Many USAers have already filled out their census forms. Or are at least thinking about it. Or have at least taken the form and added it to their pile of mail to be dealt with later. (Seriously, fill it out and send it back. It’s good for you, your community, your neighbourhood, your city, your state… And I hear it gives you whiter teeth and shinier hair.)
The buzz around the Jewish community, at least if I’m to take various listservs I’m on as representative of the larger American Jewish community, is what to do about “race” and Jews. Of the 29 races listed, none represent Jews (or Arabs). Jews aren’t sure how to fill this out. The problem, really, is that the US government is asking for “race,” not ethnicity, not nationality, not heritage… It’s not surprising that Jews aren’t listed as a race – we’re not a race. Arguments can, and have, been made for Jews as ethnicity, as culture, and certainly as religion, but as a racial group? No. So some people are writing in “Jewish” next to “other” in race. But is that accurate? And does the government need to know, or should it know, how many Jews live within its borders anyway?
By contrast, Canada does the census differently when it comes to Jews. First, it should be noted that the Canadian census does have a section on religion, unlike the US census. Canada’s census asks folks to check off their religion, with a dozen options, then a fill in the blank for others. Years ago, Jews (rabbis, academics, the establishment) were consulted on how to count the Jews. It was decided that Jewish would appear twice: under “religion” and under “ethnicity.” (You can choose more than one ethnicity, I believe.) You’re considered Jewish, according to the census, and with the agreement of the above-mentioned experts who were consulted, if you: check Jewish for religion but not for ethnicity; Jewish for religion and ethnicity; Jewish for ethnicity but don’t put a religion; Jewish for ethnicity and put a religion that one doesn’t have to convert to to follow (like Buddhism). You would not be counted as Jewish if, say, you checked Jewish for ethnicity but put Catholic for religion. The Canadian census does not ask for race. As noted, we’re asked about ethnicity. But it’s not left with one question. Instead of “race,” there are two questions, I believe (it’s been 9 years – cut me some slack!): “ethnicity of origin,” from which you can check from a list or add in an “other”; and then a separate question on if you consider yourself a “visible minority,” with various options to check for that, along with a fill in the blank “other.” The Canadian census happens in years ending in 1 (with a smaller census, fewer questions, happening in years ending in 6). So we’ll see what it yields next year.
Both countries have separation of religion and state. So why does one ask explicitly about religion (including Jews) while the other doesn’t? I’m guessing that, in part, it has to do with Canadians trusting that the religion information is being collected to see how diverse we are, and not to be used for some Evil Reason. Which is the same reason we’re asked about ethnicity or income or number of people in a family or household. It’s just another measure of diversity. But it’s also helpful for provinces like Quebec, where Jewish (and other religious) day schools are subsidized by the province. Or for those provinces that accept rulings from a beis din (or from Islamic sharia councils) for certain legal matters. Yes, these are still both within the Canadian definition of “separation of church and state,” because all religions are weighed equally. Catholic schools in Quebec are subsidized alongside Jewish and Muslim. Acknowledging that most Western law is heavily Christian-centric, the government allows for Jewish and Muslim legal systems to hold weight as well. Separate from state while allowing for religious pluralism. By contrast, my sense of “separation of church and state” in the US is that Christians need the reminder, and that other religious groups aren’t really considered at all by the state. The two outlooks yield very different results, and different reasons for separation.
I don’t think it’s a problem to ask about religion or ethnicity. I don’t think it’s a problem to fill out those answers either. (I also support the right of individuals to leave questions blank on a census.) But I’m curious: what do other countries do? Does your country count the Jews?
So you’re looking online, trying to find some like-minded folks in your area to share a shabbos meal with. Maybe you’re new to town and are trying to meet new people. Maybe you just haven’t had a shabbos meal in a long time, and you’re looking for that sense of community. Maybe you start perusing Craigslist or Idealist in hopes of finding…
EeGADS! Extra Eclectic Gentiles Are Doing Shabbos!
“SHABBAT IS MORE FUN IF YOU YOURSELF COME.” Meet with us Friday evenings for a little liturgy, music & meditation, poetry, prose, and prayer, BREAD & WINE…and of course a good vegetarian shabbos meal together. What more could you ask for?! Non-goyim are welcome, too. Straight friendly. We need all the help we can get! Most of us, though, are Christians, of one sort or another. For information: email@example.com
(That was fully unedited, of course.) Vegetarian queers hosting a lovely shabbos dinner? What more could you want…? Oh right, some Jews…
This week’s parsha, Ki Sisa, is most famous for the golden calf (Ex 32:1-6). In the tradition of saying what I won’t be talking about in this vort, that’s it. I’m going to focus instead on Moishe, who was busy up on the mountain, talking with G!d, while the Israelites were losing faith and emulating their previous leader, the Egyptians.
Poor Moishe. He was burdened with being a leader, convincing a people to obey foreign customs and laws. He was navigating a tough space, not just with the Israelites, but with G!d. Yes, he wanted to do whatever this omnipotent power told him. But as we see in this week’s parsha, he also carefully negotiated on behalf of the Israelites, imploring G!d not to destroy the nation (Ex 32:7-10), but instead remember the promise to the forefathers to make our people as numerous as the stars (Ex 32:13-14). G!d agrees to spare the Israelites, Moishe returns to the camp at the base of the mountain, and punishes the Israelites: he smashes the tablets (the commandments), destroys the golden calf, and had some of the Israelites killed. Wow. The Israelites he just pleaded to have G!d spare, he turns around and punishes.
And this, I think, is where I’ll stop. This image of a frustrated leader who loves his job, who believes in the work he’s doing with the Jews, but still has a headache at the end of the day. Many of us who work in the Jewish world understand the frustrations, the tension between believing in what we’re doing and having to deal with the mishegaas of our organisation’s board, funders, etc.
Ok, so maybe this vort was all just an excuse to share with you, dear Jewschool readers, the glory that is “Workin’ For The Jews Blues,” by the lovely Rabbi Rim. (His musical address to his shul’s annual board meeting in 2007.) Enjoy!
I’m tempted to argue with the whole piece, line by line, but instead, I’m just going to draw out a few problems.
Beginning Monday, university campuses play host to an annual event known as Israeli Apartheid Week, where Israel is assigned the role of Jew among the nations — singled-out, cursed and harassed.
Some Jewish students at Carleton and the University of Ottawa will discreetly choose to stay home, to avoid having to answer for the Jewish state. The whiff of something medieval hangs over this March ritual.
This isn’t about Jews, say the organizers. It’s about Zionists. Problem is, the activist groups behind Israeli Apartheid Week are doing everything to erase the distinction. One of those organizations, the Ottawa Public Interest Research Group, refused in 2008 to promote a lecture on African development because Jewish students happened to be organizing it. The event had zero connection to Israel but OPIRG said it wouldn’t partner with the Jewish students’ union due to the latter’s “relationship to apartheid Israel.”
That’s an ominous introduction to the article. Too bad I need to argue it down. So long as the Canadian Jewish community (like the vocal majority of many countries’ Jewish communities) maintains that Israel and zionism are an integral part of Jewish identity, and are inherently linked, I can’t blame student groups and other organizations for drawing a similar conclusion. So long as Hillels across Canada (and across the US) house Israel advocacy and zionist groups, and many have histories of bashing Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian groups, I see no reason why those groups shouldn’t be able to “retaliate” with Israel Apartheid Week. More »
Last night I went to Storahtelling‘s Bloody Esther Purim event. If you’re not familiar with Storahtelling, founded in 1999 by Executive Director Amichai Lau-Lavie, they’re a ritual theatre company. Their shtick is bringing “translations” of ancient Jewish texts to life by renewing the words through modern interpretation. Today, Storahtelling works around the world with people of all ages, training educators and producing shows that add modern meaning to ancient texts. Additionally, Storahtelling began 5770 by establishing residency at the 14th Street Y, where they have monthly performances for kids of all ages, including StorahStage – educational programming for 2-5 year olds.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect at their Purim shpiel, but my limited expectations were surpassed. As Hadassah, a drag queen, emceed the shpiel and narrated the megillas Esther-based story, the characters, in all their glory, and with new attitudes, came to life on stage. The
audience at City Winery had a great time and soaked up every minute of the performance.
Highlights, according to the people sitting around me:
The angel of dead Vashti, dancing around stage in lingerie and angel’s wings made at least a few peoples’ dreams come true.
Chester the court jester cuddling up to Hadassah… and his loin cloth’s meandering over the course of the night.
The enchanting Galeet Dardashti, a Middle Eastern musician, who read the megillah with such an incredibly powerful and beautiful voice.
Esther deciding that she didn’t just want to save the Jews, she wanted to personally kill Haman (and Mordechai, and the king).
Jewschool’s SBB‘s opening the show, bringing the Amalek massacre to life by screaming and running through the venue with a red-splattered white sheet, where she nearly knocked over a waitress with about 20 glasses of wine.
If you’re in the New York City area, I highly recommend checking out their other upcoming events.
This weekend, Pope Benedict XVI voiced concern over the use of those creepy full body scanners at airports. He’s against them, saying “the primary asset to be safeguarded and treasured is the person, in his or her integrity.” The Pope continued:
Respect for the principles he enunciated “might seem particularly complex and difficult in the present context”, he told his audience, which included airport managers, airline executives, security workers, pilots, cabin and ground staff.
They had to contend with problems arising “from the economic crisis, which is bringing about problematic effects in the civil aviation sector, and the threat of international terrorism, which is targeting airports and aircraft”. But, he warned: “It is essential never to lose sight of respect for the primacy of the person.”
The pope’s words will delight civil liberties campaigners opposed to a device that strips passengers virtually naked.
And the Jews? There seems to be (shocking, I know), differing opinions. The Rabbinical Center of Europe (an umbrella organisation for Orthodox communities) has declared the scanners to be immodest, but allowed. Part of their issue is that men should review images of men, women those of women. They were assured that images are reviewed by computer software, and humans are only involved if something is found. But this isn’t accurate. We know from many reports that the images aren’t written over or erased, that security staff are looking at images. So will rabbis in Europe reconsider? What about in North America?
[I have Personal Jesus stuck in my head now. Why did I think that was a good subject line?]
From Failed Messiah comes today’s favourite “those crazy hareidim” story:
Haredi airline passengers are being advised to hang a new type of mehitza – a halachic barrier to separate the sexes – around the top of their airplane seats, to shield their eyes from immodest neighbors and in-flight movies.
The Rabbinical Council for Public Transportation, which is also representing the haredi community on the issue of gender-segregated “mehadrin” buses, is now placing advertisements in haredi newspapers encouraging the community to purchase the traveler mehitzas.
The new mehitzas, made of white nylon, stick onto the fabric of the airplane chair using Velcro and can be arranged to make a protective “shield.” The mehitza goes around the head and is mostly in front of the passenger’s face, protruding only a little to the sides. Its designer, who asked that his name not be published, declined to share pictures and his design details, but said the mehitzas were “airy” and did not bother anybody.
This is ridiculous. I’ve been on El Al flights where flight attendants have asked women to change seats so that haredi men don’t have to, gasp!, sit next to them. Are they really going to sit with their heads in boxes for a full flight? No, they’re going to continue insisting that the women be moved away from them.
On the other hand, I’ve definitely been on flights where I’ve wished I could just block out everyone around me… Hmm… Maybe there is a market for such an item!
This article was originally published on InterfaithFamily.com. Interfaith Family is “the online resource for interfaith families exploring Jewish life and the grass-roots advocate for a welcoming Jewish community.” I don’t think I’ve written about my family on Jewschool before, but I thought I’d give it a try by cross-posting.
My brother and I were raised by two Jewish parents. Ours was a liberal Jewish home: mezuzahs on the doorways, Shabbat dinner every Friday, holidays observed and celebrated. I grew up believing that my parents were both equally committed to our family’s level of observance. In recent years, long after my parents’ divorce, and as my father has formed a new family, I’ve learned that my outlook was perhaps naive.
My father believed that raising the kids with Judaism was the right thing to do. He went along with it. But while our family observed Passover, eschewed bread and other leavened products for the eight days, he would go to the deli by his office for lunch and privately enjoy a sandwich. Once I was old enough to go to synagogue on my own, he no longer went to Shabbat services. And when I wanted to start laying tefillin, he was more than happy to give me his set, which had been stashed in the back of his closet since before I was born.
As an observant Jew, I was taken aback by his deception. In hindsight, I understand, and appreciate, the decisions he made for our family. I was left wondering what type of religious life he would have, especially as he ages and talks about his will and funeral plans. But while I was wondering what his funeral might look like, balancing my future mourning needs with his probable want for a not overtly religious burial, another life-cycle event brought his religious views to the forefront.
My father started dating, moved in with, and became engaged to the woman who is now my stepmother. This raised a whole other round of questions for me. As far as I knew, he had only ever dated Jewish women. My stepmother is not Jewish. I didn’t have much opportunity to spend time with her before they were married; we lived on opposite coasts. My questions went mostly unanswered, and mostly unasked. More »
Longtime Jewschool readers may recall that we’ve heard from Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the spokesman for the Rabbinical Alliance of America before. He really seems to like railing against the homosexuals. Obsessing about the gays, really.
Earlier this week, Levin, on behalf of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, issued a “media advisory.” I saw it on the Christian Newswire.
When Americans are suffering economically and millions need jobs, it’s shocking that the Administration is focused on its ultra-liberal militantly homosexualist agenda forcing the highlighting of homosexuals and homosexuality on an unwilling military. This is the equivalent of the spiritual rape of our military to satisfy the most extreme and selfish cadre of President Obama’s kooky coalition. We agree with Eileen Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness that this will hurt the cohesiveness of the military, cause many to leave the army, and dramatically lower the number of recruits, perhaps leading to the reinstatement of a compulsory draft.
Thirteen months before 9/11, on the day New York City passed homosexual domestic partnership regulations, I joined a group of Rabbis at a City Hall prayer service, pleading with G-d not to visit disaster on the city of N.Y. We have seen the underground earthquake, tsunami, Katrina, and now Haiti. All this is in sync with a two thousand year old teaching in the Talmud that the practice of homosexuality is a spiritual cause of earthquakes. Once a disaster is unleashed, innocents are also victims just like in Chernobyl.
We plead with saner heads in Congress and the Pentagon to stop sodomization of our military and our society. Enough is enough.
And, because Levin is all about living in the 21st Century, the press release was accompanied by a video of him delivering the statement:
Their praying in August 2000 to prevent natural disasters, allegedly the result of God’s anger over homosexuality, had nothing to do with the tsunami in Asia, Katrina, or the earthquake in Haiti. Seriously. And, if earthquakes are related, how come there aren’t more natural disasters in countries that allow openly LGB folks to serve in their militaries?
While the Christian Newswire condones Levin’s speeches (they link to another of his on the US government’s need to close abortion clinics), I’m sure none of you will be surprised to read that I condemn it. If, like me, you’d like to know who these “1,000 rabbis” are who are warning that homosexuality in the military will lead to natural disasters, and if, like me, you want to make sure the Rabbinical Alliance of America knows that they do not actually speak for all Americans, you can contact them at 718-469-6999. Go ahead, make a call.
How many of you listen to WFMU or follow their blog? If you do, as I do, you saw their post this evening:
Temple Israel Senior Youth Group Presents: The Troubadors
Here’s a nice album that a friend of mine found somewhere or other, knowing that it would be much to my liking. And he was right (and thank you very much, Stu!).
There’s no indication of when this album was recorded, or where this Temple is or was located. I don’t think I can add anything to what is written on the back cover, so I’ll refer the reader to those notes, linked below.
Check out their post for mp3s for each of the album tracks.
But here’s the question: Does anyone know which of the 100′s of Temple Israels put together this album? Or when? Or why?
And, while we’re asking questions… Did your youth group do anything similar? The only thing my youth group did was come together and attempt to lynch me for coming out – but that doesn’t really have the same lasting effect as an album.
A few months back, walking to meet a friend, I overheard a snippet of a conversation. It was so bizarre that I not only remembered it, I pulled out my iPhone and submitted it to Overheard. Once I met my friend, I told it to her, and we tried to parse its meaning. And failed. Our theories had us laughing, but none were plausible. I eventually forgot about the chat, until I spotted it on Overheard in NY this week:
16-year old girl #1: I want to find out more about gay genocide. 16-year old girl #2: Huh? 16-year old girl #1: You know, what the Jews wear… And baby Hitler.
Anyone want to try to figure out what it means? The best theory, chosen by me, will win a prize.
We’ve reported on transgender Jewish news before. I don’t think it’s a surprise to any of you Jewschool readers that we’re all in favour of queer and transgender equality around here. And today’s news is just another step in the right direction.
Amanda Simpson, who, in addition to being a highly skilled rocket scientist (seriously) with over 30 years of experience in the aerospace and defence industry, is both transgender and Jewish, was just appointed by POTUS Obama to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security as a senior technical advisor.
Yasher koach to her. I hope others in the transgender community continue to have their work and accomplishments recognised, instead of only being seen (too often in a negative light) for their gender.
Last week, a discussion was organized at Yeshiva University in NYC called “Being Gay In The Orthodox World: A Conversation with Members of the YU Community.” The event, which took place on December 22, was sponsored by the YU Tolerance Club and the Wurzweiler School of Social Work. It was an open event; people from the YU and Stern communities were invited to attend, as were members of the Jewish communities at large. (I received several invitations to go but was unable to make it.) Many of you found out about it on twitter; our most popular tweet, which more of you clicked through than any other, was a link to The Curious Jew‘s transcript of the panel discussion, which Chana posted within a couple hours of the event’s conclusion. This transcript has been as close to hearing about it as those of us who weren’t there could get, since Rabbi Yosef Blau said in his opening remarks:
What we WILL be doing is addressing the pain and the conflict that is caused by someone being gay in the Orthodox world. Our four panelists, one present student and three alumni of Yeshiva, will be speaking about their own lives and experiences. I would ask you not to take pictures of them and not to record to respect privacy. Recordings have an unfortunate tendency to enable someone to take out a snippet and then use it for various and sundry purposes.
Each speaker then went through his own personal story of being gay in the Orthodox world. Dr. Pelcovitz, a psychologist on faculty at YU, presented a psychological/Orthodox perspective; he made sure to emphasise that there is a difference between “feeling” and “doing” gay, and said that “nobody has the right to judge a feeling,” regardless of halakhic understanding. Questions were then taken from the audience of 800 people, and the event ended more or less on time.
But, of course, it didn’t actually end there. More »
As readers might remember, dlevy and I like to cook. And we’re all about the organic, free-range food in our kosher kitchen. Okay, so one of us is all about the organic and free-range, and the other likes food that’s, well, gross. Sugary, deep-fried, processed, in a can? That’s dlevy’s idea of delicious. My influence can only go so far.
But we were thinking: While others who care about Jewish food are affirming their views, and giving themselves pats on the back, at the Hazon Food Conference in California, what can we do from Jamaica Plain, MA? And then dlevy found his inspiration: Organic Batter Blaster! On many a grocery shopping trip, dlevy has lusted over this product, while I’ve laughed and mocked. The only thing stopping him from purchasing it in the past was the lack of hecksher. (Un)fortunately, that is no longer a hindrance as Organic Batter Blaster is now OU certified.
My parents are struggling to pay their mortgage, my soon-to-be wife will probably never break the six-figure income mark, and since I’ve spent my entire career working within the Jewish nonprofit sector, my savings look more like an emergency fund than a capital investment.
So what’s a broke social entrepreneur to do?
One option is to live on less, like these friends of mine do. And, I know, KRG asked how parents with a 3-year old could live as modestly as dcc suggested. But let’s look at a concrete example: A family with a preschooler, with a second baby on the way, has been living on a modest income (household income of $35,000 last year, $45,000 this year) and paid off their debts, bought a house, and are doing well.
Do I think everyone can pull this off? No. Do I think we need to be lamenting the lack of six-figure income or “upper middle class” financial mobility in order to contribute to Jewish community? No. But perhaps a solution would be to come up with a happy medium between the six-figure expectation and this model of modesty.