Monday, April 30, 2007

Ezzie's JIB Picks III (Best Posts)

Here are I & II.

The main posts voting page is here.

Before I even begin, let me point to one group I've dubbed The Crying Zone. Best Overall Group F has a number of amazing posts that will have you crying your eyes out. It is posts like these that are at the heart of the J-blogosphere.

I'm also flattered and happy to announce that four posts from this blog were nominated - three of them by Pobody's Nerfect and one by me. In Best Overall Group C, Pobody has two nominations: Pobody Ever Needs to be Nerfect and Sensitivities... or the Lack Thereof. Personally, I prefer the latter, but it seems others so far prefer the former. In Best Jewish Religious Group B, my own A Hitch & A Prayer was nominated, but I think Pobody's Metamorphosis of a Teenage Punk is far better. Also, the How I Met Serach series [in the sidebar] was nominated in Best Series Group B.

And now, on to the picks:
Check out the posts and the blogs of the people who wrote them, and of course, don't forget to vote! Enjoy!

Congressional Letter on Bar Exam, Tisha B'av, and Laptops

From Congressional sources -

This letter is about to be sent from all members of the New York Congressional delegation to the New York State Bar Association. Kudos to Reps. Towns and Weiner, in particular, for bringing up an important issue for the many religious Jews who will be at a harsh disadvantage in taking this year's Bar Exam. It will be interesting to see if this forces the Bar to figure out a better solution. Here's what is about to be released:
Congressman Towns and Congressman Weiner Fight for Equitable Bar Exam Conditions for Jewish Examinees
Entire New York Delegation Demands Parity

Brooklyn, NY - Congressman Edolphus "Ed" Towns and Congressman Anthony D. Weiner announced today an effort by the entire New York congressional delegation to ensure that observant Jews are able to take the New York bar exam under equitable conditions. The New York bar exam is scheduled for July 25, 2007, the same date as Tisha B'Av, one of the most solemn days on the Jewish calendar.

Although the New York State Board of Law Examiners is offering the exam on July 26, 2007 for examinees observing Tisha B'Av, examinees on that date are not allowed to take the exam on their laptop computers. Congressman Towns and Congressman Weiner have jointly written a letter to the Board of Law Examiners requesting the board to allow observant examinees to write the exam on their laptop computers. This letter has been signed by the entire New York congressional delegation.

"We commend [the] efforts [of the Board of Law Examiners] to ensure that Jewish examinees are able to take the bar exam on an alternate date. We are concerned, however, that the facility arranged for the alternate date by the New York State Board of Law Examiners is inadequate in so far as it will preclude the use of laptop computers, placing the examinees, who must hand write their exams, at a significant competitive disadvantage. We urge you to reconsider these arrangements. Observant Jewish examinees should not be penalized or placed at a disadvantage for adhering to their religious beliefs," the letter stated.

"I also recognize the continued leadership of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on this issue. Speaker Silver has fought hard in the past to ensure that all people have equal access to standardized tests and is currently working with the Board of Law Examiners on this issue. His successful efforts to rectify this inequality has allowed Jewish examinees to take the bar without sacrificing their faith, as this is not the first time the bar exam conflicts with Tisha B'Av. Most recently, Speaker Silver translated is advocacy into legislation by amending New York State's current religious protection "Equal Access" law to include professional exams, including bar examinees," said Congressman Towns.

"The bar exam is the most important test in the life of future lawyers. I am optimistic that the Board of Law Examiners will remove this obstacle in the path of all of New York's observant examinees," concluded Congressman Towns.

"Making our future lawyers choose between their religion and the bar exam is wrong," said Rep. Weiner. "These students will also be at serious disadvantage without their laptops, and I hope the Board does the right thing and gives them the same playing field as their colleagues."

What Makes People Frum? II

UPDATED: HA! See this post at BeyondBT - Kiruv Models.

I was fascinated - and yet not surprised - by the range of answers people gave in response to the question I asked early last week. A couple of my favorite responses were the ones given by Chardal and Scraps, both of which touch on the incredible process involved. Another friend and blogger touched on this in a conversation: People's own views of what they were looking for change as time passes, as they delve more and more into whatever path they take. But I was most curious as to what people felt was the driving force behind what made people actually become "frum" as opposed to what drives them to search, and I felt that the answer to this was summed up most accurately by (ironically) Jewish Atheist:
Community and/or meaning.
I think that a search for meaning will get people to look, but it's the sense of community - whether the familial aspect of Shabbos or the closeness of Jewish communities or something similar - which truly "makes" people frum. To some extent, the reverse is true as well. A number of people brought up "what makes people stay frum" in the comments. I'm not sure that's the right question. I think people generally are happy and have no reason to leave. It is those who for whatever reason don't feel a part of the community, who aren't comfortable within the community, that feel 'driven away', or at the least, have nothing that they like about Judaism to make them want to stay, so they search for their own meaning and community elsewhere. Theology comes in a distant second to community and happiness.

But again, it's that search for meaning that gets people to look in the first place. Judaism does not claim to have all the answers, but it does offer a very wonderful sense of meaning, a sense of purpose in life for all. It promotes an incredibly moral lifestyle and sense of giving and humility which is attractive to people. There is a focus on the family and community which one doesn't see to the same extent anywhere else. What's so devastating about improperly acting kiruv organizations or cover-ups and the like are how strongly they turn people away in all instances, having taken away that sense of community, that morality, that feeling of caring.

What is most interesting is how some organizations know this... and that's actually what causes them to ruin things. There are those who understand that in the end, it's the community which "gets" people more than the intellectual discussions, even if that's what brings them to the door. They'll say lines like "the discussions bring people in the door, but it's the chulent which makes them stay." And again, they're often correct. But when they use this reasoning to justify a glossed-over, or even worse, a dishonest approach to get them in the door... that's where the end cannot justify the means.

I may turn this into a series, as there are many facets of this discussion which are important: From the differences between Orthodox and Conservative or Reform "kiruv", to what is the proper approach, to my own experiences with kiruv, and so on.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ezzie's JIB Picks II

Part I is here.

Best in Class:
  • Jewish Religious
    • Group A - Emes Ve-emunah beats out ADDeRabbi in this one. I always find myself nodding along to most of what Harry says, though he always seems to go a bit further than I would myself.
    • Group B - BeyondBT. Gotta love what they're doing there.
    • Group C - Hirhurim, by a mile.
    • Group D - DovBear over RWAC, mostly because he was around all year long. DB's posts on midrashim and the like are often very interesting.
  • Torah
  • Humor
    • Group A - This was a rough one. DryBones, RenReb, and PsychoToddler?! DryBones is a bit more serious funny, and RenReb a bit busier, so I went with the one who makes me laugh on a regular basis. Go PT! Frum Satire, Jacob's Jokes, and Pillage Idiot have been funny the times I've seen them as well.
    • Group B - This whole group is funny, but nothing tops some of AskShifra's stuff, which seemed to switch from a bit more serious to a combo of serious and hilarious the past few months, starting with the introduction of Hot Chanie. Heck, that alone deserves an award.
    • Group C - This was tough, but Kasamba's hilarious ramblings beat out Jack and the rest. She'll be missed...
  • Jewish Culture
    • Group A - Orthomom. Yeshiva World and DovBear are good, but I've said many times that nobody is sharper and clearer while making their points as OM.
    • Group B - Jewlicious over DryBones.
  • News/Current Events
    • Group A - Jameel over TownCrier, Yeshiva World, and Daled Amos, primarily due to his coverage of the war. That was just incredible.
    • Group B - Meryl Yourish. She's just great, period.
    • Group C - DryBones. His commentary is done in a comic, and just expresses your own thoughts so well. That's amazing.
  • Pro-Israel Advocacy
  • Slice of Life in Israel
    • Group A - This was one of the worst ones: Treppenwitz vs. Jameel. The others are good, too, but these are my two favorites. I think I went with Trep in the end, since I'd voted for Jameel elsewhere.
    • Group B - This was a tough one, too, but I think I went with AbbaGav over Robbie and Jewlicious.
  • Right-Wing
    • Group A - Irina over JoeSettler? Or was it the reverse? I think I went with Irina. Both are great.
    • Group B - Jameel over Dave and Ze'ev, who didn't write much this year.
  • Left-Wing
    • Group A - Jewish Atheist over TownCrier. There are people on the left worth having discussions with, even if they're not the ones that are the most outspoken.
    • Group B - OlehGirl, though I'll admit to not really knowing many of these.
  • Jewish Skepticism
  • Anti-Establishment
    • Group A - Depends how you define this, but I went with Wolf.
    • Group B - Again, depends on the definition, but I went with Orthomom.
  • Non-English - Umm, yeah. Don't really speak those languages.
  • Personal
    • Group A - Treppenwitz. Duh.
    • Group B - A lot of great ones in this group, but SweetRose has always been my favorite personal blog.
    • Group C - Another few good ones, but in terms of personal, Jack wins this one.
    • Group D - Aidel Maidel and Chayyei Sarah are great... but I don't know how anyone can read Ha'azina Tefilati and not be touched, not feel anything. It's one of the most important blogs to read out there.
  • Student
    • Group A - AH! So many of my friends, blogs I like... oy. I went with the one that I've gotten the most out of this year, at least lately, and went with... Which Way is Up? [And now everyone else wants to throw things at me.] Of course, I did see SJ last of all of y'all before I voted, so that may have played a role.
    • Group B - Chana. Not really a question, there.
  • Photo/Graphics
    • Group A - Squiggle Sarah! Her pictures are stunning and so talented. I'm amazed she isn't advancing.
    • Group B - Balaboosteh over the more recently begun Temunot. Her stuff has been good all year, particularly when I was brought to tears continually by the images she found during the war.
And now, let the first round begin for Best Posts! :)

Ezzie's JIB Picks

Now that the voting has almost ended, it's as good a time as any to give my own personal picks and who I voted for in the first round of this year's JIB Awards. So here we go...!

All-Around Categories:
  • Overall
    • Group A - SerandEz over a few other blogs I like, because... well, because it's me.
    • Group B - Hirhurim over Treppenwitz in a close one; Trep tells amazing personal stories and has excellent insights on political issues, but R' Gil is just continually outstanding at what he does.
    • Group C - Orthonomics over DovBear, IsraellyCool, and DryBones. Yaakov Kirschen is obviously great at what he does, writing great political commentary in 4 squares every day; Dave is entertaining and insightful; and DovBear is... well, DovBear. But Sephardi Lady adds so much to the J-Blogosphere and has such an impact on people's actual lives [and budgets] that this wasn't really a question.
    • Group D - Orthomom. Was there a question?
  • Large
    • Group A - SerandEz again. Sorry, I can't help it. And I really like the people I'm up against, too.
    • Group B - SoccerDad over A Simple Jew. Two very different blogs, and it could be that this would have changed depending on the week, but David can shred an editorial like almost no other.
  • Group
    • Group A - Ah! I'm supposed to choose from some of my favorites? I like Jewschool, I really like KesherTalk, I really like BeyondBT... but I think that one of the most important things to be able to do in a blogosphere that often has a negative streak is to smile, to remember that there are good people out there. Our Kids Speak is awesome for the smiles it brings to people's faces; Kindness Happens is that reminder that we're all still people, too, and that most people out there really are nice. I went with Kindness Happens.
    • Group B - Jewlicious is the entertainer of the bunch.
  • Small
    • Group A - Modern Uberdox. Another one of those really good small blogs that may not post that often, but is almost always worth your time.
    • Group B - Wolfish Musings vs. Curious Jew?! How cruel. Two of my absolute favorite blogs up against one another. I actually didn't pick a favorite; I picked Chana, assuming Wolf would get more votes.
    • Group C - The Town Crier. Reasonable rhetoric from the left.
    • Group D - Again, a group with a bunch of blogs I like. I actually can't remember who I voted for, but I think it was RafiG's Life in Israel.
  • New
Specialty Categories:
  • Designed
    • Group A - I actually liked a few of them, but I'm always looking at the header before everything else, so I went with... SultanKnish. Maybe because I was in a dark room, maybe because I was in a strange mood, but I liked it.
    • Group B - Muqata. I just love the cartoon kids on the header.
    • I don't know why, but my favorite wasn't nominated: Sarah's View. Her ever-changing header alone is worth hitting refresh a few times.
  • Best of the Rest
    • Group A - SerandEz. What?!
    • Group B - NFONSS over BagelBlogger. DAG hits a little more home more often than Bagel, though both are really good.
  • Best Contribution
    • I've already written why I think this is the most important category... and who should win. Alas, they won't. But if you're adding any blogs to your blogroll, these are the ones.
Best in Class Categories: Coming soon.

i gotta get me one of these!

For those of you who have been to the Serandez humble abode, you know how squishy it can get when the Shabbos table is expanded. This would totally make the room bigger!

Notes for Today

I've begun adding labels to my posts, starting with the all-important How I Met Serach series. Perhaps in a few weeks we'll see a few larger changes on this blog, which apparently is still looking incredible in Firefox and atrocious in Internet Explorer. Best idea: GET FIREFOX! In case you're wondering what to do, what to get, and just how much it rocks... read this stuff. You can follow my simple instructions and join the rest of us in 2007 now. Thanks. ;)

The voting for the first round of the JIBs ends tonight, so make sure to vote for your favorites if you haven't done so already! As of now, it appears this blog has done better than I expected and will advance to the finals in Best of the Rest (A), while falling short in Best Overall (A) and running neck-and-neck to try to advance in Large (A). I really don't want to knock out OntheMainLine, a blog I particularly enjoy, so feel free to utilize this wonderful page of up-to-date results to see how everyone is faring, and just make sure that we're still tied [currently 54-54] and can both advance. :)

The results of all of the categories won't be made official for a couple of days while people check over the logs to check for cheating; we've had a few attempts to cheat so far that were noticed, and most sadly were done with the sole intent of ruining the JIB Awards, by running up the vote totals of JIB Committee members or others in an attempt at 'embarrassing' the JIBs and making it 'look bad'. Hopefully, we'll be able to knock out all of those fakes and cheats and integrity will win out over selfishness. Have a wonderful day!

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Few Good Reads

Stuff to enjoy before Shabbos:
Firstly, the responses so far to What Makes People Frum? have been excellent, interesting, and eye-opening. Please feel free to join the conversation. Elsewhere:
  • Chana writes about an angel, fallen from heaven. Read it. Excerpt:
    An angel fallen from heaven, cast out by God. He is white, opalescent, pearly, a sheen to his skin, androgynous and handsome but bowed, kneeling, weeping tears that are not made of water but of shadow, falling only to disappear in mid-air. The rain dances all along his body but does not touch him, unable to make contact with the silvery flesh. His eyes are silver; he is all silver and white light, an angel, a true angel, kneeling before the storm.
  • FrumDoc is back! And his post is excellent.
    The day I met Heinrich we were the first two people to arrive in the lab. My Yarmulke branded me "Jew" as clearly as his name labeled him. He towered over me by almost a foot and a half. He was Goliath but I was no David or even Joe Louis. Our initial conversation was quaint and beleaguered. His thick German accent brought to mind old black and white videos of the rise of National Socialism (and of course Dr. Ruth and that fish from American Dad). I would force myself to make eye contact only to see his eyes dart quickly away from mine. He was nearly as uncomfortable as I.

    But why?
  • Jack wonders if your life is what you expected it to be.
Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Da Kirsch's NFL Mock Draft 2007

It's that time of year again, and my friend Da Kirsch - who has been preparing for this since last year's draft, in which he did an excellent job in retrospect - finally sent me his long awaited mock draft for the first round of this weekend's NFL Draft 2007. And now, let's turn it over to Da Kirsch.
Thanks, Ezzie. Its that time of the year again when the most devoted of football fans (me included) will spend most of their weekend watching their favorite teams change the lives of 224 young men. If the draft goes anything like last year than there will be second guessing of every pick even the first (Mario Williams getting picked ahead of Reggie Bush and Vince Young HUH?!?). Well here is my mock draft the odds of getting even the top 10 picks are large enough so i added some commentary on who each team might pick as a replacement.
And here we go:

1) Oakland Raiders - Jamarcus Russell, QB, LSU:
This pick depends on whether or not Trent Green goes to Miami. The speculation is that if Green goes to Miami then Daunte Culpepper will reunite with Randy Moss in Oakland which then means the Raiders will select Calvin Johnson.
2) Detroit Lions - Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson:
It's no secret the Lions would love to trade down to gain a few extra picks. They feel that taking Adams 2nd is too early and are trying to make a deal with the Buccaneers for the 4th pick where the they would select Adams. They might just take Calvin Johnson, the top rated player, and try to work out a deal later on draft day, because even if they dont work something out at least they have the best player in the draft.
3) Cleveland Browns - Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma:
This is a dangerous selection for the Browns given Peterson's injury history, but with high risk comes high reward. Peterson can become a franchise back in the mold of Terrell Davis.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech:
If Johnson is still on the board at 4 it will be the easiest pick to make. They will try very hard to get Johnson if Detroit takes him at 2, but are not going to overspend for him the way the Giants did for Eli Manning 3 years ago.
5) Arizona Cardinals - Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin:
With the departure of Leonard Davis they need some protection for Matt Leinart and they will slot Thomas in at RT (because Leinart is a lefty) for at least the next 10 years.
6) Washington Redskins - Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville:
The Redskins need DL help bad so they could go a few ways with this pick Okoye, Jamaal Anderson, or trade down to gain more picks (they don't have a 2nd or 3rd round pick). Rest assured that if they don't move down they will take a D-Lineman as they only had 19 sacks last year.
7) Minnesota Vikings - Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame:
The Vikings desperately need an identity at QB. They've tried an unqualified backup (Travaris Jackson) and a just out of retirement veteran (Brad Johnson) - neither a long term solution. Quinn is the most NFL-ready prospect in the draft, who will be similar to Matt Leinart.
8) Atlanta Falcons - Laron Landry, S, LSU:
Landry, the best DB in the draft, will help solidify their secondary and defense overall. He has sub-4.40 speed and is great in both run and pass coverage. Look for him to be an Ed Reed-type player without the attitude.
9) Miami Dolphins - Levi Brown, OT, Penn State:
The consensus is that the Dolphins are looking to upgrade their line though they have needs at receiver and secondary. If they don't take Brown they will choose Leon Hall, the CB from Michigan, or Ted Ginn Jr., the WR from Ohio State.
10) Houston Texans - Ted Ginn, Jr., WR, Ohio State:
They hope that Brown falls to them here, but with the Dolphins already taking Brown they take the next best overall player. Ginn Jr. will help stretch the field playing along side Andre Johnson and the aging Eric Moulds, and eventually will take over the #2 WR spot from Moulds. Personally I think if Brown is off the board they will trade down, but have not heard anything about that yet.
11) San Francisco 49ers - Alan Branch, DT, Michigan:
Branch will be a perfect fit in the 3-4 defense the 49ers will be playing this season; his size is perfect for a nose tackle. They might try to get Ginn if he is out there, but look for them to add someone to help that defense.
12) Buffalo Bills - Patrick Willis, LB, Ole Miss:
After reaching on both first round picks last year the Bills fill a big need and get great value in Willis. After losing both London Fletcher and Takeo Spikes, this pick is a no-brainer. May also go with Leon Hall to replace the departure of Nate Clements.
13) St. Louis Rams - Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas:
With Ginn off the board they turn to DE. They have needs at WR, DB, and LB also but they also need help on DL and Anderson, a top 10 prospect, will help.
14) Carolina Panthers - Greg Olsen, TE, Miami:
The Panthers need a downfield threat to take some pressure away from Steve Smith and Olsen with a great combination of power, size, and speed will help.
15) Pittsburgh Steelers - Adam Carricker, DL/LB, Nebraska:
With only their 3rd coach in team history don't look for the Steelers to change the way they play. They are going to love Carriker's versatility ala Joey Porter who is getting older.
16) Green Bay Packers - Marshawn Lynch, RB, California:
This pick has been predicted since February. The Packers' needs are great but none more so than at RB where they have had a guy who walked off the street (Samkon Gado) playing for them the last 2 years. Ahman Green is unreliable and Lynch will step in right away and take over the job. He has the versatility to be a Tiki Barber-type back.
17) Jacksonville Jaguars - Reggie Nelson, S, Florida:
One of the most versatile players in the draft will fit in great in the Jaguars defense. Nelson is fast enough to play man and is tough enough to play the run. He is a "center field" type safety who will be all over the field making plays.
18) Cincinnati Bengals - Leon Hall, CB, Michigan:
With the way they have drafted in the past they look to a player who not only is great athlete but also has great character. Hall who is tough in man coverage and has some playmaking ability will solidify the Bengals secondary and bring some class to this organization.
19) Tennessee Titans - Darrelle Revis, CB, Pittsburgh:
With Pacman Jones suspended for the season and his future in doubt they need to get a replacement for him. He has good size and plays well in zone. They might look for a receiver here but it would be a reach for Dwayne Bowe of LSU or Dwayne Jarret of USC whose stock has plummeted from first round to late 2nd.
20) New York Giants - Lawrence Timmons, LB, FSU:
The Giants have needs at LB, OL, and DB, but here they get the best available player. The more popular pick would be Penn St. LB Paul Posluzny but he has a history of injury, and the new GM has to be a little cautious after the way he handled the offseason. Joe Staley OT from Central Michigan would be the pick at OL, but although his stock is rising, taking him here would be too early.
21) Denver Broncos - Chris Houston, CB, Arkansas:
They would like to return their secondary to the elite unit it was last year and after the losses the Broncos had in the offseason, they take Houston, a gifted athelete with great speed. They may take Staley here, he fits perfectly into their zone blocking scheme, because he won't be around when they pick again.
22) Dallas Cowboys - Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee:
They addressed most of their needs in free agency so look for the Cowboys to add a #2 (and future #1) reciever who has size (6'2"), speed (4.38/40), and production (this year 71rec., 1298yds., 11tds.) They could take Miami S Brandon Meriweather to line up opposite Roy Williams.
23) Kansas City Chiefs - Steve Smith, WR, USC:
This is one of my favorite players in the draft for a few reasons:
  • 1. He has outplayed more heralded receivers his whole career (Mike Williams & Dwayne Jarret).
  • 2. He is consistent.
  • 3. Great character and personality (most people don't even know who he is).
  • 4. Always shows up on gameday and gives the extra effort. Turned out great combine numbers and would be the receiver KC has lacked for a decade.
24) New England Patriots - Michael Griffin, DB, Texas:
Can play CB or S and that versatilitly fits perfectly in Coach Bellichek's scheme. Could also select a LB here, but Griffin won't be available when they pick again at 28.
25) New York Jets - Jarvis Moss, DE, Florida:
The Jets had a good season under first year coach Eric Mangini and, like his mentor, he too likes versatility: Moss can play DE or LB (in a 3-4 scheme) and Mangini will find ways for this talented pass rusher to get to the QB.
26) Philadelphia Eagles - Brandon Meriweather, S, Miami (FL):
Playing games in the NFC East means recievers like T.O., Plaxico Burress, and Santana Moss - players that can change a game with one catch. It's important to have safeties that hit hard and cover ground. Meriwether will join an athletic secondary that is filled Pro-Bowlers and great players.
27) New Orleans Saints - Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State:
The Saints need a leader on defefnse and Posluszny will provide that. He will help stop the run, a big problem area for the Saints last year. They might go for a DT like Justin Harrell of Tennessee, but this is a player Sean Peyton will love.
28) New England Patriots - Jon Beason, LB, Miami:
Their biggest weaknesses last year were WR and LB depth. Beason will add speed and depth to an aging LB core excluding FA pickup Adalius Thomas. The Patriots always are the Oakland Athletics of the NFL they have the best war room and always pull a pick out of nowhere(Logan Mankins) so they might suprise all of us with another.
29) Baltimore Ravens - Ryan Kalil, C, USC:
Kalil is an offensive lineman who is versatile and can play multiple positions. He would add youth to a very old line, and though he won't replace Future HOFer Jonathan Ogden, it's a good start at rebuilding the line into the powerhouse of the past.
30) San Diego Chargers - Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU:
This is the Chargers' biggest need other than CB, but there isn't much value here. Bowe arrived after a stellar Senior Bowl and has the size and speed needed to be a productive WR in the NFL.
31) Chicago Bears - Tony Ugoh, OL, Arkansas:
The Bears would select a LB if one of the top 5 fell to them here, but that's not likely, so they add a cog to their OL who can help protect erratic QB Rex Grossman. They also need a backup RB, but look for them to add one in the second round like Auburn's Kenny Irons or Louisville's Michael Bush.
32) Indianapolis Colts - Justin Harrell, DT, Tennessee:
The biggest problem the Colts had last year was stopping the run and that problem miraculously went away in the playoffs, so look for them to add a run-stopper like Harrel or Ohio St. DT Quinn Pitcock, who for some reason's stock has fallen. Also look for them to add depth to the RB group in later rounds.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What Makes People Frum?

I'm wondering, after a conversation with a good friend... What makes most people frum? I guess this is directed primarily at ba'alei t'shuva, but anyone can answer. What is it that attracts them? Is it intellectual arguments? Is it community? Food? Searching? Why do people choose to become frum? If you didn't grow up religious and now are, why? What attracted you? (I have my own opinions, but I'm wondering if I'm way off base. I'll post them later on.)

I'm going to put the first [GoogleChat] response I got, from a friend who has been working in kiruv for 10 years:
for some its the reality that being frum is right. For others its the aspect of shabbat and yom tov and the aspect of seperation from weekday and family above all
Please, let there be plenty of discussion but no fighting in the comments. I'm interested in hearing everyone's opinion, not why everyone else is wrong.

Using Power for Good

I'd read about this being planned, and I'm awed by what was pulled off - $35 million to charity by using one night of a popular TV show. If I recall correctly from what I read in Time, this idea was Simon Cowell's, and Fox and American Idol pulled it off incredibly well. Read the whole article.
The more than 70 million calls and text messages that came in last night will be added to next Tuesday's tallies, Seacrest said.

But on this night, that exorbitant amount of viewer participation represented far more than people's desire to have a huge stake in who goes home. As part of the Idol Gives Back campaign, American Idol's most prominent sponsors, including Coca-Cola, AT&T, Ford, Allstate, Exxon Mobil and Fox parent News Corp., signed on to donate a certain amount of money per vote, all of which will go toward the newly formed Charity Projects Entertainment Fund—which in turn will dole out the green to relief charities in the United States and Africa.

Meanwhile, I just want to see the episode, which seems to have included a huge number of my favorite songs and artists...! If you can donate, this certainly seems like a worthwhile cause to donate to. You can do so at the American Idol website.

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, Mini-Version

Busy season is supposedly winding down, though I have yet to see it. This should result in my beginning to write actual posts, complete with original content [gasp!] and devoid of many links - can you believe it!? Until then, however, you're stuck with choosing from the links I put up that I like. So here's what I enjoyed in a quick run-through over the last few minutes:
  • R' Gil has a post with a couple of good links, including an excerpt from an interview with Dr. Marc Shapiro about what our yeshivos aren't teaching and why it's a problem.
  • Fudge has a hilarious conversation between her brain and her conscience about dinner at Stern.
  • Chana has yet another post from the YU Medical Ethics Society, this one on surrogate motherhood.
  • Finally, I didn't mention it in the previous post about best contributions to the J-blogosphere because I don't read it myself, but Avrom's site DafNotes has done wonders for many people who do "do the daf" every day. If you are one of those people, you will probably love it.
Some of you probably heard or noticed that at one point today, the JIBs homepage was hacked. BagelBlogger was able to do a little investigative work and discovered that the JIB site was not the only one affected, but a number of Jewish-related sites; moreover, the hackers were not it seems people trying to attack the JIBs, but possibly Islamic hackers from Turkey trying to hack Jewish sites. As the hack has now been fixed and security boosted yet again, hopefully there won't be anything to worry about. Now go vote!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Murderer to Plead for Browns

(Thanks, G) You've got to be kidding me:
For those of you that did not follow the news yesterday, this guy is was James Filiaggi of Lorain, who was put to death yesterday in Lucasville after being convicted of killing his wife in 1994.

One of the reporters present for the execution was WEWS Channel 5's Curtis Jackson, who reported on the story live from Lucasville all day long. During Live On 5, Channel 5's 5pm newscast, Jackson read an excerpt of Filiaggi's final statement which, in addition to a condemnation of the death penalty, included this chilling show of "support" for his favorite team:
"When the Browns are in the Super Bowl in the next five years, you'll know I'm up there doing my magic."
Gee, thanks. A murderer pleading to God on behalf of Browns' fans everywhere. Just what we need. No wonder Cleveland is cursed.

It's A Small, Small World II

As I've noted many times, the primary purpose of the JIBs is to expose readers to other blogs. I think it serves this purpose quite well - a large percentage of the blogs I read I discovered through either Haveil Havalim or the JIBs, with the JIBs being a slightly better way (in my opinion). This is simply because if there's what seems to be a small blog in a given subject that's still garnering a nice number of votes, it often [but not always] means that its readers really enjoy it for whatever reason.

This year, I received a nice surprise as I was following this rule of thumb to check out some of the other blogs. I stumbled on a blog called Alleyways to Torah which I'd never heard of before, and noticed that it was picking up a lot of votes in the Torah category. I figured it was worth checking out, and what do I find? My cousins. R' Ally Ehrman, one of the most hilarious and brilliant people I've ever met, married to my sweet cousin, living in the Old City, teaching in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh... has a blog!? Who knew?! This is the family I stayed at a few times, where I experienced the Old City of Yerushalayim in all its glory, where I woke up to his 4-year old rattling off Sefer B'reishis (the Book of Genesis) by heart as he played with his toys in the morning, where I couldn't stop laughing with and marveling at their family.

Wow. It is a very small world. If you have already voted, go back to the site and check out some more blogs - you never know what you might find. And if you haven't, go vote first and then do the same! SerandEz is still leading in my favorite category, Best of the Rest (A), and actually making a nice showing in Best Overall (A) and Best Large (A) against some excellent competition. As of now, we're just missing the cut in Large and slightly behind in Overall. Go, vote, and check out what's out there! I discussed some of the blogs I think are important yesterday; perhaps I'll have a chance to discuss some more over the next few weeks. Have fun!

Lefachot Zeh

Lefachot Zeh - at least this.

From Stam, from the Jerusalem Press, no link:
It was the first day of the Pesach vacation, a day
dreaded by Jewish mothers throughout the land. This is the
day every mother knows that the majority of her Pesach
preparations had better be darn near complete, since the
children are now home from school throughout the duration to
"help." We have our goals to accomplish each day,
interspersed with some fun rewards here and there to those
who are successful. The countdown to Pesach has begun.

As we go through our morning routine, my 13-year old
daughter, Ayelet, is particularly excited today as she
anticipates quality time with Mom - at the Luna Park in Tel
Aviv. Bubbie, visiting from the States for the Pesach
holiday, cannot for the life of her understand how I have
nothing better to do today than go to an amusement park with
my daughter. "Doesn't she have girlfriends she can go with?"
I'm lectured.

Fortunately, Ayelet has no girlfriends that can share this
Fun Day with her at the Luna Park. Today is strictly for
siblings of fallen soldiers, sponsored by the Israel Defense
Forces, at no charge to the participants. The army wants to
make sure that bereaved siblings growing up in the shadow of
their fallen brothers and sisters are not neglected or
pushed aside by eternally grieving parents. They are
entitled to have some fun, too, in spite of the tragedy that
has touched their lives.

So when our son Yedidya backed out of the day because of
excessive homework, I couldn't let Ayelet go alone. So, off
to the Luna Park we went.

As we entered the park, we heard peals of laughter and
screams of excitement coming from inside. We found our names
on a neatly prepared list, as a bright-eyed young cadet
matter-of-factly asked us, "which unit?"
My mind immediately jumped to Ari's beret ceremony, and I
recalled photographing him from every angle as he wore that
bright green beret with such pride. "Nachal," I answered. We
were directed to the appropriate sign-in table - ours was
between the Golani unit and the Air Force - where we waited
patiently for our turn. We were handed an envelope with
what seemed like enough free food coupons to feed the entire
IDF for a day, and we were told to enjoy ourselves but to be
back at 3 pm for our gifts.

So off we marched. As I was dragged from one
stomach-churning ride to another, the scene before us was
surreal. The place was packed with kids and families, as
well as soldiers who work with bereaved families. The IDF
marching band was winding its way around the park throughout
the day, while costumed dancers and entertainers spoiled the
kids with prizes, balloons, and candy. Children and adults
from all segments of society - including several Druse
families as well - had their hands full of cotton candy,
stuffed animals, and food, running madly from ride to ride,
packing in as much as possible in this one magical day.

My head was spinning with this scene of a typical day at the
amusement park, yet I knew that each and every one of us was
here for the same grim reason: Each of us will soon weep at our son or brother's
grave on Yom Hazikaron. Ari was our ticket for the day, and
I hated it. Who were we all fooling? Even Ayelet saw through
the facade as she commented, "Do they think this is going to
make it better?" But our kzinat nifgaim (bereavement
representative) from the army on site, explained what we
already knew.
Nothing will make it better. Ever. But, "l'fachot zeh" -
this is the least we can do.
Armed with new and expensive back-packs as gifts, we were
ushered to the bandstand to "enjoy" the strains of
Subliminal, an apparently well-known Israeli rapper that
performed songs about peace, an end to violence, and other
things that I don't know how anyone understands the words
to. (To my shock, Ayelet knew most of the lyrics!) I looked
around at the crowd:
Religious and secular, dark-skinned and light, rich and
poor, veteran Israelis and those of us new to this land -
all gathered so that they could pretend, for just one day,
that we have not a care in the world. Today belongs to the
children, who we are still blessed to be with. And the
Israeli army is here today to remind us of that. And I
"Is there another army in the world that does
something like this?"
Taking the bus home, exhausted, loaded with souvenirs and
still nauseous from all the "fun" rides, Ayelet thanks me
for a wonderful day. I feel bad as the tears well up in my
eyes as I tell her to rest on the bus ride home. She knows
all too well that Fun Day is over - it's time to return to

Dear friends: At a time when we unfortunately have so little
to be proud of in our government officials and the image
they project, be proud of the Fun Days at the Luna Park, and
the attention lavished upon families of fallen heroes. And
know that, as much as possible, we are being taken care of.
L'fachot zeh - at least this.

Why Boycott Israel?

David Linn pointed me to a very good piece in the Washington Post. It's an excellent breakdown of why the latest British journalist boycott of Israel is completely idiotic. There is one poor line that has no place in the piece:
Some of it no doubt reflects frustration from the efforts of Jewish organizations to suffocate any criticism of Israel and to hurl the epithet "anti-Semite" at anyone with an odd bent to his thinking.
Omri [who I didn't read more than a couple of times until the JIBs began] dissects that statement quite a bit, so check him out. The rest of the article, however, was very good, and worth the read.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

SerandEz Editorial Notes

I've finally finished updating the guest posts in the sidebar - feel free to peruse the drop-down menus of your favorite guests. I'm still updating the blogroll: Feel free to drop your blog in the comments or via e-mail for me to check out. I'm hoping to - sometime after busy season - upgrade the template and start adding in labels. Any suggestions, requests, comments about what you do and don't like about the template, fonts, etc? I've found that it looks a lot nicer on my own screen at home than it does on other computers.

Thank You

Akiva has been working the hardest of anybody on the JIBs, and what he's accomplished has been amazing. Take out a second and thank him for all of his hard work, including this handy page which shows the current results of every single category. It's interesting to see that there are some incredibly tight races going on, and of course, some blowouts.

Of all the sections of the JIBs, I think the most important section is "Best Contribution to the J-Blogosphere". There are a number of great blogs there that really bring something to the table that the rest of us don't. My personal favorites excluding the wonderful carnivals, in alphabetical order:
  • Ha'azina Tefilati - In her own words:
    I cope or struggle (depending on the day) with what was diagnosed after many years of misdiagnoses as Bipolar II disorder (heavy on the depression, not nearly enough mania), anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. ... All of it impacts my relationship with G-d, not to mention others around me.

    I hope and pray, with G-d's help, to find some clarity, direction, support, and guidance.
    I think it's important not only for her, but for others who struggle with any form of depression, to know that there are other people who struggle as well. Hopefully, her blog will continue to help not only her, but others as well.
  • Jewish Blog Definitions - Exactly what it says, and always being added to. A great guide for the uninitiated.
  • Kindness Happens - SweetRose's Shoshana started this, and anyone can join to tell over their stories of kindness - from everyday acts of kindness they experience to the extraordinary ones. Just one of those blogs that show that there's some light out there, too.
  • Orthonomics - Sephardi Lady discusses a number of subjects, but the primary one is Jewish economics. Her advice and commentary are excellent, and she's getting at core spending and saving issues in the frum community that nobody else really does.
  • Our Kids Speak - Another blog to make you smile, started by PsychoToddler. Just a collection of cute and funny stories about people's kids and what they say.
  • R' Horowitz - R' Yakov Horowitz mostly discusses education, occasionally branching out to other subjects such as raising children. He is slowly helping to reshape Orthodox Jewish education as we know it, particularly in the yeshivish community - and seems to be making some ground.
Check these and other nominees out, and enjoy the JIBs!

More Migraines = More Memory?

This is a really interesting article, especially for those of us who suffer or have suffered from migraines:

A provocative new study has raised that improbable prospect after finding that longtime, middle-aged migraine sufferers showed less cognitive decline and memory loss over a period of 12 years than a group of migraine-free adults.

Researchers can't explain what could be a silver lining in the agonizing cloud that is migraine, but it's possible that the physiological changes that accompany the headaches might protect brain cells over the long haul.

I'm sure Serach will ask why I'm still forgetting everything she tells me. Interesting as well is that the memory retention was more pronounced for migraine sufferers with "aura" than those without it.

I actually wonder if it could be the reverse: That those people who have or utilize better memories suffer from migraines because of the extra stress on their brains. Migraines are often linked to stress, and memories and/or the inability to let something out of your mind can cause stress. I think that would make for quite an interesting study...

Cleveland Sports

This post is dedicated to DGEsq, because you asked for it.

There is an excellent article on CBSSportsline explaining why the Browns should draft Adrian Peterson. I've had mixed feelings about who they should be drafting (I don't think they need a quarterback), and the more I think about it, the more I agree: Peterson is the only logical choice if you're staying at #3.

The Indians... I don't know what's with the Indians. Their starters have been okay overall, and I see no reason to worry, especially with Lee coming back soon; their hitting hasn't hit its stride yet, but you can blame that on the rainouts and weather; and their bullpen hasn't been all that bad, actually. While Borowski (10.13 ERA) did blow that 6-2 game in New York, he's also 7-for-7 in save situations. The rest of the bullpen has a combined 1.50 ERA. They're 9-7 overall, and have played well against the Central (5-2 so far). I guess so far, they're okay, and there's nothing to worry about yet.

Then there are the Cavs. They played their way into the #2 seed by winning their last four games and the Bulls choking on the final night; they get to play the Arenas and Butler-less Wizards in Round One. They get to play what will likely be the tired winner of the Raptors-Nets series with home-court advantage in Round Two. Assuming the Pistons beat the Magic, they're stuck playing the tough Bulls or Heat in the second round. The Cavs should be well-rested and energized for the Eastern Conference Finals, and will have the same advantage the Pistons had against them last year - playing a team that has just won a tough, tiring, emotional series. And who knows? If they can win the conference, they may not even have to face the Mavs OR the Suns, and instead draw the Spurs, who they beat both times this year. The King could use a crown...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hallel on Yom Ha'atzmaut

This post will also appear on The Muqata

Reciting Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut (YH) seems to be a sticky issue to a lot of people. Hopefully, I can piss some people off today :P. Gil posted about this very issue, listing various reason for and against reciting Hallel on YH. For the purpose of this discussion, I would like to steer away from whether one should recite a bracha or not. I believe that is only a far secondary to the real issue at hand. Also, this is the first time I am attempting to give a “dvar Torah”, so please have mercy, I bruise easily. : ) I also don’t have my source sheet in front of me, so I will do my best with sources (if I can find them) from the internet.

Jews, according to Chazal, (Pesachim 117a) are required to give thanks, when something miraculous happens to them that result in them being saved. If it happens to an individual at a specific place, he should recite Alhanisim (Hallel?) whenever he is at that place again. A community might also declare a day to say Hallel if they were redeemed, but not with a bracha, since it was for a smaller community and not for the entire klal.

One of the main examples of saying Hallel is Chanukah and in my opinion, it is also an example that refutes those that say we should not recite Hallel on YH. Chazal recognized Chanukah as being a miracle worthy of saying Hallel, therefore implying that it was in a sence a geulah. Remember, it was not THE geulah, but A geulah. Rambam (Hilchot Chanukah 3:1-3) discusses that one of the reasons we celebrate Chanukah is because we as Jews were able to claim sovereignty over the the land. Al Hanissim, does not even mention the miracle of the oil but mentions the military achievements. Chazal, as well as we, recognize that it was Gods hand at work when a small band of Jews were able to be victorious. Remember for the past 2000 years, God is hidden. Gone are the days of supernatural miracles (if ever :P). Now, we recognize his work through the natural process. When something extraordinary happens that shift the paths of history into a direction that it could not have happened, we see THAT as a miracle.

Looking at it like that, and seeing how God relates to us now, I will ask the question as the Rabbi I learned with put it. How can you NOT sayHallel? What heter do you have NOT to say it. Who can honestly look at 1948 and say a great miracle did not happen? Jews after 2000 years have control of more land then they did during theMaccabbees . A smaller army was able to thwart off a much larger one. A people that only a few years before were almost obliterated. How can anyone say this is not a great miracle?

The Maharatz Chiyutz (Shabbat 21b) states that no blatant miracle happened like it did during Chanukah. Rambam, as mentions above, states that one of the reasons we DO view it as a miracle is BECAUSE of the hidden aspect of it which manifested itself in a military victory. Purim is a day that we that everyone agrees a great miracle happened. Was there any blatant supernatural miracle there? Noof course not. And what sort of miracle was it, it was a a miracle of salvation. No one can deny it. If I remember correctly, one of the reasons we don’t sayHallel on Purim is because we view the Megillah itself as a sort of Hallel. We remember and praise God yearly for that great miracle by reading the megillah.

There are others that say Israel is not a religious country. It serves no value. Messiah did not come yet. There are too many problems. The war is still going on. It was not the entireKlal only those in Israel that were spared

So I ask, what does any of this have to do with the events in 1948. Sure its not a perfect country, and its not run by religious law and theMessiach did not come etc., but the point of giving thanksgiving to God is when there is a great salvation for the Jewish people. Where does it say thatHallel is only to be giving at the end of days when Meshiach comes? All these questions can honestly be answered by looking at the story of Chanukah in which we DO give thanks to God. Messiah never came then either. Most of the Jews did NOT reside within the reclaimed land. The Hashmonaim hardly governed the country as we would like to call a “torah run” land. The Hashmonaim hardly saw eye to eye with the rabbinate and often lead to violence. Yet these rabbanim, or even later ones, still viewed that day as a miracle of salvation for the Jewish people warranted enough to give a special thanks to God.

Yes, we have problems. Yes we have corruption. Yes the land is not run by the laws of Torah. But, how is this different than the time of the Maccabees and after? So because people have been screwing up the gift God gave us, that’s reason to all of a sudden turn our backs and say what we have is not a function of a miracle? Since when did we have a perfect society? So, since we don’t have one, the miracles that DO happen to us are not warranted to give thanks? Israel today is probably better than it ever has been since the days of David. There is more learning Torah then there ever was. So then, how can you say Israel has no value? Jews all around the world have someplace to go. The world, in 1948 recognized Israel. This is no great miracle of salvation?

I think there are a few reasons for people looking at Israel as they do now. I believe there are a lot of emotions involved in this. There has been such a split over Zionism from the beginning that people just don’t WANT to see Gods hand on the side of the Zionists (so to speak). I think people have also very narrow view of what the Redemption is. For them, its either all or nothing. They claim Israel has not achieved what the Redemption is suppose to. Well, since when do you give God thanks only at THE redemption. SayingHallel is for any redemption. The establishment of Israel, if not the being the beginning of THE redemption is still a redemption. I believe the other problem is the lack of real depth of historical knowledge. In every society, you need a military, an economy, agriculture etc. Jews, for the longest time, have not had their own country to realize how complicated dealings with these things can be. They fluctuate up and down. History takes you down different roads all the time. Its never an all or nothing approach. Hard decisions have to be made by leaders for instance. That’s life. And it always has been like that.

Chazon Ish (Letters of the Chazon Ish, number 97) says that since this generation is so spiritually flawed, we are in no place to institute anything new. He was not referring toYH though. IMO, ideas like this is what set us back. Again, of course we are not perfect, but we have never been. If its not one sin we are doing as a klal, it’s a different one. We may be spiritually flawed, but we are not spiritually dead. That part of our spirit seeks to express itself. It still recognizes God in this world. If we are always going to stand still because of our imperfections, we will get nowhere. It is something within the spirit of the early Zionist (both religious and secular) to see Palestine as the future of the Jews.

IMO, all this debated about the imperfections of Israel and looking at the minutias of how its NOT a miracle because God himself did not appear to us or giving subjective opinions on our spirtuality is beyond wrong. Its almost like spitting in Gods eyes to me. I can’t help thinking God rolling his eyes at us when we cant see the obviousin front of our eyes. Or at least, to use the same logic that we have done in the past.

So in conclusion, I will be saying Hallel for YH. It is the greatest “obvious” miracle of our time. If we can’t view it as a miracle worthy of a special thanks to God then there is something wrong. I will conclude with what the Rabbi said in the shiur along these lines: “That maybe when we open our eyes and see we are being redeemed, we finally will be.”
Happy Yom Ha'atzmaut