The Zionist Conspiracy

A clandestine undertaking on behalf of Israel, the Jets and the Jews.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Rethinking The Internet Ban

In a post two months ago, I strongly criticized the Lakewood internet ban, particularly the threat of expulsion from school of children whose parents are caught with Internet access.

I haven't changed my position on the ban, but have been giving thought as to what the proper approach of more moderate religious Jews should be.

It's easy to say that one should watch what his children reads online, and should put in parental safeguards to ensure that objectionable sites cannot be accessed.

Alas, unlike even television, it's not so simple.

This morning, I was reading Ynet, the Israeli news site affiliated with leading Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

On the home page, there's a long feature about Denmark's ambassador to Israel, with a picture of the ambassador and his gay partner. The headline of the piece then informs us that the ambassador "slept with his boyfriend on their first date."

Presumably, most observant Jews - and probably most secular people who support gay rights - would not want their children to read an article like this.

But is there a realistic way to allow children even limited Internet access while avoiding this type of material?

I don't claim to know the answer. I do know that instead of bans and threats, this question is what people should focus on.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005
God, Judea and Samaria

A common argument against ceding disputed territory is that to do so would be "spitting in God's face." After all, in 1967, God gave Israel the gift of possession of those areas.

While I tend to be a rationalist, when it comes to the Six Day War, I cannot help but see divine intervention. The scope of Israel's victory, and the manner in which Jewish history changed literally overnight, would appear to be as great a miracle as the one that is celebrated each year on the holiday of Purim.

Nevertheless, I find the argument that territorial compromise is inherently insulting to God to be off base.

I do not intend to be provocative and certainly do not intend to invoke God's wrath when I write that if God truly would be angered by territorial compromise, then He is at fault for the circumstances under which Israel obtained the Old City of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Gaza, the Golan and the Sinai.

For almost two millennia, the Land of Israel was mostly empty. Then, around the time the Zionist movement began to flourish, Arabs began moving into the Land of Israel.

By the time Israel was formed in 1948, there were more Arabs than Jews living in the Land of Israel. Worse, six million Jews had been murdered in the Holocaust, decimating European Judaism and leaving only around 13 million Jews in the world.

Israel was a tiny country surrounded by enemies and by the sea.

In the 1950's, Arab expulsion of Sephardic Jews and the immigration of most of those Sephardim to Israel shifted the demographic balance in Israel's favor. So did the fact that several hundred thousand Arabs left the Land of Israel during the 1948-49 War of Independence.

However, the "refugee" issue and Israel's formation resulted in nationalism among Arabs living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, who started referring to themselves as "Palestinians."

When Israel won the Six Day War, the territories it liberated came with the "gift" of around 1.5 million Arabs hostile to it, around 1.4 million more than a century earlier.

Moreover, feeling guilt pangs over their own colonialist histories, Europeans powers such as France and Britain deemed Israel's possession of these areas as illegitimate and supported Arab states and the Soviet bloc in demanding Israel's withdrawal.

At first, there was little expectation that Israel could retain the land for more than a few weeks. But when the U.S. took the position that Israel should not have to cede the territories without a peace agreement, Israel annexed the eastern section of Jerusalem and slowly began to settle Judea, beginning with the Gush Etzion settlements that Jordan had destroyed in 1948.

The U.S. always opposed such settlement, but Arab intransigence created a diplomatic vacuum and allowed Israel a chance to settle more and more of Judea. When Menachem Begin's Likud party was elected in 1977, settlement in Samaria commenced.

Eventually, Arabs changed their approach by agreeing to participate in a peace process in Madrid in 1991. As a result, opposition to settlement - including by America - became much more strident. No Israeli government has formed any new settlements since Madrid.

Most now estimate that 3.5 million Arabs live in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza, in addition to the more than one million Arab citizens of Israel. Some have challenged this figure, arguing that "only" 2.5 million to 3 million Arabs live in Jerusalem Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

In any event, it is clear that even after the Six Day War, Israel remains diplomatically and politically weak, reliant on U.S. support to avoid international isolation. It is treated with hostility by most of the world.

The gift of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza came with a demographic timebomb of millions of Arabs. Decades before 1967, "transferring" (or "resettling") these Arabs might have been a possibility. But since the '50's, transfer has been deemed to be akin to a war crime.

The bottom line is that if God is insistent on retention of all of the land Israel captured in 1967, He should have given this land to Israel at a time when there were more Jews in the world, fewer Arabs on the land, a different attitude on the part of the international community toward resettlement of people who lose a war of aggression, and few if any media members closely chronicling everything that happens in the Land of Israel.

As great a miracle as the Six Day War's outcome was and is, I therefore reject the notion that ceding territory is an insult to God. The gifts of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Gaza, Sinai and the Golan came together with very serious problems.

It's up to those of us on earth to balance the gifts with the problems to create the optimal conditions for a secure Israel on as much territory as possible with as few Arabs on that territory as possible.

Mets Stupidity

Mets executive Jeff Wilpon, the man who brought us Victor Zambrano in exchange for Scott Kazmir, kept his mouth shut for about a year. But he's back now, telling Bob Klapisch in today's Bergen Record, "We want to create something exciting on the field instead of waiting for the minor-leaguers to produce."

Nice job, Jeff. At best, this eliminates any leverage that GM Omar Minaya might have had with the Red Sox in negotiations for Manny Ramirez. Mets top prospect Lastings Milledge, who is expected to be ready for the majors either in mid-2006 or in 2007, is all but a goner. Last week, Mets top pitching prospect Yusmiero Petit was sent off to Florida as part of the Carlos Delgado trade.

With Wilpon's attitude (one that clearly is shared by his idiot father, Mets owner Fred), it's a surprise that the Mets "waited" for minor-leaguers like David Wright "to produce."

Of course, in Wright's defense, he made it to the majors at the age of 21, much sooner than anyone projected and apparently too quick for the Mets to give him away for, say, Sammy Sosa, the object of last year's Minaya obsession.

The Mets are now emulating the approach of the Yankees of the 1980's, trading all of their prospects for overpaid egomaniacs. Those Yankees teams underachieved, while the Mets were perennial contenders.

Only when the Yankees let their minor leaguers develop, giving them a core group of (then) cheap players like Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Andy Petite, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada did they turn the tide.

For a little while, the Mets also looked to be in the right direction, but no longer.

Monday, November 28, 2005
G-d and Israel

Originally posted on May 12, 2003, before anyone read this blog.

This past shabbos, I was arguing about Israel with someone outside of a shul in the Upper West Side. I became a relative left-winger, because I argued that Israel must be open to territorial compromise for real peace, and cannot ignore the diplomatic and demographic realities it faces.

When I mentioned these realities, the other fellow asked me whether "God has anything to do with" the choices Israel should make. I replied that He does not.

I explained that all of us must make what we believe to be the correct choices. While faith in God is important, we cannot rely on God to avoid making rational, difficult decisions. A person who is ill must not rely on God to cure him, though of course prayer is appropriate and important. Similarly, 1900 years ago, it was a mistake to rely on God to defeat the Roman Empire and end the brutal Roman occupation of Israel. Today, divisiveness among Jews is not all that different from those times, and it would be a mistake to rely on God to save Israel from its challenges.

That does not mean we should not thank God for the miracle of the State of Israel, and pray that Israel and its people are secure. But it does mean that political and military decisions must be made based upon rational considerations, not on an assumption (as distinguished from the hope) of divine intervention.


26 games into the season, the Rangers are a shocking 16-7-3, their best start in a decade.

The Rangers latest victory came on Saturday night, in a 15 round shootout that finally ended when defenseman Marek Malik improbably beat Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig.

I still don't like the shootout and found the 15 rounds to be more tedious than exciting. Of course, I was pleased with another win.

While the Rangers have been winning, their two glaring weaknesses have been the lack of an effective offensive defenseman - especially on the power play - and the lack of a second scoring line, particularly since Martin Rucinsky was injured.

Rucinsky will probably be back soon, but with the Rangers playing so well, the question is whether they should look to upgrade their roster via trade. They have around $4 million of salary cap space if they decide to make a move.

New York Post writer Larry Brooks has called upon the Rangers to look into acquiring Anaheim right-wing Petr Sykora and bringing back longtime Ranger defenseman Brian Leetch, now with the Bruins.

Any move would risk messing with the Rangers chemistry and youth movement, but I think Sykora and Leetch would both be great fits if the price is reasonable.

The Rangers top line and goaltending have been good enough that players like Leetch and Sykora could make them into real contenders. Both have won the Stanley Cup and Sykora almost won a second with the Mighty Ducks, who lost to the Devils in 7 games in the 2003 Cup. The Rangers are reminding many of the 2002-03 Ducks.

If Sykora is available for less than a first round draft pick, I'd trade for him. Sykora would not displace young Ranger forwards like Blair Betts, Jed Ortmeyer or Dominic Moore. Petr Prucha also would probably still remain on the roster. If Sykora's arrival meant that underachieving Marcel Hossa was sent down, there's nothing wrong with that. Youth should not automatically guarantee a roster spot.

Similarly, Leetch would take ice time from Tom Poti - who has been a huge disappointment since being acquired a few years ago from Edmonton for Mike York - and rookie defenseman Maxim Kondratiev. Kondratiev, who is 22 and was acquired from Toronto as part of the Leetch trade, has been rather shaky and might benefit from some regular playing time in the minors this season. Next year, Poti will likely be gone so Kondratiev would be back in a significant role.

Oops! Herm Did It Again

1. Whenever the Jets have a chance to win the game on offense, head coach Herm Edwards and his staff do something stupid to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Last night, with 1:15 remaining in the 4th quarter and the Jets at the New Orleans 33, the Jets called a draw play to Curtis Martin, despite the fact that in the second half, Martin and the running game were completely ineffective, while QB Brooks Bollinger kept finding open receivers over the middle.

Predictably, Martin was stopped for a loss, the next play was unnecessarily hurried resulting in a botched shotgun snap, and on 3rd down, the Jets completed a four yard pass, setting up a long field goal attempt.

2. Herm's conservative playcalling was not limited to the final drive. Despite being inside the Saints 35 yard line seven times last night, the Jets scored only 19 points, kicking four field goals, missing the potential game winning kick, punting once, and scoring just one touchdown, giving them a total of one touchdown in their last three games.

Herm cannot be blamed for Laveranues Coles' failure to maintain control of Bollinger's perfect late 2nd quarter pass to the end zone which resulted in the Jets third field goal. But in the second half, the Jets called for several draws to Martin in passing situations as well as a QB draw by Bollinger, none of which succeeded.

3. On the Jets next to last drive, they were in field goal range but on 3rd down, facing a blitz, Bollinger threw the ball away and was called for an intentional grounding penalty, taking the Jets out of field goal range and forcing them to punt. The penalty call was a terrible one, as the ESPN announcers immediately explained.

After the game, Bollinger said about the play, according to today's Daily News: "A miscommunication. I don't know the rules. Pressure was coming, I was trying to get rid of it ... the wrong place, obviously."

Bollinger doesn't know the rules? How is it possible that a quarterback in his third season does not know the rules about intentional grounding? The answer, Jets fans know, is that the team's coaching staff is a joke.

4. It's unfair to kill Mike Nugent for missing the 53 yard field goal attempt that would have won the game for the Jets. Nevertheless, it isn't unfair to label Nugent a major disappointment. He supposedly had an extraordinarily strong leg and a calm demeanor. In fact, not only was his field goal short, so have his kickoffs, and he has missed several high-pressure kicks.

The blame for Nugent has to go to GM Terry Bradway, who appears to have overestimated Nugent's talent in drafting him high in the second round.

5. Prior to Nugent's field goal attempt, the Jets were stopped on 3rd down at the Saints 34 yard line. Once upon a time, that would have meant a 51 yard attempt, since under NFL rules the ball must be placed seven yards behind the line of scrimmage, and then must clear the end zone. But in recent years, teams have routinely moved the ball eight yards back, sometimes even nine as the Jets did last night.

Considering the Nugent's kick looked to be less than a yard short, the foolish practice of moving the ball farther back then required by the rules likely cost the Jets the game.

The only possible benefit I can see to moving the ball back more than seven yards is to reduce the chance of a blocked kick. But that only makes sense for short field goals, not on kicks like Nugent's or Doug Brien's 47 yard miss against the Steelers last season in the playoffs, which hit the crossbar.

6. Once again, the Jets defense played terrible football. The Saints offense has done little this season, but the Jets allowed them three long touchdown drives, managed just one sack and did not force any turnovers.

The Jets defense has a few injuries, but overall is fairly healthy. What exactly is the excuse for the lousy performance of the 2005 Jets defense?

7. Before the game, ESPN's announcers said that according to Herm Edwards, the Jets would make sure Curtis Martin gets 1000 yards this season, because "it would do wonders for the team's psyche."

That statement illustrates the pathetic state of the Jets and their leadership.

8. For two years, I've been disappointed that the Jets didn't give Ricky Ray more of a chance at QB. Ray, an ex-CFL MVP, was on the Jets roster in 2004 but never played. He was released after minicamp last March. Last night, Ray led the Edmonton Eskimos to the CFL Grey Cup championship and was named MVP.

9. Some Jets fans have indicated that they want the Jets to lose, so that they have a have a better chance of landing Matt Leinart or Reggie Bush in the 2006 draft. As much as I'd like to see Bush or Leinart on the Jets, I disagree with this perspective.

In the NFL more than any other sport, losing breeds more losing. If the Jets finish 2-14 or 3-13 yet keep the coaching staff, next season will be deemed a success if the Jets merely win five or six games.

In contrast to this year's Jets team, the 1999 Jets got off to a 1-6 start, but then recovered to finish 8-8. As a result, expectations were high in 2000, and the Jets got off to a 6-1 start before collapsing. But at least the 9-7 season that year was recognized as the failure that it was.

In a league with lots of parity, the difference between a 10-6 season and a 6-10 season is often coaching and the demands and expectations placed on players and staff.

10. In this regard among others, I really hope QB Chad Pennington can come back next year. If nothing else, Pennington hates to lose and demands a lot of himself, a trait that too many others on the Jets - players and coaches alike - appear to lack.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Cal Ripken and Koby Mandell

Nice article by Sherri Mandell in this week's New York Jewish Week.

Sherri and Seth Mandell made aliyah from Maryland in 1996. In 2001, their 13 year old son Koby and his friend were murdered by Palestinian terrorists just outside their Gush Etzion community.

The Mandells set up the Koby Mandell Foundation, which helps bereaved families of terror victims.

Koby Mandell had been a big fan of the Baltimore Orioles and particularly Cal Ripken. When Ripken learned of this, he offered to help the foundation.

Sherri Mandell writes that at a recent dinner and auction in Maryland to raise money for the Koby Mandell Foundation, "Cal was the first one at the hotel and one of the last to leave that night. He lay on the floor to sign the commemorative photos."

In an era in which athletes are not expected to be anything other than self-absorbed jerks and many people refuse to make moral distinctions between terrorists and terror victims, Cal Ripken serves as a refreshing and hopeful contrast.

Likud's Self-Destruction

On Sunday, just after confirmation that Prime Minister Sharon was leaving the Likud and setting up a new party, I posted that Likud would have to stay united and rally behind the winner of its upcoming primary.

Initial polls indicate that Likud will be decimated in the March elections, plummeting from 40 Knesset seats to between 12 and 15 seats.

It is reasonable to believe that Likud can recover at least somewhat once it chooses a leader and after Sharon's momentum subsides.

However, if what transpired today is any indication, Likud is in very big trouble.

Binyamin Netanyahu remains the front-runner in the Likud primary. Today, he was personally attacked by two challengers, Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.

Despite Israel's economic growth of more than 4 percent annually during Netanyahu's tenure as Finance Minister, both Mofaz and Shalom harshly criticized Netanyahu's free market economy policies. As reported today in Haaretz, Mofaz was particularly vitriolic, saying that Netanyahu "grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth" as a "cream-fed kid from Rehavia who hurt the poor." (Rehavia is an upscale Jerusalem neighborhood.)

Shalom not only joined in the attack on Netanyahu's economic views, he called Netanyahu's views on the conflict with the Palestinians "extremist."

As if that weren't bad enough, Shalom then said that Netanyahu's "term as prime minister was unsuccessful, and the public remembers that."

Keep in mind, Mofaz and Shalom are referring to a leader of their own party.

Also keep in mind that no similar attacks (or even criticism) against Sharon came from either Mofaz or Shalom.

I know primaries can be negative, but I've never of anything like this. Mofaz and Shalom are basically both saying that if Netanyahu is nominated to lead Likud, voters would be better off voting for Labor or for Sharon's party, and that Netanyahu is completely unqualified to be prime minister again. Why should anyone vote for someone whose colleague in the same political party call a failure?

Given that Netanyahu will likely indeed win the primary, there can be little doubt that the other parties will use these harsh attacks from his fellow Likud leaders in their own campaign advertisements.

Further, how will Mofaz and Shalom campaign for Netanyahu after saying these things?

Perhaps the answer is that they won't. It's entirely possible that if Netanyahu wins the primary, Mofaz, Shalom, or both could also bolt to Sharon's party, putting yet another nail in Likud's coffin.

It's too early to write Likud off, but if it continues to act self-destructively through the late December primary - and there is no reason to think it won't - Netanyahu will have to pull off a miracle to even finish in second place in the general election.

Worst Jets Losses: Four Through One

Okay, it's about time to move onto other things, so without further ado, here are the four worst losses in the history of the New York Jets.

4. Jets lose to Pittsburgh Steelers 20-17 on January 15, 2005.

The Jets were heavy underdogs in this second round playoff game against the 15-1 Steelers. Playing with an injured shoulder that would soon be revealed to be a torn rotator cuff, QB Chad Pennington was mostly ineffective.

However, the Jets scored touchdowns on special teams and defense. First, Santana Moss returned a punt for a touchdown, tying the score at 10-10 late in the 2nd quarter. Early in the 4th quarter, Reggie Tongue intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass and returned it 86 yards for a touchdown.

After a Jerome Bettis fumble, the Jets had a chance to put the game away. But they meekly went three and out, running twice and throwing a short pass.

The Steelers drove down the field and scored a touchdown to tie the game.

But the Jets came back with a nice drive that took up the latter portion of the 4th quarter, setting up a 47 yard kick by Doug Brien just before the two minute warning. The kick bounced off the crossbar.

On the very next play, Roethlisberger was intercepted again and the Jets had the ball at Pittsburgh's 37. After passing for a first down at the Steelers' 24, they went into super-conservative mode, running right up the middle on first and second downs for just one yard, and then actually having Pennington kneel on third down for a two yard loss. Head coach Herm Edwards was much more concerned with running out the game clock than with moving the ball. Despite the cold weather and even though the exact same strategy failed for the Chargers and saved the Jets in the Jets' first round playoff win the previous week, Herm was content with trying a 43 yard field goal. As regulation time expired, Brien's kick went way wide to the left.

In overtime, the Jets had the ball near midfield and it briefly looked as though Brien would get a third chance. But an Anthony Becht holding penalty caused the drive to stall. Playing an overtime road game for the third straight week thanks to the idiocy of Eric Barton, the exhausted Jets defense could no longer stop the Steelers, and Pittsburgh drove downfield for the winning field goal.

After the game, Edwards praised his team for "battling" and was oblivious as to why anyone would question the 4th quarter playcalling.

3. Jets lose to Cleveland Browns 23-20 on January 3, 1987, in probably the most painful loss in team history.

After a 10-1 start, the 1986 Jets not only lost their lost five games, they were completely blown out in each of them, giving up 45 or more points in three of the five losses. They backed into the playoffs a mere shell of the exciting team that had won nine straight games earlier in the year.

But when the playoffs started, as if turning on a light switch, the Jets got right back on track. They easily defeated Kansas City in the wildcard game. In the second round against the Cleveland Browns, the Jets continued their resurgence, holding Browns QB Bernie Kosar in check. When Freeman McNeil ran for a 25 yard touchdown to give the Jets a 20-10 lead with just 4 minutes left and the Browns down to one timeout, the Jets looked sure to be headed to the AFC Championship.

The game was on shabbos, and for better or worse, I was listening to it in a park in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I'll never forget Jets radio announcer Charley Steiner saying, "The Jets are going to Denver! The Jets are going to the AFC Championship!"

On the ensuing Browns possession, the Browns were called for a holding penalty on first down. Then, the Jets sacked Kosar, and backed the Browns up to their own 18 yard line. On the next play, Kosar's pass was incomplete. But Mark Gastineau was called for a late hit, giving the Browns 15 yards and an automatic first down. The Browns marched down the field for a touchdown with less than two minutes left.

Still, the Jets got the ball back. One first down would run out the clock and win the game. The Jets ran on first and second downs for short gains. The Browns used their last timeout after first down. After second down, the 30 second clock wound down.

On third down, coach Joe Walton called for a quarterback draw, despite the immobility of QB Ken O'Brien. O'Brien was sacked, stopping the clock for about 15 seconds. The Browns got the ball back with a minute left instead of 45 seconds left.

The Jets were called for a questionable pass interference penalty. Then Kosar hit Webster Slaugter for a long pass, setting up the tying field goal with 7 seconds left in the 4th quarter.

In overtime, the Jets offense never sustained a drive. Steiner questioned Walton's playcalling, saying that the Jets were "playing not to lose." The defense got a break when Cleveland missed a short field goal, but two minutes into the second overtime, the Browns kicked a 27 yard field goal to complete the Jets collapse.

The Jets would not play another playoff game in the Joe Walton era, which lasted three more seasons. They would not make it back to the second round of the playoffs for 12 years.

2. Jets lose to Miami Dolphins 14-0 on January 23, 1983.

After defeating both the Bengals and the Raiders on the road in the first two rounds of the 1982 playoffs, the Jets were just a win away from a trip to the Super Bowl.

There was heavy rain in Miami in the days preceding this AFC Championship game. The Jets, with Freeman McNeil, had the superior running game, but the Dolphins failed to cover the field letting it turn to mud.

As a result, neither offense was able to get much going. McNeil had huge games against both Cincinnati and Oakland, but ran for his lowest yardage of the season on the soggy and muddy field.

The lack of a running game took Jets star wide receiver Wesley Walker out of the game too. Walker was double-teamed, and caught just one pass, late in the 4th quarter.

The game was scoreless at halftime. In the 3rd quarter, A.J. Duhe intercepted a Richard Todd pass, setting up a Dolphins touchdown. In the 4th quarter, Duhe intercepted a screen pass intended for Bruce Harper and returned the interception for a touchdown. He would set an NFL playoff record with three interceptions on the day.

After the game, a furious Walt Michaels ripped into the Dolphins for the poor field conditions. On the airplane back to New York, Michaels lost his temper and continued to rail about the mud. Jets president Jim Kensil told Michaels to shut up and let it go, and the two had a verbal altercation.

In the ensuing weeks, offensive coordinator Joe Walton was interviewed for several head coaching positions. Walton did a good job of self promotion, convincing the Jets front office that he rather than Michaels was responsible for the improvement on offense in 1981 and 1982.

After the Super Bowl, Michaels was fired by Kensil and replaced by Walton. A year later, Michaels was hired by Donald Trump to be head coach of the USFL's New Jersey Generals. After the USFL folded in 1985, Michaels never coached football again.

Richard Todd and the Jets had a disappointing season under Walton in 1983. Todd was traded to the Saints after the '83 season.

The Jets would not return to the AFC Championship for 16 years. When they did, they suffered the worst loss in their history.

1. Jets lose to Denver Broncos 23-10 on January 17, 1999. Entering this game, the Jets had won 11 out of 12 games, including a second round playoff victory at home over Jacksonville. Even so, they were 6 point underdogs to the 14-2 Broncos, who were the defending Super Bowl champions and who are always very tough at Mile High Stadium, where they had won 18 straight.

Shortly after this game started, the Falcons stunned the Vikings in the NFC Championship. While the 15-1 Vikings were dominant in '98, the Falcons were a team that both the Jets and Broncos would be favored to beat.

The Jets dominated the first half, with Vinny Testaverde completing his first 13 passes and their defense shutting down Denver's potent offense. But a Keith Byars fumble deep in Denver territory, another fumble by Curtis Martin at the Denver 44, and a missed field goal by John Hall prevented the Jets from taking control of the game. The Jets finally got on the board with a field goal as the first half expired.

Midway through the 3rd quarter, the Jets blocked a Broncos punt and recovered the ball at the 1 yard line. Curtis Martin ran it in for a 10-0 Jets lead.

With Bill Belichick's defense stymieing John Elway, Shannon Sharpe and Terrell Davis, the Jets looked set for a trip to Miami, the place where they played and won in their other Super Bowl appearance 30 years earlier.

But the Broncos scored a touchdown on their next drive. It would be important for the Jets to gain the momentum back on offense. But on the ensuing kickoff, the Jets committed their third turnover of the day, fumbling the ball.

After that, the Jets could not stop Davis. He scored on a long TD run late in the 3rd quarter.

Vinny Testaverde tried to get the Jets back into the game in the 4th quarter, but he was intercepted twice, once deep in Denver territory. On the day, the Jets committed six turnovers.

In the end, this game was not the most disappointing in team history. After a great season led by Testaverde, the Jets fell short against a team that would win back-to-back Super Bowls and that was almost impossible to beat at home.

But looking back, this game was the closest the Jets have ever gotten to a second Super Bowl. They were dominating the game on both sides of the ball, but couldn't put up points on offense. Had they won, they would have faced a very beatable Falcons team in the Super Bowl. Headed by Parcells, Belichick and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, it's reasonable to believe that the Jets would more likely than not have won the Super Bowl.

If they had, all the other disappointments in team history would be a lot less painful. The injuries to Chad Pennington, the bizarre decisions by Herm Edwards, watching Belichick and Weis win three Super Bowls in New England, Doug Brien's missed kicks - sure they'd still be frustrating, but significantly less so. Maybe Belichick would have even stayed.

There was a lot of optimism after this loss. Elway retired after the Super Bowl, and some saw the Jets as the team to beat in the AFC in 1999. Vinny Testaverde's season-ending injury ended those hopes. After '99, Parcells, Belichick and Weis were all gone. The Jets have not made it back to the AFC Championship.

Terrible Trade

I don't have time to post in any detail, but have to go on record to express my revulsion of the Mets trading of both Mike Jacobs and top pitching prospect Yusmeiro Petit to the Marlins for Carlos Delgado.

Not only does Delgado not want to come to the Mets - he turned down the Mets offer last winter to sign with the Marlins instead - the Marlins were lucky to even get anyone to take on his contract, which had a low salary last season and pays Delgado $48 million over the next three years. For the Mets to give up two valuable players is absurd.

I'm not sure whether Jacobs could have replicated his outstanding performance, but it would have been nice to give him a chance. Certainly, Jacobs would have been a huge bargain, making near the minimum salary.

Based upon Minaya's track record, his next move will probably be to get rid of Aaron Heilman, the Mets' most pleasant surprise in '05.

The Day I Became A Jets Fan

Following is the fifth worst loss in Jets history:

Jets lose to Buffalo Bills 31-27 on December 27, 1981.

On this day, I became a Jets fan.

Please don't misunderstand. By then, three weeks before my ninth birthday, I already was an avid - okay, an obsessive - fan of the New York Jets. I had gone with my father to two Jets games in the 1981 season, the second of which was on a schoolday, with my father coming to pick me up at school and brazenly telling the rabbi that he was taking me to a football game.

On December 27, 1981, the Jets hosted the Buffalo Bills in their first playoff game during my lifetime. The first game I went to that season was against the Bills. The Jets won 33-14.

In my parents' living room, there is a family portrait. The time on my brother's digital watch says 11:58.

The picture was taken in a studio around eight blocks from my house, on none other than December 27, 1981.

Game time was noon.

I remember my brother assuring me that I wouldn't miss a thing, that since it was a playoff game, there would be player introductions before the game that would delay kickoff.

I ran home as fast as I could.

I arrived home at 12:03. It was 7-0 Bills.

Bruce Harper had fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Bills returned it for a touchdown. Later in the 1st quarter, Wesley Walker was wide open but dropped a sure TD pass. Early in the 2nd quarter, Mark Gastineau sacked Joe Ferguson, but instead of falling on the ball, kicked it around again and again, with the Bills recovering after a loss of something like 35 yards. Before long, it was 24-0 Bills in the second quarter.

The Jets got to within 24-13, but a 4th quarter Bills touchdown made it 31-13 with ten minutes left. I understood that the Jets would fall short.

Over the next half-hour, I would learn that nothing is so simple and painless when it comes to the New York Jets.

Led by QB Richard Todd, the Jets mounted a furious comeback. First, Todd completed a touchdown pass to Bobby Jones. The Jets stopped Buffalo in three plays, and the Jets scored another touchdown with a little more than 3 minutes to go. And then the defense again stopped Buffalo in three plays. The Jets had the ball at their own 20 yard line with 2 1/2 minutes left to play.

They drove right down the field. A 29 yard pass to Mickey Shuler. On 3rd and 20, Todd completed a 26 yard pass to Derrick Gaffney.

But then on 3rd and 15, Todd was intercepted. The game was over.

But a holding penalty was called, giving the Jets an automatic first down! The Jets had first down at the Bills 11. The Shea Stadium scoreboard displayed, in huge capital letters: "WE CAN DO IT!"

Todd passed to Derrick Gaffney, who looked to be open right at the end zone. Seemingly out of nowhere, Bill Simpson intercepted the pass at the 1 yard line.

There had to be another penalty. The Jets couldn't lose. The game couldn't be over.

It was. For the first time in my life, on December 27, 1981, I experienced the pain of being a fan of the New York Jets.

Coming up: The four worst losses in New York Jets history.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005
New York Rangers

After so many terrible years, I've been resisting getting my hopes up, but after tonight's game, I am now officially excited about the 2005-06 Rangers. They have definitely alleviated some of the disappointment related to all of my other sports teams, particularly the Jets.

I still hate the shootout. But if there's going to be a shootout, it's nice to win it.

Worst Jets Losses: Ten Through Six

This morning, I posted the 20th through 11th worst losses in New York Jets history. Following are the tenth through sixth worst losses in the team's sorry history:

10. Jets lose to Carolina Panthers 26-15 on October 15, 1995. Remembered in infamy as "the Bubby Brister game," this game represents everything that was awful about the Rich Kotite era.

The Panthers, an expansion team in their first NFL season, had never won an NFL game. Late in the first half, the Jets led 12-6 and had the ball. Playing for an injured Boomer Esiason, backup QB Bubby Brister threw a shovel pass toward running back Adrian Murrell, but the pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Sam Mills. Brister threw two more interceptions in the second half. Neither the Jets nor Kotite would recover from this loss.

9. Jets lose 22-17 to Buffalo Bills on November 7, 2004. Coming into this game, the Jets were 6-1 and QB Chad Pennington was having a very strong season. Late in the 1st quarter, Pennington scrambled for a first down. He got the first down, but was sandwiched by two Bills and lost the ball.

At the time, nobody had any reason to believe that the hit by linebacker London Fletcher and cornerback Nate Clements would commence another dark era for the Jets.

Pennington continued to play until the 4th quarter, but was ineffective. After the game, he described the injury as nothing major, "a charley horse, just in your shoulder." Pennington missed the next three games, and was inconsistent after coming back. Only after the season did the Jets acknowledge that Pennington had torn his rotator cuff and would have to undergo major surgery on his shoulder.

8. Jets lose 30-28 to New England Patriots on September 12, 1999.

The 1999 season opened on a warm sunny September Sunday in the New York area. Hopes for the Jets were as high as ever, after a 12-4 1998 season and a trip to the AFC Championship.

It was also the second day of Rosh Hashanah, and as the Jets opened their 1999 season, Jews were reciting the U'Nesaneh Tokef prayer, recognizing that G-d would decree, "who will live and who will die ... who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer ... who will be degraded and who will be exalted."

The Jets season died that day, their history of degradation recurring yet again, any hopes of tranquility dashed. It happened by Achilles, specifically the rupture of the Achilles tendon of QB Vinny Testaverde.

Testaverde dove for a rare Curtis Martin fumble and in the process his foot was caught in the old awful Giants Stadium artificial turf.

Promising young running back and return man Leon Johnson was also lost for the season with a knee injury. Johnson was never effective after that injury.

The Jets actually were competitive, largely due to the performance of punter and fourth string QB Tom Tupa, who was inserted to replace Testaverde. Several questionable decisions by Bill Parcells - including two second half two-point conversion attempts, a fake field goal, and the insertion of Rick Mirer at QB - all backfired. The Jets clung to a late 4th quarter lead, but an Adam Vinatieri field goal with three seconds left gave New England the win.

The 1999 Jets lost 6 of their first 7 games before Parcells turned to third-string QB Ray Lucas. Lucas energized the team, which finished with an 8-8 record.

Alas, while Testaverde returned for the 2000 season, by then Parcells had resigned, and most of his staff (with the exception of assistant Al Groh) - including offensive coordinator Charlie Weis - had left to join defensive coordinator Bill Belichick in New England. Vinny's favorite wide receiver - Keyshawn Johnson - was also gone by 2000, having been traded to Tampa Bay.

7. Jets lose 28-24 to Miami Dolphins on November 27, 1994. With a 6-5 record, a win over Miami would put the Jets in a tie with the Dolphins atop the AFC East.

The Jets dominated the first half, taking a 24-6 lead. The Giants Stadium crowd was as loud as it has ever been for a regular season game.

In the 4th quarter, two Boomer Esiason interceptions turned the tide. Dolphins QB Dan Marino passed for a touchdown to cut the Jets lead to 24-21. Marino led the Dolphins down the field in the final minute. With the clock winding down, he made a spiking motion, as though he was going to down the ball to stop the clock for a field goal attempt to send the game into overtime. In the play that became known as "The Fake," Jets cornerback Aaron Glenn froze, and Marino completed the winning touchdown pass to Mark Ingram.

I'll never forget the long walk out of Giants Stadium to the Meadowlands parking lot. The fans were shocked, furious and resigned to endless misery.

The 1994 Jets lost the rest of their games, finishing 6-10. When the Eagles fired Rich Kotite, first year head coach Pete Carroll was fired because owner Leon Hess decided that he simply had to have Kotite to lead the Jets.

6. Jets lose 26-20 to Jacksonville Jaguars on September 25, 2005. QB Chad Pennington tore his rotator cuff when his arm was yanked from behind in the 3rd quarter. He underwent another shoulder surgery and faces a grueling rehab. It is questionable at best whether he will be an effective NFL quarterback again, let alone one that can lead his team to a Super Bowl. Backup QB Jay Fiedler also sustained a serious shoulder injury. The 2005 Jets never recovered from this loss, and the after-effects of Pennington's injury will include the Jets' bad salary cap situation becoming catastrophic, at least for 2006.

The Jets actually had a good chance to win the game late in the 4th quarter. Inexplicably, Pennington returned after the injury to Fiedler. Late in the 4th quarter, with the Jets trailing 20-17 and facing 3rd and goal from the Jaguars 8, Pennington threw over the middle into the end zone to WR Wayne Chrebet. At first, officials ruled that Chrebet made that catch for a touchdown, but replays indicated that Chrebet did not hold onto the ball and the Jets settled for a short field goal to send the game into overtime. It would be the last pass thrown by Pennington to Chrebet. In overtime, ignoring Pennington's injury, the Jets called a long pass to WR Justin McCareins. Predictably, the pass was very underthrown and intercepted, and on the ensuing drive, Jacksonville won the game.

UPDATE - 11/23: Just realized that I neglected to include the Jets MNF debacle on September 23, 1991. Against the Bears, the Jets 13-6 led late in the 4th quarter and the Bears were out of timeouts. If the Jets had fallen on the ball three times, they would have had to punt with about 20 seconds left. Instead, they handed the ball of to Blair Thomas, who fumbled on second down with a minute left. The Bears tied the game on a 4th down TD pass with one second left.

In overtime, the Jets missed a chip shot from 28 yards by Pat Leahy, and the Bears scored the winning TD.

The reason I forget about this game is because it was on a Jewish holiday, so I didn't see it.

I would rate this game as a tie for number 10.

Tomorrow: The fifth worst loss in New York Jets history.

Worst Jets Losses: 20 Through 11

Earlier this season, I posted a list of what I thought were the 15 best wins in Jets history. In the spirit of this disastrous season, it seems to make sense to post a list of the Jets worst losses. Since there are so many painful memories, I am listing the top 20 (actually 21, due to a tie) losses instead of 15; many other worthy losses fail to make the cut. The list is truly off the cuff and was drafted while the bus I take to Manhattan was stuck in traffic yesterday morning. The list covers games since I started watching the Jets in the late 70's and is of course very subjective, and I almost certainly forgot about some games.

Following are the 20th through 11th worst losses:

20 (and 21). Tie: Jets lose to Houston Oilers 17-10 in AFC Wildcard game on December 29, 1991 and Jets lose to Oakland Raiders 38-24 in AFC Wildcard game on January 12, 2002.

The Jets were the underdogs in both games, but blew chances to win each. In the loss to Houston, Ken O'Brien was intercepted twice deep in Oilers territory, and Jets final drive stalled after a questionable offensive pass interference penalty called on Al Toon.

In the loss to Oakland, John Abraham left the game in the first quarter with "flu symptoms" and the Jets defense displayed one of their worst performances of the season. When the Jets pulled within 31-24 with less than two minutes left, Herm Edwards declined to try an onside kick, instead kicking deep, but the defense allowed an 80 yard TD run by Charlie Garner to seal the game.

19. Jets lose 9-5 to Indianapolis Colts on November 11, 1984, in the first game I attended at Giants Stadium. After starting the season with a 6-2 record, the Jets entered this game having lost two straight. The 3-7 Colts appeared to be just the opponent to get the Jets back on track, but the Jets offense was abysmal. Almost comically, Pat Ryan started the game at QB, was ineffective and replaced by Ken O'Brien, but O'Brien was even worse, so Ryan was sent back in, only to suffer a concussion, with O'Brien taking his place again.

The Colts did not win another game in 1984, while the Jets won just once more, losing seven of their last eight games to finish the season 7-9.

The game marked the first of many awfully played contests between the Jets and the Colts over the next 15 years.

18. Jets lose to Miami Dolphins 45-3 on November 24, 1986. Nine weeks earlier, the Jets defeated Miami 51-45 in one of the most exciting games in team history (and a game that I rated the 7th best win in Jets history). That win was the start of a nine game winning streak for the Jets, who came into this game with the best record in the NFL.

Four weeks after the Mets won the World Series, hopes were high for a Giants vs. Jets Super Bowl.

Alas, the Jets loss to Miami on Monday Night Football was the start of the implosion of the '86 Jets. Coach Joe Walton ripped into his players during halftime and the Jets rewarded him by losing their last five regular season games. The loss was, I believe, the most lopsided game in MNF history.

17. Jets lose to Detroit Lions 10-7 on December 17, 2000. After a 6-1 start, the Jets were struggling, but at 9-5 looked set to clinch a playoff berth. The Jets came out flat, and their offense never got anything going, with their only score coming after an interception return to the Detroit 1 yard line. The offense did manage a long drive in the final two minutes, to set up a 35 yard field goal attempt in the final seconds to send the game into overtime. But John Hall's kick was not only wide but short too.

The following week, the 2000 Jets completed their collapse with a loss in Baltimore, where they blew an early 14-0 lead. Coach Al Groh then resigned after just one season.

16 and 15. Tie: Jets lose 20-17 to Baltimore Ravens on November 14, 2004 and Jets lose 14-9 to Buffalo Bills on December 30, 2001.

These two games epitomize the awful playcalling during the Herm Edwards era. In last season's loss to the Ravens, the Jets had a 14-0 lead and the ball deep in Baltimore territory late in the first half when a bizarre Lamont Jordan option pass was intercepted in the Ravens end zone and returned deep into Jets territory. The game's momentum was immediately changed, but the Jets had a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter. With first and goal at the 4 yard line and a minute left, the Jets ran on first down for a one yard gain, went into a full huddle, threw an incompletion on 2nd down, and then failed to get a play in time as the play clock wound down on 3rd down. Instead of taking a delay of game penalty and having 3rd and goal from the 8 with 9 seconds left, the Jets used their last timeout and kicked a field goal. In overtime, they won the coin toss but went three and out, and Baltimore kicked the winning field goal in their first possession.

In the loss to Buffalo, the 9-5 Jets needed a win against the pathetic 2-12 Bills to clinch a playoff berth. The Jets didn't take the Bills seriously and their offense was flat all game. Late in the 4th quarter, the Jets drove deep into Buffalo territory, but despite having no timeouts, offensive coordinator Paul Hackett directed QB Vinny Testaverde to throw over the middle twice in the final 40 seconds, causing the clock to run out before the Jets could take even one shot at a pass to the end zone for the winning touchdown.

14. Jets lose 24-0 to Houston Oilers on January 2, 1994. After a 8-5 start, the Jets had lost two straight but as a result of a Miami loss earlier in the day, could still make the playoffs with a win in this Sunday night matchup. They didn't even show up.

Having already clinched a playoff berth, Houston rested QB Warren Moon and several other starters. But the Oiler backups dominated the Jets' inept defense, while Jets QB Boomer Esiason could get nothing going on offense.

This game is best remembered by Oilers' defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan punching offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.

Jets head coach Bruce Coslet was fired several days after this loss.

13. Jets lose to Detroit Lions 13-10 on December 21, 1997. After an 8-4 start in Bill Parcells' first season as their head coach, the Jets had lost two out of three and needed to beat the Lions on the road to make the playoffs. The Jets took a 10-0 lead, but second half turnovers and their failure to stop Barry Sanders turned the tide. Detroit led 13-10, but the Jets sustained a long 4th quarter drive and had the ball at the Lions' 9 yard line. Jets running back Leon Johnson threw an option pass into the end zone that was intercepted, and the Lions put the game away on a 50 yard run by Sanders.

12. Jets lose 26-14 to New England Patriots on December 28, 1985. In their first home playoff game at Giants Stadium, the Jets moved the ball well but lost QB Ken O'Brien to a concussion. The Jets turned the ball over four times, including a fumble on a 3rd quarter kickoff return that the Patriots returned for a touchdown. New England went on to the Super Bowl, while the Jets did not play another playoff game at home for 13 years.

11. Jets lose to Oakland Raiders 30-10 on January 12, 2003. The Jets came into this second round playoff game on fire, having defeated defending champs New England, the 12-3 Packers, and the Colts by a combined score of 113-34 in their previous three games. With QB Chad Pennington playing tremendous football, hopes were rising that the Jets could repeat the feat achieved by the 2001 Patriots, who won the Super Bowl on the leadership of young QB Tom Brady.

In the first half, the Jets kept the game close, and tied the score at 10-10 in the final seconds of the half on a Pennington touchdown pass. The Jets looked to have the momentum entering the second half, but a Richie Anderson fumble and two Pennington interceptions changed that. The Raiders blitzed Pennington relentlessly, sacking him four teams, a scheme that teams have since used to stop the Jets' QB.

Later this week: The ten worst losses in New York Jets history.

Monday, November 21, 2005
Can Sharon Placate The Egomaniacs?

Thus far, 14 of the 40 Likud Knesset members have joined the new party formed by Ariel Sharon. In addition, numerous other prominent figures from outside Likud are likely to join Sharon in the near future.

One of the Likud members who joined Sharon is Meir Sheetrit. According a report on Ynet, Sheetrit stated: "I assume that I will be among the first in the (party) list. We didn't talk about a specific place, but definitely among the first places."

I don't know about Sheetrit, but it obvious that not everyone who has joined Sharon will be "among the first" in the party's list. It is equally obvious that those joining Sharon have very inflated opinions of themselves and their political importance.

Will Sharon be able to placate all of these people until the elections? My guess is no, that at some point there will be quite a bit of internal infighting, along with some defections.

Times Clueless About Israel

In an article about Prime Minister Sharon's departure from Likud to set up a new political party, today's New York Times states that the Likud "rebels" who opposed Sharon "have been led by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu."

That is simply inaccurate. The "rebels" were led by Uzi Landau, not Netanyahu, who supported the Gaza withdrawal in cabinet votes and expressed his opposition to the withdrawal and resigned from the cabinet just days before the dismantling of settlements occurred.

Also, isn't it ironic that those within Likud who were opposed to Sharon are labeled "rebels," when it was Sharon who bolted the party?

Later in the article, the Times tells us that foreign minister Silvan Shalom and defense minister Shaul Mofaz "are considered Sephardim, or eastern Jews, like [Labor leader Amir] Peretz."

What exactly does it mean to be "considered Sephardim." Would the Times write that Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia are "considered Italian-American" or that Fernando Ferrer and Alberto Gonzales are "considered Hispanic?"

Sunday, November 20, 2005
Likud's Next Move

As I predicted last week, Prime Minister Sharon will bolt Likud to set up a new political party. Initial polls indicate that Sharon's party and Labor will be in a close race for first place, with Likud a distant third. If that happens, Sharon's party and Labor would set up the next government.

Likud is currently is disarray. With elections likely to be held in early March, the party does not have a leader.

Likud needs to hold its party primary imminently, within two weeks at most, so that it can elect its leader and candidate for prime minister.

During the short election campaign, Sharon will be attacked both by Labor and by Likud, and his party is likely to fare much worse than the initial polls suggest. Sharon himself is not likely to be effective in debates, and his ex-Likud subordinates like Ehud Olmert are perceived by most Israelis as political opportunists, and are therefore not likely to be assets to the party.

Likud will rally around whomever is elected in its primary and will do better than the early polls suggest. By leaving the party, Sharon allows Likud leaders to take a moderate political stance in favor of territorial compromise for peace, but against unilateral withdrawal.

The right-wing parties will also benefit from Sharon's move. Nationalist Israelis will be motivated to respond to what they see as Sharon's betrayal by doing all they can to vote him out of office and end his political career. Of course, that, and not hateful invective or violence, is the appropriate democratic response to what one sees as objectionable government policy.

We Play Today, We Lose Today

1. On Friday, I predicted that the Jets would lose to the Broncos 31-13. They lost 27-0, the first time they were shutout in a decade, since the Rich Kotite era. Hey, call me an optimist.

2. In today's Journal News, Ian O'Conner joined the Herm Edwards lovefest. Acknowledging that "a columnist's job description rarely includes campaigning for a 2-7 coach," O'Conner idiotically wrote that owner Woody Johnson "has to realize Edwards has been very good for business, and offer him another two-year extension on top of the two years the coach has coming to him."

A blogger's job description rarely includes campaigning against a sportswriter. But whoever owns the Journal News has to realize that idiots like O'Conner are bad for business, and offer him a two-week severance package.

3. Herm's apologists (they appear to only be in the media and not among the fan base) continually repeat the mantra that his offense has been decimated by injuries and his players never quit.

Well, obviously his players have quit. As for the injuries to the offense, what's Herm's excuse for the Jets' abysmal performance on defense and special teams?

Yet again today, the defense didn't bother to show up, allowing drives of 95 and 81 yards, respectively, on Denver's first two possessions.

And yet again today too, Justin Miller fumbled on a return, and the Jets couldn't execute the most basic element of football, the snap from center to quarterback.

Is Chad Pennington's injury the excuse for that?

4. Kotite, just like Edwards, was relegated due to injuries to playing terrible quarterbacks, particularly Bubby Brister and Frank Reich. Yet the media (correctly) never defended Kotite.

5. As I have previously written, I've never been much of a Ty Law fan. The more I watch him play, the more I dislike him. His endless illegal contact penalties are inexcusable, and they invariably come at the worst possible time. Today, his first such penalty came on Denver's opening drive, after the Jets had appeared to stop the Broncos at the 30 yard line.

6. Would it have killed Herm to play third string QB Kliff Kingsbury in the 4th quarter?

7. Kingsbury did come in when Vinny Testaverde was hurt with a minute left in the game. Last week, Herm defended his running the clock out in the 4th quarter by explaining that he wasn't going to pass the ball and risk his QB getting hurt. Yet this week, he did just that, and his QB got hurt.

Are we living in a bizarro world? How can the media call for this buffoon to be given a contract extension?

Friday, November 18, 2005
More On Conversion of Jews After Nostra Aetate

I realize that many readers of this blog do not care what adherents of other religions think about Jews. I think that's a completely legitimate viewpoint. My interest in the theology of other religions is in this regard largely sociological, rather than an attempt at interfaith religious dialogue, which traditional Judaism rejects.

In my second semester of law school, we were required to take a silly class called Perspectives On Legal Thought. Early in the semester, the professor lectured about the controversy related to placing religious symbols in public places. The examples she used were that of a cross appearing in a public sphere, and an eruv.

I raised my hand and told the professor that the analogy of an eruv and a cross was not a good one, because while a cross is indeed a religious symbol, an eruv relates to religious observance, by creating a legal fiction that allows one to carry on the sabbath. Furthermore, an eruv is essentially invisible, consisting of poles, cables and wires that few if anyone would even notice is there.

Naively, I expected the professor to thank me for the clarification. Instead, she stubbornly responded that she thought I was wrong, and that we would have to agree to disagree.

I mention this anecdote to note that one should be very hesitant about challenging someone's else's statements concerning the other's person's religion.

In a post on Tuesday, I disputed Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein's statement that Catholicism accepts that Jews need not accept Jesus, in particular because Vatican II held that God's "covenant with the Jews has never been broken."

Joseph A. Tranfo of the Benedict blog argues that I'm wrong. Joe's main argument relates to his citing of a Catechism of the Catholic Church, along with related commentary on the Catechism that states: "Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience." Joe notes that a number of Catholic theologians accept "that salvation is available outside of formal membership in the Catholic Church," and thus concludes that Jews "can be saved" without accepting Jesus.

I appreciate the post in Benedict, but do not believe the matter is as straightforward as suggested there. While I do not wish to take issue with a devout Catholic who surely knows much more about his religion's theology than I do, I will offer the following comments and thoughts.

1. It is interesting that Benedict's argument resembles the contemporary approach of Orthodox Judaism to a non-observant Jew, holding that the latter has the status of a tinok shenishba and is therefore not judged negatively for failure to observe the Torah.

2. At the very least, Benedict's argument disputes Rabbi Adlerstein's assertion that under Catholic theology, God's covenant with the Jews is what allows them to get into heaven. The issue, instead, is whether "through no fault of their own" a person is ignorant about Jesus. Benedict does not dispute that Catholicism rejects a dual-covenant theory.

3. Indeed, an article by Avery Cardinal Dulles in the November issue of First Things (the article was first cited by Gil Student) which just became available online yesterday confirms this.

Dulles unequivocally rejects the dual-covenant theory, writing that it is unthinkable that the Gospels "would be proposing salvation for Jews apart from Christ." However, supporting Benedict, Dulles also writes: "The Catholic Church clearly teaches that no one will be condemned for unbelief, or for incomplete belief, without having sinned against the light. Those who with good will follow the movements of GodÂ?s grace in their own lives are on the road to salvation. They are not required to profess belief in Christ unless or until they are in a position to recognize him as Messiah and Lord."

4. The first question then become at what point a person is deemed to be "in a position" to accept Jesus, and at what point, rejection is Jesus is not something accepted as a choice that one makes "through no fault of their own."

The next question is whether not being "condemned" and being "on the road to salvation" is the same thing as being allowed "a back door into heaven," to use Rabbi Adlerstein's phrase.

5. It seems to me that a broad construction of Catholic theology probably could support Benedict's conclusion by letting God decide who is and who isn't at "fault" for their religious decisions. But a liberal interpretation of that sort is not only inconsistent with the history of Catholicism's approach toward Jews, but one that remains a minority view.

As for whether being "on the road to salvation" is the same actually being "saved," it would seem to me that this is at best questionable.

Week 11 NFL Predictions

Denver Broncos 31 New York Jets 13

The rest is commentary.

Thursday, November 17, 2005
Sharon's Future

Prime Minister Sharon's desire to hold elections as soon as possible - possibly as early as late February - could suggest that he will leave Likud to form a new politically centrist party. Sharon may want quick elections so that there would be little time for Likud to regroup. After all, with little more than three months prior to elections, Likud would be faced with a party primary, and the winner would then have the thankless task of commencing a campaign for the general election against a popular prime minister with a very long history in the Likud.

While Sharon leading the party and serving as its candidate for prime minister would almost assure Likud of victory, Israel is better off if Sharon leaves Likud to set up a new party. Clearly, Sharon's political positions have shifted significantly and are now well to the left of Likud's. If Israelis support Sharon, they should vote for a party that will fully reflect his positions. If they support more traditional Likud positions, they should vote for a party headed by Binyamin Netanyahu.

In addition to taking seats away from Likud, a new party led by Sharon would likely devastate the fervently secular and center-left Shinui party, which has 15 seats in the current Knesset. Thus, the election would likely leave a right-wing bloc of Likud, National Union and National Religious Party; the Shas and United Torah Judaism charedi parties; Sharon's party; and a left-wing bloc of Labor, Yachad-Meretz and the Arab parties.

While the Likud might not lead the government that is formed after the general elections, the Israeli right would not be worse off than it would be with Sharon heading Likud. Sharon's party and Labor would be unable to form a coalition alone, and it is unlikely that Sharon would turn to Meretz or the Arab parties. Sharon would have to gain the support of Shas, or convince one or more of the right-wing parties to join, and he would have to retain their support or risk their defection to a new government headed by Likud. In contrast, Sharon successfully pulled off the withdrawal from Gaza without the support of Shas or any right-wing party.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Is Orthodoxy Economically Viable?

This is a topic I've wanted to post about for a while, but have held off on because of a sense that I need time to coherently express my thoughts and concerns. Since I don't expect to have more time in the near future, I'm quickly submitting the following, which hopefully is at least coherent, even if not up to the best standards:

In a July 2003 post about the kollel system - in which instead of working, young (and even some middle-aged) men study Talmud full-time rather than work for a living - I wrote critically of an "unsustainable system, in which middle-class parents are expected to subsidize (and sometimes fully support) the lives of their children, while a mother of six or eight works full time for a relatively modest salary. As the size of the kollel families grow and the grandparents age, many families will slip into poverty. Once it comes time for the kollel families to marry off their own children, there will be nobody to pay for the weddings, let along support another generation of kollel families. Even now, young men who intend to learn in kollel usually look to marry a woman whose parents are wealthy, rather than one whose own father is in kollel."

Any objective analysis of the kollel system shows that it is not an economically viable one. Already, there is massive reliance on (and exploitation of) government programs by those in kollel and their parents.

Unfortunately, however, we are fast approaching the point at which even two-income families will routinely face financial crises if they wish to remain fully engaged in the Orthodox community.

The tuition crisis is well known. My father has long been the leading voice for radical changes in funding of yeshivas and day schools. Tuition was also recently analyzed and debated in the pages of Jewish Action.

An area that has gotten less attention is the skyrocketing cost of housing, particularly in Orthodox communities in the New York area.

Presumably, housing prices receive less attention because most frum families have already purchased their home, and are beneficiaries of the extraordinary rise is real estate.

For those who do not own a home, assuming that they choose to buy one in the New York area and prices do not plummet, almost all will struggle financially. A fairly modest home purchased today can easily cost $4000 per month when mortgage, real estate taxes and basic maintenance are combined. Add to that tuition of $10,000 for each of four children, and you have a family that before anything else, is paying around $90,000 in after-tax money on housing and tuition alone.

It is probably fair to say that to even break even, a family like that will need at least $200,000 in pre-tax income, and even that will leave them with little left after basic necessities like food, automobile costs, tolls/public transportation costs and clothing are taken into account.

Already now, young frum people are aware that they will need much more to get by than their secular counterparts. As a result, most choose from among a very small number of professions like law, accounting, and medicine. Fewer and fewer young frum schoolteachers, academics, or journalists are to be found.

Ultimately, like kollel, this too is not a viable economic system. Families with income that among the vast majority of Americans would be considered upper middle-class will need substantial tuition relief just to get by, and will be able to save very little money. In contrast to the secular world, where losing one's job is a painful but usually temporary crisis, in the frum world, it already is often a complete disaster that can almost immediately send a family trying to remain engaged in the community into a state of near poverty. In the future, it will likely result in a large number of foreclosures.

Of course, there is no commandment in the Torah that one must own a home or live in the New York area, or in other very expensive places like Los Angeles and Boston. There is nothing wrong with renting, and if one absolutely wants to buy, housing is still much cheaper (though not cheap) in places with significant frum communities like Baltimore and Atlanta or in suburbs of Philadelphia. And as the success of Nefesh b'Nefesh clearly shows, aliyah is a good option too, since state religious schools are free in Israel and semi-private schools are heavily subsidized by the government, and housing costs in cities like Modiin and Beit Shemesh remain relatively affordable.

Still, the reality is that whether because of their own expectations, societal or spousal pressure, or a belief that it is always better to buy than to rent, many frum people will buy houses that they really won't be able to afford in the long run. And many - probably most - who are from New York will want to stay there, because their jobs, families and friends are there and they have few if any ties to anywhere else.

Doubtlessly, many will have fewer children than they otherwise would, which will result in less of a personal financial burden, but also in serious implications for Orthodoxy in other ways. And fewer children, in any event, may mean three children instead of five; most families will still be larger than the American average.

In the Catholic world - where I believe religious school tuition is much more heavily subsidized by the local church than it is by the community in the Jewish world - there has been a significant drop in the number of enrollees in Catholic schools, with many schools around the country closing.

Unless radical changes occur, in the coming decades, we are likely to see more and more frum families overwhelmed by the cost of living in a frum community be unable to send their children to yeshiva. At first, those on the community's left-wing periphery will be ones sending their kids to public school, but it is almost inevitable that even very committed observant families will have no option but to send their children to public school or to home school their children. Once a significant number of frum children are not in yeshiva, it likely will become socially acceptable (albeit not socially optimal) in the community for children to not be in yeshiva, resulting in less pressure on the families, schools, and the community generally, to find a solution to individual problems. Over time, we may well see a three-tier system, with some in yeshiva, some in small makeshift unofficial schools in someone's home, and some in public school.

Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions. At best, changes in priorities will alleviate the burden and reduce the number of people who face financial barriers to engagement in the Orthodox Jewish world.

Aiming to Please

My goal is to leave readers satisfied. It is a difficult task to please all, but one must surely try.

This week's Jewish Press runs four letters to the editor in response to my recent column about the Rabin assassination and its political impact.

At first, I was buoyed by the reactions of Avraham Gluchsman ("The Jewish Press is to be commended for carrying the front-page essay by Joseph Schick") and Martin Rosenfeld ("I was pleasantly surprised by your decision to highlight Joseph Schick's thoughtful essay on your front page").

Alas, just when I was feeling good about my writing, along came Dinah Foster ("I was terribly disheartened and disappointed that The Jewish Press published Mr. Schick's article").

Had the publication of my article really caused Ms. Foster such heartache and disappointment? Really, I did not mean to be the source of all her tzaros.

I must strive to improve. Until the Dinah Fosters of the world are pleased, neither will I be.

Media Love Herm

If more evidence is needed that the sports media's coverage of controversial figures is based more on personal relations than on reality, then take a look at today's newspapers.

In the New York Post, Jets beat reporter Mark Cannizzaro not only insists that Herm Edwards is blameless for the Jets' awful season, he actually writes that owner Woody Johnson "would be smart to extend Edwards' contract after this season."

At least Cannizzaro notes that GM Terry Bradway "hasn't drafted a Pro Bowl player in five years."

Over at Newsday, Ken Berger not only sings Edwards' praises and absolves him of any blame for 2005, he even absolves Edwards for any problems that would occur next season, writing that Edwards will face a "mess" in 2006, because the "Jets have enormous salary-cap problems, no quarterback, a 32-year-old running back, no deep receiving threat, and an offensive line that fell apart this season."

Unwittingly, Berger's statement is a strong indictment of Bradway, who let Lamont Jordan leave for nothing, failed to do anything about the offensive line, and traded away the Jets only deep threat, Santana Moss.

The good news for Bradway is that Moss will likely become his first draft back to make the Pro Bowl. The bad news is that Moss will do so as a member of the Washington Redskins.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Conversion of Jews After Nostra Aetate

In a post on Cross-Currents, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein writes about the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II document that declared radical changes to the relationship between Catholicism and other religions, particularly Judaism.

Rabbi Adlerstein's post is generally on point, but I must take issue with his statement that, "Conversion of Jews is no longer the priority it once was. If the covenant with the Jews has never been broken, then somehow they do not need the embrace of the mother Church quite as other people do. To be sure, this notion is upsetting to many Catholics. Long educated to believe that there was no other portal to Heaven, it is upsetting to learn that there may be a Jewish back door."

To be sure, the attitude of the Vatican toward conversion of Jews has changed, but I am quite certain that Catholicism does not accept the notion that the Jews can "be saved" without acceptance of Jesus.

As Pope Benedict wrote in 2000 when was still known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, "let us pray that he may grant also to the children of Israel a deeper knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, who is their son, and the gift they have made to us. Since we are both awaiting the final redemption, let us pray that the paths we follow may converge."

Similarly, in his book, God and the World, Ratzinger wrote, "We wait for the instant in which Israel will say yes to Christ." He continued, "That does not mean that we should force Christ upon them. The fact remains, however, that our Christian conviction is that Christ is also the messiah of Israel. Certainly it is in the hands of God how and when the unification of Jews and Christians into the people of God will take place."

Essentially, the theological shift is that instead of targeting Jews for conversion (and forcing Jews to convert when it had the power to do so), Catholicism now leaves the question of Jewish conversion "in the hands of God."

This is certainly significant on a day-to-day "real life" level, but it is a lot different than Rabbi Adlerstein's statement that Catholicism now recognizes "that there may be a Jewish back door" to heaven. The statements by Pope Benedict quoted above clearly indicate that it is a stretch to say that the Vatican has accepted a "dual covenant theory."

Monday, November 14, 2005
Weekly Post-Mortem

1. First, a glimmer of hope: According to today's New York Post, on Fox's pregame show, "Howie Long predicted that when Dick Vermeil retires in Kansas City — which Jimmy Johnson said will be after this season — then the next coach of the Chiefs could be Herman Edwards."

I doubt that will actually happen, but one must keep hope alive.

2. Ignoring last week's strong performance by QB Brooks Bollinger, Herm Edwards went back to handcuffing Bollinger and the Jets offense the way he did in Bollinger's first start, in week 4 against Baltimore, running almost every play in the first half, and limiting Bollinger to short dump offs. This is not my speculation - he actually was quoted by the CBS announcers as telling them this was his game plan.

3. Edwards was content with going into the half with only 3 points. Despite being down 10-3, having the ball at the Jets 30 yard line with 47 seconds left in the second quarter with two timeouts, Edwards had so little confidence in his quarterback that he ran out the clock.

Edwards even said in his post-game press conference, that the Jets "got some opportunities, we put 3 points on the board." He actually thinks a field goal a game is something to celebrate.

4. In the second half, the offense opened up and after a good start, Bollinger was awful. So we can expect Bollinger to be handcuffed next week and thereafter.

5. Also in his post-game press conference, Herm angrily said that he was satisfied with his players, because a player can only play up to his talent. In other words, he's using injuries as an excuse and saying that his team sucks.

With this attitude, the Jets may well go 2-14.

6.. I used to think that the trade of a high second round pick for WR Justin McCareins was a mistake, but that McCareins is still an okay number 2 wide receiver. Obviously, McCareins is dreadful. He's done nothing all season.

Sunday, November 13, 2005
Charedi Rabbis, Emunah Peshuta and Science

In a post last week, I wrote that when I was high school:

When an unfortunate history teacher made the mistake of mentioning that the universe was a lot more than 5750 years old, not only was he summoned to the principal's office, the principal wondered why more students in class didn't strongly object to such heresy.

The principal actually learned of the history teacher's remarks when "concerned" students informed him of them. His first public reaction was to ask who objected, and why most of the class sat silently instead of voicing their disapproval.

Then, the next day, while the teacher was teaching my class, a student came in to tell him that, "Rabbi _____ would like to speak with you."

The teacher looked ashen, as though he was resigned to being fired. He did not return to class that day.

The next day, we were surprised when the teacher came to teach our class. He cheerfully told us, "I had a very good conversation yesterday with Rabbi _____. He's a very smart person with a very good understanding of the world." He then started his class, and the matter never again came up.

I've always wondered what the principal told the history teacher. While it's speculative on my part, my sense has always been that the principal essentially told the teacher that he understood that the world was (or appeared to be) more than 5750 years old, but that Jewish tradition holds the world to be 5750 years old, and that while there were explanations reconciling the Jewish traditional belief with science, those explanations were too complicated to be offered to high school students and would lead to too many other questions, so the school felt its students were better off with their simplistic understanding.

It's hard for me to believe that even zealous right-wing charedim are unaware of rabbinical sources that deal with questions relating to science, including the age of the universe. More likely, they discourage contemporary analysis of this question because of concerns that those who delve into these kinds of issues will start questioning other challenging theological and existential issues too. Even if the end result is that those with questions generally find satisfactory answers and remain observant, many will not remain right-wing charedi.

That is generally deemed enough to strongly discourage anything that might lead to providing information beyond the simplistic emunah peshuta (simple faith) answers to complex issues.

Friday, November 11, 2005
One More Thing About Herm...

1. On a Fox Sports NY weekly show about the Jets and Giants, one of the commentators lavishly praised Herm Edwards for doing a great job. When someone else mentioned that the Jets are 2-6, the moronic talking head explained that coaching bad teams is especially difficult, and therefore Herm is actually doing his best coaching this season.

By that standard, Rich Kotite did some fine work in 1995 and 1996.

2. In today's Daily News, Edwards reveals that Curtis Martin sustained a serious knee injury in week 2 that should have kept Martin out for a couple of weeks. In other words, Martin should have missed weeks 3 and 4.

I guess that would explain why in week 3, backup running back Derrick Blaylock did not carry the ball until the 4th quarter (and only got three rushes then) and why in the week 4 loss to Baltimore, Blaylock only ran the ball twice.

Yep, Herm sure is doing some magnificent coaching.

Anyway, a good weekend to all. Can't wait for Sunday's Jets game. Will they get completely blown out, or lose a close one because Herm again forgets that the game has four quarters that are fifteen minutes each? Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 10, 2005
Amir Peretz

Disclaimer: I do not like Amir Peretz. The rabid socialist and long-time Histadrut leader was personally responsible for my missing my flight to Israel in September 2004 and almost having to cancel my trip entirely, when he ordered a general strike that shut down Ben Gurion Airport.

The victory of Amir Peretz over Shimon Peres in the Labor party primary is sure to shake up Israeli politics and radically change historic voting patterns.

Peretz's takeover of Labor will result in the end of the Likud-Labor national unity government, causing early elections in a few months, probably around March.

Peretz will be the first Labor leader in decades to seriously challenge Likud for the vote of traditional lower-class and working-class members of Israeli society, particularly Sephardim. Menachem Begin successfully portrayed Labor as headed by a bunch of rich, Ashkenazi secular elitists. Ehud Barak issued an apology to Sephardim for Labor's mistreatment of them when they were absorbed into Israel, with limited success at the polls. But Peretz, who is from a Moroccan background, will have instant credibility with many Sephardim, and with Likud now championing a free market economy with serious cuts in government benefits, his arguments likely will resonate with many who previously never would have dreamed of voting Labor.

Peretz's message will cause some longtime Likud supporters to shift their allegiance to Labor. Some Sephardim will still never vote for Labor under any circumstances, but Peretz's attacks on Likud will lead them to vote for Shas rather than Likud, which regained much Sephardi support in the 2003 election.

At the same time, Peretz's socialism - along with his moustache which makes him look like Stalin - will basically end any chance Labor has of gaining support from Russians.

Labor's main constituency - secular Ashkenazim who tend to be upper middle-class by Israeli standards - tend to support Likud's economic policies. Assuming that Ariel Sharon continues to head Likud, some may switch their allegiance to Likud, others will vote for the ultra-secular/pro-free market Shinui party, while those on the left will vote for Yachad/Meretz. If Sharon forms a new centrist party, it will be even easier for ex-Labor supporters to vote from Sharon's party.

The other interesting aspect of the Labor primary is the defeat of Peres, who had a large lead in all pre-election polls. Apparently, Peres' base was so sure he would win that they simply did not bother to vote. Peres' inability to win in elections is staggering. He has run for Prime Minister five times, led in the polls all five times, and never won. He even lost in a shocking upset in the Knesset's 2000 vote for President of Israel.

Peres will likely be back, though. He can't win an election, but always has a senior position in Israeli governance and politics.

Orthodox Judaism's Cultural Divide: Part II

On the individual level, there is often little difference between someone who identifies as a moderate charedi (I agree with the comment that "moderate charedi" is a term preferable to "left-wing charedi") and a person who identifies as right-wing modern Orthodox. Both likely have an advanced education, neither is likely to accept a maximalist construction of the concept of da'as Torah, both probably read a secular newspaper, have a TV in their home and go to some movies, both probably try to set aside some time for Torah study, etc.

In terms of their level of observance and their ideology, it's true that they may have come to where they are from different starting points. But ultimately, they really aren't much different on either a religious or a social level.

It's on the communal level that things become more complex.

Someone who is moderate charedi is much more likely to daven in a charedi shul led by a charedi rabbi, send his children to a charedi yeshiva, be an alum of a charedi yeshiva, and live in a mostly charedi neighborhood.

He may privately reject some or much of what goes on in the charedi world. He may find bans on books to be offensive, bans on things like certain wigs to be ridiculous, he may feel that the charedi rabbinical leadership has become too extreme, and that the shidduch system is crazy.

But that's private, something he'll discuss among his family and friends, but not in a completely public setting.

Because if you daven in a charedi shul, your rabbi is charedi, your kids are in charedi schools, your rosh yeshiva was charedi, and your neighbors are charedi too - and yet you are a moderate charedi, one of your goals is to get through life without getting into trouble for doing or saying the wrong thing.

Maybe you think that most young men should go to college and work for a living, instead of everyone studying Talmud in kollel for an indefinite period of time. Odds are, however, that one of your kids is a bit more to the right than you are. Your son might himself want to learn forever, or your daughter might - after returning home from her charedi seminary - want to marry a boy who will.

The last thing you are going to do is jeopardize your child's shidduch prospects by saying something negative about your community's stated ideals.

Nor do you want your neighbors or fellow shul congregants thinking that you're a rebel. That's not going to lead to anything good in your life.

There isn't much of a divide between public and private behavior in the charedi world. If you allow your private behavior to become public knowledge, you may have a problem.

Most moderate charedim would oppose and even sometimes privately ridicule bans on books, and all the decrees relating to how people should dress, whether the Internet is acceptable, etc. But they are not going to express themselves too loudly, because as they quite rationally see it, there is nothing for them to gain in doing so. Why offend your rabbi, your neighbor, or your old rosh yeshiva?

When I was a little kid, there was a guy in shul who wrote a scholarly book about Jesus. Guess what: There was a ruckus, at the end of which he was no longer welcome to daven in that shul.

Conformity - at least in public - is therefore essential in the charedi world.

I don't think the person who is right-wing modern Orthodox has to deal with any of these things. Sure, there's conformity in the MO world too, but a non-conformist who perhaps is a bit too "frum" is not going to get into any trouble. A little friendly ridicule at worst for being seen as a bit eccentric. And sure, there are kids from MO homes who "flip" and become charedi, but their right-wing MO parents are certainly not going to respond by changing their own lifestyle or practice. And if a MO shul's charedi rabbi has a problem with a congregant based on a religious issue, if the matter is not something easily resolveable and the congregant is an important community member, the rabbi may be at as much or more risk of being booted from the shul than the congregant.

The conformity is not only on the lay level. Many moderate charedi rabbis also believe the extremism of a few charedi rabbinical leaders has gone way too far. Most will say this privately. Some will say so publicly, in their shul. But very few are going to go out on a real limb and express their views for mass consumption. They know that if they would do so, they would be taking the risk of becoming the next Slifkin.

Indeed, in the case of Slifkin, even some charedi rabbis who are fairly close to him were quite hesitant in expressing their public support, and when they did, paid lip service to "the gedolim."

This leaves a vacuum in the charedi world, in which the zealots have a practical monopoly on the issuance of "kol korehs," and extremist proclamations are thereby taken as the standard charedi line for lack of any public expression of an alternative position.

That's one aspect of the cultural difference between the charedi and the non-charedi worlds. There is another. Living among other charedim, having gone to charedi yeshivas, sending your children to charedi schools, and going to a charedi shul with a charedi rabbi, you have been indoctrinated with charedi hashkafah (ideology). Even if as a moderate charedi your own private sentiments and practices differ somewhat from that hashkafah, going to charedi yeshivas your entire life will cause you to have certain instincts that may be at odds with the way you live your own life and even your own core beliefs and values. You've heard that Norman Lamm hates charedim, that Yeshiva University is no good, that women who want to study Torah care only about feminism, that modern Orthodoxy and college are at best to be tolerated but that neither is a fully legitimate alternative to being charedi, and that secular society and culture must be avoided as much as possible.

All of this has an effect. Taking the Slifkin ban again as an example, one of the criticisms of Slifkin was that his "tone" was offensive and disrespectful.

In July, Rabbi Slifkin was in New York and spoke at a number of venues. I attended one of his lectures, and left with great respect for his knowledge and his passion on the subject of science and Torah. I also left thinking that Slifkin would have to change his attitude if acceptance in the charedi world was what he wanted. He was too quick, it was clear to me, to dismiss arguments made by those he disagreed with, such as arguments by Gerald Schroder, as well as the Gosse Theory, that God created a world that appeared to be - but really wasn't - billions of years old. Too quick not necessarily in terms of whether he is right or wrong, but of appearing to be disrespectful to others, especially since he is but a mere 30 years old or so.

When I mentioned to another person who attended a Slifkin lecture that, for his own benefit, Slifkin should change his tone, that perhaps had no idea what I was talking about. Maybe Slifkin sounded a little dismissive, was the response, but what's wrong with him expressing his position? Obviously that will entail disagreeing with others, but isn't that all part of the debate? And what matter does it make how old he is, didn't you hear all the rabbinical sources that he cited?

Unlike me, who grew up in a charedi neighborhood and went mostly to charedi schools, that person's background is mainly right-wing MO. What I heard as likely being offensive to charedim sounds just fine to those in the MO world.

Someone who is right-wing MO has no clue what Slifkin did or said to offend anyone. Nothing wrong with his tone, and his hashkafah is fine too.

In contrast, the person still living in the charedi world will leave with the gnawing sense that perhaps Slifkin is wrong. After all, the notion of the world being billions of years old, is that really okay? It's not as though most people are really that interested or knowledgeable about science, so until Slifkin came along, they may never had any reason to give much thought to what they were taught (or not taught) about the age of the universe and evolution. And even if they're persuaded that Slifkin is probably not a heretic - the acceptance of which means that at least to some extent they are rejecting what they were taught and what their children are probably being taught as either too simplistic or as completely wrong - they will likely feel that just as they are extremely careful in what they say publicly to avoid getting into their own trouble, Slifkin should also be cautious in what he says if he wants to be accepted by charedi rabbis.

In charedi culture, privately rejecting hashkafah and privately living a life that is in some ways divergent with the charedi line probably won't get you into trouble. But once the perception is that you are trying to challenge the norms of that culture, you'll have a problem. And the result is that the many - probably a majority - of moderate charedi laypersons and of moderate charedi rabbis accept living in a world that they find stifling, thinking that there is nothing they can do to change the situation.

All this is something that a moderate charedi must contend with, but is hardly applicable to someone who is right-wing modern Orthodox.