Another shot of Tekiyah!

I was just forced to watch this animated cartoon called “Tekiyah” fifteen times by my 20-month-old son who thaught it was a riot.

It is the brainchild of Ben Baruch, a direct descendent of the Vilna Gaon. ShaBot 6000 is the continuing cartoon saga of a pious Jew who purchases a robot to work as a Shabbos Goy for his household. The inquisitive robot, ShaBot, decides that he is Jewish, and is therefore unable to fulfill his duties as servant. ShaBot spends his days asking questions about Judaism, trying to find logic in a religion that sometimes DOES NOT COMPUTE.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

Oy Vey in Brooklyn

Oy Vey! Traffic Sign Goes up in Brooklyn

From Yahoo! News:

“Leaving Brooklyn? ‘Oy vey!'” That’s what motorists now see as they cross the Williamburg Bridge into Manhattan. The huge sign, affixed to a cross beam of the bridge high above the bustling traffic, is a sweet victory for Marty Markowitz, president of the borough, home to a large Jewish population.

When Markowitz first approached the Department of Transportation about the sign in January 2004, he was rebuffed because the agency felt it would be distracting to motorists.

After “revisiting” the issue, the DOT allowed the sign to go up two weeks ago, Markowitz said Wednesday. “I’m thrilled.”

Markowitz said he is responsible for many other signs praising his great borough that are posted at every entrance into Brooklyn. The DOT, he said, “saw that those signs caused no problems, and that the ‘Oy vey’ sign would be fine.”

A request for comment from the DOT was not immediately returned.

“Oy vey,” Markowitz said, is an original Jewish “expression of dismay or hurt.”

“The beauty is, every ethnic group knows it,” he said, and motorists seeing it know it means “Dear me, I’m so sad you’re leaving.”

He also proudly recited from some of the other signs — from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Belt Parkway — that welcome motorists to the borough:

“Not Just A Borough, An Experience”; “Name It…We Got It”; “Like No Other Place in the World”; “Believe the Hype.”

Will the “Oy Vey” sign stay up indefinitely?

“I think these things are up to the discretion of the borough president,” said Markowitz, managing to sneak in a plug for his re-election bid.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

No Muslim Prayer Room at U-M Hillel

From the Detroit Jewish News
By Shelli Liebman Dorfman

After much discussion and a bit of dissension, there will be no Reflection Room in the University of Michigan Hillel building in Ann Arbor.

After learning that the university was seeking a place for students of all religious denominations to use for prayer and meditation, Hillel staff began discussing the possibility of offering space in their large building.

“When we heard about the search, Michael Brooks, our executive director floated the idea to Hillel’s governing board, said Rabbi Jason Miller, assistant director at Hillel. “We decided if there were students looking for a meditation room we would consider publicly supporting them in that endeavor — not necessarily in our building, but generally.”

There is already one Reflection Room on campus, but it is often crowded. Since it is primarily used by Muslim students, one of their student groups requested the additional room.

When the thought was mentioned to members of Hillel’s governing board, their discussion led to a motion suggesting that if a room was opened, it be offered to Muslim students only, since they were the group in search of space.

“The resolution that was voted on was to extend an invitation to Muslim students to use the upstairs classroom at Hillel on a temporary and space-available basis,” said Monica Woll, 20, of West Bloomfield, who serves as chair of the board.

The resolution passed “by a slim majority,” according to Rabbi Miller.

As chair, Woll did not have a vote on the issue, but said, “I would have voted against it because I do not personally believe it is in line with the mission statement of Hillel.

“The room allotted to the Muslim students would have been placed alongside the rooms designated for the purposes of prayer and Torah study and therefore could have potentially prevented Jewish students from participating in these activities due to a feeling of discomfort. Because our building is funded and exists for Jewish students, in my opinion it is not right to pass a motion which could potentially prevent Jewish students from participating in said activities. The motion crossed the line if it makes even one student feel out of place.”

And it did. “Allowing Muslim students to pray in Hillel would cause many Jewish students to feel uncomfortable,” said Robert Weisenfeld, 19, a U-M sophomore from Westchester, NY.

“I believe that people in SAFE (Students Allied for Freedom and Equality), MSA (Muslim Students Association) and many other organizations hostile towards Israel — and thus Jews — would use the room for prayer,” he said. (SAFE sponsored the 2002 Second National Student Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement on the U-M campus as well as a campaign to urge U-M to divest funds from Israel.)

Weisenfeld said this issue – coupled with others – led to his resignation last week from his position as treasurer of the Hillel board of governors.

“If Hillel wants to make Jewish students comfortable, it is certainly not a good idea to attempt a religious mixer with the Muslim students at a Jewish center,” he wrote in his letter of resignation to the board. “Interaction with all kinds of people is wonderful but at a center for Jews, the idea of bringing in a contentious element of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish perspective is genuinely off kilter.

“A Jewish center should be for Jews and Jewish prayer, not a place of refuge for Muslim students to pray to their god.”

Before any further decisions could be made regarding the resolution, Woll said Susan Eklund, U-M’s interim dean of students informed her that space was designated on Central campus for the Reflection Room.

During a discussion following the announcement, Woll said, “A lot of people who voted “yes” apologized upon realizing this was not a good move for Hillel.”

Rabbi Miller said, “In theory this was a nice gesture, but in theory only. We were reaching out, offering an olive branch, trying to be neighborly to Muslim and other religious groups on campus,” he said. “Not all Muslims are bad or terrorists. There’s even a Muslim prayer room at the Knesset. But when it came down to it, in practice it was decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea. No invitation was ever sent out — or ever will be.”

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

Mazel Tov to Jon Stewart and the Daily Show team

From the Emmy-award winning “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” comes this great piece of dialogue:

Stephen Colbert: “I’m Steven Colbert and I wish you Jon a most joyous Yom Kippur.”

Jon Stewart: “Um Steven, Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement.”

Stephen Colbert: “But isn’t that your biggest holiday?”

Jon Stewart: “It is a holiday, but not in the sense of festivities. It’s a day spent atoning for the sins of the past year.”

Stephen Colbert: “You people are so fakakta!

Oh and Mazel Tov to Jon Stewart and his entire team for winning two major Emmy awards:

  1. Best variety/musical/comedy series
  2. Best writing for a best variety/musical/comedy series

Accepting one of his two awards, Jon Stewart said: “When I said that I wanted to put together a writing staff that would only be 80 percent Ivy League-educated Jews, they said it couldn’t be done.”

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

Only in Israel…

From Haaretz

After initial attempts to solve the microphone problem, including activation of the back-up system, failed, Likud Director General Arik Barami charged that Sharon’s speech had been sabotaged, saying that the prime minister’s opponents had poured a bucket of water on the microphone’s electrical connections.

Police later responded that an informal examination had produced no evidence of sabotage: no cables had been disconnected, nor was there any sign that water had been spilled on them. However, they added, they were waiting for a formal complaint before opening an official investigation, which would involve expert electricians who might uncover a less obvious form of sabotage.

Jeremy Fogel, author of the Just Stam blog, adds this about Israel’s Microphone-Gate:

“Sharon dueled with Yitzhak Shamir over microphones in an infamous Likud central committee meeting in 1992. Sharon’s aides reportedly lowered the volume on a microphone before Netanyahu spoke at a Likud central committee meeting in 2002.” [Source:]

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

Shofar Idol

From the creator of the “Who Let the Jews Out” animation to advertise Sam Apple’s book Shlepping Through the Alps comes this new animation to promote Taglit/birthright israel:

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

Simchat Torah: The Torah is Saved

Just as water leaves a high place and flows to a low one, so the Torah leaves one whose spirit is proud and cleaves to one whose spirit is lowly.
(Shir Hashirim Rabbah)

Torah being saved in New Orleans

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

U-M Hillel’s New Beit Midrash Opens!

From the Michigan Daily

Hillel opens new learning center

By Laura Frank, Daily Staff Reporter
September 21, 2005

The new Jewish Learning Center at Hillel, which officially opened on Monday, is only the size of an average University classroom, but organizers hope the spirit of learning that grows from this one room will be much larger.

University of Michigan Hillel Beit MidrashThe center will offer classes on a wide variety of subjects, from politics and philosophy to Torah study, Hebrew and meditation. All of these classes are free for all University students.

Rabbis and religious teachers from a wide variety of backgrounds will lead classes and help with informal study. Organizers hope to make the Jewish Learning Center a place “where people want to teach,” said Rabbi Jason Miller, who will serve as the director of the new center. Miller said he hopes to attract religious scholars from around the country.

Also known as a Beit Midrash or House of Study, the center will also seek to find students study partners for all subjects. It will be “sort of a dating service, but for study,” Miller said.

Miller envisions the Beit Midrash as a place where students can come together to study in a comfortable and intimate environment.

The newly renovated room, which once held only a few tables and chairs, now contains several bookcases of religious texts, as well as books about Jewish ethics, spirituality and mysticism. In addition, a computer in the new center offers Internet access and software focused on Jewish learning. A mini-fridge and microwave ensure that no students will have to go hungry while engrossed in study.

While the room is small, Jenna Eisen, an LSA junior and member of the inaugural class at the Beit Midrash, said she appreciated the new center’s intimacy.

“It was nice because there were just the three of us, and it was easier to learn; there was open conversation and a comfortable setting,” Eisen said.

But more important than the refurbished location, said Hillel staff member Lori Hoch, are the “amazing books.”

“Say you’re having a Jewish debate with someone, and someone wants to pull out a source,” Hoch said. “All they need to do now is go onto a shelf and pick out whatever book they need.”

In the past, students, “didn’t have a place to study Torah in a serious, albeit informal way,” Miller said. Now they have a place to “argue in a fun, friendly, respectful manner and both grow in knowledge and understanding of the texts.”
University of Michigan Hillel Beit Midrash
The idea for a study center came in part from University students who had studied at yeshivas, or Jewish learning centers in Israel, and wanted to replicate that type of learning environment, Miller said.

The remodeling of the space was funded by a donation by the Brodsky family and the new books were purchased with a grant from the Irwin and Bethea Green Foundation.

The new center will provide a place for both religious and secular study for Jews and non-Jews alike, Miller added.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

Simon Wiesenthal, z"l

President Bush’s statement on the passing of Nazi Hunter Simon Wiesenthal:

Laura and I are saddened by the death of Simon Wiesenthal, a tireless and passionate advocate who devoted his life to tracking down Nazi killers and promoting freedom. Simon Wiesenthal lost 89 relatives in the Holocaust, yet he survived the death camps himself. He gathered intelligence to be used in war crimes trials and also passed on important information that led to the conviction of Adolf Eichmann. Throughout his long career, he relentlessly pursued those responsible for some of the most horrific crimes against humanity the world has ever known. Simon Wiesenthal fought for justice, and history will always remember him.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the International Human Rights NGO named in Mr. Wiesenthal’s honor said of him:

Simon Wiesenthal“Simon Wiesenthal was the conscience of the Holocaust. When the Holocaust ended in 1945 and the whole world went home to forget, he alone remained behind to remember. He did not forget.

He became the permanent representative of the victims, determined to bring the perpetrators of the history’s greatest crime to justice. There was no press conference, and no president, prime minister, or world leader that announced his appointment. He just took the job. It was a job no one else wanted.

The task was overwhelming. The cause had few friends. The Allies were already focused on the Cold War, the survivors were rebuilding their shattered lives and Simon Wiesenthal was all alone, combining the role of both prosecutor and detective at the same time. Overcoming the world’s indifference and apathy, Simon Wiesenthal helped bring over 1,100 Nazi War Criminals before the bar of Justice.”

For me personally, I remember visiting the Wiesenthal Center in 1992 while on the USY on Wheels program and then again in 1993 at USY International Convention in Los Angeles. I also have fond memories of sitting on my bed one Shabbat afternoon at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin in 1997 and reading The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. No other man has made such an impact on this world by fighting hate and promoting tolerance. May his memory be for a blessing and may his legacy be eternal.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

Ovadia Yosef Doesn’t Dissapoint

Oy Vey!!!

From the AP:

JERUSALEM — Ovadia Yosef, the former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, is being criticized for a televised sermon that called Hurricane Katrina a punishment from God for President Bush’s role in forcing Israelis to leave the Gaza Strip.

“It was God’s retribution,” Yosef said. “He (Bush) perpetrated the expulsion. Now everyone is mad at him. This is his punishment for what he did to Gush Katif, and everyone else who did as he told them, their time will come, too.”

Gush Katif is the largest group of Gaza settlements.

In response, U.S. Rabbi Jerome Epstein, chief executive of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said the vast majority of Jews reject Yosef’s “perverse belief” that “venomously and shamefully” claimed divine punishment.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |