Growing up in the South, I was always amazed that some schools and institutions closed on the High Holidays or at least worked major events around them. That is something foreign in parts of the country where there are less Jews.
But this story, from Massachusetts, shows an extremely high level of sensitivity:
For Massachusetts retailers and their customers, the summer sales tax holiday has become an annual tradition. But for Jews observing Tisha Bâ€™av, the opportunity to take advantage of this summerâ€™s savings would have been lost without the keen eyes of a local legislator.
â€œFor observant Jews, if there are goings on at synagogue or they want to use that day as a day of prayer, thatâ€™s the primary role of that day, and I would never recommend having something as significant as a sales tax holiday [then],â€? said Cynthia Creem, a Massachusetts state senator and the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Revenue.
Creem received the original proposal for this yearâ€™s tax holiday from the committeeâ€™s House Chair, Rep. John Binienda, which suggested the tax-free weekend be held on Aug. 9 and 10.
She immediately cross-checked the dates with her officeâ€™s Jewish calendar and realized they would conflict with Tisha Bâ€™av, which begins at sundown on Aug. 9 and lasts until sundown on Aug. 10. (MORE)
The tax holiday was moved to the following weekend.
I’m not going to reprint it (although, if you’ve got two and a quarter seconds, it’s easy to Google), but following Obama’s visit to the Western Wall last Friday before Shabbat, a yeshiva student filched the note that he wrote to God and stuck in.
The ensuing saga has been pretty wild to follow. The Israeli daily Maariv published the note. Predictably, Maariv’s rivals slammed it, as did the international media. The chief rabbi of the Western Wall decried both the theft and the publication, which is actually pretty cool. And then the yeshiva student who stole it went on TV and apologized.
Shall we count the ways that Israel is like no other country in the world?
- People actually pray! Constantly!
- People pay attention to other people praying!
- People condemn other people for brute invasions of privacy that, compared to American tabloids, are like child’s play.
- (And that, compared to British tabloids, are like freakin’ baby’s play.)
- Public officials speak out against trashing political candidates!
- People apologize when they did things that are wrong!
Rabbi Yonah just wrote up an intriguing and impassioned piece about the letter–saying, in effect, that, whether or not it was a publicity stunt, it was a credible testament to Obama’s beliefs:
Cynics will say that the letter is too good – that he must have known, or in fact even set up this whole thing. They will say that he used Judaismâ€™s holiest site to pursue more votes from Jews with this letter. Well duh, as my kids say. Every politician that has ever visited the Kotel did it with an eye to Jewish votes. What is more impressive are the contents of the letter.
So, yeah. That’s the difference between American scandals and Israeli scandals. (Now insert your favorite Olmert/Peres/Omri Sharon/Moshe Katsav joke. Sigh.)
Edit: Ma’ariv has just announced that the note was pre-approved for publication by Obama’s campaign. So….
Not that this hasn’t been beaten, bludgeoned, and shechted to death, but: Rubashkin’s is in even more trouble. Yesterday’s front-page New York Times article says that more than 20 underage workers were found, as young as 13, and working night shifts; meanwhile, Jewschool covers the protests in Postville, where over 1500 people rallied for…jeez, illegal immigrants? cows? Take your pick.
Look. The fact is, a lot of bad stuff went down at that plant. And the fact is, while Agriprocessors upper management doubtlessly knew about some of this, exaggerations are abounding all over. My cousin Rabbi Yossi said that the best thing Aaron Rubashkin can do is take out a full-page ad in the New York Times with his phone number and say, “I did a bad thing, and I’m sorry. But this is getting out of hand. I’m here for your questions and concerns, and you should feel free to give me a call.” If there’s one thing Jews know about, it’s bad publicity, from the Golden Calf down to blood libel. And we’re still not good at PR. What, people of the world, is the deal?
But, even in the worst of times, the Times still has its sense of irony.
“Some of these boys donâ€™t even shave,” the lawyer for some Agriprocessors workers is quoted as saying. “Theyâ€™re goofy. Theyâ€™re teenagers.” I think she’s talking about her clients (uh, yikes)…but seriously, couldn’t she be talking about the rabbis at the plant as well?
Todays’ New York Times has an extended profile of Israeli investor (and Zhang Ziyi fiance) Vivi Nevo.
Who is Mr. Nevo? An Israeli who took a modest inheritance from his family and parlayed it into a sizable fortune through savvy investing, much of it in media and Internet companies â€” and into connections in the media world.
Behind the scenes, his influence on the media industry is subtle. For upstart Internet companies, he has been an important broker of relationships with traditional firms; and for Time Warner, in particular, he was an advocate, when the Yahoo takeover battle erupted, of trying to assemble a three-way partnership among Yahoo, Microsoftâ€™s MSN and Time Warnerâ€™s AOL.
Of all the characters the media business attracts â€” and creates, for that matter â€” perhaps no one is more remarked upon, wondered about or marveled at than Mr. Nevo. Among his many overlapping circles of friends, nearly all say that Mr. Nevo is a force in their lives: a loyal friend, a trusted conveyor and keeper of information and someone who never forgets a birthday or a bar mitzvah.
Ben Bresky, the most prolific (if not the most obsessive) Jewish and Israeli music blogger out there, also hosts a radio show. In recognition of the Three Weeks and the custom of not listening to music, he did an all-out spoken word poetry jam that you can listen to either streaming
or via download. It features a zillion different folks calling in from America and Israel and sharing their favorite poems…and five points if you can quote a line from my poem back at me Monday morning.
Good Shabbos, y’all.
Last night on my daily supermarket run I picked up some Full Circle Shrimp for the whole family. I had never tasted shrimp so good…maybe it was the way we spiced it, the family gathering, or maybe it was the Hashgacha.
This morning I awoke to a blaring kashrut alert in my inbox:
Full Circle Shrimp
Brands: Full Circle
Products: Assorted Frozen Shrimp Products
Company: Topco Associates LLC- Skokie, IL
These products are bearing an unauthorized OU symbol and are not certified kosher by the Orthodox Union. Corrective action is being taken. Consumers spotting these products are requested to contact the Orthodox Union at 212-613-8241 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Alan Jay Sufrin says: Score one for those against interfaith marriage.
A woman in Chicago is claiming that, on a visit to Ramallah with her husband and their four daughters, she was thrown out of her family-in-law’s house, told by her husband that he’s marrying a Muslim woman, and that he’s keeping their daughters.
Colleen Davis Bargouthi, a Christian, said after returning with her Muslim husband to his homeland, he announced he was going to divorce her, and planned to marry another, Muslim woman. He also threw her out of his family home.
“I was being abused physically and mentally by my husband, Davis Bargouthi said. “My husband put two guns to my head and told me that I could pick which gun I wanted to be killed with.”
She said her husband and his family have chosen future husbands for all four girls. She fears he’s now abandoned a previous promise to have his daughters grow up Christian.
Since, coincidentally, her state senator is going to be in the neighborhood, she decided to enlist him in the struggle. According to the article, however, Obama does not plan to intercede while he is in the area.
Thanks to Alan and the band Stereo Sinai for the tipoff.
The latest issue of Glamour magazine has Christina Aguilera on the cover, but the publication’s contributors are not only concerned with matters of the flesh.
Check out the last great book read by photographer Daniel Gabbay.
A look at PresenTense, â€œa Jerusalem-based hub for a social entrepreneurship training institute, a magazine on Jewish and Israeli culture, a consulting and education service and a network of entrepreneurs, activists and professionals from around the Jewish world.â€? (Jerusalem Post)
A look at the success Hadassah is having in attracting women under age 50. (Jewish Journal)
Noam Neusner argues that the â€œJewish community, convinced that mere ideas will transform the community, routinely turns to young talent for fresh thinking but rarely puts that talent to work in meaningful ways. Which is to say, nobody ever lets the geniuses actually run the show.â€? And for good reason. (Forward)
A look at the organization Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. (Washington Jewish Week)
Here at MyJewishLearning, we’re always looking for new ways to serve you better…See that? My first week here, and I’m already saying “we.” It’s been a flurry of activity here all week, and we (see? “we” again) have a bunch of new articles. I just thought I’d give them a shout-out and some excess verbiage here.
- The Eichmann Trial details the heroic capture and subsequent public trial of the “architect of the Holocaust,” and the only death sentence ever to be carried out by the State of Israel.
- Daniel Soyer lays out the foundations for Jewish Socialism in the United States, 1880-1920 as he expounds on the first huge wave of Russian and German Jewish migration and talks about how factory jobs led Jews to organize and start groups like the Arbeter-Ring and papers like the Jewish Daily Forward.
- The Jewish Socialist movement reaches its climax and heaves its dying sigh in Jewish Socialism in the United States, 1920-1948 as anti-Communist fervor peaks, the split between Socialists and Communists draws a wedge in the movement, and, letâ€™s face it, some Jews start to get richer.
- The Fall of Communism elaborates on the rise of glastnost and the airlifting of hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews to Israel and America…and the culture that was left behind.
- Patrilineal Descent lays out the Reform Movement’s landmark 1983 decision to follow either the mother’s or father’s lineage when deciding whether a child needs to convert in order to be considered Jewish.
- David Ben Gurion – the late-first-wave Zionist settler (he arrived in Palestine in 1906) who became a workers’-rights activist and, eventually, prime minister of Israel. (Quick question: who has the more iconic hair: Ben Gurion or Einstein?)
- American Jews at the Turn of the Century finds the Children of Israel landing in the USA–taking part in the early-1900s agricultural and industrial settling, finding their niches and neighborhoods in urban centers, and establishing what would become the centuryâ€™s three main Jewish denominations.
- American Jewish Life, 1980-2000 asks the question: once Jews are fully integrated into almost every aspect of the US life, now what? Shlomo Carlebach reaches out to a generation of spiritual seekers. The Lubavitcher Rebbe makes sure that Jews will have a helping hand nearly anywhere in the world. Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, becomes the first Jewish vice-presidential candidate. The Conservative movement ordains its first rabbi, and Blu Greenberg starts the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.