If X-Men Had Biblical Proportions

kitetze081Aaron Freeman and Sharon Rosenzweig’s colorful weekly parsha, The Comic Torah is always a nutritious mind munchie, and I’ve been following it through its few cycles around the sun. Well, not religiously or anything, but I find their multi-cultural, progressive take on the Tenach much more inspiring than say, the average synagogue sermon. Anyone who approaches God’s word with humor and irreverence while maintaining respect is my kind of scribe, yo.

Now they’re trying to get their “graphic re-imagining of The Very Good Book” onto paper — which would be awesome since then I could actually read it in bed on Saturdays and call it Torah study. Ben Yehuda Press wants to publish the Comic Torah in its full-color glory, but they’ve got to raise $12,000 — which means if 545 and a half of us pre-order a signed copy for $22 by November 18, it gets done like Samson’s hair.

Now, Israel portrayed as hot lady wearing mogen david garters ain’t gonna be for everyone, as Aaron and Sharon attest:

Just a warning: If you are offended by graphic representations of the Deity, racially diverse Israelites, bloodshed, or idolatrous orgies — then The Comic Torah is not for you. (Though in that case, we suggest you approach standard editions of the Torah with caution as well.)

Maybe it’s heresy, but isn’t some Torah education better than none? Make your pledge today, and let ‘em know the Yenta sent you!

Shabbat Shal-OMMMMM

SHALOmShhhhh … mmmmm … ahhhh … Shhhh …mmmm …aaaahhhhhhhhh … that’s right … inhale deep and exhale: Sh. Mm. Ah.

This little meditation techinique is a combination of yoga breath and the Number One Jewish prayer, the Sh’Ma Yisrael, and I’ve been practicing it a lot this week. As a freshly unemployed, slightly neurotic, extremely lazy workaholic, I’ve had some challenges keeping my brain from acting like a gerbil with rabies that’s jacked up on Red Bull and Pop Rocks. I’ve found just breathing this word helps tame the gerbil back into docility for a few minutes at a time (it’s also quite effective with my Shalom School kindergarteners when things get a bissel wacky in the classroom.)

In synagogue, we recite the Sh’ma in booming voices: “Hear, O’ Israel: The Lord is your God, The Lord is One!” But it wasn’t until I met the Jewbus of Northern California did I appreciate that this prayer might be imploring us to listen — to quiet the mind and create a silent space for some clear, quiet wisdom, should any be broadcasting. (It usually is.)

It was a delightful coincidence to come across this painting by artist Karla Gudeon titled “Shal-OM” — I’ve just saved it as my wallpaper to be even better reminded that the remedy for almost everything is a simple breath. Please check out Gudeon’s amazing gallery of colorful prints that are somehow whimsical and profoundly spiritual at the same time.

So peace out to you and yours as we head into this rainy Shabbat evening. May we all remember cherish those around us— and to listen closely.

I Spent All Day at the Dept. of Labor and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt of the Week

what_kind_of_wine_goes_with_unemployment_tshirt-p235730062054345625trlf_400Well, it wasn’t ALL day, just a few hours, but when you have your children along, the whining extends one’s perception of the experience. Fortunately, it looks like the Yenta is eligible for a bit o’ government kickback.

I don’t even feel guilty, even though I’m probably violating yet another item on the Nice Jewish Girl Code by proudly standing in the unemployment line. After all, I was laid off through no fault of my own and worked my tushy off for two years. I tried to make this an opportunity for a life lesson for the kids, but after ten minutes of “Guess What Kind of Job The Guy With the Twitch Lost,” they both receded into their iPods.

As for addressing the t-shirt’s question, I’m taking suggestions. If anyone’s got a Trader Joe’s close by, maybe you could pick me up a case of Two-Buck Chuck? I’ll pay ya when the first unemployment check comes in.

*From the rather extensive collection of “unemployed” t-shirts at Zazzle.com — I know of at least one of you who might be particularly interested in the “furloughed” subsection.

Knock On This

While discussing the possibility of a plum work opportunity with a friend yesterday, I quickly knocked on a palm tree. Though I’m confident in my abilities, I’m never one to tempt fate — heck, if there’s no wood close by to touch, I’ll take knuckle my own head in substitution, just so Anyone watching up above doesn’t get the idea I’m getting arrogant.

Common practice, I figure. But this Jewish buddy looked horrified and said “You know you’re invoking the cross when you do that, right?” I was all, “What-ever” but he claimed he got it on rabbinical authority. Well, I checked with the supreme authority known as Google, and it seems we’re both a little right:

Although “touching wood” has long been a Christian custom referring to the cross or rosary, it goes back waaaay further than that to the flora-loving Pagan religions who believed spirits lived in trees. The phrase has a place in every culture in the world, from the Ukraine to Trinidad, and there’s even a version particular to Judaism: In the 15th-century when Sephardic Jews were fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, they sought solace in their wooden synagogues, where they’d have to knock out a secret code to gain entrance. This saved plenty of lives, so it became “good luck” to rap on nice thick chunk of cedar.

And should you still doubt its ubiquity, the Eddie Floyd song “Knock On Wood” has been covered by over a 100 different artists, including David Bowie, Wilson Pickett and Cher.

So, as far as I’m concerned, its plenty kosher, and I’ll continue to knock whatever tree/table/picture frame/wall/banister/prosthetic leg/credenza/branch blown down by Hurricane Bill is around to ward off any bad luck. In fact, it’ll probably be tenfold-powerful if I add a resounding “KININEHORA!” with the knock, dontcha think?

In the meantime, please enjoy this mid-90′s tune by ska legends The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, which has been has been kicking around my synapses since I started this post:

And More Reinventing From the Edge…

bgwaveSo I got laid off yesterday unexpectedly, and it still stings.

Well, it wasn’t THAT unexpected, considering the parent company’s rather terminal financial illness, but now – like so many – I’ve been faced with the sudden loss of a steady paycheck, health insurance and the opportunity to showcase my fabulous shoe collection.

Wonderful words have been coming to me from friends and colleagues about closing doors and opening windows, and I deeply appreciate them. Like any Yenta worth her kosher salt, I’ve got a few options cooking already (as well as a really kick-tuchus chicken soup made with kale, tomatoes and lime on the stove.)

The truth is that it couldn’t be better timing – we’ve got a week and half before school begins, and this mama intends to make up for a summer of stashing the kids in camps by making the biggest, baddest sandcastle Georgia’s ever seen. As much as I’ll miss the great parts of that job, I have faith that all happens for a reason. To paraphrase Leviticus, if I may (is taking poetic liberty with the Torah too much chutzpah?):

“She who attempts to resist the wave is swept away, but she who bends before it abides.”

Considering the waves are looking mighty epic this week, I do believe the Almighty wants me to grab a boogieboard and surf. El Yenta Man, see you on the sea.

*“The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) is neither Jewish-related nor representative of the lil’ “microwaves” barely breaking off the Georgia coast, but it’s one of my favorites.

Reinventing From the Edge

First off, Whoop, whoop: Savannah’s own Congregation Mickve Israel got a nice shout-out in Reform Judaism Magazine‘s “What Works: Ideas & Initiatives” section this month for the Backpack Buddies program.

When members of Congregation Mickve Israel in Savannah, Georgia learned that poor children attending a local elementary school were squirreling away the free meals the school provided on Fridays in order to tide them over until Monday, they created “Backpack Buddies.” Since November 2008, 200 congregants are donating money and/or individually sized portions of non-perishable foods, stocking shelves, assisting Shalom Sunday school classes in packing individual bags of food, and transporting the food to the school, where it’s placed in more than 40 backpacks provided by the temple. The students in need then take the full backpacks home on Fridays and return them every Monday. One child was overheard saying, ‘You mean I’ll have something to eat this weekend?’

I assume this means the program will continue when Shalom School reconvenes next fall. It’s been a good way to introduce the kids to the idea of participating in their community, a little tzedakeh, a little tikkun olam. Though sometimes while packing the bags, my kindergarteners had to be restrained from raiding the piles of chocolate pudding for themselves. Bring by your non-perishable, individually-portioned snacks to the synagogue!

I hadn’t poked around Reform Judaism for a while now (I had to cut back of magazine subscriptions when El Yenta Man he couldn’t find the alarm clock for all of the piles of intellectual reading and um, occasional crap next to the bed) and I’ve forgotten what a fine, thoughtful publication it is. The editors actually seem to understand what an identity crisis it is to be an American Jew, and have addressed the need for “reinvention” without panicking (’cause, duh, it’s all happened before.)

This interview with Jonathan Sarna should not be missed. As someone who has always felt like an Outlander in the Jewish world, I especially appreciated Sarna’s response to previous efforts to reinvent American Judaism:

First, continuity may depend upon discontinuity—turning past wisdom on its head to revitalize the Jewish future, as both the Zionist movement and the women’s movement have done … Precisely because they are not wedded to the community’s central assumptions, those on the periphery of Jewish life are the most likely to come up with such innovative approaches. Many of the central developments in American Jewish life have emanated from such “outsiders” as the young men who first created the American Reform movement in Charleston back in the 1820s and the young radical Jews of the 1960s and ’70s who created the havurah movement. When outsiders call for change, we dare not close our ears.

Well, Jon, bubeleh, CALL ME. I have ideas.

Move Over, Matisyahu

He’s got a new album coming next week, but the Bearded One isn’t the only rebbe rocking the Orthodox hiphop:

100% kosher rapper Y-Love and his singing sidekick DeScribe spit rhymes full of Torah references and Talmudic wisdom to some seriously dubtastic beats. Shalom School kindergartners will be making some mad Sukkot paper chains to “Change” next month, yo…

Treyf to the Max

baconlipbalmAs a Jew and occasional vegetarian, I’ve been blissfully out of the loop about the bacon craze that’s been sweeping the nation.

Apparently, people are flavoring donuts, martinis and chocolate (sacrilege!) with pig fat, and though the trend is showing signs of waning, it’s already just gone too far:

The Huffington Post published this list today of 13 Made of Bacon That Shouldn’t Be. (Notice I could have chosen to post a photo of the bacon Hitler, but this is not HEEB magazine, is it?)

Do you think swine flu comin’ back around could be porcine revenge for being paired with peanut butter?

So Funny I Forgot to Laugh?

roseannePeople are going totally batsh*t over the latest issue HEEB magazine, and they’ve got plenty of good reason:

You’ve got Roseanne Barr dressed up as a domestic goddess Hitler baking burnt gingerbread Jews, a recipe for German Chocolate Cake topped with broken shards made of sugar, and a feature extolling the wonders of Berlin as a vacation hotspot. My bubbie is spitting from her grave, I can tell you.

On one fingernail-chewed hand, I have to applaud HEEB for publishing a “Germany Issue” – it’s an “edgy” Jewish magazine, and the Holocaust is pretty much the end of the earth in terms of what’s acceptable satire. And if you’re gonna dive off that edge with both middle fingers blazing at your dead ancestors, you might as well do it right and get Roseanne Barr to put on a Fuhrer mustache. After all, this is a woman who did this to the national anthem – bringing down sacred cows is her specialty.

Then I read this (explanation? excuse?) from from HEEB’s publisher, Josh Neuman:

“When we depicted Sarah Silverman behind a hole in a sheet or Jonah Hill dressed as Moses holding two kegs as if they were tablets, we weren’t trying to be shocking—we were trying to communicate something truthful about contemporary Jewishness. Yes, that may sound impossibly high-fallutin, but it’s the truth and while we kind of don’t give a shit whether the magazine wreaks havoc on smug and sanctimonious visions of Jewish life, we do care when our intentions (or those of our collaborators) are distorted…Virtually every pitch we received leading up to the publishing of our Germany Issue circled back to the Nazis and the Holocaust and almost all of them were humorous in nature. Naturally, our editors couldn’t help but wonder whether something new was happening in the culture— whether the taboo against joking about the Holocaust and the Nazis exerted as much power as it used to. “

Neuman goes on to cite Curb Your Enthusiam and Seinfeld to support his claim that Holocaust humor is actually going mainstream – HEEB was just documenting a cultural trend. Fine. But “we weren’t trying to be shocking” comes across as such an obvious lie – the styling of the photo shoot is so over the top it just smacks of late-night editorial meetings fueled by Red Bull and vodka and adolescent one-up-manship: “Yeah, yeah, dude, then we’ll BURN the cookes! It’ll be SICK!”

The concept is clever enough – I get it. The problem is, it’s just not that funny. Hipster New York Jews in their 20′s and early 30′s lampooning the suffering of a generation that will never, ever find the humor in the Holocaust is the kind of sad joke mean high-schoolers play on the kid with autism who doesn’t understand the social rules: It’s not fair, and the only people laughing are the a**holes.

And now that HEEB has sacrificed this little lamb, I wonder where they’ve left to go?

Third One’s Notsomuch a Charm

orly-taitz_0195as-not-cropped-thumb-280x350First we had Bernie Madoff. Then Rabbi Rosenbaum, the kidney-pusher. And now, to complete 2009′s trifecta of Jews Making The Rest of Us Look Bad is this bleach-blond bimbshmo, Orly Taitz.

A Russian Zionist who claims that Bibi Netanyahu is her Facebook friend, Taitz is the self-styled queen of the “birther” movement – those insistent that President Obama is not actually an American citizen. “Dr.” Taitz is a dentist in Orange County, CA who also claims to be a lawyer – a fact that can’t be verified.

Earlier this week she claimed to have documentation proving that he was born in Kenya, on which MSNBC’s David Shuster asked her to elucidate. Instead, she lost her sh*t.

Maybe now she’ll go away?