Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Loyalty Oath

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Yossi Verter looks at how the oath issue came about–and argues it is bad for both Israel and the Jews. (Ha’aretz)

Some Likud members, most notably Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence Services Dan Meridor, are opposed to the oath. (YNet News)

Chaim Gans says this oath means Arabs must “agree that their inferior existence is not only a de facto reality they are forced to accept, but a matter of principle as well.” (Ha’aretz)

Ze’ev Segal attacks the wording of the Neeman-Lieberman loyalty oath because “it would be perceived as open or tacit discrimination against non-Jews.” (Ha’aretz)

Defense Minister Barak accepts that wording, but wants to tack on “in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence”–but his party is opposed to the oath. (Ha’aretz)

Shlomo Avineri says for those seeking citizenship, “a general pledge of allegiance to the laws of the state of Israel” is not enough, but “a declaration about accepting the legitimacy of the state of Israel” is legitimate and should suffice. (Ha’aretz)

Posted on October 18, 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 of the Week

This entry was posted in General on by .

With the week coming to a close, here are some things you may have missed here at MJL.

Another week, another amazing recipe for you to try out. Now you can eat homemade borekas!

Laughter can be heard in all types of contexts. But in Judaism, it can also be used as a coping mechanism.

Quiz time: How much do you know about science and Judaism?

Since the Shulkhan Arukh was published in the 16th century, Halakhah has continued to evolve and grow.

Have a good weekend! See ya Monday!

Posted on October 15, 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

Hear O Bieber

This entry was posted in Texts on by .

As a lifelong Justin Bieber fan, I really should have written about this the day this little nugget of news came out.

Apparently, before every concert (which correlates to almost every night), Justin Bieber, pop star extraordinaire, says the Shema. In other words, Justin Bieber says the Shema more often than I do.

Where in the world would the Biebs learn the words to the Shema? After all, he is not a Jew nor is he from a particularly Jewish town (He’s from Stratford, Ontario–very beautiful town with a great Shakespeare Festival). Needless to say, he didn’t go to a Solomon Schechter day school.

The answer stems back to an interview that isRealli.org conducted back in September with Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun. Braun, who also discovered Bieber by finding him on YouTube, is a somewhat observant Jew (in the sense that he says he’s never eaten a cheeseburger) and he taught Bieber the words to Judaism’s most holy prayer.

I don’t care what anyone says. Bieber is a baller and this just makes him even more awesome. Admit it, you’re impressed. And you love his dance moves. And his voice. Okay, I’ll stop.

Posted on October 15, 2010

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Wise Fridays: Obscenity

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Life on by .

wise fridays: sharpen the     reception on  your WiFri

“Said Rabbi Hanan, the son of Rav: Everybody knows why the bride enters the bridal chamber, but if anyone speaks obscenely about it, even if seventy years of happiness have been decreed and sealed for him on High, the decree is changed for him into evil.”

Babylonian Talmud Ketubot 8b

Find more Wise Fridays wisdom on MJL.

Posted on October 15, 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 Question

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

In his last posts, Gregory Levey wrote about late-night Middle East radio commentary and Amazon recommendations with his book. His newest book, How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less Without Leaving Your Apartment, is now available. He has been blogging all week for the JBC/MJL Author Blog.

In the various radio, print, and TV appearances I’ve been doing to promote my new book, I often get the same question: Did you end up making peace in the Middle East?

My book is called How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less Without Leaving Your Apartment , so this is a natural enough question, but I still find it a bit forward. After all, why would I give away the ending to my book?

If people want to know whether or not I actually made peace in the Middle East from the comfort of my apartment, they are simply going to have to read the book all the way to the end to find out.

And if you think that I’m going to give away the ending in this blog post, then you are sorely mistaken. I can tell you that in my attempt to make Middle East peace, I spoke to people from all over the political spectrum, from friends of Prime Minister Netanyahu to a former advisor to Yasser Arafat. I spoke to spies, lobbyists, politicians, and thousands of Jewish grandmothers. I also did combat training with a right wing Jewish paramilitary group, investigated a supposed “online suicide bombing,” went under cover as an Evangelical Christian, and ended up at a real-life castle owned by a cape-wearing billionaire who thinks he is a superhero called “Peaceman.” I can tell you all that, but I can’t tell you if I ended up making peace in the Middle East.

It’s called “suspense,” people.

Gregory Levey’s second book, How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less Without Leaving Your Apartment , has just been released.

Posted on October 15, 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

Not This Again

This entry was posted in Culture, Israel on by .

Israel does a lot of things very well–especially when it comes to sports. Their basketball and soccer teams are top notch. But when it comes to other sports, they just fall flat.

Take for example, hockey. Probably about ten years ago, Israel’s national junior hockey team came to Montreal to raise money. They subsequently were pummeled by a local Jewish high school. And that’s not their fault. Of course they would lose to a bunch of Canadians at hockey. They’re Israeli! We don’t expect them to be good at hockey.

Same goes for baseball. I went to camp long enough and have seen enough Israelis try to swing a baseball bat that I know that Israelis just don’t play baseball the way Americans do. It’s just not their sport. And again, I don’t blame them. You have Omri Casspi! You don’t need an Israeli baseball player.

But now this story comes out about the talk of ANOTHER Israeli baseball league. Keep in mind that the last Israeli baseball league went out of business after just one season, less than five years ago.

Why does Israel need this? It just seems like a colossal waste of money. The talent is going to be weak, meaning the product won’t be good. I can’t wait to see the headline, “Israeli Baseball League 2.0 Folds.” Then, I’ll be able to say…I told you so.

Posted on October 14, 2010

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The Mikveh Experience: Splashing Back

This entry was posted in Life on by .

As a writer, it’s always an honor to hear from readers. After all, most of the things you publish and post you’re just throwing into the universe, hoping that somebody reads them and pays attention to them and that maybe they’ll remember a small piece of what you wrote for a few hours after they close the computer.

So it’s really awesome to receive a letter like this. In yesterday’s daily Jewniverse email, we told you about The Mikvah Project, a collection of stories and photographs of different women’s experiences dunking themselves into that spiritual pool.

Today we received this letter:

After reading The Jewish Dunk, I thought I would share my experience. I wrote a letter to our mikveh lady thanking her for the awesome experience.  Here is what I wrote to her.

Dear Sally,

I had the most awesome Jewish experience tonight.  I went to the mikveh. This road that I have traveled has been a blessing given to me by God. I believe I could hear “the still clear voice” of Lech Lecha whispered just to me.

Sally, I remember you said something to me recently about my life changing, Jewishly speaking.  I just know that I have transformed into the woman I am supposed to be at the young age of 60.  The mikvah only takes a little while, but the effects are everlasting.

With age comes experience and wisdom.

At the age of 24, I became a bride and that meant a trip to the mikvah.
Looking back, that’s what it was “a trip to the mikvah” to get dunked so that I could be married.

Now, as I am quickly approaching sixty, I knew I was ready to do this for me! I knew in my mind, heart, body and soul last night was the perfect time to pursue the Jewish tradition of going to the mikveh.  I believe I  now posses the qualities to understand the principles of mikveh. At that time, I know I just did it for my mom so I could have a traditional Jewish wedding.

Today, I did it for myself.

I just want to add that I am glad that you are a part of my Jewish journey.

Ahavah,
Susan

Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Susan.

(And I just have to add that, if you haven’t signed up for Jewniverse, do it now! Tomorrow’s mail has one of the funniest and most touching films I’ve ever seen. And I want to talk about it RIGHT NOW, but I can’t tell anyone yet. Go. Sign up.)

Posted on October 14, 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

Running the Media

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

There’s been a lot of talk as of late surrounding controversies involving famous people claiming that Jews run the media. I can assure you, that even though you are currently on a very powerful and influential Jewish media site at this very moment, Jews DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT run the media. Want some cold, hard proof? Ted Turner is not on my speed dial (he calls me). What else do you need?

The fact is that as much as we wish we ran the media, we really don’t. You think Jon Stewart is actually influential? Then just remember that Tosh.O, the show that features more crotch jokes than you’d think possible (P.S. I love that show), has better ratings. And they are on the same channel.

But what if we lived in a world where the Jews actually DID run the media? Wouldn’t that be fun?  Then again, what would we have to talk about at Shabbat dinner now that the topic of “CNN lies” is no longer applicable? I’m sure we could come up with a few things.

And Jeff Rubin, over at CollegeHumor.com actually did (thankfully he is a Jew, otherwise it would be awesomely racist). The image on your right is just one of the amazingly funny concepts he came up with. If you press the above link, you can see more, including the 350 part series about why Sandy Koufax is the greatest athlete of the 20th Century. Well, that part is true.

Don’t believe me? Well, don’t cross me. Because I’m about to talk to Ted Turner. And he runs the media.

Posted on October 13, 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

Great House – National Book Award Finalist

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

A day after its release, Nicole Krauss’s novel Great House was named a National Book Award finalist, which is either a great bit of luck or a great bit of marketing.

It’s not surprising, though. The novel — which tells the story of a massive desk (yes, a desk) that trades owners from a middle-aged writer in the USA to a vindictive Israeli Holocaust survivor to a South American radical — is sprawling, confusing, and beautiful. It’s a book that makes you kick yourself and bite your tongue because it’s so full-on and self-centered (you’ll see what I mean in a second). But, at the same time, it really is great.

The book opens with a middle-aged writer, spilling over with despair, as she tells the story of a Chilean poet she loved. He left her to go back to his native country, where he was captured by the government — he was a protestor in a country where that sort of thing was usually fatal — and the poet was subsequently tortured and killed. Years later, a young woman shows up pretending to be his daughter, and summarily removes the desk, leaving the writer both deskless and with an incredible writer’s block.

And that’s the first chapter. I didn’t spoil it, I promise — you know every detail of the story from the start, except where the plot is headed from there. Where it’s headed is in a number of different directions, with several disconnected stories that intersect at times but never entirely unite. It’s quite beautiful, but it’s like watching a movie you know is supposed to be great. You’re never sure whether it’s actually going to entertain you, in the end.

Whatever Great House does, it does to 100%. The book is made of two parts and eight chapters, each told by one of four (really five) narrators. This sounds confusing, but it’s actually not at all — the stories are so distinctive and remarkable, and each cuts off at just the right point, that you thirst for resolution until the latter half of the book. All four narrators basically share the same voice — you know this voice; it’s a thoughtful, carefully meandering New Yorker-style of monologue. There aren’t even quotes around dialogue. Also, nothing happens. There’s no character progression, not for the main characters, anyway. Each is narrating the story in one place, unmoving, with full awareness of his or her audience and position as a storyteller.

Not that I’m complaining. Even if the characters all talk the same, the voice is so compelling that it’s hard to nitpick. Metaphorically or literally, she’s caught all of these characters in a moment between drunkenness (painful, honest drunkenness) and standing on death’s door — those times where people are most candid, blunt, and where they can see the sum of their lives.

GH takes its name from a story at the book’s very end — a story snatched from Rich Cohen’s book Israel Is Real, who snatched it in turn from the Talmud. In the end, you’ll realize, Great House was in fact entertaining — each moment of it, you’re in the moment, even if it’s only a single moment that lasts through each of its 30-page chapters. I still can’t tell you exactly what happened in the book, but I can tell you I’m already feeling nostalgic to go back and revisit it.

but the voice is so compelling that it’s hard to nitpickN

Posted on October 13, 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

Baxter and Me

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

In his last post, Gregory Levey wrote about late-night Middle East radio commentary. His newest book, How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less Without Leaving Your Apartment, is now available. He will be blogging all week for the JBC/MJL Author Blog.

For some reason I don’t really understand, if you go to the Amazon.com page for the book I’ve just published, How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less Without Leaving Your Apartment, Amazon often makes a strange recommendation. If you are interested in my book, Amazon believes, you might also be interested in a children’s book called Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher.

Now, I’ve never read Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher, which is written by Laurel Snyder. I guess it could theoretically be related to my own book, which is about my attempt to make Middle East peace from the comfort of my own apartment, mostly so that I wouldn’t have to hear about the fatiguing Arab-Israeli conflict anymore – but, judging by its title, it doesn’t sound likely.

In any case, I am honored to be in the company of Baxter and his strange, masochistic wish. Even so, it makes me wonder what rationale Amazon has for connecting these two books. Do a lot of people buy both of them? Do we have a similar demographic of readers? Or is there something fundamentally similar about Baxter’s quest and my own?

Gregory Levey’s second book, How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less Without Leaving Your Apartment, has just been released.

Posted on October 13, 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

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