Friday, September 29, 2006

Jews Love: the Environment

I am awesome at using Microsoft Paint.

Rosh Hashana is often a time where many call for Jews to do more Tikkun Olam. Tikkun Olam is a major Jewish value, and literally means "heal the world." This year's issue (besides the Monsey Chicken Scandal) was Global Warming.

Aaron Freedman of 52Portions used the story of Jonah, which is read as part of the Yom Kippur service, as a jumping-off point to talk about Gore's crusade to save the world from itself. I really like this interpretation, and I think that the analogy works really well, except for maybe the whole "called by G-d to rebuke the people of Nineveh" part.

Luke Ford
attended a shul where the rabbi spoke about Global Warming, while More Torah and Radical Torah provided divrei torah* on the subject. Found here, and here respectively.

Global Warming was by no means the only issue discussed during Rosh Hashana services. As Rosh Hashana fell on a Saturday this year several shuls (including mine and Semgirl's) discussed the fact that shofar is not blown on Shabbat, and what that means for the year.

Another big issue? When davening ended. It was mentioned by Michelle, Dov Bear, and again , bangitout, and us, and well, you get the idea.

The Hardest Knife Ill-us'd Doth Lose His Edge.*

"Satire should, like a polished razor keen, Wound with a touch that's scarcely felt or seen. Thine is an oyster knife, that hacks and hews; The rage but not the talent to abuse."

(Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, To the Imitator of the First Satire of Horace, (Pope))

*Shakespeare, Sonnet 95

Virtual Approximations of Real Life

I love text generators. This is borne out by the fact that I ran all of my emails through the Pirate Speak Translator on September 19. I am just that cool. I also love Chuck Norris Facts.

What do I love more than those? Slate's Senator Allen insult generator.

I may be immature, but George Allen is a Jew.

In other news, while Americans are fat, Jews are sort of less fat. Reason #458 why you might want to keep kosher: it might make you thin(ner).

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Jewish In(ternet)marriage

Intermarriage seems to be the issue of this generation. 52% of American Jews marry non-Jews. Into this breech steps... online Jewish social networks?

Yesterday I posted a promotional video for Koolanoo, which claims to be "The World's First Jewish Social Network." What happened to Jewstar (of which I am a member)? Of course, just as two Jews need three synagogues, the 18 million Jews worldwide need at LEAST three social networks. Thank goodness, we also have TwentyfourSix, which is a reference to Sabbath observance. See how clever they are? They don't even have the word "Jew" in the title!

Don't even get me started on dating networks. Frumster,Jdate,Future Simchas, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

My question is, does any of this really help? I mean, if I want to date and marry Jewish, then these are great, they help me to find prospective mates. But if I don't feel strongly about marrying a Jew, is the awesome pool of prospective daters on JDate going to change my mind? And, in the interest of full disclosure, I was a member of Frumster, but was emailed only by Haredi guys. What about me screams Haredi?

Clearly this is me. Or my future husband.

If It Quacks Like a Duck, Part II

Clearly, Howard Berman at The Forward has been garnering inspiration from our blog:

GOP Slanders Dems With ‘Anti-Israel’ Ads

And the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) strikes again:

Allen’s Allies Fight Back

I understand the need for in-party loyalty and far be it from me to suggest that the RJC avoid endorsing a Republican candidate in a hotly contested Senate race, but before lobbing the "anti-Semite" bomb at Democrat James Webb, perhaps they should consider the implications of applying that term. In a world where anti-Semitism is a truly mortal threat, does the RJC really want to use the term to defend a man who has repeatedly been accused of racism? Remember, Allen's Jewish roots came to light during a press conference about his use of a racial slur the previous week.

Judah Benjamin may have been Jewish, but would you rush to his defense?

How Do I Vote?

I am not from New York. The place where I call home is probably the antithesis of New York. I won't tell you too much more about it except that yesterday I recieved my absentee ballot in the mail. Accompanying it was a letter from the (much beleagured) democratic party telling me HOW TO VOTE. The ballot itself contained the explaination of the voting process, but this pamphlet told me whom I should vote for in my specific races, why I should vote for them (nothing negative about the other candidate) and how I should vote on the referendums given to me.

I've actually never voted in person, having moved out of state for college, and have yet to return (I think that they need my vote), but I happen to know that when you go into a voting booth in my home state there are two people standing at the entrance, each offering you a voting guide, one for each party. I kind of like the idea, someone telling you how to vote in line with your ideology, and more importantly your party. The question then becomes, how should I vote as a Jew?

Thank G-d for How Orthodox Jews Should Vote. Before the blog world starts yelling at me, I am actually fascinated by this idea, that candidates should be analyzed on a religious basis, not just as "good for the Jews" but by how they fall in line with Jewish principles. I have only one suggestion for the author: that the posts be organized by state, and not name of candidates.

If you aren't Orthodox, or that blog isn't your flavor don't despair. Lots of other bloggers will give you the information that you need to make a decision/make the decision for you. For instance, A Town Crier provides headlines of interest to Jews that include, but are not limited to politics. Similarly Israpundit gives a live feed of news about Israel. Both of these sites have a bias* but at least in the case of Israpundit it is pretty obvious. Across the top of the page is a banner, reading: "THERE IS ONLY A MILITARY SOLUTION."

If you want to know more specifically how you should feel, Jewschool is a self-identified radical blog. My favorite, though, is the link on Dov Bear's site to posts on The Idiot President. Of course, no political opinion would be complete without a cartoon.

So everyone start reading, and happy voting!

*Full Disclaimer: I think that EVERYONE has a bias, and that that is ok. It is the responsibility of the consumer to look for it, and to analyze the information, but that people/organizations who state their bias make that much easier.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

And Because We Have Yet to Mention George Allen...

Sung to the tune of "Be Our Guest!" from Beauty and the Beast:

I'm a Jew! I'm a Jew! Something that I never knew. I sat down and asked my mother And she said that it is true!

I'm a Jew! I'm a Jew!
And I don't know what to do.
All the newest revelations
Have my campaign in a stew.

I love ham! I love pork!
I hate being in New York!
And the only testament
I read is new!

Though I'm so bland and boyish,
And I look so goyish,
I'm a Jew! I'm a Jew!
I'm a Jew!

Written by Barbara Sarshik, a parody song writer, taken from her contribution to The Washington Post humor contest, the Style Invitational.

If It Quacks Like a Duck

Two recent articles highlight the tension created when a politician uses their support for the State of Israel as a defense against accusations of anti-Semitism.

In the Forward, Rebecca Spence discussed the issue in relation to J.D. Hayworth, a Republican Representative from Arizona. Hayworth published a book in which he praises notable anti-Semite Henry Ford’s views on “Americanization.”:

“The controversy surrounding Hayworth, who describes himself as a Christian conservative, comes at a time when many in the Jewish community are debating the uneasy alliance that has developed in recent years between evangelicals, who paint themselves as unflagging supporters of Israel, and American Jews, a traditionally liberal voting bloc. While Republicans defended Hayworth’s comments by citing his long-standing support for Israel, some Democratic analysts said that Hayworth’s insensitivity to Ford’s anti-Semitic polemics illustrates the dangers of cozying up to Christian conservatives… Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, defended Hayworth, pointing out his commitment to the Jewish state. “J.D. Hayworth has been a longstanding and unhesitating supporter of Israel,” Brooks said. “His views on Henry Ford not withstanding, this is in no way a reflection on his own personal actions and his support for the Jewish community during his time in Congress.””

Two weeks later, Senatorial candidate Katherine Harris (R, Florida) stuck her Jimmy Choos in her mouth when she espoused some controversial views about governance and sin. From

"If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin," Harris said. Her comments drew criticism, including some from fellow Republicans, who called them offensive and not representative of the party. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, who is Jewish, told the Orlando Sentinel that she was "disgusted" by the comments. Harris' campaign released a statement Saturday saying she had been "speaking to a Christian audience, addressing a common misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government." The comments reflected "her deep grounding in Judeo-Christian values," the statement said, adding that Harris had previously supported pro-Israel legislation and legislation recognizing the Holocaust.

Support for Israel does not equal support for the Jews, it equals support for Israel. Regardless of how we feel about the state of Israel (love it, hate it, ignore it, go to therapy over it), we must be aware that those who espouse support for Israel, from across the political spectrum, have their own agenda. We must be wary of the bedfellows we keep.

Don't you wish your girlfriend was a MOT* like me

Jews are hot. Really, I promise. You know, according to my Medieval Jewish History professor, Jews were once known for their attractiveness and virility. Well, thank G-d, but that day has come again. Unfortunately, Jewish guys are still nebby.**

Proof in video, text, and image form:


Jewish Babe Renaissance

And image:

*MOT: Member of the Tribe, a Jew
**Nebby: short for nebbish, from the Yiddish nebbuch, meaning poor or unfortunate, in urban slang a scrub


While you are waiting with bated breath for my post on repentance, I will provide you with two distinct approaches to explaining the process of teshuva (repentance, literally: return) during the Aseret Yimai Teshuvah (the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashana, the New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement).

The first contribution arrives expediously from Aish, who wish to walk you through the nuances of the process of teshuvah. Annie and I are of two different minds on this particular film. She contends that it is, "lame and irritating." On the other hand, I appreciated the Aronofsky-esque approach, highlighting the absurdity of the human condition in its process of apology through a layering of the many meanings conveyed by the word, "Sorry." The subtlety engaged in fully contextualizing this issue astounded me.

In contrast, Stephen Colbert clearly does not know the meaning of the word, "subtle." His attempt to explain teshuvah was almost comical. How can we take him seriously with the gigantic rotary phone he pulled onto the desk? At times, I almost think he doesn't want his program to be considered real news.

Know Your Jewish Community

The "Organized Jewish Community," as Steven M. Cohen referred to it during a UJF* conference in New York, is made up of the institutions and organizations that were created (mostly around the turn of the 20th century) to facilitate Jewish life in America.

Broad description, right? Most people in our generation (and by "our" I mean 21-40) don't really know what the organizations are (they are often known by initials), who runs them, their history, and what they do. To help rectify that, I'm going to post a profile of an organization or individual every week. My goal is to eventually create a map that will explain how the organizations are connected and what they do. Also, because I love kitsch, I'm going to do them as if the organizations are being interviewed. If you have a particular question about a particular agency, I'll try to give a heads up a day or two in advance, and I'll "ask" it.

*UJF=United Jewish Federation

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Jewish bloggers blog about blogging about Jews

The blog world is self-referential. The Jewish world of blogging even more so, in part due to the laws of Lashon Hara (gossip, literally evil tongue). Religious considerations aside, when a blogger identifies themselves as Jewish, commenting, anonymously or otherwise about people, communities, and events becomes even more charged, in part because they can be seen as a representative of the Jewish community as a whole.

In 2005 Mobius of Jewschool created the Jewish Bloggers Campaign for Responsible Speech Online. A number of prominent bloggers sport the widget signifying their adherence to the principles of the campaign, primarily that:

"they be mindful before pressing the “Publish” button and that they ask this consideration from their site’s contributors — both other bloggers on their site and visitors. Ask yourself before posting, “Is what I’ve written a kiddush Hashem (a santification of God’s name) or a chilul Hashem (a desecration of God’s name)?” If it’s the latter, consider revising your remarks to preserve your point, while minimizing whatever harm you may do to your fellow. In other words, attack the idea, not the person, and do so tactfully and respectfully.

This campaign may not save the Jewish world from autocannibalism, but it may make the Jewish blogosphere a more welcoming, informative and enjoyable forum, and perhaps encourage some greater degree of Jewish unity despite the differences between us. B’ezrat Hashem (with the help of God), it shall be so."

Gil Student from Hirhurim sports the widget, additionally, he has sections on blogging protocols, and also on blogs and Lashon Hara.

Similarly, Daled Amos published a repeat of an article on the Chazon Ish's advice for columnists, which can be applied equally to bloggers.

It seems that bloggers agree, blogging is a powerful tool, and one that should be used with discretion. Even more so for Jewish bloggers, who feel that they as Jewish representatives have to be careful what they blog about.

A sampling of Jewish blogs shows that Renegade Rebbetzin feels stifled by the fact that she can't post 99% of what she feels. A few months ago Semgirl and Michelle had a flare up about what constitutes responsible comment moderation about others in ones' personal blog.Treppenwitz talks about how one of the considerations of bloggers should be to play nice with others on the internet.

Finally, as a cautionary tale, Alex Taylor of Kulam Yachad talks about how it feels to be denigrated in the blog world.

Pope Redux

Although I thought I was original in discussing the Pope-crisis, apparently, the entire Jewish blogosphere has commented. Given that the purpose of this blog is to address the blogs of others (true, we are the barnacles of the Jewish blogosphere), I've gathered below the good, the bad, and the ugly. I mostly ignored the nonsensical because it hurt my sensitive brain.

I hope I have firmly established my criteria for categorization. A post is good if it eloquently argues its point or if its content is free from major logical gaps. It is bad if it does not fill either of those criterion or if its content makes my blood boil. In this case, it is ugly if it records Muslim anti-Semitism, a characterization that in no way reflects the blog itself. An imperfect system, but one that serves its purpose.

The good

  • Jewish Women's Tempting Topical Topics composed a post so well written, it makes my mouth water. I disagree with portions of this post, but it’s extremely well-reasoned and even-toned. Although we may be on different parts of the political spectrum, JWTTT (what a cumbersome name) eloquently argues for a consideration of Islamic and worldwide hypocrisy in their response to the Pope’s speech. She raises some difficult and provocative questions about the inadequacy and impotence of the Western response to Islamic violence.
  • Treppenwitz offered a humorous, if ineffective, analogy comparing the Islamic world to an abusive husband. The battered wife analogy does not quite work, considering that the wrongs (real and perceived) in this conflict are committed by multiple parties, not just those of Muslim faith, but Bogner reiterates the criticism in JWTTT’s post: that the Western world must respond to the Islamic world with some content, instead of rolling over and apologizing immediately. A consideration from my post-modern, subjectivist worldview: Muslims would use the same analogy to describe their relationship to the Western world, but with themselves as the battered wife. Just so we continue to see the conflict as complex and multi-faceted, not to excuse the actions of violent Islamists.
  • Seattle Jew agrees that the pope screwed up, but the Muslim response was disproportionate given the content of the Pope’s speech. Ignore the misspellings. And the use of the term “callous headed worshippers of Allah,” which undermines the tenor of the post.
  • What will they think of next?

The bad

  • Only one bad post, so I'll address it's flaws point by point:

"Apparently, the Pope believes that Islam is a violent religion spread by force. As if we didn’t know this already.. Anyway, he got as good as he gave, and I don’t feel particularly sorry for him or the Catholic Church."

As I wrote in my original analysis of the Pope's speech, he did not indicate that he believed that Islam is a violent religion spread by force. However inartfully, he quoted the Emperor Manuel II, who argued that violence is illogical and Islamic recourse to violence, when it occurs, reflects their belief in a transcendent God. And the purpose of the quote was not to condemn Islamic violence, but rather to address the disparity between reason and religion in Christianity, a point which directly contradicts Evanston Jew's assertion that, "In his speech the Pope also repeated his basic trashing of secularism and modernity." Not true.

Lastly, because I have a degree in the subject, I would like to address Evanston Jew's biblical scholarship:

“In the Torah God commanded the genocide of Amalek and the native Canaanite inhabitants of Israel. The Torah is full of God’s arbitrary commandments and His rage at being disobeyed. Somehow over the years Jews have managed to avoid jihad.”

The Bible extensively records Jewish holy wars against non-Jewish peoples. Just a quick taste: Numbers 31:7-17; Deuteronomy 2:33; Deuteronomy 2:34; Deuteronomy 3:6; Deuteronomy 20:13-18; Joshua 6:21; Joshua 6:2.

The ugly: The absurd Anti-Semitic response to the Pope’s speech, as addressed in the following blogs (NB: these blogs are not ugly, they are recording the ugliness of the world)

  • Arabic cartoons depicting the Jews at fault for the Pope’s comments
  • A funny reflection on why the hell Arabs are blaming the Jews for the Pope’s comments, that also may fall under the rubric of “the good,” although he walks a very fine line, at some points.
  • Motnews, Little Green Footballs, and Daniel in Brookline all posted the same picture of the Pope wearing a Magen David medallion and matching eye patch.


You know that creepy end-of-the-world clock by Union Square Park? This is significantly more amusing.

That's right, an Armageddon Flowchart.

And if anyone wants to buy me this t-shirt, I would love them forever. Seriously.

I am Magic

Recently I have started noticing a few strange concidences. Things that I read in the newspaper happen. Not in the past, obviously they happened or they wouldn't be in the paper, but in my orbit.

For instance, yesterday on the subway I was reading about the strike by Fireman Hospitality Group on my way to work. On the way home, walking to the subway station I walked right by this protest. Fine, I work in midtown, so it isn't so unusual. I wouldn't think so either, until THIS happened:

This morning I read Metro NY, as I do every day, and there was an article about the decline of crime in the subways. Basically the police have been stopping crime through "good deployment" of officers. Terrific. However, this morning, at my exit station, I saw a police officer cuffing an agressive man and taking him away. I've never seen anyone arrested before in my life.

There are only two options for what is going on:
1) I am magic, and things I read in the paper come true.
2) The city is trying to convince me not to take a job in DC, and so is showing me all it has to offer.

I tend to believe the first, but I am open to being convinced otherwise.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Everywhere you want to be

Cost of tefillin: $129.99
Cost of tallit: $109.99
Cost of Yentl: $25.98
Passing: Priceless

I will stop plugging jvoices when it stops being the best written collaborative blog on the internet.

Not A Sexy Post

Religious Judaism is a lifestyle choice. An expensive lifestyle choice. According Heeb's money issue, a religious, single man can expect to pay about $5,000 a year for observance.

There has been a lot of talk, lately on the web* about the cost of Orthodoxy, but where does all the money go?

Heres the breakdown:

1)Specialty clothing, and hats, or wigs (not cheap) for married women. Menswear includes a couple suits, maybe a hat, and several pairs of tzitzit.

2)Private Schools: Yeshiva education and a year in Israel for each of your (many) children. Scholarships are available, but there is a large demand and a small supply.

3)Kosher Food: This week at D'Agostino markets, brisket is $4.99/lb, the kosher equivalent? Fischer Bros is selling for $14.98/lb. Even if you account for the fact that the latter is pre-cooked, still ridiculous. And don't even get me STARTED on cheeses.

4)Synagogue dues: for someone in my position, to join my shul is $475 a year. A family can expect to pay closer to $1800. That doesn't count religious school, bar mitzvah tutors, or sponsoring kiddush.

5)Housing: You need to live somewhere within walking distance of a synagogue. On the UWS rents are about $1100-$1300/month per person for a room in a cheap(er) apartment. Buying a house in Teaneck or one of the other big Jewish communities is a huge expense given what you get. The small supply and large demand drive up the prices.

6)Single Sex Gyms: Ok, so this isn't totally necessary, not everyone needs to work out, but if you, like the Moderator of, think that women can only work out while modestly dressed and away from men, then it is a neccessity. Otherwise, you get no physical activity, and that is clearly problematic.

7)Learning: It is expensive to learn in Kollel in the US. For a man to spend all day learning, either his wife must support him, or they must live on funds from their families. Either way, it is a pretty big financial burden. This category also includes any adult education classes, at JCCs or even Drisha. It all costs something.

This is why I plan on living on my own farm. I'll make my own cheese, and live simply. Who's with me?

*August 16, 2006 Evanston Jew
August 20,2006 Michelle
August 23,2006 Orthomom
September 19,2006 Ask Shifra
September 19,2006 Orthomom

September 26,2006 Sephardilady
September 26,2006 SerandEz

Nomads in D.C.

I've returned to my office this morning, bag in hand, fresh off the train from Maryland and ready to speak to the adoring masses. Hello, masses.

My Rosh Hashana was... well, in the interest of fairness and fear of spawning hate mail, I will simply say that the reform shul I attended at my parents' behest was not right for me, but I can see how its approach is suitable for people who are not me.

That said, my real struggle this weekend was not with the content of the services I attended, but with my parents' unending quest for a congregation that suits their needs. After leaving our traditionally observant Conservative shul several years ago, my parents have been shul hopping, attempting to bridge the gap in their comfort levels and find a community that welcomes them. What I find most striking about their venture is not that they struggle to find a shul that meets their needs, but that they feel they have no resources to guide their search. They feel uncomfortable asking any rabbis they know, pointing to the fact that rabbis work on behalf of their shul and, therefore, have a duty to draw new members.

Is there no recourse for my nomadic parents? Are they doomed to wander from congregation to congregation, forever outsiders? Maybe if they moved to New York, where every person has their Jewish niche...

Ariel at jvoices wrote an insightful piece on the shock of moving to New York, with its constantly proliferating opportunities for Jewish expression and Jewish contexts, that reminded me how lucky I am to live in this divine city. Not that I'm going to convince my parents to join me, but at least here, they'd find their Conservo-reformadox shul, with a Reconstructionist flavor.

In Support Of...

Shabbat/Holiday meals are really just an excuse for my friends and I to sit around and discuss the major issues in Judaism today. The makeup of the group influences which issues are discussed, and how they should be addressed.

The beginning of the meal was about how painfully long services are on Rosh Hashana, and how it is so unnecessary. At my chosen place of worship the service started at 8am and lasted until 1:15pm. Then immediately following was mincha gedola*. Even still, when I reached the apartment of my friend hosting the meal, only to realize that he was still at prayer. Three of the meal-goers had to stand outside waiting for about half an hour. Meal-hoster, if you are reading this, it is in no way a relection upon your meal-hosting skills.

What followed was a conversation about comparative service length. We all complained about our respective experiences, and then one guy there shared the following tidbit: at KOE (Kehillat Orach Eliezer) comments were made to the effect that "there is a great deal of talk about our new Rosh haKehillah (a position close to that of Rabbi) in the blogosphere. I know that some of you probably keep blogs, or know people who do, so if any of you wanted to post something positive about it, that'd be great."

So I am obliging. I'd like to add the disclaimer that I've never been to KOE but I fully intend to go as part of my shul**-shopping on the Upper West Side. The fact that they chose a woman to be the spiritual leader, and Jewish Law authority for their community makes me only more likely to support it.

To give some background, many "major" Jewish blogs have already posted on the subject. I'll divide them into groups, those with a positive, negative, or neutral reaction.

This post by Dov Bear is positive if you follow the thinking that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

The Post in Cross Currents that Dov Bear found so objectionable.
Another negative post from Cross Currents.
The rather pompously named Emes Ve-Emunah (it means "Truth and Faith") refers to KOE's mechitza (the divider between men and women) as hardly one any traditionally Orthodox Jew would feel comfortable with. Which is problematic, as every Orthodox shul that I've been to has a different mechitza. There are a couple more comments in there that make my blood boil, but I'll leave you with that one.

Dilbert talks about the purpose of classification in Judaism, using the controversy as a jumping-off point.
On The Book, Jonathan Baker claims that the classification of KOE is irrelevant,and that the move to choose a woman is indeed significant for Orthodoxy. He also points out that "That a right-wing Conservative, or UTJ, synagogue had to get a spiritual leader, who by definition would not be a rabbi, from left-wing Modern Orthodox institutions, speaks to the weakness of both: she couldn't find sufficient opportunities among those who had trained her, and KOE couldn't find suitable candidates in their own movement, but had to look beyond their rightward edge."

Hard to categorize:

Hirhurim mostly repeats the statement from UTJ. I agree with UTJ, but not with Gil Student's classification of KOE.

In conclusion: why does everyone care about KOE, but not that the Jewish Center has a female "fellow" paid for with the funds that generally pay for a rabbinic intern?

*Mincha Gedola is the afternoon service, performed at the earliest possible time allowed by traditional calculations, often following the morning service, seperated by just a few minutes.

**Shul is Yiddish for synagogue.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Shana Tova from the J-Blogosphere

Traditionally the Jewish new year is a time for reflection, this seems to be echoed somewhat by Jewish bloggers.

Sem Girl, a religious blogger, wishes all her readers a happy new year, asks their forgiveness for any insult (another traditional component of Jewish new year observance) and reminds them that behind each keystroke is a living, breathing human being. Will 5767 be the beginning of a kinder, gentler new blogosphere? Semgirl hopes so. Along those same lines, Rabbi Josh Yuter asks forgiveness both as a person, and as a blogger for any harm he may have caused in the past year.

Not Chosen, however, chose to use his Shana Tova post as an opportunity to compare Jewish and secular New Years' rituals. He missed my favorite though, the traditional happy-new-year-smack-on-the-ass. What, you mean that your family doesn't do that? Um...

Moving right along, Jewlicious kept it short and sweet. Literally. By wishing us a sweet New Year and posting a lovely image of dawn in Israel. Similarly, Jewschool posted an image bearing only the words Shana Tova.

Expanding on the same idea, Esther Kustanowitz brought us battle of the bands, Rosh Hashana style. I'm not sure which of those videos will cause my brain to leak out of my ears first, but the Aish guy is actually not half bad as a rapper.

Apparently posting R"H-themed images is the way to go, so I'll leave you with:

Poached from Aish.


In a recent speech, the Pope focused on integral relationship God shares with the capacity to reason. Faith in the Christian God cannot exist outside of reason, as reason defines God's creative act: in the beginning, was the logos (John 1:1). Pointing to the translation of logos to mean both "word" and "reason," he spoke of the "intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry." To contextualize his point, the Pope referenced Manuel II, who argued, "Not to act "with logos" is contrary to God's nature." Benedict speech intented to broaden the Christian conceptualization of reason, so that reason and faith were once more aligned, reducing the chasm that opened between modern reason (read: science) and the dictums of faith during the Modern Era. In his words, "In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith." Only through an understanding of faith through the prism of reason can we attempt to create a "genuine dialogue of cultures and religions."

You may not recognize this speech, as you likely do not read the transcripts of the Pope's addresses. Let me give you a hint: towards the beginning of the speech, in order to contextualize his point, Pope Benedict quoted from a six-hundred year-old dialogue, in which two spiritual leaders discuss their respective religions. In their discussion, Manuel II, a Byzantine emperor, asserts that violence is an unreasonable way to spread faith and that only through reason can a faith be spread. The Pope uses this discussion to frame a distinction between the Hellenization of Christianity and the development of Islam outside of Hellenistic influences:

"The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality."”

In case you haven’t guessed, this speech is the flint that sparked the most recent firestorm of Islamic anger. Considering the tense world atmosphere, the Pope’s choice of words were not the brightest, but to call for his death? The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer penned a phenomenally written Op-Ed in response to this current catastrophe.

Gong Xi Fa Cai*

In honor of my pluralistic, post-denominational, post-halakhic, culturally hybrid observance of this year's Rosh Hashana, I am donning red and co-opting the Chinese dragon:

Who wants to join me for mooncakes?

*Happy New Year in Mandarin

Music by Jews that I am obsessed with

Top 10 Jewish Artists that I am listening to right now:

1.Regina Spektor especially the video for Fidelity.

2. David Broza

3. Pharaoh's Daughter if only because I have a slight crush on Daphna Mor. Hey, I have a redhead thing.

4. Sufjan Stevens--ok, he isn't Jewish, but he has a cool name, and Chicago is heartbreakingly beautiful.

5. Golem, although I'm not sure if I actually love them, or just want to.

6. Rav Shmuel and Y-Love are tied for this position. I like them about equally both for their music as well as their background stories.

7.Idan Reichel who is amazing, regardless of whether or not you understand what is being said. As I don't speak Amharic I only get about half of the songs anyway, but I really appreciate that the Hebrew is clearly enunciated and fairly simple. Boi (translated as Come On)is another song that breaks my heart. Specifically the lyrics: "don't ask me when, don't ask me about happiness, just let it come, and when it comes it will fall down on us like rain."

8.Evan and Jaron who are making a comeback. Really, they are. Also, I like to support cutie Orthodox boys.

9.Ethnix, but I've only really heard Tutim.

10. And last, but definitely not least is Divahn.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Jewish Media

As the new year fast approaches, we shouldn't forget that things are still going on in the world. In honor of that thought I've brought to you the headline stories (as best I could tell) from several major Jewish news outlets. These are not a part of the "Global Jewish Media Conspiracy." Instead they are specifically Jewish media. Blogs that exist to bring Jewish news to Jews that news. Or something.

According to JTA, in the year 5767: It's the Youth, Stupid. In a move suprising to no one, a "mainstream" Jewish outlet, sick of the doom and gloom stories and in desperate need for a puff piece, has decided to return to that old standby: Jewish continuity. Will Jews continue? We don't know because we never talk to our children/grandchildren/younger siblings/those annoying bloggers.

The self-proclaimed cover story of Jewsweek is a culture piece. It appears to be about the Hebrew Hammer kicking Mel Gibson's ass. Correct me if I am wrong, but the Hebrew Hammer is imaginary, and Mel Gibson, sadly, is not. I know that they are describing a movie possibility, but I think that there are some serious liability issues involved there, not to mention the difficulty of finding a Mel Gibson look-alike.

In fairness to Daily Jews, Friday's feature is supposed to be "Arts." It is unclear to me when Henry Winkler dressed as Captain Hook became an art. Also, I apologize for the terrible link (presumably only good until sundown on Friday), but there was no specific post to which I could link.

The fact that I could only find one article that was about Jews in the midst of the Thai Coup (yeah, it sounds funny) could either be due to my faulty googling or the fact that very few Jews live in Asia. Either way, that picture is probably not of Chabad rabbis taking in Israelis. If it is, the Bangkok Chabad has done some awesome proselytizing.

Authenticity doesn't live here anymore.

The way to promote dialogue is through mockery.

Rules of Engagement

Bradley Burston, who writes for, posted the following parameters for commentary and discussion on his blog. Although Annie and I will not indulge in such censorship, I think it would do us all some good to ponder why Burston thought these rules were necessary.

Burston writes,

"The guiding principles of the talkback forum for this article will be mutual respect and an openness to dialogue. Participants, even if they rule out, dismiss or oppose coexistence, must, within the confines of this forum, practice it.

Censorship will be unapologetic.

Political orientation will have absolutely no bearing on whether a comment is posted or rejected.

The following will be grounds for deletion:
1. Racist remarks, as well as slurs on the basis of religion, ethnicity and gender.
2. Use of the terms Nazi, Hitler, genocide, ethnic cleansing, to describe the actions and policies of Israelis, Palestinians or other parties to the Israel-Arab conflict.
3. Disparaging remarks, personal attacks, vulgarities and profanities directed at other participants in the forum.
4. Advocacy of violence against individuals or religious, ethnic or racial groups, including statements which may be construed as urging attacks on leaders, officials, security forces or civilians.
5.Use of the phrase: "There are no Palestinians" or derivatives thereof."

Speaking of rules of engagement, never ask me why I am not engaged. It is an unacceptable question and makes me think impolite thoughts about your upbringing.

Jews in Hollywood

During the OyHoo! Conference Judy Gold and Lewis Black sat on a stage together discussing what it means to be a Jewish comedian. Judy said something that I found really interesting, and that was "To the Jews I'm a Jewish comedian, to the non-Jews I'm just a comedian." This reminded me of the conversation that I have at least once a week:

Friend: Did you know that (name of celebrity) is Jewish?
Annie: No! Really?
Friend: Yeah! His/her (name of family member) is Jewish.
Annie: Huh. Who knew?

Why do we care about this? There are a number of reasons, none of which that I will explore now.I usually have pretty good Jew-dar, but I missed a few major celebrities. It is not a coincidence that most of these come from the September/October issue of AJL.

People that I didn't know:
Amanda Peet
Brad Garrett
Evan Rachel Wood
Victor Garber
Howie Mandel
Scarlett Johansson(I knew, but I keep forgetting because her sounds so Scandinavian)
Kate Hudson
Paul Rudd
and man of my dreams: Jake Gyllenhaal*

People that I did know:
Jon Stewart
Jeff Goldblum
Debra Messing
Jerry Seinfeld

*Can you blame me? NJB with nice blue eyes, played a marine, and not homophobic. Also, an ivy league grad. Seriously.

A Lesson in Manners

In case you were pondering the definition of faux pas this morning, I have a textbook example. In the elevator ride up to my office, I heard the following exchange:

Lady A: "I watched the news this morning to see how many people were at the rally [in solidarity with Israel and in protest of the President of Iran addressing the U.N.] yesterday."

Lady B: "Oh. Did you?"

Lady A: "Yes. Where were you?"

Lady B: "[Embarrassed] I had work to do."

Lady A: "Like I didn't." And leaves the elevator.

Can anyone spot the faux pas? Lady A, you may not, under any circumstances, chide someone for missing a rally or demonstration. Not everyone agrees with your politics or expresses their political beliefs in the same way. It is indefensible to chastise a grown woman for missing a rally, regardless of your passion for the cause or your belief in its inscrutable truth. Kal v'chomer*, not in an elevator full of people.

*Indicating an a fortiori argument, kal v' chomer translates loosely into, "all the more so."

Rally 'Round the UN

Rally for Israel: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What are bloggers saying about yesterday's rally at the UN?

Good:Bookworm shows how civilized we can be. See? We don't riot when the Pope ticks us off, or even when those who want to push us into the sea come to visit NY. He says that "now, it’s entirely possible that the person who took the photographs deliberately ignored the hoards burning Kofi in effigy or demanding that various people be beheaded or threatening to take over one country or another." Too bad, that is the kind of protest that I could really get behind. Few things get me going like a good burning in effigy.

Bad:We only came to socialize. And by "we" I mean Esther and I. Esther, you should have told me that you were standing right behind me! I totally ran into Chanah Leah Rochel Devorah while looking for Faygie.

Ugly: Who knew it was going on? Cptned, and maybe a few of his friends. I can't believe that the Jews in control of the media didn't do a better job on this one! C'mon guys, what is the point of a global media conspiracy if we aren't using it?


Practice: "I respectfully disagree."

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

A Tale of Two Bloggers

So, Harley and I disagree on almost every topic that one could think of. Really. Almost every single one. However, this does not (usually) inhibit our friendship.

But here is something that we can agree on: Jewish men are studs. So much so, that non-Jewish women want to date them! My whole life, I have been waiting for this day to come, the day where my non-Jewish girl friends would say to me: "oh, I have such a Jew fetish, nothing turns me on like a pair of tzitzis*."

Grandmuffti of Jewlicious agrees, Jewish boys are bad boys. I personally have dated several boys who have driven over the speed limit. No one is as wild as a bunch of yeshiva boys on a cross-country road trip. For example, watch this video by David Lavon. DO IT NOW!

*Tzitzis are a four cornered garment with fringes hanging from each corner, traditionally worn by religious Jewish males under their shirts. The garment is supposed to serve as a reminder to observe the 613 commandments.

In the Beginning (a slightly more serious post)

In the beginning, God sanctified the earth through a separation of spheres: heaven from earth, firmament from firmament, light from darkness. Across the span of millennia, we replicated God’s initial creative act through our own series of separations: the sacred from the profane, milk from meat, public from private, good from evil. This process of sanctification through separation has proliferated, infiltrating every aspect of our lives, pervading the most basic ways we perceive our world. In the modern era, we chose to separate from others in order to more fully define ourselves and the spaces in which we reside: in philosophy (essentialist from structuralist), in religion (orthodox from reform), in politics (left from right). Each generation, likewise, defines itself, at least in part, in opposition to the previous generation. Where “they” were rigid, we are fluid; where “they” were exclusive, we are inclusive; where “they” were confined to established sacred spaces, we are creating our own places of worship, outside of the cold and constraining walls of their crumbling edifices. These distinctions can be useful in establishing communal identity and coherence, but harmful when the barriers we erect isolate us from the lessons and wisdom of those that preceded us or prevent us from accessing their grant money. However useful, boundaries blind us to our commonalities across affiliation (or lack thereof), across observance, and across the generational divide. As we rail against our elders, condemning their institutions and their myopia, we forget that thirty years ago, with longer hair and less paunch, they sounded exactly like us.

Before you OD on the kumbaya vibe, I am not advocating tearing down the walls and engaging in a group hug. If God established the pattern, then the process of constructing boundaries must be useful. In this blog, through satire, mockery, and attempted (albeit sparse) erudition, we will lay bare the words and work of the Jewish blogosphere, bravely going where thousands have gone before.

Daily Jewish Snark

Harley and I spend a lot of time on the internet. A LOT OF TIME. We have found that the internet, specifically the Jewish internet, is filled with what we call "stupid." Rather than rail against this fact of nature, we have decided to revel in it, and to mock it.

This is our attempt at light-hearted self mockery. We are Jewish. We are not anti-semitic, anti-zionist, or a hillul hashem*.

Therefore, we present, for your reading pleasure, a digest of absurd Jewish content. And maybe something serious every once in a while, but I wouldn't hold out much hope of that if I were you.

* Hillul hashem: lit. a desecration of G-d's name, generally used to refer to behavior that is seen as a public refutation of Jewish beliefs, often done by people who outwardly seem/look Jewish. For example, a Jew who spits on a poor person who is asking for money is committing a hillul hashem.