Posted by Rob Eshman
The New York Times is reporting that Chelsea Clinton wed Marc Mezvinsky Saturday, July 31, in an interfaith wedding service conducted by Rabbi James Ponet and the Reverend William Shillady. Chelsea is Methodist, like her mom, and Mezvinsky is Jewish.
The news brings to a screeching halt weeks of speculation about whether Chelsea had taken steps to conversion- or whether Mezvinsky had.
Photos show Mezvinsky wearing a kippah as well s a tallis, or prayer shawl. Though Mezvinsky was raised in a Conservative Jewish home, Rabbi Ponet, who performed the service, is a graduate of Hebrew Union College, a Reform seminary.
Rabbi Ponet is Yale University’s Jewish chaplain. He heads the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale. According to his official bio:
Rabbi Jim Ponet, TD, ‘68, is the first Yale alumnus to serve as Yale’s Jewish Chaplain, a position he has been honored to fill since 1981. “I value learning and teaching above all else, regard every meeting as an encounter, a revelation, a moment at the mountain, and spend as much time as possible listening to and for the sound of subtle stillness.”
Currently he teaches a college seminar with Dr. Ruth Westheimer on “The Family in the Jewish Tradition.” He and his wife, Elana, lead a weekly discussion in Slifka Dining Room on the value of peace in Jewish life and thought.
The service included elements from both Jewish and Methodist traditions. The Times and other sources reported that the couples’ friends and family read the Seven Blessings, which are typically recited at traditional Jewish weddings following the vows and exchange of rings.
The Seven Blessings are more traditionally known by their Hebrew name, Sheva Berachot. They are recited at traditional Jewish weddings following vows and the exchange of rings. Here is the English translation of the Sheva Berachot:
The blessings are:
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Who has created everything for your glory.
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Creator of Human Beings.
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Who has fashioned human beings in your image, according to your likeness and has fashioned from it a lasting mold. Blessed are You Adonai, Creator of Human Beings.
Bring intense joy and exultation to the barren one (Jerusalem) through the ingathering of her children amidst her in gladness. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who gladdens Zion through her children.
Gladden the beloved companions as You gladdened Your creatures in the garden of Eden. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who gladdens groom and bride.
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth, glad song, pleasure, delight, love, brotherhood, peace, and companionship. Adonai, our God, let there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the grooms’ jubilance from their canopies and of the youths from their song-filled feasts. Blessed are You Who causes the groom to rejoice with his bride.
According to the web site My Jewish Learning, “The sheva berakhot are the real heart of the Jewish wedding ceremony; it is in this liturgical moment of the ceremony that themes of joy and celebration and the ongoing power of love are expressed. Taken from the pages of the Talmud (Ketubot 8a), the blessings, from one to seven, begin with the kiddush over wine and increase in intensity in their imagery and metaphors. It is no accident that there are seven of these blessings, since the number seven brings to mind the seven days of creation. Poetic echoes of creation and paradise abound in the blessings, as does the age-old yearning for return to Jerusalem. Significantly, the final blessing culminates with imagery of the entire community singing and celebrating with the bride and groom, reminding all present that the couple standing under the huppah is a link in the chain of Jewish continuity.”
No word on whether the bridegroom shattered a glass, or whether President Clinton yelled, “Mazel tov!”
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July 30, 2010 | 2:32 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Lisa Cholodenko’s new film, “The Kids Are All Right,” showed viewers that a family headed by a lesbian couple with two children born from the artificially inseminated sperm of the same anonymous donor could be, well, conventional. The same cannot be said about the Greenbergs, the family profiled in the current issue of Lilith Magazine.
Rabbi Julie Greenberg’s three biological children were conceived with the sperm of two different donors. All three are in (or just out of) Ivy League universities. They and their two younger siblings—both adopted from Guatemala while still infants—were parented first by Greenberg alone. That was a conscious choice, as was Greenberg’s choice to involve a friend as a “parenting partner” in 2000. She is called Mom. He is called Dad. He lives three blocks away, and is a “celibate gay man.”
For more on the Greenbergs, a story about a “spuncle,” and other out-of-the-box tales of “D-I-Y Parenting,” check out Lilith.org.
July 30, 2010 | 11:11 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
Showing support for undocumented Hispanic immigrants in Arizona, a group of clergy and social activists from L.A.-based Jewish and interfaith organizations joined hundreds of people, from workers unions, advocacy groups and more, in traveling from Los Angeles to Phoenix on July 29.
Rabbi Jonathan Klein of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and Elissa Barrett of the Progressive Jewish Alliance were among those who rode with a bus caravan of 11 buses that left Los Angeles early Thursday morning and arrived in Phoenix the same day to demonstrate outside the state capitol building on behalf of Hispanic immigrants.
“It’s important for Jews to be visible in the struggle,” Barrett said. Standing outside a church where demonstrators assembled before marching to the state capitol building, Barrett recalled how she felt earlier that morning, on the bus, crossing over the Colorado River into Arizona and seeing what she described as the “sun, sand and sky” outside her window.
“I felt the level of desperation and fortitude of a dream that would carry someone into this country,” Barrett said. “[For] migrants who work 15-hour days, who have one-day weekends, there has to be some way to create humane immigration reform in this country.”
Story continues after the jump.
The demonstration was organized to take place on the same day that SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial new immigration law, went to effect. On Wednesday, one day earlier, federal judge Susan Bolton ordered a temporary injunction against several of the more contested points of SB 1070—which aims to discourage illegal immigration into Arizona—including one that would have given the state’s law officials the right to check the immigration status of anybody lawfully pulled over, detained or arrested, and another that would have obligated immigrants to carry around their immigration documents at all times.
Bolton ordered the injunction on the grounds that these actions fall under federal responsibility as opposed to state responsibility.
Bolton’s decision did not negate the need for Thursday’s demonstration, according to Klein. “There’s a still a racist state government to make life miserable for people and torment them,” Klein said, speaking during a phone interview before the trip to Arizona. “There’s every reason that we should still go. Even if it’s enjoined [temporarily prohibited] it doesn’t mean the issue goes away. [It] just means a stay of execution.”
On Thursday afternoon, Klein, Barrett and the hundreds of demonstrators marched for approximately one mile, from a church to the state capitol building, and, waving signs and wearing T-shirts with messages in support of immigrant rights, they gathered on a lawn outside the offices of Arizona’s senate and House of Representatives. Expressing solidarity with the state’s undocumented immigrants, the demonstrators also urged Hispanic citizens to register to vote before Arizona’s fall elections.
Story continues after the jump.
Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the group that organized the one-day trip, estimated that nearly 550 people participated on Thursday. Leo Baeck Temple congregants Suzy Marks and Ralph Fertig were apart of this group.
Marks echoed the rhetoric of opponents of SB 1070 who believe the bill, at least in the form that was signed into law by Arizona governor Jan Brewer last April, encourages the state’s law officials to single people out based on the color of their skin.
“I came because I don’t like racial profiling,” Marks said. She added that Jews in particular should sympathize with the cause of Hispanic immigrants. “The same thing happened to the Jews in Europe [during the Holocaust],” Marks said.
The Los Angeles demonstrators left the site of Arizona’s state capitol building at approximately 5 p.m. and arrived back in Los Angeles, in a parking lot outside Dodger Stadium, at nearly 1 a.m.
July 29, 2010 | 2:32 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Former CIA Director James Woolsey wants to turn oil into salt.
Speaking to an audience of about 250 at Temple Beth Jacob yesterday evening, the foreign policy analyst and green technology investor said that by “undermin[ing] oil’s monopoly on transportation, Americans could free themselves from having to kowtow to “dictators and autocratic kingdoms,” like Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members.
Salt, which had been a strategic commodity through the end of the 19th century—it was the only way to preserve meat—had its monopoly eliminated by technological innovation: refrigeration. “You won’t sit down to dinner tonight, look at the salt, and think ‘I wonder if our country is salt independent?’” Woolsey said to scattered laughter. Salt, he said, is boring. But before the advent of refrigeration, wars were fought over salt—much in the way that wars are fought over oil today.
Woolsey sees only one answer to this problem: innovations that specifically aim to reduce the amount of oil we put into our gas tanks. A founder of the Set America Free Coalition—a group that promotes alternative fuel choices—Woolsey has a tool that helps him to do this personally: “It’s 25 feet long and orange with black plugs on each end,” Woolsey said. One plug goes into the wall; the other goes into his modified Prius.
More interesting than the solutions he proposed—and Woolsey wants to try ethanol, methanol, and other possibilities—are the ones he dismissed. “Drill baby drill” only affects the supply. Cap-and-trade would have only applied to fixed emitters of CO2—not mobile emitters like automobiles. Nuclear power does nothing to change the stuff that goes into our cars. And setting CO2 aside, 25% of what comes out of your tailpipe is carcinogenic.
Woolsey, who was invited to speak by 30 Years After, an LA-based group of Iranian Jews, devoted much of his speech to issues relating to Iran. He believes that than the combination of sanctions, diplomacy, political isolation and other measures currently being taken against Iran are too little, too late, and puts the possibility of Iran’s producing a nuclear weapon—or a country’s having to use force to stop it from doing so—at “slightly more” than 50 percent.
By way of illustration, Woolsey recalled his experience as ambassador to the Negotiation on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe in Vienna from 1989-1991. At the end of long days of negotiating, he and his Soviet counterpart would often go out to dinner together. Over Lobster Thermidor and a bottle of Chablis—“on the American taxpayer”—Woolsey and “Oleg” would end up talking about their kids. And at the end of the evening, the two might find some points on which each side could concede at the negotiating table the next day.
“Can anybody remotely imagine a session like that with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad?” Woolsey asked rhetorically. “Or someone who sees the world the way he does?”
Turn oil into salt, Woolsey said, and we won’t have to.
July 28, 2010 | 10:45 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Last night, at a panel organized by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, he and three other panelists attempted to answer the question, “Is Materialism Corrupting the Soul of America?” Boteach—who has a new book out on the subject—responded with a definitive, “yes.” Moderator Rabbi Elazar Muskin of the Young Israel of Century City, where the event was held, seemed to agree, kicking off the panel saying, “The answer is yes—but now we’re going to find out how.” The other three panelists would not allow themselves to be put so firmly into one camp or the other.
Boteach had invited Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, Rabbi Naomi Levy of the Nashuva community, and Jewish Journal staff writer Danielle Berrin to join him on the panel. Boteach spoke first. “Materialism is choking the soul of America,” he said. And though Boteach peppered his speech with comments on Mel Gibson, President Calvin Coolidge (“the business of America is business”) and the iPhone 4, he focused on a past that was far more distant.
“Adam and Eve had nothing,” Boteach said, “and they weren’t ashamed.” It wasn’t until the serpent came into their lives, pointing out the tree from which they could not eat, that the first couple became materialistic—and it’s been that way ever since. “You think you’re happy living in Beverlywood?” Boteach asked with mock incredulity. “You have no idea what Bel Air is like!”
“No matter how much we eat,” Boteach said, citing increasing obesity among Americans as proof of a concurrent rise in materialism, “we’re still hungry.”
Like Boteach, the other panelists invoked historical precedents to support their points. Berrin acknowledged that many of the Hollywood-types she writes about had always loved stuff. But as a community founded by immigrants, Berrin said, the newly rich and famous drove fancy cars and bought big mansions as a way of saying, “we’ve made it in America.” And she didn’t think that was necessarily bad. Like the Jewish community that focuses on torah, spirituality and matters of faith, Berrin said, Hollywood is also ultimately dedicated to something immaterial: human imagination and its products.
Speaking third, Garcetti said that by decrying American materialism as the scourge of our era, we risk “idealiz[ing] a past golden age that never was.” Today’s American economy is 70% based on consumer goods, Garcetti said, but pointed out that in 1947, the earliest data he could find, it made up roughly the same percentage. Ultimately, Garcetti said, neither materialism nor its opposite—idealism—is any good without hard work. “Materialism needs work not to be corrupted,” he said. “But idealism needs hard work to be relevant.”
Levy also cast a backward glance and found that today’s America might not be all that different than earlier societies. Drawing from midrashic commentaries on biblical texts, Levy showed that rabbis recognized that materialism was “a universal problem, a human problem—and a Jewish problem.”
“All the labor of man is for his mouth,” Levy said, quoting from Ecclesiastes, “yet his soul is not filled.” In the lead-up to the High Holy Days, Levy challenged the audience to seek things that will nourish the soul—which often aren’t things at all.
The efficient event concluded at just after 9pm, with Muskin proclaiming consensus.
July 27, 2010 | 3:02 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Who is Sabar Kashour?
He’s a guy who lies to get laid. Which is another way of saying, he’s a guy.
Two years ago in September 2008, he met a woman outside an office building where he worked, told her he was single and interested, and within 15 minutes they were having sex on a roof.
Agree or disagree with the morality of that (for the record, it seems pretty skeevy), either way you’ll have to admit that if the roof were in Hollywood or Pittsburgh or Berlin, Kashour would still be high-five-ing his buddies and showing the iPhone pics around the bar at Yankee Doodles.
But the rooftop was in Jerusalem, the woman who had sex with Kashour is Jewish, and Kashour is an Arab. Last week an Israeli court sentenced him to 18 months in prison, a 30-month conditional sentence, and a $2,800 fine, to be paid as compensation to the woman.
According to the woman, had she known Kashour was an Arab, she would never have had sex with him. All he told her, according to her testimony, was, “I’m single and my name is Dudu.”
“Dudu” is a common Israeli nickname—it sounds MUCH better in Hebrew. As an Israeli Arab, Kashour, 30, undoubtedly speaks Hebrew as well as any Jewish Israeli—and of course far better than the vast majority of American Jews. In terms of looks, it’s impossible to distinguish the bald, brawny young man from any Jew of Sephardic origins, or a young James Gandolfini with a really good tan.
Kashour wears a wedding ring, but that day or at that moment he took it off. After the sex, Kashour hitched up his pants and walked away. He told an interviewer he figured that all the woman wanted was sex, not coffee and long moonlit walks. Several weeks passed. Then, when the woman found out Kashour was an Arab, she filed a complaint with the police, who arrested and charged Kashour with rape and indecent assault. He pleaded guilty to a charge of rape by deception as part of a plea deal.
“If she hadn’t thought the accuser was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated,” Judge Zvi Segal wrote in his verdict.
Kashour’s lawyer Adnan Aladdin said on Wednesday he will appeal the sentence, which is drawing fierce condemnation from Israeli Arabs, who see it as an example of outright racism.
My sense is the uniformly negative international reaction might pressure a judge to reconsider as well. After all, Kashour did what every guy, and frankly, most women, in the world do in order to hook up: they fib. They dissemble. They act like they have more time, more money, more happening, more interest, than they really do.
It’s all a deception, but a necessary one. Make up is a lie, hair dye is a lie, Spanks and heel lifts and breast implants and credit cards and that second glass of wine—all of it lies, lies lies. We use them to help our date, or even our spouse, suspend disbelief, and pretend until morning that we are prettier, thinner, younger, richer or more eligible than we are. If lying for sex were a crime, God would have to put bars over Creation.
Kashour said it even better than me, in an interview with CNN: “If I told the woman I was a pilot and later she finds out that I was not a pilot, then she goes and says that ‘He raped me’? If I told her that I was a millionaire and it turns out that I am a poor man, then she goes and says that ‘He raped me’?”
There is an Israeli law that obtaining sex by false pretenses is a form of rape, and similar laws exist in several countries, including the United States. But civil rights attorneys in Israel say the court has gone too far in applying it to Kashour, who lied about his marital status.
One has to conclude that Kashour is not the first Israeli to lie about being single to get sex—which makes his prosecution look suspiciously selective and race-based. Israel’s Arabs, who make up 20 percent of the country, are often treated as second class citizens, both in law and in practice. Former Defense Minisiter Moshe Arens, a stalwart of the right, has pointed to this as a major obstacle to Israel’s success. As Israel’s representatives and supporters struggle to make the case that the country is a besieged democracy, a United States-in-the-Middle East, headlines like these paint Israel as Little Rock-circa 1950-in-the-Middle East.
Under other circumstances this would play out as a kind of seedy Shakespearean comedy—hidden identities, deception, outdoor sex—but now it has turned into something much uglier, Neil LaBute-meets-Bull Connor.
Here’s hoping the courts uphold Kashour’s appeal, and the man goes free to face the only punishment he deserves: a very, very angry wife.
Here’s a video report:
July 24, 2010 | 3:46 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
Daniel Schorr, whose name became synonymous with tough but thoughtful broadcast journalism over a 60-year career, died July 23 at age 93.
Born in New York of Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Schorr visited Los Angeles about a dozen years ago for an outdoor reception of behalf of the New Israel Fund, if memory serves correctly.
The title of his talk, “Forgive Us Our Press Passes,” indicated that this would be a fairly light-hearted talk, and Schorr did not disappoint.
He recalled cutting his journalistic teeth at the New York office of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, starting in 1934 and stayed for seven years.
Schorr left, he maintained, after “I became aware that I was looking at everything through a Jewish lens.”
Though a fearless reporter, Schorr recalled the one instance in which he killed a legitimate item. As I remember the story, Schorr was traveling through Eastern Europe during the Cold War, when he encountered a group of Russian Jews, who had left the Soviet Union clandestinely and were heading for Israel.
Schorr thought he had a nice scoop, but the Russian Jews begged him to kill the story. If not, they warned, the Soviet regime would immediately clamp down on the trickle of Jews able to leave.
After wrestling with his conscience and journalistic instincts, Schorr decided not to file the story.
Here is my 2006 interview with Daniel Schorr.
July 23, 2010 | 12:00 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
Anti-Semitic hate crimes in California dropped 13 percent in 2009, compared to the preceding year, according to a report released Thursday (7/22) by state Attorney General Edmund G. Brown.
There were 160 cases of hate crimes directed against Jewish individuals or institutions recorded in 2009, compared to 184 cases reported in 2008 to the California Department of Justice by law enforcement agencies in the state’s 58 counties.
However, in the category of religion-motivated hate crimes, anti-Jewish acts continued to dominate with 76 percent of the total, trailed distantly by anti-Muslim acts with 6.2 percent.
The decline in anti-Jewish acts were paralleled by similar or larger drops during the past 10 years in other hate crime categories, based on race of sexual orientation, interrupted by a brief upswing in 2007.
Among the total of 1,100 hate crimes reported in California last year, the majority (56.9 percent) were based on the victims’ race, ethnicity or national origin, with African-Americans as the most frequent targets, followed distantly by Hispanics.
The next largest number of hate crimes targeted gays and lesbians (22.3 percent), with religion-motivated hate crimes constituting 19.1 percent of the total.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and an expert on Internet hate propaganda, credited greater attention to hate crimes by law enforcement agencies for the statistical declines.
However, he warned that some 12,000 Internet web sites and blogs are regularly spewing anti-Jewish hatred, protected by the Constitution’s free speech amendment.
Even more worrisome, hate messages are going viral by means of Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.com.
“Ten years ago, some kid might post an anti-Semitic flier in the high school locker room and nobody worried about it except the school’s principal,” Cooper said.
“Now the same messages can be passed on to a million people within minutes.”