Monday, January 28, 2008

Missing the Boat
by: Schvach Yid

The Chumash, and in fact the entire Tanakh, is filled with violence, especially violence performed or commanded by HaShem. Anyone, rabbinical seminary professor, rabbi, student, or lay person, who has bothered to read the weekly parsha for the entire yearly cycle, knows this.

Judaism is not about peace, nor is it about violence. It’s about living in accordance with Gd’s commandments as given in Torah. As any good New Yorker will tell you, one has to ‘do what you gotta do’. In the case of Judaism, this means living in compliance with Gd’s given commandments. And no, it’s never about interpersonal abuse.

There is an enormous difference between living a life of Torah and mitzvot, and carving out a career as an academic in a nouveau theme-defined school that attempts to meld rabbinics and academics by abandoning tradition and advocating concocted social/political policies.

It appears that those in the Jewish community who have chosen to assign to themselves positions of religious leadership and the usurped authority of redefining Jewish life and values have spent their time missing the curb, always landing their misguided strides off target.

As a result, after more than a century and a half of these poorly directed ambitions by the ‘sub-Orthodox’ movements of Judaism, we of the Jewish community are in the sad state of having to describe ourselves as ‘Jewish communities’, with nary any agreement between Orthodox Jews and ‘all other’ Jews, not to mention the often times overt animus expressed by followers of one strain of Judaism toward the others.

As substitutes for Jewish Orthodoxy that have attempted to retain Jews who are insistent on the pursuit of non-Jewish lives, and who in fact have little use for Judaism, these organizational proxies for Orthodox Judaism have largely failed.

I think politics has a poor place in Judaism. Regrettably, politics is forced on Jews as a national entity, but as religious life it just doesn’t belong. To invent a Jewish organization that purports to constitute a ‘movement’ of Judaism, thus recruiting organizational fealty from Jews and redefining Jewish identity for its adherents, and that replaces the traditional teachings and emunah of Judaism with politics and social activism on behalf of ‘greater causes’, has been self destructive.

The Jew who is sufficiently distracted in his life as a Jew with world over population and his own ‘carbon footprint’ to the elimination of a life of Torah hasn’t redefined Jewish values at all. This individual has simply left (get it?) Judaism.

I once heard a Conservative Movement rabbi declare in his sermon, ‘Judaism is the pursuit of the good life’. Lousy salesman.

All this critique is intended as a response to the kvetch of a rabbinic student at the Reform Movement seminary HUC, as posted on Seraphic Secret at:

No offense is intended, certainly not Leshon Hara, but the fact is the Reform Movement of Judaism is lost. They evidently want to be Jewish without being Jewish - not too Jewish, but instead not Jewish at all - but they still insist on clinging onto the identity, as though the identity alone, devoid of the substance of a life of Torah and mitzvot, confers personal value. That just isn’t so.

Judaism is about neither liberal politics, nor conservative politics. Judaism is not about politics. HaShem didn’t appear to us at Mount Sinai and say: ‘Here’s my platform, vote for me’. Were our antecedents commanded to schech rachmonas on the poor slain Egyptians?

What was Joshua commanded to do upon entering the ‘Promised Land’? Go ahead and chaptzem read, there’s nothing nice about it, and yet we are commanded to provide for the stranger among us.

These things we do because they are mitzvot, not because they feel good, and certainly not because they provide the ambitious individual Jew with a career niche. I wish this HUC rabbinical candidate all the best in his life’s pursuits. I think the Reform movement, and the professor he described, have gotten it all wrong.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Behold, Neither Slumbers Nor Sleeps…
by: Schvach Yid

…the guardian of Israel; this we daven in Psalm 121. There are often times when we see proof positive of this maxim of Jewish belief.

Yesterday, Soccer Dad posted Haveil Havalim #150, and in doing so awarded the Post of the Week to My Shrapnel, the blog site of Gila Weiss, an olah from the United States who suffered injury in a terrorist bombing attack in Jerusalem in 2002.

Here’s what she writes as her side bar ‘message’:

I am, of course, neither sad, nor heroic nor particularly victimized. What I am is an "ordinary Joe" who was seriously injured six years ago in a suicide bombing while waiting for a bus at the Machane Yehuda open air market in Jerusalem.

Ever since I learned how to write, writing has served as a sort of therapy for me. In the months and years after the bombing, I did an enormous amount of writing. What I was thinking. What I was feeling. How the world reacted to me. How my bombed-out self reacted to the world. Some of the articles were sent to friends and relatives via email lists. Many more of them just sat on my computer. I always meant to do something with them.

Of course, I never got around to it.

This year, I promised myself that I would, at last do something. And since blogging is the best way to do something without having to do all that much (no publishers, no rejections, no work apart from editing), I decided that this was the way to go.

Please comment. I am putting these out so that people will read them. Let me know that you are reading.


You know the old cliche, 'words alone cannot express..' Well, I am at a loss to express my gratitude for the heroics of this heroine of Zion. To read her blogs is something akin to watching a remake of the old flick Fantastic Voyage, but this time viewing the horror experienced by a target of a terrorist’s bombing. She’s stoic, but at the same time candid and sharing, evidently extending her concern for others who have perished in similar atrocities or for those who might unwittingly fall victim, as she did.

On line, we are favored to learn about the life events of others, some of who share their naches, while others choose to share their experiences with the other side of what life can, and all too often does, dole out. Gila manages to combine the two, by providing a paradoxically positive reflection of this event, which was momentary in its execution and yet life long in its impact, and on her devoted attachment to her Jewish identity.

She provides a superb reputation to the efforts of personal introspection.

My many thanks are extended to her. Baruch HaShem she has succeeded where her attacker failed, and may she know only joy, success, and brachot in the Jewish Homeland.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Descent of an Honored Reputation
by: Schvach Yid

As a youngster, and for that matter as a young adult, I was one of those higher education ‘worshipping’ (not literally) kind of guys. I thought the university scene was the cat’s meow. As a native New Yorker I would regularly take the subway to the Morningside Heights campus of Columbia University and amble around, taking in the sights. I considered myself apolitical and socially liberal. I wasn’t religious (sorry), I never participated in a political or social public demonstration, I never thought about the Jewish prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union (sorry), and as for Nathan Sharansky - ? Back then, Rabbi Meir Kahane was not among my favorite personalities.

As I grew older and accumulated both lousy life experiences and increasing amounts of adipose, my view of life soured and changed profoundly.

In retrospect I’m grateful I can claim to never have been one of those Yiddin who took the bait set out by the Buddhists and Hindus. For the most part, I shrugged off John Lennon’s music on the one side, and Orthodox Judaism on the other.

I’ve spent a fair amount of attention alternating between laughing at those Jews turned JuBu or HindJu and lamenting their averos.

Today, I’m pissed.

In recent posts by Rabbi Avi Shafran for Arutz Sheva, and by Little Green Footballs, the fifth grandson of the late, great promulgator of non-violent protest and world peace, Arun Ghandi, has shone a new light on just where we Jews stand as members of humanity, and just in time for the annual commemoration of one of Mahatma Ghandi’s great disciples, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Arun Ghandi’s analysis of the Jews’ ‘condition’ in the world is neither flattering to us, nor correct, and as a blood line descendent and spiritual disciple of his grandfather, Mahatma Ghandi, Arun Ghandi should know better, except for the opinion of his esteemed grandfather regarding us Jews, according to Rabbi Shafran’s article. Arun Ghandi’s opinion concerning Israel, the Palestinian Arabs, the Holocaust, and various other matters Jewish, can be viewed at: He is president and co-founder of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, now at the
University of Rochester in New York.

Here’s a sample of his ‘informed wisdom’:The Jewish identity in the future appears bleak. Any nation that remains anchored to the past is unable to move ahead and, especially a nation that believes its survival can only be ensured by weapons and bombs.

He wants us to lay down and die. Maybe Ehud Olmert would like to appoint him to his cabinet. Sorry Arun, Judaism forbids suicide; in the Jewish community, stupidity might be considered a capital offense (not Halacha).

As for the Jewish Nation's anchored in the past, what can one say? Tanach! Perhaps Arun Ghandi calls our Torah the 'Old Testament'. Perhaps he'd prefer a shortened version of some of HaShem's commandments to us, you know, like the PesachHagaddah: 'in every generation you will regard yourselves as though you personally were taken out of Egypt'.

Judaism is all about our Jewish past as applied to our current lives, as in HaShem's revelation to us at Mt. Sinai. In Judaism, the past is present for indeed, in every generation, they have risen, and continue to rise up, against us.

Mr. Arun Ghandi, say Hari Krishna!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

…Now Go And Learn!
by: Schvach Yid

If you have an appetite for a nice dvar Torah, try two postings at A Simple Jew. The first is found at:, which deals with the difficult topic of teaching children painful lessons from the Chumash (Teaching Sensitive Topics In Chumash) while the second, which was first posted as a comment to the above entry and then reposted as a separate blog, is found at:

Yasher koach to both Dixie Yid and Gandalin on their insightful shiurim.

For another lesson on the topic of teaching children (what the Alter Rebbe, Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Lubavitch, call Chinuch HaKatan), just tune into

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Nicht Fűr derJuden
by: Schvach Yid

Once again Yo, Yenta! has pointed my nose to the worthier side of Jewish jibe, at This bit is about a Jewish NASCAR race driver, a native of New Jersey, who for some as yet undisclosed reason has strayed into the very un-Jewish world of professional car racing (why doesn’t he just don a blindfold and go swimming with alligators?).

Here in America’s Bible Belt, where I reside, NASCAR is godliness; no self-respecting Southerner (I’m talking about the Caucasian variety folks) dares to stray away from it, but even among long time Jews of the ‘genteel’ South, nary a Yid flips the tube to car racing. It just isn’t us (I’m a native New Yorker).

Enter young (20 years old) Jon Denning (not a Jewish name) who, as a child, got ‘infected’ with the car racing bug. But not all is placid for the Jew in this very non-Jewish sport, having been counseled by his Southern Baptist racing associates: ‘Your luck would be better if you came to Jesus," he said associates told him, suggesting that blown-out engines, flat tires and other failures would disappear once he converted’ [to Christianity].

Gevalt; for this his parents raised him? Well, cheer up folks. Having won 7 races, and ranked 498 in the top 500 among NASCAR racers, and having also suffered the slings and arrows of peer exclusion, Mr. Denning is now investigating a possible career in investments. Bravo!

I’d feel better about all this had the bocher done professional skiing instead.

You can read about him at:

Talk about Jews in sports, do you think NASCAR shuts down for the Jewish High Holy Days (and when is the NASCAR racing season, anyway)?

Here are links to two Jewish sports legends who did:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why Judaism is Important – Part Three (I Think)
by: Schvach Yid

So what’s with the blood and violence already? Is this the stuff of which Islam is made? And it’s arrived in the USA, in my beloved (but abandoned) home of New York no less. Schrecklich!

It’s call Ashura, and it’s supposed to be a Moslem commemoration of the Battle of Kerbala. Have a read at: Did you know that ‘every day is Ashura and every land is Kerbala’? Lovely!

The historical event took place in Iraq, not on the Arabian Peninsula, so what gives? Well, the hero of the day was a grandson of Islam’s prophet, so…

If you want to see some photos of the faithful celebrants, just go to the Atlas Shrugs blog site at:

Alright, call me a bigot, but in actual fact I’m just an aesthete. There’s nothing esthetically (or spiritually) appealing about this display of rabble. The New York contingent appears less self abusive than does its peers in the Middle East, but His Honor’s office and the NYPD may be behind that. By the way, what ever happened to modesty?

And talk about rabble, isn’t there a Chassidic saying that if one comes upon a gathering of people running together in frenzied mode, make certain you run in the opposite direction? It sounds like good advice to me.

And I thought my beloved home of New York was all about museums, music, the university scene, and a jumpin’ Jewish community - you know, kosher delis. I’ve been gone a long time, it seems.

For some more Moslem blood and guts, tune into an interview with one of the men who makes it happen; one of Islam’s official executioners. No syringe with death juice here folks. No sirree Bob! It’s the whirling edge of a finely honed (they hope and pray) sword. Catch it here at:; The article includes a photo of the gent seated with a nice glassala tea.

Here it is again:

“It doesn’t matter to me: Two, four, 10 — As long as I’m doing God’s will, it doesn’t matter how many people I execute,” he told Okaz newspaper in an interview.

'Mr Beshi said his sword was a gift from the government.'

This isn’t the stuff of ‘extremists’ jadies and jents. This is normative Islam.

And what of Judaism? The Talmud states that a rabbinical court that imposes the death penalty more than once every fifty years is a cruel court and should be disbanded.

Thank Gd I’m Jewish and living in a free society. With the Aybischter's help, our society will remain free.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Odd Man Out
by: Schvach Yid

My paranoia is an old story – I just ignore it, despite the fact that it fuels my perspective on life.

When I was a child attending elementary school, the kids in the first through third grades wore red neckties to Assembly, while those in grades four through six wore blue. Needless to say, we in the ‘lower classes’ aspired to wear blue neckties.

So here, courtesy of the on-line edition of BBC News, is the odd man out (Tzipi Livni, eat your heart out):

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Like, I Love It, Know What I’m Sayin’
by: Schvach Yid

My high regard for the late physicist Richard Feynman aside, Tibetan throat singing has met its match (I think). This month’s edition of Hadassah Magazine, as well as the December 21st issue of The New York Jewish Week, has run a feature article on the ‘Mountain Jews’, or ‘Gorski (Mountain) Jews’, formerly of the Caucasus Mountains of Central Asia, and now residing as small communities in Israel, Brooklyn NY, Detroit, and Pennsylvania. The Brooklyn-based community has a small synagogue, established in 2001, located on Ocean Parkway, The Kavkazi (Caucasus) Jewish Congregation, or Beit Knesset Ohr HaMizrah.

A nice You Tube spiel of the community’s music can be accessed at:

Thursday, January 03, 2008

‘Teach Them Well’
by: Schvach Yid

I think this phrase is from the Crosby, Stills, and Nash ditty Teach Your Children.

At any rate, this year’s crop of Jewish Rhodes Scholarship winners numbers seven, according to the e-Jewish web site, at:

The Rhodes Scholarship was founded by the British-turned-African explorer and entrepreneur Cecil B. Rhodes, who not only managed to get an entire African country named in his honor by his fellow British – Rhodesia (but since renamed Zimbabwe by the region’s post-colonial Africans), but who additionally piled an enormous fortune courtesy of his South African-based diamond mining and marketing monopoly, DeBeers Consolidated Mines, Ltd.

It might interest the reader to know that Rhodes’ financial empire acquired its name, DeBeers,as a gesture of triumph, or rather ridicule - the valuable diamond mining property having been purchased for a pittance from an unsuspecting South African Boer farmer named DeBeers. Little did he suspect.

Philanthropy has a treasured time-honored tradition in the Jewish world. It’s the Jewish secular analog of tzedakah. Remember that Alfred Nobel applied his financial fortune, amassed from the manufacture and sale of his invention, dynamite, to establish the highly coveted Nobel Prize.

In the Jewish world, the tradition lives on. Cecil B. Rhodes’ diamond monopoly has been disjoined by our very own Lev Leviev, formerly of Bukharia (Uzbekistan), now of Israel and a generous contirbutor to Jewish causes, and additionally we Jews rack up Rhodes Scholarships.

There are complaints about Jewish worldly success. If you’re interested one can be accessed at: Sour grapes!

Thanks to Atlas Shrugs for the link (by the way, the Altas Shrugs blog site reached 5,000,000 hits today, and already there has been an increase of over 100,000 hits - unberufen).

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Other End of the Spectrum
by: Schvach Yid

I have never been able to understand the role of psychopathy as an integral component of a religion, let alone as the virtual identity of one; yet, repeated stories in the media about Islam’s apparent penchant for religious mandated killing has led me (and I assume many others) to this conclusion.

Pamela Geller, author and Meisterin of her blog site Atlas Shrugs, has favored her readership with two news reviews on this very subject.

Firstly, a presumed ‘honor’ killing by a Moslem dad, in Texas, at:

Judaism is not entirely guiltless where filicide is concerned. The bit in the Book of Judges about Yiftach’s (Japhet in English) sacrifice of his daughter immediately comes to mind, but this sad event was not doled out as a punishment to the maiden.

Secondly, an interview conducted in 2006 on Lebanon’s LBC TV of a Saudi government-appointed Islamic executioner, at:

What can I say? The guy’s evidently a professional, and his eldest son is warming up in the bullpen.

And the Talmud? ‘A rabbinical court that imposes the death penalty more than once in a fifty year period is a cruel court, and should be disbanded’ (translated quote approximate).

The Jewish State of Israel has carried out a grand total of one execution since the State’s founding in 1948.

Thank Gd for Judaism.

The Holy Society
By: Schvach Yid

In Hebrew, it’s Chevra Kadisha; the communal Jewish group or organization that provides for the dead. This is yet another reason I’m proud of Judaism.

The site includes a list of links to related articles about Judaism’s care for, and treatment of, our dead, as well as links to library resources on this subject.

EKS Publishing Company has two brief publications on death and mourning in Judaism and the work of the Chevra Kadisha, which can be found on-line at:

So It’s Peace They Want - Huh?
by: Schvach Yid

Here’s a piece of news, courtesy of Haaretz, at:

A Jew is not allowed to pray in any overt manner whatsoever on the Temple Mount, even if he is just moving his lips in prayer, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter recently wrote MKs Uri Ariel and Aryeh Eldad (National Union-NRP).

The article continues: It is not possible to arrest a person for 'conversing with his maker,'" Dichter replied, using the same terminology of the MKs' letter. "However it is possible to carry out an arrest for expressions of outward and demonstrative signs [of prayer]."

Here's more from Hillel Fendel of Arutz Sheva:

Here’s a sarcastic take on this bit of news from Steven Plaut of Arutz Sheva:

Pete Seger, where are you: ‘This land is my land, this land is your land…’ America does Manifest Destiny, but Israel, for you…

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

HaKol Lo Tov
by: Schvach Yid

The December 21, 2007 edition of The New York Jewish Week ran two articles about a big Schrei over a case of racial discrimination involving four young Israeli/Ethiopian students in attendance at an Israeli elementary school. Here are the links:
Joshua Mitnick

Batya Eyob

Regrettably, I have no difficulty in believing this account of discrimination against Ethiopian Israelis. We certainly have read, in the on-line news media, about similar discrimination against Sephardim in the yeshiva world (see Tali Farkash’s article for Ynet, at:,7340,L-3389823,00.html).

In Israel, I had a significant experience with this same social phenomenon.

In the mid 1980’s, I stayed on a kibbutz in the Galilee, located ‘down the road apiece’ from a building facility that was adapted for use as a merkaz klitah – absorption center – for Ethiopian olim (immigrants) newly arrived to Israel.

Parenthetically, I might state that it has been a long standing practice of Israel’s Jewish Agency for Immigration and Absorption to provide housing and ulpanim (Hebrew language classes) for large groups of new immigrants according to nationality and native language, I suppose with the aim of easing the emotional stress that can occur as a result of linguistic and social isolation.

Well, on the grounds of this facility was an outdoor swimming pool – mmmm – a very nice one, I might add, enclosed by a high wire fence.

Although the pool was a part of the merkaz klitah, the pool was made available to the kibbutz. It was a favored hangout for the kibbutz volunteers, most of whom were of college age and from Europe.

One fine day I decided to take a swim. When I arrived at the pool I was greeted by the sight of young Black children standing outside the encircling fence, fingers clutching through the wire, watching a Whites only population of kibbutz members and volunteers enjoying the pool.

I asked one of the Israelis. ‘The health department hasn’t cleared them yet; they might have skin diseases so they’re not allowed in the water’.

The only skin ‘disease’ I could discern was cutaneous hypermelanosis – no problem at all, and certainly not a disease.

Those kids were Jews, in Israel, but I guess they were considered not quite up to snuff as Yiddin. If you think the answer I received to my question was intended as sarcasm, forget it. My later inquiries concerning the matter evoked the same answer. There wasn’t a word about swimming ability or pool safety (no lifeguard was present).

The kibbutz was secular, but I was a member of a Conservative Movement group staying on that kibbutz. We too were segregated, as members of a garin. We, unlike the kibbutz members, kept kosher. We were also somewhat more accepting of ‘others’, since we too were ‘other’.

Nu? We decided to invite small groups of Ethiopian olim from ‘down the road’ to dine kosher with us. The Ethiopian men arrived wearing kippot. But we dined in the kibbutz chadar ochal (dining hall) with everyone else. Everyone else wasn’t so pleased with our garin’s guests.

After a couple of these dinner soirées, the kibbutz decided to pull the plug.

It wasn’t long after that the merkaz klitah down the road apiece was shut down. The ‘skin diseased’ Ethiopian olim were moved to other digs somewhere else in Israel.

The obvious racism was, well, obvious, but there was another aspect.

You’re right if you think the above related tale sounds like America in the ‘old days’. Israel has the habit of emulating America, and I mean all aspects of American culture, whether beneficial of destructive; if America did it, then it must be OK. So goes he thinking in Israel, at least in my experience.

Back on the kibbutz, one of the female kibbutz members, a sabra, attempted to orient the members of our garin to the facts of life in Israel. Her effort wandered to Israel’s disastrous incursion into Lebanon (mid 1980’s).

‘It was our Vietnam War’, she bragged, grinning with apparent pride. That schmuck didn’t understand, all the while presuming expertise. The Vietnam War was a disaster for the United States; who the hell needed it. Today, America is still reeling over it, but the Israelis I encountered (and this woman was no exception) believed that America’s experiences serve as a type of paradigm or stamp of approval, to be freely emulated, regardless of the potential harm that might result.

The practice of group discrimination is indeed harmful to any society. Israel doesn’t need, nor should it want, the attendant headaches.

‘We give them enough; why should they have everything?’, we were told when our garin members verbally protested the treatment doled out to the Ethiopian olim.

Skin diseases; they had to be kidding. I can’t wait for the Ethiopian Jewish festival of Sigd
to role around again.

Shame on us! If there are a people in the world who should know better, it’s us.