In Praise Of Anita Busch
Bernie, a retired member of the entertainment industry, writes: "I just read the profile of Anita. It's obvious you know nothing about this girl. All those lies. Why would you do that to someone as nice as her? You don't know this girl. She is one of the most generous people I've ever met. She looks out for people all the time. When she was editor of the trade paper there, she would worry about one or the other and hoped they got through some crisis okay. She tried to help them all the time. She was really upset when she had to fire a couple of people. Didn't want to do it. After she fired one person, she paid his bills until he got back on his feet. I know. She didn't want to fire him but she was told she had to. She would come over here after working a full day and bring me dinner and we'd talk. She go from the office, then to visit this guy out at the hospital. How could you do this to someone with such a big heart? I remember her being disgusted one year because the paper did no bonus, no holiday gifts, no nothing for their employees so she went out and spent $3,000 of her own money and bought something for every person on her staff. Why don't you put those things in your profile? What's wrong with you to do this to this girl? And to attack this girl now after what she's been through? I don't understand you. You should be ashamed of yourself picking on somebody you know nothing about."
Luke says: "I encourage other people to write in with praise of Anita."
Bernie replies: "To hell with you."
Luke says: "With few exceptions, all of Anita Busch's supporters have been rude, profane and/or threatening. Birds of a feather?"
Bernie replies: "I want you to put this up there: All Luke Ford does is attack people he knows nothing about. He is a negative person who tries to ride on the coattails of decent people by trying to tear them down. You need to go to temple. You have lost your way."
LA Business Tax On Writers
Catherine Seipp writes on LaExaminer.com: "A writer working at home has no more impact on the neighborhood than someone writing in a diary all day. It's not as if traffic is increased, for instance, from clients are coming and going. For the L.A. business tax to apply to us is an invasion of privacy. But here's something interesting about that letter, which I got last week: It suggests that if you work for businesses outside of L.A. you may be exempt, and 98% of my income comes from media based outside L.A. I always thought I didn't write for local media because local media is lame. Maybe it's actually because God doesn't want me to pay the L.A. business tax! (And, of course, because local media is lame.)"
Siskel and Ebert Discuss Catch Me If You Can
Josh writes: "The film is getting horrible advance buzz. Supposed to be Spielberg's failed attempt at comedy just like in "1941"."
The following is for satirical purposes only.
Gene Siskel: "I liked the film. It's not what it's advertised in the trailer. It's much darker. I think the least effective part of the film is Europe. It's almost like an after-thought they tagged on. I still think it will gross about $170 million domestic."
Ebert: "Walter Parks [head of production at Dreamworks] said it didn't work..."
Siskel: "Why do you assume that Walter Parks is telling Steven Spielberg what to do? You think Walter is a hack and you're going to attack him regardless?
"You are going to argue that Spielberg is an 800-pound canary that nobody can say a word to him lest he should cut the film by 20 minutes, everyone cowers at this footstep, and say that Walter Parks controls Steven Spielberg? Is it your premise that Spielberg doesn't know what he is doing?"
Ebert: "You don't think Walter Parks has had any influence at all over this process?"
Siskel: "In the end, Steven Spielberg has the final say."
Luke: "Ebert, why do you think Walter Parks is a hack?"
Ebert: "I can only point to one thing that is irrefutable. I've looked at the two versions of Almost Famous. Walter was largely responsible forcing the shorter tighter version. Director Cameron Crowe said he went along with it because the numbers at the test screening were higher.
"The longer version came out on DVD and it is radiantly so much of a better film. I talked to Walter about this via email. He was nice until I referred to him as Frank Nitti-like." [Who's that?]
Ebert: "I have no idea what role Walter Parks played in this movie but it just seems unfocused. The book is unquestionably a better work than the film."
Luke to Siskel: "Do you think Walter Parks is a hack?"
Siskel: "He's shown a proclivity to cut things that do not need to be cut and tries to get his studio films down to that magical two hour mark."
Tiffany Stone writes: "Hi Luke, I am glad you liked my journal entry. You obviously like a drier sense of humor. Hollywood is easy to be cynical about because the business is fucked-up. When people stereotype L.A. as being filled with fake people, they really mean people associated with the film industry. Did you ever see the TV show Action? I think you would resonate with it. They play it on FX sometimes. If you are on the east coast, there is a great new cable show that plays kick-ass TV shows that were canceled. I am lucky to know a few stand-up people in the industry. They aren't all lacking morals and integrity. There are always some good eggs."
Bad Buzz On Catch Me If You Can
It's overwhelming now. I've heard this from several sources - Steven Spielberg's new film Catch Me If You Can disappoints. Spielberg displays no facility with comedy though this is not as bad as his flop 1941. Everyone I've spoken to about the film agrees it is not as good as the book. The trailer is completely deceptive.
I've also heard bad buzz on Marty Scorsese's Gangs of New York.
Josh writes: The bad buzz on Gangs Of New York has been circuling for awhile. The studio's lack of confidence with the film, switching dates again and again, is pretty fishy. Still the film is getting Oscar buzz. I think that may go away as soon as the film opens.
Saving Gordon's Credit
Producer Mark Gordon had long championed at Paramount the Robert Rodat script Saving Private Ryan. Then one day Steven Spielberg swooped in. He wanted to make the movie, he says, because he wanted to make a WWII movie to honor his father. (Steven makes many movies about fathers who are absent.)
Steven is known as a bully in Hollywood. He will swoop down on a project and take it over, and only reluctantly sharing credit. Mark Gordon did not want to be kicked off the project. So eventually he called Spielberg's lawyer, said he didn't want to be on the set and looking over Steven's shoulder, but that he wanted to be retained as the credited "producer" and to accept the Academy Award with Steven. And if Spielberg prevented him, he'd call the LA Times and complain. Five minutes later, Mark got a call back from the lawyer agreeing that Mark would be the credited producer.
Amalek's Annual Chanukkah Homily
While you are living your life in a masturbatorial haze, frolicking amongst the other adult juveniles of Hollywood, consider the demographic consequences of the jewess's extended childhood here in the West, a childhood that runs up to about age 40:
If you view the Jewish world as consisting of two parts (which it does), a rather forbidding Orthodox part that none of us would ever join, and the "real" part to which we belong, the decline of our end of things is even more striking. You know that but for the work of the chassidim, the paucity of jewish births would be even more striking. So keep on going to the parties of adult children, Luke, the end result is one the German artist A. Hitler would have approved.
As for you young W., you need to be more forceful in making the case to the Jewesses of Toronto as to why they should accept you. If they do not, use the HOLOCAUST card against them and start looking for fertile shiksas. Start with that Moxie and those other hot bloggers you know. (Don't listen to Luke on this and trust me, you have a crack at them.)
And as for YOU nekfred, living in the Nerdistan of Silicon Valley things are hopeless for you, so I shall refrain from further comment except to say that engineering is even worse for procreation than excessive bike riding. I fear it may be too late for you to escape your fate.
Luke, stop being such a freakin' sissy and WARN THE JEWESS about the demographic doom to which her frivolity leads!!!! If this catastrophe is to be minimized (too late to avoid it entirely) the Jewess must drop twenty pounds, dress better, and consider guys who are not rich or doctors.
Thus ends AMALEK'S Hannukah homily.
Luke Confesses His Great Shame
At a low point in my life, in May 1998, I visited a psychic several times. I was then so ashamed I couldn't bear to tell anyone about it until now.
Fred writes: On Thanksgiving, I sat next to a toxicologist who does a lot of work with the Food and Drug Administration. I have a strong libertarian tilt to my thinking, and we got into a debate. I argue that the FDA should not be able to ban a drug merely because it is proven ineffective (i.e. no more effective than a placebo). At most, the FDA should certify drugs as effective or not effective, and the public should be allowed to either waste their time or not waste their time with the drug.
People at extremely low points in their life do all sorts of odd things, e.g. wierd new-age remedies that could not possibly work. My brother-in-law (a very orthodox Jew) had a wierd inoperable tumor, and he did all sorts of things--meditation, etc. Didn't work. I'd like to think that I would never go to a psychic, but who knows.
Fred writes: A couple of weeks ago, when I was channel-surfing, I caught Barbara Walters in a conversation with Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks and Steve Spielberg. During that conversation I was struck with how sycophantic they were to each other. I now understand that there is an ethic in Hollywood. If they are saying something about another Hollywood type, they praise slavishly (at least if it is not anonymously).
I have a feeling that our boy Luke will have a tough row to hoe in this business.
Jill Stewart Makes A Smashing Debut On KFI Radio
Former New Times political journalist Jill Stewart made a smashing debut on KFI radio Sunday from 4-7PM.
Monday she wrote friends: "Hey everybody, thanks for the kind comments on my show on KFI. I was scared stiff and could not even lick my parched lips for the first 15 minutes because there was absolutely no saliva in my cotton-dry mouth. Then Riordan could not be found and I had to carry the first hour alone. I thought I was going to puke.Thank God I brought a bunch of my pertinent New Times columns to read and comment on in case there was a lull. My producer says you could not really tell I was a bundle of nerves. Of course, now that it's over and nothing horrible happened, I am ready to get back in the saddle."
Dennis Prager Singles Event
Dennis Prager held another of his single events in Orange County Sunday. Admission was $30. I hear that the average age of participants was about 45. Few women under 30. Most of the participants were older women. Few Jews. Prager gave another one of his oft-told speeches about happiness.
Amalek18: Did you actually go to that praeger thing?
I'm working on a memoir about my years in Los Angeles. I was wondering if you had any suggestions of topics or areas or parts of my psyche you think I should address that have I not written about?
Robert writes: How about a happy ending? Redemption of some sort. Your pushin' 40 for chrissakes! Your sinking bank account is hardly the stuff of movies of the week.
Fred writes: Possible endings:
1. Luke returns to the faith of his father. Much to his surprise and chagrin, he discovers that his father has left the church and taken over Vivid.
2. Luke takes over Vivid, pushing out the current management in a hostile corporate takeover. He marries Ginger Lynn, and rises to the head of the industry, sorta like Michael Corleone.
3. Luke converts Kendra to orthodox Judaism, they have 12 children, and live happily ever after.
4. Luke converts Kendra to orthodox Judaism and they have 12 children. Unfortunately, after 15 years, Luke figures out that none of them are his. (This may help answer the question of why Kendra can still afford jewelry that is well out of the range of Luke's salary.)
5. Luke finally leaves the world of journalism and becomes an actor. Finally, he gains some measure of respectability.
6. Luke becomes a legitimate journalist, writing for Variety, doing profiles of the movers and shakers of Hollywood.
7. Luke becauses a legitimate journalist, writing for the LA Times, specializing in editorials on moral and ethical guidance for the readership. The city of Los Angeles is so grateful for this guidance that they rename the Santa Monica Freeway as the Luke Ford Moral Leader Freeway. It becomes a tourist attraction for visitors all over the world.
8. Asia Carrera finally realizes what a fool she's been, says something like "Luke, can you ever forgive me for rejecting you?", drops everything and marries Luke. (Asia, if Luke posts this, and you read it, I'm just kidding. In reality, you say something like "Fred, can you ever forgive me for rejecting you?", you drop everything and marry me.)
9. Luke is abducted by aliens. He then takes up publishing columns slandering the aliens until one of them either sues him or threatens to beat him up.
10. Luke finally fixes up his advisory committee (Khun Rum, Fred, Chaim, Fyke, etc.) with hot chicks, just like a good friend should.
11. Luke is finally accepted by ------'s orthodox community. As a precondition, he has to agree to never write anything again, never say anything again, and not talk or communicate in any way shape or form with any of the other congregants. If he shows up in shul, he can only enter and leave by a special back entrance. Just as they have a curtain separating male and female congregants, they have a special wall (made of lead) separating Luke from the other congregants.
Those are my ideas for a happy ending.
Movie Sneak Peaks
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind stinks. The Hours is a downer. Will homosexual audiences and critics (like Newsweek's David Ansen) better appreciate The Hours, with its gay characters and themes?
Sundays With Poland
David and Alexander suffer a slow horrible Sunday afternoon as the Miami Dolphins are defeated by the Buffalo Bills.
Luke: "David, I was talking to a movie critic Saturday night who said you were not a critic."
David: "I am as much a critic as any critic I read. I write in-depth about films and the making of films [on www.thehotbutton.com] and the meaning of films. I don't do reviews like so many critics. I don't write several paragraphs in every review explaining the storyline in the movie because I don't consider that criticism. I consider that a detriment to the reader. I'm in the Broadcast Film Critics Organization. We're not the traditional organization for critics. There are few critic critics on television anymore. They tend to be entertainment journalists.
"I am not part of the establishment. The studios recognize me and give me access but the traditional media groups have not embraced me. I think, in part, it's because I feel free to write about them and I don't think they like being in that position."
Alex yells at David and I for interrupting the game.
David: "Alex, you've been on your cell phone interrupting the game more than either one of us."
Alex on the phone again: "I'll be done working about 5:30."
Working? He's sitting here watching TV.
Alex: "Done working out, weightlifting."
Luke: "Why don't you take David with you? He needs to work-out."
Alex: "He just doesn't think about working out."
Luke: "David, why don't you work out with Alex?"
David: "Because if I wanted to work out, I'd go work out, not just try to pick up pussy."
Alex starts screaming obscenities over his cellphone. David has never seen him so angry.
Why Chanukkah Can Bring Out The Hostility In The Single Jew
Joe writes: "I think if you go to an orthodox synagogue's chanukah party the expectation is that if you can't pair up with someone you are a loser. Nobody comes out and says that, of course but the message is this--chanukah is a holiday celebrated with kids, and if you don't have kids yet, then you'd better get used to this infantile feeling of "singles events" because we're going to make you attend them until you pair up and procreate."
Luke says: The highly annoying thing of going to Chanukkah parties filled with kids is that it's impossible to carry on a conversation with a parent. They're so busy minding their kids that they can't talk to you.
Chaim Amalek Seeks Media Pimp
Chaim Amalek of the Upper West Side is in need of literary representation to pimp his work to Hollywood. While he is Jewish, the media pimp he seeks need not be (although it wouldn't hurt). Preference given to New York agents, and Chaim promises that the right one will be given access to certain "extras", if they treat him right. Please contact Luke Ford, who will then advance the shidduck. Serious responses only.
Chaim Amalek Ready To Party In NYC
Amalek18: I am willing to be your eyes and ears in New York, Your Man on the Ground if it gets me into swanky parties here.
AND he will open a street-mosque on Broadway and 86th Streets.
AND he will ask the Black Hebrews/Black Israelites to start doing some serious ranting on the Upper West Side.
Khunrum writes: Gentlemen as you know I attended a bar mitzvah in Louisville Kentucky this weekend. Just got back to Houston. Wealthy Southern Jews. More furs than you'd see at a taxidermist. Diamonds as big as the Ritz. So large they look like small meteors on the Jewess's fingers. Comely Jewesses with successful husbands and beaus. Nice autos, large elegant houses. It was rare peak into a upscale culture. Luke my son. Will you ever be able to land one of these Jewesses for your very own? No social workers in this crowd buddy.
Chaim writes: Luke, you are never going to make a money changer of yourself, and the years are flowing by faster than you realize. Don't you think that you have taken this jewish shtick of yours as far as it can be taken, and don't you realize that's not far enough?
Khunrum writes: The Jewish ladies I met this weekend are used to fine cars, nice houses and shiny baubles that go on the fingers. Their fathers gave it to them and the husbands must do the same. Luke, you need funding. Looks and personality ain't nearly enough.
Luke goes after the high enders with a decrepit bakery van and an empty billfold. You can't bring down an elephant with a BB gun.
One Extremely Screwed-Up Aussie's Opinion
Wherein the author skips the movies and reviews the women who write about them. Plagiarized from the October 1999 issue of HEVG.
Since this is the first time I've been allowed to write in a medium outside of the Internet, I thought I might spend a brief moment introducing myself to you. I am an Australian born to a Seventh Day Adventist preacher daddy and his cancer-ridden wife - my mommy - who died when I was five. I have a lot of anger inside of me because of this...to say nothing of the fact that I desperately wanted to break into the world of entertainment journalism and was shut out by every editor this side of the San Fernando Valley which forced me to go on the attack on my Web Site, lukeford.net. I hate all of you, by the way.
On the positive side, I am obsessed with movie columnist David Poland, who no one but myself recognizes as one of the great Jewish philosophers of out time. My daddy would disagree. I hate him and want to shame him for allowing my mommy to die. My lustful yearnings for Mr. Poland and my hatred for my father inspired me to convert to Judaism, a religion that allows me to wear funny little hats and hobnob with produers who, if they aren't Jews, are Italian mafiosi. I hate all of them too...
Anita Busch is a cute little Midwestern girl that I have tried to interview on several occasions. Unfortunately, she doesn't seem all that impressed with me. And I even handed her my business card which clearly states that I am "Hollywood's most controversial journalist."
Sharon Waxman...has no hang-ups about spreading her righteous journalism. I have a feeling that her current "husband" is really a shill for the mob. My proof? I don't have any, nor do I need any. While this attitude may seem unethical to many people, I don't really care. I have the right to be satirical, don't I?
It's funny how so many Christian girls seem so willing to engage in such morally repugnant behavior as long as some Jew is waving a buck in her face. Which is why I'd like the opportunity to sit down with a little cutie like Claudia Eller and discuss the moral imperative to be found in the Book of Leviticus. That goes double for Zorianna Kitt of the Hollywood Reporter. Both these girls seem to have a strong predeliction for the nonwhite races. Is it the Jew influence at work here, or is it the evil machinations of the Italian mob? I find myself oddly attracted and repelled at the same time.
Which brings me to Nikki Finke who's a lot like my dead mommy who got cancer and left me on my own at an ungodly early age. I've never gotten over her death - or the anger it causes me. One day, I will get off my soft, lazy ass and write about my feelings in detail. As I've said elsewhere, to live is to die; to love is to die. Die, die, die.
Again, I seem to be slipping from my moorings. Which is why I saved Campus Sluts for last. Director David Christopher, like so many directors, is, of course, a Jew. There is a very Jewish line of thought throughout this video. As we all know, the American college campus is overrun by Jews, who, like their fellow Jews worldwide, are just not content unless they are plooking Christian girls. Thank God for the Sabbath, when we can all reflect on such wordly issues.
Unfortunately, my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is starting to act up again and I feel myself getting tired. I need to crawl into bed where I can stare at the poster of David Poland that I have taped to my ceiling and imagine myself in his tender arms while he whispers passages from the Torah in perfect Hebrew just for me. David, if you are reading this, please know that my love for you knows no limits.
Looks and brains, it's just not fair.
She's blonde, she's hot looking, she once used the term "wetback" in a Washington Post chat room, which got her in a lot of trouble with the PC crowd. She's an aggressive reporter, chasing Jeff Kwatinetz into an elevator after he bought Michael Ovitz's management company but didn't want to talk to the press.
Sharon Waxman even emailed me once, a few weeks before her Seth Warshavsky profile in 1998, for background info on Seth. I failed her. I didn't have much.
Sharon's been based in LA for the past two years. She's not particularly fond of the entertainment beat but she does a righteous job. I hear her husband is about 60 years old and a fellow scribe. Oh, heart be still, if only I could meet her... Oh, if only I was not so hung up on female journalists? Why, oh why, do I always make comments and judgements about their looks? Why am I such a sexist pig? WWDD?
Sharon, if you can hear me, I've got a lot of respect for your journalism.
From the WP site: Washington Post Style correspondent Sharon Waxman brings Hollywood & Vine live online on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. ET for a discussion on the inner workings of the movie industry. There is a whole political universe behind how the movies happen, the tug and pull of egos, financial imperatives, a pecking order of privileges as well as genuine creative impulses.
Waxman is on hand to answer your questions and field your comments on the industry personalities she has met; the movies that are causing a stir and why; trends in the industry and the culture of moviemaking in general.
Saying Goodbye To Rick Barrs
The time: 5:50PM
Faced with this insuperable obstacle, our hero reads the New York and Los Angeles Times newspapers online, the Drudge report, the news on the Dallas Cowboys and other trivial pursuits to avoid the task of writing. Then our hero eats his dinner - a big bowl of Special K. Then he takes a nap. Then he takes a shower. Then he puts on his tzitzit, yarmulke, shiny black suit, a blue shirt and striped blue tie. He wipes off his black shoes. He checks the time: 7:02PM.
He has an appointment on his calendar for a drink-up at a nearby pub at 7:30PM. He realizes that nobody will be there at 7:30PM. He knows he has a bad habit of arriving on time to events that people know never start on time. But he doesn't want to do the hard work of writing. So he steps out in faith, leaving his Chanukkah candles burning in his sink, not on his window sill in case of a fire.
By 7:10PM, our hero is in his van and on his way to 370 N. La Cienega where LA's finest journalists are saying goodbye to Rick Barrs, formerly the editor of the former New Times LA and soon to be editor of the Phoenix New Times.
I park and arrive at the pub at 7:34PM. I walk in and recognize nobody.
This is daunting for someone as insecure as our hero.
I stand on La Cienega Blvd outside the pub and look across the street to the strip club. This is not a gaze that a Torah Jew should sustain. So I walk down the street to a bookstore and glance through four different magazines on writing.
At 7:57PM, I'm back at the pub and thank HaShem, Rick Barrs (a secular Jew, a Hellenizing Jew, just the type of Jew the Maccabees would've killed 2150 years ago) is there. And better yet, he buys me a drink (Diet Pepsi). And we shoot the breeze for 30 minutes.
The next 30-minutes, I chat with Los Angeles Times columnist Pat Morrison.
David and Peter Rainer, the film critic at New York magazine (and head of a film critics association), hug twice ironically. Another journalist asks me if they have a feud. They don't.
I laugh with a writer about LA Times' critic Kevin Thomas, who's been throwing hissy fits for all of his 40-years at the Times. Kevin sick of always being the paper's number two critic. We can't think of another critic who regularly throws hissy fits.
I saw Jill Stewart with her tall manly-man Norm. Jill hosts a show on KFI radio in LA Sunday from 4-7 PM as a tryout. I think she'd be a great talkshow host.
Advice columnist Amy Alkon bubbled over about getting blackballed by the LA Times. An editor there doesn't want Amy to pitch her any more story ideas.
Why are all other LA Times columnists, aside from Steve Lopez ($250,000 a year?) told to not be personal, not to make ad-hominem attacks and to avoid crusades?
Why does the LA Times run the same Richard Riordan profile every six months?
I hear morale is low at the LA Times because the editor and publisher are regarded as cold.
Every few weeks, Pat Morrison and Jill Stewart used to take ex-LA mayor Richard Riordon out to get drunk.
Which Los Angeles entertainment journalist is a genius (is too, his mother told me so), has a photographic memory, read the Wall Street Journal under his blanket at age four, and whose biggest problem in childhood was that he was so smart, it was difficult for him to fit in with other kids?
Author Kim Masters takes no prisoners. She doesn't play around. She doesn't put up with baloney. That's what I heard.
As the resident representative of Orthodox Judaism, I was asked:
* What do Jews think about Jesus?
Answer: We don't think about Jesus. He has no religious meaning to us. If we think about him, it is a historical figure, a charismatic carpenter apparently from Nazareth.
* What do Jews believe about the afterlife?
Answer: Judaism has always affirmed a belief in the afterlife, but we're not supposed to spend too much time thinking or talking about it. This life is the Jewish focus. In the next life, God will reward the good and punish the bad. This goes for Jews and non-Jews.
I wore my tzitzit tucked in my suit until someone asked to see them.
Jeffrey Wells writes: If a movie called Fart gets made in Smell-o-Vision next year and earns $200 million, would its Oscar chances also become a fait accompli? Are the Oscar awards about anything loftier than the mere selling of tickets?
I think it's bad form that the Kevin Smith-owned site www.moviepoopshoot.com doesn't link to other sites.
More Whining Jews
The LA Times writes about Chanukkah and Jews who feel insecure during Christmas. Reporter Larry Stammer only quotes non-Orthodox Jews. Orthodox Jews don't feel insecure because we know we are different and we like that. December ain't difficult for us. We don't even consider putting up Christmas trees.
"While it's true that Hanukkah used to be a minor holiday, there's a need for a major Jewish celebration and it fits the bill. In December, it's very difficult to be Jewish in America" because of the omnipresence of Christmas symbols, [said Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, president of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles].
"This is the time when we feel most outside, so we need an affirmation of who we are and an affirmation of who we are that fits with the core values of the best of America," Artson added.
One possible indication of self-confidence is that some synagogue congregations feel comfortable holding joint services with churches to celebrate the two holidays.
[No Orthodox shul would do this. I remember the gasp of horror last December when Dennis Prager told an Orthodox group that every synagogue should have a sister church.]
Chanukkah Begins Tonight 11/29
Prior to lighting my candles and decorating my Channukah bush (joke!), I studied this week's parsha (Torah portion) with a noted sage living on the Upper West Side from whom I've plagiarized so much.
We wondered what Judaism would be like today if the Hellenist (ie, the Westernizers) had won and the Hasmoneans lost in their struggle over 2000 years ago?
My sage suspected that if the average Jew were transported back to the era, he'd root for the defeat of the Maccabeans? They were forces of religious intolerance in their time.
Another Brilliant Idea From Rabbi Gadol
Rav Aharon Kotler zt"l (1891-1962, 2 Kislev) was the most influential rabbi, Talmudic giant and spiritual leader in the history of North American Jewry. He built up the entire American Torah world at all educatinal levels, which involved activism and country-wide travel. In leadership of all the key organizations, including major contributions even in Eretz Yisrael, after the Chazon Ish (1878-1953), Rav Aharon was unparalleled.
Here is a Lukeford.net call to action: Let all the Reform, Conservative and Modern-Orthodox synagogues have an annual "Reb Aharon Kotler Appreciation Day" (Shabbat) to show their minimal gratitude, decency and Ahavat Yisrael. If not, let them at least hang up his picture, because without him, American Judaism would clearly be a basket case. Without him, these rabbi, who combined don't know as much Torah as he did, would be bereft of their considerable salaries, status and other benefits (which he cared nothing for).
In the past, it was common for Reform figures to acknowledge privately that without the Yeshivah Orthodox ("the only ones with self-sacrifice and passion"), Judaism would die out. Recently, aretired Reform rabbi wrote, "It's lucky for us that the charedim [passionate Orthodox Jews] have a high birth rate, because without their dropouts, where would our future rabbis come from?"
At the first dinner of Chinuch Atzmai, the featured speaker was Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik of Yeshiva University, bastion of Modern Orthodoxy. His magnificent oration was largely devoted to the Lakewood Rosh Yeshivah, whom even he recognized as the Gadol Hador (great one) of his generation. "When I see Rav Aharon, I see the Vilna Gaon... I see Rabbi Akiva Aiger... When I see Rav Aharon, I see my grandfather, Reb Chaim Soloveitchik." As the names of these transcendent Torah giants were mentioned, Rav Aharon was tearfully tugging at the Rabbi Soloveitchik's sleeve, begging him to stop: "Enough, enough." (Jewish Action Reader, vol. 1. pg. 66)
(Incidentally, see Pe'er Hador, vol. 5, where even the anti-religious David Ben Gurion, first prime minister of Israel, called the Chazon Ish "the Gadol Hador" in his letter as an offhand obvious fact. He was so impressed in every way with the Chazon Ish, who combined the deepest intellectualism with an endless love of mankind, that upon leaving his house, his first comment was, "He's a clever Jew; a ladder firmly on the ground, and his head reaches the heavens." (Vayitzei 28:12) When the Chazon Ish passed away in 1953, Ben Gurion euologized him in the mostly secular Knesset. Yitzhak Navon, a later president of Israel, who accompanied Ben Gurion to his famous meeting, said in an interview years later that "his hair stood on end" in the presence of the Chazon Ish." Conversely, the Chazon Ish was not impressed; it is known that he removed his glasses when Ben Gurion entered the room.)
Rav Aharon, the quiet but passionate genius whose every inute was single-mindedly devoted to Klal Yisrael and to building up the Torah world after the Holocaust, sometimes encountered simple Jews who were greatly depressed after having survive dthe war. To the surprise of those accompanying him, he would make rare exceptions and spend hours of his precious time speaking to them just to lift their spirits. He would sometimes play chest with them in order to take their mind off their suffering. His courageousness in defending the Torah was in direct contrast to his humility and pleasantness when dealing with individuals.
He had the ability to make everyone feel special. Once after davening, he was approached by a simple person with a simple question in Jewish Law. Rav Aharon asked his talmid, "Please bring me the big Gemara." The talmid caught on, and brought the biggest one he could find. Rav Aharon looked very serious and engrossed before answering. The man's face lit up with joy and self-esteem for having posed a problem that the great Rav Aharon required serious research to answer. Despite his sharp, super-quick mind, and tendency to speak rapidly, he taught himself through constant self-training to identify with simple people who were almost the exact opposite of him.
His great lov of Torah and commitment to Klal Yisrael caused him to have no needs or thoughts of material possessions. Many people still alive today remember that his room was barely furnished. When his Borough Park landlord wanted to waive the rent, he vigorously objected. When the board wanted to raise his salary from a weekly $65 to $100, he refused, claiming the yeshivah's budget could not afford it.
In contrast, he was mindful of the physical needs of every student. He would even stop them in the halls, and ask if they needed anything. Rav Aharon made it a practice every Shabbos to stop at the kitchen to personally wish "Good Shabbos" to the cook. He said that someone who fed so many Torah students every day deserved respect, and that this was the least he could do.
"Both his erudition and ethical perfection were widely admired. It was known that on the highway to Lakewood, he would direct the driver away from the quicker, automatic toll booth to a manned one, stating, "It is not respectful of humanity to pass up a man for a machine - as though the man is unnecessary."" (From The Silver Era, pg. 289)
Why Do Jews Complain So Much?
I'm a huge fan of novelist Phillip Roth and I feel keenly the way he has been lambasted from the pulpit by dozens of American rabbis because they hate the honest way he depicts Jews.
A few weeks ago, I published about Orthodox rabbis who prevented their fellow Orthodox rabbi (Yosef Reinman), from going on a book tour (he pledged to undertake) with a Reform rabbi.
I've found many rabbis, like teachers, to be control freaks. They're used to controlling their own public image.
Now another group of rabbis, largely Conservative rabbis are crying about a new book by Stephen Fried. They're whingeing because for the first time they are being held accountable for their actions and they can't control their public image by ejecting the writer from their congregation. These rabbis are used to American Jewish journalism like the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles which ministers to its subjects (unless they're on the political right) on bended knee.
I attribute the lack of decent journalism in Jewish publications (Forward.com is an exception), in part, to the crybaby attitudes of many Jews - from rabbis to laity. Just check the "Letters" section in the Jewish Journal (a bore of a read, in the pocket of the Jewish Federation) for regular complaints. From the latest issue:
Stu Bernstein writes: "While one may not dispute its facts, the article, regarding the life and public behavior of Irv Rubin, was tasteless and insensitive in its timing ("The Lure of Extremism," Nov. 15). I have known, admired and supported the work of David Lehrer for years and still do, but I was dismayed when I read his article in The Journal truly days before Irv Rubin was even laid to rest. Is it not true that our tradition encourages a 30-day period of formal grieving for the departed? Even if one wasn’t grieving, a respectful interlude should have been observed."
Susan Koslovsky Pearlman writes: "I was horrified when I found my name in the Jews For Jesus article. I guess you might call me the "other Susan Pearlman," and I urge you to print this letter so that my relatives, friends and former students will not think I’d converted."
I remember I once asked Rabbi David Wolpe, who I revere, in a public forum why so many Conservative rabbis are atheists. I named Rabbi Harold Schulweis at Valley Beth Shalom as an example. Rabbi Wolpe said I was speaking lashon hara (evil speech, gossip) and cut me off.
I was the home of an esteemed Los Angeles Jew for Thanksgiving and he kept calling me a goy because I said please and thank you and ate with a knife and fork.
I come from a Portestant background where complaining is looked on as bad form. Sheesh, it seems overwhelming among Jews. I guess it comes from Judaism's emphasis on this life, which makes Jews more passionate. Christianity focuses on the next world, which allows for a more restrained attitude.
Ami Eden writes on Forward.com: When author Stephen Fried's book "The New Rabbi" was released earlier this year, reviewers offered praise for his ability to paint a warts-and-all picture of the search for a new rabbi at a suburban Philadelphia synagogue — including details of the search committee's interviews with candidates and the often superficial reasons offered for rejecting them.
But the reviews have been less enthusiastic in Conservative rabbinic circles, with several rabbis charging that offering such details and naming names of the rejected candidates — while common in non-fiction works — represents an inappropriate and unethical invasion of privacy.
Fried, an award-winning magazine writer who has written previous books on fashion and the pharmaceutical industry, [said] the rejected rabbis...should be subject to the same scrutiny as any public figure vying for a public job.
One such candidate, Rabbi Perry Rank, has spoken out publicly against the book. Now the religious leader of the Midway Jewish Center in Syosset, N.Y., and vice president of the Raical Assembly, Rank was rejected, according to Fried's reporting, because Har Zion board members didn't like the "sidesaddled" way he wore his yarmulke. They were also turned off by what they said was his casual reference in his interview to delivering a sermon incorporating Bob Dylan lyrics.
In last month's edition of his synagogue bulletin, Rank criticized the book for engaging in what he described as lashon hara, or forbidden gossip.
"As for my interview [at Har Zion], it was conducted in a confidential setting," Rank wrote. "I had never authorized the publication of any aspect of the interview. I was never asked permission to reproduce any aspect of the interview. That is a breach of confidentiality that no one — doctor, lawyer, business professional, etc. — should ever have to endure."
Whine, whine, whine... In fact, this distasteful trait has rubbed off on me. I'm complaining about other people complaining. Why oh why am I always ragging on the Conservative movement? It meant well.
Amalek18: What I want to know is, why wasn't part II of that superduper study on American Jewery released on time? What dirty truths does it reveal?