Monthly Archives: August 2007

In the News

This entry was posted in General on by .

-American synagogues, kosher slaughter houses and Jewish schools may be finding it much harder to hire Israelis. (The Jerusalem Post)

-The case is made “that religion is not primarily about God, but about the human need for the sacred.” (Prospect Magazine)

-A fierce battle over the leadership–and the existence–of an Arab oriented middle school in NYC splits prominent Jews and organizations. (The Jewish Week)

-With two sharply opposing books coming out–“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” (Walt and Mearsheimer) and “The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control (Foxman)–the topic of the Israel lobby will likely be more in the public eye. (Haaretz)

-Human Rights Watch has accused Hezbollah movement of committing war crimes during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, by “firing indiscriminately and in some cases deliberately at civilians and civilian structures, in violation of international humanitarian law.” (Haaretz)
-The Jews-and-the-Armenian-Genocide question heats up:

Posted on August 29, 2007

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Happy Birthday Katrina

This entry was posted in History on by .

Our friends at Jewish Funds for Justice have been highlighting the woeful road to recovery in New Orleans to mark the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina:

* Of $8.4 billion allocated for levee repair in Louisiana, only 20% had been spent as of July 2007, leaving whole communities inadequately protected and making it much harder to bring families home.

* $8.75 billion was lost to waste, fraud and mismanagement of federal contracts, according to a Congressional study.

* Of $16.7 billion in Community Development Block Grants, only 30% had been spent as of August 2007.

* It took 21 months for the Small Business Administration to finish processing loan applications for the recovery. (MORE)

Things have been better for the Jewish community, but uncertainty still looms:

The federation’s current annual campaign, the first since Katrina, is on track to raise more than $2.6 million, compared to the $2.8 million raised among significantly more members in the last pre-Katrina campaign. (MORE)

But the New Orleans Jewish population is down by 30%. And experts say that success depends mostly on how many current and new residents live in the Big Easy.

I consider myself lucky. I was able to visit New Orleans many times growing up through activities with USY. We held conventions, attended Mardis Gras parades (in the suburbs, albeit), enjoyed kosher Cajun cuisine, and experienced nothing but open arms form the community every time we came.

I am convinced that the Jewish community will reestablish itself. The attitudes of those involved before and after Katrina are reassuring. The new head of the federation believes that:

“There is no sense in going back to where we were before the storm. We have the opportunity now to make past dreams and new dreams of a vibrant Jewish New Orleans come true.”

However, the city as a whole is still in a desperate situation.

Happy Birthday Katrina.

Posted on August 28, 2007

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If you like the breadsticks, try the salad.

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

Yesterday, Jewschool decided to bring up an old article about the Conservative Movement’s policy on eating hot dairy, after a survey of clergy found that 80% eat warmed fish in non-kosher restaurants.

The comments that followed were, generally, the same arguments that have been brought up before. It soon came to question of whether or not a change would be simply, “on behalf of a hankering for The Olive Garden or Papa John’s,” or any restaurant for that matter. (MORE)

However, I did like the clever response from one reader:

To my knowledge, they don’t serve warmed fish at Papa John’s, not counting anchovies, and I think it would be filthy and gross if they did, and I would like to believe that even people who did not keep kosher, Jewish or otherwise, would never eat the “warmed fish dinner� from Papa John’s.

But the Olive Garden is a different story. When you’re there, you’re family, and I think that the importance that Judaism places on family would mitigate any potential halachic issues in that regard.

Also, unlimited breadsticks. All religions should support this, no matter what. In fact, the Conservative rabbinate should be writing teshuvot that demand an increase in the portions at the Olive Garden. These days, they’ll only give you one at a time. Unacceptable!

In all seriousness, this got me thinking. It’s quite possible that more Jews, Conservative or not, would be affected by a teshuvah on Olive Garden’s breadsticks than one on hot dairy. What does that say about kashrut in our society today?

Posted on August 28, 2007

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Semen, Cremation & Carbs

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

-Does Jewish law permit the removal of semen from a deceased man in order for his widow to bear his child? (The Schlesinger Institute for Jewish Medical Ethics)

-A look at the variety of synagogue practices with regard to the burial of intermarried couples:

Cleveland Jewish News
J.

-How can you text-message “expressing sorrow and an apology for not being able to be at the funeral�? (Haaretz)

-Bereaved Israeli families are beginning to use a variety of nontraditional means (interactive Web sites, unusual tombstones, singalong funerals) to keep alive the memory of their loved ones. (Haaretz)

-Immediately after a Haredi paper publishes the exact location of a crematoria, it sustains major damage in a fire. (Haaretz)

-And the locals, including non-religious Jews, are also unhappy with the crematoria. (The Jerusalem Post)

-And Shas would like to make cremation illegal in Israel:
Haaretz
Ynet

-But Yoram Kaniuk wants the right to be cremated: “I do not want a grave. I do not wish to rob two meters of the Land of Israel’s soil from people who will be alive later.â€? (Ynet)

-Death and carbs. (Haaretz)

Posted on August 28, 2007

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Remembering Grace Paley

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Earlier this year, when Tillie Olsen passed away, I emailed Alice Mattison, author of the wonderful story collection In Case We’re Separated and asked her to share some thoughts on Olsen — a writer I knew she had affinities with.

Well, last week we lost another wonderful Jewish author associated with the Left: Grace Paley. It’s unfortunate we need to do this twice in a year, but I asked Alice if she’d reflect on Paley’s life and work, too.

From: Alice Mattison
To: Daniel Septimus
Date: August 27, 2007
Subejct: Re: Grace Paley

Dear Daniel,
Here are some thoughts about Grace Paley:

Private life is inevitably political and political events matter because they affect actual persons, so you’d think good art with political conviction might be ordinary. Yet Grace Paley’s fiction is rare in having characters who don’t turn flat and lifeless when their author mentions a public issue, and rare in depicting the way, at a single moment, what matters may simultaneously be intensely personal and internationally significant.

“But really, if you remember:â€? says the narrator of her story, “Wants,â€? “first my father was sick that Friday, then the children were born, then I had those Tuesday-night meetings, then the war began.â€? She’s explaining to her ex-husband why she never invited certain friends to dinner. The sentence is deliciously accurate about the surprising way people actually talk and think, and also about how life at every level — public and private — may interrupt our plans.

Since her death I’ve seen Grace Paley described as a writer who was also an “activist,� as if that combination of traits might be comparable to being an ophthalmologist who is also a cook, and as if “activism� existed apart from the issues one may take action about. Grace Paley was an old secular Jewish lefty, of course (part of a tradition that I hope will not die out with her generation). Her convictions suffuse her work, and though it’s her penetrating language and psychological acumen that give her stories their excellence, what makes them important is their politics.

Reread “Faith In A Tree,â€? a leisurely account of one single mother’s attempt, as she sits on a tree branch in Washington Square Park — watching and quarreling with her children and neighbors — to figure out how to be a good person and how to raise her children to be good people. An informal parade of protesters, carrying signs reading, “Would you burn a child?â€? and “When necessaryâ€? — along with a picture of a napalmed Vietnamese baby — is dispersed by the local cop. When Faith and her friends do not resist, her son Richard’s rage changes her life: “directed out of that sexy playground by my children’s heartfelt brains,â€? says Faith, “I thought more and more and every day about the world.â€?

All best to you,
Alice

Posted on August 27, 2007

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Dodging the Draft

This entry was posted in General on by .

-Some views on whether the rise in the percentage of Jewish men who do not serve in the IDF is really a problem:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/888434.html
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/889702.html

-And Shlomi Barzel wants to know why “a numerically negligible group” of artists who get army exemptions is such a big deal. (Haaretz)

-A look at the national discussion on the issue of draft evasion. (Israel National News)

-And army-evasion in Parashah Shoftim. (Haaretz)

-IDF soldiers were psychologically trained to handle the Gaza evacuation, and some people have a problem with that. (The Jerusalem Post)

-A look a vigorous recruiting efforts for the IDF, especially with new immigrants and Diaspora Jews. (The Jerusalem Post)

-Major Belle Felzman faces sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the IDF, and struggles with the IDF’s refusal to implement court orders in the matter. (Haaretz)

-Avshalom Vilan thinks that the IDF pledge of allegiance should be modified to make it clear that the obligation is to follow orders only from authorized commanders — and thus not from outside rabbis. (Ynet)

Posted on August 27, 2007

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Michael Vick Does Teshuva

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Holidays on by .

It’s Elul for Michael Vick, too. After pleading guilty to charges related to his involvement in dogfighting, Vick gave a press conference in which he revealed: “Through this situation I found Jesus and I ask him for forgiveness, and I turn my life over to God. I think that’s the right thing to do as of right now.”

Another bizarre chapter in the history of athletes and God-talk. His conversion takes place with 1:37 left in this clip.

Posted on August 27, 2007

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Comic strips, redux

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

I’ve blogged about Eli Valley’s comics here before. Now the Jewish writer/communal professional has created web site dedicated solely to his drawings. It’s worth a look for a good chuckle.

Posted on August 24, 2007

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Evacuation from Hebron

This entry was posted in History on by .

-A first-hand account of the evacuation of the families from Hebron. (The Jewish Press)

-Gideon Levy argues that the evacuation from Hebron should have included all the Jews–or none. (Haaretz)

-A look at the intense emotions involved in the mini-evacuation from Hebron. (Haaretz)

-A look at the dynamics of a recent serious outbreak of insubordination in the IDF. (The Jerusalem Post)

-But Yehuda Ben-Meir sees the refusal by 12 soldiers of the Duchifat Battalion to participate in evacuating the two families from the buildings they invaded in Hebron’s market as “an organized, calculated attempt at sedition“–not insubordination. (Haaretz)

Posted on August 24, 2007

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Jewish Genetic Diseases

This entry was posted in Life, Practices on by .

This week’s Forward includes their annual guide to Jewish genetic diseases. With advances in technology and medicine, the number of diseases recommended for testing grows every year.

There are still states that require blood tests from both partners before granting marriage licenses. Additionally, for many years, rabbis have either recommended or required genetic testing from couples. The logic is couples should be prepared and know all of their options well before the decision to conceive.

But not enough rabbis makes this a requirement. I was fortunate enough to be married by a rabbi who did. My insurance covered nearly all of the costs, but more importantly my husband and I had peace of mind entering our lives as a Jewish couple together.

Some college campuses and organizations now provide free or reduced-cost testing.

This is an issue important to all Jews–Ashkenazic, Sephardic, Mizrachi or any variation. I encourage everyone, married or not, who hasn’t been tested to look into the issue.

For more information, you can visit the web site of the Jewish Genetic Disease Consortium or speak with your doctor.

Posted on August 23, 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

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