Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'judaism'

Chum Stew: Interesting Links and News You Can Uze … and a bit more

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jul 13, 2017 @ 3:17 pm PDT

Observation StewI’m home today with a cold, and I have loads of interesting news chum links that have no coherent theme, so let’s just get them out there (h/t to Andrew Ducker for a few of these). Oh, and with each, you’ll get a little bit more.:

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Parallel Divides

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jul 02, 2017 @ 3:18 pm PDT

userpic=divided-nationReading through my Facebook feed today, an article from Haaretz caught my eye: ‘Religion-hating Gangsters’: Israeli Orthodox Vitriol Toward Reform Jews Escalates Amid Kotel Crisis.  As the article is a premium article (meaning if you don’t come in right, it is behind a paywall), I’ll quote from it a bit more than I normally would:

“Inappropriate and insolent.” That’s how Rabbi Abraham Gordimer, a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, dubbed Reform Jewish protests against the government’s decision to freeze plans for a pluralistic prayer space at the Western Wall.

Rabbi Gordimer’s comments, published on the right-leaning Arutz Sheva website in English, were mild compared to the wave of bile heaped upon the followers of Reform Judaism in Israel’s right-wing Hebrew press. Readers would have been forgiven for forgetting that the government itself had approved the plan last year after four years of negotiations brokered by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.

Far-right lawmaker Betzalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) accused the Reform movement of “dragging Diaspora Jews into a fight.” He said responsibility for the crisis lay with “a small fringe group of a few dozen activists in the Israeli Reform movement. They don’t care about the right of an individual to pray according to his beliefs.”

A profile of Reform leader Rick Jacobs in Israel’s Maariv daily newspaper and the NRG website portrayed him as an “extreme left,” pro-BDS “gangster” as one of the many Israelis who circulated the story on social media described him. A commentary on Channel 20 accused him of being a “selective Zionist” and creating a platform for anti-Semitic propaganda.

[…]

Non-Orthodox Jews were depicted as outsiders with no legitimate say in what should or shouldn’t happen at the Western Wall or in Israel at large.

[…]

Anti-Reform sentiment runs deep among Israel’s Orthodox leadership. At the Haaretz conference earlier this month, lawmaker Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism explained why he could not align with left-wing parties even though he found them “more intelligent” than their counterparts on the right. “Why don’t I go with the left? Because you sit with the Reform,” he said.

Last month, Rabbi Meir Mazuz, head of Yeshivat Kashei Rachamim, compared Reform Jews to pigs in his weekly sermon. “They are not Jews,” he said.

Rabbi Michael Marmur, provost of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem, said there has long been among some streams of the Orthodox movement “a long history of looking at the Reform movement as a boogey man and a tendency to blame Reform for all the heinous things in the world.”

“As we make more inroads into the conversation about what Israel should look like, there is an inflationary spiral in the rhetoric,” he said. “The vitriol you see expressed is in direct proportion to us trying to make a stand. We are wheeled out as the enemy, as traitors. The article about Rick Jacobs is a classic example. If Reform Jews and the Reform movement he represents are understood as a dagger in the back, as a fifth column, then the problem is neutralized.”

As I read through this, I was struck by the parallels in the rhetoric that I have seen — and continue to see — from what I would characterize as many in the far right — the ardent Trump supporters. Further, given the very un-Presidential tweet of an animation showing our President* beating up and bloodying the mainstream media, personified by CNN, I dare to say that this is rhetoric I’ve seen from our President himself.

From my very Conservative friends on my Facebook feed, I have seen posts making the same claims about Liberals that the Orthodox make about Reform. Read the quote above and replace the sentiment with Liberals, and it will sound familiar. “They are not Americans”.  There is “a long history of looking at the Liberal movement as a boogey man and a tendency to blame Liberals for all the heinous things in the world.” “Liberals are wheeled out as the enemy, as traitors. The article about [insert your Democratic candidate] is a classic example. If the Democratic Party and the Liberal/Progressive movement he represents are understood as a dagger in the back, as a fifth column, then the problem is neutralized.” As to why moderate Republicans might not work with the Democrats? Lawmaker [insert name here] of the Republican Party explained why he could not align with left-wing parties even though he found them “more intelligent” than their counterparts on the right. “Why don’t I go with the left? Because you sit with the Liberals/Progressives,”

It sounds far too familiar. Yet from Reform Jews towards Orthodoxy, just as from Liberals towards Conservatives, I don’t see the same level of hatred or divide. There is the willingness to accept the diversity of opinion, to recognize that we can agree to disagree. Reform Jews don’t characterize Orthodox as the source of all problems in Judaism, just as Liberals do not  characterize all Conservatives as the source of all problems in America. (Well, most don’t).

If this country is to move forward and not split apart, we must learn to see people as people and not the abstract enemy that we hate. Separation and hatred plays to activist bases, but doesn’t solve problems. Unfortunately, we may never get past this if the leadership of the parties do not set the example. If our leaders cannot work together, how can the people ever have a hope of doing the same. My voice is insignificant — I’m represented by congresscritters and senators that already feel as I feel. I’d urge those supporting the President to urge him to act Presidential, to remember that he is the President of the entire country, not just the minority of the voters that voted for him. But, alas, even as congressional leadership urges that, he is ignoring it.

Almost 27 years ago I started the Liberal Judaism Mailing List to provide a place where people from different Jewish movements could discussion issues in an environment where we respected each others as Jews and didn’t let movemental affiliation impact that respect.  Fundamental to that discussion was the notion that saying lies or propagating myths about the other side is essentially Lashon Horah, propagation of gossip and lies. Through hard moderation, we were able to keep a positive dialog going for a long time. Why can’t, as Americans, we do the same?

As we approach this July 4th, we must remember that the original motto of this country was not “In God We Trust”, and there wasn’t an emphasis on pushing Christianity on the people (the only reference to religion in the Constitution was the fact that there shouldn’t be a religious test for office holders). Rather, the original motto was, E Pluribus Unum, “From Many, One”. It is the many voices that came together to make this nation strong, not one voice stomping out all the others.

*: Yes, our President. Whether you voted for him or not, he is President of this  country. The fact that he doesn’t act very Presidential, as someone people can respect and model behavior after, is a different issue.

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Obsolescence, Revivals, and Transitions

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 12, 2017 @ 11:08 am PDT

While planning for the various theatrical adventures over the summer, I’ve also been collecting news chum. This lunchtime collection is tied together by a common theme: obsolecence, revivals, and transitions. Every article is about one or more of those three things:

  • Cassettes. By now, most of us have gotten rid of our cassette walkmans, and would be hard-pressed to find a cassette player. Elbow has come up with a fascinating minimalist cassette player: While it grabs the cassette’s spools in its elbow arms, the hinge sits against the exposed magnetic tape. A knob on the device allows you to control playback. It comes with a small magnetic clip, allowing you to attach it to your clothes, or a bag, as well as a 3.5mm audio output, allowing you to connect your earphones, or a speaker to it. It also includes a MiniUSB port, not just for charging the Elbow, but also for allowing you to digitally extract audio from a cassette tape to your PC.
  • Bluetooth Audio. If you’re an old fart like me, you’re likely using an audio device that doesn’t support bluetooth in a world of bluetooth speakers. What to do? iClever is a small bluetooth transmitter/receiver that solves the problems. It allows one to convert any audio-producing device with a 3.5mm output into a bluetooth transmitter, and to convert any speaker/headphones with a 3.5mm connector into a bluetooth receiver. I’m going to need to remember this.
  • The MP3. NPR is reporting that the MP3 is dead — specifically, the license for the technology is no longer being issued. The article claims the replacement is the AAC (.m4a). I’m still generating MP3 (although I could switch to M4A), and Amazon only sells MP3s so I somewhat doubt this. Are any digital players no longer proving an MP3 translating CODEC. That will be the death of the MP3, not licensing rules.
  • Churches/Synagogues. In the musical 70, Girls, 70, the question is asked: What do zoos do with elephants when they die? Where do the elephants go? A similar question might be asked of a church or a synagogue: when they close, where does their stuff go? I ran into two articles address this question: the first looked at finding a new life for Jewish religious objects when a congregation closes; the second asked where does the pipe organ go when a church closes. Of course, technology isn’t all bad: I found an article on how technology can help carry on Jewish traditions.
  • School Libraries. An interesting article I found explores whether school libraries are on the path to extinction. After all, library staff is expensive, and today’s students don’t research in books. But libraries are an important tool in teaching children to read and think, and funding for libraries boils down to a wealth/class issue: Parents with the means can find the funds to support libraries, so their student have them an do better. Parents without depend on the district, and the district has other priorities. We’ve seen this many times in things like art education and field trips. The article explores how LA Unified is trying to change things.
  • Hollywood Archives. We all think technology is a boon, but is it really. It used to be easy to preserve films: get good cellulose and store it right. Now? The storage media changes ever few years, everything has to be retranslated, and not everything can be saved. This is creating a gigantic headache for the studios, and means that film isn’t the long-term media we thought it was. We have human art that survived 5000 years. When we look at our civilization in 5000 years, what of our art will still be available?
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Mostly Pesach

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 25, 2017 @ 3:46 pm PDT

Some more clearing out of the news chum. This collection is mostly Pesach (Passover) Related, with a few articles at the end that are more peripheral:

Passover

Peripheral

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Attitudes Towards Israel

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Mar 03, 2017 @ 4:58 am PDT

Here’s a provocative question: Does one always have to agree with what the government does if one loves the country? Did those Conservatives that hated President Obama and his policies during his administration love America any less? Do the Liberals who currently opposed President Trump and his policies hate America? I think the answer is clear: Americans can disagree with the government and their policies with loving America any less.

So why is it assumed that American Jews must agree with everything the Israeli government does if we are to support Israel?

Some discussions with my daughter have brought this question to my mind. She has gotten involved with the #IfNotNow movement. This is a movement that is putting pressure on American Jewish institutions (such as AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) to end their support for the Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories (such as Israel’s construction of settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza). They are organizing a protest against AIPAC at the end of March here in LA, and my daughter asked if I was interested. I looked at their principles, and they seem reasonable: ending support for the occupation, celebrating Jewish diversity, speaking publicly, and being non-violent. While writing this up, I found this interesting article on their protest last April. With all of this on my mind, two articles that came across my RSS feeds and news reading struck a resonating note, and prompted this discussion.

The first was an article from the Jewish Journal on a Bernie Sanders speech at J-Street: In this speech, he pointed out that one could sharply criticize the Israeli government’s policies and be pro-Israel. He also blasted President Donald Trump for retreating from a commitment to a two-state solution and not speaking out forcefully against anti-Semitism and bigotry. He laced his call to urge Israel to adopt more progressive policies with appeals to progressives to embrace Israel as a Jewish homeland. As Sanders said, “We can oppose the policies of President Trump without being anti-American.  We can oppose the policies of Netanyahu without being anti-Israel. We can oppose the policies of Islamic extremism without being anti-Muslim.”

The attitude that Sanders is protesting is one I’ve seen from members of my congregation; I’m unsure if it is the leadership’s view. There are those in our congregation who are enamored of the views of Prager U (i.e., Dennis Prager’s site, which, like Trump University, isn’t a real university), and who seem to believe that every Muslim is an extremist, and every Muslim is taught from birth to hate Jews and hate Israel. I think the response to the recent vandalism attacks in St. Louis and Philadelphia have demonstrated the opposite: it is the Muslim community that has helped the Jewish community rebuild; in turn, the Jewish community has helped rebuild mosques in the US. If anything, I think the recent attitudes in the US have strengthened Jewish-Muslim relationships in a way that benefits both communities. Muslim veterans are even offering to defend Jewish sites. Yet there are many that refuse to see this.

The two communities can live together in peace, and have done so in the past when extremism and hatred is not in the picture. That’s not the case now. A subset of Palestinians and many in the Palestinian leadership are opposed to Israel’s existence in any way, shape, or form, and they are doing whatever they can to make Israel look bad in the eyes of the world, to provoke Israel to attack them, and to put civilians on both sides in danger. Israel isn’t helping them by building settlements in disputed areas, or through how they respond to attacks (although no one expects them just to sit silently). Meanwhile, misinformation is fed out to supporters around the world, inflaming attitudes as opposed to calming attitudes.

This brings us to the second article: from the NY Times on “Liberal Zionism”. For those unfamilar with Zionism, it is the desire for a Jewish Homeland — a Jewish-majority state where Jews will be safe. It was advanced by Theodor Herzl back in the early 1900s, and led to the Balfour Declaration in 1919 that artificially created many of the states in the Middle East out of former Ottoman Empire territory as British and French protectorates. Zionism and the Holocaust in WWII is what led to declaration of the State of Israel in 1948. Opposition to Zionism, by some, is viewed as equivalent as opposition to Judaism; many antisemites hold the belief that Zionism is racism. Zionism is what drives much of the policies of Israel: the goal of maintaining a Jewish majority in the state of Israel so as to preserve Israel as a Jewish state. In many ways, this is similar to opposition to immigration here in America: there is fear that as the Hispanic population grows, America will lose its character as a “Caucasian” (i.e., European-based) nation. This fear has driven many to support Trump (it is not a fear that I personally have).

The opinion piece in the Times talked about the growing alliance between Zionist leadership and politicians with antisemitic tendencies (such as Trump, Bannon, and his followers). The author believed this alliance had the power to transform Jewish-American consciousness for years to come. It talked about how, in the last few decades, many of America’s Jewish communities have grown accustomed to living in a political contradiction. On one hand, a large majority of these communities could rightly take pride in a powerful liberal tradition, stretching back to such models as Louis Brandeis — a defender of social justice and the first Jew to become a Supreme Court justice — or Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched in Selma alongside the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On the other hand, the same communities have often identified themselves with Zionism, a political agenda rooted in the denial of liberal politics. Specifically, it is the traditional Zionist policies that have pushed down rights for the Palestinians, and has supported the Israeli government’s occupation (which ties into #IfNotNow).

Here’s an interesting quote from that opinion piece:

But despite sympathy and solidarity with Israel — or better, because of it — any Jew who remains committed to liberalism must insist that nothing in Jewish history can allow the Jews to violate the rights of other ethnic and religious minorities, and that nothing in our history suggests that it would be wise for us to do so.

This is all the more true because by denying liberal principles, Zionism immediately becomes continuous with — rather than contradictory to — the anti-Semitic politics of the sort promoted by the alt-right. The idea that Israel is the Jews’ own ethnic state implies that Jews living outside of it — say, in America or in Europe — enjoy a merely diasporic existence. That is another way of saying that they inhabit a country that is not genuinely their own. Given this logic, it is natural for Zionist and anti-Semitic politicians to find common ideas and interests. Every American who has been on a Birthright Israel tour should know that left-leaning Israelis can agree with America’s alt-right that, ideally, ”Jews should live in their own country.”

The opinion piece seems to be arguing for a different form of Zionism: a form of Zionism that preserves Israel’s character as a Jewish state without having the hatred for Muslims and Arabs; a form of Israel that is officially Jewish while still ensuring the rights of other religions to practice. Can this be done? One need look no further than many Commonwealth nations such as the UK and Canada. Officially, they are Christian nations, but they permit free practice of religion. There is no reason that Israel couldn’t remain a constitutionally Jewish state even with a population that included large numbers of Muslims and Christians. Judaism, as a religion, accepts that there are other religions in the world that are practiced; Progressive Judaism accepts that there are many valid paths to God — a believe that goes back to the Noachide laws that are the basis for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

I found an even longer piece on Liberal Zionism in Tablet, but it is unclear if it is the same LZ as in the NY Times piece. In particular, the piece goes back and forth between Liberal Zionism and Liberal Nationalism, but only giving loose definitions of Liberal Nationalism. There are no definitions of LZ or clarifications of the differences. As for Liberal Nationalism, it defines that as follows: “liberal nationalism takes the natural tendency to clump together and infuses the resulting communities with democratic ideals.” But having read through the article a number of times, I can’t figure out their point, other than their form of Zionism is opposed to Trumps’ form.

The desire to maintain the Jewish character of the state of Israel is the real Zionist notion. One way to achieve that is the two-state solution: segregating Palestinians into their own state, and Jews into another. As we’ve seen, that is fraught with tension. Trump’s latest opening of an idea of a one-state solution has different tensions: how do you preserve the Jewish nature of a democratic state if you have a voting public that is equal under the constitution and Islam is in the majority. There are many untested ideas, from two-states sharing one-territory (cooperation on secular issues — roads, highways, etc.) to a constitutionally Jewish state with freedom to practice religion (the UK model), to an Islamic state. But, as with replacing Obamacare, it is a very complex issue. If it wasn’t complex, it would have been solved by now.

This all made me curious what ARZA’s attitude on all of this is. ARZA is the Association of Reform Zionists of America — basically, the Reform Movement’s Zionist arm. They are opposed to illegal settlements and the regulation bill, yet still believe in the two-state solution, stating: “However, given demographic realities in the region, one democratic state between the Mediterranean  Sea and  the Jordan River would eventually bring an end to Israel’s character  as a Jewish  State. The alternative, Israel’s rejecting democracy,  should be unthinkable.” I also found an extremely interesting piece on the ARZA blog from December by Liya Rechtman:

As a Jewish Israeli-American, I believe that the same standards apply to my American patriotism as to my Zionism. That is to say, protesting and criticizing Israel is an act of love and necessary for the continued viability of the Zionist project.

I am writing now from my favorite café in Jerusalem. I am here between meetings with my editor (about a piece I’m working on the uniqueness of Israel as a physical place) and my anti-Occupation collective. I am deeply committed to the vision of the Association of Reform Zionists of America to connect American Reform Jews to Israel and build the Reform Movement in Israel, and I stand with If Not Now when they protest Jewish institutions that refuse to stand up against the Occupation. These actions and affiliations are not in contradiction with each other but in concert.

I am not the same kind of Zionist as my parents, but I am a Zionist. I am a Zionist in that I care about the future of the Jewish people, and our future is inextricably intertwined with the Jewish State. I am a Zionist in that I am a feminist and therefore I believe in the specificity of space, and that the material, tangible world matters. I am a Zionist in that I believe in the right of all peoples, including the Jewish people, to self-determination.

Reading through all of this, whereas I had feared our approaches might be different, we seem to have come around to the same place in the end.

 

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The Message He Sends

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Feb 20, 2017 @ 4:00 pm PDT

I’ve been sitting around this afternoon wondering what I might post. I didn’t have enough random news chum, and I wrote up the show from yesterday. Then I saw a headline and a rant welled up that touches on a number of things from this weekend. The headline?

Vandals target historic Jewish cemetery in University City

University City, MO, is a suburb of St. Louis. It is actually where my mother grew up; we have relatives buried in a different Jewish cemetery in the city. This is on a day when we’ve yet another round of threatened (at least, we hope they are only threats) bombings of Jewish Community Centers around the country.

Presidents are supposed to lead; to represent American values. One value is the right to practice your religion. This, after all, is why homophobic Christian bakers insist they can’t bake a cake for a homosexual, right? Trump wants to defend that right. This, after all, is why Christian-owned Hobby Lobby wants to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives, even for workers whose religion permits them to use contraception? Trump wants to defend that right.

So where is Trump on this issue? Where is he insisting that antisemitism is un-American?

Anyone?

He gets questions at a press conference asking for a statement on increased antisemitism in America, and he responds that he has Jews in his family — how can he be antisemitic? Remember the days of “But I have a black friend?”

Further, he wants to ban people from entering this country — excuse me, be suspicious of them — just because of their religion, Muslim. But he wants to permit extra Christians to come in from those countries. His Secretary of Education wants Federal Tax Dollars — my Federal Tax Dollars — to flow to Christian religious schools and out of the public school system.

We all know you set an example and send messages by what you say. President Trump has demonstrated that aptly, by trusting opinion pieces on Fox News over fact from government agencies, by claiming that science is an opinion, and that independent journalism is un-American. We know these messages are bullshit, but they have been said over and over and over and have become a conspiracy theory. We all know that Conspiracy Theories can’t be disproved, and a large segment of the country now believes the conspiracy and will not be convinced otherwise. (And why should they: we’ve lost the ability to teach critical thinking)

But you also set an example by what you don’t say, and what you do without saying it? President Trump, by not condemning attacks on individuals and institutions based on religion, is condoning it. President Trump, by instituting a Muslim ban — excuse me, extreme Muslim vetting — is condoning religious discrimination. He is letting fear rule the country, just as fear kept Jews from safety during World War II, just as fear put Japanese in internment camps at the same time. By not saying anything, he is demonstrating the worst of America.

Further, those in rural areas are eating it up. Remember, much of rural America is heavily Christian. They may never have met a Jew or Muslim in person, and their only knowledge is from TV shows, movies, and the news. Jews tend to live in larger cities, because of the nature of Jewish worship and practice. Muslims are often the same — in areas with sufficient population to support a mosque. How likely is that in a city under 25,000. So these people believe what they are told: if TV says they are bad, then they must be bad. Ask yourself: how does our media portray minority religions? Now think about what we must do to battle that impression, and why it is even more important for our President to stand up and be Presidential, to say: This is not America. America respects all religions: all religions are welcome here, and no religion, including “no religion”, is favored by the Government.

Mr. Trump: Again, you are failing to lead. If you can’t do the job, resign and let someone who can do it.

[ETA: Finally, on 2/21, he condemned the threats against the JCCs and antisemitism.]

P.S.: Presidents are also supposed to work to support all states and all the people in the country, even those that may oppose him. That’s part of the job; no President is universally loved (not even Reagan). So what has Mr. Trump done to California? He cut the allocated funding for Caltrain to electrify. This makes it more expensive to run the trains, increases operating costs, retains older equipment decreasing ridership, and keeps us tied to polluting fuel. All because he doesn’t like a state. Watch out, other urban areas. You might be next (while he lines his personal pockets every time he goes down to Mar-a-Lago).

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Trump and Religion

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Feb 16, 2017 @ 11:27 am PDT

userpic=trumpYesterday, President Trump met with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, and with a simple question related to antisemitism, it again brought the issue of Trump and Religion again to the fore. Here are a few topics related to the subject that have caught my eye over the last few days:

  • Trump and Antisemitism. Yesterday, Donald Trump was asked, by an Israeli reporter, a straightforward question about “a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the United States” since his election. His response? A rambling response about the extent of his electoral victory, that included the following: “As far as people, Jewish people, so many friends; a daughter who happens to be here right now; a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren. I think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening.” Reading this, two things struck me. First, just like right after the election when there were a number of antisemitic incidents by his followers, he did not take the opportunity to strongly condemn antisemitism — and indeed, religion-based hate crimes. It was similar to his tone-deaf response on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day where he failed to acknowledge the major target of the Holocaust. Second, the “As far as people, Jewish people, so many friends…” struck me as a “Some of my best friends are…” line. Many remember when “Some of my best friends are black” was an excuse for racism — if I had a black friend, how could I be racist. Having a Jewish son-in-law does not make Trump not antisemitic: he can still hate the group while still liking a few individuals. After all, how many Conservatives have a few liberal friends but hate “libtards” (and vice-versa)? [ETA: It should also be noted that Trump tends to shout down reporters who ask him about antisemitism]
  • Trump and a Christian Resurgence. The Jewish Journal has an interesting article on Trump that strikes a few chords similar to my article last week on Trump and Apocalyptic Visions. The article notes that the anti-Muslim sentiments of the new administration are one head of a two-headed beast. The other head is a political agenda forged by a coalition of conservative Christians that is closer than ever to achieving its vision of a “Christian nation.” This linkage between anti-Muslim and “pro-Christian” policies is revealed in the executive order, which couples a thinly veiled ban on Muslims with a thinly veiled preference for Christians from predominantly Muslim countries seeking refuge in the United States. It is a sentiment I’ve seen from a few Conservative friends, who are spreading the word that the most prosecuted minority in Muslim countries are… Christians. That notion is lifted directly from the Christian right, which has long promoted the idea that Christians are a — indeed, the most — persecuted minority. It dovetails with the belief that Christians are being subjected to religious persecution in America by intolerant secularists, which has joined the claim that liberals turn a blind eye to the persecution of Christians by Muslims. Both are staples of the worldview that drives Stephen Bannon, the president’s chief strategist and architect of his immigration policies. This is all part of a plan forged between Trump, Bannon, and the Christian Right to bring the US “back to” being a Christian Nation (something the White Nationalists love).
  • Muslims and Jews – A Surprise Alliance. With all this hatred for Muslims, and the fights between Arabs and Jews over Israel, you think Jews and Muslims would hate it other. You would be wrong. There are alliances between Muslims and Jews in a number of areas. One I particularly support is the alliance of HIAS, which just supported the National Day of Jewish Action for Refugees. This was last Sunday; I participated in the meeting we had at Temple Ahavat Shalom. There was a large rally held in parallel in New York; Jews have also been fighting for Muslim refugees right after the executive order. The underlying notion here is that Jews have often been refugees because of their religion, and that is the case with many of the Muslims coming to the US. Whereas the Christian Right portrays Muslims as a unified group, and thus how could these be refugees when they are all Muslims, they forget why the Puritans came to America — because they were hated by other Christians. That’s the same reason Quakers and Catholics and many Christian groups came to the US: because other Christians kicked them out. It is why there is religious freedom in America. In this case, there are two main divisions within the Islamic world: Shia and Sunni, and the more militant and violent group is kicking out and conducting genocide against the other group. Jews recognize this, and that is why they are saving lifes, going back to the commandment from the Torah to “Welcome the stranger”. There are additional coalitions forming, going back to 2015 when the American Jewish Committee began work with the Islamic Society of North America, when presented with FBI data showing a stunning 67 percent rise in hate crimes against Muslims.  This spurred the formation of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, or MJAC, a group of 38 high-profile business leaders, government officials and others. The nonpartisan council aims to combat discrimination with engagement at the highest levels of government. The desire to bridge Muslim and Jewish communities has intensified since the election, as both religious minorities express concerns over a White House in which presidential advisers like Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller have been accused of having white supremacist ties. Another group, called MuJew Antifa, protested Wednesday in response to Trump’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This group is opposed to what they view as facist occupation and actions by Israel against Palestinians (one report connects them to the Antifa group who incited violence at the recent protest against a Breitbart editor at UC Berkeley, although other accounts attribute that to a different Antifa group). MuJew Antifa says its goals are “to strengthen ties between our communities, to support each other in a time of hate and to forge a united front against fascism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”

 

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News Chum Stew for 170114: Theatre, Judaism, Feminism, and Zombies

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 14, 2017 @ 8:12 am PDT

To close out the week, a tasty news chum stew, wherein I pull out the chunks and provide commentary to chew on:

  • Dealing with Ticket Scalpers. Ken Davenport had an interesting commentary on the ticket resale market, triggered by the news that Hamilton in London is going to a ticketless system — instead, you swipe your payment card for entry. I have a number of problems with this — primarily, that it hurts legitimate patrons. Things come up in life, and occasionally you need to change your tickets to a different date — but they are non-refundable. You bought the tickets — you should be able to give them to a friend (possibly being reimbursed for cost), or donate them to a charity; these anti-scalping measures seem to prevent that. As for Cameron Macintosh and Hamilton, it is a very bad idea. Not only does it disenfranchise those with cash — who are often the younger audiences we must get into theatre, but how often had you had to ice a card due to fraud and replaced it with a new card and new number.  Unfortunately, it is a fact of life: when you have a limited highly desired product, there will be a secondary resale market.
  • Steve Allen Theatre Going Away. I received some sad theatre news this week in a mailing from the Trepany House Theatre Company: In Summer 2017, the CFI-LA building and the Steve Allen Theatre inside will be torn down this summer to make room for new condos. CFI-LA confirmed this in their latest newsletter: “CFI has accepted a favorable offer on the property where the Center for Inquiry–Los Angeles now resides, and this vibrant and active branch is expected to have a great new location by the fall. This is a positive development for CFI–L.A., which will mean a brand new home for the community, and the resources to keep it thriving.” This is sad — the Steve Allen Theatre was home to Meeting of Minds (which was created by Allen), and the memory of Allen is too important to disappear.
  • Jewish Feminism and Brotherhood Privilege. Soferet Jen Taylor Friedman created Tfillin Barbie a few years ago. In response to Mattel releasing a set of Barbies in all shapes, colors, and sizes, Jen has created an Intersectional Barbie Dream Minyan “because Jewish feminism shouldn’t be only for white girls.” I love the copy Jen wrote; here’s the first paragraph to give you an idea: “Maybe some of them are Sephardic and some are Maghrebi and one is an adult convert and one was adopted and converted as a child. One of them has blue hair. One of them has red hair, and one of them has red highlights. Nobody in this minyan ever says “But where are you really from?” or “But surely you weren’t born Jewish.” Some of them are what Mattel calls “curvy.” Some of them are short.” I especially the last sentence: “In principle, Kens are welcome in this minyan, but today they’re outside fixing breakfast, which is why you can’t see them.” That’s the men’s club for you. Always fixing the food in the back. I’ll bet they are using a BBQ.
  • Body Positivity and Modeling. If you’ve been reading here recently, you know I’ve been talking about body positivity. Perhaps it is because I find all people beautiful and enjoy watching the diversity (especially of the opposite sex) — and people are at their most beautiful when they are happy with themselves. That’s why I supported The Nu Project and its message. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a recent interview with Emme on the A-Plus blog caught my eye. In particular, I appreciate it when she said, “It’s not a hidden, hushed conversation anymore. Every day, women are showing themselves in all forms of dress (or undress) on social media where you would NEVER [have seen] this in the ’90s. A revolution of female strength and power — thin, medium, and curvy — is at hand. It’s a time to feel blessed to be in! It begs me to say men also are gaining from this liberation. Body image and self-esteem are not only a woman’s trip. Men are on it and dealing with very similar issues, but feel ashamed to speak up about it. The eating disorder clinics are full with young men, fathers, and boys — reflecting the phenomenon today.” This all goes back to the key line from my favorite musical, Two Gentlemen of Verona: “You can’t love another without loving yourself.”
  • Rights and the Backlash . Have you ever been somewhere where a group that was in the minority started exerting their rights, and the members of the formerly privileged group started fighting back? Did this fighting back often progress to violence against the minority group, disturbing images, and even more disturbing behavior? Was the end conclusion something you liked? I’m not talking about Donald Trump here (although I well could be); rather, my cousin has brought to my attention a very interesting article about the situation in South Korea between women and men. Feminism is rising in South Koren, and a deep-seated misogynist backlash is coming out (just like the “white privilege” backlash after #blacklivesmatter). It’s getting ugly. A really interesting article, well worth reading.
  • The Zombies of Penzance. Don’t you just love that title. The Zombies of Penzance is a new musical that is about to have a reading and a staging in St. Louis. I just love the description, and look forward to this being staged in LA: “In The Zombies of Penzance (subtitled At Night Come the Flesh Eaters), according to press notes, “Major-General Stanley is a retired zombie hunter, who doesn’t want his daughters marrying the dreaded Zombies of Penzance (for obvious reasons). According to documents found with the manuscripts, Gilbert and Sullivan finished work on The Zombies of Penzance in mid-1878, but their producer Richard D’Oyly-Carte refused to produce it, calling it vulgar, impolitic, and unchristian, and in one letter, ‘an operatic abomination, an obscene foray into the darkest of the occult arts.’ In a letter to his cousin, Gilbert expressed his deep disappointment, writing ‘I fear the walking dead shall be the end of me yet.’ Until now, music scholars had been baffled by that reference. After a battle that almost ended the partnership, the team reluctantly agreed to rewrite their show, and in 1879, D’Oyly-Carte debuted the much more conventional, revised version, The Pirates of Penzance, which added the characters of Ruth and the policemen, and eliminated all references to zombism.””
  • Genealogy and Personal Information. Genealogists have a hard problem — especially amateur genealogists. You want to share the information to get the most knowledge about your family tree, and you want to be able to research online, but you have to be careful about exposing PII (personally identifyable information). There’s loads of PII in genealogy: addresses, mother’s maiden names, birthplaces, school dates and locations, and such. You’ll see why that is a risk when you think about all those password questions you get. This has come to the forefront of people’s attention with a story going viral on Facebook about how one genealogy site has scraped public databases to get addresses, and has published them for free. This has everyone up in arms, but they are forgetting one fact: this is information that was already PUBLIC. If someone was stalking you, they don’t need this site to do it. The information is easily discovered with a bit of Google-fu. Still, you can opt out if you wish. I likely won’t bother: I was in my last house 10+ years, and this house 10+ years, and am easy to find. [Not to mention that of all the Faigin’s out there, I’m not in their database. Cousins are. I’m not.]
  • Housing Style. I live in a single-story ranch house. But what makes such a house a “ranch house”. What is “Cape Cod”? Here’s a handy guide on personal housing architectural styles. What type of house do you live in?
  • Gluten-Free and Fads. Lastly, an article that explores the question: Is gluten-free more than a fad? By that, the real question they mean is: Should gluten-free be for more than just celiacs? These other folks are known as “PWAGs;” in the medical jargon: “people without celiac disease avoiding gluten.” [Note that this is a very different thing than a PAWG, so be careful when you search, although a PWAG can be a PAWG]. They’re often stigmatized as faddish foodies or placebo-addled hypochondriacs who don’t understand the science behind a serious health problem. According to a new study published this month in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, their number tripled between 2009 and 2014, while the number of cases of celiac disease stayed flat. The article notes that there is growing evidence that severe gluten sensitivities exist outside the realm of celiac disease; further, researchers simply don’t know how many of the people following a gluten-free diet may actually have a legitimate health complaint.  It notes how many PWAGs (glad I didn’t mistype that) find relief in a gluten-free diet, and people still aren’t sure why.

 

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