Sunday, April 29, 2012

Jimmy Kimmel Rips Keith Olbermann at White House Press Dinner

Before Barack Obama bailed out a boring night, Jimmy Kimmel left the audience at 
The White House Corresppondents' Dinner 
asking "Where are the Clowns?"

Jimmy Kimmel took a shot at humor once again last evening at the White House correspondents' dinner by kicking a guy when he's down. Keith Olbermann, once in Dutch with ESPN and having left their employment on bad terms, moving on to political commentary and doing awesome work and making MSNBC profitable with his primetime Countdown show there, but getting into dutch with management there (for political reasons) and leaving on bad terms, and making the mistake of moving Countdown lock, stock and barrel to Al Gore's (remember him, he used to be a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former VP before entering into obscurity by trying to run a TV network called Current TV) where he got into dutch with management and left on bad terms just a few weeks ago. Kimmel suggested that the audience look under their seats where they'd find KO's resume. Hysterical. He ripped KO apart for losing one job or other. Unfortunately Kimmel's performance last night was about as slow as KO's former competition--O'Reilley, Hannity and Beck--combined. The consummate politician, President Obama no doubt selected Kimmel knowing how easy an act he would be to follow, thereby resulting in talking heads on the Sunday morning news circuit inevitably saying how good Barack's comedy timing is (by comparison with Kimmel).

He'll come out of all this ok. I hope. He certainly deserves better, and Kimmel most definitely is NOT even close to as funny as KO on a good night. ;0) Kimmel is about as funny as a date with the Activia lady. Or with the 'diarrhea, gas and bloating" lady. Or worse a 3sum with the 2 of them. ;0) Not funny, scary. Biden should have hosted, but he wouldn't have been able to avoid the F-bomb as well as Kimmel did. But he would've been funnier than Kimmel. I'd rather sit on a tack nude, than have to sit through a stand-up by Kimmel. ;0) Maybe I'll send these Kimmel jokes to KO, it might brighten his evening. Jimmy Kimmel single-handedly brought back the laugh-track to TV. But in live performances it’s just embarrassing to see the audience looking like they're watching a lecture about the history of the light bulb while the sound around them in Sensurround is of uproarious laughter. If I was sentenced to watching a series of Kimmel shows, I guarantee I would have promised to stop drinking, drugging and sinning altogether long before I did any of that, at least I would have promised the judge the moon, the stars and the sun and tried to deliver! But one thing he's right about is that Current TV has been Al Gore's albatross. Current is about as successful as 8-tracks and as popular as heart attacks. You'll note that Gore has not won ONE single Peace Prize since founding Current TV. Naming former Guv and John #347 Elliot Spitzer to replace KO is not likely to enhance Gore’s chances for a nomination. ;0)

Poor Jimmy Kimmel. We can only hope that he smells the coffee soon and makes a career change. I understand the fine folks at Phillips are considering a male partner for Miss Diarrhea, Gas and Bloating. 

Feminist Thought in Time and Space: Jewish Women and Recent Approaches to Spirituality

Steve Alexander
WS-623 Fall 2011
Submitted April 29, 2012

Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics1 written by feminist Jewish theological scholar Rachel Adler is an intriguing and thought provoking volume which won praise and awards, as has her scholarship in published writings since the early 1970’s (in 1973 she published “The Jew Who Wasn’t There: Halakha and the Jewish Woman”2). As required reading for this course in Jewish spirituality, Adler’s approach was inspiring and refreshing, causing me to wish to delve further into her writings, and to review some of the more recent literature on the role of women in Judaism and to choose this as the topic of this final paper for the course.
Early in her volume, Adler discusses the evolution of halakha at length, with powerful arguments suggesting that changes to Jewish law and tradition incorporating women citing the humanity of the law and the exclusivity of male input in its construction. Making the case for a progressive halakha she asks the question, “What are to be its sources? What is its authority? For fundamentalist Orthodoxy, halakha originates in the Written Law of the Pentateuch and in the Oral Law preserved in the Talmud. Both are believed to have been communicated directly by God to Moses. Both are regarded as infallible and immutable.”3   She argues later here and elsewhere that “members of a Jewish male elite constructed the categories and method of classical halakha to reflect their own perspectives and social goals and have held a monopoly on their application…”4 decrying the fact that “women are themselves ineligible to be normative members of the community.”5 Around the same time that Dr. Adler published this volume, she wrote in a different context even more strongly  ”Our Bible is not a single book by a single author, but an assortment of texts in different genres by different schools of authors. Talmud and
Midrash are multivocal, ‘unrepressed texts’ in which diverse voices set forth a mosaic of legal debates prooftexts, case law, stories, philosophies, proverbs and prayers…Only one group has consistently stood on the periphery of the hubbub. That group is Jewish women.”6
Dr. Adler builds upon this foundational argument by citing specific changes in behavior feminist Jewish women have been engaging in recently, along with men who are accommodating those changes. She reports that feminist Jews, both male and female have ‘invented’ means of worship, prayer and devised new traditions based on wider cultural changes in the United States in particular. Many changes have occurred within the formal context of temple worship in different branches of Jewish worship, but she also suggests that many ‘inventions fill a vacuum rather than replacing some preexisting liturgical form.”6
Practical Aspects of Feminist Change
Certainly the role of women liturgically within many non-Orthodox temples and synagogues has changed demonstrably and that is unarguably a trend in America in recent years. Attending services outside my own faith tradition recently, I visited a Connecticut Conservative synagogue and a Reform Temple for typical Shabbat services, and I viewed women playing an extensive role in the formal celebrations at both celebrations, including a woman who not only participated in the temple service but also serves as that temple’s current President. Casual conversations with members of these groupings confirm the ongoing changing role of women (and of girls) in their congregations.
It is not really an aside to put in historical context the timing of not only Rachel Adler’s career as a Jewish theologian and that of a host of other feminist Jewish scholars, and of the movement toward a more gender-egalitarian Judaism in much of that religious tradition in this country. Adler began publishing her
challenges to the existing order in and around the early 1970’s, and so, too did other Jewish feminists such as Judith Plaskow. And it can easily be argued that significant changes in the roles of women within
Judaism generally, and specifically in the modifications within the Conservative and Reform movements advanced very quickly commencing around that time as well.
The still unratified Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was first introduced and passed by the Congress in 1972, the same time these Jewish scholarly feminist publications began to emerge. Interestingly, the Israeli Prime Minister from March 17, 1969 to June 3, 1974 was the first and thus far the only woman to hold that post, Golda Meir. An interesting question to pose to the bevy of feminist scholars to emerge since that time would be whether Prime Minister Meir’s success at that time and her role within Israeli society and as a Jewish secular leader might have had an impact on the course of Jewish theological feminism? It was also in the early 1970’s that Cosmopolitan magazine was transformed from a family publication to a women’s magazine with a feminist twist and a new racier nickname, Cosmo, along with a new and popular feminist editor in Helen Gurley Brown. It was in 1969 that feminist publisher Gloria Steinem first published Ms. Magazine and began lobbying extensively for abortion rights. So I suppose that it is likely that secular and popular cultural influences had a considerable impact on the development and, perhaps, the successes of the Jewish feminist movement from scholarly and theological points of view, as well as in the practical successes of the movement.
Judith Plaskow’s Perspectives
Another influential feminist Jewish scholar, Judith Plaskow has also had evident influence on the course of Judaism in America in recent years in particular with regard to the role of women, and at times it is evident that Rachel Adler and Dr. Plaskow disagree on certain aspects of the theology involved in the
new Jewish feminism. Plaskow’s most impactful work, Standing Again at Sinai7 offers much more in the way of agreement with Adler, it appears however, than disagreement. They are both clearly unified in their belief that the Torah, halakha and tradition have largely been dictated by males to the exclusion of Jewish women, and seem to be in agreement that this is neither divinely ordained, desirable nor inevitable at all.
In her writings, Judith Plaskow challenges not just the masculine language used to describe the divinity, but calls for a transformation of the meaning of that divinity in light of a new perspective incorporating feminism. She suggests that the masculine descriptions of God are offensive to many, and argues that there is no objective reason to masculinize God. In evaluating one midrash based on Deuteronomy 5:4 [which describes many guises in which God appears to the children of Israel], Plaskow writes that it points to a “way out of the feminist dilemma of god-language and simultaneously illustrates its most trying aspect. It acknowledges the legitimacy, indeed the necessity, of plural ways of perceiving and speaking about the one God. It asserts that multiple images of God are not contradictions of monotheism but ways in which limited human beings apprehend and respond to the all-embracing divine reality.”8 So Plaskow is taking Jewish theology to an apparently non-gendered God, who has been defined as “Him” or “He” in shorthand simply, perhaps, because all of the interpretation, debate and writing have historically been done by males.
Jewish Feminism and Transgender Issues
Much more recently Dr. Plaskow was asked her perspective and she wrote about her excitement about the practical changes and opportunities for women in Judaism in the preceding decades, and she commented in 2007 that she sees in her 1990 volume Standing Again at Sinai “the most fundamental theological question I raise as that of authority: Who has the authority to define the ongoing meaning of
Judaism? What has been included and who has been excluded from the conversation through which Jewish life takes on meaning?”9  The issue of transgender and intersex persons is raised in this article by Plaskow, and in it one can see further growth in her perspective, perhaps of a non-gendered deity. She writes “Feminists first drew a sharp distinction between sex and gender in order to make the point that neither the psychological and emotional characteristics of men and women nor their social roles are biologically or divinely ordained. Transgender activists argue that the sex/gender distinction is itself problematic and that the very notion of only two sexes is produced by the same set of social processes and power relations that create gender hierarchy.”10 She agrees with this concept, and is currently seeking ways for transgender and feminist activists to find the same page in their theological and religious activism. And it is fascinating to infer what the implications this conception offers for a new conception of God in terms of gender/non-gender. Beyond that, it has implications for the practical aspects of both liturgical and non-liturgical roles not only for women and men, but for bisexual, lesbian and transgendered Jews as well.
Blu Greenberg, Rabbi Ben Greenberg and Orthodox Feminist Perspectives
Rachel Adler describes Blu Greenberg as “the most traditional of the feminist critics of halakha, is a liberal halakhist, committed to liberal halakhah’s blend of historicism and formalism. She believes that ‘the techniques for reinterpretation are built right into the system’ and that a gradual social evolution toward egalitarianism will result in their implementation.’”11,12  
Greenberg has written extensively about feminism within the Orthodox tradition, and asks some very challenging questions about the future of women within the Orthodox movement. She writes that she’s been asked and asks herself “how far can Orthodoxy o in responding to feminism? Sometimes there’s a bit of goading behind the question: What do Orthodox feminists really want? What’s your real agenda?
But often the questioner comes with genuine interest. How far can Orthodoxy accommodate the needs of the new Jewish woman without losing its Orthodoxy? There are also a myriad of specific questions: Will every girl in the community be expected to study Talmud? Will Orthodox women become rabbis, make halachic decisions as yoatzot, advisors, or poskot, decisors? Will they be dayanot, judges in the rabbinic courts of law, presiding over matters of divorce? Will the gendered language of the prayer book undergo transformation or will the original language be preserved, with commentary and caveat sensitive to kavod hatzibbur, the honor (of women) in the congregation. And most of all, who will prepare for Pesach? (Just kidding.)”13
Ms. Greenberg sees the Orthodox movement as affected by 30 plus years of Jewish feminism, but she sees the future of the role of women within her chosen tradition as unclear. She writes “If the changes that have been wrought during the past decades are any indication, the element of surprise may be a surer bet than any predictions I might offer.”14 She sees the more gradual and incremental changes in the status of women within Orthodoxy as possibly more remarkable than those in the more liberal denominations because they were less likely to occur and represent a far greater shift from a much more conservative status quo.
Within the Orthodox movement, Greenberg describes Orthodox women as often unwilling to accept the feminist label even as they may advocate changing roles for women within their religious communities. And still others she describes as perhaps not so willing to experience or advocate change for their roles as religious women even as they pursue the other aspects of their lives as fully involved women exercising rights and responsibilities hitherto denied in the general culture in decades past. She sees the progress or lack of progress in feminist issues and policy within the general culture in the future as having a huge role to play in the future role of Orthodox women within their religious communities.
The Orthodox Jewish Chaplain of Harvard University, Ben Greenberg (no relation to Blu Greenberg) wrote favorably recently about the ordination of Jewish rabbis within the Orthodox denomination. Rabbi Greenberg recognizes that this issue is extremely controversial and highly emotional for Orthodox Judaism, where a physical barrier (the mehitza) continues to separate the sexes in synagogues during services and women play little role for the most part in liturgical ceremony.
Rabbi Greenberg sees a strong case to be made within Jewish tradition for the ordination of women, even as an Orthodox rabbi himself. In a 2009 article he argues that halakhic tradition has historically been anything but fixed, that it has changed over time and through the centuries. He points to the 19th century European emancipation and the crumbling of ghetto walls resulting in large numbers of Jews beginning to violate Sabbath strictures, and points out that many of those continued to attend synagogue. He argues that often there were only nine ‘observant’ Jewish men present for services, joined by Jewish men who had ‘desecrated’ the Sabbath. Tradition calls for a quorum of 10, and the question of whether in these common circumstances whether a quorum was constituted was a genuinely pressing question for these 19th century Jews. Ben Greenberg cites the 19th century leading German Rabbi David Tzvi Hoffmann as writing “There is another approach to be lenient… the individual is not deemed as having done such a great violation and it does not have to be only done in private. The opposite actually becomes true; those who fear God in our days are called dissenter.”15  Rabbi Greenberg argues that Rabbi Hoffman “thus redefined the halakhic concepts of public and private and how we understand Sabbath desecration in the contemporary world.”15
Even more compellingly, Rabbi Greenberg argues that the rise of political Zionism at the end of the 19th century and the First Zionist Congress’ call for a Jewish state in the ancient land of Israel (“The Basel Program”) posed the greatest challenge to traditional Jewish belief in the modern era. Traditional Jewish
theology held that the dispersion of the Jewish people was purposeful and intentional and that Jewish exile resulted in Jews of higher quality. In particular Rabbi Greenberg states that “The overriding Orthodox rabbinic response o Zionism, from the nineteenth century to the present has been fierce. The Orthodox rabbinate saw Zionism as a breach of the covenant formed between God and the Jewish people. There is a well-known passage in the Talmud (tractate Ketubot 110b-111a) in which the Jewish people swear to God that they will never attempt to retake the Land of Israel by force, like ‘a wall.’ The Jews are meant to wait for the appointed time by God to return to the Land of their forefathers and not return a moment too soon.”16
There was a large outcry by theologians and rabbis decrying Zionism, speeches and tours of Europe opposing the rise of political Zionism occurred prior to the founding of the Jewish state early last century. Rabbi Greenberg reports that a small group of European rabbis embraced Zionism attempting to integrate it into traditional belief, resulting in the Mizrahi movement—which eventually became a larger ‘Religious Zionist’ movement. Now Rabbi Greenberg proclaims that “an overwhelming proportion of Modern Orthodox Jews around the world are Religious Zionist, including almost all of the Modern Orthodox Rabbinate.”16
The rabbi suggests that because of the early opposition by the rabbinate to the political Zionist movement, and the contention and firm belief held by Orthodox theologians and rabbis that Zionism was contrary to tradition, that “What ensued was an evaluation of the needs of the community” and that this plays a role in halakha, and to see it otherwise ignores exactly how halakha actually works. And this “weighing of factors is precisely what is occurring right now in the Modern Orthodox community with regard to the role of women” and he suggests that this is fully in concert with how halakha should and is working at present.
Without explicitly proclaiming himself supportive of granting the title of rabbi to women within the Orthodox movement presently, Rabbi Greenberg summarizes his position by stating that “the presence of a female religious leader who loves her people and loves her Torah need not rip apart the fabric that holds the various streams of Orthodox Judaism together.”17
Reform, Conservative, Orthodox; Summarizing Jewish Feminism at Present
The rather progressive positions held by Orthodox theologians such as Blu and Rabbi Ben Greenberg, among others, surprised me, although it probably should not be too surprising given the cultural context in which American Judaism exists today, no matter the adjective used to describe a particular community. In thinking stereotypically without examination of some of the recent and not so recent literature, I imagined that Orthodox Judaism was not advancing at all in terms of the role women were playing, and in terms of the perceptions of Orthodox Jews themselves towards their female members.
It was not too surprising to observe a scholar such as Judith Plaskow advancing Jewish feminist ideals thirty years after the commencement of rapid changes in feminine roles within Judaism and the broader culture to include transgender issues, and for reformers such as Plaskow and Rachel Adler to move the faith (and perhaps take the lead in moving other faith traditions—but that might be fertile fodder for another examination another time18) in the direction of a genderless language and deity itself.
Outside Of Scholarly Writings: How Women’s Activities Are Today
Outside the synagogue and temple the traditional role of women in Jewish tradition has been different than that of men in many ways, and many of those roles were demonstrated in videos, demonstrations and presentations in class during this course. While the feminist movement appears to be causing a fusion of roles in many senses, in other ways different means of expressing religiosity, but not
necessarily exactly gender-to-gender identical means are emerging or being called for by leaders and lay persons within the Jewish faith it appears.
Judith Hauptman, for example, called out “most Jews” in 1993 for thinking “that women, unlike men, are not obligated to pray daily, and have responded accordingly.”19  She saw a variety of implications for what she perceived to be a fallacy. Orthodox men would use this as an argument against counting women towards the quorum of 10 or for them to serve as a prayer leader. She argues that this is a ‘convenient’ but untrue notion and provides rabbinic texts to back her claims, and many women nowadays view their daily prayer as obligatory.
Perhaps the most controversial and among the most significant changes in recent times in a practical sense is the ordination of women as rabbis and the increased role of women in formal worship in temples and synagogues. Certainly these are among the best known changes within the faith among those who don’t practice or who belong to a different faith.
Rachel Adler’s Engendering Judaism was one of the required texts for this course and an extremely illuminating, assertive and eye-opening one for me. Two other required texts for the course did address issues of changing gender roles and Judaism somewhat. Rabbi Irving Greenberg’s The Jewish Way: Living The Holidays20 offered a few insights into the transition in female roles in celebrations, particularly in a brief discussion of the changing level of participation of Orthodox women, keeping in mind that the publication date of this volume was 1988 and as cited elsewhere here in publications focused specifically upon the roles of women and in particular how they pertain to Orthodoxy.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s encyclopedic Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its People and Its History21 provides essential accounts of the historic role of women, as
well as synoptic views of the changing role of women in Judaism at the time of its original publication, 1991. One particularly notable quote from Telushkin comes from his chapter on Family Harmony, “While there is no shortage of misogynistic statements in Jewish literature, a longstanding tradition in Judaism enunciates and legislates the kind and generous treatment of wives.”22
Summary and Conclusions
Changes in American popular culture were rampant in the 1960s and 1970s accompanying the anti-war movement surrounding U.S. military aggression in Southeast Asia, the military draft, the Civil Rights Movement resulting in and following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., the advancement of birth control and consequent sexual liberality, and the widespread drug/rock and roll subculture. Most enduring of all of these perhaps, was the civil rights movement in many different manifestations than merely the racial equality movement begun in the early 1960s. This movement went on to embrace persons with disabilities (with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act), women’s rights and gender equality, spurned the gay liberation movement which is now realizing states granting the right to gay marriages, and much more.
There has been much give and take in the political and cultural debates surrounding these civil rights matters and even in the election of 2012 and in this Congress and within the states these issues are as alive today as they were 40 years ago. Indeed, with language such as a “War on women” with abortion still an issue, and presidential candidates speaking against birth control, and proposals being made for mandatory invasive ultrasound testing prior to abortions, and the Equal Rights Amendment still unratified forty years after it first passed both Houses of Congress; cultural, sociological and political issues of gender are near the top of the American national agenda.
It seems as though around the time that the civil rights movement was taking off in the general population, and the renewed women’s rights movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s was commencing that this broader interest by both men and women in advancing feminism within the broader culture had an impact on religious communities as well. I hold membership in both the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church, and it was at this time that the Episcopal Church first began ordaining women as ministers, and the number of UCC women being ordained increased measurably (although the UCC, previously known as the Congregational church had been ordaining women for over a century already).
It was around this time that Rachel Adler, whose work attracted my attention more than any other author in this course, began to publish her feminist views on the role of women and Judaism. And in delving deeper into Jewish-American feminist literature, I learned that Dr. Adler was certainly not alone in her movement. Others such as Dr. Judith Plaskow, Blu Greenberg, Marcia Falk, Yale University’s Paula Hyman, feminist Jewish men including the Orthodox rabbi Ben Greenberg and many more were all beginning to write and advance a movement within Judaism which has resulted in the ordination of thousands of women; a changing role in the formal celebrations of worship for both men and women, changes in the cultural roles within the religion of boys, girls, men and women; alterations in the personal worship habits of perhaps the majority of the nation’s Jews; and a corresponding change in the broader culture because of the more liberal perspective in general of Judaism in America today.
It was worth it for me to note that Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir really preceded this movement, and my own research for the purposes of this assignment did not reach to the state of Israel, and was instead focused upon American Jewish feminism, I found it interesting, illuminating and quite instructive to realize that Ms. Meir’s leadership of Israel at the pinnacle of political power in the modern Jewish
state correlated very closely with the onset of major changes in the role of women and the theology of Judaism as it pertains to women in the United States.
I admit to being surprised at the theological discussions regarding women that are ongoing within the Orthodox Jewish community, and to the smashing of several stereotypes I held along the way to arriving at those insights. After taking a look at some of the discussion going on in that community among scholars and theologians, I believe that Orthodox women rabbis may in fact be a reality in the not too distant future, something I hadn’t previously considered likelihood. I also now believe that changes within the Orthodox movement in the United States, including this huge one (ordaining women rabbis) can happen gradually and without doing major harm to Jewish Orthodoxy. But I also believe that there will be a segment of the Orthodox movement which will not ordain women for many, many years to come; and I believe that Jews of all other strains (whether Reform, Conservative, etc.) will not only accept, but embrace this diversity. And in fact, following this course and this particular research paper, I do believe that American Judaism will continue to become more diverse while simultaneously become more accepting of other American Jews with different perspectives than their own (and I have learned that, in general, the faith is very good at this already).
Having now attended both a Conservative and a Reform Jewish community Shabbat service in recent months, I am now intrigued enough to desire a visit to an Orthodox Synagogue and to converse with some Orthodox members to learn some personal perspectives. I am certain that this is something I will be doing here in my home town in the very near future.
I can only conclude by offering my praise to Rachel Adler not only for her volume which originally piqued my interest, but in her entire body of work in her career thus far. She has evidently had a huge impact on much more than a scholarly debate. She has advanced the cause of women in many ways, and when
the cause of women is advanced the cause of all people is advanced. She has altered views of many who I believe might have been immobile was it not for her reasoned, thoughtful, humane and insightful work.
I have had the opportunity to meet a local rabbi who studied with Dr. Adler at her West Coast home base, and look forward to future discussions with him, and it certainly is now an aspiration of mine that I might have the opportunity at some point in the near future to hear her espouse her views in a public forum.

               1 Rachel Adler, Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics (Boston: Beacon Press Books, 1998).
               2Rachel Adler, “The Jew Who Wasn’t There: Halakha and the Jewish Woman,” Davka (Summer, 1971).
               3Adler, Engendering Judaism, 27.
               4Ibid, 28.
               5Ibid., 28
               6Rachel Adler, “Talking Our Way In,” Sh’ma, 23 (November 13, 1992): 5-6.
               7Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai (New York: Harper Collins, 1991).
               8Judith Plaskow, “God: Some Feminist Questions,” Sh’ma, 23 (November 13, 1991): 38-40.
               11Adler, Engendering Judaism, 45.
               12Blu Greenberg, On Women and Judaism: A View from Tradition (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1981), 39-71.
               13Blu Greenberg, “Orthodox Feminism and the Next Century,” Sh’ma, 30(January 2000):1-3.
               15Rabbi Ben Greenberg, “Women Orthodox Rabbis: Heresy or Possibility?” First Things, October 1, 2009.
               18It would be interesting to examine the changing perspectives of gender and the deity in other faith traditions.
               19Judith Hauptman, “Women and Prayer,” Judaism (Winter, 1993): 94-103.
               20Rabbi Irving Greenberg, The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays (New York: Touchstone, 1988)
               21Rabbi  Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, its People and its History (New York: Harper Collins, 1991).
               22Ibid., 593.
Adler, Rachel “Abortion: The Need to Change Jewish Law,” Sh’ma, (November 15, 1974).
Adler, Rachel Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998.
Adler, Rachel “Feminism: A Cause for the Halakhic,” Sh’ma (September 6, 1974) 125-26.
Adler, Rachel “Talking Our Way In,” Sh’ma 23 (November 13, 1992) 5-6.
Adler, Rachel “The Jew Who Wasn’t There: Halakha and the Jewish Woman” Davka (Summer 1971).
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman “Orthodox Feminism and Feminist Orthodoxy” Jewish Action (Winter 1999)
Rabbi Ben Greenberg “Women Orthodox Rabbis: Heresy or Possibility” First Things (October 1, 2009).
Blu Greenberg “Choosing Limits, Limiting Choices: Women’s Status and Religious Life,” Sylvia Barack Fishman, Tamar Ross, Blu Greenberg, Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, March 13, 2005.
Blu Greenberg On Women and Judaism: A View From Tradition. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1981.
Blu Greenberg “Orthodox Feminism and the Next Century” Sh’ma 30 (January 2000) 1-3.
Rabbi Irving Greenberg The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays. New York: Touchstone, 1988.
Judith Hauptman “Women and Prayer” Judaism (Winter 1993) 94-103.
Judith Plaskow “God: Some Feminist Questions” Sh’ma 23 (November13, 1991) 38-40.
Judith Plaskow Standing Again at Sinai. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History. New York: Harper Collins, 1991

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Romney Wins CT Primary With Lowest Vote Tally In History, He's a Loser!!!

Remastered: I'm a Loser
"and i'm not what I appear to be!"

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, the state’s chief elections official, officially released the turnout for Connecticut’s Republican Presidential Primary yesterday, and the turnout was a dismal 14.4% of the eligible Republican voters, or only “59,969 registered Republicans cast ballots out of a total of 415,725 active registered Republicans in the state” according to a statement released by Secretary Merrill’s office today. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won the primary with 67.5% of the vote, compared to 13.5% for TX U.S. Representative Ron Paul, 10.3% for former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and 6.8% for former PA Senator Rick Santorum. The presumptive Republican nominee garnered only 40,229 votes statewide—a ridiculously dismal showing in a state with an official population of 3,580,709 on July 1, 2011 according to the most recent census data. Romney will receive all of Connecticut’s 25 delegates to the Republican National Convention with only 1.12% of the state’s population voting for him, an astounding figure (the math for that figure is definitely mine, not that of the Secretary of the State’s office). That’s right; Romney won the Connecticut Republican primary with only a tally amounting to ONE PERCENT and change of the state’s population.

Record Low Turnout Proves Lack of Enthusiasm
Yesterday’s turnout was a record low for any Presidential primary in Connecticut for either party since the current primary system was established in1980, and by a full 6 percentage points compared to the previous record low turnout, according to the numbers released by Secretary Merrill’s office. Romney is clearly failing to excite his own party, and has pretty much won the Republican nomination simply because no serious Republican with a national reputation wished to contend against the incumbent Democrat Barack Obama. In yesterday’s election, even though Romney IS the presumptive nominee, 2% of Republicans made the effort to turn out to vote for “none of the above” by casting their ballot for an uncommitted slate of delegates! Ridiculously low turnouts were recorded in all of the other 4 states holding primaries in the Northeast along with Connecticut yesterday. New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Delaware all reported low turnouts or record lows, and Connecticut was the state in which Romney received the highest percentage of the vote, receiving only 58% to 63% in the other states, in spite of the inevitability of his nomination at this point. Even Republicans are not happy with the notion of casting a ballot for Mitt Romney, which is evident by yesterday’s vote, perhaps even more so than by the votes cast when the primary was still competitive.
Republican Turnout Low Entire Primary Season
By the way, even when the Republican contest was at its height, turnout in the primary was still low, indicative of the absolute lack of enthusiasm on the part of the nation’s Republican voters to vote in the primary. The independent Bipartisan Policy Center reported in March that turnout in 8 of the 13 states which had cast ballots to that point reported lower turnout in the previous three presidential primaries. In the great Commonwealth of Virginia turnout for the Republican primary was an unbelievable 5.1 percent of eligible voters! This is how Mitt Romney is winning this nomination, in the most pathetic manner in American electoral history.

Obama’s Performance is the Reason for Republican Malaise
Part of the reason for that is the aforementioned lack of desire on the part of serious potential contenders to contend against an incumbent with as strong a record and as popular as President Obama. In his 39 months in office Mr. Obama has been able to stem 24 straight months of job losses; ending the Republican “Great Recession” he inherited; provided private sector job growth each month for 30-plus consecutive months; saved the American auto industry; tracked down and eliminated Osama Bin Laden; ended the war in Iraq, wound down the war in Afghanistan; ended the tyranny and life of Muammar Qaddafi without the loss of a single American troop; negotiated, signed and ratified the world’s first Strategic Arms REDUCTION Treaty with Russia;  won the Nobel Peace Prize; kept interest rates and inflation at record lows; and has passed the TARP and the most significant health care legislation in U.S. history ensuring coverage for a record number of Americans. So in spite of the urging of other Republicans, many potential contenders such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan saw the writing on the wall and opted not to run for the office this year, preferring to defer their well-known desires for future years. Therefore this year’s crop of Republican candidates wasn’t even the ‘B-team.’ It was the “Group W Bench.” It was the “F-squad.” If it wasn’t a Presidential primary it would have been comical, and certainly was at times. Romney’s chief rivals for the nomination included a former Speaker who was censored by the House and fined, drummed out of the office by his own caucus over a decade ago! It included the last man standing, Rick Santorum who was drummed out of the Senate by his own Pennsylvania voters by over 16 percentage points when he lost his last election for office! And Herman “999” Cain was simply an art project who NEVER held public office before in his life, rather than a serious candidate, and yet until he was caught up in a marital infidelity scandal replete with years of lies and deceit, he led Romney in the polls! The reality is, and what does NOT show up in public opinion polls, is that many Main Street Republicans are very happy with President Barack Obama and staying away from the polls in droves and Romney, just like he won Connecticut yesterday, has won by default. He lost the nomination in 2008, and ran as an ‘also-ran’ this year, winning simply because of the lack of competition within his party.  
Denise Merrill Runs Smooth Primary, Leads CT to Important Elections Changes
It is well worth noting that the decision made by Connecticut to join forces with the other Northeast states for a one-day primary was a good one and bodes well for future presidential contests. Even though this year’s lackadaisical contest on the Republican side was decided weeks ago, by joining forces with other adjoining states, including more populous ones, in future contests Connecticut is likely to receive much more attention by presidential contenders in both parties and visits by those candidates, as well as access by local voters and media which otherwise would not be the case given Connecticut’s relatively small cache of delegates given our population.  Also, given the rules of both parties, it gives us more clout at the conventions to hold off on frontloaded primaries, since holding the primary a bit later in the game grants the states which choose to do so more delegates than would otherwise be the case. So kudos to Secretary of the State Merrill for her conduct of this primary! Next up for her and for the state as far as statewide elections is the primary for U.S. Senate in August and then the general election in November. Connecticut can be confident that these elections are in extraordinarily competent hands, as Ms. Merrill has performed yeoman’s work in conducting elections and in proposing legislative (and state Constitutional) changes to CT elections laws which will benefit the state for many years to come.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Unabashed Easter Election Parables: The GOP Ain’t Like A Mustard Seed

"I'm sick and tired of hearing things from
uptight, short-sighted narrow-minded hypocritics!
All I want is the truth!"
John Lennon
We’re inspired by the High Holy Day to offer a few parables of our own, since He whose resurrection we Christians celebrate tomorrow was prone to using parables to offer lessons. Let us not confuse parables with parabolas. Parabolas are those little “U” like things they tried teaching us about in geometry class when we were kids.

Parabolas were the ones, as I recall that theoretically became parallel at infinity and became narrower as time and length went along. Hyperbolas were the ones that became wider and wider as time and length progressed, and at infinity they became super-wide and… er… well… hyperbolic. Hyperbole now has been coopted by authors and writers of a non-arithmetic orientation and refers most often to exaggeration and that whole ‘hype’ concept.

The news media has been prone to hyperbole for years; I remember a Paul Simon tune from the sixties telling us about how the papers were ‘just out to capture my dime.’ Now the Republicans and the Tea Bagging types have really cornered the market on hyperbole. They’ve called President Obama everything from a ‘socialist’ to a Muslim (as though either was somehow a bad thing-lol), and many continue to claim that he wasn’t born in America. Polls consistently show that Faux Newschannel rednecks believe this trash. Wow. Newt Grinchgin has called Barack the most ‘dangerous’ president in modern history, and the sanitarium candidate Santorum echoes this sentiment. They both seem to have forgotten Dick “I really am a crook” Nixon and Dubya ‘dumber than dumb’ Bush who left office handing off “The Great Recession,” two unwon wars, and was the president responsible for naming both John Roberts and the muty tooty fruity Justice Clarence Thomas to the US Supreme Court. So here are some parables forya.
The Chamelion
There exists a Republican man, more like a chameleon—the cold-blooded lizards capable of changing colors in order to hide what and who they really are--who disparages those of different skin coloration. This is a man who judges people not by the content of their character, but by the coloration of their skin. To this man’s way of thinking, the darker the skin coloration the graver the threat to his own existence and to the welfare of all that he cherishes. And he cherishes wealth, power, fame and political cash donations.
He is a Tea Party man who seeks to single out children of immigrants, who through no fault of their own find themselves residents of his land and wishes to toss them back to their parents’ native land. He seeks to eliminate opportunities for darker skinned folks, while seeking to provide additional riches for his lighter skinned brethren.  He is a man of great power who has never learned how to exercise that power and who wishes to enact laws which will jail ever greater numbers of those with darker skin coloration. And yet this is a man who spends endless hours under intense artificial light designed to darken his own skin, chameleon that he is. He seeks to hide, as a man of darker coloration so that he may not be found out to be the man who is the modern-day enslaver of the poorer deprived folks of darker color and yet the bitter irony is that the effect of his artificial scheme is to render his pigment a brilliant orange, rather than a darker natural hue. This Republican stands out in a crowd as does a neon pastel crayon in a box full of charcoal sticks. And yet he is oblivious to his neon nature. He is the Duke. The Duke of Orange. He imagines himself tan, yet he is the color of citrus. He is Speaker John Boehner.
Frankincense, Myrrh and the Stench of the GOP
In the days of old, biblical times shall we say, sacrifices of burnt offerings, of goats and sheep were often made. But a recurring theme was the offering of things which provided heavenly aromas and provided great pleasure to God Himself. Indeed, when the humble Christ was born, the wise men—and please note that they were specifically designated as WISE; no fools were these gents, came and brought gifts for the infant Jesus. And what did they bring? They wisely provided the gift of fine aromas; frankincense and myrrh. As Jesus confronted his passion, he rebuked those who rebuked the woman who anointed Him with pleasantly aromatic oils informing his followers that she was doing him a service for He was about to lose His life.
Pleasant aromas serve a great and obvious purpose. Indeed Lysol spray and Glade Plug-ins are a delight to the masses. But what is to be said of unpleasant aromas--aromas that smell like dead fish, decaying corpses and feces? And what can be compared to these? Everything has a place in this blessed creation. Unpleasant aromas invariably warn us of dangers to be avoided. Who, for example would choose voluntarily to handle feces? Or which among us would eagerly choose to eat a decaying dead fish or mammal? Who among you would approach rather than avert a skunk when its stench is in the air. This is why there exists today such a horrendous smell about the GOP. It is no longer grand, but it certainly IS old and decaying just as the rotted fish upon the shore. Soon it will shrivel and be no longer visible. He who approaches this GOP in its decaying state is self-abusive and possibly suicidal and needs the help of wise counsel.
The Peyote Seed
Consider the peyote seed. The seed itself appears innocuous, mundane and bean-like in nature and its fruit, the cactus, seems sedate and a mere survivor in an unlikely environment (the desert). While the mustard seed is small and humble yet yields a great plant with wondrous benefits, the peyote seed yields chemical substances such as hallucinogens like mescaline and absurd peyote ‘buttons.’
Under the influence of the peyote seed one experiences confusion of thought and delusions. Often contradictory thought processes and conflicting beliefs simultaneously. The peyote seed can cause one to believe that they are God for instance, and that they are less than a worm at the same time. It is a seed which can cause a person to see brilliant colors where none exist, and cause a person to believe that there is an ocean before them and that there is no ocean before them. It is a seed which can cause one to believe that universal health care is beneficial for all and sign legislation to that effect and at the same time believe that universal health care is an evil and a plague upon mankind.
The seed of the peyote is one which enables an individual to justify subconsciously tearing down others, enriching oneself, and believing in nothing of significance while convincing others that there is some point to what you are saying. The seed of the Peyote can make somebody actually believe in and vote for Mitt Romney with a clear conscience.
The Plan
To what shall I compare the Father’s grand scheme, His plan for mankind? I should say that it is not for us as mere humans to perceive the infinite for we are finite in every way. We are finite in our corporeal longevity. We are finite in our ability to comprehend facts and to analyze them. Perhaps the only infinite capability with which we have been blessed is with the capacity to love. This has yet to be tested.
And yet we persist in questioning God’s plan and devise our own plans, often contrary to His, sometimes in concert with His. And yet we find as humans that we must believe that our plans are in complete conjunction with His infinitely merciful, loving and peaceful desires. We can devise a plan, for instance which enriches the rich and reduces their obligations to aid the poor, the disabled, the elderly or to even pay for the services rendered unto them. We can add to this plan the elimination of care to the disadvantaged, the meek, the children and the destitute.
Unto this plan we can add provisions which would build weapons of mass destruction, armies, navies and construct airplanes designed to drop bombs on population centers while simultaneously redirecting resources from the education of children for such purposes. We can devise this plan in such a way as to deprive women of basic healthcare needs and insist that nobody of great wealth should pay even what their servants pay in order to maintain these basic services. And we can devise such a plan claiming that this plan is fully in concert with God’s will and proclaim our Christian faith and belief. And then we can call this plan “The Ryan Budget.”