The Travis Bickle Award goes to Professor Alvin Rosenfeld

In recognition of his strange rhetoric and bizarre opinions we are giving a Travis Bickle Award to Professor Alvin Rosenfeld.

The occasional award is given to the person who best personifies the Travis Bickle character in the movie Taxi Driver.
In the movie Taxi Driver the plain-man-hero Travis Bickel laments the filth and pornography that he sees all around him. His real desire is to confront a powerful patrician politician whom, he believes, is responsible for that decay.

The real Bickel is not heroic enough to go after the big gangster, though he certainly prepares and trains to do so. Instead he ends up killing a small time bad-guy - an ordinary lowlife like Bickel himself - and therby saves two girls from suffering.

The newspapers and parents praise Bickel as a hero.

This story encapsulates the Travis Bickel Complex. You prepare all your life for a confrontation with a powerful and alien evil foe. But in the end you take on a small time enemy who is just like you. And you come out acclaimed as a hero.
In the case of Rosenfeld, the professor trained and prepared to take on a powerful outside foe -- worldwide antiSemitism and the Holocaust. But then, instead of pursuing the real enemy, the professor now has turned to go after a smaller, more familiar enemy -- in this case a handful of progressive Jewish intellectuals.

Should we acclaim him a hero? I don't know. But I do know that he merits this latest Travis Bickle Award.

Links to the professor's essay and the NY Times story:
Essay Linking Liberal Jews and Anti-Semitism Sparks a Furor

The American Jewish Committee, an ardent defender of Israel, is known for speaking out against anti-Semitism, but this conservative advocacy group has recently stirred up a bitter and emotional debate with a new target: liberal Jews.

An essay the committee features on its Web site, ajc.org, titled “ ‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,” says a number of Jews, through their speaking and writing, are feeding a rise in virulent anti-Semitism by questioning whether Israel should even exist.

In an introduction to the essay, David A. Harris, the executive director of the committee, writes, “Perhaps the most surprising — and distressing — feature of this new trend is the very public participation of some Jews in the verbal onslaught against Zionism and the Jewish State.” Those who oppose Israel’s basic right to exist, he continues, “whether Jew or gentile, must be confronted.”

The essay comes at a time of high anxiety among many Jews, who are seeing not only a surge in attacks from familiar antagonists, but also gloves-off condemnations of Israel from onetime allies and respected figures, like former President Jimmy Carter, who titled his new book on the Mideast “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.” By spotlighting the touchy issue of whether Jews are contributing to anti-Semitism, both admirers and detractors of the essay agree that it aggravates an already heated dispute over where legitimate criticism of Israel and its defenders ends and anti-Semitic statements begin.

The essay, written by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, an English professor and the director of the Institute for Jewish Culture and the Arts at Indiana University in Bloomington, castigates a number of people by name, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, the historian Tony Judt, the poet Adrienne Rich and the Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, in addition to a number of academics....

Please Don't Bring Back that John 3:16

Here is an ironic example of a Time headline writer slapping on a clever headline that has no direct reference to it's story.

The story is about a woman wearing an offensive T-shirt at a football playoff game. The wingnuts are all up-in-arms about how offended they are that the "network lingered on the fan for several seconds." Several seconds of exposure to the entire F--- word! Imagine that!

Now why do I find the headline ironic? The implication of that New Testament verse it cites is that we Jews - who do not believe in Jesus - will not have eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The only conclusion one can reach after reading that brief salvific text is that we non-believers will perish!

Time magazine ought to be more reflective about their headlines. Even if the headline was just a smart-alecky swipe at the wingnuts, I am disappointed that Time would not realize how substantively offensive a negative theological assertion can be to religious folk.
Bring Back John 3:16
By Douglas Waller/Washington

A 30-second commercial in this year's Super Bowl will cost as much as $2.6 million. But all it takes is a few seconds of a misplaced camera shot during the game to make a network wonder whether it's worth it. That's why CBS will be expecially vigilant this weekend, after what happened during the Jan. 13 Fox broadcast of the NFC Playoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New Orleans Saints.

During the NFL playoff game at the New Orleans Superdome, Fox's camera zoomed in on a cheering blond woman in the crowd. She had black patches under her eyes (the kind football players wear for the glare) and sported a black T-shirt with "F--- Da Eagles" printed on it in gold. The Parents Television Council, a decency watchdog group founded by conservative commentator Brent Bozell, wasn't amused, particularly by the fact that the network lingered on the fan for several seconds before cutting away. It has been mobilizing its members to file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission, which so far has received 8,000 alone via the council's web site. The group has also demanded that Fox and its affiliates refund advertisers the money they paid to air commercials during the game. (No money has been refunded and no advertisers have asked for it, say network officials.)

Bloggers had the offensive image sailing through the Internet by halftime. Immediately after the game, embarrassed Fox execs began apologizing profusely. The shot was "inadvertent and unintentional," insists Fox spokeswoman Ileana Pena. In the fast pacing of live TV, the image slipped through without anyone noticing what was printed on the shirt, the network claims.

The council isn't buying that defense. "There is no doubt that this was an intentional airing of patently offensive language on the public airwaves," says a fuming Tim Winter, president of the council and a former executive at NBC for 15 years. Fox's broadcast crew, he added, picked the racy T-shirt "from more than 70,000 spectators in the stadium." With so many eyes fixated on what's being beamed out of the stadium — from the cameraman taking the shot to the directors and technicians in the production truck watching the monitors — "how can you possibly take this apology seriously?"

If the networks are actually held responsible for any obscene behavior in the stands, it could cost them. Janet Jackson's notorious "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show cost CBS and its affiliates $550,000 in fines. The network will have a five-second delay for this year's halftime show, which the NFL is also reviewing ahead of time more carefully.

CBS won't have any delay for the game itself, which will be broadcast live. But the network's cameramen and directors working the Super Bowl have been briefed to be careful about crowd shots to make sure they don't repeat Fox's mistake, say CBS execs. "We talk to our production teams throughout the season about what we think is appropriate," says Tony Petitti, executive vice president and executive producer for CBS Sports. For all games, the NFL also instructs security personnel and ticket-takers at entrances to prevent fans from coming into stadiums with obscene signs or clothing, says spokesman Brian McCarthy. They'll be doing the same on Sunday, but McCarthy cautions that an offensive T-shirt is difficult for a gatekeeper to spot if the fan walks through with other clothing covering it.

Because the case is now before the FCC, Fox won't comment on steps the network is taking to make sure a dirty crowd shot snafu doesn't happen again. In any event, the FCC isn't likely to do anything until a federal appeals court rules on the FCC's new indecency enforcement policy, fueled in part by Jackson's breast-bearing show. That policy, which would impose fines for certain types of graphic profanity, is being challenged by the major networks, including Fox. More crowd shots like the one during the Eagles-Saints game probably won't help their case.

Vista Shmista! Bravo to Office 2007!

Vista Shmista! The new Microsoft operating system is getting all the attention this week.

But the new Office 2007 System is the real the blockbuster - especially for me - a writer. I installed it last night. Right away I can see that it's not another incremental upgrade. Rather it is a paradigm shift in both its file format (Open Office XML) and front end user interface.

From the MS product description
: "The traditional menus and toolbars have been replaced by the Ribbon — a new device that presents commands organized into a set of tabs. The tabs on the Ribbon display the commands that are most relevant for each of the task areas in the applications. For example, in Office Word 2007, the tabs group commands for activities such as inserting objects like pictures and tables, doing page layout, working with references, doing mailings, and reviewing."

You can download a sixty day free trial of Office 2007
and get your hands on it right away. I highly recommend this software.

NY Stock Exchange Invites Israeli Companies

This is a major validation of the Israeli economy by a prominent external source. In December we read rosy reports that included these indicators, "... Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor, paid $4 billion for an Israeli company, and Donald Trump is developing a 70-story luxury residential tower on the outskirts of Tel Aviv." This is further evidence to counter those catastrophic Zionists who predict the imminent economic collapse of the State of Israel.
NYSE seeks more Israeli firms to list on exchange
Wed Jan 31, 2007 10:49 AM ET

TEL AVIV, Jan 31 (Reuters) - The New York Stock Exchange Group is keen to get more listings from Israeli companies, President and co-Chief Operating Officer Catherine Kinney said on Wednesday.

Emerging companies that previously did not qualify to list on NYSE can now list on NYSE-Arca, a fully electronic stock exchange that allows smaller companies to transfer to NYSE.

NYSE-Arca was created following a merger with electronic trading platform Archipelago Holdings Inc. that transformed the 213-year-old member-owned club into a for-profit, public company last March.

"In the past we never had the opportunity to reach out to many of the Israeli companies that were in a much higher growth phase, but with the new portfolio we hope to change that," Kinney told a conference at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE).

"Depending on the IPO pipeline, and given Israel's robust economy, I think there should be many more opportunities for Israeli companies to join," Kinney said.

She noted that Israel currently has 7 companies traded on NYSE, while Cellcom, Israel's largest mobile operator, has filed for an initial public offering (IPO).

Highlighting the benefits of dual listing, Ester Levanon, chief executive of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, underlined increased exposure to investors and 13 hours of continuous trading.

Kinney said a recent study by NYSE showed that dual-listed companies enjoyed 30 percent more liquidity relative to those that were not.

"Israel has a sophisticated banking system, a sophisticated legal system, a wonderful exchange, and great companies...as opposed to other emerging markets which have some but not all of the criteria," Kinney said.


Spending Passover in Eilat? Rabbi Requires Two Seders

Arutz Sheva reports that an Israeli rabbi has ruled that the Israeli city of Eilat is part of the diaspora. Hence Jews must celebrate two days for the Passover holiday there just as they do in the rest of the world.

I'm shocked. Is it possible that Orthodox Jews now actually spend Passover in Eilat?
2 Seders for Eilat Residents, Says Rabbi Elyashiv
15:18 Jan 28, '07 / 9 Shevat 5767

(IsraelNN.com) Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv has issued a ruling that differentiates residents and tourists in Eilat from those in the rest of the State of Israel with regard to Passover observance, according to the Globes business news service.

According to the Kol Haֲ’Ir newspaper, Rabbi Elyashiv ruled that Jews in Eilat must hold two seders on Passover, as do Jews in the Diaspora.

The ruling was issued in response to questions by hareidi religious travel agencies that rent out hotels in Antalya, Turkey as well as Eilat and make them kosher for Passover vacation packages catering to the Jewish observant population.

Rabbi Eliyashiv said the ruling included Eilat, a popular Israeli resort town, because he said it is not part of the biblical Land of Israel.

To the Onion: Rape is never funny

Sometimes attempted humor is not funny (IMHO). Sometimes it is offensive.

From the Onion:

Israeli President Accused Of Rape

The Israeli parliament agreed to allow President Moshe Katsav to temporarily step down in order to fight possible rape charges. What do you think?

Young Woman

Esther Jones,
Systems Analyst
"Rape charges against the president of Israel? Man, Lebanon is really going to pay for this one somehow."

Black Man

Lee Marlowe,
Support Staff
"I sure hope he wasn't Bar Mitzvah'ed. He'll serve much less time in prison if he's charged as a juvenile."

Young Man

Moses Brown,
Social Worker
Well, at least he'll have Palestinian support behind him for having raped a Jew."

Video: Dancing Gangsta Rabbis

Rabbis dancing with some unusual lyrics...

Video: People Power v. the Arab-Israeli Conflict

How to end the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East? Using every means available!

This grass roots effort - One*Voice - deserves your support.

A session was held at the WEF at Davos with this agenda:

While there is clear popular support from both Israelis and Palestinians for a two-state solution, negotiations have stalled. Join this message from citizens of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, broadcast with the support of OneVoice Movement, and participate in the debate as political leaders of both sides respond. This will be a frank discussion on the proposed Arab Peace Plan and what it will take to achieve sustainable peace based on a two-state solution.

1. What major obstacles remain to negotiating a peace settlement? What steps can be taken to build trust and momentum towards a resolution?

2. What should Israeli and Palestinian politicians do to catalyse non-violent sentiments in their societies and bring an end to the self-perpetuating cycle of violence?

The plenary session paticipants were:

* Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority; Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee
* Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom
* Tzipi Livni, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel
* Shimon Peres, Vice-Prime Minister of Israel
* Chaired by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum

The video of the session is just over an hour. See it here.


Teaneck Rabbi and Kosher Porn

Pornographer Oren Cohen has manged to use Kof-K Kosher Supervision to publicize his new Hebrew porno DVD with an all-Israeli cast, called Assraelis.

No question: Cohen has stepped over another line - the boundary between religion and smut - using a religious symbol, a religious concept, as a feature of his disgraceful product.

The Teaneck-based Kof-K Rabbi-Administrator responded to all of this with minimal firepower. He apparently was satisfied to protect his trademark asking Cohen to remove it from the DVD.

But the rabbi had a good chance to make a rabbinic point. Namely he could have asked that Cohen make no reference to the idea of kosher at all in his pornographic products. Or that the creep stop making porn. Apparently the rabbi did not have the courage to do this. Or he thought, that just is not part of his administrative job.

So we have a pornographer who has exploited the religious notion of kashrut for cheap publicity and a rabbi who says, "Case closed" as long as the DVD just says Kosher and not Kof-K Kosher.

Well I say, "Case not closed" until all reference to religious certification is removed from this smut. We may not be able to stop people from producing this crap. But we sure as heck ought to fight to keep the sacred protected from the profane.

Other sites on this topic: Jewtastic; Boing Boing; NYTimes

Finally, the Bergen Record reported in early on this story on Friday:
Kosher symbol on porn DVD hits nerve in Teaneck
Friday, January 26, 2007


A Teaneck rabbi has persuaded a Los Angeles-based pornographer to remove a trademark kosher symbol from the cover of a sexually explicit DVD about Israeli women.

The cover, which shows a woman striking a seductive pose, boasts that the explicit video was filmed in Israel. It also had a Hebrew letter with a "K" inside it -- the same stamp of approval that the rabbi's company slaps on thousands of kosher food products.

"It was shocking," said Rabbi Yehuda Rosenbaum, who is the administrative director of KOF-K Kosher Supervision, according to the company's Web site.

The Teaneck company is an organization of Orthodox rabbis dedicated for 40 years to "maintaining the integrity of the kosher status of foods in accordance to the highest standards of Kosher Law."

The company sent a warning letter to Tight Fit Productions -- the company that made the film -- which then agreed to remove the symbol.

Oren Cohen, head of Tight Fit, said he made a mistake.

"I just assumed that letters of the alphabet ... weren't trademarked symbols," Cohen said Thursday. "I was wrong."

Cohen said he initially used the symbol to make a statement that would be "tongue in cheek" and also a guarantee to viewers that the movie was the first adult feature filmed entirely in Israel with an Israeli cast.

"That was our reasoning," Cohen said, adding that he is fluent in Hebrew and has many relatives in Israel.

Rosenbaum said he appreciated how quickly the filmmaker responded.

"They cooperated without any hesitation," the rabbi said. "I consider the matter closed."
And one more thing, Oren. As I proud Zionist I have to demand that you take that Israeli flag off the DVD cover!


Israeli President Goes Bananas

From the BBC:
Israeli papers slam Katsav tirade
President Moshe Katsav
Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has called for Katsav's resignation

Israeli papers have stepped up pressure on President Moshe Katsav to quit over allegations of rape, after his furious denials at a press conference on Wednesday.

Commentators believe Mr Katsav's emotional performance and angry attacks on his accusers have made things worse for him, with one describing the president as "raging".

There is a consensus that Mr Katsav, who has requested leave of absence, can no longer stay in office.


One has to tell the truth: The media treated Katsav harshly in the last six months. Such is the media. But after yesterday's horror show at 3 President Street, it is difficult to feel any pangs of conscience.


The president decided yesterday to shoulder the responsibility, at least partially, while scattering accusations in every possible direction - only not against himself. With such grave accusations hanging over his head, Katsav should have put down the keys and gone home.


A person who says such things in such a way about the police, the attorney general and the media can be many things but he cannot be president.


If the president has indeed committed the acts attributed to him, there is no reason to expect him to begin acting honourably now. If the president has decided not to resign, there is no choice but to oust him.


For some 50 minutes on Wednesday night, a raging, emotional President Moshe Katsav sprayed furious accusations. He vowed a "world war" to save his name. But this is a battle, as he now acknowledged, that Katsav, innocent or not, cannot continue to wage from the president's residence.


He could have ended the affair quietly, reached agreement with the attorney general, the police and even the first plaintiff and gone home. However, he decided to fight and what is he left with?


The president of the state lives in a movie. But we live in a horror movie: A monstrous charge sheet hangs over the head of the president and in the Knesset they still find it difficult to depose him.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.


Wikipedia for Hire: Is it Kosher?

I am a big fan of Wikipedia (except when my students cut and paste from it right into their assignments). It's a brilliant model of collaborative information publishing.

But now there's a brouhaha brewing because some folks are cashing in on writing for the so-called "volunteer" encyclopedia.

It's too bad - but it was only a matter of time.

Here's the scenario from the AP behind this great ethical dilemma of the day.

Idea of Paid Entries Roils Wikipedia
By Brian Bergstein, AP Technology Writer

Microsoft Cash Offer Raises Question: What's Wrong With Accepting Money to Write on Wikipedia?

BOSTON (AP) -- When a blogger revealed this week that Microsoft Corp. wanted to pay him to fix purported inaccuracies in technical articles on Wikipedia, the software company endured online slams and a rebuke from the Web encyclopedia's founder for behaving unethically.

The imbroglio will soon pass, but it raises a bigger question: Why is it so bad to pay someone to write something on Wikipedia?

The "free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" requires articles to have a "neutral point of view." But most contributors surely have some personal motivation to dive into a subject, whether it's adoration of "Star Trek" or a soft spot for geraniums.

What's to say contributors who get paid have a harder time sticking to the golden path of neutrality? And doesn't Wikipedia have a built-in defense mechanism -- the swarms of volunteer editors and moderators who can quickly obliterate public-relations fluff, vanity pages and other junk?

That is precisely what ran through Gregory Kohs' mind last year when he launched MyWikiBiz, a service that offered to write Wikipedia entries for businesses for $49 to $99....

Absolute Jewish Pseudo-Scholarship: Jews and Money

Sometimes you come across an article that masquerades as scholarship but just completely reeks of arbitrary opinion. I came upon just such a case today entitles "Jewish Theology and Economic Theory" emanating from a "Think Tank" in Jerusalem. The authors are described as follows, "Corinne Sauer is co-founder and director of the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, an economic policy think-tank located in Israel. Robert M. Sauer is chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and founding president of the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies."

Now the thesis of this article is that Jews are economically liberal even thought they ought to be conservative.

What makes me say that this is pseudo-scholarship par excellence? The complete lack of nuance regarding varieties of Jews across history and geography. The utter absence of metrics or any indication that the authors did any original work to support their thesis. The lack of a coherent and distinguishable thesis. I could go on. But you have here a very nice Op-Ed piece presented as if it were a scholarly essay under the imprimatur of an institute named for an esteemed intellectual.
Jewish Theology and Economic Theory
by Corinne Sauer and Robert M. Sauer

The late Milton Himmelfarb, a social commentator and longtime student of the American Jewish community, definitively summed up the Jewish political paradox with his famous aphorism: “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” American Jews, it seems, tenaciously refuse to link their higher income levels with more conservative, or economically liberal (in the European sense), political positions. Recent data indicate that American Jews earn per capita almost twice as much as non-Jews. Yet, they are between 33 percent and 50 percent less likely than American Catholics and Protestants to identify themselves as supporters of the free market.

Why is it that American Jews suffer from (or perhaps enjoy) a particularly acute case of champagne socialism? The most popular answer to this difficult question involves the impact of Judaism on the belief system of American Jews, as well as Judaism’s emphasis on aggressively pursuing social justice.

The conventional wisdom is that Judaism motivates Jews to be highly educated and to succeed professionally but to fervently support relatively collectivist social policies and other forms of aggressive government intervention for shaping an ideal society. In our view, however, the fundamental problem with the so-called standard answer is that it is not at all true that Judaism is a set of principles that endorses income redistribution and other progressive social programs. In fact, our research shows the opposite: Judaism is a system of thought that more naturally aligns itself with the basic principles of economic liberalism. Jewish economic theory does not explain the widespread distaste amongst Jews for a free market political agenda.

A simple analysis of the political preferences of American and Israeli Jews suggests that there is a statistical basis for claiming that Jews have a strong distaste for economic liberalism. This is quite a paradox because it is also well-known that Jews have benefited a great deal over the centuries from the operation of free markets and competitive capitalism.
There's more to this article at the site.

What do I think about Jews and economics? There obviously are large numbers of economically left-wing and liberal Jews who come from poor backgrounds and a smaller number of wealthy economically conservative Jews. The economics of Jews has little or nothing to do with the theology of Judaism.

To make any other case requires a whole lot more work than these pseudo-scholarly authors are willing to invest.


Chief Rabbi's Son Embarrasses Worldwide Rabbinate With Moronic Pronouncements

YNET has reported that Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, son of Former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, says that Jews resettling of Gush Katif is the cure for the rampant corruption of the government.

In a new pamphlet he absurdly accuses Israeli PM Olmert of taking bribes from antiSemites and Arabs. In the most inane rabbinic free associative and non-sequiteurial thinking of the year, Eliyahu says the remedy for this is to "restore the truth" - yes - by Jews moving back to Gaza.

Rabbis, your Israeli colleague is mocking you and devaluing your profession. Won't you raise a voice? The story:

Safed rabbi calls for return to Gush Katif

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu publishes opinion on Gaza disengagement, its instigators, how to turn back time; 'we must save Israel from Sharon's corrupt followers,' he says

by Efrat Weiss

Shmuel Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of the northern city of Safed, called for the re-settlement of Gush Katif, a bloc of Israeli settlements in the southern Gaza Strip evacuated as part of the disengagement plan.

"We must save the State of Israel from the corrupt, (former Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon's followers… We must return to Gush Katif; we need 100 brave men to come with equipment and sleeping bags… It is ours; we were expelled under false pretenses, and we must restore the truth," the rabbi said in an article published over the weekend.

The article, titled "Return to Katif," was published in "Salvation Springs," a pamphlet distributed over the weekend in synagogues throughout Israel.

Rabbi Eliyahu, son of Former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, is very popular in the community, especially amongst the youth.

In the article, the rabbi wrote: "If you were told tomorrow that behind (Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert's decision to back the 'disengagement' stood money – lots of money which he received under the table – would you fall off your seats? Probably not. And if you were told that this money was European, coming from anti-Semitic or Arab organizations, it would not be surprising."

Eliyahu continued to criticize "Sharon's followers," calling them corrupt and blinded by greed.

"We must take initiative, we must return to Gush Katif. What could happen? We'll be kicked out? We will return again and another seven times… The media may present us as delusional, but eventually they will understand that we have no other way. Eventually the truth will lead the way," he added.

Rabbi Eliyahu ended his letter calling for recruits for the re-settlement, saying they would come armed with weapons and "restore the truth," adding that this idea should be expanded throughout Israel.


Blogging is heresy

Rabbi General's Warning: If you want to maintain your privacy, do not publish your innermost thoughts so the whole world can read them. If you blog, that means you have decided to live your life as an open book. If you play with fire you will get burned. If you blog anonymously, you will be outed. If you are risk averse, don't take risks. If you think this blogging is a sport, then be prepared for the thrills. If you want people to accept you as frum (pious), then don't espouse heresy here or anywhere. If you don't understand that religion is reactionary by definition, then open your eyes and look around you. If you like technology because it changes so quickly, then you probably don't like traditional religion. If you want to be a pious strictly Orthodox Jew, or a credible Christian fundamentalist, then this should be the last blog post you ever read.

Knesset Reveals the Ties of the Tribe

The Knesset web site provides a list of MKs married to each other or divorced and those who are/were parents and children of one another, cousins, in-laws, nephews/nieces.

Moshe was the son of Shmuel and the father of Yael etc. Serious tribal data.

I'm going to guess that the Official US Congressional web site does not have the counterpart page to this one.


The Guide to Assistant Football Coaching for fun and profit

Riddle: How many highly paid assistant college football coaches does it take to get into the Texas Bowl?
Answer: Nine.

This tale of overpaid coaches is a front page story of the Bergen Record. Why? because it so obviously demonstrates the lopsided value system that governs our institutions of higher education. First the sidebar:
What they're paid

Rutgers full-time assistant football coaches got hefty raises, even as the program struggled to break even financially. Each of these coaches also gets an annual car stipend of $7,200 and a bowl bonus of one month's salary. The hikes came as the rest of the university was dealing with unprecedented cutbacks.

These are some of the assistant coaches, their 2007 salaries and the percentage increase.
  1. Jay Butler $125,675 (10.1%)
  2. Chris Demarest $143,000 (10%)
  3. John McNulty $160,000 (23.1%)
  4. Kyle Flood $122,500 (22.5%)
  5. Joseph Susan $144,000 (15.2%)
  6. Cary Godette $143,000 (10%)
  7. Darren Rizzi $145,750 (10%)
  8. Robert Jackson $115,000 (9.5%)
  9. Craig Ver Steeg $185,000 (7.8%)
Now the facts. In November the Record told us, "Coach Greg Schiano, who's led the Scarlet Knights to an 8-0 start, is the highest paid state employee and will make more than $1 million this year. The university also pays $998 a month for his Cadillac Escalade and has spent at least $158,000 preparing a piece of its ecological preserve that Schiano bought to build a new home."

Today they tell us more:
Rutgers assistants get raises while university slashes jobs

Special Report: Rutgers' price of glory

Rutgers University gave hefty raises this season to football coach Greg Schiano's inner circle, with one assistant getting a bump of nearly $30,000, according to a review of employment contracts.

Most of Schiano's six-figure coaching assistants got double-digit raises even as the university reeled under state budget cuts that forced the elimination of 825 jobs.

Salaries for nine coaches now range between $115,000 and $185,000, according to the contracts obtained by The Record under the state's Open Public Records Act. Each also gets a $7,200 annual car stipend and an additional one month's pay -- a bonus for getting the Scarlet Knights into the Texas Bowl.

The contracts for 2006-07 were signed in the fall as the team embarked on its most successful season, one that saw the once-downtrodden program crack the national rankings for the first time in 30 years.

At the same time, the rest of the university was suffering from nearly $80 million in state aid cuts that resulted in the job cuts and cancellation of at least 459 course sections. Athletic Director Robert E. Mulcahy III also announced plans to cut six high-performing Olympic sports that cost a combined $800,000.

But football was spared the pain. As much as $3 million from the university was pumped into the $13 million football budget this season.

Mulcahy said he hoped that increased revenues from ticket sales would close the gap and allow the program to be self-supporting as early as next season. Experts say it generally takes consistent winning seasons for programs to begin to turn a profit.

Mulcahy said season-ticket sales for next season's home games already have doubled to 23,000 and sellouts are anticipated. When asked about possible expansion of the 41,500-seat stadium in Piscataway, Mulcahy said: "We have to look at all options. I'm a businessman."

Schiano will be paid more than $1.13 million for 2006-07 as a series of bonuses has kicked in for milestones in the team's winning season. The coach's contract, which runs through 2012, also provides him with a Cadillac Escalade.

The contract may be renegotiated upward, however, after the team's celebrated 11-2 season. Schiano, 40, won several national coaching awards, sparking interest from other teams. The charismatic coach has also snagged some of the nation's top recruits for next year.

"I am going to treat him fairly, given all the great interest in him,'' Mulcahy said, when asked whether Schiano will get a better contract....

Say Kaddish for the Printed Book?

The printed book is nearly dead. The print newspaper is dying. The Internet delivers words and images everywhere to every device at any time.

Soon it may make as much sense to call a treatise or novel a "book" as it now makes no sense to refer to a "dial" tone when you pick up a telephone. Bound paper tomes are already a relic of the past.

Google is ready to put more nails in the coffin. Reports are that Penguin, a unit of Pearson Group PLC (PSO), Harper Collins, a unit of News Corp. (NWS), and Simon & Schuster, a unit of CBC Corp. (CBS) are are preparing to partner with Google. The Sunday Times (London) has the story:
Google plots e-books coup
Dominic Rushe

GOOGLE and some of the world’s top publishers are working on plans that they hope could do for books what Apple’s iPod has done for music.

The internet search giant is working on a system that would allow readers to download entire books to their computers in a format that they could read on screen or on mobile devices such as a Blackberry.

With 380m people using Google each month, the move would give a significant boost to the development of e-books and have a big impact on the publishing industry and book retailers.

Jens Redmer, director of Google Book Search in Europe, said: “We are working on a platform that will let publishers give readers full access to a book online.”

He did not believe taking books online would mean the end of the printed word but it would give readers more options when it came to buying. “You may just want to rent a travel guide for the holiday or buy a chapter of a book. Ultimately, it will be the readers who decide how books are read,” he said.

He added that after many years of setbacks the electronic book looked poised to go main-stream. Commuters in Japan were already reading entire novels on their mobile phones....(read more).

NY Times Opines on Kvetching and Kvelling - We must be close to the messianic redemption

Who would believe it? In his distinguished column on language, Bill Sapphire writes today about kvetching and kvelling:

On Language: Kvetch

“Republicans,” wrote Mark Leibovich and Anne Kornblut in The Times, “suddenly facing a minimum two-year sentence out of power, coalesced around a message of kvetching.”

“It’s not whining,” insisted Representative Pat McHenry of North Carolina, irritated at the way Democrats were driving the early legislative agenda without permitting Republicans to utter a peep (much as the G.O.P. members did when they were in the majority). “It’s a matter of calling them out on their rhetoric.”

The use of kvetching in The Times not as a part of a quotation — nor, for that matter, within quotation marks to indicate a slang or dialect expression — is clear evidence that the word has been absorbed into the English language. Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate defines the verb kvetching as “to complain habitually”; it appeared in its citation files in 1952, the same year as its near-opposite, kvell, “to be delighted,” from the German quellen, “to gush, swell,” in most cases with pride. But within a decade, the grim kvetching, unlike the joyous kvell, made it as a noun.

It met a linguistic need that reflects the temper of contentious times: a kvetching is not merely “a complainer, nag, sulker, grumbler, grouser, griper, whiner, moaner” or the more formal “malcontent.” Like most words imported to convey an especially vivid feeling, kvetch seems to sound like the quality it describes in a person. There is a lower-lip-biting itchiness to it; extended exposure to someone who is a kvetch may be subliminally related to the rhyming retch, or at least evokes the urge to spew out the onomatopoeic imprecation yecch!

Usage of the word in all its forms — verb, participle, now strongly noun — has been assisted by “Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods,” by Michael Wex, and by what is described as “a music/comedy CD” by Freddy and the Froy Boys titled “Kvetch 22,” the name a pun on the unforgettable name of the 1961 novel by Joseph Heller. If The Times is willing to adopt this Yiddishism as both verb and noun (from kvetshn, from the German quetschen, literally “to squeeze, pinch,” the feeling you get from extended exposure to a kvetching), it is a breakthrough for color in reportage. Makes every language maven kvell.


Two Sites Worth a Visit: Library Thing and Gapminder

1. You dream of cataloging all your books and putting them online in a database.

Dream no more. Just go to Library Thing and get started. It is effortless.

2. You dream of a graphical representations of human development trends worldwide.

Wishes fulfilled at Gapminder the state-of-the-art chart site: "Gapminder is a non-profit venture for development and provision of free software that visualise human development. This is done in collaboration with universities, UN organisations, public agencies and non-governmental organisations. Gapminder is a Foundation registered at Stockholm county administration board."


Tonight: The Jon Stewart Show in taped Teaneck

Just saw a skit from the show tonight - taped in Teaneck on Cedar Lane right across from Veggie Heaven.

Now we know that Teaneck has arrived, is hip, and funny.

Teaneck appears two minutes into the video here:

Tobacco Executives Scheme to Kill More People

Everybody is crowing about how cancer deaths have decreased. The tobacco industry has plans to reverse that trend.

If you smoke, please quit now. Tobacco executives kill 400,000 people each year in the US and they want to kill more

The distressing news via Forbes:

Big Tobacco Boosting Nicotine in Cigarettes: Study

THURSDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. tobacco companies increased the level of addictive nicotine in their cigarettes by 11 percent from 1998 to 2005, and did so in a variety of ways, new research shows.

The tobacco companies accomplished the increase not only be intensifying the concentration of nicotine in the tobacco but also by modifying several design features of cigarettes to increase the number of puffs per cigarette taken by smokers, according to a Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) study.

Analyzing major brand name cigarettes sold in Massachusetts, the researchers found that increases in smoke nicotine yield per cigarette averaged 1.6 percent each year over those seven years. Nicotine is the primary addictive ingredient in cigarettes.

Increases in smoke-nicotine yields occurred in each of the four major manufacturers and across all the major cigarette market categories, including light and ultralight.

The findings were expected to be presented Thursday at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"Cigarettes are finely-tuned delivery devices, designed to perpetuate a tobacco pandemic," research team co-leader Howard Koh, associate dean for public health practice at HSPH and a former commissioner of public health in Massachusetts, said in a prepared statement.

"Yet precise information about these products remains shrouded in secrecy, hidden from the public. Policy actions today requiring the tobacco industry to disclose critical information about nicotine and product design could protect the next generation from the tragedy of addiction," Koh said.

"Our findings call into serious question whether the tobacco industry has changed at all in its pursuit of addicting smokers since signing the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998 with the State Attorneys General," research team co-leader Gregory Connolly, program director of the Tobacco Control Research Program at HSPH, said in a prepared statement.

"Our analysis shows that the companies have been subtly increasing the drug nicotine year by year in their cigarettes, without any warning to consumers, since the settlement. Scrutiny by the Attorneys General is imperative," Connolly said.

He added that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) has filed proposed federal legislation "that would address this abuse and bring the tobacco industry under the rules that regulate other manufacturers of drugs."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about tobacco addiction.

Teaneck: Jerusalem of the West?

A nice article about the Teaneck Clergy Council today in the Bergen Record:
A town known for its unusual religious diversity


Teaneck Mayor Elie Katz looked around at the suits in the room. "I apologize for my casual clothing -- I've been fighting a cold lately," he said. "But I guess this is the right place to ask for a prayer."

Katz was a guest speaker at the first 2007 meeting of the Teaneck Clergy Council, an interfaith group representing various Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Baha'i and Ethical Culture congregations within the township.

He talked about new municipal projects like volunteering drives, a financial advisory board and even real-estate revaluation.

"The truth is, you probably have a larger following than I do," said Katz to his audience. "This, right here, is a microcosm of what Teaneck is all about."

With an estimated 52 houses of worship within township boundaries, Teaneck's diversity goes beyond ethnic and racial.

Christian denominations run the gamut from Catholic to Episcopal to Syrian, with a rare South Asian Mar Thoma denomination to boot; Reform, Conservative and Orthodox synagogues all have significant followings in a strong Jewish community; and the Dar-ul Islah mosque has been one of the largest in the region since it was built in the '80s.

Members of the Islamic community remember the New York Times dubbing Teaneck the "Jerusalem of the West," due to the high concentration of synagogues and large flow of traffic to the mosque....
Also see...a NY Times article from 2000.


TV 4: Monty Python Blasphemes Christianity

Five part video (until YouTube removes it). A great documentary about some of the world's most serious and threatening comedians. Described by Ch 4:

The Secret Life of Brian
Monty Python's seminal comedy Life of Brian, made in 1979, is one of the most controversial films ever produced. This Channel 4 documentary examines how the movie caused a global furore amongst religious groups, who saw it as blasphemous, disgusting and 'made in hell'.

The Pythons reflect on the concept and making of the film and discuss the obstacles they had to overcome. EMI withdrew funding, local councils in Britain banned cinemas from showing the film and Mary Whitehouse lobbied the British Board of Film Censors to refuse the film a certificate.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Muslim Hate Caught on Video in UK Mosques: UK TV 4

"Undercover Mosque" - broadcast on January 15 - leaves no doubt about the subversive mission emanating from Mosques in the UK. The description from the Channel 4 site. Listen to the American accents of some of the imams spouting hate:

A Dispatches reporter attends mosques run by organisations whose public faces are presented as moderate and finds preachers condemning integration into British society, condemning democracy and praising the Taliban for killing British soldiers.

Prime Minister Tony Blair recently described tolerance as 'what makes Britain Britain' but in this extensive investigation Dispatches reveals how a message of hatred and segregation is being spread throughout the UK and examines how it is influenced by the religious establishment of Saudi Arabia.

Dispatches has investigated a number of mosques run by high profile national organisations that claim to be dedicated to moderation and dialogue with other faiths. But an undercover reporter joined worshippers to find a message of religious bigotry and extremism being preached.

He captures chilling sermons in which Saudi-trained preachers proclaim the supremacy of Islam, preach hatred for non-Muslims and for Muslims who do not follow their extreme beliefs - and predict a coming jihad. "An army of Muslims will arise," announces one preacher. Another preacher said British Muslims must "dismantle" British democracy - they must "live like a state within a state" until they are "strong enough to take over."

The investigation reveals Saudi Arabian universities are recruiting young Western Muslims to train them in their extreme theology, then sending them back to the West to spread the word. And the Dispatches reporter discovers that British Muslims can ask for fatwas, religious rulings, direct from the top religious leader in Saudi Arabia, the Grand Mufti.

Saudi-trained preachers are also promoted in DVDs and books on sale at religious centres and sermons broadcast on websites. These publications and webcasts disseminate beliefs about women such as: "Allah has created the woman deficient, her intellect is incomplete", and girls: "By the age of 10 if she doesn't wear hijab, we hit her," and there's an extreme hostility towards homosexuals.

The investigation reveals that the influence of Saudi Arabian Islam, Wahabism, extends beyond the walls of some mosques to influential organisations that advise the British government on inter-community relations and prevention of terrorism.

The Dispatches reporter attends talks at mosques run by key organisations whose public faces are presented as moderate and mainstream - and finds preachers condemning the idea of integration into British society, condemning British democracy as un-Islamic and praising the Taliban for killing British soldiers.

Undercover Mosque features interviews with moderate British Muslim figures who are speaking out against the influence of Saudi Arabia's extreme brand of Islam, which is seeking to overturn Islamic traditions of diversity and peaceful co-existence: "We are losing our children to extremists," says Haras Rafiq of the Sufi Muslim Council. Dr Al Alawi of the Islamic Heritage Foundation also warns: "If this continues, you will have extremist mosques in every corner of the UK. You will not have moderate Muslims walking on our streets anymore."

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Davos Leaders: "Enough is Enough" in the Middle East

The AP Reports that the Middle East will get plenty of attention at the World Economic Forum. With no-content session titles like, "Enough is Enough" - expect a lot of rhetoric to be generated and no substantive proposals to emerge. Anyway, don't the oil companies want the turmoil to continue to keep supplies low and prices high?
Middle East Big Issue at World Forum
By Bradley S. Klapper, Associated Press Writer

Middle East Turmoil to Take Center Stage at World Economic Forum

GENEVA (AP) -- Middle East turmoil will take center stage at this year's World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, with Israeli and Palestinian officials, Middle Eastern leaders and Iraqi politicians attending, organizers said Wednesday.

The lineup for this year's meeting lacks a big-hitter from The White House, but several Bush administration officials and presidential hopefuls will attend. The guest list includes Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan's King Abdullah II, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and key Shia, Sunni and Kurdish politicians from Iraq.

Israel will be represented by Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni at the Forum, which begins next Wednesday just a couple of weeks before a meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as part of a U.S. effort to breathe life into moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

"The Middle East issue is the most crucial issue for the world at this moment," said Klaus Schwab, head of the foundation that hosts the annual meeting of more than 1,000 business and political leaders and officials in Davos.

One Middle East session is titled "Enough is Enough." Another on the future of the region includes European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and ex-Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, a frequent guest...

Olmert's Eye Job Surgery: Where are the before and after photos?

Ehud had an eye job. I'm still looking for the "before and after photos" of PM Olmert's eyelids that were allegedly published in the Israeli press. For now, these before and after photos from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons page on "Eyelid Surgery (Blepharoplasty): If You're Considering Eyelid Surgery..." will have to do. Don't forget the eyeshadow, Ehud. And the blonde hair... and - isn't she taller too?

The 10 Most Expensive Books Of 2006

Forbes reports on the price of rare books sold last year. It is going up. [We reported previously on one of the most expensive new books - see this post.]

No Talmuds? No Bibles? No Rambams? Mostly atlases!?
The 10 Most Expensive Books Of 2006
Elisabeth Eaves 01.16.07

In an evermore digitized world, the printed word takes on special value--especially if it happens to be enshrined in a rare, beautiful and historically significant book.

Auction houses and collectors did brisk business in rare books in 2006, setting records in several categories. A 15th-century edition of maps by the second-century Greek mathematician Ptolemy brought in $4 million, the highest price ever paid for an atlas. An 1873 signed edition of Une saison en enfer (A Season in Hell) by the poet Arthur Rimbaud brought in a record price for a work of French literature, $644,000.

Last year also saw a record price set for an Australian book, with the sale of Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip, New South Wales, for $689,000. A seminal work of exploration, the book plays a role in Australian history comparable to Lewis and Clark's History of the Expedition in the United States.

>>>By The Numbers: Slide Show of The Most Expensive Books Of 2006

If these prices seem high, they're still millions short of the all-time record for a printed book. That honor went to a copy of John James Audubon's Birds of America, a book of illustrations, which was sold by Christie's in 2000 for $8.8 million. Certain manuscripts, which are works printed by hand rather than machine, often with unique illustrations, have gone for much more. The most expensive one was Leonardo Da Vinci's Codex Leicester, a notebook filled with drawings and scientific writings, which Microsoft's Bill Gates bought for $30.8 million in 1994. (Neither figure has been adjusted for inflation.)

So just what gives a book its value?

"First, rarity," says Scott Brown, editor of the magazine Fine Books & Collections, the source for our list of highest-priced books for 2006. Since many valuable books end up in permanent museum collections, rarity is determined not just by the number of copies in existence, but by the number--usually much lower--that are still trading hands in the marketplace. "Only a handful of copies of most of these books are in private hands, and collectors know that when they come up for sale, it might be their only chance," he says.

The second factor is cultural and historic importance. "Each of these books are among the most significant in their field," Brown says. For example, Christianae religionis institutio (Institutes of the Christian Religion) by theologian John Calvin, which sold last year for $720,000, "led to wars in Europe and drove Calvinists like the Puritans to the United States," says Brown. "It's easily one of the most influential books in history, yet until 2006, most collectors alive today have never even had a chance to own one."

The condition of the book and changing tastes in literature also play a role in a book's value, says Robert Reese, a rare-book dealer based in New Haven, Conn. Early editions of Ernest Hemingway are more popular than works by his contemporary Joseph Conrad, for instance, simply because Hemingway is more widely read today. British colonial author Rudyard Kipling, a "darling" among literary collectors in the 1920s, fell out of favor for many years, but now copies of his work are rising in price again.

The top 10 list for 2006 includes a surprising number of atlases--five, including three versions of works by Ptolemy.

"The market in atlases, maps and cartography has been tremendously hot in the last 10 to 15 years," says Reese. "Values in that field have soared far higher than in some other areas of book collecting." That may be partly because people relate to maps on a personal level--often, for example, collecting maps of the area where they live. Also, Reese says, the rare-book market has seen a general trend toward the visual, with photography and books of illustration also growing in popularity. "I think the taste of modern times tends to be visual rather than literary," he says.


"Neturei Crackpots, Leave Monsey!"

The backlash against the Neturei Karta is heating up. The NY Times carried a story today about vocal protests in Monsey.

The lesson learned here is, If you kiss the enemy, you better be prepared to move to his country too.
Back home, Rabbi Weiss and the others were met with anger and scorn. Since their return, they have been ostracized by synagogues, denied service at kosher stores and vilified in Jewish discussion boards on the Web. Posters have surfaced in the Satmar Hasidic enclaves of Brooklyn, calling the members of Neturei Karta “rebels” and “outcasts” and asking Orthodox Jews to “totally cut off ties with this gang.”

On Jan. 7, about 300 people, most of them Orthodox Jews, including several Holocaust survivors, protested outside Neturei Karta’s base on Saddle River Road here, chanting and holding signs that read, “Neturei Crackpots, Leave Monsey.” A much smaller contingent of Rabbi Weiss’s supporters held a counterprotest nearby.
But wait. Israel Insider reports that there is more. Mrs. NK-Nut in Vienna has left her husband. And a third member of the notorious band from London has been put in Cherem there and is under police protection.

Lesson learned, If you kiss the enemy, better stock up on Kosher TV dinners.
After cult 'rabbi' kisses Ahmadinejad, his wife leaves him, files for divorce

A senior member of the fringe group that participated in Iran's Holocaust denial conference was left by his ultra-Orthodox wife for his misdeeds.

Moshe Aryeh Friedman, a senior Neturei Karta member, who passionately kissed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will now be forced to look for a woman who will agree to kiss him, as his wife has decided to leave him following his participation in the Holocaust denial conference which took place in Tehran about a month ago.

The participation of six Neturei Karta leaders in the Holocaust denial conference in Tehran continues to strip up emotions in the ultra-Orthodox community.

Friedman, who lives in Vienna, is the harshest person among the Neturei Karta representatives who arrived in Iran, and was even photographed kissing the Iranian president. He also stayed in Iran for another two weeks after his friends left, visiting universities across the country in order to speak against the State of Israel .

The 'Ultra-Orthodox Voice' service reported that when Friedman finally returned to Vienna he found out that his wife, following her parents' advice, had fled to the Satmar community in Williamsburg, New York City. There she approached rabbis and asked them to help her divorce her husband due to his misdeeds.

Friedman is not the only Neturei Karta member who is in trouble following the Holocaust denial conference. The group's British representative has been put under tight security for fear he would be hurt after the Jewish community in the United Kingdom decided to banish him.


Lapin Warns Christians of Impending Doom

My early morning chuckle came via a repaste of Daniel Lapin's wingnut screed, "A rabbi's warning to U.S. Christians."

Here me now, Rabbi. The spate of anti-Christian books of late is the backlash against the last six years of meshuggenah right wing ranting and raving.

If you guys can ever calm down, the tone of civil discourse can be restored.

There is no war on Christianity and/or American civilization.

(Isn't Rabbi Lapin the one who gave all those awards to the notorious Jack Abramoff?)

Here is the pithy part of his screed:

Considerably more intellectual energy is being pumped into the propaganda campaign against Christianity than was ever delivered to the anti-smoking or anti-drunk-driving campaigns. Fervent zealots of secularism are flinging themselves into this anti-Christian war with enormous fanaticism.

If they succeed, Christianity will be driven underground, and its benign influence on the character of America will be lost. In its place we shall see a sinister secularism that menaces Bible believers of all faiths. Once the voice of the Bible has been silenced, the war on Western Civilization can begin and we shall see a long night of barbarism descend on the West.

Without a vibrant and vital Christianity, America is doomed, and without America, the West is doomed.

Which is why I, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, devoted to Jewish survival, the Torah and Israel am so terrified of American Christianity caving in.

Many of us Jews are ready to stand with you. But you must lead. You must replace your timidity with nerve and your diffidence with daring and determination. You are under attack. Now is the time to resist it.


Reform Rabbis Will Boycott Carter Center

You have to be asking yourself, what Carter was thinking when he wrote this book. And then you have to ask if editors and friends are so awed by former presidents that they cannot stand up to them and tell them when they are digging a deep hole for themselves?

Rabbis throw book at Jimmy: Clergy nix Carter center trip over Israel tome


Outraged by Jimmy Carter's controversial new book, the nation's largest organization of rabbis yesterday pulled out of a planned visit to the former President's human rights center in Atlanta.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing nearly 2,000 Reform rabbis, said it was protesting Carter's latest book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," which many say unfairly criticizes Israel.

The announcement came just hours after 14 members of an advisory board to the Carter Center also quit in protest over the book.

"You have clearly abandoned your historic role of broker in favor of becoming an advocate for one side," the resigning members wrote the 2002 Nobel peace laureate, who negotiated the 1978 Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel.

The book, which follows the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, assigns blame to Israel, the Palestinians, the United States and others, but it is most critical of Israeli policy.

The Jewish clergy, who had planned to visit the Carter Center during their convention in Atlanta in March, cited their long friendship with the former President, which included participation in his Habitat for Humanity housing organization.

But all that changed with the publication of Carter's book and especially its title, they said.

"The book contains numerous distortions of history and interpretation and apparently, outright fabrications as well," the organization said.

"Its use of the term 'apartheid' to describe conditions in the West Bank serves only to demonize and de-legitimize Israel in the eyes of the world."

The rabbis went on to say that Carter's apparent praise of radical Arab leaders such as Palestinian Yasser Arafat and the late Syrian President Hafez Assad and "his attempted rehabilitation of such terrorist groups as Hezbollah and Hamas demonstrated either a clear anti-Israel bias, extreme naivete or both."

Angering both the clergy and the Carter Center's advisory board members were the former President's public statements that, they said, implied a "Jewish conspiracy" at work to discourage conversation about the Palestinians' plight.

Rabbi Harry Danziger, the conference president, said in a telephone interview that he was offended by passages he read in excerpts from the book. He said his organization's action was unrelated to the resignations by advisory board members of the Carter Center.


Getting the 9/11 Memorial Right

The original proposal for the 9/11 memorial was that the names of all the brave and innocent victims who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001 at the WTC be listed there in random order with no identification of their ages, affiliations, locations etc. at the time of the tragedy.

I think this is wrong.

I support the family members’ wishes that the names be grouped together by identifying affiliations such as age, W.T.C. floor number, firm name, firehouse or other emergency services unit, or the flight number.

I support the family members’ wishes because it’s the right thing to do. There has been widespread opposition to the random listing. The leaders of 32 family groups signed a document two years ago calling for this change. There is no constituency for a random listing, aside from the architect, Michael Arad, and the mayor.

Grouping the names will convey more of the history of 9/11. It will tell future generations specifics of what happened on that day. It will give more identity to the victims – whether they were emergency services or office workers – it makes them more real. Each name will be the only personal part of the public memorial for the family, the only personal expression of their losses.

I'm glad -- especially as a person who has worked with the Cantor Fitzgerald corporation for the past year -- that there is movement in this direction according to the NY Times' recent story.

Still, the Question of Displaying the Names of 9/11

TO the dispute over how 2,979 victims’ names are to be inscribed and arranged at the World Trade Center memorial, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg contributed an indisputable truth last month.

“There is no ‘right’ answer,” he said as he proposed his own imperfect solution in his capacity as the chairman of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation.

Take the question of whether ages ought to be included, as they are around the Marble Collegiate Church at Fifth Avenue and 29th Street, where tags and yellow ribbons hanging on the iron fence memorialize service members who have died in Iraq.

A picture forms in the viewer’s mind. That 43-year-old staff sergeant on one ribbon probably had children. The 19-year-old private on a nearby ribbon might still have been living at home. “It makes it so much more palpable,” said Kim Sebastian-Ryan, who maintains the memorial.

But there is a liability, too, that ages impose an unconscious and unspoken hierarchy. Some may think that a teenager’s death is more grievous, since a promising life has been cut short. Others might view the death of a parent as more tragic.

At ground zero, neither age nor rank nor affiliation nor location were to be specified in the plan presented in 2004 by Mr. Bloomberg, Gov. George E. Pataki and Michael Arad, the architect. Names were to be arrayed randomly around the memorial pools marking the towers’ locations, with shields next to the names of uniformed rescue workers.

Many, perhaps most, relatives of 9/11 victims opposed this plan, including Thomas S. Johnson and Howard W. Lutnick, who are now members of the memorial foundation’s executive committee. Mr. Lutnick is the chairman and chief executive of Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 employees in the attack.

A large coalition of advocacy groups representing family members of uniformed workers and civilians — the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund most prominent among them — presented its own plan in 2004. It said names should be listed at the appropriate tower site and by affiliation (like Marsh & McLennan or Fire Department Battalion 1), with ages and floors also inscribed.

Meanwhile, Stephen J. Cassidy, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, who wanted firefighters to be grouped together by unit, was quietly lobbying city and state officials. Four months ago, he made his case in person to Mr. Bloomberg. “To the mayor’s credit,” Mr. Cassidy said, “he made clear to me that he agreed that some changes needed to be made. He didn’t give me a commitment but said he heard me and would take a second look at it.”

After meeting with Mr. Arad and others, the mayor offered a proposal in which uniformed workers would be grouped by unit around the south pool, under inscribed designations like Engine Company 54.

THE names of those who died in the south tower and aboard the jet that hit it would also be around the south pool, as would the names of those on the flights that crashed in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, those who died in the Pentagon itself, those who died in the Feb. 26, 1993, trade center bombing, and those whose exact location on 9/11 is unknown.

Around the north pool would be the names of those who died in the north tower and on the plane that hit it.

Relatives could be listed together. So could co-workers, though their company’s name would not be inscribed, so there would be no precise delineation. Neither rank, age nor floor location would be given.

On Dec. 13, the executive committee of the memorial foundation adopted this proposal by voice vote. Mr. Lutnick did not vote for it or against it. Instead, he abstained.

“Listing the names of victims of the attack together in the appropriate tower is definitely a positive step,” he said in a statement released Tuesday by his office. “However, treating the civilians who were lost differently from uniformed workers by ignoring employees’ affiliations just doesn’t make sense to the victims’ families, and it will be less meaningful to future generations of visitors to the memorial.”

Mr. Johnson voted in favor of the new plan. “With the adjacencies for victims whose families wish them to be listed together, and the removal of the shields, which were so objectionable to so many, this is an approach that I hope will be acceptable to the great majority of the families affected,” he said afterward.

It is acceptable to most family members on the board, though not to Debra Burlingame, whose brother, Charles F. Burlingame III, was the captain of the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon. She said specific information about the victims, including her brother’s rank, ought to be inscribed on the memorial.

To gauge from more than 30 e-mail messages sent to the Blocks column at the encouragement of Bill Doyle, a family advocate, the new plan has left relatives confused and angered.

“The families, as they always have, as they did on the fliers, as they signed the Freedom Tower beam, identify their loved one by company, floor and tower,” wrote Michael Burke, the brother of Capt. William F. Burke Jr. of Engine Company 21.

Some are so dismayed that they said they were beginning to wonder whether they wanted their husbands’ or sons’ names listed at all.

So Mayor Bloomberg was right about something else when he announced the plan. “I don’t expect everyone to be happy with it.”


Monty Python on the Lubavitcher Rebbe

[In this never-aired Monty Python skit a professor tries to return the Rebbe to 770. The segment concludes with this outburst by the professor.]

'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This rebbe is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-REBBE!!

Chabad: A New Religion?

In 1999 this was my op-ed take on the rebbe and the messiah. I agree with it today.

The last official Rebbe of the Lubavitcher Hasidim, Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneerson, died on June 12, 1994. On Passover 1999 a group of these Orthodox Jewish Hassidim ran a provocative advertisement in a major newspaper referring to their Rebbe, “Long live our lord and master the King Messiah for ever and ever!” The Rebbe lives on, say these believers, and is in fact the Messiah for whom Jews have been waiting for millennia.

By saying and believing these words, this group of Jews has given life to a new religion. Their faith cannot simply be categorized as another sectarian version of Hasidism, of Orthodoxy or even of Judaism. On theological grounds, Judaism has steadfastly maintained a hope and faith in the future redemption of humankind by the Messiah in the Messianic Age to come. What defines Judaism and sets it apart from Christianity and other religions – among many of its major practices and beliefs – is the certainty that the Messiah has not come and that we must await the closure of his coming in our daily lives. I have sometimes mused that this essential belief may be a factor in the somewhat neurotic character of Jewish communal life – a constant edge of expectation stands at the official core of the Judaic religion and pervades its culture.

I have always seriously believed that the expectation of a future Messianic Age has bestowed upon Jews and into Judaism a deep inspiration to survive the darkest hours of history and a pure motivation to strive forward continuously in every way to progress toward that time of salvation – to bring on that redemption.

Theologically then it is contrary to the very essence of Judaism to proclaim and accept that a man who died five years ago is the living Messiah – no matter how exceptional the Rebbe may have been in his life and work. Those who hold fast to that essence – and act on it in their rituals – have formed a new religious system that cannot be classified as a form of Judaism.

How have Jews received the news of this Hasidic phenomenon? Some Jewish thinkers fear that the followers of that great Rebbe are doing him a great disservice by proclaiming on his behalf counter-intuitive statements of religious belief that are antithetical to Judaism. They say that these Hasidim are undoing the Rebbe’s good deeds and sullying the reputation that their own lord and master painstakingly accomplished over the decades of his tireless dedication to his followers.

Others Jewish spokesmen have implored the Hasidim to get their act together lest their enterprise break up into divisions – the messianists versus the anti-messianists – each wing weaker than the former single unified entity.

Whatever paths the Hasidim take, a new religion has been born and formed over the past five years. This has been clear from the moment the first Hasid denied the Rebbe’s death in 1994 and has become ever more lucid in the recent public declarations in advertisements, in their Hasidic singing and in all that these Lubavitcher Hasidim teach.

I think that crafting a new religion a good thing for the Hasidim and for the traditional forms of Judaism that they have left behind. The creativity of a new religious and cultural entity brings excitement and energy to the world – new sparks that may kindle a light of redemption for all who come in contact with it. I extend a warm welcome then to "Chabad Lubavitchism" – a new religion among the many living faiths of the twenty first century.

Rabbi Murdered in the Ukraine

It's out. Professor Michael Stanislawski's A Murder in Lemberg. This new book is best-seller material. Hat tip to Mimi.

True Crime, Religion-Style

by David Klinghoffer, Religion BookLine -- Publishers Weekly, 1/10/2007

For such a slim book, Michael Stanislawski's A Murder in Lemberg: Politics, Religion, and Violence in Modern Jewish History (Feb.) has a lot of surprises in it. A true crime story published by Princeton University Press? That's surprising in itself.

The text itself covers only 130 pages, in which Stanislavski, who teaches Jewish history at Columbia, tells the true story of a liberal Reform rabbi murdered in 1848 in Lemberg, today's Lvov, in the Ukraine. The apparent murderer was a disgruntled Orthodox Jew. Most Jewish readers will assume that the Reform movement, which rejects much of traditional Jewish teaching on theology and practical behavior alike, grew heartily in urbane, genteel Germany but—in Eastern Europe?

Actually, yes, there too. The murder victim at the heart of the story, Rabbi Abraham Kohn, ran a thriving liberal temple in Lemberg.

Stanislawski told RBL how, while drawing on obscure archival material, he was eager to try a new kind of writing, more accessible and popular than his previous books: "Even my wife said, 'This doesn't sound like you. It's understandable!' I think my other books were understandable too, but they were more technical." ....

Tracking back to an odd assortment of blog links

Every now and then we look at where our readers come from. Here are three sources from today - an odd assortment of links to our blog.

1. Google Finance: To our post about the $100 Million Gift to Yeshiva U

2. Blog in Dm: To our mention of the Jewish Standard's piece "Teaneck's Shomer Shabbos Blues Band".

3. Emdashes - the New Yorker Between the Lines: Saying, "So far, I also love Shalom Auslander’s “Playoffs,” which shouldn’t even be described, just read. It’s such good writing, it’s so funny and irreligious and perfect, it made me choke up and grin and want to give him caramels; this guy agrees." So I am to Emily, "this guy."

There are more blogs who sent us readers today, but they are more expected. Thanks to all.


UK Jews Protest Gay Rights Law

If true, and the Guardian generally speaking is not a trusted arbiter of truth, then I must ask why Jewish groups must join with Christian wingnuts to oppose gay rights?

Two opinions in the aforesaid paper rant on the subject. AC Graying says,

And on the subject of Jews: what a disgrace that the stone-agers outside parliament tonight will include a Jewish group. If anyone should be against discrimination of any kind, it is a Jew. Alongside the Jews murdered in Auschwitz were homosexuals, wearing a pink patch where the Jews wore a Star of David. The despairing implication of the fact that Jews are joining Christian and Muslims - the usual standard bearers of intolerance and reaction - in this campaign is that too many people learn too little, never connect the dots, and repeat the ghastly errors of the past, when under the thought-inhibiting influence of such toxins as religious belief.
And one opinionator named Polly Toynbee says, "Outside parliament tonight the intolerance that comes with religion's moral certainty will be on display for all to see."

Christians, Muslims and Jews are all fighting against the sexual orientation regulations with a wrecking clause that would render them meaningless: "Nothing in these regulations shall force an individual to act against their conscience or strongly held religious beliefs." Anyone could use their "conscience" to discriminate against gays.
Oh Guardian. Is it not enough that you oppose Israel? Must you oppose all religion? Shame on the protestors and the protestors of the protestors.

The discussion of these opinions by ordinary mortals ensues in the always vividly British "Comment is Free" web site fashion.

Losing your religion in Teaneck: The New Yorker Version

Shalom Auslander, you are a funny writer. In his "Personal History" called "Playoffs" in this week's New Yorker Magazine he describes his typical struggle with Orthodoxy and life in general. "Things you can’t do on the Sabbath," is the subtitle. I don't want to spoil it for you. But I guarantee that some frum people will cry out about the agenda of the magazine. And people from Monsey and Teaneck will decry his depiction of them. He covers the bases in a charming way, from theodicy to the taboos of the Torah.

He's written a book of stories called Beware of GOD and has blurbs on his web site that call him another Philip Roth and tout his anarchic religious sensibilities. And check out the NY Times Magazine for a funny The Funny Pages - True-Life Tales story called "Love Child." His generously link laden web site has more than enough to keep you busy on a shabbos afternoon. Of course you have to print it all out before shabbos.

Run, don't walk, to your newstand and read the story. (Sorry but this one is not online.) Let me know what you think.


How Dr. Lie Uncovered Corporate Option Cheating

Yes the business school professor's real name is Dr. Lie (pronounced Lee - Norwegian). He studied corporate executive stock options and was not satisfied with the prevalent grant timing theory that executives granted themselves options before releasing good news.

So he examined the data and he found evidence of backdating. Now backdating is kinda like asking your stock broker to give you the stock you buy at the lowest price of the year. Here is what Lie says he found:

In a study that I started in 2003 and disseminated in the first half of 2004 and that was published in Management Science in May 2005, I found that stock prices also tend to decrease before the grants. Furthermore, the pre-and post-grant price pattern has intensified over time (see graph below). By the end of the 1990s, the aggregate price pattern had become so pronounced that I thought there was more to the story than just grants being timed before corporate insiders predicted stock prices to increase. This made me think about the possibility that some of the grants had been backdated. I further found that the overall stock market performed worse than what is normal immediately before the grants and better than what is normal immediately after the grants. Unless corporate insiders can predict short-term movements in the stock market, my results provided further evidence in support of the backdating explanation.
The summary posting by Dr. Lie is compelling and clear even to the layman. He finishes with some frequently asked questions that tell us 23% of executive stock option grants between 1996 and 2002 (when the reporting law was changed) were backdated. He also explains why most option cheaters are not caught.

So there are the metrics of our executive business morality. 77% honest. That's one reason why America is a (comparatively) great nation.


Israel Plans 1000 shekel fine on spammers

Kan Naim reports that Israel Plans to impose 1000 shekel (today= $236) fine on spammers who send SMS messages or emails. No proof of damages needed.
ב- sms הקץ למטרידנים - יוזמת שר התקשורת לאפשר פיצוי בגובה של עד 1,000 ₪ על שולח דואר זבל
או לדואר האלקטרוני, ללא צורך בהוכחת נזק, יצאה לדרך

Must have: IDF Tzahal Chess Set

I used to have a renaissance chess set. This one surpasses it by miles. It's the Israel Defense Forces chess set.

The description says:

Sterling Silver IDF Chess Set

A masterpiece unique artisan large 925 sterling silver (NOT silver plated) IDF (Israel Defense Force) chess set. Comprised of 32 highly detailed and outstanding IDF related pieces representing the various corps in the Israeli defense forces, 16 made of sterling silver (for the white pieces) and 16 made of gilded sterling silver (for the black pieces).

The pawns are designed as soldiers, the rooks are shaped as missile boats, the knights are as mobile gun, the bishops are as patrol jeep, the kings are as combat pilot standing beneath his F-15 and the queens are as queen driving a Merkava tank (the tank is considered to be the queen of the battlefield).

The wooden case is topped by a removable wooden cover, set with a silvered and gilded metal playing board, centered by the IDF logo inscribed in Hebrew "Tzva Haganah Le'Israel" (Israel Defense Force).

This set was made in the electroforming method. An extraordinary set which will amaze any observer, sure to be the highlight of any game or display, and bound to make an excellent gift to any chess lover. Price : $1850.00