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South Africa: "Honey, You've Set Fire to My Penis" Germany: Norman Bates Revisited; Smelly Feet; "You're Too Sexy for My Bus" Croatia: Where the Dead Ride the Night Train China: Swallowing Live Frogs and Rats is Good for Intestinal Health Yugoslavia: Burqa Bank Robbery
This is a weird world. But the Jews have a blessing for when you see something strange and unusual. "Blessed are you, God, Ruler of the Universe, who varied the creations."
So this new year, let's appreciate diversity and difference, wherever it pops up.
In many citiies, December 31 is known as New Year's Eve. But in Europe (and for some reason, Israel...maybe it's the years under British Mandate), it's known as "Sylvester," after Saint Sylvester (a pope around the 300s), who died on December 31.
According to one story, Sylvester was the one who converted Constantine, but this story is largely suspected to be false. If you're looking for a "list of how New Year's was celebrated by torturing the Jews," you can look to this old article in the US News and World Report, quoted on simpletoremember.com, which shares the fact that "throughout the medieval and
post-medieval periods, January 1 - supposedly the day on which Jesus'
circumcision initiated the reign of Christianity and the death of Judaism - was
reserved for anti-Jewish activities: synagogue and book burnings, public
tortures, and simple murder." Isn't that encouraging? And people think celebrating circumcision with bagels and lox is inappropriate?
But if you want more facts:
Israeli term for New Year's night celebrations, "Sylvester," was the name of the
"Saint" and Roman Pope who reigned during the Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.).
The year before the Council of Nicaea convened, Sylvester convinced Constantine
to prohibit Jews from living in Jerusalem. At the Council of Nicaea,
Sylvester arranged for the passage of a host of viciously anti-Semitic
legislation. All Catholic "Saints" are awarded a day on which Christians
celebrate and pay tribute to that Saint's memory. December 31 is Saint
Sylvester Day - hence celebrations on the night of December 31 are dedicated to
Israelity, the blog over at Israel2020--which recently relaunched with snazzy new features like video, Flickr pictures and a beach cam (if you think you're alone there with your boyfriend, you're not)--has a brief post about the holiday, really as a segue to a list of sparkling kosher wines appropriate for toasting 2008 or a dead saint, take your pick.
Whatever you're celebrating, remember...drink but don't get drunk. Or if you do get drunk, two words: designated driver. And remember, don't drink like it's the last day of your life. It's the beginning of a new year, so greet it with the anticipation you'd award a new opportunity.
If you've been reading, you've noticed some of my gushing posts and articles about last year's PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism, how inspiring it was to be at that house and meet such great, passionate, intelligent people who were mining their creativity for great Jewish initiatives in support of Jewish life and Israel.
Well, the dates and application deadlines for this year's fellowship have been announced:
Institute Dates: June 16-July 28, 2008
Application Deadline: February 15, 2008
I know, you've been looking for a way to publicize your support for a Presidential candidate, but haven't quite committed to the lapel button...and you're looking for a way to also celebrate your endless love for a guttural language made up of half-Hebrew and half-German.
Well look no more!
Yiddish campaign buttons are now available for all of the major candidates. The design, which won't win any creativity awards, is the same no matter what candidate you're supporting. To my eye, "Rudy" in Yiddish looks the same as it does in Hebrew; "Hillary" looks like it could be transliterated as "Hey Larry," and "Obama" looks like an amalgam of "Aba" and "Ema," which is appropriate since my father sent me this link to begin with.
As someone who's currently unmarried and would like to change that status in the not-too-distant future, I don't really think about divorce all that much. Except for when a friend goes through it, and I become aware that although marriage means that the Jewish world will stop hocking you to wed, it doesn't mean the end of all your problems--furthermore, it stresses the importance of marrying someone who respects you and understands you. This is especially true when you're talking about the process of obtaining a get, a religious divorce, a process that favors men and "anchors" a woman to her previous marriage even as her husband moves on and potentially starts over with someone else. (There was even an episode of "Law & Order" on yesterday about the lengths to which one agunah went in order to free herself from her adulterous and vindictive husband.) The head rabbinate in Israel is under constant petition from women's rights groups to become more lenient when dealing with cases of agunot (chained women). But on December 6, 2007, Judge Menachem Ha-Cohen of the Jerusalem Family Court made a precedent-setting ruling that could help many women trying to legally extricate themselves from bad marriages. The precedent was announced by Mavoi Satum, a volunteer based non-profit organization which advocates for a permanent
solution for agunot (chained women) and mesoravot get (women who are denied Jewish divorces). (You can celebrate this victory and support Mavoi Satum by buying tickets to their weekend concert. See image at left or this post for details.)
Judge Ha-Cohen ruled "that a husband who refuses to give his wife a religious divorce (a sarvan get) may be charged with damages even if the beit din (rabbinical court) has not declared a chiuv get (an order obligating the husband to give his wife a divorce). In other words, a husband who chooses to chain his
wife to an unwanted marriage may now be held civilly liable – and a civil judge has declared this liability for the first time."
Tis the season when all the Jews (especially singles) in major cities freak out at the prospect of having nothing to do on Christmas eve and day, and therefore create random huge Jewparties in big dance clubs as a way to combat the anticipated boredom. While I will likely end up at Heebonism tonight at the Knitting Factory (some Jewlicious friends in town are rumored to be attending), I thought some of you might like to have some movie suggestions too, so I created this list over at Beliefnet, of "Top Ten Movies for Jews to Watch On Christmas":
1. A Christmas Story--I'll shoot your eye out if you don't watch this
movie. Plus, it's usually on for 24 straight hours, which might make
you want to shoot your own eyes out, but I guarantee laughs the first
three or four times you watch. From the "major prize" his dad wins to
"mommy's little piggy," and decapitating your Christmas dinner, there's
no beating this movie. Unless it's...[read the rest on Beliefnet]
And your holiday bonus clip, SNL's very brilliant "Christmas-Time for the Jews." In tribute to my comedy writer friends, my wish is that instead of reruns (as the song sings), visions of fresh, new original Daily Show episodes dance through your heads. Happy whatever, y'all.
"When I was being Ali G and Borat I was in character sometimes 14
hours a day and I came to love them, so admitting I am never going to
play them again is quite a sad thing," the 36-year-old actor-comedian
says in the British newspaper's Friday edition.
"It is like saying goodbye to a loved one. It is hard, and the
problem with success, although it's fantastic, is that every new person
who sees the Borat movie is one less person I `get' with Borat again, so it's a kind of self-defeating form, really."
How amazing to be able to develop characters, live as them, and discard them when you're done. Talk about reinvention...
More analysis to come after the Sabbath. Shabbat shalom!
I love all these guys. Although I do take exception to Craig's claim that he never gives up, because he did give up on a very dark, water-filled tunnel in Jerusalem this summer. But that was totally fair--I gave up on that sucker too.
[One of my old posts from the JTA blog, Good for the Jews, may it rest in peace.]
There's one commercial that always gets to me. The Folgers' commercial
where the grownup kid hitchhikes back into his parents' house
before Christmas, surprising them and awakening them with the brisk
smell of coffee. My eyes tear up every time. Especially to someone like
me who has no family connection to Christmas, that the ad provokes such
an emotional reaction is slightly absurd. But somehow the commercial
works. It evokes family, homecoming, and surprising the people you love
with something you know they will really love. And it's from 1986.
These days, advertising isn't about sentiment, it's about buzz. People talk about ad campaigns--at
work at the water cooler, after work with friends. From actors Justin Long and John Hodgeman playing the instant icons of
Mac and PC
to a talking gecko, from a car that goes "zoom
zoom" to celebrity pitchpersons, memorable is the new meaningful. So
perhaps it's time for Judaism to take a lesson from Mac, Geico,
Priceline, Travelocity and others--by sinking money and creativity into
a "corporate rebrand" and hiring today's most innovative thinkers to
create a Judaism that really pops.
With many Jews falling prey to health and diet messages in the
mainstream media, the vitamin-deprived may want to open a new can of
Coke and try new Diet Judaism Plus: no calories, tastes like regular
Diet Judaism, but with a supplementary ten percent of the religious
equivalent of whatever zinc and potassium represent in this metaphor.
Perhaps we need a talking animal to help us out--perhaps a goat,
recalling ancient temple sacrifice, or as rendered by a cartoonist friend of mine, a
blowfish, quietly co-existing until threatened by hostile neighbors. And if there ever was a spokesperson designed to be the mascot of the Wandering Jews, it is certainly Travelocity's roaming gnome.
Maybe a scantily clad woman washes her car (in preparation for
Passover), will inspire the unaffiliated or fence-sitting Jews to jump
one way or another? If Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk will shill for
Priceline, why not for Judaism?
The challenge remains, for American advertising and American
Jewry, to maintain the level of entertainment and buzz, creating an
experience that is memorable, while also ensuring the survival of
substance and meaning.