Subscribe to AJL Advertise in AJL Attend AJL Events Browse the AJL Archives Learn About the AJL Team
Read the Cover Story
The Yada Blog
Where to Find Us
03/03 04/03 05/03 06/03 07/03 08/03 09/03 10/03 11/03 12/03 01/04 02/04 03/04 04/04 05/04 06/04 07/04 08/04 09/04 10/04 11/04 12/04 01/05 02/05 03/05 04/05 05/05 06/05 07/05 08/05 09/05 10/05 11/05 12/05 01/06 02/06 03/06 04/06 05/06 06/06 07/06 08/06 09/06 10/06 11/06 12/06 01/07 02/07 03/07 04/07 05/07 06/07 07/07 08/07 09/07 10/07 11/07 12/07 01/08 02/08 03/08 04/08 05/08 06/08 07/08

-[ syndicate ]-
Jewish Literary Review
At Level Ground
-[ site feed ]-

Monday, July 30, 2007
The Two Coreys

Last night, A&E aired the first two episodes of their new reality series The Two Coreys. In case you forgot to Tivo it, this is what you missed.
posted by Benyamin | 3:39 PM | Link | (6) comments |
Guess the star

Guess which Jewish celeb this is. Find the answer here.
posted by Benyamin | 10:10 AM | Link | (0) comments |
Friday, July 27, 2007
Loose ends
  • Mazal tov to Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts on the birth of a baby boy, Alexander Pete Schreiber. The bris will be on Wednesday.
  • Is Tom Cruise the "Goebbels of Scientology"?
  • Leonard Nimoy is going to take a break from photographing nude women to reprise his role as Spock.
posted by Benyamin | 10:19 AM | Link | (0) comments |
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Jewlarious presents: The jPhone

I would prefer an oyPhone, personally.
posted by Helen | 1:39 PM | Link | (1) comments |
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Jackie Mason on Hamas

For your Tisha B'Av viewing pleasure.
posted by Benyamin | 10:26 AM | Link | (1) comments |
Monday, July 23, 2007
Loose ends
  • Ron Jeremy goes head to head with the pastor of porn.
  • Natalie Portman misused. Interpret as you like.
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal goes from secretary to Bat chick.
  • Steve Guttenberg is still not dead.
posted by Benyamin | 9:40 AM | Link | (1) comments |
Friday, July 20, 2007
Jon Stewart on the death of Farfour

posted by Benyamin | 10:17 AM | Link | (1) comments |
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Harry Potter and the Shabbat Dilemma
Israel gets its panties in a wad about the upcoming Shabbat release date of the final Harry Potter book. From today's New York Times:
Harry Potter's witching hour -- the release of the seventh and final volume of his adventures -- has incurred the wrath of the trade and industry minister of Israel, Eli Yishai, Reuters reported. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," by J. K. Rowling, is scheduled to go on sale in Israel at 2 a.m. on Saturday, during the Jewish Sabbath, and Mr. Yishai, a member of the Orthodox party Shas, said: "It is forbidden, according to Jewish values and Jewish culture, that a thing like this should take place at 2 a.m. Saturday. Let them do it on another day." But Israeli stores pledged to proceed. "We will hold the launch as planned because we are contractually bound to do so," Alona Zamir, a spokeswoman for the Steimatzky book chain, said. "The book will go on sale here at the same time as in other places around the world." Mr. Yishai said, "We will certainly issue fines and prosecution orders, but I hope it won't come to that."
posted by Benyamin | 9:37 AM | Link | (0) comments |
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Loose ends: The Jews of Hairspray edition
  • Director Adam Shankman is here, queer, and convinced that John Travolta has gotten used to it.
  • Amanda Bynes prides herself on not being in the gossip pages, and look, I'm gossiping about it.
  • Looks like newcomer Nikki Blonsky has found a better way to pay for college than singing at bar mitzvahs.
  • Zac Efron has gotta cut loose. Footloose.
  • And where in the name of Ricki Lake is poor Harvey Fierstein? Here he is.
posted by Helen | 11:39 AM | Link | (1) comments |
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Loose ends
posted by Benyamin | 3:23 PM | Link | (2) comments |
Monday, July 16, 2007
They said it
"Amy’s a real singer with the right attitude to carry off dumb stuff I write about." -- Pink on why she wants to write a song for fellow Jewish singer/drinker Amy Winehouse.
posted by Helen | 3:53 PM | Link | (1) comments |
Friday, July 13, 2007
Loose ends
  • Maybe Amy Winehouse will finally give it a rest.
  • Director Darren Aronofsky's latest story arc has him collecting two of everything. We suggest he start with his fiancée Rachel Weisz.
  • At last, a competition that matters. Vote for America's Next Top Mohel.
  • Comedienne Chelsea Handler's very own talk show starts Monday night. Finally, there are Jews on television.
posted by Helen | 12:14 PM | Link | (1) comments |
Loose end
  • Apparently, 50 Cent gets paid a lot more than his name to play at a bar mitzvah. Like $499,999.50 more.
  • Spielberg gets back into the video game biz.
  • Mandy Patinkin may have to go back to doing Princess Bride impersonations. It seems he's been kicked off his CBS show, Criminal Minds.
  • Woody and Scarlett are making yet another movie.
  • The Dallas Mavericks' Marc Cuban is still looking for ways to spend his billions as word comes out that he's now interested in buying the Chicago Cubs.
posted by Benyamin | 9:23 AM | Link | (1) comments |
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Magic Mormon underwear

Orthodox Jew turned atheist turned guy who has his own show on the Sundance Channel goes shopping for some magical Mormon underwear.
posted by Benyamin | 12:17 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Loose ends: The any religion but Judaism edition

  • Headline of the day: Catholic School in Australia Agrees to Let Boy Named Hell Enroll.
  • It seems the upcoming Simpsons movie is going to mock religion. Who would've thought?
  • A Muslim woman seeks to be less hated as a Hindu.
  • Amish women are hurt in yet another buggy accident. Hey, don't knock the buggies. At least they're carbon neutral.
  • Politicians are taking note of a religious blogger (just not our religion).
posted by Benyamin | 11:16 AM | Link | (0) comments |
Monday, July 09, 2007
Fiddler in Japanese: a whole new "Tradition"
posted by Helen | 12:28 PM | Link | (1) comments |
Friday, July 06, 2007
Loose ends: The yes they're all Jewish edition
posted by Helen | 2:47 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Jackie Mason attempts the hula hoop

Either he's stoned or he's just as stiff as his jokes.
posted by Benyamin | 10:39 AM | Link | (0) comments |
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Loose ends: July 4th Edition
  • Shia Labeouf scores the coveted cover of the new Vanity Fair magazine.
  • Zach "The Cad" Braff is now cavorting with Drew Barrymore.
  • Either Germany doesn't like movies about murdering Hitler or they just don't like Tom Cruise's belief in Scientology. Well, it appears to be the latter.
  • And speaking of Germany, it seems the fine folks at Vonage are Nazi bastards.
posted by Benyamin | 10:14 AM | Link | (0) comments |
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Being Green: 11 Easy Ways to Go Green

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

1. Get a home energy audit
Before you can cut energy usage (and costs), you need to know how much energy your house consumes. You can have this done professionally or do it yourself. Watch out for drafts; not only do they waste precious energy, but you'll catch a cold. In fact, you worry us; go put on a sweater.

2. Unplug appliances when not in use
There's no reason your toaster oven needs to always be plugged in. This also means your cell phone/camera/laptop/mp3 player chargers, too. To make things easy, plug them all into one power strip and just flick the off switch. You can leave the fridge plugged in, though; rotten food is a bigger waste.

3. Turn it off
And not just on Shabbat. Your lights, TVs, radios, oscillating fans, whatever. Don't leave them on. And if you're going to be away from your computer, take the time to shut it down, or set it to go to sleep instead of displaying those silly energy-wasting flying toasters.

4. Keep your car fit and tidy
As far as gas mileage is concerned, junk in the trunk is not a good thing. More weight puts more strain on the fuel, so if your spare tire doesn't need that anvil or that sumo wrestler for company, don't bring it along. Also, properly-inflated tires and clean oil can give you up to 15% better gas mileage, so take your car for regular check-ups.

5. Be aware of product packaging.
No more wrappers within wrappers within boxes. Buying in bulk ensures minimal packaging waste. Many products now come in packages made of recycled or recyclable materials. And don't buy any more bottled water. You know that metal, faucet-y thing in the kitchen? Water comes out of that, and filtering it is cheaper and creates less trash than a twenty-four pack of plastic bottles in a cardboard box wrapped in cellophane.

6. Reduce your snail-mail paper trail.
Do you think paper just grows on trees? Well, it does, and it's costing us a lot of trees. Sign up for paperless billing, get your bank statements online, even get your name removed from junk mailing lists (for more information, see the Junk Mail Campaign at And you know, you can even get bits of this magazine online. Yes, Maxim too.

7. Buy local and organic.
Buying local and in-season produce saves fuel and boosts your local economy. And organic is just healthier. Yummier, too. No growth hormones, no pesticides, no synthetic fertilizers, no water pollution. Eating organic food is as green as green gets. Next to a seasick leprechaun.

8. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs.
Get ready for a crazy statistic: If every American home replaced just one regular light bulb with an energy-saving compact fluorescent bulb, it would save enough power to light three million homes. For a year (and that would be a nationwide savings of about $600 million). That not enough for you? These bulbs can last ten times longer than your regular bulbs, and you save about $30 in electricity over each bulb's lifespan.

9. Recycle.
You already know the "recycle your paper/plastic/glass/aluminum" shpiel, but there's so much more to it. Don't throw away your old cell phone or computer or ink cartridge; they can all be recycled. Don't throw away your prom/wedding/little-black dress; your clothes can be recycled, too (and should be. Synthetic fabrics never decompose, while decomposing wool contributes to global warming. No joke. And global itchiness. Joke). Reuse grocery bags and plastic drink bottles. Use both sides of a piece of paper. There are so many ways to reduce garbage, and it's so easy.

10. Explore green power. Aside from replacing all your major appliances with Energy Star products (which I recommend, if you have the shekels), the best way to reduce your house's non-renewable energy use is to use (wait for it) renewable energy (you didn't see that one coming, did ya?). Contact your power company and see if they support or provide any of a number of green power options. Your home could be running efficiently on wind, solar power, or landfill gas (much cleaner than it sounds) in no time.

11. Conserve water. Turn the water off when you're shaving or brushing your teeth, and when using the tap, run a small stream, no wider than a pencil. Take quicker showers. Don't run half-full loads of dishes or laundry. And if you have a pool, don't let it sit unused, or used by only one person; invite some friends (and me) over for a swim. We'll call it "poolpooling." I'm sure it's good for the environment somehow. Maybe.

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by Helen Herbst / Photo by C. Taylor Crothers
posted by Benyamin | 7:39 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Green Books

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

Two new books, A Wild Faith: Jewish Ways into the Wilderness, Wilderness Ways into Judaism, by Rabbi Mike Comins and The Way into Judaism and the Environment, by Jeremy Benstein, PhD, approach Jewish thought as it relates to the nature and the environment, but they take two different approaches to the subject matter. The former touts the virtue of meditation and intimacy with the wilderness and includes forty-plus practical exercises to enlighten the spirit. While A Wild Faith works to bring Jewish faith into the environment, the other works to bring the environment into faith. The Way into Judaism and the Environment uses scripture and other traditional sources to connect contemporary earth issues and environmentalism to Jewish spirituality. Whether you’re a tree hugger, like Rabbi Comins, or just interested in living green and living Jewish, like Dr. Benstein, these books will have something for you.

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by Helen Herbst
posted by Benyamin | 7:32 PM | Link | (1) comments |
Green Market: Return to Eden

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

I am not ashamed to say that I know nothing about organic foods. I couldn’t tell you which all-natural toothpaste to buy (or what you could gain from a wormwood supplement for that matter). But what I can tell you is that Return to Eden, a family owned Atlanta health food store, doesn’t just sell organic food. Jodi Wittenberg, who owns and runs the welcoming institution with her husband Josh, brings a unique concern to her work that is an ever-growing source of inspiration to stores of a similar nature.

“The market for organic foods has become more focused on business than on integrity,” says Jodi as she sips an all-natural soda. “Most businesses are simply recognizing the trend in organic foods.” Return to Eden however, strives to be “a pillar of education and knowledge” about the health food world. Whether it be by hosting unique “Kosher Tours” — a way for observant Jews to have familiarity with kosher organic foods — or giving away free samples at community events and health fairs, Return to Eden ensures that people are fully aware of a healthier lifestyle.

But it was not always easy to cater to every customer. “Fifteen years ago, when the store began, we had a different idea of health food and had no background in retail,” Jodi recalls. “We were thrown into a new world of food.” Starting out, they only had strictly vegetarian products on their shelves, or would often have to send customers to Whole Foods, their main competitor, for certain products.

After learning the ropes they now offer more products (kosher sushi, anyone?) and information to the public both through their showroom and their elaborate website. What really made the difference though was incorporating a holistic approach to health in the home. By making natural and organic products a part of their own life they now have a greater understanding of proper health. Jodi converted her entire house so that it would be chemical free, and every water source is run through a filter.

As far as human impact on the environment Jodi’s outlook is biblical. “The Torah lays down a number of agricultural laws that say how to take care of the land.”

Jodi’s success comes from tying together all aspects of her lives — her family, her work, and her Judaism. Living her life one day at a time which, according to her, “is a great philosophy — period,” Jodi grows with her family and co-workers to make the world a healthier place to live. Now if I could just remember where I put my wormwood.

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by Yoni Kaplan / Photo by Helen Herbst
posted by Benyamin | 7:29 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Green Crusader: Laura Miller

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

Dallas mayor Laura Miller may be stepping down from her political post this summer, but she leaves behind a proud legacy of environmental protectionism.

During her five-year term as mayor, the 48-year-old former investigative reporter spearheaded one of Dallas’ biggest public works projects ever — a 10,000-acre greenbelt along the Trinity River that could hold a dozen Central Parks. Though perhaps her greatest gift to the city of Dallas is how she fought — and beat — big coal by stopping the TXU Corporation, the Texas energy giant, from their original plan to build 11 new coal plants, which would’ve spewed 78 million tons of planet-heating pollution each year — the equivalent of 11 million SUVs. (The company has now agreed to only build three of those plants.)

Miller doesn’t have any immediate plans after she exits the mayor’s office except to spend time with her husband (former Texas state representative Steve Wolens) and her three kids. Although rumor has it that she would like to join forces with the Environmental Protection Agency. They’d be lucky to have her.

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by Benyamin Cohen / AP Photo by Harry Cabluck
posted by Benyamin | 7:24 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Green Spiritual Trend: EcoSynagogues

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

When the new Hillel building at the University of California, Santa Barbara was erected in 2001, administrators and contractors took pains to design an environmentally sound structure. What resulted was a building largely constructed out of biodegradable materials, where lights are motion activated and there is no air conditioning, although automatic windows open when the temperature gets too high.

While unique, the Santa Barbara Hillel is not alone. As friends of the environment, synagogues across the country are joining an interfaith group of congregations that are lighting their houses of worship with energy efficiency and making other efforts to go green.

Through the Regeneration Project, a campaign to mobilize religious groups in response to global warming, several hundred synagogues have joined the eco-friendly effort. Started in 1998, the campaign has grown to include 23 state-based projects, know as Interfaith Power and Light, aptly named for its efforts to promote renewable energy and sustainability, in many cases simply by swapping a building’s light bulbs for more efficient ones. A megachurch in Plano, Texas has already saved a half million dollars in utility bills — and they’ve only been on the program for less than a year.

Nationwide, there are about 4,000 participatory congregations. Roughly a fifth of them are Jewish, organizers say. “Every major religion calls for stewardship of creation,” says Susan Stephenson, executive director of the Regeneration Project. “We recognized that this was a moral issue as well as an environmental one.”

This past May, a group of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religious leaders wrote a letter to the White House and members of Congress, calling for immediate action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. “Global warming is not just a scientific or political issue — it is a moral issue,” Rabbi David Saperstein, director of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, wrote in the statement. Other signatories to the letter included Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia and Rabbi Stephen Pearce, the religious leader of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.

Congregation Emanu-El, through its environmental committee, is a leader in synagogue-based green practices. Its “Green Emanu-El” initiative promotes energy efficiency in the building, including zoned heating, plans for efficient lighting and usage, and pollution prevention programs.

“By Jewish law, we are mandated to take care of the earth,” a synagogue administrator, Terry Kraus, wrote in an email message. “This is an important social justice issue for our congregation.”

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by E.B. Solomont / Photo Courtesy the Regeneration Project
posted by Benyamin | 7:16 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Green Farming: Organic Co-Ops

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

For 48 individuals and families at Atlanta’s Shearith Israel synagogue, Sunday mornings from May to October are eagerly anticipated. That’s when a local organic farmer whom the group financially supports through pre-paid co-op memberships brings the weekly bounty.

The Shearith Israel co-op is an example of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and is one of a growing number of synagogues and JCCs in the U.S. partnering with the Jewish environmental organization Hazon. Hazon started the Tuv Ha’Aretz (meaning both ‘good for the land’ and ‘good from the land’) CSA program back in 2004.

“We wanted to see Jewish families support local farmers and put their purchasing power with local agriculture,” says Leah Koenig, food projects coordinator for Hazon. Not only is this concept noted in Jewish tradition, but a diet rich in fresh vegetables “is what it means to eat fit in the 21st century,” she adds.

The Shearith Israel community readily embraced the idea, says Dan Finkel, a congregant who was instrumental in bringing the Tuv Ha’Aretz program to his Conservative synagogue. And in its first year, the co-op already has a waiting list. “It really took off quickly,” Finkel says. “It was an idea people were ready for.”

Matching grants from Hazon enable CSA sites to offer an educational component such as speakers or cooking demonstrations. Koenig says that Hazon is creating a curriculum that uses Talmudic and contemporary texts to discuss food and other so-called green issues.

The CSA season runs for about 20 weeks from roughly the Jewish agricultural holidays of Shavuot to Sukkot, and part of the fun is that Tuv Ha’Aretz members never know exactly what they’re getting each week. At a recent pick up, Shearith Israel members took home a number of items including arugala, strawberries, kohlrabi, onions, spinach, and bokchoi.

And something else seems to be growing, notes Finkel. “People come with their bags and boxes, and then stay and talk and hang around,” he says. “It’s starting to form into a community.”

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by Fran Nachman Putney / Photo by Rich Vintage
posted by Benyamin | 7:12 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Green Builder: Michelle Kaufmann

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

What Michelle Kaufmann is doing is so downright cool, so revolutionary, that we think everyone else should be watching, learning and emulating her out of the box building technique.

Kaufmann has taken the trend in mid-century design a leap further — by updating the prefab homes of the 1950s with modern, beautiful and earth-friendly features. The concept for mass producing her modular homes began when she and her husband constructed their own pre-fab home and found that it saved them serious time and money — some 20 percent in the cost of production, and it took only four months to build in the factory as opposed to the 14 months that building on location would have taken (not to mention the amount of waste saved by building to specification in a factory).

Kaufmann’s avant-garde innovations have earned her the attention of prestigious mass media outlets and architectural publications. But she says her product is meant for everybody. Because “green” pre-fab homes not only offer a sensible, energy-efficient value, but they contribute to the health of their residents — inside the house and on the planet they call home.

AJL: Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?
MK: I really design to collaborate with nature as much as possible ... designing not for how things look, but how they feel. A good friend of mine once said it is difficult to find a badly designed barn — and I think there is some truth to that. If we look to the essence and function and climate, and find a solution that works towards the ideal blending of these elements, then we end up with a beautiful design. My hope is not for someone to look at one of our homes and say “Wow, that looks so cool,” but rather, “Wow, this house feels so great.”

AJL: How do you see the “green building” crusade faring? Do you feel isolated, or do you feel that we’re on the brink of transforming housing on a massive scale?
MK: When we started this work five years ago, it seemed like we were on an isolated island with a few great thinkers and creators. Now, luckily, it feels like it truly has become a global concern, where almost everyone is aware and cares. We are hearing about the issues at hand (and it is good to have that information), but without hearing much on the solutions. My goal is to offer accessible sustainable solutions. People want to go green, they want healthy environments for their families, and they want lowered energy bills, but it is not always easy to find the accessible solutions. We are working hard to change that and educate to show solutions and paths for creating solutions.

AJL: What’s been your favorite project and why?
MK: While I have to say that I really love all of our work, I feel very strongly about the sustainable communities and multifamily projects. It is important that green building is an option for everyone, at all income levels. The communities are where we can really make the biggest impact for people right now.

AJL: What’s been the most challenging?
MK: It has all been pretty challenging, but as my husband says, I’m just naïve enough to not know that we shouldn’t be doing most of the things that we are doing. There is some real truth to that. To achieve our main goal of making thoughtful, sustainable design that is accessible to more people and hopefully soon, accessible to all, we are rethinking ourselves as architects (a big challenge), and reworking the way we build. We are constantly trying to achieve the goal of minimizing waste, minimizing energy usage, and maximizing efficiency in terms of how buildings are built and used over time. We find challenges at every step of the way, and just when we think we have a solution, a new challenge comes out of left field. Luckily, we have an amazing team of great thinkers who cover the field well.

AJL: How many clients have you worked with? Where is most of your business?
MK: We only have 18 homes completed to date. However, we will have 100 completed by the end of the year. And we expect to complete 200 green, beautiful homes next year in a few different communities. Most of our work to date has been in California and Washington, with a few projects in Hawaii, Colorado, and Oregon. By next year we plan to offer our homes on a national level.

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by Rachel Pomerance / Photo by Cutter Cutshaw Photography
posted by Benyamin | 7:06 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Green CEO: Howard Schultz

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

In a commitment to help stave off global warming, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has teamed up with Global Green USA taking out full-page ads in major newspapers to raise awareness about going green. For its part, Starbucks is trying to minimize their carbon footprint by seeking to reduce the energy used to operate their stores and the energy and emissions associated with roasting coffee.

Find out more at:

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by Benyamin Cohen / Photo courtesy Starbucks
posted by Benyamin | 7:01 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Green Mayor: Michael Bloomberg

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

It’s not every day the mayor of a major American city invokes the principle of tikkun olam, repairing the world, in addressing the public about new governmental initiatives. But not every mayor is Michael Bloomberg, whose $32 billion initiative to make New York “the first environmentally sustainable 21st-century city” needs all the help it can get in gaining public acceptance.

“In my faith, the Jewish faith,” Bloomberg told a crowd of Harlem church-goers, “there is a religious obligation ... to make the world whole. ... And that responsibility is found among people of good will in every faith.”

In making the world whole, Bloomberg’s “PlaNYC,” with its 127 proposals for a “greener, greater New York,” would affect New Yorkers’ entire universe, from home to work to play, and the transportation in between. In preparation for an expected population increase of a million people over the next quarter century, the plan aims to reduce the city’s energy consumption, decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent, and improve New Yorkers’ overall quality of life.

Bloomberg’s most controversial and most widely publicized proposal aims to reduce traffic congestion by charging vehicles eight bucks every time they enter Manhattan below 86th Street during peak hours. But the mayor’s got lots of other tricks up his sleeve, like expanding the city’s ferry system and network of bicycle paths, creating a rapid transit bus system, and waiving taxes on hybrid vehicles. Oh, and speaking of hybrids, Bloomberg plans on converting the Big Apple’s entire fleet of yellow cabs into hybrid vehicles. To conserve energy and other resources, PlaNYC would upgrade power plants, offer incentives to building owners to recycle water, retrofit buildings for more efficient energy consumption, increase the use of solar power, and urge all New Yorkers to use longer-lasting, energy efficient bulbs. Bloomberg would also plant one million trees in the next decade to invigorate the city’s water cycle and air quality. And, to prevent a housing crunch, he would create land by building platforms over highways and rail yards and construct on top of them.

While such idealism carries a hefty price tag, Bloomberg insists it’s better to pay now, while the city’s economy is in good shape, than to pay the potentially higher costs to the population’s health and the environment later. As he said, echoing the words of the sage Hillel, “If we don’t act now, when?”

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by Rebecca Honig Friedman
posted by Benyamin | 6:55 PM | Link | (1) comments |
Green Burial: The Monks of Middle Georgia

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is located on a former cotton plantation about an hour south of Atlanta is the rural town of Conyers, Georgia. It is here that 48 Trappist monks live on a couple thousand acres of land in complete peace and solitude.

As it turns out, Trappist monasteries are required to be self-sufficient as explained in the 48th chapter of the Rule of Benedict which states “You are only really a monk when you live from the work of your hands.” To this end, each Trappist monastery produces some sort of retail item to help sustain them financially. In some European monasteries, Trappist beers (famous throughout the world) are quite popular. In the U.S., it’s mostly food items. Which explains the Abbot’s Table Jamaican Jerky Marmalade I spot on the top shelf of their gift shop on a recent visit.

As for this particular monastery, their expertise is fudge. Yes, fudge. All kinds of fudge. Monk’s fudge comes in a variety of flavors and is made in the on-site “fudgery”. But putting their future in the fudge sector is proving troublesome. Sales have slipped lately and now only spike around the holidays. “They’re seasonal items,” Brother Callistus, one of the monks, tells me. The bonsai trees, which the monks intricately tend to, also aren’t a huge moneymaker anymore.

They’ve tried launching several new products over the years with varying degrees of success. In the early 1980s they had a large business of baking more than 6000 loaves of bread weekly. More recently, their attempts to corner the market on stained glass windows have proven unsuccessful. And their crackpot idea of selling ostrich eggs didn’t really pan out either. But to the monks’ credit, that last one wasn’t their fault. A visitor to the monastery had promised them it would be the next big thing.

One area where they’re starting to see a profit is at their retreat house, which can hold dozens of guests at any given time. During my visit, I see a group of Presbyterian ministers who make an annual pilgrimage to the monastery. They pay for the privilege to stay on the premises and bask in the innate holiness of this place. They also contribute by helping till the fields and planting in the garden.

The monastery's latest big idea is hopping on the bandwagon of a new trend called “Green Burials”. These simple burials, which resemble what’s already being done throughout Israel, include no embalming. They are given a choice of no casket or a bio-degradable wooden one. This ensures the least amount of impact on the land. “Most coffins are not biodegradable,” says Callistus. “And neither is formaldehyde.” The monastery takes great pride in this newest initiative, feeling it’s important for the holy fraternity to be good stewards of God’s green earth.

And they have plenty of green earth. Two thousand acres to be exact. It’s all land that they have promised to never develop. So its here that people can purchase “plots” in their forest where they can bury loved ones. A small marker will designate each gravesite. The monks will be working in conjunction with South Carolina-based Memorial Ecosystems, Inc., who will handle the day-to-day operation of the burials.

The monks are already accepting pre-sales for plots and, with any luck, this will prove more profitable than the ostrich eggs.

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by Benyamin Cohen
posted by Benyamin | 6:48 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Green Meat: Kosher Organic

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

A revolution is taking place in the small kosher butcher section of my very large retail chain grocer. Almost overnight, the traditional Styrofoam plated shrink-wrapped cuts of meat were replaced by pieces of poultry and beef packaged in less wasteful vacuum-sealed plastics, specially tailored to the shape of the meat. The display was eye-catching to say the least. Yet, while I’m always eager to keep up with the latest meat-packaging trend, my meats’ new digs was only a small part of what made it a welcome addition to my kitchen.

As it turns out, these meats came from Wise Organic Pastures, a producer of “double certified” poultry and beef, which means its products are certified kosher and organic. The rabbis of Crown Heights and the Orthodox Union each share partial responsibility for making sure that all Wise products strictly adhere to the dietary requirements of Jewish law. Plus, Wise meats carry the official “USDA Organic” seal, indicating that the company is bound by law to ensure that the animals are antibiotic and growth hormone free and are not fed animal byproducts which are responsible for diseases like Mad Cow.

Also, if you shied away from kosher meat following PETA’s advertising campaign against Rubashkin’s inhumane treatment of kosher animals a few years ago, you’ll be pleased to know that organic companies emphasize the animals’ well-being. The animals are given larger living spaces than animals in industrial farms, with outdoor access and organic diets.

Raising animals organically is also good for the environment. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers known to contaminate water and soil are not used on organic farm lands. And, unlike industrial farms, organic farmers recycle manure which helps to avoid spillovers of E. Coli contaminations.

Wise, which is run by the Amish, is not the only kosher-organic farm in the marletplace. Among the handful of companies is Tiferet Organic Products which offers a full line of organic meats, including fish. The good news is that most of these farms and several distributors accept orders online. So if the double-certified label isn’t in you supermarket yet, you’re just a click away from a smarter — and smartly dressed — choice of meat.

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by Elizabeth Cohen
posted by Benyamin | 3:59 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Green Band: Guster

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

It is not uncommon for the indie rock band Guster to pause in the middle of a concert to dispense a piece of eco-friendly advice. Depending on the night, the announcement may come between “Satellite” and “The New Underground”, or maybe “Fa Fa” and “Manifest Destiny”. Given the opportunity, the band will describe how they’ve switched to biodiesel fuel on their tour bus and tried to limit their carbon emissions, and how, for several years now, they’ve tried to get other bands to do the same.

On the spectrum of celebrity activism, ending global warming is a focus for Guster, whose three founding members met at Tufts University in the 1990s.

“Our mission is to green the music industry and educate fans of music everywhere,” Adam Gardner, Guster’s guitarist/vocalist, told me recently. Reached by telephone on his 34th birthday, Gardner says, “I think what’s cool about this is that you can walk the talk and actually display it at your shows. It’s really cool to be able to say, ‘This is what we’re doing and we’re excited about it, and you can join us in our fight against global warming.’”

Since 2004, Guster has been promoting its environmental message primarily through Reverb, an organization founded by Gardner and his wife, Allison Sullivan, another Tufts grad who formerly worked for the Forest Action Network. (Before that, she was an advocate for green space in New York City. “Obviously, a worthy cause,” Gardner says.)

Hoping to inspire musicians along those lines, Reverb helps artists and bands go green. In many cases, this means switching to biodiesel fuel, using biodegradable catering products, recycling and reducing waste, selling eco-friendly merchandise, and using Jumbotron messaging. At concerts, Reverb often sets up “eco-villages” where non-profit organizations interact with fans to teach them about environmental activism.

While Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (with a soundtrack by Melissa Etheridge) cemented environmental concerns on many people’s consciousness, one of the first artists to advocate for the environment was Bonnie Raitt, who coined the term “Green Highway” in 2002. When Gardner and Sullivan first launched Reverb, they worked closely with Raitt, whose “Green Highway” became their model.

Raitt is still involved in Reverb, and today the organization’s client roster reads like a Billboard top 20 list and includes John Mayer, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Dave Matthews Band, the Fray, and Barenaked Ladies.

Working with BNL during the band’s Fall/Winter 2006-07 tour, Reverb helped created “Barenaked Planet,” an outreach program where fans neutralized 8.5 million miles of driving. The band itself neutralized 500 tons of carbon dioxide at their concerts, where Jumbotrons projected eco-slideshows and backstage recycling led to a 65% waste reduction rate. (The band also helped collect discarded guitar strings, which were re-crafted into artisan jewelry.)

“This has been an explosion,” says Gardner, who indicated that Reverb grew 500% in the last year. To date, he says, Reverb has “greened” more than 20 tours and 350 individual events. “We finally reached a tipping point, a post-’Inconvenient Truth’ era,” he says. “The debate is over about global warming. Now it’s about what we can do.”

For musicians and bands, the impetus for eco-friendliness is multi-pronged. On one level, their star power gives voice to the issue, and through their fan base, artists have the potential to educate and inspire thousands of music fans.

Music insiders say Reverb is riding a wave of industry activism and interest in the environment. “It’s in fashion right now to be green,” says Marc Ross, the executive director of Rock the Music, an environmental advocacy group that works with the music industry. “Not only do [musicians] have a platform, but I think the music also moves people in an emotional way.”

Increasingly, bands that tour in multi-vehicle caravans realize they can reduce the thumbprint they themselves leave on the environment. Last year, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke (a spokesman for Friends of the Earth) suggested he may stop touring due to the negative environmental impact of concerts and touring.

“You hear statements from people like Thom Yorke,” Gardner says. “There’s measurable impacts we have on the environment, all of us do. As a touring band, we saw it was an issue we wanted to address.”

For Gardner, who is Jewish, activism also may be something of a religious ideal. “My Hebrew is a little off,” Gardner says. “But isn’t it tikkun olam, heal the world? Maybe that conception has seeped its way into my consciousness.”

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by E.B. Solomont / Photo by C. Taylor Crothers
posted by Benyamin | 3:55 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Green Torah: Eco-Activist Beit Midrash

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

At a tiny yeshiva, hidden away in a narrow, arched stone alleyway in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachlaot, a quiet revolution is presently under way. Combining West Coast-style environmental activism with traditional Torah study, a small group of eco-activists cum Torah scholars are mobilizing a new generation of Jewishly-learned environmental activists, promising to alter the way that observant Jews everywhere relate to the environment.

Founded in 2004 by Shaul David Judelman, a Seattle native and recent graduate of the rabbinic program at Yeshivat Bat Ayin, the Eco-Activist Beit Midrash is a program of Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo, a small progressive Orthodox yeshiva that caters to Americans living abroad in Jerusalem. The month-long program, with multiple sessions yearly, includes a mixture of learning, volunteering, and farming, as well as “eco-tourism” within Israel. It draws roughly a dozen participants per session.

Shaul, who moved to Israel shortly after participating in the infamous 1999 World Trade Organization protest known as “the Battle of Seattle,” believes that the Torah offers enormous insight that can bring greater depth to one’s environmental activism. “I was really searching for a community in which I could embody my activism in a way that was more holistic than just attending protests,” Shaul tells AJL. “I came to Israel on that search, started learning Torah, and was taken by the depth of insight the Torah itself offered on environmental and sustainability issues.”

The program covers multiple angles, says Shaul, including establishing relationships between American and Israeli eco-activists, opening students up to a deep personal connection with the land of Israel, and offering a “next step” in Torah learning to environmentally aware Jews who have become interested in Judaism’s relationship to ecology and sustainability.

In addition to the program, Shaul volunteers as an environmental educator within Jerusalem’s traditional Orthodox religious communities. “The goal,” says Shaul, “is to teach religious Jews in Israel that environmentalism is a Torah value and not just a value of the secular left.” He is also working with a larger group of rabbis and educators to develop a Jewish legal treatise on environmentalism that will be made available as a course curriculum to Israeli yeshivas. “This project could have wide-reaching effects on Jewish religious communities, giving ‘eco-Torah’ far greater credence and integrity.”

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by Daniel Sieradski / Photo by Avraham Eliezer Tertes
posted by Benyamin | 3:51 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Green Tech Trend: The Greener Apple

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

If your favorite apples have always been the crisp, green ones, you’re going to love Apple’s new environmentally conscious manufacturing and recycling practices spearheaded by Apple board member Al Gore. The crisp new strategy, designed to further endear Macs to the younger, more environmentally conscious generation of purchasing power, involves removing toxic chemicals from new products and increasing recycling of old products, reducing environmental waste. And if you’ve got an old iPod? Recycle it free at Apple stores and get a 10% discount on your new one.

Steve Jobs hopes that this initiative will make Apple an environmental leader; but AJL predicts at least one outcome: we’re pretty sure the new installment of the Mac and PC ads will feature “PC” painting himself a lovely shade of Granny Smith green.

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by Esther Kustanowitz / Photo courtesy Apple
posted by Benyamin | 3:46 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Green Scientist: Drew Shindell

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

These are heady times for a climate researcher. Behind the critical acclaim of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and interest in restrictions on carbon emissions at June’s G8 Summit in Germany, are scientists like Drew Shindell.

Shindell, who works at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, uses climate models to analyze historical and present-day weather patterns. He also projects possible changes in future climate conditions, which, of course, has fueled an explosion in public concern over how we may be harming our environment.

Shindell began doing environmental research during his days as a doctoral student at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he earned a Ph.D. in 1995. At the time, a group of students were studying ozone depletion over Antarctica and he got hooked. “It was socially relevant and it contributed to making the world a better place,” he says. “It was really tangible.”

From there, Shindell moved easily into studying climate change. Today, he describes huge advances in satellite, computer, and data technology. “The wealth of data is fantastic,” he explains, pointing out how scientists who analyze tree rings or drill holes in ice coolers now understand what the earth’s climate was like a million years ago.

While he declines to be labeled an activist or advocate for the environment, Shindell, who has testified on environmental issues before Congress, is not shy about criticizing the current administration’s foot-dragging on environmental policy issues.

Shindell, who grew up in a Conservative Jewish home in California, says he is “not terribly religious.” And yet, he says his work stems from a principled position he takes on the obligation of scientists to share their findings with the public, especially when their research reveals potential dangers. “The same way that medical research, if you discover something dangerous, it would be immoral to sit on it,” he says, “I think we have a moral obligation to go out there and say these are obvious implications of this science.”

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by E.B. Solomont / Photo by Chaim Jaskoll
posted by Benyamin | 2:44 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Apocalypse Now
Hot summers are just the beginning. Israel is on the verge of agricultural devastation and increased flooding among any number of global warming related disasters. Welcome to a whole new Holy Land.

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

Israel has a lot to worry about. Nuclear threats from Iran, a seemingly intractable stalemate with the Palestinians, the resurgence of global anti-Semitism -- not to mention a prime minister with an approval rating, as of this writing, of an astonishingly abysmal 2%. But according to a small but growing consensus of scientists and environmentalists, there's another looming crisis to add to the list: climate change.

That’s right. The “inconvenient truth” may be more than just inconvenient for Israel. According to the Israeli government’s report to the UN Convention on Climate Change, the potential effects of global climate change on Israel include a 4-8% drop in precipitation, a shortened rainy season, and increased severity of “extreme climate events.” That’s bad news, obviously, for a country perched on the edge of a desert, and with water scarcity already a serious environmental — and political — issue.

“But that is just the beginning,” says Alon Tal, Executive Director of the Israeli Union for Environmental Defense, Israel’s leading environmental advocacy group. Tal, who recently won the $100,000 Charles Bronfman Prize for his work, says that because Israel is a country of micro-climates — the desert south, the fertile north, the dry hills of Jerusalem, the wet lowlands of Tel Aviv — the individual local effects are often far worse than the average ones. A couple of degrees warmer in Jerusalem may not make that much of a difference — but the same increase in southern agricultural regions could be disastrous. “Even in a non-worst-case scenario,” Tal wrote in a recent article in the online magazine Zeek (of which, by way of full disclosure, I am one of the editors), the statistics don’t tell the whole story. The litany of likely outcomes includes, in Tal’s words, “agricultural devastation, increased floods, and very hot summers,” as well as a host of lesser, but still damaging, consequences like beach erosion.

This would be a disaster, particularly for agriculture. Basically, everything is moving north. Already, the Arava desert is getting dryer, and soon, it’s likely that the Negev desert will overtake the city of Be’ersheva. A shortened rainy season will mean decreased yields. A projected 10% increase in “evapotranspiration” will mean plants will need more water to survive, straining already-strained resources. And the Galilee’s “bread basket” will grow smaller and less fertile, even with only a moderate rise in global temperatures. So much for “making the desert bloom” — climate change would make the Galilee wither.

“Climate change will produce some winners and some losers,” Tal explains. “Unfortunately, it looks like Israel will be one of the losers.”

A shift in Israel’s climactic zones would also have severe ecological effects, on top of the economic ones. Even if Israel can somehow find the increased water to irrigate its crops more, and use its famous agricultural technological know-how to rehabilitate the Galilee, it’s certain that the ibexes, hyraxes, and other furry critters of Israel’s tiny eco-tones won’t adapt so easily. Nor will the Jewish National Fund (JNF) pine forests, ill-equipped to withstand accelerated desertification. These environmental losses are harder to tally up on the balance sheet, but in a country already feeling a bit too much like the urbanized Singapore, they could have serious repercussions on the national psyche.

One of the most commonly-known side effects of climate change is a rise in overall sea levels, due to the melting of the polar ice caps. Here, the scope of the problem is uncertain — Israeli government estimates for sea-level rise range anywhere from 12 to 88 centimeters. (Of course, the few lingering doubters of climate change like to say that the whole phenomenon is uncertain, but every climatologist not on the payroll of an oil company agrees that global warming is real; the uncertainties are only regarding details like this one.) But Tal added that even a modest rise in sea levels would seriously erode Israel’s beaches and require massive reinforcements to the roads near Eilat. Estimates of the cost of improving that infrastructure run into the billions of dollars. Not to mention the loss in tourism due to beach erosion — large numbers of Europeans, remember, come for the beaches, not the ruins.

Finally, as with the snows (soon to be the former snows) of Kilimanjaro, and the glaciers (soon to be the former glaciers) of Glacier National Park, the effects of climate change on Israel are already here, and already visible. Jaffa was known for “hundred-year floods,” which periodically came about as a confluence of various meteorological events. Now Tel Aviv suffers them once a decade. According to Israeli government statistics, the chance of a day being rated as ‘very hot’ as opposed to ‘moderately hot’ has increased by 300% during the past forty years.” And one study by geologist Hanan Ginat of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies indicates a 50% drop in precipitation over the last forty years.


If Israel faces serious agricultural disruption, and the huge loss of wildlife that shifts in its climactic zones would entail, then climate change ranks as
a serious economic, social, and ecological threat. So what is being done?

At present, not much. For starters, Israel is a very small country, so its ability to influence global climate is extremely limited. Tal says that the Israeli government’s inaction on climate change reflects “a cynical disregard for the severity of global warming,” but one could just as easily argue that Israel has so little effect on the global climate that its very limited resources could better be spent elsewhere.

Second, in a twist of international politics, Israel got classed as a “developing nation” for climate change purposes, rather than a “developed nation,” meaning it is exempt from most binding obligations. (The reasons for the designation included population increases due to former-Soviet immigration, and Israel’s long-term water shortage.) As a result, climate change has not been high on Israel’s priority list, both because there’s not much Israel can do about it, and because there are other things to worry about.

Of course, everyone who’s been to Israel knows about the ever-present dudei shemesh, or solar heaters, that warm up the hot water even in upscale Israeli homes, not to mention JNF’s large, monoculture pine forests. And, Tal says, “the Israeli government and some businesses have taken small steps toward promoting clean energy.” But public interest and understanding in Israel remain quite low. A 2006 national survey of environmental literacy among high school students showed that fewer than half of the students even knew what caused global warming in the first place. (Then again, the same might be said of the current American president.) Even those Israelis who are “green” have many other environmental issues to worry about — loss of open space, air and water pollution, and the lack of proper waste management, to name just a few. As a result, Tal said, “few of the Ministry of Environment’s operational recommendations involve concrete measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

But the United States is a different story. Unlike Israel, America is big enough to make a difference on its own: The United States is the world’s leading generator of greenhouse gases, and practically invented the “think big” lifestyle that got us in this mess to begin with. Yet, as is well known, America’s federal government has sat on the climate change sidelines, refused to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol, which would set binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and dithered over the uncertainties of exactly how bad climate change will be.

The result? Israel’s friends in America are, ironically, the ones who are damaging its long-term economic future.

In the Jewish community, climate change is often seen as a pressing problem, but rarely is the intersection with Israel mentioned. The Jewish community tends to be more liberal than average Americans, and environmental issues are no exception. Barbara Lerman-Golomb, executive director of the Coalition on the Environment in Jewish Life (COEJL), says that “most Jews are aware of the issues and problems of global warming as it relates to the world at large.” But understanding of the problem as it relates to Israel specifically is still quite limited, and, Golomb explains, Jews tend to view environmental issues as a subset of “social action and tikkun olam,” not concern for Israel.

Surely this makes sense ideologically -- as Golomb says, “global warming poses an imminent, massive threat that will likely affect all creation,” not just the land of Israel. But some activists are beginning to wonder whether the particular economic and ecological effects on Israel should cause the Jewish community to rethink its priorities around climate change, whether they are environmentalists or not.

“The fight against climate change is essential to Israel’s food security and water security,” says Noam Dolgin, chairperson of the Green Zionist Alliance (GZA), an environmentalist party to the Zionist Congress. “The conventional wisdom is that the next war in the Middle East will be fought over water, and climate change will lead to major changes in water patterns and distribution.”

Dolgin notes that ecological issues such as desertification, coral bleaching, and climate patterns motivate many in the environmental movement, “fighting climate change is also critical from a security point of view.” According to Dolgin, the GZA is working with the JNF and other organizations to educate the Jewish community about these issues.

Of course, some might claim that fighting climate change in the name of Israel is a case of misplaced priorities — even a ploy. But this is what coalition politics is all about: finding common ground on issues of overlapping interest. So what if Greens are worried about owls, and Blue-and-Whites about Israeli economic security? The science is the science, and the two groups have common cause to change America’s (lack of) climate policy — if they choose to do it.

Anyway, as Dolgin notes, “people are mobilized by issues that play out close to home, and this is a land that we have deep emotional and spiritual connections toward. As Jews, we have a general moral obligation to preserve the world, but we have a specific moral obligation to preserve Israel.”


The irony — and the opportunity — is that Israel, which currently stands to lose so much as a result of climate change, could actually stand to gain. Obviously, reducing global fossil-fuel use, to the extent it depletes the riches of countries hostile to Israel, would help shift the balance of power in the Middle East a bit more in Israel’s favor. But more importantly, Israel could actually make money if climate change became a serious global priority, for two reasons. First, as a leader in creating “green technologies,” Israel could reap huge economic benefits as these technologies gain wider adoption. And second, Israel’s afforestation programs could count as carbon sequestration credits under a climate change emissions trading system. In other words — those solar heaters and JNF trees really could add up.

First there is all that technology. As a tiny, but smart, country geographically isolated from other Western nations, Israel has figured out the way to “make it” economically is not through exporting oranges but by researching and developing new technologies. (The Haifa-based Technion Institute has recently taken to running advertisements in the New York Times proclaiming “The Brainpower of Its People” to be “Israel’s Only Natural Resource.”) Whether it’s Warren Buffet’s $4 billion investment in the Israeli tool manufacturer Iscar, or the global successes of Mirabilis/ICQ (the folks who helped bring you the instant message) and other Internet businesses, Israel’s economic success depends on turning those smart Jewish brains into dollars. The same is true in environmental technologies — all those solar panels could really be worth something, if Israeli businesses were provided the incentives to improve and develop them. “Solar power plants in Southern California rely on clean-energy technology developed in Jerusalem,” says Tal, adding that “the Israeli corporation Ormat has emerged as a world leader in geothermal energy technologies.” But the financial upside is just beginning to be known.

Making money from environmental technology is not a new idea. Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter wrote about it as early as 1991, in an enormously influential Scientific American article entitled “America’s Green Strategy,” and in books like Green and Competitive. The argument: we’re going to need these technologies, so the countries and companies that develop them first stand to make a lot of money.

More recently, Yale Law Professor Daniel C. Esty showed how large companies are already reaping economic benefits from environmental innovation in of Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage, written with consultant Andrew Winston. “The key to success in environmental protection is innovation and technology development,” Esty tells AJL. “In this regard, technology development to provide greater energy efficiency, new non-fossil fuel energy sources, and perhaps carbon capture will all be in great demand. Israel could well be a leader in this changed world — with its educated workforce, capacity to drive innovation, and its technical strength.”

In other words, as a technology leader with a particular interest in climate change, Israel could help the warmer world bloom — if we in America would stop kidding around about the problem.

A second way Israel could actually profit from a pro-active climate change policy is as familiar as those ubiquitous blue and white JNF boxes: planting trees. Under the Framework Convention for Climate Change, countries and companies can trade emissions (i.e., putting carbon dioxide into the air with cars and factories) for credits (i.e., taking it out). If emissions trading becomes a reality, those JNF forests, which all take CO2 out of the atmosphere, suddenly become worth money — a fact not lost on the JNF itself, which, according to the GZA’s Dolgin, has begun investigating the possibility of incorporating its tree-planting efforts into “carbon-neutrality” programs.

The potential is enormous. Consider the economic and environmental boon for Israel if every Jewish organization, synagogue, and conference pledged to be carbon neutral, and offset its carbon use by buying carbon credits from Israel. Companies, conferences, even vacation spots are now offering “carbon offsets” which balance the carbon emitted by airplanes, hotels, and paper factories — why not ask all synagogues, camps, and Jewish organizations to become “carbon neutral” and direct their eco-dollars to Israel? Everyone would win.

Third, Israel could derive significant carbon credits from its solar and wind power plants, which count as carbon reduction credits when they replace CO2-emitting facilities. These are assets Israel already possesses, but, like the risks it faces from climate change, they are little known among Israel’s friends in America — or, for that matter, in Israel itself. Recently, for example, Israeli Minister of Infrastructure Benyamin Ben-Eliezer announced plans for a huge solar power plant in the Negev. Great news — except that he didn’t even mention the possible economic windfall of using the plant to obtain carbon-reduction credits. Then again, with Prince Charles canceling ski trips to reduce his “carbon footprint,” maybe the ignorance is beginning to give way — to dollar signs in the eyes.

All of these economic benefits depend on a serious, worldwide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — a campaign opposed only by the United States. Imagine if Israel’s friends in America understood climate change not as a peripheral political or spiritual issue, but as a serious economic and security threat to the Jewish state — and helped persuade the United States to finally catch up to the rest of the Western world, ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and commit to reducing our wasteful emissions. A major vulnerability could become a serious economic asset.

For now, however, the American Jewish community’s understanding of climate change remains at a very early stage: few know how it will affect Israel, and some don’t see it as a “Jewish” issue at all. But in Israel, it’s perhaps worth noting that Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth had a different title in Hebrew: Emet Matridah — The Truth That Terrifies.

This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

-- Text by Jay Michaelson / Photo by Justin Horrocks
posted by Benyamin | 2:25 PM | Link | (6) comments |
Letter from the Editor

From our July/August 2007 issue. This article is part of our larger package, the AJL Green List.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of horror movies. I just don’t see the point. I go to the movies to be entertained, not scared out of my mind. Give me a romantic comedy or a mindless action movie and I’m there. Even a compelling documentary will interest me. But, a horror movie? Eh, not my cup of tea.

So I didn’t think twice when I rented Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth and popped it into the DVD player. Big mistake. The film, which clearly and cogently explains the dire situation we’re in, is perhaps one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

But, surprisingly, that’s a good thing. It serves as a clarion call and is an important film for all of us to see. Rent a copy and invite some friends over to watch. Better yet, ask your synagogue to show it in a group setting. Knowledge is power and recognizing the problem is the first part of coming up with the solution. (While you’re at Blockbuster, also check out Who Killed the Electric Car?, an eye-opening film which will make you think twice before you buy your next vehicle.)

The mounting evidence of how climate change is affecting the way we live is enough to scare the bejesus out of even the biggest skeptics: The earth is heating up at breakneck speed and the human race is to blame. So, it is with a great sense of humility and responsibility that we offer you this special Green Issue of AJL.

In it you will find stories that detail the problem, like how climate change is affecting Israel (agricultural devastation and flooding just to name two aspects) and what we as American Jews can do to help. As well, our special green section contains stories of creative Jews who are leading the way in saving our planet. There is the band Guster which is helping teach other musical acts how to go on a green tour (use biodiesel in your bus for starters). There is the Interfaith Power & Light organization which is helping churches and synagogues reduce their energy costs by at least a third. And there is architect Michelle Kaufmann who has figured out a revolutionary way to cut costs and reduce waste in the home building process. Oh yeah, and she can build your house in less than half the time it takes normal contractors. And if tree hugging is not your thing, there’s no need to skip the green section because, in it, we also give you tips on how to save money by doing some basic things. Even the most ardent anti-environmentalist likes to save a little green.

Hopefully, these articles will inspire you to make changes in your daily life and in your community that will help heal our planet. At the very least, we ask that you please recycle this issue of AJL.

As a magazine, we plan on doing our part as well by recycling stories as often as we can. (Just kidding.) But we do hope to soon switch to paper made from reconstituted wood waste — sawdust, woodchips, and pulp logs that previously wound up in landfills. This is just one of the many initiatives we are taking to make ourselves, and our office, carbon neutral.

As Jews, it is incumbent upon us to be good stewards of God’s green earth. From childhood, we are taught the concepts of tikkun olam (repair the world) and baal taschit (do not be wasteful). These are two of our religion’s most basic tenets. But, even more, as members of the human race, we owe it to our children and grandchildren to leave them a planet in which they can exist and thrive.

Al Gore has said on any number of occasions that we have a little less than 10 years left before we reach a tipping point where there will be no turning back. If nothing is done, scientists believe we will have done irreversible damage to our planet, turning parts of the world that are currently inhabitable to areas where life can no longer exist. Now that is one scary thought.

Benyamin Cohen
posted by Benyamin | 1:54 PM | Link | (0) comments |
AJL Short Fiction: The Cutbusters
Based on somewhat actual events, a semi-true tale about a little Jewish boy and his hare-brained idea to make a little money.

From our July/August 2007 issue

That’s it. I’m naming names. I’ve been a stand-up guy for more than twenty years, but it is long past time that I shared the
truth with the world. Consider this my confession.

Part of what compels me to take this dangerous and, I’m just going say it, heroic, step, is the bitterness I still feel from the day of my trial in front of my peers that would stigmatize me for the rest of my life.

The trial took place in the small chapel that my elementary school, Beth Yeshurun, a very large Conservative school located in my hometown of Houston, Texas, used for services on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesday and Thursday we prayed in the bigger sanctuary. Or maybe it was the other way around. A lot of time has passed. The important thing is that I get this monkey off my back.

The small chapel was shaped like a horseshoe. The students sat on steps around the horseshoe, and the ark of the covenant stood facing us all. If the ark had been a stake in the ground, and the congregation an actual horseshoe, God would have been rewarded maximum pointage for this toss. It was a pretty cozy place.

And there I sat in front of the entire, currently horseshoe shaped third grade and the holy Torah. The principal sat next to me. A few teachers flanked her. Witness after witness testified against me, as the entire grade looked on.

These were the facts with which I agreed:

My best friend Sam Apple and I had started a club called “Cutbusters”.

We caused a frenzy of teary-eyed third graders trying to join our club. I clearly remember standing by the jungle-gym with a piece of paper and a pen while people lined up to try to get on the waiting list to be a member. That’s right. We had a waiting list.

I put chubby little Lonnie Weisblum on the waiting list. I guess he thought that I had forgotten that he had taken a swing at me in second grade when I asked him if he thought Ms. Epstien was mean. Like I could have a loose cannon like that in my organization.

And finally, I even conceded that after getting a call from the principal, Sam’s father had found $56 hidden in a sock deep in the corner of Sam’s closet. Not only did I admit the money was ours, but I admitted that we had collected it from Cutbuster members.

The bone of contention was the method of collections. The teachers and principal insisted several times that I was collecting dues in exchange for membership. Every time they said that, I surveyed the crowd, with a steely look and replied, “They were donations.”

Looking back, I can see why at the initial meeting with the principal she had told my mom over the phone, “I thought I was calling in a kid who had been selling bubblegum or candy, but what I have here is Sonny Corleone.”

It really didn’t matter what I said. I knew my goose was cooked days before when I saw Sharon Brown standing on an upside down bucket in the alley by the equipment shed on the playground screaming, “Join the Cutbusters! Step right up and join the Cutbusters!”

Splinter groups had been springing up under the “Cutbuster” banner all around school. I knew that watering down the brand name couldn’t be good. There was even a group called “Anti-Cutbusters”.

Not to mention, Sharon Brown was in the low class. At Beth Yeshurun, students were divided into a caste system. There was a high class, a middle class, and a low class.

The high class would socialize with the middle class, but we knew we were smarter than them.

Nobody dealt with the low class. It was composed of freaks and foreigners. It didn’t matter how smart you were. If you moved to Houston from a foreign country, you got stuck in the low class. It didn’t even matter if you came from an English-speaking country.

My friend Alon Elk got stuck in the low class when he came to America from South Africa. He has a master’s degree from Oxford now. He once told me that when he found out he was moving to America, he memorized all of the U.S. geography and history that he could so he would fit in. But it didn’t matter. They put him in the low class. And if you were in the low class, you were virtually an untouchable. So suffice it to say, having Sharon Brown standing out there doing her own personal little membership drive kind of told me that the end was near.

It wasn’t long before the teachers heard I was taking money from members. That’s what led to the trial. Once they heard about the cash, they called both of our parents.

Sam’s father told them, “Sam would never do that.” But he did. And Sam’s dad soon found the money.

Lucky for Sam, his golden boy reputation and the fact that nobody had actually seen him speak since about 1978 made sure that he somehow never got in trouble. How come I was the only one who got a severe deduction in my conduct grade on my next report card? Sam still got the highest possible mark. Did he make a deal? Did he go Sammy “The Kosher Bull” on me?

That’s all academic now. There I sat and met my punishment in front of a crowd of kids whom only days before would have literally paid to sit next to me in the Mandel Weiner Auditorium that served as the lunchroom. But today they sat silently as I was convicted in a kangaroo court composed of teachers who had been out to get me since the cheese on the walls of the lunchroom incident that they could never make stick. I thought I was Teflon. But like Gotti, they just kept after me until they found something that stuck. They couldn’t handle seeing me living so well while they were stuck with a teacher’s salary.

At one point, I was pulling in five, maybe six dollars a week. I had my mom upgrade from Oreos to Double Stuff Oreos. How do you think that made my teachers feel?

At the end of the trial, everybody that had, ahem, contributed to the kitty, lined up and told the principal how much they had given. I had to count out and return the money. Some kids even got me for more than they ever contributed. That slimy Kevin Pauly still owes me 76 cents, the way I see it. I hope he got witness protection.

But at this point, there is no need to be cute. I admit everything.

I, along with Sam Apple, currently a darling of the Jewish literary world, was the mastermind behind a criminal organization that spanned across an entire Jewish elementary school in 1984. Well, at least the third grade.

It all started at the indoor pool of the Jewish Community Center, where Sam and I were thumbing through some sort of a mail-order catalogue. As our eyes, which were apparently still too young to be interested in Victoria’s Secret, scanned the toy section of this random department store catalogue that we probably found in the old, gross JCC snack bar known for its overpriced falafel and an Israeli guy named “Halo” behind the register infamous for short-changing his pre-pubescent clientele, both of our gazes became locked on the same item.

It was a boom box. It transformed into a robot. We had to have it.

I can’t remember how much it cost, but I am guessing it must have been more than a hundred dollars. To my nine-year-old mind, the idea of being able to attain a hundred dollar item was about the same as how a few years later, my 16-year-old mind would view my chances of landing a night with a Playboy bunny. It was a dream worth having over and over, to be sure, but at the end of the day, I knew it could never happen.

But Sam and I were determined. We would not be denied.

We sat on the bleachers by the indoor pool, and tried to come with an idea. The steam from the pool must have given us a contact high, because we formulated a plan that was pretty cunning for a pair of kids who hadn’t reached their double-digits yet. That plan was to become my first hare-brained scheme in a life that turned out to be a long series of hare-brained schemes.

I can’t help it. I have always been a sucker for a good hare-brained scheme.

We decided to start “Cutbusters” for two reasons: We were required to walk in single-file lines from class to class at school. Cutting was a problem. The Cutbusters would fix that problem. Of course, as a Cutbuster, you pretty much had free reign to do whatever you wanted. That was a definite perk.

The second reason was that the name seemed cool at the time, which is hard to believe. But Ghostbusters was huge back then. The name had cache. Marc Brenner even had his mother make us shirts.

The fact that people were willing to make, and I stress this, optional donations, to join, was the icing on the cake.

At the end of the day, I learned very early on that crime doesn’t pay. I had to return every last dime that I had collected. I even had to return the $12 that our biggest contributor, Richard Perel, made to the collection. We immediately made him vice-president of the club after that, but unfortunately he overheard Sam and I discussing the fact it was essentially a powerless figurehead position. He immediately quit and demanded his money back. When we refused, he started the Anti-Cutbusters, which had a pretty decent membership.

It really hurt counting out that $12. Richard never looked at me the same way again. I am pretty sure that is why he sabotaged our fantasy football league championship game last year.

Before I returned the money, the teachers told me how appalling it was that I would make my friends pay dues. They said it was a form of extortion.

Personally, I just think that they are all lucky that I had no idea about the nudie bars all around Houston at the time. If I had, there would not have been any money to return.

-- Text by Mason Lerner / Illustration for AJL by Drew Beam
posted by Benyamin | 12:43 PM | Link | (2) comments |
The Essayist: How Jesus Made Me a Better Jew
A neurotic Jewish stand-up comedian (are there any other kind?) sees the light (in the form of a perky Christian coed) and baptizes himself to mixed results.

From our July/August 2007 issue

Jesus first came to me in sixth grade through my friend’s older sister’s breasts. The apostles were perfectly perky, nineteen years old, and of Italian descent. (I don’t keep up on Catholicism, but I believe they were just canonized.) I know a lot of people see Jesus in oil-stained hamburger wrappers, or in oddly shaped corn chips. For me, it was the juxtaposition of two events: my friend showing me a picture of his older sister flashing a camera; then, the very next day, while giving me a ride home, her asking me if I knew Jesus.

“Did you know Jesus can save you from all your sins?” She asked me this like someone asks, “Did you know turpentine can clean paint off of the sidewalk?” It was simply informative. Little did she know that her very vessel had been one of the leading inspirations of sin in my life for months. However, at twelve years old, I didn’t know from sin. She was simply beautiful, and spreading the good word. This combination was like Jesus had come unto me saying, “Hi, I am a great pair of breasts.” To which I replied, “Okay, you’ve got my attention.”

Breasts aside, I was a prime candidate for receiving a Christendectomy. As a kid, being a Jew meant going to Sunday school instead of playing with my friends. It meant missing football practice and games during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Until I graduated high school, Judaism was a religion based on separating me from my friends — me from who I wanted to be.

Additionally, I was part of a statistical reality only now becoming well known: Meshugener-ass Yid parents are the number-one cause of Christianity among Jews. Forget Tay-Sachs; we should be screened for parents who check your teeth for ham particles after having Christmas dinner at Scott Carlson’s house.

I love my parents. I know they only wanted to protect me. That’s why we had double-bolted deadlocked doors in what was probably the safest suburb in Northern California. You never know when crooks from Brooklyn are going to find where you live and fly three thousand miles just to break into your house.

Thirteen years passed between Jesus’ first titillation of my soul, and my thinking I was a Christian.

Before finding my true path of writing about and making fun of people, places and things, I pretended to work in technology. My first job out of college was for a technology company that was going to revolutionize the way people thought about oil changes. Sounds crazy now, but in the late nineties, if you weren’t trying to revolutionize something, you weren’t worth the armrests on your Aeron chair. My manager, Chris, had just promoted me and become my mentor. Chris was smart, confident, and wealthy. While never saying it directly, he made it clear that his abilities came from a personal relationship with Jesus. “Jesus, huh? I’m going to check this dude out.”

I should mention that I have a rebellious, paranoid mind. This is good for creativity, but sometimes allows me to draw conclusions that have no basis in reality. It was no coincidence that Christ came to me through someone named “Chris.” In fact, I now had reason to believe that all people named Chris or Christine were Jesus’ messengers. As such, every Chris or Christine was listened to like Moses taking notes from the burning bush.

Soon it became clear that I had a personal relationship with Christ (how could I not? My buddy Chris Williams and I talked all the time, but mostly about comedy and alcohol).

If my friends ever asked me why I didn’t go to church, or why my act was unfit for the pulpit, I had Jesus in the person of Soundgarden front man Chris Cornell reminding me to “blow up the outside world.” I was perfectly insulated in my world of Chris and Christine.

To show my appreciation for Jesus, I decided it was time to get baptized. While doing shows for the U.S. Military in Bahrain (an island off the coast of Saudi Arabia), I filled up the tub with Arab water and dunked myself, sure I would emerge made in the image of cool, confident Chris. However, after coming up for air, I obsessed for fifteen minutes about whether I’d stayed under long enough for Jesus to find me. Not exactly what I was looking for.

That water-dunking, combined with sunlight and fertilizer (of which I had plenty), finally burst my Christian seed through the dirt. Later that year I sent an email telling my family, “I am a Christian.” My parents weren’t exactly proud.

So how did I eventually become the good Jewish guy I am today? I actually have Jesus to thank for bringing me back to the Tribe. The minute I pronounced my Christianity on stage, Jesus revoked the usual cult-leader-like connection I have with audiences. I seemed like a foreigner on stage. It was like trying to do a love scene with a booger peeking out.

I knew I loved God. However, I began to realize that Jesus was made of fabric that caused me to rash (I know, I know, I should’ve shopped in the garment district all along). For months I felt “off” both personally and professionally. I liken it to an organ transplant that didn’t take. Slowly, I was brought to the realization that I am Jewish. Let me repeat: I am Jewish.

About a year later, Jesus decided to break up with me via email. Following a show, the following note arrived in my inbox: “Dear Jeremy, I saw your show last Friday. You are no Christian! Sincerely, Christine Salters.” From the mouth of Christine herself, I had been sent the final message.

I’ve been getting my Jew on for about four months now. Like Job, God has tried me, and restored me. I am now thankful. I would never know how great it is to be a Jew without my Jesus detour.

They say if you drop the Torah you’re supposed to kiss it. I think you should also thank God for making the gravity that caused it to fall. Maybe when you pick it up, it will have opened to a page you are finally ready to read.

-- Text by Jeremy Greenberg / Illustration by Joseph G. Suico
posted by Benyamin | 12:34 PM | Link | (2) comments |
The Bookshelf: The Woody Allen Summer Reader

From our July/August 2007 issue

There may be something to this Woody Allen kid. The writer and director of such films as — well, you know what films he’s made and how brilliant they are — has come out with a new book of short stories, Mere Anarchy, his first prose collection since 1980. With the wacky characters (Miss Velveeta Belknap, for instance) and cleverly outlandish descriptions you’ve come to expect from this master of comedy, your laughs will range from knee-slapping to side-splitting. And there are enough nebbishy types included for even the most fervent Woody Allen fan.

And if you’re longing for his good old neuroses, pick up The Insanity Defense. A new release of Woody Allen’s complete prose, this book compiles all his previous bestsellers, Getting Even (1971), Without Feathers (1975), and Side Effects (1980) -- still smart and still funny. These two quick reads will give you a hilarious new view of Woody and the world, through prose-colored glasses.

-- Text by Helen Herbst
posted by Benyamin | 12:27 PM | Link | (0) comments |
The Bookshelf: Diamonds are forever
In his sophomore effort, fiction storyteller Edward Schwarzschild mines the tales of his own family.

From our July/August 2007 issue

One of the first short stories the fiction writer Edward Schwarzschild ever wrote was an account of his grandfather’s open-heart surgery.

The year was 1989, and Schwarzschild was a Ph.D. student in English literature at Washington University in St. Louis. He was only writing about 25 pages of fiction each year, focusing instead on honing skills that could earn him tenure, stability, a real job.

That the story, called “Open Heart,” is the opening narrative in Schwarzschild’s new collection of stories, titled The Family Diamond, serves as a tribute to his grandparents, on whom the collection is based, and in particular his grandfather, who survived the surgery.

However, the collection in its entirety recently became doubly poignant, when Schwarzschild’s grandfather passed away in late May, four months after celebrating his 90th birthday.

On the eve of Schwarzschild’s first press tour before the publication of The Family Diamond this fall, I called him to see if he wanted to postpone the interview, scheduled to take place just days after his grandfather’s funeral. He declined the offer, saying the book was about his Zayde; that it would be good to talk. We made plans to meet the next day at a coffee shop in Brooklyn, not far from his apartment.

Settling in over coffee and chocolate chip cookies (“comfort food,” he says), Schwarzschild concedes, “It’s still very, very fresh in terms of figuring out what happened…. I’m sad and upset about how quickly he went from that 90th birthday to his death.”

Discussing the collection, he says he had to rewrite the boilerplate language that typically precedes any fictional work — this time to indicate it was based on real characters. “Milly and Charlie are a little more real than everybody else,” he says. “That’s the truth. They’re not exactly my Bubbe and Zayde, but they’re more than merely the inspirations for those characters.”


Schwarzschild grew up in what he describes as a Reform, working-class family in Philadelphia. In interviews, he has described two miserable summers when he was a member of a kosher Boy Scout troop. (“I ran home,” he says. “You hear about kids who run away from home, the kosher Boy Scouts made me run back home.”) At home, Schwarzschild was particularly close to his two younger brothers, who he describes as his favorite people in the world.

Not surprisingly, family is a recurring theme in Schwarzschild’s work. Responsible Men, published in 2005, is centered on a family of salesmen, while The Family Diamond loosely focuses on Milly and Charlie Diamond, the characters modeled after his grandparents.

“I think I’m drawn to family, to father-son questions, husband-wife questions, to sibling questions, because they seem so fundamental to me,” Schwarzschild says. “I find it fascinating, I find it baffling, I find it inspiring, the different ways people figure things out in the context of the people they are closest to.”

The Family Diamond weaves together anecdotes from Milly and Charlie with stories about those tangentially related, but in some ways the collection is a tribute to their relationship. In one particularly poignant scene after Milly loses her sight in one eye, she spends the day stealing glances at her husband, but otherwise keeps both eyes shut. When Charlie asks her why she doesn’t use her good eye, she tells him that if she should suddenly lose her sight completely, she wants him to be the last person she sees.

“My Bubbe was a huge influence on these stories when she was alive,” Schwarzschild says. “When she was blind, I would send her cassette tapes of the stories so she could hear them.” Of his grandfather, he says, still using the present tense, “Zayde’s different from Bubbe, but he would listen to the stories. He was always interested in writing and not a phone call would go by without him asking, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘What did you finish?’ ‘Is the new book done yet?’”


Despite his family’s enthusiasm for his work, Schwarzschild did not come from a literary family. His grandfather worked in construction his whole life, and his parents, who did not attend college, work as a nurse and a salesman. As his parent’s oldest child, Schwarzschild was encouraged to be a doctor, though writing won out.

Schwarzschild’s first job was teaching at Sweet Briar College, an all-women’s school in Virginia. Ultimately he directed the Honors Program and was a tenure track professor there, but, he said, he always felt out of place. “I was young, male, single, Jewish, northern, sort of working class, non-horseback rider,” he says. “There was no way I fit in.”

After four years at Sweet Briar, he took a one-year sabbatical and attended Boston University’s creative writing program. While at B.U., he was offered a two-year Stegner Fellowship for creative writing at Stanford University. Still tied to Sweet Briar, he called to ask if he could extend his sabbatical. When they declined, he says he pondered the decision for ten minutes and then resigned. After two years at Stanford, Schwarzschild was armed with credentials of a fiction writer and accepted his current position at the State University of New York in Albany, where he holds a joint appointment in the English department and the New York State Writers Institute.
Dividing his time between Albany and Brooklyn, where he shares an apartment with his girlfriend Elisa Albert, author of How This Night Is Different, Schwarzschild is a quintessential example of the young and smart writers populating the Jewish literary scene of late.

But while Schwarzschild says he loves reading what’s coming out (“It just feels vibrant to me,” he says), he cautions against any kind of label. “No one wants to be pigeonholed,” he says. “If someone calls me a Jewish writer — I don’t care — but when I’m home in my study I’m not thinking, ‘I’m a Jewish writer,’ I’m thinking, ‘I’m a writer trying to write a good sentence and then another good sentence.’”

Schwarzschild says that in looking back, he had no plan for how to become a writer. “It was just one thing after the other,” he says. “I made certain compromises. I followed certain passions.” The process in and of itself is similar to writing, he says. “You have an idea but you can’t see very far. You might have a dream of where the idea is going, but in the process of writing the story or the essay or the novel, there’s so much discovery that goes along the way.”

Case in point is the final installment in The Family Diamond, in which Milly and Charlie’s youth is restored, as first evidenced by the return of Milly’s eyesight. Schwarzschild says he resisted including that story in the book, although the story eventually “won out,” he says.

In retrospect, he acknowledges, “It seems like there is this alternate future possible for Milly and Charlie, who are dying.”

“These days that feels really, really powerful to me,” Schwarzschild says. “What, people like Milly and Charlie, my fictional version of my Bubbe and Zayde, get younger? And go off into some unknown world? If only that were true!” he says.

And yet.

“Who knows where they are now,” he muses. “I hope they’re together. I hope they’re their youngest, best selves, more happy than I can imagine them.”

-- Text by E.B. Solomont / Photo by Jennifer May
posted by Benyamin | 12:18 PM | Link | (1) comments |
Musical Notes: Robert Goldstein and others

From our July/August 2007 issue

What’s the soundtrack to the Darfur famine? Or a China economic summit? For the rest of us, the question is reductive and crude, but for Robert Goldstein — the music repository and tastemaker for NPR — it’s his job to answer.

Goldstein, 57, is the music librarian for more than 65,000 albums, ranging from hip-hop to classical music and everything in between. “Archiving knowledge, preserving knowledge, and passing knowledge along,” he explains. “There have been some great Jewish librarians.”

Goldstein started listening to music as a toddler and at an early age became an addicted musicophiliac. Almost 15 years ago, while working as a composer for documentary films in D.C., he started a part-time job at NPR and quickly took over the music library. Today, he is the go-to guy for song choices. No matter the on-air story, Goldstein’s library likely has something apropos — from every major composer to an album of Christmas carols played with power tools.

The trick, according to Goldstein, is to understand the story, to know the music in the library and to not recycle clichés (the ubiquitous ‘children at play’ sound effect in urban stories comes to mind) or misplace regional music. If you play Sunni music during a Sufi segment, you can guarantee some NPR listener will notice. Most importantly, though, on a personal level “I look for music that makes me feel like I felt in high school. Where I couldn’t stop listening to it."

Escaped Manatee Music: When NPR’s All Things Considered aired a breaking story on an escaped, presumed male but now identified as female manatee, the director called Goldstein for music to end the piece. Live on-the-air, they needed it in a minute and a half. He decided on a muzak version of “I Enjoy Being a Girl” from Flower Drum Song, delivering it to the control room with seconds to spare. That heroic display of taste earned him a round of applause from the studio.

Playing with Eno: Goldstein’s band, the Urban Verbs, got a chance to record with Talking Heads (and later U2) producer Brian Eno in 1978. He saw them onstage at CBGBs and sent them a two-page, single space, typed letter describing how floored he was by their music. The recordings earned the band a contract with Warner Brothers Records. Early Damage, the Urban Verbs second LP, will finally be re-issued on CD later this summer.


Therion: Gothic Kabbalah
Swedish Death Metal bands love dropping Kabbalah references next to pagan symbols. It’s all part of the hodgepodge rendered unintelligible by that horrific death metal growl. What distinguishes Therion is that instead of garbling vocals, the band
employed two female opera singers: Katarina Lilja and Hannah Holgersson. Breathtaking melodies that should be coming from a strings section, not a death metal combo, abound. The confusing mix of Jewish imagery with Norse mythology remains (the Gnostic deity Sophia is called the Shekina on “The Perennial Sophia”), but during the band’s sweeping choruses, you won’t even notice.

Yidcore: They Tried to Kill US. They Failed. Let's Eat!
Maybe one day singer Bram Presser’s obsession with Natalie Portman will get old, but that day isn’t today. Aside from yet another paean to the Star Wars’ actress, the punk’s take on Jewish themes are still fresh enough to justify Yidcore’s shtick:
loud, thrashing guitars and Presser’s off-key, howling declarations about Skinhead girlfriends. Still, the band rarely bypasses the novelty, and only the title track, a klezmer-inflected single about beating on “Nazi lunatics,” sounds sincere. Yidcore isn’t quite a novelty act, but they aren’t quite legitimate either. Like Woody Allen, they pull off satirical self-deprecation, only they do it loud.

Throbbing Gristle: Part Two, the Endless Knot
Early 1970s industrial music, of which Throbbing Gristle were pioneers, was the bastard child of Beckett’s obsession with fascism. Early Gristle concerts used large photographs of Nazi concentration camps as backdrops for their gritty
sounding dirges. They weren’t sympathetic to the regime, they just found darkness fascinating — and listeners found it horrific. It’s thirty years later, and Gristle’s new album seems more concerned with mortality. “Above the Below” sounds like staring into the soul’s abyss. Still, when they sing “Are you scared?” the answer is the same as it was in 1975. Very.

Nehedar: Pick Your Battles
Nehedar is the consummate underground Jewish band. Their lo-fi debut album places singer Emilia Cataldo’s voice at front and center, which succeeds on songs like “Sign” and “Hide Now,” approximating a lounge-version Regina Spektor.
On other tracks, though, the instrumentals strip away to a bare-voice; a confessional-style that never really takes off. The lyrics, too, are underdeveloped, attempting to function as surrealistic come-ons (“Do you want to drink with me?... I have a basketball in the closet.”) but sounding more like nonsense nursery rhymes. Luckily, guitarist David Keesey compliments Cataldo’s singing with poppy hooks and a keen sense of song craft.

Anat Cohen: Noir and Poetica
Tel Aviv saxophonist and clarinetist Anat Cohen, followed up her debut this year with the simultaneous release of two albums — Noir and Poetica. The former has strong
South American influences, but it’s the latter album that shines. Opener “Agada Yapanit (Japanese Tale)” is as rhythmic as an actual shishi odoshi in a garden. “Nigunim” lacks the up-tempo thrust you’d expect from a Chassidic song, instead building themes through hushed repetition. Poetica is as peaceful as a Sabbath nap — in a hammock over a Japanese garden.

Pharaoh's Daughter: Haran
Basya Schechter is the heart of Pharaoh’s Daughter, and thus every new album they produce becomes a referendum on her relationship to Judaism. Listeners to Haran can speculate about Schechter’s Sabbath observance or whether the influence of traditional Jewish songs indicates a swerve from her world music debut days. Schechter sounds closer to Soulfarm’s C. Lanzbom on Haran than she does to her fellow artists at the Knitting Factory — a New York venue she appears at frequently. The title track courts this kind of speculation: “By Way of Haran” refers to Abraham’s journey, a cogent metaphor for Schechter’s own. Haran is starkly beautiful music, the sound of Schechter flirting with God.

-- Text by Mordechai Shinefield / Photo by Meghan Gallery
posted by Benyamin | 12:10 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Culinary Corner: Of faith and farming
Some Jewish college kids want to be doctors or lawyers. Others just want to be organic farmers, and a new program is giving them the chance.

From our July/August 2007 issue

For many young adults, traditional career paths that involve offices and boardrooms don’t connect deeply enough with the rhythms of nature or the spiritual life they seek within the Jewish community.

The Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut, supports people searching for connection to their religion through sustainable, environment living with the Adamah Jewish Fellowship. The center has been running the program twice a year for three months since 2003 (Summer: May 27 - September 3; Fall: September 9 - December 9, 2007). Approximately 30 to 70 young adults apply each season, out of which 14 are chosen. During the three months, participants are taught organic farming and sustainable eco-agriculture. Educational seminars are taught by the Adamah staff as well as visiting educators. And the best part is there’s no cost to participate in the program.

“Adamah is a renewal of Jewish agriculture and earth-based traditions,” says Shamu Fenyvesi Sadeh, Adamah’s program director. “It’s not a return, but a reinterpretation that makes ways of old relevant for today. We give our fellows a grounding in an intentional Jewish spiritual community that focuses on sustainability.”

The three months spent at the Adamah program is a kibbutz-style, total immersion crash course in Jewish education and farming. A typical day begins at 6 am with the Service of the Heart that includes meditation and prayers. At 7 am there’s breakfast and chores that include goat milking. After the morning meal, fellows work in one of the gardens (there are several ranging from a few hundred square feet to a quarter-acre) or tend goats, chickens, or bees in “ways that reflect our highest Jewish ethics,” says Sadeh. By 12:30 they break for a kosher lunch, much of the ingredients gleaned from the program’s gardens. Later in the day there is “Avodat Bayit” (Service of the Home), then an educational seminar. Dinner is at 6:30. The day concludes at 9 pm with a community meeting. The 14 fellows rough it on tent platforms in the woods on the five-acre grounds of the retreat center, or double up in rooms at the Adamah House.

Josh Rosenstein, who is a member of the Adamah staff, says people attracted to the program are looking for a way to combine their passions and ideals for sustainable living with a home in the Jewish community. “Our work deals with recycling and other agricultural goals with ba’al tashchit, the Biblical concept not to waste. The two come together naturally in the program.”

The alumni interviewed for this story agreed with Rosenstein’s comments, adding that their experiences were life changing and gave each a family that continues to support their goals.

Alumnus Aitan Mizrahi was “blessed with” the Adamah program in 2004. Mizrahi owns the Adva Dairy, a farm with just five goats (his goal is 50) that is situated a half-mile from the center. His operation produces organic milk, artisanal cheeses, and yogurt. Mizrahi is the pasture manager at the Adamah center as well. “I was searching for something where I would be involved with food, that would provide skills and craft and combine my strong commitment to Judaism. I found that at Adamah. The program infused my life with spirituality and a higher creative source. I feel continuity with Abraham and Jacob who guided large herds of goats and flocks of sheep. That’s how I connect with Judaism, too.”

Sarah Appleby, another 2004 alumnus of the program, summed it up this way: “Adamah opened my eyes to the fact that the Jewish community is a vibrant part of the agricultural community. It’s an actual movement.”

Stay in touch with Adamah's farmers on their blog at

-- Text by Tina Barry / Photo by Josh Rosenstein
posted by Benyamin | 11:58 AM | Link | (0) comments |
Heretic of the month
Joseph Rabinovitch: The Jewish philosopher who preached the gospel of Jesus

From our July/August 2007 issue

One of the most ambitious dramatic works to have graced the New York stage in recent memory is Tom Stoppard’s trilogy The Coast of Utopia. The plays, lengthy and typically wordy, recall the heady time in fin-de-siecle Russia in which
intellectuals felt they were on the cusp of a new era. Everything seemed to be new, and changing: industrialization, the theories of Marx and Engels, a culture of intellectualism and ferment. It must have been a remarkable time to be alive and reading. And Jewish intellectuals were right in the center of it all.

If it was the best of times, it was also the worst of times: pogroms, poverty, and the continued marginal existence of the shtetl coexisted with new liberal theories. This juxtaposition, of new thinking and old prejudice, led to waves of Jewish intellectuals trying to solve the “Jewish problem.” The most successful of these “solutions” was Zionism, which emerged, pre-Herzl, in the 1870s and 1880s from thinkers like Lev Pinsker. But in this time of intellectual ferment, described by Stoppard as well as scholars like Jonathan Frankel and Steven Zipperstein, there were many others too: nationalism like that of Perez Smolenskin, utopian communities in Russia and America, and the peculiar ideologies of “Jewish-Christians” like Joseph Rabinovitch.

In the 1870s, Rabinovitch was a smart and prolific maskil — a follower of the Jewish enlightenment which advocated for reform, rationalism, and a generally progressive and “scientific” view of religion. As Zipperstein describes in an essay on Rabinovitch, his early ideas were somewhat radical, but not outrageous. He complained that the Talmud and Jewish law were created by unelected and often unqualified rabbis; that they originally served to promote Jewish nationalism but were now often counterproductive; and, in general, that Judaism needed to take account of critical and rational thinking.

But Rabinovitch became disillusioned with the largely secular maskilim, who maintained Jewish ritual only for communal reasons; he was a spiritual man, and believed strongly in God. Rabinovitch also became disillusioned with proto-Zionism, particularly after visiting the land of Israel in 1883 and finding it desolate and poor. And in the wake of the many pogroms of the time, Rabinovitch became convinced that nothing the Jews could do, least of all try to assimilate, would really stop anti-Semitism.

No, for Rabinovitch, the problem had to be with God. There was something the Jews were doing that was angering God — that was the only explanation for the continued persecution, for hundreds of years. That something, Rabinovitch finally concluded, was their rejection of Jesus 1850 years prior.

In 1884, Rabinovitch published his “Twelve Articles of Faith,” which quirkily combined traditional and nationalist Jewish ideas with uniquely Christological ones. On the one hand, Rabinovitch wrote, God made an eternal covenant with Abraham and promised his descendents the land of Israel. On the other hand, those descendents had angered God by rejecting Jesus. At an earlier time, said Rabinovitch, it would have been unthinkable to be a Jew who embraced the teachings of Christ. But now that both Judaism and Christianity had been better understood thanks to the teachings of enlightenment philosophy, it was possible to see that the essences of both teachings were the same, and finally embrace them.

Most people who had these views simply converted to Christianity. But not Rabinovitch — at least, not at first. Instead, he became a Jewish heretic: someone who continues to profess Judaism, but with ideas rejected by the Jewish religious authorities. In fact, Rabinovitch was not the only Jew preaching the gospel of Jesus. There were several Jewish sects — in England, Germany, and Russia — who believed that Judaism and Christianity had more in common than not, and that it would be best for the Jewish people to highlight what they shared and downplay what they didn’t. “Best” sometimes had a simply pragmatic meaning — more economic opportunity, less pogroms. But often, it meant something different: that Judaism would itself improve if it took on some Christian character. And unlike the “Jews for Jesus” of today, which is essentially a proselytizing group bankrolled by fundamentalist missionary organizations, these were Jewish groups, seeking to change Judaism from within. When Rabinovitch opened a synagogue in 1884, he drew large crowds, curious about his unique blend of Jewish parochialism and Christian creed.

But Rabinovitch’s ideas were more challenging than those of his Jewish-Christian brethren. Many of those ideas were quite un-Christian: Rabinovitch maintained a strong sense of the Jews as the chosen people, and he rejected many Christian beliefs and practices as having been added long after Jesus’ time for the purpose of converting pagans. He was obsessed with Jewish national identity, and lectured on it at great length. Eventually, his crowds thinned out, and Rabinovitch’s Christian counterparts looked askance at his idiosyncratic views. Something had to give, and in the end, together with his family, Rabinovitch did at last convert to Christianity in 1885, offering various reasons and rationales. But it was too late. Rabinovitch was trapped in between the two communities: not Jewish enough for the Jews, and not Christian enough for the Christians.

And then the brief flowering of Russian Jewish intellectualism withered. The early Zionist experiments in Palestine floundered (Zionism would not truly pick up momentum for another twenty years), and other experiments in Jewish utopia failed outright. Idiosyncratic intellectuals like Rabinovitch, who for a brief moment seemed to offer dreams of a different Jewish future, became regarded as eccentrics, with traditional Jewish authorities resuming their places of communal leadership. As Zipperstein relates, Rabinovitch “died a failure, with few Jewish souls to his credit.”

Today, inured as we are to the banalities of Jews for Jesus, and as wary as we are of their missionary zeal, it’s hard to take Rabinovitch and other Jewish-Christians seriously. But Rabinovitch was neither a liar nor a fool — just a heretic, daring to defy the greatest Jewish taboo of all.

-- Text by Jay Michaelson / Illustration courtesy of the Encyclopedia Judaica
posted by Benyamin | 11:53 AM | Link | (1) comments |
The Answer Maven Column

From our July/August 2007 issue

Q: I heard there’s a Jewish custom not to get a haircut during the three weeks of mourning that start this year on July 3rd. Well, the three weeks are here and I haven’t gotten my hair cut in months! As a matter of fact, it’s quite unruly. What should I do?

A: How unruly are we talking? Like, “I haven’t showered or blow-dried in a couple days and I need to wear a hat” unruly? “Geico caveman” unruly? Or “I’ve lost my mind and look like Einstein” unruly? Because if it’s the latter — well then, you, my friend, are a lost cause. But if you’re still in one of the first categories, I give you permission to read on.

Firstly, let me just iterate (I have yet to reiterate) that you should never be in a position where your hair is such an unmanageable mess (haven’t you learned anything from my columns?), but as long as you find yourself in this particularly sad situation, I will bestow upon you my infinite wisdom and pearls of advice. Brush that hair away from your ears and listen carefully.

Find some Super Stick EZ On Gel 3000 (make sure it’s the 3000 series, there was a safety recall on the 2000 version … something about pesticides), place two quarter-sized dollops in each hand (if your hair is really bad, you can use a Susan B. Anthony-sized dollop), lather elaborately through your unruly mane — and voila! You’ll be neatly coiffed in no time. And if people wonder why you suddenly look like John Travolta circa Grease, tell them you’re starting a new trend and give ‘em a little greased lightning. And speaking of grease, if you can’t find Super Stick EZ On Gel 3000, try some W-D40.

Q: Since this is your green issue, what is the Answer Maven doing at her house to help save the planet?

A: I’m so happy you asked — ever since Leonardo Dicaprio and Al Gore made “going green” cool, I’ve wanted to try it for myself. (After all, what’s a good cause without a celebrity endorser? Me that is, not Leo.)

Firstly, inspired by Sheryl Crow’s recent Stop Global Warming College Tour, I only use one square of toilet paper in the bathroom. I find it’s more than enough to serve my needs and should be more than enough for you too. (Who am I kidding, that is gross.) I also started to use less paper goods and more dishes. At home. Not in the bathroom. So what if I’ve been running an average of one dishwasher load a day — is that so bad? Isn’t that normal for two people? I’ve also gotten Mr. Answer Maven to start clipping his toenails directly into the toilet instead of wasting a tissue. (I should have done that one months ago — double gross.) One thing I won’t give up though, is my US Weekly subscriptions. Yes, plural. So I need one in each bathroom, so sue me. But do it electronically and don’t waste any legal paper.

Q: It’s hot.

A: Tell me about it. Yesterday I was lying out by the pool sipping my Arizona Diet Iced Green Tea (one product plug for them, one year’s supply of green tea for me!) and I thought it was so hot, I could just die. (Oh, the troubles of working from home and writing an 800 word column every two months … and cleaning up the toenail clippings of Mr. Answer Maven.)

It’s months like this when I bless God for allowing man to discover the absolute wonder we call central air conditioning. I read the funniest thing in the New York Times yesterday. Apparently, ConEdison (my local utility company — one product plug for them, one year’s supply of power for me!), encourages homeowners to set their thermostat to no lower than 78 degrees. 78 degrees. Ha. That’s not even a little likely. What’s that you say? Lowering your electric bill is considered going green, too? Oops.

Q: With the Jewish holiday of love known as Tu B’Av around the corner could you give us some Answer Maven love advice?

A: I figured it’s my obligation as a married woman to offer some dating tips to my single (and most likely, lonely) friends. (What’s that? Oh that blinding light? It’s the sparkle off my engagement ring.)

I know that there are some nights when you’d rather sit on the couch with some Ben and Jerry’s Half-Baked Ice Cream (plug for them, year’s worth of ice cream for me … yada, yada, yada) than go out on a blind date.

But you should know that your neighborhood McSteamy is not going to come knocking on your door, As a matter of fact, your neighborhood McSteamy has no idea where you live or that you even exist. So get off your pretty little tush, put on some plum mascara (it’s all the rage this season) and get out in the dating world.

That’s what I did. Now granted, it got me plenty of rejections (ask my college roommates — it wasn’t pretty, but I was.), but in the end, it got me my Prince Charming. See, fairy tales do happen. That is, if the princess doesn’t mind asking the prince out herself.

-- Text by Chanie Cohen Kirschner / Illustration for AJL by Fred Harper
posted by Benyamin | 11:14 AM | Link | (0) comments |
The Jewish Paparazzi: Nancy Travis, Dave Lieberman, and Jerry Springer

From our July/August 2007 issue

Nancy Travis
While she’s played many Jewish characters on stage and screen, married a Jew and is raising her children Jewish, Nancy Travis was raised Catholic and had to have a crash course when she landed her first post-NYU role in an American Jewish Theater play called It’s Hard to Be a Jew. “They had to write the word ‘seder’ phonetically for me because I kept calling it a ‘cedar,’” confides Travis, who went on to star in Brighton Beach Memoirs on stage and movies including Three Men and a Baby and So I Married an Axe Murderer and TV’s Becker.

Now co-starring as Bill Engvall’s wife in his new TBS sitcom, premiering July 17, she’s enjoying playing a woman “who doesn’t take any flak” from her husband or kids, and the manageable sitcom schedule that allows her to be home for her boys, Benjamin, 9, and Jeremy, 5.

“Judaism has become a big part of my life. When I met my husband we took a class together and I learned a lot through his family. Now we’re pretty involved,” says Travis, who celebrates Shabbat and holidays with her family. “We’re very active in the [Reform] temple and we go to my in-laws in Florida every Passover. We have a typical Chanukah — I make latkes and we light the candles.”

Although she hasn’t converted, partly out of respect for her parents, Judaism “is the only religion that makes sense to me. I can fit my own moral beliefs around it and embrace it,” says Travis, who’s considering a trip to Israel for Ben’s bar mitzvah.

Later this year, Travis will be seen as Hugh Dancy’s sister in The Jane Austen Book Club, a romantic drama. “I love the chance to be different people. It’s like play all the time,” she says of her chosen career. “I’m living a fantasy.”


Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman, the young chef known for the quick, simple and inexpensive meals he’s prepared for his Food Network shows Good Deal and Dave Does, learned to cook from his Jewish father, not his mother. “My mom worked and my dad was a stay-at-home dad and did all the cooking, very simple stuff. His specialty was, take a whole chicken out of the package, dry it off, put it in the roasting pan, and stick it in the oven. His secret was using kosher chicken because it’s already salted — he didn’t have to do anything.”

Lieberman learned to make Jewish holiday favorites like brisket and his grandma Polly’s noodle kugel (featured on his show), but also became skilled at pastas and party food while appearing in a local cable cooking show as a college student at Yale. Press attention from the New York Times led to the Food Network spot and two books, but the bachelor chef, having moved from New York to Los Angeles, now wants to open a restaurant, “either Italian or Turkish-Middle Eastern” — and find Ms. Right. The best romantic meal he ever planned? “The one I never had to make,” he says with a grin. “‘Why don’t you come over for dinner?’ And dinner never happened. We skipped that whole part.”


Jerry Springer
Talk show referee Jerry Springer doesn’t go back to work on his eponymous syndicated program till August, which
freed him up to host America’s Got Talent for NBC this summer, a far easier job than his last reality TV foray, Dancing With the Stars. While he watched the recent DWTS season, he hasn’t kept up his own ballroom efforts. While he did dance with his daughter Katie at her wedding, her gown was so long and full that it hid their feet and all the footwork he’d learned. “So I’ve hung up my shoes,” he declares. “I’m never dancing again.” Not even a horah, Jer?

-- Text by Gerri Miller / Photo by Art Streiber
posted by Benyamin | 11:04 AM | Link | (1) comments |
Kibbitz Cover Girl: Chelsea Handler

From our July/August 2007 issue

Chelsea Handler is too hot to handle, and this buxom blond (and, yes, Jewish)
comedienne has no plans to cool down. If you haven’t been lucky enough to catch her aptly-named The Chelsea Handler Show on the E! network, you might know her instead from the Oxygen Network’s popular prank show Girls Behaving Badly, where Handler shocked viewers and tricked innocent bystanders with her brilliant performances. Not surprisingly, behaving badly has helped the 32-year-old achieve much success since she first started doing stand-up a decade ago.

For a quick intro to Handler’s work, I suggest her fearless and funny memoir My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands for summer reading. Keep it by your bed, on your one nightstand, for easy access to true stories and insight into her often-scintillating romantic life. And when you finish that and you still want more, run to your local bookstore for her new book, Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, due out this fall, which will take you through the shot glass back into Chelsea’s wacky world.

Chelsea, born in New Jersey of a Mormon mother and Jewish father, is looking for a good Jewish boy, for a night, if not a lifetime. And in addition to her recent literary accomplishments (My Horizontal Life has gone through four printings since being published in 2005) and her stand-up, The Chelsea Handler Show will be back for a second season. Best of all, she has a new program coming out, her own late-night talk-show -- Chelsea Lately, which starts this month, also on the E! network. By the funny clips on YouTube, her new show promises to be irreverent, to say the least. Chelsea can handle it. The question is can you handle her?

-- Text by Helen Herbst / Photo by Mike Rozman
posted by Benyamin | 10:46 AM | Link | (0) comments |
Shia is on fiya

And if you still haven't had enough, you can get a peek at Shia LaBouffant in the new Indiana Jones, or see him make out with a tennis ball.
posted by Helen | 9:29 AM | Link | (0) comments |
Monday, July 02, 2007
Jackie Mason on Apple's new iPhone

posted by Benyamin | 12:25 PM | Link | (0) comments |
Copyright 2005, Genco Media LLC | Our Privacy Policy