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

Friday, December 12, 2003  

I don't know how long this'll be up at this URL, but can't find a permalink. "Ask the Posek":

Lichvod HaRav,
I was having an argument with someone about this topic -- what's the storywith looking at X-mas lights!? Is it permitted or not -- and why or
why not -- Thanks so much!
No, no, thank you so much. And thanks to Ephraim for IMing me the link.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:18 AM |

I just had a hilarious exchange with the legendary Larry Yudelson over e-mail. In preparation for my Forward story on the Kabbalah Centre, I spoke with Rabbi Bob Carroll, quoted in the article, and asked him for his thoughts on the commodification of religious texts, objects and symbols being done by the Centre, specifically if the Kabbalah books they sell are over-priced. Doug Rushkoff mentioned in his book that the KC's books are extremely overpriced, that they sell volumes of the Zohar for thousands of dollars. While they don't have any sets online for that price, they are selling a 23-volume set for $415.00. Of course, I've got no clue what set that is, and, consequently, what to compare it to. Carroll said it was the Zohar with the commentary of the Ashlag, and that Yudelson had bought a set at the recent seforim sale. I wrote Reb Yudel asking for info, saying I figured that the KC sells an English translation, and does he know the price of that.
He wrote back:

No, the Kabbalah Center sells the original Zohar w/ Ashlag -- the point allegedly being that it's enough to just "scan" the pages. So why bother with English when you have the original Aramaic and Hebrew targum? I remember getting my hair cut one time in Queens and being quite amused to see a full set of Zohar on the shelf.
My set is on much thinner paper, I'm sure; my 10-volume set was about $100; you can check the SOY seforim sale website for an exact quote. On the other hand, I didn't run into any celebrities up in Belfer, so who can say what's the better value in the long run?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:08 AM |

Gone too far.
There's this really crazy guy named Mike (his e-mail address is, so I'm assuming his last name is Nargizian? I can't find any such person in telephone listings) who's been annoying myself and the other elders, as well as our Protocols readers, with insane diatribes on all manner of things, but most specifically the Jewsweek "Sizzlin' 60" list linked at the top of our page.
Of late, his disease has spread to comments on one of my articles at LGF and other places, and now even to comments on a post at Allison Kaplan Sommers' page, where he makes the following claim:

Listen to how pathetically petty and censoring Weiss is.
He's got feedback commentary on his post at Protocols from people who tell him to go F himself that is there. However, I put up a post that said he should have gotten credit but do agree that I think he's a bit of a snotnose and that maybe the Sun didn't want to be affiliated with a pub like Jewsweek for such things as its disgustingly arrogant and elitist Top 50 list which Protocols links to in Jewsweek review of Protocols at the top right of its website.
I have gone after Jewsweek and Weiss for this due to them blowing off the criticism for 2 disgusting parts of the list. And Weiss never replied other than a terse incomplete reply to Zulubaby at lgf after she read my copy of the list there in the comments and agreed with me.
And while Weiss is posting to some of our delight about somewhat exposing the bloviating arrogance or self-importance of Friedman and his aversion to criticism, Weiss and his pals at Jewsweek express the same exact but worse type of arrogance and false self-importance. Further, Weiss has now deleted my commentary which was mild and detailed because I have exposed him and Jewsweek at lgf and to others like Roger Simon etc.. (I was enraged when I read the list at Jewsweek) and has now acted as petty as his boy Mr. Friedman, whom he somewhat gleefully exposed.
His deleting my comments at Protocols is more amusing than anything else, and says more about his 'character' than anything I could have written about the revolting Top 50 and his pathetically weak defense of his pals over there.
And then:
Again, go take a look at the comments at Protocols link Allison links to. There is actually a commentary left up there that tell Weiss to go F himself, but he deleted my post which defends him but also mentions the revolting list to which I previously mentioned to Protocols and Jewsweek. Look quickly. I'm betting they'll delete it quickly not because they have an aversion to some crude or harsh language per say, but because of how pathetic it makes him look in light of deleting my commentary there in comparison.
While the guy's insane obsession with following me everywhere on the web has pissed me off a bit, this libel makes me truly angry.
For the record: Protocols has never -- and presently has no plans to ever -- delete comments owing to content that we find objectionable, gross, or even flat-out libelous, as Mike Nargizian's have been.
It was one thing for this crackpot to intentionally misquote articles in an attempt to defame myself, Protocols and Jewsweek -- a libelous offense in and of itself, but something that could be easily checked. It is entirely another to spread the false claim, dangerous to the credibility of Protocols, that we are censoring comments. The only comments we have deleted are those that have been double-posted and, in extremely rare cases (two comments ever) in response to a request by the comment author, done with extreme reluctance on our part.
Call us liberals, call us idiots, call us wrong-headed, call us stupid -- but do not falsely spread the claim that we are censors.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:53 AM |

Thursday, December 11, 2003  

I haven't been contributing at ALL. I'm sorry. Mea Culpa. I also haven't been reading much, so I don't know if anyone on protocols has linked to this yet.

Meir Soloveitchik's article in this quarter's Azure.

Brilliantly written, compellingly argued, but at its heart, its thesis seems a little - oh, I don't know - maybe smug? Polemic? Berel Wein-esque?

In short, Solly's point is that Jewish redemption and repentance stems from man's exaltedness, while Christian repentance and redemption can only come through man's wretchedness.

Maybe I'm paranoid, but I detect a tone of condescension here, no matter how measured Solly keeps his tone.

Also, exactly how much ass kissing is going on when outofstepjew calls Solly "the next R. Meir?"

As he puts it, Soloveitchik's contribution to the world of dialogue lies in the possibility that "by highlighting the theological differences maybe both religions will feel secure enough in their own beliefs so as to eliminate much of the negative polemics that consume our conversations."

Anyone else think the padres and preachers are gonna like this paper as much as this out of step guy does?

Comments, please. I'm suffocating without any real pseudo-intellectual stimulation here. Anatomy's in a week, and I'm feeling very little-picture oriented right now.....I need some shtark dialogue to broaden my mind.

posted by Sam | 7:40 PM |

I was looking through the thread on drinking while dating previously referred to and got to where some chap named Shlomo cautions:

P.S. This thread has been Protocoled.
Now I'm curious. Are there special codes of conduct (protocols, if you will) that kick in whenever we link to a Hashkafa thread?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 6:54 PM |

There's a wide range this week in the Jewish Press Letters section. On one hand, we have good responses to an offensive article on homosexuality, and the Modern Orthodox career woman issue. On the other hand, there were two doozies. One, the runner-up by Charles Thaler, was more a matter of a bad line:

Your Dec. 5 front page article on Jimmy Carter`s speech in Geneva neglected to mention his most chilling sentence.
“Had I been elected to a second term,” said Carter, “with the prestige and authority and influence and reputation I had in the region, we could have moved to a final solution.”
His choice of words showed, at best, his gross insensitivity to Jewish sensibilities and, at worst, his true feelings towards us. In either case, Carter really should go back to his peanut farm where he belongs.
Say what you want about Carter's current relevence and about the Geneva accords as a whole (and we have), but to suggest that Carter and Hitler share opinions on how to relate to Jews is just offensive. The Stupid Letter Of the Week is by Yossi Finkelstein:
I found the response of reader Sandra Froemm to Cheryl Kupfer`s op-ed column “A Time to Hate” very disappointing but hardly a surprise (“The Reform Perspective,” Letters, Dec. 5). It’s interesting that Froemm`s rabbi preaches universal brotherhood, which apparently does not include her own brethren, whom she calls "Nazis in sheitels and shtreimels."
I would like to understand what it is that makes Ms. Froemm different from all the anti-Semites who hate the “Nazis in sheitels and shtreimels” with equal venom. What can we possibly expect of the world at large, if our own think of us this way? What she doesn`t seem to understand is that regardless of how modern she looks, or how much she tries to ingratiate herself to the rest of the world, she, as a Jew, is hated equally.
It so happens that our non-religious brethren — George Soros, Henry Kissinger, et al — are much more visible, have a seemingly greater effect on the world, and as a result are much more hated and blamed for everything than are the chassidim whom the likes of Ms. Froemm love to hate.
But I would also like to point out to her that regardless of how we look, or how much or little we observe the Torah, we’re the same in the eyes of those who hate us. In Auschwitz my bearded grandfathers and my sheitel-wearing grandmothers burned side by side with the so-called enlightened and completely assimilated Jews. To the anti-Semites, there is no difference. We are all Jews.
To this point, there's not too much wrong. I also found the term "Nazis in sheitels and shtreimels" offensive, and I'm glad someone took Froemm to task for it. Still, just to nitpick, I don't really like the argument that "all jews should band together because the anti-semites hate us all." Ideally, we should be fostering brotherhood amongst all Jews since we're all Jews and share some conception of a common purpose and meaning. The real SLOWness, trhough, comes in with the last paragraph:
It is a sad commentary on the Reform movement that in its emphasis on universal brotherhood there is room for everyone — except the religious Jew. It just proves again that today, as throughout our history, our worst enemies came from our own midst. May G-d save us from all our enemies.
Wow. So now, the Reform Jews are our worst enemies, worse than, say, Palestinian suicide bombers, European neo-nazis, or American white supremacists? Kind of makes me wonder who he thinks God should be saving us from in the last sentence. It almost sounds like he'd rather God take care of those dangerous Reform Jews before the suicide bombers.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 1:32 PM |

I'm happy to see that Baraita is back blogging, despite finals. Great read as always.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 1:06 PM |

It's interesting how covering the issue of rabbinic abuse tends to generate certain conversations that only lead me to think the coverage is yet more important. Here's one that resulted from my report of last night. These conversations often tend to be initiated with an attempt at an innocuous question, as this one did:

X: oh yeah i had a question for steven I
SHLEVE1: ...
X: what do you think about that garry rosenblatt fellow
SHLEVE1: he was very nice las night
X: i stayed in stern for shabbos when he was the guest...i was just wondering if you liked him
SHLEVE1: he's nice
X: do you think he's a little too into this whole abusive rabbi topic
SHLEVE1: i don't think he's into it enough
X: really?
X: i feel like he's obsessed bc that was his big story- the rabbi lanner thing
X: it's outta control
SHLEVE1: yeah, he's only really written about two cases
SHLEVE1: there hasn't been enough obsession with the lanner thing -- most of the people responsible for the problem are still in power
X: i don't know how i feel about that whole thing
X: makes me mad
SHLEVE1: what
X: that everyone knows every detail of rabbi lanner's life...i know he has problems, but i feel like it's huge loshon hora, bc not EVERYONE needs to know EVERYTHING
SHLEVE1: people don't know nearly everything -- and it's of vast importance because people are still willing to claim he's innocent and not a harm to children
SHLEVE1: the man must never get a position in jewish education, and not nearly enough people in the jewish community recognize that
X: i agree, but i feel like there should be a better way to go about doing that
SHLEVE1: better than what
X: and i just feel bad for his family and stuff
SHLEVE1: gary rosenblatt didn't do this to lanner's family -- lanner did
X: i just feel bad about the whole situation i guess
SHLEVE1: it's reasonable to feel bad -- it's not reasonable to blame gary for the problems that lanner caused, or to stop short of praising gary for his efforts to keep similar abuses from occurring by doing his job as a journalist
X: i'm just not sure how pure ppl's intentions are...does he want the big story? or does he want to stop lanner from abusing children? or is a little bit of both?
X: but that's not for me to say
X: only he knows
SHLEVE1: his motivations are irrelevant -- the product of his actions is what matters
X: but why do i have to know about it, why can't it just be something that is made known to the ppl in positions of power that can correct the situation
X: it becomes just some gossip that ppl share at the shabbos table
X: and i don't like that
SHLEVE1: because, one, the very situation we're discussing is of people in power abusing that power -- they can hardly be trusted to monitor and correct the situation appropriately on their own
SHLEVE1: two, the community should take on a sense of responsibilty towards what goes on in the community and who teaches them and their children -- citizen power is important, and citizen knowledge is required for the proper exercise of that power

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:00 PM | poll on drinking while dating.

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

Shortcomings: You'll notice that I haven't posted about Wrestling with Zion yet, and that my posting has been minimal in recent days, as well. I've got a medical situation that kept me from getting much work done, which should be fixed today.
Meantime, we've postponed the remainder of our book discussion until Monday, so I'll be catching up over the next few days.

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

I forget who sent this to me, but it's pretty interesting: Interview based on reader-submitted questions of a Ha'Aretz editor on his anti-charedi biases.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:41 AM |

"Patent Office Rules Against Kabbalists", my latest for the Forward.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:04 AM |

L-R: Arthur Magida, R' Yosef Blau, Dr. Michelle Freedman, Gary Rosenblatt
"The Day the Rabbi Went to Jail" Panel at Makor
[I attended this event on rabbinic abuse with my new Treo 600 (hence the picture) and laptop. This dispatch is yet another experiment in covering J-news at a J-blog. There's no reasonable comparison with other coverage for this story since no other J-paper would cover an event sponsored by the New York Jewish Week, and the NYJW itself would likely only cover it in an editor's column -- if at all. All the same, it was a coverage-worthy event, and one that took place on Wednesday, which means the earliest any J-weekly would have a story on it would be a week from today. The event started at 7:30, ended at 9:15, had mingling afterwards, and I got home at 11:00 PM; this dispatch is being posted at 1:45 AM -- a 4.5-hour turn-around].
This panel convened tonight at Makor to discuss issues of abuse in the rabbinate. Gary Rosenblatt, Editor of the New York Jewish Week, was the moderator, and the panelists were Arthur Magida, author of The Rabbi and the Hit Man, R' Yosef Blau, Mashgiach Ruchani ("Spiritual Overseer") of Yeshiva University, and Dr. Michelle Friedman, Chair of Pastoral Counseling at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.
The panel was something of a turning point in the discussion of rabbinic abuse, as it did not come on the heels of any major scandal and was explicitly focused on what will come of what the Jewish community has learned in the past few years; as Rosenblatt put it in his opening remarks, "What concerns me most is whether if the situation were to present itself again tomorrow, whether the community would do a better job of handling it," adding that he wanted, "Not so much rehash the cases that have made the headlines over the years, but what can be done to prevent future cases."
As Rosenblatt introduced the panelists, one reality that presented itself was how both Friedman and Blau are allowed to accomplish somewhat similar ends with rabbinical students; the primary difference is that while students must pass muster with Friedman, Blau will mostly oversee those students who come to him voluntarily, a self-selection that means certain quality students will become of a yet higher quality by meeting with Blau, but that the lesser-quality students, who are less likely to seek out Blau, will get even less tutelage.
With Magida's introduction, I wondered why, exactly he was there. The case of convicted felon Rabbi Fred Neulander, who plotted the murder of his wife, is not a case of abuse of the rabbinate so much as it is a story of a rabbi gone wrong. What, exactly, his story lends to our understanding of rabbinic abuse is unclear. Magida made some relevant contributions when he discussed the harm done to adherents simply by their rabbi having committed such atrocious, but while this condition is similar to cases of rabbinic abuse for the non-victims, the Neulander case is not so relevant as to warrant study for understanding the impact of rabbinic abuse; were there too few rabbinic abuse cases to study for these effects, perhaps the Neulander case would be needed to fill gaps, but unfortunately this is not the case.
Friedman described her program at Chovevei. "It has a didactic component, and it has a provisional component," she explained. Speaking of Chovevei's expectations for its rabbis, she said, "We want them to have an impact, and to do that, [they] have to get close to people." She noted that, "The job…has very few boundaries," such that there ceases to be much of a line between, "their personal lives and their professional lives." She emphasized a realistic approach to training rabbis, saying, "It’s not a question of if they’ll be provoked, but how and how often," and explained that they tell students when confronted with provocative situations, "the first things you do is take your own pulse, your own emotional pulse…which I don’t want them to share with the congregant." Future rabbis should, "Be aware of the enormous power tha people invest in the rabbi," and that in order to properly affect congregants, "Every rabbi not only is going to be, but should be, in provocative situations."
Rosenblatt then asked Blau to explain the power the rabbinate holds.
Blau began by emphasizing that, among all denominations, "the rabbinate is extremely important in Judaism." Blau suggested that the rabbinate is vulnerable to cultivating abusive members because, "individuals become rabbis by going through a program which is essentially academic and intellectual in nature," in which is maintained the sometimes-false "Assumption that they wouldn’t want to be rabbis unless they were seriously committed, of high moral character." Problems almost always arise, Blau opined, when "A community identifies the rabbi with being god-like." He said it is often assumed that members of the Jewish clergy are both, "A rabbi and a tzaddik," however, while "we like to think it’s true, but there’s no reason why automatically it’s true."
Moving to the problem of policing abusive situations that are already known, Rosenblatt said, "We don’t really have an institutional framework to deal with cases," that, "Most of the time a rabbi may be terminated quietly but without any indication of what went on, and they’ll move on," to other positions elswhere. At this last comment, nearly all members of the audience were fiercely nodding.
Friedman avoided the question of how to police abuse, focusing on the need for a preventative approach that must take place, "At all levels," most significanly by developing "appropriate training programs." Friedman mentioned that one such promising program is the Wexner program at Yeshiva University, "Which," she opined, "Hopefully will be brought to train all the students." She made the rather significant assertion that the presence of such programs, "Has withered more than it has grown." She said that communities, as well, need to engage in preventing potentially-abusive rabbis from taking positions by making their communal acumen a condition of their employment. "People have a right to say...well, what has your training been?" she declared, offering that community members should make inquiries regarding not only whom the candidate might seek halakhic opinions from, but also, "Who might you turn to if you have a psychological question?" As well, in addition to seeking out candidates who have, "A great head for learning," Friedman wants communities to seek candidates possessing, "Skills that are often associated with social services and psychology."
Blau cited three problems that allow rabbinic abuse to fester, after noting that, "When we use the term rabbi," for discussions of abuse we should include in that definition, "Not only pulpit rabbis," but teachers, cantors and sexons, and all those charged with developing the ritual and intellectual development of the community's membership. Blau said that the three problems facing the Jewish community are "tremendous denial;" the fact that, "The Jewish community still retains a measure of insecurity about their acceptance in the general American society," such that, "If there's a problem, they don't want it to come out;" and, lastly, "A tremendous reluctance to utilize secular authorities," when abuse is known. Regarding this last point, Blau mentioned the concept of mesirah, explaining it as a moral clause suggesting that traitorous Jews not turn over co-religionists to anti-Semitic governments, but that this concept has no application in cases of rabbinic abuse, "Since abusers are dangerous to victims and to others." Blau admitted that, "Our own internal mechanism is not really geared towards dealing with such behavior," for various reasons, including its inability to conduct forensic investigations. He said that the Jewish community in America should be compelled to recognize these shortcomings, "So that we are open about our problems, are willing to take advantage," of those services available to the community, "Including police and incarceration, if necessary."
Rosenblatt asked for clarification as to whether "It is clear in Jewish law," that "worry of abuse" supercedes concepts like mesirah, or whether there is some kind of "Gray area."
"No, I don’t think it’s gray at all," Blau responded, saying that abuse is too often rationalized in the Jewish community, which he attributed to his contention that, "Many of us are not trained to understand the nature of abuse, and how pernicious it really is." He said that when abuse occurs, often, "We think it’s an accident, someone slipped once, and they can do teshuva," where a concept of repentance overwhelms a sense of caution, especially with rabbis, because of the assumption that, "If [the abuser is] a rabbi, certainly he repented." Blau said of abusive rabbis, "He or she is still a danger to others," and, "I think there’s no serious question that mesirahdoes not apply."
Turning the conversation to the role of journalism in this whole situation, Rosenblatt called on Magida to respond to the assertion that sometimes for community members, "It’s a matter of kill the messenger."
Magida responded with an attempt at humor, saying, "I’ve been near slaughtered myself since this book came out." Magida's comments were the most troubling in the panel, since they were the most overtly self-serving and most consciously an attempt to seem profound. His response was much fluffy theatrical nonsense, saying "Norman Mailer said that he writes to find the truth at the tip of his pen," as he dramatically raised his rollerball. Magida concluded by telling Rabbi Blau his understanding of halakha, saying that, "It’s my opinion that if you have a rodef," then issues of mesirah don't apply; this was almost precisely what Blau had already iterated twice, leading to the conclusion that Magida wasn't really listening to Blau. This is troubling in specific when evinced by a journalist on a panel discussing an issue in which journalistic attentiveness is of premier importance, and journalists must be humble enough to deal appropriately with the sources and the story. Journalistic integrity, responsibility and ethics in the Jewish journalism industry in general has already proven to allow abuse to fester; the Jewish media has not won the trust of its readership necessary to deal properly with this issue (for those Jewish journalists who even acknowledge that it is an issue worth dealing with at all). During the question-and-answer session, one audience member asked about sensationalism in Jewish reporting, and "sensationalism" is a term that could certainly be applied to Magida's act tonight. In a statement that was entirely out of context with the discussion at a certain point, Magida excessively belabored his idea that congregation members who have affairs with their rabbis are trying to make love with God, "They're schtupping God," he finally announced in a sensationalistic conclusion that was long in coming. Magida did not instill confidence in Jewish journalists' ability to deal responsibly with the issue of abuse.
Blau pointed out that victims' parents are often, "Reluctant to go public because they perceive that the person who has been abused will be considered damaged goods," informing the audience that, "In most cases, the parents of the abused children will support the school in getting the teacher fired, but not in spreading the word." This embarrassment issue speaks to the larger issue of global problems in the Jewish community that keep the community fertile for abuse, but are noteworthy problems in and of themselves. In this case, it is the gossipy nature of the community and the constant worry of being blemished for the marriage market; in other cases, rabbi-worship and other problems may be in play. These things should be avoided anyway, and now that we know they'll further our abuse problem, they're not simply innocuous issues taking place in someone else's backyard.
Friedman found blaming the victim to be far too prevalent even in supposedly more enlightened areas of the community, such as one, "Liberal and open-minded person," who asked Friedman of female abuse victims, "Why don't these girls just say no?" During the question-and-answer period, these dangerous views held by self-identified feminists came to light in regard to the case of a specific communit's attempts to build a coalition to discredit an abusive rabbi. "We’ve been working on this for years, where do we go next," wondered one woman. Her friend added, "He’s been very helpful to women in other situations…so agunah organizations and other organizations are reluctant," to oppose him.
Rosenblatt concluded the panel's discussion by pursuing questions of action to take towards abuse in the future. He asked, "Should we encourage kids to go public?"
Friedman responded that Rosenblatt's was, "A very difficult question, that should be decided on a case-by-case basis." Friedman took the opportunity to emphasize that the abuse most relevant to the discussion is that of the serial abuser, who often in the Jewish community will be expelled from one community only to move to another, and so on. Friedman added, "We're not talking about the rabbi who's in an unhappy marriage and gets involved with a congregant."
In discussing procedural solutions to the problem of abuse, Magida noted that the Reform movement requires rabbis in cases of confirmed abuse to go through two years of therapy and tutelage, with the overseeing therapist and rabbi required to sign off on the rabbi's teshuva for him/her to obtain employment. Blau made a point of noting that, "Registering, and the legal ramifications of it," are very hard to deal with, saying, "As government has found with Megan's Law, it’s not so simple."
Blau also emphasized changes in attitude. "We shouldn't forget...that there’s a much greater quantitative problem of abuse within the family itself," he noted, trying to place rabbinic abuse within a proper context. As regards rabbinic abuse, "A real part of the problem is not only the abuser, but the response of the community," which will often allow, "The abuser [to] just march on, and often the abuser will let [the victim] know," that he or she is powerful enough to avoid prosecution. He said that communities improperly rationalize the conduct of abusive rabbis by emphasizing that they are, "Very charismatic people, who have achieved a lot in the rabbinate," which Blau characterized as, "A Faustian deal." Blau responded to this attitude, saying, "First of all, I don’t think religiously or morally we’re allowed to make that kind of equation; secondly, we’re underestimating the number of people who’ve been hurt."

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:48 AM |

Wednesday, December 10, 2003  

Stupidest response to my Geneva Accord story? We've got a good nominee here:

The author makes many points - none truly worth addressing in detail. I'm too tired. Surfice to say, a peace plan does not require a clause about security - that is because you are trying to create peace dummy. Why are peace and security two different things in the Arab-Israeli conflict?
I'm really getting down about the whole reception to the Geneva Accord. It seems that it will die the same horrible death of all other innitiatives. The sad thing is that this is the good one - the one that really hits the core issues, and in doing so, solves the rest.
The guy should be a spokesperson for Beilin/Rabbo (Beibo? Railin?). Even if one doesn't get all philosophical and start quoting "Perpetual Peace" there's still the plain reality that achieving peace -- for Israelis at least -- does rely on stopping terrorists.

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

Reader Simcha sends in an AP story reporting that the Alexandria library withdrew its copy of Protocols, bowing to public protest. Note the quote from Youssef Ziedan in the story:

``My professional view is that it is a silly book,'' he said. ``Its only significance is that it is the first Arabic edition of the book that has influenced the Arab mentality to a great extent.''
Contrast that with his earlier statement:
"When my eyes fell upon the rare copy of this dangerous book, I decided immediately to place it next to the Torah. Although it is not a monotheistic holy book, it has become one of the sacred [tenets] of the Jews, next to their first constitution, their religious law, [and] their way of life. In other words, it is not merely an ideological or theoretical book.
"Perhaps this book of the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' is more important to the Zionist Jews of the world than the Torah, because they conduct Zionist life according to it… It is only natural to place the book in the framework of an exhibit of Torah [scrolls]."
The AP had easy access to this quote; it should have been reported.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:57 PM |

The next major diplomatic battleground between Israel and the Vatican may well be over the Cenaculum -- the room where the Last Supper is traditionally held to have been held (clever turn of phrase or me being really tired? you decide). Even more interesting, its the top floor of David's Tomb on Mount Zion, which they never told us when we toured back in my Gush days. Either way, this may be worth watching:

The Vatican's demand to have ownership or rights to the Cenaculum was brought up during the course of the deliberations of the subcommittee that deals with regularizing church property. The place was a Muslim trust before it was occupied by Israel in 1948 and handed over to the administration of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The Holy See is basing its demand on history: The Franciscan monks held the room until the 16th century, when it was confiscated from them by the Ottomans. On the Israeli side, there are those that say that by the same logic the Vatican has to recognize the Jews' right to all of the Temple Mount.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:52 PM |

WorldNetDaily: Pagans incensed by White House comment:

Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, participated in an online interactive 'Ask the White House' chat Nov. 26. One question posed to him had to do with whether or not pagan faith-based groups should be considered for public funding.
'I haven't run into a pagan faith-based group yet, much less a pagan group that cares for the poor!' Towey responded, according to a White House transcript. 'Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can't be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work, and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it.'
Its interesting to ponder what it means when there's a massive outcry when an American government assumes that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same God but that there isn't one (only 4 hits on google news, only one from a major US newspaper) when the American government assumes that only monotheists have loving hearts. It really makes the argument that the evil secularists are taking over America seem silly. This is a country with an intensely religious culture, and we have to shape our assumptions about it accordingly.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:42 PM |

The latest sign of the apocalypse.

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

The Vatican reacts to The Passion. Two thumbs up, apparently. Excited yet? You can buy advance tickets now for the February 25 release -- seemingly chosen to correspond to the date most people finally throw out their old Christmas trees.

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

New York Sun story on the Friedman fighting. I get the feeling that they could have credited my scoop a little better, since I gave them an exclusive before the issue in which the article will appear is published -- any of our veteran journalist readers have an opinion?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:22 AM |

Tuesday, December 09, 2003  

Carl F.H. Henry, Theologian and First Editor of Christianity Today, Dies at 90 - Christianity Today Magazine:

Theologian, journalist, and evangelical leader Carl F.H. Henry died Sunday, December 7, at age 90 in his longtime home of Watertown, Wisconsin. Henry made it his life's work to present biblical Christianity as intellectually credible and historically true. On the battlefields of modern theological thought, spanning seminaries, denominations, and media, Henry shaped the defenses of evangelicalism with two goals in mind: preserving truth and attracting nonbelievers.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:07 PM |

Another guest post, via an emailer who wishes to remain unnamed:

I happened to accidentally catch a bit of the movie "The Hebrew Hammer" on Comedy Central this afternoon. Picture the Zucker brothers getting together with Woody Allen to make a blaxploitation film about a Jewish version of Shaft played by Adam Goldberg who has to save Chanukah from an evil Santa played by Andy Dick and you get the gist. Writer/director Jonathan Kesselman seems to have squandered an opportunity to make a much funnier film, but it's still worth a look for a number of visual laughs and a few genuinely good moments (evil Santa plots to crush the Jewish spirit by distributing free copies of Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life "). One caveat, if you're averse to shameless repetition of Jewish stereotypes and gratuitous cursing for comedic effect, stay away. Though I suppose most readers of protocols won't be put-off by this too much.
Encore presentations air Tuesday, December 9th at 3 PM, Friday, December 12th at 1 AM, Saturday, December 13th at 11 AM, Sunday, December 14th at 7:30 AM & 7:30 PM.
I missed the screening last week at Makor, but I'll surely catch one of these.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:05 PM |

Wrestling with Zion, Round Two

Ami’s desire to wrestle with the problems of achieving a viable two state solution is indeed laudable. When I began this book that is precisely what I signed up to do. I had assumed the editors collected opinions and arguments that addressed the modern problems and their future variations along the lines of Ami’s “Israeli Doves,” Mitzna and Burg.

[Not to be misunderstood, I am entirely in favor of philosophically questioning the Jewish State’s existence, just as I spent years studying the philosophy of social justice. For, to study and question does not imply negation, it generally improves understanding and often strengthens conviction.]

Kushner and Solomon tell us that they intend to deal with the “contemporary crisis,” which is their given title to section two of this book. But, much to my disappointment, instead of finding authors truly grappling with security fences, refugee camps, ‘occupied territories,’ the Gush, the right of return, highways and waterways, we find far too many references to a leftist past that does little to advance the editors perspective’s in the current crisis.

To be fair, Michael Massing’s piece on the “representative” nature of American Jewish Organizations addresses a subject not often dealt with in the Jewish media. Massing is particularly focused on the Conference of Presidents resemblance to the views and political interests of its Executive Director and not its constituent members. (read plenty about this in Ami’s newspaper here, here, here, here and in many other places)

Seth Ackerman’s piece on Israel in the Media did an interesting job of exposing this reader to the opposite side of the CAMERA notion of an anti-Israel bias in the media. His facts and figures are far more impressive than his attempts to show a grand conspiracies of Zionists, government neocons, right-wing news anchors and elders controlling the American and international press putting a pro-Israel spin on everything.

In the first 6 months of 2001, [NPR] reported on the killings of 62 Israelis and 51 Palestinians. In the same period, 77 Israelis and 148 Palestinians died in the conflict. In other words, there was an 81 % likelihood that an Israeli death would be reported… but only a 34% likelihood that a Palestinian death would be. The pattern can’t be explained by “innocent” victims getting more coverage…
Ackerman goes on to explain why in the following three paragraphs.

Esther Kaplan’s essay seems to support a well-documented but poorly argued case for the spread of a legitimate, international pro-Palestinian movement. Kaplan draws an awkward picture of loosely connected left-of-center movements that have all jumped on the pro-Palestinian bandwagon. One gets a sense that pro-Palestinian support and Israel bashing go hand in hand with not wearing fur and saving the Everglades. Kaplan goes so far as to propose that being pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel is a litmus test in establishing your liberal credentials whatever your cause.

For me however, her argument lost all meaning and credibility when she devoted substantial space to Durban as a good thing. That was topped only by this passage:
The road… will be populated by activists who are young, brash and unknowledgeable, a handful of whom will carry placards that read “Zionism=Nazism”… And so what? This new wave of activism has healthy roots, ones that tap deep into despair… not into ancient wells of Jew hating.”
Right. And I got a bridge to sell.

Even if you disagree with his conclusions, Henry Siegman’s condemnation of Orthodox Jewry’s non-involvement in civil rights and social justice is worth a read. This, despite the fact that the collection of his essays reproduced in section two were written entirely before the second intifadah and are out of place in the contemporary crisis section of the book.

In fact, it seems that the construction, coherence and editing of this volume took a backseat to the excitement of publishing a leftist tract that has thus far not redeemed its cause. An article about Breirai, an organization that died in the 70’s, is included in the contemporary crisis portion of the book with no bridge to the present day.

Furthermore, Kaplan’s piece, along with many others in this section, would have benefited from a dateline. The politics on the ground and around the world change so rapidly that knowing when a piece was penned helps the reader better comprehend the arguments and evidence. Again, Kushner and Solomon have failed their cause and their readers.

posted by Pinchas | 5:39 PM |

South Africa's New Chief Rabbi

In an attempt to keep the younger generations of South African Jewry from leaving the country, the Union of Orthodox Synagogues of South Africa named thirty-something scholar Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein as successor to South Africa's Chief Rabbi, Cyril Harris, who retires at the end of 2004.

The Union of Orthodox Synagogues of South Africa said in a statement that Goldstein was a "young and dynamic congregational rabbi and orator".

He was also a formidable Jewish scholar, an advocate of the High Court and a fourth generation South African, dedicated to South Africa's "unique" Jewish community. Goldstein was co-author with Dumani Mandela of African Soul Talk, a dialogue debating the values which should permeate the new South Africa.

posted by Pinchas | 2:06 PM |

Monday, December 08, 2003  

With only 18 minutes till midnight, it occurs to me that nobody's posted about today being protocols' first birthday. So, I figured it'd be appropriate to repost the first post ever posted to protocols:

Sunday, December 08, 2002
Protocols...coming soon!
Check out Iatribe in the meantime...

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:47 PM |
We've come a long way since then. Just by the way, I joined the party here.

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

So, as we reach midway in the first round of our Wrestling with Zion Federation Smackdown Challenge, I’d like to tag in for a bout or two.

Kushner and Solomon’s introduction is so constructed that it allowed Ami to completely duck the fair and legitimate questions raised in the book. (Instead of recognizing their failure and redrafting Wrestling With Zion’s opening, Kushner and Solomon attempt to redeem their folly by forcefully establishing their leftist bonafides not through coherent argument, but through stereotyped identity.)

No fair minded individual can honestly negate the questions raised in this volume: Does Israel act with justice and charity towards the Palestinians? Has the Jewish State lost its identity in securing its own existence? Is our brand of extreme nationalism any healthier than others that dot history? Have American Jews betrayed their own values in their unquestioned support of the Jewish State? Have we lost our moral direction if we condemn those who simply ask?

Unlike the contributors to this volume, I do not pretend to know the answers to any of these questions. But I do recognize the necessity of asking.

The introduction commits a tremendous disservice to the ideals and questions raised. Anyone reading it for substance finds only a series of unsophisticated, anti-right banter, a hodgepodge of semi-facts and overused argument.

No matter. Where a reader might have been encouraged to close this book immediately after the introduction, they are rewarded heartily for going through the first section. In the most articulate and well-edited portion of the entire tract, the first section cites the arguments of those who questioned all or part of the early modern Zionist movement and forecast the troubles Israel would find if it seized nationhood by force.

Baeck and Einstein, in a letter from a different time that could have been penned today:

Both Arab and Jewish extremists are today recklessly pushing Palestine into a futile war. While believing in the defense of legitimate claims, these extremists on each side play into each other’s hands. In this reign of terror the needs and desires of the common man in Palestine are being ignored.

Were war to occur, the peace would still leave the necessity of the two people working together, unless one of the other were exterminated or enslaved. Short of such calamity, a decisive victory by either would yield a corroding bitterness. Common sense dictates joint efforts to prevent war and to foster cooperation now.

posted by Pinchas | 11:32 PM |

My Geneva Accord Dispatch: Sippin' Geneva Juice.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:29 PM |

As of this posting, is down. Reader Amitai did some research and came up with the following registration information:
Fix yourself not history
100 Que Ave
Brooklyn, NY 08260
Amitai suspects foul play. Any thoughts?

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:59 PM |

Jewschool links to Jon Stewart's Daily Show coverage of the Geneva Accords (RealPlayer required). It's a tremendously funny piece that just keeps on getting funnier.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:14 AM |

Bush Presides Over Biggest Growth in U.S. Spending Since 1990

Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush is presiding over the biggest growth in U.S. government spending since 1990, as a Republican-led Congress provides money for programs ranging from the fight against terrorism to a dried plant exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden.

Federal spending rose 7.3 percent to $2.2 trillion in fiscal 2003 and 7.9 percent the year before, the most since George H. W. Bush was in the White House. Congress will vote this week on a $328 billion bill to fund such projects as an $18 billion loan guarantee for an Alaska gas terminal that may benefit ConocoPhillips Co. and Exxon Mobil Corp.

The spending threatens Bush's pledge to cut the federal budget deficit in half by 2008, said Robert Bixby, policy director at the Concord Coalition, which advocates a balanced budget. The deficit hit a record $374 billion in the year ended Sept. 30 and is projected by the White House to widen to $475 billion this year. Government spending and Bush's tax cuts also helped the U.S. economy grow 8.2 percent in the third quarter.

``The big boom you're having right now might not be sustainable if the deficit continues to be large,'' said Steven Hess, an analyst with Moody's Investors Service.
Ah, but the boom only has to last until next November...

posted by Pinchas | 11:13 AM |

Inter-blog book discussion Mother Post.
Starting today, we'll be discussing Wrestling with Zion in an inter-blog discussion.
The participating bloggers will be:
Ami Eden
Brad Pilcher
Daniel "Mobius" Sieradski of Jewschool
Pinchas Shapiro and Steven I. Weiss of Protocols.
Each day, a different blogger will start off the discussion, going in alphabetical order (Eden on Monday, Pilcher on Tuesday, etc.). Each blogger will then respond to the first post and offer his own take. There are seven sections in the book; the discussion will focus on a section a day.
For simplicity's sake, I'll be updating this post with links to all posts in the discussion, and will add a link to this post on our sidebar. So, you can click on the sidebar at any time to see what the latest posts in the book discussion are.
Posts for Monday, December 8:
1) Ami Eden
2) Mobius
3) Ami Eden
4) Pinchas Shapiro
Posts for Tuesday, December 9:
1) Brad Pilcher
2) Ami Eden
3) Pinchas Shapiro
5) Brad Pilcher

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:44 AM |

I'd been meaning to get to this all weekend; on Friday, WaPo ran a story on Israel's Iraq intelligence failures. Now, to my mind, there's nothing wrong with detailing intelligence failures on Iraq, since pretty much every country around the globe had intelligence failures; there's a news hook with Israel here because of the report it's issuing. But the article takes the attitude that Israel's input on the war was on-part with that of America and Britain; in large part, it seems, that's because the report did, too:

"In the questioning of the picture painted by coalition intelligence, the third party in this intelligence failure, Israel, has remained in the shadows," the report said. "Israeli intelligence was a full partner to the picture presented by American and British intelligence regarding Iraq's non-conventional capabilities."
That is an obvious over-estimation of Israeli intelligence's relevance in the matter. The article comes off as completely unbalanced; but how can it not when you have a report like this?
The report accused intelligence agencies of being blinded by a "one-dimensional perception of Saddam Hussein."
"At the heart of this perception lay the colorful portrait of an embodiment of evil, a man possessed by a compulsion to develop weapons of mass destruction in order to strike Israel and others, regardless of additional considerations," the report said.
Now, even with what we now know, I think any well-informed person would agree with all of those characterizations.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:09 AM |

AKS writes, "Kesher Talk...[in] my opinion is the best Jewish-interest blog out there," while apologizing to the Protocols fellows. No apologies necessary: obviously she thinks we're the second-best, so as soon as the pill I dropped in Yehudit's drink last night kicks in, we shall reign supreme.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:41 AM |

Hananel Mack, who teaches at both Hebrew U and Bar-Ilan, just wrote a new book on marriage in rabbinic times that was reviewed by haaretz. Interesting stuff. Here's a key line to get the discussion started:

study of the history of Jewish law assumes that the development of Jewish law stems from the response of the rabbinical authorities to changes ... that made it difficult for Jews to adhere to the halakhic norm that had been accepted up to that time. ...
but you all should really read the whole article...(via Bibleinterp)

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:23 AM |

Sunday, December 07, 2003  

Forward Living this week coversthe original cinematic exodus:

In 1923, a year before Charlton Heston was born, Cecil B. DeMille shot his original version of 'The Ten Commandments.' In its day, it was the largest, most popular project ever put on film. With a price tag of $1.48 million, it was also the most expensive. Following its glittering premiere — 80 years ago this week — at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, 'The Ten Commandments' set box office records and ran for more than a year around the country.
Among the 2,500 extras DeMille brought with him for three weeks of filming were 250 Orthodox Jews from Los Angeles. Most of them, immigrants from Eastern Europe, didn't speak English. Yet for them, the silent 'Ten Commandments' was more than a movie. Playing the roles of their ancestors in the Exodus was emotional for them and the others on the set; during those moments, the American dream and their heritage converged.
Read the whole article; it was genuinely touching.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 6:12 PM |

Caption Contest
Reader Duvie sends us to this review of this book of Jew photos. The review has the graf:

Some of his photographs are distinctly "in your face," or, to use the pro-football term, "smash mouth." An example of this aspect of his work is seen in a photograph of ten defiant-looking young female rabbis and cantors at the Jewish Theological Seminary, in prayer shawls with phylacteries, or tefilin, wrapped round their forearms. None of Brenner's photographs carry titles or captions, but this one might have been entitled "Not Your Mother's Judaism."
This seems a pretty weak bit of writing generally, but a specifically weak performance on the caption.
Here's the pic, do your best:

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:06 PM |

Reader Shaya informs us that the Simpsons episode tonight will be about Krusty's Bar Mitzvah. See an article here. Check local listings for time and station.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:58 PM |

Blogger was giving me problems all day. I've now posted the conclusion of the Beilin/Rabbo interviews, with more discussion to come later tonight.
I'm currently working on my Geneva Accords article for Jewsweek, which I hope to publish tonight.
I'll be distracting myself by being a guest on WYUR from 7-8 PM. You should be able to listen and call in.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:49 PM |

Juan Stam on Bush's religious language

True prayer does not pretend to tell God what we want Him to do but rather asks that God tell us what He wishes us to do. We do not pray in order to enlist God in our ranks but to examine ourselves, to change and to do God's will. Therefore, the confession of sin and repentance are crucial moments in prayer and worship. Prayer has played a role without precedent in the Bush presidency and in the propaganda of the evangelicals who support him. Photos of Bush at prayer are common. Great publicity was given to the fact that during a prime-time news conference shortly before his speech giving the ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, Bush asked his advisers to leave him alone for ten minutes. In evangelical symbolism, that meant that a man of prayer was going to commune with God, somewhat like Moses on Mount Sinai.
It is remarkable how closely Bush's discourse coincides with that of the false prophets of the Old Testament. While the true prophets proclaimed the sovereignty of Yahweh, the God of justice and love who judges nations and persons, the false prophets served Baal, who could be manipulated by the powerful. Karl Marx concluded that religion is "the opium of the people." But Marx never knew committed Christians like Camilo Torres of Colombia, Oscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador, Frank Pais of Cuba, Ernesto Cardenal of Nicaragua, Dietrich Bonhoeffer of Germany or Martin Luther King Jr. of the United States. How paradoxical, and how sad, that the President of the United States, with his heretical manipulation of religious language, insists on proving Karl Marx right.

posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 3:50 AM |
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