Monthly Archives: April 2007

Old-Time Religion

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Not sure how I missed this, but thanks to Mark Berch for pointing out this story about Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and friends trying to pull off a Passover sacrifice on the Temple Mount.

In their efforts to sacrifice a live animal at the Temple Mount, the New Sanhedrin Council adopted an almost underground modus operandi. Rabbis Adin Steinsaltz, Israel Ariel, Yishai Baved and their associates secretly located a butcher, found a Cohen hailing from a lineage 1,000 years old and worked out a plan to quickly erect an alter on the Temple Mount.

They tried to revive the customs of the ancient Sanhedrin tribunal, which was the highest judicial body for the Jewish people in Israel some 1,600 years ago. They sought to slaughter a sacrificial animal across from the Western Wall.

The activists, who belong to various religious circles such as the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement, also petitioned the High Court of Justice for the right to perform the ritual.

Their plans were thwarted yesterday when the court rejected their request, ruling that “the rights of the petitioners to practice their faith are outweighed by other considerations such as public order and safety.”

MORE…

Posted on April 30, 2007

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God Hates Brady Quinn

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Or at least He likes former Ohio State wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. more.

Or at least that’s what Ginn thinks.

Ginn had this to say after the Miami Dolphins selected him in Saturday’s NFL draft, passing on the former Notre Dame star:

“Brady Quinn is a great quarterback, and just to be in competition with him and for me to beat him out — it was a great thing from God.”

Posted on April 30, 2007

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Introducing JSoN

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Our partner, Jewish Coalition for Service, recently launched its new web initiative, the Jewish Service Online Network (JSoN, for short — I love the name). It’s a social networking-cum-informational site for people who have participated or are considering participating in formal Jewish volunteerism. Good cause, and the site’s got some interesting content, such as this piece by Max Klau of City Year, which asks whether Jewish service constitutes a new Jewish movement:

In recent years, service programs have become an increasingly popular option for Jewish young adults. From New Orleans to Ghana to Honduras to Thailand, Jews are showing up in ever greater numbers to get their hands dirty repairing houses, digging irrigation ditches, and building schools. It wasn’t long ago that these experiences were rare and exotic, attracting only the most intrepid, hard-core do-gooders in the Jewish world. Today, we seem well on our way to the day when a Jewish Service experience is a common, shared experience, like Hebrew school or summers at camp.

At some point, you can’t help but ask: Is Jewish Service a new movement? When you spend that week in New Orleans, are you just signing up for a week of volunteering, or are you enlisting in what is essentially a new and meaningful way of being Jewish in the world?

Read more

 

Posted on April 27, 2007

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Falling Man

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I just received a copy of Don DeLillo’s new novel, Falling Man, which will be published in mid-May. DeLillo is one of my favorite writers, but his last two books have been deeply disappointing.

But there’s reason to think he may pull out of his slump with this one.

Falling Man is DeLillo’s 9/11 novel, and as a friend remarked to me when discussing the new book: “DeLillo’s been writing about 9/11 for 25 years.”

Meaning, DeLillo’s always been interested in the ways technology, violence, and spectacle interact. (Mao II, published in 1991, discusses the way terrorists use television as a weapon.)

Here’s the first paragraph of Falling Man, which includes a beautifully prototypical DeLillo sentence (it’s the one about the shoes).

It was not a street anymore but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night. He was walking north through rubble and mud and there were people running past holding towels to their faces or jackets over their heads. They had handkerchiefs pressed to their mouths. They had shoes in their hands, a woman with a shoe in each hand, running past him. They ran and fell, some of them, confused and ungainly, with debris coming down around them, and there were people taking shelter under cars.

Posted on April 27, 2007

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Fein: Circumcision is Fine

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In this week’s Forward, Leonard Fein takes on the anti-circumcision crowd (and makes a few jokes along the way):

Google “circumcision� and you will see why. Learned paper after learned paper informs us that we’ve been irreparably traumatized by our experience; that circumcised infants exhibit behavioral changes after circumcision; that some circumcised men have strong feelings of anger, shame, distrust and grief about having been circumcised; that circumcision disrupts the mother-infant bond, and that some mothers report significant distress after allowing their sons to be circumcised.

You’ll find, as well, fervid argument that the real purpose of circumcision, in its origin, was to inhibit sexual pleasure, to depress the urge to masturbate. Jews, according to that line of reasoning, were early Puritans.

Balderdash. The dogma that there is no stigma to smegma — and if there’s no foreskin, there’s no smegma — appears now much shakier.

But: Read the literature, and you’ll learn that those who defend the practice of neo-natal circumcision are typically described as “culturally biased,� which may or may not be a code term for “Jewish.� Read the literature of a militant anti-circumcision group called the Circumcision Resource Center and you’ll learn that a majority of its board of directors is Jewish, as are a third of its Professional Advisory Board, inevitably inviting the question of whether they, too, are culturally biased. Angry with their parents for having had them circumcised?

MORE…

Posted on April 26, 2007

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The Inspired Kitchen

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The latest installment of Adeena Sussman’s MJL food column “The Inspired Kitchenâ€? is now available. The newest recipe: Kasha Varnishkes, buckwheat with bowtie noodles. Tasty comfort food–try it this Shabbat!

Posted on April 26, 2007

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More Englander

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Some more notes on last night’s Nathan Englander/Ben Karlin conversation.

– Karlin was, for the most part, hilarious (which should be no surprise, since he’s one of the men behind The Onion, Jon Stewart, and Steven Colbert). He remarked that after reading Englander’s work he thought: “I’d be interested in hearing me to talk to him.”

– That being said, I’m not sure Englander was so thrilled with the conversation at the outset. Karlin started the conversation by asking about political parallels between Engalnder’s new novel and America post-9/11. Presumably, Karlin saw similarities between the way Argentina carried out it’s “dirty war” and America’s counter-terrorism/Iraq strategies.

Despite repeated prodding from Karlin, Englander wouldn’t budge. He started the book well before 9/11, he said. But he also seemed to resist Karlin’s extra-literary questions. I got the sense that, for Englander, fiction is about art and imagination and storytelling and writing. If it addresses, political issues by-the-by, then fine, but he as a writer isn’t going to make that a primary goal of his books.

– Englander worked on this novel for a long time. His story collection was published in 1999. He related that when he was a fellow at the NYPL’s Cullman Center, struggling to get the novel completed, he would visit a painting “Blind Milton Dictates Paradise Lost to his Daughter” and exhort himself: “He finished his book blind!”

– In reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Englander said: “I really believe there could be peace tomorrow. We just need new leadership. Everywhere.”

Posted on April 25, 2007

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Jew Englander Jew (cf. Judaism; Jewish)

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Last night, at the New York Public Library, Nathan Englander conducted his first reading/program for his new novel, The Ministry of Special Cases (whose official publication date was yesterday). The night was MC-ed by Ben Karlin, co-creator of The Colbert Report.

It’s not shocking, but a program featuring two Jews talking about a Jewish-ish book at the NYPL turned into a very Jewy evening.

It all started when Jean Strouse, the director of the NYPL’s Cullman Center, mentioned that Karlin edited America (The Book) along with Jon Stewart and David Javerbaum, to which Karlin responded (about Javerbaum): “Not Jewish!”

Strouse replied: “Yes. This is Jew night.”

Karlin then began his introduction with: “Good evening lovers of Arcane Judaica.”

Englander read the first chapter of the new novel, which focuses on an Argentinian, Kaddish Poznan (Jew!), whose son is disappeared in 1976. Englander read in an interesting lilt that sounded much like a poetry reading, but had a significant degree of yeshiva sprinkled in.

In response to Karlin’s first question, after the reading, Englander mentioned the Holocaust, then stopped himself and said: “See, I’m already talking about the Holocaust, and we’re only 8 seconds in.”

More on the event a little later, but for those of you in New York, Englander has another gig tonight, this one at the 92st Y with Jonathan Lethem.

Posted on April 25, 2007

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Israeli Art

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This Yom Haatzmaut, Israeli artists have a lot to celebrate. As JTA’s Ben Harris recently reported, Israeli art is doing as well as ever.

In 2002, the video artist Michal Rovner had a solo show at the Whitney Museum in New York and Ori Gersht had one at the Tate Britain in London. The following year, nine Israeli artists were chosen for the prestigious Venice Biennale. Prices for contemporary Israeli work have also been creeping up to levels approaching luminaries like Rubin and Mordechai Ardon, another late Israeli painter.

But this season, as Israel reaches its 59th year, the 2007 Sotheby’s sale brought in nearly $5 million, a 25 percent increase over the 2005 sale, and included record sales for several Israeli artists. It fell short of last year’s tally of more than $6 million, but that number was reached on the strength of just four paintings — two by Rubin and two by Marc Chagall that together accounted for more than a quarter of the total. (MORE)

You can read MJL’s overview of contemporary Israeli art here.

Posted on April 24, 2007

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Oy, Such a Shmendrick!

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The amateur etymologist in me enjoyed this piece on the genesis of the Yiddish term shmendrick in the April issue of Moment:

The shmendrick is the nincompoop of Yiddish lore, a pipsqueak. A synonym for a hopelessly neurotic bumbler, this brand of shmendrick has become an archetype of American entertainment—think Jerry Lewis in The Bellboy, or Woody Allen in… well, most anything before 1998.

But the roots of this character lie in another form of entertainment: Yiddish theater. More specifically, the word can be traced back to the work of Abraham Goldfaden, a 19th-century poet and songwriter with a preternatural talent for verse.

Read on

Posted on April 23, 2007

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