Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why I Converted To Judaism The son of a preacher man, I became interested in Judaism through listening to Dennis Prager on KABC AM 790 in Los Angeles.

Why I Believe In God I was raised a Christian. I flirted with atheistic communism. I came to Judaism through Dennis Prager. Here are arguments I find compelling for belief in God. I have no proof.

How to tie your kangaroo down? My brother Paul had a pet joey aka a baby kangaroo. Here's how he put it to sleep every night.

How to wrap tefillin How to wrap tefillin (phylacteries). A step by step guide with all the blessings and instructions for the right kavannah (mindset).

Jackie Mason Bombs In London

From the Jewish Chronicle:

The organisers sold the event using Jackie Mason’s name as a draw, but in reality the audience Israel 60 Gala Show got a lot more excited about a lesser known performer on the night.

Sarit Hadad is Israel’s biggest pop star and even counts Madonna as a fan — but she is hardly known in the UK. So it came as a surprise that the young Zionists in the 7,500 -strong crowd last Thursday night went bonkers over her — singing along to the lyrics, waving their Israeli flags, and doing the conga in the aisles as she sung her brand of Middle Eastern-infused pop. The sense of solidarity in the audience was overwhelming.

When the 29-year-old singer-songwriter showed off her fast finger work on the darbuka (a Middle Eastern drum), it proved how versatile the former Eurovision Song Contest entrant is.

In comparison, the king of kosher comedy Jackie Mason went down like a lead gefilte fish. His jokes about Indian doctors, gay interior designers and “schwarzer” US presidential candidates felt dated and unfunny and caused some members of the audience to walk out. His impression of Henry Kissinger and an admittedly rather funny gag about Moshe Dayan proved how long he has been using this material.

The former rabbi got a few laughs as he delivered his punchlines which invariably included the words “putz” or “shmuck” or “yenta”, but mostly out of a kind of nostalgia.

His observation that Barack Obama had not done anything particularly noteworthy apart from being black — and even then he is only half-black as his mother is black but his father is white — verged on the offensive. No less questionable was his line: “If you ordered a black couch and something the colour of Barack Obama turned up, you wouldn’t be happy.”

His gags about Israelis not looking like they are related to the less than athletic Jews of the diaspora were well observed and relevant to the event. “In Israel they are tough Jews,” he said. “I know because when I saw them I thought they were Puerto Ricans.”

At certain points during his impressions, he descended into a series of splutters and spits, which were supposed to be funny but were actually an obvious cover for a lack of dexterity.

There was a sense that while British Jews hold Mason close to their hearts as the most demonstrably Jewish comic in the world and quite clearly pro-Israel with it, his performance here showed it is high time for him to give up the Borscht Belt act and hand over to the new generation of Jewish comedians.

Trembling Before God My friends have a pure love? Not the friends I know. Trembling with excitement? Yeah, they’re trembling with excitement to get out from under the thumb of the rabbis. They’re trembling with excitement to no longer be vulnerable to the machinations of a Beit Din. They’re trembling with excitement to take back control of their lives.

Take A Shower Like A Woman Wash your hair once with cucumber and sage shampoo with 43 added vitamins. Condition your hair with grapefruit mint conditioner enhanced with real passion fruit.

Is Religion Totalitarian? And what the heck would happen if I started to get some of the things I was putatively praying for — fear of G-d, love of G-d, love of Torah, obedience to G-d’s commandments, distancing myself from evil men and slutty women?

European Rabbis Void Conversions Done By Rabbi Haim Druckman Following the lead of Israel’s haredim, the largely haredi Conference of European Rabbis has voided every conversion done by Rabbi Haim Druckman and Israel’s Conversion Authority.

Reverse Mortgages Over the last decade, low interest rates, of between 5 and 6 percent, spurred a frenzy of competition and led to "exotic" loan products that made it possible for almost anyone to buy a house.

Mortgage Recovery Will Be Slow Repair and recovery of the U.S. mortgage markets will be a gradual process that demands both market and regulatory discipline, Federal Reserve Governor Randall Kroszner said today.

Into My Life Though I present a facade of openness on my blog, I’m as wary as the next bloke about letting people into my life. Here are some ways people typically disqualify themselves from entering my life

Mortgages Crisis? Bank balance sheets ballooned due to the inability to sell assets at the same time accounting rules drained capital. This required banks to slow lending when loans were most needed.

Mortgage Crisis The meltdown in the subprime mortgage market has caused a great deal of turmoil in the financial markets and hardship for individual homeowners and financial institutions. If there is a banking crisis, I have seen no evidence of it.

Mortgages Blues Reverse mortgage. Credit score, money in the bank, clean up your credit, pay the fees. Home equity loan, refinance mortgage rates, refinance house, homerefinance, debt consolidation, loan mortgages, home loans

US Home Prices Down 3% In First Quarter U.S. house prices sank 3.1 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to a government report, as buyers waited for values to stop falling. Home equity loan, refinance mortgage rates, refinance house, homerefinance, debt consolidation, loan mortgages, home loans

Should The Federal Reserve Intervene To Prevent Bubble Trouble? "The Princeton squad argues that the Fed can and should try to restrain bubbles," the Journal wrote, "rather than following former Chairman Alan Greenspan's approach: watchful waiting while prices rise and then cleaning up the mess after a bubble bursts."

Israel's Conversion Controversy

Amy Klein writes:

In response, Rabbi Benjamin Lau, nephew of Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the former chief rabbi of Israel, wrote an opinion piece in the newspaper, Ha'aretz.

Jewish Journal: What do you think the ramifications will be of the Ashkelon rabbinical court trying to annul Rabbi Haim Druckman's conversion?
Rabbi Benjamin Lau: First you have to understand the context: Nearly 30 years ago, the Israeli Rabbinate gave Rav Druckman and Rav Zefanya Drori the mandate to create special courts for conversion. Since then, thousands of people were converted to Judaism by these religious courts, and now this judge wanted to annul one of these conversions [which were sanctioned by the Rabbinate]. It started with one rabbi -- Rabbi Atia -- who wrote a few words dealing with the convert in his psak din [ruling], but the majority of it was terrible words about [Religious Zionist] Rav Druckman.
BL: It was an assault against him personally and against the Religious Zionists.

JJ: Can one 'undo' a conversion?
BL: It's a machloket [rabbinic dispute].

JJ: But what does this mean for the future of conversions? It's not just the Religious Zionists -- I think the majority of rabbis in Israel feel the needs of Israelis are so strong that we cannot play a game with the religious courts with those whose outlook is so narrow.

JJ: You are talking about the Lithuanians, a sector of the ultra-Orthodox.
BL: If we talk about all the religious people in Israel, 50 percent are what we call mesorat- traditional, who keep some mitzvot and make Kiddush, but maybe will drive on Shabbat, but have a connection to the religion. About another 25 percent are Religious Zionists, knitted kippah- wearing Jews. The remaining 25 percent of the religious are the Charedim [ultra-Orthodox], who live in a closed society, a ghetto.
BL: Yes. The Chief Rabbinate serves the State of Israel. If you work officially under the flag of Israel, you cannot be against it [as many ultra-Orthodox do not support the State of Israel]. Everyone who serves the State of Israel office should be a creative partner to the needs of the state.

JJ: Many Israelis have been complaining for a long time about the religious hijacking of life-cycle services, such as marriage, divorce, brit milah, conversions, etc. How would the Religious Zionists differ from the Lithuanians?
BL: The secular know that Religious Zionists are partners with them all the way. The secular and Religious Zionists are together -- this is a fact.

JJ: Are you aligned with Conservative and Reform groups in Israel, which are increasingly appealing to many who are turned off by the ultra-Orthodox?
BL: I must tell you as an Israeli rabbi, it's not an issue.
BL: We follow halacha, but we connect with a big smile. If you have good will, people find a way.

JJ: What does your uncle, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the former chief rabbi of Israel, think of your stance against the Lithuanians?
BL: I think about my uncle and his responsibility to all of klal Yisrael-the people of Israel, he serves all the people around the world.

JJ: Are you afraid?
BL: Afraid? I'm just a rabbi. How is Tzohar going to change the way things work in Israel?

JJ: What else is Tzohar doing? I learned the idea of community outside of Israel. It's unbelievable how late the idea of community [is in coming to] Israel.

JJ: Why do people in Israel need a community? Isn't Israel itself a community?
BL: We are talking about the cities. Settlements are communities. Kibbutzim are communities. Small towns are communities. But in the big cities, there are community rabbis, but most people are not in touch with them.

The idea of community is to break the walls between the sections -- if the regular synagogues serve the religious people, a secular person will never ever come into a synagogue. If you interview me in 20 years, the idea of community will have spread around the country.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Live With My Ex-GF Diana Klein Diana Klein aka Dyana and Luke were together in the Spring and summer of 1993. Things ended very badly. Now they chat live in Luke's cam room.

Will The Rubashkins Serve Time? Monday’s raid on the Agriprocessors plant, in which 389 immigrants were arrested and many held at a cattle exhibit hall, was the Bush administration’s largest crackdown on illegal workers at a single site. It has upended this tree-lined community, which calls itself "Hometown to the World."

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Cincinnati Chabad Rabbi Sholom Kalmanson

On April 16, I got an email from somebody calling himself the "Satmarer Chosid" poking fun of Rabbi Kalmanson’s emotional speech about the rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Schneerson).

On April 17, I got more emails criticizing Rabbi Kalmanson.

I surfed the web and found a website where he got a ton of criticism.

On April 17, I emailed Rabbi Kalmanson for a response to these negative things said about him.

I did not hear back.

Today I finally got to speak with Rabbi Kalmanson.

He said he never received my email of April 17.

Luke: "I wanted to get your point of view."

Rabbi Kalmanson: "First you put all this shmutz about me on there and now you’re asking me for my point of view?"

"I would assume that one would try to get a second side or try to check something out unless there’s a motive here for all this?

"Anybody who is in the public eye as much as I am, literally traveling the globe, I have become a lightning rod. One item that you have there can you back up factually? Nothing. I challenge you to do that. Not that I have anything against you. I’m just trying to understand. What are the motives of this story?"

Luke: "I write a blog on Jewish life. The only motive is to try to find out what is true."

Rabbi Kalmanson: "All that you have there is dirt upon dirt upon dirt. You haven’t said one thing that may resemble some truths. If you were going to go looking, I’m sure you’d find some positives as well."

Luke: "I’m willing to go through things point by point."

We talk about my missing email of April 17.

Rabbi Kalmanson: "I’ve been dealing with media for many many years. I’ve been in the public eye for 40 years. It was brought to my attention last night by somebody. That was the first I’ve seen of it."

"Is there anything that you’ve written that you have an ounce of back-up? Even a shred?"

Luke: "I believe that all of it is accurate."

Rabbi Kalmanson: "Where do you have it accurate that the rebbe did or did not send me to serve under Rabbi [Zelig] Sharfstein?

"The rebbe sent me to Cincinnati. Rabbi Sharfstein never came to Cincinnati as a shaliach (emissary of the rebbe). Rabbi Sharfstein got married in 1956. Through Torah Mesorah as a work referral service, he came to the Chofetz Chaim Hebrew Day School in Cincinnati to become a teacher. He did not succeed. He became a principal to finish off the year. He did not succeed. Rabbi Silver, who was the chief rabbi at the time, took him in as a kosher supervisor. There he remained until an issue occurred.

"I was the one who saw to it that he got promoted to the rabbi of Nevalde Yeah (sp?). Nobody else did.

"The people who dealt with myself and the rebbe at the time have passed away. You may have heard the name of Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Reichitz (sp?)? He was an emissary of the rebbe to go to Rabbi Sharfstein’s father-in-law to not stand in the way of this particular shaliach [referring to Rabbi Kalmanson’s Cincinnati appointment for the rebbe]."

"I don’t really care. I just want to know what motive somebody in Los Angeles has to come forward and besmirch somebody.

"Let me ask you: If I am this big of a bumpkin, how come I am traveling around the globe speaking on behalf of issues of Chabad? Why would anyone emulate somebody who defied the rebbe? In Chabad, that would be the worst negative that you could talk about. Somebody defied the rebbe’s instructions? Would somebody in Chabad emulate a person like that?"

Luke: "That’s a good point."

Rabbi Kalmanson: "I travel to Israel, Australia, England, around the globe, all 50 states. If I was as big of a bum as you make me out to be? If I defied the rebbe’s will, I don’t think anybody would bother with me. I would be laid away somewhere like many other people. There are thousands of shalichim (emissaries for Chabad) around the world. Some are quieter than others. Some are just going on with their routine daily lives and nobody remembers that they are there with the exception of something occurs."

"Every person who is high profile has enemies. You become a lightning rod."

"Can you tell me one place where I have wasted money? And have needed someone else to manage my money? That was a statement in the blog."

Luke: "I quote from another blog that you are the only person to open and then close two educational institutions."

Rabbi: "Really? First of all, the yeshiva is open. I don’t know what you’re talking about. On the other hand, I will show you hundreds of institutions around the world. This is no different than any other business. If a person sits and does nothing, you can’t fail.

"The girls’ school didn’t close because of failure. My wife who was running it got breast cancer. She couldn’t run it at that time. That nobody’s telling you.

"That there are 15 or 20 other institutions in the city that are open under my auspices, that nobody talks about. That are very successfully running."

"Don’t you see through the dirt and the garbage?"

Luke: "I’m hearing what you’re saying and I’m taking careful notes."

"So the only schools that have closed?"

Rabbi: "Let me explain to you something… We have a successful Chabad house in the Amberley area. That’s the regional headquarters. We have a successful Chabad house in Mason and on the campus [of Ohio State?], we have a successful institution in Blue Ash, in Dayton, we have a Russian center, we have several synagogues running here… We have a mesivta — a yeshiva high school running. We have a cheder. We have a successful summer camp with 300 or 400 children. We have a separate winter camp. It’s the only American Camping Association accredited camp in this region.

"Just from this alone, tell me where my failures are?"

Luke: "I could not. Let me come back to you. Let me talk to my sources."

Rabbi: "You shouldn’t be taking anonymous garbage. If somebody is bold enough to make an accusation against somebody, let them stand up and say it openly. If I get mad at you, I can call some other blogger and make anonymous accusations against you. Obviously I don’t have to live up to any standards. If I want to besmirch somebody, I’ll do it straight to their face."

"I could call you up and say that so-and-so slept with somebody’s wife. Are you going to then print it? If you want to have some semblance of credibility, things should be checked out, or at least call the other side before you put it on the blog and see what he has to say. You can be like a journalist and provide both sides."

"From what I’ve told you now, you can check me out. Check to see how many institutions are running successfully under me."

Luke: "I’m going to do what you say and then I’ll come back to you."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Internet entrepreneur Richard J. Gordon TRIBUTES on the Web site of Richard J. Gordon‘s company strike all of the uplifting chords one would expect of a digital maverick.

What happened to Luke Ford? What’s going on with pioneer blogger and charismatic Internet personality Luke Ford? The Woodstein of the pornography industry-turned-conflicted Orthodox Jew has always been a controversial figure, but as long as we’ve known him, he’s also been a well-groomed, camera-ready media star.

Israel Funds Its First Reform Temple In Modiin, Israel, the first state-funded non-Orthodox synagogue has just opened. Though Orthodox congregations routinely get funding from the government for buildings, upkeep and even rabbi’s salaries...

David Sacks Has The Sweetest Torah Born and raised in New York City, David Sacks attended Harvard College, graduating with a degree in Government in 1984. While there he began his comedy writing career as an editor of the school’s humor magazine, The Harvard Lampoon. Upon graduating, David moved to Los Angeles and began writing for television.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

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Refinance Misery Another's Gain Refinance misery, Reverse mortgage. Credit score, money in the bank, clean up your credit, pay the fees. Home equity loan, refinance mortgage rates, refinance house, homerefinance, debt consolidation, loan mortgages, home loans

Rabbis Avi Weiss, Marc Angel Launch New Orthodox Rabbis Group Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabbi Marc Angel have launched a new group for Orthodox rabbis called the International Rabbinic Fellowship, which they hope can be an answer to the Rabbinic Council of America and its constant edging to the right.

Every Mitzvah Is A Big Mitzvah

As I lay down on my blankets on the floor, she takes a seat.

"I just went to Torah classes," she said. "I learned that we never know how profound a mitzvah can be."

I pat a spot next to me.

"No," she says. "I just came back from a Torah class. I'm not doing that with you anymore. We're just friends.

"We sometimes think, 'What's the big deal with foregoing some pleasure?' But every mitzvah profoundly affects us and the universe. Every mitzvah helps heal the shattered vessels."

We toss the football back and forth until it falls between us.

She gets up, picks up the football, looks at me, and reluctantly sits beside me.

"I'm only sitting," she says. "So I don't have to yell across the room."

I rub her back.

She sighs.

"I want to play with you," she says, "but first I need to cover that."

She takes a towel but it is too heavy to hang over my Jerusalem poster.

"Don't worry about it," I say. "That's stupid."

"No, I can't look at that if I'm going to be naughty."

I throw her a sheet. She drapes it over the tacks and covers the poster.

Every mitzvah is a big mitzvah.