Monthly Archives: January 2009

World Wide Wrap Rap

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

Sunday is the Federation of Jewish Men’s ClubWorld Wide Wrap,” when they encourage people to practice and learn about the performance of the mitzvah of wrapping tefillin.

Here’s the video they made to promote the event.

The entire MyJewishLearning.com editorial team hopes you enjoy this one:

Posted on January 30, 2009

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

Goodbye Money

This entry was posted in History on by .

There’s nothing I love more than depressing news on a Friday afternoon.

Okay, maybe that’s not true. But if my weekend is going to be ruined, so is yours.

Nicholas Kristof decide to publish (in the New York Times, no less) a 14-page list of private foundations who lost money in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. He writes, “A few private foundations have owned up to the money they’ve lost with Mr. Madoff, but most haven’t. So let me help them out.” (MORE)

The file gives foundation names, their total assets, possible Madoff exposure, and their largest donation. The list is based on tax filings for the past two years, and if anything, Kristof tells us, the list underestimates losses.

Normally lists of the largest philanthropic gifts and givers, such as those from Business Week and the Chronicle of Philanthropy, reads like a Hebrew school roster, but few of the gifts are directed to Jewish causes.

Unfortunately, Kristof’s list of “largest donations recipients” is a role call for Jewish organizations across the country: JCC Association, UJA, Museum of Jewish Heritage, UJC, and so on.

Out of the 147 foundations on the list, at least (and this is just my quick counting) 55 had their largest gift go to a Jewish organization.

Is now a bad time to ask you to donate to our site…

Posted on January 30, 2009

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

Baba Sali: The Messiah Is Coming

This entry was posted in Beliefs, History on by .

The Internet has been around for a while — and, while the immediacy of the medium is unsurpassed in spreading news stories and viral videos of nose-picking politicians and lightsaber duels, the emotion that’s most commonly associated with Internet viral memes is one of acute, painful embarrassment. For every “ZOMG Look At This” that us bloggers have posted, and then proudly bragged to our colleagues that we broke the story, there are a thousand things that would have made the world a better place if we’d totally ignored it in the first place.

And then there are the truly sad ones. The Heaven’s Gate cult, originally thought to be harmless — hey, they weren’t recruiting, and they weren’t affecting anyone but themselves — who were among the early Web presences and whose site endures as a testament to their mass suicide.

Okay, but I wanted to talk about something that also has elements of pathos and sadness, if on a totally different level. It’s all about a watch.

The great Moroccan sage the Baba Sali ostensibly gave a couple of watches to Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, one of the most important Sephardic rabbis in Israel. One was silver, one was gold. The watches are broken — or, rather, they move much slower than normal watches. According to Mishpacha magazine (quoted here), Mordechai Eiliyahu’s son relates how the watches work:

“One day, the Baba Sali’s son came to my father and presented him with a watch. He explained that his holy father had come to him in a dream and told him that he should look in a certain drawer in a certain desk, where he would find this watch. He was to give it to my father and tell him that when the watch reached twelve o’clock, then Mashiach would come. At that time, the watch hands showed twenty minutes to eleven. Since then, my father keeps a very close eye on the watch, and found that sometimes it goes and other times it just stops.”

Recently, I stumbled across, this post on another blog, which reported that one of the watches had struck twelve — that the Messiah’s arrival was imminent. Then I noticed the date of the post, August 2005.

Another Heaven’s Gate, I thought.

My stomach sunk. I’ve always been an insufficient believer in the Messiah — our sages say we should be ready for Mashiach’s imminent arrival at all times. I always want to be. Messiah stories thrill me. But I haven’t been able to get my head around the concept that the world might be changing, that I might actually see my grandfather and my dead best friend again. Shlomo Carlebach says that that’s the kind of thinking that keeps the Messiah from coming. But, hey, I can barely believe that Obama is president — and there he is, tellin’ off the fat cats of Wall Street on the front page of the New York Times.

baba saliSo, what of it now? Well, it turns out that the watch that struck twelve was only the silver watch — and, as of November, there was a report (though unconfirmed) that, while Rav Mordechai Eliyahu was in the hospital, his son had custody of the watch, and it had moved to twelve. Or almost twelve?

I haven’t been able to find anything more recent. But, as the Baba Sali Facebook group commemorates, today is his 25th yahrzeit. And I can’t think of a better way to honor it by thinking that the Messiah might come today. Hey — there’s still hours before sunset. In New York, anyway.

Posted on January 30, 2009

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

What Do You Know From Funny, You Bastards

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

One of my favorite scenes in any movie comes from the ending credits of Eddie Murphy’s 1998 classic, Coming to America. In it, Eddie Murphy, playing an old Jewish man, tells a terrible joke about a man complaining about his soup in restaurant. I’ve posted the clip below if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

With Jackie Mason becoming supremely unfunny these days, it was refreshing to open Nextbook today to find an amazing new site filled with old, Jewish jokes.

I welcome you all to the glory of OldJewsTellingJokes.com. It is pretty new so there isn’t that much content yet. But Sam Hoffman’s, the founder of the site, father got 20 of his funniest friends (all 60 and over), to record their funniest jokes, so more is on the way.

I really recommend “Broccoli”, by Sam’s mother, Diane. It is true killer of a joke. The videos screens are too large to be posted on Mixed Multitudes, so you will have to go to the site to watch it. But it is well worth the extra click.

Posted on January 29, 2009

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 Music: How the Other Side Lives

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

Yes, Jewish music is experiencing a renaissance. Between JDub, Modular Moods, and independent artists like Sarah Aroeste and Michelle Citrin, crazy amounts of new Jewish culture are being pumped out at an astounding pace — and here’s where I should take an opportunity to plug my new Jewish music column on Nextbook, which features Hadara, Can Can, and the new Soulfarm/Blue Fringe side project on MTV.

lipa! gertner!The Jewish Music Report is a new site — the third of its kind, along with Shemspeed and Klezmer Shack, that claims to be the biggest Jewish music site in the world. And, although it looks like it deals only with Orthodox music — that is, specific genre singers such as Lipa Schmeltzer and my cousin Mordechai Ben David — its reach is vast, and its coverage impressively wide.

Its launch probably has nothing to do with the upcoming Event, starring Lipa Schmeltzer — but I’m sure the timing couldn’t hurt either. Since last year’s sudden cancellation of the Big Event due to rabbinical warnings, Lipa has blown up from a wacky-but-talented opening act into a full-fledged major with wacky Youtube rap videos into a major Hasidic media star. The coverage provoked a profile in the New York Times, and, in many ways, backfired on its organizers — some rabbis who authorized the ban later admitted to having been coerced into signing, or signing without really knowing what was going on. It also propelled Lipa’s fame into uncharted waters. Whereas before, everyone in the Hasidic world kind of knew about the singer who did holy parodies of secular songs in patrick of can canYiddish, now everyone — even non-music listeners — knew that he was a good Jew who just happened to ire the wrong rabbi.

And now — in some circles, at least — he’s bigger than Jesus.

The Event is being held at Madison Square Garden. The new site can’t get enough of Lipa. And Jewish music is flourishing, as well as Jewish music writing. So what do you have to complain about?

Posted on January 29, 2009

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

Dear Pope, For Serious? Sincerely, Tamar

This entry was posted in Beliefs on by .

Well, it’s a real shitstorm over at the Vatican since Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication that had been imposed on four bishops, one of whom is a Holocaust denier and generally sketchy guy. The Washington Post reports:

The biggest furor since the decision to reinstate them, however, has focused on one of the bishops, British-born Richard Williamson. In recent weeks, he has denied that the Holocaust occurred, and in the past has written that women should not attend universities, empathized with the Unabomber’s views on modern technology and suggested that the U.S. government staged the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as an excuse to invade Afghanistan.

“I believe that the historical evidence . . . is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed,” Williamson said on Swedish television this month. “I believe there were no gas chambers.”

(Emphasis mine).

popeshoes200.jpg

I’ve always been a kind of secret fan of Catholicism, but as far as I can tell, Pope Benedict is–how to put this lightly–a moron who doesn’t give a hoot about Jews and has no problem associating with all kinds of noxious elements. He probably also got a nun killed when he made insensitive comments about Islam in 2006. In contrast, his predecessor, Pope John Paul, was a friend to the Jews and to Israel, worked tirelessly for mutual understanding and respect between Catholics and Jews, and condemned anti-Semitism. Pope Benedict undid a serious chunk of that work, and already Israel’s chief rabbinate has severed its relationship with the Vatican, in protest against the reinstatement of Bishop Williamson.

Oh, and on the same day that Pope Benedict brought back the bishops, the Vatican publicly criticized President Obama for revoking the global gag rule. That means that so far the Pope has pissed off Jews, Muslims and Obama supporters. That leaves like 3 people who still think he’s cool. And I bet all three of them just covet his shoes.

Posted on January 29, 2009

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

Borat as Bruno Makes Over the Messiah

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Sasha Baron Cohen’s upcoming movie focuses on his character Bruno, a campy gay Austrian fashion journalist. In the clip below he interview the completely ridiculous Daniel Dicriscio who refers to himself as the makeover messiah. Together, they discuss how they would makeover Jesus. Apparently he needs to make more eye contact, maybe using more of a ‘come hither’ stare. Um, ew. This begs the question, though: how would we make over Moses? First off, he needs some killer shades. Oakleys, probably, and reflective. What else?

Posted on January 29, 2009

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

Ahmadinejad Is Jewish

This entry was posted in History on by .

It was only a matter of time until someone came out and said it, right?

ahmadinejad jewish fantasy

Granted, the person saying so is the son of another Iranian politician (one of Ahmadinejad’s leading backers, incidentally). And, double granted, Ahmadinejad is up for reelection in five short months. The motive behind it could be anything, from juvenile rebellion to…well, to something legitimate.

I think it’s worthwhile just for the visuals, though.

Posted on January 28, 2009

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Jazz is the New Klezmer

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

I know — I talk about Yoshie Fruchter a lot. But he’s worth it — and he’s doing so much stuff that it would be hard not to talk about him.

On Jewcy today, I talk to him about his new band, his new album, and why his parents are so damn cool:

Yoshie Fruchter gets around. Besides being a member of half a dozen bands, from the children’s parody band Shlock Rock to guesting with Pharaoh’s Daughter, he’s made a name for himself in the few short years since he moved to Brooklyn from his hometown of Silver Spring, MD.

It’s easy to chalk Yoshie’s existence until that point up to the classic story of small-town-boy-makes-it-big. But between the lines, Fruchter has a lot of stories–his mother is a full-time arts educator in the yeshiva system, and his father is a versatile musician who, among his own accolades, was babysat by Elvis as a child.

READ MORE >

Posted on January 28, 2009

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Jewish Food Tourney: #4 Latkes vs #8 Brisket

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Live from Madison Square Garden, welcome to the Final Four! Two big matches left, only one food will survive.

I’m not going to spend much time discussing latkes. I think they have proven themselves enough and they will get the votes they deserve.

I’m reserving this space to make the case AGAINST #8 Brisket.

In terms of taste alone, Brisket is clearly a #1-3 seed. But that isn’t the point. This is not purely a “What food tastes the best” tournament. The real question you should be asking is what is the best JEWISH food.

Now, this might partially be my own fault. The question I pose in the poll is “Which food do you like more?” I might have to change it to “What is the better Jewish food?”

When it comes to being the most Jewish food, brisket just doesn’t cut it. When Meredith was explaining to me her ideal brisket meal, it sounded (and she agreed) like a Southern soul food meal, not a Jewish one. And that is exactly my point. A brisket sandwich covered in BBQ sauce is not Jewish. Delicious? Yes. An appropriate meal for a Passover seder? Absolutely not.

Vote, however you like though. Just remember, I will judge you negatively if you disagree with me. It’s my tournament and I can do whatever I want.

Posted on January 28, 2009

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