Monday, December 28, 2009

So What Did Barry Rosenberg Have To Say?

Last Wednesday, Barry Rosenberg, the Executive Vice President of the St. Louis Jewish Federation, made some time to speak to a group of young adults at the Next Dor House. He spoke about his experiences in the Jewish communal world and answered some tough questions. So just what did he have to say?

Answering a question about duplications of effort, and over-saturation of the young adult world, Barry said that, while the city certainly has way too many synagogues, it probably still doesn't have enough options for young adults.

He spoke about St. Louis provincialism, and how there is greater awareness now that this isn't the easiest city to move to, or move back to. Barry attributes the 'closed' nature of St. Louis to the fact that you simply don't have as many people in St. Louis who aren't from here, which he looks at as a source of strength for many existing organizations, but a problem if you want to break in or create change.

Part of it, Barry admits, is just numbers. You just don't have the same numbers of young adults here in St. Louis and so, he says, more is better until we reach that critical mass.

The conversation took some interesting twists and turns, particularly when asked why competition is seen as a good thing in the for profit world, and a bad thing in the not for profit world.

Stay tuned for the full (edited) podcast of the discussion soon and to find out what is coming up at Next Dor, be sure to check out and
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Coastie's: Codeword for Jewish American Princesses?

For many of us who attended Midwestern Universities, there was a divide in culture (and often Socio-economic status) between students from the Midwest and students from the coast. A recent video out of the University of Wisconsin tackles the issue of 'Coastie's head on, and it specifically calls out Jewish girls spending their 'daddy's money'.

Props to Jewschool for bringing this to our attention.

Coastie is defined on Wikipedia as
a term used in Midwestern U.S. universities to denote students who come from outside of the region, mainly from the East or West coast. The term is also used to describe students from the suburbs of Chicago. The term is thought to have been coined in the early to mid 90s. Although the most general use of the term denotes only the origin of these students, there are often implicit or explicit associations that use of the term can evoke. One is that coasties do not pay their own tuition because they come from socioeconomically privileged families. Other associations include living in private residence halls and membership in a fraternity or a sorority. Additional associations are fashion-related and are therefore more ephemeral. The most recent coastie fashion consists of Ugg boots, The North Face jackets, plain black leggings, American Apparel v-neck t-shirts, Longchamp Bags, and over-sized sunglasses.

The term took on new life, however, when the following video starting making its rounds:

As you can clearly hear, the performers call special attention to Jewish honeys (attractive girls) spending daddy's money, as well as a clear Jewish American Princess line.

Now, I'm with Talib Kweli when he says
Now if they call you out your name and that's a different thing
Anything but Queen I'll go to war like a King

And normally I'd be willing to go to war for my Jewish honeys, except that... well... it kind of rings true. It's not that 'Coasties' can just be reduced to their material components, but there sure were a lot of girls (and guys) at Wash U who sported the attire described on the Wikipedia article.

Dearest 'Coastie' friends, how does this song resonate with you? Are you infuriated? Flattered? Or does it not bother you since you moved back to the coast after school and haven't thought about the fly-over states since?

For various responses see: the AP article, the Heeb quip and the Sisterhood response.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

What's Up This Week?

So you missed 3rd Fridays at Next Dor? Not to worry, check out the glorious pictures here (and see if you can spot our contributors among the more than 40 people who showed up).

This is one of those weeks where it can be hard to be Jewish. With Christmas cheer all over the airwaves (seriously, even KDHX's Reggae shows played Yuletide music), and with Hannukah gone for another year, what are you do to?

Well, if you aren't afraid to brave the cold, come out Wednesday night to talk with Barry Rosenberg, an experienced non profit educator, and Executive Vice President of the Federation. Barry will be discussing his experiences in the community, giving us insider information into future direction, and is happy to engage in a little back and forth. To see the details, please click here

Thursday night, celebrate annual Chinese food and movie night with The Hebrew Hammer, at the Next Dor house. For details, email nextdorstl at gmail dot com. Read More......

Friday, December 18, 2009

End Of The Week Updates

You might have noticed a bit of a lag in the content here at The St. Lou Jew.

Most of it just has to do with the sheer amount of activities going on outside of the blogosphere, but we apologize nonetheless. The upshot is that there is so much to tell you about! Read on for all of the updates.

Starting out with what is going on tonight, join 3rd Friday's for the monthly Shabbat dinner, taking place this evening at Next Dor. The food is free, so stop on by.

Speaking of free, we found a really interesting article examining the impact of free event on Jewish young adults. The question being discussed is how free events impact both the immediate turn out (positively) and how they impact a sense of entitlement and future donations (negatively). You can read that article here

On an entirely unconnected note, a friend passed a long a NYT article that notes that most Christmas music was actually made by Jews. Long known to all Christian conspiracy theorists, this music tends to be fairly secular in nature, and illustrate the quest for acceptance many Jewish Americans felt over the past century. That article can be found here

Now, on to our favorite strip of land in the Middle East where Danny Ayalon, the Deputy Foreign Minister, wrote an op-ed in Arabic in one of the largest pan-Arab newspapers calling for a new relationship between Israel and her neighbors to combat extremism and to fight global warming. To see what Ayalon had to say (in English), click here

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Paradigm Shift In Thinking About Israel

Those of us with a liberal arts degree are familiar with terms like 'colonial', 'imperial', and 'native'. Many of us have toyed with moral relativism long enough to blur the line between terrorists and freedom fighters and, while embodying a liberal mindset that prides itself on openness and alternative narratives, we have become susceptible to propaganda that fits this world view.

There has been a lot of recent research showing that many American Jewish young adults don't have any connection with Israel. A lot of us feel that Israel shouldn't have a carte blanche in its harsh dealings with Palestinians. Israel's position as a pariah nation is further and further pushed through left-leaning media outlets and across college campuses.

The underlying narrative that has created this situation is that Israel is a country that was created because the European powers felt bad for the Jews after the Holocaust and decided to settle these white Jews in what was then the Palestinian mandate, uprooted thousands of brown people in the process. Classic colonialism, right?

Except that this oversimplified view of history is misguided at best, and at worst, totally incorrect. A very interesting article on Jewcy tackles the myth of Jewish colonialism head on and makes several very important points.

The first is that Jews are just as indigenous to the area between Sinai and the Jordan river as any of the peoples who have become known as Palestinian. Even following forced expulsion of Jews by the Babylonians, the Romans, the Christians, etc., there remained a continuous presence of Jews in the area now known as Israel.

The second point has to do with refugee rights. One gigantic issue which has time and again stalled the peace process is the 'right of return'. This is the idea that Palestinians have the right to return to the land from which they left, either from fear, direct threat, or otherwise. What the article brings up is that, more than 40% of Israel's Jews were, just a generation or two ago, living in Arab countries. Immediately after the end of the 1948 war, Jews were forced to leave every Arab country. Most were not able to take their possessions, and were forced to give up their land, homes, and money.

According to the article, the World Organisation of Jews from Arab Countries estimates that Jews in Arab countries lost many more billions of assets as the Palestinians, and four times as much land as the size of Israel itself. Now, while these facts do not lessen Palestinian claims, or abdicate the Israeli government for its actions, they do help to put certain things into perspective. This conflict is not simple black and white, and both sides have legitimate claims and illegitimate methods.

A true liberal approach to the conflict should examine all facts and viewpoints, even if it makes the conclusion unclear.
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Next Dor Press

Just in time for the Potluck tonight, Next Dor is getting some great press from

The story, written by fellow Young Yid PJ is pretty solid and gives a pretty nice description of the house.

You can read it here and view some of the, as of yet, unreleased pictures here Read More......

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Weekly Update: Mayor Schoemehl, Pot Lucks, and more!

Last week was indeed a busy one and this week promises more interesting things. Read on for the juicy details.

A quick shout out to I64-40, known by locals as 'highway fahrty', which FINALLY opened back up this morning at 5 am.

The past weekend was jam-packed with a huge Moishe House dinner (props to heather for the great tilapia), some Challah French Toast, video games, and Hebrew tutoring at the Next Dor House on Saturday, and the big bad menorah's of Lightfest, followed by some Chiropractic help and a jam session at the Next Dor House (for more on what went down over the weekend at Next Dor, click here).

So what is happening this week?

Well, for starters, tomorrow night (Tuesday), Vince Schoemehl will be following up to the initial conversation we detailed (here) with a larger group of influencers and power brokers. If you want to be a part of that conversation and the activities that flow from it, be at 5020 Waterman (AKA Central Reform) tomorrow night at 6 PM.

Wednesday night, Next Dor will be hosting a pot luck, and judging by the early response, it looks like it will be a full house. To make sure you have a place at the table, RSVP here.

Thursday on out, you're on your own. I'm headed to Denver on business and will be making a stop over to see one of my favorite baby cousins.

Don't forget, Friday is already Hannukah, so bust out your No Limit Texas Dreidel sets, and your deep fryers, and get ready to celebrate.
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Completely Different Path

You asked for change. Here it is.

If anyone was concerned that President Obama's number one priority was not the U.S. economy, one need not look further than his new Afghanistan plan for reassurance. In a foreign policy speech, the President's ultimate justification for his Afghanistan War plan was the effects the war is having on our economy. His appeal, out of place in a major foreign policy address in which America and its allies needed assurances that the Commander in-Chief was committed to the fight against Muslim extremism, was this: "...the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home." When Obama took office, the U.S. was as involved in the world as it has ever been. However, Obama has made foreign policy decision after decision with one central theme: to reduce the role and footprint of the U.S. abroad. This policy is not based solely on his economic concerns; Afghanistan is only one of the policies that has led me to my conclusion, and not all are economic in nature. A few observations to support my conclusion follow.

It is surprising that at a time of such globalization, America is experiencing the likes of a re-dedication to domestic policy not seen in modern times since, I don't even know when. The presidencies of the Bushes were mired by global events, the Clinton years a time of heavy involvement in the Middle East and Balkans, Ronald Reagan's a heavy focus on ending the Cold War, Jimmy Carter's a focus on international "human rights," Lyndon Johnson's Great Society program hurt by the Vietnam war, JFK's brief presidency one of Cold War focus, and so on. While each president has had his own domestic agenda, some more successful and influential than others, the Obama presidency is shaping up to be one of a different breed.

The Central Intelligence Agency, once the envy of the world and the U.S. gatekeeper, has been at the wrong end of a 35 year campaign to reduce its role and influence that has, since Obama's inauguration, seen a ramp-up. Despite promises coming into office that he would not prosecute CIA staff for their conduct under the Bush administration, Obama has asked his Attorney General to initiate an investigation into CIA conduct. These sorts of investigations over the last 35 years have been used by Democrats and power-hungry Department of Defense officials to reduce the efficacy of the CIA (which is ironic because the CIA was created, run, and inititially strengthened by the most liberal of Democrats).

The issue de jour raised against the CIA is whether the conduct of its role in the war on terror has been executed in a moral fashion. Moral dilemmas do not involve having to choose between right and wrong; they arise from having to choose between two questionable options. It is plainly wrong to inflict pain on another human being, but what if doing so could prevent the loss of life on a larger scale? This is the type of question the CIA faces in its day-to-day operations: how to weigh certainty against possibility, and its decision making is now being subjected to scruitany by a group of people who have never been in these sorts of situations. In the wake of 9/11, Justice Department lawyer John Yoo and his staff were asked to define the boundries that the CIA would be held to. The memos produced have been referred to as "torture memos" and demonized as government approval and guidance of how to carry out torture. In fact, the opposite is true: they are anti-torture memos in that they drew lines that the CIA was not to cross, no matter how justified. With one single execption, who is now in jail, the CIA stood behind the limits set forth by the DOJ. These anti-torture memos separated out the different ways a prisoner could be coerced in order to elicit information, and decided which techniques counted as torture and which did not, and how far they could be taken under different circumstances. They did not provide approval for torture; DOJ documents (drafted under the Reagan and Clinton administrations) already exist for this purpose. Rather, they clarified in greater detail, so as to prevent torture, what was and was not allowed, and updated the rules with modern techniques.

The Obama investigation is not so much demonizing the judgment of the Bush DOJ so much as it dismisses the concept of CIA conscious moral judgment. Decades of leftist criticism of the CIA have inoculated the notion that CIA operatives automatically commit immoral actions and are thus incapable of deciding right from wrong and must be reigned in. Instead of focusing on upper limits that give chance to success, the focus is on setting lower limits to, as best as possible, assure that nothing goes wrong. The only approach that can be thought up is to impose more rules when, if anything, simply better rules are needed. This is the easy way out. A sign above the desk of the CIA's case officer sums it up:

Big ops, Big problems
Small ops, Small problems
No ops, No problems

This is not the attitude you want your agency responsible for foreign intelligence to have. In light of Obama's inability to distinguish between what the CIA does and true torture is (the kidnapping by Islamic terrorists in 1983 of CIA officer William Francis Buckley who was chained to a radioator and beaten for 15 months until he died of a heart attack compared to the "torture" of a terrorist suspect who was been threatened with a power drill, for example), his actions can only be explained by drawing on his strong concern of how the U.S. is perceived abroad; because terror suspects with information that might be used to save lives were treated like terror suspects with information that might be used to save lives, obviously some immoral action was involved. Despite many Arab government's goals conflicting with our goals, and despite the fact that many Western governments do not have the same concern for our well being as we do, their concerns hold a special place in our president's heart. A more limited CIA is not what our country needs right now, yet that is what we are going to get because a stronger one might upset someone in France or Saudi Arabia.

President Bush spent three years talking the Polish and Czech governments into participating a missile defense program they both wanted and saw as necessary to their national interests (Poland saw it as a step towards greater independence and strength against the Russians, and the Czechs saw it as increasing their importance to, and role in, the world). Less than a year into his presidency, Obama has renegged on these promises and thrown two very important allies under the bus. "Catastrophic to Poland" is how the Polish Ministry of Defense descripted Obama's actions. "This is not good news for the Czech state, for Czech freedom and independence" was the Czech response. There is no precedent for the manner in which these agreements were unilaterally erased. The U.S. has historically respected its treaties as they've passed from administration to administration, even those opposed by the in-coming president. The reversal of the treaties with Poland and the Czech Republic came as huge surprises to those countries who had take big risks in agreeing to them, and will likely make it for the U.S. to come to agreements in the out years on sensitive issues.

Why did President Obama make this decision? Few know for sure, but many have a pretty good idea: the Russians did not like it, and the U.S. could really use better Russian relations. In his deliberations on the issue, Obama floated a trade to Russian President Medvedev: we'll give up missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic and you support us on Iranian sanctions. Medvedev responded publically: great, we fully support you giving up Poland and the Czechs, but these issues are not related and a trade is out of the question. Despite this, Obama moved forward and got nothing out of the deal. The Russians were bound to eventually support the sanctions, as they have done recently, because (as should have been apparent to the naive Obama administration), Iran was not going to play ball and head down an even more dangerous path that, at some point, the Russians were going to be threatened by. It's happened, all on its own, and Obama gave up a significant national security effort, weakened relations with two important allies, and challenged other allies to trust us in the future, out of desperation in a situation where none was warranted.

Today, in Mogadishu, a suicide bomber killed three Somali ministers and more than a dozen others. Al Shabaab, a militant youth Islamic group with links to Al Qaeda whose declared purpose in Somalia is to overthrow the government and institute Islamic rule, is the suspected transgressor. Since the 1990s, the Somali government has struggled to establish law and order and a viable state. The lawlessness has given rise to piracy, and now is drawing Al Qaeda fighters from countries like Pakistan and Yemen. In the past several months, attacks by Islamic militants have spiked in what the U.S. believes is a goal to establish an African base from which to plan and stage attacks on America. Of suicide attacks, a Somali ambassador said, "it's new to us; it's not a Somali thing." There is clear-as-day evidence that while we are fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (the one war zone that Obama has right), they are setting up shop in Somalia, yet we are doing little other than sending money to the ineffective Somali military to prevent it. This reeks of a Clinton decision not to attack Al Qaeda despite knowing the location of Osama bin Laden. Why did Clinton not go after bin Laden? He did not want a foreign operation with limited international support that posed a threat to our interests. Oops. I'm willing to bet Obama is of a similar mindset with Somalia.

In his 11 months in office, Obama has laid a clear framework of ideology (if I had more time, I'd discuss Asia too) that says America has a bad reputation, so we're going to back down. I doubt he has considered that our reputation has degraded not so much because we're over-extended but because we're not working hard enough to uphold our ideals of freedom and democracy. With Russia, Obama has cowed to a despotic government because it's easier than taking it on, and the trust of our allies is fading. Where's our committment to the young democracies in the region promoting freedom? In Cairo, Obama told the Arab world that Israel was created out of Western guilt for World War II, despite the well document falsity of this concept; our committment to truth and honesty would have cost us too much there. In Somalia, we are going to allow Al Qeada to do its thing because we simply can't be bothered to stand up for human decency, let alone do some preventative work to stave off future Al Qaeda operations. Most blatant of all is Obama's treatment of Honduras. When Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was ousted last summer, Obama immediatedly called it an illegal action, insisted he be returned to power, and refused to talk to the interim government. Forget that Zelaya's constitutional term limit was up and that he refused to leave office and tried illegally to hold onto power, Honduras is still a democracy; Zelaya's interim successor is not even allowed to be a contender in the election that has already been planned. What possible motivation could Obama have for this, seeing as he's contradicting the tenets of democracy? For good or bad, it appears Obama is taking America down a path of reduced influence and power in the world. One could make the argument that the focus should be on strengthing America from within, but as we're increasingly tied to the fate of other nations, it seems unwise to reduce our role in their business.
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hot Jewish Women And Their Place In Pop Culture

Not so long ago, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girlfriend was a status symbol for a Jewish guys. According to a recent article, however, now it's Jewish women that have become fetishized.

According to this piece, Jewish girls have jumped into the mainstream consciousness as objects of sexual desire. A quick youtube search for Jewish girls or Israeli girls will bear this out.

While this is nothing new to me (having gone to Jewish summer camp and been active in NFTY), it is interesting that this article isn't talking about Jews finding Jewish women attractive.

Perhaps most interesting is that not too long ago, Jewish women were portrayed in the media high-pitched, materialistic, JAPS, who were anything but sexual.

I'm all for the celebration of Jewish women, so long as it doesn't increase the competition.
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Community Update

Now that the turkey is finally out of our system, we want you to know about the latest and greatest going on in St. Louis.

Starting with this very evening, both AIPAC and Elie Wiesel are in town.

AIPAC, aka the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, will be hosting its annual event at the Ritz Carlton at 7 PM tonight, and Dan Senor, co-author of the recently published "Start up Nation, The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle"* will be the featured speaker.

Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize winner, most famous for his book, "Night", about the Holocaust, will be speaking at Saint Louis University at the same time. For more information, click here.

Thursday night, come check out Yid Drum and DJ Duo Autiomadic at the Gramophone for free at 10 PM.

Friday, Moishe House kicks of December with Shabbat dinner, followed by a trip to St. Louis' Holiday Magic on Saturday.

Sunday. Sunday. Sunday. Not only is the HUGE LightFest going down at the JCC, but afterwords, Next Dor is bringing some of the top students from Logan University's Chiropractic program to give deep tissue (non) massages. You can RSVP for that here, or just drop in.

For more Next Dor updates, you can visit Read More......