Don’t be a bad Christian, vote Harris!

People say that Joe Lieberman didn’t win the Connecticut primary because of his support of the Iraq War and his George W. Bush kiss, but maybe it was because Connecticut voters didn’t want to “legislate sin” by electing a non-Christian to the senate. I think Katherine Harris should use the slogan “If you’re not with me, you’re not with Jesus.”

From JTA.org

Harris: Elect Christians or sin

U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.), the leading GOP contender for a Florida U.S. Senate seat, said not electing Christians amounts to “legislating sin.”

“If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you’re not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin,” Harris told the Florida Baptist Witness in an interview last week. “Whenever we legislate sin and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don’t know better, we are leading them astray and it’s wrong.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who is Jewish, told the Orlando Sentinel that Harris’ comments were “disgusting.”

Harris, who also described the separation of church and state as a “lie,” later issued a clarification to Fox News saying that she is pro-Israel and supports Holocaust education.

Harris, famous for her role as Florida secretary of state in stopping the 2000 presidential recount, is likely to take the Republican nomination, but lags substantially behind incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Shawn Green: Jewish Baseball Superstar

From the NY Times

A Power Hitter. And a Source of Jewish Pride.

Not that there’s any pressure on Shawn Green to succeed in New York, but when Mr. Green — power-hitting right fielder, two-time All-Star, Jew — took the field in a Mets uniform for the first time on Thursday, a fan named Corey Mintz held up a poster with Mr. Green’s photo on it.

“The messiah has arrived,” the poster read.

Jews are famed for their prowess in many fields, but have long been stereotyped, even by themselves, as being weak in athletics. There might not be a group on the planet with a more finely honed sense of physical inferiority.

So when a star ballplayer who happens to be Jewish comes to play in the New York area, a capital of Jewish culture, home to nearly two million Jews, it is cause for much rejoicing.

Americans, Jewish and otherwise, may not hold sports stars in the esteem they once did. Jews no longer feel quite the need to prove themselves as Americans by, for instance, excelling at sports.

But still the Jewish people hunger for a hometown hero to call their own.

When David Cone came to the Mets in 1987, he was inundated with bar mitzvah invitations, said Jay Horwitz, the Mets’ longtime public relations man. A reporter from Jerusalem called looking to profile the next Sandy Koufax. Mr. Horwitz had to break the news to the world that Mr. Cone — not Cohen — was not Jewish.

The same thing happened last year when the Mets brought up a first baseman named Michael Jacobs. “Every question I got was ‘Is Mike Jacobs Jewish? Is Mike Jacobs Jewish?’ ” Mr. Horwitz said. He is not.

Mr. Green, acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks this week to give the Mets an offensive lift as they look toward the playoffs, is the real deal. He is arguably the best Jewish baseball player since Koufax. He may be the most accomplished Jew to wear a New York uniform since Harry “the Horse” Danning, a four-time All-Star for the Giants in the 1930’s.

And his people are clamoring to embrace him. “I must have gotten 20 calls yesterday and today,” said Alan Freedman, the director of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in SuffolkCounty, who recalled bringing a transistor radio into Hebrew school in 1963 to listen to Mr. Koufax’s World Series exploits. “Everyone is asking me: ‘How can I get in touch with Shawn Green? How can I get him to come to our temple?’ “

On the streets of BoroughPark, Brooklyn, where Orthodox Jews predominate, Alan Moskowitz, a 33-year-old schoolteacher, said he was thrilled to welcome Mr. Green, whose baseball cards he has sought out since his rookie season in 1993.

“He’s a team player, and he’s on our team, if you know what I’m saying,” Mr. Moskowitz said.

And in the stands at Shea Stadium, Joshua Ostrovsky, a husky Manhattanite with a billowing Jewish afro and a gold Hebrew “chai” necklace outside his Dwight Gooden jersey, called Mr. Green a role model.

“There were many times in Little League that people said to me, ‘Ostrovsky, you are fat, you’re Jewish, you’ll never play baseball.’ ” said Mr. Ostrovsky, 24. “So I lost weight, and they still said, ‘You’ll never play baseball because you are Jewish.’ Shawn has been an inspiration to me.”

The history of Jewish major league baseball players in New York is not nonexistent, but it is not particularly illustrious, either.

“Have you ever heard of the Rabbi of Swat?” asked Martin Abramowitz, president of Jewish Major Leaguers, a nonprofit group. There really was one. His name was Mose Solomon, and he played in two games for the New York Giants in 1923 before switching to football.

In the 20’s and 30’s, Mr. Abramowitz said, both the Giants and the Dodgers actively recruited Jewish players in hopes of drawing the city’s growing Jewish population to the ballpark. In 1941, the Giants fielded four Jews in the same game.

The Giants had a star in Mr. Danning, who hit .300 three years in a row. But most Jewish ballplayers on New York teams were of the journeyman variety. Not that they were any less beloved.

“There was a lot of pride even when they didn’t do particularly well,” said Matthew Maryles, the president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. Mr. Maryles, scheduled to throw out the first ball at Jewish Heritage Day at Shea Stadium tomorrow, said his childhood hero was Cal Abrams of the Dodgers, perhaps best known for ending his team’s 1950 pennant run by getting thrown out at home plate.

“Jews at that time weren’t totally sure of themselves in American society like they are today,” Mr. Maryles said. “Baseball was a way of proving we were part of America.”

The best Jewish players from New York left town to make it big. Hank Greenberg, Brooklyn-born first baseman and eventual Hall of Famer, could have signed with the Yankees, but their first baseman at the time was an iron man named Lou Gehrig.

Koufax started his career with the Dodgers in his home borough of Brooklyn but did not come into his own until the team moved to Los Angeles, an occasion for much bittersweet celebration back in New York.

In the modern era, the Miracle Mets of 1969 had Art Shamsky. In the 70’s, the Yankees had Ron Blomberg, a promising slugger who was hobbled by injuries for most of his career but still achieved enormous popularity. “I had people every single game to bring me bagels,” said Mr. Blomberg, who recently published a book “Designated Hebrew,” about his playing days.

Which brings up Mr. Green, a strapping six-footer with a dimpled chin, born near Chicago 34 years ago and raised near Los Angeles without so much as a bar mitzvah. In Toronto, where he became a star for the Blue Jays, he was taken into the arms of the Jewish community and became observant enough to end a 415-game playing streak by sitting out Yom Kippur in 2001.

Mr. Green’s best years are generally agreed to be behind him — he has not driven in more than 100 runs since 2002 — but Mr. Abramowitz said he had high hopes for him.

“By the end of the season, he’s probably going to be the only Jewish player in the history of the game with 300 home runs, 1,000 RBI’s and close to 1,900 hits,” he said.

Though Mr. Green arrives just in time for Jewish Heritage Day, which was scheduled long in advance, Mr. Horwitz promised that his acquisition was not a marketing stunt — not when he comes with a contract paying about $10 million a year. “This was a baseball decision,” he said.

Mr. Green, for his part, seems happy to be in New York. “For me it’s an important thing, the Jewish community here,” he said Thursday. “I definitely want to be a part of it and am excited to be a part of it and hopefully I can make them proud.”

So far, so good. In his second at-bat Thursday, he lined a run-scoring single to left field and the place erupted.

“Ma-zel tov! Ma-zel tov!” Mr. Ostrovsky chanted to the rhythm of “Let’s Go Mets.”

Mr. Ostrovsky pulled at his mane of kinky hair.

“I haven’t been this proud of a Jew since my brother’s bar mitzvah,” he said.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Ari Fleischer’s letter to Jimmy Carter

Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary to President George W. Bush and a member of the RJC Board of Directors, wrote in protest to former President Jimmy Carter, who accused Israel of launching an “unjustified attack on Lebanon.” In an interview in Der Spiegel, Carter said Israel lacked “any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon.”

Fleischer wrote:

…Mr. President, your words are music to Hezbollah’s ears and your message is a blow to long-term peace.

Just as you underestimated the threat of the Soviet Union in the 1970s, you underestimate the threat of radical Islam today. Your condemnation of Israel, the victim, only encourages Hezbollah, the attacker, to bide its time and attack again.

Ahmed Barakat, a member of Hezbollah’s central council, last week told the Qatari newspaper as-Watan that “Today Arab and Muslim society is reasonably certain that the defeat of Israel is possible and that the countdown to the disappearance of the Zionist entity in the region has begun. The triumph of the resistance is the beginning of the death of the Israeli enemy.”

I was raised a Democrat but I changed parties in 1982 because I believed your policies and the nuclear freeze movement invited increased Soviet militarism and adventurism. President Reagan’s military build-up and credible threat of the use of force helped bring about the demise of Communism and brought freedom and a better life to hundreds of millions in Central and Eastern Europe. It also secured a lasting peace.

I’m sorry to see you articulate about Hezbollah and its aggression the same weak world-view that encouraged Soviet aggression. As Ronald Reagan showed us, peace through strength is the only formulation understood by those bent on destruction.

I understand your longing for peace and your fond hope that Hezbollah can be reasoned with. However, when you call Israel‘s defense “an attack”, when you call what is justified “unjustified”, and when you call morality immoral, I conclude that the pro-defense, strong foreign policy lessons of the 70s and 80s remain unacceptable to you. Also, when you criticize Israel for targeting so-called “civilian” areas in Beirut and other areas where Hezbollah hides its operations, the result would be – if Israel listened to you – the creation of safe havens from which more violence and rocket attacks would be planned and launched.

Sadly, Hezbollah today is planning its next war. For the sake of peace, Israel deserves your praise, not your condemnation.

Sincerely,
L. Ari Fleischer

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Ironic: Woman To Lead Halachic N.Y. Shul

Rabbi David Weiss Halivni left the faculty of Jewish Theological Seminary in 1983 over the decision to ordain women as rabbis in the Conservative Movement. For serveral years, he has served as the rabbi of a small congregation on Manhattan’s Upper West Side that was named after the former chancellor of JTS, Louis Finkelstein, who was also opposed to ordaining women as rabbis.

Well, irony of ironies, Rabbi Weiss Halivni has been replaced at Kehilat Orach Eliezer by a woman! Here’s the article from the New York Jewish Week.

Move by Upper West Side congregation pushes gender boundaries.
Elicia Brown – Special To The Jewish Week

With the hiring of a woman as spiritual leader, an Upper West Side congregation – largely Orthodox in practice though not in name – may be charting new territory in the terrain of religious practice.

In a decision that could be seen as fracturing the stained-glass ceiling or at least rendering a tiny fissure, Congregation Kehilat Orach Eliezer (KOE) has hired Dina Najman-Licht, a scholar of Jewish law with an expertise in bioethics, as its rosh kehillah, or head of community.

She is scheduled to officially start serving the community on Selichot night, Sept. 16.

KOE has confirmed the arrival of women to places of leadership in the Orthodox community,” said Devorah Zlochower, a dean at Drisha, an Upper West Side institution for women’s study of Jewish texts.

This is something we have been hoping for and pushing for,” said Carol Newman, the president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, which will mark its 10th anniversary in February.

Najman-Licht succeeds Rabbi David Weiss Halivni, the rabbinic authority of the congregation since its founding in 1992, who retired last year.

Jonathan Sarna, a keen observer of American Jewish life, sees the decision as “part of a larger trend in Orthodoxy of pushing the boundaries. In liberal Orthodox circles people are trying to find out what the maximum is that women can do, and that entails narrowing what is the exclusive purview of the rabbi,” says Sarna, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University.

The development at KOE follows in the footsteps of an expanding universe of roles for women in Orthodoxy from the toanot, or advocates in Israel’s rabbinic courts, to the yoetzot halacha, who answer questions on family purity law, to the groundbreaking position of Chaviva Ner-David, who was ordained this spring in Jerusalem after years of study by the Orthodox Rabbi Aryeh Strikovsky.

Najman-Licht, 38, appears to be a beneficiary of the revolution in women’s study of Jewish text. She is a former Drisha fellow, a former Torat Miriam fellow, a graduate of Michlalah yeshiva for women in Jerusalem as well as a former student of Nishmat’s niddah program training women in matters dealing with menstruation and mikveh. She has also taught at both Drisha and Nishmat, developed halachic source material for the Halachic Organ Donor Society, and has developed and taught classes on Jewish law at two Jewish high schools in the area, Ma’ayanot and SAR. [more]

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Misleading Media

Here is a very well done video by Aish.com detailing the recent Photoshopped images and other rediculous altered photos from the media (especially Reuters) concerning the war against Hizbullah.

Reuters has actually withdrawn one photograph of a Beirut after Air Force attack after US blogs pointed out blatant evidence of manipulation. Reuters’ head of PR says in response, “Reuters has suspended photographer until investigations are completed into changes made to photograph.”

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Wolpe’s Million Dollar Mission

Kol Hakavod to my colleague Rabbi David Wolpe of Temple Sinai in LA for his 2-day solidarity mission to Israel in which he brought with him a significant amount of donated funds for Friends of the IDF.

From the Jerusalem Post (by Adina Greene)

Emotions ran high at Jerusalem’s David Citadel Hotel on Wednesday night as 43 members of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles, sat down to dinner with a group of border policemen and infrantrymen and other Israelis.

Rabbi David Wolpe led his congregants and others from the LA Jewish community on a two-day solidarity mission to Israel, bringing with them over $1 million in donations.

“Two weeks ago on Shabbat I quoted Bamidbar: ‘Shall your brothers go to war and shall we sit here?'” said Wolpe as the food was served. “That’s not going to happen. We’re going to Israel.”

Wolpe wanted to raise as much money as he could to bring on the trip.

The donations started with a 99-yearold woman, who was inspired by recalling when the State of Israel didn’t exist. She stood up and offered $10,000, he said, and the money started rolling in afterward.

Within a half an hour, Wolpe had collected around $600,000.

The funds will be donated to various organizations, with much of the money going to help soldiers. For example, money will be used to help fund combat soldiers’ Spirit Week, which is a week of recreation for soldiers who have finished their missions, and to catering to soldiers’ needs, like making kits and aiding those who have been wounded.

“That’s just what I remember from the list,” said Orna Pesah, who works in the Jerusalem office of International Friends of the IDF. “We’re getting updated lists every week… these extras [kits] let the soldiers fighting on the front be a little more comfortable and shows the support not just from Israel but also from around the world.”

Wolpe made two speeches during the dinner in which he thanked the soldiers for not just defending the country but for also defending the Jewish people. He said he was embarrassed by the thanks he and the rest of the group had received during the different visits they had made over the past two days, like to Rambam Hospital in Haifa.

Maj.-Gen. Itzhak Eitan, the international chairman for Friends of the IDF, lauded the two groups of soldiers for the work they were doing. The audience responded by giving the soldiers a standing ovation.

“It’s also nice to see that there are people who support what we do and come to show their support,” said Dave Rosenblit, a member of the infantry unit based outside Ramallah. “We go so long without hearing about people’s support; it lifts our spirits when we do.”

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

The IDF dedicates a song to Hezbollah Leader

There are many things that we in the Diaspora can do for our Israeli brothers and sisters during this war with Lebanon:

And Israelis can do something to:

  • Produce a hillarious song and dedicate it to Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah. Watch it here.
(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

I’m Back!

Not having blogged in over a month marks my longest dry spell since starting this blog in October 2003.

Much has happened in the month since I last blogged including moving to Columbus, Ohio and starting my new position as rabbi of Congregation Agudas Achim.

So, nu? Why did I decide to start blogging again today on this Erev Tisha B’Av?

Well, I’ve missed a lot of bloggable opportunities, but I couldn’t resist not posting this great quote from General Norman Schwartzkopf:

In a recent interview, the General was asked if he thought there was room for forgiveness toward Hizbollah.

Schwartzkopf replied, “I believe that forgiving Hizbollah is God’s function. The Israelis’ job is to arrange the meeting.”

I wish everyone a meaningful Tisha B’Av fast.

Shalom Al Yisrael!

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller