Americans believed that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks, even though no proof of such a link has ever been found.

Begala said the White House should keeps its eye on issues most of concern to voters, like the economy, and not spend a lot of time fretting over inaccurate beliefs about the president.

“I don't think Americans would care if he were a Druid, so long as we were creating jobs. It is still the economy, stupid,” Begala said.
Accordingly, we don't care what other Americans believe. We know that Obama is Jewish.

8/19/10

Is Fareed Zakaria Jewish?

No, the celebrity public intellectual Fareed Zakaria in not a Jew.

The Times reports that he has become an editor at Time Magazine and gives a few salient biographical details at the end of their profile.
...Born into a Muslim family in Mumbai, India, Mr. Zakaria received a secular education and has been a centrist voice in a period of extensive debate over Western attitudes and policies toward the Muslim world. After the attacks of Sept. 11, Mr. Zakaria published an influential essay titled “Why They Hate Us.”

This month, Mr. Zakaria returned a First Amendment award presented to him five years ago by the Anti-Defamation League, citing the group’s opposition to a community center including a prayer room that is set to be built two blocks away from ground zero, the site of the World Trade Center attack.

In a letter that accompanied the decision, he said that he could not “in good conscience hold onto the award.”
Good luck in your new job, Fareed.

Where Should God Live? Navigating the GZM Park51 Minefield

Telling God where to live? Can you say Lose-Lose?

Everybody who touches this issue of the Ground Zero Mosque, Park51 project seems to be losing something.

In the Times, Maureen Dowd ("Our Mosque Madness") says President Obama fumbled this political football.

In Time Magazine, Michael Scherer reports that, "Grover Norquist Says Mosque Controversy Is Bad For Republicans."

Wait. We thought this issue was a boon for the Republicans. Looks like they fumbled too. Must mention that Norquist invokes an incisive article by our friend Jonathan Sarna:
Over the long term, Norquist also sees danger for Republicans not just among Muslim voters, but among other religious groups as well. “Religious minorities all go, ‘I get it. This means me too,'” he said. He pointed to a recent story in the Jewish newspaper The Forward, called “When Shuls Were Banned in America,” which draws connections between the current mosque controversy and New York's history of antisemitism.

“Long term, you could do to the Muslim vote and every other religious minority what Republicans did to the Catholic vote in ‘Rum Romanism and Rebellion,'” Norquist added, using a phrase uttered at a speech attended by Republican presidential candidate James Blaine in 1884, which arguably cost him victory in that election, by alienating Catholic voters.
Ya know what we think? This issue is a hot grenade. Like every issue that mixes together the volatile ingredients of religion and patriotism.

But this one is much more explosive. It's an argument about whether we ought to tell God not to live on this block. In our pluralistic society we agree to respect each other's religions. So we agree that a mosque is God's house.

Telling God where to live or not to live -- that's just an all-around bad idea.

8/17/10

Video: Can Rebbes be Rockstars? (a la Nickelback)

This Yiddish music video -- Ich vil zain a Rebbe -- is not an entertainment music video. The artists who made this video spent a great deal of effort to convey a satirical message. Sure satirizing the lifestyle of the rich and famous is not a new theme, and this effort could be dismissed as a Nickelback knockoff.

Yet this application of satire and music to rebbeim with nuance and detail is at once masterful and unnerving.




More on - the controversy over this video....... /reposted from 11/08/

8/16/10

iPad Si, Netbook No

In April we got our iPad. The next day we put our two Dell netbooks up for sale on ebay. We had no doubt that iPad is a revolutionary shift in technology and that netbooks are nothing more than shrunken laptops.

The sales numbers are now coming in showing just that. Netbook sales are down and iPads are moving like hotcakes. From the AppleInsider blog:
Apple's iPad has been viewed as a netbook competitor, and even positioned as one by Apple. When the iPad was first unveiled in January, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs directly compared it to existing netbooks on the market, noting that he felt the new product was lighter and more useful than low-cost netbooks, which he said are just "cheap laptops." With a 9.7-inch display and weighing just 1.5 pounds, the keyboard-less, touchscreen iPad is a much different form factor from the traditional laptop.

When including the iPad in total portable computing sales, Apple vaulted past Asus and others, according to estimates released earlier this month. The iPad sold 3.27 million units in its first three months of availability.

Will Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Counsel Rabbi Marc Schneier?

Will Celebrity Rabbi Shmuley Boteach offer to counsel Celebrity Rabbi Marc Schneier, who has found himself pictured scandalously in the Daily News?

The world is waiting to hear.

Is Columnist Ross Douthat Jewish?

No, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is not a Jew. He currently is a Catholic.

Wikipedia reports, "As an adolescent Douthat converted to Pentecostalism and then, with the rest of his family, to Catholicism."

Perhaps his next stage will be to convert to Judaism. Apparently not to Islam, judging from his thinly veiled bias in his latest op-ed in the Times. (Why did the Times need to replace Bill Kristol with yet another "conservative voice on the Times editorial page"?)

Right now it's a good thing Ross is not a Jew. Because for Ross Douthat to, "Integrate fully into our national life," he's much better off not being a Jew.

His column, "Islam in Two Americas," presents a strangely contrived binary dichotomy of two segments of our population. One is pluralistic, diverse and tolerant, the other is monistic, unitary and intolerant.

Obviously this guy needs to get out of his study some more. Any four year old knows that American society and culture is way more complex than the either-or world that he portrays.

Basic Talmudic analysis 101: Who divides the world into binary pairs of us and them? Often its the polemical starting point of the triumphalists and bigots, who think and want to say, Hey, they are not like us. Let's hate them, chase them away, or kill them.

Ross is not a Jew. If he was, he might get it that reduction to the binary can be (and has been) the first step to the final solution.

He's on the road, as his conclusion shows, to solving the Muslim problem in America, "For Muslim Americans to integrate fully into our national life, they’ll need... And they'll need..." It's not "we" - it's "they." And Ross knows what's best.

Oh yes, and if "they" don't do what Ross says, then what?

8/15/10

WSJ: Is Cool Christianity Kosher?

BRETT MCCRACKEN ("The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity") in the WSJ writes that no, cool Christianity is not kosher.

He discusses all the recent gimmicky church services that pose as hip events, and concludes:
... But are these gimmicks really going to bring young people back to church? Is this what people really come to church for? Maybe sex sermons and indie- rock worship music do help in getting people in the door, and maybe even in winning new converts. But what sort of Christianity are they being converted to?

In his book, "The Courage to Be Protestant," David Wells writes:"The born-again, marketing church has calculated that unless it makes deep, serious cultural adaptations, it will go out of business, especially with the younger generations. What it has not considered carefully enough is that it may well be putting itself out of business with God.

"And the further irony," he adds, "is that the younger generations who are less impressed by whiz-bang technology, who often see through what is slick and glitzy, and who have been on the receiving end of enough marketing to nauseate them, are as likely to walk away from these oh-so-relevant churches as to walk into them."

If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that "cool Christianity" is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don't want cool as much as we want real.

If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it's easy or trendy or popular. It's because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It's because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It's not because we want more of the same.

Is Cholesterol Kosher?

Yes cholesterol is kosher, it is ubiquitous in living cells and necessary for health and life.

Huff Post has an article by Joseph Mercola that examines the "myths that portray fat and cholesterol as one of the worst foods you can consume." It also delves into a series of issues related to the real value of cholesterol lowering drugs.

Read the whole article. We highlight and cite this section which says things that we have been saying ever since we found out that lipitor gave us a serious case of liver disease and we started reading the labels and analyzing the inserts.
Most cholesterol lowering drugs can effectively lower your cholesterol numbers, but are they actually making you any healthier, and do they help prevent heart disease?

Have you ever heard of the statistic known as NNT, or number needed to treat?

I didn't think so. In fact, most doctors haven't either. And herein lies the problem.

NNT answers the question: How many people have to take a particular drug to avoid one incidence of a medical issue (such as a heart attack)?

For example, if a drug had an NNT of 50 for heart attacks, then 50 people have to take the drug in order to prevent one heart attack.

Easy enough, right?

Well, drug companies would rather that you not focus on NNT, because when you do, you get an entirely different picture of their "miracle" drugs. Take, for instance, Pfizer's Lipitor, which is the most prescribed cholesterol medication in the world and has been prescribed to more than 26 million Americans. [xviii]

According to Lipitor's own Web site, Lipitor is clinically proven to lower bad cholesterol 39-60 percent, depending on the dose. Sounds fairly effective, right?

Well, BusinessWeek actually did an excellent story on this very topic earlier this year, [xix] and they found the REAL numbers right on Pfizer's own newspaper ad for Lipitor.

Upon first glance, the ad boasts that Lipitor reduces heart attacks by 36 percent. But there is an asterisk. And when you follow the asterisk, you find the following in much smaller type:

"That means in a large clinical study, 3% of patients taking a sugar pill or placebo had a heart attack compared to 2% of patients taking Lipitor."

What this means is that for every 100 people who took the drug over 3.3 years, three people on placebos, and two people on Lipitor, had heart attacks. That means that taking Lipitor resulted in just one fewer heart attack per 100 people.

The NNT, in this case, is 100. One hundred people have to take Lipitor for more than three years to prevent one heart attack. And the other 99 people, well, they've just dished out hundreds of dollars and increased their risk of a multitude of side effects for nothing.

So you can see how the true effectiveness of cholesterol drugs like Lipitor is hidden behind a smokescreen.
Definitely worth reading the whole article.

8/14/10

Lone Ranger Obama Defends Ground Zero Mosque and Park51


President Obama has publicly defended the right of Muslims to exercise their religion in this country. "Just what did you expect from that liberal (socialist, marxist etc.) anyhow? Isn't he a Muslim?"

But seriously folks - Barack missed a real chance to defuse this issue. He should have convened all the living presidents from Carter and Bush One to Clinton and Bush Two (maybe even with Cheney and Dan Quayle and Al Gore) and had all of them together come out with a statement defending the freedom of religion and the Bill of Rights with specific support for the GZM - Park51 project.

Obama - you are so right on the issues -- so why do you keep disappointing us lately?

Jstandard: Miryam Wahrman's Cover Stories on Aphasia


image

Got ____? Aphasia: At a loss for words

Miryam Z. Wahrman, Science Correspondent Cover Story
It’s hard to daven properly because I have to learn again,” said Avi Golden, who is recovering from a stroke that left him with aphasia — difficulty in communicating — as well as difficulties in using his right arm. Golden, who is an Orthodox Jew, has made great strides in his recovery over the last three years, with the help of the Adler Aphasia Center in Maywood, but he has a hard time with prayer, as the stroke left him unable to read Hebrew. On Shabbat he goes to synagogue, but he has not yet felt ready to be called up to the Torah for an aliyah. “I look and I pray,” he said. “It’s frustrating, but it’s good also.” In September he is planning to start taking classes at Lehman College in the Bronx, where he will be working with the speech clinic “to learn Hebrew again.”

Aphasia advocacy

Miryam Z. Wahrman • Cover Story
A bill has been introduced into the New Jersey legislature (S1931 and A2811) to establish a New Jersey Aphasia Study Commission in the Department of Health and Senior Services. Sponsors of the bill include state Sens. Loretta Weinberg and Diane Allen and Assembly members Valerie Huttle, Gordon Johnson, Connie Wagner and Joan Voss. The Senate version of the bill (S1931) states that the purpose of the commission is to: “establish a mechanism in order to ascertain the prevalence of aphasia in New Jersey, and the unmet needs of persons with aphasia and those of their families,” to “study model aphasia support programs,” and to “provide recommendations for additional support programs and resources…”

Adler Aphasia Center in Jerusalem

According to the Hadassah College Website, the Adler Aphasia Center at Hadassah College in Jerusalem is the “first international branch of the Adler Aphasia Center in New Jersey.”

“My friend Miriam Josephs, who was very active in Hadassah, raised $100,000 for scholarships for Hadassah College, where they teach speech pathology,” said Elaine Adler. “That led to starting the center there.”

Help for aphasia caregivers

Mary Slade, a panelist at an Adler Aphasia Center information session who is recovering from aphasia, observed, “It takes a family time to accept that a person had a stroke and has aphasia. When you first get sick there is often anger, confusion, and frustration.”
Elaine Adler became a caregiver when her husband Mike had a stroke. “When the breadwinner becomes aphasic, what happens to the family?” Adler asked. “The spouse has to take care of the aphasic and the family…. I realized how important it is to help the caregiver.”

8/11/10

Times' Stanley Fish: Plagiarism and the Rules of Golf

We like Stanley Fish because of his sometimes strange analogies. In his current Times column, Fish compares the rules governing plagiarism with the rules governing golf. We do get it, we like it and we think it makes some sense. The problem is that most people who don't play golf won't understand what he is talking about and his analogy won't advance insights into the violation that we call "plagiarism" and the actionable tort that we call "copyright violation."

Fish proclaims what we already know by looking around at what goes on in the world, "Plagiarism is not a big moral deal." Let's see what Fish says about golf and plagiarism:
Golf’s rules have been called arcane and it is not unusual to see play stopped while a P.G.A. official arrives with rule book in hand and pronounces in the manner of an I.R.S. official. Both fans and players are aware of how peculiar and “in-house” the rules are; knowledge of them is what links the members of a small community, and those outside the community (most people in the world) can be excused if they just don’t see what the fuss is about.

Plagiarism is like that; it’s an insider’s obsession. If you’re a professional journalist, or an academic historian, or a philosopher, or a social scientist or a scientist, the game you play for a living is underwritten by the assumed value of originality and failure properly to credit the work of others is a big and obvious no-no.
We need to add a bit of Talmudic insight to what Fish says. In golf, if you violate the rules, there are penalties. A stroke or two can be added to your score for each violation. You can be disqualified from a competition or thrown off the tour if you commit a serious enough breach.

Let's say for a minute that we like to think of golf as a sort-of religion. And guess what? Golfers we play with do not observe the rules according to ultra-Orthodox standards. They know you can't take a do-over shot by the rule book. But many of us take "mulligans" usually setting our own accepted standards and trying to stick to them. One mulligan on the front nine and one on the back nine. And who has not joked about using their foot-wedge to advance the ball out of the rough?

Fish might have tried a religion analogy to explain what governs academic life. Originality is kosher and plagiarism is treif. Some folks who say they are religious, surreptitiously eat treif. Some golfers move the ball to improve their lies and save some strokes when they are out of the sight of their playing partners. Some scholars take shortcuts to enhance their reputations, put their name on the work of others to increase their output and pump up their CVs.

But at the end of the day plagiarism is not truly comparable to cheating at golf or to eating a cheeseburger. Unless you are playing for money, golf is a gentleman's (and gentlewoman's) game where you keep your own score, a competition where you are not taking the property of others if you enhance your own performance with a pencil on the scorecard. Do that and you are a cheater in the sport, a moral deal only if sportsmanship matters to you and your friends.

Religion in America is a personal calling. Unless you bring the ham into your house and desecrate your cookware, when you eat a pork sausage, you satisfy your appetite but take nothing of value from the pockets of your friends. You are a sinner within that system, and it is a moral deal on your Rosh Hashanah scorecard.

And then we come to scholarship which is both a calling and a competition. Cheaters violate their own standards and the standards of others. That's a moral deal on both levels. And of course there is that money that the plagiarizing cheater puts in his pocket, earned out of the intellectual property of others. "Not a big moral deal," insists Fish.

Fish says, "Plagiarism is breach of disciplinary decorum, not a breach of the moral universe." But Stanley. It is obviously a theft of property and that is in the Ten Commandments. So maybe you mean to say that it is a big moral deal in every traditional religious sense. But you just don't care a lot about those old rules.

We like Fish most because he does not take himself seriously. At the conclusion of his column he does a truly talmudic about-face and decides the rule of law, the halakhah, for the case in which another professor lifted his work, "They took something from me without asking and without acknowledgment, and they profited — if only in the currency of academic reputation — from work that I had done and signed. That’s the bottom line and no fancy philosophical argument can erase it."

8/10/10

WSJ: Pray for Cool - the Heat is Wrecking the Golf Courses

The heat has been oppressive and the golf courses are suffering according to the WSJ, "The Ugly Summer of 2010: Brutal heat has greenkeepers fighting to save their courses from ruin." The article reports:
The sustained record-breaking heat across much of the U.S. this summer, combined with high humidity and occasional heavy rain, is killing the greens on many golf courses. A handful of high-profile courses have already had to close, and if the heat continues, others are likely to follow. Golfers themselves deserve part of the blame for insisting that putting surfaces be mown short and fast even in weather conditions in which such practices are almost certain to ruin them....more...
That back 9 was brutal...

8/9/10

Hey America. How about a Kristallnacht for Our Mosques?

New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg writes about the so-called Ground Zero Mosque,
...Well, for a start, it won’t be at Ground Zero. It’ll be on Park Place, two blocks north of the World Trade Center site (from which it will not be visible), in a neighborhood ajumble with restaurants, shops (electronics, porn, you name it), churches, office cubes, and the rest of the New York mishmash. Park51, as it is to be called, will have a large Islamic “prayer room,” which presumably qualifies as a mosque. But the rest of the building will be devoted to classrooms, an auditorium, galleries, a restaurant, a memorial to the victims of September 11, 2001, and a swimming pool and gym. Its sponsors envision something like the 92nd Street Y—a Y.M.I.A., you might say, open to all, including persons of the C. and H. persuasions.

Like many New Yorkers, the people in charge of Park51, a married couple, are from somewhere else—he from Kuwait, she from Kashmir. Feisal Abdul Rauf is a Columbia grad. He has been the imam of a mosque in Tribeca for close to thirty years. He is the author of a book called “What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America.” He is a vice-chair of the Interfaith Center of New York. “My colleagues and I are the anti-terrorists,” he wrote recently—in the Daily News, no less. He denounces terrorism in general and the 9/11 attacks in particular, often and at length. The F.B.I. tapped him to conduct “sensitivity training” for agents and cops. His wife, Daisy Khan, runs the American Society for Muslim Advancement, which she co-founded with him. It promotes “cultural and religious harmony through interfaith collaboration, youth and women’s empowerment, and arts and cultural exchange.”
Hertzberg tells us that the recent anti-mosque attacks have been coordinated by the likes of Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, and further on in the report he tells us,
Defending the A.D.L.’s position, its national director, Abraham H. Foxman, reflexively likened the families—the anti-Park51 ones, that is—to Holocaust survivors: “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would characterize as irrational or bigoted.” No doubt. But, as a guide to public policy, anguish is hardly better than bigotry. Nor is it an entitlement to abandon rationality itself.
So in the spirit of (by his own admission) the irrational and bigoted Mr. Foxman, we recall what the Nazis did once they decided that the synagogues in their midst were unacceptable to them.

They launched coordinated attacks against the Jews which let to terrorist actions called in those days a pogrom, "Kristallnacht or The Night of Broken Glass was an anti-Jewish pogrom in Nazi Germany (including Austria and Sudetenland) from the 9th until the 10th November 1938." Wikipedia sums up:
This pogrom damaged, and in many cases destroyed, about 200 synagogues (constituting nearly all Germany had), many Jewish cemeteries, more than 7,000 Jewish shops, and 29 department stores. Some Jews were beaten to death while others were forced to watch. More than 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration camps; primarily Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen.
Seems only logical that the opponents of the GZM step up their opposition and get to work planning their pogrom for "Mosque-nacht."

Oh, and a hearty "Sieg Heil" to Sarah, Newt and Abe.

8/7/10

Times Magazine: Daphne Merkin's Failed 40 Year Therapy

There are two reasons for a person to engage in psychotherapy. The first is to address an acute need to treat a mental disorder, especially the most dangerous, serious depression, which can lead to the inability of a person to function in the world, or at its worst, to suicide.

The second goal of therapy is a longer term process to learn about one's own personality, especially its weakness and flaws, and to modify it so as to better function in society and better relate to other individuals.

For Daphne Merkin, judging from what she wrote this week in the Times ("My Life in Therapy: What 40 years of talking to analysts has taught me"), these two goals of therapy appear to be secondary to her reason for engaging in the medical treatment, namely to meet her need to have a paid listener with whom she can talk, a pseudo-friend who she can visit and complain to on a regular basis.

In truly one of the most odd passages at the end of her self-absorbed essay, Daphne explains her disappointment in her latest therapist who told her to lose some weight and get into a relationship. She speaks as if the therapist was her boyfriend of sorts,
I didn’t want another one-way attachment, which would come to an end when I stopped paying for it. My skeptical 20-year-old daughter once referred to therapy as “emotional prostitution,” and although I thought the term a bit reductive, there was a piece of unpleasant truth to it.
Well, the picture we get from Daphne's current memoir of therapy is quite dismal. Daphne has spent 40 years talking to therapists and in those let's say 1000 sessions, costing over $1 million, she has learned nothing at all of value that she wants to tell us about herself or about how to be a better person. (But she has landed on the front page of the New York Times Magazine. And so there is some return on the investment.)

Perhaps that's because she has always been convinced that she is just perfect, and has nothing she needs to change. Dr. F, who pointed out to her that she was fat, clearly was encoding, in ways that Daphne could not decode, that she needs to recognize her imperfections before she can make any movement to fix the profound flaws of her broken personality.

Daphne's conclusions after 40 years, are tragically meager enough to invite comment. She tells us, "In the offices of countless therapists — some gifted, some less so — I sharpened my perceptions about myself and came to a deeper understanding of the persistent claim of early, unmet desires in all of us." I doubt that the practitioners were countless, so why the exaggeration? And exactly what was the sharpening that she acquired? No need to elaborate. Just a few examples would have made the telling more worthwhile.

We've been to five therapists ourselves and could account for the significant moments of enlightenment and self-understanding that we had with each one of them, if we thought that was socially acceptable self-revelation or a personally productive mode of confession. We don't and we don't. The therapy we engaged in was curative process to help us cope with serious problems. And yes we did extend it to help us work on eliminating those flaws of personality that led us to situations that could bring us back into vulnerabilities and lead us back into serious psychological troubles.

We learned how our views of our world and self needed to be adjusted and we then made those adjustments. If we thought it was proper to write an account of our discoveries, changes and progress, we might do so.

We never went to a therapist to find a friend, a relationship, or worse, a "release valve." But it looks like Daphne was not there to learn or improve herself. (In personality, she was already perfect.) She had other intents in her treatment. As she says to conclude,
Therapy, you might say, became a kind of release valve for my life; it gave me a place to say the things I could say nowhere else, express the feelings that would be laughed at or frowned upon in the outside world — and in so doing helped to alleviate the insistent pressure of my darker thoughts. It buffered me as well as prodded me forward; above all, it provided a space for interior examination, an education in disillusioned realism that existed nowhere else on this cacophonous, frantic planet.
From this "education" there appears to have been no learning. Her account so distorts the goals and purposes of therapy, yet she knows little to nothing of the actual transactions that she engaged. Her final circular assessment is that she went to see doctors of psychiatry because she was addicted to going to them.
If after many years of an almost-addictive attachment, I decided it was time to come up for air, I also knew it is in the nature of addicts never to be cured, but always to be in recovery. Good as it felt to strike out on my own, I was sure that one day in the not too distant future I would be making my way to a new therapist’s office, ready to pick up the story where I left off.
Indeed there is a story here. It is one of a person of means who paid a doctor to listen to her whining and now opines that she did so because she was addicted to the process. It seems to us more likely that this is a spoiled child craving attention, but not an addict of any kind, and to be sure not an adult who learns or grows in any way that she can tell us.

P. S.: After reading this essay, we feel ripped off. Any wonder? Daphne (once again, as in past pieces) omits entirely from her writing that she is the sister of the notorious J. Ezra Merkin, whose deceptions as a major part of the Bernard Madoff scandal are legendary. If her brother was so adept at misrepresentation, may we wonder about the authenticity of the memoir of the sister?

8/6/10

Is Artist Judy Chicago Jewish?

Yes, artist Judy Chicago is a Jew. She was born Judy Cohen in the city of Chicago. She is best known for her work, “The Dinner Party” (see below).

New Yorker tells us that it, "takes up an entire room in the Brooklyn Museum and required years of work by dozens of artisans, who helped Chicago craft the plates (Emily Dickinson’s resembles a three-dimensional vulva framed with lace) and embroidered the runners (the astronomer Caroline Herschel’s name is stitched against a celestial sky)."

The New Yorker profile of Chicago demonstrates that she is not only noted for her art, but also for her humor. It recounts this doubly amusing story:
Chicago, who is seventy-one, has bright-orange hair and was wearing gold sneakers, purple glasses, and a top with gauzy hot-pink sleeves that fluttered over her muscular arms. She recalled a conversation from a decade ago: “A woman says to me, ‘You’re in really good shape!’ I said, ‘Not bad for sixty.’ She said, ‘What’s your secret?’ I said, ‘Hard work, sex, and exercise.’ There was a long pause. Then she said, ‘Do you think it would help if I took up one of them?’ ” ...more...

8/5/10

Is Elena Kagan Talmudic?

Mazal tov to Elena Kagan on her confirmation to the Supreme Court, which is a done deal.

Yes, Kagan is a Jew. David E. Y. Sarna argues in an article at Tablet ("Elena Kagan, Jewish law, and the principle of binding precedent") that she is also a jurist in the Talmudic tradition. He assembles some solid evidence to make that case beginning with his assertion,
...a third issue was raised at the hearings, and no one spoke of its Jewish antecedents. The elephant in the room was stare decisis (“let the decision stand” in legal Latin). It means refraining from overturning settled matters, regarding them as binding precedent. As we shall see, the controversy over stare decisis has a long history and dates back to the development of Jewish Law, known in Hebrew as halacha. Interestingly, the Justice’s position in this regard accords with halacha...more...

Times' Editors and columnist Tom Friedman Support the Ground Zero Mosque

In his quirky mode, the Times' Tom Friedman supports the so-called Ground Zero Mosque by saying he likes Broadway. You gotta read the opinion to see if you follow the logic. We share his viewpoint that it is a core American value to allow this project to go forward.

Those who oppose it have expressed a host of ugly intolerant, bigoted, racist sentiments.

Really. Imagine if people started saying we need to be sensitive to the victims of Bernard Madoff's crimes. He is Jewish. Hence we must close down the Wall Street Synagogue because it is so close to the ground zero of Madoff's misdeeds. Utter nonsense. But then so is the argument that we need to shut off the Mosque project because 9/11 terrorists were Muslim and we need to be sensitive to the victims of that crime.

We understand the human propensity to tar all members of a group with the crimes of a few. And we consider it barbaric at best. We also understand the power of symbolism. No, this project is not a triumphalist symbol of the victory and spread of Islam. And yes, it is a vital symbol of the virtues and strengths of freedom and democracy. The Times' editors call it a "Monument to Tolerance."

Here is the link to Friedman's quirky op-ed.

8/4/10

Clinton-Mezvinsky Wedding Raises the Issue Again: Is intermarriage bad for the Jews?

The Times has a short and balanced article on attitudes to intermarriage in the Jewish community, where it is sometimes a hot button issue. The article is quite lean on statistics. Indeed the debate over whether intermarriage is bad for Jews needs to be parsed. For sure, it makes life more complicated (or interesting) for the actual intermarried couple and their families. It also has ramifications for the future demography of the ethnic/religious group.

Mathematically in the abstract, intermarriage is almost certainly a net gain for Jewish numbers. The offspring of all Jewish women who marry out are still deemed Jews. And so if even one Jewish man who marries out raises his children as Jews, that is a gain (whether or not the mother converts according to Orthodox specifications). Even the Orthodox ought to have a hard time arguing with these metrics. Of course the expected dilution of identity in an intermarriage and the drop off in participation in synagogues and yeshivas, sets off alarms for the Orthodox since it means fewer clients for these institutions.

Here is a blurb from the Times:
...the seemingly incandescent wedding of Ms. Clinton and Mr. Mezvinsky has churned up ambivalent reactions among the nation’s almost six million Jews.

There is a clannish pride that after a history of exclusion and prejudice, the grandson of a Jewish Ohio grocer could marry into what passes for political royalty in the United States.

But some Jews fear that the societal openness confirmed by high-profile intermarriages like that of Ms. Clinton and Mr. Mezvinsky, or Caroline Kennedy and Edwin A. Schlossberg in 1986, prod more Jews to marry out of their faith. That, they worry, could threaten the vitality of a group that represents no more than 2 percent of the American population.

In an editorial, The Forward, a liberal Jewish affairs newspaper, called the Clinton-Mezvinsky marriage “a milestone of sorts, a measure of social acceptance, a sign that we’ve arrived.”

But it took note of the conundrum: “This nuptial is also representative of an increasingly vexing challenge within American Jewish life because we know that — apart from the celebrity and the Secret Service — the Clinton-Mezvinsky union is fast becoming the new normal.”...

8/3/10

Paradigm Shifting Amazon Prime Program Free to Students

The Amazing Amazon Prime program changes your life and gives FREE Two-Day Shipping for Students! What?

Join Amazon Student and get FREE Two-Day Shipping for one year with a free Amazon Prime membership ($79 value), as well as e-mail alerts for exclusive promotions. The program is available only for students and there is no cost to join--simply sign up by providing your school and major.

Tzvee says, "The Prime program is so good that it makes no sense to shop anywhere but at Amazon."

Tzvee's Talmudic Blog Passes 3,028 Posts, 600,000 Visits, 800,000 Page Views

Oops, so busy golfing we forgot to mention that all our hard work (smile) has resulted in Tzvee's Talmudic Blog passing 3,028 Posts, 600,000 Visits, 800,000 Page Views. And we got an award.

Top Judaism Blog

Thank you all for coming along for the fun ride.

Now if only we can figure out why we do this.

YouTube: Stephen I. Weiss on TJC Jewish News Video Covers Teaneck's Politics (and Rev. Hagee and Eric Cantor)


Check out how Stephen I. Weiss (with kippah) on TJC Jewish News Video Covers Teaneck's Politics at minute 3:00 of the YouTube Video..."This week's top stories from Jewish news around the world: controversial Israel advocacy group Christians United for Israel converges in D.C.; Teaneck, NJ's first Muslim mayor; and the only Jewish Republican congressman, Eric Cantor, sits down for an in-depth interview."

8/2/10

Times: Parlez Vous Cash? Moonlighting Earned Ruth Simmons of Brown University Well Over $4.3 Million

The Times explores the scandals of moonlighting university presidents who sell their institution's credibility for their own personal gain.

Examples abound, but Ruth Simmons of Brown was one of the most outrageous in the Times report. In addition to $576,000 in salary, she pocketed direct compensation of $323,539 from her Goldman Sachs directorship and added to that $4.3 million in other income from Goldman derived from options, while tuition at Brown rose to $49,128.

Simmons was a professor of French, expertise that gained her these positions: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, director; Pfizer, board of directors; Texas Instruments, Inc., board of directors; Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., board of directors.

No question. University presidents are selling the prestige of their institutions and pocketing the income. This outright compensation laundering makes a mockery of the notion of the non-profit corporation.
The Academic-Industrial Complex
By GRAHAM BOWLEY
WHAT does Shirley Ann Jackson know about shipping parcels? For that matter, what does Steven B. Sample understand about mutual funds?
James Estrin/The New York Times

Dr. Jackson, who is a theoretical physicist and the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., has served as an outside director on the board of FedEx since 1999.

Dr. Sample, an electrical engineer and the retiring president of the University of Southern California, sits on the boards of directors of the American Mutual and Amcap mutual funds. He is also a director of another company, and stepped down two years ago from the board of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, the candy maker.

Dr. Jackson and Dr. Sample are part of a cozy and lucrative club: presidents and other senior university officials who cross from academia into the business world to serve on corporate boards.

While academics can often bring fresh perspectives, managerial experience and the imprimatur of a respected institution to a board, they are also serving in an era when corporations wrestling with fallout from the financial crisis (think Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs) or very public mishaps (think BP, Johnson & Johnson and Toyota) have raised the stakes for board members expected to guide corporations.

Some analysts worry that academics are possibly imperiling or compromising the independence of their universities when they venture onto boards. Others question whether scholars have the time — and financial sophistication — needed to police the country’s biggest corporations while simultaneously juggling the demands of running a large university.

Times: Plagiarism Runs Rampant at Universities

The Times has an excellent article on plagiarism. We have been victimized both by plagiarist students who submitted the work of others as their own and by a plagiarist colleague who actually did published our original work in his own name and attempted to publish more of our work under his name.

What we did in the case of students goes back to 2006. Instead of warning them against plagiarizing, a concept that they did not grasp, we told them that they were forbidden to copy anything from the Internet and then submit it in an assignment.

What we did in the case of the colleague was more complex, but we managed to obtain agreements and compensation and resolve the incidents without publicizing the details and without filing lawsuits.

Along we the Times, we recognize how blurry the lines are in the minds of many people when it comes to what constitutes plagiarism. This will be an progressively more complicated issue as the spread of digital access to texts grows more universal.
Lines on Plagiarism Blur for Students in the Digital Age
College officials suggest that many students simply do not grasp that using words they did not write is a serious academic misdeed....

8/1/10

Mazal Tov! Rabbi James Ponet Officiated at the Clinton - Mezvinsky Wedding

Sure to be the subject of discussion, a rabbi officiated at the big wedding. A Times Blog reports on the ceremony for the wedding today of Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky.
6:50 p.m. |Some Details on the Ceremony

The interfaith ceremony will be conducted by Rabbi James Ponet and Reverend William Shillady. Ms. Clinton is Methodist and the groom, Marc Mezvinsky, is Jewish.

The family said the ceremony would celebrate and honor elements of both traditions. It would include friends and family reading the Seven Blessings, which are typically recited at traditional Jewish weddings following the vows and exchange of rings.

A friend of the couple planned to read the poem, “The Life That I Have,” by Leo Marks.
The Schmooze at the Forward reported:
Ponet is Yale’s Jewish chaplain and heads the university’s Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale. Read his bio here. At Yale, he’s taught a seminar on “The Family in Jewish Tradition,” with sexpert and Bintel Brief guest columnist Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
No word yet on whether the groom wore a yarmulka or broke a glass at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Update: Pictures sent to us appear to show Marc wearing a kippah and a tallis (thanks to Joseph). That looks like a Ketubah in the background on the easel and the structure above the couple is said to be their Chuppah - wedding canopy. We were told the food was glatt kosher, but we deem that assertion dubious.
(Click to enlarge pictures... we see now they come from ABC News.)

Top Ten New Names for Conservative Judaism

Reports are that there may soon be a new name for Conservative Judaism...
NEW YORK (JTA) -- The leader of Conservative Judaism's flagship institution said the movement is debating a name change.

Arnold Eisen, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, made the comment ... saying that the "leading candidate right now" is the name "Masorti," the Hebrew word for "traditional," which is the name Conservative Judaism goes by in Israel and other countries outside of North America.
A friend sent us 10 other suggestions for a new name for the movement:
10. Not too Meshuggenah Judaism
9. Not too Goyische Judaism
8. Liberal, Not Conservative Judaism
7. You-Can-Eat-Swordfish Judaism
6. Kosher-at-Home Judaism
5. Camp Ramah was Great Judaism
4. Our Grandparents Were Orthodox Judaism
3. 2nd or 3rd Movement to Ordain Women Judaism
2. Just-Right Judaism
...and especially for Starbucks lovers...
1. Grande Judaism
For a story and discussion of additional serious and humorous suggestions, see here.