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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Nice Mention

Nice article in the Forward about the OU's decision to put up a piece disparaging working mothers on the front page of their site, which I criticized in this post last week. There's a nice little quote from my blog in the Forward article, and one from a comment on the post's comment thread:
The essay, which first appeared several years ago in the O.U.'s Jewish Action magazine, drew criticism from Orthodox bloggers on the Internet and from some Orthodox women who work.

"Um, is someone a bit defensive?" asked popular blogger Orthomom, a mother of four. "Laud yourself all you want. But when it comes to my life's choices... please shut up."

Others criticized the O.U.'s decision to post the article on its front page. One respondent on Orthomom's site said, "I don't think it's the place of the O.U. to put an editorial like that out there without it saying in big bold letters that it is an opinion piece and not the opinion of the institution, which supposedly represents all of us."
The writer also quotes Avraham:
"I'm not sure what message this is supposed to send all the married/child-rearing women who work at the O.U.," "Avraham" wrote on www.thebronsteins.com.
I wonder what Avraham did to get his actual web address published, though. But can't complain, I guess - she called me a "popular blogger"!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Metzitzah B'Peh

The Metzitzah B'Peh controversy has been roiling for months. For some background, go here, here, here, here, and here.

Now that you're caught up, read Krum's posting on Christopher Hitchen's breathless, hysterical, completely wrong take on the controversy.

Though I am personally not a proponent of the practice of Metzitzah, and it was not performed by the mohel at my sons' brisim, I am troubled by the call for government regulation of the practice. I cannot imagine that there are people who feel that an inconclusive study such as the one quoted by the opponents of the practice is enough to create a situation where the government should get involved in regulating a religious ritual. There are many problems with the study from Pediatrics that supposedly proves that Metzitzah bears a risk for the fatal transmission of the Herpes virus.

The study is based on the deaths from Herpes of eight children, who had been circumcised with Metzitzah within a short period before their deaths. Though these deaths are of course distressing, the article does not offer any conclusive evidence that the practice was the source of these infants' infection. In one case, the mother of the infant tested positive for the virus. In none of the cases were any of the other caregivers (fathers, nurses, doctors, babysitters) tested for the virus, even though the study clearly states that most cases of the virus are transmitted by caregivers, through non-genital contact.

In addition, the article has not tried to explain the fact that the practice of Metzitzah is performed tens of thousands of times a year, by mohels who must have a rate of infection close to that of the general population (up to 90%, by many estimates) and there has yet to be a show of sick or dead babies along the numbers which one would expect from such a "dangerous" practice.

The bottom line is, before we think about banning a religious practice that seems to have been performed safely for centuries, there needs to be more evidence than a poorly sourced, inconclusive, anecdotal study.
As Krum rightly points out:
But since when does our society ban anything based on a single study? Should we ban TV, burgers, sugared sodas, and trampolines because there is some evidence that it harms kids?
I think this needs more study before we call for the end of a practice. After all, there are many opponents of the rite of circumcision, who feel it to be a barbaric practice in itself. Should the government cave to their calls to "protect the innocent eight-day-old Jewish children being mutilated"? Which brings up another interesting point. The journal which published the study "proving" that Metzitzah is potentially fatal? It is put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has been staunchly against circumcision altogether for decades.

No bias there.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Who Knew?

My 8 -year-old came in to my room a while ago to ask me why God is allowing Hurricane Katrina to hit Louisiana if He promised Noach to never bring another flood on the Earth. I explained to her that God promised that he would never bring another flood on the whole Earth, but that a smaller flood like the one that Hurricane Katrina is being predicted to cause is not what God meant when He showed Noach the rainbow. She then asked me why God would want to bring even a small flood on us, and risk killing people. I told her we can't know why Hashem does what he does, but we can only daven (pray) that He spares the people living near the hurricane zone.

A little while later, I was perusing JRants, and realized that I gave my daughter an incorrect answer. According to both R' Lazer Brody, and Sultan Knish, the cause for the huge Category 5 hurricane that is bearing down on New Orleans is... the disengagement. That's right, folks, the pullout from the Gaza Strip that took place last week is the source of Hurricane Katrina. From R' Brody's blog:
Katrina is hitting just as the bulldozers are completing the destruction of Gush Katif. The Talmud teaches that Hashem administers the world according to the "ATFAT" principle, in other words, "a turn for a turn". My heart tells me that there's a link between the forced expulsion of 8500 people from their blood, sweat, and tear-soaked homes in Israeli Gaza and between the nearly 850,000 people who are forced to flee from their homes in Louisiana. Sharon, at the prodding of the American government, has destroyed hallowed centers of prayer, Torah learning, and settlement in the Land of Israel. Hashem isn't wasting much time in showing His wrath. In fact, Katrina has chosen Ms. Rice's home state as a target; I humbly believe that the unfortunate people of Louisiana can blame Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice for their misfortune. This is a classic ATFAT situation: He who creates exiles in the Holy Land, will have a hundred-fold exiles in his own land.
Don't forget to read the whole post for a particularly... creative Gematria.
Sultan Knish has a similar take:
What does a hurricane have to do with God or Gaza? Read on and you might see a strong connection.
Right now a category 5 hurricane is headed for the Gulf states. Is there a connection?
The "Sultan" goes through a list of historical events in which Jews have been oppressed, and ends with a history of the Mideast "Road Map". The final event he lists:
2005 The United States pressured Israel to follow the "road map" and give up the Gaza strip. This went into effect August 15, 2005.

...The U.S. has had economic trouble and seems to be on an upturn. However, I, just from the records above, say that the U.S. economy is headed for the pits. There will be blame thrown right and left and economic and political talk, but the Bible and history tell us the real reason.
May God have mercy on the U.S.
I think that we need to begin to see events on the world scene in a new light.
Its not really a new light: the hand of God in world affairs.
Now, excuse me, while I go clear things up with my daughter.

Hurricane Warning

How scary does this sound:









Let's hope and pray it doesn't get this bad.

Update: This is even scarier:
For years, forecasters have warned of the nightmare scenario a big storm could bring to New Orleans, a bowl of a city that's up to 10 feet below sea level in spots and dependent on a network of levees, canals and pumps to keep dry. It's built between the half-mile-wide Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, half the size of the state of Rhode Island.

Estimates have been made of tens of thousands of deaths from flooding that could overrun the levees and turn New Orleans into a 30-foot-deep toxic lake filled with chemicals and petroleum from refineries, and waste from ruined septic systems.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Yeshiva Students Stabbed

This tragic story is terribly sad:
A massive police manhunt was underway Thursday for an Arab man who stabbed 21-year-old British yeshiva student Shmuel Mat to death and seriously wounded a classmate with a large kitchen knife in a terror attack in Jerusalem's Old City.

...The two victims of the stabbing attack, who studied at the city's Mir Yeshiva, were rushed by Magen David Adom paramedics to Hadassah University Hospital at Ein Karem and Jerusalem's Sha'are Tzedek Hospital.

Mat died on the operating table in the intensive care unit of Hadassah Hospital just over an hour later, having never regained consciousness.

Mat came to Jerusalem from Britain to study about a year and a half ago. Rabbi Binyamin Carlebach, head of the Mir Yeshiva, related that he would get up every morning at 4:00 to study. He was engaged several months ago and was planning to marry in three months.
There's another facet to the story, though, that I found a bit upsetting as well:
Meanwhile, several hundred haredim damaged a private ambulance outside Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital at Ein Karem early Thursday, after thinking that police were planning on transferring Mat's body to a morgue for an autopsy, police said.

Police dispersed them from the area and arrested four suspects. Three policemen were injured in the incident.
Is there a halachik basis for damaging property and injuring people to prevent an autopsy from taking place? I'm not saying there isn't, though I'd be surprised.

Double Standard

Though all my regular readers are aware of how I deplore the use of Holocaust imagery in reference to the disengagement, I feel I must add a caveat to yesterday's post. Ze'ev, one of my readers, has pointed out that Shinui party chairman Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, a holocaust survivor himself, who has been quoted extensively as excoriating the settlers for using Holocaust imagery, has been quoted as using just those types of comparisons himself.
Lapid's words yesterday:
"It is very sad that people exploit the name of the Holocaust for political ends."
Lapid's words about a year ago:
In stark and emotional language, Deputy Prime Minister Yosef Lapid… told Israeli radio that the country risked further international condemnation if the army continued its campaign of pursuing Palestinian gunmen, demolishing homes and expelling civilians from the heart of the populous Rafah refugee camp.

"On TV I saw an old woman rummaging through the ruins of her house looking for her medication, and it reminded me of my grandmother who was thrown out of her house during the Shoah," (or Holocaust).
I guess he must mean that "it is very sad when people exploit the name of the Holocaust for political ends" that don't jibe with his politics. Otherwise it's okay.

Hat tip: Ze'ev

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Bit About My Day

Camp is out. Which means the kids are all home, all day, every day, until school starts after Labor Day. Anyone have any idea how hard it is to come up with activities that would equally please four different aged, different gendered kids? When the girls are clamoring for the American Girl Place, (I know - Yuck!) and the boys want to...well, do anything but?
Nearly impossible.
Any suggestions?

Two Sides to Every Story?

Much criticism has fallen on both the settlers and the Israeli government for the housing situation the settlers have found themselves in. The settlers, for not facing the reality of the pullout and negotiating their future housing with the proper agencies until soldiers were literally at their doors, ready to escort them and their belongings out of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government, for looking into housing possibilities for those displaced by the disengagement way too late, and when they finally did, much of it was woefully inadequate. Miriam and Sarah say it better than I ever could. This attitude of evenhanded criticism leveled at both sides seems to be the party line.
So I was surprised at one of the claims in this article from the NY Jewish Week that seems to refute the settlers' claim that they were not offered the option of keeping their communities together:
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reportedly told the Disengagement Cabinet Wednesday that despite media reports to the contrary, the government has offered to keep evacuated communities intact.
Another article in the same edition of the Jewish Week, though seems to completely contradict the claim that fair housing options have been provided to the evacuated settlers:
“Families are being divided and many do not have ample food and medical attention,” said Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Young Israel’s executive vice president, who has from the outset opposed the disengagement, wrote this week in a letter to Presidents Conference heads.

...Yesha Council spokeswoman Aliza Herbst insisted that apartments aren’t the answer.

“People want to maintain their communities and the government isn’t allowing it,” Herbst said. “We’ve come to believe that the government is attempting to weaken the communities by dissolving them.”
Sharon makes further claims in defense of the government in quotes from this article in the JPost:
"There are many untrue statements that the government is trying to break up these communities," Sharon told the Disengagement Cabinet referring to residents of evacuated settlements who wanted to be moved together.

"It needs to be unequivocally clear that the government turned to the residents and offered to keep their communities intact. We are very interested in this, and want it to be carried out," he said.
Of course, this is counter to the harshest claim the settlers and their representatives have made - that the government made no acommodations to keep disbanded communities together in their new housing locations.

Who is telling the truth here? Sharon, or the displaced settlers?

More Holocaust Comparisons

One might think the Holocaust imagery that has been so favored by some in the anti-disengagement camp, and so maligned by everyone else, especially many holocaust survivors, would slow down now that we are on the tail end of the Gaza pullout. One would be wrong. From Haaretz:
A organization opposed to the disengagement has announced plans to build a memorial center called "Yad Vashem for Gush Katif and the Northern Samaria," displaying photographs of soldiers and police who took part in the 'holocaust' of evacuations alongside documentation of the former settlements.
The plan drew sharp criticism from the Yad Vashem national memorial to the World War II Holocaust, and from survivors of the Nazi annihilation campaign.
...Shinui party chairman Yosef Lapid, a survivor of the World War II Nazi Holocaust, reacted with anger to the idea of the center, whose name recalls the national memorial to Hitler Germany's wartime destruction of the Jews.

"They are saying that the IDF is the SS, and [are equating] people that were moved from their homes to hotels to people in gas chambers," Lapid said.

"It is very sad that people exploit the name of the Holocaust for political ends."
I've said all I need to say about the topic of holocaust comparisons in this context. I still find it disgusting.


Shanna expanded very nicely on this post of mine from earlier today. Check it out.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


I'm so glad that the disengagement was so easy, at least Reuters says it was:
Israel shows moving settlements is not so hard
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - In a few long days, Israeli forces have buried any idea that giving up settlements on land Palestinians want for a state would be impossibly traumatic.
I'm so relieved to know that I was just misinterpreting the trauma that I thought I saw in all of the footage and reporting of the disengagement. Thanks to Reuters for clearing it all up.

Hat Tip Ettiquette

Krum put up a great post regarding the standards for "hat tips" in the blogosphere. It bears a visit. I think some people around here could probably use a review.

Some Choice Words for Working Mothers from the OU

This is a passage from an article on the front page of Orthodox Union's website about being a stay-at-home mother:
In the professional arena, there is constant kudos. For a mommy, however, while the inner sense of fulfillment is there, the pats on the back are less frequent. The confidence that a fulltime mother must foster within herself is profound. This is especially so when the world out there - even the Orthodox world out there - often shows little appreciation for, or understanding of, the immeasurable value of raising children.
Fair enough. I often remark that non-working, stay-at-home mothers have the hardest job out there. And what could be more noble than giving up a salary or any free time to spend every waking moment with one's children? Nothing. The rest of the article, however, is not as noble. Check out the air of judgementalism toward working mothers in the next paragraph:
How often do you hear someone say, "How do you do it all? You must be a superwoman!" This accolade is almost always offered to a mother who works outside of the home. "You cook dinner too?!" usually follows the remark. Let's shatter the myth. Superwoman is not "doing it all." Someone else is raising her children and if she walks in at 5:00 PM and starts cooking dinner, she's not tending to her children's need for deeper nourishment while rushing to get the chicken on the table.
Um, is someone a bit defensive? I have no problem with the author of the article asserting her place as a true "supermom", but to so nastily put down a working mother's worth? She goes even further in the next section, trying to bring proof that working mothers do so for their own selfish reasons, and not out of necessity:
In an article in U.S. News and World Report entitled "Lies Parents Tell Themselves About Why They Work" (May 12, 1997), sociologist Arlie Hochschild observed that among female employees "home had become a place filled with incessant demands from noisy children, endless piles of laundry, few tangible rewards and little time to relax. At work, in contrast, people felt in control and their hard work was appreciated by colleagues and supervisors." Hochschild concluded that the reason most women who work full time do so is not because they absolutely have to but "mostly for the same reason men do. Increasingly the identification between occupational success and self-worth is as strong for women as it is for men."
If when you claim that women work "mostly for the same reasons men do", you mean to be able to afford tuition and put food on the table, then call me guilty. Otherwise, laud yourself all you want. I actually will laud you for you selfless choice as well. But when it comes to my life's choices, and your opinion on the existence (or lack thereof) of "spiritual nourishment" in my childrens' lives, please shut up.
I simply cannot believe the OU let this go up on the front page of their website. Especially, as Avrohom points out (hattip), "I'm not sure what message this is supposed to send all the married/child-rearing women who work at the OU."

Sunday, August 21, 2005


A friend of mine asked me to watch three of her children today. I said yes. I now know why I do not have seven kids. Scrape me off the floor, please?

Terrorism, any way you slice it

Violence in northern Samaria ahead of the planned evacuation of Homesh and Sa-Nur later this week has taken a turn for the worse as eight masked far right activists assaulted an IDF truck laying barbed wire on a road leading toward the area.

They punctured its tires and then poured petrol over it and set it alight. The driver, who believed they were Arabs, leaped out and cocked his weapon at the youth. They shouted not to shoot because they were Israelis and then fled. The driver was unharmed, but the truck was completely gutted.
Is it just me, or did these "far right activists" give up their right to be treated any differently than the "Arab" terrorists they were mistaken for the very moment they set out on a mission to torch a truck with a soldier still in it? A terrorist is a terrorist. I'm not sure how to look at this any other way. They were lucky the driver didn't shoot them.


I know this isn't new news, but as more and more details come out about the Menezes shooting in the wake of the London terrorist attacks, I am more and more bewildered by the senseless nature of his death. When information originally came out that the victim was wearing a bulky coat in the middle of the summer, ran from the officers calling for him to stop, and jumped the turnstile, I was willing to accept that, though tragic, this death was an accident that could not be prevented.
Now, however, as we get more information on what actually happened, it is becoming clear that the story did not unfold exactly as news reports originally claimed.
It has now emerged that Mr de Menezes:

· was never properly identified because a police officer was relieving himself at the very moment he was leaving his home;

· was unaware he was being followed;

· was not wearing a heavy padded jacket or belt as reports at the time suggested;

· never ran from the police;

· and did not jump the ticket barrier.

But the revelation that will prove most uncomfortable for Scotland Yard was that the 27-year-old electrician had already been restrained by a surveillance officer before being shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder.
I'm not saying that the the possibility of getting mistakenly shot looms quite as large in my mind as the possibility of another terrorist attack on mass transit does, but then again, I'm not a foreign, dark-skinned male. So what do I know?

Friday, August 19, 2005


Get this:
Major changes for airline passenger screening protocols could be taking off soon.
The Transportation Security Administration is proposing to lift the ban of carrying razor blades, small knives and scissors. The idea is to reduce the long lines passengers face at checkpoints.
The TSA proposal would also allow things like ice picks, throwing stars and bows and arrows on board. A risk evaluation showed those things wouldn’t be dangerous on a flight.
This brings up two points.

First of all,I am quite sure that most passengers would be happy to continue giving up a few extra minutes each to be screened for these weapons in exchange for the peace of mind that comes with knowing all of your fellow passengers have been similarly screened.

Second, what use could an airline passenger possibly have for an ice pick inflight? Throwing stars? A bow and arrow?
And the fact that a "risk evaluation showed these things wouldn't be dangerous on a flight"? Hello? 9/11? And if that doesn't convince you of the danger items like ice picks can cause, who can forget "Basic Instinct"?

I Couldn't Let This Sit

In my last post, I wrote a bit about the pain I am feeling for the Israeli soldiers that are evacuating the remaining settlers. I got a few comments on that post that either implied, or said straight out, that the soldiers should be disobeying their orders to evacuate Jewish settlers from their homes. Here's one comment that claims the soldiers are behaving badly:
The soldiers that came into people's houses and through them out deserve everything coming at them...You want a solider? Today in Kfar Darom, a soldier broke down and told his officer that he couldn't drag people out of a shul. The soldier (who saved his soul) was grabbed by 6 policemen and dragged away and arrested.
And the worst offender in the post's comments:
but i can't stop thinking what would happen if the army took B.Bs lead and just walk away or refuse to carry out the orders, are you going to court marshal a whole country??[sic]
I though this was worth a response.
First of all, these soldiers are doing a beautiful job. Any and all footage that has aired has shown these soldiers to be executing their orders in the most sensitive possible manner.
Second of all, to those who have expectations that these soldiers should be rejecting and refusing their orders - you couldn't be more wrong. Agree with the evacuation orders or not, without the military chain of command intact, the military ceases to become effective.
"It's not an issue of religion," reserve Maj. Gen. Yakov Amidror said. "If we accept the right of an enlisted individual to choose his missions as he sees fit … the entire system will fall apart."
Without a working military, these very settlers, many in the West Bank, that are calling on soldiers to disobey orders risk giving up the very military protection that allows them to survive repeated terrorism attempts by their Palestinian neighbors. And that is a very dangerous game to play.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


As I watch the footage from Neve Dekalim in real time, tears stream down my face. For everyone. For these settlers, who are clearly full of so much pain at having to evacuate their lives. But I have cried many tears for the people being evacuated. Today most of my pain is for the soldiers. Many of these chayalim are teens themselves. And here they are, gently removing one protester at a time from the human chains, gingerly detangling the tallis one was wearing so that it could be reunited with its owner, all while listening to chants of "Lo Megaresh Yehudi Yehudi!" (a Jew does not expel a Jew). In any other place and time, the law enforcement would be breaking out the batons, the tear gas canisters. In what other country could a protester push a policeman, or attempt to pull off parts of their uniforms, as is occuring here, without getting beaten, or at the very least, arrested? In what other country would every law enforcement official who walks in to evacuate protesters engaged in civil disobedience be completely unarmed? I'm crying for the soldiers' tears that will probably come later.

Mi Keamcha Yisrael?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

More Disengagement Thoughts

While watching footage of the violent protest which some of those being evacuated are resorting to distresses me greatly, I am not willing to roundly condemn those who feel they cannot give up their homes without fight. I figure my feelings about which methods these settlers are entitled to use is colored by my sympathy for their plight. I can't think of any other reason for my lack of knee-jerk outrage for the violent resistance some are feeling compelled to use. I guess that's the same argument people have been using to defend Cindy Sheehan for behaving as badly as she has been. it's hard to criticize the behavior of someone who is obviously as grief-stricken as Sheehan must be, even if some of her words would be nothing short of inexcusable under other circumstances. The sympathy vote always gives people more leeway then they would have been entitled to otherwise.

Just a fact of life and human nature, I guess.

Update: please don't misconstrue this post to mean the terrible violence that has erupted today. I was referring to the mild violence that had been occuring up until that line was crossed today.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

More Lawrence School Board Idiocy

I find it hard to believe that anyone takes this argument seriously. Isn't it clear to anyone reading this that the Lawrence public school system is taking the same share of the school tax pie per Private school student as they do per Public school student, while spending far less on educating the Private school students? I'm not sure how busing the Private school students can possibly cost anywhere near as much as giving them a full education would. This is just bunk. Anyone saying otherwise is simply either anti-Orthodox, a complete idiot, or completely disengenuous. You choose one.

All Mixed Up

I find it difficult to put everything I've been feeling about the disengagement down here. My thoughts have been so mixed and jumbled that it has certainly been easier to remain silent. But I thought I'd give sharing them a shot.

Though I have never been convinced that a unilateral disengagement is the best solution for Mideast peace, once the decision was made to go ahead with the plan, as a citizen of democracy, I feel that one has an obligation to submit to the rule of majority.

Let me be clear. I don't intend to be one of those living in my own little American bubble, while calling for those being forcibly evacuated from their homes to do so gallantly. There seems to be no dearth of those in the blogosphere. But that is not for me. I feel I have no right, from my perch here, to call upon these settlers to submit peacefully. I will say that I wish, for the safety of all involved, that they would agree to protest in a restrained, nonviolent manner. I would also like to note, that when I say I feel "those being forcibly evacuated from their homes" have the right to protest, I mean to exclude those not in that specific category, such as Dov Hikind, for a particularly relevant example.

What I am truly distraught over, though, is the thought that children not much older than my oldest are are being allowed by the adults responsible for their well-being, to move out of their homes and protest the disengagement in any manner they feel like. We've all heard about the young teen protesters who languished in jail, unclaimed by their parents. We've all seen the footage of youngsters blocking roads, and camped out in the Strip.

As a mother, I just cannot understand feeling as strongly about any of my political views as I do about the welfare of my children.

I hope and pray that the pullout comes off safely for all, and that we gain more from it than we are losing.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Orange: Take III

Boris Fishman writes a great piece for the Boston Globe about the color orange and its appropriation by the anti-disengagement camp. He put in a cute little quote from yours truly:
''I've pretty much stopped wearing orange," said the Orthodox Jewish blogger OrthoMom, who lives in the Five Towns area of Long Island and said she wished to remain anonymous. Members of her predominantly anti-disengagement community had misconstrued her intentions so often, and, when disabused, reacted with such disappointment, she said, that she has decided to shelve her orange outfits until the fall.
All true.
Related: I, II, III, IV

Sick Story

A 33-year-old Queens man was shot in the chest by a robber while walking with his young son yesterday morning, the authorities said.

Mr. Frishman was walking with his son, who is 7, through a playground near Hicksville Road in Far Rockaway about 8:30 a.m. when a man approached them and demanded money, according to investigators and neighbors. After Mr. Frishman protested that he was not carrying any, the robber shot him once in the chest, with what investigators described as a small-caliber firearm.

A neighbor said that Mr. Frishman and his son, who was not injured, were headed to a nearby synagogue.
We know of this guy. He works in the local camp, his wife teaches in a local school.
What kind of animal shoots someone in front of his young child?
Let's just say this got me pretty rattled up over Tisha B'Av.
Thank God, the father seems to be doing well after surgery, though doctors were unable to remove the bullet and need at least one additional round of surgery to do so.
No word on how the 7-year-old is doing emotionally. I'm sure this is going to be quite difficult for him to get past.
Here is an article that quotes the 7-year-old boy extensively.

Update (Corrected): Don't know how I managed to leave this out, but the man's name is Eliahu ben Hinda Rachel. (Thanks, Mar Gavriel, for pointing out the omission.)

Friday, August 12, 2005


Good Shabbos to all, and an easy and meaningful fast. And may we all be zoche (meritorious) to no longer have to fast next Tisha B'Av.

More NY Jewish Week

I'm not sure how I missed this, but Michael over at the Slippery Slope points out yet more evidence of the Jewish Week's high journalistic standards:
Quote of the day

“Publishing a story like this without having the document is beneath the professional and ethical standards of The Jewish Week.”

-Patrick Dorton, an AIPAC spokesman, regarding a NYJWeek story detailing how the now-indicted ex-AIPAC staffer, Steve Rosen, had access to classified documents (and told his superiors about it) as far back as twenty two years ago.

But, of course, Mr. Dorton is completely wrong. Publishing a story about a document the writer has never actually seen is right on par for the JWeek.

Thanks, Michael. Couldn't have said it better myself.
Related: I, II, III, IV

Playing With Fire

I was waiting for this sort of thing:
Some 25 armed settlers marched Friday through Palestinian villages in the West Bank in an attempt to reach the settlements of Sa-Nur and Homesh, both of which are slated for evacuation within the framework of the disengagement plan.

The armed individuals set out from the settlement of Einav, located east of Tul Karm, and passed through Palestinian villages located in territories designated Area A, under full Palestinian Authority security control. The Israel Defense Forces forbids the entry of Israeli civilians into Area A.
... It thus appears the armed settlers were attempting to provoke a reaction by marching through the Palestinian villages.

I am the first person to support the right of these settlers to protest a government action that they find unjust - in this case the disengagement. Though I still hold out hope that the disengagement will get us somewhere on the road to peace, I have no problem with those who oppose the pullout making their views public. I'm not even willing to say that I am against their right to protest with a bit of civil disobedience. But this is too much. This apparent attempted provocation can only be construed as having one goal - to goad the Palestinians into doing something that will possibly derail the planned disengagement. And I think these settlers are playing with fire.

Terrorism Chic

Check out this article on terrorism chic in Hollywood. It' s a shrill but interesting take on the types of new movies that are in the pipeline:
Slow to awaken after the 9/11 attacks, Hollywood has finally come around to contributing what it can in the War on Terror: namely, glossy, star-studded movies that sympathize with the enemy. Its appetite whetted by "Fahrenheit 9/11"'s $222 million worldwide gross, Hollywood thinks it's found a formula for both financial security and critical plaudits: noxious anti-American storylines, bathed in the warm glow of star power.
Here are some examples:
- "Munich." Steven Spielberg directs this film about the aftermath of the 1972 Olympic terror attacks that killed eleven Israeli athletes. "Munich"'s screenplay is written by playwrite Tony Kushner ("Angels in America"), who has been quoted as saying: "I think the founding of the state of Israel was for the Jewish people a historical, moral, political calamity ... I wish modern Israel hadn't been born." The film focuses on the crisis of conscience undergone by Israeli commandos tasked with killing PLO terrorists - rather than on the barbarity of the terrorists themselves.

- "V For Vendetta." From Warner Brothers and the creators of "The Matrix" comes this film about a futuristic Great Britain that's become a 'fascist state.' A masked 'freedom fighter' named V uses terror tactics (including bombing the London Underground) to undermine the government - leading to a climax in which the British Parliament is blown up. Natalie Portman stars as a skinhead who turns to 'the revolution' after doing time as a Guantanamo-style prisoner.

- "Jarhead." This Universal release, starring Jamie Foxx and Jake Gyllenhaal, deals with the 'dehumanization' of Marine trainees prior to and during the 1991 Gulf War. Based on Andrew [sic - name is Anthony] Swofford's notorious and questionable memoirs of the same name.

- "Terminus." Set in the Middle East of the future, this Warner Brothers film depicts a 'disillusioned' war correspondent covering an 'insurgency' he decides he must support. The producer, Basil Iwanyk, says: "It deals head on with what some call insurgency, what some call guerilla warfare and what some call freedom fighting."
Read the article for many more examples of these types of films that are in the pipeline. The article ends on a bit of a hysterical conservative note, but the point is well-made. Obviously, producing films with these kinds of sympathies is in vogue.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What Will They Ban Next?

So according to this article, New York wants to prohibit menu items containing trans fats as an ingredient.
New York City wants restaurants to narrow their list of ingredients - and maybe some waistlines - by cutting out trans fats. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said the voluntary change could also help fight the city's biggest killer, heart disease.

To comply, chefs would have to dump many margarines and frying oils, and possibly reworking long-held recipes for baked goods.
Something about this really bothers me. I understand the New York ban on smoking in restaurants - secondhand smoke kills innocent bystanders as well. But making margarine illegal? I think that's a bit ridiculous. Adults should be able to have the choice to order french pastries or fried chicken at a restaurant, even if doing it too often might affect their health. Next they're going to ban the serving of red meat. Or maybe make restaurant patrons sign a waiver that they promise not to go swimming for an hour after their meal.

The Law or a Loophole?

A friend of mine invited me over to her house last night. Her husband was making a siyum, (celebrating the completion of a Talmudic tractate) and therefore, due to the happy occasion, the restriction on eating meat during the Nine Days the days was lifted for all present at the meal. We all enjoyed a great barbeque, with steaks , burgers, chicken, and more. At first glance, this probably seems like a sham. Doesn't using this "loophole" of a siyum to avoid the restriction on meat and wine seem like a betrayal of the spirit of the Jewish Law, if not the letter of it?

First, let's go into the definition of the word "loophole". When shrewd accountants and attorneys use legal "loopholes" to get their high-paying clients major tax breaks, the government can do nothing about this circumvention of the spirit of the tax law. In reality, though, these deductions were created by the lawmakers precisely to be used, as a means to stimulate economy. It is only the perversion of these laws that create the negative connotations that have dogged the word "loophole".

Jewish Law directs us how to behave. If halacha tells us that a celebration in honor of finishing a tractate of talmud is a time of simcha (joy) that supercedes the mourning practices of the Nine Days, then so be it. Assuming that the timing of the siyum falls during the Nine Days, and hasn't been rushed or pushed back in order to specifically enjoy a meat meal, it is a happy occasion that emphasizes the positive commandments, even during a time of sadness. Just because halacha at times seems to us to follow God's "intent" - abstaining from meat and wine to mourn the destruction of the Nine Days - does not mean that we can try to understand God's "intent" when halacha is interpreted to allow such "loopholes". One of the ways to understand God's "intent" is to actually follow the letter of the law.

There is a story brought down in The Rav's "Halakhic Man" about the Vilna Gaon, that is very illustrative of this concept. The Gaon learned of the death of his brother on Shabbos. Even though he was obviously going through a tremendous personal loss, he did not allow himself to show any outward sign of grief, as it is forbidden to show any signs of aveilut (mourning) on Shabbos. After Havdalah, however, he burst into tears. Was his enjoyment of Shabbos a "loophole" that allowed him to ignore his obligations as an avel (mourner)? No. His enjoyment of Shabbos was a positive commandment that superceded any outward signs of grief.

So if you have a siyum to attend during the Nine Days, enjoy eating that meat. I know I did.

20,000 Visits

My friend Krum pointed out that my sitemeter had crept up to 20,000 visits while I was sleeping. Not that bad for five months, at least by my standards. So everyone, let's celebrate with wine and steaks over at my place! Oh yeah, the nine days. In that case, come on over for cheese sandwiches and chocolate milk. See ya.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Just when I thought that we'd reached the pinnacle of tasteless video games with Grand Theft Auto, I read about this:
Disengagement - the computer game
Internet games whose subject is disengagement have become a hot item on the Internet.

The "disengagement game" on the Nana Website puts the player into Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's shoes. Sharon, sitting in a bulldozer, has to remove orange-clad children protesting the pullout. Behind him, dozens of cars are waiting to pass. The prime minister has to run into a protesting child with the bulldozer's shovel. Every child caught becomes part of a kind of sticky mass, and Sharon has to move as many of them as possible to the roadside, where a police car will pick them up. Sound effects are a bizarre evil laugh of the horror-movie genre.
Pretty insensitive. And those most affected by the disengagement are not amused:
The Yesha Council of settlements said in response, "It is shocking that the suffering of the Gush Katif residents can become a source of amusement for political rivals. It is shameful."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


So the NY Times apparently started this, but there's been further talk in the liberal blogosphere about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts's adopted children. The speculation as to why and where from the Robertses adopted their children is way over the line of decency, in my opinion. Especially this line from Atrios:
But, there's certainly something weird, and by weird I don't necessarily mean "unethical" or "illegal," about Irish-born kids being adopted in Latin America by an American couple.
Well, we're sorry this tweaked your "weirdness radar". There's a good answer for why the adoption would not be in the least bit weird, unethical, or illegal here. How about we focus on Judge Roberts's suitability for the job he was nominated, and leave him his privacy in regards to his children. And how about you guys all step away from the adoption records.
Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Mazel Tov!

Apparently, the woman whose Agunah case I wrote about here, has been granted a get! More over at Bloghd. May she be the first of many agunot who are able to secure their freedom, only hopefully in a much more timely fashion.

Get in the Ring

Today's article in the NY Times about a Hillary - Jeanine Pirro match-up has a quote I find amusing:
Ms. Pirro also settled on the Senate race only after concluding that the legal problems of her husband, Albert J. Pirro Jr., would not derail her; he was convicted of income tax fraud in 2000 and spent 11 months in prison in a case that involved tax returns that Ms. Pirro signed. Democrats have suggested that the Pirros' finances could be fair game, raising the possibility that the two candidates' husbands could become proxy issues in the political warfare. Yet Ms. Pirro's advisers also believe that in a Senate race, the candidates' husband issues could cancel each other out.
So maybe if we compared these "husband issues", we could see if they really "cancel each other out":

Bill Clinton: A two-term president who won handily, widely considered to be the most popular Democrat in the party. His approval ratings jumped up 10% to 73% after he was impeached in 1998, and his recent approval ratings remain high. He commands anywhere from $125,000 to $250,000 for public speaking engagements.

Albert J. Pirro Jr.: Tried and convicted in 200 for income tax fraud, spent 11 months in prison. Widely rumored to have ties to organized-crime figures.

These disparate "husband issues", coupled with Clinton's high approval ratings, might put a slight kink in Pirro's plans. I don't personally think she has a chance. Then again, in politics, things can turn on a dime., so let's wait and see.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Bad Sign

I still have hope for good results from the disengagement, but this doesn't help.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Monday suspended all its field operations in the Gaza Strip in protest of the deterioration in security.

The ICRC closed its offices in Khan Yunis indefinitely Monday, after gunmen fired dozens of bullets at them. A number of United Nations aid people have been abducted in the Gaza Strip in recent days.

The ICRC said "the ICRC is profoundly worried by the attack on its offices and the kidnapping of workers of international organizations in the Gaza Strip."
...The series of abductions and the shooting at ICRC offices cast doubt over the Palestinian Authority's ability to handle the security problems in the Gaza Strip, enforce quiet during the pullout and prevent chaos afterward.
We knew things were bad, that they are this bad can't be a good sign.

Bibi's Resignation

This has been covered already my many bloggers and MSM sources, but just a few thoughts on Bibi's resignation. I support his right to quit a government that he feels he cannot see eye to eye with. I don't like his timing, though. His leaving now strikes a blow to the government on the eve of the pullout. In addition, his evacuating his post as finance minister before he completed many of the reforms he began to institute can't possibly be healthy for Israel's economy. If he did this because his convictions prevent him from serving on a government that is so at odds with his views, why did he wait until now?
It was clear that this cabinet vote was not going to derail the disengagement. The vote was strongly in favor of going ahead with it. Bibi's claim that he waited until the results of this vote ring somewhat hollow. Some are saying that he left yesterday to avoid getting lambasted for the disastrous poverty report published today by the National Insurance Institution of Israel showing huge increases in poverty rates since Netanyahu has been in office.
It's also hard not to view this action as the move of an opportunist. Leaving the government right before the disengagement can only help his political chances of getting right-wing support in any election that follows the pullout.
I find it difficult not to view his exit as abandonment.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

This Explains Everything

Men do have trouble hearing women, scientists find
Men who are accused of never listening by women now have an excuse -- women's voices are more difficult for men to listen to than other men's, a report said.

The Daily Mail, quoting findings published in the specialist magazine NeuroImage, said researchers at Sheffield university in northern England discovered startling differences in the way the brain responds to male and female sounds.

Men deciphered female voices using the auditory part of the brain that processes music, while male voices engaged a simpler mechanism, it said.

Am I still allowed to be annoyed at OrthoDad when he doesn't register a word I say? I always tell him I feel like I'm the teacher from Charlie Brown when I talk to him. Remember her? Just the sound of a trombone with no understandable words? Now I'm not sure how off that really is...

hat tip: Jack

Autism/Vaccine Update

I've written here and here about the claims by some groups that thimerosal, a preservative contained in many childhood vaccines, might have a correlation to autism and related disorders. There was segment on today's Meet the Press regarding this debate. The transcript is here (scroll down to the middle). I personally find Dr. Fineberg, who defends the safety of childhood vacinations, to be more convincing - but I had already formed an opinion before watching this. Tim Russert, the moderator, makes a very interesting point:
Since thimerosal is now out of the vaccine, latest as of 2003, we will know in a few years whether or not there is a connection...
I'm sure that is cold comfort for those whose kids have been and will continue to be diagnosed with these disorders in the future, but it will be interesting to see if the rates drop as precipitously as the claims from those in the anti-thimerosal camp would suggest.

A Simple Case of Racism?

Interesting piece in the Haaretz weekend magazine about the Yeshiva community of Lakewood, New Jersey. The article starts off by calling Lakewood the "new epicenter of ultra-Orthodox life in the United States", and noting that it is "the largest yeshiva in the world today". Good description of the Lakewood style of learning, or the "habura paradigm", as it is put:
The great majority of the world's yeshivas concentrate on a handful of tractates known as "the Yeshivishe mesechtas" that raise theoretical issues around which much of the Lithuanian style of Talmud study revolves, but Lakewood has moved well beyond this model. At any one time, just about every section of the Talmud and Codes is being intensely studied by one of the 173 haburas operating in Lakewood.

The habura paradigm is a product of the decentralization of authority, at least within the confines of Talmud study, that is one of the signature marks of the Lakewood revolution.
The article also makes mention of two recent issues that have come up in the community. One is the recent banning of books by the Yeshiva leadership. The article makes mention of three such recent incidents, most notably, of course, the banning of books written by the "Zoo Rabbi", Rabbi Nosson Slifkin, whose plight has become a bit of a blogosphere cause celebre. (Most notably here and here).
The other issue mentioned, and one that is a very real one in Orthodox communities the world over, is the increase of teens "at risk", or in rebellion from the strict upbringing that is the norm in Lakewood. Apparently, more Lakewood teens are turning to drugs and alcohol than ever before. The article outlines a few attempts some in the community have made in dealing with the problem, such as:
The Minyan, a gathering place for marginal Lakewood teenagers where they can come to pray, hear a Torah class, or hang out - even if they are wearing jeans and have a tattoo on their forearm.
But these attempts at helping such disaffected youths seem few and far between. What bothers me most is the fact that the prevailing attitute in Lakewood seems to be how to prevent the "good kids" from being affected by the "bad kids" instead of looking for preventative measures or more programs to deal with those already affected teens. One line of the article I found particularly troubling was this:
The answer for many of the schools has been to become even more selective. Dozens of prospective high school students, boys and girls, have been left stranded, without a school this year, and even gentile real estate agents have begun warning house-hunters that they'd better line up a school for their children before they buy in the community. And some of the prejudices that have haunted the Israeli Haredi world are finally hitting Lakewood - one prominent high school for girls which for years admitted students of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) origin has now changed its policy and announced it will admit only Ashkenazim.
What??? Can someone enlighten me as to why barring Sefardi students from Lakewood Yeshivas will in any way prevent troubled teens from straying? I live in a neighborhood that has more than its fair share of "wayward teens", and I can tell you that they are not limited by any stretch to coming from families of one descent or another. Can anyone shed some light on this policy, both the veracity of its existence and the line of reasoning that led its creation?

Friday, August 05, 2005


Apparently, some feel that there was not enough condemnation from our community in the wake of yesterday's terrorist attack by an Israeli, who shot and killed 4 Israeli arabs on a bus, and wounded many more. As posted on Treppenwitz:
In the past I have posted about the need for people to speak out loudly and denounce acts of Jewish extremism, but on a quick tour around the Internet and the blogosphere this morning I see precious little of this.
So lest there be any ambiguity about what my feelings are regarding this horrible attack, let me make it very clear that I am aghast and appalled. The dead include two young women and the driver of the bus.
Among the victims were two young sisters, Hazar and Dina Turki, 23 and 21-years-old respectively, and the driver of the bus, Michel Bahous, 56. Nadir Hayak, 55, a passenger on the bus, was killed as well.
The shooter also directed his fire outside the bus, and casualties included pedestrians and bystanders.
This was simply an act of terror. There is no other way to look at it.
This was a killing motivated by the killer's political views.
In the words of his aunt:
She characterized her nephew as a "wonderful boy." She said he was against disengagement. "What can you do, he was against disengagement?"
A bit too reminiscent of the justifications provided by relatives of Palestinian suicide bombers for my tastes.

We need to do better.

Another Erev Shabbos Rant

Lucky me. I know I ranted last week about having to shop and cook for Shabbos. So imagine how delighted I should be to have gotten an invitation to go away for the weekend. Unfortunately, the ingrate that is OrthoMom is sitting here, looking a gift horse in the mouth. Am I rejoicing the fact that I don't have to walk the aisles of a crowded supermarket, fighting with other women and their screaming spawn for the last whole wheat everything pull-apart challah? (Thank you, Five Towns, for creating a market for this one of a plethora of gourmet challah choices). Not to mention waiting for the occasional man who is blocking the aisle with his cart, while he tries to decipher a shopping list with a lost look on his face that makes me want to call an "Amber Alert".
Am I thanking my lucky stars for the fact that I do not have to spend hours in a hot kitchen peeling potatoes, cleaning chickens, boiling noodles, checking egg after egg for blood spots?
Not I.
Instead, the Procrastination Queen is sitting here, bemoaning the fact that I have to drag out the suitcases, and pack for myself and four children. Feeling sorry for myself that I have to drag the portable crib out of the storage room and put it in the car. Making myself miserable that I have to come back on Saturday night with a bag full of laundry that I will have to leave in a pile due to the start of the 9 Days. Dreading the middle of the night when I will almost certainly be walking the floors with a child in my arms, trying to keep my baby from waking up the rest of the household.

Some people just can't figure out what they really want. Know anyone like that?

Holocaust Echoes?

I posted here and here about my feelings on the use of holocaust imagery by the anti-disengagement camp. To recap, I am not in favor. Jeff Jacoby has a piece in which he starts off agreeing that the holocaust imagery is inappropriate, exaggerated, and uncalled for. Then he says:
And yet . . .

And yet there is no getting around the fact that Israel is about to become the first modern, Western nation in more than 60 years to forcibly uproot a whole population -- men, women, children, babies -- solely because they are Jews. There is no getting around the fact that the forthcoming expulsions are rooted in the belief that any future Palestinian state must be Judenrein -- emptied of its Jews. And while it goes without saying that Sharon and every member of his government abominate the Nazis and all they stood for, there is no getting around the fact that disengagement is meant to appease an enemy that has always regarded the genocidal hatred of Jews in a very different light.
Except...this is not about expelling a population because of their ethnicity. This is about a nation choosing to withdraw its citizens from disputed land. Had there been non-Jewish citizens of Israel residing in Gush Katif, Israel would be evacuating them as well. I hear the point that to those who may still be raw from their holocaust wounds, this may be reminiscent of the evacuations from the ghettos to a different, much more sinister location. But that is sad simply because those wounds still exist, not because the disengagement is truly a parallel event. Those people may get ill standing on a train platform, or hearing the bark of dogs, or hearing the German language spoken. That is tragic for them, but doesn't make every train platform, dog, or native German sinister. So too, the disengagement is an evacuation, but what is waiting at the other end of the journey is far different than what was waiting at the other end of the journey for those in the cattle cars.

Jeff Jacoby's point that the Arab nations that surround us would like to see Israel "Judenrein" is a dramatic one, but again, ignores the fact that they are not the ones forcibly evacuating the Israelis. We are voluntarilty withdrawing with the hope of peace on the horizon. And while that may be a pipe dream, it is far different than the dreams of Adolf Hitler and his cohorts.

hat tip: Krum

Thursday, August 04, 2005


AskShifra put up a great post about Tefilla, and the struggle she feels when asked to pray for someone in need of God's help. The post is refreshing, and says what many must feel.

It's hard to pray.

Especially since prayer is something that should be done on a daily basis, to "check in" with God, so to speak, and not just when we have a particular request. As Shifra says, when she gets an e-mail request to daven for someone or something specific,
I wish I could dive right into tehillim every time I got an email like that but I can't.
The best I could probably offer is lip service and don't you think God would see right through that? Unless I'm feeling particularly spiritual or I'm close to the situation at hand there is no way I can pray meaningfully about it. I don't know these people, God is WAY up there, and who am I? I'm nobody, a sinner, who doesn't pray unless she wants something and now you expect me to bring your mother, cousin, neighbor, friend and sister a MIRACLE?! I can't do it.
I'll make a similar admission to Shifra's: I have trouble praying too.

I find it difficult to muster up the proper kavanah (concentration) on a regular basis. It's a heck of a lot easier, on the other hand, to muster up the proper frame of mind when you have a specific request to make of God. When someone is (God forbid) sick, when there is a family crisis, these are all situations where I, and I'm sure many others, have no problem summoning up the proper intent when communing with God. But the day-to-day recitation of prayers? Who doesn't fall into the trap of muttering them as a matter of routine?

DovBear pointed out yesterday that the World-Wide Shema campaign was "philosophically unsound, and theologically vulgar". I'm not sure I fully agree with him, but he has a point. We say Shema how many times a day? Does each and every one of us have the right concentration each time we do so? I'll bet not. But I'm also willing to bet that yesterday, people who mumble Shema so many times daily with little more kavanah than they have when making a conference call, were able to beseech God to protect Klal Yisrael with all the kavanah they had in them.

What's the solution? Is there even one? It stands to reason that human nature has us praying harder when things aren't going well. It's hard to focus on thanking God when things are (Baruch Hashem) going smoothly. And let me be clear, I know that this thinking is a fallacy. We should, instead, have so much more to say to God when things are going smoothly. We should be thanking Him, begging Him to keep things at status quo. But how to keep that important concept in the forefront of my mind, day in, and day out? I have no idea.

Search for the Best Jewish Joke

Steven I. Weiss is running a search for the "best Jewish joke". Though this is not really up my alley, I do have two, one on the dumb side, one (I think) kind of clever. The dumb (but funny) one:
An elderly man in Miami calls his son in New York and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing. Forty-five years of misery is enough."
"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.

"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the old man says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her," and he hangs up.

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone, "Like heck they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this." She calls her father immediately and screams at the old man, "You are NOT getting divorced! Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back! , and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "They're coming for Passover and paying their own airfares."
The clever one:
Two beggars are sitting side by side in St. Peter's Square in front of the Vatican. One has a cross in front of him. The other one the Star of David. Many people go by and look at both beggars, but only put money into the hat of the beggar sitting behind the cross.

A priest comes by, stops and watches throngs of people giving money to the beggar behind the cross, but none give to the beggar behind the Star of David. Finally the priest goes over to the beggar behind the Star of David and says: "My poor fellow, don't you understand? You are at the center of the Catholic World. People aren't going to give you money if you sit there with a 'Star of David' in front of you, especially when you're sitting beside a beggar who has a cross. In fact, they would probably give to him just out of spite."

The beggar behind the 'Star of David' listened to the priest, turned to the other beggar with the cross and said: "Moishe, look who's trying to teach the Goldstein brothers about marketing."
Feel free to post your own jokes in comments.

Related: I, II

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Vaccine/Autism Correlation? II

I posted a while back on the debate over whether childhood immunizations are one of the causes of autism. The theory from the anti-vaccination camp is that the vaccines contain a preservative called thimerosal, which causes neurological damage that, in turn, can cause autism and related disorders. This article does a great job debunking that claim, and makes a great case for the safety of thimerosal in childhood vaccinations.
...four perfectly good studies comparing large populations of kids have showed that thimerosal did not cause the increased reporting of autism. The best evidence comes from Denmark, which stopped putting thimerosal in vaccines in 1992; the rate of autism in kids born afterward continued to increase.
A particularly good piece of evidence is data from the State of California. Apparently, graphs showed a huge spike in the numbers of children receiving state services for autism and related disorders - from 2,778 autistics on the rolls in 1987 to 10,360 in 1998. Originally, the anti-vaccine advocates used this as proof of thimerosal's ill effects on children. But, as the article points out,
this spike in autism diagnoses actually vindicated vaccines. MMR vaccination began in children born in 1970, but there was no increase in autism reports in the state until 1980, which also happened to be the first year the psychiatric definition of autism spectrum disorders changed.
Read the article for more.

hat tip: Enigma4U

Let Us Eat Lettuce

This week's NY Jewish Week has an article up about the dismantling of the Gush Katif greenhouses and what that may entail for the bug-free produce industry for which they are so well-known.
The Gush’s insect-free produce has become a staple for Orthodox Jews fearful of ingesting infested — and thus unkosher — fruits and vegetables. In the days before Gush Katif lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, coriander, dill and other leafy vegetables were available, religiously observant individuals and food-industry professionals had to painstakingly soak, examine and rinse every leaf and floret.

The time-consuming process prompted some Orthodox Jews to avoid these vegetables entirely and made catering for the religious community a major challenge. When Gush farmers, and a handful outside Gaza, began cultivating bug-free produce, in some cases organically grown, in the local sand (mixed with fertilizers and irrigated), they created a small niche market with great growth potential.

In Israel, Gush produce is available in every supermarket and used by virtually every kosher restaurant and caterer in the country. A Ministry of Agriculture spokeswoman estimated that Gush produce earns $15 million of the $900 million from Israeli fruit and vegetable exports every year.
In addition to the very real problem of a possible shortage of this type of produce, the article mentions the lack of planning for the relocation of the greenhouses after the disengagement.
Furthermore, Ben Ephraim said, “anyone who does relocate must buy new equipment and new greenhouses because these things are old and can’t be reconstructed. It would be cheaper in the long run to build a new greenhouse from the beginning.”

Anita Tucker, another farmer from Netzer Hazani, likened the greenhouses to an old closet.

“When you take apart an old closet it falls apart,” she said. “You can’t just put it back together as if nothing has happened.”
The article isn't clear about how the Israeli government has planned for the relocation and reestablishment of the greenhouses. It certainly must be devastating for those who worked so hard to build up this pioneering industry to have to dismantle something that was both so groundbreaking and so successful.


Speaking of Jewish news sources and their correct attribution of quotes (or not), The Town Crier points out that the JTA quotes from both his and my own blog in an article about the Daylight Savings issue. My post is here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Aiding and Abetting

The Shin Bet security service said Tuesday that an Israeli Jew from Ramat Gan is suspected of having brought into Israel the terrorist who carried out last month's Netanya suicide bombing.

Five people were killed in the July 13 bombing, for which the Islamic Jihad took responsibility.
Apparently, this Israeli was part of a group that would regularly smuggle Palestinians into Israel.
The Shin Bet said Levy has admitted to regularly transporting Palestinian workers and car thieves into Israel illegally. He also said he drove the bomber and the second Jihad man into Israel on the day of the bombing, but told security forces he was not aware he was transporting a suicide bomber.
However, Shin Bet investigators said Levy should have suspected his passenger was a suicide bomber, in part because he was carrying the explosives in a large bag.

Azam said he did examine the contents of the bomber's bag and saw a smaller bag in which the explosives were hidden, but believed the passengers when they told him the bag contained burglary tools.
First of all, the fact that Azam thought he was transporting a car thief is enough to make me regard him as guilty of aiding and abetting a criminal. In addition, this just shows how important the border closings are to the day-to-day safety and security of Israeli citizens. Anyone who tries to flout them, even if he thinks he is just "transporting Palestinian workers and car thieves" is guilty of putting his fellow Israeli citizens in danger. And this time, Azam lost the game of Russian Roulette he had been playing with the lives of his fellow citizens, in a big way.

Monday, August 01, 2005


Chaim over at Life-of-Rubin points out in this post that the Jewish Press has published an article reviewing an album that I myself reviewed a while back. Apparently, they took a whole chunk out of my review and printed it without attribution. From the article:
"Believe" is even the talk of many internet bloggers who have described the album as "extremely professionally done...The lead vocalist, Suffy Rudman, has an exquisite voice...Definitely worth a listen, especially as your purchase goes towards such a worthy cause."
Um, it was not many internet bloggers who made all those comments. Just one. Me. There's really no excuse for their not naming me as the originator of those comments. Not that I care that much, but it isn't exactly ethical. And certainly unoriginal. Not that I expect originality from the great journalistic resource that we call the Jewish Press.

Similarly, that other great journalistic resource that we call the NY Jewish Week published a fawning front page profile of the band Blue Fringe. While I do think they have talent, and certainly do appeal to the Orthodox tween and teen set, I think that in the interest of full disclosure, the reporter might have seen fit to make it known that she was writing the article about her boss's son's band. That's right, Blue Fringe is led by Dov Rosenblatt, the son of none other than Gary Rosenblatt, the illustrious editor of the Jewish Week. More here. Classic.