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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Change’

Changing Ourselves To Change Others

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Editor’s Note: The following column was scheduled to run this week before we learned of the passing of Rebbetzin Jungreis. We’ve left it in as a tribute to her memory.

 

 * * * * *

We all know our First Temple was destroyed because of the three cardinal sins, yet 70 short years later Hashem forgave us and allowed us to return to Eretz Yisrael and rebuild the Beit HaMikdash.

The Second Temple was also destroyed, but this time it was because of sinas chinam – unwarranted hatred between Jew and Jew. It’s been almost 2,000 years since that catastrophe, but we have yet to be forgiven and redeemed from our long, dark galus. Why? Why doesn’t G-d redeem us?

Tragically, the sin that cast us into Exile still plagues us. We have yet to do teshuvah and free ourselves of the ugly shackles of jealousy and hatred. Even after the unspeakable evil of the Holocaust we continued our animosity and bickering.

Our communities and families continue to be splintered, and instead of love and good will, factionalism and mean-spiritedness prevail. G-d keeps sending us wake-up calls, but we remain obdurate. With each passing day, our national predicament becomes more and more perilous.

We are witness to an escalation of anti-Semitism throughout the world, but instead of unifying in love, instead of forgiving one another, we become more and more fragmented

You might protest, saying, “We know all this, but there is nothing much we can do about it. Each of us is just one little ‘I’ incapable of changing the course of history.”

But our little “I” is not so little. By embracing our Torah, not only will we have a major impact on ourselves but on all our people – and even the world. Allow me to illustrate through a story.

A good man who was on a mission to foster chesed – loving-kindness went to a rebbe for a berachah. “Give me a berachah,” he pleaded “so that I might bring about real changes among our people.”

The rebbe was delighted to comply and readily gave his blessing, but after a few weeks the man returned, frustrated and upset.

“Rebbe,” he complained, “no one listens to me, so I came to the conclusion that I may have been too ambitious – that I should limit my outreach to my own community.”

The rebbe agreed and wished him well, but once again the man failed and returned to the rebbe. This time, he decided to focus only on his own family. Sadly however, here too, he failed. Ready to give up on his mission, he returned to the rebbe once more, disappointed and dejected.

“Has it ever occurred to you,” the rebbe asked, “that the best way to change the world is to start with yourself?” Taken by surprise, the man didn’t understand the meaning of his teacher’s words.

“Each and every one of us,” the rebbe explained, “has been charged with a unique mission – to ‘cling unto our G-d’ [Parshas Re’eh, Deut. 13:5]. But someone might ask, ‘How can we finite beings cling unto the Infinite?’

“Well, our sages teach us that we cling to G-d by emulating Him: ‘Even as He is compassionate, we must be compassionate – Even as He imparts chesed, we must impart chesed…even as He is forgiving, we must be forgiving.’ If we do that, we will not only succeed in changing ourselves but in changing the dynamics of our families, our synagogues, our communities – yes, even the world.”

The moral of this story should guide us as we approach the High Holy Day season. The time has come for all of us to change, to become the people our Creator meant us to be. Instead of working on others, let us work on ourselves. If we do that, we will transform the world and create the environment in which Mashiach can come.

I write often about the unmitigated chutzpah of the young toward their elders. And whenever I do, I receive a large volume of responses. Sadly, many families identify with the problem. Chutzpah is not just a social phenomenon but actually a disease, one that leads to family breakdown and ultimately community breakdown.

In addition to chutzpah, there are many other areas in which we are shamefully lacking. Instead of warmth, kindness, and compassion, the hallmarks of our people, too often we relate to one another with a lack of even the most basic consideration.

If we were to stop for just one moment and honestly reflect on our actions, we would immediately change our ways. We would be horrified at our own behavior and immediately make the necessary changes. So as Rosh Hashanah draws ever closer, let’s take a good look at ourselves and our relationships and see what we can rectify.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Talk About Art, Change Your Life

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

“I wandered for a time looking for what was always right there” – Astrid Daley

 

Do you notice the things around you?

Do you really see the homes, stores, and buildings that you pass every day?

How well do you truly see?

Art Historian Amy Herman’s new book Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life argues that most of us do not notice the things around us. We do not really see the homes, stores, and buildings we pass every day. And we do not truly see well.

For many years, Herman has been teaching a workshop at the Frick Museum in New York City entitled “The Art of Perception.” The workshop began when she brought a course created by a dermatology professor at Yale University to New York medical schools. This course taught students to analyze works of art in order to improve their patient observation skills. In other words, students looked at works of art and described the “who, what, where, when, and why” of the object. Shockingly, a clinical study found that students who took the “The Art of Perception” course had diagnostic skills that were 56 percent better than students who did not take the course. The presumably unrelated skill of observing art correlated with the skill of diagnosing patient illness.

Herman’s work poses and then answers the questions: “How can looking at Monet’s water lily paintings help save your company millions? How can noticing people’s footwear foil a terrorist attack? How can your choice of adjective win an argument, calm your children, or catch a thief?”

In reality, we all see just fine, but what Herman teaches and refines is visual intelligence – a set of skills that we are born with but do not know how to use effectively. Looking at art and describing what we see, helps sharpen our visual intelligence and communicate more effectively.

Over the last two decades, Herman has trained police officers, business executives, medical professionals, and customer service representatives in the art of perception. Of course, Herman understands the skepticism involved in using works of art to train people to do their jobs in very different fields. “Looking at old painting and sculptures is definitely not the first thing most people think of when I tell them we’re going to get their neurons firing and increase their brain-processing speed. They picture engaging in cutting-edge 3D computerized training or at least wearing Google glasses while walking down a busy street, not strolling through a museum viewing objects that have sat still for hundreds of years. But that’s exactly the point: art doesn’t walk away. If you want to study human behavior, you can park yourself somewhere public and people watch: guess at who they are, why they’re dressed that way, where they’re going…until they leave. And you’ll never know if you’re right or wrong. Or you could analyze words of art that we have the answers to: the who, what, where, when, and why. Art historian David Joselit describes art as ‘exorbitant stockpiles of experience and information.’ It contains everything we need to hone our observation, perception, and communication expertise.”

Looking at art forces us to engage in an entirely new thought process. Research shows that people learn best when they are in a slightly stressful situation (which novel experiences like looking at art can create). Therefore, perhaps the best way to reevaluate and reassess something we always do – the way we parent, the way we interact with others, the way we do our jobs, or the way we view the world around us – is “to step outside of ourselves, and outside of our comfort zone.”

Rifka Schonfeld

Lakewood Man Loses Bid to Change Guilty Plea in $200 Million Ponzi Scheme

Monday, August 15th, 2016

Eliyahu Weinstein, 41, a Lakewood man sentenced to 22 years in prison in 2014 for a Ponzi scheme that defrauded members of the Jewish Orthodox community of an estimated $200 million, on Friday lost his appeal to withdraw his guilty plea.

The new Weinstein plea argued that the federal judge who presided over his case, in which Weinstein admitted defrauding fellow Jewish investors on a Facebook initial public offering, was biased against the defendant because he was also involved in a case in which Weinstein pleaded guilty to a real estate scheme. Weinstein also accused his own lawyer in the 2014 Facebook IPO case of a conflict of interest because he had advised some of Weinstein’s investors, and feared his own prosecution. Weinstein’s new plea also argued that the Facebook case constituted double jeopardy.

On Friday, a three-judge panel with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Weinstein’s plea, finding that judge’s participation in the real estate scheme was too limited to suggest a bias and that Weinstein’s plea was based on “unsubstantiated hearsay.” The panel also absolved Weinstein’s original attorney of the accusation of conflict of interest, because when that lawyer was counseling clients on the IPO investment his assumption was that their money would be invested, not end up in Weinstein’s pocket. Which meant that the attorney had nothing to worry about and could represent Weinstein without fear for his own prosecution.

According to court documents, in February 2012 Weinstein and two co-conspirators offered two investors a chance to purchase large blocks of Facebook shares before the initial IPO in May 2012. Between February and March of 2012 the two “Facebook victims” wired millions of dollars to an account set up by Weinstein and a co-conspirator. That’s the last time they saw their money. Around the same time, Weinstein and his two co-conspirators talked the same investors into buying the Belle Glade Gardens apartment complex in Florida. The investors wired $2.83 million, of which Weinstein sent $1.8 million back to his victims as “return” on their Facebook investment. In July 2012, Weinstein scammed a different group of investors over purchasing seven condominiums in Florida at a discounted price of $3 million, and pocketed the money.

JNi.Media

Can This Jewish Republican Outsider Change the Face of Missouri?

Monday, August 1st, 2016

{Originally posted to the Tower Magazine website}

“Unbelievable. It’s just unbelievable.” The word “unbelievable” keeps coming up. This time I hear it from Brett Dinkins, an earnest young Missouri native. Brett is the field director for Eric Greitens, a Jewish veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who is running for governor of Missouri. We are sitting in Brett’s car talking about his boss.

Rain lashes the windshield and Brett keeps looking at his phone to check the GPS. I keep thinking of questions to ask. This is partly because I am writing a story about Greitens, but it is also because pretty much everything Brett tells me — about his background, about Missouri politics, about the 300-person town he grew up in — is new. Paradoxically, the banality of Middle America has made it exotic. I grew up in San Francisco. I am used to crazy and different and foreign. But I feel completely out of place in Missouri.

When I met with Greitens earlier in the day, I asked him about his connection to Missouri. He was born and raised in St. Louis—of course he has the same connection we all do to our home state. But I wanted to know more. What was it about Missouri that made him want to serve it as governor? What does Missouri mean to him?

He told me that he loves Missouri, and it hurts him to see the way the state is suffering. He presented some statistics: Missouri ranks 42nd in wage growth, 47th in economic growth, 50th—last—in getting people off welfare….

I clarified the question: “What is it about Missouri that you love?”

“I love the people of Missouri,” he told me. “And not just because this is my home state but because this is a great state…We have incredible people in Missouri.”

This didn’t particularly help me better understand Missouri. It also didn’t particularly help me better understand Greitens. The man’s life story is incredible, to be sure. He has done humanitarian work in Bosnia and Rwanda with survivors of genocide, in Bolivia with street children, and in Mother Teresa’s hospices in India. He was a Navy SEAL. He was a Rhodes and Truman scholar, and received a Ph.D. from Oxford. He was a White House Fellow. He founded The Mission Continues, a nonprofit organization that empowers veterans by providing them opportunities to do volunteer work in their communities. He is a national boxing champion. And now he is running in the Republican primary for governor of Missouri.

I knew this all before meeting with Greitens. He seemed pretty perfect. But there had to be something wrong with him, some flaw, no matter how minor, right? I thought that in person he might reveal it. But when I did get a chance to speak with him, he was just as impressive as he was on paper. He was calm, confident without being arrogant, and meticulously prepared. His spokesman was present at our interview, but Greitens clearly did not need him. Midway through the interview, the spokesman was checking emails on his phone. Greitens had it covered. He knew that I’m double majoring in Classics and Slavic Languages and Literatures, and he knew that the title of that second major was “Slavic Languages and Literatures,” plural, not the singular “Slavic Languages and Literature” and certainly not “Slavic Studies” or “Slavic… something, right?” He was not close, he was exact.

We bonded over our shared love of Classics. He is a strong believer in the relevance of The Odyssey to modern-life. He views the story as, essentially, a metaphor for how a soldier copes with life after the war is over. He has recommended that veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, who believe that they are now no longer doing anything meaningful or important, should read it. He even recommends a particular translation (the Fagles one).

His most recent book, Resilience, consists of a series of letters he wrote back-and-forth with a veteran who had PTSD. In his letters, Greitens tries to impart some of the greatest wisdom of the ancient world to his friend in order to teach him how to be resilient, to bounce back from the difficulties and pain he has faced. Resilience name-drops everyone from Aeschylus, Homer, and Epictetus to John Bunyan, Machiavelli, and John Stuart Mill. It quotes Zen proverbs and the Talmud. Clearly, Greitens is incredibly well-read. But although he is quite the intellectual, numerous friends described him to me as being incredibly down-to-earth. “He can talk to a plumber in a town of 300 people” as easily as he can discuss classical philosophy, one told me.

Greitens and his wife Sheena have a 19-month-old son named Joshua and another child on the way. Sheena wasn’t doing interviews at the time I wrote this article, but I ran into her at his campaign headquarters and she welcomed me warmly. They make an attractive couple. Sheena is petite, with auburn hair worn long and straight. Greitens is fit (his mornings start out with an intense 75-minute workout) and about half a head taller than his wife, with close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair, striking blue eyes, and straight, white teeth. He smiles often.

At the end of the interview, Greitens wanted to make sure I received copies of his four books. He signed each of them: “For Miriam, who lives with Courage!” “For Miriam, who lives with Strength + Compassion!” “For Miriam, who embraces Resilience!”

I asked him what his greatest personal struggle had been. Greitens has helped fellow veterans through PTSD and has seen his friends killed in combat. But his greatest personal struggle, he says, was the sleep deficit he racked up caring for his newborn son. His son provides him with “tremendous joy,” but there were a lot of sleepless nights.

How much of this is an act? Can Eric Greitens really be as great as he seems?

I pose this question to Brett in the car. “It’s unbelievable,” he says. “People are inclined to think he’s an impostor. But it’s all real. That’s just how he lives his life. It’s not a front or anything.”

Brett has graciously agreed to drive me to a Lincoln Day banquet in Franklin County, about an hour west of St. Louis, where Greitens will be speaking. A Who’s Who of Franklin County Republicans—activists, fundraisers, and donors—will be in attendance. In addition to Greitens, several other people running for public office will be speaking: his three competitors for the Republican nomination for governor, the Franklin County Republican Central Committee chair, the sheriff, a Missouri GOP National Committee member, and a pastor. There is a silent auction and two raffles. The prizes in both raffles are guns.

In the California where I live, my outfit passes as pretty nice: jeans, blouse, boots. But everyone else at the Lincoln Day event is dressed in business wear. They are also probably old enough to receive Social Security benefits, and rich enough not to need them. I am 23. When I tell people I am a journalist working for a “DC-based magazine,” I do not receive a warm reception.

I am asked, “How did you find yourself stuck in Franklin County?”

“I have no idea,” I say.

There are animal heads mounted on the walls. The master of ceremonies keeps complaining about transgender people using the bathrooms of their preferred gender, which he calls a “subversion of our traditional values” that are “being eroded by the Democrats in Jefferson City,” the state capital. I glance around the room and count two non-white people. Catherine Hanaway, Greitens’ main competitor for the gubernatorial nomination, describes how she instituted a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for abortions, to raucous applause. Before we eat dinner, a Missouri GOP National Committee member leads us in prayer. Almost everyone bows their head and closes their eyes as she thanks “Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior” for the meal.

There is a palpable desperation here to preserve the status quo, or at least prevent the country from sliding further into what they see as decadence and decay. There is no hopeful vision for the future. The message is that you should vote for the Republican nominee for president not because you like the nominee or even the Republican platform, but because Obama was so awful and we cannot afford Hillary or, God forbid, a socialist. “Whoever we nominate is going to be a better president than Barack Obama,” we are told, and we understand this as a quiet exhortation to vote for Donald Trump even if we dislike him, lest we get another Obama. You will not be voting for someone, but rather against the Democrats.

Eric Greitens is not establishment. He has never held any kind of political office, and, seizing on the same anti-establishment current that has made Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders the darling of so many frustrated and fed-up voters, has branded himself a “conservative outsider.” I asked him about this anti-establishment zeitgeist that seems to be sweeping America. That feeling exists in Missouri as well, he said. Missourians “recognize that government is broken…at every level, not just in Washington, D.C., but here in Jefferson City.”

According to Greitens, people are frustrated:

They think that they’ve got a group of career politicians in Jefferson City who because of their cowardice and self-interest keep shrinking from facing the hard problems all around us. And what people are looking for, the reason I think there’s so much of a desire for outsiders, is that people want real leaders who can get real results….And I think that’s one of the reasons why people are so excited about this campaign, that that’s what we’re doing, we’re coming in as proven leaders to engage in service to really help to turn this state around and to build a Missouri that we can all be proud to pass on to our kids.”

Greitens has shown himself to be a leader through his work as a Navy SEAL officer and as CEO of The Mission Continues. In his book, The Heart and the Fist, he tells of one time his leadership skills were really tested. He was on tour in Thailand as commander of a Naval Special Warfare squadron, when he got information that some of the men under his command had been using illegal drugs. He ended up requiring all his men to undergo urinalysis tests; ultimately, some were kicked out of the Navy, and one went to jail. Greitens had worked with these men for over a year. He writes about how he knew their families, how he had traded jokes with them and helped them plan their careers and educations. But it had to be done. “Whether or not it was hard was not relevant,” he wrote. “It was necessary. No matter how many people we might upset, no matter how many supposed friends we might lose, our duty was to protect our men, the men who were doing the right thing.”

After the prayer concludes, the other Lincoln Day attendees and I line up for food.

A number of the candidates are standing at the front of the line like animals about to pounce on their prey. I shake hands with the Republican candidate for State Auditor, smiling politely and thinking about how we are both wasting each other’s time. I already seem out of place. If people knew I was not a Missouri voter, I am certain no one would speak with me. But they do not know, and so Catherine Hanaway, who is standing there at the front of the buffet line, introduces herself to me and asks me what I do.

I tell her I am a journalist, and I’m here covering the governor’s race.

“Do you have any particular angle?” she asks.

“Well, I’m actually writing a profile of Eric,” I reply.

Her mood immediately changes. She no longer fakes kindness, but turns aggressive, like a mother bear who feels threatened.

“Why would you just cover one candidate?” she says, icily.

I explain that my editors were particularly interested in Greitens’ story. Sensing she is not likely to change their minds, she tries a different tack.

“Are you going to put the thing about this donor in your piece?”

“The thing about this donor” refers to Michael Goguen, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who is currently the defendant in a civil suit alleging that he raped a woman multiple times over the course of their 13-year relationship, which she described as being a “sexual slave.” Goguen has filed a countersuit alleging that the claims are false and that the woman is extorting him. Goguen donated $1 million to Greitens’ campaign.

Hanaway wants Greitens to give the money back – a super PAC supporting John Kasich donated Goguen’s $250,000 of contributions to anti-human trafficking charities. Hanaway says that Greitens’ refusal to do so shows that he lacks ethics. Greitens’s campaign, on the other hand, maintains that the case is not settled and that Greitens does not want to presume guilt. I suspect that—on both sides—this is less about ethical values and more about the money. Quite simply, Hanaway doesn’t want Greitens to have it. Greitens wants to have it. His refusal to return money donated by someone who may or may not be guilty of a crime, he seems to believe, does not reflect on his ability to govern a state.

I discuss the scenario with Brett in the car on the way back to St. Louis. He thinks the Hanaway campaign is grasping at straws in an effort to take Greitens down. The Republican field for governor is crowded, but Greitens and Hanaway have emerged as the two frontrunners. There aren’t any poll results yet, but everyone talks about Hanaway as a solid pick, and Greitens is eminently qualified. Several people at the Lincoln Day event tell me they have narrowed their decision down to the two candidates. Hanaway and Greitens are the most articulate of the four who speak, and receive the most applause. Brett says Greitens lacks name recognition, but doesn’t seem particularly worried about it: Greitens will gain name recognition as campaigning ramps up in advance of the primary elections in August. And the Hanaway camp’s focus on attacking Greitens indicates that they see him as their main threat.

The last person the Hanaway camp saw as their main threat was Tom Schweich, and he is now dead. Schweich was the State Auditor until he committed suicide a little over a year ago. He was running in the same primary race as Hanaway, and some have pointed to the brutal tactics used by Hanaway’s campaign as, at least in part, responsible for Schweich’s death. About a week before the tragic incident, a mysterious PAC with ties to Hanaway called Citizens for Fairness ran a nasty radio ad poking fun at Schweich’s physical appearance, calling him a “little bug” whose political opponents would “squash” him. The ad was paid for by a Hanaway consultant named Jeff Roe. They both maintain that Hanaway didn’t know about the ad until after it aired. Roe is now Ted Cruz’s campaign manager.

But there was a long lead-up to the ad, during which Schweich was subjected to anti-Semitism. Minutes before his death, Schweich called the Associated Press to tell them that a political consultant named John Hancock, whose firm had done work for Hanaway’s campaign, was spreading rumors among donors and the political elite that Schweich was Jewish—even though he was actually Episcopalian. The accusation was later supported by a signed affidavit from a leading Missouri Republican donor. Hanaway has denied any involvement in the smear campaign. Hancock admitted that in a statement that “It is possible that I mentioned what I believed to be Tom Schweich’s religion, but if I did so, it certainly was not in a derogatory manner.” Hancock is now the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party.

If seeing friends killed in combat did not drive Eric Greitens over the edge, false rumors probably won’t. But what happened to Tom Schweich demonstrates that anti-Semitism is a powerful force in the state. This could hurt Greitens’ campaign.

“I’m sure there are people,” Brett tells me, “who are still trying to say that about Eric behind his back just like they did against Tom, ‘You know he’s Jewish, right, you know he’s this?’” Brett thinks Greitens’ Judaism could hurt him in his pursuit of the nomination.

Other candidates have played on this. In January, Hanaway ran a radio ad highlighting her Christian faith. John Brunner, also running against Greitens, followed suit. Then another competitor, Peter Kinder, did so. Greitens cannot run an ad expressing his Christian faith, and if he ran one expressing his Jewish faith, it might have a negative impact on his campaign.

It is not the “New Anti-Semitism” that hurt Tom Schweich and it is not the “New Anti-Semitism” that could hurt Eric Greitens. We are not talking about the kind of anti-Semitism currently in vogue on college campuses and certain strains of the political Left that disguises its hatred of Jews behind hatred of the Jewish state. After all, more than 85 percent of Missouri Republicans say they support Israel. But in pockets of Missouri, good old-fashioned anti-Semitism still exists, the kind that says Jews can’t fully be trusted.

“If you ask every Missouri Republican whether they were pro-Israel, they would all say yes,” Brett says. “But if you asked them if they were okay voting for a Jewish guy, like for governor, I don’t know. I don’t know what the results would be. But it probably wouldn’t be 100 percent saying yes like it would be 100 percent saying yes to Israel.”

Greitens is aware of this, though he seems reluctant to admit it. “I have not experienced anti-Semitism,” he told me in our interview. “When I talk with…my evangelical friends all over the state, I tell them about my love for Israel. [This makes them] very excited about my candidacy.” He went on to tell me how these evangelical friends have embraced him and his faith:

They appreciate that we are all defenders of Israel together. They also, I think, appreciate my commitment to taking my faith and turning it to action, whether that’s service in the SEAL team, service at The Mission Continues, or service in humanitarian work.

But what of people in Missouri who are not evangelical, or are not his friends? He did not bring up these people’s attitudes toward Jews. “While Tom Schweich believed he was the victim of an anti-Semitic whispering campaign, I would say from my perspective I have not experienced this, and Missouri has been not just welcoming to me, but effusively embraced me,” he said.

Nevertheless, Greitens seems rather reluctant to publicize his Judaism. “Judaism is very important to me,” he says. I believe him, but he is not exactly shouting it from the rooftops.

“It’s not like Eric hides his Judaism,” Brett says one too many times for me to quite believe him. But I don’t fault Greitens. He’s playing the game. In Brett’s words, “It’s really really unfortunate.”

Greitens’ speech at Lincoln Day does not mention his Judaism. But it is also very different from Hanaway’s speech. Rather than focus on social issues—shutting down Planned Parenthood, forcing transgender people to use certain bathrooms—he talks about his history and how it qualifies him to lead Missouri.

“Our law enforcement officers deserve to have a leader who knows what it means to put on body armor and wear a sidearm,” he says, referring to what he sees as Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s failure to adequately support law enforcement during the violent protests in Ferguson. “They deserve to have a leader who knows what it means to say goodbye to your family and step into the dark and do dangerous things.” He is that leader, he tells the crowd: “As your governor, I will always have the back of those men and women who are always on call for us.”

Greitens goes on to discuss Missouri’s struggle to provide adequate education for its children and adequate care for its veterans, as well as the dire state of its economy and how he intends to reform it. But mostly, he presents the neatly-packaged Greitens I have seen before. In an energizing, engaging way, he talks about how he is a former Navy SEAL who served our country in “four deployments in the global War on Terrorism to Afghanistan, southeast Asia, the Horn of Africa, and to Iraq.” He is the founder of a non-profit that helps veterans, and he is dedicated to leading and serving and helping.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to find the flaw in the perfect veneer. When he repeats, nearly verbatim, a cute story about his son that he told me earlier in the day, I think I might have found it. But I soon realize I haven’t. Politicians have certain talking points and they repeat them. That’s to be expected. It doesn’t really say anything about who Greitens is as a person.

Others think they have found Greitens’ flaw, however, and it’s not about his character but his ideology. Some people consider him a RINO, a “Republican in Name Only.”

And they have some reason to think so. Until a few years ago, Greitens was a registered Democrat. In 2010, he met with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which wanted him to run for Congress. He declined. As recently as 2013, he endorsed the Democratic mayor of St. Louis. But in July 2015—about two and a half months before he declared his intention to seek the Republican nomination for governor—he published an op-ed on Fox News’s website entitled “Former Navy SEAL: Why I am no longer a Democrat.” In it, he explained that he was raised as a Democrat, but had come to realize that he “no longer believed in [Democratic] ideas.” The Democrats’ desire to “stand up for the little guy” is a nice idea, Greitens wrote, but Democratic policies don’t actually help the little guy.

This has not convinced some hardline conservatives. Eric Farris, who hosts a talk-radio show in Missouri, devoted almost 45 minutes on one of his shows to discussing whether Greitens could actually be trusted. He mentioned that Greitens attended Obama’s inauguration and, even more suspiciously, managed a nonprofit. But he was particularly leery of the fact that Greitens has registered domain names indicating he has thought about someday running for the Senate or even president. According to Farris, this makes Greitens a “career politician” leeching off taxpayers’ money—even though Greitens has never held or run for any political office before.

During his segment, Farris mentioned a website set up by yet another mysterious PAC that takes issue with Greitens’ credibility as a conservative. “Eric Greitens is not a Conservative,” reads the website. “NOT a Conservative. Not Then. Not Now. Not Ever.” A former staffer for John Brunner—another Republican running against Greitens—was reportedly involved in the website.

Brunner denied involvement, but Greitens had some reason to doubt this. He called Brunner on the phone and, according to the Brunner campaign, the call was overly aggressive. When Greitens called a second time, Brunner secretly recorded the call and released it to the media. It is not pretty.

Tim Wise, a friend of Greitens’ who worked with The Mission Continues and now owns his own company, told me he had never seen Greitens get really irritated or agitated. “He can always turns a negative into a positive,” Wise said, and he “doesn’t get flustered.” But on the recorded call, Greitens is irritated, agitated, and flustered in the extreme. He shouts over Brunner almost the entire time, and at one point yells, “Oh my God, you are such a weasel!”

Everyone I spoke to about Greitens said they had never seen him get angry or even have a bad day. Perhaps he only very rarely gets angry, and was unlucky enough to be recorded by a political rival on the one day it happened.

I don’t think one instance of getting exceedingly irritated should disqualify Greitens from any kind of office. Politics is tough, and none of us is perfect. Perhaps this is one of Greitens’ flaws, the only one I was able to uncover: He gets angry sometimes.

But he is also brilliant and dedicated and confident. He has served his country bravely and proudly, and has changed hundreds of lives for the better through his charity work. And he has chosen a difficult path that allows him to help others instead of an easier path that would have helped him alone.

It easy to understand why Brett says, “Democrats, Republicans, everyone loves him,” and why an old lady at the Lincoln Day celebration said she “liked him the first time I met him” and another “fell in love with him from [his] books, [because] he’s a person that’s really served this country, that’s helped Americans and people all over the world.” Yes, Eric Greitens has paid for the domain GreitensforPresident. Yes, he is ambitious. And yes, he wants to help people. If Missouri lets him, who knows where he will go from here.

Eric Greitens appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, November 26, 2015. Photo: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert / YouTube

Eric Greitens appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, November 26, 2015. Photo: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert / YouTube

{Author Miriam Pollock is a Stanford University senior majoring in Classics. She is a staff writer for The Stanford Review, a biweekly political newspaper}

Tower Magazine

eBay Acquires Israeli SalesPredict, Introducing Major Change in the Way Business Is Conducted [video]

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

On Friday, eBay, which has reported adjusted earnings per share of 47 cents on revenue of $2.1 billion in Q1, announced the completion of its acquisition of Israeli startup SalesPredict, which leverages advanced analytics to predict customer buying behavior and sales conversion. SalesPredict will support eBay’s artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science efforts, and their deep expertise will contribute to eBay’s structured data efforts.

Upon the close of the transaction, a number of SalesPredict’s employees will join eBay’s structured data organization, working from eBay’s Israeli Development Center in Netanya. SalesPredict Co-Founder and CEO Yaron Zakai-Or will serve as a Director of Product Management, Technology, and SalesPredict Co-Founder and CTO Kira Radinsky will be Director of Data Science & Chief Scientist, eBay Israel.

SalesPredict was co-founded in 2012 by Zakai-Or and Radinsky and its main investors include Yandex, AfterDox, Redline Capital, KGC Capital, and Pitango Venture Capital.

Dr. Kira Radinsky, who immigrated to Israel from Russia at age 4, says her passion “has always been, and always will be, predictions.” During her PhD studies and her work in Microsoft Research she was leading research in the field of Web Dynamics and Temporal Information Retrieval. She developed algorithms that “leverage web knowledge and dynamics to predict future events, that enable early warning of globally impactful events (e.g. riots or diseases) by spotting clues in past and present news reports.”

One of the best examples of Radinsky’s ability to predict future events was her warnings about violent riots in the Sudan during the Arab Spring. “We noticed a pattern that repeats in countries where the people are poor but the land is rich in resources—like the Sudan,” Radinsky told The Marker last week. “We noted that in such countries the canceling of state subsidies starts riots among students, and if the spiraling down isn’t stopped, things may end up in violent clashes.”

“At that time, when it was known that gas subsidies were being removed in the Sudan, our system had already issued an alert for a high chance of riots there. And, indeed, the riots began with student demonstrations, and turned into clashes with police and many protesters being hurt,” Radinsky continued. She said their system had also pointed to a similar pattern in Egypt, when bread subsidies were removed, but at the time there wasn’t enough data for the system to work with and it didn’t predict the downfall of President Mubarak.

“We lead the predictive marketing industry and strive to build the next generation business operating system,” Radinsky wrote on her Technion web page. “I am passionate about our vision of ‘Automatic Data Science’: an on-going effort to create a product that is completely automated without the need for an expert in the loop.”

“Today’s agreement to acquire SalesPredict builds upon our recently completed acquisition of Expertmaker, marking another milestone for eBay in our plans to apply world class learning approaches to building the world’s most comprehensive product catalog and pricing guide,” said Amit Menipaz, Vice President and General Manager of Structured Data at eBay. “SalesPredict’s deep expertise in predictive analytics and machine learning will contribute to eBay’s structured data efforts. For our buyers, it will help us better understand the price differentiating attributes of our products, and, for our sellers, it will help us build out the predictive models that can define the probability of selling a given product, at a given price over time.

There are three key efforts that comprise eBay’s structured data initiative: collect the data; process and enrich the data; and create product experiences. SalesPredict will contribute to data processing and enrichment, specifically with respect to inventory insights.

“With more than 900 million listings on eBay, there is an enormous opportunity to extend our experience in machine learning and predictive analytics to help eBay identify important product attributes that can affect the price of a product,” said Yaron Zakai-Or. “In partnership with eBay’s broader structured data team, we will help arm eBay sellers with more information about the value of items, ultimately helping to increase customer sales conversions.”

“As a data scientist at heart, I’ve always been interested in exploring the myriad ways we can leverage data to predict future high impact events,” said Kira Radinsky. “In founding SalesPredict, our vision was to bring about a major change in how business is conducted by unifying micro- and macro-economic predictions. Today, this vision has yielded state-of-the-art automated data science capabilities. I am excited to have the opportunity to bring these capabilities to eBay’s community and ecosystem.”

JNi.Media

Originality: How To Change The World

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

 

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog! – Emily Dickinson

 

Emily Dickinson writes about being “Nobody” and how dull it must be to be “Somebody.” In reality, today’s business world is all about being “Somebody,” about making your mark, about being original. Adam Grant, the author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, deals with the subject in depth. In his research, he examines what makes someone successful and how to cultivate the habits that truly make us original.

He explains, “Years ago, psychologists discovered that there are two routes to achievement: conformity and originality. Conformity means following the crowd down conventional paths and maintaining the status quo. Originality is taking the road less traveled, championing a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better…”

In other words, if you conform, you allow the systems to function just as they are. If they are working, great! If they are not working, well, you are just a cog in the system and don’t think much about whether you can change or modify things for the better. On the other hand, if you are original, you propose new ideas that other people might not like or agree with, but that in the end will benefit and improve the system.

Grant breaks down the idea of originality: “Originality itself starts with creativity: generating a concept that is both novel and useful. But it doesn’t stop there. Originals are people who take the initiative to make their visions a reality…”

Of course, those original ideas have to be good ideas that will better the world around us. How can we be sure those ideas are good? Well, there is no sure-fire way to ensure success, but Grant has a few tips for vetting your ideas and getting them off the ground.

Grant challenges us: “The last time you had an original idea, what did you do with it? Although America is a land of individuality and unique self-expression, in search of excellence and in fear of failure, most of us opt to fit in rather than stand out.”

So, what can you do to generate more original ideas and actually act upon them?

            Maintain a strong moral compass. What does morality have to do with originality? As it turns out, quite a bit. In a 2016 interview, Grant clarified that kids who evolve into creative adults tend to have a strong moral compass. Their parents modeled values of excellence and concern for the consequences of their actions on other people. Their parents asked them to think about how they could make a real contribution to the world they were living in by asking questions such as, “How would you like to make it a better place? Who are your role models and what do they do?” At the same time, these children were given the autonomy to figure out how they want to live with those values. This, in turn, led to autonomous and original thinking that could not only better the world, but also make the children money in the future!

            Run your ideas by your peers. We tend to be too overly positive about our own ideas (or too negative), and thus are not good judges. Middle managers will want to maintain the status quo, and might be too fearful to approach senior management. That is why it’s important to run ideas by your peers. They will be able to listen objectively and let us know if an idea is worth pursuing.

Rifka Schonfeld

Does It Bother You when your Kid Comes Home Feeling like Junk?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

The talk of the town is how direct Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein was when talking at the Agudah convention about the effect our educational system is having on our children. For a long time now, I’ve been having an issue with trying to recognize where the Torah/Truth is in the way we live as frum Yidden.

If an outsider first learned the Torah and then did a study on how observant Jews live their lives, he/she would have many questions. There are numerous things that we do that not only don’t fit with Torah values but they are anti Torah values. We have systems set in place that make most of us live beyond our means. We are fiercely protecting an educational system that goes against everything we actually believe in. We put a huge amount of unneeded pressure on ourselves that literally dictates how we live our lives.

What is sad is that we all know it, we all think about it and it bothers us all. What is sadder is that it is a BIG deal when a Rabbi gets up and actually expresses what we are all thinking. What a strange thing, a phenomenon, that there exists a society that puts so much value on being truthful and emesdik, but at the same time has this vested interest in not only not expressing or talking about an entire educational system that is flawed at its roots, but even protecting it and making our own children suffer through it. It becomes this huge deal when Rabbi Wallerstein actually says something about it. We have to question our sanity and values around this.

What are we protecting? What are we so scared of? Who are we nervous about not impressing?

Let me ask you a question. You don’t need to raise your hand, but raise your hand if you really deep down knew what Rabbi Wallerstein was talking about. Raise your hand if these issues have been bothering you all along. Raise your hand if you are worried about your own children’s love for Torah and Yiddishkeit. Raise your hand if you think that our educational system is not giving you any fuzzy comfortable feeling that they will help your children stay on the derech. Raise your hand if you feel like you make your children do things that are absolutely ridiculous in the name of being part of our educational system. Raise your hand if this is not the system you would come up with if you were asked to develop a system from scratch. Raise your hand if you feel bad sending your children off to school. Raise your hand if you hate seeing how much homework your kids come home with and how many tests they have.

How would you do if you had a job that went from early in the morning to late in the afternoon or night and then came home only to continue working for a few more hours, knowing all along that you really won’t be paid anything extra for the work you’re doing? How long can you keep that up for? How long would we be able to keep up a real love for Yiddishkeit and learning when all it means is memorizing material long enough to regurgitate it on a piece of paper in the form of a test? We know every one of our children is different. How much does it bother you that they are all judged only by the grades they get no matter how hard or how little they try (depending on their IQ or memory).

How much does it bother you when your kid comes home feeling like junk and overwhelmed every day? Does it hurt to see your kid growing up with practically no time to actually be a kid? How natural is it for our kids to be sitting at desks for hours and hours on end learning? How well would you do with that? How many of the school rules do you really agree with in terms of tznius way beyond the letter of the law? From the way the parents dress, we know the answer to that. And I’m not talking about parents dressing un-tzniusdik. I’m talking about the parents who are dressed tzniusdik – but of course the day they left school they changed the way they dress to what was tznius and comfortable and something they actually felt good in and made sense to them.

Bezalel Perlman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/does-it-bother-you-when-your-kid-comes-home-feeling-like-junk/2013/11/20/

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