The Hardest Part About Keeping Kosher

26 Dec

screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-11-38-53-amForget the prohibition against eating milk and meat together, though cheeseburgers do sound, and look and smell, delicious. And forget all those other mystifying rules (the Bible doesn’t specify why God wants Jews to observe certain dietary restrictions; it just lists the rules and assume we’ll listen) that keep us (semi-) law-abiding Jews from enjoying treats like lobster and crispy fried bacon.

If you’re someone who tries to keep kosher, such as myself, then as the years go by you get used to the feeling of missing out. It becomes part of your DNA.

Some things, though, seem inane, and I’m not talking about any of the laws. The other day I was at Madison Square Garden and I decided to treat myself to a beef burrito from MSG’s kosher stand, ran by a kosher restaurant named Carlos & Gabby’s. The burrito comes with this creamy avocado ranch dressing. Sounds delicious, right? I thought so, too. Then I sat down and tried to unwrap the damn thing. That’s when I ran into this piece of orange tape that I swear the Hulk himself would have trouble ripping. I spent 10 minutes gnawing at this tape with my nails and teeth and plastic knife. It was like trying to break into Fort Knox.

Anyone who keeps kosher no doubt knows what I’m referring to, and has experienced this frustration before. But for those unaware, here’s a quick primer:

For kosher food to remain kosher it can’t come in contact with any non-kosher food, or, technically, with anything that’s even touched non-kosher food. So a chicken could be killed in accordance with all of Judaism’s laws, and it could have been cooked in a kosher kitchen, and packaged under the watchful eye of a mashgiach, meaning someone who is aware of all of Judaism’s kosher laws (and no, contrary to popular thought, there is no blessing from a rabbi required, nor does one take place), and all that could happen and yet if at some point the piece of chicken is rested on a plate that at one point served a cheeseburger then it immediately morphs into a non-kosher piece of food.

That’s where the tape comes in. It’s there to signify that the food hasn’t been tampered with since it left the kosher institution. If the tape is broken, then you have a problem, or at least those who care about such things do. And so I get why it’s there, and why it can’t just be a piece of CVS-brand scotch tape.

But I think the Jews have taken this too far.

Opening my sandwich should not cause me to break a sweat. You know what happened when I finally broke my burrito free of its prison?

Chunks of beef and rice came pouring out. All the shifting back and forth had ripped a hole in my tortilla.

I understand the desire to ensure that everything remains kosher, but certainly there must be a better way. I say we either adopt more of an honor system (if someone decided to fuck with all the Jews by taking every MSG kosher burrito out its foil, then dipping them all into some sort bacon sauce, only to re-package them and sell them to Jews—well, I say that person deserves his or her victory just for the putting in that much work). But keeping kosher is hard enough without this obstacle course.

So, God, here’s my offer:

Either provide one of your followers with the plans for some sort of special tape.

Or it’s back to “non-kosher” tuna wraps for me.

The choice is yours.


A Sad Day

9 Nov

There’s a scene from the movie The Hammer that I love. You’ve probably never seen the movie. I don’t think many people did. It’s a solid low-budget comedy. Adam Carrolla wrote the film and stars in it. He plays a down-on-his-luck boxer trying to qualify for the Olympics. His primary competition is a younger black boxer. They start out enemies and later become friends. You know how these types of plots go.

Before the climax, though, there’s a scene where the younger black boxer asks the Olympic coach why Carrolla’s character, who’s over the hill and out of shape, is being granted this opportunity.

“I bet you wouldn’t give this shot to a 40-year-old black man,” he says to the coach.

“Yeah, coach, when is the black man finally gonna get a fair shake in the fight game,” Carrolla’s character responds.

Last night, as I watched the voting results come in, I couldn’t help but think about this line.

Finally, the voice of oppressed white man has been heard.

*  *  *

I haven’t spoken to my dad yet, who’s in Europe for work. We talked early Tuesday before the election, but not since Donald Trump was declared the victor.

My dad has spent his entire adult life fighting anti-Semitism, and all forms of racism and xenophobia too, both in the United States and abroad. That’s been his area of expertise, and his profession; he works for a Jewish human rights group. His life mission has been to make the world a better place. His tool has been history. He wrote a book about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and laid out the reasons why that centuries-old myth about Jews secretly wanting to run the world, a myth that has led to the deaths and percussion of a countless numbers of Jewish men and women and children throughout history, is false. He’s currently fighting the desire of European white nationalists to erase and distort the history of the Holocaust.

His life’s goal has been to keep the world, and Jews in particular, from succumbing to the cliché about what happens to those who don’t know history.

This morning I asked both my mom and brother if they’d heard from my dad. My mom said yes, she said he was distraught.

“He told me that he always thought he’d leave his kids a world that was better than the one he came up in,” my brother told me. “He doesn’t feel that way anymore.”

A few hours later my brother sent me an instant message. It was a link to Philadelphia website. I clicked.

“Police Investigating Two Swastikas Painted on South Philly Building,” the headline read. The word “Sieg Heil”—Hail Victory—was spray painted in black onto a glass window.

*  *  *

The first tears came last night. Actually, I think it was officially the morning by the time it became clear that Trump would win. I cried then, and I cried during his spine-chilling acceptance speech and I cried this morning while watching President Obama address the nation. I cried as I tried to get on with my life and write about the Knicks’ defense.

I cried some more when, for the first time in my life, this thing I’d devoted so much energy to—sports—seemed futile.

*  *  *

I’ll leave the in depth political breakdowns to others. I’m not a political scientist. There is one piece of voter information I’d like to share though, courtesy of Bread Heath of USA Today:


Ignore all the talk about the White Working Class and Frustrated Rust Belt. That’s cable news horse race talk, futile bullshit deployed as a warm blanket to avoid confronting what really happened last night.

A white nationalist running a xenophobic campaign—one in which he regularly insulted Mexicans and black people and Muslims and women and people with disabilities and Jews (more on this in a bit)—was elected President of the United States.

That didn’t happen because a large group of people felt disenfranchised. That’s what Beltway pundits and soulless Republican leaders said. But it’s not what the voters themselves claimed.


This had nothing to do with the economy.

This had everything to do with race.

*  *  *

Show me a time throughout the history of the world that xenophobic rage STOPPED before reaching the Jews?

This is a question I’ve been posing to Jewish Trump supporters I meet or anyone else attempting to peddle a softer image of this day. Find me a moment in history when a nationalist rage directed at minorities didn’t endanger the freedom and safety of the Jewish people.

And so, to the large swath of Orthodox Jews out there (of which I am one and so I will focus on here, though you we are not alone in being targets of the Trump clan) who supported this demagogue throughout the campaign because of #EMAILS and #CROOKED and #BENGHAZI I say this to you:

What the fuck is wrong with you people?

Forget, for a moment, the idea that Trump is a morally repugnant human being who’s mere mention should cause every decent human being to vomit. And let’s also move past the notion that it’s utterly insane for any person of Jewish faith—a faith which for thousands of years has been attacked for the sin of being different—to side the a leader preaching hate and not pro-inclusion.

Forget all that for a second, as hard as it is.

Instead I ask you this less humane question: where are your self-survival instincts? What do you believe separates Jews from other minorities? Your white skin compared to their brown and black complexion? Have you checked Twitter recently? Have you seen the millions of Neo-Nazis who have been energized by Trump and come out of hiding? Have you seen the attacks being lobbed at Jewish journalists? Have you heard that David Duke is once again relevant?

Have you heard radio host Alex Jones, a trump buddy and ally, reference the “Jewish Mafia in the United States”?

You know I was thinking, they’re always trying to claim that if I talk about world government and corruption I’m anti-Semitic, there’s mafias of all different stripes and groups but since you want to talk about it, the Emanuels are Jewish mafia. So there you go. But, I mean it’s not that Jews are bad, it’s just they are the head of the Jewish mafia in the United States. They run Uber, they run the health care, they’re going to scam you, they’re going to hurt you.

These are the people that catapulted Trump to the White House. These are the people he owes his position.

Trump knows this, too. His campaign was proof. There were all the Nazi tweets and memes, most of which we’ve forgotten about. The pile of cash with the Star of David on it. The Benito Mussolini quote. His son’s love of Nazi twitter accounts. The refusal to denounce David Duke.

Then there was his latest commercial, ripped from the pages of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Here’s the Washington Post (liberal MAINSTREEM MEDIA rag, I know) on the ad:

Well, Trump just gave his reply. On Friday, he released a closing ad for his campaign repeating offending lines from that speech, this time illustrated with images of prominent Jews: financier George Soros (accompanying the words “those who control the levers of power”), Fed Chair Janet Yellen (with the words “global special interests”) and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein (following the “global power structure” quote). The ad shows Hillary Clinton and says she partners “with these people who don’t have your good in mind.”

This is usually the point where I hear about Ivanka (you know, the daughter he wants to fuck) being Jewish and how her husband, Jared Kushner (a good Jewish boy who comes from an upstanding Jewish family that stands for everything good in the religi…) and how his lawyer is Jewish and they all say he likes Jews and therefore all these claims are just the CROOKED media distorting the truth.

To which I answer: pick up a history book. Go speak with a Holocaust survivor. Learn what anti-Semitism truly looks like, how it actually manifest itself.

“Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day,” Trump is quoted as saying.

“I know why you’re not going to support me. You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money …Look, I’m a negotiator like you folks, we’re negotiators,” he told the Republican Jewish convention this year.

Anti-Semitism, like racism, isn’t just the use of derogatory epithets. You don’t need to toss around words like nigger or kike to be a racist, to believe that people who are different are inherently lesser beings.

Donald Trump and the majority of his voters who made this a reality view minorities the same way: black people, brown people, Jewish people, they believe these large swaths of people are all inferior beings, that white Europeans are the stronger race.

That’s racism. That’s anti-Semitism. That’s xenophobia. And it doesn’t disappear because a campaign is complete.

*  *  *

People will suffer. We don’t yet know how, we don’t yet know. But the suffering will come. It could come in the form of deportations. It could be revoked health coverage. It could be an attack on a woman’s right to choose. Perhaps black people will continue to have their voting rights attacked. Gay freedoms. It could be more subtle. There’s going to be an Alt-Right leaning executive branch and House and Supreme Court.

What do you think is going to happen? I’ve been asked. It’s not so bad.

We now know we live in a country in which millions of people believe a demagogue should hold the most important position in the world. Millions of people were okay with handing a career con man.

But Clinton was crooked and nasty and a crook

Trump’s personal charity foundation has been proven to be a front, one used to enrich himself. There are numerous documentations of him refusing to pay his end of a contract simply because he felt he could get away with it and out spend smaller people in court. He hasn’t released his tax returns. An ex-wife of his claimed he raped her. We have a fucking videotape of him admitting to being a sexual predator.

The tape led to the firing of Billy Bush. The standards for hosting the Today Show are higher than those for being President.

The press, the backbone of a free and vibrant democracy—my opinion, but also one belonging to those old white men that Republicans masturbate to at night—is no longer valued. We now have proof that citizens can no longer differentiate between reported journalism and the moronic dribble that populates outlets like Breitbart. On Facebook everything looks the same. If there’s one thing we learned this election—one in which almost every single reputable newspaper and magazine endorsed Clinton and sounded the alarm about Trump—the media no longer has the ability to influence. It’s (and I hate the tossing of all of The Media under one umbrella) is not trusted. It’s viewed as a problem.

Not of this is an accident either. Trump is the culmination of decades of dog whistles and conspiracy talk coming from the right wing. The difference is he’s the first to realize that he could take off the mask, skip right over the Wall Street Journal editorial types and speak directly to the so-called Alt-Right, a group that no longer exists.


The Alt Right is The Right. They won.

So, please, spare me the cable news-like narrative that clearly Americans just wanted a change. Spare me the bunkum that Demagogue Trump was just a pawn for campaign season and that now everyone is going to come together and sing Kumbaya. Spare me any thing that attempts to normalize Trump’s past behavior and actions, or paint a picture of a man who’s spent the past 60-plus years lying, cheating and stealing suddenly changing his ways after becoming MORE powerful.

Spare me the canned anti-Hillary lines, and anything that attempts to portray the behavior of these two in the same light.

Trump is a different beast, and a beast is exactly what he is. I know my writing this doesn’t change anything. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak up.

The Most Interesting Story Correction I’ve Ever Made

30 Jun


So today my profile of Jared Jeffries went live on SLAM Magazine’s website. The story ran in the latest issue of SLAM.

Some quick background: the story was part of SLAM’s annual “Throwback” issue. As my editor said when he sent me the assignment: “Jeffries snuck onto a SLAM cover once and he has a fishing show now.” The second part of that sentence had me hooked and, it turns out, Jeffries is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever interviewed. That’s essentially what the profile is about, so I urge you to go read it. I promise, Jared Jeffries is more interesting than you think. He told me about the time he went alligator hunting with Brad Miller and all the crazy fishing trips he’s taken.

During our conversations he mentioned someone by the name of Josh Temple, a close friend who charters boats for a living. I looked Temple up, gave him a call and he sent me this long e-mail full of all sorts of anecdotes and quotes.

Now, you might have noticed that in the online version the following correction appears at the end of the article.

“The print version of this article misstated Jeffries’ possession of a teddy bear named Mr. Biggles. Jeffries does not own a teddy bear.”

This, I felt, was something I should explain, so here we go: most of the stories Temple shared with me came via e-mail. One that stood out: how there was this teddy bear Jeffries brought with him everywhere he went. Here’s what I wrote in the magazine:

Also, Mr. Biggles must always be nearby.

That’s Jeffries’ teddy bear. According to Josh Temple, who’s been fishing with Jeffries for nearly a decade, Mr. Biggles can never leave Jeffries’ side. Jeffries was carrying the raggedy bear with him the first time he met Temple. The bear was brought along a few years later when the two chartered a yacht to celebrate Jeffries’ marriage. It was also there not long after when they set sail to help Jeffries get over his divorce. Jeffries has been caught cuddling with Mr. Biggles in bed. It took Temple a few years, but eventually he was able to summon up the courage to inquire why, exactly, an extremely large grown man was toting around a stuffed animal everywhere he went.

The answer didn’t provide much clarity.

“You mean you don’t have one?” Temple remembers Jeffries responding. “Shit, Mr. Biggles is the man.”

All that came from Temple. The mistake I made (and, journalistically, it was a bad one) was not verifying with Jeffries. Then again, WHAT KIND OF PERSON WOULD MAKE UP A STORY ABOUT A TEDDY BEAR?!

Turns out, a ship captain named Josh Temple.

Here’s an e-mail I got from Jeffries this week.

Why would you believe Josh on the Teddy Bear thing. Lmfao. There was no Mr. Biggles.
You’re crazy. Please take that out of the online article.

I emailed Temple and relayed the message. His response:

Don’t let Jared snowball you he’s a shiester! He takes Mr Biggles everywhere he goes! He probably doesn’t want it made public but those are the facts!

At this point I was confused and also annoyed. Also, I couldn’t believe that I was actually going back and forth trying to verify the existence of a Mr. Biggles.
I reached back out to Jeffries. His response:
On my kids that’s not true. Lol
He then forwarded me an e-mail from Temple that made it seem as if this whole thing was a prank of some sort. So, there you go. My bad, for sure. But also gives you a little insight into the type of people Jared Jeffries hangs out with and why he’s such a fun dude.
Also, I’m sure this is exactly the type of stuff Woodward and Bernstein spent their time on.

New Stories

24 Jun

IMG_2039 (1)

So holy hell, that was a crazy two weeks. First off, I want to know who’s responsible for scheduling the NBA Draft for last night as opposed to this coming Thursday, June 30. We need some breathing time after the Finals! As one NBA reporter said to me on Wednesday (we’ll keep him nameless), “I just found out Henry Ellenson was white.”

As for my work pertaining to the draft, well I had two profiles go up this week on players selected last night.

The one I spent the most time on, and am most proud of, is this Bleacher Report story on Ben Simmons and why so many of the criticism being tossed at him are misguided. I actually spent almost a year reporting it, getting in touch with his siblings, LSU teammates and coaches, and some scouts too. My take: dude’s going to be a stud.

My other pre-draft profile was for SB Nation and on Kentucky big man Skal Labiessiere, who nearly died in the Haiti earthquake in 2010, and yet is perpetually called “soft” by fans, scouts and media. It’s a label he says he’s not particularly fond of.

Some other stories/columns I’ve had published over the past two weeks:

Finally, I spent two days last month in Spokane (which, apparently, is pronounced Spo-can, not Spo-cain. Who knew?) hanging out with Adam Morrison for Bleacher Report. We went golfing and shooting and drinking and some other stuff, too. He might be a different kind of guy. But he’s a good guy — and, more importantly, living the life.

Check out the story here.

That’s it for this week, thanks for reading!

This Week’s Stories

20 May


So I’m going to start doing something different here. Since I’m now consistently writing for a bunch of different places I figured that I’d start making a weekly post here listing all my stories from the previous week. This way my MILLIONS OF FANS can keep track of everything I’m doing.

Anyway, I wrote six stories this week. Or, rather, I had six stories publishes this week. Here they are:

For Tablet Magazine, I profiled Mike Packer, the head-honcho of Packer Shoes, one of the top boutique sneaker stores in the country, and world. Packer is a cool dude with an interesting back story. He also happens to be an observant Jew. It was a fun story to work on.

I did a lot of basketball writing this week, too. Some X’s and O’s breakdowns of the Cavaliers ridiculous three-point shooting, and of Channing Frye’s major impact on Cleveland, both for SB Nation. Also for SB Nation, the five big questions the Heat must answer this offseason. Miami could possibly get Kevin Durant. The franchise could also be screwed. It will be interesting to watch. And for The Comeback I wrote why I think the Knicks’ hiring of Jeff Hornacek should have the team’s fans excited.

Finally, I went to Saturday Night Live last week. Well, kind of. Turns out they do a dress rehearsal every week before the show. It was weird to see. And fun. I wrote about it for The Comeback.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading! Oh, and next week the Bachelorette returns! Which means Power Rankings return! Which means all will be well in the world once again.

Thanks for reading!

What a Corporate Memo from Moses to God Would Look Like

7 Apr

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 5.47.39 PM

So I’ve been taking some graduate school writing classes. One of the courses focuses on super short stories (flash fiction and the like) and below is something I came up with one night for an assignment. I like to think it’s pretty clever (who doesn’t like some good ol’ fashioned and kind of corny biblical humor), though apparently certain editors of certain websites disagree. Anyway, I figured I’d post it here, because, well, why not…

Subject: Re: NEW BYLAWS

Initial response around the office is positive. Murders are way down and morale is at an all-time high. One thing to keep an eye on, though: the folks over in Acquisitions are concerned about the ban on stealing; they think it’s going to affect their bottom line. Any suggestions/thoughts on ways to appease them?

Also, I spoke to Aaron and informed him that he and the Commodities department can expect to see deductions in their paychecks corresponding to the amount of gold they lost in the fire. I made it clear that any further rejection of company policies would result in immediate termination.

A few other quick matters of business:

  • Any update on when we can move into the new office space? In the meantime, can we get Maintenance to do something about the humidity?
  • New cafeteria looks great, though down the line we might need to add a bit more variety. Maybe one of those rocks that dispenses water?
  • Amalekites Associates seems to be prepping for a hostile takeover. We need to review counter maneuvers.

Perhaps we can discuss at next board meeting?


(Got some new clubs and have been working on my sand game — you good for 9 on Saturday, or is that no-longer kosher?)

Purim and Hamentashens

23 Mar


Purim is, I think, my favorite Jewish holiday, mostly because it’s got everything you could possibly want.

Alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.

And it’s only one day.

And you get to eat a lot. Actually, that pretty much applies to every Jewish holiday. On Purim, though, there are no restrictions on using electricity—meaning that when you finish stuffing your face you can them migrate over to the couch and digest while watching TV.

Purim also has the best story of all the Jewish holidays—and to me, of the entire Hebrew Bible. The Book of Esther is pretty much a  biblical version of Game of Thrones. There’s blood and sex and war and death and more blood and more sex  and no mention of God or the supernatural, which to me makes it a more entertaining tale to read than, say, those involving impossible-to-believe miracles like the splitting of an entire sea.

So yeah, I’m excited about Purim’s arrival. I love everything about it.

Everything, that is, except, hamentashens. Those I just don’t get.

For those non-Tribespeople unfamiliar with the food, a hamentashen is a cookie, usually filled with jelly—though if you’re lucky you get your hands on a chocolate chip one—that is rolled into a three-corner shape. Why three corners? Because Haman, the evil villain from the Book of Esther who was essentially Hitler 1.0, supposedly wore a three-cornered hat while prancing around town.

Well, that’s not really the why, and this—and jelly, I don’t like jelly!—is what bothers me about these cookies. That why illuminates what the three-corner shape represents. What it does not do is explain why in the hell we celebrate a holiday and the Jewish people surviving an attempted genocide by making a delicious cookie in the shape of the villain’s hat. This would be like celebrating the downfall of Hitler by baking swastika-shaped cake. It just doesn’t make sense.

Make a cookie in the shape of a crown, to honor Queen Esther. Or a horse, for Mordechai. If you want to incorporate Haman into the ritual do so in a way that mocks him (like booing during the reading of the Book of Esther, which is already done), or makes people think about the vile person that he was. Don’t hand him the honor of dessert.

Perhaps I’m missing something here—if I am please let me know—but to me, none of this makes sense and so this Purim I will be taking a stand against Hamentashens. It’s time to put an end to this nonsense.

(Unless someone brings some chocolate ones. Or chocolate and peanut butter. Those are delicious and I’m sucker for pastries.)