Monthly Archives: October 2010

Best of the Week

This entry was posted in General on by .

With Shabbat just a couple of hours away and the week coming to close, here’s what you may have missed at MJL.

Do you think anti-Semitism is still going strong today? Read all about the different forms of anti-Semitism in the 21st century.

As the Jewish community ages, younger generations face difficult decisions regarding their parents’ and grandparents’ care.

The concept of the divine giving out punishments and rewards is quite controversial and touches on whether or not people deserved what comes to them.

What does Judaism think about contraception? It’s tied to Judaism’s philosophies on the value of procreation.

Jewish laws did not just stop at the Torah and the Talmud. Read more about modern Halakhic texts.

Have a good weekend!

Posted on October 22, 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

My Rent Is High

This entry was posted in History on by .

Back in September, I moved to a new apartment. I’d been in my old place for two years, which was the longest I’d lived in one place since high school. It was time for a change. Plus, I found an awesome apartment (mouse included!) for $350 less a month. Not bad. Of course, since I live in New York, I still pay four figures. Four figures for mice.

If you’re a fan of viral videos, then there is a good chance that you saw this week’s big hit, The Rent is Too Damn High.

New York state is funny in the sense that they invite all the candidates to participate in the governor’s debate, no matter how crazy they are. This year, that group included Jimmy McMillan, the head of the Rent is Too Damn High Party. Below, you’ll be able to watch and understand why he is so awesome.

Except for one thing.

He might just have it in for the Jews. Just read what he wrote a couple years back:

There are over (25) Twenty Five Thousand Newly Rented Apartments, Available, Now Renting in the Williamsberg Section of Brooklyn, NY. as is all throughout the (5) Five Boro’s. But… they are only being Rented to the Jewish People.

That’s too bad. I really wanted to like this guy. Because as crazy as he is, the rent really is too damn high.

P.S. Watch this video and tell me you don’t feel bad for Andrew Cuomo. Did he actually have to follow McMillan after every single question? That would be like telling a minister, “Sure can you go up and preach. You’re up right after this Martin Luther King guy.” It’s just unfair.

Posted on October 22, 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: Fraudulent Beggars

This entry was posted in History, Practices on by .

wise fridays: sharpen the     reception on  your WiFri

“The merit of charity is so great that I am happy to give to 100 beggars even if only one might actually be needy. Some people, however, act as if they are exempt from giving charity to 100 beggars in the event that one might be fraudulent.”

Rabbi Chaim of Sanz

Find more Wise Fridays wisdom on MJL.

Posted on October 22, 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

Hours of Chess

This entry was posted in Israel, Life on by .

My schools taught me some pretty weird things. In my 11th grade gym class, we learned how to juggle. For real. And we got graded on it. 10% of my grade was my ability to juggle three balls ten times in a row. Thankfully, I’m an awesome juggler and got 10/10. I’d like to believe that my juggling had an integral role in me getting accepted into college.

Looking even further back in my education, in the 5th grade, there was an entire unit in my math class devoted to teaching us how to play chess. Again, for real. We would pair up every day and play chess. That was that class. Unlike juggling though, I sucked at chess. I still suck at chess.

So needless to say, I’d have an easier time completing this world record than Alik Gershon will. Gershon, is currently sitting in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square trying to break the record for most consecutive chess matches against ranked chess players. Gershon, a chess grandmaster (whatever that means), is attempting to play 520 matches and hopes on winning about 80% of them.

The current record is held by an Iranian chess grandmaster, but I’ll pretend that this isn’t a political thing.

As I said earlier, I would have an easier time beating this record. As far as I’m aware, it doesn’t say anything about having to win the matches. So while Gershon will be spending precious endurance time trying to beat his opponents, I will simply admit that I’m a terrible chess player and let these ranked players beat me. I predict that I would lose every match in 10 moves or less. Probably less.

So have fun Gershon. Because next week, I’m going for 521.

Posted on October 21, 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

Dr Ruth and the Druze and Bedouins

This entry was posted in Culture, Israel on by .

Is there anyone in the world as bad-ass as Dr. Ruth? I think not. Here she is riding around the Negev on a camel visiting with Druze and Bedouin families to learn about their lives. I love the part where she suggests that the Druze and Bedouin told her all about their sex lives, but she’s not telling…

Posted on October 21, 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 Shabbat Compromise

This entry was posted in History, Practices on by .

A while back, I gave a little plug to the National American Jewish History Museum that’s being built in Philadelphia. Who knew that I would be able to write about the museum with an actual news report?

The museum was in a bit of a conundrum. How would they approach the issue of Shabbat? The museum is not a religious institution. Nor is their target audience necessarily only Jews. But they are still a Jewish institution. So should they be open on Shabbat?

This was also not only a religious question. The museum estimated that approximately a quarter of their revenue could be lost if they were to close on Saturdays. So what do they decide?

According to USA Today, they’ve actually created an interesting compromise. First, tickets will not be available for purchase at the museum on Shabbat. However, you will be able to buy tickets online, in advance or in outside locations.

Secondly, there is the issue of the gift shop. And the compromise there is also interesting. On Saturdays, they will not accept cash as payment. Secondly, they will take credit card information but will not process the transactions until after Shabbat.

Alright, here’s the thing. None of those things are what I would call “shomer Shabbat.” But I still like the effort. The museum has every right to be open on Shabbat. More than that, they provide a good service and to take away one of the two days in the weekend, the most popular time for tourists to visit, would deny people a chance to learn about American Jewish history.

Again, it’s not shomer Shabbat. But the fact that the museum was willing to consider Shabbat is a good thing, and a nice gesture.

Posted on October 20, 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

Niddah and the Ick Factor

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

Pop quiz: Are you totally grossed out by the idea of period sex? My intense research has lead me to conclude that
a)    some people really are
b)    some people really are not

Profound, right?

I’ve been thinking about this because tonight I’ll be attending the second session of Yeshivat Hadar‘s 6-part shiur series on Niddah, the laws of menstrual purity. Here’s the little blurb about the series says:

The biblical and rabbinic material on sexual practice surrounding menstruation is more loaded with critique and apology than almost any other area of halakhic literature.  In this series we will attempt to engage this topic directly and honestly, sincerely searching for what these ancient sources continue to teach us today and to imagine new possibilities for their application to contemporary reality.

You can attend the sessions on Tuesday nights from 7:30 until 9pm, or you can stream them live, or watch the videos.

At the first session, Rabbi Ethan Tucker briefly mentioned “the ick factor” and basically said we should keep in mind that it’s a real reaction some people have, and we shouldn’t belittle it if we don’t personally have that reaction. It was a minor point he made in an evening of much larger points, but it really impressed me, because I think so much of the way we talk about sex–both within and outside of Jewish contexts–is about identifying something as an ick factor, and castigating that. It’s all about, “We can all agree that X is totally nasty. Anyone who wants to do X is gross.” And of course then anyone who does like X, or even who just doesn’t have a problem with it, is suddenly in a crappy position. On the other hand, to the person who really is skeeved out by X, they legitimately don’t want to think about it because it makes them gag.

So, it seems clear that the answer here is to say, “Hey, no one do anything that skeeves you out. And if someone else is doing something that skeeves you out and
a)    they’re doing it with a partner who is a consenting adult
b)    everyone seems to be enjoying themselves
c)    no one is pressuring you to join

please just leave them alone and go on your merry way. If you start to think about it and feel yucky, think about baseball, or England, or your favorite pair of boots. Move on with your life. Focus on getting what you want in your bedroom, and not trying to control anyone else’s sex life.

The thing that bothers me about Niddah is that it mandates an ick factor. Everyone who cares about halakhah has to observe this prohibition that is pretty clearly linked to an ick factor, even if they and their partner are not at all grossed out by it.

I don’t have a solution here. It’s just a sad observation.

Posted on October 19, 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 Double Standard

This entry was posted in History on by .

A couple of weeks back, we (the Jewish community) were up in arms when Rich Sanchez claimed, like so many before him, that the Jews run the media. Whether or not Sanchez is an actual anti-Semite is not at issue, because his comment is one of the oldest Jew baiting lines in the book.

Sanchez, as most of you know, was fired by CNN. And even if he misspoke, he still deserved to be reprimanded.

So why is it that when a news anchor says something offensive about Muslims, he is simply asked to apologize on air and clarify what he meant?

I’m speaking, of course, about Fox & Friends morning host, Brian Kilmeade. Kilmeade, last week, made the claim that “not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” That would be the equivalent of saying, “not all Jews are bankers, but Jews do run all the banks.”

Yet somehow Kilmeade wasn’t fired. I haven’t even seen him being pressured to be fired. Why is this the case? Shouldn’t the Jewish community in particular, who is hypersensitive to offensive and anti-Semitic comments in the media, be leading this charge?

This isn’t me saying that Jews are too sensitive when it comes to comments like the ones Rick Sanchez made. However, if we as a community are going to make a big deal out of anti-Semitic comments on TV, then we should go beyond anti-Semitism.

Kilmeade claims that he was arguing that all the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 were Muslim, and that he did not actually mean that all terrorists in general are Muslim. But who cares? I’m sure if you ask Rich Sanchez to clarify his position, he’d tell you that obviously Jews don’t run Hollywood in the media. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have been fired.

Jehan Harney over at Huffington Post has more on the issue. She’s worth checking out.

Here is Kilmeade, in his own words:

Posted on October 19, 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

MyJewishLearning Named to Slingshot!

This entry was posted in General on by .

We’re excited to announce that MyJewishLearning.com has been named one of the nation’s 50 most innovative Jewish nonprofits in Slingshot ’10-‘11, a resource guide for Jewish innovation. Since 2005, Slingshot has become the definitive guide to identifying path-finding and trailblazing organizations grappling with concerns in Jewish life such as identity, community, and tradition.  MyJewishLearning.com was chosen by a panel of 36 foundation professionals from across North America. This was MyJewishLearning.com’s second year in a row being featured in Slingshot.Slingshot

In order to be listed in Slingshot, organizations are selected from among hundreds of nominees across North America. Finalists are chosen based on their strength in four areas: innovation, impact, leadership, and organizational efficiency.

According to Will Schneider, the Director of Slingshot, “2010 was the most competitive year that Slingshot has experienced. Not only are there a greater number of applicants each year, but the extent and complexity of each applicant’s impact has increased. The feedback from the evaluators told us that the guide could easily have been filled with twice as many inspirational projects, so these 50 had to really shine to rise to the top.”

Mazal tov to us! (And thank you Slingshot!)

Posted on October 19, 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

Sayed Kashua Gets Serious

This entry was posted in Culture, Israel on by .

I can’t get enough of Sayed Kashua. If you haven’t subscribed to Jewniverse, our new daily culture and inspiration email, do it now — we’ll send you something new and mindblowing every single morning. Last week, we wrote about a new sitcom about Israeli Arabs that blew my mind — and, judging from the discussion on my Facebook wall, I wasn’t the only one.

And now, because I am obsessive, I am slowly filling my brain with Kashua. I picked up his novel Let It Be Morning, which is as different from the Seinfeld antics of Arab Labor as you can get — and yet it still grips and twists your heart in the same way.

The nameless journalist narrating the story is an Arab reporter for an Israeli newspaper (just like in Labor). He’s on a low ebb, having been reduced from staff to a freelancer, picking up fewer stories, and caring for his infant daughter. He just moved from the big city to the Arab village where he grew up — he’s relieved; his wife is furious, but they can’t afford anything else.

A few weeks into they return, the village is surrounded by Israeli tanks. No one is allowed to leave; no one can come in. And the 150 or so pages that follow are a masterful slowed-down examination of existence, like Kafka or Sartre spending entire chapters detailing a scene, letting every adjective serve as the basis for a sprawling, meaningful flashback. But it’s anything but slow — it’s like one long, tense buildup before the intensity of the last 80 pages, which are a single extended adrenaline rush.

Lest you think that the book is a castigation of Israelis, let me just say that it shows both West-Bank Palestinians and Israeli Arabs at their worst, basest, and most morally depraved, and that even the Israeli government looks like a hero in the end. Kashua isn’t a political writer — or, he’s a hugely political writer, if only because he’s equally critical of everyone. Occasionally, I would have to stop reading and remind myself that all of Kashua’s work is written in Hebrew — and, therefore, he’s writing primarily for Jewish Israelis — and wonder exactly what he’s trying to tell them.

My biggest fear was that such an existentially-meandering plot would lead to one of those annoying postmodern endings. You know — where the tanks fade away, the village is safe, maybe one or two people are dead, but nobody knows what it means. Thankfully, Kashua is too much of a master storyteller for that — his last-act spin comes fast and loud from left field, enough of a shock to make you reread several sentences and yet totally in line with what’s happened so far. I know, I’m being annoyingly vague. But, once you read the book, you’ll thank me for it. And you will. Read it, I mean.

(Huge tremendous hat-tip to Hadara and Aadam for introducing me.)

Posted on October 19, 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