Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Israelis Support Protesters in Iran

Despite the media hoopla around Michael Jackson's death, people are continuing to die in Iran.

Israel and the US have been very careful not to give the Iranian theocracy any additional reasons to blame them for the protests, but I thought this video, showing Israelis demonstrating on behalf of the Iranian protesters was really interesting.



If you haven't yet, check out TwitterFall and search for #IranElection Read More......

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Anatomy of a Decision

Being that I am a product of a philo-Semetic, Zionist (in the classic sense of the word) upbringing, it seems fitting that I am in the position have having to choose between Jewish community building in St. Louis, and Jewish community building in Israel.

On the one hand, has been my desire to be in Israel, which has been with me since graduating college. Most of my friends tease me that, with as much as I talk about it moving to IL, I'm still in St. Louis. But recently, and quickly, the situation changed.

I was (as of Tuesday) accepted into Otzma, a 10 month program that focuses on volunteering and leadership development.

The decision should be fairly straight forward right? Here is the opportunity I have been looking for to be be in Israel, have an impact, and potentially set myself up for something long term ba'aretz.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Not only are there the financial concerns of leaving a situation in which I make money for one in which I pay for the opportunity to volunteer, I also want to be able to see the next phase of all of the projects happening in St. Louis.

For example, the Next Dor Project is moving forward.. racing forward more like it. Demolition and landscaping work is starting this weekend, and grant proposals are being written and considered.

And what about Moishe House? It is in very capable hands, but who will be the third roommate? In light of a soon-to-be-ending lease, what position would my absence put them in?

Last but certainly not least, who will take over updating The St. Lou Jew? Sure, updates from Israel will be interesting, but they won't be local, which is something that we have really tried to bring into the mix.

So here I am, with a lot of great things that I get to be a part of, trying to figure out which way to jump. At least I'm lucky enough that I don't think I can make a wrong decision.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

HUC Saved?

The news coming out of the Cincinnati Enquirer is that all four HUC campuses will remain open. What is going on here?

You may remember our previous stories about HUC's financial predicament.

The article in the Cincinnati Enquirersays that the board decided late yesterday, to keep all campuses open.

I'm not sure how they are planning on paying for everything, cuz if the financial situation is that bad, the money has to come from somewhere.

In either case, SaveHUC.com has a bit more updated information. It will be interesting to see where this goes. Read More......

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Swine Flu: Now at a Camp Near You

What with the whole Iran election debacle, the world financial crisis, and the new season of Weeds, we've all but forgotten about the Swine Flu.

Turns out, unlike a bad political pundit, you can't make it go away just by ignoring it. In fact, not only has it hit Missouri, after this week's Camp Sabra closing, its headed right here to St. Louis

The Camp, run by the St. Louis Jewish Community Center, is closing down after two of its participants were found to have contracted Swine Flu.

The camp, out at Lake of the Ozarks is a popular place for Jewish kids from the area and will send all 350 kids home until June 30th.

The obvious irony in Jewish kids catching the Swine Flu wouldn't be worth mentioning, had the Minister of Health in Israel not referred to it as the Mexican Flu because of the unkosher origins of the virus.

We wish everyone a speedy recovery and hope it doesn't get in the way of your summer fun.
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Monday, June 22, 2009

Yom Sport: A Field Day in St. Louis

I always loved Yom Sport at camp. Color wars are a great way to meet new people, engage in pseudo-athletic competition, and have a good time.

That's why I'm excited to tell everyone about the Yom Sport set to go down this Saturday at Tower Grove Park at 3PM.

The event will include the normal activities, culminating in a NERF war version of capture-the-flag. Dinner and drinks will be provided afterwards at Thurman Bar and Grill, a two block walk from the park, followed by an after-party at Moishe House.

The cost for the entire day of activities is $18 and includes a NERF gun, food, and drinks at Thurman.

To RSVP, please click here. Read More......

Friday, June 19, 2009

Jared Cohen Gets It

Jared Cohen, an employee of the State Department, spent a few years hanging out in Iran and Lebanon, getting to know the locals. Not only does he have some interesting stories, but he is quoted on Colbert, a few years ago, as saying, "the youth in Iran are the de facto opposition, they don't realize their power as a demographic." Fairly prophetic, right?

See the clip below, and watch until the end:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jared Cohen
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorStephen Colbert in Iraq
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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hate Crimes

There's been another anti-Semitic killing. Time to start discussing hate crime designation again...

As members of a minority group, especially one with such a distinguished history of persecution as us Jews have, we are very sensitive to hate. Hate provides perhaps the most passionate motivation, and leads to actions only performable by people who feel a certain depth of the emotion. Last week, one such person walked in the US National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and killed a security guard. Were it not for the actions of the other guards, more people may have died.

When such a disgusting crime happens, the topic of hate crime designation usually bubbles to the surface, with various groups and people calling for clearer distinctions and stronger punishments of hate crimes. The basic idea is this: crimes committed under motivation of hate towards the victims because of their race, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc, should be punishable by stronger, tougher penalties.

The irony in this is that many of those who make this argument have previously suffered under the same injustices in law that they are now arguing be applied to other people. Groups like the NAACP and the ACLU support such a distinction in the law (as do groups that I am a member of, such as the ADL), groups who represent people who once were prejudiced against in the same manner in the legal environment. The law in American is supposed to apply equally to everyone (this was their war cry when actions did not match theory), yet they now argue for unequal application of the law.

I’ve never supported hate crime designation for three basic reasons. First, it does not create any additional protection of groups targeted by hate mongers. It makes nothing new illegal. It simply adds the distinction of “hate” to current crimes like murder, rape, and assault. This does not do anything for me.

Second, it punishes people for what is in their head. This goes against everything the United States was founded on. Whether a woman is raped because she is black or because she is a woman is irrelevant to the crime committed: a woman was raped. To somehow say that because the man was racist he deserves a harsher punishment is to pass judgment on that man’s thoughts, which of course under the First Amendment he has every right to think and believe however he chooses. Would this man have chosen a white woman were he not racist? It could matter less, because the action is what ought to be punishable, and either way that action is rape.

Third, it is not always easy to apply the “hate” designation to a crime. In the case of Von Brunn, we know he was anti-Semitic because he had written and spoken extensively on his ideology. Not all cases are that clear. Many oppose the death penalty because often enough innocent people get killed. In the case of a hate crime, proving the crime is usually much easier than the hateful intent. Tagging on additional years because of a “hate” designation may put people behind bars for longer than they deserve.

We already have enough crime laws out there to protect us. Why we need, why we benefit, from a special “hate” designation is not nearly strong enough to justify the action. We, as American citizens, are to be treated equally and identically under the law. Special designations for motivation go against this tenant.
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Twitter and Iran

This has been getting quite a bit of media attention, but it is interesting to note that the best coverage of the protests and the civil unrest following the elections (or approximation thereof) in Iran has been on sites like Twitter.

Twitter, the microblogging phenomenon, which sacrifices length and depth for near instantaneous publication, has almost single-handedly kept the Iranian protests (some may say revolution) in the consciousness of Americans.

First, Iran shut down mobile phone and text messaging services, then they closed off access to sites like Gmail and Yahoo. Today, Iran barred foreign journalists from covering the protests. But they can't seem to totally shut down access to Twitter.

Over the course of the day, Iranians updating their 'statuses' from Iran have brought critical information to light about how paramilitary forces are repressing their protests. As Iranian government cyber-warfare shuts down access to proxy after proxy, other Twitter users around the world are opening new ones, and changing their profile information to make it look as if they, too are living in Iran, thereby making it harder for the security forces to track the anti-government protesters.

The whole landscape is fascinating, because this may be the first time that people driven, so-called 'social' media, is significantly contributing to the coverage (and potentially the outcome) of a major world event.

There has been an outpour of support from Americans on Twitter, encouraging these protesters to continue to fight to have their votes counted.

To keep up with the latest, use a site like Twitterfall or Twitter Search and search for the term #iranelection or #gr88
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Monday, June 15, 2009

The Pinstripes at the Gramophone, June 16th

This is called shameless promotion. It's where we use our media platform to broadcast our pick for what you should do with your time.

That pick is the Pinstripes, a Cincinnati based band specializing in funky reggae, soul, and ska music. Having played 200 shows together over the past 5 years, The Pinstripes deliver melodic horn lines over a tight rhythm section.

The band is performing at the Gramophone Tuesday night along with Void Union and Team Relevance. The show starts at 9 and costs $5 for a night of fun.

This is not only media bias, but also nepotism at its best. Be there. Read More......

Friday, June 12, 2009

Next Dor Board Meeting Update

Last night the board of CRC unanimously approved use of the house for the Next Dor project.

This marks a huge step in the process. Michael Staenberg committed to raising the money necessary to rehab the building and challenged the young adults in attendance to 'put some skin in the game' by also raising some money.

Some of the questions that came up included how the organization will function, how it will interact with CRC, how it will reach out to new people, and what an ideal line up for a week of events might look like, and how we plan on managing security.

It's time for you to weigh in. How should Next Dor move forward? What ideas or operational considerations should be brought into the mix?

Big things are happening and you can be a part of them.
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Jews and Reggae: Zeda's Beat Box Does Father's Day

A plug on behalf of ZBB:

B’nai Amoona Men’s Club is hosting a Father’s Day celebration that is sure to make your abba and zeda dance. St. Louis’ own Zeda’s Beat Box makes their debut at Blueberry Hill on Fathers Day June 21. The band sets classic Jewish song lyrics to new melodies and a rock ‘n reggae beat. The band is lead by B’nai Amoona congregant Dave Simon, the founder of Dave Simon's Rock School, and includes 4 of his star pupils. All proceeds from the concert will go to the Ted Fisher Jewish Camp Scholarship fund. The fund has helped Jewish children over the past 50 years experience both Jewish summer camp as well as trips to Israel. This concert will be the only appearance by Zeda’s Beat Box in St. Louis this summer so don’t miss out.

Event Details
Date: Sunday June 21 2009
Place: Blueberry Hill-6504 Delmar
Cost: $10.00
Time: 2:45 PM

To hear the music the music of Zeda’s Beat Box visit www.myspace.com/zedasbeatbox Read More......

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Next Dor Next Steps

It's Going Down. Tonight, one of the major steps in the Next Dor project to create a non-denominational, post-college Jewish space in the city will be taken.

At 7:30 tonight at CRC, the board will make a determination as to whether to rehabilitate the house next door into a center for Jewish life.

Stay tuned. Read More......

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

DC Holocaust Museum Shooter was from St. Louis

Not only is James Wenneker von Brunn, the man accused of the killing of a guard at the Holocaust Museum in DC, originally from St. Louis... his listed college is a Midwestern University... So he grew up in St. Louis, and went to school in the Midwest around 50 or 60 years ago?

Any guesses on where he went?

A number of news sources are now confirming that the shooter went to Washington University in St. Louis for college (over 60 years ago) Read More......

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bar Mitzvah Attire

This past weekend was my cousin’s bar mitzvah outside of Cleveland, Ohio. It was wonderful to be with my family for such a joyous occasion, and it didn’t hurt that falafel was served at the reception. Truly my only qualm is that while the synagogue was conservative, the dress code was most definitely not.

To give you a little more background, the service was held outside in the synagogue’s courtyard and in the round, i.e. the makeshift bima was surrounded on three sides by the congregants and bar mitzvah guests. I sat on one side of the bima. I therefore had a clear view of the people sitting directly opposite me on the other side of the pulpit. I’m not exactly sure of the term for these people. To be technical, they were a group of fifteen girls who all attended Orange middle school, an affluent public school situated in a heavily Jewish area. At least two of them were probably named Jessica Greenberg. Anyway, I argue that they were “girls” in name alone. They looked more like twenty-somethings who were ready to head to a strip club, and not just to sit in the audience either.

Prepare yourselves for some truthful descriptions.

One girl wore a gray and white cocktail dress that exposed so much of her undeveloped chest that only her long, Chi-straightened locks protected her decency (à la portraits of Eve in the Garden of Eden).

Another girl waltzed in…err, rather strutted in…twenty minutes late and flanked by two grinning middle school boys. She was wearing something I swore Beyonce wore at the VMAs. A neon blue spandex dress (I call it an oversized blue sleeve), circumnavigated by a gold chain belt that accentuated her hips and butt. She also had on those strappy wedge heels that look like they came straight out of a dominatrix shopping catalog.

Another girl wore a fuchsia dress that barely hit below her butt cheeks. The only thing that gave away her true age was the mouthful of braces that shined every time she attempted to corral her fellow gal pals into the bathroom. Seriously these girls could not sit still or keep quiet for five minutes at a time. It was highly disrespectful, especially during the Torah portion.

I could continue with descriptions of the other girls’ outfits and behavior, but I think you got the point. I guess all of these observations lead to one pervasive question-- Where are these girls’ parents?

I’ll tell you where. Sitting in the car, dropping them off. And coming back five hours later to pick them up. I saw them with my own two eyes. These parents knew exactly what their daughters were wearing, and I’m certain that they even provided their little Jessicas with the money to purchase said outfits.

I am convinced that the whole synagogue spectacle was born out of too much money and not enough parenting. These were Jewish girls, after all. Their parents have taken them to synagogue numerous times, even before the deluge of their peers’ bar and bat mitzvahs began. Their parents should have taught them proper prayer attire and behavior. At the very least they should have learned to cover their chests and refrain from text messaging. Maybe they will figure it out someday, but I doubt it’ll happen before the next bar mitzvah this coming Saturday. They’ve surely picked out their dresses by now.
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Monday, June 8, 2009

A New Strategy?

A new IAEA report says Iran is closing in on its nuclear goals and may be only 8 months away from a deliverable nuclear bomb, yet we're sticking to a "wait and see" attitiude. Here's how to kick it up.

The American administration has said that this is not the time to really press Iran on the nuclear issue because the upcoming elections could reshape Iran's attitude. In fact, this is exactly the wrong tactic to take. The Iranians need understand the cost of their actions, and the US and its allies have yet to provide them with an estimate.

The Iranian regime is in the perfect situation. They have green lighted certain talks, just enough to entice the West into waiting, but have not gone far enough to threaten their domestic popularity and regional influence. They hold the veto cards and have already played one when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week ruled out all future talks on its nuclear program. Western inaction has allowed them to wait the diplomatic track out, all the while continuing to work on its nuclear capabilities unabated. Without a significant effort from the US and its allies to force the Iranians into recalculating their actions, the Iranians have no reason to change course.

They know what their goal is and have a plan to achieve it and are deep enough into it that, given the current circumstances, they will not have to turn back. This necessitates a change in our policy. Although President Bush dialogued with the Iranians on a number of issues, and President Obama has said he is interested in having tea, the Iranians are not interested in talking, at least not on nuclear issues, as made clear by the Supreme Ayatollah and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Tthe importance of the issue of legitimacy to the current Iranian regime cannot be downplayed either. The Supreme Ayatollah has instructed the Iranian people not to vote for anyone who appears to be open to rapprochement with the West, and now the "reformist" and "moderate" candidates are stumping on increasing support for Hamas and the elimination of Western influence in the Middle East. Normalization of relations is a danger for the Iranians because their popularity relies on their ability to demonize the West.

Of the many uninspiring options on how to deal with Iran, two appear to be more promising than the others, although they would need to work in tandem to be successful. First, because the diplomatic track appears to have stalled before it has even started, crippling action must be applied to change the status quo.

For sanctions to be effective, President Obama needs European Union support. However, EU rhetoric has not been strong enough to persuade American diplomats that the EU is ready to engage in the kind of sanctions needed to get out of this crisis. The EU does not make decisions in a timely fashion; to get them to agree on sanctions is a business too time consuming to be a game changer. Some European countries, including Germany and Italy, appear to have little interest in stopping the Iranian bomb. Rather, it appears they have accepted one and are working on how to deal with that reality.

Therefore, President Obama could employ the unilateral tactic of instructing the US Treasury to end Iran's ability to conduct international transactions in US dollars, sending the Iranian economy tanking overnight. This would send a message infinitely stronger than any he has sent before that Iran's actions will not be tolerated.

Second, the Iranians must believe that at the end of the day, the US will use military action. In fact, senior EU negotiators have been pressing this with their American counterparts behind closed doors. The US has done nothing demonstrable to ensure Iran that should current efforts fail, our military will be used. An American President, whose actions in Iraq are understood by the Iranians that he would rather run from a tough fight than win outright, cannot sell this idea to the Iranians. Showing public support for an Israeli strike, and undertaking meetings with NATO allies, Russia, and China to develop a deployable military campaign, would be two demonstrable steps.

The fact is that we have allowed too much time to pass, and too much Iranian progress to be made, to woo them away from their path with words, and certainly not from a lack of effort on our part. The time has come to speak with actions and see if we can bring them to the table that way.
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The Last Five Years: The New Jewish Theatre Is Worth Seeing

The Last Five Years, as performed by the New Jewish Theatre is a lot of fun. This may come as a surprise given that the play is all about the rise and fall of a relationship, and is only performed by two people (plus the musicians).

But really, it's a lot of fun. The space is very intimate, and no seat is more than 15 feat away from the actors at any point. The format of the show is interesting, with one of the actors starting at the end of their relationship and working her way backward while the other starts at the beginning and moves forward in time. They only meet and perform together at one point, their wedding.
Even the instrumentation is a bit weird, but the violin, cello, and piano do a great job of style-hopping and keeping things interesting.

The Last Five Years deals with the dizzying successes and heartbraking failures that are so amplified in New York City. While the male lead achieves stunning success as a writer at 23 and continues to climb, the female lead struggles to catch a break in her acting career, creating guilt, jealousy and tension.

The show itself is only about 80 minutes or so, which lends itself to the attention span of a younger audience, as does the majority of the music (songs like, Shiksa Goddess are always a good time).

The show runs through June 21st and is worth checking out. Don't let good theater in St. Louis pass you by. Tickets are available here
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Friday, June 5, 2009

Reflections on Obama's Cairo Speech

A lot of people are talking about Obama's speeches in Cairo, and his visit to Buchenwald. I wanted to pass along the reaction from PLP's Rhoda Weisman, with some strategic edits! A big Shabbat Shalom to everyone, hope to see you at either Brewer's festival in Forest Park on Saturday, the New Jewish Theater, or the Gramophone Saturday night, or the RFT's Music Showcase on the Loop on Sunday

To our PLP Community,

I hope you were able to watch the historic speeches made by President Obama this week. I was deeply moved and energized by his words, and reinvigorated to truly make lasting change..

President Obama is strategic in utilizing his leadership and visioning talents to shape the future. He understands that entrepreneurial leaders inspire great change, a belief shared by PLP.

Additionally inspiring was the President's belief that peace is paramount to global change and that America and Israel's bonds are both enduring and unbreakable. As he said, "the Talmud tells us: 'The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.'" Peace requires not only vigilance against intolerance, but also the strength to be proactive in creating the world we want to live in. I was awed that, at Buchenwald today, he was "reminded of the human capacity for good." He recounted the many "acts of courage and kindness" that have sustained our community.

It's is a good time for all of us to reflect on the kind of change we hope to make in the world. Consider your contributions to the Jewish community, and if needed, increase your involvement through volunteering, in your professional role, and Tzedakah.

As our President said, I too believe that we, as leaders, share the obligations that are the "price and promise of citizenship" of our Jewish community. PLP Talent embody the "spirit of service" that defines next gen leadership, and I want to hear what you are doing. Click here to post on our Facebook group how you are answering the call to make our community even better in the 21st century.

All my best and Shabbat Shalom
Rhoda
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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Living Jews: Elliot Darvick and HipHopInspires.us

Elliot Darvick, the brains behind freeconnie.com is back at it again with another positive piece of web property. HipHopinspires.us is here to save Hip Hop, and maybe a few others along the way.

Elliot has always been a fan of Hip Hop, and it was through the music that we were first introduced.

Now, 6 years later, Elliot is living in California, the web tech center of the world (other than, perhaps, Israel).

As he explains the reasoning behind the site, "people love quotes and lyrics, they like to be inspired and Hip Hop provides that content. A lot of people forgot that Hip Hop can be positive and inspirational, so hiphopinspires.us is here to bring that back."

The site presents inspirational lyrics (warning, some discretion is advised) in an easy to digest manner, allows for sharing, making a favorites list, and download the song from which the lyric came.

One of our favorite features of the site, though, is that when you download the song, all of the site's profits go to UCan Chicago, a non-profit that works with youth from troubled homes.

So...in a real sense, when you get inspired by a lyric, and download the song, that positive feeling is having a real and positive impact.

Where does it go from here? The hope, according to Elliot, is to get people talking about it and adding their favorite lyrics, and maybe even influencing the market towards the production and consumption of more positive Hip Hop.

What are you waiting for? Get Inspired!
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Monday, June 1, 2009

Sacha Baron Cohen Is At It Again

The man behind Ali G and Borat is returning with a vengeance with Bruno, the Gay Austrian fashion reporter. In a recent email, featured on Ha'aretz, Bruno makes an unexpected drop in on Eminem at the MTV Movie Awards. This video does contain some adult content. Viewer discretion yadda yadda...

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