Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Free Showing of "An Inconvenient Truth"

This just in from COEJL Santa Cruz:
Sat. Feb.3, 7-9 P.M. FREE FILM: "An Inconvenient Truth" by Al Gore. Rabbi Paula Marcus will lead a discussion following the film.

at: Temple Beth El
3055 Porter Gulch Rd., Aptos

If you haven't seen this film or want to see it again, don't miss it! I suggest you read the credits out loud at the end of the film, for very important messages to read together and discuss.

Remember to plant trees and use compact flourescent bulbs. We can all choose a career or lifestyle to help our planet. "Tikkun Olam" = Repair The World.

For more information, please contact Roberta: 462-2594 or e-mail:

*Temple Beth El wishes to make this event accessible to people with disabilities. If you have disability related needs, contact the Facility Services Coordinator: 479-3444 X 203.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

New location for SCIAC!!!

Dear Friends,

SCIAC (the Santa Cruz Israel Action Committee) has a new location that is convenient for these cold, winter nights. We will now be meeting at Cowell College Room 222 (upstairs from the Academic Advising Office). Hope to see you all there.
We will be discussing our upcoming film festival and guest speaker Aryeh Green.

7:30pm monday night
Cowell College Room 222

Thursday, January 25, 2007

New Chabad House--watch out!

So it seems to be confirmed, the Chabad Student Center of Rabbi Shlomie and Devorah Leah Chein will be moving to a new location! R. Chein miraculously brokered a deal to get a snazzy new place on King St. (near Laurel St.) and it looks like there will be much more space for Friday Night Live, holiday services and meals, Jewish learning programs, kicking it with Mendel and David... you know, all the great things that Chabad already does for students at UCSC.

Yes it will be at the former Frisbee Club house, for everyone who knows of it, or remembers those... interesting (well somewhat trashed) freshman nights. Okay that wasn't all of us, but for those who can recount a vague image of what I'm talking about, I'm sure it won't be very hard to adjust. I mean a completely new atmosphere: new kind of cheers-a L'chaim!, a slightly different form of comraderie-'you're also taking physics?' 'Yea, I was in Israel last summer too.' It almost reminds me of a Hassidic story I heard about a Yid in a tavern saying L'chaim and having the right intent in order to revitalize himself in a spiritual sense and drive the angel of death further away with each gulp and... ah whatever, I forget it. But anyway, I'm digressing.

But really, this is a serious endeavour which will hopefully have a huge impact on Jewish students at UCSC and provide them with many meaningful Jewish experiences to come. Quite a few of us have already become well accustomed to cramping 40-70 students into an all too modest living room for Shabbos dinners, and it's about time we found a solution. Also for the Cheins' sake, with two kids and a third on the way, this house will surely enable them to have more space for their family as well as for a growing multitude of starving slugs.

Here is an official email message that CSC is put out:
Some time this quarter, Chabad House - YOUR Jewish HOME on campus - will be getting a new address. To help make this happen we need your home address.

Your parents might want to support this tremendous endeavor, and we must give them the opportunity to do so. A beautiful brochure has been printed and we would be more than happy to send it to them.

Additionally, if you have any friends or relatives they may also be interested in supporting this amazing cause, so email me their address and we will send them a brochure as well.

Alternatively, I can give you the brochure and you can send it to them with your own letter, or a customized template we created for students who want to request the help of family and friends.

Mi casa, Su casa – let’s do it together!

Chabad Student Center
So Hatzlacha Raba to the Cheins that everything goes through with this. Also anyone who wants to donate or persuade friends and family to donate-that would be terrific. You can also check out this link to give donations.

I personally can attest that efforts from the Cheins have really enhanced my Jewish life in college and it's impossible to put into words all that Chabad does for Jewish students at UCSC and for the entire community. (Though if you want a great video on it check out G-D SQUAD's post, 'HighLIGHTS - Shabbat at Chabad' from a couple weeks ago.)

Short Notice: Brilliant Rabbi Spending Shabbos in SC

I just recieved this in an email:

Rabbi David Fohrman is coming to Santa Cruz this Shabbat - 1/27/07
For those of us who have been honored to learn Torah with Rabbi Fohrman
we can attest to his fabulous teaching – do not miss the opportunity.

Dear Friends,

Rabbi David Fohrman is one of the most brilliant and engaging teachers
of Jewish texts that it is my good fortune to know. Based on a unique
methodological approach to Torah that he has developed, Rabbi Fohrman
manages to plumb the depths of the text in an extraordinary way. Rabbi
Fohrman is coming to Santa Cruz this Shabbat and will be giving two
classes on the theme "Whispers of Slavery in the Book of Genesis" (see
below). These talks are not to be missed.


Series Title: Whispers of Slavery in the Book of Genesis
Two talks that will explore the background to the parshiyot we are now
reading in the Torah - the Story behind the story of the Jews' sojourn
in Egypt.

Schedual is as follows:
Part one: The Birth of Ishmael - Saturday afternoon at 2pm
Part two: What Does it Mean to Forgive? A Closer Look at Joseph and his
Brothers - Saturday evening at 7pm (with ice cream)

Location: 144 Jenne St, Santa Cruz. This is off Laurel and Chestnut

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

SHABBAT 200 At College 9 & 10

Shabbat 200 Services: Reform, Conservative, Chabad

Jan 26 2007 - 6:30pm
Jan 26 2007 - 7:20pm
Shalom Bochner

It's Shabbat 200 where we try to get 200 Jewish students in the same place at the same time. To kickit off right there will be three different Shabbat Services to choose from. Or you can "hop" between them and sample them all:

Reform / Camp-Style Services led by students
Conservative / Egalitarian Carlebach-style led by students and staff
Chabad / Chassidic-style led by staff

locations at or near Colleges Nine and Ten TBA

Want to be a service leader? contact Shalom.

TBA contact Shalom for more info

(This 'event description' courtesy of SC Hillel)

Donate Blood-It's a Mitzvah!

So there was a blood drive at our very own Santa Cruz Hillel (located next to the 7-11 at the base of campus) and it was pretty successful. Since one person who donates the standard amount of blood can save, on average, 3 people's lives, and judging by the turn out, I'd say it was really amazing. Big Yasher Koach to Monica and Ayla and everyone else from Hillel who helped organize it! It was put on by Stanford Medical Center (check http://bloodcenter.stanford.edu/ for more info.)

Anyway, I looked up some of the Jewish aspects to this and it turned out there is a great deal of encouragement from leading Rabbis to donate blood if one is able to. This is primarily because it is seen as
Pikkuach Nefesh (saving of life) and, for the most part, healthy people who are capable face no risk that the operation will have any serious after effects. (One may be a little weary for the next few hours and a donor should not do anything too physically exerting at least for the rest of the day--also one should drink plenty of water and take in plenty of nutrients before the operation.)

Quite a bit more time has been spent ascertaining the Jewish values in donating an organ which is obviously a much larger commitment.
On http://www.medethics.org.il/articles/JME/JMEB1/JMEB1.37.asp
you can see that organ donations too have been up for serious debate among Torah scholars.

For a Halachic analysis of donating a kidney and many of the leading opinions involved see: http://www.dailyhalacha.com/Display.asp?ClipDate=1/8/2007

In general, there are four fundamental issues concerning transplantation from living donors.

A. The danger to the donor.
B. Donation under coercion.
C. Sale of organs and tissues.
D. The legally incompetent donor.

All halachic authorities agree that where a procedure is not a life saving measure, one may not significantly endanger the life of a donor, nor may one coerce a potential donor to donate.

For more of a basic summary on Jewish medical ethics check: www.aish.com/societyWork/sciencenature/Why_Jewish_Medical_Ethics.asp

Monday, January 22, 2007

Monday Night Torah in Santa Cruz

Torah learning continues tonight (Monday night) at 7:30pm, at Sharon's place, 132 Castillion Terrace, Santa Cruz 9506.

Even if you missed earlier classes, come tonight and discover the mystical definition of Teshuvah and the profound spiritual impact of human speech.

--Rabbi Gordon

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Incites from Rabbi Gordon

Due to past criticism I’ll try to make this post less ‘notesy’ and more cleanly and reader-friendly.

So school has resumed and R. Gordon’s classes are back in session (check other posts for location and time). I guess there’s no further escaping these weekly write ups which I had intended on doing.

I’m now calling this post ‘Incites from R. Gordon’ which is based on his discussion of ‘Nefesh Hachayim’. Any attempt at giving a thorough overview on portions of this text would be beyond my capabilities and would only be degrading to the text. So I figure if I simply throw in a few words of wisdom, if you will, from R. Gordon during his ‘Nefesh Hachayim’ shiur it will suffice for a jewniproj post.

Though for now I feel I should give a little more of an introduction to what R. Chayim Vilozhin’s ‘Nefesh Hachayim’ is:

In some circles I have heard of it described as a sort of Hassidus for the Litvish or other non-Hassidic orthodox. Elsewhere I have heard of a Rabbi in a yeshiva recommending that if a Jew were not to study the ‘Tanya’ of R. Shneur Zalman of Liada or other great works of Hassidus, they should at least study 'Nefesh Hachayim' because the vast majority of it unfolds essentially the same pearls of Torah as does the Tanya. (Mind you this claim should not be accepted as fact; I arrived upon it through hearsay-though it would be quite interesting to look into the conceptual similarities between the two sefarim). In any case the work contains a prodigious amount of explanatory Kaballah: covering the infinite nature of a Creator, a universe, life, man, the soul, Mitzvos, Tshuvah, the perfection of a physical realm, and it is all way beyond me. I can only reprocess the material and try to give some context.

Without further adieu… This was taken from a few weeks back:

Rabbi Gordon, in the process of reading and expounding upon Nefesh Hachayim, was relating the design of man and his correspondence with the design of the universe. He went on to say that when a person does a Mitzvah (a good deed/a commandment from the Torah) with a certain part of his body, it gives Kidushah (holiness) to that corresponding part of the universe (whatever that meant). The next stage in the process is that Kidushah bounces back (so to speak) from that part of the universe back to the person; the radiance of that light shines back and forth. When it bounces back at a person, the person is surrounded by the light of Kidushah and he’s in Gan Eidin (or “on cloud nine” as the Rabbi put it; elucidating the concept into secular terms so we could all relate). The opposite is also true: when someone does something not so good, negative energy bounces back on the person and he’s in Gohenim (hell).

Someone then raised the question: (in light of the fact that) we’re living after the sin of the golden calf… and now people are in an in-between state of being neither completely good nor completely bad (as we learned in a previous lesson), what happens? The Rabbi explained: “We’re (perpetually) living in mixture of Heaven and Hell.” He added jokingly, “You can be struck by radiation and infrared at same time.” Someone can therefore perform a Mitzvah or do anything, but it cannot be done with 100% perfect Kavanah or good intent (the Rabbi seemed to indicate, if I’m not mistaken).

Someone asked another question about the nature of a hell. The Rabbi answered: R. Aryeh Kaplan puts forward that Hell is a person standing before G-d with all his sins laid out before him-just that moment of unprecedented embarrassment is hell. Though Gohenim is a cleansing process and not meant to be eternal (like a Christian Hell which seems to view hell as an ultimate end where ‘sinners’ go in an afterlife) but rather something in the process to T’shuvah (repentance/return to a Creator).

This discussion of the state of mankind since the sin of the golden calf led me to recall something fascinating which the Rabbi had said in a previous lesson. R. Gordon was clarifying what it meant that mankind today is no longer in the same state of righteousness or purity as he was when he was in Gan Eidan (before the eating from the Tree of Knowledge) or as he was immediately after the receiving of the 10 Commandments (before building the golden calf). He went on to say that his Rebbe had taught him and the other yeshiva boys to never trust anyone who says they’re doing something “for the sake of Heaven.” If you ever confront someone who makes such a statement, the Rabbi explained in the words of his Rebbe, you should run as far away as you can from this person. It is known that such a person will just as quickly stab you to death “for the sake of Heaven.” The point was that in this current state Gallus (exile), good and evil are so intertwined within every person (every person harboring a Yetzer hatov and a Yetzer hara) that no one can claim they’re doing something purely for the sake of Heaven. (Sure there may be Tzadikim who can always oppose their Yetzer hara or perhaps even kill their yetzer hara, but still such a statement cannot be made in the current world.) There may have been some specific verses that allude to this concept, but I don’t remember them.

Something else which was also quite fascinating (something I personally had never noticed before) was the use of language which the Torah employs when it comes to the ‘Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.’ R. Gordon points out that the Hebrew for ‘Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil’ is ‘Etz Hada’at Tov V’rah’ and da’at in fact means more than just knowledge (as translated into English), but it actually implies the kind of intelligence that signifies a joining or unison. I guess this kind of intelligence can be compared and contrasted with binah and chachma which are the two other kinds branches of intelligence. So when we read it as a ‘Tree of the unification of good and evil’ it suddenly has a different effect. It is as if to say: with the consumption of a fruit from this tree man will gain an understanding of good and evil, but moreover he will also acquire a skewed view; a blend between the two. Before, I had thought of the Adam and Havah story in rather simplistic terms: once man didn’t know anything good from bad so he lived in complete purity: ignorant bliss. Then one day he gets this command and eats this apple (which according to most sources was not an apple, but some other kind of fruit) and he becomes informed about good and bad and from then on he’s constantly tempted and pressured to do one of the two. But now, in light of this ambiguity, if you will, the text takes on manifolds of new meaning, at least for me. It makes me question everything about the motives behind conventional man and his inherent inability to differentiate between things.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Melanie Phillips Speaks at UCSC

Time: Jan 23 2007 - 7:30pm
Place: Merrill Cultural Center
For more information contact Tammi Benjamin at: tbenjami@ucsc.edu

Award-winning British journalist and author, Melanie Phillips, will speak about her recent book "Londonistan" in a free lecture on Tuesday, January 23rd at 7:30pm in the Merrill College Cultural Center, UC Santa Cruz.The suicide bombings carried out in London in 2005 by British Muslims revealed an alarming network of Islamist terrorists and their sympathizers. Ms. Phillips exposes the threat of radical Islam and the growing anti-Semitism in England, Europe and beyond, and she discusses how the advance of the global jihad is facilitated by the collapse of Western values, self-confidence and national identity.

This should be a really interesting event. I was going to give a link to an article about Phillips on jpost.com, but there were technical difficulties. So here are some excerpts from the article entitled 'A modern Cassandra' by Anshel Pfeffer (Jerusalem Post; Jan 5, 2007)

Melanie Phillips has never been an official spokeswoman, but in her 
writing over the years she has never shied away from her Jewishness,
and she is currently one of the most outspoken voices in a community
which traditionally has been very careful not to rock the boat...

As a leading columnist for the Daily Mail, Phillips has been at the
forefront of the anti-establishment campaign trying to convince Britons
that their country is being threatened by a wave of radical Islamism
that has found in London and other cities not only a physical safe
haven, but also a convenient center for the dissemination of its ideas
and a source of many eager new converts.

Her latest book Londonistan analyzes the rise of a new generation of
Muslim youths, radicalized by fanatical preachers who found shelter in
Britain thanks to a lax immigration policy and the blind eye of the
authorities, a situation that led to the bombings of London's public
transport in July 2005 by British-born suicide bombers. Phillips
connects the loss of national and religious values in British society
and the culture of moral relativity and political correctness with an
environment which continues to allow the activity of these preachers
and their followers, even after the bombings.

In the media and in person, Phillips cuts an austere, almost
puritanical image. She is very quick to correct her interviewers,
making absolutely sure they understand her precise message...

Her journalistic output of long, opinionated and carefully argued
columns in the Daily Mail, the Jewish Chronicle and the Spectator and
an extensive on-line diary on her personal Web site is prodigious. She
enjoyed a meteoric rise at the Guardian, Britain's major left-wing
newspaper, at the start of her career, but her stubborn questioning of
various policies, such as family values and educational standards, led
to a rapid alienation from her former colleagues. Today they are among
her many detractors in Britain, where she is widely regarded as an
outspoken extremist.

An adjective often applied to her is "shrill," a consequence of her
incessant challenges to the prevailing wisdom and confronting the media
and political establishment with a constant supply of uncomfortable
facts. She is fully aware that many in her own community see her as a
troublemaker. She insists that despite the headstrong image, she is
capable of self-criticism.

"I question myself all the time. And of course they regard me as an
extremist because I rock the boat, I make life uncomfortable for them.
They will have to tell me what I say is untrue or exaggerated, and I
will deal with these claims one by one."

PHILLIPS IDENTIFIES the radicalized and growing Muslim community as
only one factor leading many British Jews to consider emigration.

"It's also not entirely because of the perception that non-Muslim
Britain has become very aggressive towards Israel" she says, "though
these are very important contributory factors. In my view, a very
significant driver is simply the increasing Jewish awareness among
British Jewish youth. There's been a dramatic increase in my lifetime
of the number of Jewish children being educated at Jewish schools, a
very considerable rise in Jewish awareness and learning that is all for
the good. And such young people increasingly feel in large numbers that
there is no future for them, or to be more precise for their children,
in Britain, that it's not possible to live the kind of fulfilled Jewish
life that you can live in Israel."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

HighLIGHTS - Shabbat at Chabad

And to think, this video almost went unnoticed.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Scholarships for Israel Studies

The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise is pleased to offer five $15,000 Schusterman Israel Scholar Awards to students interested in pursuing academic careers in fields related to the study of Israel. These highly competitive awards will be available to undergraduates who have already been accepted to graduate programs, graduate students who have received master’s degrees in Middle East related fields who wish to pursue doctorates, and doctoral students who are writing dissertations related to Israel. Grants are renewable for up to five years based on the completion of certain milestones. Proposals from candidates in all disciplines with an Israel focus are welcome. The competition is open only to U.S. citizens.

Complete applications including transcripts and references must be received by *March 1, 2007*.

Eligibility Requirements and application materials are available at


Mitchell G. Bard, Ph.D.
Executive Director
American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE)
2810 Blaine Dr.
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Tel. 301-565-3918
Fax. 301-587-9056
Email: mgbard [at] aol.com
Jewish Virtual Library

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Gays OK But Cant Get Any Play :(

So the new revelation of the Conservative Movement is the acceptance of Homosexuals into Rabbinic institutions and the ability for Conservative Rabbis to officiate at same sex marriages. Pretty spiffy, huh?

But there's a catch ...

While Homosexual marriage is now kosher, ANAL SEX is now UNKOSHER.

This rule not only applies to homosexuals but also to all members of the tribe (who affiliate conservatively, of course) That is, you can have a felatio free-for-all with all your facebook friends, but a homosexual couple is prohibited from having anal intimacy.

Is this an issue we can stand behind? Or is it just a pain in the ass?

Two things to consider ...
1. Homosexual marriage and Patrilineal Descent
2. Homosexual marriage and the Union Ceremony

Much Love

Mark your calendar, if you want

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bloggers Unite

Bloggers Unite! From left to right: Laura from The J-Life, Tomer from Oy Bay!, Laya and Dave from Jewlicious.com, and myself.
Some of you may have heard that Jewlicious.com's birthright israel trip is in full effect right now (see day 1 and day 2). The trip is being staffed by Jewlicious blog-elders Dave (ck) and Laya; I spoke to a few of the participants, and it sounds like they're having an amazing time.

And it just so happens that premier Bay Area blogmeister Oyster from Oy Bay! is on the trip as well. Last night they were in Jerusalem, so Oyster called me up and I had the opportunity to have a few l'chaims in downtown J-town with the whole blog crew, including another Bay Area blogger, Laura from The J-Life and Michael from Jewlicious as well. It was like one big bloggy family (how many more times should I try to fit the word "blog" into one of these sentences?).

There will undoubtedly be continued updates on all of their blogs, so if you want to keep abreast, be sure to check them out (and for all you Bay Area residents, make sure you bookmark Oy Bay!, since it is, after all, the premier Bay Area Jewish blog).

Enjoy the rest of your trip, everyone!

Also, speaking of Jewlicious, this would probably be a good opportunity to give a small plug for Jewlicious at the Beach 3.0, taking place March 9-11 in Long Beach, CA. As any of the UCSC students who attended last year will readily tell you, last years gathering was one of the best weekends of the year. In fact, I think someone might have said it was the best weekend of their life, but don't quote me. What was it all about? Spirituality, excellent music, excellent food, Jewish culture, and a bunch of other stuff. Pretty much just let your wildest Jewish weekend gathering dreams come true. Yeah, Matisyahu was there. So check it out and sign up.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Nefesh HaChaim at the Rossman's

Shavuah Tov.

This week we're back at the Rossman's!

Nefesh HaChaim resumes Monday (January 1st) night at 7:30 on the ocean.

Call 650-796-6752 or e-mail yisroel@jsn.info if you need directions.

See you there.

-Rabbi Gordon