QC-L Version 4.0

Yes, welcome to my lair of evil thoughts and incorrect speech where I don't let go and move on and I talk about whatever I please. On a blog no one ever tells you to shut up. If you don't like what I say, just go elsewhere.

This blog now has a new background and a new theme. It is also using a remotely loaded style sheet. That is a first. It is lush, heavy, and uses a background that has a theme I have never used here before, though I have used it for pressies. Let the show go on! It always does anyway. And yes, we are powered by Blogger.

I am putting a temporary illustration here until I have a logo for this design. Watch this space.

temporary illustration

LET'S ROLL THOSE OTHER SITES

The Backfile: this blog's archives.

Ajayu, home of my story, The Sneezeweed Chronicles. Yes, I do fiction.

It will have Oneiro, my own little role play.

Unfettered Soul, my flagship site.

The Silk Purse, my play pretend Brainstorms.

Failed Messiah Religious news never sounded so good.

New York Times. Read the news and be smart.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

I know...still no vengance. It even feels silly, though it is NOT silly to put up a mast head, so I am skipping it until I get back in the vengance game again. It is one thing to quit something. It is another to have it sort of knocked out of your hands inadvertantly. That is what has happened to me. I played hooky from schul yesterday so I could swim. They predicted a fifty percent chance of rain for today and the pool ended up closed for a while due to someone barfing in it today. In short, I am glad I played hooky. I thought I would regret it a lot more. Going to schul because you want to fill time and get a feeling of community, is not a good idea. You end up spending way more time there than you should.

Anyway, I was able to use some time to meditate yesterday and got back spirit contact That is more important than vengance work ever could be. Hopefully my life will get more balanced and I'll be able to devote thirty to sixty minutes to vengance every day. I have the web board for it so it would not take long at all. I'd just do my Play Pretend Brainstorms and also my avatar talk. That is not much to ask. When I think of all the time I spend ramming around, waiting for buses, etc... Somehow there has to be a way to scrape up the time to do vengance work.

I got ZOID ready for fighting, and Thadea has her team at the Golden Elite ready to go for August fourteenth. That feels like a long way away but it is not. Halids is having trouble getting those on her team at the Web Leauges to sign up again to fight. She has asked them countless times. The team was bloated but still somehow I think both of us expected a better response. It is disappointing.

Warning, superficial and ignorant Torah explication lies ahead. If you want the deep stuff, as written by approved and well known and revered commentators more than a millenia ago, sorry. You'll have to go elsewhere.

First, since those reading this are as totally dumb and ignorant as I am, I am going to rub your face in the part of the parsha this covers. This is a small piece of Parshas Natto, this week's parsha at Ashkenazi Orthodox synagogues the world over. It is in your Bible starting at Numbers Chapter 31 verse 1 and going to verse 20. And if you think you escape having this as part of your religious text because you are a Reform Jew or a Christian of any stripe, hey this is in your Bible too. Now here it is. This is part of undisputed Biblical canon.

It is easy, by the way, to forget it is there. I nearly forgot. Last Friday I told a fifteen year old girl who was part of the shabbos dinner at a home hospitality house that if we were all Midianites she'd be the last one standing, the only one left alive. I then went to schul Saturday morning and read only of the command to "harass and smite" the Midianites. I felt relief. Perhaps my memory of an order to commit genocide was something a rabbi had said or it came out of The Midrash Says or Rashi and maybe it was not in the Bible at all. This week, I learned how wrong I was. Last week, I was right. Now I wish I hadn't been. Here is the part of the parsha.

And the Lord spoke unto Moses saying: Avenge the children of Israel on the Midianites; afterward thou be gathered unto they peole. And Moses spoke unto the people saying: Arm ye men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to excecute the Lrod's vengance upon Midian. Of every tribe a thousand througout all the tribse of Israel shall ye send to the war. So ther ewere delivered, out of the thousands of Iszrael, a thousand fo every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. And Moses sent them, a thousand of every tribe , to the war, them and Phinas the son of Eeazar, the priest to the war, with the holy vessels and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand.

And they warred against the Midinan as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew evry male. And they slew the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain: Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian; Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword. And the children of Israel took capitve the women of Midan and their litle ones; and all their cattle and all their flocks and all their goods, they took for a prey. And all their cities in the places wherein they dwelt and all their encampments they burnt with fire. And they took all the spoil, and all the prey both of man and of beast. And they brought the capitves, and the prey and the spoil unto Moses, and unto Eleazar, the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel unto the camp, unto the plains of Moab, which are by the jordan at Jericho.

And Moses and Eleazar, the priest, and all the princes of the congregation went forth to meet them without the camp. And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, the camptains of the thousands and the captains of the hundreds, who came from the service of the war. And Moses said unto them: Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold these caused the children of Israel, through the consel of Balaam to revolt so as to break fatih with the Lord in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones and ckill every woman that hath known man by lying wtih him. But all the women children, that have not known man by laying with him, keep alive for yoursleves.

And encamp ye without the camp seven days; whosover hath killed any person, and whosoever hath touched any slain, purify yourselves on the third day and on the seventh day, ye and your captives. And as to every garment, and all that is made of skin, and all the work of goat; hair, and all thigns made of wood, ye shall purify.

Now for shallow, superficial commentary...

This is now
That was then
Way back when
Before the thought of democracy
Or freedom of religion
Before the word genocide was invented,
But not of course the deed.
If you won, God was on your side,
And he either forgave atrocities or
Commanded you to do them.

That was then.
But this is now...
Who cares about the girl children of Midian.
They were nebbishes, nothings, losers.
They were slaves,
But the word has many meanings
In many times and places.
Were they like the girl children brought
from Africa in the middle passage,
Like the adolescent girls in the sweatshops of China or
the Maquillardoras along the boarder,
Or like the young women lured from Russia to Western Europe
or from remote villages in Mexico with the promise of jobs and
the reality of degradation?

This is now.
That was then.
How did the Israelites treat the Midianite girl children?
We know that the laws of purity forbade them from making hair
jewelry from their parents and male siblings to wear for a momento,
Like the Victorians.
Did the Israelites beat the girl children of Midian when they tried
to speak their own language, tell their own stories, and worship their
own gods...
Not unlike the lost generation of Aborigines taken far up the Morrow River.
How many girl children of Midian eventually escaped by finding their way to
the rabbit proof fence.
Did the Israelites force the girl children of Midian in to their culture,
as the Bureau of Indian Affairs did by sending Indian children to boarding
school far from their tribes or placing them with white families.

Why bother...
That was then
But this is now
Yet somehow,
I can see the Midianite girl children
In the Lebanese children trying in vain to escape
the bombs crowded in to shelters in the mountains and in Sidon, Tyre etc...
In the Palestinian children in Gaza or the children all over Iraq.
In the children orphaned by the tsunami in Indonesia
In the children crowded in to box cars half a century ago to ride through
the never ending night and fog of Europe to an unspeakable destination.
In the high school girls hanging in the back row of the women's section of this schul,
And in the young girls I meet if I take a seventh inning stretch in the ladies room.

That was then
And this is now.
Those who forget the stories of long ago,
And do not learn their lessons,
Relive them countless times,
Even when they should know better,
Even when they do know better.
Don't bury the tale of the Midianite girl children.
It is our story too.

Eileen H. Kramer
7/22/06


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

In two weeks summer vacation ends, and the avatars and I will be up to our ears in web site competitions.

I also found this site and paid for a year's worth of premium subscription. Why did I do that? Well, it has almost no ads, encourages good care of virtual cats, and it is fun. It's an alternative to garbage like Neopets.com

And no, I have not been back to Neopets in a long time. I don't really miss them. I do Pets Allowed where I actually have some plot going or had. I've been mainly building new area.

I also want to start a new plot on either The United LIterates or Poisoned Ink Quills, two great role playing boards. You can see why I don't miss Neopets.

That said, inspiration is hard to come by this summer. My spiritual contact is also nearly wiped out. I've been too busy. Real life is not that great, but there is so much of it here. I'd give anything to have back the time I spend waiting for buses or just getting from here to there. I would like to connect every night or several times a week. I wish my life wasn't spent spinning my wheels. Yes, Atlanta is a great city and I am much happier here than I was in Columbus. A big city makes a big difference. That is just the way things are, but happiness is overrated as is peace. Accomplishment and doing the right thing and doing one's duty are far more important.

I'm also stretched way too thin to do any vengance work. Perhaps if I fixed up Play Pretend Unlimited I'd get my play pretend Brainstorms back on track and could do it every day. That would be fun, fun fun, and I mean it. The board needs a better skin in the worst way. I think the avatars also need a place to play. They don't really have one. Getting up every day and playing them used to feel so good. I think it is a matter of ignoring some of "real life's" distractions and making time and discipline. I'm not one bit good at doing this, but with work I can become better. I'd better start getting cracking.

And yes, this blog is getting a redesign. I am keeping the theme but am going to draw some new ribbons. I also think I have an idea for new images for my beach head which is my personal page. I'll keep the old page as an archive. More when I get a chance to draw and more importantly or as importantly to scan.

OK, it's time for more tales out of schul. No, this won't be boring. I actually have new material. I've been going to BENA. I even paid. I suspect some people haven't.

BENA is interesting for a lot of reasons. It is single sex, though when we have a male teacher, the classes go coed which is fine with me. The male teacher has the 7:30pm session. I come to the 8:30pm. The BENA class I am taking is called Hidden Women of the Torah. It should be Hidden Women in the Bible or Old Testament if you prefer. It's a commonly used word so why not use it. Monday evening we covered Chulda, a prophet, who lived during the time of King Josiah, barely a generation before the fall of the First Temple, about 400BCE. Last night we covered the Shunamite woman whose son gets resurrected by Elisha. She was righteous, but I don't think she was a prophet. You kind of have to stretch things to make her a prophet. She's an interesting character, sharp witted and passionate, very likeable. Not all Biblical characters are likeable, and yes they are characters. The Bible is a book of interesting and informative and inspired stories. If your faith is strong enough you can handle that. If not, you need to work on your faith.

Tonight's character du jour is Jael and her world famous Nail. Jael's claim to fame back in the Book of Judges, is that she does some very quick thinking as Sisera, the enemy king, is on his way home from battle. On his way home from a defeat, he stops by Jael's tent and asks for some milk. The crafty Jael mixes the milk with sleeping drought and when Sisera is asleep, she takes a tent spike and a hammer and drives it throgh Sisera's head. There's a reason people have been reading the Bible for over a thousand years. It's stories like that.

Now the material itself is intrinsicly interesting, but it is not the most eye-opening part of the whole BENA experience. Here is what is eye opening about BENA:

FIRST: Getting inside the building. If you come for the 8:30pm class, prepare to find the synagogue doors locked and do lots of knocking. I have been told htere is one door left open. I'll find out about that tonight. I have to commute from work and it is a long commute. Not everyone can get all the way across town to a 7:30pm weeknight class. Sorry.

SECOND: "I'll answer your question at the end of class." This is what the teacher says when I raise my hand. Saying this not only does not let me ask my question, but discourages others from asking questions. She does answer questions at the end of class, but in a very limited way and at a time when half the class is impatiently taking off.

All right to be fair, the teacher has a lot of material to cover. It is an eight thirty class and people have bed times and families. This is as the rabbis and religious teachers like to say: "a surface answer." Why can't the lectures be shorter to allow time for discussion? Why can't we receive the reading material which is fairly brief in advance and come to class prepared so there is time for discussion? Why aren't there breakouts? Why doesn't the teacher work the room? Why are there no breakouts, powerpoints, or other trappings of modern adult classes?

Why are her interpretations of the stories we read so larded with hype, they make me squirm? Face it, the stories are interesting. The characters are interesting. They don't need the hype. Every woman in the Bible need not be a prophet or merit more eteneral life than the usual immortality of the human soul.

It feels very weird to be told what to think about literature, and the Bible is literature. It is more than literature, but it is literature. I get tired of being told that a close read of a good translation is "a surface" or "superficial interpretation." These words, often uttered in the presence of others give out a clear message. If you voice your own opinions and think for yourself about what you read without consulting the official explication by rabbinical authorities, you are dumb. Well, I'm dumb and proud of it, but most people aren't.

It is scarey to confront (I won't bow to it) this level of social control around reading the Bible. (If you want to call it the Torah or even the Old Testament, I won't quibble with you one bit.) Also, this level of social control is in some ways totally unnecessary. The Bible is a great book and well loved, but not read enough. If people are reading, studying, caring about, and discussing the Bible they keep it alive. They also are ninty percent of the way there. Why do we need to have someone tell us how to interpret what we read? Isn't that a form of discouragement?

The social control that calls me dumb, is not really aimed at me. I am after all no one special and not a real threat unless there are twenty of me around a Shabbos table. What calling me dumb does besides keeping others from forming their own interpretations from what they can read is give primacy to one school of Biblical interpetation, the Orthodox rabbinical commentaries, the Midrash, Rashi, Maimonides, the Zohar, Gemera, etc... These are books for experts and all other commentaries and methods of interpretation are chopped liver. If you try to compare stories in the Torah to those in the New Testament, the teacher or rabbi will tell you: "We don't know about/have anything to do with/ewwwww gross, the New Testament." You will get told the same thing if you bring up Greek myths and stories (which are roughly contemporary with the Bible), or with other people's myths in general. You will get a similarly cold reception if you bring up outside facts. For example, if you say that you are not sure the Shunamite woman's son really died because people as recently as the 1700's were not sure how to make sure someone was dead. A child in a swoon might appear dead, especially since he complained of a severe seizure or headache first.

The social control that excludes my structuralism (Very popular when I went to high school and college in the late 1970's and early 1980's) is meant to keep out modern scholars and scholars in competing fields and to keep lay people from reading them. Yeah, you can think what you want about this, but I think this is how it works. If all else fails by the way, the rabbis and teachers say: "That's not Jewish" as if what other people do is not worthy of study. If this had been the Jewish establishment's attitude three hundred years ago, we would have done nothing with the emancipation during the Englightenment or with all the freedom and opportunity the United States had and still has to offer.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

I finally caught up on Ghostletters. If I can stay caught up this week, that is great. Also, I'm falling behind on all my other role plays. Such is life. You can blame Haldis. Her team is finally looking great. Yes, the Web Leagues is cutting its own throat.

You're going to get some site fighting commentary here. People need to remember site fighting history. Making nonvote exchange teams will hurt and drive away new fighters. I want all of you to go back seven years with me to 1999. I was fighting on the now defunct Site Fights team, the Defenders which was effectively a nonvote exchange team. My oppoents were typically nonvote exchange fighters. I used to call them flaccid faeries. They were Faeries, people with an office within the Site Fights. It was low ranking but it was work and it was a tie to competition. I discovered the vote exchange board, shot through the ranks, got eliminated at the War Zone and exploded in anger. Team management and I were not getting along.

It was a toxic situation, but we in the site fighting world are going to duplicate this situation with new fighters on nonvote exchange teams. Here is why, a fighter joins the team, plays spirit games, cheers, votes for herself and then the whiney outsider problem sets in. Parents, friends, etc... start complaining about having to vote every day so the fighter starts asking other fighters to vote for him or her or the fighter finds her way to the vote exchange board. No good deed will go unpunished. Instead of being treated as a good up and coming fighter, her team management will kick her out and send her to another team. How gently we handle this will determine whether we keep an up and coming new fighter or the fighter walks off in disgust.

There are two excellent alternatives to a VE/NVE split. The first is to use some form of handicapping or to split scores based on performance. At ZOID if a first place fighter has a raw vote total that is more than twice that of the second place fighter, or a second place fighter has a raw vote total that is more than twice that of the third place fighter, I remove him or her from the percentile range calculations and calculate two winners, the fighter with the outragously high score and the winner among the fighters with lower scores. There need to be at least twenty to twenty-five ballots in the box for me to handicap as well. This is not a difficult system and it gives fighters who are not on boards or vote exchanging an incentive to stay and self-vote.

The other method is to have upper and lower divisions within each team. The lower division team is for fighters who are either new to competition or who get less than X votes per day. X is an average daily score. As fighters vote exchange their scores rise. Higher scores are evidence of vote exchange. When a fighter's score gets close to or exceeds X, the team management can tell the fighter that he or she moves to the team's upper division. He or she still stays with a team that he or she likes. Fighters who do well generally like their teams. The fighter hopefully knows or is even exchanging votes with those against whom he or she will compete at team level. This is a good, friendly, supportive solution.

Split vote exchange/nonvote exchange is good for the old timers, the tired fighters and the flaccid faeries and other aministrators (myself included) who want to compete and keep their hand in. It is fine for filler sites. It is not good for ambitious newbies.

By the way another good way to handle vote exchange/nonvote exchange is to have a seniors or retirees division. This lets old timers who have gone on to administration keep their hand in and creates young vigorous teams for other fighters.

Quite frankly, unless you want to run a small boutique operation like ZOID, vote exchange is still the best tool out there to socialize new fighters. The games, cheer board, chat lists etc... don't work all that well. Most people do not do well on email lists and their kin or they'd be on them all ready. Sending original messages in your own words, even writing original cheers (even when you give fighters a strong incentive not to cut and paste cheer) is hard. The games most web site competitions offer are nothing compared to what one can find at Neopets, Hall Pass, Uproar, or any other gaming site. Vote exchange is what we do well. It costs nothing because fighters do all the work. It of course is not great for spreading the word to outsiders, but it can socialize fighters. They fight with other interested people instead of relying on whiney outsiders. They are in with winners so they have an incentive to keep plugging away, and only a small minority of them, the very best fighters, burn out. Thadea was one of those. She's an administrator now. Go figure.

I am getting tired of writing about Moses. I hope you are not tired of reading about him, but chances are that you are. Nothing hurts like a wound between brothers. No one fights more fiercely than siblings.

I went to schul this weekend and Friday night I saw Moses across the barrier. This schul has separate seating for men and women and the women have a barrier that separates us from the men. The barrier runs down the middle and slightly off to one side because there are more men so they need a bigger section. You can still get a good seat and be in the thick of things, and bseides separate seating makes for atmosphere.

Well there he was. He was easy to pick out because he was so tall. I am easy to pick out because I wear bright pink or red and come down to the barrier when the singing gets lively and the men dance.

We said nothing to each other Friday, but Saturday there was a speaker after services and as I came out of the conference room back in to the social hall (This is one very big schul whic is one of the reasons part of me still likes it.) there were Moses' three daughters. He has four but one is away being a counselor at a sleep away camp. We made small talk. I have nothing against Moses' kids and then I saw his wife and she said she had gotten the letter. She said she hoped I would find somewhere where I fit in better. I told her that I had dropped out of the hospitality program and that randomness was a two edged sword. It felt awkward but I kept my cool. You could feel the verbal swords glitter. Neither of us was one bit apologetic and if you had been listening and did not know the history, you'd sense something was slightly awry but have no idea what I had done or what Moses had done.

I think what Moses' wife did was a class act. She reminded me of my mom. For that matter, Moses reminds me of my dad, not the way he looks, my dad is small and squishy and frequently fat when he hasn't yo-yo dieted off the pounds. My dad has a full beard and the same good fashion sense and the same take no prisoners attitude. My mom is a neat freak and has the same calm gamesmanship about her as Moses' wife. Remember what I said about brothers and siblings and such. That is Moses and his family.

Four generations ago my family made a different turn. They also came to the United States where secular culture has a lot to recommend it. It just does. There is nothing sexual about mixed bathing at a town pool, not at Glenlake any way. If you don't want to mixed bathe, fine. Miss out. That's your problem. I'm not making it my problem.

I guess I really do have a lot of issues with both Moses and the schul. First the schul is fun. These are the best Jewish services I have ever attended. They are full of song and spirit and you are free to read and digest along in English. The rabbi's sermons are intelligent and he does not resort to ripping up strawmen to build up the congregation. He asks us to do things. Sometimes the things are a bit too abstract but he asks anyway. Apolagetics are not my thing, and you run in to a lot of them especially with the bloodier parts of the Bible. That's a part of going to an Orthodox schul, and a part I can handle. Rational people differ in their interpretation. I know there are certain modern Biblical interpretations that these rabbis won't touch with a ten foot pole despite the fact that they have credibility, but again, I can get this stuff via interlibrary loan or with reciprocal borrowing priviledges.

The schul was a lot more fun before Moses. This is not to say that Moses spoiled everything. It is just that last weekend is the dividing line between before and after. On the surface the schul is still great. Some of the magic is still there, but beneath is a wealth of secrets and contradictions and just plain ugly. The mantra of: "Leave it alone. Don't mess with it. It's their problem not your problem" is getting to sound like a cliche. If not it soon will.

Let's parade out my differences with the crowd up in Toco Hills. First, American secular culture is something worth defending. Yes, there is such a thing. Having been exposed to something different in Toco Hills, I have Nacerima moments all the time when I see secular folks going about their business. The guy running down the street in just jogging shorts and muscles is a classic example. I've learned by walking to schul (I walked eight miles and swam twenty laps yesterday) that it is more than possible to exercise while modestly clad, not for the swimming of course, but for schul. The cult of the body and sport and walking around like a savage is part of secular American culture. I really got this rubbed in my face when a woman a week ago Friday asked why high school gym is sex segregated. No one in her culture takes sports seriously enough to separate the genders. Maybe they don't even have high school sports for women or gym for women in high schools. I did not enquire.

Secular American Culture also includes far ranging general education with all the bells and whistles, a nice emphasis on physical fitness, plenty of hedonism, a great respect for individual rights and choice etc...

Second, secrecy and control are issues in Toco Hills. This is far different from privacy and openness. Countless times I have been asked if it would be possible for me to do everything from spend the night to move to Toco Hills. I have politely declined both offers. I say I need to be close to my work, but I also do not want nosey older ladies in my business. I don't need to rub it in everyone's face that I have an Italian American boyfriend. Talk about how unsupportive that neighborhood would be. I don't need people to know that I drink herbal tea that does not have a hecsher on it, buy Kroger's brand of cranberry sauce etc... go swimming on Saturday afternoons. You get the idea. I don't want people to size up my piety or lack of it and judge me for it, rank me for it, and peg me for it.

Then we have secrecy. It is amazing how many topics are either discussed only in privacy or not at all up in Toco Hills. Politics is one. It took five weeks to run in to Moses. I think I have met other people who think similarly but they keep their mouths shut around outsiders. Then there are all the topics of discussion that never emerge but you know are there: Money comes to mind first. Some people in Toco Hills are wealthy. Some are not, but discussion of who has more and what is affordible never pops out. When everyone is dressed nicely, you can not tell who is wealthy and who is not so wealthy. I see examples of great wealth in Toco Hills. The store bought salads that appear on tables, the tales about taking trips to Israel the way most people might take a trip to the mountains of North Georgia all point to wealth. On the other hand, I hung out with a family that rents a grubby apartment in a mixed complex on LaVista Road. What does it feel like to be in that family? It can't feel good.

And we have divorce. Judaism permits divorce and while the rate may be lower in Toco Hills than in the general population (in fact it probably is lower), it is not zero. There are also those who enter the community as adults who had a first marriage that did not work out.

Homosexuality, with the exception of my conversation at Moses' house, does not exist. This reminds me of the absence of crime in the old Soviet Union. Ten percent of the population is either gay or bisexual. Out there in the secular world, you are going to have friends, colleagues, and neighbors who are gay or bisexual. The place for gays in Toco Hills is in the closet. You can read about the fruits of this attitude at Unorthodox Jew's blog. What it also means is that Jews in Toco Hills are not ready to make common cause with other oppressed groups. The fact is that Jews, Blacks, gays, and sometimes immigrants and Asians are on the same team. The religious right and conservative/right wing elements would like to go after all of us and do not have our best interests at heart.

A fourth secret is cultural authenticity. Orthodox Judaism dates back to the 1920's in Germany. The enclave at Toco Hills dates from the 1950's. Most of our tunes are newer than even this. American Separatist Orthodox Judaism is a twentieth-century creation. It may resemble the culture in Europe that we escaped, but it is NOT the same thing and it is not a continuation of the Kingdom of Israel in the Bible. I don't really have a problem with this, but people should recognize what they are doing.

One very weird thing I have noticed in Toco Hills is the large number of twins. Twins are just not that common or weren't a generation ago. The large presence of twins means couples are resorting to fertility treatment. Now this is not against the Jewish faith. It is a choice, but it indicates later marriages and quite frankly a bit more interface with American culture than folks would like to admit. It also means that there are some very wealthy people in the community because IVF and other fertility technologies are frequently quite costly and often not covered by insurance.

One more secret issue. The peace process is dead in Israel. What kind of future can perpetual war bring? It can't bring a good one. What happens when you can't win long term, you can't compromise, and you can't stop fighting? This is a community where a lot of the membership know people on the West Bank and I don't mean Palestinians. This is common in Orthodox schuls, but the secrecy about the whole ugly situation in Israel and the failure to own up to Israeli Jim Crow (Sorry I like the American term better than Apartheit), present day human rights violations, and finally the state of perpetual war, is a problem.

I know the mantra I've been spouting for weeks until it gets old. "It's their problem. Don't let it become your problem." What this dumb cliche ignores is the fact that stepping over crap and enjoying the good stuff takes energy. Crap still stinks whether one chooses to get involved with it or not.

I'll give all of you a good example. I went to see a speaker after services on Saturday. He talked about the "conversion problem" and which conversions to accept and what happens to the children if the mother is not properly converted. Even if they are brought up Jewish, they are not considered to be Jews since genaeology counts. Also if you are a Jewish couple and you adopt a nonJewish child. If you want that child to have a conversion, don't let the bais din (religious court) know that you are going to take junior swimming on Saturday afternoon or that you consume herbal tea that lacks a hecsher on it or you won't get your conversion. Yes, this was forty minutes of talk about who was in and who was out to a room full of insiders. By the way, any one could have seen this lecture. It was given in a public house of worship. It manages to fall in most progressive people's cultural blindspot.

I walked out of the lecture after it was over and even if I had not encountered Moses' wife, I would have felt oddly dislocated. I'm dealing with a tiny minority of people who are hiding behind walls and gates and who do not even know when they are acting like middle schoolers. Face it, Jews are about two to three percent of the US population. Orthodox Jews are even fewer. Jews who actually go to services are twenty percent of the total Jewish population. Aiding and abetting every backslider does not help but neither does this who's in who's out garbage either.

I think I need to find a new schul, but my brush with watered down small town conservative Judaism still sickens me. Getting a good synagogue service is still number one on my list. If the service is cut back and run through like a freight train or if the rabbi insists on herding everyone along like cows because for some reason congregants forget that they know how to read silently in English when the cross the synagogue threshhold, I want no part of that. Maybe in a big city it is better. Alternatively, I can keep going to schul where I've been going. I can get good at ignoring the secrets. It means being a permanent outside, but I don't want to come inside.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

Haldis and Thadea have both been hard at work. The Golden Elite switched servers and then decided to give its team managers domains. This was not a bad idea but poor Thadea ended up uploading her team twice. The second time was in the wee hours of this morning, but the team is there! That is a relief. She has yet to tell her fighters but its on her do list.

Haldis has a much longer do list. Her competition has asked her to add a team site map to her team and an activity form for fighters to fill out daily. How do you say extra layer of beaurocracy and annoyance? Playing cop is not pleasant.

She still has to roster a fighter. Note: this page has an annoying but harmless Active X control on it. If your computer wants to block it, let it get blocked. You won't miss anything. Haldis did not and she has to zap the thing every time she brings up the page.

She also has to change her team to fit a new format because The Web Leagues split between vote exchange and nonvote exchange. The Web Leagues also has an automated ballot which means no manual vote counting. That is a good thing. I am more wary about the split. I don't think it will help attract and keep more fighters.

Golden Elite is also a great competition. The staff are gentle and ethical. The teams are intimate and if you want fierce competition and to really learn site fighting and wage an active campaign in the traditional style, there is no better place on the net to do it.

I'll even put in a word for ZOID. We were the first on the block with the best crafted social reforms. We were the second or third nonelimination competition. ZOID has an elegant mathematical way to prevent vote exchange from hurting non voteexchanging fighters. ZOID also has some reforms that are better suited for larger competitions and some good pay attention to fighters reforms and improved communciation.

There has been a lot of reform in site fighting since 1999 when I first got involved. Fighting used to be six days a week and seven days a week at the upper levels. There was one large competition of four hundred (Yes 400!) fighters and several smaller ones, one of which had sixty fighters. Fighting at the main competition was ELIMINATION. A loss at upper levels serpated you from the fights. Since competition for members was light and choice was limited, fighters would return if you eliminated them. Teams at the Site Fights were inconsistent. Ballot pages hard to find and slow to load. Site Fights did have an automated ballot. Vote exchange was legal everywhere except at a very new competition called the Rumbles (Established January 1999) and there were no vote exchange boards (see below on this one). This set me up for a poisonous experience under a mismanaged team that ultimately died.

What happened over time was this got a lot better. The Web Brawls had all ready broken away from the Site Fights in 1998 due to a dispute about neopotism and stacking of votes with team managers getting their staff to back certain fighters. This kind of behavior makes today's version of vote exchange look good. Web Brawls was also far more centralized. Team formats were consistent and fighters were NOT ELIMINATED by an upper level loss. the Rumbles appeared in January 1999, followed by ZOID in June of 1999. These were the second generation web site competitions and all three of them were REFORM SPLITS from the Site Fights. Fighters and lower level administrators left competitions and started their own because they wanted and believed they could do it better than any existing competition.

On June 22, 2000 the site fighting world shook under its first POWER SPLIT A power split happens when low level administrators at a competition and would be administrators want space to do their own thing and don't care if they do it any better. The Site Wars was born and half of the Site Fights' teams disappeared. The Site Fights which had four hundred members and approximately eighty percent of the total website competition membership, plunged to two hundred and fifty members and betweeen twenty and thirty-three percent of total membership. Today there are no competitions larger than two hundred and fifty individuals and few that go over a hundred.

Site fighting suffers from both its own history, a need to do things on the cheap and a decision to do things on the cheap, and an absolute inability to deal with external forces. Now I'll say I'm part of the problem first. I had a job search. I have a new job. I have recently relocated and am trying to get established in a new city and while this is not bad work if you can get it, it leaves me with little time to be part of the solution.

First, site fighting is only in part an intellectual endeavor. It involves getting social through vote exchange or just plain begging. This means that competitions do not always attract the most technically skilled amateur web masters. This meant that technical expertise is nearly always in short supply (The Web Leagues is the current exception to this rule as is the Site Fights) at most comopetitions and the schisms at Site Fights and beyond only made this problem worse. When the Site Fights split in 1998, 1999, and 2000 those who had the know how stayed with the mother competition and at the new competitions, the administrators relied on remotely loaded database and voting scripts (ZOID) or premade form mail to handle votes. This meant that most competitions counted their votes manually. This made for exhausted team managers.

Also the best web designers are usually not site fighters. I used to love to write about lack fo imagination in team design and just plain bad team design in general. Sorry, I'm not going to give any examples. Going from doing personal web sites to public ones is a huge leap and not everyone makes it gracefully. This made site fighting unattractive to the geek faction out there and alienated any intellectual types who might run across a web site competition.

But don't worry, those types usually never find site fighters. The reasons for that are viral advertising and vote exchange. Both of these are two edged swords. Fighters need votes consistently and for weeks to months on end. Outsiders whine when asked to vote every day. It only takes a short amount of time to vote for just one web site, but people will not even do that for themselves consistently a lot of the time, much to the frustration of team managers every where. In fact, outsiders asked to consistently vote for a campaigning fighter soon start to whine: "how much longer do I have to do this?" It is much easier and far more pleasent and definitely more profitable to the fighter to rely on vote exchange. This means that he or she (and it is usually a she) asks other fighters to vote for her in exchange for voting for them. She gets her votes. They get their votes. She may spend one to two hours a day voting. They will not be a hundred percent compliant but they will be more compliant than whiney outsiders so she still comes out ahead.

Viral advertising is word of mouth or word of guestbook or email. Fighters bring in their friends and relatiaves and these become fighters too. The problem is that a person's social networks only extend so far and site fighters who are very successful tend to associate mainly with other site fighters due to vote exchange. Vote exchange is time consuming. In its traditional form, fighters need to send out emails called reminders every night. They can use a Yahoogroup for this but it still takes time. The reminders need to go out between 8pm and 3am on the east coast to reap the most benefit. Fighters have to keep their reminder lists clean. Fighters have to keep a listing of where to vote and when. Different competitions run on different schedules. The URL's particularly for team voting pages are often Byzantine. On a twenty-eight eight modem, it can take two to three hours to cast all votes. Also voting takes place primarily in the day and early evening and can conflict with work. Fighters who are most deeply involved are busy people and do not have time to make new friends that are nonfighters. Their value for viral advertising is thus limited, and vote exchange only gets the word out among other fighters. Multicomping gets fighters in to several competitions, but fighters stretched thin are not new fighters. Advertising takes time and money that nobody has.

Moreover, vote exchange burns out the best fighters. They get tired. They quit. They become administrators. Administrating is easier at least for me since it is done at night and takes less time, even when I have to count someone else' votes. I don't mind following a schedule and have a taste for routine work that is common to experienced site fighters. There is no good way to protect the best fighters from themselves. They are a few very dedicated individuals, approxmiately seventy or so at any one time for as long as they can stand it.

By the way, all of this would be fine, if that was all that was &qut;wrong" with site fighting. There is NOTHING WRONG with having a small subculture and community of people of like minds enjoying a hobby. The problem is site fighting is threatened and it is doing nothing about those threats.

The first threat was COPPA. This cut a swath through half the site fighting demographic. Site fighting competes with real life, with work, entertainment, other hobbies, and family. This is why prior to COPPA most fighters were either mature women in flyover country (I fit a lot of this demographic) or just not in big cities, or American adolescents under the age of FOURTEEN. At fourteen or ninth grade the adolescents tended to leave the field because they became high school students who could work for pay on the books and pursue real life extracurricular activities. COPPA eliminated the middle school age fighters. This meant fewer potential recruits and it also meant that campaigning got tougher because the best fighters were always the adults.

The second major threat are vote exchange boards. The first of these ironically was the creation of an adolescent called Kween Klawz and it got her booted out of the Site Fights. It took adult ladies with more social status to make vote exchange boards stick. A vote exchange board allows the wholesale trading of votes. You agree to vote for everyone on the board and they agree to vote for you. Of course in a board with sixty to seventy sites on it (The typical number which is how I know how many serious vote exchanging fighters there are out there) a fighter will not have seen all the sites and vote for at least some of them blind at least for a short time. After a fighter votes, he or she must either find a hidden item or go to a web board or both and state that she voted. This adds an extra layer of beaurocarcy, enforcement, stress, and committment to fighting.

My experiences as Thadea have not left me a big fan of vote exchange boards, but what these boards do is make fighting less a social experience (We were supposed to be out there fighting for friendship, fun, and attention) and more competitive. Boards are impersonal. If a fellow board member does not vote, he or she is gone and you have no personal reminders to continue to vote for her. Boards mean that one must make a committment to sixty to seventy fighters rather than the twenty or thirty a beginning fighter might be able to handle. There is no longer a middle ground for vote exchange. Finally, vote exchange boards contribute to site fighting's incestuous nature. If a fighter uses a vote exchange board, a lot of her interaction on the net is going to be with ballots and with the board with the board owner and the fighters on the board, an universe of seventy like minded committed and almost fanatical individuals. Vote exchange boards are not good for competition advertising to the outside world.

The reaction to vote exchange boards has been to split the competitions in to vote exchange and nonvote exchange halves. This will not work. The nonvote exchange side will attract fighters who want to keep their hand in (Only fighters understand other fighters and if you have site fought a lot and been around competitions walking away completely is lonely. Outsiders do not share the site fighting subculture.) and administrators who run sites to fill out the ranks. Nonvote exchange fighting is NOT attractive to new fighters because they are left with the "whiney outsider problem" and no way to solve it. On a nonvote exchange team they have no way of beginning a campaign, since ALL vote exchange is forbidden. Unfortunately, if these new fighters switch to a vote exchange team, they face the behemoths on the boards and find themselves with a choice: be beaten consistently or join a vote exchange board. What was once a seductive snare is now an all or nothing proposition that may be far less attractive.

The third external threat is a bunch of large commercial virtual pet and large social networking sites: MySpace, Neopets, Friendster, Ringo, Hi5, Face Book, etc... In the words of site fighting experts: "Bloggers don't fight." People often have Neopet pages (Actually very few Neopians build pet pages but that is another story) MySpaces, Blogs etc... instead of personal pages. These sites offer the hope for community and do not clutter inboxes that are frequently poisoned (See below.) They also offer their membership a chance to be somewhat picky in their choice of associates. If you are a Christian, you don't have to vote for Wiccan sites or visit them. If you are a forty something SAHM, you can avoid the twenty-something army officer with a site about heavy metal music. Site fighting on its good days (and it has plenty of those) involves embracing diversity. Finally, the social networking sites offer their membership a chance that someone other than God or themselves will read what they say. If you build a personal web page you are out there all alone and chances are no one other than friends and relatives will ever come to visit. You have to make peace with the fact that self expression is important in and of itself and is more important than "community." I've done that because I've been kicked out of a number of communities, but it takes some scars before one wakes up to a truth like that.

Fourth, and perhaps most important, site fighting requires that fighters have access to a number of basic amenities and a certain kind of benign net environment that are now in large part things of the past. Fighting requires: space for a web site, an email account to give and send reminders, and place to leave cheers or vote exchange notices. Spam is enemy number one. When a team manager's inbox, a cheer book, a guestbook at a competition, a web board for vote exchange (as happened at the Site Fights incidentally) gets over run with ads for pills, home refinancing, 419 pleas, and worse, communication required for site fighting breaks down and the competition feels cheap and dirty. When team managers have to change their email addresses to avoid spam, they risk losing touch with their fighters and colleagues. Good cheap web space is now in short supply. Homestead closed its doors as did Fortune City (are they still around?). This leaves mainly Geocities which puts a huge grey stripe on web pages, several smaller companise that let you upload one page at a time, and MSN Groups which also requires crippled code and has a big stripe on the left side of the page. Free web space is a degraded resource, but it is often the first space available for those starting out building personal web sites. Once they get comfortable, they can rent space and acquire a domain name, but free space is a great training ground. Too bad that training ground which is also a training ground for site fighters is so degraded.

So what can we do? First, we can decide that site fighting should always stay small. It is us two hundred to five hundred individuals who make it happen and the rest are all "whiney outsiders." This means retention of existing fighters is a top proiroty. If we decide this, then we need to tackle burnout and find a way for the stars to keep their hands in when they can not run campaigns. Nonvote exchange fighting may have a place here, but also attacking the root causes of burnout may help. I know that Thadea got so she could see the shape and color of the pain of voting for several hours a night. Would better web design of ballot areas have helped? Being off the boards on the second campaign helped Thadea as well. Thadea used the boards to recruit individual vote exchange partners, but vote exchange board membership also contributed to burn out. Being beholden to the board owner to prove compliance canceled out the speed of having all the votes in one place. A lot of productivity aids also forstalled Thadea's pain and kept her fighting while hurting. Voting on a large scale for a long time is just impersonal and cold and nasty. What was once fun becomes a chore. That is burn out to me. Is there any way to prevent that from happening to others?

In addition, we can provide ammenities that protect committed fighters from the insults of a dirty net. Information about spam filtering or spam filtering for competition web site email are musts. Cheer boards and vote exchange message boards that require membership to post and where membership requires approval of those running the competition can keep spammers out. And competitions can provide free web space to committed fighters perhaps as a reward and do so more freely than they do now, perhaps for time spent fighting rather than for ultimate success.

Alternatively, we can as site fighters decide to expand. This one takes time and money. We need to advertise to the world of "whiney outsiders." Then we have to turn them in to insiders. This is the hard part. We need to be able to socialize them to some moderate form of vote exchange or make voting daily not a whiney chore. That means barriers to voting and finding supporters initially need to be down. Fighters need to be able to try these things without penalty. Second, we need to foster the fine art of personal web site creation. Building personal web sites allows you full control over look and feel, the safety from community censure that is the downside of having all your web work in a community rather than at your own site, and an affirmation of your own self worth. Third, we have to remember what site fighting offers that our competitors don't: a chance to meet diverse people with varying ages, life histories, and occupations and a chance to work towards a common purpose with others. We are also noncommercial and for the most part, competitions are small and intimate (even if they grow to several thousand, teams will still be small or should be). I love site fighting or I would not have written this essay. I wish we weren't t hreatened but we are and we need to do more than we are doing now if we want site fighting to be here in ten years.

Here it is and it is nearly noon and I am writing, but I believe in self expression and I believe in me and I believe in this blog where no one ever tells me to shut up (or at least I do not have to listen!). I just wrote a big essay on site fighting. I also realized this apartment was a mess. I need to clean it up but probably won't today. Today is July 4th and that means fireworks tonight and I may go out to dinner. The question is where I'll go. I may go up to Lennox in Buckhead or I may stick around Decatur. I want to see the biggest and best show. I also want to go swimming. Cleaning the apartment can wait.

There is still schul swag on my living room floor. I walk by it and know I have to put it away somewhere and out of the way. I shouldn't have to look at it. It will be easier if I don't. I did mail the letter to Moses. I told my colleagues about it at work and they were supportive and shocked. People have the fine art of going where they are welcome and most comfortable down to a t. Sorry, it's true. Separatism is not just endemic to Toco Hills. It is just more flagrant there because the folks you meet are different enough for you to notice.

All over any city are churches, restaurants, bars, night spots, and recreational venues where you would never set foot. Some folks like me do not own television sets. We read a lot and write a lot on the net instead. Think about all the things that simply "don't interest you" and you will find you are a separatist too. I'm a bit less of a one than most people or at least I try to be. I am on two Christian mailing lists. I like to see what other people think and write about and the Christians don't mind observers. I joined ladies groups. I ate lunch and dinner at random houses found by the schul Hospitality Committee.

You get the idea. Sunday night I was singing this song. You can put any tune you want to it.... It's called Brave Thing

Here is the chorus...

Oh you're going to do the brave thing, though Friday night you're on your own.
Only you know how much it hurt to spend Friday nights alone.
Oh you're going to do the brave thing, though you know when,
Friday night rolls around you'll be in a world of hurt again.

Sometimes it takes a day.
Sometimes it takes a year.
You can call it a matter of conscience
How hard it is to get that conscience in to gear.
You wrote out the letter.
And now you can't take it back.
You stand by what you said
Though your feet will get tired and that's a fact.

Chorus

I like the singing in an orthodox schul.
I don't like singing this song.
Homophobia and racism
Are very clearly just so wrong
Words heard in someone's home.
Words heard without a doubt,
Ugly words of laughing hate,
Forced me to clearly speak out.

Chorus

Don't ask me about my orientation
Or "some of my best friends."
Any way I say it's tacky
Don't even ask me where or when this ends.
I'll be back for services only
Come this Friday night.
I'll learn if "The Community" has teeth?
And are they going to take a bite?

Chorus

You don't have to feel my pain.
You don't have to sympathize.
Tell me to stay with like thinking minds
Tell me where I went was just unwise.
I wanted prayer, fellowship, and praise.
I still want to worship as a Jew.
Last weekend I had to live my faith.
Such a brave and painful thing to do.

Chorus

OK, I have to go learn about fireworks in Atlanta.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

Well Haldis has the image she needs to add the extra page to her team's site at the Web Leagues. I have to go to Kinko's and get it scanned. Actually I could go this evening since they stay open fairly late. I thought about redesigning this blog, but I rather like this set, especially given this weekend's events.

I also want to redesign and update my beach head web page since it is ancient. It is beautiful, but the images have copyright problems, and that is something about which I have grown a lot more sensitive.

I've written to Ghostletters twice today and the third time I lost the letter due to a computer glitch. Ghostletters is a fiction list. I also dreamed of a good role play and had spirit contact this morning that was finally decent. It was Bert in case any of you are curious.

I have a very painful letter to write. You can check out the right side of the blog for more details. Yes, there is a long essay there. I think it is good to put everything in context. I think I may also need a new schul.

CALL IT DIRT! This is the favorite defense of folks on the left or so-called enlightened part of the political spectrum. They apply it to a whole range of groups and cultural phenomenon. Usually you will find out that they have done it only after the fact when you bring something up and they express surprise or disgust. Sometimes you learn about it when soemone of a leftist liberal etc... political or social persuasion asks you about something you thought was common knowledge and which you know is commonly available.

The story of the marine and the atheist professor is an example of this. Usually someone on the left (for want of a better word) talks about how those bornagains are so unChristian since what is preached in most churches is peace and love. Isn't ath what religion is all about. Clearly these people have never read any of the head knocking tales that are aprt of Jewish and Christian belief even though those tales are commonly available. The movie, The Passion of the Christ, reminded left leaning folks how much blood and guts religon is a hot seller.

There is a huge blind spot as far as the bible is concerned, particularly some portions of the Old Testament. There is a lot of diffuclt bloody stuff buried down there. Liberal Christians bury it down there by talking about the angry Old Testament God. They say that Jesus is gentler and Christianity is superior, and even Jews want to bury it. When I was going to schul down on Ponce at the Chabad schul, the rabbi wanted to bury the executions and capital crimes detailed week by week in Leviticus by simply not discussing them in his sermons. Of course he had a soft spot for the Roshpie who has his own fantastic blod and guts tale.

Deep in the left/cultural blind spot is Parshas Korach a sequence of chapters in the Book of Numbers staring about Chapter 11. Actually the entire book of Numbers kind of hides in the cultural blind spot, and with good reason. It is a painful and difficult read for any one who values freedom of thought and action and for any one who is at all modern. Numbers is the story of how Moses, Aaron, and their allies assumed iron fisted totalitarian control over the Jewish people. We went from being slaves in Egypt to slaves under a hierarchy of our own.

Numbers begins with a census and then taxation in the form of tithes, offerings, and gifts. There is no promised land. By Parshas Shelach there is a failed attempt to enter the Promised Land. At Parshas Korach a civil uprising within the camp due primarily to the leadership's taxation and incompetence is brutally suppressed. At Parshas Pinchas, any hope for immigration out of the encampment is sealed off, as an act of genocide that we commit against Midian makes us enemies to any of the surrounding people.

Isolated, angry, warlike we enter the promised land, and in that way, we turn our inner anger on others and kick serious ass. In fact, we commit more genocide. It's all there. Read it for yourself, but if you are a progressive type, you won't. You'll say: "I'm not interested. It happened long ago. It's the Old Testament. I don't believe in that angry Old Testament God or just that angry God if you prefer. I belivee in a God of love."

Of course when the Book of Numbers became dirt, we left the field wide open for the apologists for Moses and even for a seemingly errant or at least tolerant deity. of course God has always been tolerant of what humans do to each other. I think there are Christian apologists as well, mostly Bornagain, but I know there are Jewish ones. the Midrash is full of them and I got to ehear an earful of them at the schul on Saturday. Part of me wants to have a t-shirt made up with Korach's eloquent plea on it and have people ask from where it comes. Boy would they be surprised.

Korach, Dathan, and Abiram may have contended with God, but their arguments were well couched, sensible, and classy. Korach and Dathan and abiram DO NOT take up arms against Moses and company even though they possesed swords, spears, etc... Korach says: "All the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them." Dathan and Abiram refuse to meet with Moss and accuse him of excessive taxation and of taking the encampment in circles around Sainai instead of directly to Canan. Both Korach and Dathan and Abiram's argument have ccredibility.

The fact that God annihaliates them does not prove them wrong. When you have to resort to brute force to silence your opponents you have lost the argument. Any look at a modern synagogue or Protestant church (The Catholic church has a world wide hierarchy so it is a different case.) shows there is no priestly class and we Jews have not had a functioing priestly class since 70CE.

Now if you want, you can ask me why God wrote Numbers. Don't ask me how. I think I side with the modern historians and scholars on this one, but I'm not sure the how matters as much as the why. I view Numbers as a cautionary tale against any form of dictatorship, even by the best prophet in the world with God on his side. If that dictatorship stank, imagine ordinary garden variety totalitarianism.

No matter how difficult it is to a modern/progressive/liberal sensibility, Numbers should not be dirt. All too often, we make anything that makes us the slightest bit uncomfortable dirt. That means we over use the dirt defense and when we really need it, it's there but diluted. We've also used it against ourselves to cut us off from a wide swath of our culture.

All this brings me to the point of my essay. I need to use the dirt defense, but I need to use it as gently as I can. What has happened? Yesterday, I ate lunch with a fascist and his family. Let's call the fascist Moses. I am shielding his privacy. Can Jews be fascist? The answer is yes, especially if they have grown up in a portion of the Diaspora where there has not been a lot of antisemistism. I don't want to give a lot of details about Moses but he and his wife believe in a strong government that should legislate morality and take care of people. They are promilitary and kind of like the state of perpetual war even though we invaded a country that did nothing to us on false pretext. They even like President Bush.

Each to his own. All this would be forgiveable. I don't care if you are a separatist which a lot of Orthodox Jews are. I do not want to live in an enclave and if you won't eat in my kitchen, have a slice of cheese or vegetable topped pizza at Johnny's, mixed bathe at the city pool etc... that is your loss, not mine. I don't care if you are a conservative. Read the National Review. I don't care if your friends live on settlements on the West Bank. Knowing such people made me very leary about ruling "hate sites" out of web site competitions. The Settlements were my example of a putitive "hate site" and how malleable that definition was.

Moses crossed the line. He and his wife are severely homophobic. Homophobic is of course a euphemism. They are prejudiced aginst gay people and take affirmative pleasure in condemning them. They want sodomy laws on the books. They are glad it rained for Pride Weekend and Katrina hit New Orleans because there is a big gay party there. Of course they forget that Georiga is still in a Category 1 drought. I have former and possibly present colleagues who are gay or bisexual. If I break bread with Moses again and I may get assigned to his house via the Hospitality Committee and I say nothing and I do not condemn his behavior, I condone it.

Moses is dirt. I have to shun him. I will not go to his house again for shabbos lunch or dinner. I will politely decline should he invite me. I probably also need to confront him on his prejudice. This hurts because not everyone at this new schul shares this prejudice. Traditional synagogues, be they Orthodox or Conservative, attract a diverse clientele. Moses is an outlier.

That said, the congregation tolerates him and his views. The question is how much and how far should the dirt treatment extend. Some people out there say it should extend to the entire schul. They allow this man to hold a place of honor within the congregation. They are therefore complicit.

I'm willing to reject going that far. Any one can pray at the schul. They also take me backpack and all on Friday nights. Their music is great. The liturgy is complete and unadulterated and the rabbi's sermons are NOT one bit homophobic. There is no Christian bashing. In other words, the schul itself is great.

I think, however, I am going to have to stop making arrangements with the Hospitality Committee for shabbos lunches and dinners. I've enjoyed some of them but the problem is how many other Moseses are there? How many more people will have to receive the dirt treatment?

It is going to hurt to apply the full dirt treatment to Moses. It probably will not change him, but silence and simply avoiding hospitality will not be enough. I owe Moses and his wife a bread and butter thankyou note. I will in that note explain that I do not want to return to Moses' house and I do not want to associate with him due to his prejudiced attitude toward gays. You see why this is going to hurt. I've invested time and energy in trying to make friends at the schul because I need a social network, but at what price does one seek out friends?

Silence towards Moses would be just as wrong as writing off the entire schul. He spoke the words. He needs to know that they were wrong words. If I want my nonJewish friends to stand against antisemitism, I have to stand against racism and homophobia in return. This blog is themed after King Christian X of Denmark who worked as a figure head of the resistance that saved and protected Denmark's Jews. The red and white streamers with the coins are the symbol of the Danish resistance to the Nazis. This blog is a reminder I don't just stand for myself and my own ethnic group. I need friends, but I have to do what is right.