July 25, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

The Times' "insane" comparisons

I always find myself defending the New York Times against charges of anti-Israel bias, and then they go and publish an editorial as dumb as this.

In a nutshell, the editorial writer condemns both right-wing Israelis and militant Palestinians of "hijacking" the Gaza withdrawal. Hamas is insane for carrying out "Palestinian-on-Israeli violence." The Times writes, fairly and accurately, that

No reasonable person can doubt that the Hamas attacks hurt the Palestinians more than the Israelis.

"Meanwhile," the editorial continues, "Israel's extremist right wing is doing its own hijacking." How?

While polls show most Israelis support the withdrawal of 8,500 Gaza settlers, you wouldn't know it from the noise being made in Jerusalem, or in the desert near the Gaza Strip, where thousands of religious protesters have camped out, pledging to do whatever they can to hamper the withdrawal.

Okay, so they're protesting, which is what people in a democracy do (would only that the terrorists would wave flags instead of rifles). But in what way has the Israeli right "hijacked" the process? Has Sharon waivered in his pledge that the withdrawal will be carried out? No. Does the Israeli majority no longer support withdrawal? No. There is a lot of ugliness on the side of the Orangmen -- egregious Holocaust rhetoric, irresponsible name-calling, rabbis' calls for resistance that invite a civil war. But it's the cheapest kind of "balance" to equate bombings and shootings with mass protest, both in intent and effect.

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

CLAF -- the Jewish Center for Learning and Followership

Everyone and his well-connected brother is meeting to discuss the future of the Jewish people, in high-profile conferences from Jerusalem to Maryland.Sure, the leaders are talking, but what about the followers?

Perhaps it’s time to invite fewer university presidents, philanthropists, and Jewish professionals and open up the conversation to average Jews — you know, the kinds of folks who are actually doing the intermarrying (except when they don’t) or don’t belong to Jewish institutions (except when they do).

July 18, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Frank Luntz vs. The Forward

The NY Times reports today that pollster Frank Luntz is going after the Forward for its reporting on his study of campus anti-Israel activity.

According to Times reporter Sarah Ivry,

Mr. Luntz became angered after reading a June 24 article about his recent report assessing graduate students' attitudes toward Israel. Mr. Luntz dashed off an incensed e-mail message to J. J. Goldberg, the paper's editor. Rather than ask for a retraction or correction, he pledged to disparage The Forward at meetings of Jewish donors where Mr. Luntz regularly speaks. Maybe, he wrote, "an advertising boycott of The Forward might help the publication refocus on accuracy and get it right in the future."

Luntz's references to "accuracy" implies that the Forward had asserted something that was untrue. But reading the original article makes it clear that Luntz was angry that the Forward quoted critics of his study. (In the study, Luntz asserts that "Never in the modern history of the Jewish State has there been more outspoken public opposition on elite college campuses to the basic principles and tenets of Israel.")

Ivry let Luntz off the hook, and turns it into too much of a he said/ he said, by not putting directly to him the question, "What was erroneous about the Forward's report? Did the newspaper misquote your critics?"

Luntz is also quoted as saying that the Forward editors

consistently spin articles "with their own political bias: liberal."

But Ivry might also have asked, "Since when did concern about anti-Semitism become a working definition of conservatism? The ADL is often blasted by RIGHT-wing groups for being too alarmist about anti-Semitism. How does the Forward's reporting on criticism of your findings by a coalition tht includes AIPAC and Hillel suggest a liberal bias?"

UPDATE: Omnicom, the world's largest advertising group, has bought a 70% stake in US market research and strategy consulting agency Luntz Research.

Doesn't "Omnicom" sound like it should be the name of the evil corporation in every James Bond movie?

July 15, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

"Dark Water" and My Jewish Problem

Like Jennifer Connelly in the new horror movie "Dark Water," I too was haunted by a malevolent stain that spread ominously across the ceiling -- of my Jerusalem apartment. Read all about it.

July 14, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Stupid Jew, July edition

Nushworld: fingers Zo Artzeinu founder Shmuel Sackett as a despicable human being. He certainly seems to be in the running for the Stupid Jews competition.

(Reb Yudel)

On the mitzvah of eating raspberries

From the writings of the Velveteen Rabbi:
How is this a mitzvah? Because raspberries are one of the glories of summertime, and in eating them I reawaken my sense of wonder at the season and its bounty. Raspberries grow wild at the edges of our yard, and when I pick them and scatter them atop my bowl of cereal I am saying to the Universe, "Thank you. I'm awake here, I'm noticing, so keep the good stuff coming."

July 12, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Who is Dr. Julian Ungar-Sargon?

Julian Ungar-Sargon writes:

How do we "read" illness and our patients... 'reading' them as we would a text or perhaps as ourselves? What models of interpretation can we use? Can interpretive strategies used for elucidation of texts help us in deciphering the biography and inscription of disease?

Disease itself is experienced and inasmuch it is a human experience, it is described and experienced in linguistical terms that can be analyzed as to rhetorical strategies, motives, tropes, and allegory, just as any text. Reading of texts as well as patients can then be analogized and the better the reader the better the listener the deeper the patient of text will reveal its desire. There are those who talk in terms of the tyranny of the text inasmuch as it forces us into its mode of thinking, its rhetoric and strategy and we must pass through its self understanding before making judgments as to meaning.

Others in a post modern vein see their own biases and what they bring to the text as critical and see notions of authorial intent as doomed. In the extreme, the literary scholar Derrida claims that texts betray a pathology, a violence, a "death" of the receiver inscribed in the structure of the mark. I would like to suggest that illness too is "inscribed" in the very imagined body of the patient and that a neglected part of healing has been attention to just such inscription of illness as metaphor.

There is a notion of mourning inscribed in language itself which reflects a primal catastrophe and there is a need for a similar mourning to occur in illness where we need to face the death of part of ourselves and make space for the loss as part of the healing process. All writing, and I would add, biographing, is then a working out, a "labor of mourning" to use Santner's expression, of the various narcissism's and nostalgia's previously used as a source of empowerment.

That's the theory, anyway.

In practice... it turns out that Dr. Ungar has sent, as part of the neurological cure, some of his Orthodox Jewish patients to New York, to study with a friend of mine who teaches at Yeshiva University. And the patients recovered... or at least improved.

Were I in the mood to pitch free-lance pieces to the New York Times Magazine, this would be one. An neurologist in the tradition of Oliver Sacks, with a special interest in the diseases that afflict religious souls.

July 8, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Lavie Tidhar, Israeli fantasist

Short story: The Gimatria of Pi by Lavie Tidhar (Fortean Bureau)

I first learned of the conspiracy on the fourth of November, Nineteen Ninety five: the day Yitzhak Rabin died. You might not believe me, but that's alright: you don't need to in order to help.

That date, in compressed numerical form, is 04111995. It appears in the 16566962th position of Pi, that number trailing into infinity which is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle: one of those odd constant numbers, like the speed of light or Planck's constant, that define the universe and yet seem almost random, somehow unimportant beyond a narrow use, a narrow definition....

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

"The best friend Israel ever had" -- the sequel

Chickens born during the 2004 election campaign come home to roost --or so I argue in my latest column:

[W]e are now seeing the blowback from the 2004 campaign: a Jewish Right unclear about what it means to be “pro-Israel,” and a Jewish Left that has forgotten how to articulate its core issues.

July 5, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

This is Luke Ford's brain on crystal meth

An email just sent to Luke Ford:

OK. So JWB, who has refused to provide any evidence that he is not a convicted sex offender on a state watch list, thinks he has made a case against Yori Yanover.

I must say, Luke, you set the bar ridiculously low, both in terms of evidence and in terms of alleged crime.

JWB is attempting to smear Yori.... but with what, exactly? Of liking Bill Hicks? Of pointing to a web site supporting a reasonable interpretation of the First Amendment? Of being a database programmer who was, in 1999, more capable with a VAX than with Microsoft Access? Of having a tacky email address like turbojew@jewishmail.com? If those posts were Yori's... well, so what, exactly? It's hardly as embarassing as some of the stuff you've admitted to. And it's not criminal, unlike certain unsolved crimes for which JWB has refused to provide an alibi.

You asked me: "Do you think this is your friend Yori? Do you know anything about this?"

That's not reporting. A reporter would have asked: Does your friend Yori know anything about database programming? Did he have a project in the fall of 1999 involving Microsoft Access?

The answer is no, and no. So it couldn't possibly be Yori.

And, were it not for the visceral dislike I share with Yori for the Rovian notion that innocence must be constantly proven, I might have replied two hours ago about my knowledge of Yori's programming abilities. (But why, again, is that anybody's business?)

But I write this not to clear Yori's name and reputation, but to savage yours.

I replied to your email originally: "I've tried to lead JWB to lucid thought in the past; I'm not going to bother now. You will simply have to look at all the relevant usenet posts (there
aren't that many, even when you include those from the email address
that don't include the Yanover name) and decide for yourself."

Apparently, that was too much work for you too.

A thoughtful person might have asked, why would Yori use an email address and post on Usenet for only three months? Real programmers query usenet over a long period of time. For example, one Yori's former employers posted queries about Access database programming in both 1996 and 1999.

A thoughtful person might also ask why, if turbojew@jewishmail.com was Yori, why did he sign at least one usenet posting as Gary B.?

A thoughtful person might realize there are two possibilities here: One that Yori's name had been hijacked by someone else (as Yori had previously explained regarding the domain registration of some sight or another -- an explanation that JWB acknowledged but you didn't quote). The other is that Yori himself put up the web site and wrote the related postings.

So really, which is more plausible: That someone would put up a controversial web site using a "borrowed" identity and disposable email address? Or that someone would put up such a web site using his *own* name... and a disposable email address?

So we have an effort so smear Yori as promoting crystal meth, based on evidence that can't sustain a moment's thought... and you run with it, Luke.

If nothing else, you've proven that you aren't a very competent excuse for a journalist.

But, since two can play the game of innuendo and accusation, I challenge you and JWB to:

1) State whether you agree or disagree with the message of the crystal meth web site

2) Prove that you weren't in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

3) Provide evidence that you're not a member of The Awareness Center Board

4) Prove that you're not Vicki Polin

3) Decide whether you are trying to bring out the truth in hopes of making the world a better case, shed some blood to gain readers, or just go after people who out blood libelists.

July 1, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Speaking of the Teaneck school system...

Louis J. Sigel, 81, a Rabbi and a Force for Integration, Is Dead

Louis J. Sigel, a Teaneck, N.J., rabbi who was a prominent voice for integration of the township's public schools in the early 1960's, died on Sunday at his home in Hackensack, N.J. He was 81.

His wife, Miriam, announced his death.

Teaneck became the first town in America to vote to integrate its schools voluntarily. Rabbi Sigel was the spiritual leader of Temple Emeth there from 1960 to 1992, and when he arrived, after nine years at Temple Tifereth Israel in Malden, Mass., Teaneck was embroiled in heated discussions over a growing racial imbalance in the schools.

In "Triumph in a White Suburb" (William Morrow & Company, 1968), about the integration of Teaneck, the author, Reginald G. Damerell, wrote that Rabbi Sigel - a Torah and Talmud scholar who primarily considered himself a teacher - calmed a fractious community meeting.

A law professor who was a member of Temple Emeth stood and asked why the whole community had to be "disturbed" by a problem that he said black residents had created themselves by moving into one end of town.

"The temple's rabbi, Louis J. Sigel, rose," Mr. Damerell wrote. "His rich voice carried throughout the auditorium" as he narrated a story from the Talmud about a man who sees a fire in another part of town and asks, "What have I to do with the needs of the community?"

"Sigel's voice rose in emphasis, 'Such a man destroys the world!' " Mr. Damerell wrote. "Applause exploded through the auditorium."

That set the stage for a resolution from the floor commending the Board of Education "for studying possible ways to prevent de-facto segregation," the author said. It passed, thus providing the integration side with a victory in its first skirmish.

Because of his pro-integration stand, some temple members wanted to oust him, his family later acknowledged, but a large majority supported him.

Born in Derby, Conn., the son of an Orthodox rabbi, he chose Reform Judaism instead and attended Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, where he was ordained in 1951. He also held bachelor's and master's degrees from Yale.

He and a Catholic priest and a Protestant minister founded the Teaneck Clergy Council in 1972. He served as its first president until 1974.

Besides his wife, Rabbi Sigel's survivors include two daughters, Judith Fox and Deborah Rutz, and four grandchildren.