The UN and Darfur

This is exactly what is meant by us liberal hawks when we wonder what Kerry means by his talk of rounding up the allies. The U.S. has roundly and forcefully condemned the killings in Sudan (though only the Congress, not the White House, has called it genocide). And then there's the Security Council, which passes resolutions in a sort of perpetual diplomatic inertia.

Today, the Council is voting on a revised resolution on the "situation [diplomatese for war] in Sudan." I can't find the text of the revised version, but here is the version immediately previous to that currently being considered. Salient points include the use of the phrase "acts of violence of an ethnic dimension" (a phrase used, I suppose, when "genocide" is considered too strong), and the lack of any estimates of the number of dead to this point. The main difference between the current version and the previous version? The one being voted on today lacks teeth, namely the sanctions that had been suggested by the U.S. as an incentive for action by the government of Sudan against the Janjaweed.

In its place (or so I've read), a statement that actions will be taken according to Article 41 of the UN Charter:
The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.

In an interview with the BBC, Britain's ambassador to the UN tried to put the best face on the weakening of the resolution -- there's no difference, he says, between the words "sanctions" and reference to Article 41. I think not. There's always more power to direct statement than to bureaucratic language, and, it appears, Article 41 allows action weaker than direct sanctions: in fact, anything the Security Council decides. So the new resolution, in effect, is threatening that the UNSC will take measures that the UNSC will decide upon. Bold, this.

Where now is the incentive for an international team of military observers, much less a significant force of peacekeepers to help stop the conflict? The resolution places full responsibility on the Sudanese government, which might be happy to take responsibility but do nothing, or rather, continue to mislead international aid organizations.

A recent article in the New York Review of Books reviews the history. I'll try to read it. Maybe it will give me an answer to the question: What could have been done earlier? When should the U.S., or the U.N., have foreseen what would happen in Darfur? Why did the previous killing in the south of Darfur not merit as much attention in the press, and why was that massacre not prevented (or not preventable)?

Postscript: The Forward has a good summary on the inability of the U.N. (or any subset of the international community, the U.S. included) to commit a peacekeeping force to the Sudan or to agree on the threat of sanctions. According to human rights observers quoted in the article,
bitterness over Iraq has stymied the America's push for

"The bad feelings that have occurred because of U.S. unilateral action in
Iraq have lessened the receptivity of other countries to the U.S. now talking
about multilateral action," said Roberta Cohen, a fellow at the Brookings

France and Germany skeptically eyed the United States's efforts, slowing
down the process until recently. While European countries have begun of late to
act more aggressively, China, Pakistan and Algeria continue to hold out against
any resolution calling for sanctions against the Sudanese government.

However, the article doesn't cite any evidence to show that France, Germany, et al. are refusing to back sanctions because of U.S. unilateral action in Iraq. It could very plausibly be that France and Germany are reluctant a priori to get involved (I don't think we've heard much from their respective prime ministers). China and Pakistan have their own reasons for not rocking the Sudan boat.


A turn to the internal (rhyme)

Jesus, Master of the Sea

Come, swim, under.
The summer flounder compound's
in a thunder, clouds of castoff
tissue, vicious sea-cat
mother--I'm here to bless
the carnage. I'm here to answer
questions. Take my hand.
Limbs submerged
turn profoundly moving.
Bodies fugue
like lost balloons,
their indecisive down-time.
Among the bottom scour,
flora flicker off and on,
fish resemble fowl.
What's your question, Violetta?
Walking on the water?
Yes, it's fun, like perfect skin
that hides internal candy--
who hasn't tried a pomegranate
and not belied their tongue?
But when it's done,
the breach lives on--a simple
step on solid ground
and I'm laid out, a grand capon,
trussed in my own tether.

The above is by Larissa Szporluk, from her book The Wind, Master Cherry, The Wind, which Aimee Nezhukumatathil has been talking up on her friendly and good-natured blog. (Szporluk owes Aimee Nez a thank-you note.) So I bought it, and I haven't regretted my purchase: I'm only on the second page, and the first two poems both demand re-reading.

This poem's chock-full of alliterative wordplay, sometimes a little too obvious ("Limbs submerged/turn profoundly moving" is, I think, nearly groan-inducing). What I've had difficulty understanding is why this playfulness is not at odds with the sea-floor mayhem and redemptive character of this Jesus poem.

After thinking about it, I understand that the mayhem, too, must be meant playfully, or at least not in full seriousness. "I'm here to bless the carnage" is not, after all, a weightly theological statement, but almost an aside, since the very word "carnage" is more or less captive to irony. (When was the last time you heard it used in all seriousness of condemnation?) I think this is right when I consider the turning point of the poem: "What's your question, Violetta?/Walking on the water?" Jesus has an audience, but it's a schoolgirl, or at least someone with schoolgirlish awe. The sing-song iamb of the next two lines reinforce the playfulness.

I find puzzling the contradictory tone of the poem's end. "But when it's done/the breach lives on" is a sweeping-but-concrete summary of the permanence of the divide, whether it's between the outside and inside of the fruit or between water and dry land. 

What happens next? Jesus himself falls flat on his face, a trussed capon, fish become fowl. I enjoy slapstick as much as the next guy, but I can't help but think that the true heart of the poem is buried somewhere beneath the whimsicality. I'm prepared to be convinced otherwise, though, if anyone else has a different take.

"Cape," a poem by Dana Goodyear in Slate, also shoves all its rhymes into the middle of its lines, as if nothing so orotund as end-rhyming were allowed by free-verse law.  It's a summery piece of blasé fluff (no, I didn't know what "Swiss dot" meant, either, until I Googled it). The problem with calling the shore "boring, boring" is that the reader is likely to agree with your description.


first in a series

I have a friend here in New York who works at Concern, an Irish aid agency active in Darfur. I asked her what could be done to help the situation there, aside from giving money. She said, "Just keep talking about it."

Quantitative estimates of the number of dead and diseased are difficult but necessary.

Malaria, dysentery, and cholera are treatable diseases, dysentery less so. Establishing reasonable sanitation for the refugees is now a priority. Will the camps become permanent? Will the situation in Darfur, once the genocide is complete, yield to a even-more-ignored refugee problem?

If we take from Reeves' calculations the mortality rate of 4/10,000 per day, with an affected population of 2.3 million, it follows that nearly 1,000 people are dying daily from malnutrition and disease. This does not include casualties due to attacks on civilians. 


Light one candle

Just one year ago this blog begun
With hey, ho, some wish to entertain
It can be fun to polemicize some
And we'll strive to please you every day!

Words of praise, comment, advice and criticism are solicited as this blog enters its second twelvemonth.


Life and death by the numbers

If you have a basic fascination about the causes of disease and their distribution -- go get yourself a Ph.D. in epidemiology, and we can commiserate! Failing that, you can play around with the sortable statistics of the New York City Community Health Profiles.

I'm not actively involved in researching these issues (though I'd like to work for the Department of Health someday). Nevertheless, here are some observations I don't understand.

Highbridge and Morrisania (in the Bronx) has the dubious honor of the highest all-cause mortality rate of any city neighborhood. Mortality from heart disease is highest in the Rockaways, but stroke mortality is highest in East Harlem -- and each of these is found pretty far down the list for the other cause of death. Why is this?

Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen, sorry, I mean Clinton, in Manhattan, seem to have a higher infant morality rate than other neighborhoods in Manhattan (although there are no confidence intervals on the rates presented, so it's hard to tell). The infant hospitalization rate is also higher than many other boroughs. Again, why is this?

(Part of the answer is certainly the fact that Chelsea/Hell's Kitchen* is poorer than most other Manhattan neighborhoods, although how much longer this will stay the case is open to question.)

I could go on like this for hours. These general issues are more and more classified under what's called social epidemiology, an attempt to elucidate and interrelate the different strata of causal factors that affect disease in the individual and society. (The latest issue of Epidemiologic Reviews is devoted to this subfield, and the rigor of some articles made me feel somehwat less skeptical toward social epidemiology in general.)

*Yes, I could write "Chelsea/Clinton," but I won't. So there.


Compelled to disagree
I recently wrote about R. Josh Yuter's review of R. Steven Greenberg's new book. Yuter has now taken me to task for classifying his as a "slippery slope" argument.  He writes: 

In the example of oness, R. Greenberg argued that since homosexuals are born with the desire, then we should treat them in the legal category of being exempt if they commit a biblical prohibition. However, if the mere innate desire is sufficient to exempt one type of sin, then the logical consequence would be to apply that logic to other desires as well. Once all desires are outside of one's control, then all transgressions may be dismissed. This is not an issue of what is moral or immoral, but of the ramifications of assigning legal categories. 
Yuter is incorrect on two counts.
First of all, homosexuality is not a "mere innate desire," but a sexual orientation. The difference is significant. Homosexuals are able to pursue Godly, dignified, and Jewishly worthly relationships, while this is not true of every realized "innate desire."
Secondly, even if we were to call homosexuality, broadly and inaccurately, an "innate desire," it would not follow that "the logical consequence would be to apply that logic to other desires as well." Legal categories are not applied with a broad brush across all cases.
To put it another way, Yuter would have us believe that ones, applied to the case of homosexuality, must also ("logically") be applied to any other case. Let's assume that's true. Presumably because of time constraints (the blogger's curse), or leaving it as an exercise for the reader, Yuter neglected to mention what logical criteria connect homosexuality to other cases in which ones might be applied. (He does say "once all desires are out of our control," but I find it difficult to equate the acceptance of homosexual relationships with the legitimization of "all desires." Another slippery slope I don't want to slide down without snow cover.) Near the end of his post, he does mention statutory rape. Presumably Yuter finds some logical connection between homosexuality and statutory rape, so that (he imagines) one might say in either case "I was annus [psychologically or otherwise compelled] to perform that act."
But the differences between homosexuality and (lehavdil) rape are quite obvious. One is a non-consensual, violent impingement, the other a relationship between loving adults. These differences seem quite relevant to the application of ones, so that one might reasonably apply it in one case, and not in the other. What other connection does Yuter see between these that I'm missing?

Yuter bristles at the label "slippery slope." In that case, he is bound to explain to us the logical connection which so strongly binds homosexuality to every sort of "innate desire." Why can one not make halachic distinctions between ones in a positive relationship and ones in harmful, immoral acts? One can fairly request of Yuter what Andrew Sullivan demanded from opponents of homosexual marriage:  

The precise challenge for morally serious people is to make rational distinctions between what is arbitrary and what is essential in important social institutions. ... If you want to argue that a lifetime of loving, faithful commitment between two women is equivalent to incest or child abuse, then please argue it. It would make for fascinating reading. But spare us this bizarre point that no new line can be drawn in access to marriage—or else everything is up for grabs and, before we know where we are, men will be marrying their dogs.
In the same way, I think a line can be drawn in the application of ones, the criterion being whether the compelled party is acting in accordance with larger Jewish (i.e. halachic-moral) values, whether the "compulsion" is "mere innate desire" or a different, non-heterosexual sort of loving, permanent relationship. Yuter thinks this line is impossible, apparently on strictly logical grounds which are unclear to me.
Yuter also asks: 

[W]hat is wrong with "swinging right" on this or any issue? Furthermore, why shouldn't we be able to discriminate against whomever we chose?
There's nothing wrong per se with being right-wing. But the growing success (or popularity) of Orthodoxy gives rise to some unforeseen consequences. As the community of observant Jews tilts ever rightward, it begins to be affected by the imperfections of the Orthodox community. I don't want to get into these in detail here, but some of them I've mentioned before: e.g. the assumptions that "true" Torah dwells only in the tents of the Orthodox, and that observant Jewish life must somehow conform to ideal, ahistorical, amoral [sic!] halachic frameworks without sacrificing axiomatic consistency. (Keep in mind that each major denomination of Judaism has its own imperfections; I'm certainly not saying that dominance by, say, Conservative Judaism would be ideal either.)
As for discrimination: differences are at the heart of the religious life, but they must be justified. Discrimination generally refers to invidious distinctions, and should be avoided.  

If anyone reading this works for the city, I'd love to know how to get a copy of this 311 poster. (No prizes for knowing which language it's in.)

Postscript: So I called 311, and the woman on the other end said, "We have posters in the call center, but we don't give them out."
Does this make sense to anyone? What's the point of making a Yiddish poster if it's not in use?
Has anyone seen this poster in action, i.e. out on the street somewhere?
(The "fine print" says something like Regirung-badinung on emerdzhensi [sic!] far shtot Nyu-york.)


Gays everywhere!
(Conservosexuality part six, I think. Let me go count . . .)

When I was trying to define earlier why I disagree so strongly with Rabbi Joel Roth's misguided teshuvah on homosexuality [the link to which is chronically broken], I somehow missed this point-by-point refutation by Jay Michaelson, prolific editor of Zeek and writer on things gay and Jewish. (Jay taught at Prozdor when I did, and I think he still teaches there.) His style here is hyperbolic, if not hysterical, not so much argumentative as hectoring, but the main points are there:

1. Homosexuality, as a concept for the understanding of same-sex relationships, is not congruent with the mishkav zakhur of Leviticus.

2. Defining homosexuality as "unnatural," or using "naturalness" as a criterion for halachic acceptability, is an illegitimate endeavor.

3. It is not true that gays and lesbians can be "cured" of their sexual inclinations.

His conclusion, then, is that

4. There is nothing a priori un-Jewish about a loving same-sex relationship, if we are to understand our God as compassionate and desirous of mutually supporting, consensual partners. (Ma hu, . . . af atah. If He is compassionate, so too should you be compassionate.)

Also on the GLH* front, Simcha, of Hirhurim, pointed out a recent review by Rabbi Josh Yuter of the new book by Rabbi Steven Greenberg, Wrestling with God and Men. I haven't read the book, and to be honest I don't plan to. But Rabbi Yuter's review advances some points which need to be addressed.

With regard to Greenberg's idea that homosexuals are under psychological compulsion (ones) to follow their sexual inclinations, Yuter writes:

[T]here is no reason not to apply the principle of oness to every biblical or rabbinic prohibition. Anyone could claim that their sin was merely the result of the way that God created them, and this would be why they committed adultery, murder, or any other transgression.

This smacks of the slippery slope argument used against same-sex marriage. If gays can marry, why not polygamy? or incest? or bestiality? The idea, I suppose, is that homosexuality is basically the same thing as everything else outside the bounds of traditional understanding, and homosexuality is traditionally condemned for the same reason as these other activities. Neither of these is true. The same can be said of ones: homosexuality is different from adultery and murder, I should think, in important ways - namely that homosexuality is not, a priori, immoral, while adultery breaches a relationship and murder takes life.

In addition, it is strange to suggest that "there is no reason not to apply . . . oness to every biblical or rabbinical prohibition." Is the halachic process not concerned precisely with such distinctions?

Yuter's other main objection is that Greenberg, in suggesting that his interpretation of the relevant verses in Leviticus should influence halachic change, is somehow overstepping the bounds of the halachic process. His argument is unclear to me, so I won't try to summarize it here. As far as I can make out, the main thrust is that halachic change within Orthodoxy can only take place under certain conditions. No rabbi would be so bold, says Yuter, as to make Greenberg's suggestion. Therefore (it seems) the very boldness of Greenberg's suggestion invalidates the proposal for halachic change. QED, I guess.

The other possible understanding of Yuter's argument is this: there are certain criteria of halachic change, and Greenberg's proposed application of ones to homosexuality fails to meet them.

Here I need to admit something ("Today I admit my sins"!). I've never seen a logically consistent exposition of the Orthodox philosophy of halachic change. Maybe I'm ignorant (which is likely), but another possibility is that much of Orthodox resistance to halachic change has to do with a general conservatism rather than a hewing to a set of halachic axioms. (If you show me Rambam's laws of halachic judgment, please tell me how they correspond to today's methods of Orthodox jurisprudence.) There is nothing wrong with this: small-c conservatism is a necessary thing within every religious movement. But such conservatism does not imply an axiomatic consistency. It is this which I think Orthodoxy lacks, no matter how loudly its academicians do protest.

However, since I'm not Orthodox, and I have no dog in this hunt (if I may wax Clintonian), I am happy to be proven wrong. As a liberal Jew, however, I do sometimes feel like a passenger on a cruise ship, who asks himself, "How much longer do we have to be swinging right on this thing?"

*GLH: Gays, lesbians, and halachah.


Authorial intent: Still more construction of Jewish culture

Alan Brill, author of the Edah article we've been picking at, shares his comments.
[Typo now corrected - my apologies.]

A shaynem dank for the close reading of my article, but as the scene in Annie Hall where Marshall McLuhan shows up to explain himself, the internet allows me to comment and exert authorial intent.

First of all, I was not writing to invent anything new nor was I writing to teach anything to professors. I was writing for a modern orthodox audience, a small enclave. Yes, some of the ideas go back to Bialik and Scholem among many others, but those ideas were not considered in modern Orthodoxy because of its acceptance of the German milieu definitions. I wanted my modern Orthodox reader to consider a broader palette for
defining culture. I wanted the reader to consider (1) that culture is not outside of Judaism (2) that Judaism is richer than the bifurcation model allows (3) that halakhic analysis is a thin description (4) that we are constructing using the past (5) and that Judaism plays itself out in a concrete way. While these ideas may be self-evident to some, they are less evident to a community that treats ideal halakhic frameworks as

Second, Marc grasped my intent better than Ken. I do not endorse any all-encompassing approach. I am not relinquishing the positive gains of the Enlightenment project in either ethics or science for an Evangelical worldview. I am closer to Robert Christigau (wow, what a long forgotten influence) than German essentialism. I have no problem letting things remain fragmentary, unresolved, and mediated. And when we construct, I
have no problem with different rubrics for the narrative, communal, and universal levels.

Marc, I do not think we live in an unauthentic age. I do not work with the before and after scenarios of Enlightenment, modernity, or reform. I do not consider contemporary Rabbinic Judaism less authentic than those of 19th century Vilna, 17th century Padua, or 15th century Posen.

Marc, the integration of popular culture within high culture was already accepted by 1992 when the New Republic had an important article accepting the social link between Rilke and Elvis Costello, both are considered as high culture, or in your terms Rabbi Soloveitchik and Lou Reed (see Herbert Gans or Michael Kammen, American Culture American Tastes). My questions were more geared for accepting these weaves in our lives and then asking how a Rabbi Soloveitchik/Lou Reed weave differs from a Rabbi Soloveitchik/ Mordechai ben David weave. And on the utopian quest in popular culture, while I did not pursue a Walter Benjamin utopia, it is worth discussing.

For Marc and Zackary, I treat the Rabbinic culture as authentic. I accept the standard orthodox criteria of the halakhah as the definition of authenticity as an a-priori. My goal was just to give it a greater inclusiveness and to treat halakhah in a less rarified way. There are a wide range of Rabbinic texts, (including rabbinic, ashkenaz,
mediteranian medieval, early modern, ottoman empire and Eastern Europe) and the communities that created them to serve as guides and models. These texts have statements on psychology, politics, and cosmology that need to be placed in conjunction with modern Western texts. I do not have a preconceived notion of which elements from either corpus will be accepted, rejected, mediated, or reinterpreted. But, I would like the discussion to occur.

Finally, while Yiddish authors in interbellum Warsaw may have had an expansive view of Judaism, my concern was only with Orthodoxy, which did not have an articulated expansive view in Warsaw, Tel Aviv, or the West side.


Alan Brill


Testing, testing

Amanda Schaffer, who is smart and writes well (and is apparently an M.D., not that this is necessarily a contradiction) says what every epidemiologist has been thinking about one of today's medical trends: over-screening for a host of maladies. One thing she doesn't discuss in detail, though she does mention it, is the controversy over prostate-cancer screening and PSA.

Over at the New Yorker, Dan Baum's article "The Price of Valor" [not available on-line] examines the mental price paid by soldiers for doing their job: killing the enemy. He convincingly shows the need for a thorough study of psychological problems due to killing enemy combatants, and, in a feat of terminological avoidance, he does it all without once using the word epidemiology.

One comment on the article. Baum cites figures showing that the rate of suicide among active-duty servicemen is lower than among the general population, and ascribes this to the fact that "it's difficult for a soldier to be a loner" (I'm paraphrasing). I think this difference is more likely due to something epidemiologists call the healthy worker effect (HWE) -- people with a steady job tend to have lower rates of most diseases than do the (non-employed) general population, because the chronically ill and disabled tend to be screened out of the employment pool. The same is even more true of soldiers.

This raises some interesting questions about psychological sequelae among active-duty servicemen, and whether there is an HWE for mental health among those in the military. Hey, that's a journal-club topic. (I don't mean this, though it seems interesting.)


Excuse our dust: More construction of Jewish culture (IV)

Another round of comments on the Jewish tradition as applicable to the present day. The next - and last - post in this series will be Alan Brill's comments.

Dear Benyomin,

Thanks for your answer. But as a historian, you have, I believe, overlooked one of my points: of course both the Germans and German Jews like Hirsch thought that Culture meant Schiller and Religion meant Maimonides. All I'm suggesting is that we are not limited by their categories. Hirsch had more in common with Rambam than with Schiller in the sense that both kept mitzvot and learned Torah, while at the same time he had more in common with Schiller than with the Rambam in that he spoke, wrote, and lived in German. Which connection is more important, more authentic - it's not relevant. He had a great number of connections and influences, as we all do, and I propose we emphasize the multiconnectedness itself.

So I don't understand exactly what you mean when you say that our tradition is weak in democratic thought in comparison to the European humanists. Our tradition also begat Moses Hess, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, and Peretz himself. And because our tradition also gave birth to Spinoza, the Humanists are in debt to us as much as we are to them.

One more thing: since you mention Kant, I'm right to answer that he believed that Judaism isn't a religion because Jews lack a metaphysical system, and that he wrote that blacks are intellectually incapable of formulating abstract thoughts. This doesn't mean that I'm proposing to "oppress" the Enlightenment (as some of figures of the Enlightenment wanted to keep down the Jews, never mind the inheritors of Kant's thought in Germany itself) and say "good night, world." I'm just saying that mentioning what Jews - and Africans - made out of the Enlightenment, how we made a Haskalah out of the Aufklarung, is a way to repair the errors of the Enlightenment itself . . .

I'm sure that you are as disappointed as I am when non-Jews talk about their interest in Jewish culture as far as Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, and Karl Marx, but fall asleep when you start talking to them about Peretz, Avraham ben Hananiah Yagel, or Rashi. And I'm even more sure that you get as upset as I do when a frum person says that yidishkeit only has to do with the Gra, the Besht, and Hirsch, thereby dismissing Kafka, Scholem, and Mendele. I think it's our responsibility, as researchers and just plain Jews, to bring Rashi together with Kafka, Benjamin together with Mendele, and so on . . .

See you later,


Dear Marc,

Regarding your broader objections to my first note: on the one hand I accept them, but on the other I have to retain my skepticism. That is, if you have the confidence in yourself and in the power of [Jewish] "particularity" to make Spinoza or Marx (and why not Jesus Christ, who had a lot more interest in Judaism than those two did!) "ours," in spite of how weak their own connection with any sort of historically concrete Judaism actually was, then more power to you. But I ask myself, in a sociopolitical sense, if the people who have influence today (if only it were you and not them!), however "liberal" they might be, would be able to include Marx + Spinoza in the framework of the "tradition" which according to them should serve as a resource for modern Jewish politics or ethics. Considering the situation in Israel -- and this is finally the main thing if we are talking about the political/all-encompassing uses of tradition -- I would wonder what the very idea of a Jewish political tradition has done for the State. Unfortunately, it has been harmful more than anything: no constitution, no full civil rights in certain areas of life, and its influence will be even worse in the quite near future if Mafdal or Shas or the settlers take control (because these groups say clearly and openly on the basis of their not-at-all ignorant constructions of tradition that democracy itself is not of importance. And it's something of an irony that you cite Leibowitz, isn't it? Because he himself clearly stated that the State must be secular, based on Kant, if I'm not mistaken.

Said differently: it might be that creative and progressive people like you would be able to make our tradition into firm ground on which to build a democratic system. But first of all, why do we need to make these somersaults of "recombination" when we could just derive the system from modern political thought? Secondly, and more important, there's a danger in the idea that we must have a Jewish tradition to construct our politics, precisely because we have so many undemocratic and unprogressive elements in our tradition (as in all religious traditions), and one could easily construct just the opposite, an ugly, authoritarian-theocratic system according to the same principle of "our own sources." You wouldn't want that, and Brill wouldn't either, probably, and Ben-Gurion didn't either, thank God -- I don't want to suggest that fault lies only with the "religious" because it also definitely lies with the very secular nationalists (like me, actually) who play even to this very day with ideas about "authentic" national traditions -- but the great rabbis and rebbeim and leaders who really have the power of influence, what have they done and what will they still do?


Special meals

My trip to Berlin was joyous (the wedding that brought us there), productive (two talks I gave), and emotionally resonant in profound and contradictory ways (I was, after all, a Jew in Germany). But I shy away from blogging the personal.

In the latter-day-Pepysian spirit of blogs everywhere, then, let the record show that on our KLM flight to Germany and on our Delta flight back I ate the two best kosher meals I have ever had on an airplane - one provided by Hermolis, the other by Weiss' Kosher Catering [no link, but I found this while searching]. Both meals were accompanied by cards in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish that are a J-poyglot's nerd dream.

In other news, Allan Brill himself, the author of the Edah article whose horse we've been beating, has sent me his comments on our comments on his article. Heady stuff, this meta-ness. I'll post his thoughts when I get back from another wedding. Happy Fourth!

Oh, and: goodness gracious.