Friday, August 29, 2008

Experience? Shmexperience!

In a surprising moved aimed at hooking disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters, the McCain campaign has tabbed Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate...

Surprised? Me too. Sure, Palin (pronounced PAY-lin) is a woman and she is supposedly a populist Republican (???) but she also has served less than two years as the governor of Alaska, making her roughly as qualified as the mayor of Baltimore (~650,000 people, give or take a grizzly bear or two)

What do you think, is this a good move? Has McCain lost all ability to attack Obama on issues of experience? (I say he has). Is this a sign that the McCain campaign is panicking, a radical effort to shake things up and change course before it is too late? Or will Sarah Palin signal a "game changing choice" as Karl Rove suggests, the first ever populist, reform minded beauty queen in the history of the Republican Party? Leave your comments here. One thing is for certain, we are in for a wild ride.

P.S. St. Louis is in for a treat when Joe Biden and Sarah Palin meet in the Vice-Presidential debate here in October. Early word is that Palin's after-party will be held at Morgan Street and the Big Bang, in order to fit in with her age group (Oh it is so much fun to be able to make experience jokes aimed at the McCain ticket!)
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People are calling Barack Obama's acceptance speech last night a political masterpiece, with one commentator likening it to a symphony...

Sometimes, there is so much hype and so much anticipation, that one can't help but disappoint. Unless, of course, your name is Barack Obama. Sure, the campaigns will get bogged back down in minutiae and silly media creations, but for one night at least we saw how great Barack Obama really can be.

NEWSFLASH: Sources are reporting that a private plane flew into Ohio, sight of today's McCain VP roll-out, late last night from Alaska, home to Alaska Governor and VP hopeful Sarah Palin. Who you ask? More to follow....
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

More Music, More Culture.

Between the Blues festival, the Greek festival, and the Japanese festival, this weekend promises a lot more than just Monday off.

For the non-Shomer Shabbos crowd, the weekend kicks of Friday night with Robert Randolph and the Family Band at 8PM on Laclede's Landing

If Blues is your thing, be sure to catch the Big Muddy Water Blues festival from 3 pm until 11 pm Saturday and Sunday down on Laclede's Landing. For a full listing of events can be found here

Head on down to the Botanical Gardens for the Japanese Festival, all weekend 10 am to 10 PM.

Full schedule of events here.

Finally, the Greek festival is popping with fresh pastries all weekend starting at 11 am daily at Forest Park Parkway and Kingshighway. More info here

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Bill Clinton: Obama Ready to Lead

Bill Clinton stepped up big and Joe Biden gave us a hint of things to come

Joe Biden:

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Big Guns Rumble in Denver

Who's stepping up to the plate tonight for the Dems?

Tonight you have your pick of the litter. To celebrate Barack Obama finally becoming the official nominee (without that pesky presumptive tag in front of it) we get not just one over-confident white politician who likes to hear himself talk too much, we get two!

Yes, I am talking about Bill Clinton and Joe Biden! Both will speak tonight, but the one I am really looking forward to is Bill. With Biden, you know you are going to get the typical rah-rah VP speech. With Bill though, you never quite know what you are going to get. He is like the crazy uncle at this point, the one who gets invited more for the sweet potato casserole that he used to bring but now is kinda just there.

I know I know, I just offended all the Clintonians out there, but really, what has Bill done for Obama in this race? No, I don't hold against him what he said during the primary, I understand the dynamics of a campaign. But dude, get over it. Hillary lost, she did a remarkable job lost night of showing the nation she is moving on, now it is time for Bill to do the same. If he doesn't the media gets to continue speculating that Bill is using his political genius to undercut Obama and get Hillary back in the White House in 2012 so he can spend some more time around DC interns. It's ridiculous, it cheapens his legacy for people to suggest he would do that, and he needs to put an end to that speculation tonight by showing the world that the last Democratic president supports the next one.

NEWS FLASH: Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi will be playing during Obama's acceptance celebration tomorrow night. That's one Jew (the Bon Jovi drummer) and one Jewish-sounding rock star. Not a bad haul people!
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The Rebirth of Hillary

Hillary Clinton resurrected herself and her party's chances last night, as she delivered a rousing, passionate much needed endorsement of Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention

Last night was certainly a night to be a pundit. Everyone on the airwaves spoke with bated breath in anticipation of Hillary Clinton's next move. Would she sabotage Obama in a jealous rage? Would she deliver a tepid endorsement, leaving the door open for her supporters to stay home? Would she provide the ringing endorsement that so many felt was necessary to Obama's chances at the White House? Would she finally leave Bill?

No, No, Yes, No

Last night, Hillary Clinton reminded all of us why she is a force to be reckoned with, whether it is on the floor of the U.S. Senate or out on the campaign trail. And surprisingly it is not just because of her awesome ability to pull off the pumpkin orange pantsuit.

No, last night, Hillary Clinton stood behind Barack Obama in a way that told her supporters, if you stay home or vote for McCain because you think that's what I want, you're crazier than Zell Miller on a good day. She said it loud, she said it proud, and she threw in a few good cracks at McCain along the way.... No Way, No How, No McCain being one of the best.

So bravo Hillary, not only have you kept Barack on the yellow brick road to the White House, but you maintained your status in the leadership of the Democratic party as well. Was it genuine or simply self-survival? We may never know, but it worked and for now that's all that matters.

One side note: if you only watch 30 minutes of convention coverage each night, make sure it is the Daily Show, 10-10:30 in St. Louis. It provides not only the funniest but also some of the most insightful coverage available. Check it out.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Festival of Nations Recap

Food! Music! Dancing! Scotch! More Food!

Sounds like a stereotypical Jewish (or for that matter, almost any ethnic) get-together. In fact, it was the Festival of Nations, a weekend-long outdoor festival housed in Tower Grove Park.

Saturday started out with some Irie tuned from the Dubtronix, local Reggae outfit covering everything from Bob Marley and Black Uhuru, to more contemporary Dancehall.

Next Zuz and I took a walk up to the merchandise booths, which contained goodies from around the world.

After sampling the worldly wares, we were drawn to the sound of percussion (read: I was drawn and made dash for). It turned out to be a belly dancing demonstration, and was worth a few minutes in the brutal sun.

We filled up on food from around the world and hobbled home, much appreciative of multiculturalism.

On Sunday, I recovered early enough to catch the Kung Fu demonstration, but not early enough for the Israeli folk songs.

I did, however, get a sample a flight of whiskey. Never underestimate the power of a whiskey tasting to get you through your day.

I would like to commend the organizers of this event, for putting getting together so many different people and bringing them together in such a positive way. I will definitely be there next time around.
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The Gloves Are Off

Thoughts on Day 1 of the Democratic National Convention and what to watch for tonight

The first day of the DNC is in the books, and it did not disappoint. (If you missed either Ted Kennedy or Michelle Obama, both their speeches are posted on the blog). Some quick thoughts on what went down:

Nancy Pelosi: The House Speaker kicked off the festivities with some ol' fashioned McCain bashing. She wasn't quite on her game, but if a House Speaker stumbles over a few words when no one is watching, did it really happen?

Claire McCaskill: Our own junior senator showed a little spunk in painting the Barack Obama story as the perfect picture of the American Dream. Granted, she used the phrase American Dream about 78 times past the point of effectiveness, but her point that Missouri provides a great view of the rest of the country and is neither a red state nor a blue state is right on. If you're not registered in Missouri, do it now.

Ted Kennedy: The standard bearer of the Democratic Party, battling brain cancer, caps off a remarkable journey to Denver with an unexpected and rousing speech that likely choked up even the most cynical of cynics. Do yourself a favor and watch it. There are few genuine moments in politics, Senator Kennedy provided one last night.

And then there was Michelle. With the country salivating to get a look at the Harvard educated prima donna who is ashamed of America, Michelle Obama did something remarkable last night. It's not that she looked like First Lady material. She looked downright presidential. She spoke of a father with multiple sclerosis and a husband driving home from the birth of their first child at a snail's pace with a father's caution. She spoke of goals that are limited only by the heights of our dreams. And, most importantly, she spoke of the greatness of America, the country she is proud to call home. She silenced critics who said she can not relate to the averge person and eased concerns that she is "not American enough" to serve as First Lady. She will be an asset to the campaign in the months ahead, you can count on that.

As far as tonight's schedule, I have three words for you. Hillary. Rodham. Clinton. Will her tone be one of unconditional support for Obama? Can she avoid the underhanded compliments and pot shots that have marked much of the Clinton support for Obama? Namely, can she provide the picture of leadership just seen from Michelle Obama? If the disgruntled Clinton supporters are going to become loyal Obama volunteers, the transformation must begin now...
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Monday, August 25, 2008

This Time We Listen To Our Hopes Instead of Our Fears

"A current of history meets a new tide of hope..."

Michelle Obama showed tonight just what type of First Lady she would be... one who leads by example and who speaks out against injustice, a leader very much in the vein of her husband. Check it out for yourself, more recap to come in the AM.
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Kennedy Steals the Show

Senator Kennedy makes a surprise appearance in Denver...

The symbolism here is stunning. As Republican senators are falling over one another to avoid the Republican Convention, here is a man, Senator Ted Kennedy, who will not allow ANYTHING to keep him away from the Democratic Convention. I have been slow to buy into the Obama-hype, but this got me worked up. For when a man with a brain tumor can say that "this for me is a season of hope" it is clear this is bigger than all of us.

Also, if you click the bottom right of the video, you will be able to watch most of the speeches from Monday night. Michelle Obama's speech, along with a recap, will follow when available.
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Denver: Round 1

Live from Denver, it's the Democratic National Convention!

If you're like me, the dousing of the Olympic Torch in Beijing last night left you a little empty inside, and a lot empty on your Tivo order. Luckily though, the Democrats are coming through, replacing atheltic theater with the highest form of political theater imaginable, the Democratic National Convention

Let me quickly point out the irony here. NBC just finished an exhausting two weeks of Olympic coverage (someone check on Bob Costas and make sure the little guy is all right!) which featured hours upon hours of primetime coverage of volleyball and table tennis. Now, the seminal moment in the last 4 years for the Democratic party, and how much coverage do the major networks devote to it? One hour of late prime time (10-11pm ET) each night for the four nights of the Convention. The Convention will be on network TV in total less than the Olympics were on NBC any given night! Ludicrous.

Anyway, just because the Big Three are ignoring the proceedings does not mean everyone is, or that you should too. CSPAN (glorious CSPAN) will have gavel to gavel coverage all week, and CNN and MSNBC will have it for you live all afternoon and evening Monday-Thursday.

So why and what should you watch? Let me run down the highlights real fast, and then come back each day for a recap of what went down the previous night and what to look for in the night ahead...


The Return of Ted Kennedy - The standard bearer of the Democratic Party (and proudly representing my home state of MA!) provides the emotional kickoff you won't want to miss. It is unclear whether he will speak, but the man traveled and is appearing against doctors orders, so you know he means business

Michelle Obama - The wife of the Man Who Would Be President does her best First Lady impression. Will her embarrasment to be an American come through?


HRC (thats Hillary Clinton for the casual fan) takes the stage in a spot about 49.98 percent of the party had hoped to see Barack Obama speaking in. Saying the atmosphere will be tense does not begin to describe things.


Roll-Call: In a little bit of presidential theatrics, the delegates from each state each announce who they support. Hillary's name is being entered into nomination, which means there is still a chance she could kick Obama in the groin, grab brass ring, and ride off into the sunset with the nomination. Granted, the chance is small, but its Hillary so anything goes.

The Vice-Presidency isn't worth more than a bucket of warm spit: Or so the saying goes at least. Anyway, the well-groomed Delaware senator (sorry, I couldnt resist) Joe Biden gives his VP speech a go. And thus everyone in the Obama campaign holds their breath for the next two months that he doesnt say anything toooo dumb


The Man Himself: Obama accepts the nomination (unless Hillary or John Edwards steals it that is) (ok, John Edwards isn't getting within 2000 miles of this convention) in front of 75,000 screaming fans at Invesco Field, home of the Broncos. Word has it that Obama has PROMISED that all four of the originial Beatles will also be on hand, so you don't want to miss this one.

Well that's all for now, check in all this week for updates, followed by the same for the Republicans next week from St. Paul!

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Dating in St Louis (ohh the humanity!)

Dating in St. Louis is like opening yourself up for a roast. Anything and everything you do will be cataloged and discussed; analyzed and theorized on what it "means."
It's basically High School, except everyone is slightly more intelligent.

Gossip now moves at breakneck speeds as compared to High School where it would take at least 4 periods for anything to make it around.
Let's say you want to prove this conjecture for yourself. I would recommend going to a party, say in North County, or somewhere further out of the city, make out with a guy/girl that has a hair lip, and see if someone mentions this tryst to you next week.
Disclaimer: I have not performed this experiment myself (not because I don't like hair lips), but because I can approximate the results from my experiences as of yet in this bold new dating world.

It seems to all stem from the fact that though St. Louis is a metropolis, when you date it morphs into the quad where you ate lunch in High School. So if you happen to hook up with that hair-lipped-guy/girl, his/her sister's best friend's college roommate's sorority president, happens to be paired with your milkman's drinking buddy's dog obedience instructor for cooking classes at the local Schnucks.

They get to talking and they find that they have this weird connection through 6.2 levels (thank you Microsoft) of separation (the more likely situation is that they saw you making out with that person and just have that undying urge to tell everyone that knows you about it). This sorority president gets so excited about this random connection, she spills the beans on everything she knows about you, and you become fodder for their light conversation while they try and prepare tiramisu (which is always lackluster, no matter how much effort goes into it).

One must also remember the other tenet of the St. Louis dating world: Everyone has been on a date with everyone else.

Being new this environment, whenever I mention that I happen to be dating whoever I am dating, they reply "ohh well, did you know she is x, y, and z."

Now those words can be anything from candid, courteous, and caring, to crazy, conniving, and controlling. And they always can cite several times back in blah blah blah where she did blah blah blah with blah blah blah and it caused blah blah blah.

By this point, you might as well consider me to be married because I have turned off all sensory organs, even touch.

I understand that the dating world is a small place, but does everyone have to get up in everybody else's business? I hope to one day have an extremely wide of a gamut of words to be told about me, I also hope they make no sense, "well he is kind-hearted but despicable, sympathetic but callous." I don't think I would mind being called despicable because then I could finally grow that handlebar mustache; I have just been waiting for a reason and then use my middle name as my first name (trust me, it's basically my cowboy name - Lyle).

Now the question is not how you can avoid this system, because unless you are dating a mute who you take to back alleys for dates, you can't. And even then, somebody else has dated him/her.

The question is how you succeed within the system and ensure that when people do talk about you they only have good things to say.

"But Rosh, I have covered my tracks, I have alibis, nobody knows where I truly am, I even blindfold my date for theatrics." -- I have a universal truth to tell you, these people can smell shenanigans. They love the intrigue and suspense. It does not matter what the truth really is, it only matters how far-fetched a story can be envisioned and still be plausible. So if Y? told people I was at a hedonist beach resort last weekend riding horses barebacked, you probably would not believe him if you had any inkling about me as a person. If he told you that I got drunk and thought I could execute a triple lindy at the aquatic center, such a story would be more believable, but still a triple lindy, come on now, I am not Rodney Dangerfield. If he told you that I got drunk and sneaked into the aquatic center and skinny dipped for a bit, you would probably believe that and tell the next person you see about it (I can neither confirm nor deny that I have done any of the aforementioned scenarios). I bet if I told people that Y? got arrested for playing his bongos too loud and was naked when the cops came to door smoking a corn cob pipe (basically pulling a Matthew McConaughey), most people would believe that, but I digress.

So again, back to my beginning thought, the real question is how you can succeed inside such a system, and the truth of the matter is you can't, so if I were you, which I am not (I drafted this article and you are reading it, clear distinction between me and you), I would start looking for that mute that likes being taken to back alleys on dates and blindfolded.

Also, word to the wise, start watching Lady and the Tramp for some situational experience. My actual best advice to those going through it is be aware of those around you and the environment that you are in. Making out with someone in the middle of Buca (which just might jeopardize your personal space and personal safety) is asking for gossip, making out in your own room . . .the only one that might catch you is your mother. If you are reading my column for dating advice and still living with your mother, I have some Sex Panther Cologne to sell you. 60% of the time it works every time.

Stay tuned for my next article/foray when I go undercover in the jdating world.
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

What Happenned to the Real Bagels

A long awaited dispatch from a man who has been published far and wide:
Bagels are in my blood, and I mean that as literally as scientifically possible.

My father and his brother opened the first bagel deli in Seattle back in 1978, 5 years before I was born. They brought with them the Detroit recipe and made them properly (boiling the formed dough before baking). Bagels were tokhik in our family, and still very much are. But my snobbery for real bagels (if they’re not boiled, their rolls or muffins, even if they are shaped like donuts) has made life difficult because bagels are increasingly rare. Most sellers of purported “bagels” simply parade rolls (savory flavors) and muffins (sweet flavors). My father, were he dead, would be rolling in his grave. But roll he does, in life (thankfully), like I do, over people’s, and Jews’ in particular, acceptance of these impostors as legitimate products.

This issue speaks to a more broad issue: the growing indifference of Jews in American to being Jewish. American Jews have the luxury of being Jewish without fear for their livelihoods, but many do not take advantage of this privilege.

The bagel is an American Jewish invention. So too is Reform Judaism (credit can be shared with Europe, though the movement is stronger in state-side). And like the bagel, (and lox – what’s with this Nova rubbish?) the Reform movement is having its problems keeping itself significant. In January of this year, the chair of the board of trustees of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), Peter Weidhorn, warned the most pressing challenge for congregations is “attracting and retaining members,” specifically pointing out troubles of retaining family memberships after their children’s bar or bat mitzvah.

However, being religious is only an electable part of what it means to be Jewish. There is much more to Jewish identity than religion. There’s the heritage of the Jewish people: our shared history of cyclical struggle and victory in our pursuit of life. There’s the long list of traditions. There’s Jewish values, like tikkun olam, which drives the Jewish civic mind. There’s Israel, and the politics surrounding it. And for many American Jews, these pieces of Jewish identity are becoming foreign concepts.

Take the Israel connection as an example. Many of us have been on Birthright, and most of us have enjoyed our trip. And potentially (hopefully), you developed a stronger connection to our ancestral homeland. But how do you feel now, a year or more after your trip? The Jewish community has done a fantastic job bringing Diaspora Jews to Israel, but there are few organized post-Birthright programs, and they are not popular among Birthright alumni. We’ve all been told that what Israel needs most from American Jews is aliyah, yet America legs behind immigrants from the former Soviet bloc, Ethiopia, and France.

Most events in St. Louis for Jews in their 20s and 30s are well attended; I see this when I go. But as the events get less socially-focused and more issue-focused, attendance decreases. YPD and SLIC’s Yom Haatzmaut had a great turnout, but Java Talk, which aims to foster a better understanding of Israel through dialogue on Sunday afternoons, receives only a fraction of the 60th celebration crowd. Events like Jewish art shows are frequented almost exclusively by the over 50 crowd. I doubt most St Louis Jews in their 20s and 30s could explain the significance of “Shalom Salaam” or even tell the difference between a real bagel and an impostor.

I’m disturbed by the practical and philosophical implications of the loss of the bagel because there is so much good in our heritage and so much potential in our future that hangs in the balance. Not everyone has to volunteer for a political campaign and go to temple every week, but it is important that they vote, that they learn about Judaism, and that they explore their own connection, because guarantee with all have one.
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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Say It Ain't So Joe!

Former Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate to kick off Republican Convention with George Bush? Stop the world I want to get off!

I defend Joe Lieberman. Maybe it was a New England thing, maybe it was a Jew thing, maybe it was a Grandpa thing. But when he seemed in 2006 to be in his figurative political grave against up and coming, Iraq War hating Ned Lamont, I told everyone who would listen that Joe had to be the one. Sure he sounds like Bush Lite when talking about the War in Iraq, but thats just Joe being Joe. It's like when you let Grandpa ramble for 10 minutes at the dinner table about how they don't make peas like they used to. He's part of the family, so you let a few things slide.

But not this. Next week, the Democrats (Joe Lieberman's political party of choice, along with the rest of Yid Nation) will be gathering in Denver for the Democratic National Convention, aka the biggest political blow-out in 4 years. But will Joe be tapping the Rockies along with the rest of his freedom hating, latte sipping, limousine liberals? Not a chance.

Instead, Democratic Senator Joseph I. Lieberman will be hard at work preparing his speech for the week after, to be given just before our esteemed Preident Bush takes the stage in Minnesota at the Republican National Convention!

I get it Joe, you think the surge is working. That's great (wrong, but great). But what I don't get is the betrayal. You were mere millions of votes from being one mis-chewed pretzel away from the Oval Office, as a Democrat, and now all of a sudden you are supporting the other guy? The guy who is a replica of your opponent back in 2000, but with a better back story? Joe, bubbe would not be proud.

I don't know, maybe I'm giving us too much credit here, but don't you get the feeling that this sort of betrayal isn't really a Jewish thing to do? I know no one in the mainstream media is blaming the faith for his actions, but it's all a part of the story, and it does reflect badly. So shame on you Joe. You have let your people down Joe. On second thought, maybe you are more of a Republican than I thought.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Living Jews: Maya Escobar

Maya Escobar is a living Jew.

Currently pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts at Washington University, Maya was generously loaned to St. Louis by the rest of world Jewry.

From West Rogers Park, Chicago, where the young artists was raised, a Reconstructionist in an Orthodox neighborhood.

From Guatemala, where her father evaded political unrest and violence.

From Berlin, where she found new Jewish identity springing from the ashes. An identity that refused to be wholly tied to a catastrophic event of death and destruction, and prefers to be seen through life and creation.

Maya considers herself an educator before an artist, and her art is proof of that. Her latest project, entitled 'Berlin's Eruv'is about "the changing face of Jewish identity as delineated through social spaces" and contains interviews with members of the Berlin community. Just listening to the audio she provides online opens one up to a world far from the comforts of American Jewry.

Which is the point, says Maya. In America, she explains, you don't really have to acknowledge being Jewish, whereas in Europe, it is a fight for identity, a struggle.

Maya went on to explain that she is really looking to elucidate what it means to 'be a stranger in a strange land', and that the answer for these Jews is far different than our might be.

In challenging what it means to be a Jew, and including narratives that haven't traditionally been part of the (Ashkenazi) mainstream identity, Maya expands the notion of Jewish identity and creates a space for discussion and education.

Part of this comes from her own experience, and having the identifier, 'Jew of Color' placed on her. By being effectively 'raced', and made exotic, there is a lot of potential for her work to be put in a box, but after you spend some time with the art itself, you find the ideas are too big to be contained.

Truly, then, this is the work of a living Jew.

Maya's Hiddur Napkin (a hand embroidered challah cover), can be viewed at the Bruno David Gallery called Over View _08, (Jul 11- Aug 23) *
In late September, a survey of her work will be on display at Washington University in St. Louis. "This solo show is thematically centered around art education functioning as a catalyst in promoting cross-curricular and intercollegiate discourse. As a facet of this exhibition, she will be leading a series of lectures and workshops for undergraduate students in the following departments: Jewish Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Cultural Anthropology, and Latin American Studies."

Additionally, Maya will be working with Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation this fall to create a multi-media, interactive Jewish Time Line at the Synagogue.

Check out Maya's Blog and stay tuned for future updates about Maya and her work.

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Big. Free. Weekend.

Tower Grove Park is host to this weekend's 'Festival of Nations'.
The full list of events can be found here, but read on for the highlights.

Knowing from personal experience how mefahgerin' hard it is to plan an event like this, and seeing how much culture is represented here, you better believe I'll be there there whole weekend.

Tower Grove Park is located between Grand and Kingshighway, Magnolia and Arsenal.
Saturday at the world music stage
12:00 PM Dubtronix Reggae Band
1:30 PM Elsie Parker and The Poor People of Paris
3:00 PM Samba Bom Trio
4:30 PM Farshid & Friends Persian/Latin/Gypsy Fusion
6:00 PM Autumn's Child Native American

Saturday at the forest stage
10:00 AM African American Ensemble West African
Nordic Dancers Scandanavian
Fiesta Mexicana! Mexican
12:00 PM Shadi Zarghami Persian
Thai Classical Dancers Thai
1:00 PM Cossack Dancers European
Aalim Belly Dancers Middle Eastern
Bollywood Shuffle Indian
2:00 PM Community Performance Ensemble African American
Hawaiian Polynesian Revue Polynesian
3:00 PM Philippine Art Foundation Filipino
Folkloric Group Colombia Colombian
Djerdan Bosnian Folkloric Group Bosnian
4:00 PM Doorei Traditional Korean Drumming Korean
KidsMex Dance Group Mexican
Bon Odori Group Japanese
5:00 PM St. Nicholas Greek Dancers Greek
Cai's Classic Kung Fu Chinese
Viva Flamenco! Spanish
5:45 PM Psalms African American

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Armchair Zionists

Turns out Jews did create the Neocon movement (at least according to my mom) and since they made Israel their top priority (and single-issue vote), it is important to discuss a prevailing American-Jewish phenomenon; Arm-chair Zionism.

Let's start with a definition of terms. Arm-chair Zionism (ACZ) is a phenomenon in which Jews, living outside of the Israel (not limited to but primarily American Jews) take up the Zionist torch with a gusto and agenda which tends to be far to the right of most Israelis. They are more hawkish in their stance towards Palestinians and neighboring Arab countries, and tend to be single issue voters (See Zuz's earlier post on Obama and the Jews). Many of them also see Israel as simply a summer resort, a place to relive Birthright experiences, a break from reality.

This is enabled by the fact that these ACZ do not have to truly live with the immediate results of the policies they champion. They don't seem to truly understand the negative consequences that dragging the United States into Israel's business often has, not only on the US, but on Israel as well.

Most of the ACZ don't want to live Israel, which is ironic because Zionism's ultimate goal is a natural redemption of the Jewish people through the creation of a Jewish national entity in Israel, a central part of which is living in that entity.

From Of course, there is also an inherent conflict for Jews in the diaspora to fully celebrate Yom Ha'atzama'ut. As long as the idea of living in Israel was a theoretical construct, one could be an 'armchair' Zionist. It is in fact a mitzvah to make aliyah, to 'go up' and live in Israel. Now that the State of Israel exists, (and needs immigration), the celebration of Israel's Independence Day invites individuals to consider their relationship to the Jewish state. If one wishes to 'walk one's talk' it is difficult to truly celebrate Yom Ha'atzma'ut while residing permanently in the diaspora.

This is not to say that there has been no value in the Diasporic experience, but rather, that our feelings toward Israel should not lead us to engage in policy which ultimately negatively affects Israel's security. Wars negatively impact Israel's security, a lasting peace ultimately positively impact it. Saber-rattling aside, wars have not truly helped the security situation in Israel, in fact, the current occupied-territory/annexed territory/mishandled harbanah is a direct result of the handling of territory conquered/liberated/reclaimed/etc during the 1967 war.

To the Armchair Zionists, the US and Israel are both better off with fewer enemies and less blood shed. When pax Americana is brought down, I will scrutinize your actions as a precursor.

Please know that you don't speak for me. Israel will be my top electoral issue when I move there.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympic Rings

So Olympic fever has hit every corner of the globe, and Israel is right in the thick of things (kinda)

So I don't know about you, but I have been eating up the Olympics, guzzling gallons of Olympic Kool-Aid through my NBC-sponsored beer bong, and watching every second of Michael Phelps that I can. Which got me to thinking... when will I see my first Israeli in prime time, fighting for that gold medal? When will we hear Ha-Tikva ringing through Beijing's Forbidden City?

Turns out, the Israeli Olympic tradition is not so storied. Although they have competed since 1952, Israel has only won 6 total medals. That being said, things have been on an upswing recently, as 2004 saw an Israeli climb to the top of the medal stand in Athens, as Gal Fridman claimed the title as world's best windsurfer. Guess all that practicing in the Dead Sea paid off!

Anyway, if you are wondering what sports will give our beloved Israelis the best chance for gold this time around, keep on eye on Gal on the surf board again. But, also pay attention to the Bird's Nest, the home of track and field in Beijing. Russian-born Aleksandr Averbukh could win Israel's first ever track and field medal, in the pole vault.

So looking to rebuke all those jokes about Jews maybe not being the most athletic specimens? Sorry, but the Olympics probably will not give you much help.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Its funny cuz its true

There is an old joke from days of Jews living in ghettos and mellahs about a Jew who is found laughing hysterically. When asked what could make him laugh so hard, he opens up the news paper to page after page proclaiming that the Jews run the world.

Do a quick search for 'Jews Run the World' or 'New World Order Zionists' and you will inevitably be brought into the half-baked world of conspiracies that make you just suspicious enough to wonder. . .I found Real Jew News to be a stereotypical snapshot of the typical accusations leveled against us. From the whole 'media conspiracy' thing, to the 'Financial-Rothschild Banking' thing, to a few more interesting, and newer claims, like Jews created Feminism and Neoconservatism (darned Wolfowitz and Bill Kristol blowing our cover on that one).

On the whole, if you read the type of people who seem to believe in the shtick, its really a somewhat harmless site, as it doesn't advocate genocide.

I will say, I feel the Muslims on a particular issue, that is the misrepresentation of holy scripture. All of the texts written in Arabic or Hebrew (or Aramaic for that matter) are now subject for mistranslation by religious nuts. This is dangerous and can lead to alllll sorts of misunderstanding and conspiracy theories.

Now, don't get me wrong. . . I love conspiracy theories. I happen to believe that the introduction of crack cocaine to the US happened in no small part to government involvement with the Iran-Contra scandal (I don't think the gov't taught anyone how to make crack, or sold it, just that they turned a blind eye to the huge importations of cocaine at the time).

My willingness to be duped by investigative reporting and rumor aside, you really gotta wonder if we Jews were so smart, devious, and powerful... why would we pick Israel to stake so many of our hopes to. Israel, a country that really hadn't been much of anything prior to about 1914 or so. I mean, wouldn't we want a country rich in oil, perhaps precious raw materials, or maybe a place far from those who wish to cause us harm (or at least disagree with us over such small things as religion, or land).

Sure, there are an inordinate amount of Jews in Hollywood, and now on the news, in corporations and in medicine, in academia, etc.

Wanna know why? Here is the secret to the Jews success... Ready?

Its cuz our mothers won't let us be janitors or busboys, work at beer distributors or on farms (this of course is a flagrant disregard of geopolitical history).

Its that simple. See, if you are motivated to make your parents proud, or at least get them off your back, and your parents have a finite number of things that you should be doing, investment banking, being a doctor, lawyer, musician, etc., there is a good chance you will end up doing one of those, especially if your parents did it and were good at it.

Just like sons of blacksmiths who became blacksmiths and started family dynasties, so have Jews been traditionally put in certain roles.

It has nothing to do with the fact that Jews were forced to become doctors, lawyers, and money lenders by Christians and Muslims who were forbade to charge usury, or who looked at law and medicine as we now look at janitors and blacksmiths.

It has nothing to do with the emphasis that Jews put on education, often forgoing amenities in order to pay for childrens' educations. Nor does it have anything to do with the fact that education is important, as that is clearly not the case.

Most of all, the success of Jews has absolutely NOTHING to do with other Jews.

It turns out that when a group of people feel discriminated against, they don't look out for each other or try to give each other a hand, they just act like crabs in a bucket and each try to get ahead at the expense of the other.

I will close this dispassionate diatribe by asking this, if Jews run the world, can you please let me in on it. I can keep a secret!
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A 'kosher' way to treat employees?

CNN is reporting on the fall-out of the Agriprocessors kosher meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa, at which illegal and underage immigrants were found to be working.

The question this seems to have opened up is, do the laws of Kashrut extend beyond the actual food, into the company and it's employees?

Jewish dietary laws, known as Kashrut (from whence the word, Kosher comes), are part of the 613 commandments contained in the Torah, although the interpretation of these laws has become something of a business.

Much like 'Certified Organic' requires certain payouts, the 'heksher' or mark of kosher-ness on food is also big business, due to the portion of Jews who still strictly (or otherwise) adhere to this dietary system.

The situation with Agriprocessors is so interesting because, strictly in terms of the actual food and how it is processed, the meat is kosher.

Because Kashrut is part of a set of laws bounded in ethical monotheism, however, the broader implications of Agriproc's actions have caused quite a stir to the point that some are advocating for another level of kashrut, a righteous kashrut.

According to the article, "Interest in Allen's "hekhsher tzedek," or "certificate of righteousness," has ballooned since a May 12 immigration raid at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa.

As a pick-n-choose-Jew (patents pending), I have never eaten shellfish or pork (knowingly), I try not to mix red meat with cheese (usually), and I try to rationalize my decisions based on my limited knowledge of the actual content of the Torah. But I don't only eat food (meat included) that has been branded by a heksher

This story, however, has a very interesting angle in it closely related to 'stuff Jewish young adults like'. That angle is the feel good angle. We want to feel good about what we eat, where it came from, how it was handled, and now, under what working conditions it was handled.

I may not want to pay the increased price for beef produced at living wages, but dammit if I want my meat tainted with the tears and (underpaid) sweat of underage immigrant labor.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, as this is really the case of a niche market to whom these ethical concerns be turn out to be paramount depending on which rabbi decides to make a proclamation one way or the other.

How do you rationalize the omnivore's dilemma?
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Monday, August 11, 2008

The Jewish Soul

Considering that we come from all over the world, speak a multitude of languages, believe a great many different things and choose to practice our beliefs quite differently (and that's just the Jews), how is it that I can so deeply identify my Jewish soul with something as simple as a melody?

I recently re-discovered a record (12" 33RPM), entitled "The Soul of Israel" in my lil collection. Many of the songs were hauntingly beautiful including the theme from Exodus, a movie set in British Mandate/Pre-State Israel, Kol Nidre (all our vows), a central piece of the Yom Kippur liturgy, and of course, Hatikvah.

Very few pieces of music have the effect of the aforementioned songs. I can always count on these cuts, and others like these, to send shivers up my spine.

These pieces exist in the part of my being that is totally irrational, without reason or doubt, without reality or pessimism. Filled with faith, superstition, and reverence, these songs resonate in my soul.

There are very few things which can totally capture my attention span. These songs not only capture my attention, they consume it entirely.

Interestingly, many of the cuts on this album are more recent additions to our national consciousness. Consider, for example, Hatikvah (a personal favorite, that, to this day, I can barely sing without choking up). Although the sentiments of the song are over 2000 years old, the words were written in the 1880's, and the melody is adapted from several folk sources.

This tradition of putting modern words or music to ancient feelings is also a part of Kol Nidrei, whose haunting melody Lewis Black often refers to as the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock movies. Even though no two synagogues or congregations will ever sing Kol Nidrei the same note-for-note, the integrity of the piece remains.

As secularized or assimilated as we may become, for many of us we cannot shake this connection to this music, and through it, to a deeper message and desire.

שִׁמְעוּ אַחַי בְּאַרְצוֹת נוּדִי
,אֶת קוֹל אַחַד חוֹזֵינוּ
כּי רַק עִם אַחֲרוֹן הַיְּהוּדִי
!גַּם אַחֲרִית תִּקְוָתֵנוּ
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Jews and Money: Pay Up!

Just how Jewish is our friend Y? Well, if you blog with us, you owe him $3 and he'll remind you!!

Today, Y proved another stereotype about Jews. We spent the afternoon hanging out, talking about the direction of the blog... we got a lot done. At last, we have a domain name reserved ( --- it redirects here until we go pro) and you can follow us on twitter.

Y and I had some questions for our fellow Jew Crew bloggers... he wrapped up a phone call with Zuz like this...
Y: Oh yeah, we registered our domain name today- it's a done deal.
Zuz: Cool, I didn't know we were doing that.
Y: Yeah, we'll talk about it at our meeting tomorrow.
[insert thirty seconds of random catch-up talk here...boys are weird]
Y: By the way, you owe me $3.
Zuz: What?
Y: for the domain name, everybody owes me $3.
[Y looks at me like "yeah, chick, you gotta pay too!"]
LC: Geez, Y, you're such a Jew!
Zuz: No kidding.
Y: You're right- someone should blog about this!

Mo' money, mo' problems... such is the life of the Jewish Young Adult. I can't blame Y, I'd want my $3, too. The St. Lou Jew runs a tight ship!

On that note, we'll be bringing in a feed of our "tweets" soon so we can let you know where we'll be and what we'll be doing if you dutiful readers would like to join. The more the merrier.
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Friday, August 8, 2008

The strength of Generation Y(id) and an update from Mattisyahu

Local Big young Yid, J.J. Flotkin had some interesting words culminating in, "Generational silence will only force the “more experienced" leaders of today to build our future for us." Isn't this why we write?

A recent article by J.J. Flotkin entitled, "A Call for Young Leadership" puts up a pretty good defense to those that would call our generation lazy, uninterested, or unengaged.

His call to action includes the sentence, "It is our job as young leaders to find passion in our community."

Should we tell him? I mean, organizational skills, we may not have. Grammar abilities, neither. But passion! Passion we have.

We might not know what to do with it, how how to use it efficiently, but we have it.

On another note, everyone's favorite Hassidic Reggae Superstar, Matisyahu, was interviewed over at Rolling Stone, and was pretty talkative. Except that he really didn't say a whole lot.

He did say that, "Music and Politics is two different things". Which, according to the article, is a big deal.

Gotta cut this one short, its almost time for Shabbat, and we are packed this time around, we even had to tell guests to bring their own chairs.
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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Jewish Connection

What is the "Jewish Connection?" Do you know who I know? Probably.

Last Friday night, I went to Shabbat dinner at Y’s apartment- my second Shabbat in a month- and it was awesome. I met a couple new people, and saw some new jew friends from the Shabbat I had previously attended. Now that I’ve hung out with a couple of these people, I feel like I’m making some real friends and not just the kind on Facebook. And they’re not all guys! Chicks like me have a little trouble making decent girlfriends, but I met one girl who was very interested in my first blog post. She is a very kind person, and though she seems shy, she invited me to come to synagogue with her one Saturday.

(To be honest, I never went to synagogue on Saturdays when I was “growing up” Jewish) So I’d like to go and see if this tradition is something I’d be into. It’s people like this girl that make any community stronger. To embrace a fellow comrade and invite them to a regular happening purely because of your faith is not uncommon.; to me, however, it reminds me of other religions I may have mocked at one point previously. I see a future post in the works.

Anyway, this brings up my theory of the Jewish Connection. In St. Louis, growing up Jewish means that we all know the same 95 Jewish kids from our days in school- be it Hebrew school or k-12. I hardly knew anyone, even Y, when I showed up to that first Shabbat dinner, but it turns out, we all know (or are related to) the same group of people, the same community. Since we all know the same 95 kids, jumping into conversations like old friends isn’t hard to do.

Funny enough, “Jewish Connection” is what I would say to my friend Josh when I needed a favor. And he’d do the same. We were the only Jewish kids at our high school, but had known each other since we were six years old thanks to Sunday school. Thanks to that bond we shared growing up, I took pride in helping out a fellow Semite. Come to think of it, I still haven’t been able to find him a girlfriend and he called “jewish connection” on that a while ago.

Next time, I promise to blog about something more lighthearted. Something St. Louis. I do plan on going to synagogue to check it out, so I’ll keep you dutiful readers posted. Until then, back to work! I wish I could call “Jewish Connection” at work. It would make my corporate slavery position much easier…

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Birthright. . .Palestine?

An interesting concept to connect members of the Palestinian Diaspora connect with their ethnic roots leaves me with several questions.

I'm going to try to write this as simply as I can, because there is nothing uncontroversial about this topic.

First, Palestinians are not an ethnic group. Really. They are a national identity created in the '60's, much like the Isreali national identity was created in the
40's and continues to evolve today.

Before 1948, Israelis called themselves Palestinian Jews and Palestinains called themselves. . . well, I guess either just Arab, or Jordanian or whatever, but certainly not Palestinian. That is not to say that the elements of a national identity weren't starting to form, but the current Palestinian identity is a very recent creation

These identities, and cultures, are not without valid basis, and elements of history, but like Kwanzaa, ultimately, they are deliberate creations.

I understand the value of propaganda, and in its field, Birthright (or Birthrate, if you prefer) is certainly unparallelled for Return on Investment.

As a totally biased observer, here is my take on the two programs:

Comparison: BR Israel seeks to bring young Jews to Israel to connect with their Jewish/Israelite/Hebrew roots and to see what the country of Israel is about. Despite its stellar budget, camp/youth group atmosphere, short timeframe, BR Israel is fundamentally about helping young Jews to understand their history, all several thousand years of it, revolving around being in, or desiring to be in Israel.

BR Palestine brings young Palestinians to the Palestinian territories to spend time learning about the tough living situation, hear local perspectives on the Israelis and to connect with locals, get internship experience, and more.

Both are total propaganda tools to indoctrinate the youth.

That being said, if either one of these trips could be used as a tool for honest discussion based in historical fact (if that even exists), and critical analysis, both sides would be better off.

I think my own Zioist leanings are brough into relief by how uncomfortable the idea of Birthright Palestine makes me feel.

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Ludacris? More Like Ludicrous...

In the troupe of Lil John and Usher, Ludacris tells us, “Forget about the game, I’m a spit the truth,” neglecting the fact that sometimes the game just has to be played the way it’s intended. This week, in an attempt to make a splash on the political scene, Ludacris has come out with a new song that most certainly spits the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; Ludacris’ version anyway.

While it’s intended to praise the distance Sen. Barack Obama has come in his pursuit for the presidency, and promote the idea that his fellow Black Americans need to make an appearance at the polls on election day, it actually just spits all over people like Hillary Clinton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, President George W. Bush, and presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain.
Lyrics such as, “Hillary hated on you, so that bitch is irrelevant” don’t give much credit to his knowledge of the political arena. In one of the most intense battles for a presidential nomination in history, Sen. Clinton was anything but irrelevant in her hunt for the nomination.

Luda continues by knocking President Bush, calling him mentally handicapped, and asserts that Sen. John McCain “don’t belong in any chair unless he’s paralyzed.” I think the messages here are fairly transparent and it’s fair to say Ludacris isn’t a huge fan of W, insinuating that there is no more relevance in Bush’s speeches than can be found on the wrapper of your favorite candy wrapper.

In an attempt to follow suit and take a stand as a young Black American celebrity, Ludacris was adopting his own version of P. Diddy’s “Vote or Die” message during the 2004 Presidential Election campaign season. While this concept was a tad controversial, its message held true to the fact that he, Sean Combs, was trying to reach the over 40 million US Citizens between the ages of 18-30 who are often forgotten about during campaigns. It is important to infer that the goal of Ludacris’ rap song is to reach young Black Americans who may not otherwise be as passionate about getting out to vote. He is telling them that they have a chance to see the change Barack talks about become a reality, and that if they want to see this change they need to be the ones responsible at the polls.

However, his message is quite a bit more controversial than P. Diddy’s as he says further into the song, “Paint the White House black and I’m sure that’s got ‘em terrified.” While I understand what he means here about the chance to make history with the US’ first black president I think he says it in a way that really makes him look foolish. The song is too negative, maybe not the same type of negative as the notion of voting or death, but negative to the degree that the song is probably more offensive than inspiring, it’s assumed intent.

As expected, the Obama camp has already denounced the song, adding that, “As Barack Obama has said many, many times in the past, rap lyrics too often perpetuate misogyny, materialism, and degrading images that he doesn’t want his daughters or any children exposed to. This song is not only outrageously offensive to Sen. Clinton, Rev. Jackson, Sen. McCain and President Bush, it is offensive to all of us who are trying to raise our children with values we hold dear. While Ludacris is a talented individual he should be ashamed of these lyrics.” Probably not the response Luda was looking for on this one for someone who claims to be, “one of his [Obama’s] favorite rappers.”

In the first song I mentioned Luda asks, “How you like me now, when my pinky’s valued over three hundred thousand,” and I think it’s fair to say even the stock in his pinky has gone down tremendously after this one.
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More Ish than Jewish

Yep, that's my line when people ask what religion I am. It goes over well at parties. And I think a lot of Jews can relate.

I should probably introduce myself… I'm a new contributor to The St. Lou Jew, which I have been following thanks to my friend, Y. My background: Native St. Louisan (though I've lived five years in London), United Hebrew attendee, Wash U grad, downtown inhabitant, corporate slave.

I feel very strongly about certain things in this world: politics, culture, women's rights, the role of religion in society, and Cardinals baseball. Lately, I've been reconsidering my faith and the role it should play in my personal life and future.

Like most STL Jews, I went to Sunday school and Hebrew school with mainly Parkway School District kids. I went to a Rockwood school, where I was one of three Jews, and religion did not play an integral role in my formative younger years. I never really felt like I was one of the "jewish kids" since I didn't hang out with a "jew crew" of my own that went to Parkway Central. Oddly enough, I went to Wash U for college and only attended one Shabbat dinner. Maybe my faith would be more important to me if I had gotten more involved and met the right people.

I do want to reconnect to my faith. Why did I forget about it in the first place? I would like to know more about who I am as a Jew, and what's it all about where I am in the world. After Shabbat at Y's a couple of weeks ago, I definitely feel like it's coming back. It's hard to forget the traditions, the prayers and blessings, the smell of some downright good food. So I'll start there and see what other great connections to my faith I rediscover.

You can expect to read my crazy takes on STL, Jewishness, post-college life, and many random things. I'd like to thank Y for the opportunity to contribute. He's doing great things in the world and asking great questions on the blog. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it may take a stronger sense of community to make me more Jewish than Ish.

Ok, back to slaving away…

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