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

Saturday, July 05, 2003  

Halfway done with reading Harry Potter. My thoughts, and ensuing discussion to follow.

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

In the comments boards, Yehudit asserted her affinity for the Fox translation of the Bible. Personally, I like the Hertz translation (granted, only for Chumash and the Haftarot) because of the grace and elegance of the old-style High English (which also makes the commentary fun to read). What're your favorite translations and why? Discuss.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:50 PM |

Friday, July 04, 2003  

Shmuley Boteach's take on the Oxford Professor scandal

No, it seems that Professor Wilkie and his ilk have a problem solely with Israel and nobody else. And in my continued effort to be charitable to the esteemed scientist, allow me to assert that the good professor's prejudices are animated not by Jew-hatred, but by ignorance. Wilkie is no anti-Semite. He's just an uninformed ignoramus. A buffoon. A silly man who speaks before he thinks (he is now apologizing to all who will listen that he didn't mean what he said). A man who doesn't deserve to be a professor, not because he's prejudiced, but because he contravenes the very first law of science: refrain from drawing conclusions before you have the evidence.Wilkie is one of those unintellectual mediocrities, an ideological extremist, who substitutes passion for reason. The thought that a shoot-from-the-hip, out-of-control, uneducated fool is the head of an Oxford science department is alarming indeed.
Boteach never wonders what in Wilkie formed those hasty conclusions, especially as opposed to the other, non-Israel examples where such conclusions were never formed. Could it be an underlying suspicion/animosity towards Jews?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:09 PM |

I'm not exactly what the prompt was, but the ContraCosta Times has an article on the agunah crisis, Orthodox beit-din endorsed prenups, all very well and good. The article also quotes Rabbi Dov Brisman, head of the Philly beit din, where prenups are not required:

"We've had quite a few agunot cases over the years," he said. "We try to speak with (the husbands) and use mutual friends to talk sense to them. I've found that to be the most effective thing. It's not a happy ending, but it's better than you would have had."

Brisman said some wives claim to be chained women even though their cases are not at that stage, "because someone might be counseling them to say that, or they might just be hot under the collar. ... Once they stigmatize themselves, it makes a difficult situation. If you start with an exaggerated situation, it creates ill will."
Just a little disturbing, you know?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:55 AM |

Meredith blogs about Girls and Gemara:

This quote’s from Nechama’s sister’s class at school. I think it’s just tops:

“Women don't learn Gemara because since
we're better than men at everything else, we
have to leave *something* for them to do.
It helps their egos."

Oh, you should see me when I set my mind to it. Destroying the most lofty talmudic arguments with a simple flick of the kal ve’chomer.
I've always had this back-of-the-mind suspicion in shul of being collectively laughed at from behind the mechitza. This doesn't help much.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:22 AM |

Meir Soloveitchik's piece in the Forward about the anti-sodomy law Supreme Court decision focuses on the divide between a secular Europe and a religous America.

We have witnessed during the last year growing divisions between the United States and its Western allies over the war in Iraq. Yet the difference between the recent American and Canadian court decisions reveals that the deeper divide between the United States and the rest of the West lies not in the realm of the political, but in the cultural and moral — a gap that no amount of multilateralism will bridge. Europe is no longer a Christian continent; few Europeans attend religious services on Sunday, and the European Union recently refused to refer to Europe's religious heritage in its fledgling constitution. Nor is "our neighbor to the north" an intensely religious nation.

The United States, by contrast, while increasingly and blessedly religiously tolerant and diverse, remains, in the words of author G. K. Chesterton, "a nation with the soul of a church." Religion's prominent place in American society was made manifest recently when senators of every partisan stripe rushed to the Senate floor to decry a court decision striking "God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. It is this same traditional religiosity that drives American opposition to gay marriage. While Americans have no interest in imprisoning someone for consensual sexual behavior, many Americans still see homosexual behavior as sinful, and therefore refuse to place this lifestyle on the same moral pedestal as marriage.
On the other hand, the Forward also ran a piece by Evan Wolfson that argues in the opposite direction
Poll after poll has found that young people in this country strongly support allowing gay people to wed, and more than two-thirds of all Americans believe gay people will win the freedom to marry. Non-gay Americans are coming to understand that excluding gay people from family protections such as access to healthcare, parenting and immigration rights, Social Security and the other concomitants of marriage is wrong, just as including the police in our bedrooms is wrong.

I am proud that Jewish voices such as those of the Reform movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis and Union of American Hebrew Congregations, as well as the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation are among those engaged in this civil rights struggle to allow gay couples the freedom to marry. They understand the difference between civil and religious marriage, and respect America's commitment to equality for all.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:52 AM |

In the "Divine Sense of Humor Department", we have the preacher in Forest, Ohio who was enveloped by lightning that shot through his microphone after hitting the steeple of his church right after he asked God for a sign.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 1:00 AM |

NYT article on Israel thinking in terms of having "won" the intifada. We'll have to see if the rest of the universe agrees.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:53 AM |

Thursday, July 03, 2003  

Those of us familiar with the Jewish Press are well aware of the manic rantings of Steven Plaut, professor at Haifa University (for a sample, click here). It so happens that Plaut has a letter published in this week's Jewish Week decrying the Supreme Court's affirmative action ruling. Fine. The fun starts thanks to Ploni, who pointed out in the comments boards that an all-too similar letter was written to the Jewish Press by a "Stephanie Perlauter". Here are the two letters, and draw your own conclusions. Thanks Ploni! Excellent work!

The Jewish Week:

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has “kashered” affirmative action apartheid and racism, it is time to take action. I would like to make a suggestion for sabotaging U.S. affirmative action racism using guerrilla tactics. On affirmative action forms, Jews should record themselves as Asian Americans. After all, Jews ultimately come from Asia, if one goes back far enough. Many can read and speak an Asian language (Hebrew).

Let us watch the apartheid apparatchiks try to prove that Asia ends at the Himalayas and does not include the Fertile Crescent. So what if many of us look Occidental. What are they going to do, define Asian based on measuring noses and skulls like in Germany in the 1940s?

Many of you can also properly list yourself as Hispanic because of some Sephardic ancestors on any side of the family. It does not matter if you go to an Ashkenazi synagogue or speak Spanish — many other Hispanics do not. One-eighth Sephardic sounds to me more than sufficient to count oneself legitimately as a Hispanic.

Let us then watch the PC racialists try to sort that out.
And now the Jewish Press:
Now that the Supreme Court has decided to "kasher" Affirmative Action, I would like to suggest sabotaging this insidious form of racism by using guerilla tactics. On affirmative action forms, all Jews should record themselves as “Asian Americans.” After all, we Jews do come from Asia, if one goes back far enough. Many of us can read and speak an Asian language (Hebrew).

Let us watch the apartheid apparatchiks try to prove that Asia ends at the Himalayas and does not include the Fertile Crescent. So what if many of us look Occidental? What are they going to do, define “Asian” based on measuring noses and skulls like in Germany in the 40`s?

Many of you can also properly list yourself as Hispanic, because of some Sephardic ancestors on any side of the family. It does not matter if you go to an Ashkenazi synagogue. It does not matter if you do not speak Spanish; many other Hispanics do not. One-eighth Sephardic sounds to me more than sufficient to count oneself legitimately as Hispanic. Jews from North Africa or South Africa should of course always list themselves as African-Americans.

Let us then watch the politically correct fascists try to sort that out.
Ploni also points out the differences in language in the two letters. I've bolded some of the most obvious examples. Fun!

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:56 AM |

WorldNetDaily Strikes Again

Western intelligence agencies suspect that Osama bin Laden and his son have been traveling to Iran for meetings with the al-Qaida leadership, reports intelligence newsletter Geostraegy-Direct.

Intelligence sources said the bin Ladens have been shuttling from Afghanistan into the Iranian frontier, holding strategic sessions, relaying orders and then leaving. The sources said Iran has been aware of the activity.
No, No! You've got the order all wrong! We're attacking Syria next...

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 7:44 AM |

There's a new version of the Bible out, and it seems to be making waves, especially in the teen girl demographic:

Besides the text of the New Testament, the publication contains several teen magazine-style features, such as biblical beauty tips, personality tests and advice columns for such dilemmas as this: "The Bible says I'm supposed to be loving my enemies. Does this mean I'm supposed to love Satan?"

Laurie Whaley, who is on the team from Thomas Nelson bible publishers which put "Revolve" together, says the new-fangled holy book was created in response to research which showed teens aren't reading the Bible, but they are reading magazines.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 7:40 AM |

I've heard of hard-line churches banning Harry Potter books, but this is the first UNIVERSITTY I've heard of to do the same.

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

Time for Fun With The Jewish Press Letters Section! This week features a strong group of letters, including a response to last week's Stupid Letter Of The Week, someone's amazed that nobody in Brooklyn says "good shabbas" to him -- until he hit the Modern Orthodox sections of Flatbush, and a suitably rabid denouncement of the go-to-a-hotel-for-Pesach crowd by Dr. Yaakov Stern (who, having taken on all of Modern Orthodoxy in previous issues, is scaling back a bit). This week's Stupid Letter, though, goes to Helen Freedman, Executive Director of Americans For a Safe Israel.

Our AFSI (Americans For a Safe Israel) group of 30 Americans and Canadians had traveled to Netzarim in the Gaza Strip in order to visit our friends there and give and get encouragement. After an inspiring visit and a delightful kindergarten song presentation prepared especially for us, we boarded our bus only to discover that two of the wheels of the bus were stuck in the sand.

This was Monday, May 26 — the day that Prime Minister Sharon and the Israeli Cabinet were busy committing Israel to the road map. Our group, strongly opposed to the plan, saw this situation as a symbol of where Israel is today. Many of us are on solid ground, with the biblical road map to follow — the one that has preserved Israel since King David declared his kingdom over 3,000 years ago, first in Hebron and then in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Sharon is following the wrong road map. It leaves Israel easy prey to its enemies as it is mired down in agreements that will be disastrous for the people, the Land and the State.

Our bus was pulled out of the trap when an IDF tank was hooked up to it and pulled it out, accompanied by our cheers of encouragement. If our experience is a metaphor for Israel today, the message is clear. Israel must stay on the biblical path, forget the “road trap” and let the Israeli army do its job to defeat the enemy. Only then can the terms of peace be negotiated.
Isn't using a bus stuck in quicksand as a portent of the future a clear violation of all anti-superstition halakha? What's scary is that I can see this crowd actually believing that having a tank pull their bus out of the quicksand actually has cosmic significance.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 1:26 AM |

Wednesday, July 02, 2003  

Frumster stats. Probably the lowest male/female ratio of any singles site -- usually there are several times more men, I believe. New York has almost 10 times more members than any other city, and the hashkafa breakdown is somewhat predictable:
Modern Orthodox - liberal 4134
Modern Orthodox - machmir 3108
Yeshivish/Black hat 1243
Hassidish 453
Carlebachian 222

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:25 PM |

Protocols on Gawker. (Surprisingly? Unsurprisingly?) It hasn't produced a single hit.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:33 PM |

And just when you thought the news could not get any worse, the Brits go ahead and do this: Regular cannabis users are at greater risk of developing mental illness later in life, according to research.

posted by Pinchas | 2:42 PM |

Elder Avraham, if Cohen is high priest because he provides access to the Google-God, what does that make President Gore, who according to his detractors, invented the Internet - domain in which the Google-God exists?

posted by Pinchas | 1:31 PM |

Proud to be an American

I am sure that the soldiers on the ground in Iraq and the families of those U.S. servicemen who have been slaughtered by “Iraqi militants” greatly appreciate President Bush's taunt and show of strength.

I am glad to see that the NBA-originated pop-culture-institutionalized and adolescent-practiced virtue of "trash talking" has become an official tool of U.S. foreign policy. Are you not proud to be an American?

posted by Pinchas | 1:26 PM |

Thomas Friedman, (who, as already documented, looks good in a black hat) op-eds today about Of special interest is this quote from Alan Cohen, a V.P. of Airespace:

If I can operate Google, I can find anything. And with wireless, it means I will be able to find anything, anywhere, anytime. Which is why I say that Google, combined with Wi-Fi, is a little bit like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere and God sees and knows everything. Throughout history, people connected to God without wires. Now, for many questions in the world, you ask Google, and increasingly, you can do it without wires, too.
Basically, that makes Cohen, who provides access to Google-God, the high priest, right? There's a good bit of irony there...

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 1:01 PM |

Iraqi Jew seeks $20 billion reparation

LONDON, June 30 (UPI) -- An elderly Iraqi Jew has announced his intention to reclaim some $20 billion from Iraq's future government, a report said Monday.

Naim Dangoor, 89, says the country owes his people for the calamity that befell the world's oldest and wealthiest Jewish community when radical Arab nationalists began ruling Iraq after World War II.

Today, descendants of Iraq's Jews are scattered around the globe. They include such influential business leaders as the Saatchis of London, the Kadoorie family of Hong Kong and the Jordache and Sassoon clothing clans of the United States, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Across North America and Europe, thousands of Iraqi exiles have been filling out forms prepared by WOJAC, the World Organization for Jews of Arab Countries, to be compiled for a possible class-action suit. Some 25,000 forms have already been archived by Israel's Justice Ministry.
I guess the $20B is for the entire class-action, not just himself. Somehow, I can't really see this working, although its going to come up often now as the road map moves forward with dealing with palestinian refugees.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:20 PM |

See you in the Suburbs

Yesterday's shooting in Washington Heights is a bit unnerving. Several news outlets including NY1, Newsday and the Daily News all report pretty much the same facts and state the same conclusions: A man got out of an unmarked car, shot over a dozen rounds striking four people, got back into the car which sped off; No suspects, no motives, and as of these reports, no leads. Not very encouraging for New York's finest.

With all of the emphasis on terrorism these days, one must wonder what is going on in our neighborhood. Several weeks ago, a Yeshiva student was shot while driving on YU’s campus. Yesterday's incident took place in front of a store many student frequent on a street located just yards from Yeshiva's Main Building, an adjacent dormitory, the Schottenstein Center and several YU Parking Lots. Not to mention Elder I's old residence and hundreds of apartments occupied by families, children and singles.

I was thinking about this earlier today as I walked from my apartment on 187th Street to the "A" train on Overlook & 184th. Walking through the most littered and hideously filthy streets I have ever seen, my thoughts were interrupted when I passed not one, not two, but three homeless people sleeping in and on assorted boxes, bags and yes, plastic bottles. By the time I passed the third person all I could think was "What the hell is going on here?!"

To be frank, this is not a third world country, this is not the bad ol’ 1970’s, this is New York City in the year 2003 and people are sleeping on the streets in front of schools, teachers and students are getting shot while going to and from classes, what is going on?

I looked towards our esteemed University for an explanation, but Rabbi Lamm has a better chance of pulling a Grover Cleveland than I do of getting any type of useful response out of them. So, I looked towards our elected officials for some kind of response and there was only one opportunistic politician who saw yesterday’s shooting as worthy of a statement:

“This happened in pure daylight as a result of the lack of police presence that we have in our community… Our 34th Precinct has not had the manpower that we need to continue the quality of life that we've had in the past years.”

So said City Councilman Miguel Martinez.

While I am indebted to Miguel for pointing out the obvious, I wonder why he did not even proffer a solution. How, in a city council where there is no opposing party can Miguel fail to maintain the quality of life for his constituents?

How, in an area that has one of the longest sitting assemblymen (state representatives) in the country, who just happens to be the chairman of the ways and means committee, are resources necessary to protect the citizenry unavailable and lacking.

Some may say that I am overreacting and that might very well be the case. But four people were shot in an area where I walk every day, where my wife walks every day, where my baby gets pushed in a stroller every day and I am not the only one who lives in Washington Heights. Had that animal had better aim or different timing anyone of us could have been seriously involved in that incident.

I am not one to live in fear, but I am one who cannot understand how the people and mechanisms existing in part to prevent such incidents from occurring can fail so miserably and not be held accountable.

When the Yeshiva student was shot a few weeks ago, Peter L. Ferrara, the head of Yeshiva’s PR department said that YU’s campus is a safe and that “happenstance is happenstance."

Last week, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, told members of the US congress that there is no problem of anti-Semitism in Europe and that acts of violence against Jews are just random occurrences and not part of a widespread phenomenon.

I dare not compare the two cases, just the approaches of those who have the ability to change things but refuse to see that there is problem.

posted by Pinchas | 11:01 AM |

Jewschool links to this video clip (windows media) entitled "Make Love, Not Terror." I'm not sure what to make of it, except for the fact that its very disturbing.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:19 AM |

Tuesday, July 01, 2003  

Reader Yoel reacts to the mention and subsequent discussion of Dr. Zizmor, honored YU board member, by contributing links concerning his (Zizmor's) son Adam Zizmor's (msnbc and newsday) water-based drink SkinCola. From the newsday article:

"Not that it doesn't help the skin; it is not for acne. It says that nowhere," Zizmor said. "It's more of a beverage that makes you feel better about yourself."

SkinCola is tasteless, noncarbonated and calorie-free. Its ingredients include purified water and activated oxygen, which, according to the label, contains trace amounts of chloride, sodium, chromium iodine, carbon, iron and zinc. (Because the product is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, there's no guarantee that it is manufactured in a clean and safe plant.)

Clarence W. Brown, a dermatologist with Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago, said the contents almost mirror ordinary water.

"Any water source derived from the earth will more than likely contain a similar elemental profile," Brown said.

Countered Zizmor: "This is beyond water. There's a scientific reason this is in glass." He wouldn't name the reason.
Maybe to justify its $3 per bottle price tag?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:48 PM |

Please note re: comments. Many of the ones that say comments (0) actually do have comments. Click on them and see!

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:56 PM |

Zeek seems all abuzz with Rushkoff talk. Michael Shurkin seems to have thought about what we thought of it, including Rushkoff's use of anachronism, historical misinformation (including failure to display awareness of historical figures who made the same arguments he did 200 years ago), and pretentious and arrogant tone, especially towards ba'alei teshuva. Best passage:

Rushkoff's vision of right Judaism is a blatant case of wishful thinking. He really wants to believe that Jews throughout the ages were Enlightened universalists dedicated to iconoclasm, transparency, democracy, science, and not just modernity but post-modernity. To make his case he makes myriad historical claims and marshals an impressive array of historical facts. Regrettably, almost all his claims and facts are wrong, some so blatantly wrong that they should have been caught by the editors, assuming publishers still have editors. For example, Rushkoff identifies the last Czar of Russia as someone named "Peter." (p. 39) Presumably Rushkoff meant Peter the Great (d. 1725). Try Nicholas II. My personal favorite is Rushkoff's observation that "just when it seemed as though the ideals of the Enlightenment were extending to French Jews in the right to citizenship and even to own property, Napoleon died and the Jews were sent back to the ghettos." (143) Had he read any number of the books he cites in his bibliography, he would have recognized that the only correct part of the sentence is that Napoleon did in fact die.
Also see this response by Ken Applebaum, and actual "lapsed Jew" who did appreciate the book. Finally, there's a conversation with Rushkoff himself, which is quite fascinating, including this DR quote:
While I am just as upset about the Kabbalah Learning Center as I am about infantilized Reform Jews, I thought I had written an extraordinarily mystical take on Judaism. The entire notion of 'nothing' being sacred, and the divine emerging in that nothingness, is spiritual Judaism.
Really? How mystical can "abstract monotheism" be, and where did the divine appear in the book at all? Not through the first three chapters (which is where Edler I and my book-talk is currently holding), at least as far as I can tell. Overall, seems like much ado about nothing, but a somewhat different take than the discussion happening here on protocols.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:43 PM |

Here's a nice story about Jewish chaplains in the field in Iraq. Still, some things bother me, like the fact that the subject of the article, an Army Capt. Avrohom Horovitz, Jewish chaplain , is one of only three rabbis in the field in Iraq. That's not a lot, and I wonder whether that's due to the fact that there aren't many Jewish soldiers, many rabbis willing to become chaplains, some combination, or what. Also a bit off-putting was this related picture/caption that shows him making Kiddush on his "makeshift alter". Excuse me? "Alter"? Someone in the Marines needs to learn something or other about Judaism.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:05 PM |

(Thanks, Ephraim)
There should be a rule -- every couple either posts a pic along these lines or is banned from OnlySimchas. I'd be the first to sign the petition.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:17 PM |

I just want to mention again the no-annual-fee credit card thing on the right. For our several hundred daily readers, we're providing first-class content for free; at some other sites, people are more likely to hit the tip-jar. We'd rather just know you love us than get your money -- besides, if you apply for the credit card, we'll get a lot more money than you can afford. And if we get that money, that means we might upgrade, streamline the site, be able to add more images on a less-busy server, maybe run events with free beer...who knows.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:50 PM |

Before it gets kicked off the front page, I thought I'd mention Avi Shafran's thoughts on abortion. It's pretty much what you'd expect -- he's against it unless it threatens the life of the mother, and only in certain cases when it threatens her health. Money grafs:

To be sure, the Talmudic sources are clear that the life of a pregnancy-endangered Jewish mother takes precedence over that of her unborn child when there is no way to preserve both lives. And, while the matter is not free from controversy, there are respected rabbinic opinions that allow abortion when the pregnancy seriously jeopardizes the mother's health. But those narrow exceptions certainly do not translate into some unlimited mother's "right" to make whatever "choice" she may see fit about the child she carries.
One might well argue, as some Jewish groups in fact have done, that, notwithstanding Judaism's clear opposition to abortion, society in general, and minority religious communities in particular, are better served by a governmental "hands off" policy regarding abortion.
The movement I represent, Agudath Israel of America, would respectfully disagree with that argument. We believe that by legislating the moral imperative to protect the unborn, society promotes an ethic that affirms the supreme value of life -- and, conversely, that legalizing abortion on demand promotes precisely the opposite, a social ethic that devalues life. But we recognize that there may be opinions to the contrary, and that they deserve careful consideration and respect.
What we do not recognize, however, and what deserves no deference whatsoever, is any effort to promote the "pro-choice" perspective through distortion of the Jewish tradition.
Groups like Hadassah are entitled only to their own opinion, not their own facts. What Judaism has to say about abortion is simply not what they claim.
My previous attempt at starting a discussion on abortion fell flat. Any takers here?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:35 PM |

Tuesday Morning Quarterback pops in to pontificate about God's alleged interventions in sporting events. Sadly, he implies (although he leaves room open to say) that the Yankees do not prove that God wears pinstripes.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 8:21 PM |

It's probably the least funny top-ten list ever, but Naomi Chana's looking for help developing a list of reasons why people should go into academia, especially in the humanities. Unfortunately, no jokes are allowed. But if they were, what would you send her? The best from the comments will be pasted into a post.
Also, if you've got some serious ones, go help her out.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:55 PM |


As Jewish groups gird themselves for Mel Gibson's controversial new movie about Jesus Christ, the actor is giving a producer credit to a higher power.
"The Holy Ghost was working through me on this film, and I was just directing traffic," said Gibson after previewing "The Passion" on Thursday. "I'm not a preacher and I'm not a pastor. But I really feel my career was leading me to make this," he said. "I hope the film has the power to evangelize."
Gibson showed a subtitled print of the movie, in which actors speak only Latin and Aramaic, to members of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo.
An advance script of the movie was criticized by both the Jewish Anti-Defamation League and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, although the bishops later backed away from their remarks.
In a statement last week, the ADL asked, "Will the final version of 'The Passion' continue to portray Jews as bloodthirsty, sadistic and money-hungry enemies of Jesus?"
Gibson said earlier, "Anti-Semitism is not only contrary to my personal beliefs, it is also contrary to the core message of my movie."
Now who's the ambitious religion reporter who's going to call the New Life Church and get interviews with some who saw the movie?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:57 PM |

The book I worked on is hitting stores July 4th:


It's of particular interest to the blogging world, as the nine pages of quote-based-narrative I put together consists primarily of quotes from bloggers.
I haven't seen the finished version yet, so there might've been some edits of which I'm unaware, but I'll put up a list of the bloggers quoted later.
I can send a copy of the version that I handed in to anyone who's interested, unless the list gets long (I won't post it, 'cause that might get me in trouble).

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:12 PM |

Ruy Teixeira on Jews in the Democratic Party.

This week comes further evidence that Republicans have not succeeded in making much of a dent in a small, but significant, part of the Democratic coalition: Jewish voters. According to data released by Ipsos Public Affairs/Cook Political Report, in the first quarter of 2003, Jews gave Bush an overall approval rating of 39 percent, an economic job approval rating of 26 percent, and a domestic issues approval rating of 24 percent.
Wow. They clearly haven’t drunk the Rove Kool-Aid yet. Guess that’s why Bush’s hard re-elect (definitely vote to re-elect) among these voters was just 22 percent, less than half of the number (45 percent) who said they would definitely vote for someone else. And why they give Democrats a staggering 72 percent to 24 percent lead on the generic Congressional ballot question and declare their partisanship as Democratic by more than 3:1 (67 percent to 22 percent).
The Democrats have a lot of things to worry about. But declining support among Jewish voters doesn’t appear to be one of them.
Any guesses on how long it'll be before a major Jewish publication or Northeastern newspaper completely ignores this study and writes another article on the Jewish exodus to the Republican party? (Yes, these numbers don't indicate where Jews were a few years ago, but the tone of the Jew-switch stories has tended to indicate much larger numbers than these)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:54 PM |

Now a word or two about ritual Judaism... A crazy, cynical, right wing, ultra-Orthodox Jew may have several questions after reading this article:

1. Has Elaine Weiss returned to synagogue since her bat mitzvah?

2. Is reading from the Torah on Friday night a standard practice in her synagogue?

3. Why did no one tell Mr. Van Biema that one can obtain a Conservative or Orthodox prayer book with an English translation?

4. Was Ms. Weiss' difficulty with Orthodoxy really her inability to read Hebrew or was it maybe halacha?

5. How does a Reform Bat Mitzvah turn “a cadre of highly motivated women into fully equipped leaders,” when an Orthodox Bat Mitzvah simply makes everyone aware that the girl has turned 12?

6. Can one really compare a Reform Bat mitzvah to a Nazir? Well I guess that is unfair, there is a legitimate comparison, maybe. According to Scripture, how does G-d look upon one who chooses to be a Nazir?

7. Was Ms. Weiss aware of the subject matter in the portion preceding that of the Nazir (actually in Orthodox circles it is read as the same aliya)?

I suppose though that a more open-minded, less critical Jew would reflect on this article and rejoice in the fact that more people are finding more ways to identify themselves as Jews and see that as a good thing. It is interesting how much one’s personal or religious orientation can change their perspective so dramatically.

posted by Pinchas | 10:45 AM |

Elder Shmuli's elder on anti-Semitism and the Catholic Church.

posted by Pinchas | 10:05 AM |

OJ about to announce identity of the real killer! One wonders what this story is doing in yahoo's entertainment section when it so obviously belongs in the breaking news or top stories sections.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:03 AM |

Dutch Sheets of the CBN calls for Divine intercession into the American judicial system, but with a bipartisan twist.

I am not asking you to pray that the Republicans regain control of the Senate. I want my dear Democratic brothers and sisters to feel just as peaceful in joining this prayer effort as I do my Republican ones. Let's remember that our struggle is not against flesh and blood (see Ephesians 6:12). Let us simply pray that God shifts the judicial system of America, including the removing of this blockade of godly judges in the Senate, in whatever ways He chooses.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:49 AM |

(via Drudge)
US-based missiles to have global reach: Allies to become less important as new generation of weapons enables America to strike anywhere from its own territory... Star Wars by any other name sounds just as scary.

posted by Pinchas | 9:47 AM |

Now this is the way to punish corporate crime! How do you think Halliburton Dick will look in 17 years...?

posted by Pinchas | 9:42 AM |

Provocation or Life Back to Normal? WND reports that Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims are slowly being allowed to visit the Temple Mount again with the escort of the Israeli police -- whom apparently didn't even inform the Waqf (Islamic religious trust that runs the Mount's day-to-day operations) that they were coming back.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:38 AM |

Monday, June 30, 2003  

What would you say the odds are that Naomi Chana and Jim R. Davila are attending the same Enoch Seminar in Italy? I'd say they're pretty good, myself.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 7:12 PM |

Elder Pinky will hopefully avoid the terrible retribution of the YU enforcers for his wanton insults directed towards the esteemed Dr. and Mrs. Zizmor, valued members of the boards of directors of Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women, respectively.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 6:45 PM |

I am ashamed to admit that my jubilation over Leon Wieseltier’s medical pronouncement of a year ago has vanished and been replaced by what I think might be a legitimate fear. Read on for a bit of last week’s news.

EU rejects U.S. accusations of anti-Semitism wave
BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuters) - The European Union rejected a U.S. suggestion that anti-Jewish sentiment was rising in Europe despite criticism from U.S. Congressmen. Thursday, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana met members of the U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee, some of whom were angered when he called reports of anti-Jewish sentiment in Europe overblown.Some members of the committee, who met Solana after an EU-U.S. summit, asserted that anti-Jewish sentiment in Europe was rising at a rate unseen since World War Two, a claim that has been repeatedly rejected by EU officials.
"On anti-Semitism, he (Solana) said what is the truth. There might be individual problems, but there is no overall anti-Semitism sentiment in Europe," Solana's spokeswoman Christina Gallach told Reuters.
After the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and an increase of violence in the Middle East conflict, there was in late 2001 and early 2002 an increase in religious attacks on minorities in general including Muslims and Jews.
EU officials say the attacks on Jews, their synagogues and graveyards in some member states does not mean that a wave of anti-Semitic sentiment is washing over Europe.
Anti-Jewish attacks in France were highlighted in the United States in an article recently in the monthly magazine "Vanity Fair," which asserted that French authorities were doing little to fight the problem. The article also linked their inaction with Paris' opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Last week, at an international conference on anti-Semitism, U.S. officials urged Europe to do more to curb anti-Jewish violence, citing increases in attacks on Jews in many EU states.
The EU it taking action to tighten its anti-racism laws. It has also strongly condemned anti-Semitic violence in parts of the 15-nation bloc in the first half of 2002.
Jewish groups and the EU's racism watchdog have also expressed concern over the fact that the United States is the main location in the world for so-called "hate websites" featuring racist and anti-semitic material.

US lawmaker criticize EU's Solana on anti-Semitism
By Adam Entous
WASHINGTON, June 26 (Reuters) - European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana came under fire on Thursday from some U.S. lawmakers who quoted him as saying reports of rising anti-Semitism in Europe were overblown.
Solana also told lawmakers in a closed-door meeting that European leaders intended to maintain ties to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat over U.S. and Israeli objections, participants told Reuters.
The comments sparked an angry backlash from some lawmakers on the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, who asserted that anti-Semitism was rising at a rate unseen since the end of World War Two and that EU contacts with Arafat undermined President George W. Bush's efforts to advance the "road map" peace initiative.
"When the issue of increased anti-Semitism was raised, he looked at us and said, 'There's no anti-Semitism. There's no wave of anti-Semitism in Europe,"' Florida Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler said. Solana spoke to the group, which met on the sidelines of Wednesday's U.S.-EU summit.
"I was stunned to hear him say, more or less, that there has not been a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe. And so I said, 'Oh, it must be another Europe.' And other members couldn't believe it either," said Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a leader on the committee.
EU officials in Washington had no immediate comment.
Bush and Israel's supporters in Congress have been pressing European leaders for weeks to cut off ties to Arafat, who they see as an obstacle to peace.
Lawmakers said Solana defended the contacts, arguing that the meetings with Arafat were an opportunity to encourage him to support Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and the road map.
Lawmakers also pressed Solana to outlaw Hamas' political wing. "He really sidestepped that issue," Wexler said. France, which opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, has insisted that the Palestinian militant group remains a necessary player in the peace process.
U.S. officials have urged Europe to do more to curb anti-Semitic violence, citing an increase in attacks in many European countries on Jews, their synagogues and graveyards.
The EU has said it is taking action to stiffen anti-prejudice laws and has already strongly condemned anti-Semitic violence in parts of the 15-nation bloc in the first half of 2002.

posted by Pinchas | 5:36 PM |

My! I don't know what I ever would have done without that informative piece on the zit doctor and his brilliant wife. The family members of the brain cells you murdered expect flowers and a ham for their suffering.

While on the mundane and because Elder A already mentioned the decennial update of the famed dictionary, how is it that the oldest method of curing male pattern baldness know to man or woman has been excluded from the greatest word repository for over a century?

posted by Pinchas | 4:58 PM |

It took longer than I expected, but our 20,000th hit came at 3:52 today, from someone using the IP . If you think this is you, maybe we'll give you a prize or something.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:47 PM |

Blogathon 2003. You'll notice that the Blogathon is scheduled to take place on the Jewish Sabbath. Maybe the J-Bloggers can team up for an alternative date? Maybe we should ask them to switch?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:57 PM |

Dr. Z in the New Yorker. (via Gawker) The story behind the ubiquitous Dr. Jonathan Zizmor, who advertises his dermatology practice all over the subways, and his wife, who wears big hats in the ads.

the new advertisements for the dermatological services of Dr. Jonathan Zizmor, who has been promising relief from unsightly bumps and ashy skin to subterranean travellers since the early eighties. Gone is the scary before-and-after shot; instead, the new ad, which had its début in May, features a nightscape of indeterminate skyscrapers and includes not just a photograph of the ageless Dr. Z but a picture showing a handsome woman in a big pale hat, and a slogan that reads, “Doctor and Mrs. Zizmor Salute New Yorkers for Their Strength and Courage.”
“We have only been married for two years,” she said, speaking from under a dramatic, wide-brimmed straw hat, which is one of about a hundred hats she owns.
“The first thing I thought when I met him was, He’s normal, and he’s really, really smart,” said Mrs. Zizmor, who is forty-four years old, which makes her fourteen years younger than the real Dr. Zizmor, though about the same age as his subway representation. “I’m from Chicago, so I had no idea who Dr. Zizmor was. I told a friend of mine, and she said, ‘Zizmor! Jonathan Zizmor! He’s a big guy!’ I said, O.K., but I didn’t really get it.”
“She had never been on the subway,” Dr. Zizmor, who speaks in a shy mumble, said.
Not long after their honeymoon—Lake Como, Zurich, and Lugano—Mrs. Zizmor persuaded the reluctant Dr. Zizmor to leave Manhattan, where he had always lived, in favor of Riverdale. “We had a huge fight, but I really love it now,” he said.
“We bought the house to entertain and throw functions,” Mrs. Zizmor explained. “I just threw a Guardian Angels fund-raiser in our home, for Curtis Sliwa. We want to have great thinkers, and host parties that have authors.”
“Our rabbi uses the house for meetings,” Dr. Zizmor said. “This is going to sound weird, but we want to use it for world peace. We are going to invite people who hate each other, and they will spend a weekend together.”
Ah, love. When nothing is as it seems, when a hundred hats is too few, when 68 is the same as 44, when Curtis Sliwa is a great thinker.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:32 PM |

Strom Thurmond Can Rest Easy

It’s a crying shame that so many violent racists can’t read. Because if they could, they would be happy to learn that George Will has discovered that there really are no races or classes in the United States (Phew!) and that racists, white supremacists, anti-Semites and the like can close up shop and join some consumer advocacy group or the Green Party or something.

I think the trouble with that is that like many of his ilk, Will does not live in the same America that you and I do. He lives in a place where economic times are not tough, where those tax cuts really helped ease the burden, where pollution doesn’t bother anyone, where schools aren’t failing and where healthcare is affordable.

You see Will’s assertion that the “unreality of… racial and ethnic categories will become apparent,” will really only occur in his America.

A male rapist does not consider that a woman is made-up of 1 part man and 1 part woman when pondering his crime, he just sees a woman. More clearly, the cops who beat Rodney King did not stop and say, “How many of your grandparents are black?” They just beat him. And well, the Nazi’s didn’t really care if you considered yourself a German or not, they just killed you if they thought you were Jewish (you see Will forgot where all the Jewish immigrants he refers to came from).

Conversely, I wonder what a black, Hispanic, Jew, Italian etc would say if I went up to them and said, “You’re not really black, Hispanic, Jewish, Italian or even etc, you are American and you have no cultural, political or historic heritage whatsoever. Honest, George Will told me so.”

Does George Will view religion the same way he sees race?

Here’s a high school style approach: If Eugene’s African American grandmother practiced an ancient African religion and his Indian grandfather practiced Hinduism and his Caribbean grandmother adhered to Roman Catholicism and his Polish grandfather was a Jew is Eugene still, despite his dark complexion a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant and can he still own property in the Hamptons?

While pondering that, consider this if there are no real races in America anymore, then who will Will’s buddy Pat blame for all of America’s problems?

I don’t mean to be absurd in the face of George Will’s assessment of a colorless (a.k.a. white – although someone should point out to poor George that the absence of color is…?) America, you see, I like George Will. Like another George W. I know, he has a knack for taking complex issues and oversimplifying them so that even I can understand.

posted by Pinchas | 2:08 PM |

Recipe for Jerusalem Hummus at the Schocken website.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:54 PM |

There's a Teamsters van parked across the street from my apartment; if I never post again, you know why.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:06 PM |

It seems as though Elder Steve might have forgotten that the venerable publication "Blueprint" is headed by a former editor of that other bastion of jounalistic quality, The Stern College Observer. Because this site greatly reflects the views and opinions of former Commentator editors, one might wonder whether Protocols would ever be featured by the Blueprint...

posted by Pinchas | 12:50 PM |

It seems the word "Oy" has made it into the 11th edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. (via Yada) “It is a reflection of society’s changes,” President and publisher of Merriam-Webster, John M. Morse said." Right, because Yiddish culture is so much more pervasive now than it was 50 years ago?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:25 PM |

Hasidic Rebel rails against the Rabbis in Israel who turned down a $100 million vocational training program on the basis that "It is better that Torah students and young men live in poverty rather than wealth."

The rabbis of today who submit the population to lives of poverty are at best short-sighted with no leadership vision. At worst, they are power hungry hypocrites, afraid that higher education levels and economic prosperity would result in their losing control over the masses.
For HR's own sake, I hope nobody in his community ever figures him out. I'd imagine the neighborhood wouldn't take well to that sort of thing.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:11 PM |

The Onion's "What Do You Think" column focuses on the Mideast crisis. One of the "responses" was:

"Right now, they're just throwing rocks at each other, but it could get much worse: I've heard rumors that Israel has the boulder."
Um...I guess they haven't been keeping up with events in and around Israel since, oh, 1988 or so. Best response, by the way:
"Boy, whoever's mediating these discussions sure does suck."
(via Styx)

Elder I points out that he already posted this. Oops.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:03 PM |

Today we're going to pass 20,000 hits since we put in the counter. It's been a gradual growth, but we now have several hundred loyal readers. Thank you.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:19 AM |

The New York Times picks up the story from the Forward and Jewish Week about National Council of Young Israel's efforts to sell their HQ building, which would mean closing down/moving the Young Israel of 5th Avenue (located in the building), which is resisting.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 8:13 AM |

Washington Post had a whole big piece on Joe Lieberman yesterday. Among other things, most of which were printed back in 2000, Lieberman responded to reporters questions by saying that, yes, Virginia, a Lieberman-run White Hose would still sport both a Christmas tree and an Easter Egg Roll. We can only wait to see if the Jewish Press picks this up...

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 8:09 AM |

Not really related to anything, but really funny anyway: Stephen Hawking runs over Jim Cary's foot (via UK Sun).

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 7:54 AM |

Our President the Prophet (via Haaretz):

According to Abbas, immediately thereafter Bush said: "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:20 AM |

Sunday, June 29, 2003  

Pejman is taking the whole Dowd-ellipses thing a bit too far. But it's funny.

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

Imshin's obsessed with Professor Wilkie. Start there & scroll down.

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

Meredith's going nuts waiting for her LSAT score. Though this might decrease my tough-guy quotient: Elder Sam and I were singing along to the same song not long ago as we drove from the house his family's leaving to the Heights; we felt very sentimental.

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

Onion "Person on the Street," on "Mayhem in the Mideast." (via Cypess' mom)
They're all hilarious, for different reasons (except the first one).

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:06 PM |

Leaf Over Worm is preparing for Gimmel Tammuz, the yahrtzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:02 PM |

Israpundit has moved.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:55 PM |

Joanathan Edelstein is pondering the nature of terrorism, Part I.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:49 PM |

Our spy at the Blueprint says we won't be in their second article on Jewish bloggers. Maybe they're saving the best for last?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:43 PM |

Note to Brian Blum: insert permalinks!

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:38 PM |

Didn't see this at the time, but, cool. Ephraim links to Jerusalem's chareidi mayor speaking out against those chareidim that stone cars on Shabbas.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 5:35 PM |

Moving beyond just pressuring politicians, Christians from Denver go to Ariel to help them plant vinyards. Plot thickens.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 5:31 PM |

SIW Rushkoff Post #4
The third chapter is where Rushkoff really loses his credibility. In my first post, I wondered just what theological arguments he would make; in my second post, I found those theological arguments wanting; In my third post, I explained how his narrative was offensive and lacked justification. But all along, because his book lacks footnotes and has a five-page bibliography most of which I know I haven't read, there was the problem that his book seemed to make odd claims, but none of them could be immediately debunked. It was conceivable, after all, that he had wound an incredibly intricate Web of ideas that worked within the Jewish tradition -- extremely unlikely in a book so bereft of justification, but conceivable nonetheless.
And then he has this paragraph:

These are the styles of Torah analysis that were available to the layperson only after the advent of literary criticism in the twentieth century. They are the very same techniques the European orthodoxy blamed for compromising the Torah's authority in the relativistic haze of modernist philosophy. In fairness to such stalwars, though, we must empathize with the threat they were feeling to their authority as the exclusive translators of the Torah's wisdom to the masses and decadent seculars. Yet even if their intentions were noble, they were nonetheless incapable of lifting themselves from the two-dimensional map they were using to understand Judaism and embrace a renaissance sensibility. They weren't ready, even if the Torah was.
What new, innovative style of Torah analysis is he discussing here? A simplistic comparison of the text of Deuteronomy to the text of Exodus, showing how the text in one place can be used to infer from that in another. There are only two ways to deal with Rushkoff's statement here: either he is unaware of the existence of the Thirteen Hermeneutical Principles used pretty much since the dawn of Jewish text, or he is unaware of the permeation that Bible study had in Jewish communities. Choosing the latter would mean he's contradicting earlier-stated ideas regarding the univerality of literacy in the Jewish community, a major point of his; choosing the former would simply allow for his ignorant argument to co-exist alongside a true literacy in Jewish text. The latter seems far more likely -- especially when you add in another paragraph from this chapter.
He compares the difference in perception of the cartographer and the surfer, and asks which would be preferable for getting one back to shore (siding with the surfer, obviously); his point here isn't so important as what comes next. He writes:
The most primitive attempts to analyze Torah in this way were performed by the medieval mystics, who sought to find numerical correspondences to the characters in the text. But such crude and overly concretized systems of analysis yielded results more like conspiracy theory than dimensional life. Modern efforts in this vein, such as The Bible Code, substitute Nostradamus-like, one-to-one correspondences for genuine textual analysis as a way of proving that the Torah predicted, say, the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. These misguided forms of study are born out of the impulse to work with the Torah as a multidimensional object, but they use the tools of a hopelessly linear age and are steeped in the false and obsolete goal of affirming the text's authority as revelation. Six hundred thousand characters in the Torah confirms, somehow, the existence of six hundred thousand witnesses on Mount Sinai. Tit for tat.
In this chapter, where he puts in so much effort to present his "new" ideas for Biblical interpretation, he so profoundly screws up by ignoring the Jewish tradition of textual analysis that he becomes either irresponsibly unaware or aggressively censorious -- either way, he throws credibility out the window in a way that he hadn't as yet. It takes a lot of gall to use a millenia-old textual analysis of gezeira shava ("textual equivalence") against the people who invented it by pretending you're the first to hatch it. A tremendous amount of gall.
He's still caught up in his dogmatic approaches (of course, having the gall to describe the predecessors he's ignorant of but criticizing anyway as dogmatic). And the laughably feeble nature in which he continues to cling to them is distressing. On page 123, he asks, "Mightn't it be the most daring step yet for us to declare the absolute victory of God?" And then, almost like a punchline (I laughed), follows it up with, "Can we yet see him in everything and everyone?"
Him? Him? Don't you mean her or he/she or they? How universal is him? Not universal at all, really, which goes to emphasize how dogmatic and exclusive his approach is. He falls all over himself in this book, and this was his most comedic slip.
As Avraham notes, Rushkoff does push forward his universality theory in a way that's not quite so abrasive as it could be. He advocates dropping "Judaism" from the values, so that they can become truly universal. He somewhat abandons that by having Jews take credit for his Trinity throughout the book, however. Why he even needs Jewish ideas and texts to arrive at his preconceived conclusions is beyond me. Perhaps he's just as ignorant of the liberal tradition as he is of Judaism.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:00 PM |

Vanity Post!

I am pleased to announce that it seems that googling "Avraham Bronstein" now returns the links to 1) My personal home page and 2) protocols, respectively, at the top of the results list. No longer are those trying to research my online persona distracted by this picture of "Avraham Bronstein's pharmacy" found in the memorial site for the Jewish community of Yedintzi, Bessarabia.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:35 PM |

[Part 1 of My Post on Chapter III]
Well, time to tackle Chaper 3 of Rushkoff - A Renaissance Tradition.

The first section deals with Rushkoff's abridged version of Jewish history, where he claims that at every point of crisis Judaism has managed to reinterpret itself and flourish and calls for a similar renaissance now to deal with the issue of the "Lapsed Jews". In very broad strokes, he's on target here. Ancient Judaism was clearly designed in response to the prevailing cultures of the time. That is why studying the parallel cultures and texts very often proves helpful in interpreting a biblical reference. Still, Rushkoff oversimplifies by claiming that the response always boils down to human rights, "life", and Social Justice. From the Divine declaration of perpetual war on the nation of Amaleq in Exodus to the more or less genocidal wars fought by the "mythical" Israelites in Numbers (even leaving Deuteronomy out of the picture), its very clear that ancient Judaism wasn't all about life. Hammurabi allows a husband to forgive his adulterous wife while the Torah puts her to death even over her husband's heartfelt protests. Which is more pro-life? [Read Finkelstein's classic article "Bible and Babel" for a comparison of Bablyonian and Jewish law, where he says that the difference is that the former saw law in human terms (so if the husband forgives the wife, its all ok) and the latter saw law in divine terms (so adultery is a sin regardless of whether its ok with the husband). This definitely indicates a God-centric focus, not a Social Justice For Its Own Sake focus. If anything, halakha is less progressive in this case.] Another example of his historical steamrolling:

Likewise, replacing the sanctity of the harvest with that of the Torah put an unprecedented emphasis on the laws through which people interacted with one another, instead of the rites they used to coerce their gods into providing for them....[this development] helped launch the inquiry into abstract monotheism and its many implications, by forcing people to relate not to the rain or the soil as proof of God's benevolence, but to his prescriptions for human behavior. The Jewish God still made demands of his people, but these demands were now no longer directed toward his own deification. God's commands were reborn in the context of ethics and social justice. (p.89)
I don't know. The barley and wheat sacrifices (passover, pentecost), first fruit offerings (pentecost), lulav and esrog, water libation (tabernacles), etc. all seem to indicate that the overriding purpose of the festivals, if not to coerce God into providing a good agricultural year, was to thank Him for each just-completed harvest. The emphasis definitely seems to be on the recognition that God is the ultimate cause of good or bad crops, and that the harvest depends on the nation's service of Him. If anything, this serves to reinforce the notion that the rain and soil are proofs of God's benevolence. You'll notice that I refrained from quoting the Shema, which makes this point explicit, since I'm playing by Rushkoff's rules of Biblical Criticism which seem to state that Deutoronomy was a later reform. This is despite the fact that Rushkoff himself violates his own rules. On page 89 he quotes "choose life" from Deutoronomy to make a point about pre-Deutoronomic Judaism, and on page 88 he discusses how Shavuot had been converted from a celebration of the barley harvest into a celebration of the giving of the Torah at Sinai, despite the fact that this non-agricultural reason does not appear in any sources at all until rabbinic times, when there was no Temple or wheat harvest but there was still a need for something to celebrate. Conversely, Rushkoff claims that the "chosen people" idea originated with Josiah and Deutoronomy, when it actually goes back to Exodus (19:5). Of course, Rushkoff never tells us what his criticial or historical assumptions or sources are in the first place, but we're used to that by now. This steamrolling only gets worse as history progresses:
If Temple Judaism was a literal performance of the Torah's rites, rabbinic Judaism was a metaphoric suggestion of their importance. Overwhelming evidence suggests that Jews did not understand the Torah literally, but saw in its mythology an allegory to their own experience of defeat and Diaspora. They may well have been their God not as a real entity, like the Gods of the people among whom they lived, but as a metaphor, too. The rabbis certainly understood that Jewish rituals do not serve God, whatever he may be. They serve humans in their effort to embody and enact a more God-like, or at least God-approved, way of living. (p.96-7)
Again, no supporting evidence, no examples, no sources. Just a somewhat dogmatic statement intended to encapsulate 700 years of writing, thought and development. Not the best way to make a point.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:57 PM |

[Part 2 of My Post on Chapter III]

After the familiar argument we've seen before in the previous chapters -- that Orthodox Jews are too closed and fundamentalist and that the progressives tend to hate religious institutions -- Rushkoff concludes that we need a new Renaissance, totally rewriting what it means to be Jewish based on the issues of today. Of course, the ones to be doing this rewriting would be the lapsed Jews, since they apparently have the greatest understanding of what Judaism's all about. In his own words:

..Such an inquiry could not be taken lightly. In order to reengineer a religion, we will have to know it forward and backward. Its not a matter of picking and choosing what we like and cavalierly discarding the rest. We would have to look at the whole thing and educate ourselves enough to be able to do so with some intellgence and perspective. (p.103)
So its not just a matter of picking out what we like. First we have to learn what's there, and then we can pick out what we like.

What he might learn from such a backwards and forwards analysis of Judaism is that it has been constantly evolving over the course of the last x thousand years. There is an entire scholarly field dedicated to the history of halakha. The only difference is that Rushkoff wants things to change immediately, while normative Judaism works through slow, steady communal evolution. In other words, a close parallel to early Reform v. then-normative Judaism. Nothing new here. On pages 113-116, he discusses the notion that some parts of Torah are actually commentaries or references to other parts, something that he claims could only have been known to the moderns, with our advanced literary techniques. In fact, Daniel Boyarin's "Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash" proves that the earliest rabbis were aware of the Torah's self-glossing nature and used it extensively in their own midrash, something which seems to have slipped Rushkoff's attention. So much for his revolutionary new perspective.

He does have a novel point, though. A lot of the more recent progressive Jewish groups have hit a wall when they define Judaism as a millenia-old social justice movement. The problem is the obvious next question, namely, so now that we have the progressive ideas (in their purest distilled forms), why do we need any of the religious or ethnic "Jewish" baggage? Rushkoff's response is -- "good point". Now that lapsed Jews are the ones who really get it, the next step is to redefine Judaism to fit the description of a non-religious/affiliated, lapsed, progressive.

What if Judaism were the first religion on the block to let go -- at least of that specific map we're currently mistaking for our religion? We pride ourselves on being the most radical house of worship on the street, the oldest religion in the West, and the most developed. Mightn't it be the most daring step yet for us to declare the absolute victory of our nameless, shapeless, universal conception of God? Maybe assimilation of this sort isn't a failure, but our best strategy for the global dissemination of our values. (p.123)
Of course, now we have to wonder what all the talk was about making Judaism relevent again. All we had to do is redefine what being "Jewish" means in the first place. We win by closing up shop. But we're not really closing up shop, after all, we need to renaissance. This is where he really gets inconsistent. If the religious and ethnic stuff is important, so deal with it. If not, be happy and content with your progessiveness. Rushkoff wants both, though, and if he's the only person who *really* understands what's going on, then so be it.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:55 PM |

You Don't Have to Be Jewish to Eat Kosher, at least according to Saturday's NYT.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:52 AM |

I just got back from a long Shabbas, so my next Rushkoff-related post may have to wait till Sunday. Stay tuned. Also, I may rewrite my last major rushkoff post, since, reading it over, it seems as if writing it just before dashing off before shabbas hurt its coherence a little.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:46 AM |
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