Saturday, October 4, 2008

Judaism 2.0

Occasionally I take a little stroll through my traffic logs to find out what brings my rag-tag, fugitive readership to Axinar's, and occasionally there seems to be an uptick in traffic related to people looking for information about Congregation Beth Adam.

Of late, specifically a few folks seem to be looking for such things as "Beth Adam streaming", so I presume they are looking for Rabbi Robert Barr's famous podcasts.

Actually, I got to thinking about it - it is probably only because Bob Barr has more than your average rabbi's interest in technology that he even caught my attention.

I think it was something like 1995 - he was giving a talk to the local Libertarian educational group and I remember part of the talk went something like, "Are you familiar with the Internet? You better get familiar with it. Certainly the enemies of freedom are familiar with it," and then he proceeded to pass around what I remember to be a stack of 50-some pages of print-outs of neo-Nazi sites.

For those of you who for whatever reason might never have the opportunity to hear Rabbi Barr speak, he has been doing podcasts for quite some time that are usually quite fascinating.

Bob Barr and Beth Adam are no strangers to controversy. Beth Adam is a Jewish congregation that doesn't mention God specifically in its liturgy.

Now, I once had a conversation with an überfrum Jew at Mensa who said to me, "Why of course, this is a very Jewish thing to do." He explained that if there is a concept that the "YHVH" that appears in the Bible as a name of God is never to be uttered, and even "Adonai" ("The Lord") is not to be said except in serious prayer (substituted with "Adoshem"), and "Elohim" is never to be said except in serious prayer (substituted with "Elokim"), then perhaps there is a perfectly valid point to be made here that referring to God AT ALL (even with "HaShem" - "The Name"), itself is hopelessly blasphemous and perhaps ONLY Beth Adam shows the proper respect to God.

Now, I don't think that's the the thought process that led Beth Adam to omit any overt references to God from its liturgy. Agnosticism and Atheism are very important aspects of Judaism - a thought that blows away a great many people with a Christian background and is too lengthy even for me to get into right at this moment.

While going over the various search links, I discovered that the controversy involving Beth Adam even made it all the way to the New York Times.

You see, somewhere along the way Beth Adam decided they wanted to join the UAHC - the "Union of American Hebrew Congregations", the national organization for Jewish congregations affiliated with the "Reform" movement.

There's actually a fair amount that has been written about Beth Adam's rejection from the UAHC, but probably the most coherent description I've heard came from a local Reform Temple-goer who said to me something to the effect, "Yes, we sat down and decided that Beth Adam was most definitely JEWISH, but it was not REFORM Jewish."

Beth Adam has continued to survive and prosper, constructing its own building in Loveland, and continuing to have a healthy, productive relationship with the Reform movement - hiring interns from Hebrew Union College and participating in other functions associated with the Reform movement.

However, since Mrs. Axinar's mother doesn't approve of the Unitarian Church's lack of a specific theology, I'm assuming she would be UTTERLY disappointed in Beth Adam, so I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to drag Mrs. Axinar over there or not.

Oh, speaking of the Unitarian Church and Bob Barr's penchant for controversy - check this one out - he gave the Chrismas Eve sermon at the First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati (mp3) last year (December 24, 2007).

Yes, in the world of Liberal Theology, strange, strange things can happen ...

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Agriprocessors Caught Torturing Cattle Again

Despite assurances that they had changed their ways, the HUGE kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, Agriprocessors, has been caught torturing cattle again.

Now according to long-standing interpretations of the Torah, in order for an animal to be slaughtered in a kosher manner you can't stun it first - you're supposed to open up the neck in one motion with a perfectly sharpened blade. This is supposed to be the most humane slaughter method possible.

However, I don't think the Torah mentions ANYTHING about the huge wheel they invert these animals with, nor the "second cut" showed in this video and described in a recent Failed Messiah posting.

Temple Grandin, well-known autistic animal handling expert, has concluded the only possible way to keep these people from abusing these animals is to install monitoring cameras that can be audited over the Internet.

The more I read about this outfit the more disturbed I find myself.

I think it may very well be time that the Orthodox Jewish community considers the possibility that with the availability of mondern, powered tools, there may very well be other methods for slaughtering livestock than the techniques that so often lead to such cruelty inflicted upon these animals.

BTW ... can anyone direct me to a video of a kosher slaughterhouse where they actually do things PROPERLY??

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Separation Of Church And State Supported In The BIBLE???

So I stumbled across this book-on-CD at The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County called The Hebrew Bible by Professor Lawrence H. Schiffman of New York University. I've been listening to it for the last several days and it has been relatively interesting, although it has been something of a review for me as I scrutinized Judaism pretty heavily for the six years immediately following the Great Blue Ash Tornado of 1999. What I was finding most fascinating is Professor Schiffman's unwillingness to draw conclusions about a great many topics. For instance, although conceding that there is none of the archealogical evidence one would expect associated with the Exodus, it also doesn't make a lick of sense that a group of people would BRAG about having been slaves to make themselves look better. In other words we've still got a mystery on our hands.

However, the real mind-blower came almost at the end. Professor Schiffman was talking in some detail about how the Bible contributed to Western culture, and specifically to the thinking of the Framers of the Declaration and the Constitution. Professor Schiffman seemed to be saying that you couldn't form the notion of inalienable rights without your having picked up the notion from Genesis of God creating man with individual dignity.

But then he let loose with a HUGE thought that I don't think I've ever heard expressed before - "Anyone who observes our civilization can see that even the division of church and state is itself a reflection of the significance of biblical tradition in our society."

Professor Schiffman goes on to say that this concept follows from the Biblical idea of the dignity of the individual and the right of free choice.


That's heavy.

Can anyone point me in the direction of any other thought along these lines?

Is it possible one could actually confront a Thumper with chapter and verse from the BIBLE supporting the separation of church and state???

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

How Do You Pronounce "Vaad Hoier"?

Speaking of religious beliefs and practices that sound decidedly odd to secular American ears, each and every week one can look forward to the ad from the kosher sub-section of the Blue Ash Kroger's in The American Israelite featuring such items as glatt kosher lean fresh ground chuck for $2.99/lb., Aaron's Best All Beef 100% Marit Ayin Franks 2/$7, Aaron's Best Over Roasted Turkey Breast $3.99/0.5 lb., and so on.

Of course if you ever sneak down there on a Saturday afternoon when the proprietors are presumably home or at shul praying, you can get the sticker shock of your life on $15/lb. roast beef and all sorts of fascinating stuff.

However, of course, again, to secular American eyes, the most jarring part of the ad are the watchful eyes of "Mendy" and "Menachem", the Mashgiachim of the establishment.

Now, I was studying under various Humanist, Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox rabbis pretty heavily for about six years and did more than my fair share of time on the Yahoo Jewish Chat channel and I NEVER heard the word "Mashgiach" until the kosher wing of the Blue Ash Kroger's opened.

However, the other reference of course I HAD heard of before - Vaad Hoier. In fact I think I stumbled across their office in the back of Golf Manor once whilst on my way to an appointment with a sofer.

How the heck do you pronounce "Vaad Hoier" anyway??

They're mentioned quite a bit in another article from the March 6, 2008 American Israelite about a restaurant in Dillonvale called the Kinneret Café. Vaad Hoier presumably is a group of gentlemen so frum it hurts that certify that restaurants and grocery stores are kosher beyond a reasonable doubt.

This Kinneret Café apparently has a "dairy license". If I understand it correctly, because of the strict orthodox Jewish prohibition against the mixing of meat and milk, a commerical restaurant can be certified to serve meat or milk but not both. The late Pilder's brunch had a "meat license" allowing them to serve some truly yummy fried chicken but at the expense of not being able to dope up the french toast with even a drop of milk. Apparently though "kosher dairy" restaurants are opening at a much faster rate than "dairy meat" because people are turning vegetarian by the boat load.

Now, despite six years of intense study and about 10 years in all bouncing in and around the Jewish community I had STILL not quite gotten a handle on the kosher thing. Oh, the rules are pretty simple - fresh vegetables are presumed kosher, fish with fins and scales is kosher and parve (neither meat nor milk), eggs are parve(unless they have a drop of blood in which case they're meat), meat (beef, lamb, goat - having split hooves and that chew cud) must be slaughtered by a specific method, meat and milk cannot be mixed, etc.

However, I'm still not entirely sure I'm real grounded on what exactly the PENALTY in Judaism is for inhaling half a platter of jumbo shrimp and chasing it with a triple bacon cheeseburger.

Of course the Christian tradition for "breaking the rules" is that you're going to BURN IN HELL, presumably for all eternity, but I never did get a clear picture even from the ultra-frum Jews I studied with where one might find one's soul deposited for sitting down to a 50 lb. lobster at Amor de Brazil or some such.


But it does bring up the possibility that if we start mixing civil and religious law that a trip to the Golden Corral or some such might get WAY complicated ...

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Proving You're Jewish

Looks like there was a really great article in the New York Times Magazine over the weekend about the frequent need in Israel to prove you're a Jew.

The whole concept sounds pretty bizarre to American ears.

Setting aside for a moment The Dean's recent tizzy about trying to figure out whether or not his own son was Black, generally ethnic identities in the United States are just kind of "generally understood" but usually not defined in the way that one might define, say, the atomic weight of hydrogen.

And it's a foregone conclusion that you can change your religion twice daily without anyone paying much attention - well, except for Anonymous.

The rest of the world is quite different.

Recently even the Archbiship of Canterbury got educated that in most of the world matters of particularly marriage and divorce are handled by religious instead of government authorities. Of course because he specifically mentioned the notion that sharia law may one day share jurisdiction with British law, people lost they minds.

One in fact need look no further than Israel to discover a society where the religious authorities are in charge of who can get married and who can't.

There is no civil marriage in Israel. Yes, that strikes American ears as BIZARRE. It's as American as baseball and apple pie to tell your folks to go perform an anatomical impossibility on themselves and run off to marry someone who's religion has as much in common with your own as, say, Renegade Evolution has in common with President Bush, and find some poor unsuspecting Justice of the Peace or small-town mayor to perform the ceremony.

Not so in Israel.

Only Orthodox rabbis can perform marriage ceremonies.

And they will not perform the ceremony on anyone unless they are PROVEN Jewish.

Generally that means the ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) of your parents.

Heaven help you if, like the young lady mentioned in the Times article, your parents had a civil ceremony in the United States.

Yes, my friends, as my "Judaism 101" instructor, Rabbi Gary Zola of Hebrew Union College, once explained to me, you can, say, be adopted by Orthodox Jewish parents, go to Golf Manor each and every Friday night and Saturday morning, attend Brandeis university, make 650 trips to Israel every year, and still not be halachically (according to Orthodox Jewish law) Jewish.

On the other hand, you can be born of a Jewish mother and wind up getting raised by neo-Nazi's, regularly paint swastikas on people's homes and businesses, and still be absolutely, 100%, T-totally Jewish to the core of your being.

I know - it didn't make sense to me either when Zola first told me.

But, yes - this is the kind of foolishness we have to look forward to if ANY sort of sharia / halakha / religious law starts intermingling with civil law.

The First Amendment is there for a REASON, people ...

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Monday, February 4, 2008

NBC's Tim Russert To Speak At Plum Street Temple Fundraiser

For those of you of the Gentile gland, and for those of you who have never been to Cincinnati, we have a true masterpiece of Judaica here in town called "The Plum Street Temple".

It comes from an era when the Reform movement was trying to make the statement, "This country is my Israel, this city is my Jerusalem and this building is my Temple."

Up until that time, traditional Jewish thought was that any Jewish settlements outside of Eretz Yisroel ("The Land Of Israel") were merely temporary and that, when Moshiach ("The Messiah") came, that all Jews would be instantly whisked back to Israel.

On top of that, historically Jewish communities were subject to pogroms (mass property damage and other abject forms of terrorism) and outright explusions from the country.

Something was different about America.

It seemed like a place that Jews could call a permanent home.

Particularly Cincinnati for some reason.

So they built a structure that, in some ways, resembles a Cathedral more than a traditional shul ("synagogue").

It also has elements that, on the outside, make it look something like a mosque, and that would take an hour to explain.

The building is wicked old though. It needs tons of maintenance, so apparently none other than Tim Russert, managing editor and moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press" is going to be at the Plum Street Temple on May 1st, speaking on the subject of his views of Washington politics as part of a fundraiser to collect money towards the restoration of the building.

It will cost you $75 to get in and the event starts at 7:15pm.

Get there early.

Parking goes fast at events down there.

It is also quite close to the location where Kabaka Oba was shot.

Any questions about the event can be directed to (513) 793-2556.

If you don't HAVE $75, but would still like to contribute to the restoration of the Plum Street Temple building, you can make a donation for as little as $5 through the K.K. B'nai Yeshurun - Wise Temple donation page or send a real check or money order to:

Isaac M. Wise Temple
8329 Ridge Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45236

More information on the history of the Plum Street Temple can be found here on the Wise Temple site.

Now who wants to contribute $75 so *I* can get in?? :)

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

"Marit Ayin"

Taking a look over some of the recent comments, I am beginning to wonder if it might be possible that certain speculations on the part of the goyim might be considered inexcusably offensive by the Jewish community due to the Jewish concept of "Marit Ayin".

"Marit Ayin" literally translates as "the appearance of the eye" and refers to doing something that is technically kosher that, nonetheless, from a distance looks treife as hell.

The first example of this concept that was ever explained to me was that, although shrimp is as treife as the day is long, there are companies who have gone through the trouble to take something like processed whitefish, add certain spices and then put it in a shrimp-shaped mold to make, essentially, technically kosher simulated shrimp.

However, as Rabbi Yitzchok Preis of the Cincinnati Community Kollel explained to me, why would someone want to do this? Were someone who otherwise keeps kosher to be seen eating this simulated shrimp, it would appear for all the world that the person were doing something staggeringly bad.

Similarly, in 1996, when the then-owner of the Cincinnati Reds, Marge Schott was quoted as saying, "... when [Hitler] came in [to power] he was good ...", refering apparently to the highway and industrial development at that time, even though this technically may be correct, there is no way to separate such a statement from the APPEARANCE of attempting to say that what Hitler did INCLUDING the Holocaust, was good.

Now, perhaps Will Smith was doing other things in 1996 and didn't see the Marge Schott story. Perhaps he was doing other things a few months back when Halle Berry came within a stone's throw of destroying her career with the "Jewish nose" comment on Jay Leno.

Based upon the context of the original article, I'm wondering if what Will Smith was somehow trying to say that he was a Unitarian-Universalist - that he cannot imagine that any mortal human was 100% pure evil incarnate.

Even the Lubavicher Jewish community has a story of an insufferable anti-Semite who never once had anything good to say about the Jews - with the exception of one Friday afternoon during a horrible snowstorm when he found a group of Jews in a ditch on the side of the road on their way to shul. Cussing and swearing during the whole process, he climbs down into the ditch and pushes the car back onto the road. When the anti-Semite later died and was being judged, the sum of his life indicated a quick and speedy trip to the Fiery Furnace, but the defending angel pointed out that, on the good side, you not only had to weigh this act of pushing the Jews' car back onto the road, but you also had to weigh all the mitzvahs the Jews did when they got to shul and then you had to weigh the SNOW the anti-semite had climbed into, and then it would just balance out and the anti-Semite would have a place in the World To Come.

This particular anti-Semite character the Lubavichers would NOT have in mind when thinking of Hitler. I'm thinking the thought process might go something like this - something like in the Star Trek episode Doomsday Machine - "They say there's no devil Jim, but there is - right out of hell I saw it."

Summarizing the comments of a great many Jewish people I have talked to on the subject, I think they tend to think something along the lines, "Yes, we believed for the longest time there was no such thing as a human being with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever. But there was something DIFFERENT about Hitler. Yes, there have been wars before. Yes, there have even been genocides before. But never before, or since, has there been such an act of organized, mechanized human destruction."

The word "Holocaust" is not just a proper noun - it's a word from the Torah that refers to the utter consumption of a sacrificial animal by fire. What is most difficult to comprehend upon more careful examination of the events of those years is that, in some respectes, Hitler was successful. There are certainly thriving Jewish communities in the United States, Israel, and several other parts of the world, but the ranking institutions of Jewish thought prior to the Second World War were in Poland. It's a little as if there were a nuclear war or something of the sort and Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Cornell, Princeton, MIT, Dartmouth, Duke, UCLA, Berkeley, and Rutgers were UTTERLY obliterated. Now, we might still have the University of Cincinnati, Wright State, Cincinnati State and NKU, but we would have lost, permanently, schools of thought rich beyond measure.

No, no matter how hard you might try, you very simply can't use "Hitler" and "good" in the same sentence unless you want to make ALOT of people REALLY mad ...


Friday, September 7, 2007

Denmark Vesey Fingers The Axinar As An Illuminati!

Denmark Vesey is running a piece today that is a little more coherent than most, but still WAY off-base, about how various royal blood lines often associated with the Illuminati are heretical Jews, crypto Jews and wannabe Jews.

Oh dear.

What's interesting of course is that he goes on to name these royal blood lines as the Rothschilds, the Hapsburgs, the Sinclairs, the Stuarts, the Merovingians, the Lusignans, and the Windsors.

Oh that's interesting.

Mainly because, according to a number of semi-reputable interpretations and extrapolations, THE AXINAR is a Stuart.

And therefore, presumably - an Illuminati.

Definitely a Jew of course ... :)

Although where in the WORLD does Denmark Vesey and his cronies get the idea that it's spelled "Cabala"??

It's "Kabbalah" you dope ...

And, if you're not careful, someone well trained in Kabbalah will turn you into a lump of red clay ... :)

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Denmark Vesey Discovers Anti-Zionist Jews

Denmark Vesey made a rather fascinating post today bringing up one of the most fascinating phenomenon I have encountered in my studies of Judaism - the anti-Zionist Jews.

Yes, my friends, there are überfrum Jews out there who actually do not believe that the State of Israel should exist.

As I understand it, this is due to purely theological grounds. According to very strict interpretations of Torah, it is only the place of the Messiah to re-establish the State of Israel.

However, also as I understand it, many Jews in the world lean more towards the secular. As I understand it, many no longer believe in a personal Messiah but rather believe in a "Messianic Age" that we all have a duty to help bring about.

I think a great many other Jews over the last couple of centuries also reasoned that if they didn't build a homeland for themselves, their extinction was just around the corner.

Yes, technically the State of Israel may be treife.

But, as Rabbi Gary Zola of Hebrew Union College once expained to me, when your life is at stake you can violate each and every one of the 613 mitzvot with the exception of three - murder, idolatry, and a quite fascinating list of sexual deviations.

Somehow I don't think founding the State of Israel is one of those three ...

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