Saturday, June 26, 2010

Oil, oil everywhere, and many boneheads to talk about it

Prophecy is fun, isn't it? It helps you decipher the news and interpret what otherwise would seem to be random unfortunate events into things with super cosmic significance.

But... what happens when you can't get your story straight?

Good times, of course.

First up we have a typical fire and brimstone commentary from a couple of wacko Protestant ministers. We're already familiar with Hal Lindsey around here (he's still claiming that Zion Oil is going to strike it rich any day now). But this Carl Gallups guy is a new one. Let's see what he's got to say:
"April the 19th, Israel celebrates its independence in 2010," Gallups says in narration on the video. "On April the 19th, Fox News reports that the U.S. will no longer automatically support Israel in the United Nations. The next day, on April the 20th, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explodes. Coincidence? Or the hand and judgment of God?"
Hmm. Intriguing. Do you have any evidence to support your claim, or, failing that, random bible verses you can misinterpret to vaguely fit the occasion?
In the Book of Genesis, God told him, "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse ... ."
Gallups says while he was preparing his radio show, he wondered what else happened in the time frame of the rig explosion, to see if there was any connection to anything biblical at all.

He found the Fox News article dated April 19, and said what's significant about the date is that it's Israel's Independence Day this year.

Although Israel's original declaration took place May 14, 1948, the annual celebration actually floats from year to year in Israel, based on the lunar-based Hebrew calendar, and took place on April 19, 2010.

Upon realizing the date connection, "I looked at that and chills went up and down my spine," he told WND. "That's when I knew there was a correlation. To me, I just immediately felt a spiritual connection to it. If you have a spiritual perception at all, it really hits you hard."

Um... why, exactly? It's not like America suddenly got a divine gift certificate after supporting Israel's creation in 1948. Why would we get such a sudden smack-down for going the other way? And incidentally, Rev, Israel celebrating its birthday is not really a "Biblical connection." Finding some pottery shards from the First Temple, that's a biblical connection. Stumbling over some ancient scrolls, that's a biblical connection. The fact that things happen in Israel according to the Hebrew calendar is not a biblical connection, it's a logical result of using the calendar. That's like saying a guy in Tel Aviv slipping on a banana peel is a "biblical connection" to Deuteronomy 32:35, or Jeremiah 23:12.

Hal Lindsey, having more mustache than brains, unsurprisingly agrees:

"I believe this is evidence that when you turn your back on Israel, especially when you've been a supporter, you're gonna see judgments come from God," said Hal Lindsey, author of "The Late Great Planet Earth."

"It's finally reaching the point where God is removing His protection from us," he said. "I believe we back away from being a friend to Israel at our peril. We need to come back to be a supporter of one who is so important in God's plan."

Regarding the oil spill specifically, Lindsey said, "I think that this disaster is just one of many disasters. Our country is falling apart economically. The current government is overturning our constitutional republic, turning it into a socialist country. That's about as big a curse as you can get. We just have one catastrophe after another and then we have this big wake-up call in the Gulf."

Hmm, sounds pretty doomsday-ey.

Lindsey, who at age 80 is still active analyzing Bible prophecy on his website, said in preparation for his programs, he studies current world events, taking note of calamities.

"It used to be you'd have to hunt for things, but now it's a matter of sorting out which one you're gonna use. There are just so many catastrophes and disasters," he said. "That's not a popular view to take, by the way, as critics will say, 'There they go again.' No one wants to address true judgment from God."

Yeah, not like back in the day like during the Great Depression or the Nixon years, when you couldn't turn on the TV or open a newspaper without being gobsmacked with good news.

Ok, so the Protestants see this as a catastrophe and a curse. But let's see what our favorite Jewish would-be-prophet says. Lazer?

The Prophecy of Gushing Oil

With oil still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico and now reaching Louisiana's marshes and rivers, it looks like yet another prophecy is being fulfilled:

Right, the Genesis one. But we heard that already.

"I will create sediment in their waters and rivers and make them flow like oil, the word of The Lord Hashem" (Ezekiel 32:14).

First of all, all you wingnuts need to have a meeting so you can get your story straight. Number two, isn't that oil reference there just a metaphor? It looks like a straight-up direct comparison to me. Isn't claiming that "make water flow like oil" equals "contaminate water with oil" sort of like arguing that Psalm 29's "He makes Lebanon skip like a calf" predicts the eventual genetic mutation of the Lebanese into a kind of hybrid human-veal species?

Sigh. At least there's one thing everyone can agree on. Hal?

WND asked Lindsey if he thought we're now in the "end time" spoken of in the Bible before the return of Jesus Christ to Earth.

"I think the prophecies are written that they encourage us to look for Christ's return," he said. "It's written so that it's imminent, that it could come at any time."

Oh good. And Lazer?

The Gemara that we learn this week (Sanhedrin 98a) says that when the waters are heavy with oil, and the fish can no longer live, then these are the days when Moshiach is imminent.

Sweet. I'll be moving to the moon if anyone needs me.

Jews in the South? Fine to visit, not to move

Everytime Shiksa Girlfriend and I mention where she's from to Jewish folk, someone invariably mentions Dothan. I am so freaking tired of Dothan. My parents even suggested, mostly tongue-in-cheek, that we consider moving to Dothan.
Since launching two years ago, Dothan’s relocation project has received 600,000 hits on its Web site. Some people write in that they’re not Jewish but for $50,000 will convert; Orthodox Jews usually cease contact upon learning of the reform synagogue’s female rabbi; one Jewish family said it was living out of a station wagon, can you help? But as a longtime Jewish resident of Dothan told me about the venture, “We don’t take ’em to raise, as we say in the South. Fifty thousand dollars doesn’t go very far.”
Here's the thing, though: SG has said that she would have to be paid way, way, more than that to even consider moving back to the South, much less to the middle of nowhere. And here's why:

The Jews of Dothan make it clear to prospective residents that the city has a predominantly Christian culture. If families decide to relocate, they will likely be the only Jews on their block, and their children will be the only Jews in their classes. Politically, too, the leanings of Dothan Jews mostly reflect those of the larger culture.

Stephanie Butler, who moved to Dothan through the relocation program, said, “Conservative family values are our values, even if people think of them generally as Christian values.”
Yeah, I think I'll stick with insane rents in a city where I'm part of the moderate-y center, rather than move to a place where I'm more Jewishly educated than most but considered the resident Communist.

But y'all have fun, now.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Guess who's being a jerk again

I guess Yehuda Levin's ears were burning from my post last week. You know, the one where I said he was a colossal embarrassment and should lock himself in a lead-lined box for a few thousand years so he could stop reflecting badly on all Jews everywhere.

Well guess what? Levin decided people weren't paying enough attention to him. Ergo, today's "Omygodlookatme" outburst.
Rabbi Yehuda Levin, spokesman for the alliance, told on Thursday that "a great deal has been made about the fact that she would be the second Jewish woman on the court, and we want to signal to people across the country that we take no pride in this.”

Levin said most people are happy when "one of their own" is nominated to such a high position. But, he added, "We feel that Elena Kagan turns traditional Judaism on its head--from a concept of a nation of priests and holy people, she is turning it into, ‘Let’s homosexualize every segment of society. And by the way, partial-birth babies have no right to be delivered.’"
Homosexualize? Really? You're going to verb that one? Fair enough. Please, "Rav," do tell me more about your various "weatherizing" campaigns. Speaking of which, how come you haven't stepped in to save the gulf states from the latest crap-tastophre to afflcit them? doesn't sound any less stupid than Just saying.

Got any other crap? Yes? In bad taste? Yes? Well I'm just shocked.
“It is clear from Ms. Kagan's record on issues such as abortion-on-demand, partial-birth-abortion, the radical homosexual and lesbian agenda, the 'supremacy' of the anti-family panoply over religious liberties of biblical adherents, et. al., that she will function as a flame-throwing radical, hastening society's already steep decline into Sodom and Gomorrah,” the rabbis said in the statement.
See I know Levin thinks he's sounding like a real firebrand here, but here's a tip: if you want to influence public opinion, try not to use adjectives that make your opponents sound cool. Young people are already pro-choice and pro-gay rights. Calling someone a "flame-throwing radical" is not exactly going to turn them off.

Levin told that his fellow rabbis--and hundreds of thousands of Orthodox and traditional Jews--are puzzled at the president’s choice of Kagan.

“What exactly was Obama thinking, President Obama thinking, when he nominated Kagan? Because eventually, down the road, someone--or some group--is going to ‘take the hit’ for the crazy decisions that Kagan is bound to make. So we would have much preferred if President Obama had given this ‘distinction’ to another minority group, instead of singling out the Jews.”
What, because there's been so much retaliation against Catholics for all of Scalia's bullshit? Take your silly pseudo-Holocaust fearmongering and blow it out your ear.

The best part about all of this is that Levin's association is apparently so significant that the only people that notice when he talks are random far-right blogs that share his agenda.

Edit: Breaking News! For the first time ever, Levin has been spotted... in the company of other (alleged) rabbis! If verified, this could be the an important first step in proving that Levin's organization, the Rabbinical Alliance of America (which even he puts in quote marks), actually consists of people other than Levin himself. Stay tuned...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Interesting parallels

I was reading this entertaining article about local crazy-man Bill Donohue, and a few bits caught my eye:
I say on behalf of reasonable-minded people everywhere (both skeptics and believers), that Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, needs to be reined in before he completely destroys the reputation of the Catholic Church in the United States.

We must quickly make two small points. Bill Donohue is the leader of an organization that by its name (the Catholic League), seems to speak for Catholics. This is hardly the case. After all, the Catholic League self-reports only several hundred thousand members in the U.S., a small fraction of the some 68 million Catholics to be found in this nation. Further, the League is not an official part of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately for the more intelligent Catholics here in the States, Donohue is often the man called by news networks to represent their cause; he has by odd circumstance become their voice. We are not discussing rare or isolated instances in which Mr. Donohue has betrayed his inner ugly character. He consistently speaks for people who have not chosen him and do not finance him, and he does them no justice by presenting his opinions as the consensus view of this nation's Catholic population. It is for this offense, in addition to the content of his unctuous remarks, that I publicly call for his resignation.
I admire Mr. Wilhelm's succinct writing and calm tone in trying to take back his faith from a self-appointed spokesman that nobody asked for. In fact, reading it made me think of another blog I read this morning, about a similar perpetually screeching malcontent.

Rabbi Yehuda Levin, spokesman on family issues for the Rabbinical Alliance of America, representing the views of approximately 850 Orthodox rabbis, issued a statement ahead of the expected full Senate vote.

"Decent Bible-believing family people have been increasingly outraged by the cravenness of many politicians in their mad dash to turn timeless values on their heads, by advancing homosexual adoption, domestic partnerships, civil unions, 'marriage' and 'Heather Has Two Mommies,'" he wrote.

"The next slice of the salami – the koshering of volitional homosexual activity, along with all aspects of the homosexual culture, throughout the U.S. military – constitutes a rebellion against G-d and demoralizes both military and civilian society," he added. "We condemn the inherent antipathy, intolerance and even belligerence toward the essential religious liberties of Bible adherents."

Worthy of Donohue, or what?

And it gets better:

"How queer that politically correct 'equality'-fanatics in the military, who have already recognized the 'religious rights' of Wiccans, would single out traditional Bible-believers to be the object of their zero-tolerance policies," he wrote. "This will render it nigh impossible for Bible adherents to serve in the military."

Levin blasted lawmakers for pushing the legislation forward and urged people of all faiths to refuse to vote for representatives who pander to homosexuals.

"Passage of such evil legislation would expedite our hurtling towards Sodom and Gomorrah," he wrote. "It would also threaten to repel Divine Grace from our military's struggles and beyond. We call upon the Senate to unapologetically filibuster this legislation. We also ask all people of faith to adhere to our previous declaration that it is forbidden to vote for office-seekers who support the homosexual agenda."

Ok, now that we've heard from Captain Blowhard, let's go over Wilhelm's checklist:

A- Demagogue's group name implies a wider audience than they actually have. CHECK.
Levin's group, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, plugs its 850 member number as often as possible (apparently he's also affiliated with Agudas Harabonim, a similarly tiny organization that, unsurprisingly, also claims to speak for all Orthodox Jews in America). For comparison, the Modern Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America has over 1000 members. The Conservative Rabbinical Assembly has over 1500, and the Reform Central Conference of American Rabbis has over 2000. I guess Levin can boast that he has more rabbis under his tent than the Reconstructionists, but big whoop, right?

B- Demagogue runs to any camera or "news" mouthpiece that will have him, more or less acting as an independent agent, not any sort of authorized spokesman. CHECK.

I don't know of anyone that actually claims Levin as their spokesman. Previously he's claimed to be a Gerrer Hasid. Granted, I don't spend lots of time around folks like Yehuda, but I'd be curious to know how many people actually support him in any official capacity. When even people on YWN are wondering who this guy is and saying no one's asking him to represent them, that tells me something. When folks like Dov Hikind put him at arm's length for being too crazy, that tells me something, too.

Mostly Levin's MO seems to grab attention by clutching the coat-tails of anyone else likely to garner media attention. He did it with Pat Buchanan in 1996, he did it with Roy Moore in 2003, hell, apparently anytime Levin sees a controversy, he dives in, whether anyone actually asked him his opinion or not. The specific issue doesn't matter, being a hyperbolic media whore does.

C- Demagogue does significant damage to their co-religionists' image every time they open their mouths. CHECK.

Levin, as various J-bloggers have noted, is a walking Chillul Hashem. Anyone who hears about him or sees his authoritative beard and yarmulke is likely to assume that he speaks for America's Jews, or at least Orthodox Jews. And that seems to be what Levin is counting on. In the meantime, people who aren't the Catholic Church or wacko Evangelicals see Levin confirming their worst instincts or stereotypes about the Orthodox. He is an embarrassment to his community as well as the larger Jewish community of America which he claims to represent.

For the good of all of us, "Rabbi" Levin, please resign. Or at least move to an island with Bill Donohue.

Hasbara Hypocrisy

It's one thing for Israelis to feel prickly when they're criticized by American Jews who are thousands of miles away. They're entitled. I can even (partially) accept the exaggerated claim by holier-than-thou Israeli Defense Pundits like Dennis Prager that Jews need to make aliyah before they can articulate any public position on Israel:
While I have strong opinions on settlements, peace, territory, etc., unlike many American Jews I do not express them publicly. I do not believe it is the business of any American Jew to tell a mature democracy faced with threats to its existence what policies it should follow. Living in the safety of America, 10,000 miles away, I won’t tell you — whose lives are on the line every day — what you should do.
I'm expecting Dennis to start calling out AIPAC on its inability to stay quiet any day now.

But here's the thing, folks. You can't say that American Jews should keep their mouths shut and then pull crap like this:
Sixty-five percent of Jewish Israelis believe U.S. Jews should criticize the Obama administration's policy toward Israel, according to a survey published in June that was conducted on behalf of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem.
But I thought we needed to shut up?

The survey also found that 46 percent of Jewish Israelis believe American Jews are reluctant to criticize the Obama administration's Israeli policy due to fear of being accused of dual loyalty. Meanwhile, 36 percent said that type of accusation has no effect on them.

Of course not; Israelis don't care what anyone thinks about their actions, especially goyim. You can see this reflected in the reasoned political discourse that goes on in the Knesset, press, and public rallies. (How many times can we call our opponents Nazis? Let's see...) Damn our sissy American sensibilities and need for gentile approval.
Meanwhile, 54 percent of Jewish Israelis believe that Jewish advocacy groups who work with foreign governments and call themselves "pro-Israel" should always support Israeli government policy.
Does that mean we can retroactively revoke AIPAC's pro-Israel status for its anti-Oslo activities during the Rabin years? Keeping my fingers crossed.

Hat-tip: DovBear.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Barking Kiruv up the Wrong Tree

I know I rarely agree with R. Harry Maryles. And that's ok. I know we're worlds apart on most things. But he's usually pretty nice about it.

Recently, though, R. Harry seems to be trying to lay the kiruv work on a little thick. First he posted about Susan, a committed patrilineal Reform Jew (see her response here). R. Harry, trying to be nice, gives her a few back-handed compliments, and then draws his line.
Here is a person who sees the beauty of Judaism and actually tries to fulfill many Mitzvos. She may in fact have somewhere within her the inner soul of a Jew waiting to come out. But she is not Jewish according to Halacha neither according to Orthodox Judaism nor Conservative Judaism. Despite her best efforts she is not Jewish in the eyes of vast numbers of the people she identifies with. Her Jewish soul beckons to come out. But the only way she will have universal recognition is if she undergoes a full and formal conversion that will be unquestioned by any denomination.
R. Harry assumes that this is a major issue for Susan. Of course, I would guess that if this was the case, she would have done something about it sooner.

R. Harry holds out the carrot of universal "recognition" and suggests that Susan wants nothing more than being accepted by all the "people" she identifies with. People like who? Going out on a limb, most Reform Jews I know don't spend that much time with Orthodox Jews. I'm not putting words in Susan's mouth, but I'm guessing this just doesn't come up that much. Not to mention the fact that, as I pointed out in March, Orthodox Jews only make up 14% of the global Jewish population. Sure, they're visible, and sure, they're vocal, and sure, in some places they're outright in charge, but if you're just talking numerical acceptance, Reform honestly ain't that bad.

R. Harry keeps going with a modified version of Pascal's Wager:
Even though she disagrees with the Orthodox definition and considers herself Jewish – what harm can there be in doing so? If she is as sincere about her Judaism as she says (and I have no reason to question that) why not do this thing so that there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind about it?
Yeah, just do it in case you ever decide to care about what the Orthodox think. Come on!

Of course, what's missing here is any ability-- or attempt-- to see the situation through Susan's eyes-- and in effect, it relies on the premise of convincing her that she has a defect that needs to be fixed by conversion. It's like trying to tell a healthy or fairly attractive person that they're fat or need plastic surgery. "Sure, I know you think you look fine... but what harm is there in a little lipo? If you're sincere about wanting to be pretty, why not just do this one thing so there's no doubt in anyone's mind?"

That was last month. This month, R. Harry blogged about Zach Emanuel. He had a Bar Mitzvah, you see. But it turns out his mom "only" converted via Conservative auspices. Dun-dun-dun!

How can anyone think of themselves as fully Jewish if a major segment within it rejects their validity as a Jew? Shouldn’t that be enough to seek a conversion that is universally accepted?

Again, R. Harry seems to be applying the logic of high school popularity contests to Jewish life. How can you really be Jewish if not everyone thinks you are? (I suppose by that logic, Reform rabbis should start trying to get Orthodox shmicha, just to cover their bases.) Never mind that Reform and Conservative Judaism, numerically far bigger than Orthodoxy, reject plenty of elements of Orthodox practice. If we're going by the numbers here, then why don't we use that argument to convince the Orthodox to abolish the concept of mamzerut or agunot? Oh wait, because no denomination of Judaism sincerely cares about what the other ones think as long as they can't actively hamper them? Wow, I can't believe I forgot that one.

It's true not being accepted can be upsetting to some people, such as small children or emotionally needy teenagers. But I would hope that most adults, particularly in this age, accept that not everybody agrees with them, their politics, their lifestyle, or their values, and live their lives and craft their communities accordingly. If the Orthodox don't accept someone, guess what, there are plenty of people who will. Outside of Israel, it's not that big a deal.

And honestly, that's the problem for Orthodoxy when it comes to outreach. Unless someone has a fundamental change of perspective and decides that they believe Orthodoxy is the true path, OR they have low Jewish self-confidence and/or self-esteem and feel a tremendous need for acceptance (take, for instance, many of the young Baal Teshuvah folks recruited into specialized yeshivas that emphasize their lack of knowledge and appeal to their desire to do things in an "authentic" way), there simply aren't that many compelling reasons to become Orthodox. If you don't believe Orthodox theology is true or accept Orthodox interpretations of halacha, Orthodoxy becomes just one more opinion. And viewed within that context, honestly, who cares if one particular group doesn't accept you as long as there are others that do?

From what I've seen, universal Jewish acceptance is just simply not most people's-- especially the youth's-- biggest issue these days. And, in light of all the misheggos going on with Ortho rabbis in Israel invalidating conversions, this carrot increasingly appears to be an unobtainable pipe dream anyway.

The sad part is I know that this is coming a sincere person trying to expand Orthodoxy's big tent. But it really just demonstrates how divergent Jewish perspectives have become. The Orthodox don't-- and can't-- understand why people wouldn't want to live Orthodox lives, or at least convert Orthodox so they have their bases covered and can be "in the club." They don't get that for many Jews around the world, their particular club is not one they really care to belong to.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blaming Intermarriage for Divorce

Did you know that people are still getting divorced? I know, I'm shocked, too. And the fact that on average more interfaith-marriages end in divorce than... ones-- according to this article, almost three times as likely.

You can tell that the author, Naomi Riley, intends on giving a nuanced and thoughtful treatment to the issue by starting her column reliving those glorious few days last November when everyone found out way too much about this little family meltdown in Illinois:
The Reyes-Shapiro divorce is about as ugly as the end of a marriage can get. Some of the sparring is an example of the bad ways people act when a union unravels. But the fight over Ela's religion illustrates the particular hardships and poor track record of interfaith marriages: They fail at higher rates than same-faith marriages. But couples don't want to hear that, and no one really wants to tell them.
Yeah, so you see, it's the couples' fault for not basing their life choices on statistics. Or their parents or grandparents for not being big enough jerks about it.

It's not that Riley is personally "against" interfaith marriages. It's just that they're doomed:

In some ways, more interfaith marriage is good for civic life. Such unions bring extended families from diverse backgrounds into close contact. There is nothing like marriage between different groups to make society more integrated and more tolerant.

...But the effects on the marriages themselves can be tragic -- it is an open secret among academics that tsk-tsking grandmothers may be right. According to calculations based on the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, people who had been in mixed-religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages.

Of course, as with all arguments from statistics, the fact that something is more likely to happen does not really mean it is going to, particularly since the study doesn't give any information about the level of commitment of the respective partners to their religions, whether they are trying to practice two religions at once, whether there are kids involved, etc. Add to this the fact (pointed out here) that the study doesn't actually ask this question-- forcing Riley to apply some mysterious "calculations" based on some arcane logarithm I'm apparently too dense to figure out, and I become supremely unimpressed.
In a paper published in 1993, Evelyn Lehrer, a professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that if members of two mainline Christian denominations marry, they have a one in five chance of being divorced in five years. A Catholic and a member of an evangelical denomination have a one in three chance. And a Jew and a Christian who marry have a greater than 40 percent chance of being divorced in five years.
Again, what's missing here is any useful information that would contextualize these findings. Most importantly, I would think, would be how religious/exclusivist the partners are or identify with their faiths. How often do they go to church/synagogue, how important is their sect/religious identity to them, etc.? According to the ARIS, only half of all the Jews polled in it (who self-identified as "Jews by religion", not just by descent) even belonged to a synagogue.

...The interesting thing about this, as I think about it, is that presumably almost all of the Jews in these studies are non-Orthodox, given that they married non-Jews-- and, the fact that they married them in the first place also suggests that, at least at the time, they weren't coming from a "I must marry Jewish" mindset. This makes me curious about what the big factor in ending the marriages were. Then again, looking for a single explanation is the kind of simplistic mental sinkhole that brought us this bit of "journalism" in the first place.
More recent research concludes that even differing degrees of religious belief and observance can cause trouble. For instance, in a 2009 paper, scholars Margaret Vaaler, Christopher Ellison and Daniel Powers of the University of Texas at Austin found higher rates of divorce when a husband attends religious services more frequently than his wife, as well as when a wife is more theologically conservative than her husband.
Why would this be surprising, exactly? No one likes being told what to do or what to think, or feeling like they're being looked down on by their partner. If anything, this has more to do with personality and needing to spend lots of time making sure you're compatible rather than needing to make sure you're in theological lockstep. And, as Susan Katz Miller so deftly points out, that study actually concludes that religion has very little effect on divorce. But why read the conclusions when you can just cherry-pick some stats?

...a religiously tolerant society does not a happy marriage make. As Lehrer points out, a strong or even moderate religious faith will influence "many activities that husband and wife perform jointly." Religion isn't just church on Sunday, Lehrer notes, but also ideas about raising children, how to spend time and money, friendships, professional networks -- it can even influence where to live. The disagreements between husband and wife start to add up.

Hang on, you mean in a marriage, disagreements lead to conflict? Stop the presses. I guess you'd better work on limiting your disagreements, then, no?

Remember the famous counsel, the family that prays together, stays together? It's not just a come-on from preachers looking to fill pews. There is sociological research to back it up.

Oh my God. Stop, please. Next you'll be telling me that a penny saved is a penny earned, but that it can only go in one charity box, so you'd damn better choose which pushke you have in your house, or you kids will be hopelessly confused.

Riley keeps going on, and on, and on. Young people are apparently "blind" to the risks of intermarriage, they ignore religious issues before they get married, they underestimate how important they will be later, etc. She even suggests that young folks are verging on being brainwashed by the PC idea that they shouldn't discount whole groups of people as potential spouses just because of religion.

It's not that Riley doesn't have a point (somewhere). But the way she chooses to make it is lazy and catty. It's like she decided to take on the role of everybody's "tsk-tsking grandmother." The fact that intermarriages have a higher likelihood of divorce can be linked to a whole number of factors, not the least of which is that they are HARD. A much more interesting article would have focused on what the biggest trends are within interfaith marriages and how families work on addressing those problems-- successfully or unsuccessfully. Instead we get hand-wringing, sob stories, and a deluge of trash talking against naive, frivolous, mostly young, intermarried couples. I suppose it's a lot less work to beat the same drum of "Young people are so dumb... I mean, how can they not realize that Jews are DIFFERENT from Mormons?" Apparently the idea that individual people might be capable of making serious choices based on some actual soul-searching is just not as sexy as dog-piling on "those dumb kids."

Look, intermarriage isn't for everyone. For that matter, marriage isn't for everyone. Religion IN marriage isn't for everyone. But the fact that lots of intermarriages don't work out shouldn't be used as a sociological club to condescendingly play wack-a-mole with millions of people's family choices.

A wee bit morbid

A relative was visiting New York and told me he was going to visit my father's family plot in Staten Island. I got excited because I've never been to that cemetery and was looking forward to some fun family history tidbits.

I made the mistake of mentioning this to my parents. Then this happened:

Abbot Yid: I've decided I don't want to be buried. I want to be cremated.

Me: Ok, it's your choice.

AY: And then you can do whatever with me, scatter me, I guess.

Mother Superior Yid: I know, I know, in the ocean. Always the ocean-lover.

AY: Right.

MY: Now, I assume you'd prefer the Atlantic over the Pacific, since you have so many nice memories of it?

AY: Um... I don't think I'll care.

Me: Can we still bury you somewhere?

AY: What? No. Why bother?

Me: Well, so there's a resting place and people can visit you.

AY: Oh God no. I don't want to be visited, thanks. As a matter of fact, let's put that on the urn. "No visiting hours."

MY: It's good we're talking about this, because I've decided I want to donate my body to science.

AY and me: WHAT?

MY: Sorry, it's just... I've seen too many episodes of "Bones." I know what I'll look like within a few years. Yuck.

Me: Mom, do you mean, like, for medical students? You want to be a medical cadaver?

MY: Well, I mean, I want to be useful. Let people have my organs and whatever.

AY: That will already happen. We're organ donors.

MY: Well... hmm...

Me: But you still want the rest to be buried?

MY: It would be nice.

AY: The rest? What rest? If you donate the body to a hospital or something, I think they get it all.

A few days later, talking with Deacon Yid:

Me: So you heard about The Weirdest Conversation Ever TM?

Deacon: Yeah. If you think about it, the smartest thing to do is be cremated and then buried. That way people can visit you without your bones decomposing in the ground. Also then you take up less space.

Me: I suppose.

DY: And you can save on coffins. That stuff is super-expensive.

Me: Actually I think the funeral homes usually make you buy the coffins and then cremate the whole thing.

DY: Dude, people are morons!

Wow, that anti-cremation Chabad rabbi really doesn't know weird till he's talked with my folks.