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Friday, May 30, 2003

Still ticking: FYI, the yada blog has not fallen off the map. There is something wrong in the Blogger system which inexplicably prevents us from posting new messages longer than two lines. has told us that they are working on fixing the problem. Here's hoping.
posted by Benyamin | 12:18 PM | Link | (9) comments |
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Houston, we have a problem: Our sister publication, Israel Insider, has reported that Whitney Houston and her husband Bobby Brown are in Israel this week on a "journey of spiritual purification" with the Black Hebrews of Dimona. After admitting to Diane Sawyer about her drug-filled past, Houston could use the religious makeover. The story says that according to media reports the troubled pop star went to the Holy Land for inspiration for an upcoming Christmas album. With a recent appearance on the prom episode of Boston Public, it seems Houston is following in the hallowed footsteps of pop icon Madonna, constantly reinventing herself.
posted by Benyamin | 2:46 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Monday, May 26, 2003

Flip flap: A Danish supermarket chain has pulled a line of flip-flops that featured images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary after several churches protested and angry customers ransacked the "flip-flops of shame." The Coop chain, where the sandals were sold, said it originally thought the footwear was trendy. "It was never our intention to offend people's beliefs, but apparently that was the case, and we were surprised by the scale of these protests," company spokesman Jens Juul Nielsen told the Agence France-Presse news agency. "That is why we have chosen to remove them from the shelves."

No surprisingly, Danish Catholics and the state Lutheran Protestant Church complained to the store about the $6 flip-flops. "We Catholics pray to Jesus and Mary and now they want us to walk all over them. That's blasphemy and a serious and indecent violation of the religious sentiments of believers," said Johannes Gram Kulis, a church official from Vordingborg. A Protestant minister from Odense told Agence France-Presse the sandals are the "equivalent to wiping your behind with the image of Jesus. It's horrible."

Coop officials, who were originally reluctant to pull the flip-flops, said they sold about 4,000 pairs of the sandals before they were yanked. The shoes are now said to be worth double their original value. There's a joke somewhere in there. We'll let you find it.
posted by Bradford | 5:16 PM | Link | (0) comments |

Could Ozzy Osbourne be donating money to your shul? From the stranger-than-fiction department comes this little nugget. It turns out that Ozzy Osbourne's father-in-law (who is Jewish) has bailed out a Manchester, England synagogue from financial straits. The Manchester Jewish Telegraph reported last week that Harry Levy, Sharon Osbourne's father, donated more than $6,000 to the Higher Crumpsall/Higher Broughton Synagogue after finding out the synagogue owed money to the local burial board. The British-born Levy now resides in Los Angeles (in Howard Hughes' former home) and appears frequently on the MTV hit reality series The Osbournes.

Although the attached picture of Ozzy with a bunch of Chabadniks at Purim has nothing to do with the story, we still thought it was priceless.

In other celebrity shul news ... Madonna, this week, donated $9 million to build a new Kaballah center four blocks from her London home.
posted by Benyamin | 11:21 AM | Link | (0) comments |
Sunday, May 25, 2003

Settlements not for sale. Some Jews buying anyways: It's actually not what you think. As opposed to purchasing new homes in the West Bank or Gaza, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace is actually offering money for settlers to get out. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency posted a report on the group's efforts, and that prompted the mayor of the Karnei Shomron settlement to fire off a press release rebuking their efforts. His message: "Settlements are not for sale." Says the mayor: The plan "envisioned by the JAJP, promises nothing but internal upheaval and chaos, and must neither be entertained nor set into motion. Nor is there much truth to the premise that the vast majority of YESHA’s residents are here solely for economic advantages."

No word yet on whether settlements not for sale could technically constitute a settlement freeze, but it wouldn't be the first time creative language would be used in Middle East peacemaking.
posted by Bradford | 7:47 PM | Link | (0) comments |

Bush goes nuclear. Jews follow suit: The inclusion of a provision in the 2004 Defense Authorization bill that would repeal a decade-old ban on developing low-yield nuclear weapons has gotten Democrats verklempt. They complain the attempt to re-ignite nuclear weapons development will only spark new arms races and hamstring efforts to contain nuclear proliferation in places like North Korea and the Indian subcontinent. The White House is supporting development of the new nukes as "a better deterrent to potential foes than the more powerful warheads already in the U.S. arsenal." Yes, a White House official actually said that.

The usual suspects fell in line to oppose the measure, but now the Religious Action Center, Reform Judaism's political arm, has joined the fight against the legislation. Calling for some community education and grassroots lobbying, the group has issued a special report that gives background and even tells you what Judaism says about nukes.

We've known for years the Pentagon is full of oxymorons, but who knew that developing nuclear weapons designed to be used in conventional warfare would piss people off?
posted by Bradford | 7:33 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

And the winner is... eBay may be in for some competition. is now open for business. Seriously. The site claims that more than 2,000 Jews from around the globe joined in the first 48 hours. The site also claim to be giving 18% of all pre-tax profits are donated to Jewish charities by their Rabbinical Advisory Council, now of whom we've heard of. The site boasts some bizarre features including free gossip rooms and Yenta personals. They also are excited about launching OyVey Radio. All we can say is two words: Oy vey.

Editorial aside: We don't get it. Since when does an auction site have personals and a radio station? Why can't Jewish Web sites stick to one task and do that task very well? Why do they always have to have news, recipes, Jewish books, etc.? You don't see personals on or breaking news on

Postscript: After we posted this, it was brought to our attention that far from corners the market on online Jewish auctions. Chief among its competitors are and the Hungarian Online Jewish Auction site.
posted by Bradford | 4:16 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Bar Mitzvah revisited: We're shills for Jewish culture, so we feel obligated to insert a plug for Bar Mitzvah Disco, a site you probably were already aware of. From our perspective, it's just quite cool to see somebody trying to collect an anthology of the cultural rite of passage that is the bar/bat mitzvah. It's like a visual record, not unlike that photo album of wacky rabbis or the documentary on Southern Jewry. We'd like to see more of it, so we're directing you to see some of it.
posted by Bradford | 1:22 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Monday, May 12, 2003

There goes the neighborhood: The Ordnance Survey, the British government's official mapmaker, is ready to erase hundreds of churches, chapels, synagogues and mosques from its maps on grounds they are no longer used as places of worship. Under the move, the survey will remove from its maps crosses and other religious symbols at sites that have fallen into disuse for religious activities. These are expected to include some 1,600 former Church of England churches and Methodist chapels plus a handful of synagogues and mosques. Not surprisingly, the Ordnance Survey's action has triggered furious reaction. One church historian described it as "crazy," an archaeologist saw it as the end of a long era, and The Times of London newspaper called it "an act of cartographic deconsecration." Sounds about right.
posted by Benyamin | 5:36 PM | Link | (0) comments |

Conference call: Is someone in your shul an addict? That's the question being asked at an upcoming conference sponsored by JACS (Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others). The conference will take place the first week in June at the Hebrew College in Boston, Mass. If William Bennett was Jewish and sat next to us in shul, we would reccomend he attend this conference.
posted by Benyamin | 4:37 PM | Link | (0) comments |

Is the Matrix a Zionist conspiracy? What would Ben Gurion say about the Wachowski brothers? With The Matrix: Reloaded set to open on Thursday, the Protocols blog has taken up the discussion (first proposed by Mark Silverman) of how the movie's last human city of Zion (presumably occupied by Zionists) might be taken by fanatics on all sides of the Israel/Palestine argument. One reader there has noted that Keanu Reeves' character, Neo, "is obviously a neo-con," a relatively new term used to suggest Jewish conservatives. Is it possible Joel Silver had this in mind when producing the film?
posted by Benyamin | 1:41 PM | Link | (0) comments |

'Fan'atic: Apparently, racism at Israeli soccer games is a big problem. Thirty-five observers, all soccer fans, were recently drafted by the New Israel Fund, a joint enterprise by Israelis and Diaspora Jewry to promote and consolidate pluralism and democracy in Israel. The idea is pretty simple. Reports will be prepared to summarize every game in the national and super leagues according to the "crimes" - songs, chants, slogans, signs, jeers, physical and verbal clashes between fans and players. All will be totaled at the end of every round of league play into a "weekly incitement and racism index" at the stadiums, ranking the teams according to the behavior of their fans, players and team executives and officials. Doesn't Israel have enough problems already?
posted by Benyamin | 1:09 PM | Link | (0) comments |

Shabbat Shalom: As we begin to enter in earnest the political race for the next president of the United States, Senator Joe Lieberman is finding himself at odds with the other candidates. The presidential-hopeful, who is Sabbath observant, has been already been missing several opportunities to get his message across. Last week, at a weekend held with all the Democratic nominees in Columbia, South Carolina, the debate itself was pushed off till late Saturday night for Lieberman to be able to attend. However, earlier in the day, the audience was forced to watch a taped speech by the Connecticut senator while the other candidates -- including the Al Sharpton and John Kerry -- gave live talks to the audience. "When it comes to public service, Senator Lieberman is on the job 24-7," Jano Cabrera, Lieberman's campaign spokesman, said. "When it comes to politics, he's 24-6."
posted by Benyamin | 9:19 AM | Link | (0) comments |

Culture clash: The National Foundation for Jewish Culture, the leading advocate for Jewish cultural creativity and preservation in America, announced the honorees for the fourteenth annual Jewish Cultural Achievement Awards. The awards will be presented during a gala ceremony at the Plaza Hotel in New York on June 2nd. "We believe strongly that the vitality and beauty of Jewish life is eloquently expressed by the rich culture that we have inherited and by the rich culture that we create here in America," says James August, president of the NFJC. "Since 1990, we have acknowledged artists and patrons who have contributed to the American cultural mainstream and to a contemporary and evolving Jewish cultural identity in America. Through these awards, we celebrate this culture and those who bring it to life." The awards seek to recognize artists or cultural institutions who demonstrate a significant body of work or consistent achievement, excellence on the highest standards of the discipline as well as significant contributions to Jewish life and culture in America. Previous awards winners include Theodore Bikel, Elie Wiesel, Philip Roth, Arthur Miller, Chiam Potok, Saul Bellow, E.L. Doctorow, Sidney Lumet, Itzhak Perlman, Tony Kushner, Roberta Peters, Art Spiegelman, Maurice Sendak, and others.
posted by Benyamin | 8:46 AM | Link | (0) comments |
Friday, May 09, 2003

Bickering Bloggers and Blokes

Jewish blogs are a good place for healthy discussion, and nothing proved that more than a cross-blog discussion of this past week. It began when mobius, of the Jewschool blog, opined that British politician Tam Dalyell was “sort of right” when he criticized a “Jewish cabal” that “unduly influenced” the UK’s Prime Minister Tony Blair. For good measure, mobius agreed with Pat Buchanan that “it is the charge of ‘anti-Semitism’ itself that is toxic.”

The got some other bloggers a bit miffed, prompting Avraham Bronstein to post to the Protocols blog in opposition to mobius. Joining him was Jewsweek staffer Bradford R. Pilcher, who posted to his blog Just Another Rant. Bronstein and Pilcher both took exception to mobius’ logic, going into some length as to why mobius had “gone off the deep end.”

So mobius replied to their replies, attempting to clarify his position and respond to their points. In true blog fashion, Bronstein quickly responded to mobius’ reply to Bronstein’s original response. In it, Bronstein broke down why mobius was wrong again. It didn’t take much longer for Pilcher to chime in with a full treatise on democratic society.

We’re fairly confident this discussion isn’t over yet, but it has settled one thing. Whether Pat Buchanan is an anti-Semite or not, Jews sure do know how to argue.
posted by Bradford | 4:01 PM | Link | (0) comments |

Killing Kashrut In the UK? Britain's Farm Animal Welfare Council believes that the traditional manner in which Jews slaughter cows just ain't "kosher" and plans to make demands that the government require all animals to be stunned before they are slaughtered. The problem? Such a practice would render meat halachically non-Kosher.
[A previous report] recommended that the government "require that the Jewish and Muslim communities review their methods of slaughter so as to develop alternatives which permit effective stunning."

While admitting that prohibitions against causing unnecessary suffering are an integral part of the laws governing kosher slaughter, the report argued that the Torah itself did not mandate a particular method for killing animals.
Is this true? And will this spell trouble for Britain's Jewish community, or will parliament uphold principles of religious freedom?
posted by Mobius1ski | 1:56 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Blog of the week: While surfing the Net this week, we came across a truly unique and intriguing Weblog. The site, entitled Hasidic Rebel, is maintained by a current resident of a undisclosed Chasidic community who takes the ultra-Orthodox to task for many of its wrongdoings. Some of his remarks from Monday's entry included the following: "I currently live in a Chasidic community, and for all practical purposes, I am one of them. I know their strengths and their failings. The warmth and kindness found among many Chasidim is truly remarkable. Many have a fiery passion for the service of G-d which is nothing less than awe-inspiring. The level of respect that Chasidic children have for their elders is unmatched. The majority of the people are modest, sincere, and giving. But their intolerance and lack of respect for other viewpoints is what I find truly disagreeable. Many harbor racist views, and hatred for all non-Jews is quite common. A couple of years ago, a non-Jewish person was killed in an accident in my neighborhood. One of my good friends' immediate reaction was, "A goy? Why should I care?" That feeling is all too common."

We think he's a rebel with a cause.
posted by Benyamin | 10:00 AM | Link | (0) comments |

Strip tease: Sometimes good stories just write themselves. From the "this-could-only-happen-in-a-TV-sitcom" department, an Israeli policeman was sent to quiet down a rowdy all-female party at a Jerusalem.apartment. Instead of being greeted with fear and respect, the policeman was mistaken for a male stripper sent to the party and the women began to undress and stroke the officer. "She took off my shirt and untied my shoelaces," the officer was quoted by the Yedioth Ahronoth daily as saying about one of the partygoers. "She started stroking me and called on her friends to join in."
posted by Benyamin | 9:48 AM | Link | (0) comments |
Monday, May 05, 2003

This land is our land: We're happy to announce that Ellis Shuman, the editor-in-chief of our sister publication Israel Insider, has just completed work on his first novel, The Virtual Kibbutz, a collection of stories depicting the hopes, dreams and challenges of kibbutz members, residents of Israel's unique society as it evolves towards an uncertain future. Although a work of fiction, the book addresses a major question: Is the kibbutz, Israel's unique collective society, an endangered species? "I won't give you the answer here," says Shuman, "but reading The Virtual Kibbutz will show how the kibbutz is changing as its members face the violence of the Intifada, cope with the Internet, and struggle to have more control over their lives." Along the way, Shuman tells us, readers will be exposed to a clown who uses magic to heal the wounds of terror victims, a veteran dairy worker who has difficulties bidding farewell to an albino cow, a farmer who must decide what to do with the prize money of a lottery, and a reporter who is researching comedian Jerry Seinfeld's kibbutz past.
posted by Benyamin | 4:28 PM | Link | (0) comments |

Exit pulpit left: Rabbi Shimon Kashani and his wife Vered, well known leaders in the Southern California Jewish community, and the directors of The Southern California Jewish Center in Westwood, California, have jumped into a whole new world; the world of Broadway. The conservative couple have decided to executive produce "An Evening with Golda Meir", a one woman show starring Oscar nominated writer/ TV star Renee Taylor, opening this week at The Canon Theater. Asked why a Rabbi would produce a Broadway bound play, Kashani noted his reasons. " both the dramatic skill and the passion of Renee Taylor and the importance of preserving the lessons Golda Meir taught. We see this as a great opportunity to bring to people of all religions the great spirit of a magnificent woman who worked for democracy and humanity everywhere...she dreamed of a collaborative peace in the Middle East, but was defied by enmities that have become tragically more violent today".
posted by Benyamin | 4:14 PM | Link | (0) comments |

Making of a Godol: In his book "Making of a Godol" Rabbi Nathan Kamenetsky depicts ("often in biographies for the Orthodox market") the Lithuanian sages "wrestling with the lures of secular life." This two-volume book was published privately by Rabbi Kamenetsky in a limited edition of only 1,000 copies. The $40 copies are now being auctioned off for hundreds of dollars. For those of you dying to read it, the library at the Jewish Theological Seminary has acquired it. So has the library at Yeshiva University, though their copy is apparently sitting on a closed shelf. As the New York Times put it, "Jews should have learned long ago that there are dangers to us in suppressing books...when we start suppressing books, people will start suppressing our books."
posted by Benyamin | 4:04 PM | Link | (0) comments |
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