The Conspiracy

Feminist theologian ordained; Israel and marriage equality; and more. [Required Reading]

Is ‘TED’ all it’s cracked up to be? [Tablet]

In this piece from Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz explores the popularity of the TED series of educational videos, and claims that the TED-Ed program (new from the series) leaves some things to be desired:

“Which is not to say that there’s no room for video, audio, and other multimedia. As a college professor, I rarely teach a class without pulling up some clever or entertaining clip to illustrate my point. But that’s not what TED’s new educational initiative, named TED-Ed, seeks to do. The idea behind each video is to help the professor ‘flip’ his or her lesson, namely to encourage students to watch the videos at home and then discuss them in class. To aid in the discussion, TED-Ed provides questions and quizzes; one video, for example, contributes to our understanding of Islamist extremism by asking penetrating questions like where was the talk’s presenter born.

This is trivial nonsense, and TED, sadly, can’t hope for much better as it enters the classroom: The videos are too brief to explore any topic in depth, which means that any discussion they may incite is likely to do little but skim the shallow waters of its given subject matter.”

John Travolta and the gay, Jewish Hollywood elite [Tablet]

In another piece from Tablet (which wins the “Twice-in-One-List” award from us today), Rachel Shukert takes on recent news that actor John Travolta faces a sexual harassment lawsuit, wherein he was accused of saying that Hollywood is controlled by “homosexual Jewish men” who trade favors for roles:

“It may surprise you (although probably not) to hear that I have no quarrel with the airing of the trope that Jews are prominent, even dominant, in the movie industry. The reason for this is that it’s true, and saying it aloud no more makes John Travolta a Jew-hater than asserting that there are a lot of, say, African-American hip-hop artists makes one a racist. It’s not anti-Semitic to make a statement of fact; it’s anti-Semitic to imply that there’s something wrong with it. The real question raised by this statement is the linking of ‘homosexual,’ a descriptor that is relevant to the particulars of the accusation at hand, with ‘Jewish,’ which is not. What, indeed, does one thing have to do with the other? And what does the almost unconscious linking of the two—whether by Travolta or merely by the recollection or fabrication of his anonymous plaintiff—tell us about the nature of prejudice itself?”

President Obama’s support of marriage equality… and Israel [Haaretz]

Looks like the President’s recent support of the equal rights of all has led to a bit of a discussion in Israel over the possibility of a similar shift in thinking. Haaretz writes:

“Speaking to a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group within the Likud party on Thursday, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said that Israel is unlikely to recognize same-sex marriage in the foreseeable future, but said that he was reconsidering his opposition to such a measure.

Steinitz said, referring to a possible move to support same-sex marriage here, ‘I don’t see that happening in the State of Israel in the near future.’ He did, however, tell 25 members of the Likud LGBT group, established five months ago, that he was reconsidering his opposition to such a measure.

‘Today, I understand that issue much more than in the past. I’m not totally against it like I used to, but I’m not saying I’m totally for it,’ he added.

When one participant asked Steinitz whether he would be the first Likud minister to come to Tel Aviv’s annual gay pride parade the finance minister was visibly embarrassed. He told aides to note the date but made no promises.”

 Prominent feminist theologian gets ordained [Jewish Journal]

Mazel tov to Rachel Adler, feminist theologian, and now–rabbi! In this charming piece from Jewish Journal, we’re given some insight into Adler’s stint as a “student rabbi,” her studies, her previous work, and her ordination.

“‘It felt ridiculous to be introducing Rachel as a ‘student’ rabbi,’ Edwards said. ‘I couldn’t do it without laughing, and I would have to explain why I was laughing. So, somewhere along the way, ‘scholar-in-residence’ evolved as a secondary title.’

Adler, who is 68 and a professor of Jewish religious thought and feminist studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), will be ordained as a Reform rabbi at the college on May 13.

David Ellenson, president of HUC-JIR who served as Adler’s advisor when she earned a doctorate in religion in 1997, calls Adler ‘arguably the leading feminist theologian in the entire world.'”

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