Monthly Archives: January 2008

Photography in Focus

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-In “Israel Through My Lens�, David Rubinger “gives a spirited account of his six-decade, seven-war career as Time-Life’s photographer in Israel.� Includes 6 photos, including which was by far his most famous, which was “stolen by other photographers — who took credit for it — and appropriated by the Israeli information apparatus.� (Forward)

-And David Rubinger talks about his work, those Mossad rumors, and why his most famous photo is not his best work. (Nextbook)

-A look at the work of Maxim Salomon, one of Israel’s photojournalism pioneers, and “the most charismatic person you can imagine, a man who captured women’s hearts.â€? (Haaretz)

-A new Canadian exhibition showcases photographer Roman Vishniac’s images of traditional Jewish life in Eastern Europe on the eve of the Second World War. (Globe and Mail)

Posted on January 31, 2008

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(Another) Foreskin’s Lament

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Erica Jong has never held her tongue, so why would she when talking about her grandson’s circumcision? Answer: She wouldn’t.

On The Huffington Post today Jong rants about her suspicion that the covenantal cut damages a Jewish man’s attitude toward sex.

Yesterday, Darwin turned eight days old. Darwin is my second grandson. You know what that means if you’re Jewish. The briss, the brit mila, the covenant of circumcision. Or as I like to think of it: Next time boychick, we take the whole thing!

Ever wonder why Jewish boys are so fucked up about sex? Ever wonder why they fall for mile-high models from Slovenia who wear those big cold crosses? Ever wonder why they like Chinese girls, Chinese-American girls, Blonde shiksa cheerleaders from Kansas? Or those cool black models who dance like Beyonce?

It’s because of the Covenant with Jahwah or G-d: I take this piece of your pecker, with your mother, father, grandfathers and grandmothers looking on, teary eyed. And you think of nothing but your pecker for the rest of your life! (MORE)

Posted on January 30, 2008

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Let There Be Light

This entry was posted in History on by .

I generally don’t enjoy people who obsess about the media being anti-Israel, but this egregious case of bias is rather ridiculous.

Apparently Hamas has been staging candlelit parliament sessions in Gaza and blaming the lack of power on Israeli blockades and power cuts. But as Gawker points out in this Reuters photo, there is light coming in behind the drawn curtains:

hamasmeeting.jpg

The Jerusalem Report interviews confused journalists who attended what they found out to be staged  events in the middle of the day.

Posted on January 30, 2008

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Do They Need A Program Director?

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

This past week, The Simpsons featured the Hillel from Marge’s college days in a flashback.

So what else does Hillel International do but publish a press release about the opening of the C. Montgomery Burns Hillel Center for Jewish Campus Life at Springfield University. Including quotes from actual Hillel president Wayne L. Firestone, Springfield Hillel Executive Director Reuven Murdock, and Krusty the Clown, the actor Herschel Shmoikel Pinkus Yerucham Krustofsky, the news item shows us there’s still some sense of humor left in Jewish communal life:

In addition to the Krustofski Chapel, the new 50,000-square-foot facility will feature an Olympic-size pool, shuffleboard courts, a parcheesi room, laundromat, hookah bar, Duff-pong tables, helipad, library, study rooms and a kosher dining facility with a 24-hour, all-you-can-eat cholent bar.

Springfield resident Homer Simpson was particularly pleased with the cholent bar. Simpson explained that he paid for his wife’s college tuition by serving as the Hillel “Shabbes boy.” “I took the job for the money but I stayed for the free jelly donuts,” Simpson said. (MORE)

springfieldhillel.jpg

Posted on January 30, 2008

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Civilized Discourse

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-Rabbi Avi Shafran takes a dour view of blogs: responsible blogs, in the Jewish realm are “decidedly in the minority. And even many responsible blogs allow postings of comments from people with very different value systems.� (NJ Jewish News)

-But blogger Richard Silverstein says that blogs have provided an alternative to the views of mainstream leaders, have pounced on errors made by Jewish media, provided coverage of the second Lebanon war, and more. (Haaretz)

-Two Jerusalem rabbis, one a Yeshiva head, have been indicted on charges of racist incitement regarding anti-Arab statements they made during a rally protesting the establishing of a bilingual school for Jews and Arabs. (The Jerusalem Post)

-Rob Eshman is concerned that “too many people in the Jewish community have become stuck in a very dangerous place: their comfort zone. They are loathe to confront and really hear ideas that differ from their own.� (Jewish Journal)

-Chabad Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe told an audience of rabbis in Tel Aviv that the punishment for “The terrible traitor Ehud Olmert,â€? as well as Vice Premier Haim Ramon, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak “should be to hang from the gallows“–this to a “cheering crowdâ€?–for their dealings with the Palestinians. (The Jerusalem Post)

-But negative reactions even within Chabad to these comments by Wolpe, “the most popular leader of the messianic strand of Chabad,� are testing Chabad’s determination that movement should not split in two and the factions should not publicly undermine each other. (Forward)

Posted on January 30, 2008

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The Next Big Idea

This entry was posted in Beliefs on by .

When philanthropist Charles Bronfman announced his intention to fund a two-year visiting chair at Brandeis for someone who could come up with the “Next Big Jewish Idea” some people scratched their heads.

The Jewish Week‘s Gary Rosenblatt expressed concerns with the notion that a single idea could save us and suggested that Judaism already had a lot of big ideas, among them: monotheism, Torah, and redemption.

Then came word that Bronfman himself was scratching his head, disturbed by some of the early applications (including a new Braveheart movie with a Jew as the central character).

It seemed there was some miscommunication about the purpose of the prize, but this didn’t surprise me. Brandeis’ Jonathan Sarna, who is administering the chair, has said that the goal was to come up with another idea like birthright israel. And yet the paradigm for the contest was a similar one held in 1929 and eventually won by Mordecai Kaplan for his masterpiece Judaism as a Civilization.

Kaplan’s book is a 500-page tome, hardly meant for the masses; whereas birthright israel is the ultimate populist movement. The creator of something like the former would likely feel right at home with a visiting professorship at Brandeis. But the latter?

There seemed to be a contradiction between the academic setting for the prize and its programmatic goals.

Now the candidates have been announced. JTA reports: “The finalists are Jerusalem Post editorial page editor and columnist Saul Singer; Harvard doctoral candidate Yehuda Kurtzer; author Anita Diamant; Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the founder of the Jewish Values Network; and Ariel Beery, the publisher of PresenTense magazine.”

It’s a good group of names, and serious congrats to our friends Ariel and Yehuda — but the programmatic/academic mystery remains. Why is a university the setting for this prize, given the backgrounds of (most of) these candidates?

I’ve defended Rav Shmuley at times, but I’m not quite sure I’m ready for Professor Shmuley.

Posted on January 30, 2008

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Psychedelics, Informants, & More…

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-Joseph Epstein provides a comprehensive and generally favorable review of the PBS documentary “The Jewish Americans.� (National Endowment for the Humanities)

-The editor of a Jewish community monthly magazine in Vienna “who brought the wrath of Austria’s right-wing forces upon himself after accusing an Austrian professor of defaming Jews� is acquitted of causing the professor’s suicide. (Baltimore Jewish Times)

-An appreciation of recently deceased Russian historian Rashid Kaplanov, who explored subjects as diverse as the Karaites of the Black Sea region, the Karaims, a sect of Jewish origin in Lithuania, and “the conversion to the Russian Orthodox church of Sephardic Jews in 18th-century Moscow� and “the intellectual resurgence of Jewish culture among the remnants of communities almost destroyed by the Nazis and the Communists.� (The Times Online)

-Jay Michaelson on Psychedelics and the Future of Spirituality. (Jewcy)

-The issue of mesira, or informing, “has prompted a round of collective soul-searching in segments of Los Angeles’ Jewish community.â€? (Forward)

-And Allan Nadler takes a deep look at the “violent hatred, especially within Hasidic culture, for informants.� (Forward)

Posted on January 29, 2008

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Finally Good News From Hollywood

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Culture on by .

MSNBC is reporting that Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore have left the Kabbalah kraze:

“Ashton and Demi used to have an impeccable attendance record,â€? says one source with close ties to the Kabballah Centre in L.A. Another source close to the couple says it’s been “monthsâ€? since the two attended services or participated in the Shabbat dinner after Friday services. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Kutcher was just last week spotted shopping on Robertson Blvd. without his trademark red string. (MORE)

Could Madonna be next?

Posted on January 29, 2008

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Israel Academia Monitor

This entry was posted in History on by .

Last week, YNet reprinted an article by Aaron Klein, which purports to be about anti-Zionist positions held by Israeli academics, but is really only a summary of positions published on a single website — Israel Academia Monitor.

It’s quite possible that many of those quoted on this website are, indeed, anti-Zionist. But Klein’s article does absolutely nothing to investigate the website’s claims. He merely summarizes them.

And some of the site’s claims seem a bit hyperbolic.

The first red flag for me: “Some 20% to 25% of the humanities and social sciences staff in Israel’s universities and colleges have ‘expressed extreme anti-Zionist positions,’ according to Israel Academia Monitor.”

I won’t rule out this possibility, but it seems remarkably unlikely, considering that a large percentage of humanities and social science faculty would never have any reason to take public views on Israel (e.g. those who teach Spanish literature, American political theory, behavioral psychology).

It’s also notable that Klein’s article is reprinted from WorldNetDaily, a popular but far-right leaning, news site. Again, I don’t have enough information to comment on Israel Academia Monitor, but Klein’s article does little to critically fill in the story.

A strange article for Ynet to reprint.

Posted on January 28, 2008

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Young Jews and Israel

This entry was posted in Beliefs, History on by .

Last fall there was a good deal of blog chatter and press coverage about a study released by Steve M. Cohen and Ari Kelman that found that “American Jews’ connection to Israel drops off with each subsequent generation.”

But little was done with that information.

Now Sh’ma, in its latest issue on the Jewish communal world, sits down with 5 people (including Kelman) to discuss role of Israel in the identity of Jewish young people today.

As Susan Berrin, Sh’ma’s editor writes:

Israel has been for so many of my generation as essential to our Jewish lives as ether, a preoccupation so keen, so inspiring, often so exasperating that it was unavoidable and no less so for those, like myself, who have lived outside its borders. Judging from our roundtable, it seems that the next generation of Jews — including those actively engaged in Jewish life — do not experience Israel as a formative, crucial factor. While young Orthodox Jews, on the whole, continue to embrace Israel fervently and with little equivocation, they stand out as the exceptions. These impressions startled me, and will no doubt surprise some of you, too. (MORE)

Posted on January 28, 2008

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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