Monthly Archives: July 2008

Estelle Getty z”l

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Estelle Getty, the diminutive actress who spent 40 years struggling for success before landing a role of a lifetime in 1985 as the sarcastic octogenarian Sophia Petrillo on TV’s The Golden Girls, has died. She was 84.

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She was born Estelle Scher to Polish Jewish immigrants who worked in the glass business. Getty got her start in the Yiddish theater and also as a comedienne in the Catskills borscht belt resorts, and her most important stage role was playing Harvey Fierstein’s mother on Broadway in the play Torch Song Trilogy. (MORE)

Posted on July 23, 2008

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Female Rabbis, Male Stand-up Comedians

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Today on his blog, Frum Satire starts a discussion about whether women could be Orthodox rabbis. It’s interesting, less in the light of women actually being ordained as Orthodox rabbis (which some people say could happen, some people say shouldn’t happen, and some people say is happening) and more because this is what Frum Satire–a thoughtful, sardonic, and off-the-beaten-path twentysomething kid living in an ultra-Orthodox enclave in Monsey–is thinking. Yes, it’s funny, and yes, it’s incredibly right-wing…but it’s a good-natured, open-minded right-wing, which is what those of us in the world outside Monsey never really see.

Among other things, he offers a list of thoughts to ponder:

  • Who would shake people’s hands for random yasher koachs?
  • What do we call the husband? Rebetz?
  • What would all those men who pray in the women’s section of shuls when women aren’t there do?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that, tonight in Brooklyn, Frum Satire is hosting an open mic tonight for poetry and comedy. If you’re in New York, why would you be anywhere else?

Posted on July 23, 2008

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Agunah Progress

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

It’s an embarrassing fact that Jewish women trying to get a get (writ of divorce) from recalcitrant husbands are often better protected by secular courts than they are by Jewish batei din.

According to Haaretz, a court in Israel has taken another major step forward in relieving agunah issues.

A husband who refused to divorce his wife was ordered to pay her NIS 550,000 in compensation for the mental anguish he caused her.

Moreover, though the wife held a rabbinic ruling ordering her husband to grant her a get – a religious divorce – the Jerusalem Family Court ruled that a husband’s refusal to do so could entitle the woman to compensation. That applied even if the wife lacked a religious ruling.

MORE…

Posted on July 23, 2008

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The Regressive Renaissance

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Recently, I read — and very much enjoyed — Keith Gessen’s fiction debut All the Sad Young Literary Men. Tonight, Gessen will lead a discussion with Adam Mansbach, author of The End of the Jews, at the Jewcy offices

Over on his blog, Gessen mentioned the talk with some interesting words:

One of the strangest events in American cultural life during the Bush years has been the explosion of Jewish-themed magazines, online and off. Heeb, Zeek, Guilt and Pleasure, Habitus, Nextbook.org, Jbooks.com, Jewcy.com… am I missing any? Some of them are better than others, and more hereterodox, but as a “trendâ€? taking place in a highly assimilated, extremely successful community — I find this odd. And regressive. I could be wrong.

Though I won’t be able to make it to the talk tonight, I am curious to hear what Gessen has to say — and how he justifies partaking in this regressive activity (or at least an event sponsored by a regressive publication).

In fact, I think Gessen’s comment may highlight a mini-trend within the greater Jewish pop/cultural-retribalization movement (a term I just coined, by the way).

The mini-trend I speak of: Participating in the New-Jew renaissance, while at the same time looking down on it.

Another example.

Nearly every panel about contemporary Jewish American fiction that I’ve been to seems to conclude with the young Jewish writer-panelists expressing complete disinterest in the concept of contemporary Jewish American fiction.

Which of course begs the question: Why agree to be on the panel?

Which begs another: Is there a masochistic element to participation in New-Jew culture?

Just to be clear, I’m not dismissing the possibility that there is, indeed, something regressive about the New-Jew renaissance. Perhaps it is a step back toward a more unfortunately parochial past.

And perhaps skepticism about the New-Jew project is an integral — and thus interesting — aspect of it.

But there must be some cost to participating in a project one finds morally dubious. No?

Posted on July 22, 2008

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Blogging the Aggadah

This entry was posted in Texts on by .

The Aggadah is the non-Jewish Law-intensive part of the Talmud–that is, the part with all the cool stories and lasers shooting out of people’s beards. Our friend BZ writes on his blog that, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Hayim Nachman Bialik and Yehoshua Ravnitsky’s compilation of their favorite aggadot, people will be starting a two-year effort to read a portion of the book every day….and, no surprise, there’s an official accompanying blog, Sefer Ha-Bloggadah.

Yes, we know–some of you are doing Daf Yomi, taking seven and a half years to read the whole Talmud. But this is a massive effort, too. And the Bloggadah kids are more than prepared, with a daily schedule, a launch party, and the best discounts on the book…and, oh yeah, their own blog.

See you there.

Posted on July 22, 2008

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HA YA!

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

Four years ago in Athens, Gal Fridman (whose first name means wave) took home the first gold medal for Israel in the men’s windsurfing competition. Fridman’s victory spurred celebrations around Israel and empowered Israeli’s and Jews around the world.

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He started a wave of pride as well as a long overdue tribute for the 11 athletes and coaches who were murdered at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. An article in USA Today captured the moment on that glorious day in August, 2004.

Fridman won it Wednesday…emerging to say that he won the race for countrymen who died before he was born, countrymen taken by hooded and masked Palestinian terrorists who would fly them out of the Games and into their graves. “I hope that they are happy up there,” Fridman said. “When I return to Israel, I’ll go to the memorial place to show them the gold medal.” (MORE)

Israel has undergone many tragedies and hardships in the past four years. The ailing health of a prime minister, the Lebanon War, the internal conflict of Gush Katif, threats from Iran, and most recently the prisoner swap and bulldozing rampages.

Although that all might have sounded very depressing, the 2008 Olympics are on the horizon and the JTA has just reported that there is Gold Medal hope in the air.

A female taekwondo champion will fight for Israel at the Beijing Olympics. Bat-El Gatterer, a 21-year-old resident of Kochav Yaakov, a Jewish settlement near Ramallah, is among 42 athletes Israel is sending to go to this month’s Games in the Chinese capital. (MORE)

Bat-El Gatterer is possibly the first settler to have a shot at a medal and hopefully her presence will rally the Israeli people. I believe Gal Fridman said it best when he spoke about winning gold.

I don’t get into politics, Fridman said. “I don’t understand that stuff. … The only thing I can want is, I would love to bring peace to Israel. The fight (should) stop in the water. If you fight someone, fight him in sport to prove you are better, not in different ways. This is our job as athletes, to show the other side of the Israeli people. We want peace. All of my friends I know want peace.” (MORE)

Hopefully this taekwondo champion will show the other side of the Israeli people.

It would be interesting for a settler to bring Israeli people together.
Let the games begin!

Posted on July 22, 2008

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More Bulldozer Evilness

This entry was posted in History on by .

Another bulldozer attack in Jerusalem, this one a few hundred meters from the hotel where Barack Obama will be staying during his upcoming visit. According to the Jerusalem Post, 16 people were wounded, including a mother and a baby, and another man’s leg was partially severed. No reported fatalities, as yet.

Proximity to tragedy always creates a stir of really weird feelings in me. A totally irrational pride that this attack wasn’t as severe as the first one, and no one was killed. A not-totally-irrational pride, that, thank God, someone was close enough to stop the bulldozer driver before someone was killed. Another reminder that, as long as East Jerusalem Arabs are relegated to petty, low-paying jobs, those are the places they’re going to strike out–and, ironically, petty, low-paying jobs are in places where you find heavy machinery and easy vulnerability (waitstaff in lavish restaurants, anyone?).

Relatively innocuous coverage on Al-Jazeera. On the NZ Times, one rambler, one sardonic “We are willing to take up bulldozers …. Doesn’t have the same ring about it,” and one “I’m glad to be living in South Africa.” That was the most striking to me: Yes, crazy murderous rampages happen all over the world. Yes, it’s more likely to happen in Israel. But it doesn’t speak at all to the fact that Israel is filled–to the brim, actually–with people who make a conscious choice every day to live there, not because of the violence but in spite of it, in order to live in a place where God matters more than, say, getting to work on time. (And, um, hello? Senseless violence never happens in South Africa??)

Posted on July 22, 2008

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Hoop Dreams

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

Not digging your current job?

Have that Zionist inkling to move to Israel?

Have professional basketball experience?

If you managed to say yes to all three questions, why not try out for the Maccabi Haifa Heat basketball team?

haifa.jpg

While listening to the Mets game on the radio yesterday, I heard the promo for the tryouts. According to the team, three Israeli coaches will be visiting and conducting tryouts in Ft. Lauderdale, FL at NOVA University July 28th and 29th. Hours are from 10am to 5pm on both days.

For more information, visit the team’s site.

Posted on July 21, 2008

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The Jewish Body

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Practices on by .

A controversy erupts over whether an Orthodox woman, who covers her hair with a wig for religious reasons, should be required to remove her wig for an arrest photograph. (LoHud)

Israel’s Chaplaincy Corps Rabbi Avichai Ronsky ruled that Halacha prohibited forensic DNA tests on IDF soldiers’ bone parts handed over by Hezbollah, a decision binding for both religious and secular families of the fallen soldiers. (Jerusalem Post)

And a survey of 113 male IDF soldiers, aged 19-23 showed that none of the soldiers use a condom on a regular basis. (Ynet News)

A woman who left the Orthodox world finds that her comfort level with her dress at an Orthodox wedding mirrors her comfort at having left. (Jewcy)

A look at Israel’s paralympic athletes, and their struggle to get funding.(Jerusalem Post)

Posted on July 21, 2008

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Rav Amital’s Torah

This entry was posted in Beliefs on by .

A couple of months ago I mentioned — with great fondness — Rav Yehuda Amital, the founder of Yeshivat Har Etzion, in a blog post.

Amital.JPG Well, over the weekend I started reading the first English-language book of Rav Amital’s writings.

Commitment and Complexity is a translation of a Hebrew book compiled in honor of Rav Amital’s 80th birthday. It consists of very short selections from his varied writings on numerous topics.

Rav Amital has a unique story: Holocaust survivor, student of the famed Hevron (aka Slabodka) Yeshiva, pioneer of the Hesder program, founder of Meimad, and most interestingly, a proponent of both the settlement movement and the peace process.

As the title of the book implies, Rav Amital is not a man who appreciates simple answers and his teachings derive their wisdom from this fact.

Rav Amital is, above all, a humane thinker, who forcefully asserts that stressing Torah or the Land of Israel over and above the concerns of Am Yisrael and human life is a corruption of Judaism.

There is a hierarchy of values if Judaism, and anyone who fails to differentiate “bein kodesh le-kodesh” (between one level of holiness and another) will end up unable to differentiate “bein kodesh le-chol” (between the holy and the profane), as we say in the Havdala prayer. The proper order is: the nation, the Torah, the land. Chazal address the importance of this hierarchy in Tana De-vei Eliyahu Rabba, Chapter 14: “He said to me, ‘My master, there are two things in my heart which I love greatly – Torah and [the nation] of Israel, but I do not know which of them takes precedence.’ I said to him: ‘People usually say that Torah takes precedence over everything else, as it is written: “God acquired me at the beginning of His way” (Mishlei 8:22), but I say that the holy [nation of] Israel takes precedence, as it is written, “Israel is holy to God; the first of His produce” (Yirmiyahu 2:3).'” The interests of Am Yisrael certainly take precedence over the interests of Eretz Yisrael.

Posted on July 21, 2008

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