Culture Corner: Book Review
"Coaching Ira" by Adam D. Shandler
Compiled by Audrey Shore
Hi Team KOC!
Here's Kislev. Sorry slightly late, although not SO late.
Auds : )
general theme: smoking
BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS FOR EMAIL
– Killing isn't ever allowed – for others or yourselves. Rabbi Cheryl Jacobs presents "the Jewish response" to smoking.
– Wisdom from even more Rabbis: The Rabbinical Assembly's tshuva on smoking.
– Not normally a quitter: KOC Editor Audrey Shore tells the tale of putting down the pack, once and for all...
– Think everyone in college is smoking? Think again. Check out the surprising responses to "Five Questions, Five Minutes."
Been on any good vacations lately? Experienced extreme pleasure / dissatisfaction / anti-Semitism / "wow-it's-cool-to-be-a-Jew"-ness on a recent (or not-so-recent) travel? Go to http://www.uscj.org/koach/5questions.htm and answer Tevet's "Five Questions, Five Minutes" on traveling the Jewish world!
– Judahs abound! Avi Buchbinder takes us through Kislev, in Torah and holidays.
– Kim Richardson isn't a chicken... not entirely anyway! Check out her Israel Update.
– Assistant KOC Editor Sarah Bier wants you to groove along to phat Israeli tunes! Read all about the latest and greatest from the world of Jewish music in Culture Corner.
On Jewish Responses...
by Rabbi Cheryl Jacobs, KOACH Fieldworker
Praised are you, Lord our God, King of the universe who with wisdom fashioned the human body, creating openings, arteries, glands and organs, marvelous in structure, intricate in design. Should but one of them, by being blocked or opened, fail to function, it would be impossible to exist. Praised are You, Lord, healer of all flesh who sustains our bodies in wondrous ways.
If you spend enough time in any Jewish youth group, or attend a Jewish camp, or even go to enough Hillel programs on your campus, you're going to hear the "Jewish response" to a whole host of issues. There are Jewish responses to the environment; Jewish responses to HIV/AIDS; Jewish responses to domestic violence. In fact, those of us who attended rabbinical school, or pursued studies in Jewish Education were trained to do just that… provide a Jewish response to any subject you can think of. And do you know why that is? Because in this day and age, it doesn't seem to be enough to say something is dangerous, or wrong, or harmful. People rely on us, the Jewish professionals, to try and provide another way – or really, another argument – to prevent others from doing something that could harm them. Take smoking. Even the most militant smoker knows that smoking constitutes a serious danger to the one that smokes. In fact, smoking has been linked to such evils as heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and dozens of other fatal and potentially fatal illnesses.
Whoa! 'Wait a minute' you're probably thinking, ‘This is the Kislev issue of the KOACH On Campus e-zine, and this is supposed to be a lighthearted article about oil, eight days, and a stupendous miracle!' True enough, and so, in that spirit, please think of this as my Chanukah gift to you. A way maybe to protect you and yes, even keep you alive a little longer - a Jewish response to smoking.
In all seriousness, I'm going to teach you just a bit about the rabbis' response to smoking, but you already know enough not to do it. Smoking kills you, and if that's not enough of a reason, smoking also kills those around you who are unlucky enough to inhale your smoke. And because I've been there myself, I know what you're thinking - "school's in and I'm bored - stressed out - only doing it socially - I look cool." Many of us have used the same arguments and rationalizations. It is a basic tenet of the Torah that one is not to harm another. The point is discussed extensively in the Talmud and the Shulkhan Arukh that the infliction of injury on another party, in this case tobacco smoke, constitutes an assault. In fact, R. Moshe Feinstein (z"l), a great Orthodox commentator, wrote: "…smokers actually commit assault… and it is obvious that were the courts competent to adjudicate torts, they would be empowered to enforce collection of their estimate of the suffering caused by the smoke, and if the complainant had become ill therefrom, he would be entitled to compensation of medical expenses." In this case R. Feinstein is talking about passive or "secondhand" smoke, the smoke that others inhale though they are not smoking themselves. If the Torah, however, and the commentators are so stringent as to forbid a human from hurting another, than how much more so when one intentionally tries to hurt themselves? In the morning prayers, many Jews recite the asher yotzar prayer that is written out above. In it, we praise God for creating our bodies and for keeping us healthy and for working God's miracles through us. Most of us would not even think of harming another human - "thou shalt not kill," etc. Then why would we kill ourselves, inside, slowly? It doesn't make sense.
Kislev is a special time of miracles. You will probably be involved on your campus with KOACH or Hillel in special Chanukah events and parties. So this Chanukah, think of this – the next time you go to light a cigarette, try lighting the Chanukiah instead.
Rabbi Cheryl Jacobs
Rabbinical Assembly Statement on Smoking
<RABBI WINICK WILL PROVIDE THIS!>
Let the lights go out...
by Audrey Shore, KOC Editor (JTS / Columbia)
<photo on file>
Smoking cigarettes was never an activity that I took part in, at least during high school anyway. All the smokers were labeled as deviant by us "good kids" and we often sneered as they stood outside after the 2 o'clock bell. Even on my first day of Nativ I remember looking at the smokers on my group in disdain, as we stood in line at Newark Airport watching their bags for them, while they were outside polluting themselves. Oh, how times changed...
It wasn't right away – I admit, it took me some time to acquire this habit – but before the year was over, I was a bonafide smoker.
About two weeks into my new habit, my Nativ group went on a public speaking type
of seminar, in which we were required to write a speech of some kind. While many people spoke of the beauty of our homeland or the fear they felt towards returning to America for college, I chose a slightly less serious topic – my recent vice acquisition:
It was first the risk of losing my eyebrows that caused me to question to validity of smoking as the new vice in my life. I had bought myself a new lighter - a profound step for me, since that, along with ownership or my own pack of Marlboro Reds, declared me a real, live smoker. This lighter of mine, however, was broken within moments by my best friend Avi, who had strategically removed the clip to enable the flame to reach ridiculously large heights, and, unless lighting up a cigarette with your friendly local blow torch is a part of your normal routine, it wasn't so easy to use.
I really like smoking. I like it a lot. I like it because it feels really good and is a great social aid and because I'm not hungry when I smoke. I know it has bad physical ramifications and is annoying to some of my closest friends or even random acquaintances that I'm near but at this stage of the game I'm ready, willing, and able to accept all of that.
Smoking feels great. I realize that eventually I'll lose the initial buzz but right now, it's a fabulous woozy feeling unrivaled by any other type of substance my body is currently enjoying.
Socially the smoking sub-culture has proven to be nothing short of warm and welcoming. Whether discussing exhale techniques or other smoking technicalities, or deep, meaningful issues like life, love, peace, sex or vanity, you can always find a smoker to be your companion for a butt outside and good conversation.
The best part of smoking for me by far is the fact that I never want to eat when smoking. I'm not hungry. I could sustain myself - and well, I hope to - off of Parliament Lights 100s and diet Coke alone. Is it the most healthy? Well, Richard Simmons hasn't exactly created a program based on nicotine yet, but since I'm taking vitamins, eating fruits and veggies and also keeping aerobics at the YMCA an integral part of my schedule, I feel like I'm doing as well had I been indulging in my out-of-control food routine.
Prioritizing my vices has become a priority in itself. For me now, smoking is awesome. People react to me like I am the devil, like I am evil, like I am selling crack to school children. But really, I'm just exercising my right to kill myself anyway I choose. And hopefully, I'll lose some weight, have some good conversations, and not singe my eyebrows due to unruly lighters.
Perhaps my humor is what makes this piece so unsettling; but four years later, I can assure you – I wasn't able to survive on only cigs and soda, the buzz wore off, friends can be made without bad habits, and as much as I tried to justify it to myself time and time again, smoking was just a stupid thing that I did. Past tense!
I can remember so many times that smoking was my crutch. At my sorority house, very few sisters were smokers, but my two closest friends were big time chain-smokers. Whenever I had a serious issue to discuss with them, I could be casual and say "Hey, want to come outside for a smoke?" instead of saying "Hey, want to discuss how our relationship is in a rough area right now?" or a similar, more direct and more difficult sentiment. Please don't mistake this as a full-proof equation for linking smoking to insecurity; it was my own fault that I lacked the confidence to follow other routes. My thought is that I am not alone in this admission, however, and that truthfully, many smokers do not choose to smoke out of continued love for cigarettes nor even out of addiction, but out of ease and habit.
Over the summer, I started to realize that smoking wasn't working in my world. Gradually I started to cut down, from about a pack a day to about two a day. Within a few weeks I realized, I was basically reminding myself to have a smoke before <x, y, z activity> and I was always showering right after the cigarette was extinguished. One of my close friends quit smoking, and I had always thought that she was even a more hardcore smoker than I. My days as a Marlboro Woman were numbered.
That was three months ago. I'm now smoke free. And time and time again, I realize that it wasn't just the health motivation, because as a college kid I feel this artificial safety, that nothing I do now could really affect me long-term. We all know that on a cognitive level this is absurd, but de vez un cuando I know we all feel it. My mother leaves me voice mail messages to tell me that she's proud of me for quitting. I'm saving a not-so-small fortune by eliminating a frequent purchase at the local kiosk. My sheets don't smell like an ashtray. My manicures don't get a yellow tint ten minutes after the polish is dry. And of course, it's much more fun to kiss without worrying about tasting like ashes.
If I can do it, so can you.
Five Questions, Five Minutes
compiled by Audrey Shore, KOC Editor (JTS / Columbia)
<photo on file>
1. What's your name?
2. Where do you go to school?
3. Do you smoke? (If so, for how long? If not, have you ever "tried it"?)
4. Does it bother you when there is / isn't a smoking section in restaurants / college dorms / bars / clubs?
5. Do you think it's realistic / strange / a good idea to apply Jewish concepts to smoking, and / or other physically damaging activities?
1. Sherri Vishner
2. SUNY Binghamton (Binghamton, NY)
3. nope, and never tried it
4. It would bother me if there wasn't a non-smoking section in restaurants and dorms, though I've never really experienced that. Most of NY State's restaurants have smoking sections, many of which are even completely separated. As far as bars and clubs, I've always just assumed that's part of the deal. I'd be much happier if it wasn't though...
5. Depending on where, it's definitely realistic and a good idea: i.e. Israel, Brooklyn, other highly Jewish-populated areas, including "Jewish" Universities. In areas without Jews this would definitely be strange...
1. Marc Grinberg
2. Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey)
3. No. I have never tried
4. No. I'm from California and there is no smoking in or near any buildings. I think this is a good things since second hand smoke is unhealthy and annoying.
5. Jewish concepts apply to every aspect of our lives. Why not smoking? Smoking is a desecration of one's own body and Judaism should take a strong stance against it.
2. University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
3. Yes, for four years.
4. Not really.
5. I think that is the entire purpose of Jewish thought and legal practice. The Halacha is supposed to instruct us on every aspect of our lives and so this is not strange.
1. Mandy Granek
2. SAIC (Chicago, Illinois)
3. No, actually, I'm very allergic to it.
4. I think if people want to smoke its their choice. I'm glad that some places give them the venue to do so without their bad habit effecting my lungs. However, I do get a kick out of the artists in my school who wear a respirator while working on a project, then on their break go outside to smoke.
5. When I was in high school I attended a seminar which addressed this question. Religion can influence all aspects of ones life so its not outlandish to apply Jewish concepts in regards to smoking.
2. University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign, Illinois)
3. No, I have never tried it and never will.
4. It bothers me when there is a smoking section anywhere but it seems even more ridiculous to have a smoking section in a college dorm.
5. Yes I feel that smoking would be against Jewish morals because of the harm it causes.
2. USF (Tampa, Florida)
4. It bothers me when there isn't, because there are people out there who do want to smoke and there are people around them who don't want them to.
5. Good idea.
1. Ryan Evans
2. LUC (Chicago, Illinois)
3. No, and I have never tried it.
4. It only bothers me if the lack of a smoking section results in people lighting up anyway.
5. I think its very realistic to apply the Jewish moral code to something as physically harmful and self-destructive as smoking. Smoking is the quintessence of counter-productive in respect to leading a long and healthy life, which in turn might prohibit you from doing good works and living morally.
1. Alicia Cohen
2. Occidental (Los Angeles, California)
3. No, and I've never tried it... never had the desire to.
4. I don't mind so much if there is a smoking section, but when I am in places where smoking is permitted inside, I am a little uncomfortable by it. Partially because the secondhand smoke is irritating to my sinuses; but even more so, because in California it is illegal to smoke in most public places, so I'm not used to it.
5. I think that its great to be able to apply Jewish concepts to any activities... it helps me to think, act and live more "Jewish-ly".
2. University of Illinois (Champaign/Urbana, Illinois)
3. No...tried it a few times, maybe have on occasion.
4. As long as there's not only one section in the facility...in other words, either have a smoking section, or make the entire place no smoking.
5. I think it's very realistic, and a good idea. Smoking in excess (which is I'm guessing what most smokers do) is definitely a bad thing, and I'm guessing that if it were looked at a lot closer, it would be found to be against Halacha.
2. Binghamton University (Binghamton, New York)
4. There should be smoking and non-smoking sections everywhere and college dorms should be smoke free.
5. For sure its realistic; why shouldn't Jewish concepts reflect the issue of smoking? Smoking may not be "against Judaism" but it is damaging one's body and should be a huge debate in our religion.
1. Lawrence Szenes-Strauss
2. Brandeis University (Waltham, Massachusetts)
3. No; never tried.
4. It doesn't really bother me not to see smoking sections. I realize how inconvenient it is for smokers to have no place in the restaurant where they can smoke, but this seems like a trifling annoyance compared to the health problems many of those people will eventually have to face. A different set of priorities might be in order.
5. Why should it be strange? Damage is damage.
1. Audrey Shore
2. JTS / Columbia (New York, New York)
3. Today marks the one-month anniversary of my quitting smoking. I started while in Israel on Nativ, and that was about four years ago.
4. Even when I was a smoker, I didn't expect there to be places to smoke inside at all times. I knew which restaurants in my area had smoking sections, however, and tended to frequent those. One of the things I have always hated about going dancing is that, smoker or not, you get home and smell like an ashtray. College dorms should have smoking areas, but the idea of smoking in your room is slightly gross to me, just because that means everything you own will smell.
5. One of the most beautiful qualities of the Jewish faith is that concepts stemming from our heritage can be applied to every aspect of life. Of course I knew that smoking was bad for me, but I did it anyway; the same way that I know not sleeping enough, eating the wrong food, or getting drunk at a party is bad for me. (These three examples are very collegiate, I feel.) For some reason, I'm unable to synthesize what in my mind I know is wrong to do, and what I end up doing. Jewish values try to find their way into my life on these issues, but sometimes I manage to outrun them. It's unfortunate.
2. University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
4. Yes, because it makes it an uncomfortable situation for all those affected especially me because it's hard to breathe.
2. William Paterson (Wayne, New Jersey)
3. I quit two years ago after smoking for nine years.
4. I really don't like to be around cigarettes at all now. When I leave a bar my hair smells like stale cigarette smoke! Also smoking is a real turn-off.
5. Shouldn't we try to apply Jewish concepts to our lives in general? That would include matters related not only to our own physical/mental health but also to environmental concerns as well. To poison either one is like throwing away this beautiful gift.
D'var Torah: A Tale of Two Judahs
by Avi Buchbinder (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, first-year)
Two of my favorite events on the Jewish calendar happen this month. The first event is somewhat obvious. Like many Jews, I like Chanukah. It is not simply the latkes, Chanukiah candles and dreydl that make Chanukah appealing to me; it appeals to me as a symbol of the struggle for Jewish identity and well being. Chanukah represents the physical and spiritual struggle of the Maccabees at a time when the Hellenists occupied Israel and imposed their own culture upon the Jews. The ensuing Jewish victory was not simply the military defeat of the Syrian Greeks, it was also a triumph for the survival of the Jewish religion in a foreign environment. Now, as in independent nation in their own land, the Jews could live and worship as they wished.
The other one of my favorite events which is commemorated in this month every year is the story of Joseph. Every year, around the time of Chanukah, the story of Joseph is read. Favored by his father, his brothers betray him, selling him into slavery in Egypt. In Egypt he rises to prominence and later helps his brothers in time of famine. This epic story is quite dramatic, and sheds light on a number of aspects of human relationships.
There is a very interesting relationship between the stories of Chanukah and Joseph – both serve as models for the survival of the Jewish people in a non-Jewish world. The story of Joseph bears the significance of being the first story of the Jewish Diaspora. Although Abraham and Jacob temporarily leave the land of Israel in times of need, Joseph is the first to permanently dwell outside the holy land. His descendants serve Pharaoh as slaves in Egypt for generations.
Similarly, the story of Chanukah is the story of beginning of the current exile. Although the Maccabees were victorious and Jews ruled over Israel for almost a century following their victory, the Jewish kingdom began to crumble almost immediately. The reason is astounding. It was not because of the Babylonians, the Greeks or the Romans, but instead because of the Jews themselves. To simplify a complicated chain of events, the generation directly following the Maccabees began a period of fighting between different Jewish factions culminating in the Roman invasion less than a century later and eventually the destruction of the second temple.
Does this sound familiar? Indeed. The story of Joseph illustrates a prime example of fighting between brothers. Just as destruction of the Jewish people in the time of after Chanukah came from within, Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold as a slave.
These events teach an important lesson in Jewish survival. To survive as a people, it is not the outsiders who are the primary enemies, it is ourselves. When lighting the Chanukiah this year, we can remember that the lights, though separate, should stand for Jewish unity, as we have seen what happens when unity is fractured. Just as one candle lights another so too should we help those in need and distress.
Just one more note. There is one more interesting similarity between Chanukah and Joseph. After the brothers threw Joseph into a pit in order to kill him, his brother Judah suggests that they sell him instead; thus sparing Joseph's life. Just as a Judah came to Joseph's rescue, another Judah came to the rescue of the Jewish people in the time of Chanukah. Additionally, the messiah, a future savior of the Jewish people is supposed to come from the descendants of the original Judah. Judah often plays the role of the savior. It is no coincidence that the Jewish people are named after Judah. Just as Joseph's brother Judah saves Joseph, and Judah the Maccabee saves the Jewish people, every Jew must pay careful attention to come to the aid of Jewish people around the world.
Israel Update: Don't count your chickens...
by Kim Richardson, Nativ
<photo on Nativ website – 9/11, four girls, far left, b+w striped shirt, http://www.usy.org/images/nativ/large/kaparot1.jpg>
Imagine going into a place where you cannot see the outside. You do not know your fate or how your life will be handled. You do not even know where you will be the next year, the next day, the next hour. All of a sudden, a door opens and a hand pulls you from the outside world, beckoning you to come out and explore. You wish you could stay in the safe, warm place that you know, but a certain curiosity is within you. You want to see what is beyond the familiar, so you decide to investigate. As soon as you put one foot through the door, however, you are whisked away. The minute you step in the outside world, you realize that your destiny has been predetermined. You see the sights, smells and voices of those around you. You see the twenty-two people who will determine your fate. They are looking at you in a questioning way. Do you have feelings? Do you realize what is happening in the world around you? Some of these people look happy, some look excited, and some of them are just plain terrified. Some of these people are ecstatic to be in this strange and foreign place, yet some are acting as though they would rather not be here. What is this strange place that I am in you wonder? What have I gotten myself into?
You then realize that you are a chicken at the kaparot festival and that you are about to take the sins of those twenty-two people. You will be swung around their heads and then killed and given to the needy as their Yom Kippur meal. However strange this festival is, it is a ritual tradition, and you are proud to be part of such an important event.
Unlike the chicken, neither my destination nor my destiny was pre-determined. I chose to come to Israel, much to the dismay of some friends and family. I only hope that I will fulfill the obligation that I have as part of the Jewish people to continue my Jewish education and support Israel as much as I can. The first month of my Israel experience, however, was handled much like that of the chicken. I did not know how my life was going to be for the next eight months. I threw myself into a world that was completely different than the one I knew. I am now, however, getting used to being in Israel and living like an Israeli. Well, that is to say, living as much like an Israeli as possible. I have learned the key phrases to use in Israel, such as "Where are the bathrooms?" or "On the cab meter, now!" The base where we are temporarily staying is located in a beautiful neighborhood, with ten synagogues within a fifteen-minute walking range. I only hope that the Fuchsberg Center, if we move in, is as nice as our home now.
The challenges felt and accomplishments achieved by Nativ 22 are more than we could have ever imagined. We have faced opposition from close friends and even closer family members. Above all odds, the twenty-two other people that chose to come to Israel deserve a lot of recognition and a lot of respect for having the courage they do. This is a time of utter importance to show support for Israel, and the Nativers have done just this. I hope that I will continue to grow over the next eight months, on my own and with my group, and come back to America with a changed perspective on the world around me.
(Editor's note: Want to keep up with Kim and the rest of Nativ 22? Check out http://www.usy.org/programs/nativ/!)
Culture Corner: Kol Yisrael
by Sarah Bier, KOC Assistant Editor (University of Chicago)
One of the greatest aspects of Jewish camps is how hard camp leadership tries to teach Jewish and cultural Israeli music. Few campers, if any, leave camp at the end of the summer without knowing a slew of Zionist songs about rebuilding marshy land or the beauty of Jerusalem. Campers love screaming at the top of their lungs (until the tune of the song is inaudible) and pounding on the chadar ochel tables until their palms turn pink. But, it does seem that as campers or students in the formal Jewish educational system, we've missed out on another major part of Israeli music - modern, radio-played songs.
Until last year when I was on Nativ, I had virtually no clue as to what music was played on the radio - for all I knew the air waves were full of Naomi Shemer's Yerushalayim Shel Zahav. The idea of her voice coming across the Galgalatz air waves seems funny now that I am familiar with Israeli music. In reality, Israeli music has many genres. There's typical sounding Middle Eastern music complete with hand-slapping drumming and guitars. Amir Benayoun is successful in bringing his Mid-Eastern sound to mainstream listeners' collections. Some musicians have been influenced by the constant presence of American and European music in Israel. Mookie has successfully challenged Israelis to accept rap. Similarly, a new album featuring Rita and Rami, a married couple, combines their talents and songs in a live concert. Shlomo Artzi, Arik Einstein, Yehuda Polikar, Aviv Gefen and David Broza are among the most popular singers in Israel. Aside from these few examples, Israeli music has enormous variety and in content and sound - there's something for everyone.
Like American musicians, these artists have an impressive ability to represent their listeners' feelings and address present day issues. But besides from writing songs about love, loss or anger, many Israeli songwriters address the seemingly never-ending violence the country experiences. While opinions vary tremendously on how to reach solutions, musicians and listeners can connect to each other despite differences in politics. Yehuda Polikar has written a beautiful song about the current intifada called "Aich Korim Laahavah Sheli." "BaYom Shel Hapetzatza" by Rami Kleinstein is tells the story of a bombing. "Livkot Lecha," a song that is strongly associated with Yitzchak Rabin's life and death voices the author's hope for his friend to stay strong and that the two should meet in the next world.
Now that I have left Israel and am stuck in the middle of Illinois' cornfields, I enjoy more than ever listening to Israeli radio and CDs. I can create a bubble of Israeli life - ignoring the fact that I live within one thousand feet of over six hundred people and any schoolwork I may have - until my roommate comes in and bursts it, begging to listen to something in English.
Check out these great sites for Israeli radio fun: www.glz.msn.co.il, www.netvision.net.il, and www.102fm.co.il. Happy listening!
Shandler: Storytelling, even when just printed on paper, is a form of performance. Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, the story is meant to incite a response, much like a movie, play or song. That response can be emotional or motivational, and I like being able to connect with people on that level. I can't act or sing, so I guess this is the way I'll have to express myself on the creative level.