Gentle and not-so-gentle thoughts and musings from a Jewish, left-leaning, Canadian, pro-Israel, inner-suburban, fortysomething, libertarian, recovering perfectionist, quasi-socialist husband, dad, basketball fan, writer and editor with a few opinions.

wRanter.com - Gentle and not-so-gentle thoughts and musings from a Jewish, left-leaning, Canadian, pro-Israel, inner-suburban, fortysomething, libertarian, recovering perfectionist, quasi-socialist husband, dad, basketball fan, writer and editor with a few opinions.
Featured wRants
Thursday the rabbi walked out, or was he pushed?

Being a pulpit rabbi can be a cutthroat business

When Toronto Jews awoke last Saturday morning and collected their Globe and Mail newspapers from their doorsteps (those who still subscribe, that is), they discovered a front-page story detailing how Holy Blossom Temple, the city's ...

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Jewish issues at centre of partisan sniping

Jewish issues and candidates made headlines last week and became the subject of some distasteful political rhetoric on the campaign trail. In Alberta, a 21-year-old hijab-wearing university student resigned Aug. 18 as the Liberal candidate in ...

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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau

Israel shouldn't be a political football or litmus test

Despite public and private appeals to call off the event, the Jewish Defence League (JDL) went ahead with its unfortunate decision to picket a Liberal fundraiser at the Toronto home of pharmaceutical magnate and Jewish ...

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Being mislabelled by educators can make school a misery.

Your December-born kid may not have ADHD. He might just be immature.

A new Canadian study is bolstering an argument I've been making to my kids' teachers and principals for years: children born later in a calendar year are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit ...

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Who will be the next big-name Jewish MP?

Last week, we examined four “Jewish” battleground ridings, including two – York Centre in Toronto and Mount Royal in Montreal – where, one way or another, a Jewish candidate is likely to win. This week, ...

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The next occupants of 24 Sussex?

Why Thomas Mulcair gets it when it comes to Israel

Not surprisingly, Thomas Mulcair won the NDP leadership last month, replacing Saint Jack Layton as the man social democrats hope can rally left-of-centre voters to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives. Here's hoping he's successful, but ...

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He was burned by this very issue.

The Jewish community should fund its own schools

The fallout from the recent controversy over the creation of gay-straight alliance clubs (GSAs) in Ontario's publicly funded Catholic school system should give pause to those seeking funding – in the name of fairness – ...

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Refugees: a Jewish issue comes to the fore

A quintessentially Jewish issue has dominated the news and become a prominent election issue ever since the picture of three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying dead in the Mediterranean surf generated headlines worldwide earlier this month.

Alan Kurdi's lifeless body

The image that moved the world

For many, the painful image has crystallized the ongoing question of what the world ought to be doing about the human fallout from Syria’s bloody civil war, which so far has killed 250,000 people and created a staggering four million refugees.

It may be the Conservatives’ misfortune the photo has galvanized Canadians in the midst of an election campaign, and they’ve been caught flatfooted on terrain that’s traditionally been friendlier to their rivals. Both the Liberals and the NDP have called for Canada to quickly admit thousands more refugees, despite criticism that this won’t solve the problem and comes with security risks if they can’t be properly vetted.

This story is almost as central to the Canadians psyche as it is to the Jewish one, since many of us have come here fleeing persecution, poverty or both.

We Jews feel the issue in our bones. We were born a nation of refugees, as the Passover Exodus story attests, and our history is one of both wandering and exile. Whether it’s been at the hands of Babylonian soldiers, Roman centurions, Spanish Inquisitors or Nazi storm troopers, we know what it means to be uprooted. Continue reading

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Can we talk politics without lashon hara?

The Chofetz Chaim

Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan

Over the course of the election campaign to this point, the Jewish community has seen repeated and sometimes flagrant violations of halachic and ethical prohibitions against lashon hara – wicked speech – and some of the 31 transgressions related to it, such as unnecessarily engendering controversy and division.

But although negative politicking has become more common in Canada – though perhaps not to the same debased degree as in the United States – it’s worth asking whether it’s even possible for political speech to conform to Jewish law regarding lashon hara?

Moreover, is it possible to engage in any journalism or political discourse at all in a way that doesn’t contravene this restrictive halachic precept?

In a nutshell, the laws of lashon hara, as laid out by Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, a.k.a. the Chofetz Chaim (1839-1933), the recognized authority on the subject, refer to speaking disparagingly of another person, even if the information is true. Continue reading

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Slicing through ignorant anti-circumcision rhetoric

Every once in a while, the subject of circumcising male newborns and boys rears its ugly head – no pun intended – and the discussion rarely takes long to veer into ethnocentrism, if not outright intolerance.

Circumcision ceremony at wRanter.com

It’s a central rite in Judaism.

With the best of intentions, and without realizing it, many people who object to the practice end up making statements that belie their stated respect for the rights of others.

The debate – if we can call it that, since the word connotes a certain civility that’s mostly absent from all the shouting – is usually confined to the fringes, with so-called “intactivists” railing into an echo chamber until something happens to thrust the debate back into the mainstream.

The latest such event occurred earlier this summer when a German court in Cologne ruled that a child’s “fundamental right to bodily integrity” trumps his parents’ religious rights. It said those parental rights “would not be unduly impaired” if children were allowed to decide when they’re older whether or not to be circumcised.

The ruling came in the case of a four-year-old Muslim boy who experienced complications after being circumcised by a doctor. Continue reading

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Steve Nash wins, and poor Jose Calderon loses – again

Steve Nash at wRanter.com

Captain Hollywood?

So it turns out that all-world point guard Steve Nash isn’t going to be a Toronto Raptor next year.

Boo hoo.

Wonky back and all, the 38-year-old received a contract offer from the Raptors reportedly worth $36 million over three years, but ultimately signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.

While I like Nash – who doesn’t? – and I appreciate the veteran leadership he would have brought to a young Raptors team, I don’t think his presence would have done anything more than make them a fifth- or sixth-seeded playoff team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference – at best.

It’s also hard to see why he would have been a huge upgrade over the incumbent, 30-year-old starter Jose Calderon – who, like Nash, isn’t a great defender – and backup Jerryd Bayless.

I don’t buy the argument that if the Raps couldn’t entice the best baller Canada has ever produced to play in Toronto, they’ll have little chance at enticing other free agents to sign here.

Players don’t sign with the Raptors because the team is awful. One playoff series victory in 17 seasons is the only statistic you need to know in that regard. Continue reading

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Does Facebook’s face-plant mean we’ve learned something?

Mark Zuckerberg at wRanter.com

He's worth a lot of money, for now.

The relatively poor showing of Facebook’s initial public offering of its shares on the NASDAQ exchange shows that, perhaps, finally, the hype around the social networking site may finally be abating.

As I post this, Facebook shares have closed around $31 after their third day of trading, down from their opening price of $38. And they didn’t do much better on their first two days, having closed on Day 1 at around where they opened.

Does this mean the business world and average folk may finally have acquired a sense of proportion about services like Facebook, or for that matter, companies such as Apple?

Let’s hope so. Continue reading

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