Sunday, December 23, 2007

More Harm than Good

The Reform Movement has commissioned a group of studies that are to be presented at the Van Leer Institute this week in Jerusalem. Most of this is to academically prove what we already know: Israelis don't like Reform Jews. I suppose it is better to have the numbers to tell us all of this.

But hey why spend the money when we can just ask Ynet News to report on the fact? In the coverage of the summit and studies, Ynet goes out of its way to report only on homosexuality and full participation of women. While very important aspects of Reform Judaism, I would argue they are not the most important.

I guess it is about framing the conversation. However a news service is in the business of framing stories. The frame provided in this story pits one against the other, not a fair compare and contrast. The fact that the Reform Movement in Israel really is a political body, bringing civil rights cases to the High Court has not only helped the small and weak Movement but also women in general, homosexuals in general, Arabs, religious minorities, and a majority of Jews who believe in something other than the ghetto life of haredi fascists.

But Ynet focuses on the fact that fighting for what is right (and within the value set of Judaism) only will tarnish the image of the Reform Movement in Israel to the Israeli people.

The caption on this picture is "Damaging the movement?" Well Ynet, it will only damage the movement if we don't stand up and ask our women to read from the Torah and have our GLBT brothers and sisters read Leviticus 18:22 - 20:13. Then we would be damaging our Movement.

A friend of mine said that he took on the halacha to try and make himself an inherently better person. After a few years of keeping the laws he found that he was no better and the society in which he lived had not been the benefactor of his self-imposed prohibitions. We take our traditions extremely seriously but not to determent of humanity and equality. Our Movement will always take the risk and possibly damage our image in the eyes of a backwards and somewhat barbaric society.

Oh yeah and we aren't going anywhere. We will keep fighting for equality and humanity in this somewhat backwards and barbaric society.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Shabbat Ideas - December 21, 2007

It is Friday and I am back to the land of the living after a while of just too much work so here are my Shabbat Thoughts for December 21, 2007:
Wait we want to talk to those guys...(yes)
Something about Shabbat...from a Rabbi...A Reform Rabbi...Cool
And the New York Jewish Week like too
Jews are becoming Nativists...(or just the ones controlling the message)
Women who read are cool

I was talking to a friend last night when we were out for a long delayed dinner. We talked about the future of the Jewish community, where we think it is going and a bit about God.

I found an email I sent to my lady about two years ago that was very useful in explaining my feelings about God...I will quote it here because I am lazy it hits my main points.
The idea that nothing is controlled has served as a comfort to me for the first time today. My mother tends to believe that everything happens for a reason. In the past it frightened me that I did not believe in a design to world. Yet today I feel that this is truly a gift. By knowing that neither the good, nor the bad is predetermined by God gives way to God being able to be a construction of Man in certain situations, like creation and human explanation of events. However, the fact that Man cannot explain the future, the true findings of thought and other such intangibles, to me shows that God is compassionate and fuels the thought process; if not directly than indirectly. The free form of ideas and ingenuity of Man clearly know no end. Yet will the end lead to a better understanding of God and the future? I feel that this unknown is where I find God.

This sort of ideology tends to be a reaction to an atheist's argument of proving God. I.e. you say God doesn't exist because you can't see God, but the fact you can't see God and you don't know everything proves there is a God. I do not see this to be the case. This is an abstraction of thought. This idea really just came to me while speaking with my mother. It was a relief to be honest. Wanting to be a rabbi [not the case anymore] and not having an explanation of God in a theological sense has been plaguing me. I had the banal answer of "I find God in the interactions of people" response. While this could fool most Reform (and Liberal) Jews, it was only a stopgap to the understanding I needed to reconcile with my belief of a plan-less world... I do feel that every second of every day people are presented with an infinite number of choices that truly boil down to blinks of the eye. What if? is the poison of those who believe in the plan. I however do not feel what if is not such a defeating nor destructive question.

God, regardless of power or anything else, is the fact that we can't explain things. I like that idea a lot. However in the real world of board rooms and fund raising, not knowing what is coming next can be difficult.

My dinning buddy from last night was lamenting his inability to secure major funding for his projects. It is a real bummer because these projects are good and could be good for the Jewish community.

His feelings about God are much more traditional than mine: God, who created humanity in the divine image he explained, is self-hating and self-punishing but at the same time punishing humanity as we continue to fight and kill one another. In that we are created B'tzeml Elohim as we fight we fight God. Therefore we are paying for our inability to get along and more to the point, we are being punished for our pigheadedness in regards to getting our funding...

So as we move forward, if we take a little bit of both ideas of God, and put them to work within our community, stop fighting and take comfort in the unknown, the Jewish community will be stronger. If not we will continue to punish ourselves by not knowing what is coming next.

Shabbat Shalom

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Now that is a Super Sunday

Federations across the land are super jealous of the fact that international donors are promising $7.4 billion dollars to the Palestinians. That is a lot of money. According to NPR's Morning Edition:
Palestinian supporters raise $7 billion at a donors' conference in Paris. The money, pledged by the international community, will help create a Palestinian state. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls the conference the "last hope" to salvage the Palestinian government from bankruptcy.
This infusion of cash may help the government of Palestine pull its act together or it may just get lost in the bureaucratic system set up by the PA. Time will tell. But still this is serious money.

While no one really expects much from these new rounds of talks, the international community is putting some power (and money) where their collective mouths are...

Truth about the Jews on Dec 25

Here is my war on Christmas!

(and I am back)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Shabbat Ideas - December 14, 2007

It is Friday. So here are some Ideas...and thoughts

Yah, if you know, you know...I got nothing this week.

Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Shabbat Ideas - December 7, 2007

It is Friday so here are my Shabbat Thoughts:
Reform and Orthodox Agree…that is Breaking News
Clinton was once a leftist…let us forget she was also a “Compassionate Conservative” in the same five year span
Rob…yes it is.
And the winner for the MOST uncomfortable Institution Jewish Picture goes to…

I was speaking with an Orthodox friend of mine last weekend. He mentioned that he sees the Torah as an objective truth but lives within a world where a majority of his fellows in faith do not, viewing this Text as a guidebook not holy laws. A no brainer no? Bu this was a challenge.

We must recognize, like with any text (holy or otherwise) the original intent of the authors and readers. The Torah was not written (by God or otherwise) in this time period. It didn’t expect me to be blogging about Torah and other Jewish issues on Fridays. (Here I assume God didn’t write the Torah without really saying that…but more on that another day.) So there for as we interpret and learn, it might be worth putting our conceptions of modernity aside and learn within the mindset of our ancestors AS WELL as in our modern concepts of reality. It could be good for us.

I leave you with that for this Shabbat.

Happy Chanukah and Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

GUEST POST: Explanation on Chanukah's Eight Day Celebration Instead of Seven

DK writes:
POLJ asked me why I thought if I agreed with the erudite (and not just for a Reform Jew) BZ as to why Chanukah is celebrated for eight days instead of seven by the Reform Jews. I found BZ's reasoning generally sound, except for his claim that,

"The question isn't why Reform Jews observe 8 days; the question is why non-Israeli non-Reform Jews (who ordinarily add an extra day) don't observe *9* days! And the answer is probably that the events of the Chanukah story took place in Israel (where Sukkot+SA is 8 days), so it makes sense that a commemoration of those events would also be 8 days.""source"

I don't think this is accurate, as no differentiation would be made for those holidays that took place in Israel or outside of Israel, because fast days don't count, the rabbis don't double those, and that's what most of our celebrations are for those events "that took place in Israel." The temple walls were breached, the temple was destroyed, a king took one to put the brakes on loshan hora, So that isn't the reason it isn't doubled. Rather, the real reason for celebrating eight days of Chanukah instead of nine is an extra day of Chanukah isn't such a pain in the ass to keep anyway, so why bother mandating it? Now an extra day of the last day of Pesach – no THAT's worth it to the rabbis to make an add on!

The reasoning is similar, if inverted, for the Reform. If the Reform are willing to shave off latter rabbinic add-on holidays, why wouldn't they be willing to shave off a day or two of a holiday post-Torah in nature?

Come and Hear,

The answer can be seen with the businessman who Jews everyone down in his business dealings, but doesn't fight over a price of a soda at a restaurant. It just isn't worth it. Even the cheapest bastards have to pick and choose when and where to Jew someone down, or they will lose their positioning and negotiating power on the deals that matter. So why bother fighting for a discount on Chanukah when you have an extra day of Pesach to contend with AND a second seder?

There is another reason as well. The Yevanim (for POLJ's many Reform readers, that means "Hellenists") were certainly not Reform. But if we had to pick one major denomination that most closely resembles the Hellenists, well…it ain't the Belzer Chassidim, now is it? And by dropping a day of Chanukah, they would be walking into an ambush of, "well, you guys probably are just upset that your side lost in the first place!" And though not all past Reform leaders were as shrewd as RabbiYoffie is, they weren't that naive. And why would they feel any pressure to do so anyway? Most of us are spacing candle lighting by the third night anyway, at least if no one is looking. So if you are one of those who only made it to the third night, what's one more night of not lighting?

Most importantly, with an extra day of Chanukah, there is more of a chance that Chanukah will coincide with Christmas! And what could be more Reform than that?

Happy Holidays!

DK writes and is more pissed off than most at Kvetcher, where he complains about NCSY and Jewcy not being as Orthodox in their distaste of Jewish practices as he is.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Global Warming is to Blame for Foreclosures

News out of Minneapolis:

Record home foreclosures cause snow removal problems
The snow brings a new problem with the high number of foreclosures in the Twin Cities. All those empty homes mean no one is around to clear the sidewalks.

Kathy Nitschke shovels out her own property, but sees that no one is looking after the vacant home in her Minneapolis neighborhood.

"A lot of traffic through here, so it's unfortunate when they don't clean things up," said Nitschke.

In Minneapolis, there are 50 percent more homes in foreclosures this year than last. In St. Paul, there are four times more vacant homes than in 2006.

It means more work for the city--both Minneapolis and St. Paul have a rule, stating snow must be cleared within 24 hours.

If a sidewalk stays covered in snow for more than a day, a letter is mailed to the address. If nothing happens, city crews come and do the work. The city of St. Paul charges $160 an hour, while Minneapolis charges $300 an hour—plus a $103 citation.

"We only have limited resources to do the work," said Minneapolis city spokesman Mike Kennedy.

If there are no homeowners to pay the snow removal costs, it will be forwarded to the bank that owns the foreclosed home.

The city of Minneapolis told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it answered more than 100 calls reporting snow-covered sidewalks on Monday alone.

Damn that Al Gore! It is his fault!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Festival of Eco-Friendly Lights

As we gather around our Chanukiot for the next eight nights, let us remember to sustain our light and not get all pissed off about the ridiculous people who believe tying religious practice to political issues (say like climate change or energy conservation) is a bad thing.

Jonathan Tobin has outlined how our modern times have hijacked our Holidays to make them about our own issues. Outside of this being exactly what every era has done with cultural and religious observances, this adaptation doesn't take anything away from the celebration of Chanukah. Chanukah is a GIVE'ME for conservation; the miracle part of Chanukah story is the fact that the oil lasted for a longer time. Mr. Tobin, I do understand you are a traditionalist, but why are you so against taking the exact story of our history and applying it to modernity?

So change a light bulb or two to a CFL this Chanukah as part of your holiday. Mr. Tobin I am sure COEJL can hook you up if you need. Have a happy and earth friendly Chanukah.

Happy Chanukah

It is time to celebrate another zealots' victory over modern day culture with a delayed seven day harvest festival! YAY CHANUKAH!

And don't forget, eat your Chanukah cHam with your yummy latkees.

(Hat Tip Gothamist)