Braun issues apology for doping in MVP season


Banned Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun acknowledged on Thursday he used performance enhancing drugs during his National League Most Valuable Player season in 2011.

“During the latter part of the 2011 season, I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn't have used,” Braun said in a statement published on the Brewers' website.

“The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation. It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately,” he added.

Major League Baseball (MLB) in July suspended Braun for the rest of the season, at least 65 games, saying that he had violated the league's joint drug prevention program.

No details were given of the offence committed by Braun but he had been suspected of procuring performance enhancing drugs from Biogenesis, the now-shut Florida anti-aging clinic that was investigated by MLB.

Previously Braun was suspended for 50 games by MLB after he tested positive for elevated testosterone levels during the 2011 sseason but that ban was overturned in February 2012, after he successfully appealed claiming his tests were mishandled.

After winning that appeal, Braun made critical comments about the collection of his urine sample and the collector, saying that he viewed the process as “suspicious”.

On Thursday, Braun revisited his comments and said he was embarrassed by them.

“I deeply regret many of the things I said at the press conference after the arbitrator's decision in February 2012. At that time, I still didn't want to believe that I had used a banned substance.

“I think a combination of feeling self righteous and having a lot of unjustified anger led me to react the way I did. I felt wronged and attacked, but looking back now, I was the one who was wrong. I am beyond embarrassed that I said what I thought I needed to say to defend my clouded vision of reality.”

Braun said he was now in the process of trying to understand why he responded the way he did, acknowledging there was no excuse for it.

“For too long during this process, I convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong. After my interview with MLB in late June of this year, I came to the realization that it was time to come to grips with the truth.

“I was never presented with baseball's evidence against me, but I didn't need to be, because I knew what I had done. I realized the magnitude of my poor decisions and finally focused on dealing with the realities of – and the punishment for – my actions,” he said.

Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami, Editing by Larry Fine

Forget Braun, new film reminds us we have Al Rosen to go with Koufax and Greenberg


When Ryan Braun was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011, Jewish sports nuts talked about whether the Milwaukee Brewers’ slugger would end up in the pantheon with Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax.

Following Major League Baseball’s recent suspension of Braun for using performance-enhancing drugs, the answer seems to be a clear no.

Forgotten in the discussion of Jewish diamond greats is Al Rosen, a power-hitting third baseman who was a member of the tribe in more ways than one, playing his entire career for the Cleveland Indians.

But now comes a new documentary, “Beating the Odds: The Al Rosen Story,” celebrating Rosen’s contributions to baseball as a player and executive, as well as being a role model for American Jews.

Rosen’s MVP season of 1953 followed on the heels of Greenberg’s two MVPs (1935 and 1940) and preceded Koufax’s one MVP (1963) and three Cy Young Awards (1963, 1965 and 1966).

Like Greenberg — his idol — Rosen was nicknamed the Hebrew Hammer. Like Koufax, he enjoyed a brilliant career abbreviated by injury.

Rosen was a four-time All-Star who played in the 1948 World Series — the last one won by the Indians — and two seasons later led the American League in home runs with a rookie record 37 (he qualified as a rookie despite appearing in games the previous three seasons with Cleveland). His MVP was the last for an Indian.

He would help lead Cleveland back to the Series in 1954, but the Tribe was swept by the Willie Mays-led New York Giants.

Two years later, at age 32 and after just seven full seasons, Rosen played his last game, done in by a finger injury and back problems. Another factor: He learned Greenberg, by then the Indians’ general manager, was planning to cut his salary or trade him.

“I feel like my career was aborted,” Rosen, 89, told JTA in a recent interview. “It’s been troubling me over the years. I don’t dwell on it because it’s not worth dwelling on.”

The new documentary serves as a reminder that while Rosen might fall short of the Greenberg-Koufax bar, he should never be forgotten in discussions about the greatest Jewish baseball players.

The film was financed in large part by the Indians, who are selling it at Progressive Field souvenir stands and on the team’s website.

It chronicles the asthmatic Rosen’s rise from his native Spartanburg, S.C., to Miami, where his family moved to improve his health, through his youth exploits as a boxer and on to an accomplished baseball career. Rosen hit for a .285 average, slugged 192 home runs and batted in 100 or more runs five consecutive seasons.

Rosen is “one of the great names” in Indians’ history, said Bob DiBiasio, the team’s senior vice president for public affairs.

“We really felt it was important to participate in this project because you do need to document the rich history of the game and our franchise,” DiBiasio said.

The documentary was completed earlier this month, 60 years since Rosen was named MVP. Due to Major League Baseball’s licensing fees for footage, filmmaker Bill Levy opted to tell the story through interviews, narration and still photographs rather than utilize clips of Rosen hitting and fielding.

“He was a hell of a baseball player,” said Levy, who produces corporate films but as a journalist covered the team during Rosen’s career. “In his era, Al Rosen was a hero, Jewish or not Jewish. He was a hero to me. He carried himself in a dignified way.

“With this Ryan Braun thing, [Rosen’s] position as one of the three top Jewish baseball players of all time is still unchallenged.”

The 57-minute film’s other subtitle, “Making Elmer Yoter Eat His Words,” is a slam at the minor league manager who brought the 17-year-old Rosen to tears after a workout by saying he’d never amount to anything as a ballplayer.

“You’re wrong, Mr. Yoter, and some day I am going to make you eat your words,” Rosen is quoted as responding.

That was hardly the only opposition faced by Rosen. A football coach at his Miami Senior High School implied that Jewish athletes were soft — that they preferred tennis to contact sports.

“That’s etched in my memory,” Rosen says in the film. “You could never get it out of there because I always wanted to prove this guy wrong.”

The film also recalls Rosen approaching the Chicago White Sox dugout to challenge the player who screamed anti-Semitic slurs during a game at Comiskey Park. Rosen never found out the player’s identity, and told JTA that he admired Saul Rogovin, a pitcher and also a Jew, for not ratting on his White Sox teammate.

“I could imagine he was in a very difficult spot, and he handled it absolutely correct,” said Rosen, who ran into Rogovin years after the incident and asked about the heckler’s identity.

Rosen’s integrity also comes through in the documentary.

In 1953, Rosen nearly achieved the rare Triple Crown — finishing the season leading the league in home runs, runs batted in and batting average. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers won the trifecta last year, only the 13th player in baseball history to accomplish the feat.

Heading into the final game, Rosen was first in homers and RBIs, and was neck and neck with Mickey Vernon of the Washington Senators for the batting title. Vernon had picked up two hits in four at bats against the Philadelphia Athletics; Rosen was 3 for 4 against the Tigers. If Rosen could hit safely in his last at-bat, he could secure the batting title and the Triple Crown.

Rosen topped a slow grounder to third base but was nipped at first trying to leg out the infield hit. He finished at .336, one point short of Vernon. Rosen led the league in homers (43) and RBIs (145), along with runs (115), total bases (367) and slugging percentage (.613).

“I knew I was out,” Rosen tells Levy of the deciding play. “I couldn’t have accepted being called safe on that play. … I just wouldn’t have been able to live with that. I was glad he called it right, and I accepted it. That’s just the way it was.”

So dominant was Rosen in ’53 that he won the MVP unanimously — a first. He wrote thank-you letters to each writer who cast a vote.

The next year, the Indians recorded one of the best regular seasons in baseball history with 111 victories before losing to the Giants in the Series. Rosen was on base when the Giants’ Willie Mays made his legendary catch of Vic Wertz’s drive to deep centerfield in Game 1 (Rosen said he fully expected Mays to make the play).

Perhaps the documentary’s greatest revelation is Rosen’s role in helping George Steinbrenner purchase the New York Yankees in 1973. (The two men had been part of a failed effort to acquire the Indians.)

Rosen later worked for Steinbrenner as the Yankees’ president and chief executive officer, and was there for the team’s 1978 World Series title. Rosen went on to run the Houston Astros and the San Francisco Giants, leading the latter to the 1989 World Series (a loss). He is still the only person to have won an MVP and been named Executive of the Year (in 1987, with the Giants).

Rosen retired from the front office in 1992. Were he heading the Milwaukee Brewers now, Rosen told JTA he’s not sure how he would have handled Braun, the son of an Israeli Jewish father and Catholic mother. The film came out before the suspensions of Braun and other players were announced. Rosen recalled that one of his Giants players had a cocaine problem.

The suspensions are “a terrible blow for baseball,” Rosen said. “I feel badly that it happened, I feel badly for baseball and I feel badly for the players. There will always be a tarnish on all [their] accomplishments.”

He added, “It’s not only Ryan Braun but many other fellas. But I know one thing: If I were a player today, I wouldn’t take anything without a doctor saying so and without a written note from the doctor.”

Rosen, the only living member of the starting lineup of the ’54 Indians, occasionally sees some of his contemporaries living nearby, including Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner, an Indians teammate. He follows baseball with great interest, and said he’s particularly impressed by the performance of the Tampa Bay Rays and their manager, Joe Maddon.

And he’s technologically hip. Rosen follows international affairs closely — he includes three or four Jewish newspapers in his daily online reading — and stays in contact with his widespread family by Skype. All the Rosen households — he and his wife Rita have five children, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter — have received a DVD of the film.

“That’s one of the things that makes me happy,” Rosen said of the documentary. “It’ll be something the kids will have.”

Praise for Selig and no sympathy for drug cheats


From the ballparks to the anti-doping war rooms of those leading the battle against performance-enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball's crackdown on drug cheats was hailed as an MVP moment in the fight against doping on Monday.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), that not long ago labeled MLB's anti-doping efforts “a joke”, praised commissioner Bud Selig's get-tough stance.

And the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) viewed the unprecedented suspension as a dramatic shift in the doping culture.

“All clean athletes won an MVP award today, as this is a strong and powerful message that their rights and the integrity of the game will be protected,” USADA chief Travis Tygart told Reuters. “When truth and integrity are upheld that's a good day for clean athletes.”

Following an exhaustive MLB investigation into players linked to Biogenesis, the now-shut Miami anti-aging clinic accused of distributing performance enhancing drugs, Selig dropped the hammer on the drug cheats.

He handed out bans to 13 players, including a record 211 game suspension to baseball's highest paid player, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

“WADA commends the actions taken by the MLB in suspending 13 players associated with the performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) scandal concerning the Biogenesis Clinic in Miami,” WADA said in a statement.

“As we have said previously, non-analytical methods are proving to be an increasingly effective means of helping uncover those athletes who have committed foul play and breached anti-doping rules.

“The MLB has approached the matter in a professional manner throughout, and we look forward to maintaining our close relationship as we move forward in our efforts to protect clean athletes and advocate doping-free sport.”

The 14 players caught in the MLB drug sweep, including Milwaukee Brewers Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP who earlier accepted a 65 game suspension, received little sympathy from fellow players although the players' union said it would back Rodriguez's appeal of his ban.

As the suspension announcement approached, the Twitter-verse exploded with reaction, most of it directed at the drug cheats for the damage they have done to the great “American Pastime”.

“Today is a sad day for MLB, the fans of this great game, and all players who may have been negatively affected by others selfishness,” tweeted Tampa Rays Evan Longoria.

“Ultimately, although today will be a day of infamy for MLB, it is a tremendous step in the right direction for the game we love.”

Tygart singled out Selig for particular praise and Rodriguez for scathing scorn for appealing his suspension and failing to face up to his punishment.

Long accused of turning a blind eye to doping, Selig has seen the light after a series of drug controversies that have badly tainted the sport, and evolved into an anti-doping hardliner.

“I commend the commissioner for his leadership on this issue,” said Tygart.

“Obviously they learned in the late 90s and early 2000s this (doping) is the biggest threat to sport and to have the commissioner of one of most popular pro leagues in the world to take a firm stand and support it is really refreshing and give all clean athletes hope.

“They absolutely did the right thing, when you are between a rock and hard place and you do the right thing that is true leadership.”

Reporting by Steve Keating; by Julian Linden

The shandah factor: What makes Jewish sex scandals different?


The guy with the socks up. The guy with the pants down. The guy with the headlocks. The guy who tweets and deletes.

What is it with these male politicos? And why are they all Jewish?

The cloistered community that is Washington’s Jewish elite collectively choked a little Saturday morning as it progressed through a column in which Gail Collins of The New York Times named the protagonists of what she dubbed the “Weiner Spitzer summer.”

“Ever since the Clinton impeachment crisis, we’ve been discovering how much personal misbehavior we’re prepared to ignore in elected officials,” Collins wrote. “Hypocrisy, for sure. Adultery, definitely. Chronic lying, maybe. Financial skullduggery, possibly.”

Those seeking absolution this month for past misdeeds include Anthony Weiner, now running for New York mayor, who quit Congress in 2011 after he was caught saluting a female Twitter fan in his boxer briefs; Eliot Spitzer, now in a bid to be Gotham’s comptroller, who quit as the state’s governor in 2008 after the revelation that he patronized high-priced call girls — and allegedly kept his knee-highs on while doing so; and Bob Filner, who quit Congress last year to become San Diego’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years and is now facing a welter of sexual harassment claims, including allegations involving something called the “Filner headlock.”

[Related: Weiner acknowledges latest revealed lewd exchange]

Rounding out the sordidness is the baffling case of Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), who was caught tweeting and deleting messages to a bikini model during the State of the Union address in February. Turns out she was his recently discovered love child. Then it was discovered she wasn't. Then he commented on the looks of a female reporter who asked him about the situation.

In her column, Collins did not identify the protagonists as Jewish, but their collective appearance in print unsettled Jewish political players who were whispering their names at social gatherings over the weekend.

“If we need a reminder of how Jews are like everyone else, this is a useful one,” said Ann Lewis, who as White House communications director managed the fallout from President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal and whose brother, former Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank, was caught up in a scandal in the 1980s involving a gay escort. “It does help bring us down to earth.”

Unlike other lawmakers caught in scandal, Lewis said, Jewish politicos are less likely to face the charges of hypocrisy that have afflicted others caught with their pants down.

“Jewish politicians by and large have not been huge advocates of patrolling other people's sex lives,” Lewis said.

The cases all have their own particularities.

Spitzer's lapses were crimes, though he was never prosecuted for them. Filner's might yet land him in court; his former communications director said this week that she was suing the mayor for sexual harassment. And the ones with Weiner and Cohen are just bizarre, though no one has suggested they are criminal.

Filner thus far has rejected calls for his resignation, while Spitzer and Weiner are both trying to rehabilitate their political careers after retreating from the spotlight in the wake of the scandals. On Monday, however, Weiner acknowledged that he had sent more explicit photos and texts to a woman, though the exact date of the exchange was unclear.

The Cohen saga began in February, when reporters noticed his tweet to bikini model Victoria Brink, who had told Cohen via Twitter that she had seen him on TV. “pleased u r watching, ilu,” he replied, using the shorthand for “I love you.”

The unmarried Cohen had a relationship with Brink's mother, who had told the congressman that the model was his daughter. CNN reported last week, however, that a DNA test showed Cohen and Brink are not related.

Asked about the situation by a young female reporter, Cohen said, “You're very attractive, but I'm not talking about it.” Cohen almost immediately sought out the reporter to apologize, saying he had not meant anything untoward.

“Been tough week, then this,” Cohen said in a tweet. “Sad 2 say I'm not perfect.

Political observers attribute the various scandals to the same factors that have led other politicians into the halls of shame: arrogance, insularity and just plain loneliness.

“Anyone who wants to run for Congress has to be a little bit crazy, and that includes Jewish members of Congress,” said a longtime Capitol Hill staffer who has worked for a number of Jewish lawmakers — none tinged by scandal.

The perpetual fundraising, unfettered accolades from supporters and the rarity of staffers who push back when a boss crosses the line insulate lawmakers from reality checks, according to a number of Hill staffers. The rigors of living one's life under the constant glare of media scrutiny may also be a factor.

“When people are separated from their families for a long period of time, things occur that wouldn't necessarily occur if your family was there,” said Robert Wexler, a former congressman who described his first months in Washington as hellish, eventually leading to his decision to move his family north so he could spend more time with them.

The move was not without a price. In 2008, Wexler came under fire when it was revealed he no longer maintained a residence in his Florida constituency.

“Eventually, your political opponent will claim you are of Washington,” he said.

Sex scandals have not always sounded the death knell for political careers.

Frank continued to serve in Congress for more than two decades after revelations that he patronized a male escort and then hired him as a personal aide. Weiner is leading in several recent polls, and has never polled lower than second since declaring his candidacy in May. And Spitzer enjoys a commanding lead over his Democratic primary opponent, Scott Stringer, the Jewish Manhattan borough president.

“It’s not the end of the world,” Lewis said. “They have a lot of work to do, but if I go back and think about Jewish tradition, you are encouraged to give people another chance.”

But the scandals have certainly exacted a price. Barbara Goldberg Goldman, a leading Democratic fundraiser, said the Weiner scandal was a factor in her decision to fundraise for one of his opponents, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“Because I am Jewish, because I am a Democrat and I am active in that arena, I see it as a tragedy” that Weiner and Spitzer are running again, Goldman said.

“There are many fine qualified candidates out there who do not come with the baggage,” she said. “Find another day job. It’s chutzpah.”

Opinion: Why powerful men can’t keep their pants on


The number of public men destroyed of late through sexual scandals is simply staggering. Within 48 hours of each other we heard that IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who many believed would be the next President of France, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger, until a few weeks ago the Governor of the most populous state in the Union, self-destructed with sex scandals.

The stories themselves are beyond belief. An IMF chief, disciplined enough to oversee one of the world’s most important banks, is alleged to have forced himself on a hotel housekeeper. Schwarzenegger, disciplined enough to rise from immigrant status with a funny accent to become of the biggest movie stars in the world and one of the most powerful men in the United States, apparently could not muster the control to prevent himself from fathering a child with a woman who worked in his home. 

The biggest mistake we make in determining why powerful men cheat is to believe they’re looking for sex. If it’s sex they’re after they have wives who can cater to their needs. No, these men are looking for something else entirely: validation.

Men cheat not out of a sense of entitlement but out of a sense of insecurity. And the bigger they are the harder they fall, not of arrogance but out of fear and weakness. What makes men slowly climb the ladder of success is a desire to prove they’re a somebody. They want to be and feel important. They seek to rise from the poverty of namelessness and the penury of anonymity.

It is not the promise of their potential that drives them but the fear of being a nonentity. They absorb the noxious lie of a culture bereft of values that only money and power will rescue them from being a nobody.

Therefore, even as they ascend the ladder of ‘success’ they do so with a gaping hole in their center. And whatever accomplishments they will shove into that hole – money, fame, power – it goes in one end and comes out the other.

They never feel good about themselves. They are never content. They are defined by insatiability and characterized by voraciousness, which explains why Wall Street bankers who were earning tens of millions of dollars a year still felt it was not enough and cut corners to make even more.

The first rule of success is that there is nothing on the outside that can compensate for a feeling of failure on the inside. External accouterments of success – from armored limousines to an army of personal bodyguards – can never protect you from the din of demons who whisper to you that for all you have achieved you are still are a big zero. And that’s why these men turn to women to make them feel good about themselves.

They want to feel desirable. They seek to silence the inner voices that taunt them as to their own insignificance. Because of its power, sex has a unique capacity to make insecure men feel – however fleetingly – like they’re special.

Having women desire them makes them feel desirable.  So why can’t their wives give them this same feeling? Because the man who thinks of himself as a giant loser sees the woman dumb enough to marry him as a loser squared.

She, as the woman who bears his last name and his children, is part of his entire loser package. But the woman who is not married to him, who has never aligned herself with his failures, remains eminently desirable and can thus make him feel the same.

When Tiger Woods self-destructed with an alleged fifteen mistresses I was asked to be on a TV show discussing why he did it. He had a beautiful wife.

Why wasn’t that enough? The male panelist next to me said, “It’s simple. Men love sexual variety and Tiger had the money and the fame to get it.” I responded, “If it was variety he was looking for, why did he have sex with the same woman 15 times over? Every single one of the women he allegedly cheated with looked just like his wife, a blond-haired Nordic bombshell. There was no variety. No Asian woman, no African-American woman, etc.”

The explanation lay elsewhere. When he was a little boy they took Tiger, put a metal stick in his hand, and told him, “If you learn to use this better than any man who preceded you and knock that little white ball farther than anyone who competes against you, you’ll be a somebody,” which was another way of saying that right now you’re a nobody, you’re nothing. Contrary to the Biblical message that every human being is born a child of god.

Tiger heard the opposite. You are either the child of success are you don’t exist. So no matter how many tournaments he won and how much money he earned in his mind Tiger still remained a nobody with a lot of trophies and a lot of money. But none of that external success changed the original message: he was born a zero.

So he tuned to an endless number of woman to make him feel desirable and special. He sought someone who wanted him for his being and not his sporting prowess. And he was stupid enough to believe that any of these women would be out with him if he weren’t’ a champion.

It was his wife alone who loved him, but in his selfishness he lost her. This also explains why so many men who cheat end up opening up emotionally to the women they cheat with. If it was just sex they were seeking they would not be sending these women texts telling them how lonely they are and how only she, the mistress, understood them.

You may ask what this has to do with a renowned banker and politician allegedly attacking a hotel housekeeper? We don’t yet know all the circumstances of the alleged assault, so I do not wish to discuss this case in particular. But I have counseled enough men in similar circumstances to know that they don’t expect the woman to resist. When you inhabit a $3000 a night hotel penthouse – yet more external accouterments of success –and the woman in question is an immigrant cleaning up, you’re convinced she’ll be as impressed with the bells and whistles of success as you are and she’ll melt like putty in your hands. Her resistance becomes a complete shock.

The motivation, however, remains the same. Men who inhabit the top social sphere are usually driven to get there by a constant need to prove themselves. And in taking a woman who would otherwise have no sexual interest in you and transforming her instantly into a woman who desires you, you quiet the failure demons for even a brief moment.

In this sense, Strauss-Kahn’s comment in an earlier interview with the French publication Liberation, after he had been caught having an affair with a subordinate – “Yes, I love women. So what?” – displays a stunning degree of self-ignorance. The degree to which he loves women was never the issue but rather the degree to which he hates himself.

These scandals of decent men ruining themselves either through affairs or, much more seriously, through allegedly illegally and outrageously forcing themselves on women, should server as a wakeup call to a society that continues to have a single definition of success for men.

It’s not your gentlemanly behavior, sense of personal honor, or your devotion to your wife and kids that makes you special. No one really cares a hoot for all that. It’s rather the level of name recognition and money you attain that really makes you hot. 

Shmuley Boteach, ‘America’s Rabbi,’ is a renowned relationships expert and broadcaster whose books on love and marriage have been translated into 17 languages, with the most recent being, “The Kosher Sutra: Eight Sacred Secrets of Erotic Desire.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

Tribe


Cheating: The dreaded problem that faces every school across America — and not just the obvious sneak-a-peak-at-your-neighbor’s-quiz cheating. With thousands of essays, articles and book summaries at their fingertips, American students have discovered the Internet, expanding the opportunities both to cheat and plagiarize.

According to a survey by the National Educational Center at Rutgers University in New Jersey, 75 percent of 45,000 students surveyed partake in “serious cheating.” Many rationalize cheating by considering it something that competition forces them to do, and don’t even give their actions a second thought.

But cheating can quickly progress from bad choice to bad habit to addiction. If students become accustomed to dishonesty at a young age, what’s to prevent them from becoming dishonest adults? Although you may intend to only “semi-cheat” one time, each time you cheat it becomes a little easier, and the boundaries you once would not cross become a little more blurred.

Yet high school students today feel so much pressure to succeed that they aren’t even uniformly convinced that cheating is wrong.

“I know that a lot of people at my school copy other people’s homework when they don’t have time to do it — people now think that’s OK,” said Olivia Coffey, a senior at Marlborough School, a private girls school in Hancock Park.

Students “have so much stress and work that they are constantly overwhelmed, and feel that if they don’t do well on everything — which is most of the time impossible — then they’ll die,” Coffey said, echoing thoughts expressed by students at both private and public schools.

“It’s quite common around here, because it is common for all teenagers,” said Beverly Hills High School Senior Lisa Gross.

When students look around them and see other students doing well by plagiarizing off the Internet, or using work of students from previous years, they are encouraged to do the same — especially when that is the message they are getting from the wider society.

“I think students cheat because they learn from their mentors that cheating works and gets you ahead in life,” asserted Roni Cohen, a senior at Shalhevet School, a centrist Orthodox high school in Los Angeles. “Take sports for example. Steroids are being used by top athletes, and some of them are getting away with it.”

There also is not agreement as to what constitutes cheating.

Most people would agree that using an essay found on the Internet is a form of plagiarism, whether it is purchased from a Web site or lifted from, say, an encyclopedia site.

But what about using study guides?

Shalhevet sophomore Gaby Grossman thinks that using an Internet service like Sparknotes as “an outlet to review” is not cheating.

“If an author has a difficult-to-understand writing style, Sparknotes is almost necessary,” Grossman said. It does become a problem when students read Sparknotes in lieu of actual books, she added.

The Torah does not suffer from this confusion, said Rabbi Avi Greene, director of Judaic studies at Shalhevet. Cheating is “taking credit for any work that is not your own, knowingly or unknowingly. There is a concept in the Gemara of genevas da’as, which can be either keeping people from actually learning, or misrepresenting work. I think that’s what applies here, and it’s obviously unacceptable.”

Dr. Jerry Friedman, Shalhevet headmaster, adds that “cheating contradicts everything we stand for as a school, as a community and as Jews.”

James Nikrafter, a senior at the Orthodox high school YULA and an editor of the YULA Panther, believes that the root of the problem is competition, especially in Jewish schools.

“You’re doubling up on curriculum, work and time in school, and you still want to participate in extra-curriculars,” Nikrafter said. “What ends up happening is that students don’t have the time, patience or energy, but at the same time they are so scared to fail that they’ll go for the easy way out.”

Shalhevet senior Tamar Rohatiner suggests that schools should incorporate more things like tutoring or a place like her school’s Writing Center, where students help each other, so people don’t feel the urge to cheat.

“Let’s support the people who need help,” she said. “Kids need to learn how to deal with these struggles now, so they’ll be ready for the real world.”

Molly Keene, a senior at Shalhevet, is life editor of The Boiling Point, where a version of this article first appeared.

Speak Up!

Tribe, a page by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the December issue is Nov. 15.

To participate in the Jewish Journal Teen Advisory Committee, submit up to 200 words on why you should be considered.

Send submissions to julief@jewishjournal.com.

For The Kids


The Adventures of Jacob

Did you know Jacob was an adventurer and a scientist? He figured out that if speckled sheep mate only with other speckled sheep, then their babies will all be speckled. That’s how he became a rich man. He told his father-in-law, Laban, that he wanted “only” the speckled sheep. In Parshat Vayishlach, Jacob has to meet his big brother, Esau, and he’s pretty scared. After all, he cheated his brother out of his birthright.

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

I bet Jacob would have liked to have invented one of those Invisibility Cloaks from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Now — well, in five years — you can have one yourself. A professor in Japan has created an “invisibility” cloak. Unlike Harry’s magical cloak, this one is high-tech camouflage. Buy it for Chanukah — but you’ll have to wait until 2008. For more really cool inventions, visit Time for Kids online
(HREF=”http://www.timeforkids.com”>www.timeforkids.com).

Prefer Your Teen to Smoke or to Cheat?


Decades of lecturing around America and of speaking with parents on my radio show have led me to an incredible conclusion: More American parents would be upset with their teenage children if they smoked a cigarette than if they cheated on a test.

How has this come about? This is, after all, an entirely new phenomenon. Almost no member of my generation (those who became teenagers in the 1960s), let alone a member of any previous generation, could ever have imagined that parents would be angrier with their teenage child for smoking than for cheating.

There has been a profound change in American values. In a nutshell, health has overtaken morality. Or, if you prefer, health has become our morality.

The war against tobacco is both a cause and a symptom of this moral confusion. It has saturated American society with the belief that smoking is wrong, even immoral, not simply unhealthy.

Anti-smoking zealots (the term is redundant) in the California Department of Health Services launched a statewide billboard campaign equating cigarettes with drugs. Parents call my show to tell me that when their children see someone smoking, they say, "Look, that person is using drugs!"

Judges in child custody disputes have imbibed the moral idiocy that smoking tells us something about a person’s character. An increasing number of judges take smoking into consideration when choosing which parent is more fit to raise a child. Millions of Americans agree with these judges that smoking is a moral flaw. That is one reason the government airbrushes cigarettes out of pictures of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and other famous Americans. If a young American were to see Roosevelt smoking a cigarette or Sir Winston Churchill smoking a cigar, what might happen to that child’s wholehearted acceptance of the smoking-is-bad (not merely unhealthy) brainwash?

I smoke a pipe and cigar, and I am amazed at the certitude and chutzpah in the 5-year-olds who have visited my home who confidently walked over to me to tell me I shouldn’t smoke. Had they seen me drinking alcohol, as children regularly see adults do, it would never occur to them to say such a thing.

That we have a war against tobacco rather than alcohol well illustrates the moral confusion of our time. Eighty years ago, when American society warred against a vice, it was alcohol — because the society cared more about fighting evil than fighting potential dangers to health. Alcohol leads to more child and spousal abuse, as well as to murder and rape, than any other single factor. Was one child ever abused because a cigarette or pipe dulled an adult’s conscience? Have any drivers ever killed whole families because they smoked before they drove?

But in this Age of Moral Confusion we have chosen tobacco, not alcohol, as the villain. Because health and living long are our greatest values.

When I was a boy, I attended baseball games where most spectators smoked, but none cursed. Today, there is no smoking at ballparks, but obscene language is shouted out with impunity. We have traded in opposition to firsthand cursing for opposition to secondhand smoke.

So, ask your children if they think you would be more disappointed in their smoking or their cheating. If your child responds "smoking," you are morally failing your child. If you are pleased with that answer, the situation is even worse. If enough Americans prefer that their children cheat than smoke, we are a doomed society. Nor can the issue be avoided by claiming you don’t want your child to either smoke or cheat. That just means you can’t say that cheating is far worse than smoking. You are another American led to believe that healthy and decent are synonymous.

But if you do believe that, ponder these questions: Would you rather your business partner smoke or cheat? Your lawyer? Your friends? Would you feel better if your doctor cheated on medical exams or smoked?

The questions would have been considered absurd a generation ago. The war against tobacco is a symptom and cause of a shallower society. It has done far more harm to America than tobacco. Just ask your teenager.

Dennis Prager hosts his nationally syndicated radio talk show on KRLA-AM 870
in Los Angeles. He is the author of four books, including “Why the Jews? The
Reason for Anti-Semitism” with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, which will be updated and
rereleased by Simon & Schuster in August. To find out more about Dennis
Prager, visit www.dennisprager.com. or
the Creators Syndicate Web site at www.creators.com.

Right at the Start


It’s not only that children are killing children. There’s also the fact, chronicled in such publications as U.S. News & World Report, that cheating is up in classrooms across the nation. No wonder educators of all stripes are pondering what it takes to teach ethics to their students.

Because children’s behavior is molded at an early age, it was fitting that the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), in planning its 20th annual Early Childhood Spring Institute, chose as its theme “Educating An Ethical Child in the 21st Century.” On March 6, nearly 1,100 Jewish preschool teachers joined 80 parents of young children to explore the Jewish side of moral education.