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

Saturday, February 21, 2004  


10:30 a.m. -- U.S. Rep. Elliot Engel and others join rally to protest ``fence'' hearings at The Hague; Dutch Consul General's Office, United Nations, One Rockefeller Plaza.
2 p.m.-4 p.m. -- Wall Street Synagogue sponsors show depicting interpretations of Hebrew text called Midrash; Pleiades Gallery, 530 W. 25th Street.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:22 PM |

Friday, February 20, 2004  

The first paper we know of to have printed the problematic Deborah Pardo story is The Baltimore Jewish Times. Will the JTA author a letter of apology to the readers of the paper, especially since it's far more likely the story would not have beeen included had they sent out the retraction Monday, when they heard about it, than Tuesday, after speaking with the reporter doing a story on Pardo?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:38 AM |

Uh oh, you mean it wasn' all just a Zionist conspiracy?

BAGHDAD -- An Iraqi leader accused of feeding faulty prewar intelligence to Washington said his information about Saddam Hussein's weapons - even if discredited - achieved the aim of persuading the United States to topple the dictator.
Ahmed Chalabi and his London-based exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, for years provided a conduit for Iraqi defectors who were debriefed by U.S. intelligence agents...
During an interview, Mr. Chalabi, by far the most effective anti-Saddam lobbyist in Washington, shrugged off charges that he had deliberately misled U.S. intelligence. "We are heroes in error," he said in Baghdad on Wednesday. "As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful.
"Our objective has been achieved. That tyrant Saddam is gone, and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important."
Mr. Chalabi added: "The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords if [President Bush] wants."
Unless of course Chalabi's real name is Schwartzenheimerbergerfeldsteinman, but somehow I doubt it.

posted by Pinchas | 10:35 AM |

Thursday, February 19, 2004  

So I just got my copies of the current issue of Harper's, with my translation of the anti-Hipster prayer in it. I was very curious to see it, because I'd seen it transcribed elsewhere with "G-d" in place of "God," and I was wondering whether Harper's was joining other members of the Jewish community in declaring itself "Frummer than Protocols." As it happens, they did print "God," except in the headline, which reads "G-d Damn Hipsters." I was interested to see the degree to which they edited the prayer; I tried to stay as true to the original as possible while translating, and I was surprised to see the liberties they took in changing it further from the original meaning, especially when that meant resorting to cliche. For instance, where I wrote "we are in fear," they wrote "we live in fear."
Slightly interesting.
What's more interesting, though, is just how much it takes for the NYT to sit up and notice a story. The Williamsburg unhappiness was something of a known matter in the J-comm, and of discussion on Jewish blogs and message boards. Then it made a post on Gawker, which led me to think it could be a piece in NYMag, which it became. Then I figured the prayer I got in reporting that story would be worth a post in Protocols, and Harper's thought the prayer would be worth printing in its pages. So then the March issue of Harper's lands at the NYT metro desk, and they light up: "Story!"
It's the six degrees of the NYT.

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

To coincide with today’s seminar on anti-Semitism, Edgar M. Bronfman co-authored an op-ed in today’s Financial Times outlining the cause of Europe’s rising anti-Semitism and charting a course to combat it. Excerpt on the causes:

The most important achievement that can emerge from this conference is recognition that violent anti-Semitism is no longer the exclusive domain of extreme rightwing forces. Today's anti-Semitic agitators are largely those seeking to import the Middle East conflict to Europe.
We do not wish to silence those who would criticise the policies of the Israeli government. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where members of the government, media and citizenry routinely question and criticise the government's policies and actions… But criticism of Israel is not the issue. Rather, it is the demonisation of Israel as a Jewish state and as the state of the Jews.
Political expediency cannot be a substitute for moral rectitude. European leaders cannot allow criticism of Israel to serve as a figleaf that covers anti-Semitic rhetoric as a prelude to violence...
We fear a[n]… intellectual and political climate exists in Europe today, where some political leaders, academics and media circles accept and promote the demonisation of Israel. Herein lies the problem: it is Israel that is being demonised, instead of anti-Semitism.
As there is no direct link to the oped’s text, I have pasted the entire piece in the comments to this post.

posted by Pinchas | 4:49 PM |

At an international Seminar on Anti-Semitism hosted by the European Commission and the World Jewish Congress, IHT Reports:

Jewish leaders appealed to the European Union on Thursday to take a lead in combating a perceived revival of anti-Semitism, warning that official indifference was leading to a return of the Continent's historic "monster."
At the seminar EU vows action
"We are not here to beat our breasts in public and then do nothing," [European Commission President Romano Prodi] said, calling on EU interior, justice and education ministers to come together to debate the problem, and promising proposals by the commission.
Prodi also urged EU governments to adopt a commission proposal for an EU-wide law against racism and xenophobia, which among other things would define anti-Semitic acts and Holocaust denial as crimes across the bloc.
More than 100 stories on this landmark meeting already posted.

posted by Pinchas | 4:46 PM |

Man, Mel Gibson oughta plant a big fat wet one on Abe Foxman's face, CNN Reports:

The distributor of Mel Gibson's controversial film "The Passion of the Christ" is expanding the movie's release in U.S. theaters next week to meet rising ticket demand...The size of the film's debut now rivals that of a major Hollywood release, underscoring the strong support Christians groups are showing for it after the movie faced criticism from some Jewish leaders and others that its message might be viewed as anti-Semitic.

posted by Pinchas | 4:25 PM |

Andrew Silow-Carroll sends in a link to his paper's latest article on the Jersey Chabad messianist/anti-messiant dispute. Basically, the dispute is continuing, with the Morristown yeshiva now added to the mix. There's further emphasis on the idea that the messianists are breaking away from Lubavitch, not the opposite:

Of the approximately 64 Chabad-Lubavitch shlihim in New Jersey, a handful, led by Carlebach, have split away from the mainstream organization, according to Barr. “He leads a rebellion of five or six rabbis in New Jersey,” he said. “My personal feeling is that Rabbi Carlebach is not going to stop. People who don’t want to be quieted won’t be quieted. How do you stop them? This is the tragedy.”
Meanwhile, the NJJN starts up with The Jewish State, a rival Jersey paper, and the latter comes off worse for the wear:
For Ron Ostroff, editor and publisher of The Jewish State, the episode of the full-page ads is over. In a letter from the editor in the Feb. 13 issue of his paper, Ostroff declares that The Jewish State will neither write about the dispute nor take sides in it nor accept further advertisements about it. “The fact that there is a longstanding dispute is unfortunate,” he writes. “But it is not our fight.”
Reached at his office in Highland Park, Ostroff went out of his way to say that no one at his newspaper had revealed either of the ads to anyone in advance of publication. And he defended his decision not to write about the dispute.
“I just felt nothing could be gained by it,” he said. “This dispute has been going on for a long time. My writing a story about it is not going to solve it. I didn’t see a point in it. I thought what we did was the right thing to do.”
So Ostroff only reports on things he thinks he can "solve." Cute. Stupid, but cute.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:14 PM |

I would love to know what this article is about, but alas, its text is no help.

posted by Sam | 2:40 PM |

'CAN MEL GIBSON survive 'The Passion of the Christ'?"
Asks Liz Smith in today’s New York Post.

Of course he can, and he will! Gibson has made a movie, not issued an encyclical, nor offered an edict, nor made a law … This is not such a big deal. But this is a movie that - because of a full year's worth of promulgated, hyped and intensely programmed controversy - will definitely make its money back. And after all, isn't money the greatest religion of the moviemaking community worldwide?
And after all, isn’t money the greatest religion of the non-profit community worldwide too…?

posted by Pinchas | 12:07 PM |

Check out the Forward's sexy new website. We expect the next J-weekly to jump onboard will be The New York Jewish Week.
UPDATE: Oh, crap! The Forward's site is registration only! Argggghhh!
Protocols readers can enter with the username & password of Protocols.
The site does have GoogleAds -- a good sign.
Apparently, the new website (or someone sinister) screwed up my byline in my latest article, No Jail Time for German Tourist Who Punched Celebrity Masseuse about the attack on Dorothy "Dr. Dot" Stein, a non-Jew who was wearing a Star of David.
Immediate impressions on the site: some of the links, such as the section button on the front page, seem to lead to nowhere; the play-up of the blogs is great; there're still no letters to the editor. Hey, speaking of the blogs, can someone who hasn't registered check if you need to register to get to Campaign Confidential? That'd suck. Also, the title of the page should be changed from "The Forward Newspaper Online," because the average person will only see "The" and have to go searching through their open windows to find the right one; the page should be titled "" or "Forward Online," or nearly anything without "the" preceding it.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:28 AM |

Wednesday, February 18, 2004  

Why are psychoses so easy to miss in the frum community? Apparently, even the NYT can't tell when it's dealing with a frum guy who needs treatment.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:12 PM |

JTA hires messianic Jew to cover Boteach/Brown debate, the story by Jacob Berkman in tomorrow's issue of the New Jersey Jewish Standard.
The basic storyline:
- Deborah Pardo, a messianic Jew with no journalism experience or credentials outside of her tenure at Columbia Journalism School, pitched and was hired to do a story on the Boteach/Brown debate. The story was posted last Wednesday.
- Berkman learned of Pardo's messianism, and began reporting the story.
- Pardo called her editor, Lisa Hostein, to speak about her messianism on Monday.
- The JTA retracted the story yesterday at 4:00 with an announcement to editors not to run it.
- The story was pulled from the JTA's website.
Some additional info:
- Every publication I'm aware of (except, apparently, the JTA) typically expects a reporter to provide some list of recent published stories. When the person is writing their first-ever story (an extreme rarity) it's expected that some basic research on the writer be done.
- Prior to the publication of her article, the only Google hit for "Deborah Pardo" was a mention of her speech to a messianic conference.
- The JTA has posted no notice of the story retraction to its website, and has simply deleted the story instead of adding a note to it.
- Yesterday just before 4:00 PM, the JTA sent out this notice to editors:

Dear Editors: JTA is taking the unusual step of retracting a story, ``Whodunit? Rabbi, 'messianic Jew' debate the blame for Jesus' death". The story was sent late Wednesday, Feb. 11. After the story was distributed, it came to our attention that the writer, a Columbia journalism school graduate, is a ``messianic Jew.'' While we stand by the accuracy of information contained in the story, we do not have confidence that the writer had sufficient distance from the subject she was covering to report it fairly from a perspective that would have been appropriate for a Jewish publication.
- The JTA heard from Pardo on Monday, told Berkman it was standing by the story on Tuesday Morning, and didn't retract the story until late Tuesday afternoon.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:58 PM |

Moving into this weekend, we can expect lots of J-coverage to be ALL PASSION! ALL THE TIME!
For starters from some great Christian bloggers, check out this humongous deconstruction and the many posts over at Bill Cork's blog.
UPDATE: If you're wondering how this weekend will be different from the past year, imagine the earlier coverage thusly: ALMOST ALL ABOUT THE PASSION! ALMOST ALL OF THE TIME!
While we here at Protocols don't have the same mandate as at "real" Jewish news sources (see: Abe Foxman's minions using the portable rack they borrowed from the set of Braveheart to slowly turn the toenails of various A&C editors on until they promised 10 more column inches), we nonetheless think that this is an important story. Why? Well, primarily because my smile now outranks Gibson's in both pure wattage and overall level of attraction. Covering The Passion is my way of continuing to grind Mel into the dust so that I can reign as Mad Max supreme.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:26 AM |

Big story coming later today from the New Jersey Jewish Standard's Jacob Berkman...

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:50 AM |

Can anyone with information/leads on this Aronson situation drop me an e-mail before 11 AM Wednesday?
UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who helped.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:42 AM |

Tuesday, February 17, 2004  

Jack Shafer catches the NYT stumbing all over itself to try to categorize an Arab/Muslim/Persian-American ethnicity; of course, while the paper could just go with AmPerSams, that would still leave us with a category that doesn't exist -- at least in our minds that are too caught up with our preconceived notions of "reality." This has obvious implications for the Times coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, in which both sides cry of bias at that paper. The answer, clearly, is that both sides are wrong, adhering as they do to something other than the NYT's more-valid description of Middle Eastern ethnicities.
In an effort to clear all of this up, we present...
Protocols' Exclusive Interview With NYT "Head Honcho" Bill Keller.
Thanks for sitting down with us; after all, it's not all the time we get to meet the Executive Editor of a prestigious publi-
-Head Honcho.
-"Head Honcho." Executive Editor gets so old sometimes., thanks for letting us do this interview...
-Let's try "information-sharing session."
Fine. Let's move on. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict has piqued the interest of a large part of your international audience; what do you have to say to those who criticize your coverage from either side?
-The Hebrews are an interesting people, and I understand their desire to lay claim to Biblical lands, but so long as all the Arabs are kept inside the small area of the territories, it's hard to see any peaceful conclusion occurring.
You mean the Palestinians -- the Palestinians that are in the territories...
-I don't understand what you're getting at.
Okay, moving on, what of the anti-Semitic lies that Jews were in large part responsible for Bush's engaging in the war on Iraq?
-Look, some of my best friends are of Eastern-European descent, so I understand what people mean by the pain of anti-Semitism. The fact remains that this war had a number of different elements to it; for instance, there was the human-rights aspect, dealing with the genocide of the Hutus against the Tutsis...
Wait, don't you mean the Baathists against the Kurds?
-Maybe, but let's not get caught up in specifics. The fact remains that so long as the Russian Mossad has to deal with the Chechen Hamas...
Come on, man! You've got to be kidding!
-No, I'm dead serious, and those Persians in the West Bank or Gaza or whatever are a major issue. There are real problems of suicide, er, homicide, er bombing in general that have to be dealt with. And an incursion is defense of sovereign territory and a clash is an ambush, capice?
Okay, thanks for your time, man. We love the New York Times.
-I hope you continue to enjoy the International Herald Tribune.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:55 PM |

Chakira summarizes the Orthodox Union's Passion-related PR effort.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:24 PM |

JPost on "Haredi Punks," a supposedly growing trend of yeshiva expellees turning downtown Jerusalem into a skanky hangout. Beware bogus trend-spotting! Of course: "Six gruff teenagers," does not a trend make. As well, the supposed extreme actions taken could be pretty mild:

Ultra-orthodox society has been slow in recognizing the phenomenon. A public letter sent in May 1998 by a group of haredi educators to several leading rabbis stressed the dimensions of the problem: "Thousands of former yeshiva students have crossed the line, leaving the yeshiva to wander the streets, movie theaters, city squares, and anywhere that a yeshiva boy should not be...
The main point for using the letter is to establish a precedent where "Thousands of former yeshiva students" are misbehaving, but those misbehaviors are pretty mild -- and when it gets to the serious actions by these kids, it mentions only a handful of cases.
There is a meaningful relevance to what these kids are going through and what the lessons are for the J-comm, but the article pumps up the reality in order to sell the story.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:05 PM |

NYT story on the Williamsburg protests; nothing really new there.
READER Alana notes this sentence:

a flier handed out last month at a protest (and reprinted in the March issue of Harper's magazine) asked the "Master of the Universe" to "please remove from upon us the plague of the artists, so that we shall not drown in evil waters, and so that they shall not come to our residence to ruin it."
That's actually the translation I posted last month, that Harper's reprinted. So Protocols has made the NYT...kinda.
UPDATE: Reader Alana insists we identify her fully, and add "color." Alana Newhouse is today wearing a black ensemble, with her hair tied up in an "I look dazzling without even trying," style. Fashizzle.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:52 PM |

Job Posting: Webmaster/Designer, JCC in Manhattan.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:05 AM |

David Bernstein:

"Presbyterian Peacemakers": I know I'm supposed to be on a blogging slowdown, but how can I resist stories like this one? A group called "Presbyterian Peacemakers," which on its website professes to pursue "a journey of racial justice and understanding," as well as a commitment to overcoming prejudice, brought a virulently anti-Israel speaker to Wooster College who gave a blatantly anti-Semitic presentation. This speaker, among other things, "presented the fraudulent, antisemitic screed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a factual book that 'explains' how Zionists have been taking over the world's political, economic, religious and communication organizations." This lecture was presented twice, including during an ethics class. The individual responsible for inviting the anti-Semitic lecturer had this to say for himself: "I regret that the director of the Hillel Foundation (Professor Peter Pozefsky) chose to be offended by it, rather than take it as a teachable event." Gotta love those Presbyterian Peacemakers. I'd hate to see what the Presbyterian Racist Warmongers are like. To make matters at Wooster worse, Prof. Pozefsky's valid concerns about this and other anti-Semitic speakers--concerns that reportedly involved no calls for censorship--were ignored or critcitized by his colleagues. Alumni and friends of Wooster College, let your voices be heard!

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:52 AM |

The Anti-Semite Was A Saddamist. Labour MP Tam Dalyell was involved in an anti-sanctions campaign financed illicitly by UN oil-for-food money, according to the Guardian. (via Instapundit).
A reminder of what he said in April:

In an interview with Vanity Fair, the Left-wing Labour MP named Lord Levy, Tony Blair's personal envoy on the Middle East, Peter Mandelson, whose father was Jewish, and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, who has Jewish ancestry, as three of the leading figures who had influenced Mr Blair's policies on the Middle East.
The irony: instead of policy being negatively influenced by a sinister crew of Jews dominating Western governments, Dalyell has proven to us that we actually need to be worried about a sinster crew of overreaching Arab dictator apologists, motivated not by ideals, but by cash. I think it's time to develop a different stereotype.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:24 AM |

Biblical references in rock. (via Instapundit)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:03 AM |

Monday, February 16, 2004  

So, I went to the Seforim Sale for the third time since it opened, but this time I went with an agenda. The first two times I went, I was really put-off by the fact that the Sale was not carrying any Seforim published by the Slavita Press. Now, anyone who knows anything about seforim knows that the Slavita Press is only about one of the most famous printing presses in seforim printing history. It also happens to be the Shapiro family printing press. So you can understand why I am taking this personally. Is this some Seforim Sale policy to neglect some of the most sought after seforim ever printed just because the owners were Chasidim?
What I found at the Sale was even more disturbing. As I went to lodge my complaint, I found a representative of the Gutenburg family delivering a violent jeremiad to the people in charge of book ordering. Apparently, their family bible was not being sold either. Sitting on the stool beside me was Professor Pines who translated the Guide to the Perplexed into English; his books were not at the Sale either. And just behind him, was King James himself along with Josephus. All of us were in the same boat. None of our books were at the sale!
Oh, and for those of you keeping track, there is not a single copy of Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm’s Torah U’Madda to be had at the entire sale. Is this also part of the grand seforim selling discrimination policy?
The issue of Rabbi Avi Weiss’ books is at best a non issue. I say that not only because his books were/are at the Sale, but because they have actually been sold which is better than I can say for the Slavita seforim.
Rabbi Weiss Jr, keeper of the family honor was at the sale tonight and saw all of this first hand (okay, not the King James part, but his father’s books). I am not sure if he left satisfied or not, but he was given a great deal of time by the person running sale – more time than that kid has likely given his school work, his parents or anyone else (except of course for a scandal mongering reporter who called him today looking for a controversy…) in the past few weeks or months.
I am not sure if this puts the issue to rest or not, but it does tell you something about tempests begun on the Internet.
Perhaps Matt Drudge will have a thing or two to say about this after his world exclusive disclosing John Kerry’s alleged affair turned into a date between the supposed girl and the Kerry campaign finance director, which the girl denied having…what?

posted by Pinchas | 9:05 PM |

"Distinctive But Equal," is the theme of Blu Greenberg's closing speech. She begins with a story of a Friday night during which she wondered what would happen if the males in her family cared to join in the candle-lighting; she notes that in contrast to feminists in other denominations, which have pushed exclusively for a taking of the male roles, she finds herself wondering what her response would be to a fair reaction to these things, which would be a request from males for participation in that which they find appealing. Greenberg says that her resistance to such a request is part of understanding "Distinctive but equal;" she declares that the difference between men and women is more than anatomical. By the same token, not all men should have to be saddled with whatever feminist conceptions of halach have been developed that they'd rather not take part in.
Very Third Wave.
"What I thought I would never see in my lifetime, women who are Orthodox rabbis, is just around the corner."

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:47 PM |

Rabbi Daniel Sperber's lecture on "Dealing with Tough Questions: A Framework for P'sak Halacha." Refers to a recent article wondering if halacha of today is "growing more and more inflexible," as opposed to earlier periods. These days, we've seen, "A diminution of flexibility and lenience," except for the area of technology and science. He says he then sat on a panel with a representative of the RCA who came with a list of halachic areas in which the RCA had been innovative, which Sperber says all focused on technology, which he says he had was unconcerned with. He wants more discussion and innovation in more "human" areas of halacha.
He says that finding lenient positions in psak is the preferred methodology. "A person who gives a chumra" is not really giving a psak, there's no creativity involved. "The house is asur, build it up again," he declares as an example of his point.
"The halacha was sensitive to people, not to what's written in the books, because in the books you can find written almost anything...halacha was client-friendly."
Classical halacha and the aguna situation: there was a willingness to accept a single witness, a female witness, a witness without serious investigation, to admit hearsay, and written evidence in a question of arayot. Maimonides asks a question on this, as to why, and answers "Because they were sensitive to the tza'ar of the aguna."
Similarly, in regards to mamzer, if a man goes away for 12 months, and his wife has a baby in the 12th month, we assume that she was pregnant for 12 months and that the child is not a mamzer. In a case of 14 months, we assume the husband came back in secret mid-way. If a woman says the child is the product of an affair, we simply don't accept her testimony, because we don't want to create mamzerim.
The example he draws out at length is that of the couple that has not had children after ten years of marriage; classical sources demand they be divorced and some say that it must be done by force, if necessary; medieval sources are vastly more lenient. He says that this is an example of halacha being formed to be more compassionate.
Alieza Sulzberg asks the question of what can be done about rabbeim who are unwilling to allow changes that affect broarder parts of the community, not just individuals. Sperber mentions the idea of "slippery slope," that many rabbeim are worried about, and says that so long as a response is grounded in traditional sources, even if they are minority sources, it can be legitimate, and basically says that worries of slippery slope are unworthy of the concern they're often granted.
Ari Schick asks how the interwebbed world we live in has affected halacha. Sperber says each rabbi should be deciding for their community.
Melissa Nunes-Harwitt asks about the situation in which a posek gives two different answers to two different people, and then it's passed on. Sperber declares this "an excellent question," and responds, "My answer is when you give a psak halacha to a person, I explain to them briefly the nature of the heter, and this is a heter I'm giving to you and not to other people." He says people are too caught up on binary conceptions of kasher and assur, when there could be 20 different methods for declaring something kasher.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:03 PM |

The Bible as historically-accurate, according to professor K.A. Kitchen:

Kitchen assails radical "minimalists" who dismiss the Old Testament as mostly fictional. Much of Kitchen's case is summarized in three words: "Some manuscripts, please!" He repeatedly complains that liberal theories ignore or distort the actual evidence from ancient texts. Another Kitchen theme is that the doubters rely heavily upon "negative evidence," the lack of ancient remains and nonbiblical texts that would absolutely prove biblical accounts. Kitchen says this lack "proves absolutely nothing" except that artifacts from thousands of years ago often didn't survive.
There certainly is something to this. I remember being in a Greek Tragedy class, where in the discussion of a passage in a specific play, my professor noted that a certain fringe academic had excised the passage, saying it didn't fit with the narrative and therefore couldn't have been installed by the author; without actual proof from a manuscript, that excision couldn't be accepted. It seems that in Biblical criticism, such methodology is never considered anything but mainstream; the entire field relies on a stylistic interpretation that is explicitly without any manuscripts that back up the assertions. Similarly, I'm often led to wonder why stories such as the Epic of Gilgamesh necessarily disprove the idea of a Great Flood having occurred; isn't the fact that these narratives are more popular than the Bible's audience alone indicative of a greater potential for the event's actually having taken place?
At the same time:
Archaeologists haven't found hard evidence left behind from the 40 years of wilderness wanderings after the Exodus, for instance, but Kitchen says that doesn't prove the Israelites weren't there.
Indeed, it doesn't, but it makes it less likely, and this needs to be acknowledged.
(Thanks, Dave)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:19 PM |

I was just e-mailed a flyer for an upcoming End the Madness event, which I'll post about later, but it strikes me as I'm sitting here at JOFA that this is one of the very few large Jewish gatherings of late at which I haven't heard the phrase "Shidduch crisis." Does it simply not exist for this audience? I'll update this post with what I find.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:43 AM |

Dr. Sylvia Barack-Fishman is talking about gender equity, and notes some interesting findings of the Jewish Population Survey: Orthodox women have high-level degrees and are in high-level careers in similar quantities as other denominations, and "spousal equity" is greater in the Orthodox community than in others.
She notes that the quantity of children women are willing to have before utilizing birth control grows as one continues rightward on the spectrum, but that the aspect that is most noteworthy here is that it seems that the entirety of the American J-comm has embraced birth control (she notes that she declares this to be an American trend in contrast to other countries).
A lot of her discussion keeps getting back to the theme of the outside influences on Orthodoxy and Modern Orthodoxy. As one example of influence on the latter, she mentions the farther-Right shadchanim who with their questions to less-Right individuals influence normative centrist behavior; interesting. Of course, as examples of the former, she's got loads of stuff about feminist ideas that infiltrate.
She says that something that has kept many Orthodox from embracing halachically-acceptable feminist positions, such as increasing female roles in prayer services, has to do with a fear of looking too Conservative.
A woman asking a question wants "the invisible work" that women do, such as childcare and whatnot, to be acknowledged as work. She notes that Rabbi David Silber yesterday declared that "now women work." She gives a long declaration about how until this is recognized, we won't have a true acknowledgement of women's contribution; very Third Wave. She kind of got shouted down by the audience, though, for going on too long and for not having a real question; I'd still have liked to have heard a response. She then interrupted later with more questions, so I guess she kind of lost her opportunity to gain a response.
SBF in response to a second question, "Men don't move out of everywhere because women come in, because men have to go somewhere." She adds that "Men still go to law school, even though women are there." There's a jocularity to her tone as she says this, and again this seems very Third Wave.
As women are joining the workforce more, men are joining in more familial activities, something she says follows through even into the most Charedi communities. She says she'll listen to some Charedi men complaining about feminism in one breath, but then noting their sons' greater involvement in raising their children and say "It's good for the family."

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:19 AM |

Sunday, February 15, 2004  

At an interactive text-study session led by Wendy Amsellem, about ImaShalom, the Talmudic figure who was a wife to R' Eliezer and a sister to R' Gamliel. Five Talmudic excerpts relevant to the discussion are provided, and Amsellem declares her favorite to be a passage in which ImaShalom goes in cahoots with her brother to expose a philosopher as a fraud by getting him to incorrectly declare that she can split an inheritance with her bother, when in fact the full inheritance goes to him. Amsellem discusses the idea that this story defines her religious perspective by that with which she is differentiated as a woman in the eyes of the law; again, very Third Wave, and simultaneously very Orthodox.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:01 PM |

Village Idiot Menachem says that the best-selling YU-related book is the current issue of the Beis Yitzchok; all publicity is good publicity.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:36 PM |

And I thought shidduch dating was a hard mating ritual...

"After studying fossils in a region called Dragon Bone Hill in China, anthropologist Russell Ciochon of the University of Iowa concluded males of the species were clubbing one another over the head, probably to win females.
Those with thicker skulls who survived these bloody confrontations would pass that trait to offspring, Ciochon said.
"The evidence shows there may have been ritualized violence taking place," he said."

posted by Sam | 4:57 PM |

Award for most complex question goes to: Ari Schick, utilizing the term "Lacanic," in addition to standard intellectual terminologies like "hermeneutics."
Correction: Schick meant "laconic," not "Lacanic." Ah, well. Either way, he still gets the award.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:28 PM |

A problem with selective sourcing. In q&a following Bigman's lecture, one woman rises to point out that all of the sources seem to objectify women. Bigman's responsible response: "I think there's a problem of context here...because this source material is only a part of all of Talmud." Indeed, many other sources discuss various women's intellects, but the source sheet for the lecture doesn't include them, because they're entirely irrelevant to the matter at hand.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:14 PM |

Rabbi David Bigman's lecture "The Tension Between Looking and Leering: Does the Talmud Allow Men to Appreciate Female Beauty and Sexuality?" has a lot of emphasis upon the fact that the sundry sources cited mention both male and female beauty; this is an interesting and true point.
The main theory I'll be harping on over the course of this coverage is the way that those present espouse a Third Wave feminist conception, as opposed to Second Wave, which, in my experience at the Lishmah conference, seemed more predominantly a part of the Reform and Conservative feminist movements. Certainly, this (true) emphasis in Bigman's lecture gets at this point.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:49 PM |

Seforim Sale distraction post: Rabbi Avi Weiss' books are not for sale this year; were they in past years?
Purchasing advisor Stephen Tolany writes, "I can confirm that the seforim sale is not selling either of Avi Weiss's books. I'm not sure why anyone would expect us to."
UPDATE: Rabbi Yosef Blau comments below, saying:

The story about Rabbi Weiss's books beeb banned at the SOY seforim sale is untrue. With all respect to what Steven Telani thinks shoulkd be sold at the sale ,he is not in charge of the sale. Reporters have called announcements made but no one actually checked the accuracy of the story. I have just returned from going to the sale and speaking with Shmulik Rosenberg who is in charge of the sale. Good reporting requires checking of facts. The speed of the internet can be a problem as well as a virtue.
Of course, there's a difference between books being "banned" and simply not for sale; we'll have to get more confirmation as to precisely what is the case.
As a side-point, I consider this a relative non-story, and am surprised that reporters would consider newsworthy the non-sale of a book at a student-run event; at its most important, the sale may occasionally be advised by guys who have actually received ordination, but on the whole it's run and assembled by undergraduates. This isn't high-level or even mid-level policymaking, it's student club policy.
Obviously, how this pans out will speak to Tolany's credibility.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Rabbi Dov Weiss, Avi's son and an administrator at Chovovei, just returned from the Sale, where he observed that three copies of Weiss' Spiritual Activism were available, and no copies of Women at Prayer were available. Both books were published by Ktav. Dov says that in conversing with Shmulik Rosenberg, the head of the sale, he was told that none of Avi's books were ordered from the publisher, an order that he said was prepared by Stephen Tolany. The three copies of Spiritual Activism present, he said, were just the result of there being copies from YU's Belz school of music. Dov says that Rosenberg was very apologetic and promised to have both books at next year's sale.
Entirely aside from the facts of the situation, whatever actually occurred should be almost completely irrelevant to the entirety of the Jewish community (This post started as a very small post in larger coverage of the Seforim Sale as a whole); a book sale run by some students is hardly a solid example of any inter-institution animosity. If, indeed, reporters were calling about this, they were presumably the same reporters who failed to cover the fact that a Stern College Shabbos Rabbi was fired for being at Chovovei, or that maneuvering by the YU administration got internship offers to Chovovei students rescinded.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:32 PM |

Instantaneous blogging feedback: I noted in my earlier post that Chovovei types aren't here. I sign on at Bigman's lecture, IM Chovovei's Rabbi Dov Weiss, and he informs me that he and Rabbi Dov Linzer will be in attendance tomorrow.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:31 PM |

Gary Rosenblatt's here; you can read his thoughts on Wednesday, I guess.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:26 PM |

At lunch (good), a few preliminary observations:
-YU constituencies are quite obviously lacking in presence, but so are Chovovei types.
-They announced their new website, at, but something very much lacking from my perspective is the technology of the conference generally. There seems little reason for there not to be streaming, and, while this is really the hotel's fault, there should be WiFi for such an event. At the first workshop I went to, video was expected to be a major portion of the instruction; the poor quality of the video, as well as the need to scroll through it, significantly impaired the ability to instruct. A DVD would have been very much more helpful.
-Rabbi David Silber, founder of Drisha, delivering a plenary on "Zachar U'Neqevah Barah Otam": Women and Men in Partnership. It's initially about the lack of female administrators in Jewish schools, and he refers to the lack of female principals as both "wrong" and "stupid." At the same time, his speech is more about the problems of Jewish education generally, something that seems to be a primary topic at Jewish conferences generally, where quite consistently are presented catch-all "solutions" -- all of which are very top-down and, if for that alone, rather lacking.
Discussing the idea of major issues affecting the Jewish community from a feminist perspective, he mentions aguna, "but, more specifically, the problem of a system that creates aguna." I have to say, he lost me a bit there, but he explains, "If we divorce halacha from our basic moral intuitions, what does that say about halacha?" Gratuitous thumb-wag: What does that say about our basic moral intuitions? Aguna, while significant on the individual level of the thirty-odd agunot in the States, is emphasized as a basic Jewish problem far too often, seeing as the vast majority of the Orthodox community that cares about the issue (and that is too frightened of sending big guys to a man's house to "convince him to do the right thing") has few practical problems left, owing to the various solutions that have been presented; thusly, the "system" is no longer wronging anybody. Sure, the old system still has repercussions, but that's an issue more appropriate for a case-by-case breakdown, not a sweeping indictment. Aguna is the straw woman upon which too much Jewish feminism leans.
He discusses prayer and talmud Torah, and then emphasizes that he finds the feminist critique on these matters very important, but that "these are not women's issues," they are everybody's issues. Correct.
-The morning session, taught by Rabbi Aaron Frank, discussed a mini-course he'd been teaching at Beth T'filoh in Baltimore, consisting of four one-hour sessions on gender with a middle-school class. Taking time out every once-in-a-while to probe what students actually think on a specific issue can often be very instructive; I got the strong sense from Frank, though, that there was a belittling of student opinion, at least insofar as it departed from his strict worldviews. He did this in a public appearance, and had videotaped his class sessions; this is a far more audacious disrespect than some other educators have utilized.
-Stratification. One lunch companion who prefers not to be named is pointing out many of the stratification issues: those who paid the student price don't get lunch, and are therefore discluded from a lot of the larger conversation; the term "Modern Orthodox" pervades, leading the lunch companion to opine that "this isn't the Jewish Modern Orthodox Feminist Alliance." I'll be keping track of her comments throughout; she's got sass.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:45 PM |

I'm live-blogging from JOFA's annual conference today, and possibly tomorrow. I haven't gotten a contract for this story (the NYSun isn't interested, the JTA's using the New York Jewish Week's coverage, and most other papers are taking the JTA's coverage), so I'll probably end up writing about it for Jewsweek or simply for here. The best way to contact me for suggestions/inquiries/etc. is probably via e-mail.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:41 AM |

An e-mail from Dr. Michael Brown of Chosen People Ministries, in response to my earlier posts:

Dear Steven,

I spotted your posts on the Protocols about my debate with Shmuley this past Tuesday. Your second post was of special interest, and I do appreciate your candor -- our differences being a given -- in evaluating the legitimacy of Shmuley's participation in the debate at all (or, theoretically, in our first debate about the Messiahship of Jesus in April of 2002). It also helps give me further insight into some of the opposition Shmuley experiences from the Jewish community in doing these debates (esp. the Comments).

Thanks for the honest reporting, and best wishes.

Michael L. Brown

BTW, do you know if Jake's article will appear online?
Jake's article won't appear online, though he will have a story this Wednesday that I'll help him post online and will link to from Protocols that will be most exciting.
In response to this e-mail, it's worth noting something I hadn't gotten to earlier. Brown mentions "some of the opposition Shmuley experiences from the Jewish community in doing these debates." In truth, there is decent-sized opposition within the Christian community, as well; it's no mistake that Boteach is pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of Christian sects (even among Evangelical sects) in seeking to engage in this debate. The leaders who feel a responsibility toward the Jewish people (other than salvation) wouldn't be caught up in such a debate. Boteach is not only isolated within the Jewish community, but isolated among religious leadership as a whole; he is a celebrity of religion, perhaps in the sense that the Kabbalah Centre's Yakov Berger is a celebrity of religion, but he is most certainly outside of any normative community of religious discourse.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:38 AM |
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