Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ancient Judaism and Canaanite Religions

There are many names of God or Gods used in tanakh. Orthodox Jews maintain that every name refers to the same God, except those names which are clearly used to refer to idols of other religions. Some of the names, however, are strikingly similar to the names of gods from the polytheistic religions surrounding ancient Israel.

Ugarit was an ancient city in what is now northern Syria, which existed from before 6000 B.C.E. (or approximately 2000 years before the creation of the Universe, if you're a young-Earth creationist) to around 1200 B.C.E. It was rediscovered in 1928:

The excavations uncovered a royal palace of 90 rooms laid out around eight enclosed courtyards, many ambitious private dwellings, including two private libraries (one belonging to a diplomat named Rapanu) that contained diplomatic, legal, economic, administrative, scholastic, literary and religious texts. Crowning the hill where the city was built were two main temples: one to Baal the "king", son of El, and one to Dagon, the chthonic god of fertility and wheat.

On excavation of the site, several deposits of cuneiform clay tablets were found, constituting a palace library, a temple library and -- apparently unique in the world at the time -- two private libraries; all dating from the last phase of Ugarit, around 1200 BC


The discovery of the Ugaritic archives has been of great significance to biblical scholarship, as these archives for the first time provided a detailed description of Canaanite religious beliefs during the period directly preceding the Israelite settlement. These texts show significant parallels to Biblical Hebrew literature, particularly in the areas of divine imagery and poetic form. Ugaritic poetry has many elements later found in Hebrew poetry: parallelisms, meters, and rhythms. The discoveries at Ugarit have led to a new appraisal of the Old Testament as literature


Ugaritic religion centered on the chief god, Ilu or El, the "father of mankind", "the creator of the creation". The Court of El or Ilu was referred to as the 'lhm. The most important of the great gods was Hadad, the king of Heaven, Athirat or Asherah (familiar to readers of the Bible), Yam (Sea, the god of the primordial chaos, tempests, and mass-destruction) and Mot (Death). Other gods worshipped at Ugarit were Dagon (Grain), Tirosch, Horon, Resheph (Healing), the craftsman Kothar-and-Khasis (Skilled and Clever), Shahar (Dawn), and Shalim (Dusk). Ugaritic texts have provided biblical scholars with a wealth of material on the religion of the Canaanites and its connections with that of the Israelites.

There are some obvious parallels here. The God of tanakh is often referred to as El, recalling the chief God of Canaanite religion. Furthermore, the term Elohim, which is now thought of as merely another name of God, was in Canaanite religion a term for the whole court of El. (Hebrew not having vowels, Elohim in Hebrew is basically the same as 'lhm.) Some of the other Gods mentioned in the Ugaritic texts are also mentioned in the Bible, not as synonymous with the Jewish God, but rather as "other gods," which are now (by Orthodox Jews) thought to mean "idols" or false gods. Asherah is mentioned in 2 Kings 18.8:

He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the grove, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

Where's Asherah in that verse, you ask? Well, the hebrew word that's translated as "grove" is... Asherah. Which frankly makes a lot more sense when you notice that its parallel to "the high places," "the images," and "the brasen serpent," all sources of idolatry. Some English translations retain "Asherah," such as the New Living Translation. The New King James Version translates it as "sacred pillars."

Asherah is interesting because of her status in Canaanite religion. She is the "consort" of El, and the mother of his 70 sons.

Scholars believe that Asherah was worshipped by many in ancient Israel and Judah, referred to by Jeremiah as "the Queen of Heaven."

Jeremiah 7.18:

The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead [their] dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.

Another interesting Canaanite God is Ba'al, who is mentioned in tanakh. Orthodox Jews understand Ba'al to be a false god -- or several false gods -- quite popular in Jeremiah's time.

Now in tanakh, YWHW is the same God as El. But YHWH may have started out in Canaanite religion as one of the 70 sons of El. The Dead Sea Scrolls fragment of Deutoronomy 32.8-9, which agrees with the Septuagint, reads as follows:

When the Most High ('Elyon) allotted peoples for inheritance,
When He divided up the sons of man,
He fixed the boundaries for peoples,
According to the number of the sons of El
But Yahweh’s portion is his people,
Jacob His own inheritance.

Now the Jewish version reads "sons of Israel" in place of "sons of El," but the first time we see that version is from a manuscript dating 700 years later than the above. "The older reading implicates an original polytheist context at the birth of Judaism. Within this framework, humanity was divided into seventy peoples, each with its own patron god. Yahweh takes Jacob as his, shedding additional light on the textual meaning of the chosen people."

The argument for the original polytheistic context at Judaism's birth is bolstered by the name "Elohim."

"Elohim" has the shape of a plural noun, and indeed is often used that way in tanakh when it's used to refer to "other gods." However, it's often used as a singular noun, as in Genesis 1.1. Many scholars argue that the plural form of "Elohim"

reflects early Judaic polytheism. They argue it originally meant 'the gods', or the 'sons of El,' the supreme being. They claim the word may have been singularized by later monotheist priests who sought to replace worship of the many gods of the Judean pantheon with their own singular patron god YHWH alone.


The alternative polytheist theory would seem to explain why there are three words built on the same stem: El, Elohim, and eloah. El, the father god, has many divine sons, who are known by the plural of his name, Elohim, or Els. Eloah, might then be used to differentiate each of the lesser gods from El himself.

This theory makes the Elohim saying "Let US make Man in OUR image, in OUR likeness" make more sense, as well as YHWH's commandment to Israel, "worship no other gods [Hebrew:Elohim] before me."

Dan Brown may have been wrong about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, but a pretty strong case can be made not only for El/YHWH and Asherah, but for an even bigger cover-up than the one in The Da Vinci Code -- that the earliest Jews were polytheistic!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memories of an Orthodox High School Romance

When I first saw her, I already had a girlfriend. She was so different -- small and tan, her slightly Asiatic features making her exotic among the other Jews. A ba'alat teshuva, she had a mysterious past. Word of her unusual intellect preceded her, and she quickly joined the circle previously made up of only the smartest boys. Since I had a girlfriend, I decided that I must set her up with a friend of mine.

That didn't work out.

A year later, when my girlfriend and I had broken up, I befriended her. We sat next to each other in advanced physics and played card games the oblivious teacher couldn't see. We started getting together in the evenings to do homework, and homework quickly gave way to long, interesting conversations.

I was drawn to her spirituality. Unlike the kids I grew up with, she had chosen to be frum. Where the rules and rituals were habitual for us, she found meaning and beauty. Ironically, it was she who taught me what it meant to be religious.

She wanted to be shomeret negiyah* - no small feat for a 16 year old girl in a coed school. We were falling for each other, but we were careful to never cross that line. Her spirituality notwithstanding, we found every possible way to violate the spirit of the law if not the letter**. I'd put a pillow on my chest and she'd rest her head on it while we watched a rented movie. We'd lie on the oversized couch for hours looking into each others eyes, tasting each other's breath, but never kiss, never brush aside that stray hair with our fingers. We'd drift off to sleep sometimes and I'd wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning to sneak back into my house.

Once, my parents left town and she stayed at my house, parking her car around the corner so the neighbors wouldn't see. We got into bed together, careful not to touch, and I turned off the light. We both made the kissing sound as we had gotten into the habit of doing, and somehow, in the sudden darkness, our lips met accidentally. We laughed it off and spent a sleepless night without touching again.

Then it was the summer after graduation and we'd spend evenings taking walks and continuing those deep conversations you can only have when you're young. We'd have picnics in the park and on July 4th, we watched the local fireworks from her bedroom window.

The time we spent looking into each others eyes grew longer, our lips so close I could feel her breath. After the summer, I was leaving, and my imminent departure lent a poignant intensity to those moments.

I wanted more than anything to kiss her, to touch her, to make love to her. But some feeling of responsibility managed against all odds to keep my instincts at bay all those nights as we almost-kissed but remained frozen an inch apart for hours.

This situation would have been unsustainable if not for that constant sliver of doubt in my mind. Every night I wondered if this was the night we'd touch. I knew that I couldn't violate her wishes to remain shomeret negiyah no matter how silly it seemed, but her signals were becoming more and more mixed.

One day, we went swimming together. She had a pool in her backyard and we were alone together. Seeing her in a swimsuit was almost too much. Her legs, her breasts, the wisps of hair escaping the suit between her thighs. We'd clearly gone far beyond violating the spirit of negiyah and I was starting to think we'd finally touch each other. When, in the pool, we stood inches from each other and I stopped in the water between her outstretched legs, I came so close to kissing her, but couldn't do it without a clear signal. Eventually, I went home.

The next evening, we sat on her porch in the swinging bench, talking. I was leaving in a few days and we were starting to miss each other already. It was getting late, and I'd promised my parents I'd be home by midnight, so I got in my car to go home. She came up to the driver's side to say goodnight, and I rolled down my window.

She said, "I want to kiss you so much," and I said, "Can I kiss you?"

Complicated feelings came and went behind her eyes and she said, "I can't tell you it's okay, but if you kiss me, I'll kiss you back."

Being responsible is one thing, but no conceivable God could hold me responsible for falling for that. I kissed her, after six months of waiting, after six months of imagination. She opened the door and climbed into my lap.

Five hours later, at 5:30 in the morning, her mother knocked on the car door. Being an unusually liberal and areligious woman, she was happy to see her daughter enjoying herself, but my father had woken her up with a phone call, wondering where I was. I had to go home.

We had another few days together of heaven on Earth, and then I left for yeshiva***.

* "Shomeret negiyah" means that she didn't touch boys, not even to shake hands.
** By no stretch of the imagination should this be taken to mean we didn't violate other laws -- particularly that of yichud, or not being alone together.
*** For a year after high school, I went to a yeshiva, or (single-sex) school of Jewish learning, in Israel.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Why the Success of The Da Vinci Code is a Good Thing

I read the book. Eh. I saw the movie. Eh. (Except for Ms. Tautou, of course. She's like a prettier, sexier Katie Holmes who isn't married to a famous scientologist.)

So why am I excited that it's so popular (at least in book form?) Because the majority of theists in this country accept their beliefs uncritically. The Da Vinci Code, although it's of course fiction and implausible fiction at that, has undoubtedly been the first meeting of many people with an alternate story of their religion.

It may not be true that Jesus was married, but if Christians at least ask themselves how they know that he wasn't, it'll be a step in the right direction. Maybe they'll start asking about how and when the gospels were written. I'll bet that for many Christians, TdVC is the first they've ever thought about the people who decided which books get included in the Canon and which don't. Sure most will probably just end up with even more wacky ideas, but perhaps some will decide to try to figure out what we really know about the early history of Christianity. That can only lead to good things, if only a more sophisticated mainstream Christianity.

When I was in high school, I came across the works of Tom Robbins, a fun and playful fiction writer who incorporates a lot of pagan beliefs and skepticism of the Church into his works. Although I was at no point in danger of becoming a pagan, he taught me to look at my own religion's history more critically, and that may have started me on the path that brought me here today.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mr. Rogers Goes to Washington

In 1969 the US Senate had a hearing on funding the newly developed Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The proposed endowment was $20 million, but President Nixon wanted it cut in half because of the spending going on in the Vietnam War. This is an video clip of the exchange between Mr. Rogers and Senator Pastore, head of the hearing. Senator Pastore starts out very abrasive and by the time Mr. Rogers is done talking, Senator Pastore's inner child has heard Mr. Rogers and agreed with him. Enjoy.

Video: Won't you be my neighbor?

(via metafilter.)

I Have a New Post at 'Just Another Jewish Conspiracy'

Something Rotten in the USA

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sometimes I Miss My Rose-Colored Glasses

A man was walking down the beach picking up starfish that had washed up on shore and was throwing them back into the ocean. A little boy came up to him and said, "why do you bother? You can't possibly save them all. It doesn't matter."

The man picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean and said to the boy, "well, it mattered to that one".

(I'm in a sour mood partly because I just watched Lord of War (trailer) which is okay but very depressing.)

There's so much awfulness in the world wrought by humankind. (Actually, perhaps the less-PC "mankind" would be more precise here.) Genocide, murder, terrorism, child molestation, forced prostitution, slavery, exploitation, war, drug addiction, poverty...

There's greatness, too, of course: kindness, generosity, love, sharing, art, family. But so much of even that is tainted. How much of our lifestyle in America is at the expense of sweatshop laborers, immoral wars by our country and by proxy, despoiling the environment, plundering the natural resources of other nations, etc? How many of our careers are dedicated to the further enrichment of the wealthiest of the wealthy? How many to support the military-industrial complex and the indirect killing of innocent people? How many of us can claim that our life's work will leave the Earth a better place? And how can we enjoy our lives knowing as we do the horrific circumstances of millions of others and not doing enough about it? Not being able to ever do enough?

If God exists, you can believe that somehow it's ultimately for the greater good. That there's some admittedly incomprehensible explanation for all the innocent people so unfairly wronged. That there's some meaning to the Holocaust and to the atrocities going on in Africa. That war isn't just a senseless waste of young men's lives and purposeless slaughter of civilians. That we won't fuck up the Earth so badly that God can't fix it in the time of the Messiah. That our greed for bigger and bigger weapons won't end up destroying all of human life within the next few centuries.

As an atheist, I try to have faith in the basic goodness of humanity, but sometimes the evidence to the contrary is just overwhelming. At the family level and even on the level of the community, things can easily be much more good than bad. But stepping back to look at the wider picture, it too often seems like we're just a bunch of overdeveloped, warlike apes who delight in finding bigger and better ways to kill each other.

It's similar, I guess, to accepting one's own death. As an atheist, I believe that when I'm dead, that's it. There's no Heaven, no Hell, no Purgatory, no reincarnation, no merging with the Divine. Just nothing. I think I'm okay with that -- being dead never bothered me before I was born, after all.

But knowing that not just me, but all of humanity will die, maybe sooner rather than later, is harder to accept knowing as I know how much suffering so many have to endure during the only lives they get.

I wish I could believe that the spread of Democracy or advances in technology will eventually lead to a world full of love and harmony. But I'm no Utopian. I've seen how we use technology. I've seen what we do in the name of Democracy.

I know that it's better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Like the kid on the beach, maybe it's enough to do what I can, to make the lives of those around me better to the extent that I can. Maybe I could join the peace corps or go to the Sudan and save a few lives. Maybe I can get involved in politics and fight for goodness and decency. Or maybe I'll continue to just sit at my computer and shake my head at the senselessness of it all.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Quote of the Day: On Community

Home is not where you live but where they understand you. -- Christian Morgenstern
(Tip o' the hat to dbackdad, at sadie's.)

I've never been able to articulate exactly how it was that I felt excluded from my former community when I started having doubts about Orthodoxy, but this quote nails it. Not only did most Orthodox people not understand me, but once I stopped being like them, they didn't even want to understand me. There are a few Orthodox people from my former life who remain close friends, but the majority were not interested in understanding.

Actually, this does bring to mind a quote I previously blogged by Shalom Auslander, on his former Orthodox community:

There were a lot of conditions for love and affection and continued membership, And they were serious, and they were ludicrous. It was, "You don't wear a yarmulke you can get out. You intermarry, we sit Shiva for you. You eat non-kosher and our children are not allowed to hang out with you." --Shalom Auslander

Parts of religion are okay. Other parts really suck.

Friday, May 19, 2006

In the Year Ten Thousaaaaand...

I don't hear much about the religious implications of an ancient universe other than the questions about Genesis. If the Earth were really 5767 years old and Genesis were literally true, than Adam was born the first year, Noah was born about 100 years after Adam died (at 930), and Abraham was born while Noah still lived. In other words, by the Biblical timeline, Judaism, or at least proto-Judaism in which people communicated and obeyed YHWH, started from day 6 and has continued through the present. This is pretty much what religious people believed until a couple centuries ago. Similarly, looking forward, people expected the Messiah to come pretty soon.

Now that we know the Earth is four billion years old, it changes things dramatically. Even assuming that Adam, Noah, and Abraham were real people, Adam wouldn't have been created for four billion years! (There's no real flexibility in the timeline of the Bible once Adam is created.) In fact, based on the fossil record, Adam wouldn't have even shown up until other homo sapiens sapiens had already been walking around for 100,000 years or so. If there was no Adam or Noah or Abraham, Judaism is even younger than that.

So if Judaism (in the broadest possible definition) has only existed for, at most, .0001% of the Earth's history and for less than 6% of human history, what does that imply about the future? What will Judaism look like in 8,000 more years? Will it still be around? Will YHWH be seen as we today see Zeus? Even if it is around, it would have to be vastly different than today's Judaism. Look how much Judaism has changed just in the last 2,000 years! Even black hats have only been around for a few hundred! ;-)

Many of the commenters to my posts about intermarriage (and to posts on other blogs which referenced my posts about intermarriage) talked about the importance of Jewish survival, as if Jewish survival were something that could go on forever if only we acted right. It seems to me that regardless what we do, Judaism will eventually fall from practice. It has had a very impressive run, (almost as long as Hinduism's!) but I can't imagine it can go on for even another 5,000 years, let alone another billion.

Worrying about the survival of Judaism seems kind of silly in the grand scheme of things. It will inevitably die out or evolve into something unrecognizable.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Introducing... Just Another Jewish Conspiracy!

I'll be participating in a new blog, which is a group effort by several of us J-Bloggers with diverse viewpoints to provide civil and interesting political discussion. We will be accepting guest postings as well.

RespondingtoJBlogs has kicked things off with an introduction and a post about the term "values voters." Also participating will be Charlie Hall, Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka, Ezzie, and Nephtuli.

Check it out!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Intermarriage and Interdating, Part II: or, Jewish Guilt

In response to my earlier post about intermarriage and interdating, the comments were uniformly civil and reasoned. There were people on each side and it was a good discussion. However, part of what I wanted to discuss is the intensity of feeling on the anti-intermarriage side. While I agree with the commenters who pointed out that it's my life to live and not my parents, I think they mostly didn't understand exactly how upsetting an intermarriage would be to my parents. (I also found some food for thought in the anti-intermarriage comments. I think I will try to date Jews, at least for a while.)

I recently received the following comment in response to an old post. I want to emphasize that I can't imagine my parents would have this degree of venom, but I believe it is indicative of how intense the anti-intermarriage sentiment can be:

If a child chooses to marry out of Judaism and the jewish people-it is the child who is disowning the parents if the parents are so religious. If a child really loves his/her parents, then no way would they do something so hurtful as to stomp on the very soul of their parents' being.

That child is very self-focused on his or her own "happiness" over EVERYTHING else--come on that person couldnt find happiness with a Jewish mate? Just as I would love to try a treif porterhouse steak, I know that I shouldnt. Yeah, Im comparing finding a spouse to that. Even when I have found a girl to have a really attractive personality and great looks-if she wasnt Jewish I wouldnt pursue it. There is something greater than my self and that is Judaism and jewish survival and my family. Those "in love" feelings do eventually wane-but not my continued link in the jewish chain of history or any Jew's link for that matter. When she has a baby of her own, only she and her husband will feel the joy if the child is not a part of the jewish community-but if she married a Jew, the whole community would rejoice with her at the birth of a child. If each person is an island with no expected loyalty to anything or anyone beyond themselves, then I guess one would have a problem understanding why the parents would disown her for marrying out. SHE DISOWNED HER PARENTS FIRST AND RIPPED THEIR SOULS TO SHREDS>

Now, from my perspective, parents have no right to make demands on their children regarding marriage. Clearly, however, many parents feel differently. It's easy to say, "Well, that's their problem, then," but the anguish pointed to by this comment makes one pause. One of my biggest complaints about religion is how it makes otherwise completely unreasonable behavior seem somehow reasonable to people. Parents who think their kids are "disowning them" and "ripping their souls to shreds" simply by marrying the person of their choosing are, in one way of looking at it, completely insane. But by their own worldview, it's completely reasonable and even moral, so these parents (again, mine wouldn't be nearly this extreme) will do anything in their power, including extreme guilt trips, emotional and other manipulation, and who knows what else, to get their way. This is a classic example of why religion sucks. (Or can suck, to be fair.)

So my parents, from my perspective, are both factually incorrect in their beliefs about intermarriage (stemming as it does from Orthodox Judaism) and morally incorrect in their assertion that they should have broad veto power over my romantic choices. But still, if they feel even a tenth as strongly as the above commenter, do I have the right to simply ignore their feelings, misguided (in my opinion) as they are? If I were to marry a non-Jew and they were devastated, it would be fair to say (from my perspective) that their own irrational beliefs caused their anguish, and not my behavior. But the fact remains that I could avoid causing them anguish by not intermarrying.

Religion, she is a powerful and cunning memeplex. Once present in a brain, it compels not only its own host to bid its wishes, but also those who care about its host. It holds its host hostage, saying to those who care about the host, "If you disobey me, I will destroy your loved one."

Monday, May 15, 2006

Premarital Sex

How important is good sex? Can any two otherwise compatible people have it? Is varied experience beneficial or detrimental? Is premarital sex helpful or harmful?

In the community I grew up in, sex was rarely talked about, and when it was, it was almost always about preventing it. The more religious people in the neighborhood would refrain from touching the opposite sex. People would avoid listening to women sing in order to preclude being attracted. Women would hide their legs, arms, bellies, backs, shoulders, and even, after marriage, their hair.

When it's time to get married (at about ages 20-22) the boys and girls would be set up with each other, meet a few times or, for the more liberal among them, date for up to about a year, but never have sex. (There are many, of course, who do date more like secular people and have sex, but I'm speaking of those who are thought of as behaving appropriately by the community and its leaders.)

Never having had a sexual relationship, indeed never having had a kiss or a dance or even a hug from someone of the opposite sex, they go into marriage as sexual children. Even after marriage, the scope of acceptable sexual behavior is significantly limited. Oral sex and anal sex are generally forbidden, condoms are almost always out of the question, and I doubt sex toys are looked well upon, let alone costumes, handcuffs, or other things people may be into. For a week every month, following the woman's period, the couple may not even touch each other.

When Orthodox people are to be married, they generally have a couple sessions with an adult (a Rabbi or Rebbetzin) who supposedly tells them what they need to know. I suspect that most of this talk focuses on the halakhic side of things rather than the practical, but you never know.

People who see this scenario as ideal seem to have one of a few basic philosophies:

  1. Sex isn't nearly as important as the other factors in a relationship. In fact, it's a distraction. Better to marry someone with whom you share values and goals than someone who happens to be good in the sack.

  2. Good sex will come naturally as the result of a good marriage.

  3. Good sex is correlated with other factors you can look for when choosing a mate. Actual sex (or physical contact) is not required.

  4. There are downsides to waiting until marriage, but the benefits of having "saved" yourself for your spouse are worth it.

So, are any of these true?

Is Sex an Unimportant Distraction?

It's obvious to me that good sex between people who otherwise hate each other is no foundation for a marriage, but it's not clear to me that good sex shouldn't be considered at least as important as, say, enjoying conversations with your spouse. And I doubt that anyone would marry someone they don't like talking to. It seems like having sex before you decide to marry is as essential as having a conversation or seeing how you deal with disagreement. It's true that people weren't very picky choosing spouses for millennia, often having arranged marriages or marrying for financial or political reasons, but I'm working from the modern idea that marriage should be based on love and compatibility. If love, good conversation, etc. are required, why not sex?

Will sex be a distraction in the dating process, though? Will it blind you to everything else? The sex drive is incredibly powerful and I know that people do stay in bad relationships for good sex. Perhaps they might even jump into a bad marriage because of it. However, people stay in relationships and jump into marriages for all sorts of other reasons, as well. Furthermore, if premarital sex is allowed, there's no reason to jump into marriage simply because of good sex, because you're already having the good sex! Instead, you're free to marry when you want to actually be married rather than when you can't stand being a virgin any more.

The only problem I can see here is that you might "waste" so much time having good sex that you get older than you'd like before marriage. But, still, it seems like you could extricate yourself from that situation eventually and still have time to get married. Sex is powerful, but it doesn't literally make you stupid, at least not for more than an evening or two. I'm unconvinced by philosophy #1.

Is Good Sex a Probable Result of a Good Marriage?

I have been in a few relationships and I know that sometimes even though everything seems great, two people simply don't have the physical chemistry. Since we're assuming that sex is important here (we've ruled out #1) it would be terrible to marry a wonderful person only to find out later that you can't have good sex. Maybe it's possible that it will get better over time, but I'm skeptical that it can ever be as good as it would be with someone you naturally clicked with better sexually. So, I can't rule out #2, but I don't really have any reason to believe it.

Is Good Sex Predictable?

This one seems reasonable. Maybe if both of you get butterflies (technical term) when looking at each other, it foretells good sex. Maybe if you're an ass-man (for example) and she's got junk in the trunk, it'll be all good. Sadly, I haven't had enough personal experience to say yay or nay on this one. It's possible. However, it seems to me that if you're 20 years old and have never so much as kissed a member of the opposite sex, you might not be equipped to recognize such important signs. Also, you might easily talk yourself into believing in something that isn't there. Seems like a risky proposition.

Is Waiting Worth it Anyway?

Let's look at what the benefits of waiting may be. There might be a nice feeling associated with knowing that sex is something you've shared only with your spouse and you might avoid negative feelings that stem from picturing your spouse with someone else before you. There could in theory be STDs or babies, but let's stipulate for the sake of this discussion that we're talking about (admittedly fictional) 100% safe sex. Unsafe sex is a different subject altogether. Perhaps you'll feel good not having leftover feelings towards previous sexual partners. Perhaps it's beneficial not to compare your spouse with previous partners, or worry about how you measure up to your spouse's previous partners. None of these things has been an issue for me in successive relationships, though, so I can't imagine why it would be different in marriage.


Assuming you're not worried about halakha, it seems like it makes sense to have a few sexual relationships before getting married. You can figure out what works for you and what doesn't and also learn how to have good sex. Then when you're ready to choose a spouse, you'll be equipped both to decide if you can have good sex with him or her and to know how to have good sex with him or her.

Need Some Proportion?

Proportions - How Small We Are

via Digg.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Welcome, Rabbis! (And a Round-up of Previous Posts)

Somehow it didn't occur to me until yesterday to read the names of the blogs listed as "Blogs a Rabbi Must Follow" in Rabbi Gil Student's PowerPoint presentation What a Rabbi Needs to Know About Blogs. I was wowed to see that I'm on it even though my place is a bit off the beaten path as J-Blogs go.

This provides a good opportunity to list some most of my more relevant posts. (Basically, I listed almost everything except the political ones.)

Orthodox Thought

Intellectual Cowardice in Orthodox Judaism
On Lively But Narrow Debate in Orthodox Judaism
Quote of the Day - Orthodoxy and the suppression of Ideas
Quote of the Day 2: Chazal [Would Maimonedes be an atheist if he were alive today?]
"Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style."
Are Scientists Stupid?

Orthodox People and Culture

Orthodox Judaism is Harmful: The Rabbis [Racist and ignorant statements I heard from actual rabbis.]
How Orthodoxy Causes Good Men to do Evil
Drugs and Sex in the Orthodox Community
Quote of the day [Auslander on conditions for love and continued membership in Orthodoxy]
Short Thought of the Day [On the mental divide between Jew and non-Jew.]
The Good Stuff I - Community
Highschool Coeducation

The Experience of Leaving Orthodoxy

How I Left Orthodoxy
Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels [A review.]
Support for People From Ultra-Orthodox or Chassidic Communities Seeking to Enter or Explore the World Beyond Their Communities
Why Do I Argue Against Orthodoxy?
What Responsibilities Have Frum Skeptics and the Ex-Orthodox?
What's Good About Leaving Orthodoxy
Abstinence Only Sex Ed [What you need to know but weren't taught.]
Jewish Atheist's Top Ten Non-Kosher Foods
My Experience with Buddhism
My Reform Seder

The Torah

Who Wrote the Bible?
Was Man Created Before or After the Animals?
British Catholic Bishops Warning Worshippers Not to Take Bible Literally
Flood Stories from Around the World
The Brick Testament: An Illustrated Bible
What's a Firmament?
Wacky Bible Quote of the Day: Deu 25:11-12


Baloney Detection Kit
Quote of the Day: Belief and Reason
Quote of the Day: More Bertrand Russell [On freethinking.]
Quote of the Day: Science Vs. Religion
Quote of the Day: Belief and Denial
Quote of the Day: Intellectual Integrity and Social Importance
Quote of the Day - Other Religions [Twain on religion vs. religion.]
No Easy Answers
Dogma: The Real Enemy
Religion vs. Dogma, Part II


Is Absolute Morality Superior?
Values and Religion
Christians More Likely than Secular to Support Torture
If God Exists, Everything is Permitted
This Atheist's Moral Grounding, or Why I'm a Liberal

History and Psychology of Religion

Karen Armstrong and The Evolution of God
Quote of the Day - Religion and Comfortable Myths
Is God an Accident?
Bedrock of a Faith Is Jolted
Truth, Beauty, Meaning, Morality
The Search for Religious Truth
Quote of the Day: Religion as Theater

Evolution and Ancient Universe

Evolution of the Eye
Evolution of the Horse
How Evolution Works
Starlight and the Age of the Universe
Evidence of Common Descent between Man and Chimp
An Index to Creationist Claims
Creationists Say, "Stop Calling Evolution 'Just a Theory'"
The Bat, the Bird, and the Flatfish
The Dover Decision on Intelligent Design
Dover Decision II - ID Proponents "Distort and Misrepresent Scientific Knowledge"
More Evidence for Evolution: Endogenous Retroviruses
Why "Intelligent Design" is Not Science
Unintelligent Design, or Do We Come From Viruses?
Crucial Missing Link Found
Evolution: The Disguised Friend of Faith?

Why Atheism?

Great "This American Life" Episode about God [Julia Sweeney's story of how she came to atheism.]
What Kind of Atheist am I? [Also, how did I become an atheist?]
Leading Scientists Still Disbelieve in God
On Scientific Naturalism
Common Questions I - The Cosmological Argument
A Parable [Warning: curse words and mocking of religion.]
Quote of the Day - Religion and Heredity
Over Three Hundred Proofs of God's Existence
Bad Religious Arguments: Pascal's Wager
Why Douglas Adams Was an Atheist
Kissing Hank's Ass: The Video!
The Atheist's Dayenu
Which God Do You Believe In?
Atheist Testimony, Free Verse Style
Intelligent Design for Atheists

Secular Living

Quote of the Day: Albert Einstein on Religion and the Desire for Transcendence
Is a Belief in God Beneficial? Or, What's an Atheist to Do?
Quote of the Day: Atheism and Freedom
The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles
Atheists are America's Most Distrusted Minority
Literature As Spiritual Exercise
Beautiful Science
Non-religious Parents Raising Children With Religion
On Intermarriage and Interdating

Gay Marriage

Letter to Dad [From a gay daughter to her religious father]
On Marriage
Church Ceremony Celebrates Gay Pairs
Partner's Death Ends Happy Life on Ranch

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Non-religious Parents Raising Children With Religion

For many years, Varun Gauri rejected religious services, practiced no rituals and spurned all mainstream notions of God. But these days he's busy dipping his daughter's toes in various spiritual waters, from a religious preschool to services at a number of local churches. Gauri says he wants to offer Yasmeen the moral foundation and spiritual guidance he believes religion can provide. Perhaps above all, he wants his daughter to enjoy religion's potential for providing solace. Recently, the 5-year-old expressed a deep-felt desire: "I wish people wouldn't grow old and die," she said. Religion, Gauri hopes, "can help her find some ways of living with that kind of loss."

Like Gauri, many nonreligious parents -- whether they've eschewed belief or practice or both -- find themselves seeking the psychological, spiritual and moral blessings they hope a religious background can bestow on their offspring.

Less-than-devout Americans may be surprised that millions of folks share the same pew. Sixty-four percent don't attend religious services even once a month, according to a 2003 Harris poll, and 21 percent don't believe in God or aren't sure a deity exists. Forty-six percent live in a household where no one belongs to a place of worship, according to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, conducted through the City University of New York. And 12 percent don't identify with any faith, the Harris poll found.

But at some point, a number of parents seem to flock to religion. In 2002, for example, the percentage of fathers who attended church at least once a month was nearly twice that of men who had no children, according to data from a major demographic study. At least some parents likely were motivated by a kid-centric quest.

Such parents may seek the sense of community or emotional security they hope religion will provide their kids; they may want a sense of purpose or tradition; and they may be looking for ethical or spiritual influences to mold their children's lives. For some, a religious education simply means giving their kids a better shot at understanding a cultural force that they consider both powerful and pervasive.

Whatever the reasons, nonreligious parents may face a number of humbling questions. Are they willing to trade sleepy Sundays for 10 a.m. services? Is it a good idea to start down a spiritual path when their hearts aren't in it? And what should they say if their 4-year-old looks up at them wide-eyed and asks if there really is a God?

This was certainly the case with many of my skeptical friends that I grew up with. At some point in college or shortly thereafter, they stopped going to shul, started watching t.v. on shabbos, ate dairy in non-kosher restaurants, etc., but as soon as they had kids, they returned to a fuller observance.

Personally, I don't believe that religion is necessary or even necessarily helpful for learning morality and finding solace, but the sense of community I had growing up as an Orthodox Jew is something I still miss.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Interesting Op-Ed by Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos.

Hillary Clinton has a few problems if she wants to secure the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. She is a leader who fails to lead. She does not appear "electable." But most of all, Hillary has a Bill Clinton problem. (And no, it's not about that. )

Moving into 2008, Republicans will be fighting to shake off the legacy of the Bush years: the jobless recovery, the foreign misadventures, the nightmarish fiscal mismanagement, the Katrina mess, unimaginable corruption and an imperial presidency with little regard for the Constitution or the rule of law. Every Democratic contender will be offering change, but activists will be demanding the sort of change that can come only from outside the Beltway.

Hillary Clinton leads her Democratic rivals in the polls and in fundraising. Unfortunately, however, the New York senator is part of a failed Democratic Party establishment -- led by her husband -- that enabled the George W. Bush presidency and the Republican majorities, and all the havoc they have wreaked at home and abroad.

Moulitsas was a part of the net-based Dean movement in '04. He argues that Dean's success ("Had Kerry not lent himself millions to reach the Iowa caucuses, and had Dean not been so green a candidate, Dean probably would have been the nominee.") signals a change in the Democratic party.

No longer would D.C. insiders impose their candidates on us without our input; those of us in the netroots could demand a say in our political fortunes. Today, however, Hillary Clinton seems unable to recognize this new reality. She seems ill-equipped to tap into the Net-energized wing of her party (or perhaps is simply uninterested in doing so) and incapable of appealing to this newly mobilized swath of voters. She may be the establishment's choice, but real power in the party has shifted.

Our crashing of Washington's gates wasn't about ideology, it was about pragmatism. Democrats haven't won more than 50 percent of the vote in a presidential election since 1976. Heck, we haven't won more than 50.1 percent since 1964. And complicit in that failure was the only Democrat to occupy the White House since 1980: Bill Clinton.

Despite all his successes -- and eight years of peace and prosperity is nothing to sneeze at -- he never broke the 50-percent mark in his two elections. Regardless of the president's personal popularity, Democrats held fewer congressional seats at the end of his presidency than before it. The Democratic Party atrophied during his two terms, partly because of his fealty to his "third way" of politics, which neglected key parts of the progressive movement and reserved its outreach efforts for corporate and moneyed interests.

While Republicans spent the past four decades building a vast network of small-dollar donors to fund their operations, Democrats tossed aside their base and fed off million-dollar-plus donations. The disconnect was stark, and ultimately destructive. Clinton's third way failed miserably. It killed off the Jesse Jackson wing of the Democratic Party and, despite its undivided control of the party apparatus, delivered nothing. Nothing, that is, except the loss of Congress, the perpetuation of the muddled Democratic "message," a demoralized and moribund party base, and electoral defeats in 2000, 2002 and 2004.

Those failures led the netroots to support Dean in the last presidential race. We didn't back him because he was the most "liberal" candidate. In fact, we supported him despite his moderate, pro-gun, pro-balanced-budget record, because he offered the two things we craved most: outsider credentials and leadership.


At a time when rank-and-file Democrats are using technology to become increasingly engaged and active in their party, when they are demanding that their leaders stand for something and develop big ideas, Clinton's closest advisers are headed in the opposite direction. But big ideas aren't Bush's problem -- bad ideas are.

Yet staying away from big ideas seems to come naturally to Hillary Clinton. Perhaps first lady Clinton was so scarred by her failed health-care reform in the early 1990s that now Sen. Clinton shows no proclivity for real leadership as a lawmaker.

Afraid to offend, she has limited her policy proposals to minor, symbolic issues -- such as co-sponsoring legislation to ban flag burning. She doesn't have a single memorable policy or legislative accomplishment to her name. Meanwhile, she remains behind the curve or downright incoherent on pressing issues such as the war in Iraq.

On the war, Clinton's recent "I disagree with those who believe we should pull out, and I disagree with those who believe we should stay without end" seems little different from Kerry's famous "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it" line. The last thing we need is yet another Democrat afraid to stand on principle.


Can Hillary Clinton overcome those impediments? Money and star power go a long way, but the netroots is now many times larger than it was only three years ago, and we have attractive alternatives to back (and fund), such as former governor Mark W. Warner and Sen. Russell Feingold.

Feingold's probably too liberal to win, but Warner looks pretty good, assuming he's less boring than he seemed in an interview I watched a while ago. He's a real moderate who was extremely popular as governor in a red state.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Why Conservatives Should Support Higher Taxes

From an interesting article in this months Atlantic. (Subscribers only.)

Reagan and his supply-side vanguard saw a way to break the jam—or, more precisely, two ways. First, some argued that tax cuts would so energize the economy as to pay for themselves. That claim was widely controversial, even among Republicans (Reagan’s then-rival George H. W. Bush called it “voodoo economics”), and it proved mostly wrong. Less controversial, but in the end more important, was the claim Reagan lobbed at Anderson. Often called the Starve the Beast hypothesis, it held that tax cuts shrink the federal Leviathan by starving it of funds. Tax cuts need not await spending cuts because they would cause spending cuts.

For modern conservatism and the country, the importance of Starve the Beast is impossible to overstate. Suddenly Republicans could offer both lower taxes and smaller government without any need for fiscal dentistry. Suddenly it was the Democrats who were trapped. From then to now, tax cutting has been the lodestar of conservatism, rising to its apogee under the current President Bush. But there have always been dissenting voices, of which perhaps the most prominent speaks from within the conservative movement.


Even during the Reagan years, Niskanen [chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute) was suspicious of Starve the Beast. He thought it more likely that tax cuts, when unmatched with spending cuts, would reduce the apparent cost of government, thus stimulating rather than stunting Washington’s growth. “You make government look cheaper than it would otherwise be,” he said recently.

Suppose the federal budget is balanced at $1 trillion. Now suppose Congress reduces taxes by $200 billion without reducing spending. One result is a $200 billion deficit. Another result is that voters pay for only 80 percent of what government actually costs. Think of this as a 20 percent discount on government. As everyone knows, when you put something on sale, people buy more of it. Logically, then, tax cuts might increase the demand for government instead of reducing the supply of it. Or they might do some of each.

Which is it? To the naked eye, Starve the Beast looks suspiciously counterproductive. After all, spending (as a share of the gross domestic product, the standard way to measure it) went up, not down, after Reagan cut taxes in the early 1980s; it went down, not up, after the first President Bush and President Clinton raised taxes in the early 1990s; and it went up, not down, following the Bush tax cuts early in this decade.

Niskanen recently analyzed data from 1981 to 2005 and found his hunch strongly confirmed. When he performed a statistical regression that controlled for unemployment (which independently influences spending and taxes), he found, he says, “no sign that deficits have ever acted as a constraint on spending.” To the contrary: judging by the last twenty-five years (plenty of time for a fair test), a tax cut of 1 percent of the GDP increases the rate of spending growth by about 0.15 percent of the GDP a year. A comparable tax hike reduces spending growth by the same amount.

Again looking at 1981 to 2005, Niskanen then asked at what level taxes neither increase nor decrease spending. The answer: about 19 percent of the GDP. In other words, taxation above that level shrinks government, and taxation below it makes government grow. Thanks to the Bush tax cuts, revenues have been well below 19 percent since 2002 (17.8 percent last year). Perhaps not surprisingly, government spending has risen under Bush.

“I would like to be proven wrong,” says Niskanen. No wonder: for the modern conservative coalition, the implications of his findings are discomfiting, and in a sense tragic.

First, the root-canal economics of pre-Reagan conservatism was right all along: the way to limit the growth of government is to force politicians, and therefore voters, to pay for all the government they use—not to give them a discount.

Second, conservatives who are serious about halting or reversing the dizzying Bush-era expansion of government—if there are any such conservatives, something of an open question these days—should stop defending Bush’s tax cuts. Instead, they should be talking about raising taxes to at least 19 percent of the GDP.
Voters will not shrink Big Government until they feel the pinch of its true cost.

Third, the most effective constraint of all is to raise taxes and cut spending: exactly the sort of anti-deficit package that anti-tax conservatives pummeled the first President Bush and President Clinton for approving, and exactly the sort of package that the current President Bush and his anti-tax allies are sworn to block.

The conservative movement is in no position to accept or even acknowledge those implications, now that tax cutting has become the long pole in the Republican tent. Therein lies the element of tragedy. By turning a limited-government movement into an anti-tax movement, conservatism has effectively gone into business with the Big Government that it claims to oppose. It is not starving the beast. It is fueling the beast’s appetite. And the beast has a credit card.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

On Intermarriage and Interdating

So, not to go into too many personal details, but I may be re-entering the dating world in the not-too-distant future.

One of the major issues with becoming an atheist which I have not yet had to deal with is that of who to date. When you're Orthodox, there's no question that you'll date only Jews, and probably only Orthodox ones at that. Now that I'm no longer Orthodox, or indeed a believer, I have no philosophical objections to dating or marrying non-Jews at all. I'm not particularly worried that my descendants identify as Jews, though if they choose to, that might be nice.

At the same time, though, if I ended up marrying a non-Jew, my parents would be devastated. Granted, they were pretty upset when I told them I was no longer religious and they've disapproved of various other life decisions I've made, but this one is bigger. It might even be unforgiveable.

What are my responsibilities here? If I were already in love with a non-Jew and we were perfect for each other, I might lean towards marriage and letting the chips fall where they may. But if I'm not even seeing anybody yet, is it irresponsible to date non-Jews, knowing that I want to someday get married? Or would it be unfair to myself to date only Jews, limiting that already smaller pool by finding someone willing and happy to date an atheist? To date Jews, I'd have to rely on JDate or being set up by Jewish friends or something. It's not like I'm going to meet them in shul after all. Maybe I can run a personal ad: "Jewish Atheist seeks same or similar?" Luckily, Jews have one of the highest rates of atheism, so it's not like I'd be an Orthodox lesbian seeking same or anything. (There are a few.)

I don't think I'm morally obligated to make my parents happy by marrying a Jew, but I'd feel terrible upsetting them immensely, even if they're "wrong" to be upset. What if they didn't want me to marry a black woman, even if she were Jewish? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't pay attention to that wish. So why is this different? I guess religious beliefs are qualitatively different than racist ones, even if I believe both are wrong.

I just hope I can find a solution which will work for all of us.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Highschool Coeducation

To hear many religious people talk, one would think God created the torso, head, legs and arms, but the devil slapped on the genitals. ~Don Schrader

It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry. ~H.L. Mencken

More and more Orthodox schools seem to be becoming single-sex. I'd like to examine what the effects are, both positive and negative, of separating boys from girls until they're old enough to marry.

The Good

There's no question that keeping boys and girls separate from one another will prevent some pretty bad situations. Girls being pressured or forced into sex, accidental teen pregancy, distraction from studies, emotional problems, sexual harrassment, etc. Teenaged boys can be selfish and vicious and girls aren't always up to defending themselves emotionally or physically. Teenagers of both genders aren't always capable of making the soundest decisions and it's awfully easy for people to end up hurt, pregnant, or with an STD.

The Bad

On the other hand, teenagers really miss out by being in a single-sex only environment. The biggest problem is probably that they may never learn how to interact with women in a healthy manner. Exposure only to sisters and mothers may be insufficient for learning how to view women as friends and equals as well as as potential mates. Also, girls often have inferior schooling when separated from boys, at least in Orthodox circles. As the decision in Brown v. Board of Education read in the famous case about racial segregation, "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Perhaps most importantly, people who grow up in single-sex schools often don't get to have practice relationships before they get married. Combined with the very limited dating allowed in many Orthodox communities prior to marriage, people may be ill-equipped to make what may likely be the most important decision of their lives. Not having any experience with the opposite sex, they may not know what they're looking for. (Perhaps this is why we see people matching up based primarily on what kind of kippah he wears or which seminary she attended.) Starved for sex, they may marry too quickly. (I believe this is the reason Orthodox people get married so much younger than others.) Without having had sex, they may marry someone with whom they are sexually incompatible, leading to an unhappy marriage. For example, perhaps gay people deceive themselves more easily into thinking they can lead straight lives when they don't have sex before marriage. While it is true that the divorce rate is lower among Orthodox Jews than in the general population, it may be that this is for other reasons, like lifestyle, education, wealth, number of children, exposure to other members of the opposite sex, less inclination to divorce, and a lack of financial independence for many women.

The Alternative

When I have children, I will probably send them to a coed school. (Obviously, I won't be sending them to an Orthodox school anyway, but there are of course secular single-sex schools as well.) I will emphasise sex ed, teaching them how to prevent pregnancy and STDs, but I will also guide them in not getting themselves into situations which they are not prepared for emotionally. Different children mature at different rates, and sex in high school is not for everybody. By college-age or shortly afterwards, I think most people should probably be having sex. With care and education, safe sex can play an important and enjoyable role in a young (not too young, of course) person's life. When someone gets married, it should be because they're making an informed decision, not because they're horny or don't know what they should be looking for.

Happy Yom Ha'atzmaut!

Today is Yom Ha'atzmaut, or Israeli Independence Day. I don't often post about Israel because I have mixed feelings and because discussion too often devolves into bitter argument, but I'll see if I can thread the needle.

As a Jew, being in Israel is a unique experience. In America, I will always be a minority, but in Israel, almost everyone is Jewish. Not only that, but there are more atheists per capita there than here in the U.S. About a quarter of the country could call themselves Jewish atheists.

There is a sense of solidarity, even of family. When you're on a public bus, it feels like you're with extended family. The way people relate to each other, the way they trust each other, and yes, the way they are ready to argue heatedly at a moment's notice. Women will hand their babies to complete strangers if they need their hands for a moment and there is almost no fear of (non-terrorism-related) crime. Kids play outside and walk to school without adults.

I don't agree with many of Israel's foreign policies. I don't want to debate specific points, but I'm troubled by those who bring religion into the Israel-Palestinian confict, by the government's willingness to torture and kill civilians (collaterally) as often as it does, by those unwilling to compromise, by those who simply don't care about the influence of their policies on Palestinian civilians.

However, I'd have mixed feelings about any country. My own country wiped out two cities with nuclear weapons, firebombed hundreds of thousands of civilians in World War II, is torturing Arabs abroad, and has gone to war a few times for bad reasons. We turn a blind eye to genocide and don't provide sufficient health care to our poor and needy. Our country's beginning was far worse than Israel's -- the first Americans themselves committed genocide.

But I still love America, its freedoms, its diversity, its people, the good works it does overseas, its leading science and medicine, its arts, and its promise. Likewise, I am grateful for Israel's very existence. I admire the way it tries to restrain itself in an ugly situation and the way it welcomes all Jews as brothers and sisters. I admire its science and its culture. I am glad it will remain a safe haven for Jews everywhere when, sadly, antisemitism raises its head in the future. I hope that there comes a solution to the matzav (the "situation" -- i.e. the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) which allows both sides to live better and safer lives. I hope that one day, we won't need a Jewish state, but that all people everywhere may live as brothers and sisters. But at least for now, I'm glad it's there.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Credit Where Credit is Due: Go Orthodox Jews!

(Picture from AJWS, via Seth Chalmer.)

I've often criticized Orthodox Jews for being insular and not caring enough about non-Jews. However, I've been really impressed by how many are speaking out against what's going on in Darfur. Of course, Jews unfortunately know as well as anyone what genocide really means, and it's therefore fitting that we should be standing with our non-Jewish brothers and sisters against this one. These YU students did more than I did on Sunday. Go them.

May one day "Never again!" come true.