יום רביעי, מרץ 29, 2006

Night Vision

Late last night when I really should have been asleep and was just dozing off I had a vision. The problem with these great ideas is that you have them late at night and then all you remember in the morning was "I had a great idea for....". But you never remember the idea.

So I quickly jotted it down and rolled over to sleep quite happy with myself. This morning I got up and looked at what I had written:

"Oprah Winfrey, Danny Devito, Jim Carey, and Robin Williams all in one movie would be a huge concentration of energy."

Maybe there is a good reason we forget these things by morning.

יום שלישי, מרץ 21, 2006

Post-Zionism is Pre-Zionism

A friend proposed the following idea to me: Post-Zionists are really Pre-Zionists.
How so?

In looking at the Israeli political scene of the past 10 years, have we seen the death of the New Jew? With our kowtowing to the world nations, have we returned to a pre-1870's Jewish mentality?

The New Jew was the dream of people like Ze'ev Jabotinsky. They saw a world in which the Jew was beaten left and right. They dreamed of a strong Jew who wouldn't take no crap from no one. Their thinking was that only when the world realized that this Jew was deserving of their respect could they treat him as an equal. Not would, but only then could they treat him as an equal.

This was the respect Israel gained, albeit grudgingly, post 67 & 72, Entebbe, and after Osarik(Iraqi reactor). I think that the political actions and overall spinelessness of our governments (of the past 10 years) have lost us that respect.

I do understand that in today's globalized economy no country stands alone but there should be limits. When the interests of your country are balanced against the "requests" of your allies I would hope that your country would lean in it's citizens best interest and consider the allies as no more than "a good thing to take into account".

About 3 years back Israel Military Industries developed Unmanned Ariel Reconnaissance Vehicles and China was interested in buying a few. Washington made it quite clear that it would show it's "displeasure" if such a deal were to be brokered. Now I'm not denying that US foreign aid has helped many countries, Israel included, but it smells like a gift from Grandma with big long strings attached.

The term I've heard is a "Mah-Yofis Yid". It seems that back in Poland there was a well known lively tune for the Jewish poem "Mah-Yofis" and non-Jews looking to poke fun at the Jews of the town would grab a Jew and have him dance to this tune. The idea of a New Jew (as opposed to a Exile-Jew) was that we would no longer dance to the Mah-Yofis of the Polish landlords. What happened? Why are we playing the puppet?

And for your entertainment, here is Revisionist Math!

UPDATE: Second Thoughts questions the nature of how "Israelis" see Israel as opposed to "Jews" looking at the state. The Modern Golden Calf.

יום שישי, מרץ 17, 2006

Sex Ed

It's a tough one. I think that the world at large struggles with how to do it right. It's understandable that we don't want to share our sex lives with our children. At best we get super-liberal children who are comfortable with their bodies and their sexuality. At worst we really freak them out and scar their psyche. Those are the two extremes, I don't know how many of us hit either one.

For most of us it ranges from a mildly uncomfortable conversation with Mom or Dad, to a few books from the top shelf of the closet, to conversations in the schoolyard, to getting freaked out by the girl who thinks she knows everything and is (thankfully) wrong. Toss almost any religion on top of that and it just gets harder.

The world at large has become comfortable with sex and sex education by decrimenalization of sexual activity. "It's all fine, be aware of the consequences, so here's a condom." We can't do that.

Should there be Sex-ed classes in religious schools? What should be included? Do we need to feed kids questions they are not (yet) asking? What is the "need to know" list?
What does the 9th grade, religious kid need to know?

Here is an indepth post on Masturbation, Guilt, and Ganzfried.
I think I'll be kicking this around with people for the next few days. It's fun throwing words like Sex and Masturbation into conversations with frum folk.

UPDATE: R' Chaim has posted a collection of more mainstream thoughts on the matter.

יום חמישי, מרץ 09, 2006

Should we be telling everyone to make Aliyah?

I have two siblings in the USA. We all moved to Israel together and they have since moved back. I'm not sure if I can say anything to them about coming back to Israel. And even if I can I'm not sure what I should say.

They both know all the reasons I could give. They've both heard and could probably teach both the religious take and the national take. They've heard our father talk about the difficulty of raising kids in the US today. They know the security situation isn't as bad as CNN makes it seem. What more could I say?

If I were to imagine their response it would be one of the average "American Jew" responses with statements of how now is a bad time or when we have x amount of money or once y finishes school or the community would fall apart if we were not in the keystone position we are in. And it's no lie. It is a bad time and there is no money and they are doing wonderful things within their respective communities. And people would miss them and y is still in school. All true.

So what do I say?

I met a fellow from LA who was here to check out possibilities for moving to Israel. I rode in to Jerusalem with him and we spoke while he was driving. He told me that the big issue is his five kids. He has five kids between the ages of 9 and 19. Ken yirbuh. He realized that moving as a teenage was hard and he wanted me to share some of my thoughts because I had moved here as a teen.

I talked to him about a few of the schools. I told him about some youth groups and support structures that exist. I told him some of the problems he could expect and tried to give him a real picture of what his kids would be dealing with by moving here when they are in high school. We reached Jerusalem, I gave him my email and we parted company. I never did hear from him and don't know where he is now. Among the things I tried to tell him was that moving here with his kids as teenagers was taking a risk. My calculation of the odds were that one out of his 5 kids would be messed up by the move. To what extent? Depends on the kid, depends on the rest of the family. But one in five for teenagers moving to Israel sounds about right to me. I talked it over with a few friends and they were even more emphatic about "Yup, one of his kids will be screwed up." Who knows? I've seen families who make the transition just fine.

A few years ago I came to the following truth. Kids who move here before a certain age will be fine. They'll be Israeli with American parents. That age is about 8-10. Adults who move here after a certain age will also be ok. They'll be Americans who have moved to Israel. That age is about 22. The interesting group are those who move here between the ages of 10 and 22. The best term I've found to describe them is Nisht a'hin, Nisht a'herr (Yiddish - Neither here nor there). Their cultural background (manners, music, style of dress) is American but the life they live (school, travel, food, friends, politics) is Israeli. Some chose one group over another and stick with that. Others will live with one foot in each world and take what they can from each. None of these are easy solutions. None of them make being a teenager and growing up any easier. It is doable and many people pull it off and are happy, well adjusted adults. But it's tough.

There are many Israelis who when I tell them I have siblings in Chutz La'aretz tell me "So convince them to move back home!" I got the same comment when I told people about the community in Sydney: "So why didn't you convince them all to move home?"

The question is do I tell someone who's kids are in that gap of 9 to 19 he should be moving to Israel? Is it really for everyone? Should I have turned to that fellow from LA and said "You can move here but you are rolling a dice as to which one of your kids will end up _________."?

My father claims that the chances of 1 in 5 are about the same if you raise your kids in LA. I don't know. I know what I've seen here and the kids that I've worked with here and the kid that I was. I was that 1. Do I tell people it'll all be just fine?

Hindsight 20/20, I'm very grateful to my parents for dragging me here. Having Hebrew as a spoken language allows me to daven and learn Torah in a way I believe is not possible without that. The more Torah I learn I see in so many ways how as a religious nation we are supposed to be here. Each time I go back to the US I am further strengthened in my idea that it's a lousy place to live and raise children simply by dint of the topics discussed around dinner tables even in frum Jewish homes. But what do I tell the business man from St. Louis who wants to move here with his 10 year old son and his 14 year old daughter?

To move kids when they are 11,12,14,15 is a real risk. How that stacks up against the risk of raising kids in LA or Chicago I don't know. How that stacks up against the benefit of having your kids speak to God during tefila rather than just "praying", I don't know.

I have two siblings in the USA. We all moved to Israel together and they have since moved back. I'm not sure if I can say anything to them about coming back to Israel. And even if I can, in a few years I'm not sure I should say it.

יום שלישי, מרץ 07, 2006

Do you believe in magic?

We are all religious.

A religion is simply living according to a set of values. If the source of those values is a revelation on Sinai, I could call my religion Sinai-ism. If my values come from what I decide is right and moral I might call it Jen-ism. I could even get fancy and invite people to join the Grand High Church of Self and come down every 5th Tuesday to see Rev. Jack Self light himself on fire. But I digress. We are all religious in so much as we all have certain ideas, values, and truths by which we live.

Seeing as we all have a religion, something that we should ask ourselves (or a leader of our religion) is: How should I relate to my friends religion? Let's put aside the question of missionizing. I don't want to address whether he/she is right or wrong. I am not thinking about asking other people to convert to my religion. I want to know: For me, what should be my perspective on Neighbor Bob's religion?

Here are 3 possibilities. If you can think of others please share them.

1) All religions but mine are completely false. They are a cobbled together pack of lies and any kernel of truth they might have based themselves on has been twisted beyond recognition and is worthless. I should stay as far away from them as possible.

2) There may be bits and pieces of truth in Bob's religion but those are simply the things it has in common with my religion. Any truth that exists in Bob's religion already exists in mine. There is no need for me to study his religion.

3) Bob's religion may have ideas, values, or truths that my religion doesn't have. I should talk to him about his religion and I might gain new (or at least improved) truth.

*For purposes of our discussion I would like to postulate that the existence of one unified, universal truth precludes the existence of another unified, universal truth. In plain English: We may or may not know what it is, but from a universally objective perspective there is only one set of truth.

יום רביעי, מרץ 01, 2006

Things that should be said

Until now I haven't put up a blogroll. I still haven't. There are a few sites I'm thinking about pimping but for now I'll just have the occasional "Must read" post.

Do you wear a black hat? Both for those who do and don't. The rest of her blog is also quite wow.

CheckThisMate sent me this book excerpt. I was impressed. Anyone else want to weigh in?

How many recovering addicts does it take to change a light bulb?
-Only one but it may take him 12 steps.