Monthly Archives: October 2010

Best of the Week

This entry was posted in General on by .

Oh, what a week it has been. Remember Wednesday? Crazy!

Here’s a look back at some things you may have missed…

Israeli folkdance has a rich history beyond wedding and bar mitzvah dancing. Read all about it.

If you convert to Judaism, you get to choose your own name. I think that’s reason enough. I’d choose Abraham-Isaac-Jacob (Moses). And my middle name would be Frank.

Are you planning on celebrating Halloween? Read all about making Halloween Jewish.

While you’re add it, here are some suggestions I came up with last year for some funny Halloween costumes.

Finally, nothing makes a vegetable taste better than when it’s fried in oil. Try this recipe for Jewish style artichokes.

Posted on October 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 New Jewish Internet

This entry was posted in General on by .

We here are MyJewishLearning are, rightfully so, excited about a just-released study by Professor Ari Kelman at UC Davis, conducted under the auspices of the Avi Chai Foundation,  which focuses  on 150 different Jewish websites and 279 blogs. The central question asked is “How much of the information on the Jewish web actually reaches its intended audience?”

Jewcy has very kindly asked Professor Kelman to (also very kindly) sum up the results of the study for their recently-redesigned website. Go check it out, and then come back.

Without tooting our own horn (well, too much), it was really cool to see MyJewishLearning cited as one of the most successful sites in communicating its message to the people we want to reach. Just about everything in the paper is smartly done, from defining whether or not a site  is Jewish (its own self-definition) to measuring a site’s effectiveness–rather than measuring visitor counts or how often it’s updated, measuring links back to the site and involvement and engagement by other Jewish websites. (Which, I’m pretty sure, was also one of the earliest standards in Google’s search rankings.)

But it’s also an astute observation in terms of communal influence. How do you measure the most influential and successful people? Not because of how many people they’re speaking to (hello, Ann Coulter). As Kelman writes,

To be sure, measuring importance is not just about the gross number of links, but it can be measured in the quality of links, as well; it really is about who you know, not just how many people you know.  When accounting for what social network analysis call the “prestige” of one’s neighbors (and calculating what is known as the Bonacich Power Measure), we find that MyJewishLearning is nearly four times as “powerful” as the UJC’s website.  Despite the relative parity in links between the two sites, MyJewishLearning is linked to sites with greater “prestige,” and thus it plays a role not only in brokering relationships between sites in the network, but in brokering significant relationships, as well…

MyJewishLearning is powerful because it has succeeded in attracting links from across the Jewish world, crossing social barriers online where doing so offline would have proven too difficult.  Transgressing geographic, political, religious and social barriers has resulted in MyJewishLearning becoming as central as it has.  Building links online is, of course, easier than building coalitions offline, but symbolically, the ability to navigate through religious and secular, Israeli and American, Ashkenazi and Sepharadi and Mizrachi websites suggests both a greater fluidity and a stronger unity to “the Jewish Community” than has been evidenced elsewhere. (MORE)

Pretty cool, right? Of course, it’s just a study of influence, not of effectiveness. For instance, some of the best-researched (or best-funded) websites don’t rank nearly as high as others.

For example, Heshy Fried, who operates FrumSatire.net (he was a major focus of the study and was shown to be another most influential sites), is virtually completely outside the sphere of the Organized Jewish Community–but, on the other hand, he gets several thousand visitors a day from across the Jewish spectrum.  “Apparently I’m some big thing,” he wrote me after reading the study. “Do you think someone important will want to give me money now?”

Needless to say we’re excited about the implications of this study and can’t wait to share the full study with you when it’s released to the public soon.

Posted on October 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

Viral AJWS

This entry was posted in Culture, Practices on by .

You always want to try to be ahead of the curve. No one wants to be the guy who posts a viral video a month late (but feel free to post this one–always an exception). So before I’m deemed uncool, I’m going to pass along this video which is unofficially (?) from our good friends at the American Jewish World Service. Because believe me, this video is going viral.

Judd Apatow (of being talented fame) is a big time Jew. Just watch any of his movies. Jew this. Jew that. Jew, Jew, Jew all the time. But this video takes the Jewish cake (which would be what? Kosher for Passover lemon roll?).

Apatow, with what I assume was the permission of AJWS but without their creative input, got a bunch of his famous friends together (Don Johnson is apparently still famous) to promote the work of the amazing organization. And what came out of it was some pretty funny material.

You may not believe me that with a video that includes Jerry Seinfeld, Gilbert Gottfried and Tracy Morgan, the two funniest people in this thing are Helen Hunt and Brian Williams. Granted Helen Hunt was in Mad About You, but she was also in Twister (which was an unintentional comedy).

Watch it. Pass it on.

Posted on October 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

Wise Fridays: Rewarding Activities

This entry was posted in Life on by .

wise fridays: sharpen the     reception on  your WiFri

“The following are the activities for which a person is rewarded in this world, and again in the World-to-Come: honoring one’s father and mother, deeds of loving-kindness, and making peace between a person and his neighbor. The study of Torah, however, is as important as all of them together.”

Mishnah Peah 1:1

Find more Wise Fridays wisdom on MJL.

Posted on October 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

Fear Not!

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

I’ll admit that I’m a little sad that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are holding their rally on the Washington Mall on Saturday instead of Sunday. I wouldn’t have gone too it (it’s just SOOOO mainstream) but I would have enjoyed watching it on television.

The Rally to Restore Sanity may have been conceived as a joke in response to Glenn Beck’s absurd rally a couple of months back but it’s spiraled into something much bigger. People in America (and the world) seem to be getting fed up with partisan politics and the general feeling that news outlets (I’m speaking to you Fox News) are playing on people’s greatest fears just for the purposes of votes or, even worse, ratings.

Again, I bring up that I’m sad that this rally is on Shabbat. Because there are some real parallels between Judaism and this rally. There is a new group, Al Tirah, spawned from Jewish Funds for Justice, that encourages people, al tirah, to fear not. Hopefully, sanity can be restored.

Please watch this video and pass it on.

Posted on October 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

Rooting For The Underdog

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

I’ve never won anything in my entire life. I mean, when it comes to sports at least. I’ve never had a team I root for win a championship. Nor have I ever been on a team, from high school sports to intramural, that’s won. Some could say I’m cursed.

evil heat

Maybe that’s why I took so much pleasure in watching the Miami Heat lose last night. After all, a team with three of the top ten players in the league (for the sake of argument, we can assume that Chris Bosh is a top ten player) should steamroll its way into a championship.

You see, I’ve always rooted for the underdog. I think it’s the Jew in me. Growing up, I would hear miraculous stories about come from behind victories by the Israeli army in 1948 and 1967. I would see Jewish nerds on TV and movies getting kicked around by presumably non-Jewish jocks.

So when I see the Miami Heat, with both Dwayne Wade and LeBron James (!), I just can’t imagine as a Jew that that is a team I can root for. It’s just too easy. Building that team is a cop out. If my Jewish upbringing has taught me anything, it’s that there are no hand outs and people are going to give you trouble on the way. And that trouble, in basketball terms, is the Miami Heat.

In other news, Omri Casspi and the Sacramento Kings make their season debut tonight. Root for them.

Posted on October 27, 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

Everything I Learned About Culture I Learned in Israel

This entry was posted in Culture, Israel on by .

Kelly Cutrone is apparently going to have her own talk show (shudder) and when asked what kinds of things she’s going to cover on the show she said:

There’s a lot of stuff I want to talk to young women about, but I don’t think I should go out with those first. One of the things was, a young girl said to me—this is kind of risque, so I don’t know if you guys wanna hear it—she was like, can I ask you a question? And I said, sure. I thought she was going to ask me, like what should I wear to my prom? But she asked me, how do you give a really good handjob? A, I’m like, no, and B, I said, well, where are you getting your information now? Like, more motherly. Well, on the Internet, she said. And I thought, why do we send our daughters to Brearley, then send them to Israel and Paris to learn about culture, and we send them to Vivid [Entertainment] to learn about sex?

You really want to read the whole quote, I promise. She has some very deep thoughts about placentas.

Here is my immediate question: Am I way behind the times, or does everyone know that the natural progression is Brearley–>Israel–>Paris? I had no idea Brearley was such a bastion of Zionism.

Posted on October 27, 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

What Taylor Swift Can Teach Us About Accepting Apologies

This entry was posted in Culture, Life on by .

I bought Taylor Swift’s new album on Monday night and have been listening to it on repeat since then. (Be quiet, haters. It’s really good!) I’ve been a Swiftie since the first time I heard one of her songs on the radio, which was, fittingly, while driving into Nashville for the first time. You may recall that my second ever blog post at Mixed Multitudes compared Taylor to the Bible (yes, really).

Anyway, this blog isn’t about how much I love Taylor Swift, it’s about how Taylor is apparently bad at accepting apologies.

You remember the whole MTV Video award disaster from 2009, right?

Immediately after the debacle, Kanye posted an apology online. Then he went on Leno the next day and apologized again. (Also, Leno pulled the ‘what would your dead mother think about this’ and I cannot decide if that was a cruel or an important question.) And then this year before the MTV Video awards Kanye apologized again, in a lengthy, weird stream of consciousness tweetfest. Now, obviously I’m on on Team Taylor here, but it does seem like ‘Ye was sincere, and he does almost all the things you’re supposed to do in an apology. He admits what he did was wrong, doesn’t try to make excuses, and acknowledges that his actions were hurtful. He also says he wants to make it up to Taylor. (He also says, “The ego is overdone… like hoodies.”)

So then the Video Awards roll around again and both Taylor and Kanye perform and Taylor’s song is explicitly about Ye, and features the following lyrics:
It’s all right, just wait and see
Your string of lights is still bright to me
Oh, who you are is not where you’ve been
You’re still an innocent

Not to get all Rashi here, but as far as I can tell she’s saying, “Hey Kanye, it’s okay, you’re still very talented, you screwed up, you’re still kind of a kid.” Have truer words ever been spoken? No. Is it the best song ever written? Not at all. But still. The message is gracious and fair. She’s saying she’s not going to hold it against him, and acknowledging that the reason he acted like a jerk is because he’s never really grown up.

But somehow Taylor was criticized for being pretentious and her song for being crappy and her singing for being off key. What’s most interesting (to me) is that she was criticized for being pretentious. The New York Times wrote, “Choosing to tackle last year’s events head-on, Ms. Swift — a victim, but no naïf — performed a new song, “Innocent,” directed at Mr. West, an extremely savvy insult masquerading as the high road. ” As if writing a song about the incident was somehow a jerky move. My favorite podcast also had some pretty serious criticism of Taylor.

It got me thinking about how we accept apologies, and how I think that’s something that’s really hard to do gracefully. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to do without being condescending (by asking for forgiveness, the other person is implicitly giving you position of power). And a lot of times we are bullied into accepting apologies we don’t want to accept, because we’re still mad. A response to an apology that includes a jab at the apologizer is to be expected. It’s hard to let go of anger.

So what if the response to an apology is a shrug of the shoulders, and a general “I don’t even remember what you’re talking about.” Is the only good way to react to an apology to move on and act like it ever happened? Is that really gracious, or just obtuse?

Posted on October 27, 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

Another Salita Movie?

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

I hate to start rumors, so I don’t mean this to be a declaration of fact. I’m really just putting this out there to find out if anyone knows anything more about this:

Is Disney making a movie about Dmitriy Salita?

I can’t really find much info on the internet about this beyond a recent JTA article about Salita’s upcoming boxing match in New York. Salita will be fighting for the IBA welterweight championship on December 16th. Salita, as most of you know, is the Brooklyn based boxer who became an Orthodox Jew.

But if you read the whole article, JTA mentions that Salita has been training in Detroit in the same gym that the rapper Eminem has been training. Eminem was there “preparing to play Salita in a Walt Disney film titled “Knockout.””

Is this true? Is Eminem really going to be playing a Russian-Orthodox Jewish boxer? Even crazier, is Eminem going to be in a Disney movie?

I’m going to be doing some more research on this and will get back to you when I know more.

Posted on October 26, 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

A Jazz Talmud

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Jake Marmer is the Gen-X Jewish Beat poet who never made it to the Beat Movement, born 40 years or so late and in the wrong country. While Jack Micheline (if you get our daily Jewniverse email, you know who he is) and Denise Levertov were first-generation Americans, embracing the almost-English of free-verse poems with the joy of native English speakers, Jake takes his Russian upbringing and wraps it around his poetry, chews it up, and spits it out.




Last week, Marmer — along with Frank London and Greg Wall, two of the godfathers of the NYC alternative-jazz scene, and the Ayn Sof Arkestra — performed a massive new show, “The Jazz Talmud,” with pieces like “Jazz Golem” and “Mishnah of Loneliness/Mishnah of Silence.”

The entire thing is a sort of back-and-forth arguing/debating/epiphanizing of different kinds of art: the orchestra, the poet, and the soloists all dialogue and fight and create some pretty amazing music. I could tell you more about it, but the entire concert is online; why don’t you just go watch the show?

Posted on October 25, 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

Privacy Policy