Monday, May 30, 2005

Urban Musings

My wife, mother-in-law and children are off for some Memorial Day flower watching at Phipps. I might meet my wife later for a movie--if so, I'll walk over to the center of our neighborhood and meet her at one of our two neighborhood movie theaters. This has me thinking again about what I like about my neighborhood and about what a great city this is (despite any problems some people might have in obtaining the custard of their choice). It also has me thinking about cities in America again and I thought I would collect a few thoughts here and perhaps spark a discussion. A while back I promised some more thoughts on declining population in the Northeast. An article in yesterday's Boston Globe discusses the aging of New England (Maine is pushing past Pennsylvania in the race for oldest populace).

Here are some points I want to raise for discussion in the empty chamber that is this blog:

Issue 1, as I see it, is this: The Northeast and the Midwest educate a disproportionate share of the population and the South and West reap the benefits. Many have discussed the unfairness of funding school districts through local tax revenues. But I have seen no discussion on the question of the fairness of Pennsylvanians paying to educate the Texans of tomorrow.

If Pennsylvania were to create economic conditions that encouraged job growth, say the free market types, by lowering business taxes and streamlining regulation, then the Pennsylvanian kids of today might stay to be the working adult Pennsylvanians of tomorrow. Yes, I answer, but then we might have to cut spending on our education system and then the kiddies won't be trained for the knowledge industries. And then we have to hope Massachusetts keeps exporting people. Meanwhile, the conservatives in Massachusetts are pushing the same thing. And, I argue further, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts can cut taxes to the bone, cut programs for the kids and the elderly (all the parents of those Texans and Arizonans), and it will still be cheaper well into the future to put those software engineering jobs in Bangalore.

In any case, it may be that Pittsburgh and Boston and Chicago have no hope anyway, as the result of the invention of air conditioning. (See Drake Bennet, “It’s the Weather, Stupid,” Boston Globe, Ideas section, May 1, 2005--it’s no longer on the free/recent section of the site. Sorry.)

Issue 2: The house I live in has 3 bedrooms (for tax assessment purposes, 4 bedrooms, but I’m sitting in that 4th upstairs room right now and I’m not sure how one would get a bed, a dresser, and a nightstand in here) and 1.5 bathrooms. That means for a middle class American family of the early 21st century, this is considered a starter home. But when this house was built, it was most likely designed to hold a family of 5 or 6 or 7. A big family now is a family of 5. And a household with 2-3 people, living in a single family detached house, is not unusual in today’s America.

People have smaller families but want bigger houses, and as Froma Harrop, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer explains, this means an inexorable drive to the suburbs for the native-born. Cities are left to the elderly, the childless, and some families--often the poor, immigrants, or academics.

What this suggests to me is that you could have the same number of occupied houses in Pittsburgh in 2005 as in 1955 and the population would still be smaller. I haven’t seen statistics, but I’m guessing that in some neighborhoods of Pittsburgh (or Boston or Philadelphia or Buffalo, etc.) there are many fewer households in 2005 than in 1955 but I would also guess that there are many neighborhoods with roughly the same number of households but with many fewer residents--and many fewer schoolchildren.

In other words, how much of the decline in urban populations is due to flight/abandonment and how much is due to changes in lifestyle? Even if every last one of the abandoned rowhouses of North Philadelphia were occupied, I think Philadelphia would still show a population loss from the 1950 census to the present. But how much of a loss?

Let me be clear about why I think this is an important question: I am all for restoration of urban neighborhoods, for renovation of older housing, for building new housing in cities and inner-ring suburbs, for improvement of streetscapes, and for trying to restrain sprawl at the outer edges of metropolitan areas. But even as such efforts show success, population growth (even minimal population growth) and the consumer preferences of middle-class Americans will likely mean that central cities and inner-ring suburbs will continue to see their proportional share of population in any given metro area decline. To my mind, this is another reason for the need for metropolitan government.

There is another related issue here: in every “successful” urban or older suburban neighborhood I have ever spent any amount of time in, I have noticed lots of empty storefronts: Center City Philadelphia, East Arlington Massachusetts, Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh. Why?

The answer I think, lies in the way we shop: even those of us who cherish our walkable havens and feel sorry for those “suburbanites” who have to drive everywhere do most of our shopping at big stores. I might buy the occasional box of cherries or carton of milk from the local Mom and Pop store but I do most of my grocery shopping at the big Giant Eagle down the street (that at some point in the 40s or 50s or 60s must have knocked out a lot of houses and/or small businesses in Greenfield to put in a supermarket and a parking lot). There are only so many cute bookstores, cafes, vintage clothing stores, gift boutiques, and nail salons that can fill up all those empty storefronts. Suggestions? (In Philadelphia they fill up empty storefronts with public art. This can be visually pleasing but it always has the effect on me of drawing my attention to the emptiness behind. In any case, it’s certainly not a long-term solution.)

Sunday, May 29, 2005

How to Observe Shabbat

From the discussion in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, folio 12b:

“An objection is raised: One must not read by the light of a lamp, lest he tilt it [and thus violate the rules against work on the Sabbath]. Said R. Ishmael b. Elisha, ‘I will read and will not tilt.’ Yet once he read and wished to tilt. ‘How great are the words of the Sages!’ he exclaimed, ‘who said, One must not read by the light of the lamp.’ R. Nathan said, He read and did tilt it, and wrote in his notebook, ‘I, Ishmael b. Elisha, did read and tilt the lamp on the Sabbath. When the Temple is rebuilt, I will bring a fat sin offering.’”

(trans. H. Freedman from Soncino Press edition)

Best/Worst Cookie Fortune Ever

In my cookie, Saturday night, May 28, 2005 at New Dumpling House, Pittsburgh, PA:

"Your success will astonish everyone."

All baseball fans are silly. Some are sillier than others.

Apparently some Washington Post readers are upset that the Post is continuing to cover the Orioles as a local team along with the Nationals. Here’s the editorial note. This has engendered a huge amount of discussion at the Post’s site.

Can I point out some reasons why the people who want the Post to stop covering the Orioles are being silly?

1) The Baltimore-Washington area is now listed by the Census Bureau as a Combined Metropolitan Statistical area. In other words, both the Orioles and the Nationals are “local” everywhere from York, PA to somewhere in Virginia. In a lot of Maryland suburban areas, it’s pretty hard to tell whether it’s a suburb of Baltimore or a suburb of Washington. In this sense, this is pretty similar to the Bay Area, where I imagine all the papers cover both the A’s and the Giants.

2) Even if many old-time Baltimoreans and old-time Washingtonians feel differently, many newcomers (and even many of us natives) can’t get caught up in any kind of Washington-Baltimore rivalry. For those folks who do want a Washington-Baltimore rivalry, you need the Post to continue to cover the Orioles so you can get all worked up about how much you dislike the Orioles and Peter Angelos. If the Post covered the Orioles as much (or rather as little) as they covered the Kansas City Royals, how could you keep the rivalry alive?

3) You can’t undo decades of loyalty to a baseball team. Pretty much everyone under the age of 40 who grew up in the DC area grew up with the Orioles. If some of those folks want to switch loyalty to the Nationals or root for both (one in the AL, one in the NL), I don’t begrudge them. But we’re talking an entire generation of Washingtonian Orioles fans.

4) Some of the people who want the Post to stop covering the Orioles have pointed out that the Baltimore Sun doesn’t cover the Nationals. I don’t know if that’s true since I don’t read the Sun much, but it’s not much of an argument. All it means is that the publishers of the Sun have decided not to compete with the Post as a paper for the entire region. This doesn’t mean the Post isn’t allowed to try to be a paper for the whole region.

Yet I wonder: my guess is that baseball fans over 40 in the DC area tend to be “returning” to the Nationals and that people under 40 are split among those who are staying with the Orioles and have no interest in the Nationals, those who are going to root for both, and those who are going to root only for the Nationals. If I’m right and if the sentiment among the Nationals fans is really anti-Orioles coverage, the Post may decide to ditch the Orioles. Generations X and Y have basically abandoned the printed newspaper (sadly).

Finally, a personal note: I’m one of those DC kids who always rooted for the Orioles-- partly because the Senators were gone and the Orioles were marketing themselves as DC’s team and partly because my father was from Baltimore and loved the Orioles. I’m not a fair weather fan: I rooted for them not only in 1979 and 1983 and 1997, but also in 1988 and 1991 and all the other bad years. I also grew up reading the Washington Post. If the Post stops covering the Orioles, I’ll think that will be a shame for the Orioles fans in the Post circulation area. I imagine the Post will lose some readers to the Sun. But it won’t affect me out here in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette land. I’ll start reading the Baltimore Sun sports section on-line.

But if the kind of pettiness vis-à-vis the Orioles that I saw from many of the Nationals fans on the Post discussion forum is going to be typical, I won’t be neutral to mildly positive about the Nationals: I’ll actively root against them. So there.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Historical Confusion

As a historian toiling on relatively esoteric topics, it is nice when something you work on appears in a major media outlet. This morning’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a nice article on the upcoming Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival, featuring Sephardic music. The first three paragraphs offer a somewhat confused account of Spanish history, however:

There was a time when Jews and Muslims lived in a more peaceful coexistence than we know today.
It was called The Golden Age, a fusion of Arab and Jewish intellects in astronomy, poetry, science and mathematics beginning in Spain around 900. Although there had been some inherent tensions, it wasn't until 1492, under Ferdinand and Isabella, that both the Arabs and the Jews -- unless they were converted to Catholicism -- were expunged from Spain during the Inquisition.
Known as the Sephardic culture, it was dispersed all over Europe and the Mediterranean...

All of this is not quite wrong but also not quite right. And some of it is simply wrong. To the tiny subset of humanity that reads this blog and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, please read the following for some clarifications and corrections:

1) There were lots of times and lots of places where Jews and Muslims lived in peaceful coexistence. One can point to any number of examples of Jewish-Muslim coexistence in addition to the Spanish “Golden Age.” In many places in the Muslim world for much of the Middle Ages and the early modern period, Jews--and Christians--were discriminated against and were second-class citizens (more accurate to say subjects), but were tolerated (in the limited sense of the word before the Enlightenment). Historians debate just how “peaceful” the coexistence was, and the debate not only raises questions of what happened, when, and how often it happened, but just what it means to talk about “toleration” and “coexistence” in the pre-modern world.

2) The lead is an attention-seeking gambit (as leads in print journalism are meant to be), but let’s remember that we’re talking about a local music festival. Yes, anti-Jewish sentiment among Muslims resulting from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is probably at an all time high, but it’s not like Jews and Muslims are brawling in the streets of Pittsburgh. (Okay this is more a criticism of the journalism than of the history. Let’s get back to the history.)

3) What is interesting about medieval Spain--in terms of inter-group relations at least--is that the coexistence (“convivencia”) involved Jews, Muslims, and Christians, living mostly under Christian rulers (from the twelfth century on). While there are other medieval examples (Sicily, some places in Eastern Europe, and the Crusader Kingdoms in Palestine), for the most Muslims were not a tolerated minority in Christian Europe. (Jews were almost everywhere and almost all of the time except for a period of expulsions in western Europe in the late Middle Ages.)

4) The Inquisition was not an event or a period “during” which anything could happen. It was an institution that existed in Spain from the late fifteenth century through the early nineteenth century. While some Inquisitors lobbied for the expulsion of Jews in the early 1490s, non-baptized Jews and Muslims were not subject to the jurisdiction of the Inquisition (unless they were accused of aiding Judaizing or Muslim practice by converts). The first thing I tell my students about the Spanish Inquisition is “contrary to what you think, the Spanish Inquisition did not target Jews.” Now, that gets their attention.

5) “Arabs” were not expelled from Spain in 1492 along with Jews. After the conquest of Granada (the last Muslim-ruled kingdom), Ferdinand and Isabella embarked on a fairly aggressive campaign to convert Muslims in Granada and elsewhere in Castile. After a revolt in Granada, in 1499-1501, Islam was outlawed in Granada in 1501 and in the rest of Castile in 1502. In the early 1520s, rebels in Valencia (part of Aragon) forcibly converted many Muslims there and in 1525-26, Islam was outlawed in all of Aragon. Many Muslims who were thus converted to Christianity--called Moriscos--resisted efforts of the Inquisition to force conformity to Christianity and there were revolts of the Moriscos in subsequent years, notably in the late 1560s. Finally, during the period 1609-1614, Moriscos were expelled from all of Spain. In other words, two different expulsions took place over a century apart, under quite different circumstances, and technically were aimed at different types of “threats” to Christian society (in the first case, unbaptized Jews who were thought to aid and abet the Judaizing of baptized Christians; in the second case, baptized Christians who were thought to be backsliding into their previous beliefs and practices and who were also seen as a political threat to the stability of the monarchy due to their sheer numbers).

6) This clarification is needed because of the confusing beginning of the third paragraph where the antecedent of “it” is unclear. Because the last sentence mentioned Jews and Arabs (i.e. Muslims) together, one could construe this sentence to mean that “Sephardic” culture includes the culture of the Jews and the Muslims (actually Moriscos) who were expelled from Spain. But “Sephardic” refers only to Spanish Jews and their descendents.

You could put across more or less the same point (a rich legacy resulting from the cultural tapestry that was medieval Spain) with an accurate and more concise opening. Something like this:

There were times in the past when Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived in a more peaceful coexistence than we know today.
One such time was the “The Golden Age” of medieval Spain, which saw a fusion of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish intellects in astronomy, poetry, science and mathematics beginning around 900. Although there were some inherent tensions, this era lasted until 1492, when Jews were expelled from Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella, unless they were converted to Catholicism.
Known as the Sephardic Jews, the exiles took their vibrant culture with them as they dispersed all over Europe and the Mediterranean...

This lead-in to the article would still be subject to some criticism for romanticizing convivencia (although the “inherent tensions” disclaimer wards off some of this criticism). But it would avoid some of the howlers of the story as printed.

And I’m pretty sure the photograph accompanying the story is Sarah Aroeste not Anna Levenstein. Whoops.

Elsewhere in the historical confusion department, we have the Honorable Pete Stark accusing the Republican right of acting like “Pharisees”, also reported in today's Post-Gazette.

But Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., scoffed that he didn't need an ethics lecture from DeLay, who is under House investigation for possible ethics violations. "Our scientific policies should not be decided by [presidential political adviser] Karl Rove and self-appointed gurus," Stark said. "Don't tell my constituents we can't alleviate their suffering because it might offend modern-day Pharisees."

Now this is obviously a reference to the Pharisees qua bad guys in the New Testament, whose rigidity in regard to strict observance of the Law ran up against Jesus’ more “liberal” teachings. But the Pharisees qua actual historical group were the “liberals” of the period vis-à-vis interpretation of the Law and they were also the Second Temple sect that the historical Jesus was most likely closest to in his teachings. The legacy of the Pharisees was later claimed by the Rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud. (That last sentence was very carefully phrased). The Talmud (not surprisingly) takes no position on stem cell research. But, let’s put it this way, the range of views on the beginnings of life, the status of the fetus, and abortion in Rabbinic Judaism, are such that one cannot simply line up Rabbinic teachings with the “pro-life” position as espoused by DeLay, Rove, et al. (For a brief introduction into this subject on the web, see here, here, and here. For a longer introduction, see Daniel Schiff’s comprehensive Abortion in Judaism.) In other words, there is some reason to think that “modern-day Pharisees” would be on Representative Stark’s side on this.

Update: See Paleojudaica for some references on views of the beginning of life in the Talmud.

Monday, May 23, 2005

More on the Filibuster Issue

In my post yesterday, I put forward a "process" argument for keeping the filibuster. This morning, I find Brian Leiter arguing for keeping the filibuster on "substantive" grounds--that it is of vital importance that the filibuster option be preserved given the current state of the Republican party and the disaster that is the Bush administration.
In fact, the process/procedural argument and the substantive argument dovetail. The need for a super-majority for appointment to the federal bench is demonstrated by the present situation (an extreme right-wing administration putting forward nominees very far out of the mainstream with the support of an extreme right-wing party leadership in the Senate).
Does history help in this regard? Yes and no. While it is apparently the case that judicial filibusters have been rare until recently and do not date back to the early days of the Republic, it is also the case that the dynamics of party membership, the workings of the court, and the importance of the judiciary are all different now (in the 2000s) than they were in the 1880s or even the 1970s. The fact that Southern Democrats used a Progressive-era reform to block Civil Rights legislation does not mean that the Progressives were not on the right track.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Thoughts on Boycotts

Here is the link to the motions passed by the Assocation of University Teachers in Britain (AUT).

The key points:

1) general endorsement of the notion of a total boycott of Israeli academia
2) a specific boycott against the University of Haifa in response to the treatment of Ilan Pappe
3) a specific boycott against Bar-Ilan University in response to Bar-Ilan’s links with the College of Judea and Samaria.
4) deferral of the question whether to specifically boycott the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
5) general endorsement of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process with a program of outreach to Palestinian academics and a rejection of the idea of outreach to Israeli academics.

#1 and #5 are pretty appalling: generalized boycotts seem inimical to academic freedom and to the whole notion of an academic community.

Here, I can only echo what the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has said.

As for #3,4,5 the charges against Haifa, Bar-Ilan, and Hebrew University seem spurious. Haifa and Bar-Ilan have mounted vigorous defenses of their actions: See here and here.

But even if the charges were true, would such a broad-brush boycott be warranted?

Remember that the AUT motions call for adherence to the Palestinian call for a boycott which includes the following actions:
i. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;
ii. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;
iii. Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;
iv. Exclude from the above actions against Israeli institutions any conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their state's colonial and racist policies;
v. Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;
vi. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.

(Item iv--as many have noted--is quite ridiculous because it sets up an ideological text for Israeli academics to be exempted from being boycotted. And who decides what constitutes “[opposition] to their state’s colonial and racist policies”? Would an Israeli academic who has spoken out in opposition to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza--as many have--but who has also spoken out against the boycott be caught in some kind of Catch-22 logic and not be exempted from the boycott?)

The argument often made against this sort of thing is that Israel is being singled out. Everyone should remember that this is not an argument meant to defend the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza or the actions of the Israeli government in general. You can’t justify Israeli policy with the schoolyard argument that “Billy did it too but the teacher caught me so I shouldn’t be punished.”

This argument does point out the hypocrisy of some of Israel’s opponents and the extent to which anti-Israel politics with little nuance have become something of a sine qua non in leftist circles. (And that general situation is frustrating to those of us who generally sympathize with the political left, oppose the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and have significant social, academic, and familial ties to Jewish Israelis. But that’s another story).

What the argument is really saying is this: sometimes Israel (qua government) does bad things. When it does bad things, it should be condemned. But many wish to punish Israel in a disproportionate way. In other words: Billy and I both pulled Jane’s hair but I was expelled and Billy got a time-out. The reasonable inference: the teacher has it in for me. Fairness dictates that Billy and I get the same punishment.

This brings me back to my original question. Even if the charges against Haifa, Bar-Ilan, and Hebrew University are true, is a broad-based boycott a reasonable response?

Apparently when apartheid was extended to South African universities in the 1960s and when two academics were banned by the South African government, the most the AUT called on its members to do were 1) protest this and 2) refrain from taking jobs at South African universities. See here for the text of this resolution and for comment. (And here for more discussion of the whole matter.) Yes, it is true that many other forms of boycott against South Africa in general and South African academia in general emerged in the 1970s and 80s, but the question before us is the behavior of the AUT and the specific Israeli situations to which they wish to respond. Thus, the AUT’s first--and only?--resolution on South African academia seems relevant.

Now let us imagine that Ilan Pappe’s troubles with his colleagues in Haifa could be deemed comparable to banning in apartheid-era South Africa (an idiotic comparison if one knows anything about the two situations). Let’s also imagine that Bar-Ilan’s links to a junior college in a West Bank settlement could be deemed comparable to the removal of black students from South African universities (remember that there are Arab students--and professors--at Israeli universities). And let us imagine that the AUT wished to hold Israeli academics accountable in the same way they held South African academics accountable in the 1960s. Then the resolution ought to go something like this:

We, the (undersigned) professors and lecturers in British universities:
1. Protest against the treatment of Professor Pappe.
2. Protest against the practice of occupation and the involvement of Israeli universities in it.
3. Pledge that we shall not apply for or accept academic posts in Israeli universities which involve themselves in the occupation of the West Bank or the Gaza strip.

Now (a) assuming the allegations against Haifa and Bar-Ilan were true and (b) pretending that the situation was comparable to the events of the 1960s in South Africa and (c) imagining that this were the restrained and reasonable response of the AUT to this hypothetical situation, I would--in this alternate reality--feel no reason to condemn the AUT’s actions.


In regard to (a): the allegations seem spurious.
In regard to (b): the situations are in no way comparable.
In regard to (c): I think the differences between the two resolutions speak for themselves.

Thus, I join with thousands of academics around the world who have rightly condemned the AUT’s actions.

I have linked to ENGAGE in my links column. This is a blog run by a group within the AUT campaigning to revoke the boycott resolution at a special meeting in a few days. The postings there and the material they link to present the case against the boycott and shows up the idiocy of the boycott supporters.

Thoughts on Filibusters

Why shouldn't someone being given a lifetime appointment on the federal bench have to get a super-majority rather than simple majority in the Senate? It seems to me that needing to get sixty percent rather than 51 percent of the votes in the Senate is a reasonable incentive for presidents, regardless of party and where they fit on the political spectrum, to nominate someone from the pretty big middle. If it seems that either party in the Senate is blocking reasonable nominees for political gain, let that party be punished at the ballot box in the next election. In the meantime, extremists don't get lifetime appointments.

Regardless of the many other reasons why Frist and Santorum must be stopped (their hypocrisy and venality, the extreme right-wingers Bush has and will nominate, the odiousness of the attempt to make the Democrats of today look like the anti-Civil Rights southern Democrats of yesteryear, etc.) this seems like a reasonable, common-sense idea that moderate Republicans ought to be able to get their minds around.

Also, I'm a bit confused about the idea that the minority is using the rules of the Senate to thwart the majority. Isn't the Senate itself a pretty clear example of the anti-majoritarian thrust of the Constitution?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Friday Musings 3

1) I usually try to glance at the Chronicle of Higher Education to find out what's happening in the world of academia. The May 13 "Chronicle Review" section is full of interesting articles: Stanley Fish on Ward Churchill and Larry Summers; Jon Wiener on how controversies on college campuses play out in the media (re Massad at Columbia and Thernstrom at Harvard); Richard Freeland (president of Northeastern) on universities and cities; and Carlin Romano on Pope Benedict's past.

2) I also recommend the May issue of Perspectives, the newsletter of the American Historical Association. Carlo Ginzburg has an interesting discussion of the role that on-line library catalogs can play in directing one's research. The piece hinges on the difference between searching a card catalog or an on-line catalog arranged by subject and using the keyword function (only available on-line). The most interesting element of this to my mind is the way that serendipity functions in research--something that my wife's grandfather, the biologist Aser Rothstein, once wrote about. Contra Sven Birkerts (in Gutenberg Elegies), it's not that there was serendiptity in the olden days and none today. It's that the technology that brings about the serendipity has changed. You can read Ginzburg's article on-line here.

3) Binyamin Singer has kindly provided me with a reference and I'm on the trail in regard to Nahmanides' canonicity (see Friday Musings #2) Unfortunately, I can't check it until I get to the library next week. Sorry to keep you in suspense!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Friday Musings 2

1) Apparently I was wrong a few weeks ago. You can beat the Yankees. Even the Tampa Bay Devil Rays can beat the Yankees. I am trying to contain my glee as I am sure the Orioles will fade a little. But could anyone have imagined that this season might bring the AL East a pennant race involving the Orioles and the Blue Jays?

2) I doubt very much that anyone from the Post-Gazette was worried about my threat to drop my subscription recently. They can start printing the comics in Akkadian and I will most likely continue to subscribe. I am an addict, folks.

3) The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle had an article yesterday on a new super-commentary on Ramban (Nahmanides) written in English by Binyamin Singer, an Israeli with some local Pittsburgh connections. (He wrote the bulk of the work while in Pittsburgh last summer). What most interested me was the comment at the end of article that Nahmanides' commentary was a must-read according to "the sages." I e-mailed the reporter to ask if she could put me in touch with Singer because I was curious about this. I'm sure he (Singer) or she (the reporter, Susan Jacobs), did not mean "Hazal". If anyone can tell me who has talked about an obligation to study Ramban, I would be most grateful.

4) Random quotation for the day:
“’If you want to get attention from anybody in Washin’ton,’ she said, ‘ask them to lunch. People here will do almost anything for a good lunch.’” Willa Cather, The Professor’s House. New York: Vintage House, 1973, p.229.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Daughter's monologue

This is a (nearly) verbatim transcript of a speech my four-year-old daughter made to herself in the bathroom just now (she didn't know I was listening from the next room). I hope she doesn't mind the invasion of privacy when she is older. Note: her brother is 11 months old and she doesn't have a sister.

"The synagogue is the place where we pray to God. The Temple is another synagogue in the city. We have a synagogue. I am six years old. My friends are Jewish too. They might not go to the same places. My teacher is Mrs. S----. She is Jewish. Other people can go to synagogue even if they are not Jewish. The Jewish people have to pray to God. Because God saved the Jewish people. Only God can save your life. My little brother is soooo crazy around the house because he doesn’t know God can save your life. We have to take care of him lots of times. He says ‘Poopyhead’ and we don’t like that. And Mommy and Daddy don’t like it either. My sister said ‘I don’t like my little brother and I want him to go away.’ But I explained that he can’t go away because he is part of the family. Me and my sister play together very often. When we eat a lot of matzah we don’t poop so much. When it’s a weekend I stay home with my Nona or my mommy or daddy. For now on, I don’t have Passover. The first letter in my name is “D” and then “-” and then “-” and then an “-” and then an “-” and an “-” and another “-” and then “-” and that’s how you spell my name. I better wash my hands. I have one paci[fier] and I only have it in the car, when I’m sleeping, or when I’m getting picked up. Actually, I have it all the time and it’s not such a big deal. I’m a big sister. Now I’m four. No, now I’m thirteen.