Sunday, December 31

Death Penalty Paradox

Saddam Hussein has been executed. Few could argue that he didn't deserve it -- but here's an interesting exercise for classroom discussion, or for yourself:
1. Assume you believe that under certain circumstances, for certain crimes, the death penalty is warranted;
2. Accept that Saddam Hussein was guilty of capital crimes worthy of the death penalty beyond the shadow of any doubt;
3. Is it possible to argue that Hussein should not have been executed?

The great Israeli intellectual and scholar of kabbalah, Gershom Scholem, made just such an arguement regarding Adolf Eichmann:
...the application of the death penalty to Eichmann constituted an inappropriate ending. It falsified the historical significance of the trial by creating the illusion that it is possible to conclude something of this affair by the hanging of one human or inhumane creature. Such an illusion is most dangerous because it may engender the feeling that something has been done to atone for the unatonable... As Jews and as human beings we have no interest in such a phony "finis."

Click here for full essay, from his collection On Jews and Judaism in Crisis. The oroginal is follwed by one of his scathing letters to Hannah Arendt (see here for background).

Thursday, December 21


Who were those bearded, black hatted men at the Holocaust denial conference? Columnist Jonathan Rosenblum claim's they were impostors! No, not actors from central casting in costumes left over from Yentl -- but even worse (click here).

On the question of "Who speaks for Torah?" especially regarding Zionism -- click here.

Sunday, December 17

Rabbinic Spirituality This Week

Beit Morasha's 9th Annual Conference
Rabbinic Spirituality
December 19-22 in Jerusalem
Conference program here.

ATID's Rabbi Jeffrey Saks will be speaking on:
Spiritualizing Halakhic Education:

A Case Study in Modern Orthodox Teacher Development
on Friday, Dec. 22 (batting cleanup) -- based on this.

Thursday, December 14

Good Book Business

The familiar observation that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time obscures a more startling fact: the Bible is the best-selling book of the year, every year. Calculating how many Bibles are sold in the United States is a virtually impossible task, but a conservative estimate is that in 2005 Americans purchased some twenty-five million Bibles -- twice as many as the most recent Harry Potter book. The amount spent annually on Bibles has been put at more than half a billion dollars. Forty-seven per cent of Americans read the Bible every week. But other research has found that ninety-one per cent of American households own at least one Bible -- the average household owns four -- which means that Bible publishers manage to sell twenty-five million copies a year of a book that almost everybody already has.

On the business of Bibles, and politics of translations, here.

Tuesday, December 12


More coverage of the anti-homework movement.
Article and podcast, here.

Friday, December 8


Many college students, when pressed, have a tough time forming letters in cursive, because, they say, they haven't had to handwrite since 4th grade. Observers say typing and poor instruction in penmanship are turning cursive into a dying art.

More here.

Thursday, December 7

Special Appeal

Dear Friends,

We are sorry to report that on this past Saturday night ATID's offices were burglarized. The thieves made off with all of our computers, monitors, computer network server, and a large sum of cash. Although insurance will reimburse us on a certain percentage, the nature of hardware depreciation is such that we will only recoup a small amount, certainly not enough to replace our loss.

Fortunately, the many, many resources of our website at were not affected, as the site –- visited monthly by thousands of Jewish educators and interested laypersons –- is housed in a remote location. However, the loss of the computer network with its main data backup for our staff, and the ATID Fellows and Alumni who utilize our center, is to a certain extent irreplaceable. It represents the obliteration of many, many hours of manpower and creativity in our efforts to improve the field of Jewish education. (In hindsight we now understand the imperfections of our backup system, which preserved certain work on CDs, but not others.)

In light of this serious situation, and its adverse impact on ATID's important work, we turn to you, our friends, colleagues, and supporters, to help us rebuild. Your gift, of any size, is recognized as a charitable tax-deduction in America, Canada, or England. As we approach the end of fiscal year 2006 this enormous expenditure hits us particularly hard; however, the season may be especially convenient for you in planning your charitable giving before the end of the year.

At this moment there are two new publications in our Notes From ATID series awaiting sponsors. Each of them, authored or co-authored by leading educators and talmidei hakhamim, awaits your sponsorship, and can be dedicated in memory or in honor of worthy figures. These publications are disseminated widely, used by teachers in the field, and studied by discerning readers the world over.

Please join ATID in our mission to affect positive change in the world of Jewish education through training outstanding educational leadership, working with teachers and schools, and producing sophisticated teaching and resource materials. Contact us to discuss how your gift will make a difference for Torah education in Israel and throughout the Diaspora.

For more information, click here.

Rabbi Chaim Brovender
President, ATID
Rabbi Jeffrey Saks

Wednesday, December 6


In follow-up to yesterday's post, we bring you info on KGOY -- kids growing up young:
Click on link or link or link.

Tuesday, December 5

10 Is New 15

Kids! What's the matter with kids today?! Well, partially, that they're not staying kids long enough.
Click here for a report from child development experts who say that physical and behavioral changes that would have been typical of teenagers decades ago are now common among ''tweens'' -- kids ages 8 to 12.

Monday, December 4

Text & Context

Rabbi Ephraim Kanarfogel, of Stern College, on the fun of reading medieval manuscripts.