Monthly Archives: June 2009

ROI 120 Roundup: Learning the Media

This entry was posted in Culture, History, Israel on by .

My roommate and I slept right through the alarm and woke up just in time to realize that we had missed out on the lavish morning food offerings. Like all Jewish events, this one revolves around food and endless talking.

roi 120 conference 2009New Media Track Session Number 2 started at 10 A.M. There would be a total of 4 track sessions which allowed the members of one track to sit with the track leader and talk about the issues facing their project development and general ideas, strategy and philosophy. Even though I chose the New Media track, I have been wondering whether I should have chosen Arts instead — for, after all, I am a very misunderstood writer and performance artist. So what, I happen to have a successful blog? Everyone has a blog these days.

Today we discussed new technology and the changing face of the web, fascinating conversation really. We started by watching a video on YouTube video of an internet prediction from 1968 which featured a woman shopping for her outfits while her husband paid for them in the next room. It wasn’t too far off. We then watched the rather chilling Epic 2015, a YouTube video about Google’s takeover of the world. Google buys the New York Times, MSN fails, we are all one sharing community — scary stuff, if you ask me.

We then discussed citizen journalism and what will happen to paid content if everything was available for free. Would we have micro-payments like iTunes? Or would everyone just become one big social networking and information bubble? Customized search engines — someone mentioned that you may even be able to upload your own news into Google and get paid based on popularity. But what does this say for trained and well-thought-out journalistic pieces? As a blogger, it’s all about creating good content. The more content that gets produced, the more is out there, both good and bad. Sifting through it becomes harder, but once you’ve found it — it becomes a sought-after gem.

Mobile media was also a big part of the discussion, since many folks in third-world nations have access to the web on cell phones they have skipped from nothing and gone to mobile media. They are uploading content via cell phone and this creates a whole new arena of web user generated content. Attention spans are shortening as a result of mobile technology and the ability to connect anywhere has technology heading to new areas never thought of before. One person from Israel mentioned that there is a company called “Ways” that has developed an iPhone application that has created a social community of Israeli drivers — I wonder if they are as crazy with their iPhones as they are with their cars — that communicates on the road. Traffic warnings, routes and danger zones are all available at any location. The iPhone was just made legal in Israel, but there are already some 80,000 Israelis with iPhones. Will the computer become obsolete when everyone has an iPhone?

Some folks made mention of TV when it came out — how everyone went nuts over TV, but after a while it was merely a background appliance. Will Internet and new media be the same? I doubt it; it seems that everyone is connected all the time. One look at Twitter can tell anyone that. As for me, I am against being connected all the time, for I value the good old fashioned computer and phone-less conversation.

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Posted on June 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

Dead Sea Scrolls Signify Occupation?

This entry was posted in History, Israel, Texts on by .

I’m not much of a museum person. It’s not that I’m uncultured (I mean, I am), but I may have had some bad experiences as a kid at museums. You see, my parents are museum lovers. So we went to a lot when I was young. But let me tell you something people. Being seven years old at an art museum, standing around while your parents read every caption under every painting, is just plain torture. I’d rather have had them make me eat soap.

So I guess I’m torn when I hear about a boycott of an museum exhibit. I call for boycott exhibits all the time: “History of the monkey? Don’t see it! Down with monkeys!”


Then there is this call for a boycott. A restaurant in Toronto is in a little bit of trouble because their website promoted the boycott of a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. What’s the controversy? Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, duh.

Le Select Bistro is asking its patrons to boycott the exhibit because the scrolls were obtained by Israel in the Six Day War. You see, the Dead Sea Scrolls before 1967 in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem, which was controlled by Jordan. After the war, Israel took control of the area.

The scrolls were then moved to the Israel Museum. But its not like they were ransacked from the Rockefeller Museum or anything. The museum are associates with each others.

Protesters: Stick to checkpoints, and outposts. It will serve you much better.

Posted on June 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

ROI 120: Tightrope Walkers, Half-Naked Trapeze, and the Future of the Jewish Community

This entry was posted in Culture, Israel on by .

Heshy Fried, better known as Frum Satire, is one of 120 participants in the Schusterman Foundation’s initiative ROI 120, a conference of 120 of the top young Jewish minds in the world. In this daily roundup — his second — he’s going to tell us how it is, lay down the law, and let us in on the secrets of the Jews that control the world — or, at least, the Jews of tomorrow who will control the world of tomorrow.

roiI couldn’t sleep last night. It may have been the excitement, or maybe it was the fact that my roommate took the good bed and I had the couch. I don’t mind couches much, especially ones with big flatscreen TVs facing them and nice comforters that stay cold in summer, but there was this flashing smoke detector light giving me fuzzy green visions every time I was about to fall into a blissful sleep.

All of this was on my mind as I struggled to arise and hang up the automatic wakeup call that was incoming at 7 A.M. Breakfast wasn’t until 8 anyway, and they hadn’t announced that there would be minyan — which I was disappointed about. It seemed to me and one other person that Jewish events of this sort focus on Jewy things but leave God or concepts of God out of the picture – and really, what’s a Jewish event without random breakaway minyanim in the middle of lunch?

I slept until 7:40 and then peeled myself off the couch, donned tefillin, spoke to the Lord like a deranged drunkard and hobbled off to breakfast. Today we didn’t have to dress in business casual, because we were doing an outdoor “activity.” So what was that, like a singles event kind of thing? I was curious.

Breakfast was complete overkill. Even as a food lover and official pig at formal and non-formal food eating events, I couldn’t take in what lay before me. First of all there were a bunch of Asian businessmen, but Asian businessmen aside there was a long table with really pimp looking deserts and this colorful array of salads and fruits and veggies, cheeses were lined up like soldiers and smoked fishes, caviar and baskets of bread. Granola with fruit and yogurt, and one of those chefs with the really tall hats making eggs to order, next to the egg station was a mini-IHOP situation with waffles, pancakes and French toast, complete with sugar-filled artificial maple syrup. Do maple trees even grow in the Middle East?

The dining room situation was set up well as another chance to network. You had to sit down, and I, being the loner I am, would sit alone and wait to see who would sit down, you really couldn’t lose, either it was someone who you had met already that found you interesting, someone really cute or someone completely random whom you would pitch your idea to with a red onion sticking out of your mouth while you tried not to drool your fake orange juice all over your name tag. Talking with your mouth full is one thing; networking with your mouth full is a completely different ball game.

After breakfast, I hobbled out of the dining room once again, this time from overstuffing myself rather then from lack of sleep. The one problem I began to foresee was that this hotel’s kitchen staff was very intolerant of people who don’t eat cilantro as every single thing was made out of it or used it as a garnish.

We went to this conference room to talk about what we would be doing for the day and to remind us to drink a lot of water, so that the health insurance they provided us would not have to be used in the case of fainting ROIers.

We then got bracelets, I an orange one, and we went outside to play a bunch of networking games. I flocked immediately to the shade of a big tree as we learned what stupid games we would play. The games were stupid, but they actually facilitated networking. One game we played was a sort of tag game. I would spin around three times and my partner would run away, but in catching her I could only walk with my feet touching one another like someone would do to measure something.

There was a lot of coeducational touching, and I wondered if anyone felt uncomfortable with that, they did acknowledge that issue — but I wondered if this would be similar to shaking a member of the opposite sexes hand for business purposes, even though this was a little more than just hand shaking, this fell into the lines of non-sexual hand-holding. A bit taboo, if you ask me.

We then all ran around in circles and laughed quite a bit doing it. I was completely spaced out at this point. Then it was time to form groups of similar colors and sit on the grass and play another game of which I completely forgot, it wasn’t too important. The real important stuff came when it was time for pitching our projects and what we were doing at ROI to people in our track.

I am part of the New Media track. We all stood in a circle with Jason Schwirtz, the facilitator of our track, and we each got 90 seconds to pitch our idea. Prior to coming to the event I had not rehearsed anything, and some of the people sounded as if they practiced in front of mirror 50 times as to what exactly they would say. I kind of flowed with it like I normally do.

Fact is, until last night, I had no idea what I was here for. I run a big blog, but is that reason enough to be a young Jewish innovator? My general overture is that I trying to open dialogue between the secular and religious Jewish communities through writing comedy and humor about the community and its issues.

After learning about the many projects in the New Media track, including one person who builds social networking communities, another who is trying to create the biggest culture event in Israel and another who works in the wine and food communities, we switched it up a bit. We all went according to our bracelet colors to pitch to and listen to other pitches from people in different tracks, like Tikun Olam, Jewish Education and Environmentalism. I heard about a project to modernize old Yiddish music in Germany with electronic music, and of someone who is trying to promote Zionism via Israeli cinema, which he says is dominated by left wingers and someone else who is involved in trying to get Israel into trash separation and recycling through a project he has started in Ashkelon. To say fascinating would be an understatement — it was amazing to finally understand what the whole ROI thing was about.

It was also good for me because I have a very short attention span, so 90 seconds per person was great. We then played team building games like hitting a beach ball without letting it touch the ground, building a chain of people whose hands and feet were all touching, then standing up by helping each other to the ground. It kind of felt like summer camp, except it was way hotter.

We then had a challenge in which we were supposed to tie a knot on a long rope without one part touching the other, impossible to explain on paper really, but me and two other guys were just pissed because we were hungry and these people thought they had a chance to complete the challenge. Team work sucks when it eats into your lunch hour. Maybe I am too much of a cynic for ROI type of events.

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Posted on June 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

Everybody Dance (and Daven) Now

This entry was posted in Holidays, Israel on by .

You know what the shema has always been missing? Blonde girls in leggings. Also a DJ. And awkward dance moves. Luckily, a new-to-me-and-possibly-everyone girl group from Israel has rectified the situation. Behold:

The music is good, actually, if bizarre. The video is…not. The styling alone is horrifyingly offensive, but the choreography is also pretty putrid. Wow.

I bet you were hoping that these girls would have a song that’s just perfect for the upcoming three weeks that lead into Tisha B’Av. And happily, they’ve got just the thing.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really feel the pain of the destruction of the Temple until I saw the graphics in this video.

Posted on June 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 To Do With Michael Jackson’s Kids

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Culture on by .

It was only a matter of time until a halakhic question would somehow creep into the Michael Jackson madness. In all the craziness of Jackson’s death, there are very real questions that have to do with the custody of Michael Jackson’s children.

While the issue I’m going to bring up will probably not come up in the actual custody precedings, I still think it is an interesting debate in terms of Jewish community support.

If you know anything about Michael Jackson’s children, you would know that his first two kids, Prince Michael I, and Paris Michael Katherine, were born out of Jackson’s ex-wife, Deborah Jeanne Rowe. The third child, Paris Michael II, was born from a surrogate.

But here is a little known fact about Deborah Jeanne Rowe. She’s Jewish.

For all we know about Rowe, she might be a great mother to these kids if she receives custody. But then again, she has had very little to do with these children during their lives. Jackson had full custody of them and there was no legal battle. This could easily be seen in the court that she cares very little about the kids.

The other option is for the family of MJ, either a sibling or his parents (his mother has actually just filed for custody), to take custody of the kids. Of course, I know nothing about any of these peoples parenting skills (except for the fact that they produced the most screwed up child star in history), but that isn’t what I’m discussing.

As Jews, regardless of who may be the better parent, should we be supporting Rowe because she may raise the children Jewish? By giving the children to the Jackson family, are we saying that we are okay with giving up on two Jews to be part of our community? Then again, I just can’t get past the fact that Rowe has had such small role in these children’s lives.

In this case, does their Judaism matter?

Posted on June 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

A Little More on Casspi

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

I wanted to pass along this feature article about Omri Casspi in Ha’aretz. The difference between this piece and my blog post from last week is that Doron Tamari was actually able to interview the Israeli basketball star. It is similar to my post because both feature me being quoted (although in the Ha’aretz piece, I am “a third fan”). This is a quick excerpt from Tamari’s piece:

Madison Square Garden has hosted many magical moments in sports history, including NBA and NHL championships, boxing matches involving Ali and Frazier and even an exhibition game featuring Maccabi Tel Aviv. On Thursday night, the Garden was again the backdrop to history when Omri Casspi, a Rehovot native and Maccabi Tel Aviv player, was picked by the Sacramento Kings with the 23rd pick in the 2009 NBA draft, becoming the first ever Israeli to be selected in the opening round.

“I’m still in a state of disbelief,” Casspi, who turned 21 last week, reacted yesterday as he arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport to catch a flight to the U.S. “I haven’t slept in two days. Maybe I’ll get some sleep on the flight.”

In case anyone was wondering, Casspi has also chosen his jersey number. You guessed it. 18.

Posted on June 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

Talmud FAIL: Yalta vs. Ulla

This entry was posted in Texts on by .

Most of my favorite Talmud stories center around Yalta. She’s a Talmud-era commentator who’s sometimes thought to be Rav Nachman’s wife (the Talmudic sage, not the Hasidic rebbe) and is also sometimes thought to be the daughter of the Rosh Galuta, the head of the world Jewish community at the time. And she was an arbiter of Jewish law and philosophy in her own right.

We also named our daughter after her. There are two famous stories in the Talmud — seven in total, but two that are really famous — that center around her. One involves Rav Nachman coming to her and asking what to do if you hunger for non-kosher food (she schools him). The other goes as follows (courtesy of

Ulla was once at the house of R. Nahman. They had a meal and he said grace, and he handed the cup of benediction to R. Nahman. R. Nahman said to him: Please send the cup of benediction to Yaltha.

(OK — now Ulla’s gonna get really crabby. Especially considering he’s a guest in the home of an honored rabbi…not to mention, of course, Yalta.)

He said to him: Thus said R. Johanan: “The fruit of a woman’s body is blessed only from the fruit of a man’s body, since it says, He will also bless the fruit of thy body.” It does not say the fruit of her body, but the fruit of thy body. It has been taught similarly: Whence do we know that the fruit of a woman’s body is only blessed from the fruit of a man’s body? Because it says: He will also bless the fruit of thy body. It does not say the fruit of her body, but the fruit of thy body.

(That was Ulla showing off and being a smart@$$ — and, basically, saying that women suck. Now comes the good part.)

Meanwhile Yaltha heard, and she got up in a passion and went to the wine store and broke four hundred jars of wine. R. Nahman said to him: Let the Master send her another cup. He sent it to her with a message: All that wine can be counted as a benediction. She returned answer: Gossip comes from pedlars and vermin from rags.

…and THAT, my friends, is how you deliver the whiz-bang kung-fu punch to an honored rabbi: with a combination of physical force and a good proverb. Apparently, people are still taking this to heart today. Courtesy of FAILblog:

Posted on June 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

Jews and the Vatican: Epilogue: The Portable Altar of Ludwig the Priest

This entry was posted in Beliefs, History, Israel on by .

Inbal Freund-Novick is an organizational consultant and co-founder of The Unmasked Comics Project, a social change comics venture with comics artist Chari Pere. After spending a year as a visiting fellow at JPPPI (The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute), she currently serves in the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress.

Freund-Novick is a participant in Discovering Common Values: The Catholic-Jewish Leadership Conference, hosted by the Vatican and held at the Pope’s summer palace of Castel Gandolfo. She’ll be blogging about it all week, only at MJL.

On the last night before we were all going away, Ludwig, a priest from Bavaria, was showing around his new purchase — a priest’s traveling kit, with everything a priest might need to visit the sick or lead mass away from home.

catholic priest's traveling kit

The kit had some very interesting small version things for the priest like in this kit, which I found online, but it also had some unique artifacts that are typical to Italy such as electric candles on top of the regular ones. One thing which I found cool was a portable altar — I mean, this is so retro to the Mishkan days!

We spoke really late on that night. I showed him this blog, to have him understand what trouble I was intending to get him into — an exposure to some crazy Jewish minds — and he was very surprised to read about how I saw this whole encounter. catholic priest travel kitWhen I woke up the following morning, I jokingly asked him what forms one needs to submit to the Pope to add a few more hours to the night for sleep. I mean, do you fill in the pink one before the blue and yellow ones or the other way around?

Ludwig explained that a request for the pope is done with gold and silver forms. (I’m still unsure as to which part of that was a joke.) In any case, my request moved upwards on that morning as Cardinal Casper — the Cardinal in charge of relationships with the Jews — came over to speak to us. As we were in discussion with the Cardinal, Ludwig told him of my request (Cardinals, apparently, can also laugh!) so I hope it’s gone higher now. More hours of sleep my way please!

Ludwig, next time when you are in Jerusalem, you are invited to a Shabbat meal with us and you can have a look at our altar — a table full of good kosher food in a Jewish family’s home.

Read the previous entries about the Jews and the Vatican Conference.

Posted on June 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

Best of the Rest–Video Edition

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

It’s that time of the week again. This week’s links are dedicated to people who don’t have time to read. If you are still short on time, stop reading what I’ve written, and simply click on the links. You will not be dissapointed.

We have added many video highlights from the best Jewish comedians, from the Marx Brothers to Sacha Baron Cohen. Here are some of my personal favorites.

I love Jerry Seinfeld. Seeing him in a supermarket was cool. More than that, he also had a fantastic show. Some people don’t like it for some reason. So here are four videos that should change their minds.

Mel Brooks is a comedic genius. Don’t believe me? Watch these videos. Especially Gene Wilder being hysterical in The Producers.

Finally, there are highlights from my personal favorite comedian, Sarah Silverman. With these videos, I have a warning and a challenge. The warning is, Silverman, if you don’t know much about her, has some very “adult” humor. It may not be for everyone.

Now, for the challenge. In her “Early Stand-Up” video, she refers to her a married couple in her routine. Both members of that couple have numerous articles published on our site. Find them, you win a prize. Hint: They are related to her.

Posted on June 26, 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

Diaspora & Israel, Messianism and Families

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Israel, Life on by .

Are there really more Muslims than Jews in the US? (Chicago Jewish News)

Should Jews shun “Messianic Jews“? (Beliefnet)

Soli Shahvar, Amos Harel & Avi Issacharoff, and Douglas Bloomfield argue that, for Israel, the victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is actually preferable. (YNet, Ha’aretz, Jerusalem Post)

A look at the impact of extremely large families in the Ashkenazi Haredi world, where “it is not rare to find 13 or 14 children.” (Ha’aretz)

How far should a woman have to go to preserve “Shalom Bayit” with her husband? (Jerusalem Post)

Posted on June 26, 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