Monthly Archives: May 2007

Center for Online Judaic Studies

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

The Center for Online Judaic Studies, which is being run out of NYU, has posted its first educational resource guides (on Jewish-American history, prepared my good friend David Koffman, and women in Jewish History, prepared by Shira Kohn).

The guides include some great images, as well as an outlines with info and classroom activities for teachers to use. The cultural history items look particularly interesting and may be the most intriguing as far as teaching high school kids. See for example Shira’s module on Betty Boop and David’s on American Matzos.

Posted on May 31, 2007

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Taking on the Chief Rabbinate

This entry was posted in History, Practices on by .

Props to JTA for pointing out Rabbi Marc Angel’s scathing critique of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in the Jerusalem Post. The rant includes these harsh words.

THE CHIEF Rabbinate functions as though it were leading a cult rather than a world religion with a grand, universal message. It adopts extreme haredi positions and attitudes because it seems to view the haredi community as the only constituency that matters. (MORE)

Of course, Conservative and Reform rabbis have been voicing their concerns about the authority of the Israeli rabbinate for years. It’s Rabbi Angel’s Orthodox bonafides that makes this critique so significant.

That being said, Rabbi Angel’s attack would be even more upstanding had it come before the rabbinate began tussling with the Rabbinical Council of America (the organization which Rabbi Angel used to be the president of).

Meaning, we’re used to seeing Reform/Conservative Jews critique the Orthodox and Orthodox Jews critiquing the Reform/Conservative, so it’s nice to see someone standing up to their own denominational peers for once. HOWEVER, to a certain extent Rabbi Angel is only critiquing the rabbinate now because they’ve deemed him and his RCA colleagues as irrelevant as the Reform and Conservative — i.e. perhaps they’re not his peers.

So is this a case of boldly speaking truth to power? Or is it an indictment of Rabbi Angel for standing idly by until the powers that be came for him and his?

Posted on May 30, 2007

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jewish News Roundup

This entry was posted in General on by .

Are you in the know? Introducing the MJL Jewish news roundup, featuring important, interesting, and informative stories from around the Jewish world.

  • Yehoshua Engleman says, “Hearing even a single note of Godly music can make people stop appreciating human voices, for they know that nothing can ever compare. One is left with the shame of being merely mortal.â€? (The Jerusalem Post)
  • A glimpse at “the only place in the Middle East beyond Israel’s borders where Arab students and scholars and Israeli scholars meet on a regular basis and discuss Israeli history, literature and culture — in Hebrewâ€? But: “There are no signs …There is no Web site. There are no announcements in newspapersâ€?. (Forward)
    JERRY FALWELL:

    • Although Falwell often boasted that “the Jewish people in America and Israel and all over the world have no dearer friend than Jerry Falwellâ€?, Evan R. Goldstein argues that this was not at all true. (Haaretz)
    • And Former TIer Andrew Silow-Carroll says Falwell “left a grim legacy… he reduced the religious debate in this country to a dogfight over a few narrow and unnecessarily distracting issues.â€? (NJ Jewish News)
    • But Jonathan Tobin calls Falwell “among our most zealous allies on the question of Israel, its security and its place in the worldâ€?, and regrets that he was “not merely unappreciated, but often met with outright rejection.â€? (Jewish Exponent)

    MONEY:

    • With the rise of Israeli philanthropy come some hard questions. Should Americans continue to send money to Israeli hospitals that now have their won foundations? What degree of transparency is needed? (Haaretz)
    • A new report analyzes the numerous flows of tax money the State of Israel derives from human trafficking, especially trafficking in women, including taxes on the earnings of brothels, taxi drivers, real estate (“The moment a municipality discovers that an apartment is being used as a brothel and not for residential services, it starts charging a higher rate for commercial enterprisesâ€?) but also fines, confiscated bail etc. (Haaretz)
    • A “massive shift in Jewish activismâ€?, with “community relations councils across the country…becoming lobbyists for government fundingâ€? is resulting in a lot of government money flowing to Jewish institutions including shuls and JCCs. (The Jewish Week)
    • A lack of money continues to threaten the existence of the Masorti movement in Israel. Its annual budget is only $2.5-3 million. (The Jerusalem Post)

    GAZA AND SDEROT:

    PARENTING:

Posted on May 30, 2007

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jewish Bibliographies

This entry was posted in Texts on by .

From the Jewish Publication Society:

JEWISH BIBLIOGRAPHIES FROM AJL AND JPS
The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) and the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) have partnered to distribute bibliographies highlighting great Jewish books. The lists “A Year of Celebrations,” “Creating a Collection,” and “Jewish Classics for Kids” were created by AJL member librarians who are respected experts in the field of Judaic literature.

A sampling from each bibliography
is available as a PDF on the Jewish Publication Society website, where you will also find information on ordering the full bibliographies from the Association of Jewish Libraries.

Posted on May 30, 2007

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Another AJWS Fellowship

This entry was posted in General on by .

Become an AJWS World Partners Fellow
AJWS World Partners Fellowship is awarded to Jewish recent college graduates and young professionals who wish to volunteer at a non-governmental organization (NGO), live independently in a developing country and participate in a peer-learning community. Fellows learn about human rights in an international context, explore the Jewish values that motivate their work and gain skills to prepare their entrance into careers dedicated to social justice.

Each fellow is assigned based on skills and interests for a nine month volunteer placement with an NGO in a developing country. Supplemental programming prepares fellows for leadership roles as advocates for social change in their professional lives and communities when they return home. All fellows receive a stipend to cover airfare and basic cost of living.

AJWS is now accepting applications for World Partners Fellowship in Central America, departing in February 2008. The application deadline is July 15, 2007.

To learn more and download an application, visit http://www.ajws.org/service or contact us at volunteer@ajws.org or 212.792.2888.

Posted on May 29, 2007

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

NYTimes on Tova Reich

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Tova Reich’s novel My Holocaust has been rapturously praised by most critics, but as I mentioned here and elsewhere I was bitterly disappointed by it. And now I have some company.

Writing in the New York Times Book Review this weekend, David Margolick was similarly disturbed by Reich’s wayward satire.

Sure, it can seem that ghoulish Holocaust commemoration has become the core of Jewish observance nowadays. Sure, some of those commemorators can be crass. Sure, some Jews have paraded their suffering before the world, insisting it is unique. Sure, much of it is ripe for ridicule, and ridicule can purify. But when the near annihilation of a culture is at issue, it’s hard to pull off; even Cynthia Ozick hasn’t tried. And if you manage to, so what? Ultimately, Reich’s obsessions are not just unseemly but picayune, and “My Holocaust� is far more likely to infuriate or distract than to cleanse.

MORE…

Posted on May 29, 2007

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Encyclopedia of Jewish Secularism

This entry was posted in Texts on by .

Haaretz reports:

In the Internet and digital information age, few publishers are willing to take on major publishing projects, like new encyclopedias. Thus, it is surprising to note the recent release of a highly ambitious project, conceived six years ago, that required the investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars: A five-volume encyclopedia entitled, “New Jewish Time: Jewish Culture in the Era of Secularism.” The encyclopedia, which examines secular Jewish culture over the last 200 years, may occupy a place of honor on the Jewish library shelf.

MORE…

(Hat-tip, JTA)

Posted on May 25, 2007

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

New Journal from JBooks.com — Secular Culture and Ideas

This entry was posted in General on by .

Our partner, JBooks.com, and our friends at the Center for Cultural Judaism have launched a new secular Jewish online journal called Secular Culture and Ideas. From the press release:

There are more secular Americans than ever before, and nowhere is the trend more pronounced than among Jewish Americans, nearly half of whom consider themselves secular or somewhat secular. So it may be the time to look back – and also forward – at the role of secularism in American-Jewish life.

A new online journal, Secular Culture & Ideas (www.jbooks.com/secularculture), does just that by taking a sharp look at secular Jewish life, culture, and ideas. Recent issues challenge conventional thinking about Jewish pop-culture, Yiddish, and the concept of “Diaspora,� plus an interview with Pulitzer prize-winning science reporter Natalie Angier, who heralds what might be called the “second wave� atheist movement. Next month, the journal will explore the renaissance in Yiddish language and culture.

Fun fact from a piece by Douglas Rushkoff in the current issue:

It was the Jews’ struggle for self-preservation, after all, as well as their deeply held humanist beliefs, that made them promoters of open discussion—so much that third century Romans purchased memberships in Jewish synagogues just so they could take part in intellectual conversations.

 From the same essay:

The reinvention of Judaism as “cool� is also the aim of philanthropies and outreach organizations that have taken it upon themselves to repackage a religion for a vast population of lapsed and disaffected Jews. Outreach organizations define Jews as people who are affiliated with a Jewish organization. Their efforts fail to take into account the sociological research indicating that most Americans define their social, political, or religious affiliations not through centralized institutions, but through a more complex and self-defined set of “loose connections.� Instead of working to strengthen these connections most outreach groups think of Jews as being “in� or “out� based on their willingness to pay temple dues. People who don’t belong to a synagogue are considered “lapsed� and in need of active recruitment. Through focus groups and consumer research, these organizations seek to identify their target market’s barriers to participating in organized Judaism and then appeal to these sensibilities. It all comes down to making Judaism look more hip to a modern audience, even if this means resorting to the tactics of a soft drink advertiser.

Significant food for thought — how many of you are not members of a shul, yet are participating in some sort of study for Shavuot? Does that make you a “lapsed” Jew? Let us know in the comments. 

Posted on May 22, 2007

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Israel’s Unstable Government

This entry was posted in History on by .

Yesterday I mentioned Gidi Grinstein’s suggestion that many of Israel’s problems are rooted in the instability of its government.

Here’s the idea in his own words:

The Prime Minister’s National Economic Council has recently presented an ambitious plan titled “Socio-Economic Agenda for Israel 2008-2010″. As appropriate, the media highlighted the objective of reducing the number of households below the poverty line from 20.2% to 17.2% by 2010 thus raising 60,000 families above the poverty line.

Unfortunately, the NEC’s recommendations are unlikely to be implemented. The plan’s key weakness is that it requires continuous and systemic cross-agency cooperation in planning, decision-making and implementation. This will not happen.

The timeframe for the plan is three years. However, the chances that the current government will survive that long are slim. In practice, only the Begin-Shamir government of 1981 served its full term of four years. The next government will not be obligated to Olmert’s agenda, just as the current government is not obligated by the decisions of its predecessors.

MORE… (“It’s the Structure; Not the Content!”)

Posted on May 22, 2007

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The Problem With Israel

This entry was posted in History on by .

I just got back from a lunchtime speech given by Gidi Grinstein, President of the Reut Institute (“an innovative policy group designed to provide real-time long-term strategic decision-support to the Government of Israel’).

Ostensibly, the topic of conversation was Israel-Diaspora relations, and while Grinstein suggested several new measures (most notably, asking American donors to demand transparency and strict managerial standards from the organizations and initiatives they support in Israel), his most interesting point — and the one he returned to over and over — had to do with the deleterious effects of Israel’s unstable goverments.

His point: To effect change in Israel there needs to be serious cross-party and cross-agency negotiations, but when governments are so short-lived this is impossible. How can we expect changes in the Israeli educational system, for example, when your average minister of education is only in the position for 15 months? Even if a study and proposal is brought to the legislature in record time, there will always be interests groups (unions, for example) who will want to squash the new initiative and can do so by holding out for the next government.

Grinstein also suggested that the instability of Israeli governments can explain some of the rampant corruption in Israeli politics. Because there can be new elections at almost any moment, politicians are forced to constantly fund-raise (because there might be a campaign to run tomorrow). Sometimes this leads politicians to push the envelope on financial legalities.

So of all things Grinstein spoke about, this was the clear message: Achieving a stable government needs to be Israel’s #1 priority. Serious political and social change in Israel is largely contingent upon this.

Posted on May 21, 2007

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy