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

Friday, June 13, 2003  

Judaism asserts that everything created by God has a specific purpose in the great scheme of things. Sometimes, though, we are left scratching our heads over some part of the universe or another, wondering what role it can possibly be serving. Take email spam for instance. Why did God create it? Well, now we know. If not for spam, we'd have never seen Chuck Schumer on the 700 club agreeing with Pat Robertson on anything.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 3:20 PM |

Prof Colin Humphreys of Cambridge University, a frum Baptist, believes that the biblical Mt. Sinai was actually what we now call Mt. Bedr, a volcano somewhere in North-Western Saudi Arabia. Nice rationalization for the moutain shaking and the smoke and fire and whatnot if you don't believe in miracles, and it wouldn't even ruin Rabbi Moshe ben Chaim (henceforth: "Mesora Guy")'s philosophic point.

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

Haaretz reports the story of two British backpackers arrested coming into Israel from Jordan and detained and interrogated for the next week and a half. Doesn't look nice. Anyone have any more details?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 1:37 PM |

Two days ago, a key staffer of Orthodox New York State Assembly Majority Leader Sheldon Silver (who represents the Lower East Side), was arrested for allegedly raping another staffer. Front page of today's Post blames Silver for his handling of the situation, as yet another alleged victim details Silver's response to her allegations:

Former Assembly staffer Elizabeth Crothers - who rocked the state Legislature in 2001 with her rape charges against Silver's chief counsel, J. Michael Boxley - said Silver "sat by" after she came forward, failed to rein in Boxley, and was therefore to blame for the latest alleged attack.

Crothers, in an exclusive interview with The Post, accused Silver of breaking a never-before-disclosed promise to take steps to control Boxley's sexual appetite.

She said Silver's failure to discipline Boxley set the stage for his stunning arrest Wednesday in his Assembly office on charges of raping a pretty Assembly employee the day before.

"Back then, Speaker Silver's solution to Boxley's 'improprieties' - that was the word Silver used when I met with him - was that he told me he told Boxley that he could no longer go out to the bars," said Crothers, 26.

"No punitive action was taken. He was told not to go out with anyone. How juvenile is that?"

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:42 AM |

Baby bald eagles in Inwood.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:37 AM |

Tuv Ta'am reaches a settlement with workers.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:35 AM |

NYT: German historical sites and the legacy of Nazism.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:31 AM |

Mobius writes:

take your smug self righteousness and shove're just a dick
But what does he really think? Your thoughts?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:26 AM |

Making of a Godol file back online. A reader:

The file can be accessed at the following URL:
Anyone who downloads the file is required to send $10 or the NIS equivalent to the author, R. Nosson Kamenetsky.
His address is:
9b Sorotzkin St.
Jerusalem, Israel 94423

Thank you.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:22 AM |

Rabbi Avi Weiss' Yeshivat Chovevei Torah has ordained its first Rabbi -- who beat out two YU musmakhim for a pulpit in Englewood. (via the Forward) However, it seems that his appointment (meaning, him over the YU guys) may have had little to do with his knowledge of halakha or his pastoral training:

Evan Sohn, the president of Kesher, said Fox was chosen to lead the synagogue not only because of his extensive torah knowledge, but also for his innovative approaches to interdenominational dialogue. Fox said he was interviewed on the subject of the factious and ongoing eruv case that pitted the Orthodox, who constructed the ritual barrier, against their non-Orthodox neighbors. He has already begun planning programs to mend fences with the non-Orthodox community.
I can vouch that we don't get in the way of interdenominational relations here at YU, but I'm not sure how many communities would consider that to be make-or-break. This seems to be something of a niche situation. The article has a good discussion about the stormy YCT-RIETS relationship, and what the Richard Joel era might bring as far as that goes (the article says reconcilliation of sorts. I'm not really sure what that means, but if it means not pressuring shuls/scw to turn away YCT people, then that's something). There's also some speculation that YCT may soon be putting out more pulpit rabbis per year than YU. We'll have to wait and see on that count.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:55 AM |

Lileks on the Road Map. (via Pejman)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:48 AM |

Harry points to what he calls "Victory for porn lovers in Israel." Playboy television returns to the Holy Land.

The significance of the decision is that the committee no longer regards the content of the Playboy channel as pornography, which is banned from TV broadcasts under the Communications Law. The controversy over the interpretation of the law revolved around the question of whether Playboy was depicting women as sex objects.
Following the Playboy precedent, other companies are expected to try and win approval for channels containing sexual content, applying
the same argument that the Playboy representatives used – that their content should be regarded as "soft erotica" rather than pornography.
No word yet on whether they'll lift the ban on Protocols. WE'RE SO HARDCORE!!!

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:44 AM |

The Broken blog is usually the weaker part of the UnbrokenGlass site. But She's 6/12 entry, a "Dear Alarm Clock," was pretty good. I'm pasting the whole thing here because he doesn't have permalinks (what gives?).

My dear seeing-eye dog alarm clock, I used to jump out of bed and my skin when you went off. How long have we been together, alarm clock? 6 years, clock. 6 years. That means we are common law wife and clock. I think we need to separate. I'm sorry to put this in a Dear Alarm letter, but dammit, I'm sleeping right through you, I forget to set you now, and damn, I turn you off in my sleep. This can't be? After all these years.....
Where has our love gone? It's gone, that's for damned sure. You used to wake me, quite joltingly, but isn't that what I need? Now you don't affect me at all. It's not the same. I'm thinking about putting you across the room, but I'd probably just fall back to sleep on the floor. Can we patch this up? Is it me? It's me. Isn't it? Or is it you? It's you. When I say it's me, it's really you. I know I set you ahead. I just don't care about getting up. So I turn you off. And then what happens? I'm late for work, that's what happens.
You were there for me. And now, and now you are not.
I think we need to see other people. I think I have to hire a wake up calling service. You, you will find a nice new person, maybe you'll make someone very happy some day.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:08 AM |

He's a geek, but he's our geek.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:00 AM |

Thursday, June 12, 2003  

I'm finally back, but tired as hell. Great day.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:51 PM |

Hasidic Rebel devotes a post to my Richard Joel article, particularly being fascinated by the existence of the breed known as "YU-yeshivish" that either holds from straight daas torah (you need to be a halakhic authority to make non halakhic decisions) or pure halakhic positivism (everything is a halakhic issue, so you need to be a halakhic authority to decide anything - this is also known as Halakhic Man-ism). Well, let me tell you: they're out there. In fact, they're actually most of the beit midrash (we linked a long time ago to a Boston Globe article about the polarization of YU, more yeshivish and more left-wing but I can't find it).
FrumTalk refers to his own blog, where he defines daas torah as something more nepotistic than either of the two above formulations. That would mean that we at YU wouldn't be believers in daas torah, per se. We'd just be narrow-minded. Well, that's certainly a relief.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:53 PM |

Shmuley Boteach has an interesting perspective on Forces of Good v. Forces of Evil battles (via Jewsweek). From the Christian right, the mood seems to be that the current clash of cultures (foreign and domestic) is the harbinger of the apocalypse, where FOG finally engages FOE and emerges victorious. On the other hand, Boteach believes that the presence of FOG v. FOE fighting is itself a demonstration that we're a long way from an end to history where everything ends up redeemed. Every once in awhile he really does say something that resonates.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 3:46 PM |

My response to Allison Kaplan Sommers' question as to why we have no Stern bloggers seems woefully inadequate. I'll be off in Lawrence (the second leg of the move I'm helping out with) for the next few hours. Between now & then, let's see if our readers can come up with some good reasons. Attack our new comments utility with a vengeance.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:51 PM |

Blogger Ephraim seems skeptical that this letter to Rebbetzin Jungreis was actually written by a 14-year old. Tell the truth, me too. While we're at it, I've had my doubts about the Agunah Chronicles for a long time now...

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:05 PM |

Speaking of Rants, here's a classic by's Rabbi Moshe ben Chaim. His basic point:

We can hope for an agreement with the Palestinian terrorists, but is that realistic, or impossible? We must be honest when weighing both sides, accepting only what reason dictates, regardless of our dreams being crushed.
No, not really. We're hoping for a deal with the Palestinian leadership, who [we're again hoping] recognize that terrorism is not in their ultimate best interest and make moves to stop it. The equation between "Palestinian" and "Palestinian terrorist" helps him later in the article, when he continues:
In His Torah, God commands man to wipe out a city of idolatry, a people who harm only themselves. We are also commanded by God to wipe out the murderous Amalekites. God Himself destroyed Sodom. He wiped out the world with a flood. In all these cases, children were not spared. Ask yourselves, "Is God right or wrong by condemning children?" There is one answer: God created morality, so it is ludicrous for man to oppose God.
And so on. I'm too scared to even consider where this one is going. Apparently God wants us to kill Palestinian children as a pre-emptive action to stop them from growing up to be suicide bombers, but don't worry, its by definition moral since God's will defines morality. Fortunately, he comes off as a moderate by the end and only ends up talking about deporting (all 3 million or so) Palestinians to the neighboring Arab states. Another clear example of the inherent dangers in using Scripture as an ideological weapon.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:56 AM |


posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:50 AM |

Yesterday, I pointed to an Idiotarian post that found Fox News referring to Hamas-types as militants. I saw the same thing in yesterday's WSJ. Weren't these news outlets raging when Reuters changed its policy on this? I don't get it. As I also said yesterday, my Nexis access seems to be unavailable, so if anyone else can find some poignant clips, that'd be clutch.

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

Allison Kaplan Sommer isn't sure if she's happy with my rant against Sharon yesterday. She was even quite surprised to find Jonathan Edelstein's comment on the post, in which he called it an "Excellent rant." There's more discussion in the comments to her post there.
First, AKS' criticism is that she thinks it's a "childish name-calling rant that wasn't well-thought out at all." I am no authority on whether it's childish, but it certainly is name-calling and I will say that it was thought out and, again, I'm no authority on whether I did so "well." AKS took particular exception to this paragraph:

Israel has never learned how to be a victim. Instead of lashing out immediately from a position of weakness, it should be calling in its friends to help; but it keeps alienating those friends who are actually capable of solving the problem. Sharon continues to think that his occasional bitch-slap to the PA is protecting Jews in Israel, and he is consistently proven wrong. But he's not willing to build up enough victim capital to get some allies to come in and clean up the terrorism. Today's attack was planned for at least the past week, likely more. But in everyone's minds, when thinking about today, yesterday's impotent counter-attack will linger. Because Sharon is an asshole.
She asks:
What exactly is "enough victim capital?" Exactly how many of us should be killed before the rest of the world feels sorry enough for us to do something and stamp on Hamas so we don't have to? 50? 100? 2,000? And how would you feel about sitting back and waiting for the next deaths if we were talking about your family, friends and neighbors?
As to what is "enough victim capital," I'd say it's when you've proven that the violence is one-sided. It's real simple: an attack on the heart of Jerusalem is a massive affront to Bush's peace plan. He has every reason to be pissed as hell at the terrorist group(s?) that perpetrated the attack. But any response he has to that has to be filtered through Sharon's hit in Gaza. Sharon, with a stupid move of chest-thumping bravado, has lent credibility to the term "cycle of violence." Everyone looks at what Sharon did and sees it as a "They got our guys, let's go get their guys," approach to defense, and they're right, because that was Sharon's attitude.
In the numbers that AKS asks, "50? 100? 2,000?" she's using a model tainted by history. Something that everyone moving towards peace in this conflict has to acknowledge is that history only holds the peaceful mind back. As of the delivery of the Road Map, we were living in a new history; tabula rasa for all sides, all individuals involved. The US, EU, Russia, all put their credibility on the line with this plan. As this AKS/Edelstein exchange goes in the comments there:
AKS: Um, how come Bush wasn't 'embarrassed' by the attacks on Israelis that occured the day after Aqaba? How come he isn't 'embarrassed' by the fact that Abu Mazen and the PA haven't lifted a finger against terror?"
JE: Because he isn't the PA's main international sponsor. The Europeans are the ones who should be embarrassed by the PA's violations of the road map (although, unfortunately, they aren't).
This equation makes it so simple, and it really does work. Bush can circle the globe saying "my guy is right; my guy is the victim," if that really is the case. But it's not anymore, because the violence has two sides. No one cares who started it, everyone cares who's perpetuating it.
Sharon claimed he was protecting Israel with his attempt at Rantisi's life; the bombing yesterday proved him absolutely wrong. It's a daring show of machismo on his part to think that he can take out the Palestinian terror network, and he's daring with his own people's lives.
AKS notes:
I don't know if you've been paying attention, but since the party at Aqaba there have been TEN, count 'em TEN attempts by suicide bombers to infiltrate and do their job. So I think there's a whole lot more going on by the government and the IDF to protect Jews in Israel than you are giving them credit for.
But that only goes to prove my point further: in the regular course of operations by the IDF, it will protect Israelis from attack. Sharon doesn't have to and can't justify that, because the fact of the matter is that he can't really influence it in any way, whatsoever. The IDF is protecting Israelis; Sharon isn't.
And as to "How [I'd] feel about sitting back and waiting for the next deaths," I'm not saying that's what Sharon should be doing. Take a look at what Bush did post 9/11 -- he spent a week gathering intelligence, playing the PR game, assembling his allies, issuing repeated warnings, and ensuring that other people issued them, then going in. Sharon doesn't take that approach because he doesn't think he needs allies -- militarily or otherwise -- to defeat these guys. That's why he's full of it, and that's why he's an asshole for putting his people at risk in this way. Bush played the victim game perfectly, and Sharon absolutely refuses to.
If this bombing had taken place without the Rantisi attack having occurred -- as it most certainly would have, since the terrorist was already on his way -- Bush could use his capital and influence to do something. The PA sponsors would be shamefaced. And Israel could spend a couple of weeks doing the diplomacy necessary to get someone -- not necessarily the IDF, or the IDF alone -- to sweep up the terrorists in the territories. Israel has never had the chance to have the diplomatic upper hand like it did with this Road Map, and Sharon squandered it in incredible fashion.
On to less serious matters. At the end of the post, AKS says:
For the record, I think that these YU boys (they appear to be YU boys) have got a nice blog going at "Protocols." But how about a few female voices? What is this, a Haredi wedding or something? Are none of the girls over at Stern smart enough to participate?
1) No, we're not "YU boys," we're "current (and in my case former) YU men". Thanks
2) As to the female voices, well, if any came along, we'd consider their inclusion. As of now, the closest thing we've got is Reader Meredith's occasional comments.
3) "Are none of the girls over at Stern smart enough to participate?" On a normal day, I might not touch that with a ten-foot pole. But I'm feeling frisky and argumentative. The women involved in media at Stern, the Observer editors being the primary example, have impressed me time and again with their incompetence and outright stupidity. There, I said it, and it's not in a Purim issue. On the other hand, I know oodles of current & former Stern women whom I'd love to have blogging with us; they just won't come on board unless I get a shave & a haircut...and, well, that's something I just cannot do.
UPDATE: Reader Ephraim in the comments:
you still called him an ahole for something you assumed he caused. S'like saying the intifada was caused by his visit to the temple mount. Not true, and all the big arabs say so, and theres video speeches to prove it. They resent anyone who says that they werent alreayd planning the uprising and that they needed sharon to take a walk to do it.
You're wrong everywhere. First, I didn't call him an "ahole," I called him an asshole. Second, I'm not blaming him for the attack on Jerusalem; I'm blaming him for the fact that the attack on Jerusalem won't garner the sympathy that Israel needed it to.
ANOTHER: Edelstein has a final comment over at AKS, in which he says, "BTW, if Abu Mazen responds to this by taking it as a wake-up call and cracking down on Hamas, I will gladly eat my words." Of course, so would I. But in order for that to happen, Abu Mazen would have to be a stronger leader than Sharon, Bush, or really any national leader in history; It'd be great if that were the case, but nearly impossible.

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

A YU kid got shot last night at 182nd & Amsterdam. NY1 Story. Reader Ephraim says the kid's name is Jonathan Dipkowsky or Dibkowsky.
UPDATE: A commenter writes, "Jonathan Dobkowski from Rochester is the guys name."
Any more info sent in by any medium will be posted here. I'd considered calling the NYPD, but I don't think we have many questions left for them. If you do have questions for the NYPD if I do call, send them over.

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

Its going to be hard following up one of Protocols' best days ever, both in terms of number of posts and number of hits, but here's trying:

There's some interesting stuff on the web right now about the relationship between halakha and spirituality. First, we have Hasidic Rebel describing his frustration with the extreme amount of attention given to relatively small or optional halakhic details contrasted with the almost total lack of focus on the overrarching themes of kindness, society, spirituality, and, well, God. On the other side, Jewsweek is running an article about Yehuda Berg's Kabbalah Centre (which is listed in Rick Ross' directory of cults), which assumes that Kabbalah predates and transcends religion, so that all there is is meditation and spirituality with no halakha at all. This approach allows Berg to market Kabbalah to non-Jews, as well as (and including) people who cannot even read the Hebew and Aramaic of the Kabbalistic texts themselves (Berg claims that meditating the right things while "scanning" the Aramaic text of the Zohar with your finger generates the right karmas, even if you have no idea how to read the words you're pointing at - see some of the rickross articles for more). Obviously there's a balance somewhere which varies from community to community as well as from individual to individual, but its something worth thinking about. HR's post did generate some comments, which are also worth checking out.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:35 AM |

Wednesday, June 11, 2003  

Hilarious. In a tactic taken from the Left, The Jewish Press helps its readers express dissatisfaction with the Road Map by posting a poll that asks: "Do you think economic issues will erode the popularity of George W. Bush?" So far, it seems it's not working: the vote is currently 36% yes, 64% no.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:09 PM |

Whoa. Laudatory story about Mormons cleaning up a Jewish cemetery in Queens. Is the Jewish Week unaware of reports that Mormons are baptizing the Jewish dead? I think there was a story about that in their own pages.
Other notable stories in this week's edition:
Interview with Rantisi done hours before he was hit.
Short Take on a "musar" forum to take place on the Upper West Side, in which "About 100 Jews will practice meditation and recite confidence-building affirmations." As the article notes, "musar" is traditionally translated as "rebuke," seemingly the opposite of "confidence-building affirmations." The article insists they're avoiding New-Age-y fluffiness, but that retranslation seems to be precisely in line with it.
And, lastly, a birthday party for Dr. Ruth.
UPDATE: Reader Rivka in the comments:

OK I work at The Jewish Week and the writer was definitely aware of this Mormon practice; she interviewed the main Mormon who spearheaded the clean-up and he said that no baptizing would be done. Whether he was telling the truth or not is a different question, but the jourmalist decided to write the story and not deal with the issue. After all, this guy provided quite a service to the Jewish community, and she wanted it to be acknowledged.
If it's true that the question was asked, then that's a move in the right direction for reporting the story. But the explicit intention of providing applause that Rivka describes does not adequately present a story in the way honest journalism should. And further, the reporter should make additional efforts to verify that it wasn't taking place, such as confirming the fact with a second source, as every reporter is expected to do with every question of fact.
Rivka - I'm assuming the same one - writes in still unsatisfied:
the writer deals with the issue in the piece - and how would she definitively confirm that baptisms are not being conducted secretly? She knew that of course this is possible which is why she did not flat out state they weren't happening. but would you have ignored a story like this? From a human interest perspective it is fascinating.
Part by part. Firstly, the writer does deal with the issue in the piece, in these middle paragraphs:
Meanwhile, Shane Wamsley, the Mormon from Utah who spearheaded the recent cleanup effort by his coreligionists, also is vowing to continue his support. Wamsley plans to return to New York for 10 days of cleaning next month.
In an effort to allay fears by Jews concerned that he is interested in proselytizing or conducting posthumous baptisms — something he has long denied — Wamsley recently dropped out of B’nai Shalom, an organization for Mormons who “share a common Jewish heritage or have an interest and love for the Jewish people and their culture.”
Some Jews had criticized the group because its Web site ( links to one that encourages proselytizing Jews.
“I want to eliminate all questions in as clear a manner as possible to set everyone at ease,” Wamsley said. “My sole objective is to be back there by myself. If I have the support of the LDS [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] community that’s great, if I have the support of the Jewish community great, and if I have the support of the larger community that’s even greater.
“This is something I was told to do. [The spirit of God] prompted me, so I acted on that.”
Yes, the author does begin to deal with the issue. However, the story's lead mentions that 300 Mormons had taken part in the effort, and not one of them is quoted -- were they spoken to? Were they acting under the religious instruction -- in adddition to leadership -- of Wamsley, or might they have been open to acting on their own religious prerogatives? How many of them were in B'nai Shalom?
As to Rivka's question regarding confirmation, well, I'd assume those 300 Mormons would be a good place to start; as would any people who are regular employees/visitors of the cemetary. If there was no one the author could think of to ask for confirmation on this -- and, given the 300 who she reports took part, that's highly unlikely -- she should report that in her piece.
Rivka's last quesion/point, of whether I would have ignored the story and that it is fascinating, seems to assume a feeling on my part that's not present. Just because a story is reported poorly doesn't mean it shouldn't be reported at all. It is an interesting story, and should be reported on...just better, that's all. The reporter should have been more thorough; for all we know, she may have only gotten half of the story.
Anyway, it's good to hear that members of the Jewish press' printed page purveyors are taking note of the blogosphere. It's great to have you reading, and even better to have your comments. Thanks for writing in, Rivka.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:58 PM |

Rumor has it the new issue of Jewsweek will be up very soon, with articles from both Elder Avraham and myself -- the first time that the planets have aligned in this fashion.
And here they are:
Elder Avraham on Richard Joel's presidency.
Me with an Ombudsman on the Dick Locher cartoon.

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

OxBlogger David Adesnik writes in response to the Wolfowitz post:

Well, it isn't often that a second-tier official has as much apparent influence as Wolfowitz. Josh is right that Strobe got attention, especially when attacked by Helms & Co. But I think that all died down after his confirmation.
As for Ollie North, he was on trial, so he's much more comprable to OJ than Wolfie.
If you have the time, maybe check up on whether the press played up Kissinger's Jewishness or not. Then again, he was the #1 foreign policy official, not a Deputy.
If I think of any better examples, I'll let you know.
Again, hitting on target that Wolfowitz gets a lot more attention than it seems other deputies have. Please write in with your thoughts on the issue.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:26 PM |

Jewsweek gets a profile in the AJC, with two decent pictures of Benyamin Cohen. As to why there weren't any pictures of myself...I can only assume it's because they don't want to turn on the ladies that much.
Another thing. One real big reason to regret having moved from Atlanta:

There's no way you could have an office that big in NYC on JW's budget. Heck, if I lived in Atlanta, maybe I'd have a budget, period. I need a budget...feel free to hit the PayPal tip jar if this resonates with any of you.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:16 PM |

(via Alas)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:35 PM |

Our weekly glance at this week's Jewish Press letters section reveals:

  • Friend of the Elders Channanya responded to last week's Stupid Letter of the Week as part of a longer letter about the Shidduch System (Matrix parallels, anyone?):
    ...a ba`al teshuvah wrote a letter bemoaning the way ba`alei teshuvah are treated like garbage in this shidduch world, which has no mercy for an imperfect history. (Strangely enough, he commended the community`s shift to the right, a shift that is surely responsible for his shidduch woes. To the right of what I can only wonder, as the Torah commands us to veer neither to the right nor to the left of the truth.) I`d like to remind your readers that Moshe Rabbeinu married a convert, the daughter of an idolatrous priest. Yehoshua married a convert as well, someone who, according to most commentaries, was a former harlot. And Rabbi Akiva`s wife, whose father had enough money to buy the husband of her choice, "settled" for a lowly shepherd. It seems our greatest leaders were not "yeshivish." Perhaps we should look farther back in history than the Europe of a hundred years ago to determine what values the Torah truly holds dear.

  • The Stupid Letter of The Week is again written by Dr. Yaakov Stern (who must be trying to win a weekly column or something. He's definitely enough of a raving lunatic). This week's response to the responses to his response to the responses....
    For many years our gedolim railed at the illegitimate brands of Judaism (Conservative, Reform, etc.) While I have no fondness for those halachically challenged movements, at least they don`t pretend to be authentic versions of Torah Judaism. Instead they promote a watered down version of the religion, seemingly amenable to the modern milieu.

    But the militantly Modern Orthodox are guilty of just such deception, not owning up to the fact that their concept of Judaism is at odds with our longstanding traditions and beliefs. If truth is beauty ...Oh well
    I think Chananya's response more or less covers this one too. One wonders what Dr. Stern would say if he'd ever read, for example, any of Judah Halevi (the Kuzari)'s poetry. Not very Yeshivish, believe me. Must not have been frum.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 4:08 PM |

Ariel Sharon is an asshole. All over the blogosphere right now, and in every newspaper and at the top of every wire service is the talk of 16 dead (including at least 8 children), 70 or more injured in a bus bombing in Jerusalem. And everywhere, everyone will have to acknowledge that Sharon went beyond the dictates of the Road Map in attempting to whack Rantisi.
Sharon is a nut, and everybody's always known it. One friend told me of a time he was hiking with the guy way back when in the mountains of Israel; the later-to-be-PM waved his hand across the vast lands referred to as the territories and quoted in Hebrew the phrase, "And they shall inherit the land." But you could at least lend credibility to all of his paranoia and fierce adherence to a right-wing stance of the importance of protecting Israelis no matter what the consequences if he were even accomplishing that. The thing is, he's clearly not.
Attacking Rantisi accomplished what, exactly? Instead of keeping credibility with Bush and the world community, he pushes beyond the boundaries laid out for him to the point where Bush can refer to "extremists on both sides." Had Sharon's attacks not happened yesterday, there would be no question that today's bombing was not part of a "cycle of violence."
Sharon is plagued by an egotism that lets him think that his military brinkmanship can bring an end to Palestinian violence. He thinks that his little attacks can take out the entire terrorist infrastructure. History has proved him wrong time and again. For as much as Sharon is unwilling to acknowledge this, it seems that Bush and everyone else who is pushing the Road Map is fully aware that Israel cannot take out these terrorist groups alone -- certainly, Russia must understand that.
Israel has never learned how to be a victim. Instead of lashing out immediately from a position of weakness, it should be calling in its friends to help; but it keeps alienating those friends who are actually capable of solving the problem. Sharon continues to think that his occasional bitch-slap to the PA is protecting Jews in Israel, and he is consistently proven wrong. But he's not willing to build up enough victim capital to get some allies to come in and clean up the terrorism. Today's attack was planned for at least the past week, likely more. But in everyone's minds, when thinking about today, yesterday's impotent counter-attack will linger. Because Sharon is an asshole.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:46 PM |

Just an out-of-the-blue thought on my summer research: I wonder if anyone at Qumran (the center of the sect that wrote/collected the libarary that we know as the Dead Sea Scrolls) had a sinking suspicion that in 2,000 years Modern Orthodox scholars would be looking back at them as the great weirdos of Jewish History. Come to think of it, probably not.
[The 5th-floor library crowd is probably just as unsuspecting. -- SIW]
The difference is that the population of Planet Gottesman, generally speaking, consistently fails to produce any writings to be pored over by later generations -- or by their professors, for that matter.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 3:29 PM |

Idiotarian finds Fox News on the wrong side of the terrorism/military rhetorical divide.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:29 PM |

Good post by Naomi Chana on the religion of barbecue and the hypocrisy it's engendered.
Most Jewish part:

I'm a city girl, but only one generation removed from the heart of Western barbecue territory; I happen to enjoy both styles, although I lean toward the West. However... there's this other side of my family, see? And they're from a part of the country where it's usually okay for Jews to eat crabcakes (preferably at restaurants, and in my mother's childhood only under assumed Gentile names -- my grandfather refused to call in reservations under his own, very Jewish, surname) but where my aunt's family only found out five years ago, as a result of sharing a beach cottage with us for a week, that "grits" were not a form of breakfast meat. My mother's family has nothing to do with pork, never have, never will, and view it with roughly the same enthusiasm they'd view sautéed grubworm. The fact that a good third of that side of the family, including my Aunt Miriam's household, no longer keeps kosher (except during Passover) is blessedly irrelevant. Some things go beyond mere commandment and into the lower realms of prophetic insight.
I sometimes make reservations under an assumed name...but that's to keep the hordes away.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:09 PM |

Samuel Freedman for the NYT on Morgan Freeman as a black God.It's a thought-provoking piece. Could this movie have been made 20 years ago? And is Freeman playing God a sign of true black/white equality, or is it like the male version of the "Mother Earth" stereotype? The end of the piece actually presents this as in line with a consistent male stereotype:

The praise for "Bruce Almighty" in black intellectual circles is not unanimous. The cultural critics Gerald Early of Washington University in St. Louis and Linda Williams of the University of California at Berkeley said that Mr. Freeman is carrying on what Ms. Williams, in an e-mail message, called "the same old tradition of the saintly black man who is shown caring for the relatively trivial worries of white protagonists."
Both scholars traced that line of cinematic characterization back to Uncle Tom tending Little Eva in the 1927 film adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe's abolitionist novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Sidney Poitier took on several such roles in the postwar decades, particularly as the handyman caring for a group of white nuns in "Lilies of the Field" (1963). Mr. Freeman himself portrayed the moral instructor of a self-absorbed white as a rich widow's chauffeur in "Driving Miss Daisy," the 1989 screen version of Alfred Uhry's play.
"We have here another instance of a wise black person helping a white person achieve insight, realize his humanity," Professor Early said of "Bruce Almighty." "That's about as tired a Hollywood formula, indeed an American culture formula, as one can get." He added, "Audiences subconsciously were drawn to it, particularly white audiences who like their black folk nonthreatening and supportive."
Also, the fact that Freedman cites TV ministers as positive factors in black Christianity -- that's arguable. Then there's Freedman's failed attempt at bringing in the Bible:
The film is essentially a comic version of the Job story, with Mr. Carrey as a television newsman named Bruce Nolan who grows so depressed and frustrated that he dares God to do something about it. Whereupon God grants Bruce divine powers, which he proceeds to use on himself: sports car, promotion to news anchor, revenge on sundry enemies. Only then, omnipotent but unhappy, does Bruce realize that the purpose of godly power is to dispense mercy and compassion to others.
If that were the real story of Job, we'd have a much sunnier perspective on suffering.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:53 PM |

Barry Joseph opines about The Matrix and the Road Map in the Forward, not realizing that both are so last week.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 1:43 PM |

The Styx points to an interesting correction in the Times:

An article yesterday about the dismantling of a rusty tower by an Israeli settlement in the West Bank as a gesture of compliance with the American-led peace initiative misstated the origin of Israeli control of the territory. During the 1967 war, Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan and took Gaza from Egypt, not from the Palestinians.
Now, admittedly, if you'd asked me to describe that land transfer off-hand, I would've failed miserably. As the Styx rightly notes, the Palestinians never had land -- that's the whole problem here. The article is by Ian Fisher. Unfortunately, my Nexis access seems to be failing at the moment, so can't do much research on this.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:24 PM |

Chronicle of Higher Ed: "Why Gods Should Matter in Social Science"

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

Just noticed this: it really says something about the Forward's outlook that it publishes its editorials in full on the front page of its website, only linking with headlines to its actual reportage. What's up with that?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:58 PM |

Before it gets too old, I'd like to have a discussion of The ADL's report on "The Talmud in Anti-Semitic Polemics". (via Jewschool) Anyone who's read it so far, please chip in in the comments.

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

Allison Kaplan Sommer has moved.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:25 PM |

Aaron Weisburd points to a statement by the ADL criticizing Bush for criticizing Israel. Doesn't this seem like it should be beyond the ADL's jurisdiction?
UPDATE: Brad Pilcher in the comments:

The ADL's got a history of calling into question Israeli criticism. There's actually a logic there, that anti-Israel rhetoric has become the "new anti-Semitism," and thus an organization devoted to stopping anti-Semitism is within its perview to defend Israel against such criticism. There's a certain credibility to that, though it hasn't stopped the ADL from stepping up to criticize decidedly non-anti-Semitic criticisms of Israel.
But I think a lot of what the ADL fights against is an association of Jews with a specific political agenda, an allegation that is false. When criticizing Bush on such a specific political matter that carries no broad Jewish-related issues, the ADL would seem to be explicitly contradicting itself.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:16 PM |

Vote on Yuter's summer:

 Yuter Poll

How should Yuter finish his masters?

Write an old paper.

Take a summer course.

Make more polls here...

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:10 PM |

Volokh has an interesting column in the WSJ about the Establishment Clause and what that means for landmarks & religious buildings.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:04 PM |

In Context notes a rhetorical difference between "two-state solution" and "acceptance of a Jewish state." Interesting.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:59 AM |

Two Jews write about the roadmap at NRO, neither is happy. David Frum says the outlook is bad, and then there's the ultimate NRO insult from Michael Freund, comparing Bush to Clinton.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:57 AM |

Head Heeb has thoughts on the Jewish/Arab trip to Auschwitz. There's more to be said here about all these interesting visits to Auschwitz and to Israel by people you wouldn't expect, what it means for popular opinion and how it might affect media coverage.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:52 AM |

Adi Neuman's been on a longer blogging break than I took. He hasn't posted since 5/20. Where has he gone?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:50 AM |

Balagan says:

Call me whatever you want for my opinions. I'm not gonna answer mails from people accusing me of leftist, betrayor or anything else. I made aliah and I am a proud israeli citizen. A proud zionist. I just learnt that in politics here I am not right and I am not left. I am just a zionist.
And then gets some really odd comments. Check it out.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:49 AM |

It was somewhat embarrassing to read Daniel Sieradski's post on the complaint about his Jewsweek article that he never sought comment from the UJC about their website before accusing it of censorship. Apparently, the "censored" portion is already back up at the site. This was irresponsible journalism. But even worse is the fact that a blog under his own umbrella had spoken with the UJC earlier and found that it'd be back again soon:

In the meantime, word has it that the powers that be at the UJC deleted a Doug Rushkoff interview from their website. I checked with someone close to the lay leader side of things, and he said that probably one of the ayatollahs had complained and a flunky pulled it. The same thing happened recently with the Eminem story, but then they put it back. Theory is that history will repeat itself and the story will reappear in cyberworld.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:29 AM |

Apparently, "Lilith" has the same Gematria as "Talmud". What does it mean? (via PaleoJudaica)

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:16 AM |

Reading Hasidic Rebel's latest, I'm reminded of the movie Kingpin, which, of course, HR hasn't seen.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:18 AM |

Tuesday, June 10, 2003  

New YU-alum blog: YUTopia, by Josh Yuter. It's Yuter-riffic.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:34 PM |

Wow, it's been...what, six months? I just realized there's a typo in our motto. For historicity: Prior to this point, the motto read: "A group of Jews endeavor towards total domination of the blogosphere." When, of course, it should've said, "A group of Jews endeavors towards total domination of the blogosphere.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:21 PM |

We'd been getting requests from people for how they could chip in to the upkeep of Protocols. There's a button over on the right now, to send over your chints via PayPal.

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

The guy who hosted the Making of a Godol excerpts on his site has taken the file down. Firstly -- is there anyone else out there who's willing to host it? Another option -- everyone who's on Kazaa who has the file, please place it in your Shared Files folder. Lastly, here's a letter from the host:

Dear All,
I truly hoped that I would not solicit any funds from those of you who contacted me for the file containing extensive selections of Making of a Godol (MOAG) after it turned out that the file was not accessible on Kazaa; in fact, I recommended to those of you who volunteered payment to make donations to your favorite charities. I initially offered to burn a copy on CD to the first ten of you who contacted me, however, once my inbox became flooded with dozens of requests for the file and as a few of you suggested, I rented space from a web-hosting company for a nominal fee to upload the file and thereafter sent all of you a message with instructions on how to download the file. That said, I am a novice when it comes to the internet and have never had a website. Now I get to the matter at hand…
Though the web-hosting company confirmed to me that I would only be charged a nominal fee for the initial web-hosting, I was not sufficiently made aware of the exorbitant surcharges to be imposed in the event that my account exceeds a 10 Giga-byte bandwidth limitation and had no way of verifying the bandwidth usage until the end of the end. Though I only sent instructions on how to download the MOAG file through my Pro_Musar Yahoo account, I can only assume that many of you forwarded the link to your contacts that would be interested in this incredible work (understandably so) as by the end of the month, my site had over 40,000(!!!!) hits, though only 650 complete downloads were made. As a result of all this activity on the webspace that I had rented, the web-hosting company charged me $200 for grossly exceeding the bandwidth limitation. All of my valiant efforts to negotiate these charges down have been unsuccessful.
Hence, with a heavy heart, I turn to you and humbly ask that you participate in covering the costs that I incurred in connection with the uploading of the MOAG file. The suggested amount that I am requesting is 5 to 7 dollars (naturally, higher amounts will be warmly received; and if someone is generous enough to underwrite the entire amount, I will promptly send an e-mail to all of you that the costs have been fully covered). Furthermore, I hereby undertake to forward all excess amounts beyond the costs that I incurred to HaRav Nosson Kamenetsky, who should be duly compensated for his copyrighted work. I would like to stress that my intentions were and remain sincere and would not have uploaded the file were I not motivated by the ban placed on Harav Kamenetsky’s book that deeply pained me and prompted me to provide a service to those individuals who genuinely desired to read the book, yet were denied the opportunity to do so. I am happy to inform you that in the meantime, I have procured all 1,400 pages of the two-volume book, however I am not prepared to upload the entire book (even if someone volunteers to host the files) since Rav Nosson has indicated that he intends to reissue the book sometime in the future though it is still not clear when this will precisely be. Nonetheless, I am prepared to contact Rav Nosson to receive his consent to disseminate the files on condition that Rav Nosson is duly compensated (I believe that he will request the book’s retail price of $40; which we all know is an absolute bargain as it is being auctioned for $1,200 on Pomeranz’s sefarim shop).
Without further ado, payments may be forwarded to me through the following methods:
1. Cash or check. As I desire to preserve my anonymity (with the exception of those friends and acquaintances to who I disclosed my identity), please keep the check blank. Payment should be mailed to the following address:
PO BOX 4613
Bet Shemesh, Israel 99590

Upon receipt of your payment, I will send you a return e-mail confirming my receipt of your payment if you include your e-mail in the envelope.
2. PayPal Account. If you send me a reply e-mail indicating the donation you would like to make, I will have PayPal send you an e-mail with instructions how to make payment by credit card or wire transfer.

Thank you in advance and I truly hope that you accept this solicitation with understanding. Please forward this e-mail to those contacts who were forwarded my original e-mail on how to download the MOAG file.

B’virkat HaTorah

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:33 PM |

Still responding to two-week-old e-mails. Some posts about them are coming.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:28 PM |

Patrick Belton quotes a limerick that refers to...?

There once was a number named pi
Who frequently liked to get high.
All he did every day
Was sit in his room and play
With his imaginary friend named i

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:19 PM |

As I slowly return to blogging after my unfortunate hiatus, I'll be posting a lot of old stuff that I didn't have a chance to post earlier. First, check out Avi Zenilman's diary of a trip to Israel in search of prostitutes. The guy is presumably only 18 years old, but doing a damn good job.
Also on Slate see Hitchens' article on "The Meaningful Mispronunciation of 'Wolfowitz''. It's a problem that had to be addressed, but Hitchens does it somewhat lazily. There's a more thorough study worth doing here. I tried to think of another deputy in any US administration that received as much attention, and none came to mind. When I mentioned that I was thinking about this to someone with a decidedly longer memory than mine, she said, "Well, Kissinger didn't receive that kind of attention." I said, "Yeah, but Kissinger wasn't a deputy." The fact that an older Jewish person automatically conflates the criticism of Wolfowitz with that of Kissinger contributes something to the thought that there's a strong anti-Semitic sentiment out there that's leaning on Wolfowitz. Thoughts/ideas? I'm going to send an e-mail to the OxBloggers to see what they think of the question.

As for other deputies who've been the subject of such scrutiny, the
ones who jump immediately to mind are the ones caught in scandals --
Oliver North (Assistant Deputy Director for Political-Military Affairs
on the National Security Council), for example.
But, for example, Strobe Talbott (Deputy Secretary of State) was pretty
well-known during the Clinton Administration. I'm not sure he ever
received the amount of negative press that Wolfowitz is getting, though.
There you have it: Oliver North and Strobe Talbott. Not at all comparable to Wolfowitz. Thoughts?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:12 PM |

Mel Gibson is set to sue the ADL for their criticisms of his Jesus docu-drama "The Passion". (via WND) The issue surrounds the role played by the Jews, especially in light of the fact that Gibson belongs to a traditionalist Catholic sect that rejects Vatican II and continues to hold Jews collectively responsible for Jesus' crucifixion. Of course, since the entire movie is going to be spoken in Latin and Aramaic without subtitles, I really don't see what the big deal is. This is hardly going to be The Ten Commandments - I mean, its not like this is going to be on network television every Easter.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:32 PM |

Someone had told me, but I didn't really believe him. It seems to be true, though. Has anyone around YU seen any copies of the last issue of the Commentator? Anywhere? It's not like they all could have been taken by students -- they never are -- and it's not like all the kiosks were cleaned for the summer -- copies of the issue before the last one is are there. Could YU have confiscated another issue?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:17 PM |

Monday, June 09, 2003  

Frankly, I don't think that the settlement/outpost dismantlings become news until Sharon removes one that has more than 5 people in it.
[This is kind of like the reverse of Biblical Abraham's negotiations with God. So, Elder Avraham, how many settlers must Sharon remove before you are satisfied? Is nine enough? Nine with a Torah scroll? -- SIW]

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 3:10 PM |

Reader Ephraim emails in a Newsday article about the imminent ascension of Richard Joel that features quotes and comments by former Commie editor Zack Streit but doesn't really say (at first glance) anything that different that the stuff that was published when Joel was first named as Dr. Lamm's successor. At second glance, they got the "tehillim story" wrong. According to the article "when the announcement was made six months ago, some members of the rabbinical faculty stopped classes to recite psalms." In fact, the psalms were recited after mincha, when they usually are. No classes were interrupted. A bit of exaggeration on Newsday's part, your opinion on the psalms recitation itself (and the Rabbis that organized it) nothwithstanding. Also, he hadn't been appointed yet. That was the whole point of reciting the psalms in the first place.

One unintentionally funny passage:

"Hillel used to have a reputation as being for dorks," says Zucker, now 29 and assistant director of development for the Hillel Foundation of Stony Brook at Stony Brook University. That reputation kept Zucker away until her senior year, but now she often says, "It's not your father's Hillel."

The possibility of such dramatic change at Yeshiva has been enough to shake some in the university system.
Apparently, there are factions of YU that want to ensure it remains a college for dorks?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:57 PM |

"Proletarios Epanastatis provides a Marxist view of Shavuot." (via HeadHeeb) Very interesting, if not a little off-the-wall.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:51 PM |

Sunday, June 08, 2003  

Just in terms of different media spins on the latest attack that killed four Israeli soldiers:
Everyone seems to agree that the three gunmen involved came from the three major terror organizations - Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which is part of Fatah.'s report notes that

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is the militant wing of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement
In other words, the issue remains as it was presented last week by Major Media. Abu Mazen is a relative peacenik, and the only issue is whether he can control the hardliners, both within and outside his government. In contrast, Arutz-7's report refers to "Abu Mazen's Fatah," implying that Abu Mazen himself was in on the attacks, and that, consequently, negotiations with him will prove to be as pointless as they were with Arafat or would be with Hamas itself. This essentially frames a good deal of the debate surrounding the roadmap - will Abu Mazen be different from Arafat, and even if he is, does it matter?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 4:48 PM |

Check out our new comments link at the bottom of each post (at least when Enetation is up). Hope to hear from you.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:43 AM |
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