Tablet’s editorial board says AIPAC fails to represent both the left and the right when it comes to advocating for Israel on American Jews’ behalf.
The invitation to Trump is a symbol of what AIPAC has become — an organization staffed by mid-level incompetents who disgrace our community with their evident lack of both political savvy and moral sense. Let’s be frank: Some of us would be comfortable with a bunch of back-alley political knife-fighters whose only cause is the active defense of the Jewish people, while others want leaders devoted to making sure that our communal goals embody universal morals and social-justice values—regardless of how this might play on the geopolitical chessboard. Whichever camp you find yourself in, one thing is clear: What we have now in AIPAC is an organization with the failings of both, and the virtues of neither.
Headless Community in Bottomless Spiral
This is a fascinating piece of political rhetoric. The Tablet editors are saying that both sides can agree AIPAC is a poor representative of the American Jewish community, and then make their case from each side.
If they are able to step away from the partisanship and actually offer cogent analytical insight into AIPAC’s failings on both the left and the right, then that’s admirable and useful. But the problem is that virtually no one (at least no one who is actively engaged in/with the Jewish community) is able to actually back away from the fracas and say anything that isn’t seen by one side or both as an unfair attack. In other words, I’m wondering if Tablet’s editorial team falls into the very trap into which they accuse AIPAC of falling: trying to be a voice for all sides and ending up being a voice for none.
Nonetheless, as an attempt to be analytical of AIPAC without staking ground (or, being transparent about your ideology but attempt to transcend it for the purpose of analysis), I think it’s a good try, and a thoughtful, intellectually deft, and interesting one at that.
At the same time, despite some strong language attacking AIPAC leadership (which we’ll get to in a second), the authors seem to be dancing around the point they really want to make: this is entirely about the organization’s leadership, or lack thereof. I think that’s a fair point to make, especially if you can support it with a well-reasoned argument. But a problem with the Tablet editorial is that its authors hint at having a well-reasoned argument to back up their claims, but it’s hard to believe them when (a) they don’t present much evidence of organizational chaos to support their claims1, and when (b) they take numerous cheap shots and engage in petty ad hominem attacks2 on AIPAC leaders.
It should be fair game to claim that specific people lack political savvy or that they have exhibited behavior that calls their moral sense into question, especially if you support those claims in a manner that’s convincing or at least intellectually honest. But calling unnamed AIPAC employees “mid-level incompetents who disgrace” the community that they’ve dedicated themselves (with presumably best intentions) to serving? That statement Trump-esque diss, a petty and rhetorically lazy turn of phrase that must have felt cathartic and wonderfully naughty to type into the essay’s first draft, says more about its author than its subject. It undermines the editorial board’s entire point (as do the other cheap shots sprinkled throughout), and it should have been excised before an editor clicked “Publish.”
And also, it’s mean. I believe in the important practice of a publication’s editorial board writing with one voice, especially on important issues like this. But it comes off looking like cowardly bullying when an unnamed writer (writing on behalf of a seemingly faceless editorial team) attacks a group of individuals without naming names but with a nod and a wink that says, “We’re way too classy to name names but you know who we’re talking about, right?”
With all due deference to the folks behind the publication (for whom I hold an immense amount of respect and awe-filled admiration), Tablet’s typically erudite editors should be above that kind of shoddy writing, and as a publication that endeavors to elevate public discourse (instead of contributing to the absence of discourse down in the gutter on social media), it should be Tablet’s policy to steer clear of lashon hara.
Moreover, if the point is that the root of the problem AIPAC’s staff, then the natural solution is that the membership (who the editorial claims to stand with/for/behind) should act to replace said “incompetent” staff, since it’s incumbent on a non-profit’s employees to advance the mission articulated by the organization’s membership. Of course, the editorial’s stance seems to be that the problem is with AIPAC on the whole, so the suggestion that the organization is fundamentally broken makes sense. But in that case the shots at staff are both irrelevant and misplaced, since it’s the membership who made/let it happen (and if AIPAC is broken on a fundamental level, the problems surely run deeper than some “mid-level incompetents”).
If, however, the organization’s members and mission are still worthy of support, then the solution is an easy one: Get rid of the staff who don’t get it and hire people who do. Otherwise, Tablet ought to be blaming the thousands of people who donate to AIPAC, show up at AIPAC events, and partner with AIPAC in their own communities.
By “evidence,” I mean thoughtfully-presented factual information that supports their claims, not, “AIPAC failed to stop the Iran deal… Can’t those screwups do anything right?” (back to footnote in text)
Exhibit A: “…an organization staffed by mid-level incompetents who disgrace our community with their evident lack of both political savvy and moral sense.” (back to footnote in text)
One hundred years ago (Jan. 28, 1916), President Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis to the US Supreme Court. What followed was one of the most contentious confirmation hearings in history, due to Brandeis’ religious heritage and his unabashed liberalism (especially his record of fighting big Wall Street bankers).
One hundred years later, Merrick Garland is unlikely to face anti-Semitism on the Senate floor, and he’s a far less polarizing pick than Brandeis was. Nonetheless, his confirmation hearings — if they even happen — are likely to be even more contentious.
Funny how much has changed. And how little.
… it’s hard to imagine President Obama conjuring up, from even the darkest, most devious underground lab, a new justice who would be half as fierce as the four-car train of whoop ass we saw today.
It’s hard to imagine anyone conjuring up a better commentator on the Supreme Court than Dahlia Lithwick.
Her writing on yesterday’s oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt is a beautiful illustration of why I’d rather read her than pretty much any other journalist working today.
Douglas Rushkoff is credited as the ideologue behind the “digital Sabbath.” He’s a smart guy: Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY; media commentator; author; first coined the terms “digital natives,” “social currency,” and “viral media”… yada yada… his whole bio is on Wikipedia if you want it.
Several years ago, he argued that people needed to take time away from digital media. And because he was into the Jewish thing at the time, that idea morphed into the notion of a “digital Sabbath.” And then something called The National Day of Unplugging was established by ReBoot. (ReBoot is an organization built on an annual gathering which Rushkoff helped to convene, initially. But he now calls it elitist.) The National Day of Unplugging exists to encourage people to take their own digital Sabbaths, all on the same day.
Now, Rushkoff says he doesn’t like the idea anymore. From the Guardian, Douglas Rushkoff: ‘I’m thinking it may be good to be off social media altogether’:
I came up with this thing which I now don’t like: the digital sabbath. It feels a little forced and arbitrary, and it frames digital detox as a deprivation. I would much rather help people learn to value looking into other people’s eyes. To sit in a room talking to people – I want people to value that, not because they aren’t being interrupted by digital media but because it’s valuable in its own right.
That’s novel, I suppose. (Though I’m pretty sure Ari Kelman wouldn’t think so.)
Today was the GOP primary in South Carolina. Jeb Bush just dropped out of the race because he failed to receive the support of primary voters in three states whose delegates — combined! — make up 3.5% (19/538) of the electoral college.
(In other words, these states are basically irrelevant in the national election, yet somehow someone gave their most extreme voters — the ones who show up for the primaries — the power to sink a viable candidate’s chances of getting the nomination in favor of a guy who is demonstrably loony toons.)
I’m by no means a fan of Jeb Bush, and a part of me wonders if it helps Dems’ chances in November if the Republicans end up letting extremist voters in small states nominate an openly racist candidate to the party’s ticket. But seriously… if this isn’t enough to give some legs to efforts to change the primary system, I don’t know what will.
Also, wondering: After the way Trump took every opportunity to publicly badmouth, embarrass, shame, and vilify him and his family, if Trump ends up being the candidate will Jeb even cast a ballot in November?
On the occasion of your naming. February 27, 2015.
Peninsula Temple Beth El, San Mateo, California
Sela Penina Mason-Barkin, or Penina Selah in Hebrew.
A big name for a very, very little girl. But we know that no matter how small you are now, you will grow into this name — this name that was so carefully chosen for you.
Sela Penina, you are named for two very strong, intelligent, loving, and beautiful women.
Your first name, Sela, is for your GG – your Great- Grandma Selma. Sela, you are your GG’s sixteenth great-grandchild, so we know exactly how much she would have loved to meet you. Just like she loved meeting your cousins and your big brother, watching you play would have made her blue eyes twinkle and when we placed you on her lap, I know she would have chuckled deeply.
In her absence, we have given you a name that not only sounds like hers but that we also hope will inspire you live up to some of her most special qualities.
Your GG possessed a quiet strength and a grace that allowed her live an incredible and full life, even after the death of your great grandpa, Carl. At her funeral, many spoke about the ways that she contributed to her husband’s business success – and how in another day and age she would have been running the store herself. Well my little Sela, here you are – in another day and age. I know that it wouldn’t matter to your GG what your passion comes to be – whether you find yourself loving writing or music or math: but it would matter to her that you put your whole self into it. This is our wish for your, too.
Another enduring lesson from your GG that we hope you will always take to heart is the importance of family. Your GG made it a priority to make sure that family always got together, and really got to know one another. You have already begun to live this without even knowing it, when you welcomed two of your big cousins to come visit you when you were still in the hospital. Your brother Charlie and all your big cousins Zachy, Eliza, Aviva and Caleb already love you so much – and you have so much to learn from them. Your GG would have loved to know how important they already are to you, and our hope for you is that family will always come first – and that you will always make this a priority.
Your middle name, Penina, is for your Great Grandmother, Ina. We find the letters of her name at the end of yours. Your Great Grandmother was also a source of strength for her family and force in her community. She was a Dean at Clark University and valued education and learning for herself and for her family. If your Great Grandmother was still here, she would want to play scrabble with you, teach you three syllable words, and talk with you about current events. As you strive to reach your big dreams, we hope you do so with a thirst for knowledge and love of learning that would make your great-grandmother so proud.
Your great-grandmother was very cerebral, but also appreciated beauty and detail. One of her most wonderful qualities that I, unfortunately, did not inherit, was to set a beautiful table and host a gorgeous holiday meal. She always hosted with pleasure and beauty. Whether or not you love to cook, we hope that you will always strive for balance between the intellectual and the aesthetic. We want you to find beauty everywhere you look, just as we see beauty when we look at you.
Sela Penina, or Penina Selah in Hebrew:
Penina in Hebrew means Pearl. Your great-grandmother Ina had terrific taste in jewelry, and a few years ago she gave me a beautiful pearl necklace of hers, which will someday be yours. When I wear it, I think about not only the beauty of the pearls, but about the pearls of wisdom that your great grandmother would share as she tried her best to help me in the kitchen, as she set a beautiful table, or as she quizzed me on the meaning of a new word.
Selah in Hebrew means Rock. Just a few months ago, at your GG’s funeral, we remembered her lovingly as ‘the rock’ of our family. She kept us all, and continues to keep us all together as she heads the family with her loving strength. In the book of Deuteronomy, God is described as nursing Israel with dvash miselah, honey from a rock. Like your GG, a rock is strong. It is steadfast and withstands much. But like you, and like your GG, this imagery shows us a rock filled with honey: a rock that is sweet, a rock performing an act of love. This describes your GG to a tee, and so too may you be as strong as you are sweet.
Our little Sela Penina, Penina Selah, we realize these names are a lot to live up to for a little tiny baby. But there are no two women more deserving of a namesake as precious as you. Welcome to the world, we are so proud to be your parents.
Mom and Dad
From “Synagogue-based Religious Schools: A Community Responsibility,” by Lisa Harris Glass and Stephanie Hausner
We have spent a generation disproportionately focused on day schools, thereby relegating supplemental religious schools to second-class status. Our efforts have done nothing to increase day school choice in the majority of the Jewish community; but have served to successfully demoralize supplemental school education directors and decimate the bench of quality, qualified, inspiring religious school teachers. We have consigned our number one opportunity to inspire/ignite a lifelong love of Judaism and positive Jewish identity to “less than,” “wannabe” status.
Whoa. Because truth.
Here’s where you’ll find my handouts from Limmud 2014 in Coventry, England. (I’m posting them live on the day of the session. All handouts should be up as of January 1, 2015.)
If you have any questions, or if you’re looking for something that should be here but isn’t, drop me an email.
Just text me, ok?
We’ve all heard that automated voice mail lady, telling us what to do after the beep. But fewer people than ever are leaving messages. And the millennials, they won’t even listen to them — they’d much rather receive a text or Facebook message.
So true. I really really hate voicemail.
Instagram’s new Hyperlapse app is amazing.
Basically, it stabilizes video as it shoots it (or soon thereafter) and allows you to play back at various speeds. It’s timelapse photography in super-smooth mode, or a replacement for a very expensive video stabilization rig.
The secret, according to a Wired profile, is that the app doesn’t try to stabilize with anything like the fancy (and very processor-intensive) software found in high-end video production software. Rather, it uses data from the iPhone’s built-in gyroscopes to simply adjust for movement.
My initial reaction to the app was (a) wonderment, and (b) hopefulness that the app would let me import media (like, um, from my GoPro?).
After reading the Wired article, it’s clear that the Hyperlapse app won’t work with imported material, since the whole point is that it records the gyroscopic data as it’s recording (and adjusts the video accordingly).
But what if…
For this to work, you need to be able to precisely (!) sync the gyroscope’s data with the video. For that reason, I’m wondering if the app might record audio, which the post-processing desktop app could use to sync the recorded data’s time with the footage. As you begin recording, it could even emit a beep or clapper sound or something similar that would be picked up by the video camera’s mic. (The desktop app could know to look for that precise sound.)
Or… we could sync even easier. Both my GoPro and my Canon 6D can be controlled by corresponding iPhone apps. What if the gyroscope data collection was simply built into those apps. Then, you could trigger recording on the camera direct from the phone and simultaneously begin recording the data needed for stabilization.
I have no idea what kind of patent that Instagram (err… Facebook) has on this tech. My point is that this one amazing innovation has the potential to be a big-time game changer, since all the other pieces already exist (or, in the case of the desktop app, should be doable by applying existing tech). With something like I described above, you could replace an expensive stabilization rig with an iPhone, a mounting bracket, and some simple (ish) software.