Sunday, January 10, 2010

Articles of Interest (My Captain, Hebrew Science Fiction, Conversion, Muslim Fathers, and Selling Out the Humanities)

My uncle, Rabbi Dovid Landesman, has another article, this time on Emes Ve-Emunah, on the concept daat Torah (religious authority). He has a great story about my late grandfather going to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ztl about some issues with the mikvah (ritual bath) that he built in the side of his garage for his community in McKeesport PA.

Lavie Tidhar, an Israeli science fiction novelist, writes about the implications of writing science fiction in English as opposed to Hebrew. Apparently the slang term in Hebrew for science fiction is madab, short for mada bidyoni.

Rabbi Marc Angel, in the Forward, throws down the gauntlet against the Haredi rabbinic establishment in terms of handling conversions. He uses the example of Rabbi Ben-Zion Uziel, who argued for the legitimacy of converting people who were not yet ready to take on fully observant lifestyles.

Thomas Friedman writes about the father of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the attempted Christmas Day suicide bomber, who tried to warn authorities about his son. Friedman hits the nail right on the head when he writes:

Unless more Muslim parents, spiritual leaders, political leaders — the village — are ready to publicly denounce suicide bombing against innocent civilians — theirs and ours — this behavior will not stop. … Every faith has its violent extreme. The West is not immune. It's all about how the center deals with it. Does it tolerate it, isolate it or shame it?

This is a point I have tried to make in regards to the Haredi world. There is no moral difference between those who openly endorse extremist behavior and those who piously, with nods, excuses and winks, say it is wrong and then make excuses for it. If anything the latter is worse; at least those who do the former have the moral spine to openly say what they believe in their heads and their hearts.

Kate Zernike writes about attempts by colleges to make the humanities relevant to students and turn it into something that will help them get jobs. Allan Bloom must be turning in his grave at this sellout of classical education.

Then again maybe this is a vindication of his attack on the liberal university establishment? Our humanities departments are lining up and confessing that they have nothing of value to teach, no reason for students to come to them instead of going to business school. Thus they have no choice but to surrender and destroy their departments in all but name.

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