Happy people

An uplifting tribute to Pharrell Williams’s song “Happy” from the wonderful city of Tel Aviv-Yafo.

Submitted by the artist for the UN’s second International Day of Happiness.

Happy video

click picture for link to song

The kids adore this song.

Watch out for the former UN employee Richard Falk making a cameo appearance at 2:34 …… just kidding……if only!


Wine and Charoset pairing

You’ve heard of a wine and cheese tasting, now Sisterhood of Temple Beth-El invites you to a wine and charoset tasting!

wine tasting

This super fun event will take place this coming Sunday March 30th 3-5PM. The sommelier of the event will be local wine expert David Sparrow of Sparrows Fine Wines of Ithaca, New York.

Selected Kosher for Pesach wines will be presented together with a variety of charoset recipes prepared by Sisterhood of Temple Beth-El members.

Tickets are $10 and can be obtained at http://tbeithaca.org/wine-tasting/ or by calling the Temple office 273-5775.

vineyard Israel

Vineyard in the Ela valley, Israel. Picture credit Yehoshua Halevi for the Jerusalem Post

My Methodist Mother-in-law

As many of you know, my mother-in-law recently passed away. She was a wonderful lady with tremendous personal qualities. It is a very hard loss as we pay tribute to her memory and explore what her legacy means for our lives.

Granny photos

A very important part of her life was her faith as a Methodist. To quote from her funeral service conducted by Mrs T. Tilley, lay preacher and family friend: At the heart of who Sheila was is her faith, she was devoted and committed to worshipping her God both at Newhall, Stanton and particularly at Gresley Mission Room. Her faith was sure and steadfast, simple and true.”

Her commitment started as a child going to Sunday School at Newhall Wesleyan Chapel. She met her husband at a Chapel social event, raised a family suffused with the strong values of the Methodist faith and was an exemplary and stalwart member of the community. Only with her passing did I learn more about the scope of her dedication, there were meals on wheels, baking for special occasions and cake stalls at Stanton Chapel and Gresley Mission room, Guild, Luncheon club and Drop In just to cover a few of her activities as a pillar of the community. I never once heard her complain about anybody or anything that happened to her, fully subscribing to the doctrine that an individual’s fate is firmly in their hands, and achieved by their own choosing.

Talking to her friends after the funeral confidently echoed the sentiment that she was undoubtedly “today in heaven standing face to face with her Lord.”

Although her son moved to America, became Jewish, married and raised a Jewish family her faith had more than enough loving kindness to include this new part of her family. She always sent us a Rosh Hashana card and graciously accommodated our dietary requirements with a personal touch, always lovingly dishing up our favorite foods.

When I was young, if somebody in the community was a convert it was considered impolite to discuss this fact. But my hope is that our children who are secure in their Jewish identity will be able to acknowledge, draw strength from and be very proud of the Methodist side of their family. There is a linear relationship from her Methodist faith to her embodiment of personal responsibility, family loyalty, community and civic engagement. The faith provides the foundation.

GMR photoGresley Mission Room in S. Derbyshire. Picture from Google streetview.

Words of Psalm 121 which were used on the occasion of Sheila’s 80th birthday celebrations at Gresley Mission Room:

1. I lift up my eyes to the mountains —

    where does my help come from?

2. My help comes from the LORD,

    the Maker of heaven and earth.

3. He will not let your foot slip —

    he who watches over you will not slumber;

4. indeed, he who watches over Israel

    will neither slumber nor sleep.

5. The LORD watches over you —

    the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

6. the sun will not harm you by day,

    nor the moon by night.

7. The LORD will keep you from all harm —

    he will watch over your life;

8. the LORD will watch over your coming and going

both now and forevermore.

Hineh lo yanum veloyushan. Click on picture for link to song.

Ithaca Journal guest viewpoint

Erlich letter

This opinion piece was published earlier this year in the Ithaca journal and the author has graciously given permission to post here.

While the Palestinian leadership advocates a blatant ideology of Jewish annihilation how is real peace possible?

Zaki statement

At Professor Jacobson’s talk recently he posed a question to the audience, “Would you rather be an Arab in Israel or a Jew in Saudi Arabia?”. Aside from complete religious freedom, Arabs in Israel enjoy the best living conditions of any Arab population in the Middle East so the answer is a no brainer. But the kicker is that it’s a trick question. Saudi Arabia is “Judenrein” as Abbas plans the future Palestinian state to be. Judenrein (clean of Jews) is a Nazi term. To dismiss these unambiguous statements from the Palestinian leaders as mere rhetoric is to live in a fantasy world; the majority of Arab countries have ethnically cleansed their countries of Jews. The number of Jewish refugees from Arab countries dwarfs the number of Arab refugees who fled or were expelled during the fighting that followed the establishment of the state of Israel.

Why tolerate this lack of responsibility on the part of the Palestinian leadership? With such demonstrable contempt for religious pluralism (never mind democracy, civil rights etc) it is hard to see what justifies the millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians from the US, the UN and the EU.

Purim fun for all ages

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim to everybody!

Shalom Sesame: Purim Story

Shalom Sesame

G-d castPrincess of Persia

princess of persia

Kermit on Purim


מחרוזת שירי פורים

Purim song

Purim Rap

purim rap

Aleph Beta Academy: Purim

Introducing the Open Muslim Students Association

very funny!

Maccabeats Purim song


(click on pictures for links)

I am still in need of a good hamentashen recipe. If you have one, please send it my way. I would especially appreciate a recipe with a yeast rather than a cookie-type dough and a poppy seed filling,


Heidegger is a duck

Anti-semitic sentiment, Jew hatred, is not uncommon amongst Intelligent, highly educated people.

However, if somebody expresses an anti-Semitic view does this make that person an anti-Semite? Given that many people are unaware of the implications of uttering a view that is, particularly in Europe, fairly standard (see this debate), there is usually a strong self-denial about being an anti-Semite, especially when there is a stigma against being labeled as such. Typically the anti-Semite offers an alternative explanation, they have Jewish friends, they are proud of their Jewish ancestors, is “only” criticizing Israel, was just making an innocent “gesture” of friendship, youthful indiscretion and so forth. Sadly, even the fact of being Jewish oneself does not rule out the possibility of being an anti-Semite.

When one moves through the haze of rhetoric it can be tricky to determine if there is unambiguous evidence that would justify labeling a person as an anti-Semite (let’s say from a person who is “merely hostile” to Jews) . A masterful example of this is the recent analysis of Max Blumenthal by Petra Marquardt-Bigman of the Brandeis Center. After you read her exhaustive review of the evidence and insightful discussion, one is left in no doubt that applying the term anti-Semite to Max Blumenthal is entirely justified.

Most people would take the sensible viewpoint that if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

The influential German philosopher Heidegger has always looked like a duck, in spite of significant personal relationships with two Jewish women, one of whom prominently and publicly defended him against charges of anti-Semitism as a “hapless victim of malicious slander”. New evidence not only unambiguously identifies his anti-Semitism, it puts his anti-Semitism at the heart of his contributions to philosophy.

Beyond the intellectual satisfaction of the duck being proven to be a duck, this new information is significant. Heidegger’s philosophy underpins much of European thinking. Yet it is now coming into view as bogus humbuggery. Its power to influence perhaps rested on his academic celebrity status, reinforced by his acolytes. Heidegger’s writing could be fertile ground for thinkers because it was so obtuse, enabling one to authentically draw a variety of different ideas out of the text and claim Heidegger’s “influence” as a form of academic legitimacy.

In other words we might call this a scam. There may be some unanticipated benefits by happenstance although any benefits can’t be claimed to have a secure (and certainly not a moral) grounding.

Fast forward to the current time where we have another celebrity academic, Judith Butler. To quote from her wikipedia page, she has had “significant influence on the fields of feminist, queer, and literary theory, philosophy, political philosophy, and ethics” and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards. At face value, this is impressive. On the other hand, we do know that she is a duck. And, like Heidegger, her convoluted unintelligible prose cannot stand on its own without its admirers who convey its meanings according to the intellectual debates du jour.

As a scientist I fully admit that philosophy is not my area, which disqualifies me from commenting on Professor Butler’s academic work. My expertise though is in the life sciences and I can categorically state that her assertion that gender is solely “performative” is factually wrong. Wrong in the plain old-fashioned meaning of 100% incorrect. I would venture that it is Judith Butler’s good fortune to be around in an era where discussions about gender are potent. This, combined with charisma and marketing savvy creates the academic celebrity that has vaulted her into a position of influence. Once ensconced in celebrity status, it becomes difficult to say that the Emperor has no clothes. But the logical conclusion of the fact that Professor Butler is a duck indeed suggests that the Emperor is naked.

I am struck by the strange irony in the fact that position in the European Graduate School occupied by Judith Butler is the Hannah Arendt Professorship. Plus ça change.




ETA Here’s another classic example of an individual who walks and talks like a duck but claims to be a footballer. Personal testimony versus factual evidence.