In 1996 I was working for the International Center for Peace in the Middle East, a now defunct NGO based in Tel Aviv. One of the things it did was lead trips of various sorts in Israel and the Occupied Territories. For example, a trip with loads of journalists from the Arab world (Morocco, Jordan), Israel, Palestine and other countries – and a smattering of diplomats. I was a coordinator of the trip, though my main function was fundraising.
So there I was on a bus in Jerusalem, at the height of the imploding peace process. Rabin had already been assassinated, and Hamas was pushing back against both Arafat and Peres with suicide bombers. Anyway, it was March 4th and a suicide bomber detonated himself at Dizengoff Center, on a cross walk, It was Purim evening, just before 4pm, which was pretty close to the time that my daughter Esther was to be picked up from her pre-K childcare situation, over on King George Street. Right by the corner of Dizengoff, you know – right by Dizengoff Center.
We are all on the nice tourist bus in Jerusalem, listening to the radio describe what is known about the latest bombing. Multiple victims. Many children. And of course the cell phone towers couldn’t handle the traffic spike, so it wasn’t possible for me to call my Esther’s mom and find out if she is safe. Traffic gridlocked from one minute to the next. And right then, in front of all the diplomats and Arab journalists, I lost it and began crying hysterically as the entire bus retreated into silence, that is, except for the radio which continued to speculate on the number of casualties.
That was the last time I can credibly say that I’ve ‘lost it’ and I can’t help but hope that my capacity to do so is gone forever. FYI my daughter was unharmed and pretty far away from what happened.
Let me go out on a limb and say that all of us have different ways of dealing with traumatic events. I spent a few hours today coming up with funny/tasteless one liners (“they hate us for our Nikes”).
Living in New York City, I bet there are lots of folks who experienced what I did back on 9/11. And a few more who went through that today, in Boston. The world being what it is, you can count on the number of folks with this type of experience to increase over time, even in the United States. And if I could speak to all of those folks at one time, I’d ask them if they have any tasteless jokes about what happened today.
This thing we humans do, to look on a tableau of death and suffering and find that one thing that makes us laugh or snark – that’s a precious thing. Don’t feel like it has to die as well. At a time like this, it might be laughter or falling apart. That not a choice we can make for anyone but ourselves.
Its 48 hours before Pesach, and having read ”The Year of Living Biblically”, I’m preparing a lamb to meet its end so that I can smear its blood on the lintel of my door… What’s that? I don’t have to do that? Okay, the neighbors will be so relieved…
I will still have to rid myself of my chametz, however, as I can not possess or own any during Pesach. Before I engage in Bedikas Chametz, the search for chametz, I simply open my pantry- BAM! Bits of cereal at the bottom of the box. Legumes of all shapes and sizes, pasta and so on and so forth. On to the fridge. I half-eaten kugel from last week. Some fruit salad. Cheese slices. Egg Beaters.
Anyone else find themselves snarfing down whatever odds and ends remain the week before Pesach? Some people hate Passover cuisine. After a week of leftover crumbs, I’m ready to tear into Matzah. Whatever is sealed, I sell through a duly appointed process involving a Rabbi, pretzel logic and a certain number of he-goats and zuzim.
Those who do not avail themselves of the Rabbinic end-around of selling it on contract for a week with an option to an agreeable gentile have three options. 1. Keep your chametz and incur the wrath of the almighty and the sneers of neighbors. 2. BURN IT!
WOO HOO! Let’s burn everything in sight! It’s like Black Rock but with Bread! Its PAN-demonium! After all, we wont have another huge bonfire for 40 days when its Lag B’omer so let’s have a Biscuit Inferno! Cue the Music!
But wait, isn’t burning things bad, like crossing streams in ghostbusters? And can’t we do something with that stuff? There may be some excellent items sitting around. A bag of flour. A whole cake. A loaf of bread. Peanut Butter. Perfectly good food. Option 3: Donate.
In the Hagaddah we’re instructed Kol Difcheen- let all who are hungry come and eat. So how about it then? Donate your Chametz. You wont miss it. Fine, keep that bottle of Blanton’s, but the rest? Drop it at your local food pantry. Many congregations have a system set up for this. And in Israel, Modi’in’s Biur Hametz Project is coordinating the distribution of hametz to needy African refugees and migrant workers. That sounds so much more sensible.
It could be given to other as well. In Morocco, it was apparently the custom to give Hametz to one’s Arab or Berber neighbors. The Muslim neighbors would then repay the favor by supplying the pastries for the Mimouna festival at the end of Pesach. Such a healthy symbiotic way to coexist. Maybe that’s fantasy and maybe there’s a broader lesson. But in the interim, donate your your Hametz. To paraphrase Monty Python, BRING OUT YOUR BREAD! (to which the matza replies, I’m not quite bread yet…)
New York — Matisyahu, a Jewish kid who “found” Torah Judaism through reggae and lost his ability to trim his facial hair, reported today via Twitter that he shaved.
Jewish News services the world over sent news alerts, alerting their followers that the “musician” who has made a fortune “utilizing” another culture’s music for the “benefit” of the Jewish people shaved.
It would appear that by cleaning himself of his facial hair he has lost his magical powers to assume the musical styling of the Islands as well as his ability to be a role model for other lost Jews.
This modern day Samson story doesn’t end well for this mediocre musician. While reaction is mixed, his blatant abuse of his religion and the plagiarizing of another for his career is most likely over. Few are upset about this, yet there will be many who use this as further proof that young American Jews do not have the same connection to their traditions as previous generations.
[Editor's Note: We cut the rest of this article because it isn't news. For the sake of the holiness code move on. This guy made bad music with lame ass messaging based in a lack-luster Jewish indoctrination education.]
If you’re not familiar with Storahtelling, they’re a ritual theatre company, focusing on bringing the Torah, and Judaism, to wider audiences, making it more accessible and relevant today. I didn’t crib that from their mission statement, so allow me to excerpt it here:
Storahtelling restores the Torah Service to its original stature through a revival of the lost craft of the Maven, the traditional storyteller who translated the Hebrew Torah into local language. Rooted in biblical text and ritual practice, Storahtelling uses dramatized interpretations, traditional chanting, orginal music and live interaction to bring Bible off the page and onto the global stage.
The event was great, celebrating Storahtelling’s “b mitzvah,” which, as founding director Amichai Lau-Levie explained, is a “bar mitzvah, a bat mitzvah, a b mitzvah inclusive celebration for all genders.” And what a b mitzvah it was! Storahtelling turned 13, honoring their founding director, their incoming executive director and members of the board.
But what’s a b mitzvah without a little Torah? Jackie Hoffman, Jewish actress and comedian extraordinaire, studied with the Storahtelling staff, learning the Torah parsha that would have been her bat mitzvah parsha when she was a girl (raised Orthodox, Jackie didn’t have the option). She tackled a topic that many shy from: the rape of Dinah.
She broke the story up, making it more palatable, relevant and interesting. She interspersed chanting and discussion – with a healthy dose of humor, of course. (Amichai gave the English translations to Jackie’s Torah chanting on the fly.)
With more than a little (much appreciated) feminism flavoring her words, Jackie gave voice to Dinah. Dinah, the central character of this story, does not have any of her own words in the Bible. So Jackie, channeling Dinah, asked why the women of the Bible were too often chattel, to be swamped and shared amongst the men. She set the scene: Dinah had “two Jewish mothers. Think about that for a moment. And 12 stinky brothers.” She asked why Dinah’s mother was so willing to marry Dinah to the man who had raped her. (“Was she so desperate to see her daughter married, she’d ok a man who would defile her? Oh wait, that’s my mother!”) And she might have relished in her telling of the circumcisions of the men of Shechem: “They were in penis pain for three days!”
But it was an impromptu statement after she finished (and after she accepted her present from the “Sisterhood,” two gay Storahtelling staff) that summarized Storahtelling’s work so perfectly: “I’m a person who hates everything, and I dug this experience hard.”
And that’s just it. For Jackie, it was about bringing in some feminism, giving voice to the silent and suffering Dinah, and wrapping it all up in some jokes. For others, it might be highlighting gay characters or interfaith families, placing the Torah stories in contemporary settings, drawing and singing and acting the stories… bringing them to life. If you have the chance to get to a Storahtelling event], I highly recommend it.
*The only thing that would have made this night better? Had I gotten my photo taken with the hilarious Jackie Hoffman. And had she performed her Shavuot song, just for me.
Jewish, New York — In a surprise move another group of Reform Jews came out not so much in support of Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who has recently endured attacks over his approach to Zionism, but rather against Jews Against Divisive Leadership.
“All of a sudden there is this ad in the print edition of the Jewish paper and we are supposed to see that?” asks youth leader David Stern-Cohen-Burg, a member of Congregation Peace Love and Tzedek who is heading up Jewish Community Members Against Jews Against Divisive Leadership. “But when JTA published that divisive op-ed the other day and it popped up in my Twitter feed, I couldn’t get a group together fast enough through Facebook so I had to actually email a bunch of people.”
This group, mostly of younger Jews who fit into the models that have been presented after actual research (and not edict from traditional community leaders) that note young Jews have trouble associated with a more theocratic and anti-Arab Israel, have called upon the 35 member strong organization against divisiveness, to “shut up.” More »
That’s right, folks. You heard it here first. (Well, actually, you heard it at JTA first.)
Birthright Israel said it has received a record-breaking number of North American applicants for its free, 10-day trips to Israel.
The organization, which provides all-expense-paid trips to Israel for Diaspora Jews aged 18 to 26, received 40,108 applicants during the seven-day registration period ending Tuesday
Israel’s Minister For Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, called it “the most successful project in the Jewish world.”
[Emphasis mine, obviously.] JTA’s full story is here.
That’s quite a claim. I dunno how the actual founding of the state doesn’t take top honors there, but I’ll leave it to the bloviation specialists at Birthright and in the Israeli government to duke it out over that.
I will not twist Mr. Beck’s brilliance to say anything besides what he said:
“Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature. It’s almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way, to where it is just — radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics. When you look at the reform Judaism, it is more about politics. I’m not saying that they’re the same on … and they’re going to take it at that, but — stand in line.”
I will not take it “that way”…I will take it at face value. My religious experience is all about politics. Nothing to do with God, Israel (people and land) or Torah. Nope, nothing what-so-ever. More »
So some of us have been waiting to see our favourite recent addition to the Texas rabbi-ing scene* (yeah, such a thing exists) on the Daily Show for a week now. Seems there’s something happening in Egypt that kept bumping the segment?
John Oliver was in Texas to investigate a clash between the Christians and Jews, Republican style:
A Jewish shopper at Balducci’s main location in Greenwich Village noticed this most unlikely display last week (three years ago, but we’re a people of history) and lodged a complaint with the management, who quickly cast the blame on a stock clerk, according to the NY Daily News.
What’s next? A blow-out deal on Manischewitz wine and kashe varnishkes for Christmas?
Attention Balducci shoppers: clean up in aisle nine!
Chanukah ham story epilogue: if you would like this image and others like it immortalized on an apron, mug, calendar, or magnet, said Balducci’s customer Nancy Kay Shapiro wants to make your dreams a reality.
Music brings us all together. So after a longer than expected hiatus from posting here on the wonderful Jewschool, I come sharing some music from the fantastic Not By Might - A Debbie Friedman Cover Band.
To explain the “big-deal-ness” of this to non-Jews: just mention that Vice President Biden spoke, and they raise their eyebrows, as if they are impressed, and then squint, saying, “Is he Jewish?”
To stay awake during a session: count the number of times you hear the word “Delegitimization”–you won’t fall asleep, ever.
To be hypocritical: pretend you are an “older” delegate and don’t directly answer any of the questions that students ask during the sessions or workshop.
To sound like everyone else: use the following catchphrases–”delegitimization,” “conflict,” “framing,” “giving,” “development,” “social media,” “nolaga,” “Israel advocacy,” “Jewish identity,” “generation,” “future.”
Honoring movers and shakers doing good work on behalf of (or for) the Jooz in the areas of:
Social and economic justice and do-gooding
Peace (in Israel and elsewhere, except Iceland)
Jewish culture (whatever that is)
Spirituality (‘specially the touchy feel-y sort)
Inclusivity (Pluralist, Racial, Gender and all that ‘faggy’ stuff)
Media (it is the message after all, liek this blog)
Other things we hate but have to include.
Step one: We announce the contest and make it sticky on the site. (check)
Circulate it via email, blogosphere and intertubes. (need your help here)
Develop snarky but slick logo that looks Obama-esque (uh, check?)
Step two: Nominations accepted via form submission on the website
Post facebook event/app/group/widget to redirect voters to jewschool.com
Be sure that heads of major Joowish organizations and entities iz nominated.
Also, anyone with a huge email/twitter/facebook following…
Note that femalez iz welcome to apply but will not be winnerz
(cuz they iz too stoopid… naw, cuz they all already iz heroz- hi mom!)
Step three: Inform all nominees they are finalists. Because they are all special.
To be named a 36, they must encourage their supporters to vote for them
(and be popular).
Votes are accepted via hosted form, which collects their name, locale,
Announce winners of the cheerleading squad via press release, youtubz
Compile voter list into email database and announce winners via email list
Solicit their financial support, just for shirtz and gigglz
Use the email list for our own purposez: to give all teh kittehz cheezburgerz er- Kosher tofu-parve cheezburgers..!
Muuuuhahahahahaha!!!! I eatz it up. I laffs at u. More »
Of late, for a variety of reasons, I haven’t gone to my Chicago shul much. Between indie-minyans and leading services for the Jewish elderly, there’s not been much occasion for me to enter the institutions into which I purportedly refuse to set foot…
Still its scary to learn of the plot this week by getting emails from them about these bomb threats.
Mr. Al-Quesadilla, please dont’ bomb the the shul that I don’t set foot in. If its not going to be there for future generations of Jooz to use, I want it to be because of my principled stand, or at least the one I am purported to take (until I too have kids), rather than a due to your clumsy but scary terrorism attempt.
At the very least, I would prefer the aleph-bet soup Jooish defense organizations to exploit this event by soliciting funds in the name of defending Jooz from the very real turbaned boogey-men under our beds and laser printers. That way even more of us can be turned off by heavy-handed scare tactics (like we haven’t had enough of that with the elections…). It is not without irony that I hear the whir of printer drums warming up to spit out millions of fear-filled solicitation letters.