The Zionist Conspiracy
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Columbia Law School's Dean of Admissions, James Milligan, passed away suddenly earlier this month.
Thanks to Milligan, a devout Mormon, Columbia Law School was at one time the only elite law school that accepted applicants with undergraduate degrees from a yeshiva. Columbia also did not look askance at students like me, with liberal arts degrees that included some yeshiva credits. Other top schools, including NYU, refused to consider many of these applicants under any circumstances, even rejecting some with perfect LSAT scores.
The observant students that Columbia accepted tended to do very well and many now have successful careers, thanks in part to Milligan. In the last few years, NYU and Penn have followed Columbia's lead and begun to accept applicants with yeshiva degrees.
Return To Notoriety
After achieving national prominence following the publication of Return To Modesty, Wendy Shalit sort of disappeared for the last few years. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to see her long two-page piece in the New York Times Book Review about the way observant Jews are depicted in fictions.
Shalit laments that: "Authors who have renounced Orthodox Judaism -- or those who were never really exposed to it to begin with -- have often portrayed deeply observant Jews in an unflattering or ridiculous light."
In particular, Shalit criticizes Nathan Englander, who, in For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, writes of "a fistfight that breaks out in synagogue over who will read from the Torah; a sect whose members fast three days instead of one and drink a dozen glasses of wine at the Passover seders instead of four; a man whose rabbi sends him to a prostitute when his wife won't sleep with him." Shalit explains that "the Orthodox don't actually brawl over who reads the Torah, no rabbi is allowed to write a dispensation for a man to see a prostitute, and even extremely pious Jews can't invent their own traditions for fast days or seders." The problem, Shalit writes, is that Englander is taken seriously by many because he spent some time at Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (HANC).
Other examples cited by Shalit of nonsensical anti-Orthodox depictions include Tova Reich's Master of the Return (which she says was praised by Publishers Weekly for its "devastating accuracy") in which a rabbi helps his 2-year-old son get "high on the One Above" by giving him marijuana.
Luke Ford questions Shalit, writing: "Wendy implicitly says she understands Orthodox Judaism better than such authors as Tova Mirvis, Nathan Englander and Jonathan Rosen and that she sees Orthodox Judaism as something wonderful. This is an interesting claim, one common with converts to a cause (I felt similarly during my early years in Judaism). I suspect that Englander and Mirvis have spent more years in Orthodox Judaism and have deeper learning in Jewish text than Wendy as they were raised in Orthodox Judaism and given a day-school education in that faith (and consequently must be literate in Hebrew)... Who is Wendy to say, on the basis of six years of observance and study of Orthodox Judaism, that she knows better than someone who has spent a lifetime in the faith?"
Luke's point is a fair one, but I'm not sure I agree with him about Shalit's main premise. Her point seemed to be that observant Jews are portrayed in a ridiculously inaccurate manner in books by Englander and others. Her objection is not necessarily to criticism of Orthodoxy or its members, or of depicting some observant Jews in a negative light, but to the caricatures like those presented by Englander, with rabbis sending men to prostitutes, or zealots drinking 12 cups of wine at the Seder. Since Englander has had exposure to Orthodoxy and therefore knows that these descriptions are false, that he offers them in his book is offensive.
UPDATE (2/2): Somehow, I missed the note in the Times Book Review mentioning that Wendy Shalit "spent about three years in Israel, at first satisfying her curiosity about her religious heritage and then committing herself to it. Her Torah studies didn't lead her to become a rabbi -- much to the disappointment of her grandmother -- but they did lead to marriage and family and the traditions of Orthodox Judaism. Shalit and her husband and infant son now live in Toronto."
Friday, January 28, 2005
Just Go Home
My friend Rich, a black guy who grew up in the Co-Op city housing project in the Bronx, often says that his goal every day is to stay away from danger so that he can make it home to his wife and children. Ignore the person who curses at you, or shoves you on the train, he says, since you never know if that person has a gun or a knife.
The Lower East Side murder of a 28 year old actress shows how right Rich is. Nicole DuFresne responded to a thug mugging her and her friend by asking, "What are you trying to do? What are you going to do, shoot us?" Unfortunately, he did and she was murdered.
On a lighter note, I know Rich from law school. Early in the first semester, we were assigned to work together on a legal writing project. However, Rich missed a few days, and I was left to tell the professor that we did not complete the project. (It turned out that Rich's wife had given birth to their first child.) The professor asked me what Rich looked like, and I responded that Rich is a tall, black guy. The professor then asked me whether it really was necessary to describe Rich in racial terms.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Nice move by the Jets today, hiring Mike Heimerdinger to replace Paul Hackett as offensive coordinator. Heimerdinger did a good job with the Titans over the last few seasons, and was a leading candidate for the 49ers head coaching position.
Hopefully Heimerdinger will have a chance to work with Lamont Jordan. Jordan's skills were wasted under Hackett, and he's likely to leave as a free agent to get more money and more carries elsewhere.
Mazel Tov To The Piazzas
Mazel tov to Mike Piazza on his upcoming marriage to Alicia Rickter.
If you're a Mets fan or a Dodgers fan and would like to thank Mike for his contributions to your team, you can purchase a gift from the online registry.
I do not represent that the registry is legit and have no idea if it is.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Kol hakavod to Gil Student of Yashar Books for publishing the books by Nosson Slifkin that were purportedly banned by a number of rabbis.
On this blog's second day, referring to the ban on Making Of A Godol, I wrote:
"The whole idea of banning books is pathetic and has not and will not do anything other than create cynicism toward the authorities who ban them."
I don't know very much about the Slifkin books, but they appear to be clearly within the realm of legitimate Jewish thought, and in no way heretical. That Rabbi Slifkin deviates from mainstream charedi thought is no reason to ban his books.
Fortunately, the ban of the Slifkin books will not be taken any more seriously than the ban on the Internet.
Unfortunately, the rabbis who joined the ban have undermined their own authority and the authority of rabbis generally by participating in such nonsense.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Herm Must Go
It won't happen now, but Herm Edwards should be fired as Jets head coach. The weekly time management problems are inexcusable. Edwards is probably going to fire offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, but the ultimate responsibility and blame belongs to Edwards.
I didn't expect the Jets to win tonight and think the defense deserves to be commended for its performance. They were on the field way too much and had little left at the end.
The loss to Pittsburgh is not, in itself, why I'm convinced Edwards will never lead the Jets to a Super Bowl. It's his predictability, his inability to say anything other than cliches, and his game plan of keeping the game close rather than taking control of the game.
Edwards keeps talking about how the Jets "battled" against Pittsburgh, "stayed in the game all the way" and "almost won." The great coaches, like Parcells and Belichick, would not settle for two long field goal attempts. After intercepting a pass and taking over at the Steelers 36, and quickly moving the ball to the 25 yard line, why couldn't the Jets throw once on their final series of the fourth quarter against a reeling Steelers team? The answer is that Edwards was frightened of giving the ball back to Pittsburgh with 30 seconds left. He was even willing to lose two yards on 3rd down because there might otherwise be one or two seconds left.
Instead of putting the opponent away, Edwards suffices with staying in the game. In his postgame press conference, Edwards was truly befuddled at reporters who questioned his strategy. As a result of that strategy, despite the Steelers playing a poor game doing everything possible to lose, the Jets' season is over.
With a very difficult schedule next season and the impending loss of a number of players, the Jets might not come this close for many years. Yet when all is said and done, the message conveyed by Edwards is that this season was a huge success. Chad Pennington, who did nothing today, spoke positively about the Jets' performance this season. Curtis Martin, in contrast, said that he was extremely angry about the loss, that at this point in his career he knows how important tonight's game was and how awful the loss is.
Another Jets Collapse?
The Steelers have just tied the game with 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter, after committing turnovers in Jets territory on each of their previous two drives.
Chad Pennington and the Jets offense have done nothing in this game, managing only a field goal on offense, throwing an interception that led to Pittsburgh's first touchdown, and failing to move the ball on either second half drive, including a three and out after Jerome Bettis' fumble at the Jets 23. The defense has been on the field almost the entire second half, and is already clearly exhausted after two road overtime games.
Pennington was signed to a very lucrative contract before the season. It's time for him to step up, or be recognized as a mediocre quarterback. He needs to stop throwing short dumpoffs to his backs and pass it to his wide receivers.
UPDATE: It's the end of regulation. Anyone have an idea what Herman (Marty Schottenheimer) Edwards was thinking? With a first down at the Steelers 25, three timeouts, and a minute left in the 4th quarter, why let the clock run out instead of moving the ball closer? And why, on 3rd down from the 23, did Edwards have Chad Pennington fall on the ball and go backwards two yards?
Friday, January 14, 2005
Jets, Birthdays and Shabbos
If history is any guide, the Jets will win tomorrow against Pittsburgh.
Tomorrow, January 15, is my birthday. And the Jets are undefeated on my birthday.
The only time the Jets have played on January 15 was 22 years ago, on January 15, 1983, my tenth birthday. Like this season, the Jets entered the playoffs that year needing three road victories to reach the Super Bowl. After annihilating the Cincinnati Bengals in the wildcard matchup, the Jets faced the team with the best record in the NFL, the Raiders. The Jets were heavy underdogs, but in one of the greatest victories in their history, the Jets won it 17-14, thanks to two touchdown receptions by Wesley Walker and two heroic late fourth quarter interceptions by Lance Mehl, a great Jet who is underappreciated by many of today's Jets fans.
Like tomorrow's game, the Jets vs. Raiders game was a road game against the top seed in the second round, and was a game that began on shabbos. Prior to last week's victory over San Diego, it also was the Jets' last road victory in the playoffs.
If my memory is accurate, the Jets have played five playoff games that started on shabbos, and are 2-3 in those games. In December 1969, the Jets lost at Shea Stadium to the Chiefs (the Super Bowl was won by the '68 Jets on January 12, 1969); next was the victory over the Raiders; then the '85 Jets lost a wildcard game at Giants Stadium to New England; next was the awful collapse against the Browns in January 1987 when the Jets took a 20-10 lead with four minutes to go but somehow blew it, thanks in part to two Mark Gastineau 15 yard penalties; finally, two years ago, the Jets crushed the Colts 41-0 at home.
After consecutive overtime games on the road, at this point in the season the Jets defense is very tired. In contrast, the Steelers are refreshed after a bye week. It won't be an easy game to win. Hopefully the Jets will pleasantly surprise me when I am able to turn on the TV around halftime.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
A Tale of Two Jets
Last week, Jets defensive end John Abraham refused to play against San Diego, saying, "I can't go out there and hurt my knee again. Right now, I'm not planning on having surgery, so I don't want to run back out there too soon and get another injury to this knee and have to get surgery or something like that... I don't think they can make me go out there."
Abraham looks likely to take the day off again this Saturday against Pittsburgh.
Jets coach Herm Edwards and GM Terry Bradway have inexplicably defended and supported Abraham. In contrast, Mike Ditka said on ESPN, "I would not let him stand on the sidelines with my football team."
Then there's Jets wide receiver Wayne Chrebet. He's suffered numerous concussions, and is recovering from a concussion suffered 10 days ago against St. Louis. Like Abraham, Chrebet didn't play against the Chargers. However, unlike Abraham, when Edwards decided to keep Chrebet sidelined, Chrebet says, "I begged him (to play). I begged him, but he made his decision and I understand. I don't want to hurt the team, but I begged him. I wanted to be out there more than anything. It was one of the tougher things I have had to do."
But isn't Chrebet worried about his health? "I've got to get back out there. I'm a glutton for punishment,", he told the Bergen Record.
But doesn't Chrebet worry about the best interests of his wife and two children, Steve Serby of The New York Post asked him.
"Yeah, I do, but I don't. It's easy to say, hard to do, promise ya. When you work so hard and you're in the heat of the game and your team needs a play, you want to be the one making the play. You want to be in there. A lot of my best qualities are my worst. I'll do whatever it takes on the field, but part of that is usually it's at great risk or cost to my health lately."
The Jets reportedly want to sign Abraham to a long-term deal, and release Chrebet, after the season.
And you wonder why they haven't been to the Super Bowl for 36 years.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Rabbi Reinman On Israel And The Non-Orthodox
Rabbi Yaakov Y. Reinman, perhaps still sensitive about criticism he received in charedi circles about One People/Two Worlds, the book he co-authored with Reform rabbi Ami Hirsch, writes a bizarre screed on Cross-Currents.
The post starts off sensible enough, with Reinman expressing the view that Israel must cede Judea, Samaria and Gaza because "it is clearly impossible to keep these people subservient forever. Regardless of the quality of life we might provide for them, we cannot hold them against their will indefinitely. It is historically impossible." While I don't completely agree and believe Israel can retain parts of Judea and Samaria without continuing to control the Palestinian masses, the opinion stated is a legitimate one.
Reinman then mentions Israel's demographic problem, another important issue, but starts heading in a bizarre direction when he writes that we should prepare for the possibility of a bi-national state "in a generation or two. We must work toward ensuring that if there will be a transition to a multi-national state, it should happen without bloodshed."
When leftist "intellectuals" or Europeans mention the idea of dismantling Israel and replacing Israel with a bi-national state, we properly object strongly. There is no reason to respond differently when the idea is given legitimacy by a charedi author.
Having read the Reinman-Hirsch book, I thought Reinman was very persuasive except when it came to Israel. He clearly has problems with Zionism and Israel's formation. As I posted five days after this blog's formation:
One interesting but rarely discussed aspect of One People/Two Worlds, the controversial Reinman/Hirsch book:
While Hirsch takes a pro-Zionist stance, with political views akin to Labor or Meretz, Reinman wonders whether the Jews would have been better off with a bi-national state rather than the State of Israel.
While Reinman's views may represent dogma of charedi groups such as Agudah, they do not represent the vast majority of the Orthodox, including the charedim, almost all of whom recognize that the situation of Jews in Eretz Israel is far superior today that it was under the British or the Ottoman Empire, and is certainly preferable to living under Arab sovereignty, as would have occurred under an ostensibly bi-national state which would have had no right of return for Jews, and therefore no mass influx of Sephardim in the 1950's, resulting in a much smaller Jewish population than there now is.
The latter portion of Reinman's post goes off the deep end, when he writes:
The situation in the Middle East presents us with a good analogy for the internal situation of the Jewish people. The liberal streams seek pluralism. They want peaceful coexistence with the Orthodox. But for the Orthodox, the Conservative and Reform are our Naqba. It is an unmitigated disaster for the Jewish people that these ersatz creeds occupy large swaths of Jewish ideological territory. And much as the people that profess adherence to these creeds are our dear and beloved brothers and sisters, we want nothing more than to drive these creeds into the sea...
Yes, we want to bring down the citadels of Conservative and Reform. They are an affront and a travesty. It does not matter that people are perhaps more likely to return to Judaism through these streams than if they had been completely secular. It is not our role to play G-d. These usurpers are occupying sacred ground, and we must expel them.
Perhaps Reinman is looking for shock value, but the manner in which he expresses himself is quite offensive. First of all, the situation in the Middle East is not a good analogy for the internal situation of the Jewish people. I also doubt that too many Orthodox Jews view themselves, in their ideological battle with the Reform and Conservative, as akin to Palestinian extremists looking to drive their adversary into the sea. So the analogy is not only itself wildly off base, it is disgraceful in its comparison of us to the world's most vile murderers.
Second, Reinman could easily have made the point that, in his opinion, there must be complete rejection not only of pluralism on an ideological level, but of Reform and Conservative Judaism and its institutions on a day-to-day level. That's an extreme point of view that I don't agree with (and the fact that plenty of Orthodox Jews - with rabbinic approval - teach at non-Orthodox day schools convinces me that I'm right), but it could be made with sensitivity.
Instead, Reinman absurdly refers to "driv[ing] these creeds into the sea" and says that "these usurpers are occupying sacred ground, and we must expel them." One would think that the Orthodox actually have the ability to finish off the non-Orthodox movements, which claim a large majority of affiliated Jewry in North America.
If the Reinman post gets any attention, all it will accomplish is to unnecessarily drive non-Orthodox Jews further away from traditional Judaism, and perhaps into the sea of Jewish abandonment. A non-observant Jew who reads the post will be disgusted with Reinman's venom and believe his or her suspicions about charedi attitudes toward the non-Orthodox to have been validated.
Saturday, January 08, 2005
It's halftime in the Jets game as I write.
The ineffectiveness of the Jets offense was epitomized in their final offensive drive of the 2nd quarter. After the defense forced an interception and the Jets took the ball at the 44 yard line with under two minutes left, they should have immediately attacked the Chargers mediocre and injury depleted secondary. Instead, they ran the ball twice, including a draw play on 3rd and 2 that failed. They were playing for the field goal rather than a touchdown, and got nothing. The Jets' goal generally has been to play with teams, not to try to take control of the game.
Jets offensive coordinator Paul Hackett - likely in his last game at that job - is in love with the 3rd down draw. He's already tried it twice tonight, and it failed both times. It worked early in the season, but has become more than predictable and has repeatedly been stopped in recent weeks.
I am not optimistic about the second half. Hopefully the Jets will prove me wrong.
I was right that John Abraham would refuse to play so as not to jeopardize his big free agent payday. I hope the Jets let him go. Unfortunately, the Jets will probably "franchise" Abraham, while cutting ties with Wayne Chrebet, who also is out tonight, with a concussion. Despite the concussion and his history of head injuries, Chrebet pleaded with coach Herm Edwards to play. Unlike Abraham, he was willing to put the team first.
UPDATE: It is now the end of regulation. In all the decades of Jets miscues, nothing compares with Eric Barton's roughing penalty to literally snatch defeat from the hands of victory. There is something truly pathetic about this team. I am even less optimistic now than before the game started and at halftime. I expect the Chargers to win almost immediately.
UPDATE 2 (1/9 8:50 A.M.): The Jets are receiving lots of accolades today, but the reality is that they are extremely lucky to win. In their second overtime drive, San Diego drove down the field very quickly and efficiently, and had the ball at the Jets 22 yard line. The Jets defense was fatigued, giving up big play after big play. At that point, Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer inexplicably put the brakes on his offense, calling two meek runs before setting up for the 40 yard field goal attempt that was missed.
Had Schottenheimer been more aggressive, or the field goal successful, today we'd be hearing about one of the worst losses in Jets history, certainly the worst since the January 1987 debacle at Cleveland. We'd be hearing not only about Eric Barton's absolutely horrid penalty - it's no exaggeration that it's quite possibly the worst play ever in sports history - but also about the Jets having only 10 players on the field on consecutive plays, about Dewayne Robertson stupidly jumping offsides when the Chargers had 4th down in their own territory, and about how the Jets failed to take advantage of the Chargers penalty for 12 men on the field in the 4th quarter. After the penalty, the Jets had a first down at the San Diego 35 and a chance to put the game away, but couldn't even get into range for a field goal attempt.
I do give the Jets a lot of credit for one thing: After the Chargers missed the field goal, the Jets offense had to deliver a knockout punch, and they did. The winning drive was masterful. Chad Pennington looked like the QB he was in 2002.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Moronic Yeshiva Students
In the Old City today, four idiotic yeshiva students assaulted an Armenian priest. The Jerusalem Post reports that one of the yeshiva students - who are described as being charedi - spat on the priest and three others assaulted the priest when he defended himself.
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski condemned the attack which he called a "despicable act" which is "likely to harm the delicate relations that exist in Jerusalem."
It is an open secret that disgraceful incidents like these happen too often - even if only occasionally - in the Old City. Last week on Cross-Currents, Jonathan Rosenblum criticized ADL head Abe Foxman for calling on rabbis to condemn "the phenomenon of yeshiva students in Jerusalem’s Old City attacking Christians." Rosenblum argued that only one such incident had been reported. I hope he and other observant Jews, charedi, dati or otherwise, will agree that whether or not a "phenomenon" exists, the message must be sent by yeshivas and by our communities that these types of actions are a chilul Hashem and a disgrace to Judaism and to Israel.
Jets, Mets and Nets
1. Everybody including me expects the Jets to lose this week's wildcard matchup, which paradoxically gives me some (probably false) hope of an upset victory, since the Jets often do the opposite of what they are supposed to do.
The good news for the Jets is that defensive end John Abraham is ready to come back from a knee injury. The bad news is that Abraham is about to become a free agent, and probably will take the game off to make sure he doesn't reinjure his knee and jeopardize a big payday.
Today's New York Post quotes Abraham as saying: "I want to be out on the field, but also I have to be smart. I have a long career ahead of me and I can't go out there and hurt my knee again. Right now, I'm not planning on having surgery, so I don't want to run back out there too soon and get another injury to this knee and have to get surgery or something like that... I don't think they can make me go out there. I am not trying to say that in a bad way, but I don't think they can make someone go out and play."
Abraham's refusal to play is a strong indictment of Herm Edwards' leadership. According to Edwards, "The player always has to protect himself."
If Bill Parcells was still around, Abraham would be playing every snap, or would be verbally ripped apart so strongly that he would lose millions on the free agent market because teams would reasonably question his devotion to his team.
2. Carlos Beltran is not worth anywhere close to $17 million a year. He's a very good player who had a great run in the playoffs. I won't be upset if the Mets sign him, but expect him to return to Houston.
Vance Wilson had his best season last year, so the Mets traded him away today to Detroit for yet another mediocre infield prospect.
3. At 11-20, the Nets season is basically lost. They have no frontcourt and no defense, and in a best case scenario will make it to the first round of the playoffs.
One of the joys of being a Nets fan is watching them beat the Knicks at MSG. I was at Saturday night's game and enjoyed taunting the Knicks fans in section 421 as the Nets defeated New York. Back in the day of Anthony Mason and John Starks, that would have resulted in a strong response from the blue-seaters, but these days the seats in the 400s are green, and Knicks fans are as listless and boring as the players.
Fortunately, of course, the Knicks have the best point guard in the NBA. Stephon Marbury said so. Somehow I think that the Nets - who consistently lost with Marbury before trading him for Jason Kidd and winning two conference titles - and the Phoenix Suns, who traded Marbury last year and are now 28-4 - would disagree.
I think the trade for Randy Johnson is a great move by the Yankees. Their pitching staff is much improved, while Boston lost Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe.
Isn't it interesting, however, that nobody is criticizing or even questioning the Yankees for giving Johnson a two year $32 million extension? Including Johnson's $16 million salary for 2005, that's a $48 million commitment over the next three seasons for a 41 year old pitcher.
In contrast, the Mets' decision to give Martinez a $53 million contract for the next four seasons has been criticized by many, and not unjustifiably.
There are two factors that may explain the discrepancy in reaction. First, Johnson may well help the Yankees win one or more World Series, while the Mets are considered to be at least several players away from serious contention. Second, if Johnson breaks down, George Steinbrenner will sign someone else to replace him, but if Martinez's shoulder gives out, Fred Wilpon will probably beg poverty.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
I'm against the Sharon plan to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza and much of Samaria, but accept that many principled people disagree, as well as that in the long term the areas Israel plans to withdraw from likely would not remain within Israel's borders.
What I can't stand are those who oppose "disengagement" but support Sharon because of personal gain.
It's bad enough when the political whores are Likud Knesset members eager to be promoted to the position of deputy minister, with all the ensuing perks like a higher salary and a nice car. It's sickening when, again and again, the "religious" parties prostitute themselves to the highest bidder.
United Torah Judaism has long been at the forefront of the opposition to unilateral withdrawal. When the Knesset voted on the matter in October, all of UTJ's Knesset members opposed the plan. Scoffing at the notion that it might join Sharon's coalition, UTJ Knesset member Meir Porush said, "Sharon is dreaming if he thinks we would back disengagement."
A month ago, Porush warned Sharon against making supporting disengagement a condition for UTJ's entry into the government. "Are we going to change the position of the rabbis in order to join the coalition?" Porush asked in an Israel Radio interview.
Apparently the answer is yes, now that Porush is slated to become deputy transportation minister in Sharon's government, with UTJ pledging to support unilateral withdrawal in exchange for increased government support for charedi yeshivas and institutions.
UTJ joined the coalition after receiving the consent of Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv, who also directed the party not to accept any government positions. That did not stop Porush and Yaakov Litzman - who will become chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee - from declaring that they will accept their positions despite Rav Elyashiv's objections.
Porush's father, Menachem Porush, regularly attacks the Sharon plan in The Jewish Press.