10/31/10

BDH: Yeshiva U. Professor Brian Daves says the Jewish Vote "Doesn't matter"

Talk about bewildering enigmas. Here is a report from the Brown Daily Herald that Yeshiva U. Professor Brian Daves says the Jewish Vote "Doesn't matter" in deciding presidential elections (Political scientist: Jewish vote not crucial By Katherine Sola).

Next thing you know, he'll be claiming that Jews don't control the press or the economy. Sheesh!
The Jewish vote "doesn't seem to matter" in determining the outcome of U.S. presidential elections, political scientist Bryan Daves argued Thursday evening. The Yeshiva University professor presented his study of election data to about 15 students and faculty at the Watson Institute for International Studies.

In a talk heavy on numbers and graphs, Daves framed his theories against those presented by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their 2006 work "The Israel Lobby." Mearsheimer and Walt argued that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, is able to affect U.S. presidential elections and policymaking.

In response, Daves said his research shows that, despite the high concentration of Jewish voters in crucial swing states, the Jewish vote does not impact presidential elections or policymaking decisions...more...

HuffPost: Rabbi Laura Geller's Rosh Hashanah Temple Twitter

Here is a rabbi who gets it. Twitter and Facebook are there for the taking. For religion and philosophy, if that is what you want to do. Sure we don't expect all shuls and rabbis to embrace these systems in the sanctuary on a holiday. It was a mini-dramatic idea and we say the rabbi made her point. Rabbi Laura Geller tells us about her sermon.
...Sometimes we take risks, do something that might even be slightly transgressive. Consider for example these recent High Holy Days in our congregation, Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, a large, almost 75-year-old Reform congregation in the middle of Beverly Hills. The opening words of my Rosh Hashana sermon, as I took my cell phone out of the pocket of my white robe, were: "Please do not turn off your cell phone."

There was stunned silence, then nervous laughter. "Yes, you heard me. Please do not turn off your cell phones. In fact, please take them out now. And if you have a Facebook or Twitter account, please log on."

The theme of all of our High Holy Day messages related to the existential question posed by God to the prophet Elijah in the Book of Judges: "What are you doing here?" "What are you doing here," we asked our congregants. "What are you doing here in the synagogue and here at this very moment in your life?"

So I gave the congregation an assignment right there in synagogue: "Please post your answer to the question 'What are you doing here?' in 140 characters or less."

In 140 characters. Characters, not words.

Many of them did, and the answers, because they were so short perhaps, were especially moving....more...

10/30/10

Rethinking Jewish Civility at the Forward

Over at the Forward, a weekly New York Jewish newspaper that we read sporadically online, one writer named Jay Michaelson, about whom we know very little, has opted to abandon the restraints of civility and to hurl unsubstantiated and unexplained and unprovoked insults at large numbers of committed synagogue-attending Jews and at the rabbis, cantors and other leaders who serve them.

Now sure, Jay has a freedom of speech right to insult whomever he wishes. And the Forward has a freedom of the press right to publish whatever slights that it sees fit.

But rights does not equate with propriety.

The offending op-ed is called, "Rethinking Egalitarianism: Are We Leveling the Playing Field Too Low?"

We found the whole essay offensive and insulting. It offends all those who have striven for egalitarian rights within Judaism and the synagogue. It insults so many sincere Jews who dedicate their lives to making and maintaining synagogues.

By the way, it turns out that the essay is not much about egalitarianism. It's about how little the author and his friends like attending certain synagogues. So we might argue that this opinion piece is a bizarre variation on the practice of Jews berating or hating themselves in public.

Here are a few of Michaelson's most awful expressions and phrases that jumped out at us, things that ought not be said in any polite community discussion of synagogues.
  • (He starts off with a story about a community in the South with) ...a “lame” Conservative synagogue, a “dead” Reform synagogue.
  • (He goes on to observe:) The only thing egalitarian about the more liberal settings was that everyone was equally bored.
  • (He makes this general claim:)...if the family stays together in synagogue, often no one prays at all.
  • (He says about)...responsive readings ... (they) suck the wind — the ruach — right out of the service. They kill momentum, and because they tend to be laden with theological talk that almost no one believes, they tend to alienate.
  • (He decries)...intoning deeply problematic theological statements in unison with a largely lethargic “audience”?
  • (He asks quasi-rhetorically:) Is it really more inclusive to be patronized by a service aimed at the lowest common denominator?
  • (He pontificates cleverly:) "...egalitarianism should not mean that everyone is equally infantilized."
You do need to read the whole screed to appreciate how it purports to discuss a deeply divisive contemporary issue of liturgical synagogue reform, but under the surface the essay just reeks of an even more divisive triumphal Orthodox-like nastiness.

Bottom line: It does not matter who is Jay Michaelson, who is his "Jewish academic from New York" friend, or what they like or dislike in synagogues that they attend in the North or in the South, in the East or in the West.

No amount of obfuscation can hide that it is 2010 and that all flavors of synagogues need to be 100% egalitarian in every single aspect of their practice.

10/27/10

Was Abbie Hoffman Jewish and the first to say, "Sacred Cows Make the Tastiest Hamburgers"?

Was Abbie Hoffman the first to say, "Sacred Cows Make the Tastiest Hamburgers"?

Probably not. Some quotations repositories attribute the saying to Mark Twain. Discussions of that attribution point out that the terms "hamburger" and "sacred cow" were not current during Twain's lifetime. Other sources trace the quip back to 1971.

The Times reports that at Hoffman's death in 1989 his rabbi said that "sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger" was one of Hoffman's favorite sayings. Yes, Abbie Hoffman was a Jew....
On a more traditional note, Rabbi Norman Mendell said in his eulogy that Mr. Hoffman's long history of protest, antic though much of it had been, was ''in the Jewish prophetic tradition, which is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.''

But the Rabbi also quoted one of Mr. Hoffman's favorite sayings: ''Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger.''
Why do we bring this up, you ask?

Because we want to go on the record as having been the first to say that, "Kosher sacred cows make the tastiest beefburgers."

And in case you haven't noticed, we do gore or slaughter some kosher sacred cows on this blog. Mmm, gishmak. / repost from 7/27/09 /

My Non-Spiritual Beginnings

I guess I just am not that much into myself, he said half-seriously. I pontificate quite frequently here but hardly ever wax autobiographical.

To compensate a bit for that, here is a short selection about my "Non-Spiritual Beginnings" extracted from a draft of my next book...


I was born Jewish and grew up in an Orthodox family, but not an entirely stereotypical one. My mother grew up as an American-born Reform Jew in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan. She went to New York City public schools and then to Hunter College. My father grew up in an American-Orthodox family. Both of his parents were born in the US. He too went to New York City public schools, then to a yeshiva for high school and to Yeshiva University for college and for his rabbinic ordination.

10/25/10

Did the United Arab Emirates Kill Swimmer Fran Crippen?

It's wrong to conduct a competitive swimming event in water that is too hot to be safe.

We swim every day. We know that hot water -- above 83 degrees -- is uncomfortable for lap swimming. Water near 90 degrees is unsafe for a swim race. Period. Everyone knows that.

So why conduct a race in such dangerous conditions? It's unprofessional, unsafe, and unfortunately, in this case, it was lethal.
Swimming in warm water can take deadly toll on body
By Madison Park and Ashley Fantz, CNN

(CNN) -- Competing outdoors in almost 90-degree water is like racing inside a hot tub, swim experts said Monday.

Merely sitting in a tub saps energy, said extreme swimmer Diana Nyad. "When you get out, you're feeling light-headed and very thirsty. ... Imagine now, you're going to crank your entire body, and swimming uses the entire body."

U.S. swimmer Fran Crippen died during a 10-kilometer marathon Saturday in the United Arab Emirates. Several of the athletes complained about the water temperature...more...
So we ask, Did the United Arab Emirates Kill Swimmer Fran Crippen? Should they have canceled the race due to the unsafe heat?

Yes, they should have.

Update -- Newsy Video

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com

10/24/10

CNET: Most Expensive Internet Domain Sex.Com Sells for $13 Million

The age old question, What is an Internet domain worth? And the answer as ususal, Whatever people will pay for it.

We sold a few of our domains last week for much less than $13 million.

CNET reports on the auction of the most expensive domain on the Internet.
Sex.com sells
by Lance Whitney

Sex.com sells--for $13 million, that is.

Placed on the auction block in July, the potentially valuable domain name has been scooped up by Clover Holdings from Escom for a cool $13 million. Escom put Sex.com up for sale after declaring bankruptcy earlier this year.

Though it swooped in with the winning bid, Clover can't officially claim ownership until the sale is approved by the bankruptcy court overseeing Escom. This is expected to happen on Wednesday. Not much is known about Sex.com's new owner. BBC News describes it as an obscure company registered on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.

10/23/10

Times: Review of the "Please Don't Blow Us Up" Exhibit at the New York Public Library

When you throw together for exhibit a random assortment of diverse religious artifacts from three distinct religions over several millenia, people will wonder, Why? What's the point?

Edward Rothstein writes a comprehensive and sensitive review, to describe and explain the exhibit, "Abraham’s Progeny, and Their Texts" saying, "The sweep of the new exhibition at the New York Public Library — 'Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam' — is stunning. It stretches from a Bible found in a monastery in coastal Brittany that was sacked by the Vikings in the year 917, to a 1904 lithograph showing the original Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue. It encompasses both an elaborately decorated book of 20th-century Coptic Christian readings and a modest 19th-century printing of the Gospels in the African language Grebo. There are Korans, with pages that shimmer with gold leaf and elegant calligraphy, and a 13th-century Pentateuch from Jerusalem, written in script used by Samaritans who traced their origins to the ancient Northern Kingdom of Israel..."

The Times' reviewer explains the rationale behind a new exhibit at the New York Public Library as follows:
These exhibitions have a distinctive post-9/11 cast. One reaction to Islamist terror attacks has been a self-conscious ecumenism; one of the main sponsors of “Three Faiths,” for example, is the Coexist Foundation, whose aim is “to promote better understanding between Jews, Christians and Muslims.”

The focus on similarities among the three religions is partly meant to disconnect terrorism from the mainstream Islamic tradition. In the British catalog, Karen Armstrong, who has written widely about the Abrahamic religions, minimizes the scale of Islamist violence by suggesting that each religion has its dangerous extremists, but more important, she argues, is that the faiths share a devotion to the ideal of transcendence through holy texts. The British exhibition even had the subtitle “Discover What We Share.” And in New York, too, the emphasis throughout is on commonality. At this historical moment, this is meant to defend Islam against anticipated accusations. Thus: out of three distinct monotheisms, one humanist perspective.

This argument deserves more analysis, but in any case, the resemblances are considerable...more...
We think this exhibit sounds just wonderful, but has been misnamed.

It should be called the, "We are all Alike, so Please Don't Blow Us Up" Exhibit.

10/21/10

Rabbi Soloveitchik DVD, "The Lonely Man of Faith" Review and Memoir

Home version of the DVD on sale here.

Review/Memoir by Tzvee of the film, The Lonely Man of Faith, by Ethan Isenberg

The inspiring film, "Lonely Man of Faith," is an homage to and biography of my revered teacher Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, known respectfully as the Rav.

I am hardly a neutral reviewer. I studied for four years in the Rav's shiur (Talmudic seminar) from 1969 to 1973 and I got to know him well outside of the classroom. I was not a full-fledged "shamash" of the Rav (a student personal assistant). But because I was a generous fellow and drove a nice Lincoln Continental, the Rav frequently asked me to drive him on Thursdays to the Boston shuttle at La Guardia Airport, sometimes with stops on the way. One such stop one day was to visit a cemetery, after which we were involved in an auto accident – a car rear ended my Lincoln. The Rav wore a neck brace for a few days after that and I was not at all happy.

On another occasion we stopped at the Fifth Avenue apartment of a wealthy stockbroker, Mr. Gruss, to pick up a five figure check for the Maimonides School. Other times in the car we discussed the shiurim (seminars) of the week, I asked a variety of shailos (religious questions) and the Rav would ask me about various and sundry topics.

10/19/10

Not Too Big to Fail: God Files for Bankruptcy

Even God is not too big to fail. One of his major churches has filed for bankruptcy.
Crystal Cathedral megachurch files for bankruptcy
By AMY TAXIN, Associated Press Writer

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. – Crystal Cathedral, the megachurch birthplace of the televangelist show "Hour of Power," filed for bankruptcy Monday in Southern California after struggling to emerge from debt that exceeds $43 million.

In addition to a $36 million mortgage, the Orange County-based church owes $7.5 million to several hundred vendors for services ranging from advertising to the use of live animals in Easter and Christmas services.

The church had been negotiating a repayment plan with vendors, but several filed lawsuits seeking quicker payment, which prompted a coalition formed by creditors to fall apart.

10/17/10

The Confused Sexuality Policies of Orthodox Jews

The Jewish Standard in Teaneck has been embroiled in a vocal and public debate and dispute over the announcement of a gay wedding. The editor and publisher appear to the public to be confused and vacillating over the matter after a "firestorm" of criticism from Orthodox rabbis. It's not their fault. It's the fault of the Orthodox rabbis who appointed themselves guardians of public policies on sexuality in the Jewish community and then could not articulate a viable, logical policy. That could confuse anyone, and it does.

Just to illustrate how mixed up the self-crowned spokesmen are, the statement was repeated over and over that the announcement of a gay wedding "caused pain and consternation" in their Orthodox communities. What? Note that the actual wedding and the underlying issue it illustrates is not what troubled the "deep sensitivities within the traditional/ Orthodox community." It was the announcement in a local paper. Confused? We sure are and so were Jamie Janoff and Rebecca Boroson at the Jewish Standard. But it was not their fault.

The Orthodox community is profoundly mixed up about sex.

Yehuda Mirsky wrote a column in JPost that demonstrates some of the confusion among Orthodox Jews over public policies that relate to sexuality. He speaks about the two main policies that contribute to Orthodox confusion over sexuality, namely, segregation of the sexes and rules of modesty (called tzniut in Hebrew). He asks, "Where is the ‘tzniut’?" and opines, "True modesty should not attempt to erase women, whether in the recesses of Mea She’arim, or through their objectification in the aggressive world of advertising."

The author decries the segregation of sidewalks in Orthodox areas of Jerusalem (now illegal according to the courts) and he rails against secular society too:
...YET THERE can be no denying that it is tied to a corresponding extremism in secular society. The objectification of women in extreme haredi practices is more than matched by the objectification of women to which we are subjected day and night by the colossal apparatus of marketing and advertising. And that apparatus is taking over the public sphere in its own way, with massive billboards and inescapable ads which forcibly revamp the public sphere no less than do the mehitzot of Mea She’arim....
Confused? You should be. Forcing your women to walk on another sidewalk or to sit in the back of the bus is not the analogous in any way to putting up a billboard, no matter how much you deem that act to be tasteless.

Back to the trouble in Teaneck. I'm thinking, maybe the Orthodox are feeling their own confusion when they rant in public about a gay wedding announcement. After all, when you send boys to same-sex yeshivas and when you seat men and boys together and every day have them drape themselves in shawls for prayer; and when you hide women from view and have them neutralize their sexuality with long and loose clothing... maybe you are encouraging same sex attractions. Ya think? And maybe now you are feeling guilty. And maybe, at the very least, that makes you confused.

Giant billboards with pretty women do not offend me. They do not objectify women nor are they expressions of extreme secularism. They are not confusing at all. They are effective ads meant to attract attention to sell products.

Rabbis ought to consider carefully that their policies that too rigorously restrict the mingling of boys and girls, men and women, may lead to confused sexuality, which in turn can produce true "pain and consternation" and not the holiness or sanctity that they seek.

10/15/10

The Harris Epstein Invention of the Month Award to Imaginative Easyart iPhone Art App from Josh Guedalia's Imagiu

Easyart iphone appWe are giving our Harris Epstein Invention of the Month Award to an imaginative iPhone Art App from Josh Guedalia's company Imagiu.

We tried it. It works great. Here are some details.

Designed & developed by Imagiu, in conjunction with Easyart.com the UK’s No. 1 online art-print retailer, the Easyart app lets you browse thousands of art prints and posters on your phone. You can also see the pictures on your own walls using the iPhone camera. You can:

  • browse and zoom into over 50,000 outstanding images from international museums and collections
  • Get the answer to the age old question : “Will this look good at home?” by seeing framed Easyart prints and posters on your own wall using the built in camera
  • test different frames as well as art work on the room shots included
  • share your room shots and selection with others through Facebook and Email
  • buy art on the phone in a few simple clicks.
Buy this App

10/14/10

Is an Orthodox Stance Jewish?

No, an Orthodox stance in boxing has nothing to do with Jews or Judaism.

Wikipedia sums up:
An Orthodox stance is a way of positioning both the feet and hands in combat sports such as boxing, karate, kick boxing, and mixed martial arts. A traditional orthodox stance is one in which the boxer places his or her left foot farther in front of the right foot, thus having his or her weaker side closer to the opponent. As it favors the stronger, dominant side — often the right side, see laterality — the orthodox stance is the most common stance in boxing. It is mostly used by right-handed boxers. Many boxing champions, such as Marco Antonio Barrera, Rocky Marciano, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, Joe Frazier and Sugar Ray Robinson used an orthodox stance.
Herschel Walker, former football player and now mixed martial arts competitor, uses an Orthodox stance (and he is not Jewish).

Times reports a transmutation miracle - Rabbi Levin's Pastrami becomes Salami

We read. Then we post. We don't make these things up.

According to the Times Rabbi Levin's pastrami became salami after he heard news about Paladino's apology.

That sorta sounds like it ought to be in a rap song.
...Mr. Paladino, during a meeting with a small Orthodox congregation that was arranged by Rabbi Levin, said Sunday that children should not be “brainwashed” into thinking that homosexuality was acceptable, and he criticized his Democratic opponent, Andrew M. Cuomo, for marching with his daughters in New York City’s gay pride parade.

On Tuesday, after broad condemnation, Mr. Paladino apologized for his “poorly chosen words” and said he would “fight for all gay New Yorkers’ rights” if elected.

Rabbi Levin said that he considered the apology a betrayal, and that he pined for the “old Carl” who spoke from his heart rather than bending to political whims.

Rabbi Levin said he was especially upset that Mr. Paladino gave him no notice that he planned to back away from the comments.

“I was in the middle of eating a kosher pastrami sandwich,” Rabbi Levin said. "While I was eating it, they come running and they say, ‘Paladino became gay!’ I said, ‘What?’ And then they showed me the statement. I almost choked on the kosher salami.” ...more...

10/13/10

Is Rabbi-Loving Carl Paladino anti Speedo Bathing Suits or anti Gay or Both?


Here is our confession. We are coming out right here in this blog post.

We wear a Speedo bathing suit every day that we go swimming. We have been doing this nearly daily since 1982. Speedo bathing suits are the best that there are for swimming. There is nothing gay about them. They are nylon or nylon and lycra and they are perfectly designed for serious swimming. There is nothing wrong with wearing them in the pool, near the pool or anywhere else. In the picture above we are wearing our Speedo suit at the Gordon Pool in Tel Aviv.

Candidate for NYS governor, Carl Paladino, has disparaged Speedo bathing suits in remarks that some people consider homophobic or anti-Gay.

It's one thing that he is a neanderthal right winger. It's another thing that he is obviously anti-gay. But when he turns anti-Speedo, he's gone too far. Shame on you Carl Paladino.

Here is a story from the blog, Gothamist about this whole matter:
Paladino Apologizes For Gay Remarks, Loses Rabbi's Support

Like a real-life Michael Scott, Carl Paladino must be getting used to apologizing for his continual gaffes and goofs: Paladino took the advice of the Mayor of 9/11 Town and formally apologized for the comments on homosexuality he made to orthodox Jewish leaders over the weekend. He wrote, "I sincerely apologize for any comment that may have offended the Gay and Lesbian Community or their family members. Any reference to branding an entire community based on a small representation of them is wrong."

Even so, he focused on his "poorly chosen words" rather than disavow the substance of his speech, which was anti-gay marriage. He still maintains that he dislikes gay pride parades and doesn't believe homosexuality should be discussed in schools. But he made it clear that he was a supporter of gay rights, and he was worried about the ramifications of his remarks. "My entire life, I have never equivocated at all on defending gay rights...Ugly. Horrible. My God. I didn't want any questions on this topic, because I don't want this feeding frenzy of nonsense going on in the press to hurt anybody," he said while campaign stumping.

Is Booker Prize Winner Howard Jacobson Jewish?

Yes Howard Jacobson is a Jew. Wikipedia goes into detail about this:
Although he has described himself as "a Jewish Jane Austen," he also states, "I'm not by any means conventionally Jewish. I don't go to shul. What I feel is that I have a Jewish mind, I have a Jewish intelligence. I feel linked to previous Jewish minds of the past. I don't know what kind of trouble this gets somebody into, a disputatious mind. What a Jew is has been made by the experience of 5,000 years, that's what shapes the Jewish sense of humour, that's what shaped Jewish pugnacity or tenaciousness." He maintains that "comedy is a very important part of what I do."
The Daily Mail newspaper reports:
Booker Prize's comic first as Howard Jacobson beats favourites with The Finkler Question
By Liz Thomas

At the age of 68 and after writing 11 novels he might have thought the Booker Prize was beyond his reach.

But last night rank outsider Howard Jacobson finally won the prestigious award and £50,000 in prize money for his comic tragedy, The Finkler Question.

It is the first time in the award’s 42-year history that a comic novel has been voted the winner...

The Finkler Question, which follows the friendship between three mature men – a former BBC producer, a philosopher and their former teacher – two of whom have been recently widowed, was hailed by the judges as ‘a profound and wise book’.

10/12/10

Apple iPad is the T3 Winner for Gadget Of The Year

The iPad is way more than a gadget. It is a game changer and a paradigm shifter.
Apple iPad named Gadget Of The Year at prestigious T3 Awards
By Graham Smith

The Apple iPad continued on its unstoppable march towards world domination last night as it scooped the top prize at the T3 Gadget Awards.

The tablet computer was named Gadget Of The Year at the London ceremony, where awards are presented based on the results of more than 750,000 reader votes and an expert panel.

Tours from the World Expert Jerusalem Super Guide Asher Altshul

Asher Altshul writes to us:

Dear Friends,
This Friday, October 15th,  I will begin a series of tours in Jerusalem. 
The series it titled "Jerusalem - A Modern City: The Walking Course"
The first tour will be in the Jewish Quarter and is titled "When was the real "First Aliyah": The Return to Zion"
If you or anyone you know may be interested, please contact me
Asher Y. Altshul
Tel. 972-2-673-8458
Cell. 972-52-2-323-219

Time calls our friend Asher Altshul one of the world's leading experts on the City of David.



And Jerusalem super guide Asher Altshul is quoted in a BBC story. Nice job.

BBC: Archaeology and the struggle for Jerusalem
By Katya Adler, BBC News, Jerusalem

"I like to travel and when I travel, I like to have a guide book. Here in Jerusalem, that guide book is the Tanah, the Bible."

This is how guide Asher Altshul likes to start his tours at the expansive City of David archaeological site in Jerusalem.

The site stretches along and down one of Jerusalem's hills, just outside the Old City.
Hundreds of tourists gather. Most are Jewish people from countries all over the world, like the Schneider family from Los Angeles.

The father, Avshalom, says coming here was a must...more...

10/11/10

Jew and the Carrot: Gil Marks Talks about his new Encyclopedia of Jewish Food

Here's Gil Marks talking about his exciting new book on the wonderful Jew and the Carrot blog.
Gil Marks Discusses His New "Encyclopedia of Jewish Food"
By Sarah Breger

It’s hard not to be awed by the new “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food” by Gil Marks. With over 650 entries about almost every Jewish food imaginable and 300 recipes, the elaborate book spans the mundane (almonds, spinach) to the foreign (manti, a Bukharan Purim dumpling). Marks fills his reference guide with history, stories and interesting asides from Jewish communities around the world.

“To know a community is to know its food,” Marks writes in his introduction and by including a “Timeline of Jewish History” from 1230 BCE to 2010 CE, it is clear that he is attempting to create not just a history of Jews’ culinary preferences but a history of the Jewish people.

The book is a culmination of twenty-plus years of knowledge and is the first attempt within the American Jewish culinary community to compile a comprehensive reference guide for Jewish food like the indispensable bible of French food, the “Larousse Gastronomique,” or the English “Oxford Companion to Food.”

In a two-part interview with The Jew and the Carrot, Marks shares the origins of the encyclopedia, reveals the food that some Talmudic rabbis hated and finally settles the age-old kasha-kishka debate. Check back later this week for more.

Sarah Breger: How did the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food” come about?

Gil Marks: I have been collecting recipes and information for over 20 years but three years ago my editor said to me ‘You’re a walking encyclopedia of food, so why don’t you do an encyclopedia?” It took three years to put everything together and go through all the misconceptions and mistakes out there about Jewish food but it resulted in over 600 entries and 300 recipes.

SB: What constitutes a Jewish food?

GM: More Jews today eat sushi and salsa than eat salt schmaltz [the traditional rendered chicken or goose fat]. But sushi and salsa are not Jewish foods whereas schmaltz is. A Jewish food is one that is almost sanctified, either by its repeated use or use within the holidays or rituals. So food that may have not been Jewish at one point can become Jewish within the cultural context...more...

10/10/10

Times' Frank Rich: The End of the Subversive Internet

Frank Rich in his Times column sometimes just gets it right. Today he writes about the new film about FaceBook, "The Social Network," which we saw in Paramus last night.

The theater was sold out and the people were mainly young and beautiful and busy texting on their phones until the lights went out and the trailers started (and maybe even after that).

We've felt the impact of the film even before seeing it. For the first time, a few days ago, we received a lawyer's letter demanding that we transfer to his clients an Internet domain that we've owned and developed for nine years.

One hit Internet movie is released and suddenly every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to get into the act. Amazing.

Frank Rich observes in "Facebook Politicians Are Not Your Friends," how profoundly the right wing bullies are using the Internet to suppress progress, to spread lies and propound conservative propaganda. Citing Malcolm Gladwell in New Yorker, Rich sums up that the new media has been coopted:
“With Facebook and Twitter and the like,” Gladwell wrote, “the traditional relationship between political authority and popular will” was supposed to be upended, so it would be “easier for the powerless to collaborate, coordinate, and give voice to their concerns.” Instead, he concluded, we ended up with the reverse: social media increase the efficiency of the existing order rather than empowering dissidents.
And so, the beat goes on.

10/9/10

Gadi Yonah: Was Jesus Really Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus?

Haaretz reports on a recent book by Israeli economist Gadi Yonah that asks, Was Jesus Really Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus?

האם ישו הוא בעצם רבי אליעזר בן הורקנוס
מאת מירון רפופורט
גדי יונה משוכנע שכן. ויש לו מספר ראיות לעניין


The book is about the, "mysterious connections between the crucified Christian and the excommunicated Talmudist":


Tsofen ha-ḥakhamim : ha-ḳesher ha-mistori ben ha-tsaluv ha-Notsri la-menudah ha-Talmudi / Gadi Yonah.

The book summary explains,
דמותו וסיפור חייו של ישו הנוצרי לוטים בערפל וחוקרים חלוקים הן ביחס לקיומו ההיסטורי והן ביחס לאירועים בחייו .מה בסיפורים עליו אמיתי ומה אגדה ומשל?.
ואולי ישו לא היה ולא נברא,אלא משל היה,כפי שטוענים חלק מהחוקרים?.
הספר מציג נקודת מבט חדשנית ומקורית לפיה דמותו וסיפור חייו של ישו הנם ביטוי ליצירה ספרותית המבוססת על דמותו ההיסטורית ועל סיפור חייו של רבי אליעזר בן הורקנוס,גדול חכמי ישראל,שחי ופעל באותה תקופה היסטורית.
ב"צופן החכמים" נחשפת מערכת קשרים מסועפת ומסתורית בין רבי אליעזר וישו ובין אבות הנצרות וחכמי ישראל שחיו ופעלו בתקופתו של ישו.
בתוך כך מציג הספר נקודת מבט ייחודית ומהפכנית להבנת מערכת היחסים הסבוכה בין הנצרות ליהדות.
And the article goes into some detail about the Talmudic evidence concerning Eliezer and is careful not to overstate the conclusions of the author. The reviewer interviewed professors who were cordial in their assessment of the validity of the book's arguments.

10/7/10

Times' Magazine: Is the Basil Restaurant in Crown Heights, Brooklyn Kosher?

There is an amazing New York story in the Times' Magazine about the Basil Pizza & Wine Bar in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Yes it is kosher.

Times' Peter Applebome: Avichai Smolen and Justin Rosen Wedding Announcement in Teaneck's Jewish Standard

The Times' Peter Applebome in the past has not ingratiated himself with the community leaders in Teaneck. He likes to emphasize the negatives of the community. And who can blame him? He writes about the "whiplash" following the Avichai Smolen and Justin Rosen Wedding Announcement in Teaneck's Jewish Standard.

Our advice to the paper's publisher yesterday was, "Never Apologize," followed by, always make your policy based on what is best for the bottom line of the newspaper. Business is business. He liked to hear that.
Whiplash Can Follow a Car Crash or a Wedding AnnouncementBy PETER APPLEBOME
Teaneck, N.J.

Teaneck’s tale of love, money, sexual orientation and Torah began innocently enough.

A young couple, who grew up in Conservative Jewish congregations, who met at a Jewish day camp and whose lives have been dominated by Jewish interests, sent a wedding announcement to The New Jersey Jewish Standard.

10/5/10

Is Christine O’Donnell Jewish?

No, Christine O’Donnell is not a Jew, she hasn't even dabbled in Judaism. But the Tea Party candidate for Senate has dabbled in a lot of other things.

According to Reuters FaithWorld. "Tea Party candidate says “I’m not a witch”":
Christine O’Donnell, the Republican Senate candidate for Delaware and a poster girl for the conservative Tea Party movement, launched a new campaign ad on Tuesday with an unsual political admission, stating: “I’m not a witch“.

O’Donnell spoke of “dabbling” in witchcraft over a decade ago in Bill Maher’s show Politically Incorrect and the liberal comedian has been airing clips of her appearances from back then on his current program Real Time with Bill Maher.

In the clip he ran last Friday, she said she had dabbled in several religions but her love of meatballs and Italian food put her off Hare Krishna.

“I was dabbling into every other kind of religion before I became a Christian,” O’Donnell said on Politically Incorrect in 1999.

“I dabbled in witchcraft. I dabbled in Buddhism. I would have become a Hare Krishna but I didn’t want to become a vegetarian. And that is honestly the reason why because I am Italian and I love meatballs,” she said.

Is Al Jaffee Jewish?

Yes, Al Jaffee is a Jew, and according to the Times he is the talent behind Chabad's Mad Magazine version of Judaism.
Best Known for Mad, Also Read by Chabad Youngsters
By ALISON LEIGH COWAN

For a quarter century, Jewish children have hungrily followed the kooky adventures of the Shpy, the adventurous hero of The Moshiach Times, a family-friendly magazine that is published six times a year in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. (Think Highlights, but Jewish.)

With a closet full of disguises and more gadgets than 007, the Shpy volunteers his services when innocent people or ancient traditions are imperiled. He escapes from a giant Mixmaster when investigating a case of stolen hamantaschen, and thwarts a mysterious bee infestation that nearly spoils the fall holiday of Sukkot. In one installment, he invents a repellent to keep the sinister Yetzer Hora at bay, complete with a catchy slogan: “Let us Shpray.” (The softening of the S, when the Shpy shpeaks, so to speak, is meant to evoke Humphrey Bogart.)
The September Issue

Young fans of the Shpy can be forgiven for skipping over the credits on Page 2 of the magazine. It is hard to fathom, though, how the rest of New York has barely noticed that the artist responsible for making the Shpy such a mensch is Al Jaffee. Yes, that Al Jaffee. The same 89-year-old bad boy whose work has been appearing for more than half a century in the occasionally rude, irreverent, and bawdy pages of Mad magazine.

“Al Jaffee’s Mad Life,” the new biography of Mr. Jaffee just published by HarperCollins, flags the connection but even it quickly moves on without exploring how Mr. Jaffee came to work for the magazine or how the odd pairing has worked out...more...

Jewish Standard Flip Flops on Gay Announcements

From our favorite paper, the Ridgewood Patch, first they publish, then they publish not.
Newspaper Will No Longer Publish Same-Sex Wedding Announcements

The Teaneck-based Jewish Standard newspaper announced Monday it will no longer publish same-sex wedding announcements after receiving complaints from some in the community.
By Noah Cohen

The Teaneck-based Jewish Standard will no longer publish same-sex wedding announcements after receiving complaints about an item noting a gay couple's engagement, the newspaper's editor said in a statement posted on its website Monday.

10/3/10

Do politicians lie about religion?

Do politicians lie about religion? Is the pope Catholic? Is Jon Stewart Jewish? 

Of course politicians lie about religion. They have tremendous incentives to misrepresent their religious beliefs so as to sway people to vote for them.

That's why we judge the idea of a religious test or interview to be a weak or useless means of assessing a candidate in an election. 

Damon Linker of the New Republic thinks it's a good idea to ask politicians questions about their religion. We disagree - strongly.

Maybe that makes sense if the person has never held office and there's no other means to determine what he or she stands for. Actual facts drawn from the politician's performance in office ought to be taken most seriously. Indications from a person's life's record of integrity and character ought to be important factors.

In the Bergen Record, Linker says, "...all candidates for high office should have to take the religious test..." and he gives us his questions. Linker thinks that by invoking JFK's famous speech and then explaining how times have changed, he can justify his case for a "test" of religion for politicians.

JFK put it legally and nobly, as Linker cites, "Kennedy emphasized that Article VI of the Constitution maintains that no “religious test” may keep a candidate from aspiring to political office. He went further, implying that his Catholicism should be off limits to public scrutiny. To treat a politician’s religious beliefs as politically relevant was an affront to America’s noblest civic traditions, he declared."

We disagree with Linker both on those grounds that JFK invokes, and on the cynical terms that we indicated above. A test indicates nothing. Linker does not suggest we put the respondent under oath. So we think it likely he or she often will lie with no compunctions to get elected or to stay in office.

Linker's plan is just plain unfair, un-American and foolish, not at all noble or practical.

10/2/10

Sukkah is Down, Apple TV is Up and Running

It was a nice dry day, and we got the sukkah down right away tonight.

Then we went to work connecting and configuring our new Apple TV.

Bingo. It works as promised, in minutes, like magic.

Accesses NetFlix, YouTube, iTunes via the Internet; local library on my PC -- all my music!

Use the pretty little metal remote or the iPad with an app called "Remote". It works too.

Exciting times and toys.

Shavua Tov. Lots to watch....