Monthly Archives: July 2008

Jack Nash z”l

This entry was posted in General on by .

Jack Nash, a hedge fund pioneer and important Jewish philanthropist, passed away yesterday at the age of 79.

Mr. Nash was one of the founders of the New York Sun and the newspaper published an editorial today in his memory.

After the jump, I’ve pasted an email that Nigel Savage of Hazon just sent out, remembering Mr. Nash’s indispensable role in helping Hazon get off the ground.

Baruch dayan emet.

Continue reading

Posted on July 31, 2008

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Nuclear Warfare & Obama’s Feelings…

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Culture, General on by .

When Barack Obama met with members of the Democratic Caucus to speak about his tour of the Middle East, he had a feeling.

“Nobody said this to me directly, but I get the feeling from my talks that if the sanctions don’t work, Israel is going to strike Iran,” Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, was quoted as saying, according to ABC News, which cited multiple sources. (MORE)

Hmm, I know Barack had the best intentions when he said this, but is it really a good idea to say you have a feeling about nuclear warfare?

(HT: Matthue Roth)

Posted on July 31, 2008

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It Takes a Nation of 150,000

This entry was posted in History on by .

In Black Orthodox hip-hop M.C. Y-Love’s song State of the Nation, he reels off statistics gleaned from the National Jewish Population Survey. After listing the number of Jews who become Orthodox, change their last names, and buy trees from JNF, he lets loose with the line: “One out of 44 looks like me.”

He’s talking about Black Jews. Traditionally a small slice in the pie of American Jewish life, the Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco reports that there are over 150,000 Black Jews living in the USA alone. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution does a survey, from ATL to Silver Spring, looking at how Black Jews blend in–or don’t–to congregations.

It doesn’t look at predominantly Black synagogues, nor does it delve into the Black Israelites in Chicago and Atlanta, nor does it focus on Ethiopian Jews–which, given how many people are quick to relegate the existence of Black Jews to Israel and crazy Bible-thumping folks on the street corner, is actually kind of a relief. (Nor does it discuss the awesome and venerable Rabbi Joshua Nelson, the progenitor of kosher gospel…but he’s probably worth a post all by himself.)

Posted on July 31, 2008

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Islamic Movement: Knowledge is Dangerous

This entry was posted in Beliefs on by .

Chabad is nothing if not well-organized. Each year, they release a set of uniform lesson plans to literally hundreds of tiny synagogues, learning groups, and D.I.Y. rabbis, covering holidays, the Jewish life cycle, texts, and other little nuggets of information…basically, it’s like Hebrew School for adults. Or, really, anyone who shows up.

As part of their curriculum for Tisha b’Av and the Three Weeks, a period of time which marks the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Chabad put together some learning about the Temple.

This is not sitting well with some people, according to the Jerusalem Post.

“We view this as a serious and drastic move toward the fruition of extremist organizations to establish a temple in place of al-Aksa Mosque,” said a spokesman for the Islamic Movement (I don’t know if this is a name for a specific organization, or a wider platform, like “the Conservative Movement”). “This represents a real danger to al-Aksa.”

So, uh, they must be learning about how the al-Aksa mosque was, some might say unjustly, constructed on the site of the Temple, and how now, just as unjustly, Jews are only permitted by the Waqf authorities to ascend the Temple Mount a few days a year….right?

Well, no. The JPost article goes on to explain:

The courses, which are being attended by “tens of thousands” of young students, include a “virtual tour” of the Temple Mount and explanations of daily Temple life, as well as the job of the kohanim (priests), [Chabad spokesman Menachem] Brod said.

In contrast to members of the modern Orthodox Zionist rabbinical leadership, Chabad hassidim [sic] do not even ascend the Temple Mount, he said.

Oh, yeah. Knowledge is dangerous.

Posted on July 30, 2008

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Lion Bites Rabbi

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

That’s the title of the original post from Nosson Slifkin, the Zoo Rabbi, and it’s hard not to use — that is, after all, what happens in the clip below. But I don’t understand why Rabbi Slifkin’s website, ZooTorah, isn’t visited by everyone in the world — it’s so interesting, and it’s so weird. His book Sacred Monsters has been perpetually on my Amazon Wishlist (hint, hint), and is renown by Talmud experts and Jewish academics because of the thoroughness and accuracy with which he matches up Talmudic descriptions of fauna with their representatives in the contemporary animal kingdom.

Plus, hello — videos of a rabbi riding an elephant and getting bit by a lion. How cool is that?

Posted on July 30, 2008

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Hilkhot Kotel

This entry was posted in History, Practices on by .

The story of Barack Obama’s stolen Western Wall note — and its subsequent publication in Ma’ariv — is interesting for many reasons.

Not least of which is the implication that Jewish laws were in some way violated when Obama’s prayer was published in the newspaper.

Last week, the kotel’s resident rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, criticized Ma’ariv noting that: “The notes placed between the stones of the Western Wall are between a person and his maker. It is forbidden to read them or make any use of them.”

Though I didn’t realize there were halakhot (Jewish laws) about Western Wall notes, I do get the sense that Rabbi Rabinowitz is speaking about religious statutes, as elsewhere he referred to the removal of the note as “sacrilegious.”

If so, I’d be curious to know where Rabbi Rabinowitz derives these laws from. Because it seems like Ma’ariv knows one of their loopholes.

Some are now calling for a boycott of Ma’ariv, and in response, the newspaper offered a very odd defense:

“Barack Obama’s note was approved for publication in the international media even before he put in the Kotel, a short time after he wrote it at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. In any case, since Obama is not a Jew, publishing the note does not constitute an infringement on his right to privacy.”

Excuse me? Since “Obama is not a Jew”? Is this one of the “note halakhot“? What could Ma’ariv possibly mean by this statement?

And how could they have been stupid enough to say it out loud?

Posted on July 29, 2008

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When Archie Met Sammy

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

JTA reporter Jacob Berkman, who was himself the subject of these pages a few weeks ago, today reported that
Michael “Mickey” Ross, a former producer of All in the Family and Three’s Company, is leaving his fortune to Jewish studies departments and endowing a Yiddish chair at the City College of New York.

But Ross’s real legacy is one that will not soon be forgotten: He was one of the masterminds behind the second season of All in the Family–specifically, the episode where notorious racist and anti-Semite Archie Bunker, after stumbling across his briefcase, met the greatest entertainer of the 20th century.

Posted on July 29, 2008

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Israel and the Internet

This entry was posted in General, History on by .

We know that just about everyone who comes to MyJewishLearning.com is looking for Jewish answers, in some way.

Answers to questions on a variety of topics about Judaism, but answers no less. And answers that they could often get from other sources–books, classes, and most obviously Jewish scholars and rabbis.

With the growing number of “Ask-the-Rabbi” features on the Internet, it’s no surprise that the role of rabbis in the communal sphere is changing.

But how does one measure this?

Gesher, an educational organization devoted to pluralism Israeli style, recently conducted a poll about those Israelis who turn to rabbis online for answers:

Amongst the surfers who use the relevant Q&As, 58% explained that the internet is more accessible to them than rabbis and 10% said that they do not have contact with any rabbi. (MORE)

The most surprising number was the percent of people who claim to not use the Internet at all for Jewish purposes–72%. Jewish purposes includedclarifying details regarding religious services or related information like the address of the local rabbinate, a nearby mikveh (ritual bath), or a kosher restaurant.

We at MJL can only hope that more American Jews are turning to the web.

Posted on July 29, 2008

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Search engine likes Messianic Jews

This entry was posted in Culture, Texts on by .

Today’s New York Times ran an article about Cuil a new search engine started by a bunch of former Google staffers.

Mr. Costello, a former researcher at Stanford, said that with 120 billion Web pages, Cuil’s search index is larger than any other. The company uses a form of data mining to group Web pages by content, which makes the search engine more efficient, he said. Instead of showing results as short snippets of text and images with links, it displays longer entries and uses more pictures. It also provides tools to help users further refine their queries.

I decided to take Cuil (apparently pronounced “cool”) for a spin in Jew Land and got some interesting results.

When I searched “Judaism,” the page pulled up results with three tags (in addition to “All Results” and “More”): Reform Judaism, Judaism 101, and the all-important Messianic Judaism.

Oops.

Screen_Cuil_8.jpg

Posted on July 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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