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LED Kippah

I just saw that there is now an LED Kippah (yarmulke) that you can buy on the Web. (Update: the website is no longer operational so perhaps it wasn’t a successful idea)

Light Up Kippah - LED Kippah Yarmulke

You can program your own scrolling message. Perhaps donors will contribute money to the congregation for their name to scroll down the rabbi’s kippah?

Think of all the messages I could display on my kippah during services:

  1. Today’s Kiddush sponsored by the Goldberg family
  2. Please keep side conversations to a minimum
  3. Turn off cellphones please
  4. In memory of [yahrzeit name here]
  5. Please don’t be offended by anything said in my sermon
  6. How’s my preaching? Call 800-2-KVETCH
  7. My other head covering’s a Detroit Tigers hat
  8. CNBC Stock Ticker
  9. This LED message was not programmed on Shabbat or Yom Tov
  10. News Headlines crawler from JTA.org
Light Up Kippah - LED Kippah Yarmulke
Screenshot from the L.E.D. Kippah Website
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AIPAC with Footlick and Neusner
AIPAC-Hagey, Cheney and with politicos and Hillary

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There’s Always Been Tech Support!

Since my father is a computer consultant and helps many technophobes and computer newbies with their technology problems, I found this video very funny. It just goes to show that there has always been the need for the “Help Desk.” Enjoy!

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller
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Swearing in on the Koran… I see no problem

I personally do not see a problem if an elected official gets sworn into office on a copy of the New Testament, the Tanakh, or a Koran. Dennis Prager (see photo at left from the 2005 Rabbinical Assembly Convention in Houston) obviously does. He’s taken issue with Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who is a Muslim and the first to be elected to Congress, taking his oath of office on a Koran. My colleague and friend Rabbi Barry Leff weighs in at his blog, Neshamah.net.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller
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Charles Krauthamer, Borat and G’neivat Da’at

On the same day this blog reached its 33,000th unique visit, my website (RabbiJason.com) marked its 15,000th unique visitor. My goal is to reach 50,000 visits to this blog in 2007. Of course, I will have to post more often than I have been — call it a new year’s resolution.

This morning we had a nice crowd at Agudas Achim for Shabbat services. I spoke about the movie Borat and how Sacha Baron Cohen is guilty of g’neivat da’at (literally, the theft of knowledge) when he deceives people into thinking he is an anti-Semitic Kazakh journalist and gets them to reveal their actual anti-Semitic feelings (or apathy).

I drew on the examples of g’neivat da’at that occur in the Book of Genesis:

  1. Jacob deceives his father Isaac into thinking he is Esau in order to receive the birthright that was intended for his older brother;
  2. Laban deceives Jacob by having him marry his older daughter Leah even though Jacob worked seven long years for the right to marry his beloved Rachel;
  3. Jacob deceives Laban by sneaking off from Lavan’s home in the middle of the night with his family.

I also handed out a source sheet with other examples of g’neivat da’at from other texts including II Samuel and rabbinic sources such as the Tosefta and the Talmud. We studied these texts and I also gave the example of Laura Blumenfeld’s g’neivat da’at in the book Revenge when she deceived the Palestinian family of the jailed man who shot her father, Conservative rabbi David Blumenfeld, into thinking she was just an American journalist interested in interviewing them.

Using the Rolling Stone interview of Sacha Baron Cohen and the Charles Krauthammer article critical of Baron Cohen’s explanation for his deception in the movie, I came to the conclusion in my sermon that:

  1. The movie “Borat” is very funny… outrageously funny;
  2. The movie is a sad commentary on anti-Semitism in America;
  3. The movie is dangerous because so many people just “won’t get it”;
  4. Sacha Baron Cohen clearly deceives people (g’neivat da’at) and that is not fair;
  5. Even though there are examples of where g’neivat da’at is acceptable (e.g., Jacob deceiving Lavan because otherwise Jacob’s family would have been in grave danger), in the case of “Borat,” the comedian Baron Cohen’s g’neivat da’at is not permissable.

The reactions to the sermon and text study were all very positive and of course they generated much discussion following services. Many people who didn’t see the movie said they were going to go soon. Some told me that based on my comments they realize they either don’t want to see the movie or feel they would be too upset by the anti-Semitism in the movie.

Overall, I’ve realized that most Jews are not upset by the anti-Semitism in the movie “Borat.” This is probably because Jews “get it.” My concern is for those who don’t “get it.”

The Anti-Defamation League came out with a statement that this is humor and to not take it too seriously. But also noticed that it has the potential to be dangerous:

We are concerned, however, that one serious pitfall is that the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke, and that some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry.
While Mr. Cohen’s brand of humor may be tasteless and even offensive to some, we understand that the intent is to dash stereotypes, not to perpetuate them. It is our hope that everyone in the audience will come away with an understanding that some types of comedy that work well on screen do not necessarily translate well in the real world — especially when attempted on others through retelling or mimicry.


Regardless of the comedian’s intent, people’s reaction to the anti-Semitism in the film, or people’s outrage or disgust at some of the “gross-out” gags in the film, there is no denying that Sacha Baron Cohen has introduced a new form of humor even different than that of Mel Brooks (“Springtime for Hitler”).

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller
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Don Imus joins Mel Gibson in the Anti-Semitism Hall of Fame

Last week Charles Krauthammer published an article about Sacha Baron Cohen’s movie “Borat.” Krauthammer argued that if Baron Cohen was, according to his out-of-character interview in Rolling Stone, trying to using Borat’s anti-Semitism as a “tool” to expose it in others, then he was looking for anti-Semitism in the wrong country. Rather than coming to America to out everyday Christians of being anti-Semitic, Baron Cohen (Krauthammer explains) should have stayed home in Europe.

In the Rolling Stone interview, Baron Cohen explains that his Arizona bar stunt where, as Borat, he gets the entire Country/Western bar to passionately sing along with his “Throw the Jew Down the Well,” revealed “indifference” to anti-Semitism. And that, he maintains, was the path to the Holocaust. Krauthammer takes great exception to this comment.

To Krauthammer there really is no anti-Semitism problem here in America. He writes: “This is all quite crazy. America is the most welcoming, religiously tolerant, philo-Semitic country in the world. No nation since Cyrus the Great’s Persia has done more for the Jews. And its reward is to be exposed as latently anti-Semitic by an itinerant Jew looking for laughs and, he solemnly assures us, for the path to the Holocaust?”

He continues: “It is very hard to be a Jew today, particularly in Baron Cohen’s Europe, where Jew-baiting is once again becoming acceptable.”

Well, take a look at Mel Gibson. Take a look at Michael Richards (who in addition to his racist tirade allegedly make anti-Semitic comments in a stand-up act as well). And now, take a look at morning radio show host Don Imus who on his radio program yesterday called “Jewish Management” at CBS “Money Grubbing.”

Krauthammer writes: “Harry Truman used to tell derisive Jewish jokes. Richard Nixon said nasty things about Jews in government and elsewhere. Who cares? Truman and Nixon were the two greatest friends of the Jews…” Well, he can make excuses for anti-Semites all he wants but the fact remains that anti-Semitism is on the rise in our country. I’m sure the ADL is busy preparing their response to the Don Imus tirade, but Krauthammer making it seem that anti-Semitism isn’t a problem here in America is not going to help.

This Shabbat, I will speak about the Borat movie and Sacha Baron Cohen’s deceptive approach to revealing anti-Semitism in America. Is it positive or negative? Is it funny or sad? Is it fair? Is it telling? And perhaps the most important question: Is it dangerous?

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller
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"Inn on the Joke"

I have been in West Bloomfield, Michigan since Wednesday for the extended Thanksgiving weekend, and this Shabbat morning at Congregation B’nai Israel I heard my classmate and colleague, Rabbi Eric Yanoff, deliver a brilliant sermon on the movie “Borat.” Using a Rashi commentary on the section of Parshat Toldot in which Jacob seemingly dupes his father Isaac into thinking he is his twin brother Esau and bestowing the birthright on him, Rabbi Yanoff asks if perhaps Jacob was just joking and the old man didn’t get the joke. Perhaps it’s a stetch for both Rashi and Rabbi Yanoff, but the question of whether Sacha Baron Cohen’s humor is dangerous because not everyone “gets it” as humor is a good one.

Here’s an article about two people who were duped by Sacha Baron Cohen (er, Borat) in the movie, but after seeing the movie and being let in on the joke are able to recognize its comedic value. Joe and Miriam Behar are the Bostonian Jewish couple who own the bed ‘n breakfast that Borat stays in on his way to Malibu in the movie. They seem to be the only ones not suing Baron Cohen for being taken advantage of for the sake of the film… and for the sake of humor.

Here’s another Blog that writes about the Behars.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller
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Thankgiving Parade Brings Down the Eruv

Thanksgiving has always struck me as a secular holiday that doesn’t really affect us at Jews in any negative way. That is until I saw this…

From the Lincoln Square Synagogue Website:

Eruv Alert: Thanksgiving Weekend, November 25, there is a distinct possibility that the Mid-Manhattan Eruv may be down, due to the necessity of removing wires to allow the balloons of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to pass.

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

It’s always fun to see the results when one Googles one’s own name.

Here’s what I recently found when doing a Google search for “Rabbi Jason Miller”:

1) I was named in a recent (October 2006) New Jersey Jewish News article about the Gladstein Fellowship program at the Jewish Theological Seminary, now called the Emerging Kehillah Fellowship. I was the first Gladstein Fellow.

2) In a community.livejournal.com post from January 2006, a University of Michigan student asks if anyone has taken the Introduction to Judaism course I used to teach at U-M Hillel. While no one who actually took the class responded, there are two kind responses:


por_que_no
2006-01-10 07:31 pm UTC (link)
No personal experience, but I’ve heard he’s a really cool guy.

(Reply to this)


emilynye
2006-01-11 12:47 pm UTC (link)
I’ve never taken the class, but he is the rabbi for Hillel’s conservative movement, and is really good, both in giving sermons, explaining questions, or just having a casual conversation.

3) While I no longer live or work in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Jewish Community Center of Ann Arbor apparently does not know this. They list me as an honorary director of their board. This is nice, but I hope I don’t have to drive from Columbus to attend any meetings!

4) A website called Blogshares.com attempts to calculate how much each blog on the Web would be worth. Not sure how they calculate this, but I was please to learn here that this blog is currently worth $1,534.22.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller
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Bo Schembechler, May he rest in peace

GLENN BO SCHEMBECHLER
(1929-2006)

I guess he wanted to watch the big game tomorrow with Woody Hayes.

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