Not to get too overwrought, but here’s my blog post in response to a Zionist Organization of America press release in response to my JTA op-ed in response to their JTA op-ed. Throughout the press release, notice how many of my points are avoided by going on an ad hominem rampage against me.
NEW YORK, May 1 – David Wilensky’s op-ed on “the correct use of Title VI” (Apr. 27, 2012) was an amateurish attempt to condemn an important new legal tool for Jewish students who are now protected from anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. He claims that the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) – which spearheaded the effort to achieve this civil rights protection – is misusing Title VI “to stifle legitimate discourse” and as a “bludgeon” to advance “far-right political viewpoints.” These ridiculous charges are baseless. Wilensky cites no evidence for his claims, merely engaging in silly name-calling.
I don’t know where they got “‘the correct use of Title VI’” from, but it doesn’t appear anywhere on the version of it on the JTA website. Given that they got the date wrong by about week (it was published on 4/18, not 4/27), I’m gonna guess that the mystery phrasing and the incorrect date were taken from the publication date and headline that accompanied my op-ed in one of the local Jewish papers that runs JTA material on about a one-week delay. (I could take a cheap shot at the ZOA for being so web incompetent that they don’t have a Google alert set up for the name of their own organization, but that would be “silly name-calling.”)
Speaking of which, can anyone point me to the part of my op-ed where I engage in “name-calling” of any sort — “silly” or otherwise? (Rest assured, when I do engage in name-calling I take it quite seriously.)
As for my writing being “amateurish,” I guess the “-ish” suffix lends that some validity as an opinion. As it turns out, I make my living doing this writing thing so I’m technically the opposite of an amateur. I hasten to point out that Klein and Tuchman are the amateurs here. I don’t know much about Tuchman, but she’s lawyer. Klein on the other hand is a well-known pillar of the professional reactionary community. I don’t think much of this screed, but since I’m no professional paranoia-peddler, I’ll refrain from passing judgement on its level of amateurishness. More »
In other news I'm topping the charts over at the Forward: The hed on my piece is 'What Would You Call Me?'
Right. So I wrote this op-ed for the Forward about how I underwent a Conservative conversion because I go to a Conservative shul these days, but I came from a patrilineal Reform background and so forth. And in it I suggested that it’s time for the Conservative movement to start accepting patrilineal descent.
Then the internet discharged platoon after platoon of Jew-baiting Jewish commenters with all kinds of nonsense on their minds. There were also some thoughtful comments and a ton of kind emails from friends and acquaintances.
Here’s one of the emails:
I so wanted to comment on your Forward article, but I simply could not wade into the aggravating mess of Jews baiting each other.
So for his benefit and yours, I waded neck-deep into the muck to pluck out the best of the comments — not only at forward.com, but on Facebook and twitter as well. And I’ll respond to a few too.
[I started writing this post yesterday so there are probably even more comments now that I haven't even looked at.]
JTA has published a new op-ed by me, a response to a piece by some Zionist Organization of America honchos published by JTA earlier this week:
Op-Ed: Title VI should be used only on true hatemongers, not political opponents
By David A.M. Wilensky
NEW YORK (JTA) – In the eyes of the Zionist Organization of America, the most depraved enemies of the Jewish people are obnoxious college campus loudmouths. As the editor of New Voices, a national magazine by and for Jewish college students, I have a different perspective.
The ZOA led the campaign to have discrimination against Jewish students recognized as a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, originally passed in 1964 to remedy racial discrimination in programs that receive federal funding. But in its charge to circle the Jewish communal wagons, the ZOA has overreached.
ZOA President Morton Klein and Susan Tuchman, director of the group’s Center for Law and Justice, wrote in a JTA Op-Ed that Jewish college students today face “harassment and discrimination at schools receiving federal funding.” The ZOA pitched a six-year fit about it, which the group credits with this triumph: “The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, finally clarified in October 2010 that Jewish students finally would be afforded the same protection” that other minorities have under Title VI.
The ZOA campaign capitalizes on and needlessly exacerbates the Jewish community’s already unwarranted paranoia about what’s happening to our young men and women on campus. As a member of the class of 2011 and as the editor of New Voices, I can say with confidence that there’s never been a better time to walk the halls and lawns of American academia as a Jew.
Hey, y’all. It’s been a while. I’ve been busy having a real job instead of blogging here or at my personal blog. Anyway, this has been crossposted to my new blog at davidamwilensky.com, which you should all go check out.
I tip my hat to Philologos, the pseudonymous author of the Forward’s language column, for two reasons:
In a recent column, he cited a column he wrote in 1998 about an incident in which an Arab Israeli member of the national soccer team declined to sing “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem. In ’98, he wrote that it sucks for Arab Israelis and that he understood their reluctance to sing it. But in ’98 he concluded that there was no way around it. In this more recent column, he admits that he was wrong and….
In this one he reacts to the recent silence of Salim Joubran during the singing of the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” by going further than the other commentaries I’ve read on the incident; Philologos went so far as to make specific suggestions about how the song could be changed.
So bravo to you, Philologos for admitting you were wrong and for making some nicely conceived suggestions for rectifying the problem of “Hatikvah.”
And with that, let me explain why he’s still wrong this time. As identified by Philologos, the basic problem with “Hatikvah” is contained in this rhetorical: “How, really, can one expect an Israeli Arab to sing about a Jew’s soul stirring for his country?” But I’d go one step further: How can one expect a group with an equally valid claim on the land to sing a national anthem that is a clearly not just an Israeli song, but a Jewish song?
He concludes that “Hativkah” should not “be abandoned for another anthem, or sung to the same tune with new words” because “there’s not point in accommodating the feelings of Arabs by trampling on the feelings of Jews.” Again, I’d go even further, but we’ll come back to that. First, Philologos’ specific problems with “Hatikvah”: More »
Above, the Chilean Federation of Jewish Students protests discrimination.
Over at New Voices Magazine (my day job), we launched a new blog this week that Jewschoolers might be interested in. It’s called the Global Jewish Voiceand it’s a way to jump-start a wider conversation that we normally have at New Voices. While New Voices is normally American or Israeli (and occasionally Canadian) in scope, the Global Jewish Voice is a fully international conversation about the lives of Jewish students and young adults.
The blog is staffed by 10 writers reporting on their lives on campus, in the workplace and at home. They are writing in from every corner of the globe, including Israel, the US, Chile, Spain, China, Canada, the UK and–no joke–Serbia. The blog’s student editor is based in Portland, Ore. There’s also an open submission policy.
This could quickly turn to riots – we need to get the hell out of here. We don’t even have bulletproof vests – any jerk in the street can knife me and disappear. I started to walk toward the trucks and my phone blinks again, this time from a Facebook message: “Shlomo gave us grades! I got a 91! I think he is good after all, he probably didn’t even check that well… how much did you get?”
Meanwhile in Chile, sometimes the struggle is more symbolic of living Jewishly in a non-Jewish world. University student Maxamilliano Grass is on the vanguard of Jewish student activism and pro-Israel work in a country with 75,000 Jews—and over 400,000 Palestinians: More »
My friend Getzel Davis, a fourth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew College in Boston, delivered a tremendous sermon at the Occupy Wall Street Kol Nidrei here in New York.
All English during the service had to be shouted in short phrases, then shouted back by the crowd. (This is in keeping with the protesters who also use this method because they have no sound permit.) I vote that all sermons should be delivered in this fashion from here on out. I’ve never been among a congregation paying such rapt attention to a sermon.
Anyway, presented here in its entirety is Getzel’s sermon. Just imagine what it sounded like broken into short bits, shouted out in a call and shouted back in a response.
Getzel Davis about an hour before Occupy Kol Nidrei (Photo by David A.M. Wilensky (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0))
Friends – we are here tonight to celebrate the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur has been misunderstood to be a sad day. But really, an early rabbinic texts calls Yom Kippur one of the two happiest days of the year. What makes this day happy? It is the day of forgiveness. This is what Yom Kippor means “The Day of Forgiveness.”
According to our myth, Yom Kippur is the day that we are forgiven for worshipping the golden calf. What is the golden calf? It is the essence of idol worship. It the fallacy that gold is God. How do we become forgiven for worshiping gold?
I believe that G!d is infinitely forgiving. The harder question is how we forgive ourselves. How can we forgive ourselves for failing to live up to our own ideals? How can we forgive ourselves for failing to recognize others’ humanity? How can we forgive ourselves for remaining silent for so long in the face of injustice?
Forgiveness is important because once we can mourn our mistakes then we are no longer ruled by them. We are free to create things anew.
This is what Kol Nidreh is about. It is releasing ourselves from the oaths that we mistakenly took.
When people think about oaths, they usually think of verbal promises. In Judaism though, most of our oaths are “Chazakas” – or oaths taken through repeated action. By doing things again and again, we make internal promises about how we want to live. Other names for these might be habits, preferences, or addictions. These chazakas rule our lives, making things simpler by allowing us to live on autopilot .
The problem with this is that while chazakas are easy, they are often not skillful. It is easier to not make waves. It is easier to not make eye contact with those suffering. It is easier to trust others to run society. It is easier to sit on our butts.
Tonight, you are offered all the internal freedom that you can imagine. How do you want to live the next moments of
your life? Do you want to love more? Do you want to be more joyous? Do you want to speak your truth? What does
your truth say?
Yom Kippur is the happiest day of the year because it gives us the radical option of being here now. We don’t work. We don’t eat. We don’t drink. We don’t have sex. We dress in white robes.
We do these things because Yom Kippur is a ritual death. It is the way that we allow our old selves to die.
Tomorrow, when we break our fasts, we step into newness. We step into being the people we want to be and not just the people we have been.
You know friends, it is hard not to worship gold, or power, or any of the other idols that our society shoves down our throats. I believe that this is why the Torah tells us that there is something else created in the image of G!d.
In the first chapter of Genesis the first human was created in the image of G!d If we need something to serve here on earth, we are given humanity. Service to humankind is sacred and a reflection of service of G!d.
The Facebook event had 600 by yesterday afternoon. So I figured a few hundred would actually show. Myself and others are now estimating closer to 700 or 750. This was one of the most moving experiences of my life. I suspect will shall be telling this story for many years to come.
As I said yesterday, there will be Kol Nidrei at Zuccotti Park among the Occupy Wall Street folks tomorrow night. By way of an update on the logistics, here is a message that went out to everyone who has RSVPed to the Facebook event (all links and strikethroughs inserted by me):
If possible, please bring your own Yom Kippur machzor. If you do not have a machzor, we will have ~100, graciously loaned to us by The Rabbinical Assembly for Conservative Judaism. If you prefer, you can download and print this PDF: d.1ski.me/3V2m263m460P1m0R3l0K. Save some trees by printing two-up, double sided. It is an Orthodox translation, as that was the only free one available online.
We could still use help getting a Torah and perhaps a folding card table to put it on.
No pre-fast meal is officially planned, but feel free to coordinate with others in the comments on the event.
No Saturday services are planned. If you will be in the area of Lower Manhattan, you are welcome to attend services at Battery Park Synagogue. Otherwise, CBST has welcomed all participants to join them for services at the Javitz Convention Center. There are also free services at the Brooklyn Lycaeum in Park Slope.
Expect another update that will repeat much of this information.
G’mar chatimah tova!
A Torah has been secured, though I believe there is still a need for a folding table.
Someone I have just met on Facebook called Nomi Raye is trying to coordinate a pre-fast meal that sounds like it will involved trying to bring a bus down near the park and cooking vegan food in it. She’s looking for help coordinating that.
Another option (a better one, in my opinion) for printing out a service booklet for yourself is the PDF of the Kol Nidrei service from the new Conservative machzor available over here.
Leave a comment on the post if you’re coming! I’ll be wearing a big boring white and black talit and the jacket I’m wearing in the picture below.
However, I will not be wearing that sweater and my hair is a little shorter. And I will not have that odd green device with me.
Jewschool founder Daniel Sieradski is organizing a Kol Nidrei minyan in at Zuccotti Park, home base of the Occupy Wall Street folks, at 7 p.m. this Friday night.
I don’t believe it’s set in stone yet, but Rabbi Arthur Waskow may be delivering a devar and or leading the service. Sieradski is looking for knowledgeable service leaders. If you can help and you’re interested, get in touch with him on Facebook or twitter.
This will be a service, not to mention a Kol Nidrei, of once-in-a-lifetime coolness. Let me know if you’re coming so I can make sure we say get the chance to wish each other a Gemar Chatimah Tovah.
Who says there are no paying jobs left in journalism?
By day, I’m the editor of New Voices, the national Jewish student magazine, and the director of the 40-years-young organization that publishes it, the Jewish Student Press Service. Since the JSPS was founded (New Voices itself is 20 years old), we’ve been a home for independent Jewish journalism–written and published entirely by college students.
We operate on the most shoestring of budgets, but occasionally, we get the exciting the chance to actually hire someone. In this case, I’m looking for 10 someones! If you know a student journalist who might be interested in this, let me know in the comments or by emailing me at david(at)newvoices.org.
Here’s my full pitch:
Jewish Student Journalists: We Want to Pay You!
New Voices Magazine, the national Jewish student magazine, is seeking student journalists to do paid reporting from their campuses this fall! More »
I shall now fisk the op-ed “How Israel Unites Us” from the July 15 issue of the New York Jewish Week by David Bernstein, head honcho of the David Project.
I was leafing through the pages of several Jewish newspapers on my desk, and was struck that nearly every issue worth debating somehow revolved around Israel.
Which begs the question: Does nearly every issue in the American Jewish press worth debating somehow revolve around Israel? By my count, there are about 25 articles or editorials in the July 15 issues of the New York Jewish Week, the paper Bernstein’s piece appears in. Of those, eight–less than a third–somehow revolve around Israel. And many stories with currency in the Jewish press that are worth debating (what’s happening to Anthony Weiner’s seat or the circumcision bill in California, for instance) actually don’t have anything to do with Israel.
But I’d concede his basic points that Jews argue about Israel a lot.
Sure, there were other articles of interest, such as the Jewish-Korean family raising their children on “Kugel and Kimchi,” but none so interesting or heart-wrenching as whether J Street should be allowed into the local Jewish community relations council or whether the Israeli government should accept the parameters of President Obama’s recent State Department speech.
Does Bernstein think that no one on the Jewish right is debating the merits of raising children in a multicultural home?
On the surface, Israel would seem to be a source of conflict, pitting Jew against Jew. But, I wonder, if it wasn’t for Israel, what would we Jews talk about? Is it possible that on a deeper level, Israel, controversies and all, is the single greatest uniting force among Jews today?
What would we Jews talk about? I guess there’s an argument to be made here, but if the only things that unites us, as Bernstein believes Israel is, only brings us together in shouting matches, I boldly submit that it’s not a good thing. Yes, we value arguing for the sake of heaven, but I don’t think the polarized shouting matches that take place on some campuses and in some synagogues are for the sake of heaven. In an argument l’shem shamayim, I don’t think anyone ought to get accused of being self-hating Jew or denied a seat at the table of the Jewish conversation. Yet, that’s what happens when we start arguing about Israel. If this is unity, it sucks. More »
Jewish Fail points out this charming wardrobe offering from the Jewish Enrichment Center, the Ohr Somayach-affiliated group that is–for reasons that utterly elude me–the only Birthright Next affiliate in the New York area.
The theory behind this hoodie is that you shouldn’t boycott Israel because Victoria’s Secret panties are made in Israel. Now, I agree that you shouldn’t boycott Israel, but, as Jewish Fail points out, this one doesn’t quite add up: The fabric is made in Israel, then sent to Jordan where it is turned into panties. In Jordan, they sew the Made in Israel label in and send them back to Israel for export.
Jewish Fail puts it like this:
That makes this a quintuple FAIL: A failure in taste, factuality, Israel advocacy and spelling (“Isreal?”), as well as a failure in tzenuah (modesty) by the Ohr Somayach-affiliated JEC.
Anat Hoffman being arrested last July for carrying a Torah scroll at the Western Wall. Credit: Chana Karmann-Lente
In an interview with Anat Hoffman at the New Voices Magazine Northwestern University Blog [full disclosure: I'm the Web Editor at New Voices], Hoffman speaks directly to the intense frustration with Israel I’m having this week as the country consistently shows off just how distinctly they misunderstand what the meaning of “democracy” is. Meanwhile, the term “Jewish democracy” keeps getting thrown around.
Hoffman, the director the Israel Religious Action Center–the Israeli Reform movement’s legal action arm–says in the interview:
“There’s no word in Hebrew for pluralism,” Hoffman says. “The word for ‘integrity’ is only a couple years old and ‘accountability’ has only been around for nine months. These are signs that the basic tenets of democracy and civil rights haven’t made Aliyah to Israel yet.”
I’ve met Hoffman. She’s a funny person about dark topics in that way that Israelis somehow manage to be.
I had never heard of Tawfik Toubi before today, but it seems he was a remarkable man:
A Christian Arab, Toubi was elected to Israel’s first parliament in 1949. He was a founder of Maki, the Israeli communist party and its offshoot Rakah. He was later the Secretary General of Hadash, the Jewish/Arab socialist party.
He was elected to Knesset 12 times and served as an MK continuously from 1949 to 1990.
He was born in Palestine in 1922 and died yesterday, age 89.
I don’t write about Israeli internal politics much, but reading Haaretz’s obit today, I was struck by the unbelievable determination an Arab must have–Christian or not–to remain in Israel’s often revolving-door parliament for 40 straight years.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said on Saturday that Toubi was a “valued and impressive parliamentarian” that “left his mark on the Israeli parliament,” adding that he was a member of a confronting movement but “nevertheless insisted on respecting the rules of the game and knew how to apply them to himself in practice.”
Like his politics or not, the struggle for Jewish-Arab cooperation in Israel is one good soul lighter today.
My first post at Jewschool was about being a Jew from Texas. Finally–now that I’ve lived in New Jersey for nearly four years and I’m getting ready to graduate and move somewhere other than my hometown of Austin–it seems that Jewish life in Austin is beginning to diversify.
I started thinking about this when I got an email from Mike Wachs, founder of Austin’s very own, brand-spanking-new local jewblog, Git Nu. It’s got a pretty daring design. Each post has an image. Mouse-over and of the images and the text of the post displays, and click on the image and you go through to the post.
So far, there aren’t so many posts. With the help of a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Austin, Mike is just getting Git Nu off the ground. Here’s part of what he said in his email:
I’ve started a small, alternative outlet for Jewish Culture in Austin and just wanted to say hi. The site is called Git Nu and while there have only been a few outside contributions so far, the initial response seems to be one of excitement.
If you have any advice on soliciting content, building community, leading the discussion–in a general sense–or any other topics, any help would be much appreciated.
According to my mom’s boyfriend–he’s on the board of the Austin fed–Austin is the fastest-growing city in American for 20- and 30-somethings. He says that’s not a percentage, but in sheer numbers. So more people means more Jews. And more young Jews means more diverse offerings in the Jewish community in Austin.
At least, in theory. I haven’t seen a whole of evidence of it yet, but Git Nu looks like an indicator.
Zoo Minyan, an independent minyan that meets in the neighborhood around the zoo in DC, is not meeting for davening this week. Why do I care? And why is this interesting? Let me back up:
I’m on the Bolt Bus, headed down to DC for the J Street Conference. The conference proper doesn’t start until Saturday night, but I’m heading down to spend Shabbat in DC, hoping to get some good shul-hopping done for your reading pleasure.
My plan was to go to multi-denominational, non-membership, convention-defying synagogue Sixth and I tonight and to the still-extant, just had their 40th birthday, proving all the “indie minyans will never last people wrong,” first-wave chavurah Fabrangen tomorrow morning.
But then, while emailing back and forth with Mah Rabu blogger and fellow Jewschooler BZ, he suggested the I try out Zoo Minyan instead. Apropos my post from the other day about feminizing the theology of Kaddish Shalem, he thought I might like Zoo Minyan. During their service, they apparently alternate between masculine and feminine names for God. So I got a little excited to see that in practice.
But it’s not a total waste because I have some thoughts to share that came out of this failure to launch. The first time I heard such an attitude from an indie minyanaire was from an organizer of the ultra-lightweight London minyan Wandering Jews. They don’t organize anything other than a place and time. They refuse to beg people to be hosts. If no one volunteers to host, there’s no davening. If not enough people bring stuff for the potluck, there’s no communal dinner. Etc.
I heard a woman speak about this approach at Limmud Colorado a couple of years ago. She said, if people value Wandering Jews, they will make it happen. And if they’re not making it happen, then it isn’t valuable and they should just let it go and slip away. This stands in about the starkest contrast possible to the synagogue continuity-obsessed folks.
And at Zoo Minyan, it seems there is a somewhat similar attitude. And now I don’t get to go. Oh well, their loss. And Fabrangen’s gain.
That’s right, folks. You heard it here first. (Well, actually, you heard it at JTA first.)
Birthright Israel said it has received a record-breaking number of North American applicants for its free, 10-day trips to Israel.
The organization, which provides all-expense-paid trips to Israel for Diaspora Jews aged 18 to 26, received 40,108 applicants during the seven-day registration period ending Tuesday
Israel’s Minister For Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, called it “the most successful project in the Jewish world.”
[Emphasis mine, obviously.] JTA’s full story is here.
That’s quite a claim. I dunno how the actual founding of the state doesn’t take top honors there, but I’ll leave it to the bloviation specialists at Birthright and in the Israeli government to duke it out over that.