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

Saturday, May 15, 2004  

I went to Friday Night Live to try to win converts to Orthodoxy. I met a beautiful Russian wearing a pink cast on her arm that matched her pink outfit.
I did not talk to her too long because I noticed an acquaintance of mine had made a previous move on her and I thought it would be rude of me to come between them.
Saturday morning, my rabbi preached that it is wrong to make Iraqi prisoners unwitting stars of American porn videos.
"I hate sermons on politics," said a friend.
Over Shabbos, I breezed through the last 300 pages of Professor Johnathan D. Sarna's new book, American Judaism, and read its best lines off to my friends in shul:
* "Ritual consumption" of wine on the part of Jews skyrocketed during these years as Prohibition created, in the words of one cynical inspector, "a remarkable increase in the thirst for religion." Judging from official records, in fact, "blessing the fruit of the vine" became during Prohibition the most widely and scrupulously observed of all Jewish religious practices. (Pg. 218)
* A prominent Birmingham rabbi, who later modified his views, told a meeting of the southeast region of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1956 that he "wouldn't risk one hair on the head of one of my members for the life of every shvartzeh [black] in this state." (Pg. 309)
Luke asks: How many hairs on the heads of your fellow shul members would you risk for the lives of every shvartzeh in your state?

posted by LukeFord | 11:54 PM |

Yeshiva University (YU) and Chovevei Torah (CT) clashed in a thrilling one day cricket match Sunday broadcast around the world on Fox Sports.
Playing on YU’s home turf, Rabbi Hershel Schacter (who says that plastic utensils can be kashered in boiling water) won the toss and sent R. Avi Weiss’s team in to bat.
As the match began, the temperature was a muggy 85 degrees.
R. Shachter led a blistering pace attack that included R. Yosef Blau, R. J. David Bleich, and R. Daniel Z. Feldman. He arrayed his team in an attacking mode with four slips and a silly mid-off.
Thundering in from the West End with the new ball, R. Shachter had batsmen R. Dovid Weiss and rabbinical student Sam Feinsmith on the defensive from the first over. Playing off the back foot, they did not manage a single run until the third ball of the second over.
Bowling a strict line and length, R. Blau, with his Rosh Yeshivah, kept CT to just four runs after four overs.
The fifth over will not be forgotten by any member of the 15,000 strong Orthodox crowd.
Sprinting in, pouring it on with more exertion than he’s show since his bachelor days of dating several women in one day, R. Schachter bowled at over 100 miles per hour. On his first ball, a full toss, he beat the bat of R. Dovid and tore the middle wicket out of the ground before being mobbed by his tzitzit wearing teammates.
R. Nathaniel Helfgot strode to the wicket. With the crowd on its feet, R. Shachter bowled short. Instinctively, R. Helfot hooked the ball and sent it flying to the boundary where an energetic R. Meir Goldwicht circled under it for the big catch and CT was reeling.
Bending his back for a hat trick, R. Shachter bowled short to the next batsman R. Saul Berman, who ducked to get out of the way. Unfortunately for him, the ball flew off his hand and right to the keeper R. Norman Lamm. CT was in shambles at 3-5.
R. Avi Weiss strode to the wicket and the crowd became quiet. R. Shachter stared at him for a few seconds and then turned away. Adjusting his field for the kill, R. Shachter carried on with his deadly bodyline approach, bowling short. With the ball rising off the turf and racing on to his head at 100mph, R. Weiss did not flinch before flicking the ball with his wrist over the boundary for six. CT supporters went wild.
After 20 overs, bruised and weary, R. Weiss was on 35 and CT was four wickets down for 55.
In a productive partnership of 163, R. Weiss and R. Dov Linzer took CT to a total of 227 runs for fifty overs. R. Weiss was greeted by standing applause when he made his century, finishing with 113 runs.
With the wicket starting to turn, R. Weiss employed his spin bowlers to devastating effect, bowling out the first five YU batsmen for just 34 runs. Then all-rounder R. Shachter strode in and the battle was joined.
With just one ball left, YU trailed by three runs. R. Shachter, at 105, was on strike. R. Weiss jogged up to the wicket and bowled under hand. Throwing his bat away in disgust, R. Shacter marched angrily off the field, saying it “was just not cricket.”

posted by LukeFord | 11:38 PM |

Friday, May 14, 2004  

I think we frum Jews should go out into the world, appropriate the rad things secular people do, and make them holy. For instance, I'll begin by transforming the Van Halen song "Hot For Teacher" into "Hot For Torah." You can make your suggestions in the comments box.

I think of all the education that I missed.
But then my homework was never quite like this.
Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad,
I'm hot for Torah.
I got it bad, so bad,
I'm hot for Torah.

posted by LukeFord | 9:21 PM |

I consider myself bound by halacah. I take particular pride in my continence. Around Los Angeles, I'm known as Luke "Chastity" Ford. Despite the temptations constantly thrust my way by virtue of my status as a guest blogger on Protocols, I polish my Torah observance and refuse wordly delights. I try to live in accord with Biblical prophecy.

My dad, Desmond Ford, did a 1000-page paper on Daniel 8:14 and the Investigative Judgment. The saying that most haunted me as a child from my parents was, "Be sure your sins will find you out." They were right. I always got caught until I got older and got better at lying.

Still, while I hold myself to the highest Torah standards, I try to view the behavior of others with good sense. If someone commits sex crimes with a string of teens, I say ban them. But, let's say a rabbi works day and night for the Jewish people. He exhausts himself in gemara. Then one evening, he finds himself unable to sleep. A 16 year old girls offers herself to him, and in a moment of weakness, never to be repeated, he succumbs. (I would never succumb, and have never knowingly succumbed to anyone under 18.) Why should we not weigh up the enormous good he does with this one sin?

In many states and countries, such as Australia, 16 is the age of consent.

In past centuries, Jews 14 years old were getting married. That's the Torah's way.

Many 14 year old girls these days are more sexually experienced than most Orthodox rabbis.

Remember the novel and miniseries, The Thornbirds? It was by succumbing to sin that the priest was able to elevate himself to a higher place and overcome his pride.

Shlomo Carlebach did enormous good. Yes, he used to call up women like my ex-girlfriend with sexually charged yearnings at 2AM. But he sang great songs that inspire people like me to greater Torah observance.

What about all those Orthodox rabbis who never get oral sex from 14 year old girls but bore their congregants every Shabbos morning. It's not a crime of sex, but I think it is a serious averah (sin). Often, the most dynamic, charismatic outreach rabbis who use kaballah are more prey to the sins of the flesh. As the Gemara says, the greater the man, the greater the yetzer hara (though as ME points out in the comments, the Talmud exhorts us to overcome our sinful propensities).

Let's weigh up the bad people do with the good. If a person has sinned once but they are not a danger to the community, let's not thrust him out, at least not without a way to work their way back in.

posted by LukeFord | 9:04 PM |


Re: Frumster – the more astute comment-ers (eliezer, nanu, the bottom line [and, to a certain extent, Michael from CT and Zvi]) nailed my point, so I’ll let their words (somewhat edited) tell the story and then tie up a couple of loose ends myself.

1) Eliezer: The real truth it that Frumster’s new model is really about the new owners turning this acquisition into a viable business investment, aimed at frum singles. Any claims that the new pricing structure is inspired for the benefit of singles are rather disingenuous.

2) nanu: It’s all crap…bait and switch tactics…

3) the bottom line: a lot of smoke and mirrors. The more they keep emphasizing the "personal-ness" of their site's operation (we screen stuff, we want sincere ppl, etc) the more they're trying to cover up how much of a business they are. They aren't making token barriers to weed out insincere people. They're trying to make money.

Ok. Well said, people. Thank you.

I just have a couple – [later addition: “sorry, a bunch”] – of things to add, and then I’ll address a couple of comments.

a) Frumster has emphasized the “low” cost of their monthly service, and how the fee is necessary because of things like the sites “Responsibility to Reach Out to Other Singles Worldwide”; “Expansive Personalized Service”; “Full-time Screening and Member Support Services”; etc.

But crunch the numbers of what Frumster projects will happen: 13,000 members, $100/year (at least) membership fee – you’re talking about a $1.3 million business. And that’s before ads, increased membership (which Frumster projects), and other potential sources of revenue. Of course, there are costs as well. If they run more than $100,000 (other than salaries, of course), the organization is being run incompetently.

For a business run by fewer than 10 people, that’s great. But, please, just admit it: “We’re running a business.” Or don’t say anything. We live in America; people are cool with other people making money. It’s the phoniness that’s grating.

b) America has a very useful mechanism for creating organizations based on ideals. It’s called the non-profit sector. If the driving force behind Frumster were ideals, it would register as a non-profit organization. This designation, of course, would not prove that those involved are motivated primarily by ideals. However, the fact that Frumster is not a non-profit – combined with all of the other evidence I (and so many others) have offered – proves that Frumster is primarily profit-driven. Again, this would be fine, if they wouldn’t spend so much time and effort denying it.

c) Just wanted to point out one more indicator: In the large heading of one of its myriad explanations for its service, Frumster claims that it is “Dedicated to providing service to all” and states that “Frumster will be providing FREE subscriptions to those who can demonstrate financial need.”

Sounds good, even commendable. But later, at the end of the page, a fuller disclosure is provided: we will be awarding a limited number of FREE Premium Memberships monthly to those who can demonstrate financial need.

That’s strange. What happened to service for “all”? Why only “a limited number”? What if the people who demonstrate financial need outnumber the “limited number” of FREE memberships available? Obviously, from a business standpoint, the latter policy makes far more sense. But from an idealistic perspective, smells kinda funny.

d) To expand on “the bottom line”’s comment: Once we acknowledge that Frumster is profit-driven, the possibility arises that all the bells-and-whistles they keeping up with appear not as services that the membership as a whole genuinely wants, but rather as mechanisms to justify the costs that Frumster is imposing. In other words: First, Frumster decides that it will charge for membership. Then, they sit around trying to come up with ideas for services that would justify the charges. Now, of course, a certain number of people might actually like the new services, but (I contend) most won’t, and that’s not really their concern.

e) One factor that I think Frumster hasn’t factored in (sufficiently) is one obvious drawback to their new service. Their members can no longer maintain anonymity (from the prying eyes of Frumster, of course). Now, it’s one thing for the average Shmelke to cruise profiles, send a message here and there, and perhaps disclose his real identity to a couple of chicks after spending some time getting to know them. But he’s going to think twice before he provides his name, mailing address, and credit card number to a singles organization, especially one run by people who seem to be such nosy busybodies. And if you think that Frumster is not selling your information with other (singles) organizations, I’d reconsider. [If anyone has info to the contrary, or Frumster has stated otherwise, please let me know and provide link, etc.].

f) Quickly, I’ll raise one question. Seems that Frumster will soon be noting who is (and isn’t) a premium member. What percentage of the membership will be premium? My official guess: not more than 25%. Anyone else? [I will admit it if I’m proven wrong, but I warn in advance that I’ll raise questions about the possibility of window-dressing].

g) And lastly, I’ll just mention one more thing. There’s one more factor that Frumster has failed (sufficiently) to consider. There is virtually no barrier to competition, and there is demand for a competing, much cheaper (if not free) service. I can’t imagine that it will take long for competitors – or even ideal-driven organizations or people – to throw their hat(s) into the ring.

Ok, sorry about the long-windedness. I'll try to address old comments in this comment section

good shabbos,

posted by Deranged GOT Fan | 6:39 PM |

Want to do a mitzvah to help bring Moshiach now? Now that you know my good character, my commitment to teshuvah, please set me up with a pious shidduch. I turn 38 May 28. I live in a hovel. I drive a beaten-up cereal killer Dodge one-ton van and I have very little income. But I have a lot of love in my heart for the right woman and I fear God and I love Torah and I shower daily.

posted by LukeFord | 5:48 PM |

Jews who can spot a PR opportunity a mile away: Ban on Indian wigs in Israel causes a stir in Toronto wig salon.

Speaking of which, how can we as Jews make money from current fears of terrorism?

posted by LukeFord | 5:38 PM |

Edgar J. Scherick (creator of ABC's Wide World of Sports and producer of numerous movies such as Rambling Rose and Sleuth) was born of Jewish parents but he never found any meaning in Judaism. Confined to bed the last six years of his life, he was tenderly nursed by a Filipino, Linette, who showed him the love of Christ. He converted to Roman Catholicism shortly before his death.

I believe that sociological research backs up my belief that the primary thing that keeps a person rooted in a shul and a religion is the number and depth of friendships he has there. That's why I am so grateful to the readers of this blog for making me feel at home and welcome.

I met with Scherick a dozen times during his last year on earth. Our last words were about Torah:

Edgar: "How's world Judaism?"

Luke: "Things have been better in Israel lately. We have Tishu'Bav Wednesday night, when we mourn the destruction of the two temples."

Edgar: "I may vacillate in my religion, but I've always been proud of my heritage. I have the blood of heroes in my veins."

Luke: "I've met this genius rabbi at shul who studies ten pages of Talmud a day. That's unheard of."

Edgar: "That's tricky stuff. It never says exactly what it means."

Luke: "It's the most difficult material I've ever studied."

I attended his funeral one Shabbos afternoon in December 2002 at a Roman Catholic church, wearing my yarmulke, with another kipa-toting yid from my shul.

posted by LukeFord | 5:21 PM |

I interviewed the producer of the Halloween movies (as well as Lion of the Desert (funded by Moammar Qhadafy), and The Message about Mohammed, founder of Islam).

Moustapha Akkad, about the only Arab-Muslim (though secular) producer: "The media runs the world. Absolutely. No tanks or planes. The media and the public companies. This is what The Protocols of [the Learned Elders of] Zion [is all about].

"The Zionists, last century, were persecuted in Europe. So they immigrated to the United States. They had a target. They were united. And they did not permit [statements] critical of Zion. They went all the way to control the world and to control the minds of the people through the media. There's a lesson to learn from them.

"They have control of the media here. We know it. They did not do it through tanks or machine guns. They planned of course. They united. Did you see Pat Buchanan's book [The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization]? He makes sense."

posted by LukeFord | 5:15 PM |

I spoke to an Orthodox rabbi who studied with Michael Ozair at Kol Yaakov in Monsey. He confirms that Ozair studied there. He said that Ozair did not receive semicha from Kol Yaakov Torah Center in Monsey, New York. Nobody claims that Ozair received semicha there.

I pressed this rabbi with how long Ozair studied at Kol Yaakov. He said he did not know. He said it was less than a year.

He said Ozair was a good guy.

I understand Michael Ozair was at Kol Yaakov two TishuB'Avs in a row. He came right before (1997) and left right after the second one (1998).

This rabbi threatened to sue me if I used his name in the article. Like that would bother me. It reminds of a different group I've covered in years past who would often say to me, "I'll break your legs, buddy."

People are reluctant to be associated with Ozair because of his crime and they are not exactly running out to speak for him and to authenticate his semicha.

Every Orthodox rabbi has other Orthodox rabbi who hate him. You always have enemies. It's a competitive intense political world. Rabbis love to gossip (talk shop) as much as any other group. Standing in the community is generally of paramount concern. There's far more fear of the religious right in Orthodoxy, says Dennis Prager, then there is fear of God.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Orthodox Jews lying about Ozair to distance themselves from his sexual sin. Sexual sins seem to be the gravest sins sociologically in Orthodoxy.

Kol Yaakov is the black sheep of the Monsey and Charedi world because they deal with returnees to Judaism. The rest of Monsey would rather not deal with Baalei Teshuvot unless it is Ohr Somaech.

Any time you put the name Michael Ozair (whose name has been rendered mud) with anyone else on the border of Orthodox acceptability, you are making that person look bad. You're giving their enemies more ammunition. Shalhevet (Modern Orthodox day school in Los Angeles where boys and girls get an identical curriculum) is already the black sheep of Orthodox day schools.

Almost all of Ozair's community has turned their back on him. I think that is wrong because this sin he pled guilty to is no more severe than other sins going on in the community. The girl was post-pubescent and she was not his student. What he did is still wrong but we need perspective. If he had a history of preying on teenage girls, then that would be another matter.

Many Orthodox rabbis have committed adultery with their congregants. Many Orthodox congregants commit adultery or engage in homosexuality. If people are a danger to the community, I agree they should be exiled. But there should be room for repentance for most sins if the traditional steps of restitution and penitence are carried out.

posted by LukeFord | 4:12 PM |

Which group make for the best shabbos goys?

* Puerto Ricans
* Mexicans
* Guatemalans
* African-Americans
* Vietnamese refugees
* Lesbians
* Unitarians
* Born agains

I wouldn't have asked this question except that reading your brutal comments about me on this blog has morally desensitized me. Gut shabbos.

posted by LukeFord | 3:39 PM |

Fiddish. It's still a work in progress for the next few days.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:37 PM |

What would the Torah say about a reality TV show that shows real families grieving after they've been tricked to believe that a loved one died. So long as Nash Entertainment ("Amish in the City" and "Who Wants to Marry My Dad?") got consent from everyone concerned, would it be so wrong? What would Rebbe Nahman say? It is time for Torah Jews to speak up about these important issues.

posted by LukeFord | 3:30 PM |

I went to a Jewish singles event this week. I met an attractive young lady who's becoming a Conservative cantor. She's getting out of a 16 year relationship with a Japanese shaygetz who just went through a gender identity crisis and decided to become a woman. And how was your week?

posted by LukeFord | 3:12 PM |

"We have arrived at the "Perfect Storm" of American cultural depravity. Along with photos of Iraqi prisoners being abused in an American prison, we now apparently have photos of American soldiers having sex and committing homosexual acts on prisoners."

posted by LukeFord | 2:56 PM |

Rabbi David Wolpe (C) gives an eloquent lecture on how to balance your life. Read and grow rich.

posted by LukeFord | 1:24 PM |

For all the Kosher Bachelors out there, this is one of those deals that's too good to miss; a stand mixer that's usually $300+, factory-refurbished for $169, plus free shipping. Use Amazon rebate code MAYREBATEKHO and get an additional $25 off.
With it, I also purchased the pasta roller.
Probably a good idea to buy if you know someone who's registered for it, too.

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

I interview Jennie Rothenberg, author of that April Hadassah piece on Postville, on She responds to Stephen Bloom's strong criticisms.

posted by LukeFord | 1:01 PM |

Compiling a list of Jewish soldiers killed over the past year (presumably in Iraq or Afghanistan), towards a Memorial Day feature. Thing is, no one's got a definite record.
Here's a list so far:

Mark Evnin
Jeffrey Wershow
David Bernstein
Marc Seiden
Seth Dvorin

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:42 PM |

So the interesting thing about Luke's earlier Ozair post was that so much of what Ozair said was a transparent lie or something that showed a sense of mind that was completely inconsistent with a repentant individual.
The only claim that was not directly contested was his assertion of having received semicha from R' Yehoshua Reich, something I hadn't been able to get confirmation on when I was writing my Forward story. I've now received information that Reich has denied in front of other rabbis giving semicha to Ozair; I'm hoping to hear directly from Reich at some point soon.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:54 AM |

There are some things that are just too good not ot blog about.

This morning a friend of mine sent me the following link to ebay, an obvious reference to the critical discussion over idolatrous wigs.

My favorite part thus far, comes from the NYTimes:

"You have to hope whatever you have is good, otherwise you put a thousand dollars in the garbage," said a woman named Mindy, who declined to give her last name for fear of what her father-in-law would think.
Now, is comment really necessary?

And from Haaretz:
In Bnei Brak, some people even started collecting Indian wigs and throwing them to the bonfire.
Do you think Sheitel Machers (not to be confused with Schtick Machers, Shidduch Machers or Macher Machers) will put signs in the windows "Sheitel Yisroel" like "Pas Yisroel" and "Chalav Yisroel"?

I honestly wonder how much Reb Elyashiv, who some report initiated this firestorm (although two different "Haredi religious courts opened an investigation into these reports, even sending emissaries to India to make inquiries on the spot") knows about Hindu custom and the true source of the disputed wig hair?

There are three theories on why this has now become an issue (aside from the obvious – maybe it really is an issue):

1. The rabbi(s) issuing the edict have significant stock in the hat, snood, and synthetic wig business.

2. The Sheitel Machers themselves who have the most to gain because now everyone who wants human hair sheitles will have to fork over the big bucks for new special wigs orchestrated the ban, which according to reports "is a Torah (D’oraita) ban, not a more lenient rabbinical (D’rabanan) ban."

3. The Democrats, who are sooo furious about the exporting of American jobs to India teamed up with the rabbi(s) to issue the ban.

I am sure this is not the last of this story…

posted by Pinchas | 10:35 AM |

Scott "Shmarya" Rosenberg, apparently a rabbinics student who was recently excommunicated from the only shul in town for blogging, has written a chilling critique of Chabad at

Jennie Rothenberg, author of that valentine to Postville in Hadassah magazine, operates an impressive website of her own at I've emailed her for a response to author Stephen Bloom's charge that her Postville article is a lie.

For an example of bad blood in Postville this year, read how a Gentile member of the Postville city council was reamed by her colleagues for speaking against Chabad in a Chicago Tribune article.

The Jewish Journal devotes this cover story to same sex marriage.

posted by LukeFord | 9:50 AM |

Thursday, May 13, 2004  

Just heard a report of another interesting statement by Rabbi Hershel Schachter, this one that plastic utensils can be kashered in boiling water; can we get more info on this?

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

A serious charge was raised in the comments section of this blog.

Kettle Called Black (a modest Talmudist in Lakewood) writes about Stephen Bloom, author of Postville: "Ask him how he managed to pass a work of fiction off as investigative reporting.
"Have you actaully read his book? There are numerous anecdotes that quite obviously (obvious to anyone who has any real insight into the "World of Ultra-Orthodox Jews") did not happen.
"Like the books cover, a composite of a stock photo of a chassid (in distinctive non Lubavitch dress) superimposed over a photo of Postville locals, passed off as an actual photo, the book is essentially the story of what Bloom expected things to be like when the "cultures clashed", with little or no regard at times for the truth."
Stephen Bloom replies: "The publisher did not pass off the cover as an "actual photo." Look at the credit on the inside cover. The problem the publisher had in coming up with a cover shot was that the Hasidim and the locals never were (physically or spiritually) close enough to be caught in the same photograph! They avoided each other at all costs, as my narrative indicates. As you know, the covers of books are in the purvey of publishers, never authors. As for the other charge, hundreds of scholars and rabbis have read the book and praised it.
I've come to expect such comments, which follow a pattern: if you pose certain questions in your reporting about jewish issues, you are blasted as an anti-semite. such retorts are textbook."

posted by LukeFord | 8:54 PM |

On Shabbos morning, you will usually find me in shul acting like the country gentleman that I am - intricately discussing the cricket. And up on the bima my rabbi will be crying about the latest terrorist attack in Israel.

I ponder - when is it OK for a real man to cry publicly? I say, when you cry for others.

As for the cricket, Australia has had the best test team for a decade now and the English are a bunch of wankers.

posted by LukeFord | 8:47 PM |

This new Hallmark documentary on reconciliation at Postville, along with similarly themed stories in such powder puff journalistic outlets as Hadassah magazine is not accurate. There is no reconciliation at Postville, according to University of Iowa journalism professor Stephen Bloom, who wrote the book on the topic.

For the complete Stephen Bloom interview, read Here's an excerpt:

Stephen: "The producers wanted a blurb from me estolling the virtues of the show."

I about fall off my chair laughing. "Do you think they read your book?"

Stephen: "No.

"I was the one responsible for Hallmark going to Postville. About the time I connected with you, I got a phone call from an independent producer who was contracted by Hallmark [to Faith & Values Media, a coalition of feel-good Jewish and Christian groups]. He'd been asked to come up with several different story ideas. They said they'd read my book and the story interested them.

"I said, 'This is not a story about reconciliation. This is more like a civil war saga.' That was the last I heard from them."

posted by LukeFord | 6:25 PM |

Cecile du Bois, 15, who's getting confirmed at her Reform temple Shuvuot, is blogging madly about important issues.

posted by LukeFord | 5:25 PM |

Stephen Bloom, author of the book Postville, emailed this letter to the editor of Hadassah magazine:

"I am deeply disappointed in Hadassah Magazine. The story, Torah Amid Corn (April), is a woefully one-sided portrait of an crucial and confounding issue facing American Jewry today. In the news business, we call Jennie Rothenberg's account of Postville, Iowa, a "valentine." Nowhere was there any mention of the appalling surge of crime, substandard living conditions, alcoholism, drug abuse, or ground-water pollution in Postville - all spurred on by the operation of the kosher slaughterhouse. Most egregious is that apparently no effort was made to get at the truth of what is really happening in Postville. Hadassah Magazine's account is a cheery bit of public relations. The story violates journalism's time-honored mission - to get at the gritty essence of the story whether we like the results or not. Instead, Hadassah painted a cheery and comforting picture of what we may want to see, but hardly a depiction of what Postville is today."

Here's a recent JTA story on Postville.

I just spoke to Stephen for an hour about the forthcoming Hallmark documentary on Postville.

posted by LukeFord | 5:17 PM |

Both the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America have scheduled their annual dinners for Sunday, May 16th, at hotels 10 blocks apart from each other in Manhattan.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:00 PM |

8 a.m. -- World Falun Dafa Day celebration at Foley Square.
3:30 p.m. -- Lt. Gov. Mary Donohue presents the Jewish heritage essay contest awards
Also, contrast these events tonight and tomorrow:
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. -- NYC Commission on Human Rights co-sponsors Muslim Unity Forum; Muslim American Society, 1933 Bath Ave., Brooklyn.
12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. -- Muslims and anti-war activists hold rally and march to protest ``U.S./Israeli terror'' and an ``end to the occupation of Palestine and Iraq''; Times Square, 42nd Street and Broadway.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:43 PM |

Marilyn Manson as Jesus? That just squashed all hope of a long-term Christian movie mass-market.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:37 PM |

Are we taking the Purim story too seriously? Are there too many Jewish women (such as Monica Lewinsky and that congressman's missing intern Chandra Levy) sucking up to men in power?

I've been deluged with requests to write about moody jewesses complaining about their lack of nookie.

I'm too gentlemanly to name names, but my sources suggest Teresa Strasser (who is my favorite singles columnist, she wrote Seeking Forgiveness in Freakland), Jamye Waxman, Ilona Fass (a stunning Persian beauty, if only I was good enough for her), Aria Goes Down, Amy Sohn (getting married), Elizabeth Wurtzel, Carin Davis, etc...

I believe the author of this site,, got hitched.

Source writes: "I think you should also note your visit to Teresa Strasser's "speech" in 2002 where some guy remarked that every time he reads one of her columns he wants to kill her."

posted by LukeFord | 3:22 PM |

On his radio show, Dennis Prager ( and Michael Ledeen from the American Enterprise Institute said it appears that Islamic terrorists in Iraq are selecting Jews (such as Nick Berg, Daniel Pearl) to slaughter (behead) while the rest of the people they murder, such as the Italian, are simply shot to death.

Prager has devoted the last six hours of his radio show to the murder of Nick Berg. He played every hour on his show yesterday (as did Michael Medved) the sounds of Berg screaming while being murdered. He also linked to video of the murder from his website (though warned that children under 13 should not watch).

posted by LukeFord | 3:08 PM |

Cathy Seipp writes: "I realized the other day that I hadn't seen Luke Ford in a couple of weeks. That's because he's been busy. Usually his bad behavior is confined to raiding dessert tables at various functions around town, being pointlessly rude to the Jewish Journal, and drooling on his blog about girls he wants to sleep with...or (more accurately) girls he wants me to think he wants to sleep with. Lately, though, he's been working overtime: committing felonies; working himself into a self-righteous lather when people point out that he's committed felonies; imagining nasty, tasteless "satires" about pederasty; asking fans to write endless epilogues to his memoir (I believe he's collected 37 so far); accusing his betters of being "fat assholes" in blog comments sections; fiddling with the lithium dosage; and guest blogging on a group site run by a bunch of frum Jews, most of whom probably don't know what hit them."

posted by LukeFord | 2:51 PM |

Additional information about Nick Berg. According to the LAT,

He told friends an Israeli stamp in his passport had made the Iraqis [Iraqi police, his initial captors] especially hostile.
Once free, Berg returned from Mosul to his Baghdad hotel. He told friends of his misadventure and suggested that anti-Semitism on the part of the Iraqi police was partially responsible for his treatment.
"He said, 'Hey, man, I was arrested,' " Infante, one of the hotel guests, recalled. "He said: 'I was messing around, and the Iraqi police picked me up. They saw I had a Jewish name and an Israeli seal in my passport.' "
Then the NYT:
"Word had spread due to the presence of certain items amongst my stuff that I was Israeli," Mr. Berg wrote. "So I felt a bit like Arlo Guthrie walking into a jail full of mother rapers and father stabbers as an accused litterbug."
The American military police, in fact, "were pretty stand-up," he wrote. "They heard the chants of Yehudien, Israelein, and told the I.P. prison staff to put me in my own cell."
"I did get on much friendlier terms with the other prisoners after they discovered I could speak a little Arabic and verified I didn't have horns or anything," Mr. Berg said.
UPDATE: Instapundit's got a post with a ton of links about differential coverage of Abu Ghraib vs. Nick Berg. I'll add to that that I've noticed an unusually large quantity of search-results hits, almost all of which have been related to Nick Berg.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:10 PM |

Via EphShap, you can now buy Metrocards -- those swipe cards for public transit in New York City -- in Yiddish. Some vending machines now have Yiddish as an option, in addition to the nine other languages already available at various machines (making Yiddish the tenth, or minyan, language).
As interesting as that is, it's almost more interesting that CBS radio here can run a story like this and expect listeners will understand it:

MetroCard machines now speak Yiddish at seven subway stops in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
Transit authority technicians said "Oy Gevalt" and reprogrammed the machines.
The reaction from many people using the machines? A shtik naches.
The residents are happy their getting this treatment in a city that already offers MetroCard machines in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Greek, Russian, Italian, Japanese, Polish and Creole.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:56 AM |

In my typical hard-hitting style, which has received numerous plaudits on this blog, I'm going interview author Stephen Bloom today about this new film "The Way Home: Stories of Forgiveness." Anything you want me to ask him?

A few months ago, I had a war of words on my site between Bloom and Sue Fishkoff, author of a sympathetic book about Chabad emissaries.

posted by LukeFord | 11:15 AM |

So what, exactly, is wrong with Luke's Ozair post? There are several elements to it that lead to a radically different conclusion than that which Luke claims you should reach.
There's nothing wrong with giving Ozair an opportunity to say what he wants -- indeed, I did so with the Forward article, when I called him for an interview. But if you read the post with any measure of attention, you'll see that Ozair only digs himself deeper into a hole.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:42 AM |

In Town of Contrasts, A Tale of Forgiveness, about Postville, Iowa, and Death Ends Slain American's Religious Journey, about Nick Berg, my latest for the Forward.

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

I was in hog heaven Wednesday night at the University of Judaism (Conservative) enjoying a combative but civil panel discussion on same sex marriage (Dennis Prager and Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky against and Conservative Rabbi Elliott Dorff and Orthodox-ordained Rabbi Steven Greenberg for) moderated by kindly Jewish Journal editor Rob Eshman.

I arrive to UJ an hour early. I chat about Jewish journalism with Rob Eshman. I wouldn't have the patience to deal with the whingeing that he and managing editor Amy Klain must get every week. Jews know how to complain in the most dramatic terms. While I prefer to gouge out the eyes of my subjects, the Journal always plays it responsibly.

Dennis Prager ambles up. He spots me, has a start of recognition, and ignites into a huge smile. The man practices turn the other cheek.

"So where are you theologically?" he asks me.

"I [affiliate] Modern Orthodox," I say. "Just like baseball has rules, I accept that Orthodoxy defines the rules for Jewish life."

"You won't like our [Jewish Journal] cover story on gay marriage then," says Eshman. It's by the kindly Julie Fax, who everybody talks to because she's so nice.

I tell Dennis, "But when you must do historical [or literary] scholarship for things like the historicity of the Exodus, then you must leave religion behind and only follow the evidence. So, I don't think [modernity] and [Orthodox] Judaism are compatible."

I don't have as much faith in Judaism as Prager, the great Jewish synthesizer does, even though in some ways I'm more observant and I affiliate with more traditional shuls.

For the rest of the panel discussion, and the strongest in moral leadership, read

posted by LukeFord | 1:24 AM |

One of the most obvious indicators of a columnist's personal agenda is the faux-comparison - the artificial equation of situations that are fundamentally incomparable. Nicholas Kristof of the NYT was nice enough to provide us with an extraordinary example of this phenomenon, in yesterday's column, "Overdosing on Islam."

In the first 14 paragraphs of the column(out of 15), Kristof does a creditable job detailing the political corruption and repression practiced by Iran's ruling elite, which have engendered widespread disaffection among Iranians - not only with regard to Iran's oppressive mullah-tocracy but to its fundamentalist, regime-sponsored brand of Islam as well.

The best material comes (as it often does) from the mouths of ordinary citizens:

"Repression is carried out in the name of Islam, and that turns people off. . . . All these court summonses, newspaper closings and prosecutions of dissidents are wrong...they are done in the name of Islam and therefore alienate people."

"How can you have hope for life any more?...If there were a free vote, 99 percent would oppose this system, and only the 1 percent within the system would support it."

"...this regime is the very opposite of Islamic government...It has made Islam unpopular."

You get the idea. Ordinary Iranians are withering under the yoke of their spectacularly malevolent leaders. In Kristof's learned opinion, the "hard-line Islamic regime" is doomed. Will it survive? "I'm betting it won't."

All very nice and dandy.

Having amassed all of this evidence, having determined that enlightened Iranians will not allow the fetid regime to remain, Kristof is set to deliver the culmination - the climax - of his noble expose. And he doesn't disappoint:

"There's a useful lesson here for George Bush's America as well as for the ayatollahs' Iran: when a religion is imposed on people, when a government tries too ostentatiously to put itself "under God," the effect is often not to prop up religious faith but to undermine it. Nothing is more lethal to religious faith than having self-righteous, intolerant politicians...drag God into politics."

Ah, but of course. The unmistakable, inexorable lesson to be learned from all of those oppressed Iranians - whose government dictates what they learn in school; what religion they practice; what clothing they are permitted to wear; what words they are permitted to utter; which people will be their unelected leaders - is that America's political leaders (well, actually just one leader) are too fundamentally religious for the good of the American people, who apparently long for the enlightened godlessness that the Republican regime denies them.

Alas, sighs Kristof, if only the Nazis and Soviets had prevailed.

posted by Deranged GOT Fan | 12:29 AM |

Wednesday, May 12, 2004  

From a biography of George Orwell by Jeffrey Meyers: "Still, the BBC was not all bad. During the war it continued to pay Hitler royalties, through neutral Sweden, for excerpts from Mein Kampf." (Pg. 217)

posted by LukeFord | 7:57 PM |

I want to elevate our conversation. American Cinderella: The Story of Jenny O. "God can turn it all around, if you let him."

posted by LukeFord | 7:51 PM |

In 2002, Rabbi Michael Ozair pled no contest to one count of oral copulation in 1997 with a minor (a 14 year old girl who was not his student).
Contrary to some reports, at the time of the crime, Rabbi Ozair was not a rabbi.
I talk by phone with Rabbi Ozair May 12.
Luke: "When did you receive semicha (ordination as a rabbi)?"
R. Ozair: "Fall of 1998."
Luke: "Tell me more."
R. Ozair: "I was involved with a small congregation in LA [Happy Minyan] and speaking every Shabbos and holidays and teaching. Rabbi Abner Weiss [head rabbi of Beth Jacob at the time] was my mentor rabbi. He suggested I get ordination. At first, it was going to be done in Israel, but it was going to be too expensive to live there. The next option was Monsey, New York. I went for an interview to [Kol Yaacov Torah Center] and was accepted. I was told it would be a year to a year-and-a-half for the basic semicha, taking into account my past years of Torah learning."
R. Ozair has a BA in religious studies from California State University of Northridge and a Masters in Education from the University of Judaism.
R. Ozair: "We flew the family [R. Ozair has two kids]. I learned in the yeshiva for a year. Then I got a job offer back in LA. I needed to cut short the semicha program to get the teaching job. I agreed to come back to LA if I could still be ordained privately. The yeshiva wouldn't ordain someone who left the program early. I made an arrangement to have a private ordination with Rabbi Yehoshua Reich from Efrat, Israel. I have the semicha at home. You're welcome to see it."
Luke: "I will come by and take a picture of it.
Luke: "According to Wendy J. Madnick's [8/23/02] article in the Jewish Journal, there were never any complaints about you at the schools you taught at."
R. Ozair: "Correct."
Luke: "The Wendy Madnick article says this criminal charge came to light through the girl's therapy. As I understand, the charge came to light through your therapy. You went to a brand new therapist and he took what you said in therapy and went to the authorities."
R. Ozair: "Correct."
Luke: "What should a religious community do to persons who've sinned like you did?"
R. Ozair: "First I would like to see an opportunity for rabbis on to make amends to the public if they choose, because as it is, reporters can say anything they want to, make assumptions and then it goes straight to print. Everybody makes mistakes – even reporters, and yes, even rabbis. Mine came out when I disclosed the information to a therapist who I did not know. He had a legal obligation to report me. There was not a moment that I was in denial that what I did was wrong. I managed to successfully destroy much of my life in a moment of absolute misjudgment that I deeply regret.
"What should the religious community do? In our tradition we have a teaching that states that before G-d even created the world, He created the idea of teshuvah. The Creator Himself knew that He was creating an imperfect world that would be subject to flaws, but that there should also be a way a person can return. If this is so, then there has to be a program for Jews to correct their ways. A way that they could tangibly demonstrate that they are committed to living a life of decency and are striving to become the person who G-d intended them to be. Beit T’shuvah seems to be the only program in the entire United States that gives Jews that opportunity. I feel blessed that I was able to do my teshuvah properly….What should the religious community do? That’s a hard one. They got the first part down – separating a person from the camp, as they did in the Torah. The question then becomes what are they doing to reintegrate a person back, as they did in the Torah."
Luke: "What sentence did you serve?"
R. Ozair: "I served two months in LA County Jail and a year at Beit Teshuva [similar to house arrest]."
Luke: "Regarding the Forward article, why did you use the name Rabbi Michael Ezra and why did you use the nickname Kabbalah coach?"
R. Ozair: "I did not want to use my last name on the Internet for obvious reasons. I used "Rabbi Michael Ezra" because "Ezra" was added to my first name as part of my teshuva process. If you read the Jewish Laws of Repentence as outlined by Maimonidies, that one does a shinui [difference] with one's name. Add a name. Add a letter. I added "Ezra," which means help or assistance to my first name. I did this in front of about 35 people on Yom Kippur. About half a dozen other people also changed their name that day.
"I have a private practice as a life coach. For marketing reasons, it is good to create a niche. Most of my clients are looking for higher purpose in their lives. My coaching involves no kabbalah. Yet, the name was a nickname given to me by my clients. It stuck."
Luke: "Why did you take down your site"
R. Ozair: "It was attracting negative attention."
Luke: "How many people in your religious community, when the bad news about you broke, approached you to hear your side of things?"
R. Ozair: "Nobody in the religious community."
Rabbi Ozair recently became engaged to be married.

posted by LukeFord | 7:23 PM |

I spent three hours with a shrink chosen by my family. Doc reports to my sister:

Luke is not suffering the effects of a head injury.

Applying the DSMIV, he has a personality disorder of the histrionic/narcissistic type.

Luke is very dependent upon other people for his identity as a person.

He has poor identity integration and poor self esteem. Accordingly, Luke is always looking for mirroring - it's called "narcissistic supply." That is to say that Luke is always looking for external validation of himself as a person (i.e., he needs other people to tell him who he is). However, because it is not possible for people to mirror him all the time, he gets disappointed and this can turn to envy. Luke may not be conscious of the fact that he is very envious of his family as they seem to have things he would like to have but does not have. This leads to him fluctuating between, on the one hand, devaluing people such as the family (putting them down) and on the other, idealisation of people - such as Dennis Prager.

[My niece Bell says: You epitomize the Cold War. In terms of America's need to create the Soviet Union. Like how you need to feed off other people to maintain self esteem and self identity. This is why we get on so well. You fulfill one of the tenets of post-modernism. Nothing exists on its own. We define ourselves in relation to difference. Nothing is given meaning unless we define it. We project our values onto a cultural artifact or historial event, for example. So our entire world is subjective.]

Luke tends to make unreasonable demands of people who are eventually driven to setting limits on him. Luke takes this very badly.

Luke needs five to ten years of insight orientation psychotherapy. It was the falling out with Dennis Prager which caused him to go to therapy. While Luke has a lot of therapy 'speak', he may not really understand the concepts involved. Luke's therapist did well to keep him in therapy for 15 months - that is unusual for someone with Luke's condition as such people often leave off therapy when it becomes too confronting. Luke will not continue therapy that is confrontational, particularly in the early stages.

Luke will continue to do what he is doing to satisfy his needs until such times as the rewards (reinforcement) are outweighed by the negative effects of same (punishment). Then he may do something about getting his life on track and getting therapy or going back to finish his degree (which would give him some self-esteem).

The negative effects of his current behavior are that no one will have a long term relationship with him as no matter how sane they are, people cannot live without getting something back - and Luke is always taking in without giving anything back. Second, any decent woman who looked at his website would be immediately repulsed.

Luke has a complicated personality. He has mood instability - perhaps mild cyclothymia. His personality type is prone to this.

Luke become very focused on one thing then, when he is not getting the desired rewards, he drops it and moves on.

Luke may have had some post viral illness but then the illness took on a life of its own. It is common for people to retreat into the sick role because it is a way of failing in a face-saving way. Luke was failing because of the lack of significant relationships in his life.

Luke in his current state would not be successful in employment.

He wants immediate results and if he does not get them, then he does not want a bar of it.

He does not have a bipolar condition. His reaction to Nardil was purely psychological as that drug does not work overnight. The same with the homeopathic treatment - one pill does not make any noticeable difference.

Epilim is a good mood stabilizer - better than Lithium - does not have the nasty side effects. But Luke is unlikely to remain on such medication and anyway it is only tinkering with the fringes of the problem.

As with most adolescent boys, Luke was obsessed with sex.

As with most super egos - it is not well integrated. His rules are situational and he justifies things.

Luke is capable of being exploitive.

Luke is reacting to the values of his family unit.

He is not really interested in what Dr. R. thinks of him. He is only here to enjoy the trip. There is no point him seeing Dr. R. on occasion before his return as it is long-term therapy he needs.

We [Luke's family] have to have a firm boundary of where we go in his life. We should stay off his website - what we don't know won't hurt us. We should set limits on his unreasonable behavior. We must treat him as an adult that he is and stop babying him.

Luke has tunnel vision and difficulty seeing things as others see it. He is only looking for mirroring.

He has demonstrated the capacity to at times, not put his immediate gratification ahead of everything, i.e., taking his rabbi/synagogue off his website when requested. He respected those involved and did not want to lose a relationship with them. So he has the capacity to learn from his experiences.

Luke has a poor sense of identity - he is not well integrated - he has no sense of self - therefore he is very changeable in different circumstances.

The cause of his personality disorder is multi-factorial - the development of personality is a long process - it onvolves experiences, family environment as well as choices made by a person during the formative years. Personality disorders are not diagnosable until after age 18 because the personality is not developed before then.

posted by LukeFord | 6:47 PM |

Blogging has its ups and downs. You make one post to rapturous applause, gedolim email in Shabbos invitations, and you think you will get Maftir. Then, you make an error in taste, and everybody wants you fired.


Maybe I should toil in television instead. Not that I haven't tried.

Luke Ford’s Failed TV shows:


Whyte’s Australia (drama): Luke Ford plays Luke Whyte, a tough as nails Australian immigration official fighting a lonely war to preserve Australia from foreign, and often criminal, interlopers.

Two-Point Conversion (comedy): Luke plays a recent convert to Judaism who explores the new world of Los Angeles Jewish community with the help of his wacky friends, all of whom seem to be either female journalists or Dennis Prager.

Cooking Halachically with Chef Levi (cooking): Luke teaches kosher cooking intermixed with lessons from the weekly Torah parsha.

The Gospel According to Rabbi Luke (comedy): Luke plays an Orthodox rabbi, who, through a series of wacky misunderstandings, becomes the rabbi at a Reform synagogue.

War Against the Amalekites (action): In a future dystopia ruled by the Amalekites, Luke leads a small band of Jewish rebels.

Countering the Feminist War Against Women (lifestyle): Luke features stories and guests that question the ideas and actions of feminism, and advocate the Orthodox lifestyle.

A Luke Ford Chanuka (holiday special): Luke’s Chanuka special, featuring an all-star cast of Luke’s favorite Jewish celebrities (essentially, Dennis Prager)


La Migra (drama): Luke plays a tough but caring INS agent, fighting a lonely war to preserve his beloved Mexican-American community in Boyle Heights from the ravages of illegal immigration.

Far From the Tree (comedy): Luke plays a baal teshuva who is constantly bickering with his father, a Conservative Rabbi (played by Dennis Prager).

Luke’s Vegetarian Cuisine (cooking): Luke prepares meat-free delicacies.

Way Down Under (comedy): Luke plays a liberal Australian protestant minister from an unspecified denomination, who, through a series of wacky misunderstandings, becomes minister at a conservative unspecified Protestant church in Alabama.

Ford For Hire (action): Luke Ford plays a former member of Australia’s SAS who now serves as a soldier-for-hire with a particular animus towards large corporations, industrial polluters, crooked real-estate developers, and bigots of all kinds.

Modest Women’s Wear (lifestyle): Luke showcases the latest and trendiest in modest women’s clothing.

Luke’s Holiday Extravaganza (holiday special): Luke celebrates the holiday season, as only Luke can.


Luke’s Hope (drama): Luke plays Luke Esperanza, an illegal Mexican immigrant trying to support his large family back home while avoiding deportation and fighting for the rights of his fellow migrant workers.

Ecumenical Affairs (comedy): Luke plays Gary Steinberg, a liberal, atheistic Jewish journalist from New York who has a love-hate relationship with his new coworker, a supershiksa conservative Laura Ingraham/Ann Coulter-esque columnist (played by Dennis Prager).

Luke Eats Treyf (cooking): Half an hour of Luke consuming bacon, shrimp, spam, etc.

Luquisha (comedy): Luke (in blackface) plays Luquisha Ford, a jive-talkin’ inner-city preacher who, through a series of wacky misunderstandings, becomes the minister at a lily-whitebread suburban congregation.

Police Officers, Reno, Nevada (action/police): Luke plays a cop in Reno who has to go deep undercover to investigate Nevada’s adult film industry.

Luke Ford’s International Spring Break (lifestyle): Luke travels around the world, filming hot coeds gone wild.

Mr. Ford’s Very, Fairy Christmas (holiday special): The ghost of Paul Lynde teaches a dreamy but curmudgeonly homophobe the true meaning of gay Christmas.

(List thanks to Dave Deutsch, humor editor of Heeb magazine.)

posted by LukeFord | 5:58 PM |

Bernard writes:

Shalom, Jews should own guns. No discussion is necessary. The Jews' number one priority is the preservation of his own life. No mitzvah can be performed, no berachos can be said, G-d cannot be served if the Jew is dead.

I just said that Jews should own guns. I mean ALL of them - even those Jewish girls involved in ----ography (may they continue their special version of tikkun olam).

For home defense, a 12 guage shotgun is superior to all other guns. No kidding. I can shoot someone in the arm with a .45 cal bullet and it will hurt him, but the blast from a 00 Buck will literally twist him around and send chunks flying. It will stop a home intruder dead in his tracks.

posted by LukeFord | 5:33 PM |

When I am in need of moral guidance and answers to questions of Jewish Law, I turn to my rebbe who resides in Manhattan -- Sir Chaim Amalek.

Sir Amalek, who was rudely teased in yeshiva by the other kids for his last name, writes this epilogue to my forthcoming memoir, XXX-Communicated: A Rebel Without A Shul:

As I write this final chapter (okay, the epilogue, postscript, or whatever you call these things) to Luke's biography, a fifteen year old girl, the daughter of one of Luke's good friends [Cathy Seipp], is waging a one-girl show against demented anti-Western hysteria that seems to permeate the education establishment in the west. It seems that her band instructor wants her to play the Palestinian National Anthem after the girl proposed playing the Israeli anthem, "The Hope", to honor a mother and her four young daughters murdered by Palestinians a few days back. Here I sit, contemplating several hundred pages of infantile self-pity and porn by a man pushing forty, finding that I cannot help but contrast it to the very adult battles being waged by this fifteen year old girl.

I wasn't going to begin this way, but to be honest, this last word was going to end up in the same place, which is voicing disappointment with what Luke Ford has made of his life, a lifetime of endless self-indulgence so characteristic of much of his chosen community. Which is the entertainment community, not Judaism. Even as a porn journalist Luke has disappointed me, for he failed to capitalize
on what he created to become something more. Just the same old writing about the doings of Willy Wanker and the Porn Factory, with the occasional report on who gave which form of venereal disease to which actor. What can I say - it gets old. So much potential, and so little to show for it.

So to you, dear reader, let this book serve as a warning that those who do not change the present are condemned to repeat the past. Luke Ford failed to move beyond writing about porn, and so he remains a
marginal figure on the tzitzit (that's "fringes," for those of you in the know) of the society he would more fully join, eternally wandering in the shadows of greater people, which now include the shadows cast by
a fifteen year old girl.


By A Fly on the Wall

On June 14, 2004, a nattily dressed Luke Ford walked into a Bank of America branch in Larchmont Village shortly after it opened for the day, carrying a sawed-off shotgun under one arm and a dog-eared copy of "The Yetsirah," an ancient Hebrew mystical text, under the other.
When Ford refused to drop the weapon, Albar Garrison, an aspiring actor and part-time security guard, shot Ford twice in the back, killing him instantly.
Police investigators revealed later that Ford's shotgun was unloaded and had been jammed so that it could never fire.
No one could explain why Ford entered the bank with an unloaded weapon. It was an enigmatic final scene to a colorful yet enigmatic life.
Ford left a will instructing that his ashes should be scattered on Mount Scopus. After he was cremated, a small group of friends traveled to Jerusalem to carry out his final wish. They were unable to complete their mission, however, because El Al misplaced the suitcase bearing Ford's crematory urn.
His ashes have never been found.
In August of 2004, Garrison sold the blood-spattered copy of Ford's "The Book of Splendor" online via the popular Internet auction site eBay. The sale garnered considerable media interest as a result of a widespread online rumor that Ford's bloodstains on the book's cover formed perfect Hebrew letters.
Pornographer Larry Flynt was the high-bid winner at $11,518 for the book.
The Los Angeles Times reported several weeks later that Rabbi Judah Kornblum, hired by Flynt, confirmed that Ford's dried blood spatters on the cover did indeed spell out the word "Emeth," which means "truth" in Hebrew. The word is also said in Kabbalah lore to be one of God's secret names.
In September of 2004, Oscar-winning producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard announced they planned to make a major feature film about Ford's curious life, tentatively titled "G'Day Gevalt!" The pair purchased the screen rights to Ford's autobiography from his estate for $1.5 million.
Russell Crowe is said to be hotly pursuing the lead role, and filming is expected to begin a few months after this book went to press.

posted by LukeFord | 5:23 PM |

A few thoughts on Steven Weiss's Forward article on Rabbi Michael Ozair.

What's the big deal here? If we restricted Kabbalah coaches to those who have not commited sex crimes, there would not be enough to go around in Hollywood, let alone the wider world.

I say, those who have not had oral copulation with a 14-year-old-girl, let them throw the first stone. A lot of these ninth grade girls are going on 28 and very willing.

At least he wasn't priestly and making it with a boy. Give him points for that.

And it was not a student of his and he was not a rabbi at the time.

I remember my eight grade teacher at Pacific Union College Elementary School ran off with one of her girls.

Why does this repressive bourgeois society insist on criminalizing love? Just a few months ago, three students at Milken High School were ejected for making and distributing a freely consensual porn movie where they wore nothing but the Reform values they were taught. Sheesh, I would've given them extra credit for theater class.

My partner (his name is Spot) and I had to move to Los Angeles from a Southern state to get away from the persecution of fundamentalist Christians.

Kabbalah Rabbi Mordecai Gafni is on his third marriage. What's wrong with that? So he's accused of womanizing and cult-like practices? Big deal.

I heard Rabbi Gafni speak for an hour during a day of learning sponsored by UCLA Hillel. I didn't have the foggiest notion of what he was on about. Then I heard him for half an hour on Dennis Prager's show and again I failed to comprehend.

Then I checked out his book Soul Prints and gave up after an hour. An ex-girlfriend, however, raves about the book.

I think clueless beautiful chicks are particularly susceptible to this kind of nonsense.

Have you noticed the number of shady character who profit from Kabalah (Jewish mysticism)? None more shady than the Kabalah Center, down the street from me on Robertson Blvd.

posted by LukeFord | 4:37 PM |

My friend Cathy Seipp (a secular Jew, belongs to a Reform temple) writes:

As Cecile [Cathy's 15 year old daughter] wrote on her blog last night, I was indeed shocked (and I am not that easy to shock these days) to hear that her orchestra teacher had decided to have the kids perform the Palestinian National Anthem for the school's Diversity Day. (Don't even get me started on Diversity Day; as a mother, you learn to pick your battles.) He thought this would be a good idea after Cecile suggested they play the Israeli national anthem Hatikvah, in honor of the pregnant Israeli woman who was killed along with her four children last week. I suppose the notion was fairness and equal time for all, etc: What about the feelings of the other side? The people who go to all that trouble to kill pregnant Israeli women and their children? Shouldn't their voices be heard?

Did you even know there was a Palestinian national anthem? Me neither. Not surprising when you consider that Palestine isn't a nation but a construct, despite what people like Oliver Stone like to think. The lyrics of Hatikvah (Hope) are about, as you might expect, hope: "The hope of two thousand years, to be a free nation in our land." The Palestinian anthem is typical blood-and-soil nationalism: "Palestine is my home, Palestine is my fire, Palestine is my revenge."

posted by LukeFord | 2:05 PM |

In the summer of 2003, I joined a large crowd to listen to Amy Klein, manager editor of the Jewish Journal, speak about her recent cover story on looking for love through It was the largest crowd Project Next Step (funded by Museum of Tolerance) had ever had.

In July of 2003, I suggested to the organizer of young adults programming at the University of Judaism that the UJ should host a panel on Jewish journalism. I was asked to get some people for the panel.

I asked the head of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism (UJ), Rabbi Bradley Sharvit Artson, to participate in a UJ panel on Jewish journalism. I directed him to my discussion of Stephen Fried's book The New Rabbi.

Rabbi Artson replies, copying the email to Gady Levy, head of adult education at UJ: "Dear Mr. Ford; I did review your website, and find it imbalanced and toxic, particularly toward rabbis and Conservative Judaism. I am not willing to participate in your panel."

Rabbi Artson happily expounds at length in private with his peers on how horrible The New Rabbi is and how un-Jewish and unethical it is, but I've yet to see him stand and deliver his thoughts publicly. How Jewish and ethical is that? Slam the book privately, challenge whether the author Stephen Fried believes in God and a Final Judgment, but when asked to publicly justify his harsh sentiments, Rabbi Artson refuses.

I went to a dialogue between Rabbi David Wolpe and author Stephen Fried 1/29/03 at Temple Sinai in Westwood.

Rabbi Wolpe's first question: "Before coming here, I was at a shiva house where I met a rabbi who said I could quote him by name, Brad Artson. I said to him, 'What should I ask Steve Fried?' [Rabbi Artson replied] 'If you beat believed in a God and a Final Judgement, would you have written the book the same way?'"


Stephen, taken aback: "Wow. That's the first question? When people are upset about a book and they come to talk to you, they expect that the point you brought up is one you totally haven't thought of. It doesn't occur to them that you might have thought of it, carefully considered it, and still made the same decision. I've been doing [journalism] for 20 years. I spent four years researching the book and I had a lot of time to think about what I could and couldn't do... I think that some of the people upset with the book are under the impression that this was done off the top of the head. It wasn't.

"There are a group of rabbis with specific concerns about [the book]. I hear from a lot of people who have a warm response, some of whom are surprised to hear about what the rabbis are upset about. I don't think the issues that the rabbis have focused on would be in most people's top ten [list of concerns with the book]."

That so many Conservative rabbis, particularly Conservative leaders such as Rabbi Artson, don't want to publicly discuss this book, The New Rabbi, makes it seem to many of us that they are thin-skinned control
freaks who expect only deferential treatment from journalists. Unlike leaders in other spheres of life, such rabbis expect to not be challenged and held accountable by the news media. What's amusing is that they've always been able to get away with this stance due to the timid and deferential approach of Jewish newspapers such as the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

I will keep asking Conservative leaders to comment on the book and I will keep noting when they wimp out.

An assistant rabbi at Temple Sinai in Westwood said The New Rabbi was filled with lashon hara. He hated the book.

Lashon Hara - it's a wonderful excuse to avoid scrutiny and to condemn any criticism of your peers.

posted by LukeFord | 1:40 PM |

I hate to explain or defend myself or my writing. I hate to explain to readers of my website when I am writing satire and when I am reporting the facts and when I am giving my opinion.

I think it should be self-evident that one does not read a love letter the same way one reads a phone bill.

But as this is my first time publishing on this blog, let me say clearly that the following is satire. It was inspired by this article in The Jewish Week by Sandee Brawarsky.

Sandee's piece encapsulates what I loathe about establishment Jewish journalism. It's so tame. Not a peep of criticism of the subject, a putatively Orthodox rabbi who's come out as a homosexual. Just deep empathy for what he's suffered.

Homosexuals and blacks seem to come in for extra-sensitive and empathic "reporting" by the Jewish establishment media.

Nasty satire begins now:

In three months, the University of Wisconsin will publish my book, "Wrestling With Boys: Pederasty in the Jewish tradition." It's really not about the Jewish tradition at all. Rather, it's all about me and my obsessions and how I twist Jewish text to justify them.

Though I like having sex with little boys, I stopped practicing this upon my conversion to Judaism because the Torah says not to. I now run a 12-step program for Orthodox pederasts. Step one is we catch the little buggars. Step two, we put chlorophyl-laced handkerchiefs over their struggling faces. Steps three through twelve are not appropriate to describe before a family audience such as this.

"Like peeling an onion," is how I describe my coming out as a pedarast. I am the first Orthodox rabbi who's an openly homosexual pedarast (in inclination only, not behavior).

In my new book, I describe my journey (lots of hot stuff). I offer new readings of traditional Jewish texts related to pederasty and bestiality and I argue for inclusion for the so-called perverse practicioners of these purportedly dark arts in the Orthodox world.

"We all have internal pieces that are not so clear to us; in our recognition and articulation of them, we come out," I say, sitting in my hovel a couple of miles from the Museum of Tolerance, where I am a senior fellow in Ethics. "It's a metaphor of growth and self-actualization."

My stance in this book is confident. I present a Judaism that is both loving and accepting, where the act of engaging tough questions is essential.

The origins of my pedarasty are murky. I remember I was in yeshiva as a kid and this one rabbi touched me very deeply and very often. He'd often examine me in his office on the gemara and if I was not up to snuff, he'd punish me.

What I've always enjoyed about Orthodox Judaism is the male camaraderie and physical affection, the spiritual passion and intellectual head-butting.

Yes, I have a conviction for statutory rape. That did put me in jail. But, she was fifteen years old, going on thirty-five, and, uh, she told me she was eighteen and she was, uh, very willing, you know what I mean...I practically had to take to sewin' my pants shut. But, uh between you and me, uh, she might have been fifteen, but when you get that little red b----- right up there in front of ya, I don't think it's crazy at all now and I don't think you do either...No man alive could resist that, and that's why I got into jail to begin with. And now they're telling me I'm crazy over here because I don't sit there like a goddamn vegetable. Don't make a bit of sense to me. If that's what's bein' crazy is, then I'm senseless, out of it, gone-down-the-road, wacko. But no more, no less, that's it.

Aware of my attraction to boys, I visited a great sage in Jerusalem. He told me, "My dear one, you have twice the power of love. Use it carefully."

Thanks to the power of reparative therapy, I am marrying a woman who was formerly a dyke. Often while we're davening on opposite sides of the mehitza, we're filled with memories of our previously sinful life (for graphic description of this, read The Onion).

I understand that reparative therapy is not effective for everyone. Many pedarasts marry and ignore what they know about themselves. Many are shamed and end up leaving the community.

In my book, I want to demonstrate the breadth of the tradition, the audaciousness of the rabbis. Many are not aware of how shockingly bold rabbinic thought can be.

The texts of Leviticus do not silence me. They call me to speak my testimony.

My writing style is warm and rabbinic, frequently quoting verses of text, then translating, always teaching. My face as I write this is expressive, showing sings of pain, empathy, freedom and joy. I gesture with my arms like real rabbis do, punctuating my words.

In my book's final section, I construct the parameters of a respectful conversation between a pederast and an Orthodox rabbi, suggesting ways they might hear each other.

I want to belong not to a gay synagogue, but to a synagogue with gays and straight people, old and young. But particularly young. Lots of boys, if you know what I mean, squire.

If the aims in terms of community acceptance seem modest, what are my dreams? I want 12 year old boy in an Orthodox day school who discovers that he is gay to kow there's decent life inside the community that he can plan for. And I want him to come see me, privately, to discuss this serious matter.

What's the funniest book you've ever read about pedarasty? I think it is Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall. There's a disturbing lack of humorous writing about man-boy love these days.

posted by LukeFord | 1:18 PM |

My name is Luke Cary Ford. I was born 5/28/66 in Kurri Kurri, Australia in the state of New South Wales. My father, Desmond Ford chaired the Religion Department of the Seventh Day Adventist Avondale College in Cooranbong, which is located between Sydney and Newcastle.

I initially converted to Judaism in 1992. I've always participated in all three major streams of Judaism -- Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox.

I'm not going into further detail on my conversion. When I join a shul, I present papers from my conversion. Otherwise, the process was so painful and humiliating at times, that I am not going to list the rabbis who participated, etc. Needless to say, I am familiar, first hand, with the process through the three major streams.

For the past four years, I've primarily affiliated Orthodox. My personal inspiration for conversion to Judaism was Dennis Prager and he continues to be my hero.

While I attend Reform and Conservative events, I take my religious boundaries (which I live up to imperfectly) from Orthodoxy, where I learn from teachers across the spectrum (R. Shlomo Riskin to R. Avigdor Miller to R. Akiva Tatz via and the like).

In traditional Jewish life I use my Hebrew name Levi Ben Avraham because I tired of receiving the comment, "Luke? That's not a Jewish name."

My reading schedule in order every morning:

* The New York Times
* Jim Romenesko (Media blog)
* Wall Street Journal

I also read the National Review, Weekly Standard, NY Review of Books, Forward, and a smattering of Jewish blogs (,, HasidicRebel) including this one.

I find most Jewish journalism tame. My idea of great Jewish journalist is the book, THE NEW RABBI, by Stephen Fried. I like The Forward but despise most of the rest of Jewish weeklies, such as my hometown and the Federation papers, because they are so sanitized.

I believe that Jewish blogs have the opportunity to render a more realistic picture of Jewish life without fear of the Jewish establishment which has long squashed self-respecting Jewish journalism.

I wonder how many Jews have an appetite for real Jewish journalism. In my experience, any hard-hitting reporting on Jewish life is loudly protested by the Jews I know as "lashon hara" and "self hating."

What do I hope to accomplish in my week of guest blogging? To give you a taste of Jewish life as I experience it, which is much more passionate than the way I see it described in most Jewish publications.

posted by LukeFord | 1:01 PM |

That’s it, folks... my week as guest blogger has come to an end – much to my regret. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and discovered blogging is completely addictive (are you supposed to check the site every 5 minutes?).
I would like to thank Protocols’ readers for taking the time to respond to things I wrote and for their thought-provoking comments and spirited exchange. As a print journalist, I rarely heard from my readers (although I wrote features, not opinion pieces), and often craved some feedback. It was fascinating to see which issues provoked discussion, which unexpected tangents took over discussion, and which attitudes prevailed – even if I was occasionally taken back by the speed at which people extrapolated things I never meant, or said at all, from carefully worded views... But then, I guess that’s just a danger that comes with the turf.
Overall, I was impressed more than ever with the potential of blogs to serve as important mediums for dialogue within the Jewish community. I hope to continue blogging on Protocols on a more informal basis, as inspiration strikes. L'hitraot.

posted by Miriam | 12:12 PM |

Tuesday, May 11, 2004  

Friends: Slained American Was Becoming More Religious, a preliminary report on Nick Berg, to be followed by more, soon.
Please don't mind the date error on the piece; we couldn't get it to work right.

Friends of Nicholas Berg, the American contractor slaughter at the hands of Islamic militants in Iraq, say that during the past year he had increased his devotion to studying Jewish texts and observing Jewish rituals.
Berg, the 26-year-old Philadelphia contractor who was captured in early April, was an engineer and entrepreneur who went to Iraq to develop cellular infrastructures for his company, Prometheus Towers, according to Aaron Spool, a long-time friend of his.
Spool told the Forward that “in the past year or year-and-a-half,” Berg “was starting to wear tzitzit [ritual fringes], he was starting to become more observant.” Spool characterized Berg’s late-in-life turn to Jewish observance as “a quest for knowledge,” adding that once Berg started, “nothing got in his way.”
Spool said that Berg, who had his own apartment in Westchester, Pa., regularly attended services at Congregation Kesher Israel, a local Conservative synagogue, and had undertaken an intense study of the Bible.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:19 PM |

I'm working on a collaborative story about Nicholas Berg; if you have any information or contacts that you think should be pursued, or recollections that you feel deserve airing, please e-mail me.

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

5:30 p.m. -- The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee celebrates its 90th Anniversary; Gracie Mansion, East End Avenue at 88th Street.

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

The Church of England launches i-church, a virtual ‘parish’ where members can join for online prayer sessions, daily worship and religious study under the guidance of a newly hired “web pastor.”

Can i-shul be far behind?

posted by Miriam | 9:12 AM |

Patricia Richardson, the first Jew to stand as a candidate for the extreme right-wing British National Party, the UK's rough equivalent to Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front, starts canvassing for votes amid much criticism and incredulity.

“But there have been expressions of support too,” she added. “The widow of a rabbi telephoned and told me not to take any notice of the rude things they are saying about me in the Jewish Chronicle.”

Well that's settled, then.

posted by Miriam | 4:34 AM |

Monday, May 10, 2004  

7 p.m. -- Former President Bill Clinton keynotes The New Israel Fund's 25th anniversary celebration; The Pierre Hotel, Fifth Avenue at 61st Street.
Presumably, the NIF has some kind of gag order going on the phrase "Camp David." Oh, and they sent in a special notice that it's closed to the press...even though they sent out a press release; hrm.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:17 PM |

Two Jewish kids hug the world in Washington Square Park. I was given the opportunity to cover this before their first go at it, and passed; apparently, I should've just hit up the Times. I really hope I don't get this assigned now. That'd really suck. By the way, Sipai Klein, one of the huggers has some current/former editorial standing at Mimaamakim.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:19 PM |

Ok, I know I’m quite late on this, but I can’t resist offering my three cents about frumster’s unceremonious recent shift to a pay model.

In particular, I would like to closely examine – based on the statement the site released – some of Frumster’s rationales for switching to this new format. (Thanks to Yuter for the link). My theory is that a levelheaded evaluation of the stated reasons might yield a significant window into the actual factors that have really driven the switch. In theory, the two could match. Let’s see if they do.

1) Claim – The first claim Frumster makes is that the subscription fee creates “a token barrier to entry.” More specifically, we are told that the site has been having a difficult time screening members for sincerity. The subscription fee will create “a barrier which will help to filter out those who are less sincere.”

Evaluation – The concern that Frumster reports is legitimate enough. If Frumster really wants to limit communication via its site to “sincere” or tachlis-oriented people, so to speak, it would make sense to create “a token barrier to entry.”

However, what Frumster has actually instituted is not a “token barrier to entry.” A “token barrier” would be a one-time subscription fee of, say, $50. (We could quibble about the exact amount). This fee alone would discourage “insincere” people from using the site. Instead, Frumster has opted for an “ongoing” barrier to entry (i.e. subscription fee) that they misleadingly call a “token” barrier to entry. Why have they done this?

2) Claim – Next, we are told, “A charge actually attracts many new and sincere members.”

Evaluation –This claim might be true technically, although one wonders what actual number stands behind the rather vague adjective “many.” (I personally would be shocked if it were more than 100 [i.e. less than 1% of Frumster’s membership]).

However, the import of this claim is not the actual claim, but what the claim implies – namely, that more people will be attracted by the subscription charge than the sum of “those who would be attracted by continued free service” and “those whom the subscription charge will alienate.” In other words: it would be stupid to argue that a subscription fee is a good thing because it’ll attract a certain number of people if a) more people are actually turned off rather than attracted by the charge and b) a greater number of people would have joined the site if it had remained a free service.

Ok, then. So Frumster is implying that – on balance – a subscription service will make the site more attractive for prospective members. Is this true? Of course not. But rather than argue this point, I’ll just point out that Frumster itself doesn’t believe this load of crap. Go to the site right now (4/10/04, 2 pm). You’ll be greeted by (among others) the following graphic: "Join now! For Free". You will also be told that “it’s FREE to join” and invited to “Register for FREE!” In fact, on the entire homepage, there is no mention whatsoever of any cost involved in actually using the service. This is, needless to say, very strange. After all, it’s the subscription fee that “attracts many new and sincere members.” If Frumster actually believed that the fee attracts members, they would advertise accordingly: Join now! It costs money!

Obviously, Frumster recognizes that the fee makes the site – on balance – less attractive to users. But they won’t admit it. Why not?

Aright, I feel like this is going ok, except that I just realized that I’ve spent almost 600 words talking about Frumster. I’ll put up some more if people are interested.


posted by Deranged GOT Fan | 2:03 PM |

Saw a flyer for this when I was at that "Halachic Seudah" last week: basically, a "Tony 'n Tina" for the kosher set. Have any readers checked this out? Do any plan to?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:25 PM |, a website that will serve as a dating interface for at most a couple thousand people. In my heyday, we had things where you could meet a couple thousand people over the course of a short period of time; we called them "social interactions." I guess they don't have those anymore.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:55 AM |

Rav Mordechai Eliahu allows Jewish institutions to accept money from Yechiel Eckstein’s International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, then forbids it, then allows it. All within two weeks.
Now, I don’t know whether Jews should be accepting money from these guys, and I certainly respect any rabbi’s right to change his mind about a ruling as often as he wants, so long as it is for intellectually honest reasons. What I abhor, however, is the following behavior (if true):

“Dvora Ganani, the director-general of The International Fellowship, claims that after the organization learned of the new ruling [against accepting money – M.S.] , she called Eliahu's secretary, Rabbi Shmuel Zafrani.

“‘Many of the charitable institutions headed by Rabbi Eliahu benefit from our fund,’ she says. ‘So I asked Zafrani if we should stop transfering (sic) the money to these institutions. He said I shouldn't, and explained that Rabbi Eliahu signed the letter only after capitulating to heavy pressure applied to him by Rabbi Simha Hacohen Kook, but that he tells anyone who calls him and asks how to act in practice that the money can still be accepted.’”

Surely a rabbi of Mordechai Eliahu’s stature should have enough backbone to stand by his own opinions and own rulings, and not capitulate to what amounts to nothing more than pressure to appear ‘frummer’ to the outside world? How are we supposed to trust our rabbis, when public rulings are being made on such flimsy grounds? And when they say one thing in public, and another in private?
A disgrace.

posted by Miriam | 10:58 AM |

Via Chakira, here's a parody site asserting that Rabbi Yehuda "Yudel" Krinsky, the former right-hand man to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, is the messiah.

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

Sunday, May 09, 2004  

Following in the footsteps of "Bugsy" Siegel...

Vegas Has New Crime Element: Israeli Mob

We're so proud.

posted by Miriam | 8:27 PM |

Madeleine L’Engle, the octogenarian author of A Wrinkle In Time, gives a feisty, irreverent and really rather amusing interview to Newsweek on G-d, her religion, and the Bible. I particularly enjoyed her views on Queen Esther and Vashti (whom I always thought was done a great injustice by the Midrash, although that’s not quite how L’Engle, an Episcopalian, puts it).

But then, how could an interview be boring if it starts out like this?

NEWSWEEK: So you’ve seen the movie [of A Wrinkle in Time, to air on ABC next week]?
Madeleine L’Engle: I’ve glimpsed it.
And did it meet expectations?
ML: Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is.

posted by Miriam | 8:10 PM |

Some (belated) comments inspired by Steven I.'s blog of R. Schachter's Lecture (and Grama, and Stein): When I was first year at KBY, the Prime Minister if the State of Israel was assasinated by an alumnus of my Yeshiva. Yigal Amir was not just some shnook, he had a reputation for being a brilliant, if eccentric, ben-Torah. In the following weeks, the in the course of the government's investigation, Amir's Rebbe, Rav Dovid Kav was called in for extensive questioning, to ascertain whether anyting taught in shiur could have inspired this. During his interrogation, they made him give shiur to the members of the Secret Service, exactly as he would at Yeshiva. So he gave them a shiur on the sugya of Petach Patuach. At the time we found it ridiculous: why would these tough Shaba"k guys want to hear this gentle, humble diminutive man "say Toyrah" on a completely abstract topic? How could lomdus have possibly inspired this act of violence?
In retrospect, I'm beggining to get it. The idea that lomdus and the study of Halakha are completely abstract are products of golus, and can really only exist in the circumstances of golus. When you have a situation in which Jews are in power, though, you can no longer view Halakha as existing in vacuum, as not corresponding to the outside world.
I think this is a point of debate between R. Soloveitchik’s “Halakhic Man” and the thought of Rav Kook. For Halakhic man and many of the Briskers, “the world” is a construct that exists in the mind of the Halakhist. Death is something that can be overcome through the study of Aveilut, and a “kurkevan” has nothing to do with the entrails of a chicken. It’s all a function of abstract categorization.
By contrast, Rav Kook, understood that as Jews begin to resettle the land, and reassert their autonomy, it is no longer possible to think of Halakha as divorced from external, political reality. He insisted that Talmud must be studied “aliba de’hilchata”, to arrive at a practical conclusion. I think that he realized that a situation in which Jews are no longer merely studying texts, but have the ability to implement their teachings, challenges us to recognize that Torah has a political dimension and is not merely an intellectual exercise. Rav Kook’s point was clearly illustrated by the Rabin assassination. When you call someone a rodeph, you are saying that they should be killed. You can’t hide behind the excuse of lomdus, or the eternity of Torah to justify your teachings.
Pre-emptive Postscript: I'm not accusing Rav Schachter of anything, just reflecting on this recent barrage of lectures and texts emphasizing the inherent differences between Jews and non-Jews, and the defenses people have given for this sort of activity.

posted by Uri | 11:53 AM |
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