Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jewbiquitous Outing: Bluegrass in Brooklyn

Why were we in Brooklyn on a weeknight? Well Harley lives there, for one. At any rate, someone knew someone that was performing at Laila Lounge in their monthly Bluegrass Tuesday. As you may know, I claim some Southern heritage (or at least relatives), and I unironically love Country music, so this sounded like a good idea.

At least CJ thought so. CJ is new to the city, and all about "doing things." I've been here a little longer, and had had a long day (not enough sleep, crappy day at work, and a bereavement counseling session with a group. Mmmm I love me some public discussions of feelings. Not.) and just really wasn't up to going out. However, I had cancelled our plans the night before, and knew that he wouldn't go if I didn't, so off to Brooklyn I trudged. I am a good girlfriend.

The music was good. Not awesome, but the "band" doesn't really practice together, so it was something of a mix between a bluegrass jam session and a performance. The female vocalist was absolutely fabulous, has a smoky voice and a powerful range that really gave me shivers. As for the rest of the group: the mandolin player had, as CJ said, "some licks," the guitarist and violinist were each terrific, but with serviceable (if not amazing) voices, and the bass player was consistently confused. Which was amusing. At one point the female vocalist was signalling to him with her hand what chords he should be playing. Awesome.

At any rate, it was a good time. Harley and Prettyboy were there, Prettyboy demonstrated his ability to drink a huge amount of alcohol and still be reasonably sober. Or at least not trashed.

Sadly it takes about an hour to get back to the UWS from Williambsurg when you are travelling late at night. So I got home at about 12:45am. My bedtime is 11:00pm. Awakeness factor today? Low to moderate. Hopefully nothing important will happen.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

On Feminism and names

Well, the honeymoon is over. I really tried to like Jewcy. I did. They were talking about interesting things, in interesting ways, but recently there have been a rash of articles that just make me uncomfortable. Too many in-jokes, unfunny/insulting jokes, it reads like a blog. Which is fine, but I expect a bit more professionalism from a for-profit endeavor. Not even my crush on the death-defying and ever crushworthy Tahl Raz can save it.

For instance, in Amy Odell's latest Dating Blogger entry she drops the f-bomb in the title, and again in the first line. It is jarring and unpleasant, and as I read on, somewhat unwarranted. My mother (who still castigates me if I use the word "butt" at the dinner table) used to tell me that profanity is a symptom of a limited vocabulary. I kind of agree.

But that isn't really what I meant to talk about. One of the bright lights of Jewcy is Tamar Fox who writes thoughtful pieces that I wish provoked more discussion. One of which is about the comparison between Queen Esther and Beauty Pagent winners today. It got me thinking about feminism and names. Tamar cites Betty Myerson (a Miss America winner) as a Jewish woman who refused to change her last name to something "less Jewish-sounding." Clearly a great deal is bound up in last names, and the identity that they provide.

While I was in college I had the discussion with some girl friends about what we would/will do when it comes time to get married and decide on last names. One friend said that she'd keep her last name, the roommate said that she'd make up a new name (ie Cohen and Goldberg would become Cohenberg, or Golden), and I said that I'd take my husband's name. Of course this generated calls of remonstrance against me for abandoning the feminist principles for which I "claim to stand." Here was my reasoning:

1) I want to have the same last name as my children. It is harder to travel internationally otherwise, and to prove parental status in cases of emergency.

2) I don't want my kids to have a hyphenated last name. CJ has a hyphenated last name, and it made me think. How on earth do the offspring of hyphenated families manage in the next generation? If I am Annie Smith, and I marry George Jones, my kids could be Smith-Jones. But what if my Smith-Jones kids fall in love with Harley's Cohen-Goldberg kids? And get married? Can my girls really become Smith-Jones-Cohen-Goldberg? Should they have to? What about their kids?

3) If I don't hyphenate, and instead combine, then it becomes more difficult to trace genealogy.

My mother (two mentions in one post! Clearly I'm a bit homesick) has a hyphenated last name, but didn't pass it on to her children.

In other words, you should pity poor Mischa or Lilit Smith-Jones.

Update 2/1/07: Dear Prudence has a question about hyphenation, and Jewcy talks about names for children

Jews Love: Warm Weather

We're a mediterranean people, right? Maybe I will not be moving to Chicago. Also unclear: how my ancestors survived the winters in frigid Eastern Europe. As my baby brother would say "mad props."

I was actually going to talk about my weekend with CJ's parents, but it is cold, I am cranky, and this evening I have to leave the island of Manhattan for its hinterlands, a far-off place called "Williamsburg." For the record this will be my second foray into Brooklyn in the past week. Seriously, who lives in Brooklyn?

Harley is much smaller than I am.

Kvetch* over. Now on to seriously address this issue. Jews love the warm weather. Many retire to Boca Raton, or other Florida locations. During Passover Jews flock en masse to Florida and Israel to celebrate the holiday of freedom on the beach/in the sun. Or maybe just try to recreate the 40 years of wandering in the desert. Whichever.

And despite the fact that some of Daboys dislike the warm weather (inexplicably, in my mind) I don't think that it is an accident that Savannah, Georgia is home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the United States. Sure, Rhode Island is older, but Rhode Island sucks. No, not really. But it is colder than the South. By a lot. Jews are one of the few groups who, when they came to America, did not seek out a climate similar to the one from which they came. Scandinavians went to the frigid midwest, and it was no accident that African American were the ones chosen to slave in the South. It was thought that they would be better able to deal with the extreme heat than other groups (like indentured servants).

This is a bit rambling, so I'll wrap up with this last thought: when Hertzl was considering another location for the Jewish homeland (other than Israel) he chose Uganda. Not the JAR (also known as Birobidzhan). Uganda. A warm place.

*To kvetch is to complain.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Know Your Jewish Community: Weddings

I'll leave Harley to eloquently say what I can only think. It seems strange to me that in the midst of death there is life, and so yesterday (Sunday) I went to the wedding of a good friend from college. At this point I've been to a few Jewish weddings, but the sentiment of the friends (the bride's friends at least) is "I can't believe that she's really married." It is that same type of Magical Thinking as Harley spoke about in her last post.

Anyway, it occured to me that Jewish weddings (at least traditionally observant ones) are pretty far from what a non-Jew, or secular Jew expects when they walk into the hall. Main differences:
-No speeches, drunken or otherwise at the reception
-almost everyone leaves early except immediate family and bridal party
-seperate dancing
-the pre-nup is read aloud during the ceremony
-sometimes the hug under the bridal canopy is the first time that the couple has ever touched

Helen of Indian Wedding has a pretty good rundown of the ceremony. She misses some of the symbolism, but it is a good outline. AtTheFamilyPlace has an interesting post by Tuppy where he/she says: "Beginning with a matchmaking ceremony, spiritual devotion is studied in stages before a lifelong partner is chosen. Contrary to common belief, this practice also requires that both people be physically, emotionally and spiritually attracted to each other." I am not entirely sure what is meant by that. I wonder if there was some article published that claimed that Jewish matchmaking is entirely businesslike and devoid of feeling.

At any rate Ellie of the Dilettante Handbook reposted an article about a mass Jewish wedding (20 couples) in Havana. There had been no one to officiate so while all of the couples were married according to Cuban law, they hadn't had a Jewish ceremony. 3 Argentinian rabbis performed the ceremonies. Efratti describes a secular Israeli wedding that she attended. Pretty similar to an Orthodox Jewish wedding, the only differences being in the style of the bride's dress, and how the genders mix before and after the ceremony itself. If you want to see examples of what an Orthodox wedding looks like, go to OnlySimchas, which is a sort of bulletin board for good news in the Orthodox community: engagements, weddings, births, bar mitzvahs, people making aliyah, and so on. Also, it is a good way to waste a lot of time. Ask my roommates, we spent a great portion of our senior year avoiding writing our respective thesii and instead checking out bridesmaid dresses. Clearly a good use of our time.

Whatever, don't judge.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Odyssey

For several years at the seminary, every time I heard a professor mention theodicy, I immediately made a mental pun on that famous Homerian epic, The Odyssey, and laughed uncontrollably, thereby causing the entire, stony-faced class to wonder if I was (A) mildly unhinged or (B) heartless. I could argue that I am neither, but you have read enough of this blog to discern that I am, if not mildly, then completely unhinged. I’m fairly certain this punny association is a function of self-protection—that my mind’s poor attempts at humor are in an effort to distract me from painful thoughts. I have pretty low comedic standards normally (I laugh regularly at Annie’s jokes), but I resort to hyena-levels of hysteria when under duress. Poor Annie had been subject to my black humor since we met. She quickly learned that “your momma” jokes ended in shocked silence when I deadpanned a morbid response (or, in Annie’s case, uprorious laughter because we both have the same sick sense of humor). I write all this information, of course, to distract from the actual task at hand, which is to address what’s going on behind the scenes here at Jewbiquitous. Effectively, I am making an awkward comment to stave off silence. My father would be so proud.

Annie posted Tuesday that, having suffered an enormous personal loss, we would not be posting for a while. I’ve spent the last several days formulating and discarding several responses, but none seemed adequate to deal with the enormity of this week’s events. At first, I wrote an obit-style illustration of the Queen of the World, the woman who has left such a huge void in our lives. But when the Queen of Words penned her real obit, the one published in the Times, its accuracy and eloquence made me realize that my own words were inadequate and thereby inappropriate. The Queen of the World would not have wanted me to describe her or eulogize her on this blog. She would have wanted me to struggle aloud with the theological issues that loss raises, she would have wanted me to reflect on death ritual, she would have encouraged me to be baldly honest and wholly myself. That last part, I will try to do here, the rest I will save for another day.

The Queen of the World always hinted that I was not bold enough on this blog, that there was something dishonest about hiding myself behind “objective” analysis, behind third-person pronouns, behind a formality that effectively distanced me from all of you. She seemed most pleased with my writing when she could read gashes of me on the screen. I think it’s because she was incapable of not being completely present in every moment. She exuded charisma and confidence and I cannot imagine her hiding, ever. Or needing to. She told me to put myself out there; so here I go.

So much of dealing with her death is to convince myself that it’s real. It’s so hard to concretize negative space, all the more so when it would be far easier to pretend that she is not really gone, but has merely left her desk for a moment or decided to take an extended stay in Paris. It is so comforting to imagine that she is simply not around today, but will surely walk through the door tomorrow; to look into an empty office, at the back of a leather chair, and imagine that the wheels will swivel of their own accord and I will be staring into a warm and open face, a face surprised by my relief. In my mind’s eye, she will walk into this room and gaze at me with jet black eyes and with two fingers move her hair from her face, so that she can tell me what exciting thing we’re doing next. I keep waiting for her to come in here and tell me what to do next.

For years after my mom died, I fully expected to discover that some mistake had been made, that someone else had died and the body been misidentified. I know I am not alone in this delusion. I’ve spoken with enough people who’ve lost people (not to be confused with Streisand’s “People Who Love People;” I don’t think we consider ourselves “the luckiest people in the world”) to discern that it’s human nature to endlessly hope, even when all hope should logically fade. And so Monday, when we waited breathlessly for news, I fully expected the miraculous to occur, against all my knowledge of medical science, against all reason, against even the cold, hard news we received as the day ended. Had you known her, you, too, would have expected the impossible, even when it was too late. She was a woman whose presence exceeded her physical stature, who was already larger than life while alive. Perhaps that’s why my attempt at eulogy failed: how do you steer clear from hyperbole when it’s the truth?

Be patient with me; I’m going to get philosophical for a moment. I don’t mean to distance you by abstracting the issue from my personal reaction, but I need to work out a thought process before continuing to pour my soul into this post.

The natural response to tragedy is to focus on the issue of blame, on a multitude of levels. When the tragedy is sudden and unexpected, we immediately resort to personal blame because it (paradoxically) serves to comfort us. Death is chaos slipping in through the cracks of reality, revealing that the illusion of control that religion, government, and society has convinced us we grasp is entirely illusory. We blame ourselves so that we can imagine that we have control and that this incident was simply a matter of not trying hard enough, not holding on tightly enough, not paying enough attention. We become hyper-vigilant. We attempt to control everything. We do not want to lose control again and so we try to explain the inexplicable, try to rationalize the irrational. The idea that we don’t have control, that we couldn’t have stopped anything from happening, that we are free from blame, is more painful, sometimes, than the fact of the loss, itself. By focusing on theodicy, particularly the reward/punishment heuristic central to monotheism (not to mention the hubris of imagining that with the right behavior we control all of our outcomes and ward off bad events), we attempt to make sense of our world, but ultimately we will be unsatisfied by the answers we receive when we ask “Why?” No answer is satisfactory when the events are painful and illogical enough to drive us to ask that question. We only shout “why” to the universe when we cannot fathom a reason, when no reason exists.

Where does this thought process leave me? If I know that I cannot explain why this tragedy occurred or even take steps to prevent its reoccurrence, then where am I? In more senses than this, I am at a loss.

I never learn. Truly. I knew already that I couldn’t control anything; that loving people inevitably meant the pain of losing them. But to be honest, I didn’t have much of a choice. I would challenge anyone who met the Queen of the World to resist letting her into their life. I would say, “Meet the Queen of the World. Without reservation, she will open her heart, her mind, and her home to you. In the briefest of time, she will know and understand you and she will embrace you for whomever you are. She will see your strengths and weaknesses and she will guide you so that you resist the urge to rest on the former and deny the latter. She will be funny and honest and surprisingly disarming, considering that she is on her way to a meeting with a Supreme Court Justice. She will never make you feel small or insignificant. On the contrary, every moment that you spend with her, you will have her full, undivided attention and she will effortlessly convey to you that she is fully listening to every word you say and, really, some of your ideas are quite good. She will be stylish and classy and cooler at 54 than you are at 23 and she will do it with an ease and grace that pushes you to emulate, not envy, her.” Then I would say to you, “I challenge you not to care about this woman. And when she dies, I challenge you not to feel it as a wrenching pain in your gut, even though you’ve known her for a relatively short time.” And then I’d laugh at you because you’d feel as foolish and hurt as I do right now; and we’d go share a beer and a cry together.

I think that death puts all the pettiness of life into perspective. It serves as the ultimate lens through which to focus life. Optimism is neither an act boldly denying nor blindly ignoring the bad. Optimism is recognizing the inevitability of death and still getting out of bed in the morning. It is using mortality’s imminence as an advantage to more deeply feel life’s immanence. Death does not render life futile; but sometimes it renders it all too short.

So where do we go from here? We put our arguments and disagreements into perspective and we work tirelessly to make the lives of those we love a little better, a little happier because we will all be here together for so short a time. We never forget to say, “I love you,” even when we are fearful of being hurt. We attempt to leave the world a little bit brighter, even though it seems futile, even though it will all go bad the moment we take our hands off the reigns, and usually while we are still around to watch it go sour. With the stupidity that optimism and hope bring, we face each day as if we will not be hurt and we love as openly and powerfully and emphatically as possible. And if that means that we suffer, then we realize it’s worth it.

That's the Queen of the World's legacy; and I hope it's mine, too.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Harley and I have just suffered a loss in our personal lives. A woman that we both consider a friend and mentor has been suddenly struck down. As a result, we are taking a break from blogging.

May her family and friends be comforted among the mourners of Zion.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Jewbiquitous Outing: Dirty Girl

Since Harley and I clearly don't spend enough time together, when CJ invited us to go see a play with him, we jumped at the chance. The play? Dirty Girl. The attendees? Harley and Prettyboy, CJ and me, CJ's coworker, and his girlfriend.

The basic premise is that Dori/Ronnie hates law school, so she answers an ad for an editorial assistant, that "must be comfortable with male nudity." She gets a job at Loverboy/Playgirl magazine and begins her search for a woman who is actually turned on by the magazine (as opposed to the MANY gay readers). The play, which has 5 cast members who take turns playing different roles, started out as a one-woman show. And it shows. Harley and I agreed that it might have been better that way.

I pretty much agree with the review from (link above). The characters hammed it up a bit too much, they would have been better if they were a little less stereotypical and ridiculous. The writing was good, and there were some funny jokes, but as CJ pointed out, if they had spent 5 more minutes on each joke, polishing them, it could have been really great. He, for the record, really enjoyed the play, as did prettyboy. I spent a great deal of time cringing in discomfort (I am kind of prudish). Also, the guys who play beefcakes in the play aren't really that buff. CJ thinks that it was intentional, whereas I thought that it made the play seem even more ridiculous and unbelievable.

One last point, there was a mini-play/commercial at the beginning of the show for a lingerie company called Secrets in Lace. As part of this cross-marketing, a catalogue was given out with the program. Most of the stuff is really retro, and in my opinion, not terribly attractive. Also, if I'm going to buy expensive stockings, 100% nylon isn't a selling point for me. Maybe 100% silk, but then again, I have somewhat expensive taste. Also, I had some issues with the "commercial." First of all, a boss should absolutely NOT give you a promotion based on the fact that you are more/less attractive than your coworker. If you have to resort to showing some leg to get ahead in your chosen field, it is either time to seek a sexual harassment suit, or move on. Secondly, do you really want a guy/girl who wants you only because you are dressed in a sexy manner? If they can't see your beauty/attractiveness through the clothing that makes you comfortable, then they are not someone that you should be with. Ok, rant over.
Long story short? At $18 the play is overpriced. I'd have seen it for $8. Maybe. And would have prefered fewer images of naked people.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Goodbye, Art, We Hardly Knew Ya

Goodbye, My Friends
By Art Buchwald
Friday, January 19, 2007; Page C01

Washington Post Editor's Note: Art Buchwald asked that this column be distributed following his death. Buchwald wrote the column on Feb. 8, 2006, after deciding to check into a hospice, suffering from kidney failure. He had discontinued dialysis and also had one of his legs amputated below the knee. He subsequently was released from the hospice, wrote a book about his experience and also resumed writing his syndicated newspaper column. He died Wednesday surrounded by family members.

Several of my friends have persuaded me to write this final column, which is something they claim I shouldn't leave without doing.

There comes a time when you start adding up all the pluses and minuses of your life. In my case I'd like to add up all the great tennis games I played and all of the great players I overcame with my now famous "lob." I will always believe that my tennis game was one of the greatest of all time. Even Kay Graham, who couldn't stand being on the other side of the net from me, in the end forgave me.

I can't cover all the subjects I want to in one final column, but I would just like to say what a great pleasure it has been knowing all of you and being a part of your lives. Each of you has, in your own way, contributed to my life.

Now, to get down to the business at hand, I have had many choices concerning how I wanted to go. Most of them are very civilized, particularly hospice care. A hospice makes it very easy for you when you decide to go.

What's interesting is that everybody has his or her own opinion as to how you should go out. All my loved ones became very upset because they thought I should brave it out -- which meant more dialysis.

But here is the most important thing: This has been my decision. And it's a healthy one.

The person who was the most supportive at the end was my doctor, Mike Newman. Members of my family, while they didn't want me to go, were supportive, too.

But I'm putting it down on paper, so there should be no question the decision was mine.

I chose to spend my final days in a hospice because it sounded like the most painless way to go, and you don't have to take a lot of stuff with you.

For some reason my mind keeps turning to food. I know I have not eaten all the eclairs I always wanted. In recent months, I have found it hard to go past the Cheesecake Factory without at least having one profiterole and a banana split.

I know it's a rather silly thing at this stage of the game to spend so much time on food. But then again, as life went on and there were fewer and fewer things I could eat, I am now punishing myself for having passed up so many good things earlier in the trip.

I think of a song lyric, "What's it all about, Alfie?" I don't know how well I've done while I was here, but I'd like to think some of my printed works will persevere -- at least for three years.

I know it's very egocentric to believe that someone is put on Earth for a reason. In my case, I like to think I was. And after this column appears in the paper following my passing, I would like to think it will either wind up on a cereal box top or be repeated every Thanksgiving Day.
So, "What's it all about, Alfie?" is my way of saying goodbye.

(c) 2007 Tribune Media Services Inc.

Whither art thou Scarlett?

The number #1 search term leading people to this blog? A googleimage search for Scarlett Johansson. Who, fyi, may not consider herself Jewish.

Other interesting tidbits:
Manatees we must have talked about this at some point, I just have no memory of it
Gil Landau
Garbage Collector salary in Israel
I have no idea how much that would be
Jewish Modesty ok, that one is obvious
Martyr's Complex Defined did we?
Bedikah Cloths ew. Really, we're not going to talk about what these are for
"end of the world clock"" is totally subjective
Olive Garden is not allowed to be your favorite restaurant if you live in NYC. Not if you wish to date me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On Competition

Annie is (A) a jerkface and (B) a much faster writer than I. All morning I worked on my Blood Libel post and now it's buried beneath two of her hilarious and entertaining posts, both of which she wrote as I plodded along, carefully researching, contemplating, and rewriting mine. Sigh. To be half as beautiful and talented as Annie.

Filler, but not Filling

First of all, check out Babble's bad parent section. It is pretty amusing, and I thought fitting given the amount of time I/we spend talking about the creation of Jewish babies.

On a totally different note, here is a conversation that I just had with a friend of mine (who for the sake of his job/social life would like to remain anonymous):

Me: It is not this cold in Virginia
Friend: That's a good thing. if it was as warm here as in Virginia I'd be concerned
Me: It is about 10 degrees warmer in VA, 40 instead of 30
Friend: Sounds about right
Me: Stupid New York, I wish that I owned dress pants [because they are warmer than skirts]
Friend: I'd tell you to buy, but then you'd have to pay sales tax and have another reason to blame NY, but Bloomberg is working on the sales tax for you, and Bush is working on the weather


Jews Love: Movies

I'd like to thank Dash of Daily Salad Yesterday's Salad for the idea for this post. He pointed out that "Jews love movies" in reference to his review of the new Yiddish movie "a gesheft." Which, for the record, my co-worker points out is sold at the Workmen's Circle bookstore. If you enjoy reading reviews, (as I do) you should check out Musing Pictures, a blog written by Smeliana and her friend from high school AzS, both of whom are members of the tribe.

If you want to see an example of the intersection between Judaism and movies, Adam Ash has posted an impassioned defense of Mel Gibson on blogcritics. He claims that we should ignore Mel's "supposed" anti-semitism when we judge his work, just as we do for three other famous anti-semites, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Joseph Campbell.

I'm not sure how to preface this, so I'll just go for it: JumpinJewess of Jew York City posts a craigslist ad that calls for Jews to participate in a gross porn movie. I usually try to be non-judgemental, but ew.

And last, but not least, to leave a better "taste" in your mouth (wait for the pun), Danny Miller of Jew Eat Yet (see? I am so funny) posts about his love for Rita Hayworth. And apparently how she return(ed) that affection, across the boundaries of time, space, and death. I totally support that crush, as I also have a bit of a thing for redheads. Sorry CJ, blonde is good too!

And it would be unseemly for me to end this post without at least paying some tribute to the idea that Jews run the media and Hollywood, so, for your reading pleasure, Ben Stein's* article Do Jews Run Hollywood?

*Ben Stein, former Republican speechwriter, and most recently of the show "Win Ben Stein's Money." I have a friend whose dad looks and sounds exactly like Ben Stein. To the point that he is stopped in the airport and asked for his autograph. Of course he signs his own name (which is not 'Ben Stein'), much to the amusement of the autograph seeker, who assumes that he is joking. We live in a strange world.

The More You Know: Blood Libel

I was thinking this morning about all of the random questions I've received when people discover that I am (a) Jewish or (b) hold a degree in Bible (the response to the latter is always far more interesting and frightening, but that's a story for another time). Often these questions are along the lines of, "So in the mornings you tie yourself up in leather to pray?" (No, that's a different club... oh! Tefillin! Well... let me explain.) In the interest of saving time explaining things over and over again, I have decided to begin posting my answers on our blog. Recently, I've heard the term "blood libel" bandied about. Considering its use, I must assume that people either do not know its meaning or its history.

"Blood libel" refers to the medieval Christian accusation that Jews killed Christian children and used their blood for matzos. (Wikipedia has an interesting article on blood libel that expands the definition beyond the accusation of Jews for this travesty; I cannot verify its accuracy.) As you may or may not know, the laws of kashrut forbid the use of blood in food (not even blood sausage, you kooky Germans!) as well as cannibalism. Not to mention that we have the same "Thou shalt not kill" commandment as Christians (although, given that medieval Christian scholars believed that we killed their god, I suppose an accusation of infanticide was mild in comparison). The Israelites were actually the first Ancient Near Eastern religion to ban the common practice of child sacrifice several hundred years before JC (Jesus Christ) was born (check out Leviticus 18:21). " 'Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God." That's some pretty straight-forward Scripture, if you ask me.

So who's been bandying about "blood libel"? To Chris Floyd of (a libertarian blog), the new blood libel is the assertion, "that those who oppose the Bush Administration's unconstitutional actions are opening the door to a new 9/11." Here, blood libel has taken on the meaning of a false accusation that paints the opposing party as the enemy.

Recently, Alan Dershowitz referred to "the new blood libel" in describing the Cardinal Jozeph Glemp's accusations that an American rabbi murdered nuns in Poland (ostensibly, to stop the construction of a nunnery near Auschwitz). Apparently, now any anti-Semitic accusation related to murder in any way is blood libel. It's not that I care about maintaining the purity of the phrase in describing child-murder for the sake of matzo meal, but if we're going to decry anti-Semitism, let's not mix metaphors. Clearly, nun-murder is not blood libel, it's nunicide (alright, Dash, what's the real word for killing nuns?). Let's get our labels straight, people.

The New York Times correctly uses the phrase when illustrating the resurgence of anti-Semitism in recent years, particularly in the Arab world and on Arab television (we'll expand upon their brief history of Jewish treatment under Arab/Muslim rule another day). The article notes that the old blood libel accusation has risen in popularity, bandied about by reporters and television stars alike, making it almost "background noise.' One 2003 Syrian series, ''Al Shatat,'' depicts bearded Jews slitting the throat of a Christian baby. What troubles me most, beyond, you know, the blood curdling fear of anti-Semitism and the anger I feel at being falsely associated with such a nefarious accusation: Why a Christian baby? Not to argue the logic of hatred, but wouldn't generalizing the blood libel accusation to Islam make more sense, i.e. depicting the dirty Jews killing a Muslim baby?

Alright, I guess I'm not doing much for our case to argue that point, but it highlights two central facets of this heinous myth: 1) that it's completely absurd and 2) that it's a myth based on the idea that Jews killed the holiest child, God's only son, JC. Historically, the accusation of blood libel went hand in hand with that of desecrating the host because both represented the murder of Christ (with Eucharist desecration being the more serious charge because the logic of transubstantiation determined that the Jews were literally re-enacting Jesus' death).

In conclusion, anti-Semitic Muslims should find their own myths and stop borrowing tired, medieval Christian falsehoods. Also, writers should learn what a phrase means before applying it willy-nilly. Unless you are talking about Christian baby murder, I don't want to hear the phrase "blood libel." Got it?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Jews Love: Gary Gulman

Annie and I have been doing a lot of Jews Love posts of late (five since New Years); I think we just may be in a loving kind of mood. To add to that extensive list, a handsome, funny, and single Jewish comedian: Gary Gulman.
The following is confidential, to my love, Gary Gulman. Please, read no further.

Dear Gary ,

You are very handsome and funny. When I saw you at the Comedy Cellar last week, I felt we made a personal connection. You said I should stick with my date, because being single sucks, but I could tell that you truly meant that we should be together. I saw the longing in your eyes; please don't deny it. Although you are very tall and I am very short, I would buy a step stool to be closer to you. I would even invest in platforms. You seemed surprised when I noted that I was Jewish, but I promise you that I am not lying in order to get into your good graces. I may be a bit of a radical, but I make matzo ball soup and cholent with the best of them (actually, I have never made cholent, but if you dig it, I will learn). Really, you look too thin. You need to eat more, to keep up your comedic strength. Also, I would help you keep those well-muscled arms massaged and those luscious brown locks out of your eyes. Call me. Seriously.

Jews Love: Jack Bauer

Warning: Spoiler ahead!

At least the other roommate and CJ do. I had never watched 24 before last night, which seems strange given my previous application for employment with the CIA, and love for all things patriotic and gun-related. So when CJ suggested that I watch with him, I aquiesced. With good grace, in my opinion. At any rate, this season of 24 opens with widespread terror attacks across America. Basically America= Israel. There are bus bombings and mall attacks, Muslim Americans are being sent to internment camps and losing their civil liberties. It is so intense. The season opens with the US president negotiating with terrorists. And he gives in, and it goes badly (shock there). I kind of think that President Palmer should have had all of the enemy combatants summarily executed, but that's just me. Also, why the hell do we have a military prison for enemy combatants on American soil? WTF? This is what we were trying to avoid with the abysmal human-rights violation that is Guantanamo.

At any rate, other Jews who love Jack Bauer: Renegade Rebbetzin has a brief post which can be summed up as "Jack Bauer is super-awesome." And while Amishav of Chai Expectations doesn't mention Jack, or 24, he did go on a date with the daughter of an assasin. Van at KesherTalk claims that Jack Bauer is Jewish (I'm new to the show, is he?) and compares the somewhat gratuitous torture and violence to that of a Mel Gibson movie.

Evan Kessler of Welcome to Evan posts a synopsis of the first two hours, summarizing the chunks of time between commercial breaks. For the record, TiVo is awesome, primarily because it makes commercials optional. The importance of TiVo for watching 24 cannot be overstated, for instance Holylandhipster of the blog of the same name missed the first two hours, without the magic of TiVo (or in the case of 24, the first DVD, which is out today) they would be gone forever. Or at least until Spike, or some similar channel decides to start showing re-runs constantly.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Jews Love: Martin Luther King Jr

And not just because, as David Kelsey pointed out, Heschel walked to Selma with him.

My roommates and I just sat, in silence, watching a video of the "I have a dream" speech (which I have thoughtfully provided for you). During the speech we sat, making 'agreement head nods' and occasionally interjecting comments, such as when he references Mississippi, saying that the state is still a mess.

Our quasi-ceremonial listening sparked a discussion once we were done. The other roommate grew up going to a lefty Jewish community day school (is there any other kind) where MLK jr day was celebrated as a major holiday every year. She said that as a kid she was routinely moved to tears by the speech. Now, I'm rarely moved to tears by anything, so I found this a fascinating idea. She went on to say that she knows of people who bring the text of the "I have a dream" speech to be read aloud on Passover. Here is where I had an issue. I don't like the idea of equating Jewish slavery in Egypt, from which we feel little to no lasting effects (if it happened), to the immediate and still relevant slavery of African Americans in America. It seems to me that it can only denigrate their experience. The other roommate disagreed. She argued that the use of the speech is to make our freedom holiday relevant, to put it into perspective and to remind ourselves that we do not yet live in a free world, and that our work is by no means complete.

And here, again I'll shift to my current pet issue of wage slavery. African Americans have never been given the chance in this country that other immigrant groups take for granted. They came, often unwillingly, without skills, or chance for social mobility. And then once the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression) was over, not enough was done to rectify this great wrong, and put the former slaves on an equal playing field. From then on individuals have been able to, with luck, fortitude, and great strength of character, pull themselves up from the gaping maw of poverty, but that is not the norm. Yes, African Americans can vote, but they do so in disproportionately low numbers, they can hold civil service jobs, but again, not according to their proportional representation. We've made great strides on paper, but the inequality of opportunity still exists, and must be addressed. Raising minimum wage was a good first step, but universal healthcare, welfare reform, and educational reform (specifically the cost of college) are all necessary components to ensuring that every child born in this country has a fighting chance to follow their dreams.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Not Enough

I know you're all Dai-ing (ha ha ha) for my perspective on the one-woman show Annie and I saw Wednesday night. First, some background on the venue:

The Culture Project, located in swanky new headquarters on Mercer Street downtown, was founded forty years ago to address social and political concerns through art. Most famously, they were host to The Exonerated, a critical look at the death penalty that got a huge amount of media attention last year after it was made into a movie with Meryl Streep and Danny Glover, raising over $100,000 for those falsely placed on death row. In their own words:

The Culture Project views creativity, imagination, and the urge toward artistic
expression as a vital natural resource. As an arts organization that seeks to
harvest such resources, our purpose is to support work that addresses injustice,
embraces diversity, and affects social change. By creating dialogue about
critical issues, we seek to inspire and participate in a national conversation
amplifying voices which are rarely heard and seldom considered.
So given my unabashedly liberal leanings, The Culture Project is an organization after my own heart and mind; ironically, that leads me to be extremely wary of anything I see there. I always worry when I find my views represented in an organization's mission or past projects. I think it's a combination of Groucho Marx's uneasiness of any club that would have him as a member and the fact that I'm unsure whether I will be in accord with the totality of their message (or whether I agree shallowly with their idea, but an absence of nuance in its presentation will enrage me).

Imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when Annie and I saw Dai on Wednesday and Iris Bahr's take on the conflict was not only complex, but represented nearly exactly the confusing dialogue that takes place between my ears every day: how to condemn human rights violations without condemning the right of the state to exist? How to walk the fine line that honesty demands? The New York Times provides a thorough discussion/review of the show and an enlightening interview with Iris Bahr. Like Annie, I left the theater shaken and astounded by the depth and breadth of Bahr's talent as well as the subtlety of her writing and presentation. The moments I thought that it was going to veer into pedantry or be bogged down under the weight of its message, the show unexpectedly shifted to a light-hearted moment, causing me to laugh and cry in uncomfortable proximity.

The play put me in mind of a thought process that I've been mulling over for a while now. It all began several months ago, when Mobius hosted an event called Hip Hop Sulha at SOB's as part of the Oyhoo Culture Conference. One of the artists, a young Palestinian named Saz, described his experiences growing up in Ramle. What struck me was the similarity in narrative to the descriptions New York inner-city youth give to growing up in the ghetto: the drugs, the crime, the poverty, but particularly the justifiable anger and feeling of helplessness. The thought of which caused me to reflect on my own reaction to the human rights violations in my backyard. It's easy to demonize or dehumanize an entire people, but much more difficult to realize that both sides are people by human beings like yourself, with day to day lives to which to attend. That human rights violations may be perpetuated by governments and implicitly (or explicitly) condoned by populations, but that an outside view can never reveal the nuance of the place in situ.

I'm a firm believer that the ends never justify the means, but given that it's taken me an entire post never to quite say that I am outraged by the rights violations, both in U.S. and in Israel (and that I have to add the U.S. caveat in order to maintain my seeming balance), I applaud Bahr for being able to present an issue and never to quite show her hand. Worried about a right wing treatise on Israel's right to the land, I was pleasantly surprised by the ambiguity in Dai. I left thinking, which is about the highest compliment I can pay a piece of art.

Jews Love: Exclusivity

After all, we are the "chosen people" right? It means that some other people weren't chosen. And we totally showed those losers! Ahem, anyway, Jews have, for the majority of history, been an "out group." A minority among a majority that was at best ambivalent, and at worst outright hostile.

Mobius of Jewschool has posted a discussion (from The New Republic) on what constitutes a Jew vis a vis membership in the Jewish nation. This particular discussion is culled from the letters of David Ben Gurion and Isaiah Berlin in 1958, and is a fascinating read. Also, as Mobius points out prescient of some major social issues that would arise as a result. On that topic nnseek has a post about the new regulations governing the "Right of Return" to Israel. They quote Professor Ruth Gaibesson as saying ""There is no reason to grant rights on the basis of the [Law of] Returnto individuals who have no interest in a Jewish lifestyle, and at timesare even devout members of a different religious community." Speaking in this case about the Ethiopian Falash Mura.

Stuart Dauermann of Rabbenu traces back the idea of chosenness to the bible, and examines the conditions for the endurance of the "chosen" status. Before anyone yells at me, I know that he's a Messianic Jew. He still makes some interesting points, based on the presumption that Jews/Children of Israel are G-d's chosen nation.

On the lighter side, this satire site has an article entitled: "G-d Names Next Chosen People, It's Jews Again: Oh Shit, Say Jews."

Of course some people (ahem Not Chosen's friend Manwhore) call exclusively indating/inmarriage a racist ideal, and the topic has recently (always?) been the subject of a great deal of controversy. Most recently Jewcy dating blogger Amy Odell's column that starts with the words "I don't understand why so many Jews refuse to marry non-Jews." Really? You don't understand?

While I only date Jews, I like to be exclusive in another way. You see, I like to date guys that don't like other people. Some people might call these guys "a**holes." For the record, CJ is very nice, so I think that I've broken that trend.

And one unrelated note: while wasting time yesterday, I was reading Kosher Eucharist, and I happened to leave my mouse on top of their links list. Well, when you roll over their blogroll you can see that they have added editorial comments about each blogger. If you roll over "Jewbiquitous" it says: "Mobius says they're totally cute." Needless to say, we totally appreciate comments of this type. Read the whole string here, with input from our blog-crush David Kelsey.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Another reason to move to Israel

According to Rahel of Elms in the Yard there is a Salt Room in Israel which is fantastic for asthma sufferers. Which might explain why I had trouble climbing Masada (stupid asthma), but very little doing any other athletic activity the next day, post Dead Sea immersion.

Maybe the Ahava factory tour (which is super-ridiculous) had something to the claim that "one of the greatest mysteries of the Universe is why the Dead Sea has magical healing powers." Or something like that. I just remember that the phrase was ridiculous.

An Announcement of Epic Proportions

In a bit, I will comment on the superb Dai and also on a Jewish comic I saw Tuesday night, but first, an important announcement:
Annie is Superman.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Annie can't be Superman. For one thing, she's a girl. For another, Superman is a fictional character. Surely, if he existed, we'd see him on the news all the time. I know that you are skeptical, but allow me to assure you: Annie is Superman. How do I know? Let's just say I have it on good authority.

And for those of you who were wondering:

I am Spiderman.
Take that, third grade boys who wouldn't let me play Superheroes with them! I told you that one day, I would reign triumphant! I bet you all are so jealous... fifteen years later.
I am so lame.
Also, check out this breaking news, which has the Autodidact's panties in a bunch.

Jewbiquitous Outing: Dai

Last night Harley and I went to go see the play Dai, written and performed by Iris Bahr, at the Culture Project. From the posters in the lobby, it looks like The Exonerated was also performed there, and as my elder brother can attest, it was pretty fabulous. I stayed late at work (to make up for the hours I miss leaving early for Shabbes), and Harley came to join me for dinner in my office. For the record, Cafe Classico takes WAAAAY too long to deliver. But my turkey sandwich was pretty awesome. Due to the lateness of delivery, Harley and I may or may not have had to jog from the subway to the theater. In high heels. And it was cold.

At any rate, we arrived thankfully before the curtain, got our tickets, and took our seats. For anyone who was unaware, Dai (Hebrew for enough) is a one-woman show, performed entirely by Ms. Bahr. The premise is that the show takes place in a Tel Aviv coffee shop, right before a piguah*. Ms. Bahr moves around the room changing shirts, hair styles, accents, and occasionally gender, portraying each person in the minutes before the bomb goes off. Before I say anything else, I'd just like to point out that Ms. Bahr is a fabulous actress, she made every character believable, and different, and managed to portray a wide cross-section of Israeli society without making the characters too stereotypical.

Two things made this play so powerful, the first was the injection of individual personality into the victims of a suicide bomber, the second was that each vignette closed with the sound of a bomb, the lights going out, and the associated sounds after an attack (ambulance, megaphone, screams, cries) while Ms. Bahr slumped/moved as if she had been hit by a blast. Then there was a musical segue to the next character while she changed. After the first two "bombs" I realized that it was going to be a leit motif, and it put me on edge (which was clearly the intent). I knew that at some point there would be a loud noise (I startle easily). It was very hard to watch the "bomb" go off over and over. By the third or fourth time I was actually crying: the sounds are so realistic, and you become invested in the characters. I'll try hard not to spoil the play, but the way that the plot interweaves is interesting, and adds a new dimension, although by the end the focus on politics became more obvious and heavy-handed.

As the lights went up Harley and I were in a state of shock. I was trembling. The play had been moving, startling, funny, and intense. My only critique is that an audience must be fairly au courant with Israeli politics, and a grasp of Hebrew, and of Israeli culture certainly makes the play more enjoyable, but I think that one can get the idea without it.

While I gathered my coat, the little old (presumably Jewish) lady next to me told me to go see a doctor about my cough. This would have completed the evening for me, if Harley and I hadn't heard two Israelis talking about going back to Israel as we entered the subway. Israelis=Jewbiquitous. I was so shaken by the play that I went straight home (instead of joining a friend from out of town for drinks). And by "home" I mean "CJ's apartment." So that he could talk me down.
All in all? An amazing, if ridiculously intense, experience.

*Piguah is Hebrew, colloquial for a suicide bomb, or attack.

A clip from the play.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

No Comment Necessary

The Flying McCoys, Gary And Glenn McCoy

I Swear, Part III

The Slate and I are b'sheret*. Just check out their article on Thomas Jefferson and Islam.

Reasons I love it:
- it includes my favorite Jefferson fact, his cut-and-paste approach to the Bible.
-it told me something I didn't know: that this bible was printed and given to congressmen
-it mentions Marines. And the war with the Barbary pirates (from which we get the line "from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli").
-Jefferson is from Virginia.
-it calls Jefferson an "infidel"

and last, but not least:

"Congress gave assent to the Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated by Jefferson's friend Joel Barlow, which stated roundly that "the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen."

*b'sheret means soulmate



the Autodidact: One of Harley’s closest friends and confidants, this brilliant person keeps the women of Jewbiquitous informed and intellectually honest

CJ: Annie’s boyfriend. She is trying very hard not to freak out at that definition. He is, for the record, very sweet and understanding of her strange and sudden commitment-phobia. Also, her friends love him.

: one of Annie’s (many) ex-boyfriends

the Iowan: one of Annie's three roommates, not Jewish (shocking, we know)

PBF: Annie's platonic (male) best friend, and before any of you classical scholars say anything, not Symposium-era Plato.

the Pretty Boy: an inordinately attractive Italian-American, with whom Harley
has positive interactions

the Professor
: a well-respected, if somewhat eccentric boomer-age college professor

the Queen of the World: Annie and Harley's mentor and friend, the coolest woman ever to grace us with her presence.

the Queen of Words: the Queen of the World's best friend and invaluable resource, advisor, and editor to the women of Jewbiquitous

the other roommate: one of Annie's three roommates, went to high school with the roommate

the roommate: one of Annie's three roommates, went to college with Annie

the roommate's gentleman caller: at this point he's her boyfriend, but it was a funny title. And yes, that IS how he was introduced at Shabbes meals

the Rooster (TR): a devout atheist who studies philosophy, he is a friend of Harley


The 39 prohibited categories are known in Hebrew as the "Avot Melachot" a single one is a "melacha." These categories come from Exodus 31, where it states "You must keep the Sabbath;" lists the activities that were done in the building of the tabernacle, and then finishes with "the Israelites should thus keep the Sabbath." Commentators took this to mean that "keeping the Sabbath" entailed abstaining from these labors, and used the process of exegesis to tease out what behaviors/actions could be considered as "melachot." That is why I don't use electricity on Shabbes.

Adon Olam means Lord of the World and is the prayer that concludes the Saturday morning service.

Aishet chayil: a woman of valor. There is a song, traditionally sung on Friday nights by the man of house to his wife of the same name. It lists the qualities of a woman of valor, which include, but are not limited to: the ability to make cloth of crimson, industriousness, loyalty. For the record, I could totally make some kickass crimson cloth.

Amidah comes from the Hebrew word for standing, and refers to the silent devotion, which is part of every prayer service. During the weekday it is comprised of 18 blessings, so it is often called the "Shemoneh Esrei" or 18.

Ashkenazi are European Jews, particularly those with ancestry in Eastern Europe

is Hebrew for forbidden, often used in the context of those acts considered permissible or forbidden by rabbinic literature.

Avodah Zara. Avodah Zara literally means foreign or strange work (offerings), and is the Talmudic/Biblical term used for idol worship or any practice which is the ritual of another religion. For instance, some people believe that it is forbidden to do classical Indian dance, even out of context, because it was used as a part of religious ceremonies.

Baalei Tshuva: lit. those who have returned, people who were not raised traditionally observant, but chose the lifestyle later in life, often are very, very observant

Bassarfest is a bastardization of the Hebrew word "bassar" or meat, and "fest" or festival. Harley’s friends call it “The Meal of Fleish,” fleish being Yiddish for flesh (mmmmmmeat).

Bedikah cloths: if you don't know exactly what these are, I am not going to tell you. Let’s just say that they are integral to some people's observance of the laws of family purity.

B'sheret means soul mate, it can also mean fated.

Bubbe is Yiddish for grandmother

Carrying” in this case means carrying anything. Traditionally observant Jews do not carry any objects on the Sabbath, be they keys, children, prayer books, etc. There are ways to get around this by "wearing" an object, such as keys on a belt, but for the most part it means just what it sounds like. No carrying

Chillul Hashem (also spelled hillul hashem) is a desecration of G-d's name through the actions of Jew who can be identified as Jewish. It’s 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 chillul hashem.

Chiloni: Hebrew for secular

Cholent is a traditional Sabbath dish, basically stewed meat, potatoes, beans and barley, seasoned differently depending on the background of the maker (Sephardic Jews tend to add prunes, apricots and eggs). It is useful because it can be made in a crock pot (slow cooking), toss in the ingredients and set it before the Sabbath starts, by the time that lunch rolls around you have a hot stew ready.

Daven: to pray

Erva is a classification for body parts/hair that require covering because it/they are alluring

Esa Enai is the Hebrew version of Psalm 121:1-2: I will lift up my eyes to the j mountains. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

FFB: Frum From Birth, people who were born and raised traditionally observant

Fleishik means of meat, generally used to refer to utensils or restaurants

Galus is the Ashkenazik (European) pronounciation of the word galut, which means Diaspora, but has a definite pejorative connotation.

Hagim, the plural for hag, means holidays'' in Hebrew.

Halakha is Jewish Law, traditionally defined as laws found in the Torah and elucidated in the Mishna, and Gemara

Hashem: the Name, an alternative title for God

Hashkafa: personal or individual religious observances/beliefs

Heksher is a sign on a product that declares it kosher, or acceptable for consumption by traditionally observant Jews

Im Yirtzeh Hashem means "if G-d wills it" or "by the grace of G-d" and is often used in the frum community when an engagement is announced, to the friends of the bride or groom, followed by the words "by you next" meaning that you should be the next to get engaged.

are the mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. They are not generally given the same pride of place in traditional liturgy as their male counterparts

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

Kashrut are the dietary laws, most well-known is the prohibition against eating pork

Kavanah is the Hebrew word for intention

Kiddush: from the word kadesh or holy, the word means "sanctification." In this context, however, it refers to the light refreshments served after a blessing is made over wine/grape juice to sanctify the day. Hot kiddush includes cholent (a meat stew) and kugel (a sort of pudding a la bread pudding, but often with noodles or potato) and could take the place of lunch.

Kiruv: outreach, often misused grammatically which ticks me off

Kol ha kavod is Hebrew for "all my respect" but can also mean "well done" or "good job." Sort of like the Australian "good on ya, mate."

Lashon Hara: lit. the evil tongue, refers to gossip (malicious or otherwise)

Leyning is the traditional chanting aloud from the torah that takes place three times a week, on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

L'havdil is a statement that means, basically, I am using these two together, and they may have some similarities, but you should not really compare them. It is generally used in a religious context, when comparing (or not) religious to secular people/ideas/etc.

L'shana habah b'Yerushalayim: Next year in Jerusalem, a phrase commonly used during Jewish holidays, particularly Passover and the end of Yom Kippur

Machlokes is a yiddishized version of machloket, meaning disagreement, generally used in the context of a disagreement between two Talmudic sages.

Melave Malke: literal meaning "accompanying the queen," traditionally a party/celebration to escort out the "Shabbat Queen" (Shabbat is often personified as a queen). This type of party is popular in Chassidic circles, and is often comprised of drinking, snack foods, and stories about the rebbe. According to some sources Melave Malkes were started by King David, whose death was foretold to occur on a Shabbat, so at the end of every Shabbat he celebrated his continued existence.

Mincha: the afternoon prayer service, takes about 15 minutes

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

Minyan: a prayer quorum of 10. Every movement except the Orthodox accept that women can count in this quorum. Regardless of gender, each person must be at least 13 years of age to be counted.

Mitzvot literally means commandments (of which there are 613) but can also mean good deeds

Mizrahi are generally Jews from the Arab world and may occasionally be expanded to include Ethiopian Jewry (NB: the term Sephardi is often used incorrectly to describe Mizrahi Jews, when in fact Sephardi indicates Jews from Spain, alone; Sephardi also denotes religious practice, whereas Mizrahi is an ethnic label.)

Moadim L' Simchah: Hebrew, literally "times of gladness," used as a celebratory exclamation

Mohel: a rabbi specially trained to perform circumcisions.

: Member of the Tribe, a Jew, this phrase was used during WWII as a code by Jewish soldiers to figure out whether or not another soldier (who presumably had a last name as Anglo as mine) was Jewish

Motzei Shabbat means after the Sabbath ends, or after sundown on Saturday night, when three stars are visible in the sky

Nebby: short for nebbish, from the Yiddish nebbuch, meaning poor or unfortunate, in urban slang, a “scrub”

Not a sermon, just a thought”: This statement is often used by Lon Solomon, an evangelist who converted from Judaism, to sign off of his radio commercials for McLean Bible Church. If you're from the Metro DC Area you know what I'm talking about.

Nusach are the traditional melodies for prayers, which vary by geographic region, and also by whether the service takes place on a holiday, weekday, or Shabbat.

Orthoprax: this word means those who have “Orthodox Practice,” and encompasses non-denominational, or non-Orthodox Jews who are traditionally observant

: the five books of Moses. The name includes the prefix penta or five. Like Pentagon.

Piguah is colloquial Hebrew for a suicide bomb, or attack.

were state-sponsored, or sanctioned riots by Russians against the Jews who lived in the Pale of settlement, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Posek: a person who can make rulings about Jewish law

Pru ur'vu is Hebrew for "be fruitful and multiply" it is the first positive commandment found in the Hebrew Bible.

Rav Kook was one of the great rabbis of the late 19th, early 20th century. He was chief rabbi of Palestine under the British Mandate, and made a lot of the halakhic (Jewish law) decisions on which the state of Israel is based.

sectarian: Sectarians don’t engage with other views, because they believe that they have no value; Jewish values trump all

Sedarim: the Hebrew plural for Seder. The direct translation of "seder" means order, but in this context it is the festival meal that takes place on the first night/two nights of Passover, generally including a great deal of ritual, and readings from a book of liturgy called the Haggadah.

is the Ashkenazi pronunciation of Shabbat, also known as the Sabbath.

is a match, as in "matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match," and generally refers to arranged dating as set up by a shadchan (matchmaker) or a go-between, usually a friend or family member.

Shimirat Negiah means to observe/keep the touch, and in practice is a set of halakhot (Jewish Laws) which govern the relations between men and women in terms of physical contact. It is generally interpreted to mean that no unmarried men and women may touch each other, and that one may only touch one’s spouse.

Shmooze is Yiddish for talk, hang out

Shomer halakha: shomer means “observe” in Hebrew, so ostensibly someone who is “shomer halakha” observes Jewish law. The content of that halakha and who should be ascribed that label are up for debate.

Shomer Shabbat means Sabbath observant, this can take a number of different forms, depending on your personal ideology, and the movement to which you ascribe. Traditionally observant people often refrain from using electricity, transacting business, cooking, working, and carrying.

Shul is Yiddish for synagogue

Shtetl literally means a small town in Yiddish

Shvach is a Yiddish for weak, and is generally used to describe something that is not so nice

Simchat Torah is the end of Sukkot and celebrates the fact that we have finished an entire cycle of reading the torah, and we turn it around to start over again. There is lots of dancing, and some drinking.

is Rabbinic Ordination

Taharat haMishpacha
literally means family purity, and refers to the period when a woman is nidda, on her period, and for the time afterwards before she goes to the ritual bath

Tanakh is the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, etc), prophets, and 'writings.' The name comes from the acronym of those words Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim.

Tfillin Dates are dates where the guy carries his Tfillin (morning prayer accoutrements) with him on a date so that after he sleeps over he can pray unhindered the next morning. Annie believes that this practice is mostly fictional, made up as a scare tactic by rabbis.

Treyf literally means carcass, and often refers to non-Kosher food, such as pigs and cheeseburgers.

Tzitzis are a four cornered garment with knotted 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.

Tzneias, or tznius is a yiddishized version of the Hebrew word tzniut, or modesty.

UJF: United Jewish Federation

Yenta is a Yiddish word and means a busybody, someone who is always in everyone else's business, especially as pertains to their romantic lives.

Know Your Jewish Community: Bootstrapping

According to No Shame in My Game:
"Established German Jews who had gained success in America by the end of the nineteenth century were embarassed by their poor brethren from the shtetls of Eastern Europe who were then landing in boatloads. The middle-class reformers among them who established well-financed and effective social service agencies to take care of their poor "Russian" kinsmen were motivated in no small measure by the desire to conceal these mortifying cases from the watchful eyes of mainstream society." (pg 168)

This method of assimilation has been followed in a number of ethnic enclaves, recently, and with the most success by Chinese and Japanese immigrants. The above paragraph is located within a chapter about the breakdown of social networks which can help the working poor to achieve social and economic mobility.

The question becomes, when these social networks break down, whose responsibility is it to replace/fix them? Is it the government? I tend to think so, but after reading an article on the projected raise of the minimum wage (from WashPo of course) it occurs to me, perhaps belatedly, that such a raise does not come without many possible pitfalls for those whom it is supposed to help. Clearly minimum wage cannot help the working poor on its own, our country is also desperately in need of welfare reform (and in my mind socialized healthcare). It is no accident that today the WashPo also ran an editorial by Robert J. Samuelson suggesting that we should cut entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) to the boomer generation.

This topic has been one under discussion recently by my group of friends. The roommate's gentleman caller is the child of immigrants, and firmly believes in "bootstrapping." You know, pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps. Just like Carnegie did. Just like many of our immigrant grandparents, great-grandparents did. However, in this time and place, I think (and No Shame agrees) that bootstrapping is limited to individuals or groups who have:

-Social or human capital, ie skilled workers, those who speak English well, can live cheaply or for free with family or friends.

-Few or no encumberments (like children or elderly relatives). One cannot support a single person, let alone more than one, on minimum wage in New York City, even by living in poor, depressed, or dangerous neighborhoods, without some form of assistance, either from a communal living situation, or public funds.

-Luck. A single accident or illness is catastrophic without health insurance and/or employment insurance.

We have created a situation where the poverty cycle is nigh on inescapable for many reasons (as outlined in the book No Shame, really, go read it), and no safety net for those trapped beneath it. Hard work is no longer enough to get ahead; as a society we need to accept that truth as the first step towards real change. Accord the working poor the dignity that they deserve, and then give up a larger cut of our paychecks so that their children have the same opportunities that ours do.

And here is where I get preachy and patriotic: America should be a land of opportunity, a true meritocracy, where equality of opportunity exists. The possibility for social mobility is what has made this country great, because with the chance for advancement comes our work ethic, and our ingenuity. Yes, we need to save Darfur, help rebuild after the tsunami and Katrina, but we also need to look in our own backyards.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Jews Love: Italians?

Given his exposure on this blog, you already know that Jewbiquitous Loves Not Chosen, Just Posin’, but is our love of this Italian indicative of a greater trend?

Do Jews Love Italians?
Recently, I commented on Not Chosen’s blog about how I (and all Jews) love Christmas and how I listened to Pretty Boy intently as he described his. Not Chosen, recalling that I mentioned Pretty Boy before when I asked his advice about wooing an Italian, suggested that I write a Pretty Boy/Not Chosen inspired post on how Jews Love Italians. I had never considered the idea that Jews were attracted to one particular ethnicity more than another, but Not Chosen insisted that he’s living proof that Jews Love Italians; he even bragged that he could get OrthoJew to Love Italians.

In his own words, Not Chosen explains:

Okay, so on a superficial level, many an Italian looks like many a Jewish guy.
Maybe, subconsciously, that is part of the attraction. However, we know that
Jewish women are usually more strong-willed than their male counterparts, while
it is, traditionally, very much the opposite for Italian men and women. Italian
men (especially as depicted in mafia movies), run the show, are very masculine
and usually have somewhat of a dangerous feeling about them. Essentially, maybe
Jewish women feel like they've met their match dating an Italian guy. Plus,
dangerous in any form, is attractive. This leads me into my earlier argument
that the "taboo" factor plays a huge part. Oh, and Italians are romantics. I
don't know how Jewish guys are but try going to Italy as an American woman. You
will be mauled. Some women like this kind of attention.

To summarize: Jewish women love Italian men because they look like Jews, but are stronger personalities than our usual choices, are ridiculously romantic, AND we get to indulge in the taboo of dating a non-Jew (I assume we’re talking about non-Jewish Italians). Interesting.

I’m just not convinced that Jews love Italians more than they love, say, Russians or Australians. Or, in Annie’s case, Irish Catholics.

I think perhaps Not Chosen is biased because he has had such unhindered success with the ladies, maybe particularly with the Jewish ladies. In which case, Jews Love: Not Chosen. On the other hand, Pretty Boy is also quite the ladies man, which may be because, as his pseudonym implies, he is ridiculously attractive. So now we’re no farther than we were four paragraphs ago. I’m at a loss. Beyond stereotypes about Italians and Jews, can I offer any insight into this emphatic assertion? Do we really single out Italians to Love more than any other group?

The only feasible conclusion:

Jews Love Some Italians and With Others, We Just Want to Be Friends.

On Being Memorable

Since Harley just made herself emotionally vunerable, I thought that I'd share the following anecdote (in between a rather busy day at work):

During my senior year of high school I met and dated a guy I'll call Flyboy (because he was at the Air Force Academy, and is now a pilot). It was a whirlwind romance, we met over his winter break (I had aready been accepted to a college that was NOT located in Colorado Springs), had a great time for something like four days, and decided to make a go of it. The next three months were filled with emotional emails and letters (yes, I write love letters), and the occasional phone call. I know for a fact that he had my high school yearbook picture on his desk. At any rate, for the first, and only, time in my life I said "I love you" first, and he couldn't reciprocate. He freaked out, and we broke up two weeks later, a week before my birthday.

Flash forward four years.

I'm a senior in college, I have a better haircut, contacts instead of glasses, and have gained about 30 pounds, but in the "right" places. I am, however, clearly still the same person. During winter break I go over to the house of a good friend, only to find Flyboy sitting in the living room. We haven't spoken since the breakup, over which I cried. I try to play it cool, greet my friend, and say hi to Flyboy. He looks a bit confused, but says nothing. I figure that he is trying to do the same. Oh, no. About 10 minutes into the conversation he turns to me (in front of an audience of about 5 people) and says: "Hey, I don't think we've met, I'm Flyboy." I am SHOCKED. My response is: "Hey, I'm Annie, we dated." I have never seen anyone turn that red, either before or since. Nice to know that I was so memorable. *sigh*

And that is what I get for dating non-Jews.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Updates and Confessions

It's been years since I've blogged. Decades. Ages. Nearly a millennium. Wading through the Jewish blogosphere, the non-Jewish blogosphere, the atheist and ambiguous blogospheres, The Washington Post, the New York Times, Slate, Jewcy, and a myriad of other endless sources and commentary, I have been so inundated with information that I barely know where to begin.

I thought of applying Annie's treatment to Paul Gottfried on Jewcy's "Is It Time for Jews to Vote Republican," but I got so angry by the misinformation that I literally had to go for a walk and drink some tea to calm down. I have no problem with a measured discussion of the issues, but when someone presents false information (a patently false, historically inaccurate, willful misrepresentation of the truth), I lose my rationality and begin banging my head on the keyboard. I presume none of you wants to read a pageful of: ajiraerhgihahwfweoij nbsdih udfhi dsch dfhu; dfiu; dfh uaehafwjjoifwe'kwaj. Plus, it made my head hurt (the content and the head banging).

In other news (news involving good writers), Shalom Auslander, who we wish were Sholem of Anarcho-Judaism (but who is a totally different person) wrote an inspired piece for this week's New York Times Magazine. I read it while watching contra dancing at a local church. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of watching contra dancing, I highly recommend it for voyeuristic pleasure. I will not comment on its hilarity because that seems cruel and the crowd appeared completely self aware (for which I give them mad props). Embrace your inner dork: contra dance. Anyway, back to praising Shalom, who does irony better and more subtly than most writers out there and whose piece actually made me gasp:

“Guy wants to fight with me now!” Green Subaru called out. He sneered at me
and went to join some of his friends at the juice bar, where, hunched over a
shot of wheatgrass juice, he pointed at me. Everyone frowned at me and shook
their heads. I felt like Israel.

Yeah, that part. Yasher koah (loosely translated: good job), Shalom.

I have to admit that I'm also still smarting from an incident earlier today. Have you ever remembered someone vividly and had them totally forget who you were? Did that make you feel like the biggest loser ever? I went on one of those Israel trips seven years ago and today found out that CJ works with a guy on my trip. Most of the trip was miserable for reasons I may decide to discuss at a future date if I can write a post about Israel trips without banging my head on the keyboard (as above). This person was nice to me and seemed chill, unlike most other people in my vicinity and so I remembered him. I have since been involved in no activities with Jewish youth movements (unless you count the Seminary, but no one in their right mind would call JTS a movement). He does not remember me. Now, CJ was quick to assert that this guy has done tons of Jewish youth group stuff since then and it was nearly a decade ago; yet, I find myself thinking: am I really not that memorable? I mean, there were twenty people on the trip. I wasn't one among thousands. I was one among twenty! Ouch. I feel an odd desire to assert my coolness: Look at me! I'm cool now! I blog and look good in skirts! How emotionally demeaning.

So, now that I've compounded the embarrassment by confessing it to strangers, I feel oddly relieved. No wonder people use the blog to air all sorts of personal business.

And that's all she wrote.

Interesting Coincidence

I'm currently reading "No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City" (yes, I am aware that I'm a bleeding-heart liberal and also a nerd), and I just stumbled across this blog thanks to Not Chosen.

It is about a girl (I think) who, as a 16-year-old takes a job at McDonald's. I take leave to doubt that the person is actually a) 16, and b) working at McDonald's, but it is at the very least an interesting, albeit brief, read.
This once again brings up my concerns about how our economy is based upon the exploitation of laborers at home and abroad. I do not think that I could afford my lifestyle (on my salary) if retail/service workers were paid a living wage. This fills me with middle-class liberal guilt, and a strong feeling of helplessness. How does one fix an entire system other than one person at a time?