June 26, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

People who need peoplehood

The elderly man leaned in close, his message urgent. “You see this suit?” he asked, fingering his lapel. “Syms, $125. Believe me, I could afford a $900 suit. But what I don’t spend on suits I can give to Israel. Young people? They don’t care. Doctors, lawyers. I ask them to help out, and they give me $1,800, that’s it. In my day, you supported Israel — no questions. Now some federations give 40, 30 percent to Israel and the rest for the local things. I swore I’d never give unless at least half went to Israel.”
Andrew Silow Carroll gives the definitive answer to Cohen and Wertheimer.

June 13, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

If I am not for Ilan Ramon, who will be for me?

The age-old discussion of Jewish universalism and particularism enters a brave new orbit in our comment section, with the suggestion that Ilan Ramon be turned into a media symbol like Mathew Sheppard or Terry Schiavo.

Ilan Ramon: brave Jewish astronaut? Or victim of Newton's anti-semitic theory of gravity? Join the debate!

June 12, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

A poignant story of Orthodoxy and self-hatred

click here

June 10, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Who was Lewis Browne?

Among the volumes I inherited from my grandmother is one called "The Graphic Bible," by Lewis Browne, featuring lush maps illustrating Bible history. Since I need a map for a book I'm working on, I'm looking into securing reprint rights, a process that entails some research. Along the way, I'm finding some interesting clues about a rabbi and writer who from the long-forgotten past of American judaism from the inter-war years.

Herewith, some very raw notes from my research.

The starting point is the description of the papers of Lewis Browne, 1897-1949, author, radio commentator, lecturer, and world traveler, from the Lilly Library manuscript collections of the University of Indiana.

The collection is organized into the following series: I. Correspondence; II. Diaries; III. Writings; IV. Articles; V. Illustrations; VI. Miscellaneous; and, VII. Printed matter. An inventory is available.

The correspondence is with novelists, poets, dramatists, journalists, educators, scientists, politicians, diplomats, physicians, army officers, artists, actors, lawyers, businessmen, and clergymen. Among the subjects covered are the American Socialist Party allied occupation of Austria, California election of 1934, communism, emigration and immigration, Hebrew Union College, Industrial Workers of the World, migration and persecution of Jews, Jews in Cincinnati, Jews in Mexico, pacifism, and World War II. There is extensive correspondence between Browne and his parents from 1914 to 1948 as well as with his sister, Rebecca (Browne) Tarlow from 1929 to 1946. A few letters were written by Myna Eisner (Lissner) Browne to Browne's parents during 1933. Browne also provides a provocative commentary about the life he led and the education he received at the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio, during the early twentieth century as well as his impressions of the renown leader of American reform Judaism, Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise.

Via books.google.com, one can read a review of his book on Spinoza in the Theosophical Quarterly, which praises him for
a remarkable feat in writing three hundred and ninteen pages about Spinoza's life, for this life was almost devoid of incident, with the exception of the oustanding episode of his excommunicatino from Israel. But he has marshalled his facts with skill and has made the maximum use of his material.

I wonder how the biography compares to Rebecca Goldstein's new book; and whether Goldstein shares Browne's "scorn" for "the Zohar and other Kabbalistic scriptures," as the reviewer put it.

And then there is this fascinating tidbit from "Philippine Magazine":
"Speaking of cripples, do you know Lewis Browne is a cripple? Tubercular spine or soemthign -- all hunched over. He is the man who rote "This believing World." Must be English from the way he speaks. Lives in seclusion, and writes in bed. When i told him I live in the Philippines, he said he envied me and that he would like"
and there the excerpt ends.

Now here is an intriguing tidbit, particularly relevant to my tracking down permissions for the Graphic Bible, from a book on Mark Rothko:
After some advertising experience, he is commissioned in 1927 to draw maps and illustrations for the Graphic Bible... by Lewis Browne. When he is not credited in the 1928 publication, he sues Browne and publisher, MacMillan, for $20,000 in damages and a share fo the royalties. Though the case goes to the New York Supreme Court, Rothkowitz loses.
That certainly explains the high quality of the illustration! Finally, for now, comes this tidbit from The Fortunes of German Writers in America: Studies in Literary Reception, which refers to
Lewis Browne's biography, That Man Heine, of 1927. Browne, who had been a rabbi at the Free Syunagogue in Newark, had left the rabbinate to devote himself full-time to writing. His biography was conceived out of a lively conempt for literary criticism and scholarship, and shows it; it is vivacious but not very precise or accuate. Virtually alone among Heine biographers, Browne finds him enduringly influenced by his Hebrew School experience, which steeped him in Biblical lore and made his soul definitely that of a Jew... Browne's interpretation of Heine should probably be seen in the light of his reading of the modern Jewish situation, which was that the Jews should be excluded, by force if necessary, from their traditional commercial and bureaucratic occupations and enabled to take up the same variety of trades and vocations as gentiles. He thought Stalin a particularly positive force in this endeavor but also invested hope in the settlements in Palestine.

June 7, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Dorothy Epstein - 1913-2006

The New York Times death notice:

Dorothy Epstein
EPSTEIN-Dorothy. Longtime activist, organizer, feminist and entrepreneur died on May 25, 2006 at the age of 92. She was independent, strong willed, generous, a fighter for causes she believed in, and the first woman to achieve many of the positions she held. Born in the Bronx in 1913, she graduated from Hunter College in 1933. Grateful for her free education at the college, she created the first endowed chair at that institution, and was an active member and contributor to its Scholarship and Welfare fund. She worked at the Department of Welfare where she organized the first sitdown strike and later became the first female local president at DC37. She worked for Russian War Relief and the American Labor Party and developed the Furriers' union dental clinic. Later she went into private industry and was the first female president of a vitamin production company, Synergy Plus. When she retired at age 76, she became a senior activist, first as president of the Hudson Guild Senior Center, then as the founding director of the Institute for Senior Action, a program which trains seniors to advocate for their needs. She is survived by her brother Donald of Pittsburgh and her son, Robert Jacobson and his partner Marilyn Gelber, of Brooklyn. A funeral will be at the Riverside Chapel at Amsterdam Av. & 76th St. on Sunday at 11:30AM. In her honor, contributions can be made to the Dorothy Epstein Legacy Fund, JPAC for Older Adults, 132 W. 31 St. NYC 10001.
Quite a woman. We at Ben Yehuda Press are honored to be publishing her memoir this fall.

(Reb Yudel)

If there was a Nobel price for wrongness....

I'd be nominating Jack Wertheimer. From his new Commentary article
Whatever Happened to the Jewish People (warning: PDF link):

Hosting Mikhail Gorbachev at their first
summit in Washington, D.C. in December
1987, Ronald Reagan regaled his guest with a description
of a mass rally held in the city just two
days earlier to demand unrestricted emigration
rights for Soviet Jews. Over a quarter-million
Americans, mostly Jews, had gathered on the Mall,
some coming from as far away as Hawaii, to march
under banners demanding “Let My People Go.”
So moved had Reagan been by this display of ethnic
solidarity in the name of democratic rights that
he spoke about it for five long minutes as his visitor
uneasily tried to shift the conversation to a safer
topic, like arms control.

Today, less than twenty years later, it is almost
inconceivable that the American Jewish community
could muster the will to mount so massive a
show of unity. It is not just that, at the moment, no
large-scale crisis seems to engage the American
Jewish psyche.
(emphasis added))

What a fine, fact-free critique. Too bad that between the writing and the publication, a decent fraction of the quarter-million went to the Washington Mall to rally for Darfur, a cause promoted with far less urgency (and one with far less clarity of purpose) than the Soviet Jewry rally?

For too many years, Jack Wertheimer has been dismayed by the fact that American Jewry has changed in ways that his intellectual framework tells him are worrisome -- and hasn't paused to ask whether (1) his framework is true, and (2) whether his framework is part of the problem.

Full discussion of the paper over at JewSchoo

June 6, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Avi Shafran (inadvertantly) explains how Talmud study is injurious to the national defense

Writing about Leo Rosten in The Forward, Shafran writes:

There is a story told of two Jews in the 1930s discussing renowned Lithuanian talmudic genius Rabbi Yosef Rosen, popularly known as "the Rogatchover." "Why," the first fellow muses, "if only he had studied physics, he could have been an Einstein!" "You've got it wrong," the other says. "If only Einstein had studied Talmud, he could have been a Rogatchover!"

June 5, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Orthodox Union supports gay promiscuity

Seems the OU has decided to give cover to a failed presidency and political party that has decided that playing to a homophobic base with a DOA constititutional amendment is the only way to distract voters from death squads in Iraq, failing health care, a stagnant job market, and Osama bin Laden still at large:
Nathan Diament, director of public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America will be among a small group of religious and community leaders meeting with President Bush Monday (June 5) prior to the President's delivery of remarks in support of the Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

For background on the position of traditional Judaism on this issue, please see: www.ou.org/public/Publib/samemarr.htm


I would find their craven stupidity less annoying if I didn't at times rely on their kashrut supervision.