July 14, 2006

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Hero worship

Maybe you could use a laugh during these grim days -- my column suggests the superheroes we need for today's Jews:

Rhoda Dendron

Rhoda Daniels graduated in the top five percent at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, but after 10 years as a Jewish communal worker, she fears she will never be considered for an executive position. Seeking revenge and advancement for Jewish women professionals everywhere, she builds a secret crystal lair, known as the “Glass Ceiling,” and begins to issue a series of anonymous e-mails and class action lawsuits.

The Matchmaker

Born on a planet where eligible Jewish women outnumber single Jewish men by four to one (a planet, eerily enough, that resembles New York’s Upper West Side, but with more parking), mild-mannered Ya-El tends the espresso bar at a combination kosher deli-sushi bar-laundromat on Canal Street. At night, however, she dons her Prada jumpsuit and races around Gotham doing battle with her arch-enemies: Peter PanMan, whose evil influence renders 30-something bachelors paralyzed with indecision; PlasticSurgeryMan, a psychopath with body image problems who robs young women of their self-esteem; and Paris Hilton, a psychopath with body image problems who robs young women of their self-esteem.

See the whole list.

July 12, 2006

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Seymour Fox, z''l

We lost a major force in Jewish education this week: Seymour Fox, Professor of Education, Emeritus, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he
directed the School of Education, died in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Fox was the Director of Program of the Mandel Foundation, and founded the Jerusalem Fellows. He was ordained at JTS in 1956, and served as Assistant to the Chancellor and later as Dean of the Teachers Institute. He worked closely with the Melton Research Center and and was instrumental in the development of the Ramah Camps until he made aliyah in 1966.

Fox was a disciple of educational theorist Joseph Schwab of the College of the University of Chicago during the thirties - fifties, and Jerusalem Fellows were obligated to memorize Schwab's four "commonplaces" of education: Instructors, learners, content and milieu.

Fox's philosphy is summarized in the title of a monograph he put out in 1997 with famed ghostwriter William Novak: “Vision at the Heart: Lessons From Camp Ramah on the Power of Ideas in Shaping Educational Institutions.” "A great vision," Fox tells Novak, "will inspire educators to creativity and even to the invention of new kinds of institutions. Goals certainly matter, but by themselves they're not sufficient. And they are often so pedantic as to leave no room for vision. A vision that is intelligible and worthwhile is guided by great ideas that will survive periods when those ideas are out of favor."

I had mixed feelings about Prof. Fox during my time as a Jerusalem Fellow. He was a force of nature, and seemed large in the way that certain politicians, religious leaders, and football coaches feel large even when they stand a head shorter than you. I found him brusque to the point of rudeness, and felt he tended to overlook all but the obvious "stars" of the program. (Although I did appreciate the fact that, thanks to the distinct Chicago accent with which he pronounced his Hebrew, he was one of the few instructors whose lectures I actually understood.)

But in the years since I left the program, the mantra of "vision" remains with me, and I 've seen both how a clear vision sustains an organization through change, and the lack thereof is a recipe for disaster and irrelevance.

I haven't seen an official bio or obit from Mandel or any of the Israeli papers. Perhaps they'll be able to flesh out his wider impact -- in informal and formal Jewish education, teacher education, and the like. In the meantime there's a collection of essays he co-edited just a few years back, where you can get a taste of his thinking and the disciples who sprung up around him in the Jewish educational establishment.

UPDATE: Barry Holtz hs written this appreciation for the Forward.

July 4, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Gevalt, Mama! Could this really be the beginning?

Digital Spy reports that Early Bob Dylan poems up for sale:
Early poems by Bob Dylan are up for auction in New York next month.

The writings date back to around 1960, when Robert Zimmerman first used the pseudonym 'Bob Dylan'.

A spokesman for auction house Christies said: "While some of the poems are rooted in his daily university life and reference his Jewish heritage with Yiddish phrases, the wit and irony pervasive in his later songwriting are already evident."

The poems are expected to raise $70,000, according to BBC News.

Yiddish phrases? In early Dylan poetry? Gevalt! Who knew? Certainly not those of us who read his Chronicles memoir. While we wait for excerpts from this Dylan juvenalia to leak out, submissions of imagined early Dylan poetry with Yiddish lines are invited.