Monday, June 12, 2006

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The Sharks March up 5th Avenue

Chaim Amalek writes:

It's too soon to get the tally of how much damage to property and to human flesh the Puerto Ricans did with their PR Pride Parade, but it is a safe bet that the numbers will exceed the damage tallies for the Von Steuben Day Parade and the Salute to Israel Day Parade combined . . . multiplied by a thousand or so.

While we might not yet have a handle on the volume of trash they deposited on New York's streets, it isn't too soon to call the organizers of this parade trash. They invited the Latin Kings to march in the parade, ahead of the corrections officers and cops who risk their lives every day caging and policing these criminals. Of course, the rest of us are not supposed to pay attention to it, as after all, it is their day. And our day has passed.

But Is It Kosher?

Rob Eshman writes:

I grew up eating meat of all kinds. One afternoon during my sophomore year at college, I found myself on an idyllic Maine isle, plunging a live lobster into a pot of boiling water. By dusk I was a vegetarian, and I stayed that way for the next 14 years. I wasn’t squeamish: I’d fished my whole life, and even hunted. As a cook in various restaurants, I’d gutted shoals of fish, whacked through sides of beef and deconstructed flocks of poultry. But at that moment I figured, if I could survive without taking another life, so much the better.

Then I met my wife, Naomi Levy, rabbi and carnivore.

I loved the woman very much, so I had to come to terms with two of her seemingly contradictory traits: She loved meat, and she didn’t cook. I still love her; she still loves meat, and she still doesn’t cook.

The thought of cooking two entrees a night for the rest of our lives didn’t appeal to me. I compromised and began eating fish. Then came the first of many Friday night meals together.

Deep Inside Alana Newhouse

She writes in the June 9, 2006 Jewish Journal:

Three days earlier, I had signed divorce papers; six days later, I turned 30.

...The first inkling that I did not have nearly enough time to find a mate was in my junior year of yeshiva high school. We were learning about Amuka, an area in northern Israel where the prayers of people looking for their besherts (destined partners) allegedly are answered, when I was seized with confusion.

“Can each person only have one beshert?” I asked.

“I think so,” said the rabbi.

“But what about a woman who remarries after her husband dies? Which one was her beshert?”

“Only God knows,” came the reply.

“What if my beshert lives in, like, Pakistan?”

“You have to just believe, Alana.”

...By the time I started my second year at Barnard, I was taking classes on other religions, had an Episcopalian best friend and regularly attended non-Jewish campus events on Friday night, as long as I could walk to them.

But as my curiosity about the larger world expanded, the atmosphere of Modern Orthodoxy contracted. I wanted to engage with the secular world — to learn about it as well as to experience it — but the same adventures that might have once been par for the Modern Orthodox course now threatened to make me an outcast.

...I was 25 when I married — a bit old compared to my yeshiva classmates but still within respectable limits. To a casual observer, Daniel might have seemed like a rebellious choice: He did not grow up Orthodox; his father is not Jewish; his last name is Scotch-Irish. But he was almost as connected to the community as I was, having just gotten out of a relationship with another Orthodox woman.

He had started learning Hebrew, loved Shabbat and had relatives in Israel. And, unlike me, he had yichus, a distinguished lineage: His grandfather was a famed civil rights lawyer and Zionist activist. He was different enough, and yet similar.

After a year of dating, we wanted to move in together, but I knew this was unheard of in our circles. So I made another silent compromise: I’d marry the person of my choosing, but at an age and in a way that would be acceptable within the community.

Daniel and I married before we should have, a step that put undue pressure on a young relationship and two people still struggling to define themselves. When the marriage ruptured, so did the thin thread holding me to Orthodoxy. I became angry at the community for depriving me of my adolescence or, rather, for being too rigid to encourage it.

...Unlike my Orthodox peers, who can be sure of the basic contours of their lives, I writhe with uncertainty: Where will I be living 10 years from now? What school will my kids attend? How kosher will my kitchen be?

There's a New Swagger in Chaim Amalek's Step

He writes: "I look forward to making the acquaintance of dreidel thief Alana Newhouse through her personal ads on JDate and Craigslist. I may be zaftig, but that just makes me a BBM (big beautiful man)."

Immigration and the Rise of the Asian Luke Ford

Chaim Amalek writes:

Back when I was a lad, we (neighbors, etc) often spoke, although not with that word, of a so-called "tipping point", the demographic point at which white people would flee an area before it turned all black. (For an area to be "racially integrated" merely meant that it was in that brief interval of time separating the arrival of the first Negro from the departure of the last Caucasian.) Of course, crusading liberals like Chaim Amalek were in the vanguard of opposing such block busting, but in this we were often outgunned by special interests and white fear mongering.

But now I perceive that there is a new impetus for "tipping" afoot in the land, only this one has nothing to do with negroes, and everything to do with Mexicans and, most interestingly, Asians. From my readings - and yes, these readings include the "rants" section of Craigslist San Francisco - it appears that when a community gets too asian, white people flee it. They flee it because they don't want to compete against the Asiatics for jobs, for housing, or for grades. Fred - is the Bay Area approaching a tipping point, where the only white people who will stay will be hapless engineers?

All of this is being driven by our racially suicidal immigration policies (both legal and illegal), which are very rapidly transforming America into a third world land, albeit at much higher living standards than the third world. Similar events are reshaping the face of Europe.

The day is coming when an Asian Luke Ford makes his presence known, and competes against Luke by operating out of an even tinier hovel for even less money, and tries much harder to win the heart of Polly Handel (whose grandparents would understand exactly what I'm writing about).

Fred writes:

Chaim, I don't think so. When the first Asian families move in, the first thing white people think is:

1. The value of my house is about to skyrocket.

2. The local schools are about to dramatically improve.

3. If there was any local crime, it is about to disappear.

The only thing that gets whites out of the neighborhood is if somebody keeps increasing the bid on their house to the point that they can't refuse.

Gary Rosenblatt, Mordecai Gafni And Merit Uber Alles

In the fall of 2004, The Jewish Week Editor Gary Rosenblatt (the most praised man in Jewish journalism who had the Gafni story served to him on a platter yet blew it), the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles and I wrote about Rabbi Mordecai Gafni.

Rosenblatt and the Journal portrayed Gafni as a powerful religious leader who'd committed sexual indiscretions two decades ago.

I portrayed Gafni as a creep and a charlatan. I wrote that he was dangerous whether or not he was screwing people under his religious leadership.

In retrospect, it turns out that I got it right and the Journal and Rosenblatt got it wrong (even though we all largely had our facts in line).

Did I get it right because I had better sources than my competitors? No. I got it right because I have different values than they do. Their primary concern is journalistic protocol (and perhaps community politics and advertising). My primary concern was merit (where you weigh competing values and decide which are most important in this case). I just wanted the scoop on Gafni and I had no compunctions about keeping my sources anonymous if they requested that.

(As for the Forward, they haven't even been in the game reporting on sexual predators with the exception of their breaking the Mordecai Tendler story. Along with the Jewish Journal, they had the Aron Tendler story served to them on a platter in the fall of 2004 yet published nothing.)

When I started reporting on Gafni and other predators, Rosenblatt told a lot of people that my reporting could not be trusted.

So even though I was right on Gafni, Aron Tendler and company, does Rosenblatt apologize for not only blowing the story, but denouncing the one person who got it right? No.

He writes this June 9, 2006 column:

I was not surprised when I learned a few weeks ago of the public downfall of Mordechai Gafni...

...But for a journalist probing these accusations and knowing that the resulting expose could destroy the subject's career, professional standards require offering up real people and real names to make those charges. That is why I spent three years on the Gafni trail, interviewing dozens of people about the allegations of sexual misbehavior, before publishing anything. And at that point, in September 2004, I wrote an opinion column rather than a news story because I still did not have anyone with first-hand experience of abuse speaking on the record.

...My role is journalist, not judge. But in hindsight, I think I should have written at the time that I found the women far more credible than Gafni.

The most important thing in writing about Gafni or anybody or any subject is to produce something of merit. That trumps following journalistic protocol. What's most important is to be right about what's most important.

What's most important about the Aron Tendler story is not that he was a sexual predator, but that the Jewish community (particularly the Los Angeles Orthodox rabbinate) allowed him to move from job to job while he was rubbing up against the vulnerable under him.

For instance, Rabbi Avraham Union (who runs the Rabbinical Council of California) knew about the Aron Tendler story for at least as long as he's run the RCC (more than a decade?) yet he did nothing until he had no choice. That Union lacks the courage of his convictions can be deduced from Rob Eshman's February 14, 1997 report on the Kabbalah Centre where Union says he backed off sending a letter denouncing the cult when he got a threat on his doorstep.

It's time to compile a list of all the people who protected Gafni and Tendler and company when they had reason to believe they were sexual predators. For instance, David Suissa of Olam was a big Gafni supporter. Rabbi David Wolpe had Gafni speak at Temple Sinai.

The Day The Rabbi Talked About Sex

The rabbi wanted more people to come to his afternoon lectures. He was told to make the topics sexier. Years later, he finally scheduled a lecture on "marital intimacy." He got the biggest crowd ever (all the kids were kept in the backyard and I felt like I was the only single person in the room).

People tittered through the talk. A woman gave it over via sign language for the deaf, which made the whole thing even sexier.

All the material should've been familiar to anyone acquainted with the Jewish tradition but the food was great and a jolly time was had by all.

The Jewish way with everything from sex to food is to create a lot of laws. So Judaism mandates the minimum number of times a man must make love to his wife. He's encouraged to do it when she's dressing up and flirting with him. He's encouraged to do it on Friday night and when she comes back from the mikveh.

There's a lot of debate in the rabbinic tradition whether the couple should enjoy having sex or only do it because God commands them to do it (I must say I side with the latter perspective).

I left the lecture feeling like a caged tiger but after a few minutes in shul for the evening prayers I was my sane ascetic self again.

It should be a condition of my parole that I attend shul every day.

Stan Kern: 'Luke ford promiting scumbag mainstream film director'

Stankern2006@hotmail.com emails:

That wanna-be Jew Luke Ford is promoting the movie "Peacefull Warrior" by convicted child molester Victor Salva on his website. It's worse enought that Ford always plays his “hollier then thou" attitude with people in the Adult Industry, but now he's supporting petafile filmakers! I don't know why people in the Industry tolerant him at all.

Blogging Sexual Predators

Daniel "Mobius" Sieredski writes on Jewschool.com:

Two of the three rabbis at Beliefnet's Virtual Talmud have issued backhanded denouncements of the Jewish bloggers who have brought attention to sexual misconduct in the rabbinic community, while calling for the same "protocols and procedures for dealing expeditiously and confidentially with charges of sexual misconduct" said bloggers have been demanding for years apart from that bit about confidentially, cuz, ya know, our rabbinic leadership has such a great track record of handling these cases behind closed doors.

Conservative rabbi Susan Grossman of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia, Maryland, writes:

While I don’t agree with the use of the Internet to publicize unproven charges of sexual misconduct, I certainly understand why such postings happen: All too often victims find no support or redress in the organized Jewish world.

...Perhaps [protocols and procedures], once in place, would vitiate the need for blogs that ultimately do more for the spread of lashon hara than the effective protection of potential victims of sexual misconduct.

...The elephant in the room is, of course, Jewish Whistleblower. We all know who these two are actually talking about. The question is why paint the entire blogosphere with a lashon harah brush for the misdeeds of one universally-condemned, overzealous, anonymous blog commentor?

Jewish Whistleblower responds (here it is as a word document exactly as JWB emailed it to me June 8):

Huh? I make the same challenge you have. Point out some examples from my posts. You can't. While you were busy Arguing about the process like the morally challenged pigmies above, I was exposing Gafni, Tendler and others. While you weren't publically demanding answers from your leadership, I was. Mobius, you're nothing but a Monday morning quarterback and no better than those you attack above at Beliefnet. I have the transcripts from our Gafni "debates". You used the same arguments you now attack. I think you're "facts" about me are nonsense. Universally-condemned? By whom? Your new pal Larry Yudelson and his friends in Team Worch? What nonsense.

Mobius posted on Protocols: 4:44PM | 2004-06-23

oh the horrible thing he said -- that he wishes filmmakers would make movies where people develop relationships and care for each other before they leap straight to the f---ing.

apparently, luke, this is a concept lost on you. porn movies have always been weak on plot lines...

as for gafni, if he has a minute, i'm gonna ask arthur about it when i see him tonight. in the meantime, does anyone have any solid evidence against him? is womanizing a crime? rape is a crime. sexual abuse is a crime. is being a male chauvenist, a pig, or just generally randy a crime? no... it's not appropriate conduct for a rabbi, sure, but, rabbis are people like everyone else. one of the issues we have with antisemitism is the idea that non-jews hold us to higher moral standards right? and that when we jews hold ourselves to higher standards, we're being antisemitic in effect as well? so when a rabbi turns out to be human, why do we get all up in arms? if he's committing a crime he should be prosecuted as a criminal and "defrocked." if he's guilty of womanizing, he hasn't committed a crime--he's just an asshole. is that any reason to badmouth the entire movement of which he's a member? cuz if that's the cause, baruch lanner -- and the manner in which he was completely protected and shielded by the frum community, and allowed time and time again to prey on his students -- shows why all of orthodoxy is equally reprehensible morally. but i won't hold an entire movement responsible for the actions of one man, or even two or three

...as for gafni, if he has a minute, i'm gonna ask arthur [Waskow] about it when i see him tonight. in the meantime, does anyone have any solid evidence against him? is womanizing a crime?

...cuz if that's the cause, baruch lanner -- and the manner in which he was completely protected and shielded by the frum community, and allowed time and time again to prey on his students -- shows why all of orthodoxy is equally reprehensible morally.

...i'm not going to defend gafni, nor renewal's defense of gafni (though one organization's inclusion of gafni in a lecture series, which is the only "evidence" you provide of such defense on the part of the renewal movement does not a defense make) without being wholly aware of the situation. can you provide me with clear cut evidence of impropriety? do you have any evidence of criminal procedings against gafni for sexual abuse or other misconduct? have people come forward publically? or is this all hearsay? i need to see evidence before i indict a person. what's the talmudic stance on hatred -- it says you can't hate a person unless you've seen them commit a crime for which they haven't been punished, or unless two credible witnesses attest to having witnessed that crime--is that correct? lest we forget, baseless hatred was the reason the temple was destroyed. so i'm going to have to not defend gafni, but defend his right to be viewed as innocent until proven guilty. and that has yet to be proven to me. not that i'm not open to hearing it. i think sexual abuse is repulsive, worthy of both condemnation and severe punishment, and i'll be the first to ruin his day if it is the case...

..."me" [JWB] or whatever you want to call yourself to protect your anonyminity while you engage in potentially libelous behavior on the internet: do you have court papers? police records? official statements? his rebbeim on record? anything? one shred of anything beyond your own testimony as an unrelated party? ANYTHING AT ALL? just show me SOMETHING. one scrap of evidence. and i'll be more inclined to believe you. 1. have you spoken to the victims? can we see their testimony? 2. have you spoken to the rabbis? can we see their testimony? is anyone willing to go on record with this at all? if not--how can you slander a person on hearsay? it's not just irresponsible--it's illegal. both by u.s. law, and by talmudic law. so... prove it or i mean, s---, expect a subpeona from someone.

JWB responded then:

Ask Arthur about the 14 and 16 years olds Gafni abused along with the adult women. Ask Arthur why Gafni is not welcome in Efrat. Ask Arthur if he's bothered to speak to the Rabbonim who gave Gafni smicha, who were his rabbonim. If he has, what do they have to say. Ask Arthur why Gafni left to Israel, why he changed his name. Ask Arthur what Gafni's spin is on all this. Ask Arthur about Carlebach and the comments from Lilith I posted earlier about him: It is all the more alarming that ALEPH's primary response to the issues raised in the article is Arthur Waskow's disturbing treatise that, incredibly, mistakes chesed rather than Carlebach's unchecked power as the cause of his abusive behavior, and rationalizes Carlebach's actions as being about "overflowing energy."

I agree that the community leaders who protected him have to go. Period. That means a number of people at the OU still need to go and other community leaders need to leave communal leadership positions. There has never been proper accountability for the decades that Lanner's abuses were tolerated. The Orthodox institutions still need to address their failures and do real Teshuvah. Something they haven't done, nor are they willing to do. There are still too many people like Lanner around and even more people who enable and tolerate their abuses. These abuses are not specific to any movements. Reform, Conservative etc. have all had there fill. Lanner was simply more public than other cases, as it should have been, given the length he was allowed to continue.

"but i won't hold an entire movement responsible for the actions of one man, or even two or three."

I will, while they continue to put their creadibility and reputaion behind a monster like Gafni. I will not excuse a person nor a movement that fails to stand up and protect Jewish children and uphold Jewish values. Accountability is key if things are to improve and children are to be safer. That means holding both people and institutions responsible.

Mobius responds June 8, 2006 to JWB:

i said i'm aware of someone else's plan. in your eyes that translates into my own plan. on the contrary. i am not in a position to regularly conduct these investigations, particularly because i am not 'close' to them in a way i was to the gafni case, but also because that isn't my avodah. there are people much more qualified to handle such matters. i will also, once again, ask you to cease referring to renewal rabbis as "my leadership." i have long been an outspoken anti-rebbeist and i reject your characterization as an apologist for renewal's misdeeds.

i spoke to waskow at your behest, i told you what he told me, and i said that until someone comes forward the matter wouldn't be resolved. from that time on i have consistently warned all of my friends in the renewal community about the allegations against gafni, and my persistence in doing so led one of my friends (who showed up here last summer singing gafni's praises) organizing those members of the bayit chadash community who came forward. upon becoming more clear of the details of the original investigation, i have held his defenders firmly accountable.

my contention with you is that you have always been quick to leap into "damn them all" tirades without providing any conclusive information other than hearsay and anonymous testimony. allegations aren't enough to convict a person, and the invective you serve them with provides all the needed room to brush off the charges as those of someone on a witch hunt. beyond your tone, you often reach into conspiracy theory, seeing collusion where there is none, connecting dots that have no connection and then damning everyone who fails to agree. it is for these reasons that i believe your activities hurt others' abilities to resolve these matters meaningfully.

i agree it is important to make people aware of the allegations and to rally for action around them, but i don't see you raising these issues within the communities effected by them. rather, i see you jumping on every mention of shlomo carlebach's name on my blog to denounce him as a criminal even years after his burial. to put it plainly, you're just a troll.

i have spoken to a dozen rabbis connected in one-way-or-another to the renewal chevra. each expressed their prior suspicion of gafni, their discontent with the manner in which the investigation was dealt with, and relayed their own personal stories of breaking ties with renewal and with gafni personally. many of them noted your "unhelpful" contributions -- acknowledging the importance of the work you do (as have i), but regretting the way in which you go about doing it. in fact, several contributors to jewschool asked me to ban you from posting before i chose to do so myself. all were coming from the same place.

so, whatever... condemn me for not exalting you as the true seer, if you must. but you might be more effective if you actually consider the way people have actually responded to your actions, and then figure out how to go about getting the responses you're looking for.

in the meantime, i don't appreciate being associated with your smears by virtue of being a blogger alone.

An Orthodox Jew emails me: "It isn’t a hearsay issue with Gafni at this point, as there was a warrant out for him by the Israeli police. Anyway, any of us who grew up around the Lanner abuses and Ben Zion Sobel, know that the “rabbinic authorities” tend to be more concerned with making sure a “rosh yeshiva” has parnassa (as in the Sobel case) than in finding out if a “rabbi” has been molesting boys in his yeshiva. I’m not sure if anyone should care whether justice comes from “lurid” sites like blogs, as long as justice is done. I think its also worth noting that in most mainstream companies today, if an individual was soliciting sex from several workers under him (particularly if it was all at the same time a la Gafni), they would lose their job, apparently unless they are supposed mystical supermen. At least the Beatles had the sense to give up the Maharishi when he hit on one of their entourage."

Richard Abowitz Of A Moveable Buffet

He blogs about Las Vegas for The Los Angeles Times.

I busted his chops for writing about the sex industry in only glowing terms.

Abowitz (on staff at the Las Vegas Weekly) replies:

Dear Mr. Ford: I appreciate your note on the blog. I have put a lot of thought on how I cover adult. More probably than I should have and certainly more than most people give me credit for. And, I am going to keep doing it as long as my editors let me.When I moved to Las Vegas I discovered what a huge and very mainstream business adult is here. It is also a legal business: from the strip clubs, to the brothels over the county line, to the movies shot here, to the AVN convention held each January. I also discovered that my colleagues (despite the fact that many of them consumed the various adult entertainments in Vegas) never wrote about this side of Vegas as a business or as entertainment. The only coverage adult got was from a moral perspective. I lack that perspective. Consenting adults having sex or being entertained by it neither excites nor offends me. It is fine just like skydiving or eating liver or watching baseball---just not for me. So, I admit I am not ideal for a mainstream reporter to cover your industry. I do not watch porno (or, really any movies including mainstream Hollywood ones) and so I have always realized that there are limits to how well I can cover it. Still, as a writer what has always interested me are independent thinkers, outsiders and great stories about people and adult entertainment offers all of that. I am not pro-porn or anti-porn beyond a strong support of the first amendment. I cover entertainment. I don't pick what entertains people, the public does. Anyway, if I ruled the world condom use would be mandatory on all those films I don't watch to reduce the health risks to performers. I remember John Stagliano told me a few months ago that he was trying to think of something really extreme for Fashionistas 2 and I said, "John, use condoms and you will shock everyone that has seen your stuff." He didn't buy that plan. Anyway, thanks for your comment on the LATimes blog. Yrs., Richard

I am not at all sure that the Adult business is as legal as you say. There's been plenty in the Las Vegas sex industry that has ended up in criminal court. Any strip club chain has historically had ties to organized crime and I believe they still do. Eg, Vincent Faraci at Crazy Horse Too. Pornography is only legal if community standards accept it. That is being tested by federal obscenity busts. I believe that escorting in Las Vegas is illegal. That's one huge illegal sex industry in your backyard.

You're missing that part of the story, perhaps because you believe that consenting sex between adults should be legal, but that's not the law when particularly when such sex is turned into a commercial transaction. I'm thinking of the excellent work that John L. Smith has done about organized crime ties to the sex industry, including in Las Vegas, and particularly, of late, about strip clubs in Vegas.

I remember when various New York mobsters such as Craig Marino were hanging out at the Bizarre Video booth at the AVN show in January 2003. You also see numerous Hells Angels at the AVN show, members of a gang notorious for such criminal activity as methamphetamine manufacturing and distribution.

I recommend these links: HollywoodMafia.com, HollywoodMafia.blogspot.com.

Bored With Beauty

Compared to the eternal verities, it seems so shallow.

Denise LaFrance comments: "Look at you, Luke; looking all bored and contemplative (perhaps pontificating the melting ice caps) whilst surrounded by a pointless gaggle of scantilly clad women. Does life offer no escape from these inconveniences?"

"THIS face and THAT van don't go together. You better suit a Morgan or a Bently."

Robert Avrech's Movie Girls

"Movies," I tell my Movie Girls, "are a moral landscape."

Chick Fight: Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez vs. the Miami Herald

Cathy Seipp writes:

That Alisa can be a royal pain is obvious even just from the titles she's considering for her next book (I think she should stick with her first choice, the excellent "Girl Crush.") These include: "All-American Bitch," "Selfish," "Me, Me, Me," "Boosters, Bitches and Babes" and "Latinas Who Lunch."

But that's what makes her such a great story, and you'd think that especially in these days of declining circulation, editors would jump at the chance to engage readers rather than bore them.

Beyond that, the public isn't well served when stories are assigned (or not) on the basis of who Brenda Starr and friends feel like talking to this week. Newspapers are a public trust, and those who work for them have an obligation to rise above their personal squabbles and hurt feelings. Even if they're women.

Mickey Kaus Eats During Blogging Heads

It's disgusting.

"Belittling and fake deference are the two weapons in my quiver," says Mickey.

Add eating on camera while arguing.

Dating Advice For Teenagers

CecileMLDubois: hey luke
Luke: yes
CecileMLDubois: when a guy says he's feeling a relationship fade, does that mean he wants to break up?
Luke: yes
CecileMLDubois: my bf said that
Luke: oh well
CecileMLDubois: should i go ahead and break up with him
Luke: dunno
Luke: so how does this make you feel?
CecileMLDubois: i dunno
CecileMLDubois: i guess a little sad
CecileMLDubois: my mom will be happy
Luke: when he rolled the car, that was his signal he wanted out
CecileMLDubois: you mean passive aggressive?
Luke: yes
CecileMLDubois: he wanted out of his life, or you mean afterwards
Luke: he wanted to kill you
CecileMLDubois: you're horrible

I keep giving the same dating/love advice (not original) to adult women: "If he doesn't ask you out, call, email, give gifts, flatter you, he's just not that into you, and there's nothing you can do about it."

'The Surprising World of Marital Intimacy in Jewish thought'

I want to go to this drasha but only if it is about sex. I fear it is about communication.

In most of my relationships, I've had way too much communication and not nearly enough sex.

Frankly, there's nothing wrong with me that a six-foot black gangbanger couldn't cure.

Variety Columnist Brian Lowry Is A Fool

He writes: "Print and radio are more compatible than newspapers and TV, though in general the attributes that pop in broadcasting -- energy, animation and the willingness to sound off on any topic, conscience-free -- would surely make most newspaper editors and ombudsmen wince."

Radio and TV hosts who give their opinions are no more or less conscience-free than journalists who strive for objectivity. One major difference between the Bill O'Reillys of the world and the Brian Lowrys is that the Bills are more transparent. You know where he and Al Franken etc are coming from. Journalists in The LA Times pop off with their opinions too (read almost any study of media bias, particularly the work of David Shaw on abortion), it's just that they do it in ways that were rarely challenged until the rise of the internet.

Drive-By Gang-Related Shooting In My Neighborhood

It occurred Sunday night June 3, 2006 in the 1600 block of Wooster (near Pico/Robertson Blvds). I've heard there were other shootings in the 'hood recently. Nobody has been hurt.

Residents of Pico/Robertson rarely commit violent crimes but a few blocks south of us, there are a lot of blacks who run in gangs. Many of them commit violent crimes. I don't care if they kill each other. I just wish they would leave innocents alone (which is impossible, no man is an island).

I remember one Friday night I heard a shout that there was a young man outside. I grabbed my gun and ran out. On the neighbor's roof, he was about ten feet away, about 18 years of age, and carrying a backpack. When he saw me, he ran.

I have Jewish friends who've been held up at knife-point and gun-point in my 'hood and it's usually (if not always) been by young black men.

I believe all law-abiding citizens should carry guns. And even if it is against the law, some Jews I know carry guns on Shabbos.

Let's roll.

I email my friends: "There are a lot of young black male gangsters penetrating my precious 'hood. What should and I the Jewish community do in response?"

Khunrum says: "Befriend them. Convert them to Judaism and take them to your shul. Start Afro/Jewish rap group singing songs of Hebrew devotion. Grow rich. Become a playa in the music biz."

Chaim Amalek writes: "I thought the Mexicans were serving as a human barrier between sensitive white people such as Jews and Hollywood types, and the more savage races of the earth. You might want to consider playing Wagner very loudly at all times along the borderland."

Fred writes: "I have the solution. Try to look poor so they aren't tempted to rob you. For example, start driving an old broken-down van that looks like it was heisted from Jeffrey Dahmer, move into a one-room run-down hovel, avoid wearing anything trendy.... Oh, never mind...."

Robert Goodman's Next Documentary - Rabbi Mordechai Gafni?

My friend Rob (r.goodman@mac.com) writes June 7, 2006:

I didn’t realize you were going to cut and paste my e-mail. Now I know so I’ll be more deliberate with my thoughts.

And I heard no one really read your blog! It seems that people do and that what’s written gets around. I received a bunch of e-mails responding to your post the other day about my idea for a documentary film addressing the “Gafni situation” ... a film I imagine at this point to be more about the response of the “establishment” of the community he was/is in than about the bad behavior itself.

I received a few e-mails from people offering to “dish the dirt” on Gafni: three of these were from people who had crossed paths (spiritual paths?) with Gafni over the years; two were from people who described more on-going dealings with him.

I also heard from a friend today that Rabbi Tirza Firestone said she’s not sure about meeting me when I come to Boulder.

I’ve never met, written about, filmed, or spoken with Rabbi Firestone, but I guess she’s hesitant to meet me because in the blog that you posted I wrote that I believe that there was a kind of iron wall put up by rabbis associated with Renewal against “Gafni accusers” and someone told her about this. Or she reads your blog.

I’m having second thoughts about this documentary. First. I’m not sure I want to spend time doing a Nick Broomfield-type thing where I’m accusing/uncovering/making people uncomfortable. Sounds kinda sad and depressing.

Second, I really like a lot of the people who I believe acted badly in a bad situation and now are just defensive about the whole thing, insulating themselves by saying things like “we need more time to reflect on what’s happened so we won’t say anything now” or “we’re doing our own personal healing with the people affected so we prefer just to keep it to ourselves” or “we’re doing a workshop next Tuesday where we’re hosting a roundtable seminar called “Men, Women and Authority” so we’ll discuss it with you then.”

The irony is that these people are in the spiritual business usually in a capacity of authority so now are really confused.

The best, of course, would be if the film started off as a kind of typical accusation, but through investigation found out that the truth was something different. This would be inspiring. Cynicism turned on its head!

You should know at this point that I also received an angry e-mail from a woman who a few weeks ago on the phone described to me, in detail, her very hurtful sexual relationship with Gafni as well as narrated stories highlighting what a manipulative cad he is (and oh, was he a cad!).

The irony of this story is that last month – just a few days, coincidentally, before the women in Israel made complaints to the police about Gafni – she had contacted me for the first time to get a copy of my film 180 Degrees to Jerusalem, which has a clip of Gafni in it. At that time, she sent me 4 documents defending Gafni. I’ve attached these documents for you.

One of them is addressed “To The Jewish Community worldwide:” and written by 18 people, including Rabbi Tirzah Firestone” and other important Renewal leaders. In it, they write that the focus of their "discussion is Rabbi Mordechai Gafni (but) the issues we address are universal and timeless."

Their letter (GafniSupportLtr.doc) makes the following points:

(1) Several people have led a campaign to besmirch Gafni’s name. These people are bad.

(2) The people writing the letter did their own investigations of Gafni and he is fully innocent.

(3) Anyone who speaks bad or makes false accusations about Gafni is doing lashon hara – fully prohibited by the Torah (and, by the way, an extremely serious “sin” according to many Torah scholars).

(4) Because Gafni has been wronged, we are obligated to “right the wrong” and support him.

(5) The writers have worked closely with Gafni for a long time and say that “Rabbi Gafni is a person of real integrity” and possesses a unique combination of courage and audacity and… genuine humility”.

(6) They “urge the reader …to reject the false reports…and give him your full support, as we all have done and continue to do.”

(7) “If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact any one of us directly.”

What the letter doesn’t say of course is that if in the end they were wrong about Gafni -Very sorry. Really. – contact us only if you won’t take us to task. (Isn’t this what Bush, Rove, Cheney and Rumsfeld said after the conclusions that there really were no WMD in Iraq?)

A few of the criticisms I received after the last blog was that I had unfairly grouped “all Renewal leaders” – as if they spoke in one voice and all had the same information and reactions.

The truth is, the above the letter was written by prominent Renewal leaders – and others. Are these people involved now in healing and helping people affected by Gafni? I’m sure they are.

For me, I’ll do the film if someone’s actions inspire me to believe that the hypocrisy, bad behavior, and self-righteousness isn’t pandemic in “spiritual Judaism” – in places like Renewal – in the same way that it is clear it is in so many obvious places in our modern lives. Come on, people! Stop the double-talk! We're cool Jews; have we become "Them"?

And the whole story’s beginning to bore me anyway.

Remember the B-movie They Live! - with Rowdy Roddy Piper? Get me the people with the glasses.

AwarenessCenterLtr.doc GafniInquiryLtr.doc GafniSupportLtr.doc Jewish Week response.doc

Why Aren't We Offering Judaism To Illegal Mexican Immigrants?

On Laura Ingraham's show June 5, she said about 70,000 illegal Mexican immigrants in the US have embraced Islam. Why aren't we offering these people Judaism? I propose dinners with a difference -- invite an illegal immigrant home for your Shabbos dinner.

Robert Goodman's Next Documentary - Rabbi Mordechai Gafni

Rob emails me June 5, 2006:

Hey Luke;

I want to tell you about the documentary and how it's shaping up. This Friday I leave for a week trip to Boulder where I'll start to meet people in the Renewal movement.

What's interesting to me in the Gafni story is not what he did, but how the "machine" around him responded to his devious deeds. I believe that (1) all the important leaders/rabbis in the Renewal Movement knew exactly what he was up to all along; (2) they conspired to keep it a secret for their own selfish reasons; (3) they attacked all accusers - including me when I alluded to Gafni's indiscretions a few years ago during the filming of the other doc I made in Israel. These Renewal rabbis responded in like fashion to the Bushies' typical response to criticism and accusations from journalists; (3) hypocrisy, close-mindedness and meanness is no more a stranger to the "hippie" Jewish Renewal movement than it is to the Catholic Church. This makes me really sad.

I have a second question I plan to raise in the documentary: how bad exactly was Gafni? Is he just a cad ... or is he more evil than this? How much hypocrisy must we stifle in ourselves when we pass judgment? How much did "we" allow him with a nod and a wink?

From this question, I thought an interesting format for this documentary might be to do two separate 45-minute documentaries - one by me and one by another (I think woman) filmmaker - both addressing these same questions around Gafni. No shared material, just specific questions that must be addressed. Maybe they'd be shown back to back or maybe they'd be cut into each other by chapters.

...I haven't formed a clear opinion about how the "establishment" has responded over the years - and is responding now - to the Gafni story. In truth, I don't need their cooperation and certainly will not disguise my inquiry in some sort of flattery so that they'll open up to me.

If I decide to do this, Rabbi Zalman Shacter-Shlalomi and all the others will be in it - in situations where they agree to speak with me or in situations where they're running away from me as I chase them with a camera rolling. These people need to answer questions about actions they made that have affected A LOT of people.

If they act like Don Rumsfeld and are snide and secretive, then they'll come off as Don Rumsfeld does - dishonest and manipulative. I don't feel I need to be "nice" to them. I feel I need to serve notice about what I'm about to do.

Put it all on your blog. I'm happy to get it out there and see who has integrity and who's the same kind of phony Gafni has turned out to be. (If he's a phony at all - we'll see in the doumentary...)

The only other thing I ask is that you not portray my documentary a type of witch hunt to expose and discredit rabbis in Renewal. I will not try to do this; rather, I want to be clear that I have questions that I will demand be answered, whether it is comfortable for them to answer or not. I believe they ARE involved in this story - the ones who defended Gafni at least - and are therefore it is legitimate to question their actions without consideration for how this will make them feel, or somesuch nonsense.

When A Rabbi Does Wrong

Calev Ben-David writes in The Jerusalem Post about another example of the "yesterday's news tomorrow" approach of establishment Jewish journalism:

A few years ago, while I was still a senior editor at The Jerusalem Post, someone at the paper suggested we do a profile of American-born "New Age rabbi" Mordechai Gafni. At the time, his television appearances and some mentions in the Hebrew media were beginning to gain him widespread notice in Israel. Well before that, though, I had attended a few of his Torah lectures in Jerusalem for the Anglo-Israeli community, and saw firsthand that he was a compelling speaker and charismatic personality.

Unfortunately, I also knew there were some disturbing rumors about him in the Orthodox community concerning inappropriate sexual behavior while he was still a rabbinical student in the US - including an alleged relationship with the underage daughter of one of his patrons. I asked around the paper and one of the reporters said she knew a woman who had been more recently involved in an inappropriate (though in this case not illegal) relationship with Gafni. Though I pressed the reporter to get more solid information, in the end she was unable to come up with anything that could be put on record.

Under these circumstances, especially in dealing with a figure much admired by several people I knew personally, I decided not to go ahead with any sort of profile of Gafni for the time being.

...To my regret, I didn't quite rise to that challenge as a journalist when it came to the case of Mordechai Gafni. It's a lesson that I - and many other people - would do well not to forget next time.

Cheryl Shuman Meets Luke Ford

She blogs:

I’ve known about Luke for about four years. I discovered him by accident when I realized that he had written or should I say cut and pasted some inaccurate information about me that was damaging to my reputation and costing me work, time and money. He has been a constant source of stress and headaches for me without him ever knowing it. Four years ago, I had my attorney look into it and was basically told, the “guy has a long standing history of doing this, has no assets other than a rented hovel and a beat up serial killer van to go after…so my suggestion is to not waste your money chasing him legally, just ignore him, because everyone else does.”

She blogs:

He gets to the "unisex bathroom" just as a hot blonde is entering.... will he notice? No, his nose was buried in this book. I laugh and I decide to observe him and wonder if he'll notice that I'm mesmerized for reasons I don't understand. As he goes to open the door.... he realizes it's locked. He returns to the table he smiles again. I melt. I want to kiss him. I want to run away with him to a tropical island. Fiji, yeah Fiji is nice this time of year... no no no, Costa Rica.


Things I Hate In Shul

* Anyone who takes my seat, particularly if you know it is my seat, particularly if I have a book on my seat, saving my seat while I go to the restroom.

* Chewing gum, wearing jeans on Shabbos or holidays, letting your cell phone ring, answering your cell phone on Shabbos or holidays during prayers (unless it is a medical emergency).

* Interrupting the speaker (usually with some remark you find funny but everyone else finds annoying).

* Women wearing short skirts into an Orthodox shul and not having the legs to carry it off.

* Visitors to the shul turning around and telling me and another member of the shul to keep quiet. Pal, if you are a visitor (unless you are a truly righteous person), don't go telling members of the club how to act. Know your place. I hate people who don't know their place.

* Friends who want to make witty jokes at my expense about things in my life I'd rather not discuss in shul.

Frightening Parallels Between Samson And Me

He was set aside as different from birth (Nazirite).

Samson was always intertwining himself with Philestine women (he had three such wives).

His parents complained that he wouldn't settle down with a member of the tribe.

Samson was alienated from his Judean brethren. They were fine with turning him over to the enemy.

Samson had his own weird moral code whereby he felt justified in killing a lot of people (Philestines) if he was done wrong.

He knew his third wife was trying to kill him but he finally laid his head on her lap and let her cut his hair, his source of strength, because he had nowhere else to turn.

I think Shavuot is my favorite Jewish festival because it features dairy food and focuses on Torah study.

I don't want to end up like Samson, handing my head to some shiksa.

Hipsters vs. Heebs in Hymietown

Chaim Amalek writes:

The ever-rising cost of renting apartments in New York City has driven the young artist from Manhattan and is remaking the outer boroughs as well. Apart from the few remaining enclaves where people of color dwell (often as a legacy of New York's liberal past), Manhattan belongs to the investment banker, the plastic surgeon, the corporate lawyer, the celebrity, the wealthy foreigner, and the children of the rich. It is a fact that virtually all of the apartment buildings here are in Jewish hands, baruch Hashem, and that most of the developers of commercial space are Jewish as well (Trump being the exception to the rule).

Still, there are enclaves of "hipsters" still left here and there, the most interesting of which is Williamsburg in Brooklyn, just north of the Satmar community. These people are mostly white, young, gentile, and come from all over the country. Some are trust-funders, and some are not. They come here after college to taste New York for a few years before returning to the lives they are expected to live. Their women are quite attractive (not surprising, given that they are young, white, in shape, and have lots of Aryan blood coursing through their veins) and are often harassed by leering hairy-palmed hassids on the streets of Brooklyn.

Thus have the Jewish Hipsters - known locally as "Heebs" - seem to have fallen off the radar of popular culture (e.g., no mention of them in Gawker). The children of Jewish real estate developers and the children of Christian small businessmen are destined to clash one day, with consequences for Jews everywhere.