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

Saturday, July 12, 2003  

Jerry Falwell on American law (via WND):

While leftists will not acknowledge it, present American law fundamentally reflects biblical tenets, including the Ten Commandments. In order to alter these time-honored laws that sanction the Judeo-Christian vision of marriage, constitutional revisionists are on a quest to secularize America and subsequently destroy the values that characterized the nation for most of its glorious history.
Falwell was obviously talking about the Texas sodomy case in particular, but I wonder if he thinks that outlawing slavery was an act of secularization that severed America from its Biblical roots?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:35 PM |

Friday, July 11, 2003  

AKS has returned.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:11 PM |

Translation of an interview with Who Killed Daniel Pearl? author and philosophy superstar Bernard Henri-Levy. (via Mirandica)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:10 PM |

Reader Duvie responds to the karaite baseball leagues with an eloquent email that ended thusly:

I know the past is irretrievable, and we must make our accomodation with the present (where fortunately baseball remains in many ways what is was), etc., but I say good on them for upholding tradition and celebrating baseball's halcyon days! Even if I cannot escape Longfellow's lament,

We may build more spendid habitations,
Fill our rooms with paintings and with sculptures, But we cannot
Buy with gold the old associations
If anybody doubts the literacy of our readership, so there!

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 4:22 PM |

Parsha Senryu, Parshas Chukas:

Didn't make it to Balak on my subway ride. Here are senryu on Chukas.

Double-parsha time;
Too much anticipation.
Waiting for kiddush.

Inexplicable laws, these.
Have to follow them.(19:2)

Parah adumah,
That special red heiffer.
Purification. (19:2)

"Hizah," to flick it.
As contrasted with "Huzzah,"
Is known from cricket.(19:4)

He croaks -- we're impure.
Where is the fairness in that?
Let him die outside. (19:14)

Miriam's well's gone.
"A family member dies,
And you insult me." (20:1-2)

God: "Talk to the rock."
Omits the prerequisite,
"Toke lots of ganja." (20:8)

"The Biting Seraphs"
Not quite as scary as, say,
"The Fiery Demons." (21:6)

You want to be healed?
Just look at the Seraph post.
Reverse Medusa. (21:8)

Write your own parsha senryu! They are three-line poems that have a 5-7-5 syllabic structure. Write for next week's parsha, Pinchas, and send thim in by Thursday night; the best will be included.
Include your senryu on Pinchas in the comments to this post -- and this post only -- and the best will be chosen for inclusion in next week's edition. To receive Parsha Senryu by e-mail, send a message to .
Senryu will also be posted at Mimaamakim.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:26 PM |

Quest for Truth in the White House Redux

CBS News Reports:

The statement was technically correct, since it accurately reflected the British paper. But the bottom line is the White House knowingly included in a presidential address information its own CIA had explicitly warned might not be true.
I guess it really all depends on what your definition of ‘truth’ is

“There was no effort or attempt on the part of the president or anyone else in the administration to mislead or to deceive the American people,” said Powell… But eight days after the State of the Union, when Powell addressed the U.N., he deliberately left out any reference to Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa… “I didn’t use the uranium at that point because I didn’t think that was sufficiently strong as evidence to present before the world,” Powell said.
I see, presenting less than strong evidence to the US Congress and the American People is okay, you just can’t do it to the world. It is a crying shame to see a man (Colin Powell) who was once held in such high esteem by so many Americans completely embarrass himself for something he may not ever have really believed in. On to the AP’s account:

If CIA Director George Tenet had any misgivings about that sentence in the president's speech, "he did not make them known" to Bush or his staff, said Condoleezza Rice.
I don’t understand how a man who never saw the final draft of the speech is being used as clearance. “Shtikah K’hodaah” (loosely: the Talmudic precept whereby we are permitted to assume that a person agrees with what was said if he remains silent after it was said) can only work if the person being silent actually heard what was said but CBS reports:

The top CIA official, Director George Tenet, was not involved in those discussions and apparently never warned the President he was on thin ice… intelligence officials say the director of the CIA never saw the final draft.
Back to the AP:
Bush, asked during a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni here how erroneous material had ended up in the address, said, "I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services." He did not answer when pressed again on how it wound up in his speech.
With all do respect Mr. President, your supporters credit you with being a man who only does what he wants and believes is correct and now I we are saying “the CIA made me do it.” Please sir, your predecessor and our dear friend Mr. Harry S. Truman once said of the Oval Office, “The buck stops here.”
Rice said "the CIA cleared the speech in its entirety."
So wait, now your are telling us that the CIA made a mistake about a pretty serious piece of intelligence, namely that Iraq was seeking uranium. Did they also make such mistakes about the Saddam Hussein – 9/11 link? Or what about the WMD evidence? How many precepts for going to war were cleared erroneously by the CIA? Or were they?
"If the CIA - the director of central intelligence - had said 'Take this out of the speech,' it would have been gone," Rice said. "We have a high standard for the president's speeches."
Excuse me, I thought we established that Mr. Tenet did not see the speech in its final form. And is it just me or does it sound like she is hanging up the Director of Central Intelligence?
When queried on reports that the CIA expressed concern to the White House about the allegation, she suggested that Tenet should be asked directly. "I'm not blaming anyone here," Rice said.
Ah ha! So you are hanging up the Director of Central Intelligence, Ms. Rice should know better than that, so much for loyalty and strength in ranks of the Bush team.
Asked whether Bush still had confidence in the intelligence agency, Rice replied, "Absolutely."
Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice…
If anyone at the CIA had doubts about the veracity of the uranium-Iraq allegation, Rice said, "those doubts were not communicated to the president."
Who were they communicated to and why didn’t they tell the president?

And why all of this concentration on the CIA? Colin Powell must have known something was wrong with that intel, he didn’t use it in his presentation at the UN.
Powell, however, did not discuss his misgivings with her or anyone on her staff between the time of the State of the Union address and Powell's presentation to the United Nations, she said.
Do you see nuance? Between the State of the Union address and the presentation at the UN. But what about before the State of the Union address? That is the time period we are discussing aren’t we?

Wow, you have to be impressed with Ms. Rice’s maneuvering. The Wizard of Bush, Karl Rove is really outdoing himself this time around.
…she acknowledged that Secretary of State Colin Powell had reservations about the report and chose not to mention the allegations in his Iraq presentation to the U.N. Security Council a few days later…Rice did say that the State Department's intelligence division considered the uranium-purchasing allegations dubious, and this was also noted in a footnote in an intelligence assessment given to Bush.
Wait, so the president did know that the uranium-purchasing allegation was dubious and he was told about it. But it didn’t come from George Tenet so it doesn’t count? Oh, now I understand. Phew! For a while there I thought something went wrong.

If the Sunday morning talk shows are even half as good as Friday has been, we are in for a great weekend!

posted by Pinchas | 12:19 PM |

Its about time that we linked to FrumTalk, who doesn't post that often, although he does have an interesting discussion about nepotism in the yeshiva system v. YU on his blog right now.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:11 AM |

The Chareidi World takes steps towards stopping one of the newest, greatest threats to its very existence -- people are bringing cellphones in the kollels and having conversations on them in the hallways. Thankfully, this dastardly situation was rectified, and the leaders of that world took pains to outlaw the cellphones in the kollels, ensuring that their students will again have no daily involvement with the outside world, which apparently now includes their wives and kids. The Chareidi media was on the case, covering all the important ramifications of this sweeping decision

Yated Ne'eman: How are women to cope with the new takonos? Are they too restrictive?

Rav Marmoresh (a dayan in the beis din of HaRav Nissim Karelitz and the menahel ruchani of Kollel Breslev in Bnei Brak): Chazal say women are rewarded for waiting for their husbands to come home from the beis medrash. Today sometimes the situation is reversed: the husband waits for a ring from home. Under this state of affairs we are robbing the woman of her reward! I think it's a shame to take away their reward and their partnership in Torah. The takonos will merely bring us back to the situation of a few years ago.
Incidentally, there used to be a sign outside the YU Beis Midrash (it was taken down when they cleared the bulletin boards before the summer) telling people to turn their phones to silent, but isn't that just an issue of common courtesy?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:00 AM |

Thursday, July 10, 2003  

Finally, I get around to Rushkoff's final chapter.

Basically, he spends 70 pages suggesting and describing various approaches towards practicing Judaism in its truest, most progressive forms. He hits the nail on the head in the opening pages

Inspired by the notion of an autonomous and participatory relationship to halakha, an eldery gentleman at one of my lectures politely raised his hand. "I want to stop doing the Judaism they tell me to do. So please tell me, what should I do instead?" What could I possibly have offered him that wouldn't amount to a proposal for a new set of sacred rules and absolute truths (p.179)
Exactly. Unfortunately, the next paragraph beings "Nevertheless..." I really don't understand. I thought the point was to ultimately dissolve Judaism into a set of ideals. So why maintain any particularistic elements at all? If the point is to spur individual or communal discussion based on old texts that contain progessive nuggets, then why suggest any sort of program at all? Shouldn't we all be free to arrive at the Judaism that we all find most meaningful? By choosing the narrative that we have, why have BTs and institutional Jews missed the point?

Later on, we start discussing God, which Rushkoff finally defines as, well, essentially Jimminy Cricket. But don't worry:

Even if we go so far as to adopt a form of athiesm, like the many moden, practical Jews who believe in nothing but the secular humanism of social justice, then the God of hineni still has a role in providing us with a metaphoric scheme -- a model -- for understanding such pusuits in a religious context. (p.186)
But why, then, would we want to understand these pursuits in a religious context in the first place? There's no explanation forthcoming, just an unspoken assumption that the Jewish religion is important, even as we try to dissolve it into what Rushkoff defined as its core values.

Rushkoff continues to develop his post-theology theology, into saying that his social justice-based system solves the problem of evil in the world. There is no such thing as evil, only the absence of good people doing good things. Our job is to develop good everywhere. Of course, R. Kook did not get a footnote, biblio reference, or citation here (although we did bash R. Kook in the chapter about Zionism).

I agree with Rushkoff (!!) in when he applies his open-source Judaism in terms of discussion and the constant search for meaning in ritual and law. We should be always searching for meaning in Judaism, struggling when something doesn't fit the way we'd like it to be. However, when you just change whatever you want (practice or meaning) whenever it doesn't align with the ideals you brought into your discussion, then you may as not be having the discussion in the first place. If all Shabbas is is a day off from work (to celebrate Judaism's early obsession with human rights), then there's really no reason to make kiddush, is there? If we can deconstruct the Unesaneh Tokef piyut and then recite it as an assertion of the essential randomness and lack of meaning in the universe (as a shul he describes on pages 224-5 once did), then why bother saying it at all? What's the point of binding yourself to a tradition if you get the option of changing the tradition on a whim whenever you happen not to agree with it?

As leaders of our own ceremonies, particularly in the home, we have the authority to update them however we choose so they make more sense to us and our families -- as long as we base our decisions on our best efforts to understand the ritual's intended effects in its original context. (p.222)
Who decides what it originally meant? What if I can think of a much more progressive meaning for something that contradicts its original intent. What about the rest of Judaism, that doesn't have a quick, glib progressive meaning?

What Rushkoff ultimately fails to undestand is that Judaism has always been adapting and progressing, and has always been in dialog with its cultural contexts. There isn't a need for some sudden renaissance for the simple reason that we're going to get wherever we're going to be getting anyway. Rushkoff is pressing for a revolution because he wants to dictate where we all go, and that dictation, in and of itself, contradicts his basic open-dialog premise. In the end, he never answers the contradiction he raises in the very beginning. If Judaism is all about progressive values, then now that we have the values, who needs the religion? What does the religion have beyond the progressive values that we need, and why do we care about keeping it alive -- as Rushkoff obviously does?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:08 PM |

Brilliant NYT article about traditionalist baseball leagues -- that play by the 19th century rules:

A tall man in a black frock coat, a gray striped waistcoat and a top hat marched onto the field of mowed weeds and, in front of 200 fans arrayed on rough-hewn stadium benches, bellowed: "Gentlemen, have you selected hurlers?"

The question was posed by Jim Mossgraber, umpire for this game of "base ball" under the rules of 1866, when pitchers were known as hurlers, gloves had not been invented and a ball caught after one bounce was an out.
Read the whole article -- you won't be able to help but smile. Trust me. For the Jewish tie-in: at what cost do we try to preserve tradition, or do we assume that God made sure that baseball evolved in a certain way? Are these people baseball karaites? (Jewish tie-in courtesy of an AIM discussion with Friend of The Elders Elliot)

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:34 PM |

Kesher Talk links to a brilliant Thomas Friedman parody:

What's my point? I don't actually have one--but opening my columns with strings of clichéd cultural juxtapositions really cuts down my workload. You see, since the Cold War ended, we've gone from superpowers to spreadsheets, Pershings to Pentiums, the Berlin Wall to suburban sprawl, olive trees to Lexuses. Are you ready? Because the whole world is changing. Unless you are one of the eight-tenths of humanity who at this moment are either hungry, illiterate, or field-stripping an AK-47, in which case I'll get back to you in some future column.
So well put, it almost sounds like one of his NPR interviews.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:14 PM |

Interesting little feature at Navah's blog: quotes she finds during the week.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:18 PM |

We really should've posted more on Silvio Berlusconi's Nazi comments, but until that time, check out what Tom Paine at Silent Running has to say.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:39 PM |

Balagan's one year aliyah-versary.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:31 PM |

Letter from Gotham, "Diana Moon" is back. I owe her an e-mail; maybe I'll just blog it now. Go visit and so forth.

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

For those of you interested in so-called academic approaches to the study of Talmud, you should check out, the new home on the web for Rabbi Dr. Pinchas Haymen's "Revadim" program for teaching high schoolers gemara through an awareness of the historical development of the sugya. Fascinating website, good links.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 6:21 PM |

U-Teshuva, U-Tefilah...aren't going to help Michael Savage get his TV show back, it seems. Then again, the quote that got him thrown overboard at MSNBC

"Oh, you're one of the sodomites! You should only get AIDS and die, you pig! How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig? You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage? You got nothing to do today? Go eat a sausage and choke on it. Get trichinosis. OK, got another nice caller here who's busy because he didn't have a nice night in the bathhouse and is angry at me today?"
is probably worth a few months in perdition.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 6:04 PM |

The Quest for Truth in the White House

Today, Secretary of State Colin Powell restated what administration officials have been yelling all week, the president does not have to apologize for statements he made before the war that are now being proved false.

Let’s look at this for a second shall we: The president stands before the nation looks the camera dead in the lens and makes a statement as unequivocally as possible. Some time passes and the statement is proved to be 100% false.

Soon, people in the other party and even some people in his party call on him to make an accounting for his deception. The president refuses. Articles are written. Pundits talk.

Supporters claim that the misdeed is irrelevant because the country is in good shape, the president was justified in what he said and did and he is doing a good job. Detractors claim that the nation’s credibility is at stake, that this president can no longer lead, that he cannot serve as an effective commander-in-chief and that our children can no longer look to him to do the right thing.

A short time later Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about an affair with a young White House intern.

What will come of George W. Bush, those who provided him with this faulty intelligence and those who suggested he use it to justify armed conflict?

Only time, the stomach of the American people and the will of his enemies will tell.

posted by Pinchas | 5:59 PM |

The Quest for Truth in Reporting

On Monday, headlines were made when Palestinian security officials declared to the world that they had arrested a would-be suicide bomber. This, if ever, was a sign that the Palestinian authorities were truly interested in making peace with the Israeli’s and that they were working hard to maintain the cease-fire. Palestinian officials used this incident and subsequent public support to place the onus on the Israelis to release more Palestinian prisoners than originally planned.

A day later buried in the second to last paragraph of an article that made page four the New York Times reluctantly brings the truth to light:

Palestinian security officials gave conflicting accounts on Monday of what some said was the arrest of a would-be suicide bomber. Officials of National Security, one of several overlapping Palestinian security organizations, said they had arrested an 18-year-old woman who was planning a suicide attack after her family found a letter she had left that described her intentions.

They said they caught her near the Karni crossing between the Gaza Strip, which is fenced, and Israel.

But a senior official with the Palestinian Preventive Security, another organization, said the young woman had left behind a note describing her troubles with her family and had then run off. Her family notified the police, he said.

"We found her crying," the official said. "She was sitting there and crying."

He said security officers had questioned the woman, who was not carrying an explosive, and then released her.

I am not yet sure what amazes me more: the public’s willingness to be duped, or the media’s willingness to be duped.

posted by Pinchas | 5:19 PM |

Buy a piece of Washington Heights for cheap. The fourth plot here is at 167 & Amsterdam, has an assessed value of $7,632, but you need to have $23,800 to be an eligible buyer -- opening bid is $1,000.
Of course, the Bronx is yet cheaper.
(via Gawker)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:24 PM |

Leonard Fein writes a Forward op-ed about Israel and the Palestinians using the siamese twins metaphor. Implication being that a seperation that can kill both twins (ie, plunge boths sides into an even worse situation) is preferable to maintaining the current status quo. Also, he questions Sharon's motives, but not Abbas', which struck me as unfair.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:58 PM |

Reader SWMNBN sends in NYT on Jewish pop bands. It discusses Soulfarm and the Moshav Band; typically, they're about three years too late, and these bands really aren't popular anymore.

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

Rushkoff writes the same op-ed to the Forward. The act's getting a bit tired...His basic point is that the Powers That Be keep things intentionally confusing and obtuse so they can remain in power

Increasingly opaque computer interfaces were developed, reversing the demystification of media enabled by the joystick and other tools. Put simply, our computers were reconfigured so that receiving became ever easier, while creating became much more complicated. An early DOS computer user tended to understand a lot about how his computer stored information and launched programs. Now, to install a new program, users must consult "the wizard," the perfect metaphor for the computer's remystification. By the late 1990s, the do-it-yourself ethic of the early Internet community was replaced by the value of commerce.
But how many millions of people now use computers who couldn't in the DOS days? In his own book, he makes a big deal about Judasim operating on multiple levels. So, we have the hackers, the power users, the business users, and the home users. Remember, not everyone is into the medium qua the medium. Some people want to use computers as a tool to get where they want to go.
But Judaism doesn't offer pat answers to life's biggest questions. Our tradition favors open-ended inquiry over unilateral decree. Like any genuinely spiritual path, it just leads to more questions. Sadly, the Microsofts among our Jewish institutions that could be fueling this inquiry instead cling desperately to the most static and pre-ordained versions of religious and communal doctrine. Obsessing on numbers, intermarriage, assimilation and Israel, they teach something closer to ethnocentrism than pluralism, stressing what we should be doing for Judaism — rather than what Judaism can do for the world.
Of course, if there were no institutions, then tons of Jews would have no way of connecting to Judaism in the first place, the same way that millions of people wouldn't even own computers today if it weren't for Microsoft. The secretary who uses word and outlook isn't "missing the point" of her computer as opposed to, say, an MIT engineer. She has certain needs, and uses a computer to get there. Assimilation has gotten us to the point where if someone decides that s/he doesn't need Judaism, then thats it. The fact that someone is associated with a Jewish institution in the first place demonstrates that a) they need/want something and b) this institution is helping them, in some form or fashion, get there. Obviously, some people are more or less sophisticated than others when it comes to what they need and what they want to take. Welcome to life, and leave us alone.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:32 AM |

Jewish Ombudsman: Boycott the Boycott. My latest at Jewsweek

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

NYT runs a story on the funny Lutherian minister in Denmark:

Thorkild Grosboll, a popular Lutheran pastor in this village by the sea, drags on his pipe and clarifies once and for all: "I do not believe in a physical God, in the afterlife, in the resurrection, in the Virgin Mary."

"And I believe that Jesus was a nice guy, who figured out what man wanted," Mr. Grosboll said. "He embodied what he believed was needed to upgrade the human being."
This guy and Rushkoff could have a great conversation.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:17 AM |

Joel Lieberman wins $100G in the NY Lottery.

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

Wednesday, July 09, 2003  

I was all set to finally post my reaction to the last chapter in rushkoff's book when I realized that I didn't remember it that well from when I'd first read it. Since I'm laining this week (double parsha and all), got back late from a sheva berakhos, and keep a pretty busy schedule as it is, it'll have to wait till tomorrow or Friday. I know this comes as a blow to everyone that was anxiously awaiting the end of the rushkoff era at protocols.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:47 PM |

Interesting story about a jailed Russian businessman (contract murders and kidnappings) who remains a huge property owner and benefactor of the Russian Jewish community in the jewish-times.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:59 PM |

Snape would only shake his head and deduct 25 points:

A woman set her Madrid home on fire Wednesday as she cooked up a potion in an attempt to imitate the fictional wizard Harry Potter, emergency services said.

The 21-year-old was rescued by firemen and treated for minor injuries, but half her home was destroyed.

The ambulance service said she had told them she was trying to emulate the boy magician, hero of the books by J K Rowling that have been a sensation among adults and children alike.

For want of more magical ingredients, the woman cooked up a potion of water, oil, alcohol and toothpaste, local media reported. It was unclear what spell she was trying to weave.
(via Sun-Sentinal)

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:57 PM |

If anybody had any faith left in politicians' integrity, let this be a warning to you (via Jewish Press)

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon earlier this week found himself in the unusual position of being accused by Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres of making too many concessions to the Palestinians.

Peres, the architect of the Oslo diplomatic process and one of Israel’s foremost advocates of negotiated compromise with the Palestinians, lit into Sharon at a Labor Party bureau meeting in Tel Aviv.

“The Likud conceded everything without even beginning negotiations after declaring that they wouldn’t conduct negotiations under fire,” Peres said.
At the same time, Peres called for the immediate removal of all settlements in the Gaza Strip. He said there are 1.2 million Palestinians and 5,000 settlers there today, which will double in 12 years, leaving 10,000 settlers to deal with 2.4 million Palestinians. “Gaza settlements provide no security and simply do not make sense,” he said.
Not bad for doublespeak.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:37 PM |

Elder Kraut, engaged:

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:08 PM |

Dumped in the middle of this article on James Woods' history television show, we learn that the Battle of Valley Forge was filmed in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Also in the same article, we learn that during the plague years, "space for the dead grew so scant that the pope consecrated the Rhone river as a burial ground."

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:09 PM |

Before it disappears, want to blog this article about an appeal to Jewish ethnicity in a City Council race. One gets the sense that only a Sephardi could think this up. And only Gary Ackerman could call it racist.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:41 PM |

A bit early this week, but who cares? Time for fun with the Jewish Press Letters Section!! This week features the requisite angry response to Yaakov Stern from a wife who likes having a hotel cook her Pesach meals, thank you, a letter from the Joe Lieberman who lives in Brooklyn (who is NOT a Democrat), and a letter from a Rabbi Yakov Lazaros who thinks we should write Bush anti-road map letters because Evangelical Christians do, and if they're doing it, well golly, we should be too. Also another good pro-BT letter by Chananya. But the Stupid Letter Of The Week goes to Kenneth H. Ryesky, who writes in response to the responses to his first Gideon Busch letter, which won top honors two weeks ago. He's pro-Busch, and although his letter is about 17 pages long, I've excerpted the best bits.

Unfortunately, the victim was the same Gidone Busch whose company we had come to enjoy, except that the news media had put an extremely negative slant on his mental condition. Gidone Busch`s name rarely appeared in the press without being accompanied by adjectives such as "mentally disturbed" or "hammer-wielding" (or even, as used in Yated Ne`eman, "mentally deranged."). While such descriptive words may be true in the strict technical sense, their use in the news stories served to paint a contorted and corrupt image of Gidone Busch. And that played right into the hands of the New York Police Department, for it gave an air of justification to the brutal killing of Gidone

...just as Jews born and raised in assimilated American homes have been ingrained with certain inaccurate and negative images of religious Jews, there can be little doubt that Jews who are frum from birth carry certain biases regarding non-observant Jews, and such biases can exist in ways that their bearers do not realize...

As for Mr. Steinhart`s contention that The Jewish Press is "wrong-headed" to continue reporting developments in the Gidone Busch story: if reprisal of the Gidone Busch story is "wrong-headed" then it is six million times as wrong-headed to keep dredging up the Holocaust which occurred in Europe over a half century ago. And just as the magic disappearance of all Holocaust articles from the news media would further certain agendas, so too would the disappearance of the Gidone Busch story from the news media.

The first paragraph is a doozy. Sure, he was a psychotic wielding a hammer, but come on, its all about perception. The anti-BT bias definitely exists, but to blame something like Gideon Busch on is being just a bit paranoid. And to compare Busch to the Holocaust, well, I don't know what to say.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:11 PM |

In the continuing "Hey, is that guy Jewish?" game, Yada catches another one, the disgraced Michael Savage. His last name's Wiener!
(Elder Avraham noticed this a while ago)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:01 PM |

Jim Davila of PaleoJudaica posts another one of his conference papers, this on on Ritual in the Jewish Pseudepigrapha. Coooool.

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

I'd been wondering whether or not to post about the pro-Iranian-democracy organizing going on today. From a Rushkoffian "Social Justice" perspective, it seems a Jewish idea, though I don't know whether he'd go or not...also, the ayatollahs have the bomb to take out Israel, and that's of relevance to Jews. Anyway, Jewish-related or not, it's important, even if I can't go because I'll be out on Long Island. Reader Duvie sends in the info:

rally for iranian democracy, 11 am to 2 pm, 47th St. and 1st Avenue
Go if you can. Represent.
If you go, send in experiences/pictures, and we'll post.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:07 AM |

Since I'm already so girlie today, and am always in the mood to dispel the nasty rumor that all we blog about is news, here's a post on chick-flicks.
I downloaded two recently, one by accident and one intentionally.
The first, 40 Days and 40 Nights, was about a guy who gives up all form of sexual gratification, including, apparently, touching ladies at all. Kinda like a shomer negiah movie. It was pretty hilarious, in a real laugh-out-loud fashion, something that I find pretty rare. There's this scene where his ladyfriend's rubbing his hand with a flower and goes "Is this allowed" or something along those lines -- I've definitely seen that scene before (I've been similarly rubbed in the past, though usually the girl only had a pen or some similar object...dunno any ladies who regularly have flowers available).
Saw another one, Kate and Leopold, wherein Meg Ryan falls in love with a time-traveling duke; was wondering if this movie could possibly be as bad as it sounded, and, indeed, it was.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:59 AM |

ModestClothing.Com. Interestingly, they use live models, unlike the Reverend Falwell.
Also, snoods are bad as they come, but a snood cap? Ewww.
And there are some scarfless hotties here.
Plus, big hats(!). Perfect for Mrs. Zizmor.
Lastly check out what makes their scarves special -- friends and husbands alike agree.
Oh, one more update: customer comments too good to pass by. A place where skirts fit like gloves, exclamation points have no limit, and even some input from the mens.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:24 AM |

But who's gonna play her in the movie?

Marvel Comics says Princess Diana will be reincarnated as a mutant comic book superhero this September.

The character will appear in a five-series storyline called Di Another Day in Marvel's X-Statix monthly comic, a spinoff from its popular X-Men.
(via ABC news)

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:58 AM |

Talk about warranties:

Bright red letters on the Christian convert's white truck tout his company's warranty: "Gutter that lasts until Jesus comes back."

"I tell people, 'If you have any gutter problems and you have not seen Jesus return on the clouds with great power and glory, call me,'" said Snider, 35, a self-described former drug-dealing fornicator.
(via Houston Chronicle)

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:27 AM |

Hasidic Rebel finds out that criticizing the Rebbe is going to get people angry at him. What amazes me is how shocked he sounds to have realized this, although I think I can understand the disillusionment he seems to be feeling.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:02 AM |

Tuesday, July 08, 2003  

The Death of Outrage

Okay, the Bush administration admits finally that claims about Saddam Hussein seeking Uranium from Africa in order to reconstitute Iraq’s nuclear program were incorrect and wrong. These claims were critical to President Bush’s assertion that Iraq posed an imminent threat and that Saddam Hussein’s regime was a clear and present danger to the United States of America.

On the surface, this may not be anything new. Indeed some have been clamoring for months that the president was less than fair, honest and forthcoming when choosing which intelligence to quote and which to ignore when making his case for war with Iraq. The simple fact that we have not yet found the ever-elusive weapons of mass destruction when we claimed to know with such certainty that they existed is telling enough.

However this most recent revelation is one of such consequence that if made by a Democratic president, the likes of Tom Delay, Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, Bob Novak, Tony Blankly, Fox News and Talk Radio would be shouting for the president’s impeachment and burning in effigy.

Why such strong measures you ask, the reason is simple. The president made the claims about the Iraq-Uranium-Africa connection in his State of the Union Speech. Now, I know it doesn’t say in the Constitution that a president is not allowed to mislead the American people. And I know it doesn’t say that he cannot misrepresent facts, but c’mon in the middle of a constitutionally ordered event the president gives knowingly misleading material to a body charged with making decisions about war and peace based mostly on the intelligence information gather by departments under the president’s direction and the president provides misleading information, only to clarify after the execution of military action?

And no one cares a lick.

If Bill Clinton was the cause of the Death of Outrage, George W. Bush is certainly all too happy to be the beneficiary.

posted by Pinchas | 6:41 PM |

As Australia goes, so goes the US?

From yesterday's Australian, those good ol boys down under...

Jewish lobby loses faith in Labor
Dennis Shanahan

Labor's traditionally strong relationship with the Jewish community has fractured over Israel, and Simon Crean has become a target for Jewish anger.

Leading Jewish voices are suggesting Jews will shift their support from Labor to the Liberals at the next election, and donations to Labor are at risk.

Senior ALP sources are aware of the deep Jewish discontent with Labor and concede fundraising from the Jewish community may not be as "dependable" as it once was.

Jewish antipathy towards Labor stems from the ALP's policy on Iraq and trenchant criticism of Israel from Labor back benchers who described Israel as a "rogue state" and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a "war criminal".

The Jewish frustration with Labor re-emerged after Kim Beazley -- who is seen as a friend of Israel -- failed to win a leadership challenge.

The Australian Jewish News has editorialised on relations with the ALP, saying it was "quite conceivable that some Australian Jews will shift their support from Labor to Liberal at the next federal election based on one factor -- Israel".

The newspaper said Israel had endured an "unrelenting public-relations battering" played out in parliament with "an implicit green light under Simon Crean's stewardship".

"The Labor caucus has chosen Crean, whose recalcitrant back bench proffers policies on Israel that differ diametrically to his own and which appears to have swayed Labor from its traditional moorings," it said.

"Whether he was ill-informed or ill-advised is irrelevant; his non-performance was a glaring lack of leadership which was damaging to Israel, to the Jewish community and, perhaps, to Labor at the next ballot."

The Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council has also said it is "disturbed" at the "far-ranging anti-Israel comments" emanating from ALP parliamentarians.

The Labor MP for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby, the only Jewish MP in federal parliament, has attacked colleagues for criticising Israel but defended Mr Crean.

"The editorial in the Jewish News which portrays Simon Crean and Labor as ambivalent on Israel is factually wrong and misleading," he said in a protest letter to the newspaper.

"Simon Crean, as Opposition Leader, took quick and decisive action following the anti-Israel comments made by some members of the Labor back bench last year." The Jewish News said Mr Crean had "sat in silence during the attacks" in parliament and should have "immediately distanced himself publicly from such sentiments".

A special report by the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission, called Israel and the ALP, says recent debates over the Middle East "have led to the emergence of a common view in the Australian Jewish community that Labor has abandoned Israel".

"Opinions like that must worry ALP leaders concerned with ensuring the maintenance of political, electoral and financial support for the party from Jewish Australia," the report said.

Both the Jewish News and the B'nai B'rith report said that while Labor's stocks are falling with Australian Jewry, John Howard and Peter Costello, and Liberal back benchers Christopher Pyne and Anthony Smith, are working hard on building relations.

"John Howard has shown his staunch support -- politically, diplomatically and militarily -- for Israel, and is backed in this regard by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Treasurer Peter Costello," the Jewish News said.

posted by Pinchas | 5:07 PM |

I wonder if Elder I will be seen at this National Conference and if so what capacity and on what side?

So, as Americans, Liberals, Conservatives, Jews (sorry to all you folks who like it when we deal with non-Jewish yet YUish topics) or whatever what do you make of this issue? Should the conference be permitted? Should it be protested in advance, should it be protested during? Should the school disassociate itself with it?

posted by Pinchas | 4:49 PM |

The Truth About Mahmoud Abbas is an interesting article from our friends at Insight that sheds some perspective on a man thrust into the spotlight just a short while ago as a reliable partner in peace for Israel and noted to be “a man dedicated to peace,” by President Bush.

It begins with an old accusation made by a key perpetrator of the Munich massacre that Arafat controlled the attack and Abbas financed it. While this evidence may or may not be accepted, condemning words from Abbas own mouth, not twenty or thirty years ago, but just this year are quite telling (I took out some of the original writer's text and made some edits for brevity’s sake, check out the above link for the complete story):

In a 1983 book he authored Abbas claimed the Zionist movement "was a partner in the slaughter of the Jews" during the Third Reich, and that the Nazis killed "only a few hundred thousand" Jews, not millions. Such Holocaust denial is a staple feature of anti-Semites worldwide and frequently surfaces on state-run Palestinian Authority Television and throughout the Arab world. Abbas reasserted his views on the number of Holocaust victims in a May 28 interview with journalists from the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot: "What do you expect of me, as a historian? To accept the numbers as they were written in the books?"

The right of Palestinians to "return to Israel and not to the Palestinian state because it is from there that [the Palestinians] were driven out and it is there that their property is found." Israel has offered compensation to Palestinians who lost their land during the 1948 war but believes that a comprehensive settlement also must include compensation for Jews who were evicted from their homes in Arab countries. But Palestinians such as Abbas claim that most of Israel, including parts of Tel Aviv and Haifa, were built on Palestinian land that should be returned.

"The militarization of the Intifada was a complete mistake because we entered into war with Israel at its strong points," Abbas told a PA newspaper. "The strongest thing Israel has is weaponry, which is the weakest thing for us."

In a March 3 interview with Al Sharq al Awsat in London, Abbas made it clear that any temporary cease-fire, such as the one he has been attempting to negotiate with Hamas, was aimed at gaining a tactical advantage over Israel. "We didn't talk about a break in the armed struggle. It is our right to resist. The Intifada must continue, and it is the right of the Palestinian people to resist and use any [means] they can to defend itself and its entity."

He went on to explain that Israeli settlements were fair targets of military action, even during a period of temporary cease-fire. "I will add that if the Israelis come to set up a settlement on your land, then it is your right to defend [yourself] with anything you have e by all means and all weapons, as long as they have come to your home. This is the right of resistance. The prohibition [on using weapons] applies only to martyrdom operations, and to going out to fight in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem." Abbas did not denounce recent attacks on Israeli settlements.

Israeli journalist David Bedein points out that when the Palestinians use the term "illegal settlement" they don't mean what most Americans, including President Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, think they mean. To Palestinians, "Illegal settlements are Jewish cities and towns that have been built where Arab cities and towns used to be," Bedein says. "They include places such as Haifa."

"American and Israeli hopes that [Abbas] will fight against Palestinian terrorism is paradoxical," says Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch in Jerusalem, since terrorist attacks against Israelis in the disputed territories "are all legitimate according to the Abbas doctrine."

Abbas has stated that in final settlement talks he would not seek to remove Jews living in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, but that the new Palestinian state would not tolerate any permanent Jewish presence at the Western Wall, which is the holiest site for Jews. "We told the Israelis [at the Camp David summit] that we would not agree with their maintaining any presence at the Western Wall. In contrast, at the Wailing Wall [a small part of the Western Wall], you can conduct your [religious] ceremonies," he said.

posted by Pinchas | 3:58 PM |

Elder Avraham, I have to pick up this book on Queen Esther, because I wonder if the authors stumbled upon some other essential business lessons one can find if they study the true meaning of the book:

1. Don’t plot to kill the CEO’s wife and her entire people, it can’t be good for your upward mobility

2. Don’t run around the office trying to get people to bow down to you, it slows productivity

3. Don’t over do it with your victory party, it could turn out bad

4. If you’re the CEO, don’t kill your wife, you may regret it

5. If you’re the CEO and you happen to kill your wife, order that all the company’s virgins present themselves before you – and remember, choose wisely

6. If you make the final cut and are the CEO’s wife, feed him and get him drunk before you ask him for anything

7. If you’re the CEO and someone does something good for you don’t do anything in return, just write the good deed in a book and forget about it, God takes care

8. Don’t lay down with the CEO’s wife in the CEO’s house when the CEO is slightly miffed at you, he might get hung up on it

9. If you’re the CEO and someone tries to screw you, forget the book, screw him back

10. Finally, all employees of the company should take time once a year to be kind to the poor, it’s good for taxes, and give gifts to your fellow employees who you have spent all year screwing, they just may forgive you for some good candy

The Old Testament is replete with the world’s best business lessons, alas if only people studied it as they should we would be rich.

posted by Pinchas | 2:35 PM |

In the great debate of whether life imitates art or art life, the Matrix Kids will undoubtedly be touted as evidence for proponents of the former view and will likely serve as fuel for the critics of Hollywood.

Besides wondering why these distraught teenagers chose one aspect of the Matrix to mimic (they could have equally have chosen to pay more attention to the religious lessons and symbolism, or buy into an inherent story-line theme that people should reject man’s utter obsession with pointless materialism and stop ignoring the importance of personal freedom, the greatest of all gifts), I am curious what would be going on across the country if life were to imitate some of the other art found in this summer’s blockbusters. Here’s a look:

Girls will break off into groups of threes don wonderfully appealing leather outfits and run around the city jumping and doing lots of splits – Charlie’s Angeles

Men who have pent up rage will go for the face paint, run through the walls of their homes and then attack the nearest military tank they could find (try the armory just off the FDR) – The Hulk

A combination of the last two examples, bulky men and leather-clad goddesses will begin battling each other (wrecking city’s along the way) to save us from our terrible futures – Terminator III

Again, leather-wearing supermodels will begin running around the world in search of sunken sea treasure. Don’t worry guys, there will be plenty of running, jumping and swimming in this flick too, you see the super models have to find the treasure before a crime syndicate does. Unfortunately, I don’t think they will be searching for anything in the East River, that’s reserved for New York’s Finest – Tomb Raider II

Men will begin wearing poofy shirts, eye patches and bandanas while women will wear their hair long and stuff themselves into corsets to do clichéd and plotless things – Pirates of the Caribbean

And finally, beautiful blonde women across the land will put on wonderful pink power suits and pill box hats, sing, cheer, jump and run their way through our government. Lucky for us Dick Cheney’s heart passed all the tests (was there ever any doubt, I mean he got a multi-million dollar tax break and Halliburton got government contracts worth hundreds of millions of US dollars all in the same month, why would there be any stress on his heart?) or else there could have been problems from this one – Legally Blonde II

BTW: Does anyone note a complete lack of originality in this year’s summer flicks? How many sequels can you have in one summer?

posted by Pinchas | 2:18 PM |

Before Jewsweek refreshes itself, I just read their article about Queen Esther and women in the workplace.

And in each chapter, corresponding in chronological order to an episode in the Esther story, the authors spell out the parallels between Esther's wisdom and modern truth. The chapter on palace gossip, for example, notes that Esther was able to increase her credibility with King Ahasuerus by telling him of the assassination plot that Mordecai had overheard and shared with her. The chapter quickly moves on to explain how tapping into the office grapevine can enhance your career -- and gives specific tips on doing just that.
I hope they discussed all the different approaches to snitching and getting your co-workers hung while making sure to point out that Esther only did so once, and when the CEO's life was in danger. I'm not sure Esther works as a cuthroat corporate climber.

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

I don’t know how I missed this issue when it was first reported in the Times last month, but finally a clear defense for Elder Sam (and some would argue myself as well)!

Out of the closet all you fellow metrosexuals out you go! Our time has come!

On two occasions, I have been in the situation depicted in the last paragraph of the accompanying story (my favorite of the two occasions took place at Metro Center in Washington D.C.).

Similar articles have appeared in over forty publications since the Times published this story from the Sydney News to the Deutsche Presse.

The New York Times, June 22, 2003

Metrosexuals Come Out
By Warren St. John

BY his own admission, 30-year-old Karru Martinson is not what you'd call a manly man. He uses a $40 face cream, wears Bruno Magli shoes and custom-tailored shirts. His hair is always just so, thanks to three brands of shampoo and the precise application of three hair grooming products: Textureline Smoothing Serum, got2b styling glue and Suave Rave hairspray.

Mr. Martinson likes wine bars and enjoys shopping with his gal pals, who have come to trust his eye for color, his knack for seeing when a bag clashes with an outfit, and his understanding of why some women have 47 pairs of black shoes. ("Because they can!" he said.) He said his guy friends have long thought his consumer and grooming habits a little . . . different. But Mr. Martinson, who lives in Manhattan and works in finance, said he's not that different.

"From a personal perspective there was never any doubt what my sexual orientation was," he said. "I'm straight as an arrow."

So it was with a mixture of relief and mild embarrassment that Mr. Martinson was recently asked by a friend in marketing to be part of a focus group of "metrosexuals" -- straight urban men willing, even eager, to embrace their feminine sides.

Convinced that these open-minded young men hold the secrets of tomorrow's consumer trends, the advertising giant Euro RSCG, with 233 offices worldwide, wanted to better understand their buying habits. So in a private room at the Manhattan restaurant Eleven Madison Park recently, Mr. Martinson answered the marketers' questions and schmoozed with 11 like-minded straight guys who were into Diesel jeans, interior design, yoga and Mini Coopers, and who would never think of ordering a vodka tonic without specifying Grey Goose or Ketel One.

Before the focus group met, Mr. Martinson said he was suspicious that such a thing as a metrosexual existed. Afterward, he said, "I'm fully aware that I have those characteristics."

America may be on the verge of a metrosexual moment. On July 15, Bravo will present a makeover show, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," in which a team of five gay men "transform a style-deficient and culture-deprived straight man from drab to fab," according to the network. Conde Nast is developing a shopping magazine for men, modeled after Lucky, its successful women's magazine, which is largely a text-free catalog of clothes and shoes.

There is no end to the curious new vanity products for young men, from a Maxim-magazine-branded hair coloring system to Axe, Unilever's all-over body deodorant for guys. And men are going in for self-improvement strategies traditionally associated with women. For example, the number of plastic surgery procedures on men in the United States has increased threefold since 1997, to 807,000, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

"Their heightened sense of aesthetics is very, very pronounced," Marian Salzman, chief strategy officer at Euro RSCG, who organized the gathering at Eleven Madison Park, said of metrosexuals. "They're the style makers. It doesn't mean your average Joe American is going to copy everything they do," she added. "But unless you study these guys you don't know where Joe American is heading."

Paradoxically, the term metrosexual, which is now being embraced by marketers, was coined in the mid-90's to mock everything marketers stand for. The gay writer Mark Simpson used the word to satirize what he saw as consumerism's toll on traditional masculinity. Men didn't go to shopping malls, buy glossy magazines or load up on grooming products, Mr. Simpson argued, so consumer culture promoted the idea of a sensitive guy -- who went to malls, bought magazines and spent freely to improve his personal appearance.

Within a few years, the term was picked up by British advertisers and newspapers. In 2001, Britain's Channel Four brought out a show about sensitive guys called "Metrosexuality." And in recent years the European media found a metrosexual icon in David Beckham, the English soccer star, who paints his fingernails, braids his hair and poses for gay magazines, all while maintaining a manly profile on the pitch. Along with terms like "PoMosexual," 'just gay enough" and "flaming heterosexuals," the word metrosexual is now gaining currency among American marketers who are fumbling for a term to describe this new type of feminized man.

America has a long tradition of sensitive guys. Alan Alda, John Lennon, even Al Gore all heard the arguments of the feminist movement and empathized. Likewise, there's a history of dashing men like Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart who managed to affect a personal style with plenty of hair goop but without compromising their virility. Even Harrison Ford, whose favorite accessory was once a hammer, now poses proudly wearing an earring.

But what separates the modern-day metrosexual from his touchy-feely forebears is a care-free attitude toward the inevitable suspicion that a man who dresses well, has good manners, understands thread counts or has opinions on women's fashion is gay.

"If someone's going to judge me on what kind of moisturizer I have on my shelf, whatever," said Marc d'Avignon, 28, a graduate student living in the East Village, who describes himself as "horrendously addicted to Diesel jeans" and living amid a chemistry lab's worth of Kiehl's lotions.

"It doesn't bother me at all. Call it homosexual, feminine, hip, not hip -- I don't care. I like drawing from all sorts of sources to create my own persona."

While some metrosexuals may simply be indulging in pursuits they had avoided for fear of being suspected as gay -- like getting a pedicure or wearing brighter colors -- others consciously appropriate tropes of gay culture the way white suburban teenagers have long cribbed from hip-hop culture, as a way of distinguishing themselves from the pack. Having others question their sexuality is all part of the game.

"Wanting them to wonder and having them wonder is a wonderful thing," said Daniel Peres, the editor in chief of Details, a kind of metrosexual bible. "It gives you an air of mystery: could he be? It makes you stand out."

Standing out requires staying on top of which products are hip and which are not. Marketers refer to such style-obsessed shoppers as prosumers, or urban influentials -- educated customers who are picky or just vain enough to spend more money or to make an extra effort in pursuit of their personal look. A man who wants to buy Clinique for Men, for example, has to want the stuff so badly that he will walk up to the women's cosmetics counter in a department store, where Clinique for Men is sold. A man who wants Diesel jeans has to be willing to pay $135 a pair. A man who insists on Grey Goose has to get comfortable with paying $14 for a martini.

"The guy who drinks Grey Goose is willing to pay extra," said Lee Einsidler, executive vice president of Sydney Frank Importing, which owns Grey Goose. "He does it in all things in his life. He doesn't buy green beans, he buys haricots verts."

Other retailers hope to entice the man on the fence to get in touch with his metrosexual side. Oliver Sweatman, the chief executive of Sharps, a new line of grooming products aimed at young urban men, said that to lure manly men to buy his new-age shaving gels -- which contain Roman chamomile, gotu kola and green tea -- the packaging is a careful mixture of old and new imagery. The fonts recall the masculinity of an old barber shop, but a funny picture of a goat on the label implies, he said, something out of the ordinary.

In an effort to out closeted metrosexuals, Ms. Salzman and her marketing team at Euro RSCG are working at perfecting polling methods that will identify "metrosexual markers." One, she noted, is that metrosexuals like telling their friends about their new finds.

Mr. Martinson, the Bruno Magli-wearing metrosexual, agreed. "I'm not in marketing," he said, "But when you take a step back, and say, 'Hey, I e-mailed my friends about a great vodka or a great Off Broadway show,' in essence I am a marketer and I'm doing it for free."

Most metrosexuals, though, see their approach to life as serving their own interests in the most important marketing contest of all: the battle for babes. Their pitch to women: you're getting the best of both worlds.

Some women seem to buy it. Alycia Oaklander, a 29-year-old fashion publicist from Manhattan, fell for John Kilpatrick, a Washington Redskins season ticket holder who loves Budweiser and grilling hot dogs, in part because of his passion for shopping and women's fashion shows. On their first dates, Mr. Kilpatrick brought Champagne, cooked elaborate meals and talked the talk about Ms. Oaklander's shoes. They were married yesterday.

"He loves sports and all the guy stuff," Ms. Oaklander said. "But on the other hand he loves to cook and he loves design. It balances out."

The proliferation of metrosexuals is even having an impact in gay circles. Peter Paige, a gay actor who plays the character Emmett on the Showtime series "Queer as Folk," frequently complains in interviews that he's having a harder time than ever telling straight men from gays.

"They're all low-slung jeans and working out with six packs and more hair product than I've ever used in my life, and they smell better than your mother on Easter," he said. Mr. Paige said there was at least one significant difference between hitting on metrosexuals and their less evolved predecessors. "Before, you used to get punched," he said. "Now it's all, 'Gee thanks, I'm straight but I'm really flattered.' "

posted by Pinchas | 10:22 AM |

Information factiod from the front page of recently:

Courts are organized and run within the Hasidic community to rule in social conflicts as well as on religious issues. Those courts are sometimes driven by local politics and therefore not admired. In most cases, issues end up getting resolved in a city court when parties refuse to abide by an unfavorable, sometimes biased, court ruling.
Is that supposed to come across as poorly as it did to me, or am I just missing something?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:42 AM |

Yossi Klein Halevi notes in today's JPost that the Likud, in accepting a Palestinian state, has finally broken its last ties with its founding ideology.

Just as kibbutzim will continue to exist in name if not substance [after they began the process of privatization], so the Likud will continue to mount the photograph of Revisionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky at its gatherings. But the soul of both movements will have been ceded to history.

Instead of mourning, though, the members of the Likud central committee turned against each other. Those who opposed Sharon whistled and hooted, while those who supported him sang "Arik King of Israel." Watching the spectacle, it seemed to me that Revisionist Zionism deserved a better eulogy.
Well, then again, Revisionist Zionism still has a home with the ultra-right Herut and Ichud Halumi parties, and maybe its a good thing that Likud has moderated itself. I mean, nobody would argue that Labor's recent moderations (leaving the extreme left to Meretz and the communist parties) were a bad thing.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:37 AM |

Naomi Chana promises a post on As a Driven Leaf soon. Personally, I think everyone should read that book in high school.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:26 AM |

Monday, July 07, 2003  

The Harry Potter Post

Well, after putting in eight long, hard hours over Shabbas and Saturday night, I managed to keep the new Harry Potter book away from my eight year old brother long enough to finish it. Time to start the discussion, although, in this actual post, I may be a bit vague since there are some people reading this who don't want to find out who dies by reading it here. Those people shouldn't be reading the comments, though. All bets are off there, and spoilers and in-depth conversation are fair game. Also, since I don't have the book in front of me and I wasn't taking notes (being shabbas and all), be a bit forgiving.

First of all, I was a bit off-put by how dramatically different a lot of the characters were in this book. Obviously, Harry is a lot, well, angier this time around. It might just be me, but it seems a little strange that his personality would change so much over the course of a month (the time between this book and the end of the last one), teen hormones or no. Strangely, he was the only one who seemed to suffer from the sudden spurt of angst. When it comes to Ron and Hermoine, though, I got the sense that they were a lot more developed in the previous books. In OoTP it seemed they were basically only there to get Harry annoyed with them. They didn't do anything, you know? Also, the professors seemed a lot flatter than usual. Mcgonnagal, Snape, and Dumbledore had somewhat developed personalities before this book. I was a little disappointed to see them flattened as much as they were. Of course, most of the rest of the characters were pretty flat to begin with, so that was OK. Sirius came across pretty well, as did the Weasley twins. Umbridge was just over the top. No political hack is that evil, and it never came out that she was working for Voldemort like it should have. She wasn't fun to read about.

As far as the whole Harry-Cho thing, I thought that the parts where they actually interacted were done very well, as were the parts where Harry was pondering the pre and post interactions. The parts where Harry discussed the situation with his posse seemed a bit weird, though. Ron, for one, seems not to have matured at all, while Hermoine comes across as a full-blown psychologist. Interestingly, Harry always seems to fall back into Ron-mode, even though he generally seemed to have a bit more tact/sense/awareness when he wasn't in Ron's presence.

As far as the critical kill-a-key-character scene, I was a bit let-down. I mean, a) he (and my use of the male pronoun may just be a diversion, for you late readers) wasn't such a main character anyway, even though JK Rowling obviously tried to build him up over the course of the book, b) the scene where he died was so tangential to the primary action in the Ministry that if felt like JKR killed him almost as an afterthought. I mean, ultimately this is a fantasy/fairy tale sort of thing, and every death should be amazingly significant and meaningful (like Cedric's was). This one wasn't. Just a gripe.

I appreciate greatly JKR's attempt to add some depth to the Dursleys with the howler in the beginning and by Dumbledore explaining to Harry about why he had to stay there summers. I think its just a bit too late. If the Dursleys start acting at all like real people or do anything out of character, it'll just seem too fake. I mean, can you really believe that Mrs. Dursley had any sort of conversation with Dumbledore (or any wizard) when the Potters were killed? Also, doesn't that contradict something or other?

The "Dumbledore fights!" scenes came across really poorly, in my opinion, not unlike the Yoda fighting scene in the last star wars movie. I mean, super wizards like Dumbledore should sort of be able to remain head and shoulders above the fray, not act like wizard-rambos. Dumbledore's magical prowess should have been implied consistently, but never actually displayed. It sort of ruins something to realize that he casts the same spells as the rest of us, only he can do them quicker.

Snape's back history was also disappointing. So basically the whole Snape-Harry thing dates back to a bit of 16-year old teasing? The best part of the first books, in my opinion, was the implication that there was this amazingly rich backstory just peeking behind the edges of what was going on in the present. As more and more of the backstory comes out, it seems more and more lame. Snape just sort of seems petty now, you know?

Also, what was the big deal with the prophecy? Its not like Voldemort wasn't trying to kill Harry until now, and its not like everyone didn't realize that only Harry was going to kill Voldemort if anyone would.

OK, things that I liked a lot. Black's back story and house, Dumbledore's appearance at Harry's hearing, Harry moving into a leadership role in the school, the Weasley twins, and the emergence of Neville. Discuss.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 8:30 PM |

Adi Neuman discusses a Rabbi Tatz shiur:

According to the Talmud, people used to have an extreme desire to practice idolatry, something we cannot relate to today. When the connection of the Jewish people to the divine presence began to wane, this desire caused all sorts of chaos (we understand the practice of idolatry did bring some sort of power) and the great sages prayed that it should go away.

Rabbi Tatz explains that according to the mystical scholars, something had to fill the emptiness of the neshama (soul) after heaven removed that desire, and that was the desire to kill time. Before then, spending a half an hour in a coffeeshop discussing nonsense would have been excruciating. Much understanding is furthermore derived from these concepts, but, unfortunately I don't have time to go into them now. Rabbi Tatz is a prolific author and would urge interested parties to investigate his elaboration on the topic.
In other words, if I lived in ancient times, I'd be sacrificing sheep instead of, say, blogging. And you'd all be sacrificing sheep instead of, say, reading this. Makes me that much more happy to live in (post)modernity.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 7:06 PM |

I have to say that I'm somewhat amused by the intense-looking discussion on the message board as to whether or not protocols consititutes a "YUish forum" or not. The things you notice by following the referring links once in awhile...

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:31 PM |

I'm out to unpack books. Vive le Protocols.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:46 AM |

Bangitout seems to think they have a lock on Saddam Hussein. What do you think?

I guess some shteeble's throwing a $25,000,000 Kiddush sometime soon...

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:02 AM |

I don't think I ever posted about this, but I was just reminded. Check out this advertisement for a new settlement town in Samaria:

What will be unique to our community, compared to Tel Stone, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Efrat, Har Nof, or other predominantly Anglo areas, is that it will be a suburban kippa shechora, or American-Chareidi type of community open to individuals who want to maintain an intense religious environment, high standards in both religious and secular education and who want to live in large American style homes. Tel Stone lacks the secular education, Ramat Beit Shemesh lacks the homes, Efrat is not Charedi while Har Nof is not suburban. By limiting the size of the community to approximately 600 families, we will be able to maintain a small town and friendly community. We hope to continually stimulate each other's spiritual growth under the direction of a godol.
They aren't kidding -- check out their model house plans. Can you imagine a settlement for yeshivish people with these sorts of houses:

If you're wondering where American religious materialism ends up, now you know. By the way, if you want to read an article by Shmuel Neumann, the founder of this place, click here. I'm not sure how tounge-in-cheek it is, but I think he'd be happy if the Palestinians were halakhaically defined as Amaleq (which would mean we'd have to wage a war of genocide against them). People like that scare me a great deal.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:37 AM |

Unfortunately, I didn't take the time at the time to comment on the sodomy law decision, like Solly and others did, but I think Michael Kinsley speaks pretty clearly for me. It seemed that improving gay rights must logically lead to abolishing the institution of marriage, which it never really made sense for the goverment to sanction anyway. Back when I was covering Levin v. Yeshiva, the case in which a lesbian sued to get housing for her & her domestic partner at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, I was interviewing the ACLU lawyer representing the plaintiff and I kept proposing that what might really happen would be that Yeshiva would allow housing for all significant partnerships, and he kept saying they wouldn't...sure enough, I was right.
If there are economic benefits that the government gives to those who are married because it's assumed one partner won't be working (which is not a safe assumption these days to begin with), then what about the older parent who comes to live with you, your can't-get-it-together brother, etc.? And if there aren't economic benefits (I really don't know anything about the tax law on this) then there's no real point to it.
On a more basic level, for some several years, I have been an advocate for gay marriage (so long as government-sanctioned marriage exists anyway), and believe that it is justified on halakhic grounds, because it increases the ease with which gay couples can adopt, which is a very real situation of pikuach nefesh ("saving a life").
UPDATE: I don't know whether people were confused/reading more into the post than I intended, but due to the nature of the comments thus far, I think I should clarify. I'm not advocating gay marriage within a Jewish context, as a matter of halakha. What I am saying is that so long as marriage is an institution offered by the state (which I do not think it should be) halakhic Jews should support offering membership in that institution to same-sex couples, since a major -- if not the major, I really don't know -- reason for validating same-sex relationships in marriage-like terms is for the purposes of raising children. Since same-sex couples rely strongly on adoption, this is a big coup for those who'd like to see some of those orphaned and abandoned babies keep living, and likely pretty well. From a halakhic perspective, endorsing the state's sanction of gay marriage so long as it sanctions hetero marriage has no real downside, but this major upside in terms of adoption.
As far as the question Judith raises re: the Conservative dialogue about homosexuality, I'm not up on it, and likely wouldn't draw my conclusions from it. Again, what I'm not discussing here is a Jewish concept of marriage, but a government-created institution.

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

Public Service Announcement re: PayPal.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:58 AM |

In deference to Imshin and my own real-life reponsibilities, I'll have my next (final?) Rushkoff post later today along with my (now delayed) Harry Potter comments. I won't say who dies, in case you haven't read it yet, but -- come on -- at this point there's really no excuse.

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

Sunday, July 06, 2003  

I'm back to books (unpacking this time) so posting is intermittent and possibly off-topic/outdated by the time I get around to it. Thank goodness for Elder Avraham and the resurrected Elder Pinchas. And congratulations to Elder Kraut on his engagement. Who knows what might happen when Elder Sam returns from Europe.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:59 PM |

Ephraim's got the link to the Haaretz story about the new European Jewish college/business school. One paragraph of note:

The Lauder school will model itself after New York's Yeshiva University, an institute of high academic standards that also serves as a major Jewish-religious center. No studies will be held on Saturdays and holidays and the food in the cafeteria will be kosher. Students can study Hebrew and Judaism, but only if they choose. The school will have no religious features and, at this stage, there will be no synagogue.
So it seems they've got the Einstein/Cardozo model down. Then it occured to me that they're probably actually modelling YC and SSSB, but only as they work in practice, not as they're drawn up on paper.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 8:30 PM |

For those of you looking forward to a new book discussion (and I know I am), here's a Commentary book review of Kugel's The God of Old. Interesting stuff. Check out this paragraph

The point is that the God of old is not some omnipresent, bodiless spirit, and not even invisible. Rather, He appears just like you and me—when He chooses to appear. Like Henry V among his soldiers, God is walking about the earth incognito. At any moment, you might meet a stranger, and he could turn out to be a messenger of God—or God Himself.

This highly anthropomorphic understanding would seem to undercut, or at least make problematic, the repeated biblical injunctions against divine images. Perhaps, then, those prohibitions are a later addition? Refreshingly, this is not at all the tack Kugel takes; biblical iconoclasm, he affirms, goes all the way down. Rather, the prohibition against images of God stems from an “empty-space iconography.” In the place where, in the surrounding pagan culture, an idol of the god would sit, God himself sits in the Bible (God is described, for example, as enthroned on the wings of the cherubim above the ark of the covenant). To set a man-made image in His place would be to usurp a fundamental divine prerogative: to appear to us as and when He chooses. (emphasis my own - ayb)

Interesting contrast from book to book here. While Rushkoff seems convinced that the absence of a God-figure on top of the Ark is a pointer to an abstract, receded non-God, Kugel takes the opposite approach. We can't define God any one way, since He can -- and does -- manifest Himself however He wants to.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 4:19 PM |

Irony-Meter hits a new high: Shimon Peres stated today that the ruling Likud party has lost its ideology. (via A7)

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 3:24 PM |

Adi J. Neuman spends Shabbas with Ohr Samayach in the Old City of Jerusalem, including lunch with Rabbi Orlofsky (audio sample here), and is considering pushing off law school to spend a year learning and maybe getting married. Stay tuned for updates.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 3:17 PM |

Rushkoff #5 (*blah*)

Well, here we are again, facing the same issues we've faced in the first three chapters of Nothing Sacred. Essentially, Rushkoff is using a very narrow model of Jewish history -- without citing his sources for it -- and using that model to propose redefinitions of Judaism that are incredibly more revolutionary than anything he quotes. The first 10 pages of the chapter discuss his theory of Jewish development. Essentially, whenever Jews get to live in peace and tranquility they show their true progressive colors, only slipping into tribalism and particularism when persecuted. The examples are Maimonides-Egypt and Spinoza-Holland on one side, and Shabbtai Tzvi-Christian Europe on the other. First of all, the idea dates back to Heinrich Graetz, although there is no acknowledgement in the index, biblio, or further research sections (similar to how his "Abstract Monotheism" is a takeoff of Mordechai Kaplan, who also goes uncited). Second, as detailed in the notes in the back, Rushkoff bases his Maimonides on David Hartman's book, which presents among the most universalistic perceptions of him, and the work of Leo Strauss, who takes the radical position that Maimonides had a secret position which saw religion entirely as a political tool intended to placate the masses while the elite could rule them as philosopher-kings (Elder I -- within this school, there is room to support most of Rushkoff's assertions about Maimonides, although according to their own assumption about a secret doctrine there is really no way to prove Maimonides thought what they think he does). A perusal of the modern state of scholarship on Maimonides will reveal many other readings of Maimonides, many of which are much more credible than these two in terms of determining what Maimonides' own intentions were, and much less, say, progressive. Finally, the assumption that Maimonides was a major revolutionary is a bit of a stretch. Any good book on Medieval Jewish Philosophy would detail how Maimonides, his predecessors, and his succesors all dealt with Judaism within the context of the Islamic rationalist culture that they found themselve within. It wasn't just that Maimonides came along, took a new look at Judaism, and saw all these progressive stuff everyone else missed -- Maimonides saw whatever universalism he saw precisely because he was a player among the philosophic elite of his time, and that was what they saw in Islam and Christianity as well. Maimonides' conception of God, as he says explicitly in the Guide, is a neoplatonistic conception of "thought thinking itself". Rushkoff again reads his own modern categories onto Maimonides, instead of reading him in his own cultural context.

In terms of the development of Kabbalah, Rushkoff cites only Gershon Scholem. What happened to the last hundred years of scholarship? At least quote Moshe Idel, among any number of more current players in the field.

With regards to Zionism, same deal. I'm going to defer to Elder I's comments. Just to emphasize one quote, "Had Zionism remained a secular, practical endeavor, it might never have run into the serious snags it did.” (p.145) Because nationalism is OK, as long as its not religious nationalism? He's never clear on why not -- he's too busy bashing R. Kook.

Picking up where Elder I drops off, Rushkoff drops another bombshell.

Perhaps our greatest challenge as Jews is to spread the "bad news" in the least threatening way possible. The bad news is that we may, in fact, be alone. For all practical purposes, God has receded from human affairs. He is as distant from us as if he did not even exist in the first place. At the very least, as Jews, we must behave as if this were the case. We must assume there is no God protecting us and guaranteeing our collective fate and instead learn to take of one another. For what if the worst were true? What if the scientists studying evolution and emergence are correct, and there is no single story of creation that explains our existence? What if organisms really did simply evolve from organic molecules, and great religions like Judaism evolved out of ancient pagan traditions? What if the existentialists are right, and in the grand scale of things, we are no more than the progeny of fungus hurtling aimlessly through cold and utterly meaningless empty space? Well, then, we would simply charge ourselves with responsibility for creating meaning out of this nothingness. As Jews, we have already accepted this mantle -- whether we believe in God or not. (p.172-173)
Where to start? Nothing scientific poses a problem to faith -- come on, that sort of argument is so 19th century. More importantly, maybe the very point of Judaism is to make sure that God doesn't recede completely. Social justice is a part of that, but so is history, spirituality, and, basically, the totality of the human experience. If we were just trying to build social order so that our stay on a meaningless rock in a meaningless universe would be more pleasant, then we really have no need for the Jewish story, or, really, any story. All we'd have to say is, "look, there's nothing out there, so we may as well get along while we're all on this rock together," and be done with it. Rushkoff isn't looking to jettison the Jewish tradition, just redefine it so that he's the culmination of it, and I still don't understand why.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:59 PM |

BTW: Following Rushkoff, our next book will be James Kugel's The God of Old, starting sometime this week or next.


posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:27 AM |

SIW Rushkoff Post #5
Chapter four gives us the best glimpse so far into Rushkoff’s interpretive problems. Whereas in most previous chapters he was discussing the Bible – on which everyone and their mother has presented their thoughts, so he could be building on any precedents and still claim precedent – in this chapter, he opens with Maimonides, whose thoughts for the most part speak for themselves and, when they are open to interpretation, there’s a smaller school of thought on the matter.
Elder Avraham will probably lend a lot more detail to the discussion of Rushkoff’s clearly incorrect views on Maimonides, but suffice it to say that: Rushkoff claims Maimonides viewed resurrection as allegory when he quite clearly presents a literal interpretation; in Rushkoff’s world, Maimonides viewed prophecy as a sort of epiphanic moment that is the result of years of learning and toil, of which only the latter is true, since Maimonides goes to great lengths to describe his rather literal-minded notion of prophecy; Rushkoff thinks that Maimonides shares his views of an abstract God, when Maimonides unequivocally claims the validity of the Creation myth, prophecy, and other items that reinforce the notion of a less-than-abstract God.
In discussing the Maimonidean controversy, Rushkoff severely shortchanges reality; I’m not out to justify the actions of book-burners, but Rushkoff should at least admit that Rabbinic Judaism never rejected prayer – in fact, it codified it.
Rushkoff’s also got a weird take on the Mishneh Torah and the Guide for the Perplexed, Maimonides’ two most famous works. Apparently the Guide was written for those more expert in Judaism, when it was really only written as an explanation of Judaism to those who came from a perspective of Aristotelianism. Rushkoff’s weird take on Maimonides, when Maimonides so explicitly and thoroughly detailed his thoughts, only hurts Rushkoff’s case.
Rushkoff also wants to do another of his incorrect anthropological takes on how Judaism developed with Maimonides. According to Rushkoff, Maimonides is the only rabbi who didn’t face persecution, and that’s why his ideas are so enlightened and pluralistic. Perhaps he forgot that Maimonides is, if not the only one, then one of very few rabbis who declared Christianity idolatrous, while those in more Christian areas took the opposite view and declared Islam – which Maimonides was cool with – to be idolatrous. Instead of a reactionary Judaism that invalidates oppressors, many rabbis – including Maimonides – had tracts that were rather pleasing to the ruling culture. Take from that what you will, but whatever you do, you can’t honestly claim that Maimonides’ views towards the ruling culture were all that exclusive.
Rushkoff, in discussing Zionism, is similarly disappointing. He claims the word “aliyah” to describe immigration to Israel is a complete neologism, when its use has a solid precedent. His cynical description of events is unwarranted as well; for someone who agrees that the 1967 war was one in which Israelis were, “Faced with almost certain defeat from all sides,” (p. 147) his statement just a couple of paragraphs later that “Wars weren’t so bad, as long as the right side won,” is out of place.
The chapter as a whole is about getting beyond conceptions of the Jewish people as a people or a race, some of which we saw towards the end of the last chapter. But here, too, Rushkoff’s own biases can perpetuate ideas that he considers false. In discussing Hertzel’s idea for a Jewish Uganda, for instance, Rushkoff is actually for it, saying, “Had Zionism remained a secular, practical endeavor, it might never have run into the serious snags it did.” So, a Jewish state is okay, so long as it doesn’t connect itself to notions of a prior, more Biblically-based Jewish homeland. That seems far more racialized than any notions of a religious attachment to land.
He does have an interesting idea about Jewish suffering – that it shouldn’t dominate the religion. He writes, “But Jewish suffering was, in fact, senseless. Neither the Inquisitors nor Hitler deserve a role in Judaism’s religious evolution.” Sort of. Firstly, the victims of their actions certainly do deserve a role, and inasmuch an understanding of Jewish suffering is quite appropriate and important. Attacking this on Rushkoff’s terms, however, his theory of an evolution of Jewish conceptions of God discussed in earlier chapters is explicitly tied to principles regarding what Jewish enemies and conquerors believed, so we have more of Rushkoff’s picking and choosing to suit his own theories.
Rushkoff again attacks Messianism, and again he’s wrong. He writes, “The adoption of a messianic legend as a reason for being disqualifies Jews from actively participating in the human story. It accepts, instead, that history and the future have already been written. Jews become mere players in a predetermined story, their roles in Judaism reduced from free-thinking, autonomous individuals to those of genetically preordained members of a race.” None of this is true, and since it relies on inference, Rushkoff should show his work if he wants to make a point like this. But the racialized stuff is the most bogus – Jewish messianism doesn’t only include Jews and isn’t good for all Jews. Rushkoff throughout doesn’t show a sophisticated idea of election theory, and here he does so even less.
I’m missing some of the rest of the chapter here, but I’ve got to leave something for Avraham to discuss.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:24 AM |
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