Sunday, September 30, 2007

Nefesh b’Nefesh – Nebich
by: Schvach Yid

Not to be a spoil sport, not to serve as the naysayer, but really, 600+ olim from North America settling in Israel? There are 6+ million of us stewing (in a religious sense) in golus (mostly in the US), and only 0.01% of those of us in this region of chutz l’aretz have officially signed up to make this ‘big move’ via Nefesh b’Nefesh this year.

I don’t mean to be critical, and I certainly don’t mean to deride the decisions of these most recent olim from North America – kol hakavod to them, but their number is a bit thin, don’t you think?

Do we remember that the Jewish State of Israel was established as the Jewish Homeland, in part to provide a safe haven for Jewish refugees from the gleeful efforts of rampaging Jew-haters who, on a somewhat regular basis, choose to express their brand of population cropping by cropping us? There are still 6+ million Jews residing outside Israel. What happens if the 6+ million Jews living in North America and Europe suddenly ‘feel’ the need to move – you know, to Israel? Just how long do you think that would take? Go ahead, ask the airlines. I’m sure that under the appropriate circumstance, they would be eager to accommodate.

And just how long does one reckon Israel would need to settle 6+ million new olim, thus doubling Israel’s current population? Just where would Israel fit us in? What would the Sachnut use as an absorption shoehorn - the ‘West Bank’? Not with the current Israeli administration.

The fact is that aliyah en masse is a matter of mass migration – a population shift. It cannot occur as an acute event, but must be accomplished over a protracted period of time, and those of us who are so comfy here in the West, and who are so put off by current Israeli administration policies, are – to put it bluntly – loathe to even consider the possibility.

So yasher koach to those brave and idealistic few who have made the commitment, and who have made good on it. In the long run they may, in fact, prove to be the smarter ones.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Columbia is No Gem
by: Schvach Yid

When I was a lad ‘growing up’ (hah!) in New York, Columbia University in the City of New York (its formal name) was the place. It was a bit of a phenomenon. I wanted to attend this űber-university as an undergraduate – no luck. Years later, my sister was awarded a Ph.D. from this same institution. Two of the older kids – brothers - at our bungalow colony in the Catskills would both become fencing heroes (or so we kids thought - their mother was so proud) at Columbia (the older brother would be provided sponsorship by, but denied membership in, one of New York’s prestigious private sports clubs in the early 1970’s – the brothers were Jewish, of course). While in college (CCNY – just 1 mile uptown from Columbia) I used to visit the Morningside Heights campus of Columbia just to stroll around and imbibe its academic scene. It’s a beautiful campus. (Columbia, by the way, takes it etymology as a synonym for America from the name of Christopher Columbus).

Then, years later, Professor Edward Said, who had first joined Columbia’s faculty in the 1960’s (and who passed away in 2003), made his mark on the world of Middle East (ie Israel-Arab) politics (see Daniel Pipes at, and Columbia University was no longer so rosy.

My sister had a friend, an Iranian lady, who used to say of the then Shah of Iran, ‘that guy’, with effervescent vocal venom. Now, Iran is about to land on that beautiful Morningside Heights campus, and bucolic is about to become bulimic.

Who needs this effrontery? One commentator from the University said something about the pursuit of intellectual dialogue. Malcolm X at Oxford University I could understand (not that I agree with Malcolm X), but not this.

The last time I remember hearing ‘intellectual pursuit’ mentioned as justification was during a TV interview concerning America’s development and use of the ‘atomic bombs’ used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the close of the Second World War in the Pacific. The Manhattan Project staff, it was sad, wanted to know if the development of such a bomb was possible, ‘out of intellectual curiosity’ (or similar words). The project’s scientific leader, J. Robert Oppenheimer, however, eventually stated that the use of such a device was ‘implicit’ in its development (Columbia University, by the way, played a role in the Manhattan Project).

Now we have more intellectual curiosity. I’m not anti-intellectual – I’m no Nazi – however, I do have a tendency of drawing the line. There are limits.

It’s my unqualified opinion, offered as one of the slated-for-death targets of Columbia University’s invited guest from Iran, that its head of state, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has no business being provided with a platform, anywhere in the free world, from which he may espouse his hatred and calls for annihilation. As far as I’m concerned, he does not have that right, and Columbia University in the City of New York should know better.

Death of the Silent Jew
by: Schvach Yid

Baruch Dayan haEmet.

I’ve just learned about the death of Marcel Marceau, at age 84, yesterday, Yom Kippur.

Marceau was best known for his theatrical work as a mime artist. He was born Jewish, was forced into hiding during ‘the War’, and emerged from the protective arms of the French Catholic Church safe, sound, and a bit less Jewish, according to his statements made at a National Press Club luncheon, where he appeared, with functional vocal cords, as the honored guest on several occasions.

I included a brief bio about this favored son of Judaism in one of my earlier blogs dated May 8, 2007 titled The G Word; here’s the link:

And thanks to Yisrael Medad of Arutz Sheva for posting this bit of news; here’s the link:

A more complete article was offered by BBC News at:
complete with a link to photos of the artist in performance at .

Here is a link an account of Marceau’s experiences under the Nazis from The Canadian Press, at

May he rest in peace.

Photo credit: BBC News

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jew On Jew – Part 3
by: Schvach Yid

The third installment of Todd Schechter’s 6-part video series, found at his web site Jewish Reconnection Project, and titled Jewish Enough? – Secular vs Religious, is now posted.
Here’s the link:

Here’s what Todd has to say about his project:

About the Jewish Reconnection Project

The Jewish Reconnection Project is a web video series that features dialogues between a group of Jews in New York and in Jerusalem. The ultimate aim of the series is to showcase the diverse individual perspectives that populate the global Jewish community and to encourage further conversations. More about the project here.

Kosher Fress
by: Schvach Yid

Batya, of Arutz Sheva fame, as well as author of several blog sites, has emailed a link to The 22nd Kosher Cooking Carnival which, she reports, 'is full of a great variety of kosher recipes, cooking advice and more'. Here’s the link:

Here are links to Batya’s various web sites:

Small Items Administration
by: Schvach Yid

Lousy Jokes Department:

No, this is not a take-off from MAD Magazine. This is exactly the stuff I can’t stand, so I just have to share it with everyone. It was delivered via email. Hold your nose – I think it stinks!

One day, a kindergarten teacher said to the class of 5-year-olds, "I'll give $2 to the child who can tell me who the most famous man who ever lived was." An Irish boy put his hand up and said, "It was St. Patrick." The teacher said, "Sorry Sean, that's not correct."

Then a Scottish boy put his hand up and said, "It was St. Andrew." The teacher replied, "I'm sorry, Hamish, that's not right either."

Finally, a Jewish boy raised his hand and said, "It was Jesus Christ." The teacher said, "That's absolutely right, Marvin, come up here and I'll give you the $2."
As the teacher was giving Marvin his money, she said, "You know, Marvin, since you're Jewish, I was very surprised that you said Jesus Christ."

Marvin replied, "Yeah. In my heart I knew it was Moses, but business is business!"

Kol HaKavod Department – Almost:

Here’s a link to a well deserved tribute to the Queens of Judaism who serve in the IDF. Regrettably, the various links on this web page, as well as some of the pic of IDF soldiers, belie the true intent of the webpage, but still, our women (and men) in uniform deserve all the recognition we can muster.

Here’s the link:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A ‘Jewish Nazi’ is a Moronic Ox
by: Schvach Yid

Have you heard/read the news about the young Russian olim who have been taken into police custody in Israel on suspicion of belonging to a neo-nazi organization? They have been charged with racially-motivated aggravated assault. How can a Jewish Nazi even exist? The two, Jew and Nazi, are mutually exclusive. I don’t get it. This is not Jewish.

This is not a nice subject to dwell on, so I won’t . The Israeli government should know just how to deal with this sort, but given the current administration of Israel, I wouldn’t place any bets.

Here, however, is a photo of one of the apprehended and charged ambitious lads. One might title this pic ‘The Face of Pride’. Nicht fűr die kinder.

(The very prominent tattoo on the culprit’s forearm is also un-Jewish, as stated in Parshos Kedoshim, (Leviticus 19:28); here’s Rashi’s commentary on the matter (my apologies to all tattooed Yiddin who read this blog):

etch a tattoo. Heb. קַעְקַע וּכְתֹבֶת, an inscription etched (מְחֻקֶּה) and sunken (שָׁקוּע), never to be erased, for one etches it with a needle, and it remains permanently black. etched. Heb. קַעְקַע. Similar to the expression [found in the verses], “and hang (וְהוֹקַע) them” [lit., “and sink them”] (Num. 25:4), and, “and we will hang them (וְהוֹקַעְנוּם) ” [lit., “and we will sink them”] (II Sam. 21:6). They would thrust a pole into the ground, and hang the [guilty people] on it; in this way, [the ones hanged would appear as if] inserted and thrust into the ground [and thus the word קַעְקַע denoting “etched in and sunken” into the skin]; porpoynt in Old French [according to Greenberg, porpoint according to Gukovitzki].

Here’s the link:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Shana Tova Tikateivu

To all the readers of my blog site, I wish you all Shana Tova. May you and your families enjoy peace, success, and happiness throughout the coming year; may you know only good things, and may you ‘live long and prosper’.

photo credit: Tamar Yonah, Arutz Sheva

Sunday, September 09, 2007

by: Schvach Yid

Luciano Pavarotti, the great operatic tenor, died last week. He wasn’t Jewish, and this is a Jewish blog site, so what gives? Well, lots of Jews like/liked his work (thank Gd for audio and video recordings). My maternal Oma (grandmother) was among them.

The great caricature artist Al Hirschfeld, who was Jewish, died in 2003 (age 99 years). He was renowned for his rapidograph-like portraitures of the rich and famous which, I suppose, are known to just about everyone. A biographical piece about this artist was written by Andrea Sachs for Time Magazine in 2002 and can be accessed online at:,9171,1101020121-193543,00.html.

Hirschfeld honored Luciano Pavarotti with his schematic renderings on more than one occasion, and so, in tribute to them both, here is one of those depictions by Mr. Hirschfeld, a tribute by a great fine artist to a great performing artist.

(My apologies to the readers of this blog for the error I made in the now-deleted predecessor to this blog titled The Jew As Artist.)

Pavarotti with friends:

Al Hirschfeld:

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Herrrrrre's Yourish
by: Schvach Yid

If you’re not already familiar with Meryl Yourish’s blog site at, then here’s a good reason to become introduced to it. She’s just posted a blog about a New York Times review of Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s weigh-in on the ‘great Israel cook-off’ (with Israel on the ‘barbee’, of course). Here’s the link to Wm. Grimes book review at the NYT:


and here’s the piece; judge for yourselves: (it’s CNN’s ‘diamonds and schmooze’ accusation all over again):

A Prosecutorial Brief Against Israel and Its Supporters


Published: September 6, 2007

“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” arrives carrying heavy baggage. John J. Mearsheimer, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, and Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, set off a furor last year by arguing, in an article that appeared in The London Review of Books, that uncritical American support for Israel, shaped by powerful lobbying organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, does grave harm to both American and Israeli interests.

A bitter debate has raged ever since, with accusations of anti-Semitism leveled by, among others, Alan M. Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor, and Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, one of the principal lobbying organizations taken to task by Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt.

“The Israel Lobby,” an extended, more fully argued version of the London Review article, has done nothing to calm the waters. The authors have been barred from making appearances by at least one university and several cultural centers to discuss their subject, and continue to reap a whirlwind of criticism and abuse. If they were looking for a fight, they have found it.

Slowly, deliberately and dispassionately Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt lay out the case for a ruthlessly realistic Middle East policy that would make Israel nothing more than one of many countries in the region. On those occasions when Israel’s interests coincide with America’s, it should count on American support, but otherwise not. What Americans fail to understand, the authors argue, is that most of the time the two countries’ interests are opposed.

The reason they do not realize this, Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt insist, can be explained quite simply: The Israel lobby makes sure of it. Working closely with members of Congress, public-policy organizations and journals of opinion, energetic, well-financed groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee, along with dozens of political-action committees, perpetuate the myth, as the authors see it, of Israel as an isolated, beleaguered state surrounded by enemies and in need of America’s unstinting financial and military support.

This lobby is particularly adept at stifling debate before it begins, the authors argue. “Whether the issue is abortion, arms control, affirmative action, gay rights, the environment, trade policy, health care, immigration or welfare, there is almost always a lively debate on Capitol Hill,” they write. “But where Israel is concerned, potential critics fall silent and there is hardly any debate at all.”

There is nothing underhanded or devious about this, the authors say. Like the National Rifle Association or the AARP, the Israel lobby relies on the traditional political weapons available to any special-interest group in pressing its agenda. It just happens to be unusually skillful and effective.

“It is simply a powerful interest group, made up of both Jews and gentiles, whose acknowledged purpose is to press Israel’s case within the United States and influence American foreign policy in ways that its members believe will benefit the Jewish state,” they write.

The problem, Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt argue, is that Israel has become a strategic liability with the end of the cold war and a moral pariah in its dealings with the Palestinians and, most recently, the Lebanese. Uncritical American support for its closest Middle East ally has damaged American credibility in the Arab world, encouraged terrorism, stymied the search for a solution to the Palestinian problem, and in every way made America’s international position weaker and more dangerous.

Coolly, not to say coldly, Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt mount a prosecutorial brief against Israel’s foreign and domestic policies, and against the state of Israel itself. They describe a virtual rogue state, empowered by American wealth and might, that blocks peace at every turn, threatens its cowering neighbors with impunity, crushes the national aspirations of the Palestinians and, whenever the opportunity arises, bites the hand that feeds it.

Working tirelessly in the background is the Israel lobby, playing Iago to America’s Othello, leading president after president down ever more dangerous paths. Without intense pressure from the Israel lobby, the authors argue, America would not have undertaken the war in Iraq.

Most American readers will bristle at the authors’ characterization of Israel. This is to be expected, Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt argue, because of the completely false image of Israel and its history that has been manufactured by the Israel lobby. As a result, Americans completely misinterpret the Palestinian issue and fail to support a productive policy that would tilt away from Israel and toward the Palestinians.

The authors state, on several occasions, their belief that Israel has a moral and legal right to exist, but the effect of their book is to leave it dangling by a moral and strategic thread. In essence they call for the United States to cut Israel loose, to return more or less to American policy before the 1967 war, when the United States tried to occupy a middle ground between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Strangely, the authors do not itemize the fabulous benefits delivered by this approach in the 1950s and ’60s.

It is a little odd that so chilly a book should generate such heat. Most of Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt’s arguments are familiar ones, and it is hardly inflammatory to point out that the major Jewish organizations tend to take a much tougher line on, say, a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem, the Iraq war or settlements in the West Bank, than most American Jews favor. The writers stand on eminently defensible ground when they argue for a more constructive, creative American role in peace talks.

The general tone of hostility to Israel grates on the nerves, however, along with an unignorable impression that hardheaded political realism can be subject to its own peculiar fantasies. Israel is not simply one country among many, for example, just as Britain is not. Americans feel strong ties of history, religion, culture and, yes, sentiment, that the authors recognize, but only in an airy, abstract way.

They also seem to feel that, with Israel and its lobby pushed to the side, the desert will bloom with flowers. A peace deal with Syria would surely follow, with a resultant end to hostile activity by Hezbollah and Hamas. Next would come a Palestinian state, depriving Al Qaeda of its principal recruiting tool. (The authors wave away the idea that Islamic terrorism thrives for other reasons.) Well, yes, Iran does seem to be a problem, but the authors argue that no one should be particularly bothered by an Iran with nuclear weapons. And on and on.

“It is time,” Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt write, “for the United States to treat Israel not as a special case but as a normal state, and to deal with it much as it deals with any other country.” But it’s not. And America won’t. That’s realism.

Jew On Jew
by: Schvach Yid

I just received an email from Todd Schechter, producer of a web-only miniseries called The Jewish Reconnection Project. Here’s what Todd wrote:

It shows young Jews in New York and Jerusalem talking to each other and sharing how their Judaism affects their lives. It’s meant to give viewers a sense of the diversity of Jews around the world and to let college age people express their own ideas about Judaism. Ultimately, we hope that helping disparate groups of Jews understand each other will make for a stronger, healthier Jewish community. New episodes will come out every Wednesday for the next six weeks.

Sounds good to me!

Here’s the YouTube link:

Enjoy reconnecting!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Olmert Unbound
by Schvach Yid

At last, finally, I’ve figured it out. Thanks to an article posted on Arutz Sheva, I have at last reasoned the solution to this most perplexing problem, namely, the odd policies of Israel’s current administration. My mind is not always crisp, certainly not on matters concerning international relations, but I am convinced that now I have it.

Ehud Olmert misses the days of the Yishuv. Forget that he was only 3 years old when Israel declared its independence. He wants back to the ‘good old days’: checkpoints – for Jews; weapons searches – of Jews; population relocations – of Jews. That’s the spirit. Ehud Olmert really wants to be British.

I’m so relieved.

I thought it might have been something other than this narcissistic wannabe nonsense. Now I can fathom why the political leader of the Jewish state would do all those lousy things to his people. He wants to turn back the clock and start from scratch. Push the reset button. Perhaps he views the Jews of Israel as a population of Joseph Trumpeldors – ‘it’s good to die for your country’.

The Palestinians of course, also want to push the reset button. They want to undo 1967 and Olmert is all too happy to oblige. If Olmert thinks he can undo Israel’s impending mistake, then he’s sorely mistaken. The Arabs are no longer a military pushover. One may think Olmert learned this lesson last summer; evidently, he hasn’t. Once YESHA is gone, it’ll be gone, and given the unending assertions of the Palestinians and the Arab nations, so too will all of Israel (the Arabs assert Israel is Palestine – remember?).

Perhaps the good people of Israel – I mean the Jews of Israel – might consider electing a new government. I know it’s not simple, and I know I know nothing of Israel’s parliamentary system of government. But c’mon, my favorite holiday of the year is Bastille Day, so ‘aux barricades’, if he’s really intent on giving away YESHA. If it works for the Palestinians in getting a wall moved (this was just a test case; there’s much, much more on the way; you know, all of Israel), then the Yiddin of Israel (and not just small isolated communities on the West Bank) need more than just an argument. Perhaps they should follow by example. It seems to work.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Here’s My Take
by: Schvach Yid

It seems that commentaries and opinions continue to grace the Jewish contribution to the internet about CNN’s recent 6-hour ditty on the Middle EastGd’s Warriors. I have an opinion too, so here it is.

I thought Ms. Amanpour's 3-part ditty was fairly boring stuff. Most of it seemed like a rehash of old headlines interspersed with her commentaries. Big deal. The Middle East is about religion; everyone has a religion, and no one is objective about his/her religious identity. The old canards are still applied, and after 1500 years they are not about to resolve. Rather than constituting the current day's content of political debate, I think her recent CNN presentation is the stuff of refuse.

Not that Christiane Amanpour doesn’t know what she’s doing ; she knows exactly what she’s doing, and so should we. She's expressing her opinions. I too have opinions, about which I freely blog. If you don’t like to read my opinions, well shucks, you should only hear me voice them – I can hardly stand the sound of my own voice on these issues.

So, since I’m not objective about my religious identity, or my religious beliefs (I would never make such an accusation about Ms. Amanpour; I’ve never even met her), who am I to make accusations, but as I’ve stated above, who possesses objectivity about this absolutely personal subject (it’s almost like discussing one’s sex life)?

So we resort to the political side of religion when we bring that delicate subject into the realm of public intercourse. So politically, what do I like about my religion, Judaism?

First and foremost, Judaism is not political (don’t you just love it? I do!). I think this may be the reason we don’t do politics very well. A wannabe Moslem with whom I used to be acquainted (a guy who started out life as Christian but changed to Islam – it was all about melanin) intoned in a rather public place that ‘Islam is very political’. Okay, I accept his pronouncement. I think the Arabs do politics rather well. By contrast, I think we Jews are not very adept at it, to our absolute disadvantage. Why? Because Judaism is not about politics, pure and simple.

Secondly, Judaism places no demands on non-Jews. We don’t proselytize. We Jews have asked the non-Jewish world for only three provisions. One: stop murdering us. Two: accept us an individually constituted group, ie, don’t try to convert us or change us in any way. I think the world in general calls this respect. In other words world, please respect us. Three: we’ve asked for that geographic cuticle that rims a portion of the eastern-most lip of the Mediterranean. It’s not much land, and anyone who possesses any objectivity about the matter will readily accede to the fact that it is Jewish land – all of it, right up to the Jordan River (that’s not much land folks). If you’re into displacement theology (I know, I know, it’s really called ‘Replacement Theology’, but this excludes the Moslems) then go back to number 2.

Thirdly, I like the Hebrew Bible – Tanakh. Gd speaks in the Hebrew Bible, and I mean in quotation marks (according to the English translations). In that fine work of revelatory insistence, Gd tells me, and all other Jews, how to live our lives. He makes us decent, and not political, and it’s for us, the Jews, because Gd says so. What more could I possibly want? So many people run after us, demanding to dislodge and displace us. There must be a good reason, and there is. They know, and we know, that the Hebrew Bible is right, and that we Jews are the recipients of HaShem’s revelation. Chauvinistic? Bigoted? No! If you’re Western religious, then you believe in Gd, and Gd said so.

You can now relax about Christiane Amanpour and her remarks about diamonds and schmooze.

Shavuah Tov!