IHT: Caracas Venezuala Synagogue Desecrated as Hugo Chavez' Anti-Israel Rhetoric Worsens

After a violent attack, Shabbos services were canceled in Venezuala's oldest synagogue.
Venezuelan synagogue attacked as relations worsen

CARACAS, Venezuela: An armed group vandalized Caracas' oldest synagogue, shattering religious objects and spray-painting walls in what Jewish leaders called the worst attack ever on their community in Venezuela.

Two security guards were overpowered by about 15 people who ransacked the synagogue's sanctuary and offices late Friday, leaving graffiti such as: "We don't want murderers," and "Jews, get out."

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro condemned the attack and promised it would be investigated, while reiterating his government's opposition to what he called Israel's "criminal" government.

"We respect the Jewish people, but we ask respect for the people of Palestine and their right to life," Maduro said in a ceremony called to welcome home two Venezuelan diplomats expelled from Israel this week.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry ordered the envoys to leave after Venezuela expelled all Israeli diplomats on Jan. 6, to protest Israel's offensive in the Gaza strip. President Hugo Chavez labeled Israeli leaders as "genocidal."

Nearly 1,300 Palestinians died in the three weeks of fighting.

Leaders of Venezuela's estimated 15,000-member Jewish community warned that vocal denunciations of Israel by Chavez and the country's government-funded news media may have encouraged Friday's attack.

"These declarations permeate society," said Abraham Levy, president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations.

The incident forced the synagogue to cancel Saturday's worship service.

Washington Post: Stubborn Bishop Richard Williamson Escalates Holocaust Denials

Unbelievable public display of antisemitism within the Roman Catholic Church.

Instead of apologizing to the civilized world for his barbaric antisemitism, Bishop Richard Williamson has reaffirmed his Holocaust denials. He apologized solely to his Holiness the Pope for causing him "distress and problems." Sadly we have here a case of a Hitler apologist apologizing to a Hitler Youth member for annoying him.

We believe that unless it is resolved, this sordid affair of Bishop Richard Williamson will bring down the papacy of Benedict XVI into ruin.
Bishop Apologizes to Pope but Does Not Retract Holocaust Denial
By Francis X. Rocca

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 30 -- A Holocaust-denying bishop who was readmitted to the Catholic Church apologized Friday to Pope Benedict XVI for the "unnecessary distress and problems" caused by his "imprudent remarks."

Bishop Richard Williamson, one of four leaders of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X whose 1988 excommunications were lifted by the pope Jan. 21, posted the statement on his personal blog.

Jewish groups have voiced outrage that Williamson recently told Swedish television that "historical evidence is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler." On Thursday, Israel's chief rabbinate, the country's highest Jewish body, severed ties with the Vatican.

In an apparent response to the controversy, Benedict on Wednesday condemned the Nazi genocide of "millions of Jews" and expressed his "full and indisputable solidarity" with the Jewish people.

The pope has not, however, explicitly condemned Williamson's remarks.

Williamson's apology came in the form of a letter, dated Jan. 28, to Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, head of the Vatican office that deals with the Society of St. Pius X and other traditionalist groups disaffected by church reforms stemming from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

"Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept . . . my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems," Williamson wrote.

The bishop also expressed gratitude for Benedict's cancellation of his excommunication and promised to "offer a Mass" for the pope and Castrillón.

In an introductory comment for readers of his blog, Williamson suggested that critics had exploited his remarks merely to attack Benedict.

"Last week's media uproar" was "surely aimed rather at the Holy Father than at a relatively insignificant bishop," he wrote.

Williamson also hinted that his apology was not a retraction of his inflammatory historical statements but a gesture of deference to the pope.

Introducing the letter to Castrillón, Williamson noted that the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X, "gave his Society the example of never so cleaving to God's Truth as to abandon respect for the men holding God's Authority."

Also Friday, an Israeli government official said that the Jewish state maintains good relations with the Vatican despite the controversy over Williamson, the Associated Press reported.

Israel's ambassador to the Holy See, Mordechay Lewy, said that "the climate is good" and that there is "a lot of potential for cooperation" between the Vatican and Israel.

Is Bruce Springsteen Jewish?

No, much to our regret, Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen, the "Boss" is not a Jew.

He was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, and spent his childhood in Freehold. His father was Douglas Frederick Springsteen, of Dutch and Irish ancestry. His mother was Adele Ann Zerilli of Italian ancestry.

Springsteen was raised a Roman Catholic. He attended the St. Rose of Lima parochial school in Freehold. Some of his music reflects a deep Catholic ethos and traditional Irish-Catholic hymns.

Springsteen is the featured talent for the 2009 Superbowl half-time  show.


In a Talmudic World We'd Use Exxon's $45 billion Profit to Bail Out the Automakers

Exxon Mobil sets record with $45.2 billion profit

HOUSTON – Exxon Mobil Corp. on Friday reported a profit of $45.2 billion for 2008, breaking its own record for a U.S. company, even as its fourth-quarter earnings fell 33 percent from a year ago.

The previous record for annual profit was $40.6 billion, which the world's largest publicly traded oil company set in 2007.  ... more ...

Tzvee to Barack: Either Clawback Wall Street Bailout Bonuses or Shut Up

Obama gave Wall Street a tongue-lashing yesterday, as the Times reported, "Banker Bonuses are 'Shameful' Obama Declares."

As Dick Cheney would say, "So?"

What should Barack have said?

That it is shameful and that he is proposing a clawback tax to retrieve those bonuses.

Why so shy Barack?

Senator Dodd says the "case for clawing back past pay is weak."

Not so. Nope.

If the case was weak why would the president and all right minded people think the opposite, namely that, "the case for clawing back unwarranted bailout bonuses is strong"?

Why say anything at all if you are not going to follow up with laws? The bosses doled out the money, mainly to themselves. They are not listening to Obama. The workers took the bonuses. They sure don't hear Barack.

Is this going to be the Obama administration signature?

Speak loudly and carry a small stick? 

If so then let's turn the rhetoric back on that attitude of empty presidential bluster: “Shameful.” “Outrageous.” “The height of irresponsibility.”
Few Ways to Recover Bonuses to Bankers

“Shameful.” “Outrageous.” “The height of irresponsibility.”

President Obama had some harsh words on Thursday for bankers who paid themselves billions of dollars in bonuses despite the sweeping government rescue of the nation’s financial industry. Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut said “every possible legal means” should be used to claw back the money.

But the sober reality, compensation experts said, is that most if not all of the money that the banks have paid out is probably gone for good. The “legal means” Senator Dodd referred to are few. Unless actual wrongdoing is uncovered at the banks — and so far prosecutors have not disclosed any — the case for clawing back past pay is weak.

“It’s not as easy as pounding the gavel on the table,” said Michael S. Melbinger, an executive compensation lawyer at Winston & Strawn in Chicago. ...yadda, yadda...

NorthJersey.com: Berta Rosenberg dies - was the world's oldest Jew

Washington Heights resident Berta Rosenberg has died. She was the world's oldest Jew.
Oldest Jewish person in the world dies

The woman whom researchers say was the oldest Jewish person in the world died Wednesday at age 112.

Berta Rosenberg, who lived in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, occasionally attended synagogue in Cliffside Park, where her 84-year-old daughter, Ruth Hammer, lives.

“She gave from the heart and was such a good person,” Hammer said. “I never heard a loud tone from my mother.”

Rosenberg’s birth date — Sept. 5, 1896 — was confirmed in 2006 by Robert Young, senior claims researcher for the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group and a senior consultant to Guinness World Records.

At the time of her death, Rosenberg was the world’s 19th oldest person and the oldest Jewish person, Young said Thursday.

The former Berta Blum was born in Frankenau, Germany. She and her family immigrated to the United States in September 1938, two months before Kristallnacht, the Nazis’ coordinated attack on Jewish people in Germany.

She worked as a cleaning lady in New York upon arriving in the United States and later developed a business selling housewares, her daughter said.

Hammer attributed her mother’s longevity to a diet of fresh foods and the family’s decision to keep her in her Washington Heights apartment, rather than a nursing home.

Rosenberg was predeceased by her husband, Moritz Rosenberg, and a son, Theodore Rosenberg.

The funeral will be held tomorrow at Gutterman and Musicant Jewish Funeral Directors in Hackensack. Burial will be in Cedar Park Cemetery, Paramus.

Learn Mishnah from Professor Jacob Neusner's book dedicated to Me

Written as a beautiful textbook for children. It speaks to inquiring people of all ages.

Here is the link so you can read it. Enjoy. Buy it here.


Five Star Rave Review for the Talmud in Comic Form by Yonah Lavery

It's brilliant, long overdue, a Talmudic tour de force. Go see the Talmud in comic form today."
--Tzvee's Talmudic Blog

[Hat tip: Jewschool]

Slate: Time for the Catholic Church to stop being antisemitic

In a reasoned and solid essay in Slate, "The pope and the Jews: As his embrace of a Holocaust denier and a right-wing sect proves, Benedict just doesn't get it about the church's ongoing problem with anti-Semitism," Frances Kissling presents a concise argument that the pope and his church need to end their antisemitism.

The problem that Kissling does not understand is that antisemitism is essential to the belief system of the Catholic church.

It is not at all accidental that church selected as pope a man who served as a soldier in the Nazi army and was a member of the Hitler youth. These bullet points were big pluses on his resume for the position, not detriments.

Kissling's essay reviews the current scandal of the pope's reinstatement of the Holocaust denier Bishop and concludes brilliantly as follows with damning facts about soon-to-be-saint-Pius and a valiant but vain plea:
But the story is unending. Soon we will see the architect of the Reichskonkordat, another Pope Pius ( the Xll), made a saint. His canonization is in process. As with Benedict, Jews were just not high on his agenda; theo-politics was more important. In the 1933 Concordat he negotiated with Hitler while he was Vatican secretary of state, Pius agreed the Catholic Church would stay out of German politics in return for preserving, indeed expanding, church privileges and authority. The Concordat revoked the church's ban on Catholics joining the Nazi Party and the Vatican pledged that German bishops would obey and honor the German state. Guenter Lewy's seminal work "The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany" asserted that "there is general agreement that the Concordat increased substantially the prestige of Hitler's regime around the world."

And some still wonder why the Catholic Church gets criticized. The last acceptable prejudice, they claim, is anti-Catholicism. Are these people serious? The Vatican has been getting away with anti-Semitism for centuries. Isn't it time we all said, "Enough"?
As I said, it's not correct to suggest that the church has been "getting away with antisemitism."

It is correct to assert that the popes and the church have fostered and embraced antisemitism as a core value - and continue to do so today, as demonstrated by their actions and policies, regardless of what lip service and show they may offer to pretend the contrary.
[Hat tip to Henry, thanks.]


Times' Op-Ed Columnist Maureen Dowd Mangles Biblical Metaphors

All right children. Your scriptural text for today comes from Preacher Maureen. Let's first look at how the text starts.
Op-Ed Columnist
Wall Street’s Socialist Jet-Setters

As President Obama spreads his New Testament balm over the capital, I’m longing for a bit of Old Testament wrath.

Couldn’t he throw down his BlackBerry tablet and smash it in anger over the feckless financiers, the gods of gold and their idols — in this case not a gilt calf but an $87,000 area rug, a cache of diamond Tiffany and Cartier watches and a French-made luxury corporate jet? more...
First you may ask what does Maureen mean by, "Spreading his New Testament balm over the capital"?

We don't really have much of a clue.

Next you ask about her longing for "Old Testament wrath."

Ah now we begin to understand. Ms. Dowd once heard a sermon about the contrast between the loving god of the Christian bible and the wrathful god of the Israelite scriptures.

Or it could be that she read a Washington Post op-ed column two weeks ago by Harold Meyerson, "The Money Changers," which in turn referred back to FDR's biblical allusion in his inaugural address that, "The money-changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization... We may now restore that temple to ancient truths."

In this spirit of metaphoring the ganovim over their heads, Maureen is imagining Barack up on the hill as a Jesus figure and asking him to act more like Moses coming down from the mountain and discovering a Wall Street full of sinners dancing around their golden office furniture.

What the use or misuse of these references tells me is that our writers from FDR to Dowd think that they can go way back to the Bible to find a clever way to castigate the greedy sinners of today.

I'd say Bravo except the time for cleverness has passed. The ground has already opened up beneath our feet and it appears that many of us innocents will be swallowed up in it along with those sinners.

Time to put away the clever metaphors, get out the ropes and picks and shovels and start saving people. I believe that is what Mr. Obama is trying to do.


AP: Pope Benedict on the Ropes Taking a Beating Over Holocaust Denier Bishop Richard Williamson

Pope went to Auschwitz. So what?
Pope says never forget Auschwitz. So what?
Pope decried Nazism's insane, racist ideology. So what?
Pope deplores antisemitism. So what?
Pope calls Holocaust denial unacceptable. So what?

Why so what? Because this is the basic, obvious stuff.

Is the Vatican seriously telling us that the Pope should be commended for those acts of courage? What a chutzpah?

These are not special acts to trumpet all over the place; this is the basic, obvious stuff.

This is not a string of credit deposits that now allows for a large withdrawal; this is the basic, obvious stuff.

HOWEVER, Pope rehabilitates a Holocaust denier Bishop.

That bad act stands on its own, is judged on its own, is not put into some credit/debit context.

Pope is on the ropes - both hands up in a defensive position.
Vatican highlights pope's Holocaust condemnations

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican intensified its defense of Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday, highlighting his record of condemning the Holocaust amid an outcry over his rehabilitation of a bishop who claims that no Jews were gassed during World War II.

Vatican Radio aired a lengthy program to mark Holocaust remembrance day. It recalled Benedict's 2006 visit to Auschwitz, his 2005 visit to the main synagogue in Cologne, Germany and other remarks in which he has denounced the "insane, racist ideology" that produced the Holocaust.

Video clips of those remarks were posted on Vatican links on the Holy See's new YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/vatican

"Let today's humanity never forget Auschwitz and the other 'factories of death' in which the Nazi regime tried to eliminate God and take his place!" Benedict said during his general audience May 31, 2006, just after returning to Rome from a visit to Auschwitz.

Vatican Radio also ran an interview with an Auschwitz survivor.

The Vatican has been focusing on Benedict's record deploring anti-Semitism after Jewish groups voiced outrage that he lifted the excommunication of a traditionalist bishop, Richard Williamson, who has denied that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

The Vatican has stressed that removing the excommunication by no means implied the Vatican shared Williamson's views.

On Monday, the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, ran a front-page article saying Williamson's views were "unacceptable" and violated Church teaching. It reaffirmed that Benedict deplored all forms of anti-Semitism and that all Roman Catholics must do the same.

The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants said the Vatican's attempts to reject Williamson's views were necessary but insufficient. The group's vice-president, Elan Steinberg, called on the Vatican to further address what he called its "moral failure" in rehabilitating Williamson.

"At a minimum, the Vatican should now demand that Williamson repudiate his heinous views," Steinberg said.

Williamson and three other bishops were excommunicated 20 years ago after they were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent — a move the Vatican said at the time was an act of schism.

Benedict has made clear from the start of his pontificate that he wanted to reconcile with Lefebvre's traditionalist Society of St. Pius X and bring it back into the Vatican's fold.

Lefebvre had rebelled against the Vatican and founded the society in 1969. He was bitterly opposed to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that brought liberal reforms to the church, including outreach to Jews.

Obituary: John Updike, Great Writer (not Jewish)

No, John Updike was not a Jew. Many of this great writer's characters, friends and detractors, were Jews.

Mark Feeney wrote a wonderful obituary for Updike in the Boston Globe. Here are a few excerpts from that Feeney essay:

Updike on America:
...beneath the comfortableness of the affluent, suburban settings Mr. Updike most often wrote about, and the glittering surface of his prose, were profound and piercing concerns. One was an ongoing examination of his native land. “America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy,” he wrote in the 1980 story collection, “Problems.”
Updike on Sex:
Another concern (unto obsession) was sex. Mr. Updike told Time in a 1968 cover story that when his wife read his then-scandalous novel “Couples” (1968) “she felt that she was being smothered in pubic hair.” Adultery looms as large in Mr. Updike’s fiction as paranoia does in Thomas Pynchon’s or hunting and fishing in Ernest Hemingway’s. “Sex is like money,” he once wrote; “only too much is enough.”
Updike on theology:
Mr. Updike focused on the spiritual no less than the carnal. "I wouldn't want to pose as a religious thinker," he said in a 1990 Globe interview. "I'm more or less a shady type improvising his way from book to book and trying to get up in the morning without a toothache.”

He was being unusually modest. Religion figures throughout Mr. Updike’s writing (fiction as well as essays). References abound to such religious philosophers as Kierkegaard, Paul Tillich, and Karl Barth. The protagonists of his novels “A Month of Sundays” (1975), “Roger’s Version” (1986), and “The Witches of Eastwick” (1984) are, respectively, a minister, a religious historian, and the Devil (memorably played in the movie adaptation by Jack Nicholson).
Updike's own religion:
Raised a Lutheran, Mr. Updike became a Congregationalist after moving to Massachusetts and later an Episcopalian. “The inner spaces that a good story lets us enter are the old apartments of religion,” Mr. Updike said in that Time 1968 interview.
Updike's Jews:
Henry Bech, the hero of “Bech: A Book” (1970), “Bech Is Back” (1982), and “Bech at Bay” (1998), is a much-lionized (and vaguely ridiculous) Jewish-American writer. As an undergraduate, Mr. Updike had been president of Harvard’s student humor magazine, the Lampoon. The Bech books are the most potent reminder of how playful and witty Mr. Updike could be when he so chose.

Bech was Mr. Updike’s riposte to those who consigned him to the tony blandness of WASP suburbia, the successor to John O’Hara and John Cheever in The New Yorker’s fiction pages. “A strangely irrelevant writer,” the critic Leslie Fiedler called Mr. Updike; “all windup and no delivery,” another prominent Jewish critic, Norman Podhoretz, wrote of Mr. Updike’s stories.
Updike on golf:
... his favorite sport ... (“Golf appeals to the idiot in us and the child,” Mr. Updike once wrote. “Just how childlike golf players become is proven by their frequent inability to count past five.”)
Read Feeney's entire essay at the Globe...

To the girl who painted me...

To the girl who painted me

when I had more hair

and smoked a pipe.

On this special day.

Thank You - I Love You.

AP: 900 Violations Filed Against Postville Iowa Kosher Agriprocessors Meatpackers

You may assume whatever you want about these folks. You may even trust (wink, wink) that they did produce Kosher meat.

If they violated these child labor laws with such impunity, I will assume that they violated the kosher laws with equal or greater impunity.
Iowa slaughterhouse mgr. faces 900 new child labor charges

DES MOINES, Iowa - Nearly a thousand new charges have been filed in the state's prosecution of alleged child labor violations at a northeast Iowa kosher meatpacking plant.

The new charges, more than 900 of them, were filed last week against Jeffrey Heasley, a beef production supervisor at Agriprocessors in Postville.

The Iowa attorney general's office filed more than 9,000 charges against the plant, its owners and managers. Prosecutors accuse them of hiring minors and in some cases, having children younger than 16 handle dangerous equipment.

Heasley had not been named in the previous charges. He did not immediately return a message seeking comment.


Is Nicholas Cosmo Jewish?

We think that Nicholas Cosmo head of Agape World is not a Jew. The comments to this post below provide unverified and contradictory information about Mr. Cosmo's religious and ethnic background.

Cosmo is under investigation for a massive investment fraud involving his investment and loan company Agape World.

This was posted Aug. 4, 2008 @ 6:34p on a FatWallet bargain site forum where his Agape World company was under attack by forum contributors as a scam and a ponzi scheme. The forum started November 12, 2007 with the question, "Has anyone invested with Agape World Inc?"

It's a fascinating forum discussion to read, but I do not consider it much of a credible source of information. Curiously, a contributor, claiming to be Cosmo himself, posted this alleged autobiographical information:
I am Nicholas J. Cosmo. I am 37 years old and was raised in Wantagh, NY. I have been the President of Agape World Inc. since 2000. I have watched my company grow to over 5,000 investors. Today I would like to address this unauthorized blog from former and current Agape clients. I did commit a felony when I was associated with a firm called Continental Broker Dealer. My NASD license was suspended but not revoked due to my cooperation with the investigation into my former employer. I take full responsibility for my actions then and now. My debt to society and the 8 clients affected has been paid back by a fine and jail time. Today, I owe no apologies to anyone for my actions which occured over 12 years ago. I have paid for my mistakes in my life and over a decade ago, I lost everything I had. This included my fiancee and an early part of my sons life, but never my family or my true friends. The incredible success of Agape World Inc. over the last 12 years since my mistake has given me the opportunity to give back ten fold, to my business ventures, my community involvements and through charitable contributions and events. I invite any client, be that current, former or future, to come to my office, sit down with me face to face to address any questions they might have with my morals or my ethics.

I am truly Nicholas Joseph Cosmo...
I am the PROUD President of Agape World Inc. - a legitimate hard money asset based lender...I can firmly state that any non-believer will not be able to find ONE Agape World Inc. client that has not been paid back their investment plus interest over the last decade. NOT ONE!

Thank you and GOD BLESS!!!!!!!!

Forbes: Bill Gates Mystified by the $2 Billion He Has Wasted on Donations to High Schools

Bill, listen to me.

Don't invest in schools. They are black holes.

Invest in teachers and students.

Also, teaching is not a transferable skill set. It is an art. Get it?
Bill Gates: It's the Teacher, Stupid
Victoria Barret

BURLINGAME - Bill Gates on Monday released his first annual letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The former Microsoft chairman was encouraged by buddy and big donor, Warren Buffett, to start penning his thoughts on philanthropy.

In the letter, Gates was measured in his assessment of the foundation's progress. In one of its biggest endeavors, high school education (over $2 billion spent so far), he wrote: "Many of the small schools that we invested in did not improve students' achievement in any significant way."

One reason: lousy teachers.

Gates, naturally, has looked at lots of data and a new area of interest for him is teacher effectiveness. He started with a data point: "Research shows that there is only half as much variation in student achievement between schools as there is among classrooms in the same school. If you want your child to get the best education possible, it is actually more important to get him assigned to a great teacher than to a great school."

On a call with journalists, Gates pointed out that both experience (as measured by years on the job) and master's degrees (which carry great weight in teacher hiring) show no bearing on whether someone will be a great teacher or a mediocre one.

Gates didn't say whether the tenure-based pay system and job security favored by unions plays a role, but he wants to figure out a fix. "We need to identify effective behaviors [of great teachers] so we can transfer those skills to other teachers," he said. "It is amazing how little [a] data-driven approach to teacher effectiveness has been taken."

Only 71% of American children graduate high school in four years; Gates wants to bring that up to 80% by 2025.

The letter covers the foundation's wide-ranging efforts in infectious diseases, agricultural innovation and education. Yet Gates assures he won't over-reach: "If foundations worked on half as many causes the depth of experience and impact would be greatly improved," he wrote.

Gates encouraged other foundations to donate more of their endowments to education than the government mandated 5%. "Needs are more acute now than ever," he said.

But if this year's stock market declines further, he'll be realistic. "I've told people here that if the market is as bad as it was in 2008, we would not increase our funding. We have just as much uncertainty as anyone else. But I'm an optimist in the long run."

Times: Shai Reshef Launches Online University of the People

The time has come for Shai Reshef and his bold venture, the Online University of the People. We will relish consuming the details of this enterprise as they become available.

We are sure this University, or at the very least this kind of effort, will succeed. And equally, we are sure that over time, this venture will significantly change the paradigm of higher education. Others will undoubtedly copy it all around the world.

UPeople will have a serious impact both on conventional non-profit universities and on the few for profit universities that have sprung up (like the University of Arizona). Reshef is smart, framing the UOP as a non-profit where an educational institution needs to be to lay claim to objectivity which is the bedrock of true accreditation.

Beyond that concern, UPeople can be a significant catalyst and accelerant in igniting the utilization of the growing number of online courses. The good will of the academic world is boundless, inhibited only by the antiquated structures and medieval ideas of entrenched university administrations.

We have taught university courses online for several years (Comparative Religions; Modern Judaism; War and Peace in Judaism, Christianity and Islam). We helped design the online charter school in Minneapolis in 1996. We know that online education works. We know the limits of how it works now. And we know its potential is boundless.

We promise to follow this story with great enthusiasm.
Israeli Entrepreneur Plans a Free Global University That Will Be Online Only

An Israeli entrepreneur with decades of experience in international education plans to start the first global, tuition-free Internet university, a nonprofit venture he has named the University of the People.

“The idea is to take social networking and apply it to academia,” said the entrepreneur, Shai Reshef, founder of several Internet-based educational businesses.

“The open-source courseware is there, from universities that have put their courses online, available to the public, free,” Mr. Reshef said. “We know that online peer-to-peer teaching works. Putting it all together, we can make a free university for students all over the world, anyone who speaks English and has an Internet connection.”

About four million students in the United States took at least one online course in 2007, according to a survey by the Sloan Consortium, a nonprofit group devoted to integrating online learning into mainstream higher education.

Online learning is growing in many different contexts. Through the Open Courseware Consortium, started in 2001 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, universities around the world have posted materials for thousands of courses — as varied as Lambing and Sheep Management at Utah State and Relativistic Quantum Field Theory at M.I.T. — all free to the public. Many universities now post their lectures on iTunes.

For-profit universities like the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University have extensive online offerings. And increasingly, both public and private universities offer at least some classes online.

Outside the United States, too, online learning is booming. Open University in Britain, for example, enrolls about 160,000 undergraduates in distance-learning courses.

The University of the People, like other Internet-based universities, would have online study communities, weekly discussion topics, homework assignments and exams. But in lieu of tuition, students would pay only nominal fees for enrollment ($15 to $50) and exams ($10 to $100), with students from poorer countries paying the lower fees and those from richer countries paying the higher ones.

Experts in online education say the idea raises many questions.

“We’ve chatted about doing something like this over the last decade but decided the time wasn’t yet right,” said John Bourne, executive director of the Sloan Consortium. “It’s true that the open courseware movement is pretty robust, so there are a lot of high-quality course materials out there, but there’s no human backup behind them. I’d be interested to know how you’d find and train faculty and ensure quality without tuition money.”

Other educators question the logistics of such a plan.

“The more you get people around the world talking to each other, great, and the more they talk about what they’re learning, just wonderful,” said Philip G. Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College. “But I’m not at all sure, when you start attaching that to credits and degrees and courses, that it translates so well.

“How will they test students? How much will the professors do? How well does the American or British curriculum serve the needs of people in Mali? How do they handle students whose English is not at college level?”

Mr. Reshef said his new university would use active and retired professors — some paid, some volunteers — along with librarians, master-level students and professionals to develop and evaluate curriculums and oversee assessments.

He plans to start small, limiting enrollment at 300 students when the university goes online in the fall and offering only bachelor’s degrees in business administration and computer science. Mr. Reshef said the university would apply for accreditation as soon as possible.

Mr. Reshef hopes to build enrollment to 10,000 over five years, the level at which he said the enterprise should be self-sustaining. Startup costs would be about $5 million, Mr. Reshef said, of which he plans to provide $1 million.

For all the uncertainties, Mr. Reshef is probably as well positioned as anyone for such an enterprise.

Starting in 1989, he served as chairman of the Kidum Group, an Israeli test preparation company, which he sold in 2005 to Kaplan, one of the world’s largest education companies. While chairman of Kidum, he built an online university affiliated with the University of Liverpool, enrolling students from more than 100 countries; that business was sold to Laureate, another large for-profit education company, in 2004.

Mr. Reshef is now chairman of Cramster.com, an online study community offering homework help to college students.

“Cramster has thousands of students helping other students,” said Mr. Reshef, who lives in Pasadena, Calif., where both Cramster and the new university are based. “These become strong social communities. With these new social networks, where young people now like to spend their lives, we can bring college degrees to students all over the world, third-world students who would be unable to study otherwise. I haven’t found even one person who says it’s a bad idea.”


Is George Mitchell Jewish?

No, George Mitchell is not a Jew. He is Roman Catholic.

President Obama has appointed Mitchell as the special envoy to the Middle East charged with trying to resolve the conflict in the region. We wish him the best in his endeavors.

In an excellent Academy of Achievement interview George Mitchell says about his roots:
My mother was an immigrant from Lebanon to the United States. She came when she was 18 years old in 1920. My father was the orphaned son of immigrants to the United States from Ireland. My father never knew his parents. His mother died -- we're not sure -- either at or shortly after his birth, and he and all of his siblings were placed in orphanages in the Boston area. So my father grew up in an orphanage in Boston. He was then adopted by an elderly childless couple from Maine, who gave him the name of Mitchell. He moved to Maine, and there he met my mother and was married. My parents had no education. My mother couldn't read or write English. She worked nights in a textile mill. My father was a janitor at a local college in our hometown. But they were part of that generation of Americans who had a very deep commitment to the education of their children. They had, really, an exaggerated notion of the value of education. But their life's goal was to see to it that their children received the education that they never got, and in that, they were successful. They had five children, all of whom went on to graduate from college, and several of us have graduate degrees as well.

Times: Scott Atran and Jeremy Ginges Point to a Way to Negotiate an End to the Arab Israeli Conflict

Wow. Talmudic analysis based on actual field work.

This op-ed article summarizes the results of simple but powerful research that recognizes that Western utilitarian assumptions may not drive cultural negotiations elsewhere in the world. Our way of thinking ("the marketplace or realpolitik") indeed may prevent us from seeing what impede our understanding of how to help resolve and negotiate the end to a conflict.

The authors simply asked the parties in the middle East which elements in a negotiation they prefer.

They gave them "deal sets" to evaluate.

Set one - both sides negotiate the pain that they need to suffer to make an agreement. The sadistic approach. Find out how much they want the enemy to suffer and then inflict the pain. Not generally our USA way of thinking.

Set two - both sides determine the gain they need to be paid to make an agreement. Americans get this kind of deal. Find out, How much do they want? Pay them off.

Set three - both sides decide what apologies and "symbolic sacred" assurances they need to make an agreement. Seems entirely impractical to us and hence we suspect whether the sides are sincere in what they say.

If you think about set three, it sort of makes sense in the context of the middle East conflict. The authors want us to look more closely at set three.

The authors don't say this in their article, but here is what I think.

This struggle has proven to be a "death match" where the combatants have vowed to stay in the ring until just one of them is left standing.

The survival of the fittest in a death match has nothing to do with pain (set one) of payoffs (set two) because the ultimate aim in the negotiation is the death of the other party.

I was trained in my Rutgers B-school course to ferret out what is the BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) for both parties in a negotiation? In this case, if one party cannot kill the other, what then would they settle for?

Apparently the answer this research has uncovered is that the stated BATNA for both sides is "sacred words" of apology and assurance.

Now with that data we can do one of two things. We can believe the research has uncovered some accurate but counter-intuitive facts about the conflict and pursue the avenue that they have mapped out, try to get the parties to agree to the BATNA. What do we have to lose if we try this?

On the other hand, we can argue that this BATNA avowed by both parties is not authentic, not sincere and not real. When both parties call for "sacred words" instead of elements from the other negotiation sets, they are telling us in fact that they have no BATNA. This is the mother of all "dirty tricks" of negotiations. Both do not expect, nor do they wish that the other party make "sacred" assurances - because both wish only to see the negotiation through to the "negotiated" end to the struggle. Tragically that would be the death of one of the parties.

I do not for a moment think that all Israelis or that all Palestinians believe that must be the end of the negotiation. Yet there is no doubt that the "death match" motif has framed the conflict for 60 years.

Urgently, we need to consider how to break out of the "death match" framework of the current conflict, how to re-frame the negotiations, how to get each side to set real goals and expectations, how to get the parties to speculate on what their BATNAs are, and thereby how to take all the "trick" elements of the "sacred" out of the mix.

Bottom line, this is indeed a wonderful and fertile report in the Times on research of great significance.
Op-Ed Contributors
How Words Could End a War

AS diplomats stitch together a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, the most depressing feature of the conflict is the sense that future fighting is inevitable. Rational calculation suggests that neither side can win these wars. The thousands of lives and billions of dollars sacrificed in fighting demonstrate the advantages of peace and coexistence; yet still both sides opt to fight.

This small territory is the world’s great symbolic knot. “Palestine is the mother of all problems” is a common refrain among people we have interviewed across the Muslim world: from Middle Eastern leaders to fighters in the remote island jungles of Indonesia; from Islamist senators in Pakistan to volunteers for martyrdom on the move from Morocco to Iraq.

Some analysts see this as a testament to the essentially religious nature of the conflict. But research we recently undertook suggests a way to go beyond that. For there is a moral logic to seemingly intractable religious and cultural disputes. These conflicts cannot be reduced to secular calculations of interest but must be dealt with on their own terms, a logic very different from the marketplace or realpolitik.

Across the world, people believe that devotion to sacred or core values that incorporate moral beliefs — like the welfare of family and country, or commitment to religion and honor — are, or ought to be, absolute and inviolable. Our studies, carried out with the support of the National Science Foundation and the Defense Department, suggest that people will reject material compensation for dropping their commitment to sacred values and will defend those values regardless of the costs.

In our research, we surveyed nearly 4,000 Palestinians and Israelis from 2004 to 2008, questioning citizens across the political spectrum including refugees, supporters of Hamas and Israeli settlers in the West Bank. We asked them to react to hypothetical but realistic compromises in which their side would be required to give away something it valued in return for a lasting peace.

All those surveyed responded to the same set of deals. First they would be given a straight-up offer in which each side would make difficult concessions in exchange for peace; next they were given a scenario in which their side was granted an additional material incentive; and last came a proposal in which the other side agreed to a symbolic sacrifice of one of its sacred values.

For example, a typical set of trade-offs offered to a Palestinian might begin with this premise: Suppose the United Nations organized a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians under which Palestinians would be required to give up their right to return to their homes in Israel and there would be two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Second, we would sweeten the pot: in return, Western nations would give the Palestinian state $10 billion a year for 100 years. Then the symbolic concession: For its part, Israel would officially apologize for the displacement of civilians in the 1948 war

Indeed, across the political spectrum, almost everyone we surveyed rejected the initial solutions we offered — ideas that are accepted as common sense among most Westerners, like simply trading land for peace or accepting shared sovereignty over Jerusalem. Why the opposition to trade-offs for peace?

Many of the respondents insisted that the values involved were sacred to them. For example, nearly half the Israeli settlers we surveyed said they would not consider trading any land in the West Bank — territory they believe was granted them by God — in exchange for peace. More than half the Palestinians considered full sovereignty over Jerusalem in the same light, and more than four-fifths felt that the “right of return” was a sacred value, too.

As for sweetening the pot, in general the greater the monetary incentive involved in the deal, the greater the disgust from respondents. Israelis and Palestinians alike often reacted as though we had asked them to sell their children. This strongly implies that using the standard approaches of “business-like negotiations” favored by Western diplomats will only backfire.

Many Westerners seem to ignore these clearly expressed “irrational” preferences, because in a sensible world they ought not to exist. Diplomats hope that peace and concrete progress on material and quality-of-life matters (electricity, water, agriculture, the economy and so on) will eventually make people forget the more heartfelt issues. But this is only a recipe for another Hundred Years’ War — progress on everyday material matters will simply heighten attention on value-laden issues of “who we are and want to be.”

Fortunately, our work also offers hints of another, more optimistic course.

Absolutists who violently rejected offers of money or peace for sacred land were considerably more inclined to accept deals that involved their enemies making symbolic but difficult gestures. For example, Palestinian hard-liners were more willing to consider recognizing the right of Israel to exist if the Israelis simply offered an official apology for Palestinian suffering in the 1948 war. Similarly, Israeli respondents said they could live with a partition of Jerusalem and borders very close to those that existed before the 1967 war if Hamas and the other major Palestinian groups explicitly recognized Israel’s right to exist.

Remarkably, our survey results were mirrored by our discussions with political leaders from both sides. For example, Mousa Abu Marzook (the deputy chairman of Hamas) said no when we proposed a trade-off for peace without granting a right of return. He became angry when we added in the idea of substantial American aid for rebuilding: “No, we do not sell ourselves for any amount.”

But when we mentioned a potential Israeli apology for 1948, he brightened: “Yes, an apology is important, as a beginning. It’s not enough because our houses and land were taken away from us and something has to be done about that.” His response suggested that progress on sacred values might open the way for negotiations on material issues, rather than the reverse.

We got a similar reaction from Benjamin Netanyahu, the hard-line former Israeli prime minister. We asked him whether he would seriously consider accepting a two-state solution following the 1967 borders if all major Palestinian factions, including Hamas, were to recognize the right of the Jewish people to an independent state in the region. He answered, “O.K., but the Palestinians would have to show that they sincerely mean it, change their textbooks and anti-Semitic characterizations.”

Making these sorts of wholly intangible “symbolic” concessions, like an apology or recognition of a right to exist, simply doesn’t compute on any utilitarian calculus. And yet the science says they may be the best way to start cutting the knot.

Scott Atran, an anthropologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, John Jay College and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, is the author of the forthcoming “Talking to the Enemy.” Jeremy Ginges is a professor of psychology at the New School for Social Research.


Boston Globe: Hallmark TV Soap Opera "Loving Leah" with Lauren Ambrose, Mercedes Ruehl, Susie Essman is "charmless bunk" with an odd Jewish theme

Jewish soap opera alert! [HT MENAHEM MENDL] - [Update: after the first few minutes - we like it.]
'Loving Leah' is hard to do
By Matthew Gilbert, Globe Staff
'And Mercedes Ruehl." The words strike fear in my heart, especially when they appear in the opening credits of a CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. As a rule, Ruehl doesn't merely dominate her screen time; she wrestles it into submission, word by word, glare by glare.

Couple that with the fact that the cast of "Loving Leah," tomorrow at 9 p.m. on Channel 4, also features Susie Essman and you've got a knockout punch. Essman is the Blagojevich-tongued comedian who puts Larry David in his place on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and her delivery can be the verbal equivalent of a machine gun. By mid-movie, when Ricki Lake shows up as a reform rabbi, "Loving Leah" is officially one of the more bizarre concoctions to emerge from the Hallmark factory.

But casting is only the start of what's odd about "Loving Leah," which is adapted by P'nenah Goldstein from her own play.

"Loving Leah" is primarily a cute love story between a mousy Hasidic woman in Brooklyn, Leah (Lauren Ambrose), and her urbane cardiologist brother-in-law in Washington, D.C., Jake (Adam Kaufman). That's right, brother-in-law. Leah's rabbi husband dies, and an obscure Jewish law requires her to marry his brother if she has not yet had children.

But Leah and Jake are so different! This is crazy! But it might just work! The movie strains and struggles to get Leah and Jake living platonically in the same Georgetown apartment, so they can follow the conventions of the sham-marriage comedy to the nth degree. While Leah takes classes to prepare for the SATs, so she can go to college and come into her own, Jake halfheartedly continues a love affair with a fellow doctor (Christy Pusz). Leah grows more physically beautiful by the day, especially after she takes off her wig and lets her long red hair flow, and Jake becomes less narcissistic as he sees the beauty of her soul.

Maybe the hokey setup would have been easier to swallow in a quirky independent film, one with a more textured backdrop and knowing tone like "Crossing Delancey." But in a squeaky clean Hallmark movie, the plot is just charmless bunk. Ruehl is out to lunch as Jake's mother, who attends her other son's funeral with nary a tear. Essman has the potential to be convincing, but she is miscast as Ambrose's mother. And Kaufman never gives more than a sitcom-deep performance, which makes Jake's spiritual growth very hard to detect. You have to take it on faith that he's maturing, even while his eyelashes remain so much prettier than Leah's.

I want to say I loved Ambrose, since she was such an essential and appealing part of "Six Feet Under." But as a subservient homemaker trying to get out from under the thumb of her mama, she's all wrong. Once Leah has broken into blossom, Ambrose makes sense. But until then, it's hard to buy her as an oppressed old-world wife lacking in selfhood and modernity, sneaking out to see romantic movies. Nope, can't say I was loving "Leah," or even liking it much.

Times: Pope Benedict Reinstates Holocaust Denier Bishop Richard Williamson

This action by Pope Benedict is outrageous beyond words. It confirms again what we have suspected, namely that Benedict is using the catholic church to foster a retrograde bigoted and racist agenda.

And to allay any doubts, here is an example of Williamson's antiSemitism, now implicitly endorsed by Pope Benedict, taken from Williamson's blog post of March 1, 2008:
Now ever since the Jews were responsible for the crucifying of Our Lord Jesus Christ -- "His blood be upon us and upon our children", Mt.XXVII,25 -- they have as a race and as a religion, always with noble exceptions, continued to reject him down to our day. Thus St. Paul observed that they not only "killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets", but they also prohibited St. Paul himself from "speaking to the Gentiles so as to save them". In brief, their behavior was such that "they please not God and are adversaries to men" (I Thess. II,14-16). Closer to our own time, it is a matter of historical record that the designing and launching of, for instance, Communism, to wrest mankind away from God and to replace his Heaven with a man-made paradise, was largely their achievement.

So they persecuted St. Paul at every turn (see Acts of the Apostles) as being one of their arch-enemies, when in fact nobody loved them more truly or labored more for their real well-being than did St. Paul (cf. Rom. IX,1-5). Similarly today, they will call an "anti-semite" anybody who gets in the way of any godlessness of theirs, when in fact all people laboring for their salvation, as for the salvation of Gentiles, are their best friends. St Paul, pray for us ! Kyrie eleison.

La Reja, Argentina
Posted by Bishop Richard Williamson at 7:33 AM

And here is the Times' story...
Pope Reinstates Four Excommunicated Bishops

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI, acceding to the far-right of the Roman Catholic Church, revoked the excommunications of four schismatic bishops on Saturday, including one whose comments denying the Holocaust have provoked outrage.

The decision provided fresh fuel for critics who charge that Benedict’s four-year-old papacy has proven increasingly focused on appeasing traditionalists who are hostile to the sweeping reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s that sought to create a more modern and open church.

A theologian resigned to the church’s diminished status in a secular world, Benedict has favored a smaller church of more ardent believers over a larger one with looser faith. But his focus on doctrinal debates has come at a cost. As in 2006, when Benedict offended Muslims by citing a medieval scholar who called Islam “evil and inhuman,” the revocation may help heal an internal rift, but it opens a broader wound.

A particularly contentious part of the reinstatement on Saturday was the inclusion of Richard Williamson, a British-born cleric who in an interview last week said he did not believe that six million Jews died in the Nazi gas chambers.

He has also given interviews saying that the United States government staged the Sept. 11 attacks as a pretext to invade Afghanistan.

The four reinstated men are members of the Society of St. Pius X, which was founded by a French archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, in 1970 as a protest against the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Archbishop Lefebvre made the four bishops in unsanctioned consecrations in Switzerland in 1988, prompting the immediate excommunication of all five by Pope John Paul II.

Later that year, Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, sought to regularize the church’s relationship with the society. Archbishop Lefebvre died in 1991.

In a statement Saturday, the Vatican said that the pope would “reconsider” whether to formally affirm the four as full bishops, but referred to the men by that title.

In recent years, Benedict has made other concessions to the Lefebvrists, including allowing the broader recitation of the Latin Mass, which was made optional in the 1960s Vatican reforms and includes a Good Friday prayer calling for the conversion of Jews.

Chester Gillis, the Amaturo chair in Catholic studies at Georgetown University, said that both Benedict and John Paul II before him had tried for years to bring these traditionalists back into the church, out of concern that their movement might grow and create an entrenched parallel church.

“I don’t think the Vatican doesn’t care about Jewish-Christian relations, but at least it appears that internal church matters trump external relations,” he said. “They’re thinking, let’s heal our own house whatever the consequences are externally.”

The recent comments by Bishop Williamson, who led a traditionalist seminary in Ridgefield, Conn., at the time he was made bishop and later moved to a seminary in Argentina, inevitably overshadowed the debate about traditional and liberal strains in the Roman Catholic Church.

In a November interview broadcast on Swedish television last week and widely available on the Internet, the bishop said that he believed that “the historical evidence” was hugely against the conclusion that millions of Jews had been “deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.”

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Saturday that Bishop Williamson’s comments had “nothing to do with” the pope’s decision to welcome the schismatic bishops back into the fold. He added, “These are declarations that we don’t share in any way.”

Father Lombardi called the revocation of the excommunications a fundamental step toward the unity of the church, after two decades of rift. “We have to consider it very positive news,” he added.

Jewish groups criticized the decision to reinstate the men.

In a statement released Saturday, the Anti-Defamation League said that lifting Bishop Williamson’s excommunication “undermines the strong relationship between Catholics and Jews that flourished under Pope John Paul II and which Pope Benedict XVI said he would continue when he came into his Papacy.”

Abraham Foxman, the A.D.L.’s national director, added that the decree “sends a terrible message to Catholics around the world that there is room in the church for those who would undermine the church’s teachings and who would foster disdain and contempt for other religions, particularly Judaism. Given the centuries-long history of anti-Semitism in the church, this is a most troubling setback.”

In a statement released Friday, Rabbi David Rosen, the director of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, said, “We urgently call on the Vatican to reiterate its unqualified repudiation and condemnation of all and any Holocaust denial.”

In welcoming the cleric back into the church, Benedict is “making a mockery of John Paul II, who called anti-Semitism ‘a sin against God and man,’ ” Rabbi Rosen added.

In revoking the excommunications, the Vatican said it was responding to a letter sent in December by the director of the Society of Pius X, in which the bishops said they were “firmly determined to remain Catholic and to put all our efforts to the service of the church.”

The letter appeared to stop short of saying that the society would embrace, or even accept, the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

“This is certainly a major concession to the traditionalists, part of a long effort by Rome to heal the only formal schism after Vatican II,” said John L. Allen Jr., a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter.

“Politically, this certainly emboldens the conservative reading of the council and emphasizes what Benedict XVI has repeatedly called the ‘continuity’ of Vatican II with earlier periods of church history,” he added.

Father Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the Vatican was “still holding discussions” with the Lefebvrists about the Second Vatican Council.


Is Kirsten Elizabeth Rutnik Gillibrand Jewish?

No, Kirsten Gillibrand nee Rutnik is not a Jew. She is Roman Catholic.

Gillibrand was appointed by NY Governor David Paterson to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton.

She was born and raised in Albany, New York, where she attended the Academy of the Holy Names. She graduated High School in 1984 from Emma Willard School in Troy, New York.

Although a Catholic, Gillibrand is pro-choice on abortion rights.

JTA: Orthodox Rabbis Gone Wild - Weiss and Angel Hit Back at Herring for Criticizing Lookstein

Rabbis behaving badly. Showing it all in public. Uncensored, real, wild, raw, uncut rabbinic press releases.
Orthodox group defends Lookstein
By Ben Harris

NEW YORK (JTA) -- The leaders of a liberal Orthodox clergy group defended the rabbi who took part in an interfaith service with President Barack Obama.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the longtime leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on Manhattan's Upper East Side, drew fire from (spokesman Rabbi Basil Herring of) the main U.S. Orthodox rabbinic group, the Rabbinical Council of America, for his participation in the Wednesday morning service.

But the founders of an alternative Orthodox rabbinic group, the International Rabbinic Fellowship, have come to Lookstein's defense. In a statement, Rabbis Avi Weiss and Marc Angel defended Lookstein's right to decide for himself whether to participate and took aim at what they framed as the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of the Orthodox rabbinate.

"We were saddened to read that Rabbi Lookstein was rebuked by the Rabbinical Council of America, of which he is a longtime member and leader," said Weiss and Angel, who is a past RCA president. "We believe that the RCA's public criticism of Rabbi Lookstein is an embarrassment for the Orthodox rabbinate and the Orthodox community."
And so to accelerate that embarrassment, you have issued your own public rebuke of Rabbi Herring. How nice.

WSJ: What should your grandchildren call you?

For the record, they call us Abu and Nana.
A Grandma or Grandpa by Any Other Name Is Just as Old
Boomers Want to Pick What Grandkids Will Call Them: Meet Glamma and Papa Doc

Aging baby boomers are in the midst of a grandbaby boom, and they're struggling with a bunch of issues.

How to be attentive grandparents while having a busy career and, increasingly, caring for their own elderly parents? How to stay close to the tykes while living far away?

But one of the most vexing issues they face is deciding what they want to be called by their grandchildren, lest it make them sound -- and feel -- old. It's another example of how baby boomers, whose anthem was Bob Dylan's "Forever Young," are not going gently into old age.

While many people are happy with the old appellations, Granny, Gramps, Bubbe and Zayde just won't do for this group, with their toned bodies, plastic surgery and youthful outlooks. How about Grand-dude?

Susan Kandell Wilkofsky

Susan Kandell Wilkofsky, a 56-year-old Dallas documentary filmmaker and photographer, became a grandmother on Christmas Day. For months, her friends and family had pestered her about what she wanted her new granddaughter to call her.

"I didn't see myself as a Bubbe," Ms. Wilkofsky said, citing the Yiddish word for grandmother popular among grandparents of baby boomers, Americans born in the population surge between 1946 and 1964. "That's someone from the old country, who has an accent, looks frumpy and wears a babushka."

That's definitely not Ms. Wilkofsky, who exercises religiously and has worn her hair long, straight and parted in the middle at least since 1967's "summer of love."

"The only time I wear a kerchief is when I am driving my two-seater convertible," she says.

So Ms. Wilkofsky has decided to be called Glamma, as in glamorous grandmother, a name suggested by one of her girlfriends. Her husband, Steven, a 58-year-old doctor, said he didn't want a typical grandfatherly name, either, because "I still feel like I am 25." So he chose to go by "Papa Doc." He was going for a Marcus Welby, M.D. vibe -- after the mellow, graying doctor in a popular television series in the late '60s and early '70s -- but unfortunately the name reminds most people of the late Haitian dictator, François "Papa Doc" Duvalier.

Experts in the field of aging are not surprised that baby boomers are seeking creative ways to avoid wrinkly sounding labels. "That whole generation is reinventing old age," says Tom Nelson, chief operating officer of AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons.

In fact, AARP's marketing department has had to devise new ways of talking to boomers so as not to alienate them by making them feel old. The association's magazine was called Modern Maturity for decades and two years ago was renamed AARP The Magazine. "We have put some iconic boomers on the cover, including Caroline Kennedy and Jamie Lee Curtis, and their take on aging and all the great work they are doing reflects how aging isn't something that has to be dreaded," Mr. Nelson says.

Comedy writer Alan Zweibel was called to a family summit several months before his grandson, Zachary, was born in November. His daughter-in-law arranged the meeting with the soon-to-be grandparents so they could pick out names and avoid duplications.

'Grandpa Is a Stereotype'

Mr. Zweibel, 58 and one of the original writers on "Saturday Night Live," opted for "Lefty," or "Sheriff."

"I didn't want to be called 'Grandpa.' A grandpa is a stereotype -- someone who has white hair, is hunched over and pees involuntarily," says Mr. Zweibel. "Anyone can be called grandma or grandpa. That's what you are. I am not going to call him grandson. My name should be special, a way to individualize the relationship, put some personality -- and wit -- into it."

Some children of baby boomers are perplexed or even annoyed that their parents are so concerned about vanity and self-interest. When Phoenix resident Ellie Crystal gave birth to her daughter, Lyndsey, seven years ago, she wanted her to have a Bubbe in her life, just as she and her sister had when they were growing up.

"It was cute and nurturing, and I wanted to carry on the tradition," Ms. Crystal says.

But her mother-in-law, who was in her late 50s at the time, refused, because she said it made her feel too old. Ditto for Ms. Crystal's own mother, who felt, in addition, that the name Bubbe conjured up the image of a neurotic, overprotective worrywart. Ms. Crystal concedes the point: "My Bubbe was the type of person who made us wear bathrobes when we went to the pool, even if it was 85 degrees, because she was afraid we would catch a chill."

Alan Zweibel

Ms. Crystal's mother-in-law, now her ex-mother-in-law, reluctantly compromised on "Grandma," while Ms. Crystal's own mom agreed to "Nana."

From the instant Heather Schamerloh, a Dallas dog trainer, told her family she was pregnant, her mother made it abundantly clear she did not want to be called grandma.

"She's very hip and in touch with fashion," Ms. Schamerloh says of her mother, Janelle Friedman, who is in her early 50s.

The name Ms. Friedman chose for herself: "Coco," as in fashion icon Coco Chanel. "It doesn't bother me, it's her deal," says Ms. Schamerloh.

For the boomers, devising age-defying sobriquets for their grandparent roles is not simply about trying to stay young. It also reflects the desire to play by their own rules, to put their individual stamp on the experience.

To that end, Mr. Zweibel, the writer, has written a children's book about the day his grandson was born. "I thought nothing would bond us more than this book about me and him," Mr. Zweibel says.

Experts in aging say boomers will play their grandparent roles differently from previous generations. And some of them waited so long to have their own children that they will be very old indeed by the time their kids have kids. But just as many boomers were so involved hovering over their own children that they earned the name "helicopter parents," they will insert themselves in their grandchildren's lives in new ways as well.

My Role as Coach

Steven Wilkofsky, aka Papa Doc, agrees. "We will do it our way. Our grandparents never said, 'Pack your bags, we're taking you to the Grand Canyon.' I plan to take my grandchildren on trips. I want to physically and mentally challenge them. I saw my role as a parent to be a coach, and I want to do the same as a grandparent."

His wife, Susan, aka Glamma, says that the name her granddaughter calls her is not as important as the bond she hopes they will share.

"I don't care what she calls me," says Ms. Wilkofsky, "just as long as she calls me -- even for money."

Times: Who wrote the Prayer of St. Francis?

Apparently it was not St. Francis...
Truth About a Prayer: A Saint’s Name, but Not His Words

ROME — Mother Teresa recited the simple prayer of St. Francis every day. Margaret Thatcher cited it upon becoming prime minister of Britain, and Alcoholics Anonymous included it in its “12 steps” book.

But something else is notable about the prayer that begins: “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith.”

St. Francis of Assisi, who was born in the 12th century, probably had nothing to do with it.

An article published this week in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said the prayer in its current form dates only from 1912, when it appeared in a French Catholic periodical.

And it became wildly popular only after it was reprinted in L’Osservatore Romano in 1916 at the behest of Pope Benedict XV, who wanted a prayer for peace in the throes of World War I.

Although news to many, the truth about the prayer had apparently been hiding in plain sight.

“No one among the Franciscans ever thought it really was by St. Francis,” said Giovanni Maria Vian, the editor of L’Osservatore Romano.

Mr. Vian said the point of the article was to show the importance of prayers for peace in times of war.

Although the prayer’s origins “remain mysterious,” Mr. Vian said, the prayer had at some point been printed on the back of cards bearing images of St. Francis, hence the confusion.

Yet the attribution to St. Francis has had some high-profile adherents. In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, Mother Teresa said, “I always wonder that 400 to 500 years ago as St. Francis of Assisi composed this prayer, that they had the same difficulties that we have today.”

And after being elected prime minister that same year, Mrs. Thatcher said, “I would just like to remember some words of St. Francis of Assisi,” adding: “‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.’”

Would fans of St. Francis be disappointed to know the truth?

“Catholics are used to this sort of thing, that you have a tradition but you don’t know when it started or its whole history,” said the Rev. Thomas G. Weinandy, a Franciscan and the executive director of the Secretariat for Doctrine at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He pointed to St. Christopher. “The church says he more than likely did not historically exist,” Father Weinandy said. “But people still pray to him, figuring someone up in heaven is in charge of watching over travelers.”

JStandard: Teneck Mourns Loss of Barry Stern

We mourn the sudden untimely passing of our friend and neighbor.
Community mourns accident victim
Lois Goldrich

When Barry Stern, 48, died on Monday at Hackensack University Hospital and Medical Center, his wife, Rachel, had already taken steps to ensure that his death would become a “catalyst,” inspiring others to “give the gift of life.”
Barry Stern

In a Facebook posting last Wednesday — when her husband was admitted to the hospital in critical condition following a fall on Queen Anne Road — Rachel Stern wrote movingly of his compassion, noting that while he had never created a living will nor registered as an organ donor, she knew he believed strongly in the mitzvah of organ donation.

She asked others to consider this “amazing mitzvah” as well.

“Barry may not be able to donate his organs,” she wrote, “but it would make this tragedy have more meaning if his situation were to be a catalyst for other people to take care of this,” making clear their own intention to become organ donors.

Rachel Stern’s firm belief that her husband would want to benefit others is echoed in the comments of his close friends.

Israel Wahrman, whose friendship with Barry Stern spanned more than 22 years, called him “one of the sweetest, kindest, most decent people I have ever met,” devoted to both friends and family. “Barry had sound values,” said Wahrman. “He was honest and straightforward.”

Stern, born in Queens, lived in Teaneck for about 25 years. He was discovered on the ground outside the Lazy Bean Café there last Wednesday morning. Following an investigation and a review of security videotapes, Teaneck Police Capt. Dean Kazinci discounted the possibility that Stern was hit by a vehicle, concluding that he had apparently slipped on a mound of ice. According to Wahrman, his friend was on his way to have breakfast with two of his daughters.

A founding member and active leader of Teaneck’s Arzei Darom, he was honored at the synagogue’s dinner two years ago. “[Barry] was someone his synagogue could always count on to do whatever was needed,” said Wahrman. In addition, he said, while Stern worked in the computer field, “he was committed to Torah study,” spending hours each day learning.

Wahrman noted that Stern had been ordained as a rabbi several years ago, but that “he never used this ordination to earn money.” It was his understanding, he said, that Stern was now studying for a second rabbinical ordination.

Stern was also deeply committed to the State of Israel, said Wahrman. Two of his daughters, Tziporah and Chloe, made aliyah, and his daughters Rivka and Zahava, recently returned from a program in Israel where they were trained to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state.

Stern is survived by his wife as well as by his daughter Tziporah Elana, her husband, Gedaliah Levy, and their daughter, Chaya Leah; his daughter Chloe and her husband, Jonathan Kleinburd; and daughters Rivka Aliza Stern, Zahava Rena Stern, and Devorah Ettel Stern. He is also survived by his parents, Thelma and Abraham Stern, and sisters, Karen Abraham and Tammy Hikind.

An appeal to the community
Rachel Stern’s Facebook entry provides contact information for those interested in becoming organ donors. She points out that information can be found at http://www.uslivingwillregistry.com/ and that “organ donor registration, at least in New Jersey, can be done via one’s driver’s license, which can be imprinted with the words ‘organ donor.’” In addition, she writes, potential donors might consider registering with the Halachic Organ Donor Society at http://www.hods.org.


Former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman Takes Job With Jewish Republicans for Undisclosed Salary

We believe this news is as good as a concession speech by Coleman.
Norm Coleman joins GOP Jewish group as consultantMINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Although Norm Coleman hasn't given up on his hopes of winning his Senate seat back, he has a new job with a national Jewish political group.

Coleman has joined the Republican Jewish Coalition as a consultant and strategic adviser. Coleman is awaiting the outcome of his lawsuit challenging the outcome of Minnesota's Senate recount that ended with the challenger, Democrat Al Franken, on top.

Coleman's Senate term, his first, expired Jan. 3.

The RJC announced Coleman's hiring Thursday. The group says Coleman will advise it on policy, help with recruiting and deliver speeches around the country.

The RJC says Coleman won't do any lobbying. The group wouldn't reveal Coleman's pay.

Both Coleman and Franken are Jewish.

Hey, what's all this secrecy about the pay?

Appeal Allows Prosecution of Member of Parliament of the Dutch Second Chamber Geert Wilders for Insulting Islam

We do believe that Dutch politician Geert Wilders, chairman Party for Freedom, the Netherlands had the right to publish his film Fitna and that the Dutch courts have the right to prosecute him for hate speech.
Amsterdam Court of Appeal orders the criminal prosecution of the Member of Parliament of the Dutch Second Chamber Geert Wilders

...the Court of Appeal makes an exception as regards insulting statements in which a connection with Nazism is made (for instance by comparing the Koran with “Mein Kampf”). The Court of Appeal considers this insulting to such a degree for a community of Islamic worshippers that a general interest is deemed to be present in order to prosecute Wilders because of this...
Read the court opinion. See the Fitna video.

Then you decide. Warning. This video contains graphic scenes of violence. It is disturbing, especially for Jews and Americans who have been directly singled out by Islamic terrorists as targets of violence.


Justice Roberts Calls a Do-over: Obama Swears Oath of Office Again - Probably Violating the Third Commandment

No doubt in our mind that the first time Obama swore the oath of office, concluding it, "so help me God," at noon at the Capitol, it was valid and effective.

Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, Justice Roberts should never have re-administered the oath of office to Barack Obama.

Talmudically, if indeed (as we believe) the first oath was valid, that second act would be a violation of the Third Commandment of the biblical Ten Commandments:

"You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name."

It would surely be taking the name of the Lord in vain if you did so repetitiously and unnecessarily in an obsessive, excessive and almost superstitious private reprise of the oath of office.

But that is exactly what they did.

And they call Roberts a religious conservative. Go figure.
Obama takes presidential oath - again

WASHINGTON (AP) — Chief Justice John Roberts has administered the presidential oath of office to Barack Obama for a second time just to be on the safe side.

The unusual step came after Roberts flubbed the oath a bit on Tuesday, causing Obama to repeat the wording differently than as prescribed in the Constitution.

White House counsel Greg Craig said Obama took the oath from Roberts again out of an "abundance of caution."

The chief justice and the president handled the matter privately in the Map Room on Wednesday night.

StarTribune: ACLU Sues Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy - TIZA - Minnesota Muslim Charter School

A new ACLU law suit alleges that the Islamic Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, a Minnesota Charter school, violates the laws that prohibit public schools from promoting religion. As we understand it from the press coverage, the school practices thinly disguised subterfuges, to cover up the fact that they are indeed a Muslim school with required religious training and rituals.
ACLU to sue Twin Cities charter school that caters to Muslims

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota said it will file suit today against a publicly funded charter school, alleging that it is promoting the Muslim religion and that it is leasing school space from a religious organization, the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, without following state law.

The suit was to be filed this afternoon in U.S. District Court against Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, known as TIZA, and the Minnesota Department of Education, which the ACLU says is at fault for failing to uncover and stop the alleged transgressions. The suit names the department and Alice Seagren, the state education commissioner, as co-defendants.

The department investigated the Twin Cities school last year, and the school said it had taken corrective actions in response to concerns about the practicing of religion in the school. TIZA officials have previously said they are in compliance with federal and state regulations. ...more

JTA: Orthodox Rabbi Basil Herring Roiled Over Haskel Lookstein Inaugural Church Prayer

New York Orthodox rabbi stabs his colleague in the back. How sad.

Rabbi Basil Herring has claimed in a newspaper interview that Rabbi Haskel Lookstein violated an unnamed rabbinic rule by entering a church and reciting a prayer to honor the inauguration of our 44th president.

We say that it is praiseworthy that Lookstein, a world renowned Orthodox rabbinic leader, was invited to participate in this event and laudable that he accepted and represented our community.

We recognize that a deeply-rooted historically-based reluctance exists within Orthodoxy to permit a Jew to participate in a Christian church service.

However there is an equally pervasive tradition in Orthodox rulings that encourages unfettered respect for a national leader, especially in a situation like this, the celebration of the inauguration of a new president.

We are certain that the learned Rabbi Lookstein weighed carefully the context and circumstances of his participation and deemed it permissible, and perhaps even obligitory, that he represent our community in the church event.

Rabbi Herring is way off base in his public criticism. Perhaps motivated by personal jealousy or perhaps driven by misplaced zealousness, Herring had no basis for using his office in the RCA to lash out in this unwarranted criticism of his colleague.

When asked about this by the press, if he could not endorse his colleague's participation, Rabbi Herring should have respectfully replied, "No Comment."
Orthodox group: Rabbi violated rules by joining National Prayer Service
By Jacob Berkman

NEW YORK (JTA) -- The main Modern Orthodox rabbinical association says a prominent member violated its rules by participating in the National Prayer Service.

A Rabbinical Council of America official told JTA that Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the religious leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City, broke the organization's rules by participating in the service Wednesday at the National Cathedral on the morning after Barack Obama's inauguration.

“The long-standing policy of the Rabbinical Council of America, in accordance with Jewish law, is that participation in a prayer service held in the sanctuary of a church is prohibited," the RCA said in a statement. "Any member of the RCA who attends such a service does so in contravention of this policy and should not be perceived as representing the organization in any capacity."

The RCA said that Lookstein’s participation was problematic both because the service was held in the sanctuary of a church, which Orthodox Jews are prohibited from entering, and because it was an interfaith prayer service, which the RCA discourages for fear that such participation could allow missionaries to legitimize their argument that Jews can indeed embrace Jesus... more


Photo: Rahm Emanuel Greets George W. Bush at the Inauguration

Rick Warren Punts His Inaugural Prayer

Plays it safe, punts, takes no chances, whatever. HT to Brad Greenberg for the transcript of the inaugural prayer of Rick Warren. Brad asks, "Seriously, is there anything there that Christians, or even simply religious people across the spectrum, would strongly disagree with?"

Agreed, I suppose. When you start with the Shema, "Hear O Israel..." a verse from the core of Jewish prayer, and you end with the Lord's Prayer, how could anyone criticize? Here is how. First, why not an iota of creativity? Second, when you invoke the fact that we Americans are united by a, "commitment to freedom and justice for all," do you mean our "all" or do you mean your "all"?

Third, what the heaven does the non-sequitur, "History is your story" mean? It's not a prayerful phrase. As we see it, history is the story of humans, not the story of God. Some forms of theology are the explanations of that human story, placing God into the narrative.

We might quibble with other choices and the organization as a whole. You decide. Amen.
Almighty God, our father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of you alone. It all comes form you, it all belongs to you, it all exists for your glory. History is your story. The Scripture tells us, ‘Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one’ and you are the compassionate and merciful one and you are loving to everyone you have made.

Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 43rd time, we celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the united states. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where a a son of an African Immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.

Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet and every one of our freely elected leaders.

Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans. United not by race or religion or by blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all. When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us.

When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. when we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us. And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches and civility in our attitudes—even when we differ.

Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day, all nations, all people will stand accountable before You. We now commit our new president and his wife Michelle and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life—Yeshua, Esa, Jesus, Jesus—who taught us to pray:

Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be they name. They kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
For a more sympathetic view of these prayers see the Velveteen Rabbi.

Fox: The Unofficial Jewish Inagural Ball

This inauguration event sounded very unofficial and was in fact a fund raiser for the synagogue, reported here by Fox:
...Political causes were also in vogue over at the Jewish Inaugural Ball, the first of its kind, which was held at Ohev Shalom The National Synagogue, a modern Orthodox congregation. Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, a 33-year-old rainmaker who hosts his own radio show and drives around the city in a refurbished taxi with a giant menorah on top and synagogue advertising on the door panels, organized the event so that guests could show their support for Israeli soldiers as well as the president-elect.

The event, while short on celebrities, did bring together odds and ends, including North Dakota's sole Jewish legislator Elliott Glassman, Obama transition team official Jeremy Bash and Bahrain's ambassador to the U.S. Houda Nunu.

Glassman, who said once a year he gets to give the daily invocation to the state Legislature, and offers it in Hebrew, raised a toast to Obama as someone "who stands for inclusion of all people..."