January 30, 2008

(Reb Yudel)

Friends of Dorothy Epstein in the New York Times

Activist Dorothy Epstein led a high-power life -- so it's no surprise that two people close to her appeared in The New York Times earlier this month.

Henry Foner, who edited her memoir A Song of Social Significance (Ben Yehuda Press, 2007) was in the hospital for hip replacement surgery. This is the story he told the Metropolitan Diary:

Dear Diary:

The morning after I underwent hip replacement surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, I was visited in my room by the surgeon. I expected the routine inquiry about my condition and almost fell out of my bed when he asked me, as though he were talking to my body, ''Which side are you on?''

Since this is the title of one of the great songs in our country's labor history (''My daddy was a miner, and I'm a miner's son.''), I recovered my senses long enough to point to my left side.

Meanwhile, Marilyn Gelber -- companion of Dorothy's son Robert -- showed up in a Jan. 22 article on the petty vindictiveness of Rudy Guliani:
“There were constant loyalty tests: ‘Will you shoot your brother?’ ” said Marilyn Gelber, who served as environmental commissioner under Mr. Giuliani. “People were marked for destruction for disloyal jokes.”
(Gelber was fired by Guliani, apparently for attacting too much personal publicity for her landmark work in negotiating a landmark agreement with upstate governments to preserve the watershed that drains into New York City's water supply.)

A week later she appeared in a happier report: The story of how a kid from the projects of Brooklyn made it to an upstate, small-town college -- thanks to the foundation that Gelber directs.

Dorothy Epstein, who never relaxed her gratitude for the free public education she received at Hunter College during the Great Depression, would be very proud.

January 13, 2008

(Reb Yudel)

A drug & alcohol policy that can save lives

Writing in The American Interest, Mark Kleinman offers suggestions on how to treat intoxicants to minimze harm:

Deny alcohol to problem drinkers. When someone gets caught drinking and driving, we take away his license: his driving license, that is. The “license” to drink—legal permission to buy and consume alcohol in unlimited quantities—is presumed to be irrevocable. But why? We know that someone who drinks and drives is a bad citizen when drunk, but not that he is a bad driver when sober.

If someone is convicted of drunken driving, or drunken assault, or drunken vandalism, or repeatedly of drunk and disorderly conduct—if, that is, someone demonstrates that he is either a menace or a major public nuisance when drunk—then why not revoke his (or, much more rarely, her) drinking license?

Of course, in a country whose citizens believe that the Creator of the Universe will send them to Gulag Everlasting for imbibing alcohol or even caffeine, we're more likely to see President Huckabee declare a War on Cola to assuage the Utah electorate than anything like common-sense.

(Reb Yudel)

Stupid Jews Watch: How Jeff Zucker destroyed TV news

Former NPR and Dateline reporter John Hockenberry offers a post-mortem on network television news (MIT Technology Review):

I can say with confidence that Murrow would be outraged not so much by the networks' greed (Murrow was one of the first news personalities to hire a talent agent) as by the missed opportunity to use technology to help create a nation of engaged citizens bent on preserving their freedom and their connections to the broader world.

January 12, 2008

(Reb Yudel)

Torah-True party snack or stomach-churning plague?

Aaron Freeman moves from comic Torah to parsha performance art in his latest video.

Note: Sensitive souls should consult with rabbinic guidance before replicating this stunt at home. (crossposted to JewSchool

January 11, 2008

(Reb Yudel)

Bayme's Newest Big Blowhardery

Baymes piece purports to help Jewish schools through the defeat of a strawman.

He neglects the fact that 80 area students and their parents wanted to go to a Jewish high school -- but couldn't get the chance.

It had nothing to do with some abstraict fear of Jewish high schools.

It had everything to do with people running those schools - who had no idea of they were doing.

And this "lay leadership" included ______, X of the United Synagogue, and ____ of JTS.

My daughter's school closed down two weeks before it should have started because of Jewish professionals who meant well, but acted incompetently.

Stop using nameless "they"s as scapegoats of all your problems. Maybe the problems are the way you're going about your business. How hard would it be to have a real investigation, a questioning of what sort of service board members provided by their presence on the board? If they could damage one school badly, I wonder what other damage they're wreaking in Jewish communal life?

January 8, 2008

(Reb Yudel)

We're still following orders!

Stanley Milgram's (in)famous conformity experiment which is usually always described as being 'too unethical to perform today' has been replicated., this time ensuring that no unethical stress was put on the subjects.

The good news came from the experimenter:

Although each of these safeguards came with a methodological price (e.g., the potential effect of screening out certain individuals, the effect of emphasizing that participants could leave at any time), I wanted to take every reasonable measure to ensure that our participants were treated in a humane and ethical manner.

The bad news was the results:
The study found that levels of obedience were about the same now, as they were in the early 1960s when the original experiment was first run.

Remind me again why Holocaust education matters?