Thursday, April 30, 2009

61 Things to love about Israel

After witnessing a decidedly un-20's-friendly Yom Haatzmaut bash at the JCC, we bring you (the unabashedly stolen from Benji Lovitt) 61 things to love about Israel!

You can find the original article, with pictures and youtube links here

1. I love that even though I may not have spoken with someone since the Ben-Gurion Administration, he will call me to check that I have somewhere to go for Passover Seder.
2. I love how you can bring your dog into any café to walk around and no one bats an eyelash.
3. I love that the social norm that allows us to double-dip in peace without neurotic fear of contracting the West Nile virus. Take your Purel bottle and stick it somewhere.
4. I love that you could take a homeless person with no marketable skills, put them behind the counter of Aroma, and they'd immediately be qualified to make a little foam heart in your cafe hafuch [cappuccino].
5. Mirpeseot. They're cool.
6. I love that I visited Dracula's castle in Transylvania, ran into an Israeli, and within 2 minutes realized we know someone in common. That could only be cooler if she were in fact a vampire and her name was Count Shawarmula.
7. I love tsofim, the Israeli scouts. I swear, these little MacGyvers can take wheat, some duct tape, and a falafel ball and make a nuclear reactor.
8. I love the magical phrase "yiyeh b'seder," the Economica [bleach] of the Hebrew language. What can't it handle? Flat tire? Failed test? Take two "yiyeh b'seder's and call me in the morning.
9. I love the peacefulness of Shabbat in Jerusalem. So quiet and relaxing. I can sit on my tuchus all day and not feel guilty.
10. I love how the smallest, least professional-looking chumusiot [hummus restaurants] serve the best tasting stuff. Within 7.2 seconds of your placing an order, they've scooped, spread, sprinkled and created what I like to call "beautiful goodness."

PHOTO: Does it get better than this? Don't worry, I already know the answer.
11. I love the impossible-to-predict playlist of Galgalatz. "Ok, Galgalatz, I dare you to play 'Yerushalayim shel Zahav' followed by 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'...............what do you mean you just played it?
12. I love how when it rains, people celebrate like we just won the gold medal in basketball.
13. I love that when we win a gold medal, we celebrate like a people who take pride in every individual award won by our tiny country.
14. I love the effectiveness of El Al security. All together now: if El Al doesn't do it, NO ONE SHOULD DO IT. Sorry, Delta, I'm not taking my pants off.
15. I love that while in America, Esti Ginzburg would be an 80-year-old grandmother in South Florida, here she's a hottie patottie Sports Illustrated model who also lights the Chanukkah candles.
16. I love the chassid who protested the sale of chametz by wearing only a strategically placed sock. Apparently the Red Hot Chili Peppers are huge in Mea Shearim. (And, no, you're not getting a picture.)
17. I love the number of people who hit the social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to defend Israel when it's being blasted in the international media.
18. I love that the popular kids game Simon Says is not in fact called Shimon Omer as Americans think but rather Herzl Amar (Herzl Said).
19. I love Friday in Tel Aviv and the incredible energy on the streets, in coffee shops, and oh the beach.
20. I love hanging out at Chof Bograshov in Tel Aviv and then seeing the same beach hours later in "You Don't Mess with the Zohan."
21. I love not so much that my friends visit from the States and get so excited to be in Israel that practically lose control of their bowels, but that I can secretly smile and and think to myself, "Yeah, I live here."
22. I love Rosh Hashana dinner with my friends and their family when they feed me enough to nourish a small army.
23. I love when this unathletic North American Jew meets massive wood-chopping Israeli gevers [man's man]. This dude's arms were so big, they required arnona payments.

24. I love that drinking tea with only nana in it. Teabag? Who needs it?
25. I love that Israeli tour guides know everything about every square inch of this country. If Moshe Rabeinu went #2 on this rock, you can be sure that your guide learned it.
26. I love the uniqueness of the Israeli job search. Even if you don't get the position you've applied for, there is roughly a 57% chance that you’ll be offered a date with the CEO's daughter.
27. I love that there's free wireless internet everywhere, especially in Ben-Gurion Airport. Eat your heart out, Starbucks.
28. I love that we put Shimon Peres on a wedding dress.

PHOTO: I don't even have a joke here.
29. I love that my friend overheard his bus driver telling Talmudic stories with morals and relating them to current events. Only in Israel.
30. I love how lifeguards on the beach turn into Jewish/Polish mothers when they freak out and yell in Hebrew "please please please, I urge you to come closer to the beach!"
31. I love that my cab driver offered me a peach and that I accepted it. That will happen in America when falafel balls fly.
32. I love the Israelis who take such pride in their country that they ask tourists, "You like Israel? Why you not live here???" When you've got Zionism, who needs linking verbs?
33. I love that this country is roughly the size of a parking spot yet is one of the most innovative producers of technology on the planet. Boycott us if you'd like, world. Just please return your cell phones, thanks. (And I'd like an iPhone while you’re at it.)
34. I love that the cable companies are named for English words, causing the inevitable awkward statement, "I'm waiting at home for the HOT guy to come."
35. I love sachlab in the winter.
36. I love that the vendors at the shuk sell their product as if their lives depend on it and like they just downed four cups of coffee. "AGVANIOOOOOOOOT! SHTAY SHEKEL!!!!!!!!" Do they know they're selling tomatoes? You bet they do.
37. I love that a two year old can wet the bed but still sing "Avadim hayinu" for Pessach. Goooooo, Jewish education!

38. I love the brave 18 year olds who serve to defend this country. Do I even need to tell you what I was doing at that age? Let’s just say it rhymes with "Meroxing body parts." Apologies to the administrative staff at Texas Hillel.
39. I love how the fruit shakes here contain the most obscure fruits in the history of the world. "Watch this....hey, can I get a shake with Abraham's desert star citrus fruit, but the one without the seeds that only grows in the Western Negev? (pause) YOU HAVE IT????
40. I love how the street names aren't Main, Elm, and MLK, but Hillel, Shamai, and Herzl. (Do you think Theodore had any idea that 100 years after his death, Tel Avivim would be selling furniture on his street? Hey, Ben-Yehudah, thanks for reviving our language. To show our gratitude, we've decided to give you a pedestrian mall where teenagers frolic and buy their name on a grain of rice.)
41. I love how Hebrew makes so much sense. A store with everything you need? Kol-bo. Delicious treat with cream in it? Crem-bo. We need more words like this. Bat Yam? The ars-bo! (Just kidding, Bat Yam, you know I love you.)
42. I love how Israelis will drink coffee even when it's 80,000 degrees outside. "We ahr five meen-utes from deh sun? B'sedeeeer! Hafuch gadol!"
43. I love words like "teetchadesh" that neither exist nor make sense in the English language. "Wow, cool shirt! Enjoy using your new thing!" Nice try.
44. I love the distant cousin of the shuk vendor, the guy outside the Arlozorov train station selling "baigeles." Apparently he gets paid to say baigele 568 times per minute without taking a breath. "BAIGELE BAIGELE BAIGELE!!!"
45. I love laughing when an Israeli turns to his friend and asks the question "mah ata dafuk?" (are you crazy?) The answer to that question is absolutely, positively, always yes. Whatever the guy just did, it was definitely dafuk.
46. I love that Agadir Burger Bar not only allows you to order a burger with just about anything on it but also publishes a calendar showcasing their waitresses.

PHOTO: All right, so maybe it's a little weird...
47. I love that I just saw someone tell their pet "shev" [sit] which he of course did. He's a dog and he knows Hebrew. Between this and the two-year old singing Passover songs, does it get any better?
48. I love that you can pay for everything in tashlumim, monthly installments. One of these days, I'm going to try this with an Egged bus driver just to watch his head spin.
49. I love that I went to a Guns N' Roses tribute concert in Jerusalem and not only did the singer speak to the crowd in Hebrew, when he sang he actually sounded just like Axl Rose. "Oh oh oh oooooooh, sweet child of miiiine! Bruchim habaim [welcome]!"
50. I love that Israel got its first Apple store this past year. Yeah, baby.
51. I love how people have no qualms about giving you a ride to the airport even if it's three in the morning and their wife is in labor.
52. I love the support that experienced olim (immigrants) give to prospective olim, answering questions and emails even if they've never met before.
53. I love flying into Israel and going through the "Israeli passport" line. (On a related note, I also derive some guilty pleasure watching the tourists lining up in the very lengthy "Foreign Passport" line as I quickly waltz on through. Does that make me a bad person?)
54. I love how on Rosh Hashana, the car radio display wished me a "shana tovah." I don't care what planet you're from, that's awesome.
55. I love the beautiful hills of Haifa which nevertheless caused me extreme confusion upon entering an elevator from ground level. "What do you mean we're on the 9th floor?"
56. I love watching the Super Bowl until 5 AM with the guys. When you work that hard for it, you enjoy it that much more.
57. I love the superhuman Israeli hearing which allows them to pick up the "beep beep beep" of the news even while someone is using a jackhammer three feet away.
58. I love how Google redirects you to the Israeli version of the site. The first time it happened, I looked behind me and thought, "WHOA!!! How do they know???"
59. I love the powerful emotion I feel during the Yom Hazikaron [Remembrance Day] siren which you can only experience in Israel. Was anyone else caught off guard the first time they heard the siren? Seriously, I thought aliens were coming to eat my brain.
60. I love Yom Ha'atzmaut which is apparently Hebrew for "go to the park and eat a cow."
61. I love that I've had this once-in-a-lifetime experience and that it's not over yet.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wrapping Up

Before I depart St. Louis for the superior seafood and baseball of Boston, a best of list for those of you looking to explore the city, somewhat off the beaten path!


Best Italian (Quantity over Quality style): Favazza's

Best Sushi: Blue Ocean Sushi

Best Pizza: Blackthorn Pizza

Best 2AM Wings (and only at 2AM!): Pointers

Best Asian: Mai Lee

Best Burger: (For the Price): Bar Louie on Tuesdays


Best Neighborhood Bar: Thurman Grill

Best Atmosphere: The Wine Press

Best Beer Selection: 33

Best Public House: Newstead Public House

Best Piano Bar: The Big Bang

Best Trivia: Mike Duffy's on Wednesdays

And if you haven't spent a summer in St. Louis yet, here are some things not to miss:

Jazz at the Botanical Gardens - Wednesdays
Theater at the Muny - Sit in the free seats in the back
Swimming after work - Doesn't matter where, better if you play water polo
Patio seating - Everytime you eat or drink, make sure you do it right
Music at the History Museum - Tuesdays
Cardinals Games - I recommend the all-inclusive Homer's Landing for quantity
Moishe House St. Louis - Swing by for Shabbat!

And please let me reiterate, if there are two places you need to go in St. Louis, it's the Wine Press, for the incredible beer and wine selection and friendly service, and Thurman Grill for the most Cheers-like atmosphere you will find!

And don't worry, you'll be sure to hear from your faithful correspondent out in the field in Boston! Go Sox!
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Editorial From The Day Israel Was Born

In marking the 61st anniversary of the modern state of Israel, Israel's Left-leaning newspaper, Haaretz, republished this editorial from the day Israel was born.

In many ways, a great deal has changed. In many ways, very little has changed. Read More......

Are Hairy Jews in Style?

There has always been a tension between assimilating into the 'white-ness' of American mainstream culture, and embracing an ethnocentric viewpoint.

One of the more ethnic features of Jewish men tends to be body hair. I came a across a pretty funny article examining this phenomenon. Check it out here.

With all of the Jewy Jude Apatow movies out there, maybe the hair is back. Read More......

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Conflict 101: Security Arrangements

In this post we discuss the security arrangements necessary for a two-state solution

Many of the security issues had been solved, more or less, through the Camp David Accords. In this area, the Palestinians demonstrated greater flexibility than in others. In practice, however, four factors suggest the gaps between the two sides are greater than they were in 2000:

1. Even if the Palestinians are able to address each of Israel’s demands, only part of the security issue will be addressed. The creation of a Palestinian State creates new security threats as Arab enemies could be allowed much easier access to Israel.
2. The solution defined in 2000 was based on the notion of a demilitarized Palestinian state. This is no longer feasible.
3. In 2000 Israel made concessions on two critical demands: exclusive Palestinian control over both Palestinian airspace and the electromagnetic spectrum (electronic frequencies). In future negotiations the Palestinians are expected to seize these concessions, which Israel will argue it no longer can afford to make.
4. The final security arrangements must address a direct threat from the Palestinians and the threat created if Israel finds itself in a military confrontation with another country.

Each of these issues is complicated by additional circumstances. The implications of the border issue mean that Israel would be opening up an additional front to its non-Palestinian enemies, giving them direct access to highly sensitive areas such as Jerusalem. While Israel has tried previously to negotiate an agreement whereby it controlled the border between the Palestinians and its neighbors, it is quite clear that no such agreement could be made today. Israel has learned from the mistake it made with the Philadelphia corridor in which it left the Gaza-Egypt border without a permanent agreement to devastating effect. Even if the Palestinians and the Jordanians agreed to an Israel-patrolled 70 kilometer border between the two, an effective security zone, the IDF says, would have to be at least 8-10 kilometers wide and contain permanent Israeli military outposts and infrastructure. There is no chance this will be agreed to. Accordingly, Israel would have no reason to maintain a presence at any border crossing points either. This would be like placing a locked door in the middle of a field. Essentially, there would be no Israeli presence on Palestine’s eastern border, exacerbating arms smuggling and giving its enemies an unimpeded path to Israel’s east.

The border impacts do not stop with Jordan. If Israel returned to the 1967 borders, an unacceptably dangerous situation would arise. Only one major road (Highway 1) would connect the capital with the rest of the country, drastically restricting movement to and from the capitol and creating a security problem along the lines of what the US is experiencing in Iraq with road-side bombing. Any Palestinian with an effective mortar or enough guns could hold the city hostage.

An additional issue is the security barrier. The Camp David negotiations were conducted in the spirit of the Oslo atmosphere, meaning the peace agreement would be conducive for greater cooperation and open borders that would generate economic and social gains. The Israeli approach since then has demonstrated the opposite approach: openness means risks, not rewards.

As far as the border with the West Bank is concerned, any treaty will have to adequately address a worst-case scenario for the Israelis, namely a collapse of a neutral Jordanian government. This concern has always been felt, and in the past Israel has pushed for a 10-20 kilometer wide security zone along the Jordan Valley. Response was expectedly negative. Israel was forced to compromise. First, it would be allowed to maintain several permanent facilities with armored battalions in the valley. And second, it would get three corridors through the valley to transfer people and supplies without Palestinian consent during emergency situations. Today it is likely that Israel would not be allowed these two compromises. The Palestinians are likely to argue that Israel no longer is threatened by Iraq and reject Israel’s demand that they not build houses or infrastructure near each of the corridors.

While the Palestinians have shown flexibility on the demilitarization point and agreed to a military force without fighter planes, helicopters, tanks, artillery, and other heavy weaponry, the weapons that pose the most immediate threat cannot be monitored. These demilitarization-proof weapons (rockets, missiles, and explosives) are easy to smuggle, hide, transport, and even make. There is no means by which this kind of weaponry could be kept out of reach of the Palestinians. The only practical way to reduce this threat is to control more territory, but the potential of this is zero in any agreement. The Israelis will, without a doubt, incur a sizable security threat if it reaches a permanent agreement with the Palestinians.

Airspace and the electromagnetic spectrum pose problems more significant now than in 2000. At Camp David, Israel softened its demands regarding airspace rights of a Palestinian state. Today Israel will not budge, at least not on the airspace above the West Bank. The military will argue, accurately, that without such control the air force will be unable to counter an aerial attack from the east. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are likely to oppose such a demand. Not only do they have the precedent established at Camp David, but air space is a natural component of a state.

The electromagnetic spectrum, essentially the virtual dominion, is likely to prove as problematic as the air space issue. Control of frequencies is a critical issue in large part because of the geographic challenges of the region: the short distances and altitude advantage of the Palestinians create real security problems for the Israelis. Should the Palestinians decide to mount a transmitter on a hill in Ramallah and broadcast on uncoordinated frequencies, civilian flights would not be able to communicate with Ben Gurion Airport. Moreover, channels in Israel are organized into civilian and military categories, an arrangement crucial for effective use for either purpose. Not only that, but much of Israel’s critical weaponry uses radio transmissions. The need to control the spectrum is a non-negotiable issue for the Israelis, though like the air space Palestinians are likely to oppose any Israeli control.

Israel has numerous intelligence bases in the West Bank that monitor activities there and in other countries and serve as an early warning system to compensate for limitations imposed by Israel’s geography. The Palestinians will argue that in a state of peace there will be no need for these bases in their territory, perhaps making an exception for stations that monitor other countries. Any compromise here would need a neutral third part to monitor the monitoring stations to see that Israel uses them for their intended purpose. The Israelis will strongly oppose this, leaving the questions of how many stations, what will their purpose(s) be, who will man them, how will they be accessed, who will control their access routes, and how long will Israel be allowed to have them unanswered.

These major issues acknowledged there are several other areas where Palestinian sovereignty will be legitimately challenged by the Israelis (though US-Japan after World War II may establish a precedent for this). First, will the Palestinian State be allowed to form military alliances or diplomatic relations? Israel will want a tight grip on a short leash on this. Second, will the Palestinians be allowed to quarter foreign troops, military trainers, or advisors in its territory? Israel will say no. Will Palestine be allowed to form a military? Israel will say a defensive security force only, and all involved would need to be completely mindful of any portrayal of any Palestinian force as a police force for Israel, which would undermine a peaceful solution by appearing to be a form of occupation. Should the Palestinians be forced to ban all armed militias, rout terrorists, confiscate illegal weapons, and install a comprehensive program to license and register all weapons in its state? Israel will demand yes, but the Palestinians may not be organized well enough to ensure these things happen effectively.

Should every security issue outlined above be addressed, Israel will still want to see immutable evidence that the Palestinians can and will dismantle terrorists and their infrastructure before it gives up any land. However, the Palestinians have refused to take these actions until Israel hands control of additional land over to them. The most common resolution to this has been the suggestion of an international force. However, experience does not make this a realistic option for Israel, having seen the failure of international forces to stop weapons smuggling and war several times in the past.
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Friday, April 24, 2009

Pre-Shabbat Roundup: WILD, Save HUC, and a weekend in New York

Just in time for Shabbat, it's the round up. What is going on, you might ask? Look no further.

WILD, the biannual music and merriment festival on Washington University's Brooking Quadrangle is upon us again, with music from The Black Keys, the Cool Kids, and B.O.B. starting at 6PM

If you have a Wash U ID laying around, show up and get down!

An quick update on Save HUC, the site has surpassed 2,200 views, with new letters posted. It seems as though a member of the board even noticed, you can find his comments on the main page.

This tale of online activism is building momentum, we'll be interested to see where it goes.

In regards to the New York campus of HUC, Zuz and I will be there this weekend for another round of the Skills Summit, presented by the Professional Leadership Project. It should be a good time, and definitely will give me the chance to catch up with some friends and family.

There is a lot happening, so be sure to let us know if you have a story we should cover. Hit us up at
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Good fences build good neighbors

There was a small story in today's J'lem Post about a demonstration against Israel's security fence. A few years ago I was asked by a family friend if I supported the fence, and this is what I wrote her.

"You wondered what I thought of the fence that Israel started, and has since pretty much stopped, building. I've heard every argument against it - it separates families, is a land grab, doesn't promote peace, isn't a long-term fix, etc. But I’ve also witnessed the Islamic fundamentalists who rule the Palestinian territories separate families, try to take the land of Israel away from Israel, and destabilize peace efforts. I've also seen the wall in person, and how it affects the communities, and I support it.

There is a fundamental flaw in the way the whole conflict is reported in America and Europe. It's framed as a land and/or border dispute between two sides who share a common goal of establishing a mutually agreed upon line of demarcation, but that's not an accurate picture. In fact, it's far from that.

Since 1948, the Arab countries in the region have slowly grown accustomed to Israel being a country. Being accustomed, though, is not the same as recognizing Israel's legitimacy - it's legal and fundamental right to exist. Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and even the countries Israel has peace treaties with (Egypt and Jordan) have said throughout the last 60 years that they will never acknowledge a country where Jews live if it lies between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, and they’ve acted on those words countless times.

The idea that the Muslim nation at-large has grown accustomed is really the fuel that fires the leadership of Syria, Iran, Hamas, Fatah, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, and the Muslim Brotherhood. These groups hate that there has been a general feeling of apathy towards Israel among their fellow Muslims, but they're operating within that apathy to change it, and it's been working. I’ve read about Fatah officials taking peace meetings with Israeli leaders supporting Israel’s right to exist, and then I’ve seen television footage taken the same day of the same Fatah officials making stump speeches in the West Bank and Gaza celebrating that the end for Israel is near.

For these Israeli enemies, the end of Israel is not a matter of "if," but "when." How people expect Israel to make lasting peace with nations and groups who don't want lasting peace is beyond me. The only time I've seen Israel's enemies give tangible and lasting concessions to Israel is when Israel beats them on the battle field. Those are the only times. For these reasons, my policy perspectives have gone into bunker mode, literally. There seems to be two options: negotiate, or out survive them. Negotiation with groups who only want to "end" you seems pointless to me, so that leaves only one option, and thank God Jews have been such great survivors (they've had to be because they rarely stand up for themselves).

If that's not enough, I'll throw in a few numbers. Between August 2001 and August 2002, 58 people were killed or wounded in the Israeli towns of Afula and Hadera. Since the fence went up between them and the West Bank, only 3 people have been killed. There was a drop from 17 terror attacks launched from northern West Bank in Israel from April to December 2002 to only five attacks from the area in all of 2003. When I see those kinds of numbers, I can’t find a reason not to support it seeing as the other side takes advantage of areas where no fence exists. If the human rights thing is an issue, having the right to defend yourself is just as important a right as any, and if a wall works, it’s better than all-out war."
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Save HUC jumps into Social Media

The St. Lou Jew has been closely monitoring the internet buzz about Hebrew Union College via Google News and Google Blog Search. The campaign has now moved into Social Media territory with a Facebook group and a Twitter account.

Join the Facebook group here and be sure to follow @savehuc on Twitter. While you are there, don't forget to follow us (@thestloujew) too! Read More......

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - Internet Activism and Efficacy. has already attracted nearly 1000 visitors. How does internet activism move beyond simple page views? contains several call to actions, including links to email HUC President Rabbi David Ellenson and the chair of the Board of Governors, Barbara Friedman, as well as links to support HUC financially.

My question is, how does this get bigger? How does turn into

The internet provides a fantastic way to rally people across geographies for a common purpose, but without further actions -- emails, letters, phone calls, petitions, letters to editors -- can a movement really take off?

The St. Lou Jew would love for you to educate us. What models have you experienced that worked?
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hebrew Union College, Midwestern Judaism, and Money

Hebrew Union College, the oldest Jewish educational institution in America, may close its original campus, in Cincinnati, Ohio due to a ballooning deficit.

According to a report in the Cincinnati Enquirer, "HUC has raised the possibility of closing two of its three U.S. campuses. The others are in New York and Los Angeles."

Now, we know that the chances of the New York campus being shuttered or scaled back is fairly low. There are way too many Jews in the city for them to consider that.

Never mind that the campus is the most expensive to maintain, the most expensive for students to attend, and that the majority of congregational positions won't be located in or around NYC, it would be unthinkable that a Jewish organization would uproot itself from the self-proclaimed center of American Judaism. Then again, maybe, because the community is so over served as it is, HUC isn't really that important in New York.

Los Angeles, home to the second largest concentration of Yids in America is also an expensive campus both operationally and for students, but is home to the Rhea Hirsch School of Education and the School of Jewish Communal Service.

Cincinnati isn't a top tier city, and its Jewish population is a bit below 30,000, but it is a central location within the Midwest and ordains more rabbis then either of the other campuses. The Cincinnati campus is also home to the Klau Library, the largest library of Jewish works outside Israel, which is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation and expansion, as well as the American Jewish Archives.

It is relatively easy for someone in New York or Los Angeles to look at Cincinnati and say (with disdain), "who wants to be in a fly-over state?" But for the hundreds of thousands of Jews who live across the Midwest and South, the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College is an important beacon, a symbol that indeed Jewish life and thought thrives, even outside of the coasts.

Throughout the years, my life has been influenced by faculty and students of HUC in Cincinnati. From all of the congregational rabbis, to the youth group advisors, to camp directors and counselors, the vast majority of them had been directly influenced by Hebrew Union College.

I urge you to check out, and to write to HUC President David Ellenson.

Ideally, we could help HUC to raise the funds necessary to overcome these tight times.

I worry that in trying to get out of this immediate crisis, HUC will create for itself a much larger one down the line. One shuttered, these losses cannot be regained.

Please HUC, in your attempts to allay financial crisis, don't bankrupt your core purpose!
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Monday, April 20, 2009

MEMRI: Bridging The Information Gap

Regardless of one's political views, it should be glaringly obvious that fueling a large part of the cultural clash between the 'Western' and 'Arab' world is a language barrier.

This barrier is one of the chief drivers of misinformation, misunderstanding, and distrust.

Tired of hearing one thing reported in the English media, while something entirely different was said or reported in Arabic, The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) was founded to translate the primary sources and make that information accessible.

MEMRI tries to spotlight reformist Arab voices and also focuses on issues of antisemitism in the Arab world.

In a recent update, MEMRI focused on a liberal cleric from Bahrain, whose piece was published in a Kuwaiti paper:

In an article titled "When the Terrorist is British Born," Al-Mousawi wrote: "…It is sad that in Western countries there are thousands of Muslims who receive citizenship for themselves and their families after having been expelled from their respective homelands. [The West] gives them asylum, work, shelter, and health insurance - [yet] they are the first to turn their backs on their second homeland. Worse, some of them think nothing of committing suicide in the squares, in the very countries that have granted them and their families protection… It is odd that some sheikhs curse and revile the West from the pulpits of the Western [mosques,] and wish for the destruction of the [Western] countries, as the police of those countries guard them…

In another cleric's view, "the problem of Europe and the U.S. is neither the Arabs nor the Muslims. It is the Islamists, both parties and groups, who have taken over the political, religious, social, and cultural life inside and outside Islamic and Arab countries."

Add MEMRI to your daily digest and help brige the information gap.
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Friday, April 17, 2009

How To Survive The Recession: Make Friends

Just got the email update and they are running a series about Jewish young adults and the economy. Check out this story and the props that Moishe House gets!

Also, they finally got around to writing up the leadership and service trip to New Orleans Read More......

Seth Rogen is pretty Jewy

Our friends over at Shemspeed found this had this clip up of a young Seth Rogan doing comedy. Not only is it pretty funny, it also includes quite a bit of Jew-ish-ness to it.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Warrior Jews, not Worrier Jews

The strong Sabra vs. weak Ghetto Jew model has been expounded on ad nauseum, most recently with Michael Oren's conclusion that American's look for solutions, Israelis look to how to better manage conflicts. The latest round of Israel bashing was fueled by the conflict in Gaza, and the fallout is still smoldering.

My question is more about how this supposed growing tension between being ideologically committed to both Israel and liberal ideology, which places immense value on the individual human life, will play out.

To a large extent, it is fraudulent idea that the two must be diametrically opposed. Further, those that would have us think that champions of human rights cannot support Israel is a point of propaganda perpetuated by those opposed to Israel.

If this standard was to be held across the board, neither could these human rights activists support the Palestinian Authority, and certainly not Hamas.

Still, there are large number of Jews who cannot justify what they see as Israeli massacres and aggression. To those Jews, I would advise you to hear stories, from the soldiers' own mouths, about their experiences in Gaza.

Check out
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Can U.S. Jewish organizations survive the economic crisis?

Haaretz just posted a really interesting story about Jewish organizations in the US and the global economic mess.

The main take-away is that most of the organizations will probably survive one round of cost-cutting, because it will be trimming the fat, and that those who use it as am opportunity to consolidate wisely (like, say, getting rid of overly expensive facilities and under-performing personnel) as opposed to using this as an excuse to drive more politically motivated cuts.

Read the article here Read More......

The Conflict 101: The Border Issue

In part 2 we look at the issue of establishing borders

Israel’s borders have not been defined. The peace agreement in 1979 with the Egyptians established its first recognized border with a neighbor, a line consistent with the line agreed to by the Ottomans and Britain in 1906. Large sections of the Israel-Jordan border were redrawn following the peace treaty between the two countries but Jordan refused to demarcate boundaries in the Palestinian areas of the Jordan Valley. Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 did not lead to a recognized border either. When Israel withdrew to an internationally endorsed boundary, the UN insisted on calling it the “Blue Line,” saying that a line of withdrawal could only become a border if both sides recognized it as such. Lebanon never agreed to negotiate the issue.

The future borders of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement present their own unique issues, the timeline of reaching a comprehensive boarder process being the most significant. Both parties may decide that certain areas should be made “security zones” whose permanent status will be decided after a certain period; this is the approach in the 2003 Road-map initiative offered by the Quartet. However, both parties have voiced their desire to only sign a deal that addresses everything in the Camp David mindset of “nothing is agreed unless everything is agreed.” Seeing as the possibility of this issue being wrapped up with the rest of the issues is next to nil, border decisions may have be made in phases contingent upon other items in the final agreement, a scenario not easily accepted by either side.

For Israel, an objective would be to ensure that the country’s final lines are defensible against any kind of attack. Given that leaders of the Palestinian side openly call for the destruction of Israel, the defensible aspect of the border issue is all that more important. Even the UN Security Council accepts this concept in Resolution 242, which says that states have the right “to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats of acts of force.” However, those who apply 242 to this conflict often overlook the region’s geography, which exhibits a lack of geographic features conducive for that purpose. For example, from the hills of Ramallah or plateaus on the Golan Heights, Israel is 100% indefensible from rocket fire. Any solution that gives these lands to a Palestinian authority must be conditional on a security arrangement that prevents weapons from entering these areas. That a complete lack of regard on this issue is found in the various proposed solutions demonstrates that this issue is unrecognized outside the Israeli security community. Defensible borders are an issue for both sides, and thus far no proposal has adequately addressed either’s concerns.

Another facet of the border issue is now it is negotiated. Many have proposed a comprehensive agreement based on the concept of trading land for peace. The Palestinians would receive land taken in the 1967 War as part of a deal where they granted Israel’s right to exist and agreed to peaceful coexistence. In 1997, 56% of Israelis supported this concept. Today only 28% support it. The new Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has disregarded this concept as well. The new Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, favors a nationalistic solution in which Arab Israeli towns would be traded for Israeli West Bank settlements. This approach has been labeled racist and has generated outrage for Israel’s Arab community. Their reaction has not so much out of a feeling of insult but rather that they prefer to remain in Israel. Any street poll of Arab Israelis will tell you that they prefer to remain Israeli citizens to the option of living under a Palestinian or Arab government. Significant push back is to be expected if this idea progresses.
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Get Political: An Israel Lobby of Our Own

This morning, I found an email from one of our bloggers, who happens to be quite outspoken on Israel. In the email he informed me and others in St. Louis that he would be in DC over the weekend to lobby on the Hill. He attached a letter he'd written asking a particular subcommittee to support continued funding for Israel's Arrow 3 counter-missile. I was interested just to see what a letter to an elected official looked like, so I opened it. Read on to see what it said.

He sent letters for each of the committee members, which he plans on handing them on Monday. And the letter read as follows:

The Honorable Ben Chandler
1504 Longworth Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515

20 April, 2009

Dear Congressman Chandler,

On Thursday, April 16th, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, the Chair of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, a Subcommittee of which you are a member, met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. They discussed the Arrow 3 missile and, I’m sure, the necessity of a game changing missile defense system for Israel. I am writing to ask for your support in ensuring the Israelis are able to procure the technology and equipment they require.

Israel has lived for 61 years in a state far worse than what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security calls a “Severe” or “Red” threat. In the last four years alone, Israel has been hit with over 6,500 rockets. Bus stops are built from concrete six to eight inches thick so they can double as bomb shelters. One-in-three children in the city of Sderot exhibit signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but the doctors do not know how to treat them because the trauma is not “post”. And Iran, whose goal of Israel’s destruction is unambiguous, is running rapidly towards this prize through their nuclear weapons development and support of Hezbollah and Hamas.

Israel serves as a bastion of democracy and stability enviable to the masses of a troubled region. Harvard performed a study in 2008 that found that 77% of Arab Israeli citizens, who make up one-forth of Israel’s population, would rather live in Israel than in any other country in the world. This is undoubtedly because Israel provides them more stability and security than any other country while allowing them to lead a truly “Arab” life.

It is vital that Israel be given the support needed to build a missile defense system to protect itself so it can continue to shine a light of hope in an otherwise dark neighborhood. You can ensure this happens. Please support the continued funding of the Arrow 3 missile. Thank you.

I'll admit it. . . I signed the letters and sent them back. Sure, the language of the letter is perhaps different from how I might have chosen to phrase things, but the fact remains that if the US is going to give Israel money for defense, I'd rather see it spent on defensive systems. Not only that, I wanted to feel involved.

For all of the vitriol on internet forums, blogs, etc., very few people take time to justify their position and connect with their elected officials about it.

So, while we have this resource in place who can act on our behalf, why not take advantage of it. Let's start our own Israel lobby.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Loyal Earth Music and Arts Festival

This weekend has some big things happening in St. Louis, including Medeski, Martin, and Wood.

I thought about exploring how Jews became 'White', why disproportionate numbers of Jews win Nobel prizes, or why The Republic of Tea is my new favorite company, but then the ADD hit, and I found out about the Loyal Earth Festival.

The festival is taking place at the Old Rock House, in Downtown St. Louis this Thursday, April 16th through Monday, April 20th.

See below for the line up:

J Wail, MO Theory, The Station, J Public, BoomBox

The Northwoods, Alabaster Brown, Oakhurst, The Travelin’ McCourys, Cornmeal, Michael Jonas Band, Jason Webley, The Dewayn Brothers

56 Hope Road, The Hipnecks, Speakeasy, The Histronic, Break Science feat. Adam Deitch, Slippy LaRue, Organic Proof w/ Eric Gould, Particle w/ Michael Kang, Eliot Lipp

Naked Groove, Fresh Heir, Fareed Haque & Flat Earth Ensemble, Resident Anti-Hero, Jake’s Leg, FolknBluesGrass, Medeski Martin & Wood, J Public, Future Rock

J Wail, Sovereign Sect, Madahoochi, Resident Anti-Hero, Thumpasaurus, The Passage Project, MO2, Pretty Lights, EOTO.

For more info, check out

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Conflict 101: Introduction

You've heard of the two-state solution, but do you really know what it is and why it has been so difficult to attain?

When it comes to American policy regarding the Middle East, we’re seeing something rather new: a US administration taking interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at the beginning of its term. While the timing is novel, the viewpoint is not. We’re hearing the same rhetoric: two-state solution with a divided Jerusalem and a symbolic Palestinian refugee return to Israeli lands. This scenario has more or less been the official US position since the peace process was initiated in 1993.

Absent has been a discussion on whether this is the right solution. We’ve had this solution for a long, long time, and it’s become the de facto response to the question of what a peaceful settlement would look like. We’ve grown so accustomed to this language and this concept that no one dare ask the question, “is it still the right solution?”

I’m not going to attempt to answer the question at this point. Rather, I am going to post a series of briefs on the core issues the collectively make up the conflict and offer some sobering assessments of each because the answer to this question is not a simple one, and background is needed before making any hasty conclusions. Consider this post to be the introduction. So, without further ado, I give you:


Since 1937 there has been only one approach to the Israel-Arab conflict that has stood the test of time: the two-state solution, owing its popularity perhaps to the fact that when the United Nations (UN) created the states of Israel and Palestine in 1947 it divided the available land into two parts. However, over the following 61 years achievement of the solution has been incredibly elusive. Events have led to a zero-sum reality where the maximum that either side can offer is less than the minimum the other can accept. The nature of events has led to deeper entrenchment of this paradox.

An important part of history that speaks to the commitment of both sides to living this two-state solution, the events of 1922, is often forgotten when the story of the conflict is told. For the 400 years leading up to the first World War, the land that we now call the Middle East was ruled by the Turks – there was no Saudi Arabia, no Iraq, no Iran, no Syria, no Jordan, no Lebanon, no Israel, and no Palestinian territories. These states, and the region as we now know it, were created by the European powers following the end of World War I. The Palestine Mandate was created out of a chunk of land that Britain took control of after the fall of the Empire and then promised to the Jews for their homeland. However, in 1922 Winston Churchill gave 80% of the Mandate to the Arabs. This land became the home of Trans-Jordan, which in 1946 became the independent Jordan, whose citizens are today 80% Palestinian. In 1947 the UN divided the remaining 20% in half, giving 10% of the original Mandate to the Jews and 10% to the Arabs.

60% of the new Israel was arid desert. The Jews went to work and created a nation that is now on the verge of joining the legitimate “big boys” club: the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), all the while giving citizenship to Arabs living within it, affording them a level of freedom not available in any Arab country. Meanwhile, the Arabs rejected the UN partition in 1947 and have sense used the billions of dollars given to them (the majority coming from the UN, the US, and Israel) to fund war against Israel, instead of building infrastructure, an economy, and a life for its people. With 90% of the British Mandate settled by approximately the equivalent percentage of Palestinians, the Palestinian narrative of a people struggling to forge a homeland calls into question the willingness of the Palestinians to accept any solution that includes a state of Israel.

Despite that while the two-state solution has been beyond reach and the Palestinian commitment to peace with Israel has been highly questionable, there has been several major pushes for a peaceful, comprehensive treaty between the Palestinians and Israelis that would, once and for all, settle the dispute while allowing both to have their nationhood.

The most intensive effort came in 2000 and 2001 at Camp David. The conditions were as optimal as they ever had been: Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) had maintained political ties for seven years; the plan to transfer of responsibility from Israel to the PA had been initiated, first in the Gaza Strip and Jericho, and then in other West Bank cities; the security situation was relatively stable and acceptable; and cooperation between the two sides was steady and improving. Moreover, the three leaders from the three integral groups involved seemed to be the best people for the job: President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and the leader of the PA, Yasser Arafat. Clinton knew the issues well and was willing to spend whatever political capitol was needed to see a solution solidified. Barak had just shown his commitment by pulling the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) out of Lebanon (against the IDF’s advice). And Arafat was the recognized leader of the Palestinian nation; even his rivals did not challenge him. Most importantly, he could inspire his people.

Despite these unparalleled conditions, the process ended without a signed comprehensive treaty. Shortly thereafter the second intifada broke out (having been planned by the PA during the Camp David negotiations), and the necessary conditions for a permanent solution have reversed one-by-one since. There was some lasting good that came out of these negotiations, however. Much of the compromises agreed to during the negotiations are still, by-and-large, agreed to today by both sides.

The next major attempt at a permanent solution came in November of 2007. President Bush invited PA, Arab, and Israeli leadership to Annapolis, Maryland, for a summit to resurrect the peace process. Talks centered on a very similar proposal as that discussed at Camp David. Since then, negotiations have become significantly compromised by the breakdown of the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel and the ensuing Operation Cast Lead. Nevertheless, optimism remains that a Western-backed PA can be an equal partner in negotiations with Israel despite the fact that so long as Hamas has a presence in the Palestinian narrative, the Palestinians will no be united in a uniform strategy or goal.

The basic approach to resolving the conflict is well-established and agreed upon: a two state solution first offered in 1937 by Britain’s Peel Commission and subsequently proposed by the UN in the 1947 partition plan. Since 1993, this solution has been accepted not only by the parties directly involved, but also by the international community driving the process. Additionally, it has been supported publically by the Arab League since 2002. The wide-spread acceptance extends beyond the principles, embracing two fundamental parameters as well: first, that the two states will be contained between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and second, that the future border between them run along the 1967 lines.

While many details were agreed to at Camp David, several issues, now called “core issues,” remain as the major obstacles to peace. Therefore, no matter who takes part in subsequent discussions, the vast majority of the solution is already known, as are the major obstacles. This leads to a very bizarre situation: a conflict were those involved agree to an overwhelming amount of the resolution, yet neither side is willing to take the risks to make it happen. Since neither side is willing to take the risk, neither can be truly enthusiastic nor confident about the solution. Understanding that conditions have worsened since the most favorable situation (2000), that the same failed approach is being leverage today does not provide a confidence boost.
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Friday, April 10, 2009

Fading traditions

One of the best aspects of celebrating Jewish holidays, in my opinion, is experiencing the traditions in a way that is unique and personal to each family. Everyone finds special meaning in the way they celebrate. Celebrating Passover this year got me thinking about my own family's traditions and I had a sudden realization that they are slowly fading away, dying.

To celebrate this year, I was a guest of Rabbi Hershey and Chana for the JGrads Seder at Chabad. The Chabad experience was great, but it made me slightly nostalgic for the Seder my family always does, or did, for that matter.

In my family, my grandma was the linchpin of our Jewish traditions. We always had holiday meals in her 1950's house, where she always cooked the traditional foods in her tiny kitchen of pastel-colored appliances (the oven and stove were pink--very retro). She was the center of it all, the source of tradition, the glue that held us together.

The Haggadahs we used at Passover were ancient, from the 1950's as well, and the pages filled with matzoh crumbs that are probably older than me. We always made a certain Kosher for Passover chocolate cake that I love, and we rarely finished the Seder after eating dinner.

All these little details fill my childhood memories of growing up Jewish.

Now that she has passed away, my family in Miami no longer holds a Seder, or any other holiday meals. It's not that they couldn't, but without my grandmother it's not the same.

As I slowly forget some of the traditional songs, prayers and customs associated with the holidays, I worry about how these traditions will get carried on into the next generation of my family. My grandma's 2 daughters both married men (my uncle and my father) who are not practicing Jews. Of the 4 grandkids, both of my cousins are married to non-Jews, and my brother will probably do the same.

That leaves me.

I wonder if my family is unique in this way, but I have a feeling others have similar experiences, as inter-marrying is pretty common. The loss of tradition in my family is palpable and saddens me.

Of course, I'm not powerless to do something about it. I can be the one to make sure these traditions live on. But I wonder, are others dealing with this same problem, and what are you doing to keep your Jewish traditions alive?

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Seder at the White House

Obama to host first-ever Seder in the White House! Very cool. The only downside is that it's adding fuel to the fire for all the Obama-is-not-a-Christian conspiracy theorists (check out the comments at the end of article...granted it is Fox News, but still). Read the details here.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Passover and Social Justice Judaism

The St. Lou Jew would like to wish everyone out there a fantastic Pesach. We hope that it is filled with family and friends. Once we were slaves, now we are free.

Passover is certainly one of the most experiential holidays. Every piece of the meal is symbolic and sensuous. From the bitter herbs dipped in salt water, to the Matzah which only those outside the Tribe seem not to despise, this holiday is truly meant to be lived every year as if the experience were fresh in our minds. This reliving and renewing is also deeply tied to the timing of the holiday. Despite the snow storm in St. Louis a few nights ago, the weather has finally been breaking, and Spring seems to have arrived.

That life itself is renewed at this time of year is not lost in the meaning of Passover.

The holiday is a celebration of life, and even as our cup of joy (aka wine) is lessened for each plague visited upon the Egyptians, we focus on the joy, the meaning, and the responsibility of being free.

For each of us who have been blessed with freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to pursue the path of our choosing, there are many around the world to whom these freedoms are still out of reach.

In a world in which many Jews associate so strongly with the social justice message of Judaism, Pesach is the central holiday.

Our responsibility to each other, to share our good fortunes is embodied in the Hagaddah (literally, the telling) liturgy. This, perhaps, is the core of the core of the American Jew-ish identity:

This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. All who are hungry, let them enter and eat. All who are in need, let them come celebrate Pesah. Now we are here; next year in the land of Israel. Now we are enslaved; next year we will be free.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Passover anticipation - Are you Jewish?

Passover is perhaps one of the most culturally relevant holidays for Jews around the world. It's not just a matter of the Exodus, freedom from slavery, and generational continuity. It underscores the passion for social justice, for family, and for education.

There has been an incredible amount written about Jewish people-hood and identity, but it is rarely so succinctly put as it is in the phrase, "Am Echad, Dam Echad," meaning, "One People, One Blood"

The St. Lou Jew has written a fair deal about lost Israelite tribes in Africa and Black Jews in America. It turns out that we aren't the only Jews in St. Louis to have taken the concept of 'One People, One Blood' to heart.

Shlach Amee is an organization based in St. Louis, dedicated to helping people find their Jewish roots. Offered by a team of "genealogical experts, researchers, business men, lawyers and rabbis, Shlach Amee is a free service dedicated to helping 'lost Jews' substantiate their rightful identity." Shlach Amee is particularly timely in that it means 'Let my people go'.

How does this growing number of people, who may have Jewish ancestry and decide to return to the faith and culture, impact more mainstream Judaism?

What if, hypothetically, large numbers of people were to convert (or revert as the case may be) to Judaism? Do larger demographics pose an existential threat to Jewish identity, which has always been based on a small, but close knit population?

How will demographics, the next major conflict driver impact Jewish identity?

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Commemorate God's Creation of the Universe

According to those who know these sorts of things, once every 28 years the sun appears in the same position in the sky on the fourth day of the week that it did when God created the Universe on the fourth day.

You know the time period well, as He created the Universe on the fourth day, and on the seventh day he rested. Anyway, tomorrow is that very day, and congregations around the area will hold celebrations and say a special blessing over the day. Perfect way to kick off the Passover season, don't you think? Click here for the write-up in the Post and more info on the area ceremonies.
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Monday, April 6, 2009

Best of the Yidnternet

Good for the Jews: Newsweek rates Central Reform in St. Louis one of the top 25 congregations in the US.
Bad for the Jews: CRC is described in the article as "St. Louis's [sic] only congregation". See the other 24 here

In our ongoing coverage leading up to Pesach (Passover), we bring you the Grad Student Hagaddah, for all our homies locked down in ivory towers.

Finally, the New York Times wrote a fantastic story about Michelle Obama's cousin, who is a Rabbi. The story gets into some really important issues of race and Judaism. One of those, 'who is and who isn't' deals. Worth a read. Read More......

Lost Tribes, The Ark of the Covenant, and Robert Mugabe

The Ark of the Covenant is in Africa! And it may have been stolen by Robert Mugabe! And then it get's weird....

According to a story from the UK's Daily Express, Tudor Parfitt, Professor of Jewish Studies at London’s School of African and Oriental Studies, says he found the Ark at a museum in Zimbabwe several years ago.

His hunt started after living with a group called the Lemba in central Zimbabwe who claim to be descendants of one of the lost Tribes of Israel. The Lemba described a holy object recovered from the temple in Jerusalem which was protected by a priestly class. DNA testing revealed that the priests, known as Buba, have the same frequency of a genetic marker found in Levites, the original guardians of the Ark.

This, combined with circumcision, ritual slaughter of animals, and an abstention from pork seem to indicate a connection of the Lemba with the Jewish people. It certainly wouldn't be the first group in Africa with Jewish origins.

The Buba claim that the Ark could shoot fire, but that it exploded in battle, and so a new one was built, modeled after the first. When Parfitt found the wooden ark in a Zimbabwean museum, carbon dating placed it at 1350 CE. He attempted to look into it further, but the object disappeared.

After further investigation, Parfitt seems to believe that Robert Mugabe may have taken the Ark, and no one seems to be willing to even speak to Parfitt, under threat of jail or worse.

Read all about the modern day Indiana Jones here

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Is Twitter Good For The Jews?

I just read an interesting story in the Forward that speaks both to the wordiness of Jews and how trends toward microblogging, particularly Twitter, may undermine the Jewish mind.

The basic premise of the argument goes something like this: Jews have always been people of the book, all scholarly discussions in the Midrash come back to this source, and to some degree, all 'Jewish genius' comes from this source as well, and the 'pilpul' of pulling every iota of meaning from a source. Without the Torah as the core source though, and without the careful, well-reasoned, and wordy output, the Jewish mind will deteriorate.

Um... not sure if I totally buy it. I see an entirely new generation of Yids who are connected..both in terms of Jewish identity, and in terms of the network. People who are building connections and making things happen.

Two examples taking place this evening are Michael Oren's talk, tonight at 560 Trinity in University City, which is being promoted through social media, and Kosha Dillz, the Jewish Rapper who performs tonight at Atomic Cowboy in Tower Grove. Kosha Dillz has basically been planning his entire tour using Twitter to connect with people, particularly Jews, around the country to help him book shows.

Are we losing the core content or are we finding new ways to engage and express?

Read the Forward's story here.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The True Media Bias

It's not necessarily the tenor of the story that merits the bias, but the sheer numbers of stories that focus on Israel.

The Jerusalem Post has an excellent article detailing that the effects of the narrow focus on Israel and how it causes warped perspectives. Read the story here. Read More......

The Kiddush Club, Making Religious Observance Manageable

After more than a year of Jewish community related happy hours and bar nights, which have been called meat markets, and proof that our generation has even assimilated alcoholism, our research brought us to a phenomenon known as 'Kiddish Clubs'.

These 'clubs' are fairly straight forward opportunities to get sloshed, with the added benefit of making a blessing at the same time! Seems like a win-win, right?

The approach reminds me of a scene from Mel Brooks' Robin Hood, Men in Tights:

Robin Hood: Rabbi, you seem to be on the side of good. Will you come and share with us some of your wisdom, some of your council, and perhaps... some of your wine?
[Merry Men snicker]
Rabbi Tuckman: Wisdom and council, that's easy. But this is sacrimental wine! It's only used to bless things.
Merry Men: Awwwww...
Rabbi Tuckman: [pauses] Wait a minute! There's things here! There's rocks, there's trees, there's birds, there's squirrels. Come on, we'll bless them all until we get vashnigyered [drunk]
Rabbi Tuckman: Join me!
Robin Hood: Let's hear it for the Rabbi!

Mel Brooks' Clairvoyance aside, Kiddish Clubs are popping up both in and outside the shul. It's not just skipping out in the middle of the sermon to say a few blessings, and tip back a couple single malts (the default frum favorite), but also informal gatherings after services to continue the merriment.

And Judaism is supposed to be joyful, right? B'Simcha! We leave the fear and shame and original sin to other faiths.

The question this raises, which seems to be the question many are asking, is: Is alcohol the secret ingredient to successful Jewish programming? And, is it a necessary component to get young Jews to show up?

After reading about the Kiddush Club, the answer seems to be 'yes' and not just for young Jews.

Why is Passover the longest continuously observed holiday (and the most observed around the world)? Maybe it has to do with the 4 cups of wine. . . you often have 3 generations getting shikurred up under the same roof.

In fact, alcohol may even be the sorcerer's stone necessary to bring the young and old together (providing everyone has ID).

Jews and Booze have a long history, and alcohol certainly livens up most social, and other, functions. Maybe we can find a positive way to use this simple toxin to bring people together and bridge some of the gaps in the community.
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