Sunday, October 28, 2007

Brass Bris
by: Schvach Yid

According to a recent article on, the wife of Yigal Amir – the murderer of Yitzhak Rabin, may he rest in peace – has just given birth to a son. Mazel tov! The bris is scheduled for the 12th anniversary (Gregorian) of Rabin’s murder. Some coincidence!

Apparently, prisoners in Israel, and these include incarcerated Arab terrorists, are allowed conjugal visits. Schlecht? But the resulting celebration is a bit too inappropriate, and cruel

I didn’t agree with Rabin’s policies towards the Palestinian Arabs, but Amir should have killed Arafat, not Israel’s Prime Minister; that would have been courageous.

If you’re interested, here’s the link:,7340,L-3464974,00.html

Here’s a digression. Decades ago, when I worked in a hospital, a group of nurses struck up a discussion about a yalmulka-wearing physician’s assistant who had recently done a bris in the same institution. How they yapped about how ‘he took off the whole thing’. One of them turned to me and in a voice most angry asserted ‘you don’t have to remove the whole thing, okay!’, leading me to realize that brass is provided in various forms.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What To Do On A Rainy Day In Annapolis
by: Schvach Yid

Easy. Play Pin the Tail on the Donkey – and guess where the tail goes.

Lebensraum Fűr Der Juden
by: Schvach Yid

The Upcoming Fête in Annapolis
by Schvach Yid

This November, which is just two weeks away, and during which we Jews will mark the 69th anniversary of Kristallnacht (Nov. 9, 1938) and we Americans will mark the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy (Nov. 22, 1963), promises hold nothing good for Israel or for the Jewish community in general. The upcoming fête is scheduled to take place in the City of Annapolis, the capitol of the State of Maryland, right here in the USA. It will be, of course, the same old drill, second only in its pain to the dentist’s drill. Our experiences in dealing with the Palestinian ‘cause’ have taught us to expect nothing but rancor, accusation, and a demand for Jewish self-abandonment. We Jews after all are the offenders, the non-Jewish world asserts.

The State of Maryland, by the way, whose bucolic countryside is plenty beautiful, and Annapolis is no exception, is named for Christianity’s ‘Mother of Gd’ – Mary. Jewish history has been determined, in no small measure, by her followers/worshippers.

In the Oct. 12 2007 edition of the New York Jewish Week McGill University professor of History Gil Troy has reminded his readers of a little ditty espoused by Azzam Pasha, the Arab League Secretary, on Sept. 16 1947. He reportedly said, ‘Nations never concede; they fight. You won’t get anything by peaceful means of compromise…only by force of arms…we shall try to defeat you’. The article continues, ‘The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem called for …jihad, or holy war’.

Prof. Troy’s article continues to relate that in the course of the campaign of violence launched by the local (Palestinian) Arabs in response to the Mufti’s call for jihad, 1,256 Jews were killed during the 5 month period between the Mufti’s call for war and Britain’s egress from its mandated territory in the Levant.

I think it’s fair to state that the position of the Palestinian Arabs, and that of the Arab world in general, hasn’t changed.

Here’s a bit that appeared on cable TV this past Tuesday night, courtesy of the National Geographic Channel (which referred to itself as ‘Nat Geo’ – how utterly cool, huh?) in a presentation titled Decoding the Dead Sea Scrolls. In a discussion concerning the ‘Copper Scroll’ of Dead Sea Scroll fame, Robert Feather (author of The Mystery of the Copper Scroll of Qumran) stated that there appears within the Hebrew writing of the Copper Scroll, at apparently arbitrary intervals and for no apparent reason (like Jew-hatred), solitary Greek letters which when strung in consecutive sequence phonetically spell the name of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten. According to this discussion, Akhenaten was the first to give the world monotheism, and that the 3 ‘great’ monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – all owe their monotheistic beliefs to pharonic Egypt.

Parity has now been established by Robert Feather and National Geographic between Judaism and its 2 spin-off religions and accordingly, what claim does Judaism have - on anything, let alone the ‘Holy Land’.

What telling timing, considering the upcoming meeting in Annapolis. Sail into Annapolis with that one.

I think Ehud Olmert, and all Left-leaning Jews should pay much closer attention to the goings on, as well as to the history, around us. Der Altneuland of Theodor Herzl was a novel – a utopian dream; the real world specifies other requirements.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Jewish Public Image
by: Schvach Yid

I’m troubled about the way some Jews portray themselves, and by extension the rest of us, on TV.

Take – please – for example The Learning Channel’s televised ditty Miami Ink. This reality TV series (I haven’t caught it in a while – is it still on cable?) portrays the goings on in a tattoo parlor located in Miami’s South Beach (never been there). One of the two partners, and without question the absolute dominator of the scene, is an Israeli-born American Jew (left Israel at the age of 12 according to his self-disclosure spiel). He’s Jewish, and covered in tattoos from base of neck to ankles. He tattoos people for a living - that’s what the show is all about.

He has two tattoo specialties: Japanese art (it’s nice – no, not the tattoos - I like Japanese art, not to mention that culture’s literature), and Jewish themes. In one episode he tattooed a hamsa onto the dorsum of a young lady’s foot. In another episode, he tattooed the Hebrew word koach (in Hebrew letters) onto the arm of another customer, after much verbose discussion about ‘dots’ (evidently this Jewish tattoo artist and bearer has never heard of dagesh and cholom, despite his Israeli roots). He did however display his erudition of Hebrew in a phone consultation about the placement of ‘dots’ in the word koach (it means strength). With a tone of disgust he talked about religious Jews who show up in his shop to obtain tattoos.

We are commanded in Torah, Parshas Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:28): You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, nor print/dig any marks on yourselves. The Hebrew word used by the parsha in this context is ka’aka, which according to Rashi, is a reference to digging, as in the hangman’s pole which was dug into the ground and from which the condemned were hanged (get Rashi’s message?).

Ka’aka is also the modern Israeli Hebrew word for tattoo. When I was a very young child, Kaka was a baby term for feces.

The flagrant violation of Jewish religious law and Jewish social values, by Jews as flaunted on TV, disgusts me, and the hell with that guy’s criticisms of religious Jews who saunter into his shop to get tattooed. What about him? So he’s not frum. He’s not exempt.

Then there’s Rabbi Shmuel (Shmuley) Boteach’s gig on the same cable channel. It’s called Shalom in the Home – you know, shalom b’byit. What’s wrong? This! In one episode he evidently was wrapping things up (I was ‘flipping’ through the channels looking for something to watch when I caught this), when he attempted to hug the wife who, along with her husband, was the subject and intended beneficiary of R’ Boteach’s intervention. She declined. Her husband was at her side. She, the non-Jewish woman, knew better than R’ Boteach. It’s called Shmiras Negilah among Jews; others probably call it tact, or perhaps propriety.

Shmiras Negilah is the rabbinical injunction forbidding a man from making physical contact, especially of the amorous or affectionate kind, with any woman other than his own wife. R’ Boteach has smichah (rabbinical ordination) from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. To understate the matter, he should know better. Placing on display to a portion of the TV-viewing world his Jewish identity by announcing himself a rabbi, and wearing a yalmulka and beard, I think he has the obligation to ‘play by the rules’ – it’s not that difficult as a TV performer.

There are undoubtedly other examples of which I’m uninformed, but you get my message.

And what about a graphic of a tattoo? Not on your life!

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Best Defense…
by Schvach Yid

We Yiddin are fond, even certain, to take our wisdom from Torah, both Tanach and the teachings of generations of our sages. Great truisms are, on occasion, offered from other sources which have at least the potential for practical application in our Nation’s dealings.

Whether or not we are able to muster an ability to identify with, and inculcate, such philosophies is beside the point. Necessity is the mother of invention, and need is, or at should be, the great motivator. Survival, and provision for our young, are paramount.

In America, football season has recently begun. It’s football, not baseball or basketball or hockey, that is the great American sport. It’s not just competition for its own sake. It’s controlled combat. The players even dress for this parody of war, like knights in armor. And like all combatants in the midst of battle, in football too there is an offensive force that lines up and battles a defensive force. Ground (land) is gained and lost. The whole thing is regulated by referees, and by the clock. It’s controlled and limited. Often, but by no means always, the participants go home safe and sound. On a few occasions, tragedy strikes.

I have no use for sports. For me they have always lacked information and entertainment. I’m not much into competition, and competition for its own sake makes no sense to me; I have my fill of it in the real world - I don’t need parodies.

Once upon a time there was a football coach named Vince Lombardi. According to football mavens (experts) and American sports folklore, Lombardi was the greatest football coach – ever. He was the celebrated coach of the celebrated Green Bay Packers football team.

Mr. Lombardi died in 1970.

Vince Lombardi made a significant contribution to the world of philosophy; I suspect, just about everyone has heard it. I have, and I know nothing about football, and I mean nothing!

The great Mr. Lombardi intoned: ‘The best defense is a good offense’. Surely you’ve heard this.

Evidently, Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister of Israel, and his pals have not. This philosophy of Vince Lombardi’s is about winners and winning. Ehud Olmert’s philosophy, as yet undefined and unannounced by him, is apparently not. Unless Mr. Olmert has some trick up his sleeve, unless he’s playing rope-a-dope games of one sort or another, Israel and the Jewish people in general are hurling headlong into another national tragedy.

Whether or not Olmert and Company can enunciate Vince Lombardi’s philosophy of strategy is unknown to me. What is certain is that weakness, the position of hiding from one’s own fear by playing the role of superiority and condescension, never works. One’s enemy will only smell blood, and will demand it. Swift, decisive action works - just ask Vince. One’s adversaries won’t even consider the possibility of the value of one’s possessions if the possessor proclaims his eagerness to abandon them. The simple capitulation of agreeing to talk about divestment sends a crystal clear message to our foe – that we can be dismissed, absolutely literally, from our land, that it lacks value for us. There is only one possible response, and there’s no need to worry about accusation and unkind offensive analogies. Those who are in the know, know. Vince Lombardi knew, and just played a game. Israel’s continuation as the sovereign Jewish State is no game.

The Big Rub
by: Schvach Yid

Here's what Israel can expect at the forthcoming meeting in Annapolis:

Here's the solution:

Bringing Up Baby – Properly
by: Schvach Yid

At the risk of coming across as entirely inappropriate I just have to inform you. Last night I went to the local Barnes and Noble Booksellers outlet to do some recreational print browsing (my mouse is not my life). There it was, albeit on the bottom-most rack, but an attention-grabber all the same - Muslim Girl magazine, a tznius-pushing pictorial magazine for something - teen religious Moslem females.

Lots of photos of Moslem girls socializing and ‘doing their thing’, almost all in traditional attire. One pictorial was titled Aikido Angel, about Amira Mehter who takes lessons in the martial art of Aikido from her dad, Yousef. She, unlike her contemporaries featured in this version of Islam’s answer to Seventeen Magazine, but with a dominant religious theme, was not dressed in traditional Moslem garb, except for her head covering, or hijab; the rest of her was clad, as was her silver-bearded father, in the standard ‘fists of fury’ foot-to-the-opponent’s-jaw outfit, complete with combat stance.

Talk about a showcase for empowerment, and wholesome to boot – a young woman learning to assert herself with martial arts lessons from her silver-bearded father.

Another article challenged the reader to take ‘Our Ramadan Quiz’. And there was a lot more.
Here’s the link:

At first I was amused. I found it to be both cute and quirky – a standard Western recipe with a novel (to me) application.

Then I saw the wisdom in this. I tried to imagine an analogous publication, in English, for Jewish kids, à la (not Allah) derech hatznius, published by a commercial publishing house rather than by a religious organization like Chabad, and whether we Jews have a young population that would purchase and use such a magazine. In my Bible Belt community Moslems out-populate Jews almost 4:1, and most Jews ‘down’ here are not Orthodox (no kidding).

We Jews do have Chabad Lubavitch and its worldwide network of Chabad Houses that provide for our youngsters, including programs for Jewish kids hooked on drugs and alcohol. I have no idea what goes on among the Moslem young. I don’t know if this magazine even sells, but I’m still envious.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Glee of the Gentiles
by: Schvach Yid

In Yiddish it’s called goyim nachas, but I don’t like the ‘G-word’, so I don’t use it. Biblical Hebrew is unfit to be perverted for pejorative use, and anyway, I have no reason to insult 6+ billion non-Jews worldwide.

So there I was, perched in front of my TV set. Just before Shabbos licht benchen. Watching Glenn Beck. Oy, the hazards of using a TV remote control!

Beck had in his lair Rev. John Hagee of the Cornerstone Church of San Antonio Texas, founder of CUFI (Christians United For Israel), author of at least two books on the subject of Jews, Israel, and Christians (Jerusalem Countdown, and In Defense of Israel), and all around evangelizing pastor. Ostensibly, he’s very pro-Israel, which might lead one to assume he’s also pro-Jewish. Here's a link to one of Rev. Hagee's pro-Israel spiels, delivered at the AIPAC Policy Conference in March, 2007:

In the course of the interview, Rev. Hagee, as he has often done in the past, expounded on the fate awaiting ‘The Jews’, according to Christianity’s Book of Revelation. In brief it goes something like this: ‘the Rapture’ will occur, in which those individuals faithful to Christianity’s Savior will be ‘saved’ by sublimating into Heaven from wherever they happen to be at that moment. Those who are not ‘believers’ – Jews – will then suffer at the hands of the ‘anti-Christ’ courtesy of atrocities more severe and horrific than have ever before been known to humankind.

No kidding! After 1½ millennia of rabid Jew hatred, a ‘pro-Israel’ evangelical preacher needs to inform Jews about this ‘vision’ of one of Christianity’s apostles. Surprise! We’re going to suffer the inconceivable, and Christians will have Gd in Heaven.

Thanks to an article by Nathan Burstein posted on the on-line edition of the Jerusalem Post I’ve learned that Vanity Fair magazine has compiled a list of the 100 most ‘powerful’ people, and that more than half are Jewish. Here’s the link: ( The highest ranking Jews occupy third place – Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the co-founders of Google.

What is one to think? Is there news here? Is something wrong? Should we Jews take pride in this, or should we circle the wagons? Our history has taught us to duck.

Jewish apologists will wane inane about social Darwinian selection pressures; you know, those individual Jews who managed to survive over the past 1½ millennia were the most talented, astute, insistent, motivated survivors, and their talents for social survival have been passed ‘to a new generation’ of Jew who, having been turned off to our religion, have succeeded wildly at secular pursuits.

Others, like Dennis Prager, have written that we Jews, after all, are Gd’s ‘chosen people’; we’re supposed to succeed. That we, as Gd’s-designated ‘nation of priests’ are commanded to function as a ‘light unto the nations’ (in biblical Hebrew ‘nations’ is goyim – the forbidden ‘G-word’ of pejorative application).

Then there’s my opinion. Sorry to get unpleasant, but I’m about to get unpleasant.

Does it occur to our Christian neighbors that the Savior of Christianity, the person they worship – some as the ‘Son of Gd’, and others as Gd Himself – was a Jew? The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church states that the Church is Jesus on earth. A simple syllogism will lead one to the conclusion that the Roman Catholic Church is a Jew. I’m certain there can be no objection to Jewish social success from that quarter, nor that we Jews are damned to suffer for our refusal to share Christianity’s belief.

One day at work, one of my many former co-workers, from one of my many former jobs, announced for my aural pleasure, and for no other apparent reason, that he was Catholic. We were employed in an academic research lab in a university medical school. We were the only two employees in that lab, and we each worked for separate faculty members. ‘I’m Catholic’ he said, out of the clear blue.

As time went on he would, on occasion, pipe up with a spontaneous and inappropriate statement about his Catholic identity or my Jewish identity. One fine day I had enough of his jibes and so, in response to yet another of his off the cuff statements I asked him ‘where was Jesus crucified?’ He screwed his face with a most perplexed look and questioningly uttered ‘Rome?’ I then informed him of one of Christianity’s most fundamental facts, that the Savior of his religion had been crucified outside the wall of Jerusalem in Israel, then under Roman occupation (and I thought Hebrew school was lousy). This person, by the way, had a Bachelor’s degree, and was employed to do biochemistry.

My boss in that lab was a junior faculty member of that sponsoring institution. She too was Catholic (and co-habited in seemingly connubial bliss with a Jewish physician whose office was located next to hers). One fine day, following one of my co-worker’s forays into the wonderful world of comparative religious identity, she assured him that she ‘would take care of it’, a statement she made in my presence, and evidently for my benefit.

In the meantime, another bit of glee for and by the gentiles, and in the same lab. A Jewish physician (not my boss’ lover), a clinical practitioner, came to the same lab to participate in a lab-based research project. He was an Orthodox Jew whom I had previously met in one of the few Orthodox schuls in the area. His lab task was to dissect piglets (that’s right) that had been desiccated in an oven. And guess where the porcine baking oven was located? Yup, adjoining the lab in which I worked, and the only door leading into the ‘oven room’ opened into the same lab. He was assigned a bench opposite mine.

The Jewish MD put up with this apparent humiliation, as did I. He didn’t stay long, and was replaced by a lab technician.

Eventually I was asked (told) to submit my resignation. To this day, 20 years later, I’m still blacklisted from employment by that medical school (Bible Belt location).

Somewhere along the line I learned a tale/report of the sort of humiliation heaped upon Jews and our rabbis, which had to do with herding a town’s/city’s Jewish population into the public square; in the presence of all the rabbi was required to kiss the hindquarters of a statue of a swine, upon which pig feces had been smeared. I can easily believe it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I Hated Hebrew School, And How!
by Schvach Yid

I hated Hebrew school. Yet, I get up every morning, and after the standard first-thing-in-the-morning routines, I put on tallis and tefillin, and daven.

I loathed Hebrew school. I couldn’t stand Hebrew school. Hebrew school was the worst junk, garbage, nonsense – Uch!!!

I attended a Conservative Movement Hebrew school (since renamed the Conservative Movement of Judaism) located somewhere in the City of New York. For five full years – that’s right, count ‘em, five full years - I attended elementary school-level Hebrew school. Two afternoons during the regular week, and Sunday mornings, I attended Hebrew school.

How does one kill a kid’s weekend? Send him to Hebrew school Sunday morning – for five consecutive years.

I hated the building in which the Hebrew school was situated. I hated those lousy chairs on which we sat. I hated the metal stairs that led up and down that lousy building – it was brand new, still under construction, when I was registered for ‘Kitah Aleph’ in the autumn of 1960.

I hated the green blackboards.

I hated the odor of the building. I don’t know from whence it came – the ventilation system, the paint, the people; perhaps the place was built on some ancient burial ground, and bad odors are the means by which offended spirits vent their displeasure.

I hated those fucking lousy little yellow raisins we kids were given on Sukkos. I hated those lousy little Israeli flags we were given to wave on Simchas Torah. What the hell is the connection between Simchas Torah and Zionism? Simchas Torah and Torah I understand, but Israeli politics? Israeli politics as a defense against Jew-hatred I understand, but not as indoctrination for American school children.

I hated my Hebrew school teachers. Actually, one I liked. He was the only American. With pleasure I announce his name – Rabbi Rothman! I have no idea what he used as a first name. I loved that guy. He wore a fedora in class. He worried. All the other teachers, and the principal, were recruits from Israel. They were brought over and employed to indoctrinate us – not in living lives of Torah and mitzvos, but in conditioning us to make aliyah. I couldn’t stand this foreign political indoctrination.

I hated being required to pronounce Hebrew in the Israeli-Sefardic manner, only to hear the Yiddish-Ashkinazic pronounciation at home (I have nothing against the Sefardim, or for that matter, Israel’s choice to honor the Sefardim by adopting their pronounciation of Hebrew as the official ‘brand’).

Our cantor was a native of Vienna, like my mother and her family. He did his chazzanus training in Vienna. He was super – just like home. He had two sons; I attended the Hebrew school with the younger. I hated his guts. To this day, he is by far the most overtly obnoxious person I have ever met – nolo contendre! Foy!

I hated those lousy miserable notebooks – machberet. What the heck were those uninterpretable double blue lines about? Where was I supposed to write? In five years time not one teacher told me.

I hated our siddur – please forgive me (sorry for sounding like Don Rickles). No English translation, just Hebrew. The Shilo Siddur. I still have it. It’s water stained, but intact, very usable, and on my shelf. What was the point? Teaching first grade, brand new, never before studied children the Hebrew nusach without translation? We were each handed a copy for keeps, and immediately were led in davening. The son of the cantor knew how; the rest us….. Five years later, I still couldn’t translate one word from the siddur, but I could parrot any nigun (and Yiddish was verboten – the Israelis hate Yiddish).

I loved my bar mitzvah. My folks, the rabbi, and the cantor knew how – baruch HaShem This was a term I never heard, even once, in Hebrew school. Sheket b’vakasha (shut up, please) we heard incessantly, but never baruch HaShem.

Hebrew school planners, curriculum writers, and teachers have been screwing up for a long time, not to mention that Jewish day schools (full time private schools) cost a fortune.

‘New wave’ Jewish education for the young, new, innovative curricula, are bs. They too are junk. Let’s make it interesting and engaging doesn’t work. Public grade school isn’t innovative and engaging. The obligation to obtain a basic grade school education is law – go, or else. If you drop out, you’ll spend your life living in the gutter.

A quality Jewish education is no option for our Jewish young, and bs has no place. Judaism is a religion, not engaging entertainment, and it needs to be full time, and it can’t ‘cost’.

Good luck!

Monday, October 08, 2007

The ‘Bad Boy of Baltimore
by: Schvach Yid

That was H.L. (Henry Louis) Mencken folks. Sorry, but I can’t mention Friedrich Nietzsche without writing something about Mencken, who died in 1956, although his most famous literary work may be the multi-volume The American Language.

He was a journalist in the ‘old mold’ – he supposedly sloshed lots of booze down his gullet, smoked lots of cigars (his German-derived family manufactured them in Baltimore), and wrote whatever he damned pleased. He was the first to write a book on the works of Nietzsche in English.

He founded his own magazine, The American Mercury, and worked as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun newspaper for most of his career. His name is ensconced in the lobby of the Baltimore Sun.

Where Yiddin are concerned, I think, Mencken has left his mark as a controversial figure. Some remember him as having been unfriendly to Jews. Some have labeled him an anti-Semite. Others say no, that he befriended Jews during the rise and rage of the Third Reich, that he took Jew-haters to task in his writings, and that he chose Alfred A. Knopf, a Jew, as his long time publisher.

I have no idea concerning Mencken’s tilt concerning Jews. He died a half century ago, in an age that pre-dates political correctness. Back then, one could write what one wished without fear of losing one’s career (except, of course, in matters concerning communism and the late Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin). Had he lived today, who knows, he might have contributed to Arutz Sheva.

Credit: The 'Bad Boy of Baltimore' is taken from the subtitle of Marion Elizabeth Rodgers' biography of Mencken.

The Käse of Wagner
by: Schvach Yid

That’s Richard Wagner, the 19th Century musical composer, principally of opera. Last night, WFMT, the Chicago-based public radio station, aired a re-broadcast of a concert given by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, conducted by its current director, Leon Botstein, who also provided some explanatory comments. Chief among these were comments about Richard Wagner and Israel’s outright rejection of his music.

Decades ago Zubin Mehta, formerly the Director of the New York Philharmonic, and much more, served as the Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1981 he programmed a Wagner piece to be performed in concert. Well, the response was plutonic – Israelis shouted and stormed out of the concert hall; Holocaust survivors were aghast. In response, and by way of apology, Mehta was offered the Directorship of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for life, which he accepted.

In 2006, Maestro Mehta admitted in an interview his error in performing Wagner in Israel.

Here’re two links to an article about Zubin Mehta and his long association with the Israel philharmonic scene: dyn/content/article/2006/12/01/AR2006120100298_pf.html

So what’s with Richard Wagner and the Jews? But first, Richard Wagner and this Jew.

My father is German (and hated Wagner); my maternal Oma (grandmother; Slovak born and raised in Vienna) loved Wagner’s music. Wagner’s compositions are basically good old Teutonic marching music. I hate to admit that the stuff courses through my veins (and I’ve never set foot in Germany), but it does.

There has to be a gene that determines this taste in music, at least in my case. I grew up hearing my father play nothing but ‘classical’ music on his ‘hi fi’, but never Wagner (both my parents grew up during the rise of the Third Reich, my father in Germany, my mother in Vienna). Yet no sooner had I gravitated to ‘classical’ music than I zeroed in on Wagner. It must be genetic – it couldn’t possibly be environment.

The fact is Richard Wagner is rejected by the Jewish community because he was a screaming Jew-hater. He made no bones about his disdain for Yiddin. So vehement were his vocal and literary outpourings of Jew-bashing that his close friend and confident, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, felt the compulsion to terminate his association with the composer. Nietzsche wrote a ‘Turinese Letter’ titled The Case of Wagner – an essay in which Nietzsche labels Wagner as ‘one of my sicknesses’. Nietzsche was openly critical of Wagner’s vitriol against Jews. According to those in the know, Nietzsche was not a Jew-hater – he was purported to have written, according to one account, that all anti-Semites should be shot.

And the Nazis? All of us know about those people. Not only did they conquer and murder galore, but took and did as they pleased. This included absconding with any music and philosophy that suited their whim, including the works of Wagner, and Nietzsche, and Franz Joseph Haydn, and Gd-knows who else.

We Jews don’t hate Haydn or Nietzsche, but we do hate the rantings of Wagner. Music, however, is another story, regardless of how it may have been adopted for spurious purposes. After all, two of the world’s greatest exponents of Wagnerian opera are James Levine (the past Musical Director of the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York) and Daniel Barenboim. Both are Jewish (but let’s not discuss Barenboim's political views concerning Israel).

In 2001, when the then Director of the Bayreuth Festival, Giuseppe Sinopoli, literally dropped dead on stage of a heart attack while conducting a performance of Aida just months prior to the start of that up-coming summer’s Wagner Festspiel in Bayreuth, who was tapped to fill the gap? Daniel Barenboim, the Jew.

And here’s a link to a piece on The Controversy Over Wagner:

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Britain’s Bulldog for the Jews
by: Schvach Yid

The great Jewish British writer and historian, Martin Gilbert (right), has contributed a biographical piece to this month’s edition of Hadassah Magazine titled A Well Spoken Friend, on the efforts of Winston Churchill on behalf of world Jewry. Gilbert’s new biography on the same subject, Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship, is due to be released later this month (Henry Holt and Co., publishers).

According to some sources (not Gilbert’s Hadassah Magazine article), Churchill’s American mother, Jenny Jacobson, was Jewish.

Martin Gilbert paints a picture of Britain’s former Prime Minister and oratory hero of the Second World War as a vehement opponent of the anti-Semitic persuasions of his day, that in 1922 he asserted that the Jews were in ‘Palestine’ by right, and as a virtual lone warden who sounded off against the Jew-hating tirades of the founder and leader of the Third Reich in the early 1930’s with stern warnings against the consequences of appeasement. Gilbert further represents Churchill as a supporter of Zionism who opposed Britain’s cessation of Jewish immigration to British Palestine in 1939.

At the War’s conclusion, Churchill is said to have had hopes of persuading the King of Saudi Arabia to accept a sovereign Jewish State in British Palestine, but as Gilbert writes, then President Franklin Roosevelt delivered a ‘sucker punch’ by scooping Churchill’s visit with the Saudi king and assuring the King that the US would do nothing to aid Jewish endeavors in conflict with Arab interests. Nice! (Wasn’t FDR supposed to have been descended from a Jewish Dutch immigrant family?)

Martin Gilbert’s article is concluded with an informing bit about the continuing racial hatred by Jew haters and their views of 'beneficial' political policies. If you can get a hold of the October issue of Hadassah Magazine, please do.

The Great Debate Continues
by: Schvach Yid

Talk about Darwinism, Tim Russert of NBC fame had two guests on his TV show to discuss (debate) the age-old conundrum of Science vs Creationism. The two interviewed participants of opposing views were Christopher Hitchens and Jon Meacham, each of whom has recently, and separately, published a book on this very subject (hence, their respective invitations to appear).

I find this contest between ‘Reason’ and ‘Faith’ boring and worn. Face it folks, enough is enough (so why do I blog about this?). I for one have no difficulty reconciling the two views; they are far from mutually exclusive. But the arts-minded person traditionally has difficulty coming to terms with Science, and Science people tend to miss the perspective of artists. Decades ago Scientific American magazine published an article that dealt with this mutual misunderstanding between the science-minded and arts-minded.

The anti-faith boys invoke rubrics like ‘The Big Bang’ and ‘Natural Causes’ to explain the origin of all things, you know, the Universe. Silly kids! They should realize, and undoubtedly do, that these terms are euphemisms for Gd. What’s supposed to be the difference between ‘Natural Causes’ and ‘Gd’ (it’s Richard Dawkins who conscipts that term in exchange for religion’s explanation)?

Getting goo-goo eyed over science is silly stuff. As I’ve written in an earlier blog, I have a couple of sub-doctoral degrees in Biology, and there’s nothing magical about the subject.

As a student I was taught a valuable lesson about the consideration of the sciences and their place in our lives. One of my advisors taught that the sciences do not answer the question ‘why’, they only function to provide descriptions – subjective or analytic – of the world we see around us. Physics, perhaps the most analytic of the sciences, is peopled by individuals who often double as philosophers. My Physics professors tended to be very soulful individuals, in constant search of ‘answers’ to what makes everything work, but never declaring they understood. At the end of a research effort the investigator is left with a bunch of data which must be interpreted. That interpretation is as much philosophy as ‘science’. The data backs up the idea, but the idea is still the stuff of imagination – our ability to reason. There really isn’t much of a break between Science and Religion.

As the sciences progress in their ability to describe the universe, and ‘everything’ in it in increasingly greater degrees of resolution, we come no closer to understanding ‘why’. All we have is a more detailed description of whatever is under study, and perhaps a slightly improved ability to provide only a modicum of an ability to predict, but the question ‘why’ remains forever in the realm of Philosophy. Science, for those who are familiar with that conglomerate of subjects, doesn’t even attempt to answer that question.

We see this in the ever increasing ability of Molecular Biology to define the genomes of organisms. With greater and greater detail we are provided with definitions of the identity of the world’s living creatures based on their genomes’ nucleotide sequences and their arrangements relative to each other within the genome, yet, this ultra-level of detail causes us to miss the point. Is it any more valid to define an organism according to its genotype than according to its appearance and function – phenotype? The world of ecological relationships is
evident at the organismic and community levels; evolution now seeks to define the relationship between various organisms at the molecular – DNA – level, and neither alone has the answer, yet the spectator who is unschooled in this subject seeks to provide understanding by refuting the opposing non-scientific view. Greater detail does not provide greater understanding, just facts in larger number and variety.

The ‘Big Bang’ is a nice explanation of the origin of the universe, but the Kabbalistic explanation is very close to that provided by astrophysicists. Mr. Hitchens and Mr. Dawkins both need to read Darwin, or perhaps reread his most famous work. In the summary chapter Darwin refers to Gd as ‘the Creator’, and attributes the subjects of his empirical studies to Him.

Jews on Campus
by: Schvach Yid

Wanna know where the Yiddin go to college? Reform Judaism Magazine has published a list of the top 60 colleges/universities Jewish students choose to attend – 30 private, and 30 public.

Also included is a list of the top 20 colleges/universities ranked according to Jewish students as a percentage of the total student population (Yeshiva University ranks first, followed by Brandeis – surprise!). Here’s the link (you’ll need Adobe Acrobat Reader – it’s a PDF):

Did you know that Jews comprise almost one third (30%) of the student body at Harvard? Unberufen!

Darwinism of the Vanities
by: Schvach Yid

I think Darwinism – I mean the real stuff, the study of biological evolution – makes a great academic subject, and I should, having a couple of degrees in Biology. It also makes an entertaining hobby. I love the outdoors, and field botany is my all time favorite outdoor activity. I’ve even read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species - twice – once in high school (but not for high school), and a second time just a few years ago. Despite my six years of formal academic schooling in the subject of Biology, Darwin’s most famous literary work was never given as an assigned reading (I attended school in New York and so there was never a conflict with religion).

Competition seems to be the stuff of life, much as I shun it. I’m too much of a sloth to be bothered, but many, many others thrive on competition. ‘Type A personalities’, those who love the ‘thrill of victory’ (I’m one of those chumps who’s usually concerned with the losers), and so-called ‘adrenaline freaks’ generally first run circles around me, then leave me choking in the dust.

The bit about life’s competitive nature raised its smiling sunny face again, back in April – it always does. A Google search for Newsweek Magazine’s list of the top 50 rabbis in America turned up the article on the MSNBC web site on the first page of Google Search results, and also provided a link to a competing list shown on the On Faith blog site of Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn (no, they’re not Jewish, and neither is their blog site). The list was compiled by Letty Cottin Pogrebin. Letty’s list of America’s top 50 rabbis consists of 45 female and 5 male rabbis, compared to Newsweek’s list of 45 male and 5 female rabbis. Oh yeah? So who’s competing?

If you’re into this sort of thing, here’s the link to Letty’s list:,

and here’s the link to Newsweek’s list (courtesy of MSNBC):

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dr. Strangebomb,
or how I learned to stop worrying and not give a fart in the bathtub about the prospects for a global thermonuclear conflict
by: Schvach Yid

You know all that stuff on the news about a US Air Force bomber that flew from its base in North Dakota to a base in Louisiana, carrying cruise missiles tipped with nuclear warheads? Supposedly, it shouldn’t have (evidently, the honor for the entailed risk goes to Canada).

Do you recall that a scant few weeks prior to this story, Pres. Bush and Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin emerged from some sorta meetin’. Pres. Bush appeared, and sounded, just a bit miffed - no, make that overtly shaken, over the prospect of renewed hostile posturing between the USA and Russia?

So? What to do? We had to get a message across to the Kremlin, you know, something like ‘we’re not a bunch of pushovers – we’ll match you and then some’, but one can’t say or do anything too overt, because once the gauntlet has been thrown down, one’s bluff might just be called, and then what?

Enter diplomacy, and I mean the sort of diplomacy far removed from threats of confrontation. Let’s just let them know we still have the ‘thing’, and it’s loaded and ready to go. But nothing too brash.

Let’s have a domestic incident. Yeah, that’s the ticket, and so, we have this news ditty about a nuclear missile (or several) that careened over the heads of unsuspecting Americans, rather than over the heads of unsuspecting Canadians (hey, someone has to pay the price – why should it be us?).

I’m no political scientist. I know nothing about politics, diplomacy, or international relations, and I mean nothing at all. I barely qualify to pick up a year-old copy of Newsweek at the dentist’s office as I wait for the drill ‘em - fill ‘em – bill ‘em torture fest to begin. And to top it off, this is a Jewish blog site, so what gives?

Well, I’m itchy about this matter, and so is the rest of the world. It’s been said by enough news commentators, so why not by me?

The world does not want to be shepherded by America’s current serving president. No one outside the US wants him as the custodian of the free world, and the gauntlet has indeed been thrown down – by Vladimir Putin. Fifty-one percent of American voters in the last presidential election voted to continue George Bush’s presidency. That’s the problem. A brainiac like Newt Gingrich is no match for our boy from Crawford, TX. Unfortunately, the rest of the world disagrees, and they’re doing more than just speaking up.

The presidential wannabes are all over the news reports. One primary candidate after another is after the job. The debates looked like reality TV gone Huntley-Brinkley (remember?). Fred Thompson was smart to not participate – the whole thing looked like a humiliation fest (the sight reminded me of a scene from the movie version of Catch 22 – enough said). But thankfully, as long as Trent Lott is out, the error of electing a George Bush clone seems remote, and to coin the popular phrase – ‘that’s a good thing’.

The last Texas president we put into the White House was LBJ. He gave us the Vietnam War. His replacement, Richard Nixon, continued the war for almost his entire, but not quite, two term presidency because, as he intoned at a news conference, he didn’t want history to record him as the first American president to lose a war (he was wrong; that honor went to Jefferson Davis).

Now our nation’s second son-of-Texas president is ‘winding down’ his term of national service, and another American war rages on with no end in sight. The rest of the world doesn’t approve, and despite Bush’s Texas bravado, that is a problem for America, and for the entire world, because in response, the former USSR’s head of dastardly deeds, Vladimir Putin, is on the march, and frankly, this can’t lead to anything good.

Tzipi Speaks
by: Schvach Yid

Yesterday, at the UN. In English no less. It was the usual rhubarb, except the Israeli Foreign Minister accused that less than august international body of favoritism against Israel. She delivered a lot of cliché about peace and mutual security. She did her standard vocal impersonation of Yitzhak Rabin (may he rest in peace) – she even invoked his ‘enough is enough’ bit (don’t you think she sounds just like him? I do).

More yak, yak, yak. The UN TV camera regularly zeroed in on the Arab Palestinian representative. It was dry. It was canned.

But then Mme. Livni did us proud. She did the right thing. She spoke words of Torah to the membership of the UN General Assembly.

When I was a lad in college taking Introductory Physics, we were taught a valuable lesson concerning problem solving; in fact, I suspect this singular teaching may constitute the central concept of Physics – all the rest may be commentary. We were instructed to solve a Physics problem ‘from first principles’ – to begin with a definition, and derive the solution from there.

This is precisely what Foreign Minister Livni did at the conclusion of her presentation to the UN General Assembly.

After so much drone, she informed her audience that this is the Festival of Sukkot. She explained the significance of this Festival, and the significance of Jews dwelling in sukkot (which she translated as ‘huts’) as a component of our religious observances. She then informed her audience that those sukkot provided us with shelter on our ancestors way to the Promised Land. Bravo Tzipi, finally, someone in the Olmert government got it right!

Finally (really) Mme. Livni concluded her presentation with words of Torah from the siddur:
“As we turn to
Jerusalem and say in our prayers every day: 'Spread over us the tabernacle of your peace....' May it be in our days, and for all nations. Amen.”

The response from the UN General Assembly was applause. They applauded the Israeli Foreign Minister. I’ve never heard any assemblage of the UN representatives applaud any Israeli speaker. Perhaps they have and I’ve simply missed it – I don’t stay glued to C-SPAN you know.

Their response wouldn’t have been better had she blessed her audience by reciting the Birkat Cohanim.
Not that we should be grateful for the acknowledgement. It’s HaShem who gives, not the UN, but it’s always nice to have friends rather than enemies (or as one pr billboard stated: ‘It’s nice to be important, but it’s also important to be nice’).

Not long ago I read an article on line in which the author stated that two US delegations visited Israel, each one in succession. The first delegation was taken on a tour of ‘modern’ Israel - upon their return to the United States the anticipated US funding was not approved. The second US delegation was taken on a tour of the religious sights and communities in Israel. They were shown religious Israeli Jews at work and study. Bingo – Israel received what it had requested.

True or not, the message is clear:
Israel stands and talks ‘turkey’ – nothing;
Israel stands and talks Torah – results.

Applause means acceptance and approval. In the Chumash we are commanded to function as a Nation of Priests, not as overly assertive know-it-alls who spawn swaggering, sunglass-wearing tattooed kids who spew Arabic colloquialisms rather than words of Torah.

‘It’s a Tree of Life to those who cling to it, and its followers are praiseworthy’, we chant in schul as we return the Sefer Torah to the aron kodesh. These are not empty words – the world is willing to accept the religious devotion of Jews, but not the scheiss of secular Yiddin who emulate the emulators and intentionally violate everything in the ‘book’ in a vain attempt at profundity and superiority. Remember (and not to be offensive) that one third of everyone in the world worships one of us as their Savior. This is no slight matter. A great deal is expected from us, and I don’t mean Nobel Prizes.When the government of Israel gets it right, then opinions are swayed in our favor.

Had Tzipi Livni, as the Foreign Minister of Israel, stood on the podium of the UN’s General Assembly and talked politics and diplomacy until doomsday she would have been greated with dismissal. Had she yapped biblical archeology, she would have invoked the same response. But a divrei Torah, as brief as it was, delivered the right message. This is our claim to the Land promised to us – all of it, and no argument can be devised that can displace it or us.