Category Archives: Practices

A Rabbi On Jeopardy

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A nice catch by Rabbi Jason Miller (and even nicer of him to record it and put it up on YouTube)…

This week, Rabbi Joyce Newmark, a Conservative rabbi from Teaneck, NJ, won $29,000 on Jeopardy. The next episode, Trebek even gave a shout out to her ordination anniversary and asked her what it’s like being a female rabbi. A cool video:

Posted on May 18, 2011

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Synagogues & Rabbis

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Pulpit Rabbi Marci N. Bellows talks about allowing her congregation to friend her on Facebook, finding “something close to “I-Thou” moments” in the process. (Jewish Week)

The new Reform head says that most temples rely on a “please walk in, please walk in” approach, which no longer works, and that synagogues need to serve even those Jews who are not members. (Ha’aretz)

A synagogue is used as a setting for filming a book trailer for the newly-released novel, “The Unforgotten Prayer,” about a former Nazi SS officer who goes into hiding in the United States and is befriended by a young Jewish family. (Murrieta Patch)

More rabbis in the later stages of their careers are finding themselves out of work, and that’s not the only evidence that “We’re seeing the end of the rabbinate as we know it.” (Jewish Week)

It is argued that the procedures used by Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative movements for placing rabbis in congregations are violations of federal antitrust law, in addition to being foolish. (TabletMag)

Newsweek‘s “50 Most Influential Rabbis in America” shows a big jump in women- to 13. (Daily Beast)

The ordination of Kaya Stern-Kaufman as “rabba” raises the question of whether creating a gender for the word ‘rabbi’ is legitimate. (Jewish Week)

Posted on May 3, 2011

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Kosher.com’s Gay Scandal

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This was almost a story. Thankfully, the people at Kosher.com handled this very well and didn’t let it blow up.

It came out a couple of days ago that Kosher.com was affiliated with JONAH–a Jewish organization that fights against homosexuality by trying to rid Jews of their gay feelings.

Affiliated is actually kind of a loose term. From the looks of it, Kosher.com didn’t even realize who the people at JONAH were. You see, Kosher.com has a program on their site that allows organizations to create coupon codes that give kick backs to the organization that sent traffic to Kosher.com. It just so happened that JONAH signed up for this program and was getting money from Kosher.com every time someone put in the JONAH code.

This is not uncommon. As someone in the office here pointed out, sites like Amazon and others do the exact same thing. Do you really think Amazon does a full background check on every group that signs up for their promotional programs?

So JONAH signed up for Kosher.com and Kosher.com probably didn’t realize who they were truly affiliated with. That doesn’t mean a scandal didn’t ALMOST break out. When someone emailed Kosher.com with a complaint, this was the response they received from a representive from the website’s marketing affiliate:

We are sorry to hear that you were disturbed with our affiliation with Jonah. However, we do not have any political agenda. Anyone can join our affiliate program. Our company does not have an opinion on the matter. We will create emails for any non-profit organization that is in need of funds. If you have any further questions or concerns I can get you in touch with someone in the company.

Probably not the most sensitive thing they could have responded with. Unfortunately for them, the person with the complaint brought this issue over to Queerty.com, where this issue suddenly was about to bring a lot of bad press to Kosher.com.

But as I said in the beginning, this was only ALMOST a story. In fact, Kosher.com handled it very well. Here is the statement they put out today.

Firstly we wish to apologize if any action taken by any member of our company offended anyone. Our affiliate program has pretty much been an automated system whereby any site can go and join the program and put our banners in their email blasts going to their members. In the past it was not something that we had monitored but considering the current reaction regarding jonahweb.org’s decision to send their members our affiliate offerings, we have decided to discontinue that affiliation and our management will review our affiliate programs guidelines going forward. Our agenda is simply to be a good company selling a good product and to be considerate of people’s feelings and sensitivities.

Good job Kosher.com. Just be a little more careful next time–and possibly hire a new marketing firm.

Posted on April 8, 2011

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Jews Fighting Jews

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Jon Stewart is at it again. It seems like every month or so, they pull out an exclusively Jewish segment that must confuse many of their non-Jewish watchers. And last night was no exception.

I didn’t actually know anything about this story prior to the expose last night. But it’s kind of messed up. The Orthodox community (I guess not exclusively Orthodox, but the campaign is being led by the Orthodox) in the Hamptons has been pushing to get an eruv set up in area so that shomer Shabbat Jews could carry things on Saturday.

Not a big deal. There are eruvs set up all across the country and most people don’t even know they are there. I’d even place a bet that 99% of non-Jews (and probably most Jews) who live within an eruv, don’t even realize it. Why? Because eruvs are next to invisible.

However, there are a bunch of anti-religious Jews in Westhampton, New York who are campaigning to not allow the eruv to be built. Within all their veiled reasoning is that they plain and simply don’t want religious Jews moving into their community. Hatred. Plain and simple. Here is the story in more detail.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t make fun of it.

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Posted on March 24, 2011

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Dangerous Phylacteries

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How has this happened more than once? A couple months ago, there was a story of a kid who was praying on an airplane when the flight attendants mistook him for a terrorist. You’d think that enough of a stink would have been made about this that airlines would have properly trained their flight attendants to recognize t’fillin boxes as just that…and not bombs.

But here we go again. A couple of days ago, on an Alaska Airlines flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles, three Jewish men stood up during the middle of the flight and started to daven. The flight attendants freaked out, and when the plane landed, it was surrounded by the FBI. After the men were questioned, it was determined that they were, in fact, not terrorists.

On the one hand, I guess it’s a good thing to see that flight attendants are super careful and strict when it comes to looking out for abnormal behavior (not to mention the fact that they don’t seem to racially profile Muslims as the only potential terrorists).

But on the other hand, come on. We’ve dealt with this before. I can’t believe that a flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles has never had religious Jews praying on a plane. I’ve brought t’fillin on a plane before. I haven’t put them on mid-flight but I have brought them through security. And not once has the TSA ever not recognized t’fillin. It never gets a second check. So how come this is so hard for flight attendants to deal with?

Posted on March 15, 2011

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Wise Fridays: Deception in Business

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wise fridays: sharpen the     reception on  your WiFri

“It is forbidden to defraud or deceive any person in business. Jew and non-Jew are to be treated alike. If the vendor knows that his merchandise is defective, he must so inform the purchaser. It is wrong to deceive any person in words, even without causing him a pecuniary loss.”

Maimonides

Find more Wise Fridays wisdom on MJL.

Posted on March 4, 2011

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Old, Yes. Pure? At Your Own Risk

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If you normally go to a mikveh, I assume that you would want it to be nice, clean, and if you’re fancy, even a little sleek. So while this story that I read from the Los Angeles Times is cool, it doesn’t mean that I would want to participate in a ritual cleanse there any time soon.

The fine folks of Baltimore, Maryland have discovered what they believe to be the oldest mikveh in the United States. Archeologists were excavating the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue when they discovered a small wooden bath. They figured that the mikveh is from about 1845.

Now, you might be trying to figure out why exactly was it so hard to find a mikveh that was only built in 1845. Here’s what the article had to say about that:

When the congregation expanded its synagogue to the rear in 1860, it tore down the old mikvah house, filled in the bath and buried it beneath the addition. The dig has turned up a wealth of artifacts in the fill dirt — broken wine bottles, crockery, buttons and other domestic items — none dating later than 1860.

So there you go. I’m sure the owners of the second oldest mikveh in the United States are pretty pissed right now–but don’t mind them. They are cranky.

And again, a reminder–please don’t go in that mikveh.

Posted on February 25, 2011

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The Rise Of Online Jewish Deals

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Over the past few months, I’ve signed up for a couple of the online coupon deals like Groupon and KGB, mostly because I like getting things for cheap. It’s a scientific fact that food tastes better when it’s 50% off.

The only issue I have with those sites is that they involve a daily e-mail for material that I really don’t care for. Because the only specialization you can chose when you sign up is the city you live in, a lot of the deals are useless to me beyond the fact that they are for stores in New York.

But lately, I’ve noticed two websites that have popped up on the net that make it a little easier for me to find a deal that I like. At first, I saw JDeal.com. A short, sweet name that is pretty straight to the point. But then, yesterday, I saw a second website pop up with the absurd name (though I’m sure their deals are fine) of Jewpon.com. Really? Jewpon? That’s the best you could come up with?

Of course, you have to live in a city that has enough Jewish stores to make it worth while to sign up. Currently Jewpon advertises in 29 cities, however, after a quick run through the site, I noticed a couple of the cities have yet to advertise a deal. Jdeal, on the other hand, has 11 cities, but they all seem to work.

So far, these sites have been pretty good. I’ve signed off on a couple of deals. The question is, can they sustain it? I mean, how many Jewish restaurants are there? And even more, how many of them are willing to give 50% deals in exchange for some advertising?

It’s yet to be seen whether these sites will last, but if you live in a big city, you might as well sign up and save a couple dollars.

Posted on February 8, 2011

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Jewish Branding

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One of my favorite shows on television right now is Tosh.0, which can be seen Tuesdays on Comedy Central (along with the 100 other times they show it during the week). If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, the show, hosted by comedian Daniel Tosh, is like America’s Funniest Home Videos on steroids. They find funny and/or horrifying videos on YouTube and then make funny comments about them. Simple concept. Big laughs.

Last night, Tosh.0 showed one of the most hardcore things I’ve ever seen. They showed a dude getting branded, on his own will…and not even flinching! It was like he was getting a massage, except the massage was permanently scarring his arm.

Why do I tell you this? Because he was getting branded with a Star of David! Now, we can get into the whole halakhic debate about tattooing and harming your body. Don’t worry, I’m hearing your cries. But seriously, watch this thing. It’s kind of the craziest video ever.

Also, I think the very premise of the video speaks for itself–this isn’t for kids. Unless your kids love branding.

Posted on February 2, 2011

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Water Can Judaism

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As Matthue mentioned a couple of hours ago, the internet is filled these days with some weird, weird Jewish videos. It seems like a lot of the strange videos we have been coming across have to do with unity or something to that effect. Remember this gem?

Now, I’m not sure this new video can top a Palestinian would-be suicide bomber and an Israeli security officer working together to fight aliens (I told you to press on that link) but it definitely comes close.

Again, make your own conclusions about this thing. Is it pro or anti-religion? Is it about global unity? Is it actually just a video honoring the great Expos/Red Sox reliever Oil Can Boyd? Honestly, that seems like the best answer–even if it’s a water can and not an oil can.

All hail Oil Can Boyd!

Posted on February 1, 2011

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