While the rest of the universe enjoyed themselves at Camp Jewlicious, I kept busy catching up on my reading of critical Jewish News… news such as:

Unkosher tusch meets Jewish family's tisch

Opening this weekend in North America is a romantic comedy film directed by Nanette Burstein, starring Justin Long and Drew Barrymore, titled “Going The Distance.” Some scenes, many of them nude, were shot at the home of an Orthodox Jewish couple in Queens, New York. In this clip, from the George Lopez talk show, Long explains how the production cooked and served burgers using the Jewish couple’s kitchen. When the family found out, the production had to replace the grill and utensils, since the burger-cooking had rendered the kitchen unkosher. What they have not yet replaced is the dining room table on which the actors, who were also a romantic couple, had simulated sexual intercourse. That is one table I will not be using to dip an apple in honey. (Actually it sounds like a publicity story for the film launch, since most production set designers would re-furnish the rented spaces to accomodate the shoot and equipment, although not the kitchen appliances.)

Another film that is soon to open is neither romantic nor a comedy, and there is no unsafe sex on dining room tables. The Social Network is a film directed by David Fincher and the writen by Aaron Sorkin, based on the life of Mark Zuckerberg, the 26 year old head of Facebook.com. Based on an unflattering account of the Harvard web entrepreneur, Zuckerberg is irked that the film. “portrays me as someone who built Facebook so I could meet girls.”

Speaking of kashrut and social networks, last week saw a tempest in the teapot that is also known as NYC. A Jewish inmate who is a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect and serving prison time for notoriously raping a teen, is receiving very specially koshered meals, and not the regular kosher meal service. Rabbi Baruch Leibovits complained that his NYC jail food did not have rabbinical supervision that was up to his level of strict adherence to halacha. One Satmar rabbi and leader said that it is the inmate’s right to have the food he desires, even if he is serving 32 years for rape and awaiting trial on other charges; while another rabbi and city chaplain said it was chutzpah to treat him differently than other prisoners who receive kosher foods.

On the topic of different treatments — tax treatments — a chain of bagel stores was informed by New York State that they owed a lot of back sales taxes. In NY, a bagel is a bakery product and not subject to sales tax, but if it is toasted or sliced, it is transformed into a prepared food item, and must then be taxed. Kenneth Greene, the owner of 33 Bruegger’s Bagel franchises throughout New York, is fighting New York State, which wants about 8 cents for every sliced or prepped bagel that the chain sold over the past several years.

Kabobs and Dates at Gracie Mansion

Bagels were not served at the iftaar hosted by NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg at the mayor’s Gracie Mansion last evening. Dates, lamb kabobs, and cherry and apricot juices were. Bloomberg reiterated his support for a center in lower Manhattan at Park Place. Bloomberg and some in the room were near tears when he repeated what the proposed center’s Imam said after the murder of Daniel Pearl. Bloomberg added, “If we do not practice here at home what we preach abroad, if we do not lead by example, we undermine our soldiers, we undermine our foreign policy objectives and we undermine our national security.”

Schnall: Stigmas reduced but remain

Finally, on the topic of tears and treatments, but not tax treatments, Yeshiva University professor Eliezer Schnall traveled to San Diego to the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting and delivered the results of a study on the mental health needs and delivery of services in the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities.

Dr. Schnall found that there is a paucity of service that is especially pronounced in the Ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic segments of the community. The paper, “Psychological Disorder and Stigma: A 25-Year Follow-up Study in the Orthodox Jewish Community” surveyed the approximately 450 members of NEFESH, the International Network of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals, and received answers from nearly 22%. It found that a stigma still exists for those seeking mental health services. Schnall and his partners also found that the most common problem for which Orthodox patients seek help is marital difficulties. Almost half of those professionals who answered the survey reported that there are insufficient services for substance abuse, just as in the 1984 survey, and that there are insufficient services for Orthodox Jewish children and adolescents. Most respondents reported that few, if any, of their patients were referred by their rabbis, which Schnall said was a problem, since rabbis play such a pivotal role within the Orthodox communities. He felt that Orthodox rabbis lack the training to help them to recognize mental illness and to understand that referral to professionals is often critically important.

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