Monthly Archives: October 2008

Edgar Bronfman on the US Elections

This entry was posted in General on by .

Yesterday, the Huffington Post featured an article written by Philanthropist and MyJewishLearning friend, Edgar Bronfman on why he is supporting Barack Obama for President of the United States.

First, Bronfman explains why he is not supporting McCain:

To have the United States and Israel both regarded by the rest of the world as unreliable and in isolation is no way to solve the problems that plague both countries. This has been the effect of the Bush policies, and these are the policies that John McCain has promised to continue.

Then, Bronfman goes on to explain some qualities he likes about Obama:

He is brilliant in his choices of advisors. He is a tough idealist who has the courage to imagine an America that may inspire hope, not fear, in the Middle East and around the world.

What I liked most about Bronfman’s article is that he doesn’t buy the argument that the Bush policies (and what he concludes to be McCain’s policies) are better for Israel.  As he argues, the Middle East and Israel are no safer than they were eight years ago and, in fact, Israel is farther away from peace now than when Clinton left office.

I’m really happy that prominent pro-Israel supporters have been coming out lately in support of Barack Obama. Bronfman is the former head of the World Jewish Congress.  Alan Dershowitz, author of the most popular pro-Israel book in the past decade, The Case for Israel, is also an Obama supporter.

While the Republican Jewish Coalition is trying to scare the Jewish community into believe Israel is in danger if Obama is elected, smart, intellegent, prominent members of the Jewish community are coming out in support of him.

If you want to see other prominent (and not so prominent Jews) in support of Obama, check out this video:

Posted on October 31, 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

Friday the 31st

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

It’s Halloween. Its Shabbas. What’s a good Jew to do?

Hand out challah rolls? Dress as the Sabbath bride?

JTA has an op-ed about letting your kids go trick-or-treating, and we had three educators weigh in on the debate last year.

But I’m happy to celebrate both. Trick-or-treaters are allowed while the sun is still out (the safest time to go), and Shabbas after the candles are lit.

I guess I should be thankful that Daylight Savings Time didn’t happen last week. Nothing says being a bad neighbor like ceasing the candy distribution at 4:30 pm.

Posted on October 31, 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

Brooklyn Authenticity

This entry was posted in General on by .

First-time novelist Ilana Stanger-Ross discusses in Publisher’s Weekly how her publishers needed to use her bio to “prove” that she was born and raised in Brooklyn, instead of writing places she’s lived more recently, such as Philadelphia or Victoria, British Columbia, or something less — well, hardcore.

What Stanger-Ross doesn’t address at all is whether any of this ostensible Brooklyn-ness has to do with the fact that she’s writing about the Orthodox Jewish community. The PW article doesn’t mention the word “Jewish” at all, but here’s the description of her novel:

Sima’s Undergarments for Women by Ilana Stanger Ross is the story of an aging woman who runs an underground lingerie shop out of her Brooklyn basement. Numbed by a disappointing and childless marriage, she has sunk into a dull routine that is shaken up when a beautiful young Israeli woman shows up one day looking for a job.

I’m not exactly sure whether Stanger-Ross is one of the new crop of ex-Orthodox authors like Sholom Auslander and Nathan Englander and Pearl Abraham who write more about their past than their present, to say the least. Englander has spent most of the last decade trying to insist that he’s a serious author (his new book is a pretty good argument for this) and not just a one-note ex-Orthodox shtickitarian, while others tend, to put it delicately, to rehash a combination of resentment, cries for help, and bitterness fantasies.

I’m pretty psyched for the potential of this book. If you’ve seen the documentary about an elderly woman who runs a bra store on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side, you would be, too — the woman and her husband are entrancing, lovable people who are pretty down-to-earth and not afraid to say anything. (If you’d been around 80 years and ran a lingerie store, chances are you would be, too.) But Stanger-Ross isn’t harboring any illusions. I love her closing swipe especially:

In the end, my literary success may come down to whether Brooklyn in the first line of a bio has the same impact as Brooklyn in the last line, whether the past can have as much oomph as the present. And who knows, if my book does well enough maybe I’ll even be able to afford to move back to Brooklyn.

Posted on October 31, 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

The Pope Is On The Phone Right Now, Can He Call You Back?

This entry was posted in General on by .

Here at MyJewishLearning we get lots of emails about all kinds of things, from how to sit shiva, to questions about planning a bar mitzvah.  And soon we’ll have an Ask the Expert feature, too.  But we’re definitely not as hardcore as the nuns who answer the phones at the Vatican in Rome.  nuns_.jpgThe LA Times has a pretty great article about them, and the kinds of problems they help people solve.

For 50 years, the nuns of the order of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master have operated the Vatican switchboard. They are the gatekeepers of the Holy See.

The sisters field half a million calls a year from all over the world. They assist the friendly, the loud, the troubled. They help the faithful negotiate a labyrinthine Roman Catholic Church bureaucracy whose instincts tend toward discretion, if not mystery.

Sister Maria Clara, the 55-year-old chief operator, is gentle and bespectacled, her Italian tinged with her native Korean. After 11 years on the switchboard, she sees her job as a blessed calling.
“People ask us: ‘So you really work on Christmas? You work on Easter?’ ” she said. “Of course we do. The church is a mystic body. I feel that we are the heart of the church. And the heart never stops.”

Behind her, half a dozen colleagues murmured into headsets. They occasionally consulted Bible-sized directories next to their computer terminals.

The nuns answer questions about everything from museum hours to exorcisms.  When people ask to speak to the Pope, the nuns gently ask if a priest, the Vatican press room or a church official can help.  They never outright say no.  They are multilingual–Sister Maria Grazia is 71 and speaks, Italian, English, Spanish, French and Korean–and do lots of minor counseling to all kinds of people, some of whom are a little (or a lot) crazy.

We’re not quite that full service yet, but we’re working on it…

Posted on October 31, 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

Aish isn’t the only Keruv program around.

This entry was posted in Beliefs, History on by .

Yesterday, I attended a session with Rabbi Chuck Simon, the Executive Director of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, a group affiliated with the Conservative Movement.

At the session, we discussed their Keruv project, designed to have intermarried families feel more welcomed in Conservative synagogues. Overall, it sounds like a nice project, especially with the rising number of intermarried families who will want to join synagogues.

The fact is that soon, the Jewish community will no longer be able to tell kids that it is wrong to intermarry because they themselves will be products of intermarried families. While the Reform and Reconstructionist Movements are very welcoming of intermarried couples, the Conservative Movement is in somewhat of a conundrum trying to balance their opposition to intermarriage while still being friendly and open to intermarried couples.

This was my main criticism I posed at the session.  In the end of the day, the movement is basically humoring their intermarried families.  Sure, they come to shul and can be members of the board, etc.  But in the end of the day, not only will the rabbi not officiate at an intermarriage wedding, but he isn’t even allowed to attend the ceremony!

Now, I’m not making any judgement as to which way the movement should go.  But it just seems that the movement is trying to cope with a 2008 issue with policies from the 1980s. The issues concerning intermarriage twenty years ago are very different than they are today and the movement really needs to catch up in order to be relevant in intermarried people’s lives.

Posted on October 31, 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

Oldest Hebrew Script Found By Teenager

This entry was posted in General on by .

Archaeologists have just found a shard of pottery with Hebrew script on it, which wouldn’t be a big deal, except that the shard is about 3,000 years old, a full thousand years before the Dead Sea Scrolls were written.  Scientists still haven’t been able to decipher the full inscription, but they’ve gotten a few words, including ‘to do’ ‘slave’ ‘king’ and ‘judge.’  hebrew_script.jpgThey think that once they’re able to read the whole thing they’ll have some important new information about King David, because the inscription comes from about the time of his reign.  Seriously!  Read the full BBC article here.  You can also check out some good background info on Hebrew, and about King David.

Posted on October 31, 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

Jewish Publication Society: Until 120 and On

This entry was posted in History, Texts on by .

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, speaking at last night’s Jewish Publication Society 120th Anniversary Banquet, could not constrain himself from talking about the topic that everyone else could barely constrain themselves from talking about: the Phillies.

Seriously: he got up to the microphone, and there wasn’t even a pretense of his being more qualified to speak than the impressive assortment of professors, scholars, and philanthropists in the room (not to mention Norma Shapiro, the first female federal judge in the country), much less the expected “Wow, this is odd — I’m speaking to a random roomful of Jews.” No, sir: in his red tie and white shirt, Mayor Nutter said the exact thought everyone else had been trying to articulate all day: “How about those Phils, ladies and gentlemen. I can’t believe it. The Phillies.”

He paused, changed his approach, and then said something — and that’s when the profundity hit.

“It’s not how much you get knocked down, it’s how much you get back up. I think that’s something that Philadelphians understand about their sports teams, and they understand it about their lives.”

The entire night was a pretty spectacular spectacular. Not quite sure what to do, we stood around with glasses of wine in hand, trying to look at least medium-dignified to the half-full but growing crowd of people who seemed to be born into dignitariness. The weirdest part of these affairs, the rather formal ones where you don’t know anyone, is by far the name badges. They’re always printed in too-fine type, always on display in dimly-lit rooms, and they’re always positioned over a part of the body that isn’t really sociable to be looking at.

So I met people, wondering whether I was supposed to know them, finding out (relieved, and then intrigued) that the answer was no. And then someone came over and introduced herself, and it was Rena Potok, the Senior Acquisitions Editor, who I’ve been emailing with for a year, and who was quite abubble — about new projects, the projects that were on display, and most of all about their new YavNet project, and JPS’s forays into multimedia:

Continue reading

Posted on October 31, 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

Michael Phelps Redux

This entry was posted in General on by .

There is a new rule in the office that all blog posts now have to be about Michael Phelps. Fair, I say.

Michael Phelps has gross muscles. He is the most toned person I’ve ever seen in my life, to the point of making me want to barf.  Just check out this picture:

bodybuilder.jpg

Oh wait! That’s not Michael Phelps! That’s Israeli Bodybuilder Amit Saphir.  Saphir can bench press 167.5 kilos, which translates to (let me just take my metric calculator out), over 1 Million pounds.

Go for gold Amit! Am Yisrael Chai!

Posted on October 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

You Can Fill My Pool With That Anytime.

This entry was posted in Beliefs on by .

Our newest section, Magic & the Supernatural, has articles about all types of amulets and other magical objects. We’ve been really open-minded about what we call magic and what we call ritual. One person’s religion may seem like superstition to another.

But this has gone too far. After announcing that he will divorce wife Madonna, Guy Ritchie has canceled an order for “kabbalah water,” for the couple’s swimming pool.The Kabbalah Center, a favorite hangout of Madonna, claims that the water “has the power to return water to its primordial state of completely positive, healing energy.”

Said the Daily Mirror, “One of the first things he’s insisted on is scrapping the ridiculous pool plans. He partly blames Kabbalah for the deterioration of their marriage, so the last thing he wants is an Olympic pool-sized reminder of the religion.”

The only thing I want an “Olympic pool-sized reminder” of is Michael Phelps abs:

Michael Phelps is beautiful.

Posted on October 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

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

This entry was posted in General on by .

It’s been a rough year for Jewish-Black relations.  Because of the whole Hillary/Obama showdown, and The Great Schlep, I’ve been hearing lots of Jews talk about how they feel about black people generally, and it doesn’t always make me so happy.  But today I stumbled across an awesome old music video (old being relative, it came out in 2006) from Beyond the Pale.  The video is of a Jamaican Jewish Weddings, with the Jewish and Jamaican sides of the families facing off on the dance floor a la West Side Story.  The music is amazing, but I fell in love with the dancing, too.  And make sure to watch until the end so you can hear a really awesome and profound/cheesy quote about chicken.

Posted on October 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