Blogging Religiously

From a New York point of view


The imam’s troubles, Woody Allen, Jewish day schools and messy ice cream ads09.16.10

A few matters great and small:

1. I’ve written in the past that I’ve heard only good things about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf from those who know him. Rauf is, of course, the lead figure trying to develop the much-disputed Islamic center near Ground Zero.

But now Rauf is facing some pretty serious allegations about being, of all things, a slumlord in Jersey.

The Record of Bergen County, N.J., has written some disturbing stuff about a low-income apartment building in Union City that needs serious repairs. Its owner, Rauf, hasn’t been making them and is now being taken to court.

The Record’s Mike Kelly writes:

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Then, on Friday, on the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Union City officials rushed again to Rauf’s building. PSE&G had shut off the electricity in the hallways. The reason: Rauf failed to pay a bill of almost $5,000, Stack said.

Not only were the hallways dark, but the electric-powered smoke detectors and fire alarms were not working. In other words, the building was now a fire trap.

When Union City officials persuaded PSE&G to restore electricity, they discovered yet another code violation – the fire alarms were not working anyway, even with electricity.

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Explanations, anyone?

AP Photo/Hasan Jamali

2. Woody Allen has always been associated with a certain New York, Jewish sensibility.

A lot of Americans in the Heartland probably learned some of what they know about Jewish humor and even Jewish ways of looking at the world from Woody’s movies.

It didn’t make much of a difference, in this regard, that Woody was never a real religious guy.

But, still, many Jews probably winced while reading the NYT’s interview with The Woodman yesterday. He pretty much disowned the Tribe.

He didn’t want to be wished a “Happy New Year” for the Jewish new year, telling the Times: “That’s for your people. I don’t follow it. I wish I could get with it. It would be a big help on those dark nights.”

He also says: “To me, there’s no real difference between a fortune teller or a fortune cookie and any of the organized religions. They’re all equally valid or invalid, really. And equally helpful.”

Manu Fernandez /AP file

3. The Jewish Week reports on the first-ever study of how Jewish day schools handle the abuse of students—sexual, physical, psychological.

Yeshiva U in NYC conducted the survey and got responses from more than 40 percent of 320 schools polled. These included mostly modern Orthodox day schools, some Conservative schools and some Orthodox yeshivas.

According to the JW:

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Underscoring the need for more data on a problem little acknowledged until a decade ago, 80 percent of respondents report that “behavioral signs” are the primary means of identifying abuse, but only 15 percent of respondents said they could “easily identify abuse, with a full 48 percent disagreeing altogether,” according to the report.

“The headline here is that the community is recognizing a challenge and responding,” said Goldberg. He added that support is coming from rabbis, educators, lay leaders and philanthropists, and that efforts over the last decade have led “to what we expect is a ‘tipping point,’” where the community can face the challenges of abuse.

Yitzchak Schechter, a psychologist who headed the study and program with Goldberg, noted that “as a reflection of the changing times, 88 percent of the respondents agree or strongly agree that reporting abuse is accepted by the Torah.”

Though no statistical data is available for comparison, the study team said this represents “a very significant change in attitude” in the Orthodox community, where some still insist that rabbinic leaders, not secular authorities, should handle such cases.

4. Why would an ice cream company in Italy want to challenge the Vatican?

The company has an ad depicting a pregant nun eating ice cream. The ad promises ice cream that is “Immaculately Conceived.”

The same company produced an ad last year showing a nun and preist about to kiss.

The ads have faced all sorts of opposition. But the company, Antonio Fedirici, plans to press on. They have a bigger agenda, saying that the pregnant nun ad is supposed to “comment on and question, using satire and gentle humor, the relevance and hypocrisy of religion and the attitudes of the church to social issues.”

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Abuse, Day schools, Ground Zero, Imam, Vaticanwith No Comments →

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