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themiddle

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  • Muffti stopped caring when the ‘cuse got beat. Duke losing, truthfully, ups Muffti’s probabilities that ther eis a God, though only ever so slightly.

  • Muffti, I’m disappointed. Everybody wanted Duke to lose, so what’s with following the herd? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Hmmm…Florida…I hear it’s sunny.

  • U!…C!…LLLLLLL–A!!!

    U-C-L-A Fight Fight Fight!

    (That was to the tune of their fight song for those of you who dont know it)

  • As a 2004 Duke grad, I am very grateful to know that my blog of refuge has at least one official Duke supporter.

    If Duke’s loss Thursday night proved there is no God, UConn’s win Friday night proved there is no justice.

    Now that my bracket is thoroughly obsolete and my spirit has been broken, I dare to hold out one meek hope: that Villanova does what no other Philly sports team has been able to do in over 20 years. ‘Nova must win it all.

  • Mike, don’t make us your blog of refuge, make us your blog of choice!

    Anyway, that is one interesting blog you’ve got there. More important, as an English grad who is currently an unemployed writer, what is your next career move? Graduate school? Hollywood?

  • I can’t even talk about it…Duke losing makes me want to go on IV Prozac. My J.J. can’t go out like that!

  • I’m in LA pursuing screenwriting now, but I’ve become increasingly obsessed with Israeli affairs. I’ve got my eye on a Fulbright for the 2007-8 school year in Tel Aviv for creative writing, but that’s a long way off and a huge longshot.

    In the meantime, I’m quite keen on getting to Israel to live and work for an extended period of time. Since I was a Hebrew school flunkie and don’t know any of the language, and since I know no one in Israel, I really am at a loss for how to go about it.

    I applied for an Israel Advocacy summer fellowship in Jerusalem, but since my essay outlined my more progressive pro-Israel notions, the AIPAC/ADL-aligned program swiftly rejected me.

    Much to my consolation, though, Gershom Gorenberg pretty much repeated my essay (coincidentally, of course) in this week’s Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles (http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=15600). Sweet vindication.

    His new book, “The Accidental Empire,” by the way, is amazing. I strooooongly recommend it. He’s out here in LA this week and I plan on accosting him after one of his talks to beg him to take me back to Israel with him as an apprentice.

    Shoot me an email, middleman, and we’ll discuss further. I’m always shocked that some non-Dukies actually root for Duke.

  • Mike, if you’re coming to Israel, or need info about coming to Israel, email us! ck, michael alli and myself are all here, and we’ve been known to show folks a good time. Just click the contact us button.

  • All I care about is that UConn isn’t going. Maybe G-d just had the night off when Duke played LSU.

  • Hmmm, George Mason seems to be a good underdog to root for at this point.

    Florida was a good call, though.

    Gotta feel sorry for the folks from U Conn, they probably thought they were in the clear once Duke was out.

    Mike, thanks for your long answer and candidness. As Laya suggested, you may wish to contact her and ck at jewlicious[at]gmail.com, if only because they may be familiar with other ways of getting to Israel. I’m certain they’ll be helpful, and even if they aren’t, they can probably refer you to the better hummous places.

    I can see why an Israel advocacy program might have a problem taking on someone with views that may be perceived as harmful to the presentation of Israel. You’re scary to them, but probably they also wish to preserve the space for somebody whose ideas will be closer to theirs.

  • People get in a closed loop. I personally live on Algonquin land and nobody minds including the Algonquins. I don’t live where my grandfather lived. Nobody likes to move, but living where your grandfather did is not always necessary to a good life, and the high rate of universal emigration and immigration, demonstrates that, no? People are moving someplace else, in droves. Nobody wants to live where their grandfather lived, it seems.

    Though not a Progressive I still think it is a damn shame how the Saxons shoved the Celts aside, and don’t get me started on the fate of the Picts. Nobody talks Pict any more and it is a terrible cultural loss.

    Every Jew has an orthodox ancestor. And many have Progressive ancestors. But it is the future that counts, no? The Torah is eternal, some say. I hope so, because I can’t find a single Viking to talk to. The Vikings achieved a lot, but they had yucky personal habits and history has absorbed them into the, well, not to put too fine a point on it, the past. As in, over. As in, done. As in, goodby. Nobody is very bent out of shape about it either.

    Jewlicious: now THAT’S something to hold onto, Mike. We don’t have to cry for anybody else. They have their lives and know how to live them.

    Deep in the middle of the night I sometime see in the darkness a floating image of a blue tin JNF can that people used to put their nickels into. I myself have stretched a household and I know how hard it was to get a nickel into that can.

    The can floats in the air and stares at me. I have sent it to you, Mike. You will see it, too. Don’t be scared of it. It will come back night after night.

    The people here seem all right.

  • Whoa! I have a Chagallesque vision of a floating JNF box hovering over the shtetl, making trees bloom far away in a land called Israel.

    JM, if you didn’t exist, we’d have to invent you.

  • “Every Jew has an orthodox ancestor.”

    That’s not true. Every Jew has an ancesstor who was forced by communal convention and external anti-Semitism into following certain rituals and remaining within the fold. That wasn’t Orthodoxy; it was just the way things had to be. Sure, many were true believers, but there were just as many if not more non-believers who were just living the culture by rote acceptance. Once the strictures were lifted, most left — because they never really believed the stuff to begin with.

    It’s only today that we’re able to romanticize the past and pretend they were devout or “orthodox.”

  • EV, that’s an interesting comment and I would love to find some sources that back your statements. From my perspective, the Sephardic side of our culture disproves a great deal of what you wrote. They remained observant in their respective countries and even today show a preponderance for some form of observance.

    While that doesn’t represent Orthodox as we know it, it does show that as long as faith exists you will find highly observant Jews.

    If we’re talking about European Jews, I’m not sure that your point is accurate. It may not be their lack of “belief in the stuff” that made them leave, but rather that they were surrounded by cultures that used scientific developments to change themselves and their reliance upon faith and observance. Once science comes into play and raises all sorts of questions about the supernatural, it makes sense that any religion will lose adherents.

    I wonder, in this regard, whether Christianity is a much more adaptable religion than Judaism.

  • TM,

    That’s true, and I’m not saying it’s unique to Jews — but it was more pronounced once the barriers came down. Christians had internal social and religious peer pressure to “keep the faith,” and the power of the Church was enormous in every respect, but Christians didn’t experience ostracism from the majority culture (b/c they were the majority culture).

    The common generalization is that when the ghetto walls came down, Jews left the tradition b/c they were lured by possibilities of economic and social betterment. Rarely is it said that they were motivated by dissatisfaction with the community itself — including its religious beliefs. And yes, like most of (Western) Europe during the Enlightenment, they couldn’t abide by traditions that no longer seemed to make sense. But the situation was made more extreme for the Jews because the Enlightenment coincided with the shock waves of Emancipation.

    I just think many people within the “community,” particularly kiruv-types, tend to romanticize the past and misconstrue the reasons for the “great exodus” among Ashkenazic Jews. (Along similar lines, I’ve repeatedly heard the lovely logical leap of Germany being the center of haskalah as well as the center of the Holocaust, implying a causal relation of one to the other.)

    Yes, I was talking about Ashkenazim, because the Sephardim did not go through the same thing. But I associate the term “orthodox” with Europe, since the movement (i.e., the historically recent Orthodox movement) emerged there. There’s an unfortunate tendency to look back in history and imagine our ancestors in the mold of this movement. In its more ridiculous incarnation, we imagine King David dressed in a black hat and gaberdine.

  • EV & TM:

    If you read works by Sholom Aleichem, for example, you begin to see a portrait painted of what Jewish life was like at the turn of the previous century. And while there was a great variety of Jewish practice on the shtetl, there were was a certain minimum of Jewish observance, such as keeping your head covered, and high holy day observance. I’d dispute the idea that the majority on the shtetl were secular Jews just waiting to break out of some oppressive regime that “forced” them “into the fold”.

  • Taltman,

    Sholom Aleichem was writing about a very specific subsection of European life — the Eastern European shtetls. In Eastern Europe, Emancipation made fewer inroads; also, at the turn of the previous century (i.e., 1900), those who remained in the shtetls (as opposed to urban centers) were there largely by choice and did not represent the bulk of non-shtetl observance levels. I don’t think his works can be used as a barometer of overall European Jewish feeling in 1900.

    Also, I’m not saying the majority in the shtetl were “secular Jews,” but that Judaism had ceased to have meaning for many if not most of those who decided to leave once they were permitted to leave.

  • I think two factors play a role: education and the discipline required for an Orthodox lifestyle. The former makes it more challenging to have faith in the Torah as book written by a God, not to mention in the God of the Torah. The latter does present some challenge, which is compounded by any doubt in one’s faith.

    Also, let’s face it, it’s much simpler to be absorbed and received by the larger non-Jewish world than to constantly find oneself on its periphery looking in.

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