Friday, February 25, 2005

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Fireside Stores By Gwen M. Ford

My mother, Gwen M. Ford, published her book of children's stories in 1968 through the Seventh Day Adventist press Southern Publishing Association in Nashville, Tennessee. Two years later she was dead of cancer.

I just got a copy of the book in the mail today from Adventist friends. I haven't looked at in 30 years.

Seeking My Mother In The Pages Of Her Book

My mother was my age, 38, when she published her book in 1968. I was two years old.

She died of bone cancer April 24, 1970.

I read her book as a kid but I haven't seen it for 30 years until it arrived in my mailbox Friday.

Friday night, I poured through it, looking for messages for me.

What I found I didn't like -- the book is an ode to Jesus.

It made me wonder -- if my mother was alive today, could we get along? Would we be able to talk normally?

I lost the ability to communicate pleasurably with many of the Christians I grew up with when I converted to Judaism. My switch had placed too much of a strain on our relationship (well, I'd fallen out of touch with most of these people anyway during my teens as my family left the Seventh Day Adventist church).

Other Christians, however, had primarily related to me on a human-to-human level, rather than looking at me as fodder for Christ. With them, I relate as well as ever.

One friend I've had since coming to American in 1977 is the mother of my best friend during my teens.

I remember one afternoon after the Jim Jones mass suicide (1978), I was with her family and we ran into some Moonies she knew. I was amazed that she related to them on a human-to-human level. At the time, there was much hysteria about cults and Moonies were supposedly a cult, and I thought them very bad.

Prone to intellectual pursuits, I've often had an easier time relating to ideas rather than people. I've tried to become less ideological as I age so I can have more good people in my life.

I leafed through Fireside Stories in a mood to cry but the tears never came because the message did not speak to me. Still, it is the only thing I have that is my mother's (aside from the pictures here).

I might relate better to it when I have my own kids.

(Luke as a baby with his mother Gwen and brother Paul. Luke, Gwen, 1966. Luke as a baby in 1967 with Gwen, his dad Desmond, Paul and sister Ellen.)

Here are some passages that struck me. I give the chapter titles in bold.

Wun Ping -- The Unwanted

This little girl that nobody wanted has become the nurse that everyone loves.

A Real Teddy Bear!

Teddy, a baby koala, lives with his mother high up in the branches of a tall gum tree. He spends the first part of his life curled up in his mother's pouch, which is like a big furry pocket. Mothe rkoalas always wear these in front. Joey, the baby kangaroo, likes to hop in and out of his mother's pouch, but not Teddy.

He would much rather cling to the soft, cuddly fur on his mother's chest than to swing back inside the pouch. Then if Mother Koala wants to get somewhere fast, Teddy swings gracefully onto her back and rides like a jockey on a horse, while his mother clambers around the branches of a tall gum tree, quite unconcerned that she and baby Teddy are perhaps a hundred feet above the ground.


Many years ago, when Captain Cook discovered Australia, he also discovered some large, strange-looking animals hopping about. He had never seen such unusual creatures before, and he was eager to find out their name. Some aboriginees were following him, and by resorting to sign language, Captain Cook asked them, "What is this animal called?"

One native muttered, "Kangaroo." So Captain Cook went away, quite satisfied that kangaroo was the hopping animal's name. But actually the aboriginee was saying, "I don't understand a word you're saying."

Slave Trader To Minister

John Newton's mother was not very strong; and when her son was about six, she became very sick [and died].

From the time he was eleven years old, John Newton made long sea voyages with his father and was thrown into the society of rough sailors, who cursed and drank and had other bad habits. During the early days at sea, his mother's training stuck with him and he did not join in the bad behavior of the ship's crew. But this didn't last long.

As John grew older, he began to associate with men who led him to doubt that God is real. As he came to believe like his godless friends, he began to live like them too. "If God is not, then His law is not," thought John.

Gossip, It Seems, Is Now Unprintable

This city, like others, thrives on gossip - jealousy and posturing, gossip's basic components, are a fact of life here - but it is seldom printed locally. Despite being the home of Hollywood and a neighbor of the Neverland Ranch, as well as the residence of half the celebrities who stock the supermarket and television tabloids, the city has not had its own successful locally published gossip column since 1989, when The Los Angeles Herald Examiner folded, along with its Page 2 column, and The Los Angeles Times dropped its last society column.

Many reasons are cited for the absence of local gossip in print. There is the unwillingness of many Hollywood reporters, a fair number of whom have scripts in their closets, to offend sources and potential future employers. There is the monopoly of a single news source, The Los Angeles Times, which holds itself above airing celebrity laundry. And there is the decline of the gossip discipline generally, in which the tabloids' telephoto lenses, unconfirmed rumors and occasional checkbook reporting have upstaged solid information gathering.

MarketWatch's Jon Friedman Is A Junk Columnist

His stuff is easy to read but rarely insightful because he sucks up to his subjects. His latest column is on Sharon Waxman, Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times.

Sharon claims that she loves answering questions but I've only read obseqiuous interviews with her. Anyone who's challenged her, such as New York gossip Jeanette Walls, gets blown off quick.

I asked Sharon a couple of weeks ago if she was interested in doing a more challenging interview. She's yet to call me.

Not that any of this matters, because Sharon is hot, and looks are far more important in a woman than reporting ability.

It's just this kind of writing on my part that makes survivors of sexual abuse feel safe with me.

My Nick Gillespie Interview

With the benefit of hindsight, I see that I did not go about this in the best way.

First, I tried to soften Nick (editor of the new book Choice: The Best of Reason) with a lie. I told him via email this past week that, in effect, I'd spent long dreamy hours over the telephone with his predecessor as editor of Reason magazine, Virginia Postrel, and that I'd barely time to fit him in for his interview Friday morning.

I wondered how could Virginia be so charming and so cute and so intellectually taut all at the same time?

The longer Nick runs Reason, the more I miss Virginia. She just had a certain something, a Southern female touch, a grace, a dignity in movement, an alluring glance, a come-on-hither writing style, a submissive streak, that Nick will never have.

It's not fair that I judge Nick so harshly and that I miss Virginia so terribly, but these are my honest feelings. What can I do? Do you want me to repress who I really am just so that I can suck up to my interview subject?

I stay awake at nights wondering who is hotter? Virginia or Nick?

While my criticisms of Gillespie are substantial (on journalistic, moral, intellectual and personal grounds), I will admit that his picture above is bigger than Virginia's picture.

Thursday night I was out late, way late, observing the human condition on Sunset Blvd. What I saw there deeply disturbed me and I had a troubled night.

Let's just say I am not as prepared for this week's Torah portion as I should be.

My Friday interview with Nick was scheduled for 8AM. I woke up at 8:44am. At 8:45AM, I had Nick on the phone and by 8:46AM I was rolling tape.

My interview was a complete failure. I could not rattle him once. He wouldn't reveal anything to his enormous gay fan base in LukeFord.net land, nor what he was thinking about in this photo. Nick refused to take a position on decriminalization bestiality and he had the audacity to claim it wasn't something he thinks about much.

At least Virginia Postrel tells you where she stands on people having sex with dogs. You can say many things about Virginia, but she never equivocated on the love that dare not speak its name.

Interviewing Nick was a lot like interviewing Jenna Jameson. Both have a supreme confidence, have tasted the greatest success (along with a lot of other substances), and no matter what question you ask them, they are always supremely in control, on top of the interviewing, and riding you in the direction they want to go.

If anybody wants phone sex with Nick, they can call him at the Reason Washington D.C. office (202-867-5309) for just one dollar a minute. Proceeds go to the Cato Institute.

Many people are not cognizant of Nick's skills as a crossdresser. Here he is in his Nick Nikita get-up at the last Reason party.

When Nick's had too much to drink, and insists on the big-titted blonde look (even though it doesn't suit him), it can be disastrous. Here he discusses stem cell research with Francis Fukuyama.

Hope For Men Like Me

Chaim writes: Sixty seven-year-old Hunter Thompson left behind a hot blonde 32 year old widow.

Blowjob Joke In Forward (Bundist Rag)

See how the decline of organized religion leads to vulgarity.

Eve Kessler told me that the previous editor was appalled when she used the word "blowjob" in a story.

My Books Cost Too Much

I'm getting complaints.

Chaim Amalek writes:

Yeah, considering what most of us usually pay when we get something via Amazon (30 - 40 percent off list), and further considering the ethnic composition of the natural market for say, your Jewish Journalism book, these prices are a non-starter. These books should be fifteen dollar trade paperbacks. What's the point of writing if nobody reads what you write? At the very least, you should alternate your subject matter between stuff you want to write and material others might want to read that you could get published without having to pay for it. (Yes, I know that nothing I or anyone else can say here will alter your life trajectory in any way.)

I understand that books by/about celebrities like Paris Hilton are quite popular these days.

More: "The Turner Diaries" costs only $12, and "The Fame of a Dead Man's Deeds: An Up-Close Portrait of White Nationalist William Pierce - Robert S. Griffin; Paperback can be had for $23.35. Most best sellers I get cost me under $20 in hardcover.

How about working with an established cartoonist (e.g. R Crumb) to put out an illustrated Bible? Oh, I know that there are some out there, but yours could further illustrate the naughty parts to drive home the moral lesson plan God has in mind (so much for gay marriage). In fact, why not a cartoon version of the Talmud (every yeshiva boy will want one), or a Protocols of the Learned Elders of el Barrio? Again, I know you won't do any of these things. You are content to just be who you are, even though most women (especially the ones you claim to desire) don't think that's good enough.

At least try to be more upbeat.

Khunrum writes: "With the Pope circling the drain, you might want to push that moral leader thing again."

Fred writes: "Are you suggesting that Luke should sell out, and simply pander to the unwashed masses? For what? Mere money and success? Shame on you! Luke, don't listen to them."

Why Is There A Photo Of Me At The Guard Station At Stephen I. Wise Temple?

Jack writes: "Do you have any idea why the guards worship you there?"

Maybe it has to do with my profile of their rabbi Mordecai Gafni?

Psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Marmer, an important figure on the board of Stephen Wise temple for more than a decade, has lent his services over the past few months to rabbis Saul Berman and Joseph Telushkin's attacks on me, on Vicki Polin and on The Awareness Center.

Rabbi Berman and Telushkin, who did not return my calls last year when I phoned them about their public support for the religious ministry of Rabbi Marc Gafni, have attacked me in the strongest terms.

Jane writes: "Hey Luke, you should create a disguise in order to get into that rabbi Gafni conference. Being in Hollywood, shouldn't be too difficult to find something. Hey, you could wear a longish grey beard and moustache, a pair of glasses, stuff four big pillows under your shirt, shave your head and go as JH Worch!"

I want a hug. I'm going.

The Degeneracy Of Journalists Knows No Limit

Wednesday I tried to do some moral outreach with the young ladies at the latest Los Angeles Press Club party but it was a lost cause -- I didn't have the courage to approach one.

Luckily, Brian Doherty of Reason brought over his friend Marjorie, a secular Jewish experimental filmmaker. I ragged on her for much of the night for not observing the Torah.

When I was a child, my father told me about his experiences at the Sydney Morning Herald. He told me journos were a hard-drinking immoral lot. It has taken me 30 years to realize that he is right.

The party offers free vodka and the journos go to town. Emmanuelle Richard drinks far more than is good for her and in her own flesh pays the penalty for her sin.

Cathy Seipp has three Vodkas. "Not many," she tells me the next day.

11pm. I walk out with Sandra Tsing Loh and Andrew Breitbart. Andrew insists that Sandra opens up the vodka bottle she won during the night's festivities and they start taking shots on the street. The bouncer quite properly moves them along.

I wish I could take a big hose and wash away the filth staining Hollywood Blvd.

I wish I could take a big hose and wash away the filth staining the souls of various beautiful single women at the party.

I wish I could take a big hose and wash away the filth...

Thursday. 11:45AM. I arrive at the Beverly Hills Hotel to hear author Bat Ye'or to speak on her new book Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis before the Wednesday Morning Club.

One small problem. The club no longer meets at the Beverly Hills Hotel. They're now at the Four Seasons, but I only find that out once I arrive home 40-minutes later.

I wish I could take a big hose and wash away the filth infecting my brain and preventing me from seeing the right and the good.

I've got an interview with libertarian writer Nick Gillespie Friday morning. I'm gonna mess him up good. His mug won't look nearly so handsome when I've taken my big verbal hose and washed away the filth that sits like like an octopuss on his brain.

(I think Nick was offered $100,000 to pose naked for Playgirl but he turned it down because he didn't want to overstimulate his employees Brian, Matt Welch and Tim Cavanaugh and have them sue Reason for sexual harassment.)

Journalists who won't date me suck. I wish I could take a big hose and wash away their objections.

I wish I could take a big hose and wash that grey right out of my hair.

I wish I could take a big hose and wash away the years.

I wish I could take a big hose and wash away my fears.

Don't forget, gentle reader (this is really directed at the world at large, but, unfortunately, it is not reading me): "I hate you! I hate you!"

Honest To G-d

Chaim Amalek writes: "Have you ever given any thought to starting up an honest-to-God journal? No, not a web thing, but something you can take without to the bathroom or read on the subway. I suggest that you resurrect the name "Shmate," if it is available. Lots more prestige than any web site, and you can get grants for things like that. And meed a much higher class of people. amalekchai : The thinking man's Heeb. You could write a colum in it called "The Stranger Among You.""

Anthony Lane Rips Inside Deep Throat In The New Yorker

We have to settle for a predictable roster of guest preachers: Camille Paglia, Norman Mailer, Erica Jong, Gore Vidal, Larry Flynt, Alan Dershowitz, and a bundle of simpers and tics with the words “Helen Gurley Brown” written underneath. Far more enjoyable are the crew from the original picture, who are, without exception, on loan from the pages of a Carl Hiaasen novel. Connoisseurs of fruitcake will treasure Ron Wertheim, the production manager, whose vivid gray locks burst outward like solar flares, and who is plainly looking forward to being reunited, in the near future, with his own mind. Moving on, we come to Lenny Camp, the location manager, who cups one ear at the interviewer and describes “Deep Throat” as “a piece-of-s--- film.” Plus, “the actors are all s---.” I would second Lenny in his thoughtful analysis, adding merely that, if you think the actors are s---, you should try the editing. And the lighting. And the sound recording. And the sex.

The sleaziest aspect of “Inside Deep Throat” is its desperation to make a big noise out of a pip-squeak. From the opening credits, in the course of which Camille Paglia recalls “an epochal moment in the history of modern sexuality,” to the closing homage, in which our narrator, Dennis Hopper, tells us that “‘Deep Throat’ was less about the joys of oral sex than it was about the freedom to speak out against shame and hypocrisy,” we are dragged through a glossily packaged exercise in cultural aggrandizement, as immovable in its prejudice as the forces of religious reaction which it yearns to provoke. There is even a hilarious attempt, near the end, to argue that the good old days of pornography used to brim with Ambrosian innocence, after which, Erica Jong says, “a very cynical pornographic industry came in on the heels of the First Amendment, and began coining money, hand over fist.” Leaving aside her interesting choice of image, I take it that she is referring to the “bad” money made in our corrupt post-Reagan age, as opposed to the “good” money made by all the Mafia goons thirty years ago or more.

Debate Over Rabbinic Ordination

A letter dated September 9, 2004 purporting to come from Efrat Orthodox rabbi Yeshoshua Reich says he never gave private semicha (rabbinic ordination) to Michael Ozair.

Here's a copy of this letter. Here's a copy of the private ordination Michael Ozair says he received from rabbi Reich in Los Angeles in the fall of 1998 (after an arrangement through Ozair's boss of the time Jerry Friedman of Shalhevet, with the awareness of rabbis Abner Weiss -- now at a shul in Westwood -- and Chanina Rabinowitz -- now a principal of a Torah academy in Melbourne?, Australia).

Rabbi Yehoshua Reich was a rabbinic advisor to Shalhevet prior to the arrival of rabbi Chanina Rabinowitz.

Michael Ozair studied for a year at Kol Yaakov in Monsey and then on his own for a few months before he was examined (written and oral) in Los Angeles by rabbi Reich.

Here's a comparison of the signatures of rabbi Reich on what Ozair says is his private ordination from rabbi Reich with the signature of rabbi Reich on his September 9, 2004 letter.

The private ordination that Michael Ozair says he received is the type of informal ordination folks such as rabbi Shlomo Carlebach gave to about a dozen people, including at least one woman. This type of ordination is traditional in such circles as the Chabad movement.

The photo on the left is from 1998. The photo on the right is from rabbi Reich's September 9, 2004 letter denying he gave Michael Ozair ordination.

Hebrew runs from right to left. Notice how the shin starts high and connects to the ayin in a loop in both signatures. The last letter, on the far left of each photo, is also similar, though the signature for the last name ('Reich' in Hebrew) looks different. The Hebrew signature for "Yehoshua" looks similar in both cases.

Will Senger writes: "There is no question the signatures match - they have identical sweep points and pressures which are nowhere near easy to fake. It doesn't surprise me that someone would deny the ordination of a man convicted of offences against a minor, but it is just as wrong to lie as it is to commit offences against a minor. Send the liar in for two months in LA county jail - and a year of house arrest with a nice Catholic family."

It takes a nanny to raise a future promiscuous rabbi

JWB writes:

From a story told by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shlomi:

In Europe, when Zalman Schachter (no hyphen Shlomi at that point, no title Rabbi) was growing up, his parents had a non-jewish nanny who took care of Zalman. While taking care of Zalman and running errands she would frequently take him into the church where he would see her light candles. Apparently, Zalman tells of how beautiful he found this and the deep and profound impression it made on him. This is where he claims he discovered the deep connection between spirituality and women (and apparently sexuality) that has "guided" his life.

Of course this story may just be another pick up line. Either way, that's where the foundation for what would become Jewish Renewal began, in a European church with a nanny.

"Celebrating your Seder with Reb Hershy Worch's Haggadah will get you to experience the soul dawn of " Rabboteynu - the time for the morning Shma' has arrived." - Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Renewal Judaism Is Where The Sex Is At

Rabbi Arthur Waskow on wife-swapping and Halacha: "Arthur Waskow, of the Jewish Renewal Movement, who has suggested that every couple must make its own decision to whether their particular ketubah requires monogamy."

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (recovering sex-addict) on what he teaches to his bar mitzvah boys:

I ask my Bar Mitzvah boys, “Do you masturbate?” And first they are a little sheepish about it and then they say, “Yes,” and I say, “You know what? It is a good thing to do on the Sabbath! Take your time, put on some music, and explore your body and what feels good for you, and most important, let God in."

Jewish Whistle Blower writes about Renewal leader rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi:

1) Multiple marriages, some quite short.

2) Has ended up living with women he was converting.

3) Wrote article about using drugs to get a spiritual high which got him fired from one pulpit.

4) Has advised people to live together before marriage.

5) Has been known to bring additional women home for group sex.

The Fat Girl's Guide To Life

Esther D. Kustanowitz (I have a morbid fascination for her work because it is usually the antithesis of the writing and thinking I admire) writes in The Jewish Week:

The 33-year-old Shanker, who has worked extensively in the image-conscious worlds of magazines and television, knows that the fight to remove fat’s negative connotations is an uphill battle. “I don’t expect everyone to read my book and change their attitude. I’m chipping away at a construct. I’m trying to send out a message about self-respect. If I talked to you like women talk to themselves — saying ‘I’m gross, I’m disgusting, I’m bad, I don’t deserve happiness,’— you’d think I was rude and nasty. It’s good to have another voice out there, saying ‘you’re good, special, beautiful, be nice to yourself — regardless of your size.’”

Cathy writes: "Isn't it a good thing that it's "an uphill battle"? Because walking uphill burns off more calories!"

I'm tired of the self-esteem movement. I'm tired of people thinking they are wonderful irrespective of how they behave. If a person lets himself look like a slob when he can do better then he is a slob, no matter how wonderful he thinks he is inside.

I'm not a chubby chaser and most guys I know aren't. If you are a single fat woman and you want to attract a man, you might want to skip this book and go for a jog instead.

One Month Anniversary...

...of rabbi Yaakov Menken's last post to Cross-Currents.com.

Dennis Prager's Latest Insight

BT writes on alt.radio.talk 2/17:

On today's program, Prager spent an hour trumpeting a claim that churchgoers might live years longer than non churchgoers. Studies to this effect were cited in a NY Times op-ed piece by Nicholas Kristof, which Prager linked to on his web page.

Prager used this to rail against anti-smoking propaganda in schools--he decried the hypocracy of teaching students about the adverse health effects of smoking but not instructing them with similar vigor on the health benefits of religion. Numerous callers agreed and congratulated Prager on his wisdom and insight.

One thing Prager didn't mention about that Kristof piece, the source of his information. Immediately after citing the claim about churchgoers living longer, Kristof looks at why the religious might live longer. The primary reason: "because the religious seem to adopt healthier lifestyles - they are less likely to smoke, for example."

Jewish Defense Organization (JDO) Vs. Terrorist Lawyer Lynne Stewart, Marc Gafni

From The New York Times:

Ms. Stewart said she found a five-line printed flier taped to her front door when she left for court yesterday morning just after 8.30. The flier said that Ms. Stewart and one of her clients, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, were "traitors to America" and referred readers to a telephone number and to the Web site of the Jewish Defense Organization.

A recorded voice mail message reached by dialing the number says the group - which describes itself as a militant Jewish group - is beginning "Operation Crush Terror Against Lynne Stewart." The message gives Ms. Stewart's home address and says she "needs to be put out of business legally and effectively," threatening to "drive her out of her home and out of the state."

Part of the campaign, the message says, is "to reach out so the jurors understand what she is." It adds, "And that's been done."

The JDO has sent out mass emails identifying Gafni's biggest financial supporters, including Shari Arison, then the richest resident of Israel, and Michael Steinhardt (who subsidized the Forward).

These rich Jews got embarrassed and hired lawyers to send threatening lawyers to the JDO. Some of the letters are hysterical.

Five JDO activists disrupted a fundraiser (at a Reform temple in the Mid-West) for Mordecai Gafni last month. Gafni was not present. The people in the temple went crazy because they like Gafni.

JDO sent out about 50,000 emails warning people about Gafni by quoting from various news reports about the kinky rabbi.

Feeling his fundraising base threatened, Gafni is consulting with his wealthy advisors and is trying to sue the JDO.

Gafni's wealthiest donors, people such as Shari Arison and Michael Steinhardt, want to sue the JDO. They're embarrassed to be outed as subsidizers of a sexual predator. They want to launch a libel action in England where it is frequently a criminal rather than civil matter and much easier to win than in America.

JDO emailed out a secret list of donors to Gafni's organization/cult Bayit Chadash. The JDO emailed Gafni's donors, telling them we know who you are and we know what you've done.

Shari Arison is in freak-out land and she has her lawyers trying to track down the shadowy JDO to serve them.

Gafni wants to return to America because this is where the money is. He's gone quiet the past five months since Gary Rosenblatt and others revealed his predatory past.

Here's an email the JDO received from a lawyer representing some macher: "How dare the JDO put out my client's name? He is a private person. The JDO has no right to call supporters of rabbi Gafni 'supporters of an evil cult.'"

Here's an email from Shari Arison's lawyer: "I've been a law professor for over [X] number of years. It is with supreme repugnance...the JDO's stance on rabbi Gafni. It demonstrates to outsiders that this organization can not tell the difference between freedom of speech and slander. ...Newspapers will hopefully see through this and not publish this slander."

Steinhardt's lawyer told the JDO to keep Steinhardt out of it. It is no one's business what Michael's connection is to Gafni. Whatever connection he has goes back years.

One of Michael Steinhardt's kids writes to the JDO: "Please stop circulating our father's name. Please do not put out about him and rabbi Winiarz. Putting out this information is only going to hurt Mr. Steinhardt's attempt to help major philanthropic projects across the US."

Gary Rosenblatt writes: "Avraham Infeld, now the president of Hillel, was heading an educational program in Israel called Melitz when he hired Gafni in the late 1990s, despite pressure not to do so. Infeld has said he had no regrets."

Someone representing Avraham Infeld contacted the JDO: "We take humbrage at the fact that the JDO is circulating various articles about rabbi Gafni. It is true that the current director of Hillel had him speak prior to becoming the director of Hillel... Just because Avraham Infeld did this...does not mean that Hillel is involved in any way, shape or form, with rabbi Gafni. If any Hillel directors do have rabbi Gafni speak, then bring that to that Hillel director's attention."

Someone from the UCLA Hillel emails the JDO: "We understand that the JDO is circulating various things against rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller [UCLA Hillel rabbi for about 20 years] attacking him for having dealings with rabbi Gafni. Because of JDO's postings, rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller has been spoken to by national Hillel and there is no plan to have rabbi Gafni speak again."

It sounds like rabbi Gafni needs the Predator Publicists -- rabbis Joseph Telushkin and Saul Berman -- ride to his rescue.

Paul Feldman, a former member of the national Hillel board, emails the JDO: "The JDO must feel real good. You are destroying rabbi Gafni's attempt to make a parnassa [earn a living]. Does the JDO enjoy what they're doing? Does the JDO enjoy lumping rabbi Gafni with Hare Krishnas and all kinds of other evil cults? The emails posted attacking rabbi Gafni and rabbi Seidler-Feller are causing us undue distress. ...If you discredit [rabbi Gafni]. you are discrediting all of us."

The University of Illinois Hillel chapter (where rabbi J. Hershy Worch once worked) tells the JDO they will never have rabbi Gafni speak to them. "We didn't know much about him. Somebody tried to book him to speak here. But we weren't sure of him. Thanks to your emails, we did more background... This prevented us from bringing a man who can only be called a national disaster for Jews."

The JDO fears that rabbi Gafni is misleading people who don't know Judaism. They are like a bunch of people in a darkened room. He lights a candle but it only sheds enough light for them to follow him around the room. He's not turning on a light so they can see their way out of there. Just enough light so he can lead them on a track to nowhere.

If Gafni's financial supporters are written up, they're likely to stop contributing, which will diminish or end Gafni's rabbinic work.

Author Peter Biskind Calls Out Of Politeness

I phoned him. I heard there was drama going on between him and Warren Beatty over Peter's biography of the star.

Peter called me back. "I'm just calling out of politeness. I don't feel comfortable commenting on a project I'm working on. I don't want to say anything that is inadvertently going to jeopardize anything I'm working on.

"On the other hand, I'm willing to give you a call because I read your column and I like it."

We decide to do an interview (in a few weeks) about Biskind's book Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film.

Regarding his Beatty book, Biskind says "I haven't even barely started it. I haven't done a single interview with him. It hasn't been difficult at all.

"These rumors start G-d knows where. When I was doing Down and Dirty Pictures, there were kinds of rumors about Harvey [Weinstein] tapping my phone, all stuff that wasn't true.

"I've written about Beatty before. I'm looking forward to it. I think it is a fascinating subject."

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Saul Berman Ride To The Rescue Of Sexual Predators

We live in a dark and crazy world where rabbis who confess to committing rape are sometimes exposed by members of the Jewish community such as The Awareness Center.

But fear not. Rabbis Telushkin and Berman (on the Left end of the Orthodox spectrum) have been working hard over the past eight months to see to it that Jewish clergy who use their religious office to sexually abuse the underage and vulnerable are no longer humiliated publicly by having their picture and stories told on the Internet.

I for one don't want to live in a world where a rabbi can't diddle kids to his heart's content without fear that somebody might write about them.

Kudos to Telushkin and Berman for supporting sexual predator Marc Gafni and doing everything in their power to see to it that future Gafnis do not have to face the humiliation of having their actions exposed to the world.

Kudos to Telushkin and Berman on behalf of sexual predators everywhere.

Kudos to Telushkin and Berman for protecting the powerful and seeking to rip away the last bit of protection for those abused by Telushkin and Berman's rabbinic peers.

Won't somebody please think of the children? What kind of example are we grown-ups? We have evil gossip in our community. The reputations of sexual predators are being smeared right and left. Let us all make common cause with rabbis Telushkin and Berman so that their fellow rabbis can f--- kids for free.

Whenever I feel discouraged about the priorities of our rabbinic leaders, I like to reread this letter in The Jewish Week following its mild and partial expose of that wild and crazy guy Marc Gafni:

To the Editor,

Words can elevate and words can destroy.

There was a time when the Jewish community too glibly and carelessly disregarded words of accusation of sexual abuse against clergy. That was clearly wrong, and Gary Rosenblatt of The Jewish Week helped to correct that. The pendulum has now swung to the opposite extreme, as evidenced in Rosenblatt’s column (The Re-Invented Rabbi, 9/24/04).

The column reports an allegation concerning a relationship from twenty-five years ago – when Rabbi Mordechai Gafni was 19 and 20 and not yet a rabbi – in a situation where he had no pastoral relationship with the person in question. Rabbi Gafni has a completely different account of what happened which was not clearly related in the article (including the fact that nothing even vaguely resembling sexual relations took place).

Furthermore, we can attest first hand that several years ago Rabbi Gafni made serious attempts to contact this woman in a therapeutically-mediated context—to clarify the huge gulf in their understandings of what happened and, if necessary, to apologize for any way in which she felt hurt. This offer was rejected and the decision was apparently made that the press was a more appropriate vehicle for conversation.

The story also reports unsubstantiated allegations which are twenty-years old. The story critically omits the fact that the professional to whom Rabbi Gafni (then Winiarz) was responsible at the time conducted an investigation, and drew the following conclusions in a formal report which was accepted by his superiors:

“I’ve known Rabbi Winiarz for the past six years, and I believe I speak of his character from a position of knowledge and reliability… In his work as director of Jewish Public School Youth, allegations were made as to his improper conduct with a teenage girl and a young female adult [referred to in the article as Judy and Susan]… For several months, in the spring and summer of 1986, I delved into the accusations and had numerous conversations with a number of people who were associated with Rabbi Winiarz both professionally and personally. I also talked to the accusing parties as well as members of their families, rabbis close to them and agency personnel involved in the work of JPSY. I also, of course, spoke at length to Rabbi Winiarz about these matters. It was my conclusion, based on clear and compelling reasons, that the accusations were not true and were not substantiated. I might add that this was also the view of a clinical psychologist who interviewed Rabbi Winiarz and the teenager after the alleged incident.”

We have collectively looked at this issue again in the last six months, and come to a similar conclusion. Further, Rabbi Gafni has long expressed his desire to meet with any of the parties who feel he has wronged them—even when he has a completely different account of the situation.

We, like Gary Rosenblatt, have struggled with the question of what gravity to assign to persistent rumors. Our conclusion differs from that of Mr. Rosenblatt. We have collectively, over many years, spoken to virtually everyone who would speak to us who was directly involved in order to examine the accusations against Rabbi Gafni. We have found them totally not convincing. Further, there is simply no evidence that Rabbi Gafni’s public role constitutes a risk to Jewish women, or to anyone for that matter.

We pray that this unfair scandalous moment will soon be forgotten and that Rabbi Gafni will be able to free his spiritual energy and formidable intellect in order to help build Jewish consciousness and commitment.

Rabbi Saul J. Berman, Director of Edah
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Jewish Literacy and The Book of Jewish Values
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Congregation Nevei Kodesh, author of With Roots in Heaven and
The Receiving

Curious about the exact number of kids a rabbi like Gafni should be allowed to rape before he loses his position as a Jewish leader, I left messages October 21, 2004, with rabbis Berman and Telushkin on their home phone numbers to talk about their defense of Gafni and their attacks on The Awareness Center. They've yet to return my call.

(I favor the number four. That way you don't jump all over a good guy like Gafni who's had a few indiscretions.)

But don't think for a second I feel neglected. No, I get warm and fuzzy when I treasure the rabbis' kind and thoughtful comments behind my back about my journalistic techniques.

It is important in these troubled times that we neither expose sexual predators nor assist their victims. No, we should follow the example of Telushkin and Berman (mavens of media studies) and focus our energies on a careful analysis on the background of a blogger in Los Angeles who allows victims of sex abuse to tell their stories (after fact-checking them).

I'm glad to know Berman and Telushkin are going to shut me down. It's only right. Who wants somebody writing without permission, without the proper credentials, without the proper servility to those with power and money?

Words That Hurt, Words That Heal: How to Choose Words Wisely and Well.

Please stop me before I expose another rabbi-predator. The reputation you save, dear rabbinic reader caught in the cross currents of truth, might be your own. Best to join forces with your peers and preserve your privileges.

Crazy Currents

Who is the weakest link on this Orthodox blog? There's so much competition. I still side with Jeff Ballabon, but Toby Katz is giving him stiff competition. Jeff is more pompous but Toby more hysterical:

I'd like to see Mirvis put a disclaimer on the cover of every one of her books, something like, "This book is a fictional representation of Orthodox life and is totally a product of my imagination. Any resemblance to actual Orthodoxy is coincidental and entirely unintended."

Rabbi Adlerstein shines in this requiem for Willy Loman:

Jews understood that there was nothing banal about life. In the worst of conditions, they recognized and seized opportunities to effect eternity. The most unaccomplished and unremarkable Jewish laborer could feel the “bishvili nivra haolam”/ “the word was created for me” taught by the Sages. He could rise in the morning and bind the Divine Presence to the world by putting on tefillin; he could see existence precisely balanced between good and evil, with his next mitzvah poised to make all the difference in the world. Long before DeBeers claimed that “diamonds are forever,” the average Jew knew that mitzvos and good deeds were the real gems that would survive eternally.

Ross Johnson's Series On Movie Financing In The Weekly Screen International

Part five (on Carolco) is on newstands now.

Screen International's weekly edition is not available over the internet.

Part six due out next monday is on Saul Zaentz and all the wild litigation and dealmaking around his films.

Part seven is Credit Lyonnais, where Frans Afman responds to David Mcclintock's Fortune piece that sealed Frans fate.

Part eight is on the Neuer Markt and what really went on with Elie Samaha and the German stock market crooks.

Part nine will be the money chasers, bank cowboys, and will drill down into the story of Peter Hoffman's financial schemes.

Pull quote: "I should have never said it. Even though I was just trying to point out some audience's tastes, it came out completely wrong, and it created tremendous ill will between me and Mario." –– Peter Hoffman.

Part 10, it's the new world order, where Johnson reports from China and Russia as to how the studios are trying to make piece with the pirates who are setting up distribution channels.

Carolco: The Terminated

Ross Johnson writes in Screen International:

An independent trailblazer, Carolco produced some of the biggest non-studio action hits of all time. But just as the company was hitting its biggest triumph with Terminator 2, Carolco was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

Peter Hoffman tells Ross Johnson where it all went wrong Rambo with a fifty-cal on full auto...Andy with a cigar on a 200-foot yacht...Mario with five bodyguards ...Hoffman with five prosecutors in pursuit...Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Gulfstream G-III...Renny Harlin getting a whammy in a Ferrari...Paul Verhoeven, Joe Eszterhas, and Michael Douglas grooving on the afterglow of a panty-less Sharon Stone ...Oliver Stone and Val Kilmer running a bacchanal for a thousand of their closest friends...Big hits. Big bombs. Big egos. Big headaches. Big, big bucks. And bankruptcy. The history of Carolco is anything but subtle.

To understand the hold that the company and its principals Andrew Vajna, Mario Kassar and Peter Hoffman had on the imagination of big-ticket film-makers and dealmakers and the press in its heyday from 1982 until 1995, one only has to look at the newspaper column inches devoted to the litigation surrounding the company. Hoffman's four-day federal tax trial in 1997 got more ink in the Los Angeles Times than anything to do with Oliver Stone's $200m Alexander opus.

John Daly’s Hemdale Pictures

Ross Johnson writes in Screen International:

John Daly’s Hemdale Pictures was the archetypal mini-major of the 1980s. The company produced a number of significant pictures, and scored at least two mega-smashes, before the glory days ended with bankruptcy and an avalanche of lawsuits. Unlike a lot of his contemporaries, however, John Daly is still at work and is still making movies.

There are two ways to write the history of the Hollywood mini-majors who took on their big studio counterparts in the early 1980s.

One could visit the bankruptcy attorneys, Security and Exchange Commission regulators, federal prosecutors and takeover vultures who sifted through the debris of Vestron Pictures, Lorimar Film Entertainment, New World Pictures, Orion Pictures and eponymous outfits run by Weintraub, De Laurentiis, and the gung-ho Golan and Globus.

Or one could save time and just look up John Daly, the former chairman of Hemdale Pictures Corporation, the company that brought the cinema world the first Terminator, The Falcon And The Snowman, River’s Edge, At Close Range, Salvador, Platoon, Hoosiers, as well as helping The Last Emperor make it to the screen.

Daly, who’s 66 or 67 – depending on how he remembers the dates – is not resting on his laurels, as tarnished as they may be. On a Friday afternoon in late January his Wilshire Boulevard offices are crackling with the energy of 10 of his young charges – two of whom are Daly’s kids – fighting to put film deals together for the company their leader has named Film and Music Entertainment, Inc.

Peter Biskind's New Book On Warren Beatty

Beatty loves the press but he's a control freak.

Biskind can bang a book out quickly but this one may take a while. I hear the negotiations between them are brutal.

I thought Ellis Amburn did a good job with 2002's The Sexiest Man Alive: A Biography of Warren Beatty.

In January 2004, Biskind published the business book Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film. It didn't get as much buzz as his first book (1999): Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood.

Both books sold about 25,000 copies.

Sirius, the satellite radio service, had a big party at Robert Evans's house to promote his new radio show.

There's one big problem with Robert's show -- he can't talk because of his stroke.

It's a whacky way for Sirius to get in business with Hollywood.

They had to drag Robert out at the launch party and put him in front of a podium and he stood on a box to make himself look taller and he's drooling and trying to talk. Yeah, I can't wait to tune in to this radio show.

I keep waiting for the Anthony Pellicano investigation to drag down some of Hollywood's most illustrious lawyers but nothing's happening there.

I talked to some Hollywood journalists about Sharon Waxman's new book: Rebels on the Backlot: Six Maverick Directors and How They Conquered the Hollywood Studio System. They said it didn't break new ground.

"For people in LA, it is no great shakes," says a journo. "The best thing that happened to that book was [director] David Russell [slamming Waxman] giving it a free plug."

Waxman's book takes an arts and culture approach, meaning it should sell forever unlike a business book such as Down and Dirty Pictures, and James Stewart's new one Disney War, which have a limited shelf life.

Low Blows On Jewish Survivors Blog

I've been taking hits below the belt on the Jewish Survivors Blog. Obviously they are far more concerned with socking it to me than helping survivors of sexual abuse. I don't think I will be responding any more to this blog. Several times when I have responded, my posts have been deleted. Now they are publishing accusations from which there is no defense.

I appreciated this post in my defence:

That is Luke: take him or leave him. It's a package deal. He is a journalist who will keep your confidentiality. He respects it when you tell him, "don't make this public." Most journalists don't have the balls to do what he does. The reason he does have the balls is because Luke is a very unique individual. He has no qualms: both about publicizing stories that no one else will touch and publicly writing things about himself that others would not disclose. All guys have s*xual fantasies. How do you know that other journalists don't get "turned on" by survivor stories? Different people naturally find different things turn-ons. As a survivor myself, I would venture to say (having read this in several reputable sources) that even some SURVIVORS find other survivor stories turn-ons. (See "The Courage to Heal", it talks about this.)

I wish this blog wouldn't keep harping on him. We discussed him. The thread was taken down. Another thread went up. He responded to it. It was taken down. Another post went up. It was taken down, ammended and reposted. If anyone is wondering whether to talk to Luke, why don't they speak to someone from The Awareness Center directly, or speak directly to another survivor. Or ask Rabbi Blau. It doesn't seem like this public discussion of him is going anywhere.

Cozy or Critical?

Jack writes:

Here's your idea of a good time. There are quite a few angry Orthodox guys with blogs now. This guy's mad at everything. You should do a virtual shiur for all these guys -- "How to get kicked out of shul." They all seem to *want* that to happen to them. And this guy.

Chaim Amalek writes:

After perusing some of those anti-Chassidic, anti-Jewish blogs a correspondent brought to your attention, I think it is time you came out of the closet and stated your beliefs. Specifically:

1. Do you believe that God gave Moses the so-called Oral Law on Mount Sinai? (And be clear on what you regard as the oral law.)

2. Shatness: Yay or nay?

3. Do goyim have souls? Are they as exalted in the eyes of the Lord as the souls of Jews?

4. Are shiksas for practice?

5. Is there an afterlife? What goes on there?

6. Are Jews the chosen people? If so, for what have they been chosen?

7. Was the establishment of Israel on land contested by hundreds of millions of angry muslims bent on kicking them out from that land a good idea?

8. What are your thoughts on a Jewish Messiah? Jesus or Schneerson or ?

9. Did the rabbis in the Talmud make any mistakes concerning matters of religion?

10. Does there exist a personal God who judges Luke Ford according to the degree and manner in which he keeps the 613 commandments?

Luke replies:

1. I accept that that is the position of Orthodox Judaism and I don't question it publicly. I do believe that, in the final analysis, God is behind the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.

2. I accept this commandment.

3. Yes and yes.

4. No. Premarital sex is not allowed to Orthodox Judaism, not with Jews or non-Jews. In fact, Judaism does not allow the use of words to smear people, so the word "shiksa" is forbidden.

5. Yes, I believe in an afterlife. I believe that God rewards and punishes in this world and the world to come. I believe all the good we do is rewarded and the bad we do receives its just punishment.

6. I believe the Jews were chosen by God to spread ethical monotheism and to embody a better way of life.

7. Yes, the modern establishment of Israel was a great idea.

8. No and no. And no idea.

9. Certainly. They disagreed amongst themselves. Somebody had to be wrong.

10. Yes.

What About The Black Woman?

Chaim Amalek writes:

Just saw that new Will Smith movie "Hitch." It is an outrage. There is love for the black man (a white woman). There is love for white men and other white women. But the Black Woman is invisible. Nothing for her. Such are the inevitable wages of miscegenation. At least Hollywood got that part right, that when this racial game of musical chairs stops, the Black Woman is left out in the cold. You should see this movie with your friend Cathy (it is a true chick flick) and share these racial musings with her when it is all over.

Torn Between Torah And Flesh

Jack writes: "Raymond and Hannah by Stephen Marche is a so-so book about a shaygetz [gentile man]. It's worth breezing through -- deemed provocative due to XXX scenes in context of book about young woman torn between Torah study and goyish boyfriend."

From the book description:

This boldly contemporary love story combines sex and seriousness, physical lust and spiritual longing. Raymond and Hannah hook up at a party; a one-night stand expands into a weeklong passionate and surprisingly deep love affair. Then Hannah leaves for a year in Jerusalem. With six thousand miles separating their bodies, the energy of love and lust must be sublimated to the written word. While Hannah immerses herself in Torah and the Orthodox world of Jerusalem, Raymond remains in multicultural Toronto, working on his dissertation on Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy.

Over the school year, Hannah's growing love for her Jewishness is more and more at odds with her love for a blond, blue-eyed WASP. And Raymond, pining in Toronto, seems to be living out his dissertation before he's even written it. Can this new love affair survive distance, cultural dissonance, and out-of-sync, late-night e-mails? In this remarkable debut, carnal love confronts religion and culture, and modern passion finds its counterpoint in ancient texts.

Gambino Thugs Plead Guilty To Internet Scam Ring

Mike Brunker writes for MSNBC 2/15/05:

According to Luke Ford, a pioneer blogger and keen observer of the Internet...scene, the scheme was able to roll up such huge numbers because of deals Crescent made with two Internet traffic brokers — Serge Birbrair and Yishai Habari — that resulted in millions of porn-seeking surfers a day being directed to the sites.

“Yishai and Serge made millions off the scam and escaped FTC prosecution because they only functioned as traffic brokers,” Ford wrote on his Web site.

Arthur Miller - The Great Pretender

Terry Teachout writes in the WSJ:

I recently described "After the Fall," the 1964 play in which Miller first made fictional use of his unsuccessful marriage to Marilyn Monroe, as "a lead-plated example of the horrors that result when a humorless playwright unfurls his midlife crisis for all the world to see," written by a man "who hasn't a poetic bone in his body (though he thinks he does)." For me, that was his biggest flaw. He was, literally, pretentious: He pretended to have big ideas and the ability to express them with a touch of poetry, when in fact he had neither. His final play, "Finishing the Picture," was yet another rehash of the Monroe-Miller ménage in which he resorted one last time to what I referred to in this space last fall as "pseudo-poetic burble" ("What we had that was alive and crazy has been pounded into some hateful, ordinary dust").

I wonder how much attention would now be paid to Miller if he hadn't married Monroe, and if the House Un-American Activities Committee hadn't made the mistake of subpoenaing him in 1956 to testify about his Communist ties (which were extensive, though he always denied having been an actual party member), thereby bringing about his citation for contempt of Congress when he refused to "name names." The one made him a pop-culture footnote, the other a liberal icon.

Must Orthodox fiction be so fictional?

Wendy Shalit writes on Jewish World Review:

All the authors I discussed are great writers, and I'm sure they are good people too. Nevertheless, they are simply not from the fervently-Orthodox community that is featured so negatively in their novels. Unfortunately, the media (and many readers) seem to feel that these writers are representing the traditional Jewish community...

...I am not critiquing their personal choices. I am examining why sometimes their haredi characters lack realism. The fact that these authors do not come from the specific subgroup they often write about would not be an insurmountable obstacle, so long as they didn't rely on negative stereotypes. Unfortunately, sometimes they do. The traditional Orthodox characters in their novels tend to be hypocrites.

My critique of Wendy's essay:

This sentence reaks of condescension and falsity: "All the authors I discussed are great writers, and I'm sure they are good people too." How would Wendy know if the writers she discusses are good people? And who could argue seriously that they are all great writers? If Jonathan Rosen, Allegra Goodman, Nathan Englander, Tova Reich, Tova Mirvis, Risa Miller, Ruchama King, and Eve Grubin are all great writers, then none of them are great writers. Greatness is not so liberally dispersed.

Frankly, if they are all great writers, then where would you place Tom Wolfe, John Updike and Philip Roth? Would you say that they a really great writers?

"Nevertheless, they are simply not from the fervently-Orthodox community that is featured so negatively in their novels."

That's also nonsense. Tova Mirvis knows first-hand the worlds she writes about. She knows them at far greater depth and length of time than Wendy Shalit. The other writers, such as Nathan Englander, Allegra Goodman and Tova Reich know the worlds of Modern Orthodoxy and fervent Orthodoxy at least as well as Wendy Shalit (probably better and deeper than the brash newcomer).

"The traditional Orthodox characters in their novels tend to be hypocrites." Wendy must have a tin ear for literature. There are all sorts of Orthodox characters in the books of Tova Mirvis, Nathan Englander, etc. Some characters are idealistic and some are cynical.

Shmarya Rosenberg writes to Wendy:

Wendy, As someone who is a ba'al teshuva (for 22 years, not 3 or 4), who has successfully worked in kiruv for several different haredi orgainzations both in the US and in Israel, and (despite this quick note's appearance) is a writer, I found your NY Times column and your response in JWR to be disingenuous.

If one were to write about the haredi world truthfully, one would have to include such paradigms of virtue as the Slifkin Book Ban, the banning of Making Of A Gadol, Rabbi Metzger's election as Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi – with Rabbi Elyashiv's backing! – after he was found culpable in a rabbinic tribunal of extortion and corruption. (R. Elyashiv knew this before he backed him. He also knew of credible accusations of sexual misconduct.) Need I go on? Because I can, for a very long time, with very specific examples.

You don't have to like Englander's or Mirvis's work. But to denigrate people who know far more about yiddishkeit – and the frum velt – than you do in the way you have crosses the line. You should apologize, both publicly and privately, to those you wronged.

I'm writing a book of stories dealing with my world. In fact, you've inspired me to write something based on your NY Times column. Somehow, and i hope I'm wrong, I don't think you'll approve. There will be too much emmes for you to spin away.

Again, please apologize. It is the right thing to do.