Here at Jewschool we have a long, illustrious history, 11 1/2 years of rambunctious, playful, earnest, free-thinking, alternative riffing on contemporary Jewish life. It’s worth taking stock of where we’ve come from, and in that light, the Jewschool editors are now inaugurating a new feature: Jewschool Throwback Thursdays. Every week, one of us will dig up a classic post from the Jewschool vault that we think is still timely and relevant, or that would benefit reconsideration, with some years of growth and maturity.
One of the signature features of Jewschool culture is criticizing things we think are destructive in the Jewish world, airing our dirty laundry out of the belief that it can be cleaned. This becomes especially contentious when it comes to criticism regarding Israel. In recent months, the Jewish world has seen a great deal of mudslinging and controversy over “Open Hillel” battles, un-invitations of speakers deemed too critical of Israel, or not critical enough of advocates of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel, etc., and Jewschool has covered this closely. For this kick-of Throwback Thursday, we bring you a classic piece from five years ago by our current Editor-in-Chief articulating, in as clear and forceful a way as I know, why we criticize the Israeli government when we feel it deserves it. The piece drew a blizzard of comments in its time; we hope it stokes conversation again now:
Just in case you’re keeping a scrap book of everything being said about the whole Open Hillel controversy, or you’re just interested in the broader issues about American Jews’ relationship to Israel and the place of dissent in the organized community, check out this smart piece in Tikkun by David Harris-Gershon. (Of course, if you’re like me, you may shake your head wondering how we got to a place where a writer as talented and thoughtful as David actually has to spend so much time on Planet Obvious. It’s embarrassing.)
Avid Jewschoolians may recall my October review of Harris-Gershon’s book, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? A Memoir, which narrates the events surrounding his wife’s injury in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, healing, grief, and emotional breakdown leading to an obsessive pursuit of the apparently remorseful attacker and culminating with meeting his family. Not surprisingly, this book has led Harris-Gershon, a journalist with The Daily Kos and Tikkun, on a speaking circuit in Jewish communities. Recently, Santa Barbara Hillel invited him to speak, then discovered that Harris-Gershon, a two-state advocate, had written sympathetically about economic boycott as legitimate, non-violent protest, and consequently threatened to revoke his invitation and bar his entry into the Hillel building unless he made a public statement clarifying his positions on BDS. This is probably too much build-up already; just read what he has to say about the episode here.
“Things gonna change; it’s apparent, and all the transparent gonna be seen through.
Let God redeem you, keep your deen true.
Watch out what you cling to; you can get the green too. Observe how a queen do…
You could get the money, you could get the power, but keep your eyes on the final hour.” — Lauryn Hill (“Final Hour”)
Jane Eisner and her good crew at The Forward have published their fifth annual salary survey, listing the 62 top-earning executives of American, Jewish non-profit organizations and their salaries. The main two questions emerging from these annual surveys are whether the salaries paid to our community’s leaders are appropriate, excessive, or insufficient, and why the gender gap remains so significant.
This year’s survey is accompanied, for the first time, by statistical analysis by Wharton Business School statistics Professor Abraham Wyner and his student Tamara Pier, quantifying pretty accessibly which CEO’s are overpaid in relation to the expected salary for an organization of the size they run. Wyner and his team also tackle the gender gap, quantifying how much of it should be attributed to the fact that when women run Jewish organizations, they tend to be smaller organizations, and how much should be attributed to other factors, such as sex discrimination in salary.
For what I hope is just round one of processing of this information here in Jewschool, I’m not jumping to conclusions yet about which, if any, of the salaries on this list is excessive and what kind of waste is going on in Jewish philanthropy, etc., as I don’t feel that I have sufficient command of the market data for how much non-profit CEO’s should be paid in order to recruit top people, what salaries need to be in different cities based on cost of living, etc.
I would like to home in on the gender data, just to focus our attention toward a productive strategy conversation toward communal repair. A few disturbing observations: More »
Jewschool founder Mobius aka Dan Sieradski is part of the panel at this very interesting event at the 14th Street Y on “The Future of Jewish Culture.” A full press kit is here. A quick look at the panel shows it covers not only various sectors but geographies and aims to address a significant amount of ground in an evening:
“After a decade of flourishing Jewish creativity, major Jewish cultural enterprises are being forced to scale
back operations or close entirely. Using recent funding cuts as a springboard to examine the most pressing
issues facing new Jewish arts and culture, “Now What?” addresses:
New perspectives on American Jewish identity
Waning support for quality Jewish art and culture
Strategies for cultivating Jewish art and culture in the future”
May 15, 2012 7pm, 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street (between 1st and 2nd Ave.), New York, NY 10003
If you’re in the area and are interested, sign up here. Naturally, this is a subject that deserves and requires significantly more time than a single evening. The need to advocate for, plan and implement a national Jewish Cultural Policy could be the focus of a week long conference with representatives from major communal institutions and umbrella organizations, local presenting arms and various elements from artists and performers to independent organizations. It could also be a great panel to recreate at the General Assembly because the message points need to be heard by people who hold the purse strings and those who put the money in that purse
As someone who runs a Jewish cultural initiative, I’m very interested in this and am excited that its taking place. I’d be interested to know who’s attending and if any funders or folks from the institutional community will be within earshot. And of course, as a non-New Yorker, I’m glad to see there’s three other regional centers represented on the panel.
Over at Commentary Magazine, Jewschool has been impugned in the silliest of conspiracy theories. (Sorry, and you thought this post would be newsworthy!) Apparently, we’ve colluded with the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby J Street to “insulate” Occupy Wall Street from spurious accusations of rampant antisemitism. Both of those bodies — J Street and OWS — of course represent the vilest of trends in American life to Commentary.
Commentator Omri Ceren spins this giddy tale: J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami worked through Jewschool “boss” Daniel Sieradski to sic on OWS’s critics figures like former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer and former Vermont Governor Madeline Kunin. All to protect OWS from the vile Jew-hating going on under its auspices. The evidence: the phrase “Occupy Wall Street” occurs 700+ times in our archives, we’re co-sponsoring the J Street conference, and the Sieradski-operated Occupy Judaism site suspiciously vanished last night!
If Ceren had any journalistic chops, this entertaining proposal would have unraveled before embarrassing himself and his sponsor. As Sieradski rebutted last night, a simple tweet or email would have revealed:
Just for your information: I resigned from Jewschool in 2007 when I went to work at JTA News as part of a noncompete agreement and have had no relationship to the site in the successive five years. Also, Occupy Judaism has never worked with J Street in any capacity and the letter, to my understanding, originated with Mark Green and Elliot Spitzer, not J Street. Furthermore, I did not take the Occupy Judaism site down – I was experiencing an issue with my DNS server which I was unaware of until I saw Omri’s tweets accusing me of colluding with J Street to hide said letter.
As of yesterday morning, Ceren acknowledged his lack of professionalism when he changed a few lines in his article, but posted neither correction notice nor apology.
As for Jewschool’s involvement in both the Occupy movement and J Street, we’re quite comfortable with our association to both. For the third time, we’re co-sponsoring J Street’s conference and a half-dozen of our writers will be there. A number of our contributors were (and remain) active members of Occupy Wall Street and leaders in Occupy Judaism. Now, we’re not prone to statements of what Jewschool as a whole believes — our editorial board and contributors, all volunteers, run the full spectrum of progressive views. But I think it’s quite safe to say that we enjoy being portrayed by Commentary’s comical conspiracy as a hub of activism on progressive movements within America and American Jewry today.
And, look, Jewschool is no stranger to amateur blogging — we’re all volunteers here, writing about Jews and progressive issues because of our passion for both. If Ceren made a few mistakes, we’ll forgive him that. Here, we don’t have paid staff or editors to fact check everything. We’re not lush with Commentary’s generous editorial budget. But we expect every writer to blog from personal experience (not Googling), to fact check, and when proven wrong to own their mistakes like big kids. But our masthead is clearly posted, our Twitter and email accounts are active, and yet never once have we or Sieradski been contacted. It’s clear from Commentary’s recent history that their mistakes are ideologically motivated. And the editorial staff seem to hardly care, for this continues to be a problem. As of today neither Ceren nor Tobin gave Jewschool, Sieradski, or Occupy Wall Street any courtesy of an apology or noted correction.
Commentary Magazine: all the news that’s fit to Google with half the accuracy.
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.
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.
I’m a big fan of Jewschool, though until today my name hasn’t graced it’s fine pages. Back in 2005, when I was working for B’nai Jeshurun, reading it made me feel connected to a rising cohort of committed activists in the Jewish world. Secret agent activists, working to change what they could with an inside/outside strategy. Sure, y’all were a bit clannish, and I still didn’t get all the UWS or Park Slope references, but I remember feeling part of something important.
That’s one of the ways that online communities function when they work - they create strong bonds and lasting impact even among participants who aren’t even contributing or making themselves known. Jewschool might have a smaller readership at this moment than at its peak, but the foundations laid by Mobius/Orthodox Anarchist/Daniel Sieradski have led to great things.
Enter RepairLabs. Created by Repair the World, it represents a particular kind of online community in formation; a community of practice. Where Repair’s overall mission is to support and expand the role of service in Jewish life, RepairLabs is to support the staff at Jewish nonprofits that actually operate service programs. As editor of the site, my job is to contribute to the formation of what might be a new identity: the Jewish Service or Jewish Service Learning professional.
To accomplish this, a little bit of identity surgery is required. In my years interacting with the Jewish world, I’ve met many staff members who only identified with a particular organization, not with employment in the Jewish ‘sector.’ Contrast that with many Federation executives who move around with some frequency, and know full well that they are ‘Federation executives.’
A similar instance might be with Jews doing environmental work (Adama, Hazon, COEJL, Teva, etc.) My impression is that they see themselves as working in the Jewish environmental world, a somewhat developed niche. Many of those staff people engage in Jewish Service Learning, or Immersive Jewish Service Learning. Do they see themselves as ‘JSL professionals’ who might someday be working for another JSL program?
I hope that someday RepairLabs can function as a community hub for a sector of the Jewish professional world. We’re trying to entice folks with resources, articles, and info about upcoming events in the sector. Consider this an initial effort to crowdsource some of our thinking. But the most important offering has yet to come: the wisdom and enthusiasm of a real community.
Are you a JSL or IJSL professional? Is that designation even helpful? What resources can a capacity building effort like RepairLabs provide? Do you have any experiences with cultivating a community of practice that might be useful here?
(Full disclosure: Dan S. currently works for Repair the World, and he introduced me to that fine organization, leading to my current gig at RepairLabs. RepairLabs wouldn’t exist without all the amazing content from Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Rabbi Brent Spodek, Amy Schrager, Perry Teicher, and Beth Steinhorn.)
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 »
All of this had me re-reading all of HP. Re-reading it, combined with my slightly unsatisfactoryrecent experiences in a couple of different New York City prayer communities had me giving serious consideration to a big new project. I’ve also been thinking about less than a year from now when my NJ chavurah is not going to be an option for me every week.
HP paints such a perfect picture for me. The only place I’ve ever been (not that I don’t know of others) that lives up to BZ’s vision of Stage 3 pluralism is Kol Zimrah. KZ meets once a month and only on Friday nights. But I want what is on offer at KZ every Friday night. And then I want it again in the morning. And I want it in a daily minyan. And I want it on holidays. This is a tall order.
So this week, I began starting to think toward creating one more element of this.
For some, like me, what draws them to KZ is the pluralism. I like the singing, but I like the ideas more. However, most of the people who come are probably more drawn in by the singing and spirited atmosphere. The spirited singing is thanks to two liturgical developments. First, we can thank some Medieval Kabbalists for giving us Kabbalat Shabbat. And second, we can thank Shlomo Carelbach for giving us some great tunes to make Kabbalat Shabbat a fun, engaging prayer experience. In essence, KZ without a Carelbach Kabbalat Shabbat would be a shell of itself.
So maybe what we need to create is the same kind of big singing, big fun prayer experience on Shabbat morning.
Luckily, much like Kabbalat Shabbat, we have hefty section of psalms to sing in the morning too! P’sukei D’zimrah usually gets shafted in shul. Most people don’t even show up until its over. It’s also long, so if we actually sang all of it, we wouldn’t be done with services until it’s time for Minchah.
We’ve got tunes for all of these psalms, but some may not work for the kind of spirited experience I’m talking about here. Especially if Carlebach (or Carlebach-esque) music is what is needed, we’re in trouble. For Psalm 150 and for 92 and a few others, we’ve got no problem.
But for some pslams, this will take some work. I chatted with Russ, our chazan (OK, our JTS student chazan, but he’s our chazan) at Chavurat Lamdeinu here in Jersey, about it this morning. I’m a bit melodically-challenged sometimes, so the obvious hadn’t occurred to me. Russ pointed out that Carlebach (and others) have a gazillion nigunim out there that could be laid on top of some of these psalms. This will take some work, but it’s doable.
Of course, as others have pointed out to me as I’ve rambled about this idea off and on this week, there are also some significant practical challenges here. Getting a minyan together on a Shabbat morning is harder than on a Shabbat evening because you need a Torah. You also need people to read Torah. This stuff is infinitely surmountable, but it’s there nonetheless.
The biggest challenge would be time. At its fullest, by my count, P’sukei D’zimrah includes 16 full psalms, the entire Song of the Sea, two prayers and a whole host of ancillary biblical passages. This is a more than twice as much material as Kabbalat Shabbat, which only has 8 psalms and a few extra piyutim/songs (usually between one and three songs, though it depends on who you talk to).
So there would probably need to be cuts. Personally, I’d probably start with the ancillary biblical passages, but I wouldn’t want to make these decisions alone anyway.
There would also have to be some discussion of how to do the rest of the service, with very careful attention paid to the requirements of Stage 3. Issues like the number of aliyot and the triennial cycle would certainly be up for discussion. Other parts of the service would need discussion too, such as the Amidah, where a Heiche Kedushah (leader does Amidah aloud through the Kedushah, everyone continues silently on their own, no leader’s repetition after) would probably merit discussion. And Birkot Hashacar etc, despite being a favorite of mine, would probably be right out because that can all be done at home before arriving or individually by people who arrive early.
That’s about as far as my thinking on this has taken me so far. Thoughts, anyone? Who’s with me?
At Shabbat dinner in traditional Jewish homes the hymn “Eshet Chayil,” meaning “Woman of Valor,” is sung to the woman who runs the household. It concludes with the line “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
According to the mysterious group Jewish Women Watching, — the organization’s members remain anonymous “to focus attention on the issues, not ourselves,” according to the group’s mission statement — leaders of Orthodox organizations in the U.S., and leaders of the State of Israel, are hypocritical because they presumably sing this even as they deny women the ability to serve in positions of religious leadership, not allowing them to enjoy the “fruit of their hands.”
“Religious Jewish women devoted to Torah, worship, and communal leadership are victims of constant sexist backlash,” said JWW in a press release the group distributed as the High Holy Days began. The release went on to say, “In this season of reflection and repentance, JWW calls on mainstream Orthodox leaders to do teshuvah [repentance], atoning for their actions that suppress valorous women.”
And here’s what a few on the list had to say about this:
JWW has missed the point. Eshet Chayil isn’t about actual human women, it’s a kabbalistic custom that refers to the Shekhina.
Except that it’s often used as a tribute to real women, or an example of how respect for women is inherent in the liturgy. I’m not necessarily saying it isn’t, just that that is one of its functions.
Agreed, especially as to the second point (and IMO a case can be made for the second point, just not a general one).
But I’ve noticed it’s actually a problem with JWW’s criticisms that they often don’t know what it is they’re criticizing….
IMO, it makes them look bad to criticize without actually understanding what they’re talking about. I like their premise, and generally speaking like what they do, so I wish they would find someone with a religious background to help them out when they plan their campaigns….
…about twenty [years] after many liturgical alternatives to eishet chayil started to be used (including just not saying it) in the M.O. world and to the left, why exactly would it be a problem to criticise this publicly–unless JWW is composed of the wives of the Roshei yeshivah at Mirrer, Torah Vadaas, and Chaim Berlinl
Our apologies for the slow nature of posts, our contributors are away on vacations, study tours, and saving the world in India. Now is as good a time as any to remind everyone that we accept guest posts and petitions to become summer contributors. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your post on Jewish, progressive topic (self-defined) of your choosing. We publish quality thoughts free of grammatical errors from those who care passionately about a cause, have a bone to pick, or a project to promote. Please be in touch!
Mazal tov to Jewschool’s own ZT, on the occasion of his marriage today to BR! ZT has blogged extensively about the elements that make Jewish wedding celebrations so joyous, from sheva berachot to shtick, based on experiences with many different semachot, and so we wish BR and ZT the joy of all those celebrations combined.
The following is the better part of an email chain from the Jewschool contributors email list from the last two days. I have posted this for two reasons. First, I thought it was funny. Second, from time to time I see commenters here at Jewschool writing as though we have some kind of coherent editorial process or well-defined agenda. The manner in which we conduct these email exchanges should disabuse y’all of that notion.
I had to laugh when I saw this in the AJC Access newsletter:
“AJC launched its new, cutting-edge iPhone application—the first from a major Jewish organization. The AJC app, available free of charge in Apple’s App Store, allows iPhone users to stay updated on AJC news, blogs, videos, Twitter and more….”
The first? I’ve had an iPhone app for my website for about 2 years now. It’s not that hard and even I didn’t claim to be the first….
But it begs the question- if I’m savvy enough to use blogs, twitter and other social media, why would I need an app from AJC?
And if I’m already following all those feeds, aren’t I already getting sufficiently updated?
There are some things AJC does that I think are okay, and some are a bit well, you know. But it’s as if they invented the very notion of a Jewish App. And that theirs is useful…
AJC cutting edge? AJC doesn’t even know what its mission is. Its mission statement is like, three pages long. The whole real mission? All about scaring old people into giving money so the org doesn’t have to fold.
On the other hand, an app to help distinguish between AJCongress and AJComittee might actually be useful…
How about the difference between the arukh hashulchan and the shulchan arukh?
The Jewish Literary Salon in Krakow, Poland - one of the many complex Jewish projects in contemporary Poland
In Dan Sieradski’s recent web project 31 Days, 31 Ideas, cartoonist and rootsman thinker EliValley suggests that the American Jewish community create “Birthright Diaspora.” Awkwardly conceived as a 10-day immersion in a Jewish diasporic site, the manifesto suggests that by creating a program in which Israeli and American Jews visit “global” Jewish communities located far from their own, their Jewish identities will transform into something better. Valley writes:
It’s time to expand our notions of positive Jewish identity and at long last move beyond an ideology that fretfully masquerades self-hatred as Jewish empowerment. By digging through centuries of global Jewish life, Birthright Diaspora will help transform Jewish self-awareness and break the dichotomy of “hero” and “victim” that has handicapped internal Jewish intellectual inquiry for decades. The goal is not merely widespread immersion experiences in global Jewish communities but a renewed understanding of Diaspora as a Birthright that forms the roots of Jewish consciousness. If implemented effectively, Birthright Diaspora can lead to an existential transformation in the way Jews and Israelis view themselves and the world.
It is a heartfelt manifesto, and what it lacks in theoretical precision it regains in passion. For many years now, there has been an emphasis on the next big “program” that will contribute to the strengthening of what we have come to call Jewish Identity and Community. Various ideological camps, including Jewschool, have claimed that by funding the notion of “global Jewish Peoplehood,” Jewish identity and community will bz’h undergo the type of “existential transformation” that Valley describes.
I am confident that longing for this type of existential transformation is a red herring, or even more troubling, a fantasy of our own power. By denying the reality that the Jewish Diaspora has geographically contracted and remained intact, our cultural activists continue to accept a model of a “shackled” community that pivots off a vague notion that, as Valley writes, “in the Jewish world, the interconnectivity often manifests itself through ripples emanating from the perceived center of Jewish life in Jerusalem.” More »
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)