Protocols A group of Jews endeavors towards total domination of the blogosphere.
Saturday, June 05, 2004
Shayne Shiksa writes Luke: "Because you are an expert in both fields Halacha and sex I have a sheilita for you. In one of my study books I saw that the only position allowed in bed is the missionary position. Is there an hetter for other positions (plays)?"
Shayne, this is too sensitive a matter for me to discuss on the Web. Suffice to say, different rabbis have different sexual positions.
I believe it would be most appropriate for you to contact me privately so we can give your question the attention it deserves until we are mutually satisfied.
It seems that the shaytel issue is becoming something of a Jewish Rorschach test. Each commentator on it reveals how you can look at one issue, and see all of your issues in it. Case in point: This weeks Jewish Week carried two op-eds on the subject. The first, by our chaver, Rabbi Eliyahu Stern sees a parallel to the Taliban's destruction of the giant Buddhist monuments in the Afghan desert: the demonization of infidels, the intersection of religion and violence, and the need for a "new practice-sensitive idolatry ethic must emerge for God’s word to continue being the intelligible, peaceful and merciful voice it aspires to be."
Avi Shafran sees yet another example of the media hyperbole, ultimately aimed at making a mockery of religious belief and practice. For Shafran, many of the ills od his community can be easily dismissed as "media bias." Take a look at his article on the media, in the Jewish Observer.
Steven I. pointed me to the Jewish Week pieces yesterday, and I thought it was kind of funny. If you set up Stern and Shafran as a "point and counterpoint", you might as well set up someone speaking Chinese with someone speaking Swahili. (Does anyone actually speak Swahili?) Those dudes are just not speaking the same language.
In any case for those who are interested, I see the shaytel incident, the "issur", the panic it induced, the bonfires etc. all as a commentary on the culture of excess in which many, if not most, Orthodox Jews in metropolitan areas find themselves. If course it's a part of American culture as a whole, the Jews have just produced their own version of it, that includes overpriced wigs, $200 Borsalinos, black-tie Bat Mitzvah (or Bar Mitzvah, or weddings) anything and everything you can imagine made out of silver, and of course the ultimate "tashmish kedusha": the SUV. Is it any wonder so many frum people like Bush? It's not really about Israel, you know.
Gay Pride in Jerusalem draws the crazy people. Haaretz quotes Rabbi David Basri (a kabbalist, apparently) as saying that gay people are subhuman and will be reincarnated as rabbits. If I wasn't disgusted and embarrassed I would think the rabbit part was funny.
The last line of the article is the best: At a "conference on Judaism" simultaneously held by ultra-Orthodox rabbis, "Participants burned wigs imported by India." Is this what Judaism has become? Oy gevalt.
Ariel Sharon pulls his weight and fires opponents of the Gaza pullout. According to Miriam, Minister Avigdor Lieberman evaded the dismissal notice by going to the gym.
UPDATE: Alison Kaplan Sommer notes that wherever missing Minister Benny Elon is, it's equipped with a phone, since he called Israel Radio to point out that he has not yet been officially fired. Someone needs a reality check. Oh, well. Run, Benny, run.
As I was driving home tonight, I took a sudden turn through the 405 traffic. Steven I. Weiss saw his life flash before his eyes and he started singing a song that I could not quite make out.
Protocol readers, if you were on the Titanic and the ship was going down and you knew you were going to drown with your mates, what song would you like the band to play? What did they play on the Titanic? I fear I'd choose a Christian hymn, Abide With Me. Or, Nearer My God To Me. Or Losing my Religion by REM. Or, Leaving on a Jet Plane (John Denver version). Or, (I Just) Died In Your Arms. Or, I'm Still Standing (Elton John). Or, Who's Cryin Now (Journey). Or, Keep on Loving You (REO Speedwagon). Or, He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.
Shmarya writes: "Luke, Google has banned my (meagre) ads for the third time. Why? A Google "program specialist" has determined that my site contains "slanderous" information about "the rabbi." So, how's this for inversion? Chabad bans Ethiopian Jews from its schools, won't do outreach with Ethiopian Jews, and spent considerable effort slandering me (and Rabbi David Berger, and Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, and many more who have publicized information Chabad wanted hushed-up), and yet, somehow, in Google's twisted version of the world, I'm the bad guy. Every claim I make about Chabad is sourced. Nothing is untrue. But when the big Chabad spin machine and wreaking crew goes into operation, truth takes a holiday."
Coming down from the excitement of meeting Steven I. Weiss, I could not sleep Wednesday night.
9:05AM, Thursday. I pick up Steven and drive to the Valley for day two of the UJC conference.
We were five miles outside of Pico/Robertson when the drugs began to take affect. I saw big black bats swooping down on my van. I screamed, pulled over to the side of the road, and ran into the desert.
Ten minutes later, I returned. Steven was still holding his bottle of Jack.
"As your moral leader," I said, "I must advise you to have another drink."
I drop him off at the conference and then commence my deep under cover investigative reporting which I am not at liberty to discuss.
I pick up him late in the afternoon. He wants to go to the graduation of the latest Wexner class at the University synagogue. We have an hour to kill so we walk to Starbucks and he buys me a strawberry frapuccino.
The class on leadership is led by HUC LA professor Darla Abrams.
An hour in, I look up from my HOLLYWOOD ANIMAL book and say, "This sounds feminine."
"Interesting that you should say that," she responded, "because the person who came up with this leadership model was a man."
"He's probably gay," is how I wanted to respond, but as a model of propriety, I say instead, "This doesn't sound like the way football coaches such as Bill Parcells lead."
Steven hands out his Forward card to everyone in the room and bores some poor innocent ladies to death with his theories on blogging leading a renaissance of Jewish journalism.
Friday morning we might attend a congressman's public meeting on an HIV problem within a certain sector of the Valley economy. What's the proper Jewish response to sodomy?
Orthodox Jewish screenwriter Robert J. Avrech, 54, is about the most private man I know. In 20 years at his shul, I do not believe he has once gone to kiddish. He avoids the social circuit. He refuses most interview requests (except for Jewish publications). He sticks close to home.
Ten months after the death of his son Ariel, however, he's pouring himself out on his blog revealing the most intimate details of his love for his family. I'm not surprised by anything he's written. I'm just stunned he's made it public. I fear that any day now he'll pull the whole thing down and never blog again.
I picked up Steven I. Weiss from LAX at 11:15AM. At first, I thought he was a homeless guy and I was about to toss him a quarter. Let's just say he's unassuming in appearance and dresses like a typical journalist. He's down to earth. He puts on no airs. His mind is like a steel trap and he has a ton of contacts in Jewish blogging and Jewish journalism.
Weiss is a rebel like me. I thrill to his tales of ejection.
He has the boldest most compelling vision of Jewish journalism I've heard since talking to author Stephen Fried. This young man is going places.
He goes online and someone has left another appeal to get rid of me from Protocols. He's received about 50 such requests via IM, phone, email and every form of communication known to man. He admits my first day was horrible but he thinks I've improved.
He wants to go to this Hadesh West conference put on by the UJC. I tell him I'll give him a ride to Woodland Hills Mariott if he can get me in. He says sure. Just say I'm covering it for Jewsweek.com. Do you think they'd take an article from me?
Steven has a lot more chutzpah than I, and a lot more confidence in my journalistic abilities.
I trail him to the organizer's table. He gets me in no problem. Once we enter the conference room, I look for a lonely chair near the back while he starts chatting with people and making contacts.
One part of me tries to be as repellant as possible and the other half of me cowers from the consequences.
I look around, hoping to aid the Jewish renaissance by finding a Jewish woman to breed with. No luck.
First panel. Rabbi David Woznica (Jewish Federation of Los Angeles) moderates a discussion between panelists Dr. Beryl Geber (UJ) and Dr. Steven M. Cohen (Hebrew University).
Within ten minutes, I want to take my Museum of Tolerance tote bag (holding my heavy HOLLYWOOD ANIMAL by Joe Eszterhas book) and storm the stage to bash Rabbi Woznica into silence.
R. Woznica makes long boring speeches. He asks his panelists questions and then interrupts them to make more boring speeches.
R. Woznica is the most over-rated rabbi in America. I've heard him speak several times. He's a poor man's Dennis Prager. All he ever seems to say are Dennis Prager sound bites. He gave about 20 tonight and did not once credit his source.
Dr. Cohen is nothing short of brilliant (and I hate his politics).
Like his mentor Prager, R. Woznica is all about himself when it comes to moderating a discussion. Do you agree with me? This is where I agree with you. This is how I feel. This is what I admire. These are my fears. I want everybody to feel passionate about Judaism. This is where I went to college. I teach this group from entertainment. I tell them...
R. Woznika starts the discussion by telling Dr. Cohen how Jewish life has gone down hill. Jews are less Jewish.
Dr. Cohen tells him wrong. By almost every measurable indice, Jews are more Jewish, more learned, more likely to send their kids to Jewish day school than 50 years ago.
R. Woznika repeats Prager's point (without giving credit) that before Jews make up their minds on issues like abortion, they rarely consult their own tradition.
Dr. Cohen says Jewish values are those values that Jews hold that are different from the values of the non-Jews they live among. For instance, Jews hold radically more liberal views on sexual matters than non-Jews (homosexuality, abortion, pornography).
I believe that Jews are the only group in American who (a majority)believe that censoring pornography is wrong. Jews are more resistant than any group to censorship.
R. Woznika interrupts with ponderous statements. Jewish values are not values held by Jews but the values of 3000 years of Jewish sacred text. That's a funny statement for a Reform rabbi to make when Reform Judaism is radically different from the dictates of Torah and Torah sages.
If I had been in Dr. Cohen's seat, I would've walked out after the fifth interruption by R. Woznika. Dr. Cohen sits through another 20 over the course of an hour.
While R. Woznika hectors, blusters and interrupts, I check out the crowd. About 40 persons, evenly divided by sex. Half the women wear dresses and half wear pants. No women cover their hair. Most men are bareheaded. One man has earrings. Steven I. Weiss is far and away the most religious person in the room. The only authentic Orthodox Jew (I'm the pretend Orthodox Jew).
I can't get over listening to Steve introduce himself as "Steven I. Weiss." I can't remember the last person I've met who introduced himself with the middle initial.
R. Woznica wonders about making requirements for Jewish observance and learning for people who hold positions in Jewish organizations like the Federation. Dr. Cohen says it is a terrible idea. "It is unAmerican to set requirements for participation in Jewish life."
Dr. Cohen says the Federations are sitting on a looming crisis in financial support. Jews born since 1945 are far less likely to give to the Federation and more likely to support individual concerns. We're moving from Klal (communal) Judaism to Personal Judaism.
JCCs closing up around LA are one symptom of the decline of Judaism as a civilization (R. Mordecai Kaplan) rather than a religion.
Marion Blumenthal is the chair of this Jewish Renaissance and Renewal Pillar of the UJC. Impressive title. Impressive woman. A beautiful blonde.
I believe there would be a lot more Jews leading Jewish lives if a lot
more Jewish functions were performed by gorgeous blondes.
R. Woznika invites questions from the audience. As this is a Jewish group, he only gets alternative speeches.
Marion makes a couple of points before R. Woznika tells her to sit down so the panelists and he can retake the floor.
For dinner, I sat by Rabbi Eric M. Lankin of the UJC rabbinical cabinate. He has a masters in marketing, a doctorate from HUC in counseling and semicha from JTS (1985). He served as a congregational rabbi for about 15 years and is mentioned in the Stephen Fried book THE NEW RABBI.
Lorraine Blass, UJC researcher, says the JPS population survey showed that the intermarriage rate on the West Coast doubled in the past decade to 67%.
Another sociologist said the West Coast should be called the "unchurched belt."
The rest of the slide show presentation was so boring that I slipped a headphone into my ear and listened to Carl Hiassen's book DOUBLE WHAMMY.
We walk into a new room for dessert and music. I spot a sexy blonde. It's Jewish Journal singles columnist Carin Davis. She reads three of her favorite singles columns, listing about 100 demands for her future husband, including that he keep kosher at home, throw away his Girls Gone Wild videos, accept her frizzy hair, smudged lipstick and burnt cooking.
I eat five helpings of dessert. I'm struck by chest pains. I saw the movie Supersize Me last night. I fear I'm going to have a heart attack.
Was it so wrong of me to dine off the UJC and then write all these nasty things about the kindly R. Woznica? Perhaps God is punishing me for lashon hara.
So many people were so nice to me tonight when I am such a hateful person that it makes me feel guilty for being a self-hating wannabe frum Jew.
Is it so wrong of me to live off women? When I had money, I always picked up the bill. Now I'm poor again. A woman bought me lunch yesterday. Another woman took me to the movies.
Is it so wrong for women to give me plane tickets, accommodation, massages, spending money, tickets to Broadway shows? Is that so bad when I devote my every spare minute to study of sacred text? In the Jewish tradition, women would often support their man so he could study Torah all day. I just want to sit around and read books and write about my feelings. Is that so wrong? Do I not deserve support? I need a patron. I'm a national treasure. I want to be America's blogger laureate and receive a nice fat check from the government every month.
If Luke's not going away, why should I? Come to think of it, why hasn't Luke posted this already?
Israeli Women Sexually Assertive. According to Cosmo, Israeli women are among the world's top "doing-it divas," getting busy and watching porn (52%) with the best of 'em. But the weirdest thing is Cosmo's explanation: "In Israel, women join the army at the age of 18, and their fast, high-adrenaline lifestyle spills over into their sex lives."
As Pervscan (no dirty pictures, but some lewd language) puts it, "The whole intifada is so dismal that it's hard to imagine, no matter how innately optimistic you may be, any good coming out of it. And yet Cosmo now tells us there is a silver lining to this dark cloud: Israeli chicks are hot, super-hot. The maneuvers they learn in the army carry over into the bedroom. Every terrorist explosion apparently serves to make an Israeli chick better in bed. Muslim fanatics die so that Jewish hotties can assert their right to orgasm."
In the comments section of Sam’s post about Brafman, E attacked my bona fides as a “right-wing zealot” on the basis of an article I wrote while in Israel in 1997. I admit that I don’t recall every aspect of the article (and if someone has a copy, please send it my way), but I’ll respond as best I can nonetheless.
If my memory serves me correctly, I would still agree with the main point of the article to which you refer. My point was that even if we are justified in restricting Palestinian movement, or even killing certain Palestinians in some circumstances, (and we undoubtedly ARE), we – as people – still shouldn't make a point of rejoicing at the need to make life difficult for others.
I believe I gave two examples of phenomena I found possibly problematic: 1) Banging on the windows of Arab homes in the Old City on Yom Ha'atzma'ut, and 2) Dancing and blocking traffic for 45 minutes at Hebron's main intersection while Arabs in cars had no choice but to wait until the dancers finished.
In each of these cases, I argue(d) that common-sense moral boundaries were transgressed. In the former: there's no reason why legitimate celebration of Yom Ha’atzma’ut necessarily entails banging on Arab windows. It doesn't add to the celebration, and it's obviously not necessary militarily.
In the latter case, there were likely other sites that could have accommodated the dancing without inconveniencing so many people. In each case, it seemed like the action was done in a manner that would specifically "rub it in" that the Jews were in charge. (Admittedly, the former case had more of this element; in the latter case, there was more of a spontaneous celebratory component to the activity. Still, the dancing could have been moved elsewhere). My point is that these are ugly (though natural) human emotions that we would do well to recognize and, to the greatest extent possible, shed.
And if I’m not mistaken, I quoted a passage from Deuteronomy with which my point (I thought) is consistent:
9:4 – Do not say in your heart, when Hashem pushes them away from before you, saying, "Because of my righteousness did Hashem bring me to take possession of this land and because of the wickedness of these nations did Hashem drive them away from before you." Not because of your righteousness and the uprightness of your heart are you coming to take possession of their land…
And so, if those were the extent of my points when I wrote that article, I stand by them (although I don't recall exactly if there was more to the article).
Does that make me like Amira Haas, as E contends? I hope not.
My self identification as a “right-wing zealot” is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but – regardless – I don't think that my views (that I remember) from 1997, which I now re-affirm, disqualify from membership in this group. Inclusion among the “mindless right-wing zealots,” however, is an association that I aspire to avoid.
posted by YK |
4:40 PM |
The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by Dr. David M. Goldenberg (visiting professor Jewish Religion and Thought at the University of Cape Town) is getting rave reviews.
I ploughed through it Shabbos morning in shul. It's a difficult read. The book is primarily for academics. Dr. Goldenberg concludes that race played no role in the worldview of the Hebrew Bible and little role in the view of the oral tradition. It had a considerably bigger role in Christianity and Islam which led to massive black slavery.
My father is a Bible scholar. He used to drill me that most Bible scholarship simply reflects the ethos of its time. Nineteenth Century Germany saw the Torah through its own prism. I'm suspicious that Dr. Goldenberg's conclusions fit so perfectly with his own worldview and that of his peers and I doubt that if he came to any other conclusion than what he did that a major university press would've published his book.
I am not sure I believe much of this article about teen sex in the NY Times Sunday magazine. Why would the reporter Benoit Denizet-Lewos accept as gospel truth what secular teens tell him about their sex lives? When I was in high school, we lied all the time about our sex lives. I used to boast about mine and it was non-existent.
It's cool in secular terms to have varied sexual experiences and a big number of partners. So why does the reporter accept their assertions?
Ben Brafman on trying Sharon, killing Arafat and the value of Jewish blood. Ten points if you can spot the numerous contradictory thought processes going on here...
A quote sampler:
"I would be the wrong guy to represent Yasser Arafat, because to the extent that he deserves a defense, I think he should be defended by someone who doesn't, deep in his heart, think he should be killed. And I don't think the man deserves to live."
"Fighting the world of public opinion, if I had subpoena power, if I could run this case as if I were involved in a real courtroom, I think Sharon not only gets acquitted, I think Sharon gets a medal when it's over."
""I think it's more and more important for people like me - who are able to walk in the secular world with some degree of credibility - to speak out on behalf of Israel, because I think Israel is alone," says Brafman."
The New York Times looks at the crustaceans in the tap water controversy. Far Rockaway resident Yair Hoffman correctly points out that the little critters are ugly. Meanwhile, vendors in my neighborhood of Midwood are doing blockbuster filter business. I like the Times front page teaser for the story: "First Wigs, Now Water." It begs for continuation: "Now shoes, now air," etc.
In other news, the people charged with bombing two Istanbul synagogues last November were about to be tried when the government realized that there were no courts to try them. Oops.
Robert Avrech: Stern is one of the few campuses in the United States where the students do not organize "Take Back the Night" marches. They do not have to because the religious Jewish women in Stern have enough common sense not to: a)drink themselves insensible b)dress like Brittany Spears, i.e. like sluts c) go back to a hormone driven boy's dorm room after a night of drinking, dancing and flirting, and expect the boy to be satisfied with a deep conversation about Kierkegaard's notions of sin and redemption.
According to Ma'ariv, the Admor Mevishna Street in Bnei Brak will now be segregated-- men on one side, women on the other.
I remember when they first suggested seperate buses, the joke was, what's next, segregated streets? So, what's next, seperate cities (perhaps husbands and wives can meet on neutral ground at appointed visiting hours)?
I wonder if this quote from this article is an official Vatican position:
"The head of Vatican's Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, organizing the meeting which is held in Qatar every year, said the decision would be in Qatar's hands.
"It is better to try to talk together than not to talk at all, but I would agree that there are certain conditions for a dialogue to take place," Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald said, adding that the Vatican sponsors a separate dialogue with Jews."
"This parade of abomination has no place in Jerusalem. In place of parading through the street of Jerusalem, I would send the participants for urgent psychological treatment," far-right activist Itamar Ben-Gvir said, promising to treat the participants at Thursday's event to a volley of eggs and tomatoes.
Comforting those who mourn is a huge mitzvah, but still one among many. Nobody is equally good at all mitzvot. Some are better at comforting, others at studying, others at praying, others at visiting the sick.
Robert Avrech writes about grieving for his yeshiva bocher son Ariel: "So many people are afraid to say his name. "Do you have other children?" others ask hopefully, stupidly, as if one child can be replaced by another like interchangable Legos. There are the "friends" who are too scared or too self-absorbed to say anything. I was with a large powerful talent agency for over twelve years. After Ariel died there was not one phone call from them, not one word of consolation, as if their narcisistic silence somehow erased his very existence, thus freeing these people of any moral responsibility. Ponder the blood relatives who in a frenzy told us that "things are crazy" in their lives and so they can't possibly pay a shiva call. But Karen and I know that what they really meant was that there was a sale at Ralph Lauren and they really didn't want to miss it because it's just once a year and well,there's really nothing they could do, afterall,it's not as if they could bring our son back to life. These people are no longer related to me. I have placed them in a permenent cherem, the ancient Jewish excommunication. It's unofficial and private, but it is forever."
People don't know how to respond to such grief. I know someone in shul who lost his mother a month ago. I haven't said anything to him because I am not that close to him and anything I could say to him would be trite. I never met his mother and I have no idea of his relationship with her. Such tragedies as Robert describes frighten people. I know when I was confined to bed for six years by CFS, many people didn't want to have anything to do with me. My illness frightened them. One thing I learned -- people older than me tended to have more compassion than people my age or younger.
Is blogging good for the Jews? Two big panels Saturday night in Los Angeles. Full reports here: Luke Ford, Cathy Seipp, Cecile du Bois, MackReed, Sean Bonner, Caryn Coleman, Amy Alkon.
Two panelists (Mike Sullivan and Andrew Breitbart on entertainment) looked like cows chewing their cud as they munched on gum while serving on their panels. Folks, you should not chew gum when speaking speaking in public, when in a house of worship, or any time you want to be taken seriously (such as in a business meeting or job interview).
Times mag did a disturbing story on sexual and social practices of today's teens. To what degree does this generally growing trend of random hooking up and friends with benefits - as opposed to traditional boyfriend-girlfriend paradigms - extend to the Orthodox adolescent community? Subgroups? Haredim? Yeshivish? MO- yeshiva high school? Any ideas? Anecdotes?
As a side note, this weekend, I just glanced at a new federation study on sexual practices and susbstance abuse of "at risk" girls in the orthodox community (including haredim). I dont have the study or the stats with me, but what I saw was very very disturbing.
So is chaverim with tosefes the new hot thing on Avenue J?
Wow, clearly I grew up in the wrong generation of Haredi youth.
Over Shabbos I read Still Life With Bombers by David Horovitz, editor of The Jerusalem Report. The book is written from the perspective of a non-Orthodox Jew, a political moderate who comes under attack by both left- and right-wingers. It gives voice to Israeli and Palestinian victims of violence. I think it is an excellent work of journalism.
Horovitz doesn't claim to have a solution to the conflict, but he does support pulling out of Gaza, which is the big issue of the weekend. Horovitz's advice to Sharon: Take it to the people.
Enough already. How many times can the comparison between Iraq and The Swan be invoked before it gets to be really stupid?
"Mr. Bush's speech about the Iraqi makeover, as he wore all that makeup, couldn't even pre-empt the more convincing makeovers on "The Swan" on Fox." (Maureen Dowd, NYT)
"I could not help but see the present U.S. venture in Iraq as a giant, extreme makeover." (Alan Dundes, in TNR)
"EXTREME MIDDLE EAST MAKEOVER WITH GEORGE BUSH!" Explains itself. (David Brooks, NYT)
"While President Bush outlined his plans for the makeover of Iraq to the Army War College on the Fox News network, much of America was tuned into The Swan, the mother of all makeover shows, on the other Fox channel." (Myrna Blyth, NRO)
I don't find it a particularly apt parallel to begin with, but the repetition doesn't help it any.
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