Thursday, July 28, 2011

Yeshivah of Flatbush Adapts to Needs of Syrian Community

It is gratifying to know that some Syrian Jewish kids are getting the advantage of being educated in their own traditions, and that Ashkenazi kids are getting exposure to broader Jewish traditions.

As a Sephardi myself, I know that the Ashkenazi brothers and sisters don't mean to offend or discourage, but they are often quite ignorant of the fact that Judaism has a huge range of religious approaches and that one is not "less religious" just because he or she doesn't follow Ashkenazi minhag or adopt a particular set of chumrot.  

The tolerance and understanding of Ashkenazim is welcome and it is as badly needed for Sephardim in America as educational options.  Sephardim are often educated in Ashkenazi schools with administrators, rabbis, and teachers who are well-meaning, but ignorant of our traditions and customs.

A good example of this is when a well-meaning rabbi in primary school insisted to my sons that a "Sepharad" Siddur was Sephardic!  My children clearly knew the difference, but they didn't want to embarrass the rabbi; so they used the Siddur until my husband could gently explain the difference to the good-hearted rabbi who was trying so hard to accommodate them.

I am hoping that some other schools might think about what they are doing for their Sephardic (and Ashkenazi) students as well.  We are all one people, and we need to show respect and kindness to one another so that all may grow.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Social Scientists Discover Only 10% "Committed Minority" Required to Change Majority


These social scientists have discovered that when at least ten percent of the population of a social group are "a committed minority" (i.e. they are stubbornly in favor of something that the majority doesn't agree with), that the minority will serve as "agents of change" and will turn the majority to their way of thinking.

This makes a lot of sense, but it hasn't been tested in the "real world."  It has only been done through computer models.

I would think that ten percent would have to be pretty convincing to start turning over the majority opinion on some issue, but I am also thinking that in certain areas--such as political philosophy, religious devotion, nationalism, and loyalty to close friends, family, and business relationships--this concept would fall flat.  

I think that the more personally important those beliefs are, the less likely that you will change those beliefs when challenged.  

I think the model will end up being tweaked a bit, as it is my firm belief that there are some areas where people will not budge because we are culturally reinforced not to budge through stories of righteous people, martyrs, and refuseniks.

We are not entirely cattle, thank G-d, waiting to be lead in a particular direction.  There will always be those who do not change, will not change.  

For example, Jews have been flourishing since the time of Abraham and no matter what happened--expulsion, slavery, inquisitions, pogroms, laws against religion, Holocaust, socialism, assimilation--we are still here and we refuse to be anything but Jews.

However, in the case of less important matters--style, political choice, consumer choice, educational philosophy, etc.--I think this theory will hold up.

My hypothesis?  I believe the theory will come to read:  Ten percent committed minority will change majority views on issues the majority does not perceive as "personal core beliefs."  However, when the minority challenges the majority's perceived personal core beliefs, the majority with either hold fast to those beliefs or influence the minority, however committed, to adopt majority beliefs or remain silently neutral.

If you want to test your own hypothesis relating to this study, they are looking for social scientists willing to research historical models to test the theory.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Amy Winehouse to have Private Jewish Funeral Today


 It is nice to know that this exceptionally talented and equally troubled soul will find a resting place among her people.

May Hashm comfort her family, friends, and fans.  May her music continue in the hearts of all who heard her.

No parent of a 27-year-old should have to bury their child.
When one is faced with a child who has lost their way and needs help fast, too often the facilities are overcrowded, there are waiting lists, the care is sub-par, and only the most ill are admitted.  

This must stop.  We must be able to offer help when help is needed.  We need to research these problems in more depth, and we need to find a solution to the plague of alcohol and drugs.


Gourmet Food . . . Oh! . . .and it's Kosher too . . .


 I have never understood why we are willing to spend huge amounts of money on quality everything--and then eat in some dive with no atmosphere or poor quality food.  

Seriously, I cringe when I have to go out for dinner with my husband or friends.  I would prefer cooking myself--the quality is much better and I am not only aware of such exotic ingredients as salt, pepper, garlic, and onions (spices that seem beyond most kosher establishments), I am also proficient at using jalapeños, cinnamon, and even saffron!

It is good to know that Kosher is growing up, at least in New York and L.A. (although I have eaten in some pretty wonderful Kosher places in Miami too!  Why aren't they listed here?).

Now, can we work on those terrible containers at the Bar Mitzvahs and weddings--you know the containers . . . the ones that take a blow-torch to get open and make the food taste like plastic?  

Can someone please design a kosher food catering container that doesn't change the taste of the food? 

(It is the containers that make it the food taste that bad, right?)



Sunday, July 24, 2011

Scientist was Working on Detonators for Iranian Nuclear Program

An M-STAT detonator used in a nuclear warhead, this tamper-proof precision device imitates the chain reaction that causes a nuclear blast.


The most important part of this story is not the professional hit on Razaee-Nejad, it is the fact that Iran is so far along in their "peaceful" nuclear project, that they have begun building detonators.
I am praying that he didn't keep careful notes, and that there are few in Iran who can replace him.  

Unfortunately, I know that most Iranians are carefully educated, incredibly detail-oriented people.  It is a cultural characteristic left over from a civilization that created Chess.

I am sure there are many brilliant, well educated (probably American educated) Iranian scientists who will take over this work.  It is only the complete destruction of the nuclear program in Iran that will stop them.  

Stuxnex hasn't stopped them.  Elimination of their scientists hasn't stopped them.

Iran is obsessed with the idea of wielding enough power to destroy Israel.  After that, who knows who else is on their crazy list?  Saudi Arabia?  Europe?

They have the rockets, they are working on the nuclear payload, and they are developing the detonators.

So, what is Obama waiting for?  Why is BiBi sitting on his hands?  Where is the "peaceful" EU?  Can the UN do anything but exercise their gums?

This insanity needs to be brought to an end.


"May Leiby’s soul live on as a blessing inside each and every one of you."


 I have been away on vacation with my children, and while I was away, this horrible story took place.  I can't say how many prayers I said, how many prayers my family and friends said, all I can say is that our hearts went out to this family.

I kept thinking, "There but for the grace of G-d, go I."

Several family members called to make sure my children were well, to be assured that I was not letting them out of my sight, and to make sure that I gave them all a hug for them.

Although we couldn't save Leiby Kletzky, we all learned from him and from the strength of his family.
May Hashm bring the Kletzky family the strength to carry on each day.  May we all  keep these beautiful words in our hearts.

It is a beautiful thing for the Kletzky family to reach out to help others even as their own pain must be overwhelming. 

G-d bless them.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rabbi Yosef Arrested, Thousands Protest. Bibi makes speech saying "No one is Above the Law!" Really, Bibi? Really?


Strange that Bibi would say that "no one is above the law," even though there are numerous Imam's preaching hate and incitement in Israel every week, but they are very unlikely to be arrested.  

However, a rabbi who endorses a book about the halacha of war, who doesn't actually incite or preach violence, is arrested.  Hmmm.

I guess some people in Israel are just "more equal" than others?

Frankly, I'm really sick of the bias against Jews that Israel shows on a daily basis.  

Thousands of illegal arab structures are peppered all over Israel, but only the Jewish structures are raised.  Illegal mosques are built but never touched, but synagogues are raized.  

I think we would all be a little better about not laughing right in Bibi's face if what he was saying was actually true.  

It's not.

We know it.

Thousands march in J'lem in protest of Rabbi Yosef arrest   MKs Ben Ari and Katz address crowds; two Arab youths pepper sprayed by demonstrators; police try to disperse crowds using water cannons; Netanyahu on Rabbi Yosef detainment: "No one is above the law."

Over  a thousand haredi supporters of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef gathered outside his  house on Sunday, to protest his detainment by police earlier in the day. MKs Michael Ben Ari and Yaakov Katz both addressed the crowds.

Two Arab youths were sprayed with pepper spray by some of the demonstrators.

Many protesters also tried to march to the Shimon Hatsadik grave in east Jerusalem in order to pray.

Police arrested several people and tried to disperse the crowds using water cannons.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Rabbi Angel on Parasha Hukkat

Maintaining Purity and Integrity: Thoughts on Parashat Hukkat

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel 
The laws of the Red Heifer are considered to be among the inscrutable commandments of the Torah. The elaborate ritual was ordained for the purpose of purifying those who had become ritually unclean through contact with a dead body.

One of the strange features of this procedure was that while it purified the impure, it defiled all those who were connected with the preparation of the ashes and water of purification “It purifies the impure, and simultaneously defiles the pure.” How could the exact same ingredients lead to opposite results? I suggest a possible explanation.

Those engaged in purifying others might naturally come to think of themselves as being highly important individuals. The impure people must turn to them for help. Being in this position of spiritual power could easily lead the “purifiers” to aggrandize themselves, to subtly (or not so subtly) adopt feelings of superiority. To prevent this eventuality, the Torah declares that the purifiers must themselves be rendered impure. Thus, they will not develop an inflated sense of self-importance, because they will realize that they must become ritually defiled while they purify others. The process does not raise them above those they serve, but actually lowers their status of ritual purity.

The ancient Red Heifer ceremony relates to a deeply significant aspect of religious psychology. Its message continues to be relevant today.

Some years ago I attended a meeting of Orthodox rabbis to discuss policies relating to conversion to Judaism. One of the rabbis unabashedly proclaimed: “We have the power! We can demand prospective converts to do everything our way. We do not need to make any concessions because we have total control. They need us, we don’t need them. We have the power!”