Bourbon Tasting as Jewish Community

It has been a very dark time for Jewish news over the past few weeks. War and war crimes, chants calling for our death, us calling for others’ deaths, and overall nastiness.  Often times, even on the storied pages of Jewschool, we simply ignore the rest of the Jewish world during the perennial security operations taking place in the name of the Jewish people.

Yet there are other things happening in the Jewish world and some of them are good.  In fact some are even fun.  While this post deviates from some of the hard hitting topics we often discuss in this forum, it is an important one for more than the obvious reasons. More »

Ask yourself

There is a clear case made for reparations for American Slavery laid out in the recent Atlantic feature authored by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It is a powerful story, a dangerous history, and a gateway to talk about the most complicated issues facing the United States. Once you read this very long piece (very long but read it) and nod to the facts and shake your head at the horrific racism at all levels most likely, most probably, you will think:

  • But my family didn’t live in the U.S. when it engaged in slavery.
  • But we never lived in the Jim Crow South.
  • But I don’t engage in predatory lending schemes.
  • But no one I know sold on contract in Chicago.

But that doesn’t matter. Anyone living in the United States benefits from the economic realities built on slavery. Every white person has been enriched by the segregation of neighborhoods, schools, and Federally insured lending practices. This goes well beyond being afraid anytime the police stop you or having people cross to the other side of the street when you pass at night.

There is no way money is the remedy for the past but it is time to talk about this issue seriously. So now after you actually read the piece and not my quick intro you should consider addressing those “buts” again. Now ask, how do you feel about your families and friends receiving reparations from Germany?

Personally, I feel pretty damn good about it.

More »

Not Good for the Jews

Donald “I am not a racist” Sterling gave an interview to Anderson Cooper on CNN last night and boy it was just a beautiful example of Asshatery.

“Jews when they get successful, they will help their people, and some of the African Americans – maybe I’ll get in trouble again – they don’t want to help anybody.” – Sterling.

Simply this guy is just horrible. He needs to stop talking and go away. I am ashamed to have him as member of the tribe and hope he fades into obscurity.

However, he isn’t alone.  We all know that and won’t talk about it. More »

Jewish racist scumbag banned from NBA

In case you are living under a rock, Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers is a racist scumbag. He is also Jewish.

Adam Silver, newish Commissioner of the NBA, today kicked Sterling to the curb, fining him to the fullest extent of the by-laws governing the owners of NBA teams and banning him from all NBA related activities for life.  He is also Jewish.

Obviously the “Jewish” issue has been in the background for this entire nauseating episode. However, as HEEB and anyone who was watching the full press conference reports, it came to a head today when Howard Megdal of Sports on Earth (also MOT) asked the following:

You spoke about your personal response to [Sterling's racist remarks and his subsequent punishment]. In terms of Donald Sterling self-identifying as Jewish, and you doing the same as well, I’m wondering if there was a specific kind of pain associated with that for you, and if you felt a certain responsibility within the Jewish community to be responding to this in this way?

Silver, for his part answered the question well, saying that he believes that his “response was as a human being.”

Taking Silver at his word, I believe he was horrified by Sterling’s statements and was more than happy to play the enforcer in this situation. It is easy to be on the obvious right side of history.

However, I would have loved him to say something like:

“Yes, Howard, I am a proud member of the Jewish community.  I was taught as a child and continue to learn today that for all of history, Jews have been the subject of extreme hatred and debilitating discrimination.  My family has seen the horrors of modern history and remembers the travesties of generations past.  Jews have the experience and we should know better.  So Howard, there is no specific pain to me as a Jew to enact this fine or to ban Sterling from our Association. In fact, I take great pride in doing so as a Jew. ”

He could follow that up by telling Howard not to be late to Shabbat dinner next week and to say hello to his mother for him.

A short post on a man in a wheelchair

The hatred being spewed toward Stephen Hawking is disturbing.

The man made a choice informed by his own views and information on the ground. Anyone hiding behind the “fact” that Israel is only democracy in the Middle East or that Palestinians have it better under Israeli rule or any of the other tired and lame excuses for the vile things being said about a physicist in a wheelchair, should be ashamed of themselves.

Perhaps as opposed to automatically blaming those who have the audacity to stand up and say something — even if it is seen as overbearing, inappropriate, or bias — the American Jewish community could say something about the Palestinians and how as Jews we don’t like the way they are being treated BY OTHER JEWS. I don’t know, that might actually work.

It might be time for a significant change in our approach to dealing with legitimate criticism of Israel.  But it has been time for that for the last 15 years.

Ach, like I said, this was a short post.

Dov in Blackface

I was going to write a post about how I don’t miss New York State politics and point to the STUPID move by Dov Hikind wearing and defending his wearing of black face for Purim.

But Jon Stewart did a better job. So, here you go. Be sure to watch both.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook

Test balloons are for popping

Rabbi Jonah Pesner said he may be interested in running for John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat in the special election. Some believe he should jump in with both feet, up to his neck, and go for it with the belief of a zealot. This is a bad idea.

If the report in The Boston Phoenix about this run was a test balloon, I hope this blog post at least starts a leak.

Rabbi Pesner—for all his political maneuvering in the Jewish world—is not a politician. He is a community organizer sure, but a politician with national chops he is not. Blah blah, President Obama, blah, blah. These two men should not and cannot be compared in the same breath. Now that this is out of the way, we will get into the meat of this disastrous move. More »

It isn’t very pleasant

Reports surfaced today regarding a savage beating in East Lansing, MI in which Zachary Tennen, a 19-year-old sophomore Journalism student at Michigan State University, was asked if he was Jewish before two men of college age beat the crap out him. This attack included a Hitler salute and the symbolic torture of trying to staple the boys mouth together shit getting kicked out of the kid. Updated info here.

According to the report from The Detroit Free Press, the police in East Lansing aren’t yet ready to call this hate crime a hate crime. They have witnesses and a suspect.

But here is the kicker:

Zachary told his parents no one at the party helped him as he was attacked and then thrown out of the gathering. He took a cab to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing for initial treatment, but underwent surgery at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland hospital in Pontiac overnight to have his jaw wired shut, his mother said.

The facts are bad enough here: A 19-year old kid was beaten for being Jewish. That is horrific. Adding to these nasty truths we know that no one who saw this go down helped this boy. It is inexcusable.

Unsurprisingly, Tennen said that not only the physical but the emotional trauma “isn’t very pleasant.”

A quote from a German minster comes to mind. More »

Raising Some Hard Earned Cash

If you have not done so already, please read the last two posts from Jewschool, and then come back here.

[Waiting for you to finish reading...]

Thanks for coming back.

The subject of both of the posts I just asked you to read are intended to be eye-catching and possibly even intentionally offensive. However, the Ms. Holocaust Survivor event, was titled provocatively while the content of the event was empowering and kind. As we look at the buy-us-dinner fundraising idea from the self-proclaimed voice of the Jewish blogosphere you don’t quite get over that initial bad taste in your mouth.

Taking a deep dive into the Jewlicious fundraising ideas, and the lackluster apology/excuses of its editor, we all feel just a bit dirty.

Clearly, as was pointed out in the comments of the Jewlicious post by the same editor making the excuses, we at Jewschool love to drive traffic by talking in-side baseball. However, I am an avid fan of the sport and dabble just a bit in media criticism. And the shameful attempt to pass the buck on this sexist, misogynistic and other “big-boy words” project, could be called a two down, bottom of the 9th kind of moment. More »

The Nose Plays

I have never really been a fan of Catholic League president Bill Donohue. Arguably you could call him a conservative agitator. As a liberal Jew, conservative Catholics really aren’t my political cup of tea. He targets those who do not present a perfectly conservative Catholic point of view on the social contract for protest and boycott. He uses the First Amendment to the best of his ability.

However it appears he doesn’t like it when others do the same.

In recent week’s, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, of The Shalom Center and left-wing causes everywhere, wrote an op-ed that was published on The Huffington Post and else where, criticizing the crack down against US Nuns for disagreeing with the Bishops.

Bill didn’t like this.

BuzzFeed, better known for hard-nosed lists of funny pictures than for hard-nosed breaking news, broke this piece today and if you have yet to read the fact that Billy Boy told Arthur not to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong, well I suggest you read it.

Bill Donohue is blow hard and while his anti-Semetic rant in the emails that were provided to BuzzFeed by “someone close to the Rabbi” are not surprising they piss me off. You could say his comments make me one Pissed Off Liberal Jew.

The “Right” to Play Ball

Over the past week, the Jewish paper of record (The New York Times) has reported a few times on the Shabbatroversy in Houston, TX.

Robert M. Beren Academy joined the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools for sports. Not surprisingly, TAPPS is dominated by Christian schools. It is Texas. When Beren joined, TAPPS told the school that there may be games during the playoffs on Shabbas. There were also no games to be held on Sunday, according to the by-laws.

After a week of pressure and very public backlash on the social medias and in the traditional press, Jewish orgs using very lame puns, and political and basketball stars chiming in, TAPPS has changed the tip off.

But I don’t care. It also seems that Beren didn’t care either. Sure the kids were bummed but the school made a CHOICE to join TAPPS and the school is filled with religious Jews. They clearly are going to pick Shabbat over B-ball any day and that is how it should be. I am lost at the outrage from the liberal movements and the community at large.

Congrats to the kids being taught that in a secular world, they can sue to get what they want religiously. Good luck with that in the real world. But now that they can play, I hope the beat the pants off those anti-Semites.

Mediocre Musician Rids Self of Success Promoting Shtick with Schick

New York — Matisyahu, a Jewish kid who “found” Torah Judaism through reggae and lost his ability to trim his facial hair, reported today via Twitter that he shaved.

Jewish News services the world over sent news alerts, alerting their followers that the “musician” who has made a fortune “utilizing” another culture’s music for the “benefit” of the Jewish people shaved.

It would appear that by cleaning himself of his facial hair he has lost his magical powers to assume the musical styling of the Islands as well as his ability to be a role model for other lost Jews.

This modern day Samson story doesn’t end well for this mediocre musician. While reaction is mixed, his blatant abuse of his religion and the plagiarizing of another for his career is most likely over. Few are upset about this, yet there will be many who use this as further proof that young American Jews do not have the same connection to their traditions as previous generations.

[Editor's Note: We cut the rest of this article because it isn't news. For the sake of the holiness code move on. This guy made bad music with lame ass messaging based in a lack-luster Jewish indoctrination education.]

Tactics and Strategy

Unsurprisingly, Jewschool and Jewschoolers have been all over the Occupy Wall Street movement. From organizing the widely successful Kol Nidre services to playing hacky sack and even demanding justice for the 99% or whatever they are demanding. However, this Jewschooler (admittedly the most “The Man” of any) is a bit put off by this movement.

I have had conversations about Occupy Wall Street with a number of people from across the spectrum and except for my friends on the far left, most “understand the frustration” but don’t feel like what is going on in Lower Manhattan is good. It is clear to me that this movement has no direction. Simply saying you are against greed is like saying you are for breathing. Who besides Gordon Gekko, who in fact later revised his statement, will say that greed is good?

My major complaint is that this is no “there” there in this movement. The demands are amorphous and without any sort of path to achievement. There is real anger in this country and around the world at the actions of the Financial Industry. This moment provides a huge opportunity to mobilize average, non-political folks—those soccer moms and NASCAR dads—around this issue. But sleeping in a park for a few weeks isn’t fixing anything nor is it bringing more attention to the problem. Rather it is bringing attention to the protestors and their on-the-street interactions with police and the so-called 1%. More »

I Fracking Love Camp

dcc seen at 10 years old. Extra points if you can pick me out.

dcc seen at 10 years old.

My first year at camp as a kid was great: Sports, Arts and Crafts, Lake Front, Advanced Swimming and, of course, the coveted first dance with a girl.  All of this was set against the bucolic setting of the NJ-YMHA-YWHA Jr. camp, Camp Nah-Jee-Wah.  Two years later I would be off to California with my family but Camp Nah-Jee-Wah has always held a special place in my heart and so did that dance with Rachel Cohen-Stien-Berg-Steen (clearly it was much more important at the time).

All kidding aside, Jewish summer camp changed my life for the better.  I learned more in five years as a camper at Camp Alonim than I did in more than a decade of religious school.  I met my wife and a number of our lifelong friends at Greene Family Camp.  I went into Jewish Community Work all because of the things that happened to me at camps.

The most important thing I learned at these camps besides being one of the best sports players at a Jewish summer camp really isn’t so impressive when you come back home, was that our traditions teach us to respect ourselves, our bunkmates and camp, to stick by our bunkmates when they sneak out at night and get caught and that if you kill it you fill it.  Take these concepts to a more mature conclusion and you get respect for sanctity of life and environment and the importance of sticking to our values in the face of hardship (and really if you kill it you better fill it, I love the tater tots).

So when I read in the Forward this week that New Jersey’s YMHA-YWHA Camps have leased their land for hydraulic fracturing a little piece of my childhood became filled with carcinogenic waste, naturally occurring radioactive materials and devastated shale. More »

Jewish Community Members Against Jews Against Divisive Leadership calls for the end of divisiveness through a divisive public statement

Jewish, New York — In a surprise move another group of Reform Jews came out not so much in support of Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who has recently endured attacks over his approach to Zionism, but rather against Jews Against Divisive Leadership.

“All of a sudden there is this ad in the print edition of the Jewish paper and we are supposed to see that?” asks youth leader David Stern-Cohen-Burg, a member of Congregation Peace Love and Tzedek who is heading up Jewish Community Members Against Jews Against Divisive Leadership. “But when JTA published that divisive op-ed the other day and it popped up in my Twitter feed, I couldn’t get a group together fast enough through Facebook so I had to actually email a bunch of people.”

This group, mostly of younger Jews who fit into the models that have been presented after actual research (and not edict from traditional community leaders) that note young Jews have trouble associated with a more theocratic and anti-Arab Israel, have called upon the 35 member strong organization against divisiveness, to “shut up.” More »

Glenn Beck: Reformed Rabbis = Radical Islam because of the Nazis

First listen to this clip:

(Source: Glen Beck via Media Matters)

I will not twist Mr. Beck’s brilliance to say anything besides what he said:

“Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature. It’s almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way, to where it is just — radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics. When you look at the reform Judaism, it is more about politics. I’m not saying that they’re the same on … and they’re going to take it at that, but — stand in line.”

I will not take it “that way”…I will take it at face value. My religious experience is all about politics. Nothing to do with God, Israel (people and land) or Torah. Nope, nothing what-so-ever. More »

#rememberingdebbie

So Debbie Friedman has passed away.  JTA has an article and the URJ has issued a statement.  Her passing has been really sad for me and thousands of others.  I will write a longer post in the coming days but I thought I would invite those of you who were touched by her music and dedication to the Jewish people share your Remembering Debbie stories in the comments here as well as on Twitter with the Hash Tag #rememberingdebbie.

Here is mine:  Once in the late 1990s Debbie preformed at House of the Book at the then Brandeis-Bardin Institute and she told us that Jews can’t clap on 2 and 4 and proceed to prove it to us.  It was funny.  It was sad.  It was classic Debbie Friedman.

A Prayer for Healing of Mind, Body and Soul

Debbie Friedman, Jewish musical innovator and all around super Jew, has been reported to be in critical condition in an Orange County, CA hospital.

Please take a moment and sing her songs, think of her contribution to modern Jewish life and how we all would not be here talking on this blog and fighting about important progressive issues if it weren’t for people liker her throughout history.

She now needs us to provide her the healing and support she has always provided us.

Thank you.

Update: There will be a healing service for Debbie Friedman at the JCC of Manhattan and it will be streamed online so people unable to attend in person can watch online.

Info: Sunday, January 9 at 8pm
JCC of Manhattan (334 Amsterdam Avenue at 76th St.)
Video streaming available here