2/28/08

Minnesota American Jewish World on Al Franken

Thanks to JTA for reproducing this story about Al Franken, our favorite Minnesotan:
Profile of Al Franken
By ERIN ELLIOTT
American Jewish World

Minneapolis, Minn. — His recent television spots have sought to remind Minnesotans that he is serious about becoming their next U.S. Senator. And, should he ultimately win the seat currently held by Sen. Norm Coleman, Al Franken would be the fourth consecutive Jewish senator to hold the seat since 1978.

A Franken-Coleman race would also be the fourth time two Jewish candidates ran against each other, with one of them as the incumbent...more

2/27/08

Jewish Week: Rabbis Want Fewer Jews

The RCA rabbi's group has made a deal to make it harder for people to convert to Judaism, the Jewish Week reports.

Yes, you read that right. Don't you even try to understand the logic of these men! It's not possible to explain.

I suggest that what we need is more Jews, lots more, and fewer rabbis, lots fewer.
RCA Seen Caving On Conversions
Liberal Orthodox rabbis want breakaway beit dins after deal.
Rabbi Marc Angel: RCA deal with Chief Rabbinate is “a complete capitulation” to haredi standards.
by Debra Nussbaum Cohen
Israel’s Chief Rabbinate this week announced details of an unprecedented power-sharing agreement with the main association of Orthodox rabbis in the U.S., in a deal that will determine how Orthodox conversions to Judaism here take place.

The move is prompting sharp criticism from some long-time members of the clergy group, the Rabbinical Council of America, who say the agreement is “a complete capitulation” to ultra-Orthodox control of the rabbinate in Israel that is now extending its reach into the United States. At least two critics are starting their own rabbinic group and hope to eventually establish their own religious courts....more

2/26/08

Globes: Mammoth 100 Ton Chocolate Theft Hits Haifa Israel. Look for 5 Semi-Trailers of Passover Black Market Bargains.

סיפור לא מתוק: אלמונים פרצו למפעל "השחר העולה" בחיפה וגנבו כ-100 טון שוקולד
מנהל השיווק והמכירות: "מדובר בנזק של כ-2 מיליון שקל" * כל הסחורה שנגנבה היתה מיועדת לפסח, שנחשב ל"חג השוקולד" החזק ביותר * החשש: השוקולד יימכר בשוק השחור במחירי ריצפה וישבור את השוק

סיפור לא ממש מתוק: בשעות הלילה פרצו אלמונים למפעל ייצור השוקולד למריחה "השחר העולה" בחיפה וגנבו 5 סמיטריילרים עם משטחי שוקולד במשקל של כ-100 טון.

במקום היו מערכות אזעקה וצילום ובנוסף שמרו עליו 2 חברות אבטחה. למרות כל אלו הצליחו הגנבים לבצע זממם תוך פחות משעתיים.

כל הסחורה שנגנבה היתה מיועדת לחג הפסח שנחשב ל"חג השוקולד" החזק ביותר והחשש הוא שהשוקולד יימכר בשוק השחור וישבור את השוק.

עקיבא וייץ, מנהל השיווק והמכירות של החברה, אמר ל"גלובס" כי מדובר למעשה בגניבה של כ-100 משטחים שונים - משמע 180 אלף יחידות של סחורה מגוונת.

"מדובר בנזק כספי לחברה של כ-2 מיליון שקל ואנחנו מאוד מקווים שלא יהיה לנו מחסור לקראת חג הפסח. הגשנו תלונה במשטרה וכולי תקווה שהמשטרה תעשה הכל להשבת הסחורה".

עוד אמר וייץ כי בחברה יעבדו שעות נוספות על מנת להשלים את המלאים.

השחר העולה

2/25/08

Times: Pfizer Pfulls Pfake Lipitor Pfromotions

He didn't invent the artificial heart. He doesn't row. He is not licensed to practice medicine. In the pfake Pfizer ads, Jarvik sure looked like an expert that we should trust. He said to take Lipitor to prevent heart attack - so we must do that!

Pfizer. Pfake! Pfooey!
Pfizer to End Lipitor Campaign by Jarvik
By STEPHANIE SAUL

Under criticism that its ads are misleading, Pfizer said Monday it would cancel a long-running advertising campaign using the artificial heart pioneer Dr. Robert Jarvik as a spokesman for its cholesterol drug Lipitor.

Pfizer has spent more than $258 million advertising Lipitor since January 2006, most of it on the Jarvik campaign, as the company sought to protect Lipitor, the world’s best-selling drug, from competition by cheaper generics.

But the campaign had come under scrutiny from a Congressional committee that is examining consumer drug advertising and has asked whether the ads misrepresented Dr. Jarvik and his credentials. Although he has a medical degree, Dr. Jarvik is not a cardiologist and is not licensed to practice medicine.

One television ad depicted Dr. Jarvik as an accomplished rower gliding across a mountain lake, but the ad used a body double for the doctor, who apparently does not row.

“The way in which we presented Dr. Jarvik in these ads has, unfortunately, led to mis-impressions and distractions from our primary goal of encouraging patient and physician dialogue on the leading cause of death in the world — cardiovascular disease,” Pfizer’s president of worldwide pharmaceutical operations, Ian Read, said in a statement. “We regret this. Going forward, we commit to ensuring there is greater clarity in our advertising regarding the presentation of spokespeople.”

A company spokeswoman, Vanessa Aristide, said Pfizer was working with its advertising agency, the Kaplan Thaler Group, to develop a new campaign.

Lipitor, with sales of $12.7 billion last year, is protected by patent until 2010. Some patients have, nevertheless, begun switching to a generic version of a competing cholesterol drug, Zocor.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has been looking into television ads featuring Dr. Jarvik. The committee disclosed that Pfizer agreed to pay Dr. Jarvik at least $1.35 million under a two-year contract that expired next month. John D. Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of that committee, raised questions about Dr. Jarvik’s credentials to recommend Lipitor.

Dr. Jarvik, who has recently declined to discuss the Lipitor campaign, could not be reached for comment Monday.

The committee’s investigation has rekindled a debate over the so-called direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals, a $4.8 billion business. Mr. Dingell and Bart Stupak, another Michigan Democrat who heads an investigations subcommittee, applauded Pfizer’s decision to pull the Lipitor ads.

“I commend Pfizer for doing the right thing and pulling the Lipitor ads featuring Dr. Jarvik,” Mr. Stupak said in a statement. “When consumers see and hear a doctor endorsing medication, they expect the doctor is a credible individual with requisite knowledge of the drug.”

While endorsing Pfizer’s decision, the committee showed no sign of shutting down its investigation. Mr. Stupak said the committee planned to meet with Dr. Jarvik and collect all of the documents it had requested.

The committee had recently asked 10 advertising agencies that worked on the Dr. Jarvik campaign to submit documents about the use of body doubles. The committee has also contacted at least one former colleague of Dr. Jarvik’s who contends that he was not the actual inventor of the artificial heart, as stated in the ads.

In a letter to Pfizer in August 2006, three former colleagues of Dr. Jarvik’s at the University of Utah complained that the ads erroneously identified Dr. Jarvik as “inventor of the artificial heart.” That distinction, they said, should go to Dr. Jarvik’s mentor, Dr. Willem J. Kolff, and his associate, Dr. Tetsuzo Akutsu.

Pfizer subsequently changed its ads to identify Dr. Jarvik as the inventor of the “Jarvik artificial heart,” but Dr. Jarvik’s former colleagues, members of a large team that worked on the heart, were not entirely satisfied, according to Dr. Donald B. Olsen, a veterinarian who worked on the heart and is president of the Utah Artificial Heart Institute. Dr. Olsen said he was recently contacted by the committee.

A long-simmering dispute over assigning credit for the artificial heart boiled over again during a conference last December at the University of Utah. Dr. Jarvik did not attend the conference, which marked the 25th anniversary of the heart’s experimental use to extend the life of Dr. Barney Clark, a Seattle dentist.

During the meeting, another former Utah colleague of Dr. Jarvik’s, Dr. Clifford S. Kwan-Gett, stated that the Jarvik series of hearts were simply different versions of prototypes that Dr. Kwan-Gett had made more than a year earlier.

Dr. Jarvik’s company, Jarvik Heart, subsequently posted a history of the artificial heart’s development on its Web site, giving his own account of the heart’s development. That posting said Dr. Jarvik’s design overcame two problems of the heart developed by Dr. Kwan-Gett.

Jarvik Heart, based in Manhattan, has been working for the last two decades on a continuous flow pump that can be inserted directly into a patient’s damaged heart to bolster its function.

British Study: Anti-Depression Drugs No Better than Snake Oil

In the wake of the distressing news about the uselessness of anti-cholesterol drugs, this study is not good news for drug companies. This is not good news for people with depression. This is good news I guess for class-action-lawyers.
Depression drugs don’t work, finds data review
David Rose

Millions of people taking commonly prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac and Seroxat might as well be taking a placebo, according to the first study to include unpublished evidence.

The new generation of antidepressant drugs work no better than a placebo for the majority of patients with mild or even severe depression, comprehensive research of clinical trials has found.

The researchers said that the drug was more effective than a placebo in severely depressed patients but that this was because of a decreased placebo effect.

The study, described as “fantastically important” by British experts, comes as the Government publishes plans to help people to manage depression without popping pills.more...

Pew: Nearly Half of Us Change Our Religion

I'm thinking to myself, "What is he talking about?" A few years ago, my building contractor was telling me that he became a Christian. To me he was always a Christian. But he meant something else -- that he was no longer a Catholic. He had joined a Protestant fundamentalist church.

It seems Americans are changing their religions like they change brands of toothpaste or soft drinks. Interesting stuff.
More Americans changing religious denominations, study finds
By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff

A sweeping new study of religious affiliation in the United States finds a country in which Protestants are becoming a minority, Catholicism is becoming heavily Hispanic, and the number of people who say they are not affiliated with any religion is growing.

The study, which is the most comprehensive such examination in at least a half century, finds the United States to be in a period of unprecedented religious fluidity, in which 44 percent of American adults have left the denomination of their childhood for another denomination, another faith, or no faith at all.

"Americans are not only changing jobs, changing locations, changing spouses, but they're also changing religions on a regular basis,'' said Luis E. Lugo, the director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which conducted the study. "We have nearly half the American public telling us they're something different today than they were as a child, and that's a staggering number. It's such a dynamic religious marketplace, and very competitive.''

The study is based on a survey of 35,000 Americans, a very large number for survey research, and the size of the pool allowed the researchers to get more detail about minority religious groups than is usually available from smaller studies.

The nation is still predominantly -- 78 percent -- Christian, but 5 percent are now adherents of other faiths and 16 percent are unaffiliated.

The full report is available at pewforum.org.

Astonishing AIR from Adobe, the World's Greatest Software Company

Adobe continues to knock the ball out of the park...
Adobe gives web, desktop development a breath of fresh AIR

By Jacqui Cheng

There's something in the air, and this time, it's not from Apple. Adobe announced today the official 1.0 release of Adobe AIR, its technology for merging web and desktop application development, along with Flex 3, its open-source application development framework. With AIR and Flex, the company says that it is staying on top of the development of rich Internet applications (RIA) while enabling developers to create apps for both the Web and the desktop without having to create entirely new code for each. And, of course, the company is using AIR to help port its own applications over to the Web—such as Premiere and Photoshop—while maintaining a desktop userbase. Once the a migration is finished, it will be easier for Adobe to maintain its software both online and off while using the same codebase. more...

More on what this means from the WSJ...

Naked and Clueless on the Impact of Holocaust Education

It's utterly breathtaking. This column in the Times reveals that the teacher has no clothes.

After all the efforts of all the brains and all the grants and all the fellowships and initiatives and workshops, it is apparent that educators are still completely clueless on the impact and the purpose of Holocaust education, here in the U.S. and in France.
BIG CITY: Holocaust Classes Are Seldom Easy on Children

...gratitude he might have expected from Holocaust educators in his country. “...the Foundation for the Memory of the Holocaust, told the Web site of the magazine L...what Ms. Veil would have made of the Holocaust education provided for Jewish children...

- Education

Why Does a Billionaire-Funded-Torah-Curriculum Cost $900 per class?

Call me unreasonable. I ask, if a billionaire already paid for a Torah curriculum, why does it still cost $30 a volume and $900 for a class of 20 students? And if 50 schools in NY already adopted it, why name only three? And who wrote the curriculum? 100 people and not a single name? And where does someone get it? And is it an encyclopedia or a curriculum or both? I know one thing about teaching (well maybe a few things). You don't teach middle school children with encyclopedia articles. Nu. What is this?

Looks to me like a certain billionaire got his news release published in the Sun. And then he did not want to be interviewed. It would have been much nicer to have a real newspaper with real reporters write a real story about this.

When you don't do that, you get charming paragraphs like this:
"Nobody is here to proselytize, it's about becoming connected to Judaism," the founder and editor in chief of Project Taryag, Rabbi David Wax, said.
That will suffice as our nonsense quote of the week, perhaps of the month. Bizarre.
Billionaire Turns Attention To Torah's Commandments
BY E.B. SOLOMONT - Staff Reporter of the Sun

The latest project of an Upper East Side billionaire famous for his colossal Hamptons mansion is a 20-volume encyclopedia of all 613 commandments in Judaism. The "Encyclopedia of the Taryag Mitzvoth," funded by the industrialist Ira Rennert, lists and explains each commandment in the Torah, such as the 25th commandment, to believe in God, and the 33rd, to respect and honor your parents.

A companion curriculum, geared toward middle school students, has been adopted by 500 schools worldwide and 30 in the New York area, including the Ramaz Middle School, Manhattan Day School, and the Yeshiva of Flatbush in Brooklyn.

Mr. Rennert, the chairman of the mining and metals conglomerate Renco Group Inc., donated $5 million to fund the encyclopedia and curriculum, called Project Taryag. The word taryag refers to the 613 Torah commandments, the basis for Jewish law.

In recent years, Mr. Rennert made headlines for building a home in Southampton that has more than 20 bedrooms, 30 bathrooms, and a 164-seat movie theater.

Mr. Rennert declined an interview request relayed through a spokesman, but in a statement, called the project a "formidable educational system that ensures the participants' emotional as well as intellectual involvement."

Endorsed by the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, Israel, Yisrael Meir Lau, the encyclopedia is available in English, Hebrew, and Spanish. Translations into Russian and French are in the works.

The project's editors stressed that the material is appropriate for Jews across the religious and educational spectrum and said they aim to introduce the school curriculum to 350,000 students within five years.

"Nobody is here to proselytize, it's about becoming connected to Judaism," the founder and editor in chief of Project Taryag, Rabbi David Wax, said.

Rabbi Wax, a New Jersey businessman, conceived of the project nearly six years ago when he observed a gap in his children's Jewish education when it came to instruction on Judaism's commandments, the basis for practical Jewish law.

Rabbi Wax said the project's curriculum is the first to present Judaism's commandments in a uniform way in an aesthetic similar to secular textbooks. The curriculum includes workbooks for students and a teacher's guide.

"We're using basically the same educational tools today that our parents did," Rabbi Wax said. "We have simply not advanced."

According to Rabbi Wax, some 100 educators, rabbis, editors, graphic artists, and education consultants contributed to the curriculum and encyclopedia. The final product is based on "classic sources" such as the Bible, the Talmud, the work of 12th-century philosopher Moses Maimonides, and a 13th-century book of education that catalogs and discusses the Torah's commandments.

Each book of the encyclopedia set costs $30. Schools can purchase the curriculum for $900 for each class of 20 students.

Experts in Jewish education said the curriculum communicates a "performance-based" lesson. "From a conceptual standpoint, it's an enticing idea for Jewish education," the director of doctoral studies at Yeshiva University's Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education, who was not involved in developing the taryag curriculum, Scott Goldberg, said. "It focuses the students on the performance" of Jewish law.

School administrators who adopted the curriculum said it fills a void, since Judaic education includes the biblical narrative but only advanced students typically study the more complex codes of Jewish law and oral tradition.

"A major conundrum has been teaching Jewish law because all of the standard texts, the authoritative texts of Jewish law, such as 'the Code of Jewish Law' by Rabbi Joseph Caro that came out in the 1500s, they're not accessible to a young student," an assistant headmaster at the Ramaz Middle School, Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz, said.

2/24/08

Jews Should Support Barack Obama

There are some nasty emails going around about Barack. Let's put a stop to the negativity that grips our country.

Get the accurate facts from the source. Here are the best links.

MEET BARACK
Watch a brief video and learn about Barack's early years, his education, his work as a community organizer and civil rights attorney, and his years in the Illinois and U.S. Senate. This is a great introduction to share with your friends:
http://my.barackobama.com/meetBarack


OFFICIAL CAMPAIGN BLOG
Catch up on the latest news, photos, and videos from the campaign trail and share your thoughts on our official campaign blog:
http://my.barackobama.com/blog


ISSUES
Learn more about Barack's positions on a variety of issues, from his opposition to the war in Iraq to his plan for universal health care:
http://my.barackobama.com/issues


FACTCHECK ACTION CENTER
Barack Obama stands for a new kind of politics -- without the smear tactics that we're all fed up with. You can help push back against negative attacks and distortions right now by telling people about Barack and his background. The truth is only as strong as your voice:
http://my.barackobama.com/factcheckaction


VIDEOS
Watch a few of the more than 500 videos from the campaign trail on our YouTube channel:
http://my.barackobama.com/youtubechannel


OBAMA MOBILE
Our movement is ready to go wherever you are. Text HOPE to 62262 (OBAMA) to receive text updates on your mobile phone and advance notice about local Obama events:
http://my.barackobama.com/mobile

2/22/08

Forward & YouTube Videos: Fiddler in India

The Forward reports on Fiddler in Hindi. From Raj to Riches, Tevye Hits Delhi
Letter From New Delhi.




More videos here.

Irwin Kula Approves of Pope's Prayer

Telling us to "chill out rather than turn this into one more drama of how the world hates us," Irwin Kula endorses the Pope's prayer against the Jews.

I for one am not going to "chill out" especially as I recall the heat of the ovens of the death camps of Christian Europe.

The Pope should be beating his breast and confessing the sins of the church, not triumphally proclaiming its mission to convert the Jews.

And oh, there has been no "mass hysteria" (ha-ha) against the church. I think Rabbi Kula must have confused the sober criticism of a few Jewish leaders with the acts of hysterical violence of the Holocaust era in Catholic Germany, where the current pope grew up as a member of the Hitler Youth.
Enough Tridentine Mass Hysteria
Opinion
By Irwin Kula

In this day and age, Jews should not be overreacting to Pope Benedict XVI’s revision of the Good Friday prayer calling for our people “to acknowledge Jesus Christ the Savior of all men.” A very small minority of Catholics saying these words in 2008 is very different in its threat to Jews than every Catholic saying these words in 1668.

Of course, it would have been wise and surely more comforting to Jews — not to mention educative to Catholics — if the pope, in permitting this prayer and rewriting it, had also recalled the historical violence that such prayers and attitudes evoked throughout history. But Jews should chill out rather than turn this into one more drama of how the world hates us....

2/20/08

Nothing-You-Need Sharper Image Goes Bankrupt

The end of an era. The nothing-you-need store Sharper Image has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Gadget giant Sharper Image goes bankrupt
The company's single-minded focus on gadgets, once its strength, ultimately sparked its downfall.

(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Sharper Image Corp (SHRP)., the San Francisco-based gadget retailer famous for its Razor Scooters and a line of air purifiers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday after posting net losses for three consecutive years.

The company's stock plunged 72% on the news, ending the day at to $0.41 per share, after closing yesterday at $1.44.

Sharper Image had $251.5 million in assets and $199 million in debt as of Jan. 31, according to last night's filing in U.S. bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware. The company plans to continue conducting business as usual while developing a reorganization plan, according to a press release.

Reuters Video: Get on the Obama Express

2/19/08

Barack, Go Forth and Conquer

Tzvee --

Today, the people of Wisconsin voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new kind of politics.

They rejected an onslaught of negative attacks and attempts to distract them from the common concerns we all have about the direction of our country.

No doubt we'll hear much more of these attacks and distractions in the days to come.

But the noise of these tired, old political games will not drown out the voices of millions calling for change.

You can help bring a new voice to our political process. By giving through our matching program, you will double the impact of someone giving for the first time this year.

We're nearing our goal of 500,000 people giving so far in 2008. You've already donated to this campaign -- but now you can help push us over the top and bring in someone new...

We won't know until late tonight the results of today's Hawaii caucus, but we'll let you know how that turns out tomorrow.

If we win in Hawaii, it will be ten straight victories -- a streak no one thought possible, and the best position we can be in when Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont vote on March 4th.

Thank you for making this possible,

Barack

2/18/08

Times: Turks in Panic About Head Scarves

They are starting to worry, really worry....
Tension About Religion and Class in Turkey
By SABRINA TAVERNISE

ISTANBUL — When two women in Islamic head scarves were spotted in an Italian restaurant in this city’s new shopping mall this month, Gulbin Simitcioglu did a double take.

Covered women, long seen as backward peasants from the countryside, “have started to be everywhere,” said Ms. Simitcioglu, a sales clerk in an Italian clothing store, and it is making women like her more than a little uncomfortable. “We are Turkey’s image. They are ruining it.”

As Turkey lurches toward a repeal of a ban on head scarves at universities, the country’s secular upper middle class is feeling increasingly threatened. ...

Orthodox Jewish Educators Study Teaching Jewish Prayer

That headline is a mouthful.

But that is what the teachers did - studied how to teach prayer.

See the Jewish Standard story...

No Miracle Beard Growth in Rabbinic Lore

Commentary made an error. In an article they published in 2008 (Why Beards? by Meir Soloveichik) the author says outright that rabbinic lore contains a narrative of miraculous beard growth.
To anyone familiar with talmudic tales, Bessarion’s story cannot help bringing to mind another, much earlier episode of contested religious leadership. It seems the sage Rabban Gamliel, the nasi or religious head of post-Temple Jewry, was temporarily relieved of his position on account of what his colleagues considered a heavy-handed exercise of authority. The rabbis’ ultimate choice of a successor was Elazar ben Azaryah, a brilliant scion of prestigious lineage. But Elazar, too, had a flaw, though the opposite of Bessarion’s: being only eighteen years old, he did not yet have the full growth of facial hair expected of a Jewish religious leader. Fortunately, according to the Talmud, a miracle was wrought overnight, and Elazar awoke to find himself the owner of a long white beard. The story concludes that he was wont to say of himself: “Behold, I am akin to a man of seventy years.”
This sadly is not correct. Let's just get this straight. There is no miracle of the overnight beard growth in rabbinic literature.

In the deposition narrative we have two variants on the legend that Eleazar's hair turned grey.
Yer. Ber. 4:1 says:

U. They went and appointed (mynw) R. Eleazar b. Azariah to the academy (yšybh).
V. He was sixteen years old and all his hair turned grey (ntml' kl r'šw sybyt).

B. Ber. 27b-28a:

FF. She said to him, ``You have no white hair.''
GG. On that day he was eighteen years old. A miracle befell him and eighteen rows of his hair turned white.
See my doctoral thesis from 1977, pp 148 ff.  Eleazar's hair or beard turned grey, but nowhere is there a narrative of miraculous beard growth in this episode.

Postscript: After all these years I must say that the Bavli version seems rather demeaning to Eleazar's wife. Portrayal of her concern with lack of grey hair seems awfully superficial at best.

Bottom line. The Commentary editors let into their esteemed journal a sermon with an erroneous account of a rabbi sprouting a beard overnight.

2/17/08

Times: Convicted Rabbi Elevates Chutzpah to a New Dimension

Now this is utter chutzpah. This man can pray in his cell. Toilet or no. Period. If he wanted to be such a good Jew, he should have thought about that before committing multiple felonies.

This story in the Times is a disgrace - a chilul hashem - compounded by a frivolous lawsuit.
Imprisoned, Rabbi Sues Over Space for Prayer
By NEELA BANERJEE

A Hasidic rabbi serving time at a federal penitentiary is suing the Bureau of Prisons to change its policy on where inmates can pray.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in New York, Rabbi Mordechai Samet, who was convicted of fraudulently obtaining more than $4 million, asserts that his ability to pray according to his beliefs has been violated by the Bureau of Prisons’ insistence that he pray in his cell. The cell contains a toilet, making it an unclean place to pray for Jews, his suit says, as well as for Muslims and Buddhists...

104 Year Old Nazi Singer Will Try to Perform

Try as we may to eradicate this scourge, these Nazis keep crawling back out of the cracks.
Nazis' fave singer returns to stage
Calgary Herald
Security was tight Saturday for the return of a 104-year-old Dutch singer who is still reviled by many of his countrymen for his close links to their former Nazi occupiers.

Johan Heesters, the oldest singer still to be performing, according to the Guinness Book of Records, appeared Saturday at the De Flint theatre in his native town of Amersfoort, 50 kilometres east of Amsterdam.

The theatre said it had installed security gates at the entrance, would check all identities, and warned that any trouble would be stamped out, singling out anyone responding to a call on the Internet to come in Nazi uniform.

Meanwhile, a counter-concert was being organized in Amersfoort of works of musicians who died in Nazi concentration camps.

All tickets at De Flint were reported sold, but it was unclear how many were fans. At his last attempt at a comeback in the Netherlands in 1963, Heesters was booed off stage by the audience, who gave Nazi salutes.

2/16/08

Independent: Sarkozy Proposes Holocaust Study

Independent.co.uk reports on the new proposal by French President Sarkozy. All I can say is, "Way to Go Sarkozy."

If all Europeans did nothing else for the next 1000 years but to study the barbarity of the Holocaust, they would not even scratch the surface of understanding their everlasting heritage of evil.

Those who oppose Sarkozy's idea are the equivalent of modern day collaborators with the Nazis.

Antisemitism and its evils are very much alive in Europe today. If this educational inoculation program will help stamp out the scourge, then bravo Sarkozy.
Sarkozy: Pupils will be 'twinned' with Nazi victims
By John Lichfield in Paris

His proposal that primary school children should be, in effect, "twinned" with young victims of the Nazi genocide has generated a cacophony of protest, as well as praise.

Most teaching unions have condemned the proposal as ill-considered and likely to place too great an emotional and psychological burden on the young. Even some Jewish leaders and writers fear the idea is "exceptionally morbid" and could provoke an anti-Semitic backlash. MPs have complained that M. Sarkozy is trying to micro-manage the national curriculum and impose too emotive an approach on the learning of history.

However, most Jewish organisations have welcomed the idea, as have some of the President's leading left-wing opponents, including his main rival in last year's election, Ségolène Royal.

In a speech to France's main Jewish group, M. Sarkozy said that from next year, each pupil in their final year of primary school would be "entrusted with the memory" of one of the 11,000 French-Jewish children who were murdered in Nazi concentration camps. "[10 and 11-year-olds] must learn the name and life story of a child who died in the Shoah," he said. "Nothing is more moving for children than to read the story of a child their own age, who had the same games, the same joys and the same hopes as they have.

"This is a way of fighting all kinds of racism, all kinds of discrimination, all kinds of barbarity by reaching children through the story of children of their own age."

His idea will be developed and implemented by Hélène Waysbord-Loing, an educational expert who is also president of a Lyons memorial to a group of Jewish children who were rounded up in 1944 and murdered at Auschwitz. She will provide teachers with life stories of some of the French-Jewish victims of the Nazis – without dwelling on the manner in which they died.

Teaching unions said the plan was "shocking" and potentially damaging psychologically for the young.

Esther Benbassa, a Jewish-French historian, said history should not be personalised. "Emotion is ephemeral. You should not use emotion as teaching tool. There is something exceptionally morbid about this idea."

The writer and philosopher Pascal Bruckner said it was wrong to confuse history and commemoration. Young French people were already "force-fed" the Holocaust but this had not prevented a rise in anti-Semitism, he pointed out. He added that M. Sarkozy's idea would encourage an "emotional auction" in which other ethnic groups, such as blacks and Arabs, would try to prove they were also victims of human barbarity and injustice.

Marie-Odile Rucine, a paediatrician, said the plan was dangerous because pre-pubescent children were unable to distance themselves from such dark events.

President Sarkozy has a habit of producing startling ideas from nowhere. His last attempt to impose an emotive approach to history teaching backfired badly. He ordered that all secondary school teachers must read out the final letter from a young wartime resistance hero facing execution. Many staff refused to do so.

2/15/08

Professor Weiss Halivni Wins Israel Prize

A nice honor has been bestowed on a rabbi who helped found the UTJ in Teaneck.

‘Unconventional scholar’ receives Israel Prize
By Abigail Klein Leichman
...A prodigy from Ukraine who received ordination at 15, Halivni has been turning out a multi-volume commentary on the Talmud, "Mekorot u’Mesorot: Sources and Traditions," since the 1970s. His non-traditional approach to analyzing the voluminous exposition of the Oral Law is based on deconstructing its divergent parts and surmising where errors may have crept into the text over many centuries...

Times: NASCAR Racing and Religion

I once went to a stock car race with my wife and kids at the Minnesota State Fair. It was so loud that we left after half an hour and could not hear for the rest of the day.

I don't understand the attraction of auto racing. But lots of other people do. Today in advance of the Daytona 500, the Times sees fit to cover the odd affiliation of religion and racing:

...As Nascar has evolved from a regional pastime to a national sport, its signature event, the Daytona 500, has remained a microcosm of auto racing’s roots. This self-described Great American Race, which will be run Sunday for the 50th time, draws many fans who identify themselves with the automobile, a Southern aesthetic and Christianity...

2/13/08

Zogby on Obama Momentum

Amazing - Barack Obama is the frontrunner. Or maybe not! Whatever. He brings vision to the land and restrains himself from the negativism of the past decade.

Vote Barack.

Is Obama's momentum unstoppable?
By John Zogby
Pollster and independent political analyst

Has Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination?

It is certainly tempting to make this conclusion based on his amazing string of victories on Saturday and Tuesday evening.

But the short answer to the question has to be no.

Senator Obama has now more states than his rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, including the last six (plus the Virgin Islands and the national capital, Washington DC) and he now leads among delegates pledged to vote for him at the Democratic National Convention.

In addition to his momentum of victories, he has made significant inroads into constituencies that were the core of his opponent's support.

Thus, in Virginia and Maryland, exit polls revealed that he tied with Senator Clinton among white voters, and actually defeated her among women, lower-income voters, rural voters, those over 65 years of age, Catholics, and Hispanics.

Swing groups

Those numbers are very important because they show the meaning of momentum, which is so vital to understanding the primary process, and because they take away one of the main arguments that has been used against Mr Obama: that he is the African-American candidate who has more limited appeal than Mrs Clinton with mainstream voters.

Mr Obama's victories are becoming numerous and sizeable.

In addition to expanding his political base among African Americans and young voters, he also has consistently demonstrated a greater appeal than Mrs Clinton among independents and moderates, swing groups that will give shape to the general election in November.

There is also an almost cult-like quality to Obama's following

This in itself is a powerful argument for Obama's nomination, because the Democratic nominee will likely face Republican Senator John McCain, who is very popular among centrist voters.

Above all, Obama generates an intense and growing level of emotion among young voters.

They are voting in record numbers in the primaries and can make the difference between victory and defeat for him in November.

'Clinton fatigue'

On the other side, Senator Clinton's campaign has been going through a rough patch.

She is having difficulty raising money, she has accepted the resignations of both her campaign manager (a Hispanic woman and long-time aide whose departure has not gone down well among Hispanics) and deputy campaign manager.

Her staff are already pointing fingers of blame at each other - never a good sign when so much positive energy is needed.

Perhaps more than anything else, there is a growing feeling of "Clinton Fatigue" among insiders and ordinary voters.

After all, a voter in November 2008 has to be at least 42 years old to have voted in a general election in which a Bush or a Clinton did not emerge as the victor.

And finally, there are almost 800 "super-delegates" - elected officials or Democratic party leaders - who also get a vote at the convention.

A key question: why aren't these establishment types already backing Senator Clinton?

Why are they waiting until the last minute?

To me, that speaks volumes.

'Formidable'

On the other hand, this deal is not closed.

At this time of writing, the two candidates are nearly tied among pledged delegates, and even if Obama wins all of the remaining states with 55% of the vote, he still falls short of the 2,025 total delegates he needs to secure the nomination.

Meanwhile, Clinton would continue to rack up almost the same number of delegates based on proportional voting.

Clinton is formidable.

She is after all a Clinton - she and her husband are popular, dogged, able campaigners.

She has been a successful senator and has core support among older women and Hispanics, both of whom can propel her to victory in Texas and Ohio and get her campaign rolling again.

There is also an almost cult-like quality to Obama's following.

He generates a lot of heat and excitement - but can he sustain it?

Will the press continue to love him tomorrow?

And if negative (or at least not glowing) stories begin to appear in rapid succession, will his supporters still be so enthusiastic?

So the nomination battle is far from over.

But - at least for now - Obama has truly taken his campaign much further than his opponents ever believed possible.

John Zogby is the President and CEO of Zogby International, an independent polling company in the US.

Forward Editors Chastise Catholics for "Turning Back the Clock"

What a stark and welcome contrast this editorial is to the inane opinion of Hillel Halkin in the Sun.

The Forward says what needs to be said to the Church by simple and straightforward Jews:
"The revival of the Tridentine Mass is a grave setback to this reconciliation. There should be no mistaking that: Christian missionizing raises deep and abiding anxieties among Jews of every stripe. It demeans Judaism and ultimately threatens Jewish security. If the Church does not mean to raise that troubling standard once again, it should say so as quickly and clearly as possible."
Here is the whole megillah:
Turning Back the Clock
Editorial

The best that can be said about the Vatican’s revival of the traditional prayer for the conversion of the Jews, the so-called Tridentine Mass, is that it is deeply disappointing. The medieval text, traditionally the centerpiece of the pre-Easter Good Friday ritual, inspired centuries of Jewish humiliation and suffering at the hands of inflamed Christian faithful. It was removed from the liturgy in 1969, part of the sweeping church reform that emerged from the Second Vatican Council. Now, in a startling act of insensitivity, Pope Benedict XVI has turned back the clock.

Church spokesmen, stung by worldwide Jewish protests, have argued over the past week that the change is minor and should offend no one, and that non-Catholics should respect “our freedom to formulate our prayers,” in the words of Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican official in charge of Catholic-Jewish relations.

With all due respect to a great world religion, the reassurances sound strained. The Vatican has been engaged for 40 years in an intense, formal dialogue with an international alliance of Jewish organizations, aimed precisely at reexamining those Catholic rituals that arouse Jewish sensitivities. The process, while sometimes rocky, has brought enormous strides in understanding and reconciliation.

The dialogue arguably reached its high point in April 1986, when Pope John Paul II visited the Great Synagogue of Rome, the first pope ever to do so. Addressing the congregation, he declared that God’s covenant with the Jews was “irrevocable.” By that, church officials explained, he meant that God’s choosing of the Jews, giving them the Law and promising eternal life was, regardless of past church teaching, intact and unbreakable. Judaism was a living religion, not just a precursor to Christianity.

The pope went on to say that belief in Jesus “can never be the object of exterior pressure.” He said that in future Catholic-Jewish relations, “we shall each be faithful to our own sacred commitments.” That, church officials said, meant that the age-old Catholic mission to “save” the Jews by converting them was ended. The Jews had their own path to redemption.

Even in August 2000, when the church’s chief theologian, the German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, called for renewed Catholic efforts to missionize other faiths, church officials continued to say that Jews were exempt. The cardinal’s declaration, “Dominus Jesus,” argued at length that the Catholic Church was the only vehicle to divine salvation. Apologists explained that Judaism was, of course, an exception to the rule.

Now that same cardinal, newly renamed Pope Benedict XVI, has revived the conversion doctrine that has been the source of so much Jewish pain and fear through the centuries. He has done so, moreover, by resurrecting the prayer most identified with that fear. No, he has not made the prayer mandatory in churches, but neither do priests need permission to recite it. It is now a duly sanctioned alternative.

The prayer no longer speaks of Jewish “blindness” or “darkness,” much less “perfidy.” But it still asks that “all Israel be saved through Christ our Lord.” It was that missionizing ambition, not the phrasing of it, that troubled Jews through the ages. That was the doctrine that Pope John Paul II promised to annul.

The Tridentine Mass, a Latin text codified in 1570, begins with the words “Oremus et pro perfidis Judaeis,” or “Let us pray for the perfidious Jews” (though many modern scholars prefer the less-charged “faithless Jews”). The prayer asks that God “remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord.” After congregants kneel and pray silently, the priest calls to God, “who dost not exclude from thy mercy even Jewish faithlessness: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness.”

Recited on Good Friday, the traditional anniversary of Jesus’ crucifixion, the prayer sometimes provoked listeners in past centuries to fits of anti-Jewish rage. Jewish communities were regularly subjected to mass humiliation, typically required to hear the prayer in church, to rise and confess their “sins,” and then to receive ritual slaps and blows. Too often, the service ended in mob attacks on Jewish neighborhoods.

Pope John XXIII, the postwar liberal, rewrote the text in 1962 and removed the word “perfidious,” a significant gesture at the time. In 1969, under Pope Paul VI, the Latin prayer was removed from the ritual altogether. Replacing it was a dramatically new text, recited in local languages. In the new version, Catholics “pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant.” After a moment of silence, the priest reminds God of “your promise to Abraham and his posterity,” and asks “that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption.”

Implicit in the 1969 prayer was the notion, revolutionary for Catholics, that Judaism’s own path to redemption, its covenant with God, might still be valid. The call to convert Jews is glaringly absent. It took another 17 years of soul-searching dialogue for Pope John Paul II to make the revolution explicit. By then, we were told, we had entered a new era of Catholic-Jewish amity.

In his 1986 synagogue address, Pope John Paul II spoke of moving beyond tolerance to active “collaboration” between the two faith communities. He cited numerous areas where Catholicism and Judaism share common values and should join forces for social change: freedom, individual rights, “individual and social ethics.”

In America, at least, Jews and Catholics have a long tradition of making common cause in the public sphere, working together for religious freedom, the rights of labor, immigrants and the poor, and much more. In recent years, it’s true, the collaboration has been clouded by disagreements, mainly over abortion and the lessons of the Holocaust. Progressives on both sides have looked to the continuing process of dialogue and reconciliation to lift those veils and clear the road forward.

The revival of the Tridentine Mass is a grave setback to this reconciliation. There should be no mistaking that: Christian missionizing raises deep and abiding anxieties among Jews of every stripe. It demeans Judaism and ultimately threatens Jewish security. If the Church does not mean to raise that troubling standard once again, it should say so as quickly and clearly as possible.

JTA: Republican Jews Launch Negative Campaign

I must "express serious misgivings" about this ad campaign. It reminds me that only the republicans could come up with the phrase, "nattering nabobs of negativism" (Spiro Agnew).

This is the year of the Obama-cans, the Republicans who support Barack Obama. The traffic is going the other way.

Why? Because they have had enough with the negativism of the Republicans and the right.
GOP Jews launch ads on ex-Dems

The Republican Jewish Coalition has launched an ad campaign titled "I Used to be a Democrat."

The series of ads depicts the political journeys of Jewish Democrats who are now Republicans.

I know both of the Jewish republicans (again and again). There is no line around the block following them, I assure you.

"The ads reflect the movement we've witnessed for years: More and more American Jews express serious misgivings with the direction of the Democratic Party," said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. "Again and again they are finding that the Republican Party better represents their concerns, ranging from national security to the well-being of the State of Israel."

The ads will run in major Jewish newspapers across the country through late spring or early summer.

2/12/08

NY Sun Column by Hillel Halkin Fawns Over the Vatican's Attention to the Jews


This Halkin essay is a five star head shaker.

I'm still shaking my head - no, no, no. Take it as a compliment?

Mr. Halkin takes as a compliment the revival by the Pope and the Vatican of a disgusting antisemitic prayer. This just reconfirms my opinion of the NY Sun and its over the top neocon agenda.

If the little people would only realize how wonderful the world is and leave the decisions to the elite and the rich folk, that would be just dandy.


Here the elite is the Vatican. And whatever they do, well that is just another example of how utterly perfect the status quo is.

But Mr. Halkin is wrong beyond all boundaries known to me.

Look, let me try a story. Maybe Halkin will follow a story.
Let's just say for a minute that you are happily married. One day the man across the street announces to your wife and the whole neighborhood that as long as she stays married to you, she will go to hell. And that man sits on his porch and sings songs about how great it would be if your wife would leave you and come live with him.
Do you get it Halkin? It doesn't seem like anyone I know would consider that much of a compliment. Most of the people I hang out with would find that irksome, rude, insulting, antisocial, inciteful, hateful. Especially the part about how your wife will burn in hell if she doesn't leave you.

No, Halkin. I guess you are just a different sort of person. You'd think that part was a compliment too. The neocon trance. Everything is just hunky dory the way it is, under the caring rule of the beneficent elite.

[Halkin actually says in this essay, "What kind of Christian would it be who, convinced that his Jewish friend was bound for everlasting torment, did not do everything to save him from it? What kind of friend?" And he is not criticizing the Christians. He is justifying them. What kind of contorted logic?]

So here we go, half of the "conservative" article, gloriously continued in the Sun...where Halkin takes us Jews to task for our benign poetic prayers, which he somehow equates with the pernicious and insidious liturgical agendas of others.
Take It As a Compliment
By HILLEL HALKIN

It is certainly possible to understand, as an instinctive reaction, the objection of Jews to Christians praying that they see the light and accept Jesus as their savior. For long centuries, Jews were reviled, discriminated against, persecuted, and sometimes murdered for the crime of not seeing the light. A Christian prayer for a Jewish soul can trigger some scary reflexes.

Still, I must say that I find 21st century Jewish protests against such prayers, or other expressions of the Christian wish that Jews convert to Christianity, amusing. The era of the auto-da-fé is over. Atavistic reactions aside, it's hard to see what makes major Jewish organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League repeatedly do such things as send frantic messages last week to the Vatican, demanding that it change a newly worded Good Friday mass that reads in part:

"Let us pray for the Jews. May the Lord enlighten their hearts to accept Jesus Christ … Eternal and omnipotent God, You who desire all Your creatures to be saved and know the truth, let Israel be redeemed by passing through the gates of Your church."

Are the AJC and ADL worried that God might actually listen to such a prayer? If so, we Jews are in greater trouble than we thought. But it's more likely that they would explain their position by saying:

"We cannot acquiesce in Christians telling us on the one hand that, after all these centuries, they now respect Judaism as a legitimate faith, yet that on the other hand they intend to go on praying that Jews abandon it. You can't respect another person's religion and still expect him to exchange it for your own."
I just do not have the fortitude to reproduce the rest. Go here if you must have more.

[Hat tip to Steve B. ...]

JTA: Joel and Ethan Coen to Film "Yiddish Policeman's Union"

We've read a while back that the Coen boys have already shot scenes of this adaptation.

I used to meet their dad, economics Professor Ed Coen, at meetings on campus at the University of Minnesota. He served for a time on the Jewish Studies committee and above all was a real mensch.

I'd also meet Ed on occasion in shul at the Keneset Israel Congregation in St. Louis Park. He'd tell me proudly in the early 80's that his boys planned to go into film. But the boys were not big shul-goers.

About them, NPR reports, "Their latest, No Country for Old Men, is up for eight Academy Awards — and they're the first siblings to share a nomination for best director."

Quite an accomplishment for two little Jewish boys from Minnesota.
Coen brothers to adapt Chabon novel

Filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen will adapt "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" for the screen.

Columbia Pictures has acquired the screen rights for the best-selling novel by acclaimed Jewish novelist Michael Chabon, according to a report in the Hollywood journal Variety.

The novel envisions a world in which Israel was destroyed in 1948 and re-established as a Yiddish-speaking sovereignty in remote Alaska.

The Coen brothers, who have commanded a cult following for offbeat films such as "Fargo" and "Raising Arizona," are known for integrating bits of Jewish trivia into their films.

One of their more celebrated films, "The Big Lebowski," features a Shabbat-observant Polish Catholic Vietnam veteran with a penchant for quoting Theodor Herzl and Maimonides. Their current film, "No Country for Old Men," was nominated for eight Oscars.

The Coens, who will write and direct the adaption, will reunite with "No Country for Old Men" producer Scott Rudin for the film.

2/10/08

Syria, the Vatican and the Jews

I was reading "A Strike in the Dark. What did Israel bomb in Syria?" by Seymour M. Hersh in the New Yorker. Hersh is usually a lot clearer about issues. He muddles through this one, wanting to say that whatever Israel bombed in Syria, it was not a nuclear threat. Yet we all assume that it was a preemptive strike on a nascent nuclear plant.

Then some neurons and synapses in my brain crackled and I was thinking all of a sudden about the Pope's reinvention of the antiSemitic Tridentine Mass. The Conservative rabbinical association was getting ready to condemn this, according to the Times yesterday, "Conservative Rabbis to Vote on Resolution Criticizing Pope’s Revision of Prayer."

In the mind of this educated Jew, what the Pope appears to be doing is starting up a new threat to the Jews -- a new antisemitic program. To me the specter of a wave of antisemitism sponsored by the Catholic Church loomed as a mortal threat to the Jewish people worldwide -- just like the specter of a nuclear armed Syria loomed as a mortal threat to Israel and the Jews there.

That's why I do not hesitate to preemptively criticize the Pope and the Vatican.

We Jews need to stop this renewed mortal threat from the Church before the reactor of its antisemitism reaches "critical mass."

The Conservative Echo Chamber Attacks Barack's Support of Israel

A friend sent me an article by Ed Lasky of the American Thinker called, "Barack Obama and Israel." It rehearses the familiar right wing litany of half truths and outright lies.

I answered back, "Look, we know that Barack is black, not Jewish. Anyway, I’m pretty sure he did not kiss Suha Arafat."

Just to keep the record straight on who wrote and published the article, Wikipedia reports:

American Thinker (AT) is a conservative daily internet publication. According to it website, American Thinker presents a "thoughtful exploration of issues of importance to Americans." [1]

There is ample evidence to support the notion that AT serves as part of the right wing's echo chamber....

Echo chamber is a colloquial term used to describe a group of media outlets that tend to parrot each other's uncritical reports on the views of a single source, or that otherwise relies on unquestioning repetition of official sources.

Lord knows, we have had enough of the destructive echo chamber. Enough tearing down.

Barack will create value and vision for our country. He will support Israel because it is a just cause. Vote Obama.

2/8/08

Italian AntiSemites Use Internet

In case there was any doubt (and there was none in my mind), this item demonstrates how much alive antiSemitism is in Italy today, even outside of the Vatican.
Italy takes Jewish teachers "blacklist" off Internet
ROME (Reuters) - Italian police are investigating an anti-Semitic blog listing the names of more than 150 "Jewish university professors," which was removed from the Internet after protests from politicians and Jewish leaders.

The blog, by an anonymous author, listed the names and workplaces of university professors which it accused of "publicly and politically" supporting Israel.

It was taken down in the early afternoon on Friday, said Emanuele Fini, one of the heads of blog site www.ilcannocchiale.it, where the blog was first posted on January 16.

Interior Minister Giuliano Amato ordered police to investigate the case.

"The Internet has become the main tool for spreading anti-Semitic hatred," said Alessandro Ruben of the Anti-Defamation League in Italy.

Education Minister Giuseppe Fioroni called the blog a shameful "kind of Ku Klux Klan of the digital age."

The blog had links to far-right websites and themes like Holocaust revisionism, appeals to boycott Israel and war-time fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Some professors listed on the blog are not Jewish but had signed pro-Israel petitions.

There was a heated debate earlier this month on whether Italy's biggest book fair had a right to invite top Israeli writers as special guests.

The Turin annual fair, which this year will run from May 8-12, invited Amos Oz, David Grossman and Abraham Yehousha to mark Israel's 60th anniversary. The decision sparked protests by some leftists, who felt the fair was taking a political stance and called for a boycott of its stands.

(Reporting by Massimiliano Di Giorgio, writing by Silvia Aloisi; editing by Robert Woodward)

Bergen Record: Einstein was a friend of rights for blacks

Great op-ed in the Record today.

Another side of Einstein
Lawrence Aaron

Einstein said that guaranteeing every citizen protection against the violence of lynching was "one of the most urgent tasks for our generation."

ALBERT EINSTEIN'S life and work fill hundreds of volumes in many languages, but his dedication to the African-American struggle was something few were aware of.

Very little has ever been publicized about the two titans of the 20th century who met in Princeton and continued a long association.

Albert Einstein settled in Princeton in 1933 and first met Paul Robeson two years later, when the singer was performing at Princeton's McCarter Theater.

They bonded over a mutual interest in social justice issues. Einstein became Robeson's co-chair of the American Crusade to End Lynching.

Black history has a wealth of such stories, where a significant cultural crossover gets lost in the tide of events. Einstein was serious about his social politics and didn't flinch from coming to the aid of African-Americans and their causes.

Authors Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor examine this great man's insights on racial strife and human rights in their book "Einstein on Race and Racism."

In a letter written to President Harry Truman in 1946 to support Robeson, Einstein said that guaranteeing every citizen protection against the violence of lynching was "one of the most urgent tasks for our generation."

Einstein didn't advance any grand theories of race and genetics. He was a critic who observed that African-Americans weren't being treated fairly.

His interest started long before he fled Germany as his homeland was falling under the grip of the Nazis, making life unbearable for Jews and anti-fascists.

In the years leading up to Einstein's final departure from Europe in 1933 and resettlement in Princeton at the Institute for Advanced Study, he wrote a letter in support of the Scottsboro Boys, nine black youths facing execution on questionable charges of raping a white woman.

He also wrote a piece for the NAACP's Crisis magazine at the request of its editor, W.E.B. Du Bois, another giant in the evolution of black activism.

Dubois had solicited a piece for Crisis in a letter encouraging Einstein to "write us a word about the evil of race prejudice in the world."

He enticed Einstein with something they shared as scholars: Du Bois informed the Nobel Prize winner that he, too, had studied in Germany.

Einstein agreed to write, and in the article he reflected on the fact that those subjected to persistent economic and social disadvantages "come to regard people like themselves as inferior." The New York Times summed up the short article with the headline "Einstein Hails Negro Race."

A fixture in Princeton's Witherspoon neighborhood, Einstein was known to the African-American community for his distinctive gait and personable manner. According to the Historical Society of Princeton, some members of the Witherspoon-John Street neighborhood recall seeing Einstein at a local NAACP meeting held at a segregated school for black children.

This man, who had avoided the grip of Nazis, couldn't evade the clutches of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Jerome, the author, found the FBI had collected 1,800 pages of information on Einstein. They are full of notations about involvement with black organizations in addition to his membership in the NAACP.

In 1955, at the age of 83, Du Bois stood cuffed before a federal judge in Washington, D.C. Because Einstein came forward as a character witness, federal charges against Du Bois were dismissed.

Du Bois had been accused of failing to register as a foreign agent in connection with work on the international peace movement, which was "demanding the outlawing of atomic weapons as instruments of intimidation and mass murder of people."

I asked Jerome if this aspect of Einstein's life remained buried because writers and scholars thought it insignificant by comparison to his scholarly work, or whether his stature as a social activist and supporter of civil rights causes tarnished his image as a scholar and thinker.

"His personal oppression was a factor in his feeling of connection with African-Americans, but there was an intellectual level as well," said Jerome. "A lot of people just don't appreciate the importance of it."

Fifty years after his death, the book about his affiliation with black activism and with Princeton's black community may be turned into a movie, Jerome said.

The man who was recognized as Time Magazine's "Man of the Century" for his scientific achievements deserves to be recognized for his social impact as well as his impact on science.

Lawrence Aaron is a Record columnist.

Times: More Trouble on Statin Island - Cholesterol Drug Ads Deception

Do the cholesterol drugs do any good for your health? We've seen this issue challenged after a scandal involving suppression of a drug study of Vytorin.

Now there is more trouble on Statin Island.

The Times reports that the Dr. Jarvik ads may be bogus misrepresentations.

Committee Investigates Ad Tactics for Lipitor
...Congressional committee investigating the Lipitor advertising campaign featuring Dr. Robert...8217;s advertising campaign for Lipitor, the cholesterol medication that is the...Dr. Jarvik’s contract with Lipitor’s maker, Pfizer , revealing...
February 8, 2008 - By STEPHANIE SAUL - Business / Media & Advertising

Drug Ads Raise Questions for Heart Pioneer
...years ago for the Pfizer cholesterol drug Lipitor . The ads have depicted him, among other...exercise aren’t enough, adding Lipitor significantly lowers cholesterol...are nothing new, of course. But the Lipitor campaign is a rare instance of a well...
February 7, 2008 - By STEPHANIE SAUL - Business / Media & Advertising

2/7/08

Reuters: Vatican Blind to the Dangers of Its Liturgies

Cardinal Kasper is not an honest man.
The Vatican is not honest.

For a German churchman to say, "I must say that I don't understand why Jews cannot accept that we can make use of our freedom to formulate our prayers" -- that is nonsense. Here's why.

1. The Church has no right to single out the Jews in its prayers.
2. Doing so targets the Jews as deficient, as lacking, as inferior.
3. Gee, that is what another German named Hitler did too.

And I utterly recoiled when I read this next load of Cardinal Kasper crap: "Furthermore, Jews have prayers in their liturgical texts that we Catholics don't like." Here's why it's nonsense.

1. There has never been a pogrom carried out by Talmud-wielding Jews against Catholics.
2. There has never been a rabbinic inquisition directed against Catholics.
3. There has never been a Catholic Holocaust in a Jewish Europe.

It's not about liking or disliking the poetry or content of this or that liturgy. This objection that we raise as Jews is based on our experiences of suffering at the hands of Christians for centuries. You have killed and tortured us. We have an obligation to object to your continued attacks against us.

Stop using your religion as a club against us.
Stop singling us out.
You have no business talking about us in your churches.
Mind your own Church business.
Stay away from us.
We don't want to be your targets anymore.

Do you get it now, Herr Cardinal "in charge of relations with the Jews"? DO YOU GET IT? No, of course, you do not.
Vatican cardinal defends Jewish conversion prayer
By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The top Vatican cardinal in charge of relations with Jews on Thursday denied a new prayer for their conversion was offensive and said Catholics had the right to pray as they wished.

Cardinal Walter Kasper spoke in an interview in a leading Italian newspaper a day after world Jewish leaders said the new prayer could set back inter-religious dialogue by decades.

"I must say that I don't understand why Jews cannot accept that we can make use of our freedom to formulate our prayers," Kasper, a German, told the Corriere della Sera.

The Vatican on Tuesday revised a contested Latin prayer used by a traditionalist minority on Good Friday, removing a reference to Jewish "blindness" over Christ and deleting a phrase asking God to "remove the veil from their hearts".

Jews criticized the new version because it still says they should recognize Jesus Christ as the savior of all men. It asks that "all Israel may be saved" and keeps an underlying call to conversion that Jewish leaders had wanted omitted.

"We think that reasonably this prayer cannot be an obstacle to dialogue because it reflects the faith of the Church and, furthermore, Jews have prayers in their liturgical texts that we Catholics don't like," Kasper said.

In a separate interview with Vatican Radio, Kasper said: "The Holy Father wanted to say 'yes, Jesus Christ is the savior of all men, including the Jews'."

He added: "But this does not mean we are embarking on a mission (to covert Jews). We are giving witness to our faith."

Jewish groups complained last year when the Pope issued a decree allowing wider use of the old-style Latin Mass and a missal, or prayer book, that was phased out after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which met from 1962 to 1965.

They protested against the re-introduction of the old prayer for conversion of the Jews and had asked the Pope to change it.

Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee and The International Jewish Committee on Inter-religious Consultations criticized the new version.

"While we appreciate that some of the deprecatory language has been removed ... we are deeply troubled and disappointed that the framework and intention to petition God for Jews to accept Jesus as Lord was kept intact," Abraham Foxman, U.S. national director of the ADL, said in a statement.

Vote in Our Poll: Microhoo or Yahoosoft?

We used to joke about Netscape and Yahoo merging and the new company would be called Netanyahu (as in the Israeli politician). Netscape is no more.

But that raises the question. Which one do you prefer?

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Forward: Hitchens Tromps Boteach

Even though the paper does not come right out and say it, apparently Shmuley lost his debate with Hitchens -- Judaism lost to Atheism. Oh well. Another day, another dollar.
Hitchens and Boteach’s Great Debate
By Zachary Goelman

Acclaimed polemicist and atheist Christopher Hitchens traded wit on science and scripture last week at a debate titled “Does God Exist?” with his opponent, Orthodox rabbi and television host Shmuley Boteach.

Ticket holders filled the auditorium at Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y to capacity; many hoped that Hitchens would demonstrate his irreverent, razor-edged reasoning. The fans weren’t disappointed.

“We’re all atheists,” Hitchens argued in his dry British timbre. “We no longer believe we need to tear the beating heart out of a virgin to make the sun rise. We no longer believe in the sun god Ra or in Zeus, and we now must go one step further.”

A critical essayist known for his caustic prose and attempted literary assassinations of popular figures (including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi), Hitchens recently aimed his arrows at the divine with his book “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.”

At the podium, Hitchens — who discovered his Jewish ancestry only as an adult — called religion a “pernicious belief” that does “nothing good for our poorly evolved species.” He bemoaned the human psyche, which “prefers junk explanation over no explanation,” and called the belief in God “the first explanation, and the worst explanation” for the state of existence.

The human race has “nothing to look forward to,” Hitchens said, given the fact that extinction could come about in the near future, and if not soon, then within the next 5 billion years, when the Andromeda galaxy collides with our own.

Boteach took the podium next. “After hearing that,” he began, “I’m colossally depressed. If the Andromeda galaxy doesn’t finish me off, Christopher Hitchens will.” Boteach is the author of several books on Orthodox life in the modern world, including “Kosher Sex.” He hosts the show “Shalom in the Home” on The Learning Channel.

Boteach attacked his opponent’s recent book, calling it Hitchens’s “worst work yet, full of falsity.” A proponent of Intelligent Design, Boteach labeled Hitchens a scientific reductionist who belittled humanity as a race of poorly evolved apes.

“We might be 98% identical to primates,” Boteach asserted, “but in that 2% lays intellect and morality.” The rabbi asked how Hitchens could call the Bible “inhumane” when it commanded humankind to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

In his rebuttal, Hitchens asked, “What happened to the Midianites?” and argued that the Bible clearly approved of genocide. “It’s a good thing those books are fiction,” he said.

Haaretz: Jewish Studies in Decline in Israel

In secular Israel I'm not surprised that Talmud Professors are scarce. That makes some sense - humanists don't want to spend money on teaching religion.

But why is support waning for a Contemporary Jewry department, where academics can serve as curators of the story of the modern Jew, culminating in the rise of the State of Israel? Why indeed.
Israel no longer the world's 'Mecca' of Jewish studies
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent

According to Brandeis University president Jehuda Reinharz, Israel is not the only place experiencing a major decline in the status of the liberal arts. In the United States too, he says, "it is very difficult today to find money for a chair in philosophy or English literature." Still, Reinharz relates, there is one field in the liberal arts that hasn't experienced a decline in the U.S. over the past four decades - Jewish studies.

Unlike other subjects, which face a constant dearth of funders, there will always be Jewish philanthropists in the Diaspora who are prepared to fund yet another center for Bible studies or for the Land of Israel studies. The reasons for this range from recognition of the importance of the subject, to the desire to take a stand against anti-Semitic propaganda on the campuses, donors' feeling of connection with Israel, or even Jewish guilt.

If once upon a time it was clear that in order to pursue Jewish studies in a serious way, one had to spend time at an Israeli university, today that's no longer the case. In Israel, as opposed to the U.S., Jewish studies are in a process of steady impoverishment and decline.

"When I began writing my doctoral thesis at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the 1960s," the Haifa-born Reinharz recalls, "most of my teachers belonged to the Institute of Contemporary Jewry, which was a magnificent place with the most renowned professors. There were two or three teachers for every subject. Today hardly anything is left of that, and the same is true of Tel Aviv University. If 30 years ago, it was clear that Israel was the most advanced place for Jewish studies, today it is no longer clear at all."

There is a constant decline in the number of tenured positions, as well as in teaching slots for lecturers. Although young academics are normally unafraid of expressing a decisive opinion on any issue, the preference is not to talk about this one on the record. "It is a small and overcrowded world," a doctoral student at the Hebrew University says. "Why should I say something that might jeopardize me the next time a committee meets and decides who the one person is who will get a tenured position out of the 10 who are competing for it?" A researcher at Bar-Ilan University adds: "The lucky ones succeed in putting together for themselves a tenured position in several departments at the same time. The situation is simply awful, and the idea of going to work abroad is very enticing."

Salami policy

There is agreement about the difficult situation faced by the field, but not about the causes of the situation. According to Prof. Sergio DellaPergola, a former head of the Hebrew University's Institute of Contemporary Jewry, which is now facing closure: "Public interest has grown, and we never had a problem of students. But there is an dispute over the number of tenured positions in the liberal arts.... In actual fact, there are dozens of fewer positions. In [our institute], we used to have 14 tenured faculty positions, whereas today there are a mere eight, and only half of these have a joint position with another department. There's a salami policy in place: As soon as a professor retires, [the budget for] his tenured position reverts to the administration, and is not retained by the department."

If there was once a time when it was said that the Hebrew University was the University of the Jewish People, DellaPergola says, today, it's no longer clear that the Hebrew University is superior in the area of Jewish studies, when compared with Bar-Ilan University here, or with such American institutions as Brandeis or the University of Michigan.

Nonetheless, DellaPergola still believes, as do many of his colleagues, that the best researchers in Jewsh studies can still be found in Israel. At the same time, he says that "it is not enough that we have the best man, there has to be a dialogue among colleagues. Today there are departments with only one person."

Prof. Yehuda Bauer, the Holocaust scholar and the academic adviser to Yad Vashem, was himself head of Contemporary Jewry Institute for 15 years. He believes that the small number of tenured positions in the field at Israeli universities leads to a situation in which scholars move over to various external institutes, something that is not always helpful to their advancement.

At the same time, he suggests that "it will take a great deal of time until the blossoming of Jewish studies in the U.S. brings it up to the level to which Israel has sunk. Israel is still a research power in this area. As a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, I hear my colleagues always complaining about the small number of doctoral students. The people who teach are of the highest standard, but they have only four or five pupils, when once upon a time there were 50. And there are fewer people because there is no money and there are fewer chances of getting work. And people feel that they will be wasting their time if they go and teach at a high school."

In many places, there is talk of the difficulty of teaching certain courses, or even of the dropping of courses. The latter has already occurred on a large scale at Tel Aviv University. Prof Dina Porat, who until recently headed the subject of Jewish studies at TAU, admits: "There are departments whose situation is not so good. There are hardly any students studying Talmud, and anyone who has a serious interest in it goes to Bar-Ilan. In Bible studies, there are also very few." That is why it was decided three years ago at Tel Aviv University to take fields like Talmud, Bible, Hebrew language and Jewish thought, and put them all into a new department of Hebrew culture studies. Says Porat: "We did this so as to leave some remnants intact. We also have a beit midrash in which texts are studied like a preparation for academic studies. Some 30 students have signed up for this. It is true that generally speaking in the past there were a great deal more students, and therefore there were also more tenured positions for teachers."

2/6/08

Ill Timed Junket Cruise for Yeshiva University Administrators


Bad timing at best.

Whilst major universities are under investigation for scandals in their overseas programs, two top administrators at Yeshiva University are advertising their junkets aboard a cruise ship to Europe.

Received in an email from Alumni Office :

Set sail aboard the Costa Concordia

with Yeshiva University's

President Richard M. Joel and

Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter

June 29-July 6, 2008

Hosted by Lasko Family and Suite Life Cruisesunder the kosher supervision of the London Beit Din

Explore the rich heritage and Jewish historical significance of sites in Rome, Sicily, Malta, Tunis, Barcelona and more. For more information, please visit www.slkosher.com/kosher_cruise_spain_and_italy.aspx or contact xxxxxxx.

The Cruise line web site informs us: "Special Guests: Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel & Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter"

Unfortunately coming close upon the heels of this news story:

College study abroad is corrupt, subpoenas say

News |

Fifteen university study abroad offices have been charged with traveling too much, not from their home countries, but rather, from the law. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued subpoenas to these colleges and universities for entertaining corrupt alliances with specific third-party programs.

Subpoenas were issued to three third-party programs in August and September, and the investigation continued last Friday at several college and universities. The list of colleges in question includes Harvard, Columbia, Northwestern, and Brown universities, among others.

Of the 15 colleges and universities questioned, only Alfred State University publicly acknowledged its subpoena. Alfred State’s list of associations with third-party providers included the three first targeted by Cuomo. Although the subpoenas were issued last Friday, most of the colleges and universities have not yet revealed the exact contents of the subpoena nor publicly acknowledged their acceptance....

Hillary Campaign in Panic After Startling Gains by Barack

Here's what Barack's campaign has sent me (minus the various pleas for donations). Even without their analysis, we can see that the Clintons' loan to themselves is a mark of desperation. They never expected the momentum to turn against them so swiftly.

Tzvee --

I was writing a note to you about the state of the race after Super Tuesday when we got some startling news.

The Clinton campaign just announced that Hillary and Bill Clinton injected $5 million of their personal fortune into her campaign a few days ago.

This is a dramatic move, and a clear acknowledgement that our campaign has the momentum. We saw undeniable evidence of that last night as the results came in.

Barack Obama won the most states and the most delegates on February 5th.

We have gotten to this point thanks to an unprecedented outpouring of support from ordinary Americans.

Just two weeks ago we were behind by double-digits in many of the states that voted yesterday, but Barack won 13 states to 8 states for Hillary Clinton, with one state (New Mexico) still counting votes.

This is an enormous victory, and it's all thanks to you.

We won yesterday because thousands upon thousands of individual supporters canvassed their neighborhoods, talked to their neighbors and friends, and made phone calls to remind their fellow supporters to get out the vote.

And we accomplished all of this with a campaign funded by ordinary people giving only what they can afford.

Yesterday was proof that America is ready for change -- and that you are the force to make that change happen.

But there's still a long way to go before Barack becomes the Democratic nominee. In the next week alone, six more states will hold their primaries and caucuses.

Here are some details about yesterday's historic victory. According to official results and exit polls:

· Barack won 2-to-1 in traditionally conservative states where Democrats are hungry for a nominee who can change the map and help Democrats up and down the ticket win in November


· Our winning coalition included Americans of every race, background, and gender -- including 64% of women in Georgia

· We scored wins in every region of the country -- New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the South, the Midwest, the Rocky Mountain states, and the West

Americans had a clear choice to make yesterday, and they chose Barack Obama.

Thank you,

David

David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America