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


Saturday, January 17, 2004  

Most interesting. The latest Bangitout.com weekly e-mail has an ad for this very specifically targeted singles event:

Singles Event
Singles4Singles is at it again!
Singles4Singles is at is again! Monday evening January 19 in Manhattan, from 7pm - 9pm. This time the criteria is women and men age 25-32. Hashkofically, we seek college educated men who should have a regular Torah learning Seder and Daven three times daily, preferably with a Minyan. Women should be similarly educated, plan to cover their hair after marriage and wear skirts and dresses only. The cost is just $10. E-Mail us at singles4singles@excite.com (This not a website) For additional information contact Efraim at 212-531-3466.
Overlooked? They don't say what kinds of skirts or dresses.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:19 PM |
 

So I mentioned the Simmons/Schneier tag team? (AKA Superfly and the JewBoy Wonder?)

Here it is!

posted by Sam | 9:07 PM |
 

I also have to hand it to Haaretz for publishing a balanced reader assessment of the Benny Morris interview.
I have trouble beleiving that not one intelligent letter had anything less than extreme condemnation for Morris. Unanimous outrage. Ho hum. Everyone is shocked. Stop the presses. What would truly have been man-bites-dog journalism would have been support from the academic bleachers. Even the Financial Times publishes right of center letters on occasion.

posted by Sam | 6:56 PM |
 

Treating desecration of an artwork as more scandalous than the murderous impulses glorified by that artwork? How typically Scandinavian.
Maybe Mazel was just a freedom fighter, conducting resistance against the culturally oppressing Europeans for subjugating the pro-Israeli artwork....

(God, how odd - I'm sounding more and more right wing by the day. Time to go wash my mouth out with soap....)

posted by Sam | 6:42 PM |


Friday, January 16, 2004  

"Vagina Monologues" to be performed at Yeshiva University's Cardozo Law School. Will this lead to yet more condemnation of Rabbi Lamm from other rebbeim for allowing sexual permissiveness in student activities? I don't think so, it's not like it's called the "Anus Monologues." By the way, can you think of a more boring and staid way to write up an event that's anything but?
I think FrumSex members should rent a bus to take their whole group.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:27 AM |
 

A Perfect Woman. Someone who can make cheeky, but not overdone, references to Super Grover ranks aces in my book. She's of "mixed Ashkenazi & Sefaradi background," so there's less chance of those pesky Jewish in-breeding diseases or of your kids having extra fingers.
Her interests: "Almost anything. Things that stand out right now: Writing (I am going into journalism, so it makes sense), reading really stimulating books, crochet (getting better), rollerblading, movies, music, Broadway shows...." (Okay, so she adds extra periods to her ellipses; the extra period stands for "dot-com capable"!)
She describes herself: "I think that I am dedicated and enthusiastic about any task I undertake. I rarely do things half way, and occasionally even go a bit overboard. (But its much better to go overboard than not at all)." Going overboard is like the Protocols readers' motto!
Go at her, fellas, she's just right. And pretty, to boot.
[UPDATE: Link removed owing to the profile receiving an inordinate quantity of e-mails the recipient described as "creepy." If you can't use it responsibly, you don't get the links.]

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:22 AM |
 

Job posting. Of sorts. A woman contacted me by e-mail seeking writers for a potential upcoming magazine targeted toward young Jewish women; ostensibly somewhat similar to the magazines out there, but with a Jewish bent, I suppose. She's currently preparing the mock issue that will be used to recruit investors and apply for grants, and needs writers for that issue; assumedly, if all works out, those who write for the mock issue will have a greater chance of writing for the publication in the long run. Contact me by e-mail for more info.

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

Rabbi Yosef Blau's Letter To The Forward.
Last week, during my first incursion into the YU beis medrash, I brought the photocopy of Grama's book I'd obtained 20 minutes earlier; after Ma'ariv, I sat down with Rabbi Blau and we read through most of it together. I subsequently sent him whatever sections of the book he hadn't had time to focus on during that session. As I wrote earlier, he sent a letter to the Forward, though the original printing of the issue had the letters page in Russian (for which I still blame the Chechens). Here is a version of the letter he sent by e-mail; I have no way of knowing if it is precisely the same as the one that was published, post-copy-editing and the like.

Having read key portions of the presently unavailable controversial book "On the Exalted Nature of Israel and Understanding Its Exile" by Rabbi Saadya Grama, I understand both the critical article in the Forward and defenses of the book from within the charedi community ("Charedi Rabbis Rush To Disavow Anti-Gentile Book," December 19). While this sounds like the old Jewish joke that you are right and you are right, this is my attempt to bridge the cultural gap between the charedi world and the readership of the Forward.

To properly evaluate a book it is necessary to appreciate its context and the goals of the author, as well as to analyze specific details. Allan Nadler, who wrote the article for the Forward, accurately describes the author's description of Jews as being fundamentally good and gentiles rooted in evil.

He posits that just as every Jew, no matter how assimilated, still has a Jewish spark (pintele yid), there is a corresponding non-Jewish core (pintele goy) to the gentile. Though acknowledging other views, Rabbi Grama accepts the notion that non-Jews are created not fully in God's image (tzelem elokim). This is an extreme formulation of the approach of a stream of Jewish thinkers who see the Jew as a higher form of creation beyond that of human.

Grama, however, is not an advocate of acting against the gentile. On the contrary, his message is the need to separate from a hostile, intrinsically antisemitic world. He criticizes secular education and denies that there are moral values in gentile wisdom. He speaks to the yeshiva student who is attracted to university studies and implores him to stay in the beit midrash, or house of study. Integrating into the non-Jewish environment has failed to eradicate antisemitism, and a return to the traditional low-profile ghetto Jew is seen as appropriate.

His seemingly shocking justification for bribing, when necessary, the secular authorities reflects his world view that the world has not changed since Jews lived under the czar and could survive antisemitic laws only through bribing corrupt judges. In fact, democracy, which he equates with a total loss of authority, actually makes things worse. Seeing the relationship between Jacob and Esau as a prototype for Jewish-gentile relations, he recommends that the Jew be servile to the gentile. From the author's perspective, it is the Jews who actively have led non-Jewish movements who have increased the danger to Jewish survival in the exile.

The Holocaust, in which the Germans, who were seen by European Jewry as the pinnacle of modern culture and knowledge, murdered a third of the Jewish people, demonstrated to a part of the traditionalist Orthodox community that becoming a part of the modern world was a disaster. The recent growth of a "new" antisemitism in the guise of anti-Zionism became a proof that pursuing Jewish activism and nationalism was just as mistaken. In this milieu, a book asserting that the Jews are superior serves to maintain the morale for those who will live a life of material poverty devoted totally to Torah study.

It is possible to give the same message without ascribing evil to gentiles and denying that they are created in God's image. One can acknowledge the intractable existence of antisemitism without seeing it emanating from the essential nature of the gentile. Unfortunately this book does not make such distinctions. Yet it is inaccurate to place it in the category of racist tracts that call for the superior race to rule the world. This work is a call for a superior people to withdraw from the world and live in isolation while submitting to its enemies and placing trust in God.

The vast majority of Jewish thinkers posit that all humans are created in God's image and do not see all non-Jews as a definable category. But the possibility exists that one who is unaware of the marginality of Grama's sources might draw misleading and dangerous conclusions from this book. In Israel, where there is an ongoing conflict between Jews and Arabs and there is an activist element within Orthodoxy, the viewpoint of the author could be used to justify horrendous behavior. There is an unquestioned principle of darchei shalom (paths of peace) that governs Jewish behavior with non-Jews. Maimonides sees this principle as being a fulfillment of the commandment to emulate God's mercy on all of His creation (Hilkhot Melakhim 10:12).

There is a context within the society in which Rabbi Grama lives that limits the implications of what is written in his book. Those sharing his world see his work as defending their separation from a hostile environment and cannot imagine any aggressive behavior emerging from its thesis. It is to be expected, however, that his words would be understood differently by those of us more involved in the broader society.
UPDATE: Apparently the letter is posted online, here. I've got no clue if it was there earlier or not, but I looked closely for it.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:48 AM |


Thursday, January 15, 2004  

Don't Gloat Too Early. My tenure in the YU beis medrash annex lasted approximately 2 hours, before a pair of security guards came to tell me -- quite politely, I add -- that the administrators don't like it when students who've been "evicted" come back into the building and that they knew I didn't do anything wrong to get that way, but they're just doing their jobs, etc. I asked if they'd received a call or complaint, and they said no, but that the guard who'd let me in was a newbie and when his replacement came on-shift and saw my name on the sign-in list, he recognized it from whatever briefing memo they have about me. The guards were really nice and kept going out of their way to be polite and to tell me they were sorry and that they knew I was really a good guy and that it was just the administrators keeping me out. So I said, yeah, well, Socol, and then I asked, "But isn't Socol gone?" And they said, no, nothing's changed.
Well, something has changed: instead of being pre-emptively cut-off from a building's entrance at the sidewalk, I sat down, blogged, chatted with kollel guys and got some learning done over a two-hour period. So that's something like a 2 hour and 1 minute difference in antagonism. This was fun, actually, and even the getting-removed part wasn't all that bad, since the guards were so nice.
Maybe I should do this every week.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:55 PM |
 

Seder Shel Newborn, Zackary Sholem Berger's Passover-ification of his first week of child-rearing, is pretty cute:

Kadesh: Kiddush over milk (or formula, bedieved) -- ??? ??????. That is, until it dribbles down her chin.
Urkhatz: Wash the milk off her chin.
It goes on from there.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:13 PM |
 

So Yuter posted his response to the Dani Stein BY article. No, not the one on murder. That one was not incredibly significant, despite the Forward's interest (perhaps it only gained importance in a post-grama world - now there's a watershed moment in Intellectual JHI). The really interesting article was Stein's piece on utilitarian learning ethics. Yuter makes some interesting points about it, and I'll have more to say on them a little later.
Enjoy...

posted by Sam | 6:52 PM |
 

Advice?
I'm using my Treo 600 as a modem with PDANet to view the Internet on my laptop, and I can't load Protocols, a consistent problem I've had. The blogspot banner and the Protocols title banner load, but nothing else. So far as I can tell, I've not had this problem with any other site, including blogspot sites like OxBlog and GirlHock. I thought it might be the size of the page that's the problem, so I very quickly experimented with publishing only four days' posts instead of eight, but that didn't do the trick, either. Strangely, when I use my Treo itself to access Protocols with the Blazer browser, I have no problems at all.
Ideas?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:42 PM |
 

As I noted in my earlier post, the Forward doesn't post its letters to the editor online. As it turns out, print readers would have a hard time getting to the letters section as well, as the first printing the Forward ran had their letters page in Russian; they're doing a new print. Personally, I blame the Chechens.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:23 PM |
 

I'm blogging from the YU beis medrash annex, having gained entry for the second time in eight days. What does this mean? I guess that with certain administrators now either out of the way or less empowered, they may have stopped distributing my picture every couple months (the last time I heard of them actually doing so was before Richard Joel's installation) or they've just stopped caring about keeping me (and, presumably, certain other people) out. Interesting.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:49 PM |
 

The New York Jewish Week's weekly e-mail from the editor is now HTML-formatted and accessible on the Web. It features what appears to be an updated logo and motto (changing from "Serving the Jewish Community of Greater New York" to "From Midtown to the Mideast - We Cover Your World"), and also comes addressed from "janet@jewishweek.org" instead of Gary Rosenblatt. Who's Janet? Maybe Janet Hoffman, Office Manager.
Is the NYJW undergoing a general redesign/web overhaul? Their website does appear to have undergone some minor changes to make it sharper and neater, but maybe that's just me.
The Forward is going through a web overhaul, as well. Who will have a better site? Bigger question: who will have a site with a blog and exclusive online content? The next generation of readership awaits the answer.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:01 PM |
 

Reb Yudel sent via IM this article of Muslims arguing about the Quran and its potential midrashic influences. I haven't read it all, but what I have is pretty darned interesting.

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

"The Jewish Taliban." I've seen this terminology appear quite often of late; from an objective standpoint, it appears the only Jewish group that ever came close to a "Jewish Taliban" was that led by Judah Maccabee. Let's refrain from using this poor terminology.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:06 PM |
 

More information, please...
ShemaYisrael.com makes a perfect case for why better and more accurate journalism standards should be utilized in covering the J-comm. What's going on here, according to the article, seems to be that attacks against orthos in Bnei Brak are being encouraged/done with the instruction of the Eida Chareidis (a beis din) in Jerusalem. Is that really what's going on? If so, what does that say about claims that the super-chareidim don't radicalize in a violent fashion? If not, well, it's pretty obvious that ShemaYisrael.com would be causing illegitimate perspectives on the Eida Chareidis because they refuse to do good reporting.
So who loses?
(via Chakira)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:40 PM |
 

Josh Harrison went to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, and got to check out portions of the J-comm during his visit; his first dispatch on his experience is here. We eagerly await more.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:32 PM |
 

Award for First Stupidly Ad Hominem Attack on the Forward's Beis Yitzchok story goes to...
Elder Avraham, who notes Cattan's citation of, "close readings by several rabbinic scholars," and says:

which implies, at least to me, that the author never actually read the article in question herself. You really didn't need to be a close-reading rabbinic scholar to be able to get that out of the article; you just need to be able to read Hebrew. Hmmm....
Actually, as any regular reader of news stories should be able to discern, proper news articles rely on outside, expert opinion to assert what's true whenever possible.
As to Cattan's ability to read the article (which, given her reliance on expert opinion, is mostly irrelevant to her reporting), she had a marked-up copy she was looking through at her desk last night, but maybe she was just leafing through the pages to mystically absorb its meaning.
Next Stupidly Ad Hominem Attack, please step up to the table...

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:57 AM |
 

"Ultra-Orthodox Officials Go To Bat for Anti-Gentile Book," my latest for the Forward, on the Agudah's refusing to condemn Grama's book and instead embarking on a campaign to discredit the initial coverage. Mentioned in the article, and published in the issue, is Rabbi Yosef Blau's letter generally agreeing with the Forward's presentation of the book, and asserting that the book is unlikely to trigger an activist approach in Lakewood, but that it could trigger an activist approach elsewhere.
Of course, you can't find the letter online, because the Forward doesn't post its letters to the editor! This is a bad idea generally, one that sends the message that the Forward isn't as concerned about dealing with its readers' opinions as it should be. And, as it happens, in this case the reader's opinion is materially relevant to the coverage, so much so that it's even quoted in the coverage. So what gives? It wouldn't take a helluva lot more work to post the letters every week, and the Forward should.
What my article does is lay out the facts: The article's been condemned by David Zwiebel with a letter he sent out to probably dozens of Orthodox leaders, pretty much none of whom have read the book. The letter has already led to a tougher condemnation by a member of the Moetzes who has not read the book. I sent out passages of the book, hoping to receive comment; thus far I've only heard back from Rabbi Blau and Rabbi Dr. Alan Brill, and they are quoted on it. What this article essentially does is stack up the relevant rabbis: Zwiebel's launched a campaign challenging the Forward's reporting, and scholars are being asked to determine who's correct. We'll do more stacking if any others respond to the book.
Two things that should have been included and are not:
1) That there has been no challenge of the translation out of Lakewood in the month since the original story appeared.
2) Asked if he considered the book "not reflective of normative Jewish thought," (R' Kotler's quote [in the original article based on Forward's provided translation]) Zwiebel responded, "?I don?t consider myself either qualified to answer that or interested in answering that." In his letter, Zwiebel wrote, "I think it prudent to stay far away from anything that smacks of censorship of Jewish religious perspectives that are at variance with modern day notions of egalitarianism.?
Of course, I'll be following up on the story as anything develops.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:04 AM |
 

The Beis Yitzchok article in the Forward is up. After a quick reading, it comes down to Yitz Greenberg vs. Yeshiva University, an interesting, though not really necessary, way to formulate the piece. The main problem with the article is that it does a piss-poor job of describing the halachic issues at hand; I've read Stein's article, and I'm still not sure what this Forward piece is trying to say Stein is saying.
An obvious point:

If not for the Lakewood scandal, the Beit Yitzchak article would not have come under scrutiny, said Rabbi Norman Lamm, the chancellor of Y.U. and the rosh yeshiva of its affiliated seminary.
Absolutely true.
A less-obvious point:
"When this thing slips through, it's a sign that there is excessive insularity and lack of awareness of the fullness of humanity of gentiles and how they hear or feel about such text," said Greenberg, a past chair of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. "The leadership of the kollel has failed to correct this atmosphere among its students."
Absolutely true.
We get conflict when both take their arguments a bit too far:
Greenberg acknowledged that Stein was probably arguing a theoretical point, but said the article must be "exposed and criticized" because of the "implicit danger in un-repudiated words that someone may come along one day and act on them." Greenberg pointed to Yigal Amir, the Israeli student who said that he was acting on theoretical comments made by his teachers when he assassinated the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Except there's nothing to act on, Yitz.
And on the other side:
"To focus on this one piece is simply raising a yellow flag when there's nothing to raise," said Lamm.
No, focusing on this one piece is developing inquiry into relevant and timely texts.
Overall, the story is a decent inquiry into the thought and debate that goes on over these issues. If YU people had been better about going on the record at length with Cattan, there would've been more to counterbalance Greenberg, though there's quite a lot, as is; either way, that's a failing of those people, not Cattan.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:30 AM |


Wednesday, January 14, 2004  

So Steven I absconded with my soapbox. Well, he's certainly welcome to all the invective that's been tossed my way in response to my past few posts.

In light of the letter sent out by R' Waxman (quoted in full by Steve), as well as some of the rather nasty comments dropped both at my personal and my public doorsteps, I feel the need to clarify some details for those out there who seemed to have missed my point or made more of it than I had intended to.

First off, my beef was not with Shalavim, nor was it with R' Schachter (how those of you out there who think I was maligning HIM got that idea is rather beyond me...), or even so much with the kids asking the questions. Quite honestly, I pointed out (and mocked to some extent) the underlying attitude driving these questions. I meant no disrespect for Shalavim, a Yeshiva I admire a tremendous amount, and certainly none for its rebbeim or even its talmidim as a whole. I do however feel that there is a negative and destructive force at work - not so much a conscious educational bias as a cultural matrix: invisible, ubiquitous and completely pervasive - that has directed many students in Israel in traditionally MO yeshivas (shalavim happened to be where this happened, but it was just as likely an occurrence in a few other yeshivas I could think of) to embrace a watered down nouveau yeshivishkeit. This can be manifested by new articles of clothing, by rejection of one's family as not frum enough, by a desire to cleave to the yeshivish world with all its dogmas and biases, and, most significantly, the notion that it is imperative to ask a godol all one's questions - even about mundane, day-to-day issues. The assumption is that being a talmid chochom imparts knowledge on all matters. Hafoch Boh is seen as a literal prescription - thus, it's only a short step away from assuming that rebbe has all the answers - when to date (and whom), how to make money, which medical advice to take, and where to go to school.
The concomittant impulse at work is the drive for chumra - keeping up with the schwartzes, I call it. Were many of these questions earnest and well meaning? Yes. But do they also stem from a desire to fit in with the OTHER guys asking seemingly deep and weighty questions? Probably.
So what you get is an unseen drive to constantly obsess to rabbeim about how frum to be. To illustrate my point, it is not a bad thing for someone with no familial tradition of hat wearing to put one on. What is less worthwhile is the idea that one has to constantly obsess about whether one is wearing a hat for hashkafic or halachic reasons - and that one has to actually waste other peoples' time trying to inquire about it. The equivalent is the annoying guys in the BM who endlessly debate derech halimud while not actually spending a whole lot of time doing limud.
So, in short, what I tried to highlight was this impulse. Instead, however, people took it as an attack on (in different people's minds) religious devotion, shalavim and all that was good and holy in the world.

Second, though I'd assumed that this went without saying, obviously, in blogworld, nothing does: I don't think ALL the questions were stupid. Some were quite interesting, or at least legit. But the egregiously dumb ones stood out and demanded attention.

Finally, and this is a general point that I feel needs addressing: many of the more obnoxious posts seemed to see a meta-brain at work at Protocols. "You evil folk: Steven I, Sam, Tolany (he's not even an elder, hmf...), and co." was the common refrain. People seem to assume that we all agree with everything each of us posts.
This may come as a surprise, but the elders don't share many of the same views. Protocols is a community, not a groupthink endeavor - my views are not Steve's views are not Pinky's views are not Avraham's views and NONE of our views are necessarily the same as our commenters. Bear in mind that if you attack me, you shoudln't tar Steven with the same brush. If you despise Pinky's views on politics, it doesn't mean that Avraham is a shreklicheh left winger. Remember, just b/c William Safire and Paul Krugman work for the same newspaper doesn't mean they agree.

posted by Sam | 11:44 PM |
 

I'd been meaning to link to Jewschool's work of much effort, the Anti-Semitism Quiz. Cutest question, of course:

Do you believe 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion' to be a real document?
- Yes, and it clearly outlines the plan for Jewish global domination
- No, it was a tzarist forgery meant to shift blame for Tzarist Russia's economic shortcomings on the Jewish population
- That's my favorite weblog! Go Shleve!
- Never heard of 'em
- No
- Yes, it is the outline of the Zionist plot to steal Palestine
Fun.
I took the quiz and the result labelled me an anti-Semitic malshin, moser, and liar as well as a self-hating Jew...Oh, wait, sorry, I misread -- that wasn't the quiz, it was the jackass responses to the Forward reporting on Lakewood.
Mobius himself has been struggling a lot with how to deal with and define anti-Semitism; I don't know what he hopes to do with this quiz, but I wish him the best of luck.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:09 PM |
 

Too precious. Most of you will recall the questions Sha'alvim guys asked R' Schachter recently, and a lot of you are probably wondering what his responses were. Apparently, so were a lot of Sha'alvim guys, to which Ari Waxman, responded thusly:

From: "Ari Waxman"
To:
Subject: Protocols
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2004 21:29:10 +0200
Shalom Uvracha Talmidei Shaalvim,
I hope that everyone is doing well.
Since I sent out the list of questions that were presented to Rav Shachter at the "Asei Lecha Rav" (pardon my spelling!) many people have asked me for Rav Shachter's answers. However, please see the website www.protocols.blogspot.com ,where we are now honored to be at the center of attention, and you will clearly understand why this is not possible.
I think that it's worthwhile to see the site in any case and become more aware of how we are perceived in the eyes of some of our brothers. It's sad to be so misunderstood.
Btzipiyah LeGeulah B'Karov (I hope that wish is not too frum),
Ari Waxman
Is this e-mail just too precious for response? Maybe, but I'll give it a shot anyway. First off, there are a lot of people (especially among RIETS alumni) who speak rather disdainfully of the relationship R' Schachter has with his and other talmidim, a kind of perpetual and perpetually useless pilpul. The thing is, while most of the people I've spoken to about this have blamed R' Schachter, I'm of a mind that he's blameless; there's no getting around the fact that he's a genius pretty much unparalleled where he is and in most parts of the yeshiva world, and being so smart usually makes one a magnet for idiots. The majority of R' Schachter's discourse is, it seems, not a product of his initiative, but a response to the endless -- and if you look closely, possibly endlessly-annoying -- questions. The man has very little choice.
As to the idiots, well, they do have a choice. In a way, they don't: faced with the ability of a man like R' Schachter to develop intellectual initiative, it's hard to see how many people could avoid an attempt to develop a roughly equivalent capability. They should know that they can't, but they don't. Here we have the fundamental problem of stupid people: they're incurably idiotic, but not smart enough to understand the implications of their idiocy and know when to shut up. Mind you, this doesn't only happen with R' Schachter, but it's most pronounced with him because even other rebbeim develop annoying questions for him.
So, while Waxman thinks it's not a good idea to post R' Schachter's answers, I think, well, for him it is: because R' Schachter's answers, when you look closely (I don't know to what degree this remains relevant when they're transcribed in print) are a subtle chiding of the stupidity that surrounds him, and a nuanced explanation of his intelligence to those looking to him for something other than confirmation of their own point-of-view (which is to say, an education). So it's self-servingly appropriate for Waxman that he won't provide the answers, but I'd likely have no criticism whatever of R' Schachter's answers: he's committed himself to being available for such questions -- a truly good thing -- and it's not his fault if the moronic rabble have fought their way to the front of the classroom.
As a side point, this e-mail is just one more indication that you can't expect to keep anything outside of the Jewish public eye anymore if the Jewish public decides it wants to know what's going on; J-blogging brings that to the table in a way J-papers haven't been able to. The interactivity and elevation of the audience is simply far more than the J-papers have tried to -- or, possibly, could -- reach.
I SHOULD ADD: Many commenters to Sam's post have mentioned that the kids asking these questions are young and impressionable and we should cut them some slack (assuming, of course, that it was only post-high-school students asking the questions). I'm generally of a mind to agree, especially since these students are essentially put on the spot by the yeshiva under the agressively-suggested assumption that they should have relevant questions; maybe they don't, and are just struggling to do something to show R' Schachter that they can at least ask something instead of sitting in silence. There's a lot to be said in the whole equation about how the Socratic method is utilized -- the older idiots ask questions to appear smart; they then force the young kids to ask questions before the kids are ready. Chiddushim and legitimate shailas are pretty rare occurrences; it's a kind of de-legitimation of insight and genius that has crept into the increasingly-mediocre world of a lot of Modern Orthodox, wannabe-yeshivish discussion, and it's foisted upon kids who might otherwise have the capability to actually develop a real intellect.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:19 PM |
 

Oog, Dahlia Lithwick skewers the Supreme Court.

posted by Sam | 11:47 AM |
 

Wow! 3 guesses who's probably getting booked for a rapping...er...speaking engagement at the New York Synagogue in the near future.

Rabbi Schneier in Bling Bling. Ah, thoughts like these keep me warm at night.

Any thoughts on whether this is going to do something interesting to Black-Jewish relations? After all, as the article says, this is the "first time an African American figure of Simmons' stature in popular culture has issued a denunciation of resurgent anti-Semitism".

I vote no, personally.

posted by Sam | 11:38 AM |
 

Bullshit!

posted by Sam | 11:17 AM |


Tuesday, January 13, 2004  

David Adesnik receives a letter:

I tend to find much of the writing on Oxblog, on the whole, of good value, particularly in parsing out the national media's reportage of the occupation of Iraq.
However, the title of your January 11, 11:08am post, "Full of Shi'ite," is disgraceful, disrespectful and not in the least bit cute.
I see no purpose to the use of an incorrect transliteration of a Muslim sect's name in such a distasteful manner. Would you be at all happy if someone would go off about the "Shrew Jew?" Would it even be funny? [Yes and yes. --DA]
This is particularly disconcerting as it is in the context of a discussion of some of the more moderate leadership of the Iraqi Shi'a.
Don't irresponsible lines such as yours only serve to confirm for Muslims the underhanded disdain of those who would proclaim their utmost respect for the cultures, religions and sensitivities of the Muslim peoples?
Adesnik's heading for the post? "Go fly a kike."
Too cute.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:51 PM |
 

Despite all this talk of halachic standard getting more stringent, someone clearly doesn't feel this way at all:

posted by Sam | 2:05 PM |
 

Hey, this happened to me in the YU caf!

No, not really...

posted by Sam | 1:58 PM |
 

So has anyone seen the Haaretz interview with Benny Morris? Depressing, right?

posted by Sam | 1:54 PM |
 

Where can you find Ner Israel and Hebrew Union College listed together? In Hillel's Partner Agencies.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:20 AM |


Monday, January 12, 2004  

Definitive Williamsburg Chasidim vs. Hipsters Post
Value-Added-Blogging (VAB), wherein one provides special extra bits to one's in-print reporting.
Zackary Sholem Berger and I went to Williamsburg and did a bunch of reporting on the Williamsburg Chasidim's protests agains the hipsters. Our story for New York Magazine, already noted below, is here. There's also a story on the topic in the current issue of the New York Jewish Week, by Julia Goldman.
One of the most interesting things about the story for me was that the protesting Chasidim had prepared prayer booklets especially for the occasion; it contained psalms, but also a page-long prayer, mentioned in the New York story, entitled "For the Protection of Our City of Williamsburg from the Plague of the Artists." Here's the cover of the booklet (Click for a larger image).

The large letters say "Prayer and Verses of Psalms." The smaller letters are the title of the special prayer. The really small letters on top is an abbreviation saying "With the Help of God..."
Here's the prayer (Click for a larger image)

It reads, in quick translation (Feel free to correct me in the comments, I'll note edits in brackets):

Master of the Universe, our Father, Father of mercy, have mercy upon us and upon the borders of our village and do not allow the prosecution to come inside our home, please remove from upon us the plague of the artists, that we shouldn't drown in evil waters, and that they shouldn't come to our residence to ruin it.
Please place in the hearts of the homeowners that they shouldn't build, God forbid, for these people, and strengthen their hearts that they can withstand this difficult test, and that they will not sell for the lure of money.
Please our Father God of Mercy have mercy upon our generation that is weak and remove from us this difficult test from these people, these immoral antagonists that from their doing will multiply, God forbid, the excruciating tests and the sight of impurity and immorality that is growing in the world.
And here it is our wish to teach our sons and our daughters according to the holy Torah that was given to us from our fathers, and our wish to produce generations of believers in God and his holy Torah, according the teachings of our fathers and the early heritage we've received. And here we are in fear that owing to the encroachment of these individuals within our community we will not be able to teach our sons and daughters according to the methods of Israel.
Please our father Father of Mercy do for the sake of our fathers and our sages that gave their lives to allow religion to remain upon the lowly American soil, and do for the sake of their merit to preserve the residence, do it for the sake of your holiness, do it for the sake of your Torah, do it for your love of those that came from the dust.
And we know also we know that we have no strength other than with our mouths and if we've caused a decree from you, please invalidate this harsh decree from upon us, because we lack strength and may not be able to withstand this difficult test, God forbid.
Please our father Father of Mercy, do for the sake of your great might and feared name and the fear that you've declared upon us, and do not give the aggresor your portion that you have acquired, and that you've freed from slavery with your great strength.
Master of the Universe, pay heed to our affliction and see our lowliness, please quickly bring your mercy to match your great and sanctified honor, and exalt the light of Israel and hear and receive our prayers and pleadings in all times, and pay heed to our suffering and remedy our affliction and our troubles, and uphold the verse as it's written: [Quoted verse omitted until I can see it in context], be graceful with us and be forgiving with us and listen to our prayers, because you listen to all the voices of your people of Israel with mercy, blessed are you who listens to prayer.
Unreported in either story are the divisions among the Chasidim in dealing with the issue. This graf covers most of the issue, except for possible disagreement from some Vizhnitz and other Chasidim:
Despite the widespread fear among the Chasidim that the hipsters could bring an end to their low-priced neo-shtetl, consensus on a solution is lacking, owing in part to schisms among the Chasidim generally. Satmer, a dominant sect in the area, is embroiled in a succession dispute that has occasionally turned violent, and adherents of the two prospective heirs have taken different tacks: followers of Zalman Leib Teitelbaum protest the Gretsch building and its potential swimming pool, while followers of Aaron Teitelbaum primarily protest the Spencer Building, already populated with hipsters (Aaron himself lives in Kiryas Joel, upstate). It is also unclear to what degree Chasidic rabbis encourage the protests; most proclamations are signed by mid-level rabbis, while the actual rebbes have remained silent. In mid-October, a number of leading rebbeim gathered to discuss the problem, and issued an edict that whoever rents to the hipsters or builds housing for them would become outcasts. Protests are organized by leader-less groups with names like Williamsburg Rescue Committee.
For earlier posts on the issue, including pics of the Chasidim's posters, see here and here.
Meantime, Reader Mike suggests that in light of the Chasidim's prayer, it's only fair that we come up with one the hipsters can use to fight back; suggestions?
OR: Since the hipsters who can are actually exiting Williamsburg for Manhattan, how about a prayer for the rescue of our fair island?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:51 PM |
 

Just did an EBay search for "Grama," to see if any copies are surfacing for sale (I've got my photocopies already), and there don't seem to be any seforim in the results, but there is a lot of "I Heart Grama" merchandise.

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

"Hasidim vs. Hipsters: Trucker hat, schmucker hat: Williamsburg’s religious Jews want the ’hood’s arty arrivistes to go away." My latest for New York Magazine, with Zackary Sholem Berger.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:49 AM |


Sunday, January 11, 2004  

From the department of unmitigated stupidity:
Wow. I'm in awe. Without any further introduction (none would do it justice), this is a list of questions asked by Shalavim guys of R' Hershel Schachter on his annual visit to their school this year. Spelling and punctuation have been preserved for effect.



1) Is there a halachik problem with listening to non- Jewish music if it is sung by a male?
2) What has been Rav Shachter’s greatest challenge as a posek
3) When is there a chiyyuv to have a mechitza? Shiur? Kiddush?
4) a) What are the right reasons for wearing a black hat? Is it O.K. if it’s not for halachik reason’s, just for hashkafic reasons? b) How much importance should be given to dress/chitzoniyus?
5) Are we permitted to take tours of har habayis?
6) Should we daven on a plane with a minyan?
7) Many people question the values and practicality of Modern Orthodoxy. Being one of the leading rabbis of the modern orthodox community how would you define it and answer people who say that practically it isn’t working?
8) To what extent should one believe in ayin hara (such as cutting fingernails and toenails on the same day) , and segulas such as dipping fingers into the havdalah plate.
9) Is it permissible to copy CD’s?
10) What do you think about the Maimonides School? Do you think that the Rav supported it?
11) What kind of electric shavers are problematic?
12) Am I allowed to go to the Y.U. scholarship trip and dinner if I we will be missing a day of learning? It isn’t mandatory but it may increase my chances of getting a scholarship.
13) I understand that there is a need for non-Jews in the world, but why so many? Why is the Jew to Non-Jew ratio so tremendous?
14) Is secular college O.K. for some select bnei Torah?
15) Is meditation against halachah?
16) How can a person figure out what hashem wants from him?
17) What questions must a ben Torah ask himself to determine whether he has built the proper foundation and is ready to leave yeshiva?
18) At what point should a ben Torah start dating? What if he already has a relationship with a girl? Should he break up until he’s ready to get married?



I think I'm gonna try to come up with possible answers for these pressing and well-thought-out shaylas. If anyone wants to contribute, feel free.

posted by Sam | 10:45 PM |
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