Friday, January 30, 2009

Updates In Time For Shabbat: 14,000 page views and Zeda's Beat Box

That's right, early this morning, we hit our 14,000th page view! With about 1,300 visits each month, and a listing among St. Louis' top 30 blogs, things are racing ahead.

For those of you looking to get your quota of Yiddishkeit for the weekend, start off with Zeda's Beat Box tonight, kicking off around 10 PM at Ursa's on Washington University's South 40. Let ZBB get you hyped, connect with the bloggers of The St. Lou Jew, and join us afterwards for drinks on the loop.

Saturday is the biggest night of the young Yid social calendar as YPD's kickoff at the Coronado goes down. Show up looking good, leave feeling good...after all, the price of admission gets you access to an open bar. Read More......

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Living Jews: Rebecca Kousky, Founder of Nest

Over the weekend, several of us at The St. Lou Jew had a chance to sit down and conference call Rebecca Kousky, founder of Nest. We were all quite impressed with what Rebecca is doing, and we think you will be too.

Rebecca's story takes us back to North Carolina, where she attended University. After graduating early, she spent some time in India working with a Non-Governmental Organization, teaching to a class with a large percentage of students with disabilities. She names this experience in shaping her interest in international development.

Kousky says, "I saw international aid at its best and at its worst.  The best was helping people become productive, the worst is when it feeds culture of dependency.   Dependency to husbands, fathers, and aid organizations."

We were interested to understand how she decided on microloans and how Build A Nest is different from other non-profit microlenders or for-profit banks doing work in developing countries.

Kousky explained that microlending can be a lot more powerful than other types of aid because it encourages people to start supporting themselves.

Micro lending has huge problems in that most people in developing nations, particularly women aren't financially educated.

Banks are willing to help women with loans, but generally don't give education and financial training, and exists to make a profit, so if someone can't pay back their loan, they have to worry about the bank coming after them.  

What separates Nest is that they provide interest free loans (which is a must if you want to include Muslims) specifically for purchasing materials for making crafts, such as kilns or rental space to start businesses in the arts.

Additionally, Nest is more closely involved in microbartering (a term Rebecca coined), as the money goes directly to purchasing the materials, and is paid back in product, reducing the likelihood of money being mishandled.

We were curious as to why she decided to support women creating businesses in the arts, Rebecca replied, "women are often already making crafts, and don't realize that there is a larger market for these things, and also, I have a strong interest in art and the craft movement in general. I really wanted to develop the interest free aspect and that was a big part of it. The craft movement has been a very big part of indiginous communities."

She went further to explain that, "even the idea of entrepreneurship and development is foreign to these women. We want the product to sell, but we want it to sell in their communities.
Rebecca started Nest immediately after graduating from Washington University with a Masters in Social Work.

She was able to start the non-profit after winning $25,000 in seed funding from the Skandalaris Center of Entrepreneurship's annual start-up competition.

Nest now has advisory boards in 8 cities including St. Louis, DC, and New York.

We wanted to know a bit about some of the challenges she has faced (starting a business at 24 isn't exactly a cake walk) and Rebecca admitted, "it is a hard time to be a small business, sales are down across the board." But on the other hand, "people care more where their money is going."

There are also cultural barriers, and you have to tread carefully, explains Rebecca.
Women being independent is scary thing for men in certain cultures.  In places like Turkey, often men kill women and report it as a suicide.

While Rebecca's background in social work gave her a conceptual framework for how to think about these women in relation to their cultures, she wishes she had been given some business training.

I should have had an MBA, I wasn't interested in business, finance or accounting, I didn't know what a profit/loss statement was, or book keepin or inventory management, suddenly I'm importing and I didn't know know how to do all of that.

I mean, how do you ask a lawyer to be pro bono or file for 501(c)3?

Fortunately, my family helped a lot, I got a pro bono lawyer at Bryan Cave, and put together a board, who have been amazing.

Despite Rebecca's lack of business background, she has been very sure to measure and evaluate Nest's success.

"I'm a social worker, so I want to see how this is effective, we have thourough pre and post evaluations," which measure things like education of the women and their children and their visions for the future, and what their role is in community change.

She says these are some of the area in which things are definitely happening. "You see radical shifts in the way the women see the education of their daughters as a priority".

We were interested to know how the program has changed since inception and launch, to which Rebecca responded, "we didn't think about the education of children, now we have to build that in."

We are investing a lot more in product development to have a cohesive line so that we can take it to market to wholesale it aggressively so that we can buy more product and lend more.

In addition to this, Kousky and the Build A Nesters are writing a curriculum on financial education, product development and the green movement. The hope is to write it so that it has lesson plans and would be easy to implement. If anyone out there has some experience in this field, this is a worthy organization of your talents, as the need people with lesson plan writing experience.

Build A Nest also started a second business to do sourcing; pairing domestic designers with the producers to certify it fair trade. The domestic designers then donate %5 back to nest.

To cope with economic realities, Rebecca says they are, "aggressively working on grant writing and making sure we have consistent donor support."
But don't expect the economy to topple this Nest, "we have an awesome donor base, and we are already sustainable."

Being that this is the St. Lou Jew, after all, we wanted to know why Rebecca decided (as of November) to leave St. Louis for DC.
"We have a great advisory board in St. Louis and its sustainable, so I didn't need to be here as much," she explains.

Ok, well, what is one thing that you like better about St. Louis (one thing...anything)?
"You can get swallowed in DC and New York. In NYC, you can't sit on the board of an art museum or any interesting non profit. In STL you can."
..wait..I can sit on the board of an art museum? I gotta look into that...

Considering that this is an empowering organization, we just had to know, what is the most rewarding part of the work Rebecca does?

"I'm in happy social work, I get to see people who care passionately about making things happen.  Seeing the self confidence of the women [following their success] is the best part."

So...How can people like us get involved?
"We have this other half of the business where we partner with local designers where a percentage of sales are donated. The model is all about helping artists and mentoring. Anyone in the arts/crafts/design world can get involed. We are constantly doing events, fund raisers, etc." To get involved, email or check out the website and click get involved.
Read More......

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What's a Metro Nation without Strong Cities?

In our ongoing coverage of the City of St. Louis, I wanted to bring you a CEO's perspective.

You may recall our interview with State Representative Jake Zimmerman (if not, click the link the refresh your memory). In it, he advocated regionalism as the salvation for St. Louis and the metro area.

A recent post on CEOs for Cities champions this view, but only "when regionalism asserts the centrality of the anchor city.

A regional perspective must begin with a commitment to a strong central city. Without that, our "metro nation" will be headed to decline along with its cities."

Its always nice to see love for cities coming out of the CEO community. Especially because my image of a CEO includes two SUVs and a bomb(astic) house in the suburbs.

For CEOs to really make a difference, however, they need to be willing to relocate offices into cities. Where jobs go, people, and their disposable incomes, follow.

If you have a chance, read the post here and check out CEOs For Cities
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Stimulate This

A contradiction between the federal stimulus and reality looms...

The stimulus package, if the Democrats have it their way, will be over $1 trillion. It simply will be. It will be because that’s how, in spite of what the leader of their party (incidentally our President) said, when he said that it would contain no earmarks. So instead of creating ear marks to the legislation, they cast ear marks as stimulus.

House Minority Leader John Boehner criticized the $87 billion for contraception, saying “How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraception?” It’s true: contraception does not stimulate the economy. However, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi shot back. “The family-planning services reduce costs. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crisis right now, and part of it…[is] to help the states meet their financial needs.” But reducing debt is not the same as stimulating the economy – otherwise a stimulus package that created debt would not be considered a good economic idea. That just makes sense. I’m not against encouraging contraception, but this is an ear-mark, no doubt about it.

Here are a few other stimulus-inspiring spending projects:
$44 million for repairs at the Agriculture Department headquarters in Washington.
$200 million to rehabilitate the National Mall.
$360 million for new child care centers at military bases.
$1.8 billion to repair National Park Service facilities.
$276 million to update technology at the State Department.
$500 million for the Transportation Security Administration to install bomb detectors at airports.
$600 million for General Services Administration to replace older vehicles with alternative fuel vehicles.
$2.5 billion to upgrade low-income housing.
$400 million for NASA scientists to conduct climate change research.
$426 million to construct facilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
$800 million to clean up Superfund sites.
$150 million for the Coast Guard to repair or remove bridges deemed a hazard to navigation.
$6.7 billion to renovate and improve energy efficiency at federal buildings.
$400 million to replace the Social Security Administration's 30-year-old National Computer Center.
All of these are covered under the “job creation” argument, but none of these create long-term employment. They either support currently-employed blue-collar jobs, or will temporarily increase blue-collar jobs (which, incidentally, are not the best kind of jobs to encourage, because they provide no incentive to employers to maintain when demand is low – a bomb detector installer cannot remain billable when there is no need to install bomb detectors, whereas a software developer can work to improve or create new software thereby creating future revenues that more than cover the cost of that developer).

What’s more, none of these inspire increased consumption or long-term growth. The National Mall is free – making it nicer will not generate any revenue. I’m sure that at least some of the new child care centers on military bases are needed, but other than the small staffs that will be assembled to operate them this does not create economy-shifting stimuli. The $426 million for new facilities at the CDC probably means that with this money the CDC can do more work to earn its last C and silent P (for prevention), and this is good, but it doesn’t stimulate significant long-term economic growth.
By announcing that this would be an earmark-free piece of legislation, President Obama curtailed Congress’s ability to steer money to their states. But he really did not do anything to protect tax payer money from being spent erroneously. While I champion his spirit, all he did was make it harder than normal for us to see where the money goes, because politics will still be allowed. Decision-making power on how the money gets spent is simply shifted from Congress (who would normally have to list each project and how much money is marked for it) to un-elected bureaucrats at state and federal agencies who will have the power to decide where and how the money gets spent. What this means is that if someone (anyone) wants to find out how their dollars are being spent, they have to track down the agency or program manager to find out.

Now I’m a supporter of individual states rights, and applaud President Obama for removing Bush regulations on states’ ability to regulate automobile emissions. That said, the President and his economic team need to be mindful of the inherent conflict between a federal stimulus package and individual state budgets. When Congress gets around to voting on the federal stimulus package, which by pairing tax cuts with increased spending will increase national debt, the governors of 38 states, those states who require a balanced budget and prohibit budget deficits from being carried over year-to-year, will be introducing their plans to balance their budgets. Many of these 38 governors will, like California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, propose increased taxes and reduced government spending (just the opposite of the federal approach, which is not hamstrung by the requirement to balance the budget). The worry is that states will increase taxes at the same time the federal government will reduce taxes, neutralizing the stimulating effects of the massive federal package.

This contradiction underscores a reality that the national discourse is not pondering: for any state that is carrying a deficit, the need to balance the state budget will likely blunt the effects of the federal package. California, for example, is currently riding a deficit of $40 billion. As part of the federal stimulus, the state will receive roughly $11 billion for education and the state’s health care program for the poor. Congress’s intention for this money is to boost spending, but California will simply use it to pay off current debt.

The stimulus package will reduce California’s deficit from $40 million to $29 million, which is great because it may lead to a smaller tax increase. But it won’t boost spending, job creation, or economic stimulus as the federal money is intended to do. This isn’t Congress’s fault, but it calls into question the brilliance of the plan. I am no economist or financial expert, but this is just common sense stuff that Congress seems to be ignoring.
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YPD's Kickoff, the largest event of the year for post-college Yids

Haven't made plans for Saturday yet? Made lame plans that you need an excuse to get out of? YPD's kickoff is this weekend!

The Young Professionals Division of the Federation knows how to throw a party.

Last year, I had the opportunity to check it out (full disclosure, I got Miller to donate a boat load of beer)and ended up being impressed by the attendance.

In fact, I don't think I've been to a better attended social event with as many Yids since. Which is why I'm pretty excited for the party this year.


“YPD Takes You Around the World” to launch its 2009 Jewish Federation Campaign with an international Jewish journey on Saturday, January 31, 8 to 11 p.m., at the Coronado Ballroom, 3701 Lindell. Parking is $3 and available at the Scottish Rite Lot (Spring @ Lindell).

The evening will feature food stations of assorted “global” appetizers, desserts and drinks. There will be karaoke, belly dancers, Latin dancers and Israeli dancers. In addition, the event will showcase where Federation dollars go to help in St. Louis and around the world.

Admission is $36 online and $40 at the door. There will be takeaway gifts and a chance to win great raffle prizes.

Click HERE to register.
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Through the haze, I see the dawning of a Smoke-Free St. Louis

Is it possible that St. Louis will go smoke-free in public places? Can it be true? It's going to take joint leadership and political courage, but I smell it coming (pun intended).

Efforts to enact a public smoking ban have failed in the past, so the battle is nothing new. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported today on the renewed attempt.
Whether the new effort succeeds might depend on whether the city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County could enact a ban simultaneously. None of their leaders wants to go it alone and put their bars and restaurants at a disadvantage against competitors in a neighboring jurisdiction.

Not wanting to wait for government action on the issue, many establishments have decided to (gasp!) voluntarily go smoke-free, and kudos to them. St. Louis City has good representation of smoke-free places: the Royale, Erato, the Gelateria, Bailey's Chocolate Bar, the Gramophone (Y!- I know you're all over that one), the ChurchKey, etc, etc.

There are community efforts surfacing to make this happen. Check out Smoke-Free St. Louis City on Facebook or on their website. You can voice your opinion on KSDK's poll about a smoke free ban.

I think it goes without saying that smoking is unhealthy and poses a public health threat, so I'll leave it at that. Wouldn't it be great if this ban goes through and St. Louis does something moderately forward-thinking? Already 34 states have either full or partial smoking bans, and in those states without one, countless cities and counties have enacted their own. We definitely wouldn't be the first city, but we won't be last either!
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Friday, January 23, 2009

The Case for Next Dor

We have been making a good deal of progress since we first unveiled the Next Dor Proposal. As I speak to more and more people in the community, it is becoming more and more clear that there needs to be a place with the capacity and the environment to incubate the post-college Jewish community in St. Louis

Two weeks ago tonight, we hosted 28 Jewish young adults at our house.

We ran out of forks, and chairs.

Tonight, as we get close (or even surpass) that number, it is clearer than ever that the basic demand exists. We are very much here and need a space in which to connect.

Case in point: I reached out to someone on Facebook recently who is new to St. Louis. "Are there any cool Jewish events going on?" She asked, "Events that actually get people to show up?"

But it isn't just the post-college Yids who are clamoring for something to happen.

Last Friday night, I went to a St. Louis Reform Synagogue with a friend to hear him lead services. The number of congregants present was under 25, but the building was gorgeous.

"Do you think young Jews, your friends, you...would come to here...if we offered wine or beer sampling?"

(Does everyone think we are alcoholics?)

I tried to explain that my hesitation (and that of many of us, I expect) is the location and the facility. I recognize that there a lot of us in the county, even past 270, and for them, the location may work, but there is something that rubs me the wrong way about going to a synagogue for that type of event.

When I brought up the Next Dor project as an alternative future location for such an event, I was met with a level of interest, but also a bit of cautiousness. After all, we are advocating something that doesn't directly bring people into the membership (dues paying) ranks of these congregations.

The fundamental difference in what we are talking about is capacity building, at a regional level. Instead of focusing on a certain institution, congregation, or group's needs, we are approaching this from a generational standpoint. How do we become engaged and connected to each other, within this generation, and between generations, to the point that we have created another layer in the fabric of the community?

We think the answer is Next Dor. Read More......

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Suspiciously Jewish - Social Entrepreneurship

This is so wrong... but... Let's say you read a story. . . its about a girl, a young woman, who received a Masters of Social Work from Washington University (in St. Louis) and who now runs a Social Entrepreneurship project.

Is it wrong that I expect her to be Jewish?

Rebecca Kousky, founder of Nest, meets all of my ideals for having some Jewy-ness about her; she is clearly intelligent, articulate, and cares about the world around her. . . and all this without having actually met her!

Nest is a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the lives of women in developing countries. The mission of Nest is to support women artists and artisans in the developing world by helping them create sustainable entrepreneurial businesses. To do this, Nest provides micro-credit loans to be used for the purchase of the supplies and materials necessary to begin and/or maintain art or craft-based businesses.

How cool is that? This is the highest level of Tzedaka and Tikkun Olam on so many levels, I need to find out if my suspicions are correct.

It is completely ridiculous that I want/expect her to be Jewish given the work she is doing, but I still really want to know.

In fact, I'm going to be interviewing Rebecca tonight. Stay tuned for the Living Jews interview of Rebecca Kousky!
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Movie Watch: The Reader

After scoring a surprise Oscar nomination this morning for Best Picture, is The Reader just another Holocaust movie or is it something more?

The "Holocaust Movie" The Reader was unexpectedly nominated for Best Picture at this morning's Oscar nominations. Luckily, I just so happened to see the film this past weekend, and have a few thoughts to share.

More or less, Holocaust movies tend to get a bad rap as dark, depressing and all the same. With the national mood at such a low point, the wisdom of releasing yet another re-hash of one of the world's darkest hours could certainly be suspect.

However, the Reader presents a new side of the puzzle, with different questions abounding. Kate Winslet plays a mysterious yet likeable figure with some dark secrets regarding her Holocaust past. Without giving too much away, suffice to say that the movie presents moralistic questions and dilemmas in a way I have not seen before.

Make no mistake, the movie is dark and you will leave the theater more than a little uncomfortable. However where the Reader succeeds is that this unease is due to the questions left unanswered rather than to the handling of the sensitive subject matter.

So by all means, check it out for yourself, but don't say I didn't warn you to come prepared for what you are asked to debate within yourself.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An Open Letter To Birthright Israel Participants

After continually seeing friends' Birthright pictures, I wanted to write an open letter to all those Birthright Israel participants who have returned, doe-eyed, and ecstatic about their trip.

Dear Birthright Alum,

By now you have had a chance to upload your photos to facebook and tag all of your new friends, debrief your parents about how safe you felt, and gossip to your friends about the hot Israeli soldiers.

Perhaps you fell in love with Israel, and maybe you even made a commitment to only date Jews or make Aliyah

Fantastic! Wasn't it cool how you went to that Bedouin tent, had that super strong coffee and incredibly sweet tea? Did you manage to see the lights from the Dimona nuclear reactor while you were there?

How about that trip up Massada, where you learned that Jews used to fight to the death, and even preferred dying to surrender.

What were your first impressions after seeing Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial center, and then going to Independence hall in Tel Aviv, where Ben Gurion declares that after 2000 years, the Jewish people are no longer in exile?

What a one-of-a-kind experience?!

Except that it's all.

Birthright Israel is one of the most consciously planned trips out there. I would go so far as to declare it pure propaganda, if I hadn't had such a good time, and didn't feel it was so important.

I want to put into perspective the goals of the trip. There are those among us who refer to the trip as 'Birth-Rate', which I believe to be a fair approximation.

The trips take a great many different forms, as there are many providers who get their money from Birthright, the umbrella organization. The vast majority of these trips, however, end up doing the same things.

Now, I want to stress that the experiences that participants have are real. We really feel a connection to the land, the people, the history...but that does not deny the fact that the events, and often the order of the events on the trip are set up so as to lead logical, rational young Jews to certain conclusions.

The first of these conclusions is that there is a Jewish people. It comes in many shapes and colors, languages and beliefs, but ultimately, Am echad im Dam echad (one people with one blood). This goal is accomplished by taking participants to places of Jewish historical significance including the Western Wall, Massada, Sfat, and Jerusalem in general.

The next conclusion is that Anti-Semitism was and is a very real threat. A great deal of this conclusion is cemented in the visit to Yad Vashem. This museum has an incredibly humbling effect, making Jews who visit it feel vulnerable, even if they barely self-identified as Jewish.

After this, the conclusion which Birthright hopes its participants will draw is that Israel has a fundamental right to exist as a homeland and safe-haven for Jews. Listening to the Shehechiyanu after Ben Gurion reads the Israeli declaration of Independence, followed by Hatikvah brought me to tears. Well done, Birthright.

But I think the greatest achievement of Birthright is the conclusion that Israel is the Birthright of all Jews, that Jews are connected by this common bond and are responsible for the future of the Jewish state.

Every friend, friend of a friend, etc. who goes on Birthright always ends up with an almost identical set of pictures. Not that this is a bad thing. By presenting a certain story, the same way every time, yet allowing each individual to connect to that story in a different way, Birthright has succeeded in a way that most Jewish events haven't....making Jews feel like Jews, regardless of Judaism.

Israel is surely not as simply as Birthright has presented it to be, but hopefully, something was sparked inside you during your trip that made you interested enough to return and acquire an even more intimate knowledge of the land for which Jews have yearned for thousands of years. The same land for which some extremely wealthy Jews have paid thousand of dollars for you to believe is your birthright.

Bruchim hachozrim.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

St. Louis JCRC Council D'var Torah

This piece came to us from a good friend who is working for the Jewish Community Relations Council. While it may have been delivered a week ago, we think you will find the topic relevant and the perspective interesting.

D’var Torah JCRC Council Meeting 1/13/09 Heather Paperner

Last week’s and this week’s torah portion create one of Judaism’s most well known stories. In last week’s torah portion G-d reveals Himself to Moses and reminds us of the covenant he made with our ancestors. G-d promises to take out the Children of Israel from Egypt, deliver them from their enslavement, redeem them and acquire them as His own chosen people at Mount Sinai; He will then bring them to the Land He promised to the Patriarchs as their eternal heritage.

Moses and Aaron repeatedly come before Pharaoh to demand in the name of G-d, "Let My people go, so that they may serve Me in the wilderness." Pharaoh repeatedly refuses. Aaron's staff turns into a snake and swallows the magic sticks of the Egyptian sorcerers. G-d then sends a series of plagues upon the Egyptians.

The waters of the Nile turn to blood; swarms of frogs overrun the land; lice infest all men and beasts. Hordes of wild animals invade the cities, a pestilence kills the domestic animals, and painful boils afflict the Egyptians. For the seventh plague, fire and ice combine to descend from the skies as a devastating hail. Still, "the heart of Pharaoh was hardened and he would not let the children of Israel go; as G-d had said to Moses."

In next week’s torah portion the plagues continue, until all the first born Egyptian children are killed and finally Pharaoh relents and releases the Israelites.

As I looked at the two portions, I began to wonder how this story would play out today. Which headline would be sent to my cell phone as I scurried through my day? “Egyptian’s Enslave Thousands” or “Hebrews Use Biological Warfare” Would my preferred cable news network interview an Israelite wanting his freedom, or an Egyptian mother who just lost her son after suffering through a humanitarian crisis?

Which statistics would the radio tell me on the way to report, what would I read in the Post-Dispatch or the Beacon as I drink my morning coffee, and when I take sometime in the middle of the day to eat my lunch and read my favorite blogs what would their commentaries be?

Something tells me their commentaries wouldn’t be anything like the ones that have been written about Moses and Pharaoh so far.

While I made dinner what would the television in the background play? Would the media loop the same videos of Egyptians living in locust and darkness talking about how since the land was ravaged by wild animals and hail they have had little food or an Israelite showing where he was enslaved? Which would the cable network feel would get better ratings?

If today’s media were responsible for reporting one of Judaism’s most famous stories, how would it sound? Would it be so clear that Moses and the Israelites were correct in their actions, or would the ten plagues be disproportionate force? Would we all unequivocally feel that we were in the right? What message would we take from this story if it was created by today’s media? I doubt that it would be survival and triumph that we currently hold.
Perhaps Marshall McLuhan was right, perhaps the medium is the message. Maybe it matters more where we get the content from, than what the content is.

I can only wonder if it was not the media giving us the content about the current situation in Gaza, but some other source would the world look at it the same way? Would there still be people who felt Israel was horribly wrong in its actions? Would some of us still have angst, torn between an Israel we have been to, an Israel that we love and the one we see in the media?

If you have a few moments later today, perhaps in the car on the way from here, I urge you to think about the content you know about the situation in Gaza, and think about what it might sound like coming from a medium other than the media.
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After Watching The Inauguration

I watched history today. That much is clear. What is perhaps more interesting is how today may define the future.

I spent the majority of the morning watching the inauguration on via CNN's live video stream and listening on NPR when the CNN stream clogged up. Apparently, the inauguration was the LARGEST INTERNET STREAMING EVENT IN HISTORY.

The numbers are astounding(Via Mashable):

The stats released, as of noon ET:
1. There were 200,000+ status updates through the Facebook integration on
2. at that time, 3,000 people commented on the Facebook CNN feed per minute
3. Obama’s Facebook Fan Page has more than 4 million fans and in excess of 500,000 wall posts
As of 11.45am, CNN:
-had served 13.9 million live video streams globally since 6am
-had broken its all time total daily streaming record (from Election Day) of 5.3 million live streams.

Facebook just reported that over 1 million users updated their statuses to reflect the inauguration.

Not only that, but the new is already up and uses the same format as the site that laid out the transition team's updates. That means that the Whitehouse will disseminate information directly to the people, much like FDR did in his fireside radio chats.

I have to admit, I really enjoyed watching the inauguration. I hope we can execute President Barack H. Obama's vision.

But tonight, we celebrate!
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Monday, January 19, 2009

Reflections On The Inauguration Of The First Non-White President

There have been, and will continue to be voluminous amounts of articles and opinion pieces written about the significance of Barack Obama's inauguration, speculation as to his efficacy as a leader, and on and on. This piece is all of that.

I wanted to write a really brilliant article pointing out that Obama is a brilliant politician, professor, and person who happens to have a Kenyan father and African-American wife, as opposed to being a 'Black' President.

The truth, though, is that so many people in this country still see him as a Black President. Now, I don't want to take anything away from the barrier that will be broken by his inauguration, but the fact that we have to celebrate this victory to the extent that we are belies the great distance we have left towards reaching Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Dream".

Simply put, when we are truly at the point that we can judge a person by the content of their character, we won't have to celebrate the victory as a victory for Black folks, but as a victory for a better qualified candidate with a better message.

In many ways, I think White people see this as a victory too. It shows that, even when no one is looking and the vote is on the line, White people voted for someone with brown skin and a foreign name.

As a man of many hats I see this occasion through a few different lenses.

As a person under 25, I see the election as a generational shift in terms of ideas, language, and media. Obama is not only young, as presidents go, he is youthful, playing basketball, savvy when it comes to technology, and carries with him an openness to new ideas that characterizes youth.

As a Yid, I appreciate his intellect and compassion, his nuanced approach to situations, and it sure doesn't hurt that he has a few Jewish friends.

As a friend of many teachers, several single parents, and a few social workers, I appreciate the importance of seeing a beautiful, loving, intelligent, and successful African-American family in the White House for creating sense of self-worth, possibility, and dare-I-say....hope.

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Inauguration Celebration!

All jazzed up with no place to go to celebrate the inauguration tomorrow? Let us suggest the Royale, Rep. Jake Zimmerman's choice spot in South City and renowned St. Louis political junkie hangout.

With drink specials all day long like the Hot Hope Toddy, the US Mint, the Bailout and the Stimulus, what's not to love? And if you come by after work, you might even catch some of your favorite St. Lou Jews there too!

Click here for full details

Editor's Note--
Come on out to The Gramophone on Inauguration night to celebrate the beginning of new era for America with St. Louis’ favorite DJ Crucial on the turntables! Crucial will be spinning a mix of soul, 80s, old school and new school hip hop to keep the party going all night. This FREE event starts at 8 pm. Come out and see the RiverfrontTimes “Best New Bar” for 2008 and celebrate the beginning of the Change We Need!

--Y? Read More......

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ice Festival On The Loop This Weekend

Its almost Shabbat, did you make plans for the weekend?

If not, no worries, The St. Lou Jew has you covered!

Check out the Ice Festival on the Loop (aka the Delmar Loop) all day Saturday.

With events like a 'Frozen Buns Run', Human Dog Sled Races, and a Putt Putt Bar Crawl (no idea what it is, but it sounds awesome), you should probably make it out.

Full Details Here. Read More......

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Living Jews: Peter Maer, from STL area roots to White House Correspondent

Peter Maer is a recurring guest on Air Force One, as CBS News White House Correspondent, he has covered some of the biggest stories from an inside angle. We were, of course, thrilled when Peter agreed to answer a few questions for us. Read on for an exclusive interview with a journalist known for integrity and quality reporting.

About Peter Maer, the St. Louisian
Although you grew up in Granite City, you spent some time working in St. Louis. Did you ever, or have you always, seen yourself as a St. Louisian?

I suppose you could call me a "greater St. Louisan." Frankly, I never lived on the Missouri side. I grew up in nearby Granite City. I moved to Belleville to work for a radio station there after graduating from SIU-Edwardsville.

Being that we have a few bloggers from St. Louis, they would like to know what high school you went to.

I'm a proud graduate of Granite City Senior High. My journalistic roots go back to my days as editor of the high school newspaper and host of a weekly show on the Granite City radio station.

What is one advantage St. Louis has that DC does not?

St. Louis has more "hometown" character and loyalty. I can't recall anyone in the DC area ever asking me that classic St. Louis "high school" question. People in DC are more likely to ask, "Where did you come from?" or "What's your commute to work?"

About Peter Maer, the White House Press Correspondent

You spend a great deal of time listening to or asking questions yourself. In recognition of this, what is your process for asking questions that really get at the essence of an issue?

I've used the same approach for years. I usually ask myself, "What would people back in my home town want to know?" I usually try for questions on "wallet" issues or other topics that hit home to average Americans. That was the genesis of an exchange I had with President Bush last February.

Maer: What's your advice to the average American who is hurting now, facing the prospect of $4-a-gallon gasoline, a lot of people facing ... "(At this point I had planned to add a few words about people facing foreclosure and other economic pain but he cut me off with a question of his own.)
Bush: "Wait, what did you just say? "You're predicting $4-a-gallon gasoline?"

Maer : "Yes. A number of analysts are predicting $4-a-gallon gasoline."

Bush: "Oh, yeah? That's interesting. I hadn't heard that."

Of course not all questions are about domestic "pocketbook issues." If there's a brewing foreign story or crisis, White House reporters always look for fresh angles.

I assume, to some degree, that you already know many of the facts regarding the questions you are asking and the stories you are writing. When someone is clearly telling lies, half-truths, or putting up a smoke screen, what is your process for pushing to get the information you need, and how do you know how hard to push?

There's really no set process for that kind of situation. I just keep pressing until the topic is exhausted or I feel that my listeners will be able to tell that the person is "blowing smoke."

You have been a 'fly-on-the-wall' at many historic occasions, and given the opportunity to interact with some of the most influential people on the planet. What have been some of the moments that you particularly cherish or have made the most impact on you?

Some life or death moments have had the greatest impact. I covered the massive 1985 earthquake in Mexico City. More than 10,000 people died. I was standing outside the rubble when some lives ended within earshot. It was the first story that really made me literally value life itself. The same lesson hit home when I covered former Presidents Bush and Clinton when they traveled to the Asian Tsunami zone.
Asked what happened to his family, a man told the former presidents, "They only live in my heart."
I also covered President Clinton's poignant journey to the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Rabin. I was the pool reporter aboard Air Force One. The former presidents and a congressional delegation were also on board. It was a very somber flight.

Given the myriad sources of information, as well as the biases that exist at all levels, where do you get your news?

I get much of my news from the vast resources of my colleagues at CBS News. There is a constant flow of internal information and of course postings on
I also read at least four newspapers every day: The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the L.A. Times. I also scan the Post-Dispatch, Chicago Trib(une) and other web sites.

You have had numerous interactions with President Bush. Ideology aside, what is one story about President Bush that stands out?

He'll be remembered for the first days after the Nine-Eleven attacks. That was his finest hour. My most vivid moment during the Bush years came when I and others were evacuated from the White House on September 11, 2001. While President Bush was in Florida that day, it was a very dramatic and at-times frightening scene in Washington, especially after the plane hit the Pentagon. We could see the smoke as we were rushed from the White House. Other key moments in his presidency including the botched response to Katrina, the flawed weapons of mass destruction justification for war in Iraq and the sour economy have been well-documented. Historians will be analyzing the Bush presidency for years to come.

About Peter Maer, DC Resident
How to you find the relatively high percentage of Jews in DC to effect your professional pursuits (does being Jewish help), as well as your personal and religious activities (ease of observance)?

I don't mix personal and professional pursuits.
Read More......

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Living Jews: Jake Zimmerman Part 2

So when we last left Representative Zimmerman, ahem, Jake, he was just returning to St. Louis following a stint at Harvard Law and some time in DC. So what was it that brought him back to St. Louis? And what was it that brought him to politics?

Well, in his own words, "I think Tikun Olam plays in heavily, and a healthy sense of outrage at injustice."

More than that though, it "comes from having an outspoken Jewish mother who didn't listen to the radio idly!"

So how has being a Jew in St. Louis affected Jake's political life?

"The STL Jewish community was part of what made me a strong candidate initially. There are a lot of parental feelings there. People want young Jews like us to succeed."

When we asked how he has been received in Jefferson City, Jake responded, davka, that "being Jewish helps connect across the aisle too, as there is a lot of respect in the evangelical community towards Jews and Israel."

He went further to explain that, "you can either be uncomfortable with people who don't look like you, or you can use that as a lantern post to start dialogue."

Since there are not many Jews in Jeff City, Jake does feel that he represents 'Jews' to some degree, which leads to the need to be careful in some situations.

What does it mean to be a Jew in St. Louis that it might not mean somewhere else?

Jake believes that the Jewish community in St. Louis is a microcosm of the larger St. Louis community, sometimes too inward looking, with a big emphasis on who you know. It is about either accepting the way things have always been or figuring out how to bust those boundaries. -We agree.

What does STL need as a community?

The town needs more than anything, a broader and more regional focus on economic development, city, county, exurbs, St. Charles County and IL. Far suburbs can't thrive without thriving core.

The turn of the century Jewish community was in North St. Louis, what are now theprojects, then they moved to U City, then moved to Olivette, Creve Coeur, then all the way to Chesterfield in 70s 80s and 90s. Now younger Jews are moving back to University city, want to be closer to the action. Also more moving into CWE, South City (Fo Chouteau, what what!) and Soulard.

The migratory patterns in the Jewish community represents the greater St. Louis patterns as people are starting to recognize that we are all in this together.

MO runs a real risk of turning into a place that the rest of the country sees as a backwater. With every year that we don't put the stem cell research thing to bed, or make people believe that they might go to jail for scientific research, the more that immigration passes us by. As Jews, historically immigrants, who value education, we have a moral obligation to speak up for this.

The question is can we attract the best and the brightest, can we hold onto graduating Wash U talent?

So it's clear that Jake has a lot of ideas as to what St. Louis needs by way of revitalization. But what about what's already here? For the dish on bars, food, and Jeff Smith (!?!) check back for Part 3!
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Updated Status, Its Complicated

I wrote yesterday about the apparent schism that had formed in my relationship with the Metrolink, still, I was a bit surprised to get a letter in the mail from 707 North First Street today, aren't you supposed to wait a few days after a traumatic event before getting back in touch?

When I was pulled off that train on Saturday morning, waiting in the cold while the citation was being written, I was expressly told, we won't call you, call us, a week from Monday.

Ok, I thought, not only did I get smacked with a fine, I also have to take the initiative to find out how much it is by calling back in a week, and knowing my attention span, that is a recipe for disaster.

When I received the letter today, I thought that it was a little weird, and was probably a testament to just how badly they needed the money.

The ultimate shock, however, was the content of the letter.

"A review of the above Summons has disclosed an error," it read, "YOUR CASE HAS BEEN DISMISSED."

Whoa. I was caught off guard. Now, we have all had our share of 'Baby Come Back', but this was so matter of fact, so emotionless, I haven't really had a chance to digest it.

Despite this gesture of goodwill, will Metro and I ever be involved again? Stay tuned.
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Donniel Hartman's take on Israel and Gaza

From the Hartman Global Beit Midrash which I attended this past weekend in DC comes this incredibly interesting take on the morality of war vs morality in war in regards to the Israel/Gaza situation. Read it here. Read More......

What Not to Name Your Child Part 2

Remember those crazy parents that named their children after Nazis?

Well, they just lost custody of their impressionable young ones...

Though the reason behind removing the kids from the Campbell home is still unknown, I believe the media attention surrounding the story may have had a lot of impact.

Read the story here.

My hope is that the children grow up as normal as you can be in the foster home system; my thoughts are with them.
Read More......

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why My Love Affair With The Metrolink May Have Just Ended

I admit it, I've had a love affair with the St. Louis Metrolink. But lately, I think the relationship has been rather one-sided. After a trip this weekend to DC, and cavorting with the mass transit there, I am going to update my relationship status on facebook to 'single'

Despite the difficulties posed by the Grand Metrolink station (the closest to our spot), I have made an effort, even when not economically prudent, to take St. Louis' half-massed light rail system.

I even planned events that centered around taking the Metro.

This past weekend, I had to rush to the airport Saturday morning to catch a flight to DC for PLP's Global Beit Midrash. I had my roommate drive me to the Central West End Metro stop in my car (why I didn't have him just take me to the airport....), and thought I'd be all set.

I pulled out my semester pass, only to find it had expired 10 days before and was dismayed to find that I couldn't use a credit or debit card to purchase a ticket. Not only that, there wasn't an ATM near by.

So here I am, stranded on this cold morning at the Metro station, without the ability to buy a ticket, and with a newly expired pass.

To make a reasonable-length story palatable for consumers of tinyurl, I was given a citation for riding the train without a ticket.

Ok, I deserved that, right? Now flash forward to DC.

I get on the train from the airport without any problems because I can dip my plastic purchasing power. No risk of a citation, because I can't even get onto the train without having a ticket (or some hops).

All weekend this continues, dip the card, take the train, ride the emotional roller coaster, etc.

Now that I'm back, I'm having a dilemma. I've been treated poorly, and have seen the greener pastures, but I don't want to give up on the idea of functional public transit in STL.
Read More......

Monday, January 12, 2009

Updates From Israel

In the midst of the continued military operations against Hamas in Gaza, there are a few stories today which caught my attention and are, I believe, incredibly important to discuss

The first was passed to me by a friend working for the Jewish Agency in Israel.

The story is by an American Camerawoman living with her husband in Sderot, a city which has been the target of continuing rocket attacks originating from the Gaza strip.

In the piece, the difficulties of living under the constant threat of random rocket fire are explained from a very personal perspective, and one can understand why the rocket fire is considered to be an act of 'terror'.

Please read that piece here.

The second story comes from Israel's Left leaning newspaper, Ha'Aretz, and reports on the banning of Arab political parties in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The justification given by those who supported and passed the measure is that the Arab parties have been inciting violence, meeting with enemy nations, and supporting terrorist groups.

The last political party to be banned was Kach, in the 1980's and advocated the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel.

At the same time, this action is a strong blow to Israel's assertion that it is a democratic state. Despite the fact that Arabs affiliated with non-Arab parties aren't effected by this, the ban is still a move which should be widely condemned, and questioned by those who support a free, democratic, and secure Israel.

The article does not explain whether new Arab parties, not affiliated with the actions of the recently banned parties, would be allowed to participate.

Read that story here
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The Greener Side of St. Louis

After attending multiple Moishe House events, a good friend was inspired to write a guest post for us. -Y?

It was only a matter of time before this issue would surface, and I'm perfectly fine with being the annoying tree-hugger to bring it up.

At first glance, I think the underlying spirit of good environmental citizenship has been present at each event since Mighty Moishe came to be. Multiple people ask multiple people on every Moishe occasion whether or not there is a system for recycling, and there is always a refreshing reluctance toward throwing perfectly reusable bottles and cans into the garbage. What I believe can be improved, however, is the clarity of Moishe's stance on recycling, as well as the general level of knowledge about recycling in St. Louis. This post will hopefully teach some of you a few things you didn't already know about how to be a responsible recycler in the 3-1-4.

I, like many, admittedly grew up w/a pair of environmentally conscious parents who did the dirty work associated with household greening for me. As much as I complained about breaking down cardboard boxes, squashing soda cans and sorting recyclable materials into their proper bins every time it was my week to take the trash out, I realize in my young adulthood how much I took these things for granted. Environmentally conscious actions, after all, enable us to gain a sense of our ongoing connection to one another and the cyclical nature of the earth we share. I feel as if I lost part of this connection by neglecting to recycle during my first six months as a young working man in the Lou.

Well, one day I became bored and gained some ambition. As my CWE apartment building does not offer a recycling service (nor do many others, unfortunately), I googled "Recycling in St. Louis" to gain a sense of the opportunities available and to educate myself on which of my daily waste products were and weren't recyclable. What I found was a very comprehensive list of recycling resources available in the St. Louis area. Because I couldn't say it better myself, I urge you all to take a look at the Refuse Division's website and learn what you can do to reduce your environmental impact with respect to waste:

If you don't like driving, and don't trust yourself to take your own recycling to one of the 27 drop-off locations in the city, pay the $37.50 by THURSDAY, JANUARY 15th (this week) and get curbside service for these materials

However, if you don't mind driving a very short distance and would rather drop-off your recycling, simply pre-sort your recyclables based on the categories listed in the above link and schlep them to your local drop-off location

As a final note, make sure you pay attention to everything you buy throughout the day, and the simple things you can do to reduce your disposables and increase your recyclables. Here are some closing thoughts:

--That morning cup of Starbucks: Both the plastic cap and cardboard cup are recyclable, so take advantage!

--GREEN YOUR BEER PONG: As the title suggests, the solo cups are indeed recyclable!

--LOOK FOR THE SYMBOL: Everything that is recyclable will have the triangle made of arrows stamped somewhere on it to indicate recyclability. Make sure your grocery store purchases have this symbol before buying.

--TAKE IT HOME! If your place of work doesn't have adequate recycling, put your empty starbucks cup or aluminum cans in your purse/bag to take home and recycle there.

--LET'S RECYCLE TOGETHER: As Moishe has the power to be a positive example for socially conscious living in STL, let's all agree that Moishe events from here on should have clearly-defined recycling collection points. It takes very little effort for one of us to drop-off the night's recycling, and the resulting smile on Mother Earth's face is all the reward we could ever need!
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Friday, January 9, 2009

Jewish Pin Up Calendar

In Case Heeb Magazine's Swimsuit Edition didn't satisfy your appetite for beautiful biblical babes, Jewcy has the entire Jamie Sneider Calender up. This is probably not safe for work, but I award her extra points for Jewish themes throughout.

Consider this our Shabbat sign off gift to you. Read More......

Zeda's Beat Box This Saturday!

Zeda's Beat Box
At the JCC (Wohl)
2 Millstone Campus Dr.
Sat. Jan 10
8:15 PM

Listen the tracks from the bands new CD "Seven" Read More......

Living Jews: Missouri State Representative, Jake Zimmerman Part 1

The latest in The St. Lou Jew's series on young Jews who are doing big things, today we bring you an interview with State Rep Jake Zimmerman, read on to learn more about what role being Jewish and from St. Louis played in his life, what its like adjusting to Jefferson City (the capital of MO), and a few good digs on Jeff Smith

For those of you regular readers, you may recall a post from a month or two back, in which LC and I were panelists at the St. Louis Jewish Federation's Board of Trustees meeting. Aside from being a great experience, legitimizing our role and voice in the community, and feeding our egos, the event also gave us the opportunity to network.

When Stuart Zimmerman, Principal at The Buckingham Family of Financial Services approached me afterwards and told me that he wanted to introduce me to his son Jake, the State Rep, I jumped at the opportunity.

Zuz and I caught up with Jake for a phone interview while he was on his way to Jefferson City.

Jake took a moment to activate his Blue Tooth headset and call us back to avoid, "hurting someone."

When we asked Jake to describe how he ended up in Politics in Missouri, he asked if we had specific questions or just wanted him to start talking, and have us try to shift the conversation as we went. Seeing as how he is a politician, we figured he would be most comfortable just talking until he made a gaffe.

Background: The Jake Zimmerman Story

STL born and bred, Jake grew up in family that took the whole Jewish thing pretty seriously. They belonged to Bnai Emunah, Jake attended Hebrew school, Camp Ramah, all of that was a big part of who he was.

He remembers leafing through Pirkei Avot, and finding random passages that advised Jews not to get involved in secular politics, only to have his dad point out on the next page another rabbi who thought that sacrificing pigeons was the most important thing. Luckily for fans of Jake Zimmerman the Politician, he quickly came to the conclusion that maybe Pirkei Avot wouldn't be the be all end all in his life.

Like any good aspiring politician, Jake has spent a fair amount of time in DC working on the Hill, and even at one point as an intern in Bill Clinton's White House, to which Jake added, "insert joke here!"

While in law school at Harvard, Jake spent summers in STL, realizing that "I wanted to be in this community and do things here."

After law school, Jake returned to St. Louis, where he worked first for area law firm, Thompson Coburn, saying that, " On the East Coast, Harvard Law degrees are a dime a St. Louis, they are a little less common than in New York."

"After law school I knew that I didn't want to work for someone else's agenda to play in the DC rat race game.

Living the Dream, Jake left the firm to work in consumer protection for the MO Attorney General's office, completing what he calls the ultimate tragedy for his concerned Jewish mother.

After his work at the AG, Jake was given the opportunity to be the deputy chief counsel for the governor, an opportunity that you just don't say no to and besides, he recognized that he needed real experience to do something that mattered in the community, "which I think comes back to Jewish values," adds Jake.

Being the Jewish guy in the governor's office was interesting. The Jewish community is small but an influential demographic, and his knowledge of the people and their issues made Jake useful.

When Governor Holden was voted out, Jake returned to STL and Thompson Coburn.

"At that point I knew I wanted to run for office. If you want to work for someone in politics who you agree with 100% of the time, who you think will do the right thing all the time, you have you be that politician.

I had a whole plan to run for the County Council as my first step. It was a complete and utter failure. You see, I wasn't the only one with this idea, but I was the least experienced with the idea. Even though I ended up not running, I made myself a reputation as someone you couldn't throw under the carpet, and luckily caught the attention of the right people.

Running for office is like starting a small business. I was lucky to have a lot of people who put money and endorsements behind my campaign. If not for the parental instincts of the Jewish community, my career as a politician may never have gotten off the ground."

So County Council was out, but party officials encouraged Jake to run for the state legislature in the Fightin' 83rd District in St. Louis County. Was Jake's campaign successful? What are his thoughts on what St. Louis needs to grow and thrive? And what's the inside scoop you can only get here. Stay tuned for Part Two to find out!
Read More......

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Live Blogging From The Israel Rally

We will be live blogging from the Israel Rally tonight, follow the action on our Twitter page! Read More......

See you at the Rally for Israel, Friends!

Thursday, January 8, 2009 7 PM

National Day of Solidarity with Israel

Jewish Community Center
2 Millstone Campus Drive

Confirmed speakers: Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder State Representative Maria Chappelle-Nadal

Convened by the Jewish Federation of St. Louis
Coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council
Hosted by the Jewish Community Center

With the cooperation of:
American Jewish Committee; American Jewish Congress; Anti-Defamation League, Missouri/Southern Illinois; Association of Reform Rabbis; Bayit Yisraeli; Central Agency for Jewish Education; Hadassah, St. Louis Chapter; Jewish Federation of Southern Illinois, Southeastern Missouri and Western Kentucky; National Council of Jewish Women; St. Louis Hillel at Washington University; St. Louis Rabbinical Assembly; St. Louis Rabbinical Association; St. Louis Rabbinical Council

No packages, backpacks, signs on sticks, etc. will be allowed into the event

For more information contact the Jewish Community Relations Council at 314-442-3871
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Yes, It's Anti-Semitism

Criticizing Israel does not necessarily make you anti-Semitic. But all around the world, Israel-haters are finding ways to be just that.

After a conversation on the Israel-Gaza situation with M-Teen and Y? last night in which about 75 points and counterpoints were thrown out in 6 minutes, I found this Boston Globe article that stresses a very simple point: Criticizing Israel in and of itself does not make you anti-Semitic. Hell, there is plenty that Israel does that deserves careful analysis and even condemnation in some cases.

However, the truly anti-Semitic behavior that this article details throughout the world is a frightening reminder of the absolute necessity that is Israel. Go ahead and criticize the decisions of the government and the military to attack a mosque that has been commandeered by Hamas as a military base if you must. But to do so while urging Jews "back to the ovens?" and advocating the killing of Jews wherever they live?

In advance of pro-Israel rally at the JCC, what are your thoughts? Does criticizing Israel equate to anti-Semitism? What should be the goal of tonight's rally? And what is Israel trying to accomplish anyway, both tactically and in the war of public opinion?
Read More......

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What To Do At A Pro Israel Rally

As Zuz posted below, it's about time for a rally!

What's that, you say? You've never been to a rally?

Never fear, The St. Lou Jew is here to give you all the advice you need to act like a rally veteran.

The first thing is to mentally prepare yourself.

Ask yourself, "Why am I attending a Pro-Israel rally?"

Did you have a fantastic Birthright trip in which you forged a connection to the land and people?
Are you appalled that people are appalled at the appalling behavior of (insert offending side here)?
Is it the Jews?

Perhaps you recognize the nuances of the issue, and while you don't totally support every Israeli action (like tank shells exploding outside of a school that in which civilians were congregated, even though you've seen the video's of combatants launching mortar rounds from in front of the very same school), you still believe that Israel has the fundamental right and responsibility to protect its citizens.

Now that we have that question answered, perhaps we should ask, "What do I bring?"

Considering that backpacks, signs on polls, packages, and Qassam rockets aren't allowed, you may just want to grab a poster board, write a pithy slogam like, "Free Palestine. . . From Hamas", or even better:
"GENEVA CONVENTION, PART IV, Section 1, Chapter II, Article 50, 7."

(The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favor or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.)

Brushing up on your Hebrew folk songs is probably a good idea too, but only bother with the first line or two because nothing says, "rally" to me like a bunch of people chanting the same thing over and over.

Finally, "What will the rally, and my attendance actually achieve?"
Now here is the real question. In the PR war, it is a small, but important step to show both our elected officials as well as the members of our larger community, that we are, in fact, crazy. Just kidding, it is important to show that, even as we (I) are aghast at the civilian casualties, at the most fundamental of levels, we acknowledge Israel's right to exist and to act in order to preserve its sovereignty and the safety of its citizens.

See you at the rally, I'll be the one dancing in circles from all of the spin.
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Stand with Israel TOMORROW!

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Exclusive Zeda's Beat Box Video and Music!

As Zeda's Beat Box January 30th show at Ursa's on Wash U's campus approaches, check out some awesome video and audio clips from their December 19th Cicero's show, hosted by The St. Lou Jew!

If you are a regular reader, you already know that Zeda's Beat Box rocks! To reinforce the point though, check out these video clips of their most recent show!

Plus, click here to see video of ANY of the songs from the show!

And click here to hear all of the songs on their brand new CD "Seven!"

And don't forget to check out Zeda's Beat Box for yourself on Friday, January 30th at Ursa's on the campus of Washington University Check back here for more Zeda updates! Read More......

Monday, January 5, 2009

Excellent Analysis of Israel's Dilemma in Gaza


I just found a really good analysis of the situation in Gaza.

Read it here.
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Explore 314

I'm always amazed when I host people from out of town who are spellbound by St. Louis. Sometimes we lose perspective and forget how many unique and interesting things there are going on here.

With that in mind, I wanted to pass along some of the places we hit up this weekend in the hopes that you will have a chance to check them out.

The weekend started with dinner at Senor Pops, a Mexican/Puerto Rican restaurant on Grand just south of Chippewa.

Although the beans and rice were pretty good, there was a distinct lack of unique Peurto Rican food. The saving grace was the giant burrito, which was definitely giant.

Saturday morning provided us the perfect excuse to get Dim Sum in St. Louis' China town, located on Olive just East of 170.

The food at Wonton King was good, interesting, and pretty affordable, but if you are doing the no pork or shellfish thing, you may want to consider other options.

For those of you trying to figure out how to spend a nice winter afternoon, Steinberg Skating Rink is the largest outdoor ice skating rink in the Midwest and is yours for the skating for about $10 (including skate rental). The bar next to the rink adds to the excitement for those adventurous souls.

It should go without saying that anyone who has spent more than a month in St. Louis should check out the City Museum, but seriously, you should check out the City museum.

The sheer amount of content there is astounding, from 10 story slides, to caves, to a ball pit that makes for intense games of dodgeball, (and don't forget the bar) may make this one of the coolest 'museums' in the country, and it is right in our back yard.

Look for more juicy (/Jewcy) content as we continue to detox and get back on our feet later this week.
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Friday, January 2, 2009

Baby's First Christmas

What's it like for a St. Lou Jew to spend Christmas in North Carolina?

I'm back in action after a 10-day fact-finding mission into the heart of Christmas in North Carolina. What are the traditions? What makes it different than Hannukah? Do people really stay awake during "Midnight Mass?" I set out to answer all these questions and more.

First off, it is important to mention that, just as is the case for Jewish holidays, every family celebrates Christmas in their own way. So my experiences are in no way meant as broad generalizations, but simply as my own experiences and observations.

Granted, I noticed some pretty stark differences right off the bat. The Christmas tree is an ever-looming visual presence, and the spectre of Santa Claus surrounds events throughout Christmas Eve and Day. Instead of presents coming from Mom, Dad or Jimmy, a majority of the presents were labeled as coming directly from Santa himself.

And Midnight Mass was mostly a conglomeration of Christmas carols (I think with the idea being that they were hymns before they were hit songs on the radio).

However, I also noticed some similarities that really should not be all that surprising. Large family meals, a reason for family and friends from across the country to gather, popular movies and songs watched and listened to again and again...

A lot is made about the differences between Christmas and Hannukah and the negative commercial impact that Christmas has had on the traditional Jewish holiday. However, what my "first Christmas" reminded me of is that ultimately these holidays really are all about family and friends. In our somewhat crazy world, an excuse to slow down a bit is never such a bad thing. Even if it does come with tacky sweaters, bad movies and re-told stories you really wish would just go away.

I'll be recounting some other stories from my trip in the days ahead, but for now, feel free to share your own thoughts on the similarities and differences between Hannukah and Christmas. Does one have a negative effect on the other? And is there something to be gained from learning about other religions and the reasons behind what they do?
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