Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I came across this spoof letter today, purportedly addressed to Richard Dawkins:

Dear Dawkins,
Sorry I haven't written for a while. I have been working on a theory that we are descended from pandas, rather than great apes. The evidence is pretty thin, to be honest, but next year I shall travel to China to view the pandas in their natural surroundings, and publish my findings.

According to my theory, the big evolutionary leap happened when we stopped eating bamboo and began making chairs out of it, leading to the development of furniture at around the same time that our panda ancestors discovered fire. This in turn led to the invention of offices, leading eventually to thepaperless office. But as I say, the evidence is crummy. 

I am not, sir, a zoologist by profession, but a tennis instructor, so any advice you could give me about pandas would be welcome. Did not gunpowder originate in China? This would be consistent with our warlike panda forefathers trying to gain the upper hand over rival species, such as chimpanzees. Both species are now on the verge of extinction, of course. 

Do you play tennis at all, Dawkins? If you do and there is any particular area of your game you would like to work on, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Best wishes,

Harry Hutton, tennis instructor

 Reminds me a bit about a discussion going on about rabbits in ancient Israel that's been going on elsewhere.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

JETS - Guest Post

According to recent studies online learning is becoming increasingly popular among classroom-based and home-based students worldwide. College-level studies went online soon after the Internet began to be widely used while over the course of the last decade, high school, middle school and elementary school studies have become increasingly available on the web as well.

Jewish educational institutions have been slower to integrate online learning models into their frameworks but today, almost all non-Haredi Jewish Day Schools and even many afternoon schools are including some form of online Jewish learning in their curriculum. In addition, many Jewish home-schooling families and families who live in remote communities where there are no formal Jewish schools are turning to online Jewish learning as a tool which introduces Jewish education and Hebrew studies to their students. 

JETS Jerusalem EdTech Solutions offers a variety of online Jewish learning opportunities. The program began in 2009 as a vehicle by which Israel-based teachers could teach Hebrew and Jewish studies in a dynamic interactive atmosphere with classes and groups of students from around the world.

JETS web-based learning is appropriate for multiple situations. It can be included as enrichment for Day School or afternoon Hebrew School classes or as a partnership between Jewish classrooms outside of Israel and Israeli classes. It is also employed as a core Jewish learning program for pre-teens and teens who either don't have access to a community Jewish school or who don't fit into their area's existing Hebrew/Jewish schools.

JETS courses include Hip Hop Hebraics in which students learn conversational Hebrew in a vibrant and meaningful format. Older day school and supplementary Hebrew school students can delve into core curriculum studies, such as Talmud and other Jewish textual studies with the Israel-based JETS teacher who brings the material alive as the class examines the significance of the ancient texts in today's modern world.

Other popular courses include Contemporary Jewish Issues, a multi-part series on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the deeper, spiritual meanings of Jewish holidays, Ancient Israel (a series of videos and related activities to enrich students' background on lifestyles in ancient times) and more.

JETS presents its programs in a non-denominational atmosphere that is inclusive of all Jewish streams of thought.  JETS presents Israel from a Zionistic perspective which encourages students to relate to Israel as an integral part of their own lives.

JETS also offers JConnecT, a dynamic program of Online Sunday School. JConnect presents Hebrew/Jewish studies to students who want to learn about Judaism and Israel while accessing the "classroom" from their own home. This program, recently profiled by the Jewish Military organization Jews in Green,  allows students to participate, virtually, in the Hip Hop Hebraics and Contemporary Jewish Issues programs (choose both classes or  just one class) which meet online every Sunday morning throughout school year. The classes present a Jewish Identity component of the students' Bar and Bat Mitzva studies both before and after the actual Bar/Bat Mitzvah date. Upcoming free Open Houses enable students, their families and other community members to join a sample lesson and experience the power of online Jewish learning.  

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Happy Birthday

A musical treat for my birthday

The Beatles (or at least 1/4 of them - Paul McCartney):

The Simpsons (and the late Michael Jackson)

Stevie Wonder

And finally, since 44 is a multiple of 11, it is really my 40th birthday, just "One Louder". Thanks Spinal Tap.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

You have much, sons of Levi

Next week (well this week, starting at Mincha) we read the parsha of Korach, when Korach and a team from the tribe of Reuven challenge Moshe's leadership. They claim that the entire congregation is holy, so why should Aharon be singled out as High Priest. They accuse Moshe of nepotism, and end up digging a bit hole for themselves.

Moshe tells them not to fight him, using the words "רב לכם בני לבו" - ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.'(Bamidbar 16:7). But literally it can be read as "there is plenty for you, sons of Levi."

Here are some music videos to help you remember this concept.
First, Levi (Stubbs) who was the lead vocalist for the Four Tops

This Levi embodied selflessness insofar as the 'minhag' at the time was for the lead singer to get the headline, and have a backing band.(in contrast to other Motown acts such as  Smokey Robinson and the Miracles or Diana Ross and the Supremes). He wasn't seeking to take greater leadership upon himself.

Then Billy Bragg, reminding you that it is not easy being a Levi (Levi Stubbs' Tears)

I saw Billy Bragg live (at Victoria University) in 1986 or therabouts. It was just him and a guitar and a working class accent, but it was one of the best concerts I have ever been too (I saw him again many years later in Edinburgh with "the Blokes" and that was good, but not as great - perhaps because I was older, perhaps because he was older too).

There was a great musical called "Little Shop of Horrors" based on a film of the same name
The musical was turned into a movie, also called "Little Shop of Horrors", and the plant (named Audrey II) was voiced by Levi Stubbs. In this role, Levi used his normal baritone voice, instead of the higher tenor that he sang in the Four Tops.
Here is Audrey II looking kind of cute at the beginning of the movie (can you tell that Frank Oz directed it?)

But by the end of the movie, Audrey II tries to take over the world. And has lots and lots of little Audrey IIs

Levi Stubbs (as Audrey II) gets what is coming to him. As do the little plants.
רב לכם בני לוי