Posted by JewishJournal.com
From the Los Angeles Interfaith Leadership Mission sponsored by the Interreligious Action Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.
by Dr. Saba Soomekh, Adjunct Professor of Theological Studies. Loyola Marymount University
A few evenings ago, a young Arab Muslim man on the housekeeping staff at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, came to the door to deliver the evening chocolate for the pillow. I asked him to wait while my roommate put on her hejab, a scarf Muslim women use to cover their hair.
When I let the young man in, he was clearly shocked when he saw that I, a Jewish woman, was sharing a room with a Muslim woman. He asked me, in Hebrew, “Is she a Muslim?” He must have asked me three times, even though I answered “Yes” each time.
Finally, after the fourth time of asking me, he said: “I can’t believe a Muslim and a Jew share a room!”
At that moment, I laughed and said “Of course we can share a room.” He said nothing.
Later, after I thought about it some more, the sadder I became. It is unfortunate that his life experiences and the political climate of Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, makes it so difficult for him to believe, even when he sees it with his own eyes, that a Jew and a Muslim can share a room. I don’t fool myself that my presence, our presence, here will change anything on a large scale. But after this interaction, there is one Arab Muslim who at least now knows, just maybe, that the impossible is possible.
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June 28, 2010 | 3:14 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
by Dr. Joshua Holo, Incoming Dean, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles
Though I recognize its necessity, I do not like Yad Vashem. I enter with gloomy anxiety, and I leave exhausted and burdened with sorrow.
In truth, however, my distaste does not come from these emotions themselves, unpleasant as they are. More intractably, I begrudge myself the fact of feeling them in the first place. The mere acknowledgment of having experienced these feelings seems self-centered and indulgent. We visitors at the memorial are not meant to be subjects or actors but rather only to be subjected to, to be the objects and vehicles of Yad Vashem’s demand for justice—and only vestigial justice, at that.
It is a lonely, unsure state to find oneself in, which prevents me, at least, from granting Yad Vashem much beyond the fact that neither the Jewish people, the State of Israel, nor indeed the world, can afford to be without it.
June 28, 2010 | 1:07 pm
Posted by Melanie Reynard
Kagan Opening Statement: Restraint, Deference to People’s Will
Elena Kagan will open her confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court with a nod to concerns of both conservatives and liberals.
At least three times in her opening statement, she will speak of the importance of the court showing restraint and deference to the will of the people, according to excerpts released by the White House. That answers in advance a charge of political activism from the bench that conservatives often level at liberals. It could also be seen as a message to liberals who believe it is the conservatives who are now the activists.
Read the full post at blogs.wsj.com.
Kagan Promises Impartiality as Hearings Open
Solicitor General Elena Kagan pledged on Monday that if the Senate confirms her nomination to the Supreme Court, she will adopt a “modest” stance toward her powers and will defer to the policy decisions of Congress and the president, according to excerpts from her prepared opening statement released by the White House.
On the first day of her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ms. Kagan planned to refer to the years she spent in the White House and Justice Department to reassure lawmakers she would not trample on the role of elected political leaders.
Read the full article at nytimes.com.
How Elena Kagan could get through her confirmation hearings
It’s well-understood by now that Supreme Court nominees assume personas calculated to ease them through the confirmation process. Take, for instance, John “Show Me The Strike Zone” Roberts. Or Sonia “Did I Say I Was Wise?” Sotomayor. Elena Kagan should take this confirmation conversion one step further and fully adopt a persona that could help her navigate the confirmation shoals. Here is a trio of possibilities Kagan might want to try on for her question-and-answer session with senators:
The Songstress. Kagan should sing all of her responses to the Judiciary Committee. This would work particularly well under questioning by Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Republican from Utah who’s also an accomplished song writer. For example, when asked how she feels about tort reform and limiting lawsuits, she should seize on the tune of one of Barbra Streisand’s most famous songs to croon: “People, people who sue people, are the yuckiest people in the world.” When discussing the legality of the president’s health-care plan (to the tune of Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable”): “Constitutional, that’s what you are….” And the music of The Beatles’ “Let It Be” would be perfect for describing how this former law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall would work through difficult legal issues: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Justice Marshall comes to me…” (Tip: Don’t say WHICH Justice Marshall. If senators think you’re referring to the 19th century chief justice, let it be.)
Read the full post at voices.washingtonpost.com.
June 25, 2010 | 12:22 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
by Rabbi Mark Diamond, Tour Leader
Boundaries and lines – the recurring theme of the first day of our Los Angeles Religious Leadership Mission. Everywhere we go in Jerusalem we see lines. Each square meter of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is owned and claimed by one Christian group or another. Armenian Orthodox, Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Coptic denominations draw demarcation lines on floors and walls to mark their respective turfs. Cross these lines at your own peril, lest you upset a precarious religious truce that sometimes spills over into unholy violence between rival sects.
The Western Wall is marked by its own boundaries separating men from women, Orthodox from non-Orthodox worshipers, Sephardi from Ashkenazi celebrations. As always, I struggle to find genuine kavvanah (intention/devotion) before a divided wall and plaza filled with guardians of modesty and hawkers of tzedakah. Can the Kotel serve as a symbol of unity and sanctity when it is governed by Jewish sectarianism and tribalism?
Scholar Paul Liptz addresses our delegation and adds layer upon layer of socio-economic lines to the fragile fabric of Israeli society. Fifteen mega wealthy families sit atop a pyramid whose base is the 30% of Israelis who live below the poverty line. They are the poor, the underclass, the unseen – Israeli Palestinians, haredim, Ethiopians, legal and illegal foreign workers, and refugees. How can they cross lines that seem increasingly rigid and impermeable?
And yet, as MK Nachman Shai reminds us,
With all their threats both internal and external,
With all their boundaries natural and man-made,
With all their lines in the sand and sea,
Israelis awaken each day with hopes and dreams for a brighter and better tomorrow.
June 24, 2010 | 6:58 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
The following videos were filmed at Temple Beth Am in Beverly Hills.
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June 24, 2010 | 6:31 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Nothing the Israeli government has done has freed Gilad Shalit.
Rabbi Shmuelly Hecht thinks he can help.
Things go down better with honey than with vinegar, and the Yale University-based rabbi has a very sweet deal for the residents of Gaza: help free the captured Israeli soldier, and you’ll receive $5 million dollars.
On his web site, millionsforgiladshalit.org, the bearded Hecht has a video of him seated on a couch, slightly slouched, wearing a velvet yarkulke and a rumpled pink button down shirt. Hecht reads his offer off a sheet a paper:
I am a man of faith, not of politics—and come with just one request: release Gilad Shalit to his family. In exchange for this demonstration of your humanity and generosity, I will reciprocate in kind. I have arranged for $5m of humanitarian goods to be delivered to the people of Gaza to be delivered simultaneously with Gilad’s freedom. Food, medicine, building supplies—whatever humanitarian goods those who deliver Gilad to his family decide will most benefit the people of Gaza will be delivered through a party that we can all respect and work with.
So far, Hecht told jewishjournal.com, about 3,000 people have clicked onto his site, which just went live this week. A few hundred have signed the accompanying petition calling on Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, to release Shalit. The Israeli airman was captured by Hamas four years ago this week. Since his capture, Hamas has provided only two indications that Gilad is still alive – a recorded message of his voice released on June 25, 2007, and a video of him released on October 2, 2009. Hamas has refused to allow the International Red Cross to visit Shalit, and is holding him in solitary confinement.
One of the aims of the 2009 Gaza War was to free Shalit, which Israel failed to do.
But Hecht is adamant that his monetary offer is not a capitulation to terrorists.
“This is not an offer to the leaders of Hamas,” he told jewishjournal.com. “This is an offer to the people of Gaza, the people who claim to need humanitarian aid, and an offer to the religious leaders who claim to revere life, to help us redeem this captive.”
Asks whether his effort contravenes Israeli policy not to negotiate with terrorists, Hecht says he believes it does not. “This is philanthropy,” he said. Nor does he fear it will put Shalit’s life in danger. To the contrary, he believes it will raise awareness and increase the chances Shalit will be freed.
“I’m doing this for his family,” he said.
Hecht, a 35 year old father of 6 children, is a native of Forest Hills, Queens. He established the Yale Jewish student club, the Eliezer Society, in 1997. He grew up in a Sephardic synagogue, and his self-described “basic” understanding of Farsi and Arabic enabled him to poist translations of his plea in both those languages on the site, as well as on YouTube.
Hecht said the $5 million is “real,” offered by philanthropists around the country, though he wouldn’t provide the names.
“They produce Gilad Shalit,” said Hecht, “and I’ll produce the money.”
Watch the video here:
June 23, 2010 | 1:41 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
by Jonathan Freund, Director of Educational and Interreligous Program, Board of Rabbis of Southern California
It is always astonishing to experience Israel. Even more so when you experience it through the eyes of others, especially others who are visiting the country for the first time. Today, thirteen clergy members, scholars and professionals began the Los Angeles Interfaith Leadership Mission, sponsored by the Interreligious Action Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.
As we introduced ourselves at our first meal together, it stuck me that the multicultural, mutli-religious makeup of our group echoes the nature of Israeli society: Conservative Jews who belong to Reform synagogues, former atheists who have become Reform Jews, Christians who have become Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Jews who are transdenominational, Baptists who are now Presbyterians, Presbyterians who teach Judaic civilization, other Christians, Muslim, Sephardic, Persian – we’ve pretty much got it covered.
That mini-demographic reflect the purpose of the trip, and the Interreligious Actions Center: to encourage balance, nuance, and a recognition of the complexity of history and identity, in discussions and responses to Israel and Palestine, both together and separately.
It was fitting then that we began our nine-day journey on the Mount of Olives, where there have been Jewish graves since the time of the First Temple, some 2700 years ago. (That arguably makes the burial business in Jerusalem the longest sustained Jewish enterprise in history.) We gathered there in the late afternoon sun, gazing out over landscape that is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, picking out notable mosques, churches and synagogues in the vista of the Old City. Nearby, cab drivers were taking a break by blasting music from their cars. On the way down, we drove through Arab East Jerusalem, a bustling neighborhood of normalcy yet also with its own distinct character, not unlike the normalcy of our neighborhoods back home.
Each of us in this delegation has his or her own reasons for being here, on this particular mission. In the days ahead, in Jerusalem, the Galilee and Tel Aviv, we look forward to sharing some of those unique perspectives. Already today I have achieved one personal goal: to be reminded of the many Israels there are, Israels which more often than not live and work together, just as antiquity and modernity do here, and to experience them in all their compelling contradictions and wonder.
June 21, 2010 | 1:14 pm
Posted by Melanie Reynard
Online dating is a hot topic, a sub-culture in of itself. But imagine the people who are behind it. The people for whom coming up with new strategies and applications and designs for online dating is their job.
I got a peek into this culture on Friday at the 7th annual West Coast Internet Dating Conference at the SLS hotel in Beverly Hills. The registration fee is USD $1275 per person for the basic conference package.
Cliff Lerner, 32, [Jewish] co-founder of SNAP Interactive was my gregarious guide. He wasn’t presenting at the conference, but he flew in from NYC and went to the Miami conference earlier this year. In 2005, Lerner quit his job at Lehman Brothers and started AreYouInterested.com with his brother, based in New York City. What they offered was unique because it facilitated double dating and group dating based on coordination of people’s schedules.
“A lot of people at that time were scared to meet people off the internet,” Lerner says.
However, in August of 2007 they launched a Facebook application, that enabled people to privately check off friends that they might be romantically interested in, and would only be notified if they had a match with that friend. Essentially, it was an easy, low-risk way to find out if your friends like-liked you.
Within a week, the application had over 1 million users. And, the company’s revenue doubled that year.
Lerner credits the creativity of the idea, along with the ease with which Facebook apps were self-marketed on Facebook. He sees more stringent privacy precautions taken by Facebook in the last few months have made it less easy for an app to ‘go viral” on it’s own these days.
Nevertheless, the Facebook app was complemented by an iPhone app, which worked together seamlessly, that now allows users to find other users within their immediate proximity.
Now they have over 15 million viewers (50% in Europe, with significant numbers in the UK, Israel, and South Africa), revenue of over $5 million annually, with 16 in-house programmers. The average user spends 30 minutes per day on their site. They launched a subscription service in December 2009 with added features, and they also offer virtual gifts, so that suitors can prove their affection by putting their money where their mouth is; by spending anywhere from $2 to $50 per gift.
“It allows me to stand out in your inbox,” Lerner explains.
Lerner leads me into the final discussion of the conference. Along the way we meet Ukrainian Max Polyakov, COO of Easy Date which he says just went public (and Polyakov mentions that they recently bought cupid.com). Then we sit in a lecture hall with a panel of “experts,” while unlimited refills of beer are handed out. The intention behind this, Lerner explains, is to facilitate a frat-like environment so people feel like they are a bunch of frat guys sharing secrets and strategies. But really it is a room full of mostly 40-somethings.
Two panelists of note: One was Tai Lopez, who shared an amusing quote: “You can be a nudist. You can be a Buddhist. But you can’t be a nudist Buddhist; that’s just too weird.” This quote was an analogy to online dating companies undertaking multiple experimental strategies at once; such as with mobile apps or their websites.
Violet Lim pointed out that the Singapore government gives grants to online dating companies that are incorporated and doing work in Singapore, since that government is especially interested in facilitating matches and proliferating its next generations of citizens. She encouraged all in the room to consider doing business in Singapore as a gateway to Asia.