August 31, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Crash on the Levee

So much for the trifecta. Yet another slow-motion trainwreck under Bush's watch.
John Robb's Weblog: I am glad Bush continues to have a good time

This hurricane was a test of whether the President and the Federal government had improved our preparedness for a WMD attack by terrorists (or at the least an attack on critical infrastructure).

The answer is no.

We are no better able to mitigate the impact of a major disaster than before 9/11 and people will needlessly die if we are attacked again. There is only one conclusion: this President is and his administration are an abject failure.

August 30, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Soup Nazi, IDF Nazi -- same thing

Eytan Kobre at Cross-Currents compares Israel's Border Police to Nazis. He will deny that he made so direct a comparison, but is there any other conclusion to be drawn from the following sentence?

An aside: Given [Abe Foxman's] touchiness about anything Nazi-related, will Abe also be demanding an apology from the IDF for expulsion exercises—televised in prime-time—in which soldiers wearing talis and tefillin, to resemble Gaza residents, were violently assaulted by Border Police?
(Reb Yudel)

The Next Big Thing?

Ben Yehuda Press

August 26, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Origins of Humankind — Views Differ

Reb Yudel's post below on Intelligent Design inspired me in part to write this.

I need to repeat here that the Onion article is satire. Because it is unclear to me how the satire differs from the debate in the Times. In both, scientists humbly acknowledge gaps in their understanding of natural processes. In real life as in satire, religious opportunists fill in those gaps with explanations drawn from scripture, as opposed to careful observation and experimentation. It's like allowing an English major to critique global warming on the grounds that the "greenhouse effect" is a trite metaphor.

August 22, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Why I'm cancelling my New York Times subscription - A draft

To the editor,

Congratulations on breaking free from the bonds of facts and evidence, and presenting the views of "Intelligent Design" propagandists as if they were of equal merit with those of actual scientists.

I look forward to future reports, in which you will give serious consideration to matters of both foreign policy ("Are Military Deaths Caused By God's Hatred of Homosexuals?") and history ("Questions Raised About Nazi 'Holocaust' Allegations").

Those reports won't be delivered to my door, however, since I'm cancelling my subscription. I've been maintaining a subscription, even as I read more and more news online, because I felt an obligation to pay for the reporting. "Journalism" like this, however, will be happily funded by right-wing billionaires. Henceforth, I'll stick to reading blogs, where refutations to Creationist claptrap are effortlessly refuted.

August 20, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Will Jews rejoice as monotheism advances in Nimrod's land?

Over at the Whiskey Bar:, Bill is all kvetchy about the latest developments in Iraq. In a post entitled Slouching Towards the Islamic Republic, he notes the latest from Reuters:
U.S. diplomats have conceded ground to Islamists on the role of religion in Iraq, negotiators said on Saturday as they raced to meet a 48-hour deadline to draft a constitution under intense U.S. pressure. U.S. diplomats, who have insisted the constitution must enshrine ideals of equal rights and democracy, declined comment. Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish negotiators all said there was accord on a bigger role for Islamic law than Iraq had before.
and then points out, rather sullenly, that the similar Islamic clause in the Afghani constitution is helping keep Iraqi women under the same Sharia-based subjugation they were back in the Taliban era.

Sure, that's what you expect a liberal to say.

But look at it from the standpoint of traditional values and God-given morality -- that is, put on your Avi Shafran hat or Dennis Prager yarmulke. It took fewer than 2,000 American combat deaths to replace secular, sexually tolerant countries with monotheistic, God-fearing, sexually restrained regimes.

Isn't that a victory for our side?

August 16, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Jesse Taylor volunteers to be Abe Foxman's ghostwriter

Pandagon: That's S-nazi!

Dear Mr. Dobson:

I am sorry that when you compared stem-cell research to Nazi experiments, I accused you of comparing stem-cell research to Nazi experiments. As a token of my apology, please accept this gift certificate for One Big Foot Up Your Ass, redeemable at any synagogue near you.


The Fox

August 15, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Why they're leaving Gaza

There may not be "great enthusiasm" among American Jews for withdrawal, but that doesn't mean a case can't be made for it if they try. So I tried.

There is much that can go wrong with the disengagement, and only a fool would ignore the important warnings from its opponents. In this season of mourning past calamities in Jewish life, we need to remember that no Jewish community can afford to face the future without its eyes open to all the challenges.

But it behooves us to listen as well to the Israelis who believe that the Gaza pullout is a breakthrough in the quest for peace. For them, pills can be bitter, amputations painful, but the ultimate goal is to save the life of the patient


August 14, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Bad News for Lovers of Israel

Thanks to George Bush, Iran to earn its highest-ever oil revenues in 2005

Note that gas prices went up following the signing of Bush's "Energy Bill."

Between record high oil prices, years of Republican action against American energy efficiency, and the new creation of an Iraqi Muslim republic... these do seem like good times to be a Muslim radical, eh?

August 12, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Jewin' the Charleston in West Virginia

Jewish Community to Reunite

For one weekend, West Virginia's Jewish population is expected to converge on Charleston for an event that is catching international attention.

The Simon & Ida Meyer West Virginia Jewish Reunion is scheduled for Aug. 18-21 with an event calendar packed full of cultural, educational and social opportunities.

Simon Meyer first arrived in the state's capital city during the 1920s to begin a job with Union Carbide. He quickly set out to find other Jews and a Jewish wife in particular. He found both. He married Ida Polan in 1930 and quickly became involved in several vibrant Jewish communities throughout the state.

Through his searching, Meyer realized West Virginia had a strong Jewish population, but it was vastly dispersed, according to Tom Scarr, chairman of the reunion committee. That's when he got the idea to give West Virginia Jews the resources to regularly assemble and celebrate their culture.

(hat tip: JTA)

August 10, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

State aid to religion heightens sectarian strife

Who'da thunk it? Digby connects the dots between anti-Wiccan court ruling, anti-Methodist Bible classes, and anti-Catholic adoption agencies....

(Reb Yudel)

Trendy New York City art comes to the West Bank wall

Wooster Collective: Banksy vs. The West Bank

August 9, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Which Lakewood haredi girls school is at risk of losing its non-profit status?

Micha Odenheimer reports:

One prominent high school for girls which for years admitted students of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) origin has now changed its policy and announced it will admit only Ashkenazim.
I can't wait to hear how they plan to explain that to the IRS....

(Reb Yudel)

Micha Odenheimer discovers New Jersey

From Ethiopia to Thailand to Burma to.... Lakewood, NJ?
The world has also turned Lakewood around. A., a real estate developer in his twenties who grew up in Lakewood, rebelled, but eventually returned to observance and to Lakewood, says that Lakewood has mutated into something new over the past few years.

"The whole concept, that you have to go to kollel or you're not worth anything, that doesn't exist anymore - although I don't know if the kollel people know it.

There's no stigma attached to working, and the drive for money - it's greater than ever. A lot of children of kollel-sitters who saw the poverty in their homes have gone out and started businesses - retail, nursing homes, you name it. There's a lot of money here."

August 5, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

The end of Jewish history?

Are we at the end of Jewish history?

There is barely a Jewish population in need of rescue, perhaps for the first time in history. The big social issues — the role of women and gays, reactions to the intermarried, and the need for dialogue among the denominations — have been largely resolved, or at least the vast majority of Jews are able to find communities in which those issues have been resolved to their satisfaction. Despite talk of a “New Anti-Semitism,” few if any Jews in the West meet the kinds of impediments that blocked generations of Jews in education, the professions, housing, and social life. If anything, according to foes of intermarriage, gentiles are loving us to death.

I’ve compared this resolution of the big Jewish issues of the 20th century to political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s famous pronouncement of the “end of history” — the idea that liberal democracy had ultimately triumphed over all the other isms. Fukuyama did not assert that the world would be free from conflict, but rather that “there would be no further progress in the development of underlying principles and institutions, because all of the really big questions had been settled.”

The obvious contradiction to the idea of the “end of Jewish history” is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which feels never-ending. But even there, the two-state solution has become a consensus position in Israel and beyond. (Put it this way: When was the last time you read an essay that staked out a new position on the conflict?) What’s going on in Israel is no longer a clash of ideas — it is a showdown between the will of the majority and what Fukuyama has called a “series of rearguard actions from societies whose traditional existence is indeed threatened by modernization.”

August 4, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

The Shfaram shooting

Jewish gunman kills four on bus in Arab town

How soon before Barry Chamish and the other conspiracy theorists put out a statement saying the attack was an attempt by the Israeli intelligence services to discredit the settlers?

UPDATE: Sure enough -- see the comments to the article linked above. Utterly despairing reading.

(Reb Yudel)

Has Bush's plan to export democracy succeeded?

And is there only a finite supply? Because if America is exporting democracy in large quantities, there won't be much left for us here at home, will there?

Or so I start to muse after reading Bill Mon's take on Tuesday's Ohio congressional election,
Whiskey Bar: Too Close for Comfort:

Of course, none of this proves, or even makes a circumstantial case, that yesterday's election was stolen. Maybe the inhabitants of Clerrmont County really are just unusually witless in their devotion to the GOP cause. I live in a Republican machine county myself, so I know how that goes.

But it's still rather remarkable how often the lightning seems to strike in Clermont -- and at the just the right time, producing just the right amount of votes for an otherwise endangered GOP candidate. Like I said, I'd feel a lot better about it if the party stalwarts who run the county's elections were describing the inner workings of the system to a grand jury -- under oath.

August 1, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

This is Gil Student on drugs

Hirhurim finds a contradiction in Rav Moshe's teshuva against smoking pot:

It causes a great desire, greater than the desire for food and similar that are necessary for man to live, and some will not be able to resist their temptation. This is the terrible prohibition mentioned by the rebellious son on the greatest desire that he has for food, even if for kosher food. Even moreso he cannot bring himself to an even greater desire, especially for something for which there is no human need and is prohibited itself.

Read on to find Gil's problem with the above paragraph....

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Van Morrison, Mr. Foxman on line two

Does Irish folk rocker Van Morrison cross into Mel Gibson territory on his new album, with a song about a Jesus-like character who complains that “my own people… soldld me out” for “a few shekels more”?

The NJ Jewish News this week (sorry, no link) asks if Morrison had interpreted the Gospels in a way that would raise the hackles of Jewish groups involved in interfaith dialogue.

Morrison’s song, “They Sold Me Out,” appears on Magic Time, his latest CD for Geffen Records. The first-person lyrics of the song contain several allusions to the last moments of Jesus, including the lines,

For the few shekels more, they didn’t even think twice / For a few shekels more, another minute in the spotlight / My own people did it to me just, ‘cos they could / They sold me out.”

NJ participants in interfaith dialogue had few objections to the lyrics, which many reviewers have interpreted as a criticism of the record industry. “To think positively, I expect that this piece does not imply that all Jews sell people out, but only that Jesus’ companions did so to him,” David Bossman, director of the Sister Rose Thering Endowment for Jewish Studies at Seton Hall University, told NJJN reporter Robert Wiener. “The implication isn’t against Jews but rather it’s about the disappointment a person [today] feels in a betrayal by those closest to him (‘my own people’).”

Still, Bossman said it is “reasonable for people to feel that Van Morrison shouldn’t have used that image, since it conjures up the old charge that ‘all Jews’ rejected Jesus.” A proper reading of the ospels, said Bossman, suggests that Jesus’ betrayal was not a collective act, but a personal act by Judas.

Harriet Sepinwall, of the College of St. Elizabeth, also suggested that the “my own people” lyric raises yellow flags, but that in the proper context — a protest song about slavery, for example — the words might lose their troubling connotations.

For his part, Morrison has described the song as a lament over the plight of the artist in society. “I don’t really have anything against the music business,” he told USA Today. “I’m independent, right? To me, it’s an archetypical story. It’s not just about me. It’s probably happened to everyone who’s tried to be an artist.

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

One of these things is not like the other

My latest: The idea that Israel and the West are fighting the same war on terror has its limits.

But there is a risk to Israel if it were apply too broadly the notion that terror is a madness that only the imams can cure: It could lead to a sort of diplomatic fatalism. And, thank God, the Israeli government itself is not sitting back and waiting for the Islamic Reformation. Instead, they continue to pursue the proactive diplomatic and defensive measures that thwart the bombers that specifically target Israel. Israel choked off the epidemic of suicide bombing by, in essence, recognizing the Palestinian cause. You’d rather kill us than live with us? Fine — here is a fence that keeps us apart. You’d rather fight us than talk? Okay — we’ll operate unilaterally.