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

Saturday, March 20, 2004  

I read most of The View from Stalin's Head over Shabbos. One passage of a story called "Exile" caught my eye as particularly Protocols-worthy. An anti-organized-Judaism leader of a kind of Jewish prayer/gathering for the Jewish and desiring-to-be-Jewish in Prague delivers a lecture on authenticity in Judaism:

"Real? Hundreds of years ago our ancestors sacrificed animals three times a year and a few of them were crazy enough to believe that because they heard voices in their head God was talking to them. That's real? They say that before he died, Moses asked God to see the future of Judaism. So God shows him Hillel with all his students arguing about a text. 'What the hell is this?' Moses asks. 'That's your Judaism,' God says. 'They've evolved, but it's the same thing as what I gave you on Sinai.' Now when Hillel heard this story, he asked for the same favor. So God took him to a modern yeshiva in Jerusalem, which Hillel recognized down to the last detail, and he wept."
Of course, we've most all heard (a slightly different version of) the first half of the story, but the second part -- has anyone heard that, or is it the writer's own? It says something about the ideas circulating in that culture, kind of like Mark Heutlinger's joke.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:54 PM |

Friday, March 19, 2004  

So the Catholic Church doesn't like The Passion so much. What movies do they like? Tonight's event gives a hint:

6:30 p.m. -- U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sponsors panel discussion with former Mayor Ed Koch, movie critics, scholars and theologians of ``A Night at the Opera,'' the Marx Brothers comedy classic; Directors Guild of America Theater, 110 W. 57th St.
A bunch of bishops, Ed Koch, and the Marx Brothers...that's a comedy in and of itself; wish I could be there.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:22 PM |

Reader Ana writes in:

In today's edition of IMDB's Celebrity News, which is contributed by WENN, an item about Mel Gibson's plans to make a movie about the story of the Macabees uses the phrase "the Jewish church." I probably would have been more offended had the phrase appeared anywhere other than an entertainment gossip column. But it does shock me that such an obvious error appeared on IMDB. I looked, and wasn't able to find any one else commenting on this error so far.
I'm not quite as shocked as Ana that obvious errors appear on IMDB. Interestingly, the actual context of the quote is even weirder than the e-mail implies:
Gibson - who was criticized by some quarters of the Jewish church, who accused his epic The Passion Of The Christ of blaming Jews for Jesus Christ's death - has hinted he may make a filmed account of the Revolt Of The Maccabees, the story behind Hanukkah.
Abe Foxman = Jewish church? I guess that's an honest mistake when the guy takes on the Vatican's responsibility for outlining blasphemy.
One of the quirkier aspects of coverage of The Passion has been how more celebrity/entertainment-concerned media outlets have covered the story, while these outlets are presumably yet more inept at covering religion than more serious news outlets. This is a great example.
UPDATE: One example of how the entertainment "news" people dealt with the story was by focusing on the purely cinematic aspects of it. One of those entertainment shows (I think it was Extra) had a commercial before the release advertising an episode that night that would talk about the special effects used in the film. In a $25 million film, ferchrissakes. Features on special effects get done for George Lucas films or James Cameron films, not small-budget religion flicks. Anyway, Gizmodo's got the best coverage of the issue so far:
These are the sort of headlines I wake up for in the morning: 'Robot Jesus Used In Gibson Film.' According to Ananova, it got too cold for star Jim Caviezel to be filmed in just his skivvies up there on the cross, so a $400,000 robot was built to simulate Caviezel simulating Christ simulating the Son of God. I haven't seen the film yet, but I bet you that no one would have killed Jesus if they would have known he was a robot. A couple of eye-beam laser blasts later, halves of Pharisees go flying through the air; Robo-Jesus tears himself off the cross and uses it to clear a path through the crowd, then launches into the air with his rocket sandals, leaving the still-crackling husk of Pontius Pilate below. I'll be back, indeed.

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

The Howard Stern situation starts to deal not just with the freedom of speech aspect of the First Amendment, but moves onto its religious aspect as well. Jeff Jarvis' post this morning links to a legal analysis by Yale's Ernie Miller that discusses the differences between "profane" and "indecent," finding that "profane" used to generally carry a religious connotation, of blasphemy. Jarvis quickly assumes that no one would argue that we could reasonably begin parsing speech for censorship on the basis of it being blasphemy. Certainly, there's a much longer way to go here before that's an issue, but a couple months ago, no one thought we'd be having this discussion about Stern in the first place.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:45 AM |

Some of you might've noticed the comment stating that Dov Zakheim has been named Chairman of the Board of Yeshivat Chovovei Torah. I IMed Dov Weiss about this and he denied it.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:07 AM |

Thursday, March 18, 2004  

The investigation of the Mintz correction appears to be over. I just got this one-line e-mail from Okrent's assistant:

Most likely, he brought it to the attention of a senior editor to check it with them and they deemed a correction necessary.
Of course, we know that's not true: Mintz didn't bring it to the attention of a senior editor.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:20 PM |

So supposedly there's a huge controversy going on in Israel over the meat there.
From what I've gathered from several sources, the situation appears to be this (none of this has been confirmed): A significant quantity, perhaps a majority or even nearly all of the "beef" marketed as kosher in Israel is actually shipped from Latin America, where it is taken from the zebu.
Somehow, this has only come to people's attention very suddenly in recent weeks, and has led to something of a crisis attitude.
The zebu apparently chews its cud and is split-hoofed, but controversy surrounds the fact that there is no "mesorah" of such an animal being kosher.
A quick perusal of leading Isra-blogs turns up no information on this, so let's get you working already. Here are some initial questions:
1) What quantity of Israeli "beef" is actually zebu?
2) What have the news reports about this been saying?
3) What are people you know saying about the situation?
Thanks to Reader Shaya for pointing me to this article, originally from the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, which cites the opinion of Former Chief Rabbi of Israel Herzog, saying that he, "was vehemently opposed to those who argued that a mesorah is required, and suggested that they are violating the biblical prohibition of ba'al tosif - not adding commandments."
It's worth noting in this light that one of the common outreach tools is to assert the divine origin of the Bible, and one of the most commonly-cited examples of such is the Biblical declaration regarding those animals which either have split hooves or chew their cud, but don't do both; that there haven't been additions to this list, despite the relatively small variety of animals that people in the classical and ancient areas occupied by Jews would have been aware of, is seen as proof of the divine origin of the Bible.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:34 PM |

Ami Eden's piece on Fiddler ran last week, but I didn't find the link until today. Choice grafs:

Leveaux's real crime, then, is robbing an aging Jewish crowd of the comfort that its derives from a "Fiddler" performed just like Mostel would have done it four decades ago, replete with Yiddishy shmaltz. The only problem is that such a performance would work for younger audiences about as well as Henny Youngman taking Jerry's place in an episode of "Seinfeld."
A key change — and probably the most difficult for critics to accept — is that Molina plays a more subdued Tevye than his predecessors. But that hardly makes the show less Jewish, unless you define Jewishness as scene-stealing Mostellian shtick.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:35 PM |

A number of people have been sending in various links to stories about Mel Gibson's potential plan to make a film about the Macabees. (BTW: "Maccabees" doesn't make as much sense as "Macabees," so I'll be using the latter).
Quoth the Foxman:

"My answer would be, 'Thanks, but no thanks.' The last thing we need in Jewish history is to convert our history into a western. In his hands, we may wind up losing."
If by "we," Foxman means the ADL, he's likely quite correct.
The Macabee story really is like a Western, or a story of any team of good heroes fighting evil. You've got Judah the leader (Raphael), Mattisyahu the aged adviser (Splinter), Simon the crazy elephant slayer (Michelangelo), and so on.
Of course, if Gibson did make the Macabee story into a Christian tale, he wouldn't be the first.

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

A couple of days ago, Gregg Easterbrook posted some ideas for religion-based TV movies, following up on the recent trend. Unfortunately, not many of them are all that funny. This one is, though:

SURVIVOR GALILEE. Stranded in the ancient desert wilderness, ten competitors vie to discover a chest of myrrh that is buried beneath a balm in Gilead. Events include walking a mile in each other's shoes and forcing a camel through the eye of a needle. For food, there's only five loaves and three fish to go around--it's going to require a miracle! And is one of the competitors a mole for King Herod? Ten-second delay to be used as "some of those Samaritans really have a mouth," network says.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:07 AM |

Frumster success stories are posted, some with pictures.
In that first story, there's a cute revelation about bashert and personal faith:

Without a forum like Frumster, it probably would have been much harder for us to find each other.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:23 AM |

Engagement of Aliza Goldberg & Hilton Kramer.
Yeah, so it's not the same guy.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:15 AM |

At the same time as that Maimonides Conference this weekend, JTS is hosting a sociology conference, entitled "Imagining the Jewish Community."
I can't imagine it'll be all that great. Then there's this session:

Monday, March 22, 2004
8:00-9:30 p.m.
The Role of the Media in the Construction of
the Jewish Community
Chair: Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett, New York University
Speakers: Jenna Weissman Joselit, Princeton University
Samuel G. Freedman, Columbia University
Jeffrey Shandler, Rutgers University
Location: The Jewish Museum
It might be worth going just to see what their antiquated ideas of "media" are.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:53 AM |

Wednesday, March 17, 2004  

The difference between Israel and all those other traffic-plagued areas around the globe:

Having just finished an exam, the three of us were driving home to Jerusalem from Bar Ilan University when we hit serious traffic. We decided to pull over to pray Mincha (the afternoon prayer).
We began to pray when all of the sudden another car pulled over about fifty feet away from us. An old Yemenite man hopped out and told us, "what, you don't want to pray with a minyan (quorum of ten)?"
As we answered him two more cars pulled over - one with Breslov Chassidim and the other with a pair of Moroccan brothers, with kippot creased from being folded and pocketed.
Honk if you love God, and so forth.

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

So that big New York University/Yeshiva University Maimonides Conference is this weekend. I'm having a hard time locating information on the Web (and the site for its host, the Center for Jewish History, seems to be down), but there are some skimpy details here:

Sunday, March 20th:
Maimonides Conference (1:30 PM)
Revel Graduate School and NYU's Skirball Dept. present conference commemorating anniversary of Moses Maimonides' death. At 1:30 pm, Maimonides & Halakhah - Gerald Blidstein, Ben Gurion University; Haym Soloveitchik, YU; and Marc Shapiro, Univ. of Scranton. At 8 pm, Greetings and Keynote Lecture.
Monday, March 22nd:
Maimonides Conference (9:30 AM)
At 9:30 am, Maimonides & Philosophy I - Zev Harvey, Hebrew University; Sara Stroumsa, Hebrew University; and Alfred Ivry, New York University. At 2 pm, Maimonides & Philosophy II - Steven Harvey, Bar-Ilan University; Howard Kreisel, Ben Gurion University; and Charles Manekin, University of Maryland
Location: NYU, King Juan Carlos Center, 53 Washington Square South
So, of course, you're wondering, "Why does it start so late on Sunday?" Because everyone's attending all those delayed circumcisions, of course!

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:25 PM |

Allison Kaplan Sommer gracefully deals with her loss for Best Middle Eastern Blog, but it was pretty cool that she got nominated in the first place. Go her.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:12 PM |

Velveteen Rabbi goes to a nephew's bar mitzvah in a Conservative shul and comes back with basically this impression of the services: they suck.

Aside from my nephew's stellar performance, though, I found the service frustrating, for four reasons: the cantor, the siddur, the insularity, and the commentary.
She complains of the cantor singing too much, the siddur containing too many amidah services, the insularity of a program that presumes a certain knowledge/familiarity on the part of attendees, and "anti-intermarriage commentary which was so pointed that it made tears well up in my eyes."
On the cantor and siddur bits, I have to agree, at least in part. While VR wants the cantor to shut up so congregants can sing more, I just want the cantor to shut up; I'm not a big fan of singing (except inasmuch as it usually allows me to finish some greater portion of whatever I'm reading before I have to pay attention again). On the issue of the chazan's repetition of amidah ("chazaras hasha"tz"), when I think about I'm actually pretty surprised at how much that's lasted in Conservative, Reform and other non-Orthodox prayer services. While I find that Orthodox minyanim are less likely to have a mini-chazara during mincha than they seem to used to have been, it's one of those really antiquated parts of prayer service, and would seem really easy to jettison. If the Conservative and Reform synagogues still want to have songs, well, they could just go the common Sephardic route and do the whole thing out loud, together.
As to insularity, while it's probably appropriate for there to be some additional explanation of services when a large quantity of guests is present, bar mitzvah days already run long enough, and harrumphy congregants who tend to hate standard overly-lengthy communal services in the first place (like the Elders) might find the extra time devoted to explanations on such days not worth sitting through even with the prospect of a really great kiddush afterwards.
As to the commentary complaint, well, VR is reading a bit too much into it:
What I didn't expect was my reaction to the commentary in the Chumash (volume of Torah and commentary). During the Torah service I read the week's portion, and I came across some anti-intermarriage commentary which was so pointed that it made tears well up in my eyes. (It was a 1936 edition; I hope that this is no longer the prevailing opinion...but there's no shortage of Chumashim, so if they're still using this one, maybe they like what it says.) This edition also featured an essay on the differences between Israel and Egypt, which indicated that the Egyptians had no real religion, only primitive animism, and were only vaguely capable of learning, like the benighted Ashanti of the Gold Coast -- a set of assertions so offensive that they set my teeth on edge.
Last I checked, you wouldn't find a lot of pro-intermarriage literature in the Conservative movement, but this hardly even counts as anti-intermarriage. Speaking negatively of an Egyptian society described in the Bible and commentaries as being particularly harsh in their slavery of the Hebrews is certainly to be expected. Moreso, I mean, can't we as moderns agree that ancient Egyptian society didn't have a helluva lot going for it? I don't have any problem looking down at ancient Egyptian society as "primitive" or somesuch, but I did forget to take my moral-relativism pill this morning.
This recalls for me my Intro Art History wherein the professor said that it was in vogue to avoid referring to certain Western Hemisphere art as "primitive," when the 15th century found Brazilians chiseling large sculptures lacking much detail, while grand paintings could be found on the other side of the pond...I still don't get it.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:50 PM |

The J-blogosphere is growing by leaps and bounds lately. Keep checking the blogroll for new entries, including recent ones like Belle De Jew, Kosher Nexus, and Squirrel Cage.
UPDATE: Of course, this list wasn't meant to be anything near comprehensive; those were just a few that I'd added to the blogroll today. By all means, add your new blogs to the comments below.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:37 PM |

The Comedy Central Bar Mitzvah Bash (via Jewschool)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:29 PM |

Jewschool takes on the JTA Google-bomb story and adopts a far more touchy-feely approach, suggesting we all link to Wikipedia's entry for Jew to bump that up in the rankings. Cute. Though, why can't anti-Semitic views get on Wikipedia?
Anyway, while the anti-Semites may have gotten that anti-Semitic site high in the Google rankings, you can't even find an anti-Semitic site in the first page of results for "kike". WTF?? Those anti-Semites seem to be asleep on the job.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:23 PM |

9 a.m. -- Israel security cabinet member Effi Eitam holds press conference to defend Israel's Gaza City attacks on suspected Palestinian terrorists

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:30 AM |

Tuesday, March 16, 2004  

The JTA discovers Google-bombing:

The No. 1 search result for “Jew” on Google is an anti-Semitic Web site. The second listing is for a “messianic Jewish” site. The results could be a “Google bomb” — an organized effort by a group to grab a top spot on the search engine, a Google official told j. magazine.
In other breaking news, George W. Bush is a miserable failure. Oh, and this might be news to the JTA, too: Something called the "Internet" has been causing quite a stir around the globe, as people utilize the "World Wide Web" to "surf" and confirm something called "facts". Oh, and the "Web" turns out to be a great "resource" for something else called "News."
Of course, it's not just JTA that looks stupid here, it's that jackass at j., too. But perhaps it was this graf that really caught the JTA's attention:
As of Wednesday, the No. 2 Google search for “Jew” was, a San Antonio “messianic Jewish” ministry and the No. 3 site was, an online Jewish encyclopedia.
Boy, that must've gotten the JTA pissed; they're supposed to be the #1 stop for messianic Jews, not some run-of-the-mill missionary group!

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:17 PM |

LammPost says that Touro is being mean to neighbors in an effort to buy up local land. Of course, that's nothing new from an educational institution of any stripe.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:44 PM |

6:50 p.m. -- Riverside Church hosts speech by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as part of its ``Mobilization 2004: Recovering Our Spiritual, Moral and Democratic Values'' campaign

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

So tonight is the night when voraciously-eating large mammals pass by Stern College's Brookdale Hall at midnight; oh, yeah, and there'll be elephants, too! That's right, the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus is coming to NYC, which means that as the parade passes by our masticating midtown maidens, we can observe feats of appetite largess to wow any circus animal.
Fun articles about the storied night in years past can be found here and, well, I can't seem to find the elephant-relevant installment of this column, but it was funny at the time.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:56 PM |

Monday, March 15, 2004  

A reader who received ordination from YU writes in that he was in the Yeshiva University Beis Medrash and was surprised to find a stack of applications for Yeshivas Mir Yerushalayim on the bimah:

the fact that this form is on the bimah of the premier modern orthodox institution where other communal items are placed there for all to take is another indication of YUs rightward shift moreover the fact that they are on the bimah or bulletin board indicates some kind of official sanction from higher - ups that we support this type of yeshiva which has made its life trashing places like YU

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:47 PM |

With regard to my last post, I’m going to rename my categories. Instead of “effective anti-Semitism,” I will substitute “material anti-Semitism.” Two reasons for this change: 1) “material” is a more concise, less confusing term than is “effective”, and 2) “material” includes anti-Semitism that will have a deleterious monetary effect.
The other category will be, “non-material anti-Semitism” instead of “inherent anti-Semitism.” This shouldn’t be too upsetting, since I haven’t really written about or even loosely defined “inherent anti-Semitism.”
Ok, since I am now posting, I’ll address a couple points made by comment-ers:
1) There seems to be some discontent with the boundaries of my definition (“Since when is "bodily harm" part of any definition of antisemitism?” ; "bodily harm" is not a necessary feature of anti-Semitism) Here’s what the complainants are missing.
a) When someone makes an argument, he is entitled to draw the boundary lines of the subject that he is discussing. Now, of course the drawing of these boundary lines is arbitrary. You could divide anti-Semitism into any number of categories – based on religion (e.g. 3 categories - that done by Muslims/Christians/people who are neither Muslims or Christians) or geography (e.g. 7 categories – anti-Semitism on each of the seven continents), or based on any other distinction.
b) Now, for my purposes, it made sense to divide anti-Semitism into two different types – “material” and “non-material.” I didn’t get these definitions from anywhere. But I didn’t claim to, so, so what? The reason (or, one of the reasons) I had to change one of the categories from “effective” to “material” is because I realized that monetary anti-Semitism would fall between the cracks of my two categories. But it is not relevant to attack my categories as being un-sourced. Especially in light of c)
c) I haven’t completed my argument yet. I haven’t written about non-material anti-Semitism, except tangentially. Once I have, it makes sense to critique may categories for any of the following (or various other) reasons: 1) there is no distinction between my categories or 2) there are cases not included in either of my categories or 3) my categories are hard to pronounce when one is upside down.
However, even after I explain both of my categories, it still will not make sense to attack them on the grounds that I don’t have sources for dividing up anti-Semitism the way that I do.
2) I also notice that you use the phrase "undeserved bodily harm" -- don't think I agree that there is such a thing as "deserved" bodily harm, ever.
a) You’re gonna have to help me here, bro. There’s a hostage situation in Manhattan. A Jew is holding eleven public school kids hostage, at gunpoint. He claims that he will shoot one hostage in one minute, unless he receives $100 million. He takes a kid and pushes the barrel of the gun into the kid’s forehead. NYPD sharpshooters have a clear shot at this Jew. Hate to tell you, but they should cause him bodily harm. And it’s not anti-Semitism.
3) You seem to be forgetting that this movie will be shown in European, African and other third world countries.
I really don’t know what inspired that comment. Apparently, based on the text of the complaint, it was my comment that “WE DO NOT LIVE IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE.” Perhaps this will come as news to the complainant, but RESIDENTS OF EUROPEAN, AFRICAN, AND OTHER THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES DO NOT LIVE IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE, either. As far as I know, there is no recent evidence, (say, in the last 100 years or so) of violence against Jews that has occurred in these countries – or even in Arab countries, for that matter – as a response to Christian “passion plays.”
Given the fact that the complainant is arguing that something that hasn’t happened is going to happen, (or at least that it could/should be expected to happen), it seems to me that there is an onus of proof upon him to substantiate his claim. In other words, yeah, in the absence of evidence indicating that violence is likely, it is farfetched to worry (or at least worry very much) that Gibson’s movie will foment real violence in these countries.
It’s very tempting to assume that an alarmist possibility is a likely possibility because that’s the way media (and people in general) are either trained to think or enjoy thinking. That doesn’t make it true. A superior intellect would recognize this.
4) To supporters and polite detractors: thank you for your comments.

posted by Deranged GOT Fan | 12:04 AM |

Sunday, March 14, 2004  

7 p.m. -- Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay bishop from New Hampshire, preaches at St. Bartholomew's Church, followed by a forum about Robinson and his ministry; Park Avenue at 51st Street.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:18 PM |

A rather interestingly balanced view of the JOFA Conference from...The Jewish Press.
(via Village Idiots)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:11 PM |

So you're thinking, wow, Abe Foxman's raised a ton of money over the Passion flap, how's he gonna spend it? Easy: by paying for defamation suits from those he accused of anti-Semitism, in this case to the tune of a cool $12 million. (via How Appealing)
(Thanks, Yudel)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:05 PM |
previous endorsements
founding elder
guest bloggers
former elders
former guest bloggers
Support Protocols
posts on big stories
book discussions
jews who blog
past protocols