Big class action law suit going on by those claiming that Hebrew National hot dogs
are not really kosher, and the Triangle K, which is the kashrut agency giving the hechsher
on the hot dogs, who are defending their reputation and the kashrut of the hot dogs.
Growing up, it was always "known" that Hebrew National wasn't really
kosher, and you basically accepted that "fact" and chowed down on some other, more kosher hot dog. Now along comes Triangle K, and their spirited defense of their reputation and way of operating. I've read and re-read their statement
, and, as a religious Jew, and as a consumer, I find all of this rather perplexing. Even after reading the following JTA article
(and it's an excellent one) picked up by Haaretz and other papers, the issues become muddier.
Who do you wind up believing? The halachic issues of shechita (
ritual slaughter) are beyond complex (which is why we have kashrut agencies in the first place for matters like this); What level of knowledge are we required to have when making a decision as a kosher consumer? What does all of this do to the trust of the kosher consumer?
out there, after reading the statement
, and becoming more aware of the issues, are you willing to head on over to your local supermarket, buy a pack of Hebrew National hot dogs, and fire up your spanking new pristine kosher grill in time for the 4th of July?
If you do, what does that say about you?
If you don't, what does that say about you?
Food for thought...Update
- yet another interesting article that provides even more context to this story here
The Frisco Kid
. I mean, does it get any better, or any deeper? Is there really any other movie that fits the mood of the final week of school, when students are gazing longingly out the window at a summer vacation that is around the corner?
Is there any other movie out there that really nails concepts like Shabbos observance, love and honour of Torah, praying for rain and sustenance, and how to mangle curse words in Yiddish?
I saw this movie when I was ten. My father rented a VHS player, borrowed a TV, and that magical winter vacation in Outremont, we watched the two best Jewish films of all time - Blazing Saddles
and The Frisco Kid
Now that I'm a teacher, I really can't justify the educational merits of Blazing Saddles. Too risqué. Too out there. Still has the funniest scene in movie history though...
But the Frisco Kid was another matter entirely. Believe it or not, there are some incredibly meaningful moments in this movie that are worth pausing along the way for a frank discussion with students, with questions like:
- Are you actually supposed to give up your life for the sake of a burning Torah?
- Can you really park your horse for Shabbos while a posse is on your trail, or do you keep on going?
- Do you run to save your friend, or run to extinguish a burning Torah?
A word of caution
- there's a mild bit of cursing in the movie. Nothing extreme, but enough to ruffle the sensitivities of your standard teacher in a community day school (Moi...). Warn the students in advance. Grade 5 and up...
Height and Judaism generally don't go hand in hand. While our chain of mesorah and tradition are based on giants
of Torah learning who were the leading authorities of their their respective eras, actual giants are not so... Jewish. Goliath yes, David, not so much.
I still remember my first high school basketball team when I was in Jewish Day School. In eighth grade, our starting center
could not have been more than 5'6", and a starting guard was like Mini-Me with a kippa (with velcro straps - remember that invention?). As a tribe, we just were not very tall in those days. Nowadays, it's a different story - whatever steroids they're putting into milk these days is working its way up the food chain; kids are huge!
I was reminded about all of this from a recent brilliant blog post
by Rav Natan Slifkin of Rationalist Judaism
; he writes about the Rabbinic debate over Moshe Rabbeinu's height - is his being "ten cubits high" literal or
allegorical? While I don't pretend to be a talmid chacham
in the slightest, reading his article jogged my memory of a hysterical YouTube clip I came across years ago on precisely this subject:
When I was a kid in elementary school in Montreal, Tu B'Shvat was a miserable experience. It would usually fall sometime in February, in the middle of a deep and unending freeze. The sun would set at what felt like one o'clock in the afternoon, and you would head home on the city bus in pitch dark, bundled up against the cold. If you were really unlucky, you even wore snow pants. And in the middle of all this winter “wonderland”, you’d be sitting in Ivrit or Judaics class, and your teacher and a volunteer from the parent association would come in with paper bags filled with Tu B'Shvat fruits.
While your teacher would go on and on about draining swamps, chalutzim, and wearing kovah tembels, you would sit there and sample the “best” that Israel had to offer. Which usually meant that you got to eat boxer fruits from the carob tree, and break your teeth in the process. You see, by the time that delicious fruit got picked from the carob tree in Israel, transported by plodding camel and refurbished tractor to some warehouse (where it probably sat for weeks), and then shipped for weeks across the ocean to North America, it was shriveled, black, tasteless, and tooth-chipping hard. In what must have been a nefarious plot by dentists (who incidentally were overwhelmingly represented on the parents association) teeth would chip and shatter all over Jewish Day Schools in Montreal, as boxer after boxer from the Holy Land was chewed and swallowed down with the same perverse pride a fighter must feel for taking a helluva punch. The “pain” of the exile was acutely felt in those moments.
Thank God, things have gotten better for Jewish Day School children experiencing what is the Rosh Hashana of the trees. In addition to transportation methods improving, the holiday itself is experiencing a bit of a renaissance, thanks to Jews rediscovering the mystical elements of the holiday, and the pairing of Tu B'Shvat with a broader understanding of ecology, Israeli geography and environmental sustainability.
I’ll leave you with two teachings on creation and nature…
Rabbi Baruch of Mezibush, a great Chassidic Rebbe, and a grandson of the Ba'al Shem Tov, said:
"God placed sparks of holiness within everything in nature"
And from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Chassidic Rebbe at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the main seminary of Conservative Judaism:
"Human beings must cherish the world, said the Ba'al Shem Tov. To deprecate, to deride it was presumption. Creation, all of creation, was pervaded with dignity and purpose and embodied God’s meaning."
Shabbat Shalom to all...
In his column "Open Season on Charedim — and Torah"
the writer, Rabbi Avi Shafran, the editor at large and columnist for Ami Magazine, misses a golden opportunity here to get off this cycle of mutual recrimination and find something positive and hopeful to say about Jews of different stripes. Instead, it's more of the same that we keep on seeing these days - attacking anyone perceived to be critical of the Torah world.Commenting on
Rabbi Dov Linzer’s recent column in the New York Times called “Lechery, Immodesty and the Talmud”
(which in my circles, flew around Facebook and other social media with a very positive response), Shafran writes:"Rabbi Dov Linzer’s business, however, is not bigotry but the promotion of a new vision of Judaism, one that many find redolent of the Conservative movement’s early days. The dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale in the Bronx, an institution championing 'modern and open Orthodox values'... the opportunity Rabbi Linzer saw was to sully not so much a group of Jews (although he does his share of that too) but rather a concept, that of tznius, or Jewish modesty."Rabbi Shafran ends his column with the following:"The emergence of such… interesting writing by Jews in the secular media is, of course, disturbing. (Other adjectives occur as well.) It puts one in mind of what Rashi reminded us recently when we reviewed parshas Shemos, that Moshe Rabbeinu had puzzled over why the Jewish People had languished so long in Egypt—until he discovered the phenomenon of Jews acting contemptibly against other Jews. Then he understood. If any of us are puzzling over why our current exile is so protracted, well, a glance at some op-ed pages can provide the tragic answer."Rabbi Shafran is indeed right - we often do act contemptibly against each other, and Rashi was completely
accurate in his explanation of the length of our time in slavery. But there's a wider picture here - this didn't end with Mitzrayim
. It continued in the desert, with infighting, blaming of the other, pinning it all on the "erev rav". It continues to this very day - Reform. Conservative. Orthodox. Chareidi. Chiloni. Each finding fault with the other, each assigning the blame for our collective problems on the other.These aren't the other. They are your family. Your brothers and your sisters. Teach your children and your students to find the good in other people, in other Jews who are not exactly like them, teach them to judge people favourably.
We may still be in the proverbial desert. But at least while we're together in the desert, we can be there for each other, learn from each other - no matter how much we may disagree on visions of Yiddishkeit and Torah.
Growing up in Montreal, on account of my school's trilingual curriculum, I got used to the creative approaches to teaching multiple languages and subjects, in order to meet Ministry requirements for number of hours of instruction in French. This required my school to integrate its curriculum across three languages... for example, PE was taught in French, Jewish History was taught in Hebrew, Canadian Geography in French, etc.
By way of contrast, one of the things I have been struck by in my teaching is how much of a curricular divide often exists between Ivrit class and Judaic's class - one comes across as purely about our language, and the other about our laws and customs... never the twain shall meet. It strikes me as artificial and such a wasted opportunity - Ivrit is the language of our Torah and
the modern State of Israel. I teach in a community day school that gives me the freedom to take risks in my teaching (thank God!) and in my Ivrit class
, I have been using the dramatic situation in Beit Shemesh between the extreme elements of the Chareidi commnity (the קנאים) and everyone else (חילוני, דתי ציוני) to educate my students about the realities of life in Israel. Never let a good crisis go to waste.(Kudos to Rav Natan Slifkin for
the link to this video
on his indispensable website www.rationalistjudaism.com
)The focal point of this unit in Ivrit is the following clip of one of the leaders of the zealots, Moishele Friedman, who is being interviewed by the mainstream media.
What I find absolutely amazing in this short clip is just how much it has to teach us on so many levels, how much it touches on (Jewish history, Israeli politics, the religious-secular divide, extremism, the Shoah, intolerance, modesty and immodesty, the distinction between Medinat Yisrael versus Eretz Yisrael, and so on). It is an extremely rich educational tool that should be mined deeply by both Ivrit teachers and Judaics teachers alike. But first things first - the students had to break into groups, and translate the dialogue line by line into English.
Once they actually understood what was said, this clip left my students amazed and completely befuddled, with a thousand urgent questions, both in Hebrew and English - the ensuing conversation was also in as much Hebrew as the students' ability allowed. Here on the West Coast, my students are really only exposed to a handful of local community Rabbis - apart from the Chabad shluchim here, there is no other Chassideshe community, and no comparable Chareidi community to what you see in the clip. Their experience with the frum world is overwhelmingly positive, and it is not a stretch to say that they believe that if you are a religious person (or even dress the part) then you are therefore "good". Watching this gave new meaning to the term v'nahafoch hu.
"Mar Abba, why would they spit on a little girl?"
"Aren't they religious, look at how they are dressed?"
"What's a פרוצה?
"Why would they call someone a prostitute? That's so gross!"
"Mar Abba, she's dressed so modestly, what did she do wrong?"
"What happened to the lady in the car, why did they smash her car and throw a rock on her leg?"
"What's a kollel?"
"Why are they dressing kids in concentration camp outfits? Why do they think Israelis are like Nazis or Communists?"
Welcome to Israel, kids. Welcome to this complex, beautiful Jewish world of ours. Welcome to your family, warts and all. What you are watching is ultimately connected to you in so many different ways.
Sure beats your typical worksheets in Ivrit class, no?
I made this xtranormal video for my middle school grades. It's a flipped class assignment for their weekly Parshat Hashavuah task, which is teaching the parsha via 2D cartoons on www.toondoo.com
. A bit of humour, some creativity, and specific directives - you can get great results this way...
One of the things I noticed when I started teaching in middle school was how a number of schools taught Kabbalat Shabbat, in a manner that in no way resembled the real thing. From personal experience, Friday night and Kabbalat Shabbat is the high point of any davening during the week. You've made it through another week, you get to shul, see old friends, and plug into this wonderful tfillah that is part joy and part exhaustion - in fact, falling asleep during Lcha Dodi is a common occurred for this blogger.
Here's what you will often see in a school. Siddurim come out. A perfunctory Lcha Dodi is sung, maybe a stanza from Shalom Aleichem, students sit in their individual desks, and sliced challah is passed around to suddenly ravenous students, like rice off of the back of a UN supply truck in a war-torn refugee camp. Then it's recess. No feel, no depth to it.
I may be still learning how to be an effective teacher, but I did put in place what I think is a winning formula for how to do Shabbat and Kabbalat Shabbat in a community day school, in as authentic a fashion as possible. So much so that my students will claim that their Kabbalat Shabbat time on Friday is their best part of the week! Remember, characteristics of Authentic Learning Activities are that they have real-world relevance, are collaborative, and value laden (among others).
A note of caution - doing this right takes time, students need to learn the routine. Here's my formula:
Shabbos candles (everyone, boys and girls, light candles and make the bracha) + Shabbos tish (all class tables come together to form one long table, with students facing each other) + Tfillot / Zmirot (the high points of Kabbalat Shabbat, Arvit and Shalom Aleichem, accompanied by niggunim AND vigorous hand drumming) + Kiddush (all students hold their dixie cups the chassideshe way and say kiddush) + washing stations and hamotzi (silence, bracha, and challah is torn and tossed to students) + divrei torah (students share something they learned about the parsha or something they learned in Judaics over the course of the week) + birkat hamazon = Authentic Kabbalat Shabbat Experience, one your students will look forward to every week.
Total time: 40 - 45 minutes, or one full period. For the record, for tfilla, we do Yedid Nefesh, Lchu N'ranenah, Lcha Dodi, VeShamru and then Shalom Aleichem.
Try it with your students, let me know what type of reaction you get!
My students in community day school... :)
This is a 1995 clip of the Israeli star Shlomo Artzi collaborating on a recording of a Yiddish/Hebrew version of Modeh Ani with a group of Chassidim. I came across it while researching material for my class on Tfilla/Prayer.
I've lost count of how many times I have watched this clip - it is powerful on so many levels, and it is a wonderful and versatile clip to use as an anticipatory set for a (middle school and up) Judaics class on (take your pick):
- Tshuva - Have your students translate the lyrics that are sung; "As long as the neshama burns within, you can fix things", etc. On a personal note, if only our chazanim could sing like this on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur!
- Tfilla - You can use this clip to introduce the power of the deceptively simple Modeh Ani prayer. Ask students to write what they felt while watching this clip afterwards in their journal.
- Unity - The fact that Artzi, the secular Israeli artist is working with Chassidim to add his touch to a classic liturgical song is one thing; ask students to identify what memories Artzi is reminded of when singing it. What might this mean for common areas of partnership and dialogue between secular and religious Jews? Where can common ground be found?
- Introducing Yiddish - Many students today (at least here on the West Coast) are unfamiliar with the culture and language of Yiddish. This clip could be used as an introduction to how Yiddish and Hebrew can intersect.
Are there other ways you can use this as an anticipatory set?
In trying to a) articulate the need to teach Torah in a variety of differentiated ways
to best meet the needs and multiple intelligences of students and b) highlight the necessity of integrating technology in Jewish Education
, I decided to achieve both in this little film clip
I produced via www.xtranormal.com
In the video, the well-intentioned but stuck-in-his-ways teacher is identifying pshat as the key goal or understanding of Torah learning - he wants his students to understand pshat.
The student wants the same thing, but is expressing the need to tier the process and product - he wants to express his learning in a way that best suits him.
There is the well-known Midrash writes that there are 70 "faces" to the Torah (Bamidbar Rabbah 13:15). There are many valid ways of learning and understanding each part of the Torah. While the goal is to teach our students to love and to learn Torah, we can modify the process and product of that learning. The Torah is multifaceted. So are our children and students.
Note to educators - if you choose to use xtranormal.com in the class (which I highly recommend!), look for a tab marked "Education" to click on when you begin. Click "Accept" to install a cookie in your browser that will enable the education-safe version of xtranormal.com.