Monthly Archives: April 2009

[Insert Your Own Penis Joke Here]

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Life on by .

Ah, the circumcision debate. As a single woman with no kids I get to just sit back and watch everyone bicker about this and not really care. Good times. But for other people this is a huge dilemma. We have some info here, and now there’s a circumcision debate movie, “Partly Private.”
Salon has some questions for Israeli-American filmmaker Danae Elon about why she wanted to make a movie about her sons penises:circumcision2.jpg

You end up having to make choices about whether to circumcise each of your sons. And at the end, you worry that they will be mad at you when they grow up and understand what you’ve done.
Who do you betray? A son who has been circumcised, a decision you’ve just spent nine months ridiculing? Or a son that is intact? I was gonna betray both of them, no matter what way I chose.
Aren’t they going to be more mad about the fact that you made a movie about their penises?
They’re delighted. They don’t know it’s about their penises, but they’re delighted they’re in a movie.

Regardless of how they feel about being circumcised, these kids are going to need some serious therapy. Whoa.

Posted on April 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

Joan Nathan: My Stomach Salutes You

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

If you peruse the recipe index on our site, you’ll find a number of articles by Joan Nathan. Over the years she has become, arguably, the foremost Jewish cookbook author.

Today marks the anniversary of her receiving a lifetime achievement from Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.

You can learn more about this master chef in this article, part of our series from the Jewish Women’s Archive‘s This Week in History project.

Posted on April 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

“How Jews Look” and the Identity Police

This entry was posted in Culture, Life on by .

Last week, we released How Jews Eat, the second in our new “How Jews Do Stuff” video series — which has provoked some lively and fascinating commentary, and some lively and fascinating criticism. On Jewschool and Jew and the Carrot, readers pointed out — rightly — that, though our cast includes all ages and religious/secular/cultural levels, they’re all pretty much based in New York, and they’re mostly white/Ashkenazi/American. “Please, even one Persian Jew in LA?” one commenter requested. “A Russian or Israeli in DC? A Rhodesli in Seattle?” (Ironically, our director is a Russian from L.A.)

Unfortunately, we don’t have the budget to travel to D.C. or Rhodesia (although, if you do, we’ll totally name our next movie after you). One of the video’s characters is Australian, which probably doesn’t count as an ethnicity, but it’s a category that definitely falls outside of white-American Jewish norms. One blog suggested that we recruit the talented filmmaker Yavilah McCoy, seemingly solely because she’s a black Jew. Another poster on that site noted, “This smells of identity policing to me – it’s not up to anyone but [Sephardic singer] Sarah Aroeste to decide whether she ‘counts’ [as a Jew of Color or not].”

That poster went on to add, “Whether she’s used as a nonthreatening token is a good question.”

It’s a pretty scary question for someone like me. I used to be one of those people asking questions like these of major content providers — and now I am one of these content providers. I hate the idea that we can be tokenistic or discriminatory, and when we were brainstorming the video, we picked out four people who stimulated our curiosity and talked us into a frenzy of giddiness — they were radically different people who I (and most of our audience) never would have ordinarily come into contact with, each with wild and radical ideas about what it means to be Jewish, and to look Jewish. At first, our plan was to call the video “How Jews Dress,” and to look at the most basic actions that people do, and question what makes them Jewish — but after Judy started filming, it quickly became apparent that this was going to involve more than just the clothes we wear (or don’t wear). We discovered more truths, and more stories, about people’s individual lives, and the ideas kept growing.

We started the “How Jews…” video series because MJL wanted a how-to series, but Judy and I wanted to do a series that was descriptive instead of prescriptive — that is, something that showed how Jews do live rather than how they should live. We didn’t choose people for their skin color or identifiability. But then, there are as many stories as there are people in the world. Yes, we’ve got two hemispheres and four languages covered in our first two videos. But there’s a whole universe of other cultures, other places, and other Judaisms.

Judy Prays, our resident auteur, just moved to Los Angeles — and while we’re sad about it, it also gives us access to a whole new cast. One of the stars of our next episode is a Black Jew. This makes me nervous for a whole different set of reasons — that people will be so elated that we’ve got someone Black, or so hyper-tuned to what he’ll say that relates to his blackness, that they’ll miss the amazing insights that he has to offer that may have nothing at all to do with his skin color.

But I guess we’ll see, right? What “How Jews Look” did do is kick off a lively, spirited, and thought-provoking conversation. Curiously, though, the most traffic from talking about our video didn’t come from any of the above sites. It came from Frum Satire, whose mostly-Haredi commenters said things like, “Nothing Jewish about wearing immodest clothing, women singing in front of men, or not wearing kippah / tzitzis” and “Once you start quoting reformed so-called rabbis, you’re probably closer to protestant.”

There’s a really interesting recent article in the New York Times which analyzes how Internet commenters comment — hostility, coherency, and other characteristics — by date, time, whether or not a login is required, and whether someone’s hiding behind the handle of “anonymous.”

But the comment that warmed my heart and sated my brain, and made me feel justified for my role in this video in the first place, came from a commenter on Frum Satire’s site known only as Leeba. “I look Jew-ish,” she writes. “I am an auburn-haired, blue-eyed. fair skinned woman. I suspect that even my cousin, whose ancestors fled Iraq through Singapore and somehow ended up with nice, almond eyes, looks Jew-ish as well.” She goes on to describe the rest of her family — filling in every shade of the rainbow, from skin color to religious affiliation — and concludes, “I’ll have to agree with Mark. Jews look with their eyes.”

Word.

Posted on April 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

Lost and the Book of Judges

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Culture on by .

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen last night’s episode of Lost, The Variable, you should go watch it now. If you haven’t seen the previous 99 episodes, you should start at #1.

As of now, I don’t really have any theories on this episode (after all, my theories are usually wrong). But I couldn’t help but find a strong comparison between Eloise Hawking on Lost and Yiphtach, the biblical character from the Book of Judges.

faraday.jpg

First, a quick recap on Yiphtach. After going out and killing a bunch of Ammonites, Yiphtach came back to his home promising God that, as a gift of gratitude, he would sacrifice the first living thing that came out of his home to greet him.

Yiphtach probably wasn’t the smartest guy in his class. He failed to consider that maybe, just maybe, a family member would come out to say hi. And guess what happened? Yiphtach’s daughter, known eloquently in the Bible as Yiphtach’s daughter, came out to say “What up, Dad?”

Yiphtach realized he had made a mistake. But it was too late. He couldn’t take back his promise. We’re talking about making a promise to God here. You can’t just say that you were kidding.

In last night’s episode, we learn of the sad fate of my personal favorite character, Daniel Faraday. Back in 1977, Faraday is shot and killed by his own mother, Eloise Hawking. Of course, she does not know that he is her son until after she shoots him.

But that is not the most interesting part here. Eloise Hawking, an expert in the rules of time travel (especially the past), raises Daniel (possibly born after 1977 but yet to be confirmed) knowing that she will have no choice but to kill him when he grows up. Much like God, Eloise knows that she cannot screw around with the island. To quote Lost, “Whatever happened, happened.”

There is an amazing scene in The Variable, set in present day, where Eloise tells Charles to not talk to her about sacrifice, because she had to send her son back to the island. Only later do we find out that she consciously sent Daniel back to the island knowing that she would kill him back in 1977.

There are two points I want to quickly cover. The first is that, as opposed to some other characters (Locke, Christian, etc.), I don’t think the writers of the show purposely made this biblical comparison. But it is interesting nonetheless.

Second, it is interesting to note that I’m not angry at Eloise for sending her son to die. Maybe it’s because she thought it was unavoidable. Who knows? But she isn’t painted as a bad guy for doing what she did.

On the other hand, throughout my years of Jewish education, I always learned that Yiphtach was somewhat of a bafoon. How could he have been so dumb that he would kill his own daughter? And why did he not plead with God to let her live?

Isn’t God more compassionate than the island?

Posted on April 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

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on the Sacks Siddur

This entry was posted in Practices, Texts on by .

Rabbi Sir Dr. Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and author of the brand-spankin’-new Koren Sacks Siddur and one of our favorite people, hits the nail on the head. Right in the beginning of this interview, he says, “Prayer is the cornerstone of Jewish life, and we have a problem with it in our time” — and then proceeds to school our entire generation. In brief: There is more Jewish learning going on than possibly ever before; Jewish kindness and charity has always been strong…but when it comes to praying, we’re slackers. He describes the work as a new translation and commentary, but more as a new way of getting engaged with prayer. But, like praying, you should stop listening to me and just jump in and watch it.

Posted on April 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

Israel In Maps

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Today is Yom Ha’atzmaut, and though I normally spend Israel’s birthday dancing and eating falafel, this year I’m limiting myself to the falafel because I’m so freaking busy. Oy.

However, I am taking some time today to appreciate all of the crazy and cool thing about Israel, via my love of maps. If you, like me, think cartography is really cool, here are some weird but interesting maps to whet your palate. Click on the pictures to links for more maps. israel_pop.jpg

palestina_archipeligo.jpg

sykes_picot.jpg

Posted on April 29, 2009

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A Plan to Solve the Middle East Conflict

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Today is Israel Independence Day. While all of you are celebrating 61 years with falafel and dancing, I’m busy sitting here trying to find a solution to the conflict.

And, after sitting up for five straight days, I believe I have a plan.

An alien invasion.

You might say I’m insane. You might say I’m uneducated. You might say I’m just plain annoying. You might even say I’m all three. But this plan has merit. It’s a pretty full proof too. If aliens attack, then the world as a whole will be forced to work together to fight off the evil, slimy green guys. Arab countries will thank Israel for its military might and realize that we Jews aren’t so bad afterall.

In the video below, the former President of the United States explains the plan in better detail.

Bill Pullman/Will Smith 2012!

Posted on April 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

Big News: Shul Is Boring

This entry was posted in Culture, Life, Practices on by .

I love when major news outlets come out with stories about something as if it’s a new! novel! idea! when I’ve been doing it for ages. It makes me wonder if I’m way ahead of the curve, or if major news outlets are going out of style for a reason. dc_minyan.jpg

Anyway, here’s an article in the Washington Post about independent minyanim.

Gathering in group homes and college dormitories, in rural woods and apartment buildings, a growing number of young Jews are spurning traditional synagogues and forming worship communities that blend ancient traditions with modern values in ways that religion scholars say could redefine American Judaism.

The young people represent some of the most devout of their generation and, worried that they are being lost, rabbis and other Jewish leaders in the Washington region and elsewhere are working hard to bring them back into the fold, including offering financial grants to independent groups who are willing to create partnerships with traditional worship communities.

Full story.

Posted on April 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

Hatikvah: Blue Fringe’s Dov Rosenblatt Talks about Israel

This entry was posted in Culture, Israel on by .

dov rosenblattThis is a guest post from Dov Rosenblatt, lead singer and guitarist of the band Blue Fringe. He and the producer and composer Diwon just recorded a version of “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, for Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, which you can listen to or download right here.

Below, Dov writes about his own Yom Ha’atzmaut memories.

I was 19 years old in Israel studying for a year, the longest away from home I had ever been since being off at camp for a full summer. I was soaking in the rich land of Israel, the historic sights, the people, the life. Everything seemed so accessible, so easy to get wrapped up in. I felt part of the culture and yet I knew I was so different, so spoiled, so…American, for lack of a better word. I couldn’t relate to the magnitude and the nobility of the task Israeli boys my age lived with – to willingly risk their lives defending their, and my, homeland.

Yom Hazikaron came along in the calendar, as it has since 1949 — when it was first celebrated on the same day as Israel’s Independence Day, rather than the day before — and I attended the official ceremony on Mount Herzl with friends. I was amazed at how many people came together! Walking the lengths of thousands of gravestones of fallen heroes who died in the name of Israel, together with thousands of living Jews, I was struck by the stark contrast of beauty in the gardens and blossoming life in this place of “death.”

But again, I was overcome with a feeling of not being able to relate. I felt sheltered and cowardly having never even fought to defend my lunch, let alone life. Just as I was feeling like I didn’t belong, like I should walk home and leave these brave men and women to their service, a voice over the loud hatikvahspeaker was heard by all and we stood in our places silently. In Hebrew, a booming, God-like voice read aloud EVERY NAME of fallen soldiers who perished while fighting for the Israeli Defense Force. I bowed my head and paid attention to each name, trying to somehow pay them my respects.

“Dov Rosenblatt,” the voice called out.

I lifted my head in sudden shock. I looked around at my friends to see if they heard it. They looked back at me with an understanding that they too heard my name called and yes, that must be powerful. It WAS powerful. I suddenly belonged.

We left that evening and went straight to the Kotel, where the party began to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. We danced with everyone and anyone, joining hands and singing at the top of our lungs and we all felt like brothers. And after my experience that day, I truly felt like I belonged.

Download Dov and Diwon’s version of Hatikvah.

Posted on April 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

Duck and Cover! The Moshiach is Coming!

This entry was posted in Beliefs on by .

In order to get what you want in this world, you have to fight for it. You can’t just be apathetic and hope that everything will fall into place.

You wanna have a party? Well, you’re gonna have to fight for your right to have it! No one is just going to plan a party for you. Life doesn’t work that way.

So here is a message for all you apathetic Lubavitch teenage girls. You want to get somewhere in life? Then stopped sitting around and join the revolution.

Wait? Revolution? What revolution? The NOW Revolution. A revolution to bring the Moshiach today.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “But wait, I don’t have a gun! I have a knife, but I would have to share it with my sisters!”

Don’t worry! This isn’t the Crusades! There’s no need for violence. All you need is your mind. By learning about Jewish history and the teachings of the Rebbe, you will soon understand that we are on the brink of the final revelation! You better jump on board now, because soon it will be too late.

So get your friends together. Make an awesome project about the Moshiach’s imminent arrival, and you can win $770!

MJL readers, you can’t make this stuff up. Check out the NOW Revolution website. Please send all of your submissions to moshiachnow100@gmail.com.

Posted on April 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