6/30/13

Without Wearing Neckties, Israeli Jewish adults attending synagogue 'happy and healthier'

Even though the ordinary Israeli who attends synagogue does not even own a necktie, a social scientist has "proven" that "Israeli Jewish adults attending synagogue 'happy and healthier'"

In fact the researcher involved already knew the answers before he even conducted his "studies." Professor Jeff Levin has spent his career "proving" the health benefits of religion for the world. There is zero chance at this stage of the game that he would come up with a conclusion to disprove his base assumptions.

We are shocked by this discovery though for a specific reason. We've been criticized for discussing in our "Dear Rabbi" column a rule requiring tie-wearing by Jews in a local synagogue if they want to receive a Torah-honor on Sabbaths and Holidays.

Here's a nugget from a letter to the editor of the Jewish Standard that fervently defends the wonderful meaning of the tie-wearing practice by Dr. Reuben Gross:
Rabbi Zahavy takes a strong stand with the congregant. He labels the shul’s dress code as “nonsense.” This is hardly appropriate language coming from a rabbi about a shul’s policy, which follows the dictates of no less a person than the prophet Ezra (6th century BCE), who enacted the rule that individuals should give special “kavod” (honor) to the Sabbath, marked by their change of clothing.
Truly we did not know that Ezra the Scribe (usually not called prophet) knew about neckties in the 6th century BCE.

And so we wonder how Jews in Israel who attend shul regularly can be happier and healthier even though they do not own or wear ties.

Or let's be positive here. Can you imagine just how happy and healthy these synagogue attenders would be in Israel if they wore neckties?

Perhaps we can start a new program to promote even greater health and happiness in Israel: Neckties Without Borders for Religious Sabras.

Here is a news report on the impressive research on the health benefits of attending synagogue:
Israeli Jewish adults, who go to synagogue regularly, pray often, and think of themselves as religious are much healthier and happier than their non-religious counterparts, two new studies have suggested.

Baylor University researcher Jeff Levin, Ph.D, said that commitment to Jewish religious belief and practice is strongly associated with greater physical and psychological well-being.

One study used 2010 data on 1,849 Jewish adults from the Israeli sample of the European Social Survey and has been published in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, an official journal of the American Psychological Association.

The other study used 2009-10 data on 991 Jewish adults from the Israeli sample of the International Social Survey Programme's Religion III survey and has been published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. (ANI)

JStandard: Was the Supreme Court ruling on gene patenting good for the Jews?

Yes, the Supreme Court ruling on gene patenting is good for the Jews.

As the Jewish Standard science correspondent (and our sister) Dr. Miryam Wahrmann observes, "That case could have a dramatic impact on the development, cost, and availability of [life-saving] genetic tests."

See her in-depth cover story "Supreme Court ruling on gene patenting changes the landscape for BRCA testing" here.

And her related stories:

New website educates the Jewish community about genetic health issues

Sharsheret’s genetics for life addresses hereditary breast and ovarian cancer

6/26/13

Was Marc Rich Jewish?

Yes, Jewish-American billionaire Marc Rich was a Jew. He will be buried in Israel.

JPost reports on Rich's controversial life:
LUCERNE, Switzerland - Jewish-American billionaire Marc Rich, who invented oil trading and was pardoned by then US president Bill Clinton over what had once been the biggest tax evasion case in US history and busting sanctions with Iran, died on Wednesday from a stroke in Switzerland at 78.

Rich fled the Holocaust with his parents for America to become the most successful and controversial trader of his time and a fugitive from US justice, enjoying decades of comfortable privacy at his sprawling Villa Rosa on Lake Lucerne.

Belgian-born Rich, whose trading group eventually became the global commodities powerhouse Glencore Xstrata, died in hospital from a stroke, spokesman Christian Koenig said.

At the villa, with views of the nearby mountains and grounds sloping down to the banks of the lake, security guards and other staff could be seen but there was no sign of family members.

6/24/13

Is Nik Wallenda Jewish?

No Nik Wallenda is not a Jew. He is a Christian. And he leaves no doubt about his religion in the soundtrack to his high-wire daredevil crossing of the Little Colorado River Gorge, near the Grand Canyon, as this humorously edited video dramatizes.



New York Magazine sums it up:
One thing was clear by the time Nik Wallenda reached the other side of that canyon last night: He is not a Muslim. Throughout the 22-minute tightrope walk, Wallenda, who was miked up on live television, invoked the name of Jesus 63 times, "Lord" 34 times, and "God" 12 times. He calls out to "Father" six times, praises the "King of Kings" twice, and makes one mention of a "sorcerer." If that seems like a lot of heavenly references for a 22-minute span, it seems like even more when condensed into a 87-second video.

6/23/13

Non-Congratulations to the New Non-Rabbis

Thirty years ago, in 1983 we were happy to start sending our women Jewish Studies major graduates at the University of Minnesota to train to become rabbis in the Reform movement. We told them to go out and become full head rabbis of synagogues, not assistants or educational directors. Some did. We were proud.

This week we read of the non-ordination of three females by an Orthodox institute. We sadly shake our heads and dejectedly shrug our shoulders. This is a milestone of non-progress.

This non-event is a rare mixture of chutzpah and cowardice on the part of these women and their teachers. Their mentors dared to give a "degree" and "title" to the women and yet they fearfully refrained from ordaining them with the accepted titles "rabbis" or the feminine of the term, "rabbahs" to be more grammatical.

All of this is too perplexing for our Talmudic CPU to process. Our Talmudic processing system has short-circuited and crashed and cannot analyze this conflicted non-event any further.

Hence we can at best non-extend our non-congratulations to the new women non-rabbis.  We heartily offer our non-applause to them on their non-ordinations.What a bewildering religion.

Here is the story from JTA.
(JTA) — Yeshivat Maharat, which trains Orthodox Jewish women to be religious leaders, held its first graduation ceremony.

Ruth Balinsky Friedman, Rachel Kohl Feingold and Abby Brown Schier graduated Sunday in a ceremony in New York City attended by some 500 people.
The graduates are set to work for Orthodox synagogues and institutions.

Maharat is a Hebrew acronym for Manhiga Hilkhatit Rukhanit Toranit, or leader in legal, spiritual and Torah matters.

Each graduate of the New York yeshiva will use the title of maharat rather than rabbi or rabba — the title given to Sarah Hurwitz, the dean of Yeshivat Maharat, when she was ordained by Rabbi Avi Weiss.

The movement to confer religious authority on women in the Orthodox community, which began in 2009, remains controversial in the Orthodox community.

Last month, the Rabbinical Council of America reissued a 2010 statement that said, “We cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.”

6/20/13

Was James Gandolfini Jewish?

He was such a powerful acting persona, sure we'd like to claim him as a member of the tribe. But no James Gandolfini was not a Jew. Shockingly, he passed away at age 51. He was a superlative actor who made his biggest hit in the Sopranos on HBO, considered by many critics to be the greatest series of its kind of all time.

The Times tells about him:
James Joseph Gandolfini Jr. was born in Westwood, N.J., on Sept. 18, 1961. His father was an Italian immigrant who held a number of jobs, including janitor, bricklayer and mason. His mother, Santa, was a high school cafeteria chef.

He attended Park Ridge High School and Rutgers University, graduating in 1983 with a degree in communications. He drove a delivery truck, managed nightclubs and tended bar in Manhattan before becoming interested in acting at age 25, when a friend took him to an acting class.
Gandolfini's father worked as the head custodian at Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey, and we assume the family was Catholic.

Haaretz wrote about his characters' Jewish links. Gandolfini  made a humorous Israeli ad for yes.co.il.



6/18/13

Am I dead yet? NYTimes Warns of Dire Consequences of "Cheating Ourselves of Sleep"

From The New York Times, a poorly argued article, "Cheating Ourselves of Sleep," concludes that, "Failing to get enough sleep night after night can compromise your health and may even shorten your life."

I shared the article with a friend who knows that often I do not get enough sleep and the response was that based on this article I ought to be dead by now, several times over.

Here are some phrases and then snippets from the awful alarmist article, in order but without context, showing how little hard logic, science or medicine underlies the claims in the article about your health from the prestigious New York Times. 

Note the use of blurry terms like "chances are" "most people" "can compromise" "may even" "can profoundly affect" "are negatively affected" "a risk factor" "tend to" "can be harmed" "linked" "may ultimately result" "risks...are higher" "may also be" "risk may also be elevated" "risk may result" "increased risk" "can also experience" "may be more susceptible" -- the connections between lack of sleep and all of these potential health conditions are just plain blurred and conditional and none of them is causative. Nowhere does the article give any hard numbers or actual percentages of anything bad caused directly by diminished sleep.

Yes if you don't sleep enough it is nearly a certainty that the next day you will feel tired. I don't know where and how the Times concluded that less sleep "may even shorten your life." 

That's going way out on a limb. As I read this foggy article through a few times I could see nothing that proves too little sleep will cause you to die more quickly.

Here are the shoddy sentence snippets for the above hazy phrases.

6/15/13

Forbes: Waze Will be the Wikipedia of All Maps and the Search Bar for the Real World

Forbes has a background article on Waze in the aftermath of the news that Google will buy the company. What Waze Adds To Google: A View From Waze's CEO

It turns out that Waze is not just a GPS app for your car on your smartphone. Waze is a community of users who will contribute to the indexing of the physical world. It aspires to be to the actual earth, what Google is to the Internet. Or something like that.

After reading the interview with the CEO of Waze, it seems to me that Waze wants to be more the user edited Wikipedia of the real world of roads and traffic. And keep in mind that the crowd-sourced quality of Wikipedia information is not always the greatest.
Bardin said the new user interface for search was the map. But how did Waze build its own maps, which are thought to be just as good, if not at times better, than the ones $410-billion-market-cap Apple produced? By crowd-sourcing GPS data, and “combining the algorithms of people.” It sounds straightforward in theory, but it involved building a hierarchical structure of passive users and editors, a self-managed community like Wikipedia. The community has country managers who oversee area managers, who then oversee the editors, with each level having a greater level of permissions to alter Waze’s maps.
And the big brag from the CEO that earned the company a bid of over $1 billion: “Whenever you’re going onto the web, you start with a search bar,” he said. “Wherever you’re going in the real world, you’re going to start with Waze.”

6/11/13

Google Will Buy Israeli Waze App for > $1 Billion

Google is buying Waze - an excellent GPS and traffic app that I have used on my Samsung Galaxy S3. I use it as a second source of traffic information as I make my way across America's worst road - the Cross Bronx Distressway. It's fairly accurate and offers creative alternative routes when needed.

Join 648,000 others. Get Waze from Google Play.

This is great news for the Israeli high tech sector.

This is bad news for United Jewish Appeal and Federation fund raisers. Even though there is poverty and need in Israel, it gets harder to raise money in the US for destitute Israelis, each time another Israeli company reaches a billion dollar valuation.
Google said to be close to buying Waze, developer of crowdsourced map app
By Elizabeth Heichler, IDG News Service

Google is close to a deal to acquire Waze, maker of the eponymous crowdsourced mapping app, for at least $1 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal and others.

The potential deal was first reported by Israeli business site Globes which said it would be worth $1.3 billion, citing sources.

Started in Israel, now with offices in Palo Alto headed by CEO Noam Bardin, the company says it has about 45 million users in 193 countries, according to the Journal. Waze originated in 2006 as an open-source mapping project led by CTO Ehud Shabtai; the company formed two years later with venture-capital backing, according to information on its website.

The app allows users to tap into shared traffic and navigation information. Data on road obstacles, rush-hour snarls, accidents and the like can be shared with other drivers in real time. The most recent version of the app delivered last month, Waze 3.7, includes integration with Facebook that places Facebook events in users' navigation lists and allows them to see the progress of Waze-using friends travelling to the same event. Users can also join the community of map editors to improve data on the maps themselves, which use TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing) data from the US Census Bureau. The app is free, supported by location-based advertising.
How to use waze.

6/10/13

Are dirty tricks in negotiations kosher?

Day after day we see ill will and bad faith in the negotiations in our marketplace and workplace.

No, dirty tricks are not kosher.

But you ask, exactly what are dirty tricks and how can you deal with them?

Several years ago we took one course in Negotiations in the MBA program at Rutgers. Each year the brilliant professor who taught the course, Daniel Levin sends emails to his former students to remind them about how to respond in a negotiation to the prevalent issue of distributive tactics or what we normally call "dirty tricks."

According to Levin, the top ten dirty tricks in negotiations are:
1. Good Cop/Bad Cop
2. Emotional Intimidation
3. Lowball (or Highball) Offer
4. Opening with a Take It or Leave It Offer
5. Exploiting the Trappings of Power
6. Increasing an Offer's Appearance of Legitimacy
7. Pretending to Have Limited Authority
8. Playing a Game of Chicken
9. Lying about Priorities
10. Nibbling
Levin gives us his priceless suggestions for responses in his Talmudic analysis here. Study it and study it some more, because everything you need to know about dirty tricks is in that grid.

We've said many times that in all of the years of our education through college and rabbinical school and graduate school at Brown, Levin's negotiations course in the MBA program at Rutgers was the most valuable course that we ever took.

We use the skills that we learned there every day.

Thank you again Dan Levin.

6/9/13

Is Economist Nouriel Roubini Jewish?

Yes, famous economist Nouriel Roubini is a Jew.

He was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1959 to Iranian Jewish parents. He moved to Tehran, Iran, when he was two.  He is currently a U.S. citizen and speaks English, Farsi, Italian, and Hebrew.

Roubini spent one year in college at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem before moving to Italy and receiving his B.A., summa cum laude in Economics from the Bocconi University  in Milan in 1982.

He received his Ph.D. in international economics from Harvard University in 1988.

June 7, 2013 he predicted that gold prices will drop 30% to below $1000.

The Daily Beast: Dear Rabbi: Should I Shoot Women?

It happens. When you practice irrational thuggery in the name of religion it does not take long for an impressionable young person to get a really wrong idea. On the Daily Beast we read, "Dear Rabbi: Should I Shoot Women of the Wall?" by Sigal Samuel on Jun 6, 2013.

Fortunately (did we reach rock bottom yet?) there was no violence today as women prayed at the wall under a heavy police guard. It's getting clearer every day that Orthodox Judaism has decided to resort ever more often to bullying and thuggery against what it sees as weak Jewish opponents - women who want to pray. Not brave; not heroic. But the legacy of bullying vulnerable women via rabbinic decree goes back a long way to illustrious roots.

The Daily Beast reported, "In a disturbing QandA session, a 17-year-old Jerusalem yeshiva student asked a rabbi in an online forum whether it’s permissible under Jewish law to shoot and kill members of the liberal prayer group Women of the Wall when they gather at the Kotel. The boy was arrested today after Rabbi Baruch Efrati alerted police to the question—which, true to the rabbinic tradition of she’elot u-teshuvot (responsa literature, literally “questions and answers”), he nonetheless deigned to answer...."

6/7/13

JStandard Letters Continue Dear Rabbi Debates

JStandard letters continue the debates on issues raised by Rabbi Dr. Tzvee Zahavy in his column, Dear Rabbi.

Jeff Bernstein • Letters
Many thanks for Rabbi Zahavy’s and Mr. Sutton’s thoughtful responses to my May 24 letter on the issue of the efficacy of prayer, particularly the Kaddish (“More on angels,” June 2). I would be grateful if any reader would care to respond to my question concerning the Kedusha: Why, in the Kedusha, does the Creator of the Universe need to hear words of praise from angels, beings who have no free will, and therefore no choice in the matter?

Jeff Bernstein
New Milford

Shel Haas • Letters
“Our great minds are equally sure that God hears our prayers” illustrates how irrational those “great minds” were (“More on angels,” May 30). “Official theology”? According to a group of men of long ago that were unaware of the information regarding all aspects of life that is available today. The great Saadia Gaon’s writings illustrate his great reasoning powers. He could examine a problem from all aspects and then proceed to a conclusion. He professed that the Earth was the center of the universe. He obviously did not have the knowledge possessed in later years. Prayer answers a psychological need in humans. Sound from Earth is not heard in outer space. God is not limited to a particular place in a particular time. We do not listen to God’s messages. If God saw fit to enable the Temples built in Jerusalem to be demolished, finding them faulty in many ways, why do our people venerate what God has destroyed? God gave us the ability to think for ourselves. We have the past upon which to base our present and future. If the past has proven to be faulty in many ways, isn’t it time to acknowledge that conclusion and move on to approach the real path God has set forth for us. Justice, righteousness, and charity were the three themes expressed by our prophets as to God’s desires of mankind. All else, God said many times, is meaningless.

Shel Haas
Fort Lee

Emile Pincus • Letters
Thank you for printing the stimulating exchange between Rabbi Zahavy and correspondent Jeff Bernstein (Letters, May 24 and May 31).

Mr. Bernstein’s comments reflect a major tension inherent in modern religious life. There is an impressive intensity that he invests in solving the mystery of what to believe. However, his need to go beyond the emotional position — which, I submit, is a spiritual position — expressed in prayer, to an urgent need to find a factual type of reality seems misplaced.

The issue is not really whether the angels pray in Aramaic, or whether God needs our prayer, or indeed whether we really do intercede with God when we say prayers in memory of the departed.

There is a deep beauty and need that we humans experience when we try to give to others. When we remember the dead, and when we believe that they might actually need us to help them by doing so, in a way that they are unable now to help themselves; when we think of whatever they have given us, and how can we really express that to them today — religion gives us a means of expressing that. Others may believe they have found more meaningful ways of expressing that gratitude and debt. However, religion gets us started in the right direction, and provides a real reminder that we need to give something of ourselves to remembering those we owe to ourselves to remember on a recurrent basis.

What Judaism and prayers offer is an opportunity to adopt a posture toward life that is ultimately helpful for ourselves. A favorite image I have, on family yahrzeits: they are depending on me to remember them, to “do the right thing,” that just might help them. They’re cheering me on from the silent grandstand. Knowing that I might be doing something for them and that they need me and that actually I need them to need me makes the occasion and the observance “make sense,” which Mr. Bernstein insists upon. Perhaps these thoughts and imaginings will help.

Emile Pincus
Teaneck

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Please continue to write in to Dear Rabbi to agree or disagree. Rabbi Dr. Tzvee Zahavy looks forward to reading more of your questions, insights and challenges. His monthly column is on page 47 - link.]

Times: Israel Trying to Fix the Broken Haredi Community

Haredim in Israel are held captive from their birth by communal leaders who keep them from general and advanced education and bar them from socialization into the streams of Israeli cultural and commercial life.

The Times' Jodi Rudroren writes "Israel Prods Ultra-Orthodox to 'Share Burden'": "...Because of Orthodox men's commitment to full-time Torah study and a fear of assimilation, only a little more than 4 in 10 of them work, less than half the rate of other Jewish men in Israel, and their average salaries are 57 percent of other Jewish men in the country. Nearly 60 percent of Haredi families live in poverty, and by 2050 they are expected to make up more than a quarter of Israel's population..."

The Haredi community needs help.

JStandard: Dear Rabbi on Standing for the Sh'ma and Wearing a Tie in Synagogue

Dear Rabbi,
I don’t understand why we Jews in most synagogues sit when we recite one of our most important prayers – the Sh’ma. I have heard that it is permitted to recite this core affirmation of our faith either sitting or standing. Why then do we most commonly choose to sit when reciting it?
Wants to take a stand
Bergenfield
Dear Wants:
Other rabbis offer social and historical reasons to explain the postures that we prefer for praying. I prefer to listen to the contents of each prayer and understand how its distinct personality dictates its proper postures.
Consider, by contrast, that because of its personality we do stand to recite the Amidah. That prayer is a formal set of rabbinic blessing-declarations, containing praises and petitions that express a mixture of theological, personal, communal, political, and national beliefs and aspirations.
When I recite the words, to me it seems as if I am a priest performing a repeated ceremonial rite at the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem. Just as a priest stands up to perform his official public actions, it makes sense to me that I stand up and perform this prayer.
I find in the Sh’ma an altogether other form and personality. It’s easy to see that this expression of beliefs and values comes directly from carefully chosen Torah passages that emphasize a special subset of Jewish values and beliefs. The texts emphasize that we should love our one God, who keeps accounts and rewards and punishes us based on our actions. The passages further underscore that we should patronize our scribes — that is, we should wear their t’fillin on our bodies and affix their mezzuzot to our homes.
To me the Sh’ma encompasses the personality of Torah study and the values of the scribes who write our texts and who keep our accounts. Study, writing, and accounting are done almost always while sitting down at a table or desk. And so, since the contents and personality of our prayer dictates the posture of our prayer, I find it altogether fitting and proper that we should sit down like scribes and students to recite the Sh’ma.


Dear Rabbi,
I am sad for my good friend, a respected community leader and a member of a local Orthodox synagogue for many years, who does not like to wear a tie. His synagogue follows an idiosyncratic rule that no matter how nicely dressed he may be, a man who does not wear a tie cannot receive an aliyah to the Torah on a Shabbat or a holiday. So my friend has not received an aliyah to the Torah on any of those days for many years, even on the special occasions of his parents’ yahrzeits. It hurts me to see him suffer this arbitrary form of petty ostracism and humiliation. What should I do?
Fit to be tied
Teaneck
Dear Fit:
Common sense would dictate that you and your friend not go to places where you feel uncomfortable, even if it is a mere trifling practice that creates a sense of annoyance and intimidation for you. You know that an Orthodox synagogue must follow the many laws and customs that govern who should receive an aliyah. For example, a Cohen receives the first aliyah, and a Levite gets the second. A man who has a yahrzeit often gets precedence, and so does the father of a newborn child and a groom before his wedding. Major donors to a synagogue get some preferential treatment, as do important rabbis. I’ve noticed also that the gabbai who allocates aliyot gets his fair share of them too. And a woman is not called to the Torah at all.
You may know that some non-Orthodox Jews find the exclusion of women from this process of public honors to be troubling or even offensive. Orthodox spokesmen point out that women receive due respect and honor in their community, just not by receiving aliyot.
Forty years ago, when I asked Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik about the possibility of women receiving aliyot in an Orthodox minyan, he quipped to me, “When women write the checks, then they will receive the aliyahs.” The Rav dodged my inquiry. I understood his reply to be a clever observation or a social comment, but not any halachic guidance.
Now, the synagogue that you describe in your question definitely created for itself a heightened odd character when it adopted an additional “tie rule” to further govern its members’ roles and aliyah-rights. Even if its eccentric practice is an approved requirement of synagogue committees, officers, and boards, it still fits the category of a socially undesirable “because-we-say-so” intimidation.
That said, you and your friend may be able to ignore and rise above this nonsense if you keep in mind that Moses, King Solomon, Jeremiah, Rabbi Akiva, Maimonides, the Vilna Gaon, and many other great non-tie-wearing-Jews would not be offered a Torah honor if they somehow, via time and space travel, showed up in your suburban shul.
The Dear Rabbi column offers timely advice based on timeless Talmudic wisdom. It aspires to be equally respectful and meaningful to all varieties and denominations of Judaism. You can find it here on the first Friday of the month. Send your questions to DearRabbi@jewishmediagroup.com


6/6/13

Is it kosher to bring a gun to the swim club?

Unless we are talking about a super-soaker toy, no, not in my backyard. It is not kosher to bring a gun into my swim club. I don't really care what the gold old boy yahoos in West Virginia do - see the story below. Just don't bring any gun to the Teaneck Swim Club or the JCC where my friends and relatives go to swim in safety.

And by the way even the toys are getting downright dangerous. Consider you can "ice" your friends with the NERF SUPER SOAKER ARCTIC SHOCK Water Blaster - about which we are told by Hasbro:

This powerful soaker lets you freeze your friends with icy blasts of water! The ARCTIC SHOCK soaker’s Ice Drum has a large 25-fluid-ounce capacity and you can fill it with ice for a super-chilled soak. Fill the drum and pump for a freezing blast of water at targets up to 30 feet away! The Ice Drum works with other Clip System SUPER SOAKER blasters (sold separately) and SUPER SOAKER Water Clips work with the ARCTIC SHOCK soaker. Fill additional Water Clips (sold separately) and use them to refill fast. Put the competition on ice with the ARCTIC SHOCK soaker!
From ProPublica, some dangerous summer news.

Now, You Can’t Ban Guns at the Public Pool

by Lois Beckett, ProPublica

If you feel unsafe at a public pool in Charleston, W.Va., you may soon have the right to lie there on a towel with a handgun at your side.

For 20 years, Charleston has been an island of modest gun restrictions in a very pro-gun rights state. But its gun laws — including a ban on guns in city parks, pools and recreation centers — are now likely to be rolled back, the latest victory in a long-standing push to deny cities the power to regulate guns.
Since the 1980s, the National Rifle Association and other groups have led a successful campaign to get state legislatures to limit local control over gun regulations. These "preemption" laws block cities from enacting their own gun policies, effectively requiring cities with higher rates of gun violence to have the same gun regulations as smaller towns.

6/3/13

Is the New Dunkin’ Doughnut, Egg and Bacon Breakfast Sandwich Kosher?

CBS reports that there is a New Dunkin’ Doughnut, Egg and Bacon Breakfast Sandwich.

It's made from a glazed donut, fried egg and bacon. And it has only 360 calories.

No, it is not kosher? It has bacon.

It's also a violation of improperly mixing up the distinct categories of the universe. Desserts, must not be mixed with real foods.

I mean what next? Cupcake burgers? Fries with whipped cream?

And lastly, yuck.

6/1/13

Discover Mindful Jewish Meditation

The benefits of Jewish meditation are accessible to every type of Jew through acts of Jewish piety.

People tend to think that the Orthodox and Hasidic Jews are really pious, the Conservative Jews less so, and the Reform and Reconstructionist even less.

Not so. Piety is individual. You decide how pious you wish to be. Some may argue that the Liberal Jew who makes a decision to engage in piety every day is more pious than the Orthodox Jew who rarely pauses to decide for himself what endows his structured life with meaning.

If you want it to, piety can fill your life as a Jew and endow it with transcendent meaning. Piety can overshadow faith at the central defining core of your Judaism. You can bring it into your daily, weekly and annual routines, and life cycle events.

"Mindful" is a term made popular by meditation guru, Jon Kabat-Zinn and others through their writings and teachings. They brought the concept into Western life from its origins within Eastern cultures. These teachers instruct us to meditate on the here-and-now. As if this was some new idea to us in the West. Done properly, religious practice affords us this mindfulness constantly in any number of ways.

We describe some elements of the religion of the Talmudic rabbis. If this is a form of Judaism that fulfills your needs, go with it! If not, we suggest you discover and then extract the major concepts of classical Judaic practice and apply them to your circumstances. In that way you will develop mindful piety for yourself, for your community and your calendar.

The Judaic Roots of Mindful Piety

Long ago rabbis prescribed, for example, that each Jew recite one hundred blessings each day. The recitation of a blessing prior to the performance of many basic rituals helped make a Jew mindful of his every action.
R. Meir used to say, "There is no man in Israel who does not perform one hundred commandments each day [and recite over them one hundred blessings] . . . And there is no man in Israel who is not surrounded by [reminders of the] commandments. [Every person wears] phylacteries on his head, phylacteries on his arm, has a mezuzah on his door post and four fringes on his garment around him . . . [Tosefta Berakhot 6:24-25]."
From the first stirring every morning, the mindful Jew began his day with acts of religious significance.

Indian-American 13 year old wins Spelling Bee with the Yiddish word knaidel - but is that spelling kosher?

An Indian-American boy won the National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling a Yiddish word,

The original story said that a knaidel is a word for a food made of leavened dough. The corrected story below says that it is a "German-derived Yiddish word for a matzo ball."

Update: The Times says what we thought when we read the story. "Some Say the Spelling of a Winning Word Just Wasn’t Kosher" - namely that it should be spelled "kneydl, according to transliterated Yiddish orthography decided upon by linguists at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, the organization based in Manhattan recognized by many Yiddish speakers as the authority on all things Yiddish."

N.Y. teen wins National Spelling Bee
by CBNews.com

OXON HILL, Md. As red and yellow confetti floated into his hair, the champ just stood there and cracked his knuckles, hardly the type of celebration expected from a 13-year-old. His smiles had come earlier, when he conquered ``the German curse'' on his way to spelling's top prize.

New York City has its first Scripps National Spelling Bee winner in 16 years. Arvind Mahankali has never had a ``knaidel,'' but he was able to spell the German-derived Yiddish word for a matzo ball Thursday night to earn the huge trophy and more than $30,000 in cash and prizes.