Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Is Facebook Hurting Relationships?

Is Facebook's ability to connect with old friends and seek out new companions in secret actually affecting relationships out in the real world? This article suggests yes!

As ridiculous as the headline sounds, can Facebook really break your heart? Back in my day, Facebook was a simple diversion that came online during Finals Week, meaning that everyone spent way too much time updating their profile and reconnecting with friends from kindergarten. 4.5 short years later, it has become THE tool to stay increasingly connected in a world that should make staying connected harder than ever.

We're constantly on the move, be it from meeting to meeting, from home on the East Coast to school on the West, or off to Tibet to study the mating habits of the spotted iguana for 9 months while staying in a hut with ancient monks. Everything is stacked against us maintaining relationships, let alone rekindling old flames (I for one have been routinely criticized over the years for letting friendships fall by the wayside).

Yet here is Facebook, no longer just a cult fad, but a legitimate tool that makes the world the size of a computer screen. Just this past week I have connected to old college friends, made plans for trips around the country, and checked up on my little sister's college shenanigans!

But is there a darker side to these connections? Does Facebook allow us too much access, too many opportunities to stray? That is exactly the question this article asks in loooking at the Facebook phenomenon. So what do you think? Is Facebook a positive agent of change that will forever alter the way we consider friendship? Or is it a dark and destructive power that does not relate well to reality? Discuss!
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Inspiration and Hope from the Nation's Capitol

Just got back from a whirlwind 36 hours in DC, and boy does St. Louis have a few things to learn...but so does DC

Y and I spent the weekend (or at least 30 hours) in DC this weekend, doing some undercover research versus St. Louis, venn diagram style. My initial, gut-reaction thoughts on the comparison between the two:

Transportation: Our gripes have been well documented here, but St. Louis doesn't stand a chance. For anyone wondering what a world-class transportation system does for a city, take a weekend riding the Metro in DC and you will find out. As a kid, I could't get over the cool machine that took your ticket, spit it back out and opened the space-age gates. Now? I can't get over a public transit system that goes wherever you want it to go, comes when you want it to come, and has stations that look so cool. Seriously, riding the Metro can be a night all its own, it's that good.

Options: This is another place where DC reigns above supreme. In St. Louis, you choose the kind of place you want to go, and then from there choose between the three places that fit that bill. In DC, choosing the kind of place leaves you with dozens of NEIGHBORHOODS to choose from, each which have multiple places you could go. And if you get tired of the 20 bars in the neighborhood you chose? Hop back on the Metro and you will be somewhere else in 10 minutes.

Cost: Same for transportation (possibly even a little cheaper in DC), DC drinks a little more, DC food a lot more, DC gas a lot more... No surprise here when I say St. Louis is a cheaper city

Convenience: Started drinking at 4pm, stopped drinking at 1am, never had to think about a driver or how I was going to get home. Enough said.

The Clientele: By this, I just mean the people in general that I interacted with throughout the weekend (strangers, not my friends) in the Philly airport and in DC. Maybe I have been in the Midwest too long, but I tried to help a man with his bag down from the overhead bin, and he glared at me like I was going to steal it and disappear, despite the fact we were crammed into an overcrowded airplane. I'm just trying to help dude. Guess I forgot we don't do that out East.

Cool Factor: This is the biggest gut reaction of all, but it's the feeling that, wherever you are, whenver you step outside you are in the middle of the action. I'm talking Sunday morning, walking down Mass Ave from Dupont to Gallery Place, more was going on around me than in the middle of the Loop on any given night. I will admit, this could just be a DC bias showing through, but there is just an energy surrounding everything you do and everywhere you go that St. Louis is sorely lacking. DC is the hot girl who knows how hot she is, while St. Louis is the mousy girl with glasses who is afraid to let her hair down because maybe someone will notice and talk to her.

Ultimately, that is what it comes down to... Yeah, you are going to pay a little more in DC and the people are going to be a little more abrasive. But you get all the perks that come along with big city life while being able to get anywhere you want with relative ease. Now if St. Louis could just get that transporation thing down, couple it with some more choice for entertainment and keep the low prices and Midwest charm, maybe we could get to work on that cool factor. Whaddya say?

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Thursday, November 20, 2008


In response to recent allegations that Mormons are Baptizing Jews who died in the Holocaust, IntJewCon has released its patented De-Baptizer.

Check it out here Read More......

Who Said Arabs Don't Want Peace?

In an unprecedented move, the Palestinian Authority took out full page ads in all of the major 3 Israeli newspapers outlining, in Hebrew no less, the Arab peace proposal

This is a big deal for several reasons.

First, it shows that the Palestinian Authority recognizes that most Israelis want peace.

Second, it goes above the heads of the politicians. This was always the reason I couldn't join AIPAC. . . because it supports the Israeli government. I love Israel, I'm not always such a big fan of the Israeli government.

Finally, it means that the ball has been put in Israel's court. The idea that there is 'no partner for peace' will be challenged by this latest move and requires a response.

The ad starts out, "Fifty-seven Arab and Muslim countries will establish diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange for a full peace accord and the end of the occupation."

Obviously issues of East Jerusalem and Palestinian refugee status will stand in the way. But screw it, hand over East Jerusalem, it isn't essential. And the city of peace deserves some peace.

As for refugees, allow them a fair option, if they can prove that they have a legitimate claim to land, give them the option of citizenship or fair recompense.

Follow the Ayalon plan for defensive settlements along the greenline, and let the PA be fully responsible for Gaza, hellhole that it is.

You can read an article about this interesting turn of events here.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Next Dor Proposal

What the young professional Jewish community in St. Louis needs is a place that everyone can call home. So much of our Jewish identity is wrapped up in this idea of belonging, of searching for belonging, and Next Dor plays right into that.

What the young professional Jewish community in St. Louis needs is a place that everyone can call home. So much of our Jewish identity is wrapped up in this idea of belonging, of searching for belonging, and Next Dor plays right into that.

By establishing a “home base” of activities for young Jewish professionals that is centrally located, easily identifiable, open to all, and multi-purpose, people can begin to come together under a veneer of Judaism, but really just as young Jews in St. Louis looking to connect.

Vision: There will be a security code to gain access to the house. The code will change monthly and will be available only to those included in a confidential email list. If an administrator lives in the house, he or she will have a key to the third floor to ensure security and privacy. However, the idea that anyone (with the code of course) can come and go as they please is an important aspect of a welcoming center for Jewish activity.

There will be various spaces within the house, some that groups can schedule time in for meetings and group events. Other spaces will be reserved for a particular purpose, such as studying or catching a quick cat nap in between classes, and will be open to all at any time. Space for an art studio is also intriguing if local artists would be willing to supply their own materials. Essentially, the space should be whatever each individual needs and wants it to be for them. There can even be a garden for those who want to grow their own vegetables.

Where we will run into problems, however, are when the desires of one group conflict with those of another. A good example of this would be when it comes to the rules of Kashrut. While the kitchen would not be a strictly Kosher kitchen, groups would be welcome to schedule a Kosher dinner in the kitchen and use it as such. Someone who is observing the Shabbos would certainly be welcome to use the house as a quiet resting place, but they would have to understand that others in the house may turn on lights, etc.

Essentially, the success of the house will come down to the ability of those who wish to use it to compromise. With the proper forethought and planning, Next Dor can be not just a physical gathering place, but an opportunity to bring the young professional Jewish community in St. Louis “together under one roof.”

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Proposal for a Next Generation Jewish Community Hub

Jewish young adults (post-undergraduate, pre-family) don’t have a place to gather. The existing organizations either do not have a space at which to reliably host events, have spaces that aren’t targeted to this demographic, or aren’t set up to cater to a wide variety of interests and backgrounds.

I know that I've outlined this assessment in previous posts, and I know that I hinted at some things to come as well.

That is why I am publishing my proposal for the Next Dor project's implementation in St. Louis. Let me know if I'm way off base here, or maybe on to something.

Purpose: To outline an ideal usage of the space provided by the house

Goal: To create a post-denominational, non-institutional space in which Jewish young adults can connect with one another.

Requirements: Monetary and programmatic support of CRC at minimum and the wider community at best.

Background: Jewish young adults (post-undergraduate, pre-family) don’t have a place to gather. The existing organizations either do not have a space at which to reliably host events, have spaces that aren’t targeted to this demographic, or aren’t set up to cater to a wide variety of interests and backgrounds

Proposal: I envision a space that acknowledges the various roles that Jewish young adults find themselves in. Whether academic, artistic, or professional in nature, the space should provide a place in which people feel comfortable engaging with other young Jews in an informal environment.

The first floor will be the informal social gathering place and should have couches set up in an entertainment area, as well as a dining room table at which to hold Shabbat dinners.

The second floor will be a quieter place for graduate students to study, or for small groups to have a cup of coffee and connect, or learn Hebrew.

In the basement will be studio/gallery space for artists to create, collaborate, and showcase their art. Also, this would be a great space to hold larger social gatherings.

The third floor will house a live-in care taker/program manager whose role it will be to balance all of the different groups who want to use the space and ensure that the house is maintained and properly cared for in exchange for free rent.

There will be a garden dedicated to growing herbs and vegetables both for use at the house, as well as for donation.

This space will not be ‘owned’ by a particular organization or movement and will be open to all.

The space should be fairly well stocked with basics like coffee and tea, and perhaps more as per a programming budget would allow.

As communal meals, particularly Shabbat dinners, will be an important asset to the success of this endeavor, sufficient seating and place settings will be essential.

The initial investment in the space will be reasonable, given that it is likely that the vast majority of the furniture can be donated.

Weekly blog and Gcalendar entries will keep the events interactive and will open them up to collaboration and participation.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

A fresh round of violence?

Egypt has seen the writing on the wall: today they gave up on reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the representatives of whom were supposed to meet in Cairo this week with the Egyptian government and the Arab League, having concluded that the rifts were too deep and wide to heal.

Many Arab countries are now convinced that the split between the West Bank and Gaza will be a long-term reality. And after the failures of the Mecca Agreement, the Yemini plan, and now the Egyptian effort, many residents seem to agree. One Egyptian diplomat was quoted as saying, “the war between Fatah and Hamas is likely to continue for a long time.”

A power struggle between the two parties, who are vying for control over the territories and a potential state, has led to a rise in tension over the past week as Fatah supporters living in Gaza have been forced into not marking the death of Yasser Arafat, their movement’s fallen ideological leader. In fact, a major confrontation does not seem too far away considering Abu Mazen’s positioning to keep his presidency after the January elections even though the Palestinian Authority constitution does not permit it, and Hamas’ intention to name one of its own to take Mazen’s seat.

When Israel disengaged from Gaza in the summer of 2005, the Palestinian Authority was given the chance to construct the area into what it wanted, making it the prototype of what an eventual Palestinian state might look like. Instead, the PA under Mazen wasted the chance. Two years later, when Hamas ousted Fatah and took control of Gaza, Olmert and Barak and the West pursued a strategy that aimed to turn Gaza’s population against Hamas through international isolation.

This strategy failed to recognize that Hamas was cheered in the streets upon its coup victory and then elected democratically. The priority of Hamas is to make war with Israel regardless of the damage it causes to Palestinian society, as read between the lines in its own charter. In fact, there is a train of thought among Israeli politicians that is pointless to topple Hamas because the population is Hamas, that there are no ordinary Palestinians in Gaza to win over.

Israel and Hamas accepted the Egyptian inspired six-month truce in June, though it too looks to be unraveling. Hamas has been using the break in the action to prepare for the next round of violence. On 4 November the IDF destroyed a tunnel that it believed was going to be used to kidnap soldiers. Since then Hamas has fired 120 rockets at Israel.

In response to the rocket fire Israel temporarily closed the crossing points used to deliver humanitarian goods and fuel, yet on any given day dozens of trucks carrying food, fuel, and medicine are allowed in. Hamas then ordered Gaza’s only power plant closed and brought thousands of children into the streets for a candlelight protest. The plant, however, provides just a quarter of Gaza’s electricity. Israel provides 70% and Egypt the rest, none of it interrupted. So much diesel fuel has been piped into Gaza that there is now more supply than demand.

Neither side claims to want the ceasefire to end. Yet at the same time Israel is not willing to allow an escalation of Hamas violence and armament, and simply cannot allow an Islamist government in either Gaza or the West Bank. However, ceasefires are never enough because the Palestinians treat them as political and strategic opportunities to continue their war against Israel by other means.

Given an impending violent conflict between Hamas and Fatah, and an impending violent conflict between Hamas and Israel, one has to wonder just how much support Hamas has received from Iran and Syria and Qatar that it feels comfortable fighting on both fronts, and whether Israel might be attacked along other borders. Iran’s latest missile exercise tested missiles that have the range to strike Israel. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been under increased domestic pressure following his unpopular letter of congratulations to President-elect Obama, and with his re-election coming up quickly and the terrible state of the Iranian economy, he may be looking to implement his favorite strategy of deflecting domestic criticism with a fresh war on Israel.
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Leonard Bernstein, on 2 bottles of Scotch

1986, Harvard University, 2 AM. After completing a trip around the world with both the Israeli and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras, Leonard Bernstein agreed to speak to students given several conditions, including that there be at least 15, and that there be 2 bottles of scotch. The rest is very relevant history.

Bernstein, jet-lagged but unflagging spoke about the differences between touring with the two groups.

With the Israeli Philharmonic, previously the Palestine Philharmonic, Bernstein remarks on the constant security which accompanied him, creating an environment filled with fear.

On the second half of his tour, with the Vienna Philharmonic, the security was absent, and so was the sense of looming disaster.

He brings up interesting points about the relationships between the two, that seem particularly relevant in today's world.

If you have a few minutes, check out the full copy of the speech, complete with Jewy Rosh Hashanah and Hatikvah references.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Building the capacity of community-based organizations to be agents of community development

I had a chance to drop by UMSL today during lunch for a round table discussion hosted by Dr. John McClusky, Director Emeritus of the Nonprofit Management and Leadership Program. The discussion centered around the redevelopment in Old North St. Louis, and was pretty amazing.

I know remarkably little about this neighborhood, save that it is just North of Downtown St. Louis, and until recently was a dwindling community.

But to see the pictures of the rehabbing work done in ONSL, and to hear about the success they are having in attracting residents and businesses, made me think.

In the game of chicken and egg, represented by population base and business development, how do you attract both?

I mean, business won't show up unless you have an economically viably population base, and that population is unlikely to move into an area that provides little by way of infrastructure or amenities.

It appears, at least in the case of ONSL, if you sell people on the vision for the community, they are willing to make the first move (much like the American people in the recent election, but I digress).

The vision in this instance is of a diverse urban village, in which people know their neighbors and have communal spaces, close to downtown, with amenities galore.

Through Historic Tax Credits, some really solid partnerships, and a core set of guiding principles, ONSL is really coming together.

Information about Old North Saint Louis can be found at www.onsl.org
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Kid on the Blog - Revival Prose

When I was first asked to write for the St Lou Jew Blog I was unsure of exactly what I would write about and whether or not people would even want to read whatever I decided to write. As far as blogging was concerned, I guess you could say I didn’t really feel like I had The Right Stuff.

Last night, however, that all changed. While it has not been a fifteen year hiatus for me since my last blog post, it has been a while. In fact I don’t think I have written on our blog since the Summertime. In case you have not caught on by now, I attended the NKOTB concert last night. This fall the R&B/Pop quintet from the late 1980s and early 1990s is back on tour, providing us all with the lesson that If You Go Away, you had better come back with some pizzazz. It may have been one of the loudest concerts I have ever been to and the audience participation was at an all-time high. Screaming mid-30-year-old women made up the majority of the audience and I imagine the make-up of the crowd could best be described as what you would get if you paused a Hannah Montana concert, waited 20 years for the audience to age and then pressed play. Pop star crushes might be fanatical at age 12, but the ability to legally purchase and consume alcohol only intensifies the madness.

Donnie, Danny, Joey, Jordan and Jonathan were definitely Hangin’ Tough last night as they reminded us all that the Kids from Beantown were absolutely still on the block. The only real difference is the fact that they are now about 40 years old and have families. You can legitimately say that the group has New Kids of their own who are about the same age the guys were when they started performing. Donnie didn’t wait long into the show to remind the Cardinal fans in the crowd about the 2004 World Series, when the Red Sox spanked the Cards in four straight. He did, however, follow it up in his thug-life gangsta’ accent by giving us the props we deserve for coming back and winning the Series in 2006. Apparently they do have ESPN under the rock KNOTB has inhabited for the past 15 years. And for anyone wondering whether or not Joey, the youngest of the group, is still able to hit the high notes he was brought into the group to hit…he did so with flying colors. There were a couple times when I wasn’t sure if it was his singing or the women around me screaming; it could go either way.

I don’t know if NKOTB will ever again reach the star status they held leading up to the grunge era but if they continue to impress the women the way they did last night, and take it Step By Step. I suppose anything is possible. With that being said, I am really hoping that with the same hard work and dedication I can get Natasha Bedingfield, who opened for NKOTB, to Be My Girl.
Seriously though, and No More Games, I have made my blog comeback Tonight and am excited to once again have the same opportunity to entertain that I once had. It is not a question of whether or not I will write again soon; that is certain. The only question that remains is: Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time?
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Supply-side Jewishness

If you check out jewishinstlouis.org, you'll see (if you can figure out how to navigate it) a plethora of organizations, entirely too many, perhaps.

There are organizations for all ages, levels of observance, interests, and usually, more than one within a particular niche.

While it is theoretically wonderful to have a community that supports such a wide range of organizations, it also leads to a battle over attendance and impact.

The Jewish Federation, to an extent, supports a zero sum game within Jewish organizations. I say this because almost all of the organizations get at least partial funding from the Federation, and for organizations to get continued or increased funding, they must continually prove their worth through attendance.

A few weeks ago, I attended an event for the Saint Louis Israel Connection, an organization which seeks to connect Jews in St. Louis with Israel.

The event was pretty cool, I got to see a good number of people there, everyone enjoyed themselves, the bar owners liked us...by all accounts a successful event.

I mean, I had a chance to actually interact one on one with some people specifically because the place wasn't packed.

Now let me be clear, it would have been great to have more people there.

That being said, St. Louis is not a big enough pool for this 'bigger is necessarily better' type of an attitude to prevail.

But it's not just St. Louis. In an article on Jewcy.com, the problem of collaboration is smacked upside the head.

Often we are so wrapped up in the mission of our individual group that we lose focus of the fact that the over-arching guiding force behind all of our organizations and groups stems from the desire to build a strong and vibrant community, something that is hard to create when we act territorial.

Not only that, you turn off participants. I don't want to be a part of a group that is so isolated that it disconnects itself from the community.

And now for your viewing pleasure, Obama's Roast of Rahm Emmanuel:

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Opportunities to Create a Community

Birthdays and Facebook add up to a lot of reconnecting with friends all over the world and one of the hardest questions to answer is always the same, "How is living in St. Louis?"

Now, we have done our fair share of complaining about St. Louis here.

From commenting on incidences of anti-Semitism, to the lack of public transportation, to the horrors of dating in the STL, we can appear pretty down on St. Louis. And let's face it, it doesn't have the young (or Jewish) populations of New York, Boston, DC, or Chicago (LA is a sprawl, not a city).

But we have tried to be proactive in finding things that interest us and that make this city come alive.

As a combination of this attitude, some luck and timing, we find ourselves in the interesting position to create a space for use by the community.

Wednesday night, a lucky few of us will sit down with Rabbi Susan Talve, of the Central Reform Congregation, to discuss what we would do with a house to turn it into a place that people want to be. The timing is rather serendipitous due to the URJ's new 'Next Dor' initiative, which is aiming to engage us young Yids.

The question really is, how do we best take advantage of this opportunity?

Whether this includes studio space for artists in the basement, study space for grad students, a few treadmills for young professionals to use during lunch or after work, the possibilities may be limitless.

So we ask you, our friends and neighbors, casual readers, and accidental stumblers to tell us, if you could be in the room with us, or if you think that a dedicated space without a dedicated commitment sounds interesting to you. . . how would you want to use the space? What possibilities to see for a project of this nature?

We will take your ideas into the meeting with us, and will do our best to represent them well, but you have to make your voice heard. Post a comment, or email us, and we'll make sure that your input gets inputted.
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Friday, November 7, 2008

Jerusalem isn't Jewish?

Jerusalem isn't Jewish, at least not according to Ahmed Qurei, the chief Palestinian peace negotiator with Israel.

In remarks during a small media briefing, which WND was at and reported here, Qurei said "Israeli occupation authorities are trying to find a so-called Jewish historical connection" between Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, "but all these attempts will fail. The [Temple Mount] is 100 percent Muslim."

This may be a fairly common sentiment among some of the less educated and more radical persons around the world, but for this belief to be held by the chief negotiator for the Palestinian, a man considered to be moderate, well. . . this would seem to pose a problem.

Let us ignore archeological findings for a moment, the Western Wall being the major one.

Imagine that Jews had no connection to Jerusalem. What would Judaism look like?

Its not enough that Jerusalem is mentioned in countless prayers, holds a central position in the imagery, culture, and shared consciousness of the Jewish people, it is simply the single most important city to Jews in the world (unless you are from New York City, in which case you simply don't know that there are Jews anywhere else in the world).

I have nothing against a Muslim claim that the city of Jerusalem is holy to Islam.

It is also holy to Christians and a score of smaller religions.

What I resent is the attempt to negate the importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people.

This isn't about colonialism, imperialism, Orientalism, occupation, Zionism, Islamophobia or anything of that nature.

It is a simple fact that the Jewish people are connected religiously, spiritually, and historically to Jerusalem.

And while this connection doesn't necessary merit ownership of custodianship of the land, it is ridiculous to think that Qurei can be a serious negotiator.

I usually call bullshit when Israel says, "we have no one to negotiate with," but this seems like a fairly obvious speed bump in the road map to peace.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Exhuberance: Obama is thy name

Yesterday, I received possibly the best birthday present ever, the election of Barack Obama to the office of President of the United States of America.

I witnessed John McCain, seemingly returning to his previous centrist self, give the best speech of his bid for election, which ironically came in the form of concession.

Immediately, I headed to the Chase Park Plaza for the victory celebration, and the change that was promised was more immediate than I had anticipated. On one of St. Louis' hip hop stations, the DJ was freestyling about Obama.

"WE GOT A BLACK PRESIDENT!" was the first thing we heard, followed by, "McCain didn't even break 200 (electoral college votes)."

Never have heard so much excitement about an election on a rap radio station. In fact, the only mention I've ever heard of rap and politics in the mainstream is the good old 'Buck Fush'.

We arrived at the Chase Park Plaza jumping up and down with excitement. The place was packed with all sorts of people, from students to the elderly, all shades and creeds of people, hugging each other, dancing, crying...it was as if we had just won a war and in some ways, we had.

As Obama gave his acceptance speech, it was clear, just by the feeling that swept the room, that something had fundamentally changed. Suddenly, this mishmash of peoples with very ostensibly very little in common were sharing a deep bond of hope, a sense of belonging, community, and feeling of enfranchisement as citizens, as Americans.

In a very big way, the victory of Barack Obama represents a major victory in the philosophical war between an older generation fueled by fear, and a younger generation, mobilized by hope.

Zuz mentioned that no one believed Obama would actually get college kids and African Americans to vote.

Obama succeeded in this endeavor because behind a bold message of hope, reconciliation, and pragmatism there was a disciplined organization that lived the values it embodied.

Everyone that I spoke with who canvassed or made phone calls remarked on how amazing it was to go out and meet and engage their neighbors in the political process.

There is a name for this type of organizational work, it's called community organizing. Yes, the same community organizing that Palin tried to insult.
This community organizing and community building is what set Obama apart, and has the potential to be truly transformational.

Here lies the difference between socialism and capitalism within a socially minded populace. In socialism, the populace is forced to redistribute wealth and power.
Capitalism within a socially minded populace is where people take care of their neighbors because they know their neighbors and see them as fellow citizens.

Is this not the America we so desire, in which we feel connected to our fellow citizens? Where we happily make coffee, tea, and baked goods for those waiting hours in line to vote, as Maya Escobar did on the Loop in University City. Where we congratulate each other for a truly collaborative effort in electing the first non-Caucasian leader of a majority Caucasian nation EVER.

Perhaps these symbolic victories won't bring the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 6000 points overnight. Neither will they ease up the credit market. But what if this victory inspires students to aspire to greater heights? What if those who hold ambivalence (at best) towards us begin to feel that we will deal justly with them, and hold ourselves to the standards to which we have long held them.

The significance of these symbolic victories is not lost on me.
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A Chain Reaction?

While we witnessed a dramatic shift to the left on Tuesday, we may well expect a, though less dramatic, shift to the right in Israel’s government if for no other reason than the election of Barack Obama. Israel showed a strong preference for John McCain with polls of Israeli citizens mirroring the votes of Americans in Israel, who supported McCain over Obama by a 76% to 24% margin.

Israelis worry that President Obama will engage too quickly or too deeply with Iran, empowering its leadership (how could an Iranian not vote for Ahmadinejad if America comes knocking on their door?). They fear that America will pull out of Iraq too quickly, further destabilizing the region and leaving control of Iraq to those who most hate Israel. They are apprehensive that America may reduce its aid and security partnership with Israel. They are panicked because President Obama may tie future UN support to Israel giving up more concessions to the Palestinians in negotiations. They are concerned by President Obama’s condemnation of the IAF’s attack on the Syrian reactor. And they hold all these fears because no matter how many editorials proclaim Obama a true friend of Israel, Israelis never saw proof of this statement. Conversely, they were shown his connections with Jeremiah Wright, Rash Khalidi, William Ayers, Samantha Power, Robert Malley, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, all of whom have strong anti-Israel records.

It is telling that so many Americans in Israel voted for McCain. Unlike the members of the Carter and Clinton administrations, Oslo graduates, who advise Obama, Israelis live on the front line and do not have the luxury of ignoring reality, like the daily barrage of rockets, or the obvious (obvious, that is, if you actually pay attention) use of the “ceasefire” by Hamas to build up its military. Adding to Israeli concerns was Vice President Joe Biden’s guarantee that an Obama Administration would be tested by an international crisis within its first six months. As a proven friend of Israel and a long time Senate Foreign Relations Committeeman, Israelis take him seriously.

If all this rational is not convincing enough, one only need look at Kadima’s reaction to Obama’s victory. Party leader Tzipi Livni and coalition partner Labor quickly issued a very strong statement that Likud should not be elected because its views were too different from the Obama Administration. The story here is that Kadima is worried Likud might benefit from the Israeli concern of the Obama victory.

The following day, in an effort to look strong and independent, Livni issued a statement in which she urged Obama not to talk to Iran “at this time,” warning that such dialogue would project “weakness.” Ignoring, for the moment, that she is right, she is concerned that Likud could benefit from Israeli concern that the Obama Administration will allow Israel to fester in a Middle East made more dangerous and jeopardizing by Obama’s foreign policy.

Just as Obama’s victory may push the Israeli government towards the right, his actions leading up to the February election in Israel could pull the Israeli electorate back towards Kadima. Were Obama to moderate his stance on the Middle East and the War on Terror and made demonstrable moves to ensure Israel that America will not spend $1 or 1 minute less on Israel, Israelis may see Kadima as the better partner to Obama. However, Israelis better understand than Obama that words have never made, nor kept, them safe.
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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Predictions

Good morning sports fans, today is a big day. Barring another Florida scandal, my bet is that we’ll have a clear presidential election winner by midnight. A friend in Arlington, VA told me he waited in line for 70 minutes to vote this morning, and a friend here in St. Louis told me he showed up at 7 AM to a 30 minute line. I voted by mail a few weeks ago in my native Washington State with the hopes of swaying a tight gubernatorial race there. I’m predicting a relatively close popular vote and an Electoral College blowout, both for Barack Obama, but I wanted to go on record with exact numbers before the ballots were counted to see how well I could do.

Let’s talk popular vote first. Rasmussen Reports, run by Scott Rasmussen, has historically been one of the better indicators of actual Election Day results. Mr. Rasmussen has an extemporary polling machine, and two years ago (if memory serves) added the very smart Rasmussen Markets where people trade stock in candidates. These two indicators, taken in parallel, were very accurate in the 2006 Congressional races. Rasmussen has the general vote pegged at 52% for Mr. Obama and 46% for Mr. McCain. I’m going on record saying those numbers will tighten. I believe race will be a factor, although in the long-run it will help Mr. Obama more than it will hurt him as we will see astronomical black turnout that will overcome the effects of racism. Rasmussen’s poll shows 2% undecided, and I’m going to give those to Mr. McCain. My prediction: 52% Mr. Obama to 48% Mr. McCain.

Now let’s turn to the Electoral College. This is where it gets complicated, because while the popular vote will be close, this one will not. It is looking like there are 8 legitimate toss up states: Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and North Carolina. Giving Florida, NC, and Ohio to Mr. Obama and the rest to McCain, I’m predicting 336 EC votes for Mr. Obama, well past the 270 needed to win, and 202 for Mr. McCain. The only way that Mr. McCain even starts to plays is if he takes Florida, Ohio, and NC, who collectively represent 62 EC votes, and keeps the remainder of the toss ups. This, though, still leaves him 6 shy of the 270 mark with Mr. Obama at 274. In order to cover the spread, he would ideally take Colorado’s 9 electoral votes, where Mr. Obama currently has a 4 point lead. His other most realistic options are New Mexico (5 EC votes) and Iowa (7 EC votes). Winning Florida, North Caroline, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, and either Colorado, New Mexico, or Iowa would an Election Day miracle for the GOP this year. My prediction: 336 Mr. Obama to 202 Mr. McCain.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Moishe House gets press in NJ

It's always nice to see success, and the Moishe House in Hoboken, New Jersey just got a bit of recognition.

An article in the Jewish Standard gave props to the Heebs holding down the Hoboken Moishe House, touching on the grassroots nature of the organization.

Probably the most illustrative part of the piece was the quote, "[Moishe House] is a place for young Jews who want to hang out who aren’t necessarily attracted to a shul environment. At the end of the day, we are all members of the tribe."

Despite how totally different Hoboken may be from STL, there are clearly some commonalities. The first is that young Jews want a place to connect with other MOTs, without the institutionalized feeling of a synagogue or JCC.

The second is that free food is a pretty good motivator. We are Jews after all.

Finally, I think that a key take away is that no matter where you are, young Jews want to be engaged but are turned off by the main-streams overtures, which seem totally out of touch.
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