2/28/11

Oy Vey! What if ... your Gmail Disappeared?

The Gmail blog informs us:
Imagine the sinking feeling of logging in to your Gmail account and finding it empty. That’s what happened to 0.02% of Gmail users yesterday, and we’re very sorry. The good news is that email was never lost and we’ve restored access for many of those affected...more...
OMG, the blog tells us that, "To protect your information from these unusual bugs, we also back it up to tape."

Say it ain't so! $200 billion dollar company Google uses tape backup? May we say, Oy Vey!

My Love is Blue, My World is Blue, My Religion Too



In 1968 the song by Paul Mauriat & His Orchestra - Love Is Blue - topped the pop charts for weeks. What do the lyrics mean? "Blue, blue, my world is blue. Blue is my world since I'm without you..." Blue to us in our culture is a marker of sadness.

Not so in ancient Israel. Blue there was a marker of sanctity and royalty.

Hat tip to Bernice for bringing this wonderful Times article to our attention about the new discoveries and debates over the true blue color that the Torah says we must use in the fringes of our clothing. Bernice cares about colors -- she is an artist.
Memo From Ramat Gan -
Rediscovered, Ancient Color Is Reclaiming Israeli Interest

By DINA KRAFT
RAMAT GAN, Israel — One of the mysteries that scholars have puzzled over for centuries is the exact shade of blue represented by “tekhelet,” which the Bible mentions as the color of ceremonial robes donned by high priests and ritual prayer tassels worn by the common Israelite...more...

2/27/11

Why do People Speak About the Talmud in Jargon?

Two widely diverse items that we read this weekend made us ask, Why do people speak about the Talmud in jargon?

The question, in greater detail, in two parts, is first, Why do American Yeshiva trained Jews speak about Talmudic matters in a private dialect of English that some call "Yeshivish" and others call "Frumspeak"? (The similar question may be raised for Hebrew discourse about the Talmud. It too is in a dialect separate and apart from the secular modern Hebrew that is spoken in the marketplace in Israel today.)  And second, Why do some university scholars speak about the Talmud in inaccessible learned terms?

2/24/11

Times Magazine (Preview): NJ Governor Christie Declares War on Teachers

It's beyond belief. The Times Magazine reports that NJ Governor Christie has declared war on teachers, as he cuts taxes on the high earning upper class.

Christie's program: Take from the poor and give to the rich. 

Read it here.

CNN Update on Media Matters: Glenn Beck says Reform Rabbis are like Radicalized Islam

Update: An early Yom Kippur -- Glenn apologizes and rabbis forgive
 
See over 1000 comments on CNN.

Glenn Beck says that Reform rabbis are like radicalized Islam because they took out an ad asking for his termination.
(a) Glenn Beck, come to my local synagogue where an Orthodox rabbi talks radical right wing politics every week.
(b) Have you lost your mind making such comparisons? No wait, obviously you have.
Here is the recording, check it out at minute 3:00, and the transcript, courtesy of Media Matters. Thanks guys, for trying to keep them honest.



STU BURGUIERE (executive producer): And now remember, this is all fueled by an organization that Soros funds, that has a bunch of progressive rabbis that came out against Glenn and said --

BECK: OK, you have to -- hang on just a second. When you talk about rabbis, understand that most -- most people who are not Jewish don't understand that there are the Orthodox rabbis, and then there are the Reformed rabbis. Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature. It's almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way, to where it is just -- radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics. When you look at the Reform Judaism, it is more about politics. I'm not saying that they're the same on --

BURGUIERE: No, obviously not.

BECK: -- and they're going to take it at that, but -- stand in line.

BURGUIERE: "Glenn Beck says --"

BECK: It's not about terror or anything else, it's about politics, and so it becomes more about politics than it does about faith. Orthodox rabbis -- that is about faith. There's not a single Orthodox rabbi on this list. This is all Reformed rabbis that were -- that made this list.

BURGUIERE: Yeah, I don't know that for a fact. I know that certainly this organization is a progressive political organization. And that's fine.

2/22/11

Is Rahm Emanuel Jewish?

Yes, Rahm Emanuel is a Jew. He was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1959. In Hebrew the name Rahm means "lofty" and the name Emanuel means "God is with us."

Emanuel, the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, won the Chicago mayoral election over five other challengers Tuesday 2/22/2011, topping the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff vote. He is the first Jewish mayor elected in Chicago.

The Times Sunday Magazine had a profile of him (3/14/2010), "The Limits of Rahmism," By PETER BAKER, "He was chosen as White House chief of staff because he could make things happen. What happened?"

Rahm's father Benjamin M. Emanuel was born in Jerusalem. He was a member of the Zionist group the Irgun during the British Mandate of Palestine. He is a pediatrician.

His mother, Martha Smulevitz, worked as an X-ray technician. She was the daughter of a local union organizer and herself was a civil rights activist.

Rahm attended Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Jewish Day School when his family lived in Chicago. He and his family are members of Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel, a modern Orthodox Jewish congregation in Chicago.

2/21/11

Is Drake Jewish?

Yes, hip hop artist Drake is a Jew. The Canadian, former child actor with the number one (rap) album appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show where he discussed his Jewishness and compared it with Jewish reggae hip hop artist Matisyahu.

Now, Drake is not as good a Jew as Matisyahu, according to Matisyahu as reported by the HipHopWired blog which reported (Jewish Rapper Matisyahu Calls Drake Out and Says His Jewish Is "Just A By-Product") that Matis told "The Jewish Daily:
"Drake is a pretty good man. He's got his thing, but it's different than what I do." Continuing, he says of Drake: "He's Jewish, but he's not representing Judaism.

"He happens to be Jewish just like Bob Dylan happened to be Jewish, but what I'm doing is really tapping into my roots and culture, and trying to blend that with the mainstream...Drake's being Jewish is just a by-product."
Putting aside the debate over who is a better Jew, or more analytically, who is Jewish and who is Judaic, the funny Kimmel video clip is over at HipHopWired, we are not able to embed it here.

And yes for those who wonder, we are fans of rap music, because to study religions you must know about both the sacred and the profane.

2/20/11

Is Harry Potter Jewish?

No, Harry Potter is not a Jew. He is a fictional character.

A real Harry Potter is dead and buried in Israel.

YouTube: "A grave in the Holy Land is now an unlikely tourist attraction, because the person buried there is one very real Harry Potter, a forgotten soldier of a forgotten war. Although it is the final resting place of a teenage British soldier killed decades ago, that has not stopped wizard fans from flocking to visit."

A Glowing Review of "A Passover Haggadah: Go Forth and Learn" by David Silber with Rachel Furst

We were classmates with David Silber at Yeshiva University's High School, College and Rabbinical School. We studied Talmud together as chavrusas in High School in the shiur of Rabbi Gershon Yankelewitz (who is now 100 years old, may he live to 120). Silber went on the found the remarkable Drisha Institute on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and has spent his career in Torah education.

Rabbi Silber is an Orthodox Jewish scholar of major significance with the broad and deep knowledge of a first rate Talmid Chacham. While in high school, we recall that he placed among the highest finalists in the world Bible contest. Silber knew the entire Tanakh by heart and could cite it with great facility on any topic. He is known now as an expert in the entire range of Jewish learning and as a master teacher of our tradition.

Silber's new book will appear in time for Passover this year,  A Passover Haggadah: Go Forth and Learn. His collaborator in writing this book is Rachel Furst, an accomplished scholar and teacher in her own right. Although we single out Rabbi Silber here, all of our comments and compliments ought to be allocated between both authors.

2/18/11

Forward Recognizes the Challenge to Established Synagogues from Independent Jewish Prayer Groups

The Forward recognizes in an editorial and story this week (finally) that Jews do not need synagogues. Jews may pray anywhere that they gather. Judaism in its essence is not an institutional religion.
...Josh Nathan-Kazis reports this week, many independent minyanim have no interest in affiliating with this or any other denomination. “We don’t need the movement,” one minyan leader boasted. Perhaps not the “movement” as it is now structured, but engaged Jews — from establishment and upstart congregations — need to find a way to work together to shape a common future, especially if committed, egalitarian, non-Orthodox Judaism is going to survive. To do that, they must stop talking past one another and recognize some central truths....
And we add for those who will understand to what we allude, independent prayer groups have nothing to do with barefoot jogging, no how no way. They are the essential expressions of the primary modes of praying as articulated in the Mishnah and the Talmud, the rishonim and acharonim. Institutionalized synagogues as they are today are not the authentic representations of the preferred modes of prayer in classical Judaism.

Alan F. Segal Obituaries

We've responded to requests for comment on the death of Alan Segal from the local Bergen County paper and the Columbia student paper because it is another way to eulogize a great man. Here is the local story as reprinted in another paper.
The Republic - Alan F. Segal, leading religious scholar, dies at 65

HACKENSACK, N.J. — Alan F. Segal of Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J., a leading religious scholar whose views on the origins of Judaism and Christianity and on the afterlife were much sought after, died Sunday. He was 65.

2/16/11

Alan Segal's Review of "Archaeology, Stamps and Coins of the State of Israel" by Yitzhak Zahavy

Alan Segal's expansive and thoughtful review of my son's book in the current issue of the The Review of Rabbinic Judaism appeared on the Brill site yesterday. I saw it linked there after returning from Alan's funeral.

A REVIEW OF YITZHAK ZAHAVY, ARCHAEOLOGY, STAMPS, AND COINS OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL

The Review of Rabbinic Judaism
ISSN: 1568-4857, Online ISSN: 1570-0704
DOI: 10.1163/157007010X536339
Volume 13, Issue 2, pages 262-274

Update: Access to the full review here.

ESPN: Madoff Vouches for Mets Owners Wilpons and Katz

Does anyone want Bernie Madoff to vouch for them? Oy, bad idea, that makes no sense at all.

Lets apply Talmudic interpretation to the story below. Our premise is that it's a confessed and proven fact that Madoff is the world's biggest liar.

When Madoff says that Mets owners Wilpon, Wilpon and Katz knew nothing about his scam, we Talmudically interpret that means they knew everything about it.

When Madoff says the banks knew all about his scam, we Talmudically interpret that means they knew nothing about it.

Premise, logic, interpretation. Easy.
Madoff: Mets owners 'knew nothing'
by Adam Rubin

The beleaguered owners of the New York Mets received a show of support Tuesday from none other than convicted swindler Bernard Madoff.

In a prison interview, Madoff told The New York Times that team owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz had no knowledge he was operating a Ponzi scheme.

"They knew nothing," Madoff told the newspaper. "They knew nothing."

Trustee Irving Picard is seeking to recover as much as $1 billion from Mets ownership based on the premise they knew, or should have known, Madoff was perpetrating a fraud.

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo has been appointed a mediator in the lawsuit, which was filed in December in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Picard seeks $300 million in what he has labeled "fictitious profits" from Mets owners -- allegedly money the family withdrew over the principal they invested in certain accounts. The other $700 million is alleged principal Picard asserts should be forfeited because the Wilpons allegedly knew, or should have known, a fraud was taking place.

Madoff did tell The Times in a two-hour interview in a prison visiting room Tuesday that he believed banks were complicit in his fraud.

"They had to know," Madoff told the newspaper. "But the attitude was sort of, 'If you're doing something wrong, we don't want to know.'"

2/15/11

Professor Alan Segal wrote about the Afterlife, Heaven and Hell

Alan Segal taught religion at Barnard College. We returned just now from his funeral. It is so sad to lose such a brilliant scholar and wonderful friend. We are re-posting our brief notice of his wonderful book.

For ten years Alan worked on this book Life After Death (880 pages, Doubleday, 2004) subtitled, A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion.


This brilliant book is chock full of quality facts and insights and rightfully takes it place among those sweeping, comprehensive and analytical interdisciplinary works on great ideas in western culture.

This is a work by an accomplished scholar for others who seek humanistic understanding. Segal does not advocate for the existence of a realm called heaven or hell. He treats religious ideas in general as mirrors of cultural creativity. Each society writes its own imaginary, fictional account of what the afterlife looks like in accord with its own particular social and historical reality.

Those readers who cherish books that deal with sweeping histories of ideas will find much excitement and nuance here. If you liked the intellectual journey in The Great Chain of Being by Arthur O. Lovejoy or The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn, you will find much more to like here.

2/14/11

Professor Alan F. Segal has passed away

My friend and colleague Alan F. Segal passed away yesterday, Sunday Feb. 13. I knew Alan for over thirty years and treasured his friendship and collegiality. He was a great intuitive scholar and thinker whose mind sailed across centuries and disciplines. He made great contributions to his fields of study in numerous books, articles, reviews and lectures.

Alan also made many friends who will miss him dearly. On December 12, 2010 Barnard College held an all day colloquium in his honor on the occasion of his retirement. It was a proud day for Alan but also a sad day for his friends and colleagues who knew that he was ill.

I had the honor of driving a few miles up the road to Ho-ho-kus to bring him a bagel and talk with him on numerous occasions on Mondays over the past year. He finished writing a new book and continued to think and talk seriously about ideas and about political matters.

At the dinner in his honor in December I offered a toast to Alan that I formulated from the six archetypes of the perfect synagogue out of my most recent writing.

And now I repeat the conclusion of those words as a memory for my friend who in his most sincere and holy way was the ideal davener and a great Jew.
To Alan זכר צדיק לברכה

a scholar of proper priestly demeanor,
a writer with a mystical imagination,
a researcher with immense scribal erudition,
a lecturer with a great performer’s talents,
a defender of his people with a celebrity’s prominence,
and a true friend with meditative graces and compassion.

2/12/11

New Yorker: Malcolm Gladwell Parses Yeshiva University's US News Ranking

What the heck? We got three issues of New Yorker delivered in two days this week. How did that happen? How will we ever get through them?

Luckily our relatives in Teaneck (hat tip) read the periodical and were able today to alert us to the invocation of our revered alma mater Yeshiva University in an article by Malcolm Gladwell in which he parses Yeshiva University's US News #50 national ranking.

We are proud that YU has managed to attain a high ranking in the survey. It's good for us since we went to the school (oy vey, for eleven years - high school through college through rabbinical school).

So if you will open your anniversary issues - Feb 14 and 21 2011 - to page 70, you will find the discussion of Yeshiva's ranking as compared to that of Penn State.

Gladwell is brilliant in his analysis, though we are not sure what the ultimate point of the article is. We all know without Gladwell that rankings are useful to those who can use them, namely PR people at the respective institutions who can somehow cite them and/or prospective students who have made up their minds based on a host of other criteria and can feel better with the numerical ranking of their choice in hand.

We will read the piece again to see if it says more than what we think it says, namely that all rankings are at best subjective. Meanwhile we remind our readers that Gladwell, "He was born in England, grew up in rural Ontario, and now lives in New York City.

And no, Malcolm Gladwell is not Jewish although he says, "our maternal grandfather was part Jewish."

And WSJ has a funny article that informs us of a new web site which is a riot:
Have you ever thought that Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling books were a bit on the formulaic side — from the punchy titles to the clean white covers to the mix of academic research and pop science? Check out the Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator, a Web site launched yesterday that cranks out Gladwell-like book titles. Sample: “Power: How Power Powerfully Powers Power.” The Observer has a story on one of the site’s creators, who says he’s a Gladwell fan. Mockery is the sincerest form of flattery?

Jewish Ketubot for Christians

In the "wow we must be getting close to the age of redemption" story of the day, the Times reports that Christians are adopting Jewish marriage contracts in their wedding ceremonies.
Christians Embrace a Jewish Wedding Tradition
By SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN

In a San Antonio chapel last August, after reciting their wedding vows and exchanging their rings, Sally and Mark Austin prepared to receive communion for the first time as husband and wife. Just before they did, their minister asked them to sign a document. It was a ketubah, a traditional Jewish marriage contract.

The Austins’ was not an interfaith marriage. Nor was their ceremony some sort of multicultural mashup. Both Sally and Mark are evangelical Christians, members of Oak Hills Church, a nationally known megachurch. They were using the ketubah as a way of affirming the Jewish roots of their faith.

In so doing, the Austins are part of a growing phenomenon of non-Jews incorporating the ketubah, a document with millennia-old origins and a rich artistic history, into their weddings. Mrs. Austin, in fact, first learned about the ketubah from her older sister, also an evangelical Christian, who had been married five years earlier with not only a ketubah but the Judaic wedding canopy, the huppah.

A Major Jewish Women's Art Exhibit at Columbia Barnard

Our classmate Fay Grajower has organized a major Jewish art exhibit at the campus of Columbia / Barnard University in New York City. Fay also edited a wonderful 48 page color catalog of the exhibit.

The Theme is "Sanctuaries in Time" and the exhibit runs from until March 1, 2011 at Columbia/Barnard University, Kraft Center for Jewish Life, 606 W 115th St, NYC.

For more information see the Women's Art Caucus site. You can watch the video below for a two minute preview of the art.

2/11/11

The Times Discovers the Ennobling and Enabling YU Book Sale

Sometimes a book sale is just a book sale. And sometimes it is so much more.

We received a poetic missive from Richard M. Joel, President of Yeshiva University via email:
I’m delighted to share with you a piece from today’s New York Times that reflects the dynamic and diversity of our school and our community through the vehicle of the Seforim Sale. As so many of you know, the Seforim Sale is more than a magnificent collection of contemporary books and sacred texts. With 15,000+ visitors, it is something of a Yeshiva University annual homecoming. So many educational values and unique Yeshiva University characteristics are reflected in this short article – the centrality of education, student leadership, community, diversity, safety, the sanctity of learning and, of course, the Rav. In essence, it captures and celebrates the dynamic of ennobling and enabling.
The Times' story is here, Yeshiva Fair Is a Bastion for Jewish Books of the Printed Variety, By JOSEPH BERGER.

He tells us at the end, "Profits from the fair are earmarked for student organizations as well as for poorer students who need money for food, clothing and tuition." We'd like to know why there are any profits? Way back when (more than 25 years ago, contrary to article in the Times) the sale was put on to give students a chance to buy books at cost. What happened to that model? And now how much profit is there? And who decides how to distribute it? An ennobling, enabling and in essence, an enigma.

PS: The online site has a search page that returns only ten items for a search of the keyword "Soloveitchik". That seems wrong to us.

2/10/11

Good Bye Best Buy

In 1976 the electronics store was called "The Sound of Music" and one of their main locations was on Hennepin and Lake Streets in Minneapolis.

We bought a Panasonic stereo there and enjoyed it for nearly 20 years.

The store became Best Buy and a powerhouse national franchise.

Alas now the company is in disarray trying to stay afloat in the midst of the strong currents of change in electronics sales buffeted on one side by the online mail order Amazons et al and on the other by the brick and mortar Walmart and the like.

Here is a regrouping story, but one which we believe is just a prelude to a corporate obituary.
Best Buy may switch to Wal-Mart-style pricing
It's a strategy inspired by consumers' increasing use of smart phones to compare prices.
By CHRIS BURRITT and CLIFFORD EDWARDS, Bloomberg News
Best Buy Co. Inc., the Richfield-based consumer electronics giant, may curtail three decades of tactical discounting and move instead to its own version of the everyday prices pioneered by Wal-Mart Stores Inc...more...

And God Hardened the Heart of Pharaoh Mubarak

Our good buddy Richard over at Tikkun Olam blog wonders, aloud, "Clearly, many national leaders expected Mubarak to step down. They said so publicly. So it’s mystifying that such figures understood Mubarak would resign and yet the man did a U-turn. Did he agree to resign and then change his mind?"

Mystifying yes, if you have never read the biblical book of Exodus. The Pharaoh changes his mind ten times and each reversal brings another plague.

We are watching the re-enactment of the biblical narrative, brought up-to-date by Pharaoh Mubarak.

The Bible tells us what to expect. It will all come to a head in April, after the rainy season, around the time of Passover, at which time God will drown Pharaoh in a sea of troubles, and his former subjects will be redeemed.

To understand modern affairs, Richard merely needs to brush up on his Bible.

Is Justin Bieber Jewish?

No, teen singer Justin Bieber is not a Jew. He is a devout Christian.

However JTA reports - in one of the strangest stories that we can recall - that at the encouragement of his Jewish manager, Scott Samuel "Scooter" Braun, Bieber says the Jewish prayer, the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4: "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One."

We doubt the veracity of the story. We think it is as phony as a three dollar bill. And even if true that he says this verse, so what? It is bizarre that JTA makes a news story because a pop singer maybe says one verse from the Bible, in addition to whatever else he says in his Christian prayers.
For Justin Bieber, ‘Scooter’ and the Shema play a major presence
By Edmon J. Rodman
LOS ANGELES (JTA) -- Is “Never Say Never,” the biographical documentary and concert film that recounts the rise of Justin Bieber, also a message film of “Hear O Israel"?

The film, which opens Feb. 11 in wide release, has a genuine Jewish backstory due to the onscreen presence and production involvement of Bieber’s Jewish manager, Scott Samuel "Scooter" Braun.

By all accounts Braun, who discovered Bieber on YouTube -- a site where the teen sensation now has several songs with more than 100 million views -- plays an important role in Bieber’s life both on stage and off.

“On the road I take responsibility for him,” Braun, 29, told JTA in a recent interview, relating that his Jewish background helps Bieber to maintain a sense of balance.

Off stage, Braun also is a presence -- a kind of a Jewish road dad helping the 16-year-old Bieber face the challenges.

“The girls chase the car, they’re in the lobby,” Braun said. “They know where we’re going before we know.”

On stage, as reported by various sources, Braun, Bieber and some of the crew members say the Shema before beginning a concert.

"Originally Justin and the crew just did a prayer circle before the show that ended with Jesus Christ. I wasn’t into that,” said Braun, who grew up in Greenwich, Conn.

With another Jewish member of the crew, “we started saying the Shema. About the third time, Justin chimed in,” Braun recalls. “He had memorized it. Now others say it with us, too....more...

2/9/11

Did Pope Benedict XVI preach that Hell is real and only he can save you from it?

To us it seemed at the time in 2007 that the Australian reported that Pope Benedict XVI insisted in an address in Rome that hell is real and only he and the Catholic Church can save you from it.

In the debate that ensued in our blog comments, we stood fast against an onslaught of arguments.

We are willing to admit our error if someone can show us where we missed the point. But be logical and Talmudic. Why would the Pope and the Catholic Church ever tolerate a narrative that says hell is real, that sinners go there but that Judaism can save them from it?
Pope says hell and damnation are real and eternal
By Richard Owen in Rome

HELL is a place where sinners really do burn in an everlasting fire, and not just a religious symbol designed to galvanise the faithful, Pope Benedict XVI has said.

Addressing a parish gathering in a northern suburb of Rome, the Pope said that in the modern world many people, including some believers, had forgotten that if they failed to "admit blame and promise to sin no more", they risked "eternal damnation - the inferno".

Hell "really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more".

2/7/11

Can Online Courses Replace In-person Teaching?

We've been in the higher education business for four decades. It's been our experience that online courses cannot replace in-person courses. Online instruction cannot replace face-to-face classrooms. Distance learning cannot replace in person learning.

So, no, online course cannot replace in-person teaching.

Sure the gap is narrowing as technology improves communications. Yet it's clear to us that a good teacher conveys more to his or her students in every minute of a one hour in class than any great online course ever could deliver.

And decent distant learning is not cheap. A Times' article, Digital Domain: Online Courses, Still Lacking That Third Dimension, by RANDALL STROSS (which in fact reads like an op-ed) spells out the cost and limitations of the process and hints at its promise.
...Developing that best-in-the-world online course — in which students would learn as much, or more, than in an ordinary classroom or a hybrid online class — requires significant investment. The Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, which has developed about 15 sophisticated online courses, mostly in the sciences, spent $500,000 to $1 million to write software for each. But neither Carnegie Mellon nor other institutions, which are invited to use its online courses, dares to use them without having a human instructor, too...more...
And you know what? Because it's in the Times we tend to cut an article some slack, to allow it some credibility, on the assumption that it has been vetted by professionals.

But really, the article starts off, "WHEN colleges and universities finally decide to make full use of the Internet, most professors will lose their jobs."

That is the single stupidest statement I ever read about anything. So dumb, it's not worth rebutting and hard to imagine how it slipped by all those editors.

Rabbis Throw Planned New Jersey Hebrew Charter School Shalom Academy Under the Bus

Jewish Week reports that a kashrut official and an area rabbi and several others are speaking out last-minute against a planned New Jersey Hebrew charter school.

To our mind, after first supporting it, now throwing a major new school project under the bus is not a very kosher thing to do, especially when the rabbis in question have no visible education credentials or experience.

JTA reports:
Rabbis backtracking on support for N.J. charter school

NEW YORK (JTA) -- Two Orthodox rabbis who had supported a new Hebrew-language charter school in New Jersey reportedly are now saying they have reservations.

Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO for kashrut at the Orthodox Union, and Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, first vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, had contributed letters of support as part of the 2010 charter application for the Shalom Academy in Bergen County, near New York City.

But Genack now says that the academy, which is scheduled to open in September, could “destabilize” yeshivas and day schools in Bergen County by drawing from those religious schools’ populations, The New York Jewish Week reported.

And Goldin said, “I’m always concerned, especially in the current financial climate, that people will see this as an alternative to day school, and I don’t think it’s a viable alternative.”

The school is set to provide a Hebrew immersion program for up to 240 students in grades kindergarten to eight.

Also opposing the project are Yossi Prager, executive director of the Avi Chai Foundation, and Sara Berman, chair of the Hebrew Charter School Center. Berman said Shalom Academy "does not match our vision of a Hebrew-language charter school.”

The local school board also has opposed the academy, saying it would harm its public school students.

Shalom Academy has drawn support from prominent Jewish figures, including New Jersey residents Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Foundation for Jewish Camp CEO Jeremy Fingerman.

If Shalom opens as planned, it would be the seventh Hebrew charter school in the United States and the third in the New York area. Hebrew charter schools, which offer nonreligious but Hebrew-focused curricula, are being looked at across the country as less expensive alternatives to Jewish day schools. Several of the schools are operating in New York and Florida.

2/6/11

Our Teaneck Neighbor David Zomick Has an Art Exhibit at the JCC in Tenafly

RainOnFifthReality Enhanced: Paintings by David Zomick

WHEN: February 1–24, 2011 
WHERE: Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, 411 East Clinton Avenue, Tenafly 201.408.1409

Reality Enhanced, an exhibit of acrylic paintings by award-winning artist David Zomick, will be on display at the Waltuch Gallery of the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades.

We've seen it. It's a great show, worth the visit.

More details here.

New Book: Rabbi Soloveitchik in the New World

The Van Leer Institute and Magnes Press have published a new academic book on Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's impact on Judaism.

The exciting new (Hebrew) book is based on a conference that was held in Jerusalem several years ago.

Rabbi in the New World The Influence of Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik on Culture, Education and Jewish Thought Edited By Avinoam Rosenak and Naftali Rothenberg

רב בעולם החדש

עיונים בהשפעתו של הרב יוסף דוב סולובייצ`יק על תרבות, על חינוך ועל מחשבה יהודית

בעריכת אבינועם רוזנק נפתלי רוטנברג
מו"ל: הוצאת ספרים ע``ש י``ל מאגנס

רב בעולם החדש
הרב יוסף דוב הלוי סולובייצ`יק (1993-1903) היה מהמנהיגים הבולטים של היהדות האורתודוקסית המודרנית בארצות הברית במשך קרוב לחצי מאה. דמותו בלטה בנוף הרבני בשל השכלתו התורנית והכללית הרחבה, יכולתו הפדגוגית, כוחו הרטורי וסמכותו ההלכתית. פעילותו הרבנית והציונית השפיעה גם על הציונות הדתית בישראל.

הספר רב בעולם החדש: עיונים בהשפעתו של הרב יוסף דוב סולובייצ`יק על תרבות, על חינוך ועל מחשבה יהודית, בוחן עד כמה השפיעה מנהיגותו על עיצובן של הקהילות האורתודוקסיות בארצות הברית, מה הן מאפייניה של השפעה זו ובאילו תחומים היא התבטאה; האם יש לראות ברב סולובייצ`יק מורה דרך לקהילתו, או שהשפעתו חרגה מגבולותיה של האורתודוקסיה באמריקה; האם ניתן לקבוע מי מתלמידיו משקף נאמנה את הגותו וחזונו; עד כמה חזונו היה גמיש לקראת אתגרי ההווה והעתיד, ועד כמה היה פתוח לשיח בין-דתי.

מאמריהם של עשרים ושישה מלומדים, מומחים בהקשרים ההיסטוריים, הסוציולוגיים, החינוכיים, התאולוגיים והפילוסופיים של יצירתו ותקופתו של הרב סולובייצ`יק, נכללים בספר.

ספר זה יצא לאור בשיתוף עם מכון ון ליר בירושלים

2/5/11

The Super Bowl is Religion Without Religion



No religion ads for the Super Bowl this year, according to the Times.

And yet, the Super Bowl is celebrated with much more piety and ritual than any religion.

From The New York Times BELIEFS: Super Bowl Ads Will Leave a Religious Question Unanswered, "Fox Sports says a commercial explaining John 3:16 violates the network’s policy against advancing particular religious beliefs and practices."

Check it out here.

We took on John 3:16, Tim Tebow and religion and the big game in three posts last year here.

2/3/11

Israel Good, Egypt Bad and the Complicated Middle East

There is one ultra-right wing nationalist Zionist theme song whose refrain is that Israel is never wrong:
They warned us. The geniuses at Peace Now warned us. The brilliant diplomats warned us. The think tanks warned us. Even the Arab dictators warned us. For decades now, they have been warning us that if you want "peace in the Middle East," just fix the Palestinian problem. A recent variation on this theme has been: Just get the Jews to stop building apartments in East Jerusalem and Efrat. Yes, if all those Jews in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would only "freeze" their construction, then, finally, Palestinian leaders might come to the table and peace might break out...(David Suissa, Founder, OLAM magazine, "Israel's Never Looked So Good," Huffington Post, hat tip to Mimi)
And we would agree with that part of the refrain except nobody literate and educated about the region says that.

And that reminds us that Tom Friedman always says something like that, to wit to prove the matter, what he says in the Times yesterday (B.E., Before Egypt. A.E., After Egypt, by THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN):
Today, I believe President Obama should put his own peace plan on the table, bridging the Israeli and Palestinian positions, and demand that the two sides negotiate on it without any preconditions. It is vital for Israel’s future — at a time when there is already a global campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state — that it disentangle itself from the Arabs’ story as much as possible. There is a huge storm coming, Israel. Get out of the way.
No doubt the presence of an actual democracy in the region is galling to the totalitarian Arab states. And the politics of the area are complex and irreducible to simple formulas.

That does not stop nationalist Jews or assimilationist Jews from making overly simplistic proclamations about this and that in the region.

Because it's all just opinion and rhetoric at this level, nobody cares what the pundits right or left pontificate.

2/2/11

AP: Amir Ganor's Dig at Hirbet Madras Uncovers Ancient Church Mosaic Masterpieces

Looks like a major find archaeological find in Israel, as reported by MSNBC...

1,500-year-old church found in Israel
Byzantine church includes unusually well-preserved mosaic floor
HIRBET MADRAS, Israel — Israeli archaeologists presented a newly uncovered 1,500-year-old church in the Judean hills on Wednesday, including an unusually well-preserved mosaic floor with images of lions, foxes, fish and peacocks.

The Byzantine church located southwest of Jerusalem, excavated over the last two months, will be visible only for another week before archaeologists cover it again with soil for its own protection.

The small basilica with an exquisitely decorated floor was active between the fifth and seventh centuries A.D., said the dig's leader, Amir Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. He said the floor was "one of the most beautiful mosaics to be uncovered in Israel in recent years."