Eight more states – DE, HI, MD, MA, NH, NY, RI, WI – have primary elections this week. (Hawaii’s is on Yom Kippur – DOHT!) Have you fallen into the trap of praying for peace and prosperity but haven’t checked your local polling location?
Rock the Mitzvote reminds you to get off your tuchas and get out there. Use their free High Holidays e-card to encourage everyone you know in these 8 states to hit the polls – let’s pray with our feet, people!
With one month to go until Yom Kippur, The Shalom Center and Jewish Currents have teamed up to create a video celebrating 10 contemporary martyrs who were killed in the past 50 years “because they were affirming profound Jewish values of peace, justice, truth, and healing of the Earth.”
There’s an article in the current Washington Jewish Week, of DC not the state, that addresses this week’s parasha, specifically those sticky parts we say in the daily Sh’ma. You know, the passage about God rewarding us or punishing us by manipulating the rain.
We are turning away from God’s command by Joelle Novey
Special to WJW
I’ve been having a hard time with a passage in Ekev, this week’s Torah portion. Unfortunately, I’ll be reading it again soon, because the words appear in our daily liturgy, after the Sh’ma:
“If you heed my commandments, then I’ll grant your land’s rain in its season, that you might gather your grain, wine and oil. I’ll grant grass in your fields for your cattle, that you might eat and be satisfied.
“Take care that you not be seduced and turn away to serve other gods. Then God’s fury will turn against you. God will block the sky. There will be no rain. The earth will not grant its produce. You will quickly perish from the good land that God grants you” (Deuteronomy, 11:13-17).
It’s harsh, and some prayer books have omitted it, uncomfortable with divine judgment. But that’s not what concerns me.
For me, it’s hard not to notice that the threatened curse itself seems to be coming true.
The global average temperature has risen 1.4 degrees in the past 150 years, and is rising faster and faster. Spring is coming one to two weeks earlier across the Northern Hemisphere. We have just lived through the hottest April, May and June ever recorded.
Around the world, rain isn’t coming in its season. Draught and other climactic changes have caused $5 billion in crop losses annually for three decades. Many are finding it more difficult to eat or to be satisfied.
Why is this happening? We have blocked the sky. Coal-fired power plants, airplanes, cars and agriculture are generating greenhouse gases. They accumulate and trap the sun’s heat, causing the Earth to warm. The safe carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere is 350 parts per million. We’re near 400 already, and rising.
“Isn’t the weather God’s department?” writes Rabbi Julian Sinclair of the Jewish Climate Initiative. “In traditional Jewish theology, climactic conditions are part of the divine prerogative.” But now, “the natural climactic systems are responding to human actions … [that] are creating their own retribution.”
Some teachers of Jewish ecology have suggested that we understand “turning away” to describe people polluting. Then, the climactic punishment fits our crime. The text, at least, is fulfilled.
Unfortunately, what’s really happening isn’t anywhere near that fair. We have turned away, but it is others who find that there is no rain, and the earth won’t grant its produce. Those perishing from the good land have done least to contribute to the problem. Already, the World Health Organization estimates that 300,000 people around the world are dying from direct effects of climate change, most of them in developing countries.
In the weeks following Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish year, we seek consolation.
In this, what is our consolation? Maybe Americans will call on Congress to pass strong climate legislation. Maybe in our homes and communities, we will find ways to reduce our carbon emissions. Our society may yet come together to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Maybe this work will leave us ultimately with a better world.
But today, as I anticipate hearing that threat read from the Torah, I don’t feel ready for consolation. I’m just too sad to be living in a time when human beings have managed to cause, for ourselves, the most terrifying divine punishment our biblical forebears could imagine.
It’s lonely to be in uncharted territory, beyond even the harshest rebuke from nature that the Torah describes.
Who are we in this story? We are both those who heed the Torah and those who interfere with rain in its season.
No matter what we do next, we’re already partly too late. I grieve that even those of us who say the Sh’ma — who call on our people to hear, three times daily, about the unity of all — I grieve that we, of all people, haven’t been listening.
Kung Fu Jew here, reporting quasi-live from Jerusalem: There has been considerable hubbub in the news about expelling Arab families from their houses in Silwan to make way for a King David-themed archeological park. The protests have captivated attention abroad in the past few months, onthisblogandotheronlinenews.
So it was only fitting that when Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat came home today, none other than King David himself greeted him, complete with racous royal court and jesters. See the video for His Highnesses’ formal decree that it be Barkat’s house razed instead. (Photos here.)
Over 100 people attended over the hour and a half, nearly entirely Jerusalemites in their 20s and 30s, with a smattering of other generations as well. Signs and chants declared that Jews and Arabs would not be enemies, that Jerusalem would not become Hebron, and accusing the mayor of “pimpin’ the Bible” on the settlers’ behalf. Shalom Achshav organized the protest but according to my hosts, attendance was largely the crowd known for The protest was organized by the same who are planning and participating in the related Sheikh Jarrah protests.
The phenomenon is exciting — or at the least notable — for several factors related to the decline of the Israeli left. Firstly, that there are joint Jewish-Arab protests at all is notable. And though orginally started just with Sheikh Jarrah’s residents, the families of Silwan invited the joint organizers to come to their neighborhood also. That simple act speaks volumes about trust and partnership across a chasm unfilled since the failure of the Oslo peace process.
But much more importantly, the organizers are new faces, young activists not represented by the established (and diminished) left wing, such as Meretz and Shalom Achshav. The Knesset pro-peace vote has shrunk by half and typical pro-peace demonstrations are but a shadow of their past. New interest and renewed vigor is interesting to note, even hopeful. The presence of religious activists, including our own LastTrumpet, has stirred many more to sit up and take notice.
Tomorrow we’ll bring you an interview with some of them and ask the most interesting questions: if Palestinian dispossession is nothing new…why these families? And why now?
I can only imagine the pitch meeting: “What if the Swedish Chef was a Zionist?” “But the Swedish Chef is kind of a psycho, totally unaware of the havoc he’s wreaking on everyone around him while he’s trying to make his meal.” “Exactly! It’s perfect!”
I’ll admit, after watching the first one I stumbled across (“Jew Bread“), I turned to my office-mate and asked if she tell whether this was anti-Semitic or Zionist. After watching a few more, I think the answer is clearly “both.”
It’s like a train wreck… Each clip I watch repulses me in new and different ways, but I can’t look away…
So the the question is… who’s funding/making/distributing these?
Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Gavriel Meir-Levi who has served in the IDF and is active in American politics. He is currently involved in creating social media for a State Senate campaign and completing his forthcoming memoir OBAMADOX about working on the Obama Campaign. He loves iPhone Apps.
Today, as many Jews in Israel and around the world celebrate the (conquest) reunification of (East) Jerusalem, it might seem ironic to look at the current situationin East Jerusalem as an opportunity for peace. Many esteemed figures such as Elie Wiesel have proposed that the issue of East Jerusalem should be pushed off in to the future as far as possible, while on the other end of the spectrum Ed Koch offers us his recent comparison of Jerusalem to a New York City with East Jerusalem as its “Arab Borough.” I leave it to you the reader to figure out if he means Queens or Staten Island.
The above notwithstanding, I believe the idea of looking at East Jerusalem with a fresh pair of eyes has a lot of merit. Rather than forcing the East Jerusalem Arabs to pick sides in which at least some would opt to stick with Israel, why not grant them citizenship in BOTH the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority? In stead of being at the center of a tug-of-war they could be a magnificent bridge between East and West. More »
Tevel B’tzedek is on the ground supporting communities and even running a school in the Petitionville refugee camp. Below are some selections from recent blog posts from our friends over at Repair the World:
There are thousands of children in the camp, but only one school, run by volunteers from the Israeli non-profit Tevel b’Tzedek, and funded by IsraAID, an umbrella organization of Israeli groups working in the developing world. I founded Tevel b’Tzedek, which has been working with poor and marginalized communities in Nepal for the past three years through its service learning programs that combine volunteering with the study of poverty, Jewish social justice values and globalization. The nine Israeli and US Jewish volunteers of “Tevel” have been here for the past two months. As I walk through the camp with them, they seem to know everyone, from the children to the U.S. Marines providing camp security. There is an amazingly unlikely moment as we climb the steep hill towards the school—we meet a group of Nepali UN soldiers, and the Tevel Nepal graduates chat with them in Nepali—it seems like the harbinger of a new world.
My job is to figure out what to do next. With the rains and then typhoons coming, the camp is not safe, especially for those on the bottom of steep hills. The camp will empty out over the next few months. Should we go to work in the next phase of semi-permanent camps? Should we move to one of the villages, where we can also use Israel’s agriculture expertise to boost food production, a major priority in Haiti even before the earthquake?
I’m no stand up, but Chasnoff is, which is where his book begins: as a wannabe comic going nowhere fast, he enlisted for a year in the IDF. The resulting hijinks with boot camp, the pushy parents of his Mizrahi girlfriend, and ultimately fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon became fodder for 270 pages of Israel-Diaspora satire.
But this isn’t Dad’s copy of The Jewish Book of Humor, put down the drum snares. Chasnoff’s straight man is himself — us Americans and Diaspora Jews by extension. Our assumptions (fantasies, really) of kickass, hardcore Jews become the joke just as much as the unprofessional (and deadly) antics of his platoon mates.
You learn a lot of military vocabulary through Crybaby. Most important, it seems, is mefageret – retard. In loyally reproducing the conversations of a teenage army, we learn the Hebrew for fuck up, whore, coward, dick, moron, disgrace, nincompoop, momma’s boy, zealot, and your mother’s cunt. What behavior could we expect from combat units staffed and run by 18- to 22-year-old males?
Male pride and military enthusiasm culminates with the most morbidly funny vignette in the book, “The Unluckiest Dog in Lebanon.” One night patrolling in Lebanon, Chasnoff sees the only action of his service: a heat signature through his Merkava tank’s night vision that could be a terrorist. Everyone awakes; the alarm is passed up the chain; the order comes to fire! Then Chasnoff identifies the “terrorist” — it’s a dog. A dog. Fueled by combat adrenaline, his commander nonetheless fires several shells. Several. Check the book for the conclusion.
The incident symbolizes the moment where the reality really kills the myth. All the training and technological mastery crescendos in a moment of absurdity. And humor is the only way to make sense of it.
I like this book because it shows us Israeli society at it’s most simple: as fickled and stratified as any other. Despite their bonding by shared boot camp hell, his fellow soldiers are awarded rank and job by virtue of racism. The whites become commanders, the Russians get second best, the Mizrahi get the worst. We may think all Israelis are heroes, but we count the notable percentage of his unit that didn’t pass boot camp. The book features cowards, drop outs, and the criminally reckless. A veritable alternate dimension.
I appreciate most that Joel Chasnoff doesn’t hit us with reality like a punch to the face. (As perhaps I am wont to do.) Instead he slowly and steadily pops our little sacred cows one by one, like a square yard of bubble wrap. It teaches as it pokes fun and it loves as it admonishes. Laughing makes both the Diaspora and Israel normal, even humble. I would highly encourage the use of this book by educators.
Ultimately Crybaby is a good book because it’s not a canned laugh track but a well-written story about a relatable Jew seeking manliness as America defines it. He comes of age not when he masters his tank or shows off his gun (see the trailer for that bit), but when he sees Israel for what it is and not what he wants it to be. And that, even if the book weren’t funny, would still make it touching and totally worth reading.
I recently heard a favorite rabbi of mine say that the American Jewish community may have made a mistake early on by placing all of its communal institution eggs in the beit kneset, or synagogue, basket. He suggested that the beit midrash, or house of study might have been a better choice.
What the beit midrash has going for it is the potential to do highly diverse learning that will attract Jews from many background to sit together and learn. What it doesn’t have going for it is its format. It’s formal and it brings to mind all kinds of imagery and connotations that will turn off many contemporary Jews.
But what about a third kind of beit? What about the modern institution known as the Beit Cafe, perhaps better known in America as the Coffee House? It’s place where discussions happen, planned or spontaneous, as well as cultural events like readings and musical performances. In the contemporary American mind, exciting intellectual and cultural movements are associated with coffee shops, a definite plus for this model.
I’ll start by describing the place I’m imagining and then I’ll talk about why it makes sense for the American Jewish community today. More »
Remember a year or two ago when GPS technology started being added to cell phone applications? Many of us scoffed at the idea of being trackable by Big Brother or God knows who else, imagining the worst case scenarios of a privacy-free world. Fast-forward to today, and we can’t imagine walking from the subway to a meeting at an unfamiliar location without whipping out our phone and asking Google Maps to guide us, and when the meeting is over, we ask Google Local to guide us to the closest bar with a happy hour.
Well, my friends, Augmented Reality is the next feature coming to your phones that you won’t be able to live without. At its most basic, AR technology allows you to point your phone’s camera lens at objects in the real world to conjure all sorts of information related to it on your screen. The Boston Globe had a great introduction to the technology published in September.
AR technology has many potential applications in Jewish life. The most obvious to me fall in the categories of preservation of memory. Imagine walking through a Jewish cemetery and having instant access to biographical information, photographs, videos, family trees, and more, all available on your phone simply by focusing your camera on a particular headstone. Or envision a tour through the Lower East Side where every building unlocks an oral history from the people who grew up, lived, and worked there. Or think about all those portraits hanging on your synagogue’s walls — wouldn’t it be great to hear your beloved old cantor sing once more, simply by pointing your phone at the painting of him? More »
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 »
Women are largely prohibited from serving in combat units in the IDF, though they are ubiquitous as medics, scouts, officers, education officers, social workers, and more. Even still, women soldiers have increasingly been combatants over the past few years (see picture).
Yet most day-to-day work related to policing and securing the occupation is not ostensibly combat-related — so why are female soldier voices so few? Even among voices of conscience, female voices are rarely heard. Sometimes women soldiers are privy to the worst of human rights abuses by men — and yet remain silent still. Why?
Breaking the Silence is changing that with a new booklet of women’s testimonies and a cross-country mission to the American Jewish community this month. Dana Golan is bringing their first-ever women-only testimonies to America as the organization strives to educate the American Jewish public on what “occupation” entails.
Their first woman CEO, former Border Police officer Dana Golan, explains:
“Israeli society does not want to think about our girlfriends, daughters and sisters taking an active role in carrying out the ‘occupation,’ just like the male soldiers. We want to believe that the female soldiers stationed in the territories are not as aggressive and that they do not get their hands dirty.”
She explains women feel it is not their place to out their peers, and the pressure to be “one of the guys” often begs them to be more harsh than their male counterparts.
Breaking the Silence is one of Israel’s most important — and hard to hear — contributors to the debate around the conflict. Neither heroes nor villains, they say, Israeli soldiers are young people put in impossible situations. I highly encourage you to attend these humanizing (de-hero-izing and de-villifying in turn) voices, this time from women of conscience.
Friday, February 19, 2010
12:30PM – NYU, Richard Ettinghausen Library, 50 Washington Square South.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
7:00PM – Columbia-Barnard Hillel: the Kraft Center for Jewish Life, 606 West 115th Street (between Broadway and Riverside Drive). Sponsored by New Israel Fund’s New Generations, RSVP here.
The idea: A site to host the development of “open source” curriculum for learning how to learn Talmud and other texts in Hebrew/Aramaic.
The need: There are few if any curriculae which are targeted at the student who wants to start a serious learning practice, or for use by teachers who want to initiate students into a serious learning practice. There are many, many sites for introducing the unaffiliated and the uninterested. However, the interested and affiliated who want to take their study practice one step up are in a bind. This is especially so for those who don’t live in a major urban center. Moreover, teachers in day schools and the growing number of community high schools who want to up their game and teach on a higher level are also in bind.
The project: The web site would be a collaboration between Jewish educators and web designers. Tools would be developed that would allow educators to collaborate with each other across geographical boundaries on curriculae and methodologies.
Obstacles: Years ago when I was the chair of the Rabbinics Department at the Ziegler School, I wanted to start a conversation about teaching Talmud in the original languages to adults on a graduate level. I discovered that there was almost nothing published on the subject. There was one article by Dr. Marjorie Lehman of JTS in the Journal of Jewish Education. The situation has improved somewhat. A conference was convened two years ago at Brandeis University to address the issue. Some more articles have since been published. However, when a teacher, pressed by time and not compensated for creating curriculae on her own, wants to teach Talmud to her tenth grade class, she is back with her Talmud and nothing else. (The level of compensation for most Jewish educators at all levels is a stain on the Jewish community and an insult to Torah—but that is a rant for another day.)
What I suggest is that the ability to collaborate—either to have a great idea and put it up to allow someone else to develop; to step into the middle of the process and add a twist which will make it better—will spread the work out and also keep the means of production in the hands of the workers. Credit for the work will be assigned to those who do the work and not to the institutions who benefit from it.
Process: While the curriculum will be “open source,” in that permission will be given to modify, add, etc. to the educational products in process, there will have to be a screening process for collaborators to avoid the wikipedia fallacy, otherwise known as the blind leading the blind. Those who collaborate will have to have been trained and perhaps credentialed in recognized ways so that there is a serious element of quality control.
As an example of the type of curriculum I am referring to, I am appending here for download, a pdf textbook that I created several years ago for Kiddushin 29aƒƒ—the discussions dealing with the obligations of parents and children. This curriculum has been used successfully in various different high-school and graduate school settings by several different teachers, and, not to sound like the bitter old man that I am, I should have been well-compensated for developing this—but I harbor no illusions that that will ever be the case. So I present it here in its uncompleted form as an example of the type of curriculum that could benefit from further development by qualified collaborators. (If you are interested in exploring the curriculum, you must download it to your computer and open it with Adobe Reader or the full Acrobat, otherwise most of the functionality won’t be available.)
The following post is by Rabbi (and new mom) Ilana Garber of Beth El Temple in West Hartford, CT. Rabbi Garber’s expertise extends to both the young and the young-at-heart, with experience leading Tot Shabbat services, singing in nursing homes, and more. She is passionate about mikveh resurgence, creating new rituals, learning with others, music of all kinds, and cheering for the Red Sox. You can follow her on Twitter at both @ilanagarber and @bethelwh.
I was sure I was having a girl, and throughout the pregnancy I connected to my unborn fetus in a mother-daughter sort of way. I was so sure, in fact, that when the doctor exclaimed, “it’s a boy!” I shot back with, “it’s a WHAT?!?!?!” And with that, my beautiful baby boy was welcomed into this world.
My husband and I had always planned to welcome our daughter – I mean our child – into this world with many Jewish rituals. Before the birth we had created templates for our welcoming/naming ceremony, most likely a Simchat Bat, a celebration at the birth of a daughter. Yes, we had planned for a bris as well, and either way we intended to have the welcoming-into-the-Jewish-covenant ceremony on the 8th day of the baby’s life (so as to be egalitarian – boy or girl).
The bris happened, of course, and was fine. Well, I’ll admit that the night before the bris I whispered to my tiny, helpless son that I was sorry we were Jewish! Yes, and I’m a rabbi. My motherly instincts took over and I was just so sad for the pain he was about to endure. Everyone assured me it would be quick and easy, and it was, even for my son. The day passed and we all lived to tell the tale. As I saw it, our next Jewish ritual task would be to plan our son’s bar mitzvah (in 2022 – save the date!).
But what I hadn’t anticipated in relation to Jewish rituals came in the form of a plane reservation made by my Modern Orthodox in-laws. “We’re coming for the Pidyon HaBen,” they announced, just hours after the mohel had completed his task. A Pidyon HaBen, literally the redeeming of the (first born) son, is a symbolic ceremony held on the baby boy’s 31st day of life. Based on our experience in Egypt, when the firstborn sons of the Egyptians were killed but those of the Israelites were saved and consecrated to God, God commanded that when we arrived in the land of Canaan, we would “redeem every firstborn male among your children” (Exodus 13:13). Jews have been doing this ever since, and now, apparently, it was our turn.
I immediately objected to this idea – actually, I freaked out. Here’s why:
A Pidyon HaBen is only for a boy, so by holding this ceremony we would be implying that a boy is in some way superior to a girl. As a feminist, I just could not stomach that.
The ceremony necessitates a kohen, someone descended from the Jewish priestly class. But I don’t believe that anyone actually knows if they are a kohen (forgive me if you think you are one), so how does one person claiming to be a kohen make him (yes, in this case, him) superior to anyone else? As someone who believes in egalitarianism, I couldn’t handle this.
The Pidyon HaBen is about the (hopeful) future restoration of the Temple, as in THE Temple, in Jerusalem, and the idea that if we redeem our son he would not have to serve in the Temple. I do not think that restoring the Temple would be good for the Jewish people as a whole, and so even considering my son for that kind of experience (even symbolically) was too much for me. Plus, I joked to my husband, as a pulpit rabbi, I am committed to a lifetime of temple service – why should my son be free from this?
Since a Pidyon HaBen is only for the firstborn son of a woman who has delivered vaginally and has had no other issue of the womb (no daughters, but also no miscarriages or abortions), I felt that my celebrating such “luck” was insensitive to all of the women who are struggling with fertility challenges.
My husband and I did a lot of soul-searching, and we tried to make the best parenting decision we could, one that was consistent with our values and also in the best interest of our son. Ultimately we realized that it would be best if we held the Pidyon HaBen ceremony, quietly, without a lot of people and not making such a big deal, so that there would never be a question in our son’s mind as to whether he was redeemed. We decided that it was important to fulfill the ritual and to uphold our tradition, even though we struggled with some of the implications of the ceremony. Looking back, I’m glad we did it, and I loved the moment the kohen handed our son back to us and declared, “he’s your boy!” This time I just smiled and said, “yes, he is!”
Not in NYC? Host your own watching party & catch it on the Jewish Channel on Saturday nights. [Note: TJC is available on cable -- iO Optimum ch. 291, Time Warner ch. 528, RCN ch. 268, Verizon FiOS ch. 900, and Cox Cable ch. 1. For more information, visit tjctv.com.] Send some photos to editor-at-jewschool-dot-com & we’ll post them on the site. (Or just share them with us on facebook)
Do you like playing computer games? You can play more than 10,000 different games on Kongregate.com, for free. More games are added to the site every day, written by a legion of programmers hoping to win fame… and perhaps a very modest fortune … by creating a popular game.
It’s time to harness that raw creativity and technical talent for the Jewish community.
We can use games to teach the boring stuff of Jewish education, specifically Hebrew literacy and vocabulary.
Yes, there are already games to teach 100 words of Hebrew vocabulary, or the alef bet, or even which blessings to say when.
But these games haven’t taken off, for a simple reason: They don’t meet the needs of real Hebrew students.
Most Hebrew students — and I’m thinking here of Joey, my fourth grader whose favorite web site is Kongregate.com — have a specific goal in studying Hebrew. They want to do well on this week’s test.
So the words being taught have to be selected by a student’s teacher(s). There might be multiple lists for one student. Hebrew language and another for Tanakh class, in a day school setting. In a supplementary school, the vocabulary might consist of a few Hebrew letters… or of words that appear in the student’s Torah portion. It should be easy to select words keyed to a Biblical verse, a particular prayer, or a particular page of a Hebrew textbook.
But if the words are set by the teacher, the games need to be designed with the students in mind. They need to stand on their own as shoot-em-ups or puzzles or maze games or whatever genre is popular next year. But they don’t need to be programmed by educators… or even by Hebrew readers.
Kongregate.com offers programmers a set of instructions of how to interface the game they create to Kongregate’s back end of score keeping and advertising. The Hebrew game portal can similarly specify how each game would receive the player’s custom vocabulary list. How to take a dozen or two English-Hebrew word pairs and make a game out of it — that would be the programmer’s responsibility.
(Adobe did us a big favor last year when it released version 10 of its Flash player, the software in which the myriad free web games run. With the newest Flash, it’s easy to program bidirectional text — eliminating a practical obstacle to Hebrew in Flash games.)
The first games would have to be commissioned for the site, so it’s worth noting that the cost to hire a programmer to create a casual game like this has been estimated at below $10,000. When the project takes off, it can be largely self-supporting: a small membership fee, paid on a per-student basis by the participating school, could easily cover server and bandwidth costs.
Would-be players who aren’t enrolled by their school won’t be left out: They could be taught the Hebrew alphabet, and 100 basic words. But for participants, suddenly the stuff of homework — repetitive practice of vocabulary words — becomes a gaming matter. It’s a lot of Hebrew learning for a relatively small cost.
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.
Tobaron Waxman is the winner of The Jewish Museum’s first-ever Audience Award, selected from nearly sixty international artists. Votes were gathered from visitors to the exhibition in person and online, between September 13, 2009 and January 11, 2010. Waxman was selected for his provocative installation Opshernish, 2000/2009. The piece examines the construction of gender in Judaism by recreating and condensing a multi-part performance installation.
The following are the artist’s own words as shared with Jewschool’s editors: More »