Quick Takes II

I hope to get back to regular posting once I return to Israel next week. In the mean time, here are some more quick takes:

NGO Transparency:
The more transparency the better. Just make sure that whatever the standards are, that it applies equally and evenly.

Eden Abergil:
Obviously, we treat prisoners today better than we treated them in biblical times. Yet, a review of the first part of this week's parsha shows that concern with a captive's dignity is not new or foreign to our tradition.
This article - shrill and self-righteous and wrongheaded and normally not something I'd link to - contains this mistranslation gem: "Suddenly they saw that the Palestinians actually do live in a cage, literately, in order to protect themselves from settler abuse." They do not literally live in cages. I'm not sure how one might live in a cage literately, though a case can be made for Solzhenitsyn. The irony is in the illiteracy of confusing "literally" with "literately."

IZS on Anti-Zionism at Israeli Universities:
My emerging worldview on Israeli politics is that all things must be applied evenly and equally. The people who complain that the government funds non-Zionist Haredi schools should not then complain when others try to apply the same standards to universities. 
Regarding the issue at hand, I take a libertarian view. People can teach, write, publish, research, protest, etc. whatever the heck they want. The government has every right to decide where it wants to spend its shekels, and obviously the interests of its citizens should take priority in that funding: they should be spending more on Tay-Sachs research than on sickle cell anemia research. But if some donor wants to endow a chair in Basque Studies, by all means.
With this in mind, I am simply amazed that a professor of law at TAU can make a statement as idiotic as this one: "The university is an institution that the liberal state must fund without taking any interest in the content of the research it produces or the material it teaches."
You just can't make this stuff up.

The "Ground Zero Mosque":
The emerging consensus is: "They have every right to build it, but I don't think they should." Which is silly. If my neighbor wants to build a garish addition on his house, I might think that "He has every right to build it, but I don't think he should," and I might even tell him that. The goal of my protest would be to try to convince the owner of the house to consider alternatives, which would be all I'm really entitled to do. Is that what's going on here? Is all of the opposition to the GZM really intended to convince the Cordoba Initiative to reconsider? I certainly hope so.
Also, does anyone else think it's ironic that the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in the middle of building a Museum of Tolerance atop an old Arab cemetery in Jerusalem, opposes the GZM? I wonder if the new museum will be made of glass...

Rabbis Behaving Badly:
Mazal Tov to Rabbi Marc Schneier on his forth fifth coming wedding.
Some wonder based on recent photos whether R. Schneier is giving Orthodox rabbis a bad name. I would offer that his impact on the reputation of the Orthodox rabbinate is the same as it always was. Vd"l.


Quick Takes I

Migrant Workers

Israel has decided to allow most children of migrant workers to stay, and to expel others. It could have been a lot worse. I was truly afraid that they'd expel them all. At some point, I hope we realize that having a Jewish State has nothing to do with the relative proportions of Jews and minorities. Our Nevi'im envisioned a state founded on certain cardinal values, not a state with a Jewish majority. [Further reading]


Tablet Magazine is looking for interns to work in NYC. A word of advice, instead of overpaying for some just-out-of-college wannabe journalist in New York, you can get much more bang for your buck in Israel. There's a heckuva lot of talent in the Jewish State, and it's much cheaper than in New York. Jewish Ideas Daily has figured this out. And frankly, after a hot start, the quality of writing at Tablet has really deteriorated over the past few months. Aim high, guys.


Regarding the conversion issue in Israel, I think that putting conversion in the hands of local rabbis is a positive step, but ultimately not far-reaching enough. On a fundamental level, there is a problem when marriage and divorce are controlled by a religious body that does not have the buy-in of large swaths of the population. The only answer is the institution of civil marriage and divorce. People have figured out how to privately check yikhes for centuries without the Rabbanut's help. And if anyone out there wishes to get civilly married outside of Israel and wants an Orthodox rabbi to officiate at a non-Rabbanut ceremony in Israel, let me know. [Further reading]

Statement of Principles

I signed the SOPOTPOJWAHOIOC. Do I agree with every last formulation, implication, etc.? Of course not. But it's crucially important that it be made crystal clear that there is an Orthodox alternative to homophobia, condemnation, and recommendations for conversion therapy. [Further reading]

Conservative Name Change

Apparently, the Conservative Movement is contemplating a name change, and Traditional and Masorti are the leading candidates. I say just leave it. "Conservative" might be a poor descriptor, but so are the rest. Personally, I can't stand the term "Orthodox," but at some point you just accept it and move on. [Further