In Orthodox world, men do not shake hands with women

Last fall, Rav Yuval Cherlow, a highly respected Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem, sparked a furious debate after he
suggested that a man should shake the hand of a woman if she extends it.

I’ve long known not to offer my hand to an Orthodox Jewish man because it puts them in an awkward situation. I slipped once, when I jumped to my feet to thank an Orthodox Jewish man for coming to my journalism class and extended my hand. He shook it and immediately afterward I remembered that I shouldn’t have done it. It was too late, and he seemed fine with it.

Recently, I was at B&H Photo in Manhattan purchasing some equipment and had a wonderful talk with one of the Orthodox Jewish salesmen, at the end of our conversation I smiled and thanked him and said, “I would shake your hand if I could.” He seemed pleased with my statement.


Back of the bus?

I’m heading to Jerusalem in May on a journalistic mission to better understand the struggles of gay Orthodox Jewish men in the Holy Land. In preparation, I happened to come across a story written in February 2009 about Haredi men (the men who wear black suits and black Fedoras) stoning buses that do not segregate women and force them to sit in the back.

It made me do a double take. Back of the bus?

When I hear that phrase, images of Civil Rights Movement flash in my mind. I think about the cruel and unjust way that black people were treated throughout this country, especially in the South. Separate drinking fountains. Separate bathrooms. White-only schools. “No-blacks-need-apply” signs. Laws that forbid black people from buying property, aka housing covenants.

People of privilege are used to holding power, even if the privileged happen to be so-called rednecks. (Or Haredi men who have been inculcated with the belief that they are superior to women.)

Taking them on is not easy. In the case of the racist Jim Crow South, change required that the nation’s consciousness be rattled and awoken. The spark was Rosa Parks, a black woman who was jailed for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man.

In 1992, Parks told NPR’s Lynn Neary: “I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.”

…which makes me wonder, will there be an Orthodox Jewish Rosa Parks?

‘Sinful’ city buses stoned by ultra-Orthodox Jews

Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Jews want women to enter buses by the rear door and sit at the back.

By Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem/ The Associated Press

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

It is an all too familiar scene: the Israeli bus, travelling near predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem, is pelted with stones that smash windows and startle passengers. Except this time the stone-throwers are not Arabs but Jews.

The violence is part of an unholy war in which strident elements of the ultra-Orthodox community in Mea Shearim are trying to force Israel’s leading bus company – and, by extension, Israeli society – to defer to their strict religious teachings and sensibilities.

Although Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, what that means in practice is subject to dispute, with religious and secular Jews constantly tugging for greater clout in shaping the character of the country.

The latest battle is over demands that buses segregate men and women in accordance with strict Jewish law on a line connecting the ultra-Orthodox stronghold of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem with the Western Wall.

In the view of some ultra-Orthodox Jews, segregated seating, with women entering separately through the rear door and sitting at the back, is vital to uphold their stringent traditions stipulating modesty and prohibiting physical contact with members of the opposite sex.

Secularists say the push for sanctity on the buses is part of a larger effort to transform Jerusalem into a kind of Tehran. The violence is a major test for Jerusalem’s new Mayor, Nir Barkat, who rode to power last year on the votes of secular residents worried over growing ultra-Orthodox influence.

Associated Press photo
Journalism · Uncategorized

Blogging will never die

I’m so tired about bloggers blogging about the pending death of blogging.

There are so many bloggers now that bloggers can blog about the best blogs on the web, and there will be readers for THAT.

But, seriously, isn’t it ironic that bloggers are writing about this, considering that 26 million more blogs were created in the U.S. in 2010.

There are now a total of 152 MILLION blogs in a country of 308 million people.

The problem isn’t that blogging is dying, it’s that EVERYONE thinks they can write an interesting blog. They’re cluttering the blogosphere with really lame or stolen copy they regurgitate.

Those blogs will die.

The New York Times reported earlier this year that fewer teens are blogging, precisely because few people were reading their posts. Just because you create a blog, doesn’t mean people are going to read it.

The blogs that will have a thriving audience are the ones that are:

1. well written,

2. have original content,

3. serve a need,

4. allows readers to engage and interact* (this is vital!)

Through word-of-mouth and OUR social networks, we are learning about the better blogs. We might hear about them through Twitter or Facebook and then we’ll read. If it has a VALUE to the reader, they WILL read your WHOLE BLOG POST. And if you have a book on the topic and they are interested they will buy your book.

Blogging is here to stay. It will not be replaced by a Tweet or a FourSquare check-in. It won’t be replaced by Facebook, either. For journalists and writers, these are social networking tools that can be used to establish your brand and draw readers to your blogs.

We don’t know which direction journalism is going, but it’s clear that we are becoming more socially connected through the internet. Facebook is the most visited website in America. People want to connect and interact with information they get.

This precisely what the Web 3.0 is supposed to be about. It’s just that, in some ways, Mark Zuckerberg beat them to it. (I’m often surprised at how many journalists know zip about the semantic web, aka, Web 3.0 being built.)

People on Facebook do not have to be talking about trivial dribble. They can be engaging people in a manner that educates people. But let’s leave that discussion for another time.

The point I want to leave people with is that a microblog is a starting point. It’s an appetizer. The blog is the enchilada, and if it’s a good one, people will savor it and want more. Just make sure that you create a blog that allows people to comment, interact, and respond.

I look forward to meeting all the wonderful budding journalists who will be at the Spring College Media Convention in New York City. My session on how to create a blog will be Monday at 2 p.m. Be there or be FourSquare.

Use the hashtag #cmanyc11


Subscribing to On The Media’s podcast

One of my favorite radio shows is On the Media, a one-hour radio program exploring issues in journalism and the media in general. It airs Sundays at 10 a.m. on WNYC in New York City, and elsewhere in the country at different times (check the NPR station finder.)

It’s available as a podcast.  I’m often surprised that so many people I know — including tech-savvy NPR listeners — don’t know about all the great NPR podcasts. For journalists, this one is a must-subscribe show. So here’s the link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/nprs-on-the-media/id73330715. It’ll take you to the podcast subscribe page. Follow it to iTunes and subscribe. (Then just make sure you refresh your podcast subscriptions when you sync your smartphone.)


Wael Ghonim on what he calls The Revolution 2.0

A videotape of Wael Ghonim’s Ted Talk.

Ghonim is a Google executive who understood the power of social networking. He created the Facebook memorial page We Are All Khaled Said, named after a young Egyptian man who was beaten to death by Egyptian security forces. According to witnesses, two detectives and a police officer stormed a cybercafé, asking people for the IDs. When Said protested, the cops beat him to death. A gory photo of his beaten-to-a-pulp face appeared on that FB page. Word spread via YouTube, Twitter, FB, and other social networking sites and it galvanized young people to fight back.

The “2.0” modifier refers to the interactivity of our current iteration of the web, which incorporates social media. The first version of the web, which was static is referred to as 1.0. (Great minds are currently working on 3.0, though Mark Zuckerberg might beat them to it.)


Online news source MUST consider our social network needs

My friend, David Mejías, pretty much says it all — in 132 characters.

One of the media companies that needs to do this ASAP is the The New York Times.  No, NYT, I don’t want to just “recommend” a story, that appears as a line in my FB status timeline. I’d like to post the story — myself. That means doing a cut and paste of the story URL into my FB wall.

But if I do that, look at the ugly placeholder art that runs alongside the post:

When instead it should grab the photo that appeared with the story online:

The smartest FB users are tech-savvy and don’t want to post items that look unsophisticated or unattractive.


Egyptians can still tweet via voice call

Google has set up “Speak To Tweet,” a service for Egyptians without internet access.

Callers only need to call the numbers listed below and the audio will be uploaded to a website called Say Now.

+16504194796  and +390662207294 are the two numbers to dial.

This was done in response to dictator Hosni Mubarak’s decision to cut off the internet. Most of the nation’s ISPs have been shut off for the past several days.

How internet traffic to and from Egypt crashed on January 27: (Source: Arbor Networks.)