Thursday, December 30

"All The Jews That Are Fit To Bury"

With apologies for the title of today's posting...
NYT reports on Chevra Kadisha. Interesting trigger for classroom discussion.

Sunday, December 26

Modern Orthodox

Go figure, there's a very successful off-Braodway play called "Modern Orthodox"--and it's about you (or at least people you know)! We haven't seen it, but it's getting good reviews.

Thursday, December 23

Dovrat Reports

The Dovrat Commission has made its final report for reforming education in Israel. (We reported on this previously.)
Read highlights in English here.
Download full Hebrew report.

Wednesday, December 22

100 Websites (Lolly, Lolly, Lolly!)

Just found "The Top 100 Websites for Teachers" (which, among other things, has a link to a nostalgia trip for baalei teshuva who may remember Saturday morning cartoons, and one of the most effective educational uses of TV in history).

Shanghai Ghetto

Coming to DVD is a well-made documentary on the Jewish escape to the far-east during the Holocaust. The film brings this little known story to light. Read review here. View trailor here. If you're a Jewish history teacher, you may want to get it for your classroom.

One of the most amazing and captivating survival tales of WWII, the overwhelmingly acclaimed SHANGHAI GHETTO has been declared “a don’t miss documentary powerful…eye-opening” (New York Observer). Stirringly narrated by Academy Award® winner Martin Landau, SHANGHAI GHETTO recalls the strange-but-true story of thousands of European Jews who were shut out of country after country while trying to escape Nazi persecution in the late 1930s. Left without options or entrance visas, a beacon of hope materialized for them on the other side of the world, and in the unlikeliest of places, Japanese-controlled Shanghai. Fleeing for their lives, these Jewish refugees journeyed to form a settlement in the exotic city, penniless and unprepared for their new life in the Far East.

Maybe you knew that the Jews of Mir (and its yeshiva) were among the refugees to Shanghai. You might not have known that the whole episode gave us the famous "International Date-Line" shaila.

Monday, December 20

Bark Mitzvah

This is really bad.
NY Times reports on doggie Bar Mitzvot. Read here.
Picture slideshow here.

Sunday, December 19

Bah, humbug? Oy vey!

The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer writes:
I'm struck by the fact that you almost never find Orthodox Jews complaining about a Christmas creche in the public square. That is because their children, steeped in the richness of their own religious tradition, know who they are and are not threatened by Christians celebrating their religion in public. They are enlarged by it.

Oh yeah? His comments are tucked into a tirade against the de-Christianization of Christmas (he's a Jew, actually), so as not to offend anyone now that we're all multi-culturalists. Sticky issue. What do we think?

Wednesday, December 15

Aliya on the Rise

U.S. Jewish Immigration to Israel on Rise
Approaches 20 year high, according to the AP.

Reminds us of those penetrating questions R. Ruby Spolter asked about what it does to Jewish communities and schools left behind (click here for the PDF of the Jewish Action article). Click here for the (fierce) responses and Ruby's reply.

Tuesday, December 14

Drugs, Redux

The recent unfortunate incident in New Jersey concerning yeshiva high schools students, a house party, and drugs has gained attention in the press (click here).

We remind you that the transcripts, summaries, and full audio downloads of ATID's conference, "Substance Abuse in Yeshivot" can be found on-line here.

Monday, December 13

Dovrat Looms

The Government of Israel is planning a major reform (or upheaval) of the educational system, spearheaded by the Dovrat Commission. (Don't know about it? You should. Click here & here.)

Within the religious community there is great fear of the imapact of the committee's recommendations on hinukh dati.

Next week (Dec. 20-21), Jerusalem's Van Leer Institutute will sponsor a two-day conference on the far ranging recommnedations. Download program here.

Thursday, December 9

Day School Census

Enrollment in Jewish Day Schools is way up. Read about it here.

The "Jewish Mother" @ School

There's nothing so stereotypical as the the worrying Jewish mother--but is she (and her not-so-calm husband) part of a larger phenomenon on the scene in playgrounds, birthday parties, and in the SCHOOLHOUSE?

In an essay entitled "Nation of Wimps" Psychology Today reports on some questionable or disturbing trends--and what they mean for the school and the teacher. Article summary:
Parents are going to ludicrous lengths to take the bumps out of life for their children. However, parental hyperconcern has the net effect of making kids more fragile; that may be why they're breaking down in record numbers.

Wednesday, December 8

Modern Orthodoxy Course

The venerable pillar of journalism, Yeshiva College's COMMENTATOR reports that Dr. Alan Brill will offer a course on the history and ideology of Modern Orthodoxy in Spring 2005. The Commie reports:
The course will focus on the differences and histories of the many types of Modern Orthodoxy, such as the relationship between German and American orthodoxy, the new Religious Zionists, and will include discussions as to where Yeshiva [University] falls into the mix.

The course, slated for 3:00-4:15 on Mondays and Wednesdays this Spring, will be offered by simulcast over the internet for people outside the University. Now that's helpful to teachers. Let's hope YU gets the message and starts doing more of this.

See the list of "essential readings" on Modern Orthodoxy recently compiled in the Lookjed Forum. Click here.

Friday, December 3

The Response

Rabbinic authorities have issued their response to the accusations of animal cruelty and current schitah practicies (at least in the Hawkeye State):
Radio Interview (JM in the AM)
New York Times
Now, if someone could only convince reporters that kosher doesn't mean "clean"...

Wednesday, December 1

HEADS UP: Schlochthaus Videos

Teachers, here's a "heads-up":
The press seems to be making a big deal about PETA's hidden schlochthaus videos. You're liable to encounter questions on schitah and cruelty to animals.
The NY Times quotes:

Rabbi Chaim Kohn, of the AgriProcessors plant, says the steers feel nothing, even as they struggle on the floor and slam their heads into walls. "Unconsciousness and the external behavior of the animal have nothing to do with shechita," he said. Because the throat-tearing happens after the shochet's cut, the rabbi said, it does not render the animal nonkosher.

Other experts in kosher law were divided on the issue. Rabbis Menachem Genack and Yisroel Belsky, the chief experts for the Orthodox Union, which certifies more than 600,000 products as kosher, including Aaron's Best meats, said the killings on the tape, while "gruesome," appeared kosher because the shochet checked to make sure he had severed both the trachea and esophagus. Scientific studies, Rabbi Belsky said, found that an animal whose brain had lost blood pressure when its throat was slit felt nothing and that any motions it made were involuntary. "The perfect model is the headless chicken running around," Rabbi Genack said.

See also the AP report.
Keep your eyes on the OU website for what will hopefully be a useful response (for our classroom discussions).

Israel Highway

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (that's a mouthful) has a nice web/email resource called Israel HighWay geared for high school students. Here's what they say about themselves:
The Israel HighWay is a weekly email publication prepared specifically for high school students. While exploring the context of today’s complex issues in the Middle East, the Israel HighWay highlights Israel’s diverse contributions to society and informs high school students about the importance of Israel on many levels. Our goal is to instill in our readers a love for Israel and pride in its accomplishments over the years.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (=Dore Gold) does something similar, but on the level of university students. See their Israel Campus Beat.