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May 24, 2015 / 6 Sivan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Buddha Statues Join Barbie Dolls in Iran’s ‘Cultural Circumcision’

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Iran has followed up on its ban of wicked Western influences, such as Barbie dolls and the Simpsons, by adding Far Eastern Buddha statues to its list of foreign evils.

The Iranian-based Arman daily quoted Saeed Jaberi Ansari, who helps protect Iran’s “cultural heritage,” as saying the items are part of a “cultural invasion.”

Dr. Alireza Nourizadeh, the director of the Center for Arab & Iranian Studies in London, criticized the ban as nothing more than “circumcised art,” according to the Saudi-based Al Arabiya website.

“Art is not an area the regime will succeed fighting against,” he said. “This has nothing to do with not allowing sculptures or artworks in the country – like some Islamic countries. Iran does have its film and theater festivals, but it’s what you can call ‘circumcised’ arts.”

The Simpsons were banned last year to defend the Islamic Republic against Western culture, but the Iranian regime reasoned that Spiderman and Superman were permissible because they help the “oppressed.”

Stretching the ban to the Far East’s Buddha statues won’t work, according to  Dr. Nourizadeh.

“Artistic circles will speak out; Iranian intellectuals will respond sharply,” he explained.

However, Ansari, the defender of culture, reportedly said that the “cleansing” would continue to prevent the promotion of a specific belief.

“The regime believes Iranian citizens, particularly the youth, are being corrupted by the West, foreign entities, imperialists, Zionists, you name it which encourages young people to leave Islamic values and Khomeini’s values,” he said.

Buddha statues are used more as ornaments than they are for religious practices in Iran, which officially guarantees the rights of non-Muslims.

Is it True that ‘No One Really Frum Has a TV’?

Monday, February 11th, 2013

I’m not going to comment on the substance of Rabbi Daniel Schneierson’s post on YWN, entitled, “Is Chemistry Important?” People can make their own judgments about the importance of chemistry between a dating couple. On that topic, I will just say that a lot of what he says has merit – but I reject the idea that chemistry is not important.

What troubled me about his essay is the following offhand comment which he puts into parentheses: Nowadays no one really frum has a TV…

With this comment he has just wiped out of Orthodoxy most of observant Jewry including many Haredim. (I don’t know him personally but if he is not Haredi – he sure sounds like it in this post.)

I am not going to debate the value of TV. I’ve discussed that issue many times. Suffice it to say that many of the criticisms of the right are true. But just like the internet, there is both good and bad in TV. And just like the internet, it ought not be banned or treated like hilul Shabbos to own one as Rabbi Schneierson does.

The problems with TV do not begin and end with Haredim. Nor even with Jews. There are many people who feel that TV is nothing more than a vast wasteland. And that one could spend their time much more productively without one. You don’t have to be a Haredi Jew to know that. Nor is it lost on decent people of all religions that there is way too much immorality on TV. I’m not going to argue any of that because it’s true.

But to make a blanket statement that nobody frum has a TV anymore (especially in a sort of humorous good natured tongue in cheek sort of way) proves just how isolated the fellow is… and how isolated he wants his community to be.Not because not owning a TV makes you isolated. But because identifying those who own one as not being frum. It is no secret that in his circles – not interacting with non frum Jews is an ideal they pursue. That’s why they try to isolate themselves from the rest of the world as much as possible. And it is why they reject some children from their schools. Children from homes that have a TV or the internet. They do not want to be ‘tainted’ by the ‘goyishe’ values children from those homes bring to the school.

This attitude is so arrogant and narrow minded that it boggles the mind that one can even make a statement like that let alone believe it… and by mentioning it in passing, he insinuates that we all already know that… he is just reminding us of it.

This man is a Rebbe (Shoel U’Meishiv) in a yeshiva. And he is teaching his students to think of any Jew with a TV as not frum. And he teaches it in the most insidious way – in a semi humorous post as a foregone conclusion, without any qualification.

This is the”my way or the highway” attitude of so many Haredim. And the mechanchim they produce make it very dangerous one. He is teaching intolerance whether he realizes it or not. Owning a TV makes one not frum and therefore a purposeful sinner. One must not intermingle with purposeful sinners because they will influence you to sin.

I know he means well. He thinks by insinuating that frum people don’t own TVs it will reinforce the idea of just how bad owning a TV is. He believes that owning a TV is so dangerous to your Frumkeit that he subliminally teaches you to consider TV owners as not observant. After all the definition of being Frum has historically been whether one keeps Shabbos. According to Rabbi Daniel Schneierson the new definition of being frum is not owning a TV. He subconsciously implants in the mind of those over which he has influence that owning a TV is like hilul Shabbos.

The fact that there are entire communities of Jews that own TVs and that there are not insignificant numbers of moderate Haredim among them – doesn’t phase him. He probably writes them off as not frum too.

Bar Refaeli’s Vulgar Super Bowl Ad

Monday, February 11th, 2013

I don’t want to come across as a prude and less so do I want to judge. So how do I say this delicately?

For those of us who always hoped that Israel would stand for just a little bit more than some of the values of the rest of the world, GoDaddy.com’s Super Bowl ad with Bar Refaeli was a disappointment.

For many decades in the United States we have fought a rearguard action to sustain the dignity of women, especially in how they are portrayed in the media and in advertising. I dedicated an entire book to this theme entitled, Hating Women. In it I demonstrated the gradual evolution of, say, the female recording industry which had once focused primarily, as it should, on a woman’s voice and musical talent, but later came to focus, with artists like Madonna and Britney Spears, on salaciousness and sex.

This battle has been mostly lost. It is now a given that a woman who does not show a lot of leg and a lot more cleavage will probably never reach the highest echelons of musical stardom, although the careers of superstars like Adele, who does not flaunt her body and Susan Boyle, who does not fit the stereotype, still gives us some hope. Surely, Beyoncé’s amazing performance at the Super Bowl demonstrates that seductiveness is essential to female musical entertainment. One cannot separate her sexiness from the high-energy rendition which impressed millions. To attempt to criticize that would now be seen as retrograde and primitive.

And yet our culture still believes there are things that cross a line. The classic example is another Super Bowl incident, this time in 2004, when Janet Jackson had her famous wardrobe malfunction with Justin Timberlake. Showing a breast on TV was something that deeply upset most Americans because their children were watching.

Fast forward now to the GoDaddy.com commercial with Bar Refaeli. GoDaddy has been the worst offender in the exploitation and degradation of women via Super Bowl advertisements for a number of years now. Many of their ads straddle the line of soft porn which they then invite you to see a lot more of if you go online. What the connection between a woman’s body and online storage might be is something that many of us might will find mystifying.

But the Bar Refaeli commercial transcended even that. Here was a woman having  a tongue-to-tongue kiss with a man on a program that is watched by millions of children. I know my children were watching and I felt uncomfortable. It was my seven-year-old’s birthday. He was watching the Super Bowl with my four-year-old and with our other children. Every year they wait for our family’s Super Bowl party. Was this what they had to see? It’s a football game, for heaven’s sake. If you watch the uncensored version, which was available on the Internet, it’s much worse. They might say it’s just a kiss. But if it were just that GoDaddy would not have wasted millions of dollars airing it. It was meant to shock, and it achieved its intent.

Why did it have to be Israel’s supermodel in the ad?

I get it. We are all susceptible to the vagaries of celebrity, and at times we may allow ourselves to be compromised in its pursuit. This is especially true, I can imagine, when something like this probably involves a very large payday as well. That’s why I say I don’t want to judge. But surely, one’s image can also benefit from wholesomeness. As one of the world’s most beautiful women – with the exception of my wife (now can I buy that case of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, honey?) – Refaeli could have won over tens of millions of viewers, especially Moms, who would have equated her image with feminine dignity and self-esteem.

To be sure, Bar Refaeli was controversial long before the GoDaddy ad because she did not serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. Fair enough. There are many religious Jewish girls who don’t serve in the IDF either. But they do enlist in national service. Refaeli’s explanation, however, was something that, as a father of a young woman who is currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces for two years, I found equally disappointing. She is quoted as saying, “I don’t regret not enlisting, because it paid off big time. That’s just the way it is, celebrities have other needs.”

Needed: A Conservative Counter-Culture

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

The last election has brought on essays bemoaning the conservative disconnect from popular culture and the need to somehow reconnect with it. The means of this reconnection are hardly ever stated, though there is the implication that conservatives would need to “evolve” on certain social issues in the hopes that its economic viewpoint will be taken seriously by a population whose social way of life doom it to be dependent on government support.

As plans go, this one is nearly as clever as trying to promote weight loss by opening a cake shop. And it ignores the obvious reality that the only way that conservatives will be allowed to participate in popular culture is as the butt of a joke. Whether it’s Sarah Palin’s appearance on Saturday Night Live or Rush Limbaugh’s Family Guy appearance, trying to be a good sport about liberal culture is the strategy of a good loser playing into the prepared stereotype, rather than destroying it.

The culture is polarized. That means there is no place for conservatives in it except by playing the villain’s part, and the villain’s part, whether played with good humor or reluctantly, is not the winning part. But it’s also a mistake to call it the culture, when what we really mean is the culture created and perpetuated by a small number of corporations, their affiliated creatives and their affiliated press.

Take Girls, an HBO series that is one part nepotism and nine parts artificially generated corporate trend, that was recently the subject of several essays insisting that we take it seriously because it is “the culture”. How big of a slice of the culture is Girls? It’s on HBO, which means it has limited viewership and unlimited publicity. HBO exists to promote the illusion, not so much of quality, but of relevance. And Girls is a triumph of fake relevance. It is the show that you must consider relevant, because well… it’s relevant. Isn’t it?

The Girls Season 2 premiere scored 866,000 viewers. After multiple airings it made it up to 1.6 million. It wasn’t exactly a case of the entire country tuning in. Nor its entire female population or even its entire population of women in their twenties. And since HBO only exists as a desperate effort by the dying cable industry to hang on to its subscribers, its episodes are not available on iTunes, Hulu Plus or any of the other concessions to the age of internet broadcast entertainment.

Girls is doubtlessly relevant to the daughters of wealthy urban liberal families who find themselves with too much money and too little common sense. And it’s probably not even relevant to them since its larger audience share is with men over 50 and its median viewer age is 43. Is it relevant to the culture as a whole? Not really. And its perceived importance highlights the disconnect between the Low Culture of the free TV sitcom and the High Culture of the cable indie drama. Both may have a leftie agenda, but one exists to be consumed by overeducated professionals, many of whom also work in media, in the major cities, while the other is mass culture entertainment.

Trying to tackle, adapt to or duplicate leftie High Culture is a senseless and useless task in every sense of the word. Their only relevance comes from their trickle down effect into mass culture. It’s mass culture that is relevant, but though that Low Culture is mass consumed, it’s still created by the same sort of people who create the High Culture and packed with many of the same agendas.

The difference between them is in tone and the perception of importance. Elites imagine that what interests them is important, because they are important. What interests the masses is less important, because they are less important. Important people and their important programs influence the culture or even are the culture. Unimportant people are not. In fact it’s the other way around.

Girls is not America. No television show is. But the closest to America may be American Idol or Sunday Night Football, which dominate the ratings and reflect the culture far more than it ever will. That’s not something to celebrate either. Not when you consider that most entertainment emerges out of the bowels of a cultural and corporate establishment well to the left of the country at large. And unlike Girls, much of what it spews forth does slowly push the country to the left. But that also shows why trying to run alongside it in the hopes of staying relevant is a dead end. Not unless the goal is to go on being the villains, comic relief or otherwise.

Israeli Culture Wins at the United Nations

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

On Dec. 21, 2012, a UN resolution on “Entrepreneurship for Development” was proposed by Israel, along with 97 co-sponsors.

The resolution encourages private and public sector entrepreneurship, “developing new technologies and innovative business models, and enabling high, sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth while protecting the rights of workers as the best way to deal with the challenges of poverty and job creation.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said the following:

“The Israeli spirit of entrepreneurship and creativity prevailed at the UN today.  As a state that was founded in difficult circumstances, we have been able to create opportunities for talented people and have become an enterprising superpower. Creating a culture of entrepreneurship can work miracles and drive economies forward. Investing in human resources is a real message that Israel conveys to the developing world.”

The UN adopted it by a vote of 141 in favor to 31 against, with 11 abstentions.

What’s interesting about this? If you recall, there was a huge row over comments during the US Presidential campaign suggesting that Israeli culture is a major factor in the state’s economic and social prowess in the region.

Many commentators on the far left (including the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Rachel Shabi) scolded those who would suggest a connection between culture and success – imputing racism to such arguments.

Shabi characterized the broader narrative that Israeli culture may be more conducive to success than Palestinian culture as “standard-issue superiority complex racism”.

To those so easily manipulated by au courant post-colonial causation, the stubborn reality of Israeli success (as with Western success more broadly) must be explained by “systemic” injustices.

To the far-left crowd, the word “racism” – which refers to a belief in the inherent, immutable, biological or genetic inferiority of a group, race, or people – has been defined so expansively as to even impute such bigotry to those observing intuitively that some cultural habits are necessarily inimical to economic achievement and social development.

Now, take a look at the countries who voted against the Israeli resolution advocating “entrepreneurship for development”.

Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Yemen.

Do you see a pattern?

A strong majority of these states are plagued by poverty, under-development and despotism.

Oh, and  also:  The majority of these states are opposed to Israel’s very existence, and some have a shameful history of having ethnically cleansed their Jewish citizens in the twenty years following 1948.

The resolution, based on the most intuitive reasoning, was opposed because it was the Jewish state which proposed it.

By obsessing over Israel, refusing to concentrate on the real problems plaguing their societies, and working to instill the liberal cultural habits necessary to alleviate their poverty and throw off the yoke of tyranny – and ignoring the lessons on how a small, innovative, Jewish country accomplished so much in just six and a half decades – they ensure that little progress will likely be achieved.

Those in the West who continue  to indulge such nations in the fantasy that their anti-Zionist delusions are justified, even righteous, are complicit in condemning millions to poverty, tyranny and hopelessness.

Visit CifWatch.com.

Please, America, Learn from Egypt’s Experience: Avoid Socialism

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

If America opens its borders without restrictions, more than half the world’s population will come here. It is America’s capitalist system that is still a dream come true to many who are happy to leave their stagnant, dysfunctional economies, burdened with both class envy and the redistribution by government bureaucrats of hard-earned money. Many immigrants risked their lives to trade their substandard, government-run health insurance for life in America, where hard work is rewarded with a better standard of living for most of its people than anywhere ever before.

Immigrants in America today are faced with a dilemma: they are being told that they must deny their appreciation of the capitalist system that brought them here in the first place. Their children are taught to reject their parents’ experience of hard work to get ahead and regard their parents as victims of discrimination and abuse. They are rewarded for complaining and for rejecting free enterprise, self-reliance, assimilation and all the American values that made this country the envy of the world. They are told to look at the half empty glass and are encouraged to throw out their freedoms for food stamps. They are told to hate white people, and those who do not are shamed as traitors to their race.

Today in America, every national origin and race is encouraged to find a minority group to belong to. We are encouraged to get into a system of tribalism that turns us into factions with an “us against them” mentality, something we have suffered from in the Middle East.

In Egypt, we suffered under socialism and the government’s empty promises of equality through seizing wealth from the rich to give to the poor. We ended up with terrible unintended consequences; the rich did get poorer but the poor also got poorer: nobody won. The culture of envy and punishing the rich never brought equality or improved conditions for the poor. The great thing about America is that the poor do not have to stay poor and the rich can lose their wealth if they invest it unwisely. What immigrants see is the high rate of mobility between classes.

Americans are left uninformed by their media on how the rest of the world lives. Try watching “House Hunters International,” where Americans can see for themselves that homes and apartments around the world are both unaffordable to the general public and often unlivable by American standards.

A wonderful, hard working Hispanic family, after years in which the mother worked as a cleaning lady and the father a construction worker, saw all their children graduated from college without ever paying a cent for their education, and now all with wonderful jobs. The children of that family are now are speaking of discrimination, how California was part of Mexico and how it is only fair to redistribute wealth. This was the lesson they learned in college.

It should take just one visit to the Middle East to understand what America is all about. Every American teenager should get a chance to travel and live in a third world country. Some countries might provide government health insurance, but health insurance is a piece of paper; it does not mean good health care. Many countries that provide government health care have high unemployment, terrible shortages of food and apartments and lack many other luxuries Americans take for granted. In America today, politicians are moving in the same direction, possibly deliberately, for votes: high unemployment, less home ownership and more government interference in our lives from cradle to grave.

America is heading towards a society similar to where we immigrants came from, where the government turns into the keeper of a human zoo where we all live in cages waiting for government to throw food at us every day. But even the government will not be able to sustain the zoo expenses. The U.S. government is on its way to becoming the nightmare totalitarian system from which we immigrants tried to escape.

Left on their own, immigrants are grateful to work hard and enjoy the American system, but soon after we are here, we are told by the popular culture that we are victims, must act like ones and we must not accept what America can offer. America wanted more from us when it came time to vote. We are told that the system is rigged and that “whites”, who welcomed us in the millions for centuries, are bigoted and racists. Many immigrants go along with the anti-American propaganda for the sake of approval and benefits. Immigrants are now told to hold on to their old culture, religion, traditional clothes, customs, language, and even some of the brutal, archaic laws and customs that many of us came here to escape from in the first place. The media and “conventional wisdom” now tell us that America is no better than the oppressive systems from which we fled.

Don’t Let Santa Fool You

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

A friend just back from New York says it’s beginning to look a lot like Xmas everywhere you go. Xmas trees, manger scenes, Salvation Army Santas, stockings and candy canes in window displays along Fifth Avenue, Jingle Bells tinkling in the stores…. Frankly, I don’t understand how any self-respecting Jew can live in a Christian country like America when he could live in Israel instead. It baffles me.

Here, in Yerushalayim, our pleasant Hanukah menorah decorations are lit up over our streets. There’s absolutely no sign of Xmas at all. In fact, if you didn’t get lost on the way to Rachel’s Tomb and end up in Bethlehem on Xmas day itself, you’d never know that such a pagan holiday existed. Thank the good Lord that my kids don’t have to walk the streets of America at this time of year and feel like second-class citizens amongst the idol worshippers. I challenge someone to disagree with me if I’m wrong.

Just so the jolly little elves and white-bearded Santas don’t fool you, it pays to recall the truth about Christianity.

During the midst of World War 1, Rabbi Kook understood that Christianity was to blame for all the slaughter:

“The moral repression found in the profane culture which exerted vast dominion over the nations, brought oppression to their hearts, and caused evil traits, diseases, and anger to multiply and be pent up in the depths of their souls. And now these are erupting their fetters through the horrendously bloody and awesomely cruel wars, which are more in keeping with their still unrefined natures” (Orot, 2:4).

Rabbi Kook comes to explain how an enlightened, industrialized, and cultured Europe could unleash such destructive barbaric forces that brought the world to war. What went wrong?

The “profane culture” he writes about which has come to dominate Western civilization is the outgrowth of Christianity, whose doctrines of repression have now burst through Christianity’s outer guise of gentility and brotherhood in a monstrous storm of violence and hate. This is because, in denying the Torah and its commandments, Christianity separated mankind from the true ladder to God. Unlike the constant self-correction and moral improvement demanded by the Torah, through the hard work of perfecting character traits, Christianity’s false show of morals, and instant salvation for belief in its virgin-born messiah, proved impotent in uplifting man’s baser traits. Only the Torah has the unique power to refine man’s nature. All other disciplines, whether religious, secular, or philosophical, can add to man’s quantitative knowledge, but they cannot effect any inner change.

Christian civilization, and the profane secular culture which grew out from it, know what is evil, but does not know how to correct it. It learned about morals from the Hebrew Bible, but in cutting itself off from Israel and the commandments of the Torah, it severed mankind from the one and only path to God and true morality. It left man simmering in darkness in a cauldron of unrefined passions and lusts which finally exploded in the devastating world wars of the previous century.

Judaism, in contrast, presents a practical path and down-to-earth guidance to character perfection. Our Sages teach us how to actualize the proper midot (character traits) in our lives, defining the measure of each and every trait, and their proper time and place. For example, in his “Introduction to the Mishna,” the Rambam presents his famous doctrine of “the Middle Path,” whereby man reaches a balance between the extremes, not repressing his baser emotions like lust and cruelty, but learning to give each emotion its proper expression in the proper time and place, so that sexuality becomes a holy union between man and wife, and cruelty is called upon when uprooting the wicked from the world.

“L’havdil” a thousand thousands of differences, Christianity, under a guise of holiness, condemns man’s natural passions from birth. But mankind cannot adhere to the repression of character traits that Christianity imposes, because it does not provide man with a true means to holiness and moral refinement. Cut off from the Torah, Christianity breeds a culture which dooms man to guilt, aggression, and a festering rage which explodes in violence and war.

Inevitably, the target of the world’s murderous rage turns against the Jews. Behind the hatred for Israel lies the recognition that it was the Jewish People who introduced the Divine moral framework to the world. Cut off from the true word of God, mankind remains in its barbaric state. The Divine moral message of Israel is received as an obligation and burden. Mankind wants to wallow in an uninhibited sensual and material lifestyle. The Jewish People get in the way by reminding the world of God and the allegiance due Him. Unable to kill the beasts within themselves, the gentiles resort to killing the Jews.

Although Rabbi Kook was unequivocal in his condemnation of Christianity, it is important to note that he never encouraged open conflict with its doctrines. He advocated that other religions be enlisted in the universal task of leading the world to God:

“As to alien faiths, I will tell you my opinion, that it is not the goal of Israel to uproot and destroy them, just as we do not aim for the general destructions of the nations, but rather for their correction and elevation, the removal of their dross, that they will link themselves with the source of Israel, where dew drops of light and blessing will fall over them, as it says, ‘I will take away the blood form out of his mouth, and his detestable things from between his teeth, and he too shall remain for our God’” (Zechariah, 9:7. See “Letters of Rabbi Kook” 112).

Only in the near future, when Israel’s light shines in its full glory from the Land of Israel, will the nations realize that the true enlightenment and joy is not in Santas and fairy tales from Bethlehem, but in the Torah of Israel, and then they will rush gladly to the Lord’s House in Jerusalem to learn the ways of Jacob, and “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah, 2:2-4).

May it be soon. Amen.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/dont-let-santa-fool-you/2012/11/28/

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