Monthly Archives: April 2011

In Which British Royalty Reminds Me Of High School

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

I went to an Orthodox Jewish high school with a strict dress code. Long skirts, high necked shirts, sleeves to your elbow, and a somewhat flexible policy about writing on shirts. Boys had to wear collared shirts. The idea was to preserve modesty, but we lady-students saw the dress code as a challenge, not a safety rail. What does it really mean that a skirt has to go below your knees? Where does a knee really end? When you say my shirt needs to fall no lower than two finger widths below my clavicle, whose finger widths are we using? Because some people have very wide fingers, rabbi.

Anyway, I was thinking about my wily ways with the dress code this morning when I watched the royal wedding (yes, I got up at 5:45am to watch the second hour of programming. Judge away but it was deliciously fun). The dress code for the church was “uniform, morning coat or lounge suit” for men, and it’s apparently implicit that in a church in England women must cover their shoulders and their heads. And just like my friends and me in high school, the guests at the wedding had some really interesting interpretations of the dress code. The hats particularly were  impressive. And by impressive, I mean weird. Very weird.

(The married lady teachers at my high school wore hats, and there were three basic kinds–the lampshade hat, the snood, the hippie hat.)

View a gallery of the wedding hats here. But here are the two that win my Ida Crown Jewish Academy Prize for creative interpretation of the word “hat”:

Posted on April 29, 2011

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 .

Here’s the thing. If God was able to split the sea and allow the Israelites to pass through it, why didn’t he just delay the Egyptians a tad longer so they could have spent a little time to leaven their bread? I mean, he just killed thousands of Egyptians with the tenth plague! You’re trying to tell me that the only way the Israelites would have freely made it out of Egypt was if they didn’t bake bread? Plot hole, God. Major plot hole.

Speaking of which, how good is bread? Am I right, people?

Alright, here is every link you need for the weekend.

Seriously though, who wants to bake challah?

I made it all the way to Day 1 of the Omer, and then I forgot. Are you still going strong?

This Sunday night and Monday, Jews around the world commemorate the victims of the Holocaust with the annual Yom Hashoah.

The Territories–the West Bank, Gaza Strip, parts of Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights–have had a large impact on the growth and history of Israel (to say the least!). Learn more about them.

Okay! See ya next week!

Posted on April 29, 2011

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

Never Ever?

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

Jewish ladies, we have to talk. Apparently on OkCupid, more than 20% of you are claiming that you’ve never masturbated.


To you, I have this to say: not lying is in the Ten Commandments, and not masturbating for ladies is nowhere at all in the Torah.

Posted on April 29, 2011

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

Banning Circumcision

This entry was posted in General on by .

This looks like it might get ugly.

An anti-circumcision group in San Francisco has collected and submitted 12,000 signatures (about 5,000 more than the required minimum) in order to get an initiative on a November ballot to ban circumcisions in the city. If it passes, the maximum penalty will be up to a year in jail and a $1000 fine. Then again, if you want to circumcise someone over 18, be my guest.

Obviously, all the right Jewish groups have come out against this and I’m sure they are going to campaign hard to not let this bill pass. My bigger question is, and I have literally no expertise in the field of law, but will this bill hold up in court?

I mean, let’s say it passes. You can be sure that people, Jews and Muslims alike, will challenge it in court as an affront on the freedom to practice religion. But then again, if someone can challenge that circumcision is cruel, they might have a valid argument in court.

Can anyone smarter than me provide a little insight into this?

Posted on April 29, 2011

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

Civilized Discourse

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Do the Zionist left and Zionist right really have to keep demonizing each other? (Forward)

Says Rabbi Reuven Hammer “I am also appalled when I hear people–Jews or non-Jews–using the term “Nazi” to describe anyone or any actions. To hear Israeli policemen castigated as Nazis, as we do all too often, is beyond the pale. To call anyone a Hitler is to show a lack of sensitivity and a lack of understanding of what Hitler stood for.” (Jerusalem Post)

Rabbis and Jewish professionals increasingly are being faced with a dilemma over discussing divisive topics–especially regarding Israel , and indeed “People fear for their jobs, their professional lives if they have these conversations.” (Jewish Week)

David Newman is increasingly concerned about that Israeli society “is losing its ability to express views in an open fashion.” (Jerusalem Post)

Even in community Jewish day schools is found “the constant disagreements about the definition of “pro-Israel”…a culture in which students and teachers were criticized, even ostracized, for their positions about how to express their support.” (Forward)

Rob Eshman points to an event which did indeed, provide a pointed, but civil discourse. Part of the solution: no questions from the audience. (Jewish Journal)

But J.J. Goldberg has some real issues with pressing other people to act civilly. (Forward)

Posted on April 29, 2011

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: Playing Favorites

This entry was posted in History, Texts on by .

wise fridays: sharpen the     reception on  your WiFri

“A man should never single out one of his children for favored treatment, for because of two extra coins’ worth of silk, which Jacob gave to Joseph and not to his other sons, Joseph’s brothers became jealous of him, and one thing led to another until our ancestors became slaves in Egypt.”

Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 10b

Find more Wise Fridays wisdom on MJL.

Posted on April 29, 2011

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

Hannah Arendt and the Eichmann Trial

This entry was posted in History on by .

On Monday, Deborah Lipstadt wrote about eerie anniversaries. She is the author of the new book The Eichmann Trial.

I have spent much of the past few weeks talking about my new book, The Eichmann Trial. I don’t want to make this blog entry about the book. (To be blunt, I’d rather have folks read the book.) But something has struck me in the talks and interviews I have conducted.

For so many people the issue of the Eichmann Trial remains Hannah Arendt. They seem to have a hard time conceiving of the Eichmann trial independent of Arendt’s “analysis.” I am speaking of who abhor what she said as well as of those who espouse her views.

I take a more “middle of the road” or balanced perspective. Let me be explicit (for nuance, you’ll have to read the book. OK, I won’t repeat that again. Twice is certainly enough. Though, please note, I wrote read, not buy). When I speak about Arendt I try to discern where my audience – whether it be one person or a multitude — stands on the issue. I then try to stress the “other” side, i.e. if they hate – and that’s not too strong a term – her words I tell them the affirmative things she had to say about the trial and Israel. If they are enthralled with her views, I point out the glaring historical mistakes on which they are based.

Sometimes that leads to trouble.

At a talk I gave at the Center for Jewish History I assumed that many of the people in the audience were familiar with all the negatives that had been said both by and about Arendt. They knew of her [c]overt antisemitic – if not racist – comments about Israeli society and of her historically inaccurate statements about the Judenrate, the Jewish councils established in the ghettoes by the Nazis.

I, chose, therefore to speak of some of the insights she had and powerful statements she made about the significance of the Holocaust. I wanted to make it clear to them that there are a lot of grays when it comes to Arendt. Sure enough, I received a number of emails and comments accusing me of having “gone soft on Arendt.”

Conversely, when I have spoken with those, whose view of the trial has been completely refracted thorough Arendt, they hear me as critical of her and have also reacted viscerally. They defend her in a knee-jerk fashion and excoriate me for being critical of her.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if people set aside their preconceived conclusions and read what I have to say about her? (Oops, there I go again. Clearly this is the place to end this blog entry.)

Deborah Lipstadt will be blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and Jewish Book Council. Her new book, The Eichmann Trial, is available now.

Posted on April 29, 2011

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

William and Kate’s Wedding: Mazel Tov!

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Prince William and Kate Middleton are getting married. And you know, news of a wedding will always rock the Jewish world, no matter the religion of the chatan and kallah, or what type of cleric is performing it.

For a uniquely Jewish perspective on the festivities, here’s a video from our dear friend, favourite comedian, and authentic British Commonweather Marcus Freed, who shares a hearty l’chaim with the Windsor mishpocha. In the words of the Black-Eyed Peas: Mazel tov!

For more about Marcus, be sure to check out our interview with him about Solomon and Shakespeare!

Posted on April 28, 2011

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

Has Twitter Made Passover Impossible?

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

Last night, right as Passover came to an end, I ran over to the computer in my parents’ house and logged onto Twitter to tweet the following: Back from my communication vacation.

I have to admit that for the first time in my memory, this Passover, I really had trouble avoiding technology. You see, the first two days of Passover were fine. I was even able to tolerate Shabbat this past Saturday. But these last two days of Passover on Monday and Tuesday were seriously unbearable. And I’m blaming Twitter.

Over the past few years, I’ve become more and more accustomed to being connected to my e-mail and Facebook at all hours of the day. But really, it was Twitter that brought me over the edge. I love checking my Twitter feed. I love writing dumb tweets that I assume no one reads. And since I’ve purchased a smart phone, I’ve been able to feed my Twitter addiction anywhere that I am, at any time of day.

I really was cool with taking a break from Twitter over those first couple days. Honestly. But by yesterday morning, I was going crazy. I felt like a whole week had gone by, and that even though I had three days of hol-hamoed in the middle of the holiday to catch up, I seriously felt out of the loop. Out of the loop of what? I’m not sure. But it was killing me nonetheless.

What scares me the most is that my first move post-Passover was to the computer and not to some bakery to buy a huge loaf of bread for myself. In years past, by the eighth day of Passover, I was restless, sure. But it was more because I wanted to eat bread. And while this year I was tired of matzah, believe you me, I was more just tired of being unconnected.

I’m just hoping that they never invent some type of leavened bread-social media contraption. If that ever happens, it might just be the end of Passover.

Posted on April 27, 2011

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

April 11th: An Eerie Confluence of Dates

This entry was posted in History on by .

Deborah Lipstadt’s most recent book, The Eichmann Trial, is now available. She will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council andMyJewishLearning‘s Author Blog.

It was the 50th anniversary of the start of the Eichmann Trial and the 11th anniversary of the verdict [judgment] in my libel trial in the UK when David Irving sued me for libel for calling him a Holocaust denier.

More significantly, on April 11th I spoke at the United States State Department to mark the anniversary of the Eichmann trial. In addition to State Department staff members, there were a number of diplomats present [Turkey, Morocco, Ukraine, and Israel among others], as well as friends and colleagues. It was quite meaningful that I was speaking about this seminar act of genocide to an audience composed in part deborah lipstadt eichmannof people who deal with genocide and persecution-related issues. One of the people with whom I spoke has spent years working to rid the world of land mines. Another had been involved in the genocide in Darfur. Another had worked on issues related to the former Yugoslavia. Tragedies all.

There was another factor that made this a meaningful moment. The audience was composed of Federal employees. My book is dedicated to three men who worked for a Federal institution, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. One of them, Special Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, gave his life for the institution. The quick response by the other two, Special Officer Harry Weeks and Special Officer Jason “Mac” McCuiston, prevented this tragedy from assuming far greater proportions.

I began by taking note of that fact and reading from the dedication. I was surprised by the emotion it evoked, not just from the audience, but from me. Soon it will be two years since the tragedy but the pain of that moment is still palpable.

Deborah Lipstadt’s The Eichmann Trial is now available. Check back all week for her posts on the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning‘s Author Blog.

Posted on April 27, 2011

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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