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

Saturday, April 24, 2004  

Blog your rabbi on Saturday night. Put up a post about the weekly sermon, and I'll link to it in this post.

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

Friday, April 23, 2004  

Ham-fisted Holocaust satire brings hellfire down on student editor at Rutgers. The guy's biggest crime? There's nothing remotely funny about the cartoon.

posted by Silow-Carroll | 2:09 PM |

The results are in from a major new study by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA, titled "Spirituality in Higher Education: A National Study of College Students' Search for Meaning and Purpose." According to the release announcing the findings:

Students’ spiritual/religious growth during the college years is most affected in positive ways by their degree of spiritual/religious involvement and their interactions with peers, while partying appears to be a negative influence on students’ spiritual development, according to new research released today.

For this they needed a study?

posted by Silow-Carroll | 8:56 AM |

Thursday, April 22, 2004  

Discussing his coverage of the Chovevei dinner a few weeks ago, SIW was taken aback when Gary Rosenblatt of the Jewish Week reminded Howard Jonas that yeshiva officials had "asked that his remarks be considered off the record". The post got me thinking: Are there any guidelines for when speakers at "public" events declare from the podium that their remarks are "off the record" or "not for publication"? Last month I was in Washington covering United Jewish Communities' Young Leadership conference. At a morning session on Iraq, a junior State Dept. official informed the room of about 60 people that his remarks were not for publication. Similarly, a former aide to NJ Gov. McGreevey recently spoke at a local synagogue at an event which had been advertised to the public. Again, he asked our reporter to put her notebook away. I posted my question to a journos' web site and got this helpful response from a "Karen Hill":

As I have understood it, in about 20 years of various forms of journalism: The common-sense rule is that someone speaking to 60 people is most certainly speaking to the public and has no more of an expectation of privacy than someone taking his pants off in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, or more specific to your case, someone taking his pants off in the middle of a hotel conference room that anyone could wander into. It might make a slight difference if the speech was invitation-only, but only if you knew about the ban beforehand and agreed to it. And then, why on earth invite reporters to such a speech? Bottom line: The speaker is just plain nuts to expect what he tells 60 people to stay in that room.
The journalism-specific rule is that it takes two to tango. Just because someone says he's off the record doesn't mean he's off the record until you agree to it, too.

By the way, neither the State Dept. guy or the NJ guy had anything very interesting to say.

posted by Silow-Carroll | 4:23 PM |

What to do when your message gets distorted by a newspaper? Blog it! Alex Chester authored an opinion piece on Israel's targeted assassinations for UPenn's Daily Pennsylvanian. Thing is, the version they printed was vastly different from the one he authored, something he pretty much accepts the blame for since he gave the editor a green light to do whatever the editor wanted, as Chester had a physics exam to focus on.
Anyway, Chester wanted to get his original piece out in the ether, so he started a blog and posted it there.
The liberties taken by the editor to insert new lines of argument and factual assertion are pretty odd, though it's hard to say that Chester comes off worse for having the better version printed. Either way, he can set the record straight, because he's got a blog.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:01 PM |

I'm almost positive I'm not making this up, but Heeb's Website now says that their blog is to arrive on May 15. Didn't I say on Tuesday that the same Website promised a delivery date of April 22 (i.e. today)? Yes, I did. And even that was sort of a post-dated claim, since the editor was saying in an interview that they already had a blog.
I guess this means they're applying the same seriousness to meeting deadlines with their Web content as with their print magazine.

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

Get Religion summarizes the Madonna/Kabbalah issue.

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

On March 19th, Protocols reported a denial that Dov Zakheim had become Chairman of the Board of Chovevei; the same source has now confirmed that Zakheim has joined the board.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:43 PM |

Am I a sell-out? That's the accusation levelled by g. in response to my post about my move:

sell out. its probably not fair to call you that, since most people would do the same thing if they were in your position. but then again, most people dont rant and rave about the new wave of journalism: blogging and its inherent freedom.
best of luck to you. i hope you're doing the right thing.
Of course, I struggled with this myself. Before I even wrote my first story for the Forward, and then the Jewish Press, and considered writing for other publications, I wondered if I would compromise my own commitment to showing the flaws in certain coverage, thereby bringing a more honest truth to the readers. But I did write for those publications, and I didn't compromise.
Moving forward, I'm not sure exactly what freedoms I'll have in critiquing or providing coverage. While I was interviewing here, I was just as much testing for their responses as they were for mine, and they've passed with flying colors. The fact of the matter is that the Forward is the J-paper that brings the most credibility to the paper, according to many and according to just about every reasonable person of every political and religious affiliation I've spoken with. The Forward, surely, doesn't feel that it's buying my silence, but that it's buying my work ethic, my reporting experience, and my day-glo smile.
I do think that there's a ton that the blogosphere brings to the J-journalism table, as I've said many times before, and I do think that the blogosphere can beat J-weeklies in many ways. That's why I demanded a blog as a condition of employment. We are still working on this medium, and we will continue to do so. One of the reasons I went to BloggerCon was to make the connections and have the discussions to figure out if I could afford to continue blogging and doing my work without the Forward staff position, and I found that I could; it'd be hard, but I could, much as I found a way to make my career on my terms. I made this decision fully aware that I could afford to walk away.
My move shouldn't be read as a jettisoning of the blogosphere, but an endorsement of it. If we want to make this J-blogosphere thing work, we can, and we will. I'll have some final posts discussing what we can do, moving forward.
The first, obviously, is to get us to do the legwork that Guest Andrew says we need to do. He's right. There are a number of ways that the blogosphere, with some collective footwork, can beat the J-weeklies. I made one suggestion for how this could go on Saturday night. The live-blogging and other reportage that I've done on Protocols over the past year could be done by everybody. As I've said time and again, the J-blogosphere has so much more potential here than the rest of the blogosphere, becaue the gap that needs filling is so much greater, and the ease of reaching sources is so much greater, as well.
It's okay if you call me a sell-out; I'll understand. But I'll keep working, and I won't walk away from what we're doing here, in the J-blogosphere.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:03 AM |

This just in from the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. A lot of folks don't realize that newspapers and magazines are able to say no to any ad, for any reason. Whether they should is another question. At my newspaper, I say no if the ad contains obviously fraudulent. libelous or misleading claims, if it is anonymous, or if the advertiser is clearly divisive or antagonist to the interests of my readership ("clearly" becomes my judgment call).

Here's the Wyman news release:


     In response to a complaint by The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, The Nation --one of America’s leading weekly magazines-- has adopted a new policy of refusing to accept paid advertisements from Holocaust-deniers.
     Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff said:  “The Nation deserves praise for its swift and decisive action to end its relationship with Holocaust-deniers.  It has affirmed the principle that those who deny the Holocaust are ‘fraudulent’ and hate-mongers, who should be treated as pariahs by civilized society.”

     The controversy began when an advertisement from a Holocaust-denying organization, the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), appeared in the latest issue of The Nation (which is dated May 3, 2004).  The IHR ad promoted a new book which, it said, “dissects ... the most sacred of Jewish-Zionist icons, the Holocaust story.”

     Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff sent a letter to The Nation on April 21, 2004 protesting the publication of the IHR ad as well as the “sponsored link” by The Nation which appears on the web site of the Institute for Historical Review. (  Dr. Medoff wrote:  “Holocaust-deniers are not offering a legitimate alternative viewpoint.  They are in the business of hate-mongering.  They should not be in The Nation, and The Nation should not be on their web site”....

     The Wyman Institute has received a letter from The Nation’s advertising spokesman, Leigh Novog, dated April 21, 2004, announcing that the Wyman Institute’s protest “prompted a meeting of The Nation’s Advertising Acceptability Committee.” The conclusion of the meeting, Novog wrote, was that “[T]here is a strong presumption against censoring any advertisement, especially if we disagree with its politics.  This case, however, is different. Their arguments are ‘patently fraudulent.’ The magazine has requested the advertiser, The Institute for Historical Review not run advertising in future issues.”

posted by Silow-Carroll | 9:48 AM |

Wednesday, April 21, 2004  


12:30 p.m. -- Italian foreign minister discusses Israel and Italian-American relations; Anti-Defamation League headquarters, 823 U.N. Plaza, 46th Street and First Avenue.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:28 PM |

Hey there,
Don't know if anyone's commented yet on the largely sympathetic portrait of Rantisi penned by David Margolick of Vanity Fair in today's NYT. I personally found the whole thing offensive - from the in-depth introductory remarks detailing Israel's deadly surveillance techniques, on through the fawning "keepin' it real" comparison between the "dapper [Dahlan in his] luxurious office" and the populist Dr. Rantisi in his "drab street clothes and sandals," etc., etc. - but I suppose that's just an outgrowth of my personal bias as a descendant of pigs and monkeys.
But there is at least one point in the editorial that crosses the line between tactlessness and flawed reporting:
According to Margolick, Rantisi's solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict was that "five million Jews should leave." Ahh, well, isn't that sweet. Rantisi doesn't actually want to kill anybody. He just wants the Jews to go somewhere else. That's not so bad; he just wants Israel to be kinda like the Five Towns during Pesach.
However, Margolick ignores one (actually, many, but let's start with one) disturbing fact: the charter of Hamas - the organization Rantisi led - identifies a different goal: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it." Only in the world of a "disconcertingly adaptable" journalist, could the two objectives be viewed as synonymous.
One other point worth considering, though not as egregiously problematic, (and maybe nit-picky). Margolick writes that, "For all of Dr. Rantisi's incendiary rhetoric, there was a surprising serenity to him..." All his incendiary rhetoric? What about his incendiary, um, murders and maimings? One could conceivably argue - probably falsely - that Rantisi did not personally oversee the murder of innocents and therefore is not fully culpable for them. But Margolick is not making this argument. As he notes elsewhere - before he so graciously wonders whether Rantisi will resent granting another interview to a biased American reporter - Margolick wondered how "I would feel shaking the hand of someone who blew up Jewish children." Clearly, then, Margolick does hold Rantisi responsible for murdering innocents. If Margolick were truly interested in highlighting a paradoxical element in Rantisi's character, he should have maximized the paradoxical element, something like: "For all of Dr. Rantisi's murdering of innocent children, there was a surprising serenity to him..." See, now that sentence really says something, (namely, that this sick, twisted animal is not in the least trobled by intentionally murdering children). Instead, we've got, well, we've got a NYT op-ed.

posted by Deranged GOT Fan | 6:49 PM |

According to folks at the State Department, there will be no meeting of the 'Quartet' in Berlin as previously reported. Reuters reports that it is now expected to take place "next month."

posted by Pinchas | 6:13 PM |

SIW has invited me to be a guest blogger as he prepares to join my former colleagues at the Forward. A link to a column I wrote on J-weeklies and blogs sits at the top of the Protocols site, where I earlier described what I thought of the blogosphere as someone who has spent nearly all of his career in Jewish journalism, first at the JTA, later at the Washington Jewish Week, Moment, the Forward and now the NJ Jewish News (with stops at CLAL, the Jerusalem Fellows, and, yes, it's true, Public Citizen).

As the editor of a large-ish Jewish weekly, I've felt the stings of Protocols' many critiques of the J-press, as well as benefited hugely from conversations that go on here. And that's basically how I think of a blog like this -- a conversation. Smart people reading everything, having an opinion on everything, and inviting give and take. One day you're in your dorm room, shooting s&#t past midnite, ripping one friend's argument, embellishing another's. The next day you're 43 and living in the suburbs with a wife and three kids, so you turn to your computer for the same kind of smart-alecky rush.

Blogs will only stop being conversations and become journalism, however, when bloggers do the footwork of journalists, instead of what I find to be the frankly parasitic practice of linking and sniping, linking and sniping. But taken together, the best journalism and the best blogging combine to create something larger than the sum of their parts. Bloggers' ability to instantly critique an article, compare it to other articles on the same subject, draw connections between a current article and past reportage, and then invite others to do the same -- that's something new and invaluable.

posted by Silow-Carroll | 4:44 PM |

The letter so nice, they posted it twice. Joshua Lamm has a letter (posted twice) in what is still the current issue of the NYJWeek, responding to Howard Jonas' comments about the leadership of Yeshiva University written about by myself for The Forward and Gary Rosenblatt for the NYJW. Key grafs:

A glance at Chovevei Torah’s Web site has the following item listed under the heading “Core Values”: “Promotion of Ahavat Yisrael in the relationship to all Jews and of respectful interaction of all Jewish movements.” Calling fellow Modern Orthodox Jews spineless and gutless is, to say the least, an inauspicious way of being true to the core values that Mr. Jonas claims to espouse.
I am eagerly awaiting Rabbis Weiss and Linzer’s public response to the comment of their board chairman. I trust that their reaction will be neither gutless nor spineless. If nothing else, Mr. Jonas’ ill-tempered and foolish diatribe will teach the young rabbis in training at Chovevei Torah an invaluable lesson in elementary rabbinics: Wealth does not equal wisdom.
The "laugh at me" graf is the third, in which Lamm declares:
Spineless and gutless and not caring about the world? YU sent a planeload of hundreds of students to Israel on the eve of the Scud war in 1991, and 645 YU students are now in Israel studying, even as the intifada rages around them. Did Jonas read the news reports of Yeshiva University students camping out at the office of the medical examiner for weeks after 9-11 lest a Jewish corpse remain unattended? Is he aware that most of the volunteer counselors at Camp Simcha, HASC and Yachad are YU students?
Let's just say that pointing to work done for the Jewish community is an inauspicious way of indicating "caring for the world."
Anyway, as it happens, there will be a letter from Weiss and Linzer in tomorrow's issue of the Forward (of course it won't be online, because letters to the editor of the Forward are, curiously, never posted online). Speaking of letters to the Forward, there were two notable letters sent earlier (which, again, were not online), one by Prof. David Berger, and one by Rabbi Kenny Brander of Boca Raton, Florida, whom I mentioned in my article as having been present. The letters take different approaches.
Berger takes on the "shift to the right" issue, declaring that no such shift has taken place, then hedges by saying, "While the percentage of students with an ideological affinity for the more traditionalist yeshiva world is somewhat higher today, much of the supposed move to the right that Jonas and others have criticized reflects a deeper commitment to observance and learnin -- a development that any Orthodox Jew must applaud -- as well as the refusal to embrace certain innovations championed by elements of the Orthodox left." Now, the fascinating thing here is that in order to claim that YU is of a similar ideological position as previously, he resorts to claiming that the previous generation of Yeshiva University rabbinical students was lacking in observance. That's a pretty huge assertion, one that I'm not sure even Berger realizes he's making, as he glosses over it with qualifiers and other conditions. But the statement's still there.
Brander's letter is less interesting, claiming that the focus of the story should have been the graduating class of Chovevei students and its accomplishments. It tries to insert some unity by saying that Rabbis Norman Lamm, Hershel Schachter and Mordechai Willig have visited his community, etc. His second graf adds a bit of a cute twist:
The Forward neglected to focus on the fact that Rabbi Avi Weiss, the founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, has always taught that one builds, not by criticizing others but by sharing a dream and working tirelessly to make it into reality.
I guess we'll have to see what Weiss says in his letter.
UPDATE: I've now been informed that, indeed, there will be no letter from Weiss and Linzer. It turns out I was given bad information by someone I previously considered a reliable source. I can never, ever trust that source again.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:02 PM |

Cara call Protocols "the barley in the vast cholent sea of Jewish holds us all together and somehow makes us seem more substantial."
Of course, our beloved trolls would surely declare us the beans.

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

The most surprising thing about Adam Dickter's NYJWeek coverage of a Columbia University committee examining it's Middle Eastern Studies Department was that no one had scooped him. If the committee has, indeed, been meeting for months, it shows that Columbia's Spectator is doing a bad job of keeping its ear to the ground; a really bad job. Last April, Chris Beam did a pretty strong in-depth piece on the department and its critics. Of course, every other paper (and blog) that failed to get the story earlier is at fault, too.
The news that an actual committee is examining the department -- as opposed to the president alone -- is pretty interesting, and I'm sure we'll all love to see what they find out.
Meantime, if this is going on at Columbia, what's going on at other schools? Probability indicates that if you find a story that seems anomalous, it's usually not anomalous; does anyone know of other schools doing similar examinations?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:35 PM |

Jarvis notes that among Webby Awards nominees for best news sites is Al Jazeera. And, I mean, why not? They get to angles that no one else does.
In the "Spirituality" category, they nominate:
My Heroes -- Heroes of Faith

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:53 PM |

I'm just guessing that if Israel or the United States had killed alleged Al Qaeda members like Jordan just did, there'd be a whole lot of outcry.

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

Four "Middle-Eastern" youths get charged with a bias crime for harrassing a group of young men; at least, that's the more likely charge, as "yelling anti-Semitic slurs," the claim in the story's lede, is likely not a criminal act. It'd seem more likely that the following them around in a car and throwing bottles is what could be considered a crime.
Also, note the reference to anti-Semitism potentially increasing after the release of The Passion without any justification (were they being called Christ-killers or something? Then how do they know?).
(via EphShap)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:35 AM |

Another flyer I picked up yesterday was a full-color postcard for Frumster, which includes pictures of some of the (thus far) successful couples.
In bullet-points on the front it declares:

- The largest, most successful Orthodox dating service
- Over 170 members have already found their soul mates!
- Orthodox managed, Rabbinic supervision
- All members screened by a dedicated full-time team
On the back, in quite large type, it screams:
Maximize your prospects for succes...
Register today for free at

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:55 AM |

Saw an interesting flyer for a preschool, Gan Eden, which advertises itself as "The American-Israeli Preschool in Manhattan." It lists nine of what I assume are curricular emphases: Science & Technology; Jewish Heritage: Arts & Crafts; Health & Safety; Social Studies; Sports & Physical Education; Reading & Writing; Eretz Israel; Emergent Literacy.
You'd almost expect that kind of description from a university. Is this the beginning of a Jewish, high-level preschool education that will eventually find itself caught in Jack Grubman-like web of controversy? Note of course, that Grubman's sin was done trying to get his kid into preschool at the local Y.
Anyway, what struck me as most interesting was the "American-Israeli" aspect, which, according to the Web site, will include both an American teacher and an Israeli teacher in every classroom; as well, the flyer notes that this project is done "In cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Education."

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:50 AM |

Tuesday, April 20, 2004  

6 p.m. to 8 p.m. -- Reception celebrating American Jewish Composers in Classical Song, part of a nationwide celebration of 350 Years of Jews in America; Buckingham Hotel Patron's Lounge, 101 West 57th St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues, 2nd floor.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:04 PM |

Josh "Suck My Crucifix Nipple Ring" Neuman ponders his existence before the hordes at MediaBistro. Some interesting moments result:

We have a readership now of approximately 100,000, with 5,000 subscribers and a distribution of 20,000.
Now how does that work? Jeff Jarvis was right when he said at BloggerCon that bloggers can beat old media at readership statistics.
Two questions down from there, he basically declares Heeb's complete lack of uniqueness, then goes on to say that they're working on film and TV projects, and a very comical moment as he releases the whiff of a failed philosophy professor, declaring, "marketing is very philosophical to me." And then, of course, there's his quixotic response to the anger over his Passion spread:
Yeah, where's the Catholic League when you need it?
I have a feeling that the two were in cahoots on this one. And this is a scoop: The Catholic League asked for a copy before release, so I know they were aware of this. I have a feeling that Abe Foxman at the ADL was displacing his anxiety about another offensive magazine?ahem, Cargo [which is edited by Ariel Foxman, the ADL chief's son]. The things that they pointed out were strange. I expected people to be up in arms and to demand retractions. But I thought we did a good job contextualizing that this was a reaction to Mel Gibson and not to Christianity. It truly was. It was grounded in a history that Gibson's movie lacked. I wanted to see how many people would be riled to see Jesus wearing the Talis, and that was the main objection by Susan Blond, our publicist who quit in protest.
Where's Susan Blond? Get her a blog.
Oh, and speaking of, Neuman claims in the interview, "we've got...a blog." In point of fact, they don't, but have the promise of one coming on the 22nd, authored by "The Masked Super Jew," promising, "Politics, entertainment, vicious celebrity-bashing, plus senseless rants, hot sex, stupid drugs, and over-powering rock’n’roll, Monday - Friday, right here at" It could be good, but I don't have my hopes up.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:16 PM |

So after a couple months of waiting, back-and-forth, and discussion, I've been provisionally offered and have provisionally accepted a position at the Forward as a staff writer and (lightly-edited) blogger, and coming with that I have to give up Protocols. As to your immediate concern, don't worry, Protocols will still be around, still have the other Elders, and will have a slate of guest-bloggers to continue the discussion on Jewish issues that we've started here, at least in the short term.
In the meantime, until everything is finalized, probably at the end of this week, I'll be continuing here.
TWO NOTES: Hey, I'll still be blogging, it'll just be lightly edited and at the Forward site; more info to come on that as it materializes.
Secondly, while I've got a decent idea for a name for the blog (after all, I did come up with 2/3 of the best J-blog names), I'm interested in your suggestions.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:39 PM |

A couple of days ago I received an urgent email from Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Rabbi Labish Becker and Mordechai Biser of the Agudath Israel of America. It was an open memo to AIA?s constituents and friends in New York City urging recipients to call their city council member and Council Speaker Miller to urge the council not to adopt Int. No. 137-A, the "Equal Benefits Law." According to the letter, the bill calls for all entities that have contracts with or receive grants from the city to "provide benefits to the 'domestic partners' of employees on the same basis as they provide benefits to the spouses of employees."

...the bill is objectionable not only because it promotes the legitimization of immoral lifestyles, but also because it does not include an exemption for religious organizations that oppose 'domestic partnerships' for religious reasons. Many mosdos in our community would be affected by this bill, and our rabbinic leadership has authorized us to fight against its violates religious freedom.

The accompanying letter to the city council says in part:
Religiously sponsored organizations that contract with the city...would be bound by this bill...even if their religious tenets preclude them from formally recognizing domestic partnerships.
The email was sent out with an attached letter to the city council and a list of city council members. I have pasted the original email and the letter to the city council in the comments section of this post.

posted by Pinchas | 10:53 AM |

Quartet to meet in Berlin on Gaza Pull Out - OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism Used as Cover for Meeting

U.S. officials will join representatives of the European Union, the United Nations and Russia in a special meeting seeking to rescue a U.S.-sponsored ``road map'' for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, the Financial Times said, citing EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

U.S. President George W. Bush has said he supports Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to retain some West Bank settlements while withdrawing all settlers from the Gaza Strip in an accord that leads to the creation of a Palestinian state.

Sharon's plan differs from a U.S.-sponsored ``road map'' that calls for Israel to withdraw from land occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The road map was backed by the ``quartet'' of the U.S., the United Nations, the EU and Russia. The UN, the EU and Russia, while welcoming Israel's plan to withdraw, said Israel must take measures that go beyond the Gaza pullout.

Solana told an informal meeting of European foreign ministers in Tullamore, Ireland that the meeting could take place in Berlin on April 28 where U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell would be attending a conference, the paper said. The group will also start negotiations for Israel's ``disengagement'' from Gaza, the paper said.
Initially, State Department officials were saying that Powell would not likely attend the OSCE conference on anti-Semitism (he did not attend last year). Only after Sharon's meeting with Bush, the Rantissi assassination and subsequent condemnation from Europe and the Arab world did word come from Foggy Bottom that the Sec State would be attending the conference... and then meeting with the other members of the 'quartet.'

posted by Pinchas | 10:20 AM |

Mubarak: Arabs Hate U.S. More Than Ever

PARIS (Reuters) - Arabs in the Middle East hate the United States more than ever following the invasion of Iraq and Israel's assassination of two Hamas leaders, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in comments published Tuesday.

"Today there is hatred of the Americans like never before in the region," he said in an interview given during a stay in France, where he met President Jacques Chirac Monday.

He blamed the hostility partly on U.S. support for Israel...

"At the start some considered the Americans were helping them. There was no hatred of the Americans. After what has happened in Iraq, there is unprecedented hatred and the Americans know it," Mubarak said.

"People have a feeling of injustice. What's more, they see (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon acting as he pleases, without the Americans saying anything. He assassinates people who don't have the planes and helicopters that he has."

..."The despair and feeling of injustice are not going to be limited to our region alone. American and Israeli interests will not be safe, not only in our region but anywhere in the world," he said.

posted by Pinchas | 10:09 AM |

Monday, April 19, 2004  

First off, I apologize to protocols readers for my absence over the past few months. I've become somewhat of a nonentity on this site (some might view this as a cause for celebration) of late, and I have no excuse other than a focus on school. Of course, I have an exam in a day, so this might not be the best time to start blogging again, but I couldn't pass this one up (assuming no one's already reported it).
There's a petition with over 1000 names signed calling for the replacement of former President of Ireland and former UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson as the keynote speaker at the Emory Commencement Ceremony next month (Press release here).
The petition spurred Robinson to appear in Emory on erev pesach to rebut claims that she is an anti-semite or generally biased against Israel, especially in light of her role in running the Durban Conference on Racism (and a similar one in Tehran) 3 years ago, where a profoundly anti-israel and anti-Semitic voice was present.
A pro Robinson petition is also circulating (amusingly, Emory Tikkun is a sponsor), but I was unable to find out whether the University is seriously considering replacing her (though the fact that they flew her in speaks volumes. Imagine YU doing something similar in repsonse to student protest of a university-sanctioned activity - almost unbelievable).

posted by Sam | 5:06 PM |

For those of you who haven't seen Kinja, it's basically a blog aggregator on the Web. I don't use it, because I don't think I'd find it awfully useful, but some readers -- indeed, other bloggers -- have, and by noting some of the site referrals in our hits, I've found the feeds they've set up. Here are some that you might find interesting:
Kumah's Ben Sandler (Kinja Feed)
HouseOfHock's Jonathan Winchester (Kinja Feed)
Marc Weisblott (Kinja Feed)
The Revealer's Jeff Sharlet (Kinja Feed)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:30 PM |

Via EphShap, there's a cash-prize essay contest for 16-to-22-year olds on finding common ground among Jews and Christians. I'm a couple months too old to enter, but if any of our readers wants to win the "Current Events" section, here's a good tip: The Passion, a film that was expected to bring about division among Jews and Christians, only brought us closer, as we realized through our differences just how deep our similarities are.
Trust me, they'll eat it up.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:11 PM |

"My height is God's punishment. My life has no sense." Those are the words of 8'4" Leonid Stadnik, of the Ukraine.
(via Gizmodo)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:03 PM |

So now that I've vented my anger about the NYT story on Chovevei by Daniel J. Wakin, let's take a look at its other elements.
The most surprising part of the story, the thing that kept sending signal flares as I read it, was the series of statements within the story that you'd expect to have quotations or justifications, but lack them. The most glaring example of this is the opening of a paragraph with the phrase, "Certainly the school would never sanction the ordination of women." Certainly according to whom? Has the leadership of Chovevei sworn off in unequivocal terms the ordaining of women rabbis? They haven't said that before, as far as I know, and if the reporter's gaining that from them, he should say as much. Certainly, I'll say, there is a decent quantity of people who are generally supportive of Chovevei who think it should try; heck, the same can be said of Yeshiva University. Surely, Chovevei's competition on the right would love to know whether they've reached a conclusion on this matter, as well.
Examples like this should be taken to indicate a lack of precision in the article, which is unfortunately not surprising. Overall, I was surprised to see the article take more of a general-Orthodox-sociology tack, such as this tasty tidbit:

Orthodoxy demands a stricter interpretation of Jewish law than other branches, like Reform and Conservative Judaism. It calls for separation of the sexes in synagogues and some other places, and provides little role for women in synagogue ritual. Modern Orthodoxy is distinct from the more insular ultra-Orthodox world, which includes Hasidic Jews from Eastern Europe, who keep their separateness visible by having their men wear side curls and black hats.
I strongly suggest that Chovevei adopt as their slogan the author's description of their school: "Where teenage girls giggle in the lobby as the earnest young men study ancient texts upstairs."
The worst part of the article, something that you'd think you'd see done better in the NYT than your average J-pub, is the way that unanswered questions are strung together with irrelevant statements to make it appear as though the reporter got a source to respond when, in fact, he didn't.
Take this example towards the end of the article:
Some Yeshiva officials said they worried that the new school will draw away liberal students, upsetting the balance at Yeshiva's seminary. Others think Chovevei Torah it is just too liberal, with teachers who tolerate improper practices, like women helping to conduct services.
"Their spin is that they're offering something totally unique in terms of pastoral psychology and speaking, but we have all those courses as well," said Rabbi Israel, Yeshiva's director of communal relations. Sure, congregants expect pastoral care, he said. But that should not come at the expense of Talmudic knowledge.
You'll find several similar examples throughout.
The author fails to answer any of his larger questions, and fails to sift through competing claims to come up with the truth. Are Chovevei talmudic studies less rigorous? Are Yeshiva University's counseling standards less rigorous? Reading the article, we don't know, and it's a shame that the author, who spent a lot of time on this story (it was originally expected to run just after the dinner, but was delayed, I'd imagine because of Jonas' comments), and had the institutional credentials to really sit on the sources until he got what he needed, failed to produce those answers and others.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:17 AM |

Reminder: If you're not included in the J-blogroll and want to be, just drop me an e-mail.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:43 AM |

I call bullshit on Howard Jonas. There'll be more to say about today's NYT story on Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, but on the second page of the Web version, we have this graf:

At Yeshivat Chovevei Torah's first gala dinner, on March 28, Mr. Jonas was quoted by The Forward as saying that Yeshiva University had moved to the right because of the "gutless and the spineless in a coalition with the mindless and the senseless." Although several students at the dinner confirmed the comments, Mr. Jonas, in an interview from Israel, disputed using that language, but acknowledged he had criticized Yeshiva as moving to the right and suffering a leadership void. In a gathering of some fourth-year students, most agreed that attending an upstart school was risky. But they praised its intimate, open atmosphere and tolerance of dissent, aspects several said were lacking at Yeshiva University.
Jonas here is challenging a direct quotation that I provided in my story for The Forward. His reported claim is absolute bullshit. I'm sitting here in Boston with the same notepad in front of me -- I've even still got the Papermate Felxigrip with which I took the notes -- and I have the fragment, "A combination of the gutless and the spineless in a coalition with the mindless and the senseless," precisely as it appeared in The Forward, and precisely as he said it that night. I'd started taking notes several minutes before that quotation -- once it became clear he was saying things that could be potentially newsworthy -- and have a number of quotations listed before that and after that. Within my notes, there are some parts in parentheticals and brackets to indicate when I wasn't able to get a complete quote; there are no such marks within the quotation in question. Gary Rosenblatt's account in the New York Jewish Week contains a partial quotation, just of the fragment, "gutless and spineless."
I'll be writing the NYT about this.
UPDATE: I've posted Treo photos of my notes. The quotation up close is here and the entire page, with pen alongside, is here.

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

Bill Cork has posted a chapter he's written on The Passion and blogging for an upcoming book entitled After The Passion is Gone: American Religious Consequences. Cork says it includes essays by "Jewish, Catholic and Protestant authors." I'm interested to know which Jews they chose.
(via Against the Grain)

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

It's been a couple of weeks since we noticed that the J-media had failed to inform its readership of the confusion that may result regarding the shift of Yom Hazikaron/Yom Ha'atzmaut to a day later. In the time since, I haven't seen any stories on the topic; have you?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:39 AM |

So we all know that Madonna's not performing on the Jewish Sabbath during her upcoming tour, but Yada catches an angle that many have missed: The Roman Catholics are upset that the concerts will be taking place on Sunday.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:48 AM |

Sunday, April 18, 2004  

I'll have some more posts coming on the relevant aspects of BloggerCon to our little experiment here. One moment that was pretty interesting was during the conclusion, when Jay Rosen was asked to summarize the discussion he led on "What is Journalism?" One point he raised was how, in preparation for his session, he created a long post that repeatedly declared "Blogging isn't journalism, but..." He said at the conference that he didn't believe that preface, in fact that it was repeatedly contradicted by the arguments that he provided after the "but," and that he'd done the post as a "diagnostic test" to see how people would respond. He continued, noting the response to this post in the comments that repeatedly addressed the preface angrily.
Rosen said that he felt this response was "religious," in a sense. And, surely, there is something to that: Rosen intentionally misled his readers by saying something he didn't mean, and only through a closer reading could one match up all of his post-"but" assertions and realize that he didn't mean "Blogging isn't journalism" at all. In doing so, he's essentially creating an esoteric tradition in his blog, a methodology that began in religion and that has for the most part remained a part of religion while failing to catch on in other disciplines, for obvious reasons: systems based solely in analysis of fact -- such as science and history -- can't afford to have esotericism as part of the equation. Frankly, blogging can't, either, much as journalism can't.
Esotericism can be dangerous in religion, too. For instance, in any number of cases a certain position is explicitly advocated in a Jewish legal text, which is then treated as esoteric by some who claim to have a contradictory oral tradition from the author. These esoteric oral traditions become necessarily non-falsifiable. Sometimes they'll contradict a text on an issue of great significance, such as the Meiri's letter on the relationship of Jews and non-Jews.
One position I asserted repeatedly at BloggerCon was that as ideologically diverse as bloggers are, there is a definite blogger politic, that demands openness, access and no bullshit from political leaders. This is likely an indicator of where the American public generally is heading. Similarly, there is a demand that religious bloggers bring to the discussion, because the open discussion of religious blogging simply cannot bear esotericism; we require that those advocating a religious position do so explicitly. This is likely an indicator of where the religious public generally is heading.

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


11 a.m. -- The Simon Wiesenthal Center releases a report on terrorist and hate Web sites; New York Tolerance Center, 226 E. 42nd St.
12:45 p.m. -- The Anti-Defamation League pays tribute to Japanese Consul Chiune Sugihara, who provided thousands of visas allowing Jews to flee Europe during the Holocaust; ADL Holocaust memorial wall, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 47th Street and First Avenue.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:34 PM |

The Jerusalem Post gets the story wrong on the JewWatch/Google issue. Says the second graf:

Utilizing a cyber-petition and some clever HTML programming, a diverse group of Jewish activists, academics and even a US senator managed to replace the top spot with Wikipedia's encyclopedia, which two weeks ago held no rank.
See, that's actually not true, becase while "clever HTML programming" and "a diverse group of Jewish activists" were responsible for the shift in the Wikipedia entry for Jew to a #1 Google search ranking for "Jew," in no way were any of the other parties responsible.
The petition did nothing, the PR machine did almost nothing: The only party responsible for the rise in the Wikipedia entry's ranking is the group of bloggers that aligned with Jewschool's Dan Sieradski in a Google-bomb effort.
The only potential benefit that any one else can claim to have brought to the table is that of increasing awareness of the Joogle-bomb effort, but even then, the contribution would have been extremely minimal, as most of the bloggers who would've assisted in the effort would have heard of it from JewSchool anyway.
So why is the Jerusalem Post so insistent on getting the story so wrong? Look at the last part of that graf, declaring that the Wikipedia entry, "Two weeks ago held no rank." That's extremely unlikely, nearly impossible, and I'm tempted to say it's outright wrong, but I don't know for sure -- note the difference in my willingness to assert that which I don't know relative to idiots like Michael Mylrea, who wrote this story.
There might be some conscious reason why the JPost got the story so wrong. More likely, it's just because they can't do a decent job.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:24 PM |

With Rantisi dead, Hamas is holding their cards close to the proverbial (suicide) vest. Speculation is that the organization has already named a new leader but is trying to keep it quiet lest he, too, be immediately targeted by Israel.

I have it on good sources that the truth is a bit more complicated. Hamas is indeed weighing its options concerning the appointment of a new leader. However, the real debate amongst Hamas bigwigs is whom to appoint as their supreme leader; at present, the two contenders are Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush. According to one Hamas official, who spoke on condition that he be identified as someone else, "We have concluded that Israel intends to eliminate anyone whom we name as our leader. Therefore, we have devised the ingenious strategy of naming the criminal Sharon or the evil Bush as our leader, which will, of course, force Israel to kill the person we select." The official further noted that if the strategy proved successful, it would be adopted on a permanent basis. "If need be," he said, "We will employ this tactic indefinitely. We will certainly kill Sharon and Bush in this fashion, but we will likely extend its use to rid ourselves of Olmert, Netanyahu, Cheney, Rice, and the Jew Wolfowitz. In fact, if my wife does not silence herself about the leak in the guest tent, she may find herself the head of Hamas as well, Allah willing."

No Palestinians were willing to comment on the new tactic on the record, but the thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets today in Gaza City may have been alluding to it as they chanted in unison: "Sharon and Bush, your day of reckoning will come, on the day of Allah, when the eagle and fat bird will die, possibly killed by the Israeli menace who are their own brethren, who have terrorized Palestinians for generations, and you are probably wondering who the new leaders of Hamas are, but we will not tell you this until we feel like it, but by then it will be too late for the Zionist devil, who are the sons of pigs and monkeys, reviled by Allah and the prophet Mohammed."

posted by Deranged GOT Fan | 3:08 PM |

"Wow. Boom. Rantisi's dead." That's Allison Kaplan Sommer's reaction to the assassination.
Otherwise, reactions among Anglo-Isra-blogs thus far are surprisingly few, and sparse, as Harry's short item declaring, "No time for love Dr. Rantisi!"

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

Allison Kaplan Sommer is a bit unnerved that she wasn't mentioned in the Ha'aretz article on Anglo-Isra-blogs, and hey, she's right to complain. AKS does a great job, is one of the most important Anglo-Isra-blogs, and I made sure to mention her in my e-mails to the story's author (so I'm off the hook).
Either way, the story's a good resource for those of you looking for that kind of reading material. Hop to it.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:35 AM |
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