Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Which is the superior sign?

From time to time I pop into the local minyan factory, where I am greeted by a sign on the front door reading: "Please respect the custom of this place. You are required to wear bigdai elyon (hats and jackets) during davening."

Like quite a few other visitors, I cheerfully ignore this directive. An old man or two has shot the look of death in my direction, but as yet, I haven't been asked to leave.

I don't go there very often, however, because praying in those surroundings is quite an ordeal. For starters, the place is a mess: Worn out rugs. Peeling ceilings. Spiders and bugs. Once I even saw a mouse scamper across the floor. But worse than the four legged pests are the beggers. Swarms of them are everywhere, jangling handfuls of coins and flashing their credentials right under your nose. My friends from the far left of Judaism will find this hard to belieive, but they do approach right in the middle of prayer and, without a glimmer of remorse, they'll inturupt your conversation with the Almighty in pursuit of a handout.

More of the beggers bother me, perhaps, because my clothing identifies me as an outsider, and someone who might have a few coins to pass around, but as a rule I give nothing to those who distuirb me during services. I don't reward rudeness.

My good old home shul, the one with the modern, and therefore dated (but well-kept) furnishings, has it's own sign, by the way. It reads: "Collecting money during services is forbiden. Please do not disturb people when they are praying." The beggers, for the most part, comply, and wait in the alcove. Those that don't get the look of death. And if that doesn't work, they are escorted out.

So, nu, nu: Who's going to heaven? The shul with the sign which makes it more difficult for people to daven, by encouraging them to go elsewhere if they aren't properly dressed, or the shul with the sign that facilitates prayer by demanding a quite and inturuption free enviroment?

(July 6, 2006)

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Rand Paul, Kentucky's Republican Nominee for Senator, met with some Christian Home Schoolers the other day, and punted a tough question:

QUESTION: ...and also, how old is the world?

PAUL: I forgot to say I was only taking easy questions... I’m gonna have to pass on the age of the earth. I think I’m just gonna have to pass on that one.

Pass? What for? Were you afraid of what the Home Schoolers would do if you confessed to a belief in science, or did you know the rest of us would laugh and point if professed faith in the young earth?  In either case, what a poor showing for a Republican who wishes to be Senator. No principles, no courage.

Aside: I'm starting to think that I wouldn't ever vote for someone who thinks the universe is just 6000 years old. To hold such a belief is not an confession of faith, but of obstinacy. There's simply too much evidence for the old universe. If you're capable of ignoring it all, and clinging to your cherished dogma despite every possible proof to the contrary I don't think you're the sort of person who should have a high office. Too often top ranking politicians are asked to learn something new, to accept fresh information, to rethink and reexamine cherished, childhood notions. If Randy Paul can't do that, as a belief in the young universe may indicate, he might not be smart enough to serve as Senator.

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Defending Yeedle's Composition

I'm going to take exception here to some of the complaints issued against Yeedle Yid's essay. "Poorly written" said one commenter. Look elsewhere for Chasidim who are "fine writers" said another. An "off day" sneered a third.
What these complainers don't seem to understand is that Yeedle was not writing in Standard English, but in Yinglish, a dialect of English with its own rules and its own conventions. I'm not expert in Yinglish. I can't speak authoritatively about its conventions, or explain exactly how it differs from Yeshivish, but I can recognize it, and I can support a Yinglish speaker's right to make his arguments in his native tongue.
The error Yeedle's detractors made is common. We all have done it or something like it.  The basis of the error is the fallacy of authenticity. We often reject things --Yeedle's  dialect, a minhag, a nusach, a bit of Torah -- because something about it strikes as artificial, or less real.

This is a mistake. There's nothing innately superior about Standard English. It just happens to be the dialect of English used by the American elite, and for this reason alone its perceived as the dialect of education, intelligence and prestige. It didn't fall out of the sky, but developed naturally over time.  And the same is true of our Jewish customs and practices. Shabbos, as I've often said, didn't always mean three meals, three prayer services, fine clothes, fine food, and a long nap. Once Shabbos looked and felt different, and because Shabbos is a living entity, it will continue to evolve and eventually it will look and feel like something else. The way we OJs celebrate Shabbos today  just happens to be the way we celebrate Shabbos. There's nothing special about it, or rather what is special about it is entirely subjective, i.e. unique to us, and to our perceptions. 

However, that fact that religious conventions, like grammatical conventions,  are arbitrary does not mean that they are also unimportant or inconsequential.  For instance, I concur with those who said that Yeedle's arguments would be more effective if he made them in SE. His use of Yinglish rather than SE has consequences. In America, those who use other English dialects to communicate are judged unintelligent; likewise, those who celebrate shabbos, even a halachic shabbos, in a non-Orthodox style are not going to be fully accepted in most Orthodox communities.   Spend shabbos sitting in jeans with a tuna sandwich at the neighborhood park and most Orthodox will decide you're somehow less Jewish. These are just blunt facts.

If Yeedle wants the world at large to listen to what he has to say he's going to have to learn to say it in SE, and if the jeans-wearing shabbos observer wants to be accepted by the Orthodox he's going to have to adopt Orthodox shabbos conventions. No matter how arbitrary grammatical and religious conventions might be, you simply have to follow them if you want the members of that discourse, or religious community to take you seriously. People judge you on how you dress, how you write, how you speak, and in the OJ world they also judge you (or perhaps "grade" is a better word) on how you perform rituals and carry out Commandments. That's Just How it Is. 

Meanwhile, Yeedle's  unfamiliarity with SE shouldn't be misunderstood. Yeedle's essay wasn't poorly written, and he's not a bad writer. He's simply not fluent in SE.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stuff Jewish kids do in what looks like a dorm room

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Kagen's Kiddush Hashem

Is it a kiddush hashem to publicly express your love for Israel? Maybe.

During her confirmation hearings this afternoon, Solicitor General Elena Kagan responded to a question from Senator Grassley (R-IA) about Israeli Justice Aharon Barak.

Kagan responded to the question by highlighting her Jewish heritage and her support for Israel saying, "And that's why I admire Justice Barak. Not for his particular judicial philosophy, not for any of his particular decisions. As you know, I don't think it's a secret I am Jewish. The state of Israel has meant a lot to me and my family."

Ironically, this won't do a thing to blunt the criticism of right wing Orthodox Jews in America. To them, almost  nothing screams "counterfeit Jew" louder than a surpassing love for Israel.  All she did today was confirm Right wing Orthodox Jewish suspicions that she is the wrong kind of Jew.

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An Open Letter To The Community I was Raised In: The Time Has Come
A guest post by Yeedle Yid

Yes my dear chareidy friend. The time has come for us - the chareidy community - to wake up and realize that we are being kept hostage under the iron grip of a few people that we wouldn't think twice to kill them. These people dictate our community to dance according to their rhythm and the vast majority of us are firmly enslaved under the vicious rule of a handful of extremists.

No, don't take me wrong. I'm not talking about our "Gedolim" Chas VeShalom. I'm talking about the people our gedolim are afraid of, the ones who cause our gedolim to be afraid og changing.

No. I'm not your neighborhood blasphemer, who ridicules all gedolim and is on his way "off the dererch". No. That's totally not me. I'm a regular "chasidishe yingerman" who lives in America's Jerusalem aka Williamsburgh, Brooklyn NY, who eats chulent dutifully every weekend, and wears that nice tall rabbit-fur hat. But, thanks God, under that rabbit-fur hat, I was granted a brain that possess reasonable amounts of logic, and in order to utilize what God gave me, I used that brain to think about Life and what it's all about, and came to the 'shocking' realization that we, meaning the chareidy community at large, are wasting our lives.

Yes. I know that the gedolim are smarter, brighter, more knowledgeable (you fill in the rest) than we are, and if they decided that sending all our boys to yeshiva and not to collage is the way to go, than it is without doubt the best thing you can do for your children. But give it a moment of thought. Are we really being led on the right path? Is our system really surpassing all other? Is the decision by our gedolim not to learn secular studies in yeshivos, a decision made after clearly thinking over the matter and considering both options equally, or is it just a blind continuation of what used to be, with the brilliant argument that "if that's what our ancestors of yesteryear considered as the right way, it surely still applies to us"?

I'm not trying to say that our gedolim of the previous generation were wrong. Quite the opposite. In my opinion, this is what the Orthodox Jewry needed right after WWII to be able to survive.If the yeshiva system wouldn't have been instigated right from the start, orthodoxy would've faded into oblivion. The attempts of Rav Kook, to merge two worlds has partially failed as is evident by the large amount of Datlashim (A whooping 1/4 according to one source).So it's understsnable why others, like the Chazon Ish and Briske Rav in Israel and Satmar Rav in the U.S., insisted on sticking to pure torah study in yeshivos, and were against Orthodox Jews joining the army ranks.

But, my friends, the time has come. We are immunised enough, and we are ready to face the world. Nothing would happen if we start getting normal education for our kids. Nothing will happen if those who do not belong in kolel go out to work. The level of observance won't change. If anything, it will only be enhanced. We will start producing our own doctors, lawyers, everything that every normal community is producing.

Nothing will happen, my dear chareidy colleagues, if we would start filling up the ranks of Nachal Chareidy instead of loitering in yeshiva hallways wasting our time and life. nothing will happen if we start working instead of travelling to the U.S. for schnorring purposes.

Now, my dear chareidy friend, I know that you're going to impulsively reject what I told you, because that's how you - and I - were raised. We are constantly getting the message that we have to believe everything and everyone, otherwise we are going straight to hell. But please allow yourself to 'cheat' just this once, because this is a matter of whether you are going to waste your life or not. Truth being said, the odds are that YOUR life has already been wasted by your parents. But you can still save your children.

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Hamodia hearts low lifes

This week, Hamodia came out in full-throated support of a tax cheat and a community of religious supremacists. Here's the screaming headline

I see two problems, one of vocabulary and one of values.

The vocabulary problem: A  "miscarriage of justice" is a wrongful conviction. It is not a miscarriage of justice when a tax cheat gets a sentence that many people (including me, btw)  think was too severe, nor is it a miscarriage of justice when a community of religious supremacists defy a court, and are sent to jail. 

The values problem: Try this thought experiment. Suppose a famously philanthropic, Lebovitcher Chosid named Shloimy Bubishkan was convicted of conning a yeshiva out of a few million dollars, and the Judge sentenced him to life in jail. Such a sentence would also be a departure from sentencing guidelines, but I doubt anyone would complain very much. Why not? What's the difference? Fictional Bubishkan would be tossed overboard by the Jewish community. I think we can agree on that. So why is Rubashkin supported?

The case in Emanuel is even worse. Suppose a community of white Christians arranged things at the public library so that the Jewish patrons had their own area, walled off from the white Christian section. Suppose the while Christians piously explained that they hadn't made these arrangements because they hate Jews - God forbid! - but because there are aspects of white Christian culture, practice and observance, that they wish to encourage.Would anyone tolerate such an explanation for even half a second? So why do otherwise reasonable people nod  their heads, and say "I sort of see their point" when Ashkenazim do it to Sephardim?

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Monday, June 28, 2010

What happened to Hasidism? How they went wrong.

How Hasidism Went Astray
By Arthur Green

For the past half-century, I have been reading and studying the sources of Hasidism with both affection and respect. I have worked as a historian of Hasidic thought and, more recently, as a theologian trying to construct a contemporary Judaism on the basis of Hasidic insights. Like the Hasidic master Pinhas of Korzec, who once thanked God that his soul came into the world after the Zohar was revealed “because the Zohar kept me a Jew,” I know that I owe my own Judaism primarily to the Baal Shem Tov and his followers.

Over this same time period, however, I have looked with growing dismay at contemporary Hasidism and the various positions it has taken on matters of concern to all Jews. The latest, and most ridiculously degrading, incident is the flap about Ashkenazic-Sephardic integration that is convulsing Israel. At the center of the current furor is the ultra-Orthodox Beit Yaakov school in the West Bank town of Immanuel, where mostly Sephardic girls were literally walled and fenced off from the mostly Ashkenazic girls in the school’s Hasidic track, with religious differences offered as the justification.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Stuff you spring on people this shabbos about Balaam

Here are a few things you can say tonight around the shabbos table to regale your guests and impress your wife, or live in boyfriend as the case may be.

Stupid Sarah Palin's New Stupid Thing

NJDC Condemns Governor Sarah Palin's Promotion of Abusive Holocaust Rhetoric
Palin asked her supporters to read Thomas Sowell's piece that compares the BP escrow fund to Nazism

WASHINGTON, DC - Last night former Republican Governor Sarah Palin tweeted about the BP escrow fund saying, "This is about the rule of law v. an unconstitutional power grab. Read Thomas Sowell's article." The inflammatory article - to which Palin provides her followers a link - makes a clear comparison between the BP escrow fund and Nazism. In encouraging her supporters to read Sowell's article, Palin promoted the type of abusive Holocaust rhetoric that the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) and others have repeatedly spoken out against.

In response to Palin's actions, NJDC President David A. Harris today issued the following statement:

"Over the past year we have seen the continued use of abusive Holocaust rhetoric by political candidates, pundits, and activists - particularly from the conservative end of the spectrum. NJDC has consistently repeated its position that using this type of language to promote a political agenda is inflammatory, offensive, and detrimental to the political process, regardless of who invokes it.

Yesterday, Sarah Palin joined the ranks of her right-wing colleagues who haven't thought twice about invoking the Holocaust or making comparisons to Nazi Germany to drive home a point. President Obama has rightly demanded that BP make whole those Americans who have been directly harmed by this disaster in the Gulf; promoting comparisons of such executive actions to Nazi-era tactics - as Palin has done - is offensive and disturbing in the extreme. As a likely future candidate and GOP leader, Governor Palin should be speaking out against the use of this type of abusive rhetoric - not encouraging her supporters to read it."

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Brooklyn's Hebrew charter school gets its five minutes

Props to alert reader [name on request] for sending in the article from yesterdays evil, Jew-hating New York Times, about Hebrew Language Academy, a charter school in Brooklyn where students learn Hebrew and Israeli culture. Ready for a surprise, though? HLA is "one of the most racially mixed charter schools in the city. About a third of the 150 students are black, and several are Hispanic."

And of course those clever pin heads at the Times just could not resist having a little fun with our presumed expectations. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Every so often, Aalim Moody, 5, and his twin sister, Aalima, break into a kind of secret code, chatting in a language their father does not understand.

Ask Aalim his favorite song and he will happily belt out:

“Eretz Yisrael sheli yaffa v’gam porachat!” — My land of Israel is beautiful and blossoming! — and then he continues in Hebrew:

Who built it and who cultivated it?

All of us together!

I built a house in the land of Israel.

So now I have a land and I have a house in the land of Israel!

Aalim and Aalima are not Jewish. They worship at a mosque affiliated with the Nation of Islam. But at the Hebrew Language Academy, they fit right in.

Haha, you can almost hear the writer laugh to himself. Fooled you!

Lame journalistic attempts at irony aside, I think its great that kids with kippot are going to school with Black Muslims. Both will grow up with a better understanding and a fuller tolerance of each other, which is all to the good.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

A few arguments in favor of soccer

I'm in an argument with my good friend MoChassid about the relative merits of soccer. [Note this was in 2006]

He and I both agree that metric football can very, very boring, only he insists that it is always boring, while I mantain that a good soccer game is as exciting as any televised sporting event. [Baseball on TV is unwatchable. You either go to the game, listen on the radio, or read about it in the paper the next day.]

Ten things I like about soccer:
1 - No commercials.
2 - No time outs
3 - No play stoppage. It's non-stop action. Also, 90 minutes = 90 minutes, not three hours.
4 - Ticky-tack fouls are called but they don't hurt the game. You just restart from the point of the foul.
5 - Goal celebrations. They aren't illegal and nobody whines and cries about sportsmanship when a scoring player has a little bit of fun.
6 - The game isn't larded down with piles and piles of stats, and the boring analysis that accompanies it. You keep track of goals and shots and that's about it.
7 - Holding up the red car is the most dramatic official's call in sports (an ejection in baseball is a close second)
8 - When someone is sent off, the other team gets a power play for the rest of the game.
9 - During the World Cup you can root for your country and make a healthy display of patriotism.
10 - Soccer players look like human beings, not like mutants.

A few things I don't like about soccer:
1 - Boring games are hard to watch (but this is true of any sport. I don't have the patience to sit through anything on TV, save the most important games, and then only if I care about the participants.)
2 - They put corporate logos right on their uniforms. Baseball, thankfully, had a rare moment of a good taste when they canceled a plan to put adverts on the bases. In soccer, everything is for sale. 
3 - The continuous, nonstop clock is one of the pluses of soccer. The clock isn't stopped for anything, not for fouls or for a ball that goes out of play and there are no time outs. The problem is that the ref has the discretion to add extra time to the game to compensate for time lost, and he can do this for any reason he feels sufficient. As a result, only the ref knows exactly how much time is really left in a game, and he keeps this information to himself. At the end of a half, neither the viewers or the players ever know precisely how much times is left in the game. This is absurd, and a system that was obviously designed by Hasidim, or some other culture that has no respect for time.

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John Oliver tells the truth about the decline and fall of the United States

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World Cup 2010: Into Africa - US Beats Algeria
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Also: Do conservatives enjoy soccer the way liberals seem to?

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Inarguable truthes about General McCrystal-gate

Had a four-start general criticized the president of the United States in some hippie rock-and-roll magazine when George W.Bush was president, you can be sure the brainiancs on Fox News would have sided with the president, and against the general. We'd have been reminded about honor and dignity. The words pride and service would have been repeated endlessly. We'd have been told that generals serve at the pleasure of the president which, come to think of it, is preecisely how the right-wing commentating community defended Bush's decision to cashier all those justice department employees. In short, the general, the militray, and Rolling Stone would have all been cheerfully tossed under the Geroge W.Bush-can-do-no-wrong bus.

With Obama, of course, its different. Obama is "thin skinned" (Ann Coullter) and trying to avoid looking like a "wimp" (O'Reilly) McCrystal, on the other hand,  is an "amazing American" (USA Today) who "didn't get the rules of engagement" or "boots on the ground" he wanted in Afghanistan. (Rush Limbaugh) and was fired (Limbaugh again)  to promote the leadership qualities "of our man-child president."

Aside: Remember how in To Kill a Mockingbird the lawyer kept calling Tom Robinson "boy", and how it made Dill sick to his stomach and sent him fleeing to the town square where we met Dolphus something-or-other the miscegenating,  fake alcoholic? "Man-child" isn't much better is it?

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Anthony Lane has a knowing psudeo-celebarton of the Eurovision song contest in the current New Yorker, which is not available in full on line. See the excerpt here.

Reading it, I was amused at Lane's gentle mockery of this event, disturbed by his extreme Euro-pop b'kius, and concerned he might not mention Israel's own moments of glory at the competition. Four or five pages in, he finally got to "A-Ba-Ni-Bi".   Phew. Nothing about "Hallelujah" though, and only the briefest of mentions of Dana International about whom the less said the better.

Something else:  Israel's 2010 entry, Haral, did ok, I guess. Or so this press release would like us to believe.

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Amerks advance

Basically, this is the biggest goal you will ever see before noon on a weekday on the East Coast. The play-by-play posting from the Timesman watching T.V in Manhattan was also quite good. The game itself was a nailbiter, with lots of missed chances for the U.S. Or so I gather.

Don't you all feel a little bit like a Jew at Christmastime? The whole entire world is reveling in this ginormous festival of comradere and celebration, and we Americans, chosen by God and all, are watching from the outside. I don't feel bad about missing Christmas - its a ripoff of an old pagan party, re-purposed in honor of idolatry, but I do wish we had a World Cup culture here in the states. It looks like fun.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Double Standards

Funny how OJs tend to accuse President Obama of bigotry for sitting in the pews of Reverend Wright's church for years, but somehow, it's acceptable to be a member of a Shul that has agreed to be part of an organization that believes women are unfit to be in any position of communal leadership and is willing to make this their defining issue. So Wright's bigotry is bad, while NCYI's bigotry is perfectly acceptable?

Sure. Any OJ has sat in shul and listened to a presiding Rabbi make ignorant and bigoted slurs against gentiles, women, or America. They don't say "God damn America" of course, but I've heard invective that comes close.

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Harsher Sentences Are Not The Answer

A Guest Post By E. Fink

This is what the shoe feels like when it's on the other foot.

For decades, right-wing / republican / conservative / Judeo-Christian Valuists have talked a big game when it comes to fighting crime. Running on "Law and Order" platforms and promising harsh sentences for criminals was a sure way to gain support.

On the other hand, bleeding heart liberals have been trying to model the justice system after the softer Euro sentencing structures.

Traditionally, middle class white people support Law and Order style justice. Harsh sentences make them feel safer and they are less likely to know someone who will be incarcerated, thus they are removed from the effects of the harsh sentencing of criminals.

Lower class folks usually support softer punishments. They are the ones who are more likely to have friends and relatives in the justice system. For many of them, the softer the punishment, the sooner they get their daddy back.

It was real easy for us middle class white (Jewish) people to support strict sentencing guidelines when it didn't really affect us. But after witnessing one of our own fall prey to the system we helped create I am sure we all feel differently. (Of course I am aware that there are some middle class white Jews who vote democrat and support liberal causes, I am talking to everyone else.)

27 years is a long time. Rubashkin is a crook but his sentence is very harsh. We now feel what lower class communities have felt for so long. Some of us now think the system is out to get us. They have felt that way all along. Some of us now are horrified by the sentencing guidelines and the leeway given to particularly strict judges. They have been saying this is a problem all along.

Perhaps it is time for our community to more fully support softer punishments for all criminals. In some states (like mine - California) we are spending millions and millions of dollars locking up "3 Strikes" criminals for LIFE (including non-violent, minor felonies). That is even harsher than Rubashkin's sentence. If we are outraged over his sentence let that outrage spill over into more socially conscious, activist role and help modify our current justice system.

But please, for intellectual honesty's sake, be consistent. If you think Rubashkin got a raw deal, do some research and learn about how other people who made mistakes in their teens will spend their entire lives in jail because of America's love of retribution. Help everyone who got shafted by the system and let's try and prevent this from happening again, to anyone.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Oh How I Yearn For The Anti-Semites of Yore

A Guest Post By E. Fink

There is a healthy nostalgia built into Judaism. "Chadesh yameni k'kedem" we say. Of course, like any good thing, too much nostalgia is a bad thing. After reading the famous case of Brandenburg v. Ohio I find myself pining for the anti-Jewish sentiment as expressed in 60's as opposed to today.

Brandenburg was a Ku Klux Klan leader in Ohio. At a KKK rally, men dressed in robes and hoods burned a cross and made public declarations of hate. Among their offensive epithets:
"Bury the n****", "Freedom for the whites", "Let's get them back to the dark garden",
(see FN1 in the Court opinion for the complete list) all clearly anti-black statements that are highly offensive.

Of course, no good KKK rally is complete without some anti-Jewish fun as well. These KKK Jew haters proclaimed:
"Send the Jews back to Israel"
Today's anti-Jewish proclamations are more likely to echo Helen Thomas and say "Get the Jews out of Israel".

Oh how I yearn for the anti-semites of yore. They were so much nicer to us...

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27 years for Rubashkin

As the anti-Semitic evil New York Times puts it:

The sentence, two years more than prosecutors had requested, was unusually high in the recent history of financial crimes — longer than the term for Jeffrey K. Skilling, the former chief executive of Enron, and L. Dennis Kozlowski, the former chief executive of Tyco.

Lawyers for Mr. Rubashkin said they would appeal the decision, challenging the interpretation of federal sentencing guidelines by Judge Linda R. Reade. The appeal would expand the controversy surrounding the case, which has already included six former United States attorneys general writing to the judge to assail the prosecutors’ logic in seeking a term that could amount to a life sentence.

The sentence is also likely to deepen the belief among some Orthodox Jewish leaders, who have sustained an international campaign on Mr. Rubashkin’s behalf, that he was unfairly tried.

Not that I'm an OJ leader like Pesach Lerner, who is quoted by the Times wailing and gnashing his teeth, but I don't think Ruby was unfairly tried; still I concur: nothing about the sentencing adds up. It smells wrong.

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NCYI takes on a small shul.

I see from my mail that  NCYI is at  war with a small shul in Syracuse - the only Orthodox shul for hundreds miles - and according to the shul president, they have threatened to destroy it. The issue? Not a woman rabbi, says the shul , but a woman president. Is such a thing really forbidden? And if it is, can't the rabbis find/create a kula that will save an Orthodox institution? Last year, Agudah defeated the child-protecting Markey Bill on the grounds that it would open the door to livelihood and institution destroying lawsuits. If children can be sacrificed to save a yeshiva, can't NCYI sacrifice its standards for the sake of saving an old and proud Orthodox shul?

Here's what the shul president says, in full:

Dear Friends,

I have recently been informed that National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) is having a meeting of the Delegates Assembly on this coming Thursday, June 24th, during which they plan to vote to expel our synagogue, Shaarei Torah Orthodox Congregation of Syracuse. This is in spite of the fact that we legally resigned from them on August 24, 2008. According to their constitution, the assets of any synagogue that is expelled revert to NCYI.

We have prepared a position paper that details the history of what occurred, and explains why we resigned. We would like as many delegates as possible to be made aware of our story. If you know members of Young Israel synagogues in other cities, please send them the link to this website.

With thanks,

Beverly S. Marmor
Shaarei Torah Orthodox Congregation of Syracuse

Note: There are at least  two sides to every story. I'm happy to publish the NCYI version of events, or any official response. All information in this post appears here and was submitted to me by email from someone who is not affiliated with the shul.

Shul's version of events after the jump

Miriam's well

One of the endearing legends of the Old Testement (1) is Miriam's Well. This miraculous source of water is believed to have first appeared at Refidim, to have followed the Israelites during their forty years in the desert, and to have run dry immediately after Miriam's death. Here are the verses that support (or, as the modern interpreters would say, created) this legend:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Shabbos music

Your weekly dose of odd, interesting and amazing shabbos music is after the jump. Please hit the tip jar or buy a book if you're so inclined.

Prager tells diaspora Jews to shut their fat mouths

Well, this is precious. Professional big mouth Dennis Prager is now telling diaspora Jews that they mustn't speak their minds when it comes to Israel. Presumably, its okay for us to continue asking God to intervene via our prayers, and of course our tax dollars and tourist dollars remain most welcome, but this is where Dennis wants it to end:
“While I have strong opinions on settlements, peace, territory, etc., unlike many American Jews I do not express them publicly. I do not believe it is the business of any American Jew to tell a mature democracy faced with threats to its existence what policies it should follow. Living in the safety of America, 10,000 miles away, I won’t tell you. whose lives are on the line every day, what you should do.”

Dennis, as usual, is wrong in almost too many ways to count, but for the sake of you, the readers,  I shall give it the old college try.

(1) American tax dollars help pay to protect those settlements, so unless you want the American aid spigot turned off, you'd best put up with our chattering. We're not saying you're required to listen, but don't take out money, pat us on the head, and tell us to get lost. If you're such a  mature democracy, you can tolerate a little free speech. It doesn't hurt, and the process of listening, and exchanging ideas, will only make your mature democracy stronger.

(2) Are all Jews family, responsible for one another, or not? You can't have it both ways. You can't expect us to make Israel the focus of our lives, insist that we accept it as our homeland, and demand an emotional investment, while also expecting to quietly go along with whatever you think is best. That's not fair, or reasonable. You want us to care about Israel? Good. Let us care about Israel.

(3) Dennis is demanding we keep our strong opinions on peace, settlements, and territory to ourselves. Fine. Does that also go for our strong opinions about commerce, religion, the arts and sports? Can I say that I think the Israel Museum's proposed revision sucks beans without offending Denis, or do I have to pretend to like it because God forbid I should tell a mature art institution what I think of its design choices? What about Hapoel Petach Tikva? Can I say their coach put together a bad lineup, without first purchasing a stake in the team?  And let's not omit to mention  Prager's screaming hypocricy. He's written dozens of columns that say Israeli society should be more religious. Why is he allowed to advocate for his preferred religious policies, if he believes disapora Jews must swallow their opinions about Israel and nod silently?

(4) I can't help thinking that Prager wants us diaspora Jews to be silent about "settlements, peace, territory" because we knows we overwhelmingly disagree with him. He's hawkish; most diaspora Jews are not. It seems obvious to me that he's telling us to shut up and follow orders, because he's frightened our view, not his, will carry the day if we're allowed to present it. Defeating our arguments with arguments of his own must be too difficult for Dennis. This is why he attempts  to stifle us instead. Along with dumb, add cowardly and cynical as Denis-describing adjectives.

Bottom line? Prager is ridiculous. As a human being, I have a natural, irrevocable right to make any argument I like about any subject I like. I can advocate for the Catholic Church to let priests marry, I can call for Russia to sack Putin, and I can say what I think Israel should or should not do. No one has to listen, of course, and I don't get a vote; also I shouldn't necessarily get any time or official attention from Church, Russian, or Israeli officials, but you can't prevent me from speaking. Any attempt to prevent me from speaking is inherently suspicious and a sign of weakness on the part of the person making the attempt to silence me.

Search for more information about Denis Prager at

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Questions About Immanuel

A Guest Post By E. Fink

This picture is on the top of Vosizneias. I assume it depicts a child from the Immanuel School whose parents were taken to jail for defying a court order. The child is obviously crying.

My heart goes out to her.

I don't have a full understanding of the entire Immanuel saga. I do have a lot of questions. This post is merely to open the forum of discussion about this incident.

Off the top of my (nearly exploding) head:
  • Did the court overreach in its decision?
  • Is racism the cause for not allowing Sephardi girls into the primarily Charedi school?
  • Is religious indignation the cause for not allowing Sephardi girls into the primarily Charedi school?
  • Are those the same thing?
  • Why don't the Charedim pull out of the public school and make a private school that suits their needs?
  • Would the court have a problem with that too?
  • Is there a more civilized way to deal with this problem? (Not protesting, not taking parents away from their children...)
And most of all:
  • When the parents go to jail for 2 weeks, who watches their precious children for whom they are making this stand?
  • Is it conceivable that having both parents in jail is better for the children?
More pictures: (all photos courtesy of VIN or whoever they snatched them from)

Search for more information about what the heck is going on in Immanuel at

A message from God

A guest post by CA

"Lightning strike destroys Touchdown Jesus statue"

Familiar Ohio landmark reduced to blackened steel skeleton after being struck by lightning'"

"A six-storey statue of Jesus Christ in a midwestern US city was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, leaving only a blackened steel skeleton and pieces of foam that were scooped up by curious onlookers yesterday."

Now, of course, we rationalists are offended by the thought that God was trying to make some sort of statement about the existence of such a statue, although Orthodox Jews do believe in hashgacha pratis. But it is possible that the only message God was trying to send was to not make 6-story statues out of flammable materials, especially if they are erected in places subject to sever thunderstorms. What do you think? What does the DovBear community think?

DB: It seems perfectly clear to me that God hates Jesus and he used the lightning strike to make this perfectly clear. Why He waited all this time to destroy the statue, and why He allows other such statues to survive are what we of the faithful joyfully term "one of the mysteries" /snark

Search for more information about hashgacha protis at

Killing Obama whether he is coming or going

Fox's Gretchen Carlson on Monday: Why doesn't Obama ask God to help with the oil spill?

Obama on Tuesday: Tonight we pray for that courage, we pray for the people of the Gulf, and we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm to a brighter day.

Fox's Gretchen Carlson on Wednesday: He prayed? To God? Wow. Talk about disingenuous.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Barak Obama is now George Bush

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Respect My Authoritah
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Jon Stewart gives Barak Obama the stern telling off he richly deserves.

Are the Haredim Really the Ones Benefitting From Inequality?

A Guest Post by Rafi G

They make it sound like the haredim have the highest level of quality of living and economic wealth in the country, and it is all through taking advantage of government funding.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the way the supplementary "Havtachat Hachnasa" is structured in the budget is discriminatory and illegal and must be canceled (beginning with the 2011 budget). Since then people, articles, opinion pieces, editorials, are talking non-stop about how important this is. As if this measly little part of the budget is so important and everything in the country that has been going wrong has been because of that, and now everything will be ok.

I get that equality is important, but some proportion is in order.. The welfare payment was a measly welfare payment. nobody was getting rich off it and almost nobody clamors for welfare payments unless they are absolutely desperate. This is not the big savior of Israeli society nor of creating equality. It is a measly welfare payment. it might have been necessary, under the banner of equality, to cancel or restructure, but let's not make it out to more than what it actually is.

Beyond that, now that the rabidly anti-haredi are so happy that this Havtachat Hachnasa has been canceled and our society is now nearly perfect, we can move on to resolving the final remnants of inequality in society. Sure enough, the haredim are squeezing the rest of the country again with disproportionate budgets that they take advantage of and don't allow anyone else to benefit from. And we have to resolve that inequality immediately.

Now being suggested is that the Haredim benefit by learning in kollel because they do not have to pay for their higher education - they even get paid a stipend for it - while college students have to pay for their higher education!

The shame! Kollel students are not paying the tuitions of college students. What inequality! How unfair. We must either force the kollels to start charging people to learn, and then we'll see how many of those haredim would really be so inclined, or we should cancel the tuition charged in university and have the government provide all the funding.

Yes, that will finalize the equality in Israeli society - start charging tuition to kollel men, or cancel university tuition. Everybody, no matter what they are doing and no matter how different they are, should either have to pay for it, the same amount I assume, or nobody should have to pay for it.

In the meantime, the State refuses to recognize kollel and yeshiva study as higher education and recognize it in the form of granting a degree, akin to a BSc of Judaic Studies or something similar, while someon ein college who studies ancient Chinese languages, or any other topic that has little or no practical use, is just as unqualified for any practical job yet he holds a recognized degree.

So you refuse to recognize his studies at a university level, but you want to compare him to university students and start charging similar tuition?

The kollels are largely not funded by the government. Stipends are provided and some of the general funding is provided by the government, but the bulk of the kollel budget is made up by the Rosh Kolel, or someone else, traveling the world a few ties a year and raising money to run his kollel. The university is funded far more by the government than a kollel is. Also, look at the universities and see their campuses and buildings. Then look at the mostly run down batei medrash in caravans in which kollels learn and still tell me with a straight face that it is comparable to the university, and it is the haredim who benefit form the inequality.

Read the annual comptroller reports, whether national or local cities, and you will see how the inequality is almost always against the haredim. Their education system is funded using numbers far lower per student than the general educational system. The money given for religious services (there is no separation of shul and state in Israel, and until there will be this will remain an issue) is a pittance compared to the money given to the arts and cultural activities.

And it is the Haredim who are benefiting form all this inequality?

I would recommend that the haredi politicians get together some people who are good with numbers, along with some good lawyers, and file a suit in the Supreme Court to demand equality. Let the cat out of the bag. Take it to the public and show that it is almost always the haredim that suffer from the losing side of unequal funding, and if the courts and public insist on equality, it works both ways.

Let's keep it in proportion. People have been making this court decision out to be the salvation of equality in Israeli society. At the end of the day, all it is is a measly little welfare payment.

Search for more information about [inequality] at

Can a shul let its Jewish caretaker violate shabbos?

Another day, another email:
I have a question that I was wondering maybe some of your dear readers could shed some light…

A particular shul I know (not my one) has a caretaker who is employed to work (as well as on other days) on Shabbat. Apparently, since working there, he has claimed that he had a Jewish mother.

This leads to an obvious problem. If he is believed, then they cannot have him work on Shabbat.

Unfortunately though, they cannot stop him working on Shabbat as he could sue for unfair dismissal based on racial discrimination (the irony of it all). In the UK, Jews are legally termed as a race, which has caused other problems to do with Jewish school, but that is another issue. There was a suggestion that he could be suspended on full pay for Shabbat only, but that way, both parties would suffer – the shul would still need to employ someone else for Shabbat, and it would be on his record that he was suspended which could affect him in the future (official employment records don’t explain or show that there were halachic reasons).

The unofficial policy of the shul at the moment is to turn a blind eye, ignore it and hope that the caretaker is mistaken.

There is no suggestion that the caretaker is being dishonest in any way, is trying to scam anyone, he is a very nice chap, works well, and likes standing at the back of the shul during davening with his newly acquired Polish siddur, whenever possible.

The Beadle

I'm confused about the employment records. Do these follow workers everywhere? There's nothing like that in the US. Isn't there some way the records can be massaged so that his absence on Shabbos doesn't reflect poorly on him, without the shul also telling a lie? (If you were chasidim, you'd know how to do this.)

I think there's another problem you haven't identified. How can the shul benefit on shabbos from this man's work? The problem isn't just that the shul is requiring/allowing a Jew to work on shabbos, but that his work creates a benefit enjoyed by the shul members, that halacha prohibits.

Where's your Rav? What's his view?

Search for more information about [topic] at

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A guest post from across the pond

Chief Rabbi Scores an Own Goal with New Book Back Cover
by Fozzie

The British Chief Rabbi's new book 'Future Tense' is perhaps his most important and timely book yet.

It is a clarion call to Jews to be positive and outward looking in facing the future and to reject attitudes of victim-hood and defeat. It is important in particular that American Orthodox Jews hear this voice - one that runs so counter to the majority of Orthodox public leadership today.

He's not exceptionally popular over here, however, is the Chief. So it is going to be a hard sell, anyway, getting the local RW OJs to read his book - even though they are exactly the people who need to hear his arguments.

Troubling then that the Chief's marketing gang have done all they can to ensure that it will never ever be read by an RW OJ.

Pick up the book and look at the tributes on the back cover. Very nice comments, but written by a Christian and a Muslim. Exactly the sort of thing to cement his image as a liberal weenie, heretic leftie type in the mind of mainstream American Orthodoxy. I can just picture in my mind the RW OJs now dropping it on the floor with revulsion once they see it.

Dear Chief, you are so smart. Your books are so important. Please can you fix this? Perhaps a different edition marketed more to those who so need to hear your words.

Search for more information about the UK and why they speak a weird English at

Monday, June 14, 2010

Is It Okay To Minimize the Miraculousness of Biblical Miracles?

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Of course it is okay to minimize the miraculousness of Biblical miracles.

In fact, I don't understand why some people (ahem, ahem) are so bothered by minimizing Biblical miracles. Why was there resistance to the idea that the manna might have been a natural substance that was miraculously present on a consistent basis? (I wrote about that last week: Thoughts on Manna and on my blog.)

The Chinuch is as clear as can be about this concept. The Chinuch says that the reason that God made the wind blow the night before the splitting of the sea was so that the miracle would not be totally obvious. Similarly, there is an obligation to light the fire on the mizbeyach even though the fire miraculously came down from heaven. God does miracles with tznius and making the miracle SEEM natural is a more tzanua way of performing miracles.

I am certain there are plenty more sources to this effect. It just happens that I was looking at the Netziv in this week's parsha and he is guilty of the same alleged crime as I am.

The Netziv in parshas Chukas tries to explain the miracle of water that came from the rock in a natural way. The Netziv says that there are rocks that spout water, the miracle of this rock was that it had so much water.

Why is the Netziv trying to minimize Biblical miracles? I can't say for sure. But whatever the reason, it is definitely okay. So please take up another issue to fight about. On this one, you are wrong.

Search for more information about God's tznius at

More Daly

What follows are Senator Daly's replies to many of the questions posed to him by my readers here. (The first batch of the Senator's replies are here) All of it is SIC.

In the replies, the Senator occasionally plays politics referring us to previous statements he's made on the various issues, but on the whole he comes across as a decent guy. He may not understand the situation in Israel in the same way that many of us do, but there's nothing offensive or immoral or anti-Semitic about what he has to say. I've marked significant answers in yellow.

(I was also pleased to see that his only flash of anger was reserved for Chaim Bray's monumentally stupid question. (Marked in red).

Next Steps:
Reply in the comments. Anything noteworthy will be sent in to the Senator, though I do not really expect him to give us any more of his time. Daly has been generous enough, especially when you remember that we are not his constituents, and that we do we have anything at all to offer him aside from our point of view.
You are also invited to submit posts that address the various points raised here. The best (usually this means shortest and least boring) will be published.

Daly's answers after the jump

Why Does Judaism Suck?

jewish_teensA Guest Post by Reb Akiva of Mystical Paths

(Illustrative photo – not of the people involved in this article)

A percentage of our youth are disaffected. Orthodox Jewish youth. A subset of the generation that is drawn to the excitement of the world or turned off by a dry education system or parental and communal restrictions. Or so I say. But as my own teens remind me regularly, what do I know?

So I’ve asked and challenged them, tell me “Why does Judaism suck?” Yes, a provocative question designed to get their interest and get a deep answer from them.

They’ve taken up my challenge. A worldwide group of disaffected Jewish teenagers, girls and boys from orthodox homes, have responded. Here it is, here’s why, in their own words, the Judaism of today doesn’t work for them. From Ramat Beit Shemesh Israel, Passaic New Jersey, Jerusalem Israel, Crown Heights New York, here’s why Judaism sucks….

(These are their own words. Very minor edits for grammar and spelling to keep the reading easy.)

A: It’s not that Judaism sucks, it’s that people these days really corrupted it and teach it totally the wrong way. So I think that that’s one of the main problems. It’s the people, not the religion. The school systems need to be changed, and the way that it’s taught.

B: Maybe like the adults and teachers are hypocrites. They don’t keep what they teach. They teach to fear God which isn’t good. They should teach that we should love God and not fear him. They also focus too much on like external stuff these days, like how high your socks are and are not teaching the more important stuff like morals
and how to act and behave. They should focus more on being a good person then how high your socks are. For example adults and teachers say you shouldn’t speak lashan hara, then go and talk to all the parents and teachers about you! People should just be real and true.

C: They say when you are young (a child) everything can influence you and they are right. Their influence is what screws with you, confuses you, makes everything complicated.

D: Judaism doesn't provide enough answers. How do you expect a young child to go about his life with no answers just curiosity?

E: I think it sucks because it’s a shallow minded religion. Things that it says don’t work for our generation. Kids don’t want to hear how they can’t do anything enjoyable.

F: I think Judaism itself is fine. The basis of the true religion is
great. But rabbis and sages have made up all these extra rules to add here to the original rules which, because they are man made, might be spoiling the purity of the religion.

G: I don't think the religion sucks, I think that it's not being taught properly. There are people out there distorting it and taking things a little bit too far. I don't think that the extra rules the rabbi's added on a while ago spoils the purity, I think its more all the extra rules being added on NOW. And while “E” is right about kids not wanting to hear about it now, but often it’s because they don't get what it's really about and don’t understand why they can't do the things they want to do.

H: Know ANYBODY who teaches it well? Can’t say I know any one or any rabbi who does.

I: In short I find even when you do all the right things it still seems to be a dark world, and basically that’s why I think it’s all (feces).

J: Judaism is awesome, it’s just the people who represent it nowadays are stuck in a steel box and are doing it all wrong. But Judaism in and of itself is beautiful. If it was taught in the right way people would be a lot more into it.

K: Judaism is creator, angles, spirits, mysticism, heaven,.... But it’s based on ancient culture.

L: What the rabbi's added in the times of the Gemara isn't bad at all, it's just as pure as the rest of the Torah. But people are adding on their own stuff and taking it too far now, which is wrong.

Search for more information about [Judaism] at

Sunday, June 13, 2010

More Daly

Mark Daly has answered more of the questions sent to him last week on behalf of the readership. His replies will appear on Monday after noon.

Search for more information about [topic] at

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shabbos music after the jump

Drop some coins in the pushka if you're so inclined and remember that there's no religious imperative to eat and drink too much just because its shabbos.

How the modern interpreters explain Korach's absence

Korach's big rebellion gets three biblical mentions. First, of course, it is in Numbers, where are the details are given, but there are two other mentions.

In Dueteronomy 11
It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the desert until you arrived at this place, and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them.

and in Psalm 106

In the camp they grew envious of Moses and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the LORD.

The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan; it buried the company of Abiram.

Fire blazed among their followers; a flame consumed the wicked.

Notice, who's missing? Korach, of course!

Modern interpreters say this is evidence that Korach's rebellion was a later invention grafted on to the account of an older rebellion, one that involved the Rubenites alone. Other textual evidence for this grafting, or combining of sources, can be found here.

Some modern interpreters believe that the Rubenite story dates to early day when the tribes of Judah and Ephraim first started to gain power. Their ascendancy came at the expense of Rueben, the original top dogs among the tribes, who may very well have protested the new political reality with words like "כִּֽי־תִשְׂתָּרֵ֥ר עָלֵ֖ינוּ גַּם־הִשְׂתָּרֵֽר׃" (Are you going to lord over us?)

The tribe of Reuven's loss of prominence, the modern interpreters add, is also reflected in the stories of Reuben losing his firstborn status, stories written after the fact to explain why a once-mighty tribe had fallen. Indeed in the texts believed by the modern interpreters to be composed after Reuben decline, this tribe is not mentioned at all, or mentioned in a way that suggests its insignificance, for example, the Blessings of Moses.

As for Korach, the modern interpreters generally say his story was a salvo in the "Who is a priest" war. On the evidence of various texts and stories, the modern interpreters say that at some point in Jewish history any Levite could serve as a priest. Support for this contention is found all over Deuteronomy, where the phrase, "the priest, who are Levites" is used. Only at some later date, did the privilege become restricted to descendants of Aharon. See for example Leviticus, where the emphasis is "the priests, the sons of Aharon" The author of the Korach story, the modern interpreters deduce, supported the Aaronids, and wrote the story as a polemic against those who held the other view. Anyone who like Korach believes all Levites are holy enough to serve as priests can expect to be sallowed up by the earth.

Is there's an ancient interpretation for Korach's absence from the other materials I don't know it, and would be quite glad to have it.

Search for more information about korach  at

Steven Colbert on the Flotilla, with Micheal Oren, and more

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Formidable Opponent - Michael Oren
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

(Don't miss Steven's last question, which was classic Colbert, and Oren handled it like the pro he is.)

Search for more information about Colbert at

First batch of Daly answers

Senator Daly's replies are beneath the respective questions in italic. All of his replies are verbatim, sic, etc.

shualah elisheva
senator daly [if senator is the proper title - i don't know much about
irish political office];

first, i have to thank you for your transparency and willingness to
answer questions posed by dovbear. it's a refreshing change of pace to
see participants on both sides of an argument set aside the vitriol
and discuss their differences logically and rationally.

so here's my question: why do you feel that hamas is refusing to allow
the red cross to visit gilad shalit? why, if they seek recognition as
an independent nation, do they not act as an independent nation and
permit the red cross to visit this soldier who has been held without a
visit or sign for four years?

thank you, again. kol hakavod for taking time to speak with us.

can only assume that they feel it will inflict more pain on the family and on gilad shalit also. Hamas do not abide by the Geneva Convention so this behaviour while disgraceful and inhumane is not unpredictable. For proof if ID please google the Irish Parliament ( oireachtas)

Hamas is stockpiling weapons to use against Israeli civilians, and
they have shown they will use them. Hamas refuses to recognize the
right of Israel to exist, vowing to destroy it. If Israel doesn't
impose a blockade, what is to prevent Iran from shipping bigger and
better weapons into Gaza via the sea?

what is to prevent Iran from shipping bigger and better weapons into Gaza via the tunnels. If there was enough food going through the checkpoints between Israel and Gaza along with a concerted effort with egypt to close the tunnels. Israels security would be enhanced and supplies from the sea unnecessarY

Do Jews have a right to self-determination and national liberation in
their own land?


Rabba bar bar Chana
Are you opposed merely to the blockade and the occupation, or do you
agree with Helen Thomas that Jews should "get out of Palestinbe" and
do a reverse exodus back to Europe and America? [Edited by DovBear]

Do not agree with Helen Thomas.

Have you spent much time with people who support Israel, and its
policies toward the Palestenian and the peace process? What is your
opinion of those policies, and your view of those people? [Edited by DovBear]

We have had the israeli ambassador to Ireland in on many occasions but I fundamentally disagree with the path the israeli government is on. A military solution was tried in the North of Ireland and did not work it will not work for Israel now. Its part of the solution but not the solution. We hope to have more delegations over from Israeli and this week I was with the Irish Foreign affairs committee when we met with J street

More later I hope...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thoughts on Manna

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Adapted from this post on my blog.

As the Israelites sojourned in the desert for 40 years, the Torah tells us that they ate Manna. It was a food that they were not familiar with as they reacted to the manna by saying "man hu?" what is it?

Reading the text of the narrative in the Torah tells us some very interesting details. Here are some snippets:

The questions for Senator Daly

What follows are the reader questions sent to Senator Daly. I do not know how he plans to handle them all. I'll report back once I've heard from him.

Can you be moral without God?

Al Sharpton gives the Rabbinic Judaism argument about God being necessary for morality, and Chris Hitchens slams him headfirst into the pavement.

Search for more information about losing arguments at

George Galloway Destroys His Enemies

I've been listening to George Galloway rip racists and anti-Semites into little, tiny shreds. Its quite entertaining. Some examples (all titles are SIC via YouTube):

* George Galloway is a former MP who is best known as a supporter of the Palestinians, friend of Arafat, war profiteer, and opponent of Zionism. This is only a part of what makes listening to him defend Jews and attack bigots so entertaining.

In the interest of fair play, here's an Israeli woman destroying Galloway and here also is Chris Hitchens taking his lunch and then tearing him a new one. And of course, we have this collection of George's lowest moments. supplied by Muekubal. I don't think Galloway is a good guy. This is why I thought it was so amusing to hear him defending Jews and attacking anti-Semites.

Search for more information about George Galloway at

Ask Mark Daly a question. (DovBear exclusive)

Mark Daly is the Irish politician who would have participated in the flotilla were it not for the authorities in Cyprus, and one of three Irish parliamentarians who offered to take along letters and parcels for Gilad Shalit. I've been corresponding with the senator by email, and he has graciously agreed to answer some of your questions about the floitlla, Free Gaza, and his involvement with them both. I don't expect he will be appearing in the comments, but he has told me to send him the questions I "feel are most relevant". I will do this, and hope he will reply.

My old H.S principle used to tell us before we left on field trips that our behavior would be a reflection on our parents, our school, our faith, and ourselves. The same is true of your questions for Mister Daly, and your behavior on this comment thread which he and perhaps his friends may monitor. I know its the signature style of this blog, but please folks, no sarcasm, accusations, or gotcha games today. This is an opportunity to exchange information, and for two different sides to learn about each other.  I ask you to phrase your questions politely, and to comment in good faith, and I believe the Senator will do his best to address your inquiries.

Related Links
  • I'm going to send Senator Daly the best questions at the end of the day.
  • The questions I send will be listed in a separate post. I may edit your questions for one reason or another. The  edited questions are what will appear in the questions post.
  • I do not know when Daly will reply. All he's agreed to do is answer the questions. We did not discuss a timeline (though he's already sent me the answer to one question)
  • The answers will be posted as I receive them, with the exception of the first answer, which will be posted tomorrow.

Search for more information about golden opportunities to learn about the world provided by DovBear at

This is more than one year old but I've just seen it. Perhaps you missed it, too

Gerald Kauffman, a British MP who grew up an Orthodox Jew, speaks out in the House of Commons against the present Israeli government.

I post this for informational purposes only and no endorsement of these views should be inferred from their presence on my blog.

Search for more information about [topic] at

Some German talking head defends Israel

Having grown up on Yom Hashoa films, I admit its unsettling to hear that accent saying nice things about Jews...

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