Edgar M. Bronfman Sr. – Remembering a Jewish Philanthropist

I awoke in the middle of the night last night unable to sleep. It was a little before 4:00 AM. I know what time it was because I looked on my phone since the power was out from the winter storm. Shockingly, I noticed from a few email messages, tweets and Facebook postings that the world lost a giant in the field of Jewish philanthropy.

I only had the opportunity to meet Edgar Bronfman, Sr. twice and both were for only fleeting moments. At a Hillel staff conference in New Jersey he seemed to enjoy walking the hotel shmoozing with Hillel staffers and thanking us for our work on campus. It was he who should have been thanked. In the middle of the night I read his very lengthy obituary in the New York Times. As long as this tribute was it still failed to mention so many of the causes he championed and the philanthropic efforts he backed with his family’s fortune.

In October at The Conversation, Gary Rosenblatt’s annual convening of Jewish leaders at the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Maryland, I ate lunch with Dana Raucher, the executive director of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation. I listened to Dana share her fondness for Edgar Bronfman, Sr. and articulate how genuine and authentic is his love for the Jewish people and the many causes he supports through his foundation. Upon his passing at his home yesterday on Shabbat, Dana publicly shared the following about her boss:

“Edgar was deeply committed to making Judaism relevant to all those who were seeking it. He sought to build a big tent, open for vigorous debate, impassioned questioning, and full of joy. He loved the energy and exuberance of young people, and took them quite seriously because he recognized that they would be the ones shaping their own Jewish future.”

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Dr. Abraham Nemeth – Inventor and Mathematician

One of the highlights of attending Shabbat services at Adat Shalom Synagogue since I was a young child has been talking with Dr. Abe Nemeth. Dr. Nemeth, who passed away yesterday at 94, was a brilliant mathematician and inventor.

Dr. Nemeth was blind since birth, but he invented many technological devices to make his life easier. I recall a Friday night get together at Rabbi Efry Spectre’s home during high school when Dr. Nemeth was the guest speaker. He showed the 20 or so teens in the room how he developed a wrist watch that would tell him the time just by touching it. He also showed us the Braille siddur (prayerbook) that he uses.

Dr. Abraham Nemeth

Dr. Nemeth taught math for 3 decades at the University of Detroit and then started their Computer Science department. In terms of his lasting legacy, his entry in Wikipedia explains that Dr. Nemeth developed “the Braille code that would more effectively handle the kinds of math and science material he was tackling. Ultimately, he developed the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation in 1952. The Nemeth Code has gone through 4 revisions since its initial development, and continues to be widely used today. Nemeth is also responsible for the rules of MathSpeak, a system for orally communicating mathematical text. In the course of his studies, Nemeth found that he needed to make use of sighted readers to read otherwise inaccessible math texts and other materials. Likewise, he needed a method for dictating his math work and other materials for transcription into print. The conventions Nemeth developed for efficiently reading mathematical text out loud have evolved into MathSpeak.

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Honoring Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Today is the secular anniversary of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the preeminent theologian of the 20th century (his yahrzeit on the 18th of Tevet is next week). Many of my teachers at The Jewish Theological Seminary were students of Heschel’s and were highly influenced by his thinking and writing.

In Heschel’s memory I share my favorite story of Heschel as retold to me recently by Rabbi Gordon Tucker, one of his students: Heschel was sent by the Seminary to a Conservative synagogue to give a speech at a fundraising event. He went on and on for over an hour about his theology of humanity’s desire to conquer both Space and Time. It was highly intellectual and far over the heads of many in the audience who quickly lost focus. When Heschel was finally finished with his teaching, the president of the congregation got up and simply said: “You heard the rabbi, the Seminary needs more Space and there isn’t much Time!”

While Heschel died before I was born, his writings have had a significant impact on my own Jewish theology. In college I read Heschel’s The Sabbath which I have re-read several times since. My library has a dedicated shelf of Heschel’s works, many of which were inherited by me from my late Papa, David Gudes. My copies of Man in Search of God and The Prophets still have the dogeared pages that my Papa left.

In high school, as a member of USY’s AJ Heschel Society, I would stay up late at night learning about Heschel’s theology. I recall studying God in Search of Man with USY’s International Director Jules Gutin at International Convention in Los Angeles in 1993.

Over the years I have taught Heschel’s The Sabbath to adults and teens. The first time I taught that book to teens was as a college student at Camp CRUSY. It was after Shabbat dinner on a Friday night and somehow all twenty or so teens gave me their full attention. That was one of the pivotal moments in my decision to become a rabbi.

I also remember the first time I taught about Heschel’s theology of Shabbat to adults. It was during a Tikkun Leil Shavuot at Congregation B’nai Israel. Sitting next to the synagogue’s rabbi, Leonardo Bitran, I discussed how I fully embrace all the technological advances we have at the end of the 20th century and how my love of technology, electronics and automation often comes into conflict with Heschel’s Shabbat theology, which calls for a break from technological automation that makes our lives easier. Heschel believed that we humans use space to try and control time. I asked “Is Heschel’s notion of Shabbat a possibility? Can we, as humans in the 21st century, ever just allow ourselves to sanctify time without trying to conquer space and time in a tech-centered world?”

As society becomes even more dependent on technology in the 21st century, Heschel’s theology seems to gain importance. Heschel’s legacy is two-fold. He was a Jewish pioneer in the call for civil rights in our country and he pushed us to think intelligently about God’s role in our lives. Heschel’s ability to write poetically, if cryptically, about modern man’s challenge of letting time dictate our lives if only for a day has been a gift for generations and will be a gift for generations to come. May the righteous memory of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel continue to be for blessings.

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

The Jewish Flavor of Maurice Sendak

Originally published on JTA.org

A few months after my first child was born, I went to a bookstore to buy a few books that I thought needed to be on the bookshelf of my new baby’s nursery. Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” was one of those books.

A childhood favorite of mine, I knew the day would come when I would read it to my son as part of our bedtime ritual. I immediately recalled that bookstore visit when I heard the news that Sendak had died Tuesday from complications of a stroke. He was 83.

Much has been written about Sendak’s imagination and his uncanny ability to create characters to whom children can relate. Many of the characters in his books were developed based on the Torah stories that his father told him as a child. Sendak has said that he embellished those stories to make them more interesting for children.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I saw the Jewish flavor that peppers Sendak’s works.

The characters in his most well-known children’s story are based on his old Jewish relatives. In some of his stories, Yiddish words are interspersed with his poetic English.

“Where the Wild Things Are” is even based on the Yiddish vilde chaya (wild beast), which Jewish parents for generations have used to describe rambunctious children.

Some of Sendak’s stories, including “In the Night Kitchen,” speak to his own fears of the Holocaust. His immigrant parents lost most of their family members in the Holocaust and reminded him that he would have had many more cousins were it not for the Nazis.

Having learned that Sendak was influenced by his father’s nightly bedtime stories drawn from the Torah, I have found real value and meaning in reading Sendak’s books to my own children at bedtime. His children’s stories are my kids’ most requested bedtime books.

Over the years, I’ve read “Where the Wild Things Are” to my children many times. In fact, I recently read it to them in Hebrew.

Just a week ago, my daughter brought home a Hebrew version of Sendak’s masterpiece. His brilliance comes through no matter the language.

Turning the pages of the Hebrew translation, I began to laugh as I recalled the author’s uproarious appearance on “The Colbert Report” earlier this year.

Even at 83, Sendak was still entertaining both children and their parents.

His memorable illustrations and ability to turn scary monsters into lovable friends will live on into future generations, and I look forward to the day when my own children will read the stories of Sendak’s wonderful imagination to my grandchildren.

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

RIP Adam Yauch (MCA) – Jewish and Buddhist

Back in 1987 at Camp Tamarack, I remember a couple of friends and I decided to sing “Paul Revere” for a talent show. “Only if I can be MCA,” I recall saying to my two fellow campers. There was something about MCA that I always liked.

Three Jewish white boys at a Jewish summer camp pretending to be three Jewish white boy rappers called The Beastie Boys. We knew every word from every song on the License to Ill cassette tape. We didn’t understand every word the Beasties were singing, but we loved their mantra: “Fight For Your Right to Party.”

I flashed back to that summer earlier today when I heard the horrible news that Adam Yauch (“MCA”) had succumbed to his cancer fight and passed away. A friend of mine who attended the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony told me last week that he heard that Adam Yauch was nearing the end of his life. I was moved when my friend told me that in a true act of solidarity the other two Beastie Boys Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz refused to perform in Cleveland at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony without MCA. In fact, they refused to ever perform again until Yauch beat his cancer.

Adam Yauch was born to a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, but as an adult Yauch practiced Buddhism making him the world’s most popular JewBu. In recent years, he took an active role in the promotion of the Tibetan freedom cause. In addition to his successful career as MCA of the Beastie Boys, Yauch will also be remembered as an independent film maker. Under the pseudonym “Nathanial Hörnblowér” Yauch directed many of the Beastie Boys’ music videos.

Many times when we hear of the premature death of a music star it is related to a drug overdoes, an tragic accident, a murder or a suicide. Adam Yauch’s death at only 47 should remind us all of the need to support the fight against cancer and to fund research efforts to find a cure. Condolences to the wife and daughter Yauch leaves behind as well as to his fellow Beasties Horovitz and Diamond. Rest in peace MCA!

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

Whitney Houston’s Israel Connection

Whitney Houston was not Jewish, but she did have a connection to the State of Israel. The singer, who died yesterday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, traveled to Israel in 2003 with her then husband Bobby Brown.

Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown were invited to tour Israel by the Black Hebrews, who live in Israel’s southern city of Dimona. Together with their daughter, Bobbi Kristina, the couple traveled the country for a week and even met with then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Houston reportedly told Prime Minister Sharon that she felt at home in Israel. Houston and Brown were named honorary citizens of the Israeli city.

Here’s the classic coverage of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s Israel visit as reported by Jon Stewart who even managed to drop the Yiddish word farkakte.

In 1986 French Jewish singer Serge Gainsbourg met Whitney Houston on a French television show. It appeared that Gainsbourg was intoxicated. Here’s the video (caution: includes R-rated language):

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

A Letter to Jeffrey Zaslow’s Daughter Eden

Dear Eden,

When I heard the horrible news yesterday evening about your father’s tragic death I immediately thought of you. I then spent the entire 25 hours of Shabbat asking God how this could happen and hugging my children a few extra times than I ordinarily do.

I can’t stop thinking of the first time I met you because, whether you realized it or not, you taught me so much about your father. And about life. It was in September 2010. You were a student in my class at Temple Israel Hebrew High School. It was the first time I had ever taught a high school class about blogging and I was eager to see each teen’s creativity. The first session was an introduction to blogging and I recall you weren’t there.

In the second session of the course all twenty teens set up their new blogs and began to write their first post with some excitement (or as much excitement as teens show in a Hebrew High School class). You sat in front of your computer with nothing on the screen for several minutes. When I came over you explained that you had no idea what to write about or even what the focus of your blog should be. It was then that I said one of the stupidest things I have ever said to anyone. “You’re Jeff Zaslow’s daughter and you have writer’s block?” I wished I could take those words back. Fortunately, you laughed.

Jeff Zaslow (Photo by Eden Zaslow)

I told you the story of how I first met your parents. Ironically, it had been at my own Hebrew High School twenty years earlier. Your mom and dad came to Adat Shalom Synagogue to speak to the high school students about their careers in the media. Of course I knew your mom from the television news, but I was so intrigued with your dad’s job as an advice columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. He read some of the more humorous questions he had received over the years. And of course his humorous responses.

You and I talked for a while and I asked what you enjoy doing. You told me that you enjoyed photography. I told you it would be a great idea if your blog was a collection of your photos. Since you didn’t have any of your photographs on that computer’s hard drive you decided to make your blog about something else. I told you that I had recently been asked to start a blog for Detroit’s Community Next about Jewish celebrities. You thought that sounded like a great idea and decided to focus your blog on Jewish celebrities and Detroit’s budding film industry. In your opening blog post you wrote:

Hello, I am Eden Zaslow, a student at Temple Israel Monday night school in West Bloomfield, Michigan. In my blog I will be talking about Jewish celebrities and the new or soon to be new LA: Detroit. I will be posting facts and gossip about Jews and about the movies being filmed in Detroit. Enjoy!

The next time we had class you posted about how Michigan’s current race for governor would affect Detroit’s film industry. You correctly predicted that if Rick Snyder became Michigan’s next governor it would jeopardize the film industry. While you didn’t continue that blog, I know you have continued your photography. In fact, you might be the youngest photographer to have a photo credit in People Magazine. I know how proud your dad was that your photo of him was used alongside the review of his last book The Magic Room.

Eden and Jeffrey Zaslow

I know I’m not the first to tell you this, but The Magic Room was your dad’s last lecture. He helped make the words “last lecture” into a household term when he helped Prof. Randy Pausch leave his legacy to the world. The Magic Room was your dad’s legacy. He wrote the book for you and your two sisters. He wanted to share how special the father-daughter relationship is, and in so doing he helped so many parents do their most important job a little better. Having my own daughter, I’m grateful for this beautiful book.

This morning in synagogues all over the world, the Jewish people heard about Yitro’s contributions to the Jewish people. Yitro was a Medianite priest and Moses’ father-in-law. But he was also an advice columnist of sorts like your dad was at the Sun-Times. Yitro gave very important and useful advice to Moses that helped him be a better leader. While the Torah doesn’t mention this fact, Yitro’s advice also helped Moses be a better father and husband. Your dad, Jeffrey Zaslow, was a modern-day Yitro. Whether it was following in the footsteps of Ann Landers as an actual advice columnist or writing brilliant books like The Girls from Ames and The Magic Room, or helping our heroes like Prof. Randy Pausch, Pilot Sully Sullenberger, and Rep. Gaby Giffords write their memoirs, your dad shared his wisdom with millions. The number of languages his books were translated into is a true testament to the far reach his books had.

I wish I could give you some explanation for the tragic accident that took your father’s life before he could see his own daughters trying on their wedding gowns in front of the mirrors of the Magic Room. I wish I could share a prayer or a psalm or an inspirational quote that could take away some of the pain you and your family are feeling right now. There is no explanation. It is shocking. It is horrific.

Jeff Zaslow (Photo by Eden Zaslow)

Eden, you taught me an important lesson and one I won’t soon forget. You taught me that we are not our parents. Just because your father was a prolific writer who was publishing a best seller each year, doesn’t mean that his 15-year-old daughter shouldn’t struggle in coming up with a theme for her new blog. Maybe writing won’t be your thing. Maybe it will be photography. Or a million other things. No matter where you place your talents, I know one thing is for certain. Your father will be so proud of you. He will be looking down at his daughters and beaming with pride.

Please know that your father left an indelible mark on our world. Through the gifts of his wit and wisdom, his keen ability to listen to others, his ability to tell stories, and his genuine desire to help others, Jeffrey Zaslow will long be remembered and cherished. But more important than that, he was a mensch and a wonderful and caring father.

May your father’s memory be for blessings.

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

Should Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel Have Mattered More to Us?

I try to keep up with the current events of the worldwide Jewish community. I read all of the major Jewish newspapers (or at least their websites). Therefore, I knew when Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel died on November 8 in Jerusalem. And yet, I admit I had never heard of him before.

Rabbi Finkel was born in Chicago, Illinois and was the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. While I’m sure he’s included in the set of famous rabbi trading cards I occasionally receive as a gag gift, I had never read anything he had written or listened to any of his sermons on YouTube. I immediately knew he was a “tzaddik” (righteous man) and a “gadol hador” (an influential giant of his generation) because over 100,000 people attended his funeral. I will be the first to admit that his death didn’t affect my life and after reading the headline of his death I said “baruch dayan ha’emet” and went on about my day.

The funeral of Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

It is Rabbi Danny Gordis who puts Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel’s death into a broader context (he’s good at doing that and he does it often). On his blog, Rabbi Gordis compares Rabbi Finkel’s funeral to the funeral of Y.L. Peretz a century earlier. Over 100,000 people attended the famous Yiddish writer’s funeral in Warsaw as well, but the difference has to do with who was in the crowd. While Peretz’s funeral was attended by a large cross-section of the Jewish community, Rabbi Finkel’s funeral was a homogeneous sea of black hat Haredi Jews. Gordis writes:

What a striking difference! How many secular Jews could be found at Rabbi Finkel’s funeral? How many observant Jews not in black? None of the former, I would imagine. And very, very few of the latter.

Which leads me to the following question: Who is there anywhere in the Jewish world whose passing would evoke the sense of shared loss that was felt when Peretz died? Is there anyone in the Jewish world – in Israel, the United States, or anywhere else – who would be mourned by secularists and religious Jews alike, conservatives and liberals, Zionists and those more dubious about the Jewish state?

And that got me thinking. Who is there who could die and be mourned by over 100,000 Jewish people representing every political and religious group? I immediately thought back to this month in 1995 when we mourned the death of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. That might have been the death of the term “worldwide Jewish community.” Rabin’s assassination was carried out based on political and religious disagreements. The harsh reality is that the global Jewish community is more divided today than ever before and Gordis’s use of these two funerals paints that picture in sharp detail.

Gordis has a strong message for us. He writes, “What matters, of course, is not really who mourns whom at funerals. What matters is who takes whom seriously during their lifetime. And increasingly, I fear, we take seriously those people who are more or less like us. We embrace (and then ‘like’ on Facebook, or forward to others) the views of those with whom we agree, and disparage (and don’t ‘like’ or Retweet, and never forward) the views of those whose views we don’t share.” Gordis encourages us to read those individuals whose opinions we don’t agree with. Perhaps the non-Haredi community would never have turned out en masse to mourn the passing of Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel earlier this month, but at least we should have known who he was and why he was such a notable figure among some of our brothers and sisters.

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

The Jewish Zen of Steve Jobs

For many years I’ve been writing and speaking about the impact of technology on Jewish life. In 1995 I had the idea to use email (it was still fairly new at the time) to ask random people around the world to wish my brother congratulations on his upcoming bar mitzvah. The response was overwhelming and it got me thinking about the power of the Internet and how it would make the Jewish world smaller. So, as an International Relations major I titled my college thesis “The Globalization of Judaism: How the Internet has Heightened Jewish Religion, Cultural Awareness, and Education on a Global Scale” and tried to predict how technological innovation would change the global Jewish community.

Steve Jobs, a Zen Buddhist follower, is largely responsible for the way we have plugged in to new technology and communication devices. His contributions to technological innovation have indirectly altered Jewish life for the better. We are a more interconnected, organized, and educated people thanks to the genius of Steve Jobs. Like millions of others, when I heard that Steve Jobs had succumbed to Pancreatic Cancer yesterday evening, I immediately began to think about all the ways I’ve used the Apple products that have his visionary imprint on them. While I’ve always favored PCs above Apple computers, I have had my share of Apple products — from Mac desktops to iPods. The role of Steve Jobs at Apple always had less to do with the technology side of the corporation and more to do with the business, marketing, and creative aspects.

Ami Eden, the editor of JTA, asked me to write a reflection of Steve Jobs from a Jewish perspective. At first, I wasn’t sure I was up to the task because Steve Jobs wasn’t Jewish and I couldn’t think what was “Jewish” about his role at Apple. Ultimately, I realized that his contributions to technology have made the world a better place and that embodies the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam – improving our world. A genius like Steve Jobs is unique. His revolutionary work will be felt for generations. Here is what I wrote for JTA:

Social networking sites began buzzing immediately after word spread of the death of Apple Computer visionary Steve Jobs Wednesday evening. Rabbis took time out of their busy preparations for Yom Kippur to halt their sermon writing and post personal reflections on what the contributions of Steve Jobs’ creative spark had on them.

Rabbi Andrew Pepperstone of Dewitt, N.Y, posted to his Facebook page, “Is Steve Jobs a hero? If someone who has vision, discipline, passion, and love for what he does is a hero, then yes. It was not about the money or the fame for him. It was about changing the world in a million little ways that improved peoples’ lives. And his devices and other inventions have been a major breakthrough in helping people with disabilities communicate and employ the best that technology has to offer.” Earlier on Facebook, Pepperstone recounted the plethora of Apple computers and gadgets he had used since his first Apple IIe in 1984.

Answering the question “Why Is Steve Jobs Important to Me?” Rabbi Eric Linder of Omaha explained how Jobs impacted his professional life. On his blog Linder wrote, “In my rabbinate, I have tried to use technology to make Judaism relevant. For Rosh Hashanah we leveraged the power of social media to crowd source answers to the question, ‘What does the shofar call YOU to do?’ All of the technical stuff was done on Apple technology. And the project brought the congregation closer together. It brought people together.”

Over the past three decades, the technological innovation that was inspired by Steve Jobs’ vision had a significant effect on the Jewish community. His genius was in intuiting what would happen when you “strip away the excess layers of business, design, and innovation until only the simple elegant reality remained.” The ways in which Jewish education and Jewish life have been positively affected by the products that Steve Jobs dreamed of and made into a reality are countless. His iPods made Jewish music and Jewish learning more accessible. His computers brought graphic design to new levels for Jewish institutions like synagogues and day schools. His Facetime application on the iPhone allowed Jewish communities separated by continents to come together and communicate. The geographical distances and borders have become irrelevant thanks to the innovative contributions of this genius. The thousands of Jewish themed applications from utilities to resources to games were created specifically for the iPhone and iPad.

Steve Jobs’ understanding of efficiency and connectivity led to the intuitive devices that have changed the way we work and connect with each other. The Jewish high school that has its students learning Talmud and chemistry on the iPad owes a great deal to the work of Steve Jobs. The father who created a slideshow of memories set to music using iMovie for his daughter’s wedding is indebted to the vision of Steve Jobs. The young boy living in a remote area of the country who is preparing for his bar mitzvah by listening to a New York cantor’s podcast on his iTouch is grateful to Steve Jobs.

Did the devotee of Zen Buddhism have a Jewish spark in him? Perhaps he did. There is no doubt that Steve Jobs had a profound effect on the Jewish world. His dynamic legacy will continues to make the world better as we continue to plug in and connect with each other in just the way he envisioned and using the devices he helped design. If the value of Tikkun Olam really means leaving your imprint on the world in a quest to make it a better place for all of us, then Steve Jobs possessed that value a thousand-fold.

May the memory of Steve Jobs be for blessings and may his family be comforted during this difficult time.

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

Jewish Singer Amy Winehouse Found Dead

Was Amy Winehouse Jewish? Yes, she was. The singer, who was found dead today in her London home, was born in Southgate, London to Janis, a pharmacist, and Mitch, a cab driver.

A 2010 article in Moment Magazine titled “Surprise, They’re Jewish,” describes Winehouse as “The 27-year old British, bee-hived vocalist and tabloid headliner is equally known for her innovative songs and substance abuse problems; references to her ‘pipes’ could just as easily conjure her vocal chords or drug paraphernalia. Yet, the bad girl with the pin-up tattoos, soul style and Marilyn Monroe mole piercing was born to Mitchell and Janis, a Jewish couple in north London. Not everyone is surprised to hear that Winehouse is Jewish. Referencing her Semitic-looking visage, Sarah Silverman once quipped, ‘She is Jewish, right? If she isn’t, someone should tell her face.'”

Her obituary in the New York Times states that “Winehouse showed an early talent for performing, as well as an eclecticism that would characterize her later work. She loved her father’s Sinatra records, but she also liked hip-hop; at age 10 she and a friend formed a rap group called Sweet ‘n’ Sour that Ms. Winehouse later described as “the little white Jewish Salt-N-Pepa.”

So far, the cause of Amy Winehouse’s death is not known.

While going for drug abuse treatment seems to be a fad these days for celebrities, there are some celebs who really need it but don’t give it much attention.

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