"I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce, and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry, and Porcelaine."This morning, as I was going through my feeds, there was an article on Freakonomics in their "Quotes Uncovered" series where someone asked about the quote, wondering if it was Washington. It's odd that I'd never seen the full quote before (the concept of it I have heard), and then suddenly to have heard/seen it twice in 24 hours.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
I Am A Soldier
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
EZ Reads 3/30/11
- Marco Rubio with a great editorial today on why he won't vote to raise the debt ceiling without significant changes to tax structures, Social Security, Medicare, and the like. I was reminded of the famous story of the old man being asked why he's planting an apple tree, and answering because his grandfather planted one so he would have it, so he is planting one so his grandchildren will have it. It's sad that most people are too engrossed in the present to look at the future. (WSJ)
- A really interesting self-essay by QB Eric Ainge on his struggles with painkiller drugs and alcohol addictions. (ESPN)
- Chana links to some fun upcoming Jewish events, including The First National Jewish Collegiate A Capella Competition.
- Via his wife, Divrei Chaim with an interesting piece on Nadav and Avihu and what one of their sins was: Leaving women who wished to marry them as agunos because they felt they were above the women due to their status. Another chiddush, courtesy of R' Henoch Leibowitz zt"l, is an interesting mussar lesson - read the whole piece.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Separate But Equal
|New York City metro area|
The most segregated are:
- New York
- St. Louis
- Los Angeles
I've lived in three of these cities, and can't say the results are too surprising. Milwaukee had a nice swath of white supremacists, but that alone obviously doesn't tell the story. (For instance, the Cleveland expert feels Cleveland's split demographic has more to do with people leaving Cleveland, period, than specifically leaving communities blacks are moving to.) One point that I think is interesting is that the cities which are heavily segregated all voted heavily for President Obama in the last election - and not just the urban sections of mostly minorities, but the suburban sections of whites as well. I recall having this discussion with people before, but New York City for example for all its supposed diversity simply isn't truly diverse at all - everyone lives in a community with "their people", not with one another.
I wonder if this segregation impacts how people approach government's intervention into various aspects of their lives. In integrated cities, people know one another and view each other as individuals, and feel that they all already have equal opportunities to succeed in life - it doesn't matter if you're black or white, Latino or Asian, it's about what you put into it (coupled with a fair amount of luck). In segregated cities, people view each other far more in a "group" context, and think that government intervention is the key to equal opportunity (or outcomes, anyway). Ironically, it is specifically those areas which pursue interventionist policies that end up segregating themselves further as those policies often keep people exactly where they are, whereas without such policies people are more likely to move and seek out better opportunities rather than stay to pick up various benefits.
EZ Reads 3/29/11
- An incredible back and forth of letters to the editor in the 1890s Jewish Standard on head coverings for women. (On The Main Line) It's pretty funny to see much of the same back and forth as 120 years later, though with the caveat that it seemed completely accepted then that within the walls of one's own home a woman does not need to cover her hair. While I know some people now who do this, for the most part people don't seem to know about it. It's worth reading the whole back and forth, it's quite entertaining.
- LYING IS BAD. (And destroys lives.) Just thought y'all should know that. Some halachos of it are here. (Hirhurim)
- Really good sound/music video for JudaBlue's song Falling, which is about David vs. Goliath. (RafiG)
- Public school math doesn't teach kids how to reason. (Freakonomics) I don't understand how you can teach math without logic and reason - it's just horrible education.
- Jameel with a cool and crazy video of a blackout sandstorm in Kuwait; he compares it to the 9th plague. (Muqata)
- Shira Dicker with an interesting essay (hat tip: ED) entitled Why I Am A Conservative Jew; the most interesting is what she decries, which is the "graduation" of many to (mostly Modern) Orthodoxy or the shift away from Judaism by most. This is part of what I'll be discussing when continuing the series on the future of Judaism.
- ProfK on Minhag and Mishagas when it comes to making Pesach. Nice quote:
Personally, I think all the varying customs, both group and individual, are interesting. To me many of them speak of family life and lore being recreated many generations down the road since those customs sprung up. Telling me that I don't have to do something just because my great grandmother did it misses the point entirely. Isn't it wonderful that I actually know what my great grandmother did and that I can connect to her through doing the same thing.
Monday, March 28, 2011
EZ Reads 3/28/11
- I finally watched the amazing interview of 12-year old Tamar Fogel. It's mind-boggling how mature she is.
- The biggest buyers of Gemaros (Talmuds) worldwide are far and away...South Korean!?
- How perfectionism can lead to procrastination (and what to do about it). Who knew!?
- Justice and humanity and twisted irony - a Palestinian Arab attacks soldiers, and they stop him after he injures one... then fly the attacker and victim together to get treatment.
- R' Gil discusses how the Orthodox world mirrors the Evangelical Christian one in terms of divides, and questions what to learn from it.
- For all those who love sociology, the claims of a sociologist may impact one of the largest potential class actions in history. It's actually interesting, but I would think that even if it can be proven it shouldn't therefore make them guilty - I don't see how unconscious bias of the whole population would be fair to sue over. There would be no end to it.
Memorial Service for Professor Budick
Friday, March 25, 2011
EZ Reads 3/25/11
- An amazing video by the Jewish Federations of North America as part of their Passover fundraising. Two minutes will bring a tear (or more) to your eye. (Also, Vervel, doesn't she look like your eldest a bit?)
- Searching for Bright Light discusses the 6:30am phone call from her son studying in Israel saying he's all right and how she reacted. A few hours later my sister tells us rockets hit a town over from them, and they live in Central Israel. Pretty crazy what we put up with as a people.
- The NFL has an awesome 6-minute video highlighting the 2010 season.
- Orthonomics hosts KoaB for part III of how to shop for Pesach on a budget.
- A really interesting story written by a Cornell student turned Israeli basketball player in Sports Illustrated. (via Josh)
In order to be cleared or get an exemption from the army, you first have to go through the daylong army placement system. This process, which makes a trip to the DMV look like a day at Disneyland, was a nightmare. First, I was interviewed. Among other things, they prodded me about my family history and asked me to read and write in Hebrew (which I hadn't done since I was Bar Mitzvahed at age 13). My interviewer then really caught my attention by asking me to whom I would like to give my pension if I die in battle. I was then given a physical, where I scored a 93 (out of 100) on the army's official medical exam. This meant I could choose any division of the army I wish to participate in (this is considered a huge honor for most Israelis). After a computer aptitude test, the two basketball team managers accompanying me saved me from near enlistment. If it wasn't for them and their somewhat pushy tactics (Israelis have a knack for making every conversation seem like an argument), I could have easily been drafted right then and there.
- If you haven't yet seen The Thin Jew Line (a daily show sketch on an eruv battle in the Hamptons), watch it. It's freaking hilarious.
- Via Freakonomics, Joel Rose has left the New York Department of Education and is trying to take the School of One to scale. If he can do this, it would be quite something for education in general.
- Harry is not lamenting the co-opting of chazzanus by the Conservative.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Why I Took A Bus Tonight
by Yaacov Jacob
My family made Aliyah to Jerusalem a little over a month ago.
Living here during a bombing is definitely a scarier experience, then
being in the states and hearing about it. It really shakes you to
your core. I take the 74 almost everyday on my way to work. But
tonight I realized that I came to Jerusalem because I really wanted to
live here. I came because I'm willing to die here. I live here
because I, like everyone else in Israel are willing to fight for The
Land, for Torah and Judaism, for Hashem and his children.
Tonight I waited 15 minutes for a bus to come, not because I
didn't want to walk for five minutes, but because I needed to prove to
myself that I want to be here. I want to be here, and I don't intend
on leaving any time soon. As I got off the bus I went up to the
driver and said, "thank you for everything."
He looked at me with a sincere connecting stare and replied with
the exact same words, "thank you for everything."
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
EZ Reads 3/23/11
A few interesting reads out there (wish I could remember the people who I found these from), and a really interesting clip from Pakistani TV:
- The New York Times says it's a must to believe in free will.
- BeyondBT with a great essay on The Pursuit of Truth. I loved this short summation of mussar:
What does mussar teach us? Rav Dessler, an influential Rabbi regarded for his contributions to Jewish thought, defines mussar very succinctly. He says that people need to question their ability to reach valid conclusions and decisions. We’re not necessarily in a position to exercise good judgement because we are, unfortunately, likely to be swayed from truth. Our wants bias our judgement. What we want shapes the way we view any given situation and the way we think through decisions. Our character flaws and self interest shape our wants and help to distort our perspective. To reach truth we need to refine our character traits (our middos) and develop an intense desire for truth. This is mussar.
- Post #2 on how to shop for Pesach on a budget.
- Most people know I'm generally optimistic-realistic (if a bit sarcastic on occasion), but here's a good post on how rational pessimism can save your day.
We should be back in the swing of things shortly. Enjoy!
Bombing in Jerusalem
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Quote of the Day
One yeshivah guy who came collecting was dressed as the famous chassidic legend "Chayah Suri," although he didn't have a schvimgleide.It's amazing that that has gone so far.
Monday, March 21, 2011
EZ Reads 3/21/11
Anyway, there are some really interesting reads out there from the weekend as life returns to normal and the world slowly ceases spinning.
- If Purim is over, are you starting to get ready for Pesach? Kosher on a Budget has you covered.
- A convert through the Vaad HaRabbonim of Queens is one a number of Orthodox converts whose conversions are not being recognized in Israel.
- Why do we let girls dress like sluts? Interesting excerpt:
I have a different theory. It has to do with how conflicted my own generation of women is about our own past, when many of us behaved in ways that we now regret. A woman I know, with two mature daughters, said, "If I could do it again, I wouldn't even have slept with my own husband before marriage. Sex is the most powerful thing there is, and our generation, what did we know?" [...]
So here we are, the feminist and postfeminist and postpill generation. We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn't), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don't know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily. We're embarrassed, and we don't want to be, God forbid, hypocrites.
Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong. I don't know one of them who doesn't have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I've ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she'd "experimented" more.
- R' Gil posts the "secret" rules and guidelines most rabbonim follow when it comes to paskening halacha. Nothing too surprising, but still a good basic breakdown.
- Ha'aretz on the rising stakes of Kosher certification. Such politics, unsurprisingly, but also really interesting and the most in-depth piece I've read on the subject.
- Life in Israel has Netanyahu's interview with CNN on peace.
- Those French (Chassidish?) twins who do wedding routines do an ad for Jeunesse - not bad. I'm just wondering if they're 18.
- Hilarious cartoon on ADD vs. jerks at Doghouse... and xkcd has a great rejoinder to the "Year X called, they want their ____ back" line. I'm totally using that one next time.
- Crazy video from Spanish basketball - announcer is as good as the video.
As Purim Ebbs Away; How I met Serach, Part MMMMMDCCLXXV
What's an "hr" I tried to recall. 3 Tequilas, 3 shots of Glenmorangie Astar, 3 shots of Glenmorangie Nector D'Or and a beer...what was Ed trying to tell me? And who was Ur?
Ur Casdim? The forefather of Judaism, Avraham Aveinu's birthplace, which G-d commanded him to leave, and depart to the land which G-d will show him...my brain struggled with the aliya message that Ed was somehow trying to send me.
Trying to focus, I remembered that Ezzie's blog banner has a wonderful photo of Jerusalem on the left hand side (which originally appeared on my blog), along with that wonderful quote from Serach, (which originally appeared in Dr. Suess), and that cute picture of Serach and Ezzie (which originally appeared on "Only Simchas") [no, this is not a plug for the serandez-weasel blog]...but for the life me I couldn't remember when I met Serach...or Ezzie for that matter.
Then I remembered.
It was a dark, cold and rainy night. Inky black pools of water filling the potholes New York. I was visiting the East Coast for a weekend in 2006, and was drawn towards Queens...
"Must Visit Ezzie...Must Visit Serach" a muppet-sounding voice echoed in my head.
And then, bounding up the stairs on that Motzei Shabbat to their home, I met them.
Needless to say, my life has never been the same since. The Jewish Geography stories which have resulted since meeting Ezzie and Serach are almost unbelievable...and the last one occurred, coincidentally, at a Simchat Beit HaShoeiva in the hills of the Shomron...during a shot of scotch, similar to the one that was preventing me from writing something coherent for this blog post.
Wishing Ezzie, Serach and kids a wonderful Shushan Purim Shaynee, and hoping to see you for lunch here in Jerusalem.
PS: And that goes for all the rest of the SerandEz gang as well!
Not Sent from my hotsy-totsy iPhone since I don't have one, Maybe I should have sent this to stam so she could have posted it, and that would excuse any errors.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
How i Met the Goldii part MMMMMDCCLXXIV
Ever since I "met" Ezzie thru the blog about 4 years ago he's been begging me to come for a shabbos. I always had excuses and never managed to make it for a visit. I think there was one weekend i ALMOST came for shabbos and then something got in the way. Ezzie brought that one up for months afterwards. After about a year of turning down shabbos invites from SerandEz i finally sent THEM an invite, to my wedding.
i couldn't believe they responded that they WOULD attend, and even helped me with some rides for friends coming in from The City. I still appreciate that - it's not easy to do favors in NY especially involving cars!!
When i was working on place cards at my mother's friend's house we were going through the "G"s and my mom's friend said "Hey, Ezzie Goldish, is he the one with the blog? How do you know him??" errr.....
I don't remember the details so clearly, i THINK i remember Ezzie coming over at Kabbalas Panim to say hi, but i could be making that part up. (Seeing as he has no clue about this Purim Shpiel, i can't even ask him to clarify the sequence of events) I probably have a valid excuse for not remembering every single face i saw that day, right?! I remember being surprised at how tall he was.
I *do* remember seeing Serach for the first time -- i was surrounded by loud, clapping, stomping bochurim (thank G-d my brother stood close by to act as a shield!) who were dancing their way backwards across the hall away from the chuppah room. I saw a hand wave at me from behind the mass of black & white suits - I stood on my toes and saw a petite girl in a dark sheitel waving at me. I couldn't figure out who she was until suddenly it clicked, it must have been Serach! Even Elianna was in attendance!
I remember when I was sitting on the men's side watching the shtick fly by (or cartwheel by) some posters appeared, made out of scotch tape (were the cereal boxes yours too? I can't remember). Someone on the men's side made shtick for ME!? Ezzie had teamed up with Gus to make some shtick that *i* would appreciate! He claims he's never made (shtick) signs before, but these were pretty professional.
And that's the story of how i met Serach -- and Ezzie! A few years later we finally stopped in for the Thanksgiving bash, i just remember being so shocked at how quiet Ezzie was and how outgoing Serach was!
Once you meet the Goldii, there's no getting rid of them! they even visited us in our home a few weeks ago, way out in Hicksville. And bought the house next to us!
A freilechin Purim!
Stam/A2 & M2
Sent from my iPhone, please excuse any errors
How I Met Ezzie (and Serach) Part MMMMMDCCLXXVII
In the criminal justice system sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit. These are their stories.
August 25, 2007
A distraught call comes in from a mother. She hasn’t heard from her son for the last twenty five hours. He was supposed to be spending Shabbos at the apt of some guy who’s blog he had been reading for years. Shabbos has been over for almost ten minutes, and this distraught Jewish mother has not heard from her son yet. She fears the worst!
Detectives begin to investigate, and notice a lot of Serandez.blogspot.com in his browser history. They canvas his friends and witnesses tell them the following. At a wedding the previous week, there was a guy who Ed thought looked familiar, so he walked over and had a conversation that went something like this.
“Hey, I’m not a stalker or anything but are you Ezzie?” He was slightly weirded out but said “yes I am nice to meet you.”
I thought that would be the end of it, but little did I know the “horror” was just beginning. The next day (I believe Weds) Ezzie spent his lunch break with friends of his, who were spending a day in NYC with friends of mine, and my friends had invited me. I wound up spending a few hours hanging out with Ezzie, and a few weeks later I was desperate for a place for Shabbos, where I could be back to the city shortly after.
Arriving at Ezzie’s was the first time I met Serach, I don’t remember what she said, but it was probably along the lines of “You’re Ed? You’re fat and stupid!”
But when people ask how I met Ezzie it’s more fun to say, we met online, then in person, then I spent the weekend at his place….
How I Met Serach, Part MMMMMDCCLXXV
I knew by this time that Ezzie was, in fact, a robot. I don't know if you've ever been to a robot's house, but everything in it is electronic. The robot himself just sat in front of the computer all day. Luckily, that Thanksgiving was also when I met Serach. She knew her husband was a robot, but put up with it because of her love for his wide variety of polo shirts.
And that is how I met Serach.
How Ezzie Continued to Stalk Me, Part MMMMMDCCLXXIII
What I haven't written about is how Ezzie actually showed up at my wedding!
Here's the evidence:
How I Met the Goldishes: A Lifetime of Confusion, Part MMMMMDCCLXXII
I'm not much for friendliness, having been raised in New York. But when I realized that a hapless young couple was living in my part of Kew Gardens Hills, I figured they might be worth getting to know, for the mockery factor if for no other reason. Boy, was I wrong! First of all, there are about 4,328 young couples living in Kew Gardens Hills at any given time. And those are only the ones within 2 blocks of Jewel Avenue! How did I have the odd luck of choosing this pair? It's a choice that will always leave me wondering...
Eventually, I did introduce myself to the Goldishes, but not before lambasting Ezzie on his blog for a very rare instance of New York bashing. And walking past him while he wheeled Elianna in her Snap-n-Go (time flies!) several times, trying to determine how weird it would be to say, "Hi, are you that guy from the blog?" And having him think that RaggedyDad was my red-headed male next-door neighbor for a while (though it would be nice to have even *one* redheaded child of my own. Just saying.)
Finally there came an ill-fated day when I did say a proper "hello" at the bus stop that is my front yard. I figured I'd say hi, maybe deign to smile, possibly subject myself to a Shabbos meal once a year, and we'd be good. Clearly I underestimated these people. Not only did they proceed to invite us to numerous events, they actually planted other people at these events who tried to befriend us as well. It was painful, at times. Mildly irritating, to be sure. We had been so happy leading our isolated existence until that point. There was so much smiling, good cheer, and acceptance. It was all so utterly... Midwestern.
Even more disturbing were the Goldishes' friendly overtures toward our children. Books, toys, and other similar props were shared in an attempt to win over the younger Raggedies. It was so transparent, and so very out of line. They somehow managed to memorize our children's names and to speak to them in friendly tones, engendering an immediate guise of closeness. Troubling, indeed, as our stoicness training had been going swimmingly until that point.
Looking back on the past four years, I can reflect back on the extent to which these interloping clowns have become interwoven into the very fabric of our otherwise blessedly anonymous existence. Several mutual friends, many Yom Tov and Shabbos meals that run for upwards of 7 hours, and yet more angst-inducing "hanging out" all attest to how uncomfortable this acquaintance has made us. I have spoken to several lawyers, detectives, hypnotists, gardeners, and cellists regarding this issue, and I am now at liberty to reveal that the Raggedies are taking the rather drastic step of moving to Guam this summer in a last-ditch effort to rid ourselves of the Scoldishes. Moldishes. Goawaylishes. Guam was chosen as a location with supreme unreliability of its Gchat, Skype, Facebook, cell phone coverage, carrier pigeons and message-in-a-bottle capabilities. Wish us luck.
Happy Purim to all of the denizens of the Goldish Pond, chag sameach, and thank you for our social life! We're crazy about you guys!
How I Met Ezzie (And Serach) Part MMMMMDCCLXXI
A few months later, after I had moved into the neighborhood, SaraK brought me with her to The Pond (aka Casa SerandEz). I met a lot of new people, and was having a lovely time hanging out with baby Elianna, when all of the sudden Serach started shouting “OH MY G-D!!!! GREY’S ANATOMY!!!” I looked at her awash with confusion and she said that she had seen these pictures on a mutual friend’s Facebook account
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
EZ Reads 3/18/11
Some good/fun reads for Purim:
- Harry-er with a really nice message in time for Purim.
- He also wrote an even better piece, as heard from R' Willig, about adding to one's Judaism - wait until you've got the original stuff down pat.
- Wolf with a really good, interesting essay on "Expunging the Kool-Aid" in one's religious beliefs. I don't know that I agree with all of it or his whole approach, but it's a very worthwhile read.
- xkcd with a great comic on Time Management.
- R' Slifkin with an odd page of segulos given out by his son's ganenet. Err... awkward!!
- Finally, this is billed as "Modi & Brian decided it would be a good idea to officiate a wedding. A Big Black JEWISH Wedding!" Odd and hilarious in so many ways (that the people are black is actually not that relevant). Gets good about 1:20 in.
- Lifehacker on how to use statistics to live forever. (Or a while, anyway.)
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
EZ Reads 3/16/11
- Jameel has a really interesting post about the Origins of Purim.
- Seth Godin on when things are declared "dead":
Great music wasn't created by the first people to grab an electric guitar or a synthesizer. Great snowboarding moves didn't come from the guy who invented the snowboard... No one thinks Gutenberg was a great author, and some of the best books will be written long after books are truly dead.
Only when an innovation is dead can the real work begin.
- Yaacov Lozowick with an interesting side story from the Fogel massacre: Some Palestinians are not only shocked by what happened, but speaking out in public about it.
I've been reporting in the Palestinian territories for many years, and the responses I recorded today in Shchem (Nablus) really surprised me. They seem to show a substantial distance between the PA leadership and regular people. The leadership (he cites Abbas and others) are muttering a condemnation of the murder, mostly not in Arabic and not in front of their public, and then they're condemning Israeli settlements. Nothing new here. On the other hand, I went to Shchem today, and was very surprised. People on the street were willing to condemn the murder unequivocally, in Arabic and in Hebrew, with no embarrassment, in front of the camera, and even identify themselves. [He shows some examples]. I've been covering the Palestinian territories for years, but this I've never seen before. In the middle of town, publicly, people had no compunctions openly to condemn the murder of children.Lozowick continues with some intriguing reasons why this may be the case, and I think some of them are quite possibly true; I would add that the speed and access to media likely helps as well. Interesting, and hopefully the beginning of change in the region. Eldar's report, including the interviews with Palestinians in Shechem, is translated on YouTube as well.
- One of the worst pieces I've read in a while (and that's saying something) - an article questioning why the Maccabeats' video doesn't include women. Really? An all-male acapella group? Silliness.
- Kosher on a Budget de-clutters and gains - peace of mind and some savings. I've done this and wholeheartedly agree. (I actually need to do this again...) Organizing makes it a lot easier to see what you need - and what you don't. It's tempting to think that if you buy something then something will be simpler, but often it's easier to just tidy up a bit.
- A Soldier's Mother on words that break your heart.
- Tikkun Olam reprints Caroline Glick's fantastic essay.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
If you have any suggestions feel free to post a comment! (And if you like something different you're seeing say what it is so I know what people like.)
Honesty and The Jewish Community III: Rabbi C.
Back in high school, I can only recall three instances where I felt that lying might be the best course of action. In the first, I believe I or the friend I was with misled someone; in the second, I avoided the question; and in the third, I believe I told the truth. To this day, all three of the stories bother me for different reasons, but the important lessons actually come from the people who placed me in the situations by asking difficult questions.
WITS, my high school, has a number of interesting rules. Some people may accept these as baseline givens; others may think them strange if not outright crazy. A recent news story involving a basketball player at a religious university touches on what I believe to be an important point: Regardless of what one thinks of a set of rules, if a person accepts those rules upon themselves, then breaking those rules means accepting the consequences as well. In WITS, some rules included no talking to girls, no non-Jewish music and no headphones, no movies, and no sports betting or pools.
Being a relatively poor out-of-town kid in high school, extended off weekends where people could choose to go home if they wished often meant I was one of a handful of students who would remain in the school. This was actually awesome to those of us who stuck around - we had a lot of free time and freedom, we would make some really great food, and we would often go have fun we otherwise didn't have time to do, from playing golf at a local public par-3 course to attending Bucks and Brewers games. The longer weekends, though, could get pretty boring, and when I was a sophomore a junior friend asked me if I wanted to come with him to see a new movie, Enemy of the State, starring Will Smith. When we came back, one of the rebbeim was heading out from the campus and asked us where we'd been. On the way back we had stopped at OpenPantry (like 7/11), so my friend replied we were on the way back from there. The rebbe seemed skeptical, but simply noted that we are required to check out before going off-campus, which we apologized for.
A year and a half later, our principal Rabbi C. confronted me in the parking lot of the campus after asking me to walk him to his car. As any high school kid might be, I was a bit nervous. However, he asked me a very surprising question: "Are you aware of an NCAA pool in the yeshiva?" The evening before, a friend who often helped me run the annual underground pool had said "Ezzie, I think this year you should let a couple other people run the pool. The Rabbeim are certainly going to be on the lookout this year and the first person they're going to ask is you." [I had been previously shut down for running a pool.] We agreed that the others would run the pool, and I wouldn't be involved at all now that it was already set up. I replied to Rabbi C. that I was not running a pool this year. He then replied "I didn't ask if you were running a pool; I asked if you were aware of one." I again replied simply that I was not running one, and he did not press the point, letting me go.
About one year later, during my senior year, for whatever reason the Super Bowl (which until then had been shown at WITS albeit with no commercials) was not going to be shown - perhaps because of the way winter break worked out, I can't recall. I had a conversation with Rabbi C. about it, and was told essentially that it was not being shown despite the case I made for it, so I decided to watch it at a friend's house, who ironically was an employee of WITS. The next day, Rabbi C. called me in and told me that he was upset about what I did and I was to receive an in-house suspension - forced to remain in my room - until such time as I understood what I did wrong. The next day at lunch, I came down to speak to him and explained that while I believe I understood why he was so upset, I did not understand the extent of the punishment. He explained that he was dismayed that I had lied to him, and when I was taken aback, he said he had specifically told me during our conversation not to watch the game elsewhere and I had said I would not. I answered that I honestly did not recall such a statement and that I thought I had agreed not to press further that it would not be shown in the school, and he lifted the suspension. While he was certain he had said not to go elsewhere, he believed me that I had not recalled it and therefore it wasn't right to punish me further. (He also removed the grade losses I'd have incurred from the suspension, changing them to excused absences.)
In all three situations, and in other instances which occurred with friends throughout high school, the key was how our Rabbeim approached honesty and integrity. Generally, if a person was being asked about something that they may have done, it was with good reason. Yet unless there was specific evidence that showed someone was lying, students were taken at their word. It was up to us to be honest, not up to them, and if we made a statement, we were believed to be truthful about whatever it is we were saying. Perhaps more importantly, they never wanted us to lie or feel compelled to lie - they would rather stop a conversation than make it worse by forcing the student to lie to hide something or protect someone, at least in my experience.
Thinking back to and about WITS, one of the traits I find most interesting about both the Rabbeim and my friends who went there is how almost without exception they were - and are to this day - incredibly honest. There are certainly numerous reasons this may be true, particularly the incredible focus on mussar and the specific emphasis on avoiding rationalization of improper behavior. But this approach alone would not be enough: Seeing our Rabbeim living it day to day was by far the best example of all. For all the disagreements we may have had with them as immature or even as rarely correct high school kids, there was never a question as to the integrity of the Rabbeim, particularly our principal and rosh yeshiva Rabbi C. He felt and taught us that to succeed in life, we must be fully honest not only with others, but particularly with ourselves. Unless a person is honest with himself, he cannot be honest with his life or with others.
(to be continued)
Monday, March 14, 2011
EZ Reads 3/14/11
- Jameel attends the funeral. 25,000 attended (that would be like 2 million in the USA attending a funeral in terms of countrywide scope).
- A Soldier's Mother gives a telling story of just how an incident such as this impacts everyone in the country down to the simplest parts of their day-to-day lives.
[The 12-year old found] her little 2-year-old brother shaking is parent's bodies, trying to make them get up. I can only hope these details are not known to my daughter.
"Bnei Akiva saved her," my daughter said, "because if she'd been home, she would have died too."
Too much knowledge for an 11-year-old. "And they killed the baby. Only 3-months-old." Too much knowledge.
"Just lock the door," said my 20-year-old said as he went back upstairs. Too much knowledge even for a 20-year-old.
- Treppenwitz says it's all in how you say it, after hearing a co-worker's comments:
...it's apparently okay for a lefty to say that the Palestinians can't help but be provoked to murderous rampages by the mere presence of Jews in their vicinity.
- Harry writes about an interesting Orthodox Rabbi who matches up gay men and women in marriage, with moderate success to date.
- Sussman's (hat tip: SaraK) writes a beautiful post "I Am Ruth Fogel".
- Knowledge is a Power Tool (hat tip: Serach) says we need to start working.
Match! (for Shidduchim?)
Moshe gchatted me today and brought up a fun idea for a post: Suggest that the shidduch system adopt the same "Match" system used by medical students as they seek out residency programs. The National Resident Matching Program, explained better on Wikipedia, is meant to solve the issue of matching doctors to residency programs in a way that is fair to both schools and doctors by pairing them with one another based on how much they like each other. Ironically, Wiki describes the problem as the following:
The problem of matching hospitals to residents is a generalization of the stable marriage problem, and as a result the solutions to the two problems are very similar.In short, the way the program works is that each school ranks a large number of students whom they would be willing to have in their program in order based on whom they like the most. On the other side, the students rank the programs in order based on which schools they like the most. (Important note: Students who sign up for Match MUST accept the position they are matched to.) Neither side ranks any person or program which they would be unwilling to have or go to. Finally, the computer algorithm which calculates it all gives preference to the students over the programs.
As Moshe explained, this means that a school which has 25 openings would rank (say) 75 students they're willing to accept, while a student may rank 10 programs they'd be willing to join. If the school's top 25 all ranked the program #1, then those 25 would take the openings. But most likely, only some of those first 25 have actually ranked the school number one, so if 10 have, and the other 15 all matched at their first choices, then another 15 slots are available to the next people on the list. It slowly works through each person's list and then compares those lists against the schools until as many people as possible are matched into programs they're willing to join and as many slots as filled are possible with acceptable students.
Moshe suggested trying the same model for shidduchim: Have a large number of singles meet and get to know one another. Then, have them all submit a list in order of preference as to whom they'd be willing to marry, only listing those whom they'd be willing to marry. Should they not match any of the people on their list, they are choosing being single over being married to the other options for a period of one year (just as medical students wait one year to retry matching), or they can "scramble" (as medical students can) and quickly submit to a second match based on whomever is still available.
Once everyone has submitted their match lists, then shidduchim could be made in exactly the same way as occurs with the NRMP system. People would only be matched to people whom they are willing to be married to, so there's no risk of anyone being forced into a marriage; both sides would have had to list one another. At the end of the day, people are matched up rather well with those whom they wish to be, and they don't need to waste time on others who are not interested in them.
Is "Match" for shidduchim a viable option? Preferable? Absolutely insane?
Sunday, March 13, 2011
EZ Reads 3/12/11
- March Madness starts this week!! If you're interested in joining my NCAA Pool (now in its 12th year!), please email me and I'll send you an invite. If you're looking for places to watch the NCAA Tournament live online, Lifehacker has a nice guide. Note that CBS no longer has the exclusive rights.
- SD has a really moving post about "the friendship that almost never was". It's a good post on perspective.
- Kim Strassel asks if you're ready for unionized airport security - and shows how unions start and end up causing major mistaken priorities down the road. On a related note, here's a hilarious (and often very inappropriate) Twitter feed for "TSAGov". Read the past few months' worth, it's hilarious if sadly on the mark.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Family Slaughtered by Palestinians
Five members of an Israeli family were killed Friday night when a suspected terrorist broke into their home in the West Bank settlement of Itamar and stabbed them all to death. The 12-year-old daughter who returned home from a friend’s house discovered the bodies. According to police, the suspect broke into the house armed with a knife and stabbed the mother, father and three children, aged 11, three and a three-month-old baby. Two infants, aged 2 and 4, survived the attack while escaping to their neighbors.The Israeli blogs are covering this far better. A Soldier's Mother rips CNN for putting quotes around terror attack. IsraellyCool shows the difference in humanity between Jews and Palestinians, as they hand out candies and goodies to celebrate killings. Jameel is covering it all.
One of the paramedics who arrived at the scene described the horrific sights “We could not help the first four stab victims. Following an inspection of the scene I spotted an infant of about three who still had a pulse. We engaged in lengthy resuscitation efforts but had to pronounce him dead,” he said. “The murder scene was shocking. Kids’ toys right next to pools of blood.”
Friday, March 11, 2011
EZ Reads 3/11/11
- A huge kiddush Hashem by some YU students, who noticed while doing a magic show that there were unused labs in a public school - so they volunteered to conduct science labs for the kids.
- The Yated (on Matzav, via reader YS) has an interesting op-ed entitled Life is Not a Popularity Contest, which discusses how we must start speaking out in the community against those who act improperly and dishonestly.
Prominent shady characters are given carte blanche to enact their agendas and the dishonest are permitted to continue their detrimental behavior and actions. We beat gingerly around the bush, dancing around the edges, afraid to proclaim the truth.Amen. I hope this is the start of a transition, and I'm curious what set it in motion. (Orthonomics is also pleasantly surprised.) Nice bonus: I may not face as much fallout as originally thought from the Honesty and the Jewish Community series after all.
What are we afraid of? Why are we silent?
- Adventures in Chinuch starts from the beginnings and questions if the root of the problem in Jewish education is perhaps the parents.
- Absolutely hilarious routine at Life in Israel on an Israeli in a NY restaurant.
- Tamar Snyder interviews Dr. Alan Kadish about Touro, filling Dr. Lander's shoes, and where the school is headed. Interesting if unsurprising that Touro is focused on being an educational rather than a research school.
- ZionTrain posts an oldie that is a take on how halachos seem to be born in today's times.
- Jewish men can jump? An article on Jews dunking... I've seen many guys dunk, but only a couple who did so in a game (and on a fastbreak only).
Quote on Purim
"There was no splitting of the sea, no manna falling from heaven, no walls tumbling down. In other words, it’s not so different from our situation today – a problematic Persian leader whose primary objective is to destroy the Jews, no obvious way out of the mess, and no overt signs that Hashem is going to nullify his plans."
Thursday, March 10, 2011
On the Demise of Conservative Judaism... Maybe
A few weeks ago, after the publishing of the post Hemorrhaging Orthodoxy, a Conservative Jewish woman sent me a long, fascinating message after mentioning the parallels the post had with Conservative Judaism. The message was a letter she had written to her brother, a Conservative Rabbi whom she describes as "but/and observant - not the uber liberal sort", a couple of days earlier. In her introduction to the message, she notes while she used to fit into a traditional form of old-school Conservadoxy, in her city "...it's either join the liberal crowd or try to fit in with the far-right crowd. I'm neither. So I wrote to my brother asking about the future...and with the same concerns about hemorrhaging... In case you're interested, I pasted my note below...and hope you don't find it too harsh."
The message led to an excellent discussion back and forth, and I asked for and received full permission to post the discussion on this blog. I plan on discussing various relevant excerpts, though truth be told the entire conversation has been fascinating as have the parallels to Orthodoxy. Below is the woman's original message (Ezzie's note: Please be aware that I've slightly edited the letter, mostly for reading ease), and please feel free to comment on any aspect of it. I'm presenting this initial message without my response so as not to take away from what I believe is a great letter.
The demise of Conservative Judaism... okay, maybe an overstatement :)
So, I've been reading the USCJ's strategic plan (PDF) and the associated documents. I have a serious question that's rattling around my head. Aside from the question as to what you think and where you stand on the proposed document (which to my reading was just dull and not overtly strategic... just a lot of words), my question is this: Is there really a place any longer for liberal Judaism?
I am not trying to be a provocateur. It's a real question.
On the one hand it feels as if assimilation and intermarriage has "won." It's no longer a shonda and people don't hush when they say their son or sister married out. It's just "that's who they fell in love with..." and then maybe some line about raising the kids Jewish or celebrating both sets of holidays.
Support of and for Israel is no longer a given. The little blue boxes. The connection to am yisrael... it feels like there's pockets of connection but only within groups and not between them.
It feels on the other hand that the more right-wing elements in Judaism have taken on an even more right-wing tone. The old YU model of Torah u'mesorah feels like it's lost ground to the black hat chumrah of the month club. It was always hard to be "a Jew at home and a man in the street" as the old saying went... to keep closely tied to tradition and balance modernity. But now it feels as if the man standing just off stage with the old crook is trying to use it to yank everyone away from the precipice that is the modern day Gemorrah.
What I'm seriously wondering after reading this is: Is Conservative (and engaged Reform) an anachronism? Both Conservative and engaged Reform have lost ground (and members) in recent years. It used to be (in the 1940s-50s) that Conservative Judaism was the shining star. It was certainly able to hold the line in the middle of the last century when much in society was changing. But has that time come and gone? What worked then may not be tenable now.
In the 1950s people moved out to the suburbs and built these palatial synagogue centers -- country clubs that let in our kind of people. But the kids grew up and moved away and not just geographically. Fast forward to the 2000s and yes those shuls may be full on Yom Kippur, but bringing in the numbers a couple of times a year doesn't necessarily mean these movements are healthy. Plus these synagogues have lent themselves to some of the things I think are wrong about where we're going... lackluster supplemental education programs (and how can it be otherwise when you have kids "trapped" into going, people teaching who can't necessarily inspire, carpool Judaism, difficulty retaining post-b'nai mitzvah youth), in some communities changing demographics -- aging populations that don't step up for sisterhood or men's clubs, etc.
I will say that what I think is working is camp and programs like Birthright or Nesiya or Nativ (although that presupposes a strong connection beforehand...and ditto for USY/NFTY... you're already dealing with the "in" crowd). I'd like to say day school, too. In a few years I guess I'll see how well the lessons have "stuck" but as a concept, I'd say it's (hopefully) one way we can encourage the next generation to remain within the fold.
So I go back to my question: Is there really -- for the long-long-l-o-n-g term -- a place for liberal Judaism or will we ultimately have a few people who cling to an ideal that once was the middle and see a swell on either side... those who want to remain tied to Judaism and find their option is frumkeit and the others who have fond memories of pastrami on rye (mustard no mayo... they haven't assimilated that much) and maybe an early-era Woody Allen film?
I agree there needs to be a strategic plan and some serious soul searching in the USCJ (and the URJ) -- cheshbon ha nefesh in this case. I'm not advocating that people throw off their talleisim, discard Judaism and run out for a ham and cheese on white on a Saturday. And, I'm not advocating that people should cast off their multicolored knit kippot or lace head coverings in favor of a spodek, streimel or spitzel peeking out from a pillbox.
We can (and some congregations do) have inspired leaders. We can have engaged kehillot. We can have non-Orthodox Jews who are learned, connected, striving, practicing... but often these leaders, kehillot and yidden are few and far between.
What I am is questioning. Ultimately, I really do wonder: Is there sustainability in non-Orthodox Judaism as a movement? And if so, how can an East-coast centric, old school institution reinvent itself in such as way that it produces a ground swell of enthusiasm to reignite people from where they are (in the geographic sense as well as in their lives, hearts and minds)? Leaving aside the issue of conversion and bringing people into Judaism through that door, I wonder how this strategic plan will really inspire people to come back, recommit and go forward as an integral part of the Jewish people?
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
EZ Reads 3/9/11
- Following up on their previous analysis, The New York Times determines that American Jews lead the happiest lives of all Americans. Brilliant first comment on the article (just saw it was removed!): Sure, most of them are happy, but those other 30%, boy can they complain!
- Mishpacha has a very good article this week explaining charter schools and how they can (and usually have not) impacted Orthodox schools and yeshivos. Excerpt:
Unlike the situation in Brooklyn and East Brunswick, Florida’s Ben Gamla charter school network has attracted a solid Jewish majority in its student body, and the system is growing by leaps and bounds. Following the Hollywood branch’s popularity, Ben Gamla schools were opened in nearby Plantation (in 2009) and Miami Beach (in 2010). There is an independent after-school religious studies program available to students throughout the Ben Gamla network.The article is in this week's Mishpacha, which you can subscribe to here.
However, even these schools’ success comes at a limited cost to local frum institutions. Sources familiar with the makeup of the school’s student body estimate that only about 5 percent of Ben Gamla students are from frum homes. Currently, the four-year-old network’s Jewish students are primarily either non-Orthodox, who would otherwise have attended public school or Conservative or non-denominational Jewish day schools; or special-needs students who require costly services not subsidized in private schools.
- Did you hear? The Maccabeats came out with a new video for Purim! (Yes, I heard about 100 times.) Admittedly, Uri Westrich put together another good one - great job sticking with themed jokes, like the sombrero and the dripping jelly.
- Chana realizes there is a difference between compassion and understanding, and publicity and support, when it comes to homosexuality in the Orthodox community.
- Finally! xkcd pokes fun at ads which say things like "Sales of up to 15% - or more!" So... you mean you have sales going on at various percentages below and above 15%? Why not just pick any number below the max percentage discount so it sounds bigger? Do people really suck this bad at math? This always frustrated me.
- Michael Medved has a great piece in today's Wall Street Journal decrying the propensity of Republicans to label Obama as a radical/extremist. This trait is especially true in the Orthodox Jewish community, and it doesn't do anybody any favors. Medved notes that realizing that Obama's views are rather mainstream Democrat is important if the GOP wishes to win the next election.
- Finally, an old neighbor from Cleveland who is absolutely hilarious has a number of videos doing various impressions of all types of people. Her latest is up on YouTube and has already picked up 11,000+ views, so I feel like it's okay to put it on the blog this time:
I wish some of her other stuff would go up, too - she's just really, really funny.
How I Met Serach, Part XIV: Madame Tussaud's and Cameras
This is Part XIV of a series about how I proposed to Serach. To see the series, you could simply use the guide link under the header of the blog or this link right here titled "How I Met Serach".Ezzie's note: Yes, yes, I know. It has now been seven years since Serach and I were engaged; five since I started writing this series; and two since the last time I wrote a part. Over the last few months, a number of people have come over to me and told me that they found my blog for the first time, or they were old readers but there wasn't much new material, and they started reading the How I Met Serach series... only to discover that I had never finished it. They viewed this as a huge tease, though as someone else noted, "Can't you guess how it ends!?" Perhaps it's time to get to the point, though... In Part XIII, I explained the difficulty in writing this series.
On our sixth date, which is the last date that I can remember the number of, Serach and I decided to have fun at Madame Tussaud's in Manhattan. For those who are not aware, not only is it incredibly hard to spell or pronounce, but Madame Tussaud's is basically a really cool wax museum, featuring wax figurines of all types of people past and present, from historical figures to current pop and sports stars to just plain old wax figurines to throw people off. Some of the figurines are more real-looking than others, and it's easy to bump into one and apologize before realizing or to be fooled by a person pretending to be wax. It's also a great place to start taking pictures of and with a [potentially] significant other, because it gives you so many excuses to be having fun and to pose that it's a natural outcome of the date.
Today, if you would walk into our kitchen, you'd notice an old, ragged looking magnet of a handful of old pictures from when we were dating and first married. Often, we're asked where we were with Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, and Al Roker - until people realize that while Katie is pretty waxy looking in real life, there's something about Al that isn't quite right. The reason those pictures are up are because those are the first pictures we have of one another, taken on my old Pentax that my parents got me when I graduated from high school... using something called film. The best picture of the night was probably one I took of Serach in the "World Leaders" section, a picture that a month or so later my charedi cousin's wife, in the first picture of Serach she ever saw, thought was one of the funniest things she'd ever seen: Serach flipping off Yassir Arafat.
In retrospect, I realized that a camera is a big deal in a relationship: It means that a person wants to have some kind of record of the time he or she is spending with another, and they're showing that to the person they're with. Later on, I realized my parents really liked Serach when my Mom, halfway through a meal together, pulled out her camera to snap a couple of pictures. Pictures are a threshold-breaking moment, and of course once the doubts on either side fade as to whether they are okay with the idea, it's a moment that is recorded for all time... or until the pictures are deleted. It's also a point at which a couple is allowing themselves to share these moments not just with each other, but with close family and friends to whom the pictures will be shown.
For us, it was a really great night. We had an amazing time, and afterward I think we walked around Toys 'R Us again, just because it was close by and a nice place to walk around. Around this time, perhaps that very night, perhaps shortly afterward, I decided to call my parents and tell them about Serach. (You may recall that in Part XII my sister advised me not to tell them yet, and I made the mistake of listening to her... and not telling them for a while.) At this point, I knew this was really serious, and there was no reason not to tell them anymore. So one night sometime in late December 2003, with my roommate not around, I called up my parents on my dorm room phone.
"Hi Mom! I have something exciting to talk to you and Dad about..."
Next up: Mom and Dad aren't quite as thrilled as I am. (Shocker, I know.)