Now What?


Interested in American Jewish identity? Concerned about the waning support of quality Jewish art and culture? Enjoy free events?  Us too! Check out “ Now What? The future of New Jewish Culture”, a town hall-style event taking place on May 15 at 7pm, hosted by the 14th Street Y. Ten experts at the forefront of Jewish culture will discuss topics including funding, identity, innovation.

Now What? The Future of New Jewish Culture takes a critical look at the New Jewish Culture movement of the last ten years and its precarious position today. This town hall-style event takes place May 15 at 7pm and is hosted by the 14th Street Y. “Now What?” is the first event presented by Speakers’ Lab, a new public programming initiative of the Posen Foundation U.S., and is presented in collaboration with The Jewish Daily Forward.

 After a decade of flourishing Jewish creativity, major Jewish cultural enterprises are being forced to scale back operations or close entirely. Using recent funding cuts as a springboard to examine the most pressing issues facing new Jewish arts and culture, “Now What?” addresses:

--- New perspectives on American Jewish identity
--- Waning support for quality Jewish art and culture
--- Strategies for cultivating Jewish art and culture in the future

Among the panelists are Jewish artists, funders, presenters and critics, including: Alana Newhouse, Editor-in-Chief of Tablet Magazine; Jody Rosen, music critic for Slate Magazine; Elise Bernhardt, President and CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Culture; Ari Roth, Artistic Director of Theater J; Peter L. Stein, former Executive Director and current advisor and consultant to the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival; Stephen Hazan Arnoff, Executive Director of the 14th Street Y and LABA: The National Laboratory for New Jewish Culture; Daniel Sieradski, organizer of Occupy Judaism; David Jordan Harris, Executive Director of Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council; and Rokhl Kafrissen, Yiddish arts critic. The discussion is moderated by Dan Friedman, Arts and Culture Editor at The Jewish Daily Forward.”

Seating is limited and pre-registration encouraged. Sign-up at or by calling 212-564-6711 x 305.

Event and Venue Info:
The Theater at the 14th Street Y
344 East 14th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
New York, NY 10003
May 15, 2012 7pm

Personally, I would love to find out the speakers’ views on why Jews aren’t supporting Jewish arts and culture, given that Jews have a high track record of giving to other philanthropic causes. Why the funding cuts, and why now? Did we as Jews take a group vote and decide that Jewish magazines and music are suddenly irrelevant? Does this imply that the future of Jewish arts and culture is a bleak one?

Sukkot Resources

Rabbi Richard (Rick) Jacobs says that dwelling in sukkot offers us the opportunity to connect to our own history of wandering in an African desert. 

Is erecting a sukkah publicly breaking down the separation of church and state

Latino Evangelical Christians join in the Sukkot celebrations 

Could our sins be the covering over G-d’s sukkah?
Sukkot as a metaphor for relocation as a preemptive response to the threat of violence 
Browse more Sukkot publications.

‘Irvine 11’ Found Guilty


The ‘Irvine 11’, a group of Muslim students who caused a ruckus at a speech given by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren last year were recently convicted to three years of probation. Their case has become the latest example of a debate surrounding First Amendment rights and has garnered international attention.

While Oren was speaking to an audience at UC Davis, members of the group stood up one by one to interrupt his speech and shout over him.  A jury of six men and six women deliberated over a verdict for two days before finding the defendants guilty.

Yes, we all have First Amendment rights, which is part of what makes America so great. But just because you have the right to express yourself doesn’t mean you also have the right to shut down the rights of others. 

Kenneth Marcus raises the point that much of the rhetoric and legal argument of campus anti-Semitism utilizes First Amendment opportunism. This opportunism consists of efforts to shift attention from the topic of harassment at hand to First Amendment rights. So, incidents of harassment are overlooked because the harassers and their defense are quick to cite their First Amendment rights.

While I admittedly stand firm with Israel, it’s not what the ‘Irvine 11’ said that irks me. It’s how they said it. They couldn’t have waited thirty minutes until Oren was done his speech to raise their points in a civil manner at a Q&A over cookies and punch? How can you protest a speech if you can’t even hear what the speaker’s saying?

Feel free to disagree. Without these sorts of diverging viewpoints I would have nothing to blog about. But come on, we learned these sorts of rules in kindergarten. Listen first, and speak in turn.

Skin Cream and Anti-Semitism

Ahava Protestors

Who knew beauty products could be so controversial without blinding bunnies? Ahava cosmetics, the Israeli purveyor of delicious skin creams and conditioners has been forced to close its flagship London branch after biweekly demonstrations have cut into its profits. The store at Covent Garden has been hit hard with demonstrators because its cosmetics are produced on a shore of the Dead Sea in an area claimed by Palestinians. Four demonstrators went on trial earlier this year after they chained themselves to a concrete block inside the store.

Ok, apart from the major question of how the demonstrators managed to get a concrete block through the front door, the first thing that comes to mind is that these protestors are barking up the wrong tree. This is reminiscent of this week's protests in NYC. The Occupy Wall Street movement has targeted the actual area of Wall St. to demonstrate against the fat cats despite the fact that very little trading happens on stock market exchange floors anymore. It would be more advantageous for them to target online trading but since that isn't a possibility they turn to a solid geographic location. Just because you're demonstrating on Wall St. doesn't mean you're disrupting trading. It means you're getting yourselves on the cover of the New York Post with a pithy headline.

Going back to the anti-Israel displays outside a skin cream store. The salespeople here are trying to sell you products to cure your rosacea. Trying to promote your position of a two-state solution by victimizing the college student who needs to meet a sales quota is just like the Wall St. demonstrations: pointless. This is thinly-veiled anti-Semitism at its finest. Targeting a store chain because it is connected with Israel, and only because of its connection with Israel, is anti-Semitism no matter how you try and spin it. As Kenneth L. Marcus’ article has shown, the new political anti-Semitism is prolific across the world. He shows that the new anti-Semitism re-racializes and stigmatizes Jews as morally blameworthy and marked for reprisal.

Just as you don't have racism without racists, you can't have anti-Semitism without anti-Semites. The protestors should find another way to vent their frustrations and leave the poor Ahava employees out of their tirades.

To Be or Not to Be: Palestine's Bid for Recognition

President Obama at the UN

Unless you've been living under a rock or without cable for the past few months, you're probably aware of Palestinian's upcoming bid to achieve statehood via the U.N. General Assembly. With anti-Israel rhetoric being thrown around left and right, it was refreshing to hear that at least the United States has not abandoned Israel. Earlier this morning, President Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly. He spoke of his support for a two-state solution, with an independent Palestine and a secure Israel.

“Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, and persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are.”

While such comments from our president are comforting, Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israel comments are still bountiful. In an interview last week, Maen Areikat, ambassador from the Palestinian Liberation Organization, stated that he believed any future Palestinian state should be free of Jews.

"After the experience of the last 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it would be in the best interest of the two people to be separated."

After the comment sparked obvious outrage, Areikat backtracked and then said he was referring to Israelis, not Jews. Ahhh, of course. Because that makes it all better {sarcasm}.  Areikat also has implored American Jews to not just blindly support Israel, and to look beyond tomorrow. You may recall that in March, BJPA hosted ambassador Areikat for a discussion of American Jews and the Palestinian conflict.

Israel needs all the support it can get right now, and I don’t think support from Obama is enough. With Egypt expelling its Israeli consulate and Turkey washing its hands of Israel in an effort to rub elbows with its Arab neighbors, Israel is facing the big, bad Middle East by its lonesome. If the United States remains Israel’s only outspoken ally, what will this mean for its future? Is anyone else willing to step up to the plate? Or will Israel be forced to face the possibility of a Palestinian state alone? I fear a two-state solution only because of the possibility of Israel’s safety being compromised. Palestine is simply not stable enough to govern itself. Hopefully Obama’s stance will help the U.N.’s final decision. But if not, I fear for the consequences. 

Facebook for the Frum

Shomer Negiah just went tech. For the ultra-orthodox who prefer separation of the sexes even on the world wide web, their manna from digital heaven just arrived. Enter FaceGlat. Yes, you read that right. The brainchild of Yaakov Swisa, a web developer out of Israel, FaceGlat is Facebook for Haredim. With no immodest ads and a filter to watch out for any language not deemed kosher enough, you'll be more likely to see pictures of a modest luncheon than girls gone wild in Cancun.

While I fully understand and respect one's desire to keep things modest both on and off the web, wouldn't it just be easier to go without Facebook, sans tznius version and all? Even if you won't be exposed to Armani underwear ads while checking out Malky Leibowitz's  L'chaim party album, why risk it, when other lascivious web dangers are lurking nearby? My feeling is this. If you're concerned about your modesty enough to be attracted to FaceGlat over Facebook in the first place, then why not just make a Picasa album to share with your friends? No browsing necessary, no mitzvot broken.

Lisa Colton, founder and president of Darim Online, believes that the effect technology has had on the Jewish world is both positive and negative. She acknowledges that outlets like Facebook can be a good thing in promoting Jewish communal life, but that the distrations that such platforms bring to our lives is negative. Read her article here.




Mel Gibson, Hannukah Hero?

Yes, it's unfortunately true. Mel Gibson is teaming up with Warner Bros. to recreate the story of Hannukah for the silver screen. In honor of a new school year being upon (some of) us, let's take a short pop quiz of Gibson's latest venture.

Question #1: Mel Gibson can best be described as:

A. A great equal rights champion
B. A raging anti-Semite
C. A lovable curmudgeon

Question #2: Upon hearing the news that he will be producing a movie on Judah Maccabee, the most common reaction from the Jewish community is:

A. Nachas (aka Pride)
B. Incredulity ( are you #%*!? kidding me?!)
C. Agreement that, yes, this does seem like an intellectually sound arrangement

Question #3: What do 'Basic Instinct', 'Showgirls', and the movie adaption of the story of Hannukah all have in common?

A. All three share writer Joe Eszterhas
B. All three share writer Joe Eszterhas
C. No, really. They share the same writer. Meaning that for all we know, Judah Maccabee, pole dancers, and Sharon Stone will all share screen time. 

Do you think Gibson will be able to pull it off?

‘Real Housewives’ Get Biblical

Real Housewives of the Bible

Gucci, Prada, Fendi,…and Rivkah? Bravo’s Real Housewives may have competition from some wholesome, bible-abiding counterparts. Think less acrylic nail cat-fights, and more palms pressed in prayer.

Ty Adams, evangelical author and CEO of Heaven Enterprises, has produced a straight-to-DVD series, ‘Real Housewives of the Bible’, following six women as they face the trials and tribulations of becoming a good wife.

“Housewives” featured include Sarah, who famously struggled with infertility, and Delilah, who used the age-old tool of seduction to trick Samson.  

While Bravo’s ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ are hardly credible role models (but fabulous for a TiVo guilty pleasure), can we expect women of the Bible to provide any less drama or examples of bad behavior?

Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, and Leah are golden examples of righteous women. But let’s be serious. Even just a preliminary rundown of Bible 101 includes Eve, Jezebel, and Lot’s daughters. If the ‘Real Housewives of the Bible’ ever want to make it prime time, they’ll need to show the good with the bad. (See Janet Rosenberg's take on Jewish women of the Bible.) Here’s hoping for an appearance of Athaliah.


Galliano Receives Slap on Wrist for Anti-Semitic Ramblings

Bigot Olympian

In honor of New York Fashion Week, it only makes sense to doff our caps to a former great, made social pariah, fashion designer. A man who could design a fabulous handbag but who thought being friends with Gisele made him G-d's gift to the world.

John Galliano, former head designer of Christian Dior, was recently sentenced by a Paris court to a suspended fine and zero jail time after his now-famous expletive-laced rant was videotaped and went viral. In it, Galliano derided Jews, praised Hitler, and in general won himself a first place ribbon in the Bigot Olympics. When Mel Gibson did the same in his puzzling diatribe, his only punishment was to have his less than flattering mugshot blasted on every TV and computer screen worldwide. Galliano, on the other hand, faced court time.

As much as I would have loved to see Galliano be served a harsh punishment from a judge for acting like an imbecile, it is pretty surprising to my American mind that he went to court for expressing his idiotic thoughts. Our first amendment rights are (usually) a wonderful thing. If you want to celebrate Festivus, fine with us. Petition the government for every American to be given a free puppy? Why not. Go off on a racist diatribe? Eh, not as cute as a puppy. But we'll let you get away with it.

Europe, it seems, has other ideas. I don't find their hate speech laws too restrictive, per se. But from a practical standpoint it does seem like a colossal waste of time and money to place every racist moron in court for running their mouths. (See this Institute for Jewish Policy Research report arguing that these laws are also ineffective.) Then again, if Galliano had made the same comments at a cafe in America, he would have walked away from there scot-free.

What do you think?