The Passover ritual of the seder meal helps its participants to relive the Israelites’ terrifying transition from slavery to freedom in ancient Egypt. At the seder, eating the unleavened bread called matzah allows us to literally ingest this transitional experience. According to the Bible, the Israelites baked matzah because they had no time to bake regular bread as they fled Egypt on their way to freedom. Yet matzah is also called the bread of affliction and economic poverty that our enslaved ancestors ate in Egypt. When we Jews eat matzah we are trying to get a taste, actually and symbolically, of what it feels like to live with one foot in slavery and one foot in freedom. Hopefully, that makes us more appreciative of the meaning of both.
On March 26, 2014, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, Peter Sung Ohr, issued a ruling which has sent shock waves throughout the world of big-time college sports. In short, he ruled that football players receiving full scholarships at the Big Ten school, Northwestern University, qualify as employees and are, therefore, able to unionize under federal law. Northwestern, as expected, has formally requested a review of this decision, a ruling which has engendered spirited debates around the country. On the one hand, Northwestern football players cite the requirements and restrictions applied to them as scholarship-holding athletes, conditions which they feel render them de facto employees, while Northwestern contends that college athletes are students, first and foremost, and therefore do not qualify as employees.
What do college students read? According to one survey Shades of Gray, the sado-masochistic novel, was the most widely read book outside the classroom. Another survey indicated that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, dealing with her battle with cancer and racial grievance, was the most popular book.
This is Passover, a holiday that comes straight out of the Bible, the Almighty commanding us to tell the story of the Exodus to each new generation as well as reminding ourselves. The Exodus, of course, is a story of freedom from slavery. The Biblical story is about the Hebrew exodus from slavery in Egypt. But we are very explicit about relating that story to the freedom of others.
Once again, New Yorkers have had to hope that federal prosecutors can clean up Albany. When Governor Cuomo unceremoniously pulled the plug on the Moreland Act Commission Investigating Public Corruption as part of a deal with legislative leaders in exchange for weak ethics reforms, even the most optimistic New Yorkers were left depressed.
Although the epidemic likely started a decade or two earlier, AIDS wasn't identified as a new disease until 1981. It took a few more years to isolate HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and to develop reliable tests for diagnosing infection.
The last few weeks have been rocky for Steve Masiello, to say the least. It started back in early March, when the Manhattan College head men’s basketball coach led the Jaspers to a berth in the NCAA tournament, where they almost upended the highly regarded Louisville Cardinals. On the backs of that, Masiello was offered the head coaching spot at the University of South Florida, a step into the big leagues for the high rising 36-year-old.
From the birth of the state of Israel in 1948 to the 1980’s, comments about this Jewish nation were uniformly and reflexively positive. Jews and non-Jews alike took pride in the resourcefulness of a people who could make the desert bloom and who had the backbone and will to defend themselves against Arab invaders.
I just got back from Chicago where I attended a national meeting of political scientists. One of them described at length the local, national and international barriers to doing anything about climate change. His basic point was that those whose livelihood seemed to depend on activities that are bringing on climate change are strategically placed to prevent the rest of us from doing anything. His point is that to make anything happen it would be necessary to make people come to think about what they are doing as wrong in the teeth of evidence that it is good for them in their own lifetimes. That also makes them totally resistant to the idea that climate change is happening, that human activity is a substantial cause of the change, that it will do any damage and that it is worth dealing with. Ouch for the rest of us.