Monday, December 17, 2007

New York Post Mishegas

I've never been a reader of the New York Post... not even when I lived in Manhattan. But I've visited the New York Post website twice in the past few days to check out articles that were recommended to me by other rabbis.

The first article is about the crazy story on the New York City subway (Brooklyn's Q train) where a man was beaten for offering a "Happy Hanukkah" greeting. Thanks to Conservative Rabbi Michael Friedland of South Bend, Indiana for bringing the story to my attention. Rabbi Friedland was able to use the story for a sermon about Jewish identity last Shabbat.

The story broke on December 11 in the New York Post, where it was reported that "a Hanukkah greeting among passengers on a Q train set off an altercation that resulted in ten people being charged with hate crimes yesterday... It began after the four victims exchanged Hanukkah greetings and one of the assailants made anti-Semetic remarks about Jews killing Jesus."

Apparently these subway riders were beaten for responding "Happy Hanukkah" to a group who wished them a "Merry Christmas." The story turns odd, however, when the facts come out:

1) The guy who beat up the "Happy Hanukkah" greeter on the train and is charged with a hate crime is Joseph Jirovec. He says that this couldn't have been an anti-Semitic hate crime because... (ready for this?) his own mother is Jewish.

2) The person who instigated the altercation by wishing "Happy Hanukkah" is not Jewish at all. The other two people who were beaten up are self-described "half Jews" whose mothers are not Jewish (making them not Jewish according to the traditional Jewish legal definition).

3) The hero in this case is Hassan Askari, a Muslim from Bangladesh, who saved the victims from a more serious beating.

So, to recap we have a Jewish hoodlum instigating a fight with some non-Jews on a Brooklyn subway for wishing him a Happy Hanukkah in response to his Merry Christmas. After stating that "Hanukkah is when the Jews killed Jesus," the Jewish guy beats up the non-Jews who are then saved by a Muslim. Happy Holidays everyone!

The other news item I checked out at the New York Post is an article titled "Rent-A-Rabbi: Execs Pay Big for On-The-Job-Religion". Aish HaTorah has taken the concept of "Torah on the Go," in which rabbis take their Torah study sessions into the corporate boardrooms downtown, and is profiting big time from it.

For guilty Jews who can pay as much as $250,000 a year, a rabbi from Aish New York, a nonprofit educational center, will get religious with you anytime, anywhere. Everyone from Kirk Douglas to executives at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and major hedge funds are clients, the company says.

There is no set curriculum, and the only expectation is that the students contribute a minimum annual donation of $10,000. Clients use their half-hour to hour sessions to talk about Torah verses, relationships - even how to make Jewish bread.

Ten-grand to learn to make challah with an Aish rabbi on your lunch hour at Goldman? Seems a little steep. But if these money managers can sign up the Aish rabbis as clients it might be money well spent.

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