Jews Divided Over Ideal Restaurant Parking Lot in Which to Fight God

Logos of Denny's, IHOP, and Waffle House, with a background image of two fists punching

Illustration: in whose parking lot should Jews fight God? Denny’s, IHOP, or Waffle House?

Amid recent discussion on social media regarding fighting God in a Denny’s parking lot, many Jews have questioned why a Denny’s parking lot has emerged as the location where others are planning to fight God.

“My main question is: why Denny’s?” said Leah Berger, a college student from New Jersey. “Yes, I know it used to be called Danny’s, and their founder was born in a town called Lakewood — California, mind you.”

Waffle House Parking Lot Better for Fighting God Than Denny’s, say Southern Jews

Some Jews in the American South maintain that Waffle House, whose locations are heavily concentrated in the region, is the best location for a fight. Advocates point to Waffle House’s reputation for always staying open, even in extreme conditions.

“Waffle House has shown a consistent record of staying open during natural disasters, otherwise known as ‘acts of God,'” said Rose Katz, an Atlanta native. “Clearly, Waffle House has the best chance for surviving whatever God can throw down.”

Others Prefer IHOP

“It’s the International House of Pancakes,” said Philadelphia retiree Morris Adler. “We’re Jews. Need I say more about why we have the upper hand here as opposed to [laughter] Denny’s?”

Others defend their choice more creatively. “IHOP is owned by a parent company that also owns Applebees.” said Rabbi Pinchas Goldblum. “What time of year is it? We eat apples. And honey, from bees.”

“And what did Yaakov do after winning that fight in the Torah?” Goldblum adds enthusiastically, clicking his tongue, “He hurt his hip socket so he limped, hopped back. I hope I can win and hop away too. I-HOP.”

Man sampled in Pew 2020 Jewish survey to auction NFTs of screenshotted questions before release of results

Yosef Block (Photo: courtesy)

NEW YORK — Ever since April of last year, Yosef Block has bided his time.

It all started in January 2020, when Block received an invitation from Pew in the mail, asking him to participate in an online survey of the American public. As an incentive and token of appreciation, they gave him a $2 bill. But Block didn’t sit down to take the survey at first, although, “I thought [the $2 bill] had nice novelty value.”

After two subsequent nudges in the mail, Block finally went online take Pew’s survey in April. Upon completing the short series of questions directed at the general public, he was redirected to a survey of Jewish Americans. 

“Immediately I remembered the buzz around [the Pew 2013 survey.] I thought, ‘Oh, this is it! They’re doing it again! People had hot takes for like three years afterwards. I’d better screenshot this.’” Upon completion of the survey, Block received $10 in cash, in addition to the $2 bill he had received as an advance incentive.

Block received $10 cash in the mail after completing Pew’s 2020 survey of American Jews. (Photo: courtesy)

Block hasn’t released the screenshots until now because he did not know if the survey was still ongoing.

“I felt like it would be unethical to release the screenshots before I knew Pew was finished conducting the survey. Like for a politically charged question on the survey, if a significant segment of the public hears that question is being asked, that might affect the response rates in a way that would be impossible to control for.” 

But now that the survey is officially over, Block wants to capitalize on his luck, diligent screenshotting, and the increasing hype on Jewish social media. And he thinks his plan has much more novelty value than the $2 bills Pew sends out.

“My friend Isaac suggested the idea of auctioning off the screenshots as non-fungible tokens (NFTs),” says Block, who was immediately sold on the idea. “Originally I was just going to do a conventional auction, but I’ve dabbled in crypto during the pandemic, and this seemed like a great opportunity.”

The auctions — which will accept bids in the form of Ethereum, a type of cryptocurrency — will close on Friday at noon, which Block feels is the optimal lead time before the official results are released on Tuesday, May 11. 

Ethereum-icon-purple.svg
The Ethereum logo (source)

“I want the hype to build up, because people are still hearing about [the survey release.] But on the other hand, if I wait too late — people won’t care because the survey will be released soon anyway,” he said. “So I want to give people the inside scoop far enough in advance for it to have value.”  

While typically NFT buyers are able to see a visual representation of the file they are purchasing, due to the nature of Block’s product, he will blur the text and only reveal the unaltered images upon purchase.

And instead of auctioning off his approximately sixty screenshots of questions individually (“I realize that’s risky — you might pay money to get a boring question you know will be asked, like denominational affiliation.”) — Block will bundle the questions into five categories: Jewish identity/ritual practice, demographic information, opinions on intra-communal issues (e.g. intermarriage), opinions on domestic political issues, and opinions on Israel. 

“I don’t have the answers, but I do have the questions. Does anyone care what the answers are, anyway?” 

LEAKED: Full text of letter by Reform & Conservative movements, ADL, others to President Trump regarding annexation of West Bank

Editor’s note: selected quotes from this letter have already been printed in the JTA article “Reform and Conservative movements join letter asking Trump to oppose Netanyahu bids to annex territory” (April 12, 2019). The Zooming Etrog has obtained the full text, which we print below.  

Dear President Trump,

We write to you asking you to help preserve the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by opposing the annexation of the West Bank. West Bank annexation is a topic that is currently being debated in Israel, and was endorsed right before the election by Prime Minister Netanyahu himself as an electoral pledge. We realize that you do not actually support the two-state solution, but we respectfully ask you to help preserve it anyway.

We believe that annexation will lead to greater conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Not only that, annexation will create intense divisions in the United States and make unwavering support for Israel and its security far more difficult to maintain. It might even be more off-putting than Israel’s policies of shooting unarmed demonstrators, child detention, family separation, home demolition, and deportation of African asylum seekers.

In addition, annexation will severely undermine, if not entirely eradicate, the successful security coordination between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. If the PA collapses, people will realize that it has very little actual power, and then people will be unable to say, “Look at Abbas on his fourteenth year as president — my, my, those Palestinians are not ready for their own democracy yet!”

Annexation would also galvanize efforts such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that are intended to isolate and delegitimize Israel. We know you are working on laws against that, though, so if you find this point less compelling, that is understandable.

We respectfully request that you affirm — even though you have not done so yet after being repeatedly asked — long-standing bipartisan consensus that the two-state solution is the essential path to an Israel existing alongside a future state of Palestine in peace and security. We ask that you declare that the United States will not support any Israeli proposals to annex the West Bank, in whole or in part.

If you ignore this letter, we will maybe send another with slightly stronger wording. (You did not even invite us to your meeting at the White House tomorrow, so there’s nothing we can do besides sending another letter.)

Signed,

The Central Conference of American Rabbis

The Union for Reform Judaism

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

The Rabbinical Assembly

MERCAZ

The Anti-Defamation League

Ameinu

The National Council of Jewish Women

The Israel Policy Forum


P.S. — Some of us applauded1 2 the relocation to Jerusalem of the U.S. Embassy to Israel. Even though this seems like an obvious move toward annexation, especially since the United States also closed its consulate location that primarily served Palestinian residents of the city, Palestinian relations are now overseen by pro-settlement Ambassador David Friedman, and the new Embassy building literally says “Embassy, United States of America, Jerusalem, Israel,” we did not think that it was actually a step toward annexation. Huh.

Last remaining member of Meimad offers brief post-election thoughts

NAHLAOT, JERUSALEM — The Zooming Etrog found the last remaining member of Meimad, Meir Ben-Oni, walking out of Nahlaot’s heavily Anglo shul Kol Rina after Shacharit on Wednesday morning. Meimad is a left-leaning religious party founded by Rabbi Yehuda Amital in 1999. It is largely considered to be defunct, not having run in this year’s elections nor having held a seat in the Knesset since 2009, under an agreement with Labor.

Commenting on Netanyahu’s projected re-election as prime minister, Ben-Oni said, “Look, we really couldn’t have expected any better. I spent all my energy trying to get my friends to vote for parties that weren’t outright fascists. For some of them, a vote for [Israeli Prime Minister] Bibi [Netanyahu] was a victory.”  

In response to Netanyahu’s statement that video surveillance of Arab polling places was necessary to make sure that the results were “kosher,” Ben-Oni also shared his thoughts.

“I don’t think Bibi should be the mashgiach [kashrut supervisor] of his own elections. And the only time we should be performing video surveillance on the goyim is to make kosher cheese production less economically burdensome by relying on the Rema.1”  

When asked how this was relevant in Israel, which already has an abundance of kosher cheese and Jews to add rennet, Ben-Oni replied that he had made aliyah from the United States fairly recently, in response to the election of Donald Trump. But after having lived here for the last two years, he is starting to plan a move back to America.

“Since I’m planning my return, I guess I’ve started thinking of halakhic questions from that frame of reference again,” he said.  

“My sal klita [economic assistance] has run out, and the other benefits for olim hadashim are starting to expire now too, so I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to stay here,” Ben-Oni continued. “Not that I can say I’m looking forward to explaining my move back. There was no critical discussion about Israeli politics in my community back home — the closest we came was going to AIPAC conferences whenever we could get the cost subsidized.”

“Even when I did a gap year in yeshiva before college, we didn’t talk much about politics. Except for maybe that time Rav [Hershel] Schachter visited us and explained under what circumstances someone should shoot the prime minister.2”    

“I didn’t realize this until I moved here with the intention of staying permanently, but basically, this place is f***ed.”

Hillel CEO, who has previously threatened legal action against students for controversial speakers, decries ‘crisis’ of free expression on campus

Dramatic reversal as Hillel International president and CEO Eric Fingerhut announces support of open discourse, shocking Jewish student activists.

Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel International; Photo: Hillel International website

WASHINGTON — Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International, recently spoke on a panel at the Bipartisan Policy Center entitled “Crisis on Campus: The Future of Free Expression and Intellectual Diversity.” In a stunning about-face, Fingerhut — whose organization has previously suppressed student debate on issues related to Israel, including via lawsuit threats — now says that he realizes the importance of open discourse.

“We do need to be attentive to the cases that exist when we end up in a situation where there really is sort of an enforced way of thinking on any set of issues and students feel oppressed, truly unable to fully express their identities,” Fingerhut said. 

Hillel International, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, has gained attention in recent years for their Standards of Partnership, which do not allow Hillel chapters to “partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers” that “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel” or “support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against…Israel.” In response, students formed the Open Hillel campaign in late 2012 to protest these policies and instead support a Jewish communal conversation that also includes opinions that they encounter on the campus at large. In practice, Hillel’s policies often exclude perspectives that range from liberal Zionist,1 if more harshly critical of Israel, to non- and anti-Zionist views.

Until this surprising reversal, Hillel has consistently thwarted students’ efforts to engage with dissenting opinions within their campus Jewish communities. In 2015, Hillel threatened to sue students for hosting speakers that violate their Israel policies.

(above) Hillel International’s letter threatening to sue Swarthmore College’s Hillel chapter should they host a panel of civil rights activists, some of whom supported BDS. Photo: Open Hillel Facebook page

Even association with offending groups has had consequences, in at least one known instance where Hillel disaffiliated a group for being one of fifteen co-sponsors of an event unrelated to Israel, because one of the other co-sponsors supported BDS. 2

More recently, Hillel has taken their ideological interference outside of campus Jewish institutions, such as by endorsing the nomination of Kenneth Marcus — who has a long record of targeting First Amendment rights of pro-Palestinian students and endorsing vague definitions of antisemitism that would include any criticism of Israel — as the leader of the Office for Civil Rights at the US Department of Education. 3

Yet at the event, Fingerhut reportedly explained that the idea that certain views on Israel “should be banned or defeated rather than studied and discussed is so prevalent [on campus] that it intimidates Jewish students and others, excludes them from some campus organizations and activities, and discourages them from openly sharing their views.”

“It can result in censorship of student behavior so they can’t fully engage in the life of the campus community,” he said. He suggested a wider range of programming and guest speakers could be helpful for ensuring diversity of viewpoints, adding, “[I]f we find ourselves in a position that a train of thought is not being represented on campus, we should take steps to make sure it is represented.”

Open Hillel has tweeted at Hillel International to ask when the Standards of Partnership will be officially rescinded so that they can declare the end of their campaign. We will update with new developments.