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PaleoJudaica Assesses the British Academic Association Calls for Boycott of Israeli Academics

Dr. James R. Davila (please call me Jim), Lecturer in Early Jewish Studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland writing in his blog PaleoJudaica.com is much closer to the situation than I am. Here is his conslusion:

They don't care what damage they do to the international reputation of British academics as long as they can make their own political statements. I doubt that this will do any serious harm to Israeli academics, but it will make those in Britain the object of much ridicule, and I have to say they have it coming. The membership of NAFTHE should be ashamed of their leadership.

NAFTHE Leadership


Madonna: Jesus is Not Mad at Me

Quotes of the Day - Thursday, May. 25, 2006 - TIME: "Thursday, May. 25, 2006
“I don't think Jesus would be mad at me and the message I'm trying to send”
— Madonna On the controversy surrounding her new 'Confessions' tour, in which she hangs from a 'disco-fied' crucifix. "

Not exactly clear what message Madonna is trying to send here.


Executed for Wearing Tennis Shorts

Need we say more?

AP - Bergen Record:
In the Baghdad incident, gunmen stopped a car carrying the Sunni Arab coach and two Shiite players, asked them to step out and then shot them, said Manham Kubba secretary-general of the Iraqi Tennis Union.

Extremists had distributed leaflets in the mostly Sunni neighborhoods of Saidiyah and Ghazaliyah warning people not to wear shorts, police said.

'Wearing shorts by youth are prohibited because it violates the principles of Islamic religion when showing forbidden parts of the body. Also, women should wear the veil,' the leaflets said.


Jolie-Pitt Chooses Biblical Name for New Baby

Celebrity Gossip Blog: The Daily Blabber from iVillage Entertainment:

Baby Brangelina: It's a Girl! It's a genetically-blessed girl!

As expected, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's bundle of joy arrived today. Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt was born on May 27, at night, in Namibia.

According to iVillage's baby name finder, Shiloh is a boy's name and its religious association is Biblical. Another baby name source says it's of Hebrew origin, and its meaning is 'His gift.' Also possibly 'he who was sent.'
"It's religious association is Biblical (see Jos 18:1). It has religious backgrounds in Biblical."

College of the Future is Now

I've taught solely online for the past few years. This may be catching on... but very slowly............ because it is still news!

BBC NEWS England West Yorkshire Podcast lectures for uni students: Podcast lectures for uni students
A lecturer at a West Yorkshire university has abolished traditional lectures in favour of podcasts.

Benedict XVI is to visit the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz on Sunday

A million Jewish souls will be disturbed Sunday by the visit of a former member of the Hitler youth.

BBC NEWS World Europe Pope urges John Paul canonisation:

Pope Benedict XVI has said during a visit to Poland that he hopes to see his predecessor, John Paul II, shortly elevated to sainthood.

The Pope's comments came during a visit to John Paul II's home town of Wadowice on the latest stage of his Polish trip.
He later told hundreds of thousands of young people who had gathered to see him in the town of Krakow to remain true to the teachings of Jesus.

Benedict XVI is to visit the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz on Sunday.


Jewish Standard Covers Ethical Wills

Jewish Standard The Jewish Standard: Good will revival - The art of the ethical will By Jacob Berkman Published Today Arts & Leisure , Cover Story

The dim first floor of Manfred Anson's Bergenfield home looks something like a cluttered antique shop that is about to ship off half its stock.

The retired opal dealer's menorahs, Judaica, and other collectibles fill shelves and countertops and hang on walls, as if emerging from the landscape of boxes upon boxes overflowing with artifacts wrapped in old newspapers.

The Jewish Week Debunks Iran Yellow Star for Jews Story

Jewish and Israel News from New York - The Jewish Week:

Anatomy of a hoax: False story alleging special yellow insignia for Iranian Jews spurred by Wiesenthal Center's flawed confirmation. "

Naturally, the Iranian government says that their seven million neighbors have no right to exist. But they would never ask people to wear a yellow star. How could we be so foolish as to think that?

Yoel Bin Nun Reflects on the Capture of the Temple Mount

Finally: Common Sense About Converts

The Jerusalem Post calls for some common sense and dignity -- Stop obstructing converts: "In case the Rabbinate has not noticed, the Jews are a small and shrinking people. The need to protect against insincere impostors seeking to join, assuming it exists, is far outweighed by the need to welcome those who willingly desire to enjoy what Judaism offers their families and the world, and to share in the Jewish fate. The Rabbinate of the Jewish state should be at the forefront of facilitating the choice of Judaism, rather than adding to the already excessive layers of impediments."


Cover Story: Roth's Everyman Has Heart and Heart Disease

The Jewish Standard cover story by Jerry Karp this week deals with Philip Roth, Philip Roth: A writer’s journey - From ‘Portnoy’ to ‘Everyman’.

Roth has six books on the recent NY Times list, What Is the Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years? He's always been one of my favorites. Some quotes from the Karp story/review:

Roth has opened the trapdoor to the inner reaches of the experience in store for those of us blessed to live a long life: the fight against failing health and diminution of vitality, the campaign waged against death...

It’s clearly no coincidence that Roth has chosen heart disease for his everyman rather than a more ferociously debilitating and painful ordeal like, for example, cancer. For this protagonist, reinvigoration remains a tantalizing possibility, a hope pinned to each medical procedure, almost until the very end. The possibility of vigor retained through one’s 70s and beyond is tantalizingly dangled before him in the guise of his brother Howie, several years his elder but fit and robust right through to the novel’s climactic opening scene.


Rabbi Billy on How to Avoid Sex Scandals

There's been a lot of ink spilled this week over rabbinic sex scandals (e.g. Spiritual Renewal Leader Ousted For Sexual Behavior and On the Rabbi's Knee: Do the Orthodox Jews have a Catholic-priest problem?).

I continue to maintain that this is neither a particularly Jewish or Judaic issue. Where there are men and women, there will eventually be sex scandals.

How to avoid such unpleasantness, you ask? I've always thought the Rev. Billy Graham (as quoted in an interview published in Christianity Today, Vol. 32, No. 17, Nov. 18, 1988, pp.21-23) distilled the formula down to its essence.
Interviewer: What safeguards have you taken over the years to protect yourself and maintain personal spiritual purity?

Billy Graham: I decided there were three areas that Satan could attack in--pride, morals, and finances. Over the years I tried to set up safeguards against the dangers of each...

Concerning morals: I'm sure I've been tempted, especially in my younger years. But there has never been anything close to an incident. I took precautions. From the earliest days I've never had a meal alone with a woman other than Ruth, not even in a restaurant. I've never ridden in an automobile alone with a woman. Those kinds of precautions can lead to some misunderstandings. There was a time when Ruth thought I was too cold to women. But I always had this in the back of my mind. There is always the chance of misunderstanding.
Yes, I'd say the precautions themselves are how a man of the cloth will avoid the chance of any misunderstanding. This attitude sets the standard pretty high. But that's what morality is all about.


Screwed Up Slate Editor: Proud of Being a Blogging Ignoramous Bible Commentator

Slate blogs the Bible. By David Plotz: "Blogging the Bible What happens when an ignoramus reads the Good Book?"

Mr. Plotz, Slate's deputy editor, recently stumbled upon a Bible and opened to Genesis 34 where he found the truly bizarre tale of the rape of Dinah.

Simon and Levi Avenging the Rape of Dina by Andrew Aarons

And so he decided to read the Bible and blog about it on Slate.

Boy is this guy screwed up.


Who Cares About Yom Yerushalayim?

May 26th is Jerusalem Day, Yom Yerushalayim. It is the 39th anniversary of the unification of the city by the troops of the IDF.

IDF Troops on the Temple Mount

The question is who celebrates the festival? Not the secular Zionists. Millions of Israelis have never even visited Jerusalem. For secular Zionists there is no difference in sanctity between Afula and Jerusalem.

The Ultra-frum don't celebrate it. They reject the legitimacy of the State and of the IDF and would never recognize or celebrate the sovereignty of either.

That leaves the religious Zionists who do celebrate the day. They allegedly care. I say this with some hesitation because, for instance, the OU web site for this holiday is sorely out-of-date. It's got items from 2003 and 1998. One of those items, an essay by HaRav Eliezer Waldman, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivat Kiryat Arba, to me sounds like a mild political harangue - not a spiritual statement by any means.

Now it seems, as of May 4, 2006, that the State has prepared a new plan to redivide the city. So that further fogs this matter of celebrating a unified Jerusalem.

I guess then let's say it's a holiday for some Jews. But not for all Jews. Hag Sameach.


Yehoshua v. Sharansky - Zionism Without Judaism

Rebutting A. B. Yehoshua's recent speech at the conference of the American Jewish Committee, Natan Sharansky opines in Haaretz - Israel News: "Yehoshua's remarks about the relations between Israel and the Diaspora, as infuriating as they may be, disturb me less than the way he described his own identity: My identity is Israeli, he said. The Jewish religion does not play a role in my life; it is the territory and the language that build my identity. "

Sharansky does not cite a single Zionist writer. He does not cite a single Jewish theologian or philosopher.


Hillel Halkin Defended Yehoshua - Sorta - see Cat Among The Pigeons - May 9, 2006 - The New York Sun - NY News: "'In light of all the dangers to Israel that we have been talking about, don't you think it's a good idea that the Jews of the world, too, are divided into two camps, one of which is in the Diaspora?' To which I replied without thinking: 'You know, if, God forbid, Israel should some day be destroyed or go under, I couldn't care less about the Jews of the Diaspora or what happened to them.'"

Among the many intellectuals who serve as the underpinnings for Yehoshua is Professor Menahem Brinker: "Brinker's View of Jewishness draws upon common assumptions that were shared by late 19th-century Hebrew authors in Eastern Europe. He approaches the question of Jewish education in our time by exploring the application of these shared assumptions to present-day realities."

See here for a summary of Brinker's commentaries which are based on Ahad Ha-Am, Berdyczewski and Brenner.

You tell 'em A. B.!

Exploding Menorah Recalled

North Jersey Media Group!: The plastic menorah candleholder, designed to resemble a row of M&Ms brand candies, should not be used with lighted candles. If the candles burn all the way down, the plastic base could ignite, according to the recall statement.

Masterfoods USA has received five reports of the toy smoldering or igniting. No injuries or property damage were reported. Call Masterfoods at (800) 849-4867 for instructions.

The company will give a refund to consumers and cover the cost of mailing the item back.


Woman Ordained Orthodox Rabbi - Monopoly Broken

"Haviva Ner-David is an Orthodox feminist who has been a leader of some of the most prominent struggles in Jewish women's lives. Just before Pessah, she received her PhD in Jewish studies from Bar-Ilan University. And then, on the eve of Pessah, Ner-David was ordained as a rabbi in Jerusalem."

This is a great event. Put succinctly, I agree with Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, rabbi of Los Angeles Congregation B'nai David-Judea in Los Angeles. He recently wrote, "The stupidest thing the Orthodox community does now is not having women rabbis. It wastes intellectual and spiritual talent."

The frum Jews of Brooklyn are outraged. The Hir-hurim of Brooklyn blog mocks this valiant woman with a post entitled, "So-Called-Orthodox Woman Rabbi". And I thought that was one of the few blogs professing to, "promoting enlightened public policy and/or the refinement of character." I guess polity in blogging has its limits.

Bush Calls America a Nation of Prayer

Bush Calls us a Nation of Prayer as reported by Yahoo! News

'America is a nation of prayer. It's impossible to tell the story of our nation without telling the story of people who pray,' Bush said during a White House celebration of the National Day of Prayer.

'At decisive moments in our history and in quiet times around family tables, we are a people humbled and strengthened and blessed by prayer.'
What more can we add to this trenchant analysis? Oh, I guess we could say that America is a nation of eaters, sleepers, belchers.

Apparently there is plenty more to say about prayer. The "Presidential Prayer Team" site has a fancy Pray Now box with these suggestions, "Pray for President Bush as he continues to work with congressional leaders toward immigration reform...Pray also as he speaks to graduates of Oklahoma State University on Saturday, May 6...Pray for President Bush's new press secretary, Tony Snow, as he prepares to step up to the podium later this month..."

But wait. I am worried. Is this a precursor? Does the president intend to start a prayer war with our enemies in the Islamic world?

Mr. Bush, remember -- the one billion moslems of the world pray five-times-a-day.

I'll be writing more next week about the Nation of Prayer.