Monthly Archives: November 2007

Sustainable Chanukah Gift Guide

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

Hanukkah is just around the corner. Let the gift shopping begin.

Leah Koneg at The Jew and the Carrot has put together some fun, eco-friendly gift ideas ranging from a stylish compost keeper (yes, such a thing exists) to fair-trade Hanukkah gelt.

Posted on November 26, 2007

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The Inspired Kitchen

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

A few years ago, signs began popping up around Tel Aviv and beyond advertising a new delicacy: sabich. This savory combination of fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, hummus, Israeli salad, and assorted condiments is stuffed into a pita and drizzled with tahini sauce and amba, a mango pickle similar to the chutneys found in Indian cuisine. The dish is now a favorite all over Israel. More…

Posted on November 21, 2007

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What Hell Smells Like

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Practices on by .

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Reform and Conservative synagogues reek of hell [Gehinom] and a Jew should not even come near their entrance, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Mordechai Eliyahu said last week.

“Once I was invited to be the sandak (godfather) at a brit in a three-story building,” recounted Eliyahu in his weekly flyer called Kol Tzofayich, which discusses various halachic issues.

“On the first story was a Reform temple, on the second floor was a Conservative synagogue and on the third floor was an Orthodox synagogue where I was invited.

“I wondered how I would manage to pass by those two synagogues that reek of hell. I asked if there was a way of detouring those two entrances and I was told that there was a kitchen through which it was possible to reach the third floor. I announced that I would not go up any other way besides through the kitchen so as to avoid passing by those prohibited synagogues.”

MORE… 

Posted on November 21, 2007

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And the winner is

This entry was posted in History on by .

So a few weeks back, philanthropist Charles Bronfman decides to start a contest to find the next “Big Idea” in Judaism. The winner needs to “produce a major work in the English language that aims to change the way Jews think about themselves and their community.” He or she will received a two-year professorship at Brandeis (with a competitive salary) to teach and develop the idea as well as a prize of $50,000 to promote the work.

“The contest is patterned on one held by Sears Roebuck chairman Julius Rosenwald in 1929, who offered $10,000 for a book answering the question “How can Judaism best adjust itself to and influence modern life?” The result was Mordechai Kaplan’s seminal work, Judaism as a Civilization, which became the foundation of the Reconstructionist movement.”(MORE)

But last week, Bronfman said the contest is not going how he expected it to:

For example, one person suggested a new Braveheart movie with a Jew as the central character.

The response came from one of many Jews busy wracking their brains to become the recipient of the six-figure sum to be granted to the winner of the competition.

Bronfman is not happy with the quality of these responses, and says they are a result of a distortion and misunderstanding.

“It got all screwed up,” Bronfman said, who spoke along with Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. (MORE)

So how does a mega-philanthropist fix his own contest? How about winning it himself.

In that same interview, Bronfman described his vision for the Jewish community without a federation system:

In place of the bureaucratic body, Bronfman suggested a “very small body” of “very intelligent” executives who come together around two to three national objectives – and that’s it. The rest he would leave to the individual communities. (MORE)

Sounds like that’s a new, revolutionary way to think about the Jewish community. Having Bronfman win the contest himself would save the foundation some money and turn Jewish academia on its head.

Just a thought.

Posted on November 20, 2007

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We are not Comedy Central

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

A few weeks ago, we were flattered to receive this message:

Please stop airing the commercial ordering people to watch the new season of the Sarah Silverman show, “Or I’ll kill my dog.” As we had to euthanize our 14-year old golden retriever on Friday, we do NOT find this commercial even remotely humorous. Our dog was an important part of our family, and even if he hadn’t died, jesting over killing of one’s pet is sick! The ‘joke’ is not ‘edgy’, and it’s not ‘funny’. It is immature and disgusting.

Not, of course, because we condone killing dogs (I love my puppy), but because someone had mistaken our article on Sarah Silverman for perhaps Comedy Central itself–where the ad ran.

I thought I’d add to our material on the offensively funny comedienne, with this piece written by her sister, a rabbi living in Israel, about growing up with Sarahd

Posted on November 20, 2007

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Covering Up at the Beach

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

MJL recently got an interesting email from a woman designing a line of modest swimwear. Thought I’d share:

Shalom…I am the designer and manufacturer of an original line of kosher swimwear and cover-ups-called AQUA MODESTA. Baruch Hashem, the line is in accordance with Jewish halachot of modesty as well as fashionable and functional. Now the Jewish ladies and girls no longer have to give up on modesty when swimming. Please help spread the word around and participate in the mitzva of tzniut. the website is www.aquamodesta.net…tizku lemitzvot

Posted on November 20, 2007

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Move over Tickle Me Elmo

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Culture on by .

Red strings are so five minutes ago. FAO Schwartz is now carrying Kabbalistic Beasties, stuffed animals based on amulets that were once hung over children’s beds for protection. The idea was discovered at a toy audition last year when artist and sculptor Ken Goldman pitched the dolls. The names of the creatures–Sanoi, Sansoni, and Samonglif–derive from a kabbalistic text pertaining to Lilith:

beasties_1.jpg

According to Christopher Witcombe, author of Eve and the Identity of Women, Lilith appears as Adam’s first wife in midrashic literature. Lilith, a figure often celebrated today as the first feminist, abandoned Adam to go and live near the Red Sea. In the Zohar Lilith vanishes from Adam’s side after saying the unspeakable name of God. Adam then beseeches God to bring her back. Upon his request, God sends three angels – Sanoi, Sansoni and Samonglif – to Lilith. Nevertheless, despite their threats, she refuses to return, insisting instead upon harming newborn infants. She does, however, promise that no harm will come to any baby wearing an amulet with either the names or images of the three angels. (MORE)

And perhaps the best news. They’re on sale already, just in time for Hanukkah.

Posted on November 19, 2007

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Jewish Beliefs & Practices

This entry was posted in Beliefs on by .

-Ron Wolfson says that you should make “God’s To-Do Listâ€? your To-Do list. Literally: “Compile. Keep track. Make lists. Itemize… Revisit, revise, refresh.â€? (Jewish Journal)

-“Does our prayer book really need to be consistent with our theology? Must we believe the words we recite in their most literal sense? Is our prayer book a catechism of Jewish belief?â€? No, says Leon Morris. (The Jerusalem Post)

-Rabbis from Orthodox and Reform backgrounds join to present their insights into Jewish mysticism. (NJ Jewish News)

-REUVEN HAMMER addresses the meaning of “The chosen people.” (The Jerusalem Post)

-BuJu Jay Michaelson responds to neo-atheist Sam Harris, arguing that Harris “has no notion that religion is not always about belief, or that it is deliberately designed to function on multiple levels, or that it has progress built into it.� (Zeek)

-LYNN HARRIS looks at why Judaism is so disinterested in celebrating birthdays. (Nextbook)

Posted on November 19, 2007

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The youth–a different view

This entry was posted in History on by .

While Daniel was at the GA, I was at another, lesser-known Jewish conference. Kivun, a project of the Center for Leadership Initiatives with the assistance of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, invited about 30 staff members from Schusterman grantees to network and address the challenges of being a 20-something in Jewish communal life. While the audience listening to us was smaller, we had the ear of a powerful, committed philanthropic force in Judaism.

What struck me in the conversations we had was our difficult status. I believe our problem of the younger generations is not being too narcissistic and self-centered, nor is it being ignored by the greater Jewish community. It is rather being trapped between these two poles. How do we assert ourselves, our visions, our perspectives while at the same time showing respect for the traditions and organizations that laid the framework for our existence?

How do we invest ourselves and our passion in the structure and demands of our bosses when we believe that change will only truly happen when the current leadership “dies out.”

So far the approaches have been either to let the new generation bring their needs to the organized community, like at the GA, or to have the organized community speak down to us.

Though difficult, the solution most likely lies in an equal partnership and exchange of ideas. And whoever can invent the proper forum, can probably proclaim that they’ve discovered the next “big idea” in Judaism.

Posted on November 16, 2007

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The Battle of the Atheist Jews

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Every hero needs a villain. Superman has Lex Luthor, Harry Potter has Voldemort, Holmes has Moriarty. And in all the great stories, the really mythic ones, the hero is usually disturbingly similar to the villain. It’s like the protagonist and antagonist are peering into a funhouse mirror when they look at each other…and they’re both disgusted at what they see. comicbook.jpg

I’m sure that somewhere deep down, MAD Magazine publisher William M. Gaines realized he was pretty much the same person as Dr. Frederick Wertham. The same, but – you know – different. Because Gaines was the hero, and Wertham was the villain. Only, mainstream American society saw it the other way ‘round. Sort of.

In 1952, when MAD was first created, it was just one title in Gaines’s vast comic book empire, which was called EC Comics. EC stood for Entertaining Comics, and that’s exactly what they were – grisly horror titles like Tales From the Crypt and inventive sci-fi anthols like Weird Science. Some parents and educators thought these EC comics were corrupting our children.

One of the loudest voices in the “comics are Eeeevil� chorus belonged to noted psychiatrist Dr. Frederick Wertham. Long story short, Wertham’s bestselling anti-comics diatribe Seduction of the Innocent led to a nationwide panic, with parents and teachers all over America forbidding kids from reading comic books. And the only title EC was able to keep publishing when the smoke cleared was its harmless little humor title MAD, which escaped Wertham’s wrath by not being as overtly subversive as the other EC comics (had he but known!), and which escaped censorship by morphing into a “slick� magazine.

But here’s the sad part. Wertham and Gaines were really playing on the same team. And it’s a shame that neither man realized it. Wertham, a supporter of the civil rights movement and a champion of social justice, was just trying to do right by the nation’s children. So was Gaines, by refusing to talk down to the nation’s youth. In fact, with Tales From the Crypt et al, it could be argued he was giving kids a psychologically healthy outlet for their fears and aggression.

Both men had a soft spot for the younger generation. Both were Jews. Both were avowed atheists. And both refused to back down. I’m told that towards the end of Wertham’s life, he admitted that he’s probably overreacted about the harmful effects of comic books. But it’s a shame that Gaines and Wertham couldn’t have just gotten together and had a beer, and put the whole thing behind them. In another world, perhaps an alternate Bizarro universe somewhere, maybe the Bizarro Gaines and the Bizarro Wertham are best pals. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

Arie Kaplan is a writer for MAD Magazine who also writes for film, TV, and comics. Arie’s first book, Masters of the Comic Book Universe Revealed!, is in bookstores now. His second book, chronicling the history of Jews in comic books, will be published in fall 2008 from JPS. Check out his website, http://www.ariekaplan.com/.

Posted on November 16, 2007

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