Bar Mitzvah Israel Jewish Politics World Events

Zayde Richard Goldstone, Not Judge Richard Goldstone

There’s a concept in Judaism named “ma’aseh avot siman l’banim,” which roughly translates as “the deeds of the ancestors are a sign for the children.” Of course, this phrase can be used positively, but it’s most often used in a negative context.

I thought of this phrase recently when I read that Bernard Madoff’s daughter-in-law legally had her last name and her children’s last name changed from “Madoff.” Madoff’s grandchildren will forever be plagued by the actions of their grandfather – “ma’aseh avot siman l’banim.”

Now, it has been reported that Judge Richard Goldstone has been barred from attending a family simcha – his grandson’s bar mitzvah ceremony. The South African Goldstone was the head of a United Nations-appointed commission that investigated the Gaza war in the winter of 2008-09. The commission’s final report accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

The JTA reports that “Following negotiations between the South African Zionist Federation and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Sandton, an affluent suburb of Johannesburg where the event is due to take place, an agreement was reached with the family that will keep Goldstone from attending the synagogue service early next month.”

I thought the Goldstone Commission’s report was a one-sided attack on Israel. In fact, I recall feeling so relieved when I spent an hour listening to former Ambassador Dore Gold refute the Goldstone Report point-by-point. However, on the issue of whether Judge Goldstone should be allowed to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah, I find myself siding with the South African jurist.

The synagogue should recognize that in this case, they are not dealing with the author of a United Nations report that harshly criticized Israel’s actions. Rather, they are dealing with a zayde who wants to celebrate his grandson’s life-cycle milestone.

I’m sure the concept of “ma’aseh avot siman l’banim” will come to play in other aspects of the lives of Richard Goldstone’s family, but in this case this was not the correct decision.

Update: April 26, 2010


Richard Goldstone will attend his grandson’s upcoming bar mitzvah in South Africa, following an agreement with local Jewish groups. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies brokered a deal between Goldstone and community organizations angry with Goldstone for his authorship of a U.N. report on Gaza war seen as grossly unfair to Israel. Under the agreement, Jewish groups agreed not to protest during the bar mitzvah celebrations and Goldstone agreed to meet with the leadership of South African Jewish communal organizations, according to an e-mail released late Friday by both Goldstone and the Board of Deputies. The meeting, to be hosted by the South African Zionist Federation, is set to discuss the Jewish community’s reaction to the Goldstone report, which accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

“My whole family feels joyful that we’ll be able to celebrate the bar mitzvah together,” Goldstone told JTA following the agreement.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies said it “respectfully requests, in light of the agreement reached, that all parties immediately desist all public activities on this matter so that the young man’s bar mitzvah celebration can be returned to the privacy and dignity that it deserves.”

Goldstone originally had planned to skip his grandson’s bar mitzvah next month after the Zionist Federation threatened to protest Goldstone outside the synagogue.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Celebrities Humor Israel Politics Television World Events

Marriage Ref Middle East

As tensions between the United States and Israel seem to intensify, it looks unlikely that President Barack Obama will be able to broker a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So, I was thinking of who might be the best negotiator to sit down with Bibi Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas.

Jerry Seinfeld seems to have come up with a successful idea with his new TV show “The Marriage Ref” and that got me thinking…

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Geneology Israel Jewish Money News World Events

Good Yichus: Names and Heritage

In Judaism there is a concept called “yichus,” which basically means lineage or pedigree.  In popular parlance “good yichus” is used to describe someone with connections to a distinguished family. I was thinking about this term the other day while reading Time Magazine’s very witty Joel Stein’s column.  Stein decided to research his geneology and see what kind of yichus he has. He did this reluctantly at the urging of Friends star Lisa Kudrow who is the executive-producer of NBC’s upcoming Who Do You Think You Are?

Kudrow tried to convince Stein to care about his own past, even though he believes, “What my great-great-great-grandfather did isn’t any more interesting to me than what your great-great-great-grandfather did, especially since in both cases it was farming.” Somewhere in the article, hidden between Stein’s jokes, he realizes that he’s actually interested in learning more about his family tree including his great-grandfather Reuben who left Russia to avoid army service. In fact, his search to uncover more information about his heritage leads him to reconnect with a cousin, who provided more insight into their yichus.

I read two other articles that day that focused on bad yichus. The first article was about Bernard Madoff’s daughter-in-law who went to court to legally change her last name, along with her children’s last name. To avoid embarrassment and the occasional death threat, Stephanie Madoff filed court papers in Manhattan asking to change her last name to Morgan. As I read this news, I thought of my good friend who was so excited to recently learn that his wife is pregnant with a boy who will carry on his family’s last name into the next generation. Names are so important to us because they are the link to our history; to previous generations of our family. With the Madoff case, here was an example in which Bernie Madoff’s son Mark watched his children be stripped of his last name in order to lose the link to that part of their heritage.

Finally, I read about the upcoming book written by the son of a Hamas leader who reveals that he spied for Israel. Mosab Hassan Yousef, the 32-year-old Palestinian who converted to Christianity, escaped the West Bank in 2007. In his memoir “Son of Hamas,” he discusses his years as one of Israel’s most valued informants inside the Hamas terrorist organization. This is an example in which both father and son are angered and ashamed of their yichus. The JTA reports today that “Sheik Hassan Yousef, who has been held in an Israeli prison since 2005, said in a statement released Monday that he, his wife and other children disown his oldest son (who worked undercover for Israel’s Shin Bet agency for ten years). The statement reportedly was smuggled out of the prison.” And on the flip side, the son has disassociated himself from his terrorist father.

So, yichus can be both positive and negative. Some are proud of their heritage and others are ashamed of it. Either way, however, a family tree tells the narrative.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Celebrities Conservative Judaism Humor Olympics Orthodox Judaism Purim Reform Judaism Sports World Events

Too Jewey – Purim 2010

For some reason, whenever the Jewish holiday of Purim rolls around, my brain uncontrollably starts coming up with parodies, satires, spoofs, and just plain silliness.  Here’s a collection of the news items circulating in my head. Happy Purim!


By Rabbi Jason, the Official Rabbi of the 2010 Olympic Games
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Jewish Music at the Olympics: From Reggae to OyVey

VANCOUVER – With the decision to use Matisyahu’s song “One Day” as the official Winter Olympics theme, Jewish people around the globe undoubtedly celebrated that Jewish music was now cool. I mean, it’s the Olympics! Jews are used to “members of the tribe” creating hit music for the masses, but it usually comes in the form of Christmas music (see Irving Berlin, Mel Torme, etc.). Well, it appears there wasn’t much time for rejoicing because just as millions of people were getting Matisyahu’s upbeat song stuck in their heads, along came a brother and sister duo to set Jewish music back a couple hundred years.

As soon as they learned they had to prepare a folk music tribute to their native Israel, the Zaretsky figure skating team of Sasha and Roman apparently ran to Wikipedia and searched for “Stereotypical Jewish Music.”  Their “Hava Nagila” rendition was apparently the Zaretsky’s best guess at what the shtetl of Eastern Europe would have looked like at weddings if only they had ice rinks. And as if their first attempt at skating to “The Music of the Yid” wasn’t schmaltzy enough, they came back the next night and gave a performance that only Mel Brooks could love. While the Israeli skaters’ tribute to the Holocaust was rather quite moving, I can’t imagine that Steven Spielberg watched it thinking, “Gosh, I can’t believe I didn’t go with the ice dancing motif for Schindler’s List.”

For those Jewish people who didn’t feel like the ice dancing competition at this year’s Winter Olympics touched on enough Jewish stereotypes, get excited for the next Olympic games when all Jewish figure skaters will be required to have their mother on the ice during performances yelling at them to put on a jacket or they’ll freeze!

~ ~ ~

Rabbi Avi Weiss Chains Himself to Female Rabbi

The Orthodox Rabbi best known for chaining himself to buildings in protest and leading rallies for Jewish causes is now in big trouble.  Riverdale NY-based Rabbi Avi Weiss ordained a female rabbi over a year ago. However, instead of calling her anything close to “Rabbi,” he sneakily chose to give her an acronym as a title: “AWSHIT,” which apparently stands for Avi Weiss Says He Is Tenacious. No doubt, the name was Weiss’s way to let the Ultra Orthodox know how he felt. But they didn’t seem to really mind the title he granted to Sara Horwitz, until he updated it to “Rabba.”

Now, the Orthodox are calling for Avi Weiss to be excommunicated and banished to Siberia. The irony, of course, is that this is a man who fought so hard to get Jews out of Siberia in the first place. In protest, Rabbi Avi Weiss has chained himself to Rabba Sara Horwitz in an act of solidarity. The Ultra-Orthodox have claimed that this is fine with them, so long as Avi Weiss doesn’t dance with the woman.  In other news, the Conservative Movement now claims that Rabba Sara Horwitz is an aguna (a “Chained Woman”) and has granted her an immediate get (bill of divorce) from Rabbi Weiss.

~ ~ ~

HamanTosh.0 – New Comedy Central Series

Currently, Comedy Central has a weekly series (“Tosh.0”) that shows all those funny videos from the Web that have gone viral. Well now, Comedy Central is proud to introduce a new series that replays all the videos from the Web that are virulent.  Any video starring an Iranian in a “Members Only” jacket will be shown on “HamanTosh.0,” beginning on February 31.  Check local listings for airtimes.

~ ~ ~

Conservative Movement Goes for Trifecta

With its numbers in sharp decline, the Conservative Movement of Judaism is deeply invested in change. In an effort to grab media attention, the centrist movement of modern Judaism is now looking to go for the Trifecta. In a press release prepared by, Jewish Theological Seminary Chancellor Arnie Eisen explained, “First we shocked the world by allowing gays and lesbians into our esteemed institution to become rabbis.  Next week, we will quickly make the move to grant admission to intermarried men and women.  And, I’m pleased to announce that beginning on April 1st, we will unveil a new program designed to ordain disgraced celebrities as rabbis and cantors at JTS. 

We have already invited some big-name, dishonored celebrities to apply to our program. Rabbi Danny Nevins, Dean of the Rabbinical School, said, “Don’t be surprised to see Rabbi Tiger Woods by the end of the year.”  Also expected to be studying at the Conservative Movement’s flagship institution will be Mark McGwire, who also plans to pursue a master’s degree in pharmacology at JTS, and the gun-toting NBA star Gilbert Arenas. Classes in “Anger Management” and “Press Conference Contrition” will be added to the curriculum.

In what is perhaps the most shocking news to come from the Conservative Movement is that the new United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism CEO Rabbi Steven Wernick has been replaced by former vice-presidential candidate John Edwards, who took the job with the stipulation that a day care center be opened at the USCJ headquarters.

~ ~ ~

First Ever NASCAR Bris

Following the news that a Bar Mitzvah will take place this June at Yankee Stadium before a championship boxing match, NASCAR has announced that it will hold a Bris (ritual circumcision ceremony) at its next championship race at Talladega SuperSpeedway.  The Bris will be sponsored by Fast Eddie’s Chop Shop (“You Steal ‘Em, We Deal ‘Em”). Due to the fact that 100,000 fans will be waiting for the Formula One race to begin, there will only be 2 minutes allotted to the ritual Jewish ceremony, but that’s no problem as NYC circumcisor Phil “Sling Blade” Sherman ( has promised to race his way through the procedure in chop-chop fashion. However, if the race is about to begin, Sherman said he’ll just have to cut it short.

~ ~ ~

Rabbi Condemns Bud Selig Statue

Bud Selig, the Jewish Commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB), is being honored with a statue outside of Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers (which Selig owns – Yes, a Jewish owner of a sports franchise… shocking, I know!). Unfortunately, the statue may never be erected because Selig’s own rabbi is standing in the way. Rabbi Ann Heiser-Busch of Congregation Beth Ale in Milwaukee (on the Miller Brewing Company Campus) explained that most people think that she is against the erection of the statue honoring her famous congregant on the grounds that the Torah clearly prohibits the creation of a graven image of a human being because it is idol worship. However, Rabbi Heiser-Busch cited as her objection the fact that the construction workers would have to inject themselves with steroids to build up the necessary strength in order to lift the Bud Selig statue. When asked to comment, Commissioner Selig asked, “What are steroids?”

~ ~ ~

New Personal Mechitzas Not Good Enough

What’s a Haredi Jew to do when he travels on a plane? It seems like the whole aviation industry is against him. First, the kosher meals are served cold and soggy. Then, there’s not enough space in the overhead compartment for his hat box. And the latest attack is that the flight attendants are convinced he’s strapping bombs to his head and arm in the form of tefillin.  The worst part about air travel for the Ultra Orthodox is that a member of the opposite sex (e.g., a woman) might occupy the next seat.  However, a new product on the market solves that problem.  The Personal Mechitza is just what the Rebbe ordered.  This barrier not only separates the sexes and keeps the immodest neighbors on the plane from view, but it also guards against the scandalous in-flight movies.

However, now rabbis are complaining that these personal mechitzas aren’t good enough. Rabbi Haskel Lookoutstein, an advisor to the FAA, explains that it’s possible a Reform Jew worked in the factory where the Personal Mechitza was made and came in contact with the apparatus. Or, he went on, what if one is using a Personal Mechitza and the person in the seat next to you sneezes and some of the treif they’re eating flies over the top of your Personal Mechitza and gets on your Extra-Glatt Kosher meal? That is why Rabbi Lookoutstein recommends putting up an extra mechitza around the Personal Mechitza.  In fact, he says that the most pious will simply purchase every seat in the row and put up the new Glatt Mechitzah L’Mehadrin.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Jewish Sports Torah World Events

Torah Bright Gets Gold

In synagogues, Jewish people put bright gold on the Torah (gold breastplate and crown). As we saw tonight in Vancouver: In the Olympics they put GOLD on Torah Bright (a gold medal).

Torah Bright has to be the best name for an Olympian who just won a gold medal. As she ascended the highest part of the podium to receive her gold medal during the ceremony, I’m sure many Jewish people noticed the symbolism of someone named “Torah” being displayed to the people atop the heights, as it is reminiscent of the Torah being displayed atop Mt. Sinai.

The Australian Torah Bright, a devout Mormon, was surprised before her snowboarding competition (half pipe) that her parents drove six hours, flew 20 more, then hid in a closet at her home in Vancouver so they could celebrate her gold medal with her.

I’m sure that after the Olympics, back home in  Australia they will have a parade for their Gold Medal snowboarder. No doubt, the Jewish community in Australia will refer to the day as Simchat Torah!

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Conservative Judaism Jewish Prayer World Events

Minyans That Don’t Meet & Toyotas That Don’t Stop

Rabbi Gerry Skolnik taught my senior seminar in rabbinical school and I’ve continued to learn from him since graduating from the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) through his weekly column for The New York Jewish Week and now his blog called “A Rabbi’s World.”.

After hearing that an 86-year-old man crashed his Toyota into the front steps of Rabbi Skolnik’s synagogue, the Forest Hills Jewish Center, last week after the car’s accelerator stuck, I went to his blog hoping to get the rabbi’s first-hand account of how the Toyota gas pedal recall was affecting his synagogue in a very real way. But, instead of blogging about how this elderly man mistook the Queens synagogue for a drive-thru, Rabbi Skolnik wrote about another interesting topic: What happens to the daily minyan when there’s a blizzard? (He would have generated more traffic to his blog had he written about the Toyota recall instead of the minyan. I’m just saying.)

In his post titled Balancing Obligation and Common Sense, Rabbi Skolnik discusses the dilemma he faced after last week’s East Coast Blizzard (termed “Snowmageddon” by President Obama) when the treacherous driving conditions made it dangerous to hold the morning minyan (prayer services) at his Forest Hills congregation. He had to balance the obligation of saying the Mourner’s Kaddish (his mother passed away recently) and the obligation to not put one’s life (or his congregants’ lives) in unnecessary danger.

He writes, “Actually, there are discussions in the Talmud around the idea of ‘mitigating circumstances’ as they relate to prayer, but I don’t know of any that relate to blizzards.”

The need for a quorum of ten Jewish individuals (only Jewish men in Orthodox synagogues) in order for mourners to recite the Kaddish prayer is taken very seriously, and so the decision to cancel the minyan is a difficult one. Rabbi Skolnik explained his decision in his blog:

I decided that the obligation to safeguard one’s health under any and all circumstances can, in a situation like a blizzard, mean that one might not only be allowed to, but actually be required to stay inside, and not walk or ride to a synagogue during potentially dangerous weather – even if saying kaddish for a parent.  There are other ways to honor the soul of the departed, most significantly, to study Torah.  Kaddish is universally recognized as “what one does,” but there are other gestures of respect that elevate the soul of the departed closer to God.

While the snowfall in Michigan last week couldn’t rival the East Coast’s blizzard, the morning driving conditions were treacherous here too. But when I received an early morning text message from Rabbi Aaron Bergman of Adat Shalom Synagogue letting me know that I would be the tenth at the morning minyan, I jumped in the car and headed over. There’s something exhilarating about being #10 in a minyan and knowing that the mourners wouldn’t be able to fulfill their obligation without you. Driving down the snowy streets, I felt I was on an important mission (a police escort would have been helpful).

Traditionally, the daily minyan has been a very important part of Jewish life.  But I also think my teacher, Rabbi Skolnik, made the right decision. While it is commendable that he wanted to honor his late mother with the words of the Kaddish prayer, I’m sure that she wouldn’t have wanted him to risk driving in those conditions. And so, by calling off the minyan he honored his beloved mother too.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Basketball Israel Politics Sports World Events

From Gilad Shalit to Omri Casspi

Evangelical Pastor John Hagee’s organization Christians United for Israel holds huge pro-Israel events in cities across the United States called “A Night to Honor Israel.” The other night was a busy one for me, and I feel like it was my own little “Night to Honor Israel.”

My evening began at a screening of the documentary film “Family in Captivity” about the Shalit family’s campaign to pressure the Israeli government to be more aggressive in demanding their son’s release from Hamas terrorists. Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit has been held in captivity for over three years after being abducted through the Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel.

The film is a gripping tale of a very low-key family, that runs a bed and breakfast in the beautiful Western Galilee settlement of Mitzpe Hila. I found the hour-long film difficult to watch at times. Even before becoming a father I struggled to watch movies in which children are kidnapped (e.g. Ransom). Now that I’m a father, I make it a point to avoid such movies. I made an exception for this documentary because the issue is so dire. Watching the film, I realized how important it is that people all over the world unite in demanding Gilad Shalit’s return from captivity.

The most distressing part of the film for me was the scene in which Gilad Shalit’s father, Noam, met with former United States President Jimmy Carter. I don’t often criticize U.S. presidents. In fact, I believe in the importance of showing respect to our nation’s presidents and yet I cannot refrain from expressing the angst I felt watching the way Jimmy Carter communicated with Noam Shalit. And I wasn’t alone. The entire theater booed after listening to Jimmy Carter speak with utter disrespect to a man fighting for his kidnapped son’s safe release.

Noam Shalit asks Carter if he was able to deliver his letter to his son’s captors. Chewing gum throughout the entire conversation, Carter doesn’t seem to have any empathy for Mr. Shalit. Carter can only describe the devastation he saw in Gaza. In a very self-aggrandizing way, he tells Gilad’s father that Hamas would only accept the letter from him. The former president comes off horribly in the film. Before seeing the film, I read an article in which Noam Shalit says that the fact that Carter is not considered pro-Israel could be beneficial in securing his son’s release.

I’m wondering how many Jewish people who accepted Carter’s recent apology for his anti-Israel rhetoric will see this film and have second thoughts about how genuine Carter’s apology was. In fact, many believe that the apology only came about because his grandson, Jason Carter, is considering a run for state senate, although Carter has denied a hidden agenda.

From the film, I headed over to a synagogue for the annual inter-congregational Men’s Club dinner. The speaker was Oakland County’s sheriff, Michael Bouchard. I thought the fact that Bouchard, a republican, recently declared himself a candidate for Michigan governor made him an odd choice for this non-political event. The sheriff spoke about his recent trip to Israel and the lessons he learned from the Israeli police. His speech centered on how Islamic terrorism must be curtailed. It was a speech one would expect a candidate for governor to deliver to a couple hundred Jewish men in an area that has the largest Arab population outside the Middle East.

I left the Men’s Club dinner and headed out to The Palace of Auburn Hills to watch the Detroit Pistons host the NBA’s first Israeli player. I actually cannot think of another major professional sport that has had an Israeli player. Omri Casspi came to Detroit for the first time and, like other NBA cities with Jewish communities, there was a large contingent of Israelis and Jewish fans in the audience to welcome him.  Casspi is having a great rookie season for the Sacramento Kings.  It was fun watching the fans waving large Israeli flags, which made it on to the jumbo video screens (“Palace Vision”) often throughout the game. I don’t remember the last time so many local fans cheered when an opposing player scored.  The only downside was that the Pistons lost a hard fought game. I must admit that it was odd to watch an opposing player hit a three pointer over my favorite player (Rodney Stuckey) and I actually cheered (see photo).

A few days before his Detroit visit, Casspi scored 18 points against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden’s Jewish Heritage Night.  His welcome to NBA cities by Jewish fans has been great and that energy and excitement has been covered throughout the media including in the NY Times.

Here’s hoping Gilad Shalit will be released from captivity soon and be able to watch his fellow Israeli, Omri Casspi, play in an NBA game.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Antisemitism Humor Israel Jewish Politics Television World Events

Jon Stewart on Hamas Cartoons

Last night on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the host seemed willing to take a chance on a not-so-funny comedy skit for the sake of delivering a strong political message. On an episode when the Jewish host racked up more Yiddishisms than normal (Brian Williams later attempted his own Yiddish too), Jon Stewart showed some shocking footage of Hamas-sponsored children’s cartoons containing centuries old anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Through a hole in a public restroom wall, Jon Stewart operated a Hasidic bagel puppet with a kippah on its head. He reviews Hamas children’s cartoons spewing hatred and delivers a political message noting how “they wonder why this conflict is so intractable and hope so fleeting.” The Daily Show staff must have had some fun turning the conclusion of a Scooby Doo episode into an anti-Semitic cartoon in which the head of programming was old man Hitler who would have gotten away with the crime “if it hadn’t been for those meddling Jews and their talking bagel.”

There was really nothing very funny about the bit, but Jon Stewart was able to forgo a few minutes of humor for a chance to do what organizations like MEMRI and CAMERA do every day — inform the public about the messages of hate that Hamas directs to Palestinian children through the medium of television cartoons.

What made Jon Stewart decide to do a skit like this? After all, it was an unusual segment for Comedy Central’s Daily Show. My guess would be that he might be trying to appease his large pro-Israel following after a show this past Fall in which he appeared overly critical of Israel. As CAMERA documents on their website: “In a segment dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Stewart hosted Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti and anti-Israel agitator Anna Baltzer. Barghouti presented a familiar narrative of Palestinian grievances of the kind often heard. But it was the pairing with Baltzer that sparked indignation among many viewers. Fortunately, the segment’s producers edited out much of Baltzer’s misinformation about Israel, making the version that was broadcast substantially less objectionable than the original taping.

The Huffington Post reported on Jon Stewart’s attempt to get some laughs from the serious subject of Hamas propoganda: “In a segment geared toward children, a shocked Jon Stewart rolled clips of Hamas cartoons that depict Jews and Israelis as evil, blood-drinking psychopaths. Even Stewart’s “Story Hole” partner, Dr. Bagelman was appalled, as each clip left the two with their jaw (or bagel slice) dropped. Bagelman, a stale Hasidic bagel “thrust through a rest-stop hole in a bathroom wall,” recognized that the blatantly anti-Semitic cartoons were most likely Hamas’s retaliation for his old kids show, “Jewby Doo.”

Here is the segment from the February 2, 2010 episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
AIPAC International Relations Israel Politics World Events

Goldstone Report and Dore Gold

I first met Dore Gold, the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and foreign policy adviser to Bibi Netanyahu, a few years ago at a Jewish National Fund event. I was very impressed with what he had to say and how articulately he said it. Therefore, I was excited when I was invited to hear Ambassador Gold speak about the Goldstone Report this past week at a private lunch for local rabbis.

The Goldstone Report is the independent fact-finding mission created by the United Nations Human Rights Council and led by a South African jurist to investigate international human rights and humanitarian law violations related to the Gaza War. I had read several articles about the report and had seen Dore Gold debate Justice Richard Goldstone (video below), but was interested to ask him some questions about how Israel will respond to the report. Sure enough, at the luncheon arranged by AIPAC, Mr. Gold didn’t disappoint. He was able to translate the 575-page report full of legalese into easy-to-understand language. (Even he admitted that getting through the report in preparation for his debate against Justice Goldstein required much coffee and Advil.)

Ambassador Gold characterized the report as a way to de-legitimize Israel (the report says that the Israeli Defense Forces deliberately killed innocent Palestinians). He pointed out that the report doesn’t merely state that the IDF used excessive force or ignored the laws of proportionality, but that the Israeli Army intentionally targeted civilians (as part of its program). The report, he explains, attacks Israel’s very foundations. Some might be surprised that a Jewish judge (Goldstone) who has a daughter living in Israel would come to such conclusions. However, based on the history of the United Nations’ relationship with Israel over the past six decades, the report should not come as a shock.

Goldstone cites eleven cases where there was “no fog of war” and yet Israeli soldiers killed innocent Palestinians. In perhaps his best refutation of the Goldstone Report, Dore Gold points out that early in the report, Goldstone admits that it was difficult to obtain information about these questionable attacks through Palestinian testimonies because the Palestinian civilians were afraid to talk about it because they were scared of retribution. Later in the report, however, Goldstone cites individual testimony from these Palestinians as proof of the eleven cases where there was “no fog of war.”

Further, Gold points out that Hamas was using Palestinians as human shields and storing weaponry in the basements of schools during Operation Cast Lead. Contrary to what Goldstone reports, the IDF went above and beyond to warn the Palestinian civilians of impending attacks on locations where they knew weapons were being kept (leaflets were dropped and even phone call warnings were made to home and cell phones).

There will be debate among Israelis (and the world) as to how Israel should respond to the Goldstone Report. The New York Jewish Week interviewed Moshe Halbertal, co-author of the Israeli military code of ethics, who said that Israel’s refusal to conduct an independent, thorough probe of its military’s handling of last winter’s 22-day war against Hamas in Gaza as demanded by the United Nations is a “missed opportunity.”

The article stated that “Israel has said its Gaza incursion occurred in response to a nearly incessant barrage of rocket fire by Hamas terrorists in Gaza on Israeli civilians. It said the large number of Palestinian civilian casualties was because Hamas terrorists fought Israeli troops from civilian areas. Israeli media reported this week that Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi favored a limited review of the war by a committee of senior Israeli jurists. They would be permitted to question political and military leaders, as well as Israeli military officials who investigated UN allegations of war crimes, but would be barred from interviewing officers and soldiers who took part in the war.”

Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz published a lengthy rebuttal of the Goldstone Report in the January 31st Jerusalem Post online issue in which he calls the report a “study in evidentiary bias” and refers to Goldstone as an “evil, evil man” and a traitor to the Jewish people.

However the Israeli government ultimately decides to respond to the Goldstone Report, after listening to Dore Gold discuss the inherent problems and factual errors of the report, I’m glad the Israeli prime minister is consulting with him. He really seems to understand what was underlying such a one-sided UN report. Here is the video of Dore Gold responding to Justice Goldstone at the Brandeis University debate:

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Humor Jewish Prayer Ritual World Events

Oh! The Plane’s Gonna’ Blow!

This is a poem I wrote about the incident last week when a Jewish 17-year-old boy caused a U.S. Airways flight to be diverted because the flight attendant thought his tefillin (phylacteries) were a bomb. It’s based on “Oh, the Places You Will Go!” by Dr. Seuss.

Oh, the Plane’s Gonna’ Blow!
By Rabbi Jason Miller
(With Apologies to Dr. Seuss)

Mazel Tov!
On the plane you shall pray.
You’re off to Louisville!
Takin’ off from LGA!

You have tefillin on your head.
You’re travelin’ with New York Jews.
You can pray in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know. If there’s turbulence, the Amidah you will forgo.

The flight attendant will see your odd boxes. Look’em over with care. Then she’ll say, “Hey Kid, whatchya’ got on over there.” With your arm full of leather and your shuckling feet, you’re too frum to take your seat.

She’ll tell the pilot the plane will go down. In that case, of course, you’ll head to a new town. Since your tefillin looked so silly, you’ll touchdown right in Philly. You’ll say, “The box on my hair? You really need not fear!”

Up there things can happen and frequently do, by people much more Middle Eastern than you.

And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. They’ll soon realize you’re a Jew.

Oh, the Plane’s Gonna’ Blow!

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll let out a sigh!
You’ll soon join Bubbie for soup in KY.

You’ll be just fine because you’ll have prayed. The feds will say “Oops, Sorry!” for the mistake that was made. Wherever you fly, you’ll have learned quite the lesson. With tefillin no more will you be messin’.

Except when you do.
Fly El Al as a Jew.

Please promise us that you will no longer fear. These Hang-ups can happen when you fly U.S. Air.

You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant phlum. And the chances are, then, that you will still be frum.

Oh, the plane’s gonna’ blow! There is prayer to be done! You must say thanks to your Lord. You’ve done the right thing son. And the magical thing you do with a leather strap, will make you the most famous Jewish chap. No Shame! No one will think you’re just a rube, the world will learn about tefillin on YouTube.

They still won’t get it. But you shouldn’t fret it.

I’m afraid that some times you’ll pray sans phylactery. On a plane, in a train, or by that Ol’ Factory.

Daven Alone!
Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you’ll do quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet people scared by your Jewish way. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that won’t know that a tefillin is what you lay.

Kid, innocent you are
And you’ll go far.

So… be your name Birnbaum or Schwartz or Levy or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Bevy, you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your Bubbie is waiting.
So… daven away!


  • Amidah = The central prayer in the Jewish liturgy, which is recited standing.
  • Shuckling = Yiddish meaning “to shake.” The ritual swaying of Jewish worshipers.
  • Frum = Yiddish meaning “religious.”
  • Daven = Yiddish meaning “pray.”
(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |