Category Archives: Jewish Culture

Posts related to Jewish Culture

New Sites for YUTOPIA and Jewish Gutiar Chords!

Dear Loyal Readers,
It’s been nearly five years since the big move from first moved domain names from Blogger to YUCS and we’ve had a great run on the ‘ol server. Sadly, the future of YUCS is uncertain at present1, which meant that I needed to start looking for actual paid hosting to handle both the blog and the Jewish guitar chords archive and then to port everything over.
Today I am very pleased to announce that the transition appears to be complete. Thanks to a great deal of hacking and the good support people at, both the chords and guitar database are up and running at their new homes:
The new site for YUTOPIA is:

and the new feed is
The Jewish guitar chords can be found appropriately enough at:

For the time being YUCS is redirecting all traffic to the new site,2 but since I don’t know how much longer YUCS will be in operation, I’d like to ask if you could please update your links and feed subscriptions accordingly.
I don’t have metrics just yet, but it does seem the site runs slightly slower and loads a little weirder than before. On the plus side, I’ve sorted out most of the new glitches and thanks to the new system I’ve even added some cool features such as this nifty little new contact form for direct spam-free feedback.
It also seems to be a good time to update the Blogroll on the side. If you’d like to exchange links or if you’re already linking and would appreciate the reciprocity, please let me know.
Thank you all very much for your help and support. It’s been an exciting time lately, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.3 I hope I’ll be able to continue sharing in the next adventures of my little YUTOPIAN world.

1. And if and when it ever does go down, I’ll write up a history. Tentative title: “From 501 to 404.” (Yes, that’s an obscure but relevant reference).
2. Some pages might not be working due to previous movabletype upgrades. I’ll fix those as they come up.
3. Another big announcement forthcoming, and no I’m not getting engaged.

Posted in Jewish Guitar Chords. Tagged with , , , .

The 300

I know I’ve had one of my extended absences from blogging, and I promise I *will* return with a full explanation and lots of other cool stuff. Just checking in to report that I’ve added the 300th song to the Jewish Guitar Chord Archive. The auspicious song in question is the Dovid Melech camp song, “with the pre-macarena hand motions.”
Keep on playing!

Posted in Jewish Guitar Chords.

The Unmaking of a Gadol

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Mishlei 16:18)

The Jewish Week reports the “breaking news” that R. Hershel Schachter has once again made irresponsible and controversial statements. From a YouTube clip taken at Yeshiva Hakotel R. Schachter was to have said:

First you have to know what the army is going to do. If the army is going to destroy Gush Katif, there’s no mitzvah to destroy Eretz Yisrael…If the army is going to give away Yerushalyim [Jerusalem], then I would tell everyone to resign from the army – I’d tell them to shoot the Rosh Hamemshalah [Prime Minister],” which prompted laughter from his audience…No one should go to the army if they [the army] are doing aveirus [sins]…We’re talking if the army is seeing to it that the country is secure, if they’re doing the right thing. I’m not sure if the army is doing the right thing…we have to look into that.

This is not the first time R. Schachter has made controversial or irresponsible statements, but rather one in a pattern of such remarks which leads us to the question of the viability of his Rabbinic leadership.

Continue reading

Posted in Jewish Culture.

Downtown Kosher Subway Review

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that the kosher Subway reviewed in this post is no longer. Read on for what was and could be, but making a special trip would be unwarranted.
Those of you up on the latest in Kosher food scene probably heard about the new kosher Subway in the financial district on 28 Water Street. While this is not the first kosher Subway – there are locations in Brooklyn, Queens, and Livingston NJ – this one just happens to be conviniently across the street from my office. Like many Jews in the area, I thought I’d give it a shot on its first day as part of the tribe.

Continue reading

Posted in Jewish Culture.

The Abraham Heschels Of Today

And it is not the teaching which is the essential, but the action (M. Avot 1:16)

Note:Parts of this post have been corrected.since publication.

In belatedly commemorating Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s 100’s birthday, the Center for Jewish History bemoans the absence of a contemporary equivalent, asking “Where are the Abraham Heschel’s of today?” For many liberally inclined Jews, Heschel was the Gadol Hador – a prolific, erudite, knowledgeable scholar who synthesized traditional texts, academia, with contemporary sensibilities and ethics of activism. The problem, apparently, is that no one – or at least not enough people – has sufficiently assumed Heschel’s mantle.

Continue reading

Posted in Jewish Culture.

Orthodox Paradox: A Debate on Jewish Values

The big Jewish story of Summer 2007 was Professor Noah Feldman’s now infamous New York Times Magazine article “Orthodox Paradox” (July 22, 2007) in which Feldman critiques Modern Orthodoxy as being inherently and irrevocably inconsistent. The specific “paradox” to which Feldman points is that on one hand Modern Orthodoxy claims to embrace the secular world, yet simultaneously maintains a religious prejudice against it. Feldman cites examples of Jewish particularism in the Talmudic law that Jews do not desecrate the Shabbat to save the life of a non-Jew and through the personal ignominy he faced at his high school reunion having been ostracized due to his intermarriage.

Feldman’s article generated some of the most vociferous discussion among the Jewish intelligentsia and throughout the J-Blogosphere, with Feldman being vilified for betraying the Jewish people either for intermarrying or through voicing his critiques in a public forum.1 While the frenzy has died down since the summer, Feldman exposed a nerve in the Jewish community which still rightfully still agitates many. To address some of those issues and the subsequent reaction, on Thursday October 18th NYU hosted a symposium entitled, “Orthodox Paradox: A Debate on Jewish Values” featuring the eclectic trio of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, philanthropist Michael Steinhart, and the aforementioned Professor Noah Feldman.

Despite the event’s classification as a “debate”, there was little collective coherency among the three panelists. Instead of addressing one area of “Jewish values” each panelist discussed his own approach to the question based on his own individual set of values.

Continue reading

Posted in Jewish Culture.

Franchising Judaism: The Politics Of Exclusion

A good name is better than oil (Kohelet 7:1)

One of the most important business commodities, intellectual or material, is the brand name. More than just a logo, a brand name is the symbolic representation of the entire company, implicitly defining the quality and integrity of its products. Building widespread brand name recognition can take several years, let alone correcting a negative impression, but acquiring an established reputable brand name quickly improves a company’s legitimacy in the eyes of the public. For instance, Rupert Murdoch’s purchasing of the Wall Street Journal gives his new business channel instant credibility (at least in theory).

On a smaller scale, brands can be leased to individuals in the form of franchising. In this system, a small business can leverage an existing brand name and benefit from it’s reputation and advertising. However, the corporate office usually dictates uniform policies from products, pricing, and interior design in order to protect its brand and ensure a consistent experience for the consumer.

Religion follows a similar pattern in terms of connecting name recognition to external expectations. We expect Orthodox Jews to keep kosher, observe Shabbat, and follow the laws and ethics defined by Jewish law. The difference is that Orthodox Judaism has no authoritative “home office” to enforce uniform regulations. As such, the religious “franchisees” are left to argue over who has the most authentic characteristics, and in turn discredit and delegitimize their competitors.

Let’s look at three recent examples from the world of Jewish news:

Continue reading

Posted in Jewish Culture.

The Yeshiva And The Bazaar

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to attend Yeshivat Chovevei Torah’s fourth Chag Hasemikha and extend best wishes to all the new musmakhim, especially roommate Rabbi Yonah. This was the first time I attended a non-Yeshiva University Chag Hasemikha, and throughout the proceedings we could not help but compare the two ceremonies especially having attended my own Chag Hasemikha just last year. What I found particularly striking was the contrasting emphasis and tone of the ceremony, with YU celebrating the institution and YCT highlighting the individuals.

Continue reading

Posted in Jewish Culture.

How to Handle

One of the reasons why I don’t post that often is because I try to let thoughts percolate so that I can post something more substantive than a reflexive rant. Last Friday I first found the OU’s new abstinence website and posted a quick response to one of their articles. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to read through all the articles on the site, and it appears I was inappropriately glib.

My argument was that the site was condescending towards teens in a painfully clumsy attempt at being cool and relevant. Other bloggers have similarly blasted the OU for either being naive or promoting an irresponsible health policy. But after carefully reading the entirety of the site, I have concluded that the problems are quantitatively and qualitatively far worse than initially reported.1 Sadly, the sanctimonious tone of the OU’s site is merely one example of a systematic disregard for teenagers and Torah.

Continue reading

Posted in Jewish Culture, Jewish Dating, Jewish Law / Halakha, Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava.

YUTOPIA’s Guide to Online Jewish Dating

Given the accurate stereotypes of Jewish dating neuroses, it should not be surprising that JDate started way back in 1997. Since then a few more sites have popped up like Frumster which concentrates more on Orthodox Jews and SawYouAtSinai which combines modern technologies with traditional matchmaking.

Regardless of which site one choses, all dating sites involve somewhat impersonal forms of communication; all dating sites require a profile of some sort and with the exception of SYAS, an initial e-mail or response. Unfortunately, while the profile and e-mail are essential parts of online dating, it is apparent that people have no idea how to use them effectively. Profiles are trite and many initial e-mails are simply worthless.

That’s where we come in. After reading far too many profiles and e-mails from both myself and friends, we’ve decided to provide some simple tips in navigating the online dating world.

Continue reading

Posted in Jewish Dating, YUTOPIA's Guides.