La Fin des Jours

Adin Steinsaltz is being showcased lately as several volumes of his translation of the Talmud are about to be released. I really don’t care for Steinsaltz; I never have. I find him arrogant and condescending, a chore to plod through re: his written works and a terrible public speaker (to be fair, he himself admits the latter). He’s dismissive of Liberal Jews and nonbelievers, and although he’s touted as an intellectual, he’s never subjected his own beliefs to any sort of critical analysis, as evidenced in this Religion & Ethics Newsweekly segment on him that aired this weekend: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/april-27-2012/rabbi-adin-steinsaltz/10847/

Ironically, they show by way of illustration a clip of students at Avi Weiss’ Yeshiva Chovevei Torah learning Talmud. Weiss and YCT stand at the leftmost fringe of Orthodoxy, and most Orthodox people don’t even consider them to *be* Orthodox. In addition to their emphasis on social justice issues (almost unheard of in the Orthodox world), Weiss recently ordained a young woman, Sara Hurwitz. Steinsaltz, from his Haredi, Hasidic, largely Lubavitcher perspective, would never approve of them, their activities or their hashkafah (worldview).

The Liberal Jews and the Modern Orthodox are suffering from a bad case of “Fiddler on the Roof” nostalgia. They’ve allowed the Haredim to convince them they are the sole remaining representatives of “authentic” Judaism. The Modern Orthodox, with their basic insecurity regarding the compromises they seem to feel they’ve made with the tradition, are particularly guilty in this regard. This obsession with Steinsaltz is one of its manifestations.

www.pbs.org
“The idea of the Talmud is that you are allowed to ask questions about everything,” says Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. He calls the Talmud “the central pillar Jewish culture” and “a vast book encouraging you to ask questions.”
Modern Orthodox Denial
A comment I just left in this thread on Failed Messiah: http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2012/03/birth-haredi-style-567.html

The “Modern Orthodox” really piss me off - and I put it in quotation marks because there is no more Modern Orthodoxy. Authentic, pre-War Modern Orthodoxy - the Modern Orthodoxy of Rav Soloveitchik - is dead. The Haredim killed it, and the Modern Orthodox helped them to dig the grave. Apart from the occasional fringe group (such as Avi Weiss’), all that is left is Haredism and Haredism lite.
______________________________________________________________

"Orthodoxy was an entirely different creature before the War - before these lunatics commandeered it.

"It’s the Modern Orthodox who make me the angriest. They’re educated enough and conversant enough with consensual reality to see the problems - but they ignore them. They don’t want to face the reality of what the Haredim have done and continue to do to their subculture and belief system. They prefer to be left alone to gather together on Shabbat and smachot, wallowing in nostaliga. They sing their niggunim, tell Hasidic tales they learned from Buber and Shlomo Carlebach and keep their heads in the sand. Funny; I thought ostriches were treif.

"The MO rabbi I often mention is one of the worst offenders. He thinks they were and are all tzaddiks (actually, everyone is a tzaddik except for me, because I tell him what he doesn’t want to hear). He’s a scholar of Hasidism and has been in the foreground of those who romanticize and whitewash that world, inventing a past that never really existed - rosy-cheeked yeshiva bocherim and kindly, crinkly-eyed rebbaim. I sometimes call it "The Shtetl that Time Forgot". He and his wife used to laugh at me when I told them the Haredim were destroying everything they hold dear. Recently, though, they came back from visiting their kids in Israel. I think they all live in or around Nachlaot, and one of their daughters had been to a rally protesting the fact that the police hadn’t been doing enough to break up the pedophile ring there.

"Bottom line: they aren’t laughing any longer."

Standing up for the Farm Bill

By Ruth Messinger and Rabbi Steve Gutow - 02/29/12 09:43 AM ET

One might wonder why two heads of Jewish organizations are writing about the Farm Bill. After all, most American Jews do not live on farms.  But this legislation touches almost every aspect of our food system and is as important to communities in New York and Miami as it is to those in Lincoln and Dubuque. In ancient times, our ancestors were commanded to leave the gleanings of their fields for the poor and the stranger. Today, we have an obligation to step up to the plate and make a difference in the debate over our national food and agriculture policies.

In an effort to achieve our values-inspired vision of food justice, American Jewish World Service and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs have come together with four other national Jewish organizations – the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, Hazon, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and the Union for Reform Judaism - to form the Jewish Farm Bill Working Group. These organizations are joined by several others in endorsing a statement of principles called the “Jewish Platform for a Just Farm Bill.” 

We are united in the belief that as people of faith we cannot stand idly by when millions go hungry at home and abroad. The link between food and faith obligates our community to challenge the injustice of hunger, to champion the rights of all for nutritious food, and to steward the land on which our sustenance depends.The reauthorization of the Farm Bill is an opportunity to put these principles into practice.

How can we support programs that work and reform those that don’t so that our tax dollars do more to reverse hunger within the United States and beyond our borders?

First, we must expand access to critical federal nutrition programs, particularly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP works effectively to improve the nutritional status and well-being of America’s most vulnerable, including significant numbers of children, older Americans, and disabled populations. In November of last year, SNAP put healthy food on the tables of 46.3 million low-income families and in 2010 it kept 3.9 million Americans from falling into poverty. SNAP’s benefits are one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus by maintaining demand for food and getting money quickly back into local economies. Moody’s Analytics estimated that every $1 increase in SNAP benefits generates $1.72 in economic activity. Current calls by some in Congress to reduce funding would actually undermine efforts to strengthen our economy.

Additionally, there is a pressing need to create incentives for small U.S. farmers to make their products more accessible to all Americans. The 2008 Farm Bill’s provisions included subsidies for agricultural commodities such as corn and soybeans, but virtually excluded farms that grow less-industrialized fruits and vegetables for consumers. Subsidies for smaller farms could help reduce the cost of produce at neighborhood grocery stores — an improvement that would help families stretch their dollars to purchase more nutritious food.

Another area ripe for change is international food aid policy. The U.S. supplies more than half of all food aid worldwide. Current requirements that aid be bought, processed and shipped from here to areas in need hamstring our ability to do the greatest good. More than half of every dollar for food aid grains is spent on agribusiness and shipping subsidies instead of food for hungry people. We have a one-size-fits-all approach for an increasingly complex world. What we need are more tools to address the triple threat of high food prices, natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies. The local and regional procurement pilot program authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill shows enormous promise. Locally-procured food arrived in communities 14 weeks faster than aid shipped from the U.S. This is critically important for vulnerable populations including pregnant women, lactating mothers and children. More emphasis on local procurement would stretch taxpayer dollars further toward reversing hunger.

Our Jewish values call upon us as Americans to take a stand on these issues. These important programs, along with many others, must be improved and protected to reach our goal of a just Farm Bill.

The reauthorization of the farm bill comes only once every five years. The hungry shouldn’t have to wait another day. As winter turns to spring, Jews will begin preparations for celebrating Passover. If Congress does not act now, we will lose our chance to create the world envisioned in our Seder ritual when we open our doors and ask to “let all who are hungry come and eat.”

Messinger is the president of American Jewish World Service, and Rabbi Gutow is president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

The most honest, accurate and insightful explication of our current state of affairs and its link to our collective character and level of intelligence that I have ever come across.

FINALLY, someone with academic chops who’s willing to admit, publicly, that we’re screwed.

Between Haredi subsidies and negative PR from crap like this, Israel is digging its own grave - and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to care.

First, Atlas shrugged. Then he scratched his head in puzzlement.

dennisl09:

So, it’s all about jobs. There’s a lot of validity to that. Without a job, households and lives can fall apart pretty quickly.  Let’s look at some of the numbers as provided by the ThinkProgress War Room (as shown to me by my friend Marc Liu)
2…the number of years of consecutive employment growth in
manufacturing, after not one single year of growth between 1997 and
2010.


8.5 percent…the unemployment rate, the lowest since February 2009 just
after President Obama took office.


22…the number of consecutive months of private sector job growth.


12,000…the number of public sector jobs lost in December of 2011 alone.


212,000…the number of private sector jobs created in December of 2011
alone.


280,000…the number of public sector jobs lost in 2011.


315,000…the number of health care jobs created in 2011.


673,000…the number of private sector jobs lost during the entirety of
the eight-year Bush presidency.


1,080,000…the number of net jobs created during the entirety of the
eight-year Bush presidency.


1,600,000…the net number of jobs created during 2011, after accounting
for job losses in the public sector.


1,900,000…the number of private sector jobs created during 2011.

dennisl09:

So, it’s all about jobs. There’s a lot of validity to that. Without a job, households and lives can fall apart pretty quickly.  Let’s look at some of the numbers as provided by the ThinkProgress War Room (as shown to me by my friend Marc Liu)

2…the number of years of consecutive employment growth in
manufacturing, after not one single year of growth between 1997 and
2010.
8.5 percent…the unemployment rate, the lowest since February 2009 just
after President Obama took office.
22…the number of consecutive months of private sector job growth.
12,000…the number of public sector jobs lost in December of 2011 alone.
212,000…the number of private sector jobs created in December of 2011
alone.
280,000…the number of public sector jobs lost in 2011.
315,000…the number of health care jobs created in 2011.
673,000…the number of private sector jobs lost during the entirety of
the eight-year Bush presidency.
1,080,000…the number of net jobs created during the entirety of the
eight-year Bush presidency.
1,600,000…the net number of jobs created during 2011, after accounting
for job losses in the public sector.
1,900,000…the number of private sector jobs created during 2011.

About time - although, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem actually to “exclude” them, merely to place them farther down on the list (although, given the frequency with which organs become available, I suppose one could say it’s a form of exclusion).

Of course, the Haredim will attempt to spin this as a bias against their religious beliefs.

The right wing Republican politicians who have been denouncing the requirement that female employees have access to birth control as part of their health benefits as an attack on religious freedom completely ignore the church teachings they don’t agree with. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are both Catholics, and wear their faith on their sleeves, but they are hypocritical in picking and choosing when they wish to listen to the bishops.

1. So for instance, Pope John Paul II was against anyone going to war against Iraq I think you’ll find that Rick Santorum managed to ignore that Catholic teaching.

2.The Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that health care be provided to all Americans. I.e., Rick Santorum’s opposition to universal health care is a betrayal of the Catholic faith he is always trumpeting.

3. The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty for criminals in almost all situations. (Santorum largely supports executions.)

4. The US Conference of Bishops has urged that the federal minimum wage be increased, for the working poor. Santorum in the Senate repeatedly voted against the minimum wage.

5. The bishops want welfare for all needy families, saying “We reiterate our call for a minimum national welfare benefit that will permit children and their parents to live in dignity. A decent society will not balance its budget on the backs of poor children.” Santorum is a critic of welfare.

6. The US bishops say that “the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions…”. Santorum, who used to be supportive of unions in the 1990s, has now, predictably, turned against them.

7. Catholic bishops demand the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967. Rick Santorum denies that there are any Palestinians, so I guess he doesn’t agree with the bishops on that one.

8. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops ripped into Arizona’s law on treatment of immigrants, Cardinal Roger Mahony characterized Arizona’s S.B. 1070 as “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law,” saying it is based on “totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources.” He even suggested that the law is a harbinger of an American Nazism! Santorum attacks ‘anchor babies’ or the provision of any services to children of illegal immigrants born and brought up in the US.

9. The Bishops have urged that illegal immigrants not be treated as criminals and that their contribution to this country be recognized.

10. The US Conference of Bishops has denounced, as has the Pope, the Bush idea of ‘preventive war’, and has come out against an attack on Iran in the absence of a real and present threat of an Iranian assault on the US. In contrast, Santorum wants to play Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove and ride the rocket down on Isfahan himself.

In this Moyers & Company segment, Bill Moyers talks with conservative economist Bruce Bartlett, who wrote “the bible” for the Reagan Revolution, worked on domestic policy for the Reagan White House, and served as a top treasury official under the first President Bush. Now he’s a heretic in the conservative circles where he once was a star.

Bartlett argues that right-wing tax policies — pushed in part by Grover Norquist and Tea Party activists — are destroying the country’s economic foundation. When he called George W. Bush out as “a pretend conservative” in his book Impostor: Why George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, Bartlett was fired from his position as a senior fellow at a conservative think tank. His new book is The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform — Why We Need It and What It Will Take.