Wednesday, May 31, 2006

News in Brief

Ethics Seminar Audio Online

Some of the readers of this blog expressed an interest in hearing about the JSN Ethics Seminar held on May 21st, 2006. I unfortunately had to cancel my attendance at the seminar, but the JSN has put the audio and handouts of the seminars online to download for free in MP3 format.

So download them, and turn your iPod into a jPod, and get some torah while on the go!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shavuot: Learn Like a Rockstar! (i.e. All Night Long)

This Thursday evening starts the holiday of Shavuot, the annual celebration of our receiving of the Torah all those 3,318 years ago. As was recently noted, our community here in Santa Cruz is offering many opportunities to be involved with Shavuot in different ways. As per usual, the JewniProj is here to hook you up with links and info to the various events in Santa Cruz (the following are the most accessible to students).

Holiday candles should be lit in Santa Cruz at 8:04pm on Thursday, June 1st.

Thursday June 1st 9:00-11:00pm
Short Holiday Service at the Chabad Student Center followed by a festive holiday dinner (must RSVP), followed at 11:00pm by an all night study/discussion session at Rabbi Friedman's house (151 Estates) - light refreshments will be available all night.

Thursday June 1st 7:00pm-6:00am
Rabbi Shalom Bochner invites everyone to his house for davening and all night learning, including a dairy and veggie potluck dinner. Contact him at shalom [at] for more info.

Thursday June 1st 7:30-10:30pm
Congregation Kol Tefillah invites everyone to Unity Temple on 407 Broadway for a family-oriented potluck dairy dinner, including Torah learning and fun and games for the kids.

Thursday June 1 through Saturday June 3
The Jewish Study Network invites everyone to three days of learning and celebration, details here.

Friday June 2nd 6:00 - 7:00 pm
The Chabad Student Center invites everyone to hear the Ten Commandments and then enjoy ice cream and cheesecake (followed by Friday Night Live).

Monday, May 29, 2006

Welcome Home Torah

Yesterday, Sunday, May 28th, Chabad by the Sea on Mission St. dedicated a new Torah scroll. Many community members attended the celebratory ceremony, including Stan Einhorn (President of Hillel's Board of Directors), Rabbi Shlomie and Rebbetzin Devorah Leah Chein (directors of the Chabad Student Center), and a number of UCSC students involved in the Chabad Student Center.

Chabad by the Sea was established a number of years ago, but didn't own its own Torah scroll until now (all previous Torah scrolls had been on loan). The effort to raise funds was spearheaded by Jeanne Rosen and Doron Fishbin, and I'm very pleased and happy for the community that their efforts paid off, and davka just before Shavuot which is the celebration of receiving the Torah from G-d at Mt. Sinai. Yasher koach!

In addition, here's a video of Stan and local kosher/organic winemaker Benyamin Cantz rolling the new scroll; here's Rabbi Friedman HaCohen benchin on the new scroll; here's Rabbi Shlomie Chein benchin on the new scroll; here's the community members around the lavish brunch.

Tom and Jerry: A Zionist Plot!

A professor in Iran recently gave a lecture, in which he claims that the classic cartoon Tom and Jerry is a Zionist plot:

"The Jews were degraded and termed dirty mice. Tom and Jerry was made to change the Europeans' perception of mice."
In addition, he claims that it was the Jewish hoarding of all the wealth in Europe in the 19th century that led to Hitler's aggrivation and his having to exterminate the Jews. Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that he claims that Tom and Jerry is made by the Jewish Walt Disney Company. Of course, the fact that it was made by Warner Brothers nad not Walt Disney truely shows this gentleman's deep academic credibility...

See the lecture here...
(thanks to Lazer Beams for the tip)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Chodesh Tov!

Tonight starts the month of Sivan, which means that Shavuot is this week! Shavua tov and Chodesh tov!

There's no Tachanun up until and including the 12th of Sivan.

Here is the "Rosh Chodesh Sivan niggun" (werd to Jewschool).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

And the winners are...

From the Jewish Studies Department:
Dear all,

We are proud to announce the winners of this year's Jewish Studies Undergraduate Awards. The following students have written exceptional papers on a variety of fascinating topics.

* Jesse Skorupa will be awarded for his paper, "Mandatory Sterilization: The Differences Between the United States and Germany"
* Aryeh Breakstone will be awarded for his paper, "'The Only Law That Applies to the Middle East Is the Law of Unintended Consequences': An Interview with Gershom Gorenberg"
* Melody Chu will be awarded for her paper, "From Empty Eyes to Cold Wombs: The Intimate Relationships Between Primo Levi and the Women of his Life."
* Ariel Raz will be awarded for his paper, "Cultural Cannibalism and Identity Construction: Unwrapping the Enigma of Lautreamont and Man Ray"

We will be honoring their accomplishments on Tuesday, May 30, 2006 in the Kresge Provost's House at 3:30pm. We hope that you will join us for the celebration which will include a short presentation from each of the winners. Please contact Rachel Click at (831) 459-5251 with any questions or concerns regarding parking.

Wow, nice one Ari, and congrats to the rest of you also.

Hillel pledges to "double the number of students involved in Jewish life"

The JTA reports:
Amid worries about fraying religious ties among Jewish college students and campus rifts over Israel, a conference held here this week probed the interplay between American academia and Jews.

“Inspiring Values, Creating Leaders: The Summit on the University and the Jewish Community,” hosted by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, drew more than 600 university leaders, professors, students and Jewish professionals to dissect such issues.

If Jewish life on American campuses is facing troubles, they stem from causes deeper than academia, many participants suggested.


The director of the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University, Leonard Saxe, who studies Jewish college students, suggested a strategy to re-engage these youth: “kishkes, kortex and kinesthetics,” deliberately tweaking the spelling of cortex.

That means offering experiences rich in emotional and sensory elements, intellectual heft and leadership opportunities, Saxe said in an interview.

“Jewish education hasn’t touched all the senses,” said Saxe, a panelist at “A New Generation’s Culture and Its Impact upon the Jewish Future,” the final session of the conference. “There are things which have Jewish intellectual content, but they’re not emotionally engaging.”

“You can be taught about Shabbat, but unless you live a day separate from the rest of the week, you don’t understand and appreciate it.”


Also at the conference, Hillel pledged to double its numbers over the next five years. In its five-year strategic plan released this week, the largest campus Jewish organization in the United States pledged to double the number of students involved in Jewish life; double its annual campaign; double its funding to local Hillels; and launch an aggressive recruitment and retention program for campus professionals.

To help fund the effort, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman International Center will increase its endowment from $10 million to $100 million. Hillel also pledged to strengthen its relationship with university administrations, Jewish Studies departments and Jewish communities near campuses where it works.

Full story
Emotionally engaging Jewish content, "living" Shabbat, millions of dollars... It just might work.

Happy Jerusalem Day!

The Jerusalem Post reports:
The climax of Israel's 58-year history was when Israeli soldiers declared 'the Temple Mount is in our hands,' at the end of the 1967 Six Day War, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday, as Israel marked Jerusalem Day and the reunification of the city 39 years ago.

The premier said that the historic moment was unparalleled in both the past and future annals of Israeli and Jewish history.


Although the prime minister said that Jerusalem was never more "Jewish whole and united" than it is today, city statistics indicate that the Jewish population of the city, as a percentage of the total number of city residents continues to fall, with parity between the number of Jewish and Arab residents in the city forecast in two decades, barring expected city border changes.

Olmert had stated that he is willing to cede outlying Arab neighborhoods in the city to the Palestinians as part of a final peace treaty.

Full story
Happy Jerusalem Day, indeed. :(

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

JSN Shavuot in SC!

Shavuot in Santa Cruz
Rabbi Yisroel & Sandy Gordon of the JSN
Rabbi Shmuel & ChaviVA Braun of JSU
June 1-3
221 1st Ave., Seabright, Santa Cruz
The community is invited to join Rabbi Yisroel & Sandy Gordon of the Jewish Study Network
for a beautiful Shavuot right here in Santa Cruz.
Prepare yourself for unforgettable Torah learning, spirited davening and gourmet Yom Tov meals!
Join us for the whole Chag, or any part that works for you.
Just RSVP to and be a part of it!
Everyone is invited – feel free to forward this message on to all your Jewish friends.
Special thanks to Leon Kaplan, Jeanne Rosen and Dr. Ted & Gloria Shiff
Thursday Night, June 1:
  • Evening Service (Mincha & Maariv) 8:05pm – Candle lighting 8:04pm
  • After davening, a traditional Yom Tov dinner will be served.
  • After dinner: all night torah learning marathon!
Maimonides: The Laws of Torah Study
Torah Structure, Content & Themes in the writings of Nachmanides
Prophets for a Day: Revelation at Sinai & the Sin of the Golden Calf
Friday, June 2:
  • Shacharit: 5:15am sharp! Sunrise: 5:50
  • Lunch (Dairy): 12:30pm (if you’re awake…)
  • Minchah: 7:50pm - followed by Maariv (sunset: 8:23)
  • 9:45pm Friday Night Dinner
Shabbat, June 3:
  • Shacharit: 9:30am (end-time for Shemah: 9:28)
  • Shabbat Lunch: 12:30pm
  • 2:30 – 7:00pm Shabbat Afternoon Torah Study [Refreshments will be served]
The Simcha of Yom Tov: How Should We Celebrate?
Megillat Ruth: Midrashic Perspectives
Becoming a Jew: The Halachot of Conversion
  • Minchah: 7:00pm followed by the Third Meal and Maariv
  • Havdalah: 9:05pm
We look forward to celebrating together the great Chag of Torah.
All meals, davening and Torah study will take place at 122 1st Ave, S.C.
*** Note the new address – bigger & better location ***
This is a free community event brought to you by the Jewish Study Network.
Feel free to join us for the entire Shavuot, or any part that works for you.
Bring a friend!
To find out more about JSN classes and events click here:

JewCSC Fashion

Our own UCSC Chabad House has joined the ranks of Hipster Judaism's fashion elite this week with the opening of their own online store, where you can buy an array of clothing and other items, including shirts emblazoned with the face of little Mendel Chein, "Everyone loves a Jewish slug" pink raglan hoodies, and even JewCSC beer steins and trucker hats.

Over the past couple years, online operations such as Sarah Lefton's SF-based Jewish Fashion Conspiracy (which reinvented the Chanuka bush), Sara Schwimmer's Chosen Couture, and the Jewschool Store (along with more random ventures like Who's Your Rabbi) have brought Jewish identity into a whole new realm.

The trend has even influenced the mainstream market, with companies like Urban Outfitters producing the popular "Everyone loves a Jewish girl" shirts, and more recently Old Navy has a fresh collection of "Kiss and Tel Aviv" shirts for the summer. Young, hip Jews have started to wear their Jewish identity on their collective sleeve, literally.

Of course, while all the clothing in Chabad's online store is hip, it is also modest. No Chanuka bushes here. Shirts range from $14.99-20, other items vary. Check it out at

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Shabbat Report

I spent this past Shabbos with five other Jewish slugs at the Chabad House at Stanford, guests of Rabbi Dov and Rebbetzin Rachel Greenberg. It was a wonderful Shabbat; we met new people, were treated to some holy, holy vorts by Rabbi Greenberg, we had our fill of the Rebbetzin's Shabbos cuisine (I heard the Trifle was to-die-for), and we explored the Stanford campus.

According to Chabad of Stanford's website, Rabbi Greenberg "is a sought after communicator of Jewish thought and spirituality, who has lectured throughout the United States, Israel, Europe." Usually R' Greenberg gets paid to lecture... Imagine, we got him to host us for Shabbat, feed us, and give us a lecture all for free! Saturday afternoon, we requested a talk on "The Struggle for Holiness in a Secular Age." The talk actually covered most of Jewish life and we all walked away seeing things a little more clearly.

The vibes at Stanford were much different than the vibes here, at UCSC. The students seemed less talkative and a little more subdued, and when they did talk, it was pretty much only about lofty, intellectual things, like philosophy and architecture... bleh. Come on, guys! Drink a beer or something! Let your hair down! Jay kay. No, but it was definitely different.

The campus was beautiful, but in a much different way than UCSC. There were lots of arches and a couple fountains. It had a much more collegiate atmosphere. They even had a big American flag in the middle of campus, and a church. You would think that everyone there is, like, a genius or something. But I asked one guy what his SAT score was, and he said it was in the 1400's... meh. Not bad, not bad, but I would have expected more from a Stanford student (jay kay, if you actually ever read this).

But speaking of Shabbos at a Chabad House, I personally have been hosted by Chabad families all over the world, from France, to Israel, to New York, to San Diego. And that brings me to an important point as summer break approaches and many of you sluggies head out all over the world: Wherever you go, there will most likely be a Chabad House there to welcome you in when you need a hot meal, a roof over your head, or just some Jewish love.

Most of us grew up with a more secularized, Westernized version of Judaism, where Jewish peoplehood was something vague that we read a lot about in books, but it didn't materialize in our day-to-day lives. Sure, we could donate money to some starving family somewhere in the world, we could show up to synagogue a couple times a year for the Chanuka carnival and Yom Kippur, we loved Seinfeld. But what's the whole "peoplehood" thing?

Tangible peoplehood still exists, very much so; we just didn't know it. It's the type where you can show up to a complete stranger's house and within five minutes they invite you in to spend the weekend just because you're Jewish, and you're family. It can be hard to understand at first, coming from a background like mine for instance, where people barely said "boo" to each other (much less "Shabbat Shalom") at the synagogue. But it's very real, and accessible to all of you.

This Friday night Hillel and Chabad will be having a joint Shabbat celebration--stay posted.

Thank you again to the Greenbergs for hosting us. Also, to see the rest of the pictures, click here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cinnamon Almonds: I Can't Believe It's Not Treifa

Our unbelievable kosher delight this week comes from the single (closest thing we have to a) bastion of kosher delicacies in Santa Cruz, Trader Joe's. In the nuts section, down the aisle from the dried fruits and on the side of the store nearest the fruits and vegetables, you'll find Cinnamon Almonds, a self-proclaimed "irresistible snack."

And yes, they are irresistible. They're just almonds coated with cinnamon and sugar. Sometimes they're best to much one-by-one or sometimes it's better to suck on them, break off the sugar-cinnamon coating inside your mouth, and then chew up the almond. Either way, the bracha is "borei pri ha'eitz" (i.e. "Baruch Atah [Hashem] Elokeinu Melech ha'olam, borei pri ha'eitz," lit. "Blessed are you G-d... Who creates the fruit of the tree").

You just might want to set a limit for yourself when you open up one of these bags, because the whole thing might disappear (in your tummy) before you know it.

Ahmadinejad, Der Fuhrer

Well, today I logged in to report on rumors that Iran had passed legislation forcing Jews and other minority groups in Iran to wear distinguishing badges, an action reminiscent of Nazi Germany's policies during the Holocaust.

But it now looks like they were only rumors.

The National Post reports:
Several experts are casting doubt on reports that Iran had passed a law requiring the country's Jews and other religious minorities to wear coloured badges identifying them as non-Muslims.

The Iranian embassy in Otttawa also denied the Iranian government had passed such a law.


According to the reports, Jews were to wear yellow cloth strips, called zonnar, while Christians were to wear red and Zoroastrians blue.

Full story
But don't get too comfortable, because Iran still wants Israel wiped off the map.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Eurovision 2006 and Israel

Make no mistake, I am a Eurovision Song Contest freak. For those out there who have no idea what I am talking about, the Eurovision Song Contest is an international event in which European countries dish it out for who can come up with the best song. It has been held annually since the first contest in Lugano, Switzerland, in 1956, and was most recently held in Athens, Greece Saturday evening, May 20th, 2006. It is essentially the European Cup of pop music. It has grown from featuring only seven countries, to an event which now includes 37 nations and is held in two rounds. This year’s winners were the goulish Finnish monster rockers Lordi with their power metal song "Hard Rock Hallelujah".

Despite all the lovely corniness that often surrounds the show, it has produced a number of great songs (my favorite is the jazzy 1963 Danish entry "Dansevise"), and it is fascinating to see what sort of song is seen as a potential hit and source of national pride by a given country. Originally songs had to be in an official language spoken in the country they represented, but this rule has been relaxed over the years, resulting in songs with English chorus lines, and recently most of the entries have been entirely in English, with participants hoping for for an international hit. This phenomenon is not unknown, as the Swedish group ABBA was catapulted to international stardom after the 1974 contest, while Canadian Celine Dion became known outside francophone countries when she represented Switzerland in 1988 and won. And with 600 million viewers in Europe and the Middle East, it is the most watched television event in the world, despite being virtually unknown in the US.

Israel has been an almost constant participant in the event since 1973, placing in the top-ten 17 times, and winning three times, most recently in 1998, with the song "Diva", performed by the transsexual Israeli singer Dana International. The 1979 winner "Hallelujah" performed by Gali und Milk & Honey, became an international Israeli hit. Mostly, the Israeli entries have been very Israeli or Jewish in character, often evoking the sounds of traditional Jewish and Israeli folk songs. This has changed in recent years, with the Israeli songs sounding more and more like European and American pop-music sung in English. While this trend is consistent with the development of the contest as a whole, I think it is rather sad. The contest is broadcast simultaneously in all the participating countries, and it is wonderful that a song sung all in Hebrew can be broadcast directly into the homes of television viewers in countries such as Germany, Russia, Spain, and others, that have been the breeding grounds for so much hate against Jews, and recently the State of Israel.

This year's Israeli entry, "Together We are One", was no exception to this downward spiral. It was sung by the American born Eddie Butler, a member of the controversial Black Hebrews, now living in Israel. The song does have certain sections sung in Hebrew, but is otherwise sung mainly in English, and is a gospel song that evokes images of Baptist churches in Alabama far more than the beauty of the Galilee or the streets of Jerusalem. Butler has a soulful and sweet voice, but one that brings R-Kelly to mind, not Sabras. Sadly, the song was chosen by Israeli viewers themselves in a national song contest earlier this year. One wonders about what has happened to the original flavor of the country and how the Israelis have chosen to represent themselves, and how they will choose to represent themselves in the future. To his credit, however, Butler's performance showed more talent and taste than most of the other entries, who tried to score points by showing as much skin and flesh as possible, trying to push sexappeal and not the song itself.

Friday, May 19, 2006

La"G BaOmer in Santa Cruz

I don't know about the Jews in Kansas, but we had a beautiful La"G BaOmer on the beach here in Santa Cruz. Hillel and the Chabad Student Center hooked us all up with a kosher barbecue, and Digeomai played music. Click here for more (and enlarged) pics.

What about fists?

Does anyone know where I took these pictures or care to take a guess?

I'll give you a hint: It's somewhere on campus.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

There will be peace when men like Abdul Malik rule the world. Yeah right.

Christianity and Sodas?

Yesterday, a friend and I were walking by the Crown plaza, when something caught my eye. We walked over to the people who were tabling and witnessed something that I thought was quite bizarre. The poster in front of the brown picnic table read, " Tell me why you are NOT a Christian, and I will give you a soda". The Intervarsity Bible Study group on campus was handing out sodas to students who approached the table and engaged in conversation about Christianity. They recorded the "interesting" answers and pleasantly gave away sodas, but it really made me think. When asked why we weren't Christian, my friend replied, "...Because I do not agree with people like you who proselytize". My hypothetical answer was much more sarcastic. The sense of superiority was felt all around, especially when we left; the group of students were laughing quite audibly. I was wondering if others thought these actions were a bit odd or if it was just me who felt strange?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Coming to a college near you...

Something exciting is arriving to UCSC this week... No, it's not Moshiach (well, G-d willing, it is, but...), it's a new issue of our campus Jewish journal, the Leviathan! Coming soon to a UCSC college, Chabad House, or Hillel near you.

Israel in the Gardens 2006

Israel in the Gardens 2006

Come celebrate Israel's 58th anniversary at the largest Jewish community family festival in Northern California!

SUNDAY, JUNE 4, 2006

Yerba Buena Gardens
San Francisco

11:00 am to 5:00 pm

Free admission!

Join us for a concert featuring Rami Kleinstein and Shiri Maimon, an Israeli Fashion Show featuring nine Israeli designers, Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue) multicultural theatre festival, “Israel in Motion” Mini Israeli film festival, shopping for unique arts and crafts and Israeli products, a run, tumble and jump Peace Olympics at the children's activities, Be’chol Lashon arts and crafts for the children, TZAVTA Young Adult Zone at Jillians’s all day and then an “After-Party” at Ruby Skye all night, Israeli food and much, much more! Check back for updates at!

Special event parking at Priority Parking Lots: 222 Second St. at Howard, and 1036 Mission St. at 6th St. All proceeds benefit the event.
Ah, Ruby Skye, the Jewish party venue of San Francisco...

Shavuos in the Mission

In case anyone will be in San Francisco during Shavuot, it looks like the Mission Minyan-ers are laying it down like this:
Host: Mission Minyan
Location: The Women's Building
3543 18th St., San Francisco, CA
When: Friday, June 2, 8:00pm to 11:00pm
June's Big Shabbos is also Big Shavuos...

8:00 - Maariv - NOTE SPECIAL TIME!
8:30 - Kosher Dairy Dinner
9:30 - Guided Beit Midrash Torah Study

A SUGGESTED DONATION OF $10 for dinner must be made in advance either using paypal on or mailed to Mission Minyan c/o Jeff Lerman 2124 McKinley Ave, #14 Berkeley, CA 94703.

We know it’s hard when you’re as sexy and fun as the Sisterhood is to commit to what you’re gonna do on a Friday night so far ahead of time. Tough! This is a catered event so we need to get your RSVP by May 25th. So think about it, calendar it, and we’ll see you there! In fact, you can even sit next to us. Note: There won’t be home meal matching this Big Shabbos, so join us now or forever hold your blintzes.
Just wanted to put that out there. This will be taking place the first weekend in June. I've heard that the Mission Minyan community has a bunch of super nice, dedicated Jews, and they're always happy for new faces to join them.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

On La"G BaOmer

Indeed, we are in the period known as the Counting of the Omer, during which we count 49 days from the Second night of Passover until Shavuot. And yes, this past night and day were La"G BaOmer, literally the 33rd [count] in the Omer. It was on this day that the plague that had killed 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's students stopped, and it is also the day on which Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, of blessed memory, died (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai delivered the holy Zohar to the world, thereby introducing the Kabballah to the public (as public as it could be at the time)). La"G BaOmer celebrations are esepecially intense in Meiron in Israel, where Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is buried.

Now, Ben Baruch of brought up a good point today: Why do we celebrate when 24,000 of the greatest scholars just died? Moreover, it is the day on which one of the greatest kabbalists of all time died! And why is this such a celebratory day, when most of the people who celebrate La"G BaOmer davka say Tachanun on Yom HaAtzma'ut? Will one of our esteemed rabbis or resident scholars please enlighten me?

Also, in response to Netmessiah's post, there are in fact numerous different customs regarding the Omer, as explains: The Chabad custom, as put forth by the holy kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, is to observe the mourning practices "beginning on the day after Passover, up until (but not including) the day before Shavuot;" another custom is to mourn "[f]rom the first day of the Omer Count until the 33rd day of the Omer;" another is "[f]rom the 30th of Nissan (the first day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar) until the 3rd of Sivan in the morning;" another is "[f]rom the second day of Iyar until the day before Shavuot;" another, which is the prevailing Sephardic practice is "[f]rom the first day of the Omer until the morning of the 34th day of the Omer" which is the only custom where La"G BaOmer actually isn't observed as a day of rejoicing.

On La"G BaOmer, it is customary to have bonfires, barbecues, enjoy live music, let kids play with bows and arrows, and to give young boys (three year olds) their first haircuts.

I also wanted to share this great drash I read in Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky's Vedibarta Bam regarding Rabbi Akiva's students' plague:
QUESTION: One reason we celebrate Lag BaOmer is that the epidemic which caused the death of Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 disciples ceased on that day (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 493:5).

Rabbi Akiva defined the commandment to "love your fellow as yourself" (Vayikra 19:18) as "a fundamental principle of the Torah" (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9:4). How could his disciples have departed from his teachings so drastically that their interpersonal conduct resulted in an epidemic?

ANSWER: Since every person is unique in his [or her] nature and thought processes, he [or she] has a unique path in the service of Hashem, in the study of Torah, and in the fulfillment of mitzvot. For example, one individual may be motivated by the love of Hashem, while another is inspired by the awe of [G-d]. Similarly, each of Rabbi Akiva's disciples had his [sic] own personal approach to Divine service. Because they were highly developed individuals, each had internalized his [sic] own particular approach to the point that it affected every aspect of his [sic] personality.

Operating from within his [sic] own perspective, each of them perceived any approach different form his [sic] own as incomplete and inferior. And because Rabbi Akiva emphasized the commandment to "love your fellow as yourself," each of his students tried to influence his [sic] colleagues to accept his [sic] own approach.

Being all intensely involved in their own path of service, however, none of them would change. The tension between them began to escalate as the deep commitment every student felt to his [sic] own particular approach hindered a proper show of respect for colleagues who followed a different path.

The deficiency in their course of action -- highlighted by the severe punishment they received -- teaches a very important lesson: No matter how deeply one is involved in one's own service of Hashem, one must always be broadminded enough to appreciate that someone else may have a different approach. Although, from one's own perspective, the other person's path may appear inadequate, this perception may stem from one's own shortcomings and not from that of the other person. (לקוטי שיחות ח''ז ע 337)
I hope everyone enjoyed La"G BaOmer. Next year in Meiron!

It's Lag Ba'Omer!!!

During the Omer, tradition says that the students of our great sages, Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai, were stricken with a plague. Was this plague really an epidemic? Or was it the opression of the merciless Romans? Also, we mourn the loss of Shimon Bar Kochba, the great general and tactician, Rabbi Bar Yochai, the spiritual Guru of the Holy Land, and the destruction of Beitar, the last stronghold of the Children of Zion, before destruction at the hands of the Romans. Bottom line is that a lot of brothers were dying.

As a result, observant Jews treat the period of the Omer in a style of mourning. They refrain from listening to music and dancing. From shaving and from getting haircuts. And they dont get married.....though getting engaged is still cool!

But on the day of Lag Ba'Omer, the 33rd day in the counting of the Omer, the plague was lifted. So, it's officially Lag Ba'Omer. Rejoice!

Things to do:
1. Shave
2. Get Haircuts
3. Dance
4. Party
5. Listen to Music
6. Get Married (well, if you want...)
7. Go to SeaBright Beach from the BBQ/Bonfire!!!

BTW - Does anyone have the lyrics to the Marcus Brothers BAR YOCHAI song?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Jewlicious Video

Back in February, seven students from UCSC trucked down to Long Beach to attend Beach Hillel's Jewlicious at the Beach v2.0. In short, it was a unique conference celebrating Jewish peoplehood.

There were Chassidim, Reformers, Neo-Chassidim, Orthodox, Jewish hipsters, Jewish punkers, non-observers, non-affiliaters, Rabbis, and students from all over California, and a few attendees from across the US and other countries. But labels aside, we all identified as Jews, and we all spent an amazing weekend together.

It was a space outside of normal life; you could play b-ball with Chassidic reggae superstar Matisyahu, learn some Torah with Rabbi Yonah (of Beach Hillel), or chat blogs with CK, Laya, and Esther, three of the stars of You could rub elbows with Sue Fishkoff (author of The Rebbe's Army) or meet any number of other leaders of the Jewish community pushing the envelope on how we think of ourselves as Jews.

This video, produced by our friend Sasha Perry, shows a glimpse into the Jewlicious experience. There is also a video of a jam session at Jewlicious here (check out Yonah Feinstein rocking out!), and one of a general ruach session here.

My UCSC friends, I really, really hope more of you can come next year to Jewlicious at the Beach v3.0. Another huge shout out and yasher koach to the Booksteins and all the Beach Hillel homies who made that experience possible.

**UPDATE** If the flash video doesn't work, click here.

The Shabbat Report

Praises to the Most High. It's been quite a while since I've published a Shabbat Report, but this past Shabbat was definitely Report worthy, so here we go. Also, before I begin, Friday was Pesach Sheni and starting Monday night is La''G BaOmer.

Friday night was the second ever Bochur Pad Minyan; it was about student-initiated guerrilla davening, heartfelt praise, and bringing Jerusalem a little closer to our little piece of galus. The spirited Carlebach-style Kabbalat Shabbat was led by my homie Yonah Feinstein, a fourth-year student and a member of the Twelve Tribes Co-op.

After davening, greeting and well-wishing our Angelic escorts, and praising the Woman of Valor, we each made Kiddush, washed, and began the meal of the Holy Ancient One. Organic challah, dips and spreads, fish, tangy organic salad, chicken soup, home-cooked rosemary-garlic chicken and spicy asparagus, and lemon cake and strawberry sauce, made from scratch, with love. The meal was filled with zmiros and sprinkled with l'chaims; the scent of Arak, the anise-flavored favorite of many Sephardic Jews, hung lightly in the air.

One of my friends called the dinner "Chein-worthy," which is, in my opinion, one of the best compliments a Shabbat dinner can receive in Santa Cruz (for those who live outside of Santa Cruz or who live in town but have never been, it was a reference to the lavish Friday night dinners at the Chabad Student Center).

Thank you to everyone who came and helped elevate the evening, and thank you ABreakSt for the drinks. Werd. And Jewslug was missed (and, of course, FedoraBlack was missed, as usual, but he was somewhere really cool for Shabbat anyway).

Saturday morning the Bochur Pad contingency went to shul, which was disappointing to say the least. No chazzan, no minyan, no drash. But the walk there and back was nice.

My housemate (the quintessential closet-Chassid) prepared Shabbat lunch (we'll call him "Lil Bud" because he wishes to remain anonymous). The Maitl Place and a number of other homies joined us. As part of the first course, we had a special treat of spicy fish stew cooked by Amittai, and Lil Bud prepared the rest of the meal, including a thick and meaty cholent, cooked just right. It was the crown-jewel of the meal and received a number of genuine compliments from a number of people.

It was a heimish Shabbat, one of the best kinds. Next Shabbat, I'll be reporting from Stanford.

Israeli Court Bars Potential Terrorists From Entering Israel

The JTA reports:
Israeli Arabs are upset after Israel’s top court upheld a controversial law that prevents Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs from living in Israel.


At least one of the Palestinian suicide bombers to have struck since 2000 was a resident of Israel through marriage, and Israeli Jews are all the more suspicious of Palestinians since they voted in a Hamas government earlier this year.


“On this day, the High Court effectively approved the most racist legislation in the State of Israel: legislation which bars the unification of families on the basis of national belonging: Arab-Palestinian,” Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, said in a statement.

Adalah likened the ruling, which means that many Israeli Arabs will either have to live apart from their Palestinian spouses or move to the West Bank or Gaza Strip, to South Africa under apartheid. Israeli officials have long rejected such comparisons as false, given the open conflict with the Palestinians and other constitutional rights generally enjoyed by Israeli Arabs.

Full story.
If those families want to be united so bad, why don't the Israeli Arabs move out of Israel? Oh, that's right, because their lives inside Israel are so much better than anything a Palestinian government would provide them with--those sneaky racist, Nazi, Zionist occupiers!

In my 2004-5 term in Jerusalem, I once had the unique opportunity of visiting the Dialogue College for Islamic Studies in Tira, Israel. I was able to speak one-on-one and in group settings with a number of Palestinian nationalists, all of whom admitted that while they unquestioningly support the creation of an Arab-Palestinian state beside the State of Israel, they would not move there once it was created. Life is just too sweet inside the Zionist Colony, eh Abdul Malik?

In related news, a recent survey found that "62% of Israelis would like to see the government actively encourage Arabs to leave Israel," which must be, in light of the article quoted above, a compassionate move to unite Arab families--or maybe it's just because Israelis want to live in peace without the fear of being blown up every day. Full story. Cross-posted on Jewschool.

RE: Massacre in Jenin?

A letter submitted by UCSC student Eitan, in response to Mahmoud's defense of a recent CJP event:
Dear Mahmoud,

First of all, thank you for taking the personal initiative to engage “our side” in a dialogue about the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Honestly, I would prefer to participate in a movement that brings young American Jews and Arabs together rather than finding myself on one side of a dividing line between the two groups. Let me also explain to you that I am not of the ilk to “demonize” people nor their motivations on any side of this conflict, because like any conflict, I see it as tragically human. Also, I want you to know that I was pleased that your response to the Jewnification Project post made pleas for “calm and critical thinking in our analysis,” approaching the conflict with “intellectual skill,” and being open “to listen to the whole answer, not the parts you want to hear.”

On this last point, I think what causes Jews and Arabs to lose a sense of their shared humanity in this conflict is the fact that each side holds a different set of facts and historical interpretations. I am quite sure, Mahmoud, that if you were born to a Jewish family, you would be advocating for Israel, and that if I were a Palestinian, I would be working with CJP.

Now, I am not going to get into a deep discussion about whose facts are right and whose are wrong. However, the closer we come to establishing an agreed-upon set of facts, the closer peace will seem to be. Likewise, the more one side falsely represents or accuses the other, the further peace will be from us.

Yesterday, I was abhorred at the sight of five young men, pretending to be dead at the hands of the “brutal and inhuman Israeli occupiers” and in full funeral regalia of a “martyr” (the same as the people who try to kill my family!). Although I accept your right to interpret reality as you see it, you or anyone else does not have full liberty to distort the truth. Any intelligent person would have gathered that the “message in imagery” that CJP was trying to convey was that Palestinians are being savagely murdered to satisfy Jewish greed in the West Bank and Gaza, and all the Arabs want is their inalienable right to self-determination. To support my point, I should highlight the fact that each “tombstone” described a massacre perpetrated on Palestinians by the evil Israelis.

Despite all that, what is worse is that one of the massacres you described (Jenin) is completely false - A TOTAL LIE. I don’t know if even the Palestinian Authority still claims it happened. Although you might say, “I’m sorry, but it was ‘just one’ mistake,” I’m sure it is emblematic of more mistakes and symptomatic of a pattern of being “loose with the truth” in order to suit your ends – even at a cost to others.

First of all, as an ardent Zionist, I do not take the accusation of being a murderer lightly. Secondly, I will assume in good faith (G-d knows why?) that the only reason CJP distributed that false information was because they did not know any better since the only information they receive is one-sided, Palestinian/Arab media. Nevertheless, in the real world, we must be held accountable for the things we do and the consequences of our mistakes whether we intended for them or not. I repeat, it is only my assumption, based on an unwillingness to believe that even my adversary would stoop so low as to conjure a lie about a massacre, that I do not believe CJP deliberately intended to deceive the people from whom they were asking for help in the name of justice and compassion.

NOW, in case you do not believe me in my claim that the Jenin massacre never occurred, let me point out some facts. First of all, according to many sources (any credible source on the planet), including MSNBC, Time magazine, and BBC news, the Jenin massacre did not occur. Additionally, Colin Powell remarked, “I see no evidence that would support a massacre at Jenin.” Of course, you might be skeptical and accuse any American news source of being motivated to distort the truth; however, in that same line of reasoning, you should also be skeptical of any Arab government’s or news source’s motivation to distort the truth for their political aims. Nonetheless, you cannot ignore that Colin Powell’s views are shared by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and the European Union– all of which are organizations that have in the past shown a strong prejudice against Israel.

It is also important to point out that Israel did not raid Jenin arbitrarily. Its raid followed a series of suicide bombings while even PA documents referred to Jenin as the “suiciders' capital.” Moreover, the false massacre accusation adds insult to injury because Israel put its soldiers in greater harm, conducting door-to-door searches, to protect as many innocent civilians as possible while they could have rather bombed it like the Americans did in a similar situation in Afghanistan.

As Islamic Jihad terrorist Tabaat Mardawi told CNN on April 23, 2002, finding out that Israel would send in soldiers instead of tanks and planes was a relief. “It was like hunting ... like being given a prize. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the soldiers,” he said. “The Israelis knew that any soldier who went into the camp like that was going to get killed.” He added: “I’ve been waiting for a moment like that for years.” Mardawi estimated that Islamic Jihad had strewn 1,000-2,000 bombs and booby traps throughout the camp.

The truth is that only 56 people died on April 17, 2002 in Jenin – 34 of whom were combatants. That means that 22 civilians were unfortunately killed, but Anyone with some intelligence can understand that “collateral damage,” though tragic, is unavoidable in our modern age of warfare. Nevertheless, I think a reasonable question to ask yourself is why do Palestinian terrorists take cover amongst civilians, use them as human shields, and endanger their own people? Why do they build weapons factories next to schools?

The U.N. Department of Foreign Affairs states: “The use of schools and clinics as detainment centers or firing points is also unacceptable.” Why is there no mention of the common practice whereby Palestinian gunmen hide in civilian areas, refugee camps and UNWRA institutions, and locate weapons factories and ammunition dumps there? Why is this widespread Palestinian practice ignored?

Onto another subject, you believe that the only true “peaceful” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a one-state, bi-national solution. Not only is that a veiled strategy to eliminate the State of Israel, it also strips away the right to self-determination from Israelis – a right Palestinians are trying to secure for themselves. Why should anyone respect Palestinians' demand for self-determination when they are so unwilling to grant that same accordance to others? Secondly, in your mind, how do you think advocating for a one-state solution advances a solution to our problems? It doesn’t! Israelis are not going to commit national suicide for a country for which they have waited almost 2,000 years and have fought four wars and endured two intifadas for. Not only is your vision of a bi-national state completely unrealistic from the perspective of our current situation, but it also forfeits a country’s (in this case Israel’s) right to maintain its national character, its culture, its heritage, and its values. Mahmoud, I suggest you research Jewish history in the diaspora as you will come to understand why having a Jewish homeland, a place where we can, without fear or doubt, express our faith and our culture freely, is so important to us.

In conclusion, Mahmoud, I wish Palestinians and Israelis could live side-by-side in peace, but I hope if peace is ever to be achieved between our two peoples that it is not a “Cold Peace” – simply an agreement to not kill each other. Instead, I hope our two peoples progress into a future of friendship and cooperation. Friendship, however, can only exist when it is based on mutual respect. Disregarding Israelis’ desire for a nation while putting Palestinian nationhood in a position of primary importance is hypocritical, and deliberately misinforming ignorant people about massacres and human rights violations is an affront to ideals of compassion and justice. Jews are a people who, as history has shown, are always taking up the cause of social justice, and I know that if the Palestinians showed a consistent desire to respect the Jewish state and live in peace and friendship with its citizens, they would find a people most happy to reciprocate. It’s 2006. We’re not going back to 1948 or 1967. It’s time to move forward and put the past behind us.

Shalom Alechem,


Week in Preview

    Monday, May 15th:
  • Primo Levi and the Germans: After the Holocaust how is forgiveness possible?

  • Tuesday, May 16th: La''G BaOmer!
  • Professor Alvin Rosenfeld, an important scholar in the areas of both the Holocaust and contemporary anti-Semitism, will be speaking about recent articles he has written on the topic of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism among Jewish intellectuals. 10-11:30am in Bay Tree Conference Room C.
  • Beach bonfire, barbecue and live musical performances by Digeomai and Gaggle. 7:00pm at Seabright Beach. Rides leaving from Baytree Bookstore at 6:30 and 7:00pm.
  • ROUTINE BICYCLE MAINTENANCE CLINIC, 6:30pm @ Cycle Works (1149 41st Ave., across from Spa Fitness). Bring your bike to learn easy fix-it skills. Free snacks to keep you nourished.

  • Wednesday, May 17th:
  • Bagels, Lox and Torah in the afternoon
  • Tacos and Talmud in the evening.
  • FOOD DELIVERY DAY, 10-5pm @ The Hub (703 Pacific Ave Suite B, entrance on Spruce St.). Call to volunteer for this fun and inspiring community event. Bring your bike and trailer, or one can be provided for you, and spend an hour or two transporting goods via bicycle! Call Elaina @ PedX: 831-426-BIKE.

  • Thursday, May 18th:
  • Past Ghosts, Present Demons: Anti-Semitism in Europe 12:00 - 1:30pm in Cowell Conference Room. Lunch will be provided. Ben Cohen, Anti-Defamation League's Director of European Affairs, examines why hating Jews isn't history.
  • Then at 8:00pm, check out Middle East: The Movie in Stevenson 150.
  • BIKE TO WORK/SCHOOL DAY, 6:30-9:30am. TRY A FRESH AIR COMMUTE – DO YOUR PART TO REDUCE GLOBAL WARMING! Win $1,000! Enter the Clean Air Month drawing by filling out a Bike to Work Day Breakfast site survey or registering online at Free Breakfast for Cyclists at UCSC Women’s Center (near base of campus), at the top of bike path, and at the UCSC Bike Co-op (Bay Tree Plaza).

  • Friday, May 19th:
  • Friday Night Live at the Chabad House, includes special guest speaker Bruce Thompson.
  • Student-led services and Shabbat dinner at Hillel.

  • Saturday, May 20th:
  • Shabbat.

  • Sunday, May 21st:
  • Paintball: shoot the Rabbi (jk).
  • Hillel fundraiser at the Bittersweet Bistro. $100 dinner includes local women singing.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Heeb Hook-Up

Don't say the JewniProj never tries to hook you guys up. Here's what we got:
Hey, San Franciscans: This Heeb-mail is for your eyes only. This month, we're hosting an exclusive screening of Keeping Up With the Steins starring our Money Issue coverboy, Jeremy Piven. Read on to find out how to be one of the very first to see the Entourage star's latest film.


Miramax and Heeb Magazine invite you to a special advance screening of
Keeping Up With the Steins. This comedy follows tenacious underdog Adam Fiedler and his efforts to throw his son the ultimate Bar Mitzvah. Starring as Fiedler is Jeremy Piven, coverboy for Heeb Magazine's Spring edition, the Money Issue.

The first 100 people to email will receive free passes for you and a friend to this exclusive screening plus two free copies of the Money Issue. And afterwards, toss one back at the Hemlock (1131 Polk Street) to celebrate the release of Heeb's latest issue.

DATE: Monday, May 15
TIME: 7:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Landmark Lumiere 1572 California (at Polk)
San Francisco, CA 94109

Click here for more info
I generally don't support what Heeb Magazine does, and I won't be going to SF for this screening, but I just wanted to share the love.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Primo Levi and the Germans: After the Holocaust how is forgiveness possible?

Primo Levi (photo: Jerry Bauer)
A talk by Alvin Rosenfeld, Jewish Studies, Indiana University.
7:00 PM Monday, May 15th, 2006,

Stevenson College, Fireside LoungeUCSC.

Is forgiveness possible after the Holocaust? Some say "yes"; Levi, however, implicitly says "no." His goal was to understand the Germans and, equally if not more importantly, to do what he could to get them to understand themselves. He tried over 40 years to do just that and came to the conclusion that he failed on both counts. Professor Rosenfeld's lecture will try to explain the nature of his quest and why, in the end, it did not succeed.

Alvin Rosenfeld is the author of Imagining Hitler and A Double Dying: Reflections on Holocaust Literature, and has edited Thinking About the Holocaust: After Half a Century and co-edited Confronting the Holocaust: The Impact of Elie Wiesel. He has served as scholarly consultant to many Jewish institutions and organizations including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, and he was appointed by the President of the United States to a five-year term as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

This talk is sponsored by the UCSC Jewish Studies Program and Humanities Division.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Two Jews, Three Opinions

Explore Jewish Ethics with the JSN:
Half-Day Torah Seminar, followed by a Kosher Barbecue.
Sunday, May 21st, 1:30-6:00pm

Who Comes First? Risking Your Life to Save Another, by Rabbi Avi Lebowitz.
Redefining Theft, by Rabbi Yaacov Benzaquen.
Is it Racist to Consider Yourself Chosen?, by Rabbi Daniel Steinberg.
Preemptive Attacks, by Rabbi Yisroel Gordon.
The Ethical Employer, by Rabbi Zev Jacobs.
Is it Kosher to be a Whistleblower?, by Rabbi Joey Felsen.

The seminar consists of three one-hour sessions.
During each session, two simultanious classes will be offered.

Admission: $10 per person
By reservation only: or (650) 961-4576
(babysitting available)
Kehillah Jewish High School
3900 Fabian Way
Palo Alto, CA
Click here for a flyer with details on each class.


I just thought this picture was funny and ironic.

That was apparently the reaction of some of the military recruiters who got kicked off UCSC's campus. Follow up here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Abdul Malik: "Zionism is a mixture, a fusion of the concept of white supremacy and the chosen people"

We recently received a comment from Mahmoud, a supporter of CJP (presumably at UCSC). The following is what Mahmoud had to say about Abdul Malik, who will be speaking tomorrow at the Baytree Bookstore Plaza as part of "Palestine Awareness Week": "Abdul Malik is a great example [of how to maintain our calm and also be critical in our thinking and analysis of events] - his statements are often taken way out of context and we invite everyone to come to the Quarry on Thursday at 12:00PM noon-time and listen to this man speak before making judgements."

Well, in the video to the left, you can watch the "even-handed" and "intellectual" Abdul Malik as he accuses "Zionist Jews" of controlling all of Western media, including Fox News and BET(?!). He also espouses his "knowledge" that Israel was involved in the 9/11 attacks. But my favorite is him calling Rupert Murdoch a "Zionist Jew;" you can find "facts" to back up all of Malik Ali's claims at and both of which are known exclusively for their explicit anti-Semitism.

My only question is, if the Zionist Jews control everything and they have all these big secrets, why are they letting Malik Ali travel to all these university campuses and "expose the truth"? Hm, maybe because it's not true, and we have something called Freedom of Speech in the United States (and in Israel) that allows people to get away with saying such things, whereas such freedoms do not exist in most of the Arab world (and in fact, Malik Ali probably would have been arrested for his anti-Semitism in Morocco, which is a Muslim country.)

Here's another video, if anyone is interested. And here are a few articles about Malik Ali: one, two, three.

So, he'll be out there tomorrow at noon. Make sure you show up so you can be "enlightened." (Man, I really feel bad for all the naive students who get sucked into his rhetoric...)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

There is no Israel; only Palestine

This week is "Palestine Awareness Week" at UCSC, and already things are getting spicy... And Abdul Malik hasn't even shown up yet! Today, CJP and their cronies had a whole demonstration at the Baytree Bookstore Plaza, acting out the "Jenin massacre." Funny they chose that one in particular to re-enact instead of one of the many real massacres that have occurred over there. I personally would have liked to have seen the Hebron Massacre of 1929, when the Jews of Hebron were massacred by Arabs and the city was left Judenfrei for the first time in at least a few thousand years. But I wasn't involved in the planning, so what can you do?

Also, the following is the account of a student who attended Monday night's talk by Elias Rishmawi. Down with Israel!!!
Tonight I went to the talk by Elias Rishmawi, CJP's speaker. It was absolutely unbelievable to say the least! He is on the National Steering Committee for International ANSWER, the National Coordinator for the Free Palestine Alliance, and he is on the National Council of Arab Americans. The program said that CJP gives special thanks to Scott Kennedy at RCNV, Sammi Abed and Family, the ISO, the MSA, Juliano Mer Khamis, and Lee Maranto at SOAR.

Elias Rishmawi did not mention Israel in his talk, he called it the Zionist colony. He was not just referring to settlements when he said "The Zionist Colony", he was talking about all of Israel. His talk was titled "Sharon's Legacy and the future of Palestine." He gave the whole history about how the Zionist colony was created to oppress the Palestinians, and he went through his history of Israel, repeating how Sharon led the slaughter of innocent Palestinians in '48, '56, '67, the '70's, '82, etc. He gave the Palestinian narrative that Sharon was such a war criminal because he killed so many people. He made his comments about Gaza being occupied, the people there not being free, since the Israelis have a fence around it and guns at the entrance so no Palestinians can come out. He said that the Palestinians are still here because they resisted. When Israelis had tanks, they picked up rocks and threw rocks and the Palestinians have created an international symbol of resistance by that image. They will fight until they get their homes back in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

One student who was sitting in the front asked Elias, "What is your solution for peace between Israel and Palestine?" Elias got really angry right up to his face and said, "THERE IS NO ISRAEL! It's the Zionist colony!" He said, "I'm going to convince you here my solution is right. What do you think about letting all the Palestinians come back to their homes?"... The guy stared at him, he was quiet, he was like in his face, "What do you think?" The student said, "It depends on where their homes are." Elias said, "They deserve to go back to their homes. I would take down the wall, I would end the colonialist mentality of the Israelis colonizing the Palestinians, I would end the racism, and stop the land taking." Then he walked over to this same poor student and took his bag with his school books and notes in it. He said, "I'll take your bag and exchange it with my bag, you won't be needing this... How would you like that? You would not like that; I know you would not like that, and I can see from your eyes that when I'm done with this talk you will advocate for the end of this mentality by the Zionist colonizers!" And then he put his bag back.
Good times, good times. Let's get some action coordinated for the rest of the days, please. And, fyi, the Chabad Student Club is showing Middle East, the Movie this Thursday night Thursday the 18th at 8pm in Stevenson 150, in case anyone wants some real information about the Middle East. But we still need other forms of action.

Monday, May 08, 2006

JTA Discovers Jewish Blogs

The JTA released an article today by Sue Fishkoff (author of The Rebbe's Army) about Jewish blogging, which would be like the AP releasing an article about digital cameras, I think. Which is to say, Jewish blogs have been changing the dynamics of Jewish communities for at least a couple years now (not that digital cameras change people's lives, but they've at least been around and everybody uses them or at least knows someone who does -- not exactly news).

If I sound a little bitter about the whole thing, maybe it's because I am. In the piece, Sue Fishkoff mentions Jewlicious at the Beach v2.0, which brought together numerous leaders of the Jewish blogosphere and many active Jewish bloggers, as well as two carloads of students from UCSC. She also mentions the upcoming conference in Israel this summer, ROI120, a gathering of 120 progressive, young Jewish leaders (many of them bloggers as well) to discuss the future of Judaism.

Sue interviewed me at Jewlicious about the Jewnification Project, and I was therefore hoping that our blog would be mentioned in the article, but apparently we're not popular enough yet; burn. Also, I happen to know that a small handful of students from UCSC applied to ROI120 and got rejected; double burn. On the positive side, the photo in the article, which features our good friend and fellow blogger Esther from and, also features, more subtly in the background, our good friend and UCSC student Alex Miller! Yes! That's one burn for you, JTA! and and a couple other big blogs get mentioned, but remember, they too were once little blogs! isn't even two years old. Now the article might have been more timely had it focused on the smaller community blogs that are trying to make a difference, but I guess then they wouldn't be able to mention the philanthropic efforts of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Yeah, we're poor and small. But there is still hope.

But bitter feelings aside, I could identify with some of the content in the article.
Activists increasingly are translating the Internet’s organizing potential into real life.

“They’re moving from being a virtual community to a physical community,” says Roger Bennett, vice president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies. [...]

[...] Ariel Beery, 26, a Manhattan-based Jewish activist and co-editor of BlogsofZion [...] sees Jewish blogs as 21st-century versions of the European coffeehouses of a century ago, places “where people would get together, argue and write something up. Each cafe would have its own literary journal; communities were built around the written word.”

The blogging world, he says, is “developing its own language,” which he sees as the precursor for a new worldwide forum for discussion and activism.
The potential is there, we just have to harness it.

One of the impetuses behind the launch of the JewniProj was a vision to build community through a blog. During the fall of 2004, when I first got into, I saw a virtual community of bloggers materialize in real life at the first meeting of the Corner Prophets Initiative at Daila, on Shlomzion Hamalka in Jerusalem, right off of Yafo street. Since then, I've been an addict.

I know this post is rambling, and there's not much of an angle (sorry Talia, if you're reading this)... I just wanted to get that off my chest. JewniProj contributors, you guys rock. Keep it up.

By the way, the JTA article is available here.

**UPDATE** Speaking of Jewlicious at the Beach v2.0, there's a preview of the Jewlicious video online available here. I spotted at least five Jewish slugs... see how many you can find!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Superman was Jewish

By guest contributor Blake Landau

Rabbi Simcha Weinstein is the founder of the Jewish Student Foundation of Downtown Brooklyn, an educational and cultural centre that strives to ignite pride and commitment through innovative educational and social experiences in an open environment. He is also the author of the new book Up, Up and Oy Vey! How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero (Leviathan Press). For more information, visit or visit Rabbi Weinstein's website at

Blake Landau: What was the first comic book you ever picked up?

Simcha Weinstein: I have absolutely no idea!! I was always fascinated with the heroes of popular culture, Indiana Jones, Star Wars and of course being English – James Bond was always a fantasy figure. My interest in comics came first through the medium of television – with the live action Batman, Spider-Man, and The Hulk shows.

BL: You have drawn parallels between superheroes and stories from the Bible. What are some of the parallels you found?

SW: The great eighteenth century Hasidic master, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, taught that the weekly Torah portion should be understood with regards to the events in ones own life, calling this way of reading “living with the times.” The early comic book creators – who were largely second generation Jewish immigrants – applied Jewish tradition through the prism of their hard lives in a baffling new land.

In late 1930’s persecution was descending upon European Jews and the world needed heroes. Before their own country went to battle with Hitler, young Jewish American artists and writers began creating powerful characters to fight back against the Nazis, “living with the times” in their own crazy way.

These early creators were almost exclusively Jewish – so the cultural tales they learned as kids came through Jewish tradition, not other religions. Take for example Jack Kirby – known as the King of Comics – he once said, "In the movies, the good always triumphed over evil. Underneath all the sophistication of modern comics, all the twists and psychological drama, good triumphs over evil. Those are the things I learned from my parents and from the Bible. It's part of my Jewish heritage." Kirby’s father was an observant Jew and Kirby himself held a Passover seder – amazing if one looks at his work, the notion of slavery in biblical Egypt comes up again and again, as story lines in captain America, Fantastic Four, X-men, to name a few.

BL: The hero's journey, as described by Joseph Campbell, has a narrative. Is the journey of the superhero similar to the journey as described by Campbell?

SW: The religious and mythical underpinnings of Superman are entirely consistent with the "monomyth" theories of Joseph Campbell. In his famous work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell describes the common elements found in great stories from all places and times, from the Odyssey to Star Wars: “The hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder; fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won; the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

This pattern of destruction followed by regeneration is also consistent with Kabbalistic doctrine. Siegel and Shuster had subconsciously tapped into Kabbala, the very core of Jewish spirituality. The 16th Century Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, taught that the world was created through divine sparks within the vessels intended to hold them. Due to a cosmic catastrophe, these vessels could not contain the sparks, so they shattered. This is known as shevirat ha-Kelim (Breaking of the Vessels); our world is composed of the shards of these broken vessels. While destruction seems to imply negativity, the breaking of the vessels also heralds a new birth. The job of mankind is to reunite the shards with their divine source - a process called tikkun ha-olam (repairing the world). The destruction of Krypton can be seen as the breaking of these primordial vessels, giving birth to Superman whose role it is to repair order and balance in the world.

BL: Why are these discoveries important?

SW: In all honesty in the bigger picture – things like the occurrences in Darfur – my book does not matter one single iota.

On a personal level is represented a chance for me to unite my interest in popular culture with my commitment to Judaism. I also find the symbols of superheroes to be a very powerful metaphor for Jewish spiritual practices.

BL: What does this say about the influence of Judaism and Jewish stories on pop culture?

SW: Jewish comic book creators explored the ambiguities of assimilation and the theme of the misunderstood outcast. This book seeks to reclaim a vital component of that heritage.

Taken from my book:
“By projecting their own desires for assimilation, these young artists created an American ideal they saw as authentic. Cartoonist R. C. Harvey comments on a similar situation within the Hollywood establishment of the time: ‘The America they portrayed in their films was the America they dreamed of belonging to. But it was not the actual America. It was however, so compelling a portrait, so vivid an impersonation, that all moviegoers, all Americans bought into it.’[1] Jewish movie moguls Sam Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer bankrolled patriotic fare like Yankee Doodle Dandy, changed the names of Jewish actors (Edward G. Robinson was born Emanuel Goldenberg, for instance) and made Danny Kaye bleach his hair. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. somehow managed to film The Life of Emile Zola without ever mentioning that Colonel Dreyfus was Jewish. (In the ultimate irony, middle America eagerly embraced the idiosyncratic ‘Jewish New Yorker’ sensibility decades later, turning Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Mel Brooks and Jerry Seinfeld into superstars).”

Rabbi Simcha Weinstein’s ground-breaking text will be out June 27, 2006 but you can pre-order it at

[1] R.C. Harvey, Comic Book Marketplace (Gemstone Publishing, 2004) 18.

Blake graduated UCSC in Fall of this year with a degree in Modern Literature and The History of Art and Visual Culture, and currently finished an internship at Blackbook Magazine in New York City. During her time at UCSC, she edited the music and arts desks for City on a Hill Press. She has interned at the Santa Cruz Sentinel, SOMA Magazine, and a think tank on foreign policy.

Jerusalem to the PA, and Jewish Conspiracy in Darfur

In the past two days, there have been two very poignant and telling posts on, framing, I believe, the future of the State of Israel, and Jews in America, respectively.

The first, entitled The Holy City, Divided?, cited an Associated Press article outlining the Israeli government's plans "for dividing Jerusalem" and "giving the Palestinians nearly all the Arab neighborhoods." This is all part of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to decide Israel's final borders by 2010.

A starry-eyed Jewish youth protests the Gaza pullout in Jerusalem, 2005.
The poster, David Kelsey, begins by stating his passive resignation last year during the Gaza pullout. He apparently was one of those who wasn't exceptionally passionate about the pullout, except to stare "in shock and disbelief at my coreligionists in their orange t-shirts" struggling to go on living in their homes. However, since that time, two of the primary predictions of those who opposed the pullout are materializing: rather than ending terrorism, now the terrorists have a wider shooting range from inside Gaza, and part of Jerusalem is marked for giveaway.

For those who saw the Gaza pullout as a step towards peace with the Palestinians, by now it's clear that they were sorely mistaken. Hamas saw the pullout as a victory for Hamas, a victory won by the sword (the sword being suicide bombers and kassam rockets in the 21st century). It seems that the Israeli government is less concerned at this point with peace considerations than with sealing the final borders to Israel and securing a Jewish majority. For those who said they would never even think about giving away an inch of Jerusalem, maybe it's time to be alarmed.

The second post, by deitybox and entitled Damned if we do, brought to light a piece by Gary Leupp published on Dissident Voice, implying very openly that the huge Jewish interest in Darfur has less to do with compassion and more to do with oil and religious fundamentalism.

As is known, and as we have discussed previously on the JewniProj, the movement against genocide in Darfur in the US is being led almost exclusively by Jews and Jewish orgs, and a majority of its constituents are Jewish.

Logic would have us believe that the Jewish interest is related to our own stinging awareness of the world's silence during the genocide that we suffered during WWII; however, Leupp posits that it's all a show--it almost smacks of a modern Jewish conspiracy theory on par with the Protocols! I don't know how prevalent such beliefs are, but I think it's a sign that we Jews shouldn't get too comfortable in the US. They said America was our Safe Haven; well, they also said the Israeli government would never give away an inch of Jerusalem.

The posts can be viewed here: Jerusalem Divided and Damned if we do.