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

Saturday, January 03, 2004  

Asarah B'Teves, the least-popular fast on the contemporary Jewish calendar, is tomorrow.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:00 PM |

WorldNetDaily: Pat Robertson: It's Bush in a 'blowout':

Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson predicts President George W. Bush will be re-elected in a 'blowout' in November.
Robertson told viewers of his '700 Club' program broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network he had been praying on the subject over the past several days and believes God told him Bush would win handily.
'I think George Bush is going to win in a walk,' he said. 'The Lord has just blessed him. I mean, he could make terrible mistakes and come out of it. It doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad, God picks him up because he's a man of prayer and God's blessing him.'
Does that mean that even if Bush messes up God makes the outcome such that it all works out well and he gets re-elected (a good thing for the country, overall), or that even if Bush makes mistake after mistake and the country suffers as a result God will still help Bush win the election because he prays a lot (a bad thing for the country, overall)?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 5:59 PM |

Friday, January 02, 2004  

Someone told me about this Yahoo group, FrumSex. The content should be obvious; I haven't read any of it and make no claims regarding the appropriateness of its content.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:14 PM |

Not to detract from the caption contest, within photos of the same wedding, Ephraim notes the rather explicit effort to have an untied tie, thusly avoiding having knots, and the irony of that in light of the tallis, which is, in his words, "full of big fat knots."
Being unfamiliar with both the knots custom and the tallis custom, I'm welcoming reader input. On a cutesy level, you'd think "tying the knot" would be a good idea for a groom to be doing; also, ostensibly the idea of avoiding the knots is supposedly something to do with imitating a meis (dead guy), and therefore on some kind of heavenly plane -- again, something you'd think would be well to be avoided.
And the whole tallis vs. knots things seems like a perpetual superstition machine.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:05 PM |

The Erev Shabbos Caption Contest

Go at it.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:20 PM |

Zackary Sholem Berger and I are working on a story about the Williamsburg Jewish residents' gripes against the hipsters. In his research, he came across this, which I don't fully understand, but seems to incorporate ideas of rodef, and seems to be described in a Hyde Park thread as a "fatwah." I don't know what to make of this.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:39 AM |

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The world needs a 'new international order' to solve its conflicts and ensure peace, Pope John Paul said in his New Year's Day address on Thursday.
Hmmm...maybe he is the antichrist after all.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 1:39 AM |

Interesting. Just found out that Allan Nadler, presumably the same Allan Nadler who wrote the Lakewood story, has authored this:

Allan Nadler, "Soloveitchik's Halakhic Man: Not a Mithnagged"
Modern Judaism, 13:119-147, 1993.
Anybody read it?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:46 AM |

Thursday, January 01, 2004  

Blogging right now from Revaya, the latest addition to Washington Heights' kosher culinary experience, talking to, among others, Josh of Chakira and Ephraim of Town Crier and Jewschool. The service sucks (one of us had to wait an hour before finding out that they didn't even have the spaghetti he ordered) but the conversation is great.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:39 PM |

Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight - OPINION & COMMENT:

It bears saying again: If the secular politicians really cared about the future of Klal Yisroel, or even the future of the State of Israel, they would make having many children a matter of national priority, and those who have big families, such as the chareidim, should be national heroes.
Coming from America, which emphasizes personal autonomy over national purpose, its hard for me to see the issue in these terms. Having children as a civic responsibility is tough to swallow, for so many reasons. That said, it remains to be described how having a greater percentage of Israeli society receive government funding without giving much back can be considered such a benefit.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 7:01 PM |

Daniel Pipes Has Been Playing Too Much Pac-Man.
He write:

An Islamist's Dream Christmas Display. Since 1984, the courthouse of the County of Santa Rosa, in Florida's panhandle, has had on one side of the building a Nativity scene. This year it is joined on the courthouse's other side by an "all-inclusive" Christmas display sponsored by the local chapters of Americans United for Separation of Church and the American Civil Liberties Union. The Pensacola News Journal, which reported this development, also thoughtfully provided a picture of the latter display at night, and it is memorable indeed, with a crescent surrounding and seemingly gobbling up a Star of David.

I really hope Pipes is kidding.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:57 PM |

AKS discovers Liad Suez, a female Israeli basketball player at Villanova, who was recently named Big East co-Player of the Week.
One question; AKS writes

We've got ourselves a new Israeli sports star in the U.S.
Who were the "old" Israeli sports stars in the U.S.?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:00 PM |

As a religious Jewish journalist, the halachos of lashon hara and related guidelines for proper speech are major determinants in how I work. Back when I was at The Commentator, discussion of our work in light of the various moral teachings was very common. And while I rarely engage in such discussions with other journalists nowadays, it is still a part of the dialogue, especially as regards blogging, since "newsworthiness" here generally has a lower standard, and lower-standard news is in most places the gossip pages and similar stuff. I make a very sincere effort in my endeavors here to approach our content with a scrutinizing, journalistic eye. Each of the Elders contributes his own specialty, so the journalist's perspective is not typically that taken by the others; however, they are equally concerned about these matters coming from their own perspectives.
I remember the first letter that the Commie got that complained about one of my articles on objectively false grounds, and how it had me stunned and unable to write for a few hours. Since then, I've become quite familiar with the reality that for all of my care in reporting objective truth, many readers (or even people who haven't actually read the content in question, just heard of it), and most often those claiming some kind of halachic superiority -- a "frummer than thou" attitude -- willfully distort the truth about myself and my writing, or make speculations that have no basis in actual observations, and freely spread these rumors among people they know, and even those they don't.
I rather feel that journalism and its standards has given me a set of specific practical guidelines that serve quite well to keep me on the correct side of Judaism's moral teachings regarding speech, and when I find people willfully engaging in distortion or speculation about who I am or what I write, it occurs to me that these journalistic standards serve quite better to preserve a proper speech conduct than the obviously-ineffective moral teachings of Jewish text; without journalistic or academic standards for establishing fact and avoiding the spread of false and potentially slanderous information, it seems, care for truth is set aside.
In the Gregg Easterbook flap, for instance, Meryl Yourish said that she was shocked at the impact her words had; it seems to me that the guidelines the Jewish ethic provides helps us, in this internet-ed, inter-connected world, to realize that we need to be careful about what we say and how we say it. And, again, applying a journalistic standard of truth and relative newsworthiness helps give us positive rules (what to say) rather than just a negative against which to work (what not to say).
As I said, it's always surprising to me that people claiming an halachic, frummer-than-thou superiority have no problem engaging in outright slander, so far as either journalism or a Jewish ethic is concerned. It's quite ironic that so many such people do so in an attempt to discredit myself and my journalism. I've had conversations with editors where they said they'd received letters saying that my coverage of a given topic couldn't be trusted, because I'd made some statement on Protocols or in some other article I'd written; without fail, each instance of such was blatantly false, drawn out of thin air, often involving intentional misquotation. Why these people do it, I don't know. There's another, only slightly less libelous, strain of critique of mine and the other Elders' work, and again it just confuses me to the nth degree. In reading comments to an earlier post, I came across these two:

...Witness how the owner of this site is positively licking his chops in anticipation of getting his hands on it. WOuld that be in order to foment a new scandal -- or would it be that he has a purely academic interest in the matter and his intellectual curiosity is just burning inside of him?...
I'm with you SD. The owner of this site probably hasn't read enough Beis Yitzchak articles to fill up one hand's worth of fingers. I'll assume they have read the R. Wieder piece on Hashchasas zerah levatalah and the controversial article in Beis Yitzchak 31 about Avos Nezikin (Bet some of you elders didn't even know what that article was about!)...
It's surprising to me that such blatant speculation about what I'm thinking and what I've done will actually go on within the comments to my own website; that they do so while claiming an ostensible moral/halachic superiority is somewhat comic. I also find it amusing that they refer to me as "the owner of this website," instead of by name, as all of our beloved trolls do when making serious (if wrong-headed) critiques; is avoiding mention of my name supposed to keep the lashon hara cooties away? And again, this is systemic: the same method of referring to me by something other than my name surfaces in many libelous letters and message-board comments on other sites.
Lack of perfection on the halachic front is something we can all understand and forgive; obviously, I'll continue to be libelled and slandered by jackasses the world over. It just seems weird to me that in doing so, people have so little regard for objective truth, such that one is appropriately led to wonder what, if anything, these people might say that is even remotely true. These people are wrong on moral and factual grounds. I don't get it, but maybe I'm just missing something.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:56 PM |

Wednesday, December 31, 2003  

Shmuley Boteach's latest, May God be restored to the British Isles, is a scathing attack on anti-war Anglican Church leaders:

If George Bush never wins another election, if he indeed never passes another piece of legislation, I will still remember him as one of my greatest sources of religious inspiration for teaching me to what lengths a human being must go in order to save human life.
And even in the worst case scenario, if he went to Iraq insincerely – if he did it to enrich the executives of Halliburton, or to avenge his father's honor, or because America needs Iraq's oil – I would rather have an insincere politician who saves lives rather than ostensibly God-fearing church leaders who do nothing to stop the murder of their human brethren.
Many of us wonder how Europe could have quickly become so immoral, how polls can show that the majority of Europeans believe that Israel and the United States – two outstanding democracies – can be identified by the majority of Europeans in opinion polls as the greatest threats to world peace, well ahead of Bashar Al Assad, the rotten House of Saud and Moammar Gadhafi. To answer this pivotal question, one need look no further than the hopelessly misguided shepherds of this forsaken and forlorn flock. For if the religious leaders are not rooted in morality, why would we expect the people to be?

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

Its another boring week in the Jewish Press letters section. Only five letters, and none particularly interesting. The highlights are Rabbi Riskin and Ruth Messinger respond to recent editorial attacks, only to get more of the same. The only particularly interesting tidbit was this ditty from Brooklyn's Josh Greenberger. I'm not sure if it rises to SLOW levels, though...

Jewish Week publisher Gary Rosenblatt seems troubled that "... every Jewish child knows about the heroism of Judah Maccabee and his brothers, though the saga is of marginal importance today. But so few are familiar with the courage and accomplishments of Herzl, Ben-Gurion, Begin and Sharansky..."
This shows a serious lack of understanding of his own religion and a total disregard for its age-old established values.
The Battle of Jericho, for example, was fraught with miracles, courage and accomplishments, and culminated with the Jews entering the land of Israel as a nation for the first time. Yet, although most yeshiva students learn of this historic event, there are no holidays or widespread celebrations commemorating the battle.
Apparently, physical prowess absent redeeming spiritual values is not much cause for Jewish celebration. Whereas the Jews` entrance into the land of Israel for the first time had great potential, the battle itself was basically a means to an end.
The courage and heroism behind the story of Chanukah, on the other hand, were directly responsible for the salvaging of the Temple ruins and allowing the Temple-related services to continue. It was a case of courage and heroism for the sake of spiritual values, and such a message is as relevant today as it was then.
I`m a strong supporter of Israel. But bereft of any spiritual values or aspirations, our repossession of the land of Israel in 1948 would have had little more significance than conquering Teaneck, New Jersey. (And while we have, in fact, just about conquered Teaneck, we don`t have a holiday called Teanukah.)
The Jewish nation was never about flaunting military might or conquering land. As for Chanukah being an "ugly story," as Mr. Rosenblatt puts it, that would be the case only if we were celebrating our having had the might, the courage, and the willpower to sacrifice our people for a conquest that represented no loftier objective than acquiring a piece of land.
Mr. Rosenblatt must remember that we are not Jews because we have Israel; we became Jews first and then we were given Israel. The fact that there are many Jews today who rant and rave about Israel, yet display no other tell-tale signs of being Jewish, is about as ugly as a story gets.
I'm not entirely sure exactly what his argument is. The battle of Jericho and the conquest of the Land as described in Joshua was not just a diplay of physical prowess. The entire book of Joshua places the war in the context of fulfulling a Divine Mandate and it paved the way for the original Temple to be built. Why is that any less of a fight for spiritual values than the Channuka war, which, true, led to the rededication of the Temple but then to the almost immediate Sadducee-ization of the Hasmonean line which did its best to destroy the Pharisees from whom Rabbinic Judaism sprung? I don't understand why Channuka was more of a fulfillment of spiritual potential than the Joshuean conquest, especially in light of how both efforts turned out. In addition, there is the implicit assertion that the reemergence of Israel is "bereft of any spiritual values or aspirations." Much the opposite. Even the secularists involved such as Ben Gurion had very strong senses of Jewish national identity and purpose. All the more so for the Begins of the world. Thanks to Israel, there is more widespread Torah today than perhaps there ever was. That isn't worth celebrating and teaching, especially for those of us who have seen it happen (well, whose parents have seen it happen in my case)?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:35 PM |

Kneidlach And Machine Guns: G.I. Joseph — Ours To Fight For. Kudos to Menachem Wecker, Arts and Culture editor at the Commie, for his appearance as Guest Columnist in the Jewish Press' art section.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:13 PM |

Josh Marshall is unhappy with Abe Foxman's recent column in WaPo. I love it when Marshall talks Judaism.
Marshall is wrong to criticize Foxman for making generic, catch-all accusations, because -- as Foxman knows better than Marshall, but Marshall could pretty easily discover by spending some time at the ADL's website -- there are real specifics to back this up.
Sharon eating Muslim children? It wins the 2003 British Political Cartoon Society Award. Calling him a Nazi? This is only a fringe example of something that's very popular. Sharon as racist? Mahmoud Abbas said so!
But Marshall isn't a monitor of anti-Semitism, and it's perfectly reasonable that he'd be left unawares. He's right to complain of Foxman's grouping "unrepentant hard-liner" with the rest, but he's wrong to say that these worse ideas haven't filtered into the realm of polite discussion; they have. Sharon is villified in these terms nearly everywhere by someone prominent and respected. And those ideas have become part of the critique of Sharon as an "unrepentant hard-liner." How do you sift them out? By applying a rational bullshit meter. It's clear that far too many people have their bullshit meter on Israel and Sharon set way too high.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:42 PM |

Shosh receives a shidduch resume via e-mail. Her response, in paraphrase: This, you call a resume?
To be serious, I suppose it's a problem that someone's viewing a disability as the major point of discussion about a guy...but the real problem is that these resumes are taking the place of real relationship-building in the first place.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:37 PM |

Just under six hours left in 2003.
Quick: name your favorite Protocols posts/comments, and other Jewish happenings of the year.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:04 PM |

The Shot That Will Be Heard 'Round The Blogosphere.
Glenn Reynolds weighs in on the Palestinians:

THE UNITED STATES SHOULD NOT TRY to play a "neutral arbiter" in the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. We should, in fact, be doing our best to make the Palestinians suffer, because, to put it bluntly, they are our enemies. Just read this post and follow the links to see how they feel about America.
And read this piece by Amir Taheri on the Iraqi "resistance," which notes Palestinian terror connections by the Iraqi insurgents, and features a Palestinian "journalist" egging them on.
These folks are our enemies, and deserve to be treated as such. They don't deserve a state of their own. It's not clear that they even deserve to keep what they've got. I don't think this means that the Bush Administration should be taking direction action against them -- closing off their funding via shutting down Saddam is a good start, and a policy of slow strangulation directed at Arafat and his fellow terrorists is probably the most politic at the moment. We need to try to squeeze off the EU funding, too, especially now that it's been admitted to be part of a proxy war by the EU not just against Israel, but America.
But let's stop pretending that what's going on between Israel and the Palestinians is some sort of family misunderstanding. It's war, and the Palestinians -- and their EU supporters -- think it's a war not just against Israel, but against us. We should tailor our approach accordingly.
UPDATE: Reader Matt Gaffney emails that this post is "too shrill." Well, that's why I don't like writing about the Palestinian issue -- if you tell the truth, which is that these guys are enemies of civilization, in the grip of a psychotic death cult that will probably lead to their destruction, then you sound shrill.
I also don't write about it much because the Palestinians, fundamentally, are the cannon fodder of other people who don't like the United States, and the real way to resolve this problem is to deal with those other people. And so it's those other people who get the bulk of my attention.
But the amount of pious crap spouted about the Palestinians is so vast that every once in a while I do feel the need to cut through it by pointing out the facts.
Glenn is correct that he rarely weighs in on these matters, and from what I've read (or perhaps only think I've read) of his in the past, this post completely surprised me. But I think it's of a piece with what we're seeing a lot of rational-minded rightists and centrists -- not yet many leftists -- begin to acknowledge about the Palestinian situation, which is that time and again, they and their leadership have been the ones digging holes for them, not the Israelis, not the Americans, and most certainly not the Elders of Zion.
I'll have more to say about this when I finally get back to all the work I've missed due to sickness and start pegging my entries in our Wrestling with Zion book discussion, but one of the things that I'm finding most consistently surprising these days is how self-proclaimed leftists are consistently abandoning so many of the ostensible pillars of liberal thought for the purposes of opposing the Iraq war ("Egad, it cost $200 billion!") and supporting the theoretical Palestinian cause ("We're going to claim Sharon is a brutal dictator! And towards that end we'll support the development of a state that will actually have as its head a brutal dictator!"). I say "theoretical" here since any position championed by Arafat and Hamas and Fatah and all those terrorist thugs can't really represent the people, because there's no democracy there.
But for whatever reason, for at least as long as I've been politically conscious (mid-'80s, earliest), it seems as though polite, centrist thought was in line with the idea that the Palestinians have rights to the territories and so forth, that they are victimized by the Israelis and so forth.
But a plain pragmatic look at the situation shows how much this is simply not the case. People of all political persuasions should be able to look at the history of the wars of Israel and notice that they weren't the people who started the fights, they were just the ones who ended them, convincingly. It reminds me of my grade-school years, when my parents told me I was never to hit someone first, but that if someone were to hit me, I should hit them back harder; it's an approach that made sense then and makes sense now: you don't reward provocation, you don't countenance provocation, you just respond to it in a way that ensures they don't want to do it again.
The idea of Palestinian victimization for losing land in 1967 when they drew first blood is ridiculous. Just how ridiculous can be clarified when looking at the papers to find that Syria is proclaiming victimhood for occupation of the Golan Heights. Syria! The country that occupies and rules with an iron fist not out of need for security, but out of a thirst for territory. So what makes the Palestinians different? That their terrorist leadership never got around to declaring statehood and building up a cache of weapons that went beyond automatic rifles and small rockets?
Take note of Victor Davis Hanson's recent essay in NRO, which, towards its conclusion, discusses Israel in terms that leftists and centrists and libertarians -- among them the Glenn Reynolds(s?) of the world -- can cling to:
Hatred of Israel is the most striking symptom of the Western disease. On the face of it the dilemma there is a no-brainer for any classic liberal: A consensual government is besieged by fanatical suicide killers who are subsidized and cheered on by many dictators in the Arab world. The bombers share the same barbaric methods as Chechens, the 9/11 murderers, al Qaedists in Turkey, and what we now see in Iraq.
Indeed, the liberal Europeans should love Israel, whose social and cultural institutions — universities, the fine arts, concern for the “other” — so reflect its own. Gays are in the Israeli military, whose soldiers rarely salute, but usually address each other by their first names and accept a gender equity that any feminist would love. And while Arabs once may have been exterminated by Syrians, gassed in Yemen by Egypt, ethnically cleansed in Kuwait, lynched without trial in Palestine, burned alive in Saudi Arabia, inside Israel proper they vote and enjoy human rights not found elsewhere in the Arab Middle East.
When Europe frets over the “Right of Return” do they mean the over half-million Jews who were sent running for their lives from Egypt, Syria, and Iraq? Or do they ever ask why a million Arabs live freely in Israel and another 100,000 illegally have entered the “Zionist entity”? Does a European ever ask what would happen should thousands of Jews demand “A Right of Return” to Cairo?
Instead, the elite Westerner talks about “occupied lands” from which Israel has been attacked four times in the last 60 years — in a manner that Germans do not talk about an occupied West they coughed up to France or an occupied East annexed by Poland. Russia lectures about Jenin, but rarely its grab of Japanese islands. Turkey is worried about the West Bank, but not its swallowing much of Cyprus. China weighs in about Palestinian sovereignty but not the entire culture of Tibet; some British aristocrats bemoan Sharon’s supposed land grab, but not Gibraltar.
All these foreign territories that were acquired through blood and iron and held on to by reasons of “national security” are somehow different matters when Jews are not involved. Yet give Israel a population of 250 million, massive exports of oil and terrorists — and wipe away anti-Semitism — and even the Guardian or Le Monde would change its tune.
Sure, Victor Davis Hanson is not new to this "friend of Israel" thing, but what is new is his desire to engage the mores of the Left, apply them to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, then stand and pronounce, "Hypocrites!"
From Reynolds, his words above are surprising; invective is hardly his thing. But the outrage of the illogic, the idiocy, the extreme obfuscation that has been utilized to credit the idea of Palestinian victimization is something that is now so obvious and so apparent while being simultaneously so disregarded by so many otherwise-rational people that statements like this are thought to be accidental, somehow anomalous, when they are entirely of a piece with everything that those who hold liberal democracy dear are intended to understand.
I will say, though, that Reynolds' rant does disclude a major element that is crucial to our understanding of the conflict, just as it is crucial to America's work in Iraq. Differentiation between the thuggish leadership, with its terrorist partners, and the people it hopes to rule is of premier importance. America is not in Iraq to eliminate the Iraqis, nor the Shiites nor the Kurds, nor even the Sunnis -- just the Baathists. And Israel's efforts with the Palestinians have always made such distinctions, and the importance of such distinctions, very clear. This is why the Israeli government, committed to justice and democracy as it is, has always been more careful than Reynolds is here. We do not hope for the end of the Palestinians, just their leadership that has brought this fight to us. It seems a minor mistake, but it is the difference upon which America's effort to free the world in this young millenium relies.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:38 PM |

Meredith lists a bill of complaints against her SDJs ("Shidduch du Jour").
Also, found via Meredith, a couple of interesting posts at Adina's Anecdotes; in the first, she articulates her feminist demand for equality:

I walked into Eichler's in Flatbush and purchased a mishna berura six volume set. Following my purchase the salesrepresentative asked me if i wanted it "gift wrapped" -chas vehalilah that it would be for me!
Then a couple of posts later...
It has been brought to my attention that a little dating advice would be appreciated - well, here goes some, even some that nobody before would dare to tell you:
- always open the doors for your date, allowing her to walk through first
- always offer to pay for all your dates, and in the event that she offers to pay, insist on paying for the first couple of dates even if she is a feminist.
- never allow your eyes to wander while on your date
So what kind of feminism is this? Are young women like this saying that they want to be treated as equals by all but their courtiers? That they're just playing dress-up-feminist when they're in bookstores?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:18 PM |

Fascinating, seemingly random post from the Head Heeb:

Until the pogrom of 1941, Iraqi Jews were a largely middle-class community and one of the most assimilated in the Arab world, so it is probably no accident that Iraqi Jews were among the few who really considered themselves Arabs. Two professors, one Israeli and one American, demonstrate that for some this identity has died hard. In the United States, we have Ella Shohat, a cultural studies professor at the City University of New York who has questioned the "Eurocentric opposition of Arab and Jew." Israel has Professor Sasson Somekh, who has followed a similar career path in Arabic literary studies and calls himself "the last Arabic Jew."
Being an Arab Jew is something very different for the two professors. For Shohat, it is a matter of identity politics, a means of opposing what she sees as the subjugation of the Mizrahi identity by the politics of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Somekh appears much more comfortable with the synthesis of the two cultures, and has made a life's work of making Arabic literature accessible to Hebrew-speaking Israelis. Shohat is an anti-Zionist, while Somekh has come to regard his Arab heritage as part of his Israeli identity.
The difference between the two may be a matter of age as much as personality. Somekh is 70 years old, Iraqi-born and educated in the 1950s, while Shohat was educated in the 1980s at a time when identity politics held greater sway in academia. Shohat is also a second-generation, Israeli-born immigrant at one remove from the political conflict between Iraqi Jews and Muslims, and has a more idealized view of the the prewar Iraqi Jewish middle class. To a certain extent, Shohat's Arab Jewish identity is something she reinvented as a political statement while Somekh's was part of him from birth. The very process of reinvention by the second generation, however, shows that it's premature for Somekh to call himself the last of anything.
UPDATE: Diane is skeptical of the Head Heeb's analysis of the Jew/Arab identity back in the day. She doesn't really have any proof to back up her view though, and Edelstein has at least one example, even if it's only one example.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:14 PM |

George W. Bush makes a "four figure" donation to the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:07 PM |

Interesting NYT article recently about Marketing Strategy across relgious/secular lines in America

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:49 PM | Arts & Entertainment | The "Jewsploitation" craze:

Jonathan Kesselman's 'The Hebrew Hammer' is the manifesto for a hip, hype-driven 'new Jewishness.' But here's a news flash: American Jews aren't actually black, and anti-Semitic stereotypes aren't automatically funny.
I haven't actually seen The Hebrew Hammer yet, but when I do I'll probably have more to say about all this.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:44 PM |

Noami Chana reviews LOTR:ROTK. I'll have what to say when I finally get a chance to watch it (looks like Sunday the 11th)....

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:31 PM |

Tuesday, December 30, 2003  

Word around town is that we may yet have another scandalous sefer on our hands, this one being the latest issue of Beis Yitzchok, the annual journal of Yeshiva University's seminary. Word has it that an article within it has some words to say about the sixth commandment and how it may/may not apply to certain people. I hope someone can bring a copy to me, and that anyone who's read it already can provide some more info in the comments.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:45 PM |

Jewschool's first birthday was yesterday. Ah, I remember when Protocols was so young, back in the day.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:54 PM |

DAVID BROOKS in today's NYT:

As the sociologist Alan Wolfe demonstrates in his book, 'The Transformation of American Religion,' evangelical churches are part of mainstream American culture, not dissenters from it.
So we have this paradox. These days political parties grow more orthodox, while religions grow more fluid. In the political sphere, there is conflict and rigid partisanship. In the religious sphere, there is mobility, ecumenical understanding and blurry boundaries.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:40 PM |

On the Contemporary Significance of the State of Israel:
Messianism, Nationalism and the Religious Zionist Dream
Five Lectures originally delivered in Winter 2002 by
Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, Dean
The fourth video in this series will be available online
Thursday, January 1, 2004
The final installment will be online January 15.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:27 PM |

Choire Sicha's obsession with all things Jewish continues. He finds this:

And notes this:

Rough translation, according to a guy I met on the street: 'How long did it take the Twin Towers to fall? 8 seconds. How long will it take to save Williamsburg from the artists???' (He stumbled over the word 'artists,' so I suspect it's a not-so-polite term for hipsters.)
Okay, Yiddish-speakers, what does it mean? Do we know of any other posters/what have you against the hipsters?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:03 PM |

The Tale of the Aggressively-Driving Mohel, and The Young Man What Caught Him Via E-mail. (via Gawker)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:21 AM |

Monday, December 29, 2003  

If you haven't checked out Dave Barry's year in review column yet, you really should. It more than lives up to standards. From the looks of it, he thinks we should've been paying some more attention to North Korea.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 8:58 PM |

It could be worse...:

A Gloucester supermarket has taken on a vicar to offer spiritual and practical advice to shoppers and staff.
The Reverend Roger Leigh will hold two surgeries a week at Asda in Bruton Way as well as walk the aisles.
Customers come from a variety of faiths - including the city's large contingent of Muslims.
The Minister said: 'I'm not there to convert or preach.
'I'm there to counsel on practical and spiritual matters. My job description is to be helpful.'
The idea of using a supermarket greeter has been imported from the US where Walmart, which owns Asda, is based.
...after all, they could have hired a Rabbi...

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 8:19 PM |

Naomi Chana, obviously, manages to sum up the holiday season better than any of us possibly could:

Finally, a topic which was brought up only academically among us: does anyone except the characters from the comic strip "Curtis" actually celebrate Kwanzaa? And if you belong to a family which celebrates both Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, how many candles and in what order do you light on Friday, Dec. 26th, the eight night of Hanukkah, the first night of Kwanzaa (Umoja), and Shabbat? Also, can you substitute a hanukkiah for a kinara and just leave two candle-slots empty at each end?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 6:55 PM |

The idea was a good one, but the actual photoshopping was a bit off.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 6:51 PM |


First, someone who shall remain nameless has told me that oversexed, hot Yahoodias are a staple of Arab soap operas. There's always a chick named "Esther" who's ready for a roll in the hay, or (this being the Middle East) a sand dune.
But does "Esther" talk to her rebbe first?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:07 PM |

Hassidic Musician has a pair of good posts up. The first transcribes a back-and-forth between Country Yossi and one of his magazine's readers (yes, his magazine, yet another corner of the Jewish media world) over the question of proper attribution. It's really quite precious, and Hassidic Musician ends the post with a note on the idea that Shlomo Carlebach tends to get ripped off without attribution more than others. Scroll down for the second post.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:53 PM |

A bit late, but you've got almost a year to work on it now: USB menorah. (via EclectChap via Guardian)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:19 PM |

There'd been talk since last week about yet another Jewish Press editorial hacking at the Forward, but I hadn't gotten my hands on a print copy and they seem to have waited longer than usual to post this, the online version.
My first reaction to it is confusion. It's a bad thing for the Jewish Press that, in striving with great effort to demarcate its position as opposed to certain other J-weeklies, its editorials are horribly written, bordering on meaningless as a result. I'd enjoy some good newspaper tit-for-tat more than probably anybody (which is one reason why it'd be great if all these papers had blogs), but the Jewish Press has gone on a quite specific rampage against the Forward in recent months with assertions that leave you going "Huh?" instead of "Oooh!"
This editorial is far from coherence, much less the art of the shtuch.
The JP should either hire a decent editorial writer or give up on attacking the other papers; what it's doing now is just embarrassing.
But since it addresses stuff I worked on, it's (only) somewhat appropriate that I respond.

The book, treated rather inartfully, as it turned out, the traditional notion of the specialness of the Jewish people. It is an enormously complicated and nuanced issue — and an obviously sensitive one — and requires great care in its telling. Yet the Forward sensationalized it in rather simplistic terms, exploiting the discomfort in certain Jewish circles with the concept of Jews as the "chosen people." Perhaps more tellingly, the Forward seized this opportunity to savage the esteemed Rosh Yeshiva of the Lakewood Yeshiva in much the same way as the above-mentioned letter writer described the leader of Agudah as "pretty stupid."
As to the first point, it's hard to say they're sensationalizing the book, when the emphasis in both headline and lede was on the disavowal of the book by Lakewood. Moreso, their characterization of Grama's book as merely "inartful" speaks to an attempt to downplay what he wrote -- when no other Orthodox leader is willing to do the same on the record. Their latter assertion is just baseless, and putting those quotes around "pretty stupid," while technically correct to refer to the letter writer (and since when does the JP judge a publication by its letter-writers?), is irresponsible in that it'll obviously mislead people who didn't read the Forward article into thinking that either that exact quote or a close approximation of it was used -- something that is patently not the case. As I said, that latter assertion is entirely baseless.
It is noteworthy that the folks at the Agudah, once they learned of the impending Forward story on the book, reportedly spent days trying to persuade the newspaper of their misunderstanding of the issue and the harm their spin would cause in Jewish/gentile relations. (The Forward mockingly noted that "several ultra-Orthodox communal spokesmen tried to convince the Forward not to report [the book`s] existence.") Apparently, nothing has been gained for all of Agudah`s fawning over the years.
"Reportedly?" Reported by whom? Anyway, "folks" might be an exaggeration of the case, seeing as there's little indication the Aguda was acting in union on this matter. And just what "spin" does the JP think would be harmful? Its printing of numerous quotes saying the book was outside the pale of Judaism? From R' Kotler himself getting to state publicly and for the record that he hadn't really read the book and wished to withdraw his endorsement? As a Jewish newspaper, the JP should understand that the best way for the J-comm to deal with scandalous behavior and thought is to get it reported as fully and properly as possible within the J-press that is most capable of understanding the nuance of the situation and of collecting the proper quotes to put the book in its context. That the JP thinks the proper approach is, instead, to pull coverage, let these things fester and develop into either actual radicalism or incorrect reports of radicalism in the mainstream press speaks volumes about their approach to a journalistic ethic. And to call the Forward's straightforward reporting of the facts "mocking," well, what does that say about what the JP will choose to print? And just what has the Agudah gained for its own "fawning over the years" directed at the JP? Should we be suspecting that they pull stories whenever asked?
In tandem with the story on the book, the Forward also carried, right next to it, another story on an imminent Congressional grant to the Lakewood Yeshiva for the establishment of a Holocaust library. Lest anyone think in terms of coincidence, the Forward notes,
The allocation comes as attention is focusing on a book written by Rabbi Saadya Grama, a graduate of the yeshiva, arguing that gentiles are "completely evil" and Jews constitute a separate, genetically superior species.
To what avail then, have been all the years of Agudah`s obsequiousness? Maybe Agudah will begin to get it now. The Forward newspaper is neither a "neutral" forum on Jewish religious issues, nor is it a place for Agudah to appear.
Umm...duh! If there's an endorsement of a book that has an extreme view of the Holocaust that nearly everyone says is outside the pale of Judaism, isn't that obviously relevant to the fact that they're starting a Holocaust library? We'll forget for a moment that the confluence of the two events leading to the stories was, in fact, coincidence (which the JP could've attempted to verify with a phone call or e-mail, or comment on Protocols) -- even if it wasn't, who gives? They're both stories worth running and they both have input on each other.
As to their last point, obviously the Agudah has to appear in the Forward since the JP is basically saying that a proper journalistic approach is to lay down whenever someone from there tells you to pull your piece, so they've got little chance of receiving legitimate coverage in the JP anytime soon.
What a bunch of crap. And, put all together, what's their point? That the Agudah is full of placating punks, who'd rather be seen as pluralistic than take a stand? Surely, they're joking -- that, or their editorial page is a joke. I'm betting with the latter.
Hey, JP: Hire a good editorial writer before you go attempting to trash solid coverage.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:02 PM |

Please note my e-mail address change on the right for Protocols-related correspondence.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:13 PM |

Sunday, December 28, 2003  

Reader Yoel points out that the Van Leer Institute, bringers of the Rav Soloveitchik conference webcast, have a whole archive of interesting video, including the Yeshayahu Leibowitz conference they ran last year.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 6:22 PM |

IsraellyCool interviews Imshin.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:25 PM |

Two stories I heard at a Chanuka dinner party of sorts last week, both of which were followed by "You've gotta post that."
Story #1:
At some point in the recent past, MTA, Yeshiva University's high school for young mens, had a problem in the dorm, with some kid walking around stark naked. Various solutions were approached, then abandoned. A decision was finally made to consult R' Yitzchak Cohen, the loudest, most hyperbolic rebbe that YU owns. His volume is of great renown, having been used to shake unsuspecting students from spiritual slumber...or any slumber. Similarly, his criticisms and mussar at times are kind of charming in a way that doesn't reflect naivete, but perhaps something like aloofness.
Anyway, so R' Cohen, having been recruited to deal with young Mr. Happy, walks into the dormitory's hallways, and as he rounds a corner comes face to face with our nudnik nudist.
Enraged, R' Cohen screams, "A bochur without tzitzis!"

Story #2:
Apparently lots of women are seriously asking rabbis in "singles communities" about the halachos relating to single women going to the mikvah and pilagshut, a halachic category for concubinage. The idea is that these young-ish adults aren't ready to get married, are interested in having sexual relationships, and see nothing in the strict halachic approach that would keep them from doing so (so long as it's monogamous), so they're asking if the supra- or meta-halacha ideas that have developed over the past millenium or so imposing greater restrictions on sexual practice can be overlooked.
Again, what's going on is that women are asking the question of rabbis (with a reported generous uptick whenever Steven I. Weiss attends prayer services in the area), and so far I don't think any of my sources have heard of permission being granted in any specific situation. Whatever results would reliably take into account what the kids are saying these days. So what are the kids saying these days?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:35 PM |

NYT: Putting God Back in Politics:

The separation of church and state does not require banishing moral and religious values from the public square. America's social fabric depends on such values and vision to shape our politics — a dependence the founders recognized.
It is indeed possible (and necessary) to express one's faith and convictions about public policy while still respecting the pluralism of American democracy. Rather than suggesting that we not talk about 'God,' Democrats should be arguing — on moral and even religious grounds — that all Americans should have economic security, health care and educational opportunity, and that true faith results in a compassionate concern for those on the margins.
I think its more than they sort of tried that with Gore-Lieberman in 2000 and it didn't really work.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:37 PM |

Of AdAge's 10 Ads Americans Won't See, two are religiously, umm, relevant.
Mr. Kipling's Virgin Birth has a nativity play directed by a baker, and Cockroach Woman has a lady discover what her next life is like when she doesn't buy light bulbs for which a portion of the proceeds go to monks.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:21 AM |

Noon -- Dr. Maulana Karenga, founder of the Kwanzaa celebration speaks at House of the Lord Church about the seven-day holiday; 415 Atlantic Avenue (between Bond and Nevins Streets), Brooklyn.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:43 AM |
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