Monthly Archives: May 2008

Object Origins

This entry was posted in Culture, Holidays on by .

Recently Dunkin’ Donuts pulled a television spot featuring talk show host and Food Network personality Rachael Ray after a Fox news commentator associated it with terrorists. In the ad, Ray is wearing a scarf that Michelle Malkin said in her nationally syndicated column resembled a kiffiyeh, Middle Eastern garb that is “popularized by Yasser Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists
appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos.”ray.jpg

This story is not surprising. In today’s world of globalization and the constant circulation of trends and goods, it’s no wonder that
Rachael Ray ended up wearing what some call a “terrorist scarf�.

Objects such as this kiffiyeh seem to be popular more and more as ‘exotic’ becomes the new cool. But did Ray’s stylist examine the meaning behind the object and the origins which it holds so clearly?

This reminds me of the origins of an ad campaign which I recently discovered: “Diamonds are forever.�

In 1947 as sales of diamonds were declining, an ad agency devised a strategy for DeBeers to sell more diamonds and the famous slogan was created. But more importantly the idea of a diamond engagement ring was born. A symbol which many today attribute to folklore and tradition was conceived of in an advertising agency less than 50 years ago.

With the Holiday of Shavuot dawning on us the origin of Rachael Ray’s kiffiyeh and the diamond ring seem more important to me. From the objects we wear to the social norms and trends we accept so easily, we sometimes lose sight of their origins. The Jewish people have been a nomadic people for most of history, wandering different lands and taking on new customs and traditions. Shavuot literally meaning “weeks” and celebrates the greatest object the Jewish people have, the Torah, which was received on Shavuot at Mount Sinai. The Torah to many people today is seen as an obscure text which is only studied by “very religious” or “scholarly” people.

However, the Torah is the integral link of the relationship between God and the Jewish people. Many people do not read the text of the Torah and simply refer to its laws and narratives as something foreign to them. Anticipating Shavuot, I cannot help but wonder if the Torah has become just a slogan or an object whose meaning and origin have been altered or forgotten. More importantly, has the Jewish people lost sight of its origin, which we mark and celebrate with Shavuot?

Posted on May 30, 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

LGBT Issues

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

Tomer Kamerling argues that gay pride parades no longer do anything to advance rights of homosexuals in Israel and hence should be discontinued. (YNet)

Educators are given specific advice on how to welcome GLBT Jews into the community. (Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

Israel has stated that it will instruct its ministry’s Population Registry to recognize overseas adoptions done by of same-sex couples as long as the couple presents a valid adoption certificate from a foreign country. (Haaretz)

Posted on May 30, 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

H is for Hydrox

This entry was posted in General on by .

Rejoice 20 and 30 something young Jews! We can now relive our childhood!

Hydrox cookies are back on the market to celebrate their 100th year.

Prior to 1998, Oreos were not kosher, and Jewish children snacked on this other black and white sandwich cookie. However Kellogg’s pulled them off the shelves in 2003 during to poor competition against the now-Kosher Oreo.

Now with “Droxies” are back, all I need is a Crystal Pepsi.

Posted on May 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

NYC Event on the Rwandan Genocide

This entry was posted in General on by .

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The Bronfman Youth Fellowships, one of MJL’s partners, is hosting the following event in New York City. RSVP information can be found at the bottom.

Jews & Tutsis: Oral History as Justice
Remembering the Rwandan Genocide with

Taylor Krauss (BYFI 1997)
Director of oral history archives, Voices of Rwanda

Eugenie Mukeshimana
Rwanda genocide survivor and activist

Moderated by:
Dan Kurtz-Phelan (BYFI 1998)
Senior Editor, Foreign Affairs

Wednesday, June 4, 2008
7-9 PM
The Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at NYU
7 East 10th Street, New York, NY

Guests are welcome
For more information or to RSVP please click here

Posted on May 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

Media Matters

This entry was posted in History on by .

Donna Rosenthal gives some examples of the astonishing ignorance of many media figures about Israel. (The Forward)

The French Court of Appeals overturned the libel conviction of Philippe Karsenty, who had asserted that France 2 and its Middle East correspondent Charles Enderlin’s anti-Israel reporting on the death of the Palestinian child Mohammed al-Dura in the Gaza Strip in 2000 was “a fake news report, … a staged hoax.� The ruling doesn’t say that Karsenty’s charges were correct. (Jerusalem Post)

An analysis of how the British press reported on Israel’s 60th anniversary. (Religious Intelligence)

Israel’s Knesset struggles with a bill designed to allow the government to filter websites, quite possibly blocking US news sites. (Haaretz)

Posted on May 27, 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

Hello Again.

This entry was posted in History, Practices on by .

Dear Conservative Movement,
It’s been a few months since I’ve had to write you a nasty letter, and I was proud of that. You’ve come out against Agriprocessors and even worked on opening up a Washington, DC office like I asked.

But then you go and screw up everything. With independent minyanim, nonetheless. In your latest misguiding, you’re offering $2500 to any independent minyan who will develop a relationship directly with a USCJ congregations (aka sell their soul).

You’re doing this because “during the last 10-15 years many independent prayer or ‘davenning’ communities of young adults have emerged, often generated by those whose commitment to Jewish life grew from experiences in United Synagogue Youth (USY), Camp Ramah and Solomon Schechter Day Schools.”

But in trying to be the sugar daddy to these minyanim, you are missing the whole point. It’s your USCJ-affiliated congregations that aren’t meeting the needs of alumni of your programs. Instead of trying to buy them out (at a ridiculously low price) you need reevaluate what’s wrong in your own shuls and fix that first.

Bringing strong minyans in association with your synagogues will likely both hurt their credibility as independent and unnecessarily place restraints on their approaches to davenning. Renting space is one thing, but my guess is that “developing a relationship” in your mind means more than that.

Improving your own congregations and helping them to meet the needs of the “cool” 20- and 30-something Jews that used to rock out at Ramah and USY will both make you a stronger movement and bring those back to your “derech.”

It’s a good first attempt, but you should probably go back to the drawing board.

Hope you have a great summer, and I’m sure we’ll talk before the High Holidays.

Love,
Meredith

Posted on May 27, 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

Blogging Avot: Shut Up, Please

This entry was posted in Practices, Texts on by .

Judaism may be a religion of action (mitzvot), but speech — words — are, perhaps, considered equally powerful. In the creation story of Genesis I, God speaks the world into being. (“And God said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.”)

In addition, the perils of lashon ha-ra (evil speech) are well documented in Jewish sources.

The rabbis [of classical Judaism in late antiquity], in inveighing against it, often resorted to hyperbolic language, e.g. in saying that slander, talebearing, and evil talk were worse than the three cardinal sins of murder, immorality, and idolatry. Of one who indulges in leshon ha-ra they say that he denies the existence of God, and that the Almighty declares “I and he cannot live in the same world� (Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 15b). (MORE)

The first chapter of Pirkei Avot has several admonitions relating to speech, including two toward the very end of the chapter.

15. Shammai said: Make your study of the Torah a fixed habit. Say little and do much, and receive all men with a cheerful face.

17. Shimon his [Rabban Gamaliel's] son said: All my days have I grown up among the wise and I have not found anything better for a man than silence. Studying Torah is not the most important thing rather fulfilling it. Whoever multiplies words causes sin.

Earlier in the chapter, Yosi ben Yochanan warned against speaking to women too much and these later, general warnings about speech lessen the misogynistic blow of Yosi’s words a bit.

While Shimon, here, does advocate silence, the overall message does not seem to be the value of complete silence as is found in the monastic traditions of other faiths. Rather, the Rabbis seem to be warning against excessive speech. And, perhaps, in particular, speaking about doing things.

Indeed, speech and action are different domains and to mix the two is to confuse the two. This is, perhaps, why excessive speech could lead to sin. By speaking about what one must do, one can muddle the purpose of it, perhaps even talk oneself out of it.

Better just to do. And to keep one’s mouth shut whenever possible.

Posted on May 22, 2008

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Make Your Own Mitzvot

This entry was posted in Practices, Texts on by .

“There are 613 mitzvot (commandments from God) that all Jews are supposed to follow. Some of them are easy to understand and apply to modern day life, while others seem antiquated and irrelevant. We invite you to ponder the 613 rules and tosubmit your own (re)interpretation of what they mean to us today.”

This introduction to the (RE)VELATION project has led to some pretty interesting takes on Jewish law:

531. Do not sell a field devoted to the Lord becomes Replacing the Rose Bowl with condominiums is out of the question.

21. Affix the mezuzah to the doorposts and gates of your house becomes Letting people know you’re Jewish will boost property values.

204. Do not swear needlessly becomes it’s ok to call someone an “asshole” if he really is one.

This project, which I’m am loving, will will debut at DAWN, a special event at grand opening of the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco on June 7th.

Posted on May 22, 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

Observing Shabbat

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

A new water tower will allow the Israeli, haredi town of Modi’in Illit to have “completely shomer Shabbos waterâ€?; inhabitants can receive water on Shabbos “without human intervention. The water tower is filled to the top before Shabbos and the pumps bringing in water … are turned off at the beginning of Shabbos.â€? (Shema Yisrael Torah Network)

Some haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem refuse to use electricity produced by Israel Electric on Shabbat, because of concern that IE unnecessarily desecrates Shabbat to produce electricity. Plans are formulated to provide kosher, but significantly more expensive, kosher electricity. (JPost)

Chief Military Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Avichai Ronsky defends himself against charges of desecrating the Shabbat, when he decided to accompany a combat unit to an operation in the Gaza Strip. (YNet)

Posted on May 21, 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

Where’s the Beef?

This entry was posted in History, Practices on by .

Much as been written about the ongoing crisis at the AgriProcessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa and the repercussions. JTA even has an audio report of how the raid unfolded.

But only a few articles have been addressing the potential shortage of kosher meat. The Forward wrote:

Rabbi Seth Mandel, the Orthodox Union’s head of kosher slaughter, estimated that AgriProcessors produces around 55% of glatt kosher beef sold in the United States and that the plant in Postvillle produces 85% of AgriProcessors beef. The company also produces the greatest share of glatt kosher poultry on the market.

According to Mandel, the impact of a production crisis at AgriProcessors would be most acutely felt in regions that have relatively small numbers of people who keep kosher. In those areas, AgriProcessors meat — sold under brand names including Aaron’s Best, Supreme Kosher and Rubashkin — is usually the only kosher meat available. (MORE)

Meanwhile, JTA reports that “Agriprocessors, which markets its products as Aaron’s Best and Rubashkin’s, provides an estimated 60 percent of the nation’s kosher meat and 40 percent of its kosher poultry.” (MORE)

That’s a lot of kosher meat. And Aaron’s is frequently priced much less than the other brands (which now makes sense). With food prices rising dramatically due to the increasing price of commodities and fuel, there’s no telling what a kosher meat shortage could mean for Jews.

Posted on May 20, 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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