Friday, February 27, 2009, and The Power of Social Media

When we first wrote about Connie Keel and her parole appeal, we hoped the story would gain some has

Our story focused on some of the details of Connie's case, as well as Adam Reich, the law student who has been fighting for her freedom.

Since the publishing of our piece, the campaign has picked up KABC in Los Angeles picking up the story and so did ATVN, and USA Today.

Also, @freeconnie (on Twitter) has been using the micro-blogging platform to connect with people in the name of asking the Governor to carefully consider her parole appeal.

With constant updates on Twitter, and Facebook, the number of people exposed to Connie Keel's case has grown exponentially. This is the power of social media to inform and inspire action.

There is still time left to help Connie, please visit to learn the facts of the case and how you can help.
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

The new budget has a cap-and-trade system

It's not a good idea

President Obama is set to send his proposed budget to Congress sometime this morning. The budget, $1.75 trillion, is 12% of the U.S. economy, a number not approached in generations. The abbreviation “TBD” is rife, used to explain where funding for numerous line items will come from. It’s a massive budget that includes funding increases designed to grow government.

$250 billion of the total is ear marked for potential bank bailouts. The administration hopes not to have to spend all of this money. However, in his speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, the president admitted that more money would be given to the banks. Acknowledging that giving billions of dollars to mismanaged banks was unpopular, he said “I promise you – I get it.” But what he failed to acknowledge was that much of this unpopularity does not stem from, as he believes the source to be, giving money to poor money managers, but rather that many people believe it to be a principly wrong move economically. The president merely “gets” what he gets, which is not everything there is to “get.”

The budget would also make a tax cut on the middle class permanent. The administration has designated a controversial carbon cap-and-trade tax on business to pay for these permanent tax reductions, whereby business would have to buy allowances to exceed pollution limits. In theory this is not a bad system. However, upon inspection several flaws quickly become evident, exposing a counter-productive nature.

A cap-and-trade system is essentially an energy rationing tool. Each company covered would receive a quota (the administration has not announced how this quota will be determined, and by whom). Should a company use less than its quota, it is allowed to sell the remaining allowance to companies in need of more. Most cap-and-trade proposals have been designed with the idea of reducing, over time, total emissions by reducing quotas. Current regulation on emissions have, however, led companies to simply find new ways of “disposing” their emissions, such as storing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions underground rather than emitting them into the atmosphere, avoiding cap-and-trade regulations while creating a whole new host of environmental concerns. CO2 is the unavoidable byproduct of burning fossil fuels, which fuel some 85% of America’s energy.

The concept is very simple – by reducing the supply of fuel, cap-and-trade systems raise the cost of energy. Companies will look to reduce costs to cover the increase in cost of doing business. There are two likely tactics they will take to do this. First, you can be sure that companies will pass as much of the cost on to the consumer as possible (costs are two-fold: the price of buying energy will increase, and their use of it will become more expensive). A study by Charles River Associates used in Senate hearings put the cost of a previously proposed cap-and-trade system (Senate bill 2191 introduced in 2007 by Joseph Lieberman and John Warner) at between $800 and $1500 per household per year by 2015, increasing to between $1500 and $2500 by 2050. That permanent middle class tax cut in the FY09 budget better be significant…

Second, companies will likely cut jobs. Jobs outside manufacturing will suffer as the general cost of doing business rises. Keep in mind, cap-and-trade systems include companies outside the manufacturing realm. Technology companies like Microsoft, IBM, Boeing, and Intel (some of our largest employers) are huge consumers of energy (for example, the cost of keeping computer servers cool is astronomical, requiring uninterrupted 24/7/365 air conditioning for thousands upon thousands of square feet filled with heat-producing machines). Even science labs and technology research centers require around-the-clock electricity for experiments, so large universities and pharmaceutical centers could easily be pulled under a cap-and-trade system if proportional emissions were the standard. These significant sources of economic activity would likely have to reduce payroll through job cuts and outsourcing. Charles River Associates estimated that the impact of S.2191 would be a net loss of between 1.2 and 2.3 million jobs by 2015. The bit on outsourcing is complicated by the administration’s elimination of tax considerations for companies who outsource jobs.

Opponents of this argument will say that the administration also has significant money set aside for alternative energy research. But the cap-and-trade system will be implemented long before these not-so-shovel-ready alternative energy research programs produce alternative energy, which may or may not be any less expensive than energy produced by fossil fuels.

For the real environmentalists of the bunch, one only need to look to Europe and the Kyoto cap-and-trade system they adopted in 1997: nearly every participating country has a higher emission of CO2 today than it did at the system’s inception (as reported by the EU), and emissions of many of those countries are rising faster than those of the United States, who has been criticized for not participating.

Middle class tax cuts are very nice, but paying for them by raising the costs for American industry and business is entirely the wrong way to pay for them and is as flawed as the notion disproven by Bush, but adopted by Obama, that we can issue tax cuts and spending increases simultaneously.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Seriously Questionable and Legitimately Objectionable

Meet the man who will be writing Obama's Middle East policy positions

If it seems like I’m Obama-bashing, I know, it’s nothing new. But up to the election, my bashing was speculation-based. I was part of the crowd who strongly questioned his commitment to Israel, and the type and quality of support he would provide. I wrote earlier this month in these pages that he has suffered multiple set-backs in his foreign policy since taking the oath of office. These set-backs stemmed from his inactivity on the foreign front. I’m ready to comment on his activity now, specifically in the area of Israel. It does not look good at all, even if you’re a pacifist supporter of Israel.

In the last week, there have been four events that suggest the Obama administration is bending significantly towards the Palestinian side of the conflict:

1. His appointed envoy to the conflict, George Mitchell, suggested that he would support a Palestinian unity government with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas – legitimizing Hamas as a political entity rather than its’ reality as a terrorist organization.
2. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s statement that Israel needed to open up the borders to Gaza to allow in materials, dubiously and generously called “aide”. We’re talking items such as concrete and chemicals, which are used by Hamas to both legitimize its role as provider and build weapons and facilities used against Israel.
3. A release from the State Department officially stating the administration’s support for a PA-Hamas unity government.
4. The appointment of Charles “Chas” Freeman, Jr., as head of the National Intelligence Council, which produces Executive Branch policy memos.

The first three points are not promising, but they are not as significant as the last. Mitchell, Clinton, and the State department are very public, and the essence of their words is not unsurprising. While clearly ineffective (legitimizing Hamas as a political party means continued instability and extremist agendas in the Middle East), the policy they present will prove it ineffective and wrong. This last point, though, is extremely scary, and I use that perhaps childish term with a purpose.

To understand the fear Freeman should put in any supporter of Israel, a quick trip through his career should suffice. Freeman is a strong friend of Saudi Arabia, who is not a strong friend of Israel. A former ambassador to the country, he eventually became the president of the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington D.C.-based policy group masquerading as nonpartisan while striving “to ensure a full range of U.S. interests and views are considered by policy makers.” The MEPC, however, was until 1991 named the American-Arab Affairs Council, and continues to serve today as the mouthpiece for the country that funds it: Saudi Arabia.

In 2006, Mr. Freeman went on the record in an interview that the MEPC owed its existence to the “generosity of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia” and that he was “delighted that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has, after a long delay, begun to make serious public relations efforts.”

One of the most recent actions that the MEPC took was to publish the article by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt called, you know it and hate it well, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”. It’s the article that lead to their book, both of which accused pro-Israel groups like AIPAC of driving U.S. Foreign Policy, making absurd accusations like the one about American Jews having a “stranglehold” on the U.S. Congress, using the legislative branch to steer the U.S. towards Israel at the expense of American interests. It also accuses American Jews of conspiring to create the Iraq War. Of the article, Freeman said “No one else in the United States has dared to publish this article, given the political penalties that the Lobby (American Jews) imposes on those who criticize it.” This is the man who is going to head the department that drafts President Obama’s policy positions on foreign affairs.

In the lead up to Election Day, Obama had spoken of helping Israel find credible partners with whom they could find peace. Yet the man he has appointed to write his Middle East policy positions believes that “Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them.” The primary reason America faces a terrorist problem today, he said, is “the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that is about to mark its fortieth anniversary and shows no sign of ending.” (He said this in 2006). The president has appointed a man with a clear and historical understanding of reality, and when I say that, I mean none of it.

What is surprising, or at least what was surprising until the realization of the above mentioned points 1 through 3, is that these views differ from those of Freeman’s new boss, the president. This is especially true when you consider his other views, such as those on China. For example, on the subject of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, he wrote “The truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud…the response to the mob scene at Tiananmen stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action…I do not believe that it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be." Even in the context of chastising the Chinese authorities for the results, these are remarkable statements for man who has been asked to join an Executive Branch that has promised to advance the cause of human rights. To place the blame of the death toll on the government’s reaction to the protests is to cast aside the blame on the government’s actions in governing the country, which is where the blame out to lay.

That this man has been assigned to write some of the most important and influential foreign policy analysis is downright scary, and even more, unbelievable. For a president who sold himself to the American public and curious, intellectual, and progressive, the beliefs of the man who he has asked to draft his positions are closed, ignorant, and antiquated.
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City Security - Safer Shaw

As a relatively new resident of the Shaw Neighborhood, I was interested when yard signs started popping up urging a vote in one way or another.

Issues of gentrification, security, and urban redevelopment are all coming to the surface around this issue and The St. Lou Jew is here to put some young Yid spin on the debate

The ballot measure would create a special business district to assess some $240,000 per year to pay for a special security patrol. The cost to homeowners will be some 50 cents on each $100 of valuation.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, we rent, so we won't be paying for this, at least not directly, and I'm not usually particularly scared in our neighborhood. That being said, I try not to walk around by myself late a night, and on a recent walk to Sasha's on Shaw, I stayed alert.

I suppose the question comes down to a cost benefit analysis. As roommate and fellow Moishe House-er Rosh put it, "I'd totally be willing to pay $100 over the course of the year for additional patrols." Capitalism at its best, right?

While the cost isn't particularly high, there have still been a number of concerns. Some people think that the SLPD will patrol less frequently as a result of the other force. This is certainly a possibility (one that the PD probably won't admit to), but it is unlikely to have a real negative effect.

Further, some people ask how much crime actually has occurred. While it might not take place on every block, crime does occur, and in the spirit of a neighborhood, increased security benefits everyone.

Interestingly enough, many house owners will actually make money off of this, as house insurance prices will fall as a result of the increased protection.

We think Shaw is a pretty good place to be, especially when you consider Thurman Bar and Grill and Sashas, the proximity to the Botanical Gardens, Tower Grove Park, and South Grand.

That's why, on March 3rd, we'll be voting 'yes' for the special business district
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Community Overlap

In times of economic hardship, the evolutionary cycle is sped up. Those with the necessary adaptions survive, others don't.

The Jewish Community, and particularly the funders and donors of the Jewish Community are likely facing harder decisions than they've had to in years.

What do we save? What do we shed?

In business mergers, cost savings are often the result of 'synergies'. These synergies are redundencies, duplications, areas in which two people's roles (and paychecks) can be reduced to one.

These synergies are what might buffer this community against losing some of the services to which we have become accustomed.

Looking for overlap is a dangerous game, but let's quickly play it, for demonstration purposes.

In the young Jewish community, defined as 18-35, there are specific programs for College students, through Hillel, Chabad, Jewish Student Union, Jewish Fraternities and Sororites, etc. For post-undergrads there is JGrads, Gesher City, Moishe House, for the newer post-grads and YPD, SLIC, MOT for those further out of school, as well as all of the young adult divisions of the many synagogues around town.

Each of these organizations have a niche in which they operate but many of these organizations overlap. Because most target the same general demographic, some with more success than others, there is a sort of competition, even if its not explicit.

Just like it seems strange to an outsider to see so many reform synagogues so close to each other, all of which are struggling to gain market share with the young adult community, so too, at some level, does it appear that these young adult oriented organizations have the potential to scrap over the same talent pool.

For this community to move forward, we need to think of ourselves as one community.

As a young adult, I would like to see more of the organizations collaborate. Use the different social circles and emails lists to improve marketing reach. Use all of the different sources of funding to make sure that anyone who wants to have Shabbat dinner can do so, be it at Chabad with Jgrads, around town with YPD and Gesher City, or at the Moishe House.

This is not to say that these groups are terribly territorial and don't collaborate, but there is a sense of scarcity leading to occasional competition, which I, as a young adult simply looking to connect with people, find to be a turn off.

By pooling resources and ideas, the young Yids of St. Louis will survive this economic climate and may even make some gains.

Overlap. Read More......

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mardi Gras Mambo: Update on the Krewe Des Jeux

Mardi Gras in Soulard was interesting as ever, and the Jeux Krewe was in full effect

Forgive us the arrogance of thinking we were original, or humorous. In our pre-Mardi Gras post, explaining the myth of the Krewe Des Jeux, we thought we'd made it up.

Turns out we should have done our research a bit better. Not only do the Krewe du Mishgas take the (king) cake for rocking the Shtettle, but it looks like someone already claimed the naming rights to Krewe Du Jieux. Not only did they claim it, but they made it funny:

Next year, we'll be taking notes. In the meantime, count us in for Jazz Fest Shabbat!
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I Want to Be a Producer!

Last night's Oscar awards (and yes, I did watch the entire thing from beginning to end...funny what 12 straight hours of Mardi Gras will do to you come Sunday night) rekindled my long-simmering desire to be a big-time movie star, or at least the awkward-looking guy who gets up on stage and accepts the award!

A few quick-hit thoughts on last night's Oscar ceremony, apropos of nothing directly Jew-related, but relevant none the less because, c'mon, it's the Oscars!

-Hugh Jackman, exactly what a host should be, just not used effectively. His opening song was creative and funny, would have liked to see more.

-Good to see two fellow Jews presenting together in Natalie Portman and Ben Stiller. Way to represent you two!

-There are a few movies I was not planning on seeing that now have piqued my interest, namely Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (Penelope Cruz won for Best Supporting Actress) and "Man on Wire" (Best Documentary).

-If you went for a snack during the Best Animated Short award, you missed the most memorable acceptance speech of the night, delivered by Kunio Kato. Check it out here!

-The winners confirmed my suspicion that "Benjamin Button" is a cinematic masterpiece of visual effects, that lack any sort of interesting story to tie it all together. Button won three awards for its effects, but no acting awards.

-Props to "Slumdog Millionaire," one of the only Best Picture movies in recent memory that I have both seen and enjoyed.

-That being said, I still say the best two movies of the year were Wall-E and Dark Knight. While they were both recognized (Wall-E for Best Animated and Dark Knight for Heath Ledger and an effects award) they should have gotten more.

-I want to be in the movies!

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Souldardi Gras and the Krewe Des Jeux

With Mardi Gras upon us, St. Louis will once again claim the title of 'biggest celebration outside of New Orleans'. Despite clear non-Yid originas, trust the St. Lou Jew to give you the down-low on fais-do do's and don'ts

For those of you unfamiliar with the Soulard festivities, the neighborhood, just South of Downtown will be closed to vehicles and open to imbibing.

How are we celebrating? Krewe Des Jeux says it all. Pronounced 'crew dey Jhew', this phrase contains multitudes. Traditionally, in New Orleans, a Krewe is an organization that plays a special role in Mardi Gras celebrations, most frequently sponsoring (and occupying) a float during a parade.

Krewe Des Jeux literally means Krewe of games (but sounds like crew of the Jew). Although not quite as funny as Krewe du Mishigas whose theme this year is Schmeckel and Shekel’s Foreskins and Foreclosures LLC, Krewe Des Jeux will never-the-less be making an appearance at Soulard's Mardi Gras aka Soulardi Gras.

Without further delay, make sure to follow these rules for a good time:

Don't bring the following: Bottles, cans, backpacks, and coolers are NOT allowed at Soulard Mardi Gras. We strictly forbid these items and will confiscate them at all checkpoints entering the Soulard neighborhood. You will not get the items back. You will never see them again. Leave them at home. These restrictions are necessary to maintain a safe environment for everyone, so we can all have fun. Together, we are creating a safe and enjoyable series of events for the whole region. NO Bottles, NO Cans, NO Backpacks, NO Coolers.

Don't drink if you are under 21: Undercover police officers, uniformed officers, and state liquor control agents will be assigned to Soulard on Grand Parade Day and on Fat Tuesday. They maintain a zero tolerance policy. They are also very efficient at recognizing offenders and booking them immediately. Law enforcement will arrest underage drinkers and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. Under 21 = No alcohol.

Don't urinate on streets, sidewalks, houses, cars, trees, flowers, or friends: Shouldn't 600 portable potties be enough? Sadly, not for some. Residents and visitors will once again note the "No PP" signs posted in the neighborhood. Police will issue anyone violating this ordinance a summons that will result in a court appearance and a maximum penalty of $500.00 and/or 90 days in jail. Why would you want this hassle? Pee in a potty.

Don't trespass: It seems obvious, but we will say it again. Soulard is a residential area. You will be partying in front of people's homes. Do not enter the homes of strangers under any circumstance. Also, do not take a nap in someone else's vehicle or hang out in someone's backyard. You would not want strangers wandering through your home or on your property. Trespassing is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a significant fine. There are many bars, restaurants, party tents, and street space where you can gather with your friends and not break the law.

Don't vandalize: Nobody likes to have his or her belongings broken or destroyed. This includes the residents of Soulard and the surrounding area. The penalty for vandalism is a $250.00 to $500.00 fine and/or 90 days in jail.

Do park Downtown: Ample parking is available in Downtown St. Louis. MetroBus will again provide shuttle service to Soulard on Grand Parade Day, Saturday, February 21. Shuttles will run regularly from the ScottTrade Center Metro Station to Soulard and back.

Parking is restricted on Grand Parade Day, Saturday, February 21. This year the "Red Zone" area of Soulard, from Carroll to Shenandoah and 7th to Gravois is closed to vehicular traffic on Grand Parade Day. No vehicle movement or on-street parking will be allowed in this area, this includes motorcycles and motorized scotters. Violators will be towed and will pay hefty fines to reclaim vehicle.

Only Soulard residents with valid Parade Day Access Permits will be allowed to park in the "Yellow Zone" south of and including Shenandoah. "Yellow Zone" access permits will be mailed to Soulard households (2 per household). Residents who do not receive their permits may pick them up from January 7-11 at the Mardi Gras, Inc. office, 1013 Ann Ave. from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Do respect the police: Our local police handle many concerns in a short amount of time. They need people to cooperate. If an officer asks you to do something, do it without sarcastic remark or snotty comment. They will appreciate it and you can avoid arrest. The police are very serious about the job they have to do at these events, and they do not have time to argue with foolish people. Make everyone's life easier and cooperate.

Do participate in the various events: Mardi Gras is more than just one day. Check out our events page to find out more about the Wine Taste featuring Fetzer Vineyards, Gala Rouge Wines, and Korbel Champagne, Crystal Cajun Cook-Off, Beggin' Strips Barkus Pet Parade, PetSmart Wiener Dog Derby, and Children's Art Fair and Parade. On parade day, arrive early to get a good viewing spot along the parade route and enjoy the people watching as much as the parade. Many people dress in costume or other festive attire and they are not even in the parade! It is also a good idea to bring a bag to hold all the goodies that are thrown from floats. Bring your entire family and all your friends for a guaranteed good time. Laissez le Bon Temp Rouler! (Let the Good Times Roll).

Do dress for the weather: You never know what the weather is going to be like in St. Louis for Mardi Gras. We might have a snowstorm or it might be quite balmy. There might be sun or rain. It is even possible to have all in the same day. All Mardi Gras events happen regardless of rain, shine or blizzard. Make sure you check the weather report before heading down to Soulard, and even then be prepared for anything. Layers of clothing are your best bet. And remember, if you don't like the weather in St. Louis, just wait ten minutes.

For all of the details beyond booze and beads, visit the official site.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Living Jews: Erez Safar aka Diwon

Erez Safar, aka Diwon, is moving to the head of the Yidster music scene in New York. He has organized Sephardic music festivals, put together mix tapes, and continues to push the envelope of Jewish music for the masses.

His latest CD, 'Shir Ha Shirim' takes one of the 5 Megilot (sacred scrolls) of the same name and adapts it into an almost meditation-like musical piece.

Shir Ha Shirim is basically an allegory of the relationship between God and the People of Israel, explained as the love between two people. It is traditionally read on Pesach, as we celebrate liberation of the Jewish People from slavery in Egypt.

The new CD features the voice of Benjamin Brody, singing a Moroccan melody backed by a subtle and sometimes subdued musical landscape. The deeply suggestive and intimate nature of the poem is understated in favor of the more spiritual context to create the potential to induce a trance-like state in the listener.

The St. Lou Jew recently had the opportunity to connect with Erez for a brief interview.

First of all, paint me the picture of this project: How did it get started, how did the pieces come together?

I heard a track of Benyamin singing Lecha Dodi and was blown away by how much of his soul was coming through the singing. I got in touch and told him to come by and listen to some of my music. He was into it and I played him this one song that I always meditated on since it had this vibe that you could just listen to over and over. He immediately looked over and said, "I could sing Shir HaShirim to this". The next day we recorded the entire Shir HaShirim in one take... 35 minutes. After that Dugans and I (Diwon) spent 2 weeks cutting up the chapters and making the music and breaks and such...I was on a high for 3 weeks listening to the album. I'm talking about a very spiritual high, and I was curious if it was just me or we really hit something holy so,I played it for a few spiritual people to see what they thought, including, Y-Love, my wife, DeScribe, Matis[yahu] and a few others. They were also really into it. I thnk we touched something here. Maybe some new genre of holy-hipster music.

How did you get started with Shemspeed?

I started it almost 2 years ago.....Shemspeed is basically the front/public side to all the things I have been doing for the last 6 or so years. I run a record label, Modular Moods and a Sephardic Music Festival and through both of those I have put together all sorts of events and tours and albums and releases and so Shemspeed functions as a way for fans to interact with all the things going on in this world of Jewish/Israeli music. A lot of the content are things that we produce, whether its graphics, remixes, albums, events, tours....but it's also sort of a commentary on the culture that is thriving from Jewish art........the Shemspeed Daily is the place to go for all that.

Where are you turning to get all of these diverse soundscapes that make up your musical endeavors?

Well, as a DJ I have my ear to the streets, but also to the past and the history of Jewish music both Middle Eastern and Eastern European have both influenced what I do, For instance "The Beat Guide to Yiddish" is sort of a sonic shout out to Ashkenaz culture and Yiddish music from the Barry Sisters to current musicians like Lipa Schmeltzer, but on the other side I have the more Yemenite focused, original music I produce as Diwon and that comes from my passion for Yemenite tradition which has come from my upbringing, as my mother's side are all from Yemen.

What is your vision for Jewish music?

I see so much rich tradition and melody in all the different Jewish musics and I like getting that out there, but I'm also motivated by the "Light unto the nations" concept of Judaism. I believe in unity and setting a good example and the music that Shemspeed/Modular Moods releases a lot of times is music witha positive message, a lot of times its hip hop, which is refreshing I think. The idea is to release music that speaks to everyone, but from a foundation of positivity, inspiration and truth and I believe by living that and producing music that is consistent with that, we could speak to nations and hopefully motivate them towards positivity and unity. A lot of it is fueled by Judaism.

How has Judaism shaped your perspective on the world?

see above ;)

To learn more about Erez, check out and
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Heebs, Humor, and The Holocaust

The St. Lou Jew is all about respecting the past, but living in the present.  That's why we try to focus on living Jews who are contributing to the ever expanding world of building Jewish culture and peoplehood.
Recently, however, we are seeing an interesting/potentially disturbing trend that trivializes the Holocaust in ways that may be crossing a line.

I was tipped off the the first of these incidents via our favorite local Jewish artist, Maya Escobar (who was recently written about on  In a quick message, she sent me a link to one the of blogs on Heeb Magazine, which announced the 'Heeb Magazine Fake Holocaust Memoir Competition.'

The article made light of the number of recent Holocaust memoirs which have turned out to be fake and, while totally facetious in tone, the article struck a chord with Maya, who was livid that anyone could find this to be a joking matter.

On one hand, I agree that we should not, particularly in this time of growing revisionist history and denial, minimize the Holocaust in any way.

On the other hand, Heeb magazine is known more for its edginess, bacon and swimsuit edition than for contributions to mainstream Jewish thought.
Also, After living in Israel, in which the word, 'Shoah' (Hebrew for Holocaust) is used interchangably to describe bad traffic or a bad experience, perhaps I'm less sensitive.  

In fact, Israelis are the worst offenders when it comes to Holocaust disinterest.  With an aging population of survivors, the children and grand-children of this group are trying to get out from under the shadow, and often find humor the way to do it.

Which brings me to incident #2, a YouTube creation featuring an scenc from a movie depicting the fall of the 3rd Reich, overdubbed to depict Hitler complaining about parking in Tel Aviv.
I'll admit it...I laughed..more than a little.

But this video made enough of a splash in Israel that Haaretz published a story depicting the reaction to it, particularly among survivors (That link also contains the offending videos with both Hebrew and English subtitles).

What do you think should be the place of the Holocaust as we move forward in creating a Jewish identity based in living culture?
Should the Holocaust be a laughing matter?

After-all Mel Brooks said, about "The Producers", that making people laugh at Hitler was the best revenge.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Living Jews: Margo Schwartz, Leader of the Next Gen

Despite what you may think of Malcolm Gladwell's ideas in The Tipping Point, we all probably have met a Connector. Connectors "link us up with the world ... people with a special gift for bringing the world together."

Margo Schwartz has this gift.

As former head of the Young Professionals Division of the STL Jewish Federation, Margo is no stranger to the needs and strengths of the St. Louis Jewish community.

She is in many ways responsible for the connections that led to the creation of the Moishe House in St. Louis, as well as the much of YPD's recent successes.

So how did this young Yid get to where she is today?

"Jewish Community work sounded like a dirty work to me," explained Margo of her early twenties. "But I moved to St. Louis, not knowing anyone, without any connections, and I turned to the Federation to help me network."

It just so happened that JFed offered her a job which, despite a lack of interest, she took. Six months in, she was bored out of her mind and, never lacking in assertiveness, she made her feelings known. As luck would have it, the then-YPD staff person was leaving, and JFed saw in Margo the energy that has made her so successful.

Margo believes that her success was based on the partnership she was able to form the the then-president of YPD. In fact, she believes that a lay leader in close coordination with a staff-person provides the ideal model for collaboration.   "Lay leaders can burn out, move, or simply move on to other things, but when you have staff people who are paid to work on these programs, it is more likely to survive."

Also, as a transplant, Margo wanted to make sure that events were things in which she, herself, would want to participate.

It was in this position that Margo's natural abilities were able to thrive as she began meeting people in the community and cultivating them into leaders.

A staunch defender of the Federation, Margo makes it clear that despite what some do or don't like about the way that things are run, JFed is a crucial part of the Jewish community.

So what does she actually do? "My job is to go to young leaders with the 'it' factor and ask 'what do you want to make happen, and how can we get it there'."

Now that you understand a bit about Margo, you can probably appreciate why we felt it was so important to sit down with her and ask a few questions about the current state of the Jewish community in St. Louis and future directions.

Margo was clear in stating, "I want leaders to be thinking about a succession plan. . . how to transfer knowledge and experience. I want them to think about who they are investing in."

"The question is," explains Margo, "what is your living legacy?"

"A lot of people who give so generously to the Federation do it because they want to be able to leave a fingerprint, a positive impact on the community, which is a wonderful thing."

A big issue according to Margo, is having faith in the next generation of Jewish leadership and building partnerships.

Where does Margo see all of this taking her, as the next generation of Jewish leadership?
"Do I want to be Barry [Rosenberg, VP of JFed STL] someday? I think so, but he makes some hard decisions I wouldn't want to make."

Some of those hard decisions come from the fact that the community is changing. A fact which Margo understands.

"Any Jewish professional who is reading the research knows that we need to take events out of the institutions, and if they haven't read it, they shouldn't come back to work until they have."
Luckily, for all of you Jewish professionals out there, you can read up on it, here.

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Update on the STL Twitter Situation

Last week, our very own media queen, LC, asked about a Twitter meet up or Tweet-up in STL. Turns out she wasn't the only one asking questions.

Twitter, the micro blogging platform that keeps expanding and morphing, has spawned all sorts of events such as Tweet-ups, in which Twitter-ers can meet in person and discuss social media, networking, and of course, Twitter.

What we learned after a bit of research is that St. Louis, while having a small Twitter user base, also has a very active base that is already looking to get things together.

In fact, there is an entire Ning (social network) based around St. Louis Twitter users. Not only that, The St. Lou Jew took it upon ourselves to start a discussion about a Twitter Festival, aka a TweSTivaL. This idea is to organize for a cause and give people the opportunity to give back while forming new connections.

The planning is in early stages and anyone can be involved (which is the point).

You can check that discussion here and if you are on Twitter, be sure to follow @thestloujew!
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Monday, February 16, 2009

Upcoming Attractions

We have some big things in the works for you this week, including an interview with one of the most useful young Yids in St. Louis.

On top of that, we are doing a joint post soon with David's Voice on an exhibit hailing from the Israel Museum that is making its first appearance in the United States.

Around the world, York University in Toronto was the site of some old fashioned Anti-Semitism hiding behind anti-Israel roots

And tucked into this update, I would like to present a radical idea: Financial concerns prevent young Jews from participation in Jewish events.

My case for arguing this is the upcoming UJC Young Leadership New Orleans Tikkun Olam Conference.

St. Louis has a grand total of 4 participants in this interesting and unique conference. Cincinnati, a city with a smaller Jewish population has around 25.

Was the event better publicized in Cincinnati? Is the community better organized around these types of opportunities?

The NOLA conference isn't cheap. For a conference that starts on a Sunday morning and ends on a Tuesday morning, meaning some of us have to miss our jobs (cuz we don't get paid for being Jewish yet), we have the privilege of paying a cool $350, not to mention the hotel rooms and airfare. You are looking at a trip that could cost around a grand when all is said and done (you can't forget drinking money, this is New Orleans, after all).

To be fair, because I support Jewish Federation of St. Louis monetarily, they are returning the favor....but their subsidy is only about half the registration fee, which still leaves me on the hook for a few benjys.

So back to Cincinnati, why do they have such a fantastic rate of participation?

In two words: Corporate Sponsorship. In one word: creativity...or foresight...

That's right, a Cincinnati based bank is covering the costs for these young adults to make the trip to New Orleans in order to provide community service.

Maybe we should reach out to the Cincinnati Federation and have them help us out so that the next time one of these trips rolls around, St. Louis will have better representation, and more young leaders will have the opportunity to become connected and energized.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Love in the time of Freud

Looking for some melancholy and dour romance with your Valentine this weekend? Look no further than The New Jewish Theatre, as its production of "Sabina" dives into the depths of the psycho-sexual mind!

The story of Sabina Spielrein is familiar to few but marveled at by all who come into contact with her history. Luckily for us here in St. Louis, the New Jewish Theatre has taken this Valentine's Day weekend to present the true story of her life, complete with dueling affairs with renowned psychologists Freud and Jung, a heroine tale of a woman who rises from the depths of psychological despair to the heights of genius and an ending that provides perspective as to the all-too temporary nature of life.

If all of this sounds a little heavy and hard to handle, that's because it is. Playwright Willy Holtzman's script is a masterpiece of psychoanalytical thought and theory that can certainly leave the average theatre-goer a little dumbfounded. However, the personal relationships that play out on stage are entirely universal and are what make "Sabina" so riveting to watch.

The play tells the story of Sabina, a young Jewish woman who has been institutionalized. She falls under the private care of Dr. Carl Jung, who develops a relationship with his young patient while experimenting with Freudian psycho-analysis through word association. The affair (and eventual dalliance with Dr. Freud as well) will eventually threaten not just their relationship, but the entire opus of Freudian theory as we know it. Add to that the anti-Semitism Freud describes in advancing his work, and you have the basis for the tale, rooted deeply in reality, that makes up this show.

The New Jewish Theatre, while priding itself on focusing on plays that represent Jewish values and culture, is undeniably one of the premiere professional theatre organizations in the region. Taking on an intellectual behemoth like "Sabina" is certainly a challenge, but director Annamaria Pilleggi and her cast make the material accessible through the vehicle of human emotion.

Themes of trust, respect, redemption, anti-Semitism, friendship, love and despair lie not under the surface of this production in some Freudian dream-like consciousness, but instead are put on display from Sabina's opening monologue. And while I won't say that the 2+ hours I spent rank at the very top of my list of great theatre experiences, "Sabina" truly is unlike any show I have ever seen.

All that being said, is it worth your time to see? A few things to consider:

-If you are reading this blog, you will be under the average age in the theatre by about 40 years, I promise.

-The material asks you to think and be an active participant. This is not a show to sit idly by and just enjoy.

-An interest/understanding of some psychology will be helpful in appreciating the show.

So it won't leave you whistling down the aisle on the way out, but it does provide a window into a kind of romance not often associated with Hallmark and Valentine's Day. Maybe just the diversion you need for this "holiday weekend!"

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Living Jews: Adam Reich and

Occasionally, we are given the opportunity to make a difference. Adam Reich came across such an opportunity out in Los Angeles while working with the USC law Post-Conviction Justice Project, and has decided to seize it. He is trying to raise public awareness and fight for justice in the case of Connie Keel, a woman who has been in prison for nearly her entire adult life because she was too afraid to disobey her armed, abusive husband and get out of a car.


Adam is a good friend of mine and one of the primary reasons I joined Alpha Epsilon PI. Currently, my Pledge Grandfather finds himself President of the USC Law School Jewish Law Student Association. Judaism has always shaped his world view. As he put it, "You go to Hebrew school and what do you get? The first things are the blow up dreidel, the challah and the tzedakah box." This connection to Tikkun Olam has motivated him to do all he can for a woman less fortunate than him, who has suffered unspeakable atrocities since her early childhood and has spent nearly 30 years in prison.

When he first met Connie Keel, he did not expect that he would become so passionate about her cause. Yet, as he spent more time listening to her, Connie became more comfortable and open, and he became increasingly invested in her case. "The right to legal representation is a core ideal of democracy," he said.


Connie Keel is a 50-year old grandmother. In 1981, when she was 21-years old, she was sentenced to serve twenty-five years to life at the California Institution for Women (CIW) because she stayed frozen in fear in a car while her armed, abusive husband and his violent cousin made a spur of the moment, unilateral decision to rob a liquor store and shoot the clerk. Even though Connie Keel did not commit the actual robbery or fire the gun which killed Mr. Frank Grummer, she is still behind bars, nearly thirty years after the crime.


Connie took no part in the physical aspects of the crime, never leaving the car to enter the store where everything occurred.

After her husband and his cousin completed these criminal actions, they returned to the car and mocked Connie for being afraid. Her husband, Ricky Keel, then drove the trio back to an isolated Northern California home, and for two days they remained there. During that time, Connie never had the opportunity to escape or to contact authorities. The house had no phone, and Ricky kept constant watch over her, never leaving her alone. He would even accompany her to the bathroom and force her to do the same with him. According to a State Investigation, Connie Keel suffered from Battered Women's Syndrome (BWS) at the time of the crime, and this condition, combined with the fact that she now knew her husband was capable of murder, provides a plausible explanation for her inability to disobey Ricky's orders during and following the crime.

Even before her incarceration, Connie never had an easy life. She was first sexually abused at the age of two by an uncle, and this molest continued until she was about twelve-years old. During this time period and after, Connie was also raped by at least 2 other uncles, neighbors, friends, and even her husband. Her own mother hit her and reportedly sold her out to strange men.

On October29, 2008, Adam argued Connie's case for parole before the California Board of Parole Hearings (BPH). After arguments were completed, the BPH concluded that Connie Keel does not pose any threat to society, and has never been convicted or disciplined for any violent activity. "When I won that case, I called Elliot," (my pledge father), and told him, "It was one of the top ten moments of my life. I want to make sure that she isn't denied the freedom she deserves. 30 years for being abused your whole life, for sitting in car....not once has she blamed her husband..she is remorseful..she has paid her debt and poses no threat. Enough is enough."

Although the BPH finding is a significant step towards securing Connie's freedom, in California, the Governor has the power to disregard the BPH decision and overturn her parole suitability finding. In fact, Governor Schwarzenegger tends to reverse most first time suitability findings. And so, on Feb 26, the anniversary of the crime, Adam Reich wants you to help free Connie. "This isn't about attacking the Governor in any way, so please don't misinterpret the purpose of this campaign. I want to raise awareness of Connie's story and convince the Governor to read all of the facts from Connie's case. If he does that, I honestly believe he will see that reverse the BPH decision would be not only incorrect but actually inhumane."


Go to From there, you can send a message to Governor Schwarzenegger via email or Twitter, urging him to review the facts and release Connie. You can also easily share the story on Facebook and Myspace. The site is a great tool for educating the public about Connie's case, and encouraging them to speak up and act. Per the website, Adam commented, "I didn't think that the media component was going to be this important. But the fact is word-of-mouth can only do so much. Using social media to promote social justice is a new but necessary aspect of any campaign. Maybe not 100% of the people who visit the site will send a letter, but maybe 50% will, and that's a lot more support letters than we would have without it."

Adam summed it all up, "we have a president who has called the nation to service, it is about time that we honored that and used our resources towards that goal."
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St. Louis, Where's Our Twestival?!

Today, on February 12, 2009, cities around the world are hosting Twestivals. For those who doubt the power of twitter, please read on to learn more about how this 21st-century marketing-tool-meets-what-are-you-doing-now is strengthening communities and raising awareness about needy causes.

Twitter + Festival = Twestival. Clever, no? The event is described as "an evening of fun" that brings together Twitter communities while raising money and awareness for charity:water.

From the Web site:

The Twestival is organized 100% by volunteers in cities around the world and 100% of the money raised from these events will go directly to support charity: water projects.

charity: water promo featuring "Time Bomb" by Beck from charity: water on Vimeo.

I personally think this is very cool and I like twitter. Other people do not believe in it so much (back off, haters!). Twitter allows friends to figure out what they're doing at that exact moment; it provides insight into corporate and organizational initiatives; it's your get out of jail free card; it's a source for the most up-to-date and agenda-free news; and it's a great way to learn when The St. Lou Jew publishes a new post or attends an event.

Even Congress is on Twitter. Even my mom is on Twitter.

Maybe next year bloggers from The St. Lou Jew will be volunteering for another good cause at a local Twestival... Let's get the community together for a good cause and a good time. For now, you can follow us on Twitter - codename: thestloujew.

Are you on Twitter? Hit us up with your username so we can fill you in on what's shaking in STL.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

He's Three Weeks Old

Barak Obama has been in office for 21 days now, but he's still campaigning. It appears America and world are growing tired of it.

It has been 21 days since inauguration day, and 92 days since Election Day, yet President Obama is still campaigning. On Sunday he spoke in Elkhart, Indiana, and yesterday in Fort Meyers, Florida – two swing states. Meanwhile, he’s launched his “Organizing For America”, which is run by the DNC, which is being used now to push the stimulus package. What’s more, his first national address was delivered in Prime Time. This strategy is strikingly similar to his campaign, which was based on the notion that he offered, as George Will noted back in November, “the skill, tenacity, strategic vision and tactical nimbleness of my campaign is proof that I am presidential timber.”

This tactic, of course, worked, and worked very well. It appears that President Obama is now steering the White House in a similar direction. As Jay Cost wrote in yesterday’s WSJ Opinion page, consider this: John Kerry announced his candidacy on December 1, 2002, and Obama announced his exploratory committee on January 16, 2007. If you add it all up, this represents 47% of the Bush Presidency. RealClearPolitics found that Bush’s average approval rating was 29%. These numbers have to be at least a little related in that during nearly half of Bush’s presidency he had an opponent, and it looks like Obama’s strategists would agree that an opponent brings down approval ratings. His seeming preference to use campaign platforms to push policy pays homage to the lessons learned with the correspondence between low Bush ratings and long Democrat campaigning – so long as he remains on the “trail” it remains difficult for the next Republican candidate to carve out a healthy portion of public attention.

There is risk in this tactic, though. He is now the president, he won, and the American people want results. The American public expects their president to be a strong, resolute individual who portrays power and wisdom. Continuing to campaign for friendly audiences past inauguration does not express strength, resolution, power, and wisdom, but instead shows reliance on a tactic that does not demonstrate strong policy knowledge and experience because its focus, instead of on policy, is on rhetoric, which surely the public grew suspicious of during the Bush administration. Perhaps even more dangerous, it allows public discussion of the policies to widen. As discussion on the details of the package have increased, support for it has decreased. Two weeks ago, 34% of Americans opposed the package. The next week, 39% opposed it. This week, opposition has increased to 43%. Time is not on the president’s side. That he has continued to discuss process, in this case a bipartisan approach, over hard policy has led to a stimulus package that is likely to be a significantly less of what he seeks in spite of strong Democratic majorities in both houses. Had he pushed the legislation through Congress earlier, as he could have done, it would have been what he wanted it to be. Pursuing bipartisan support, as noble as it is, has not been a tool of politicians for exactly the reasons that the president is now experiencing – it usually backfires.

Campaigning for policy is no substitute for formulating good policy. The more he has campaigned, the deeper people have looked into the policy, and they don’t like what they find. Not only has Obama’s efforts led to growing disenchantment with the most pressing domestic issue, the stimulus, but after an inauguration that was supposed to reset the world’s opinion and respect for the United States and usher in renewed international cooperative efforts, reaction to Obama’s presidency has been less than positive. A quick recap:

Iran: Since January 22, Iran has launched a satellite into space and declared it would complete, with Russian-supplied nuclear fuel, its long-delayed nuclear reactor. Just one day after speaking of a “golden opportunity for the United States” in relations with Iran, Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani skipped Vice President Biden’s speech at the Munich Security Conference.

Afghanistan: This is the war Obama wants to focus on, and he promised greater efforts to shore up greater NATO support. Germany has told the US that it will not increase its troop count beyond 4,500, none of whom will be stationed in areas where they would be engaged in combat. France has announced it has no plans of increasing its current involvement, keeping its forces at 3,300. In contrast, Obama may double our troop levels to 60,000. This is anything but greater NATO support.

North Korea: Obama promised a friendlier tone with North Korea, a sharp departure from the hard line the Bush Administration took. In response, Kim Jong Il announced that his country was unilaterally withdrawing from its 1991 nonaggression pact with the South. Additionally, satellites have captured NK moving a Taepodong II missile – a missile with the capabilities to reach our west coast – to a launch pad. Talking to the LA Times, Baek Seung-joo, director of the Korean Institute for Defense Analysis in Seoul, commented that “the missile is pointing at Obama. North Korea thinks that with such gestures they can control US foreign policy.”

Pakistan: With both financial and political sway, the Bush Administration was able to coerce Pakistan into taking their internationally hated yet nationalized hero, father of their nuclear program, scientist A.Q. Khan, off the streets. Sure, he was still able to orchestrate some illicit trafficking of nuclear weapon products, but at least his ability to supply terrorists with WMD was lessened. No more than three weeks into the Obama presidency, the Pakistani government chose to release Khan, no doubt in an effort to send a strong message to Obama that it did not like comments he made during the campaign regarding Pakistan and its role in global terrorism. Obama has released nothing more than a softly muted statement of concern.

Russia: Besides its decision to provide the requisite nuclear fuel for Iran’s nuclear reactor, it has continued its military base-building in Georgia’s breakaway regions as well as pressed its cold war friends in Kyrgyszstan to evict US forces from the essential Afghanistan support-route US base located there.

The Arab World: In his first interview as president, Obama told Al-Arabiya “I have Muslim members of my family.” However, Arab reaction to his presidency has been un-familial. “We welcomed him with almost total enthusiasm until he underwent his first test: Gaza. We also wanted Mr. Obama to realize…the right of people in occupied territory to resist military occupation”, said Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany, delivering the message that Arab support for Obama hinged on Obama’s embracement of Hamas and its tactics.

Obama may still be a popular man on the campaign trail at home, but this is not translating into domestic policy success. He may have made US popular in cities like Toronto and Berlin and Paris, but our unpopularity in these cities never mattered much. Despite his ability to play to the home crowd, he is quickly learning that playing the visitor is a more challenging feat when you are responsible for delivering more than words. He’s only been in office for three weeks, yes, but trouble is, his words are not being respected and action has been slow.
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Israeli Elections Update

On the other side of the world election results are pouring in.

According to the Jerusalem Post, it is now looking like Kadima (forward), the centrist party, is going to get around 30 mandates (seats in the Knesset). Likud, the right-wing party is expected to get 27 or 28 mandates while Labor will get 13 and Yisrael Beiteinu is expected to get 15 mandates.

These results, in support of Tzipi Livni, are fairly complicated, even as the Galatz announcer says, "Israelis said yes to Tzipi, no to Bibi."

The close results will make it difficult to form a government, and will require certain concessions to be made to some of the smaller parties, particularly as Livni tries to keep Ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu and Avigdor Leiberman, their controversial leader, out of the government.

More here and here, and if you want to hear it in Hebrew, here
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Living Jews: State Representative Rachel Storch

Last week, at Sasha's Wine Bar on Demun, several of The St. Lou Jew's bloggers had an opportunity to sit down with Rachel Storch, State Rep from the 64th District.

We think that St. Louis is pretty fortunate to have her as a representative, read on to find out why.

A native of St. Louis and graduate of Washington University's School of Law, Rachel Storch is connected to St. Louis.

As the State Representative of the 64th District, she represents an area that includes Dogtown, the Hill, Forest Park, Washington University and the Delmar Loop.

How did this young woman end up speaking for some of our favorite St. Louis neighborhoods?

"I did a year in Americorps Vista," says Rep. Storch, "which was amazing. It was a mix of law and public policy around health and welfare and there was a lot opportunity to impact legislation."

Following this, Storch worked on Mel Carnahan's Senate campaign and after he won, Storch was asked to go to Washington to work for his wife, who took his place.

After making some good connections, Storch was recruited by a group dedicated to bringing women into politics and won the State Rep. election.

When she was first elected, she was the only Yid in the state legislature and we wanted to know how being young, Jewish, and female play out.

Rep. Storch quashed that pretty quickly by pointing out that the largest divides in the MO congress are really rural/urban. She also made the point that the art of legislating is really about finding commonalities, so labels and really get in the way.

She explained further, "I wouldn't say that the labels mean nothing and sometimes you have to overcome them, but I think that you do yourself a sdisservice when you let a category dominate your perspective."

She summed up the point simply and eloquently, "Assuming that you can only represent people that fit your demographic is unrealistic."

Still, we wanted to push a little further and understand how a Jewish upbringing and identity have influenced her (she did Americorps, after all) and it turns out that Yiddishkeit has had an impact:

"I think that being Jewish really informs your whole value system. Some of the traditional Jewish values like education, access to science and healthcare inform decisions that we make. I think those are shared values."

So now that we had that out of the way, we moved along to St. Louis, and a topic near and dear to our hearts, Washington University's expansion/gentrification/land grab.

Storch pointed out a lot of the positives that the university has had as a community anchor and employer, but noted room for improvement.

"WU has a committment to the communities that they are in. People should be engaged in those area, there could be a symbiotic relationship there in which, for example, social work students participate [in the communities, around the issues they are studying] a lot more."

We also wanted to get her take on the issues that the city of St. Louis is facing.

Storch noted that, while historic preservation tax credits have been immensely successful, the city is not in a great place, "I think STL is in a dangerous place right now.. Some of these communities are like 3rd world counties. Schools are failing, there are high rates of STDs. The fragmented racial history hasn't been overcome and some major companies are pulling out or being sold."

But Storch remained positive and confident that with a continued emphasis on improving leadership and involvement, progress will be made on these issues.

The St. Lou Jew wanted to get to know Rachel Storch a bit better, beyond the politics. So we asked what she watches and reads.

"I watch almost no TV, and I don't have much time. I loved the Sopranos, I like Mad Men. Went to High School with Jon Hamm (lead on Mad Men). I've watched my share of Law and Order, too. But I love movies, I will see almost anything. Just saw Frost Nixon, and I really liked Doubt. I really love old movies, especially Casablanca and those with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.

Books are another story, I was a lit major in college, and really love late 19th century American writers like Emerson but also Yeats.

I really wanted to know what Storch does in her free time and asked, "Do you ever get time off when you are in STL," to which she easily responded, "do you really want to know?" and proceeded to produce a ridiculous schedule.

"The line between personal and professional blurs, but I really enjoy a lot of this stuff, you really have an ability to impact public policy."

As we wound down, we wanted to get a sense of accountability and transparency. If we give someone a call, will anyone care?

"One thing about MO, the house districts are really small, so you can't be really unresponsive. I may not personally respond to every email that comes in, but I certain read them all." how do we get to where you are?
"The best way to get involved is to volunteer on a campaign. It really gets you on the inside."

My only remaining question was, why aren't there more Jewish women like Rachel Storch on Jdate?
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Monday, February 9, 2009

Venezuela: Isolated incidents or an oncoming wave?

Venezuela has increasingly been in the news recently, first for its oil, then for its relationship with Iran, and now around some troubling events targeting the local Jewish community

A recent Jerusalem Post article reported that

"Under the presidency of Hugo Chavez, the Jewish community of Venezuela has suffered repeated attacks, which were, at least tolerated, if not incited or promoted by State officials," the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Marvin Hier wrote in a letter. "This anti-Semitic campaign increased under the pretext of the recent war between Israel and Hamas."

The largest manifestation of this campaign so far was an incident at a synagogue, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

"About 15 people overpowered two security guards at the Tiferet Israel Synagogue, shattering religious objects and spray-painting "Jews, get out" on the walls.

Most worrisome, according to Elias Farache, president of the Venezuelan-Israelite Association, was their theft of a computer database containing many names and addresses of Jews in Venezuela"

Our own recently reported that 11 people, including 7 police officers were arrested on suspicion of involvement. From the article:
The Attorney General's Office said an agent of the federally controlled investigative police force and one of the synagogue's security guards were among the 11 suspects arrested during raids over the weekend. The suspects are scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

President Hugo Chavez has some level of culpability due to his incendiary anti-Zionist rhetoric. Although he has tried to deny any anti-Jewish sentiment, we don't quite understand where he stands.

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Beer Heaven

This weekend in DC I died and went to Beer Heaven...only to find out that Chesterfield has its own entrance to the frothy gates, much more conveniently located to St. Louis!

I like to drink beer. Not lite beer. Not cheap beer. Beer. It is a relationship that has been well-maintained over the years and carefully groomed and I can honestly say I understand my relationships with some of my favorites beers much better than I do with some of my best friends.

So my idea of a perfect Saturday night in DC? The Brickskeller, with over 1000 beers on the menu (and a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records). This would not be a night for Bud Lite. This was a night of Blow My Skull Off (stout, rum, lime juice and cayenne pepper), Skip and Go Naked (beer, gin, grenadine and lime juice), and Midas Touch (made to taste like beer from the Roman Empire).

Add in the fact that some of the best college friends on the planet (you know who you are) were there and you couldn't have pulled me away with a team of Clydesdales on A-Rod's steroids diet!

So imagine my surprise upon finding out soon after about the International Tap House, right here in Chesterfield! Count 'em... 40 beers on tap... 460 more in bottles...39 styles of IPA... Smoke-free.... A beer take-out option... 7 HD TVs...each beer served in the glass its brewers intended... Oh, and Blue Moon is the normalest beer you will find on the menu.

So yeah it's in Chesterfield, a locale I have traveled to just once in 5 years, but for me, it might just be the stairway to beer heaven. Catch you there soon! Read More......

Friday, February 6, 2009

How I Survived Gaza

Just in time for Shabbat comes an article written by an American who made Aliyah a few years back and served in Gaza. His account is interesting and insightful. It can be found here. Read More......

It's Coming....

The biggest and best party St. Louis throws all year!!!

Soulardi Gras, the biggest Mardi Gras celebration outside of New Orleans is only two weeks away!

So why am I telling you about it now? Because I'm two weeks worth of excited, that's why! And you need time to buy your beads and hats and order your Baby Jesus cakes people!

Baby Jesus cakes aside though, St. Louis really does do Mardi Gras up right down in Soulard, so be there on Saturday, February 21st to check it out.

More info to come in the days ahead, but re-schedule your macrame class and make sure you get down to Soulard, its a party you don't want to miss!
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Tu B'Shvat, the day for Jewish hippies

Tu B'Shvat (literally, the 15th of the month of Shvat), is a relatively minor Jewish holiday. So why is it seeing a resurgence with young Jews across the country?

Known as 'Chag Ha Elanot', or Festival/Holiday of the Trees, Tu B'Shvat has become a focal point for activism-minded Jews, particularly in the ecological and environmental space. As the Jewish Arbor day, there are a myriad of interesting ways that people choose to observe and celebrate.

One tradition is a Seder, much in the same format as Pesach (including 4 glasses of wine). To learn more and see a great example of a Tu B'Shvat Seder, check this out

More recently, though, new traditions are emerging focusing on volunteering and community involvement. JGrads, for example, is organizing a day trip to help out with a new garden (details here)

How do you connect with Judaisms traditional agricultural and natural bonds?
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Thursday, February 5, 2009

The 20 Male Poses of Facebook

In the neverending quest to discuss the relevant issues of the day, I pass along this spot-on dissection of the male Facebook profile picture habits!

Guys, ever think that you are being wildly creative and unique with your latest Facebook profile pic? Well think again.

This post from 2birds1blog most definitely has you pegged, whether its the shot of you looking your best at the office hannukah party or the ultra emo shot you took yourself while standing on your head. (I for one am currently violating Rule 13: Do not allow Tupperware to share the spotlight in your picture... No, no there is a real Rule 13 and yes I am breaking it as we speak!)

So will this change the way we use Facebook or make us stop and think about its place in the world? Hell no. But it's guaranteed to make you laugh more than 6 times and give you a chance to make fun of your friends along the way. AKA, perfect Thursday afternoon entertainment. Enjoy! (And special thanks to the DC friend who was busy enough at work to pass this along!)

Disclaimer: This post does contain material that may not be suitable for young children...So if you are a young child, what the heck are you doing reading our blog anyway? Go away.
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Ask A State Representative: Rachel Storch

This evening, we will be interviewing State Rep. Rachel Storch. We figured you might want in on the action.

Most of us don't often have the opportunity to interact with the people who actually make critical decisions for our cities, states, and governments and when we do, we aren't exactly sure what to say.

That's why we here at The St. Lou Jew want to give you the opportunity to be a part of the discussion.

Send us your questions, either by posting a comment, or by emailing us at

We will take the best questions with us and report back in our interview write up.

This is your chance to have a say.
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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Google Latitude

Tired of showing up to the bar on time and wondering just where everyone else is? Google (of course) has the answer!

As a late-to-the party (as in 4 days ago) smart phone owner, today's roll-out of Google Latitudes is the perfect oasis in the gift-giving dessert between Hannukah and Purim!

Google Latitudes is a part of Google Maps for Mobile and it allows you to share your location with friends and family members, and likewise be able to see friends and family members' locations. For example, a courteous and on-time friend could use it to see just how far away his or her companion really is when they say they are "on the way". And for someone who makes a habit out of being awkwardly on time, this is HUGE!

Disclaimer from Google for the privacy-hawks: "To protect privacy, Google specifically requires people to sign up for the service. People can share their precise location, the city they're in, or nothing at all."

So next time I show up to the bar on time, I just have to whip out my handy Omnia and see that Elliott (or Rosh or Y?) is actually in West County and will not be there in 10. It's a whole new level of knowledge to arm the fashionably late challenged!

Oh, and the best thing about all this? While Google is rolling it out for BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones today, iPhone users can only expect to get the update "soon." Take that iPhone!

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Shedding light on the UN, Media and Operation Cast Lead

While the distaste left in my mouth by the civilian deaths in Gaza hasn't totally dissipated, there are a good deal of stories lately which not only refute some of the claims made by Hamas and the UN, they also reinforce the integrity of the IDF.

The first news is that Israel did not, in fact, attack the UN school. The damage that was done (43 killed) took place near, but not in, the facility as was initially claimed by the UN and as reported in countless news sources. That story was initially investigated by a Canadian newspaper, and only now is the UN backtracking on its claim.

The second piece is the the UN is now condemning Hamas for stealing aid supplies, including blankets and food, meant for Palestinian civilians.

"Hamas policemen stormed into an aid warehouse in Gaza City Tuesday evening and confiscated 3,500 blankets and over 400 food parcels ready for distribution to 500 families," said United Nations Relief and Works Agency spokesman Christopher Gunness.

"They were armed, they seized this, they took it by force," Gunness said, terming the incident absolutely unacceptable.

The third is the most sensitive. Last week a journalist from the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Lorenzo Cremonesi, quoted a doctor in Gaza's Shifa hospital, put the civilian death total much lower and the militant casualty number much higher.

All of these stories help reinforce Israel's position vis-a-vis its opponents and seem to present a trend in which initial reports are skewed against Israel (Qana, Jabalya, Al-Dura), only to later be found fraudulant or greatly exaggerated.

None of these stories bring the dead back to life or console the bereaved, but they illustrate the place of propaganda and media in this conflict and why, if we can't even agree on what transpired, we will continue to have incredible difficulties moving forward.
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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Irresponsible Governing

The City of St Louis says you can live downtown on 27k a year. You can't.

I love living downtown, and I have a lot of neighbors who feel the same way. It’s one of the most expensive areas in St. Louis to rent, and frankly is a bit overpriced, but I’m young and don’t have much financial responsibility, so I’m allowing myself to do it for a few years. This is a fairly prevailing attitude among fellow Washingtonians (Washington Ave) that I’ve talked with. But it’s not for everybody – at least it shouldn’t be.

As part of the city’s quest to revitalize the neighborhood they have allowed for certain buildings to offer units at “Affordable Alternative” rates (and in return earn tax credits), which is a nice tag line for what it really is: low-income rent. To qualify for these special rates, a 1 person household must gross no more than $27,660 per year, which translates to $1681 per month after federal, state, and city taxes. Based on 50 work weeks, this is an $11/hour job. The rent for a 1 bedroom affordable alternative, for example at the Paul Brown Building (8th & Olive), is $615 per month. These numbers, though, when the logistics of living downtown are taken into consideration, do not add up to a recipe for financial stability.

Operating on $1712.54 per month while living downtown does not allow for much saving; let’s examine. For the kind of person who would want to live downtown and the lifestyle that accompanies it, here are the routine month expenses estimated conservatively:

$615 - rent
$200 – food/evening entertainment
$200 – car payment
$80 - gasoline
$75 – parking
$75 – car insurance
$50- cable television
$50 – mobile phone
$50 – internet
$40 - utilities
$1430 – total monthly expenses

$1712.54 - 1430 = $382.54 remaining from monthly budget

$382.54 * 12 = $4590.48 remaining for yearly budget

Plus you have the one-time expenses and unplanned expenses, estimated conservatively:

$300 – Paul Brown Building security deposit (refundable upon move-out)
$50 – Paul Brown Building application fee (non-refundable)
$500 – miscellaneous car maintenance
$200 – everyday household goods (toilet paper, cleaning products, etc)
$400 – miscellaneous other expenses (clothing, music, concerts, etc)
$51.25 – annual car registration
$250 – annual car taxes
$1751.25 – total

$4590.48 (yearly budget) -$1751.25 = $2839.23 remaining

So far we have not accounted for costs like travel, charitable donations, furniture (which I have assumed the renter already has), health insurance (assuming an $11/hour job does not provide it), etc. A good financial advisor will tell you that you should have, at all times, savings equaling at least 3 months of living expenses. Given the budget outlined above, 3 months living expenses would total $5170, $2331 more than the remaining budget. And furthermore, I’m basing my numbers off the maximum gross income, which works out to $11/hour. Any less an hourly rate and the numbers get really scary.

What’s more, this drives up the cost of rent on non-low income units. If the goal is to increase the downtown population, making an already expensive area more expensive is not the way to get there. It also hurts future commerce growth. By ensuring a quota of low-income living, the city is limiting the ability of those who have recreational spending budgets to support the local economy – someone who makes 50k is likely to spend more at local restaurants, bars, and shops than someone making 27k or less.

The point is this: it’s flatly irresponsible for the city of St. Louis to tell people who make 27k or less that they can afford to live downtown and the accompanying lifestyle, and it limits economic growth in the area.
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Super Bowl: Moishe House Style

There are some things that can only happen when you are a member of Moishe House.

-You get to feel like you live in a frat house at 23.

-3 guys who don't really drink wine end up with the best wine collection in town.

-You spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook at work (well maybe that one is not so unique).

But nothing is as Moishe Housey as the pre-Super Bowl Costco run. One of my secret desires has always been to win an all-expenses paid shopping spree, one of those ones where you just run through the aisles and throw as many items into your cart as you possible can... well that is what Costco was like this weekend!

(Veggie) Potstickers? Check... Chicken sausage? Check... Rosh taking a ride in the Escalade built for a 5 year old? Double check... 5 lbs of honey bbq wings? Let's make it 10!

And you know those free samples they have all over the place at big box stores? Well Costco's are by far the most effective I have ever seen. Not only did we buy the chicken sausage that was oh so good...not only did I totally see the rationale in buying a super size package of plug-in air fresheners (we ultimately did escape unfreshened)...but a devious old woman successfully hawked a 290 pack of red solo cups!

I felt good about that purchase until a Costco employee saw the cups in our cart and said incredulously, "She actually got you to buy that?!??! I think you just made her week!" Yup, in addition to everything else, we are the guys who buy the thing that NO ONE else will buy because its just too ridiculous and unnecessary. But on the flip side, cups for the next 3 months of beirut games are on us!

So if you are really looking for something fun and unique to do around town, come with us for our next Moishe House shopping run... it's guaranteed to be an experience you will not soon forget!

(O and the refs and the commercials sucked in the Super Bowl... go Cards!)
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Sunday, February 1, 2009

YPD Campaign Kick Off Recap and Reflections

The Young Professional's Division's big event is generally seen as the once-a-year place to be, even for those more 'ish' than Jewish. This year was no let down, as the Tribe came out strong and looking good.

A quick recap of the different pieces of the event; The Karaoke was kind of a joke. I mean, this little screen was hooked into Dell laptop speakers, and it was right by the entrance... did anyone sing? At all?

The open bar, on the other hand, was a hotbed of activity all night. The themed food and drinks seemed to go over well, and, while I didn't have any time to eat it myself, I heard the tempura was fantastic. The dance floor was empty early, but after a Tango demonstration by Tal Stein, the man who holds down Atomic Cowboy's Thursday night Swing dancing sessions, people started moving in, and eventually, booty shaking ensued.

After going 'around the world with YPD' on Saturday night, my own journey to become a part of the post-college Jewish community in St. Louis came full circle.

A year ago, I walked into YPD's kick-off knowing a handful of people, with my only claim to fame being that I had connected YPD with 30 cases of beer, thanks to my former position with a beer company.

Saturday night was a wholly different experience. To me, the evidence that we have started to succeed in building this young Yid community was present in the sheer number of people that I knew at the event, and who now know each other.

As the night wore on, the sake bombs took effect, and the dance party took off. One friend remarked that you could, "totally tell who the Moishe House kids were, we were the ones dancing and having a great time."

While it was certainly true that we held down the dance floor, we weren't the only ones having a good time.

Actually, there were so many new people to try to meet, it was a bit overwhelming.

In fact, I may have to reassess my claim that there aren't any young Jews in St. Louis. There clearly are, the question now is, what do we have to do to ensure that I don't have to wait another whole year to try to meet them.

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