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

Saturday, May 08, 2004  


French police have foiled an attempt to bomb a synagogue outside Paris.

The Interior Ministry says a crudely-made device was meant to explode in the garden of the synagogue in the village of Villiers-le-Bel, northwest of the capital.

Condemning the attempt, Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin noted that the bomb attack came after the "hateful desecrations" in the Herrlisheim Jewish cemetery in the eastern region of Alsace.

Hundreds of people took part in a silent gathering on Saturday at the cemetery where more than 100 graves had been painted with anti-Semitic slogans and swastikas.

The Chief Rabbi of the eastern city of Nancy, Daniel Dahan, said the attacks marked an "escalation since they targeted not only the memory of Jews but Jews who spilt their blood for France".

posted by Pinchas | 11:58 PM |

Blog your rabbi on Saturday night. Post about the sermon today and I'll link to it in this post.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:05 PM |

Correction Notice: In a post on Wednesday summarizing a shiur by Rabbi Hershel Schachter, I characterized him as differentiating between Jews as "tzelem elokim" ["with the form of God"] and non-Jews as "tzelem" ["with form"]. Two readers in the comments to that post claimed that Schachter made no such distinction and, upon review, I have determined that they are correct. Schachter indeed does assume that Jews and non-Jews are both "tzelem elokim", distinguishing between levels of that description. In making the error, I had mistaken the mishna to which he was referring, a result of laziness on my part. I regret the error, and apologize to Rabbi Schachter and to my readers for it.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:57 PM |

Friday, May 07, 2004  

Survey Released on Jewish Women's Sexuality. There's good news and there's bad news...

posted by Miriam | 1:24 PM |

In the late 1970s my father, who then worked for Britain’s Jewish community, asked his secretary to phone up a selection of local synagogues, introduce herself as a single mother newly arrived in the area, and ask what they had to offer her as a single woman.
Predictably, most of the Orthodox shuls on the right of the spectrum told her there was a place for her in the Ezrat Nashim; the more centrist Orthodox shuls told her about the various shiurim taking place on a Tuesday morning; and the Reform rabbi asked her to come to dinner so that he and his wife could meet and welcome her, and discuss the various ways in which she can get involved in the community.
Thirty years on, I fear not much has changed, and that the Orthodox community is still not equipped to deal with the increasing numbers of single-parent families in its midst.
The story in the Forward this week about two non-Orthodox Jewish women choosing to have children alone brings to mind a recent Jerusalem Post article about their Orthodox Israeli equivalents. Like it or not, it looks like more and more Orthodox women will be going this route in coming years. A much larger and more immediate problem is the increasingly visible contingent of divorced mothers who to all intents and purposes are bringing their children up alone.
Unfortunately, at the moment, there is no communal mechanism to properly include such ‘alternative’ families. If a married woman’s role in an Orthodox shul’s life is often largely passive, how much more so for single mothers, who have no representative on the other side of the mechitzah. In schools, one hopes children of such families are treated equally, but Orthodox schools have a huge emphasis on father-son learning sessions and other such activities. The more ‘yeshivish’ it gets, the worse the problem. And socially, many single mothers find themselves marginalized as well.
If we don’t start thinking about practical ways to accommodate and include such families, we risk alienating and losing good people.
Incidentally, you could see this as just one manifestation of a growing dilemma in the Orthodox community about how to respond as notions of what makes up a family change in society at large. There are other kinds of non-traditional ‘families’ such as gay couples, or straight couples living together, for example, who are increasingly knocking at our doors, wanting to be acknowledged as part of our world; and an increasing number of never-married older men and women who struggle with their role in the community. It is clear that some of these categories are composed of people breaking the halachic norms of Orthodox society, but there are many other people who break halachic norms and participate fully in communal life. Isn’t part of our problem, therefore, that we simply don’t know how to integrate ‘alternative’ families, or people without families, into a society geared to nuclear families? What should / could be done?

posted by Miriam | 11:30 AM |

Ok, I don't claim to be a poet, but check out this beauty of a sentence from today's NYT:

Mr. Mayfield, who joined the Army after high school, partly to pay for his college tuition and, later, law school, Ms. Alexander said, served at Fort Lewism, Wash., where he met his wife, an Egyptian.

How does this stuff get printed?

posted by Deranged GOT Fan | 3:00 AM |

Thursday, May 06, 2004  

The Jerusalem Report and Natan Sharansky, who fell out rather sadly in the mid 90s, seem to be back on good terms.

posted by Miriam | 7:58 PM |

6:30 p.m. -- Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, Israeli UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman, and MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow speaks at an Israel Bonds dinner honoring six attorneys; New York Hilton, Trianon Ballroom, 3rd floor, 1335 Sixth Ave., at 53rd Street.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:14 PM |

Check out AidelMaidel's first few posts following the birth of her new child.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:46 PM |

Gary Rosenblatt on the settlement of the YU/DEC suit with, of course, the undercurrent being the allegations of abuse made against Rabbi Matis Weinberg.
One question that would seem to need to be answered here is that of Yeshiva University's moral responsibility in this case. Allegations against Weinberg have been discussed in sworn depositions that would very likely have entered as evidence in this case, and become public record. Whether those depositions confirm or deny previous allegations is a rather crucial matter for Weinberg and his students specifically, and the Jewish community generally. It would seem always to be in the strict legal and budgetary interest for an institution as large as Yeshiva to settle all suits as quickly and painlessly as possible; however, in light of the importance of this case, which involves sworn claims that may never have another opportunity to become public record, it is reasonable to ask whether the school has a greater responsibility than to protect whatever sums it would stand to lose in trial.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:00 PM |

Speaking of prayer, this email went out on my class listserve yesterday:

The Jewish Students' Association (JSA) of AECOM would like to invite you to a Liberal Shabbat evening service on Friday, May 21. Everyone is welcome to attend this egalitarian service, regardless of denomination or expertise! A Kiddush (kosher) will be held after, and perhaps a potluck dinner for those who are interested. Services will most likely be led by a rabbinical student or rabbi, although plans are still in the works. More details will follow, but please save the 21st on your calendars for this exciting opportunity to build community! RSVP to ***** so we can make arrangements for the appropriate number of people; please indicate if you would like to join a potluck meal. If you have any questions - or would like to help out - let us know!

For a little context, I should point out that religious life at Einstein is monopolized entirely by the Orthodox (and fairly YU-Haredi Orthodox at that) AECOM Shul. This is the second such prayer session outside the framework of traditional orthodoxy that's been organized this year. The first was an egal service on Friday nite of Shabbat Chanukah that got a less than stellar turnout. (There was also an Orthodox women's megilla reading on Purim that was initially quasi-affiliated with the shul, though the Rabbi eventually sent out an email distancing himself and the shul from the event.) So it's anyone's guess whether this service represents a nascent extra-Orthodox Jewish community struggling to be born, or just another flash in the religious pan. I'll update you in a few weeks with turnout info.

posted by Sam | 11:45 AM |

In the Dept. of Out With the New and In With the Old:
It's always nice to see prayer adapted to the needs of contemporary times. The Harvard Hillel has suspended its recitation of the newly minted prayer for the American troops - a prayer its rabbi composed just a few months ago. This email went out to the Cambridge JComm a few days ago:

Dear Minyan,
We would like to let you know that the Board has decided to suspend the recitation of our new prayer for the American Armed Forces until further notice. In the mean time, our prayer for the Government of the United States now includes the word "chayaleha," asking God to bless our soldiers along with the officers and officials of this country.
The Ritual Committee will be discussing the prayer for the American Soliders. If you have comments on that prayer, or would like to be part of this conversation, please speak with *****.

I especially love this follow up clarification email:
Dear Minyan,
In response to some questions we have already received on this topic: The Board suspended the prayer for our armed forces because of long-standing concerns with the language of the prayer and the philosophical underpinnings of it (not the idea of praying for our soldiers, but the specific language employed in the prayer). The change has nothing to do with current events. (Please recall that the prayer was only recently added to our davening, and was authored by our own Rabbi Klapper, so it is only natural that some issues must be worked
I reiterate that the prayer for America has been amended to specifically ask God to bless our soldiers, in addition to the government. Certainly the Board does not intend to send a message that our soldiers should not be blessed, or that there is something wrong with asking God to bless our soldiers. It is trying to make sure that the language of this prayer serves its purpose. If you would like to be inolved with the discussions on the language of the prayer, please contact ******.

So what are the language issues at stake here? Anyone know?

I guess the danger with boutique communal prayer and ritual is that you run the risk of offending someone, somewhere, and if you take those concerns into acount you'll end up with a fairly unstable liturgy. Not a danger to some, but I have to wonder how Shemoneh Esrei would have turned out (or if it would have turned out at all) if its authorship had been opened to a committee made up of any members of the local Hillel who cared enough to contribute to the language.

posted by Sam | 11:09 AM |

Britain this week has a new member of the House of Lords: Rabbi Julia Neuberger, only the second rabbi to ever take a seat in the House (the first was the late Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovitz in 1987).
It’s gratifying to see that at least women in the non-Orthodox Jewish streams can make their mark here; the status of women in the British Orthodox community is at least 10 years behind North America, pretty depressing. Events which have been taken for granted in much of North America for years, such as women’s megillah readings, are only just becoming popular here – and at the megillah reading I participated in this year, both the organizers and over half the readers were North Americans married to Brits. Women’s prayer groups are few and far between and always considered radical and controversial. By far the worst, the women here remain embarrassingly ignorant in terms of Jewish learning. Women learning Gemara? Pheh!
Unfortunately, a lot of this is due to the British national character: the English are not as assertive as their American counterparts, and the society as a whole is much more traditional and resistant to change. The highly centralized authority of British Orthodoxy, where mainstream Orthodox rabbis are answerable to the Chief Rabbi and to the (Orthodox) United Synagogue, is undoubtedly a factor. And finally, the Ultra-Orthodox also wield a lot of power, even more than in the US. Concepts which are halachically acceptable and widely practiced all over the world are controversial here if they mean change – which partially explains why London only received an Eruv last year. How quickly can women hope to break barriers here, when the battle for an Eruv took more than a decade?
Living in Montreal as a student, I once wrote that

“I do not mean to underestimate the difficulties faced by the first women to cross seemingly insurmountable barriers. But it seems to me that most breakthroughs have taken place in prominent synagogues, blessed with prominent rabbis who can afford to take controversial steps because they will never have to face another interview panel. Smaller communities tend to be more traditional, harder to convince, and not as brave...
"So, if occasionally I felt frustrated because I thought that the 'real [feminist] action' was going on elsewhere -- sometimes it was hard to resist the urge to give up and move to NY -- I now realize that the 'real action' is actually taking place right here at home. Mao was right - the Revolution has to be taken to the countryside.”

And there’s no countryside like the British countryside...

posted by Miriam | 10:30 AM |

Richard Gere to arrive in Israel to promote Geneva Initiative, the deadest horse in the Middle East. What’s next, Tom Cruise promoting the hudna? Julia Roberts promoting the Saudi initiative?

posted by Miriam | 10:23 AM |

Sex Offender Becomes "Kabbalah Coach", my latest for the Forward.
The story is already outdated; Ozair has now changed the name on the site another time, calling himself simply "Rabbi Michael." In other website changes, he's removed the instant messenger link that I utilized for an earlier post, and added the opportunity to sign up for "Kabbalah Coach Nuggets," a weekly e-mail.
On a related note, The Awareness Center has re-posted much of its Web content, with a plea for more funds. Like I said in my earlier post, they're not a 501 (c) 3, though they claim to be applying for such. Vicki Polin told me off-the-record how much money is needed, and suffice it to say that if every Protocols reader donates a dollar today, they'll be out of the red.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:14 AM |

Wednesday, May 05, 2004  

Rabbi Herschel Schachter on the differences between Jews and non-Jews. On Sunday at Beth Aaron synagogue, Rabbis Hershel Schachter and Mayer Twersky spoke on the topics of Jews & Gentiles. Schachter's speech was entitled, "Am Hanivchar" ("chosen people") and Twersky's, "Living as a Jew in a Gentile Society." They're available for download here, but I don't know how long that link will stay live, especially if it they get downloaded a lot. Schachter's speech contains elements that could certainly be construed as controversial, most specifically because he uses terms like "genetic," though, given his intonation, it seems he doesn't mean them in a scientific sense; it'll be a close call. Of course, the compare/contrast to be made here is to the Lakewood book controversy.
You can all listen to the speech for yourselves, and I'm just providing a summary. While in some cases I won't note his sources (again, you can listen to his speech), it's important to note the difference between a speech like this and something like, say, the article by Dani Stein, where the citation of sources didn't of necessity mean wholehearted and specific endorsement of them to the exclusion of other sources.
Schachter opens his speech with a story of a Jew being beaten by a Nazi who asks the Jew whether he could consider himself a member of a chosen nation, to which the Jew responds that a chosen nation wouldn't be a persecutor, and Schacther emphasizes, "A Jew couldn't be a rodef" ("aggressor"). An inherent part of the Jew is "rachmanim, baishanim and gamlei chasadim" ("mercies, humilities and good deeds"). The idea of a Jew as a rodef, "couldn't be, as a matter of principle." He cites the Ramah on intermarriage, declaring that "another fellow Jew who doesn't have rachmanim, baishainim, and gamlei chasidim , you have to be choshesh ["skeptical"], he might not be Jewish." He adds, "we believe that the neshama ["soul"] of the Jew and the non-Jew are made up of different material, of different stuff."
He then cites a perceived textual difference between Jews and non-Jews from the tractate Pirkei Avos, one used by Grama (and many before them): "This is what the mishnah seems to be indicating," in its discussion of, "tzelem ["with form"]vs. tzelem elokim["with the form of God"]." [Correction, May 8th, 2004: Schachter indeed does assume that Jews and non-Jews are both "tzelem elokim", distinguishing between levels of that description.] He continues, "That concept, that the children carry on the DNA from the parents, that they have the same genes of their parents, this is only by Jews."
He then cites the Lubavitch work, Tanya; I do not recall whether or not it was cited by Grama. "This is the source of what the ba'al hatanya speaks of later."
He notes, "This is not just an aggadic ["anecdotal"] fanciful concept, this is the halacha ["law"]."
Rambam, he says, assumes, "Every Jewish person wants to do the ratzon ["will"] of hakadosh baruch hu ["God"]."
This is why for non-Jews, we can follow philosophy/science and allow ourselves to, "assume that there is what they assume is a tabula rasa...that the mind is a blackboard." He notes, "this is not a contradiction."
Then, in what may be a contradiction [Correction, May 8th, 2004: There is no contradiction, as Schachter does assume that non-Jews are "tzelem elokim"], he says, "the umos haolam["nations of the world"] are also b'tzelem elokim ["with the form of God"]."
The lesson from all of this is that, "we should act in such a way...[so as to] demonstrate to the nations of the world that they should do so [good acts] as well."
He mentions the five levels of the Kuzari, also cited by Grama, which places the Jews in a different category than speaking beings (presumably, humans). Grama used this to make one of his most controversial assertions that, Jews and non-Jews are different, "minim," which the Forward translated as "species." This translation was contested, but those contesting it have not provided a source that uses it to mean something else.
As an interesting side-point, Schachter refers to the Kuzaris as an "historical novel." He also presented the idea that democracy is a less ideal environment for maintaining faith, which Grama (and others before them) asserted, as well. "When the nazis are persecuting...there it's easy," he said, "because they're saying," that there's a master race and an inferior race. A situation, however, wherein, "Everybody is equal, is already a bigger challenge." He declared, "nisayon ha'osher ["the tests of the rich"] is very difficult," in fact, "too difficult for the Jews to survive in."
In concluding, he declares, "we have this in our genes, that we are the am hanivchar, and we can't run away from this."

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:59 PM |

There’s an interesting article in the Columbia Journalism Review about why the general media’s coverage of religion is so inadequate. Author Gal Beckerman dismisses “conventional wisdom” that journalists are either too disinterested or not knowledgeable enough to write about religion, and concludes instead that religion and journalism are fundamentally opposed, one about “mystery and the unknown” and the other seeking a grounded reality.
The problem is, however, that Beckerman should be separating between different kinds of religious stories instead of making blanket statements. Journalists could and should, as Beckerman advocates, better explain the theological background of stories on religion, and cover theological disputes and changes within the major religions and denominations. If they don’t, it’s because of shoddy journalism, laziness and perhaps a tendency to think of belief as a private affair – and not because of some inherent contradiction between the profession and the topic.
But, do papers really have to cover as freestanding items “the core of so many stories — What motivates people to act? What are the beliefs that give meaning to our lives? What ideas are we willing to live and die for?” Beckerman correctly says that to do so, journalism would have to alter its basic notions of what news is, covering stagnant stories without good news pegs – the background noise of our lives. The fact is, while those kind of topics might make good books or occasional magazine-style essays, stories about the way the world just is, as opposed to the way it’s changing, rarely make good newspaper copy.

posted by Miriam | 3:22 PM |

According to Reuters, it was Israel's first fashion week this week (hard to believe). Check out the (rather untzniustic) evidence on Reuters TV / Life channel.

posted by Miriam | 3:16 PM |

A new play opened in London yesterday based on Sebastian Haffner’s memoir, Defying Hitler. If you can’t see the stage version, make sure you read the book; it is an absolutely extraordinary account of the life of an ordinary German between the world wars, and goes a long way in explaining how even men and women who hated Hitler never resisted him. Haffner eventually escaped to the UK but never completed the manuscript. What he did manage is full of insight and wit.
About a third of Jewish books on the market nowadays, according to some estimates, are about the Holocaust. It’s a sad dilemma because on the one hand, each book is historically valuable and essential, even if they don’t have particular literary merit. On the other hand, when really worthwhile books like this one do come along, many people feel too saturated with Holocaust material to pick them up.

posted by Miriam | 3:00 PM |

OnlySimchas weirdness: What on earth does this mean?

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

One scandal currently titillating the British Jewish community is the story of Brian Maccaba (pron. Maccawber), an Irish convert and software millionaire who is suing the head of one of London’s Batei Din for slander, breach of confidence and harassment. Dayan Yisroel Lichtenstein allegedly spread the word that Maccaba “sexually harassed” one Nathalie Attar, and offered her husband $1 million to divorce her. Maccaba admits the two were “emotionally tangled” and wrote poetry to each other, but denies making the financial offer or committing adultery.
Completely lost in all the gossip is the following detail, buried at the bottom of a box in the Jewish Chronicle (payment required to read full article online – sorry). According to Maccaba in court,

“In 1999, Dayan Lichtenstein had allegedly offered to help Rabbi Cohen [Rabbi of Maccaba’s synagogue] become a dayan if the rabbi could arrange for Mr. Maccaba to give a donation of $100,000 to the Shas religious party in Israel.... He claimed that three years ago, when Mrs. Attar made her complaint against him, the dayan had offered to settle it in return for the businessman’s helping to support a scheme to bring Sephardi rabbis to London.
“'He said if we worked together… we would become the two most powerful men in the community,’ he told the court.”

This wouldn’t be the first time in recent memory senior rabbis had agreed to dubious favors for money (Heter 100 Rabbanim, anyone?). If true, I’m not sure whether Maccaba’s or Lichtenstein’s is the more Indecent Proposal.

posted by Miriam | 8:46 AM |

So The Awareness Center's Webpage is mostly down, declaring:

The Awareness Center's funding has ran out.
They have a donation page. You should note that they aren't yet a 501 (c) 3 (though the Kabbalah Centre is).

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:10 AM |

My name is Miriam Shaviv, I’m 27, and until February, I was the literary editor of The Jerusalem Post. Before that, I was a feature writer for the Post, and editor of its now largely defunct business website.
It is my pleasure to be Protocol’s first female (guest) blogger. As far as I know, I am the site’s first non-American blogger as well; after years moving between the UK, Canada and Israel, I recently returned to London, where I will be based for the foreseeable future. I hope these two factors will allow me to bring something of a fresh perspective to Protocols.
I grew up in a household which subscribed to 10-12 newspapers and magazines, and I haven’t given up on them despite the Internet / blogs. I still find print media more comprehensive, more reliable and frankly, more comfortable to read.
It’s a different story, however, when it comes to Jewish publications, especially outside NY. Too many Jewish newspapers are still controlled by local Federations or other interested parties which prevent them from carrying out proper investigative journalism and reporting stories which may reflect badly on the community. Or they are simply not aggressive enough. And as my late father-in-law Chaim Bermant, a columnist for nearly 40 years with the UK’s Jewish Chronicle, once said, if you don’t wash your dirty laundry in public, you won’t wash it in private either.
Blogs have the power to raise issues others in the Jewish community simply don’t dare touch; and that, to my mind, is their most important contribution. I look forward to the dialogue.

posted by Miriam | 7:06 AM |

Tuesday, May 04, 2004  

One of the advantages of being a Rabbi on a college campus is the opportunity to attend all sorts of fun lectures. Yesterday began a lecture series by one of the more colorful figures in academic Jewish Studies, Daniel Boyarin. Boyarin is a truly unique scholar, perhaps the only person to successfully merge truly rigorous Talmudic scholarship with contemporary literary theory and Gender studies. If you saw him (bushy beard, large velvet yarmulka, pierced ear, and suspenders w/pictures of Adam and Eve in the Garden) you would think he's a sub-par academic, trying to shock and appall. In fact he is a brilliant well respected scholar (trying to shock and appall). It should come as no surprise that he's a professor at Berkeley.
The content of his lecture didn't really have many hiddushim for those even vaguely familiar with academic Talmud, but I wanted to point out two things:
With regards to the Rabbinic attitude towards women, he said (to the shock of most in the room) that he would not consider the Rabbis mysogynistic. How do we account for the many Talmudic statements that seem to denigrate women, and deprive them of any role in Jewish life? He asserted that the Rabbis were trying to centralize religious authority. They had to compete against the Amei Haaretz, all sorts of groups, including Sadducees, Qumran folks etc. Another source of religious authority that the Rabbis had to compete with was popular religion, which was often passed from mother to daughter. So the Rabbinic attitudes and laws that seem to be anti-woman were not rooted in a negative opinion of women, but in the neccesity to eradicate non-Rabbinic folk religion. I think that's cool, though I wish he had cited his sources.

He also told a great story about Shlomo Noble, the first English Lit. professor in YU. When Noble first started teaching in YU, he had one of his young Talmud scholars interpret the Robert Burns poem My Heart's in the Highlands . The student gets up and begins, "If he says my heart's in the Highlands, I know that it's not here. So why does he have to say 'My heart's not here?" I love that story.

posted by Uri | 4:36 PM |

BTW: The Kabbalah Coach has updated his site, too. Now it calls him "Rabbi Michael Ezra Ozair." That's the high speed of the Internet, man: Updates on blogs, updates at The Awareness Center, and updates at the Kabbalah Coach. Meantime, my dead-tree story for the Forward has to keep changing to keep up with the Web.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:26 PM |

Any ideas what a Kabbalah Centre wedding entails?
UPDATE: So I call the Kabbalah Centre in L.A. and say I'm wondering what the ritual is for a wedding there. So they send me to a guy who, ostensibly, can answer my questions. I tell him I'm looking for information on the wedding ritual, and he tells me there are two tapes he can give me to answer my questions, then proceeds to ask me for a credit card. I asked to be forwarded to media relations, and left a message with the publicist.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:50 PM |

Olsen twins dating Jews. Fuck Frumster.
Also, check out Benyamin Cohen's letter acknowledging Jewsweek's third anniversary.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:35 PM |

I'm getting to this late, but Bronstein put up a post about his rabbi's speech this past Shabbos. So that's one. Every week, I'll put up a post on Saturday night linking to those who've blogged their rabbis' speeches.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:12 PM |

The Jerusalem Post has an apology above one of its stories this morning:

Due to a technical error, the following article was published online Monday night with copy editors' comments not meant for publication. The staff of the Jerusalem Post Internet Edition would like to apologize to Mr. Gutman and to his readers.
Thanks to reader David Druce, we have those copy-editor's comments.
"The Holocaust accompanied the establishment of the state; this is what is written in the Prophets and the Torah." SO WHAT? THIS IS SUCH A NON-SEQUITUR.
This was the message hammered home to the elders in the community, including 76 year-old Ya'acov Frieman, and WHY MENTION SOMEONE, OR SOMETHING, FOR NO REASON?! the children at the settlement's Neot Katif elementary school. Their principal, Yossi Krackover, rocking back and forth as if in prayer, reminded them that "Israel is victorious through the strength of its children."
Suddenly all the chattering and the toasts of wine halted for a brief moment for the singing of the national anthem "Hatikva." A cement truck roiled in the background. THESE THINGS JUST DON'T FIT ANYWHERE; THEY DON'T SUPPORT ANY POINT. IN FACT, THEY DETRACT FROM THE POINTS YOU'RE TRYING TO MAKE.
Gee, the JPost sounds like a really fun gig, with perfectly supportive editors. [SO WHAT? THIS IS SUCH A NON-SEQUITUR -- Ed.]

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:42 AM |

Monday, May 03, 2004  

Big news-Rumor going around says that Rabbi Kenneth Brander of Boca Raton has been offered a major position at RIETS (YU's Rabbinical school) that might, at some point in the near future lead to him filling the position that has been held by Rabbi Zevulun Charlop for many years. A couple of inside sources have confirmed for me that Richard Joel has offered Brander some high ranking position at RIETS.
Lot's to say about this later.

posted by Uri | 10:59 PM |

I'm at the NYC Bloggers lecture happening. Just now, Jason Calcanis is discussing models for grabbing writers away from papers to blogs, and says that if the money's there, he can grab some NYT writers, such that someone like Tom Friedman -- but, he emphasizes, Friedman wouldn't do it -- could, "instead of writing one or two columns a week," blog "six or twelve times a day." Choire Sicha of Gawker lets out an audible groan; a sentiment shared, it seems, by the larger part of the crowd.

Choire Sicha.
Denton, talking about preserving content when advertisers get wary, says that the essential question on this issue is, "Are blogs, like other media before them, gonna sell out...gonna lose their essential bloggerness?" This is a question we've wondered about recently. Also, you might notice that the Google ad above is a PSA, and not the standard ads we usually have, which is probably owing to our coverage of a convicted child molester today. Recently, the ads took another vacation because, according to Google, we "discussed murders." Are these topics any less family-friendly than the evening news?
On corrections, Calcanis says, "We use strikethrough." No one can correct like blogs. "We note the error where it happened...we fall on our sword."
We've spoken before about whether bloggers are willing to deal with the nitty-gritty; whenever you come to one of these blogging things and see tons of bloggers on the floor, on their knees, laptops propped up on bags, etc., I think that these people really are tough, in the sense that photojournalists are tough. If you're ever at a press conference, you'll see photojournalists literally crawling all over the place to get the right shot. Okay, so sitting on the floor isn't the same as picking up the phone or burning through shoe leather, but it's something.
ALSO: Read Judith Weiss's rundown.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:28 PM |

Court Rules Demjanjuk Was Nazi Guard.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 6:19 PM |

Did you know there was a seder on Fox's "The O.C."? Face it, you barely knew there was such a thing as "The O.C." Either way, here's a story about it, and I've been promised some inside scoop in the comments from people who know.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 5:05 PM |

For more than a week, the Orthodox Union has been touting in press releases the fact that Betty Ehrenberg of their IPA arm as the only American woman sent to the OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism from. I can't find any of these releases on their site, but it's pretty interesting that she's the only woman and that it's an Orthodox group that sent her, and that the group is going out of its way to make sure the press is aware of that fact.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:40 PM |


9 a.m. to 11 a.m. -- Former NYC Mayor Edward Koch discusses outcome of the International Conference on Anti-Semitism sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:20 PM |

So Jennifer Paluseo, the college chick who gave birth in her dormitory and suffocated her newborn son by placing him in a garbage bag and throwing him in the trash, has been convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to a single year of prison.

In explaining the lenient sentence, Judge Judd Carhart explained that he was influenced by the hundreds of letters he received in support of Paluseo, most of which reported that Paluseo is a kind, sensitive person. Off the record, the judge admitted that he wanted to let Paluseo off altogether but felt that he couldn't because of her horrible deed - throwing the baby in the trash rather than in the adjacent recycling bin.

posted by Deranged GOT Fan | 1:52 PM |

The Same Man?

L-R: Michael Ezra's homepage photo, Awareness Center's Ozair photo.
Some intrepid readers have taken note of the link in Uri's post yesterday to a man who calls himself Rabbi Michael Ezra, the Kabbalah Coach, and declared that he looks similar to Rabbi Michael Ozair, listed on the Awareness Center's page for charges relating to sexual abuse of a minor.
These readers have further investigated and found that the URL for Ezra's is registered under the name Michael Ozair.
I spoke with the Los Angeles D.A.'s office this morning, and they told me that Ozair had pleaded no contest on November 5th, 2002, to one count of oral copulation of a person under 16. Among other things, he was sentenced to 5 years felony probation, 1 year in county jail, a mandated term of sex offender treatment, and is required to register as a sex offender. The D.A.'s office could not tell me whether he would be legally allowed to use an assumed name, though he likely would be allowed to so long as he's registered under his real name; they couldn't tell me at the moment how I could verify if he's properly registered as such.
You'll note that the Awareness Center has already updated its page with the Ezra alias and his plea; those people are quick.
SO THERE'S A LINK on his site with which one can IM him. Before calling for a phone interview, I gave it a shot, and here's what resulted:

steveniweiss: hi
kabbalahcoach: Shalom,
kabbalahcoach: What's going on?
steveniweiss: nothing much, i'm just looking at your site
kabbalahcoach: Sorry, just had to take a phone call
steveniweiss: that's ok
kabbalahcoach: How did you find out about the site?
steveniweiss: kabbalah
steveniweiss: so what do you do in your sessions
kabbalahcoach: Depends on what the needs of the client are. People seek assistance with different areas of life, or LIFE overall.
steveniweiss: all the people on your site are adults, do you teach kids
kabbalahcoach: I offer complimentary consultations for both the coach and the client to find out more about spiritual coaching since it is a relatively new field.
kabbalahcoach: No, not really.
steveniweiss: hm
steveniweiss: ok
kabbalahcoach: Are you looking to learn about Kabbalah, there are other sites...
steveniweiss: ok
kabbalahcoach: Good luck.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:30 PM |

AKS introduces us to Lights in the Distance, a new Anglo-Isra-blog whose author announces her raison d'etre:

I read an article in one of the local newspapers last Friday about native-English-speaking bloggers in Israel, and when I read that the overwhelming majority of them are right wing religious types (not that there's anything wrong with that - some of my good friends fall into this category), I decided on the spot to try to even the odds by offering a different perspective.
That story, which we've mentioned before, is here.
Read the rest of AKS's post for a great rundown of Isra-bloggers' reactions to recent events.

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

Interestingly, if you go to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations homepage, there's a current display of the Omer count. Head over to the homepages of Conservative institutions JTS and USCJ, or Orthodox Union, and you'll find no mention of the Omer on the front page.
UPDATE: So apparently I missed the big e-mail Omer notice on the OU page. I guess my vision just ain't what it used to be? Still, it doesn't say the actual day, which was pretty fascinating to see on the UAHC page.
Reader Ephraim IMs about the count over at OnlySimchas, which mentions what the count was yesterday; this is seemingly an odd move, since the only time one mentions yesterday's count is when talking. But I think I know why OnlySimchas is doing this: they acknowledge that the majority of their audience still reads English phonetically.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:51 AM |

Sunday, May 02, 2004  

Live-blogging from Lander College, where the Orthodox Union's Mesorah Conference is taking place. As I've noted before, this place isn't exactly ideal for reaching by public transportation, and my directions were sub-par, so I got here late and missed some of the early stuff. Following the conference is a "Halachic Seudah" at the restaurant, Levana.

Lander College.
There seem to be a few purposes here, ranging from further establishing the OU brand to actually transferring a mesorah ("tradition") of kosher birds, for the purposes of not losing their mesorah. Having arrived late, I'm not all that concerned at having missed the welcoming by Rabbi Yosef Grossman, the greeting by Rabbi Dr. Bernard Lander or "The Two Ways to Understand Mesorah" by Rabbi Menachem Genack, by I would have liked to have been present at "How Is OU Policy Established?" by Rabbi Dovid Cohen. I arrived in the middle of Rabbi Herschel Schachter's address on "The Mesorah of Kosher Birds."

Rabbi Herschel Schachter addresses the crowd.
Here he discussed four basic symbols used to determine the kosher status of birds, and the necessary elements for proper transmission of mesorah regarding properly-established birds. Later on, in various presentations and hand-outs of dead animal/bird parts, the audience was shown these different elements and some distinctions among them and non-kosher animals/birds.

A grasshopper's abdomen with the telltale "chet".
One such example, in this case with a live specimen, was the grasshoper, or "chagav" [Spelling corrected -- SIW]. There are various indicators meant to be utilized in dtermining the kosher status of a grasshopper. Rabbi Ari Zivotofsky, in his presentation, brought in a "special guest" by the name of Shimon, a resident of Lakewood dressed in Hasidic garb, who had lived in Yemen until the age of 24; Yemen is presumed to be the last major Jewish community that maintained a mesorah for grasshoppers. Zivotofsky presented Shimon with the grasshopper and asked him if it was kosher; Shimon held the grasshopper and pointed to its abdomen, indicating a chet-shaped structure, and declared that his father had told him that this shape was the sign of a kosher grasshopper.

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

Interesting postscript: Forget Kabbalah as entertainment, now we have Kabbalah as workout, thanks to this Kabbalistic personal trainer. [You'll note his Masters is from the University of Judaism. There's always an LA connection.] (Thanks, Shmuel C.)

posted by Uri | 12:41 PM |

New sefer declares smoking to be entirely forbidden, including the perils of second-hand smoking in its reasoning. Some interesting grafs:

"I felt I had to do something about haredi men who smoke." The number of haredi women who light up, Ishayek adds, is so small that it is not worth mentioning. If there are any, they are penitent Jews who got hooked when they were still secular. Apparently, the average haredi woman - who gives birth to a large number of children - has long been aware of the harm that smoking can cause her children, and smoking is regarded as immodest or male behavior.
TO TARGET the problem, Ishayek financed a telephone survey of haredi men to find out how many of them admit to smoking. The Motagim polling firm found that 19.4% do - a 30% drop from a few years ago. Although haredim - especially hassidim - have a smokey public image, Ishayek says they smoke significantly less than secular men (29% of whom smoke). The survey also found that 11% of yeshiva students smoke, which is probably less than their counterparts in the universities.
Rabbi Schach smoked for many years, but stopped "in one day" when his doctor told him it was dangerous. In 1984 he issued a letter barring smoking in his yeshiva.
But the haredi newspapers have remained far behind, says Ishayek. The Agudat Yisrael daily Hamodia (read mostly by hassidim) gratefully accepts full-page ads from the Dubek tobacco monopoly. Tobacco ads with religious themes, handled by a haredi woman advertising agent in Bnei Brak, have appeared for many years. One, for example, shows a havdala candle and spice box alongside a pack of cigarettes, with the slogan Shavua tov ("A good week"). The Bnei Brak-based Yated Ne'eman, which has a Lithuanian following and was established by Rabbi Schach, stopped accepting tobacco ads six months ago, but resumed at Purim this year. Ishayek has collected signatures from hundreds of haredi readers of Yated Ne'eman demanding that this practice stop.
Yom Le'Yom, the Shas weekly, adopted a no-tobacco-ad policy seven years ago after Ovadia Yosef, the Shas spiritual leader, ordered it to do so. But just recently, the Shas paper again began accepting Dubek ads (with no official comment from Yosef). The weekly was quoted as explaining that it did so for financial reasons, and that the prominent Health Ministry-mandated warnings "were enough to get the message across."
(Thanks, EphShap)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:54 AM |
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