This is my attempt at blogging. I'm still learning about the blogging world, and this is my own personal study hall.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Soul of Judaism?

I'm still working out the kinks in my Kashruth report, and I'm also working on a few side projects now, but please read the post below, which I wrote for the new "Out of Town" Jews. (I also have not yet figured out how to cross-post. If anyone knows how, please drop me a line. Also, check it out - both Seth J and "Out of Town" Jews have made it. We're on JRants, woohoo!)

Read this article. It's an Op-Ed piece from today's Jerusalem Post online edition. In it the author, Nathan Lopes Cardozo, dean of the David Cardozo Academy in Jerusalem, argues that in Israel today there is a deep void in the fabric of Israeli society, which presents itself as a lack of sprituality, when in fact, according to Cardozo, there is a lack of Menchlichkeit, or manners, and proper treatment of one's fellow Jew. He goes further than I would (he states that there are too many Yeshivot, for example), but he makes some very good points about the direction in which Israel is headed.

But isn't all of this true here as well? Isn't it true everywhere? Is it just Israelis who are reaching for some sense of spirituality, something that is intangible, yet Hollywood makes us think is easy to obtain by following their simple steps toward self-fulfillment? In his book, Twersky on Spirituality, Rabbi Abraham J. Twersky, M.D., defines sprituality as humanity - the state of being a person. Thinking, feeling, working, having a goal. Animals lack the ability to deny their own physical needs, hence they are not free to choose. Man, who can supress his desires based on morals or ethics, without any fear of retribution or punishment, is uniquely free, and this is what makes him human. All things that are uniquely human make up the human spirit, and therefore humanity is spirituality.

All mankind looks for some form of personal fulfillment, and, in doing so, we tend to trample on one other's humanity/spirituality (yes, sometimes inadvertently). What we need to focus on is not so much our own selfish needs, like animals, for giving in to our desires is the opposite of spirituality. We need to focus on the needs of our society as a whole, by ensuring that we take care of each other's needs one at a time.

Monday, August 15, 2005

"Out of Town" Jews - A Forum for the Rest of Us

I recently realized that I have to accept the fact that New York is currently, and will remain for the foreseeable future, the hub of the worldwide Jewish community, at least in the eyes of most Americans. Even though Israel has the largest concentration of Jews in the world, and is predicted to surpass the US in Jewish population by next year, your typical American Jew still thinks that NY is the New Jerusalem (a title formerly held by Berlin). There is also a belief among most New Yorkers, Jewish and non-Jewish, that New York is the center of America, and among many Americans that America is the center of the world (hence, to New Yorkers, NY is the center of the world). Therefore, especially to NY Jews, NY is the center of the Jewish world.

It is because of this belief that NY Jews tend to refer to all other Jews as "out of towners". This is true even when they are not in NY. When I was in Israel for the year to study in Yeshiva, a NYer in my Yeshiva brazenly referred to non-Americans in this predominantly Israeli Yeshiva, located in Israel, as "foreigners" and to non-New Yorkers as "out of towners". This is not new and it will not end soon. The "Jblogosphere" is also dominated by NY Jews and American 'Olim. This is slightly different from the rest of the Jewish world, in the sense that Israel gets more or less an equal voice to the New Yorkers', and there are in a sense two equal halves of the "Jblogosphere". But I am sad to say that we, the non-New Yorkers, who are stuck in Shmutz LaAretz, have to struggle for our voice. We sometimes have a different perspective on issues facing Jews and Judaism than the NY Jews or the American 'Olim. Because of this, I recently started "Out of Town" Jews. It should have been started much earlier, but I guess this is a case of "better late than never". Give it a look, see if you like it, and leave some feedback either here or there. If you know my address, you can always email me too (no, I'm not posting it on the internet!).

Below are some stats I found on Jewish population this morning (I'm not sure how accurate they are - the WJC numbers at the bottom seem awfully high to me, but those numbers are from nearly a decade ago, so who knows?):

US population = 6,155,000 Jews, acc. to; 5.2 million acc. to UJC in 2001
NY = 1.4 million Jews (UJC)

WJC 1998:
US 5.8 million
Israel 4.847 million
France .6 mil
Russia .55 mil
Ukraine .4 mil
Canada .36 mil
UK .3 mil

City populations (WJC 1998):
NY 1.75 mil
Miami 535,000
LA 490,000
Paris 350,000

Monday, August 08, 2005

Bibi, impress me. Please

OK, so some ppl are impressed with Netanyahu's decision to oppose the disengagement by resigning his post. But let's take a closer look.

I didn't really begin following Israeli politics that long ago, but if I recall correctly, Bibi ran on a platform of opposing land-for-peace deals. He ran as a hardliner. But when faced with pressure from the Clinton Administration and the Israeli public, as well as world opinion, he softened his stance. His hawkish stance got him elected in the first place, but when the winds changed he fluttered. That cost him his job. He bided his time and now he's got an opportunity to get back in power. He's rallying to the call - the people are against the disengagement, so he is too.

With the economy in Israel in decline, and poverty on the rise, now is NOT the time for the Finance Minister to be leaving his post. It's selfish, it does not help the cause he is trying to represent (Minister of the Interior or Foreign Minister would be able to make a statement by resigning, but not Finance), and it hurts an already vulnerable segment of the government.

Bibi is the poster child for what's wrong with the parliamentary system, in its current form, in Israel. That is not to say that every MK is corrupt, or that to be an MK a person needs to be corrupt. But the system, as it exists right now, requires opportunism, and it requires the successful politician to fan the flames of the public opinion and to play the extremist card in order to make a run.

My opinions on the parliamentary system in Israel are many and I think it needs to be reformed in a number of ways, and they are too detailed for this post, but here's what I think of Bibi's decision to resign. It was opportunisitic and insincere.

At this point I think that Bibi is a disgrace to his family name. Yoni Netanyahu was a hero, who gave his life to his people. Binyamin Netanyahu, to me, right now, comes off as a sleaze, who is using his people to give him the life he wants. I guess time will tell on everything. But if he does manage to succeed in manipulating public opinion to get himself elected as Prime Minister again, he will have to do SOMETHING consistent, particularly something for Israel's well-being, in order to impress me like he once did. He is Israel's most articulate advocate, both in English and in Hebrew, and like Superman, he has "powers" that can be used for good or for his own gain. But that's just my opinion.