1/31/10

Times runs electric bike story with no mention of oil industry obstructionism

Just boggles our mind that in 2010 the Times could run a story about electric bikes with no research into, or mention of, the oil industry's decades of opposition to this means of transportation that is a fearsome threat to oil company hegemony.

Times, just what the heck are you doing over there?
An Electric Boost for Bicyclists
By J. DAVID GOODMAN

SHANGHAI — Jiang Ruming, a marketing manager, owns a van, but for many errands, he hops on a futuristic-looking contraption that lets him weave rapidly through Shanghai’s messy traffic. He rides an electric bicycle.

Half a world away, in San Francisco, the president of that city’s board of supervisors, David Chiu, uses an electric bike to get to meetings without sweating through his suit.

And in the Netherlands, Jessy Wijzenbeek-Voet recently rode an electric bicycle on a long trip that, at 71, she would not have been able to make on a standard bike.

Detroit may be introducing electric car designs and China may be pushing forward with a big expansion of its highways and trains. But people like Mr. Jiang, Ms. Wijzenbeek-Voet and Mr. Chiu — as well as delivery workers in New York, postal employees in Germany and commuters from Canada to Japan — are among the millions taking part in a more accidental transportation upheaval...more...

Talmud says Jesus is punished in Hell for eternity in a cauldron of boiling excrement

We've known Peter Schaefer for years but have not read his book.

However after reading this early review we must say that the publication seems to fill a much-needed gap in the literature.
What the Talmud Really Says About Jesus
by David Klinghoffer, Religion BookLine -- 1/31/2007

Will Peter Schaefer's new book, Jesus in the Talmud (Mar.), be controversial? "I'm afraid so," Schaefer told RBL. "That's why I'm nervous."

His editor at Princeton University Press, Brigitta van Rheinberg, laughed but agreed: "You think, oh, whoa, this is not going to go over well in certain circles."

1/30/10

The Three Main Tensions in Our Synagogue

These are the three main tensions that we detect in our synagogue nowadays. They have been there throughout our history.

First is the tension of purpose.

Is the purpose of the synagogue to express and address in prayer the needs of the individual Jew - or - the collective agenda of the Jewish people?

Second is the tension of presence.

Is it more urgent for each Jew in the synagogue to focus in prayer his or her presence on the immediate here and now of their experience - or - to transcend their locus and imagine the realms of the heavens above, the times that have past and the future that is yet to come?

Third is the tension of performance.

Is it more apparent that Jews in the synagogue gather together to artfully carry out with aplomb the services of prayers, psalms and bible readings for each other in the four walls of their buildings - or - that they join as one to proclaim with certainty and celebrity the destiny of the God of the people of Israel to be worshiped with no borders throughout the world?

All three tensions are apparent, articulated and addressed right on the surface in the traditional services of the synagogue.

If you have never noticed, then you have not paid attention to the contents of the Jewish prayers.

Perhaps that's because you've been told that the main tensions in your synagogue are...

...whether or not you may converse with your neighbor, whether or not you voted to raise the dues, whether or not you approve of the rabbi's new contract.

Yep, that could be why you didn't notice.

Troubling News about Jewish Bankers, Israel Peace and antiSemitism in Europe

Henry's 3 links, thank you:

We asked Is Goldman Sachs Jewish? on 11/8/09.

Michael Kinsley now explains, "How to Think About: Jewish Bankers" on the Atlantic Wire, and asks questions like this one, "Because Goldman is thought of as a "Jewish" firm, and because it dominates the financial industry, criticism of Goldman, or of bankers generally, is often accused of being anti-Semitic. Commentators including Rush Limbaugh and Maureen Dowd have been so accused. When, if ever, are such accusations fair?"

We ask then in reply, When if ever is Kinsey going to stop acting as if there is an objective measure of fairness and finally accept that everyone's answer to his query is dependent on their inherent biases and their levels of sensitivity?

Marty Peretz writes mainly about Israel in, "Unsentimental Education: What has Obama learned about peace?" in TNR.

Open Salon warns us that, "European Antisemitism Soars" By GARY BAUMGARTEN (Paltalk News Network), "A report, released on Sunday, shows that antisemitism in Europe has reached the highest level since the Holocaust."

Forward Horror Story: How Senator Joe Lieberman Encouraged Sarah Palin with Rav Soloveitchik's Philosophy


Did you hear us scream? That's what we did when we read, "When Lieberman Taught Palin About Rav Soloveitchik" by Gal Beckerman in the Forward's Bintel Blog.

That break in the silence of our blog writing came when we saw the quote that Gal pulled from the new book Game Change by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.

Ordinarily, we don't believe in ghosts and aren't moved by horror tales. But in this case we could easily imagine our revered teacher not just turning in his grave, but actually jumping out of it when Joe Lieberman told over his philosophy to Sarah Palin.

"Lieberman, you moron, shut up," would be just about what we could hear the Rav's ghost shouting as loud as he could. "Can't you see that Palin is מעשוגע meshugge," the Rav continued in my horror scene as his spirit loomed over Lieberman's, one Joe trying desperately to save the soul of another. "לויף אַוועק" - "Run away," the Rav cries out, in my vision.

"And besides," the Rav chastises Lieberman, "you don't understand one word of my philosophy."

Beckerman observes about the bizarre scene from what we call our imagined film, A Nightmare on Chelm Street:
It involves Palin’s breakdown of sorts, in the days leading up to the vice presidential debate, and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew. John McCain’s campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, had asked Lieberman to visit Palin and buck her up at a moment when her debate prep was going disastrously (For one thing, she kept calling her opponent, “Senator O’Biden” for some inexplicable reason):

The situation was wildly unconventional already: a Democratic senator being imported into a top-secret lockdown to assist a Republican vice-presidential candidate whose mental stability was in question, now Schmidt asked Lieberman to perform another unorthodox intervention.
This is the citation from the Mark Halperin and John Heilemann book (someone misspelled Soloveitchik):
“You’re both very religious,” Schmidt said. “Go in there and pray with her.”

As it happened, Palin had already been prayed for that day. A group of Republican congresswomen had offered their blessings via conference call with her. But Lieberman went back and took a less direct tack, providing Palin with Talmudic wisdom. Invoking the influential Orthodox rabbi Joseph Soleveitchik, he spoke about the covenant of faith, which is the relationship between God and man, and the covenant of destiny, which is what men make of themselves.

“Look,” Lieberman said kindly, “you gotta be saying to yourself, ‘What am I doing here? How did this happen?’ This is your moment to really make it count for something.”

Palin seemed touched. “Joe,” she said. “I can’t figure any other reason I’m here except that I was meant to be here.”
Okay, so after reading that, I knew exactly how people feel when they go the movies and see a horror show that really gives them the creeps. The whole story makes no sense to us. For instance, did Lieberman offer up "Talmudic wisdom" instead of prayer because Palin,  "had already been prayed for that day"? Does Joe think Sarah has a "covenant of destiny"?

Scary, rally scary, because both Palin and Lieberman have power and popularity and both have acted in ways that some see as patently insane,  מעשוגע meshugge. Palin quit her governor's job right in the middle. Lieberman was VP candidate as a democrat, then leaves the party. Nutty stuff. Unstable, idiosyncratic, terrifying.

Yet, some of the comments at the Forward blog are funny, go look. Don't try to "figure" out the "reason." Those jokes were "meant to be" there.

1/28/10

Jewish Prayer Software Review: Kavvanah-Kavanah for Windows

Review of "Kavanah Improvement Project" for Windows from Yosi Fishkin, MD. Free. Download at www.GoDaven.com for Windows and Palm PDAs.


Program Description: Kavanah Improvement Project is the first program that provides a complete system designed to help you improve your Kavanah during davening. The program provides daily Kavanah exercises to help you strengthen your Kavanah, helps you track you Kavanah over time, and, based on your progress, it provides customized suggestions to help you improve your particular Kavanah situation.

How does DUNKIN' DONUTS know everything about us?

A friend of ours drove in to DUNKIN' DONUTS recently to get a cup of coffee on his 60th birthday.

He wondered as he drove out, How do they know everything about us?

Is Synagogue Politics Kosher?

Is synagogue politics kosher? You bet. It goes back to an early era of rabbinic Judaism in the second century.

Here's our proof.

There’s a Talmudic narrative in bavli Berakhot 27b-28a that explains how the patriarch Gamaliel was deposed from his position.

Or, translated into contemporary terms, this passage reports on how a rabbi was humiliated in his shul in front of the board of directors over some ostensible dispute over rituals and his contract was not renewed, the gossip that ensued, how a young replacement rabbi was hustled in, and then how the original rabbi wrangled his way back into his position.
One time a student came before R. Joshua.

He said to him, “Is the evening prayer optional or compulsory?”

Joshua said to him, “Optional.”

He came before R. Gamaliel.

He said to him, “Is the evening prayer optional or compulsory?”

He said to him, “Compulsory.”

He said to him, “Did not R. Joshua say to me, ‘Optional’?”

Gamaliel said to him, “Wait until the shield bearers enter the study house.”

Was J. D. Salinger Jewish?

No, according to Jewish law, the author of the novel, Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger was not a Jew because his mother was not a Jew.

But by general cultural and sociological standards, yes J. D. Salinger was half-Jewish because his father was a Jew. Moreover, Wikipedia reports that, "Salinger's mother changed her name to Miriam and passed as Jewish. Salinger did not find out that his mother was not Jewish until just after his bar mitzvah."

JTA reports, "The author was born in New York in 1919 to an assimilated Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother of Irish descent. Salinger's father, Sol, was the son of a rabbi. He worked as an importer of ham and tried to get his son into the business, according to The New York Times, but the younger Salinger instead became a writer."

After 1946 in New York City, some reports say that Salinger studied Zen Buddhism. In later life he lived as a recluse in New Hamshire. He was eclectic in his religious life, at times a practicing Hindu, and a variety of fads and cults at other times, per Wikipedia,
After abandoning Kriya yoga, Salinger tried Dianetics (the forerunner of Scientology), even meeting its founder L. Ron Hubbard, but according to Claire he was quickly disenchanted with it. This was followed by adherence to a number of spiritual, medical, and nutritional belief systems including Christian Science, homeopathy, acupuncture, macrobiotics, the teachings of Edgar Cayce, fasting, vomiting to remove impurities, megadoses of Vitamin C, urine therapy, "speaking in tongues" (or Charismatic glossolalia), and sitting in a Reichian "orgone box" to accumulate "orgone energy".
Salinger died today at the age of 91.

1/27/10

Was Rashi a Blogger?

New book idea, "Rashi and Blogging" in the spirit of Jonathan Rosen's little book (2000), "The Talmud and the Internet."

If Rashi were alive today, we believe he would publish his commentary as a daily Torah commentary blog.

Smart people make a book relevant through literary translation via the available technology. The theory known as Midrash does that for the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

Here are some of our thoughts on "Biblical Criticism: Midrash and Medieval Commentary" that we composed for the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, recently reprinted.
The text of the Old Testament, known by the acronym Tanakh - i.e., Torah, Nevi`im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings) - for centuries has been subjected to critical scrutiny by Jewish scholars. Rabbinic authorities in late antiquity [called Tannaim and Amoraim] developed some of the best known and most influential forms of traditional interpretive theories of the text of the Bible. The contributions of these scholars has been preserved in numerous volumes of midrash compilations and in the Talmud (the definitive compilation of rabbinic laws, legends and interpretation from the first to sixth centuries).

During the middle ages Jewish scholars developed several types of biblical criticism. These derived from diverse sources: (1) the traditions of conventional rabbinic exegesis; (2) medieval mystical traditions within Judaism; (3) grammatical, syntactical and other critical advances of the middle ages. Many of the commentaries and expositions of that period are eclectic mixtures of these strands of interpretation.
For the rest of this article see here.

1/26/10

Would you torture a stranger on command?

In the famous Milgram experiment 82% of the subjects followed the orders of authorities and administered (fake) electric shocks to strangers as instructed.

A Santa Clara study that repeated the experiment (2008) found that 70% of their volunteers did the same.

We suppose that we should applaud the "improvement" or attribute the differential to the more laid back nature of the Californians recruited for the new study through Craigslist.

Remember however, the Milgram experiment was not meant primarily to be a means of evaluating the moral fiber of our society. It's often discussed in the context of investigating the actions of Eichmann, the Nazis and the Holocaust. But the research in fact was sponsored by the US military to help establish the limits of effective authority in the chain of command and to set guidelines and expectations for field commanders. Accordingly we don't consider the results indicative of whether our evil neighbors will eagerly engage in torture, or indicative of philosophical or moral trends.

Here is a high level account of the new study.
Shocking revelation: Santa Clara University professor mirrors famous torture study
By Lisa M. Krieger

Replicating one of the most controversial behavioral experiments in history, a Santa Clara University psychologist has found that people will follow orders from an authority figure to administer what they believe are painful electric shocks.

Is it okay to breastfeed while praying in a synagogue?

We are just happy that nobody has asked us this question. It is beyond our area of expertise.

The Velveteen Rabbi has a sweet post about fashioning a tallit for use during breastfeeding -- with details about how she devised clip-on tzitzit.

She also links to the Conservative Teshuva by Bradley Artson Shavit that concludes,
Based strictly on our read of halakhah, it is permissible to breastfeed in synagogue; based on our Jewish values, it is a positive value to make nursing mothers welcome in our services.

Many synagogue arks are emblazoned with the words Da lifnei Mi atah omed (Know before Whom you stand.) In Torah study and in prayer, we are in the presence of the One whose salvation is intimated through human nursing: “That you may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that you may drink deeply, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory” (Isaiah 66:11). Jewish institutions, in particular, have an obligation to welcome, facilitate, and support nursing mothers and their babies.
If you are considering breastfeeding in synagogue, to be prudent, we suggest you consult your local rabbi, with the emphasis on local. The answer you get in Teaneck may be different from the one you get in Park Slope.

JTA: Eugene Korn asks us to take responsibility for Reconciliation with the Catholic Church

JTA has published an optimistic Op-Ed about Catholic-Jewish relations by our neighbor Rabbi Eugene Korn, "Taking responsibility for Catholic-Jewish reconciliation."

The essay summarizes the pontiff's recent gaffs and stumbles and concludes that all of those are  forgiven now after the pope's wonderful visit to the Rome synagogue.

Korn is not an objective observer. He is an interfaith professional, he makes his living from such activities. He has a stake in doing exactly what he does in the essay, showing the sharp edges that exist between the faiths and holding up the hope that they can be smoothed over (with his help).

Others (like us) looking at this pope's record will see the same facts and may conclude that the Vatican is in disarray. One day they are promoting ostensibly anti-Jewish actions, and the next day backtracking and kissing up to us.

Whatever the case may be it is to us a source of great dismay to read that we need to take responsibility for "Catholic-Jewish Reconciliation."

Right minded people will want to know why in 2010 we are still working on "reconciliation."

What indeed is wrong with the leaders and the essential teachings of Judaism and Christianity if these two religions cannot yet coexist in harmony with each other?

WP: Rabbi Youlus' Triple Sacrilege Holocaust-Torah-Fraud

The Washington Post exposes an unfortunate misguided fraud. The story does not merit attention based on the amount of money involved. A rabbi sold valid kosher torah scrolls to various congregations and buyers. They received their merchandise. It is doubtful that there was a prosecutable crime committed here or that any of the parties would want to press for such charges.

From the story it is clear that the rabbi mislead good honest religious Jews about the origins of the torah scrolls that he sold to them. He told them the scrolls were rescued by him (dramatically) from mysterious places associated with the Holocaust in Europe. When pressed for evidence to back up his stories, he has none.

1/25/10

Gotcha! 2010 the Anti-Semitism Edition: Tablet's Marc Tracy on Podhoretz, Foxman, Limbaugh, Obama

Gotcha! You Anti-Semite!

In the past we said that Rush Limbaugh and his fellow Right Wingers love to play the game of Gotcha!

What is the game of Gotcha!? It's the game where you get your enemy or opponent on some technicality. Some Gotcha! players love to review ad nauseum how they caught the media lying and misrepresenting the facts. Other Gotcha! players crow about how they caught some liberal in hypocrisy. We decried all of this long ago

Now it seems we have armies of all sorts of politicos sweeping the airwaves and Internet for whiffs of anti-Semitism. Gotcha! back!

1/24/10

Review: Yehuda Bauer's Brilliance Shines Light on the Death of the Shtetl

Yehuda Bauer has written a magnificent book of history -- The Death of the Shtetl -- that tells the tragic story of the eradication of the Shtetl, the small Jewish town in Europe, from off the face of the Earth.

The book is researched and organized brilliantly and written convincingly. We right off do note that Bauer is an Israeli scholar so his English is a bit choppy at times. And he also comes across a bit more opinionated than they typical American scholar (and we assume that's after editors toned down his rhetoric).

Bauer's work provides a definitive and focused closure for us on the topic. We taught for years the romantic idealized European shtetl of Zbrowski and Herzog via Life is With People, and we tolerated the Broadway version of the culture in Fiddler on the Roof. (Bauer leaves no doubt in his work that he has no patience for that representation of the shtetl.)

In his meticulous, vivid and argumentative manner, Bauer tells how the shtetls of the kresy region in Eastern Poland were weakened by the Russians and then eliminated by the Germans. "By the end of 1942, most of the shtetlach in the kresy had been decimated...By early 1943 the shtetlach had been annihilated...(page 67)."

The Met Gets Biblical with Verdi's Stiffelio


We mean by saying that the Met gets biblical, it presents an opera with a Protestant New Testament theme, Stiffelio by Verdi. We saw it last night.

We always enjoy Verdi because his drama is cleanly structured and his music is steady. We can follow it, and yes it keeps us awake. Now the music critic at the Times gave this production a good review, with a bit more sophistication than ours here.

The soprano Sondra Radvanovsky and the tenor José Cura provided pure joy, along with Plácido Domingo, in the pit conducting now, recalling that he originated the tenor role for the Met in 1993.

The production concludes with a dramatic aria from John 8, as good a resolution as any to an Italian opera about love and betrayal.

Who Should Move Out of Engelwood? The Libyans or the Rabbi?

A celebrity rabbi in Engelwood NJ proposed last week that his neighbors from Libya sell him their house and move away.

Committed to Talmudic analysis, we must provide the alternative scenario, one not raised by the rabbi or the Bergen Record, namely that the Rabbi ought to sell the Libyans his house and that he move away.

Not-so-Talmudic commentators on the newspaper sites (NJ.com  and NorthJersey.com) have taken some nasty swipes at the rabbi.

1/23/10

Is Lawrence Summers Jewish?

Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is a Jew.

In 2002 he wrote of himself, "I am Jewish, identified but hardly devout."

Summers is director of Obama's National Economic Council. He may at a later time succeed Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

1/22/10

Editor Robert Leiter Raves over Computer Scientist David Gelernter's New Jewish Philosophy

Truly a rave review for a book of Jewish philosophy from a brilliant scientist. Like most philosophy, this book explores how one Jew can approach one God - we could call this "monojudaism" -- a unitary philosophical construct that exists in a book. In this case the reviewer deems the work distinctive, as no doubt it is.

Approaching the Great Questions ...and tackling them with clarity and precision
Robert Leiter, Literary Editor

As he was writing Judaism: A Way of Being, David Gelernter printed portions of the work as several long essays in Commentary magazine. Reading each new installment, I remember thinking that the completed manuscript would surely be a distinctive piece of work. But little could I have known from these samples alone just how exceptional it would be, unlike anything that's been done since the likes of Abraham Joshua Heschel and Mordecai Kaplan.

The work is not long. Even including its three appendices, it comes in at a little more than 200 pages. Still, it's as inclusive and evocative as works twice or three times its size. It will please those looking for a challenging introduction to the religion, and will challenge those who have read widely in the great books of Judaism.

Gelernter, who is perhaps best known as a professor of computer science at Yale University and the man who was severely injured by one of "the Unibomber's" lethal mailings, makes it clear at the start what Judaism is not: It's not a book about Jewish history, religious practices, teachings or doctrines, though all those things are discussed in the course of the work....more...

1/21/10

Thinking About a Great Hellenistic Jew -- Naomi G. Cohen on Philo Judaeus of Alexandria

H-Net Review: Tzvee Zahavy on Philo Judaeus: His Universe of Discourse: Naomi G. Cohen. Philo Judaeus: His Universe of Discourse. Beitrage zur Erforschung des alten Testaments und des antiken Judentums. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1995. xx + 381 pp. Bibliography and indexes. $57.95 (cloth), ISBN 3-820-41650-1. Published by: H-Judaic (June, 1997).

This book takes its place among the classic scholarly treatments of Philo Judaeus of Alexandria by Belkin, Wolfson and Goodenough. With this work, the author achieves distinction as the leading Jewish Philo scholar of this generation.

Will Cablevision give customers a rebate for not delivering Food Network and HGTV?

UPDATE - it is settled, the channels are back.

Not a big deal but I finally listened to the editorial shpiel broadcast by Cablevision on the channels that are supposed to carry the Food Network and HGTV. I gather the parties are still negotiating.

Meanwhile in good faith, since they are providing less service, we'd like to see a rebate from Cablevision for each month or part thereof that they do not deliver their lineup as promised.

1/20/10

Allow us to introduce you to Dr. Shema, the scribe, one of the six people you meet in the synagogue...

For many years I had seen him in our synagogue. He sat in the same seat about in the middle row of pews. He was quiet and serious, punctual and pensive looking. Sometimes he brought a Hebrew book to read at the periodic pauses in the service (or during the rabbi’s sermon).

But you know how it is in a big community. You see the same familiar people all the time, but somehow you never actually are introduced to them.

Finally I made a resolution. I decided it was time for me to introduce myself to the people that I saw all the time in the synagogue. I wanted at last to know with whom was I praying.

“I don’t think we ever have been formally introduced,” I said. “I am Dr. Zahavy.”

“I am Dr. Shema,” he replied.

“Please to meet you Dr. Shema,” I nodded.

“I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what is it that you do?” I continued, wanting at last to sate my curiosity about this person of the synagogue.

“You could say that I am a scribe,” he said with a wry look on his face as he extended to offer me a handshake.

After all this time, we met. Now I wanted to know more about this person, Dr. Shema, the scribe.

.... read all about the good doctor in our new book ... coming soon...

Menahem Mendel: Links for Learning About Jewish Prayer

We thank Menahem Mendel (a) for mentioning us and (b) for providing links to useful resources about Jewish prayer on the Internet. We reproduce his post:
Online Resources for the Study of Liturgy and Prayer

Here are some online resources for the study of Jewish liturgy and prayer:

1. Tzvee Zahavy’s website has an excellent collections of articles, books, a bibliography, and syllabuses.

2. The Beurei Hatefila Institute offers a very large selection of source sheets and resources for the study of Jewish liturgy.

3. The Prayer in Rabbinic Literature Database is a very powerful tool for finding Tannaitic sources related to prayer. My main complaint is that it only works with Internet Explorer, a not so uncommon characteristic of Israeli web sites. Get with the program, not every uses Internet Explorer!

4. Digitized books from the JNUL. Siddurim, Mahzhorim and other liturgical works can be found here.
Follow MM's fine blog here.

1/19/10

Obscenity of the Year via the Christian Post: Tim Tebow Will Attack Abortion in Superbowl Ad

We wail and lament at a new nadir in the cheapening politicization and commercialization of religion in America.

Now joining the Bud Light Frogs are the holy Christian anti-abortion preachers, led by quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother.

Did someone say Focus on the Family is a "not for profit" tax free religious organization? Then what were they thinking when they signed Tebow on for a $2.8 million 30-second Superbowl  commercial?

This is so utterly obscene. Tebow, a great athlete, has been hijacked by the Christian Right into doing a disgracefully corrupt full frontal attack on abortion rights during America's premiere national sporting event.

Ribbit, ribbit, Jesus hates abortion.
Tim Tebow to Appear in Pro-Family Super Bowl Ad

Just weeks after capping his college football career with a win in the Sugar Bowl, Florida Gators’ star Tim Tebow is set to make an appearance during Super Bowl XLIV.

But it won’t be on the field that sports fans will see him.

It’ll be on television sets across America.

Tebow, 22, will be appearing with his mother in a 30-second commercial that will be watched by some 90 million people next month.

The commercial, produced by Focus on the Family, will present the Tebows’ personal story at a time when "families need to be inspired," according to Focus on the Family president and CEO Jim Daly.

“[T]he Tebows' story is such an important one for our culture to hear,” Daly stated in an announcement.

"They live what we see every day – that the desire for family closeness is written on the hearts of every generation,” he added...more...
[Hat tip to our anonymous friend]

Pravda: Hitler wrote the Jews out of the Bible

There is evidence that Adolf Hitler took religion seriously. When he says he remained a Catholic, we need to take that seriously as well and not cloud the issue by speculatively claiming that he secretly planned to destroy religion. This effort described below which Hitler underwrote contradicts that claim.
Pravda: Hitler rewrote the Bible and added two commandments

An institute, founded on Hitler’s command, rewrote Bible texts, eliminating all mentions of the special role of the Jewish people. According to Hitler’s version, Christ was an advocate of Aryan ideas. Sections from the Nazi Bible will be published by German publication Bild on Thursday.

In May 1939, on the Furher’s command, a theological institute was founded in Eisenach with the purpose of contributing to “dejewification”. Its employees edited biblical texts, removing non-Aryan passages. Dozens of works printed by the institute were published in over 100 thousand copies of the new Holy Scripture. It was assumed that this work would become a standard household book amongst Germans.

For a long time, almost nothing was known about Hitler’s Bible, since believers burnt almost every copy. However, a few copies were discovered in German churches at the end of the 1980s, but this was kept hidden from the general public at the time, writes Izvestia.

German biblical archivist Hansjorg Buss has summarized the dubious achievements of Hitler’s myrmidons for Bild newspaper.

“Germans with the Lord – the German book of faith”: the renewed version of the Holy Scripture contained 12 edited commandments instead of 10, as follows:

1. Honor your Fuhrer and master.
2. Keep the blood pure and your honor holy.
3.Honor God and believe in him wholeheartedly.
4. Seek out the peace of God.
5. Avoid all hypocrisy.
6. Holy is your health and life.
7. Holy is your well-being and honor.
8. Holy is your truth and fidelity.
9. Honor your father and mother -- your children are your aid and your example.
10. Maintain and multiply the heritage of your forefathers.
11. Be ready to help and forgive.
12. Joyously serve the people with work and sacrifice.

In the new edition of the psalms, words of Jewish origin, such as messiah and halleluiah, were altered and the city of Jerusalem was referred to as Eternal City of God. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was presented as resulting from a battle he fought against the Jews.

In the 1940 edition, the following words can be found: “The Evangelical Jesus can only become the savior of our German people, because it does not incarnate the ideas of Judaism, but fights against them mercilessly.”

“The German people fought against the destruction of their life and essence by the Jews”, wrote the director of the institute Walter Grundmann. Hitler personally signed the decree on the appropriation of the awarding of the title of professor to him.

And finally, Jesus’ ancestors, according to the Nazis, came from the Caucuses, therefore there was no way that the savior could have been Jewish.
Original post 10.08.2006

1/17/10

Times: During Bizarre Rome Synagogue Visit Pope Benedict XVI Delivers Strange Remarks

The notion that Jews need or want a Catholic Pope to visit a synagogue is bizarre to us at its core.

The idea that during such a visit the Pontiff would defend the record of the Catholic-Jewish relations during World War II is strange to us in its essence.

The Times' report of such a visit today appears to be factual and unbiased. Yet, we cannot fathom why this event took place and why anyone would deem it newsworthy.

Unless of course it signals what we think. Namely, the Catholic Church is in the midst of collapse.

Surely, the recent child abuse scandals around the world have brought the church to its moral knees. Without question, the blossoming of the State of Israel in its seventh decade has demolished the church's theological claims. Add to that the success of Islam across the world that has been as we see it, a gigantic setback to the Vatican.

But still, how does going to visit the Rome synagogue once in 23 years address or ameliorate any of these failures? And how does defending the failed Pope of WW II raise the stature or credibility of the Vatican in any way?

It is as if there is one sort logic and diplomacy for the rest of the world and another for the Vatican.

Bizarre and strange indeed.

Inspiring Times Obit for a Rockaways Lifeguard who saved drowning orphans

Here is a moving dose of inspiration from the Times.
Mel Cuba Dies at 99; Saved 4 Drowning Orphans in Queens
By DENNIS HEVESI

The winds were whipping toward shore that summer day more than seven decades ago when 105 orphans from the Pride of Judea Home on Dumont Avenue in Brooklyn stepped off buses for what was supposed to be a gleeful romp at the beach in Rockaway, Queens.

It didn’t turn out that way.

And it certainly wasn’t the way that Mel Cuba, a husky 6-foot-tall lifeguard, had planned to mark his 23rd birthday — Aug. 8, 1933.

The tide was coming in and a rather rough surf was running that afternoon, when 40 of the “inmates of the Pride of Judea Home” — as The New York Times then referred to them — waded onto a sandbar, hand in hand and squealing with joy as the breakers rose. Neither they nor their chaperons on shore could have anticipated the huge wave that suddenly swept them away.

Was Pope Pius XII even Pious?

We asked on 12/23/09 if popes should be made into saints at all?

The Times is catching up to us now (after 25 days) with the same question in a column in today's paper from David Gibson, author of a biography of Benedict XVI, who writes on religion at PoliticsDaily.com.

The column, "Pope Quiz: Is Every Pontiff a Saint?" surprises us in that it does not automatically endorse the notion that popes should be saints. Gibson ends,
Hans Küng, the dissident Swiss theologian, recalls an episode during his days as a student in Rome in the 1950s when the private secretary of Pius XII, Father Robert Lieber, visited the seminary. Father Küng and the other young men pestered Father Lieber about whether the aristocratic Pius was a saint: “No, no!” the priest insisted. “Pius XII is not a saint. He is a great man of the church.”

It’s a verdict that makes Pius XII neither villain nor plaster icon, but neither does it answer the question of what a modern pope should be — a leader of the church or a model of sanctity?
And today the present pope is making a controversial visit to a synagogue.

Just for the record, that guy gives us the creeps.

Was Adolf Hitler Jewish?

No, Adolf Hitler was not a Jew.

The leader of the Nazi party in Germany who carried out the murder of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust in Europe was a Catholic.

When he was growing up in Lambach Austria in 1897, Hitler attended a Catholic school located in an 11th-century Benedictine cloister.

Despite understandable efforts by the Vatican to hide the facts, historians have documented that Hitler had ongoing connections to the Catholic Church  (condensed here from Wikipedia):

1/16/10

TNR: Leon Wiseltier Disrespects Philip Roth

The CounterlifeWe've written on occasion in a disrespectful monotonic voice in the past and we regret that now. It was easier and cheaper at times to be angry and sarcastic or to go off just plain negative and deprecating.

It is harder to aspire to be Talmudic. You have to do a long apprenticeship before you can knowingly approach life, love and letters with a voice from the Talmud that combines analysis, energy, alternatives, certainty and skepticism.

Leon Wieseltier has published, "The Explored Recesses" in TNR -- his review of Philip Roth's new book The Humbling. He says lots of intelligent things in the piece, because Leon is a learned man, who wants to sound sage and philosophical, and so he does. He also passes not such humble judgment. His verdict is persistently negative and gently disrespectful.

Leon does not adore this book; he does not like it.
Roth’s tiresome infatuation with virility, with a coarse and nasty masculinity, is once again on offer. The sex in this novel is joyless, witless, loveless. It is conceived as an old man’s retort to death, except that it is already dead. His sex has pre-deceased him.
When we were younger we adored Roth. His characters did and thought and said so many of the things that we could not. Though we did not call it that at the time, to our mind Roth epitomized the archetype of the Talmudic person. His masterpiece, The Counterlife, brought the world to a stop for us. We can still recall the shocks and surprises of every astonishing turn in that narrative. How could a writer be so clever? Where does that content come from?

And so now, Leon the literary editor has reached his dour verdict about this current book.
This is a lonely book. Before the horrors of mortality, and the excruciations of a failing soul, Roth has chosen not to extend himself, or to examine his confidence. Wisdom does not interest him. He is interested mainly in his own powers, his own compulsions. The Humbling is a smug and therefore insolent recitation of surfaces and appearances. It certainly gives no evidence of any humbling: this is exactly how Ivan Ilyich did not die, and was not written. All mastery, no mystery—that is Philip Roth, and a lesser greatness.
We are confused by this verdict. Roth always spoke in a plain voice without mystery. Where did that get him? Pretty far it seems.

In 2006 the Times conducted a little poll of "a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages." The question was, "What Is the Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years?"

The results that came back singled out six Roth novels multiple times. In the article the Times lists about 22 books - six are by Roth: The Plot Against America,The Human Stain, Sabbath's Theater, Operation Shylock, The Counterlife and American Pastoral.

Once, Roth was the plain voice of the formerly sexually repressed and suddenly liberated Jewish male in the prime of his powers. Now Roth is the plain voice of the bewildered every-man of years in a slow spiral of declining energy, who each day understands less about his universe. We see our father, ourselves, our friends in this portrait, no more or less than we did in the previous Roth narratives.

The jury reached a verdict about Philip Roth long ago. He spoke for us when we set forth to conquer the world and mold the universe and he remains the voice of our generation as it descends now back down from its once lofty peaks. And if ever we admit that our generation is no different than any other, Roth will attain immortality as a a chronicler of the timeless human condition.

1/14/10

Bergen Record Calls Our JCC on the Palisades Pool Quirky

Gee whiz. Do they have to editorialize about everything in the Bergen Record?

On the sports page, in an article about the Tenafly High School swim team, the paper proffers opinions about the character of the swimming pool that we do our laps in every day.

They happen to be right in everything that they say about the pool, especially the "quirks."

Anyhow, we can't figure out why a neighborhood so wealthy has no High School swimming pool and needs to use the JCC facility at off-hours. Neither can the sports writer at the local paper.
Sunday swim
BY DARREN COOPER
TENAFLY — Visitors to the JCC of the Palisades are directed to follow the yellow footsteps to the swimming pool.

The footsteps take one past the basketball courts, down hallways with shops on either side and past smiling pictures of the JCC hierarchy. Twisting and turning, swimmers and their fans finally arrive at one of the most unique venues for a high school sporting event, at an even more unique time.

It is 7 o’clock on a Sunday night at the JCC. The place is empty except for dance classes in the ballroom. In the pool, it’s a Tenafly home swim meet.

"For us, swimming at night, swimming at all hours of the day is what we are used to," said Tenafly senior John Bendes. "This is actually the earliest we come."

Tenafly, like many other North Jersey swimming programs, struggles to find pool time. Bendes is correct when he says Sunday at 7 is early; the team usually practices from 9-10:30 p.m.

"We just roll with it," said Marilyn Brown, the mother of Tenafly freshman Jessie Brown. "I think you have to give kudos to the team, who makes an extra special effort to get here and then get home at 11 p.m. and sometimes do homework."

The facility has a few quirks. The locker rooms are being renovated, so teams have to change in shifts in the family room. It’s generally either too hot or too cold in the pool. (On this Sunday night despite the chill outside, all of the ceiling fans were on.) There are no touch pads, and no shoes allowed on the deck.

1/13/10

Jewish Week: Why Not Write Your Own Siddur? Tzvee: Been There, Done That

Write your own Siddur? Been there and done that!

Just how do you think the Siddur came to be? Just what do you think is in the standard Jewish prayer book?

We find embedded in it the individual custom prayer books of at least six different people, six kinds to Jews, six classic archetypes of personality and individuality.

Diversity and customization is already there on the surface and all you need to do is look for it.

So many years, generations, have gone by without a single compelling discourse on the structure and meaning of the Siddur, the Jewish prayer book, not one book that has brought the compilation of Jewish worship alive as the paradigmatic genetic container of the multiple facets of Jewish religious identity.

So of course, it makes sense that Jews would now be lining up to write their own Siddurs. They don't know what is in the one they already have.

It's a great tragedy. One we are working to address by writing about the deep archetypal meanings and messages encoded in our canonical prayers.

Everyone else is lining up to rewrite the liturgy -- because it has failed them.

No, we say stop. You have failed to see that the Siddur has grandeur and depth and magnificence, and yes, many dimensions of personality.

It is not one humble Jew talking to one majestic God.

It is many voices and angles of numerous Jewish personality  archetypes speaking to a single but complex and composite present deity.

It is already a custom prayer book - been there and done that!

Stay tuned -- we have some more to say about it.

Jewish Week summarizes the current rush to replace the synagogue liturgy.

Haaretz: Jordan asks Canada to Seize the Dead Sea Scrolls

Yes, there is something strange about those Dead Sea Scrolls.

Now they are part of a weird diplomatic move by the Jordanians, who want them back.

It is true that Israel obtained most of them as part of the East Jerusalem booty of the Six Day War. And as such, there is a good case to be made that they ought to return them to Jordan.

But then we wonder, why in the world would Jordan want them?
Jordan demands return of Dead Sea Scrolls 'seized' by Israel
By Haaretz Service

Jordan has asked the UN to force Israel to hand over Dead Sea Scrolls, which it says Israel stole.

Jordan has asked the United Nations to force Israel to hand over a significant portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of some 900 ancient religious texts unearthed in the 1940s and 1950s, Army Radio reported on Wednesday.

The Jordanian government has also asked the Canadian government to impound the 2,000-year-old documents, currently on display at a museum in Toronto, according to reports in the Canadian press.

Jordan cited international law to request that Canada take possession of the documents until the dispute is resolved.

Jordan has accused Israel of seizing the scrolls from a museum in east Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War.

Jordan's claim to the scrolls, which academics believe were compiled about 2,000 years ago by the Essenes, an obscure Jewish sect, may discourage other countries from hosting the exhibit.

National Union MK Aryeh Eldad on Wednesday said that Jordan has no right to demand the return of the scrolls, Army Radio reported.

Times: Is the Superbowl Kosher?

This year the Superbowl will be kosher, according to a long article in the Times, "For Some, ‘Kosher’ Equals Pure."

"Certainly, faith will prompt some of the fans at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., to line up at one of two carts selling grilled salami sliders and garlicky knoblewurst. But for others, the appeal of a kosher hot dog will have nothing to do with religion."

The main idea of the report is that kosher has transcended the Jewish community. The news is that all kinds of Goyim eat kosher.

Of course, you cannot discuss kosher in America without mentioning Brooklyn or invoking Teaneck and its residents.

The first reference to Teaneck comes in discussing why people eat kosher foods,
Some shoppers who were not raised in kosher families use the label as a stand-in for other signifiers. “I prefer to buy local and organic, but when I get to the market late and they have sold out of the chicken, I end up buying kosher because I feel it is the second-best thing,” said Myra Kohn, a food blogger in Seattle who goes by the digital pen name Seattle Bon Vivant.

For some shoppers, kosher means purity of ingredients. Vegetarians know a parve label means absolutely no meat or dairy products. (Vegans, though, are out of luck. Parve food can contain eggs and honey.)

Families with food allergies like the increased availability of kosher products for a similar reason. Bryan Adams is an entertainment publicist from Teaneck, N.J., whose son had terrible skin problems when he was born. A holistic medical adviser suggested the family cut out a number of foods, including soy and gluten. The child’s skin cleared, and Mr. Adams discovered his own gluten intolerance.

Now, the family stocks the kitchen with certain brands of kosher mayonnaise and margarine that aren’t made with ingredients that trigger outbreaks.

Nosheen Nazakat, a Muslim from Pakistan, often buys kosher when she cannot find halal food. She is also a discerning cook who is happy to browse the aisles at Pomegranate, a 20,000-square-foot store in Midwood, Brooklyn, whose fans call it the kosher Whole Foods.
At the end of the piece our expert but skeptical neighbor Elie gets cited (without the Teaneck signifier attached),
Not every expert on the Jewish market buys the reasons behind the growth of kosher food. Elie Rosenfeld is the chief operating officer of the New York firm Joseph Jacobs Advertising, which helped introduce Rebecca Rubin, the first Jewish doll in the American Girl line.

He doesn’t disagree that kosher food is growing more popular, especially among higher-end cooks and chefs. But he doesn’t think it is a mass movement and believes food companies continue to expand their kosher lines to serve the Jewish community, not to capture the nonkosher consumer.

“It’s an unexpected side benefit to a certain extent, but the volume is there for people who keep kosher,” he said.

AP: Chinese Hack Google and Provoke an International Crisis

AP reports that Chinese, "computer hackers had tricked human-rights activists into exposing their e-mail accounts to outsiders."

Despite the reports, we believe there is no chance that Google now will pull out of China.

We predict that their motto, Don't be evil, will turn out to be reflexive, not prescriptive.

1/12/10

Ari Goldman Disrespects Mitch Albom

Who would not want to run right over and read an awful, disrespectful review in an equally awful, disrespectful journal?

Well okay then, here is the link to Tuesdays With Morbid by Ari Goldman, or as the Worst Things Magazine cover touts it, "Mitch Albom is an Idiot."

The jury is already in with the verdict on Mitch Albom's runaway best-seller, Have a Little Faith.

The reviewers love it, the public loves it. We love the book and have explained why. It's an encapsulation of the archetype of the community organizer, the backbone of our organized religions. Albom did not set out to accomplish this, but he intuitively knew how to tell the stories and good Lord, he pulled it off!

Sour grapes Ari? Cause otherwise, we just don't see what motivates your venomous review of this moving and inspirational modern fable.

Times' David Brooks on Evolution and the Survival of the Fittest Jews

An op-ed in the Times, "The Tel Aviv Cluster," By DAVID BROOKS is a glowing love letter to Jews and Israelis - so what Jew or Israeli could criticize it? Wait. You will see the Times fill with letters. Jews is News.

"No single explanation can account for the record of Jewish achievement." We agree. That does not mean you shouldn't try. So we are writing a new book about how Jewish religious culture contains some of the DNA that makes Jews the special folk that they are.

We also are reading Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth, and cannot resist the temptation to make evolutionary speculations about our people. Like this rumination Brooks doesn't mention, but we make.

We Jews were faced with serious predators over the centuries. Via cultural and historic natural selection, we developed the smarts to elude them and then we embedded our fittest genes back into our national DNA. Brooks doesn't go this way.

We are not big Brooks fans because he is so simplistic and predictable. And yes he is the Grinch who ruined Hanukkah this year. But again, how could you not like a column with all these glowing details about your people?
Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates.

Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies, 26 percent of the Kennedy Center honorees, 37 percent of the Academy Award-winning directors, 38 percent of those on a recent Business Week list of leading philanthropists, 51 percent of the Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction.

1/11/10

JPost: How Rabbi Haviva Ner-David has bounced back after Merkin-Madoff Losses

Rabbi Haviva Ner-David writes in the JPost about how she and her family have bounced back after Merkin-Madoff scandal losses and other adversity.

This woman comes across as the kind of articulate and dedicated model that we need to cultivate in the ranks of Jewish professional life in Israel and beyond.

Her story is plainly told and highly inspirational:
It was around this time last year that my husband, Jacob, and I heard that we had lost a significant chunk of our liquidity to Bernie Madoff. Our money was invested with Ezra Merkin in his fund, which we understood to be a conservative fund. With six kids and both of us in independent professions, it seemed like a good idea to put our savings with him, since we would earn more than if it was in the bank, but would still not be taking any big risks with ourmoney. Our assumption was that he was acting ethically and doing what he told his clients he was doing - investing in a variety of safe investments. In reality, he was giving all of the money in his fund to Madoff. ...more...

Cat Fight! Halkin's Indecent Review of Sand's Book in The New Republic

Hillel Halkin is an angry man.

He has written an indecent review of Shlomo Sand's book The Invention of the Jewish People, which he titled, Indecent Proposal, in The New Republic.

We didn't like Sand's book either. And really it's not so surprising that an obnoxious book gives rise to an obnoxious review in return.

Halkin begins by opining that Invention is, "...a book so intellectually shoddy that once, not very long ago, it would have been flunked as an undergraduate thesis by any self-respecting professor of history." And he concludes his lengthy essay with the assessment that aside from Sands' call for a liberalization of conversion, the materials in the volume constitute, "an otherwise deplorable book."

Given that our current book project asserts that Jewish liturgy contains the secret sauce that defines Jewish identity, we love it when Halkin, backed up against the wall, pressed to prove the Jewish people existed, resorts to invoking of all things JEWISH PRAYER as the proof of his position, along with Jewish food and the Jewish tribal ban on intermarriage. As Halkin says it charmingly,

...Besides attending practically identical synagogue services on Saturday morning (and even all week long) and then making the same blessings and singing more or less the same hymns around the Sabbath table, a nineteenth-century Polish and Moroccan Jew also ate a very similar long-simmering stew--called cholent in Poland and dafina in Morocco--whose method of preparation was dictated by the same ritual laws. And though few Frenchmen were so attached to being French that they would have forbidden a son or daughter to marry an otherwise eligible and attractive foreigner, Jews everywhere broke off all relations with children who married non-Jews. To say that Jewish national identity was rooted in religion is not to say that it was merely religious....
Anyhow, sure, both men represent with vigor the two diametrically opposing sides of Zionist political philosophy.

But when they have to stoop so low to make their cases, they lose me.

Regarding this battle between the author and the reviewer, I feel like someone shouted out, "Cat fight, ssssss." And now that the crowd has gathered to witness the clawing scholars go at it, I'm going home. It's not my preferred form of entertainment... today anyway.

1/10/10

Times' "Vows" Writes up a Touching Orthodox Jewish Wedding with Slide Show online

Vows: Batsheva From and Michael Altman
By MARCELLE S. FISCHLER
GREAT NECK, N.Y., DEC. 30 The couple married before nearly 400 family members and friends at the Great Neck Synagogue.

GREAT NECK, N.Y., DEC. 30 The couple married before nearly 400 family members and friends at the Great Neck Synagogue.

Last September, Mr. Altman handed Ms. From an iPod Touch for her birthday. Engraved on the back was: “I love you. Will you marry me PLEASE?” At that, he dropped to one knee and pulled a ring from his pocket...more...

Huh? Times' Sarah Kershaw says of Terrorism, "It's not just about religion"

Today the Times' Sarah Kershaw informed us about research into terrorism that has revealed that, "It's not just about religion."

Wow, the pendulum swings fast these days. When we taught courses on religion and terrorism just a few years ago at FDU, it was a fresh new idea that religion was one of the prime informative factors in terrorist ideologies. We spent a lot of time and effort to show how religion fit into the mix of motivations and justifications of terrorist activity.

Nobody was saying five years ago that it was, "just about religion." So either times have changed -- or the Times has relaxed the editorial review of is feature articles. We think the latter. The article summarizes recent research -- leaving out the whole subject of religion with the exception of this one muddled example, an apologetic that appears to diminish the factor of religion in Islamic terrorism:
...The Koran prohibits suicide, religious scholars say. But some Muslim groups insist that by classifying the bombers as martyrs, their self-destruction becomes permissible because it is a form of self-sacrifice, and because it is honorable to die in battle against infidels. Much new research also ascribes the phenomenon to other motives that are more personal or temporal, including a desire for honor, dedication to a leader, vengeance, peer pressure (first identified as a motivation among the Japanese Kamikaze fighter pilots), and the material support that a terrorist group promises to extend to a martyr’s family after his death...
Here as a corrective to the skewed Times article is our linked guide to our thirteen substantial blog posts of study resources in the analysis of the connections between terrorism and religion.
  1. Questions about American Christian Terrorism
  2. Marginality, sexual despair, political powerlessness, masculinity and terrorism
  3. Religion and Jewish Terrorists
  4. What is a Religious Culture of Violence and Terror?
  5. Who were Shoko Asahara and the Buddhist Aum Shinrikyo Religious Terrorists?
  6. How did Religion Motivate Sikh Terrorists?
  7. What is the Logic of the Theater of Religious Terror?
  8. Why Do Religious Terrorist Martyrs say that they aim to kill the demons?
  9. What do Sexuality and Humiliation have to do with Terrorism?
  10. Will the War Against Religious Terrorism Ever End?
  11. From Kahane to Osama: How Do Men Make Religious Terrorism Into Cosmic War?
  12. How can we end religious terrorism and achieve the peace of God?
  13. Concluding Questions on Religion and Terrorism

Bergen Record: Professor Manfred Weidhorn Responds to Mr. Dinesh D'Souza's Sermon

The Record tried to pull a fast one on us on 1/1/10 when it published an opinion by Dinesh D'Souza preaching Christian doctrines in the guise of proven scientific facts. We wrote an opinion about that on the same day.

Our college English professor, Manfred Weidhorn, wrote a laser sharp response that was published in the letters today in the Record:
Dinesh D'Souza says that without life after death we are doomed, but with life after death we can serenely enjoy purpose in our lives.

Not so fast.

We get a sense of identity from the infinite number of choices we make — Republican or Democrat, steak or pork, chocolate or vanilla, Yankees or Mets. Does anyone think that these earthly preoccupations will still concern us in heaven? Of course not. So there goes our identity and continuity.

We are rather likely, so religion tells us, to merge with that ocean called God, which means we become egoless, something very different from what we are now.

The bottom line is, therefore, that even if you are a believer, death means the end of life as you know it — no less than it does for the atheist.

Manfred Weidhorn
Fair Lawn, Jan. 1
The letter was published together with three others, two that had a point and one that did not a make a whit of sense.

Revisit: Sandy Weill to give $1.4bn in 'Deal with God'

Original article published in 2006 in the Times Online:
Weill to give $1.4bn in 'deal with God'

SANDY WEILL, the former high-flying Citigroup chairman who was renowned for his love of private jets, has pledged to give away his estimated $1.4 billion ... personal fortune as part of a “deal with God”.

The 73-year-old, who rose from humble origins in Brooklyn to become one of the most successful executives of his era, says that he will spend his retirement disposing of his fortune to charity.

In an interview with Citigroup Pursuits, a magazine for the American bank’s private clients, he said: “Hopefully we’ll be as smart in how we give our money away as we turned out to be smart in making it.”

On the decision to give his fortune away, he said: “That’s the deal I’ve made with God. I hope that he gives us the time.”

He added that his autobiography would emphasise philanthropy as much as business and quoted his wife, Joanie, as saying: “Shrouds don’t have pockets.”...
Two points.

The article does not go back to delve into Weill's numerous earlier "deals with the devil" that enabled him to amass his mammoth wealth.

Weill isn't focusing on Jewish philanthropy. God may not like that deal idea. Sandy should know better by now how to hedge his deals.

Is Sandy Weill Jewish?

Yes, Sanford I. "Sandy" Weill, American banker and former chief executive officer and chairman of Citigroup Inc., is a Jew.

He was born in Bensonhurst Brooklyn in 1933 to Polish-Jewish immigrant parents.

The Times' Frank Rich does not respect Mr. Weill. Rich uses Weill as an example in his op-ed, "The Other Plot to Wreck America."
...Even after all the country has gone through, the titans who fueled the bubble are heedless. In last Sunday’s Times, Sandy Weill, the former chief executive who built Citigroup (and recruited Rubin to its ranks), gave a remarkable interview to Katrina Brooker blaming his own hand-picked successor, Charles Prince, for his bank’s implosion. Weill said he preferred to be remembered for his philanthropy. Good luck with that.

Among his causes is Carnegie Hall, where he is chairman of the board. To see how far American capitalism has fallen, contrast Weill with the giant who built Carnegie Hall. Not only is Andrew Carnegie remembered for far more epic and generous philanthropy than Weill’s — some 1,600 public libraries, just for starters — but also for creating a steel empire that actually helped build America’s industrial infrastructure in the late 19th century. At Citi, Weill built little more than a bloated gambling casino. As Paul Volcker, the regrettably powerless chairman of Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, said recently, there is not “one shred of neutral evidence” that any financial innovation of the past 20 years has led to economic growth. Citi, that “innovative” banking supermarket, destroyed far more wealth than Weill can or will ever give away...more...

1/9/10

Can you exorcise a dybbuk over the Internet via Skype?

Yes, sure you can exorcise a dybbuk via Skype.Why not?

It is dangerous to attempt this because a dybbuk can travel over the Internet and enter the body of the exorcist.;>)

Rav Batzri apparently had a bad connection or a version of Skype that was not dybbuk-enabled. His remote exorcism failed (video).

He tried again locally to exorcise this dybbuk in Jerusalem (video) . He fears for his life.

Other rabbis are disavowing this whole process.

Welcome to the carnival known as Haredi Judaism in 2010.