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Wednesday, June 1, 2005

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Jewish Journal Likes My Blog

AriM at JewishJournal.com writes Luke Ford Seeks A Wife:

Dear Blogger:

I am the Marketing Coordinator at The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles (www.jewishjournal.com), and I like your blog. It has great information, good stories and lively conversation. We are re-launching our web site with brand new interactive features such as our Jewish LA Guide-- a one-stop web hub for all of our visitors’ Jewish needs.

......Check out www.jewishjournal.com to enter a give away for a FREE APPLE IPOD during the month of June! Visit www.jewishjournal.com for award-winning news and feature writing, provocative opinion, arts and entertainment coverage, singles listings a complete calendar and the new Jewish LA Guide which will be your one stop shop for all things Jewish.

These words of praise are so singular and sincere, how can my heart not be moved? I'll do anything for my favorite newspaper.

Go Danicka Patrick!

I haven't watched car racing in 25 years but when I saw on the net that Danica was leading, I watched the last 17 laps, rooting for her (because she wasn't seeking different standards, she just wanted a fair go). She finished fourth. One thing I love about sports is that you don't have affirmative action and different standards for different people.

Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism

Without her Orthodox pose, Dr. Tamar Ross would be just another dreary feminist theorist.

Like homosexual Orthodox rabbi Steven Greenberg (author of Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition), she is engaged in dishonest work.

In Greenberg's case, he argues that it is ok to have sex with men and still be an Orthodox Jew. in Dr. Ross's case, she argues that it is ok to accept feminism as the ultimate truth, and to make Orthodox Judaism to conform to it.

(If your primary source of values is Orthodox Judaism, then you can't be a feminist. If your primary source of values if feminism, then you can't be an Orthodox Jew.)

Without their false public image, Greenberg and Ross would disappear from our intellecutal dialogue. On the merit of their work, they wouldn't warrant consideration from those who struggle with the great issues of life. But because they insist on presenting themselves as Orthodox Jews living and writing from within the tradition, they attract attention from the shallow media who already endorse feminism and homosexuality and now want to give it the patina of religious acceptance (the deep and largely unconscious agenda here is the substitution of secular liberal values for religious and conservative ones).

An Orthodox rabbi who lives in a homosexual relationship with another man and claims that homosexual sex is ok is momentarily compelling. A feminist writing a feminist critique of Orthodox Judaism from within Orthodox Judaism is momentarily compelling.

Dr. Ross and Rabbi Greenberg live in incompatible worlds. If they admitted this, then they would be on the road to intellectual honesty, and they would be worthy of our sympathy, if not our respect.

(Even though in some ways (such as learning) I've participated more actively in Orthodox Jewish life over the past decade than the average Orthodox Jew, I've never presented myself (except ironically) to the world as an Orthodox Jew writing from within the tradition of Orthodox Judaism. It wouldn't be honest given my choices. If I were Tamar Ross or Steven Greenberg, I would abandon their public pose of Orthodoxy.)

If Steven Greenberg stopped billing himself as an Orthodox rabbi, and stopped claiming that Orthodox Judaism can sanction homosexual behavior, then he'd be honest to both God and the life he's chosen. (While people may be born to be homosexual in their orientation, it is still their choice to act on this desire, just as it is the choice of every married heterosexual to be adulterous.)

He'd also be forgotten.

Feminism, like psychology and philosophy, is a secular way of looking at the world (even though it can be adopted by the religious). A feminist critique of Orthodox Judaism is predictable. How could it not clash with a 3,000-year-old tradition that gives separate roles to men and women?

What will propel intrepid readers through all 249 dense pages of Dr. Ross's latest book (and I predict that only one out of 20 people who try to read the thing will finish, because even though I am rapid reader, I am only getting through about 20-pages-per-hour) is to see what intellectual acrobatics she will perform to do the impossible -- reconcile Orthodoxy with feminism.

Incidentally, if you want to know how I spent my 39th birthday on May 28 it was reading Dr. Ross's jargon-ridden book.

A Bible-believing Christian has more in common with Orthodox Judaism than does an agnostic and poser such as Tamar Ross.

Here's an example from page 135: "It is a real question whether religious belief in general and Judaism in particular can afford the forgoing of any claims to metaphysics."

For Dr. Ross, it is a real question whether Judaism can give up belief in God.

One can only wish that given such radical views, she will give up her pose of Orthdox Judaism.

Dr. Ross spends pages sympathetically evaluating feminists who've found that they must give up monotheism for its inherent sexism.

Miriam Shaviv calls the book "brilliant" in her Forward review: "Tamar Ross...analyzes why feminism poses such a great challenge to the Orthodox establishment and why there has been no systematic resolution."

Feminism poses as much of a challenge to Orthodoxy as Jesus Christ. If you believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Messiah, and the divine son-of-God, you can not be an Orthodox Jew. Likewise, if you believe that feminism possesses ultimate truth, you can not be an Orthodox Jew.

Miriam writes:

Ross's central contention is that Orthodoxy's problem with feminism is about much more than men protecting their power or a community defending tradition. Feminism, she says, teaches that Jewish tradition bears a pervasive masculine bias — not just in its laws, the gender ascribed to God, or in the way the male is normative and the female is "other," but in a very male way of thinking behind our image of God, our ideal relationship with Him and the kind of society He prescribes. This poses a severe challenge to the very notion of divine revelation: "[I]f the Torah's portrayal of the world and God so clearly reflects a quintessentially male point of view, how are we to view the source of such a Torah?" Ross asks. "What sort of God would ignore the voices, insights, and experiences of half the human race? Because the perspective of the Torah is limited, can we really credit it with being divine?" As a result of this, the halachic system is also undermined, because it derives its authority from the divine origins of the Torah.

"In raising such challenges," Ross writes, "feminism can be seen as undermining the deepest foundations upon which rabbinic Judaism — as an authoritarian system — depends for its survival."

.........

Reading Ross, it is easy to understand why so many Orthodox men fear female scholarship. Her book offers a powerful alternate theological vision that challenges some of the basic assumptions of the Orthodox Jewish world, and gives a glimpse of just how revolutionary feminism could be to Orthodoxy. In the end, however, Ross's creativity is hampered by her unwillingness to rock the Orthodox establishment. For the moment, at least, the male traditionalists are safe.

These points (by Shaviv and Ross) are ludicrous in so many ways.

If Judaism's sacred texts are as biased as Ross alleges, then they can't be divine and there is nothing to undermine. Judaism is a crock. It's not that "feminism can be seen as undermining the deepest foundations [of Judaism]." It has nothing to do with "can be seen." If the Torah is as Ross presents it, then it is not divine and worthy of no more attention than Plato and Aristotle. It is certainly not worth living one's life around, as Dr. Ross claims to do (on the back cover of her book).

Shaviv claims Dr. Ross is unwilling to rock the boat of the Orthodox establishment. This is pure nonsense. How much more rocking would you have to do beyond being agnostic about the importance of God to Judaism and claiming that Judaism's sacred texts and those who've interpreted them for millenia are male chauvinists.

Shaviv claims that "so many Orthodox men fear female scholarship." I live my life around Orthodox men, many of whom are rabbis, and I don't know any who fear female scholarship. I'm well read in contemporary Jewish literature and I don't know of any publishing by Orthodox men that displays fear of female scholarship.

If Shaviv's review and Ross's book are examples of female scholarship, there's no certainly nothing to fear. Both are shoddy.

Underneath all Dr. Ross's academic jargon is a simple cry from the heart: "Pay attention to me. I hurt."

There's nothing wrong with such sentiments if one is honest about them. I like attention and I hurt. Everybody likes positive attention. Everybody hurts.

Somehow Dr. Ross and her feminist cohorts believe that life is uniquely painful for them.

Dr. Ross approvingly quotes Orthodox feminist Debby Koren:

I can forgive the Rambam [for regarding men as superior to women]. He lived in Moslem society at a time when women really were not in the same position that men were... But when a rabbi today tries to justify the reasoning [behind halakhic exclusion of women] with the same kind of apologetics, that's what I can't forgive. We can't try to sensitize the Rambam. But we can certainly attempt to open the eyes and hearts of our rabbis and teachers today. We can tell them that this hurts.

Arguing for changes in Judaism because "this hurts" is something that only a woman could get away with. Imagine if a man called for changes in Jewish law, such as the requirement that he pray three times a day, on the basis of "this hurts."

Let me assure you that getting up early every morning to go to shul to say the same words you've been saying for 40-years -- "this hurts." Only men don't write books complaining about such things. Men don't expect the community to change for them if they have hurt feelings. Men don't expect that their feelings are a sufficient basis for changing Jewish law and liturgy.

Dr. Ross went to the 2nd Christina Conference and gave a paper entitled "Can Traditional Jewish Theology Sustain the Feminist Critique?"

I love how Dr. Ross the agnostic is giving papers to Christian (or goyish) audiences presenting herself as an Orthodox Jew and the one to reconcile traditional Jewish theology with the feminist critique? It's like having Hugh Hefner giving a paper on "Can the Traditional Monogamous Marriage Sustain The Playboy Critique?"

I suspect that for many at that March 3-5, 2005 conference, Dr. Ross was the only Orthodox Jew they had ever met.

Here's the abstract of her paper:

Orthodox Jews often view feminism as a threat to their faith because it signifies the intrusion of a movement stemming from sources foreign to Judaism, thereby creating disturbing tensions - if not downright conflicts - with traditional Jewish practice (halakha). Another level of apparent conflict with Orthodoxy generated by feminism, however, has remained completely neglected until now despite the fact that it is much more profound and critical, for it appears to challenge the very underpinnings upon which the halakha is grounded – i.e., the belief in the divine revelation of the Torah.

The reasoning runs as follows: if, as asserted by the feminist critique, the Torah not only depicts God as male, but more subtly implies a whole set of cultural attitudes and structures suggestive of male thinking and patriarchal biases, thereby suppressing alternative, more feminine religious expressions, can it really be divine? The problem intensifies when we realize that all rabbinic commentary and halakhic legislation is based upon the legal and narrative sections of the Torah, which were always regarded by tradition as stemming directly from God and therefore immune to human conditioning.

The problem thus articulated is not really unique to feminism; it applies equally to countless other areas where Jews feel the time and culture bound nature of the Torah and subsequent traditional texts. But because other instances of time and culture-bound ritual no longer touch upon live issues, they are more easily ignored, whereas the ostensible inappropriateness of the overwhelmingly patriarchal nature of the Torah and halakha hits especially hard. Thus the feminist critique might herald one of those decisive historical moments when faith can be lost or strengthened by refinement.

If the feminist critique in its Jewish mold threatens to relativise and conditionalise the whole corpus of traditional halakha, Orthodox Jews stand in desperate need of a traditionalist theology which will accommodate the following two requisites:

On the one hand, the ability to acknowledge with a maximum of intellectual integrity the degree to which the Torah is formulated in a time and culture bound societal mold

Yet, at the same time, the ability to strongly assert that this same Torah is nevertheless the voice of God speaking to us, with every word of the voice equally holy and indispensable and even to find theological meaning in the fact that our sacred and revered texts have been bound to the implicit premises which feminist thinkers have been uncovering.

I believe that this issue points to a new theological dimension that is well worth exploring. In my presentation I will mine traditional Jewish sources for material that supports such a theological framework capable of accommodating the above two requisites without resorting to untenable pictures of God and His intentions.

This is drivel. Feminism can not shake the faith of an Orthodox Jew. The faith of an Orthodox Jew depends on his belief that God gave the Torah. Feminism has nothing to say about whether or not God gave the Torah.

B-List Bloggers: Emmanuelle Richard, Cathy Seipp, Luke

Where are the bloggers of color on this left? Why are there so many Jews? "The C list is full of goyishe names," notes Amalek.

The Art Of The Celebrity Profile

Richard Rushfeld, editorial director of LATimes.com and one of the brains behind the magazine LA Innuendo, produced a hilarious series of readings of celebrity profiles Wednesday night at the Comedy Central Stage at the Hudson Theater at 6538 Santa Monica Blvd.

Richard gave the best performance, particularly the first one where he was dressed in a robe and had Pacabell's Canon playing. Other performers included Stacy Grenrock Woods, Richard Rushfield, Lauren Weedman, Mark Ebner, Mark 'Defamer' Lisanti, Laura Krafft, Kevin Seccia and several more.

Mark Ebner was the most outrageous. He made a lot of sexually graphic asides to the audience while reading his old interview with Alyssa Milano.

Lisanti showed he's a better blogger than performer.

The audience included Peter Gilstrap, Emmanuelle Richard, Mickey Kaus, Bill Mahr, Michael Sonnenschein, Robertson Barrett (head of LATimes.com) and a lot of hot women who I didn't talk to because I felt like a loser.

Still, I took comfort Thursday in this faux profile by Emmanuelle:

"When Luke Ford opened the door of his hovel, he was holding a half-eaten kosher Rice-a-Roni in his hands. He's inherently playful, graceful, humble -- a naturally modest manchild. A tiny bit stiff. He said he was unfamiliar with my name, my work or my native France. I'm 7 years younger, but suddenly felt 60.

Before our interview, he'd prepared a large plate of fruit for me, something he'd done only for Cathy Seipp. His cheek glows like a freshly picked apple. Handsome as expected -- you get the automatic hetero crush, metrosexpuppy love. The crush washed back on me like a dumb wave, that Australian thing..."

Unbearable, isn't? But it's inspired by celebrity profiles such as this one of Keanu Reeves and of Vincent Gallo, published in renowned American magazines. Last night, the L.A. Innuendo comic troup '(Richard Rushfield, Defamer, Stacey Grenrock Woods du Daily show...) gave a mostly very funny performance with a simple concept: they read out loud celebrity profiles/interviews, featuring pompous writing and gross suck-ups to the stars, in the American tradition that too often implies the use of the first person by the author who feels compelled to speak about HIMSELF, not just the barely pubescent jackass/model/singer millionaire star.

Next to me, Luke Ford, famous for his demented and irreverent interviews, was laughing like a whale. Since our first meeting in 1998, he has become a webstar. Yet not rich, powerful and famous enough to be the subject of what Americans call a "puff piece," though it's perhaps only a matter of time.

What We Can't Not Know

Dennis Prager was interviewing an author and political scientist (Professor J. Budziszewski) who returned to Protestant Christianity before converting to Roman Catholicism.

Dennis: "You should write an autobiography."

Professor: "I've been asked to write a little bit about my story. It might be good for others to read but it wouldn't be good for me to write."

Dennis: "I'm Jewish. I don't have that problem."

Larry Yudelson writes:

Professor J. Budziszewski. I followed your link. I see he's one of the Natural Law types.

Frankly, where I hear people talking about "Natural Law," I reach for my gas mask. While I'm sure that there may be some natural law arguments against killing Jews, they seem to have been much less compelling than the natural law arguments against killing sperm. I guess what I"m trying to say is that if my grandfather's cousins had been Catholic zygotes, maybe St. Pious and his Lithuanian followers might have given a rat's ass for them. In this timeline, though, I'm inclined to give doctrines of "self-evident" Natural Law and papal infallibility as much respect as I give Scientology.

Jane's Response To Yori Yanover

Jane is a former lover of rabbi J. Hershy Worch.

She responds to Yori's posting on USAJewish.com:

Dear Luke,

First off, the quote “using his hypnoeroticism techniques to rape women" is not mine. I informed Vicki long ago that that needed to be changed because---aside from sounding outrageous and absurd--- what Worch does is far more subtle and complex than that, and built up steadily over a period of time.

Now I will address Yanover's commentary:

"Forget for a moment the fact that not a shred of evidence has ever been offered by [Jane] to substantiate the rape charge."

I will write about this at some point, and there *are* gray areas to be sure, but when all is said and done, "No" and "Stop" still mean "No" and "Stop". There are several people I discussed this with last summer, however, and if you'd like to speak with/confirm the discussions I can give you their contact info.

"[Jane] is not employed by Rabbi Worch."

"Correct. I cleaned his apartment, made his coffee, did his laundry and typed his correspondance for free.

"[Jane] does not depend on him for her school grades, or, indeed, for anything at all."

Correct, although Worch did introduce me to a friend of his before as one of his "students" of his kabbalah. I did not flunk, I defected.

"[Jane] is not a minor."

Correct.

"[Jane] is not feeble minded in any way."

Correct, even though Worch attempted to impart the suggestions during meditative states: "You have no brain." "Your brain will become nil." "You will be reduced back to an autistic state." "You have no soul." "Your soul is in your womb." Trust me, I came very close to *becoming* feeble-minded due to that experience.

"Worch is not a pulpit rabbi."

True. However, he uses his rabbi title, the fact he is a published author, etc., to lead women he picks up over the internet into a false sense of security and safety.

What's ironic is, prior to Worch, I'd been so paranoid about meeting mutants online that I never went to chat rooms, IMd with strange men. Worch flattered me into a false sense of safety and trust via the fact he's a rabbi, published author, and artist. It's likely there may be an inner circle of groupies he does not outright abuse like he did me, but in one form or another they're still manipulated. Had I not stumbled across last summer another woman who warned me about him, had I not---after breaking off with him at the end of last June--- attempted in writing to get him to own up to and apologize for what he did to me, which he did not do, had I not later gone back to read his archives in OBDSM and come across his sexual dismemberment fantasy in that meat plant, (among other bizarre things), had I not stumbled across hydragiriums' writing about the dangers of hypnosis in erotic context, had I not been told by Rabbis Dratch, Blau, and Vicki Polin that "there have been many complaints about him before," had I not been contacted by a prominant woman in Australia last September who'd been manipulated and abused by him, and has lent me much support via correspondance since then, had I not been told by said rabbis that since he was outside of their jurisdiction that exposure was at least a good thing to warn people, and, had I not ever had the horrible misfortune to have experienced prior to breaking off from him his slow, detailed visual imagery of having sex with my decapitated head while engaged in a trance/meditation with him, I would have gone my merry way, chalked this off as a horrifyingly bad experience.

But knowing he's had a long history of this and the confirmation from other women of their experiences, I simply could not remain silent.

Here is a tremendously gifted man, with some serious, serious problems. His 'friends' had the golden opportunity last fall to force him to face his life, himself, and get some serious help. Instead they chose to continue enabling him. His own writings and behaviors show he was careening headlong into exposing himself long before my involvement with him. (Think of the similarity to serial killers who toy with being caught.) He flaunted it everywhere. He wrote publically that he was amused he was known as "The Rabbi" at a Chicago BDSM club.

For him to be crying "foul" now is absurd. Some part of him has been screaming out to be stopped for a very, very long time.

"Forget the fact that in the end all [Jane] managed to provide was a collection of private, intensely intimate online postings, under pseudonyms which she attributes to Worch."

Worch published those writings online in public forums. Heck, his OBDSM list was even written about in some online Arab newsjournal, as an example for their anti-semitism: "Look at these sick and perverted Jews." He provided the link for the article on his OBDSM list. That, however, was not cause for him, obviously, to close up his weird writings blending Orthodox Judaism with BDSM.

As I mentioned to both you and Stephen last fall, the only 'proof' I have that I did not compose those things myself is: I had no idea of what the bulk of the Hebrew and Yiddish words and phrases were, and his style is unmistakable across the various forums. Yanover has continued to ignore the FACTS that show those very disturbed writings are Worchs'.

Luke, if Yanover needs visuals to shock him out of his denial, you may want to scan some of those documents to have on your Profile page:

* Shleck identifies self also as the Chief, Just Sir Will Do on copy of OBDSM email
* Moonish intro on 'HonestDS' LJ community identifies self also as Chapt-Schleck in BDSM communities.
* Photo icon of his hand holding collar identified as his hand.
* Identifying info in Moonish journal:
* Public entries identifying himself as a Rabbi,
* Living in Chicago,
* Correct age,
* Living on Sacramento Avenue
* Photo of keys to his Volvo,
* Mentions being a grandfather,
* Mentions having six adult children from first marriage and three from second marriage,
* Photographs of self portrait with the name "Hershy" visible across bottom,
* Photograph of his two adult daughters and their names he posted in his Moonish journal,
* Live Journal entry by someone else [AnotherJen] stating they are going to meet their friend Moonish performing at the Adams St. Shul in Newton, MA on Jan. 10 2004 called "The Fire and the Dance: A concert of Hasidic music and food." (This was Worch, aka Moonish, aka Schleck, Chief, Just Sir Will Do, performing at the Adams St. Shul).

I feel terribly sorry for Worchs' former families and children. But I also can't help but wonder how many years, how many decades, have his activities been covered up-----going all the way back to what he wrote about being kicked out of yeshivas, other families being warned not to send their own sons to yeshivas he was attending? Is it possible there are worse crimes he has committed besides manipulating and abusing women? If there are, and people are continuing to cover up for him----they are not helping him any, nor anyone who may have been victimized by him, and are definitely contributing to ensuring he continues to victimize others in the future.

Regarding Yanovers rantings on your having kept my anonymity: Worch is a public figure, I am not. What woman in her right mind would want her name linked to Worch? And, have you noticed that none of his groupies/lovers/students have come forward using *their* full names? When that day comes and an actual female---not Yanover----lets you interview them, using their full names, about Worchs' so-called "hypnoeroticism"/deep breathing techniques/voice-controlled orgasms, and how it's tied into his "kabbalah", and how "healing" and "therapeutic" their relationships with him are (as some described in Protocols comments), then I'll be happy to as well.

Whether he is a sociopath with no conscience, or a narcissistic personality disorder, I have no idea. All I know is my experience; he used his great gifts and talents for the purposes of fooling me into a false sense of safety and trust. I believe that I was just cultivated by him to be a possible source of funding, and one big sadistic experiement for him in how far he could go towards bringing about someone's complete spiritual and psychological annihilation. He's just an internet predator, obviously skilled in his mental/psychological manipulations over many years, perhaps decades, who has abused the internet not to mention his title of "rabbi".

At the end of the day, he's just another former drug and alcohol addict who has found replacements for those addictions in his addictions to sex and power. But he's a guy who happens to have a rabbi title as a key to gaining trust.

His supporters and friends need to pay attention to his own cries for help: from May 2002 of his OBDSM yahoo group: "My soul is wounded and alarmed and in shock, where did the Rabbi go? My soul is screaming, Hey I never signed on for the trip with a sex fiend a kinkster a pervert. A man who can take pleasure in causing pain, humiliation and slavery."

Affordable Family Formation

Steve Sailer writes it is the key to GOP electoral success.

Why Are You Guys So Moralistic?

"The demand in today's culture to judge every sexual behavior as good or bad, instead of just trying to study them and understand them? Once you start talking about good and bad, who's going to tell you about their bad behaviors?"

That's a quote from my interview today with the head of the Kinsey Institute, Dr. Julia R. Heiman.

Will Work For Girlfriend

I just finished talking to Dr. Julia R. Heiman, the sixth sixth director of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University, Bloomington. This interview will appear on Ben Sullivan's ScienceBlog.

Due to difficult times in internet commerce, Ben will not be rewarding me for my labors with tawdry money but rather with a gift of the spirit -- one of his ex-girlfriends.

I have a particular one in mind.

A few months ago, when I connected my jumper cables to her battery, I felt a real spark.

Dr. Heiman and I discussed Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon stories and we decided that I should ask Mr. Keillor a question. Does anyone have an email address for Garrison?

'When I First Got My Get...'

Chutzpah writes on Jewlicious: "When I first got my Get [divorce] after 11 years of living as a “Frum” mother and raising “Orthodox” children, I met a man on Frumster for a date…long story short…he is also on Nerve. com looking for couples sex. So I find all these labels very humorous and I think the Frumster people take their job of cubbyholing people way WAY too seriously. What would they label a guy who lives in Teaneck and keeps Kosher and Shabbos but wants you to --- in his mouth during ---- sex? I went out with him too and it really bothered me because he wouldn’t let me order the non-kosher wine at the non-kosher restaurant we went to (he had plain salad). I guess --- is kosher if comes from someone he keeps kosher? Don’t know. Sorry to be so graphic, but this hasn’t been easy on me."

I Will Not Have Sex Until I Am Married

True love waits. You can tempt me all you want, but I am just saying no.

On my wedding night, things are going to be special in a way the jaded among you will never understand.

Chaim Amalek writes: "You already did that, several times, remember? The "shomer negila" shtick, for example."

Khunrum writes: "Interns supposedly learn the biz and move on to bigger and better things."

Helpful writes: "That's true. Look at Monica Lewinski. Published author. Failed Jenny Craig spokesperson. Handbag designer. The sky's the limit for a dedicated fellatrix."

Chaim writes: "Sorry, but this bit does not even qualify as irony. You need to think of new shticks for getting women. I suggest you start by getting a job."

'Dear' Equals 'Expensive'

When an item was too expensive in Australia, we called it 'dear.' I haven't heard that use in America until today when I was listening to John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath book. A character, referring to a car, called it 'too dear,' as in expensive.

Cosmopolitan18 writes: "My ephiphany about Dear happened in Germany. Someone was talking about a restaurant and saying it was Toyer. I know that word from Yiddish, Mein Tayer Kinder means my dear child, so although I don’t know German, I understood that the restaurant was expensive. But then my German speaking mate told me that Toyer in German ONLY means expensive, it doesn’t mean dear in the sense of treasured, as it does in almost every other language – Chere, Caro, Yakar (hebrew), Tayer (Yiddish). I considered that very telling, a sign of German coldness – at least in my paranoid mind."

New Star Wars

Chaim Amalek writes:

Call me a hopeless loser with no life of his own (I'm here a lot, aren't I?), but I saw that new Star Wars movie today. Very boring, and that Jewess Natalie Portman who had the lead just isn't hot. I saw this woman on Broadway some years back playing Anne Frank, and even then I just didn't get why people think so much of her.

I love going to "urban-themed" movies with lots of Darkies. Singing, dancing, cussin' darkies in dark rooms watching horror flicks, shouting warnings to da dumb white fold about to be disembowled. "F--- dat bitch." "Motha f--ka." I wish they served fried chicken and watermellon in movie theaters, but you know how the Jews are.

Mexicans are slowly extruding the American Born Negro from life in this country. Were the Negro a higher IQ minority, there'd been antimexican riots by now. Bush wants all Mexico to come here so the cost of labor white and black will be reduced to third world levels. Bush is a nightmare for White and Black America. Shedding the blood of our fine Christian sons and daughters for the insane project of bringing western style democracy to arabs and muslims. Like teaching pigs modern dance.

Just you wait and see - anti-Mexican riots in LA by Negroes are now far more probable than they were when the white man ran the show. But unlike the white man, the Mexicans will fight back, fiercely. We are approaching the Twilight of the Negro in America, and the white liberal is impotent to stop it.

I note that the smarter set you hang out with almost never discusses the plight of the American Negro. They'd rather be catty, discussing their economic superiors amongst the white race.

Hating Women: America's Hostile Campaign Against the Fairer Sex

From Publishers Weekly:

Bestselling relationship rabbi Boteach, author of Kosher Sex, pillories our lewd, misogynistic, unladylike age in this vigorous jeremiad. From the Internet to reality TV to Girls Gone Wild videos, Boteach observes, popular culture portrays women as "Greedy Gold Diggers," "Publicity-seeking Prostitutes," "Brainless Bimbos" or "Back-stabbing Bitches" epitomized by the likes of Paris Hilton and the "vulgar and crass degenerates, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera."

Boteach blames feminism-not for demanding equal rights, but for toppling femininity from its position of dignity, refinement and presumed superiority over masculinity and for proclaiming a "farcical notion of equivalence" that pushes women to be as gross and callous as men while depriving them of the moral authority to admonish and correct male loutishness. Because "in a world without ladies there cannot be gentlemen," the result is a "crisis in manhood," as men feel licensed to exploit women and, numbed by pornography, become unable to cherish real women in committed relationships.

The author calls for boycotts to punish lewd and degrading depictions of women as well as female celebrities who pose or appear nude, and for a sexual counter-revolution in which women collectively refuse all premarital sex and confiscate their husbands' porn stashes.

Readers may find Boteach's Kabbalistic gender mysticism to be essentialist piffle, his tribute to the chivalry of the past naïve, and his idealized conception of women as "seraphs of heaven" for whom "being holy and spiritual... came naturally" confining. Still, his critique of the coarseness and oversexualization of images of women-and, especially, of the misogynistic cast of the contemporary male mindset-should stimulate a needed debate over the tenor of popular culture.

Premarital Therapy

On his second hour, Dennis Prager asked a question: If you heard about a couple who were dating and going to therapy to resolve problems (not premarital counseling which prepares a couple for marriage), would you take this as a good sign or a bad sign?

Most of his audience said it would be a good sign.

I once was in a relationship with a woman who said that if her shrink didn't approve of me, I was a goner. I was fine with going with her regularly to see him. He eventually prescribed medicine for me (Nardil) which helped me overcome my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Our relationship crashed anyway after three months of living together. I kept seeing the psychiatrist after that for as long as I lived in Orlando, FL.

Gateway To Happiness

A car that starts. My van now turns over better than at any time in the past four years. It runs faster than Levi away from onerous Torah restrictions or some ejecting shul. Only cost me $310 (for a new alternator and regulator). Protect your daughters! I'm on the move again.

I'm on the up side of my bipolar cycle. IM'd ten people this afternoon, took a nap, chewed gum, and listened to Madonna sing "Like A Prayer." Whoohoo!

Pilegesh.Blogspot.Com - Naughty Lakewood Girls Need Love Too

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia: "A concubine [Pilegesh] recognized among the ancient Hebrews. She enjoyed the same rights in the house as the legitimate wife. Since it was regarded as the highest blessing to have many children, while the greatest curse was childlessness, legitimate wives themselves gave their maids to their husbands to atone, at least in part, for their own barrenness, as in the cases of Sarah and Hagar, Leah and Zilpah, Rachel and Bilhah. The concubine commanded the same respect and inviolability as the wife; and it was regarded as the deepest dishonor for the man to whom she belonged if hands were laid upon her. Thus Jacob never forgave his eldest son for violating Bilhah (Gen. xxxv. 22, xlix. 4)."

According to Pilegesh.Blogspot.Com:

Pilegesh... A Jewish lifestyle and tradition sanctioned by the Torah, that has been practiced since antiquity, yet unfortunately forgotten due to the trials and tribulation of the golus /exile. Which has led to centuries of untold pain and suffering claiming countless victims, Culminating with today's major crisis -'jewish singles' with so many unmarried, divorced, older boys and girls.

Vicki Polin's 1989 Letter To The ADL About Her Appearance As 'Rachel' On The Oprah Show May 1, 1989

I publish the letter verbatim, typos and all:

July 18, 1989

To whom it may concern:

In my eyes and the eyes of other Jewish Survivors of Ritual Abuse, you attempted to discredit us the same way the Revisonism Movement trys to discredit the fact that the Holocaust occured.

I feel you owe each and every Jewish Survivor of Ritual Abuse an apology. I believe the Jewish Community needs to take it's head out of the sand and open it's eyes!!! Incest, Child Sexual, and Ritual Abuse happens in Jewish Families. Jews are not exempt from perpetrating these crimes.

I understand that you feel that Oprah Winfrey was being Anti-Semitic by bringing up the issue I was from "A Nice Jewish Family". I believe she was as shocked as you were. Our society believes the myth that Jews can't be pedophiles, or abuse their own children. This is a "MYTH", they do abuse children. There are even those who practice cannibalism, and perform human sacrifices. Believe me I saw it with my own eyes. I've come to the point in my life were I feel I need to bare-witness. I have and will continue to until I'm sure what I had to endure as a child is believed by you and others like you. I will do what ever is possible so what happened to me doesn't happen to anyone else!

Rachel

CC. Oprah Winfrey, Believe The Children, Det. Simandl, Dale Griffin, PhD., Many Voice's, Voice's In Action, Inc., Healing Hearts, YWCA-Women's Serv. NOW-National Organization of Women, Fr. James Labre

Lukeford.net Seeks A Young Enthusiastic Intern

While there will be no pay, you should know that your non-material reward will be great, not just in this world, but more importantly, in the world to come. You will learn Jewish journalism at the feet of the master (no, not Gary Rosenblatt) and then transition with his blessing into high-powered journalism jobs.

Email Luke. I have opportunities for bestowing college credit and community service hours upon worthy beneficiaries. Together we can stop sexual abuse!

Villages By John Updike

I spend hours a day listening to books on tape. I check them out through www.lapl.org. I just listened to Villages. Updike's prose is exquisite but I felt a tad guilty because half of the book describes sexual intercourse. Jaded as I may seem to you, that explicit sex description just doesn't strike me as quite right. I've written a lot about sex but I've rarely felt comfortable describing the act itself in graphic details.

I have two parts of my personality. One that wants to shock and one that is repelled by vulgarity. I guess I appall myself.

(I prefer Tom Wolfe to John Updike because I find Wolfe's novels redemptive while Updike depresses me.)

Just finished a critical appraisal of Pat Conroy and his book The Prince of Tides.

During the third meal of Shabbat, I found myself in an unexpectedly bitter and emotional interchange.

Friend A asked me why I hadn't brought with me my book on John Monash (the son-in-law of the great Jewish historian Heinrich Graetz).

Friend B: "Who's Monash?"

Luke: "The best general of WWI, an Australian Jew."

Friend B: "I didn't know Australia was in WWI."

Luke: "Have you heard of Gallipoli? ANZAC Day?"

Friend B: "Nope. You can tell me if you want."

Luke: "I don't expect Americans to know history."

Observer: "The Americans didn't have anything to do with Gallipoli."

Luke: "I know. The British commanded and the Australians died."

It was one of those rare moments when I was filled with Australian patriotism and longing.

Author Naomi Ragen On Vicki Polin

Naomi writes 5/22/05:

I am doing some research and came across your website. To my shock and surprise, I read the material about Vicki Polin. Considering the serious allegations that she's made, I think it's important for me to add the following information.

I met Vicki Polin on the internet when she and I were both actively fighting CNN's biased reporting. Vicky started CNNwatch. I found her work very useful to my own. When she wrote me that she was planning on making Aliyah, but she had no place to stay until she could rent an apartment, I offered her my home. She stayed with me for several weeks.

I got to talk with Vicki and I was shocked at both her behavior and her appearance. I am very sympathetic to women claiming sexual abuse in the Jewish world, and have met many bonafide victims. Vicki did not seem to me to be mentally stable and I did not believe a word she said. Moreover, after introducing her to many other activists against CNN, she took serious loans from them and never paid them back. She ran up a large phone bill in my home and never paid me. I believe she also took the aliyah package from the Jewish Agency, even though she skipped town soon afterwards. This kind of dishonesty shows character, and I do not think Ms. Polin, for all her intelligence and for [all] the good work that she does do, can be believed and trusted.

A Guide To The Perplexed

On Thursday, I read a review in the Forward by Miriam Shaviv about a "brilliant" new book on Orthodoxy and feminism.

Friday, I pick up the Jewish Journal's cover story on Reform Jews, which reads:

* Shabbat-observing
* Hebrew-speaking
* Kosher-eating
* Daf Yomi-Studying

So I wondered if either I was ignorant or if these claims were specious.

After reading the article (and the book), I quickly realized that these claims are specious.

No more than about 1% of Reform Jews observe the Sabbath as a sacred day (forget considerations about the observance of Jewish law).

Few Reform Jews keep kosher.

No more than .1 of Reform Jews do Daf Yomi.

Only a tiny percentage of Reform Jews speak Hebrew.

The Journal article taken from Haaretz focuses on individual movement with Reform Judaism towards tradition while ignoring that the great mass of Jews who affiliate Reform display no interest in increased Jewish observance or literacy.

The article bollixes up a famous anecdote:

“There are two kinds of Reform rabbis,” one prominent mid-20th century Reform leader once quipped. “Those who believe in ethical monotheism, and those who know Hebrew.”

Replace "ethical monotheism" with "social justice."

Julie Fax writes in the Journal:

This year’s graduating class of rabbis at the Conservative University of Judaism (UJ) in Los Angeles is made up of four women and two men. And at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York, there are 10 women to the seven men.

Are female rabbis taking over the Conservative movement — which only began ordaining women in 1985?

The gender breakdown is about 50-50 among the 75 rabbinic students at the school, Artson said. That ratio, he said, reflects the school’s commitment to gender-blind admissions, and to the work the school does to make sure UJ is open to women in all ways.

“Opening a school to women but not talking about the ways in which gender shapes a certain reality is not really admitting women,” Artson said. “We have been conscious about making gender something we talk about here.”

That means classes and mentorships bring the societal sexual divide to the foreground. And, Artson said, women are occupying an increasingly prominent role in the administration.

Contrary to what rabbi Brad Artson claims, yes, women are taking over non-Orthodox Judaism. It's a sociological fact that men don't like to compete with women and that unless a group (religious or secular, see service clubs in the past 20-years) includes special rituals only for men, men will drop out (Dennis Prager). There's an increasing shortage of men in non-Orthodox forms of Judaism. Go to Friday night services at a Reform temple and there will typically be two women (usually over 60) for every man.

I'm 43-pages into the new book by Tamar Ross -- Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism -- and I'm ready to pass judgment: This book is less than brilliant. To call it brilliant is to reveal what low expectations one must have for feminist scholarship. The book is just a cry from the heart with a lot of academic jargon.

The cover of the book is from a famous painting of a Shabbat table by Oppenheimer, but with the father cut out.

Visions of Lorena Bobbitt pass before me as this is pointed out to me by a friend.

Later, I find out via the internet that Dr. Ross's daughter Dvora lived out what her mother did only to a painting -- a PhD, she went on to have three kids without a father (via artificial fertilization).

The nonsense overflows on the back cover of Tamar's book: "Writing as an insider (herself an Orthodox Jew), Ross seeks to develop a theological response that fully acknowledges the male bias of Judaism's sanctified texts, yet nevertheless provides a rationale for transforming that bias in today's world without undermining their authority."

This is rationally ludicrous for many reasons. Number one, it is outside of Orthodox Judaism (and fraudulent to present oneself as an Orthodox Jew while making any such argument) that Judaism's sanctified texts that it claims come from God have any bias.

Number two. If you argue that "Judaism's sanctified texts" have any bias, then you automatically undermine their authority. For a reality check, examine the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism which make emphatic claims about biases in the Bible and the Talmud etc and you will find the least observance of Jewish law and the least attention paid to rabbis and any higher authority beyond individual autonomy.

As I should've guessed, there's a glowing quote on the back of the book from the indecipherable and over-rated Aviva Zornberg, who writes: "Writing in a postmodernist vein, she offers a quantum leap in her complex yet trenchant perspective on the challenge posed by feminism to the concept of Revelation."

To any orthodox believer in his religion (be it Judaism, Christianity, Islam), Revelation is not a concept, it is an ultimate truth that poses challenges to all other ways of viewing life, such as feminism, rather than it being challenged by modern academic theories.

For the believing Jew, God reveals himself in the Torah, not in feminism (or anything else), and, in this case, it is primarily feminism that should be critiqued by Torah and not the other way round.

Dr. Ross begins the book listing the ways she's been made to feel uncomfortable as a Jewish woman.

Now, at least when men do this, they do it as comedy (Portnoy's Complaint).

Judaism makes differing demands on everybody, male and female, Cohen and Israelite, young and old. But only women get taken seriously when they say that Judaism's particular demands on them (and lack of demands from them when compared to the commandments incumbent on men) make them feel uncomfortable.

If an Orthodox Jewish man wrote a book about how thrice-daily prayer requirements made him feel uncomfortable, nobody would pay him the least mind. But in our modern mood, a lot of silly complaints by aggrieved "minorities" are automatically treated with respect.

Now, I understand that the Jewish tradition, along with every other tradition, has long had significant strands denigrating the worth of females compared to males, and that this is obviously wrong and not something we should perpetuate.

I don't have a problem with any movement (including feminism) that encourages people to be all they can be (so long as they don't hurt others). But as Dennis Prager says, asking what is good is more important than asking what is good for my particular group.

I fully subscribe to this sentence by Dr. Ross: "More compelling for me than the issue of feminism was the clash between Jewish tradition and modernity in general."

Ross writes: "I am ideologically commited to the tradition as it stands as the basic grammar that governs the way that I relate to the world and my religious experience."

People who are truly committed to a religious tradition don't speak in this way. They commit to a tradition because they believe it is God's will, not because it is their chosen grammar.

Dr. Ross is big on "gender" -- a cultural construct -- rather than "sex," a biological fact. But to come down conclusively and totally on either end of the nature vs. nurture debate is ignorant. Some evidence points towards our genes as propelling us towards certain behaviors and other evidence points towards culture for other behaviors.

The title of this book seems deceitful. It's true agenda is to expand the palace of feminism into the world of Torah, and when the two clash, to choose feminism over Torah.

Even though Tamar is literate in the languages of her religion, she reminds me of media celebrity Irshad Manji, who had the chutzpah to publish a book in 2002 called The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith, even though Irshad is illiterate in Arabic (the principle language of Islam), a practicing lesbian, and regarded as an aspotate by many Muslims).

I believe that Tamar Ross is Orthoprax -- she practices Orthodox Judaism. But she certainly doesn't believe as Orthodox Judaism requires and thus she shouldn't pose as an authentic Orthodox Jew writing from within the tradition.

Her book was originally a paper delivered at the Orthodox Forum at Yeshiva University. Rabbi Ahron Lichtenstein then ripped her arguments apart.

Dr. Ross describes her experience at the Forum on page XIII:

It soon became obvious that members of the American Modern Orthodox establishment were not prepared to deal critically with the issues at hand.

But they were prepared, Dr. Ross, and they critically ripped your arguments apart. It was not them who were unable to deal critically. It was you.

In the round of discussion after I presented an oral summary of the paper, the atmosphere was heavy and oppressive.

In other words, they disagreed with you, and you found this "heavy and oppressive."

July 11, 1999 Haaretz

One debate will center on a question raised a year ago in an academic article: How can we pray to our God when He has no relationship with women?

This issue indeed stirred up a heated controversy about a year ago when it was first presented by Dr. Tamar Ross of the Hebrew University - herself an observant woman who covers her hair - at a conference organized by Yeshiva University, the greatest bastion of modern Orthodoxy in the United States. Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, the head of the Har Etzion hesder yeshiva (a program that combines army service with yeshiva studies), launched a scathing attack on Ross. According to Kehat, he even pointed out that "Rabbi Soloveitchik would certainly be turning over in his grave if he were to hear these things." The irony is that Ross will not be able to present her thesis at the conference because she has not been given time off by the same Yeshiva University, where she is currently teaching.

You can't be intellectually honest and argue for feminism from within the Jewish tradition. Feminism, as it is currently understood, is an ideology alien to Judaism.

I'm sick of all these people such as Dr. Tamar Ross and Dr. Dvorah Ross posing as Orthodox Jews and writing critiques of Orthodox Judaism from alien perspectives while all the time claiming to be insiders authentic to the tradition.

I'm starting to sound like Wendy Shalit.

These are the type of people who are going to have daughters who want to claim to be Orthodox and yet have children without getting married. These women have inherited their mother's narcissistic thinking process -- primarily concerned with self-fulfillment (rather than the consequences of their behavior on others).

Tamar's daughter Dvora wrote an article reviewing the literature of Jewish law on artificial fertilization for unmarried women (something that is clearly against the ethos of Jewish living, children should start out life with a mother and father).

From JVibe:

On the other hand, a knowledgeable Orthodox woman, Dvora Ross, has written a responsum in favour of artificial insemination for single women (in Hebrew, in _Jewish Legal Writings by Women_, Jerusalem: Urim, 1998). In halakhah (Jewish law), people who are not commanded to do something can still take on the obligation voluntarily. Over the centuries, Ross argues, women have taken on the obligation of reproduction.

According to several great rabbis, women are commanded to have children, as part of a human obligation to populate the world. Even though "be fruitful and multiply" does not apply to them, "the earth was created to be populated" (Isaiah 45:18) does apply. (Tosafot, Bava Batra 13a; Magen Avraham, Shulchan Arukh OH 153:9.)

Finally, according to halakhah a woman may demand a divorce because her husband is sterile (Shulchan Arukh EH 154:6). That is, she has a right to insist on having a child.

Since writing this responsum, Dvora Ross, a single woman, has had a child through sperm donation, and her choice has been accepted in her Orthodox community in Israel.

From the Jerusalem Post 4/8/04:

Dr. Dvori Ross, author of the essay "Artificial Insemination and Single Women" which appeared in the 1998 book Jewish Legal Writings by Women, is a single mother of three children. Avichai, her eldest, is five and a half. Bezalel and Na'ama, her twins, are two years old. When it came to choosing a donor, she also opted for a non-Jew.

"It never really bothered me, and halachically it is a lot less complicated," says Ross. "I'm friendly with a lot of non-Jews from The Israel Interfaith Association, so the non-Jewish donor option seemed quite normal."

All these women share a concern for the lack of a father figure in their children's lives, but each mother tries to find her own way to grapple with the problem.

For Ross, a partial solution was to ensure that her children would have access to information about the donor when they grew up, which meant importing donor sperm from the States. (The US offers the option of making contact with and having information about the donor when the children reach maturity, unlike in Israel, where sperm donation is anonymous by law.)

"I'd heard that it's very important for adopted children to know who their parents are. I thought that it wouldn't be right of me if I didn't give my children that option," Ross says.

In terms of the day-to-day presence of a father, Ross believes that it's important for her children to have role models of both sexes, but they don't necessarily have to be a mother or father. Avichai's uncle, for example, plays an important role in his life.

Ross explains: "Okay, yes, of course there are passages in the Talmud that talk about the intimacy between a man and a woman, and it's hard, it's hard for me that I'm not in the framework of that kind of relationship. But at the end of the day, I don't think that one-parent families are a bad thing.

"Certainly, I had an idyllic picture of the family, with a father, like they create for us all the time," Ross says. "But that whole picture is a modern creation of the last few hundred years. In Europe, for example, Ashkenazi women would marry, but they wouldn't see their husbands very much. In other places there were hamulot [extended families living together]. Essentially the family model that's meant to be so ideal boils down to a romantic structure of the last two, three hundred years. It's a modern creation."

It's a real shame that Orthodox Jewish women are having kids on their own when there are wonderful guys like me just waiting to become husbands and fathers.

Luke In Chinatown

I got lost going to the Union railroad station in downtown Los Angeles.

I just spent $1,700 ($3,600 in the past six months) on my van. Friday afternoon, it stalled and stopped on 800 N. Hill next to 500 W. Alpine St. It wouldn't turn over.

I made nervous calls on my cell phone, finally getting a towtruck.

I pulled out my jumper cables and opened the hood and stood there until a white guy pulled over and gave me a jump. My car revved but wouldn't fire. We pushed it onto the sidewalk.

Waiting for my tow truck, I call another company. They say it will cost $220 to get me back home. I stay with the original guy, who gets there after an hour. He only charges me $95.

(Luckily, since I first got car insurance in the summer of 1985, I've bought towing insurance and have never had to pay for a tow.)

My friend found another ride home. I wasted four hours. I felt emasculated sitting there in Chinatown with my car dead. My true fear, my deepest darkest dread, is not so much the crappy state of my vehicle, but that it is a metaphor for the real me. Under pressure, I can't turn the switch and rev my engine.

I got home to this email:

I find you to be a complete male chauvinistic prick! God intended all sex to be pleasurable, not just penile penetration. I find the statement that most men don't like pleasuring women orally a little weak. As for the woman's point of view... is a very intimate act that takes a good amount of trust and self-assurance to participate in. However, on the flip side some woman find the thought of ... a little disgusting and aren't very keen on the idea of oral .... themselves. It works both ways, you've gotta give to receive. In short, there's nothing wrong if you like ..... and there's nothing wrong if you don't.

Cathy Seipp writes: "Sell the van for parts already! Or pay someone to tow it away, which is what you may have to do. I told you months ago that to continue to repair that pile of crap is INSANE. You could get a junker for $800 and it would still be better than the serial killer van. If you feel the need to get rid of extra cash, donate it to an animal shelter or something."

I Hope Nobody Gets Killed By My Posting This

Palestinians used Bible as toilet paper: Muslims' desecration of holy book received little notice.

Once Israel scorned the Diaspora, but times have changed and this year a master teacher from Los Angeles will be honored as Israel turns 57

By Sheli Teitelbaum in Los Angeles for the Jerusalem Report

Many Diaspora Jews may be said to carry a torch for Israel. But on the evening of May 11, in a move likely to furrow the brows of a few Zionist dignitaries, for the first time ever, one of the dozen people invited to hold a torch on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem to mark Israel's 57th birthday is someone who might be called a "yoredet," an Israeli who left the Jewish homeland to make a life elsewhere - a category Yitzhak Rabin once scorned as "weaklings."

Of course, Jewish educator Metuka Benjamin was only 15 when her parents left Israel. And Benjamin, who helped found and now directs the many-faceted school system of the Reform Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles - with four separate schools, the largest non- Orthodox Jewish educational enterprise in the United States, according to the Los Angeles Jewish Journal - turns out to have Rabin's imprimatur.

The essence of Benjamin's work has been to make Israel studies and the teaching of Hebrew central to the education of young American Jews. Fifteen years after Rabin's visit, Benjamin continues to direct all educational programs at Stephen S. Wise, including the early childhood center, supplementary religious and Sunday school, elementary school (grades K-6) and its 13-year-old Milken Community High School (grades 7-12), which is housed in a 180,000-square- foot, $33-million building that includes a state-of-the-art theater, gymnasium and Olympic-size pool.

Shomer Shabbes Dudes

By Sheli Teitelbaum for the Jerusalem Report

A couple of months ago, the papers resurrected the odd tale of a top Dutch soccer team whose fans call themselves "The Jews," wave Israeli flags and sport caps festooned with Stars of David, provoking fans of opposing clubs into paroxysms of anti-Semitism.

The desire to impersonate Jews does not very often strike sane gentiles, but another, and considerably more benign, example of the phenomenon has also manifested itself in the last couple of years at events known as "Lebowski Fests."

For the uninitiated, Lebowski Fests are a spin-off from the film, "The Big Lebowski," made in 1998 by Minnesota's marvelously meshuga Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel. A hilariously profane mistaken-identity caper flick about a stoned-out aging hippie known as "The Dude" (Jeff Bridges) and his bowling-league loser pals, the film - which garnered a puny $ 20 million at the box office - has had a prosperous cult-status afterlife reminiscent of a marriage of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" with Cheech and Chong.

Vicki Polin's Journey Towards Judaism

I talk Thursday morning, May 19, by phone with Orthodox rabbi Ze'ev Smason or the Nusach Hari Bnai Zion synagogue in St. Louis, MO.

Luke: "Did Vicki tell you about her 1989 appearance on the Oprah show?"

Rabbi Smason: "Yes, she did mention that to me. I've known Vicki for at least six years. I met Vicki on the internet in a Jewish chatroom, as I have done many other individuals, as a rabbi and as a person. I've made many pleasant associations with people throughout the world. At one time, we had a get together in St. Louis. I invited a number of people from around the country to come to our house over the weekend to spend Shabbos with myself, my wife, and my family. Vicki was one of the people who came. I got to know Vicki better. I've maintained contact with her over the years."

Luke: "What do you know about her 1989 appearance on the Oprah show?"

Rabbi Smason: "I only know what I've seen in the articles she sent me about it. I don't know any more than what she has said publicly about it."

Luke: "Does she strike you as someone who is mentally stable?"

Rabbi Smason: "Yes, she does."

Luke: "What do you know about her work on the issue of sex abuse?"

Rabbi Smason: "I know about her work with The Awareness Center and it is a one-woman show publicizing specific instances of abuse as well as disseminating information to people on how to respond properly to abuse. She's a voice in the wilderness raising people's consciousness about it. She's at the forefront."

Luke: "When Vicki went on Oprah in 1989, she said her family was part of a cult that ritually sacrificed children going back to the 1700s. As a rabbi who is aware of how this sort of charge has been used against Jews since the Middle Ages, that they sacrifice children..."

Rabbi Smason: "To say such a thing is abhorrent. It's appalling. I don't know what prompted her to say that. I don't know what her state of mind was at the time. I've never asked her if she still believes that that is so."

Luke: "She does."

Rabbi Smason: "I haven't spoken to her about that issue. I have related to her as she has appeared to me from the moment I met her. When I first met her, she indicated that she had spoken on Oprah and that there was some controversy involved with that. She said she had a troubled background and spoke with me in some detail about the problems she had with her family. I just related to her as a friend and on a case-by-case basis of what she is doing now in raising consciousness about sexual abuse."

Luke: "How closely have you been following The Awareness Center (TAC)?"

Rabbi Smason: "Fairly closely. She keeps me in touch via emails and I see The Awareness Center being mentioned in other people's emails. There have been issues that have come to light through the Rabbinical Council of America about a certain member who was expelled. Some of the things that have never been discussed in the Jewish community, such as sexual abuse by rabbis, are now being more freely discussed."

Luke: "From what you know, do you think The Awareness Center is doing more good than harm?"

Rabbi Smason: "It's hard for me to answer that question. There's a lot of good that they do and there are things that they do that I object to. There has to be a careful calculation made when exposing the names of individuals. We have issues in Jewish law that prevent us from defaming, slandering and maligning individuals. It could well be that a competent posek [a decisor of Jewish law] could decide that the individual's name needs to be publicized because the individual is a danger. But to make that decision requires broad shoulders, to take upon oneself the decision to publicize this individual. I question the criteria by which certain individuals' names are mentioned [on TAC]."

Luke: "How would you describe Vicki's knowledge of Judaism when you met her?"

Rabbi Smason: "She was not well-versed in Judaism and traditional Jewish sources."

Paul Barresi

Michael Sontino writes:

PAUL BARRESI has contributed to dozens of investigative news stories over the past two years which have been reported by the New York Post, New York Daily News, LA Times, New York Times, Fox News 411, Court TV, Celebrity Justice, NBC Dateline and KCBS news, to name a few.

As a journalist, you know how difficult it is to get a legitimate story past the legal department. Before a particular person, place or thing can be reported on--every responsible journalist knows--information surrounding his story must be rock solid and corroborated with a fine tooth comb, or otherwise stand the risk of a law suit.

Contrary to the Barresi detractors without a name or face, who sometimes post on your site, Barresi has lived up to all that was written about him in "Hollywood Interrupted." To date, every piece of information Barresi has given to reporters around the world has been right on the money.

The Hollywood underbelly has been Barresi's romping grounds for over three decades. He need not exaggerate, create or fictionalize one line, one word or one letter, because in his world, the truth has more than enough of that shock value that our frightened and closeted society just cannot get enough of.

There are two major industries in Hollywood. The movie industry and the sex industry. And, the sex industry follows the movie industry like the moon! As a former Hollywood actor and porn star, Barresi stands at the center of the scaffold that connects the two industries. People associated with the movie industry and the sex industry have a great deal more in common than Joe Q. Public might imagine. And, one observation from Barresi's unique vantage point is unmistakable. Most of them make friends like dogs make friends.