The Maccabeats aide and abet “x-tian missionaries.”

This opinion in no way reflects an institutional position of Gather the Jews.

Apparently The Maccabeats aide and abet “x-tian missionaries.”

The bait for Jewish apostates?

Or so the Jewish Fist claims.

It’s perhaps not sensible to even dignify this Jewish Fist post with a response, but I guess I have a soft spot for The Maccabeats because they 1) offered us a private interview and 2) served as a judge in our Jewish Guy/Girl of the Year Competition

So here it goes:

The Rosh Pina Project (RPP) — an “online meeting place for Messianic Jews and all those who believe that Messianic Jews deserve fair treatment in Israel and the Diaspora, and protection as a religious minority in Israel” — posted the Maccabeats’ Purim video to its blog in what Mr. Jewish Fist called an attempt to “lure Jews … [through] the use and obvious misuse of traditional Jewish symbols, stereotypes, humor, aspects of Jewish folk culture, and Jewish pop icons (such as the Maccabeats).”

Mr. Jewish Fist might be right in this respect.  In fact, I daresay he and I would have a pretty similar take on The RPP (incidentally, this group has no relation to the Rosh Pina group that meets at Hamilton House).

Mr. Jewish Fist — noticing the RPP post — emailed the Maccabeats and asked them to get the post removed from the RPP.  The Maccabeats failed to get the post removed, and they did not even reply to Mr. Jewish Fist’s email.  Therefore, according to JF’s logic, the Maccabeats are complicit in the aims of the RPP.

Nevermind that Mr. JF strongly disliked the Maccabeats prior to this post, the claim is still absurd.

  1. As Mr. JF correctly points out: “The Maccabeats are performing across the U.S. at many Jewish events, (including private semachot) and without a doubt, they are making good money for their performances.”  Right.  So they don’t have time to offer a thorough response to every email written to info@maccabeats.org, especially ones of such dubious merit.
  2. The Maccabeats have no control over the RPP blogs.  The Maccabeats video is posted on YouTube; YouTube allows anyone to freely embed videos on their site — without being the creator of the video.  The only way The Maccabeats could eliminate the video from the RPP website is to pull the video from YouTube entirely. And the Maccabeats have even less over what is said in the commentary on the RPP blog.  First Amendment rights do exist in this country…
  3. Mr. JF assumes that because the Maccabeats haven’t emailed him back, they haven’t email RPP.  Maybe.  But it’s an assumption that does not necessarily follow.
  4. Mr. JF assumes that because the Maccabeats haven’t successfully removed the video from the RPP site they are complicit with the RPP aims.  Again, bad logic.
  5. Mr. JF blames the creator of an innocent product for its misuse.  There’s nothing bad about the Maccabeats video itself (or, if Mr. JF thinks there is, this is another argument).  Rather, it’s the use of the video that he objects to.  But the Maccabeats shouldn’t be held liable for this.  That’s like holding the inventor of the internet (Al Gore) liable for the child pornography that is circulated online.

So please Mr. JF, stop taking cheap shots at the Maccabeats just to increase your website traffic.  But if you do decide to keep attacking them, you might be to refrain from suggesting that the Maccabeats get “testosterone therapy … [at] a group rate” if you want to preserve the little credibility you may have.

Facebook and Intifada: A chance to share your opinion

Image from Haaretz

Ok.  So by now most of you have probably heard of the hullabaloo concerning Facebook and those calling for a Third Intifada.   But what’s your take on the whole thing?

We’re looking for two DC community members to write quick opinion pieces saying:

1) Why Facebook was right to take down the Intifada page.

2) Why Facebook was wrong to take down the Intifada page.

If you’re interested, let me know — stephen@gatherdc.org


In case you missed the story, here’s a quick rundown:

1) Somebody makes a page on Facebook calling for a Third Intifada (uprising) against Israel.

2) A bunch of people form a page asking Facebook to remove the Intifada page.

3) Facebook originally refuses to comply with the request (see article on JTA).

4) Facebook retracts this position and removes the page (see article at Haaretz).

Jason Langsner shares the Reverse Mifgash with PresenTense

Community member Jason Langsner shared Washington DC’s Reverse Mifgash with the PresTense website this morning.

Image from PresenTense

One such opportunity is the Reverse Mifgash.  Since 2008, this program has offered a free 10-day American experience to Israeli alumni of DC community trips, where they are reunited with their friends from their buses, connected to hundreds of other young professionals from the DC area, and introduced to America’s Jewish pluralism. Together, the Reverse Mifgash participants and the Washingtonians experience social, educational, cultural, and religious programming.

The article also mentions Rachel Cohen, Yelena Barakh, and Lena Shterman, all three of whom were former Jewish Girls of the Week.

Read the rest of the article here.

Thanks to Jason for bringing further attention to this great program.

Jewish Guy – Gene

How does it feel to be the first Jewish Guy of the Week in GTJ’s second year of life? Do you have any strategies planned for the next JGOTYear contest?
I am flattered to be JGOTW!  Of course I have a strategy for JGOTYear contest, but do you really expect me to reveal it!?

Rumor has it that you have lived in many different places. Can you tell us about this?
I went from being born / living overseas to Atlanta, to Oklahoma City, back to Atlanta, and to DC.  There were brief stops in Italy and Vegas too.

Passover is coming up! If you could come up with ten new plagues, what would they be?
Vegan food only, Charlie Sheen 24/7, no football, skinny jeans for dudes, no cell signal, Gaddafi’s fashion style being mandatory, Vodka shortages, gefilta fish only from a jar, non-stop Tea Party rallies, and Mark Zuckerberg taking over the entire internet

I’m excited for Spring in DC because _________.
It ain’t winter.

If GTJ made you Chief Rabbi of the Earth (yes, we have the power to do this), and you were able to ask all Jews to do one thing, what would it be?
Find me a good-lookin’, super-smart Jewish girl who doesnt like Sarah Palin.

If you could witness one day of the six days of creation, which would it be?
I’ll pass on the six days and opt for being at the first ever Shabbat — think they had gifelta fish back then?

Jewish Girl – Amanda

The work you do for your PhD program sounds pretty awesome. Tell us about it.
I am getting my degree in molecular biology. My lab studies the embryonic development of fruit flies. I’m researching the function and evolution of the gene fushi tarazu, which controls the formation of the early embryo by regulating other genes. In the end, I’m going to make mosquitoes that grow legs out of their heads instead of antennae (no really).

We hear your house would be an amazing place for a scavenger hunt. What are some of the treasures we would find there?
I moved into my grandparents’ house last fall. My grandparents lived there for 50 years, and they tended to keep everything. Some of my favorite things I have found so far include: Esquire and Better Homes and Gardens from the 60’s, lots of fantastic 60’s and 70’s furniture, an epipen in the fridge from 1959, my grandma’s biochemistry textbooks from the 70’s, my grandmother’s enormous collection of shoes, bags, and hats spanning 50 years, my aunt’s original copy of Our bodies, Ourselves, my grandpa’s navy hat from WWII, and a couple of very old Life magazines – the best one from 1973, devoted to the 25th Anniversary of Israel.

You spent Thanksgiving with an Israeli friend from Reverse Mifgash. What was that experience like?
The best Thanksgiving ever! My family and I loved having Omri at dinner, seeing it through his eyes made it extra fun. And to give him the true American experience, we went Black Friday shopping at 4 am. He loved every second of it. Omri I miss you!

What Jewish superstar is your role model and why?
Jeremy Rosen because he is so fun and he has a gigantic heart and he makes everyone feel included in everything.

What is your preferred DC Shabbat location and why?
6th and I. Since I really just started exploring my Judaism this year, I like how they have programs for beginners. And I love that they have all sorts of cultural events to bring everyone in, no matter what they are interested in. Plus it is non-denominational – it is really such an accepting place that brings everyone in the community together, no matter what their background is.

Find out who won Jewish Guy and Girl of the Year

Did you really think that we would tell you?!  You will have to come to our happy hour to hear the official announcement.  Don’t worry though, you can read the questions below.  See how well you did by clicking for the answers.

Guys Questions (Answers):
1. There were 6 days of creation, name one thing created on the 4th day?
2. Which son did Jacob favor?
3. Who wrote the kuzari?
4. What was on the bottom floor of Noach’s ark?
5. List 3 of the megillas.
6. Where did Jacob run to (whose house) after he got the birth right from Esau?
7. What is the name of the operation in which Ethiopian Jews were airlifted en mass into Israel in 1991?
8. What date and year did Israel declare independence?
9. How old was Sarah when she died?
10. Who was the final president of the San Hedrin?

Bonus
Bonus 1: List as many Jewish US Supreme Court Justices as you can.
Bonus 2: Which Jewish athlete won seven gold medals at the Munich Olympics?
Bonus 3: What surrounded the Jews when they were traveling 40 years in the desert?

Girl’s Questions (Answers):
1. Which holiday is also called ‘The New Year of the Trees’? (Tu B’Shvat)
2. What is most famous for not being in the Megillah of Esther?
3. Where is the ark of the temple currently hidden?
4. What is the 9th plauge?
5. What was the name of Moses’s wife?
6. When is Israeli Independence Day (Hebrew Date)?
7. On what mountain was the Torah given?
8. Who was the first prime minister of Israel?
9. What is the name of the Joseph’s father?
10. Who was the first king of Israel?

Is Religion a Crutch?

Rabbi Aron Moss contributes regular Q&A commentaries to Gather the Jews.  Rabbi Moss is the proprietor of Nefesh and can be reached at rabbimoss@nefesh.com.au.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rabbi Moss.

crutchesQuestion:

I think religion is a crutch. G-d is for the weak and the needy. Don’t you have the independence to get through life on your own?

Answer:

You’re right. Religion is a crutch, a sign of human weakness. And to be honest, religion is not my only crutch. I am so weak, I need a whole array of support mechanisms to prop me up and keep me going.

I need food. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I am totally dependent on eating. Without food, I would probably not have the strength to do much at all. My body does not nourish itself. It needs outside help. So I eat.

I have an emotional crutch too. I need other people. If it weren’t for the support of my family and friends I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today. And while we are on the subject, I am also quite dependent on my shoes. My feet would be really sore without them.

The human is a fragile being. We are not self-sufficient. We depend on external sources for our survival. We need to be fed, we need to be loved, and we need shoes. I thank G-d every day, for it is He who provides me with food, family and footwear.

But above all, I thank Him for giving my life purpose. Just as I can’t nourish myself without resorting to the outside, I can’t give my life real meaning without seeking beyond myself.

Maybe that makes me weak. But I think it gives me strength. Even if I’m hungry, lonely or barefoot, as long as I have divine purpose, I can face any challenge.

All the best,

Rabbi Moss

Have a question of your own? Submit it to Rabbi Moss.

Torah Portion: Living in an Impure Society

This commentary is from last week’s Torah portion, but owing to my preoccupation with my cousin’s wedding, I was unable to post it until today.  Apologies. SIR.

Anna Batler blogs about faith and feminism at http://sotah.net/.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Anna Batler.

There is an interesting element in the keeping of kosher that is forgotten in our contemporary practice. Not only could the Jews not eat the non-kosher animals, but they also could not touch their carcasses.

Image from Amazon.com

“You shall not eat of their flesh nor shall you touch their carcass – they are unclean to you.” Leviticus 11:8.

The text demands that we avoid entering the state of impurity. Becoming impure is not a neutral state.

Rashi limits the scope of this prohibition — to times when a person is visiting the temple during holidays — because purity is required for admittance and to bring sacrifices at the temple. In limiting the application of a purity law, Rashi is struggling with the livability of “purity.”

The one vestige of the purity system still practiced is the ritual impurity attached to menstruating women (“family purity”), which can be “cured” by going to the mikvahs after the menstruation ends.

The contemporary experience with family purity may shed some light on what it was like to live in a world of purity law, and why it was important to Rashi to limit the reach and significance of purity laws.  There is a spiritual and intellectual price to being “impure.”  I once attended a class taught by a woman who practiced family purity; she suggested improving the meaning of the practice for contemporary women by changing the words “pure” and “impure” to some other more neutral word.  Impurity; however, is not neutral, it is negative state of separation from your community and even perhaps from God. Because it is one thing not to be able to go to the temple — because you live a week’s journey from the temple — and it is another matter entirely to be prohibited from entering because you are impure.