30 December 2007

Jpost and Conservativist Propaganda

Top Masorti rabbi: We're allies of modern Orthodox

Dec 26, 2007 20:50 | Updated Dec 27, 2007 11:46

Moreshet Avraham Synagogue, located in East Talpiot, looks like hundreds of Orthodox houses of prayer throughout the capital. Modest but inspiring respect, the Jerusalem-stone fa├žade building is adorned with the typical Stars of David and constructed at a slight angle so congregants face the Temple ruins when they rise to pray to God.

Barry Schlesinger, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Efrat, is Moreshet Avraham's rabbi. With his full, graying beard and crocheted kippa, Schlesinger looks like any other modern Orthodox or religious Zionist rabbi.

But Moreshet Avraham is not your average Orthodox synagogue and Schlesinger is not a run-of-the-mill rabbi. Schlesinger is the president of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement's Rabbinic Assembly, and Moreshet Avraham is one of the most vibrant, growing Conservative communities in Israel.

Ahead of the Masorti Movement's 30th anniversary celebrations on Thursday and Friday at Kfar Maccabia, The Jerusalem Post met with Schlesinger to discuss Israeli-style Conservative Judaism.

"The difference between us and Orthodox Judaism is that we look more critically at the Shulchan Aruch [code of Jewish law]," says Schlesinger. "We are willing to go back to the sources, to the Talmud, to the early rabbinic authorities to reinterpret the Halacha. The most obvious example is the role of women. They are full participants, not just in prayer and Torah reading, but also as rabbis who make halachic decisions.

"In Efrat, there are incredible frameworks where Orthodox women are learning Torah at a super-high level. But that is where it stops. You don't have women making halachic decisions."

Schlesinger says Moreshet Avraham and other Conservative communities are traditional enough that Orthodox Jews feel comfortable with the prayers and rituals, and at the same time secular Jews can participate without feeling intimidated.

Nevertheless, Schlesinger does not deny that Conservative Judaism is challenging.

"I am not worried about scaring people away because I expect too much of them," says Schlesinger, who, if asked by his congregants, tells them not to drive on Shabbat and is opposed to same-sex commitment ceremonies and the ordination of homosexual rabbis.

"We have to be clear about our demands and let our congregants know that we are totally committed to Halacha and mitzvot," he says. "But at the same time, we must not be oppressive or threatening, rather challenging and engaging. We should feel comfortable bringing people from all backgrounds into our communities without worrying whether we have to lower standards of commitment. I believe that when you make demands, you communicate seriousness, and that attracts people. If people don't feel challenged, they lose interest. We have to be open about our expectations, and people will respect us for that."

Schlesinger denies that the Israeli Conservative Movement is more stringent in its approach to practice and ritual than the American Conservative Movement.

"I'd say we share the same spectrum of opinions - Left, Right and Center. Just like in the US, we solve our differences through dialogue. Despite dissent, we part as colleagues and friends. We hug each other while keeping dry under the same umbrella."

Schlesinger, who is in his early 50s, grew up in a modern Orthodox household in Englewood, New Jersey. He immigrated to Israel and got involved in community activism, eventually becoming the head of the community center in Jerusalem's Old City. When he was in his mid-40s, Schlesinger decided to pursue a master's degree at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. He said his mid-life decision to become a Conservative rabbi had been heavily influenced by Rabbi David Golinkin, Schechter's president and senior halachic authority.

Despite his decision to become a Conservative rabbi, Schlesinger's wife and children have remained Orthodox.

"But while I am nominally Conservative, there has been no change in my practice of Judaism. If anything, today I do more mitzvot than I did then.

"We have more things in common with modern Orthodoxy than things that divide us," he continues. "For instance, the shmita issue: We both believe in the Israeli economy, we are both Zionists. Tzohar, like the Reform and Conservative movements, used the Supreme Court to effect a change in the rabbinate's decision."

The reference was to a Supreme Court petition brought by Tzohar, an organization of liberal modern Orthodox rabbis who protested the Chief Rabbinate's stringent stand on vegetables grown by Jewish farmers in the shmita (sabbatical) year. Tzohar, along with a coalition of Jewish farmers and produce wholesalers, ended up winning the Supreme Court case, forcing the rabbinate to back down.

However, Schlesinger admits that Tzohar and other Orthodox organizations distance themselves from non-Orthodox streams of Judaism. In fact, one of the sharpest criticisms leveled at Tzohar by the rabbinate was the claim that Tzohar rabbis were acting like their Reform and Conservative counterparts. Tzohar went to great lengths to prove that its position on shmita was strongly based on Orthodox sources, and it enlisted leading Orthodox rabbis to gain credibility.

Nevertheless, Schlesinger sees in modern Orthodoxy a natural ally and partner. "The two of us can change the face of religious observance. We can work it out with them as comrades."

Schlesinger says he has two main objectives for the future.

"First, we would like to reshape our image in Israel to show that we are a true synthesis of modernity with halachic observance. Second, we want to continue to produce outgoing, compassionate and smart rabbis who can at one and the same time present a clear message of what is expected of his or her congregants and still be sensitive to each congregant's postmodernist narrative."

The APRPEH comments on this article were posted to JPOST's talkbacks. Talkback commenter "aviel" labeled me along with a couple of other participants "talebans". I proudly wore it as a badge of honor. I have only posted the other talkbacks related to my comments. Conservativist attempts to gain recognition in Israel are clearly damaged by their comrades in North America. With such friends, they need no enemies. Even in Israel, Conservativist Judaism is pretty much recognized as a social movement not legitimate religious expression, (IMHO).


1. Halacha and the Conservationist movement

you cannot simultaneously say you are "totally committed" to Halacha and talk about changing it. this is dishonest communication. What Schlesinger is saying is no different than the Reformists, that is, what has meaning to me will be MY halacha, whether that is self-imposed standards or no standards.

APRPEH - USA (12/26/2007 23:05)

9. To the Talebans #1-3

Why does Tosefta Megillah mention that a woman can get an aliyah to Torah? Much of the "holy and incancellable" Halachah are concensus decisions by the rabbis even in cases where there are more options. Yishar koach, masortis! Words of a Modern Orthodox who adheres to this menschlicher community.

Aviel - Israel - (12/27/2007 17:13)

13. Women Aliyahs to Aviel #9

even as a Taleban, I wish to differ with you. Quoting Rbi Hershel Shachter: "The Tosefta (Megillah Chap. 3) records that theoretically, a woman should be permitted to get an aliyah (to the Torah), however the Rabbis did not allow this because of kvod hatzibbur. This has clearly been the universal practice in Klal Yisroel for close to two thousand years".

APRPEH - Taleban #1 - USA (12/27/2007 18:31)

14. Women and aliyahs to Aviel (pt 2)

The Torah leaves the Mesorah in the hands of the leaders of each generation, like it or not that is the way it is. Real Rabbonim, based upon the works of previous generations determine the impact of the Halacha given the circumstances at their time. Not to change it (G-d forbid) but to make it work meanwhile protecting the integrity of the law itself.

APRPEH taleban #1 - USA (12/27/2007 18:32)

15. women and aliyahs to Aviel (pt3)

This is not the goal of Conservatism and Reformism. This discussion brings to light one method Conservativism "rahbis"s use which is to take a theoretical exception and make it a rule, or sort of rule. In Reformist and Conservatism, there are no rules. Rules in these "movements" are meant to be broken when convenient.

aprpeh - taleban #1 - USA (12/27/2007 18:33)

21. To # 3 et al.

This chauvinistic fixation on women is amazing - as if they were not normal human beings. No.3, you are obviously brainwashed and consider your inferior position a compliment - after all, you don't have a breira . As for the K'vod hatzibbur - obviously in this view the females, kept away from the Torah, must do without kavod. That's why Masorti and Orthodoxy will never meet common ground.

DAvid - US (12/27/2007 19:51)

23. to David #21

No David. the continuing effort to turn women into men is not kavod for women. it is batuling the differences between men and women which is clearly an un-halachic thing to do. everyone man and woman is equal before HaShem. The privileges of ritual do not affect that. I hope you do not substitute a commoner notion of equality for the Torah's notion of Btzelem Elokim.

aprpeh taleban #1 - USA (12/27/2007 20:42)

38. To taleban # 23 and his kavod
No taleban # 1, Conservative women have not turned into men. Come and see them sitting next to their husbands - they look 100% female !!! Ritual and Torah is not a "privilege" but a right for the entire Am Yisrael, not just for half of it. If that bothers your precious kavod, too bad. Get over it !
David - US (12/28/2007 20:06)

39. to David #38
Dear David This taleban grew up and was not only active in a Conservationist congregation but actually worked in the movement. I know exactly what you are talking about. Sleeveless dresses, touching, kissing, short skirts getting aliyahs. It isn't in the dress for which the women seek to be men, but in the rights for which halacha designates to men. The kavod of the tzibor can be seen in various ways over the millenneum.
aprpeh - taleban #1 - USA (12/28/2007 21:55)

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23 December 2007

Review - Opening Up Orthodox Judaism

Opening Up Orthodox Judaism

Gaining visibility in its eighth year, Yeshiva Chovevei Torah presents challenge to centrist and right-wing elements of Orthodoxy.

by Steve Lipman, Staff Writer

In a small classroom across Broadway from Columbia University, Moshe is having a meltdown one recent afternoon.

Moshe, in his late 20s, is reluctantly unburdening with his rabbi about his drinking problem. Depressed, almost suicidal, unhappy with his family life, Moshe talks in shrugs and sullen grunts. The rabbi, leaning forward in his chair, listens sympathetically. After a while, he convinces Moshe to make an appointment the next day with a mental health professional. "It’s not going to help,’ Moshe declares. "Rabbi, life’s not getting any better."

Moshe and the rabbi grow silent. And a group of young men sitting around a large table in the classroom break into applause.

Like the other men in the room, Moshe (not his real name) and the rabbi (not a real rabbi, yet) are rabbinical students, taking part in a pastoral counseling class at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School. To learn pastoral skills, students assume the roles, assigned at random, of rabbi and congregant.

The role-playing, say the founders of the eight-year-old, Modern Orthodox school that is housed in the Robert K. Kraft Family Center for Jewish Student Life, is one of many distinctive marks of an institution that combines the standard curriculum of a yeshiva with such innovations as leadership retreats and psychiatrist-directed process groups and fund-raising training.

Chovevei Torah (Hebrew for lovers of Torah), the first major Modern Orthodox rabbinical training center established in this country since Yeshiva University more than a century ago, is the creation of Rabbi Avi Weiss, spiritual leader of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, better known in many circles for his liberal brand of Orthodoxy and his decades of political activism on behalf of Soviet Jewry, Israel and other causes.

The yeshiva has grown from its original nine semicha students to 45 today, while drawing criticism in some parts of the Orthodox world. Rabbi Weiss’ vision of an "Open Orthodox Judaism" — open taking a capital O to brand it as a movement, like Modern or Centrist Orthodox Judaism — that grants respect to feminism and other branches of the religion has earned the opposition, often clandestinely, of other organizations.

YCT rabbis in some cities report opposition when they try to join local rabbinical boards. The yeshiva withdrew its application for its ordainees to join the Rabbinical Council of America, the central rabbinical group of the Modern Orthodox movement, when it became apparent that the application would be denied. And the National Council of Young Israel recently ruled that any candidates to head its 150 congregations had to submit to a screening by a National Council-appointed committee; the decision was seen as an attempt to keep Chovevei Torah rabbis out of Young Israel synagogues.

Young Israel’s action is the latest implicit recognition of the growing viability and visibility of Chovevei Torah. Many view the creation of Chovevei Torah as an implicit critique of Yeshiva University’s perceived shift rightward, an attempt to produce pulpit rabbis able to relate to and lead Orthodox congregants firmly entrenched in American society.

The opposition, says Howard Jonas, a Riverdale businessman and philanthropist who is a major financial supporter of YCT, is "a nuisance," not a hindrance. "It’s an unsuccessful campaign. We have more people applying [for enrollment] than we can accept. We have more jobs [open to Chovevei graduates] than we have graduates."

Rabbi Weiss agrees. "I really don’t take note" of the opposition, he says. "It has virtually no impact on us."

YCT enrollment this year is 45, mostly clean-shaven men in their 20s who favor large, colorful knitted kipot. The school has emerged as a leading producer of Modern Orthodox rabbis for pulpits, teaching positions in day schools and Hillel leadership posts on college campuses, providing competition not only for men ordained by YU, but by haredi rabbis who had taken many of those jobs in recent decades.

"We are about recruitment, education and placement," says Rabbi Weiss, who was ordained by Yeshiva University in 1968 and taught at YU’s Stern College for Women for decades. "The mission of the yeshiva is to produce leaders."

The rabbi stresses that YCT is a rabbinical school, not a theological seminary. Its emphasis is not

A constant presence at the yeshiva, usually dressed in a cardigan sweater and no tie, Rabbi Weiss is available to confer with students. But he has delegated day-to-day operations to Rabbi Dov Linzer, whom Rabbi Weiss recruited a decade ago from the kollel (an advanced learning program) in Boca Raton, Fla., and to other advisory committee members and teachers, including Rabbi Saul Berman, founder and head of the now-defunct Edah, an organization associated with the liberal stream of Orthodox Judaism.

Together, the faculty designed the yeshiva "from scratch," Rabbi Weiss says, just as psychiatrist Michelle Friedman designed the pastoral counseling program.

Torah lishma, learning Torah for its own sake, but an education centered on the needs of a community rabbi. The men ordained by Chovevei Torah are expected to serve in pulpits or classrooms, not, as is the case at many other yeshivot, to become lawyers or accountants with an extensive Talmudic background.
Not A One-Man Yeshiva

"I’m not the yeshiva," Rabbi Weiss cautions.

"There is a tendency to identify a yeshiva with its founders," says Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard, a CLAL staff member who teaches Jewish philosophy and spirituality at YCT. "The yeshiva is much bigger than any one person. The guys are not Avi Weiss clones.

"I had the same concerns when I came here five years ago," Rabbi Blanchard says. Like him, many of the rabbis teaching at YCT come from haredi educational backgrounds.

Rabbi Weiss, says third-year student Devin Villarrea, "explicitly made a conscious effort to keep his politics out of the yeshiva."

All the students know Rabbi Weiss’ activist background, but activism is not part of the official or unofficial curriculum, students say. "No one yet has taught me how to chain myself to a door," says Seth Winberg, a first-year student, an allusion to Rabbi Weiss’s many protests at places like the United Nations or the convent at Auschwitz.

Rabbi Linzer, who was recently promoted from the school’s rosh yeshiva to dean, notes that "from the outset we recognized that a central role of a rabbi today is the pastoral role. We have heard rabbis in the field say to us, ‘I never got the training you guys are offering.’"

During a pre-Chanukah inspirational speech in the YCT beit midrash last week, Rabbi Weiss urged his students to strongly consider working outside of the Greater New York area after ordination. "There is a community that exists outside the tri-state area," he said. "We’ve got to create a culture of going out of town. We have a responsibility to these communities."

Think Peace Corps, Rabbi Weiss said.

The students, sitting in front of laptop computers, listened respectfully. If they are like past ordainees of the school, most will end up out of town; according to a map produced by Chovevei Torah, its rabbis have found positions in congregations across the U.S. and Canada, many in prominent synagogues.

The beit midrash, a large hall on the sixth floor of the Kraft Center, looks like any other yeshiva study hall, lined with bookcases that bulge with the Talmud and the Code of Jewish Law. The learning schedule also is standard – morning to night classes in Gemara and Jewish law, and chavruta sessions with learning partners.

That, in addition to the mandatory pastoral counseling and social action classes designed to help produce rabbis who can handle the demands of 21st century congregations.

"This is an Orthodox institution," Rabbi Weiss says.

"This," says Rabbi Blanchard, "is a classic semicha program. It’s definitely not an easy semicha. It’s not graduating half-baked kiruv (outreach) rabbis. We would not have credibility [in the wider Orthodox world] if we did not offer the same semicha program,"

Critics of Chovevei Torah, who tend to critique the school’s level of Jewish learning or its commitment to halachic standards, do not "have a clue what is going on internally at YCT," says an observer who is familiar with it and Yeshiva University. He asked that his name not be used.

The liberal reputation of Rabbi Weiss and of Rabbi Linzer, particularly in their willingness to engage with non-Orthodox denominations, "led to the sense that they are crossing the line," that Chovevei Torah offers an education that is not consistent with normative Orthodox Judaism, the observer says. "Some of this is perception rather than reality. It’s not [about] what’s going on in the beit midrash."

Has the success of Chovevei Torah had any effect on Yeshiva University, pushing its policies to the left?

"I don’t see it – in the same way that YU has not changed in response to Lander, which in on the right," the observer says. He is talking about the Lander College for Men, a seven-year-old Orthodox institution in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, that combines a college education with a yeshiva program.

For most congregations around the country in the market for an Orthodox rabbi, the friction between Chovevei Torah and other Modern Orthodox institutions is strictly a New York City affair.

"In the end, they always hire the best candidate," Jonas says.

Roberta Goodman, former president of Congregation Sherith Israel in Nashville, says her synagogue received pressure – she is reluctant to give details – not to hire Rabbi Saul Strosberg, who was ordained by Chovevei Torah, for a pulpit opening two years ago. The rabbi says he also was urged, "based on the fact that I went to Chovevei," to withdraw his application.

He did not withdraw. He was hired. "We determined that we needed to hire the person who was going to meet the needs of our community," Goodman says. "Hands down, it was Rabbi Saul. It was the best decision we ever made. He is warm. He is able to relate to everyone. The community loves him," she said, calling him "the living embodiment of Ahavat Yisrael [love of one’s fellow Jews]."

Rabbi Michael Broyde, a prominent pulpit rabbi in Atlanta and a dayan, or decisor, on the RCA’s Beth Din of America, wrote a public letter several years ago questioning Chovevei Torah’s "inter-denominational interactions within Judaism," as well as its "interfaith cooperation" and views on working with gays and lesbians.

He declined to be interviewed for this article. But a year and a half ago, when Rabbi Broyde, a founder of Atlanta’s Torah Mitzion Kollel, needed to hire a rosh kollel to lead the institution, his choice was Rabbi Zev Farber, who was ordained by Chovevei Torah.

I do not intend to enter into the subject of the "Orthodoxy" status of Chovevi Torah or review the well known history of events that have characterized the recent past of the school. There are plenty of places online to engage in that discussion.

What I do wish to look at is the nature of the above article and whether or not it contributes to the general discussion or has, possibly another agenda.

My initial reaction is that a school which seeks recognition as an "Orthodox Yeshiva" (albeit - Open?) does not support it's cause with an endorsement article from what is arguably NY's most "conservativish" of Jewish newspapers known outside of NY.

What I do wish to convey is my anxiety over an article which seems to highlight and glorify itself over the rifts in the Orthodox world, pointing out Yeshiva University (implicitly centrist) being pulled from Lander (described as on the "right"). No where is the equation concluded that YCT is on the "left", only Rabbis Weiss, Linzer and Berman earned that title. The angle of the writer can be seen in the discussion of the National Council of Young Israel's decision to have a national review of applicants seeking Rabbinic positions in one of their member congregations. The article pains itself to say this is aimed at YCT. Maybe, and if this is the case, so what?

Why didn't the writer say the same about the Israeli Chief Rabbinate discontinuing automatic recognition of North American "Orthodox" conversions? Is it possible that the Rabbinate was led to this action due to reports coming from the US regarding YCT? Is the argument a fair one? Should it have been discussed in the article? Is it a sign of strength or weakness within “Orthodoxy” that these conversations are taking place?

The writer chose to dwell on the disagreements within “Orthodoxy” with minimal attempt to actually dive beneath the surface. The best example is the RCA non-vote. The writer was satisfied to merely report that Chovevi's application was withdrawn due to a lack of support for it’s being included amongst the gatekeepers of “Modern Orthodoxy“. Why? No help from the article on this point. Is it possible that “Orthodoxy” is flourishing and can demand particular standards be met for acceptance? Is it possible that “Modern Orthodoxy” is finally blazing a trail back to it's roots and away from it's long drift toward being defined as in “the eye of the beholder“? The implication that the RCA non-vote drew little attention outside NY is far from true. It drew little attention in those places where “Orthodoxy” is not a well defined concept, religiously or politically.

Now I am in the camp of those who prefer to avoid labeling Jews which may seem to be a contradiction to those who read my posts and in particular this one. But since this article seeks to shine light on the differences within the flow of “Orthodoxy”, I find myself drifting in the opposite direction. The defining of channels of “Orthodox” leaves a reader with the need to separate rather than unite; Lander is the right, YU is the center/mainstream, YCT is left, RCA is mainstream/right, NCYI is right, etc. As I have presumed, this is the purpose of the article. YCT has not helped it’s cause agreeing to cooperate with this writer and newspaper. Those who sought to help YCT have hurt it’s case for widening it’s acceptance by agreeing to be interviewed.

I have to make an additional observation concerning the left in general bringing a closure to the criticism of the New York Jewish Times and fitting nicely into the discussion . That is, we have been discussing in a larger sense the idea of an unclearly defined “open” yeshiva. The writer, IMO wanted to expose “Orthodoxy’s” woes. What then is “open” and to whom? The liberal truth test for which the writer failed is to acknowledge that differences are not necessarily subject to good vs. bad. When it comes to liberals, my way is the only way. True “openness” in thought allows for a free flow of ideas, analysis of strengths and weaknesses. The cream then rises to the top. The article (more of an editorial) has an opinion and seeks to discredit those who disagree.

My advice to Rabbis Weiss, Linzer and Berman:

1) Change the marketing piece. drop the meaningless word “open”. This has been antagonistic from the outset and insulting to the many thousands involved in “inreach” and counseling years before Chovevi was ever conceived

2) Stress your similarities not differences. The Jewish world has enough tension, follow your own mission and help to unify Jews and stop dividing with self-righteous (imho) pretensions of re-defining “Orthodoxy”

3) Keep the Catholics out of the Beis Midrash - no offense to Catholics intended. If you wish to be “modern Orthodox” at the very least pay attention to those things that HaRav M. Soloveitchik OBM strongly discouraged and avoid them.
4) Lower your profile for awhile. Credibility/peacemaking often comes after a period of quiet. Quiet is good for the soul.

5) Acknowledge that YCT’s campaign of acceptance has contributed to strained relationships between “Orthodox” institutions. Commit to damage control and repair of the breach.

There can be room within a wider umbrella of “Orthodoxy” for various channels and approaches. Rabbis are needed for many different positions within “Orthodox” institutions. Jewish organizations have different needs. Like those Jewish institutions mentioned in the article, some may find that YCT graduates fit their particular cultural liking (leaving aside for the now the argument made in my previous post concerning the membership of “movements” dictating practices either on the micro level of the individual institution or the larger “movement” itself and the implication of this for ‘Orthodox’ organizations). What is clear however, is that for a wider umbrella of “Orthodoxy” to function the role of the gatekeeper (RCA in this case) must be upheld. The setting of standards is crucial in order to produce harmony and unity for all Jews. Without, we risk returning to something that American Jewry resembled before the national Orthodox associations came on the seen, namely, local autonomies; questions concerning the halachic status of geirus, kashrus, eruvin, mikvas, etc. This is not the goal of YCT, I believe but an outcome which could result from it’s not changing course and a point well worth noting. Far fetched? Maybe. Possible? yes.

Now on a less serious note, some readers may have noticed that YCT recently ran a flash advertisment on the Israel National News website. Below, see a screen shot of the ad. Notice anything unusual? No rewards for correct answers will be given but leave a message if you like

YCT ad has been fixed:

16 January: Blogger seems to have lost the original advertisement so I have re-uploaded the picture:

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18 December 2007

Yoffie Speaks: Dedicated to the 'Something is Better Than Nothing' Crowd

Reform leader embraces Shabbat as antidote to 'microwave culture'


Dec 17, 2007 22:42 | Updated Dec 17, 2007 23:35

The head of the Reform Movement called on Saturday for a renewal of Shabbat observance, the latest in the movement's growing embrace of traditions once staunchly opposed.

In his Shabbat morning sermon, at the union's Biennial Convention in San Diego, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, addressed the 6,000 worshippers in what has come to be seen as a "State of the Union" speech for the movement.

His call for increased Shabbat observance comes almost 150 years after the founder of the American branch of the Reform Movement transformed American Jewry by moving the major Shabbat service to Friday night to accommodate Jews who had to work on Saturday.

Yoffie said the movement was seeing a new openness to observing a weekly day of rest.

"Reform Jews are considering Shabbat because they need Shabbat," he said. "In our 24/7 culture, the boundary between work time and leisure time has been swept away, and the results are devastating. Do we really want to live in a world where we make love in half the time and cook every meal in the microwave?"

Though he acknowledged that most Reform Jews are not yet ready to embrace a Shabbat that is separate and distinct from the rest of the week, "our research indicates that we have more closet Shabbat observers than we realize," Yoffie said.

A recent survey by the Research Network of Tallahassee, Florida, of more than 12,000 Reform Jews showed that 46 percent refrain from money-earning work on Shabbat and 39 percent try to make Shabbat a special day.

Yoffie's call for increased Shabbat observance reflects a growing embrace of traditions once rejected by the movement. At the same time, Yoffie said the Shabbat observance he envisions "will not mean some kind of neo-frumkeit," or "an endless list of Shabbat prohibitions." It will reflect instead, a unique Reform approach.

"It will mean... approaching Shabbat with the creativity that has always distinguished Reform Judaism," said Yoffie. "It will mean emphasizing the 'Thou shalts' of Shabbat candles and Kiddush, rest and study, prayer and community - rather than the 'Thou shalt nots.'"

In challenging congregations to move forward with these initiatives, Yoffie suggested two approaches: The appointment of a Shabbat Morning Task Force to study and recommend how Shabbat morning worship might be reimagined, and the formation of a second group, a Shabbat Chavura, that will come together for three to four months to create a Shabbat observance in an authentically Reform way.

Other issues addressed included the need to build an "unconditional, non-negotiable" connection to Israel, Jewish-Muslim dialogue and the need for universal health care.

Yoffie, who was the first major Jewish leader to address a major Muslim group when he spoke to the convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) over the Labor Day weekend, announced a new partnership between the union and ISNA and urged all Reform Jews to become knowledgeable about Islam.

Synagogues and mosques in 11 communities have already agreed to pilot a dialogue program developed jointly with ISNA, and more partnerships are being formed.

Further, Yoffie urged every congregation to begin an adult study program about Islam using a new Reform curriculum.

"Don't you agree with me that keeping some of Shabbos is better than not keeping Shabbos?", "Not really", I respond. "Solely for the sake of convenience, keeping merely some of Shabbos is not keeping any of Shabbos".

The gift of Shabbos is not measurable in volume. HaShem's gift of Shabbos to the Jews has to do with His relationship with Israel (the bigger sense of the word). It is HaShem's will for the Jew to recognize Shabbos with Zachor (remember) and Shamor (guard), an immeasurable blessing indeed. What other people have been given such a blessing and accounting from G-d?

To Eric Yoffie, it seems that some of Zachor is okay, but don't bother him with Shamor, whatever feels right. To Yoffie, Shabbos is no blessing or gift but only what he and his colleagues and followers can will for it to be. I suppose it would be a cheap shot to laugh at the idea of Reformists creating on Shabbos, but then again, the idea isn't too far from the truth.

Yoffie believes that Reformist committees can create ritual and observance that will be meaningful. But are they not taking on a task bigger than themselves?
The appointment of a Shabbat Morning Task Force to study and recommend how Shabbat morning worship might be reimagined, and the formation of a second group, a Shabbat Chavura, that will come together for three to four months to create a Shabbat observance in an authentically Reform way.

How does one who believes in personal fulfillment and meaning create that fulfillment and meaning for someone else? Isn't the idea of personal fulfillment defined by the eyes the individual? Does the ritual bring with it the meaning or does the meaning determine what the ritual should be? So if candles on Friday night are good, are they not equally good Saturday morning? And if Kabbolas Shabbos is so spiritual why not repeat it the next day?

The "unique Reform approach" as Yoffie defines it will of course be all fun and no work. Phony "spirituality" needs not the work on the self to see the truth. No drawing down energy is necessary for the brave new Jew.

The truth which is known to Shabbos observers and anyone with even a little traditional learning under their belts is that connection with HaShem comes at a cost. It isn't easy and it shouldn't be easy. Preparing for Shabbos, especially during winter's short day time requires good timing and forethought. While it is "spiritual" when one contemplates why they are trying to do so much in so little time "l'kavod Shabbos" on Friday afternoon, the payoff comes after the candles are lit. Lighting candles without the preparation or then spending Shabbos doing inappropriate Shabbos activities doth not a spiritual experience make. It is sort of an act of futility. Candles are but one example.

Now, I am not speaking to those who may be new to Shabbos observance, growing every week, taking on new rituals, learning how to be better Jews, chas v'shalom. Continue on and know that in the shoes of a Ba'al Teshuva a Tzadik cannot stand. These are holy Jews.

But to those who believe that creating "new halachos" in the face of the accepted halachos is a fruitless and pointless exercise. Only HaShem knows what role the mitzvos were intended to accomplish in the spiritual realm and why they were given. Making new mitzvos to meet the needs of the one who wishes to keep them is laughing in the face of HaShem. Mitzvos are the instructions given by HaShem in order for the Jew to meet Him halfway and strengthen the connection of the soul He gave us to His being. The commander gives a command which is fulfilled by someone else, unifying the giver and receiver. This process cannot be dictated by a committee tasked to answer the question, "what is meaningful today?"

Yoffie is not calling for increased Shabbos observance as the article stipulates. He is calling for an increase of Reformist activity on Shabbos in the Reformist halls of assembly. This is to activate membership involvment to pay more money and give him and his rabbi fakes more authority.

Seemingly arguing against my above point is this:
Though he acknowledged that most Reform Jews are not yet ready to embrace a Shabbat that is separate and distinct from the rest of the week, "our research indicates that we have more closet Shabbat observers than we realize," Yoffie said.

A recent survey by the Research Network of Tallahassee, Florida, of more than 12,000 Reform Jews showed that 46 percent refrain from money-earning work on Shabbat and 39 percent try to make Shabbat a special day.

There is no definition of the surveyed ideas above and one must give the benefit of the doubt to those who were surveyed. But an ojective reader must wonder how many of those surveyed answered as they did because 1) they do not go to their jobs on Saturday, 2) play golf on Saturday, thereby making it special, or sleep late and go to Starbucks, (a spiritual event indeed). But presuming that the survey takers were honestly saying they try to observe some of Shabbos somehow, why not just send them on their way somewhere else, like to their LOR to learn what to do to enhance their observance?

I personally find it surreal that the leadership of a major "religious" organization must review surveys of membership to determine what the major "religious" practices should be. Someone please define leadership to me, I must be missing something. Can you imagine an Orthodox Rabbi polling his membership and finding out how few congregants eat in a Sukkah during the festival and base his teaching to his congregants not upon the need to fulfill the mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah but to justify not doing so. Preposterous.

Yoffie bringing up the issue at all is a form of teshuva I suppose. His "movement" (movement - implying "in motion" constantly - without an anchor) is guilty of neglecting this major and arguably defining practice of Judaism for as long as anyone can remember. Retreating from its regressive position of ignoring Shabbos as good only for those who need it, to emphasizing Shabbos, (but not the Shabbos we understand but a better, more modern, more Reformist version) is not aiding in bringing Jews closer to Torah but moving Jews further away from Torah, for any attempt to replace the holy Shabbos with some fantasy contrived in the conference room is something not holy but wholly unJewish.

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14 December 2007

Q & A on "The Conflict"

Quiz Yourself on the 'Israeli Arab ("Palestinian") Conflict'
Posted on 12/14/2007 5:02:54 AM CST by PRePublic

1) When was the Arab immigration to [the historic Jewish land of] Israel -"Palestine" boosted?

A When they wanted to see Jewish holy sites.
B When [anti French and anti British] Arab nationalism spread across the middle east.
C When the Zionists Jews came and cultivated the deserted land.

2) What's [Arab "Palestinian" highest "national" icon] Yasser Arafat's country of origin?

A Israel ["Palestine"].
B Jordan.
C Egypt.

3) Why were there --initially-- more Arab immigrants ["residents"] than Jewish immigrants (Arab majority)?

A Because Jews didn't attempt to enter.
B Arabs were 'invited" to come.
C Because the British restricted only Jewish immigration, to appease the Arabs

4) Why did (some) Arabs leave "Palestine" Israel in 1948?

A Because the Zionists "told" them to.
B Because the UN told them to.
C Because the Arab leaders ordered them to evacuate [their reasoning: to facilitate annihilation plans] while they attempt to 'throw the Jews in the sea'.

5) What has been the term "Palestine" always referred to?

A a country.
B a flag.
C an area, always known to be historical Israel.

6) What was Arabs' reaction to UN's partition plan for a two state solution and have their conduct since then ever been legal?

A they embraced the UN.
B they ignored and didn't react at all.
C they refused, objected to the plan and illegally started attacking the newly reinstated state of Israel.

7) How many Jewish refugees were chased out from Arab Muslim countries after Israel was re-established?

A 300,000
B 500,000
C Between 800,000 & 900,000

8) When did Arabs, Muslims start attacking Jews in the holy land?

A In the 1940's
B In the 1930's
C In the 1920's

9) Why did Arabs attack Jews so many years [even] prior to the re-establishment of Jews' homeland?

A Because of losing sports games to the Jews.
B Because of the "occupation" by... the British...
C Because they were led by such racist leaders like Haj Amin Al-Husseini the Mufti, that so shamelessly kissed Adolf Hitler's ass (while Hitler played the Arabs to his anti Jewish agenda).

10) What is synonymous with the Arab Muslim leader the Mufti?

A Spirituality.
B Peaceful religion.
C [Christian] Armenian genocide 1915, Hebron massacre 1929, pact with Adolf Hitler, Farhud massacre in Baghdad 1941, SS Bosnian Muslim brigade's crimes on Serb Christians 1943.

11) What did/do Arabs call to any lost [armed] battle to the Zionists?

A Loss.
B Mistake
C A "massacre" .

12) When did that so called "occupation" occur and why?

A In the 1948, during the war of independence.
B In the 1950's, as part of an "expansion".
C In the 1967 war when Israel decided it 'had enough' of constant Arab unprovoked attacks on its innocent citizens, the Goliath combined nations of Arabs, as always, lost the war to little tiny Israel - "David", by all legal means it was not a "theft".

13) Why did/does Israel continue to 'hold' the territories captured in 1967?

A Power hungry.
B "oil"...
C 1) Historic rights, it was always pertaining to the Jews. 2) Because of security, buffer zone.

14) What has been Israelis' experience in giving gestures to the Arabs so far?

A Arabs behave better.
B No change.
C Arabs, Muslims become more radical, more violent [example: Hamas rose right after the Gaza give away] as they see Israel's kindness as weakness.

15) When did these Arabs, (mostly) sons and grandsons of immigrants start to call themselves as "Palestinians"?

A In the 1940's.
B In the 1950's.
C In the 1960's.

16) What did/do all Arab-Muslim leaders & "fighters" openly plan to do to the Jews in their many wars?

A To occupy them.
B To oppress them.
C [To "throw them all into the sea". or a modern version of:"wiping off map", or "drinking the blood of the Jews" - aka] Genocide.

17) Who started to give equality for minorities, including voting rights for [Arab] women in the middle east?

A Jordan.
C Israel.

18) Where in the middle east, does it exist a 100% complete freedom of speech, freedom of the press?

A "Palestinian" authority.
B Egypt.
C Israel.

This quiz comes from "Freeper" PRePublic AKA - Free Israel Now blog (link on the right hand side). I have posted the first 18 questions. There are 66 in total which can be found be clicking back to the original post. One hint, all the answers are "C". This is an open book quiz meant to inform the reader on the arabian-Israel/Jewish conflict. While some of the questions are a little editorial in nature and some are basic facts of history, it is a good source to turn to for a quick glance at the basic nature of the arab problem and also a place to send those who are beginning to study the conflict for the first time. Yasher Koach to PRePublic on a nice job.

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09 December 2007

Identity Protection Shopping

Lifelock Vs TrustedID

By Puripong Koomsin

Each year, the cost of Identity Theft amounts to over 50 Million US Dollars and these numbers are steadily rising. Identity theft has been one of the most expensive crimes in the United States, costing both the government and individuals such a huge amount of money. Even though the crime is rising in numbers, most people still think that it may just be a result of isolated cases that have been blown out of proportion by the government and agencies that tend to gain from them.

That may seem like a convenient reality, in which one does not have to face the facts that everyday, a significant number of Americans are affected by Identity Theft all over the country. With cases and awareness growing, more and more firms offering protecting against identity theft are also popping up. Two firms that offer Identity Theft Protection Services are Lifelock and TrustedID. These firms claim to help their clients by informing them once their credits have been breached. So, how is each one different from the other? How does a prospective client know which firm is best for him?

Lifelock is a company that is based in Arizona. They offer their services for a monthly fee of $10 and an annual fee of $110. This company protects their clients by setting up fraud alerts with their client's creditors as well as removes a client's name from the mailing lists of pre-approved credit cards and junk mail. The company has become controversial in a way because of on one of their ads, CEO Todd Davis gives out his Social Security Number claiming that he is confident on how Lifelock works. Such an action has resulted in his number being hit several times by pranksters trying to prove that the Lifelock system is not as fool proof as they advertise it to be. In one scenario, a fraudster was able to solicit $500 from a credit company that did not check with Davis' credit history. This resulted in a blow for the company, but they claim that they have recovered and still have the clients that they used to and even more.

Another firm that is in the Identity Theft protection business is that of TrustedID. Unlike Lifelock, TrustedID takes a more curt approach when it comes to dealing with new accounts in their client's name. Instead of a simple monitoring of the account, TrustedID proceeds to freeze a client's account until the client verifies the fact that the new set up is valid or not. Like Lifelock, TrustedID also offers to remove a client's name from junk mailing lists. The company charges it clients $12.95 a month for their services.

So which is better: Lifelock or TrustedID? The answer to such query solely depends on the consumer. The two agencies work on a similar field with only a slight difference when it comes to the way they deal with breaches and new accounts instituted in a client's name. But, no matter what a firm may offer, an individual does not have to pay extra for the credit protection. The solution to that is for credit card agencies to make their process of freezing as well as unfreezing accounts easier for their users. This way, a client may be able to protect himself against Identity Fraud without using the services of any Identity Theft Protection agencies.

The writer of the above article is comparing services offered by two companies to which a consumer pays an on-going fee and the company provides a service for the consumer which is either free to do on their own or upon paying a moderate fee, can be implemented without too much effort.

Both companies are literally banking their money on the back of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, (FACTA) which was an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

15 U.S.C. § 1681
§ 605A. Identity theft prevention; fraud alerts and active duty alerts
(a)One-call Fraud Alerts
(1)Initial alerts. Upon the direct request of a consumer, or an individual acting on behalf of or as a personal representative of a consumer, who asserts in good faith a suspicion that the consumer has been or is about to become a victim of fraud or related crime, including identity theft, a consumer reporting agency described in section 603(p) that maintains a file on the consumer and has received appropriate proof of the identity of the requester shall--

(A)include a fraud alert in the file of that consumer, and also provide that alert along with any credit score generated in using that file, for a period of not less than 90 days, beginning on the date of such request, unless the consumer or such representative requests that such fraud alert be removed before the end of such period, and the agency has received appropriate proof of the identity of the requester for such purpose; and

(B)refer the information regarding the fraud alert under this paragraph to each of the other consumer reporting agencies described in section 603(p), in accordance with procedures developed under section 621(f).

The credit repositories, Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian are required by federal law to place a "fraud alert" on a consumer's credit file for no less than 90 days for free for as long as the consumer wishes to retain them. The fraud alert is placed by calling one of the credit bureaus at:




For most people, one call is enough to activate the alerts at all three credit bureaus. Exceptions would be people who have moved recently, have changed a piece of identity recently, (name or SSN) or alternate between a PO Box and other address.

The only catch is for the consumer to call every 90 days to renew the alerts. In addition to the alert statement being placed on the credit report, the alerts entitle a consumer to a free credit report. Reports are limited to two every 12 months. However, a carefully planned credit screening schedule could be arranged so that the consumer requests one report every two months. Add to this the annual credit report disclosure which gives a consumer one free report per 12 months from each bureau and a consumer can have up to nine (9) free credit reports per year! A schedule such as this, while not perfect is pretty effective to determine whether or not an identity theft attack is underway. Credit monitoring would be the best way to watch the credit reports but most effective when it is triple bureau monitoring.

Having said all that, new account related identity theft is only between 25%-30% of all identity theft, with utility and telecommunication based identity theft picking up a sizable amount of the difference. Medical, employment and criminal identity theft also add to the total. Most of these types of fraud are not prevented by the presence of fraud alerts on a credit report. Both of the above companies stake their business on managing the fraud alert process for consumers and therefore a consumer should not go to bed at night thinking that Lifelock or TrustedID will keep the ID Theft monster out of their nightmares.

As far as the opt out process advertised by TrustedID, a consumer can use the available internet resources here assembled by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Credit Freezes

TrustedID sells a product called "IDFreeze". The company claims for $7.95 a month, the consumer can let TrustedID intervene in freezing and thawing their credit report in the states where credit reports are available. However, recent changes in operating procedures at the big three bureau now makes credit freezes available to all US consumers even in the states where credit freeze laws have not been passed. The bottom line, the consumer is again paying for a manager not a magician. Freezes can be implemented by the consumer simply by going online to the bureaus websites and following the instructions to mail in a written request, id documents and a check, voila - a credit freeze until the consumer wishes to thaw it. APRPEH wrote about the new credit freeze option in November.

See a list of state specific identity and credit related laws here.

My name is Todd Davis
My social security number is 457-55-5462
I'm Todd Davis, CEO of LifeLock, and yes, that’s my real social security number*. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, victimizing over 10 million people a year and costing billions of dollars. So why publish my social security number? Because I’m absolutely confident LifeLock is protecting my good name and personal information, just like it will yours. And we guarantee our service up to $1 million dollars."

As for Lifelock, the article's writer left out a few notes of interest. He mentioned CEO Todd Davis had become a victim of identity theft. This is true. What he failed to mention is that Lifelock found out who the perpetrator was and seeking to capitalize on the publicity of how the crime took place, botched the police investigation which was subsequently dropped. Hurray for law and order. The writer failed to mention entirely that the co-founder of Lifelock, Robert Maynard was forced to step down due to ethical and legal problems related to his previous business in the credit world. APRPEH discussed this back in June of 2007.

As far as insurance goes, one could suppose it's not such a bad thing. The average consumer that resolves their own identity theft matter spends less than $500 out of pocket. This is the amount that could be claimed under the insurance policy. The consumer must weigh the cost of the premium for the insurance versus the likelihood of 1) needing the insurance and 2) spending more than the expected average in the event of an identity theft problem. Probably not a good idea.

The best bet for a consumer who wants id theft protection is to keep alerts on their credit file, subscribe to triple bureau monitoring and possibly subscribing to one of the services that offers real protection for a consumer in the event that an identity theft event should happen. Don't shop for an advisor or advocate but for someone who will actually work your id theft matter for you in the way an accountant does your taxes for you. For many consumers, no services are necessary. Contrary to what is normally printed, it is not that hard to re-establish your identity with a police report and early discovery. Shop carefully.

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05 December 2007


Bah, Hanukkah--the holiday celebrates the triumph of tribal Jewish backwardness
From FreeRepublic

original article

High on the list of idiotic commonplace expressions is the old maxim that "it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." How do such fatuous pieces of folk wisdom ever get started on their careers of glib quotation? Of course it would be preferable to light a candle than to complain about the darkness. You would only be bitching about the darkness if you didn't have ­a candle to begin with. Talk about a false antithesis. But at this time of year, any holy foolishness is permitted. And so we have a semiofficial celebration of Hanukkah, complete with menorah, to celebrate not the ignition of a light but the imposition of theocratic darkness.

Jewish orthodoxy possesses the interesting feature of naming and combating the idea of the apikoros or "Epicurean"—the intellectual renegade who prefers Athens to Jerusalem and the schools of philosophy to the grim old routines of the Torah. About a century and a half before the alleged birth of the supposed Jesus of Nazareth (another event that receives semiofficial recognition at this time of the year), the Greek or Epicurean style had begun to gain immense ground among the Jews of Syria and Palestine. The Seleucid Empire, an inheritance of Alexander the Great—Alexander still being a popular name among Jews—had weaned many people away from the sacrifices, the circumcisions, the belief in a special relationship with God, and the other reactionary manifestations of an ancient and cruel faith. I quote Rabbi Michael Lerner, an allegedly liberal spokesman for Judaism who nonetheless knows what he hates:

Along with Greek science and military prowess came a whole culture that celebrated beauty both in art and in the human body, presented the world with the triumph of rational thought in the works of Plato and Aristotle, and rejoiced in the complexities of life presented in the theater of Aeschylus, Euripides and Aristophanes.

But away with all that, says Lerner. Let us instead celebrate the Maccabean peasants who wanted to destroy Hellenism and restore what he actually calls "oldtime religion." His excuse for preferring fundamentalist thuggery to secularism and philosophy is that Hellenism was "imperialistic," but the Hasmonean regime that resulted from the Maccabean revolt soon became exorbitantly corrupt, vicious, and divided, and encouraged the Roman annexation of Judea. Had it not been for this no-less imperial event, we would never have had to hear of Jesus of Nazareth or his sect—which was a plagiarism from fundamentalist Judaism—and the Jewish people would never have been accused of being deicidal "Christ killers." Thus, to celebrate Hanukkah is to celebrate not just the triumph of tribal Jewish backwardness but also the accidental birth of Judaism's bastard child in the shape of Christianity. You might think that masochism could do no more. Except that it always can. Without the precedents of Orthodox Judaism and Roman Christianity, on which it is based and from which it is borrowed, there would be no Islam, either. Every Jew who honors the Hanukkah holiday because it gives his child an excuse to mingle the dreidel with the Christmas tree and the sleigh (neither of these absurd symbols having the least thing to do with Palestine two millenniums past) is celebrating the making of a series of rods for his own back. And this is not just a disaster for the Jews. When the fanatics of Palestine won that victory, and when Judaism repudiated Athens for Jerusalem, the development of the whole of humanity was terribly retarded.

And, of course and as ever, one stands aghast at the pathetic scale of the supposed "miracle." As a consequence of the successful Maccabean revolt against Hellenism, so it is said, a puddle of olive oil that should have lasted only for one day managed to burn for eight days. Wow! Certain proof, not just of an Almighty, but of an Almighty with a special fondness for fundamentalists. Epicurus and Democritus had brilliantly discovered that the world was made up of atoms, but who cares about a mere fact like that when there is miraculous oil to be goggled at by credulous peasants?

We are about to have the annual culture war about the display of cribs, mangers, conifers, and other symbols on public land. Most of this argument is phony and tawdry and secondhand and has nothing whatever to do with "faith" as its protagonists understand it. The burning of a Yule log or the display of a Scandinavian tree is nothing more than paganism and the observance of a winter solstice; it makes no more acknowledgment of the Christian religion than I do. The fierce partisanship of the holly bush and mistletoe believers convicts them of nothing more than ignorance and simple-mindedness. They would have been just as pious under the reign of the Druids or the Vikings, and just as much attached to their bucolic icons. Everybody knows, furthermore, that there was no moving star in the east, that Quirinius was not the governor of Syria in the time of King Herod, that no worldwide tax census was conducted in that period of the rule of Augustus, and that no "stable" is mentioned even in any of the mutually contradictory books of the New Testament. So, to put a star on top of a pine tree or to arrange various farm animals around a crib is to be as accurate and inventive as that Japanese department store that, as urban legend has it, did its best to emulate the Christmas spirit by displaying a red-and-white bearded Santa snugly nailed to a crucifix.

This is childish stuff and if only for that reason should obviously not receive any public endorsement or financing. The display of the menorah at this season, however, has a precise meaning and is an explicit celebration of the original victory of bloody-minded faith over enlightenment and reason. As such it is a direct negation of the First Amendment and it is time for the secularists and the civil libertarians to find the courage to say so.

my response as it appears on FreeRepublic

Hitchens makes so so many mistakes in this article, I don't know where to begin. The apikoris is not one who prefers Hellenism but one who denies religious authority by replacing it with his own ideas, of which may include replacing the idea that not G-d (chas v'shalom) made up religious concepts but man. This is not necessarily the same as Hellenism which admired the Torah and traditions of the Jews except those that "needed" G-d as a reason, (ie. Shabbos, Circumcision) those things referred to as "chukim".

Jewish children were named for Alexander since he too came to admire Judea and did not attack her. As an honor to Alexander, Jewish boys were named for him.

Michael Lerner is not a "rabbi" but a phony. Having said that, his idea is not too far off base. The Assyrian-Greeks were brutal but it was the attack on Torah which encouraged the Maccabi revolt. Hitchens seems to write off the fact that the revolt was begun by one family and mostly carried out by their spiritual leadership of the people. The brutality of the empire may had led others to join but it was a war to liberate Judea from the oppressive anti-G-d empire which was the driving force. A good liberal would have to admit that a nation which prefers a national religion by choice should be allowed to have it whether he (Hitchens) likes it or not. Judaism, on the other hand, makes no pretense of merging democracy into theology. This is Hitchens hang up. However, the leadership of the Union of Reformist Judaism may differ on that point.

It is also true that the Hasmonean monarchy fell into corruption. But it did so, after it adopted the Hellenist philosophy and diverged from its Torah origins. So much for the purist secularist leadership.

Blaming Torah then for the takeover by Rome is a stupid conclusion on many fronts. First it presumes Rome had no intention of expanding into Judea. This is ridiculous. Second, it was the corruption of Helenism that made Judea target. It was the zeal of the religious which made it a most costly venture for Rome. Had Judean monarchy and the Priesthood remained as learned and religious as the masses, who knows if Rome would have been permitted to succeed. We learn that sinas chinam, unwarranted hatred, refusal to get along as Jews, caused and still causes exile. Rome was merely the instrument of destruction.

When the fanatics of Palestine won that victory, and when Judaism repudiated Athens for Jerusalem, the development of the whole of humanity was terribly retarded.

First, there was no such thing as Palestine then or now. Second, it was the restoration of the Temple and Jewish religion which preserved humanity. It is the Torah which brings peace to the world. It is Edom, (ie. Rome) which brought and still brings destruction to the world. Okay, it is a theological point which CH would reject, however, I would stress the point that our Noahide friends make that the world would look greatly different if the non-Jews upheld the Noahide code. Upholding the code of every nation for itself, every person for itself, the underpinning of secularism and it's eventual cause of demise which is a most frightening reality.

The reality of Chanukah is not to teach about oil, with which Hitchens scoffs. It is about proclaiming that even in exile, the Jew brings light into the world. It is indeed the light in the darkness. It is the light emanating from the Bais HaMikdash which lights the world, not enlightenment of the athiests like Hitchens which darkens the world and serves as a test for the Jew's ultimate mission to make this world fit as a dwelling place for G-d.

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What Words Offend Arabs? The Truth.

Children's Poetry Booklet Recalled After Arabs Complain
(Israeli censorship kowtows to Arabs.
When Will We Tell The Truth Without Fear)

(IsraelNN.com 7 Sivan 5768/June 10, '08) Ynet's web site and Arab complaints against a ten-year-old boy's poem about terrorists has resulted in the recall of all of the Nes Ziona municipality's children's poetry booklets.

Ynet boasts that its coverage of the poem resulted in its being recalled.

The text of the poem (Ynet's translation):

Ahmed's bunker has surprises galore: Grenades, rifles are hung on the wall. Ahmed is planning another bombing!What a bunker Ahmed has, who causes daily harm.Ahmed knows how to make a bomb. Ahmed is Ahmed, that's who he is, so don't forget to be careful of him.We get blasted while they have a blast!Ahmed and his friends could be wealthy and sunny, if only they wouldn't buy rockets with all their money.

Poetry competition director Marika Berkowitz, who published the booklet, was surprised at the protests and told Ynet: "This is the boy's creation and this is what he wanted to express. Of course there should be a limit, but I think the there is no racism here. 'Ahmed' is a general term for the enemy. These are the murmurings of an innocent child."

The Education Ministry told Ynet: "The local authority that published the booklet should have guided the students in a more correct manner through the schools. The district will investigate the issue with the local authorities."
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