Author Archives: Matt Ring

About Matt Ring

I am a rising Junior at Binghamton University pursuing a degree History with a Judaic Studies concentration.

Lunch Break! (MJL Style).

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

At MJL, we live, breathe, and even eat Jewish learning. Though we dedicate our entire day to bringing you interesting and educational Jewish-related materials, today we even spent our lunch break having a cultural learning experience that I feel compelled to share.

In a symbolic commemoration of a passage made by a courageous group of Jews about 16 years ago, our own Senior Editor, Meredith, threw caution to the wind and set out on a journey of her own, which took her from our little nook here on 35th and 8th all the way to 10th between 45th and 46th, and back of course.

Though her arrival was much less dramatic than the arrival of over 14,000 Ethiopians to Israel in 1991, in what became known as Operation Solomon, we welcomed her with open arms.

She came bearing the fruits of a successful journey, which wasn’t fruit at all; it was two delicious platters of Ethiopian cuisine. These platters were filled with plenty of Injera, a soft, unleavened, gray pancake, and several different vegetable stews. We enjoyed the food, but even more pleasing was that we learned about an often forgotten delegation of Jews.

(Matt Ring is the summer intern at MyJewishLearning.com)

Posted on July 31, 2007

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

California Love

This entry was posted in History on by .

In one of his hit songs, California Love, the late Tupac rapped, “It’s all good, from Diego to the Bay,” well his words have not stood the test of time. It isn’t “all good” for some Jewish residents of No-Cal.

Eight years after the infamous public hearings that doomed the Palo Alto eruv, Congregation Emek Beracha is at it again. But until the local press began covering the latest saga in the eruv chronicle, opponents didn’t even know it was an issue.

Now that they know, some of them aren’t happy.

“The eruv forces upon us the necessity to live in a community devoted to the worship of a god foreign to our understanding and devotion,” one resident said.

It’s hard not to see responses like this as an overreaction, though. The eruv doesn’t have any spiritual significance for a non-Jew, and it can barely be differentiated from utility wires.

Clearly locals think otherwise. Said one resident of neighboring, Woodside,

“We live in a modern, secular, democratic world, and these wackos are trying to catapult us back into a 2,000-years-ago kind of deal…the sneaky way these folks do things.”

Interesting that this person considers calling people “wackoâ€? because of their religious beliefs acceptable in the “modern, secular, democratic world.”

While most opponents to the Palo Alto eruv argue that it is in violation of the separation of church and state, using provocative language to describe Jews or Jewish traditions detracts from their claims. It also begs the question: Is the problem really the separation of church and state or something else?

Regardless of opponents’ views, the Orthodox community of Palo Alto has legal precedent including the controversial Tenafly, N.J., eruv ruling in 2002. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that granting a permit to construct an eruv does not violate the ban on government establishment of religion according to the First Amendment. So it seems like the Orthodox Community may get their wish even without any “California Love”. Don’t worry, East Coast has your back!

(Matt Ring is the summer intern at MyJewishLearning.com)

Posted on July 25, 2007

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

Anti-Semitism Revisited

This entry was posted in General on by .

As Kanye West so eloquently rapped in “Never Let Me Down”, “Racism is still alive, they just be concealing it.” When it comes to racism towards Jews, Europeans do not “be concealing” anything. In fact, a recent survey found that negative attitudes towards Jews in Europe have increased over the past year. Not to mention three blatant anti-Semitic incidents over the past week alone:

1. In Ukraine, a Rabbi was attacked, and the same day another group launched a verbal assault and an attempted break-in at a local Jewish school.
2. In Berlin, a Jewish Holocaust memorial was vandalized.
3. In Russia, swastikas were painted on the fence in front of the Jewish Agency building.

The threat of anti-Semitism in Europe is alarming. What can be done to subdue these anti-Semitic viewpoints in Europe?

While people’s opinions may not be changing, institutional attitudes have a come a long way over the past fifty years. The Polish government is not only helping to fund a Jewish museum, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, but they funded a Krakow Jewish Festival. The event attracted over 13,000 people, though about 85% of participants were not Jewish. When non-Jewish organizer Janusz Makuch was asked if he thought anti-Semitism in Europe was still an issue, he replied:

“I’m not naive, of course it is,” he conceded. “This is a process, and it will take a long, long time. On the other hand, when you compare Poland with what’s been happening in the rest of Europe, ask yourself: Could you imagine such a huge open-air Jewish concert in any other European country today?”

Is Makuch correct? Can it be that the Poles are the most progressive Europeans vis-a-vis anti-Semitism?

(Matt Ring is the summer intern at MyJewishLearning.com)

Posted on July 18, 2007

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

Just Jew It!

This entry was posted in General on by .

“Games, projects, songs and sometimes relay races,” makes Maryland-based JEWEL Hebrew School appear to be similar to its peers. However, as Gazette.net explains, JEWEL is no ordinary Hebrew School:

Unlike many Sunday school programs, JEWEL is unaffiliated with a particular synagogue, which encourages more involvement. (MORE)

A non-denominational, unaffiliated Jewish education program that incorporates games and singing seems like a healthy learning environment for all Jewish children. Perhaps the unfettered environment at JEWEL is more conducive to Jewish learning?

But wait, there’s more! JEWEL has a “highly effective” and innovative program to get its students excited about Judaism called “Just Jew It!”

Through it, students accumulate points for good behavior, such as cleaning their bedrooms, as well as celebrating Jewish traditions, like helping set the table for Shabbat. Students with enough points earn a trip to Six Flags amusement park. (MORE)

I wonder, does this system encourage students to continue to live an active Jewish life after Six Flags is no longer the goal? While instilling Jewish values in children on a regular basis at a young age is important, students might be disappointed when they stop receiving rewards for being Jewish. Maybe the focus should be on the inherent rewards in being a practicing Jew?

I’m all for innovative ideas and experimental education, but bribery has been around for thousands of years and Judaism expressly forbids it: “And thou shalt take no bribe; for a gift blinds them that have sight, and perverts the words of the righteous.” (Exodus 23:8)

(Matt Ring is the summer intern at MyJewishLearning.com)

Posted on July 11, 2007

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

July 4th, 1976 (Not 1776)

This entry was posted in History, Holidays on by .

Tomorrow, Independence Day, is important for American Jews, but it is not only our freedom we should be celebrating.

On July 4th, 1976, Israeli commandos led a dramatic rescue mission to free the hostages of hijacked Air France Flight 139. After two Palestinians from the PFLP and two German terrorists took control of the aircraft, they eventually landed the plane in Entebbe, Uganda.

While a handful of hostages were freed, the Israeli/Jewish passengers and crew, who refused to leave the Jewish passengers behind, were held in Uganda for almost a week. On July 4th, Operation Thunderbolt was carried out and Israeli soldiers were able to free all of the hostages.

Jerusalem Post columnist, Michael Freund, has an interesting take on the “Spirit of Entebbe,” but I am going to focus on a different angle of his article:

Looking back, it is hard to believe how much has changed since then. In just three decades, Israel has gone from being a country which frees hostages to one that frees terrorists. Instead of refusing to negotiate with the bad guys, we now offer them unilateral concessions while getting nothing in return. (MORE)

This may highlight a distinction in viewpoints. Freund, who is not alone in his opinion, identifies Abbas’ Fatah faction as an enemy. On the other hand, Olmert is compromising with Fatah, or at least giving gestures of good will.

I wonder: Does Olmert disagree with Freund and genuinely see Fatah as an important ally against Hamas and a real partner for peace? Or does he view Fatah as an enemy albeit an enemy that is still worth negotiating with?

In any case, while it seems like some freedoms are going to be harder to come by, tomorrow, our Independence Day in America, let’s take time remember the religious and cultural independence we enjoy here in America and the brave rescue mission, Operation Thunderbolt, which freed many fellow Jews from their terrifying experience.

(Matt Ring is the summer intern at MyJewishLearning.com)

Posted on July 3, 2007

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

Do we really need more museums?

This entry was posted in General on by .

A groundbreaking ceremony for a new museum dedicated to the history of Jewish life and culture in Poland is set for next week.

Polish Jewry is worth memorializing, of course, but the number of museums dedicated to remembering decimated European Jewish populations makes me wonder: How much are these physical structures about the past and how much are they a manifestation of current anxieties about survival? Do Jews spend too much time, money, and energy remembering the past instead of building for the future?

Luckily, on the opposite side of the earth, the recently-announced Alaska Jewish Historical Museum provides a great model for a Jewish museum that avoids these problems. Alaskan Jews will not only have a permanent record of their existence there from the time of the Gold Rush to the present day, they will, more importantly, continue to ensure the existence of their community through the construction of an attached community center and day school.

(Matt Ring is the summer intern at MyJewishLearning.com)

Posted on June 26, 2007

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

Why Play Ball!?

This entry was posted in General on by .

With opening day of the Israeli Baseball League this Sunday, I thought it was time to revisit the multiple reasons for its founding.

Reason #1:

IBL officials are hoping the league will quickly spur Israeli interest in American baseball — they aim to draw about 1,000 fans per game in the first year — while government officials hope it will help boost Israel’s image abroad. (MORE)

I’ve been a die hard Yankees fan since birth, but give me a break. Can a sport, especially one dominated by the Evil Empire (America, not the Boston Red Sox), improve Israel’s image abroad?

Reason #2:

The opportunity to show Israel not only as a country at war but as a country involved in sports — quintessentially American sports at that — could help Americans bond with Israel. (MORE)

Right, Americans have really bonded with Cuba since the likes of Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez waded onto American soil to pitch in the major leagues. Will the IBL really change the relationship between Israel and America? The expansion of Sbarro, McDonald’s and Burger King has not helped Americans bond with Israel, on the contrary it is just Americanizing Israel.

Reason #3:

League officials are adamant about getting Israel into the 2009 World Baseball Classic, an international baseball tournament comprised of professional and amateur all-stars. (MORE)

Again, Cuba.

While these claims seem outrageous to me, I am a baseball fan so I’m looking forward to the start of the season. In fact, I can even watch the first game on television (Sunday night on PBS, which is another issue altogether)! And don’t worry, I already hate the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox.

(Matt Ring is the summer intern at MyJewishLearning.com)

Posted on June 22, 2007

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