Monday, December 28, 2009

So What Did Barry Rosenberg Have To Say?

Last Wednesday, Barry Rosenberg, the Executive Vice President of the St. Louis Jewish Federation, made some time to speak to a group of young adults at the Next Dor House. He spoke about his experiences in the Jewish communal world and answered some tough questions. So just what did he have to say?

Answering a question about duplications of effort, and over-saturation of the young adult world, Barry said that, while the city certainly has way too many synagogues, it probably still doesn't have enough options for young adults.

He spoke about St. Louis provincialism, and how there is greater awareness now that this isn't the easiest city to move to, or move back to. Barry attributes the 'closed' nature of St. Louis to the fact that you simply don't have as many people in St. Louis who aren't from here, which he looks at as a source of strength for many existing organizations, but a problem if you want to break in or create change.

Part of it, Barry admits, is just numbers. You just don't have the same numbers of young adults here in St. Louis and so, he says, more is better until we reach that critical mass.

The conversation took some interesting twists and turns, particularly when asked why competition is seen as a good thing in the for profit world, and a bad thing in the not for profit world.

Stay tuned for the full (edited) podcast of the discussion soon and to find out what is coming up at Next Dor, be sure to check out nextdorstl.org and facebook.com/nextdorstl
Read More......

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Coastie's: Codeword for Jewish American Princesses?

For many of us who attended Midwestern Universities, there was a divide in culture (and often Socio-economic status) between students from the Midwest and students from the coast. A recent video out of the University of Wisconsin tackles the issue of 'Coastie's head on, and it specifically calls out Jewish girls spending their 'daddy's money'.

Props to Jewschool for bringing this to our attention.

Coastie is defined on Wikipedia as
a term used in Midwestern U.S. universities to denote students who come from outside of the region, mainly from the East or West coast. The term is also used to describe students from the suburbs of Chicago. The term is thought to have been coined in the early to mid 90s. Although the most general use of the term denotes only the origin of these students, there are often implicit or explicit associations that use of the term can evoke. One is that coasties do not pay their own tuition because they come from socioeconomically privileged families. Other associations include living in private residence halls and membership in a fraternity or a sorority. Additional associations are fashion-related and are therefore more ephemeral. The most recent coastie fashion consists of Ugg boots, The North Face jackets, plain black leggings, American Apparel v-neck t-shirts, Longchamp Bags, and over-sized sunglasses.

The term took on new life, however, when the following video starting making its rounds:



As you can clearly hear, the performers call special attention to Jewish honeys (attractive girls) spending daddy's money, as well as a clear Jewish American Princess line.

Now, I'm with Talib Kweli when he says
Now if they call you out your name and that's a different thing
Anything but Queen I'll go to war like a King

And normally I'd be willing to go to war for my Jewish honeys, except that... well... it kind of rings true. It's not that 'Coasties' can just be reduced to their material components, but there sure were a lot of girls (and guys) at Wash U who sported the attire described on the Wikipedia article.

Dearest 'Coastie' friends, how does this song resonate with you? Are you infuriated? Flattered? Or does it not bother you since you moved back to the coast after school and haven't thought about the fly-over states since?

For various responses see: the AP article, the Heeb quip and the Sisterhood response.
Read More......

Monday, December 21, 2009

What's Up This Week?

So you missed 3rd Fridays at Next Dor? Not to worry, check out the glorious pictures here (and see if you can spot our contributors among the more than 40 people who showed up).

This is one of those weeks where it can be hard to be Jewish. With Christmas cheer all over the airwaves (seriously, even KDHX's Reggae shows played Yuletide music), and with Hannukah gone for another year, what are you do to?

Well, if you aren't afraid to brave the cold, come out Wednesday night to talk with Barry Rosenberg, an experienced non profit educator, and Executive Vice President of the Federation. Barry will be discussing his experiences in the community, giving us insider information into future direction, and is happy to engage in a little back and forth. To see the details, please click here

Thursday night, celebrate annual Chinese food and movie night with The Hebrew Hammer, at the Next Dor house. For details, email nextdorstl at gmail dot com. Read More......

Friday, December 18, 2009

End Of The Week Updates

You might have noticed a bit of a lag in the content here at The St. Lou Jew.

Most of it just has to do with the sheer amount of activities going on outside of the blogosphere, but we apologize nonetheless. The upshot is that there is so much to tell you about! Read on for all of the updates.

Starting out with what is going on tonight, join 3rd Friday's for the monthly Shabbat dinner, taking place this evening at Next Dor. The food is free, so stop on by.

Speaking of free, we found a really interesting article examining the impact of free event on Jewish young adults. The question being discussed is how free events impact both the immediate turn out (positively) and how they impact a sense of entitlement and future donations (negatively). You can read that article here

On an entirely unconnected note, a friend passed a long a NYT article that notes that most Christmas music was actually made by Jews. Long known to all Christian conspiracy theorists, this music tends to be fairly secular in nature, and illustrate the quest for acceptance many Jewish Americans felt over the past century. That article can be found here

Now, on to our favorite strip of land in the Middle East where Danny Ayalon, the Deputy Foreign Minister, wrote an op-ed in Arabic in one of the largest pan-Arab newspapers calling for a new relationship between Israel and her neighbors to combat extremism and to fight global warming. To see what Ayalon had to say (in English), click here

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom
Read More......

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Paradigm Shift In Thinking About Israel

Those of us with a liberal arts degree are familiar with terms like 'colonial', 'imperial', and 'native'. Many of us have toyed with moral relativism long enough to blur the line between terrorists and freedom fighters and, while embodying a liberal mindset that prides itself on openness and alternative narratives, we have become susceptible to propaganda that fits this world view.

There has been a lot of recent research showing that many American Jewish young adults don't have any connection with Israel. A lot of us feel that Israel shouldn't have a carte blanche in its harsh dealings with Palestinians. Israel's position as a pariah nation is further and further pushed through left-leaning media outlets and across college campuses.

The underlying narrative that has created this situation is that Israel is a country that was created because the European powers felt bad for the Jews after the Holocaust and decided to settle these white Jews in what was then the Palestinian mandate, uprooted thousands of brown people in the process. Classic colonialism, right?

Except that this oversimplified view of history is misguided at best, and at worst, totally incorrect. A very interesting article on Jewcy tackles the myth of Jewish colonialism head on and makes several very important points.

The first is that Jews are just as indigenous to the area between Sinai and the Jordan river as any of the peoples who have become known as Palestinian. Even following forced expulsion of Jews by the Babylonians, the Romans, the Christians, etc., there remained a continuous presence of Jews in the area now known as Israel.

The second point has to do with refugee rights. One gigantic issue which has time and again stalled the peace process is the 'right of return'. This is the idea that Palestinians have the right to return to the land from which they left, either from fear, direct threat, or otherwise. What the article brings up is that, more than 40% of Israel's Jews were, just a generation or two ago, living in Arab countries. Immediately after the end of the 1948 war, Jews were forced to leave every Arab country. Most were not able to take their possessions, and were forced to give up their land, homes, and money.

According to the article, the World Organisation of Jews from Arab Countries estimates that Jews in Arab countries lost many more billions of assets as the Palestinians, and four times as much land as the size of Israel itself. Now, while these facts do not lessen Palestinian claims, or abdicate the Israeli government for its actions, they do help to put certain things into perspective. This conflict is not simple black and white, and both sides have legitimate claims and illegitimate methods.

A true liberal approach to the conflict should examine all facts and viewpoints, even if it makes the conclusion unclear.
Read More......

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Next Dor Press

Just in time for the Potluck tonight, Next Dor is getting some great press from Jewishinstlouis.org.

The story, written by fellow Young Yid PJ is pretty solid and gives a pretty nice description of the house.

You can read it here and view some of the, as of yet, unreleased pictures here Read More......

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Weekly Update: Mayor Schoemehl, Pot Lucks, and more!

Last week was indeed a busy one and this week promises more interesting things. Read on for the juicy details.

A quick shout out to I64-40, known by locals as 'highway fahrty', which FINALLY opened back up this morning at 5 am.

The past weekend was jam-packed with a huge Moishe House dinner (props to heather for the great tilapia), some Challah French Toast, video games, and Hebrew tutoring at the Next Dor House on Saturday, and the big bad menorah's of Lightfest, followed by some Chiropractic help and a jam session at the Next Dor House (for more on what went down over the weekend at Next Dor, click here).

So what is happening this week?

Well, for starters, tomorrow night (Tuesday), Vince Schoemehl will be following up to the initial conversation we detailed (here) with a larger group of influencers and power brokers. If you want to be a part of that conversation and the activities that flow from it, be at 5020 Waterman (AKA Central Reform) tomorrow night at 6 PM.

Wednesday night, Next Dor will be hosting a pot luck, and judging by the early response, it looks like it will be a full house. To make sure you have a place at the table, RSVP here.

Thursday on out, you're on your own. I'm headed to Denver on business and will be making a stop over to see one of my favorite baby cousins.

Don't forget, Friday is already Hannukah, so bust out your No Limit Texas Dreidel sets, and your deep fryers, and get ready to celebrate.
Read More......

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Completely Different Path

You asked for change. Here it is.

If anyone was concerned that President Obama's number one priority was not the U.S. economy, one need not look further than his new Afghanistan plan for reassurance. In a foreign policy speech, the President's ultimate justification for his Afghanistan War plan was the effects the war is having on our economy. His appeal, out of place in a major foreign policy address in which America and its allies needed assurances that the Commander in-Chief was committed to the fight against Muslim extremism, was this: "...the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home." When Obama took office, the U.S. was as involved in the world as it has ever been. However, Obama has made foreign policy decision after decision with one central theme: to reduce the role and footprint of the U.S. abroad. This policy is not based solely on his economic concerns; Afghanistan is only one of the policies that has led me to my conclusion, and not all are economic in nature. A few observations to support my conclusion follow.

It is surprising that at a time of such globalization, America is experiencing the likes of a re-dedication to domestic policy not seen in modern times since, I don't even know when. The presidencies of the Bushes were mired by global events, the Clinton years a time of heavy involvement in the Middle East and Balkans, Ronald Reagan's a heavy focus on ending the Cold War, Jimmy Carter's a focus on international "human rights," Lyndon Johnson's Great Society program hurt by the Vietnam war, JFK's brief presidency one of Cold War focus, and so on. While each president has had his own domestic agenda, some more successful and influential than others, the Obama presidency is shaping up to be one of a different breed.

The Central Intelligence Agency, once the envy of the world and the U.S. gatekeeper, has been at the wrong end of a 35 year campaign to reduce its role and influence that has, since Obama's inauguration, seen a ramp-up. Despite promises coming into office that he would not prosecute CIA staff for their conduct under the Bush administration, Obama has asked his Attorney General to initiate an investigation into CIA conduct. These sorts of investigations over the last 35 years have been used by Democrats and power-hungry Department of Defense officials to reduce the efficacy of the CIA (which is ironic because the CIA was created, run, and inititially strengthened by the most liberal of Democrats).

The issue de jour raised against the CIA is whether the conduct of its role in the war on terror has been executed in a moral fashion. Moral dilemmas do not involve having to choose between right and wrong; they arise from having to choose between two questionable options. It is plainly wrong to inflict pain on another human being, but what if doing so could prevent the loss of life on a larger scale? This is the type of question the CIA faces in its day-to-day operations: how to weigh certainty against possibility, and its decision making is now being subjected to scruitany by a group of people who have never been in these sorts of situations. In the wake of 9/11, Justice Department lawyer John Yoo and his staff were asked to define the boundries that the CIA would be held to. The memos produced have been referred to as "torture memos" and demonized as government approval and guidance of how to carry out torture. In fact, the opposite is true: they are anti-torture memos in that they drew lines that the CIA was not to cross, no matter how justified. With one single execption, who is now in jail, the CIA stood behind the limits set forth by the DOJ. These anti-torture memos separated out the different ways a prisoner could be coerced in order to elicit information, and decided which techniques counted as torture and which did not, and how far they could be taken under different circumstances. They did not provide approval for torture; DOJ documents (drafted under the Reagan and Clinton administrations) already exist for this purpose. Rather, they clarified in greater detail, so as to prevent torture, what was and was not allowed, and updated the rules with modern techniques.

The Obama investigation is not so much demonizing the judgment of the Bush DOJ so much as it dismisses the concept of CIA conscious moral judgment. Decades of leftist criticism of the CIA have inoculated the notion that CIA operatives automatically commit immoral actions and are thus incapable of deciding right from wrong and must be reigned in. Instead of focusing on upper limits that give chance to success, the focus is on setting lower limits to, as best as possible, assure that nothing goes wrong. The only approach that can be thought up is to impose more rules when, if anything, simply better rules are needed. This is the easy way out. A sign above the desk of the CIA's case officer sums it up:

Big ops, Big problems
Small ops, Small problems
No ops, No problems

This is not the attitude you want your agency responsible for foreign intelligence to have. In light of Obama's inability to distinguish between what the CIA does and true torture is (the kidnapping by Islamic terrorists in 1983 of CIA officer William Francis Buckley who was chained to a radioator and beaten for 15 months until he died of a heart attack compared to the "torture" of a terrorist suspect who was been threatened with a power drill, for example), his actions can only be explained by drawing on his strong concern of how the U.S. is perceived abroad; because terror suspects with information that might be used to save lives were treated like terror suspects with information that might be used to save lives, obviously some immoral action was involved. Despite many Arab government's goals conflicting with our goals, and despite the fact that many Western governments do not have the same concern for our well being as we do, their concerns hold a special place in our president's heart. A more limited CIA is not what our country needs right now, yet that is what we are going to get because a stronger one might upset someone in France or Saudi Arabia.

President Bush spent three years talking the Polish and Czech governments into participating a missile defense program they both wanted and saw as necessary to their national interests (Poland saw it as a step towards greater independence and strength against the Russians, and the Czechs saw it as increasing their importance to, and role in, the world). Less than a year into his presidency, Obama has renegged on these promises and thrown two very important allies under the bus. "Catastrophic to Poland" is how the Polish Ministry of Defense descripted Obama's actions. "This is not good news for the Czech state, for Czech freedom and independence" was the Czech response. There is no precedent for the manner in which these agreements were unilaterally erased. The U.S. has historically respected its treaties as they've passed from administration to administration, even those opposed by the in-coming president. The reversal of the treaties with Poland and the Czech Republic came as huge surprises to those countries who had take big risks in agreeing to them, and will likely make it for the U.S. to come to agreements in the out years on sensitive issues.

Why did President Obama make this decision? Few know for sure, but many have a pretty good idea: the Russians did not like it, and the U.S. could really use better Russian relations. In his deliberations on the issue, Obama floated a trade to Russian President Medvedev: we'll give up missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic and you support us on Iranian sanctions. Medvedev responded publically: great, we fully support you giving up Poland and the Czechs, but these issues are not related and a trade is out of the question. Despite this, Obama moved forward and got nothing out of the deal. The Russians were bound to eventually support the sanctions, as they have done recently, because (as should have been apparent to the naive Obama administration), Iran was not going to play ball and head down an even more dangerous path that, at some point, the Russians were going to be threatened by. It's happened, all on its own, and Obama gave up a significant national security effort, weakened relations with two important allies, and challenged other allies to trust us in the future, out of desperation in a situation where none was warranted.

Today, in Mogadishu, a suicide bomber killed three Somali ministers and more than a dozen others. Al Shabaab, a militant youth Islamic group with links to Al Qaeda whose declared purpose in Somalia is to overthrow the government and institute Islamic rule, is the suspected transgressor. Since the 1990s, the Somali government has struggled to establish law and order and a viable state. The lawlessness has given rise to piracy, and now is drawing Al Qaeda fighters from countries like Pakistan and Yemen. In the past several months, attacks by Islamic militants have spiked in what the U.S. believes is a goal to establish an African base from which to plan and stage attacks on America. Of suicide attacks, a Somali ambassador said, "it's new to us; it's not a Somali thing." There is clear-as-day evidence that while we are fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (the one war zone that Obama has right), they are setting up shop in Somalia, yet we are doing little other than sending money to the ineffective Somali military to prevent it. This reeks of a Clinton decision not to attack Al Qaeda despite knowing the location of Osama bin Laden. Why did Clinton not go after bin Laden? He did not want a foreign operation with limited international support that posed a threat to our interests. Oops. I'm willing to bet Obama is of a similar mindset with Somalia.

In his 11 months in office, Obama has laid a clear framework of ideology (if I had more time, I'd discuss Asia too) that says America has a bad reputation, so we're going to back down. I doubt he has considered that our reputation has degraded not so much because we're over-extended but because we're not working hard enough to uphold our ideals of freedom and democracy. With Russia, Obama has cowed to a despotic government because it's easier than taking it on, and the trust of our allies is fading. Where's our committment to the young democracies in the region promoting freedom? In Cairo, Obama told the Arab world that Israel was created out of Western guilt for World War II, despite the well document falsity of this concept; our committment to truth and honesty would have cost us too much there. In Somalia, we are going to allow Al Qeada to do its thing because we simply can't be bothered to stand up for human decency, let alone do some preventative work to stave off future Al Qaeda operations. Most blatant of all is Obama's treatment of Honduras. When Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was ousted last summer, Obama immediatedly called it an illegal action, insisted he be returned to power, and refused to talk to the interim government. Forget that Zelaya's constitutional term limit was up and that he refused to leave office and tried illegally to hold onto power, Honduras is still a democracy; Zelaya's interim successor is not even allowed to be a contender in the election that has already been planned. What possible motivation could Obama have for this, seeing as he's contradicting the tenets of democracy? For good or bad, it appears Obama is taking America down a path of reduced influence and power in the world. One could make the argument that the focus should be on strengthing America from within, but as we're increasingly tied to the fate of other nations, it seems unwise to reduce our role in their business.
Read More......

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hot Jewish Women And Their Place In Pop Culture

Not so long ago, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girlfriend was a status symbol for a Jewish guys. According to a recent article, however, now it's Jewish women that have become fetishized.

According to this piece, Jewish girls have jumped into the mainstream consciousness as objects of sexual desire. A quick youtube search for Jewish girls or Israeli girls will bear this out.

While this is nothing new to me (having gone to Jewish summer camp and been active in NFTY), it is interesting that this article isn't talking about Jews finding Jewish women attractive.



Perhaps most interesting is that not too long ago, Jewish women were portrayed in the media high-pitched, materialistic, JAPS, who were anything but sexual.

I'm all for the celebration of Jewish women, so long as it doesn't increase the competition.
Read More......

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Community Update

Now that the turkey is finally out of our system, we want you to know about the latest and greatest going on in St. Louis.

Starting with this very evening, both AIPAC and Elie Wiesel are in town.

AIPAC, aka the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, will be hosting its annual event at the Ritz Carlton at 7 PM tonight, and Dan Senor, co-author of the recently published "Start up Nation, The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle"* will be the featured speaker.

Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize winner, most famous for his book, "Night", about the Holocaust, will be speaking at Saint Louis University at the same time. For more information, click here.

Thursday night, come check out Yid Drum and DJ Duo Autiomadic at the Gramophone for free at 10 PM.

Friday, Moishe House kicks of December with Shabbat dinner, followed by a trip to St. Louis' Holiday Magic on Saturday.

Sunday. Sunday. Sunday. Not only is the HUGE LightFest going down at the JCC, but afterwords, Next Dor is bringing some of the top students from Logan University's Chiropractic program to give deep tissue (non) massages. You can RSVP for that here, or just drop in.

For more Next Dor updates, you can visit www.facebook.com/nextdorstl Read More......

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Vince Schoemehl: Roundtable on Racism and Segregation in St. Louis

Monday night, a small group sat down with former St. Louis Mayor Vince Schoemehl to discuss segregation in St. Louis and to answer one of his nagging questions, "Why don't my kids have any Black friends?"

Schoemehl, now President and CEO of Grand Center, was hoping to gain some insight into this question from a group of young adults.

The conversation jumped from the Metrolink, and lack of viable public transit in St. Louis, to the history of housing covenants, the public school system, the city/county divide, and more.

Schoemehl wanted to know how we get different people interacting across these constructed boundaries. The first step to integration, is interaction, and in St. Louis, without even knowing it, most of us step into segregated bars, clubs, and restaurants every day. In fact, one attendant remarked, the only place you see people interacting are at the large outdoor festivals like Live on the Levy, the jazz shows at the Botanical Gardens and the Festival of Nations, all of which occur in public spaces. Because so many neighborhoods are segregated, particularly between the city and the county, citizens of St. Louis aren't as exposed to heterogeneous populations and so aren't forced to interact with them.

It was agreed that we could throw around theories until we were blue in the face, so we decided to try to take action (this action is still being discussed).

Clearly, this isn't just a St. Louis issue, but as Schoemehl pointed out, St. Louis is a city that faces irrelevance if it can't move towards a more dynamic, post-racial culture.

What do you think? Have you make friends across the 'great racial divide'?
Read More......

Monday, November 23, 2009

Live Music and St. Louis

We spend a lot of our time here at the St. Lou Jew trying to figure what to get into next. A lot of it is music, and while St. Louis has a great music legacy, St. Louis of today isn't known for being a thriving music community. Truth is, though, that if you are prepared to dive in, you'll find a rich subculture of accessible and talented musicians.

Our story starts at the Broadway Oyster Bar, a personal favorite of mine, and St. Louis Luminary Ron Gubitz. Located downtown on Broadway, the Oyster Bar prides itself on New Orleans music, food, and culture. It is home to Gumbohead and the Funky Butt Brass Band, two of the most fun NOLA style groups in the city, and Friday night, hosted a new band called Hot Carl and the Cleveland Steamers (they joked that if they add a horn section, they'll have to call it the Rusty Trombones).

Speaking with Bassist, and KDHX engineer Andy Coco after the show, I got an invite to his musicians' holiday pot-luck and jam session. A sort of mini-Mecca for a lot of the guys who 'really play music' in St. Louis, the event was a sort of dream-come-true for any fan like myself. Members of all of the aforementioned bands, plus the Dogtown Allstars, Team Relevance, and others were all present. The jam session was amazing, with every musician taking a turn, and others grabbing cowbells, shakers, and other odds and ends to fill out the sound.

The ambiance was amazing. To have so many talented and experienced musicians and their fans in one place was unbelievable. And it needs to happen more frequently.

But say you don't happen to know any of the local artists. . . where do you start?

There are a number of smaller local venues that host great music. A few to start with, other than the Oyster Bar, are (in no particular order): Beale on Broadway, BB's Jazz Blues and Soups, The Gramophone, The FireBird, The Old Rock House, Off Broadway, and The Wedge.

The Riverfront Times is a decent place to hear about local music, but what the city really needs is someone with the knowledge and passion to create a site that will keep shows up to date and help people find out more information about artists they might like. Any takers?
Read More......

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lend A Hand, Make A Difference: Light Fest

It is pretty obvious that this economic situation is unprecedented in our lifetime.
What is often less obvious is the need this has created. The question is always, "how can I make a difference?"

On December 6th, Light Fest is hoping to help answer that question.

The community wide event is gathering food, clothing, getting blood donations, and more. Everyone can lend a hand in some way and this help has never meant more.

Even if all you can spare is an hour, it will be an hour well spent.

Please click here to see the schedule of activities, and click here to sign up to be a volunteer.

Whether you were born in St. Louis and never left, come here for school, or are on a work rotation, you have the opportunity to make a positive impact in this community. Read More......

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shomer Negiah Panties: Maya Escobar Is At It Again

From the same artist who brought you Berlin's Eruv and Acciones Plasticas now comes Shomer Negiah Panties!

That's right, The St. Lou Jew's favorite Guatemalan-Jewish artist, Maya Escobar, has just releases her Shomer Negiah Panties on Etsy.

Shomer Negiah literally means to guard touch, and refers to adherence of orthodox Jews to a ban on physical contact with members of the opposite sex aside from one's spouse and family.



Escobar's juxtaposition of this stringent code with ladies' undergarments is interesting for a few reasons. She sees this project as something that allows Shomer Negiah women to have a bit of fun with their observance, allowing them to feel sexy without doing it immodestly. One comment on Escobar's site read, "I can see all of the SN girls giving these to each other as an inside joke".

As a special double St. Louis bonus, another St. Lou Jew favorite, Randy Vines was able to play a role in helping print the panties.

For more on Maya check out www.mayaescobar.com
Read More......

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Leora From Synagogue 3000 Visits Next Dor, St. Louis

She may have picked a pretty dreary time to experience St. Louis, weather-wise, but didn't slow down the activity at the Next Dor House.

Synagogue 3000 gave the initial grant to Next Dor which started the whole renovation/organization process in motion and Leora came in town to meet the Next Dor STL board, advisors, and peers.

It just so happened that Monday night, Rabbi Zvi Schwartz hosted an open dinner at the Next Dor house, which turned out to be the perfect opportunity for Leora to meet everyone.

There was a great turnout, as you can see below, and the Rabbi spoke briefly about the connection between this generation (dor) and the freedom (dror) to choose our destiny and our identity.



Leora sat down with most of the board individually and asked about each individual's background and interests, how they got involved in the project, and what they want to see come out of it.

While she had the opportunity to learn about us, we also had the opportunity to learn about Synagogue 3000.

There are a couple things that separate Next Dor STL from the other projects that S3K is involved with. First, all of the other projects stem from a single congregation. While Next Dor STL was initiated with a lot of help from Central Reform, the project isn't controlled by, a subsidiary of, or affiliated with the synagogue. Second, while every other site has a full time paid staff person, Next Dor STL does not, and is relying heavily on a board of young adults to make the decisions and reach out to the develop the project.

Next Dor STL is happy to be able to use the great resources S3K has made available to us to navigate the strange world of non-profits.

If you still haven't had the checked out the website , there is a bunch of new info up and we just got our facebook vanity URL hooked up (facebook.com/nextdorstl).
Read More......

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Universalism vs. Nationalism/Ethnocentrism: A Jewish Dilemma

One of the fundamental points of tension facing Jews, particularly Jewish young adults in America, is the identity struggle between universalism and particularism (specifically Jewish nationalism and ethnocentrism). I just found a particularly interesting speech on this issue by none other than Natan Sharansky. The full text is listed below.

The following speech was given on November 9th, 2009. The transcription comes from this site

Twenty years ago to this day, the Berlin Wall fell. Two great wars were being waged in those years. The first was a worldwide struggle to free Soviet Jewry -- a cause which galvanized Jews across the globe as no other cause had, since the establishment of the State of Israel. The second was the Cold War, the struggle of free democracies around the world against the tyranny of Soviet style communism. In each struggle, the fall of the Wall became a turning point. Right after that fateful November day, a great Exodus of Soviet Jewry began in earnest. And within months, the totalitarian stranglehold over Eastern Europe disintegrated before our eyes.
The fact that a single event on the world stage -- the fall of the Berlin Wall -- was the culmination of both struggles is hardly coincidental. It seemed to be history’s way of saying that, in a deep way, the wars were not really separate; they were simply two sides of the same coin.
For years, I had been a foot soldier in both these great wars. In the years before my arrest I was in fact the unofficial spokesman of two movements -- a human rights movement pressing for democratic reforms in the Soviet bloc and Soviet Jewry movement seeking the right of Jews to become free. In those years I was often pressed by my comrades in arms on both sides to make a choice between these two wars. You have to decide, they said, are you the fighter for human rights for everybody or are you fighting for the rights of your own tribe? Do you belong to the world of universal values or to the world of nationalist? I must say, I personally never felt that I needed to choose. And not only because I enjoyed both these battles, But because I felt that they are deeply connected. That in fact it is the same battle. The battle for freedom and the battle for identity was the same battle for me.
From where did the strength to fight for freedom come from? I was one of many assimilated Jews only because the Soviet regime put it as an aim to deprive people deliberately of any loyalties to their faith, to their nation, to their family. As the official definition of citizenship stated clearly -- all Soviet people are cogs in the communist machine. And we as cogs knew that we are slaves. But we had no strength to fight. After all, the only value left for us was our physical survival and there was no reason to risk it.
In 1967, the Six Day War in Israel reconnected us with our people, with our country and history, and gave us pride for being Jewish.
When did this situation change? In 1967, the Six Day War in Israel reconnected us with our people, with our country and history, and gave us pride for being Jewish. We discovered our identity and this empowered us to fight for our freedom. But even then we small group for Jewish activists could never have survived in the struggle in the Soviet Union if it did not immediately become the struggle of millions of Jews all over the world. Why did these Jews for 20 years spend their time energy trembling for fear when they traveled to the Soviet Union to bring us books and bring us information from the free world and to press on their governments? Many times I heard from many of these volunteer emissaries almost the same phrase. We are from the same cities, and it is almost by chance that we are there and you are here. They were also returning to their "shtetl" and getting from there their energy, their passion to fight for our freedom.
I remember when the time had come to make the last blow and have a historic march on Washington I remember there were some voices of skepticism. Will big numbers of Jews really come to Washington in the winter for such type of demonstration? In order to dismiss these doubts, I went from city to city, from federation to federation, all together 30 of them. And the response was always automatic -- of course we will be there. Not to be part of that demonstration was like not going to the Bar Mitzvah of your family. It was a family insult!
In fact this demonstration of a quarter of a million Jews in Washington in December was probably the biggest family reunion in history. So the energy that was released from going back to your people was the driving force of the great struggle for freedom. In fact the Berlin Wall was brought down because proud Jews, proud Czechs proud Germans, proud Catholics, proud Pentecostal together with a proud army of Jews brought down the Berlin Wall.
That's why the choice between two battles was fallacious.
Today we live in the global, post national, post modern, post identity world where people of the free world again are asked to make a choice between universalism and nationalism, between freedom and identity. If you believe in the universal values of freedom and human rights, why bother to stick to your national or ethnic identity we are asked.
This question hits home in an especially difficult way for Jews. Doesn’t Judaism prize tikkun olam, perfection of the world at large, as its highest value? If we insist on being part of a Jewish state, does that make a mockery of our larger, universal ideals? If so, do we really want to shelter ourselves in a Jewish cocoon of a state? Why insist on staying part of a small tribe, when the great, global melting pot makes nationalities seem like nothing more than sentimental reminisces.
And when one young Jew believes that he or she must make choice, that you cannot belong to both, they make the choice in favor of universalism. And then assimilation erodes our communities. And then it becomes more and more difficult for the people of Israel to defend their Jewish state. And our detractors sense our hesitation and our weakness and multiply their efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel.
Then the most awful thing happens, a young Jew after months and sometimes years of standing in the face of extreme and false slanderous attacks on Israel, finally says: Enough. I want to live in the world without Israel.
It's frightening enough when our enemies talk about a world without Israel, but when a Jews says this, it is the greatest victory for our enemies.
Just like 20 years ago, this choice between freedom and identity is a false one. We must remind ourselves that the Iron curtain was brought down and hundreds of millions found their freedom only because we found the source of strength in our pride and in our identity. We must remind ourselves that we succeeded in building the democratic State of Israel and bringing the ideas of human rights and equality to the darkest places populated by tyrants and dictators only because we were empowered by thousands of years of dreams and prayers of Next year in Jerusalem. Today I speak here as the Chairman of the Jewish Agency. A Jewish Agency which connects between the Jewish world and the State of Israel and which together achieved great things and made history -- rescuing more than 3 million Jews from pogroms and persecutions. It was the Jewish Agency which coordinated the efforts of all the Jews of the world in helping to build a strong and modern state of Israel. And today of course we must always be ready, and we are ready, to continue to save every single Jew, to help everybody who wants to join us in Israel and to help every Jew in need wherever they are.
Our main battle today is to strengthen, to deepen, to build and to defend our Jewish identity.
But our main battle today is to strengthen, to deepen, to build and to defend our Jewish identity -- the identity of one people, those in Zion and those in the Diaspora. And in this battle it was proved again and again that we need one another. Today, Israel experience programs bring approximately one third of the Jewish people to Israel. Our aim must be to connect every young Jew with Israel and to connect Israel with every Jewish community of the world. Like in the Soviet Union in the past, we need a strong Israel. But Israel today needs strong Jewish communities.
We have to be able to reach every young Jew in the Diaspora and in Israel by Jewish education. Through schools, special courses, cable TV and internet. And we must find a way to make it interesting. And we must be together not only in our great partnerships with Jewish communities, but we must expand these partnerships to every campus in the world where the battle for the future of our young generation is taking place.
Strengthening Jewish identity is the best answer in the struggle for Israel. Strengthening our Jewish identity is the best guarantee to continue kibbutz galuyot, gathering of the exiles. And most important today, like yesterday, returning to our Jewish roots, rebuilding our Jewish identity, can empower us to fight for tikun olam, with more justice and more freedom for everybody.
Read More......

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Update on Next Dor Furniture, Idn Raichel and More

Furniture has arrived at Next Dor! We are now proud owners of gorgeous and huge dining room table with matching chairs, a big sectional sofa, which is still wrapped until we can clean up a bit, and some other 'goodies'.

Hit up yoni at nextdorstl dot org to see the place!

Also, tonight, St. Louis hosts both Israeli music sensation Idan Raichel, and the Washington University Graduate School Battle of the Bands.

So much music in one night? The St. Lou Jew will be covering both (and performing at one), so stay tuned for pictures! Read More......

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Little Haimish Get-together At Next Dor

Programming at Next Dor officially kicked off last night with a conversation with Bob Gershen and Jan Miller, hosted by JGrads and the Jewish law society.

What did you miss?

Haimish is defined as informal and relaxed by the Jewish English Lexicon and is probably a good way to describe Next Dor's first program.

Bob started off talking about how he used his experience as an actor to create presentations for lawyers to improve their courtrooms presentation skills. After hearing about a woman in Florida who taught acting skills to lawyers, Bob developed a seminar which he taught to LA County prosecutors.

He moved back to St. Louis, figuring that the connections he had would let him really hit the ground running, but he found that trial consulting wasn't as accepted in St. Louis as it was elsewhere. It took four years of travelling around the country gaining experience before he found demand for his skills in the St. Louis market. As Bob put it, "new ideas come to St. Louis last".

Bob spoke about how testifying is often a frustrating experience for witnesses, partially because it violates nearly every rule of conversation etiquette because there are so many constraints on what you can say and when you can say it. What Bob often does is to work with lawyers and witnesses on preparing them for the process of testifying.

Jan worked for the Department of Justice, which he says is "bar none, the best place to gain experience". He talked about the transition from working for the government as a prosecutor to being a client lawyer in private practice. Ultimately in private practice, you have to answer to the client, who may not always be correct.

Jan recommends that those who want to become litigators start with a smaller firm. He started at a firm in NYC and ended up spending most of his time in the library, until he made the move to Boston, where he was able to gain more hands-on experience.

The event was well received by the participants and JGrads is interested in continuing the series with other local lawyers.

If you know anyone who might be interested in speaking, please have them contact yoni at nextdorstl dot org.

Read More......

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

JGrads and JLS Host Bob Gershen and Jan Miller At Next Dor

The first event at the Next Dor house goes down tonight!

Interested in Litigation? In serving as a Federal Prosecutor? In things that you can do with a law degree that don’t involve practicing law? Or in discussing life after law school? Join the Jewish Law Society of Wash U Law, JGrads, and the Next Dor House (http://www.nextdorstl.com) for an informal talk with Bob Gerchen and Jan Miller on these topics and more. Bob Gerchen serves as the Director of the St. Louis Office of Litigation Insights and focuses on such fields as trial based jury research, mock trials, and mediation. Jan Miller, currently a Partner at Thompson Coburn, served as the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland before that. This event is open to all.

We'll try to take pictures and video! Read More......

Monday, November 9, 2009

Knowing Is Half The Battle: Afghanistan

Interested in the latest information on Afghanistan?
Please join Truman National Security Project Founder and CEO, Dr. Rachel Kleinfeld, for a conference call briefing on Afghanistan.

Tuesday, November 9
12:30pm EST / 9:30am PST
Dial (712) 775-7000
Enter Code 254870#


You can RSVP through Facebook by clicking here, and you can join the Truman Project's Facebook group here.

*Q+A time will be provided*
What is Afghanistan 101 you ask? Good question:
-- Understanding the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban and how it affects our Afghanistan debate
-- What exactly was the counterterrorism strategy of the Bush administration?
-- Why and how a counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan could succeed or fail
-- Different viewpoints and goals of different parts of the military
-- Pakistan!?!?
-- The President's main options Read More......

Gaza and Goldstone: The Debate

For those of you following Goldstone report, a UN backed report on the recent Gaza war which accuses Israel of war crimes, Justice Goldstone recently debated his findings at Brandies University.

This marks the first time that he debated his findings with an Israeli political figure, former Israeli ambassador Dore Gold. The two men agreed that the UN is biased against Israel but disagreed on a great many other points.

The debate is one that needs to be had openly and honestly as most people probably haven't read the report but have read of it.

To view the video, please click here.
Read More......

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Next Dor Upcoming Programs

The house is looking gorgeous, and there are already a few things on the November calendar. From dinners to local influencers, there is a already a wide variety of things slated to take place. Read on for glorious details.

The first official event at the house will be sponsored by JGrads and the Jewish Law Society and will take place on Tuesday, November 10th at 7:30 PM. Details below:

A Conversation with Bob Gerchen (Director, St. Louis Office, Litigation Insights) and Jan Miller (Former U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois; Current Partner, Thompson Coburn)
Interested in Litigation? In serving as a Federal Prosecutor? In things that you can do with a law degree that don’t involve practicing law? Or in discussing life after law school? Join the Jewish Law Society of Wash U Law, JGrads, and the Next Dor House (http://www.nextdorstl.com/) for an informal talk with Bob Gerchen and Jan Miller on these topics and more. Bob Gerchen serves as the Director of the St. Louis Office of Litigation Insights and focuses on such fields as trial based jury research, mock trials, and mediation. Jan Miller, currently a Partner at Thompson Coburn, served as the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland before that. This event is open to all – for more information e-mail rbmoreen (at) wulaw.wustl.edu.


Beginning next Wednesday, November 11th, Shulchan Ivrit (Hebrew Table) will kick off weekly gatherings in the Next Dor house. Designed to just give people the opportunity to practice their Hebrew, it accommodates all levels from native speakers to those who learned a few words on Birthright.

The following week on Monday the 16th, drop by the house around 7 PM for dinner (kosher and free!). Meet other young Yids and see the house for yourself.

Finally Wednesday, November 18th, come over at 6:30 PM to meet State Representative Jake Zimmerman, who can explain why public transportation is falling apart in St. Louis while rural MO gets money for new bridges, why healthcare reform isn't easy, and what it's like being one of the only Jews in the state legislature.

As always, you can check out the calendar at nextdorstl.com. If you have an idea for how to use the house, you can use the website to submit it.

For more info, email nextdorstl (at) gmail.com

Read More......

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Update on the HUC situation: Save HUC and it's role

You might remember our previous updates on Hebrew Union College and the social media campaign being organized at savehuc.com. Well, some big announcements were made yesterday.

Yesterday, by a vote of 43-5, the Board of Directors of Hebrew Union College decided not to close any of the campuses.

This is a huge win for Judaism between the coasts.

Sources in Cincinnati have named savehuc.com as an important factor in the letter writing campaign that shifted the momentum in the struggle.

A recent article from Cincinnati magazine even called out the site:
With every campus under scrutiny, supporters in all three cities rallied to defend their turf. Students, alumni, and others wrote letters and made phone calls. There were Facebook and Twitter campaigns and a Web site, savehuc.com. Ellenson, the school’s president, received more than 10,000 letters and e-mails from supporters. “I was actually quite pleased how vital people thought HUC was to the life of Reform Judaism in the communities in which we serve,” Ellenson says.


I just want to assess how it was that savehuc.com attracted over 10,000 visitors.
First, how much would a traditional media campaign to reach that many people have cost?

Postage alone would have been $4000.

How much was the savehuc.com campaign? Less than $20.

By using an easy to remember domain name that forwarded to a free wordpress blog, the whole thing probably took all of half an hour to set up. The facebook cause that attracted several hundred people grew organically and directed people back to the site. Additionally, by using Twitter, and connecting with Rabbis and Jewish organizations around the country, the message spread even further.

Word of mouth seems to have played a big part, as a demographic that is not traditionally associated with facebook wrote a fair number of comments on savehuc.com's posts.

Clearly, this issue resonated with a large number of people, who felt compelled to take action. In this case, it seems as though that action had its desired effect.

We'll keep you updated, but for now, I know a lot of people who are breathing a sigh of relief.

Read More......

Friday, October 30, 2009

Idan Raichel - All the Information


Type your summary here

Type rest of the post here
Read More......

New Jews Get Love On CNN

A friend (update, my cousin did as well) just passed a long a really interesting article on CNN.com that explains 'New Jews'. It is absolutely worth a read.

The article tackles a lot of the issues that take place in generational shifts, such as the loss of power of the previous generation and the lessened impact of the institutions attached to that generation. Here is a taste:

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai about 3,300 years ago, he couldn't have seen these Jews coming.
A blogger writes about how one of Judaism's holiest days ended, for him, in a strip club, while elsewhere a guy strolls into a tattoo parlor requesting a Star of David. Two women exchange wedding vows in a Jewish ceremony, and hipsters toss back bottles of HE'BREW, The Chosen Beer. A full-time software developer prepares to lead a group in Jewish prayer, as a PhD candidate in Jewish thought pens a letter criticizing Israel's policies.
Meet the "New Jews," as some call them: pockets of post-baby boomers -- or more accurately Generation X and Millennial (Gen Y) Jews -- who are making one of the world's oldest known monotheistic faiths and its culture work for them and others in a time when, more than ever, affiliation is a choice.
"I could wake up tomorrow and say, 'I don't want to be Jewish.' There would be no social, political or economic consequences," said Shawn Landres, the 37-year-old co-founder of Jumpstart, a Los Angeles-area organization that pushes forward out-of-the-box ideas in the Jewish world. "It's true for the first time in thousands of years that we can build the identities we want."
Many of those at the forefront of innovative Jewish construction are rabbis, religious educators, people who know their stuff. But they're not interested in foisting labels on people -- like the denominational terms Reform, Conservative or Orthodox -- nor do they want to perpetuate the pressures that come with fitting into religious, political and social molds.


Clearly these feelings have a huge impact on those of previous generations as well. Last night I spoke with the Rabbi and President of a local congregation who are well aware of the need to support our generation as we create and foster a new sense of community, culture, and identity.

Next Dor is looking to be a St. Louis response to these very issues and from a sociological perspective, we are all pretty interested to see where it fits in.

Read the rest of the article here.

Read More......

Halloween in the CWE

Those of you who pronounce it 'see-we' can stop reading here, you are not welcome.

Just kidding.

This weekend, everyone's favorite American holiday, Halloween, will once again rise from the crypt and the Adult costume party at Maryland and Euclid will once again bring out the those paying homage to political, current events, or internet memes, the girls unleashing their.. well you know..and everything else mixed in.

The outdoor street party is always worth a look, and if you happen to love dressing up, you might want to enter the costume contest. Read More......

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Next Dor Opening Countdown

We've been writing about Next Dor for almost six months.

As of Sunday (assuming the move goes well) we are officially in soft launch mode.

Over the course of these past months, we have put together a proposal for what a dedicated space could do to help community building, we have presented our vision to multiple community leaders, individuals, and organizations, we have raised money and defined roles, all while looking towards the day we could get into the house.

That day, as it turns out, is Sunday... if all goes according to plan.

With furniture set to be delivered within a week or two, and a host of events planned in the space already, we are very excited to see things move into this next phase.

Some of the already scheduled events include sessions with State Rep Jake Zimmerman (click here to RSVP), Shulchan Ivrit (a Hebrew discussion table for all levels), and an event with JGrads and the Jewish Law Society.

To get your idea realized at Next Dor, click here

We are still working on the website, but we want things to continue to evolve, so don't expect it to stay the same for too long.

And, should you be in the position to contribute financially or with certain things for which the house has need, please get in touch with Next Dor
Read More......

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Idan Raichel In St. Louis

Idan Raichel, Israeli world music star, will be performing in St. Louis Thursday November 12th. This concert, coinciding with Wash U's Hip Hop Week, takes place at the Music building at 560 Delmar.

Idan Raichel is most famous for combining Middle Eastern, Ethiopian, Classical, Reggae, and Hip Hop sounds altogether to create a unique blend of music.

Check out Idan's music here and more info about Wash U Hip Hop Week here Read More......

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's just a little bit of history repeating

Shirley Bassey would assuredly agree

I’m sure I’ve written this before, but it never fails to be true: the Arabs never miss an opportunity to fail. A summit of Mediterranean foreign ministers was canceled today after Egypt and other Arab states refused to sit at the same table as Israel’s foreign minister. The summit is part of the re-started Barcelona Process, referred to recently as The Union for the Mediterranean.

What was supposed to be a summit to discuss issues affecting Mediterranean states was turned into a single-issue summit, the cancelation of such will mean that several important issues outside the conflict will not be addressed.

This is one event in a recent string of Arabs taking every opportunity to fail that presents itself. Turkey’s prime minister made comments last week that Israel was threatening to nuke Gaza. We’ll forget, for the moment, that nuking Gaza means nuclear fallout over a number of Israeli cities, and forget, for the moment, that such an action would lead to world-wide condemnation of Israel at the highest and most influential levels, and forget, for the moment, that such an action would isolate Israel in every way from everything that matters to Israel. It’s high-cost with zero reward. One can only conclude that Erdogen wanted to rouse Arab resentment of Israel.

Success: Jordanians are currently protesting the 15-year old peace agreement with Israel, calling for its annulment. Success: Egypt canceled the meeting of the ministers. Success: Muslim leaders are calling for, and getting, Muslims to flock to the Temple Mount to defend make-believe Jewish assaults on the holy site (forget that it’s against Jewish law to even touch the site) by assaulting the Jerusalem police and initiating riots in East Jerusalem. It’s not all Erdogen’s fault, it’s not all Egypt’s fault, but collectively and with the help of others, the Arabs are, pardon the expression, shitting on President Obama’s efforts, and the right rhetoric from the Israeli’s, to re-establish the peace process. Again, they’re taking that opportunity to fail to heart.

Their actions are only playing into the hands of the Israelis. While I’m no supporter of Obama’s policies, domestic politics put a reassuring tone on the play. Obama has really put himself out there diplomatically in ways that, if unsuccessful, present him as weak and without influence and will make him a one-term president. He won’t put up with the Arab’s actions for long if he wants a second term. The Arabs finally have a U.S. leader who honestly cares for the cause of peace at (nearly) whatever cost, which favors the Arabs more than the Israelis, and they seem even more turned off to him that our most recent past president. It’s baffling, yet unsurprising.

For what it's worth, and it's worth at least something, I hear that the European members of the Union of the Mediterranean are pissed by the actions of Egypt and its Arab partners that forced France, who organized the summit, to cancel it. You want to talk about insulting several of your most supportive Western allies, this is it.
Read More......

How To Respond To Israel-Ignorance

The internet is big, huge, I mean you simply cannot imagine how large this internet thing is. But despite the size, the sheer amount of information, it is important to recognize that misinformation doesn't just get lost in the cold depths of cyberspace. That's why, when I came a across an op-ed that held poorly informed views on Israel, I had to respond.

Clearly you can't respond to every post out there, but after reading this I was stirred to respond:

Dear Garth,

I wanted to reach out to you about the many factual and logical errors in your piece, "The Path to Nuclear War".

You say that, "However, in the eyes of many, the reality is that Israel is arguably neither Jewish nor democratic."

This is a problematic statement because it conflates the subjective (in the eyes of many) with the objective (the reality is).

What I mean is that, many people feel disenfranchised in Israel, and don't believe their voice is heard within the political structure. That is subjective.

What is objective is that the country holds fair and free elections and has a representative body that is composed of 120 different members from many different political backgrounds.

Next you draw a straight line from the Holocaust to the creation of the state of Israel, which totally ignores the pre-state history of Jews in what was then the Palestinian Mandate. By ignoring previous efforts to create a Jewish state in that area, you remove the true historical context in which the modern state of Israel was created. I suggest you look up the Balfour Declaration for an example of this.

Next, you credit Israeli success in 1948 to the US, and specifically the 'Israel Lobby'. It should be worth noting that the US did not give financial or material support to Israel during the 1948 war, and actually had an embargo on selling it weapons until after 1967. Israel flew French Mirage jets until the 70's, but had no airforce in 1948.

The 'Israel Lobby' to which you refer is no different from any other lobby, like AFL-CIO, the NRA, or anything else. The fact is that most representatives see the value in having a stable democracy in the middle of one of the most unstable regions in the world.

Now here is my opinion - many people argue that if Israel just went away, we would have peace in the Middle East. This ignores history and is at best naive, at worst anti-semitic (a feeling I am not accusing you of).

Israel is a lightening rod for extremists, jihadists, and both far right and far left rhetoric. It is under more scrutiny than Sudan and receives more attention than Darfur.

Now, for a comparison, you said, "Israel consistently claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East , but her actions are anything but democratic. She kills, imprisons and tortures many thousands - even up to today, without trial and without any semblance of justice."

Now, I would hold the US as the model of democracy, but the US kills and imprisons many more people than Israel does, even on a per capita basis. If you can get your hands on the number of civilian casualties in WW2 Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan, you will see that the ratio of civilian to militant casualties is often 2:1 or higher. Now compare this to verified numbers from Israeli campaigns and you will find that Israel has the lowest ratio of civilian to combatants killed.

In terms of your claim of 'without any semblance of justice,' Palestinians who are jailed for plotting attacks on Israeli civilians are given more rights than those held at Guantanamo.

Finally, in regards to your statement that, "that the state of Israel is carried on the back of the American tax-payer is common knowledge but it is open to debate whether that small country is entirely Jewish or democratic," is misleading. It assumes that people agree that Israel is carried on the back of the American tax payer. The aid that Israel gets from the US is in the form of military loan guarantees, not cash, not food.

Most Israelis would actually rather that the US stop giving Israel so much because it makes Israel beholden to the United States. Israel is more influenced by the US than is true in reverse.

While I, as a Jewish Democrat, disagree with a great deal that the Israeli government does and says, I cannot agree with your viewpoint, either.

I would be happy to begin a conversation around any of these ideas or issues.
Read More......

Friday, October 23, 2009

Your Guide To Making The Metrolink Prom Social

A lot of people talk about social media. Most of them don't really know what it is but see it as this deus ex machina to help connect them with young adults, or just marketing in general.

Read on for a specific list of how these mystical technologies should be employed tonight to make sure the Metrolink prom gets maximum exposure

Ok, Let me break it down. Social media is about sharing your experience with their friends, in a way that makes them want to share it with their friends which allows things to be spread by networks. The first issue is that your content, that is, what you are actually sharing, has to be interesting enough to that people who don't know you (or feel like they owe you anything) will also want to view and pass along the content.

I think that in Metrolink prom, we have such an event. The juxtaposition of public transportation and words like 'hip' 'formal wear' and 'fun' is unique enough that it should present some pretty interesting outcomes.

Ok.. so now we have our content, how are we going to share it?

For starters, let's look at facebook, the world's largest social network. Metrolink prom is listed as an event and, at time of posting, has 200 confirmed participants.

How about while we partake in the event itself? How can our experience be communicated in real time?

Let's start with the newest entrant into this field: Foursquare.

Foursquare is a location/status update service that allows you to tell your friends where you are and what is interesting about that place. You can do this through a basic mobile browser, an app (for iPhone or Android), or text message. You can have the update simultaneously sent to Twitter too.

So, here's how to use it: After you have signed up and figured out the service, send an update when you get to the Forest Park Metrolink Station, and send the update to Twitter.

Take pictures over the course of the night and post them to Twitter or facebook and let people know what a Metrolink prom looks like.

If enough people are putting it up, the laws of social networks dictate that it will pick up traction, and hit mainstream media's consciousness and blow up from there.

Let's make it happen.
Read More......

Thursday, October 22, 2009

St. Louis Renewal: Views From The Vanguard Regional Roundtable

If you didn't have a chance to read our initial coverage of the UrbanNexus event here in town, Next American City has posted some of the responses from the Vanguard Regional Roundtable.



The conversation, "on retaining and attractive creative individuals," was captured in the following questions and responses, of which I have selected what I believe to be the most interesting and relevant:

What is St. Louis doing right?
St. Louis has an open door atmosphere for young people. The cost of living is cheap, the cost of real estate is relatively cheap and the old civic establishment is tiring. Getting involved is very easy here. The establishment really is too lazy to lock the door, and young people can accomplish a lot of things in politics, art and other areas if they try. Making connections to like-minded people is easy here, because of the smaller size of the urban core. St. Louis is wonderfully unpretentious, so anything can and does go here. While older generations are slow to embrace change, young people here aren’t as caught up in identity, image and material life as they are in other cities. You don’t have to impress people here to get a seat at the table—you just have to have a good idea or be a hard worker. Hell, you can build your own table if none of the existing ones suit you. That’s why I stay—this city is accessible and its culture is far more open to change than the naysayers think. A city that has come so far down in its stature has nothing to lose, and everything to gain—that’s liberating!


What is our biggest impediment in progress? Where doe St. Louis fall short?
segregation/racism: I think it is disgusting how as you drive through our city you can literally see the red lines that were drawn on real estate maps back in the ‘70s. This block-to-block culture has created tension when you have mansions, a barbed wire fence and then a street of tenement bldgs. It has also devastated our city’s tax-base which feeds into the poor public schools and other public services. This creates the vicious cycle of poverty and the tension/misunderstandings that come from this. I am disgusted by the inability that many of our citizens—both black and white—who don’t know how to interact respectfully with folks from different racial/ethnic backgrounds.


It is very hard to break into St Louis. It took us, my wife and I, almost two years to get to know people from St Louis despite trying very hard. A lot of people that come to the Universities have the same feeling. Most say something like this: “You start talking to someone from St Louis and the first thing they ask you is where did you go to High School. The conversation stops when you answer.” I have no idea why this is the case, but I have heard a lot of people say this.

In a related point; I have also heard from many women who are married to people working at WashU, UMSL and SLU that they are bored, that they cannot find anything to do here, that their only social interaction is with other university people. These women are professionals, artists, activists… but they have a hard time getting settled here. The problem seems to be, one the one hand, the university community tend to be closed in itself, and on the other, that the job possibilities for women are somehow precarious. I know of a lot of academic couples that have a very hard time adjusting in St Louis for this reason.

There are thousands of undergrads living in St Louis that do not know the city. When they finish, they leave. Undergrads are a lost resource. They are very flexible since they are starting to live on their own and don’t know yet where they want to go. Many of them are also rich and able to invest money in the city. Engaging them early may make them stay.


I want to highlight that last point. Engaging undergrad, grad students, and young adults in St. Louis seems like the low hanging fruit. They are already here, they tend to have more access to resources, and they bring can creativity and passion into the city.

To read all of the responses, click here.
Read More......

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jewish Last Names

It's a joke now, right? In TV shows and movies, radio, and newspapers, when you see the goldberg/stein/witz/whatever, there is this knowing chuckle, some type of recognition and a quick pang of self-identification.

Which is why I was so interested in an article I found today on Jewcy.com

The post, by Patrick Aleph, calls on American Jews to drop their Jewish last names in order to facilitate a more welcoming environment and less clique-y-ness. On one hand, it's an interesting thought, that Jews, who have suffered much often due to their names, should drop their last names not to fit in with the larger culture, but to help others fit in with us. Patrick A calls out Jewish geography and the name game as an exclusionary tool that keeps non-mainstream (read Ashkenazi) Jews on the defensive.

On the other hand, I really hope the piece was written in jest, at least partially, or that the author has the excuse of living in NYC. The reality is that, while overt anti-Semitism has decreased since the days of housing covenants and exclusionary country clubs and law firms, a good number of us still live in communities in which we are a very small percent of the population. The fact is that all Jews don't look alike, which is why the name game does start to play some prominence. So you notice the Chamsa necklace and find out the cute girl wearing it went to camp with a friend of yours from high school, where is the harm?

Names are identity. When Abram becomes Abraham his destiny changes.

Those who feel uncomfortable in the Jewish community represents an issue far larger than something that can be changed along with our names. Our responsibility is to alter our behavior to be more inclusive, not to water down our identity.
Read More......

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Light Fest: Make An Impact

There is a huge opportunity to make an impact coming up quite soon.
We’ve heard our community loud and clear! It’s been one of the most difficult years in memory – and individuals are looking for ways to help. So, Jewish Federation is partnering with our entire Jewish community for a St. Louis “first:” LightFest! This is the perfect opportunity to support- and show your support for Jewish children, families and seniors who are struggling to make it through these difficult times. Come make a powerful impact and have fun at this historic event. Join us!


That's right, it's to connect with the larger community an make some good things happen.

The event is going to be called LIGHTFEST: SHARE. GIVE. CONNECT.

The event goes down from Sunday, December 6, 2009 11:00 am when there will be Opening Ceremonies to 6:00 pm for Closing Ceremonies and Menorah Lighting and will be held at the new JCC.

The plan is as follows:


A Full Day of Mitzvah Opportunities and Fun @ LightFest

· Bring items for the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry (food, toiletries, cleaning supplies), toys for Hanukah Hugs (JF&CS), and clothes for the Kids Closet (JFCS / NCJW).

· Give blood at the LightFest Blood Drive

· School-aged children can raise funds for the Lifeline Fund for crisis relief - through sponsorships for the Hop, Skip & Jump-a-thon at the JCC. Contributions will be matched by the Karen Solomon Lifeline Challenge Grant.

· Put your signature on the WORLD’S LARGEST MENORAH which will be displayed on the fa├žade of the JCC Staenberg Family Complex.

· Just be there! For every person who attends, the Staenberg Family Foundation will donate $5 to Federation’s 2009 Jewish Community Campaign.

· Find great opportunities at the LightFest Volunteer Fair.

· Callers wanted! Make calls in the Phone-athon for the Federation Annual Community Campaign. All phone-athon pledges will be matched.

· Hanukah shopping at our One Stop Mitzvah Shop. Get the perfect Hanukah gift for everyone on your list by purchasing Hanukah Tributes.

· For Teens and 20/30-somethings: pitch in to create art that will lighten up the halls of Covenant/CHAI housing for seniors.

· Create Birthday and Hanukah cards for seniors, children and families.

· Complimentary health screenings, Ask the Pharmacist, Ask the Sports Doctor.

· Assemble items that will provide much needed items for those in need.

· Enjoy family entertainment, PJ Library Story Time and celebrity appearances throughout the day!


Why is it important to support this event?

1. Many of us feel a part of a congregation or other Jewish organization, we have few opportunities to feel part of the larger St. Louis Jewish community and be counted. By coming together in a spirit of community Tzedakah – we can each give, share and connect to our own people in a very inspiring way.

2. Every person who attends will make a valuable contribution – just by showing up! The Staenberg Family Foundation will donate $5 to the Jewish Community Campaign for each person who attends LightFest.

3. Charitable giving has decreased in this economy – while needs are increasing. So, every contribution of food, toiletries, cleaning supplies and clothing is important. And at a time of great need, donations to Federation's Jewish Community Campaign have never meant so much. The campaign makes sure our community agencies can offer a helping hand to children, families and seniors – whenever they need help.

4. Your congregation/agency can make a big difference. Each congregation/organization/agency is assigned an item to collect for the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry (see attachment). The Pantry stock remains extremely low. By encouraging your members/constituents to donate items, you perform a large, tangible group mitzvah!

5. School-aged children can get involved, raise funds – and have fun participating in the Hop, Skip and Jump-a-thon (sponsorship form attached). All funds will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Karen Solomon Lifeline Challenge Grant – helping families and individuals facing extreme hardship in this economic downturn.


Wanna get involved? Email us at thestloujew at gmail dot com for more information and to be put in touch with the organizers.
Read More......

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Health Care Debate Rages On, Are You Up-To-Date?

The healthcare debate has been, well...confusing. With a lot of disinformation, yelling, and emotion, it is hard to ignore, and harder to understand.

Congress is heading toward floor debate on health care reform...the furthest the U.S. has ever gotten in passing a significant reform of our health insurance system.

Here's just some of what's happening now:
U.S. Senate: Working to combine two committee bills
U.S. House: Working to combine three committee bills; awaiting analyses from Congressional Budget Office
Insurance Industry: On the offensive with tv commercials and more

Tonight, though, you have the opportunity to learn more about it, hear from people who know what's up, and ask the tough questions.

Speakers include:
Sidney Watson, Professor of Law, St. Louis University - specializing in health law and health care access for the poor
John Carlton, Editorial Writer focusing on health care, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Amy Smoucha, Missouri Health Care for All and Health Care Organizer with Missouri Jobs with Justice
Moderator: Don Marsh, St. Louis Public Radio (KWMU)

The event is 7-8:30 at CRC

View Larger Map Read More......

How To Make St. Louis Hip: Why You Should Be At Metrolnk Prom

A good friend of mine from St. Louis moved to Austin, Texas a few years ago. Over Shabbat dinner at his dad's house this past Friday, I asked him what it was that made Austin such a destination for creative people, and why that city has been able to create an entire scene out of nothing.

He didn't point to the immense number of students that UT Austin attracts (40,000), or the fact that Austin is a pretty pedestrian friendly place, in fact, his answer surprised me.

What he said was that the City of Austin has been very supportive of all of the 'out-there' efforts. The city's motto has been, 'Keep Austin Weird'.

Now, is this an oversimplification? Of course. Austin also has a large number of technology and new media companies, oil money, and a music scene that didn't pop up overnight. The fact still remains that there is a huge opportunity for St. Louis to promote some creative ways to bring people together, which brings us to the Metrolink Prom.

The event ties together everything we support; public transit, dancing, general good vibes. This event is not only something that we want to support, we think you should support it too! As described on facebook:

Join us for a fairytale evening of dancing and finery aboard the MetroLink! It’s time for MetroLink Prom 2009: The Enchanted Ride. You don’t need a fairy godmother to help you get home when you’re transit savvy.

MetroLink Prom will take place on the evening of Friday, October 23, 2009. Be at the Forest Park platform at 7:30. From there, we will ride west to Clayton and then take another train back east to Laclede’s Landing. En route, we will elect a prom king and queen, slow dance, line dance, and take prom portraits. If you’re up for even more dancing, we’ll head to Morgan Street Brewery on the Landing for an afterparty. We’ll take the last MetroLink back to Forest Park from there, before the train turns into a pumpkin for the night.

Bring dollar bills for your train fare. Formal wear (from any decade) is strongly encouraged. Bring a date, bring a friend, bring your block captain, bring your kid, bring everyone you know! Prom will go forward rain or shine.

Last year’s MetroLink Prom was the first ever. Over 80 people attended, and a good time was had by all. We hope you’ll join us for this year’s magical evening aboard public transit. A lot can happen when you don’t have to drive.


If that sounds like your cup of tea, click here to RSVP
Read More......

Friday, October 16, 2009

Free Music Friday!

There are so many wondrous things about Fridays; Shabbat dinners, bars that stay open late, not having to wake up early for work the next day, etc.

Now, add to that list free music. That's right, The St. Lou Jew has you covered today with access to Diwon's latest mixtape, entitled 'Sabra Sessions'.

You might remember Diwon (aka Erez Safar) from our interview back in February (if not, click here to read it!). This latest mixtape tapes Israeli popular music and mashes is up in a more American club style. Click here for the free download.

Don't say we never gave you anything. Read More......

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This is what's happening

Today seems like as good a day as any for a big update about what is happening around the world/web/whatever.

1. Next Dor - Furniture has been picked out, a grand opening date has been tentatively settled on (Dec 16th), and the space is starting to get booked for November.

2. Jewcy.com is now a part of Jdub, the people who brought you Matisyahu.

3. The Health Bill made it out of committee. Everywhere I go people are talking about the importance of fixing healthcare. Well, the people who are talking are talking about fixing it, the people who are yelling. . . I have no idea what they are saying.

4. BLUES! Blues City Deli Streetfest- Saturday, October 17 in the Benton Park neighborhood. From 11:30 - 5:30, there will be food and live entertainment from some of St. Louis' best jazz/funk/blues artists, including: Pokey LaFarge (http://www.pokeylafarge.net/), The Funky Butt Brass Band (http://funkybuttbrassband.com/) and Los Carnales. Local author Kevin Belford will also be there, signing copies of his new book, "Devil at the Confluence: The Pre-War Blues Music of St. Louis Missouri"
(www.devilattheconfluence.com). Read More......

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Jew At Oktoberfest

A Jew walks into Oktoberfest and... well.. how is a Jew supposed to feel about Oktoberfest?

Amongst the many things happening this past weekend, Soulard held its annual Oktoberfest celebration, with tributes to German food, music, and of course, beer.

We went to check out the festivities, mostly for the beer, and we couldn't help feel a bit weird. 60 years after the wholesale murder of 10 million people by the Nazis, 6 million of whom were killed for being Jewish, and here we are at a festival celebrating German culture. It's hard not to think about it.

We went through the whole, 'this could never happen to us here, though, so it's all good." Then remembered, oh yea, that's how they felt back then, too.

Did it stop me from sampling some cold locally brewed beer? No. But it did make me stop and think about the source of my discomfort.

In the middle of the American Melting Pot, at a time in which we see more representations of Jews in movies and on television than ever before, when we critically deconstruct our Zionism, and when we focus so heavily on food as markers of our culture (even as we let Jewish delis fade away), it is hard not to be confused about who we are or what Jewish cultures means.

Instead of learning our history, from the destruction of the second temple throughout our diaspora, we are fed the Holocaust as our raison d'etre for staying Jewish, for supporting Israel. They say there's no business like Shoah-business and we've reached the point that Obama indicated that the Holocaust was the justification for the creation of the state of Israel, ignoring not only constant Jewish presence there, early haluztim, but also the centrality of Israel (the geographical and not political Israel) and particularly Jerusalem in all Jewish prayer, theology, and tradition.

What culture we have kept from assimilation has become so homogenized that we have lost many of the most interesting traditions from the many generations we call Sephardim or Mizrachim. One Israeli friend who just moved to St. Louis asked where he could find a synagogue which practiced those traditions. "Not in St. Louis," I had to tell him, "Maybe Brooklyn or LA."

As the culture becomes more vanilla, there is less to separate it from mainstream culture, and fewer reasons why anyone would want to hold on to the traditions, the culture, and the label. We got ourselves a ticket on the bus, but what did it cost?

How long until we don't even look at the potato pancakes at Oktoberfest and think, "you can't fool me, those are latkes?"
Read More......

Friday, October 9, 2009

New Jewish Theatre's New Season: Review of Conversations With My Father

In our never-ending quest to expose some of the culture that St. Louis has to offer, we return to the New Jewish Theatre.

Conversations With My Father contains a lot of the classic "Jewish immigrant in New York" elements, including the tension between preserving the memory, identity and traditions of the 'old world' while trying to assimilate the language and culture of America.

The play provides quite a bit of symmetry, which takes the very Jewish form of examining the role of each generation against its predecessor and antecedent. We see how the father seeks to get away from everything Jewish, religiously or culturally, even as he is infuriated when his kids skip Hebrew school.

The NJT's production of the play was solid, and I mean that quite literally. Over the course of the play, the father throws chairs across the stage, pounds on doors, and smacks tables with billy-clubs. Aside from the build-quality of the stage elements, I found the acting to be quite good across the board. I was moved during some of the more climactic scenes, and while the play is a full 3 hours, it wasn't a long 3 hours.

The play made me think a lot about my grandparents, particularly my Brooklyn raised grandfather, who made the transition into the identity of a Jewish American. We got it pretty easy these days and are able to spend a lot more time thinking about identity, and discussing it, instead of fighting for or against it.

For those of us who grew up learning about our history, our music, culture, traditions, languages, and celebrations, Conversations With My Father is a throwback that, while not totally a feel good tale, certain evokes all of these elements.

The New Jewish Theatre is now in its 13th year, under the direction of Kathleen Sitzer. You can find out more, see upcoming shows, and book tickets at www.newjewishtheatre.org

Read More......

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Senate passes money for Israel missile defense

The FY 2010 Defense Appropriations bill passed the Senate today by a vote of 93 to 7. It includes just over $200 million for Israel's missile defense efforts. Read on to learn some Congressional knowledge.

By way of a quick reminder, for a bill to become law it must pass first one of the two houses of Congress. Once this is done, the other house designs and votes on its own version. Often times, the house in which the bill does not originate is involved in the process of crafting the bill in the originating house. Once the bill passes the second house, both bills are sent to conference where the two bills are compared to ensure that they say the same thing. Out of conference comes the final bill which is then presented to the president.

In this bill, which President Obama has said he "strongly supports," Israel is appropriated $202,434,000 for its various missile defense programs. This is in addition (and outside of) the roughly $3 billion Israel receives annually in U.S. aid. This is the lowest amount appropriated for Israel's defense programs since 2005, though only by a few million. Considering the current economy, this is very acceptable.

Constitutionally, only the House of Representatives has the right to originate bills that concern revenue generation; it does not specify if one house has the right to originate spending, or "appropriations," bills. However, in true Capitol Hill style, the House has historically believed they hold the exclusive right to originate these bills as well. Naturally, the Senate does not agree.

The Senate has repeatedly asserted its right to originate spending legislation by adopting resolutions to that end, and has even called for commissions to study the dispute. However, House precedents have defined "revenue measures" to include general appropriations bills, claiming that at the time the Constitution was adopted, "raising revenue" meant "raising money and appropriating the same."

So, whenever the Senate does initiate appropriations legislation, the House practice is to return it to the Senate with a blue piece of paper attached citing a constitutional infringement of House prerogatives. This is known as "blue-slipping."

Without House action, Senate-initiated spending legislation cannot make it into law. So in practice, the Senate rarely attempts to initiate such bills anymore, and if it does, the House is diligent about returning them. Regardless of what the Founding Fathers intended, the House refusal to consider such Senate legislation settles the matter in practice.

In reality, especially with defense appropriations, while the House may blue-slip the bill, they are likely to already be on-board with its contents, and are likely to craft a bill similar, if not identical, to the Senate bill. This means that the $202 million earmarked for Israel's defense programs is likely safe.


Read More......