Monday, September 29, 2008

Prayers and Greetings on Rosh HaShanah

Due to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New year 5769, there will be no posts to from tonight, Monday night until Wednesday night.

Rosh HaShananah is the day in which all creation is judged. Its observance is a reminder that all of our strength and intelligence is itself only ours by grace of G-d. Stepping back from our daily efforts and exertions and focusing on prayer reminds us of the crucial importance of "syata d'shmaya" the help of heaven.

Focusing on bettering ourselves as human beings has a powerful effect on the effect we in turn have upon the world.

The recent turbulence of financial markets has reminded us all of the fragility of our prosperity and the limits of our insight. May G-d guide our elected leaders and financial decision makers to decisions that will benefit our country and the world. May the coming year be one of peace and prosperity.

It is always good to make time to focus on the Great Power beyond us, and that there is insight and vision beyond that of our individual wishes and prayers. Rosh Hashanah is such a biblically ordained time when we pray for the welfare or the world according to a text that is beyond our individual wisdom in its conception.

I wish my readers a sweet, good and prosperous New Year. With two days to reflect upon prayers too often rushed through, the words from the Aleynu prayer have special resonance.

ואנחנו כורעים ומשתחוים ומודים
לפני מלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא
But we bow down low in grateful acknowledgement
before the king over the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
שהוא נוטה שמים ויסד ארץ
ושכינת עזו בגבהי מרומים
ומושב יקרו בשמים ממעל
For He spreads out the heavens and establishes the earth,
and his majestic abode is in the sky above,
and his mighty dwelling place in the lofty heights
הוא אלהינו אין עוד
אמת מלכנו אפס זולתו
He is our God; there is none else.
He is truly our King; none is like Him.
ככתוב בתורתו: וידעת היום והשבת אל לבבך, כי ה' הוא האלקים בשמים ממעל, ועל הארץ מתחת, אין עוד. As it is written in His Torah, "Know this day and reflect on it, because the Eternal is our God in the sky above and the earth below. There is none else." (Deut. 4:39)

May G-d make this a year of peace and prosperity for America, Israel and the world. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Questions of Jewish Parents/Obama and Free Speech

I came to Judaism in my early twenties. I have been married more than twenty five years. Some of my children are already married. I come to raising a Jewish family with some disadvantages.

My children all have gone to Jewish schools. I did not. The rules in my community and my home are far stricter than those I grew up with, even though some consider me a bit lenient. This means that my ability to empathise with my children is a product of creative thinking rather than shared experience.

My coming to Judaism had aspects of rebellion that preceded my submission to Torah authority. This is something my children have a hard time understanding.

A whole generation of children whose parents were baalei teshuva is now growing up. Many of us had religious grandparents. Our children mostly have grandparents who are non-orthodox.

What effect do cell phones and the internet have on orthodox Jewish kids growing up today?

What about the pressure to learn full time in kollel? The percentage of young people in kollel is going higher and higher. Do they all belong there? Or would it be better for them to have evening shiurim after a year of kollel?

The orthodox world is producing more chumras (strictnesses). Are they for G-d or for the neighbours? When I look at the Burka ladies in Beit Shemesh, it seems like we might be trying to keep up with the Muslims and leaving some of our own children behind.

It is a much different world today than it was when I got married in the 1980's. As a young newlywed, I thought I would reach my fifties with some answers. Instead the list of questions keeps growing


Leonard Nimoy Both Sides Now


Vote For Free Speech !! Vota Against Obama !!!

With his campaign’s latest actions in Missouri, Barack Hussein Obama has opened a second race in addition to that against John McCain to be President. This race is between the belief in lively and vigorous free speech and the timid anxiety of a society in which the opposition is silenced by the government.The spectre of four years under a President who will attempt to prosecute the statements of his political opponents is frightening to many Americans. New Americans from Cuba, Haiti, China and as well as other totalitarian countries must surely be frightened at a candidate whose friends are so fond of America’s enemies
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Friday, September 26, 2008

(1)A Visit to The Ohel of The Lubavitcher Rebbe (2) Comments on Patriotism

I visited the Ohel of the Lubavitcher Rebbe today. It was after dark, the only time available to me in an odd schedule that disrupts normal sleep patterns. The silhouette of the tombstones in the lanes of the cemetery looked like tall buildings built with the words and deeds of lives finished. The silence of the graves reminded me of a sleeping city awaiting morning.

I always visit three graves in Montefiore cemetery. The Rebbe's grave is of course one. He has shaped my life mostly through those who knew him more directly. The teachings that have connected me to the Rebbe have not changed since his passing. Those who might misinterpret his teaching without fear of forceful contradiction seem to have increased in number.

The second grave I visit is of a young soldier who was killed in action in 1944. I found his grave by accident. So many times have I visited his grave that I can find it in the dark It is decorated with a cameo photograph of him in uniform. His tomb stands at the corner of the cemetary lane. It is tall with a commanding presence, perhaps as he was in life. His parent's common grave stone is next to that of their son with a date of passing decades after that of their son.. It is wide and far shorter . It is of darker stone and appears stooped in grief. The years between his death and that of his parents fills me with sadness as I think of their life without him and the pangs of loneliness as they pass his friends in the street.

The third grave I visit is that of a woman who was murdered in Crown Heights in 1991. We knew her and her husband and children. My wife was pregnant with my middle daughter when Mrs. L was murdered. There is a serene calm that comes to a couple when they agree upon the name of a child. For us this feeling would arrive in the first hours and days after the birth of a child. My middle daughter is the only child whose name preceded her. It was an expression of and a balm for our grief.

For me, a cemetery is like an aquarium. The aquarium teems with fish silent behind the glass that separates them from visitors. When I walk among the graves it is as though thick glass separates me from the thousands of lives lived fast and slow, in shouts and in whispers, in my accent and idiom and in languages unknown to me. I think of souls departed, leaving behind dark and empty houses.

There is a book called "Maaneh Lashon." It is a book of prayers for the cemetery. It is to me like a guidebook to the language of a country to where all are headed. It helped me to address my prayers to G-d alone and to cope with the presence of the departed. Between life and death is a border dispute. This book gave me the courage to speak. It was a comfort. So many times I had seen it at the Ohel, at the Rebbe's grave site. The book is now to me like a stranger who has stopped on the street to speak to me and leaves as a friend.

A cemetery is like a strange foreign city . When I see strangers visiting those with whom they once lived , I feel a connection . There are those I see daily at a bus stop with whom I never speak. Such people when I meet them abroad in a foreign capitol are no longer strangers. They are "landsmen", people who come from the same city.

When I enter the cemetery, the living are like me, visitors from abroad, from the place that is called the land of the living. They are landsmen. As we leave silently, I feel that they are not strangers. We are all of the same city.


Patriotism:Variations on a Theme From Chicago to Belgrade

There are certain emotions that are universal. Love for a spouse and the love of one’s children strike chords of universal resonance. In a crowd, your own family shines like the brightest star. Patriotism is also a universal feeling. Around the globe songs of praise are sung under flags of every colour to nations of widely varying landscapes and climate. Every nation, great and small is the bright star in a vast sky to its own people.

Some people are more demonstrative of their patriotism than others. One person might feel a serene fondness where another likes to shout and wave the flag. It is interesting during an international soccer match to survey the sea of faces beneath a flag as the sound of a national anthem calls the crowd to silent attention.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

(1)Canadians in Popular Music (2) McCain's Call for National Unity

The House You Live In by Gordon Lightfoot


Gordon Lightfoot was a very popular singer in the 1970's. He is Canadian, and his popularity extends around the world. This song is called "The House You Live In". It is a series of moral admonitions and sayings put to music. Although it is not one of the more famous of Lightfoot's songs, it is one of my favourites.

Another Canadian singer whose career dates back to the sixties is Leonard Cohen, whose spiritual restlessness is reflected in his music and poetry." Suzanne" and "Dress Rehearsal Rag" are among Cohen's more famous songs that have been interpreted by other performers. Cohen is a performer who is noted not only for his own performances but his influence upon other performers.
Canada has contributed a great deal to music that is listened to in the United States and throughout the English speaking world. Joni Mitchell, Alanis Morrissette, (Who got her first break at age twelve singing the Canadian national anthem at a sporting event.) and Bryan Adams are among a list of popular music stars from Canada.
I hope you enjoy this nostalgic look at some of Canada's musical contributions to the world of music.


Sisters of Mercy By Leonard Cohen


Today's statement and challenge by John McCain is a challenge to his opponent, and to his colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives. John McCain took an oath of office as a Senator and he is taking it seriously in a time of national crisis. John McCain has showed America the difference between a politician and a statesman, and its not about pay grade. John McCain has stood up and taken responsibility. He has recognised the potential power of a united Congress in tackling our nation’s problems.

This is a brave decision. He has actually pulled campaign commercials and declared his intention to work on overcoming problems rather than political opponents. It is a sweeping and breathtaking act of political bravery. He is a man who will sacrifice his career for the good of the country instead of sacrificing the good of the country for his career.

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(1)Alonzo Garbanzo (2) Joe Biden's Interesting Gaffe


City of New Orleans by Alonzo Garbanzo

With today's posting I am calling to my reader's attention the music of Alonzo Garbanzo. Several months ago, I posted his performance of a Leadbelly song called "Poor Howard" which my brother sang at my mother's funeral. In today's posting, I am presenting his rendition of "City of New Orleans," which was made famous by Arlo Guthrie. I am very puzzled why market forces have not made Alonzo Garbanzo a household word in American entertainment. I have no delusions of blogging grandeur, but I sincerely hope that my posting of Alonzo Garbanzo's music will attract the attention of someone who will give him a big recording contract. He really brings good music to life.

Although I have written in favour of strongly enforcing immigration laws, I have always been aware of the human dimensions and costs of illegal immigration. The desire these people have for a better life is a legitimate one. I simply feel that developing the economies of their countries of origin is a more compassionate and enduring solution. I am also presenting a rendition of a Woody Guthrie song performed by Alonzo Garbanzo called "Deportees." It is about a plain that crashed in New Mexico with a large number of illegal immigrants being deported. It is a very stirring song that provides a human dimension to a major problem faced by our country.


Joe Biden has powered up his gaffe machine again. In attempt to put the Wall Street Crisis into perspective, Biden said the following on CBS News.

“When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened,’”

There are a few slight problems with Biden’s view of history. The stock market crash took place in 1929 when Herbert Hoover was President. Roosevelt took office in 1933. Additionally, when Hoover or Roosevelt addressed the nation, it was on radio, which was still a novelty to millions of Americans. Television was in its experimental phases even in the late 1930’s. It started its climb to ubiquity only in the late 1940’s.

Click Here for entire Article and Video

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Monday, September 22, 2008

A Musical Shoutout From Inuit Country To McCain Palin


The entire country was appalled at the bad taste shown on the Saturday Night live skit making incest jokes about the Palin family. The entire approach of the major media towards Alaska has been condescending and contemptuous. Investigative reporters have combed the state for dirt and come up with precious little.

What do we know about America's 49th State ? It is one fifth of America's land mass yet it is the least populous of the fifty states. What do we know about the Inuit and their conversion to russian Orthodox Christianity by Russian missionaries? Do we know about the Old Believers, a dissident sect of Russian Orthodox Christianity?

Do we know about how mail is delivered in remote areas of Alaska? What does the Inuit language sound like? The media should be entertaining us with some Alaskan trivia but it hasn't happened. I am stepping in and filling the gap with some Inuit rap music in the Inuit language. Rap music is a hard sell with me but this is a really nice song. The Inuits span across North America nad even to Greenland. Their sense of consanguinity transcends national borders to some extent

Additionally, I am including a video of an Alaskan Gwich'in Indian performer who mixes English and his own language in a country song. It is really beautiful music from another ethnic group native to Alaska.

I hope others will join me in treating Alaskan people and culture with the respect that they deserve. I hope my readers enjoy this musical selection, which I have dedicated to Sarah Palin and her running mate John McCain

video Sphere: Related Content

1)A Letter From an Obama Supporter (2) The Folly of Ethnic Bloc Voting

I don't like to make up stories about the Democrats and some of their insane supporters. It damages my credibility. Not only that, anything I make up pales in comparison to what they say themselves. I received the following letter from a Mr. Wally Banner.

George Bush has hurt the United States of America more than Osama Bin Laden ever did. From his Failure to Avenge America from 9/11 to his incompetence in New Orleans. Now our Economy is back to the Great Depression Era. The GOP shoves some senile lifetime Senator in front of the Public and demands that we trust it. GOP can't win wars, GOP can't handle the Economy,GOP doesn't care about the People. GOP = American Al Qaeda.

I want to compliment Mr. Banners in his use of spell check. His ideas are another matter entirely. How did Bush outdo Bin Laden? Please explain. How did he fail to avenge America? What does that mean? How was Bush responsible for New Orleans? There was a Democratic administration in city government there with a legendary record of corruption. Who was Bush supposed to send aid to? Does Wally have any idea how bad things actually got in the Great Depression?

Why does "Wally" think McCain is senile? Is it because he can not name all fifty seven states?

I am getting dizzy just trying to follow Wally's logic. GOP = Al Qaeda? Is this a political statement or an anguished cry for psychotropic medication ?

In English, one does not capitalise nouns. I am sure that Wally cares very deeply about politics. I have no doubt he is registered to vote. But in what country ?

Wally's tirade is actually a mild example of some of the hysteria on the left. Remember after the Oklahoma City bombing in the 1990's , Bill Clinton tried to blame right wing talk radio?
Who's getting all the left wing crazies all pumped up. Any ideas , Bill?


The Folly of Ethnic Bloc Voting

The Republican Party has its work cut out in building its African American and Jewish constituencies. The Republicans get a lower share of African American votes than they do even of the Jewish vote. It is common sense that a political party will be more responsive to a constituency if their loyalty is not automatic.

There is a saying in politics. There is no such thing as eternal friendships. Only eternal interests. Blacks and Jews have both identified the Democrats as being their friends and advocates. This is based upon a taught version of history that needs to be challenged and amended. The attitude of Roosevelt towards Jews and his specific policies on Jewish issues in Europe are being reexamined by historians Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Brief Look at Some English Folk Rock



hThe Hiring Fair by Fairport Convention

One of my favourite genres of music is "folk rock". In general it is the place where popular music blends with traditional forms. In the United Kingdom, one of the all time great folk rock groups from the sixties and seventies was Fairport Convention. Their songs were traditional melodies a traditional arrangements. Many songs give the feel of past eras such as "The Deserter" (Not presented here) set in Victorian England or "The Hiring Fair". Which is a touching romantic song in the form of a story.

Another group that is stylistically similar is "Pentangle" from around the same time. So far flung is the English folk rock influence that a Norwegian group called "Folque" actually recorded a song from Pentangle in Norwegian. The influence of the Vikings in English history makes such a musical connection seem almost mystical.

Some of the best music by Fairport Convention was done when Sandy Denny was their lead vocalist. Although she set out on her own, the group continued to make great music.

I am confident that there will always be periodic revivals of interest in folk music and creative ways of connecting it with modern audiences.

I hope my readers and listeners will be inspired to seek out more of this type of music. I would welcome news of more new performers in this inspiring form of musical entertainment. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, September 19, 2008

Interesting News from Postville/ Notes From New York About Palin and the Ahmadinejad Rally

Bernard Feldman, the new chief executive of Agriprocessors, the kosher meat packing plant in Postville Iowa announced fundamental changes in the management of the meat packing plant that was shaken by a huge immigration raid back in May. Feldman is a lawyer who specialises in corporate turnarounds. He has been given sweeping executive powers in reorganising the management of the troubled plant. What is most significant is that he has stated his intention of negotiating the unionisation of the plant.

Feldman has a relationship of mutual respect with the Rubashkin family, which owns the meat processing plant in Postville, according to an article that appeared today in Vos iz Neias .

“Let me say this: I have a deep regard for the Rubashkin family,” he said. “I am one of those attorneys that will only undertake an engagement if I believe wholeheartedly in the cause.” said Mr. Feldman according to the Vos iz Neias article.

Although there is understandable concern among kosher consumers about meat prices, an agreement with unions that is negotiated by someone with respect for the Rubashkin family is much more likely to be productive in the long run. There are pressing arguments for fair labour practices not only in the kosher food industry but elsewhere. To have those who are respectful of orthodox Judaism addressing these issues is far better than to have questionable organisations like PETA and Hechsher Tsedik using legitimate issues to press their questionable agendas.

It is entirely legitimate to be concerned about the motives of militant vegetarians and non orthodox rabbis in addressing these issues. The change in management and accompanying changes offer considerable promise in addressing the issues raised since the immigration raid in May. Success in this new chapter of the meat packing plant in Postville will be in everyones best interest. Magdeburger Joe extends his best wishes to the Rubaskin family and their employees.

Notes From New York About Sarah Palin and The Anti-Ahmadinejad Rally

New York City stands with Cuba, Vietnam and Korea as a one party state. Its government has abrogated federal immigration laws. Its mayor has declared the city to be a sanctuary from their enforcement. The Republican party is nothing more than a lap dog of the Democratic Party machine.

There is a lot of grass roots political conservatism in New York and no viable political party to give it a voice. Jews, African Americans and Hispanics all send many of their children to religious schools. There is strong support for vigorous law enforcement in communities with low income. Although there is scattered representation for the concerns of regular New Yorkers, unfortunately, the Democratic Party dispenses a lot of favours. From jobs to funding of community organisations, the Democrats have leverage. And they are not shy about using it.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Disinvitation of Sarah Palin: A Disgrace! / Music from Ishy Levi /Comments on election 2008

Sarah Palin was disinvited from a rally on Monday against Ahmadinejad that was sponsored by major Jewish organisations in New York. Common decency restricts "disinvitations" to those who have committed some serious offense that was not known or taken into account at the time the invitation was issued. Sarah Palin does not fit into this narrow category.

There is a basic level of courtesy owed to a guest. Publicly showing disrespect to an invited guest is a serious offense against Jewish law. Sarah Palin was shown great disrespect for no legitimate reason. The embarrassment this causes me as a Jew goes beyond my support for McCain and Palin.

My only consolation in this entire sorry episode is that it reduces the respect accorded organisations that have long been unworthy of any respect. There are Jews in public life in New York who put truth and justice ahead of political expediency. I hope such people will step up to the plate and speak for the disenfranchised majority
How many Jews fled for their lives from Arab countries in 1948 and after? How many are still in refugee camps? Even though we were stripped of our wealth in Arab countries, we moved on and built a new life and country. Why there are still Arab Muslim refugees from sixty years ago says something about the places to where they fled. It says nothing about Israel. All of the money spent trying to destroy Israel could have been used to help these people.

The refugees from Arab countries brought with them some great music. Today's video is from Ishy Levi, an Israeli singer who sings in an "oriental" style.

Music Video from Ishy Levi



Old Campaign Contributions Haunting Obama in Latest Financial Crisis

According to a story in World Net Daily today “A review of Federal Election Commission records back to 1989 reveals Obama in his three complete years in the Senate is the second largest recipient of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae campaign contributions, behind only Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., the powerful chairman of the Senate banking committee. Dodd was first elected to the Senate in 1980.”

The implications of this breaking story are particularly dire for the Obama campaign.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fond Thoughts of Ladino /Wall Street Crisis : Pelosi Passes the Buck in Record Time

One of the most beautiful things about Israel is to see communities transplanted from the exile to the Holy Hand flourishing in natural surroundings. An Israeli singer to whom I am very grateful is Yehoram Gaon. Born in 1939 to a Jerusalem Sephardi family, he is famous for his career in film and on Israeli television.

I am most grateful to Gaon for his popularisation of music in Ladino. Back in the 70's, he put out an album called "Canticos Del Pesah or "Songs of Passover". On this album he performs songs which are traditionally sung by Sephardim during Passover. Because I did not grow up with any Jewish music at all, this album was important for me in connecting to my Jewish roots.

Ladino is a Jewish dialect of Spanish written with Hebrew letters. It was a major spoken language in the Jewish world , particularly in the city of Salonika. The holocaust took a heavy toll on Sephardic Jewry. 90% of Greek Jews were killed during the war. Since Salonika was under direct German occupation for much of the war, the extermination efforts of the Germans were particularly effective in Salonika. The casualties were not only of individuals and families but also the Ladino language. Although Ladino still is spoken by some, it faces a more difficult struggle even than Yiddish to survive in some form.

English speaking Jews owe a debt of gratitude to the Sephardic world for Meam Loez, an anthology of commentaries on the Torah and the Prophets that was originally written in Ladino to facilitate the reintegration of conversos, those forcibly converted in Spain to Christianity. Today the multi volumed work lives on in English translation in many Jewish homes, performing the same role it once did in Ladino of reviving the knowledge and observance of Judaism.

Israel as a Jewish state and society, offers many resources to propagate the survival of Ladino, Yiddish and other languages of the exile. The songs with this posting are examples of the role popular culture can play in the survival of endangered languages. I hope my readers will enjoy these songs as much as I do. One is "Un Cavritico" or "One Little Goat" a traditional Passover song performed by Yehoram Gaon. The other is "Adio Kerida" or "Goodbye My Beloved".

Yehoram Gaon "Un Cavritico"

Adio Kerida




Wall Street Crisis : Pelosi Passes the Buck in Record Time

Nancy Pelosi pleads innocent on stock crash

In record time and ahead of all economic experts, Nancy Pelosi has declared the Democrats to be innocent of all guilt in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and all of the attending stock market turbulence.

When asked if the Democrats bore any responsibility for the difficulties on Wall Street , Ms. Pelosi was clear and succinct. “No,” She stated flatly. She was dismissive as well of the stalemate between President Bush and Congress that has effectively stalled any coordinated action.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ratings Suicide for This Week: Fifties Oldies in Croatian/Thoughts About The Nanny State

video"Roses Are Red My Love(Sung in Croatian)

All this talk about the music hechsher gives me a bad case of claustrophobia. I've had reggae tunes dancing through my head ever since this discussion started. I divide my music into two categories. There is music that is enjoyable and not harmful. And there is music that is somehow beneficial in cultivating a mood that is conducive to doing what is right in my life. Some music is conducive to study, other music lifts the spirits. Left to my own, I listen to a lot of Jewish music, but I could never live in a place where a "modesty squad" would bust up my CD collection.

It is interesting to watch a song pass from one language to another . Sometimes the words are changed completely so that the meaning is unrecognisable. Other times there are slight changes in the literal meaning that leave the general sense intact . Country Yossi did a Yiddish version of a Kenny Rogers song called "The Gambler which was actually an improvement on the original. That is saying a lot, because The Gambler is one of the all time great country songs.

One common denominator between my beliefs about music and those of the chareidim is a conviction that music is powerful and should be used to strive towards being a better person. I am not a learned enough person to discuss this on a high level of Jewish scholarship. Most of my insights are from personal experience. I hope my readers will appreciate these two songs "Ruze Su Crvene" by Crveni Korali and "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers



What is puritanism? It is the nagging fear that somewhere, people are enjoying themselves. America made a disastrous experiment in legislating good health by making a ban on the sale and manufacture of alcohol from 1917 until 1933. During the time of Prohibition, America became a nation of lawbreakers. The only success of Prohibition was [...]Please click here for complete article and video Sphere: Related Content

Monday, September 15, 2008

Palestine Authority The Nakhba for Arab Christians / McCain and Obama Weigh in on Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy


Christians living under the Palestine Authority

The situation of Christians living under the Palestine Authority continues to deteriorate daily. Bethlehem, which once had a Christian majority now has a Christian minority of little more than 10% of its population. Stories abound of kidnapping ,extortion and rape to which a blind eye is usually turned by the Palestine authority.

Egyptian Coptic Christians are in a similar situation. Like Christians living under the Palestine authority, a mere rumour is enough to set off days of rioting and pogroms in which besieged Christians live in fear of their lives.

The blood line of many Christians in the Middle East goes back to the earliest converts to Christianity. Unfortunately, their plight is met by Christians in the West with silence and indifference. The Maronites, a sect of Catholics that is loyal to the Pope in Rome and prays in Aramaic is a conduit for information on the plightof their coreligionists to the Vatican, which maintains current and accurate information on the world scene through its international network of clergy and lay employees. It is reasonable to suppose that the Catholic Church has opted for quiet diplomacy on behalf of their besieged brethren.Records show this approach to have yielded extremely limited results.

Spreading the word about persecution of Christians is the first step in alleviating the situation. Like the Soviet Jews in the sixties and seventies, perhaps some form of trade and diplomatic linkage might work to better the situation of Christians in the Middle East and the Islamic world. As an American, I would like my government to recognise endangered and persecuted groups as having priority in immigrating to the U.S.

Christians under Islamic rule, Mandaeans and Yazidis in Iraq and Iran and Hindus in Pakistan are among those in the world who endure harsh restrictions and persecution. I would like America's doors to be open to such people. It is with sadness that I say this, because many cultural treasures are often lost in flight from persecution. From buildings and art to priceless manuscripts that shed light on the history of faiths and peoples, refuge comes with a price to posterity. But the sanctity of human life trumps all of these considerations.

As a Jew whose family was given refuge by America, I have a duty to show compassion to the persecuted of this generation. I am one blogger with a tiny readership. I hope that others will add their voices to mine on behalf of the persecuted of this generation. I do not want to live with the shame of silence and inaction. Those who are enslaved must hear the voices of free people raised on their behalf.


McCain Proposes Solutions, Obama Apportions Blame

With thousands of jobs at stake and the spectre of a ripple effect in world markets, a problem of this nature requires penetrating analysis and well reasoned solutions.
News of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy filing reverberated in markets around the world today. The bankruptcy filing is a sharp break with a 158 year history of never reporting [...]

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

More Comments on A Music Hechsher/ About Negative Campaigning in Election 2008


Never Again By Wu Tang Clan

The talk of a hechsher for music emanating from Chareidi circles haunts me. People are progressing from so many different levels and social backgrounds, this step seems to lack sensitivity to people from outside the Chareidi community. Although reggae music was on the list of banned musical forms specified by those promoting a music hechsher, there are actually people like myself who went through a stage where reggae music drew me closer to Judaism

There are people from Modern Orthodox backgrounds. There are people who are thinking of leaving Judaism who could be reached by music done in a style they feel a connection to. Are we ready to make one psak for all levels and styles of observance?

The general trend of observance in the Orthodox world is towards greater strictness. If that strictness is meant to come close to G-d, then that is a good thing. But if it is observed in an ostentatious manner, a way that demeans others, I have to ask if it is for the sake of heaven or if it is to give the neighbours hell.

There are rabbis who give lenient opinions in Jewish law who are very strict in their own personal observance. Many such people go to great pains to conceal their strictness so as not to discourage or exhaust their students who might try to emulate them. Such modesty is itself worthy of emulation.

One recurring thought I have when among Jews from different communities is how alike we would have looked shaven and in striped uniforms in Auschwitz. Visualising such tragic unity leaves me with a desire to carry it over to times of peace and joy. As contentious as this issue is, We must strive now more than ever to stay united in the face of the many threats facing our community from drugs to abuse in Yeshivas and elsewhere to broken families and even terrorism. G-d gave us each other. We must not scorn the gift He has given us.

I am presenting this song "Never Again". by Wu Tang Clan, a non Jewish song about the holocaust. Although I presented it a few months ago in another posting, the point needs to be made that all sorts of music can be a part of a striving for truth, that the message is more important than the medium. I hope that the dialogue about the spiritual role of music has the effect of bringing our community together. Anything short of this would add to the misfortune of our already troubled times.


Obama on Negative Campaigning, Keepin It Real

Barack Obama’s press secretary Bill Burton has accused presidential hopeful John McCain of “the sleaziest and least honorable campaign in modern presidential campaign history.”

After all of the attacks on Sarah Palin’s family and John McCain’s war record I would be inclined to agree, although not for the same reasons as would Obama.

Obama Campaign Complaints About Negative Campaigning

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Short Takes: Yemenite Music and Comments on Election 2008 for Congress


This video is a nostalgic slide show of scenes from Yemen set to Yemenite Jewish music. About a thousand Jews remain of that ancient community in Yemen. The majority continue to make great contributions to the cultural life of Israel.

Sectarian violence in Yemen threatens the peace and tranquility of the Jews who are the remnant of that ancient community. Islamic rebels intent on embarrassing the government in that country have driven Jews from their homes and villages, in violation of even the minimal protections afforded the "people of the book" under Islamic law. ( see story link below,7340,L-3394316,00.html


Congress 2008: The Gap Narrows

Since the Republican convention, the gap between the Democrats and the Republicans has narrowed considerably. The USA Gallup poll actually places the Republicans ahead by five points in a generic congressional race. Real Clear Politics, which averages all of the polls together has the Republicans behind by 5.4%, which a considerably narrower gap than has prevailed in the months leading up to the Democratic and Republican conventions.

A number of factors seem to be at work. Recent American military success in Iraq has undercut disenchantment with the war as a factor in the Democrats’s favour.

Disapproval of Congress is far higher than that of the Bush administration. Nancy Pelosi has as majority leader put a face on voter’s concerns. Democratic intransigence on energy policy, particularly offshore drilling issues has gone against the majority of public opinion.

The colourful and intriguing candidacy of a young woman governor from a new state has attracted a lot of public attention. Her ideas and beliefs resonate with many. When the election is a contest of ideas, the Republican Party does not function at a disadvantage. Casting an election as a contest of ideologies tends to benefit congressional candidates. Most people realise that a President who shares their values needs the cooperation of Congress.

McCain and Palin have succeeded in connecting with voters. A heartfelt conviction that can survive a telepropter malfunction goes a long way. The coattail effect of a successful Presidential candidate helping candidates for the Senate and House might now be coming into play.

Feminist ideas have made deep inroads in America. But religious traditions remain a strong and guiding force. Palin’s nomination represents the possibility of harmonising the two ideological strains into something new.

The Presidential race will claim a lot of attention in the final weeks leading up to the election in November. How well the winner will do after Innauguration Day in January 2009 will depend upon the composition of Congress. The poll numbers for Senate and House seats is looking better for John McCain.But they still have a way to go. A contest of ideologies and a focus on the record of Congress would be good for the Republicans. It would also lengthen the coattails of McCain and Palin.

There has been a major shift in political debate leading up to the election in November. Public interest in the people at the head of the Democratic and Republican tickets has lent a clarity to the election contest.

There is a place for investigating candidates and exposing their records. This may be perceived by some as negative reporting. Journalists who follow this path are only doing their job. But the contest of differing visions for America’s future can and should remain a recurring theme.

Hillary Clinton once correctly said that “It takes a village to raise a child.” This saying points correctly to the role of society and its institutions in shaping development. A President with a vision for society needs a Congress willing to share it and not to thwart it. This seems to be more of a possibility than it ever was a few months ago. A lot can happen in the next few weeks before the election. But those who want change have to make it happen, through dialogue and by presenting their case. Hope is in the air.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yankel Rosenbaum's Yarzeit, Crown Heights Riots, 9/11 : My Comments

Every year the mention of Yankel Rosenbaum's Yarzeit brings back memories of the Crown Heights riots back in 1991. Some memories stand out from that time.

One was during a lull in the disturbances. I went out to buy groceries. There was a lot of hate in the air. Our front windows had been busted out. Everyone was on edge. I was far more vigilant than usual when I went out. A friendly neighbour had warned me to watch my back. When I came back with the groceries, I noticed a guy holding a big rock coming toward me . I was weighed down with groceries. There was no place to run. A group of Black people was coming down the street. They looked like they were coming home from work. They looked okay. I quickened my pace and blended in with them. The guy with the rock tossed his rock aside. He didn't trust his own aim.

When the riots were going strong, I noticed that normally friendly neighbours looked away when I greeted them. Their expressions were more of fear than of hatred. I understood, and faced straight forward when passing them on the street. They were afraid to be seen speaking to me. I made eye contact and smiled, saying nothing. It was as though they were prisoners. I felt sorry for them. When peace returned so did the normal manner of greeting.

The drug dealers were angry about the riots. The strong police presence was bad for business. They wanted the riots to stop so the cops would go elesewhere. When the cops finally cracked down, I was talking with my African American neighbours again. We decided that we should pretend to hate each other so there would be more police protection. A few fake demonstrations some staged confrontations, and then we would have all the police protection we want.

Yankel Rosenbaum didn't come to America to fight. He came to study. The sad thing about bigotry is how it turns your skin into a uniform. The riots taught me a lot. It taught me to value the relative peace of America and to strive to preserve it, so that men like Yankel Rosenbaum can come to visit and go home in peace.


Pearl Harbor was for my parent’s generation a time like the Kennedy assassination. Everyone remembered the room, the moment, the scents in the room where the horrible news came to them.

Indignation, anger and sorrow still seemed fresh when my mother would tell me of the treachery of the attack. Somehow a transcendant sense of unity and purpose carried the nation through the years that followed.

The term “A day that will live in infamy” was coined to describe the bombing of Pearl Harbor. For years, it was a solitary epitaph for the dead of a single morning. On September 11, 2001, these words were resurrected for thousands more who were laid to rest not in funereal dignity but in gray clouds of smoke , leaping flames and nameless resting places.

The murder of sleeping sailors was “a day that will live in infamy. What is the murder of unarmed office workers , of janitors, cooks and visitors? Words fail us. The thoughts and memories of past generations consoles us. It pierces our anguished solitude with rays of light. Those who died in generations past for a common cause have passed on to us an epitaph.

In the eyes of our enemies, we are all soldiers. On September 11 2001, almost 3000 made a sacrifice usually made only the military. May their memory be a blessing. May their suffering not be in vain.

Pearl Harbor Memorial Video

9/11 Memorial Video
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

British Landlady Ordered To Pay Convicted Rapist Damages For Evicting Him Illegally / My Thoughts About Ed Koch

Landlady in U.K. Ordered to Pay Damages to Serial Rapist She Evicted

When I read a story like this, I wonder what kind of "tea" the judge was drinking. Melody Goymer, a British landlady had rented an apartment to Thomas Cope, a 55 year old man convicted of raping a teenage girl in the apartment he rented from Ms. Goymer.

In his suit, he complained that Ms. Goymer evicted him following his arrest without first obtaining a court order. The apartment was in terrible condition. A stench from rotting food had set in as a result of the electricity being cut off. Cope was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment. He complained of the "stress" the eviction caused him .

Deputy Judge Smith, who heard the case ordered Goymer to pay Cope the equivalent of $1500.00 in damages noting "What would have happened if he had been released on bail or found not guilty? He was unlawfully evicted and his possessions were wrongly removed and wrongly retained."

To compound the injury, Cope has asked for an additional $26000.00 in damages.

The fact is, Cope was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. If Ms. Goymer must pay Cope anything, the money should go straight to his victim.

The final travesty in this article was mentioned only in passing towards the end of the article. Thomas Cope, though sentenced to life imprisonment as a serial rapist is eligible for parole in four and a half years !


Landlady ordered to pay damages to serial rapist for clearing his flat after arrest

By Andrew Levy
Last updated at 7:36 AM on 08th September 2008

A serial rapist has been awarded compensation after his landlady cleared his flat of his belongings while he was awaiting trial.

Thomas Cope, 55, tied up his teenage victim with a computer mouse cord and raped her twice before letting her go after an eight hour ordeal.

He was jailed for life after a judge branded him 'a serious danger to women'.

Serial rapist Thomas Cope has sued his former landlady for wrongful eviction

But in a publicly funded county court case, the former debt collector sued Melody Goymer for clearing his flat - where he raped his latest victim - following his arrest.

The court ruled grandmother Mrs Goymer, 60, had unlawfully terminated Cope's tenancy by failing to seek a court order for possession of the flat in Hailsham, Sussex.

The judgement was described yesterday as 'shocking' and 'sickening' by critics, including a rape charity.

Cope was flanked by two prison custody officers as he complained that items including a 20in TV, computer desks, coffee table and tin openers had been put into storage.

Landlady Melody Goymer removed Cope's goods days after he was arrested

He admitted Mrs Goymer, who rents three properties in the Eastbourne area, was a 'very good' landlady but said he had been 'angry and stressed' by the eviction.

'It has caused problems between me and my wife,' he told Eastbourne County Court.

'On two or three occasions she has stopped phoning and writing to me because of it. 'I've just been banging my head against a brick wall since I've been in prison.'

Cope - who was living alone in the flat after moving out of the home he shared with his wife, Ann - was first jailed for rape for four years in 1976.

He received eight years for rape in 1979, five years in 1985 for indecent assault and another ten years for attempted rape in 1990.

He is currently serving a life sentence for attacking a 19-year-old woman on April 25, 2006.

Judge Austin Issard-Davies, sitting at Hove Crown Court in Sussex in June last year, ordered him to serve a minimum of four-and-a-half years for the latest offence before being considered for parole.

Read complete story here My thanks to Political Correctness Watch
for featuring this story

Ed Koch, a former mayor for whom I never voted has endorsed Barack Hussein Obama. Despite her consistent approval ratings in steady excess of 80%, with voters of all persuasions in Alaska, Koch says he finds Sarah Palin to be “frightening”. He cites her alleged request to banbooks when she served as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.

When the Wasilla book banning episode came to light, it originally involved a list of books. Further investigation consigned that list to the annals of urban legend. It turned out that the question was open ended and hypothetical. When I was a child, certain books in the library were kept in a locked cabinet. Others were deemed to be too marginal to include in the library’s selection. It seems that Palin is the subject of selective scrutiny.

It turned out that Palin’s request for the librarian’s resignation was standard in that part of Alaska. Unlike New York, many city jobs in Alaska are filled with mayoral appointees rather than from a civil service list. One might well criticise the political culture of Alaska in comparison with that of other states. But such criticism should not be confused with criticism of its governor.

Koch displayed breathtaking naivete in his treatment of Israel and the Middle East in his endorsement.

“Both parties and their candidates have made clear, before and during this election campaign their understanding of the need to support Israel and oppose acts of terrorism waged against it by Hamas and other Muslim supporters of terrorism.” stated Koch in his interview with Journalist Ben Smith.

Overlooked by Koch is the twenty four hour flip flop in which Obama issued a thundering endorsement of a united Jerusalem, only to retract it within twenty four hours. Both Koch and Obama know the New York political axiom that you need three I’s to take New York City’s vote. Italy, Ireland and Israel are all dear to decisive constituencies in New York City politics. Like an ardent suitor, Obama has courted Jewish voters with protestations of love for Israel. Will he remember his promises the morning after election d

ay? He sounds a lot like Jimmy Carter did in 1976. And Jimmy Carter didn’t even have a bunch of radical friends back then.

A basic axiom of civic responsibility is to question a candidate’s promises. Ed Koch has had a lengthy career as a film critic since leaving office. The ability to suspend disbelief that is so essential in the enjoyment of cinema remains toxic when employed in politics. It has been almost twenty years since Koch left office. Perhaps some of his political memories have faded as well.

Although Ed Koch was defeated by David Dinkins, the two have been united in their criticism of Rudy Giuliani both during and after his time as mayor. This is understandable. Although Koch balanced the books and pulled the city from bankruptcy, the view from the streets was much the same during the Koch years as it was during the years of the Dinkins administration. Open drug sales, the regular sound of gunfire in the streets as well as graffiti metastasizing across the urban landscape were as much a feature of life under Koch as they were under Dinkins. Giuliani was the first to question the assumption that New York City is ungovernable. Much to the ambarassment of his predecessors, Giuliani showed the world a real mayor .

Like a bad hangover, I still remember the grating, nasal voice of Ed Koch criticising Rudy Giuliani for throwing Yasir Arafat out of a diplomatic reception at Lincoln Center. It is not hard to imagine the timid advice he would offer on foreign policy to Obama as president.

I have not been happy with Mike Bloomberg as mayor. Some of the social ills such as crime and graffiti are returning like a persistent disposition towards athlete’s foot. His nanny state philosophy of governance annoys me enough to make me want to take up smoking as a political statement. The grating sound of Ed Koch pontificating on politics brings back a flood of memories from the years of his administration. The grime, the crime and the corruption that came to light at the end of the Koch years all come back to me in a flood of memories. Suddenly Bloomberg is looking much better.

Koch doesn’t like what Sara Palin did as mayor of Wasilla? I don’t like what he did to New York. If you lived in New York under Koch and under Giuliani, you would find a Giuliani endorsement far more persuasive than one from Ed Koch. America needs a President who will question the limits of its potential, who will seek do redefine what is possible. Giuliani did that when he was mayor. Koch did not. If you are going to vote according to a mayoral endorsement, listen to Giuliani and vote McCain Palin in 2008.

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