Luke Ford


Wednesday, November 14, 2006

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Help Me If You Can

"I'll talk to Rabbi Weil for you," says my friend, "but first I need his help raising money."

Touched By A Developmentally Disabled Person

An Orthodox synagogue. 4:40 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10.

I see a young man wearing tefillin while he prays mincha. With the exception of Tishu B'Av, tefillin are only worn during weekday morning prayers. Though what he is doing is permitted by Jewish law, I find it jarring.

The room is filled with developmentally disabled youth. It is loud. During the Amidah (the central Jewish prayer), I find myself loudly shushing people. It is forbidden to publicly humiliate people yet I am doing it because my equilibrium has been disrupted. What's worse is that while I am sanctimoniously shushing people, I'm holding a book in my hand to read when I should be praying.

We sing to welcome the Sabbath. I haven't seen enthusiam like this in years. The place is bedlam. The rabbi leads a line of men in a dance around the shul.

The retarded Jewish youth are smiling, singing and dancing while the regulars stand stone-faced. Ours is a religion of obligation. Theirs is a religion of joy.

I watch one boy getting applauded for his dancing until he starts swiveling his hips like Elvis. His guardian shuts him down.

I've long believed there are proportionately more retarded people in Orthodox Judaism (in-breeding, etc). In Reform Judaism, my rabbi tells me, they test fetuses early and if there are any defects, they kill them.

My Gary Rosenblatt Fantasy

Dear Jewish Forum:

I can't believe this happened to me!

I had a dream that I was sitting in shul on Shabbos morning.

Gary Rosenblatt, Editor of The Jewish Week in New York, sits down beside me, shakes my hand, and wishes me gut shabbos.

"Luke, I know we've had our differences," I imagine Gary saying, "but I've come to appreciate you and your blog. Yes, you are as irresponsible as hell, but that's what I love about you. You're beautiful inside and out. Here, give me a hug."

I imagine Gary as taller and older than his picture. He stands about 6' with superb posture. The strain of dealing with Jews all day has etched lines into his pale bespectacled New York face.

I imagine us praying and chatting, just kickin' it in the 'hood as the two Giants of Jewish Journalism.

We'd sneak off to the kiddish club and make up stories about Rob Eshman (Editor of the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles) while getting sloshed.

"I remember when we were snowed in in Denver," Gary might reminisce, "and Rob drank four glasses of wine and started blowing the shofar."

"That's nothing," I'd counter. "After Rob moderated a panel on same-sex marriage at the University of Judaism, I saw him blow the chauffeur, tee hee."

"That's what I love about you," Gary would reply. "You're so irresponsible. L'chaim."

"I love Rob," I'd say. "That's why I lie about him.

"I remember the time I was about to hit on this beautiful woman until I suddenly realized it was Rabbi Naomi Levy, Rob's wife. Did you see her big article in this week's paper?"

"That's nothing," Gary would say. "I plastered my son's rock band all over the front page of The Jewish Week and didn't even include a disclaimer that he was my son.

"Did I tell you about the time I was having dinner with Malcolm Hoenlein and Yossi Klein Halevi...

"And do you know why I will never publish Yossi Ambramowitz?"

"Lashon hara, lamad che. Tell it to me anyway."

"Well, he came into my office with this expose of the Jewish National Fund. It was outrageous. I had a lieutenant kick his butt..."

"Too much, Gary. Stop. You're killing me. Do you have any scoops on this year's General Assembly?"

"Hmm, here are some stories that are too hot for me to handle..."

"So what is your singles columnist Esther Kustanowitz really like? I remember I was at this Purim party and ran into Amy Klein, then managing editor of the Jewish Journal. She pointed me out to Rabbi David Wolpe and exclaimed, 'This man is trouble! He writes about people on the internet.'

"Did you catch that lame last issue of the Jewish Journal? Devoted to the Jewish future? Gidi Grinstein just phoned it in. There should be a quota on the number of time Rabbi Yochanan Ben-Zakai can be invoked in articles on new visions for Judaism.

"Gary Tobin is right on with his article on how the Jewish Federations have fallen out of touch. They're like Pan Am. At one time, they ruled the skies. Now they're going out of business because they appeal to an increasingly small number of Jews."

"Good times, Luke. Jewish Federation. As much as I'd like to, I can't criticize it because it funds my newspaper.

"Enough with the Torah, though. You wanna catch the Borat movie tonight?

"I'm going to make journalistic history next week by covering the General Assembly as though I'm Ali G. Or perhaps I'll go as Bruno.

"Before we go back to shul, please join me in a few rounds of 'Throw the Jew down the well, So my country can be free.'"

Fade out.

Journalist Ellen Willis Is Dead

Ben writes:

She wrote famous story for rolling stone about aish hatorah. I only saw the story because there was a copy of it at aish shul, about 5 years ago, there was a sentence conspicuously whited out. I then found it online (it's not anymore) and turned out it was a reference to one of the girls studying there having had an abortion. EXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM Ellen Willis (Rolling Stone, April 1977) A female journalist travels to Israel to investigate the life of her brother who has enrolled in an Orthodox yeshiva. Her findings are startling. Twenty years later, her brother is a rabbi at Aish HaTorah. The piece is a classic on the teshuva phenomenon.

Anita Busch Sues Michael Ovitz

Aside from writing an unpublished novel, it seems that the only thing Anita has done in the past few years is sue people. What if she had shrugged off the bullet hole in her windshield and gone on with her life? She might've accomplished something.

My Dark Places

I think about dark hands reaching into my private places and meditate on pages 45-46 of John Updike's new novel Terrorist:

The majority of security personnel were recruited from the minorities, and many women, especially older women, recoiled from the intrusion of black or brown fingers into their purses.

Ed Bradley of '60 Minutes' Dies at 65

He was the laziest 60 Minutes correspondent.

Why are so many journalists (such as Howard Kurtz and Bob Schieffer) calling him a role model for African-American youth?

There are accomplished African-American journalists. Ed Bradley was not among them. It's patronizing to pretend that he was (or that Frank Del Olmo was a great Latino journalist).

Mike writes:

Just curious, Luke. How long did you work with Ed Bradley to come to this conclusion?

And, if I'm not mistaken, didn't you recently write on one of your other blogs, "I have better things to do with my life than post corrections" when you were taken to task for sloppy, lazy reporting?

Pot? Meet kettle. You know, as the kids say.

I base it on people who've worked with him and on press reports about him.

Is It News When A Rabbi Hires A Hooker?

I know a lot of hookers and some of them have clients who include Jewish clergy. Is that news? If I were a congregant, I would not want my rabbi or cantor or the teacher of my children hiring hookers.

Leah, an escort, emails: "I had another Cantor call me that works at [prominent L.A. liberal synagogue]."

Prominent Los Angeles Jewish Educator Molesting Boys

This guy was fired many years ago from Brandeis Bardin over this. Yet he's still a featured speaker at national conferences and is a scholar in residence at many liberal synagogues around America.

He's the author of many books on Judaism for kids.

I don't understand why he was fired from Brandeis Bardin but still allowed to work with kids elsewhere? Perhaps you can educate me. Email Luke.

Call Girl Turned Author Dimitri Ekmeksis

I email her: "Do you recall any interesting differences between different ethnic/racial/religious men during your work as an escort?"

Dimitri responds:

Oh my god,'s what I am working on. I am writing my second book and I am happy to tellyou it will be a lot more explicit than the first. I am this minute researching PROSTITUTION NOT A CRIME IN ANY RELIGION...and it brought me to the fact that Muslim men recite marriage vows before engaging in sex with prostitutes. The vows can last from one minute to ninety-nine years...

As you probably know, most religious "leaders" today are sick perverts, due to the repressive beliefs they hold. Repression results in mental disease, I believe. I have heard of one of the top rabbis in this country who flies call girls to his house and the girl has to go to his dark bedroom, where he is waiting in a coffin. I never met him and if I heard his name, I forgot. He lives in L.A. and orders the girls from the ranches in Nevada.

I also heard of a prominent catholic priest who likes to be peed on.

I think intelligence and education makes the best clients in this business, for example I always preferred English men because they are so sophisticated and think it is low-class to haggle over the price. A lot of it is upbringing. The more civilized you grew up, the more respectful you are of ALL women. Call girls adore being treated as ladies. I would definitely say that people who grew up without learning the ways of polite society are rude and crude...unless they are college educated. But there is still a difference. The first 7 years in a kid are the most formative.

Rabbi Mordecai Gafni

Carol McMullen writes this public letter 11/3/06 to Vicki Polin:

I am writing as a follow-up to our recent discussion about my experience with Rabbi Marc Gafni at the Elat Chayyim retreat center during an August week-long session in 2003. I hand-wrote a strongly worded warning about him in the retreat evaluation, asking for some response. This was handed in during the closing session. I heard nothing more until I read the recent letter about his situation sent out by Arthur Waskow on his Shalom Center mail-out.

I immediately emailed (twice) Rabbi [Arthur] Waskow asking to discuss my 2003 experience. When there was no response, I emailed Elat Chayyim as well. I have not kept that reply but an individual in their administration spoke to me by phone apologizing for either “losing” or otherwise not responding to my 2003 warning and assuring me that the their Board was doing “everything possible” to insure nothing similar would happen in the future. I asked for a specific response from the Board to me after she presented my email statement, but I have heard nothing back, and decided to just drop it until your invitation to share my experience. There has seemed to be a need to sweep this uncomfortable situation under the carpet.

Gafni’s daily session on Tears in the Torah was one of my shiurim. We were told that he did not tolerate lateness, so to arrive early. His young assistant, Erica Fox, proceeded to start the group in singing, quiet niggunim to begin, and raising the volume and energy to a high level as Gafni made his dramatic entrance – about 5 minutes late himself – to be sure the audience was all there and pumped up? This felt very controlling and contrived to me. Each day he strode in from the back, his long hair wet from what seemed to be his just completed shower, waving his arms and joining in to lead the singing and chants at a feverous pitch. His presentations were similarly dramatic, with much sexualized shaking of the wet locks out of his eyes and making direct eye contact and grinning at his mesmerized admirers. He seemed to direct this sexualized energy especially toward various females who hung on his every word. There was a “cult-like” atmosphere to the whole performance. None of the other shiurim felt like this.

I was shocked and disturbed and told my mishpacha group of my concern. I was promptly shot down as someone who didn’t understand the charisma of this rebbe and that I should dare to speak lashon hara against such a saint. I was horrified and went the 2nd day to a different group. After much carrying-on by others in the mishpacha group about Gafni’s brilliance that day, I decided the 3rd day to swallow hard, go back, and try to focus on the content. So I took notes the last 3 days and actually did find his points to be well researched, very relevant and at times, actually quite moving.

Occasionally, I glanced at Arthur Waskow and Phyllis Berman at the back to see if they looked uncomfortable with the highly sexualized presentation, but they appeared impassive or slightly amused.

By the 4th day, one very needy young woman in the mishpacha group was gushing on about Gafni having taken a special interest in her, giving her extra private teaching time and that she was going to continue corresponding with him after the retreat. I spoke out again to her and my group of my serious reservations, to the same dismissive reaction.

Erev Shabbat was the last straw. After services, I was in a contemplative mood and decided to go for a walk down the road in the dark to a wooded area, far away from the lodge. I had no flashlight but felt very safe at this secluded retreat center. Who did I stumble upon but the rebbe himself with a lovely young woman, definitely not his wife, Cary. He stepped back from her quickly and said a brusque “Shabbat Shalom” as I hurried by. My adrenalin was racing and I struggling with ruining Shabbat with an angry disclosure to Phyllis Berman, but as a first time participant, decided to wait until the closing evaluation time.

In retrospect, I should have had the courage to speak to Waskow and Berman directly and demand direct action, but I opted instead for my hand written statement that was apparently “lost” or otherwise ignored.

I have agreed to share my story now in the hopes that others who were inappropriately approached by Gafni or who witnessed or tried to warn of his actions may decide to come forward and help to get this situation properly resolved. Not only do any victims need clear Jewish community acknowledgement and assistance, but also leaders who employed Gafni need to take responsibility for not supervising him and for not responding to the warnings they did receive. I believe Gafni needs to face the consequences of his actions and also to receive treatment.

L.A. gets ready to be the center of Jewish universe - 75th Annual General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities

Chaya complains:

... the pathetic publicity campaign that LA Federation has done for the GA in the LA Jewish community in general. Maybe it is not altogether surprising how fragmented this Jewish community is, and how largely detached the Orthodox community is from the Federation world and the rest of the community, but this is really pathetic. I have seen or heard almost nothing about the GA.

...the near total absence of anything having to do with the American Jewish life from the content of the GA. The intellectual bankruptcy of the UJC when it comes to American Jewish life and building vital American Jewish communities is evident in the fact that it has built the whole conference around Israel. This is a trope that the the UJC knows how to play because Israel in trouble sells to Jewish funders.

Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance Sunday Meeting In Westwood

Jack emails: "Rabbi Boruch Sufrin [dean] of Hillel apparently came off smelling like a rose on the subject of girls learning mishna and gemara, while none of the other Orthodox schools (other than Shalhevet, if you can call it Orthodox) even bothered to be represented. For whatever problems Hillel may be having, I have heard rumors that an exodus from Maimonides may be coming next year. There are plenty of Modern Orthodox families who can't abide Rabbi Kupfer's total opposition to girls learning mishna and gemara and who are going to switch over either Shalhevet, Hillel, or Pressman. It may not be an issue for the people who choose Yavneh and definitely not for schools further to the right (Toras Emes, Ohr Eliyahu), but Maimonides is full of people who are liberal enough to care about this issue."

My Rabbi's Come To Town

The Disco Rabbi aka Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, who has a special ministry to criminals and sodomites, has come to Pico/Robertson. He'll be speaking at Beth Jacob (Shabbos morning) and Young Israel of Century City (Shabbos afternoon). I'm banned from both places but this man is my rabbi. I must go.

I talk to a friend. "I'm banned," I whinge.

"You're not important enough to be banned. Who banned you?"

"Rabbi Weil."

"What did he say? He'll call the police?"

"He just asked me to stay away. To pray somewhere else."

"You take this stuff too seriously. If you were born Jewish, you'd have more chutzpah. 'You ban me? I ban you. You're not the rabbi anymore. You're fired.'

"Say that you hear Rabbi Grossman deals with criminals...

"You're not banned. I know that it sounds more dramatic for your blogs and your books...

"Say that Yom Kippur has come and gone and that you're not the same person."

POSTCRIPT: I did not go.

Not The Same

I call a friend. "My uncle's coming to visit," she says. "Our relationship hasn't been the same since he asked me for a blowjob."

This World Is A Narrow Bridge

David Kelsey writes:

But soon she grew annoyed that I couldn’t dance very well (at all) and kept asking me to show her my moves. I didn’t have time to explain that I was never all that coordinated, and the only dance I really knew was to grab a bunch of guys, hold hands, and dance in a circle, while declaring the world in its entirety is a very narrow bridge. I just said I didn’t know how to dance. She was not pleased with this, and was quite forward about it, but she did try to teach me The Pretzel. I did not really get the gist of it even the second time she repeated it.

I'm not a queer (my friend Alec is, I caught him spending way too much time pre-Shabbos in the herb section at Ralphs), but I only know how to dance with men.

Hecklers Disrupt David Horowitz's Speech

From the invite email:

The Center is hosting a special evening event on Thursday, November 2nd featuring David Horowitz who will speak on his new book The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party. He will also speak on the upcoming mid-term elections. The event will take place at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, 9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, California. A wine and cheese reception is at 7:00 pm, program begins at 7:45 pm, with a book signing to follow.

About The Shadow Party: America is under attack. Its institutions and values are under daily assault. But the principal culprits are not foreign terrorists. They are influential and powerful Americans secretly stirring up disunion and disloyalty in the shifting shadows of the Democratic Party. New York Times best-selling authors David Horowitz and Richard Poe (both former radicals) weave together riveting history, investigative reporting, and cutting political analysis to help expose and explain: The Shadow Party's plan to rewrite the US Constitution, how the Shadow Party overthrows foreign governments - and why it may attempt to use the same methods here, the vast network of private think tanks, foundations, unions, stealth PACs, and other front groups through which the Shadow Party operates in America, and the radical network's plan to seize power in 2008.

I walk in at 7 p.m. behind a couple of young men grumbling about the $40 price.

"That's unusual," I thought. "You don't see young people at these things unless someone else pays for their ticket."

I ask David Horowitz: "Do you think we're going to lose the House?"

David: "That's what my speech is about."

A woman takes me aside. "David is losing his house?"

"No. I was referring to the U.S. House of Representatives, which will likely go Democrat."

A disproportionate number of Republicans are running despicable TV ads.

Republicans are going nuts to take political advantage of John Kerry's gaffe.

"A gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth," Michael Kinsley said.

This gaffe revealed the truth about what John Kerry thinks of most people in the military. It is also what much of the country thinks about the military -- that the people who join it are not too smart.

And there's basis for that view. People who graduate from college are far less likely to join the U.S. armed forces than those who don't.

I wish Kerry would've stuck to his guns instead of seeking to appease. There's nothing wrong with what he said. It was a joke. If it offends you, tough. If it does not accurately correspond with the latest facts, tough. It was a joke. I thought it was funny. That the media is so obsessed with the gaffe shows the low state of our political discourse and how bankrupt the Republicans are for something to campaign about.

In the room tonight, Republicans nibble on cheese and crackers and sip their wine. The average age of the attendees is about 50. Our outreach to community college girls is sorely lacking.

Horowitz begins his talk: "Liberals. I hate them and I hate the word. They're leftists, not liberals."

A bloke with a big wide bum sits next to me. I scoot my chair away. Not having any of that bum tickling funny business tonight.

"Leftists live to bother people...or kill you if you don't go along with the program."

"There is no conservative who gives as much money as George Soros."

A heckler strides down the aisle holding up a flyer.

David's assistant Elizabeth has a husband who is an LA County Sheriff's Deputy. He mans the camera at many of Horowitz's events. He's here tonight. David calls on him and he removes the heckler.

The crowd is abuzz at the excitement. There's never been a heckler at a Center event before.

David is used to them. He gets them a lot at universities.

A man in the audience yells out: "Can I get the next one [heckler]?"


David resumes. He says that there's a 10-1 ratio of leftists to rightists on university campuses and the ratio is getting worse.

A young man (one of the two I walked in behind) with flaming red hair gets up and walks towards Horowitz yelling at him that he's a Nazi. A crowd of enflamed conservatives descend on him, including the ex-cop Larry (who recently lost the race to become the Republican nominee for the 42nd Assembly district) who twists the young man's arm behind his back. The kid screams that he's being attacked by Gestapo.

His glass of wine shatters and my friend Joe, who first stepped between the heckler and Horowitz (who stands about 5'6"), suffers cuts to his hand.

Hotel security stand with the hecklers outside the Champagne ballroom and wait for the Beverly Hills cops to arrive and escort the young men out of the hotel.

Inside the room, the readhead's friend starts yelling that Horowitz wants to commit genocide against Muslims. "What about Guantonomo Bay? You want to send us to Guantonomo Bay?"

Dr. Weiner (on the Wednesday Morning Club board) jumps up, grabs the guy by the collar and drags him out of the room.

I cower in the corner and take notes on the melee.

The hecklers are outside and yelling. Horowitz calls for hotel security. A security guard says everything is under control. The room is in uproar. We look around for more hecklers.

Security walk in and out. About 20 minutes is lost to the disruptions.

Horowitz says he's been harassed of late by Lyndon LaRouche supporters.

"You're our hero, David," somebody yells.

Melrose Larry Green yells: "I've got your back, David. They're going to have to go through Melrose Larry Green."

David talks on: "George Soros is a megalomaniac billionaire and an anti-American activist."

David says leftist foundations have $93 billion and rightist foundations have $13.

Horowitz says that talkshow host Larry Elder came to him a few years ago when he was going to lose his show on KABC.

David had a hard time raising money to help Larry. He eventually got $300,000 and about 60 ads were taken out and Larry's ratings got boosted 30%.

"You can read 100,000 leftist books and never find one suggestion to make society better."

Horowitz condemns the ACORN group, which was recently indicted for electoral fraud.

(I go home and see "ACORN Indictments" on Fox News but when I Google the term, I find no results.)

"Why did the system break down in Florida? Because illiterate people were given $5 and told the Republicans were going to burn down the churches."

"When I started, conservatives were way too lenient on leftists."

"The New Yorker, the Washington Post, these are leftist institutions."

"Nine eleven was a huge mistake. They struck at the king and did not kill him."

"Rick Santorum will lose the election because 100,000 fraudulent votes in Philadelphia won't be challenged for fear of being called racist."

David says he is far more partisan on television but he'll tell us things he would not say on TV, such as that the Democrats are not going to cut and run in Iraq.

He says that a university in Utah gave 99% of its speaking fees to leftists.

I drive home. I'm stuck at a light next to a menacing young black man in an SUV that booms rap music. Such noise pollution should be crime. I go for a walk in my nice religious neighborhood and suddenly the peace is disturbed by rap-blasting gangbanging freaks.

Puffed Rice

Jason Maoz writes:

The Monitor never quite understood the good feelings Condoleezza Rice managed to inspire among so many conservatives for what seemed like the longest time. The woman never uttered a single word on foreign policy – her alleged area of expertise – that could even remotely be described as original, inspiring, or just plain memorable.

Maybe some conservatives simply appreciated having a prominent female African American Republican – and one in high places, at that – they could throw back in the faces of liberals always quick to characterize the GOP as a party of racist mountebanks.

Or perhaps they were under the impression that someone so apparently close with George W. Bush had to share the president’s core foreign policy beliefs. This despite her being a protégé of Brent Scowcroft, close friend of and adviser to Poppy Bush, who, unlike his son, shared Scowcroft’s State Department-tinged Arabist view of the world.

The Movie Genre Where You Can't Go Wrong

I've never seen a sports movie about an underdog that I didn't like -- Bad News Bears, Wind, The Rookie, etc.

Leftists For A Second Holocaust?

Paul Bogdanor writes in The Jewish Press:

It would be difficult to imagine a clearer expression of genocidal hatred than the ideology of today’s jihadist armies. What is even harder to accept is that these bloodthirsty killers, with their graphic incitement to the massacre of millions of Jews, are admired and defended by legions of intellectuals, journalists, agitators and demonstrators on the anti-Zionist Left.

Barack Obama - Where's The Beef?

Thomas Sowell writes:

Perhaps nothing so captures the superficial, frivolous, and irresponsible spirit of our times like the sudden boomlet for Barack Obama as a candidate for president of the United States.

He is a bright, personable and articulate young man but what has he ever actually accomplished that would qualify him for the highest office in the nation and the leadership of the free world?

Infrequently Asked Questions About Shul Etiquette

How do you indicate you want to be left alone?

"By staying home," said the rabbi Nov. 1. "Shul is a communal experience."

Do you have a question about Torah and how to be a good Jew? Email Luke. I want to be your moral leader.

Agudath Israel Troubled By Blogs

Agudath Israel is a collection of right-wing non-Zionist Orthodox rabbis.

Its American branch will hold its 84th annual national convention November 23-26 at the Sheraton Stamford Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut.

According to this right-wing religious source:

The Thursday night session is entitled "Torah Wisdom/Torah Authority: Are We Losing the Connection?"

"Klal Yisroel has always understood that its true leaders are the gedolei Yisroel, the einei ho'eidoh whose uniquely refined vision enables them to guide the Jewish people through the darkest of situations," says Rabbi Zwiebel.

"In recent years, though," the Agudah leader observes, "due to a variety of factors, the authority of daas Torah has been significantly undermined, even within our own chareidi circles. Most troubling has been the proliferation of Internet 'blogs' where misguided individuals feel free to spread every bit of rechilus and loshon hora about rabbonim and roshei yeshiva, all with the intended effect of undermining any semblance of Torah authority in our community. It is most appropriate for an organization like Agudath Israel, whose very essence was built on the recognition of the authority of Torah leaders, to address this issue head on, and formulate concrete plans to reinvigorate public awareness of this essential element of the Torah way of life."

I agree that blogging tends to undermine the authority of rabbis as well as other dictators and all those (including the conventional Jewish press such as the The Jewish Week) who rely on secrecy to exercise their power and fear the sunlight of public accountability. The democratic nature of blogging gives everybody a voice and dissent can no longer be squelched.

Jewish Survivors blog responds to Agudath Israel here and here.

I Am A Bad Man

As punishment for my homophobia, I forced myself to watch all six hours of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. I found it alternately compelling and nonsensical, with nonsensical winning out.

Ethnic Divisions In Jewish Life

In descending order of apparent prestige:

* German Jews and the Ashkenazim.
* Sephardic
* Persian

Hans emails: "Lowest is "gentile" which includes you, you goy!"

Woody writes:

Among ashkenazic jews, all other jews are not jews. Sephardim are not jews. Persians are arab terrorists. Falashas are fun to raise money for. the only Jews are white people who do not have b.o. and who only have body hair on their arms shoulders and necks, not in their noses, ears and b/w the eyebrows.

Within ashkenaz it is much worse. The lowest life form are the hungarians. They will do anything or anyone for money. There was a hungarian family in l.a., two brothers. One of the brothers was diddling the other brother's wife. They still are in business together, the money was simply too good to break up the family. You shake a hungarian's hand, you have to check your fingers afterwards. You get in a revolving door before a hungarian, he will come out first. Their reputation is so bad (mostly from stealing in DP camps after the war) that no hungarian jews will admit to it. Go into beth jacob and ask a survivor where they were from, they will say, i am czech. Then ask them what city, they will say budapest - go check a map, budapest is the frigging capital of hungary, they just will not admit to it. It is funny.

Next lowest are the polish jews. Universally regarded as prideful for no real reason, they really never produced anything of value to the jewish world. So few survived the holocaust there is no real lobby and the only one who made anything of himself was menachem begin and the shappell brothers in los angeles (beth jacob is financed by one of them).

Next are the galician jews - very mean types. Probably form much if not all of the membership of YICC. There is a story of a foreigner walking in galicia and asking a galician what time it was. To which the galician replied, there are a million people in this town and you had to ask me? They do however show an emotional side, which makes the lithuanians and galicians totally incompatible.

Next up on the strata are german jews - or yekes. Very exacting like the germany they come from. Yeke minyans and parties always start on time. You know you are at a yeke house for shabbat if there are eight guests and eight danishes are served. Yekes are into measuring things. Except their own flaws.

The highest state of ashkenazic jew is the litvak - the lithuanian. Singlehandedly they rescued torah scholarship from the irrelevant sophistry of the middle ages and created talmudical academies rivalling those in babylonia. The only problem is that somewhere along the line they forgot their humanity. They do not tolerate stupidity or any of the other known traits of humanity such as emotion. The story is that a foreigner was walking in vilna, the capital of lithuania and asked a lithuanian - hey, there is something in the sky, but i cannot tell if it is the sun or the moon, to which the lithuanian replied - why are you asking me, i am not from here.

Lithuanians hate in the following order from least hated to most hated: Chasids, women, jews who do not learn talmud, and jews who learn talmud not according to the lithuanian tradition.

Jake emails: "Litvaks are Ashkenazim. Second, with the exception of German, if anything, in recent history, Litvaks were the elite of Eastern European Jewry intellectually by virtue of their yeshivot. Third, in American Jewish history, there is a clear record of German Jews creating institutions that originally excluded non-German Ashkenzic Jews (e.g. Hillcrest Country Club) but I am not aware of anyone distinguishing Lithuanian Jews from other non-German Ashkenzic Jews."

John writes:

I see someone got you to include Lithuanians among the Ashkenazim. Because, you know, if you wanted to start compiling lists like this, you would learn that that's not the real correct listing within developed Jewish communities. For example, you are very generous and historically inaccurate listing Germans and Ashkenazim as one group- some would break it down to Hassidim vs Mitnagdim, and then Galicianers vs Lithuanians, and if you asked people from my father's generation, you might get a list that looks like this, which a German Jew (a Jacke) would have exactly reversed, except that the first Galicianers and Lithuanians would be grouped as Öst-Juden (and the concept would have been Jewish leadership): Galicianers, Lithuanians, Russians, Hungarians, Amerikaner, German Jews.

Among Sepharadim, it would be something like this: Ladino speakers, German Jews, Iraqis (Bagdadi), Persians, Moroccan cities, Moroccan-Atlas Mts, Yemenites.

Whereas to Yemenites, it would be much like my father's listing except with Yemenites on top (they tended to study in the Ashkenazi schools).

Anyway, its all very complicated, and probably not really applicable to Brentwood, where consciousness of classical Jewish tradition is fairly low. There the list would be: Young Israel, Carlebach Dveykus (ie soft rock Judaism of the seventies), Aish Hatorah (good for Baal teshuvas), Everyone else, especially if they are Israelis or Persians, because its hard to tell the difference anyway and either way the food is too spicy. Lubavitch, unless they are Lubavitch.

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef joins fight against discrimination of eastern-origin girls in haredi education, calls for use of civil courts instead of religious haredi tribunals.

Reception committee at ultra-Orthodox town decides to ban additional families of Middle Eastern descent from entering some of its streets, buildings in order to 'maintain community's high spiritual level'.

These same divisions play out in Los Angeles. Last year, a couple of Persians were discouraged from running for the board of Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy (a Modern Orthodox elementary school located right next to Beth Jacob on Olympic and Doheny Blvds in Beverly Hills). They were told they weren't the right type of Jew (not observant enough).

"We'll teach the Sephardim and the Persians a thing or two," said a prominent Yekkie (German Jew).

All the Ashkenazim at Hillel are Sabbath observant but most of the Persians are not.

After 42 years being run by Rabbi Menachem Gottesman (Nov. 11, 2002 Jewish Journal article), Hillel now seeks to define itself. In the process, it is weeding out teachers who don't fit its Zionist Modern Othodox outlook.

Over the past eight years, enrollment at Hillel has fallen from 850 to 750 students according to the 11/11/02 Jewish Journal and from 700 to 600 according to my sources. "A lot of parents who signed petitions got bullied and they decided to go somewhere more peaceful," says a parent critical of the current regime.

Beth Jacob owns the land Hillel is built on. Hillel does not pay rent for it.

Former employees of Hillel are assembling a lawsuit against the school's president -- Morey Levovitz (he was president of Beth Jacob in 2004 and got Rabbi Steven Weil a big pay raise). They claimed he harassed them (not sexually).

A bookkeeper at the school for 25 years, Carmalith Arfa, was fired in March. She's retained Century City attorney Jonathan S. Weber.

The contract for Educational Director Nancy Fields was not renewed. Last December, a couple of leaders at the school yelled at her to sign a resignation letter. She refused.

The dean of the school, a rabbi, claimed he could not get along with her.

Last year and this year a dozen or so parents signed petitions against Levovitz.

He presided over a tumultuous townhall meeting last October forced by a petition of 25 parents.

Levovitz's critics claim he has no right to be president because he was not a member of the board prior to taking office. They claim he's hired people (such as a comptroller (lost her job at Emek Hebrew Academy after a year), paid at the rate of $150,000 per annum who didn't last more than a a year) without board approval and made significant expenditures without board approval.

Levovitz critics charge there was an embezzlement at the school that got covered up.

Tom Avery from Emek was also brought into Hillel running the carpool and lunch program. There was an uproar at last October's townhall meeting about him. Some parents claimed he yelled at them.

Many parents believe that millions of dollars in endowments to the school have not been reported to the board.

I'm told:

The previous Hillel president, Alan Schoenfeld, resigned early and there was a vacancy for the presidency. The person (or people) who are now making a lot of the noise (sending a letter to the whole community) were passed over on the Board in favor of Morey Levovitz.

Morey is the kind of person who people either love or hate. He is extremely blunt, doesn't really care whose feathers he ruffles, but also one of the most quietly generous people in the community with his money and the person who has really improved the school working closely with Rabbi Suffrin. He has pushed a lot of positive changes that have put Hillel out in front of the other Orthodox schools (teaching girls Mishna and Gemara, Hebrew immersion, skills-oriented curriculum, etc.) The dissidents on the Board include people who were pissed off that he leapfrogged Rosenberg (and maybe someone else?) but are also pissed off about his management style. On erev Rosh Hashana (or YK?), they sent a letter to the whole school complaining that the bylaws were not being followed. They may be trying to pull some dissatisfied Persians who feel like second-class citizens in the school, but their issues are different. There is a bit of culture clash. There is "white flight" away from Persians that are elements of both the major exodus out of Hillel for Yavneh and Maimonides (which was over 5 years ago in the last few years of Rabbi Gottesman) and also the minor exodus out of the early elementary and early education when Shalhevet launched this past year.

The bottom line is that all of the Orthodox schools have their warts (e.g. all of the liberal BDJ families at Maimonides who have to eat s--- all day from the right wing Rabbi Kupfer on girls learning mishna and gemara).

Morey's father was a macher at the Maimonidies school in Boston which Yosef Solveitchik founded.

"Morey was born with a platinum spoon in his mouth," says an observer.

Levovitz operates in San Jose. He flies home for Shabbos and holidays.

Around April 20, 2006, a board member at Hillel wrotes his fellow board members that they should meet to discuss Carmelith's dismissal:

Likewise, I believe that the resignation last month of Cecile Wizenfeld, Hillel's Early Childhood Director for over ten years, raises many similarly disturbing questions about the current management and administration of the school and at the same time lends credence to the very negative press that Hillel is now publicly receiving...

Further, immediately prior to Passover, it was announced that Mr. Tom Avery was not returning next year, that he would be "leaving" after his last day of service... There are still many unanswered questions concerning his sudden departure, particularly in the wake of the "cover-up" of an aborted investigation surrounding the misappropriation of almost $5,000 in cash funds raised by the Eighth Grade student for their annual class trip.

The Committee of Concerned Parents at Hillel Harkham (841 Victoria Ave, Venice, CA, 90291) sent out this letter Sept. 20, 2006 to members of the Hillel community:

The By-Laws have been ignored by the curent leadership for the past couple of years...

If you have been concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability, lack of adherence to the By-Laws of the school, the growing number of children and families that we have lost to other schools, how the atmosphere of the school has changed over the past few years, and how we seem to have lost the concept of Hillel's stated mission as a community school open to all Jewish children, then join the committee... Please report to any member of the committee immediately any attempt to intimidate or threaten anyone and we will deal with it forcefully and in all appropriate venues with all the public and private resources available to us.

The same committee sent out a letter in September 2005 concerned about the "extremely negative atmosphere at the school," administrative personnel changes, school leadership, and the lunch program:

Also, it is difficult to navigate between all the new administrators and more importantly, it remains unclear as to why so many new positions at the school are even necessary. We were told that the school was raising tuition this year and doing away with lunch being included in the cost of tuition because Hillel was operating at a deficit... [I]t seems the savings [from axing the lunch program] were surreptitiously used to hire several new administrators. This is a seemingly blatant misappropriation of school funds. If Hillel needed to save money, it had no right to hire an Operations Director for a substantial six figure salary. Who actually hired her or our new Director of Discipline?

Fifteen years ago, about half of Hillel's students came from families that were Sabbath-observant. Now almost all the students come from observant homes.

Thirty years ago, almost all of the Orthodox shuls in Pico/Robertson had mixed seating. Now the 20 or so Orthodox shuls within a mile of Pico/Robertson have separate seating for men and women.

Rabbi Steven Weil Destined For Malcolm Hoenlein's Position?

As the Vice-Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, he'd be the most powerful, or among the most powerful, Jews in Jewish life.

The Ballad Of Rob Kahane

The cousin of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane is the subject of a delicious lawsuit by The Collective, a talent management group, over the theft of actor/singer Drake Bell.

Rob was fired from ICM about 20 years ago, charged with theft.

He founded Trauma Records. "Being a manager or agent is similar to renting an apartment. Having a record company is like owning a home."

From a profile of music veteran Doug Isaac:

One year after starting his own agency, Doug returned to ICM at Tom Ross' request, to work on a special project with Mick Fleetwood. But his departure was less than auspicious, as he explains: "A friend of mine who was a junior agent at ICM was fired and needed some work. He had Robert Palmer as a client. I brought him into ITA as a full partner. At the same time we were representing The Knack. In the middle of the night my partner and the manager of The Knack conspired against me, came into the office and took all the furniture and files out. They then tried to steal Missing Persons and the rest of my clients. It was right at the point that I went back to ICM. The partner, Rob Kahane, left me holding the bag on all the bills; he went on to become George Michael's manager. I never got a dime back from him.

Steven Daly writes in Rolling Stone magazine April 18, 1996:

Dorrell's laconic style contrasts sharply with that of Rob Kahane, who signed Bush and helped break them in America. Kahane is a small, dapper 40-year-old with a well-trimmed beard and a brisk, deadly serious manner. He explained Bush's success to "Entertainment Weekly" by offering his opinion that Rossdale "had a look which was very favorable for marketing and selling records."

Kahane managed George Michael throughout the singer's British court battle with Sony but they parted company soon afterward, Kahane's ears ringing with Justice Jonathan Parker's admonishments that he was a "thoroughly unreliable and untrustworthy witness...[motivated] to an unacceptable degree by self-interest" Kahane had his own label and a distribution deal with Disney's ill-starred Hollywood Records when he met Bush in 1993 and heard what would become Bush's first five singles, including "Everything Zen." Just as Sixteen Stone was completed in early 1994, disaster struck: Disney's executive Frank G. Wells, a Kahane supporter, was killed in a helicopter crash. After his death, other executives at Hollywood deemed Bush's album unacceptable and pitched the band members into career limbo, forcing them to work menial jobs to survive. Then, Interscope Records rescued the album as it had previously done with Dr. Dre's The Chronic. Shortly before the end of 1994, Kahane sent an advance copy of the album, sans photo or info, to a friend as L.A's influential KROQ station, which instantly added "Everything Zen" to its playlist. Before long it was hello, America--and goodbye to day jobs and an uncaring British public.

...This unlikely alliance conjures up the piquant scenario of Albini, who refuses to take royalties for what he regards as a "day laborer's job," working for Rob Kahane, a man regarded in many quarters as the epitome of music-business careerism. When apprized of Kahane's alleged misconduct in the George Michael/Sony case, Albini replies: "I don't know who you're talking about. But in music business terms, that [sort of behavior] is called being a good businessman, and it's actively encouraged.

Rossdale puts it more concisely:"[Kahane] knows when to keep the fuck away."

“Prisoners: A Muslim and Jew Across the Middle East Divide”

It's pathetic how desperate are Jews such as Jeffrey Goldberg to be friends with Palestinians who want them dead.

It is hard to know if Mr. Goldberg, who seems otherwise a reasonably savvy fellow, really was as naïve as he presents himself, or if he uses such a pose as a narrative conceit. He comes across throughout the book as having a rare talent for self-delusion, giving the story momentum through moments of discovery.

Rabbi Jonathan Rosenberg Wows Shaarey Zedek

He's an Orthodox rabbi in Columbus, Ohio, and was brought out to the Valley shul this weekend.

Nobel winner doubts Israel's survival

Professor Robert (Yisrael) Aumann, the Israeli-American scholar who won the Nobel Prize for economics last year, said this week that Israel may not be capable of continuing to exist in the long-term.

"Too many Jews don't understand why they are here," said Aumann, who moved from the United States to Israel in the 1950s and helped found the Center for Rationality at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an interdisciplinary research body that focuses on game theory.

"If we don't understand why we are here, and that we are not America or just a place in which to live, we will not survive," he said in a speech at the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel on Sunday. "The desire to live like all the nations will sustain us maybe another 50 years, if we are still here."

Prager says America similarly needs to inculcate an ideology.

What Do Terrorists Want?

About ten times in this interview, Dennis Prager lets his guest known about ten times whether or not he agrees with her. The Harvard professor, like most guests, evinces no interest in whether or not the host agrees with her.

That's bad interviewing technique by Prager.

Why Women Pick Jerks, Rockstar Magazine, October 2006

Michael Allen writes:

Hitler reportedly had many girlfriends, Stalin was said to have never been without a mistress and Charles Manson's “family” was comprised mostly of women. More recently, convicted murderer Scott Peterson has been deluged with marriage proposals and O.J. Simpson said in Playboy , “Being accused of double-murder was like Spanish Fly.”