Monthly Archives: November 2008

The Never-Ending Christmas Season

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I haven’t seen snow yet. Supposedly it has snowed in New York once or twice, but I have yet to confirm that.

I know we talk about this every year, but why is it the Christmas season already? Isn’t it Thanksgiving season? Are they one and the same?

Why do I have to be bombarded with all of these commercials during Cheshvan? If it were Tishrei, I could at least use the “I don’t watch television during the Ten Days” excuse. But Cheshvan? There is nothing to distract me.

Literally every year there is a different commercial using “Jingle Bells.” Of course, the only one of note is this 1998 classic.

Of course, we Jews don’t help the situation. We always get sucked into this early holiday bonanza. And it’s embarressing. All we do is make some lame Chanukkah joke about how we aren’t jealous of Christmas (secret, we really are). Remember we get 8 presents!

Even Jon Stewart fell into the trap:

Posted on November 25, 2008

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A Self-Hating Jews Double-Header

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A sentence was handed out in the case of eight Israeli teenagers, members of a neo-Nazi gang, who beat up ultra-Orthodox Jews, gay people, and the elderly while shouting “Heil Hitler!”

While it’s true that a lot of neo-Nazi activity in Israel, especially in the Russian community, is a result of non-Jews passing themselves off as Jews and getting a free ride to Israel, at least one of those convicted is legitimately Jewish. “I’m going to live with this my whole life,” that person was quoted as saying. “My grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. She just doesn’t believe it.”

jailed neo-nazis, one of whose grandmothers was a Holocaust survivor

A world away, in Westhampton Beach, NY, a group is protesting the building of an eruv, which would allow observant Jews to carry food, babies, and other things on Shabbat. More neo-Nazi activity, right? Nope. Well, maybe, but the organization is calling itself “Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv.”

The JPOE are petitioning the Westhampton Village Board to turn down the plan, saying that it will “forever alter the character of our village, change its economy and challenge the religious tolerance that has long been integral to Westhampton Beach.”

Please, somebody, explain to me how forbidding a religious group to erect a nearly invisible string in order to take their babies outside “challenge[s] religious tolerance.” Maybe it’s meant to imply that Orthodox Jews are inherently intolerant, and they’ll see people of other religions and won’t be able to contain themselves?

Or, perhaps, because the presence of Orthodox Jews in a town will force these people to confront their own unacknowledged religious intolerance?

Posted on November 25, 2008

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Lists, Lists, and More Lists

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Damn you Forward 50 and Heeb 100. Look what you have done.

First there is the MJL Million (no need to apply, the list has been filled) now this:

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg is starting a list of his Top 50 Goyim.

It isn’t a yearly list, I don’t think. And if it is, Goldberg needs to wake up and realize that Harry Truman is dead.

I have some nominations for Goldberg, if he is taking them.

1) Louis the Doorman. Great smile, even in the morning.

2) The nurse who took care of me that time I got dehydrated.

3) Steve Carell. God that guy’s funny.

I’d nominate more people but there are only 50 spots and I want other people to have a chance.

Posted on November 24, 2008

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Is Zach Braff Going to Make Aliyah?

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

Scrubs star Zach Braff is hanging out in Tel Aviv these days, and in an interview with Haaretz it sure sounds like he wants to stay for a while:

“As an American Jew it’s an amazing feeling to come to a place where you feel you belong. You know we’re such a minority in the U.S. Even though I grew up in New Jersey, which was very Jewish, and then I went to school in Chicago, which was Jewish, and then I moved to New York, which is very Jewish, and then I went to Hollywood, which is very Jewish. But they say we’re only 2 percent of the population and shrinking because of intermarriage.”

Braff says that when you come here, “you just feel this amazing sense of community. We hear so much about Israel and politics with the Palestinians and you feel so separate from it. So I really wanted to see for myself.” He says he was “lucky” to be able to come and see things firsthand and to talk to Israelis. “As a Jew I think it’s really important to come to this place. There is such a tremendous sense of community, tremendous bond for obvious reasons. I don’t know if Israelis have a sense of it because they live here, but I love it.”

The Israeli experience made such an impression on him, he says, he is thinking of his next film touching on a story about an American Jew who visits Israel. Braff, who wrote and directed the successful “Garden State,” which also starred Natalie Portman, says a story like what he has in mind is something he’s never seen in a movie and thinks it will be really interesting.

Full story Zach_Braff_i_Garden__98698o.jpg
Not to sound too snippy here, but I bet I’d like Tel Aviv a lot, too, if I could just hang out all day in nice apartments and on the beach, doing nothing and enjoying being rich. Still, I bet Zach Braff quotes will be all over Israeli tourism ads in no time.

Posted on November 24, 2008

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Obama: the Orthodox Reaction

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As noted earlier today, racism in the religious Jewish community has been more intense — and scrutinized more intensely — after the recent election. Nowhere is this more vividly detailed than Y-Love’s blog This is Babylon. A prominent spokesperson for (and critic of) right-wing Haredi Orthodoxy, as well as an African-American Haredi Jew himself, Y-Love writes:

The son of a prominent Brooklyn rebbe asked me if I would be willing to rap at the White House for Chanukah. Obviously I replied “yes� emphatically, contrasting my music with the music of Kol Zimra, a Flatbush a cappella group whose music accompanied the menorah lighting a couple years back.

He replied, “Yeah, you should, because rap is the only language [Obama] understands�.

emo obamaThe morning after Obama won, I was walking down the street in Crown Heights, the neighborhood I live in, which is a mixed Hasidic Jewish-Caribbean neighborhood. Some Black middle-school kids stopped me on the street, thrusting an “Obama Wins” picture in my face, and asked me what I thought of that. “I can’t believe I voted for someone and he actually won,” I told them. Then I hustled on my way, leaving them gaping.

Orthodox Jews are mostly Republicans. Can I get a big “duh”? Fact is, the Moral Majority platform more instantly appeals to Orthodox people, who take certain things for granted, like religious liberty and freedom of expression. But there’s a huge Orthodox Democratic membership. (Uh, hello, Rahm Emanuel?) There’s a fairly smaller Orthodox Green Party membership. But I digress. Even Haredi settler rabbis have endorsed Obama.

Which makes it shocking, and yet somehow unsurprising, that Y-Love’s very existence is summoning comments such as those. The conclusion of his blog, however, suggests that we might not be seeing the bleakest side of our culture’s racism, so much as the first steps of its resolution — as well as reiterating that very Jewish maxim to “always look on the bright side of life”:

The venom of racism flows at far too high a concentration through America’s veins. G-d willing, the election of Obama will have provided just a little bit of anti-toxin.

Posted on November 24, 2008

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I love Birthright and I don’t even qualify for it.

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I first heard about Birthright’s new initiative about a month ago. Called Next Shabbat, Taglit-Birthright Israel is sponsoring their alumni to host Shabbat dinners.

The idea is that after returning from Israel, all of these young Jews are excited about Judaism but don’t have a means of showing the excitement. Well, giving away free meals with other Jews sounds like a good way to start.

The deal is freakin’ sweet. They offer to pay for you to have Shabbat dinner, for up to 16 people at $25 a plate.

25 x 16 = 400

$400 for a Shabbat meal! My apartment hosted one of these dinners this past Shabbat. We had lots and lots of food. But I started thinking about the different options you could do with $400 of food.

Cholent Special: Imagine $400 worth of Cholent. It smells bad just thinking about it.

Vegetarian: Let’s be honest. You’re wasting your money.

Hot Dog Eating Contest: 16 people eating $25 worth of hot dogs each. Nothing spicens up Shabbat like a little competition.

Pork/Ham: Stick it to the man.

The College Girl Special: Salad and Vodka.

I guess you can always do your run of the mill roasted chicken too. That’s kinda boring though. If you are offered free money, try to be irresponsible with it.

Posted on November 24, 2008

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God Wants You To Get Laid (Or Eat Chocolate Cake)

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I love this article in the New York Times about a pastor who told his congregation of some 20,000 people to spend a week having sex at least once a day with their spouses.

A week after the Rev. Ed Young challenged husbands and wives among his flock of 20,000 to strengthen their unions through Seven Days of Sex, his advice was — keep it going.

Mr. Young, an author, a television host and the pastor of the evangelical Fellowship Church, issued his call for a week of “congregational copulation� among married couples on Nov. 16, while pacing in front of a large bed. Sometimes he reclined on the paisley coverlet while flipping through a Bible, emphasizing his point that it is time for the church to put God back in the bed.

“Today we’re beginning this sexperiment, seven days of sex,� he said, with his characteristic mix of humor, showmanship and Scripture. “How to move from whining about the economy to whoopee!�

…chocolate_cake.jpg

But if you make the time to have sex, it will bring you closer to your spouse and to God, he has said. You will perform better at work, leave a loving legacy for your children to follow and may even prevent an extramarital affair.

“If you’ve said, ‘I do,’ do it,� he said. As for single people, “I don’t know, try eating chocolate cake,� he said.

Full story
I’m all for married people having sex and talking about it at their place of worship–I think this kind of thing needs to happen more often in synagogues, actually. I have to say, though, I’m a little offended by the ‘try eating chocolate cake’ crack.  I mean, really? This is the best he can do?

If we’re so hell-bent on making people happy and sexually fulfilled in marriage, then we need to start educating and discussing good relationship skills well before the wedding day and the sexual problems begin. I love cake as much as the next girl, but I gotta tell you, I’m way more into my boyfriend than I’m into, say, Duncan Hines.

For a more official Jewish position on premarital sex, click here.

Posted on November 24, 2008

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On Racism

This entry was posted in Beliefs, History on by .

Last week, I blogged about the Jewish community’s (and particularly the Orthodox community’s) confrontation with residual racism (in light of the Obama victory).

Well, the ever-wise Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein has continued this movement with a sensitive and important post over at Cross-Currents.

As always, Rabbi Adlerstein is willing to take a hard and honest look at communal problems: “This was no isolated incident. Frum teachers in our community use racial and ethnic slurs in the classroom; too many rabbonim still use disparaging language – or words like shvartze – thinking that they are harmless within the “inâ€? group.”

But more importantly, Rabbi Adlerstein acknowledges that there are those who believe that racism is, in effect, condoned by Judaism — and he argues forcefully against this possibility.

A third reason can be found in the selective reading and misappropriation of rabbinic texts. Many people “knowâ€? that all non-Jews hate all Jews. Chazal said so. הלכה ×”×™×? בידוע שעשיו שונ×? ×?ת יעקב. Underscoring “halachaâ€? means that this is a fixed, immutable rule.

Just how Esav turned into all non-Jews, rather than just one group of them, is a bit of a mystery. In fact, I have a hard time figuring out how Esav the person turned into Esav the nation. Searching a few Torah databases a few years ago, I could find no source before the end of the 19th century that took Esav to mean a group of people, rather than Esav the biblical figure – who had every reason to hate Yaakov!…

More puzzling is the assumption by some of us that Genesis 9:25, 27 consigns all black people to perpetual servitude. This becomes the basis of looking down upon black people. (MORE)

According to Yeshiva World News, this last notion was cited — after the Obama election — by Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, considered by many to be one of the gedolei hador.

Maran Hagon Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita is quoted as having said [on Wednesday] – following the election of Senator Barack Obama as America’s next president, that this is not the first time that a black person was elected to a leadership post, ‘News1′ reports.

Yiddishkeit believes a person with black skin is a descendant of Cham, the son of Noach, upon who it is written “he will serve his brother�. Rav Kanievsky stated in regard to the president-elect that he will be a “servant who rules�, adding there is a historical precedent with King Herod (Hurdus), who was also black. “Herod made Tzaros for Am Yisrael, but he also built the Beis HaMikdosh� stated the Rav. (MORE)

Indeed, Rabbi Adlerstein may be referring to Rabbi Kanievsky in the last paragraph of his article when he writes: “Statements that have been attributed to names in New York and Israel simply elude my comprehension, if there is any truth to them in the first place.”

In any case, Rabbi Adlerstein deserves our admiration for taking on this issue so forcefully and honestly.

Posted on November 24, 2008

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And the High Priest goes in for the field goal…

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

In the mid-’90s, Israeli television personality Gil Kopatch brought Rabbi Mordechai Gafni on his sports/talk/news show to discuss the weekly Torah portion. Sometimes they’ll broadcast with glasses of wine, sometimes, as below, with tiny camels parading across the SportsCenter-like desk. Note where the videos are embedded — it’s from Spike.com, the website of the “television network for men.”

This caused a stir among everyone you’d expect it to (remember, this is Israel), along with several folks you wouldn’t — for instance, the religious political party Shas, which said they didn’t show enough respect for the text. On the other hand, Kopatch’s “special guest” was Marc Gafni, a rabbi and New Age guru with an alleged history of sexual misconduct that’s pretty thorough and disturbing.

(After seeing this, we had a whole discussion in the office about the improprietous allegations, which brought us to a website that exists for the purpose of providing information for sexual offenders in the Jewish community. Pretty disturbing, although more disturbing is the fact that I learned about it from his own website bio, which basically says the sexual equivalent of “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” — that is, it immediately insists that Rabbi Gafni was accused of unreasonable things and that he treats each of his relationships as individual and beautiful. (And yes, it does say “each of his relationships.”)

Back to the movies, though. If you can, and if you understand Hebrew, focus on Gil Kopatch — he’s the bald dude in the hoody. He’s hilarious, and has a sometimes unconventional way (he calls Eve “the first sex bombshell”) of getting to the heart of the Biblical text. I can’t believe no Christian televangelist co-opted this approach — although, then again, I can’t really conceive of two sportscasters discussing whether Jesus and Mary Magdalene ever “got down.”

Posted on November 24, 2008

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Poll: The Next Knight in Shining Armor

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Yesterday, in London, Israeli President Shimon Peres was honored by the Queen of England by becoming a knight.

I tried to look up a list of Jews who have been knighted but to little success. But it did get me thinking. There are many people out there who I think deserve to be knighted (then again, I don’t really know what the qualifications are). Many of whom are Jews.

This week’s poll:

Posted on November 21, 2008

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