a freylikhen shushan purim!

Wishing you and yours a most joyous Shushan Purim from New York!

The following Purim schtick video is brought to you by some of your favourite Jews from the Jewish Theological Seminary:

Israel mishegas: Tel Aviv’s gay Shoah memorial, new fellowships, and fascists

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Mishegaas, or more reasons why The Onion rules everything

NO, really:

Onion gets hacked by Syrian propagandists, responds with funny article. The Onion got hacked, sending out a bunch of nonsense tweets such as:

To which they responded with their usual aplomb. HT BoingBoing

Is Yiddish dying? Uh, no.

Is Jack Rosen hijacking the AJCongress? Does anyone care?

Dvora Myers on Unorthodox Gymnastics comments on the chutzpah it takes to thanks God for not being a woman ironically. What do you think?

Doctor Who is a Jew? Come on Tablet, can’t you do any better than that?

And here’s a kickstarter to translate for what sounds like a completely fascinating book. I can’t wait to read it.

If you can read Yiddish literature only in English translation, Joseph Opatoshu’s 1921 novel, In Poylishe Velder (In The Forests of Poland),is one of the most important works of world literature with which you’re probably unfamiliar. A vast panorama of Jewish life in Poland during the 1850s, Opatoshu’s novel concentrates on backwoods Jews who live among gentile peasants rather than in Jewish communities in cities or shtetlekh. Touching as it does on hasidism, heresy, pre-Christian Polish folk customs, wife-swapping, messianism, and Polish nationalism, this book will change the way you think about Jewish life in Poland. Those parts not set in the forests or on the road take place in the court of the Rebbe of Kotzk, the last of the classical hasidic leaders. The Rebbe and his court are portrayed so convincingly that even members of the book’s original audience often forgot that they were reading a novel and not an intimate history of hasidism in Kotzk. It’s the price that Opatoshu had to pay for writing some of the best prose ever published in Yiddish.

Of course, I consider myself the last of the Kotsker Hasidim, so perhaps it’s just me.

Mishegas: MLK, Phillip Roth, Mel Brooks and Hitler

Jewish Food Justice Fellowship

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Some Chanukah Business: Rabbis on E1 Expansion, Hevron, Gaza Youth, Super Power Cameras and More

 

 Shira Abramowitz, student at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, illustrated her notes from her visit to Hevron. See more here.

 

 

 

 

Mishegas: Kim Kardashian on Gaza, Maccabeats resurrected, and a Jewish slang dictionary

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Mishegas: Rene Cassin Fellowship, Shoah tattoos, NWU Chabad embroglio and more

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Mishegaas: Bibi dances Gangnam Style, Adelson wants a pancake, and more

Dubi Kaufman via 972 Mag

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Shabbtai Tzvi Lives!

Eddie Long, a Georgia based mega-church preacher, has been crowned king… Yup, you read right. Crowned king. King of what? Damned if I know. He was crowned king by “Rabbi” Ralph Messer, a self-indulged so-called Messianic Jew (but even the Messianic Jews have disavowed him, now that takes talent) led this obscene ritual at New Birth Missionary Baptist in Lithonia, GA. Videos abound on the web, I didn’t want to give one another view.

Long has claimed ignorance and that he meant no offense. Eddie Long was in the news a couple years ago accused of sexual abuse.

The “rabbi” who conducted this grandiose show claimed that the Torah scroll used to enwrap Long in during the ceremony was saved from Aushwitz-Birkenau; an unlikely factoid considering how difficult it would have been to hide a Torah scroll in those circumstances, but that does not prevent him from abusing the memory of those who perished in the Shoah, claiming that “the dust” may still be on the scroll. The whole thing just reeks of showmanship, grandiosity and the worst forms of appropriation.

Bill Nigut of the Anti-Defamation League took Messer, Long and the whole affair to task calling it a “fake Jewish ritual.” That is generous, IMHO. Others have chimed in with their own condemnations.

One cannot help but be reminded of Shabbtai Tzvi and other false messiahs.

On the one hand, it’s hard not to laugh at this kind of nonsense; on the other hand it’s hard not to vomit.

A vote for reason

The following is a sermon I delivered to my congregation, this last Shabbat, on the published remarks in the Atlanta Jewish Times by Andrew Adler calling for a US President to be assassinated by Mossad agents.

Parashat Bo – 5772

As Napoleon waged war and sent French troops into Russia in 1812, the rabbis of the shtetlakh were faced with a serious political dilemma – who should receive the support of the Jewish community; Napoleon or Czar Alexander I? On the one hand, the experience of the Jews of Russia and Poland had been incredibly challenging, to say the least. Starting in 1791with Catherine the Great, the Jews of Russia were relegated to what was known as the Pale of Settlement, a swath of land comprising of modern-day Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and parts of Western Russia. Jews in the Pale were very poor and the Cossack cavalries made life generally dangerous for them. Life for Jews under Napoleon was very different. Once Napoleon took the helm in France in 1804, Jews were given full and equal rights under the spirit of the French Revolution. However, this came at a cost – part of Napoleon’s grand plan was to allow for the recognition of the Jewish religion while working hard at eliminating its practices. Once the Jews received full rights in France, anti-Semitism grew in French cities. Napoleon is quoted as responding to the rise in anti-Semitism by saying:

This is not the way to solve the Jewish question. I will never accept any proposals that will obligate the Jewish people to leave France, because to me the Jews are the same as any other citizen in our country. It takes weakness to chase them out of the country, but it takes strength to assimilate them. More »

2011, what’s that?

As the new year begins, here at Jewschool we put together an entirely unscientific, completely biased view of some of the best and worst of 2011.

2011 was simultaneously one of the most inspiring and dispiriting years I can think of. From the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords way back at the beginning of the year, to the passing of important greats like Debbie Friedman, to Occupy Judaism’s prominent place in the Occupy Everything movement. Israel has been a roller coaster, between the hopefulness of the J-14 protests to their quiet whimpering away, new settler attacks, undemocratic legislation, and fights over gender segregation. However, it was a mostly great year for the arts, despite JDub Records’ closing. Here’s to a new year with more distillants, and less despirits.

L’chaim!

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More Jedis than Jews in the Czech Republic?!

Hilarious and amazing. This might be one of the greatest things I’ve read in quite some time. Apparently, there are just under 3000 Jews in the Czech Republic; however, according to the most recent census data, those in the Czech Republic who voluntarily filled in their religion as “Jedi” numbered over 15,000.

I hate to have to ask this, but would a Jewish Jedi be a Jew-di? Terrible, I know — forgive me.

The Most Important Film You Will Ever Watch

In what seems like a development only possible on the satirical pages of the Onion, Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions has just unveiled plans to co-finance a new film about Judah Maccabee, with Joe Eszterhaus of Showgirls fame onboard as screenwriter.  This is too good to be true. I mean, who better than Mel Gibson, the man who boldly asserted that Jews are responsible for all wars in the world,  to capture the quintessential epic military struggle of Jewish national religious pride versus the lures of assimilation?

I can see it now: in a creative twist on the Hanukkah story as related by the Talmud, Mel Gibson’s Hanukkah Tale: The Jews burn for eight days.

In light of this exciting news, I’d like to offer Mr. Gibson some free advice as preparations go underway for this sure-fire blockbuster:

Free Casting Advice to Mel Gibson from a Jewgirl Cinephile:

The first one is a no-brainer: we’re casting Russell Crowe as Matisyahu (if the connection isn’t obvious to you already, here’s a hint: follow the first link and check out 1Maccabees 2:46)

The role of Judah Maccabee is a tough call, but I think our winner is Vincent Gallo.

In his debut dramatic performance, Prince Harry of England will play Jonathan Maccabeus, and comedian Andy Dick will play Simon Maccabeus. John Hyrcanus will be played by Rick Sanchez.

Charlie Sheen needs a role in this cinematic masterpiece as well.  Let’s cast him as Eleazer Maccabeus.

We’re going to offer the role of Antiochus to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—an offer he surely can’t turn down.

Oh, and wardrobe will definitely be by John Galliano.

Well, time will only tell what choices Gibson will make, but if he sticks to my above plan, we’re going to have something even greater than The Passion of the Christ (2004).  Or, as Reb Yudel puts it, “If Gibson’s Hanukkah film succeeds, can his Tisha b’Av blockbuster be far behind?”

Incidentally, I vividly recall dragging a date to a Sunday matinee screening of his last Jew epic in 2004. We paid for two tickets to see Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights in the hopes that our tickets wouldn’t profit Gibson’s film, but later, a friend in the industry explained to me that films only benefit from concession stand money, not from actual ticket sales. Alas.  The film itself wasn’t particularly noteworthy, aside from its curious subtitling choices. While Gibson promised to cut out any direct implication of the Jews in Jesus’ crucifixion, the English subtitling did not always match the Aramaic dialogue onscreen. (I attended a high school which forced us to learn Aramaic. Now on facebook, I smugly resent that under the languages option, there is an “Aramaic of Jesus” and not also an ‘Aramaic of Rabban Gamliel.”)  We, along with busloads of young Christian children, some of whom were as young as four years old, proceeded to watch what amounted to two full hours of Jesus being beaten to a bloody pulp. ::Spoiler alert:: Jesus is killed.

Not Bringing Sexy Back…Please

polygamy

Over on Salon, Tracy Clark-Flory declares that sexlessness (or at least articles about it) are officially a trend. Which strikes me as funny, because the article just below that one in the queue is all about the rise of non-monogamy (which together with Dan Savage’s proclamations that people should consider non-monogamy and today’s JTA headline that an Israeli group of Orthodox rabbis (c’mon, you knew this was coming!) is trying to bring back polygamy (a trend that even the Torah implicitly warns against while not forbidding) definitely qualifies as a trend.

So what to get to first? I’m impressed by the ridiculousness of Erica Jong’s complaint. I’m not sure why Clark-Flory concludes that her complaint is that technology has taken over for the actual messiness and intimacy of sex – from what I can tell, her real complaint is that this younger generation prefers monogamy and childrearing to the raunch that she claims her generation championed. Look at the utter condescension:
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On the End of Days, and how we’re still here and all…

For at least two millennia (maybe more?) people have felt as though the end of the world is upon them. Apocalyptic literature appeared on the scene around the 2nd century BCE and continued in the Jewish world until the middle of the Middle Ages and continues to this day in the Christian communities. Certain streams of contemporary Christianity are so immersed in eschatology that the Left Behind series are still the best selling novels in the United States.

It is no wonder then that radio host and self-styled biblical scholar, Harold Camping, has made so many headlines in the last few days. Starting a year ago or more, Camping, who runs a number of Christian radio stations and two television stations, spent millions of dollars advertising May 21, 2011 as the beginning of the End of Days–needless to say, May 21 came and has almost gone. No word has yet been heard from Camping, who had previously predicted the apocalypse would commence in 1994.

Many have called him a false prophet, and I think that is too generous. There are two possibilities, in my opinion, as to what’s going on with this man. 1) He is an utter fool and a moron; 2) he is a brilliant marketer who has set himself up to increase his personal wealth from over $17 million to God only knows how much he might make. There is a difference between a false prophet and someone who is just plain wrong or an idiot. Unfortunately, there are far too many idiots out there. More »

Chancellor Eisen tweets, new studies, pork memoirs, and lots of Middle East mishegaas

  • The Jewish Theological Seminary goes social, launching a Twitter account for its Chancellor Arnie Eisen and a blog, Conservative Judaism: A Community Conversation, with podcasts.
  • Israeli leftist Larry Derfner and American Jewish leftist Richard Silverstein open a new blog to dialogue about their differences on Israel, IsraelLeft.com. (How long will it remain civil?)
  • The documentary film Budrus about the budding Palestinian non-violence movement is now available for purchase on DVD online. (Seeing this film during its Ramallah premiere was inspiring for me.)
  • Friend-of-the-blog Jeff Yoskowitz launches a blog Pork Memoirs, the first cultural archive devoted to the other white meat (and presumably, also the first started by a Jew).
  • Jewish Jumpstart released its 2010 study of social entrepreneurship in the Jewish community — and its recommendations for supporting it.
  • Limmud NY and Uri L’Tzedek are hosting fundraisers — Limmud NY honors their founders and Uri L’Tzedek honors Dr. Jeffrey Sachs. (PS — Mazel tov to David Wolkin on his hire as the formers’ new Executive Director!)
  • It had to happen sooner or later — Jewishfail.com chronicles incidents of hypocrisy and irony for us to giggle and groan.
  • A new poll of Palestinian public opinion (Word doc) reveals that 70% believe a third intifada is brewing and also that 74% believe violence is in Israel’s interest, and another 70% believe that firing rockets into Israel is bad.
  • President Obama gave a speech this morning outlining a new policy towards every nation in the Middle East…except Israel and Palestine.
  • The Forward announces Eli Valley as Artist-in-Residence — somebody tell the guy who writes “Dry Bones” that his days are waning!

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Jewish Community Members Against Jews Against Divisive Leadership calls for the end of divisiveness through a divisive public statement

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 »

Everything Counts in Small Amounts

Those who are familiar with the oddities of the Jewish calendar may be aware that a largish holiday begins tomorrow night (called Passover). Fewer people may be aware that on the second night of Passover begins… well, it’s not a holiday exactly, but it is a holy period, called the Omer.

Beginning the second night of Passover, every adult Jew is supposed to count off the 49 days (seven times seven weeks) that make up the period between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot, the holiday of the giving of the Torah. I have to say, it’s a bit of a pain. Not he counting, which is fine, but remembering to count properly, keeping track of which day it is, and so on. It’s enough of a difficulty that the Jewish legal code has instructions about what to do if you forget to count at the right time, or for a full day. You’ve got to count every day, or you lose your obligation to say the full blessing as you count.
The counting itself is a lovely tradition: each of the weeks represents one of seven traits of God, as does each day, so one develops a spiral of thoughts throughout the counting period (for example the trait of strength during the week of mercy… consider what that might mean as we approach the giving of the Torah… etc.)
Well, I decided that the best way to do this would be a sort of advent calendar, with little treats each day as you opened up the proper box to say the blessing for that day (hey, why should Christians get all the calendar fun?). At one time, I thoght the best way to do this would be through carpentry, but it’s been some time since I had any access to the proper tools,a dn I just didn’t want to wait anymore this year, so for pretty cheap I made one out of things that one could glue together – namely cardboard, cardboard, and , uh, some glue and glitter paper.

Almost everything came from the container store, and it took me about three days to make (including some glue drying time. Not labor intensive, but pretty sturdy anyway).
I’m happy to share instructions with anyone who wants to build one. I used a hard cardboard ornament storage box and three by three folded gift boxes (seven of which fit perfectly across, although you need two ornament boxes cut to size and glued together to get the height as only five rows tall fit, if you pop open the top edge of the ornament box).
The numbers for the days (written out in blue in Hebrew letters) as well as the blessing on the inside (which has the blessing, the day and date – in other words, everything you need for each day… no looking anything up!) are printed on clear sticky labels cut to size.

For your delectation:


(Not sure why the blessing box is shown on its side, just ignore that, it opens upwards (although you can make yours open any direction you want, of course)
I don’t think I”m quite done decorating it – obviously this is pretty simple, but the plus is that the boxes make it so that magic marker will write on them perfectly nicely, so if I go for color, that’s probably the way I’ll go. Stickers work fine too, but I’ll probably eventually go for a large picture that covers the entire front face of the Omer Counter. Happy counting!

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