Friday, October 30, 2009

Idan Raichel - All the Information


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New Jews Get Love On CNN

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

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

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


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

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

Read the rest of the article here.

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Halloween in the CWE

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

Just kidding.

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

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

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Next Dor Opening Countdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

To get your idea realized at Next Dor, click here

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

And, should you be in the position to contribute financially or with certain things for which the house has need, please get in touch with Next Dor
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Idan Raichel In St. Louis

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

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

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

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's just a little bit of history repeating

Shirley Bassey would assuredly agree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Garth,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I would be happy to begin a conversation around any of these ideas or issues.
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Friday, October 23, 2009

Your Guide To Making The Metrolink Prom Social

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let's make it happen.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

St. Louis Renewal: Views From The Vanguard Regional Roundtable

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



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

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


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


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

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

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


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

To read all of the responses, click here.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jewish Last Names

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

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

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

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

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

Those who feel uncomfortable in the Jewish community represents an issue far larger than something that can be changed along with our names. Our responsibility is to alter our behavior to be more inclusive, not to water down our identity.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Light Fest: Make An Impact

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


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

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

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

The plan is as follows:


A Full Day of Mitzvah Opportunities and Fun @ LightFest

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

· Give blood at the LightFest Blood Drive

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

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

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

· Find great opportunities at the LightFest Volunteer Fair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Why is it important to support this event?

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

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

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

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

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


Wanna get involved? Email us at thestloujew at gmail dot com for more information and to be put in touch with the organizers.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

The event is 7-8:30 at CRC

View Larger Map Read More......

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


If that sounds like your cup of tea, click here to RSVP
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Friday, October 16, 2009

Free Music Friday!

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This is what's happening

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Jew At Oktoberfest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How long until we don't even look at the potato pancakes at Oktoberfest and think, "you can't fool me, those are latkes?"
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Friday, October 9, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Senate passes money for Israel missile defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Get Excited

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's Foreign Minister, is re-writing Israel's foreign policy. Love him or hate him, any supporter of Israel should be excited with what he has in store.

Long story short, I'm writing this in WordPad, which has no spell check. I apolgozie for the (sure to be many) misspellings and grammatical mistakes.

Many American Jews watched with great worry as Avigdor Lieberman was sworn in as Israel's new (and current) Foreign Minister. His comments and sentiments towards Arabs and Persians set of alarms around the world that he was a man wholy uninterested in making peace with Israel's neighbors, let alone even kibitzing about the weather with them.

I was excited. Here was a man who's attitudes, completely distorted by worldwide media, represented what I felt was the most missing aspect of Israel's foreign policy: big, manly, balls. Israel has a history of giving far more than it receives. It gives more to the West in strategic upside than the West pays it in dollars. It actually contributes to the lives of many Arabs and Persians in the Middle East (medical and techonological services, for example) who give nothing but hatred back. It gives more to the United Nations by way of participation than the U.N. gives it (Israel is the only UN member who is not allowed to take part in regional groups, where much of the influential economic policies are made). It gives, by far, more to the Palestinians that it recieves (in one example, Israel gives up control of Gaza and the Palestinians respond by giving Israel 6500 of their rockets. In the current example, Israel restricts visits by non-Muslims to the Temple Mount to times between prayer and bars them entirely on holidays. In further appeasement, Israel has for years been allowing illegal Palestinian excavations, which have been used to destory Jewish historical relics, sites, and archeology. And invariably, when Arabs threaten or act violently - as they are doing to literally today - it is the Jews who are barred from the site to reduce tensions. How equitable).

What Lieberman was saying was that he had had enough of Israel offering an inch only for the world to take a foot. He was saying that, if Arabs want to live in Israel (which they do, by the way - 77% of Arab Israeli citizens would choose to remain in Israel even if offered an all-expenses paid relocation to any destination in the world), they need to respect Israel demonstrably. He wouldn't tolerate allowing Israel to rot from within. He said he didn't see the point in neogitiating with an enemy when it was obvious that the enemy had no history of respecting negotiated deals. He said there was more going on in Israel than the conflict that the world should care about, and that there was more in the world than the conflict that Israel should care about. But the thing that he said that most got my attention was this (I'm paraphrasing, of course): Israel has a right to exist, defend itself, and flourish, and if anyone challenged any of this, Israel would stand up and say, 'sit down and shut up you petchulant little child.'

It's taken Lieberman longer than I'd like, but he's institutionalizing big, manly, balls. In a 5 page memo leaked to the Jerusalem Post, Lieberman is re-writing Israel's foreign policy. It is wholistic, sensical, sensible, and global, and it is something any Israel supporter should be excited about. I've copied some quotes from the Post article below. The full article can be seen here: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=1&cid=1254861886009&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

According to sources, the foreign minister plans to bring the five-page preliminary policy paper to the ministry's senior professional staff in the coming days, to begin discussion on implementing what is being described as "guidelines for a whole new foreign policy."

According to a copy of the memo obtained by the Post, the new policy involves moving away from a "lone dependence" on the United States as a strategic ally, to developing broader and closer ties with other world powers and with the developing world.

The document, which was developed in recent weeks at Lieberman's request, focuses on three major shifts in policy: expanding ties with parts of the world "neglected" by previous governments, lowering international expectations of a breakthrough in negotiations with the Palestinians and creating a "zero-tolerance" policy for anti-Semitic expressions worldwide.

The memo chastises the Foreign Ministry for "becoming the 'Ministry for Palestinian Affairs,' with Israeli foreign policy almost entirely consumed by this single issue."

"There is no replacement for Israel's special relations with the United States," the memo continues, calling America "without a doubt Israel's best friend in the world.
"But," it continues, "the lone dependence on the United States is unhealthy for either side and presents difficulties for the US. Israel must build coalitions with other states on the basis of shared interests. In this way, it will expand and strengthen the circle of support, something which will be a relief for the US as well."

In particular, the memo protests as "inconceivable" that Israel's relations with the US "should center only on the Palestinian issue. There are many other important issues facing the two states, including regional security, the struggle against terrorism and cooperation in scientific research, economic [issues] and cultural [issues]."

"For decades, Israel has neglected entire regions and continents, including Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and Central and Southeast Asia. The cost of this neglect has been immense, and has been evident at the UN and other international forums."

According to the document, "it's hard to accept the claim that [Israel's difficulties in international forums] are due to 'the world being against us' when it is we who have abandoned vast swaths of the planet."

"Only by building broad coalitions and through long-term investment in ties with continents and states that have been neglected for many years can Israel improve its ability to deal with the challenges ahead."

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict , the memo notes that "16 years have passed since the signing of the Oslo Accords. That is a long enough period, which saw governments established of the Left, Center and Right, to allow us to understand that peace cannot be imposed from above, but must be constructed from the foundations."

In an apparent critique of US President Barack Obama's efforts for an immediate jump-start of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the memo says that attempts "to impose an immediate, total and comprehensive solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are preordained to fail."

Noting a series of failed "artificial" deadlines, including the 1993 five-year plan for the Oslo process, the renewal in 1999, and the efforts and deadlines of US presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush , the document calls for lowered expectations of the current effort.

"Creating [exaggerated] expectations as though it is possible to arrive [in the near term] at a comprehensive settlement ending the conflict could lead us once again to disappointment and frustration that will damage our relations with the United States and Europe and lead to a violent response from the Palestinians."

The document calls for "a more realistic approach that emphasizes improving the situation on the ground, which will bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a calmer point that will take it off the international agenda.

"We can reach a temporary settlement between the sides, even without solving the core issues, including Jerusalem, the right of return and borders. This is the most that can be achieved realistically, and it is crucial to convince the United States and Europe of this."

The memo also seeks to bring a new focus on worldwide anti-Semitism.
"In addition to the classical forms [of anti-Semitism], we are seeing it manifested also in boycotts of Israeli goods and academic institutions, and in political-legal suits against Israeli leaders and military personnel visiting Europe."

It calls for "a policy of zero tolerance toward anti-Semitic expressions and blood libels against Jews and Israel."

Citing "attacks on Jewish communities around the world and the undermining of Israel's legitimate right to defend itself," the document says the Foreign Ministry "must not take such expressions lightly."

Special mention is made of "cases where the conduct of Western and enlightened states encourage anti-Semitic expressions, whether intentionally or not. We cannot be silent in the face of the conduct of the Swedish government, which does not condemn anti-Semitic articles published in the Swedish media."

"Only an aggressive and unapologetic stance in the face of these events will explain to the world that it is impossible to accept or encourage anti-Semitism in any way, shape or form," it says.

In the final analysis, the memo claims, Israel "has all the elements needed to brand itself as a hi-tech superpower on the one hand, and a historic center of human civilization on the other, and to improve its position and image in the world."
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sukkot, so what?

We find ourselves smack in the middle of Sukkot (literally, booths), a holiday that finds religious Jews, and those with a bit of spare time on their hands, building temporary structures outside their houses. So, basically, as the weather gets colder, we get commanded to build huts outside, and take all of our meals (and even sleep) out there. Gee, what's the catch?

The truth, though, is that Sukkot is about stepping away from the material, or at least the illusion of material permanence, and getting closer to nature and to one another. A big mitzvah over Sukkot is to invite people into your Sukkah as a guest and to extend them the highest level of hospitality, a practice known as Ushpizin (the Aramaic word for 'guests').



For a lot of us, who feel like nomads living in temporary structures as it is, the physical idea of a Sukkah may not be something we feel compelled to pursue (check out how stringent some are in their construction), but the opportunity to spend quality face time with close friends, and those with whom we would like to grow closer, is appealing.

I checked to see what was out there, and it turns out that Bais Abe, on Delmar, is hosting a dinner tonight at their Sukkah, from 5:30-9. If you've never seen a Sukkah, or want to take the opportunity to meet some new people, drop by and, so long as this pesky swine flu is receding, I'll see you there.

Chag Sameach.


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Friday, October 2, 2009

Volunteer at Taste of St. Louis. Do it for the Kids

From Tom at Livefeed:
Hey gang,

It occurred to me that I didn't make clear the kind of difference that volunteering this weekend at the Taste will make! Given the averages last year, every hour that a volunteer spends at one of the 3 gates at the Taste, they will generate enough donations to fill a backpack full of food for a child who otherwise wouldn't have enough to eat, every weekend for a whole school year.

Basically what that means, is that every hour that you and/or one of your friends volunteers this weekend, we'll be able to fill a backpack full of food, every weekend for a school year, for a child who otherwise wouldn't have enough to eat.

The program that you'll be supporting has been taking children who would otherwise become high school drop outs, and is setting them up to be college grads. This is making a profound difference not only for individuals, but for our communities!

By the way, I know many of you have already signed up to volunteer this weekend. You're awesome. It's midnight so I didn't edit my list.

We appreciate your support and hope to see you this weekend. If you haven't yet let us know that you'll be supporting the event, please shoot me an email.

In gratitude,

Tom Read More......

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Next Dor Updates

B'kitzur (in short) things are on schedule.

For a bit more in depth of an update:

On the construction side, things are moving along really well, with the final clean up scheduled to be completed on October 30th, which should set things in order to open doors on November 1st.

Furniture is going to be picked out next weekend, and we're getting nice stuff. Not 'nice stuff' as in 'I'm afraid to put my feet up', but as in 'I could get used to this'.

On the Web side of things, Next Dor now has a facebook page, a twitter account, and most exciting, a website (which is still incomplete, so any feedback is welcome).

If you have any ideas for events, you can send those to nextdorstl at gmail dot com.
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