#TBT: Arlo, Thanksgiving, and Kippot (and Rabbi Arthur Waskow)

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, here’s zt’s Thanksgiving 2007 piece about Arlo Guthrie, Thanksgiving, Kippot, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, police brutality at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the Chicago 7 trial, and the reactionary and self-hating Jewish Judge Julius Hoffman — all in a few short paragraphs.  Find it here.  Happy Thanksgiving, readers.

 

TBT: Remembering Lou Reed, a Year Later

Throwback Thursday has been dark here for a while, with holidays falling on Thursdays, but with the holidays over, we’re back. Today, we recall legendary rock and roll poetic grouch, Lou Reed, front man of the Velvet Underground and prolific soloist, who died last Oct. 27, after which I wrote this piece, cross-posted in Heeb and on our blog, reflecting as a Jew on Reed’s cultural significance.

 

To Cry for You: Remembering Arik Einstein z”l

The death of Arik Einstein z”l highlights the jagged seam line where Israeli and Diaspora Jews meet.  Or don’t meet. JJ Goldberg comments on this in the Forward and  Liel Leibowitz rips the seam wide open in Tablet Magazine. Initially I laughed through my tears at Leibowitz’s in-your-face comments:  I have nothing to say to you about Arik Einstein. I’m sorry to sound like a prick, but you wouldn’t get it…But then he went in an altogether different direction to where my own heart was headed.

So I will try to say something to you about Arik Einstein, as many were just recently commenting about what the loss of Lou Reed means to them personally. I never listened much to Lou Reed, but Arik Einstein’s music changed my life.

An Israeli friend from my Hashomer Hatzair group gave me Einstein’s 1971 album, Badeshe Etzel Avigdor (vinyl) in 1974 That album introduced many to the anthem of my generation  – Ani Ve Ata. . Members of Hashomer Hatzair were singing it years before it became the go-to song for American Jewish tikkun olam projects. But other tracks on that album touched me more deeply in unexpected ways. The song about his own experiences in Hashomer Hatzair, HASHRIKA SHEL HATNUA  placed people like my friends and me at the center of a rock star’s view of the world.

I was one of those marginalized, radical, intellectual but “bad” kids born too late to be part of the Jewish Catalogue crowd of DIY Jews but too early to belong to the Gen X reimagining of alternative Jewish community. In the mid-1970s, our idea of a good time was watching Arik Einstein’s comedy Lool in tandem with Monty Python. How better to understand the absurdity in being Ber Borochov quoting socialist Zionist Jewish kids in mid-1970s north America?

Fast forward to November, 1995. Right after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Einstein released “Zeh Pitom Nafal ָAleha” זה פתאום נפל עליה‬‎ -. a public outpouring of sorrow and compassion for Rabin’s widow Leah. I imagine there are those who wish there had been such a song for Jackie when JFK was assassinated.

Arik Einstein seemed to create the soundtrack to which many of us living away from Israel healed from the restach (assassination) from miles away. An Israeli friend sent me Shalom Chaver, the 2 CD live recording of the Rabin memorial concert and, had it been on vinyl, I would have worn down the grooves.  All of Israel’s great musical artists offered moving tributes to the slain Prime Minister at that long, poignant gathering. But, as the first disc opens with Einstein’s rendition of Aviv Geffen’s iconic lament, Livkot Lekha–(I am going to cry for you) and closes with his classic Uf gozal-(the little bird flies away) , his iconic baritone voice was like a comforting embrace, enclosing the rest of the music.

Of course, Einstein induced laughter at least as often as tears. My friend Rabbi Leila Berner captured this in an e-mail, writing that  “sometimes I cried so much when I listened to his songs…and sometimes I laughed so hard when he realized that (as Reinhold Niebuhr once said), “laughter is a no man’s land between faith and despair.” Arik gave us laughter when we couldn’t find our faith and when despair was an all too frequent visitor.”

Fast forward to Limmud Conference in the UK, 2008:

I  invite a new Israeli friend to join me at a late night sing-along, but he was afraid it would be mostly English tunes he didn’t know. He want on tell me that it was the eve of Arik Einstein’s 70th birthday and he was afraid nobody in the room would understand.  He was going to call it a night. I began to sing one of Arik’s silly songs, אני אוהב לישון-‬‎Ani ohav lishon (I love to sleep). My friend decided to come along. And many people there did get where he was coming from.  Arik Einstein’s songs turned a random group of people, who ranged in age from around 16 to over 60 and who came from places as far flung as Stockholm and Cape Town, into a community celebrating the birthday of a cultural hero.

The beauty of it was that the songs surely meant something different to each singer. For me, it was much more than simple nostalgia. It spoke directly to the piece of me that feels alienated almost everywhere these days, as I feel that most of the Diaspora Jewish world seems to have split into two groups, neither to which I belong: the one for non- and anti Zionists, the other for   center to right-wing Zionists. That night, Arik’s music brought me home for a short while.

My friend, the musician Stuart Rosenberg, remembers Einstein’s music like this: In 1971 I was 15 years old, away from home for six-month exchange program, living in an Israeli boarding school while studying Hebrew and working in the fields. That was the summer of Arik Einstein’s hit song Ani V’Atah…. Lying awake at night… with the aroma of night blooming jasmine in the air and the sound of Arik Einstein playing beneath my pillow, I was as far as I could be from my own bed, yet listening to those words I knew I was home. I eventually returned to the states, but forever after that summer that song and those words have been at my core, and, like the aroma of night blooming jasmine, it only takes a few notes to transport me back to those moments when I truly became who I am.

Another friend told me that she watched the memorial ceremony in Rabin Square. In my mind I immediately heard Arik Einstein singing about the night Rabin was assassinated, so I listend to  ‫ Shalom Haver‬‎ – .Then I played Einstein’s cover of the Geffen song, from the Shalom Haver album:

When we are sad, we go to the sea.  / That’s why it’s salty.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                And it’s sad —That we can return borrowed equipment   But it’s not possible to give back this longing…

Shalom, haver.  Let’s take it slow. Se le’at. – סע לאט.

“I’ll Be Your Mirror — Reflections on Lou Reed” — Cross-posting to Heeb Magazine

Hey, Jewschoolers.  Check out my piece in Heeb about Lou Reed, z”l.  I’ll tease it here, and you can click on the link to read the rest on Heeb.

————————–

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that Lou Reed died. So, I’m not going to write a newspaper obituary. This is the internet; you can find better ones on your own, and learn all about why The Velvet Underground was such an important band and all that. I’m also not going to write one of those “Hey, Lou Reed kicked ass and Lou Reed was Jewish, so see?  Judaism can kick ass too” kinds of pieces, nahmean?  Let’s not stretch the Jewish thing, but take him at his word: “My God is rock’n’roll. It’s an obscure power that can change your life. The most important part of my religion is to play guitar.”

But I’m Jewish and Jewy and I do want to reflect about why I think Lou Reed’s artistry is so vital, how it reaches me, through my prisms, or as the case may be, mirrors.

“I’ll be your mirror

Reflect what you are, in case you don’t know

I’ll be the wind, the rain and the sunset

The light on your door to show that you’re home” (“I’ll Be Your Mirror”)

More than anything else, Lou Reed was our mirror, reflecting what we are, in case we didn’t know.

We are terrified of freedom, but deny it. Shaking off the effects of sterile Long Island and forced, adolescent, electro-convulsive “therapy” to “cure” him of his bisexuality (it didn’t work), Lou Reed grabbed a rock and roll public by the collar, spit in its face, made it stop averting its eye from anyone fearful, and look hard at what liberation really looks like.

To read the rest of this article, follow this link.

Introducing Oholiav: A Meeting Place for Pop Culture & the Arts through Jewish Eyes

This guestpost is by Jonah Rank,  a musician in his 3rd year of Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary, secretary of Mahzor Lev Shalem, a writer, and a Co-Founder and Creative Co-Director of Oholiav: A Meeting Place for Pop Culture & the Arts through Jewish Eyes, alongside Israeli artist and arts educator Timna Burston.

 

Tomorrow night is to be the first of many Jewish events unlike anything ever seen before.

The reason: it’s explicitly secular, and therefore explicitly Jewish.

Let me explain.

Tomorrow night is the premier event of Oholiav (oh-HO-lee-AV), a “meeting place” where the secular art and pop worlds come into contact with Jewish values, philosophies and narratives.

That’s abstract. Let me break it down.

Jewish culture and secular Western culture share some basic values: don’t murder people, stand up for what is right, be a good person.

When you look into some of those deeper details though, the wide range of Jewish views on gender roles, on human rights, on politics, on the importance of spirituality, are very likely to differ from that which we have to come to know in the secular world.

So, where are these points of tension, and where are those moments of harmony?

Oholiav examines secular culture through the pop culture—films, YouTube videos, singles, albums, TV shows, Broadway musicals, plays—and the world of art—literature, art galleries, dance. In pinpointing those moments when values are espoused in the secular world, or stories are told or beliefs are “preached” in the secular world, Oholiav compares these moments with their Jewish counterparts.

Does Dinner For Schmucks parallel the Jewish value of hospitality towards guests (hakhnasat orehim) or slam the door on the face of the ideal? Does Francisco Goya’s “The Disasters of War” series serve as a reprimand of oppression, unconsciously echoing Jewish discomfort with militarism? Do these elements perhaps meet somewhere in the middle? Perhaps the twain shall never meet? (Not to mention, the Jewish people rarely hold similarly with only one point of view on anything.)

Tomorrow night, the Oholiav Meeting Place is meeting for its very first event. At the Columbia/Barnard Hillel Kraft Center, in an evening co-sponsored with The Jewish Art Salon, we’re coming together to CELEBRATE TEXT/CONTEXT. At 6 PM, we’ll gather to view the opening of Ellen Alt’s exhibit Text and, alongside it, the group art exhibit Context, featuring over 25 artists from all over the world (Mark Podwal, Miriam Stern, Arza Somekh Cohen).

At 7 PM, in celebration of the art openings, we’ll gather together on the 5th floor of the Kraft Center for special performances by OMG Poetry, Ezra Benus, Lori Leifer and ChEckiT!Dance; followed at 8 PM by a Q&A Talkback with questions from the audience, in conversation with Ellen Alt and with ChEckiT!Dance about both artistic and Jewish elements of their biographies and bodies of work.

This is the first of many events we’ll be hosting throughout the future. At this same location, we’ll be hosting two grand events on October 25, featuring chamber-pop music selections from Scott Stein & His Well-Groomed Orchestra, and November 29, a night of multimedia artistic expression coded as “Shenanigans,” featuring Amazon #1 Best-Selling Author Lisa Alcalay Klug (Cool Jew).

In any event, things should be pretty awesome, and you should definitely feel free to E-mail us if you have any questions.

Many thanks to Jewschool for letting us get the word out there!

We can’t wait to meet you.

Eshel in Eden: LGBT Jewish Summer Vacation Retreat in an Orthodox/Traditional Environment

Introducing: The first-ever Orthodox LGBT Vacation Retreat in the Midwest

July 5th through 8th, 2012 at Ronora Lodge and Retreat Center, Watervliet, Michigan

Whether you are Orthodox, Traditional or just want to spend a relaxing Shabbat with others, this retreat is for you.

 

Retreat will include inspiring learning, spirited davening (prayer), delicious locally grown kosher food, and an Eshel Speaker and Leadership training. Retreat will take place in a beautiful, natural setting with lots of time in between for relaxation, beauty and summer fun, including trip to Warren Dunes. Stay tuned for more details!  Have questions about the summer retreat? Email miryam@eshelonline.org

 

*Eshel builds understanding and support for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in traditional Jewish communities. www.eshelonline.org

And Sandra Fluke’s boyfriend isinteresting why?

Gawker has discovered a variation on Godwin’s law: “As a Tea Party discussion grows longer, the probability of anti-semitism approaches one.”

Apparently Sandra Fluke’s dating a Jewish guy (Bill Mutterperl) is somehow relevant… to something?

“anyone familiar with Boston and New York political history knows about the wealthy Mutterperl family’s long tradition of supporting the typical Jewish variant of socialism.

I wonder if Adam has ever been to a kibbutz.”

As Gawker notes, “These are literally the same Tea Partiers who accused Occupy Wall Street of antisemitism.” -it’s in fact, the same guy: Brooks Bayne

As someone involved with Occupy Judaism and several other variants of Occupy in my native city, how much damn time did I have to spend talking to newspapers about how stupid the accusations of antisemitism were? And yet, people keep defending tea-partiers as misunderstood?

Feh.

In Memoriam: Adrienne Cooper (1946-2011)

Just over a week ago, the world Yiddish community lost the greatest Yiddish songstress of our time, Adrienne Khane Cooper, who died on December 25, 2011 at the age of 65.   Adrienne was a person of enormous passion and talent who, as both a performer and teacher, molded a whole generation of young Yiddishists and klezmorim.

In her short 65 years on this earth, Adrienne zigzagged the map, both domestically (living in Oakland, Chicago, and New York), and internationally, touring and studying far and wide, bringing with her a love of Yiddish that was contagious as it was deep.  A scholar, a writer, a performer, and an innovator, Adrienne was a trailblazer in demonstrating to the world that the adventure of Yiddish has only begun. Adrienne’s profound love and respect for language, combined with her progressive politics made her the ideal figure for spearheading the contemporary Yiddish renaissance.

 

After working at the YIVO Language, Literature, and Culture summer program in New York City, Adrienne envisioned an intensified Yiddish cultural experience, and so, along with Henry Sapoznik, she created KlezKamp, the renowned annual Klezmer and Yiddish culture gathering in the Catskills, now nearing its 30th year.  These two programs, both of which Adrienne had a significant hand in shaping,  are  responsible for the outpouring of new Yiddish cultural expression—fueled largely by the enthusiasm of their young participants—that has emerged in recent years.

Among the countless Yiddish scholars and artists whom Adrienne mentored are such prominent figures in the Yiddish world as Yiddish scholar Jeffrey Shandler, acclaimed Yiddish singer Lorin Sklamberg, and outstanding Klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals. The assembled crowd at the New York memorial service for Ms. Cooper (which packed Ansche Chesed’s main sanctuary on Sunday, January 1st) was a veritable ‘who’s who’ in the Yiddish world, and each person in attendance seemed to have at least one story of how Adrienne had changed her/his life. Each of the twelve speakers who eulogised Adrienne at this memorial service shared thoughts regarding the varied and far-reaching aspects of Adrienne’s life and legacy. Upon exiting Ansche Chesed after the memorial service, I overheard an older man ask his friend, “Did you work with Adrienne?” his friend replied, “Of course. Who didn’t??”

As one  who delights in all things Yiddish and also sees in it a larger social mission, it warmed my heart when I heard dramatist and political activist Jenny Romaine read an excerpt from the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker award, which was presented to Adrienne by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) in 2010: “For all of this, and for never working from a place of chosen-ness or nostalgia but from a place of justice, empathy, and complex Yiddish polyphony, JFREJ is deeply honored to present the 2010 Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker Award to Adrienne Cooper. ” Indeed, for Adrienne, Yiddish language and culture was not a quaint novelty trapped in a glass box in a museum,  but rather a living, breathing, and evolving hands-on process which could help create a better world.

Perhaps my favourite memory of Adrienne was a Yiddish song workshop she facilitated at the 2008 YIVO summer program, where both myself and Adrienne’s daughter, Sarah Gordon, who is a talented and innovative Yiddish songstress in her own right, were students.  At the aforementioned workshop, I witnessed the special beauty of the bond between Adrienne and Sarah, a bond, spanning the generations, of shared  dedication and love, both for Yiddish language and culture  and for each other.  This special bond was best summarised by the final eulogy delivered at the memorial service last Sunday by Sarah, who stated simply, but most eloquently, “She was my mother.”  All too often, when we speak of great figures, we forget the unique and personal relationships that  are truly the defining aspects of life—the relationships that make us who we are. After hearing eleven people speak beautifully of Adrienne as a legend, Sarah reminded us that she was also a “Yidishe Mame.”

Because of her dedication to helping create a better world, Adrienne served on the Board of Directors of JFREJ, and the family requests that donations in her memory be made to them: www.jfrej.org/Koved ir ondenk.

From Gratitude to Praise; Occupy yourselves with Rosh Chodesh on Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving celebrators around the country, here ye.   Amidst all your holiday planning and travel, and your decisions on how to spend “Black Friday,” please consider how you might conclude this festive weekend.   On Saturday evening, Rosh Chodesh will be upon us.  On Sunday morning it is traditional to give praise to the Most High.  One way to do this is by Occupying Rosh Chodesh, as some of us are doing this Sunday at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan.  All are invited.  For more information see below:

What is Rosh Chodesh? This Sunday November 27th we are entering into the darkest month of the year, Kislev. However, during the month of Kislev, we celebrate Hanukkah, the festival of light.

Why be Occupied with it? It’s easy to celebrate when life is pleasant, when victory has been achieved and when the weather is warm. Rosh Chodesh is a monthly celebration fueled by a historical memory of enslavement. No matter where we are in the struggle for freedom and justice, Jewish tradition commands us to find ways to join forces and sing together – to experience the feeling of what redemption will truly taste like.

How will we celebrate it? On the Thanksgiving Sunday, two days after Black Friday, we will welcome the Hebrew month of Kislev with song and praise. In contrast to the melodies used to urge us toward the season of ‘holiday shopping’ we will sing the traditional Hallel / songs of praise sung on Rosh Chodesh. As part of the service, there will also be a chance for some learning and reflection on how Rosh Chodesh connects to the wider Occupy movement. The whole service should last no longer than one hour.

Who is invited? We welcome people of all backgrounds, races, gender identities and religious/faith affiliations.

 

 

David Brooks, Major A$$hole

jewish week ows kn

Kol Nidrei service at Occupy Wall Street via The Jewish Week

This guestpost is by Mik Moore, a writer and campaign strategist, and the principal partner at Mik Moore Consulting LLC.

This morning I got up, poured myself a bowl of cereal and opened the NYTimes. Eventually I came to David Brooks’ column. A largely forgettable critique of the Occupy Wall Street protests for being insufficiently radical, it included this nugget:

Take the Occupy Wall Street movement. This uprising was sparked by the magazine Adbusters, previously best known for the 2004 essay, “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?” — an investigative report that identified some of the most influential Jews in America and their nefarious grip on policy.

This is classic Brooks. He writes something that appears innocent enough on its face, but is really underhanded, dishonest, and incendiary.

So, what’s going on here? In short, the right is looking for a way to discredit Occupy Wall Street, and so far nothing seems to stick. Hard to portray them as a mob when they are non-violent. Hard to portray them as just a bunch of hippies when so many different people are participating. Hard to portray them as radicals when their critiques are relatively mainstream.

Brooks has a different idea. Why not call them antisemites? Maybe that will slow them down.

For anyone who takes seriously accusations of antisemitism – and I do – this is dangerous. Crying “antisemitism!” when it isn’t there makes it more difficult to combat real antisemitism. It also makes young Jews cynical and older Jews scared.

Because Brooks thinks he’s slick, he doesn’t come out and say the protest organizers are antisemites. He just implies it. And if the tree (Adbusters) is tainted, don’t eat those apples (OWS)! Because what was the nature of Adbusters antisemitism, according to Brooks? “[A]n investigative report that identified some of the most influential Jews in America and their nefarious grip on policy.”

An influential elite! Controling policy! Hey, isn’t that what these folks down on Wall Street say they are protesting? It doesn’t take much to connect Brooks’ dots.

Don’t buy it? You must not listen to Rush Limbaugh. On his radio show, Rush picked up on Brooks’ inference. But unlike Brooks, Rush doesn’t beat around the bush. According to Rush, the 99% are the gentiles. The 1% are the Jews. Wall Street bankers is code for rich Jews. It all makes sense!

Brooks is counting on his well tended reputation to enable him to play the antisemitism card and get away with it. He shouldn’t. What he is doing is divisive. It diminishes real antisemitism. And it ignores the thousands of Jews who are active participants in shaping Occupy Wall Street.

This photograph (above) was taken for The Jewish Week during Kol Nidre services, held across from Zuccotti Park in support of Occupy Wall Street. Their presence alone should suffice as a rebuttal to Brooks’ insufferable insinuation.

Occupy Kol Nidrei NY: “The fallacy that gold is God!”

(Photo by David A.M. Wilensky (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0))

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.

Us.

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.

Rabbis Looking to Speak about Occupy Wall Street

Urgent question:  Anyone out there have a concise statement about Occupy Wall Street that would be a show of solidarity with the protesters.  I need one suitable for a rabbi to read to his/her congregants on Kol Nidre this coming Friday night.  The Collective Statement of the Protesters is a powerful manifesto, but the strong tone of confrontation on a night that stresses self reflection does not feel in the spirit of vidui (confessing sins) and forgiveness.  If a well crafted statement that acknowledges the galvanized efforts of people around the country around the issues of economic justice and corporate responsibility exists, it should find its way to many pulpits this Yom Kippur.

Kol Nidrei. Occupy Wall Street. Arthur Waskow. Be there.

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.

Check out the Facebook event for details and updates.

Updated, 10/5: Sieradski tell meWaskow is no longer coming for health reasons. Sad times.

Changes at Zeek


Zeek, the journal of Jewish culture and thought, a source of insightful articles and art from the emerging generation of Jewish thinkers, has announced that it is going through some transitions. (Read on after the jump) More »

אין הפקר

kram1
In November of 1940, Roman Kramsztyk (pictured above) found himself behind the ghetto walls. The Germans had invaded and Kramsztyk, a Polish-speaking Jew who spoke no Yiddish and read no Hebrew, suddenly found himself surrounded by the battered Jews of which he knew practically nothing. The son of two of Poland’s most wealthy Jewish families, Kramsztyk’s forced move into the ghetto symbolized, in dark tones, the estrangement of Jews living, by chance of their birth only, on the gilded periphery of Jewish and Polish life.

Up until that point, Kramsztyk, who had been baptized at birth, had become known as one of Poland’s most compelling painters and he considered himself a Pole. He was committed to melding the demands of modernist aesthetics with traditional masters. A member of the Polish Rytmists (Rhythmists), Kramsztyk’s paintings drew on Cezanne, orientalism and the Baroque. Jewish themes emerged in his work only around the time of his internment in the ghetto, when he became known for compiling artwork that would testify for victims there.

Here is an early portrait of Kramsztyk himself, sitting beside his painting in his Warsaw studio. The photograph’s symmetries, and the asymmetries for that matter, are striking.

Roman Kramsztyk was shot and killed in the Warsaw ghetto on August 6th, 1942 at the age of 57.

Wedding Manifesto v1.2

Apologies for having been quite quiet for the past while. Much of it had to do with planning a wedding and getting life back to “normal” afterwards. As I reflected on that experience, I decided to write up some advice for people planning weddings or helping people that are. Crossposted at DiD. Since this is a manifesto in progress, your thoughts on topics for inclusion, changes, etc are all very much welcomed. Sorry for the technical mishap and resulting problems with readability in an earlier draft.

Wedding Manifesto

As we planned our wedding we came under pressure to spend obscene amounts of money on a variety of silly things–I suspect this is the American way. The pressure was real, came from many places, and thankfully was almost entirely resisted. If it can happen to us–it can happen to you! I’ll outline some of the things we did and why, including resources. My approach to weddings is that it’s critical to save your budget for things that will make your wedding match your goals. Since the budget is limited, spending on things you care about will necessitate ruthlessly cutting things you don’t. I’ll talk more about this throughout. My experience with wedding is a bit limited (though I’ve been to 30 or so I’ve only planned one).

What’s the Point?
More »

Limmud NY will make you smarter and more attractive

OK. So maybe the title is a bit of an exaggeration, but Limmud NY is pretty damn great.

It’s an annual gathering of hundreds of Jews of every age (tots to college students to twentysomethings to  families to retirees) and background (Orthodox to Renewal to non/post/trans-denominational to Conservative to Reform to secular to whatever the hell else you call yourself).

We’re there to learn, sing, hang out, drink, teach and bask in the glory of the broadest definition of Torah you can conjure up.

This year it’s MLK weekend: Jan. 14-17. And it’s at the Hudson Valley Resort in the Catskills.

At Limmud NY, everything is volunteer-run and everyone is a learner and a teacher.

You can register here. Fees go up after December 16. And there’s always scholarship money available, so don’t be discouraged by prices.

And you can check out some of this year’s confirmed presenters here.

Here’s everything I’ve ever written about Limmud NY.

What I Learned at the General Assembly

It was my first time at the GA, and I’m very glad I got to go. But then, I really like conferences. Here are some thoughts:

1. I knew quite a few people who were there, including one of the Jewish Voice for Peace protesters. This conflicts with my sense that politically and communally, I’m a marginal Jew. Conclusion: the mainstream, official, institutional Jewish world isn’t quite as narrow as one might imagine.

2. Two young women wearing Israeli army uniforms were mingling with folks at the conference. I asked one of them if I could take her picture, thinking it would be fun to share here on Jewschool. Right before the snap, she said – but you can’t post my picture anywhere. Let’s recap: this nice Israeli woman soldier was fine letting me photograph her for my PERSONAL collection. How creepy is that? Made me wonder if men asking to take her picture was something normal.

3. There’s a class of older guy in a suit and white shirt who wanders around talking to clones of each other and looking important. I have no idea what they are doing. They weren’t at any of the workshops I attended. Who are they? Anyone know?

4. After the JVP protest/disruption of Netanyahu’s speech, I heard folks say that there was a mismatch between the alleged tactic and the reasonable message of the youngsters. Why not a JVP booth next year? The way to win an argument with the mainstream is by dressing it in mainstream clothes. I fear that disruptive tactics that aren’t part of a constructive plan make ‘our’ side a bit weaker in the corridors of power. Then again, they sort of made headlines, right? So I’m torn. I also think Rae can do no wrong….

5. Secret plan uncovered: the ‘refuse to talk about Israel’ wing of the progressive Jewish world might be on to something. Pro-peace folks are unlikely to ‘win’ an argument about Israel’s importance or get leaders to admit they are wrong about knee-jerk supporting of the Israeli government. But they might make a case that a rising cohort of Jews who care more about universal values and less about tribal hallmarks of Jewish identity need more and better alternatives to a focus on Israel.

Actually, they’ve done it. The Social Justice Roundtable that includes JFSJ, Avodah, AJWS, Repair the World and others are proving to general satisfaction that they offer programs that work with young people. In a few years (I predict) we’ll have solid evidence that those programs represent the solid core of Jewish continuity work, performing better and costing less than Israel related programs.

Some day, at a meeting of those strange dudes in suits and white shirts will conclude that the whole Israel thing is coming at the expense of continuity work, at least as currently formulated. Will they choose what works by the numbers, or drive the Israel right or wrong agenda with a smaller and smaller audience?

6. Some public facing leaders of Jewish organizations have personas that ooze sincerity. Am I the only one who sees almost all of it as performance, leaving me cold to any emotional content they might have sought to impart? It’s the same trait I’ve noticed with many politicians and rabbis. Is it just me?