Phelps v. Lochte: The Duel of Perhaps the Greatest USA Men's Olympic Swimmers

The Times tells the tale of the Phelps v. Lochte duel that fueled a world record at the Olympic trials yesterday... a great story...
Rival’s Fast Finish Propels Phelps to Another Record By KAREN CROUSE
Michael Phelps set a world record in his first event of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, touching just ahead of Ryan Lochte to win the 400-meter individual medley.

And today Hayley McGregory set a new world record in the 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha -- broken in the next heat by Natalie Coughlin. Much more to come at the actual Olympics...
Backstroke Record Lasts Only as Long as Next Race By KAREN CROUSE
Natalie Coughlin’s record for the 100-meter backstroke was broken by Hayley McGregory in the Olympic Trials Monday, so Coughlin lowered the record in the next heat.

BR: Is the $10 Million Bar Mitzvah Going Out of Style?

This story appears to miss the traditional point of reference of the rite of passage that we Jews call the Bar Mitzvah.

The event is celebrated in a ritual in the synagogue when the child is called to the Torah in public, symbolizing the beginning of his (or her) full-fledged membership in the community based on Torah, centered on the study of Torah and bound by the values of the Torah.

The big ticket Bar Mitzvah is merely an instance of American conspicuous consumption thrust into a religious setting. Replacing conspicuous consumption with acts of social justice is a cyclical and particularly trendy whiplash response that rarely makes a dent in the wasteful practices of our culture.

The Bergen Record misses those aspects of the story.
Putting mitzvahs back in bar mitzvah

The plight of incarcerated Jews isn't a hot topic at most synagogues.

But that didn't stop 12-year-old Vita Taurke Joseph - who attends Temple Beth Israel in Maywood - from taking up a collection in her congregation to help the families of Jewish inmates.

Vita's action fulfilled the community service portion of her bat mitzvah, which was held Saturday, and added an unusual twist to the milestone event.

Her effort also reflects a movement within the Jewish community to revitalize the bar mitzvah (or bat mitzvah for girls) - a coming-of-age ceremony that some fear has been trivialized by glitzy parties and lavish receptions.

"For a long time, there was a sense that there was too much 'bar' and not enough 'mitzvah' [good deed] - too much party and not enough religion," said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. "Now, we are seeing different efforts to change that."

Certainly, big, expensive bar mitzvah parties are still commonplace - a phenomenon that fueled the 2006 movie "Keeping Up with the Steins," in which a clueless dad wanted to book Dodger Stadium for his son's bar mitzvah.

Multimillionaire David H. Brooks threw a bat mitzvah for his daughter in 2005 at Manhattan's pricey Rainbow Room restaurant. The performers included Aerosmith, rapper 50 Cent, Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks. The cost approached $10 million, by some estimates.

Rabbis say those parties have fueled a counter-movement to deepen the bar mitzvah experience by moving beyond rote learning and requiring students to perform community service that exemplifies the Jewish tradition of tikuun olam, or healing and repairing the world.

"Because of these opulent parties that many rabbis are not proud of, there is more of a focus on the deeper meaning of the bar mitzvah," said Rabbi Ken Emert of Temple Beth Rishon in Wyckoff. "The essence of bar mitzvah is that a child assumes sacred obligations and responsibilities."

Some parents - such as Steven and Lisa Marcus of Franklin Lakes - are even rethinking the party and coming up with ways to infuse the revelry with meaning.

"I didn't want to play keeping up with the Joneses," Lisa Marcus said in discussing her son James' recent bar mitzvah. "My son has a huge heart, and I really wanted it to have a greater significance."

So James' party last month was suffused with themes of charity. The family donated money to the Songs of Love Foundation, which produced a personalized song for a 9-year-old boy with cystic fibrosis. Part of the song was recorded at the party, giving the guests a chance to learn about the boy and to be part of the recording effort.

The party was held at the Park Avenue Club, a Florham Park dining hall that donates its profits to local charities. The Marcus family, who attend Temple Beth Rishon, also used inexpensive thank-you notes that benefit the Jewish National Fund.

Marcus said the efforts transformed a special day into an unforgettable experience.

"The day was about James, but it was also about giving, so it enhanced the day," she said. "It showed that even on 'my' day, it doesn't have to all about 'me.' It's an experience that can be shared."

Bar mitzvah literally means "son of the commandments" and is typically a ceremony in which a 12-year-old girl or 13-year-old boy is formally recognized as a member of the Jewish community. Young Jews prepare for months to read in Hebrew from the Torah scroll and to chant blessings as well as other readings from the Bible.

The party that follows the ceremony, meanwhile, has become something of a tradition itself. While "Keeping Up with the Steins" may have played up the excess, some rabbis say it captured an uncomfortable truth.

"In the early 1990s, many American Jews were sleepwalking through the spiritual aspects of the bar and bat mitzvah," Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin said. "All of the efforts and intensity we could be putting into the spiritual was being mistakenly focused on the celebration."

Salkin, an Atlanta-based rabbi, responded by writing the book "Putting God on the Guest List: How to Reclaim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Child's Bar or Bat Mitzvah."

That book struck a chord. More than 100,000 copies are in print, and a third edition recently was published.

Many now point to signs of change. A generation ago, performing a community service project for a bar mitzvah was unheard of. Now it's a staple.

At a River Edge synagogue, families are encouraged to donate 3 to 10 percent of the cash gifts received to a charity of their choice.

"It's all about balancing the personal and the universal," said Rabbi Neal Borovitz of Temple Sholom. "It's a special personal time, but it's also about becoming a responsible member of the Jewish community, and you have to give back not just to Jews but to the world."

A Pompton Lakes rabbi said he and several other members have started a practice in which a bag of donated food serves as the table centerpiece at their children's bar mitzvah receptions.

After the reception, the bags are dropped off at a local food pantry.

Rabbi David Senter of Congregation Beth Shalom said performing such a charitable act during the celebration reinforces the ethical tradition of Judaism.

"If the only way we celebrate is by an exercise in over indulgence ... the message you are sending is that the ethical and moral traditions are unimportant," he said.

Meanwhile, Vita Joseph, the girl who is helping out the families of Jewish inmates, has collected toys, clothes, gift cards and books for the group Jewish Prisoner International Services.

"They are just people who made mistakes," Vita said, in explaining why she chose the project. "And I don't think their families should have to suffer."

The gifts will ultimately go to inmates' families, and Vita will be periodically following up with the advocacy group.

"This is not like writing a check," said Vita's father, Steven Taurke Joseph. "We want there to be follow-up so she can see what happens when you help people."


Calcalist: Billionaire Arcadi Gaydamak Has a Blog (in Hebrew)

Calcalist reports that the Israeli-French-Russian billionaire Arcadi Gaydamak has started a blog. The report notes that the effort coincides with Gaydamak's political aspirations via his Social Justice party.

Naturally expected on any blog, certainly an Israeli political blog in Hebrew, numerous comments on Gaydamak's posts raise pointed issues: some question that he wrote the posts based on the premise that his Hebrew is weak, some attack him for his checkered past and some question the sincerity with which he presents himself as an Israeli political Robin Hood (as cited: "גאידמק שמנסה למכור את עצמ איזשהו מושיע, רובין הוד ממש").

[For those who don't know the publication, Wikipedia says that Calcalist is "a daily business newspaper published in Israel by the Yedioth Ahronoth Group"].
הערוץ החדש של גאידמק לציבור: פתח בלוג בתפוז
איש העסקים, שהצטרף לאחרונה לפוליטיקה עם מפלגתו "צדק חברתי", פתח בסוף השבוע בלוג ותקף את התקשורת ואת המשטרה
עידו קינן 28.06.08, 17:51

איש העסקים ארקדי גאידמק פתח בלוג באתר תפוז אנשים, בכתובת
הבלוג נכתב בעברית רהוטה יחסית לזו שבפיו של גאידמק, ויש בו התייחסויות לגאידמק הן בגוף ראשון והן בגוף שלישי. לפיכך, אפשר להניח שאנשיו של גאידמק מעדכנים את הבלוג, ולא הוא עצמו.

Times: Fake Universities Become a Problem

You always have to check credentials. There are degrees for sale from fake colleges, universities, theological seminaries, yeshivas. Employers beware!
Diploma Mill Concerns Extend Beyond Fraud

The man said he was a retired military officer from Syria, which the American government deems a sponsor of terrorists. He wanted credentials as a chemical engineer, useful for getting a visa to work in the United States. Could James Monroe University help?

For $1,277, it did. Within days, he received three undergraduate and advanced degrees in chemistry and environmental engineering, based on his “life experience,” according to documents in federal court. Although the degrees looked authentic, Monroe had no faculty or courses; the “adviser” evaluating “life experience” was a high school dropout.

Monroe was one of more than 120 fictitious universities operated by Dixie and Steven K. Randock Sr., a couple from Colbert, Wash., who sold diplomas for a price, according to a three-year federal investigation that ended in guilty pleas from the Randocks to mail and wire fraud. The inquiry into their diploma mill, which operated most often as St. Regis University, provides the most up-to-date portrait of how diploma factories can harness the rapidly evolving power of the Internet to expand their reach.

The Randocks will be sentenced on Wednesday. Six former employees have also pleaded guilty to federal charges and await sentencing...
P.S.: Here are some free phony ordinations -

Times: I am Spartacus, er My Middle Name is Hussein...

Sweet how politics works among the young and idealistic.
Obama Supporters Take His Name as Their Own

Emily Nordling has never met a Muslim, at least not to her knowledge. But this spring, Ms. Nordling, a 19-year-old student from Fort Thomas, Ky., gave herself a new middle name on Facebook.com, mimicking her boyfriend and shocking her father.

“Emily Hussein Nordling,” her entry now reads.

With her decision, she joined a growing band of supporters of Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, who are expressing solidarity with him by informally adopting his middle name. ...
More on this video:

The Joys of Family

Shaiel, June, 2008


The Joy of Firefox Add-Ons

I waited until the new version of my preferred Web browser, Firefox 3.0, was officially released. Then I tried it for a few days in the office. Now I have finally upgraded at home. It does some amazing things courtesy of the add-ons available for the platform. The graphic above shows my present set of add-ons.

Short takes. New for me, all-in-one-sidebar is great. PicLens is amazing but not yet perfected. A bit confusing in fact. Better Gmail is awsome. Answers is fun. Book Burro is a must have. Hebrew Calendar is an absolute must-have.

Velveteen Rabbi on the Joys of Davening in Jerusalem

Just a lovely diary entry = blog post from the Velveteen Rabbi capturing the essence of the Jewish spirit that abides in only one city in the world.
...Then the davenen reconvened. The Torah was brought into the women's section, where we kissed it and touched it reverently (though rather sedately); then it went into the men's section, where they hoisted it and danced with it with abandon. The whole Torah portion was read aloud (I can't remember the last time I attended a service where that was the custom), and meanwhile little kids ran around like crazy, babies cried, people talked -- it was a real balagan, a kind of comfortable chaos that didn't in any way detract from the intentionality or heart of the service. That's a thing I love about traditional davenen: the joyful lack of decorum....

So: that was my first Shabbat morning in Jerusalem. Four hours of really fantastic davenen (with a nice schmoozing break midway through) at the Leader Minyan. I'm trying to think of what I can compare it to. There are things about it that remind me of Renewal: the participation, the singing, the ruach (energy/spirit.) There are things about it that remind of the Brookline Havurah Minyan where I used to go for Yom Kippur with my sister: that it's lay-led, that participation is so universal, that everyone there clearly takes davenen seriously and knows the service inside and out.

The liturgy was quite traditional, similar to a million other services in a million other shuls (at least five thousand of which are here in Jerusalem. Seriously -- I learned yesterday that there are 5,000 shuls here, plus an uncounted number of independent minyanim. Of those five thousand shuls, apparently 8 are Conservative and 5 are Reform.) But this particular kind of deep-rooted traditional davenen, done with joy and with a certain kind of egalitarian spirit, wasn't quite like anything else I've ever experienced.

Thanks, Leader Minyan, for a really sweet first Jerusalem Shabbat morning.
Meanwhile - abrupt interruption to a journey of the spirit - we were trapped again for Shabbat in the galut in a synagogue where the main greeting amongst the members is, "What are you doing here?" and the main concern in shul is making sure nobody takes your seat and one topic of the Noon conversation at lunch was whether it could be remotely true that our Rabbi so-and-so earns $400,000 a year. [We remarked: Who cares?]

Kinda shows you a contrast. Not that, G-d F-rbid, there is anything wrong with Judaism in the diaspora.


Update: Sad Report of the Passing of Minnesotan Leo Hurwicz, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics

Leo Hurwicz passed away Tuesday night just months after winning the Nobel Prize for Economics. The Star Tribune obituary reviews his accomplishments including something that I did not know, "He was on the platform committee of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago."

Here is a repost of my congratulatory blog of 10/16/07:

About 20 years ago I was sitting on an intracampus bus near the library on the West Bank campus of the University of Minnesota. It was a typical Minnesota winter day - 10 below zero and snow on the ground. The bus was about to pull away when I saw University professor of economics Leo Hurwicz run up and ask the driver something from the curb. The driver answered but Leo looked puzzled. I knew Leo from various committees and functions on the campus, and I liked and respected him and his work. After a minute or two the driver closed the door and left Leo standing at the bus stop in the cold and snow. At that moment I remember thinking to myself, "This brilliant professor who cannot decide which bus to take will surely win the Nobel prize someday."

So now he did win it at the age of 90 - the oldest to win the prize. Congratulations Leo on a well deserved honor.

Listen here to the cute interview with the Nobel representative on his notification of winning and go here to read the Times story, Three Share Nobel in Economics for Work on Social Mechanisms

BR: Bahai Conclave in Teaneck Saturday

Little known religion fact - Teaneck has a vibrant Bahai presence, only not quite as stylish as the Bahai Temple in Haifa, Israel.
Gathering of faithful will honor founder

When one of the founding fathers of the Bahai religion spoke in 1912 to followers in North Jersey, he declared that the event would be commemorated for years to come.

He was right.

On Saturday, Bahais from across the country will hold their annual unity feast at the Roy Wilhelm estate in Teaneck, marking the 96th anniversary of the visit by Abdul Baha to what was then West Englewood.

"This instills in us why we are Bahai," said Paul Huber, who lives on the estate and helps maintain the grounds. "It's a gathering of people from all over. People are breaking bread together. You look and you see this sea of faces of all races and all nationalities."

Baha was the son and chosen successor of the prophet Baha'u'llah, who founded the Bahai religion in 19th-century Persia. Baha's North Jersey visit was one stop on what Bahais regard as an epochal journey through the West to spread the faith.

Bahais, who number about 5 million worldwide, describe their faith as the youngest of the monotheistic religions. They believe that the major world religions build on one another to form a continuum through which God reveals himself to mankind. They regard Baha'u'llah as the most recent in a line of prophets that includes Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. And they believe that other prophets and writings will emerge to help mankind in the future.

"We are not like the Catholics or any other faith that says 'this is it, you have to follow this or you are out of our church,' '' Huber said. "It's nothing like that at all."

Abdul Baha became head of the Bahais after his father's death in 1892. His arrival in North America came after decades of imprisonment by the Ottoman Empire. He was nearly 70.

"It was epic by any standard," said Glen Fullmer, director of communications for the Bahai National Center in Evanston, Ill. "It was a foundational event for the American Bahai community in its nascent stages."

From April until December, Baha traveled through the country, delivering public addresses in churches, synagogues, private homes and other venues. Fullmer said Baha exemplified Bahai values by welcoming African-Americans and women as equals.

"He was really exemplifying a whole new spiritual civilization," he said.

The West Englewood visit was held at what was then the home of wealthy coffee importer Roy Wilhelm. Persian food was prepared in a Manhattan home and brought over by ferry.

Today, the estate serves as the local Bahai community headquarters and weekend school.

Baha, in his speech, proclaimed the dawning of a new era in which Bahais will come together in utter unity.

"You have come here with sincere intentions," he declared. "And the purpose of all present is the attainment of the virtues of God."

On Saturday, Baha's speech will be read in its entirety.

The annual feast is a time for Bahais to reconnect with each other as well as members of the faiths.

"You never really know who you're going to meet," said Pat Kinney, a Bahai from Leonia. "It's wide open."

Bergen Record: Claims of AntiSemitism at Teaneck's Golf Course

Anti-Semitism got him fired, ex-Bergen worker says

A former Bergen County parks employee who was fired in 2006 has sued the county, claiming that he repeatedly was subjected to anti-Semitic remarks on the job.

In the lawsuit, now in federal court, Jack Lovett, 76, a former ranger at the county’s Overpeck Golf Course in Teaneck, says that parks officials ignored his complaints that colleagues were referring to him as “Jack the Jew,” praising Adolf Hitler and making derisive comments about his religious affiliation.

“Nothing was ever done for him,” said Jamison Mark, Lovett’s attorney. “He was just left to hang out there.”

Brian Hague, a county spokesman, said Wednesday, the county would not comment on pending litigation.

When county officials fired Lovett from his job two years ago, they accused him of illegally selling golf equipment from his car and his locker at the golf course, according to his suit and his attorney.

But the accusation, according to Lovett’s suit, was just another part of the harassment.

“When they fired him, they found a ton of stuff in his locker,” Mark said.

There was nothing improper about why it was there, Mark added.

“A lot of the people would come by and give him golf balls and golf equipment, and he would take it and donate it to charitable organizations,” Mark said.

It was not the first accusation Lovett endured in the workplace, according to the suit. Another colleague accused Lovett of taking money to allow players to begin their rounds on the back nine holes of the course, it claims. An investigation did not substantiate that claim, according to court records filed by the county and Lovett.

Lovett, of Fort Lee, was a seasonal employee for the county, starting in 1998. He worked only during the months that the golf course was open. In 2005, his last full year of employment he made $5,136, according to county payroll records.

He worked as both a golf starter and a golf ranger, responsible for supervising golfers’ start times and roaming the course to ensure that games moved along, his attorney said.

According to the suit, the harassment began in 2000 by another golf ranger, who made derogatory references to Lovett, all prefaced by the word “Jew.” He also suggested to Lovett that “Jews should move out of the way,” the lawsuit says.

After he complained about the harassment, officials changed Lovett’s shift so that he would not have to work alongside the person who allegedly made those comments. But the harassment continued, according to the suit, when the golf course manager — Lovett’s supervisor — publicly praise Hitler in front of Lovett and another employee.

“That was witnessed by someone,” Mark said.

Lovett’s civil rights suit, seeks his job back in addition to damages, his attorney said.


Shalem Center to Become a Liberal Arts College in Israel

According to a PR release emailed to me:

Klarman Family Foundation, George and Pamela Rohr Pledge $1 Million Each to Help Launch Shalem College
Two generous commitments of $1 million each have been made in support of establishing Shalem College by the Klarman Family Foundation of Boston and by George and Pamela Rohr of New York. These generous gifts are part of a campaign recently launched to attract the seed money needed to lay the groundwork for Israel’s first liberal arts college. Shalem College will offer top students from Israel and the Diaspora a unique core curriculum in the humanities and Jewish thought, modeled on the finest undergraduate institutions in the Anglo-American liberal arts tradition. By building Shalem College, the Shalem Center will be extending its intellectual community to include those students who will be the future leadership of the State of Israel and the Jewish world. Click here to read more about Shalem College.
Now P.S. I wish The Drisha Institute in NYC had followed this path years ago.

Responsa Database Site Recovers Quickly from Fire

Glad to hear they were able to get back so quickly. Fine work guys!

We would like to apologize for any inconvenience that occurred on The Responsa Project website recently.

Unfortunately on Friday (30, May 2008) afternoon a fire broke out in our offices and our servers and data systems were all lost.

We have already moved to new premises and with tremendous efforts managed to restore The Responsa Project Database and the Responsa Project website is currently up and running.

Coming soon…All our users will be able to enjoy a sophisticated subject index – where the Responsa subjects are organized according to main and secondary topics, which will facilitate navigation between texts. Moreover, the Database will be updated with new books and sources, as we do every few months .

Thanks for your understanding.

Michal Ashkenazy - Marketing Manager- Jewish Databases
C.D.I. Systems (1992) Ltd.,
Tel. +972 2 5870112 # 7619.
Fax. +972 2 5870115.

(Updated) New Yorker: Rich Jew Adelson is a Misguided Meddler in Foreign Affairs

The JTA finally scores some publicity in New Yorker, cited as a source on page one of a highly critical article about Sheldon Adelson's ideological meddling in middle eastern affairs.

Hey JTA guys even after this mention - hire a PR firm like the one Agriprocessors just hired (Agriprocessors hires Snoop Dogg's P.R. firm to limit damage to its businesss) or the one that Yechiel Eckstein just hired (IFCJ) - nobody knows you exist. Get the word out!

And now as to Adelson, he's nothing more than a three-card-monte con man - writ extraordinarily large. He's made a life of taking other people's money, all the while creating absolutely no value in the world. The social ruin that his gambling empire has caused is not even estimable.

I don't want such a person who has no scruples about destroying families, communities and societies now escalating his meddling to destroy nations too. Especially when it involves nations that I care about like the US and Israel.

I admit that Adelson has every right to run for office or involve himself with those who run for office and arrogate political power to himself in the manner that other arrogant billionaires have followed in the past.

Yet, in a democracy we the people have the right and obligation to impede the efforts of the arrogant destroyers and to rally behind those good people who know better.

Last, according to Jewish law, a gambler's testimony is disqualified -- he has no credibility because his chosen path in life is based on deception.

Adelson disqualified by a life of deception. That sounds about right to me.

The Brass Ring: A multibillionaire’s relentless quest for global influence.

by Connie Bruck June 30, 2008

Sheldon Adelson’s Macao casinos have helped make him America’s third-richest man.

Sheldon Adelson’s Macao casinos have helped make him America’s third-richest man-->

Last October, Sheldon Adelson, the gaming multibillionaire, accompanied a group of Republican donors to the White House to meet with George W. Bush.
Well that is enough for me - a nauseating image. I can stop reading right there... You may want to continue...

Conservative Values Lesson One: Keep an Enemies List

1. Keep an enemies list.

Current Instance: The Press, or the Media nowadays, is liberal and biased and on my enemies list.

From the National Review
Obamaweek in Review
Reading Newsweek so you don’t have to.

By Mark Hemingway

Conservatives have long complained about media bias. There’s been much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the topic, and not without reason. So many articles (and even books) have been produced on the matter that to add one more to the list seems to be an exercise in post mortem equine sadism. >>more ad nauseum>>
Historical Precedent: This conservative value was explained most succinctly in the principle behind the Nixon enemies list:
In a memorandum from John Dean to Lawrence Higby (August 16, 1971), Dean explained the purpose of the list succinctly:
This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly—how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.
P.S. I'm going to work hard to research and uncover other conservative values. Right now though, I can't think of any...


He's Baaaack. Abramoff "Sabbath Dinners" Invoked in WP Story About Mehlman Emails

Abramoff's sleaze was bad enough. Now we have the WP (Abramoff Used White House To Help Get Rid of Roadblock: E-Mail Shows How Key Officials Aided Lobbyist in Ousting Foe By R. Jeffrey Smith) referring to Ken Mehlman, then the White House political director, supping at Abramoff's house for "Sabbath dinner."
Providing a rare glimpse of high-level, behind-the-scenes string-pulling, they show how Abramoff, now serving a prison term for fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy, relied on key White House contacts, including Susan Ralston, executive assistant to political adviser Karl Rove; Monica Kladakis, then deputy White House personnel chief; and Ken Mehlman, then the White House political director.

Each had ties to Abramoff and his aides. Ralston was an Abramoff assistant at Greenberg before joining Rove's staff in February 2001, Kladakis had worked in the House Republican whip's office with Abramoff aide Tony Rudy, and Mehlman went to Abramoff's house for a Sabbath dinner and saw him at Republican events. Another key participant was Matt Schlapp, then Mehlman's deputy.

Here is a sampling of their 2001 e-mail traffic:

Jan. 29: Rudy to a Greenberg colleague: "We need to get the background material on stayman to ken mehlman. . . . He said he would kill him."

Colleague to Rudy: "What???"

Rudy to colleague: "Mehlman said he would get him fired."

Colleague to Rudy: "Excellent."

At What Scene Did You Walk Out of "You Don't Mess With the Zohan"?

We don't review motion pictures here - but we need to make an exception for this outstanding film - outstanding in its awfulness.

If the title role of Zohan was not an ostensibly Israeli character, there would be zero reason for me to mention this artless dreck.

Suffice it to say that in our opinion there will be no Oscar nominations for Adam Sandler this year unless the Academy adds a category for Worst Actor in a Nauseating Role.

"You Don't Mess With the Zohan" is by far and away one of the most bizarre and obnoxious films of all times, rivaling "Idiocracy" as the most tasteless satirical film in recent memory.

We put a question - a poll - to you our readers who tried to view this film: at which utterly pointless and obnoxious scene did you walk out?... wish you could walk out?... were sorry you took your wife, husband or date to see the flick (or G-d forbid, the children)?

Paradoxically I have to add that if any of you were able to stomach the nonsense, there were some zippy lines and funny scenes.... but phooey, don't go!

Epstein the Inventor Award: turn signal biking jacket

Now this is a smart invention!

Make one yourself. Tutorial >>>


Video and the WP Blog On the Late George Carlin Ripping Apart Religious Doctrines

Claire Hoffman over at the Washington Post reminds us that George Carlin was a sacreligious comedian, especially skewering religion with his barbed humor.

God loves you - and he needs money!
George Carlin, Adherent of Frisbeetarianism

While it is sad that someone as hilarious as George Carlin is dead, it is a little fun to think about what his afterlife looks like on this fine June morning. Is it a place, as he once speculated, where Joe Pesci might rule with a baseball bat and fine acting skills?

Carlin was one of the great living satirists of religion and in particular what happens to us when we die. Carlin consistently called bullshit on religion, accusing organized belief systems of being the ultimate hustle/fairy tale? "When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion. No contest. No contest. Religion. Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told," he said.

Carlin grew up Roman Catholic in Washington Heights and from early on seemed to delight in mocking religion -- even going so far as to invent his own religion -- Frisbeetarianism -- for a newspaper contest, which he defined as the belief that when a person dies "his soul gets flung onto a roof, and just stays there", and cannot be retrieved. Here's Carlin on religion, full form and full throttle.

R.I.P., or on a rooftop somewhere.

Foreign Affairs: "Why Gentile Americans Back the Jewish State"

What is the impetus for the US support of Israel? It's not the Jewish lobby, it's the American people. Hat tip to John for sending the link.
The New Israel and the Old
Why Gentile Americans Back the Jewish State

Walter Russell Mead
From Foreign Affairs, July/August 2008

Summary: The real key to Washington's pro-Israel policy is long-lasting and broad-based support for the Jewish state among the American public at large.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD is Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author, most recently, of God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World.

On May 12, 1948, Clark Clifford, the White House chief counsel, presented the case for U.S. recognition of the state of Israel to the divided cabinet of President Harry Truman. While a glowering George Marshall, the secretary of state, and a skeptical Robert Lovett, Marshall's undersecretary, looked on, Clifford argued that recognizing the Jewish state would be an act of humanity that comported with traditional American values. To substantiate the Jewish territorial claim, Clifford quoted the Book of Deuteronomy: "Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them." ...more


NBC Sports: Apology for Saying Rocco Looks Like the Guy Who Cleans Tigers Swimming Pool

I heard the crack and wondered what in the world was this announcer thinking? Imagine if the remark were the other way around - Tiger looks like the guy who cleans Rocco's swimming pool - Miller would be gone from broadcasting in a millisecond.

And why did it take a week for the story to break and the apology to come out?

I for one am happy to have a vacation from Tiger. Sorry of course for his injury. But his mechanical dominance of the sport both amazed and disconcerted me.
Miller apologizes for comments on Mediate
NBC Sports commentator says description had nothing to do with ethnicity

NEW YORK - NBC Sports golf analyst Johnny Miller apologized for his description of U.S. Open runner-up Rocco Mediate, saying the comments had "absolutely nothing to do with his ethnicity.''

Mediate, a 45-year-old Pennsylvanian of Italian heritage, held a one-stroke lead over Tiger Woods during the fourth round Sunday. Miller said Mediate "looks like the guy who cleans Tiger's swimming pool.'' He also said, "Guys with the name 'Rocco' don't get on the trophy, do they?''

"I apologize to anyone who was offended by my remarks,'' Miller said in a statement Friday through NBC. "My intention was to convey my affection and admiration for Rocco's everyman qualities and had absolutely nothing to do with his ethnicity. I chose my words poorly and in the future will be more careful.''

Woods beat Mediate in a playoff that lasted 19 holes for his third U.S. Open title.

Times: Israel Dreads Peace?

Our local Jewish newspaper, The Times, confuses me with its coverage of some stories. This week as a truce with Hamas began, the Times announced that Israel entered a, "Season of Dread."

It's real silly to try to characterize the mood of a nation. Jimmy Carter effectively ended his political career by declaring America was in the grips of a malaise. Now Ethan Bronner, following the lead of editorialists in Israel, headlines the Jewish state's mood of "Dread."

To Bronner et. al. I say, Get thee to a therapist who will adjust your cognition of reality. I don't mean the reality of your moods. I mean the reality of rockets falling on peoples' heads.

Those decrying the "calm" of a truce, saying that it results in a mood of "dread" that a fearsome storm is brewing just over the hill, are alarmists, arms dealers or just plain bloodthirsty warriors.

The preferred human condition is "calm and confidence" not "fear and dread."

Bronner does call up by observation another salient facet of the Jewish condition across the ages. Living by the biblical script, the Jewish nation at once sees itself as the star case of the world's hit Broadway show or epic opera whose dramatic action alternates between the great scenes of universal destiny and the small scenes of local human dramas.

If that's how you want to live, as actors in a scripted drama, with sturm und drang, fear and dread, that's fine with me.

But I'm closing my door, pulling down my shades, and dancing a jig for every truce that is announced.

'Cause I like calm now better than storms now and I like peace today better than war today and I like no rockets and no suicide bombers better than big booms.

And I am not afraid of tomorrow. I always prepare for tomorrow's worst case scenarios and concurrently hope and work to extend today's calm and peace to tomorrow.
The World
Israel in the Season of Dread

JERUSALEM — After a year of painful violence — Hamas rockets flying into Israeli communities, soldiers killed and wounded on forays into Gaza — one might have expected the start of a six-month cease-fire with Hamas to be hailed here as good news. Yet what was the front page headline in Maariv newspaper that day? “Fury and Fear.”

That says a great deal about the mood in Israel, a widely shared gloom that this nation is facing alarming threats both from without and within. Seen from far away, last week must have offered some hope that the region was finally at, or near, a turning point: the truce with Hamas, negotiated by Egypt, started on Thursday; other Palestinian-Israeli talks were taking place on numerous levels that both sides said were opening long-closed issues; there were also Turkish-mediated Israeli negotiations with Syria, and a new offer to yield territory to Lebanon along with a call for direct talks between Jerusalem and Beirut.

But it looked very different here. Most Israelis consider the truce with Hamas an admission of national failure, a victory for a radical group with a vicious ideology. As they look ahead, Israelis can’t decide which would be worse, for the truce to fall apart (as polls show most expect it to do), or for Hamas actually to make it last, thereby solidifying the movement’s authority in Palestinian politics over the more secular Fatah. Moreover, most think that Syria should not get back the Golan Heights — its ostensible aim in talking with Israel — and that the truces and negotiations amount to little without the return of captured Israeli soldiers held for the past two years.

Indeed, the “fury” in the headline of Maariv, a mass-selling center-right paper, was at the failure, in the Hamas deal, to free Cpl. Gilad Shalit, still held by Hamas after being seized two years ago. And the “fear” was about the fates of two other Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who had been captured by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah. The militia seems to be on the verge of completing a prisoner swap with Israel, but most everyone here dreads that the two Israelis are dead, and the swap will involve only their remains.

The backdrop for all of this is the fear of Iran’s growing power and the world’s inability so far to stop it from working on atomic weaponry. But it is not only foreign relations that so depresses the Israeli public. It is also that their political system is in crisis with the leaders under investigation and feuding among themselves.

“It is not ‘the situation’ that darkens the mood here in Israel,” wrote Yossi Sarid, a longtime leftist politician, in an opinion article in the newspaper Haaretz. “It is the lack of exit from the situation. There is not really any hope for change. Who will rescue us from depression? Who will give us expectations?”

Mr. Sarid said Israelis envied those Americans who are pinning hopes on Barack Obama as representing a new generation of leaders; Israel, he said, is stuck with the same leaders who never go away.

Sasson Sara, a 57-year-old grocery store owner in Sderot, the town in southern Israel that should be happiest that the Hamas rockets have been stopped, seemed to confirm this contempt for the leadership when the truce with Hamas was announced. “To me, this is an agreement of surrender, like Chamberlain,” he said, referring to British appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s.

Asked if he was really comparing Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, to Neville Chamberlain, Mr. Sara said: “Olmert is a bit younger. But he is tired. He acted to save himself. All this ‘calm’ agreement will take a heavy price from us in the future.”

Mr. Sara’s use of the word “calm” (“regiah” in Hebrew) was telling. No one quite knows what to call the current accord. Many use the Arabic word “tahadiya,” which is what Hamas has chosen; the word means not quite a truce, not quite a cease-fire, but some temporary cessation of hostilities.

The Israelis have chosen the word “calm,” which Doron Rosenblum, a longstanding and offbeat Haaretz columnist, notes, “brings to mind the clichéd cinematic images of raging mental patients being brought into a hospital. Someone ran wild in the cuckoo’s nest, was given a jolt of electricity or a tranquilizer, and is now blinking quietly in his padded cell.”

One point many commentators made last week is that while there may be a state of “calm” with Hamas, there is still nothing resembling that between Mr. Olmert and his defense minister, Ehud Barak. They remain at war. And the feuding goes beyond the two of them.

Both of Mr. Olmert’s two main lieutenants, Mr. Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, have called publicly for him to resign over an investigation into whether he took envelopes of cash from an American Jewish businessman. Everyone assumes there will be a new government by year’s end. Yet a vote tentatively planned for the coming week in Parliament, on whether to dissolve itself and trigger new elections, may not happen because so many parliamentarians worry they will not be re-elected.

Meanwhile, Mr. Barak spent part of Friday in a meeting with the families of the missing soldiers, the topic that has most gripped the nation. Interviews with their relatives have dominated coverage in recent days because it was widely assumed that no self-respecting Israeli government would accede to a truce with Hamas without getting back Mr. Shalit.

The Israeli Army radio station, which has a wide audience, has been punctuating nearly every hour’s broadcast with an announcement of the need to “bring our sons home.” This is not merely a turn of phrase suggesting a collective conceit; Israelis relate to one another like members of a large family, and the gnawing pain felt by Mr. Shalit’s parents is widely shared in a country where the vast majority of young people serve in the military.

In fact, one of the most striking things about Israel’s internal political conversation is how personal it is. This is a tiny country of seven million that often finds itself at the center of international debate. And while Israelis often complain about this — why aren’t hundreds of journalists and human rights activists worried about North Korea or Uganda or Saudi Arabia? — they also take an odd pride in it, as if it were evidence of their secret suspicion that world history really does revolve around the fate of the Jews and their homeland.

The result is a public discourse that amounts to a bizarre mix of geopolitics and distinctly local news. It is not out of character for the morning radio broadcast to spend 10 minutes on whether Syria is building a nuclear weapon followed by 10 minutes on a young bride whose wedding was ruined when one of the sound system speakers fell on her foot. Since both are given equal weight, it can be hard to separate out the pain of one family from the strategic needs of the state. This makes it challenging for Israelis to step back far enough to gain a view of what is happening.

Tony Blair, the former prime minister of Britain, who has spent part of the past year as an international envoy to the Palestinians, said on Thursday that it could be very hard for everyone involved to gain a grasp on this conflict.

“The view of what is happening here tends to lurch between unjustified optimism — pretty rare, actually — to unnecessarily bleak pessimism, which is more common,” he said in a conversation in his Jerusalem offices. “There is a cease-fire now and both sides think the other’s commitment is tactical rather than strategic.”

He added that, as he now understands it, what started in late 2000 when the second Palestinian uprising began and Israel counterattacked was “a complete breakdown in the credibility of peace.” For most of the time since then, he said, no one on either side took the prospect of peace seriously. Now, he argues, that must change, adding, “It is our job, step by step, to rebuild the credibility of that process.”


Suburbanite: Election Tempest in Teaneck Teapot

Democracy is a delicate entity that can be broken by politicians who act like bulls in a china shop. We don't want that in our sleepy little towns.
Poll watchers
by Howard Prosnitz - June 17, 2008

Council requests due process for fired workers

The council approved a resolution asking the County Board of Elections to give due process to two Teaneck women who were fired from their jobs as election poll watchers. Albertha Shumpert and Pansy Grossman were fired by Board of Election Commissioner Eileen DeBari following a May 13 incident at the Bryant School polling place. The council’s action came near the end of a long and contentious council meeting on June 11 attended by more than 100 residents, including many from the northeast, who spoke in support of the two women, and a large number of Orthodox Jews.

According to Board of Education president Dr. Henry Pruitt, a resident of the northeast, an anonymous flyer had circulated in the West Englewood section, where many Orthodox Jews live, urging residents to attend the council meeting to support Mayor Elie Y. Katz because a (verbal) attack was being planned against him. Katz is an Orthodox Jew.

"Something is going on that is organized to divide the black and Jewish communities, and the council needs to show leadership to stop it," Pruitt told the council.

But most of the residents of the northeast spoke not to attack Katz, but to support Shumpert and Grossman.

Carbone explains incident

The poll workers were fired after New Milford resident Keith Carbone, a town-wide challenger for Councilman Elnatan Rudolph, who was up for reelection, was denied permission by poll watchers to look at the vote tally registered on the voting machines in district 14, at Bryant School.

Carbone said he had driven to the polling place with Rudolph, who waited outside in his car while Carbone went in.

In an interview, Carbone said that he had acted in compliance with the law. He said the poll watchers were rude and hostile to him and did not have the right to refuse him permission to look at the vote tally.

Carbone said that challengers are prohibited from interfering with voting. While some challengers are assigned specific polling places, others are authorized to visit them all. Carbone said that challengers have the legal right to know the number of votes cast in a specific district.

Although he said that he was holding his challenger badge in his hand when speaking to the poll watchers, he acknowledged that he had left his certification as a challenger in the car. Only the certification had his name, he said.

When he initially entered the polling place, he spoke to neither Grossman nor Shumpert, Carbone said, but to an unidentified male poll watcher who refused him permission to read the tally. Carbone said the poll worker threatened to call the police.

Carbone said he then left the building and returned to the car, where he explained the situation to Rudolph, who then went into the building. Carbone remained in the car and called DeBari, one of the four County Board of Election Commissioners, who assured him that he had acted properly. However, Carbone said that when he attempted to re-enter the building, he was met by a poll watcher who told him that Rudolph had left and that the police had been summoned.

Township police were soon joined by DeBari and Charles Zisa, who is listed in county documents as one of the commissioners, although, according to attorney Martin Cramer, who is representing the two poll workers in a suit against the board of elections, Zisa is disqualified to serve because he has filed an application to run for state assembly.

When DeBari spoke to the two women, they were "cold and suspicious" said Carbone, who by this time was in the building.

"The women were nasty to her. She told them that she was their boss. They said they had never heard of her," Carbone said.

DeBari went over to the machines and provided Carbone with the tally.

But Cramer in a press conference last week at Shumpert’s Van Buskirk Road home, said that after Rudolph entered the polling place, he became loud and had used his cell phone to call DeBari. Use of a cell phone is prohibited in polling places.

Shumpert has been a Teaneck poll worker for 17 years and Grossman for 13, Cramer said.

Residents/Councilmembers react

Speaking at the June 10 council meeting, Shepard Avenue resident Mildred Tucker said that Carbone, Rudolph and the commissioners had been disrespectful to the poll workers.

"The incident is a direct attempt by the Bergen County Democratic Organization to interfere with our nonpartisan government. It is a shame that loyal poll workers are being used as sacrificial lambs," Tucker said.

Councilwoman Jacqueline Kates noted that the majority of the challengers were not Teaneck residents and that many were county employees.

"We were always a diverse community but our elections were not determined by money from Bergen County Democratic Organization," Kates said.

The May 13 election was not the first time there was a complaint against Shumpert.

In a letter to Board of Elections Chair Peter Incardone dated April 21, 2008, Township Clerk Lissette Aportela-Hernandez requested that Shumpert be prohibited from working in polling places in the township. The letter alleges that Shumpert had been verbally abusive to Jennifer Hodges, an employee of the municipal clerk’s office, during the school board election on April 15.

Hodges had visited the Bryant School polling place as a representative of the clerk’s office. Aportela-Hernandez wrote that it is customary for her office to send a representative to every polling place in the township on election days.

"When Ms. Hodges…arrived at District 13 and introduced herself, Ms. Shumpert abruptly demanded to see an identification from her. Ms. Hodges advised Ms. Shumpert that she did not have a name tag, at which time Ms. Shumpert refused to speak with Ms. Hodges."

Hodges went to her car and returned to the polling place with her election official placard. Shumpert then telephoned the clerk’s office, using her cell phone, and spoke to employee Jaime Evelina.

"Ms. Shumpert began to direct her verbal abuse toward Ms. Evelina," Hernandez wrote.

After Hodges informed Shumpert that it was improper to use the cell phone at the polling place, Shumpert went outside the building, Aportela-Hernandez wrote.

"Ms. Shumpert should be advised that her behavior was unacceptable, inappropriate, harassing and will not be tolerated," the letter concludes. Grossman was not mentioned in the letter.


SF Gate: Brian Horwitz, the Giants' Rabbi

'Rabbi' wants to be known for his talent
Rusty Simmons, Chronicle Staff Writer

According to Baseball Almanac, Brian Horwitz is the 159th Jewish player to make the majors and is known by his teammates as "Rabbi."

Though he embraces mail he receives from Jewish fans and laughs about his nickname, the Giants' reserve outfielder wants to distinguish himself by more than his religion.

"Being Jewish is what makes me unique on this team," he said. "I understand it's rare, but I'm a baseball player who just happens to be Jewish. Hopefully, I'll eventually do something on the field that sets me apart."

Horwitz hasn't wasted any time making his name as a hitter, hitting two home runs in his first 13 major-league at-bats. Since being called up from Triple-A Fresno on May 30, he's 7-for-24 (.292).

In 425 minor-league games, Horwitz compiled a .319 average, winning batting titles in the Northwest League in 2004 and in the South Atlantic League in 2005. Baseball America dubbed him as the player with the best strike-zone discipline in the Giants' organization, so his immediate success hasn't surprised him.

"I know I can hit. I know if I get enough at-bats, if I get 100 at-bats, I'm going to put 30 hits out there," he said. "If I don't, I expect more of myself. I know what I've done, and I know what I can do. I know the pitchers are better, but it's still baseball."

Horwitz's confidence comes from a history of perseverance. He was the fourth outfielder in Fresno at the beginning of the season, and he went undrafted as a senior at Cal after turning down a contract with the A's after his junior season.

"The two days of the draft were probably the worst two days of my life," he said. "I've kind of been doubted my whole career, and that's fine with me. It's fuels the fire."

Horwitz's comments came in five-minute increments as he went into the cage for extra batting practice, then tracked down coach Roberto Kelly for outfield drills, then wanted to hit some more.

"From Day 1, he wanted to know what it would take to get to and stay in the big leagues," said Bobby Evans, the Giants' director of player personnel. "He wasn't satisfied with just advancing to the next level, and he won't be satisfied with just being here. He always wants more."

Reliever Alex Hinshaw, who played the better part of four minor-league seasons with Horwitz, saw that motivation from the beginning. He said Horwitz won't let him win in pool or cards.

"He's always got the highest goals set, and he won't stop," Hinshaw said. "If Brian Horwitz wants to be an All-Star, he'll be an All-Star. He won't let anyone tell him differently, and he won't let anyone get in his way."

The stigma about Jewish athletes was characterized in the movie "Airplane," which had this exchange:

"Would you like something to read?"

"Do you have anything light?"

"How about this leaflet, 'Famous Jewish Sports Legends.' "

Horwitz is the first Jewish player on the Giants since the 1995-96 tenure of pitcher Jose Bautista. In 1923, when the New York Giants tried to trump up publicity by advertising Mose Solomon as "That Rabbi of Swat," playing across town from Babe Ruth, "The Sultan of Swat."

Star Jewish players, like Sandy Koufax and Shawn Green, have remained few and far between, but last season was a banner year. Milwaukee's Ryan Braun was the National League Rookie of the Year, and Kevin Youkilis was a key component of Boston's World Series win.

"There are prejudices that run deep, but today, with the advent of international players, a great deal of that is gone," said Al Rosen, the Giants' former president and general manager. He recently was inducted into the Jewish Hall of Fame, and at 84, is up-to-date on the statistics of today's Jewish players. "There's no more bench-jockeying. There used to be some very nasty things coming out of the dugout. It's different now, and it should be."

Though Horwitz said he doesn't observe every aspect of Judaism and hasn't researched the history of Jewish players, he was struck by a documentary about Hank Greenberg. This year is the 75th anniversary of the Tigers' first baseman's rookie season, from which he became baseball's first great Jewish player.

"I had to be sitting in my hotel room at that exact time, had to turn to that channel at that exact time and they had to be playing that show at that exact time," Horwitz said. "Things happen for a reason, and things are really coming together for me right now.

"Stars are aligning. Things are happening. Opportunities are coming."

Talented Jewish Artists: Dina Kantor

Jaakov, Helsinki, 2006 from the Finnish & Jewish series

Dina Kantor is a Brooklyn-based photographer who began her career photographing for the Minneapolis City Pages. She received her MFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in 2007, and her BA in journalism and studio arts from the University of Minnesota. Dina’s photographs have been featured in various publications including Photo District News. She was named to Heeb Magazines Heeb 100 list in 2007 and has received grants from both the Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Finlandia Foundation National. Her photographs have been exhibited nationwide.

About the Photograph:

At the time that this image was made, Jaakov had recently graduated from the Jewish day school in Helsinki and had moved on to a public high school. Jaakov is the son of an American Jewish father, and a Finnish mother who converted. This photo is from a series of portraits that I have been making of the members of the Jewish community in Finland. Finland has a population of 5.3 million people, with only an estimated 1,500 Jews (and just two synagogues). I am interested in how such a small community maintains its cultural identity.

My mother was born in Finland and emigrated to America as a child in 1947. Almost thirty years later, when she married my father, she converted to Judaism. I began photographing in Finland as a way to explore my own heritage, but as the project continues, it has come to embody a larger exploration.

With these pictures, I am investigating the ways in which photography contributes to the construction of identity and community. Today’s society is increasingly complex and multi-cultural. As our heritages blend, our identities are no longer definable by a generic social stereotype of community, but by our unique experiences and backgrounds. Photography has an intrinsic ability to record details. I am employing it to record cultural signifiers and traditions as they blend, as well as to depict physical characteristics of a hybridized community.

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Finland. On Verve Photo: Photographer and photo editor Geoffrey Hiller has created Verve to feature photos and interviews by the finest young image makers today. Verve is a reminder of the power of the still image. Verve will also point you to new photo agencies, publications and inspiring multimedia projects.

[disclaimer: dina was a classmate of my son barak]

Talented Jewish Artists: Fay Grajower

Fay writes:

On the occasion of my exhibit, where the past meets the future, at the Galicia Museum in Krakow, Poland July 1 – October 31, 2008, I have produced a handmade Folio of limited edition prints. The installation is a mosaic wall of 108 mixed media works on wood, each 9.5 square inches. The works are inspired by old photos and stories of life in Krakow and Galicia pre-WWII. Each piece stands alone as an individual painting of a story, place, object or stone of memory that together form a revived world steeped in its past and as it looks toward its future.

Of the 108 pieces, 16 are reproduced on archival paper, true to size, signed and numbered. Several images from the Folio are attached for your review. All prints are suitable for individual framing.

Contact: GRAJOWERstudio 617-697-4492 www.grajowerstudio.com opening july 1 at the Galicia Museum where the past meets the future www.jewishfestival.pl/

[disclaimer: fay and I were classmates at manhattan day school]


Onion: Man Who Used Stick To Roll Ball Into Hole In Ground Praised For His Courage

SAN DIEGO—A man who used several different bent sticks to hit a ball to an area comprised of very short grass surrounding a hole in the ground was praised for his courage Monday after he used a somewhat smaller stick to gently roll the ball into the aforementioned hole in fewer attempts than his competitors. "What guts, what confidence," ESPN commentator Scott Van Pelt said of the man, who was evidently unable to carry his sticks himself, employing someone else to hold the sticks and manipulate the flag sticking out of the hole in the ground while he rolled the ball into it. "You have to be so brave, so self-assured, so strong mentally to [roll a ball into a hole in the ground]. Amazing." The man in question apparently hurt his knee during this activity.

Sorry Tiger. This is just too funny.

Community Unity Day: Noon Sunday in Teaneck at Votee Park


Join us on June 22, 2008 at Votee Park and the Rhodda Center as we celebrate Teaneck’s diversity and discover what unites us as a community. An introduction of what we can all enjoy each and every day, right here, in Teaneck!

June 22 from noon to 8:00pm in Votee Park will be a day full of fun and exciting activities for the entire family. FREE - Local entertainment, rides (sensitive for special needs), games, sporting events, face painting and much more including informative interactive workshops at the Rhodda Center with a Community Information Fair showcasing some of the many wonderful organizations involved within our town.

A shopping “bazaar” of Teaneck vendors and ethnic foods showcasing some of Teaneck's diverse eateries including Asian (Indian), Classic American, Kosher, Soul Food, Vegetarian dishes, enjoy Cotton Candy, Popcorn, Cheese Pizza and Icee Pops, all these will be available as well!

And to top it all off and in conjunction with Unity Day, straight from off-Broadway, “Piaf: Love Conquers All”, a one woman show, which is the latest production of the Teaneck Festival of the Arts (TFOA) at the Garage Theatre in residence at FDU’s Becton Theatre on June 21st at 8pm and June 22 at 2pm. (TFOA and Unity Day are projects of the Puffin Foundation.)

Have a business in town, participate as a local vendor in the bazaar (restricted to non food items), only $50.00 per slot. Want to add other foods to our selection? Want to highlight your organization, participate in the “Community Information Fair”. Looking for ways to help, be involved, gain visability? In addition to attending, help sponsor one of the many events, ie banners for the event, fuel for the generators for the rides, items for door prizes/give aways. See how you can help make it all happen and be a part of Unity Day. Contact Angelae Wilkerson at teaneckunityday@gmail.com, also to receive updates and reminders via e-mail.


New Book "Islam for Jews" Fills a Much-Needed-Gap in the Study of Religions

First, I assure you that this is a serious book, not a humorous or satirical work.

It does not start out saying something like, "Yiddlach, of all the other meshuggenah religions which we know are not (G-d Forbid) of any interest to you, the one called Islam is especially..." Well you get the point.

So you ask how does the book really start?

An Introduction to Islam for Jews

By Reuven Firestone

View a short, slick and meaningless video about this book and author.
Access and/or download a sampling of pages from An Introduction to Islam for Jews [648 KB PDF].... page one....
Sorry but this appears to be the introduction to quite an immature and naive approach. Any properly edited book bearing this title would say something meaningful on the very first page about the writer's approach to the study of religions and would never ever say, "It is fascinating to learn the complex ways in which we are both so similar and so different from one another." Never say something that empty of meaning anywhere in a serious book.

Is Howard Jonas, Bastion of Modern Orthodox Philanthropy, Captain of the Sinking Ship of IDT?

There comes a point when you must take a look at what will happen to certain Jonas-supported modern Orthodox Jewish institutions as Howard Jonas' Good Ship IDT continues to sink.

IDT has lost more than 80% of its market capitalization value in the past year!

Tune in tomorrow to hear the explanation.
IDT Corporation Chairman Howard Jonas to Address Shareholders on June 19th

NEWARK, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--IDT Corporation’s founder and Chairman of the Board, Howard Jonas, will host a conference call to discuss the company’s recent performance and current financial position, and to reaffirm its commitment to meeting the financial objectives set forth during the third quarter’s earnings call. The call is scheduled for Thursday, June 19th, 2008 at 4:30 PM (Eastern).

Participants may join the conference call in two ways–via webcast or teleconference. The webcast may be accessed by visiting the IDT Corporation website at www.idt.net, or by using this hyperlink: http://www.investorcalendar.com/IC/CEPage.asp?ID=131102

Watch Out: Amazon Started Charging Sales Tax on New York Deliveries

Answer to my inquiry to Amazon about why I was charged sales tax on a Father's Day gift that I sent to my dad in NY...
Greetings from Amazon.com.

I'm sorry for any misunderstanding regarding sales tax charged on your order. ...

As required by the law, we began collecting New York sales tax on taxable items sold by Amazon on June 1, 2008...

Additionally, Amazon has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the newly enacted New York State law requiring out-of-state sellers to collect and remit sales tax based on advertising in New York.

Please note that if you placed an order prior to June 1, your Order Total may not have included an estimate of New York sales taxes, but those taxes may still be charged if your order is readied for shipment on or after that date.

At this time, we are unable to predict the outcome of this lawsuit, including the fate of the New York sales tax amounts collected by Amazon and remitted to the State of New York.

Thank you for shopping at Amazon.com.

Vatican: Pius XII Did as Much as He Could [to help Jews] Under the Circumstances

There is some tension brewing over a new exhibit commemorating Pius XII.

You would think that the church would have by now a collection of explicit examples of how Pius XII and the Vatican confronted the Holocaust, rather than the generalities and rhetoric that they are still propagating. Apparently not. Apparently it the fault of the WJC that there is so little out there!? Oy vey.

From FaithWorld at Reuters:
“It is our hope that this solemn commemoration of such a great pope will offer impetus for more and deeper research without prejudice on his work,” Monsignor Walter Brandmüller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historic Sciences, said in his prepared speech.

Later, in a question and answer session, Brandmüller lost his cool just a bit and expressed irritation at questions about calls for more opening of the Vatican archives. He effectively said the archives of Jewish organisations such as the World Jewish Congress should be more open and used more, suggesting that scholars would find material supporting the Vatican’s view that Pius did as much as he could under the circumstances.

Addressing a separate issue, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the commemorations were in no way intended to promote efforts to beatify Pius, which would put him on the path to sainthood. “These two things are completely different,” he said.

Jewish groups were surprised by Brandmüller’s comments, saying their archives are and always were wide open. It’s unlikely this is the last we hear — from either side — on this issue.


Is Brown U a Bastion of the Capitalist Radical Right? Of Course!

Is Brown University the great bastion of radical capitalism run amok?

A case can be made for that. Brown did away with traditional distribution requirements for an undergraduate degree -- one sure way to guarantee that cultural pluralism courses will not be mandatory. Muddled "Modes of Thought" courses replaced the analysis of disciplinary thinking and seriously diluted any attempts at left wing criticism. That program of anti-Left revision is what Brown enacted under the leadership of "activist" student Ira Magaziner and others in 1969.

But wait. Does Brown sound like a reactionary throwback to the days of yore and a purveyor of radical right wing ideology? Impossible. Crazy!

Nutty? Sure. Except that the plans for modes of thought courses and curricular revisionism were not dreamed up in an epiphany out of the revolutionary left of the 60's.

Read on... from the Wriston regime at Brown in 1953, a Time report:
Monday, Feb. 02, 1953

Wake Up!

President Henry M. Wriston, 63, of Brown University, believes that it is high time for revolution. Last week he announced that he had ripped apart his old curriculum and was starting to sweep it away. Brown, said he, is out to revolutionize the first two years of college.

College, Wriston says, is not only dull, it is often soporific, and "most textbooks are hardly worth reading. If they are not barren of ideas, they are impoverished in that respect." Since 1946 a group of Brown professors, sparkplugged by Vice President Bruce M. Bigelow, has been looking for a solution. Financed by a special $250,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation, Brown's plan is now just about set to go into effect next fall.

At first the plan will be open only to volunteers from the top half of the freshman and sophomore classes. For these students there will be no regular lectures or textbooks. Instead of studying the usual subjects, they will spend their time tracking down ideas. They will read some of the great classics and the best of scholarly commentaries, but "the emphasis," says Bigelow, "will be on analyzing, not on memorizing."

By last week almost every department had drawn up its own tentative blueprints. The English department is planning a course called "the American Dream and American Individualism." As a starter, students will trace these ideas through the novels of Hawthorne, Melville, Henry James and Faulkner, will then go on to study the books and criticisms of scholars.

In political science, they will begin to trace "the development of the concept of liberty" by reading the works of Lord Acton and De Tocqueville. Then, in Renaissance literature, they will be concerned with the development of the individual, and later, when they get into the Reformation, with the individual in relation to God. Their biology may begin with Darwin's Origin of Species, their psychology with the writings of Pavlov; their physics will include the works of Von Helmholtz. Even their foreign languages will be involved in the study of ideas—Voltaire in French, Cervantes in Spanish, Dante in Italian.

As Brown well knows, this sort of education is expensive. Since there will be no mass lectures or I.B.M.-corrected examinations, Brown figures that its professors will be able to take on only one course at a time. To President Wriston however, the price is not too high. "The great mistake in American education from kindergarten through graduate school," says he, "has been an underestimation of the capacity of students . . . The minds of freshmen need to be awakened [to] a new adventure."

Yes, Thomas J. Watson, Jr. ’37 called Wriston “the greatest president Brown ever had.” And we all know about the political and social visions of TJW Jr. '37.

Homerun: Adobe Beats Profits Estimates Again

Homerun again for Adobe, world's best software company.

Adobe Systems Inc. on Monday reported second quarter net income of $214.9 million, or 40 cents a share, compared to $152.5 million, or 25 cents a share in the same period last year.

San Jose-based Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) had $886.9 million in revenue, compared to $745.6 million reported for the year-ago quarter.

Adobe's second quarter revenue target range was $855 to $885 million.

"Our strong performance in Q2 was driven by the product mix and geographic diversity of our business," said Shantanu Narayen, president and chief executive officer. "We continue to execute against our strategy, and are well positioned for solid financial performance in the second half of this year and beyond."

Exluding items, the company's income would have been $272.7 million, or 50 cents a share, compared to $223.2 million, or 37 cents a share.

Analysts expected, on average, earnings of 46 cents a share on $880.1 million in revenue.

For the third quarter, Adobe expects revenue of $855 million to $885 million and earnings per share of 34 cents to 36 cents.


Argentina's AMIA Moves to Exclude 98.5% of the Jewish Community

A little rich on the rhetoric, this post highlights a turn to the right in a major South American Jewish community.
Debate over who’s a “real Jew” roils Argentine Jewish community
Posted by: Hilary Burke

The newly elected president of Argentina’s biggest Jewish community center sparked a firestorm when he was quoted in the press as saying he wanted the group to represent “genuine Jews” who live strictly by the Torah.

Guillermo Borger is the first Orthodox Jew elected to head the AMIA (Argentine Israeli Mutual Association) center in Buenos Aires, which was founded 114 years ago. Argentina’s Jewish community is the largest in Latin America with nearly 200,000 members.

Borger was quoted last weekend by Argentina’s biggest daily newspaper Clarin as saying he planned to “reinforce AMIA’s role in representing genuine Jews.” When asked what made a Jew genuine, he said: “It’s having a life based on all the Torah’s teachings.”

Conservative and secular Jews pounced on the statement, slamming Borger’s comments as narrow and discriminatory. The outgoing president of AMIA, Luis Grynwald, said he included himself among the Jews “who are not ‘genuine,’ and don’t have a life based on what the Torah dictates,” according to the Argentina-based Agencia Judía de Noticias (Jewish News Agency).

“Being Jewish is teaching my children and grandchildren the importance of inclusion, belonging, respect and honesty … each person expresses Judaism in his own way, I do so with pride and great honor,” Grynwald said.

Argentine writer Marcos Aguinis called Borger’s remarks “a medieval step backward,” warning that AMIA could lose members if the group’s pluralistic tradition were scrapped.

Borger came out later in the week, saying he had never said anything to distinguish between genuine and “non-genuine” Jews and adding that he aimed to reinforce AMIA’s role as “the representative of all Jews, without any exclusions.”

“We want an AMIA for everyone that is open and pro-dialogue,” he said in a statement.

Not everyone was put at ease, however, and some AMIA members led a protest against Borger’s comments on Thursday. “Now they say you’re not a Jew unless you’re Orthodox, fundamentalist and religious … that excludes 98.5 percent of the Jewish community,” a middle-aged man told local television.

The AMIA center became international news in 1994, when a bombing there killed 85 people.