Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Me with no beard

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Our online program for bar bat mitzvah training


I guess you caught on...that is exactly the direction I want...I really want to go to rabbinical school...so I will take your advice.

In addition to a consulting practice in business strategy, I run a non-profit that promotes entrepreneurship. I am very aware of the work involved in planning programs and doing course development.

I find it amazing that you have done all of this. Congratulations on the ingenuity, technical prowess, and the enormous contribution to Jewish outreach.

I saw your ad in the World Jewish Digest and could not resist sending a message, as I have been looking for something like this for some time. There is a Boston school called Hebre College that does something similar, and I have looked at that, too. I have been looking for years. Nothing seemed to provide the right
preparation, at least not affordably.

Are men leaving because women are coming in

From Katha Pollitt of the Nation

Case in point: Judaism. A much discussed study just out from Brandeis Univers

ity portrays as problematic the fact that women are now prominent in Reform and Conservative Jewish life.
According to Matrilineal Ascent/Patrilineal Descent: The Gender Imbalance in American Jewish Life by Sylvia Fishman and Daniel Parmer, girls outnumber boys in denominational youth activities and summer camp and women are increasingly taking on leadership roles in the synagogue. Reform seminaries, which did not ordain women until 1972, are crammed with women studying to become rabbis (60 percent of their students are female) and cantors (84 percent). At the conservative Ziegler School seminary in Los Angeles, twenty-eight of sixty-five students are women. This trend is not surprising. Like American women generally, non-Orthodox Jewish women are more religious than their menfolk and more determined to pass religion on to their children, especially in interfaith marriages. Nothing new in that: American religion is thoroughly entwined with traditional female concerns about community, family, morality and uplift; women have long been the workhorses of Jewish and Christian congregations. Once the formal barriers fell, you would expect a vibrant rush to leadership. Besides, think how exciting it would be to enter the sanctum and transform the old patriarchal understandings. Even an atheist like me can feel the extra layer of meaning at a bat mitzvah: it's not just religion, it's human rights.

As its title suggests, the study makes Jewish religious life a zero-sum game: the more women, the fewer men. It's not so clear why that would be a problem, even if true. Perhaps, as my friend Deirdre English suggests, women are the ones who can take religion into the next phase, which is to transform the image of God from patriarchal to androgynous, and men are stepping back because they don't want to do that, or can't. But is Judaism so firmly in women's control? Men still run the big congregations, get the big salaries and head the important Jewish organizations except those specifically for women, like Hadassah. Take the JCC: women account for 72 percent of Jewish Community Center staff but only 23 percent of executive directors.

What's troubling about the study is its contention that when women become powerful or even just numerous, men are turned off by the "maternal vibes" of the temple. It quotes one rabbi explaining the preponderance of girls in youth programs: "Before it was always a man high up on a bimah wearing a big robe in a deep voice, a model of leadership that was male-only and top down.... Those synagogues now have everybody sitting in a circle with someone playing a guitar and sharing feelings.... they are styles that women may be more comfortable with than men...[boys] don't necessarily see themselves there."

For how many thousands of years did Judaism keep women out of any kind of formal religious role, including even counting them as members of the congregation for ritual purposes? Who worried about how girls felt about the rabbi or what the synagogue meant to them? The study is full of unusually frank references to Jewish men's dislike of Jewish women--too aggressive, demanding, ethnic--but instead of challenging this as sexist and anti-Semitic, it accepts it as a fact of life that women must accommodate for the sake of the community: "For those who find the synagogue's world of our mothers too overwhelming, it is possible that dating non-Jews becomes a way to escape from the ubiquitous Jewish woman." Cue the "gendered"--i.e., all-male--activities where Jewish boys and men can reconnect to religion away from pesky females and their guitars. If the men-only seder doesn't work, maybe they could join that Phoenix country club that won't allow women in the grill room.

What if men are not being driven away by the presence of women but just aren't so interested for other reasons? Perhaps, for example, women are entering rabbinical schools because men have left them, freeing up space (as the study notes, Jewish male disengagement from Jewish life dates to the 1950s). There are many areas where women have come to the fore because men have moved elsewhere, probably to something more profitable and socially valued. Publishing, art history, English, French, sociology, anthropology, psychotherapy are areas in which women historically were the rank and file but men monopolized the higher echelons. Then the men moved on--to Wall Street, banking, science and technology, IT. Maybe the sort of young man who would have become an art historian in 1950 is designing video games today--for many times the pay--and the sort of young man who would have become a rabbi is running the company. It takes a long time and much study to become a rabbi, after all, and only about a third get pulpits. A man can get a much better return on his educational investment by going to law school, business school or straight into the financial world. For a woman, religious study still has the whiff of the revolutionary; it's a challenge. For a man, it's another not very well-paid service job of middling prestige and declining authority.

It's not as though men are lining up to become Catholic priests, after all, and that is a field men have all to themselves. At least for now.

Israel circumcises Africa and saves lives

Israeli expertise in ritual helps Africa combat AIDS
Docs trained in adult male circumcisions
By Joel Greenberg | Chicago Tribune correspondent
July 8, 2008
JERUSALEM — Inon Schenker, an AIDS prevention specialist, pulled out a medical logbook from a shelf and opened it to a page filled with handwritten entries.

The notations, from 1993, recorded ritual circumcisions performed on Jewish men from the former Soviet Union at the height of the wave of Immigration to Israel from Russia and neighboring republics.

The entries showed 32 circumcisions by a single doctor in a day's work, an assembly-line rate that Schenker believes shows the potential in Israel for helping combat AIDS in Africa, where recent studies have shown male circumcision to be a significant protective measure against the disease.

In the heyday of Russian Immigration to Israel in the 1990s, about 1,000 adult male circumcisions a month were performed on newcomers in hospitals and clinics, in accordance with Jewish law.

"Israel is the only country with such experience in mass adult-male circumcision, and it can respond to a very important humanitarian challenge," said Schenker, director of Operation Abraham, a project launched last year that dispatched Israeli surgeons to teach circumcision in Africa.

Israel's experience vital
Because it is obligatory under Jewish law, male circumcision is nearly universal in Israel and was stepped up as immigrants from the former Soviet republics sought the procedure to affirm their Judaism and ease their integration in the Jewish state.

The ancient practice is mentioned in the Bible in a passage that describes how the patriarch Abraham circumcised his son at God's command.

Jewish circumcision ordinarily is performed on newborns, but many of the immigrants hadn't been circumcised in their countries of origin for various reasons, such as estrangement from Judaism, restrictions on religious rites in the Soviet era and pressure to assimilate in gentile society.

As the Russian immigrants flooded into Israel—about 1 million since 1989—the demand for adult circumcisions surged, and the country became a world leader in the field, with more than 80,000 procedures performed, according to various estimates.

Schenker, who is with the Jerusalem AIDS Project, a non-governmental group that promotes HIV prevention, is working to marry the experience accumulated in Israel with the urgent need in Africa for effective programs to fight the AIDS epidemic.

50% reduction in risk
A link between circumcision and AIDS prevention was shown in three studies conducted between 2004 and 2006 in South Africa, Uganda and Kenya, which found that the risk of contracting AIDS in heterosexual sex is 50 percent to 60 percent less among men who are circumcised.

The findings led the World Health Organization last year to recommend circumcision as an additional method for prevention of AIDS. WHO's recommendations were endorsed at a gathering of African health ministers.

With the support of the Hadassah Medical Organization, which runs Israel's main university hospital in Jerusalem and has provided most of the budget and equipment, the Jerusalem AIDS Project sent three delegations of surgeons to teach adult circumcision in Swaziland. The southern African nation has the highest prevalence of AIDS in the world — 26 percent in a population of about 1 million.

"This is part of Hadassah's mission: outreach to other places," said Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director general of the organization.

The Israeli surgeons visited Swaziland twice last year and again in February, training 10 local doctors in adult male circumcision and two others in the procedure on newborns. The Israeli teams included an Israeli Arab doctor with experience in Muslim ritual circumcision.

Prudence Mkhatshwa, chief nurse in male circumcision at the Family Life Association of Swaziland, a non-governmental group that partnered with the Israelis, said the training had helped to significantly raise the weekly rate of adult circumcisions and that the public response is growing. The procedure, conducted under local anesthesia, was first offered in Swaziland in 2006.

"Before, people were scared, but now they see the benefits and they are more willing to do it," Mkhatshwa said from Mbabane, the Swazi capital. She said street billboards are promoting circumcision, in addition to condom use and abstention from casual sex, as methods of preventing AIDS.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Huge development n vis-a-vis the jesus story

Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection
JERUSALEM - A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

The tablet, probably found near the Dead Sea in Jordan according to some scholars who have studied it, is a rare example of a stone with ink writings from that era - in essence, a Dead Sea Scroll on stone.

It is written, not engraved, across two neat columns, similar to columns in a Torah. But the stone is broken, and some of the text is faded, meaning that much of what it says is open to debate.

Still, its authenticity has so far faced no challenge, so its role in helping to understand the roots of Christianity in the devastating political crisis faced by the Jews of the time seems likely to increase.

Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmudic culture at the University of California at Berkeley, said that the stone was part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that Jesus could be best understood through a close reading of the Jewish history of his day.

"Some Christians will find it shocking - a challenge to the uniqueness of their theology - while others will be comforted by the idea of it being a traditional part of Judaism," Mr. Boyarin said.

Given the highly charged atmosphere surrounding all Jesus-era artifacts and writings, both in the general public and in the fractured and fiercely competitive scholarly community, as well as the concern over forgery and charlatanism, it will probably be some time before the tablet's contribution is fully assessed. It has been around 60 years since the Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered, and they continue to generate enormous controversy regarding their authors and meaning.

The scrolls, documents found in the Qumran caves of the West Bank, contain some of the only known surviving copies of biblical writings from before the first century A.D. In addition to quoting from key books of the Bible, the scrolls describe a variety of practices and beliefs of a Jewish sect at the time of Jesus.

"I couldn't make much out of it when I got it," said David Jeselsohn, the owner, who is himself an expert in antiquities. "I didn't realize how significant it was until I showed it to Ada Yardeni, who specializes in Hebrew writing, a few years ago. She was overwhelmed. 'You have got a Dead Sea Scroll on stone,' she told me."

Much of the text, a vision of the apocalypse transmitted by the angel Gabriel, draws on the Old Testament, especially the prophets Daniel, Zechariah and Haggai.

Ms. Yardeni, who analyzed the stone along with Binyamin Elitzur, is an expert on Hebrew script, especially of the era of King Herod, who died in 4 B.C. The two of them published a long analysis of the stone more than a year ago in Cathedra, a Hebrew-language quarterly devoted to the history and archaeology of Israel, and said that, based on the shape of the script and the language, the text dated from the late first century B.C.

A chemical examination by Yuval Goren, a professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University who specializes in the verification of ancient artifacts, has been submitted to a peer-review journal. He declined to give details of his analysis until publication, but he said that he knew of no reason to doubt the stone's authenticity.

It was in Cathedra that Israel Knohl, an iconoclastic professor of Bible studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, first heard of the stone, which Ms. Yardeni and Mr. Elitzur dubbed "Gabriel's Revelation," also the title of their article. Mr. Knohl posited in a book published in 2000 the idea of a suffering messiah before Jesus, using a variety of rabbinic and early apocalyptic literature as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls. But his theory did not shake the world of Christology as he had hoped, partly because he had no textual evidence from before Jesus.

When he read "Gabriel's Revelation," he said, he believed he saw what he needed to solidify his thesis, and he has published his argument in the latest issue of The Journal of Religion.

In Mr. Knohl's interpretation, the specific messianic figure embodied on the stone could be a man named Simon who was slain by a commander in the Herodian army, according to the first-century historian Josephus. The writers of the stone's passages were probably Simon's followers, Mr. Knohl contends.

The slaying of Simon, or any case of the suffering messiah, is seen as a necessary step toward national salvation, he says, pointing to lines 19 through 21 of the tablet - "In three days you will know that evil will be defeated by justice" - and other lines that speak of blood and slaughter as pathways to justice.

To make his case about the importance of the stone, Mr. Knohl focuses especially on line 80, which begins clearly with the words "L'shloshet yamin," meaning "in three days." The next word of the line was deemed partially illegible by Ms. Yardeni and Mr. Elitzur, but Mr. Knohl, who is an expert on the language of the Bible and Talmud, says the word is "hayeh," or "live" in the imperative. It has an unusual spelling, but it is one in keeping with the era.

Two more hard-to-read words come later, and Mr. Knohl said he believed that he had deciphered them as well, so that the line reads, "In three days you shall live, I, Gabriel, command you."

To whom is the archangel speaking? The next line says "Sar hasarin," or prince of princes. Since the Book of Daniel, one of the primary sources for the Gabriel text, speaks of Gabriel and of "a prince of princes," Mr. Knohl contends that the stone's writings are about the death of a leader of the Jews who will be resurrected in three days.

He says further that such a suffering messiah is very different from the traditional Jewish image of the messiah as a triumphal, powerful descendant of King David.

"This should shake our basic view of Christianity," he said as he sat in his office of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem where he is a senior fellow in addition to being the Yehezkel Kaufman Professor of Biblical Studies at Hebrew University. "Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to nearly all scholarship. What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story."

Ms. Yardeni said she was impressed with the reading and considered it indeed likely that the key illegible word was "hayeh," or "live." Whether that means Simon is the messiah under discussion, she is less sure.

Moshe Bar-Asher, president of the Israeli Academy of Hebrew Language and emeritus professor of Hebrew and Aramaic at the Hebrew University, said he spent a long time studying the text and considered it authentic, dating from no later than the first century B.C. His 25-page paper on the stone will be published in the coming months.

Regarding Mr. Knohl's thesis, Mr. Bar-Asher is also respectful but cautious. "There is one problem," he said. "In crucial places of the text there is lack of text. I understand Knohl's tendency to find there keys to the pre-Christian period, but in two to three crucial lines of text there are a lot of missing words."

Moshe Idel, a professor of Jewish thought at Hebrew University, said that given the way every tiny fragment from that era yielded scores of articles and books, "Gabriel's Revelation" and Mr. Knohl's analysis deserved serious attention. "Here we have a real stone with a real text," he said. "This is truly significant."

Mr. Knohl said that it was less important whether Simon was the messiah of the stone than the fact that it strongly suggested that a savior who died and rose after three days was an established concept at the time of Jesus. He notes that in the Gospels, Jesus makes numerous predictions of his suffering and New Testament scholars say such predictions must have been written in by later followers because there was no such idea present in his day.

But there was, he said, and "Gabriel's Revelation" shows it.

"His mission is that he has to be put to death by the Romans to suffer so his blood will be the sign for redemption to come," Mr. Knohl said. "This is the sign of the son of Joseph. This is the conscious view of Jesus himself. This gives the Last Supper an absolutely different meaning. To shed blood is not for the sins of people but to bring redemption to Israel."

Friday, July 4, 2008

you don't have to hit home runs to win

Home run hitters generally strike out alot more too

Twins use speed, pitching to shut out Tigers
By the Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — This is what it often looks like when the Minnesota Twins are winning: bunts, two-out singles and a whole lot of speed.

Nick Blackburn combined with two relievers on a five-hitter, and Joe Mauer’s two-run single with two outs sparked a five-run third inning that led the surging Twins over the Detroit Tigers, 7-0 Wednesday.
“That’s what we preach,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That’s what we talk about. When it starts happening, that’s when we start winning ballgames.”

Its about expectations-good sports story

We still aren't happy personally despite the good news regarding

1. ourselves

2. our families

3. our people

4. our shuls

5. our country

That's why we are supposed to bless 100x a day

As Phelps Sulks, His Runner-Up Celebrates

Published: July 3, 2008
OMAHA — What a contrast. Michael Phelps won his third event of the United States Olympic trials Wednesday night — the 200-meter butterfly, which he has dominated since 2001. But he fell short of the world record and acted almost as if he had lost.Garrett Weber-Gale set the American record of 47.78 in his preliminary heat of the 100-meter freestyle.

Then there was the runner-up, Gil Stovall. Thrilled about making his first Olympic team, Stovall pumped his fist after seeing the results on the scoreboard.
Such is the difference in expectations. Phelps finished in 1 minute 52.20 seconds, a trials record and the second-best time of his career, but fell 0.11 of a second short of matching his world mark set last year. Phelps added to his trials victories in the 400 individual medley on Sunday (4:05.25, breaking his world record) and the 200 freestyle on Tuesday (1:44.10, lowering his trials mark from 2004).

Although Phelps owns 9 of the 11 fastest 200 butterfly times in history, he still was not happy.