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September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘New Yorker’

Looking Up

Friday, September 28th, 2012

In the hustle and bustle of New York City, it’s nearly impossible to stop and slow down – even for a second. The gulps of coffee, swish of a lipstick, and the tying of your shoelaces need to be accomplished in a matter of minutes. The clock is ticking. Everyone is perpetually on the go, not appreciating the present because the future is waiting impatiently. Though I am a New Yorker through and through, I’ve never stopped to ponder this hasty way of living.

A planned trip to an unexpected destination gave me an opportunity to experience another route to living. I’ve inadvertently popped the insular bubble that has enveloped me during my 22 years of existence and stepped into another perspective. A cruise to Alaska shed light on a world that may be worth investing time in. Alaska has a beauty that doesn’t shout for attention; it speaks for itself with its quiet and calm aura. The majestic mountains and turquoise waters are serene and contagiously tranquil. I automatically felt a wave of peacefulness, a rare feeling in New York City. It was as if my senses had been longing for this, gulping a glass of what Alaska had to offer me.

I imagined myself waking up to an Alaskan view, drinking my ritual coffee, and enjoying the sights. I envisioned a day where rushing wasn’t part of the schedule. In Alaska, life is calm, as if the environment commanded it to be. While the typical Alaskan individual works to make a living, there seems to be an ease that is indigenous to them. A New Yorker needs to be fast-paced in order to stay in the game called life. It would be nice to slow down once in a while. While a destination is the sole reason for a journey, why don’t we appreciate the road taken? Can’t we enjoy life for just a moment? We might miss out if we don’t look up and face the world.

After returning to my home turf, it’s hard to conjure up the same tranquility I experienced in Alaska. However, maybe I can take some of what I experienced and give back to my hometown. We should all try and enjoy the nature and beauty around us. G-d has given us a precious gift that we all need to appreciate. People have their eyes open, yet aren’t really looking. We need to stop and realize where we’re going. Is this the path we want to go? Are we haphazardly making our way to a place we’re not happy in? If we pause for just a moment, we may reroute ourselves to a place that may be greener on the other side and the journey is just as fulfilling as the destination.

You Sleep Where You Eat

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Netanya cats are numerous and just this week we’ve seen the summer litters being sprung into the street and the lawns and the parking lots and, yes, the beaches. If you’re a New Yorker, think of these cats as Netanya’s squirrels, except they’re way more useful than squirrels because they eat mice, rats, snakes, roaches – if it moves, Netanya’s cats will eat it.

They’re usually lean and move quickly, but only when they move, that is to say, during the 20 daily minutes in which they budge. The rest of the time they sunbathe, preferably above the garbage, to make sure they’re around when the new shipments arrive.

That’s it, whatcha’ looking at? Nothing to see, go away…

Israeli, New Yorker, Win Bible Contest

Friday, April 27th, 2012

An Israeli teenager won the International Bible Contest in Jerusalem, with a New York teen finishing second.

Elhanan Bloch was the best among the 56 competitors from 24 countries who competed Thursday, ahead of Akiva Abramovitz of Brooklyn.

The Bible competition is held annually on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day.

Bloch also took the religious Israeli schools contest.

Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael KKL-JNF hosted the students. The contest followed a three-week trip throughout Israel sponsored by KKL-JNF, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Israel Defense Forces Education Office.

The complete list of winners:

1st: Elchanan Bloch, of Israel
2nd: Akiva Abramowitz, of Brooklyn, USA
3rd (tie): Avshalom Adler, of Israel
3rd (tie): Elías Jalife, of Mexico
4th: Aaron Goldberg, of Toronto, Canada
Diaspora Winner (tie): Aaron Goldberg of Toronto, Canada
Diaspora Winner (tie): Akiva Abramowitz, of Brooklyn, USA

Loving Parking Tickets: Wearing The Right Glasses

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Is it really possible for any self-respecting New Yorker to love parking tickets? I have seen those orange rectangular pieces of paper become the nemesis of society. As a result, those trying to earn a meager living giving out these tickets have become Public Enemy Number One. We view them as “out to get us,” deliberately attempting to make our lives miserable. I have often seen people wearing frowns for hours because of the audacity of the meter maid – or the city at large – to cause them this needless expense and for not respecting their freedom to park their car. I have witnessed people yelling at the top of their lungs, to no avail, at a blue-clad individual who is writing a summons, when it is obvious that their hysteria will not only not prevent the ticket from being written, but is probably not good for their mood or blood pressure (not to mention the unjustified Chillul Hashem they are causing). So how is it possible that these perceived menaces of society could actually be appreciated?

Chazal tell us that patience is one of the best ways to regulate our middos, and help us gain the proper perspective on life. The tefillah of the patient person is accepted—perhaps, as a result of his patience towards others, Hashem is “patient” with him and gives merit to his prayers. Not only are his prayers accepted, but he also gets forgiven for his sins. The Gemara relates that when you forgive others, even when they are not deserving of your forgiveness, then Hashem forgives you even though you may not be worthy of His forgiveness. And as we can all use the gracious forgiveness of the Almighty, it is worth finding a way to give others a pass for their indiscretions.

Additionally, one who remains silent when he is attacked gives existence to the world; by remaining silent, he is reducing the interpersonal conflict and conflagration that can destroy the world at large – and the peace of our individual worlds. YES, it is very hard to stay in control when we are attacked, but if we make the effort to restrain ourselves, we are given siyatta d’Shmaya (Divine assistance). Furthermore, refraining from responding – even when it may be allowed and justified – allows us to access the greatest heavenly blessings of forgiveness and goodness. The reward is immense for an act that is difficult, yet takes only a few seconds to accomplish.

The Gemara relates (Rosh Hashanah 17) that Rav Huna was very sick, to the point that the other Sages thought he would die, and requested that his shrouds and coffin be prepared. In the end, however, his life was spared. Rav Huna explained that he was granted life because he did not stand on ceremony and defend his honor. He showed patience and respect for others; in return, he was granted a miraculous recovery. Is it not worth a long life to keep it quiet at difficult moments?

There is a well-known story of a couple that had been childless for 20 years and went to a Gadol for a bracha. The rav told them that they should seek a blessing from someone who does not respond to insult; such a person is clean of sin and eligible for miraculous life—in this case, in the form of a child for the childless couple. At a wedding the following week, the couple observed as someone remained silent as insults were being heaped upon him. As per the rav’s suggestion, they requested a blessing from this righteous person. Within the year, the blessing was fulfilled; after two decades, they were finally parents.

The enormous restraint and patience on the part of the man who was being insulted resulted in the fulfillment of a blessing, of miraculous life. The magnitude of exhibiting self-control in the face of humiliation has rewards beyond comprehension.

Traditional advice to the newlywed is to refrain from going to sleep while in a state of anger at one’s spouse. When you go to sleep while the marriage is not in balance, it demonstrates a lack of regard for harmony, for how could you sleep in such a state? Additionally, by allowing the anger to remain and simmer, it becomes internalized; you become an angry person. At the beginnings of a dispute it may be simpler to retreat and prevent conflict. As time goes on, however, each party may ruminate about the incident until they are each able to view it in a way whereby each one believes that he/she is 100% correct. A moment of patient forgiveness, a moment of “letting things slide,” is the building block of both harmony and personal strength. The Gemara (Megillah 28) relates that Rav Zeira was asked why he merited a long life. He responded that he was not makpid in his house – he was forgiving and did not stand on ceremony with his loved ones. Thus, anger management and self-control have direct effects on our physical and spiritual planes of existence.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 5/27/11

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Dear Readers,

In the column before last you were led to believe that the subject of community values (or lack thereof) was coming to a close. Please bear with us for one more round of commentary as three readers sound off – including the young married woman whose letter started it all. Thus, we’ve come full circle; no more letters on this topic, please, for now.

 

A focused reader with a practical outlook

Dear Rachel,

Regarding the couple forced to move without help from neighbors: some apartments in Israel have no elevators, making moving from the 5th floor of one building to a similar floor of another building hard work. One option is to hire a handyman with a van or small truck to help load and unload.

About the friends or acquaintances who had supposedly declined to assist this couple, could it have been simply a case of bad timing? These people may have already committed themselves to other plans.

As for the relative friendliness of the large city versus the small town, in the former it is virtually impossible to keep track of who may be moving in from another city or whether someone is simply getting a larger apartment on another block. Most people that I know in large cities have guests over for meals every Shabbos, and most are involved in some sort of community activity, such as helping out in their children’s yeshivas.

While the sheer number of volunteer organizations existing in the large city is astounding, there are doers and non-doers in small towns too. Anyone habitually taking advantage of others might eventually find these others less than eager to get involved. Luckily this generation is not post-war and is not directly involved with coming to the aid of refugees or building a community from the ground up.

Generally speaking, I really don’t see the young as more selfish or less committed.

Out-of-towner from many towns

 

A levelheaded New Yorker with mixed emotions

Dear Rachel,

I’ve lived in New York my whole life and have felt the lack of hospitality here. I’ve been divorced for a while, and although I have wonderful extended family who always invite me out for Shabbos meals, I feel that the people in my neighborhood are into their own lives and don’t pay that much attention to others. That being said, I also see the tremendous chessed that goes on in our community (as the letter writer wrote in response to the reply about arrogant New Yorkers).

Despite some problems, one cannot negate the good. Though I have many neighbors steeped in chessed who don’t realize that there are people living right in their midst who can be the recipients of their chessed, it would be stupid for me to say that New Yorkers are arrogant and only care about themselves. Yes, it hurts me tremendously, but I can’t knock an entire community because of this.

When I read the letter from the original letter writer, I also felt that she came across as expecting too much. Yet, when I read the responses, I started realizing that it’s our constant judging that is the root of many problems. I work very hard at not judging my neighbors, although at times it is admittedly difficult not to do so. When Tehillim groups and various other projects are organized in my neighborhood, I feel like crying at how in tune “they” are to some problems while being completely oblivious to others. I know that this (not judging) is something I have to work on; to say this is the way “New Yorkers” are would be foolish.

Life is not simple

 

The last word from the young woman who started it all

Dear Rachel,

I thank you for publishing my letter, which seems to have generated some spiteful responses.

To the woman – a member of the older generation – who dared to take me to task: Your criticism of my “self centered attitude” makes it apparent that you missed some of the details included in my previous letter. It also demonstrates a lack of class on your part. Perhaps I was a little harsh with the younger generation after all, since it seems like the older generation can be just as cold and selfish (based on the way you’ve described yourself).

Like you, I am not a mind reader — though I do try to give people the benefit of the doubt. And why would you put people who mooch off their parents in the same category as those who ask for help every now and then? Where is the logic in that comparison?

I used to be involved in chessed projects; at the present time I host people for Shabbos, those who have nowhere else to go. Furthermore, when I host guests I make sure to give them attention and not shut them out, for that’s how I was raised. When my parents hosted people, they made it their duty to make guests and newcomers feel welcomed in their home and did not ignore them.

I happen to be from New York, and while I have met decent people I have also experienced rude behavior, selfishness and arrogance firsthand. People there seem more concerned with their level of frumkeit than with kavod habriyos (respect for their fellow-man).

I find it rather shocking that people would be so hasty to attack me rather than delve into the matter. I was not looking for sympathy nor was I asking you for an apology. I was simply trying to raise communal awareness, which ironically ruffled your feathers.

Who are you to call me out for being self-centered when you are incapable of judging people favorably? You don’t know me and are therefore not in a position to make blatant accusations against me. So excuse me for asking people to have a little propriety. You may jump to conclusions about me, but only the One Above knows what I have been through.

Community (lack of) values

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to  rachel@jewishpress.com  or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes

Probing Kashrut Pitfalls In Jerusalem: An Interview with Investigative Journalist Yechiel Spira

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Yechiel Spira is part of a new breed of Internet-based Orthodox investigative journalist. The native New Yorker, who made aliyah in 1984, is on the front lines of Jerusalem’s “almost anything goes” kosher-food industry via his Jerusalem Kosher News website (www.jerusalemkoshernews.com).

In an interview with The Jewish Press, Spira spoke about why he started Jerusalem Kosher News and the effect his reporting has had on Israel’s kashrut industry.

The Jewish Press: Had you ever dabbled in journalism or kashrut before starting Jerusalem Kosher News?

Spira: I have a background in catering, the kosher meat industry and other food-related fields. I would like to stress that I am not a rabbi but a kashrut investigator/journalist. My goal is to bring readers accurate information, to permit people to make their own decision or provide them with sufficient information to probe a kashrut matter with a rav.

When and why did you start Jerusalem Kosher News?

I launched it about 30 months ago, with the hope of educating the public on the standards prevalent in the Israeli marketplace, as well as with the belief that an informed kosher consumer should make his or her own decisions based on knowledge, not false presumptions. I came to the realization that people, including my own family, haven’t a clue as to the kashrut pitfalls in Jerusalem.

Even residents of the religious neighborhoods like Har Nof are sometimes unaware of the problems. I decided to begin educating my children and my close friends and somehow that snowballed into creating JKN.

How many people in Israel and abroad read and/or subscribe?

Thousands subscribe – it’s free of charge, by the way – and the website continues to climb. We’re passing 170,000 monthly viewers, and JKN also features a newly-launched Facebook page.

I have also developed a working relationship with many kosher agencies abroad that regularly send me e-mails and call me with requests to probe matters of kashrut for them. I do my best to cooperate, time permitting. Remember, this is a volunteer effort. I must also make a parnassah in addition to my kosher reporting.

Does the Chief Rabbinate cooperate with you? What about other kashrut agencies?

The staff of the Chief Rabbinate are generally very cooperative, especially Rabbi Rafi Yochai, who heads the Kashrut Enforcement Division. Some of the private agencies, the so-called badatzim, are hesitant. Perhaps they fear my probing will tarnish their names.

The attitude in Israel is different from what it is in North America. While there should be transparency, I have difficulty getting rabbonim to give me their names on the phone. They’ll ask, “Why do you want to know?” They are seemingly unaccustomed to giving relevant information to a curious consumer.

I am working to get local residents into the habit of phoning kashrut agencies more frequently to demand explanations. At the end of the day, the many legitimate kashrut agencies are making a handsome living and, with very few exceptions, are not operating out of the goodness of their hearts.

Do the kashrut agencies respond to some aspects of your reporting?

Only when the attack is negative, and then they usually come out swinging. Once they see that my reports are supported by the facts, they calm down. But there have been some extremely uncomfortable moments, threats and shouts. But here I am, still doing my thing.

What are the biggest scandals or problems associated with kashrut you’ve found in Jerusalem?

The most common, and perhaps the most serious, involve stores advertising themselves as “kosher” or “kosher-mehadrin” while lacking legitimate kosher certification. Even more disturbing is the fact that some members of the religious community continue to patronize these establishments. Some people are unaware and some are unable to navigate the kashrut scene in Hebrew – and that includes tourists and new immigrants alike.

Is the Machane Yehuda market becoming a big kashrut problem?

It is not beginning to become a problem – it has always been a problem. It is a microcosm of the entire city. The difference is that the market is concentrated and home to hundreds of thousands of shoppers on a weekly basis. Thus, the problems are more painful since so many people fall prey to their own false kashrut assumptions.

The “shuk” is a difficult business community, one that the state kashrut enforcement people prefer to avoid.

What should American tourists look for when patronizing a falafel/pizza store or even a meat restaurant?

I don’t rate agencies, but my pocket kashrut guide and website list the acceptable hechsherim, as well as the growing list of unauthorized hechsherim as defined by the Chief Rabbinate.

One must discard the notion that everything in Israel – even Jerusalem – is kosher. It’s a noble dream – but simply not true. As is true in your home community, if you do not recognize a hechsher, turn around and walk out. Don’t make the assumption that it is OK even if you see frum-looking people eating there. They too may have been duped.

Whatever Happened To Liberal Humor?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

The brouhaha over the July 21 New Yorker cover illustration of the Obamas as the epitome of terrorist chic extended well beyond the abbreviated news cycle to which we’ve become accustomed.

A New York Times article (which fortuitously appeared the day after the offending New Yorker issue hit newsstands) on the inability or unwillingness of television comedy writers to find anything humorous about Barack Obama was followed 24 hours later by a worried Maureen Dowd ruminating on the Times’s op-ed page about the cosmic implications of a potentially thin-skinned President Obama, and by the end of the week the debate over the Meaning of It All was in full throttle.

The reaction of most liberals ranged from the usual indignant screeching about racism and jingoism to the equally familiar condescension toward benighted conservatives: “Sure, we intelligent blue-staters get the intended joke, but what about all the rubes in the heartland – the numbskulls who’ve never even heard of, much less read, The New Yorker?”

As the controversy played itself out, it became increasingly obvious that we were witness to a massive case of collective projection. Because if one thing has been evident about American politics over the past several decades, it’s that the left lost its funny bone somewhere between the Tet Offensive and the Nixon reelection landslide – and hasn’t found it since.

While R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and P.J. O’Rourke and Andrew Ferguson and Rush Limbaugh and a host of others were giving the lie to the caricature of conservatives as uptight Pecksniffs, the counterculture’s Politics of Rage was evolving into a more sedate, more deadly political correctness, effectively killing off liberal humor.

Once upon a happier time, liberals prided themselves on maintaining a certain detached bemusement. Recognizing – and lampooning – the foibles of even one’s own idols and icons was considered a sign of sophistication, bestowing on its practitioners, deservedly or not, an élan of witty bonhomie.

In Revel With a Cause: Liberal Satire in Postwar America (University of Chicago Press), Stephen Kercher paints a portrait of liberal comedians tweaking liberal and conservative politicians with almost equal verve. Liberal audiences lapped it all up (though not all liberal pols were necessarily amused – Mort Sahl’s jokes at the expense of the Kennedys led to his being blackballed, with the owner of a Los Angeles nightclub telling Sahl he’d been warned “the White House would be offended if I hired you and I’d be audited on my income tax” and another club owner stating that his refusal to cut Sahl loose led to an IRS audit and his being put out of business).

The 1960’s in particular were a golden age of liberal humor, but Lenny Bruce was as likely to excoriate liberal hypocrisy as he was to score conventional morality; the writers of the mid-60’s political satire television program “That Was the Week That Was” hardly spared their fellow liberals from ridicule; and even as politics took on a more apocalyptical tone in the late 60’s, shows like “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” and “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” while decidedly liberal in tone, were equal-opportunity offenders.

To better appreciate how things have changed, consider the following bit of commentary delivered by the legendary radio humorist Jean Shepherd, a self-described liberal, during the 1960 presidential campaign, and ask yourself who would be a better bet to jest in such terms today, a liberal or a conservative:

“If you have any politically minded type friends, you know – the indignant Liberal or the shell-bound Reactionary – they both talk exactly the same, because underneath, underneath that simple, homespun exterior, there’ll always beat the heart of a true Neanderthal. Doesn’t make any difference what direction it takes, you know?…”

By the way, the claims by those late night comedy writers in the aforementioned New York Times story that their inability to make jokes at Obama’s expense has nothing to do with their political orientation were pretty much dismissed as rubbish, by conservatives and liberals alike.

As Jay Leno admitted in an LA Weekly interview with Nikki Finke in 2004, “I’m not conservative. I’ve never voted that way in my life.” Leno also acknowledged that while rival David Letterman might “show his dislike [for President Bush] maybe a little more than I do…. I don’t think our politics are probably much different.”

His joke-writing staff, Leno revealed, included “a number of former speechwriters … all professional speechwriters for primarily Democratic candidates. Actually, there are no Republicans.”

(This column is an expanded version of a post written by your humble scribbler for Commentary magazine’s “Contentions” blog (go to commentarymagazine.com and click on the Contentions logo) which is chock-full of insightful observations on breaking stories.)

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/whatever-happened-to-liberal-humor/2008/07/30/

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