Lord our God, we stood before You just a week ago to receive the Ten Statements of Your Torah. We stood, as though with our ancestors, and listened to the Torah reader chant descriptions of the smoking mountain, the thunderous…
Using his preternatural smoothness, Justin Timberlake saved the Coen brothers from some serious awkwardness at a Cannes press conference for their folk singer film “Inside Llewyn Davis” on Sunday. “Jewish…
So USC is threatening to leave the crumbling Coliseum for the beautiful Rose Bowl unless they are offered a more favorable deal. I pray the Trojans do not come to call Pasadena home; that is our house, even if we couldn’t beat hapless Notre Dame there. Weighing in on the likelihood of this happening, Bill Plaschke nails it with an apocalyptic analogy:
Hearing USC’s threat to move its football team from the Coliseum to the Rose Bowl is like hearing a well-dressed boardwalk preacher shouting that the world will end at midnight.
You walk past, you shake your head, you know it’s baloney.
But later that night, if only for a moment, you quietly check your watch.
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A few weeks ago, I finished reading “Blood Relation,” Eric Konigsberg’s fascinating account of the mobster life of Uncle Heshy. The author’s family was Jewish, so the murdering and racketeering of his uncle, Harold “Kayo” Konigsberg, was sort of frowned upon.
But, then again, Jewish mobsters have always had a taboo appeal—think Murder Inc., Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky.
Barney Frank, a Massachusetts congressman who grew up with Kayo, voices this sentiment.
“We loved the fact that he was one of us. I mean, here’s a guy who had—you know, he wasn’t just an accountant like Meyer Lansky. I remember teasing one of your father’s cousins about him. She’d get upset, but most of the Jewish kids I knew were sort of worshipful of Kayo.”
“Spielberg! You’ve got to get me Spielberg!” Paul Gelb slurred as he bit off the words with the insistence of a Hollywood studio head.
“Spielberg has to come here. If he’s a good Jew, he’ll come here to see me. Do you know if he speaks Yiddish?
“And I need to talk to a rabbi. I’d like that. But a rabbi who speaks Yiddish.
“I need to see both of them before I die, ... and I’m dying.”
But then, Gelb, 83, has been dying since he was 15 and was sent to a series of Nazi concentration camps with his family.
He survived the Holocaust, which is why he is so insistent this day on seeing director Steven Spielberg, who has created an archive of living testimony of survivors in the wake of his Oscar-winning film “Schindler’s List.”
“I’ll bet you,” Gelb says, “that Spielberg doesn’t have a story like mine.”
That’s because to survive in America, Gelb became involved with the Mafia, running New York strip joints and a money-skimming operation that ultimately landed him in a California federal prison in the 1990s.
For Gelb, the ultimate irony was having survived a Nazi concentration camp to wind up half a century later in a minimum-security federal prison camp in California, where he was inmate 10945-054, according to a federal report.
“There were no bars, no fences there, no gas chambers, no ovens,” he says. “Some people tried to compare my experience in a concentration camp and prison, and I told them, `Don’t even try to compare it. One was hell on Earth.’ Prison wasn’t heaven, but I’m not ready to go there yet, anyway!”
Thought Harry Potter was blasphemous? That was kids’ stuff compared to the “His Dark Materials” trilogy, in which God is an imposter, angels are sexually ambiguous and the Church kidnaps, tortures and assassinates to achieve its goals, one of which is stealing children’s souls.
But try as the filmmakers might to take religion out of the equation in the first installment â “The Golden Compass,” due December 7 â Christian groups are gearing up to protest and fans are urging New Line not to water down the provocative material in remaining films.
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which most recently protested a picture of Britney Spears sitting provocatively in a priest’s lap â the image appears in her new album, Blackout â takes this issue a little more seriously. The anti-defamation group accuses the film of “selling atheism to kids” and has produced its own booklet in response, “The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked,” which it’s been distributing to churches and other Christian groups.
The evangelical-activist group Focus on the Family, which plans to release a statement about the film early next week, says it’s in agreement with Christian leaders and organizations on the issue. Adam Holz, associate editor of Focus on the Family’s Plugged In magazine, told MTV News he fears the movie would “plant seeds” to “ultimately encourage some fans to reject God.”
If the controversy economy remains strong, I might actually end up seeing this flick. The funny thing is that most those criticizing the movie won’t.
Here, Religion News Service talks to a bunch of parents who are afraid the anti-religious movie will kidnap their kids’ minds if not souls, and Bruce Tomaso of the DMN religion blog responds with three thoughts that just as easily could have been in reference to “Harry Potter”:
1. I was struck by the fact that none of the people in the story who criticize the movie have seen it.
2. There is far more crap than wholesome entertainment produced by Hollywood, and one movie, more or less, isn’t going to tip the balance appreciably.
3. I seriously doubt that watching “The Chronicles of Narnia” produced a single new Christian, and I doubt that watching this movie will turn anyone into an atheist.
Like I’ve said here and here andhere and here and here and here and etc., Americans have become far to fixated on religious representation in politics. From the blog that tells us all about God talk on the presidential campaign trail:
Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate most disadvantaged by his personal religious faith, said earlier this month that “based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified.”
“But of course,” Romney continued. “I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.”
You can read all about Romney’s remarks today’s Christian Science Monitor, in a not-to-be-missed op-ed by Mansoor Ijaz, a Muslim investor who asked Romney about Muslim appointees at a fundraiser earlier this month. Here’s the Romney team’s response.
Ijaz does a perfectly good job refuting Romney himself, so God-o-Meter will only state the obvious. How can a presidential candidate whose Mormon faith accounts for just 2-percent of the American population rule out a Muslim in his cabinet on the basis that Islam has too few American adherents?
Well, apparently American cultural phenomenons arrive in Poland quite late. But it’s still comical to think of a half-naked irreverent Jewish comedian flaunting it on a billboard above an old Communist building.
I plugged the text into InterTran and it came up with this: “wherebyprzez co ubaw, this when armpits.”
The only rodent in the entire spread is the critter on the cover.
Tim Whitaker, editor of PW, said that “it never occurred to us” that the front page could have been seen as offensive. Originally, he said, the idea was to use the dog on the sleigh as the lead image—that is, until the hamster one was presented.
That animal is the pet of Liz Spikol, the newspaper’s senior contributing editor.
Spikol said that once it was decided to have “cuteness” as the theme for this year’s guide, cute animals came to mind. She immediately thought of her male hamster, whose name is, coincidentally, Tinsel, and whom she described as “super cute.”
But why dress him as an Orthodox Jew? Why the overtly Jewish symbols to highlight the least religious of the religion’s holidays?
Spikol said that the paper’s art director created the “hat ensemble” for Tinsel to wear; it was geared to be “more graphically appealing” and “to make it readable as a Jewish observance.”
She added that, as a Jew herself, she doesn’t find the image offensive, and she doesn’t “understand why Orthodoxy would be offensive.”
“I just thought it was a fun image in context of our theme,” said Spikol.
A rodent as a symbol for the Jew has a long and notorious history, which becomes apparent even if you do a rudimentary search on the Internet.
Nazi propaganda throughout the 1930s—films, posters and other images—depicted Jews as rats and other vermin; the point was to portray Jews as subhuman creatures who were unclean and in need of extermination.
The rodent family is a large and varied class of animals, replied Spikol. There is a huge difference, she added, between a rat and a hamster—and hamsters, she said, were never used in Nazi propaganda.
Despite Spikol’s reasoning, some are upset with the cover.
“Where did your art director receive her training?” wrote Solomon Moses in an angry letter he sent to PW and then forwarded to the Exponent. “At the Heinrich Himmler Academy of Design?”
But is abortion murder? Most people think not. Evangelicals may argue that most people in Germany thought it was all right to kill Jews. But the parallel is not valid. Killing Jews was killing persons. It is not demonstrable that killing fetuses is killing persons. Not even evangelicals act as if it were. If so, a woman seeking an abortion would be the most culpable person. She is killing her own child. But the evangelical community does not call for her execution.
About 10% of evangelicals, according to polls, allow for abortion in the case of rape or incest. But the circumstances of conception should not change the nature of the thing conceived. If it is a human person, killing it is punishing it for something it had nothing to do with. We do not kill people because they had a criminal parent.
Nor did the Catholic Church treat abortion as murder in the past. If it had, late-term abortions and miscarriages would have called for treatment of the well-formed fetus as a person, which would require baptism and a Christian burial. That was never the practice. And no wonder. The subject of abortion is not scriptural. For those who make it so central to religion, this seems an odd omission. Abortion is not treated in the Ten Commandments—or anywhere in Jewish Scripture. It is not treated in the Sermon on the Mount—or anywhere in the New Testament. It is not treated in the early creeds. It is not treated in the early ecumenical councils.
What surprises me is not that Wills, who is Catholic, believes abortion doesn’t constitute murder, but that the LA Times would publish such an ancient argument and couch it as a fresh opinion. Wills’ position is one of two long held on abortion: either life begins at conception and abortion is murder or fetuses are not yet people so it’s permissable.
Also just because the church had a history of doing things one way or because 10 percent of evangelicals would allow abortion under certain circumstances doesn’t mean they are in line or out of line with Christian teaching.
Wills is certainly an accomplished author and historian (I can only hope to be so lucky one day); it’s just that I find this argument so weak and the topic so stale. For a more compelling read on choice, look to Dan Neil.
And let me know not whether you think abortion is a religious issue, but whether it should be.
Regarding the Annapolis peace summit, which will be held tomorrow, Time magazine reports:
When Middle East adversaries meet in Annapolis this week, will it be a peace conference, or rather a conference that ends all peace? Nearly 60 years since the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli conflict, that may well be the stark choice that awaits the conference’s participants.
Doomsday predictions, of course, have long been a staple of Middle East commentary. Every negotiation seems to be the “last chance” for peace. Every crisis seems to threaten the outbreak of a major war, if not the great apocalypse. But there’s reason to pay attention to the warnings this time. The 1979 Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel planted the seed for resolving the core of the conflict: the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Arab territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war. But if the Annapolis conference fails to provide urgently needed nourishment, the two-state solution and its hope of peace may die forever.
You went from fighting with the Irgun [a quasi-terrorist Zionist paramilitary group] to joining the Israeli movement Peace Now. Many Germans feel inhibited when discussing Israelâs behavior vis-Ã -vis the Palestinians, while others believe that embracing Palestinian rights masks a latent anti-Semitism. Whatâs your take?
What youâre talking about is more pronounced in Great Britain or France than in Germany. Criticism is legitimate. But what bothers me at times is a shrillness that gives you a feeling that it is not only based on an analysis of policy but on some deeper emotions â I donât want to say hatred â which comes through acceptable political pretext.
What did the fall of the Berlin Wall add to Holocaust research?
A lot. The opening of Soviet archives gave us an enormous amount of new material because they were keeping for themselves a lot of German documents. Of course, it also exposed the tendency to say, âLook, we spoke enough about Nazis, now letâs see about the second barbarian system in the world, communism and communist dictatorship.â They are so concentrated on their own dictatorship experience that the past before that is already ancient history. It is often a kind of unintentional layering of the other past. So the answer is that you have to study this and you have to study that. You canât replace one with the other.
I hear people say that if fascism ever came back to Germany, it would target the Muslims and not the Jews. Do you agree?
Well, it will not come again to Germany. Of that, I am almost sure. But itâs true thereâs a kind of xenophobia and hatred, possibly more in the former East Germany than in the West, of minorities coming in, mainly from Turkey.
Do you think the U.S. is embracing fascism?
No. Thatâs Philip Rothâs book The Plot Against America, where Lindbergh was a metaphor, I think, for President Bush. I like Roth a lot and I am critical of the U.S. as well, but thatâs much too overstated.
For more from the LA Weekly‘s Holocaust files, there is a story in the paper this week about accusations that famed Los Angeles author Charles Bukowski was a Nazi. Sunday, LA Times book editor David L. Ulin says he was just a bad writer.
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