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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘No Jewish’

Good Bye, Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, and Kisses to the Little Gentiles

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

I adore Jon Stewart, have been watching him on Comedy Central since his very first Daily Show episode, when he was replacing Craig Kilborn. At that very first show, Stewart signaled his plan to become an influential voice on latenight TV by announcing—in Killborn’s face—that he was getting rid of most of the show’s silly stuff, like the clever and absurd 5-questions posed to the guest, and the rest of the rubber chicken gimmicks that endeared the show to its scant followers, but also kept it small. The only remnant from the Killborn era today is the “Moment of Zen” at the end of the show.

I also recall the moment in time when Stewart transformed himself from a very funny and exceptionally well read host of a fake news show to a moral force in America. It was in October, 2004, when he destroyed CNN’s “Crossfire.”

Stewart came out with both guns blazing, and in half an hour turned “Crossfire” hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson from fairly respected political talking heads into cantankerous buffoons. I cheered him, along with most of America, because, hey, we all love to see blood spilling on national television, but also because those two represented—precisely as Stewart put it—a class of verbal gladiators entangled in a tiresome string of daily clashes for the sake of fighting, not for, say, discovering and exploring ideas.

Poor Carlson, who looked so white, so upper class, and so pythonesque in his humiliation (the bowtie, remember his bowtie?), said something like: “Aren’t you supposed to be funny?” which sounded exactly like something Abe Lincoln would have said to John Wilkes Booth if he had better writers.

CNN canceled “Crossfire” practically that afternoon (or so it seemed), and although Stewart did not actually manage to change the way our cable news networks debate politics, he killed two of the most offensive practitioners, and that’s something.

I’m well aware of Jon Stewart’s faults as a host. He tends to cater with the freckled open face of a schoolgirl to left-wing guests, and comes prepared and biting to his encounters with right-wingers. He sometimes makes me gag when he applies his puckered lips to the less glorified side of the high and mighty. He had Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf pushing his book on the show and pitched him so many softballs, it started to look like an evening with the NAGAAA. Needless to say, murdering Benazir Bhutto did not come up.

The most troubling influence Jon Stewart—born in New York City to Marian and Donald Leibowitz—is on the cultural landscape of American Jews.

Stewart is probably the most popular Jewish man in America today. He’s also one of the top 10 men of any ethnic background. He is unabashedly Jewish, to many of us he is the ideal American Jew: aware of his ethnic identity but careful not to let it dominate his career; respects Jewish tradition but not to the point where non-Jews become uncomfortable (unlike, say, The Jewish Press). He has religious and traditional Jews on his writing staff, he promotes countless Jewish-identified entertainers, he is openly and proudly pro-Israel (albeit from his distinct political point of view—which is his prerogative). I can’t imagine anyone suggesting that Jon Stewart is bad for Jews.

Jon Stewart is bad for Jews.

Because he is so very sane, reasonable, moderate, benign, respectable and cheerful about Jewish and Israeli issues, he presents a model to be emulated – and therein lies the badness.

I hate to write the next few paragraphs, because they’re about a person’s private life which he has not done much to expose. I wouldn’t have dreamed of digging behind those bushes if not for the new study that’s being discussed by every Jewish media outlet in north America: the Pew “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” which suggested with the same breath that there are almost 7 million Jews living in America, and that many of them, and certainly the offspring of the vast majority of them, can’t really be considered Jewish.

A whopping 58% of Jews married between the years 2000 and 2013 have non-Jewish spouses. That’s up from 17% in 1970.

Woody Allen as a rabbi in "Annie Hall," using his Jewish heritage for the comic effect while, in reality, having precious little to do with anything Jewish.

Woody Allen as a rabbi in “Annie Hall,” using his Jewish heritage for the comic effect while, in reality, having precious little to do with anything Jewish.

What happened between 1970 and 2013? Jon Stewart happened. Obviously, I don’t mean the person Jon Stewart, who was only 8 in 1970, and probably not a major influence yet on Jewish life in America. But the paradigm of the successful, charismatic Jew, who is unafraid to be identified as Jewish while not going crazy with the Jew thing – that paradigm was well in the making. Allan Stewart Konigsberg, aka Woody Allen, comes to mind. And, alas—inevitably—that paradigm also turned the previously shocking marrying of a gentile spouse more and more commonplace, until it is what the vast majority of Jews are doing.

That’s not marriage, that’s ethnic cleansing.

From Wikipedia:

In 2000, Stewart married Tracey Lynn McShane, his girlfriend of four years. The couple met on a blind date set up by a production assistant on Stewart’s film, Wishful Thinking. On June 19, 2001, Stewart and his wife filed a joint name change application and legally changed both of their surnames to “Stewart.” He proposed to his wife through a personalized crossword puzzle created with the help of Will Shortz, the crossword editor at The New York Times. The couple had their first child, a son named Nathan Thomas Stewart (after Stewart’s grandfather), in July 2004. Their second child, a daughter, Maggie Rose Stewart, was born in February 2006. They own a cat named Stanley and two pit bull terriers, Monkey and Shamsky (named after former Major League Baseball player Art Shamsky).

What can possibly be wrong with the above paragraph? From this Jewish person’s narrow, nationalistic point of view, what’s wrong there is that only one out of the three persons in the perfect American family being described is Jewish.

(Obviously, I apologize if Mrs. Stewart quietly went and converted to Judaism, just to make me eat my hat. But you understand I’m discussing her and her husband as paradigms.)

The Pew study breaks this tragedy into subject matters and numbers, but the crux of it is that the Stewarts and the Jewish nation are in the process of parting company. They, along with several million other Americans of Jewish descent, are disappearing into the gushing river of history, while the rest of us are left on our own once again, to continue the divine adventure begun in the mid 1200s BCE in Egypt.

Here’s a curious fact: the verse in the Torah describing the Israelites’ exit from their house of bondage in Egypt goes: “V’chamushim alu Bnei Israel m’eretz Mitzrayim,” which is translated straight-forwardly as “The Israelites went up out of Egypt equipped for battle.” But the classical commentator Rashi offers an alternative reading of the word “chamushim,” which can also mean one-fifth, meaning that four fifths of the Israelite slaves did not follow Moses’ instructions, did not grab a lamb, did not slaughter it, did not smear its blood on their door posts, and did not roast and eat it, and so they perished along with the Egyptians during the plague of Darkness.

Based on Rashi’s suggestion, as well as based on Jewish history, a loss of 58% of a Jewish community to the larger culture is an exceptionally optimistic outcome – it should have been 80%. Indeed, four fifths was the common rate of intermarriage and cultural merging for European Jewry before WW2 and again, today, 70 years after the war. Give it another 30 years and we’ll hit the historically proper 80% in north America as well.

So that, in the end, Jon Stewart is not to blame for America’s demographic holocaust (Too dramatic? Maybe go with “demographic catastrophe?” Demographic anguish?” Nah – I’m sticking with the H word). He merely represents its most highly focused arrowhead.

He is the schpitz  of assimilation, to use a Yiddish word, since peppering one’s speech with Yiddish is so adorably neuvo-Jew these days.

Jews, Evangelicals In Unusual Meeting Of Minds

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009


WASHINGTON – They talked about Israel and about proselytizing – but perhaps the most important thing about the recent meeting between nearly 40 Jewish and evangelical Christian leaders was that they were talking at all.


Organizers believe the two-day meeting last month in Washington was the first time, at least in recent memory, that rabbis, pastors and other on-the-ground leaders of the two faith groups had sat down to have a conversation about their respective faiths and concerns about various issues.


“There were relatively few people who knew who to call when there was tension between the communities,” said David Neff, editor of Christianity Today.


Neff came up with the idea for the conference with a close friend and fellow Chicagoan – Rabbi Yehiel Poupko, Judaic scholar at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.


The event, held June 15-16, attracted leaders representing large swaths of the more than 50 million evangelical Christian adults in the United States – and, in the process, underscored the changing face of the movement.


Many American Jews tend to associate evangelicals with heavily pro-Republican political preachers such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and outspoken backers of Israel such as John Hagee. Neff noted, however, that while evangelical Christians do tend to lean conservative politically, most evangelical churches shy away from participation in electoral politics.


Neff also said that while evangelical Christians tend to be supporters of the Jewish state, only about 10 percent adhere to Hagee’s eschatology of premillennial dispensationalism in which Israel plays a central role in the second coming of Jesus. Hagee says that his support of Israel is based in Genesis and not connected to any eschatology.


Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which co-convened the conference, added that many evangelical leaders and their followers not only are concerned with traditional conservative political causes like fighting abortion, but also placing a greater focus on combating poverty and protecting the environment.


Similarly, while previous efforts by Jewish organizations focused almost exclusively on boosting and harnessing evangelical support for Israel, JCPA – an umbrella organization bringing together the major synagogue movements, several nonsectarian national Jewish organizations and more than 100 local Jewish communities – boasts an agenda that encompasses Middle East issues as well as many domestic concerns.


Among the top agenda items at the June conference were Israel and proselytizing. 


“We want to be able to understand how many of the Jewish people hear certain issues,” said Joel Hunter, senior pastor at the 12,000-person Northland, A Church Distributed in Orlando, Fla., and a co-convenor of the conference. “We don’t want to unintentionally offend or miscommunicate” because of a lack of knowledge of an issue.


For instance, Hunter noted how U.S. Jewish leaders emphasized that Israel should not be depicted as only a product of the Holocaust, but also a millennial-old connection to the Jewish people.


Hunter, who gave the benediction after Barack Obama’s Democratic convention speech last summer, said that such information is important for building relationships with Jewish friends, but also in the context of Christians beginning to have more dialogues with Muslim leaders.


“We want to keep in mind how a Jewish person would interpret and perceive what is happening in that conversation” with Muslims, he said.


The conference participants also spent time discussing Jewish concerns about proselytizing or evangelicals sharing their faith with others.


“I don’t think that we are worried about conversion,” Gutow said, “but I think that when one religious group says we have the only avenue, it makes us feel condescended towards.”


Hunter said such Jewish concerns are something that evangelicals needed to hear because “part of our spiritual maturity comes with the appreciation of other people’s faith experiences.”


No Jewish leader said evangelicals shouldn’t share their faith, but offered thoughts on “what is a helpful way” to do it, and what comes across as “artificial and pushy and offensive,” Hunter said.


Gutow said he thought the evangelicals in the room “really understood” that while sharing their faith was an essential component of their spiritual lives, it could be problematic for Jews. He was one of several participants who noted how open and intense both the formal and informal discussions were throughout the conference.


In addition to exchanging thoughts on issues, others said they learned that the two faith traditions have some important similarities.


Neff and Poupko said it wasn’t clear why clergy leaders of the two faiths hadn’t sat down for such discussions previously – there were some efforts involving mostly academics in the 1980s – but speculated that part of the reason was that the two groups don’t cross paths frequently in everyday life.


Poupko noted that Jews and evangelicals simply live in different places, with Jews traditionally concentrated more in urban settings and evangelicals frequently located outside of cities and in areas of the country where Jews are not as populous.


That won’t be an obstacle anymore. Hunter said that if he has any question about how a certain issue involving Israel should be approached, he won’t hesitate to call one of the rabbis he met and ask, “How does this sound to you?”


Similarly, Gutow said he had met Hunter a few times in the past, but now “picking up the phone and calling him is a no-brainer.”


“My Rolodex is tremendously expanded,” said Neff, “not just in the sense of having more names and phone numbers,” but “with people I know.”


In addition to all those informal contacts, organizers said they hope to schedule another formal meeting next year.

(JTA)

Title: The Sun’s Special Blessing

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Title:The Sun’s Special Blessing

Author: Sandy Wasserman

Illustrated by Ann D. Koffsky

Publisher: Pitspopany Press

  

            Jewish day school and yeshiva classroom around the world are buzzing with excitement as children are being taught the special meaning and significance of Birkas HaChama.

 

            On Erev Pesach, the 14th of Nissan (April 8, 2009) Jewish people will recite the blessing for the sun that is said only once every 28 years. Marking the exact time that Hashem created the sun during the six days of creation, Birkas HaChama has captured the imagination of both children and adults.

 

            In this cogently written and beautifully illustrated book for children, entitled The Sun’s Special Blessing, author Sandy Wasserman takes her young readers along on an inspirational journey with a class of third graders who learn profound lifetime lessons; namely, that as much as things change with time, certain things always remain the same.

 

            Through the sensitive and creative lessons of their teacher, Mr. Jacobs, Adam, Talia and the other children gain a deeper appreciation for the world that they live in and Hashem’s glory and majesty.

 

            When Adam asks why we bless the sun once every 28 years, Mr. Jacobs replies that, “Hashem created the sun on the fourth day of Creation. Even though the sun is in the sky daily, it’s only in the exact spot it was at Creation every twenty-eight years.”

 

            The inquisitive young minds yearn to delve deeper and Mr. Jacobs tells them of his experience reciting Birkas HaChama back in 1981 when he was their age and a student at that very school. At a class project at that time, Mr. Jacobs and his fellow classmates brought in items from that period to place in a time capsule that they placed in the ground to be unearthed 28 years later. Since he remembers where it was buried, Mr. Jacobs distributes shovels and leads his students outside near the school flagpole. The children roar with excitement when they find out that whoever taps the time capsule first gets to keep what is included in it. Brimming with great interest and exuberance, each child takes his or her turn until they have located the buried capsule.

 

            Talia is the lucky one who finds it and the children learn about a past world. Memorabilia from the early 1980s such as a Rubik’s cube, a VHS movie tape, a New York Times photo of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and cassette tapes of Uncle Moishy songs are among the items of a bygone era that they find.

 

            Mr. Jacobs gives them a brief history lesson on each item and the popular cultural trends of the time. He then suggests that the class mark the special 2009 Birkas HaChama by dedicating time to learn about the history of the blessing, the Hebrew calendar and to collect items for their own 2009 time capsule to be dug up in 2037.

 

            Mr. Jacobs asks the class to think about how 2009 will be remembered in Jewish and secular history and to select items to be placed in the polyethylene time capsule that reflect the religious, cultural and political norms of the time. Talia decides to write a letter to include in the time capsule addressed to the students of 2037, and imagines their excitement as they too learn about Birkat HaChama and are equally amazed at the events of 2009.

 

            This thoughtful book makes a great bedtime story for elementary-aged children and an invaluable educational tool for day schools and yeshivas. No Jewish home or library should be without it.

Title: The Sun’s Special Blessing

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Title:The Sun’s Special Blessing


Author: Sandy Wasserman


Illustrated by Ann D. Koffsky


Publisher: Pitspopany Press


 

 

            Jewish day school and yeshiva classroom around the world are buzzing with excitement as children are being taught the special meaning and significance of Birkas HaChama.

 

            On Erev Pesach, the 14th of Nissan (April 8, 2009) Jewish people will recite the blessing for the sun that is said only once every 28 years. Marking the exact time that Hashem created the sun during the six days of creation, Birkas HaChama has captured the imagination of both children and adults.

 

            In this cogently written and beautifully illustrated book for children, entitled The Sun’s Special Blessing, author Sandy Wasserman takes her young readers along on an inspirational journey with a class of third graders who learn profound lifetime lessons; namely, that as much as things change with time, certain things always remain the same.

 

            Through the sensitive and creative lessons of their teacher, Mr. Jacobs, Adam, Talia and the other children gain a deeper appreciation for the world that they live in and Hashem‘s glory and majesty.

 

            When Adam asks why we bless the sun once every 28 years, Mr. Jacobs replies that, “Hashem created the sun on the fourth day of Creation. Even though the sun is in the sky daily, it’s only in the exact spot it was at Creation every twenty-eight years.”

 

            The inquisitive young minds yearn to delve deeper and Mr. Jacobs tells them of his experience reciting Birkas HaChama back in 1981 when he was their age and a student at that very school. At a class project at that time, Mr. Jacobs and his fellow classmates brought in items from that period to place in a time capsule that they placed in the ground to be unearthed 28 years later. Since he remembers where it was buried, Mr. Jacobs distributes shovels and leads his students outside near the school flagpole. The children roar with excitement when they find out that whoever taps the time capsule first gets to keep what is included in it. Brimming with great interest and exuberance, each child takes his or her turn until they have located the buried capsule.

 

            Talia is the lucky one who finds it and the children learn about a past world. Memorabilia from the early 1980s such as a Rubik’s cube, a VHS movie tape, a New York Times photo of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and cassette tapes of Uncle Moishy songs are among the items of a bygone era that they find.

 

            Mr. Jacobs gives them a brief history lesson on each item and the popular cultural trends of the time. He then suggests that the class mark the special 2009 Birkas HaChama by dedicating time to learn about the history of the blessing, the Hebrew calendar and to collect items for their own 2009 time capsule to be dug up in 2037.

 

            Mr. Jacobs asks the class to think about how 2009 will be remembered in Jewish and secular history and to select items to be placed in the polyethylene time capsule that reflect the religious, cultural and political norms of the time. Talia decides to write a letter to include in the time capsule addressed to the students of 2037, and imagines their excitement as they too learn about Birkat HaChama and are equally amazed at the events of 2009.

 

            This thoughtful book makes a great bedtime story for elementary-aged children and an invaluable educational tool for day schools and yeshivas. No Jewish home or library should be without it.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/title-the-suns-special-blessing/2009/03/26/

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