Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ehud Olmert -- GOP Jew (and bad news for israel)

Note this little gem from the Forward:

Israel, Syria and Bush’s Veto

"Israel’s worst-kept diplomatic secret became public knowledge this week when its prime minister, Ehud Olmert, told his Cabinet that he was against taking up a dramatic new Syrian offer for peace talks — because doing so would undermine President Bush."


"It’s long been rumored that
Olmert’s real motive is placating Bush. He’s consistently denied it — until now. This time, he put his cards on the table. What drove him to ’fess up was a new peace overture from Damascus, announced December 16 by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem. Speaking to a Lebanese newspaper, Moallem offered to open peace talks without any preconditions — dropping for the first time Syria’s longtime demand that Israel concede the Golan Heights in advance of talks. Moallem was following up on comments a day earlier by Assad, who urged Olmert to “take a chance” and “discover if we are bluffing or not.” Assad also offered to help America restore stability in Iraq."

In other words, the prime minister of the State of Israel seems to be more worried about the welfare of President Bush and the neocons than he is about the welfare of the people of Israel.

This is utterly stupid. Most American Jews don't like Bush, certainly at least 60% of the general American public don't like Bush (and only 30% support him). And Olmert wants to tie the fate of Israel to Bush?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Jimmy Carter -- enemy of the Jews .... NOT

Enough of the idiotic nonsense regarding Carter's new Book. Here's the best comment I've seen about it, from an Israeli, no less:

Memoir of a great friend
By Tom Segev

Jimmy Carter is upsetting 'friends of Israel' in America with a book that obliges people to redefine their friendship. Some are accusing him of anti-Semitism. In a very personal, very Christian way, Carter is saying basically what at least one out of two Israelis these days is saying.

Predictably, some are accusing Carter of anti-Semitism. Carter is closely following the responses, including on the Internet, and responding to his critics. He is prepared to lecture for free about his views - but Jews don't want to hear, he complains. An Israeli reader won't find anything more in the book than is written in the newspapers here every day.

. . . .

These are small things; the uproar is over the word "apartheid." That's another thing I would have recommended that Carter forgo, if he'd asked me. It's not necessary; the situation is terrible as it is. Now everyone's busy arguing about the use of the term "apartheid" instead of focusing on the horrors of the occupation in the territories. Similarly, I had a hard time getting worked up over the fact that the security wall in Jerusalem passes through territory that was a favorite of Jesus and his disciples.

But the principal argument is well-founded, and backed up by the reports from B'Tselem, Peace Now, Israeli newspapers and even many articles that appear in The New York Times (as opposed to the theory, which Carter cites, that says Israel's critics are being silenced). Like many others, Carter points out the ongoing and systematic violation of the Palestinians' human rights; the injustices of the oppression perpetuate the conflict. It's bad for everyone, the United States included.

. . . .

One reason the book is outraging "friends of Israel" in America is that it requires them to reformulate their friendship: If they truly want what's good for Israel, they must call on it to rid itself of the territories. People don't like to admit that they've erred; therefore, they're angry at Carter. But the belief that a withdrawal to the Green Line will bring peace has been around ever since the Six-Day War. What else is new?

Thnak God there arer some sane people left in the Middle East

Islamic Movement sheikhs slam theories of Holocaust denial
By Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondent

The Holocaust-denial theories aired last week in Iran were denounced Friday from an unexpected source - in a statement released by sheikhs of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Simultaneously, Religious Zionist rabbis issued a statement denouncing damage done to the Muslim cemetery in the center of Jerusalem in the construction of the Museum of Tolerance.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ethics question of the day -- Medical privacy and cellphones

I'd appreciate some input from my loyal followers about this recent case:

The other day, I boarded a train for his trip home. Because I boarded late, and the train was very crowded, I was unable to get my accustomed seat in the "Quiet Car," and, indeed was lucky to find a seat at all.

Unfortunately, I was forced to sit next to a gentlemen who identified himself as "Dr Goldberg. (not his real name). How did I learn this? Well is was because the good doctor was using his Amtrak seat as a rent-free annex to his medical office. That is, he had a list of patients who had called him during the day, and he proceeded to go down the list, and using the modern miracle of cellphone technology, perform his consultations. And on each call he identified himself.

Aside from the fact that I find listening to telephone conversations extremely annoying, "Doctor Goldberg" was discussing very detailed and intimate medical information with his patients in full earshot of at least 80 fellow passengers. Sure, we could only hear half the conversation, but I really didn't appreciate it when he started talking about the results of a pelvic examination of a female patient of his. And occasionally, when he called the person, he did address them by name.

Aside from being annoyed, I really wonder whether doing this is a breach of medical ethics. I mean, I wouldn't want my doc to be sitting on a train, dial me up on his cellphone, and say, "Mr. Apikoris, this is Doctor Kronkheit. We just got the results of your STD tests back, and everything came up negative." It's bad enough that I have to listen to cellphone conversations of arrogant bosses chewing out their subordinates, or fools trying to finalize sensitive multizillion dollar business deals while giving the names of the parties out in public, but I think that the public broadcast of medical information reaches a new low, and probably should be against the law, if it isn't already.

Anyway, just interested to see what you all think.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Kiruv to the Orthodox -- Masorti's role

If you didn't know, I have a shining vision of a new form of non-tribal secular-humanist Judaism that will transcend the narrow limits of the current "Abrahamitic" faiths (i.e Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and ensure the universal spread of Torah without the narrow-minded bigotry and violence that has been an all too often side-effect so far.

But I'm not here to discuss that grand high-level vision. I'm posting about smaller practical steps to set it in motion.

What started this was a recent post by DovBear, who was channeling a post by Rabi Yaakov Horowitz concerning "at-risk teens" in the black-hatter Orthodox community. It seems that there is a growing amount of dissatisfaction with the black-hatter lifestyle, a lifestyle that is circumscribed by their ideology and thus capable of change only with the greatest of difficulty.

Chevrei, this could be the start of the greatest defections from Orthodox Judaism that k'lal Yisrael has seen since the days of my grandparents, when millions of Jews were finally emancipated from Czarist oppression, and realized that a good deal of that consisted of oppression by the Orthodox establishment in the Old Country. These defections can be an opportunity to build a new Jewish community based on the principles of "Torah v'sekoolar hoomaneezm," but we may lose that chance if the defectors leave the Jewish fold so fast that they become totally secular, or even, (God Forbid) become Christian. Or Mormon. Or Buddhist. We must ensure that defectors from Orthodox remain religiously Jewish, as participants on one of the non-Orthodox Jewish movements.

And here is where the Conservative (Masorti) movement can play a vital role, the same role they played in Grandpa's day. These Orthodox defectors, while they may have found the lifestyle of their community difficult and the theology of their community preposterous, have still been thoroughly indoctrinated that black-hatter Orthodoxy is the Only One True Form of Judaism. Thus, when they attend services at a non-Orthodox synagogue and encounter a lady rabbi strumming on a guitar, they cannot accept that this, too, is one of the 70 faces of Torah. These lost souls need to find a way station, a half-way house, as it were, where they can remain within the fold of k'lal yisrael and learn to accept the principles of the new Judaism in a setting that is familar to them. And Conservative Judaism can provide that setting, just as it did from my grandfather of blessed memory, a Lithuanian yeshiva boocher who wouldn't have been caught dead in a Reform Temple ("goyish mishugass"), but came to enjoy and appreciate his local Conservative minyan, mixed seating and all.

But is the Conservative movement ready for this historic task? Alas, they've been navel-gazing and otherwise self-absorbed with issues related to the career ambitions of women and gay rabbis, and they may yet miss this historic opportunity. Orthodox defectors come to Consertaive shuls, and they may be attracted by the similarities in the rituals, but they get turned off by the growing trend of Conservative shuls becoming ritually indistinguishable from Reform Temples. i.e., the Conservative shuls are becoming too goyish. Too many prayers in English, too much explanation during services of the rituals. Too much of major changes merely to accommodate the wishes of a faction outspoken members. Not that all of that is wrong, and may be what that particular congregation of Conservative faithful need. But will such congregations attract the defectors from Orthodoxy?

I maintain that it is in the best interest of the Conservative movement, and indeed of k'lal Yisrael, to make sure that these defectors find a proper Jewish home. To do that, the Conservative movement should consciously work to m'karev this spiritual searchers and be sure that they have Conservative prayer-space that is culturally familiar to them and allows them to be slowly weaned from their fundamentalist indoctrination. This means that the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism should ensure that every Jewish community of reasonable size have some sort of "right-wing" Conservative minyan in a functional state. This could range from an alternative minyan in a larger established synagogue to an independent free-standing synagogue. "Right-wing Conservative" could cover a wide range of practices, including orthodox-style ritual (very little English, use of orthodox prayer-texts, no heche kedusha, full annual Torah reading, no microphones on Shabbos, etc.), to fully or partially ritually non-egalitarian. What's most important is a congregation in which the zeitgeist of the membership is supportive of people who try to be shomrei mitzvot, unlike many Conservative synagogues, where observant people are made to feel like out-of-place religious fanatics. An indoctrinated Orthodox defector is going to be going through enough emotional turmoil, what with feelings of guilt that he or she has rejected the faith of his or her parents, they don't need to be made to feel bad about ritual practices that the need to continue, at least for a while, as a stabilizing force in their life.

And it should be noted that the theology and ideology of Conservative Judaism does allow for the "right-wing" practices, so its not like the movement would be hypocritical by sponsoring such institutions. And these "right-wing" institutions can be safe places where the Orthodox defectors can be exposed to the Sages of Liberal Judaism who can show them that the authentic teachings of Torah need not require and abusive social system or a fundamentalist theology. And so, most of them will slowly grow in Liberal observance and assimilate into the non-Orthodox community, thus helping build my vision of a new universal House of Israel for everybody.

Neocons, fear-mongering, and Jewish tradition

This is very difficult to write, but I have come to the inescapable conclusion that all of the sorry events over the past 6 years, from the erosion of our liberties due to the "War on Terror," to the ill-advised and disastrous war on Iraq, have their roots in the Jewish tradition.

No, of course it's not the "Fault of the Jews," indeed, the vast majority of American Jews have opposed the Bush Administration's foolish policies.

But the Jewish neocons, the followers of Leo Strauss, have tapped into Jewish tradition to rule through fear:

It is the way of the Sages to scare people with punishments which will befall them from the Heavens. For, they feel, without fear -- of a flesh-and-blood ruler or of the rule of the Heavens -- society would degrade to the level of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The American Right Wing has not faith in the judgement of the masses. The feel only they have the knowledge to decide what;'s right and what's wrong. And look where they have lead our country!! Look where they have led the world!! And they did this based on an insight gained from Jewish tradition.

Fear is the way of Jewish tradition. Fear and also guilt. Isn't it time to remold the Jewish tradition? Isn't it time to make our observances rational and to accept the joys and responsinities for freedom? Isn't it time to tell the fear-mongers to take a hike?

Amen, Selah.

Good Shabbos.