View Full Version : Bob Discovers His Jewish Roots

03-10-2008, 10:03 PM

03-10-2008, 11:29 PM
Always good to hear from Gershom. I never can think of anything useful to add to his diavlogs, but it always feels like a good hour spent in the classroom.

03-11-2008, 01:10 AM
Hideous as the massacre of Israeli students was, part of the political context is that the Mercaz Ha-Rav Yeshiva is a major center of Settler ideological-thelogicall education. As Gershom mentioned, it is not an ordinary Orthodox or Ultra-Orthodox school; it's a symbol of Settler philosophy and militant anti-Palestinian extremism. It's still a despicable mass murder, but it wasn't a random target.

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy discusses this here:


Arguably, the IDF provoked the terrorist nuts with their recent indiscriminate slaughter of Gazans, including several children, over the past couple of weeks. Israel cannot torment, brutalize and starve out Gazans, while immunizing itself against this of retaliatory hate crime. Nor can Palestinian extremists fire rockets at Israeli towns and expect the IDF to twiddle its thumbs. So, round and round we go....

I also would like to believe Obama may represent (audacious) hope to the dysfunctional region, which is in desperate need of a new kind of American leadership and diplomatic intervention of the non-Islamophobic variety. McCain offers nothing more than four more years of idiocy and enabling.

P.S. Bob, as a completely kosher atheist Jew with impeccable ancestral credentials, I would be delighted to convert you to Judaism. In fact, consider it done. Mazal Tov! -- Rabbi Wonderment

03-11-2008, 01:20 AM
Call me clueless, but it seems to me that a peace-seeking, 21st Century Israeli state ought to be deemphasizing its Jewish requirements in favor of some kind of tolerant pluralism and cease administrating these ugly "Jewish tests" on would-be immigrants, those seeking marriage, and others. Is this practice in any way "democratic" in any modern western sense? The whole impression feels rather retrograde, like an idea cooked up by Saudis.

Also, curious how Bob didn't so much as pause to reflect on the meaninig of such undemocratic practices despite several minutes of talk on the point...

03-11-2008, 01:55 AM
Intelligent, civilized, and informative discussion. (Absence of constant mutual interruption = welcome change from typical BHTV DV.)

Once again, as the terrains of both Israeli and Palestinian mindsets emerge more clearly via GG's "on-the-ground" observations, it becomes increasingly difficult to feel sympathetic for anyone save those who simply want peace. (The "pox on both their houses" attitude sure becomes tempting some days.)

Have to admire Bob's ability to scour the globe and always come up with yet another participant disdainful of Hillary. At least GG was charmingly mild about it and wasn't at all the typical Obambi-phile dedicated to irrational demonization.


03-11-2008, 04:11 AM

(Absence of constant mutual interruption = welcome

I completely agree.

change from typical BHTV DV.)

03-11-2008, 04:12 AM

That was a nice way to put what I was also wondering.

03-11-2008, 04:14 AM

Do you really keep kosher; i.e., in terms of dietary restrictions -- or were you just being funny?

03-11-2008, 05:21 AM
Do you really keep kosher; i.e., in terms of dietary restrictions -- or were you just being funny?

Just funny. Been there, done that, as a child.

Now I'm an aspiring vegetarian and wannabe locavore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locavore)

Seriously, I think my worst moral failing is eating meat. I sincerely believe its wrong, but I still do it.

03-11-2008, 07:18 AM
The underlying premise that there is something more to being Jewish than having a believe in God governed by the tenants of Judaism seems to me to be fundamentally divisive. I would argue that the phrase “Jewish atheist” is an oxymoron. Isn’t there something vulgar about having to “prove” (or "disprove"?) that you are a Jew?

This concept of “Jewish-ness”, independent of religious belief, as the basis for a nation state just seems to be untenable. The best that can ever be achieved under such a paradigm is an “us versus them” truce. Lasting peace will be forever elusive.

Therefore, here is my radical proposal: Establish a process leading to making Israel AND the occupied territories the 51st State of the United States.

What would this do? First, it would establish a truly secular state of Israel with fundamental security assurances. Second, it would legitimise the US governments actions visa vie Israel, because the security of Israel would by definition be in the national interest of the US. Third, thusly all US duplicity in the United Nations Security Council would be removed. Forth, Jerusalem would be an open city, accessible to all who could qualify for a US visa. Fifth, the US state of Israel would be as open to ethnic Arabs as it would be to ethnic Jews. Sixth, Israel’s nuclear weapons would be legitimised under the guise of US military doctrine. Seventh, the US, in administering the state of Israel, would definitively learn the true value of border control.

Given that any solution to the problem will have to be radical, why not put this one on the table?

Note: after I made this comment I discovered the following:


03-11-2008, 07:43 AM
It would seem that Bill Clinton's previous personal intense efforts toward brokering Mideast Peace should trump any political position paper. We just don't know if Obama possesses any negotiating skills. Gershon appears to be splitting hairs on the difference between the two candidates which to me reflects just another "roll of the dice" that so many are willing to make in these incredibly unstable times.

03-11-2008, 08:43 AM

Seriously, I think my worst moral failing is eating meat. I sincerely believe its wrong, but I still do it.

You're an admirable person, in that case. I, too, have that moral failing, although I'm not sure I could claim it's my worst.

I also can't say that I'm completely convinced it's a moral failing. Some days I think this; some days, I think it's just all part of the food chain. Plus, I like meat and find that if I go too many days in a row without it, I really feel like something is missing from my diet. I've tried being an ovo-lacto vegetarian, but there is just something about the occasional hunk of animal flesh that I crave.

I've been cutting down on my meat consumption for years, and I try (without much success) to eat meat only from animals that are either hunted in the wild or were raised and slaughtered in a much more humane manner than is usual in this country. So I do wish I was being better about the whole thing, I guess, but I'm not ready to go whole hog into veganhood. (You'll pardon the mixed metaphor, I hope.)

Bloggin' Noggin
03-11-2008, 10:30 AM
Have to admire Bob's ability to scour the globe and always come up with yet another participant disdainful of Hillary. At least GG was charmingly mild about it and wasn't at all the typical Obambi-phile dedicated to irrational demonization.


Gershom certainly preferred Obama to Clinton and he was fairly enthusiastic about Obama. Is that what you mean by "disdain for Hillary" -- a marked preference for her opponent?
It must be very disheartening to you to see such an intelligent and well-informed man fall victim to Obama's insidious mind-control techniques.

03-11-2008, 10:37 AM
I thought I read someplace that the Jerusalem shooter was a former driver for the Yeshiva. If that's true, it is easy to imagine how the guy just went postal. [Not an excuse, just an alternative theory of the shooting.]

03-11-2008, 01:00 PM
i always like the diavlogs with george lucas. :)

uncle ebeneezer
03-11-2008, 01:15 PM
The carni/herbivore lifestyle thing always drives me nuts. I start off thinking, well, we are the "higher organisms" who can consider suffering and should be more responsible etc., and we don't really NEED to eat meat etc., and I hate to see animals suffer so I'm hypocritical to eat meat, and to just pretend that slaughterhouses don't exist or take an "outta sight outta mind" approach is irrational etc.

But then I start thinking of a fat pastrami sandwich or a bacon-cheeseburger or a meat lover's pizza.

And then I start thinking about the food chain. And the fact that animals eat whatever they were designed to eat. I'm currently reading Carl Zimmer's "Parasite Rex" which is AWESOME, and really changes your perspective of everything. It shows me that even living animals are a resource that other animals use in countless and heartless ways to survive. And while that is not necesarrily an adequate justification for slaughtering defenseless animals, it does reinforce the generalization that as my favorite band TOOL put it "life feeds on life feeds on life feeds on life".

Then I start thinking about our responsibility as stewards of the planet and the most dominat life-form (although Zimmer has convinced me, we are NOTHING in the bigger picture compared to the parasites), and I think about global warming, nuclear proliferation, the environment and I remember just how little we even understand about what is healthy for us humans from a dietary standpoint (it seems to change every month or two), and how little we understand how the global ecosystem truly operates. And I feel like I'm making the whole thing far more complicated than it needs to be.

By this point I'm really exhausted and I really want a burger. Then I think of my ex-girlfriend who ate hamburgers and stuff but didn't eat as much meat as I did, and always took on the vegetarian "attitude" that I find quite annoying. And that pretty much seals the deal for me personally.

This whole thing reminds me of one of my favorite Simpson's quotes. At the ballpark, Homer comes back from the food vendors with a stack of ribs, hot dogs, burgers etc. and he asks Lisa if she wants anything to eat:

Lisa: "Do we have any food that wasn't brutally slaughtered?"

Homer: "Well, I think the veal died of loneliness."

uncle ebeneezer
03-11-2008, 01:28 PM
I would add that I have rarely heard anyone criticizing Hillary in a way that I would consider "demonization" on BHTV. And there always seems to be a fairly "rational" foundation for the criticisms I have heard.

Irrational would be suggesting tha Obama is not qualified to be President but that maybe he is qualified to be Vice President. Even though by definition the Vice President needs to be prepared to step in at any moment and qualified to serve as um...President.

03-11-2008, 03:28 PM
uncle eb:

ROFL @ The Simpsons bit! Outstanding!

For the record, I don't eat veal, and haven't, for decades. That seems to cross the line, however blurry and inconsistent the line may be in my mind. And one does have to start somewhere. Once I learned about foie gras, I gave that up for the same reason. Too bad, I loved them both.

It's also the case that one thing that weighs on my mind about meat-eating is the global cost. I agree with you that we don't yet have a very good understanding about the interconnectedness of life, but whether I think of it in terms of agricultural inefficiency or the larger global warming contributions, I think we understand the planet's mechanisms well enough to say that meat production costs more ecologically.

But still, your point about everything feeding on everything else is a big part of the quandary. I was originally thinking about lions and tigers and bears when I made my earlier remark about the food chain. Good of you to point out the smaller beasties out to get us, too.

And yes, isn't Parasite Rex an awesome book, both in the new and old senses of that word? I went right out and bought it after hearing Carl on This American Life a few years ago. You might enjoy the interview (http://thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=242), too (free to stream, a buck to download).

uncle ebeneezer
03-11-2008, 03:43 PM
Nice. I will definitely check out the Zimmer link. After reading Evolution, Sould Made Flesh and now Parasite Rex, he is becoming one of my favorite authors. Not just science authors, but author period. I also just finished John Horgan's "Rational Mysticism" which was excellent. And I have two of George Johnson's books on my to-read stack as well. BH has become one of my primary sources for new reading material since almost everyone I have sampled so far are such excellent writers, whether it's science, politics, happiness, whatever.

Speaking of which, David Foster Wallace has a book of essays called "Consider the Lobster" which apparently would make even the most devout lobster-phile hesitant to continue eating that delicacy. Having grown up only a stone's throw away from Maine, I am DEFINITELY avoiding reading that one, because I just don't even want to know...if it will ruin one of my favorite treats. Especially since living in LA, I don't get fresh ME lobster too often (or chowder, clams or any of the other killer New England seafood.) When it comes to that stuff I'll plead (and accept) ignorance...and bliss.

03-11-2008, 04:05 PM
When it comes to that stuff I'll plead (and accept) ignorance...and bliss.

Anecdote actually related to Orthodox Judaism:

When I was a kid, my rabbi was a shochet (a ritual slaughterer). He went to the local slaughterhouses and certified them (or not) as Kosher facilities. One time his son, my fellow-12-year-old, accompanied the rabbi. He got violently ill and never went back. But he always urged other people to go, saying, "If you saw what goes on there, you'd become a vegetarian overnight." This was back in the pre-hippie day when virtually no one was vegetarian.

I was most influenced in my hypocritical endorsement of vegetarianism by Peter Singer and by environmentalists who pointed out the unsustainable aspects of the meat industry. In that sense, the locovore movement is quite interesting. You can have your hamburger and eat it too.

uncle ebeneezer
03-11-2008, 04:11 PM
I think it's time for a debate on the merits of Clinton's foreign policy experience. But I don't think it's Obama that should be her opponent:


03-11-2008, 04:21 PM
I would argue that the phrase “Jewish atheist” is an oxymoron.

Khas v'khalila (God forbid!) You have just negated my existence.

Can I keep the oxy part and just get rid of the moron?

03-11-2008, 04:44 PM
But this is my problem. How can one claim to be Jewish while at the same time not believing in God? It is this mixing up of ethnicity and religion that confuses me. I guess you might as well keep oxy and leave the moron part with me.

In a word: Barnacles
03-11-2008, 04:51 PM
Two points.

First, Gershom is great. I like his writing and seeing him on Bloggingheads. But, c’mon, can we please have some balance here? On the one hand, we’ve got Bob Wright. And on that same hand, we’ve got Gershom Gorenberg. And Khaled Dawoud, the Al Ahram and Al Jazeera guy. And we’ve also got Daniel Levy, whose views of recent Israeli history can only be described as baffling (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7083?in=00:22:22&out=00:27:57). The composition is manifestly skewed toward criticism of Israel. My goodness, in this BHTV lineup, Gorenberg is the ultra-nationalist.

Second, I’m uncomfortable with this section (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9365?in=00:018:12&out=00:20:35), where Bob and Gershom talk about an “unwritten alliance” between Palestinian terrorists and the Israeli right. I know what they’re trying to say, but I think it’s a little bit inflammatory. Consider if the shoe were on the other foot. We wouldn’t dismiss peacenik Israelis as being “unloyal to Israel.” We wouldn’t smear Israelis concerned about Palestinian human rights as being “functionally anti-Semitic” (or whatever). Asserting that the Likud has an “alliance” with terrorists -- even in a metaphorical sense -- is in the same category.

03-11-2008, 06:03 PM
But this is my problem. How can one claim to be Jewish while at the same time not believing in God? It is this mixing up of ethnicity and religion that confuses me.

If you met a Navajo who grew up on the reservation, you probably wouldn't say to her, "You can't be Navajo unless you believe in Navajo gods."

It's the same for Jews. We've been living on a global reservation for a couple of thousands years.

It's true that Diaspora Jewish identity is getting diluted (as Gershom points out) through intermarriage and loss of Jewish languages, but this is a recent phenomenon and applies to the Navajo and many other ethnicities as well.

03-11-2008, 08:09 PM
I guess I do since I listened to the whole thing, but none of the issues I consider important were discussed. Why should America be involved in this fight at all? What impact would a war between Israel and the occupied entity have on us Americans? I dont think there would be much of an affect at all.

US support for occupationist Israel is the root cause of radical Muslim attacks on America. As long as elite journalists and national politicians actively sideline the issue, the US will be at war with Islam.


03-11-2008, 11:32 PM
Packed full of interesting information.

A lot of meat to chew through on this one.

Of course, Robert Wright gives you a lot to chew on in all of his diavlogs.

uncle ebeneezer
03-12-2008, 11:16 AM
Hey, what does the "NAF" stand for up in Bob's credits. New America Foundation? Just curious.

Also did we ever establish whether Bob actually has a blog? If so where is it?

03-12-2008, 03:17 PM
Following up on a previous discussion of the Israeli attack on a Syrian facility a few months ago, here's an interesting line of inquiry from US News and World (http://www.usnews.com/blogs/news-desk/2008/03/11/6-signs-the-us-may-be-headed-for-war-in-iran.html) Report blog on "6 Signs the US may be headed for war with Iran". The article overall is interesting given the Fallon resignation and Cheney's trip to Israel.

Israel's airstrike deep in Syria last October was reported to have targeted a nuclear-related facility, but details have remained sketchy and some experts have been skeptical that Syria had a covert nuclear program. An alternative scenario floating in Israel and Lebanon is that the real purpose of the strike was to force Syria to switch on the targeting electronics for newly received Russian anti-aircraft defenses. The location of the strike is seen as on a likely flight path to Iran (also crossing the friendly Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq), and knowing the electronic signatures of the defensive systems is necessary to reduce the risks for warplanes heading to targets in Iran.

03-12-2008, 06:42 PM
US News and World should have thrown in a 7th and that is l Petraeus' bold insistence that Iran stop fooling around in Iraq.

Jeff Morgan
03-12-2008, 11:11 PM
Definitely. From what I've seen, this is a running theme across the internet. If more people prefer Obama over Hillary in some sample, it's unfair, as if there should be similar takes on them.

It's like the idea that media coverage should be 50-50. There is such a thing as two sides being unequal based on the merits. Chait illustrated this well (http://www.bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9349?in=00:09:22&out=00:10:21).

Jeff Morgan
03-12-2008, 11:25 PM
The uncertainty of not being able to know how Obama will do is different from the likelihood of Obama doing well or poorly.

When you say "roll of the dice" in that context, I want to respond, "are you afraid of the dark?" By that I mean, does turning off the lights in your bedroom change the chances that a monster or killer is in your room?

So you can't see how he'll do, but that doesn't make him any more of a risky proposition. The Clintons could certainly do horribly but with good intentions, while putting in a lot of effort.

Jeff Morgan
03-12-2008, 11:49 PM
It is this mixing up of ethnicity and religion that confuses me.

The way I perceive things, this coupling of culture with theology is a fundamentally important quality when thinking about religion.

Religions are vessels of both culture and theology. You know, in the Bible there's all this stuff about facial hair, how punishments should be carried out, eating habits... all these cultural norms of the time for that group of people. And then there's the theology part, belief that God created the world and man and His will and all that.

I would say that Christianity has been very good at decoupling culture and theology. Today in America we have all these cultural norms that are totally different from Biblical times. Christianity can thrive in various cultures as the theology stays fairly in tact.

Problems with Islam, I view as problems with the culture-theology relationship. Where the cultural side is rigid, you have problems when dealing with other cultures like westerners or modernization in general.

When culture and theology are tightly tied together, disturbing one threatens the other. And I think we've been seeing some of this lately from the more extreme in the Muslim world. On the flip-side, there has been decoupling on the edges of the Muslim world, where native culture reigns.

From this I would say that Jewish atheist isn't necessarily an oxymoron; I guess that's how you would describe someone who is culturally Jewish but theologically atheist.

Jack McCullough
03-12-2008, 11:54 PM
Semi-interesting discussion of the Times Magazine article, but I thought it was a bit superficial.

I wrote a blog post about it which you can see here (http://greenmountaindaily.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=2383), or here (http://rationalresistance.blogspot.com/). I think the problem identified in the article, as well as other odious activities of the ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel, embodies the pernicious effects of a parliamentary system. In Israel it has clearly given these intolerant fringe parties a disproportionate share of political power, which they use, as almost any group would, to work their will on the population as much as possible.

In terms of the ethnic politics of Israel and the future, it seems to be pretty clear that as long as these groups have as much power as they do it will be impossible for Israel to form a tolerant, secular society.

Or, to put it another way, this is what we call the only democracy in the Middle East? It's to laugh.

03-13-2008, 12:32 AM

I'm with you on the "rolling the dice" meme. Personally, I consider the odds of getting something better with Obama quite favorable. Clinton (and McCain) strike me as known quantities in the sense that there is a low ceiling on how good the conceivable outcomes could be: you're going to get Clinton The Sequel or McSame.

Any of the three could be a disaster, I'll grant, but I think Obama is the only one who offers the possibility of boxcars.

03-13-2008, 12:38 AM

I don't have much of a feeling one way or the other on the specific issue which your post addresses, but I have to say, your blog looks pretty good. Maybe add a sig/link and/or put your URL in your profile, as a reminder?

03-13-2008, 12:41 AM
Below is a list of the various bets you can make at craps.

Pass Line Bet - You win if the first roll is a natural (7, 11) and lose if it is craps (2, 3, 12).

I guess box cars is a losing bet.

03-13-2008, 01:10 AM

I'll resist the temptation to point out that it comes as no surprise to me that your mind goes naturally to crap, and instead merely point out that boxcars is a highly desirable throw in many games, from Monopoly to backgammon.


Fair bust, in all seriousness.

Can we at least agree that McCain and Hillary both remind us of snake eyes?

03-13-2008, 01:23 AM
Fair bust, in all seriousness.

Can we at least agree that McCain and Hillary both remind us of snake eyes?

They may remind you of snake eyes while Obama brings the image of snake oil salesman to me.

03-13-2008, 03:52 AM
They may remind you of snake eyes while Obama brings the image of snake oil salesman to me.

You're entitled to your gut feelings, but I would note that "snake oil" refers to something that definitely won't fix the problems it's being sold to address. What about Obama's policy proposals, or rhetoric of unity and hope, strikes you as downright false?

03-13-2008, 05:24 AM
Thanks for the thoughtful reply Jeff. But, as Wonderment pointed out, Jewish-ness goes beyond both religion and culture. It is really largely about ties to the Diaspora. Therefore one can talk about a test for Jewish-ness in a way that does not apply to Muslims or Christians. In this sense I would have to ask, is one who has converted to Judaism, but has no genealogical ties to the Diaspora, Jewish?

Jeff Morgan
03-13-2008, 09:41 AM
It is really largely about ties to the Diaspora.

Judaistic technobabble!

Well I protest this, this... appeal to the dictionary fallacy. (Gotta be a better phrase for that.) What I mean is that we determine our own definitions and criteria, and aren't really bound to any particular one. Ahh Jewish-ness!

Oh well; I actually have basically no specific knowledge about Jewish tradition, but saw an opening for me to throw in my generalized perspective. Maybe we can add a third leg to fix this; so we have culture, theology, and genealogical association.

(by the way, in my previous post in this thread, I meant to begin with "I think you've grabbed the essence of yadda yadda..." Didn't mean for the post to sound so cold!)

03-13-2008, 03:08 PM
[QUOTE]In this sense I would have to ask, is one who has converted to Judaism, but has no genealogical ties to the Diaspora, Jewish?[/QUOTE

Yes, of course. There have been converts throughout Jewish history, so there's a long tradition, including the Bible story of Ruth, generally regarded as the model convert myth.

When I was a kid, conversion was nearly non-existent because there were only rare cases of intermarriage (maybe one in five hundred families). I never heard of anyone converting on theological convinction grounds. They converted because it was a condition of marriage and child-bearing imposed by the spouse or the in-laws.

In previous generations, converting was less common , since there were risks, like death at the hands of the anti-Semitic state.

Today, however, conversion to Judaism is much more common. There's a whole movement of "Jews by Choice" and Israeli citizenship also provides some inventive for conversion.

Religious Jews, obviously, take the most interest in conversion. They treat converts with special respect typically. Jews like me couldn't care less. My spouse is a Mexican Catholic who wouldn't dream of converting. Our kids are multi-hyphenated Jewish-Catholic-atheist-Mexican-Americans. The Obama generation.

03-13-2008, 03:21 PM
It's also worth underscoring the distinction between the Kharedim or so-called Ultra-Orthodox and other religious Jews, particularly the "Religious Zionists."

The ultra-O's were historically vehemently anti-Zionist, and most ultra groups remain quite skeptical and critical of the secular Zionism that has dominated Israel since independence in 1948.

The ultras typically do not serve in the IDF and self-segregate from secular society. (One exception is the largely pro-Zionist Chabad group that is so well-known internationally.)

So-called "Religious Zionists" are an entirely different story. They are the militant, anti-Palestinian settlers who ally themselves with the extreme right wing and who built the "Greater Israel" (occupationist and expansionist) regimes from the ground up. This was Ariel Sharon's base until he "betrayed" them by "disengaging" from Gaza. The fringes of this movement produce Jewish terrorists and terrorist clergy like the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, racist hero to many settlers.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
03-13-2008, 05:21 PM
An aspect of the power of small parties in parliament debate that I have not seen mentioned here (sorry if I missed it) is discussed by Mr. Gorenberg here on his blog:


Mr. Gorenberg talks about how the refusal to consider including any parties with substantial Israeli Arab support as part of the coalition increases the power of small Jewish parties even more so.

"That is, refusing to countenance Arab-backed parties as coalition partners gives other small parties more power than they earned at the ballot box.

So politically excommunicating the Arab parties is anti-democratic several times over. It denies Arab citizens the right to horsetrade for their interests and goals. It gives clericalist parties too much power to horsetrade for their interests and goals - and many of those goals are anti-democratic in themselves. And in the current circumstances, it contributes to settlement construction, to undermining peace talks, and to continuing the occupation, which is flagrantly undemocratic."


Jack McCullough
03-13-2008, 08:38 PM
Thanks for your thoughtful comment, and I hope you continue to visit us at Green Mountain Daily (http://greenmountaindaily.com/frontPage.do). You do bring up some facts that I wasn't aware of. I've never been to Israel, but a friend who has been (a secular, atheist Jew) was just describing the impact of the ultra-O's where they hold sway, including various forms of harassment of sabbath breakers that remind me of nothing so much as the Israeli version of the vice-virtue committees.