Zeek on Holshouser: Klezmer meets jazz and the accordion

Will Holshouser Speaks the Language of Klezmer

Peter Bebergal

Listen: Brooklyn Research by the Will Holshouser Trio
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Will Holshouser uses jazz, experimental music, and elements of folk to compose intellectually complex but deeply emotional music. This tension between the head and the heart is expressed lovingly by Holshouser’s instrument of choice, the accordion. Consider his piece “Brooklyn Research” from his album Singing to a Bee. The accordion begins as a kind of haunted spectator, the theorist who secretly desires to be an artist. By the end of the composition, the accordion is walking right along with the worldly trumpet, finally giving in to the ordered chaos of the world.

Clearly indebted to klezmer for the framework of much of his music, Holshouser has toured and recorded with the preeminent clarinetist David Krakauer and his group Klezmer Madness. But his work does not end there. He has also played with Regina Carter, Antony & the Johnsons, Phillip Johnston, Dave Douglas, Andy Statman, Lenny Pickett, the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the New York City Opera, Mark Morris Dance Group, Roberto Rodriguez, the Raymond Scott Orchestrette, and others. Leaving klezmer aside, Holshouser’s musical roots run deepest in jazz and folk, sometimes at the thorny intersection between the two.

I spoke with Holshouser about klezmer, tradition, the relationship between folk and jazz, and that sweet melancholy instrument, the accordion.

NY Times Praises YU Museum Exihibit of Photos of Poland's Lost Jews

It's amazing. YU Museum Director Sylvia Herskowitz and her staff continue to wow the museum world with serious and professional exhibits at the Yeshiva University Museum. I remember when the YU Museum first opened. Who would have imagined then that the NY Times would be writing glowing reports on its exhibitions. Bravo to all involved.

The photos [click here to see some]are breathtaking. Here's part of what they said at the Times today:
The Things They Left Behind: Photographs From Poland’s Lost Jews

They are exquisitely ordinary family snapshots: six young men and women on the beach, playfully arranged in a pyramid; a bourgeois family flaunting its Sabbath best of fur-lined topcoats and rakishly angled hats; a dark-haired Orthodox mother with an infant cradled in her arms and her five children, three barefoot, lined up stiffly in front of a tumbledown shack.

There are dozens of other photographs just as posed and stilted, and strangers scanning them might barely pause for a second glance — except for one fact. Almost all these Polish Jews, rich and poor alike, would be dead within a few years, massacred in the Nazi camps or ghettoes or consumed by the war. One woman in the beach pyramid, a caption says, perished in the Soviet Union, searching for her husband as they fled the Nazis.

Nothing New in Bogus Jesus Tomb Movie

"There is no such thing as bad publicity" goes the trusted Hollywood adage. Well the Jesus Family Tomb documentary is getting panned in public and it hasn't even aired.

National Geographic weighs in with a series of scholarly slams at the film.

"Their movie is not serious," Amos Kloner, the Bar Ilan University professor who led the excavation in the 1980s, told National Geographic News.

"They [say they] are 'discovering' things. But they haven't discovered anything. They haven't found anything. Everything had already been published.

"And there is no basis on which to make a story out of this or to identify this as the family of Jesus."

[Worse yet - it doesn't even say Jesus on the ossuary:]

Stephen Pfann, president of Jerusalem's University of the Holy Land and an expert in Semitic languages, appears in The Lost Tomb of Jesus.

Pfann told National Geographic News that he also has doubts about the movie's claims.

"I don't think it says Yehoshua [Jesus]. It says Hanun or something," Pfann said, after viewing high-resolution images of the ossuary inscription in question.

Christian scholars are lining up to list their opprobrium for the show:

10 reasons why the "Jesus Tomb" claim is completely bogus

Christian Examiner

Dr. Ben Witherington, author of What Have They Done With Jesus? and New Testament professor at Asbury Theological Seminary and other leading biblical scholars and archeologists say there are at least 10 reasons why the "Jesus Tomb" claim is completely bogus:

1. There is no DNA evidence that this is the historical Jesus of Nazareth

2. The statistical analysis is untrustworthy

3. The name "Jesus" was a popular name in the first century, appearing in 98 other tombs and on 21 other ossuaries

4. There is no historical evidence that Jesus was ever married or had a child

5. The earliest followers of Jesus never called him "Jesus, son of Joseph"

6. It is highly unlikely that Joseph, who died earlier in
Galilee, was buried in Jerusalem, since the historical record connects him only to Nazareth or Bethlehem

7. The Talpiot tomb and ossuaries are such that they would have belonged to a rich family, which does not match the historical record for Jesus

8. Fourth-century church historian Eusebius makes quite clear that the body of James, the brother of Jesus, was buried alone near the temple mount and that his tomb was visited in the early centuries, making very unlikely that the Talpiot tomb was Jesus' "family tomb"

9. The two Mary ossuaries do not mention anyone from Migdal, but simply has the name Mary, one of the most common of all ancient Jewish female names

10. By all ancient accounts, the tomb of Jesus was empty, making it highly unlikely that it was moved to another tomb, decayed for one year's time, and then the bones put in an ossuary

Wired: Oy Vey - the new Goy-o-pedia or Wiki-Jesus is here!

The problem with me jumping on the liberal bandwagon and criticizing this new Conservapedia is... so many of my friends are (small-c) conservative Jews who will simply love the politics of Conservapedia. If only they could leave out all the Jesus stuff.

Thoughtful Jewish readers will wonder about the articles that are written from a deliberate and naive Christian viewpoint. The article, "The Crusades," concludes, 'It seems that the Christian armies lost sight of our goals to bring and spread love and Christianity along the way, got drunk with power and glory and decided to pillage towns and murder people (note that this is breaking many commandments “thou shalt not murder.” “thou shalt not steal”) The Crusades went against our Christian teachings and the words of Christ, “love thy neighbor as thyself” “turn the other cheek” etc.'

Editorial policies that veer from the neutral in this new wiki will make readers confused at best. This small, but not so minor policy of the goyishe wiki is a case in point:

"Conservapedia is a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American. On Wikipedia, many of the dates are provided in the anti-Christian "C.E." instead of "A.D.", which Conservapedia uses. Christianity receives no credit for the great advances and discoveries it inspired, such as those of the Renaissance."

Here's Wired mulling over the application of high technology to the retrograde wingnut agenda:
What Would Jesus Wiki?
By Michael Calore 02:00 AM Feb, 28, 2007

An alternative Wikipedia written by conservative Christians has become a major target of mockery on the web.

Conservapedia, a wiki-based encyclopedia that offers the historical record from a conservative perspective, is attracting lots of derisive comments on blogs and a growing number of phony articles written by mischief makers.

Conservapedia "is a gold mine of unintentional hilarity," wrote Mark Frauenfelder on Boing Boing last Monday.

The Wonkette political blog encouraged its readers to contribute to "this fast-growing, Jeebus-and-America-friendly online resource." So did the ScienceBlogs network, which said, "There's much fun to be had."

Even conservative commentators like Andrew Sullivan are bemused.

Conservapedia brands itself on its main page as "a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American."

"The site is intended as a resource for the general audience, but without the defects of Wikipedia," says Conservapedia's project leader, Andy Schlafly, a conservative writer and attorney.

Schlafly argues that Wikipedia's content displays a liberal bias, and that the site is rife with so much gossip, vulgarity and long-winded writing that it has become unusable as an educational resource.

In fact, creating a conservative-minded online encyclopedia for students was Schlafly's prime motivation for launching Conservapedia. He started the site in late November 2006 in conjunction with 58 high-school-level, home-schooled students from the New Jersey area.

Wikipedia's content, which is maintained and edited by its readership, has spurred a rash of criticism lately for perceived inaccuracies, bias and vandalism. The Wikipedia community polices itself, weeding out inaccurate content whenever possible, but Schlafly contends that's not enough.

"Wikipedia does not poll the views of its editors and administrators," Schlafly says. "They make no effort to retain balance. It ends up having all the neutrality of a lynch mob."

Using the same open-source software as Wikipedia, Conservapedia's entries are written in a manner sympathetic to the views of the religious right, social conservatives and creationists. The Conservapedia entry on homosexuality, for example, begins with four biblical citations decrying same-sex relationships.

"We have clear principles that we display, whereas Wikipedia pretends to be neutral and ends up biased," says Schlafly, who is the son of famous conservative politician and activist Phyllis Schlafly.

Conservapedia's entry on kangaroos says that, "like all modern animals ... kangaroos are the descendants of the two founding members of the modern kangaroo baramin that were taken aboard Noah's Ark prior to the Great Flood."

The site's entry on George Washington identifies the first U.S. president as "the person other than Jesus who declined enormous worldly power ... by voluntarily stepping aside as the ruler of a prosperous nation."

After it launched, the site quickly found itself picked apart by bloggers of all stripes. Conservapedia was lampooned by conservative blogger Jon Swift for its brash denial of scientific facts in favor of biblical rhetoric.

Science blog The Loom and liberal blog Daily Kos also pointed to some of Conservapedia's more unconventional entries.

With all of the attention, vandals quickly followed. The site's entries were edited to include parody-style riffs on topics and bogus source citations. Schlafly says most of the vandalism was edited out or under control within a week, and that the site will continue to thrive.

"All they accomplished was to give us enormous publicity," he says.

Even so, many have pointed out that while the vandalism on the site is easy to spot, some of the parody on the site is more nuanced, and thus more difficult to identify.

Conservapedia isn't the first example of the religious right turning to social software to reach a wider web audience -- there's also CreationWiki, an encyclopedia of creation science written from a Christian perspective.

While CreationWiki remains mostly unscathed by the web's parodists, Conservapedia has fallen victim to countless attacks. One entry in particular has gotten a great deal of attention: the page about a tree-dwelling mollusk called the Pacific Northwest arboreal octopus.

Schlafly is amused by the page and its references to the endangered species falling victim to the ravages of logging and suburban encroachment. He sees it as a parody of environmentalists, and he plans to leave it up.

"Conservatives have a sense of humor, too," he says.

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and Andrew Sullivan failed to respond to requests for comment for this story.


Unearthing Jesus' Yarmulke - Documentary Coming Soon to the Headcovery Channel

Toronto documentary director Simcha Jacobovici has announced the coming release of his next documentary, "Unearthing Jesus' Yarmulke" coming to the Headcovery Channel. He reveals that after carbon 14 testing - accurate to within two millenia - the yarmulke that he has been wearing for the last five years turns out to be the original yarmulke that Jesus wore at his bar mitzva. Jacobovici will hold a news conference to show to the world the faint gold leaf printing inside the yarmulke that reads, "Bar Mitzva Celebration of Jesus son of Joseph and Mary. Nazareth Inn Catering. December 25, 13 AD."

Ossuary Scammer Strikes Again - but it's great theater

I have no doubt that this story of the Jesus tomb and ossuary is a complete and utter forgery. The main players were caught last time. So this time they will make it harder. But they will be caught and exposed. And they don't care. Because these are con men out to make a buck. They know from experience that even after the scam is exposed, they will face no penalty, no punishment and they will move on to their next scam. Hey. It's a living. And for the rest of us it's good entertainment, just like the DaVinci Code.

Here is the inscription... click and see for yourself.

Newsday reminds us that Jacobovici and Co. have tried to fool us before:
In 2003, Jacobovici directed the much-discussed documentary "James, the Brother of Jesus," which featured the analysis of a bone box that bore the inscription, "James son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." Later that year, the IAA declared that bone box a forgery.
The NY Times has a good summary: "Crypt Held Bodies of Jesus and Family, Film Says"
Ruby Washington/The New York Times

Boxes said to contain residue of the remains of Jesus and Mary Magdelene yesterday at a news conference in New York promoting a documentary.


JPost: If We Have His DNA - Can We Clone Jesus?

Two interesting points in the JPost article on the Tomb of Jesus movie. First, a reiteration of the conflict between the story that the new film tells, that this is Jesus' Tomb where he was buried, and the Gospel stories of Jesus' resurrection.

Second, the clever question. If you have his DNA, as claimed, could you clone Jesus? I must add that it's noteworthy that the Israeli archaeologist who first dug at this site is named "Kloner". (The question of cloning that man has come up before. See Google.)

From JPost:
According to the New Testament, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion, and the fact that Jesus had an ossuary would contradict the core Christian belief that he was resurrected and ascended to heaven. Still, members of the film team suggested on Monday that some Christian traditions could be reconciled to the notion of a "spiritual" resurrection.

The New York press conference ended on a semi-humorous note, when the panel was asked if there was enough DNA remaining in the ossuary to clone Jesus. "Some experiments shouldn't be done," one of the film team responded.

Then Tabor said conclusively that there was "no intact cellular DNA" and so no possibility of cloning.
Well guys, kindly get your stories straight. There either is DNA or there isn't.

Video: Christianity Disproven by the Discovery Channel?

On March 4 the Discovery Channel will air their new documentary called the Tomb of Jesus (and what a nice web site they have to go with the program).

If you take this discovery seriously, the material remains unearthed and analyzed undermine some of the central narratives of Christian belief.

That's the conclusion drawn by one authority quoted by the NY Post who said about the discovery, "I think this is more fanciful and absurd theorizing. Every Christian knows that Jesus the son of God and man died and rose again on Easter Sunday," said New York Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling. "No alleged DNA test or Hollywood film is going to change that."

Well if you do take the film seriously, then it does change the factual basis of the Jesus story. It's either Christian tradition or the Discovery Channel.

Information Week on Google in NY: Search And The City

The bear watching over the Google cubicles wears a medallion that says, "Don't be evil".

Sidebar: Five hundred Google employeees work and play in an art deco icon that once housed the Port Authority of New York.

Main Story: New York Gets Googled

Inside Google, picture gallery: Inside Google's New York Headquarters


Israel Baseball League IBL Updates

New York Times
Baseball: A whole new ballgame as Israel starts league
International Herald Tribune, France -
In June he will manage the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox in the inaugural season of the Israel Baseball League. Blomberg, Art Shamsky and Ken Holtzman, ...
On Baseball A Whole New Ballgame for Blomberg New York Times
Israel Baseball League picks up momentum Jerusalem Post

Cantor will live two dreams playing baseball in Israel
The Journal News.com, NY -
He will take his two-seam fastball to Israel for three months this summer, although he won't find out which of the six teams in the Israel Baseball League ...
Isreal Has Professional Baseball, And I Already Have A Favorite Player Deadspin
Baseball Player Offered Chance to Play in Israel
Oberlin Review, OH -
This June, Israel will throw the first pitch of its new professional baseball league and one team wants a Yeoman to be there when it happens. ...
Newsday, NY -
Former major leaguers Ken Holtzman, Ron Blomberg and Art Shamsky have been hired as managers for the first season of the Israel Baseball League. ...

New Jersey Towns v. God's Houses

All over the state of NJ townships are struggling to regulate the expansion of churches and synagogues into their communities. It looks like the congregations are gaining some ground.

The Bergen Record wrote about this recently, "Law gives congregations a potent weapon against towns" Monday, February 19, 2007:


NPR Podcast: Forward Editor Goldberg Defends Progressive Jews

J. J. Goldberg says Rosenfeld's essay attacking progressive Jews, "Borders on slander."

He is right on that but he is wrong saying the debate has intensified. NPR is more correct asking, "Now, there have been arguments about Israel within the Jewish community forever, pretty much. But do you think that the debate has recently intensified?"

Reading the Zionist Idea makes me long for the days of real debate. This stuff nowadays is not debate. It is name-calling.

Listen to the NPR program (below) or read the transcript.

P.S: It looks like Gary Rosenblatt has lost his eminence as spokesman for the NY Jewish news media.


Blink: It's the Rav

The Orthodox Union is known mainly for its certification of foods as Kosher. Its OU symbol of kashrut is trusted by most observant Jews. They do good work. I'm not criticizing their mission.

It's just that when I was searching through Google for some resources on Jewish values, I came across a page on the OU web site with this banner for their Shop OU resource:

The face on the right is that of Harav Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Now I knew the Rav. I studied with him for four years. I used to drive him to the airport on Thursdays after our Talmud shiur. Call me picky. Call me old-fashioned. I'm pretty sure the Rav would not want his image used in a marketing banner on the Internet.

Ditto for the RCA, the Rabbinic Council of America, the main professional association of Orthodox rabbis. They sell a portrait of the Rav on their web site for $10. And lest you get any ideas about just downloading the image for free, they mark it clearly off limits.

Minor complaints you say. So nu, you can even call me a curmudgeon. But I think this is how the Rav would react if he knew what people were doing now with his image.

Chief Rabbi says it is OK to kill animals for fur

Now don't worry little critter. We are going to skin you and take your fur. But it won't hurt a bit. Because... FIRST WE ARE GOING TO KILL YOU.


February 21, 2007 -- JERUSALEM - Jews must not wear fur skinned from live animals, Israel's chief rabbi said in a religious ruling yesterday.

"All Jews are obliged to prevent the horrible phenomenon of cruelty to animals and be a 'light onto nations' by refusing to use products that originate from acts which cause such suffering," Rabbi Yona Metzger said.

Animal-rights campaigners in Israel and abroad say that animals are skinned alive at fur farms in China.

The ruling stopped short of banning the use of fur from animals skinned after they were slaughtered.

And yes, Heather Mills McCartney has position on this issue that is morally superior to that of the Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel.

New Book: A fun way to be shomer shabbos?

Here is a new book in the genre of Judaism is fun if you don't take it too seriously. The reviewer wonders about the target audience for such a book. Could Gentiles be interested? The publisher does not think so.

Suburban Mom Offers Fun Way into Sabbath Observance

by David Klinghoffer, Religion BookLine -- Publishers Weekly, 2/21/2007

For most American Jews, Sabbath observance--including the once-cherished Friday night Sabbath meal--largely went out the window in the 20th century. Meredith L. Jacobs would like to help restore the lost institution with a sprightly new book, The Modern Jewish Mom's Guide to Shabbat: Connect and Celebrate—Bring Your Family Together with the Friday Night Meal (HarperCollins, Feb.).

A suburban Maryland wife and mother, Jacobs grew up without traditional Sabbath observances, and says of herself even now, "I'm not shomer Shabbos"–meaning Sabbath-observant–"but in the book I talk about how the more I learn, the more I want to do" in embracing other Jewish traditions.

Jacobs finds meaning in the link the Sabbath gives her with the Jewish people, past and future. When she lights Sabbath candles on Friday night, "I feel connected to every Jewish woman who has ever been and will ever be," she said.

The book includes chapters on creating the right Sabbath mood, another on recipes, along with a selection of discussion topics for the family based on the weekly Torah reading.

That may sound like serious stuff, but neither Jacobs nor her publisher wanted to create another somber Judaica title. "It's really fun. It's really cute," said Jacobs of the book's cheerful, colorful packaging. "I can't wait to see it on the Judaism shelf with all those brown and black covers. It's hot pink!"

And a book, perhaps, with an appeal even outside the Jewish community? "In our first meeting with her, I remember thinking, 'I wish I was Jewish because this sounds terrific,'" recalled Jennifer Hart, v-p and associate publisher for Harper Paperbacks. She said the book will publish initially with a 12,500-copy printing, bolstered with targeted advertising to Jewish publications and trifold author business cards including a Jewish Sabbath prayer.

It's not unthinkable that the book could interest Christian readers looking for ways to incorporate Jewish customs into their spiritual lives–a significant phenomenon in some Christian circles.

But Hart isn't depending on that: "To get the book established we need to reach the target Jewish audience. To go much wider would be difficult."

This article originally appeared in the February 21, 2007 issue of Religion BookLine.

Cultural and Socialist Zionism: Ahad Haam, Bialik, Syrkin, Gordon

Reading the greats of Zionism [from The Zionist Idea by Arthur Hertzberg]
Part 4: The Agnostic Rabbi -- Ahad Ha-Am 247



Part 6: The Zionism of Marxist and Utopian Socialists

NAHMAN SYRKIN 1867-1924 330
1. Jews and Gentiles 333
2. Emancipation and Anti-Semitism 336
3. Jews and Socialism 340
4. Zionism 345
5. The Socialist-Jewish State 349

AARON DAVID GORDON 1856-1922 368
OUR TASKS AHEAD (1920) 379
YOM KIPPUR (1921) 383

To define cultural Zionism we turn to the US Country Study on Israel:

The counterpoint to Herzl's political Zionism was provided by Asher Ginsberg, better known by his pen name Ahad HaAm (One of the People). Ahad HaAm, who was the son of a Hasidic rabbi, was typical of the Russian maskalim. In 1886, at the age of thirty, he moved to Odessa with the vague hope of modernizing Judaism. His views on Zionism were rooted in the changing nature of Jewish communal life in Eastern Europe. Ahad HaAm realized that a new meaning to Jewish life would have to be found for the younger generation of East European Jews who were revolting against traditional Jewish practice. Whereas Jews in the West could participate in and benefit from a secular culture, Jews in the East were oppressed. While Herzl focused on the plight of Jews alone, Ahad HaAm was also interested in the plight of Judaism, which could no longer be contained within the limits of traditional religion.

Ahad HaAm's solution was cultural Zionism: the establishment in Palestine of small settlements aimed at reviving the Jewish spirit and culture in the modern world. In the cultural Zionist vision, a small number of Jewish cadres well versed in Jewish culture and speaking Hebrew would settle in Palestine. Ahad HaAm believed that by settling in that ancient land, religious Jews would replace their metaphysical attachment to the Holy Land with a new Hebrew cultural renaissance. Palestine and the Hebrew language were important not because of their religious significance but because they had been an integral part of the Jewish people's history and cultural heritage.

Inherent in the cultural Zionism espoused by Ahad HaAm was a deep mistrust of the gentile world. Ahad HaAm rejected Herzl's notion that the nations of the world would encourage Jews to move and establish a Jewish state. He believed that only through Jewish self-reliance and careful preparation would the Zionist enterprise succeed. Although Ahad HaAm's concept of a vanguard cultural elite establishing a foothold in Palestine was quixotic, his idea of piecemeal settlement in Palestine and the establishment of a Zionist infrastructure became an integral part of the Zionist movement.

The ascendancy of Ahad HaAm's cultural Zionism and its emphasis on practical settlement in Eretz Yisrael climaxed at the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903. After an initial discussion of settlement in the Sinai Peninsula, which was opposed by Egypt, Herzl came to the congress apparently willing to consider, as a temporary shelter, a British proposal for an autonomous Jewish entity in East Africa. The Uganda Plan, as it was called, was vehemently rejected by East European Zionists who, as before, insisted on the ancient political identity with Palestine. Exhausted, Herzl died of pneumonia in 1904, and from that time on the mantle of Zionism was carried by the cultural Zionists led by Ahad HaAm and his close colleague, Chaim Weizmann. They took over the WZO, increased support for Hibbat Tziyyon, and sought Jewish settlement in Palestine as a prerequisite to international support for a Jewish state.

Hertzberg summarizes regarding the chief spokesman for cultural Zionism:

AHAD HA-AM was born as Asher Zvi Ginsberg in Skvira, in the Russian Ukraine on August 18, 1856. His family belonged to the very highest aristocracy of the Jewish ghetto, being particularly close to the Hasidic rebbe of Sadagura. His formal education was so strictly pious that his teacher was forbidden to instruct him even in the letters of the Russian alphabet, lest this might lead to heresy (he nonetheless taught himself to read Russian at the age of eight from the signs on the store fronts of his town). By the middle of his adolescence Asher Ginsberg was already a considerable and even somewhat celebrated scholar of the Talmud and its literature, as well as of the devotional literature of the Hasidic movement.

In 1868 his family moved to an estate which his wealthy father had leased. There, locked in his room (then and later he had no interest in nature) he began on the road toward "enlightenment" by studying the works of the great medieval Jewish philosophers, especially of Maimonides. By stages he went on to the "forbidden books" of the modern Hebrew "enlightenment," and eventually, at the age of twenty, to the wider horizons of literature and philosophy in Russian and German. Soon, like his contemporary, Lilienblum, Ahad Ha-Am discovered the works of D. I. Pisarev, one of the founders of Russian positivism, and definitely lost his religious faith.

The years between 1879 and 1886 were the most painful period of his life, marked by abortive attempts to go to Vienna, Berlin, Breslau, and Leipzig to study. Personal troubles, the severe illness of his wife (as was the custom of his class, a marriage had been arranged for him at the age of twenty), and his own self-doubts and lack of resolution kept forcing him to return home after a few weeks with, as he put it, "a pained heart." The family finally moved to Odessa in 1886, not by choice but under the constraint of a new tsarist ukase forbidding Jews to lease land. Though this was a grave economic blow, Ahad HaAm was nonetheless relieved to be gone from a place which was associated in his memory with inner torment.

His first article, "This Is Not the Way," was published in 1889 when he was thirty-three. Not regarding himself as a writer, he signed it as Ahad Ha-Am, i.e., "one of the people," the pen name by which he was to be known henceforth. He always refused to consider himself as a man of letters, even when increasing poverty of his family forced him to take a job in 1896 as the editor of a Hebrew monthly, Ha-Shiloah, in order to support his wife and, by then, three children. After six years of editing this literary journal, which he intended as a platform for the discussion of the contemporary problems of Judaism, he resigned his post, feeling bitter and depressed but relieved to be free of the hateful burdens of being a public servant. He became an official of a tea concern and traveled widely on its behalf throughout Russia for four years. He moved to London in 1907, when his firm opened a branch there, and remained there for fourteen years, until 1921, when he settled in Palestine.

Ahad Ha-Am's debut in Hebrew literature occurred in the era which followed after the pogroms of 1881, in the day of the Hibbat Zion movement. In his first essay and, within several years, in long pieces of analytical reportage that he wrote from the recently founded few colonies in Palestine, he appeared as a disturber of the peace. Comparing the high-flown verbiage of this early Zionism with its paltry and often ill-conceived practical achievements, Ahad Ha-Am was uncompromising in his insistence that work in Palestine needed to be done slowly and with great care. Above all, he suggested that the true meaning of Hibbat Zion was not to be found, as leaders like Lilienblum thought, in mass action but in the cultural revival and modernization of the Jewish people through the agency of a carefully chosen few. From the very beginning these views aroused a storm and his continued reiteration of them after the appearance of Herzl simply continued the controversy. The agnostic definitions that he was proposing for a new Jewish spiritual culture involved him in another continuing argument, a debate with the orthodox. On the other hand, the conservatism of his thought, in practical application, made him the target of many of the younger and more rebellious voices in modern Hebrew literature, who found him too traditionalist in temper, a hard taskmaster as an editor, and lacking in interest in art and belles-lettres for their own sake.

Socialist Zionism is the underpinning of the modern State of Israel. Also known as Labor Zionism, the movement governed the development of the fledgling State of Israel through its first 25 years.

See http://www.mideastweb.org/labor_zionism.htm

The World Zionist Organization speaks glowingly of Socialist Zionism:

Socialist Zionism rose out of a criticism of both existing Zionism and Jewish Socialism in the Early Zionist era.

Socialist Zionism is not simply a mechanical combination of two words: Zionism and Socialism. Nor is it a compromise between two conflicting principles. Anyone who believes that this is so has never grasped its ideology and spirit, nor its intrinsic integrity. Socialist Zionism made its appearance after Jewish Socialism was established. In other words there were not only socialists from among the Jewish people delegated to convert the masses to Socialism but there was also the Bund, the trade union of Jewish workers organised as a Jewish body from amongst the Jewish people. But the Bund learned its socialism from �the great teachers" and presented it wholemeal to the Jewish worker, without making use of its own intellectual force to analyse how this new kind of world (for reasons of brevity called: the social revolution) would actually operate within the sphere of Jewish life, nor did it have the power to evaluate the particular fate of the Jewish worker linked to the fate of his own people.

Socialist Zionism rose out of a criticism of both existing Zionism and Jewish Socialism. This movement arose because of the realization of a deep contradiction between the Jewish world and the theories of the leading movements: General Zionism (i.e. the Bourgeoisie) and general Socialism in its Jewish aspect (i.e. the Bund). Syrkin saw that General Zionism distinguished for its overblown grandiose style was smugly satisfied with a miserly philanthropy, actually supporting the forces of reaction, incapable of large scale settlement, and not even daring to take it into consideration. It was creating a deep chasm-between the Zionist idea, the idea of deliverance from the Exile and coping with the vital needs of the Jewish masses. Syrkin saw the Bund as some kind of organization for stuffing the Jewish worker with Marxist phrases, lacking a solid basic program for creating an independent culture that could lead to national liberation. It lacked an understanding of the fact that there was no true redemption for the Jewish worker if his people were not delivered from their Exile.

Socialist Zionism began as one of the revolutionary movements of that time. It cracked the whip of its criticism not only over the bourgeoisie and capitalist world, it revolted not only against the autocratic rule of the Tsar, the secret police and agent-provocateurs, it also struck against the accepted dogmas of the socialist world. It dared to think independently and weigh up its own responsibility - a most difficult undertaking. At a time when most of the socialist intellectuals among the Jewish people were satisfied with ready-made ideas, lapped up the Erfurt Programme of the German Social Democratic Party in 1891 and the illegal literature of the Russian Social Democrats, nor dared to question the doctrines of their teachers which they considered sacrosanct - Socialist Zionism probed the validity of the most hallowed doctrines.

Socialist Zionism, just as a scientist baulked by a tiny detail contradicting the whole accepted formula is impelled to re-examine the whole formula, is also impelled to scrutinize these wide generalizations in the light of the "tiny detail" - the harrowing Jewish problem - which was not considered nor resolved within the universal formula. The first generation of Socialist Zionists felt the suffering of the Jewish people. They realized that stock phrases were no complete answer to the question, and the universal panacea no remedy for the unique Jewish malady. From the outset they understood that the main problem was providing work for the Jewish masses, and with piercing insight maintained that the downfall of Russian Tsarism and the granting of "equal rights" and the abolition of the Pale of Settlement, the common aspiration of both the Jewish bourgeoisie and the socialists - would not save the people from their eternal wanderings nor the life of the 'luftmensch'. If there was no future for the Jewish worker in the Exile, there was no future for Socialism-in-Exile. Socialist Zionism sharply and furiously mocked at the paucity of spirit and the shallowness of Jewish Socialism, its cowardly thinking, the open enslavement within the revolution and the brash confidence of the ignorant mingling in Jewish life, as Syrkin described the Bund; or the theoretical "alrightist� type of the Jewish Labour Movement in America, and in its perpetual inner criticism, Socialist Zionism enlarged the scope of its analyses beyond the boundaries of the Jewish world.

At that period, on the threshold of the twentieth century, European Socialism conceived the existence of a placid, idyllic life, and its thinking - confident and optimistic - was established by venerable �disciples" who pursued the ways that had been set for them. The Jewish intellectual enthusiastically accepted everything put out by the apostles of Karl Kautsky and Georgi Plekhanov, in the same way as the provincial city blindly follows the dictates of fashion. Somewhere in Paris, the arbiter of fashion cuts, sews and controls the market. In intellectual life, too, many are bound to this "Paris Couturier" and those who do not follow the intellectual fashion are regarded as being "queer", like somebody from another planet. In those days Socialist Zionism undertook to work intensively. It was as if these �unruly� impudent pupils, Syrkin, Zytlovsky, Borochov, and their colleagues said to the dictators of Socialism: - �If you cannot grasp our problem, this is a sign that there are many other matters which have escaped you." With assimilation -"emancipation in the Exile" - as a point of departure, Socialist Zionist thinking was spurred on to a criticism of the values of actual Socialism. Opinions prevailing on the interpretation of nationalism and the nationalist movements, the agrarian question, the small farmer, cooperation, the migration of peoples, the settlement of lands, the poor grasp of what was exactly involved in the task of the pioneering avant-garde Socialist worker, the lack of orientation towards the obligations of personal commitment - all these issues, even then, engaged and perturbed Zionist Socialist thinking and forced it to charter its own course.

This was the movement in its early days, when it had the power to negotiate the stumbling blocks of life in Exile, and reach the harbour of redemption. Later it crashed on these very obstacles. Many of its standard-bearers and disciples could not muster sufficient strength to sustain them and complete what they had daringly and heroically commenced. They did not have the stamina to pursue their independent, revolutionary ideas, to uphold in actual life the change to values which they had evolved and in the struggle for which they had become united. They became exhausted finally and bowed to the �style of the Paris Couturier�, the controlling dictator and legislator. But this dictator, or dictatorship (depending on whether it is individual or collective) is also vulnerable. He, too, was more than once cast down from the sublime heights to the deep pit below, but this throne never stood vacant. It was always filled by someone else. That is the fate of a "Paris Couturier". As a ruler, he is an absolute despotic infallible sovereign. Who would dare to challenge him? Only a few stubborn people would renounce public acclaim, would turn away from the smoothly constructed highway into the unknown path, and they were the people who laid out the paths that we tread today.

It is doubtful whether our movement in the land of Israel would have acted as it did if not for the daring exploration of Socialist Zionism in its early days. A great spiritual heritage was accumulated in our movement from the time of Moses Hess to the present day. And if this heritage had been bequeathed to our younger generation then it would have saved countless victims.

Hertzberg summarizes the work of Socialist Zionist writer Nahum Syrkin as follows:

SOCIALISM AND NATIONALISM had been combined by the first great Zionist writer, Moses Hess, but his work was forgotten. That such a combination would be made again, when Herzlian Zionism appeared, was inevitable, for socialism was then, in the 1890's, the greatest single influence on the thought of young Jewish intellectuals. Bernard Lazare (for him, see part 8), one of Herzl's earliest associates in France, was immediately impelled to rewrite Hess, without knowing it, but he, too, founded no school of thought and is today almost unremembered. The more obvious soil for such ideas was the misery and ferment of Russian Jewry; Socialist-Zionism, which is to this day the dominant force within the state of Israel, arose in the context of Russian Jewish life, and one of its immediate ancestors is Nahman Syrkin.

He began life in a pious family in Mohilev. By temperament a rebel, he soon fought his way to secular education and entered the local high school. The young Syrkin was soon expelled for objecting to antiSemitic remarks by a teacher, and he finished school in Minsk, where he joined a group of Hibbat Zion and also was involved in the revolutionary underground. After being jailed briefly for these activities, which sealed a personal breach with his family, Syrkin emigrated to London, where supposedly he even acted on the Yiddish stage for a few months. By 1888 he was in Berlin, starving but nonetheless studying at the university and becoming ever more expert in all varieties of contemporary economic thought and socialist theory.

At that time the major schools of learning in both Germany and Switzerland were full of Russian Jewish students like himself, who had come to the more liberal west because they were barred, as Jews, from the Russian universities. Within the milieu of these student circles all the clashing "isms" of the day were hotly debated, and Syrkin was one of the most notable of a whole galaxy of celebrated controversialists. As he was to tell later in reminiscence, it took all the inner certainty and skill in argument he could muster to stand alone, at war with the entire intelligentsia within which he moved, when he first announced his Socialist-Zionism. Syrkin first published his thesis in a pamphlet in 1898, Die Judenfrage und der sozialistische Judenstaat, his debut in print, of which the most important passages are in the text below.

Syrkin had attended the First Zionist Congress the year before and he remained in the organization until 1905, when it was definite that the British offer of Uganda had come to naught. For four years he was a Territorialist (i.e., one who believed that a Jewish state should be founded on any available land, not necessarily in Palestine) and then he returned to Zionism as representative of the newly formed Poale Zion (Workers of Zion) party. Throughout this decade, both as Zionist and as Territorialist, Syrkin was actively writing propaganda and editing journals in Yiddish and Hebrew in support of his views. He moved to the United States in 1907 to continue his career as official of the Labor Zionist movement and as controversialist. Unfortunately his essays are scattered in many periodicals and, despite abortive attempts, they have not yet been adequately collected. Syrkin died in New York in 1924.

Syrkin's socialism was not Marxist but ethical and utopian; it was rooted, like Hess's, in love of humanity and the ideals of biblical prophecy. The newest note in Syrkin, present also in Lazare, was the assertion that Herzl's vision of a state would be realized only by the poor. Herzl's early hopes that the men of wealth within Jewry would be converted to his Jewish nationalism and take the lead in realizing its aims had been denied by Syrkin from the very beginning. He had even less faith that the existing order of western national states would help create a new state for the Jews. Society, both Jewish and general, was, in his view, dominated by the class interests of the bourgeoisie, which ran counter to Jewish nationalism, or even to the French, German, and other nationalisms which the wielders of power professed. Nor could Syrkin have unqualified faith in a socialist new order, because he forecast that even within it the position of the Jew would still be different, for he would still be prey to exclusion as the member of a minority. Hence, the only true bearers of Jewish nationalism were the masses; the only true socialism would have to include a Zionist solution of the Jewish problem.


Another Triumph for Zionism: Google Releases AdSense in Hebrew

We are now a normal nation. Google has released AdSense in Hebrew promising bloggers and website owners thousands in shared profits.

מאיר ברנד מאמין שבעזרת Adsense תביאו את המכה

אהוד קינן, "קטעי קישור"

"בלוגרים מוצלחים במיוחד יוכלו להרוויח עשרות אלפי דולרים", כך אמר בלי למצמץ הבוקר מנכ"ל גוגל ישראל, מאיר ברנד מסיבת העיתונאים בה הושק שירות Google Adsense for Content בעברית.

שירות Google Adsense מאפשר לבעלי אתרים ובלוגרים קטנים כגדולים, להצטרף לתוכנית הפרסומות של גוגל, ובצעדי הרשמה פשוטים שלא עולים כלום, לשתול פרסומות תלויות תוכן באתרים, לחלוק עם גוגל את ההכנסות, ופשוט לחכות לצ'ק.

הבלוגרים הגדולים והפופולרים בישראל זוכים לאלפי כניסות יומיות לכל היותר. גם בלוגרים נישתיים שיפרסמו תוכן אטרקטיבי במיוחד שיביא לפרסומות רלוונטיות יותר יזכו, בהערכה אופטימית, למאות דולרים בחודש (לפני תשלום מס כמובן). שאלנו את ברנד אם הוא סבור שהסכומים שהוא מציין הם ריאליים. "בארה"ב", הוא הסביר, "הבלוגרים כבר מזמן מתחרים באתרי התוכן הממסדיים". ברנד ומאמין שהמגמה הזו תגיע לישראל, ובכל מקרה תולה את האחריות בכותבים: "מדובר בפוטנציאל", הוא מתעקש "תלוי כמה אטרקטיבי יהיה התוכן שיספקו הגולשים". אנחנו האחרונים שנזלזל בבלוגרים (במיוחד כי כל חברי מערכת ערוץ המחשבים הם כאלה), אך למרות תרבות הבלוגים שצמחה פה תוך מספר שנים להיקפים מדהימים ולמרות שישנם בלוגרים רבים שלא נופלים בכישוריהם מהעיתונאים הממוסדים, קשה לנו להצטרף להערכה הזו של ברנד.

באשר להונאות קליקים, ברנד ציין כי אנשי החברה שמחים להתמודד עם האתגר הטכנולוגי הכרוך בזיהוי הניסיונות לרמות את המערכת. על פי הסיפור שמביא אלעד זלמונס, ממייסדי קהילת הבלוגים "בלוגלי", בגוגל עוקבים אחר ניסיונות כאלה גם כשמדובר באתרים בעברית, ולראייה, מכתב אזהרה שקיבלה בלוגרית ישראלית שהעזה לבקש מקוראיה להקליק על מודעות המילים באתר.

חדש: שירות

Google AdSense לתכנים בעברית

הבוקר עלתה לרשת הגירסה העברית של Google Adsense For Content, שירות מודעות המילים על פי הקשר של גוגל, המיועד עבור אתרים חיצוניים

אהוד קינן, ניב ליליאן

שירות הפרסומות Google AdSense For Content החל לפעול הבוקר (ג') עם תמיכה מלאה בעברית. בעלי אתרים ובלוגרים ישראלים יוכלו מעתה להציב פרסומות תלויות תוכן באתריהם. עד כה, בעלי אתרים בעברית לא קיבלו הודעה כי השירות טרם זמין עבור תכנים בשפה העברית.

עם זאת, בפועל ניתנה תמיכה לא רשמית ופרסומות בעברית הוצבו כבר במספר אתרים ישראלים. לאחרונה הודיעו גוגל ותפוז על שיתוף פעולה במסגרתו, תפוז תהיה החברה הראשונה שתשלב פרסומות בעברית בעזרת AdSense. כעת השירות פעיל עבור כל המעוניין באמצעות הרשת.


NY Times says, Click Twice Anywhere and Be Amazed

I double-clicked on the word Kuwait in the Frank Rich editorial and got a boatload of background references...amazing. As they say it modestly in the NY Times,


To find reference information about the words used in this article, double-click on any word, phrase or name. A new window will open with a dictionary definition or encyclopedia entry.

NY Times: The Bride Converted and the Wedding was Milchig

I don't normally troll the wedding announcements but this picture captured my interest.

Lauren Dawson and Andrew Fortgang

...The bride, who recently converted to Judaism, her husband’s faith, and the bridegroom agreed that the menu at their wedding would have to be kosher. But kosher meals can also be limited because of the inability to serve meat and dairy products together.

The two worked closely with a kosher caterer to devise a menu and presentation that would be flavorful and uncontrived.

But serving meat was ruled out right away. “A pastry chef needs to have a wedding cake with butter,” Ms. Dawson explained.

For their late-afternoon wedding at the Puck Building in New York on Feb. 11, she wore a strapless gown designed by Priscilla of Boston, adorned with French lace and tiny pearls. Her long veil seemed to float around her as she walked around Mr. Fortgang three times, according to tradition. For the ceremony Mr. Fortgang wore a white robe over his tuxedo. They stood facing Rabbi Laurence Sebert under a canopy made from the prayer shawl worn by the bridegroom’s great-grandfather.

The meal that followed began with a mâche salad with roasted acorn squash and goat cheese crostini, followed by black bass with chanterelles.

The wedding cake, created by the bride, was round and triple-tiered, with layers of chocolate cake and chocolate pudding with chocolate icing. It was decorated with delicate and sugary floral vines...

The story is sweet - mazal tov.

Surprise! Rabbi Shmuley Fails to Save Britney

Last week Rabbi Shmuley stuck his two cents in to criticize Britney's parenting. Apparently his advice-at-a-distance approach did not take into account the seriousness of her condition.

Perhaps next time the good Rabbi will exercise more discretion before going public with his "advice" (i.e. his transparent and insensitive grab for PR attention by criticizing a troubled celebrity).
Britney ‘on the edge of a nervous breakdown’
Patrick Foster

Fans and friends of Britney Spears rallied round the pop star last night as fears grew for her mental health.

The 25-year-old’s behaviour has become increasingly erratic, including reports that she had checked into a rehabilitation clinic but left after only 24 hours. In a bizarre sequence of events, Spears was filmed shaving her head in a Los Angeles hair salon on Friday evening before going to a tattoo parlour, where she reportedly had a tattoo of a pair of lips put on to her wrist.

Psychologists said yesterday that the behaviour was worryingly erratic and required attention, while fans of the pop star took to the internet to express their support for her.

Video footage from a Los Angeles television station showed Spears taking the clippers to her hair in full view of the paparazzi gathered outside.

Esther Tognozzi, the salon’s co-owner, told US Weekly that after Spears had cut off her brunette hair extensions she “just looked in the mirror and said with tears in her eyes, ‘Oh, my God, I shaved it all off. My mom is going to be so upset with me’.” JT Tognozzi, her husband and salon co-owner, said: “[Spears] didn’t want her hair. We have it here at the salon and we will probably auction it off for charity.”

Teaneck Leads the News in Gay Rights and Diversity

Teaneck Jews... sure is news today.

First the NY Times reviews the diversity struggle in our proud little township with special notice of the role of the Orthodox.
Proudly Diverse Teaneck Is Forced to Re-examine Its Assumptions

TWO moments are seared into Teaneck’s memory.

The first came in 1965, when Teaneck adopted a student assignment plan to voluntarily integrate its schools, becoming the first township in the United States to do voluntarily what others did only when courts forced them to. The second came in 1990, when the fatal shooting of a black teenager, Phillip Pannell, by a white policeman sparked protests, violence and anguished soul-searching about the town’s commitment to diversity and racial progress.

Out of those moments came a civic identity that’s still cherished by many, the sense of Teaneck as a place that is proudly and self-consciously diverse — multicultural before multicultural was cool.

There’s nothing nearly as dramatic now, with battles over a new master plan and other development issues, and disquiet over local politics. But given its history, two questions have arisen that have echoes elsewhere.

The first is whether religion can now be as likely as race to be a divisive, if often unmentioned, thread in suburban life. Second is whether Teaneck has become the sort of place that’s now quite comfortable with a different view of diversity: one with groups in their own ethnic or religious silos, the new suburban version of separate but equal.

Those questions have been percolating for the past decade as Orthodox Jews — overwhelmingly modern Orthodox, not Hasidic — have increasingly become the most conspicuous and fastest-growing group in town, though nowhere near the majority of residents. There are at least 18 Orthodox synagogues in a town of 39,000. The downtown shopping district on Cedar Lane is dominated by glatt kosher meat markets and delis and Judaica shops.

In some areas, particularly the heavily Orthodox northwest side, other residents are put off by Orthodox Jews’ habit of walking to shul on the Sabbath in the middle of the street, as if to say: “Don’t drive here. This is where we make the rules.”

Schools no longer play a unifying role because the Orthodox tend to send their children to religious schools.

Even among many other Jews, there’s often a sense of unease, as if one group has put its stamp on the town.

“People worry that there’s a group that wants this to become an Orthodox community like some of the ones in Rockland County,” said Barbara Ley Toffler, who is on the planning board now and whose father was the first Jewish school board member and was on the board during the integration in 1965. “This has always been an incredibly diverse community, and from my perspective, I don’t want it to become any one thing.”

Issues of religion are seldom spoken of publicly, but several events have brought some of the community divisions to the surface.

In May, four young men, including Elie Y. Katz, the new mayor, were elected with overwhelming support from Orthodox neighborhoods. They become what some see as the dominant voting bloc on the seven-member township council. The election left some bad feelings.

A complaint was filed with the Bergen County prosecutor about campaign mailings that attacked others in the race, hinting at their anti-Semitism without identifying who paid for the mailings, as the law requires. Some non-Orthodox residents were shocked to get automated telephone calls urging a vote for candidates who were “frum,” a Yiddish word meaning observant of Jewish commandments.

Since then there have been disputes over development, a master plan some see as too favorable to growth, and appointments that critics say promote allies of the council majority and punish critics.

To many in town, both the style and content of the majority’s actions felt like one part of the community imposing itself on the rest.

“One thing that’s so sad in this particular blowup is that it’s been brewing for a long time in the way a lot of Christian people and non-Orthodox Jews have felt slighted, marginalized, disrespected, not treated in a neighborly fashion,” said Sue Grand, a longtime resident who is Jewish but not Orthodox.

Mr. Katz, 32, a Teaneck native, said that any differences were over policy, not religion, and that Teaneck needed development to mitigate high taxes. He said that is particularly important now, because a new, state-mandated re-evaluation will increase taxes the most in the more modest parts of town, which are not predominantly Orthodox.

“It’s not a question of religion,” he said. “It’s a question of the need for change so people can afford to live here.”

Others see the normal push and pull of politics more than a religious divide or some kind of tipping point. Henry Pruitt, a school board member and a longtime Teaneck resident, said there was nothing new either in communities mobilizing to vote in their own people or the makeup of a town changing.

“Demographics change, things metamorphose,” he said. “Used to be you could work for I.B.M. and never get fired. I know a lot of the Orthodox, and in the main I don’t have any problem with them.”

State Senator Loretta Weinberg said she thinks the current problems have to do with the style and manner of council members more than any underlying community differences and that there’s no monolithic Orthodox line on development.

Still, she cited one lesson from the past. From 1965 to 1990 Teaneck changed, not always for the better, and people did not quite realize it until the Pannell shooting shocked the town into facing its own divisions, she said.

“After the shooting, it became apparent we were integrated, but we hadn’t really nurtured it. We were still living on what had been done in the 1960s, and it became apparent we needed a lot more in terms of community relations than we were doing. That’s probably true today. You can’t live in a community like this and let it go unnurtured.”
2. Then the Bergen Record notes that the first gay union in NJ will take place in Teaneck and a yarmulka wearing gay activist, Steven Goldstein, features in the picture along with Loretta Weinberg, local politician.
N.J. civil-union era starts today
Sunday, February 18, 2007

New Jersey will become the fifth state in the nation Monday to extend all the legal rights of marriage to same-sex couples, although the Legislature stopped short of offering 'marriage' itself.

Q: So can gay couples begin having civil-union ceremonies that day?

Under the new law, gay couples can apply for civil-union licenses beginning Monday, and can be legally joined 72 hours later, the same as with heterosexual marriage.

Q: Are there exceptions to that waiting period?

Couples who had a civil union in Vermont or Connecticut will automatically be considered in a civil union in New Jersey. Couples who want to "reaffirm" their civil union in New Jersey can waive the 72-hour wait. Such is the case with Steven Goldstein, head of the state's gay-rights movement, who had a civil union with his partner in Vermont. They plan to have what will likely be the state's first civil-union ceremony at the stroke of midnight tonight, in Teaneck. It will occur in the office of state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, co-author of the civil-union law.
3. Then yours truly gets mentioned in the Bergen Record Road Warrior column for an appropriate inquiry about a GWB traffic issue and a substantive response from all parties.
You'll find latest news on GWB right here
Sunday, February 18, 2007

Manhattan-bound Route 4 commuters are dying to hear some honest, clear answers about why they can't zip across the upper level of the George Washington Bridge anymore.

For more than a month, barricades have blocked the entrance to the upper level, forcing commuters to use the crowded lower level, adding 20 to 30 minutes to their trips especially if they travel after 8 a.m. Bus commuters, with their noses flattened against windows, have strained to see the work being done to the roadway.

So far, they've been disappointed.

Bridge riders see nobody in a hard hat, no heavy equipment, no jackhammers. Commuters aren't even sure if anything is being done.

"There's no evidence of construction," complained Teaneck's Tzvee Zahavy....


NY Times: Existence of God Will Be Settled on YouTube

OK not exactly. But this credulous, wow-isn't-that-neat-account of kids' videos about religion (and of adults who act like kids) - it just is not NY Times quality reporting. More like People Magazine. Who is this columnist Rachel Mosteller? Is she 15 years old?

Here is the Religion Journal text:
February 17, 2007

Taking the Debate About God Online, and Battling It Out With Videos
A religious battle is taking place on the Internet, with two very different groups arguing over the existence of God.

It began in December when Brian Flemming, a 40-year-old filmmaker and playwright based in Los Angeles, started the Blasphemy Challenge, asking people to post videos on YouTube denying the existence of God.

In one video, for example, a teenage girl says, “I know that the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, God, the flying spaghetti monster, pink unicorns, all of these made-up entities do not exist.”

Those who participate at the Flemming site, blasphemychallenge.com, receive a free DVD of the documentary “The God Who Wasn’t There,” which Mr. Flemming wrote, directed and produced. Mr. Flemming, a former evangelical Christian turned atheist, said the DVDs cost him about $25,000. So far, more than 1,000 people have turned on their cameras to deny the existence of God.

The Blasphemy Challenge site advises people how to post their videos on YouTube and how to search for the videos on the YouTube site.

The Flemming Web site so upset Mike Mickey, a 43-year-old police officer from Christiansburg, Va., and Steve Buchanan, a 34-year-old carpenter from Henderson, Ky., that they began Challenge Blasphemy with their own Web site, challenge blasphemy.com. They are asking Christians to “praise the Lord” with their own videos on YouTube.

In one of their videos, another teenage girl says: “I am making this video to tell people that I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. He saved me from my sins when I was 8 years old, and I know that he is the living God.”

Referring to those who have denied the existence of God, Mr. Mickey, a Baptist, said, “I pray for their souls’ salvation and that they will repent for what they’ve done.”

In addition to his police job, Mr. Mickey, the married father of three, is also the Web master for RaptureAlert.com, a Web site “sounding the alert that Jesus Christ is coming soon.”

Emily Henochowicz, an 18-year-old who denied God with a wry smile in her video, is among those who find the videos an interesting way to talk through the issues of religion and faith. But others are deeply offended.

“This is a very, very serious situation,” said Denise Gumprecht, a homemaker from Clemmons, N.C., and a participant in Challenge Blasphemy. “We are not dealing with human versus human. It is a spiritual battle.”

The antireligion perspective has been around on the Internet since its beginning, though using YouTube to express such thoughts is new, said Lorne L. Dawson, professor of sociology and religious studies at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, who has studied religion and the Internet.

“To my mind, it is a very unique scheme,” said Dr. Dawson, who identifies himself as an agnostic with a “Buddhist world view.” “In a sense, it is a new twist on a long habit of trolling, baiting and flaming people online and purposely seeking to attract attention and stir up trouble. It is in line with the culture of the Internet and the bad-boy element of the Internet.”

Ms. Henochowicz, who was raised as a Jew, said she began questioning the concepts of God and faith after the death of her grandfather a few years ago. A high school senior, she formerly attended a Hebrew school and prayed to God but felt unclear about what happened to someone after death.

After much consideration, she decided to stop believing in “mysticism,” including God.

Ms. Gumprecht, on the other hand, was raised in a Christian family on Long Island, but said she felt the need in her youth to rebel against her parents’ beliefs.

“I doubted,” she said of her beliefs. “But I came to the realization that this life is not over when you die.”

Mr. Flemming, who says his Web site does not make money, said he started questioning his religious faith during his senior year of high school, when he transferred out of an evangelical school to a secular one.

“Once I started asking questions about Christian doctrine and seeking answers to Christian doctrine, I realized there was no way Christian doctrine could survive,” he said. “I discovered you can’t think your way to Christianity, you have to unthink your way there. Once you start to think about it, you end up not being a Christian.”

“The goal is for us to dump religion from our culture,” he added. “We want to get rid of this supernatural belief in the same way that it would be great if we could dump astrology or phrenology and all of the other pseudosciences.”

Some Blasphemy Challenge participants use profanity while referring to Christianity, others jokingly say they believe in intelligent design.

Some of them, Mr. Mickey contends, have a hatred of religion.

“These guys are malicious and evil towards us,” he said. “They hate Christians with a passion.”

It is the participants who may have made the antireligion videos on a lark who worry Mr. Mickey, who feels that a young person who makes such a video now may choose not to become a Christian later for fear of having committed an unforgivable sin.

For believers like Ms. Gumprecht, whose 16-year-old son said he planned to participate in Challenge Blasphemy, the videos are a chance to share their faith with others.

“We’re challenging them back,” Ms. Gumprecht said. “We are confident in God’s word and we would like to tell others to rethink their position. Despite all this, Jesus has died for them and loves them.”


Fox False Video: Barack Obama Raised as a Muslim

"This is huge." False and Unbalanced - as always at Fox.

"Fox News falsely reporting that Obama attended a Madrassa. Fox & Friends Steve Doocy nearly wets his pants over this juicy story..."


Archaeologists Prove Legend of Rome's Origins?

Yahoo Video from CNN -- reports that archaeologists discovered a cave beneath the Palatine that may have been the birthplace of Rome. This could be, they say, the actual place where the wolf suckled Remus and Romulus.

Okay, sure.

Israeli Webcams Defeat Islamic Propaganda

Look Imam. We are not damaging your holy sites.
Israel runs live holy site Internet feed

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel on Thursday began broadcasting live images of a contentious construction project on the Internet in an effort to allay Muslim fears that the work would damage nearby Islamic shrines.

Israel began excavations last week to lay the ground to repair an earthen ramp leading to the hilltop compound known as the Temple Mount to Jews and as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims. The work sparked immediate protests at the site and condemnation from across the Muslim and Arab world.

Three cameras at the site began broadcasting live images on Thursday and will work around the clock, Israel Antiquities Authority spokeswoman Osnat Goaz said.

"They film all angles of the works so people can view what's going there all hours of the day," she said. "The works do not go anywhere near any holy site and everybody can see that from the cameras."

However, angry Muslims said they were not satisfied with the cameras.

"This procedure is not enough," said Ismail Radwan, a spokesman for the militant Palestinian group Hamas. "The Zionist enemy is engaging in trickery and continuing its digging. We don't trust these procedures."
See the feeds here.


Comedian Franken Serious About the Senate

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports today that Al Franken has declared his candidacy for the US Senate.
Franken jumps into Senate race
The comedian turned politician will bring controversy and a show business spotlight to Minnesota's Senate race.
We have previously endorsed Franken. He is a brilliant and compassionate man and will be a great senator.

Shmuley to Britney: Life's a Joke before you have kids

Going back to yesterday's to do over pink panty pictures - they will scar you for life if you look at them - here is what the Englewooder Rebbe wrote according to page six:

“Allow me to share with you a teaching of the ancient Rabbis. Once you become a parent, Britney, life gets really serious.”

So kids, have your fun now. But later on when you are parents - settle down. Or else you will scar your offspring for life. Ancient Rabbis said so.


Happy Sappy Video: How Israel has made the world better

Yes it is happy and sappy and I like it!

Chief Wall Rabbi: My Wall or the Highway

First let us listen to the rabbi. Then we comment. From Israel Today:
The Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, said on Monday that those who conduct services not in line with Orthodox customs should not pray anywhere along the length of the Jewish holy site.

Rabinowitz was referring particularly to Conservative and Reform customs where men and women have equal roles and pray together.

The movement has free access to the southern tip of the southern wall, which is known as Robinson’s Arch, for morning, Sabbath and holiday prayers. Non-Orthodox prayer sessions have been held for the past seven years at Robinson's Arch, inside an archeological park at the southern tip of the wall.

“Whoever wants to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah, but does not want to do it according to Jewish custom, should go elsewhere,” said Rabinowitz. “It makes me sad that there are people who do not want to respect the Kotel (Western Wall) as a place of unity and togetherness for the entire Jewish people.”

The Conservative movement has slight liturgical changes in their prayers, but the main area of concern is its lack of gender separation.

“The Fund for the Traditions of the Kotel provides guides who can help families celebrate a Bar Mitzvah in accordance with tradition or put on tefillin (phylacteries) or read a Torah scroll,” said Rabinowitz. “Many Reform and Conservative families use our services.”

So he says, "Pray our way or do not come." Then he says, "Have a bar mitzvah our way or go elsewhere."

But wait, there is more. Then he says, “It makes me sad that there are people who do not want to respect the Kotel (Western Wall) as a place of unity and togetherness for the entire Jewish people.”

Well Rabbi! Listen to yourself. Unity and togetherness, my foot. You keep shooing away the non-Orthodox - 90% of the Jewish people.

Bergen Record: Teaneck Tax Map for Nosy Neighbors

Want to know what your neighbor pays in taxes? Here is your chance - a fancy interactive clickable map! Thank you Bergen Record. That was a lot of work (no pun).

"Click the links below for a lot-by-lot look at the revaluation of property in Teaneck. For technical reasons, the Teaneck map is divided in two. The dividing line is Route 4."

Teaneck North
Teaneck South

The article:
Teaneck's seismic tax shift
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Homeowners in Teaneck's most modest neighborhoods stand to absorb the biggest tax increases this year while those in wealthier areas will get a break as a result of updates to the property tax rolls that will shift the burden from higher-end parts of town.

The shift is the result of a state-mandated revaluation, aimed at updating outdated assessments on all properties in the town so that owners pay their fair share of taxes to support municipal, school and Bergen County government services.

For some in modest neighborhoods, the shift will be seismic, with some tax bills increasing upward of $2,000. Others will not notice much of a change from last year. For still others on more stately blocks, and commercial property owners, taxes will go up by smaller amounts and could even drop.

Residents will not receive their tax bills until this summer, when 2007-08 tax rates are set. But a computerized analysis of the new assessments by The Record found that if the property tax levy in Teaneck rises the same amount in 2007 as it did in 2006 -- 6.5 percent -- typical homeowners in more modest neighborhoods, such as the northeast section of town, will see much more than a 6.5 percent tax increase. Instead, they will likely feel the pinch of at least a 15 percent hike and, possibly, increases of 20, 30 and even 40 percent.

On the flip side, the typical homeowners in some of the town's wealthiest areas would see less than 5 percent tax increases. One such area is in northwest Teaneck near the Bergenfield and New Milford borders, known for spacious Tudors and colonials selling for $750,000 and up. Another is the Glenpointe condominium complex in the town's southeast corner.

Assessments must be updated under state law with revaluations so they reflect market value. As real estate prices change, property values in different neighborhoods rise at different rates. The longer that goes on, the more out of balance assessments get from one area to another, leaving some owners paying too much and others paying too little. By updating assessments, communities make sure each property owner pays taxes that reflect the market value of his home.

Property owners who incur the biggest percentage increases in assessments receive the biggest tax increases the year after a revaluation, while the opposite is true for those with the smallest percentage increases in assessments.

The township's northeast neighborhood, where modest Capes and colonials abound, will take one of the biggest hits from the revaluation because property owners have reaped the biggest percentage increase in home values since Teaneck's last reassessment in 1992. A separate analysis of home sales by The Record confirmed that trend.

The situation has northeast resident Kimberly France on edge. France's two-bedroom, one-bathroom colonial on Fairview Avenue was newly assessed at $330,800, up from $119,200 – a 178 percent increase, which was far more than the townwide median of 132 percent.

France will face a $1,571, or 28 percent, tax increase if this year's tax levy jumps another 6.5 percent. (Taxes went up 5.4 percent in 2005, and 5.5 percent in 2004.)

"I'm not making the kind of money where an extra $1,600 is not going to make a difference," said France, an office worker. "I know a lot of families on my block that are struggling. It's got me scared."

France said she will probably look for a second job to help make ends meet.

Sherri Scott said she understood why the assessment on her Garden Street home increased 163 percent, from $131,300 to $345,600. "The house is definitely worth more than $130,000," Scott said.

Still, Scott said she worries about how she and her friends and neighbors will cope with the large increases. Scott is facing a 22 percent, or $1,328, tax increase if the levy jumps the same amount as last year.

"The taxes are going to run people out of town," Scott said. "In a few years when I retire I'm going to have to leave Teaneck."

The fact that owners of modest homes will see the largest tax increases does not surprise Rick Del Guercio, a partner with Appraisal Systems, the Ridgewood-based company that conducted the Teaneck revaluation.

"Entry-level homes are appreciating at a much higher pace than high-end homes," Del Guercio said. And not just in Teaneck.

It's a trend Del Guercio had seen in revaluations across North Jersey, due in part to the low-interest mortgages requiring little or no down payment that have spurred the market for first-time home buyers over the past decade.

"The market for $300,000 to $400,000 homes in Teaneck is much greater than the market for $1.5 million to $2 million homes," Del Guercio said.

To be sure, there are residents of more expensive homes who will also feel the pain of the revaluation. Some owners of homes on Winthrop Road, one of the township's priciest streets, could face 20, 30 and 40 percent tax hikes.

But more than a third of the road's 133 homes could see tax decreases, compared with only three of the 73 homes on Stuyvesant Road in the northeast section of town and none of the homes on Garden Street, also in the northeast.

Township officials said the revaluation should not be looked at as the town raising or lowering taxes but as a rebalancing of the tax structure.

Those who will pay more than average this year have been paying less than their fair share of taxes in the past, officials said. And those who will see less-than-average tax increases or pay less than last year have been overpaying in the past, they said.

"I think most people understand what has happened in the market and that things have changed significantly since 1992," said township Tax Assessor James Tighe.

Judging from a review of home sales in the past few months, Tighe said the revaluation appears to be accurate.

"I've been checking the latest sales that have been coming in and the numbers are almost right-on," Tighe said. "But over time is how you tell whether it's going to hold together or not."

Owners of retail, office, industrial and apartment buildings generally fared better than homeowners because residential growth in Teaneck has outpaced commercial growth the past 15 years.

Before the revaluation, homeowners had been paying 84.9 percent of all tax revenue collected by the town, with commercial property owners paying the rest. The revaluation furthered the disparity slightly: homeowners now shoulder 86.2 percent of the tax pie.

Among commercial property owners, John Davino stands to pay nearly $1,550 less in taxes this year on his three properties on Queen Anne Road if the tax levy increases the same amount as last year. His assessment rose only 94 percent.

Davino, who owns Cortley Cleaners, said he would reinvest any money he saves back into his properties.

"If I had a tax decrease, I certainly could enhance the building," Davino said. "Which in turn is going to enhance the business and the community."

But Davino added a caveat: He won't believe his taxes are going down until he sees his tax bill.

Township officials are well aware of the apprehension and uncertainty that homeowners feel as they wait for their tax bills to arrive. Mayor Elie Y. Katz has mentioned the revaluation several times as the Township Council has worked to craft the municipal budget over the past month.

"The reval is the foremost issue in my mind," Katz said. "We must bring in additional revenue to Teaneck to help relieve the tax burden to all the taxpayers."

E-mail: aberback@northjersey.com and sheingold@northjersey.com

Modest homes bear the brunt

The northeast section of Teaneck and other lower-priced neighborhoods are due to bear the brunt of the property revaluation taking effect this year in Teaneck, while property owners in wealthier areas and commercial streets generally can look forward to below-average tax increases, and possibly tax cuts. The map and chart are based on increases in property assessments set in the revaluation. Actual tax bills will go out later this year after municipal, school and county tax rates are set. Owners whose assessment rose more than about 130 percent will see above-average tax increases; others will see below-average increases.

Source: Bergen County Board of Taxation/New Jersey Treasury Department, Staff analysis by Dave Sheingold