Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Special Dispatch from Israel #2

Our lovely Israeli correspondent has graced us with another tale of dastardly do-gooders in the land of milk and honey (and arsim).

I just finished the most amazing ten days at a English language immersion camp program for 15-17 year olds, called K’dam (“before”) Atidim. Atidim is an army initiative which selects the top 20% of Israeli teens to attend university on an army scholarship before their mandatory service. This way they earn a degree first and then enter the army as professional soldiers in the field of their choice, including engineering, medicine, technology, etc.

One of the controversies of the Atidim program is that by educational standards, the top 20% of Israeli society resides mostly in the central region of Israel, where schools are touted as being of a higher quality than schools in the peripheral region because of higher socioeconomic standards. Atidim responded to this troubling issue by creating programs for youth from the peripheral regions, to give them the opportunity to be part of that 20%. K’dam Atidim English Camp is one of those programs.

Atidim chooses its pre-army program candidates based on a variety of factors, including their Bagrut scores (Bagrut is the Israeli version of the SAT, a matriculation test taken at the end of high school). An English test makes up one section of the Bagrut. In many of the peripheral regions, English programs are often substandard. While students receive an average of four hours of English a week at regular school, it has been calculated that the average student only gets about twenty minutes of individual attention each week. Our ten-day summer camp, with an average of eight hours of English work per day, is comparable to around a year and a half of schooling.

Camp was held in the Ben-Shemen youth village near Ramla, about 30 minutes from Jerusalem, a boarding school during the school year. In addition to our program there were several other groups at the village including international students, orthodox Jews in a study program, summer camp groups full of small children, and boarding school participants staying to work over the summer. The area is breathtaking: nature surrounds you, and while it’s one of the hottest areas in Israel, the camp environment created by the pool, soccer field and young adults everywhere creates a fun and inviting atmosphere.

On opening day, kids arrived and were divided into seven groups. They came from the northernmost tip of Israel to Eilat in the south, from Druze villages to Ethiopian neighborhoods. Many of the kids were too shy to speak English at first, and were resistant to opening their mouths. It was often a struggle to get them to participate, and some took to skipping class, or dropping out of the program altogether in order to avoid the frustration. We began with a group of 107 participants, and after four were kicked out for drinking and another seven chose to go home, we ended the camp with 96 smiling, tearful Israeli teens.

The multiculturalism of the camp is one of the most beneficial aspects. In addition to learning English, they interact with other groups in Israeli society that they don’t usually encounter, creating bonds that help break down stereotypes accumulated in outside life.

Israel is a relatively new country, formed by waves of immigration from all over the world. Older groups have had time to establish themselves, and the most successful generally live in the more expensive regions of central Israel. This area can often feel like a melting pot; tourism and international attention have led to these citizens becoming representative of what the “true Israeli” look like. Relative newcomers such as Ethiopians and Russians are often still putting down roots, and are not yet considered a part of the mainstream. Our campers represented these groups, and so we created activities focusing on aspects of identity: their families’ origins and the traditions they maintain. We encouraged the kids to develop pride in their ethnic customs as a means of developing their confidence and self-esteem. My group of eleven kids came from Ashkelon, Kiryat-Gat, Eilat, Ramla and Be’er Sheva. Their family origins included Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Yugoslavia, Kazakhstan, Kurdistan, Poland, Russia, Hungary and Uruguay.

Camp activities included several hours of classroom activities each day, swimming, the creation of a camp newspaper, discussions on politics, identity, tourism, travel, traditions, and their futures, all conducted entirely in English. We took day trips to Mini-Israel and Jerusalem, where we visited the Itzchak Rabin Center, Independence Park, a theme ride called the Time Elevator, and the Bezalel Art Museum, where one camper under my watch accidentally backed into and broke a large ceramic sculpture. Oops…

The camp had its ups and downs: kids were kicked out for drinking, several were sent to the hospital for accidents ranging from sprained shoulders to dog bites. Days began at 7:00 AM when we pounded on campers doors, demanding they wake up and come to breakfast, and ended at midnight with us chasing kids around camp, yelling that it was after lights out, and no they weren’t sleepwalking, thirsty, returning something to their friend, talking to their girlfriend/dad/guidance counselor, etc.

As camp dragged on, progress seemed slow, and of course life was frustrating. I was only sleeping around six to seven hours a night, and during the day I had to be constantly upbeat, teaching English classes, or chasing kids from one place to another. I looked forward to the end, and hoped that all of my English teaching efforts would somehow pay off.

On the last day of camp we took our final test, and I was shocked to see the marked improvement. They could write! They knew past tense vs. present! They could use the word “encourage” in a sentence! Many of these kids had adamantly refused to say a word to me in English at the beginning of camp, and now they were writing essays! It was incredible. At our mini-graduation ceremony they received a bag with the K'dam-Atidim logo on it, a graduation certificate and a note from me. Then we all sat down and I spoke to them in Hebrew for the first time.

One of the biggest tricks we played is that no counselor could speak a word of Hebrew to the campers at any point. In fact we pretended not to know Hebrew so that they would feel pressure to speak English. Kids were confused, they wondered what countries we were from, and throughout the ten days they took bets on who could actually speak Hebrew. The staff, which included native Israelis, egged them on, claimed total ignorance, feigned confusion whenever Hebrew was spoken. At the end we all spoke Hebrew, and the kids went nuts…they loved it.

As I wrapped things up in class, the kids presented me with an enormous thank you gift they had all purchased together, and I began to understand what a great opportunity this camp offers. Where else would kids buy candies and gifts for someone who made them wake up early, work all day, go to sleep before they wanted to, pressure them, quiet them, etc? Only in a place where everyone understands how important their individual successes are to their own futures. Where they breathe a sigh of relief and accomplishment on the final day, and begin to beg for more time.

The final ceremony was fantastic. After a slideshow set to the song “I Believe,” by R. Kelly, some of the Druze girls performed a traditional dance, we heard from an Ethiopian boy who moved to Israel three years ago, claiming that in Ethiopia learning was not encouraged, and this camp was the first time he saw kids not only learning, but helping one another. As they exited the hall, tears of pride running down their cheeks, they came to hug me goodbye, and ran to catch their buses home. Bags were dragged across gravel as kids desperately exchanged notes, and took final pictures. And then suddenly, camp was quiet. The kids were gone, and the counselors had to move on as well. I’m still in recovery, and with constant letters from former campers filling my inbox, I’m still glowing from these last ten days.
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Y? goes to a Baptist Church, likes the music, confused by the message

Anyone who has seen "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Joice In The Hood" knows that the Wayans brothers spared no exaggeration in their portrayal of Urban Black America. A random trip to a Baptist worship service held in a public school auditorium in Cincinnati proved to me that every once in a while, there is some truth in caricature.

A good friend of mine, with whom I had played music in high school invited me to catch him at a church service this morning. Never having been to a Baptist service, and having only the aforementioned "Don't Be A Menace" scene as well as James Brown's performance "Blues Brother's" as reference points, I thought seeing the real deal would be a great idea.

I rolled into the service and found my friend jamming, but really COOKING with a drummer, keyboardist, and organist playing along with him. Not only was the music funky and upbeat, it permeated the entire service. When the Pastor started a song, the keyboard player would find the key and start playing chords, and a bar later, the bass and drums would bring the ruckus, and the whole place was clapping and singing along. When the Pastor started preaching, the keyboard and drums would accent the pauses in his phrasing with rich stabs and fills. And when the collection plate went around, a lush sound pad created an almost ethereal ambiance.

But the music aside, and it was hot, what I found really interesting was the message. Now let me be as descriptive as I can, this was a fairly small congregation in which my friend and I were the only non-African Americans. I'm definitely the only Yid in the place. The congregation seems like an economic hodge-podge (if one can truly draw those conclusions from such an encounter) but seemed to skew lower middle class and below.

The service did not require the use of any written documents and all of four lines of scripture, from Galatians, were read. I couldn't even hear them cuz the music overpowered it.

The sermon was delivered based on one line that Paul said about all things coming from Jesus and the way it was delivered made the message hard for me to grasp.

There seemed to be a few key points.
1. God provides for all of our needs, only God provides.
2. God provides for those who provide for the church and others.
3. God doesn't provide for those unwilling to provide for themselves.

Fairly standard populist religion right? But something about it irks me. I want to ask questions about Jesus and why people are being told to be content with their lot instead of seeking further education or training in order to increase their ability to provide for themselves.

At one point the Pastor made a comment about giving to the church even if it meant missing a car payment. That kinda shocked me.

On the other hand, my friend tells me that there have been numerous people who come to the church homeless and the church helps them get their lives together.

For an institution as central to the culture and community of African-America as the Church, it certainly seems like this particular congregation is preaching some of the same values as the ghettoized Eastern-European Old Jew culture.

You know. God is testing you, things will be better if you pray, its all in God's hands etc etc. Basically. . . the stuff that keeps people in their place and doesn't really encourage economic mobility.

I recognize that these are the experiences of an outsider at a specific congregation on a specific day, but what I saw was such a complex tapestry of joy and transcending pain through music, mixed with elements of mental slavery, that I'm not quite sure what conclusions to draw from the experience.

I tend to view any experience that takes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to learn and confront my ignorance as positive, and now I know where to go to get a good solid dose of great blues, funk, and gospel.
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

We're Everywhere (also, can a tatooed Jew be buried in a Jewish Cemetary?)

A recent check of my Jew Filtr in filterbox showed me some pretty interesting things.

First, Yid Scott Storch, one of the founding members of the Legendary Roots Crew aka The Roots, whose meteoric rise to America's Top Producer (patents pending) was characterized by hits such as Terror Squad's 'Lean Back', has hit some hiccups. Storch has apparently started to believe in the world of bling he finds himself in and needs to get everything together.

Number two, a peace of pre-state Israeli propaganda explaining to British soldiers why they should leave Palestine has interesting parallels to a lot of current anti-occupation propaganda, except that it calls for the Brits to leave as opposed to simply calling them infidels. Judge for yourself.

Third, I found a really interesting article about Israel's citizenship and immigration dilemma which has to do with the legitimacy of being a Jewish democracy and what that means, in terms of who should get citizenship and whether a cultural definition of a citizen might be better than the current religious definition.
Interesting quote - "The halachic position is that a person need not be Jewish to be close to God. Being a member of the Chosen People means being subject to special duties, but it gives you no monopoly on righteousness or spirituality."
Read it.

Finally, the tattooed Jew question. After reading a very interesting article with several people's takes on the issue, including Hollywood and Larry David, the conclusion is. . its forbidden, but won't keep you out of a Jewish cemetery.
Full article here.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Business Secrets of the Jews

Every once in a while, someone puts into words, succinctly, many of the ideas which have manifested themselves as part of the 'quarter-life-crisis'.

I was going through my daily Filtrbox updates when I happened across an article
that caught my attention. The title read, "Can Chinese people understand business secrets of the Jews."

Seeing as how I've been trying to figure out these secrets that I'm apparently entitled to, aka the 'earning gene', I figured I'd peruse.

What I got was something pretty incredible.

In one article, the author neatly described the evolution of Jewish model-minority status in this country, its connection with the existential dilemma that many Jewish young adults now face, and the issue of Jewish identity.

Worth a read.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Ending the Addiction

One man's prescription for gas that costs more than a $4 loaf of bread...

Last night while out on the Loop Y?, Elliot and I were discussing what to do about gas prices that are seemingly spiraling out of control. Although we are all somewhat similar on the political spectrum, this was one issue on which there was no consensus. Solutions ranged from drilling in ANWR to driving prices up even further to force investment in alternatives. No answers were reached, but it was clear that gas prices and energy is quickly becoming an issue that cuts across political and demographic lines.

With that conversation in mind, read Thomas Friedman's Op-Ed in today's New York Times. It includes one of the most damning indictments of the Bush administration you will read, as well as an appearance from an old friend and a solution that is sure to be debated here and the next time the group is all together.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Waving the Flag

So I’m kinda conflicted on patriotism. You’re patriotic if you went out and shopped after September 11 but you’re not if you question the authority of the president...

You’re patriotic if you sing along with the National Anthem at Busch Stadium or the Muny. You’re not patriotic if you buy a Honda. You’re patriotic if you throw a God Bless America and a Glory Glory Hallelujah in the middle of a juggling act in Branson, Missouri… really?

This past weekend was my first trip to Branson. For all you twenty-somethings out there who have heard the ads on the radio like me, let me save you the trouble. Yes, Branson can be fun, if you are a flag-waving parent of two with a bevy of patriotic hymns to entertain the whole family with on your ride down. Branson is a good ol’ fashioned American town and it doesn’t want to be anything different.

Now I’m not saying this as a bad thing necessarily. For the right crowd, Branson is great. Bumper boats, ice cream cones, Go-Karts, aging country stars who were popular back in the day… it’s kinda like a cruise ship sailing right through the heartland. In my two days there I swam in the lake, saw some very talented performers, sat through one hell of a thunderstorm, and did some great outlet shopping. But the thing that got me more than anything else was the patriotism.

You see, Branson has an unwritten rule that every show will include a gospel section and a patriotic section. I understand, it’s nice to honor your veterans and your country, but does it mean the same if it’s forced like this? Maybe I’m a hypocrite. I get chills when El-Al plays Ha-Tikva as you land in Israel, but waving flags and mass patriotism seems cheesy. What gives?

Honestly, I think it comes down to pride and to size. Sure, America does things I am not proud of, and so does Israel. But do we as Americans really need to beat our chest over every little thing to prove to people that we are #1? Can’t we just let Michael Phelps speak for us at the Olympics next month? But Israel on the other hand, she deserves the right to brag every now and then. Hell, every time the sun rises in Israel it’s something to be proud of. So to me, it’s the fact that Israel has something to celebrate, whereas American patriotism to me sometimes comes off as the Harlem Globetrotters celebrating after another victory over the Washington Generals.

Am I being too hard on America, too easy on Israel? You tell me. What I do know is that in Israel, you don’t just show your patriotism by singing along.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thoughts and Prayers

This morning it was announced that the two soldiers kidnapped two years ago, the event which triggered the 2006 war in Lebanon, were returned as part of a prisoner swap deal.

They were returned in coffins.

I try not to weigh in on issues of Israel too frequently, at least not in situations in which I can't have a true discussion, but I feel a need here to wear my pain on my sleeve.

In exchange for the bodies of two of its soldiers, Israel returned the bodies of several Hizbullah and Palestinian terrorists/militants/fighters who had been killed in action in attacks on Israel (including the body of a female suicide bomber) as well as several live terrorists/militants/enemy combatants including Samir Kuntar, who was serving a life sentence for murdering several Israelis including a 4-year-old.

I don't know if I am most hurt that Israel was unable to bring the soldiers back alive (although by some accounts, they were killed during the kidnapping) or that they swapped several prisoners who have blood on their hands and may still be dangerous.

Perhaps what upsets me the most is that in sticking so strongly to the moral imperative to return soldiers, dead or alive, to Israel, the country sends a message that these kidnappings are a legitimate and preferable way to achieve objectives against Israel. In other words, Israel is encouraging and emboldening those who commit these acts to continue to do so.

I hope that these actions are seem outside the Hizbullah propaganda machine, which will welcome Kuntar home as a hero with a national holiday and that some will see the humanity in Israel's actions.

Only a lasting peace can prevent the sorrow that the Regev and Goldwasser families are feeling now. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Jewish dating

Take a guess at which 'Jewish organization' has the largest number of young Jewish members (facebook doesn't count, despite Zuckerberg's MOT status).

It's not YPD, it's not Gesher-City, its JDate. Really. The single largest group of 20 and 30-somethings in St. Louis (and in most cities) is a website that exists purely for Jewish dating, and potentially marriage. It is useless to argue the chicken and the egg about which came about first, the lack of specific programming for this demographic, or the lack of engagement, but it is still interesting that the Gen Yid demographic would rather join a Jewish dating site, instead of align themselves with a community organization or temple.

It makes sense to a certain degree. A friend of mine was recently lamenting the problem of dating as a young Jew, particularly in St. Louis. While its not my place to judge certain patterns of dating behavior (although judge, I do), he raised some interesting points. The first problem is, where are all the Jewish women at? Second, where are the events at which to find these elusive characters in an environment that is casual, conducive to making friends and potential matches, and not awkward?

This is the beauty of JDate. Its all taken care of for you. You don't have to ask all those hard-to-ask questions that qualify a person as a potential match, its all done for you. They say everyone knows someone who met on Jdate. As more and more of my friends get married, I hear about more and more about Jdate's efficacy.

Granted it doesn't work for everyone. I also know several people who have gone on many a Jdate, and while they made a few friends here and there, the results left much to be desired.

Still, what if there was a place, or a stream of events that were casual enough to just drop by, like Mondays at the Muny (free seats, obviously), or Wednesday night jazz at the botanical gardens, meet a few people, share a glass of wine, and let things take their course.

That is the raison d'etre behind the Gcalendar we organized. Its simple, Just click the calendar link to see what is going on around the city. Also, if you shoot us an email, we put you on the calendar, and you can post your own events.

Then all you have to do is show up.

It's not just about singles. The hope is to provide for ourselves, to be the change we wish to see by simply connecting with the other young Jews in the STL metro area, and providing a forum and a sanctuary where we can express our vision for the future.
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Friday, July 11, 2008

The role of the Shiksa

I saw this image on a T-Shirt and couldn't help but laugh, and think about a recent conversation I had with a (non-Jewish) friend of mine.

She sent me a text informing me that she was hanging out with a Jewish friend and they were trying to think of the Yiddish word for a non-Jewish girl and a guy that dates non-Jewish girls.

The word for a non-Jewish girl is Shiksa (literally cockroach), as for the guy that dates the Shiksa, well. . . so far as I know, we don't have a word, which is probably due to the fact that its a pretty common practice.

There is certainly a deep conflict between the egalitarian principles espoused in much of reform Judaism and the deep bias against inter-marriage.

I've done some (pseudo)research into sites like JDate et. al, and there are quite a few non-Jews (mostly women) who have profiles on the site. Its clear that the attraction goes both ways. Granted, its much easier for a Jewish person to find a non-Jewish mate as a simple fact of numbers. By restricting your potential partner set to just Jews, you cut a whole lot of potential out of the picture.
Why is it, though, that non-Jews (once again, mostly women) are going out of their way to seek out Jewish partners (mostly men)?

Some of the answers seem to revolve around the classical American Jewish stereotypes. That Jewish men are more responsible and mature (*cough), better with their money and more family oriented. That they treat women well, cave easily to their demands, and provide steady partnership. . . much of this may be true, at least partially, but what about our stereotypes of non-Jewish women?

How often have I heard, despite the joking tone, that 'goys are for practice'? ...Sure, that relationship was going along swimmingly, until the parents started thinking about where the wedding would be held, how the children would be raised, and then, well, things went to hell, just like her parents promised you would.

What is it though, that simultaneously drives us away from Jewish partners until we are ready to consider the possibility of serious (potentially final status) relationships?

I'm as inundated with images of rail thin, large-chested, tan, blonde women without any body hair as any other media consumer in America, but perhaps as a Jew, these traits have a different meaning. Perhaps they are signals of beauty that we are supposed to aspire to based on our swarthy or pale predispositions, as part of our 'quest to become white'.

I think that as part of the integration process, we have held Gentile women as the standard of beauty to embrace, evidenced by the popularity of nose jobs, tanning beds and laser hair removal to some in the community. It is likely that, as we reach the limits of integration, we start to see a resurgence of pride in who we are, naturally.

It wasn't until I spent some time in Israel that I started realizing, or rather reminding myself, that Jewish women are beautiful. Now, I'm sure there is a point about identity politics or psychology in here somewhere, but really, it just clicked one day; I like dark, curly hair, I love dark, pensive eyes. Sure, our melanin might be pretty lacking, but hey, try getting kicked out of every Mediterranean country over the past 2000 years and see how you end up looking!

I'm interested in what people think though, so why do you never/always date Jewish/non-Jewish women/men?

*EDIT* There are gorgeous Jewish women with red hair, and even blond hair. I mean, Natalie Portman looked decent even without hair in V for Vendetta (although I couldn't help but think of pictures of those interred at camps during the Holocaust).

Also, there is a really interested article tangentially related to this that I just found.

שבת שלום

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

What High School did you go to?

I am a first-time blogger and when Y? asked me to write about life after college from the point of a Jew from St. Louis, born and raised, who has returned to St. Louis I figured it was going to be a breeze. I mean that is my life in a nutshell. I have struggled with writing this for fear that people probably don't care what I have to say regarding St. Louis and have probably already formed their own opinions on being in St. Louis after college.
Most of my high school friends, Jewish or not, and almost every one of my college friends lives somewhere other than St. Louis. I have best friends in New York, Chicago, San Diego, Pensacola, Los Angeles, and the list goes on.

So here is what I can tell you…coming back to St. Louis and finding my niche has been a struggle at times. I am the fourth generation of St. Louisans in my family and it's all I know. We are the kind of people who think that Imo's might just be the world's best pizza, the letter 'R' can be found in words like water and wash, and the kind of people who believe that when you turn your ice cream completely upside down it should not fall out of the cup or else it's free. Imo's and Ted Drewes aside, St. Louis is not the familiar place it once was when I was a youngster.
If that came out sounding negative, it certainly was not meant to sound that way. The majority of my current St. Louis friends, especially the Jewish ones, are not from here. Whether it's west coast or east, or a fellow Midwesterner from out-of-state, these friends are the ones showing me all that St. Louis has to offer. Everything I once thought I knew about St. Louis has been improved upon tremendously since returning home. I have always enjoyed the Muny, however a show at the Muny with my group of Jewish friends in the free seats on opening night is a wonderful occasion and new experience for me. I have always known about Forest Park, but live concerts on Tuesdays outside the History Museum and on Wednesdays at the Botanical Gardens fit in this same category as they are things I was not so familiar with growing up. We have really uncovered and discovered some of the finer things St. Louis has to offer.

One thing I noticed that has remained the same is St. Louis' most frequently asked question: "What high school did you go to?" It is grammatically incorrect, like warter and warsh but we always let it slide. It's just how you say it. What we really mean to ask is, where in St. Louis did you grow up and what do your parents do? Do you have more furniture on your lawn or in your house? Do you have all of your teeth or just some? It's a pretty ridiculous question but we cannot stray from asking it, regardless of how inaccurate it may be. I have even noticed my aforementioned friends who are not from St. Louis have begun to ask this same question when they meet someone from St. Louis. I suppose they think it helps them grasp onto some idea about the person with whom they are speaking. I guess what I mean to say is that I don't think it's a good judge of anything. Using myself as an example, I went to a high school in a very affluent part of St. Louis. When I say where that is I always get the same response. However, I don't think I fit any description of the type of person being imagined when I speak the name of my high school. I don't think I fit that mold one bit. Nonetheless, it is inescapable. It is just as certain as the fact that my concrete will not fall out of my cup when the Ted Drewes employee turns my order completely upside down. And for this reason alone, I'll take it. To my new St. Louis friends: Thank you for showing me a St. Louis I have never seen and providing me with a very accepting, informal Jewish experience that I would not trade for the world. To my many original St. Louis friends who will never consider a return to the river city: You are truly missing out on what we are doing.
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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Scottish Arms

Just got back from the best meal I have ever had in St. Louis, no joke...

The Scottish Arms, a hidden gem (at least to me) in the CWE, boasts authentic Scottish food, as well as one of the most extensive Scotch menus in the world. Rosh and I went on a whim (and a Fish n Chips recommendation) after a hard fought game of water polo. I could not give this place a stronger recommendation... A quick run-down:

When you go, wear more than just gym shorts and sandals, although they treated us well, Rosh and I learned this the hard way. This is a little nicer than your typical corner pub, so don't be afraid to dress like it.

Beer: I had the Scottish Belhaven Twisted Thistle, which was the perfect mix of amber ale with some fruity undertones. Rosh when with the Smithwicks, which if you have never had is a good introduction into darker beers. They have an extensive list of beers on tap from a host of countries. This would be a great bar to go to in addition to a great restauarant.

Appetizer: We bit the bullet and ordered the haggis, which if you don't know what it is, probably for the best. This haggis was fried and came as a fritter, which gave us the nerve we needed to order the traditional Scottish dish. Jew Alert!!!!: It tasted a lot like chopped liver, which we all know is a good thing. Definitely a good gamble

Entree: You never can go wrong with fish n chips, but here, you can actually go right. Tender, sweet, delicious. Really really really good, and if something so simple is prepared so well, I can only imagine what some of the more imaginative menu items (pork chop, cornish hen) are like

Dessert: Rosh had the goat cheese cheesecake (you saw that right) and I went with one of the dozens of Scotches they offer. Both unique, both delicious, both something that I would come back for. You know that burning feeling you get after a shot of Jack, or even Johnny? Well I had one of the cheapest Scotches they offer, and there was none of that. Just sweet Scotch goodness. Scotch scotch scotch, I love scotch... never truer.

In short, don't wait any longer to try out the Scottish Arms, its a great date restaurant and is certainly one of the more interesting places you can try in St. Louis.
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Is Wal-mart Kosher?

To date, Y? has asked me to write this article over 100 times (estimation). Its not that I specifically enjoy making him wait for my commentary regarding the topic, but that I just have had tons of other things in my mind regarding Moishe House and in general. Keep in mind this topic was just spurred by constant conversation between myself and Y? about which we have differing opinions.

I have solidified my opinion regarding the company, corporate philosophy, and side effects regarding their existence in terms of today’s business world through multiple business cases and extensive studying in business school, though there is always much to learn when dealing with knowledge that is not 1st hand. For the most part, I believe I am in the minority when writing my feelings regarding Walmart, especially inside the Jewish community. I believe Walmart is the perfect corporation when only looking from a corporation viewpoint (i.e. no emotion). I can and will take that position when discussing corporate culture because most stockholders will take the same position and they truly drive the company. Walmart is as one senior executive said on television, “a speeding train, It wants to hit something.” They strive to only compete on cost, they relentlessly drive down costs and are rewarded with more business, especially in this day and age where another price quote can be only a click away. Customer service is a luxury only afforded by the wealthy and Walmart realized this quite a while ago. They then worked to establish the framework necessary to truly become the low cost leader:

* A cheap unskilled workforce
* Leveraged Supplier Relationships
* Corporate Themed Cost Cutting

Walmart took the American business model and perfected it. Their supply chain can not be beat and their supplier relationships basically mirror the foreign policy mantra of Theodore Roosevelt. There are obviously consequences to being the most powerful supplier in a world of consumers, the most damaging of which is increased scrutiny regarding anything and everything. Walmart is A-List star in a world of D-Listers and the paparazzi are all over them. Now that we have established my admiration for Walmart; it is time to convey the true advantages to their existence.

Many of the times that I have conversations regarding Walmart, it involves my defense of the merit of Walmart's existence in small-town America. These conversations many times flat out come down to my personal opinion regarding such indulgences. For all their horrible labor violations, they save the average American consumer $2,500 based on a study compiled by Global Insight (commissioned by Walmart). For the 70% of Goods in their shop that are manufactured in China, they employ 2.1 million people (At an average wage of $10.11 an hour). One must make a comparison between the personal advantages afforded and the personal disadvantages endured. I can shop at Walmart because I am not completely disgusted by their less-than-reputable human rights record. I am absolutely appalled by some of the stories that I hear, but I can silence my conscious while I shop there. Some Americans can, some Americans can’t, and quite a bit of Americans can not afford to. As much as I hate to admit it, I take their horrible record with a grain of salt, because it is a means to an end; that end is providing the customer with the lowest priced goods and improving the quality of life of the customer which has and always be the most important stakeholder in your company. They will never be a corporate beacon for all others to emulate, but at the same time they will never be a corporate pariah despised by all.
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Sunday, July 6, 2008

I Can't Wait

Maybe I'm a dork, but I haven't been this excited about a movie in a long time...

Check out this article on the new Batman movie. I was already pumped, but reading this gives you the feeling it might just be the movie of the summer, if not the year...,,20210206,00.html Read More......

Some Independence Weekend Musings

In honor of the 3-day weekend our forefathers so graciously bestowed upon us, some thoughts on recent goings-on around St. Louis...

Nothing like the good ol' Arch to frame a fireworks display, huh? And the street fight that almost broke out in the parking lot afterwards? Icing on the cake!

Although we may not have the Hamptons, the Cape or the Bay, don't underestimate the power of the pool. Tanning, reading, sleeping, water polo, diving, drinking, eating, flirting, saw it all at the pool this weekend, and thats just to name a few.

Shout out to Pi, a new deep-dish pizza restaurant in the loop, right across from the Pageant. For all you Bay Area folk, it compares favorably to Zachary's famous deep dish. Translation, it's real good and a large will give two grown men at least two full meals. Plus they have good beer on tap and have a green (read: environmental theme) that you can't help but respect.

I love the Muny and certainly recommend everyone go there each and every week (especially in the free seats) but last week's production of High School Musical left something to be desired. Granted, the teeny-boppers who came sporting their shirts and assorted paraphernalia had a great time, but I was HSM virgin and left somewhat down on the whole scene. So it's a Grease wanna-be with lame music and less sex? Am I missing something here? (Disclaimer: I have found said bland music popping into my head without warning all week... Kinda like you think you have the plague beat and back it comes)

Laumiere Sculpture Park, check it out.

Llewyelln's Trivia Night, solid alternative to MoBot in the rain: Wednesday's, 9ish, $1 PBR pitchers.

On a related note, we're on the hunt for St. Louis' best trivia, and everyone has their favorite, so post yours in the comments and we'll hit it up!

Also a shout-out to the Pinstripes and their awesome show last night at Off-Broadway. For those of you who don't know them, they are a ska/funk/reggae/rock/punk/something of everything band out of Cincinnati, and Y?s brother is the lead singer/sax player. Hopefully they will be around St. Louis some more for you to check them out.

And Off Broadway, while not right in the middle of things, was a good/not too crowded place to check out music. Plus, they don't allow smoking in doors, which is always a plus.

Finally, the Moishe House events are up and running, with the July 4th pool party and Saturday night's Mexican-themed dinner (in honor of our friends to the South) kicking things off right. As I understand it, there will be a mix of events (some Jewish, some not), a mix of people (some Jewish, some not) and a mix of entertainments (some fun, some not... kidding!). But more than anything it's all part of the attempt to grow the Jewish community here in St. Louis, so come be a part of it.

There's a lot to do here, you just gotta find it... Luckily, you got us. Catch you soon!
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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Not bad at all, a reflection

Some big things have recently happened, and seeing as how I went to Jew camp, I feel pretty comfortable sharing.

First, the St. Lou Jew blog reached 500 page-views over the weekend, which is fairly momentous because we haven't really done any publicizing other than word of mouth. It took EJ at Celebrity Car Parade a little longer than that and look at him now, pushing that Challenger!

We appreciate your support and would love to hear from you as we expand our content. What would you like to see our crack team of LouJews investigate?

Second, we are moving forward with our partnership with both Moishehouse and Jewish in St. Louis. We hope that by joining up and collaborating, we can start connecting with other young Yids, find some interesting things to get involved with, and maybe make even relieve some debt along the way. Jewish in St. Louis is basically the one stop show for information regarding all things Israelite in the city. The site didn't really have a lot geared towards the post-undergrad-crowd, and I think we can fill that space pretty well.

Third, CRC makes dope Challah. Seriously.

Finally, we are always looking to network and expand. If you are young, Jewish, and in St. Louis (not St. Charles (ok, you too)), and might be interested in linking up to contribute, or just socially, shoot us an email, we're in the business of making friends (actually Auggie Busch the first said that, but we mean it).

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