A group of Jews endeavors towards total domination of the blogosphere.

Saturday, December 20, 2003  

Those Bangitout e-cards seem to be getting funnier with each successive holiday.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:39 PM |

One for the kiddies. Toss jelly donuts at all those wacky characters in the soap opera we refer to as "The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict." (via Harry)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:32 PM |

The Hasmonean legacy - and parallel

OVER THE years, though, the luster of Hanukka in secular Israel seems to have dimmed. I don't think I'm just imagining it when I say that there's less hubbub about the holiday than there used to be. Even my local grocery store, which once sold prominently displayed sufganiyot starting from the beginning of December, as if to whet one's appetite for the approaching holiday, no longer has them alongside the baguettes. Croissants have taken their place.
No doubt the increased secularization of secular Israel has something to do with it. And you can blame Christmas, too - or rather, the lack of it, since nothing has done more for Hanukka in the Diaspora, and especially in the United States, than its role as a Jewish counter-Christmas.
But what has also changed is our attitude toward Jewish power. We're no longer enamored of it and many of us are worried and disillusioned by it. At best, it is taken for granted. At worst, it induces melancholy reflections. What has it profited the Jews, the question goes, to have gained a state and lost their soul?
Read the whole article. His conclusion?
If Hanukka actually offers us a great deal to think about, this is because there are genuine historical parallels between the Hasmonean period and our own. Were it not for Zionism and the State of Israel, the 20th century would have been one of unmitigated disaster for the Jews, with the Holocaust and pathological anti-Semitism at its center and mass assimilation everywhere else. The century would have ended for us much as the second century BCE began, with a small, shrinking, and demoralized people that, apart from a hard core of true believers, saw no future for itself.
Almost straight out of that cute vort in the Rambam's Mishna Torah in the beginning of the Laws of Channuka, where the question is why he gives the whole historical background instead of jumping straight into the halakha, and the answer is that Jewish Sovreignty is worth emphasizing even if its somewhat corrupt and doesn't meet the standard of an eschatological vision.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 8:01 PM |

This week's Jewish Press had a whole bunch of small ads that read 'Abodi is coming." What does that mean?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 7:53 PM |

Friday, December 19, 2003  

Some of my fans may recall me asking earlier this week, "Will Abe Foxman issue a press release calling the Pope's endorsement anti-Semitic?" in reference to a report in the Wall Street Journal that the Pope said "It is as it was," after seeing Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of Christ.

Well, Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and author of Never Again: The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (HarperSanFrancisco, 2003), as he is referred to in the most recent ADL press release, issued the following statement:

If in fact Pope John Paul II has screened Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ" and if in fact his reaction to the film was positive, as has been reported, then we respect his statement. The Pope has a record and history of sensitivity to the Jewish community and has a clear moral voice and understanding when it comes to anti-Semitism.

However, we must reserve final judgment on "The Passion of Christ" until we have an opportunity to see the film. We hope that Mel Gibson has heard our concerns and those of Christian and Jewish scholars and religious leaders, who expressed unease about the earlier version of the film and its potential to fuel, rationalize and legitimize anti-Semitism.

If Mel Gibson has changed the film, which he has referred to all along as a "work-in-progress," then we would welcome that. We would like the opportunity to screen the final version for ourselves to see if the scenes of concern have been changed, and if so, publicly congratulate him.
Hmmm… it seems as if Mr. Foxman has significantly dialed down his criticism of Mr. Gibson, the film and those who ‘endorse’ it.

Regarding SWC, the Weisenthal Center still has only one "travel advisory" and that is to Greece (however laughable or offensive that may be).

As for whether or not the Gibson people will use the endorsement to promote the movie, today’s Calgary Herald reports:
The papal endorsement, which will no doubt be used to promote the film, should guarantee the faithful flock in.
But more importantly, the Chicago Tribune writes:
“The film's backers have seized on the comments attributed to the pope."
And continues on to quote Steve McEveety, the film’s producer as saying that:
“It's the most amazing 11 letters that could be combined into one sentence about the film. And it is absolutely amazing that he embraced it so positively.”
And so, there you have it.

posted by Pinchas | 10:28 AM |

Report on last night's Forward holiday party.
Met Jay Michaelson of Zeek, who was peddling the latest semi-annual print issue of his publication to various influencers; representing Protocols and Jewsweek and therefore the most influential person at the event, I warranted three dozen copies.
I also met Andrew Silow-Carroll of the New Jersey Jewish News, and formerly of the Forward, for the first time in person. My first impression was that his hair is a lot less curly than I'd expected from his picture -- in general, methinks, his picture doesn't look much like him, which raises obvious questions of his journalistic ethics owing to self-misrepresentation. More seriously, he said he checks Protocols thrice a day: a worthy endeavor for any Jewish newspaper editor.
I had lots of talks with Forward-types about Lakewood, Tom Friedman/Geneva Accords, and Jewish Women Watching.
Oh, and I saw Zackary Sholem Berger walk past me (with little jewish stars drawn on his name tag), but didn't get a chance to say hello.
Had a conversation with E.J. Kessler of Campaign Confidential; we talked about politics, predictably, but I also got the nifty tidbit out of her that her byline, "E.J." was thought up by Seth Lipsky. Also that she's mentioned in a Chicago improv performance, and I'll find that post later when I'm not on dial-up.
That's all for now.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:50 AM |

Thursday, December 18, 2003  

Benyamin Cohen received a grant to install a "Talk Back" feature at Jewsweek and here's the first article it's being tested on. Check it out and leave comments at the bottom of the article (but don't leave comments about the feature itself) if you want to help him get a sense of how it works.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:52 PM |

An Accusation Against the Forward's and New York Jewish Week's Advertising Departments.
The following e-mail was sent out by Jewish Women Watching, an anonymous advocacy group (credit to Jacob for bringing it to my attention):




December 18, 2003 -- On the eve of publication, both the Forward and the Jewish Week refused to print ads submitted by Jewish Women Watching, the infamous collective of Jewish feminist rabble-rousers. The papers cut the ads -- which announced JWW's First Annual Greasy Latke Awards -- for what the Jewish Week called "strong language."

"We certainly agree with the Jewish Week that our ad is full of 'strong language,'" said Sophie Tucker of Jewish Women Watching. "Criticizing Jewish organizations for sexism, homophobia, and strange political bedfellows is such strong language that only JWW will say it."

What was too strong for the Jewish Week and the Forward to print?

The censored ads criticized eight Jewish communal institutions for their "greasy" behavior. The awardees include:

- The United Jewish Communities, for taking $1.5 million from fundamentalist Pastor John Hagee;
- The Jewish Community Center of Manhattan, which fired its long-time executive director suspiciously soon after she ventured too far out of the closet; and
- The one-time civil rights advocate American Jewish Congress, for abandoning their progressive purpose and purging their left-leaning leaders.

"Jewish Women Watching spoke out against censorship in the past," member Clara Lemlich noted. "We take this latest outrage as proof that the Jewish Community needs a group like us to keep it honest."

Ironically, the yanked ads printed only the titles of the Greasy Latke Awards -- you can find the most biting criticism on JWW's website,

You can also hear the full story at a live awards ceremony tomorrow.

**JWW will present the Greasy Latke Awards in front of the United Jewish Communities building, 111 Eighth Avenue, on Friday, December 19, at 12 noon.**

"It is a sad day for the Jewish community when clever criticism is frozen out of the public square," said JWW's Dona Gracia Nasi. "We'll just have to work harder -- and yell louder -- in order to get our message heard."

About Jewish Women Watching (JWW) Jewish Women Watching is an anonymous activist collective that aims to rouse the public to challenge and change the sexist and other discriminatory practices in the American Jewish community. Since 1999, JWW has been criticizing the Jewish community's narrow-minded priorities in online, print, and street actions. For more information, visit JWW's web
site at
On their website, here's the main page devoted to the controversy. The banned ad is here. Both papers have confirmed rejecting the ad.
For those readers that don't know, business/editorial separation in the American press is called church/state, as an analogy for the degree of separation expected. At smaller papers, this line is unfortunately more often crossed than usual, as jobs are more closely tied to the performance of individual issues.
At certain Jewish papers, this separation is often inadequate and sometimes almost entirely non-existent. However, both the Forward and The New York Jewish Week are known for being staffed with well-educated, well-performing journalists who are well-versed in journalistic ethics (with all of this being relative, of course to the state of Jewish journalism generally).
I have sent inquiries to Jewish Women Watching, the Jewish Week and the Forward.
Rich Wallof, Associate Publisher/Ad Director for the Jewish Week, said that his paper did not object to the ad for its "strong language," as the e-mail suggests. Asked in a phone conversation whether the ad was rejected because of "strong language," he responded, "No, we just chose not to run it," adding, "We found some things that we didn't care for, that's why we chose not to run the ad."
Gary Rosenblatt, Editor and Publisher of the Jewish Week, says that the objection to the ad was owing to its anonymous nature and potentially libelous statements. "The issue isn't one of free speech, it's fairness," he said in an e-mail, adding, "We felt it simply was unfair for these people to make allegations and charges by innuendo against organizations and individuals while hiding behind their own anonymity."
At the Jewish Week, Rosenblatt is responsible for both the editorial and business ends of the paper, where it is claimed that he is the only employee in editorial who has any oversight of the business end. The Jewish Week also claims that it often receives and subsequently rejects anonymous advertisements as part of a blanket policy against anonymous advertisements.
According to its masthead, the Forward draws a starker delineation between editorial and business, where no employee's title appears to apply to both departments.
Protocols has been promised an e-mail from J.J. Goldberg, Editor of the Forward, and awaits a reply from Jewish Women Watching.
This post will be updated as information arrives.
UPDATE: J.J. Goldberg e-mails:
The accusation that the Forward turned down the Jewish Women Watching ad because we were "afraid" to print it is absurd and insulting.
There is nothing in their ad that the Forward is "afraid" to print. In fact, we have already printed just about every item on their list, in the course of our regular news coverage. In some cases we were the first to break the news.
We carried a series of articles and a strong editorial on the ADL-Berlusconi business. We've covered the JTS refusal to ordain gays in great depth. We've covered the UJC's glass ceiling - and countless other UJC failings - at enormous length. We have covered Michael Steinhardt as aggressively as any Jewish publication (probably more than any other) even though he was an officer of our board for years.
The fact is that the issues that JWW tries to raise in its ad have become mainstream, almost banal, partly thanks to the work of the Forward. The accusations now appear regularly in virtually every printed forum. There's nothing inflammatory anymore about these things. One might almost ask why the members of JWW were afraid to attach their names to their accusations.
But that's their business.
Our decision not to print their ad had nothing to do with fear of anything.
This was a matter of journalistic ethics. Several specific issues were involved. The main ones were, on one hand, civility versus name-calling, and on the other hand, identification versus anonymity. I detailed my considerations to them in a lengthy email message. They decided to ignore my explanations and instead to go public with more name-calling.
Here are the main issues, which I explained to JWW in an email message.
The first reason was that the advertisement they submitted named eight "awardees" - seven organizations and one individual - with a brief "award" title but no elaboration of what the target had done to deserve being singled out. The titles were generalizations like "the dirty money award," "the sleeping with the enemy award" and the "lifetime of dubious achievement award." In the course of our communications they spelled out the reasons for the awards, but the ad they submitted eliminated all the reasoning, apparently for reasons of space and design. As a result, the ad consisted of nothing but gratuitous name-calling. The ad said more information was available on their web site, but I checked and it wasn't.
The second reason was that some of their accusations, as spelled out in our earlier communications, crossed a line of legitimate or civil speech in my mind. There were specific items that I would have insisted on removing from the piece if it had run as an op-ed, not because I considered the issues they raised to be illegitimate but because they did not meet a standard of fairness. JWW took the position that they were merely expressing opinions. I disagreed. Some of their allegations were assertions of fact, and the Forward requires that assertions of fact be backed by a level of confidence that the facts are true. As a result, I would have had to eliminate several of the eight items, and since the ad was designed with eight "awards" for the eight nights of Chanukah, we were in a difficult position.
Finally, and decisively, we do not, as a matter of policy, run attack ads that single out others for criticism or ridicule when the advertiser is unwilling to supply his or her own name to the newspaper. This policy is generally accepted as standard practice in the newspaper business, and beyond all other considerations it is a matter of simple ethics. Since their ad made no attempt to rise above the level of name-calling, their insistence on their own anonymity became determinative.
A bit of context: according to the Forward, JWW first submitted this awards idea as an Op-Ed that was rejected by Goldberg owing to its anonymity and, in his words, its lack of "civility." It is quite apparent that it was the Forward's editorial folks who got the ball moving on rejecting this ad; while their businesspeople agree wholeheartedly with the decision, it was, nonetheless, generated and fueled by the editorial end.
We'll have more on this.
In the meantime, I've still not received a reply from JWW.
UPDATE: Jewish Women Watching's e-mail arrived Friday, but I haven't had a chance to get to my computer until no, Saturday night. Here it is, in full:
Thanks for contacting us about this issue, and for covering it on your blog. You bring up some important points about the ethics of not separating the business and editorial departments, we agree that it’s a problem.
The statement that you received from the Jewish Week concerning our ad was news to us. We have run ads with them before, so their policy of not running anonymous advertisements must either be a very new policy or (more likely) a policy devised on the spot, as an excuse to pull an advertisement that they were afraid to print. JWW member Gracia Nasi has the following to say about her interaction with the Jewish Week:
Elaine Taibi of the advertising department told me our ads were rejected for “strong language.” (She can indeed confirm that we’ve run ads with them before.) When I pushed her for the name of the individual who was ultimately responsible for the decision so we could contact them to make a case for publishing it. She could only say it was “them”…No one there wanted to take responsibility for rejecting this. When I asked what specifically about the language was too strong I was given a half - hearted “The Dirty Money Award,” “McCarthyism” and she said something to the effect of “we can’t publish stuff like that.”
The Forward was far more forthcoming about their reasons to reject the ad, although the ways that the editor explained things to us is not exactly the same way in which he explained them to you. It is true that the full text of our awards had not yet been posted on our website since, as is custom, we waited to post the text until we were ready to send out our press release. Mr. Goldberg did not express this as an issue to us, as we would have been happy to reassure him. We also offered to buy a larger ad in order to include the full text, but he did not respond.
Mr. Goldberg also said that he felt uncomfortable with our insinuation that Debby Hirschman may have been fired because she was becoming more public about her lesbian identity, and noted that his “sources” insisted that this was not the case. As Gracia Nasi told him:
As regards Debby Hirshman, who has been openly gay for some time and whose increasing public discussion of it was miraculously close to the timing of her dismissal (an apparent Erev Rosh Hashanah emergency), we agree that any public statement supporting this from a member of the board would be hard to come by…and no other explanation for her dismissal has been satisfactorily put forward.
Notably, the Forward’s coverage of the incident did not even mention the possibility that Hirschman was fired over this issue, even to disprove it. And so we remain unconvinced.
As for his insinuation that our accusations are banal – well, if they are so banal, then there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to run the ads. And if, as Mr. Goldberg claims, the Forward and others have reported on all this before, then we are certainly not libelous.
The truth of the matter is that we respect a lot of what the Forward covers. We found out about some of the “greasy” practices that we are highlighting because the Forward reported on them. But it takes more than a newspaper article to create change. Members of the Jewish community also have to respond to this “greasy” activity and put pressure on institutions until they change their ways. JWW’s mission is to draw attention to these practices through biting satire, which has the potential to reach people in ways a newspaper article cannot.
Ideally, JWW would be working in concert with progressive papers in order to create change in our communities. We tried to get our message across as an Op-ed in the Forward, but we were not particularly shocked when they rejected it. That is an editorial decision that they have a right to make. But yanking a PAID advertisement is far more disturbing to us. We can only interpret it as a deliberate attempt to silence us. And this is particularly upsetting when it comes from a paper who could be acting as an ally. If the Forward really wants their genteel, liberal reporting to create waves in the community, they should be giving us as much space as they possibly can.
Both the Forward and the Jewish Week have given us some good coverage in the past, and we hope that they will continue to do so. We believe our actions to be newsworthy, and think that the whole Jewish community benefits from hearing about them. As we said in our press release, it is a sad day for the Jewish community when clever criticism is excised from the public square.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:35 PM |

Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight - HOME & FAMILY:

When little boys grow up and go off to sleep in yeshiva, the differences become even more pronounced. Now our little Prince comes home so rarely that we need to let him just sleep, or just sit at the Shabbos table without helping at all. After all, he's home so infrequently.
So hearing Yehuda tell Tova to get him the ketchup while both are in the middle of their Shabbos meal doesn't evoke any response from us. In fact, it is probable that we have actually put the boys' seats against the far wall and the girls' mokom kovua within easy access to the kitchen.
By this time, you may be asking, 'So what? What's so terrible about all this? Dovid does come back much later from cheider than Pnina returns from school, and Shira is the one who needs practice running a home for the future. And besides, Yissochor is so rarely at home from yeshiva that he is really almost like a guest.'
Yes, that is all true. But, mothers, please do remember that your son is going to be my daughter's husband!

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 3:52 PM |

The Moonies v. The Chareidim:

Members of the International Inter-Religious Association for World Peace have been making concerted efforts to penetrate chareidi areas in Jerusalem. On Monday Mayor Lupoliansky asked the heads of community administrations not to cooperate with this dangerous missionary organization.
This organization is currently organizing a 'Peace Gathering' slated to take place in Jerusalem during Chanukah, but it was recently identified by the heads of Lev L'Achim's anti- missionary department as the operational branch of the Moonies (Unification Church), based in Korea and the US.
As part of preparations for the gathering many rabbonim were invited to participate in a special convention scheduled to take place on Monday at the Ramada Hotel. Mayors and heads of local authorities were invited to a weekend at the Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem at the missionaries' expense, aimed at increasing the number of participants in the Peace Gathering.
If only that had been televised...

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 3:47 PM |

WorldNetDaily: Report: Jackson converts to Islam:

Last night, on the eve of child-molestation charges being filed against him, Michael Jackson converted to Islam, reports the New York Post.
According to the paper, the pop star became a member of Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, and the conversion came with a shakeup in his personal staff.
I wonder which God he's praying the way, his mug shot (see the full article) is nothing short of terrifying.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:46 PM |

Fun Steve Waldman piece on the Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? By Steven Waldman controversy.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:44 PM |

Check out this latest "Dear Prudence":

Dear Prudence,
I have been dating a wonderful man for the last three months. We are completely in love, and he treats me like royalty. He even likes my kids. The problem? He recently told me he is a registered sex offender and was in prison for molesting his then 9-year-old daughter. This was over 15 years ago, and he has not been accused/caught/arrested again. The real dilemma for me is that I have seven children, ranging in age from a teenager to a toddler. I really love this man and want him in my life, but I fear I am putting my youngest in danger by allowing him in the house. I do not leave him alone with the children and have to date observed no inappropriate behaviors. I want to believe that this was a horrible incident in his past and no repeats will occur. I really want to trust this man. I think we could have a wonderful life together if given a chance, but at the same time, I fear I am sitting on a time bomb. Can it have been a onetime thing, or am I just being naive? Please help as I need to make a decision soon to avoid prolonging things if I decide to end it.


Dear Con,
Prudie would like to be encouraging, but the odds are not good. Pedophilia is an aberrant sexual behavior where the possibility of a "cure" is statistically minuscule. The 15-year record is somewhat hopeful—if true—but that is counterbalanced by the presence of your kids. The temptation has to be great. It is good that, so far, you have been able to never leave him alone with the children, but you cannot live a life that way. There is a slim possibility he orchestrated the romance in order to live with young children ... who but a saint would elect to take on a woman with seven kids? Your first step should be to discuss your fears openly. He was, after all, upfront about his past. This is a tough decision to make, but your best bet is to weigh your gut instinct with information about the disorder, as well as how this man talks about his illness. It's a gut-wrenching proposition to choose between offering someone a second chance and always looking over your shoulder. Good luck.

—Prudie, objectively
I'm thinking this can be a lesson in how to deal with rabbinic abuse in the Jewish community. Since there's such an overwhelming amount of paranoia out there about shidduchim, why not encourage this thought process: in order for rabbis to teach kids and do communal work, they'll have to at least rise to the level of having no gross disqualifications were you to allow them to date your kids. Since so few people seem to care that these rabbis are abusive in the first place, maybe putting that paranoia to work could be useful.
UPDATE: Also, re: fact-checking, how much work goes into shidduch research vs. rabbi research. As someone who's hired in the political & media world for my great research skills, sometimes friends ask me to do favors, whether it's business (for example, a potential client) or personal (for example, a landlord). I've been asked at least a couple dozen times to find out information on a potential shidduch (never by the guy/gal going on the actual date, mind you, but someone a few steps removed), and every time I've denied the request -- I'll have no part in all this craziness. Now, if someone contacted me with genuine concern that the person was a criminal or somesuch, that'd be something else entirely.
There has been one time that someone asked me about a rabbi, which was when someone with a similar name and location was listed at The Awareness Center. I eagerly cleared the name of the person my friend was inquiring about.
Obviously, it'd make sense that I get more inquiries about shidduchim than rabbis, given that there are a lot more of the former, so the ratio doesn't concern me. But I hear of many rabbi searches/hirings all the time, and I hear about what goes on in the process, but I never hear of them doing serious research along the lines that most corporate employers do with their potential hires, which is in many cases a yet lower scale of what people do to check up on potential shidduchim.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:44 PM |

"Charedi Rabbis Rush to Disavow Anti-Gentile Book," a story I worked on, and "Congress To Aid Lakewood Yeshiva," a story I wrote, in the latest issue of the Forward.
Check out the really nifty comic-book-centric A&L section, featuring these four stories:
Kavalier & Clay's Escapist Adventure
Veteran Artist Evokes Jewish Strength -- Overtly
Enough To Make Bugsy Siegel Blush
Here She Comes To Save The Day...Unless it's Saturday

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:53 AM |

Jacob Levy at Volokh has a good post on the French ban and gets into the idea of how rhetoric is forming the debate there.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:55 AM |

Wednesday, December 17, 2003  

Blogger Harry gets a rock tossed at him while driving in Israel. Thank goodness it missed. (via AKS)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:20 PM |

Who Paid For This Ad?

The above ad (click on the image for a larger, more legible version) promotes Abraham Foxman's new book, Never Again?, and appears on page 3 of the Forward's December 5 issue.
I sent the following questions to the ADL's publicity department today and have not yet received a response:

1) Did the ADL pay for the ad? If so, how much did it pay?
2) Does the ADL receive a porition of the royalties from Foxman's book? If so, how large a portion?
3) Has the ADL advertised books by its employees before, or is there a comparable situation that the ADL has advertised in the past?
The ad does not appear to have been paid for by the publisher, as publishers include their name and logo in their ads, and don't advertise the website of the author's organization. I intend to call the publisher tomorrow for confirmation.
The ADL is also advertising Foxman's book on its website with the following ad on its front page:
The ad links to this page, which discusses the book and presents links to purchase it. Sources in the Jewish organizational world are trying to convince me that this constitutes something similar to the Forward ad. I disagree: the ad on the webpage clearly presents the book as only a partial extension of the organization's mission and, more importantly, serves as a fundraiser based on purchases of the book via those links.
The ad in the Forward, however, if paid for by the ADL, would be an example of the organization paying for promotion of the book that is usually done by a publisher; while the book does, in part, extend the ideals of the organization, its advertisement using organizational funds would more constitute a waste of funds for a cult of personality surrounding the director.
We'll see what the ADL has to say.
On the press front, the Forward is perhaps most unique among Jewish papers for making a point of exposing Jewish organizations' expenditures; how it polices this potential extravagance will be worth seeing.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:56 PM |

I've been taking a lot of heat from various persons for my choice of Stupid Letter Of the Week in the Jewish Press Letters Section. For a change, I'm not selecting a Stupid Letter this week. In fact, there are many many very good letters in the Jewish Press this week. The SLOW this week, therefore, goes to the Jewish Press itself, for its response to a critical letter. Here's the whole story.
In its 3/14/03 issue, the Forward published its annual Forward 50, a list of the "most influential members of the American Jewish community." As the Forward put it:

Membership in the Fifty doesn't mean the Forward endorses what these individuals do or say. We've chosen them because they are doing and saying things that are making a difference in the way American Jews, for better or worse, view the world and themselves. Not all of them have put their energies into the traditional framework of Jewish community life, but all of them have consciously pursued Jewish activism as they understood it, and all of them have left a mark.
Fair enough, right? Apparently not. The Jewish Press 11/22/03 with an editorial that read, in part:
A review of the Forward 50 makes clear that the Forward`s agenda of secularizing Judaism is being pursued with a vengeance. The inclusion of Ruth Messinger — described as the executive director of the American Jewish World Service, ‘a smaller agency making grants to Third World anti-hunger projects and deploying Jewish volunteers in Peace Corps-style programs to fight poverty and disease’ — is but one of many examples.
In any event, it occurred to us that if the cumulative contributions of them all were as significant as reported, why in Heaven`s Name isn`t the world in better shape than it is?
Yeah. So this week, Tzvi Mauer of Efrat, Israel responded by saying:
I have no real argument with the editorial`s central point that the Forward was glorifying an overly secular Jewish approach with its list. The example cited, however, is that of a Jewish person dedicated to fighting poverty and disease around the world. What better kiddush Hashem could there be Doesn`t The Jewish Press itself often highlight and feature (and rightly so) Israeli medical teams and army specialty units that assist other countries in cases of earthquakes or epidemics)? Is not the learning of Torah meant to sensitize us and teach us how to do more chesed for more people, and to refine our morality and ethics?
Unfortunately, this editorial appears to presume as a forgone conclusion that the mission of this person is antithetical to supposedly more authentic Jewish activities (like sitting and learning in one`s arba amot?). I might not have been all that surprised to find this assumption, unfortunately, in other Orthodox publications, but I never would have expected it from The Jewish Press.
Finally, the editorial’s final paragraph is just silly and glib. This question could easily be turned around and asked about our many great rabbanim and teachers today and throughout history. But do we degrade the incredible accomplishments of our Torah leaders throughout the generations by questioning why, in light of those accomplishments, the world is not “in better shape than it is?”
In fact, I'd even go a step farther than Mauer does. The Forward was not glorifying any particular approach to Judaism. It was merely listing those people that it felt were the most influential in the Greater American Jewish Community. The GAJC, for all those without the blinders, is not Orthodox. The Jewish Press responded to the letter with this SLOW-worthy rant:
The point of our editorial was not to denigrate the good deeds the Forward looked to as qualification for inclusion on its list, or indeed those who performed them. What we continue to object to is any notion that the good deeds define one as a Jew rather than as a good person who happens to be Jewish. Surely, under that logic, even non-Jews would qualify for the list.
The premise of the Forward list is that if one contributes positively to the common good, it matters not whether one even thinks about the observance of the Sabbath, the laws of kashruth, family purity, etc. We think it does matter — a great deal, in fact — whether one commits to the observance of mitzvot as mitzvot.
In sum, while everything Jewish is good, not everything good is peculiarly Jewish. Put another way, Judaism is a normative faith.
Finally, our "silly and glib" observation about the sad state of affairs was a reaction in kind to the sophomoric, feel-good aura surrounding the Forward`s list.
Where did the Forward say that Good Deeds define someone as Jewish? All it said were that these were Jews who influenced the GAJC. It is certainly possible to influence the GAJC without being observant, and lack of observance doesn't make that influence any less real. Obviously, as an Orthodox Jew myself I wish that more people were observant, but this is how the world works. In the Jewish Press' parlance, Judaism is a normative faith, but it is also a community, or doesn't the term "Am Yisrael" mean anything anymore?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 7:41 PM |

"Sippin' Geneva Juice" is the Page One Feature at the Jewish Press this week. It's a slightly edited version. I'm willing to place a very large wager that this is the greatest amount of Snoop Dogg citations to make it into a JP article ever.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:02 PM |

We've really dropped the ball on this French religious symbols ban. There should be protests of this in every free state in the world, including the free-for-now France. That a state presenting itself as democratic, and being received in that manner without contest, is engaged in an endeavor that reeks of early-stage Sovietism (or what religious bans and discrimination have you), should be unconditionally unacceptable.
Where is AMCHA on this?
Where is the ADL on this?
Where is the World Jewish Congress, or the United Jewish Communities?
Leaders at Yeshiva University, Jewish Theological Seminary, and Hebrew Union College? The Orthodox Union's activist arm, the IPA?
None of these organizations has said a thing. The French community issued this statement, which AltaVista translates as:

CRIF fully greets the declaration on the secularity, pronounced by the president of the Republic on December 17. The solemn remarks of the Head of the State appear to us to answer an essential principle: all those which live in France must be subjected to the rules and habits of the French company. It is the reaffirmation of the principle of the equality between the men and the women, which excludes obviously the open signs from oppression of the woman. No one cannot choose the religion of its judge, or the sex of its doctor... The introduction of new public holidays would have caused more difficulties than it would not have regulated any. CRIF expresses its satisfaction as for the instructions which will be given to the chiefs of establishment to encourage them to show flexibility and of tolerance at the time of the various religious festivals absences examinations
If I'll be allowed to read into that, it seems they're against religious symbols as an oppression of women -- but crosses, and yarmulkes are definitely not symbols of oppression, and while you could argue that headscarves are, you could also argue that they aren't -- it seems an appropriate moderate religious position to consent to, short of a burka or a chador. Either way, this seems an entirely secular approach by the French J-comm. France is about to curtail religious liberty, and nobody's doing shit about it.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:33 PM |

Pope on Gibson Film: "It is as it was."

No doubt, there will be fallout from this report. What it will be though, I do not know.

Will the Vatican retract the statement? Will Abe Foxman issue a press release calling the Pope's endorsement anti-Semitic? Will the Simon Wiesenthal Center issue a travel advisory to the Vatican and do a fundraising letter telling Jews they are in danger of attacks from Catholics? Will the Gibson people issue promos proclaiming, “Pope John Paul II and Billy Graham give it two thumbs up.” We will just have to wait and see I suppose.

posted by Pinchas | 2:52 PM |

Tuesday, December 16, 2003  

WorldNetDaily: City censors nativity scene but not menorah:

Two residents of Palm Beach, Fla., filed suit against the city yesterday because officials there allow the display of Jewish menorahs on public property but do not allow Christian nativity scenes.
Maybe we do run the government after all. Who knew?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:15 PM |

Tikkun just sent out its holiday e-mail announcing, "MANY GREETINGS FOR CHANUKAH, CHRISTMAS AND KWANZAA." It then says,

You Don't have to be Christian.........
to get useful spiritual wisdom from the teachings below on Christmas by Mathew Fox and Thomas More.
That's right, Thomas More, which makes me think their slogan should rather be "You don't have to be from the sixteenth century..."
The e-mail also announces,
You don't have to be learn from Chanukah
Seeing as that's all they've got, apparently you do have to be black to learn from Kwanzaa, or Muslim to learn from Eid Al-Fitr.
There's more cutesy stuff in it, which I might get to later.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:23 PM |

Yuter's back from school for a bit and evidentally has time to refocus his blog towards the important things, like Dating Theory, specifically the analysis of this "shidduch meeting" form. FunFun.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 7:24 PM |

Aaron Bailey, goy, writes:

My Jewish co-worker just asked me — a full-blooded WASP — when Hanukkah started. Ummmm...
Turns out he's also invited to a Chanuka party, which he told me he doesn't "believe is traditional." His point was that Chanuka really doesn't lend itself to parties, while other holidays, with their meal-intensive approach, do, so Chanuka's more of a family thing. Seeing as you're supposed to light the menorah where you intend to sleep, this does seem to follow. Certain other holidays, like, say, Passover, include a pretty explicit "have a guest over" element. Nifty that he picked this up without much doctrinal work.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:02 PM |

And I was just telling someone that I really had trouble feeling sorry for Saddam Hussein (not that I particularly want to), and then I see this:

Dec. 16, 2003 | VATICAN CITY (AP)
A top Vatican cardinal said Tuesday he felt compassion for Saddam Hussein after seeing video pictures in which, the prelate claimed, American forces treated the captured Iraqi leader 'like a cow.'
Oh well.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:48 PM |

According to their IRS filings, Lakewood's Beth Medrash Govoha's "Primary Exempt Purpose" is:

Educational instituion involved in Academic Talmudic Research with undergraduate and graduate programs
Emphasis mine.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:13 PM |

Nice Jewish Times article on Jewish West Point cadets

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:21 PM |

Only In America:

The exterior and roof at the Answers in Genesis complex in Boone County are slated for completion by Christmas.
That would allow volunteers and staff to begin working on the interior of the building and maybe even a few of the planned exhibits, said Mike Zovath, vice president of the ministry.
'We hope that when we break for Christmas we can switch off the lights and leave the heat on,' Zovath said.
The museum, which is located near the Interstate 275 interchange in Petersburg, Ky., will include exhibits, presentations and other events that promote the literal interpretation of the Bible.
Many of the exhibits will center on the story of creation in the Book of Genesis, using evidence that the ministry believes supports the view that God created the world in six days about 6,000 years ago. The museum expects to attract about 100,000 visitors a year.
What sort of exhibits are we talking here? Hopefully it won't be anything like this:
2nd Place: "Women Were Designed For Homemaking"
Jonathan Goode (grade 7) applied findings from many fields of science to support his conclusion that God designed women for homemaking: physics shows that women have a lower center of gravity than men, making them more suited to carrying groceries and laundry baskets; biology shows that women were designed to carry un-born babies in their wombs and to feed born babies milk, making them the natural choice for child rearing; social sciences show that the wages for women workers are lower than for normal workers, meaning that they are unable to work as well and thus earn equal pay; and exegetics shows that God created Eve as a companion for Adam, not as a co-worker.
but you never know...

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 8:53 AM |

Monday, December 15, 2003  

Top Ten Jewish Organizational Responses to Saddam's Capture
Top Ten Jewish Organizational Responses to Saddam's Capture:
10) ADL -- "It is of premier importance that he be tried for his crimes against the Jewish people."
09) Makor -- "Come watch Saddam's trial with commentary from hot Jewish legal scholar Noah Feldman, refreshments provided."
08) AIPAC -- "We said Iran"
07) Tikkun -- "Once again, we've proven that Israel is the true Pharaoh."
06) American Jewish Press Association -- "Okay, there's gotta be some way we can make this relevant to Jews and put it on the front page."
05) Kabbalah Centre -- "Learn the secrets of the U.S. Special Forces' red string powers!"
04) Yeshiva University -- "We've not yet decided whether to file this under 'Torah' or 'Madda.'"
03) Mossad -- "I can't believe this keeps happening: we do all the work, get none of the credit."
02) Jews for Jesus -- "He has risen!"
01) Chabad -- "Rebbe's Back!"

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:55 PM |

There's a Kabbalistic cult out there that's apparently sending out spam. Reader Josh sends in word that he got an e-mail from Or Hahechal advertising their own sacred red string.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:11 PM |

Last night at Friend of the Elders Jason Cyrulnik's wedding, the wedding singer, Moshe Shapiro, did covers of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold," and Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound," among other favorites. It's not often you see that at an Orthodox wedding, but it sure was enjoyable.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:27 PM |

So I'm speaking in my shul this coming Friday night. I'm thinking about taking a bit of the Reuven-Joseph-Jacob dynamic and sort of extending it a bit into some other similar dynamics. A bit of research turns up this one on Isaac:

To silence those who asked significantly, "Can one a hundred years old beget a son?" God commanded the angel who has charge over the embryos, to give them form and shape, that he fashion Isaac precisely according to the model of Abraham, so that all seeing Isaac might exclaim, "Abraham begot Isaac."[204]
which corresponds to this one about Joseph:
And yet it was only for the sake of Joseph that Jacob had been willing to undergo all the troubles and the adversity connected with his sojourn in the house of Laban. Indeed, Jacob's blessing in having his quiver full of children was due to the merits of Joseph, and likewise the dividing of the Red Sea and of the Jordan for the Israelites was the reward for his son's piety. For among the sons of Jacob Joseph was the one that resembled his father most closely in appearance...The whole course of the son's life is but a repetition of the father's...(goes on to elaborate)
There's much to be said, of course, on the similarities between Isaac's activities and Abraham's (they dig the same wells, ect.). There're a few more associations in my head, but they aren't clear enough to put into writing yet. Still, I think this is a decent start, no?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:08 AM |

Sunday, December 14, 2003 When an Arab is also a Jew:

As the powerful new documentary 'Forget Baghdad' makes clear, life is complicated for Israeli Jews haunted by their memories of a secular, multicultural Iraq.
The review itself is interesting not only for info on a great-looking documentary, but also for the social critique thrown in along the way.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:52 PM |

Tis the Season?:

According to a report in the Illinois Leader, 200 people living near Dr. Vinod Goyal will receive [a Christmas] card, which reads:
Your neighbor, Dr. Vinod Goyal, 777 Thompsons Way, is an abortionist. If Mary & Joseph were pro-choice, they could have visited him to terminate the life of the Prince of Peace.
Please join with us this Christmas to pray that the Holy Spirit changes Dr. Goyal's heart so that he uses his God-given talent to save babies instead of aborting them.
Of course, God could have sent His son to be aborted as atonement for all of our sins, couldn't He?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:21 PM |

You can read my latest book review in the YU commentator. Its on Rabbi Aaron Glatt's Women in the Talmud.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:06 PM |

Lubavitcher Rebbe Found Alive And Well In Tikrit.
(From an upcoming issue of Chabadniker Magaziner)
Lubavitchers united in celebration Sunday morning as news of their bearded leader's return to they oylam hozeh spread throughout Brooklyn. "It's him, I tell you, it's him," cried Menachem Shmuelevitz, 32, a vending-machine-company owner, as he shot into the air and took a swig of vodka from his bottle set aside for such an occasion.
Rav Avraham Gurvich, a leader in "I'm not so sure he's coming back" movement, was spontaneously consumed by hellfire, in which a molotov cocktail randomly fell from seemingly out of nowhere. Menachem Samuelson, seen nearby with a lighter and soaked rags, said the fire must have come from shemayim, akin to the Egyptian plague of barad. Meanwhile, the Chabad Club at Yeshiva University raced around the Judaic Studies library floor with the front page of the New York Times in hand, screaming "I told you so! I told you so." Fifth-floor resident Prof. Hayyim Tawil responded, saying, "That's it, I've finally had enough of these fucking potheads," and left his formal resignation at his desk under a note that threatened anyone who touched his book or chair with death.
Anti-Lubavitch polemicist Dr. David Berger walked the blocks of Eastern Parkway saying, "I told you so," as local residents, uninhibited, revealed massive portraits of the rebbe place on the eastern walls of their synagogues, cleverly hidden for whenever apikorsim would stop by. Berger, megaphone in hand, was attempting to announce to the crowd that the Lubavitcher Rebbe had not, in fact, been found. "These people are crazy, I tell you," he said, "They must be stopped." Berger had made a tape recording of a phone conversation with L. Paul Bremer in which he got the US leader of Iraq operations to announce in Yenglish that military endeavors had not yet found the Lubavitcher Rebbe. President Bush, hearing of the need to find this sectarian leader, announced "We will find him in a foxhole, we will find him in cave," adding, "We will find that not-dead asshole, we will find him before he shaves!"
Lubavitchers remained unconvinced. "This is a victory for Lubavitch, this is a victory for the Jewish people, this is the ultimate victory of Tzivos Hashem," concluded Menachem Sanderson, addressing the mob scene in front of 770.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:08 AM |
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