But they don’t say "Please" in Israel

I realize this video was first mentioned on the Web by bloggers way back in January 2005, but this could very well be the funniest Israeli commercial I’ve seen. Truth is, I don’t remember any other Israeli commercials.

This is a McDonalds commercial for the new McSchwarma. If you haven’t seen “Pulp Fiction” (one of my favorite films) you might not get the joke but it’s still hillarious hearing John Travolta say McSchwarma.

Of course, the key line in the commercial is “But they don’t say ‘please’ in Israel” which shows that Israelis are able to poke a little fun at themselves.
To view the commerical or view it at YouTube

To download the commercial

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

My Disappointment in Rav Riskin

I’m extremely disappointed in Orthodox rabbi Shlomo Riskin who has backed out of his planned speaking engagement at a conference planned by the Conservative movement’s Machon Schechter in Jerusalem on a very important topic. Rabbi David Golinkin, a Conservative rabbi and the head of Machon Schechter, along with other Jerusalem-based Masorti (Conservative) rabbis has made great halakhic advances in the matter of the agunah (a woman who is not allowed to remarry because her ex-husband refuses to grant her a bill of divorcement).

Here is the article from the Jerusalem Post:

Riskin skips Conservative agunot parley

In a development emphasizing the tension between Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat, on Sunday cancelled his appearance at a conference on solutions to the problem of agunot, organized by the Schechter Institute.

“Being singled out as the only Orthodox rabbi to speak at the conference would risk having my suggested solutions to the agunot problem disqualified by the rabbinic establishment,” said Riskin.

Agunot, literally “chained,” are women that have separated from their husbands but cannot remarry according to Jewish law because their recalcitrant husbands refuse to grant a writ of divorce known as a get.

“I feel so strongly about the aguna cause that I would speak anywhere. And I often speak at the Shechter Institute or at other Conservative venues. “But on the issue of halachic solutions to agunot I am afraid that appearing in a Conservative context would be counterproductive.

“I am lobbying for solutions to the agunot problem that are within the boundaries of Orthodox Halacha,” explained Riskin, “while the Conservative Movement has positioned itself outside Halacha.”

Riskin recently published A Jewish Woman’s Right to Divorce: A Halakhic History and a Solution for the Agunah, in which he argues for prenuptial agreements and suggests using retroactive annulment of marriages hafka’at nisu’in in special cases.

Rabbi David Golinkin, president of the Schechter Institute, said in response to Riskin’s cancellation that, while he had great respect for Riskin’s work both in Israel and in the Diaspora, Riskin’s decision was “unfortunate.” “Just yesterday morning the rabbi’s secretary said he would be coming,” said Golinkin.

Golinkin said that the Van Leer Institute was purposely chosen to serve as a neutral location so that Orthodox rabbis could participate. Schechter also advertised in the media mentioning Riskin as a participant.

“Some rabbis, and I don’t mean Rabbi Riskin, are more afraid of the haredim than of making certain to serve God and the Jewish people,” Golinkin said, adding that two senior rabbis who serve as rabbinic judges turned down an invitation to the conference.

The Jerusalem Post learned that one of them was Chief Rabbi of Haifa She’ar Hayishuv Hacohen.

The conference was organized to promote a new book, published by the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies and its Center for Women in Jewish Law entitled Zaakat Dalot (The Cry of the Wretched): Halakhic Solutions for the Agunot of Our Time.

The book was written by Rabbis Monique Susskind Goldberg and Diana Villa and edited by Golinkin, Professor Moshe Benowitz, and Rabbi Richard Lewis.

The book presents a variety of possible solutions, based on traditional halachic sources but not necessarily based on traditional Orthodox methodology, to a situation in which an uncooperative husband or wife interminably delays a divorce by using the get as a bargaining chip to force the other side to compromise on alimony payments, child custody or mutually owned assets.

The book puts forward nine solutions to the agunot problem. Some are applicable before marriage such as prenuptial agreements, conditional marriage or living in an arrangement in which the woman is a concubine (pilegesh).

Other solutions, that can be implemented even after the marital bond is consummated, include coercing the husband or wife to divorce or annulling the wedding retroactively.

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

Fred Levine and The Ambassador Group

Josh Miller - son of Rabbi Jason Miller - at Detroit Pistons Game (Photo by Fred Leving, The Ambassador Group)When I took my son Josh to his first Detroit Pistons basketball game at the Palace of Auburn Hills back in December 2005 everyone soon knew about it. It was Christmas Day, but the Detroit Jewish Federation arranged for a special Hanukkah celebration on the court following the game since it was also Erev Hanukkah. All kids were allowed to shoot a basket after singing some Hanukkah songs. When Josh took his shot (actually his first of about five) he was photographed by one of the best photographers I’ve seen — Fred Levine who owns The Ambassador Group. Fred’s photo of Josh (right, click to enlarge) was published in the Detroit Jewish News later that week and almost took up the entire page. Only after I visited Fred’s company’s website and saw a photo of my wife’s cousin Hillary did I realize that he also photographed her bat mitzvah in August 2005.

Fred’s company, The Ambassador Group, was featured in today’s Detroit Free Press. Here’s the article:

BUSINESS NEAR YOU: West Bloomfield studio owner is an experienced shutterbug


Company: Ambassador Group, 5570 Drake Road, West Bloomfield.

Owner: Fred Levine, 55, of Farmington Hills.

What he does: Levine is a professional photographer who runs the 800-square-foot studio he opened in July 2005.

His specialty: He shoots events such as weddings, birthday parties and corporate gatherings. He was just signed by the Michigan Republican Party to photograph their fund-raisers.

Early days: Levine has always been a shutterbug, getting his first gig as a 16-year-old, when he was paid $50 to shoot homes for developer Al Taubman.

Though he always loved photography, he joined his family’s business, Embassy Mechanical Contractors in Detroit, and worked there for 28 years until his father became ill with Alzheimer’s disease and was no longer able to work. Fred Levine closed his family’s business in 1999.

After other work, including odd jobs for other photographers, he decided to open his studio.

Though he isn’t yet making money from his year-old enterprise, he hopes it will become profitable as he pursues more corporate work.

For more information: 248-661-5600 or

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

Why the Forward doesn’t cover sports

Chris BermanThe Jewish weekly newspaper The Forward ran an article in today’s paper about ESPN‘s Chris Berman being the guest speaker at a Houston Jewish Federation event called “Men’s Night Out.”

This paragraph is a good example of why the Jewish paper doesn’t cover sports very often:

When the time came for Berman to leave his table and walk to the stage, the encouraging audience chanted, “He could go all the way!” — Berman’s trademark homerun call.

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

Carlebach goes Gospel

Ever wonder what a nice Shlomo “The Singing Rabbi” Carlebach tune would sound like sung by a Gospel choir? Well, wonder no more.

Check out this beautiful rendition of “Pischu Li” from the Hallel liturgy.

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

Hillel Sees Double

After June 30th I will no longer be a Hillel professional, but I will still care passionately about Jewish life on college campuses and Jewish college students. So, I am thrilled to read what was announced at the Hillel Summit this week. Hillel will be doubling its campaign, funding to local branches of Hillel, and even the number of Jewish students affected by Hillel programming and services. Kudos to the Schusterman Foundation, which was instrumental in my taking fifteen University of Michigan students to Ukraine last summer, for putting a lot more financial muscle into Hillel’s ability to carry out its mission.


Hillel pledged to double its numbers over the next five years.

In its five-year strategic plan released this week, the largest campus Jewish organization in the United States pledged to double the number of students involved in Jewish life; double its annual campaign; double its funding to local Hillels; and launch an aggressive recruitment and retention program for campus professionals.

To help fund the effort, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman International Center will increase its endowment from $10 million to $100 million. Hillel also pledged to strengthen its relationship with university administrations, Jewish Studies departments and Jewish communities near campuses where it works.

A first step in that direction is taking place this week in Washington, where Hillel is sponsoring a conference of university presidents and Jewish communal leaders. The plan is available here.

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

Pistons en Espanol

I’m blogging from one of the most beautiful places on earth — Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. I’ve been watching the Pistons-Cavaliers battle it out in the 7th game of their playoff series. The game is being broadcast here en Espanol on a tape delay (NBA en CDN) and the third quarter just ended. It’s a lot of fun watching a Pistons game in Spanish. It sounds something like this: “LeBron James, no. Rebote Big Ben Wallace, Wallace para Richard Hamilton para Lindsey Hunter, si! (I would have put one of those upside-down exclamation points at the beginning of that sentence if I knew how)

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

The Reb Barry Blog

Rabbi Barry LeffI welcome my friend and colleague Rabbi Barry Leff, of B’nai Israel in Toledo Ohio, to the rabbinical blogosphere. Reb Barry has converted his wonderful personal website to a blog that can be accessed at

I have enjoyed Reb Barry’s thoughtful insights on all matters when we get together for lunch in Ann Arbor, where he takes a weekly yoga class.

One of the more interesting resources on his blog is his teshuvah (Jewish legal decision) on Eating Dairy Meals in Restaurants that do not have Kosher supervision.

I look forward to being rabbinic colleagues in Ohio with Reb Barry next month when I officially become rabbi of Congregation Agudas Achim in Columbus. However, we will only be Ohio colleagues for a year as Barry and his wife will soon be making aliyah to Israel.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Berkshire Hathaway Dorothy Kripke Jewish Theological Seminary Omaha Rabbi Myer Kripke Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett: Good for the Jews?

One of the highlights of my six years in Rabbinical School at The Jewish Theological Seminary was giving tours of the Seminary to visiting groups. I attended a training session, led by the director of donor relations Rebecca Jacobs, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving during my first year at JTS. I loved hearing the story of how the Seminary’s library tower caught fire on April 18, 1966 damaging thousands of books and how thirty years later a JTS-ordained pulpit rabbi from Omaha donated the funds to renovate that same tower.

I gave over 200 tours of the Seminary, but I never grew tired of telling the story of how a humble rabbi from the south amassed a fortune big enough to make a $7 million cash donation to name the new Seminary tower. The story is that this rabbi’s wife, Dorothy Kripke, wrote a series of children’s books entitled “Let’s Talk About…” and another Omaha woman loved to read these books to her children. When she found out that the author lived close by she decided she had to meet her. Well, as fate would have it, this woman and her husband became dear friends of Rabbi Myer and Dorothy Kripke. This woman’s husband even offered to invest the small inheritence left to Mrs. Kripke. That investment paid off big because it was invested by Warren Buffett, the second wealthiest American according to Forbes magazine.

I’ll never forget the time I asked a group of school children if they knew how Rabbi Kripke became a millionaire. One of the little girls offered, “Maybe he gave really good sermons?”
Here’s a JTA article about Warren Buffett who recently invested $4 billion in an Israeli company:

Long before Israeli deal, Buffett made his mark on Jewish community
By Chanan Tigay
NEW YORK, May 16 (JTA) – Warren Buffett is not a Jew, and in fact describes himself as an agnostic.

Still, the billionaire investment guru, who earlier this month made big news when his Berkshire Hathaway corporation bought an 80 percent share in Israeli metalworks conglomerate Iscar for $4 billion, for years has been making his mark on the U.S. Jewish community back home – though sometimes in a roundabout way.

“Proportionally, if you look at the number of Jews in this country and in the world, I’m associated with a hugely disproportionate number,” Buffett, the second richest man in the world, told JTA in a telephone interview Monday. His life, he added, “has been blessed by friendship with many Jews.”

Among the first companies Buffett acquired after launching Berkshire Hathaway, the Omaha-based investment and insurance giant, was The Sun Newspapers of Omaha, then owned by Stan Lipsey, one-time chairman of The Jewish Press, Omaha’s Jewish newspaper.

“At the time, the Omaha Club did not take Jewish members, and the Highland Country Club, a golf club, didn’t have any gentile members,” Lipsey recalls. “Warren volunteered to join the Highland” -rather than the gentile club – “to set an example of non-discrimination.”

Buffett happily recalls the fallout from his application.

“It created this big rhubarb,” he says. “All of the rabbis appeared on my behalf, the ADL guy appeared on my behalf. Finally they voted to let me in.”

But that wasn’t the end of the story, Buffett tells JTA. The Highland had a rule requiring members to donate a certain amount of money to their synagogues. Buffett, of course, wasn’t a synagogue member, so the club changed its policy: Members now would be expected to give to their synagogues, temples or churches.

But that still didn’t quite work, Buffett recalls with a laugh, because of his agnosticism.

In the end, the rule was amended to ask simply that members make some sort of charitable donation, and the path to Buffet’s membership was clear.

“He’s an incredible guy,” says Lipsey, today the publisher of the Buffalo News. In 1973, The Sun won a Pulitzer prize in Local Investigative Specialized Reporting for an expose on financial impropriety at Boys Town, Nebraska.

“Warren came up with the key source for us knowing what was going on out there,” Lipsey says.

Buffett himself researched Boys Town’s stocks to bolster the story, Lipsey adds.

In the 1960s, Omaha Rabbi Myer Kripke decided to invest in his friend Buffett’s new business venture. Their wives had become friendly, he says, and the foursome enjoyed playing the occasional game of bridge together.

“My wife had no card sense and I was certainly no competition to Warren, who is a very good bridge player and a lover of the game,” Kripke, rabbi emeritus of Omaha’s Conservative Beth El Synagogue, told JTA. “He’s very bright and very personable and very decent. He is a rich man who is as clean as can be.”

Kripke, father of the noted philosopher Saul Kripke, bought a few shares in Berkshire Hathaway and quickly sold them, doubling his money, he says.

Recognizing a good thing when he saw it, he bought a bunch more shares in his friend’s company, shares that by the 1990s had made Kripke – who says he never earned more than $30,000 a year as a rabbi – a millionaire.

Kripke met his late wife, the children’s book author Dorothy Kripke, at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, the flagship institution of the Conservative movement, where Kripke was ordained as a rabbi in 1937.

In 1996, flush from their prescient investment with Buffet’s company, the couple decided to make a major gift to JTS – $7 million in cash to restore the building’s damaged tower, and a deferred gift of some $8 million, which the seminary will receive after Kripke passes away.

“Rabbi Kripke had the heart to make a donation to JTS, he had the will to make a donation, he had the desire to make a donation – but if he had not had the means to make a donation, the recreation of our tower would never have happened,” says Rabbi Carol Davidson, the seminary’s vice chancellor for institutional advancement. “It was really only possible because of their prior investment many years ago with Warren Buffett.”

Kripke – who says he’s still got a picture of Buffett’s late wife, Susan, on his bulletin board – concurs. Asked if he credits Buffett with his financial success, he doesn’t hesitate.

“Entirely, yes,” he says. “I never had much of an income.”

The Israeli government stands to reap about $1 billion in taxes on Buffett’s purchase of Iscar. Shortly after announcing the deal, Buffett says he was surprised to learn that a Berkshire subsidiary, CTB International, was purchasing a controlling interest in another Israeli company, AgroLogic.

In Israel – which Buffett plans to visit in the fall – the hope is that the deals will have longer legs: Buffett himself has not ruled out future purchases there and, considering his status as a leading investor, observers say others also may take a look at Israeli companies now that Buffett has done so.

“You won’t find in the world a better-run operation than Iscar,” Buffett says. “I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s run by Israelis.”

The Sun newspaper group was not Buffett’s only early purchase of a Jewish-owned company. In 1983, sealing the deal with a handshake, Buffett bought 90 percent of the Nebraska Furniture Mart from Rose Blumkin, a Russian-born Jew who moved to the United States in 1917.

In 1989, he purchased a majority of the stock in Borsheim’s Fine Jewelry and Gifts, a phenomenally successful jewelry store, from the Friedman family.

“He has many friends in the Jewish community,” says Forrest Krutter, secretary of Berkshire Hathaway and a former president of the Jewish Federation of Omaha.

Buffett’s former son-in-law, Allen Greenberg, is a Jew, and now runs the Buffett Foundation, much of whose work has dealt with reproductive rights and family-planning issues. Buffett’s personal assistant is Ian Jacobs, who goes by his Hebrew name, Shami.

Buffett himself counts the late Nebraska businessman Howard “Micky” Newman and philanthropist Jack Skirball as among his “very closest friends.”

Further, Buffett says his “hero and the man who made me an investment success” was Ben Graham. Graham, along with Newman’s father, Jerry, ran a New York fund called Graham-Newman Corp.

“After besieging Ben for the three years after I received my degree from Columbia, Ben and Jerry finally hired me,” Buffett says. “I was the first gentile ever employed by the firm – including secretaries – in its 18 years of existence. My first son bears the middle name Graham after Ben.”

Buffett “is very much honored in the Jewish community,” Kripke says.

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

Melts in your mouth AND in your hand!

Introducing the Fire Hazard Menorah from M&Ms… My question is why the company decided to recall this product now (in mid-May). Shouldn’t the five events of “smoldering or igniting” have been reported to the company back in the winter around the time that people actually light the menorah? Did it actually take them five months to decide to issue a recall?

Masterfoods USA Recalls M&M’S Menorah for Fire Hazard -The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

Name of Product: M&M’S Brand Menorah

Units: About 1,008

Hazard: If a candle burns all the way down, the plastic Menorah could ignite and present a fire hazard.

Incidents/Injuries: Masterfoods USA has received five reports of the Menorah smoldering or igniting. No injuries or property damage have been reported.

Description: The recalled Menorah is an eight-branch candleholder designed to resemble M&M’S Brand candies. On each end of the Menorah is an M&M’S Brand character holding a Star of David.

Remedy: Consumers should stop using these Menorahs immediately and return them to Masterfoods USA for a full refund including taxes and shipping and handling, where applicable. Masterfoods USA is also offering a $10 gift certificate good towards the purchase of any M&M’S collectible.

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