January 31, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Who busted Buster Baxter?

Education Margaret Spellings pulled the trigger.

But who aimed the gun that laid low that insidious rabbit, Buster Baxter?

Consider: The first official act of the Secretary of Education is to go after PBS?

Since when does the Secretary of Education look at upcoming episodes of chidren's television shows?

Sure, Spellings isn't new to DOE. But still....

Here are a couple of other clues discovered at the scene of the time:

  • Spelling went after Buster the week following Dobson's attack on Sponge Bob (and followup attack on the critics who ridiculed him).

  • One day before Spelling's Buster-bashing, the New York Times ran an article in which Christian Right let the word go out that they wouldn't help the President beggar old people unless he helped them bash gay people.

I can imagine the usual suspect orchestrating this.

It would be nice if someone in the press were to do some followup here.

One more thing I want to know: Who's the mole in PBS who leaked news of the episode in question to the Party operatives?

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Feast of Eden

I'm trying to reconcile the thrust of Ami Eden's op-ed in the Saturday NY Times, Playing the Holocaust Card, with a Forward column he wrote on the same subject almost exactly one year ago.

In the latter he argued that conservative Jewish criticism of the ADL's whistle-blowing over Gibson's "Passion"

fails to acknowledge that the stage for Jewish success in America following World War II was set by the rise of secularism and an increasing societal rejection of sectarianism, as well as the increasing recognition of Jewish suffering during the Holocaust. Throw in the Second Vatican Council declaration that the Jewish people did not bear collective guilt for the crucifixion, and you have the formula for creating a society of unparalleled acceptance of Jews. But Gibson’s allies are asking American Jews to cheer, or at least remain silent, as religious conservatives push to dismantle the various pillars upon which Jewish success was built.

But in the Times op-ed Ami asserts

In several recent controversies - including the debates over Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ," the role of neoconservatives in promoting the invasion of Iraq war, and the public celebration of Christmas - we have seen a new willingness, whether by borderline bigots, respected celebrities or policymakers, to express aloud ideas about Jews and Israel that until recently were taboo. The protests by anti-Semitism watchdogs did nothing but embolden these people.... For more than half a century, Auschwitz has rightly stood at the heart of virtually every moral argument put forth by spokesmen for the Jewish community, a powerful testament to the consequences of otherwise decent people remaining silent in the face of evil. Yet this legacy is in peril, threatened by an increasing reliance on raw political muscle over appeals to conscience.

What changed?

(Reb Yudel)

Who can try to understand Ben Gurion's affect on man?

Would you believe that the Bee Gee's named themselves after the initials of the first Israeli Prime Minister?

OK, but would you believe that they recorded a bizarrely pro-Israel song back in 1972?

The lyrics go like this:

You've had your troubles Israel
I've seen them all
But you put the writing on the wall
Israel Israel yeah

You know I've seen you fall so many times
I've cried for you and that's a crime
Israel Israel Israel

Where there's sand
Where there's beautiful sand yeah
You know you got a kind of feeling
That's just grand
Take me into your arms
Let me be with you
Israel Israel Israel

I like the smiles up on your people's faces
They make you feel warm embraces
And I want that kind of smile
that kind of smile
Israel you make the whole world think about you
And if they don't they'll find a reason
to shout about Israel Israel

You're the only one Israel Israel
Tell me all about it!
Tell me all about it
Tell me all about it
Oh take me into your arms
And make me feel your goodness
Be with me Israel
Hey hey hey hey
Oh oh oh
Take me into your arms
Let me hold hold you to myself
Oh I want to Israel

Israel Oh take me back into into your arms
Israel Israel Israel Israel
Israel


OK, they may not be on the same level as Yeshna Eretz, or even Dylan's Neighborhood Bully. But still: The Bee Gees? Israel? Who knew!

January 28, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Don't drink and daven

This just in from the O.U. (of course, for the definitive scholarly view on Kiddish clubs, see my article).

THE OU CALLS ON ITS SYNAGOGUES ACROSS NORTH AMERICA TO SET ASIDE FEBRUARY 5 SABBATH SERVICE TO IMPLEMENT ELIMINATION OF ‘KIDDUSH CLUBS’

In response to an urgent request from rabbis and educators, the Orthodox Union has designated Saturday, February 5 for OU synagogues across the United States and Canada to call for the elimination of so-called “Kiddush Clubs” during their Sabbath services. To participate in the Kiddush Club, a group of congregants leaves the service to make Kiddush -- often on hard liquor -- during the haftarah reading.

Read more:

The request was made in late December at a meeting of 65 pulpit rabbis and yeshiva principals convened by the OU in New York to deal with a variety of abuses that have been on the increase in the Orthodox teenage community and which have resulted in a number of unfortunate incidents. The representation at that meeting spanned the spectrum of the Orthodox community. Plans are underway to hold similar meetings across North America.

“It became clear at the meeting that the rabbis considered elimination of the Kiddush Clubs to be an important step – one of many – which will be required to create the desired change in our communal mindset,” declared Rabbi Moshe D. Krupka, OU Executive Director of Programming, who is coordinating the OU response.

Two days after the meeting, the OU Board of Directors convened in Los Angeles and overwhelmingly approved a statement calling for an end to Kiddush Clubs.

“The Kiddush is a religious act to sanctify the day,” explained Rabbi Krupka. “Kiddush clubs have the opposite effect and are simply unjustifiable,” he said. “The action of the OU Board reflects how inappropriate these clubs are during the davening. Moreover, we are concerned over the general glorification of hard liquor during Kiddush.”

The Kiddush Club challenges the sanctity of the synagogue in multiple ways. The OU points out that the synagogue serves as a mikdash me’at (literally a miniature Holy Temple) – a place for prayer and kedusha (sanctity). “Any behavior that detracts from the kedushat beit haknesset (the holiness of the House of Prayer) is insulting to the entire congregation,” declared OU President Stephen J. Savitsky. Moreover, missing the haftarah reading leaves a void in the service for Kiddush Club participants. “The haftarah,” explained OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, “is the one opportunity during the Sabbath prayers to encounter the message of the Prophets.”

Besides denigrating the Sabbath prayer service, “these clubs also have a harmful influence on young people because of the clubs’ idealization of alcohol,” Rabbi Weinreb emphasized. “This is particularly disturbing because it is emblematic of the larger dangers of alcohol consumption and substance abuse in our community.”

Nevertheless, Rabbi Weinreb cautioned, it is important to consider the issue of Kiddush Clubs in the appropriate context, in recognition that OU synagogues overwhelmingly are houses devoted to prayer and study, with deep religious feeling; that the number of prayer services (minyanim) within each synagogue are growing, so that on a given Sabbath there may be multiple services taking place simultaneously; that advanced study takes place daily; and that programs for children, teens and adults are held with large attendance. “Kiddush clubs are in a minority of Orthodox synagogues and the people who attend them are a minority within that minority,” Rabbi Weinreb said adding, “Kiddush clubs are an aberration from the atmosphere of kedushah so prominent in our synagogues.”

Consequently, the OU has asked rabbis in all of its synagogues, even where the Kiddush Clubs do not exist, to call for their elimination from Orthodox shuls in their sermons on the Sabbath of February 5. “This will be part of a campaign through the entire OU network in North America to raise consciousness against the improper use of alcohol, to empower synagogue leadership to deal with these issues, and thereby to pave the way for a whole series of responses to the abuse problem through the OU task forces that are currently being developed,” declared Mr. Savitsky, the OU President. The OU is developing “Safe Homes, Safe Shuls, Safe Schools” task forces to deal with the entire range of abuses discussed at the meeting with rabbis and educators. The OU will make available educational materials, workshops, scholars-in-residence and other creative programming to assist its synagogues in their efforts.

In his call to action, Rabbi Weinreb states: “Since the influences of the world around us inevitably invade our dalet amot (environment) – we as a community can sweep this behavior under the rug or we can isolate it and respond to it. We have chosen to respond.”

January 27, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Andy, this is Larry. Get me followup!

The New Jersey Jewish News this week reports an expansion of a Solomon Schechter into a new campus, and a new relationship with the Reform day school movement:
Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union is expected to announce plans to open a Somerset County campus next fall, in an unusual partnership between the Conservative movement and PARDeS, the Progressive Association of Reform Day Schools.

The new campus for the Conservative day school, to be located at the Reform Temple Beth El in Hillsborough, will be the first Jewish day school in Somerset County

Besides the inevitable question I have as a Teaneck resident (where the heck is Somerset County?), I'd like to know:
  • What are the advantages / disadvantages of an existing school opening a new campus, rather than just opening a new school?
  • What are the differences between the Reform and Conservative day school organizations? What does their cooperation entail and imply?
(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Leave Abe Foxman alone!

David Klinghoffer wrote this, so I wrote this:

It’s become fashionable among a certain kind of Jewish writer to criticize the ADL and other groups for over-zealousness in their campaigns to eradicate anti-Semitism. When I say a “certain kind” I mean writers who tend to be young (but not always), conservative (usually), and religious (often).

January 26, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Another reminder that the G in G.O.P. is for Goyish

Via The Left Coaster:
A delegation sent by President Bush to Ukraine's presidential inauguration last weekend included a Ukrainian-American activist who has accused Jews of manipulating the Holocaust for their gain and blamed them for Soviet-era atrocities in Ukraine.

"Big money drives the Holocaust industry," Myron B. Kuropas wrote in August 2000.Full details from Knight Ridder

(Reb Yudel)

For Democrats, read Conservative Judaism and the piece reads equally true

From Seeing The Forest - a Weblog of Politics, an article entitled "Why Republicans Win" which deserves to be read and studied, not just lazily excerpted:
On the Right, they developed their movement in response to the existing liberal consensus, which means that their movement developed based on the idea of changing people's minds away from those liberal ideas and values. So the result is that today the Right is structured around persuasion, while the Democrats are not. And their organizations have spent decades studying how best to persuade people.
(Reb Yudel)

Secretary of Education promises to check tzitzis of PBS children's shows

Our new Secretary of Education opines on children's television:

``Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode,'' Spellings wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of PBS.

One of the prices of not having cable is that I'm not up to date on children's television. So I can't really vouch for ``Postcards From Buster'' a PBS shows featuring an animated bunny named -- you guessed it! -- Buster. It turns out that Buster has taken to visiting some pretty un-Christian places lately. According to published accounts,

The not-yet-aired episode of ``Postcards From Buster'' shows the title character, an animated bunny named Buster, on a trip to Vermont -- a state known for recognizing same-sex civil unions. The episode features two lesbian couples, although the focus is on farm life and maple sugaring.
According to his blog, Buster has also visited New York City. In his own words,
I stayed with Aryeh and his family. They are Orthodox Jews. Aryeh wears a kipa, or yarmulke, on his head. It reminds him that God is above him. He also wears tzitzis, or knotted strings, on his shirt to remind him of the ten commandments.
Now here's something I don't want my children exposed to! I hope the Secretary of Education will inform the secular Jews at PBS that they undercounted the number of mitzvos by 603, and will soon appoint an Undersecretary for Tzitzis Checking!
(Reb Yudel)

Numbering the tribes of kosherdom

Apropos of yesterday's venture into demographic predictions, and Zach Berger's musings about Conservative Judaism, Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz, research director of the National Jewish Population Study, posted to the H-Judaica email list some figures about Jews who keep kosher in the house but not out of it.

Details after the jump.

The National Jewish Population Survery 2000-01 asked two questions about keeping kosher:

1. Do you keep kosher in your home? If yes, then:

2. Outside your home, do you keep kosher?

The survey data are weighted to provide population estimates. Some quick data runs show that approximately 700,000 Jewish adults (18 years older or older) say they keep kosher in their home, and of those, about 425,000 also keep kosher outside their home. The difference - about 275,000 - are those who keep kosher in their home but not outside (or provided answers that indicate their observance outside the home is somewhat lax).

Furthermore, about half of those who keep kosher in but not out are Conservative, but all the denominations/movements are represented in this group to varying degrees.

These are rough estimates

(Reb Yudel)

D.C. Jewish icon just painted a target on his back

Say it ain't so, Joe. But sadly, it is. Joe Lieberman's ongoing distancing from Bill Clinton has pushed him into a tight embrace with Condi Rice. And that leaves Daily Kos looking for an alternative Democrat to represent CT.
(Reb Yudel)

Bush moral values make our Chinese financiers very, very happy

Andrew Sullivan reports:
A journalist friend of mine who has good sources in the Chinese government recently asked them what their response was to Abu Ghraib. He told me they smiled broadly.

"Oh, we loved Abu Ghraib," they replied. "We just hope your president doesn't start preaching to us about human rights any time soon."

(Reb Yudel)

Margaret Spellings addresses Buster Baxter: For the record

Posted for easy reference.... and avoid anything disappearing down the memory hole.

January 25, 2005 -- Letter to Ms. Pat Mitchell regarding the Department of Education's concerns about a Ready-To-Learn television episode developed under a cooperative agreement between the Department and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)


ELEMENTARY & SECONDARY EDUCATION
Key Policy Letters Signed by the Education Secretary or Deputy Secretary
January 2005

January 25, 2005

Ms. Pat Mitchell
President and Chief Executive Officer
Public Broadcasting Service
1320 Braddock Place
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

Dear Ms. Mitchell:

The Department of Education has strong and very serious concerns about a specific Ready-To-Learn television episode, yet to be aired, that has been developed under a cooperative agreement between the Department and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). The episode -- "Sugartime!" -- is part of the "Postcards from Buster" series, and would feature throughout the show families headed by gay couples.

As you know, the cooperative agreement that PBS is using to support these programs is designed to prepare preschool and elementary age children for school. A principal focus of the law authorizing funding for the Ready-To-Learn program is facilitating student academic achievement. In the fiscal year 2005 appropriations conference report (H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 108-792 at 1236-1237 (2004)), Congress reiterated the unique mission of Ready-To-Learn, which is "to use the television medium to help prepare preschool age children for school. The television programs that must fulfill this mission are to be specifically designed for this purpose, with the highest attention to production quality and validity of research-based educational objectives, content, and materials." In addition, you should also know that two years ago the Senate Appropriations Committee raised questions about the accountability of funds appropriated for Ready-To-Learn programs.

We believe the "Sugartime!" episode does not come within these purposes or within the intent of Congress, and would undermine the overall objective of the Ready-To-Learn program -- to produce programming that reaches as many children and families as possible. Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the life-styles portrayed in this episode. Congress' and the Department's purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television.

In light of these concerns, we have several requests. First, if you air the show, we must insist that you remove from the specific episode the Department's seal, as well as any other logo or statement indicating that the Department funded, endorsed, sponsored or was involved in the development, creation, or production of the episode, and, in addition, that you also remove any such reference in any materials about the program. Second, we request that you notify your member stations of the nature of the content of these programs and ask that they review the programs before deciding whether to air them. Third, in the interest of avoiding embroiling the Ready-To-Learn program in a controversy that will only hurt the program, we believe you should strongly consider refunding to the Department the Federal education funds that were used for the episode.

Finally, you can be assured that in the future the Department will be more clear as to its expectations for any future programming that it funds.

Sincerely,

/s/

Margaret Spellings

(Reb Yudel)

Speaking of halachic change...

Found while researching yesterday's discussion about the future of American Judaism: The Amish in the Year 2100 A, which claims: "The Amish had pretty much discontinued using the horse and buggy by 2060 A.D."

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Bibik Sharonyahu

I've said for years that, over time, all Israeli leaders begin to look alike.* But Gawker beat me to it.


* Unless you are Menachem Begin. Then you begin to look like Jean-Paul Sartre.**

** Or, perhaps, Shimon Peres, in which case you look ever more like the Scarecrow from "Wizard of Oz."

January 25, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Mormons, Muslims and Catholics seek Jewish partner for anti-sex jihad

So who's going to be the Jewish face at the table as the "every-sperm-is-sacred" crowd tries to win over the U.N. to what the Guardian calls a Fundamental union?

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a controversial Islamic scholar who approves of wife-beating and believes in traditional family values. The Mormon church, having abandoned polygamy more than a century ago, believes in traditional families too.

With that much in common, they have joined forces to "defend the family" and fight progressive social policies at the United Nations.

Other members of the holy alliance include Cardinal Alfonso Trujillo, who campaigns against condoms on behalf of the Catholic church, and Mahathir Mohamad, the dictatorial former prime minister of Malaysia who sacked and jailed his deputy for alleged homosexuality.

They all met in Doha, the capital of Qatar, last November for what was officially described as a conference to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the UN's Year of the Family. In reality, it brought together some of the world's most socially conservative religious forces.


Give these guys credit. Enough with the U.N. worrying about global warming and the melting of the ice caps. True believers know that the fate of the world rests solely in the hands of God, and God, omnipotent deity of the world that he is, cares not for glaciers, penguins or the will of man, but only about one thing: sex.

So who will join up this bold alliance? Who will be the Jew who says, yes, terrorism and pogroms are bad, but homosexuality, divorce and masturbation are far, far worse?

Will it be Barry Freundel, who showed his bold interfaith leanings by allying against gay marriage with otherwise anti-semitic Islamicists?

Perhaps Danny Lapin, whose outrage at pornography has led him to quote Hitler.... approvingly, thus upending Godwin's law in a way too perverse to contemplate?

Who would you nominate for this coalition?

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Pipes' dream

Math quiz: Can somebody tell me how soon, based on the numbers Daniel Pipes cites below in this article, Orthodox Jews will again constitute the "great majority" of Jews?

The subsequent 60 years, however, witnessed a resurgence of the Orthodox element. This was, again, due to many factors, especially a tendency among the non-Orthodox to marry non-Jews and have fewer children. Recent figures on America published by the National Jewish Population Survey also point in this direction. The Orthodox proportion of American synagogue members, for example, went from 11% in 1971 to 16% in 1990 to 21% in 2000-01. (In absolute numbers, it bears noting, the American Jewish population went steadily down during these decades.)

Should this trend continue, it is conceivable that the ratio will return to roughly where it was two centuries ago, with the Orthodox again constituting the great majority of Jews. Were that to happen, the non-Orthodox phenomenon could seem in retrospect merely an episode, an interesting, eventful, consequential, and yet doomed search for alternatives, suggesting that living by the law may be essential for maintaining a Jewish identity over the long term.

January 24, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Gonzales: The anti-truth attorney general

It sounds like another typical story about our post-accountability-moment president:

"In public, they were making a big show of how he was prepared to serve," said Crain. "In the back room, they were trying to get him off."
The difference is that this Newsweek piece, Gonzales: Did He Help Bush Keep His DUI Quiet? describes the behavior of our next attorney general.

Maybe our representatives should see if they can torture the truth out of him?

(Reb Yudel)

Scion of televangelist poses question: Who are the scions of of Zion?

Who are the Jewish equivalents Jamie Charles Bakker, the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker profiled in the New York Times Magazine piece The Punk-Christian Son of a Preacher Man?
A booth in the back sold T-shirts and buttons with the ministry's slogan, ''Religion Kills.'' ''Maybe this is what the postmodern church is supposed to look like,'' he said. ''For the first time I feel we're having some peace in this, we're starting a church where there is no church. We're not the first to do this, but for Revolution, it's a big step.''
Who's building the post-modern synagogue? Anyone out there besides Amichai Lau-Lavie?
(Reb Yudel)

Mr. President, what should I study in community college?

Remember how during the debate the president promised that we could all retrain at community colleges? Take a look at the following news item and then answer the question that follows.

Pfizer Outsources Trial Management to Cognizant January 24,

Pfizer Inc. is outsourcing high-end business processes in clinical data management and biometrics to Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., an offshore outsourcing company based in Teaneck, New Jersey, with operations in India.

Pfizer Global Research and Development, through its Indian affiliate, announced the multiyear business process outsourcing relationship on Monday. Cognizant will provide database design, data management, programming and clinical communication or medical writing as part of the deal.

So, Mr. President, if Pfizer is outsourcing programming and writing jobs to India.... what careers do you see as local growth industries?

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Safire is what closes on Monday morning

As William Safire says goodbye to NY Times readers, I say goodbye to William Safire. It turns out I'll miss the big guy:

Safire might have had a moderating influence on the Right as Israel heads toward a showdown over the withdrawal from Gaza. It’s the same kind of influence Friedman wields whenever he reminds the Jewish Left that it’s not just a right-wing fantasy that the Arab world can be corrupt, fascistic, and indulgent toward terrorists.

January 23, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Advanced Talmud class/shiur from Rabbi David Weiss-Halivni

Video and audio of a public shiur, courtesy of his Institute of Traditional Judaism - The Metivta

January 22, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

What's new in heresy?

Anybody hear anything about last week's conference at Princeton,
"Making Selves and Marking Others: Heresy and Self-Definition in Late Antiquity"?

Of particular interest to Talmudists would be Burton L. Visotzky's session, “Goys Rn't Us: Rabbinic Anti-Gentile Polemic in Yerushalmi Berachot 9:1 as a Means of Exploring Communal Borders within the Social and Religious Context of Late-Antique Christian Rome.”

January 21, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Holzel and the Jokerman

Today I belatedly watched the 60 Minutes interview with Dylan. It was as pathetic as could be imagine. Why not ask Bob what books and music he's reading and listening to these days? Or maybe a simple followup question on his remarks about Zionism and Buddhism? While we're stuck with the 60 Minutes interviewers we have, David Holzel provides us with the Dylan interview we'd like to have. Enjoy.

January 20, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Rabbinical thoughts for inauguration day

Nationalism is not the same thing as patriotism. It is far more difficult to be a patriot, for it is the patriot's job to be on constant vigil lest the authentic values of his society be lost. The patriot must never be a rubberstamp constantly applauding the powers that be, but rather he must continually demand an even higher level of justice and compassion in society.
-- Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer, letter printed in the Buenos Aires Herald, August 26, 1978. The author's name was withheld to protect his safety. Reprinted in You Are My Witness: The Living Words of Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer, St. Martin's Press, 2004.

January 19, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Is this what the Talmud means by 'migo l'hotzi'?

From Engadget.com: Migo watch takes your desktop settings with you:

We first heard of the Migo Personal software, which lets you store all your Windows desktop settings on an iPod or USB key, a few months ago. Well, now they’ve gone and made Migo available in watch form (and you know how we dig watches). It’s certainly not as ugly as some gadget watches we’ve seen, and the 512MB storage is nice, but the $230 price tag is a bit hard to swallow. Although, believe it or not, that’s the same price they charge for their 512MB USB key.

(Reb Yudel)

Lebanon keeps arak-ing along

The New York Times reports thatLebanon's Stills, Chilled by War, Are Rekindling the Old Fire:

"Arak from the village is like the sons of the village: pure," he said. "If you use good grapes, if you keep the entire process clean, if you distill the mash well, if you use good aniseed, everyone can make good arak."

Fans claim that arak (the name is sometimes transliterated as arrack) is the sole drink to accompany meze, which relies heavily on lemon and tangy spices. Wine and whiskey tend to clash with the myriad flavors, while arak washes the taste buds, refreshing the palate for each new dish: bitter olives, dewy goat's cheese, radishes, tabbouleh, raw minced lamb, zucchini with cinnamon, potatoes in coriander, mashed eggplant with garlic or chicken livers in pomegranate juice, to name just a few.

Grapes? Who knew that Choo-choo Charlies favorite drink was made with grapes? I guess that explaines why Carmel sold it so cheaply.

Then again, really cheap Arak dispenses with the grapes:

Arak, especially the artisanal or village variety, is undergoing something of a revival in Lebanon. Like the country itself, the drink suffered a tangible corrosion during the 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990. The question now is just how much of an appetite exists for the drink among a younger generation wooed away by wine, beer, whiskey and sake.

The problem, arak producers say, is that the start of the war in 1975 coincided with the arrival in Lebanon of new machines that let producers throw any old mash at one end (fermented molasses from beet roots was popular), along with a little chemical anise flavoring, and — presto! — a dubious distillation spewed out the other end, to be sold as arak.

Its coarseness often caused blinding headaches. But with the old arak distilleries in downtown Beirut largely bombed out and shells whizzing overhead, consumers were not particularly discriminating. Any cheap sedative would do.

(Reb Yudel)

Finally some good news for the Democrats

The New York Observer reports Old Democrats Hanging It Up
Mr. Shrum, 61, is retiring from the political-consulting business altogether. He will move from the Washington area to an apartment in Chelsea and will teach at New York University.
I would have preferred that he be strung up from a lamppost, given his unforgivable failure to understand how George Bush was elected in the first place, but I'll settle for an academic sinecure. I just hope that his NYU students give him an appropriate amount of grief.
(Reb Yudel)

Jewish education... back to basics?

Marvin Shick writes on Cross-Currents:
Could it be that after too many years of sending out the message that basic Torah education at the elementary and high school levels is not a community responsibility or tzedakah priority, Torah leaders are coming to realize that yeshivas and day schools, as well as their faculty, are suffering and a new message advocating support for our most vital institutions needs to be sent out?

January 18, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

All along the telegraph: JTA fails to evolve

What's the role of a Jewish weekly newspaper in a blog-based world?

For that matter, what's the role of a Jewish blog that takes off a week here for a server change, a holiday there to take the kids to the aquarium, and then finds itself hopelessly without comment on the stories of the moment?

I'm not sure of the answer to the former question. But you can bet you won't find it at everyone's favorite Jewish telegraphic agency, which today decided that the Jewish angle on the Cobb County anti-evolution stickers is that.... Avi Shafran isn't willing to go on record loudly opposing evolution:

“If one teaches that the human being is just an evolved ape, and that our consciences and sense that we have a soul and free will are just phantasm — that road leads to amorality,” said Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, a fervently Orthodox group.

“It leads to it being impossible to say that any particular way of living is right or wrong.”

“It’s perfectly reasonable to hope that teachers teach students that there is such a thing as a religious approach,” Shafran added.

While I wouldn't expect the JTA to challenge Shafran as to whether his idea of "morality" still includes the idea of exterminating "like vermin" several of the other rabbis quoted in the article, the piece might be a bit more timely if it had, say, at least alluded to the current controversy about the banning of Rabbi Slifka's books -- one of the big stories I have neglected to blog. Other worthy recent posts on the matter can be found at Luke Ford, Gil Student (who is picking up the banned books in question) and the House of Hock, to name just a few.

I wonder how the Jewish newspapers who rely on JTA for their news will feel when they read the Slifkin story on Thursday at the Forward or the Jewish Week. Will they simply say "Dash it!"? Or something altogether Morse?


January 17, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Rochestarians Dream the Darndest Dreams!

From Rochester's Democrat & Chronicle business section:

Denise Williams, the Rochester area's newest funeral home owner, is fulfilling a youthful dream.

When she was an 8-year-old living in the city's 19th Ward, Williams' uncle died suddenly and her mother had taken her children out of school to attend the out-of-town service.

The activity surrounding the burial had a lasting effect on her.

"To have seen him last so jovial in jeans and a T-shirt and the next time to see him cold but he's all dressed up, and to have been through everything to get to that point, I said I wanted to be a funeral director," she said. "Actually, I said I wanted to put people in caskets."

(Reb Yudel)

Summary of Facts on the Book Banning Controversy

By Bnei Levi

After reading on reactions from the blogsphere on the current controversy surrounding the ban on books written by Rabbi Nosson Slifkin, I wanted to add briefly summarize the facts of what has taken place so far.

1. On Erev Yom Kippur of this year a poster banning the books as heresy was distributed in Israel. It was signed by Rabbi Yisroel Eliyahu Weintraub of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Michal Yehudah Lefkovitz (Rosh Yeshiva of the Ponevezh Yeshiva Ketana a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Degel HaTorah), and Rabbi Yitchak Sheiner (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Kamenitz). The text of the poster consists of three separate paragraph, the first signed by R' Weintraub, the second by R' Lefkowitz and the third in a box added by R' Sheiner.

(It is interesting to note that Rabbis Weintraub and Lefkowitz have issued a joint statement about 2 years ago on the subject of "concerning organized tours to Lithuania and other sites outside of the Land of Israel under the guise of pilgrimages to gravesites of our great rabbis". R' Weintraub issued the original letter, with R' Lefkowitz signing on and affirming it, similar to what occured here)

2. Apparently, a package of 37 pages from various books written by Rabbi Nosson Slifkin was passed around various Rosh Yeshiva who added their signatures to the original ban. Copies of the original package are not up yet, but R' Nosson Slifkin has written a 20 page response to them.

3. The Yated Ne'eman, a chareidi newspaper in Israel (not the same one as the American Yated), published an article on January 7th, 2005 about the ban including a second poster containing signatures of multiple Rosh Yeshivah. The text in the second poster is IDENTICAL to the second paragraph that appeared in the first poster, but in addition to the signature of R' Lefkowitz, it contains numerous other signatures including many American Rosh Yeshiva (contact info for the signers can be found at DovBear).

4. An English version of the Yaated article appeared in the European Yated, and published at Shema Yisrael. The article claims that R' Nosson Slifkin was given a chance to explain himself, R' Slifkin has responded to that in a rebuttal explaining what took place.

5. Following the issuance of the ban, Feldheim and Targum have decided to stop publishing and distributing R' Slifkin's books. R' Gil Student of Hirhurim took over the distribution and publication via his company, Yashar Books.

6. Following the issuance of the ban, Aish Hatorah removed all articles written by R' Slifkin and most that were written by Dr. Gerald Shroder from their website.

7. R' Yitzhak Adlerstein has responded with a post supporting R' Slifkin. That makes R' Gil Student, R' Chaim Malinovitz and R' Adlerstein the only two three rabbonim so far publically supporting R' Slifkin.

THIS CONTINUES IN PART 2

UPDATE: Steven I. Weiss has post on reaction from the OU which seems to be supportive of R' Slifkin as well.

UPDATE #2: Luke Ford weighs in with an email from R' Ari Kahn, formerly of Aish Hatorah describing an incidents involving R' Yaakov Weinberg Zt"l (Rosh Yeshiva Ner Yisroel) who seemingly approved of similar matters, and an incidents with a Din Torah against Aish Hatorah in Eretz Yisroel overseen by R' Moshe Shteirnbuch who seemingly accepted this as well. See the email for exact details (hat tip to Shmarya). There is also a post quoting R' Yosef Blau of YU from Canonist.


UPDATE #3: Boruch provides some background).

For reactions from the blogs, see House of Hock, Hirhurim and Dov Bear.

January 16, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

The Struggle for Social Security

Whiskey Bar has the relevant sources. Go and learn.

January 14, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Jewish journalism and Jewish camping, done right

Kudos to Johanna Ginsberg who is becoming one of the few must-read reporters in Jewish journalism. Johanna works under Andy at the New Jersey Jewish News, so she's writing obstensibly local news story. But week after week, I find that she compellingly captures a real slice of American Jewish life.

Some weeks, she practically begs every other local Jewish newspaper to rewrite the story with local interviews -- such as a piece earlier this year on the difficulties of carpooling to Hebrew school. On one level, it seems a profoundly trivial topic. But on second thought, it reflects the real place where abstract Jewish commitment meets the day-to-day grind of life as it is lived -- which, here in suburbia, means life behind the wheel.

Some times, though, the local angle is just a brilliant veneer on a truly national story. Take, for example last week's piece Happy (specialized) campers as she gets both the local and national angle on a new breed of Jewish summer camps:

In the idyllic setting of the Berkshire Mountains, a region known for its cultural arts offerings, campers with a special interest in music and arts gather in the morning to study a Judaic text; in the afternoon, they create an artistic representation of that text.

The activity is what Rabbi Daniel Lehmann calls “a performance beit midrash,” and it takes place on the grounds of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. Last summer the camp, known as the Berkshire Institute for Music and Arts (BIMA), attracted 42 students, including seven from Israel.

“I went to music camp, and I have children involved in music and art. I felt there was no place where those interests could be pursued in a Jewish setting, supportive of Jewish life,” said Lehmann, founder and executive director of the four-week camp.

For fun, count the sources interviewed for the story. Is there anything in this week's Jewish Week or Forward that reflects so much work?

January 13, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Jews Bush can Use

Remember the last time a Jewish group -- even a partisan one -- shilled openly for the White House?

Me neither.

Josh Marshall notes that the Republican Jewish Coalition is joining the ranks of those lying on behalf of the presidential plan to revoke Social Security, scuttle the New Deal, and use the FICA tax I've been paying these past decades to fund its zany tax-cut schemes.

That the Republican Jewish Coalition is now manning the advertising barricades perhaps shouldn't be such a surprise; its national chairman, Sam Fox, paid for some high profile advertisements supporting the nomination of John Ashcroft as attorney general.

Still, it might be worth asking some Fox's fellow Jewish Republicans -- say, Jewish Agency grandfather Max M. Fisher or Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus -- whether their commitment to "to building a strong, effective and respected Jewish Republican voice in Washington and across the country"
really means becoming the same sycophantic, knee-jerk party-line hacks for which fellow Republican Jewish Coalition board-member Ari Fleischer won his fame and fortune.

(Reb Yudel)

Tree of Life Attacked for Sexlessness

The new issue of Conservative Judaism features an incisive critique by Michael Satlow of the recently-published Etz Haim Torah commentary (PDF available here).

Satlow complains that the commentary reflects none of the scholarship on sexuality that he and others have undertaken in the past generation. Rather than highlighting the difficulties with the Torah's notions on such issues as polygamy and child marriage, Etz Haim would have Conservative congregants believe that the Torah shares the sexual values of contemporary suburban America.

(Reb Yudel)

Pardon the Dust

Welcome to the relocated home of YudelLine. Hopefully -- other than the brief outage -- the shift to a new server will bring only good things to you, to YudelLine, and to all of clal yisrael.

I will be making some changes behind the scenes aimed at cracking down on spam. If you've been commenting in hopes of promoting your fly-by-night web schemes... well, too bad. If you want to comment, but find the present settings make it too difficult for you -- by all means, let me know. There are a lot of new knobs and dials and switches I'm still playing with on the new server, and I haven't even unfolded the instructions enough to determine whether written in Japanese or Korean.

January 12, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Is this better or worse taste than the Holocaust gold scam?

At least someone in a Nigerian cyber-cafe is following the news:

Date: 1/12/2005 14:44:40 +0200
From: "Mrs Suha Arafat"
To: mrssuhaarafat@teenmail.co.za
Subject: Trusted Partner for Investment/Safe Keep

Dear Intending partner

This mail may not be surprising to you if you have been
following current events in the international media with
reference to the Middle East and Palestine in particular.

I am Mrs. SUHA ARAFAT, the wife of YASSER ARAFAT, the
Palestinian leader who died recently in Paris.

Since his death and even prior to the announcement, I have
been thrown into a state of antagonism,confusion,
humiliation, frustration and hopelessness by the present
leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and
the new Prime Minister. I have even been subjected to
physical and psychological torture. As a widow that is so
traumatized, I have lost confidence with everybody in the
country at the moment.

You must have heard over the media reports and the
Internet on the discovery of some fund in my husband
secret bank account and companies and the allegations of
some huge sums of money deposited by my husband in my name
of which I have refuses to disclose or give up to the
corrupt Palestine Government. In fact the total sum
allegedly discovered by the Government so far is in the
tune of about $6.5 Billion Dollars. And they are not
relenting on their effort to make me poor for life. As you
know, the Moslem community has no regards for woman, hence
my desire for a foreign assistance. You can visit the BBC
news broadcast below for better understanding of what I am
talking about;
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3479937.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3995769.stm


If you're interested in following up on this offer, drop me a line....

(Reb Yudel)

Moving so fast that time has stopped

Maybe Einsteinian physics isn't necessary to explain the current on-again off-again state of YudelLine. It would be enough to describe a move from one hosting company to another, at a time when both hosting companies are shifting the machines on which this site has been / will be hosted.

But really, relativity theory is much more interesting -- and practical -- than the theory of general server-side stupidity in which I have been embroiled, and probably will be embroiled for a few more days.

Hope to see you soon on the other side of this all.

January 10, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

When smart maskilim have stupid descendants

Does anyone remember Isaac Ha-Levi Satanow? From the Jewish Encylopedia:
Scholar and poet; born at Satanow, Poland, 1733; died in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 25, 1805. In early manhood he left his native country and went to the Prussian capital in search of learning. There he became the protégé of Isaac Daniel and David Friedländer, who procured for him employment as a teacher in some prominent families.

Satanow represents a peculiar type. Like Byron, he was, both physically and mentally, a conglomeration of contrasts. He dressed in the garb of the Polish Jew of the period, yet was a thorough German in his actions and habits. Though Orthodox in his beliefs, he nevertheless favored Reform in practise. He was one of the greatest authorities on Jewish tradition and lore, yet he was one of the most free-thinking of philosophers. He was a shrewd physicist and an inspired poet; a realist and an idealist. While writing his "Mishle Asaf," a work in which the noblest thoughts are expressed in the choicest diction, he did not disdain at the same time to write a treatise on how to drill holes through three hundred pearls in one day and how to mix successfully different kinds of liquors. Even in the most earnest and solemn of his writings there can always be detected an undercurrent of the most playful humor.

Smart guy. His great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson? Not so smart, as Jon Stewart would say.

Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, it turns out, is one of those medical types who puts his medical degree in service of the political.

According to Wired.com, where I first ran across this character, reports that he recently testified at the Congressional hearing on "The Science Behind Pornography Addiction" that pornography "causes masturbation." His testimony also expressed concern that

Prolonged exposure to pornography fosters increased estimates of the incidence of pre- and extramarital sexual activity, as well as increased assessments of male and female promiscuity.
Hmm. That's funny. They say the same thing about Fox News and assessments of weapons of mass destruction.

But don't take my word for it. I'm a liberal, and the good doctor has a diagnosis for that too: As he quotes one of his admirers as writing:

What it comes down to is that liberalism causes brain damage. Liberals are not just unwilling to engage in rational thought, they are, after just so long, incapable of it. Of course, young liberals sometimes recover—in youth, the development of the brain is still a flexible process and bad mental habits can still be unlearned, something I, as a recovered liberal, am in a position to know. But it has been my observation that middle-aged and elderly liberals are pretty much lost causes—the brain damage is probably irreversible (maybe neurosurgeons will come up with some kind of procedure for it, though).

Of course, it doesn’t stop at the level of the individual brain—this process metastasizes to the population, through the media and the educational system. Psychologists have long suspected that when a child’s mind is not stimulated early in life, or not stimulated in the right ways, the child’s brain simply does not develop as it should. Yet our liberal-dominated schools today do very little to develop in children habits of clear, rational, analytic thought while the equally liberal-dominated media do a great deal to inculcate habits of seeking immediate gratification, forming opinions on the basis of feelings rather than reason, etc. For many years now liberal educators have laughed at the idea that certain kinds of educational disciplines, things like formal logic and Latin grammar, could in effect exercise the brain, but now the science of neurology is telling us that this is probably exactly what happens.

This dumbing-down does not just result in adults who are ignorant but might somehow be educated. It leads to adults with brain damage. It is in fact quite likely that, of the roughly 70% of the population who approve of, say, Bill Clinton, a substantial portion are in fact borderline mentally retarded as a result of liberal influence on the schools and the media. And that situation is incompatible with the existence of a republic. We are in deep trouble.

I wonder when he'll be summoned before a Congressional committee investigating the problems of liberalism....

January 7, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

One from Column A...

So here's a question: Say you are a religion reporter for a daily newspaper and you need a quote on the "Jewish perspective" on God and the tsunami, or any other topic. Do you pick your source by denomination (and let me limit the exercise: you write for a general interest publication, not a Jewish one, with room only for one Jewish clergyperson, not one each from the major Jewish denominations)?

I wonder if the first impulse would be to call an Orthodox rabbi, under the impression that you'd be getting a pespective that most closely hews to whatever it is we call "tradition."

The local Reform rabbi, on the other hand, probably speaks for more local Jews, but would he or she be offering a truly "Jewish" perspective or one more reflective of liberal sprituality and ethics ingeneral (I neither endorse nor deny these generalizations -- I'm just guessing how a reporter is likely to think).

Or is the best bet to go with a Conservative rabbi, whose movement considers itself grounded in halakhah but open to "legal innovations" (as Joseph Telushkin describes it in Jewish Literacy, a book I'm guessing a reporter at a general interest newspaper would be more likely to consult than a publication by the movement itself).

Or might you skip the whole exercise and instead find a professor of Jewish thought who ostensibly would offer a disinterested "Jewish view" with no denominational biases?

I'd love to hear from religion reporters on this. But I think it is important for regular Jews to think about it as well -- it could tell you a lot about your own preferences and prejudices. Andit might also raise a yellow flag whenever we read a religion piece about the "Christian" or "evangelical" view -- when we should ask similar questions about diversity among clergy.

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Who knows Sri?

This week's NJJN editor's column, on the rush to judgment over Israel and Sri Lanka.

(Reb Yudel)

2339 years and one month later....

we belatedly present this Daily Show clip in which Steven Colbert searches for the true meaning of Chanukah.
(Reb Yudel)

Iraq war leaves IAF scrambling

The headline of the Jerusalem Post article is "IAF scrambles jets as Egypt's airliners violate airspace" The story tells of the increasing number of Egyptian civilian planes getting frighteningly close to Eilat, noting that

Only four people have the authority to order the downing of a passenger jet – the prime minister, defense minister, chief of General Staff and commander of the air force. The threat of a hijacked plane being crashed into an Israeli target is so worrisome that a test-drill, with aides to each of the key quartet, is held every week.
But there's more bad news from whoever it is in the IAF who has apparently decided that it's time to pressure the U.S. (via the media) to pressure Egypt to stop these games: They're scared they may being paying a price in security for Bush's adventures in Iraq:
The Egyptian flights aside, one of the main worries in the IAF relates to Saudi Arabia's F-15 squadron in Tabuq. Until last year, Saudi Arabia had been restricted by the US from deploying F-15s at Tabuq to minimize friction with Israel. But the US, which sold the planes to the Saudis in 1991, lifted that restriction as a modest concession in return for Saudi approval for overflights for US aircraft and missiles striking Iraq.

Last September, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon warned of a possible strike by an F-15 flown by a Saudi pilot who had been recruited by al-Qaida. He said Israel had asked the Americans to pressure Saudi Arabia to move the squadron out of quick striking range, but nothing changed.

Well, if we're winning the war on terror, I guess it's alright then....

January 6, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Meanwhile, back in Babylonia....

Iraqi insurgents demonstrate their "desperation" through bombings for the 16th month, as Matthew Yglesias documents. And Norwegianity asks, Why do they hate our troops?

(Reb Yudel)

A kiddush hashem from Shmuley on Scarborough Country

Thanks to Dov Bear for linking to MSNBC - 'Scarborough Country' where only the Jews are sane. One is an atheist. The other: Rabbi Boteach:
God said, do not kill. He said, life is precious. So we have to come before him. And the word Israel means to fight with God, to wrestle with God and say, how do you allow this kind of thing? We are not cosmic chaff. We have a right to be angry. It's an honest religious relationship.
(Reb Yudel)

A commerical for Mishpacha.org

(Modified 5.25.06 because the Google AdSense robot didn't get the joke.)

There actually is a Jewish public service hidden behind the colorful "Mishpacha: A virtual community for real parents" button over yonder on the left.

In the past, Mishpacha has successfully helped connect Jews to Judaism and the Jewish community. People from across America came together, learned a bit about Judaism, and discovered that the whole Jewish community thing isn't quite as scary as its made out to be.

Mishpacha doesn't try to convince people of the ways of a self-styled, one-true-path Judaism. It's much more interested in helping people connect to the their own Jewish journeys, to use the language popularized by sociologist Bethamie Horowitz.

The result was increased engagement in Jewish life by participants.

Most impressive was the participant who dropped out after only a few weeks. It seemed she was afraid to go to the synagogue because it seemed like a closed club.

Once she heard from other program participants -- and the moderator -- that plenty of people in the pews find the rabbi boring and pedantic, that showing up didn't mean buying-in to the whole megillah first, she decided to get involved in the synagogue. She quickly became so involved she had no time to log-in to Mishpacha.

I bring this all up now because Mishpacha is hoping to launch another session shortly. During the dot-com boom, we were financed by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. Since then, I've kept Mishpacha on hiatus. Now, there's interest from a small congregation so we're getting to roll again.

If you're the sort of very involved, Jewishly-obsessed person from whom Andy and I are blogging -- well, Mishpacha is most probably not for you.

However... you might know some people for whom it might be a good fit.

Young parents, asking questions about religion now that they have children. People who ask you to recommend introductory books about Judaism. Maybe even -- and here my voice drops to a whisper lest certain people overhear and freak out -- intermarried families.

So... if you think you know anyone who fits the bill... Check out the program. Email me if you have any questions. And tell them that IF THEY ACT NOW, THEY CAN JOIN MISHPACHA FOR NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE. And, FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY, they can get a free one-year subscription to YudelLine. But that's not all....

No, really, preaching the money-saving thing would be dishonest. It's not as bad as selling Kabbalah-water to the drowned, but for those who enjoyed Mishpacha and went on to join congregations, it did end up costing a pretty penny.

But the limited time thing is real. We hope to assemble a group of about 20 families, and once we launch this group, who knows when the next one will get together?

(Reb Yudel)

Republican: Gut social security or give Arafat a posthumous victory!

Via Talking Points Memo by Joshua Micah Marshall comes this choice bit of Republican rhetoric:

"The president is going to go ahead," said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a Republican leadership lieutenant. "He cannot afford to fail. It would have repercussions for the rest of his program, including foreign policy. We can't hand the president a defeat on his major domestic initiative at a time of war."

Oh, I see. If we don't gut social security, we're giving in to the enemy.... who are, of course, the terrorists. Even Arafat is dead, do you want bin Laden shepping nachas? (Actually, before finishing off Social Security, shouldn't Bush finish off bin Laden as promised three years ago?)

Hmmm. Interesting logic. And perhaps a chance for the Democrats to reframe this bogus debate.

You see, it's pretty clear that at the core of the Bush "ownership society" is six decades of opposition to President "Rosenfeldt"'s "socialist" destruction of America.

Or as Karl Rove's deputy put it (scroll down from the link above)

"For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win -- and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country."
That is to say, this is a battle being waged by FDR's longtime enemies. Or -- at least by the logic of Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma -- going along with Bush's agenda would be to grant Hitler a posthumous victory.

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Toward what tradition, exactly?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, president of Toward Tradition, recycles his thesis that third-world countries get what they deserve because they lack the "influence of Biblical culture":


Western civilizations second distinctive cultural imperative is the importance of preserving human life. This too derives directly from our Biblical roots and distinguishes us from the peculiar fatalism toward death found in so many other cultures.....Many of the deaths are attributable to slowness in adopting the western values that promote technical and economic development along with profound respect for each human life.

As I asked last year, didn't most of the scientific advances he credits to "Judeo-Christian" culture occur after the church relinquished its stanglehold on the West? Did the Inquisition, the Crusades, slavery, and the exploitation of African and Asian colonies by the West display "a profound respect for each human life"? I'm not even going to play the Holocaust card, because Lapin and his apologists will insist that Nazism was anti-Christian and pagan. But it didn't take root in Hindu or Buddhist culture, did it?

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

His eye is on the sparrow...

Ron Rosenbaum addresses God and the tsunami:

Let me concede that yes, there are many paths to faith, but it is an underappreciated scandal that, philosophically, the "age old question" of theodicy has not been satisfactorily answered without resort to vague evasions ("Its all a mystery," "We just cant understand Gods plan," "It will allow good to manifest itself in the hearts of the survivors," "We live in a fallen world," "The dead are better off in heaven").

To which GetReligion's Timothy Lott replies somewhat, uh, vaguely:
I'd issue some kind of grand retort here but, like I said, this stuff just does not move me. That people are rotten, or that the earth shakes, it seems to me, do not count for much against the possibility of a good and loving God whose actions in this world are not always easy to discern or explain.

January 5, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

But sadistically, folks...

Total crap from Jackie Mason and Raoul Felder, who argue that America withhold aid from tsunami-stricken nations:

[T]here should be a precondition that before these nations receive any aid, they should clearly denounce terrorism and, at the very least, discontinue the state-sponsored anti-American drivel heard in that part of the world.... Perhaps the strongest practical reason to hold up monies is the fact that we do not know that the money will actually reach the intended recipients. In fact, history tells us the contrary.

They base much of their argument on the erroneous notion that Indonesia, India, and Sri Lanka rejected offers of aid from the Israelis. As the New Jersey Jewish News will report tomorrow (I'll put up the link when it's ready):

The government of Israel is continuing to provide aid and assistance to tsunami victims in Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka. At press time, Israel had sent more than 82 tons of supplies to Sri Lanka, including 10,000 blankets, 3,680 liters of mineral water, 12 tons of food, 1,750 tins of baby food, over nine tons of medicine and additional supplies such as generators, tents, beds, and mattresses, according to its foreign ministrys Web site. A consignment to Thailand included medicines worth $600,000, along with surgical masks and body bags. The government of Israel often sends aid and experts to other countries when there is an earthquake or other disasters, said Arye Mekel, Israels consul general in New York. This time, most of our aid went to Thailand, because we knew lots of Israelis were vacationing there. We sent body recovery experts from Zaka, and identification experts from the police. Not only did they help locate and identify Israelis and other Jewish bodies, but they helped identify hundreds of other bodies as well, Mekel told the NJ Jewish News. We also provided aid to India, he said, adding that no aid was offered to or requested by Indonesia, a predominately Muslim nation which had no diplomatic relations with Israel. Contrary to reports that the Sri Lanka had rejected offers of Israeli aid, Israeli sent humanitarian aid and medical supplies to the island nation, including medicines worth over $100,000. The donation was welcomed by the Sri Lankan authorities, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mason and Felder's argument is repugnant on so many levels, but basically it says, "Let the widows and orphans starve until their governments come around." Never mind that, as the Wall Street Journal reports today on page one, "Aid Effort in Indonesia Could Lift U.S. Image in Eyes of Muslims." No, let's bomb them and starve them until they learn to love us.

As for their argument that the aid may not reach the recipients, the same Journal story reports:

For the U.S., the diplomatic opportunities are greatest in Indonesia... There, the U.S. has outdone even the country's own government in running food and rescue missions in Northern Sumatra, where more than 90,000 people died....[S]ome observers there say their arrival already has changed attitudes toward the U.S. for the better."

January 4, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

You watch: In 500 years we'll make a holiday out of it

Israeli police apologize to Shas lawmaker for clocking his car at 145 mph. Why? Because his Mazda 6 is supposed to be able to reach only 110 mph.

(Reb Yudel)

Baruch Dayan Emet: Will Eisner dead at 87

Will Eisner dead at 87 (Comicon.com)
Will Eisner was born March 6, 1917 in Brooklyn, NY. The son of Jewish immigrants, his early life and experiences growing up in New York tenements would become the inspiration for much of his graphic novel work....

Seeking for a more mature expression of the comics' form, Eisner spent two years creating four short stories of "sequential art" that became A Contract With God, first published by Baronet Books in 1978. In this book, with its 1930s Bronx tenements and slice of life moral tales, Eisner returned to his roots and discovered new potential for the comics form--the graphic novel.

January 3, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Orthodox at Cross Currents rival Christian "moral values" crowd for whining hypocrisy

Over on the aptly-named Cross-Currents, Orthodox luminaries are demanding an apology for "hate speech" posted by a high school student leader of the Reform National Federation of Temple Youth.

Quiz: Which of the following paragraphs are from the controversial youth group lesson plan, and which is from a book published by a (non-blogging) Orthodox spokesman regularly published by the non-Orthodox media? Put your guessing caps on!

  1. Orthodox Judaism views the Reform movement as
    -Less religious, therefore less Jewish -Not real Jews because we don’t observe properly
  2. Orthodox Judaism views leaders of Reform and Conservative Judaism, at least those learned enough to know better, as
    not so much meant to be hated as enemies and wished dead for the sake of 'revenge' or to see them dead. The way we hate such people is not like the 'cat hates the mouse,' but rather like the 'storekeeper hates the vermin' which infest his store, not hating the vermin themselves but wanting them gone in order to arrest the damage they are causing. We resent their existence. So, in lieu of the fact that we are not allowed to physically harm these people today, we should still treat them with utter contempt and disrespect, avoiding contact with them as one would with any destructive fiend."
  3. Still haven't gotten it?

    Hint: The paragraph in question was only removed from the web version of the online book within the past year or so.

(Reb Yudel)

Who is the new Protocols, unreal world edition

THE BEAT at COMICON.com is awaiting the next shining star of the comics blogosphere.

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

More on Israel and Sri Lanka

The Israeli Consulate is distributing a fax from the Sri Lankan Government, which says "the generous assistance readily given by the Government and people of Israel at this hour of need is highly appreciated by the Government and people of Sri Lanka."

As to the reports the S.L. had rejected an Israeli rescue team asociated with the IDF, the Sri Lankan government explains that it was

constrained to request delaying the arrival of the 150 member Israeli rescue and relief team, while the medical supplies and food offered by the Israeli people were accepted. This was due to the lack of accomodation available in the country at this point and skilled manpower required for medical attention becoming adequate for the present in many areas.

This may be spin, of course, but I'd rather have spin than condemnation. Clearly both governments want to erase the impression that they are at odds.

(Reb Yudel)

It's so hard to erase a sin these days

Goodbye, FrumAffair.blogspot.com. Hello, Google cache.

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Tsunami hinam

Reuters story (posted at the Times of Oman and briefed by the JTA) quotes one of Israels chief rabbis on the tsunami:

"This is an expression of Gods ire with the world," Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar told Reuters on Thursday. "The world is being punished for wrongdoing -- be it peoples needless hatred of each other, lack of charity, moral turpitude."

January 2, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

A Hundred Years of Invariance

The Economist celebrates a centennial of Einsteinian physics with a typically clear explanation of his historical discoveries.

In 1905, a young patent clerk named Albert Einstein found the way forward. In five remarkable papers, he showed that atoms are real (it was still controversial at the time), presented his special theory of relativity, and put quantum theory on its feet.