10 things you should know about Israel’s Iron Dome


Israel used a new missile shield, Iron Dome, to shoot down rockets fired by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in recent days.

Here are some details:

  • Developed by state-owned Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd to counter rocket fire from Lebanon, which hit Israeli towns during the 2006 war with Hezbollah, and from Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas Islamists took control in 2007.
  • Each truck-towed unit fires radar-guided missiles to blow up short-range rockets, notably of the Russian Katyusha type, as well as mortar bombs, in mid-air.
  • It successfully shot down multiple rockets simultaneously for the first time in tests during July 2010.
  • In the past four days, Israeli officials said Iron Dome shot down 77 percent of those rockets it targeted coming in from Gaza. In all, Israel counted 170 incoming missiles, but the system does not target every one, only those deemed a threat.
  • Industrial sources put the base price of each battery at about $50 million. Each interception costs at least $25,000.
  • It was first deployed near Gaza in March 2011. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said 10 to 15 batteries would be needed to provide full, if not hermetic, cover.
  • Israel’s main ally Washington has underwritten development costs. U.S. President Barack Obama asked Congress in May for $205 million to support the project.
  • The U.S. Army was reported last year to be interested in buying the system to protect bases overseas. India and Singapore have also expressed interest as potential buyers.
  • The system’s radar, which detects targets, has been developed in Israel by Elta. The system which calculates the aim of each interceptor is from Israeli software firm mPrest Systems. Among weapons fired by Iron Dome is the Tamir missile.
  • Among computations the system is capable of, it can launch interceptors against only those incoming rockets that are on target to hit populated areas, saving on pointless firing. It also works out the safest spot to detonate the incoming missile.

Sources: Reuters/http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/http://www.army-technology.com/
Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Alastair Macdonald

Can we afford kosher lettuce?


On a Monday morning in November, two men sat on the edge of a field in Carpinteria, 85 miles north of Los Angeles. The older one, middle-aged, wiry and bareheaded, had the face of someone who has served in the military, worked in agriculture or, in his case, both. Alongside him was a younger man who wore a black kippah and looked, from his complexion, like he spends his days indoors.

Between them, a young head of romaine lettuce sat on a table. It was cracked open, the small leaves splayed outward to reveal a few flecks of soil.

“Did you see anything moving?” the older man asked.

“No,” the younger one replied. “No, this looks very good.”

Yossi Asyag, 45, is an Israeli-born agricultural entrepreneur and the founder of a small farming operation that grows kosher-certified fresh lettuce and herbs. Yosef Caplan, 27, is assistant director of the kashrut services division at the Rabbinical Council of California (RCC). Every Monday, Caplan drives from Los Angeles to Carpinteria and then to another site nearby for his job as Asyag’s farm’s mashgiach, or kosher supervisor.

That nothing was moving in the lettuce on the table on this day left both Asyag and Caplan hopeful that no bugs inhabited the other 5,000 heads of lettuce growing in the greenhouse a few dozen yards away.

Harvest time would come two weeks later. Through a combination of careful monitoring and judicious application of pesticides, Asyag said, the lettuce in the greenhouse stayed bug-free. That week’s haul of romaine lettuce from the farm was certified as kosher.

Worse than a cheeseburger

The presence of even one whole bug, dead or alive, can render an entire vegetable treif — unkosher. On this matter, Orthodox rabbis are unequivocal.

“From a Torah perspective, eating a Big Mac or eating a salad with insects in it, the salad is worse,” Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz, who runs the nonprofit Kosher Information Bureau, told me when I met him at his home office in Valley Village.

With stakes like that, it’s no wonder some kosher-observant Jews are willing to pay top dollar for kosher-certified produce. At one store in Los Angeles earlier this month, an RCC-certified head of romaine was selling for seven times the per-ounce price of one without the kosher designation. For East Coast consumers, who buy the majority of Asyag’s produce, most of the lettuce is first pre-cut and bagged as processed salads, and then sold at an even higher markup.

Greenhouse-grown, bug-free kosher lettuce is an Israeli innovation. First pioneered in 1990 in the then-occupied Gaza Strip, the growing technique is still often referred to as the “Gush Katif” method, named for the now-dismantled Jewish settlement where it originated.

Over the past five years, California has become home to the largest North American bug-free-growing operation, and it’s about to get bigger. Asyag, who has been selling RCC-certified lettuce under the brand California Kosher Farms since around 2008, is about to embark on a major expansion, aiming to double his farm’s output over the next 12 months to more than 1 million heads of lettuce a year. He’s looking to buy more land in Oxnard and has already started using Israeli-designed hydroponics to grow more lettuce in less space.

But while the equation “lettuce minus bugs plus rabbinic approval equals good returns,” might seem simple, the reality is anything but. This nascent industry is fraught with disputes, not just over what Jewish law requires, but over what price consumers and businesses should have to pay in order to keep their salads kosher.

Through dozens of interviews with growers, rabbis, local kosher caterers and staff from one local kosher supervision agency, a complicated picture emerges of a niche business that illustrates the complexities and the unusual financial challenges of the modern kosher marketplace. One thing is certain: It is the RCC supervisors who hold most of the cards.

The RCC does not have an ownership interest in the operations of the farm that grows the vegetables it certifies; nevertheless, the farm would not exist without RCC certification and support. In aiming for the absolute highest standard of kosher, the RCC — widely considered the most stringent and broadly accepted kosher certifying body in the region — has chosen to certify just one grower, granting him a monopoly and even privileging his interests over those of the caterers the RCC also certifies.

“These ladies were scrubbing the lettuce with soap.”

Unlike, say, the prohibition on eating pork or shellfish, few non-Orthodox Jews today know about the “no bugs” kosher requirement. A section about insects from the fourth edition of Eidlitz’s book “Is it Kosher? An Encyclopedia of Kosher Food, Facts, and Fallacies” suggests that even as recently as 1999, the author’s largely Orthodox readership wasn’t paying as much attention to keeping bugs out of their food as he thought they should.

“Although eating insects is strictly forbidden by the Torah, we find this concern often overlooked,” Eidlitz writes. In the 1950s and ’60s, Eidlitz said in an interview, when the application of dangerous pesticides, including DDT, ensured that very few bugs could be found on American produce, leading rabbinic authorities gave permission to kosher-observant American Orthodox Jews to “overlook” these laws.

Not anymore. In the last 20 years, Orthodox rabbis in general, and those involved in kosher certification in particular, have been working hard to introduce — reintroduce, they say — practices of checking fresh vegetables for bugs in observance of the laws of kashrut.

Blanket bans have been issued on the most bug-friendly and hardest-to-check produce: raspberries, blackberries, whole artichokes and more are entirely forbidden because they’re too complex and fragile in form (the berries) or too tightly closed (artichokes) to inspect. And the Web site of every major kosher certifying agency includes guidebooks, instructional pamphlets, even videos outlining a labor-intensive regimen designed to rid other vegetables of insects.

Such extreme cleaning and checking can seem unusual to an outsider.

“I was in Crown Heights last week doing a demonstration where these ladies were scrubbing the lettuce with soap,” I was told by Geila Hocherman, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef based in New York who co-wrote the cookbook “Kosher Revolution,” published last year.

But the insects they’re looking for are tiny — and seemingly everywhere. Arugula leaves and asparagus tips are potential hiding spots for thrips — 1-millimeter-long insects that can be seen with the naked eye but are easier to spot with a magnifying glass. Pinhead-sized aphids can lurk in and around the florets of broccoli and in bunches of fresh parsley. As for spider mites, which, despite their name, are not related to spiders, the minuscule creatures (less than 1 millimeter in diameter) can seem impossible to eliminate.

“When a spider mite gets into the lettuce, even if you wash it, it doesn’t let go,” Asyag said. “It’s like the leg gets in.”

This new vigilance has changed some observant people’s diets, too: Hocherman, who describes her own Jewish observance as “very Modern Orthodox,” included in “Kosher Revolution” a number of recipes that run afoul of the vegetable-related rules instituted by the Orthodox rabbinical establishment.

The main ingredient in Glazed Brussels Sprouts With Chestnuts, for example, “should not be used,” according to the RCC, as the sprouts’ tight leaves could hide bugs. Broccoli florets, an important part of Hocherman’s recipe for Cold Sesame Noodles With Broccoli and Tofu, must be parboiled before they can be checked, according to the Orthodox Union (OU), and if three or more bugs are found, the whole head must be thrown away.

And consider the situation facing green asparagus. “What they’re asking us to do is to cut off the tips and shave the sides,” said Errol Fine, explaining why the vegetable is no longer on the menu at Pat’s, the upscale restaurant in the heart of Pico-Robertson he owns with his wife. Pat’s restaurant and catering business both are certified by Kehilla Kosher, a Los Angeles kosher certification agency run by Rabbi Avrohom Teichman, and Fine said he can’t remember when Pat’s last served asparagus.

“We should’ve had a farewell party,” he said, ruefully.

And it’s not just homemakers in predominantly Chasidic or “black-hat” neighborhoods who are washing their lettuce with soap, shaving and circumcising their asparagus spears and keeping their fruit platters free of raspberries and blackberries.

“I think by now the Orthodox Jewish community has been well educated that there is, or can be, an infestation problem, and that they need to check,” said Rabbi Elazar Muskin of Young Israel of Century City, a large Modern Orthodox synagogue, also in Pico-Robertson. Muskin was president of the RCC for five years in the 1990s, and he said that in those days people worried they might not be thorough enough in checking. Today, however, Muskin said his congregants are more comfortable with the task.

Obama haters beware… The facts


This past week a people who pride themselves on how smart they are instead showed how stupid some of us Jews can be when it comes to political candidates pandering to us on the subject of Israel.  With some Jews wondering if President Obama has decided to throw Israel to the hounds, the current crop of Republican wanna-be’s went before something called the Republican Jewish Coalition and promised everything except moshiach tomorrow.

Whether it was immediately moving the Embassy to Jerusalem, or indicting Iran President Ahmadinejad “for the crime of incitement to genocide” (where exactly is that a crime or who does the indicting?), or hinting at “regime change” in Iran (Hoo-boy, another Mideast war; we’re all up for that), or calling for the removal of the US ambassador to Israel, the son of Holocaust survivors, because he remarked that some anti-Semitism in the world stemmed from Israeli-Palestinian tensions (now there’s a radical statement), it was red meat time for Obama haters.

Later in the week Newt Gingrich, went everyone one better (his forte) by calling Palestinians “an invented” people, Arabs who “had a chance to go many places” when the Ottoman empire broke up.  I can see the haters slipping in their own drool, but tell me where at this point, geopolitically, it adds anything positive to the debate or the Peace Process.

That Obama has stood steadfastly by Israel, increased military assistance in quantity and quality (think bunker-busting bombs), means nothing to Obama haters.  Where Gingrich said that he “believed the Jewish people have the right to have a state,” Obama has gone him one better and said it must be a “Jewish state,” and promised to kill any effort at the UN to prematurely recognize a State of Palestine.  No matter.

No, this was the week for piling on, so it was with no surprise that I opened a forwarded email from a Jewish friend of the conservative persuasion with a link to something called countercontempt.com, “the official site of Republican Party Animals” (there’s an image), excoriating Obama for having the gross disrespect to have a Hannukah celebration in the White House on December 8th, the 24th (an important number in Judaism?) anniversary of the beginning of the First Intifada.

Of course all Jews know that the day after the “day that will live in infamy” is the anniversary of the First Intifada.  (What, you didn’t know?)  And how dare the President make a point to celebrate, in the White House, a holiday belonging to 3% of the country’s population (and ignored by half of those).  How dare he light all the candles on one day, and how dare he move it up to a day outside of Hannukah because the White House will be empty when the holiday starts at sundown, the 20th.  (Although Republican Congressional Grinches might just keep him there until Christmas Eve this year).  Let’s boil that Jew-hating, Israel-hating President in oil for this slap in the face!

But what, I wrote my emailing friend, if they got it wrong?  What if the Intifada really began on December 7th or 9th.  And so to the computer, and you know what?  According to MidEastWeb.org, Wikipedia, and Palestinefacts.org the First Intifada began on December 9th – that’s right, a day that shall forever now live “in infamy” for the Republican Party Animals and all those who think it’s important to disseminate their ridiculous rancor. For example, this comment to the web post:   

“I do not believe this was an accident…Truth is obama & admin. are not for the Jewish people or Israel. They had the dinner to fool the Jews so they will vote for him again. The fact that they picked this day and he lit all the candles proves this was not for the good of the Jewish people…This is no joke & a very serious issue….”

Read a rebuttal to this column here.

Fascinating wedding facts


It happens like some sort of divine intervention. You’re single, depressed and desperate for a relationship, but just as you hit rock bottom, when you’ve given up all hope, the right person makes a grand entrance into your life.

If you think you’ve met the perfect mate, someone who has mastered the art of charming spontaneity, romance, weekend getaways—and can cook and likes doing dishes—then maybe you’re ready to take the next big step: marriage.

But before you take the plunge, consider these fun facts; they won’t change your mind, but they may help put the experience in a lighter perspective.

National Numbers

  • More than 2.2 million marriages were conducted in the United States in 2005. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Center for Health Statistics)

  • The average age for brides is 27, and 29 is the average for grooms. (The Knot Wedding Network’s Real Wedding Survey 2007)

Vegas Numbers

  • There were 107,175 weddings performed in Las Vegas in 2007. (Clark County Recorder)

  • But only 106,789 marriage licenses were issued. (Clark Country Marriage License Bureau) That leaves a difference of 385 more marriages than licenses, which might be vow renewals, polygamists or lazy drunk couples.

  • Las Vegas brides have the shortest engagements at 9.1 months. (The Knot Wedding Network’s Real Wedding Survey 2007)

The Ring

  • The average engagement ring cost: $4,225. (The Knot Wedding Budget Study)

The Dress

  • The average cost of a wedding gown: $1,317 (New York City brides spend the most at $2,206). (The Knot Wedding Network’s Real Wedding Survey 2007)

  • Wedding dresses featured in the window of Monique Lhuillier, located on Melrose Place in West Hollywood, can range from $4,000 to $12,000. Celebrities like Eva Longoria, Ashley Simpson and Eli Manning’s wife Abby McGrew have all worn Monique’s Lhuillier dresses, according to a store clerk.

The Budget

  • The average cost of a wedding, including the honeymoon, is $32,660. (The Knot Wedding Network’s Real Wedding Survey 2007)

The Gifts

  • Luckily, wedding expenditures aren’t limited to the bride and groom – more than 90 percent of couples have at least one gift registry, and most have two or three different registries. The most popular gifts are tabletop and kitchen products. (The Knot Inc. Market Research for Weddings 2005-2008)

The Guests

  • The average guest list is 153 (Wisconsin brides have the largest weddings, averaging 189 invitees). (The Knot Wedding Network’s Real Wedding Survey 2007)

Jay Firestone is an unmarried 23-year-old male and in the past three years he has been in three wedding parties, two of which for his sisters, and he will be in yet another this fall.

Did You Know…?


Did You Know…?

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• Sometimes the marriage ceremony is held outdoors. Particularly in ultra-Orthodox and Chasidic weddings — but anyone can do this — the marriage ceremony is performed outside at night. The custom developed because the stars are associated with God speaking to Abraham: “I will bless thee and multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand of the seashore” (Genesis 22:17).

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• The bride stands to the right of the groom because of a biblical verse is Psalms (45:10): “The queen stands on your right hand in fine gold of Ophir.”

In Jewish tradition, the bride is a queen and the groom is the king.

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• A light bulb is often substituted for a glass during the ceremony. Since many believe the main purpose of breaking the glass is to create noise (to scare away the demons), some prefer a light bulb because it is easier to break and usually makes a louder noise.

Will You Marry Me?

Grooms are making big productions of their proposals these days. Sometimes they rent a billboard; sometimes they pop the question at a quiet, intimate time; sometimes it is in a restaurant while a violinist plays their favorite song.

What’s in Style Today?

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• Bridal suits are making a comeback.

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• Rosette details on sleeves, bodices and backs are in the news. Rosettes are also used on the headpiece and accessories to complement the wedding gown.

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• Pink, peach, and other pastels are a fashionable alternative to traditional white, ivory and silky white.

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• Beads, lace, sequins, pearls and embroidery are used for embellishments.

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• In place of a regular wedding album, you might also choose a “storybook” plan, where the photographer takes continuous pictures so that you end up with a copy of a picture of each event and each shot. (This produces a very large and thorough album, and is more expensive than a standard album.)

Little Tricks of For a Great Wedding

For Him:

If you are able to control the music, select a romantic one. She will always remember the song that played when he proposed — and it is bound to become “your song.”

For Her:

Are you going to have a “Presentation of the Bride?” The groom is brought into a room before the ceremony. There he finds the bride, looking her most beautiful, in her wedding attire. The couple has some time to spend together, after which they have the signing of the ketubah and take photographs.

Other Kooky Wedding Customs

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•Couples in 18th-century Mexico shaved their heads to signify their adulthood.

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•French suitors sent their nail clippings to their betrothed.

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•In 18th-century England, a new bride’s mother-in-law broke a loaf of bread over her head to bring luck and happiness to the couple.

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•Polish brides brought luck and happiness to their new homes by walking around a fire three times and kicking each door with their right foot.

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•Prenuptial agreements, which have enjoyed a resurgence, actually date back to ancient Jewish and Roman marriages.

How To Get Through the Day

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• Stay Calm.

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• Break away for a few minutes

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• Take some deep breaths.

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• Keep focused and avoid problems before they become problems.

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• Just remember: The most important parts of planning an event is having fun and enjoying the benefits of all your hard work. With careful planning, even the most elaborate and glamorous affair can be a dream.

Joan Greenberger Friedman lives in Reading, Pa., and can be reached at joan@friedman.net.

When Shepherds Desert Their Flocks


The conflict over Valley secession reflects the growing gap between rabbis and the actual reality their flocks experience.

With few exceptions, the rabbinate seems to be totally aghast at the notion of dividing Los Angeles into two cities. Prominent rabbis, including Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California; Steven Carr Reuben, president of the board; John Rosove, and my own rabbi, Beth Hillel’s Jim Kaufman, have already announced their opposition to the proposal.

Part of this, noted Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom, is a reflection of a broader tendency for the Jewish clergy to be "far to the left" of their congregants. Many come off as knee-jerk supporters of every so-called "progressive" cause. This is clear, it seems to me, from widespread rabbinical support for every leftist cause de jour, from racial quotas and bilingual education, all the way to opposition to war against a terrorist, passionately anti-Semitic state such as Iraq.

Among such people, Feinstein noted, opposition to secession is just another part of the predictable knee-jerk leftist program. Clearly, there is room for discussion on both sides of the issue, but it seems unlikely most of our esteemed, prominent rabbis ever really considered the arguments of the pro-secession forces.

"It has to do with our training," suggested Reuben, head of the 250-member Board of Rabbis. "We tend to see ethical action and mitzvah work putting us on the liberal side of the spectrum."

When one examines the logic for the response, it becomes clear that, for the most part, these rabbis are big on symbols and short on reason or facts. For example, their two prime reasons for opposing secession are clearly based on little more than gullibility to the slick, well-financed anti-secession campaign.

Perhaps the most notable issue they raise is that somehow secession would be bad for the Valley’s poor. There seems to be an assumption that a Valley city — which would have its share of poor people and be almost half minority — would lack the compassion that our rabbinate likes to exude on a regular basis, particularly when in contact with the media and their fellow clerics.

But let’s look at the facts. Over the past 10 years, under the stewardship of the City of Los Angeles, poverty in the San Fernando Valley has doubled, a far higher rate than the rest of the city, according to census figures. "Does this mean the city is working for the poor?" asked former Democratic Assemblyman Richard Katz, who has emerged as secession’s most articulate spokesman.

To see this in perspective, all one has to do is travel to communities in the northeast Valley. These places — like Pacoima, Panorama City and sections of North Hollywood — have suffered from lack of services, street lights, decent police protection. Their representatives in Sacramento and on the City Council, for the most part, serve not the needs of their people, but political caciques who fund their campaigns and ambitions.

Do these areas have to look like this? Not at all. Just visit the small, working-class, predominately Latino community of San Fernando. As a small city, it was able to throw out the influence of the caciques and turn the city into an intriguing model of civic renewal. Is bigger better? It doesn’t seem so.

The current system doesn’t work for much of anyone, but the well-connected. The esteemed rabbis who signed a newspaper ad, apparently do not think that having among the highest taxes on business, among the worst rates of service delivery for everything from libraries, police and fire to street maintenance among major cities in the country is a disgrace.

Similar illogic surrounds the second major assertion by the clerics, that the massive L.A. city is somehow better able to bring in resources from Sacramento and Washington.

"It has to do with clout," Reuben explained. "They have a sense that being part of a larger city — [there is] the perception of being able to bring resources from the federal and state government."

Yet, reality, according to a very detailed study recently released by the Rose Institute at Claremont McKenna College, shows that the big L.A. city actually is among the least successful in gathering resources — including for the poor — from Sacramento or Washington. In fact, according to the Claremont study, Los Angeles received far less per capita from Washington than other major cities in California, including San Francisco, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, San Diego and San Jose. It also did worse than smaller cities such as Culver City, Santa Monica and Glendale.

The situation is even worse on the state level. According to Rose Institute’s analysis, Los Angeles ranks below virtually every city in Los Angeles County in aid from Sacramento. In the state capital, Los Angeles actually has less clout in delivering resources than such small cities as Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Burbank, Downey and, not surprisingly, plucky little San Fernando.

Now you might say, well, these rabbis are not public policy experts.

Clearly that’s true. But then why must they preach on the basis of ignorance? Jews pride themselves on the relative logic of our faith, but the pronunciamentos of our rabbis sometimes sound about as well-reasoned as the rantings of Christian ayatollahs like Jerry Falwell.

Will this logic gap on secession hurt the rabbis with their congregants? Reasonable rabbis like Feinstein argue that it will not hurt too much. The secession proponents have been poorly led and have not been articulate in making their case, which boils down to how the Valley would be better off as Phoenix.

Only now, with the emergence of the brighter bulbs of the movement, like Katz, Bob Scott, Mel Wilson and Dr. Keith Richman, are they really discussing the real issues. These include the need to decentralize decision making, reduce the size of districts to overcome the entrenched power of the now-dominant trinity of political professionals, organized labor and powerful developers.

Yet the issues raised by the middle-class, multiethnic rebels of the Valley will resonate down the line, long after Nov. 5. More importantly, Feinstein suggested, the Valley secession disconnect foreshadows more serious splits as other issues emerge over the coming year.

Perhaps most important will be those around Iraq and Israel, where most Jews are likely to support the hard-line policies of President Bush over the Neville Chamberlain-like positions of the rabbis’ favorite Democrats, such as former Vice President Al Gore or Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

By 2004, Feinstein suggested, as many as 60 percent of Jews, for example, might support Bush, simply because of his steadfast support for Israel and willingness to stand up to Saddam Hussein’s regime. This support will be higher among the groups who arguably represent the future of Los Angeles Jewry — Persians, Russians, Israelis, North Africans and increasingly conservative post-baby-boom Jewish professionals.

In this evolution, it may well be that our rabbinate, like the mainstream Protestants who are losing out to more in-sync evangelicals, may be so out of touch with their congregants that they will become irrelevant.

The time may come, as Feinstein suggested, that the congregants, tired of the reflexive political correctness approach of the rabbinate, may say, "It’s time for them to shut up" about key political issues.

Down the road, this schism between flock and shepherd could alter the ecclesiastical picture, not just in Los Angeles or across the nation. Throughout history, religious leadership has lost influence, and ultimately been replaced, in part, because its divine preachings no longer reflected human realities. This is one reason why overly legalistic, exclusivist, state-supported Judaism lost out to the more emotionally compelling and inclusive message of early Christianity.

It also may be, in part, why the Protestantism, which spoke to the right of individual conscience and initiative, appealed to an increasingly literate Christendom. It may also explain how Chasidism, with its appeal to joy and spirituality, appealed to Eastern Europe’s oppressed Jews more than traditional Orthodoxy, or why Reform Judaism appealed to modernizing populations in the great cities of Western Europe and North America.

After awhile, even the most passive of flocks learn how to bite a shepherd who has lost his way.

Homeboys on Home Plate


There are myriad jokes about Jews in sports. In the 1980 movie "Airplane," a passenger asks for something light to read. The stewardess offers her a pamphlet on Jewish athletes.

Peter and Joachim Horvitz, the father-and-son team whose recent compendium, "The Big Book of Jewish Baseball: An Illustrated Encyclopedia and Anecdotal History," sets out to prove that there has been a wealth of Jews who have made significant contributions to our national pastime.

The book opens with the biographies of 146 former major-leaguers and includes their connections to Judaism, places of birth, athletic history and lifetime statistics. Following the biographies are 10 chapters on topics including Jewish minor-leaguers, umpires, Olympic players and scandal scoundrels. The book winds down with an extensive collection of short stories, including the interesting factoid that Baltimore’s Camden Yards has a minyan on hand for prayer sessions. The encyclopedia concludes with the biographies of Jewish players in the major leagues today.

Unfortunately, the title does not accurately reflect the content of the book. It is too thin to be big, has too few action photographs to be considered illustrated (it is mostly a collection of baseball cards) and has an insufficient number of stories to qualify as anecdotal. Anyone looking for more than trivial baseball trivia might want to pass on this book, which should be treated as background reading and not as an in-depth resource.

For those true fans of trivia, this book delivers. Did you know that Mose Solomon hit 49 home runs in 1923 in the Southwest League? If you consider tidbits such as this interesting, be forewarned that you will have to dig through endless paragraphs of statistics and personal history to find them (or you can just read them on the back cover, like I did, and save yourself the $20).

The book did contain a few nuggets of knowledge that I eagerly took away with me: Rod Carew will never be Jewish (no matter how many times Adam Sandler includes him in his "Chanukah Song"). Hank Greenberg felt that he was spitting against Hitler every time he hit a ball out of the park. A wealthy and influential Jewish New Yorker, Arnold Rothstein (who readers may recognize from "The Great Gatsby" as Meyer Wolfsheim), was instrumental in rigging the 1919 World Series. H.Y. Muchnick, a member of the Boston City Council, insisted that the Red Sox try out black athletes including Jackie Robinson, who ended up joining the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Sam Jethroe, the Boston Brave who died on June 18.

This was a somnambulant book about exciting Jewish baseball players. As Mel "Voice of the Yankees" Allen may have said, "How ’bout that!"