Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas from the Jews

Even though I am Jewish and both of my folks are as well my family grew up celebrating Christmas with a tree and all (well no baby Jesus or angels but you get the picture). Now that I have kids and don't live in a Jewish neighborhood we just follow the Jewish holidays. I never thought I would grow up and celebrate Hanukkah over Christmas. My wife who's mother converted to Judaism before she was born became a born again Christian after she divorced my father in law (The Rabbi) so my children get a little splash of what I grew up with when they spend Christmas eve and Christmas day with their grandmother. The funny thing is that my wife has no concept of what it is like to wake up at 5AM and run to the Christmas tree waiting for the rest of the family to wake up and then have at the presents. The kids slept at my Mother In Law's last night and were up early just like I used to in eager anticipation of what might be in the dozens of gifts beneath the green pine. She gingerly took her time to get up and get ready and we arrived around 10AM. We only got there at that time because I knew what the kids must be going thru but granted since we are raising them Jewish I did not try that hard. When we arrived my oldest ran up to me and said; "It is true there is a Santa Claus, he ate our cookies and drank the milk we put out for him"!. I did not want to crush him excitement so I didn't say anything. But this is no new phenomenon in fact Jews have been writing Christmas songs since the 1800s. Here is an article about some of them:

Jews take credit for writing, singing Christmas songs
Filed under:

December 31, 2003 - 23:14
also see: The Truth about X-Mass
VIVI ABRAMS Atlanta Jewish Times A Methodist dad wants to get into the Christmas mood. He plays a record of "The Christmas Song" and sings along to the familiar "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" refrain. Then he feels like a movie, and watches "White Christmas" with his family. Before bed, he reads his daughter the Caldecott-winning children's Christmas book, "The Polar Express." He's just had a very Jewish night. Not many people know it, but Jews have a long history of orchestrating Christmas, back to the early 1800s when French composer Adolphe Adam wrote the music for "O Holy Night." "Christmas Song" composer Mel Torme was also Jewish. Chris Van Allsburg, a convert to Judaism, wrote "The Polar Express." And "White Christmas," a film about song-and-dance men who romance women for the holidays in a Vermont ski lodge, had a Jewish star (Danny Kaye), director (Michael Curtiz) and composer (Irving Berlin). Berlin, born Israel Baline, wrote "White Christmas" for the film "Holiday Inn" in 1942 and resurrected it for the Bing Crosby film in 1954. Actor and commentator Ben Stein recently wrote an essay saying that Jews should feel no shame about having so much power in Hollywood, because it's a sign of how much they love America. He said the same about Christmas. "I have always felt that no one loved Christmas like the Jews," Stein wrote in an e-mail. "No family tensions, no disappointments about the wrong gift, just that great Christmas spirit. For a Jew to be in America at Christmas, with all the love in the air, after two millennia of being hunted and killed at Christian holidays, is pure bliss, and I believe we feel it keenly." Nate Teibloom, editor of jewhoo.com, a Web site that identifies famous Jews, had a different reason for why Jews involve themselves in the Christmas spirit: the bottom line. "There's a huge market," he said. "Virtually every recording artist puts out a Christmas album eventually, including Jewish recording artists. It's money in the bank. [However,] some Jewish recording artists tend to shy away from doing the religious Christmas songs." One Jewish popular songwriter, who asked not to be identified, believes so many Jewish composers write Christmas songs "because it broadens the field of endeavor. "Every year for a couple of months the recordings sell all over again. It's the old profit system, not an underwriting of another faith," he said. Teibloom said Jewish songwriters dominated the popular music scene from around 1920 to 1965, around the time "Your Hit Parade" made Christmas songs into favorites. "Tin Pan Alley rose up in Manhattan with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of songwriters turning out song after song after song," he said. They were bound to write Christmas songs, too." "White Christmas" was one of thousands of songs Irving Berlin wrote in his career, Teibloom said. "He wrote a song called "I Love Israel," Teibloom said. "He probably wrote a song for Arbor Day, too." According to jewhoo.com, Jeffery Tambor, the actor who co-starred as Mayor May Who in the recent film "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," was asked if he ever worked on a project as big and expensive as the Grinch film. He replied, "Maybe my bar mitzvah." Speaking of the Grinch, remember the original animated version soundtrack with the great line, "He's a mean one, Mr. Grinch"? Contrary to what some might think, the Grinch was not Jewish -- but the songwriter was (Albert Hague). There are even Jewish ornaments on the Christmas tree -- Hallmark features one of a miniature Larry Fine of Three Stooges fame. But songs are by far the biggest Jewish contribution to Christmas pop culture. Barbra Streisand and Kenny G. (Gorelick) have put out hugely successful Christmas albums. Other Christmas carols written or performed by Jews include: * "We Need a Little Christmas" (Jerry Herman). * "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "A Holly Jolly Christmas" (Johnny Marks). * "The Christmas Waltz" and "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" (Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne). * "Silver Bells" (Ray Evans, lyricist, and Jay Livingston, composer). *"I'm Getting' Nuttin' for Christmas" (Barry Gordon, performer). So to all the Jews walking around the mall this year and getting annoyed by all the holiday music on the sound system: Quit blaming the Christians.

The Jews Who Wrote Christmas SongsBy Nate Bloom
Every year the American Society of Composers and Publishers publishes a list of the 25 Most Popular Holiday Songs. The old favorites--"The Christmas Song," "White Christmas," etc.--are always on the list, but songs enter or leave the list based on the popularity of recent covers of the song.
Among the 25 songs picked this year, more than half--13 to 14--were composed, co-written or performed by verifiably Jewish artists. Here's a rundown on the songs with Jewish connections. Click on the links below to see information about a particular song.
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Do They Know It's Christmas? (Feed the World)
Santa Baby
Holly Jolly Christmas
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
I'll Be Home for Christmas
Silver Bells
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Sleigh Ride
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
White Christmas
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)
Number one on the list, this song was written in 1945 by Mel Tormé (1925-1999) and Robert "Bob" Wells (born 1922)--both of whom are Jewish. "The Christmas Song" has gained in popularity since 2000, the first year I looked at the ASCAP list. In 2000, it was third, with "White Christmas" holding the #1 spot.
Tormé, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, is most famous as a jazz vocalist, but he did write about 250 songs, mostly with Wells. Tormé wrote the music for "The Christmas Song" and Wells penned the lyrics.
As it says in this article, this song was written in July, in the hot desert.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Back when I first wrote on the subject, I caught a newspaper reference to a university seminar in which one of the professors, reportedly, said that Fred Coots, co-writer of the song, was Jewish. I reported that Coots was Jewish. However, upon reflection, I am not sure that this newspaper source is unimpeachable and I haven't, yet, been able to find an independent reliable source that confirms or refutes the newspaper article's information on Coots.
White Christmas
Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" is the historical "biggie" of popular Christmas songs. Its incredible success inspired scores of other songwriters to try and write a Christmas song.
Berlin, one of the most famous songwriters in American history, was born Israel Baline in what is now Russia, or possibly Belarus. He came to the States in 1891. His father is alternately reported to have been a cantor or rabbi, but didn't work in either capacity when the family moved to America. His father's death, when Irving was 13, forced Irving Berlin to find work--like singing in the streets--just so he and his family could eat.
Berlin's early dire poverty fits the stereotype of the successful Jewish American songwriter--but not quite the reality. Most top Jewish American songwriters, especially those who worked in the Broadway theater, were from families that fit in an income range from upper working class to upper middle class. Also, most Jewish Broadway composers were American born and not immigrants.
Berlin certainly never hid the fact that he was Jewish, even though he changed his name (he adopted "Berlin" because that was how his last name, Baline, was misspelled on the sheet music cover of his first published song).
Despite his rabbi father, Irving Berlin was never a religious man--although he supported Jewish causes--like the State of Israel. He was absolutely very much an American patriot--and "God Bless America" was a sincere statement of his beliefs. (The royalties to that song go to the Boys and Girls Scouts).
For Berlin, personally, Christmas was not a happy time. His second wife, and the love of his life, was a Catholic. While Berlin remained a secular Jew, he allowed his children with his second wife to be raised as Episcopalians. One of their children, a son, died very young on Christmas day in the 1920s.
Berlin celebrated Christmas with his wife and his surviving children when those children were young, but he was always reportedly sad on that day--mourning his dead child. He did not celebrate the holiday at all when his surviving children were grown-up.
Let It Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!
This song was written (1945) by the Jewish songwriting team of lyricist Sammy Cahn (1913-1993) and music composer Jule Styne (1905-1994).
In the 1950s, probably half of all Americans would recognize the names of this songwriting duo. Previews of coming movies would actually sometimes say that the film featured a Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne tune--and that tune would usually end up high on the "hit parade."
Cahn won the Oscar for best song four times: once with Styne, and three times with composer Jimmy Van Heusen, who wasn't Jewish.
Cahn was born Sammy Cohen on the Lower East Side of New York, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants. He changed his name from Cohen to Kahn to Cahn--to avoid being confused with a popular entertainer of the day with a similar name and, then, a songwriter with a similar name.
Jule Styne was born in London to Jewish parents from the Ukraine. His family moved to Chicago when he was 8. He is best known as a top Broadway and movie musical composer and the list of the great shows he wrote is staggering. Maybe the biggest are: "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "Peter Pan," "Bells are Ringing," "Gypsy" and "Funny Girl."
Cahn and Styne also wrote "The Christmas Waltz." That tune has appeared in past years on the ASCAP top 25. But it is not one of the 2006 ASCAP top 25.
Sleigh Ride
Composer Leroy Anderson wasn't Jewish, but lyricist Mitchell Parish (1900-1993) was.
Parish was born Michael Hyman Pashelinsky in Lithuania, but his family moved to Lousiana and settled in Shreveport when he was an infant. (I don't know if living in Lousiana inspired the name change to "parish"--the term used for counties in Lousiana.)
Parish's family moved to New York City when he was about six and he got his education, through college, in New York. For decades, he was a leading lyricist.
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, Holly Jolly Christmas
Johnny Marks (1909-1985), who was Jewish, was an interesting man, but his main claim to fame is writing three of the most popular Christmas songs of all-time.
Marks was born in a New York City suburb and graduated from prestigious Colgate University before going off to Paris to study music. Besides writing songs, Marks was a prominent radio producer. He had a heroic World War II combat record, winning the Bronze Star and four battle stars.
Marks also served as President of ASCAP and my friend, composer Ervin Drake, got to know him in that capacity (Drake served as ASCAP president some years after Marks). Drake confirmed to me that Marks was Jewish--and he helped me with a few other songwriters on this list that he knew personally and knew to be Jewish.
The full story of how "Rudolph" came to be is laid out in detail in this article. In short, Marks' brother-in-law, Robert May, who I think was Jewish--but I am not sure---invented Rudolph.
It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
The Jewish composer, George Wyle (1917-2003), was born Bernard Weissman in New York City, got his start playing piano in the Catskills and moved to Los Angeles in 1946 to write and conduct music for the Alan Young Radio Show.
He is also famous for writing the music to the theme song for "Gilligan's Island," the endlessly popular '60s TV show. (The lyrics to that tune were by Sherwood Schwartz, the show's Jewish creator).
Wyle's grandson is Adam Levy, a very talented guitarist who is best known for playing guitar in singer Norah Jones' band. He is also a composer and recording artist in his own right. His grandfather, he says, was an important influence on him.
l'll Be Home For Christmas
Walter Kent, who wrote the music, and Buck Ram, who co-wrote the lyrics with Kim Gannon, were Jewish. "I'll Be Home," like "White Christmas," was first sung by Bing Crosby and released (1943) during World War II. Like "White Christmas," it hit a nerve among those separated from their loved ones, and was an instant hit and holiday classic.
There is a legal dispute about this song. In short, Buck Ram, who was born Samuel Ram, wrote a poem--later a song--with the title "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Maybe Kent and Gannon saw Ram's version before they wrote their song and maybe they didn't.
In any event, Kent and Gannon wrote the song we all know--which bears little relationship to the song Ram wrote, except for the title. But Ram felt he deserved a writing credit--he sued--and he got a co-writing credit.
Silver Bells
This song was written (1951) for The Lemon Drop Kid, a Bob Hope movie.
Jay Livingston, who wrote the music, and Ray Evans, who wrote the lyrics, were a famous (Jewish) songwriting team with many big hits to their credit. Livingston (1915-2001) was born Jacob Levinson in a small industrial suburb of Pittsburgh.
Evans (born 1915) was born in Salamanca, a small city not that far from Buffalo, New York. He went to the Univ. of Pennsylvania, as did Jay Livingston, and the two met when they joined the University dance band.
They formed their songwriting partnership in 1937 and it endured until Livingston's death. (By all accounts, these two guys were like brothers and Evans was absolutely devastated by Livingston's death.)
According to ASCAP, the most popular (most current airplay) version of "Silver Bells" is the one by saxophonist Kenny G, who is Jewish.
Do They Know It's Christmas? (Feed the World)
Written by Midge Ure and Bob Geldof, this is the newest song on the list, was composed in 1984 for the "Live Aid" concert.
Rock musician Bob Geldof, who is now more famous as a humanitarian than a musician, was raised a Roman Catholic.
While I wouldn't call Geldof a "Jewish songwriter," he has some Jewish ancestry--apparently a Jewish grandparent. He told Hello magazine in 2002: "I'm Irish. My grandparents were Belgian, German, English and Irish. They were Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. I married a Welsh woman. We had English children. I live with a French girl. I luckily have flats in London, Paris and Rome."
There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays
I am still researching Bob Allen, a talented songwriter who is now deceased. This song's lyricist, Al Stillman (1906-c.1986), was Jewish.
Stillman being Jewish was confirmed, to me, by composer Ervin Drake. Stillman was one of Drake's co-writers on the lovely song, "I Believe." (A song that appears on many Christmas albums).
Al Stillman was born in New York and was a writer for Radio City Music Hall for 40 years. He had several other big hits, which are listed on this biography. Mr. Drake tells me that he was not a practicing Jew.
Santa Baby
This song was mostly written by Joan Ellen Javits (born 1928), and was first recorded by Eartha Kitt back in 1953. Madonna's 1987 version has proven popular enough to put this tune into the top 25.
Joan Javits, who is Jewish, was kind of a one-hit wonder so not that much is "out there" on her post-Santa Baby career. Joan is the niece of the late (Jewish) Senator Jacob Javits, a Republican who represented New York State from 1956 to 1981 and had a very distinguished career. Joan's father, Ben, was a prominent attorney and he was very important to the career of his brother, Jacob Javits.
I couldn't find any real biographical material on Philip and Tony Springer, who wrote the lyrics.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Oy vey and pass the grits Elvis and Earp's Jewish Connection

Taken from the site:

Starr Secrets
Down and Dirty Truths About Today and Yesteryear's Celebrities

Friday, June 09, 2006

Can you imagine Elvis with a yarmulke in his back pocket and a Jewish grandmother in the family tree? Or the legendary lawman Wyatt Earp going from the infamous gun battle at the OK Corral to his Orthodox Jewish in-laws for Passover sedar?Oy vey and pass the grits, IT’S TRUE!Elvis and Wyatt Earp had much in common. The main women in their lives, Elvis’ mother and Wyatt’s wife of 50 years, shared a Jewish heritage.The Crime Czar of the Old West and the King of Rock ‘n Roll both had rebellious streaks: sometimes self-destructive, often glorious. Their affectionate connection to Jews, not popular in the Ku Klux Klan infested south of the ‘50s or in the fundamentalist Christian Old West, brought out the greatness in both men.Elvis loved no one more in this world than his mother, Gladys, whose great grandmother, Nancy Tacket, was Jewish. While his mother was fascinated by her Jewish heritage, she warned the young Elvis to keep it quiet because, “People don’t like Jews.”As a teenager, Elvis lived in a Jewish area of Memphis, downstairs from a rabbi and his wife. She recalled: “He was about 15 years old and we got along beautifully. He was such a nice boy, such manners. He called my husband Sir Rabbi.”The young Elvis always carried a yarmulke in his back pocket and had Sabbath dinner once a month with the rabbi and his wife. He loved the matzo ball soup and the challah egg bread. Years later, his beloved longtime black cook, Alvena Roy, would make his favorite meal: kosher peanut butter & banana sandwiches on challah bread.When our friends, the late Hollywood screenwriters Lois & Arnold Peyser, were on set with Elvis during the filming of their movie, “The Trouble with Girls”, they recalled that a super polite Elvis insisted on calling them “sir” and “ma’am”. The young star was deeply spiritual and had a profound interest in all things Jewish. The Peysers always waxed rhapsodic about Elvis. They loved and respected him, and kept Elvis keepsakes in their living room until they died.Elvis personally designed his mother’s gravesite, adding a Star of David to her tombstone. She wore her Jewish heritage with pride and her son honored that. Later in life, Elvis learned more about Judaism through his hairdresser, Larry Geller, who also taught Elvis the Hebrew alphabet. Elvis also dabbled in the metaphysical, he loved Edgar Cayce. During the last year of his life (1977), the rock god wore a Chai necklace in honor of the Jewish belief that life is to be treasured. A typical Jewish toast is “L’chayim, to life.”The Memphis Jewish Welfare League would send a delegation to Graceland each year for contributions. He religiously gave $1,000 to each group. When he was told that the Memphis Hebrew Academy took care of poor Jews and orphans, Elvis made out a check,the equivalent in today’s dollars: a million bucks! The Academy thought he made a mistake. “I didn’t make a mistake. I know what I’m doing,” Elvis said softly.Wyatt Earp’s Jewish connection led to his burial not on Boot Hill in Tombstone, as befits an Old West legend, but in an exclusive Jewish cemetery outside San Francisco. Seems the hard living lawman fell just as hard for a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn named Josie Marcus. She also happened to be a rebellious, gorgeous actress.Her Orthodox Jewish parents, like Elvis’ rabbi neighbor in Memphis, also observed the Friday night Sabbath by lighting shabbus candles and saying Hebrew prayers. The famous frontier legend lived with his Jewish-in-laws for awhile and found it “warm and relaxing.”Though Elvis & Wyatt Earp enjoyed a kingly status in their chosen professions, unfortunately they were also Kings of Denial in their private lives.Elvis, a prescription drug addict, went on a whim to the Nixon White House in 1970 LOADED in a couple of ways. The King told the President he wanted to be a part of the war on drugs and insisted on Federal Agent credentials. “There isn’t much I wouldn’t give up for one of those,” Elvis once said. The Secret Service insisted that he and his posse first check their guns at the door. Then the President of the United States gave the most famous druggie in the world a badge designating him an officer of the Federal Drug Enforcement Bureau. Elvis rocked Nixon’s world with a Colt .45, now on display at the Presidential Library.Elvis had hundreds of honorary law enforcement badges and guns in a private collection at Graceland. His shooting up TV sets when he disagreed with a program is so legendary that one of the shattered TVs is on exhibit in a Tennessee museum. His medicine chest was an at-home superstore pharmacy containing thousands of prescribed pills from Demerol to Percodan to Oxycodine.Wyatt, not to be outdone by Elvis, also liked badges and guns and mind-altering substances. Deputy Earp pistol-whipped armed cowboys BEFORE they could contest the law against carrying firearms in town. The Buntline Special, a long barreled gun, was made expressly for him. Like Elvis, he knew first hand about drug addiction. His second “wife”, an ex-prostitute named Mattie Blaylock, overdosed after a night of booze and an opium based drug, laudanum, dead at 38.Though never a full sheriff or marshal in Tombstone or Dodge City or anywhere else, Earp managed to get himself badges through deputization and other means to make his mark as an extraordinary lawman.During this time, Wyatt’s boozing often got him in trouble. During his stints as a lawman (1870-90), Wyatt Earp was arrested as a horse thief and jumped bail. He once lived in a whorehouse and again found himself under arrest. As a private citizen, he was fined $l for slapping a muscular hooker named Frankie.In a parallel to Elvis’ vigilante anti-drug crusade, the equally hypocritical Earp became an expert on drunks and their unlawful, loutish behavior in the prairie towns of the Old West. All the while he owned many of the saloons where the cowboys got plastered. Marshal Earp’s coterie of hired barroom cuties plied them with drinks and promises of x-rated things to come.Still, only Wyatt could bring peace and earn the respect of the drunken, armed cowboys letting off steam after a long, hard cattle drive. The unchecked havoc stopped when the new sheriff in town, the ersatz Earp, showed up.Just as Elvis had his Memphis Mafia, who shared karate kicks and shot TVs stone cold dead, Earp had his own Mob posse: Doc Holliday, a dentist who spent more time boozing and gambling than tickling the ivories, Bat Masterson, a lawman colleague from Dodge City, who ended up a sports columnist and boxing promoter in New York, and Wyatt’s three brothers. They loved gambling, drinking, and occasional gunplay. Wyatt Earp and his buddies shot it out with the Clantons at the famous OK Corral gunfight and because of this historic piece of rough housing, became part of Old West folklore.His wife Josie heard the shots at the OK Corral and wondered if Wyatt Earp had met a violent end.“I almost swooned when I saw Wyatt’s tall figure very much alive. Can you imagine my real relief at seeing my love alive,” she sighed.Josie stayed with Wyatt Earp for fifty years as his wife, though no marriage certificate is on record anywhere. Throughout their years together, they moved around the country: On the run from the law. Relocating to new silver and gold mining boomtowns to invest in mines and real estate. Operating saloons and gambling parlors from Alaska to Idaho.Finally, Marshal Earp & his Jewish bride moved to southern California in the ‘20s, where they lived on their spoils from gambling and real estate speculation. Josie insured Wyatt’s legendary status in the annals of Old West folklore by writing a Hollywood screenplay. Tinseltown didn’t bite, but a journalist used it to write a bestselling biography, and the rest is history. Wyatt never had the Hollywood career he hoped for, but served as a technical advisor on silent Westerns. Elvis, on the other hand, had an enduring, if undistinguished, movie career.Josie buried her beloved Wyatt in her family’s plot in the Jewish cemetery in Colma. The Old West lawman lies in eternal peace amid Goldbergs, Schwartzes and Weinsteins, and tombstones with Stars of David and menorahs etched on them.Three headstones adorn Wyatt’s burial plot: his, Josie’s and a guy named Max Weiss. Given Wyatt’s proclivity for gambling, we can only guess that Max must’ve been his bookie. It’s heartwarming to see all the cowboys and rednecks that now make the pilgrimage to visit Marshal Earp at his Jewish necropolis.The dueling tales of Elvis and Wyatt Earp show us that everything and everybody and everyplace in every era are connected by the gossamer strands of light on the cosmic golden web. Elvis and the Old West lawman embraced ALL people and knew the most important law of all. We’re all related and we’re all in this together.If you still need proof, consider this: The energy of white light contains all the colors of the spectrum within it. When we shine light through a prism, all the colors of the rainbow are revealed. When we pass the colors of the rainbow back through the prism, we get white light.Yes, we are all related and we are all one in this Technicolor world.(c)2006, Sistarrs InternationalExcerpt from “The 12 Spiritual Secrets of Beverly Hills”(c)1999. 2006, the Starr Sisters
Posted by The Starr Sisters of Malibu at 1:11 AM

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Jewish Brothers Paint Their Masterpiece

I took this from the Jewish Journal:
A moral dilemma -- 'No Country for Old Men'
By Jason Berger, Tribe Contributor

The world is rapidly changing. Whether it be the greedy nature of mankind or the constantly upgraded weaponry, the world is evolving for better or for worse. This idea sets up the mainframe for the highly acclaimed new feature film, "No Country for Old Men," a film that not only delves into the depths of human nature, but also poses a serious question: Do we, as human beings, have the capability to prevail against the evil way in which the world often works? The complex dilemma that is at the center of this film not only provokes thought, but also raises questions about what it means to be a Jew, and for that matter, what it means to be a human being.The film is based on Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same title (spoiler alert -- this analysis reveals details about the story's end). While the movie stays fairly true to its original source, it is the directors' unique use of stylish cinematography and attention to detail that make the film such a mind-boggling piece of art. It is directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (often referenced as "The Coen Brothers"), Jewish siblings whose renowned films range from bizarrely comedic -- such as "The Big Lebowski" and "O' Brother, Where Art Thou?" -- to psychologically dramatic, such as "Barton Fink" and "Fargo." It is rather evident that "No Country" belongs in the latter of these two categories.The film is about a man named Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong near the Rio Grande. He decides to keep the loot and returns to his trailer park home. Unfortunately, the party in search of the missing cash finds out that Llewelyn is responsible for its absence and hires Anton Chigurh (Anthony Bardem) to hunt him down. What follows is an extremely intense game of cat and mouse. However, even though Moss and Chigurh have the most screen time, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is the most essential character in comprehending the film's overall meaning.Bell is an aging police officer who is not only attempting to resolve the situation and protect Moss from the mess he has gotten himself into, but also is beginning to feel as if the world today is no place for a man of his kind (thus the title, "No Country for Old Men"). Toward the end of the film, Bell finds himself in a situation where he can finally catch Chigurh. Instead, he allows Chigurh to flee. One would assume that Bell's neglecting to even attempt to prevent Chigurh's escape was due to his realization that he could not change the way the world had become. He felt that even if he were to catch Chigurh, it wouldn't correct the world of violence. People would continue to commit horrendous crimes, and there is nothing he could do about it. Soon after this, Bell retires. He basically gives up on humanity. This then poses the question: Is there any chance of reforming the inhumane ways in which the world now works, or did Bell make the right choice in giving up on mankind? The answer is, presumably, that Bell did indeed make the wrong decision.Bell's choice has tragic results: Chigurh continues to live and viciously destroy innocent life without obstacles in his path. Not even a severe car accident (toward the film's conclusion) prevents him from continuing his existence filled with tremendous sin. In essence, giving up completely eliminates the possibility of repair. This idea is not only the essential idea of the film, but is also extremely important in understanding the principals of Judaism and tikkun olam.The fundamental ideas of being a Jew revolve around helping others and performing good deeds. If Jews were suddenly to decide to give up on humanity and discontinue their performance of mitzvot with the assumption that the world is hopeless, the results would be similar to the result of the film. Without the performance of kindness, the world will be doomed with permanent misery. It may be exceedingly difficult to fathom the idea of the world changing. Whether it be by combating crime, poverty or sickness, one must do everything one can to ensure that humankind never falls into oblivion. However, it is extraordinarily important that people understand that the world cannot completely be changed. Evil will always exist and never be completely eliminated. All we can do is continue to perform mitzvot and participate in the world of kindness. Though this will not completely alter the way the world works, it will certainly prevent the world from ever becoming hopeless. These ideals of everlasting hope are the very strings that hold society together.

Jews and the Simpsons

Sephardic Tradition and "The Simpsons" Connections
By Richard Kalman & Josh Belkin
The Sephardic Tradition encompasses the culture of the Jews who descended from Spain prior to the expulsion in 1492. However, a broader interpretation also includes Jews who originated from Turkey, Greece, Italy, England, the Ottoman Empire and other lands. The tradition today has come to include not only those with geographic ties, but also those with links to the fascinating culture. Many Jews know that Sephardim eat rice and beans on Pesach, and know of the unique torah trope of the tradition, but little else. However, many Jews, and even non-Jews are exposed to aspects of the Sephardic tradition and culture without even knowing it.
Ever since the late 1950's, America has been fascinated by pop culture. From Andy Warhol's eccentric artwork to Britney Spears, pop culture has reflected the times and ideas of generations past in a convenient, easy to understand fashion. Today, pop culture can be found in the form of the Internet, radio, movies, or television. While their methods are extremely efficient, only television is able to offer a visual as well as audio component that is free and easy to access. Often pop culture is criticized because it lacks intelligence and stereotypically portrays much of society, but this does not hold true for all facets of pop culture. For example, "The Simpsons," the longest running primetime animated show, has often been praised for being one of the most intelligent and provocative television programs on the air. Although many discount "The Simpsons," simply because it is a cartoon, this portion of the population is blinded to the high "plane" the show operates on. Aside to references to famous authors and philosophers like Marx, Kant, Twain, and Hemingway, "The Simpsons" also displays a knowledge of the Sephardic tradition that would make Rabbi Moses ben Maimon blush.
The creators of "The Simpsons" know that they have a powerful effect on their audience and have the opportunity to impart some wisdom onto their faithful cadre of fans. Much of this knowledge comes from the teachings of the Jewish faith. Long time writer Mike Reiss says, "There have always been a lot of Jewish writers on 'The Simpsons" (Pinsky 109). For example, self-proclaimed Sephardic Jew Hank Azaria not only writes for the show but also lends his voice to numerous characters such as Apu, Professor Frink, and Moe. Writers like Azaria have deftly incorporated Jewish wisdom into various episodes, much of which includes aspects of the Sephardic tradition.
The Simpson family, which the show places into various situations each episode has a broad range of personality traits in each of the characters. First off, there is the father Homer, who has a deep passion for life, as well as food. His judgment is often poor, but he usually means well, especially in regards to his family. His wife Marge has large blue hair, and holds the family together through her unending dedication to her job as a homemaker. They have three children: Bart is the young troublemaker who always causes a ruckus, while Lisa represents high intellectualism and morals, even though she is only eight years old. The baby Maggie never speaks, but observes all the ordeals the family goes through. The Simpsons live in Springfield, a diverse town that is the setting for the series. The use of the town and recurring characters in each episode creates a virtual community, with people of all races, classes, religions and traditions. However, this diverse setting often leads to culture wars and clashes between the townspeople.
All too often in world history, when nations experience internal strife, leaders are quick to blame a distinguishable group for the problems. The Spanish Inquisition was instituted to rid the country of individuals whom they believed to be causing Spain's rapid decline. In fact, Spain was losing many of its colonies throughout the world, achieving a smaller sphere of influence, and its source of wealth was drying up. The gold and silver they counted on from foreign lands ran out, and the country entered difficult economic times. "The Jew became the scapegoat of all misfortune, economic or otherwise" (Mowbray). The events of the inquisition forever changed the traditions and roles of Sephardic Jews. No longer was there a Golden Age, where Jewish thought and life flourished. Instead, Jews felt unwelcome and were persecuted because of their identity. The effects of Jews being used as scapegoats for societal problems can be seen today in the Sephardic tradition. Lessons from this can be learned, with the hope that something of this nature will not happen again.
The horror and shear unfairness of the expulsion of Jews from Spain was demonstrated in a 1996 episode of "The Simpsons." The details of the show have a striking resemblance to the situation Jews encountered during the Spanish Inquisition. In the episode "Much Apu About Nothing," citizens of Springfield are unhappy with the high rate of taxes, and the government leader, Mayor Quimby, blames the economic problem on illegal immigrants. This is a sharp parallel to the Inquisition, during which the government leaders, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, blamed the troubles of Spain, including economic problems, on the Jews. In the case of this "Simpsons" episode, while in fact immigrants had nothing to do with the tax increase, they were used as defenseless, powerless scapegoats, much like the Jews during the Inquisition.
Many Jews in Spain found their lives became easier once they converted to Christianity. The term "Crypto Jew" refers to a person secretly remaining faithful to Judaism while outwardly practicing another religion. In addition to the "marranos" of Spain and Portugal, crypto Jews also existed in North Africa in the 12th century. While they were officially deemed "New Christians" and were supposed to be treated as equals, considerable legislation was taken against them in Spain, Portugal, and the colonies. In addition, the brunt of the Spanish Inquisition was aimed at them (Sephardim 1146). There were considerable amounts of social, political, and economic pressures placed on Jews in Spain to convert once the 14th century rolled around (Gitlitz 4). For example, in 1348, Castillian Jews were forbidden to lend money at interest (Gilitiz 6). And as early as the mid 13th century, Christians were allowed to enter temples and attempt to persuade Jews to convert as they were forced to sit and listen. In 1263, Saint Raymond of Penyafort and Nacmanides were forced to debate the reliability of the Talmud before a congregation in Barcelona (Gitlitz 4). Although no outcome was reached, a bad precedent had been set. In the 1370's, a revival of anti-Semitic literature took place in Spain and several prominent Jews converted, including Solomon Halevi, chief Rabbi of Burges, who took the name of Pablo de Santa Maria. Fueled by the inflammatory oratory of Archdeacon Martinez of Seville, who preached a holy war against the Jews, and called for the destruction of local synagogues, pogroms spread across Spain in June of 1391, followed by mass conversions. Haim Beinart said "what started in Seville in 1391 was like a spark in a forest fire" (425). Once lit, nobody could quell the anti-Semitism in Spain.
It was estimated that one third of the Jewish population of Spain was killed in the pogroms of 1391, and another third converted to Christianity (Beinart 425). Jews faced more and more hardships in Spain after this incident, culminating in the Edict of Expulsion of 1492, which forced Jews to either convert of leave the country. These extremely difficult circumstances forced a significant percentage of Jews to take on the Christian faith.
Conversos came in two categories: those who wished to mend into Christian society and erase their Jewish past and those who sought to preserve as much of their heritage with as few alterations as possible. This latter form is what is now almost romantically referred to as the crypto Jew. Some noteworthy changes include the shift from yeshiva education to being taught by one's family members, an obligation taken very seriously (Gitlitz 217).
If anyone truly understands the difficulties of living one way, and believing something completely different, it is "Simpsons" character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon (voiced by Azaria). Apu was born in Ramatur, Pakistan and attended Calcutta Technical Institute (CalTech) where he graduated valedictorian of his class of seven million. After several years, he completed his Ph.D. thesis and then found work at Springfield's Kwik-E-Mart (a spoof of 7-11 convenience stores). Apu is a devout Hindu, but has been forced to hide his religious identity in order to be accepted by his peers. He adorns a cowboy hat to cover up his traditional Indian locks and at times even tried to feign interest in baseball, America's national pastime. When Apu replaces his statue of the Hindu god Genisha with a stack on Entertainment Weekly magazines, Homer asks why Apu made the change, to which he responds "Oh, who needs the infinite compassion of Genisha when I have Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman staring at me with their dead eyes!" The obvious frustration felt by Apu here is typical of what many crypto Jews felt in Spain. Apu curses himself for letting down his family, "I've betrayed my Indian heritage, sir. What would my parents say?" This must have been a feeling that many crypto Jews were forced to get used to in order to remain in Spain.
The same can be said of the life of the character Waylon Smithers. Smithers is a closet homosexual, and is forced to forever hide this aspect of his life from his peers to gain their acceptance. He carries a picture of his boss Mr. Burns, with whom he is infatuated, in his wallet alongside his dog. He even has dreams of Mr. Burns flying into bed with him. Yet every opportunity he has to declare his true self, Smithers reluctantly holds back. In the episode entitled "Bart's Inner Child," Smithers actually musters up the courage to tell Mr. Burns that he loves him at the first "Do What You Feel Festival," but quickly covers his tracks by adding "… in those colors!" This idea of hiding one's true identity is very much related to the Sephardic crypto tradition, and brought up repeatedly in "The Simpsons."
According to David Gitlitz, in spite of the attempts of crypto Jews, most of these conversos had been completely assimilated by the end of the 17th century (Gitlitz x). Gitlitz say that the meager remnants that resurfaced in the 20th century are the exception to the rule. There is evidence to suggest that the writers portray the Simpson family as crypto Jews of the assimilated nature, so much so that they no longer know their true identity. Mark Pinsky, author of The Gospel According To The Simpsons, argues that "The Simpsons from time to time suggest an underlying element of what might be called crypto-Judaism" (121). For example, a menorah is found in the Simpsons' storage closet, with no explanation. Also, Homer's father Abe, is portrayed as the quintessential Jewish grandfather, always complaining and boring his family with stories of "the old country."
In addition to crypto-Jewry, the Sephardic tradition is based heavily on enjoying life and taking care of oneself while doing so. For example, poems by Sephardic writers such as Moses ibn Ezra convey the importance of living life to its fullest. "Immerse your heart in pleasure and in joy," he writes. Another poem by Rufina Bernardetti, a Sephardic-American, expresses the importance of living with a vivacious spirit in Sephardic culture. "With the wholeness of spirit that is victorious we once more can share the essence and purity of life as Jews from Sepharad". These writings begin to encompass what the Sephardic tradition means in today's world.
"The Simpsons" demonstrate the concept of living life to its fullest routinely, especially through Homer's actions. While simply a working class family man, over the years Homer has managed to accomplish many things including winning a Grammy award, traveling to outer space, climbing the highest mountain in town, doing undercover work for the police, and meeting Presidents Ford, Carter, Bush, and Clinton. He has a sensational passion for life. "I want it all! The terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles" (Irwin 7). Homer's ambition and thirst for excitement allows him to live a fulfilling life, which other characters take pride in. His next-door neighbor, Ned Flanders, labels Homer as having an "intoxicating lust for life" (Irwin 20).
While Homer does many life-rewarding things, he also does many things that go against the Sephardic tradition. All too often he contradicts the teachings of Maimonides and other Sephardic thinkers, which leads to visible negative effects. He has a hedonistic lifestyle, which is the flaw that prevents him from greatness. In the episode "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken," Homer's favorite baseball team wins the pennant, and he celebrates with heavy drinking, which leads him to destroy the local school. Homer enjoyed drink, as ibn Ezra's poem dictates, but he did so to the point of excess where Maimonides would not be pleased with his actions. "Food should not be taken to repletion," he says (Minkin 382). Homer also eats to excess on many other occasions, which causes him physical harm, and creates problems for himself and his family. In order to qualify for disability and be able to work from home, Homer intentionally eats to gain weight His plan backfires, and he loses the respect of his family and friends when he does damage to his body. Other examples of Homer's hedonism are demonstrated by his eating to the point of sickness. After eating expired canned meat, Homer returns to the store to complain, where he is quick to accept ten pounds of moldy seafood as an apology, which only makes him sicker. In yet again another situation, Homer eats a steak so large that another person who he coerces into eating it with him has a heart attack. Obviously, Homer in this case did not follow Maimonides' instructions to eat one-third less than the quantity that would make one feel full (Minkin 382).
Maimonides also incorporates his advice about other topics of health and hygiene into the Sephardic tradition. When giving the rules for proper rest and sleeping, he insists, "one should not sleep during the day" (Minkin 383). Meanwhile, Homer is routinely shown asleep on the job throughout the day. While this goes against what Maimonides taught, at the same time, these actions are fulfilling and gratifying to his lifestyle, which is encouraged by the tradition. Homer's characteristics and actions have been assimilated into American culture, while containing Sephardic themes and traditions, unbeknownst to many.
Good health is a prerequisite for another important part of the Sephardic tradition: education. According to Maimonides, the highest goal that one can hope to attain is the perfection of the mind. As he noted in The Guide to the Perplexed, "the true perfection of man [is] the possession of the highest intellectual faculties" (Minkin 417). For Maimonides, the ultimate aim of education was to achieve knowledge of G-d through the Torah, but he and his Sephardic peers never underestimated the importance of learning in other areas. This stress on education of secular subjects as well as religious topics allowed the Sephardic Jews privileged enough to live in the Golden Age of Spain to contribute to a wide array of matters. According to Solomon David Sassoon, "all fields of intellectual endeavor such as medicine, mathematics, philosophy, grammar, poetry, ethics Talmud and mysticism…were widely deepened by the Jews of Spain" (Sassoon 7).
Aspects of the Sephardic style of education can be seen clearly in "The Simpsons" upon careful inspection. According to Maimonides, every province is responsible for the education of its youth, and the penalty of neglecting this duty is excommunication (Minkin 286). This responsibility is undertaken by the people of Springfield in the episode titled "The PTA Disbands" (Richmond 172). When Principal Skinner is forced to cut back funding for school supplies and teachers' salaries, the teachers decide to call a strike. Instead of panicking and having children run wild through the streets, members of the community step forward and take the teachers' place until an agreement can be met. The eccentric Professor Frink (also voiced by Azaria) teaches his nursery school class the physics behind many of their beloved toys and Marge Simpson lectures to Bart's class on geography.
"The Simpsons" often utilizes the technique known as irony to illustrate a particular message. In short, by showing one thing, the writers hope to preach the very opposite. This is the case with the teachers of Springfield Elementary School. They show the teachers in a certain light, and because the viewer ridicules this presentation, they tend to agree with the opposite. Maimonides preaches for teachers to have patience with their disciples, as he said "If the teacher taught and his pupil did not understand he should not be angry with them or fall into a rage, but should repeat the lesson again and again till they have grasped the full meaning" (Minkin 288). In "Summer of 4 ft. 2," Mrs. Hoover, a second grade teacher, is speaking about the Abraham Lincoln assassination when she finds that she is under time pressure. When one of her students is perplexed about the situation and asks, "Was president Lincoln ok?" Hoover angrily and sarcastically remarks that President Lincoln was fine, in order to leave sooner. The writers behind "The Simpsons" are preaching that a certain degree of patience is necessary for a teacher to be effective, in agreement with Maimonides. Another example of this frustration expressed openly by faculty members of Springfield Elementary occurs when Principal Skinner blurts out "You and I both know these children have no future!" to a lunchroom filled with students (Richmond 172). Neither Maimonides nor any self-respecting Sephardic teacher would ever approve of such outrageous display.
Maimonides also states that a pupil should have a great deal of respect for his teacher, as he wrote "he is under obligation to honor and revere his teacher, even to a greater extent than to his father; for his father gave him life in this world, while his teacher who instructs wisdom, secures for him life in the world to come." (Minkin 289). Bart Simpson, who can be seen as the yetzer ha-ra personified, shows no respect for his teachers, and thus damages his ability to learn. In the episode entitled "Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie," we learn that Bart once replaced his teacher's birth control pills with tic-tacs, and in "Bart The Lover" he forged love letters to her. Bart spends most of his time getting into mischief rather than studying. This could be perhaps traced back to his lack of respect for his teacher. Bart consistently gets bad grades, dreads school, and has no desire to learn. These are the dangers that Maimonides was warning about when the proper method of education is not implemented.
A typical curriculum for a Jewish boy in 13th century Spain was divided into three sections, the first being bible and Talmud, the second being ethical and philosophical works, and the third being scientific studies such as logic, astronomy, physics and metaphysics and mathematics (Sassoon 8-9). These diverse topics of study helped Sephardic Jews grow up to be great thinkers. Unfortunately, the students at Springfield Elementary don't have the same luxuries. All of the writers on "The Simpsons" have gone to great undergraduate and graduate universities, over 21 of who hail from Harvard, and thus know the importance of a diverse education. This is displayed by showing the opposite of the ideal at Bart and Lisa's school. For example, they only books the school can afford are ones banned by other schools like, Tek War and The Satanic Verses. The fourth grade teacher Ms. Edna Krabappel and Principal Seymour Skinner also take little care in finding diverse material to teach their pupils. Instead, in "Grade School Confidential," Skinner admits that he loves working at an elementary school because "The children will believe anything you tell them."
The hope of the Sephardic community in providing a diverse education was to mold an adult who was adept at many things. The term often used today for such a person is "Renaissance man," but aside from people like Leonardo da Vinci who had exceptional talents in a range of fields, many Sephardic Jews also fit this category. This Sephardic versatility is now indicative of the tradition. For example, many great Rabbis were also physicians, such as Maimonides, Nachmanides, and Rabbenu Nissim ben Reuben. Others were statesman-scholars, such as Isaac Abravanel, who was Ferdinand and Isabella's treasurer as well as the author of some very popular biblical commentary (Sassoon 23). In addition, many Sephardic poets were also well known in other spheres, such as Samuel ha-Nagid, who was a commander in the military, grand vizier to Grenada, grocery store owner, and halachist.
This Sephardic tradition is kept alive in Lisa Simpson, the brilliant and talented middle child of the Simpson family. Many of the members of the Springfield community have questionable morals and talents, but not Lisa. She is far and away the most respectable character. "Lisa, is not only pro-intellectual, she is smart beyond her years. She is extremely intelligent and sophisticated, and is often seen out-thinking those around her." (Irwin 26). Aside, from her immense knowledge of history, mathematics, and the sciences, Lisa is also an accomplished musician. She plays the saxophone for her school band, and also plays the bass, bongo drums, didgeridoo and acoustic guitar. In addition, she is a skillful horse back rider and at one time took care of a pony of her own. Lisa is also politically active. In "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington," she exposes a corrupt congressman for taking bribes (Richmond 63). Lisa is a devoted feminist. In "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy," she creates a doll of her own for little girls to respect as opposed to the popular "Barbie" like Malibu Stacy, which is nothing more then a chauvinistic male stereotype. Finally, Lisa is a devoted sister and daughter who loves her family very much, and while she may be the classic "overachiever," she nevertheless remains the model of Sephardic versatility.
Even though many of the traditions of Sephardic culture were created generations ago, it still lives on today. The Sephardic tradition has come a long way from the days of the Inquisition, where people had to hide their roots, to today's modern culture, where it is ubiquitous. Nowadays, one of the country's most popular television shows overtly displays numerous facets of Sephardic culture. "The Simpsons" has an audience that ranges from young children to adults, and affects viewers on many levels. Countless viewers take what they see on the show and make it part of their lifestyle, which invigorates Sephardic thoughts and teachings into society. In this case, life is truly imitating art.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

First Jewish President of the US?

I was listening to talk radio the other day when the host made a comment about how George Allen could have been the Republican front runner for pres in '08 had he not made his "Makaka" comment so early. Apparently he was one of the first to come out against immigration but his timing was off since it had not gained the momentum in 2006 that it now has with American voters. And had he not gaffed maybe he could have been president thus making him the first Jewish president of the US. You see even though he didn't know it till last year but his mother was born Jewish and in the Jewish religion as the mother goes so goes the children. Lets take a trip down memory lane back to Sept 2006.

Allen's Mother Revealed Jewish Heritage to Him Last Month
Michael D. ShearWashington Post Staff WriterThursday, September 21, 2006; Page A01
RICHMOND, Sept. 20 -- Henrietta "Etty" Allen said Wednesday that she concealed her upbringing as a Jew in North Africa from her children, including Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), until a conversation across the dining room table in late August.
She said Allen asked her directly about his Jewish heritage when he was in Los Angeles for a fundraiser. "We sat across the table and he said, 'Mom, there's a rumor that Pop-pop and Mom-mom were Jewish and so were you,' " she recalled, a day after Allen issued a statement acknowledging and embracing his Jewish roots as he campaigns for a second term in the U.S. Senate.
At the table in Palos Verdes, Calif., Allen's mother, who is 83, said she told her son the truth: That she had been raised as a Jew in Tunisia before moving to the United States. She said that she and the senator's father, famed former Redskins coach George Allen, had wanted to protect their children from living with the fear that she had experienced during World War II. Her father, Felix Lumbroso, was imprisoned by the Nazis during the German occupation of Tunis.
"What they put my father through. I always was fearful," Etty Allen said in a telephone interview. "I didn't want my children to have to go through that fear all the time. When I told Georgie, I said, 'Now you don't love me anymore.' He said, 'Mom, I respect you more than ever.' "
Allen's heritage became an issue in the Virginia Senate campaign Monday, when television reporter Peggy Fox raised it at a televised debate in front of 600 business executives in Fairfax County. Allen repeated what he has said in the past: "My mother's French-Italian with a little Spanish blood in her. And I was raised as she was, as far as I know, raised as a Christian."
In fact, Allen had just recently learned about their Jewish roots when he made those comments. Allen declined to comment, but his mother said she had sworn him to secrecy.
"I said, well, I just didn't want anyone to know," she explained. "I had said, 'Please don't tell your brothers and sister and your wife.' The fact this is such an issue justifies my actions, and my behavior."
For Allen, the 2006 campaign was supposed to have been a coronation -- an easy reelection to a second term in the Senate and a springboard to national prominence and a possible presidential campaign in 2008. Instead, the last six weeks have become a nightmare for his political consultants and a source of material for late-night comedians.
And for the past three days, he has been forced to deal publicly with a very private matter.
Allen's Jewish heritage has been a subject of low-level political speculation for years, in part because the former governor and first-term senator often refers to his grandfather's incarceration by the Nazis in political speeches. But Allen has always said Lumbroso was a member of the Free French resistance movement and insisted that he and his mother were raised as Christians.
Fox has said her question was prompted by an article in a Jewish newspaper that had explored his heritage last month.
"You've been quoted as saying your mother's not Jewish, but it had been reported her father, your grandfather Felix, whom you were given your middle name for, was Jewish," Fox asked Allen. "Could you please tell us whether your forebearers include Jews, and if so, at which point Jewish identity might have ended?"

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Good Muslim News!




GOOD FAITH: Bruised new friends (from left): rescuer Hassan Askari, beating victim Walter Adler, and Adler's gal pal, Maria Parsheva, in Brooklyn yesterday.
GOOD FAITH: Bruised new friends (from left): rescuer Hassan Askari, beating victim Walter Adler, and Adler's gal pal, Maria Parsheva, in Brooklyn yesterday.
Hanukkah Holy War
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December 12, 2007 -- A Brooklyn man whose "Happy Hanukkah" greeting landed him in the hospital said he was saved from a gang of Jew-bashing goons aboard a packed Q train by a total stranger - a modest Muslim from Bangladesh.

PHOTOS: See pictures of the alleged suspects.

Walter Adler was touched that Hassan Askari jumped to his aid while a group of thugs allegedly pummeled and taunted him and his three friends. So Adler has invited his new friend over to celebrate the Festival of Lights.

The two new pals - Adler, 23, with a broken nose and a fat lip, and Askari, 20, with two black eyes - broke bread together and laughed off the bruises the night after the fisticuffs.

"A random Muslim guy jumped in and helped a Jewish guy on Hanukkah - that's a miracle," said Adler, an honors student at Hunter College.

"He's basically a hero. Hassan jumped in to help us."

But Askari, who is studying to be an accountant, shrugged off the praise.

"I just did what I had to do," he recalled. "My parents raised me that way."

Ten people were arrested in the underground attack on Friday night - including two men who have been arrested for race crimes before.

None of the suspects had been charged with a hate crime in the Q train attack as of last night, but the Brooklyn DA's Civil Rights Bureau is handling the case.

It all began when Adler, his girlfriend, Maria Parsheva, and two other pals boarded the subway at Canal Street bound for Brooklyn and someone in another group wished them "Merry Christmas."

Adler and his pal Angelica Krischanovich responded: "Happy Hanukkah."

Apparently, those were fighting words.

"They just came at us so fast. The first thing that came into my mind was, 'Yeah, this is going to be violent,' " said Parsheva, 20.

One of the group immediately hiked up his sleeve to reveal a tattoo of Christ.

"He said, 'Happy Hanukkah, that's when the Jews killed Jesus,' " said Adler.

The group of about 14 men and women then allegedly began taunting Adler and his pals as "dirty Jews" and "Jew bitches."

Amid a huge scrum, Askari jumped in.

"I'm bleeding all over the place, there's lots of people, they're fighting with Hassan still, and I'm like, why isn't anyone else doing anything?" Adler said.

He pulled the emergency brake right before entering the DeKalb Avenue station.

Police came aboard and arrested 10 people, charging six with assault and four with unlawful assembly.

One of those collared straphangers yesterday denied making anti-Semitic taunts and said his mother is Jewish.

Joseph Jirovec, 19 - the son of a city firefighter who is currently serving in Iraq - has pleaded guilty to a 2005 bias crime against blacks.

"We are not racist against Jewish people. That whole hate-crime thing is ridiculous," the Brooklyn man said.

He claims Adler's group was drunk and taunted his group, and one yelled, "We killed Jesus."

Jirovec will soon begin serving six months for his role in the attack against four men in Gerritsen Beach.

"I'm trying to stay out of trouble," he said. "When I get out, I want to go into the military."

Additional reporting by Sandra Hurley and Tatiana Deligiannakis


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rabbi responds to my email

I posted this blog a few weeks back "Churchill was Jewish? or The Day the Rabbi Screwed Up" and sent an email to the Rabbi for comment. Here is what he said:

I posted that page without vetting every assertion in it. I looked up the three you mention.

Cary Grant – There is an entirely unsubstantiated rumor that Archibald Leach (Cary Grant’s real name) was born to a Jewish seamstress who worked in his father’s factory and that his mother, Elsie, raised him as her own.

David Bowie seems to have had a Jewish or half-Jewish mother but apparently there was nothing of Judaism in his upbringing. One article I looked at said he has an interest in Kabbalah as part of a general interest in mysticism.

Robert deNiro – His mother was not Jewish but may have had some Jewish ancestry.

I found these things out using Google (e.g., “Robert deniro Jewish mother”) There was a lot of conjecture, some Nazi conspiracy theories, and obvious repition of rumors. One site that looked more accurate is http://www.adherents.com/largecom/fam_jewish_catholics.html (with some good links).

It’s really nice to know someone actually reads my blog. Maybe I should pay more attention to it. "

Rabbi Philip J. Bentley
Agudas Israel Synagogue
Hendersonville NC

Chinese Food on Christmas

Monday, December 10, 2007

Please Draft Gore..He sold out Lieberman and will sell you out as well

Gore used Lieberman when he thought it would get him the Jewish vote

but as soon as Lieberman wanted to run for Pres Gore showed him the same support as Europe showed the Jews thru history. Use them and lose them. Gore did not support Lieberman's Presidential run, and in December 2003 endorsed Howard Dean's candidacy, saying "This is about all of us and all of us need to get behind the strongest candidate."

Nothing would make the democratic race more interesting than to put Gore back where now he doesn't want to be.
You see Gore makes more money not being President than he would sitting in the Oval office. He is on the boards of companies like Microsoft and Google and has several tens of millions of dollars worth of stock for that honor but if he were to run for President he could no longer be on those boards as that would be a conflict of interest. He would not be able to do his speaking tours or book tours. It is much better for him to sit on the sidelines and criticize the Government than it would be to be running it. I have been weary of how "Green" he really is ever since his 2 terms as VP where he only passed one environmental bill and that was to prohibit the use of snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park.

This article below is taken from the blog: Nixon is in Hell (this is just a small portion of it but I took the part that focuses on his hypocrisy about his being an environmental crusader.
After reviewing the actions, and inaction, of the Clinton-Gore administration, it is hard to believe that it is the same Al Gore featured in the documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”.
Al Gore’s estate in Nashville, Tennessee
Critics of Gore’s personal lifestyle point out the gas and electric bills for the former vice president’s 10,000 square foot mansion in suburban Nashville, Tennessee. The Tennessee Center for Policy Research revealed that the gas and electric bills for the former vice president’s 20-room home and pool house used nearly 221,000 kilowatt-hours in 2006, more than 20 times the national average of 10,656 kilowatt-hours. In total, Gore paid nearly $30,000 in combined electricity and natural gas bills for his Nashville estate in 2006.
Gore also owns homes in Arlington, Virginia, and Carthage, Tennessee. To be fair, he subscribes to utility company programs offering alternatives, paying more for wind power per kilowatt-hour than energy derived from traditional sources. Gore has also installed solar panels where possible on his estates and does his utmost to make his lifestyle “carbon-neutral”.
In the final analysis, how do we reconcile Al Gore’s abysmal record as a politician with his personal convictions, (which I have no doubt are sincere)?
I think that The Independent, (London), journalist Johann Hari provides the explanation quite clearly in his article of June 1, 2006:
“The temptation for journalists is to blame it on personal moral failure. Clinton and Gore are hypocrites, liars, the old story. If only we could find a morally pure politician, everything would be okay.
The reality is less glib and more disturbing. Every American politician has to pay for their massive election campaigns, and there is one group waiting with open wallets and a few polite requests: the fossil fuel industry. Democrat or Republican, if you don’t lick the boots of the oil and gas companies, you never get the key to the White House.
This legalised bribery is often so naked that many corporations give to both parties, to ensure whoever wins is in their debt. Anybody with environmental leanings is quickly tamed - 28 gas and oil companies gave to Al Gore’s election campaign, from BP Amoco to Enron, from Exxon to Chevron. Occidental Petroleum paid for the Clinton-Gore inauguration, and stumped up an extra pounds 50,000 after Gore personally made a begging call to their CEO.
These companies own the American political process, and they are violently opposed to any moves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They can keep US politicians on a short leash, since presidents and senators are forced to spend around half their time fundraising. According to Bob Woodward, Clinton was so exasperated by this corporate-cash treadmill he once snapped: ‘We spend so much time raising money, when do we get to govern?’
Some politicians deal with this double-bind by rote-learning an ideology - neoliberalism - that says there is no conflict between the public welfare and corporate welfare. As Eisenhower’s secretary of defence, Charles Wilson, put it: ‘What’s good for General Motors is good for America.’
Al Gore is far too smart to fall for this, but he was powerless to act. When Clinton arrived in the White House in 1992, Gore lobbied him hard for the only environmentally sane solution: a broad- based energy tax that would hit the dirtiest fuel, coal, hardest, and have a knock-on effect on natural gas and petrol. Clinton agreed, with a nervous nod in the direction of his campaign contributors - but it was impossible to get it past a (Democratic) Congress also drenched in petrol.
Yet in Al Gore’s inspirational lectures on the danger we face, there is only the most fleeting of references to ‘the special interests that want us to ignore global warming’, and silence about Gore’s own dependence on them. Why doesn’t Gore mention this, the biggest brake on dealing with global warming? Because if he wants to run for President in 2008, he will have to plunge back into the petrol tank to grab some campaign funds. He cannot afford to alienate potential donors, so he cannot give a full and honest account of the problem.”
It’s not just the petroleum industry on which Al Gore would rely for funds, but a myriad of corporations dependent on cheap energy to guarantee their massive profits – businesses that hold stocks in oil companies, or are owned by them outright, including all of America’s mass media networks.

Back to his film that made him a Nobel Prize winner (right up there with Arafat and Carter) here is some of the incovenient truths about An "Inconvenient Truth"

Inaccuracies in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth
The decision by the government to distribute Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth has been the subject of a legal action by New Party member Stewart Dimmock. The Court found that the film was misleading in nine respects and that the Guidance Notes drafted by the Education Secretary’s advisors served only to exacerbate the political propaganda in the film.
In order for the film to be shown, the Government must first amend their Guidance Notes to Teachers to make clear that 1.) The Film is a political work and promotes only one side of the argument. 2.) If teachers present the Film without making this plain they may be in breach of section 406 of the Education Act 1996 and guilty of political indoctrination. 3.) Nine inaccuracies have to be specifically drawn to the attention of school children.

The inaccuracies are:
The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro evidence global warming. The Government’s expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.
The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over 650,000 years. The Court found that the film was misleading: over that period the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by 800-2000 years.
The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that it was “not possible” to attribute one-off events to global warming.
The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad and claims that this was caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.
The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice. It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.
The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream throwing Europe into an ice age: the Claimant’s evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.
The film blames global warming for species losses including coral reef bleaching. The Government could not find any evidence to support this claim.
The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration.
The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.
Not all of the inaccuracies in the film were fully considered by the court as the judge requested a sample on which to consider the case. Professor Carter's witness statement (reproduced below) lists 20 inaccuracies in the film.

Just added this article on 12/12/07:

MIT Professor Declares Gore’s
Global Warming Crusade a
‘Bait-and-Switch Scam’

By Noel Sheppard July 2, 2006 - 12:51 ET
Pardon the pun, but the concept of global warming came under some more heat today from the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, Richard S. Lindzen. Some of you might be familiar with the name Lindzen. He has been a strong antagonist to global warmingists – especially Al Gore – and wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal back in April wherein he not only contested media assertions that the Bush administration has been putting pressure on scientists to oppose climate change principles, but avowed that exactly the opposite is the case: “Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse.”
Well, Lindzen wrote another WSJ op-ed published on Sunday entitled “Don't Believe the Hype,” with a subheading – “Al Gore is wrong. There's no ‘consensus’ on global warming.” This one further attacked the junk science involved in this theory, as well as the preposterous claim being made by Al Gore that there is actually a consensus in the scientific community about the issue:
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“Mr. Gore assures us that ‘the debate in the scientific community is over.’
“That statement, which Mr. Gore made in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, ought to have been followed by an asterisk. What exactly is this debate that Mr. Gore is referring to? Is there really a scientific community that is debating all these issues and then somehow agreeing in unison? Far from such a thing being over, it has never been clear to me what this ‘debate’ actually is in the first place.”
Lindzen then went through a meticulous examination of just how little consensus actually exists, and that any suggestion to the contrary is just a gaseous emission:
“When Mr. Stephanopoulos confronted Mr. Gore with the fact that the best estimates of rising sea levels are far less dire than he suggests in his movie, Mr. Gore defended his claims by noting that scientists ‘don't have any models that give them a high level of confidence’ one way or the other and went on to claim--in his defense--that scientists ‘don't know. . . . They just don't know.’
“So, presumably, those scientists do not belong to the ‘consensus.’"
Lindzen offered several examples of how preposterous these assertions of a consensus are, including:
“More recently, a study in the journal Science by the social scientist Nancy Oreskes claimed that a search of the ISI Web of Knowledge Database for the years 1993 to 2003 under the key words ‘global climate change’ produced 928 articles, all of whose abstracts supported what she referred to as the consensus view. A British social scientist, Benny Peiser, checked her procedure and found that only 913 of the 928 articles had abstracts at all, and that only 13 of the remaining 913 explicitly endorsed the so-called consensus view. Several actually opposed it.”
Thus, it appears quite simple to identify a consensus with data about those whose views are falsely depicted as part of such consensus.
Lindzen marvelously concluded his piece (emphasis mine):
“So what, then, is one to make of this alleged debate? I would suggest at least three points.
“First, nonscientists generally do not want to bother with understanding the science. Claims of consensus relieve policy types, environmental advocates and politicians of any need to do so. Such claims also serve to intimidate the public and even scientists--especially those outside the area of climate dynamics. Secondly, given that the question of human attribution largely cannot be resolved, its use in promoting visions of disaster constitutes nothing so much as a bait-and-switch scam. That is an inauspicious beginning to what Mr. Gore claims is not a political issue but a ‘moral’ crusade.
“Lastly, there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition. An earlier attempt at this was accompanied by tragedy. Perhaps Marx was right. This time around we may have farce--if we're lucky.”
I guess it’s safe to say that Professor Lindzen is not part of the consensus that people like Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and the overwhelming majority of the drive-by media are continually telling the citizenry – despite all the evidence to the contrary – exists.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"Gather Us Together: The Ethiopian Jews Come Home"

The Educational Resource Center
In conjunction with
The Consulate General of Israel
“Gather Us Together: The Ethiopian Jews Come Home”
An Interactive Program

Interactive program description
Gather Us Together: The Ethiopian Jews Come Home is an interactive program that teaches the culture, history and experience of Ethiopian Jews through scripted learning activities, images, music, authentic clothing, artifacts, original DVD, oral histories and more.

How it works:
Gather Us Together is designed to move from station to station. In approximately 90 minutes, groups of 15 participants visit each station encountering a different chapter of the story through a variety of hands-on experiences. Advanced copies of the exhibit script and learning activities enable staff to prepare for the event.

To reserve this program and for more information contact:
Debbie Seiden at (646) 472-5362 or seidend@bjeny.org
Fee: This program is available free of charge. (Shipping costs apply)

BJE is offering a workshop on using this program. Participants will learn how to implement this program in their educational settings.

WHEN: Tuesday, December 18, 2007
TIME: 9:30-12:00 (9:30 registration and
520 Eighth Avenue, 15th floor
New York, NY 10018
(b/w 36th and 37th)
Debbie Seiden at (646) 472-5362
or seidend@bjeny.org