Monthly Archives: April 2010

Best of the Week

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What a week! The sun is up.  It’s warm outside. It’s supposed to be 90 degrees tomorrow in New York. And to think, this week, it snowed on my parent’s front lawn. Craziness.

As a kid, I loved reading and acting out the Sedra Scenes during kids services at synagogue. Then recently, I found the book and noticed that the authors made God really snarky. Same goes for Moses. Was ancient Israel known for it’s sarcasm? I’m getting off topic here but we have a great new article about modern Midrash and how we retell biblical stories.

If you like having your mind blown, I recommend grilling pineapple for Lag B’Omer. It doesn’t sound like anything special but believe me, it is the greatest thing ever. You can thank me next week.

Oh, I’m sorry! You don’t even know what Lag B’Omer is? Don’t worry! Quickly read up on this somewhat forgotten Jewish holiday. Hint: It involves grilled pineapple.

Posted on April 30, 2010

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

We’re Going Back to Geocities!

This entry was posted in History on by .

One of my favorite blogs out there is Best Week Ever, from the people who brought you that trendy VH1 show. You can waste your time on Perez Hilton all you want. Any amazing internet item you will ever need is on Best Week Ever.

Take for example this amazing website they found which converts any website you want into a 1996 style Geocities website. So while MyJewishLearning is very proud of it’s design, I thought it would be fun if we checked out what the site would have looked like if we had launched seven years earlier (That’s right. MyJewishLearning.com was founded in 2003).

What would you think if this was MJL’s design?

But of course I couldn’t stop there. What if the entire Jewish internet world was stuck in 1996? Would online Judaism exist?

Would you read JTA as often as you do?

How about the Jerusalem Post?

I don’t think cool blogs like Jewlicious and Jewschool would survive either.

Thankfully, technology has evolved. And Geocities is only available in Japan (I wish I could make that up).

Posted on April 30, 2010

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 New Jewish Comedian?

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

I put a question mark at the end of the title because there are so many fantastic young Jewish comedians out there and it’s tough to just pick one comedian. But the more I listen to Moshe Kasher, the more I think he best deserves the title.

I’ve talked about Kasher here before. But recently, he’s been getting a lot of good press, including a recent appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and a full length (and incredibly funny) interview with the A.V. Club. And the more I watch him, the more I can’t get enough of him.

And while there are plenty of Jewish comedians out there, more (and better) than anyone Kasher embraces his Judaism for his routine. He obviously finds Judaism funny and is very much willing to talk about it. And similar to Sarah Silverman, he is able to do real commentary on anti-Semitism and the absurdities of our religion.

Just watch this clip about why Bernie Madoff had to look so Jewish and his personal struggle with wanting to pick up quarters that he found on the ground. But he also doesn’t let Jews off the hook in their own racism. Just because he likes to call out non-Jews for their Jewish stereotypes, he realizes that Jews are just as bad when it comes to stereotypes (in this video’s case, Asians) of others.

Moshe Kasher is many things. But he is not for children or people offended by language. You’ve been warned.

Posted on April 29, 2010

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

Counting the Omer, Easyfied

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

If I didn’t already tell you, the 49-day Jewish ritual of counting the Omer stresses me out. I like my rituals neat, compact, and non-prolonged: I love doing these rituals. And, when they’re over, I want them to be over.

This year, we’re counting the omer as a family, which has been a lot more exciting — and a lot more stressful. When one of us remembers, it’s a victory for us all. And if I forget (which hasn’t happened yet, G*d willing) then I drag the whole team down with me. As I wrote:

We’ve worked it into a little ritual for our family. Usually we count right at sunset, after we’ve put the baby to sleep. We’ll have dinner (both of us! eating together! the same food! every night! for us, this is revolutionary). We’ll hang out a bit, pack for our upcoming move (tomorrow, bli ayin hara), and watch the sun go down. And then as soon as it’s dark, one of us will inevitably remind the other by running up to the other person and saying, with no prelude, “Baruch!”

Of all the forget-proof ways I’ve heard so far, my friend Shifra Pride Raffel has what might be the neatest system.


Two brilliant things about Shifra’s design:

1) You’re reminded of it every time you eat, which happens at least every day; and 2) You get to count the kabbalistic sefirot, too, which are the mystical emanations of the Omer.

Posted on April 29, 2010

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

Brises for Non-Jews?

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Can someone explain to me why Sandra Bullock’s baby had a bris? Does this make any sense to anyone?

According to the Huffington Post:

She said that Louis even had a bris, presumably soon after they brought him home as a newborn in January. This was long before Jesse’s mistresses surfaced so he would have been there for the Jewish ceremony.

“A friend of ours helped arrange for a bris at the house, because we couldn’t go [to a hospital for the procedure]. The mohel [a person trained in the practice] came to us. You have never seen adults more panicked about what was about to happen to their son, but the celebration and the amount of love we felt and the pride in the little man whom we love so, so much became the greatest moment I have ever had in my life.”

According to Wikipedia Bullock grew up in Germany but has never spoken about her religion publicly. Her mom was German. She spoke the word mishegas at the 2010 Oscar ceremony. So maybe she’s Jewish and maybe she isn’t. I don’t really care except…

I’ve been to some very festive brises, and I think in a weird way it is a beautiful ritual because it connects us today to the hundreds of generations before us. I’m pro-circumcision, for sure. BUT. If you’re not Jewish, and you’re not doing it to provide the connection to your heritage and to imply some kind of Jewish practice in the future, then it’s just a big celebration for some guy cutting off a piece of a baby’s penis. And that’s officially weird, right?

I’m going to choose to believe that Bullock is Jewish because she’s awesome and I completely want her to be on our team, so to speak. Also because having a big exciting bris for a non-Jewish kid seems really odd.

Posted on April 29, 2010

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

Dodging Suicide Bombs

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

This morning I was walking to work from the subway station, nose stuck in a book as usual. We are the People of the Book, after all; and I follow J.K. Rowling‘s advice that, any time you’re not doing anything else, you should read. I didn’t stop until I reached the I HEART N.Y. gift shop on the ground floor of our office building, and then I looked up from the page, saw a kid, and froze. Half of my body wanted to throw up, and the other half wanted to cry.

Sorry — it’s a really emotional week. But let me explain:

That book was Almost Dead, the novel written by our recent Authors’ Blog correspondent Assaf Gavron {read his posts here}. It’s a book about an Israeli tech geek who lives through several suicide bombings. All the Almost Deadreviews so far have been describing it as a comedy — and it is funny, you should be warned — but more than that, it’s a real fast-moving, cerebral jaunt through the mind of an average Israeli.

And Eitan Enoch is an average Israeli. He’s a chilled-out guy who has his normal routine, taking the Little No. 5 maxi-taxi to work every day in Tel Aviv, working at a time management company, living with his ex-fiancee Duchi (which is a common-enough Israeli nickname, but only occurs to me now that it wouldn’t be an out-of-place name on Jersey Shore). When he stumbles into celebrity as a result of his bizarre survival talent, the press demands that Enoch feel angry, or grateful, or demand revenge on the Palestinian population. He does none of them — he’s just more than a bit perplexed, and, as he says on the country’s most popular TV show, he doesn’t really hate anyone.

Enoch’s reactions to the bombs — and to his bizarre survival skills — are funny, embarrassing, honest, and real. It’s not the gruff caricature of the Israeli (although there is plenty of that, too, especially in his relationship with Duchi). More than any other attempt I’ve seen, Gavron gets to the heart of the Israeli attitude about Palestinians, and about living in a country where going out to dinner is as dangerous as walking into a combat zone, and doesn’t reduce it to an equation of settlers and refugees. Israel is a place where peace is a very fragile and very carefully-constructed illusion, and Gavron depicts both parts with spine-shivering accuracy: both the world behind it and the illusion itself.

So that’s what I was thinking about when I was reading this morning. And then, standing outside the T-shirt store, I spotted a boy, maybe six years old, with a vivid shock of red hair. And he looked exactly like the boy in M.I.A.’s new video — which, if you haven’t heard, is the controversy of the moment, depicting red-haired men and boys being rounded up by the U.S. military, taken into the desert, and brutally shot. Starting with the six-year-old boy.

I don’t know what to think. Is the world around us getting more violent because our books and movies are? Or are our books and movies getting more violent because the world around us is? Dammit, most of the books that I feel compelled to run  up to everyone I know and shake them by the shoulders and shout, “READ THIS!” are books that make me feel good. Almost Dead is definitely not a book that makes me feel good. But it’s still a book that I think nearly everyone I know can benefit from reading — so that’s my recommendation.

Posted on April 29, 2010

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 Most Evil Zombie

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Are all zombies evil? Can there be a nice, kind zombie? Have you ever seen a zombie helping an old person walk across the street? How about serving soup at a homeless shelter? Of course you haven’t. The reason is that zombies are interested in one thing and one thing only. Brains.

Zombies love brains. But if you were to take an already evil person and make them into a zombie, does this make them more evil than your regular, run of the mill zombie? This is a question that I’m sure all of you have discussed at least once, whether it was around the Shabbos table or in Hebrew school.

Don’t worry. You’re not the only one who has thought about this. The good people over at College Humor have made a really brilliant video taking on the topic of Nazi Zombies. Does it even matter if the Zombie used to be a Nazi? Evil is evil. Or will Nazis be even more discriminatory?

By the way, people of College Humor, this should be a real movie. Is it really less ridiculous than Surf Nazis Must Die?

Warning: There are Hasidic Zombies in this video. If you don’t like to laugh at that, then don’t watch.

Posted on April 28, 2010

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 Peace Process

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Shlomo Avineri argues that if the Palestinians were to unilaterally declare themselves a state, little would change on the ground, but it “would make the Israeli-Palestinian dispute more “normal”–that is to say, a dispute between states, [and]–would also advance the prospect for negotiations.” (Ha’aretz)

J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami talks about why he is bringing a large delegation to Israel, relations with AIPAC, J Street’s alleged inconsistency, and Obama’s need to connect with Israelis. (Ha’aretz)

Netanyahu is reported to have told Mitchell that he is willing to discuss the core issues of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, (Jerusalem, borders and security arrangements) in the proximity talks. (Ha’aretz)

Ari Shavit cautions: “The essential task now in the Middle East is the prevention of war. That’s not the same as pursuing peace. Sometimes it’s precisely the attempt to achieve an unattainable peace that ignites a war.” (Ha’aretz)

Really, how central is resolving the Israel-Palestinian issue either to the politics of the Middle East or to the national-security interests of the United States? (Wall Street Journal)

Posted on April 28, 2010

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

Kids’ Music that Doesn’t Suck (Plus, Free MP3s from MJL)

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

As I’ve said before, being a professional Jew can mess with your head — when the rest of the world starts to realize that Purim is just around the corner, you’re already two weeks into writing and cutting Passover videos. And now, just as the weather’s starting to warm up, I’m thinking about Hanukkah 2010. So if I seem a little out-of-it all year ’round, that might be why.

It was also a great reminder of our free Hanukkah mp3s — and, specifically, Mista Cookie Jar‘s version of Hanukkah O Hanukkah. And — coincidentally, as we’re planning for this great new Jewish parenting site — Mista Jar just released the first video from his album, The Love Bubble:

Posted on April 28, 2010

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