Monday, August 27, 2007

CNN's Religious Warriors Series

Okay, so maybe I have to go back and watch the whole thing again. (six hours!?) I must admit, parts of the whole thing did make me cringe. And I'm not great at being unbiased when it comes to watching a program about Israel.

But in retrospect, and after reading CAMERA's critique of the Jewish and Muslim parts of the series, I have reason to agree with CAMERA's assessment. There was a great deal of bias in the reporting. I'm not sure that it was entirely intentional -- in many ways, although CNN believes that it's reporting about apples and apples, I think the comparisons between Jews, Muslims and Christians is more like apples, oranges, and bananas. One of the comments CAMERA makes:

It is false in its basic premise, established in the opening scene in which Jewish (and Christian) religious fervency is equated with that of Muslims heard endorsing "martyrdom," or suicide-killing. There is, of course, no counterpart among Jews and Christians to the violent jihadist Muslim campaigns underway across the globe, either in numbers of perpetrators engaged or in the magnitude of death and destruction wrought.

There does seem to be a lot of focus in the Jewish segment on the pro-Israel lobby in this country. Far more than in the Muslim section, which does not speak about any of the oil lobbies that are waged on behalf of Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia (...home of many of the 9/11 terrorists, why are we friends with them???)

In fact, there was, as CAMERA points out, a much more gentle tone towards the Muslim extremists, especially those in our own country...

There was a noticeably gentler and more cordial tone toward Muslim extremists in contrast to the often snide and hectoring tone displayed toward pro-Israel Americans and Israeli settlers in "God's Jewish Warriors." In "God's Muslim Warriors," Amanpour included two apolitical segments with appealing devout Muslim women who talked about why they wear a head covering and how Islam enriches their lives. No such apolitical segment about devout Jews appeared in "God's Jewish Warriors."

Read the rest of CAMERA's critique here...and here...and let me know what you thought!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Art and Seeing

For our motzei Shabbat activity (after Shabbat ends, on Saturday night), we had the unexpected pleasure of an hour or so m-in-law was home with the kids, and so we dashed out to see the Highwood Fine Arts Festival, a very small art show in our own small town. While much of the art was nice and somewhat ordinary, we were delighted with the art of Inna Deriy, who paints with pigmented polymers on stone, wood, and canvas. Let me tell you, it leads to gorgeous colors and beautiful images. I am not even really sure what a polymer is (I know I wouldn't eat it!) but I know what I think is beautiful.

I wasn't able to find a picture of the small piece that we bought. It has the image of tree trunks. I love images of trees...I think trees are so incredible and wonderful as a symbol of longevity in nature. I also love the Jewish imagery of the Torah as the Tree of Life, and I also love the idea of a family tree. Overall, I'm a tree girl.

I did find this image, though, and it is quite beautiful. There is also a story about it that the artist's husband shared with us while we perused the booth. He said a blind woman was walking through an art fair they were doing once, and she bemoaned that she couldn't really see all the art that her companion was describing. He offered to let her touch this painting (at the time it was all white, with just the texture of the image -- it's hard to see in the picture here but all her art is very textured), and as she ran her fingers over it, she said, "oh, it's tulips!" but they hadn't even told her what it was.

It is amazing how our senses work. Many people who have full functional use of their eyes are "blind" to the world, not seeing beauty or love....or not seeing problems in the world. This story was a beautiful reminder that we shouldn't always just see with our eyes...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Celebrating Shabbat without TV?

When David (now 5 1/2) was young, we told him he could only watch tv on Shabbat. When we'd visit my parents, they would let him watch tv whenever he wanted, which coined the phrase in our house: "it's always Shabbat at Bubbie and Zeyde's house!" (It raised problems for us one Shabbat that we spent with an Orthodox family. In their house, no tv on Shabbat!)

Now we don't do that anymore. He's old enough to know that there is tv available on other days of the week....and he likes to watch it. But we learned that it is possible to be non-traditional in your observance of Shabbat and make the day very special.

So now we struggle with some special thing to define Shabbat in our house, other than our Friday night dinner activities. I would like something special to do or not do on Saturday as well. I think that this may become easier as my children grow older. It's hard to explain to a 2-year-old and it's hard to be consistent in our house when mommy works on Shabbat!

How does your family observe Shabbat? What are some non-traditional traditions that you've developed to make this day special? Leave me a comment!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Watch CNN Presents Tonight...

I am right now watching God's Warriors (part 1) on CNN. It is great -- I am fascinated by the retelling of Israel's history. I'm curious to see the other two parts, the Muslim and Christian perspectives. I know (thanks to my TiVo!) that part 1 is being re-run a couple times tonight and then the others are on tomorrow and Thursday. I can't wait to write a review of the whole thing. Let me know what you think!!!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Torah Portion Friday: Tzedakah with your family

This week's Torah portion, Re'eh, contains the following line:

If however, there is a needy person among you, one of your kin in any of your settlements in the land that the Eternal your God is giving you, do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kin. Rather, you must open your hand and lend whatever is sufficient to meet the need. (Deuteronomy 15:7–8)

This line is one of the first lessons we teach our children as we begin to teach them about Judaism. The need to help others, no, the requirement that we help others, is a central focus of what Judaism is all about. The commandment to help others appears so often in the Torah that the Talmud tell us (Bava Batra 9a) “Tzedakah (charity) outweighs all other mitzvot.”

So how can we make this a part of our family's regular activities? Here are some suggestions for making tzedakah a part of your regular routine:

  • keep a tzedakah box in many places in your house: on top of the dryer for loose change, in the kitchen, on your dresser, on your kids' dressers...

  • teach your kids to divide their allowance. My son has a piggy bank with separate slots for "spend" "save" "invest" and "donate" (we bought it from Amazon) -- we regularly talk about putting the money into the Tzedakah slot and what we can do with it.

  • when you sort through clothes and toys, take your children with you to deliver them to Goodwill or another organization.

  • suggest that your child's birthday party be a collection, asking for donations or items for others instead of gifts for the child

  • collect every "request" that comes into your house and once a month (or at whatever interval works for you), sit down with your family and look at all of them to determine where your family's tzedakah money will go.

  • create young philanthropists -- give your kids and/or grandkids a bank account or budget from which they can make their own gifts...discuss with them regularly what it means to make your tzedakah dollars "go far." Teach them about "matching gifts" and make arrangements to "match" your kids' gifts...or invite them to ask other family members to match their gifts.

  • use tzedakah as a reward or incentive: offer to give money to the charity of your kids' choice in honor of an acheivement or milestone.

These and so many more ideas will help your family to make tzedakah (charity) and gemilut chasadim (acts of lovingkindness) regular parts of your family's life. Through these actions we can truly fulfill our mission on earth: to make this world a better place.

How does your family engage in tzedakah? Leave a comment with your ideas.
(crossposted on