Monthly Archives: April 2009

Yom Ha’atzmaut: Israel’s Founding Revisited


Happy Independence Day to all my Israeli friends and readers and anyone else celebrating. In remembrance of the struggle for Israel’s independence, here is an excerpt of an interview with Zev Golan in The Jewish Press. Mr. Golan recently translated Lehi activist Israel Eldad‘s The First Tithe from Hebrew into English:

People…often credit the UN vote of November 29, 1947 as instrumental in creating Israel. However, while many Jews in Palestine danced in the streets the night of November 29, Eldad walked around depressed. Why?

Eldad compares that night to the time when Israel danced around the Golden Calf and said, “This is the god who took you out of Egypt.” Here they were looking to the United Nations and saying, “This is the god who has given us the state,” and it wasn’t.

The people who created Israel were the people who sat in prison and the people who were shot or hanged by the British. The facts on the ground are that the British would have left even if the United Nations had not voted for a Jewish state.

Eldad also felt depressed that night because they were not celebrating the Jewish state that had been dreamt of for thousands of years and that he and others had been fighting for, but rather a truncated, shrunken Jewish state that would not have survived were it not for a miraculous war that followed.

[read the entire interview here]

You can read more of Golan’s translations of Eldad’s writings here.

Jewish Voice for Peace: Standing up for Darfur is “Hateful”


[h/t Blue Truth]

Just when you thought the people at the tragicomically misnamed “Jewish Voice for Peace” couldn’t stoop any lower into the gutter, they have decided to embarrass themselves with a rant breathtaking in its ignorance. Cecilie Surasky, posting on their house organ Muzzlewatch , decided that a group of Jewish students and Darfurian refugees demonstrating in Geneva against the farcical UN human rights conference were actually “being used as part of a hateful effort” by “scary right wing group StandWithUs“. She goes on to deplore that there was tension between African and Arab delegates over Darfur (not that there would be any good reason to have tension over the wholesale slaughter of Africans by an Islamic regime). She must have been paying close attention to all those conspiracy websites that blame the evil Zionists for the conspiracy to save Darfur.

[read it all]

Almost the End of the Semester


Next week is the last week of class, always a joy for me but less so for my students as it means they are approaching finals. Between now and then I have a little time to slow down (at work, not at home) and get some reading done. Too many books on the list, I don’t know where to start. After finals, three weeks until the baby is due…

I have not posted a list of links in a while so here are some things you should be reading elsewhere:

Airforce Amazons: Check out the art Kellie did during his Mallorca holiday

Bob from Brockley has the anti-Zios going off the deep end (re: Cafe Crema)

But I am a Liberal! On the paranoid right (and left)

Contentious Centrist discusses the assassination of Afghanistan women’s rights activist Sitara Achakzai

Elder of Ziyon: Gaza Fake Civilian Count Keeps Rising

Norm Geras: Terror as Accident

Martin in the Margins on the G20 protests

Modernity Blog: Canada and Attacks on Jews

MountainRunner: How to Win the GWOT–or Whatever it’s Called Today

Simply Jews: Johann Hari, Not a Moonbat

Small Wars Journal: Professors in the Trenches: Deployed Soldiers and Social Science Academics Part 5.

Stumbling and Mumbling: Irrelevant Rationality and Rational Stupidity

Sultan Knish: Leftists and Islamists, The Tiger in the Box

Michael Totten in Commentary on Durban 2

ZWord: BBC Admits to Bias

Artist Injured at 5 Pointz



[Photo by Jim Kiernan]

When you take the 7 train from Manhattan into Queens you can’t help but see the graf on the roof of a warehouse known as 5 Pointz. Passing by on the train, I never realized the interior of the buildings house a variety of art studios until reading of a jewelry designer, Nicole Gagne, who was injured while descending an exterior stair case.

NY Daily News reports initial investigations have shown the stair was in need of renovation and the warehouse has numerous building violations. Some have speculated that the studios and mural space may soon be history. I hope not. I wish Ms. Gagne a speedy recovery and hope she is able to return to her work soon.

Here are two pics of graf that my homees did at 5 Pointz when they were in town [photos by SYRA-1].





Spring Tunes V. 2



[Spring has sprung! Prospect Park, Brooklyn]

Last spring, two of my favorite bloggers hit me with a tag game so now it is my turn to return the favor. As most regular readers know, I am really not into this sort of thing but Spring is here. The trees and flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing and the birds are chirping. It’s nice to see the parrots (actually parakeets) flying around in the back yard once again.

In case you forgot, here are the rules:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.

I’m tagging Bob, Noga, Roland, Mod, Martin, Flesh is Grass and Snoopy.

Here are my selections:

4hero: Golden Age of Life


This is from Two Pages which is a definite departure from their first album, Parallel Universe. One of the first times I heard drum n’ bass with live instrumentation.

Adam F: Circles (Remember this?)

Joyce: Feminina


I love Joyce. Great voice, great guitarist, simply wonderful. Here is the same song live.

Big John Patton: Let ‘Em Roll


Classic groove jazz with Patton on the B3, Grant Green on Guitar, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes and Otis Finch on drums (Song 1 on the link above).

Erule: Listen Up

Dope West Coast true hip-hop.

Pancho Sanchez: Keeper of the Flame


I first heard this on the CD “Bien Sabroso”. This is the same version from his greatest hits CD (Disc 2, Song 4 on the link above).

Visit Venus: Brooklyn Sky Port (download here)


From their first album, “Music for Space Tourism Vol. 1”. If you slept on this when it was first released, check it out. Bonus from the same album: Harlem Overdrive.

Added Song Lists (as they get posted):

Martin in the Margins

Roland (But I am a Liberal!)

Bob from Brockley

Noga (Contentious Centrist)

Snoopy (Simply Jews)

Flesh is Grass


Report Back: Hope Not Fear



[H/t to Flesh is Grass for encouraging me to post a write up of this event]

I recently attended a talk by Edgar Bronfman and Beth Zasloff at Congregation Beth Elohim. The event was held in the sanctuary. Since it has been under construction for a while I had never seen the inside. Take a look:


The focus of the discussion was Bronfman and Zasloff’s recent book, Hope Not Fear. I have not had an opportunity to read the book but the description sounded interesting:

After a lifetime of fighting the persecution of Jews, Edgar M. Bronfman has concluded that what North American Jews need now is hope, not fear. Bronfman urges North American Jewry “to build, not fight. We need to celebrate the joy in Judaism, even as we recognize our responsibility to alleviate suffering and to help heal a broken world. We need to understand Judaism as a multi-faceted culture as well as a religion, and explore Jewish literature, music, and art. We need to understand our tradition of debate and questioning, and invite all to enter a conversation about our central texts, rituals, and laws. We need to open our book anew, and recreate a vital Judaism for our time.”

Through a reexamination of important texts and via interviews with some of the leading figures in Judaism today, Bronfman outlines a new agenda for the Jewish community in North America, one that will ensure that Judaism grows and thrives in an open society. He calls for welcome without conditions for intermarried families and disengaged Jews, for a celebration of Jewish diversity, and for openness to innovation and young leadership. Hope, Not Fear is an impassioned plea for all who care about the future of Judaism to cultivate a Jewish practice that is receptive to the new as it delves into the old, that welcomes many voices, and that reaches out to make the world a better place.

The sound was very low but I was in the third row so I was able to make out what they were saying. Rather than a formal presentation, this was a conversation between the authors and Rabbi Andy Bachman.

Rabbi Bachman’s questions moved between biography, philosophy and action. Why was Bronfman drawn to this topic? How can one be Jewish and not believe in God? How are his ideas received in the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox communities? Why does he think we are experiencing a Jewish renaissance?

I am especially moved by Mr. Bronfman’s perspective on intermarriage:

At one time in my life, I thought that the high intermarriage rate was just awful. Then of course you start to think further, and, slowly, if you meet enough people who are thinking differently, like those I write about in my book, you begin to learn that this could be an opportunity; not the end of the world but maybe the beginning of a new path. We need to change the attitude and education of Jews. Instead of trying to force them to fall out of love with someone, let us try to help them fall in love with Judaism.

As most regular readers know my wife and I are an intermarried couple. She is Hindu. Intermarriage is a big concern in both communities. Not at all Jewish congregations (Rabbi Bachman married my wife and I) nor at all Hindu temples (we had our ceremony in Chennai officiated by a pandit from the Arya Samaj). Nevertheless, it is still a highly contentious issue.

Unfortunately I some of Mr. Bronfman’s answers a bit vague. For example, Bronfman wants to create a more inclusive Jewish community (who would disagree with that?). Yet he provided no concrete examples on how to achieve this beyond a vague call to challenge the divisions of the denominational system. I suspect there is more on this issue in the book but I still wish he had let the audience know of successful endeavors in this regard.

Another thing, in place of the synagogues that exist in America today, he would like to see much more small-scale local synagogues rather than large congregations. While he did not mention it, I think this is how things are in Israel. It seems like every neighborhood has a synagogue and some have more than one. But a big difference between Israel and the U.S. is the majority of the population is Jewish in Israel. Therefore it makes sense to have lots of small shuls. Here in the U.S., the Jewish population is generally spread out. The shul is a place to bring the people together and foster a sense of community. Yes, there are large concentrations of Jews in neighborhoods like Borough Park but that is far and away a minority situation in the U.S.

I still plan on reading the book and may post a review at some point.

Lebanon and the Issue of Force in Democratic Societies (May 2008)


One more oldie. I may finally be able to post something new after April 15:

The state, including the police and army, is incredibly weak in Lebanon. The places where radical terrorists have been able to gain large footholds (if not control) are in these sorts of failed and weak states. I’m thinking of Afghanistan and Somalia in the extreme cases but even places like northern Sri Lanka where the Tamil Tigers operate or southern Thailand and parts of the Philipines where Islamist separatists and groups affiliated with Al Qaeda operate. These are lawless places where the state is largely absent, either through neglect, lack of resources, graft, corruption, or some combination of these.

Rather than focusing on the lesson that Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah learned or taught the Jihadis, we should examine the lessons that Hezbollah taught democratic states this week.

First, when terrorist organizations say they are ready, willing and able to use violence to achieve their aims we should be ready, willing and able to use “disproportionate” violence against them.

[read it all]

Thoughts on the Current Debate: A Perspective from the U.S. (April, 2008)


I plan on getting back to blogging soon but other responsibilities–family, work, taxes–are keeping me away. In the meantime, here is another oldie from April, 2007 relating to a political discussion about the utility of the left-right divide in the 21st century:

The left-right divide does not capture the complexity of people’s politics in the U.S. these days. For example, an individual may be considered “conservative” on foreign policy issues and “liberal” on domestic issues. Plus, when you actually start to examine positions on specific issues things get more muddled. I’ve known many working-class individuals who are very “liberal” when it comes to wages, health care, and pensions but very “conservative” when it comes to the environment or matters of concern to the lgbt community.

Why this is the case is an interesting question to ponder. IMHO most Americans have similar ambiguities in their political identities. I suspect that part of it is we don’t have a long history of political parties tied to specific political ideologies like democratic socialism, communism, etc. in the United States. The parties espousing these sorts of ideas were all relatively short-lived, especially compared to those of Europe. This continuous institutional history goes a long way in explaining differences in worldview between American and European workers.

[read it all]

If you are interested, here is another post on the same issue.

Rabbi Andy Bachman’s Pesach Thoughts



[Seder plate image swiped from Flickr]

This is from Rabbi Andy Bachman’s blog:

The hungry remain in the land; millions remain in chains; those in pain, requiring comfort, should top all our lists.

The rabbis in their wisdom associated leaven with the ego and understood the Festival of Passover to be a fast from the ego, from the self, from the inflated sense of importance we derive from being on someone’s list, from seeing one’s name in lights, or from the comfortable validation of a warm computer screen or buzzing television through which one falsely finds warmth.

Hope you had an nice Seder with your family and friends.

Next year in Yerushalayim!