September 29, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Anti-Christians Unite to Fast, Feed

Jason Millman of Jcampus reports a triple-faith triumph scheduled for Boston U:

When Jewish students sit down to break the Yom Kippur fast next Monday night, they will have some company.

In an event hosted by the International Students Consortium along with
the Howard Thurman Center, BU Hillel, the Islamic Society and the Hindu
Student Council will sit down together at 7 p.m. on Oct. 2 to break the
fasts of Yom Kippur, Ramadan and Dussera, respectively.

Hillel’s Director of Student Activities Kip Lombardo said Boston
University is the first school he knows of that is putting together a
multi-faith dinner of this magnitude.

“No one else is doing this kind of joint program, and it really reaches
out,” Lombardo said, explaining the dinner is meant to bring separate
faiths together, though not to explore the religious aspects of the

“It’s about finding common ground,” Lombardo said. “We’re not looking to throw Hanukah decorations on a Christmas tree.
full story here.

(Reb Yudel)

Who supports torturing Israelis? Why doesn't the ADL speak out?

From this week's must-read Jewish Week article by Lawrence Cohler-Esses:
Oded Ellner, a Tel Aviv resident, recalled how his Argentinian jailers deprived him of sleep for weeks while holding him in an isolation cell as a suspected terrorist. He recounted how they repeatedly strip-searched him and exposed him to intense and continuous cold blasts of air conditioning while giving him little to wear.

With a shudder, he related how he was put out into the cold wintry air without shoes or a coat in the tiny yard at Buenos Aires Metropolitan Detention Center.

His companion, Sivan Kurzberg, recalled being forced to give blood to prison medical personnel against his will while fasting on Yom Kippur -- and passing out as a result. He remembered being denied toilet paper for hours after he needed it.

The son of a Holocaust survivor, Kurzberg recounted how he was interrogated for 12 hours straight chained to a chair by his feet and stomach, without access to an attorney or to food during that time.
Oddly enough, Abe Foxman has no position on this abuse of human rights by one of the most notorious regimes in the Western Hemisphere.

Maybe because it wasn't Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.

Nope, it was George Bush's America. (Did I say Argentinian? Sorry. Should have been American. Buenos Aires? I meant to say Brooklyn.)

And let's note here that the American Jewish Congress considers the Republican Party's "compromise bill" is one that "finds a reasonable balance."

Yep, the American Jewish Congress is so eager to shuck its "liberal" label that it supports a bill that its own legal council finds troubling for uprooting centuries of legal tradition and denying habeas corpus.

So for the record: American Jewish Congress: Soft on Republicans, soft on torture, but mighty tough when it comes to Israelis and other foreigners being beaten in secret American prisons.

(Me, I'd feel more embarassed to have 'Congress' in my name these days than anything else. Perhaps the AJCongress has developed Stockholm Syndrome from being identified with the House of Tom Delay.)

So, do the human rights that America upheld in battles against the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany endanger us in our battle against Islamic terrorists?


Or as Cohler-Esses notes:
Ironically, in Israel, where terrorism is an unremitting threat, a 1999 Supreme Court decision has outlawed "moderate physical pressure" on terrorist suspect detainees while their detention must be reviewed by a judge every six months in a proceeding with defense attorneys present for argument.

In these respects, said Israeli human rights advocate Sarit Michaeli, "Israel has stricter policies against torture" than those contemplated in the U.S. legislation.

"After the 1999 court decision, the frequency of abuse and mistreatment went down sharply, almost overnight," said Michaeli, a spokesperson for the Israeli human rights group B'teselem. Some mistreatment still takes place, she said, "but even through the height of the second intifada, we didn't see a return to the type of systemic torture we saw before. Security officials are now much more clever in their interrogation techniques."

September 26, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Solomonic Question on Teaneck Shuls List

And just in time for Sukkot: Question - for those who have tried to sell vanities

We have two new vanities that were not ordered but used during construction.
Is there a place or website where contractors visit to look to buy ready
made vanities?

E. S.

September 25, 2006

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Peoplehood revisited

The October issue of Commentary has a bunch of letters responding to Cohen and Wertheimer's article on "Jewish Peoplehood," including a letter by yours truly that reiterates what I wrote in my column.

The authors dismiss my objections that their definition of peoplehood is both nostalgic and historically aberrational, but I was glad to read their praise for Steven Bayme, Gadi Taub and Eli Lederhendler, who "concur with [their] thesis that the connection ofAmerican Jews to the greater Jewish people is eroding, and move the discussion beyond the descriptive and analytical to the programmatic by identifying potential resources for the re-invigoration of Jewish peoplehood." What bothered me about the original article was not that it was "descriptive and analytical" but that it refused to acknowledge, or even allude to, the "potential resources" for re-invigoration. As a result, it was unduly dismissive of a generation of Jews who were lucky (the authors might say unlucky) enough not to have come of age in a time of Jewish existential crisis. (It reminded me of the Greatest Generation literature, which takes a gimlet eye to to post-Vietnam era America and concludes, "Kids these days...").

I'm glad that C and W find "great merits" in the trio's proposals, and encourage communal leaders to "act upon their ideas."

(The letters aren't on line.)

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Truth and consequences

The [Pope Benedict-Islam] controversy seems part of a mini-trend of public figures being condemned for saying things that reasonable people may consider the truth. Truth may be an absolute defense in libel cases, but in the court of public opinion, it has to be weighed against a statement’s intention and effect.

See my other examples here.

September 22, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Blame it on Larry!

Discovery channel reports:

A cyclone named Larry has made 10,000 flying foxes vanish and zoologist Louise Shilton needs to find them — quick.

After slamming into Australia's Queensland state in March, Larry
appears to have scattered the local species crow-sized, fruit-eating
bats to distant places, said Shilton, who works for the Australian
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

The event is both good and bad for her ongoing project to monitor the usually poorly distributed animals.


September 21, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Did Israel catch something from its friends at the Republican Party?

Whisky Bar calls it The American Disease:
"I see a war of cultures here. In recent years the public sector in Israel has undergone a process of corruption. It began in politics but, regrettably, also penetrated the army. A cycle of discussion has been created here in which the core is not the essence but marketing. In the war we paid a price for that. We paid a price for disengaging from the truth. We paid a price for the loss of integrity and the moral fog. We paid a price for accepting a process in which officers are promoted because they have political connections."

Former Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon
Ha'aretz Interview
September 14, 2006

To which billmon comments: The question on the table, there as well as here, is whether anyone will do anything about it -- or can do anything about it.

September 18, 2006

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

What would Max Fisher do?

The New Jersey Jewish News editorializes on those Republican Jewish Coalition ads appearing in Jewish newspapers around the country:

Perhaps [the ads are] even a good election strategy, although we won’t know for sure until November. What is clear is that it is a worrisome pro-Israel strategy in that it puts a deeply partisan spin on an issue that should and must remain nonpartisan, for Israel’s sake and the sake of American Jewry.
(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

A teshuva futures market?

I received this spam this morning:

We purchase uncollected Judgments

See that Justice happens and receive the funds you are due

There must be a Rosh Hashana joke in there somewhere, but I'm too groggy to suss it out. Help?

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Havdala and headscarves

A few weeks back Yudel and I got a chance to meet and study with some faculty from an Israeli Arab teachers college who were on a two-week tour of the U.S. My account is online.

The mood in the room is warm and comfortable. Habayib, in her white head scarf, chats quietly with an Orthodox woman in a fashionable cloche hat. The Muslims listen politely as the Jews sing Shabbat zemirot; most greet their hosts with “Shabbat Shalom” and depart with hearty cries of “Shavua Tov” and invitations to visit them in Israel.

A few of the Jews linger long after Havdala, agreeing it was a moving event but wondering what it means in the wider scheme of things, with Israel facing Islamist rejectionists on at least two fronts, with madrassas from Tehran to Jakarta teaching jihad, and Al Qaida having fractured into a number of smaller but no less bloodthirsty cells.

September 17, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Pluto ~ Good or Bad for the Jews?

David Holzel moderates a symposium at Jewish Tangents:
Pluto thus has been banished from the company of what are now referred to as The Eight Classical Planets and joins a growing list of small, weird and marginal distant bodies that are only becoming known to us. So the questions naturally arise: Is this good or bad for the Jews? What is the Jewish Response to Pluto's downgrading? Is there a Jewish Angle to Pluto at all? Well, of course there is, and we have convened a symposium of Noted Jewish Thinkers to provide some answers.

Our Noted Jewish Thinkers include: Dan Brook, a writer, activist and instructor of sociology at San Jose State University; Glenn Hammel, a psychotherapist in Sacramento; Todd Leopold, an editor at and a prime mover behind the Franklin Pierce Pages; Ricky March, stand-up comedian from the funny city of Chicago; Andrew Silow-Carroll, editor-in-chief of the New Jersey Jewish News; and Larry Yudelson, a writer and editorial director of Ben Yehuda Press,

Continue to read the symposium....

September 14, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Bob Dylan on the Bible

There's an ongoing debate between certain Jewish and Christian Dylanologists. I've long been of the opinion for Bob, the music was the primary "church of his choice" and that his born-again phase was as much the exception to his day-to-day religious center as his Yom Kippur shul attendance. On the other side, are those who point to his regular performance of Jesus-centric songs -- both his own and others -- as proof that Dylan remains an orthodox Christian.

Well, if Dylan's recent Biblical "Theme Time Radio Hour" show is any guide, it looks like I'm right.

After a variety of songs about the Bible -- which to Dylan includes both the Old and New Testament -- but before giving a capsule description of Elijah's role in the Passover seder -- Dylan turns over the microphone to steel guitarist Kevin Mo, who opines as follows:

When I look at the Bible, and they say, this is the book about God's word, I don't think God is that confusing.

Why would God write such a confusing book?

I think it's written by men, trying their best to interpret the word of God. Everything is the word of God, because we're all the product of God.

I think God has showed up in many, many books, God has shown up in songs, God has shown up in a lot of places, so I think that the Bible gets too much credit for being the only word of God.

Doesn't sound very orthodox to me. In fact, it sounds very much like what Dylan said way back in the beginning:
You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital
You'll find God in the church of your choice
You'll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital

And though it's only my opinion
I may be right or wrong
You'll find them both
In the Grand Canyon
At sundown

(Reb Yudel)

Our last Hanukkah post of 5766

Beautiful menorah suffers from rapid burnout: (Reddish Studio via Boing Boing)

September 6, 2006

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Polarize, Joe-larize

I had an opportunity to ask Joe Lieberman a few questions during a conference call last week.

I asked him what he thinks of the Republican Jewish Coalition ad that said Ned Lamont’s victory was a defeat for Israel.

“I saw the ad very briefly,” Lieberman answers. “I think what they were concerned about was my defeat because I have been a friend and supporter of Israel, and I am very pleased to receive support from people who are Democrats, Republicans, and independents.”

Later I asked about the main point of the RJC ad, that an anti-Israel “radical Left…is now emerging as part of the mainstream in the Democratic Party.” Does he agree?

Lieberman, the “proud Democrat,” will have none of it. “The U.S.-Israel relationship and Israeli security draw very broad bipartisan support in Congress. I always say that presidents come and go, some are stronger on Israel, some are weaker for Israel.… The real guarantor [of Israel’s security] is a bipartisan majority in Congress. That continues to be so.”

Somehow the response reminded me of Michael Dukakis and the famous rape question: Accurate and measured, sure, but oddly bland when you consider that the ad in question accused your party of "antipathy towards Israel" and "indifference to anti-Semitism." Perhaps I should have pressed harder.

Rob Eshman of the L.A. Jewish Journal argues against making Israel a partisan issue here:

...Luntz and others who care about Israel understand this fissure is no cause for celebration, that treating the State of Israel as the equivalent of flag-burning or the morning after pill is dangerous and foolish.

September 3, 2006

(Reb Yudel)

Headlines we're grateful not to have written dept.

Rabbi to attend Selichot services

After that breathless hed, the rest of the story (From the Times Leader) is a bit anti-climactic:
WILKES-BARRE – In preparation for the high holy days, Selichot services will take place Sept. 16 at Congregation Ohav Zedek, 242 S. Franklin St. The TGIS Committee has planned a special evening, to begin at 10 p.m. with a light supper and a program. Selichot services are set for midnight.

Rabbi Joshua Levy will attend. He is the principal of Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia and the former principal of United Hebrew Institute, Kingston.

Reservations must be made by calling 825-6619 by Sept. 11.