October 30, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

An Oral History of Schocken Books

I thought it was time to look closely at a single publishing company, one that had played a significant role in European and American Jewish – and non-Jewish – culture and thought. I would follow its fortunes from the days of its cultivated founder, through his death and the sale of his company to a privately-owned corporation, to its being re-organized as a small sub-division of a gigantic media conglomerate. Its existence is full of twists and ironies, of displacement across continents, its founder’s intention revered but re-interpreted in a new time. Its story is corporate but, also, is composed of the intersection of enlightened personalities and the works of great writers with the most awful events of the twentieth century. Following it, I would examine the play of high culture with corporate mind-sets and see how it worked.

Katherine McNamara - A Conversation about Schocken Books Part III

(Reb Yudel)

The Lone and Level Sands: Exodus from Pharoah's POV

A.. David Lewis tells Newsarama.com about his Exodus comic book:

The goal here wasn't to take Ramses' side, per se, because I am in now way against Moses, Aaron, and the other Israelites. But I did want to make him the main character, because, even beyond Moses, he's the one figure that's in just about every "scene" of the original story. 

He's a king with political, spiritual, and familial responsibilities; he's the Tony Soprano of ancient Egypt, except multiplied tenfold. Therefore, a lot of the really interesting drama seemed to circle around him and his family.

More info here

(Reb Yudel)

Haredi Rabbis to Modern Orthodox Jews: Don't Help Us!

Arutz Sheva reports that:

Leading hareidi (ultra-Orthodox) Torah authorities are decrying the use of Sherut Leumi (National Service) volunteers in hareidi institutions of special education, kindergartens and elsewhere.The proclamation opposing national service female volunteers is signed by the leading world Torah authorities, headed by Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv.On Sunday evening, a rally addressed by leading Torah authorities will be held in Beit Yisrael in Jerusalem’s Ezrat Torah neighborhood.

Keep this in mind the next time hareidi institutions ask for your money.

October 28, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

New Jersey Bar (Foundation) Mitzvah


The New Jersey State Bar Foundation is withdrawing its sponsorship of a national competition for aspiring lawyers after the competition’s board refused to accommodate high school teams whose members observe the Jewish Sabbath.

“It was an easy decision to make. There was no opposition. We’re now exploring options that would allow our statewide winner to compete [at a higher level],” said Angela Scheck, executive director of the NJ Bar Foundation, which sponsors the state competition in conjunction with county bar associations.

(Reb Yudel)

How the Bush Republicans deal with the terrorist threat

Kentucky lands grant to protect bingo halls from terrorists

Kentucky has been awarded a federal Homeland Security grant aimed at keeping terrorists from using charitable gaming to raise money.The state Office of Charitable Gaming won the $36,300 grant and will use it to provide five investigators with laptop computers and access to a commercially operated law-enforcement data base, said John Holiday, enforcement director at the Office of Charitable Gaming.The idea is to keep terrorists from playing bingo or running a charitable game to raise large amounts of cash, Holiday said.

(Reb Yudel)

Remind me again why we didn't lynch Bob Shrum back in November?

Presstitutes: Bob Shrum Helps Chris Matthews Peddle Pro-Bush Talking Points

As if to prove our point about Democrats not getting it, Bob Shrum appeared on Hardball (10/26) and engaged in this exchange with Chris Matthews... MATTHEWS: Bush is capable of "such grand, grand moments." SHRUM (agreeing): Bush led the nation "in such a brilliant way" after the 9/11 attacks.

October 27, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Bush Republicans outsource tutoring, PTA to India

eSchool News online - Feds tighten tutoring rules under NCLB

Decisions in Florida by the U.S. Department of Education, if implemented nationwide, would bar groups affiliated with school systems rated "in need of improvement" from participating in the tutoring program mandated under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Entities likely to be barred from the program--worth an estimated $2 billion a year in federal funding--include teacher unions, child-care centers, after-school programs, voc-ed or computer centers, and parents' groups.

The federally-funded, federally-mandated tutoring can be supplied by folks in India, however.

(Reb Yudel)

Thoughts on the eve of indictments

But they never were our leaders. They told us to be afraid, and they turned us on each other, and they gave away our money to their friends and killed our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives. They sniped and they snarled, but they never did lead us. They never brought us an inch above ourselves, or a milimeter closer together.

For all their blithering about restoring honor and dignity, for all the lofty words that come from their speechwriters' offices, they are small men, and their vision only extends to power, not poetry. They don't understand what service to your country means; look at their service records. They don't understand what respect that should entail; look what they did to Max Cleland, to John Kerry. They don't understand anything except how to step hardest on somebody's fingers on their way up the stairs.

First Draft - Small Men

(Reb Yudel)

In Cold Blood

At least 21 detainees who died while in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan were the victims of homicide and usually died during or after interrogations, according to an analysis of Defence Department data.The analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union, released today, looked at 44 deaths described in records obtained by the ACLU. Of those, the group characterised 21 as homicides, and said at least eight resulted from abusive techniques by military or intelligence officers, such as strangulation or "blunt force injuries", as noted in the autopsy reports.The 44 deaths represent a partial group of the total number of prisoners who have died in US custody overseas; more than 100 have died of natural and violent causes.

US detainees 'murdered' during interrogations

(Reb Yudel)

Two Years Ago in the Conservative Imagination

The war in Iraq now consists of a race: The United States is racing to build up Iraqi police and armed forces capable of taking over the country's security -- before the Saddam loyalists and their jihadist allies can produce that single, Beirut-like car bomb that so discourages Americans (and Iraqis) that we withdraw in disarray.

Who wins the race? If this president remains in power, the likelihood is that we do.

So wrote Charles Krauthammer two years ago. Quite prophetic: By defining victory down to not withdrawing, the Republican Party guarantees that Bush can't lose the war.

Doesn't do too much good for anyone else, least of all the 2,000 American soldiers who have died for the apparent purpose of ensuring that American soldiers can continue to die in Iraq....

(Reb Yudel)

Three Years Ago in InstaPundit

I've been wondering lately: Wasn't the right full of optimism and confidence that victory and all were just around the corner? What would I find if I reread InstaPundit two or three years later?

Here's one treasure from the Instapundit.com - October 27, 2002 - November 02, 2002 Archives:

[his] writings
were vague and pathetic whenever he tried to address concrete
situations, but he did apparently have a gift for painting glorious
pictures of future triumph, which appealed to those with a nagging
sense of national humiliation.

Somebody writing on David Brooks or other Party apologists?

Nope. David Brooks, writing on the founder of the Ba'ath party. Who'da thunk it?

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)


Writing in this week's NJ Jewish News, up and coming South Orange rabbi Francine Roston, who has the largest Congregation of any Conservative woman rabbi, bucks the trend within her movement by embracing Halloween:

In modern times, the celebration revolves around costumes and trick-or-treating. As the vast majority of Americans experience Halloween today, there is no connection with Catholic saints and no worship of the dead (unless you are a Wiccan or a “neopagan” and your religion prescribes it).

In America, Halloween is a holiday for children and neighborhoods. It comes at a time when the days are getting shorter, the nights longer, and hence our fears of the dark are challenged. Halloween has become a time to banish fears of darkness and death. The message of Halloween has become a message about community, charity, and giving.

Read the whole essay -- if you dare.

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

A mock trial without mockies*

The NJ Jewish News reports today that the National High School Mock Trial Championship board, at its regularly scheduled fall meeting in Oklahoma City on Oct. 14 and 15, passed a motion that would bar any scheduling accomodation for teams that are Sabbath-observant.

This follows a He-brouhaha last year in which Torah Academy of Bergen County won the NJ state title, and would not have been able to compete until the North Carolina hosts agreed to let them take part a day earlier. Apparently, the Mock Trial Machers didn't go for it, so day schools are out of luck.

* Does anyone under the age of 65 recognize "mockie" as an anti-Jewish slur (just checking -- and registering www.mockie.org just in case some hip Brooklyn Jews plan on starting a literary journal.

(Reb Yudel)

Who is lurking in the shadows?

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency sends an unprededented email trumpeting a special investigation: Tainted Teachings (JTA)

Saudi Arabia is paying to influence the teaching of American public schoolchildren. And the U.S. taxpayer is an unwitting accomplice. A special JTA investigation uncovers the complex path by which teaching materials creep into U.S. public schools. It reveals who creates these materials and how some of America's most prestigious universities — with the use of federal funds — help disseminate them.

One question, though: Why are the stories credited "JTA Staff Report"? And what does it mean that a story has the tag credit, "JTA Editor Lisa Hostein and correspondent Sue Fishkoff in Sacramento were among the contributors to this report."?

Does it mean that all the quotes were obtained by Hostein or Fishkoff? Was the story written by someone who needs to remain anonymous? Did a story submitted by a staff member need so much rewriting that it was credited to the staff as a whole -- something rather unprecedented?

October 24, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Future so-bright dept.

LiveScience - MSNBC.com reports:

An accidental discovery announced this week has taken LED lighting to a new level, suggesting it could soon offer a cheaper, longer-lasting alternative to the traditional light bulb. The miniature breakthrough adds to a growing trend that is likely to eventually make Thomas Edison's bright invention obsolete.

October 16, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Ben Yehuda Press exposed

The New Jersey Jewish Standard breaks the story (warning: links to PDF file) of Ben Yehuda Press:
A Teaneck couple have launched their publishing house with a book they hope will become an indispensable goad to lively Torah talk around d the Shabbat table. "Torah & Company: The weekly portion of Torah, accompanied by generous helpings of Mishnah and Gemara, sewed up with discussion questions to spice up your Sabbath table," by Judith Z. Abrams, is the first product of Larry and Eve Yudelson's Ben Yehuda Press.

The company name is based both on Larry Yudelson's childhood fascination with Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who revived Hebrew as a modern language, and on his own surname, he said in an interview.

Let me just add that Torah and Company makes an ideal Simchat Torah present.
(Reb Yudel)

The Ballad of Zimmy the Yid, 5766 edition

Bob Dylan made it shul again this Yom Kippur, In the town known as Oyster Bay, Long Island.... well, actually, in the town of Woodbury, Long Island, in the Chabad of Oyster Bay.

My non-rabbinical source for this cites as eyewitnesses his father's friend, and his accountant. What's not to believe?

October 14, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Get your brisket in the oven and your bobke in the bed

JTS's Jack Wertheimer blames the falling Jewish birthrate on educated women -- not without strong stats to back him up, but without a smidgen of appreciation for their achievements or rachmones for their predicament. The Forward describes the reaction , and I add mine:

Wertheimer’s probably right that the “independent-mindedness” that characterizes many Jews is (often, I would add) “pursued at the cost of other values” — namely, group identification and practice. But since Wertheimer seems to be addressing Judaism’s leadership class (and is said to be on the short list to succeed Rabbi Ismar Schorsch as the chancellor of JTS, the training ground for Conservative rabbis), you don’t have to disagree with his conclusions to question the tone in which they’re expressed. It’s one thing to demand that Jews speak “boldly and forthrightly” about behaviors that would reinforce early marriage, large families, and in-marriage. But it’s quite another to suggest, as he does, that Jewish men marry gentile women because they remind them of their mothers — unlike those over-educated, career-minded Jewish gals.

October 10, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Gil Student wins this year's prize for inadvertent self parody in the title of a blog entry

With the "why didn't he post about it sooner" title of Vomiting in Halakhah

This is the first in a series of brief posts about the status of vomiting in halakhah. While this might seem like a somewhat bizarre topic, the issues are actually quite relevant. The current topic -- vomiting on Yom Kippur -- is hopefully not an issue for most readers. However, the two subsequent topics will probably be issues that arise every once in a while in the average observant Jew's life (although hopefully not too often).
A close reading will show not only Gil's typical erudition, but also enough inyana d'yoma to show that Gil wasn't aiming for shock value with this topic:

On Yom Kippur, the prohibition is a function of affliction rather than eating per se. Therefore, one could say that without the satisfaction of having the food settle in one's stomach one is not liable.

The Minhas Hinukh (313:2) reaches the conclusion that this is proper but stops short of issuing a lenient ruling on this basis. The Hasam Sofer (Responsa, Orah Hayim 127) writes confidently that the prohibition on Yom Kippur requires enjoyment of the stomach. Therefore, one who eats a ke-zayis and then vomits it before it has a chance to settle is not liable. Similarly, one who eats half a ke-zayis, vomits it, and then shortly eats another half a ke-zayis is not considered as if he has eaten a full ke-zayis.

October 9, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

One of the benefits of no longer being a NYTimes subscriber

I'm quite glad that I didn't contribute to the salaries of the writers and editors responsible for the latest cozy-up-to-the-fundamentalists article in the New York Times. In other words, I agree with sentiments expressed by
Pharyngula::Screw you, New York Times

This is quite possibly the worst example of incompetent "he said, she said" journalism yet: Seeing Creation and Evolution in Grand Canyon. And it's in the New York Times, in the Science section! It begins and ends with the point of view of a creationist rafting trip down the Grand Canyon, and in between has snippets from another trip, by a group of scientists and informed laymen led by Eugenie Scott. Nowhere does it discuss the volume of evidence that refute the creationist view of a young earth; instead, we get repeated statements about it being just a "different view". The Christian group are humble people off to "Worship in a Glorious Cathedral", who are sincerely "interested in truth". The scientists, meanwhile, are "dismissive and at times disrespectful of religion". Even when it acknowledges that many in the NCSE group were religious, it goes out of the way to make them seem like weirdos.

What's actually quite bizarre is that when I was writing and editing for an Orthodox Jewish publication -- Yeshiva University's Hamevaser -- I was clearer about the facticity of evolution than these supposedly "objective" reporters.

Actually, the "two different tours" approach is a great way to cover all sorts of controversies. Imagine comparing two runs through the Holocaust Museum, one with Abe Foxman and one with Ernst Zundel....

(Reb Yudel)

What a Teacher Makes

Found on the techie CFCODER Blog:

What Teachers Make, or You can always go to law school if things don't work out.

By Taylor Mali

He says the problem with teachers is, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?" He reminds the other dinner guests that it's true what they say about teachers: Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his and resist the temptation to remind the dinner guests that it's also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we're eating, after all, and this is polite company.

"I mean, youᄍre a teacher, Taylor," he says. "Be honest. What do you make?"

And I wish he hadn't done that (asked me to be honest) because, you see, I have a policy about honesty and ass-kicking: if you ask for it, I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor and an A- feel like a slap in the face. How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups. No, you may not ask a question. Why won't I let you get a drink of water? Because you're not thirsty, you're bored, that's why.

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home: I hope I haven't called at a bad time, I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today. Billy said, "Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don't you?" And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are and what they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids wonder, I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful over and over and over again until they will never misspell either one of those words again. I make them show all their work in math. And hide it on their final drafts in English. I make them understand that if you got this (brains) then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you give them this (the finger).

Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true: I make a goddamn difference! What about you?

October 7, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

There but for Fortune....

Ron Rosenbaum chooses Phil Ochs over Abbie Hoffman.

I know there’s a lot of Dylan in the air these days, and I’m happy about that. But after seeing Scorsese’s No Direction Home, I found myself thinking about someone else, an almost-forgotten contemporary of Dylan: Phil Ochs.

The key pre-Yom Kippur lines, however, come much further down, as he quotes Ochs:
Show me an alley, show me a train,
Show me a hobo who sleeps out in the rain,
And I’ll show you a young man with so many reasons why,
And there but for fortune may go you or I ….

You have to hear it, of course; you have to hear its aching Blakean simplicity and urgency. In a way, it has a classical purity—and when I say “classical,” I mean a going back to basics, back to Sophocles and the role that fortune and character play in man’s fate. As a song, it’s a sentiment that serves as a kind of Rorschach test, a defining revelation about how one views the unfortunate of the world. And the panhandler in front of you.

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Maggie's Farm, Portnoy's Complaint

I attended a retrospective on the early work of Philip Roth at the Museum of Jewish Heritage last week, and couldn't help but notice that he and another iconoclastic Jewish boy were being given the canonical treatment in the same week.

I don’t imagine residents of Dylan’s native Hibbing, Minn., pack lectures about the singer to revel in — and cavil about — the “Hibbingness” of his work. But at Wednesday’s panel discussion, it seemed as if half the audience had crossed the Holland Tunnel to attend. When [biographer Ross] Miller referred to Roth as a “provincial boy” and Newark as a “provincial town,” you could hear the grumbles and hisses.

Read the whole thing.

October 6, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Ever hear of "Rock 'n Torah"?

I stumbled across a link to Rock 'n Torah, apparently a Jewish-themed French musical comedy.

Do you know anything about it?