4/30/14

Is Donald Sterling Jewish?

Yes Donald Sterling is a Jew. He was born Donald Tokowitz. He changed his name to Sterling. David Suissa reports that:
...he grew up in Boyle Heights [east of Downtown Los Angeles in the City of Los Angeles] and saw his father wake up every morning at 2 a.m. to buy produce and resell it to local restaurants. And that he picked up his father’s strong work ethic to work his way through law school, and when the big firms did not hire Jews at the time, started a thriving practice to help everyday people get legal assistance.

... Donald changed his last name from Tokowitz to Sterling to give himself an aura of success. The name Tokowitz, apparently, sounded too Jewish.
Wikipedia reports he, "was born in 1934 in Chicago, Illinois. He and his family moved to the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles when he was two years old. His parents, Susan and Mickey, were Jewish immigrants."

Billionaire real estate developer Sterling owned the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team but was banned for life by the NBA for ractist remarks in April 2014.

4/29/14

Palin to NRA: "Waterboarding is Baptism"

She's back. Religion Dispatches reports that Sarah Palin spoke recently at an NRA gathering. In the context of her expected radical right wing ravings, she surprised and pleased her audience with this bon mot:
...Palin assured her audience: “If I were in charge, [our enemies] would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.” At that, the crowd erupted into applause.
Needless to say Palin has been roundly criticized for rhetorically misusing a respected religious rite. In America you just don't bandy religious terminology around, especially in the context of political demagoguery.

Here are some criticisms of Palin's major religio-cultural faux pas.

4/28/14

The Strange Mishnah for Cheerleaders: Tractates for the Buffalo Jills

Because of a lawsuit, the public now has access to the codes of conduct for the Buffalo Jills cheerleaders, who cheer for the Buffalo Bills football team.

The Deadspin website has published the documents along with comments on excerpts and a juicy title for their post: "Insane Handbook: Bills Cheerleaders Are Told How To Wash Their Vaginas"

Most codes of conduct fit better into the prescriptive genres we call Mishnah or Halakhah (in Jewish literature) rather than into the more dialectical genre that we call Talmud (in Jewish writings).

There are two Mishnah-like Jills documents attached to the Deadspin article: "Jills Glamour Etiquette Hygiene Rules" and "Jills Codes of Conduct 2013 2014."

Amazing to me is one assertion in the article, "A Jill is paid next to nothing—no money for gameday cheering, none for practice, none for the bulk of her minimum 20 personal appearances, none from the tips she receives but must turn in during the mandatory Jills Golf Tournament—and is classified by the team as a volunteer/independent contractor..."

The samples below provided by Deadspin would be somewhat comical, if they were not so tragically serious for the women to whom they are directed.

4/26/14

NYTimes' Roger Cohen: Contrary to Obama's and Kerry's Warnings and Criticisms, Israel's Success is Sustainable

From The New York Times, "Israel's Sustainable Success" op-ed by Roger Cohen says, "It's time to retire the unsustainability myth. Peace can only be based on facts."

And this is contrary to Obama's and Kerry's warnings and criticisms.

Cohen says that Israel's success is sustainable.

I agree.

Peter Griffin Mocks Chris Christie and Bridgegate

Peter Griffin - a Family Guy cartoon character - Mocks Chris Christie and Bridgegate in an Emmy campaign cartoon.

He looks like Christie.

Esquire raises some more serious questions about Christie's misuse of PA funds to repair NJ roads.

And our local politician Loretta Weinberg, a true hero of the efforts to prosecute the perpetrators of Bridgegate, is the truly wonderful cover story at the Jewish Standard.

Is Seth Meyers Jewish?

No Seth Meyers is not a Jew. His father's father was Jewish. He married a Jewish woman. But he is not a Jew.

He does not mind being called Jew-ish. You have to see the funny video where he talks about this!



Hat tip to anonymous,
who rightly insisted that I run this.

4/24/14

Racoon invasion thwarted in Teaneck

For weeks my neighbors had been telling me that they've been watching a large raccoon climb in and out of our chimney. I only heard scratching once. I just hoped that the coon had abandoned our premises. But the reports kept coming in.

And many nights about ten PM I'd hear a scampering across our roof which I came to assume was the nocturnal bandit going off to a night's work.

I finally got around to calling the professionals last Wednesday to cap our chimney - warning them to check carefully for Ms. Raccoon before closing off the pipe with a cage on top.

Three guys showed up to do the deed. One climbed the roof and peered in the chimney with a flashlight. Yup. There's a big critter in there, he reported from the roof. The boss went inside and together we made a lot of banging noise inside the fireplace - based on my extensive research on the Internet that informed me that raccoons do not like to nest in noisy places.

That stirred the critter enough to drive her up to the top of the chimney but not out of it. Our chief chimney professional then went into smoke-out mode and started burning newspaper inside the flue, while his deputy stood armed with a hoe on the roof ready to shoo away the offending animal.

Some tense minutes later the being had enough of the smoke and jumped from our chimney onto the roof, then down to the ground and finally down the block and away.

The soldiers quickly affixed a cage to our chimney, collected their reward and drove off into the sunset.

As George W would say, "Mission Accomplished."

[published 3/7/2007]

4/13/14

Is Stephen Colbert Jewish?

No Stephen Colbert is not a Jew.

The Deseret News reports:
Stephen Colbert, the political comedian made popular on "Comedy Central," will be taking over for David Letterman as the host of CBS’ "The Late Show" once Letterman retires.

But Colbert is no ordinary host.

The late night comedian built himself up as a satirical political opinion character who rarely shows a normal side. The New York Times published an article in January 2012 that looked at the many sides of Colbert, including his connection to God through what his mother taught him.

“She taught me to be grateful for my life regardless of what that entailed, and that’s directly related to the image of Christ on the cross and the example of sacrifice that he gave us,” Colbert said to The Times. “What she taught me is that the deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain — it’s that the pain is actually a gift. What’s the option? God doesn’t really give you another choice.”

Later in 2012, Colbert’s faith was brought up again by Splitsider, a news blog. Writer Marisa Carroll said Colbert is a devout Catholic, and when he spoke to 3,000 Fordham University students, it wasn’t the political commentator. Instead, it was a more religiously connected man.

"Instead of his pompous 'Report' character, the man on stage Friday night was Colbert the Sunday school teacher, bringing to life a bit of personal history previously reserved for magazine profiles,” Carroll wrote.

In more recent years, Colbert has let his religious side show through his jokes, according to The Los Angeles Times. No matter how side-splitting the jokes may be, or how in-character Colbert remains, the comedy host is still devoted to his religion and continues to follow his faith.

“The man, in reality and character, is a devout and out Catholic, observer of Lent and teacher of Sunday school,” wrote Mary McNamara for The Los Angeles Times. “Unlike other comedians of his persuasion — liberal though disguised as conservative — Colbert does not hide, ignore, downplay or make light of his faith.”

4/12/14

Are Coronary Stents Kosher?

Yes, coronary stents are kosher. In fact they are a miraculous invention.

What are they? Wikipedia says: "A coronary stent is a tube placed in the coronary arteries that supply the heart, to keep the arteries open in the treatment of coronary heart disease. It is used in a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). Stents reduce chest pain and have been shown to improve survivability in the event of an acute myocardial infarction."

The coronary stent was invented by Julio Palmaz. The stainless steel, insertable mesh stent is expanded once inside the body to hold an artery open and allow blood to flow more freely. Palmaz secured funding for the development of the stent from restaurant owner Phil Romano (Fuddruckers and The Macaroni Grill). Palmaz co-developed the stent with Dr. Richard Schatz, a cardiologist at the time at the Brooke Army Medical Center. We would guess that Schatz is Jewish. They patented their invention in 1985.

The coronary stent is one of the greatest inventions of our time. The stent can be inserted through a small puncture in the groin or wrist and via balloon angioplasty it can open up quickly and with little to no pain a 99% occluded major coronary artery. The procedure takes about an hour and the patient is ambulatory after four hours and can resume many of his favorite activities :-) within one day.

To a person (like me) with CAD this rapid and amazing restoration of a person's quality of life is a true medical miracle of our times.

4/5/14

When Sinners Become Saints: The cases of Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin

In congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, for decades they have made a prayer every Shabbat on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, who is called a prisoner of Zion. There is justification in the minds of those who approve of praying for a man imprisoned for espionage against the US. They think Pollard is a hero because he spied for Israel. They think Pollard is a victim of anti-Semitic injustice endemic to the government of the United States.

The underlying narrative -- we saints against them bigots -- supports the tribal isolationism of the Orthodox. So sure it makes sense for the Orthodox doctors and lawyers and businessmen in Teaneck to continually clamor in prayer against the terrible wrong inflicted on the saintly Jonathan Pollard. Listen God. Pollard helped Israel and he was given an unjust punishment. Free him, O Lord.

Welcome to chapter two back in 2010 when Orthodox Jews embraced the convicted Russian Hassidic gangster of Iowa, Sholom Rubashkin. He too was doing holy work for the Jewish people, they cried out. He provided "kosher" meat. Never mind that we have no way of knowing that even one piece of meat from his plant was kosher. Never mind that the greedy Rubashkin constantly raised prices on his "kosher" meat and continually gouged the pious public.

But they said, Rubashkin was given an unjust sentence. 27 years is too much. Others who did worse got fewer years. Logic alerts us to ask, Is this a good idea to demand that gangsters guilty of federal financial offenses and much much more corruption be let off to go free? To have a just society would it not be better to insist that all those other gangsters who got off too lightly be brought back to prison?

And they said, Rubashkin was the victim here. Not the gouged consumers, or the banks that he cheated. Not the 300+ exploited under aged illegal alien Iowa workers.

It's obvious that Rubashkin is a saint and a victim. Just like Pollard. Yes. Let's add him to the list of the Prisoners of Zion and make a prayer for him in our synagogue in Teaneck every week for the next 27 years.

Rabbis are calling to us, instructing us in what is right and virtuous. Let's get the tribe together and stand against all those evil federal officials who are out to get those epitomes of both victimhood and virtue, Pollard and Rubashkin.

Sinners become saints. Gangsters become gedolim. Up is down, and black is white. And many simple, sincere and honest people look and listen, shrug their shoulders, shake their heads, and walk away.

/recast from 2010/

4/4/14

In My Dear Rabbi Column in the The Jewish Standard for April I Give Talmudic Advice about Anti Semitism on TV and Shady Appliance Repairmen

In My Dear Rabbi Column in the The Jewish Standard for April I Give Talmudic Advice about Anti Semitism on TV and Shady Appliance Repairmen!

Dear Rabbi,

My friend complains all the time about anti-Semitism on TV and in other media. Most recently she objected to an episode of “Family Guy” that depicted Jews as money grubbers running after pennies and showed other negative behaviors as stereotypically Jewish. She says that the show’s creator is an anti-Semite and the show is pernicious. I disagree and think the show is funny. Who is right?

Laughing Jew in Lodi

Dear Laughing,

It is true that anti-Semitism should be an urgent concern to all Jews. Soon we shall recall, as we are told prominently in the Passover Haggadah, “In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us. And the holy one blessed be he saves us from them.”

You should carefully parse that short prayer for thanksgiving for God’s protection. It conveys a valuable understanding of what constitutes essential anti-Semitism, and what does not.

It is anti-Semitism when others rise up to destroy us as a people with actions that target our well-being. Real anti-Semitism is where someone hates all Jews as part of his systematic world view or discriminates against Jews by policies or laws.

In his show “Family Guy,” Seth MacFarlane does not do that when he makes jokes about Jews loving money, or shows other truly tasteless and yet, as he sees it, humorous portrayals of Jews. MacFarlane surely does not want to destroy the Jewish people. He just wants to make a living producing cartoons. Such entertainment on TV will not annihilate us, no matter what its content.

4/1/14

Free Halakhah.com Book Downloads on the Red Heifer and the Korban Pesach

Free books on Halakhah.com ("Over 300,000 Free Downloads Each Year") from author Reuven Brauner, who writes us:

"It’s Rosh Chodesh Nissan, and that means we are just a couple of weeks away from Pesach. I remind you that you can read and/or download my works concerning the Red Heifer (which I call the Red Cow) and the procedure for bringing the Korban Pesach which, if the Third Temple is rebuilt or restored this year, will become a reality."