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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Talmud in Korea

It's a little more complicated than that, but still quite interesting...
Just when you thought that you saw it all in the Jewish world.
Talmud Study is now Mandatory in South Korea
The following fascinating article was translated by The Muqata from YNET.
Close to 50 million people live in South Korea, and everyone learns Gemara (Talmud) in school.
"We tried to understand why the Jews are geniuses, and we came to the conclusion that it is because they study the Talmud," said the Korean ambassador to Israel. And this is how "Rav Papa" became a more well known scholar in Korea than in Israel.
It is doubtful if the Aramaic scholars, Abbaye and Rava, imagined their discussions of Jewish law in the Beit Midrash in Babylon would be taught hundreds of years later in East Asia. Yet it turns out that the laws of an "egg born on a holiday" (
"áéöä ùðåìãä áéåí èåá"), is actually very interesting to the South Koreans, who have required that Talmud study be part of their compulsory school curriculum.
Almost every home in South Korea now contains a Korean-translated Talmud. But unlike in Israel, the Korean mothers teach the Talmud to their children. In a country of close to 49 million people who believe in Buddhism and Christianity, there are more people who read the Talmud-or at least own their own copy at home- than there are in the Jewish state of Israel. Much more.
"So we too will become geniuses"
"We were very curious about the high academic achievements of the Jews," explains  South Korea's Ambassador to Israel, Young Sam Mah, who was recently a host on the program "Culture Today."
"Jews have a high percentage of Nobel laureates in all fields: literature, science and economics. This is a remarkable achievement. We tried to understand what is the secret of the Jewish people? How they-more than other people-are able to reach those impressive accomplishments. Why are Jews so intelligent? The conclusion we arrived at is that one of your secrets is that you study the Talmud."
"Jews study the Talmud at a young age, and it helps them, in our opinion, to develop mental capabilities. This understanding led us to teach our children as well. We believe that if we teach our children Talmud, they will also become geniuses. This is what stands behind the rationale of introducing Talmud Study to our school curriculum."
Young says that he himself studied the Talmud at a very young age: "It is considered very significant study," he emphasized. The result is that more Koreans have Talmud sets in their homes than do the Jews in Israel.

"I, for example, have two sets of the Talmud: the one my wife bought me, and the second was a gift from my mother."
Groupies of Jews
Koreans don't only like the Talmud because they see it as promoting genius, but because they found values that are close to their hearts.
"In the Jewish tradition, family values are very, very important," explains the South Korean Ambassador.
"You see it even today in your practice of the Friday evening family meal. In my country we also focus on family values. The respect for adults, and respect and appreciation for the elderly, parallels the high esteem in my country for the elderly."
Another very significant issue is the respect for education. In the Jewish tradition, parents have a duty to teach their children, and they devote to it lots of attention. For Korean parents, their children's education is a top priority.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Screened out and isolated -

There were no copies of the FT and no magazines, just angled titanium and back-lit Apple logos punctuating the café

Screened out and isolated

Tyler Brule

When a journalist from the German newsweekly der Spiegel recently told me how alarmed she was to find that she was the only person reading off a piece of paper in a Los Angeles café I thought she was overdoing it. “I really felt like some kind of martian, reading my newspapers while everyone else was just staring into their iPhones and gazing at screens,” she said.

I had almost forgotten our conversation until I found myself walking around Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach last week and wandered into a café. As I entered down an open boulevard-cum-corridor, men and women were perched on stadium-style seating (as if attending a lecture) and all were tapping away on MacBook Airs.

The men were in faded T-shirts, with slightly rolled sleeves that revealed well-toned biceps and the odd tattoo, and skinny black denim, rolled just-so to reveal scuffed Alden boots. The women were in similar get-ups with the boots replaced by ballet slippers or some version of a Keds-style sneaker.

Inside the café I approached the counter and ordered a coffee. As I waited for the barista in his artfully groomed beard to artfully pour my flat white into a cup, I glanced around the room. One, two, three, four ... six, seven ... 12 people with their titanium screens flipped open and six of them wearing headphones large enough to cancel out the sound of a 747 at close range. Everyone looked extremely serious – no sunny smiles on this stretch of the California coast. There was little looking up from their screens, a lot of manic typing and even more twisting of stray locks.

What were they all doing? Was everyone working on a script? Were they polishing (embellishing) CVs for upcoming interviews? Were they updating profiles on various social networking sites? Did they have jobs? And why were two people in opposite corners of the room holding their phones horizontally in front of their mouths and chattering into them while also gripping their massive headphones like they were recording a song? Was this some affectation picked up in Taipei or Hong Kong that had now hit southern California? Heavens! I hope not.

While giving my coffee a good stir, the conversation with the der Spiegel correspondent flashed up in my mind and I spun around to see if she was right. Up and down, left and right I scanned the room and the seating area outside. The only paper in sight was a fluffy stack of dollar bills in a glass jar on the counter – there were no copies of the LA Times, no FTs, no magazines and no printed Powerpoints, just angled titanium and back-lit Apple logos punctuating the industrial space. Curiously, the only texture in the whole space was provided by the metalwork and reclaimed wood in the café interior and perhaps the odd choppy haircut: everything else was crisp and sharp and angular and perfect and boring.

I perched outside to study the scene and shake things up. I pulled out my Friday edition of this newspaper and unfolded it across my lap – a girl perched above without headphones looked up, seemingly half startled. I then picked up the paper, gave it a good yank to fold it over and then folded it again to quarter-page size to read the Companies & Markets front page. This stirred more of the titanium set out of their uploading/surfing/ chatting to look around and figure out what that sound was and if it was going to stop. I could see why the der Spiegel correspondent had felt somewhat martian-like – while she was tucking into her daily papers and magazines and exposing her media tastes, her fellow coffee-drinkers were cloaked behind their screens keeping to themselves and revealing little, immune to the clatter of finger nails on a keyboard but so easily disturbed by a newspaper unfurling before them.

I ordered another coffee to go and as I walked out noted that it wasn’t only paper that was absent; there wasn’t an iPad or reading device to be seen either. As I debated whether this was a good or bad thing I went in search of a bookstore. The best I could find was a spiritual bookshop that hardly passed for what I had in mind. There were no magazine kiosks or used book sellers, no chains and no independents. I felt sad for the local residents.

An hour or so later I arrived at LAX’s international terminal and was happy to see some effort was being made to improve the experience. The chirpy lady from Lufthansa suggested I shouldn’t get my hopes up. “They can spend all the money they want on design but it’s not going to change the people working at security or how you’re treated when you enter the country,” she said breezily as we walked to the gate. I grunted in agreement.

Upstairs on the 747 I was greeted by a friendly attendant with an armful of newspapers. “I’m sorry but we don’t have internet connection on today’s flight but would you like a FAZ, Handelsblatt, FT or IHT?” she asked. Around the cabin my fellow passengers were all manipulating their favourite dailies and the world sounded just right.

Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine

More columns at

Screened out and isolated -

Sunday, January 8, 2012

How many Stephen Colberts are there?

How many Stephen Colberts are there?

From The International Herald Tribune

There used to be just two Stephen Colberts, and they were hard enough to distinguish. The main difference was that one thought the other was an idiot. The idiot Colbert was the one who made a nice paycheck by appearing four times a week on ''The Colbert Report'' — pronounced in the French fashion, with both t's silent — the extremely popular fake news show on Comedy Central. The other Colbert, the non-idiot, was the 47-year-old South Carolinian, a practicing Catholic who lives with his wife and three children in suburban Montclair, New Jersey. One of the pleasures of attending a live taping of ''The Colbert Report'' is watching that Colbert transform himself into a Republican superhero.

Suburban Colbert comes out dressed in the other Colbert's guise — dark two-button suit, tasteful Brooks Brothersy tie — and answers questions from the audience for a few minutes. Then he steps onstage and turns himself into his alter ego. His body straightens, a self-satisfied smile creeps across his mouth and a fatuous gleam steals into his eyes.

Read the whole story here:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The First Killings of the Holocaust - The First Killings of the Holocaust On the brisk winter Tuesday of Jan. 20, 1942, 15 Nazi officials assembled at a lakeside villa on the Wannsee near Berlin to deliberate on the “final solution.” This month, the world marks the 70th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, one of the pivotal moments in Holocaust history. It provides an appropriate occasion not only for reflecting on the origins and implications of this horrific event, but also on one particular moment when it could have been prevented and, I would posit, almost was. The extermination of European Jews may have been formally outlined seven decades ago this month, but it began nearly nine years earlier, during Easter Week 1933, a few minutes after five o’clock in the afternoon on Wednesday, April 12, when four Jews — Arthur Kahn, Ernst Goldmann, Rudolf Benario and Erwin Kahn — were executed in precisely that order at a Nazi camp in the obscure Bavarian hamlet of Prittlbach. These four killings framed the constituent parts of the genocidal process formalized at the Wannsee Conference: intentionality, chain-of-command, selection, execution. In the years to come, the process was refined, the numbers expanded monstrously, but the essential elements remained. Even Prittlbach retained its central role. The hamlet was so small that the Nazis named their camp after the neighboring town of Dachau, which had access to a rail line. The boxcars rolled into Dachau, but the victims were marched to Prittlbach. The Konzentrationslager Dachau in Prittlbach became the prototype for Nazi atrocity. It boasted the first crematory oven, the first gas chamber, and, on that sun-splashed spring day in April 1933, the first Jewish victims. A Holocaust survivor once told me, and repeated to many others with equal conviction, that the trail of blood that began in Dachau ultimately led to Auschwitz. But it also almost ended there before it barely began. On that same April evening in 1933, Joseph Hartinger received a call that four men had been shot attempting to flee the recently erected detention facility. As a local prosecutor, it was Hartinger’s job to establish a commission to investigate all deaths resulting from “unnatural causes.” The blood was still damp on the ground when Hartinger arrived. He sensed immediately that something was horrifically wrong. “My reasons were based not only on the physical circumstances but in particular on my assessment of the personalities I encountered in the camp and especially on my evaluation of the nature of the camp commandant Wäckerle, who made a devastating impression on me,” Hartinger recalled. “I also had to include in my deliberations the fact that those who had been shot were all Jews.” When Hartinger reported that a serial killing of Jews had taken place, his superior responded unequivocally: not even the Nazis would do that. The investigation was terminated. But as killings continued to mount, Hartinger persisted. On June 1, 1933, he issued indictments against the camp commandant and three other SS men. It was a brazen act of legal defiance to the regime. Hartinger was not naïve. He knew the Nazi capacity for violence. That evening, he told his wife, “I just signed my own death sentence.” The murder indictments had a surprising impact. The commandant was removed. The killings stopped. Hartinger had hurled a legal wrench into the Nazi bureaucracy and singlehandedly paralyzed its homicidal impulse. For several weeks in the summer of 1933, the killings stalled as Nazi officials attempted to understand the implications of the Hartinger indictments. Solutions were found. The killing was renewed. Miraculously, Hartinger survived. The Nazis had deliberated on murdering him. Instead, he was transferred to another jurisdiction. Recently, I came across the 40-page unpublished memoirs that Hartinger wrote in 1984 shortly before his death at age 91. Along with many technical details already familiar to scholars, Hartinger outlined an extraordinary plan for dismantling the emerging system in the Dachau Concentration Camp. He understood that the Nazi regime, just a few months in power, was still sensitive to international opinion. It was his intention to use the murder indictments to expose publicly the atrocities in Dachau, force the government to evict the SS guards and replace them with trained police or military units familiar with the laws governing the proper detention and treatment of prisoners. It was a seemingly quixotic plan, but Hartinger understood the key decision makers within the government and sought to play them against one another. He almost succeeded. “These were not fantasies,” Hartinger recalls in his memoirs. “As I later learned, there were conversations in exactly this direction except that the ‘good spirits’ did not prevail.” But his indictments confounded the Nazi legal bureaucracy. In the end, the only recourse was to lose them. They were locked in a desk and forgotten. After the war, the abandoned indictments were discovered by a U.S. intelligence unit and returned to German prosecutors who used them to convict the surviving perpetrators. The Hartinger memoirs show us in nuanced detail the political, legal and emotional dynamics that led to the first serial killing of Jews in Nazi Germany. Equally important, they show us that tenuous phase of an emerging genocidal process when intercession could have disrupted and derailed the horrific and now seemingly inevitable outcome. Clearly, no single man could have prevented the Holocaust, except Hitler himself, but had there been more Germans like Hartinger to hold individual Nazis personally accountable for their excesses, including President Paul von Hindenburg, who possessed the constitutional authority to dissolve the Nazi government at will and dismiss Hitler as chancellor, the course of history could have taken a very different turn. The Hartinger memoirs make this fact abundantly clear, preserving for us that ineffable substance of the human soul — faith, hope, fear and courage — that shapes individual decisions and ultimately determines the course of actions, both large and small, that constitute the chain of events we know as history. Hartinger may have lacked the aristocratic bearing of Raul Wallenberg. He certainly possessed neither the charm nor wiles of Oskar Schindler. He was little more than a middle-aged civil servant with a wife and five-year-old child at home. But like these two legendary figures of Holocaust rescue, Joseph Hartinger demonstrated the potential of personal courage, intelligence and determination in a time of collective human failure. He also provides further proof of the transcendent and enduring power of justice. Timothy W. Ryback is author of “The Last Survivor: Legacies of Dachau” and “Hitler’s Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life.” See the whole story here:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

How to Surf on a Cloud

How to Surf on a Cloud

How would you like to "hang ten" half a mile above the ground? A few glider pilots have figured out a way to ride on the clouds moving over the Australian countryside, going 35 miles per hour with no power whatsoever.

These clouds are 600 miles wide, and a glider can surf them just like a wave on the ocean. Here's how to go surfing, half a mile above the ground.

"Morning Glories" are clouds that appear in September and October. They only manifest on a peninsula that starts at a good, thick 350 miles wide and is whittled down to a slim sixty-mile-wide strip of land surrounded by water. Here's how they form.

The Cape York peninsula juts directly North, and the sea breezes from both sides of it meet in the middle. The two gusts of air meet over Burketown, and the collision causes a wave of tumultuous air that moves southwest. The air is moving through damp sea air, and the water molecules in the air, hit by this rush of pressure, often move up, over the top of the wave. Once they rise high enough they hit the cold of the upper atmosphere and condense, forming a cloud. The wave passes, and they drop, disintegrating into unseen water-vapor again at the tail edge of the Morning Glory. The wave isn't visible on its own. People just see the water droplets caught by the wave, and how they constantly form at the front and dissolve at the back, showing its forward progress across the sky.

The same thing that lifts the water droplets lifts air — and the air lifts gliders. Glider enthusiasts come from all over the world to 'surf' the Morning Glories. The pilots use motors to climb to cloud level in their planes — and then they get in front of these massive waves of high-pressure air, shot across the sky in seven-hundred-mile stretches.

The waves are about 1,000 feet off the ground, and form structures over 1,000 feet high. Although in the clouds things are chaotic, the air above and around it is said to be, "as smooth as glass," providing both an easy ride and a powerful push. The turbulent air in the cloud charging through the atmosphere, shoving everything aside, provides power that can lift gliders up to 8,000 feet. A skilled pilot can then drop, surfing across the front of the wave, do loops, or ride on the 'wingtip' of the cloud for hundreds of miles. Gliders achieve record speeds and gliding distances on these.

Unlike motored power, though, clouds can just disappear. When that wave of high-pressure air dissipates, shredded to nothing by atmospheric conditions, all the air it was pushing up falls. With a structure pushing it up, the air moves in an orderly way, but when it falls, it can fall in a haphazard, turbulent way that means the glider is going to get tossed around like a toy plane on its way towards the ground. Surfing miles up in the air is not without its hazards.

Image: Ulliver
Via Wired and the Cloud Appreciation Society.


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