Friday, August 31, 2007

Shabbat Ideas - August 31, 2007

It is finally Yom Shishi and tomorrow is Shabbat so here are my Shabbat Thoughts for August 31, 2007:

There are enough links below

An eternal question was debated this week by DK, Joey Kurtzman, the editorial board of the Forward, some rabbis, more by DK, and the Jewcy Staff. The question comes down to priorities: What do we, as a people, want to stand for? Are we nationalists or not?

Jews, for nearly all of modern history, have been the whipping boys of society. There are thinkers, Dada mostly, who believe that the Enlightenment was not the end of persecution, but a continuation of the same thing based in logic and efficiency. Without the Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution and other “advances,” they argued, the Holocaust never would have happened; Nazism was the logical conclusion of technocratic systems and practical efficiency. So as we continue through the different ages of thinking, there is one human constant: “everybody hates the Jews.

Now as we stand at the cross roads of any kind of thinking, we wonder to ourselves, how are we supposed to act now? We are post-post-modern neo-realist quasi-idealists. We address real politick all the time. We embrace major ideological statements of universalism. There comes a time when we need to redefine our identity and clearly it is now.

Most of this debate is centered on Abe Foxman’s inability to figure out what the ADL stands for in this post-neo-blah-blah world. Is it really a place to talk about intolerance or just supporting Jews in trouble? Now I don’t care but it would be in the organization’s best interest to figure that out very soon. Do they want to be nationalists or humanists?

One major issue that is ignored by many in this debate is the question of whether or not all Jews are connected to Israel. I like the place, very pretty. A reactionary Zionist, I am not. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to look out for its wellbeing, both as a Jewish state and a friend of my home country. They seem to like freedoms (for the most part). Now if Israel is to be a Jewish State based on Jewish values than great. But in the real world we know that not be the case; Israel is a Jewish state like France is a French state and Germany is a German state. Values come into play when we talk ideals not when we talk security.

So where do we all come down? That is a question for someone much smarter than me. DK, real politick only works for the Jews when they have the Golden Medina in their corner. Joey, come-on it seems like you have taken this tirade against Abe to a personal level. As always the Forward, good stuff, but I think you miss the higher level of this conversation.

I would love to know what comes next but it seems to me that we are entering a time of inconsistency in the Jewish community. It may be healthy and it may be detrimental, but what we do know is that we have become comfortable enough to disagree publicly. Perhaps it is a virtue of our ability to talk freely on the Internet or perhaps it is just that time when the Jews will publicly say what we have always said at the Shabbat Dinner Table.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Headline Award Goes To...

With the news of Idaho (no you da'ho) Republican Senator Larry Craig still "coming out" there were bound to be wonderful and funny headlines on blogs and the Daily Show. But it seems the Boston Globe wins the award so far for this jewel of headline:
GOP seeks probe of Idaho senator

And wouldn't that be a Grand Ol' (airport bathroom) Party! I wonder if "the media" is to blame for the headline? Who cares? It is glorious!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy Birthday Katrina

Hat tip: Jspot

UPDATE: Were You There When It All Went Down?

A Pissed Off Kvetcher

I have myself a guest posting over at DK's Kvetcher. It is the first time in the history of his site that something actually makes sense!

Integration and the Benefits of Mixing up Schools By the Pissed Off Liberal Jew.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Shabbat Ideas - August 24, 2007

It is Friday so it is time for my Shabbat Thoughts for August 24, 2007:
Good outcome, bad headline
Beating up on people in wheelchairs
Learning from Theater Best.Jewish.Culture.Columnist.Ever.

(To the tune of "We’re Off to See the Wizard")
Today is Yom Shishi, Yom Shishi is Day Six
Yom Shishi is Day Six and that’s the day we get our kicks
Because tomorrow is Shabbat
The day we like a lot a lot,
A lot a lot a lot a lot alooooooooot,
Because tomorrow is Shabbat
Do dut do do do do dut!
Today is Yom Shishi, Yom Shishi is Day Six!!!!!!!!!!!!

As a camp going Jewish kid, I loved the stupid little songs we sang at my camp growing up. I went to camp in California (where I learned that song) and worked at a few others when I was older (where I brought that song). I love camp in general but the little things make camp so powerful.

Over arching numbers and statistics will tell you that Jewish camping is the most important aspect of a young Jewish life. Just look at the amount of money pouring into camping through the Foundation for Jewish Camping and other organizations. Even the bad stuff is what makes camp so great. Food at my first camp was some of the best grub I have ever had institutionally. The same CANNOT be said about some of the other places I have worked and gone as a camper. But we all still talk about the ‘brown meal.’

The stories we bring with us is where the real power of Jewish camping is found. Just like your first love, camp is a 24-hour a-day seven days-a-week experience. Everything you do is infused with excitement, Judaism and moldy clothing. If it weren’t for camping, I wouldn’t be writing this blog (or living a life where I thought I had a voice worthy of publishing anything Jewish). But living with Hebrew around you, Torah learning even as you play kickball and eating Kosher (style) food isn’t as powerful as sleeping in the same stuffy (and nasty) cabins as the people who came before you.

Tradition is where we find the power of camp. I talk about Web2.0 and the changes of modern Judaism all the time. I love progress when it is for good and we need a lot of good in our world. But camp is something stuck in a different time. Sure kids will wear the newest fashions and bring iPods to camp, but when it comes to Color War you can go back generations and see the same pictures of RGBandY fighting through swim races and watermelon eating contests.

In the years of my life as a Jewish camper, I have missed two summers of camp: one in college when I got a “real job” and this summer because I actually have a real job. I missed it because there is no greater Jewish feeling for me than to go to camp and have kids (and adults) having a blast being Jewish. L'dor V'dor, hallaluyah! To Campers and Campers, hallaluyah!

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bob Dylan, Russ Feingold and the Next President

Open Letter on Minyanim

Dear BZ, Kung Fu Jew and others who left comments on my final rant on indy miyanhim,

Back when I was coming into my own, I had a very interesting conversation with my then-girlfriend. I said that is something is broken you have to throw the entire thing out and try again. She, being a very establishment kind of woman, said that you have to work within the rules of the system and then try to change it to fit your needs. Well after growing up just a bit, I think we were both naïve to assume that it was either one way or the other.

I still don’t like the system. But I have come to realize some of the merit she had discussed. The system in place isn’t always wrong, just most of the time. It is wrong simply because it is set up by people trying to get the most out of the system while pleasing the greatest number of individuals. Being a true progressive or liberal or whatever we want to assign to ourselves, we need to fix the problems we see within our community or system.

Granted a havurot movement is an establishment in and of itself. It has been around since the 1960s/70s and serves a broad community. Young people tend to come in greater numbers to these services than older folks for many reasons. But what does that mean to me, someone who doesn’t like the feeling of sitting together and finding holiness in music or drum circles? That is the question that is asked about havurot. What can I get from this community and what can I give to it. BZ, the “me first give me give me” aspect is found everywhere and you are right about those who “get bar/bat mitzvahed” and leave. But I think it is more prevalent within a younger community, and therefore found more in the indy minyans. Many young parents (the bar mitzvah factory crowd) also are young and fall into that community of me first give me give mees.

But this is my last argument on this issue for two reasons: 1. I don’t really care about the outcome. 2. I have no vested interest in what happens. It was discussed briefly that ReformJews don’t get the education they need to identify with Judaism. Ach. It was also discussed that small independent groups will remain strong forever but if they need to disband because they aren’t working anymore they will disband. Ach. BZ you grew up in the Reform camps and the like right? All Jewish learning is a starting point and you should know that. All institutions remain in one form or another because someone (with power) tends to see them as necessary.

Kung Fu Jew, I don’t think someone is saying the indy groups are the answer to all problems but it sure is insinuated. The idea that young people can’t find anything meaningful in traditionally organized communities, young people are quoted all the time saying that they don’t find any thing worth their salt in synagogues and are forced to go to indy minyanim to find meaning etc.
“Do any of us pray in Reform synagogues in New York City aside from small minyanim at Beth Elohim?” the Park Slope Reform synagogue where he works as rabbinic intern. “No. You’re more likely to find us at the independent minyanim” that in recent years have sprouted up around New York City, where the approach to prayer tends to be at once creative and traditional. NYJW

So folks do what you want. I don’t care what you do or who you do it with. Throw out the system that doesn’t work for you. That is not my beef, for at one point in my adolescents I too wanted to get rid of the system. I won’t even say “when you are done playing you will be welcome back.” If you never want to be part of my community that is fine and if you want in you are welcome. I don’t care at all. It isn’t for me but can be for you. I however am done talking about this.

Take me on for different reasons but on this issue, I am finished.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Found Men from Lost Boys

This was in the Times this Sunday and it was a beautiful story of hope. You don't get too many of those from or about Sudan.

No Longer Lost, a Refugee Accepts Call to Leadership
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — About 7,000 miles separate Grace Episcopal Church here, where the Rev. Zachariah Jok Char preaches most Sundays, from the small town of Duk Padiet in Sudan, where he was born.

The tally of the miles started about 21 years ago when Mr. Char was 5 and militias backed by the Sudanese government attacked his town during the civil war in the south. He saw the explosions from the field where he was playing, and he fled. He met other boys who had escaped similar attacks, and they started walking.

“I still remember what I was wearing then: red shorts and a T-shirt,” said Mr. Char, sitting in an empty pew one afternoon at the church. “I didn’t have shoes. Some were naked.”

The orphans, mostly boys, walked more than 1,000 miles to Ethiopia from Sudan over three months, Mr. Char said. Later, they were forced to walk to Kenya. Thousands died. The West called them the Lost Boys.

Those boys are men now, and here and in cities like Atlanta and Burlington, Vt., the 3,800 who were resettled in the United States beginning in 2001 are trying to build lives and weave communities. For many, their Christian faith, often Anglicanism, is at the heart of their efforts. Read More

Monday, August 20, 2007

Old Story Online

This is an older story from the Forward about Facebook. NO ONE is letting this Facebook thing alone. It is different, it is revolutionary blah blah blah. Look, the Internet is great, Web2.0 is lots of fun and very useful but it is time to move on...

But this is kinda funny:
For most of us, Facebook is an easy way to keep tabs on friends, enemies, exes and currents. But from the start of the Facebook phenomenon, Jacob Orin Gold, 22, saw the site as a means of helping Jews stay connected to their heritage. In June, the recent Princeton grad launched “Straight Reppin’ My Shtetl!,” a fast-growing Facebook group that allows members to post shout-outs to the cities and shtetls from which their ancestors hailed.

“Word up to Vilna,” “Wat up Teresin?” and “Holler at Kiev and Chernobyl” are typical postings that can be found on the wall of the group, which boasts 143 members.
So word up to Meppen and sup my Pale of Russia homies.

While enjoyable, this piece is just one more story about the same old new media issues; the dead tree media is dead. I am getting tired of stories about this everywhere. Newsweek, AP, New York Times (to name a few) have written extensively on the Facebook and the like. I am bored with this story. Perhaps media it is time to write about important things that Facebookers are complaining you don't cover.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I am out for a little R and R with the family. Take care...

Ortho Anarchist Goes to Establishment

Mobius is leaving the world of new media to work in new media for the JTA. He will be missed. It seems that the radical anti-establishment, drug promoting, Torah quoting, blog editing guy will don a shirt and tie to work for the Man at JTA (or the Woman depending on who is his editor.)

Good luck Mobius and good luck JTA!

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Lot of Things Happened Today

Today a lot of things happened. Rove resigned. Brooke Astor died after working for the poor for more than century. That Chinese guy “killed himself” after some toys had lead paint. Goldman Saks dumped a LOT of money into a hedge fund to save face. (that amount of money could end the dept of many thijavascript:void(0)rd world countries, just to put it in prospective.) But most importantly to my small family, in a small town outside of Boston, my cousin passed away after an unexpected illness.

She was my mother’s first cousin on her father’s side. Born in England after her family was exiled from Germany, she came to the United States and made a good life for herself. Unique and very much a caricature of a Jewish mother, my cousin was a once in a generation kind of woman. She will be missed and may her memory be for a blessing.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Shabbat Ideas - August 10, 2007

It is raining but the trains are still running so here are my Shabbat Thoughts for August 10, 2007:

"Noah Feldman isn't throwing bombs, but he certainly lit a fuse. The Harvard law professor's New York Times Magazine article about his ostracism from his Modern Orthodox yeshiva continues to be a topic wherever observant Jews gather to pray, eat, or blog." Now that is progress! (ASC)
Israel doesn't think Jewish funding from the US is important. Ok fine…no more for you.
Happy Birthday POLJS!

This week we saw a few posts up on different post-hippy Jew blogs about the "Tute." Now I have made my feelings known about the Havaruh InstiTUTE and Indy minyanim well known.

Me first give’me give’me Judaism is not new. It is a product of the 1970s, when the Havaruh movement started the first time. Leaders then said the same thing that leaders now say: we are next generation of the Jewish community. While nice to say, I don't see it. Outside of the fact that when these Havurahot rent space, teach schools and make democratic decisions, (acting the same way as any other type of synagogue) they also get together and share common ideas and goal…you could say it is a movement (like all the other religious movements). So what is so different and revolutionary about you folks?

The argument that is always refuted by the likes of BZ or Trumpet Boy or Kung Fu Dude is that smaller communities can't sustain such movements. I now would will say these indy groups cannot be sustained without a strong acceptance of the mainstream Jewish community. Where else will they meet? Where else will they get funding that they take for granted? Where will they get people to eat their yummy potluck meals than from major cities with self-righteous self-aggrandizing people?

The answer is they will not. In older days yes there were fewer options for people, Jewishly and commercially – to borrow from the argument proposed on Jewschool. But unlike those who find a deeper connection in groups of exactly like-minded people, the folks of yesteryear (and most of the current Jewish community) felt that insulation in small community doesn't help you grow as a person. It isn't about options, it is about what you value more. Having people who have kids and don’t, new members and old, rich and poor, old and young, in a community makes it rich. (This is not to say that synagogues have this everywhere but it is built into the theoretical model, where as it is not in indy minyan. The Indy is a fluid and non-establishment)

Now these are my personal feelings. I don’t wish to tell indy minyaniers they can’t do what they want and I think they should be able to do just that - whatever they want! But it is shortsighted to ignore this kind of the argument.

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mezzuzah Woes

Some of you may remember that I wrote about my Mezzuzah continually falling off the door post of my house (and off my gates). Well after some exploration and super sticky tacky glue tape I thought my woes were over. I was wrong.

Yesterday I came home to the scroll, double sided tape and super sticky tacky glue tape on my door, but no hand crafted Mezzuzah. It was gone: not on the floor, not handed to the door man, gone. It put me in a really bad mood.

Thinking back to way that Mezzuzah was so important it was clear it had to do with the fact that after a lot of work, I had my own place. It is there where I hope to live a nice long Jewish life in New York City. It is where my lovely laddie and I host Shabbat Dinners and get-to-gethers. It is where I like to bbq Hebrew Nationals and read the Sunday paper. It is where I watch TV, read books and talk to family members. This is my home. A Jewish home and it was violated. That upset me a lot.

None of the other Mezzuzah baring doors were missing their Jewish I.D. card. But still I have to wonder what the person who kicked or threw away this piece of art with Jewish symbols on it thought. Oh I will just chuck this...

I still hope that my neighbor picked up and will leave it with the door man today...who knows. This was a gift and it made my apartment feel like my home. Something I was proud of and now it is gone.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


The San Diego Union Tribune has a very interesting editorial is about Mirco-loans and why the World Bank doesn't do more to "really" help the poor. It may have something to do with the relatively rightwing bend of Union-Trib that they want people to work for their money, but who cares? This is a good thing.

World Bank can do more to help the poor
August 7, 2007

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Chinese Proverb

“If the bank doesn't do it, who else will?” – 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus

Microcredit is a bureaucratic term for tiny but remarkably effective loans that in essence allow the poorest of the poor to learn how to fish – to lift themselves out of poverty. The bank referred to by Yunus is the World Bank, whose mission is captured in its noble slogan: “Working for a world free of poverty.”

So why does the World Bank commit just $132 million, less than 1 percent of its budget, to microcredit programs? Read More

We have been talking about this for a long time...nice to see that main stream media is catching up.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Coal Mines: The Death Trap of the Future and Past

Simply because Mik is at YearlyKos and no one over at Jspot has posted this yet, I will step up the plate. It seems to me as if more people are getting stuck in Coal Mines. This isn't good especially as we see more pressure for "green" liquid coal production in our country increase. So what are we going to do to stop it?


11:28 a.m. August 6, 2007

HUNTINGTON, Utah – Six miners were trapped by a cave-in Monday at a coal mine five miles from the epicenter of a minor earthquake, authorities said.

By middday Monday, eight hours after the underground cave-in was reported, rescuers were trying to reach the miners. They had not had any contact with them.

Officials were also trying to determine which came first, the earthquake or the collapse.

The Genwal mine reported that the mine had caved in at 3:50 a.m., an hour after the magnitude 4.0 earthquake was recorded, the Emery County sheriff's office said. It is possible they happened less than an hour apart if there was a delay in reporting the collapse.

“Rescue workers are on scene trying to locate six miners that are unaccounted for,” the sheriff's office earlier Monday.

The miners were believed to be 1,500 feet below the surface, about four miles from the mine entrance, said Dirk Fillpot, a spokesman at the Mine Safety and Health Administration in Washington. It was not known what kind of breathing equipment the miners had.

Rescuers were within 2,500 feet of their presumed location, he said.

Walter Arabasz, the head of the University of Utah's Seismograph Stations, said there was a link between the quake and the mine collapse, based on wavelengths.

“The seismic waves are consistent with the idea that the mine collapse caused the earthquake,” said Walter Arabasz, who added that more information must be analyzed.

A command center set up in Huntington, about 15 miles from the mine, said Teresa Behunin, an accountant with Utah American Energy, which owns the mine. She had no other details.

Rocky Mountain Power, a utility with a power plant in the area, sent a rescue team and heavy equipment to the mine, about 140 miles south of Salt Lake City, spokesman Dave Eskelsen said.

The sheriff's office had said earlier there were no reports of damage or injuries blamed on the quake, centered under the Huntington Canyon area.

“We aren't panicked yet,” Linda Jewkes, president of the Emery County Chamber of Commerce, said after hearing the news. “We're very, very concerned and very cautious when it comes to the mines.”

Utah ranked 12th in coal production in 2006. It had 13 underground coal mines in 2005, the most recent statistics available, according to the Utah Geological Survey.

Emery County, the state's No. 2 coal-producer, also was the site of a fire that killed 27 people in the Wilburg mine in December 1984.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Shabbat Ideas - August 3, 2007

It was a fast week where I had nothing to say, so here are my Shabbat Thoughts for August 3, 2007:
I don't care who speaks at YearlyKos and neither do they because they won't support Hillary anyway.
The Forward Covers the rebuilt Temple. King Lego-land: Cohen or Levite?
The Newest old-school Jew

This week Moses continues retelling the story of the 40 years of not asking for directions. According to Rabbi Plaut, "Moses stresses the love, respect and unique adoration due the God of Israel" (Revised Edition, 1226). We deal with idolatry, the good life, stiff-necked people and the good land. This is the speech where your dad tells you why you do what you do and why not to revert to the ways of the past.

But as we sit here towards the end of 5767, should we revert just a little bit? It only seems like we are commanded to remember the past so not to repeat the errors of our foreparents. But now it seems like we just read about our past and not critically think about these mistakes.

This week we saw a group of asinine legal rulings from Israel. From the JNF bill, which stinks from head to toe, to the local ruling not to allow Ethiopian immigrants to go to school in Petah Tikvah, it is hard not to think that Israel isn't learning from the mistakes of the past.

The closest ally (and best banker) of Israel is the United States. Many of these very stupid decisions being made by Israel has already been tried in the United States. Segregation, not a good idea and separate but equal doesn't work so well either. The land of Israel should not dictate the state of Israel; religion cannot produce a democratic and safe state.

There are thousands of American and non-Israeli Jews out there shaking their heads this week saying, "what are you thinking!" I know I am not alone in saying that these kind of non-military actions make it near impossible to defend Israel rationally as a democratic state. If Israel wants to abandon its Declaration of Independence (it is all the rage to get rid of major founding documents these days...) then it should just up and and do it. It won't lose American backing, but most likely liberal Jews around the world will stop feeling any connection to the modern state.

That is a major problem. A few weeks ago, the New York Times Magazine covered the political ambitions of Tzipi Livni where she said that Greater Israel, Democracy and a Jewish majority are an impossible trio. She is right. But these backwards mistakes take us to place where even two out of three become difficult.

Remember the long way that the Eternal your God has made you travel in the wilderness these past forty year, in order to test you by hardships to learn what was in your hearts(Deut 8:2).

What is in our hearts? Will it lead to the fulfillment of the commandments that make our world better, or will it lead to the failure of the first Jewish state in 2000 years? As we sit and remember why we wondered this weekend, let us look to the story of our own persecution and try to help apply some of this difficult hands-on education to the way we treat others. "For we were strangers in the land of Egypt, Spain, Russia and Germany."

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Open Letter to Rupert Murdoch

Mr. Murdoch,

Buy my blog. I mean really sir, why wouldn't you want to own my blog? You have been buying as much of the New York media industry and now with the Journal in your pocket under the ownership of Media Corp it only makes sense for you to start taking over Web2.0 (opps MySpace...sorry I forgot). Soon we will see fun headlines with $ for the letter "s" in the WSJ and perhaps we will even see something more than mind-numbing shlock in the Post.

So buy my blog and I will write ridiculous op-eds about how everything Dems do is evil and that the War on Terror also includes Iraqi soccer victories. I totally will sell out and this blog has only been family owned for six months, not many generations of the Bancroft family.

With all due respect sir, why not just make an offer at the rest TV market? That is where most Americans get their information and Fox News has the same rep for integrity as the current Attorney General. It is similar to the trade you made in paper reputations, the Post up the WSJ. Very smart.

The offer still stands. (And it is much less than $5 Billion)


In that I got nothing...

I will leave it to the Daily Show:

Money Quote:
"12 Hours 20 tons of trash, 2000 gallons of fuel, 42,000 plastic bottles of water later it was clear that I helped heal the earth."