Monthly Archives: November 2007

Reading A.M. Klein

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In my latest column for the Jerusalem Post, I examine the work of a wonderful, though virtually forgotten, North American Jewish writer/poet: A.M. Klein.

A.M. Klein died in 1972 at 63. After suffering some sort of mental breakdown, he didn’t publish a word for the last 17 years of his life. But the works he did write are some of the great lost treasures of 20th-century Jewish literature.

Klein was born in Ukraine, but his family moved to Montreal when he was a baby. His upbringing was rooted in traditional Jewish ritual and learning. Eventually, Klein became active in Jewish communal life in Montreal and was an ardent Zionist. But above all, he was a poet and one of Canada’s leading modernists. All of these identities are on display in Klein’s last book, The Second Scroll, a profound – if dense – novella that was published in 1951.

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Posted on November 16, 2007

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Norman Mailer

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We’ve managed, though not aimed, to omit from the blog the passing of writer Norman Mailer last Saturday. Rather than try to compile some mediocre obituaries, I thought I would share a link to a fantastic one–penned by none other than Mailer himself in 1979 for Boston magazine as a semi-joke:

Norman Mailer passed away yesterday after celebrating his fifteenth divorce and sixteenth wedding. “I just don’t feel the old vim,� complained the writer recently. He was renowned in publishing circles for his blend of fictional journalism and factual fiction, termed by literary critic William Buckley: Contemporaneous Ratiocinative Aesthetical Prolegomena. Buckley was consequentially sued by Mailer for malicious construction of invidious acronyms. “Norman does take himself seriously,� was Mr. Buckley’s reply. “Of course he is the last of those who do.� (MORE)

Thanks to Jewlicious for the tip.

Posted on November 15, 2007

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Bringing Down Rubashkin’s

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

Apparently, Agriprocessors/Rubashkin’s — the largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse in the world — is in trouble again.

The PETA-challenged company issued a statement from VP Shalom Rubashkin yesterday, claiming that the Union is out slandering it.

It has come to my attention that you may have been the victim of a slanderous and patently false campaign by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. You may have received their misleading flyer entitled “Kosher Alert� or an automated phone call with misinformation about products produced by Agriprocessors. This is part of a textbook campaign by the Union to force a company into submission to unionize a plant even when it is against the wishes of the workers, which is the case at Agriprocessors.

The vicious tactics by the Union not withstanding, when someone makes allegations about practices in our company or the quality of our products, I take it personally. My family guarantees that all our products are safe and wholesome. Let me assure you there are no recalls or food safety issues with our products. We have a moral obligation to produce the safest products for our customers and we take that obligation very seriously. The Rubashkin family has been supplying high quality kosher meat and poultry for over fifty years. Mr. Aron Rubashkin has earned his reputation of trust for Kosher, quality and food safety. That is why consumers across America rely on our product every day.

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Posted on November 15, 2007

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Jewish Leadership & Philanthropy

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-Ariel Beery and Aharon Horwitz, the co-founders of the PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism, say that Jews need to “replace the current system of image-driven philanthropy with one based on value-creation and sustainable entrepreneurship� in part because the “distinction between for-profit and non-profit is becoming nearly obsolete.� (Haaretz)

-Drawing on his “dual experience as a Jewish cultural entrepreneur and as a venture-funded software entrepreneur� Jay Michaelson sets forth 5 principles for Jewish philanthropists seeking to revitalize American Judaism: “1) Innovation does not come from the mainstream… 2) Give organizations a chance to fail… 3) Invest in leaders and infrastructure …4) Believe in culture… 5) It’s the product, not the marketing.� (Forward)

-This year’s “Forward 50� is out, with a list of people who strongly impact American Jewry and Judaism. (Forward)

-And this years “Heeb 100�; these selections are noticeably more culturally oriented, and don’t necessarily have a distinctly Jewish impact. (Heeb)

Posted on November 14, 2007

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Steinhardt: Hebrew Charter Schools are the Answer

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For months we’ve been hearing about the Areivim Fund, the Michael Steinhardt-led, $100 million fund for…something.

Now we’re getting some clues to what that money’s for. And it’s surprising. Haaretz reports:

Through the nonprofit organization he is launching, the Areivim Philanthropic Group, Steinhardt, who made his billions as a hedge-fund pioneer and in other Wall Street activities, is drawing up plans for a series of Hebrew charter schools…

Hebrew charter schools, he [Steinhardt] says, “are the only serious possibility we have of there ever being a substantial proportion of the Jewish population that knows how to speak Hebrew and be literate enough about Judaism.”

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Posted on November 14, 2007

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Why Can’t Jews Fight Crime Too?

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comicbook.jpgSo, a couple of months ago I’m visiting my parents for the High Holidays and I’m watching Letterman, and Dave asks actor/screenwriter Seth Rogen about the rumors that he’s going to be writing and starring in a Green Hornet movie. Letterman infers that Rogen is an odd choice to play the dashing radio and TV hero (basically a high-tech Lone Ranger). To which Rogen shrugs and says, “Jews hate crime too! Why can’t Jews fight crime?�

This strikes me as interesting for any number of reasons. For one thing, Seth Rogen isn’t your father’s Jewish comedian. He’s a member of the new pantheon of hip, urban, modern celebra-Jews, like Sarah Silverman and Sasha Baron Cohen. I find that refreshing. I mean, I was getting a little sick of the whole stoop-shouldered, “Can I do your taxes?� type of Jew that so many people are familiar with.

And I think it’s interesting that Seth Rogen usually plays Jewish characters, but it’s not like you know he’s Jewish because he’ll pause in the middle of a scene and say, “Oy, my prostate is killing me!� You know he’s Jewish because he’ll make a raunchy reference to touching a Hebrew school classmate’s junk (as in The Forty Year Old Virgin), or he’ll wax rhapsodically about the bad-ass Jewish action heroes in the film Munich (as he did in Knocked Up). See, this is a Jewish character I can relate to.

It’s also interesting that Seth Rogen is primed to play The Green Hornet. Because that would make him the second plus-size hipster Jewish comedian IN A ROW who was developing a comic book movie project with the word “Green� in the title. See, not too long ago, it was announced that comedian (and fellow Red Sea Pedestrian) Jack Black was going to star in a movie based on the DC comics property Green Lantern, about an interplanetary cop in emerald tights.

Supposedly, the script would’ve been an action comedy. Too bad the project was put into turnaround, because it would’ve been a really interesting choice. Some comics fans balked at the idea of Jack Black being Green Lantern, because that would have automatically made the film a comedy. But those comics fans need to really start taking their Ritalin and stop taking this stuff so damn seriously.

Now the Jack Black Green Lantern project is now relegated to that “Woulda Shoulda Coulda� pile of film projects, and it does make me wonder: If the Seth Rogen Green Hornet movie ALSO falls by the wayside, does that mean that ANOTHER zaftig Jewish comedian gets to then develop a “Green Something� superhero project? Will we see Evan Handler (Californication, Sex & the City) as Green Arrow? Will Sarah Silverman gain a hundred pounds and play Green Flame? (Look it up. Better yet, don’t.) Is this just a trend that will continue until one of these “Green� projects actually gets made? The mind boggles…

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, www.ariekaplan.com.

Posted on November 14, 2007

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More on the GA and da Young Folk

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JTA’s Jacob Berkman has written up a detailed article about the “youth-focused” sessions at the GA. He quotes me criticizing the slight narcissism I sensed.

“A lot of it sounded like, ‘We want a seat at the table; tell us why it is good for us,’” said Daniel Septimus, the editor of myjewishlearning.com.

He said the UJC made a positive step, but it also needs to be more critical of the youth they are trying to attract because that would be real dialogue.

“I think it is a gut check for us,” said Septimus, 29. “Was the word responsibility mentioned by any of the speakers? Was there anything about us giving? There are many ways in which this conversation highlighted our vulnerabilities.

But because these were only a few quotes from a larger conversation, I want to reassert my position and give it some context.

Traditionally, I have been in the camp that was skeptical of UJC, sensing that there was a major generational divide about values, charity, and identity.

Additionally, I was proud to see my peers and friends rocking that mega-GA stage and concurred with virtually all of their messages. Dan Sieradski’s dismissal of the “Next Big Jewish Idea” was virtually word for word what I would have said.

But…

There’s a story about Rabbi Yitz Greenberg at the Rabbinical Council of America convention many years ago. After giving a speech (yes, that’s how long ago it was — when Rabbi Greenberg was invited to speak at the RCA), which must have alluded to his burgeoning thoughts about pluralism and the religious implications of the Holocaust, one of his burgeoning adversaries got up and said: “Rabbi Greenberg, after the Holocaust, is it better to be Orthodox, Reform, or Conservative?”

To which Rabbi Greenberg responded: “It doesn’t matter what you are, as long as you’re ashamed of it.”

The message: If you’re looking for things to criticize, start with yourself.

I completely agree that UJC was negligent the last few years in excluding younger voices from the GA. This year, when they took a step in the right — inclusive — direction, there was an interesting side-effect. It offered us the opportunity to see ourselves more clearly, to look for things to improve in ourselves, and look for things to praise about the “other” — UJC in this case.

Keshet’s Idit Klein aside, nearly every young voice I heard at the GA spoke about identity and meaning, which highlighted for me all the things they didn’t speak about and all the things UJC does — and does well.

I don’t want to come across as too harsh a critic of “the youth” or too easy on UJC, I just want to point out that the whole experience was a step in the right direction, as it enabled us to see ourselves and the UJC more clearly.

Posted on November 14, 2007

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Jew vs. Jew in the Name of Religion

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-When a custodial parent and a 13-year have sharply different religious views, whose view should prevail? (Forward)

-The rapidly growing ultraorthodox city of Beitar Illit is split by a bitter election struggle between the current mayor and his deputy. But the contest is part of a broader struggle between the Hassidic and non-Hassidic (“Lithuanian�) factions in the ultra-Orthodox world, as voters tend to cast their ballots as instructed by rabbis who don’t even live in the town. (Haaretz)

-And a Sephardi view on the increasing Ashkenazi-Sephardi tension in the Haredi world. (The Jerusalem Post)

-Sherri Mandell takes umbrage at all the criticism and ridicule being hurled at Orthodox Jews. (The Jewish Week)

-Historian Rabbi David Berger, who has been a relentless critic of Chabad, has been appointed head of undergrad Jewish studies at Yeshiva University, and this does not sit well with some. (Forward)

Posted on November 13, 2007

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From the GA: Condi Speaks

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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just finished her address to the GA. She did everything right that Howard Dean did wrong on Sunday.

Not surprisingly, she spoke mostly about support for Israel and the Iranian threat, but — mixed in with this obvious political pandering — were some statements about the need for a Palestinian state, and at one point began a sentence: “When Israel occupied the future Palestine…”

I am hardly a supporter of the current administration, but I give Condi credit for an accomplished speech.

Posted on November 13, 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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