Showing posts with label tablet magazine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tablet magazine. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Marjorie Ingall: Ethical Parenting is Essential

So another reprint. A vital reprint. From Tablet Magazine - one of the best Jewish places on the web. Get their regular e-mail updates. Now. -- Ira

Ethical Parenting Is More Than Possible. It’s Essential, for Parents and Children Alike.

Don’t break the rules just to help your kids get ahead. Teach them to be mensches by setting an example with your own behavior.

By Marjorie Ingall

New York magazine ran an article by Lisa Miller last week called “Ethical Parenting.” At first I thought it was going to be a serious piece about the tough choices we parents have to make to raise mensches. Instead, it was a self-justifying piece of entitled crap wrapped up in fake hand-wringing. The central question: Can you be a decent human being and a parent at the same time? Miller’s answer—spoiler alert—is no. Let me quote some of Miller’s assertions so you can see why I’m drooling in fury on my keyboard right now.

“Parenthood, like war, is a state in which it’s impossible to be moral.”

“Always be kind and considerate of others, except in those cases where consideration impedes your own self-interest or convenience. Then, take care of yourself.”

“Parenthood means you cannot possibly behave as though society’s rules and norms apply equally to all.”

Shut up.

Now, New York magazine frequently makes me want to move into a Unabomber cabin in the woods. (Ditto the New York Times’s T Magazine, which I’m pretty sure did a feature on artisanal bespoke Unabomber cabins made by Bushwickians with luxuriant civet-conditioned beards.) But there’s always been just enough of a nudge-nudge, wink-wink element to the publication’s portrayals of wilding teens, entitled hedge-funders, and the next hot neighborhood you already couldn’t afford. We were supposed to be horrified by these caricatures of human beings; we normal people were actually all in it together, gaping at those who were destroying society. This piece seems to start in a homologous us-vs.-them vein, pretending to offer up “the corrupt child-rearing customs … of the aggressively rising class: the mother who, according to Urban Baby legend, slept with the admissions officer (with her husband’s consent!) to get her child into the Ivy League, or the one who sued an Upper East Side preschool for insufficiently preparing her 4-year-old for a private-school test,” but then it goes on to argue that the rest of us are pretty similar. “Schadenfreude elides a more difficult existential truth, which is that ever since Noah installed his own three sons upon the ark and left the rest of the world to drown, protecting and privileging one’s own kids at the expense of other people has been the name of the game. It’s what parents do.”

No, it’s not. And you did not just compare giving a fake address to get into a better public school district, or sending a kid to school with lice so that she won’t miss a state standardized test, to the Noah story. Let’s review: God ordered Noah to build an ark because the earth was full of wicked people. The people who deliberately lie and cheat so their kids can get ahead are the wicked people. Noah’s ark-building impulse did not come from a realization that there’d be less competition for Harvard if all the other teenagers drowned.

Please go to the original article on Tablet to read the rest of the article! It is worth it. 
(Fair usage issues prevent me from reproducing the entire article!)

Marjorie Ingall, a Life & Religion columnist for Tablet Magazine, is the author of The Field Guide to North American Males and the co-author of Hungry.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is Jewish Education Broken?

"Is Jewish Education Broken?" is the title of a panel debate being held in New York in two weeks. It looks like it will be a really interesting and valuable evening. Sadly I will not be able to attend. I would like to recommend that you do if you are available. Details are below.

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Gary Greene saw the session title and took issue with it. He said "...knowing what so many colleagues are doing to improve Jewish Education, I have come dislike rhetorical titles like 'Is Jewish Education Broken?' It's like asking 'Do you still beat your wife?'  I find that title self-defeating prophecy to which the answer has to be yes...Why not focus on the exciting innovations going on in Jewish Education?  ...I think a better title could be "How might we meet the challenges of Jewish Education today?"

You go, Gary. Amen Selah. I agree. Now go to the session if you can!



Five Leading Scholars Discuss New Visions

For Jewish Schools at a Free Event on December 13

NEW YORK, N.Y. … “Is Jewish Education Broken?,” debates new visions for liberal Jewish schools in the 21st century. This free event takes place on Thursday, December 13 at 7pm and is hosted by the 14th Street Y. “Is Jewish Education Broken?” is presented by Speakers’ Lab, a new public programming initiative of the Posen Foundation, with Tablet Magazine and The New School for Public Engagement, Jewish Cultural Studies Program.

As enrollment declines in liberal Jewish schools, scholars and educators are asking critical questions about the relevance of Jewish education to today’s students. “Is Jewish Education Broken?” will explore current models and challenges facing liberal Jewish education, and propose new curricula and educational models for teachers and administrators for the future. Concerns and topics will include:
  • The discrepancy between 20th century Jewish educational models and 21st century perspectives on Jewish life.
  • The teaching of Jewish culture as ahistorical and disconnected from contemporary life.
  • The role of Jewish schooling in Jewish continuity.
  • Concerns about using the American school model to teach Jewish culture.
  • The rise of new and informal Jewish educational models.
  • The challenges of teaching minority education in America.
To discuss these issues and more, this panel brings together five forward-thinking scholars including: Zvi Bekerman, Director of the Melton Centre for Jewish Education, School of Education, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Benjamin Jacobs, Assistant Professor of Social Studies, Education and Jewish Studies, New York University; Jonathan Krasner, Associate Professor of the American Jewish Experience, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion; and Tali Zelkowicz, Assistant Professor of Education, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. The discussion will be moderated by Bethamie Horowitz, Research Assistant Professor, New York University.

This is Speakers’ Lab’s second program. The next public program will take place in the Spring of 2013.

Admission to “Is Jewish Education Broken?” is free. Seating is limited and pre-registration is encouraged. Sign-up at or by calling 212-564-6711 x 305.

Event and Venue Info:
The Theater at the 14th Street Y

344 East 14th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
New York, NY 10003

Posen Foundation (
The Posen Foundation’s mission is rooted in the belief that Jewish education can make a meaningful difference in Jewish life and should be available to all who are interested. To this end, the Foundation works internationally to promote Jewish learning, support academic research in Jewish history and culture, and encourage participation in Jewish cultural life.

As part of this effort, in 2012 the Posen Foundation launched its new public programming initiative, Speakers’ Lab (, which is dedicated to exploring new perspectives on Jewish culture and identity. Based in New York City, Speakers’ Lab presents debates, arts performances, and panel discussions in collaboration with other organizations and venues. In 2012, Speakers’ Lab is presenting two events, one in the spring and one in the fall.
The New School (
The New School is a legendary, progressive university comprising seven schools bound by a common, unusual intent: to prepare and inspire its more than 10,500 undergraduate and graduate students to bring actual, positive change to the world. From its Greenwich Village campus, The New School launches economists and actors, fashion designers and urban planners, dancers and anthropologists, orchestra conductors, filmmakers, political scientists, organizational experts, jazz musicians, scholars, psychologists, historians, journalists, and above all, world citizens-individuals whose ideas and innovations forge new paths of progress in the arts, design, humanities, public policy, and the social sciences. In addition to its 92 graduate and undergraduate degree-granting programs, the university offers certificate programs and more than 650 continuing education courses to 5,619 adult learners every year.

Tablet Magazine ( Magazine, at, is the daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture.

14th Street Y (
The 14th Street Y, a Jewish community center in the heart of Manhattan’s East Village, is a vital neighborhood resource that welcomes people of all backgrounds. We offer programs with a distinctive downtown point of view, emphasizing excellence, innovation, creativity, and a questioning spirit.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

U.S. Jews Fighting Wrong Battle

A copy of a book by author Peter Beinart
under the chair of an audience member
as Beinart speaks at an event in Atlanta,
apart from the book fair, on Nov. 14, 2012.
(David Goldman/AP)
Like many, I have spent a fair amount of time monitoring a variety of sources to see what is going on in Israel. And like some I feel torn that I am not there sharing the stresses and helping. The truth is,  given my lack of training and experience, I would probably just be in the way their. But I can help spread the word. There are two postings I have rad over the past several days that I want to make sure as many people as possible read and think about and hopefully act on. Here is one of them. It was posted Friday on Tablet and written by Rabbi Daniel Gordis.

As rockets rain down on Israel, an Atlanta JCC bans Peter Beinart. When did we become so narrow-minded?

This has been a frightening and sad week in Israel. First, Hamas unleashed 160 rockets on Israeli towns. Then the IDF responded, and Israeli civilians were ordered—and many remain—in bomb shelters. And as was almost inevitable, some who did not heed the warnings were killed by rocket fire. At this writing, the end is nowhere in sight.

If there can be said to be a silver lining in this horrendous situation, it’s in the broad range of support for the prime minister’s decision to protect his citizens. “Labor, Kadima, Olmert, Livni back government’s air assault on Hamas,” reported the Times of Israel. But it shouldn’t take war for Jews to acknowledge that we’re utterly dependent on each other, no matter how deeply we may disagree.

Far from the fighting, the conversation among American Jews about Israel has become so toxic that it’s often impossible even for people who are allies to listen to each other. Not long ago, I was invited by a major national Jewish organization to give a lecture in the United States. Soon after, the person who’d invited me called me in Jerusalem to tell me that the major sponsors of the event had pulled their support and their funding because I’d signed a letter asking the Prime Minister Netanyahu to ignore a legal report claiming that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is not technically an occupation.

“You’re not embarrassed?” I asked her. She couldn’t understand why she should possibly be embarrassed. She explained that her organization believed that the report was important for defending Israel’s international legitimacy. “That’s fine,” I said, “and I think that adopting it would do us great damage. But so what? Doesn’t the fact that we disagree make it all the more critical that we talk to each other? Or have we reached the point where your supporters will listen only to those with whom they agree completely? Your sponsors based their decision to invite me on a record of 15 years of writing and speaking. I do one thing that they don’t approve of, and they pull the plug?”

That’s precisely what they did. I ended up giving the lecture, but the sponsors never restored their support.
They represent, I believe, a scary anti-intellectual trend in the Jewish community. These people believe that an increasingly narrow tent will best protect the state of Israel, and so they continue to move the tent’s pegs. But they are doing just the opposite of bolstering the Jewish state: They weaken Israel and make it more vulnerable because they exclude enormous swaths of the community that we need—particularly on a week like this.

The latest example of this narrowing happened this week in Atlanta, where one of the country’s major Jewish book fairs canceled an appearance by the writer Peter Beinart. “As leaders of our agency, we want the center to always serve as a safe place for honest debate, but we want to balance that against the concerns of our patrons,” said Steven Cadranel, president of the Marcus Jewish Community Center. I have no unique knowledge of what actually transpired, but this has become an old story: Many Jewish organizations have been pushed into such corners by donors who refused to contribute to festivals or organizations who will host people whose views they find reprehensible. Jewish community professionals regularly find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

I disagree with Peter Beinart on more issues than I can count. I was appalled by his oped in the Times calling for a boycott on some Israelis, and I found his most recent book far too accommodating of Israel’s enemies and unfairly critical of Israel. I think he’s completely wrong when he asserts the occupation is the core cause of Israel’s marginality. But his views represent those of a not inconsiderable swath of American Jewry, so I agreed to debate him at Columbia University. Our debate was fun—and far more important, it was civil.

I don’t know how many minds were changed that night; Beinart’s wasn’t, and neither was mine. But we did model for the hundreds of people who were there and the many more who watched the debate online that the Jewish community doesn’t have the luxury of refusing to speak to those who disagree with us. Instead, Peter and I did what the Jews have always done: We engaged the ideas, assumptions, and moral positions of the other, and in the spirit of the brave marketplace of ideas that Judaism has always been, tried to make our most compelling case.

Are there no limits to who’s in the Zionist tent? Of course there are. For me, the litmus tests are Israel’s Jewishness, democracy, and security. Anyone publicly committed to those three—even if I believe that their policy ideas are wrong-minded—is in the tent. There are many Israeli politicians whose ideas I believe are na├»ve or dangerous. But should I say that they’re not Zionists? That would absurd. For the same reason, Beinart is in my tent.

Speaking with people who agree with me is no challenge. Engaging with those whose views seem to me dangerous is infinitely harder, but far more important. That sort of conversation is perhaps the most critical lesson that we inherit from centuries of Talmudic Judaism. The Talmud is essentially a 20-volume argument, in which even positions that “lost” the battle and were not codified into law are subjected to reverential examination. When Hillel and Shammai debate, Jewish law, or halakhah, almost always follows Hillel. But we still study Shammai with reverence. Even those views not codified, we believe, have insights to share and moral positions worth considering.

The American Jewish community is the most secure diaspora community the Jews have ever known. Economically, socially, politically, culturally—we have made it, and what we say and model is watched by countless others. Yet New York Times readers this week can only conclude that in the midst of that security and comfort, we’ve utterly abandoned the intellectual curiosity that has long been Judaism’s hallmark.

Are we not ashamed to have created a community so shrill that any semblance of that Talmudic curiosity has been banished? Has the People of the Book really become so uninterested in thinking?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

(Purim) Power Suits

This is from today's magazine online.A really interesting and current take on Purim. If you do not know the Hunger Games, you are not where 12-14 year-olds are. The books are a horribly bleak and nasty, but wonderfully written dystopian vision that involves children fighting to the death.Power Suits

Dressing up is a crucial element of the Purim celebration—as well as a powerful piece of the Hunger Games trilogy of young-adult novels

Once upon a time, a young girl from an oppressed minority was summoned to the capital. The nation watched as she competed against her peers, and won. She could have done the thing that was expected of her and lived happily ever after. But instead she risked everything—not just her newly won riches and standing, but her life—to stand up for her people. And these people, with her as their heroine and figurehead, rose up violently. We would like to say that then they all lived happily ever after, but the text doesn’t quite permit us that luxury. Still, the war was epic, and the story became beloved, the bitterness of the ending often skipped over. Its legend is considered myth, fairy tale, or fantasy, even though the supernatural is notably absent.

Sound familiar? This is the story of the Book of Esther—and of the Hunger Games, a trilogy of young-adult novels by Suzanne Collins with an eagerly anticipated movie adaptation [1] coming out March 23. The Hunger Games and its sequels Catching Fire and Mockingjay are set in the future totalitarian nation of Panem, in what used to be America, where America’s reality-television obsession and the growing gap between rich and poor have been taken to their dystopian extreme. Every year a boy and a girl from each of Panem’s 12 districts are sent to compete in the Hunger Games, a broadcast reality TV show in which 24 children fight to the death until only one survives. The annual show is both entertainment and commemoration of the crushing defeat by the Capitol [2]—a city for the nation’s rich and powerful—of an uprising of the districts, decades before.

The trilogy’s heroine, Katniss Everdeen, comes from District 12, a poor coal-mining district, and her background—half-orphaned and impoverished—is both asset and defect in the competition; on the one hand, she lacks the physical size and training of children from the wealthier districts, and on the other, she is tough and resourceful.

In the Book of Esther, the Jews of Persia are to be put to death, a plan devised by the evil Haman, a minister to the king. But Queen Esther foils Haman’s plan, revealing to the king that she is Jewish. The Jews triumph, and the gallows, built by Haman to hang the Jews, are instead used to hang Haman and his sons, among others. Every year on the 14th of Adar, the holiday of Purim celebrates this victory. The Book of Esther is read aloud twice, in a spoof of the king’s proclamations, on which the story hinges, and of the reverence of the usual Torah and Haftorah reading, and the story is reenacted with drunken celebration, masks, costumes, and pageants. Purim isn’t the only holiday in which we remember a story by reenacting—on Passover, we are taught that each of us has been taken out of Egypt—but it is the only one in which costume and disguise are central to the observance.

And at the heart of the story is Esther becoming Queen Esther. She is introduced as a beautiful young woman, but her edge over the other maidens seems to come after she enters the harem “… to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women. And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her ointments.” It’s no small thing; the cosmetic regimen lasts “twelve months—for so were the days of their anointing accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odors, and with other ointments of the women,” before Esther is presented to the king. She wins the king’s favor with her beauty, and she does not reveal that she and her family are Jewish.

I’ve found myself drawn to this part of the story for a while. For the past several years, I’ve been part of making an elaborate annual Purim show in New York, and part of what interests me is the glimpse of spectacle and artifice in the story itself; that the Esther who is sent before the king is a character whom Hegai has been working on for months and months, just as I might work on a costume for the Esther in our show.

The stylists are recurring characters in the televised Games, and the opening ceremonies, which include a parade, televised training, and finally beauty pageant-esque interviews with these children who are about to have to kill each other, are part of the cruel entertainment. So, our first instinct, shared with Katniss, about Cinna and the makeover, is that it’s a vapid sugarcoating of the violence of the Games. Yet Cinna quickly emerges as a rare character: a loving, caring, respectful, competent adult in a dystopic YA novel [4]. The costumes he devises are startling in their beauty and innovation—they often feature fire in one form or another—and are carefully designed to elicit certain strategic reactions from the audience. In the second and third books, these costumes become overtly political, but even in the first book, we are starting to see that these costumes are not just a sort of disguise or passing, in which a poor girl looks like a princess, but the seeds of opposition. At these moments in which the Capitol seems to be in total control of the images it broadcasts and the lives it cuts short, Cinna’s costumes actually give Katniss a measure of power, turning her fear into confidence and transforming her in the eyes of the nation into a dignified figure to be reckoned with.

When fashion blogger Michael von Braithwaite writes [5], “You probably won’t want to dress like a dystopian hero every day, but if you’re feeling down and out, slip on your Katniss look and stare down every person you pass on the sidewalk,” he is being cheeky, but also at some level recapitulating what seems to me to be Cinna’s lesson: that clothes can work on us from the outside in, giving us confidence and letting us feel what it is like to be the character we’re dressed up as. And the series of extraordinary costumes in the Hunger Games trilogy seems to me to give the lie to two assumptions about femininity and power. The first is that the power of feminine beauty is predicated on male attention and desirability. The second is that a girl’s political power is as a symbol of vulnerability and innocence.

That is, when girls lie down in front of tanks in the West Bank [6], or when this country is galvanized watching the NYPD pepper-spray girls at Occupy Wall Street [7], we see the barbarism of the state in stark contrast. These assumptions that the Hunger Games books upend are the very ones that underpin the story of Esther: Esther is powerful only insofar as she finds favor in the king’s sight (“If I have found favor in thy sight, O king,” she beseeches him, “let my life be given me at my petition”). And, to make her plea to stop the massacre of Persia’s Jews, she does present herself as a personal, feminine symbol of her people’s victimization (“we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed”). Thankfully, some 2,400 years later, and given an additional 1,100 pages or so, a somewhat more nuanced heroine is possible. The Hunger Games books suggest that beauty can, in itself, be a form of resistance and self-possession, and, especially as the trilogy’s ideology becomes more complex in the third book, Katniss is a heroic public figure not because she is blameless, but because she is tough, brave, and well-dressed.

Regardless of the exact nature of the roles of their respective heroines, though, what Purim and the Hunger Games share is an understanding of the value of dressing up. If the Hunger Games trilogy teaches us about the power of costume, Purim teaches us to push at the lines between utopia, dystopia, and reality. When we listen to this story of Esther becoming queen, of the fate of the Jews catapulting from demise and triumph, and when we dress up as kings and queens, we are tracing out the extremes of power in a society, mocking authority, and, for a moment, feeling what it might be like to be the kings and queens we’ll never be. Purim makes me want to believe that our fantasy lives and our outfits matter, that inner transformation is both part of and preparation for larger struggles, that political work can start with the heart and the sewing machine.
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