March 31, 2006

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Walt and Mearsheimer -- God's gift to the ZOA

"The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” the infamous paper written by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, could have the (presumably) unintended consequence of undermining the very kinds of compromise that the two profs think necessary for Mideast peace.

I suspect you’ll hear more sentiments along [the] lines ... that there is nothing one can do to please those who hate Israel, so Israel ought to stop trying. But that assumes that the whole point of disengagement from the Palestinians is to win Israel friends in Harvard Yard, as opposed to disentangling Israel from a dangerous relationship that can only lead to more blood, more tears, more moral compromise.

[T]hat will be a harder point to make now, if the theories of Mearsheimer and Walt gain traction. M&W probably believe themselves to be champions of Middle East peace and advocates of positions, like “even-handedness,” that they insist are not allowed to be heard in the halls of power. The sad fact is that their fantasies about a pro-Israel conspiracy only weaken the politicians and diplomats who have worked hard to change the realities of the Middle East for the better.

Read the whole article.

(Reb Yudel)

On Meeting a Hundred Imams

Rabbi Alan Brill reports from Seville in an Edah editorial: On Meeting a Hundred Imams:

Sometimes symbol is substance. Over 200 rabbis and imams from over 30 countries gathered in Seville for several days for the World Meeting of Rabbis and Imams for Peace, organized by the Hommes de Parole Foundation, The very facts symbolize something worth paying attention to.

March 30, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Pesach & Globalization

Over at, Rabbi David Seidenberg presents Reflections on poverty and class at the seder, based on Tsuf Amarim, a Chasidic midrash or commentary on the Haggadah:
Exile came because the owning class eliminated charity in order to make themselves richer.

March 29, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr. asks: Why does the Bush family hate freedom?

From Saint Louis Today:

"I have a question for President Bush," said Clay, who voted against the resolution authorizing Bush to go to war in Iraq. "If you really believe that the war that you started in Iraq is a fight to defeat terrorism and to defend our freedoms, why haven't your girls enlisted?"

Clay said that during World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt's sons enlisted and added: "That is a perfect example of the difference between a truly courageous wartime president and an incompetent chickenhawk who prefers to risk the lives of other American's children."

(Reb Yudel)

Ben Yehuda Press novel reviewed on West Virginia Public Radio

For those of you who aren't regular listeners to West Virginia Public Broadcasting's "West Virginia Morning" show:

The Lilac Tree - 3/28
By Heather Dooley
, Allegheny Mountain Radio
It’s been quite a journey since writer Nicolette Maleckar of Pocahontas County lived in a Berlin apartment in 1939. That’s when, at 13 years old, she was sent to live in England while here mother stayed – and survived - World War II. Nicolette returned to Berlin after the war to work as an interpreter for the U.S. military, and that’s where her novel, The Lilac Tree, takes place. A revised edition of the book was just released, 19 years after it was first published. (3:22)

Click on the link to hear Nicolette Maleckar talk about her book.

March 28, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

McCain sells his McSoul

Joshua Micah Marshall reports:

The transformation is almost complete.

John McCain once called Jerry Falwell an "agent of intolerance." Now he's going to be the graduation speaker at Jerry's Liberty University.

March 26, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Annals of the Right Wing Media: The New York Times Anti-Abortion Agenda

The American Prospect reports:

A liberal, poet Robert Frost once quipped, is
a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel. Nowhere is
this truer than at The New York Times
today on the subject of abortion.

The past two years have seen one of
the most contentious and closely watched presidential contests in 40
years, the retirement of the first female Supreme Court justice, the
appointment of two new justices, and an attempted Senate filibuster
against one of them specifically because of liberal concerns about how
he would vote on choice issues.

And during that period, not one op-ed
discussing abortion on the op-ed page of the most powerful liberal
paper in the nation was written by a reproductive-rights advocate, a
pro-choice service-provider, or a representative of a women’s group.

Instead, the officially pro-choice New York Times
has hosted a conversation about abortion on its op-ed page that
consisted almost entirely of the views of pro-life or
abortion-ambivalent men, male scholars of the right, and men with
strong, usually Catholic, religious affiliations. In fact, a stunning
83 percent of the pieces appearing on the page that discussed abortion
were written by men.


A Prospect examination of the authors
published between late February 2004 and late February 2006 found that
90 percent of writers -- including staff columnists -- who discussed
abortion on the Times op-ed page over the past two years were male. These men wrote 83 percent of the op-eds that mentioned abortion.

Even more surprising, more op-eds that mentioned abortion in the Times were written by pro-life men than by women of any belief system.

While the unsigned Times
editorials have remain resolutely pro-choice, their influence has
sagged under the heavy load of conservative jurists, conflicted
Catholics, and emotionally distraught men readers find on the op-ed
page when they turn to the Times for thinking about abortion.
This suggests either that the op-ed page now favors a much more
doubt-ridden, hand-wringing stance than it has historically -- or else
that the Times, in attempting to balance its own editorial
stance, has unwittingly engaged in one of the most egregious cases of
liberal overcompensation in recent media history

You decide: Is The New York Times so liberal that its brain has fallen out? Or has the Sulzberger family decided that the risk of being designated an "enemy combatant" requires hewing closer to the Bush Party line?

March 24, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

What else is Vicki Polin lying about?

It seems like the list of rabbinic supporters are back up on the Awareness Center web site. Do they know that rather than helping actual victims, professional victim is spending her time on her private vendettas? I guess it's time to find out. And just in case the list vanishes again: After the jump is the list as of March 23, 2006. List of 233 Rabbis claimed as supporters by Vicki Polin's Awareness Center, as of March 23 2006:
Rabbi Jonathan F. Adland - Indianapolis, IN
Rabbi Barbara Aiello - Milan, Italy
Rabbi Morris Allen - Mendota Heights, M
Rabbi Ruth Alpers - Cincinnati, OH
Rabbi Camille Shira Angel - San Francisco, CA
Rabbi Benjamin Arnold - Evergreen, CO
 Rabbi Stephen A. Arnold - South Easton, MA
 Rabbi Jeffrey Astrachan - Old Bethpage, NY
 Rabbi Craig Axler - Spring House, PA
 Rabbi Ian J. Azizollahoff - New York, NY
 Rabbi Stephen Baars - North Bethesda, MD
 Rabbi Lewis M. Barth - Los Angeles, CA
 Rabbi Lia Bass - Arlington, VA
 Rabbi Jeremy Barras - Charlotte, NC
 Rabbi Marcelo Bater - Oranjestad, Aruba
 Rabbi Micah Becker-Klein - Keene, NH
 Rabbi Jim Bennett - St. Louis, MO
 Rabbi Joshua L. Bennett - West Bloomfield, MI
 Rabbi Matthew Berger - Long Grove, IL
 Rabbi Leslie Bergson - Claremont, CA
 Rabbi Alexis Berk - Nashville, TN
 Rabbi Joel Berman - Boardman, OH
 Rabbi Shmuel Birnham - West Vancouver, BC, Canada
 Rabbi Joseph R. Black - Alburquerque, NM
 Rabbi Yosef Blau - New York, NY
 Rabbi Barry H. Block - San Antonio, TX
 Rabbi David Blumenthal - Atlanta, GA
 Rabbi Lewis E. "Buz" Bogage - Greencastle, IN
 Rabbi Reuven Bulka - Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
 Rabbi Elina Bykova - Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
 Rabbi Kenneth Carr - Lafayette Hill, PA
 Rabbi Donald P. Cashman - Albany, NY
 Rabbi Adam Chalom - Highland Park, IL
 Rabbi Joshua Chasan, Burlington Vermont
 Rabbi Michael Chernick - New York, NY
 Rabbi Paul Citrin - San Diego, CA
 Rabbi Avraham Citron - Belfast, Ireland
 Rabbi Howard A. Cohen - Bennington, VT
 Rabbi Phil Cohen - Wyncote, PA
 Rabbi Stephen Cohen - Santa Barbara, CA
 Rabbi Hillel Cohn - San Bernardino, CA and Las Vegas, NV
 Rabbi Sigma Faye Coran - Williamstown, MA
 Rabbi Meryl Crean - Media, PA
 Rabbi Gail Diamond - Jerusalem, Israel
 Rabbi Stephanie Dickstein, CSW - New York, NY
 Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb - Washington DC
 Rabbi Malka Drucker - Sante Fe, NM
 Rabbi Laurence Edwards - Chicago, IL
 Rabbi Amy Eilberg - Palo Alto, California
 Rabbi Serena Raziel Eisenberg - Berkeley, CA
 Rabbi David Ellenson - New York, NY
 Rabbi Lawrence A. Englander - Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
 Rabbi Helaine Ettinger - West Orange, NJ
 Rabbi David Feder - Morgantown, WV
 Rabbi Stuart Federow - Houston, TX
 Rabbi Shaul R. Feinberg - Jerusalem, Israel
 Rabbi Marla J. Feldman - New York, NY
 Rabbi Natan Fenner - San Francisco, CA
 Rabbi Reuven Firestone - Los Angeles, CA
 Rabbi Irwin Fishbein - Westfield, NJ
 Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich - South Lake Tahoe, CA
 Rabbi Susan Friedman - Cary, North Carolina
 Rabbi Dov I. Frimer - Jerusalem, Israel
 Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer - Philadelphia, PA
 Rabbi Jeffrey Gale, Wantagh, NY
 Rabbi Hillel Gamoran - Seattle, WA
 Rabbi Lisa B. Gelber - New York, NY
 Rabbi Gary S. Gerson - Oak Park, IL
 Rabbi William Gershon - Dallas, TX
 Rabbi James A. Gibson - Pittsburgh, PA
 Rabbi Melvin J. Glazer - Miami, FL
 Rabbi Gary Glickstein - Miami Beach, FL
 Rabbi Robert J. Gluck - Albany, NY
 Rabbi Connie Golden - Philadelphia, PA
 Rabbi Irwin N. Goldenberg - York, PA
 Rabbi Barbara Goldman-Wartell - Allentown, PA
 Rabbi Andrea Goldstein - St. Louis, MO
 Rabbi Maralee Gordon - Woodstock, IL
 Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum - Jerusalem, Israel
 Rabbi Fred Greene - Bridgeport, CT
 Rabbi Stanley Greenstein - New York, NY
 Rabbi Tina Grimberg - Toronto, ON, Canada
 Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer - Los Angeles, CA
 Rabbi Susan Grossman, Columbia, MD
 Rabbi Yehoshua C. Grunstein - Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
 Rabbi Susan Gulack - Albany, NY
 Rabbi Larry J. Halpern - West Linn, OR
 Rabbi Ze'ev Harari - Lindenhurst, IL
 Rabbi Sidney M. Helbraun - Northbrook, IL
 Rabbi Michael Hezbrun - Rochester, NY
 Rabbi Brad Hirschfield - New York, NY
 Rabbi Joshua Hoffman - New York, NY
 Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman - New York, NY
 Rabbi Daniel Isaak, Portland, OR
 Rabbi Mark Israel - Washington DC
 Rabbi Lisa Izes - New York, NY
 Rabbi Adam Jacobs - New York, NY
 Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe - Lexington, MA
 Rabbi Beth Janus - Aptos, CA
 Rabbi Eitan Julius - San Jose, CA
 Bruce E. Kahn - Chevy Chase, MD
 Rabbi Dr. Pinchas Kahn - Jerusalem, Israel
 Rabbi David Kaiman - Gainesville, FL
 Rabbi Gerald M. Kane - Las Cruces, NM
 Rabbi Harley Kartz-Wagman - Everett, WA
 Rabbi Robert Kasman - Schenectady, NY
 Rabbi Stuart Kelman - Berkeley, CA
 Rabbi Aviva Kipen - Victoria Australia
 Rabbi Marc Aaron Kline - Lexington, KY
 Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner - Jerusalem, Israel
 Rabbi Peter S. Knobel - Evanston, IL
 Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold - Boulder CO
 Rabbi Allen Krause - Aliso Viejo, CA
 Rabbi Yaacov J. Kravitz, Ed.D. - Abington, PA
 Rabbi Barry Krieger - Orono, Maine
 Rabbi David J.B. Krishef - Grand Rapids, MI
 Rabbi Vernon Kurtz - Highland Park, IL
 Rabbi Shira L. Lander, Ph.D. - Baltimore, MD
 Rabbi Eric M. Lankin, D.Min. - New York, NY
 Rabbi Alan LaPayover - Penn Valley, PA
 Rabbi Anson Laytner - Seattle, WA
 Rabbi Robert Leib - Abington, PA
 Rabbi Maya Leibovich - Mevasseret Zion, Israel
 Rabbi David Leipziger - Middletown, CT
 Rabbi Michele Lenke, Wellesley, MA
 Rabbi Joel Levinson - Patchogue, NY
 Rabbi Aaron Levy - Ithaca, NY
 Rabbi Dov Linzer - New York, NY
 Rabbi Ellen Lippmann - Brooklyn, NY
 Rabbi Gershon Litt - Chesterfield, MO
 Rabbi Daveen Litwin - Northampton, MA
 Rabbi Jessica E. Locketz - Alexandria, VA
 Rabbi Sarah E. Mack - Providence, RI
 Rabbi Jill L. Maderer - Philadelphia, PA
 Rabbi Mark Mahler - Pittsburgh, PA
 Rabbi Mark Mallach - Springfield, NJ
 Rabbi Richard J. Margolis - Melbourne, FL
 Rabbi Joseph M. Menashe - Baltimore, MD
 Rabbi Brian I. Michelson - Reading, PA
 Rabbi Tamara Miller - Washington, DC.
 Rabbi Mendel Mintz - Fort Collins, CO
 Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh - Los Angeles, CA
 Rabbi Lon Moskowitz, San Luis Obispo, California
 Rabbi Len Muroff - Lakewood, CA
 Rabbi Ron Muroff - Harrisburg, PA
 Rabbi Michael Namath - New York, NY
 Rabbi Daniel S. Nevins - Farmington Hills, MI
 Rabbi Aharon Newman - Baltimore, MD
 Rabbi Joseph S. Ozarowski - Chicago, IL
 Rabbi Jack P. Paskoff - Lancaster, PA
 Rabbi Stephen M. Passamaneck - Los Angeles, CA
 Rabbi Sandy Roth Parian - New Hope, PA
 Rabbi Pinchas N. Pearl - Brooklyn, NY
 Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Pearlman - Dublin, Ireland
 Rabbi Eli B. Perlman - East Brunswick, NJ
 Rabbi Aaron L. Peller - Scranton, PA
 Rabbi Deborah Pipe-Mazo - Barnstable, MA
 Rabino Baruj Plavnick - Buenos Aires, Argentina
 Rabbi Shalom Podwol - Forest Park, IL
 Rabbi Philip Pohl - Olney, MD
 Rabbi Seymour Prystowsky - Lafayette Hill, PA
 Rabbi Mark R. Raphael - Gaithersburg, MD
 Rabbi Michael M. Remson - Pittsburgh, PA
 Rabbi Laurie Rice - Woodinville, WA
 Rabbi Philip Rice - Seattle, WA
 Rabbi Louis A. Rieser - Derry, NH
 Rabbi Daniel A. Roberts - University Heights, OH
 Rabbi Rochelle Robins - Ardmore, PA
 Rabbi Yair Robinson - Newtown, PA
 Rabbi H. David Rose - Potomac, MD
 Rabbi Kenneth D. Roseman - Corpus Christi, TX
 Rabbi Joel Roth - New York, NY
 Rabbi Ronald S. Roth - Nashville, TN
 Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein - Saratoga Springs, NY
 Rabbi Elisheva Sachs - Cotati, CA
 Rabbi Douglas Sagal - Westfield, NJ
 Rabbi Zev M. Shandalov - Chicago, IL
 Rabbi Susan Shankman - Washington, D.C.
 Rabbi Binyamin Scheiman - Niles, IL
 Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb - Washington D.C.
 Rabbi Judy Schindler - Charlotte, NC
 Rabbi Janine C. Schloss - St. Louis, MO
 Rabbi Michael Schudrich - Warsaw and Lodz, Poland
 Rabbi Burt Schuman - Altoona, PA
 Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz - Cherry Hill, NJ
 Rabbi Beth L. Schwartz - Knoxville, TN
 Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz - Chicago, IL
 Rabbi Amy Schwartzman - Falls Church, VA
 Rabbi Larry Sebert - New York, NY
 Rabbi Jerry H. Seidler - Amherst, NY
 Rabbi Drorah Setel - Buffalo, NY
 Rabbi Irit Shillor - Harlow, England and Vienna, Austria
 Rabbi Mark L. Shook - St. Louis, MO
 Rabbi Howard Siegel - Houston, TX
 Rabbi Yaakov (Jeffrey) Siegel - Island Park, NY
 Rabbi Jonathan Siger - Macon, Georgia
 Rabbi Murray Singerman - Baltimore, MD
 Rabbi Ze'ev Smason - St. Louis, MO
 Rabbi Myra Soifer - Reno, NV
 Rabbi Eric Solomon - Bronx, NY
 Rabbi Steve Solomon - Baltimore, MD
 Rabbi Ned. J. Soltz - Arlington, TX
 Rabbi Jack D. Spiro - Richmond, VA
 Rabbi Miriam Spitzer - Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
 Rabbi Sonya Starr - Columbia, MD
 Rabbi Brian Strauss - Houston, TX
 Rabbi David Straus - Wynnewood, PA
 Rabbi Arthur Z. Steinberg - Portsmouth, VA
 Rabbi David Steinberg - Burlington VT
 Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman - St. Louis, MO
 Rabbi Shlomo Tenenbaum - Chicago, IL
 Rabbi Elliott Tepperman - Montclair, NJ
 Rabbi Jon-Jay Tilsen - New Haven, CT
 Rabbi Robert L. Tobin - Westport, CT
 Rabbi Jason van Leeuwen - Los Angeles, CA
 Rabbi Nosson Vershubsky - Voronezh, Russia
 Rabbi Neal Weinberg - Los Angles, CA
 Rabbi Daniel A. Weiner - Seattle, WA
 Rabbi Simkha Weintraub - New York, NY
 Rabbi David M. Weis - Northfield, NJ
 Rabbi Duvie Weiss - Newark, NJ
 Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum - Annapolis, MD
 Rabbi Harvey Well - Skokie, IL
 Rabbi Nancy H. Wiener - New York, NY
 Rabbi Shohama Wiener - New Rochelle, NY
 Rabbi Jeffrey S. Wildstein - Minneapolis, MN
 Rabbi Aryeh Wineman - Troy, NY
 Rabi Joel Wittstein - London, ON, Canada
 Rabbi Julie Wolkoff - Waltham, MA
 Rabbi Yosef Wolicki - Netanya, Israel
 Rabbi Doug Zelden - Chicago, IL
 Rabbi David J. Zucker - Aurora, CO
 Rabbi Julie Anne Zupan - Potomac, MD 
(Actually, it's only 232 rabbis - this list counts Fred Dobbs twice. I wonder what else on this list is wrong?)
(Reb Yudel)

Darwin is Not the Enemy

Creationism? Evolution? Don't worry: Rav Kook is here!

Or, at any rate, my reply to David Klinghoffer's recent op-ed attacking Darwin's Jews has been published in The Jewish Week

If you want your own source of illumination to defend the faith from fundamentalist-funded creationists, buy a copy of The Essential Writings of Rav Kook. If you want to read what I had to say... well, here it comes.

David Klinghoffer wonders why the Jewish community hasn’t joined the struggle against Darwin (“Darwin’s Jews,” Feb. 24). He asserts high theological stakes: If it cannot be proven that the origin of life is a scientific impossibility, then Judaism cannot be believed.

Klinghoffer seems unaware that an Orthodox Jewish response to Darwin was offered a century ago by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook.

Rav Kook, who was to become the chief rabbi of prestate Palestine, saw no need to disprove evolution. Indeed, he saw Darwin’s theory as pointing to “the unfolding of the spiritual dimension of existence, which does not show a hiatus of a single wasted step.”

The problem raised by evolution, said Rav Kook, was based on its conflict with the religious views of the masses, not on the inner truth of Judaism.

“For this,” he wrote, “there is need of great illumination, which is to penetrate all strata of society, until it reaches with its agreeable harmonization even the simplest circles of the masses” (Orot Hakodesh II 556-560).

Rav Kook’s faith-filled response to science contrasts with that of Klinghoffer and his colleagues in the Intelligent Design movement, desperately seeking God at the final line of the scientific enterprise. It is a challenging search, in part because our understanding of biochemistry and molecular genetics has deepened in recent years. Whether Klinghoffer likes it or not, we are simply understanding more about how the world works.

That is why Intelligent Design is ridiculed for worshiping a “God of the gaps,” a deity whose existence is found in the failure of scientists to fully explain every natural phenomenon. The majesty of such a God decreases with every new scientific study.

Certainly the Catholic Church did itself no favors when it placed its theological bets against the astronomical discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo.

The Church, like Klinghoffer, would have done well to follow the path of Maimonides, who opposed his contemporaries who preached the eternity of the world simply because “the theory has not been proved” (Guide II 25), while allowing that were it to be proved, it would not contradict the core Jewish beliefs.

(Maimonides’ willingness to interpret the Torah figuratively places him at odds with today’s haredi Creationists, who insist the world is less than 6,000 years old and ban dinosaurs from their classrooms.)

The true beauty of Rav Kook’s approach, however, is not its pragmatism but its piety. He believes that God is the premise, not the conclusion. His God is not ascertained in scientific arguments but through perception and faith.

In marked contrast to Klinghoffer’s fear, Rav Kook reacted to those who postulate a purely physical world with equanimity, regarding “this childish construction as one which fashions the outer shell of life while not knowing how to build life itself” (Igrot I 44).

Rav Kook explicitly rejects the very moral logic of seeking God through the scientific means: “We do not base our faith in God on an inference from the existence of the world, or the character of the world, but on inner sensibility, on our disposition for the divine (ibid.).”

Rav Kook’s perspective, for all its poetic majesty, is self-evident for any Jew who takes the prayerbook seriously.

In the morning, when we praise God for “mercifully shining light on the Earth and those who dwell on it,” we are not claiming that physics is inadequate to explain the sunrise. Rather, we see the nuclear furnace 93 million miles away as a reflection of God.

The next line tells us a key fact for a believing Jew: God constantly renews the work of creation. Our prayerbook does not deny any materialistic mechanism to the sunrise, be it the chariot of Apollo or the laws of gravity. It asserts only that the rising of the sun reflects God’s will, constancy and love.

We believe that God maintains each spinning electron not because we can think of no better explanation for physics but because that is our core belief about God. And our belief in God does not preclude our working to examine and understand the workings of His world as fully as is possible.

In fact, for Rav Kook the developing conception of science is important because it fosters a developing conception of God. Conversely, Rav Kook would argue that atheism among evolutionary theorists is not a sign that something is wrong with the structure of biological science, but rather as a sign that something is wrong with religion.

Rav Kook would argue that Klinghoffer should not be toiling in the journals of biological research, but should be seeking to penetrate the inner meaning of Torah’s mystical core: “In general this is an important principle in the conflict of ideas, that when an idea comes to negate some teaching in the Torah, we must not, to begin with, reject it, but build the edifice of the Torah above it, and thereby we ascend higher, and through this ascent, the ideas are clarified” (Igrot I 124).

Klinghoffer is right in one respect: As a key architect of our modern world, Darwin presents a challenge to religion. But the real challenge we religious Jews face is not to destroy what Darwin built but to build what Rav Kook envisioned, a living religion as dazzling in its way as Darwinian science is in its way. n

Larry Yudelson is editorial director of Ben Yehuda Press, which recently reprinted “The Essential Writings of Abraham Isaac Kook,” translated and edited by Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser.

(Reb Yudel)

McCarthyism 101: Anatomy of a Smear

Guilt by association. It's a classic technique used by propagandists. And Seth Lipsky is nothing if not a propagandist -- look at the hand he gave alleged-Iranian agent Achmed Chalbi during the 1990s. (Was that last bit guilt-by-association? You be the judge!)

So when a report comes out from some Harvard Prof. that the "Jewish lobby" has too much influence, why bother reading the report and criticizing it, if you can find some unsavory characters who share the conclusion. Here's the headline and lead from Eli Lake's article in Lipsky's Sun:

David Duke Claims to Be Vindicated By a Harvard Dean

A paper recently co-authored by the academic dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government about the allegedly far-reaching influence of an "Israel lobby" is winning praise from white supremacist David Duke.

The Palestine Liberation Organization mission to Washington is distributing the paper, which also is being hailed by a senior member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization.

But let's look further:
"I have read about the report and read one summary already, and I am surprised how excellent it is," he said in an e-mail. "It is quite satisfying to see a body in the premier American University essentially come out and validate every major point I have been making since even before the war even started." Duke added that "the task before us is to wrest control of America's foreign policy and critical junctures of media from the Jewish extremist Neocons that seek to lead us into what they expectantly call World War IV."

Mr. Walt said last night, "I have always found Mr. Duke's views reprehensible, and I am sorry he sees this article as consistent with his view of the world."

The real problem that Lipsky is dealing with is the kernel of truth in the paper: There is no good publically stated reason for why we are in Iraq, and the clues certainly lead back to the Neoconservatives from whom Lipsky was an ideological arm.

Combine Bush's "we were in Iraq because of our bad intelligence" with the ample evidence that the intelligence was baldly cooked by Cheney, Rumsfeld, and AIPAC hatchet-man Doug Feith and what do you have?

Personally, I think it's more complicated than that. But in the absence of truth, conspiracy theories flourish. That's why anti-Semitic conspiracies are the stuff of Czarist Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Cheney America.

March 23, 2006

(Reb Yudel) is defacto arm of Awareness Center

Do you think all of Vicki Polin's donors know that she spends her time fighting her own private vendettas against bloggers rather than actually helping victims of abuse?

It's clear that Vicki Polin and are functionally one and the same, now that the photo mentioned in my previous post has been copied to the Awareness Center web site.

(Reb Yudel)

A message to readers of

Go after innocent men because of a vendetta, and no one will trust you -- or real victims -- again.

And a question: Now that I've stopped Vicki Polin from stealing a friend's bandwidth to publish a picture of my daughter on her blog, what will your "protector" Vicki do next?

(Reb Yudel)

They Must Go: The shames of Meir Kahane and Vicki Polin

The last time I saw Meir Kahane was in a Jerusalem hotel about 15 years ago. He had summoned a conference to create a second Jewish state. The State of Judea, he proclaimed, would claim as its birthright all of the Land of Israel renounced by the State of Israel.

This was probably Kahane's last brilliant bit of guerilla theater before being shot by Sayid Nossair in Manhattan in '92. (Do you think the coiner of the phrase "for every Jew a .22" appreciates that his assassin would be acquitted of murder but jailed for weapons possession?)

On the face of it, the idea seemed brilliant. It declared maximalist territorial goals, rendering irrelevant the talk of Shimon Peres of peace plans and conferences. It made concrete the no-longer-new anti-Israel messianic Zionism of Kahane and the settler movement. And it created a new and distinctive brand; a few years later, one would see "Judea" magnets on the refrigerators of Hebron settlers if one squinted carefully on CNN.

Of course, the idea, as tends to be the case with the thoughts of fanatics, was at least as idiotic as it was brilliant. Could a "State of Judea" really fend off Arab armies? It would not be long until Yitzhak Rabin pulled Israeli troops OUT from Jericho a couple of years later, with no earstwhile Judean Army looking to conquer the territory.

But what I recall most about the event, which had promised the Herzlian chance of seeing the founding of a Jewish state, is the moment in which Kahane placed his pride before his purpose, and destroyed whatever chance his crazed brainstorm had to become a geopolitical reality.

The moment came after the first round of speeches. Kahane had assembled a broad group of people dissatisfied with the Israeli state. There was the university professor who had a whole notion of how to create a halacha-based constitution; I think he was a professor of Engineering or one of those mechanical fields whose practitioners tend, when let loose upon the world of humanity, to turn into utter crackpots. There was Kahane, of course. And there were a handful of others, probably eight or nine in all, spread behind the dais, each with their own visions which, they were convinced, would enable "Judea" to be the Jewish state that could.

So it was after the opening round, when all the invited guests had had their say, that the discussion turned to the practical. What should be done? What steps could be taken to move this vision into the realm of the practical?

And now we approach the moment I remember. One man, probably in his 30s, an activist from Hebron, with a Gush Emunim beard, began slowly, cautiously, dangerously.

"Kavod harav," he said, "With all respect to the honored rabbi... it is sad and it is tragic but it is the truth Rabbi Kahane's name is... controversial. It is unfortunate but it is true. So perhaps rather than selectin the honorable Rabbi Kahane to be the leader, the Prime Minister, of this new country, we should honor him -- of course all honor is due him -- with a symbolic role, perhaps president -- and find someone else, who will not enrage the media and distract from our shared purpose."

Well, it didn't take Kahane long to see what was coming.

He was not happy.

He began to scowl.

His face started to twitch.

"Titbayesh," he snarled. "Shame!"

And that was the end of the proposal. The young man from Hebron tried defending his emminently reasonable proposal, but Kahane would have none of that.

The Judea idea continued for a bit. They even printed up some stickers that looked like postage stamps.

But with Kahane at the helm, the State of Judea was just another Kahane stunt. The idea never grew beyond its founder.

I'm reminded of that moment because I've just seen it happen again.

A brilliant idea thrown under the wheel of its creator's ego.

Advocacy for Jewish victims of sexual assault, and of Rabbinic sexual misconduct, is a noble cause.

But when those at the forefront of the battle start using their platform for their own private vendettas, they're no longer part of the solution: They're part of the problem.

So congratulations are in order to Vicki Polin of The Awareness Center and the blogger currently known as JWB. They've just run over their cause, their claim to righteousness, and ultimately their professional viability.

You see, they're angry at me. They don't like the I have a friend who has a friend who has both disgruntled exes and semicha. In their manichean little world, the rabbi in question is EVIL, his friend is EVIL and I, who never met the rabbi in question, am EVIL as well.

Now, there are grounds for sympathy toward both of these people. Vicki has been hypnotized into believing that she is a baby-killer, and JWB no doubt has some kind of sad story of his own.

Truth be told, there's nothing like having children for growing a sense of empathy.

And there's nothing like having your children attacked to sweep aside your empathy.

So when I find a picture of my daughter on Vicki's site, whose content clearly gives pleasure not only to anti-semites but those who get off on all sorts of sordid tales of rape and molestation -- the sound you heard was my empathy zooming out the window.

I'm sorry their life has been hard. And I understand they don't appreciate that I've poked back at the curtain of anonymity and righteousness that they use to cloak their McCarthyite jihad. The fact that I showed JWB to be a liar and a blowhard probably didn't please him either.

But now that they've dragged my daughter into it, placing a picture of me and her on their "Rabbinic Abuse" web site -- and dubbed me "Rabbi" to boot -- along with some ludicrous guilt-by-association post that would make Barry Chamish blush -- well, I guess it it's time to finish taking out the trash.

I've run away from this fight a couple of times before, thinking I had better things to do. Apparently not. Before it was personal. Now, it's for the children.

March 18, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Dam al Ha-Elim = Blood on the Tracks?

Philip Smith writes:

While attending Jewish Day School in South Africa, I can remember reading a Hebrew poem in class with the lyrics "Dam Al HaEylim" which I think translates to "blood on the tracks". It was apparently a fairly well-known poem by a well-known author (Sh'Y Agnon?), in a book of classic Hebrew/Israeli literature - an anthology which had a tree on the front cover.
Does this ring any bells?

March 16, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Manga Midrash!

From Behrman House:

Manga is a graphic novel technique popular among pre-teens and teens.

is an ancient Jewish storytelling tradition based on biblical texts.

Put them together and you have Manga Midrash—an innovate and motivating way to teach Torah and Jewish values.

March 9, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Save 20% on Rav Kook's Essential Writings!

I'm proud to announce the publication of a new edition of The Essential Writings of Abraham Isaac Kook, edited and translated by Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser.

The sequel to Bokser's popular Paulist Press "Classics of Western Spirituality" anthology of Rav Kook, The Essential Writings features letters, short essays and short excerpts from Rav Kook's works, particularly Orot Ha-Kodesh.

Says David Shatz, professor of philosophy at YU and editor of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and Jewish Spirituality (NYU Press: 1995),

"This work excels both in it its judicious selection of texts -- all brief, pointed, and accessible -- and the quality of its translation."
And did I mention the new index prepared for this edition?

But here's the bottom line: As a reader of this blog, you're invited to take part in a special publication sale, otherwise available only to members of the Ben Yehuda Press mailing list. Click through to buy The Essential Writings of Abraham Isaac Kook for only $15.96, a 20% savings from the list price, and receive free shipping as well.

Offer available for a limited time only through the following URL:

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Fill-in-the-blank Jewish journalism

My Purim gift to you, a column I'd been wanting to write for years -- a fill-in-the-blank guide to writing for Jewish newspapers. Here's a taste:

The last Jews of [Blank]

It’s Friday evening, and the sun is going down in this [mountain / desert / jungle] village in the far reaches of [Europe / Asia / Arkansas]. In the pews sit [nine elderly men / three elderly men and six Peace Corps volunteers / eight elderly men and a reporter with a severe head cold]. They are waiting for a 10th man to complete the minyan, the prayer quorum.

“You should have been here 20 years ago,” says [Isaac / Yitzchok / Ygplyx] Cohen, the aging gabbai. “On a Friday night, we had 500 people. Even the [king / imam / local sheriff] would pay his respects.”

But that was before [insert global tragedy]. After that, most of the community moved to [Israel / America / the suburbs]. Those who remained are now led by [a Lubavitcher emissary / a Greek Orthodox plumber who speaks broken Hebrew / a Reform rabbinical student who lost her Eurail pass].

But this week there is hope, and the once grand synagogue will host its first bar mitzva in decades. The bar mitzva boy is [Ethan / Josh / Ari] [family name of prominent philanthropist], whose parents have come to the place where [his great-grandfather grew up / his grandparents owned the local butcher shop / his father’s company is now outsourcing its customer-service department].

“It’s a mitzva to remember the past,” said [Ethan / Josh / Ari]. “And as part of my bar mitzva project, I have collected [prayer books / warm socks / one-way airfare] for the community members.”

(Reb Yudel)

The failure of intermarriage prevention in a nutshell, part 1

A Jewish Week reader writes:

When congregants ask my husband [a rabbi] how to handle an interfaith relationship with which their child is involved, my husband asks, “Which is more important to you, your child’s happiness or the continuity of the Jewish people?” Inevitably most parents answer, “My child’s happiness is very important.”

Well, if your child is happy in this relationship, why the tears (“When Intermarriage Hits Home,” March 3)?

Unarguably it is a difficult question. One’s child is the immediate concern; the continuity of the Jewish people is a concept hard to embrace. But it is a concept that needs to be emphasized if we are to survive as a people. In Nazi-controlled Europe we were being annihilated. In the United States we are melting away like a sugar cube in a hot glass of tea.

It is no longer so common to sit shiva for our intermarried children. Instead we accept and hope that the couple and eventually the family will be a Jewish one. But is it really fair to demand acceptance of the Jewish faith, whether it be subtle or forthright, from the non-Jewish spouse when we have not demanded it from our own children?

The potential emotional loss of one’s own child is a devastating one when the demand to marry within the faith is concrete and the child does not concur. However, the alternative — the loss of that link in an ancient chain — is equally devastating. If we do not hold fast to our faith and urge our children to marry within it, what are we? If we do not do it now, then when?
Marsha Sternstein
Kings Park, N.Y.
Sorry, rebbetzin, you've missed the point. Intermarriage is not prevented by lecturing people on valuing the "continuity of the Jewish people" above their personal happiness or that of their children.

Because frankly, rebbetzin, I don't really know anyone who values Jewish continuity that highly -- certainly not anyone healthy.

The people who practice, preach and propagate "Jewish continuity" seem to enjoy the job very much, thank you.

What the rebbetzin -- and by extension, the rabbi -- should have been doing all these years is teaching the congregants, and their children, that living a Jewish life is so wonderful and compelling that giving it up for a relationship would be a sacrifice.

If the rebbetzin had convinced her flock that living Jewishly was worthwhile, she wouldn't be whining about their lack of devotion to the Jewish people.

And how devoted is the good rebbetzin to Jewish continuity?

Clearly not devoted enough to effectively ensure it in her congregants. If she's not devoted enough to Jewish continuity to figure out how to pass on Judaism to her congregation, why should she blame her congregants for their lack of devotion?

March 8, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Profiles in Hypocrisy

A collection of anecdotes from abortion doctors:

"I've had several cases over the years in which the anti-abortion patient had rationalized in one way or another that her case was the only exception, but the one that really made an impression was the college senior who was the president of her campus Right-to-Life organization, meaning that she had worked very hard in that organization for several years. As I was completing her procedure, I asked what she planned to do about her high office in the RTL organization. Her response was a wide-eyed, 'You're not going to tell them, are you!?' When assured that I was not, she breathed a sigh of relief, explaining how important that position was to her and how she wouldn't want this to interfere with it." (Physician, Texas)

"In 1990, in the Boston area, Operation Rescue and other groups were regularly blockading the clinics, and many of us went every Saturday morning for months to help women and staff get in. As a result, we knew many of the 'antis' by face. One morning, a woman who had been a regular 'sidewalk counselor' went into the clinic with a young woman who looked like she was 16-17, and obviously her daughter. When the mother came out about an hour later, I had to go up and ask her if her daughter's situation had caused her to change her mind. 'I don't expect you to understand my daughter's situation!' she angrily replied. The following Saturday, she was back, pleading with women entering the clinic not to 'murder their babies.'" (Clinic escort, Massachusetts)

"My first encounter with this phenomenon came when I was doing a 2-week follow-up at a family planning clinic. The woman's anti-choice values spoke indirectly through her expression and body language. She told me that she had been offended by the other women in the abortion clinic waiting room because they were using abortion as a form of birth control, but her condom had broken so she had no choice! I had real difficulty not pointing out that she did have a choice, and she had made it! Just like the other women in the waiting room." (Physician, Ontario)

(Reb Yudel)

Richard Joel reenters the Kiruv market

From an ad posted on

The Mechinah Program of Yeshiva University is looking to fill its new position of Director of Outreach. The Director of Outreach will be responsible for implementing innovative outreach programming. He or she will coordinate Yeshiva University outreach activities to non-affiliated and non-orthodox Jewish teens throughout the United States and Canada. Will work in collaboration with academic departments, both the Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women Mechinah Programs, the new Center for the Jewish Future, and the Office of Admissions.

The candidate should have extensive experience in informal Jewish education. He or she will be responsible to the Director of the Mechinah. The candidate should have strong administrative and organizational skills. He or she should be a creative strategic planner and be able to think out of the box. The candidate should be charismatic and lively and should be able to breed a sense of excitement about Judaism among young people. He or she should also be a team player. The candidate should possess excellent one-on-one skills and the ability to encourage students to choose Yeshiva University as their university for undergraduate studies. Extensive travel will be required

(Reb Yudel)

Will Jews be first victim of Google?

Google represents a challenge to media: What happens when the aggregator gets the eyeballs, rather than the content produce? It's a question that was somewhat posed when Yori Yanover started his news digest for JCN a decade ago.

Today, Google has upped the ante with it's announcement of a Hebrew edition of Google News at

Unlike the English-language market, there aren't that many Hebrew-language news sources. Will the new Hebrew Google News hurt the ability of and Yediot to sell ads on their home page, or will it increase the hits to the underlying articles? Will Google kill the goose that lays it golden news? The answer will be clearer, sooner, in Israel's micro-media economy. Hence -- along with a desire to increase my hits -- the fear-mongering headline.

March 6, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

South Dakota's brave new world

I just realized that those nuts in South Dakota might be having an unanticipated effect. I am working today and this guy said to me over lunch, "I can't believe that these people are really serious."

He's a bit of a putz and he admitted that he'd believed women were exaggerating the threat. I said "I hope you're ready to be daddies, boys. Last time abortion was illegal they didn't have DNA testing" and they all looked stunned.
FireDogLake quoting Digby
(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Phoenix, Sedona, a Jew in Arizona....

This column got an unusually strong (mostly positive) reaction this week: I suggest Jewish insiders take the occasional vacation from their Yiddishkeit:

No doubt the Jewish community has its challenges, and I don’t mean to belittle them. But sometimes you have to step outside yourself to get some perspective. That might sound strange at a time when we worry — with reason — that so many Jews have stepped so far outside their traditions that they may never come back.

What I am suggesting is that Jewish insiders take a little vacation now and then from their communities and traditions. Make it long enough so that you start seeing the world with someone else’s eyes — and short enough that you don’t forget how to get home. If you can afford the gas, you’ll be amazed at what you see.

March 5, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Positive fallout from Tendler scandal

The following comes from one of the Canonist discussion forums:

I am also very disappointed with some of our Rabbonim and some of the principals of the yeshivos here in Monsey. It is no wonder that we have so many kids at risk right here in Monsey Eir Hakodesh, who have been totally turned off to Judiasm and are now eating traif and mechalel Shabbos. All the kids here in NH know about KNH and Rabbi Tendler, and they will be very wary about putting their trust in any Rabbi.
Not trusting rabbis! Wonderful, albeit sixty-five years too late. Bottom line: shtupping congregants is far less heinous than telling congregants not to flee Europe while they can. Want to see what a real survivor of rabbinic abuse looks like? Go to Yad Vashem.

March 1, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Putting the Hip Hop back into Aramaic...

Jewschool introduces Y-Love:

Y-Love (Yitz Jordan) is an MC unlike any other. He is a black convert into the Bostener sect of chassidus (the mystical branch of Orthodox Judaism). He is among the most innovative freestylers on the scene, weaving seamless polyglot rhymes in English, Arabic, Yiddish, and Hebrew. Most unique is Y-Love’s revival of Aramaic, the ancient language used to discuss Jewish Law. With each word he spits in the tongue of the Talmud, Y-Love breathes new life into Hasidism, and hip-hop, one beat at a time.

What is there to say? Except, maybe, keifa d'shira rabba!