Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dealing With Crime in the News

There are different ways of dealing with crime in the news media. At one extreme is the "True Crime" approach, in which lurid headlines are splashed across the front pages and gruesone details shared with readers and viewers. The other extreme is to leave such items out of the news entirely.

I recall a headline years ago in which a man from my town was murdered. The headline in the local paper only reported that he "died unexpectedly. The editors felt that dragging out the young man's death across the pages of a town newspaper would put a local family through additional agony.

There are other reasons for glossing over crime stories. Some editors feel that such news is "beneath their dignity". Specialty newspapers and broadcast media can argue that crime is "not on their beat".

There is a middle approach. Some crime stories are brutal and sensational, yet an abberation from human nature. When I read a crime story, I ask myself whether I am indulging a morbid curiosity or whether I am either taking the pulse of society or learning to protect myself and my family.

A crime story in which details of a scam or an attack are divulged enables readers to be watchful and not fall prey to criminals. People need to be reminded periodically not to open their doors to strangers, not to give their social security numbers to people on the phone and other common sense precautions. A crime story can drive such a lesson home to readers.

A recent story about second graders in Oakland California who were acting out sexually in class with a teacher present raised a multitude of questions about whether children are being exposed to too much sex too soon. It might well lead to practical discussions in many homes about monitoring television and internet use.

There is a place for reporting crime stories. There is also a way to write such stories so they educate the public

Monday, January 10, 2011

“Our Place” In Danger of Closing Due To Lack of Funds [Video]

Back in 1998, a youth center for “at risk ” orthodox Jewish youth known as Our Place opened up in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Because of its grounding in Jewish tradition, it opened in two separate locations for boys and girls.

Unfortunately, there are all too many children from orthodox Jewish homes who are out on the streets, on drugs or out of school. Aside from the standards specific to the Jewish community of sabbath and kosher laws, these boys and girls served by Our Place are often engaged or at risk of engaging  in manifestly self destructive behaviors.

Our Place opened its doors with games, food and where accepted, counseling.  It is a safe, supervised environment. Those who find it within themselves to go into drug rehab, further their education or whatever else is appropriate to better their situation are given resources to assist them. There are people who are now in school, a job or happily married who were able to arrive at these joyous milestones in their lives because of help they received at Our Place.

The help that has been extended to  around 8000 kids at Our Place has been possible due to a mix of government funding and private donations. Government funding for Our Place has dried up completely. Private donations are way down, because of the troubled state of the US economy.

By any reckoning, Our Place performs a valuable function. By combating drug use and other social ills, it serves the needs of the larger society. Looked at from a Jewish perspective, it gives children who are close to or over the edge a solid psychological foundation upon which to build a Jewish life. Because it is culturally sensitive to orthodox Jewish life, even a young adult who is no longer observant can speak with someone who understands how he or he grew up.

Before he led the Jewish people out of Egypt, Moshe was a shepherd. A small sheep became separated from his flock, and Moshe went out and brought it back, instead of writing it off as inventory shrinkage. In the merit of rescuing that sheep, Moshe was seen by G-d as being worthy of leading the Jewish people, in Egypt and out of exile.

The people who run“Our Place” share with Moshe the conviction that not one Jewish soul is expendable. The comparson between Moshe and the stray sheep he rescued on G-d’s behalf is an obvious one. The children who have left Judaism are not ours to write off. They are G-d’s children and it is our duty to assist the able shepherds who seek these children out. If we are worthy of the heritage of Judaism’s greatest prophet, the doors of Our Place must remain open.

Click here for link to original article in Globe Tribune.Info with video and links

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Small Request For My Local Supermarket

A regular part of my weekly grocery order involves requesting a home delivery. The cashier asks me for my phone number and confirms my address when it appears on the computer screen. I Don't much care about my privacy,being a dumpy middle aged man. Unfortunately,a lot of other people get asked the same question, even in the check cashing store. I know of two instances where a female got a call from someone who eavesdropped as she was giving over personal information. Neither woman welcomed the attention.

There is a simple solution to this problem,one that the programmer for a business computer could ttake care of. Instead of indexing customer information by the entire phone number,why not index it with the last four digits of the phone number and the first three letters of the customer,s last name,or the customer,s initials?

A customer named John Michaels might tell the cashier that his customer number is JMI 1279. For extra measure, the cashier might read a password off the screen and ask if it belongs to him. That would protect the privacy of the customer from eavesdroppers. Amazingly enough, I have even heard customers in check cashing places asked for their phone number through the bullet proof glass at the cashier's window.

Another solution might be to have a local merchant's card with the address indexed on it for deliveries and other customer service purposes. Merchants could offer people with the card discounts to encourage them to shop locally.

In most instances, computer systems have enhanced shopping and customer service. There still is, however, room for improvement. I hope shopkeepers will take heed.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Inspirational Song of the Day: “Illuminated” By Hiam Naiditch

Inspirational music is a major seller in the English language. As a Christian country, most of the music that is based on faith and religious inspiration draws on the Christian biblical canon. In many homes, such music is seen as a way to enjoy the uplifting effects of music without some of the questionable influences that have affected some mainstream popular music.

Observant Jews are likewise hesitant about the unfiltered influence of popular music, and seek to enrich their lives with music that is supportive of rather than contradictory to the tenets of their faith. Jews have been in America since the 1600′s and since then have become a fully participating part of American society.

It is only logical that Jewish music should absorb some input from surrounding genres. Since the 1960′s in particular, there has been a flowering of music that draws its inspiration from Jewish tradition, from the Jewish biblical canon and from the oral law that has its roots in Jewish scripture. Some music is in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino or other Jewish languages, and other music is in a local language such as English.

Of the English language songs, there are some that are specific to a Jewish religious framework, that deal with specifically Jewish practices, or address life with an infusion of Hebrew and Yiddish that make such songs less accessible to listeners who are not familiar with Jewish tradition. Other songs are entirely in English and deal with issues of faith and a relationship with G-d in a manner that is more universal. Many orthodox Jewish musicians make both specifically Jewish and general interest music. Matisyahu is the most famous example of a singer who performs both types of music. There are many more musicians in the Jewish community whose music is of a quality that makes them worthy of consideration by a general audience. One of many such musicians is Hiam Naiditch, a young man who belongs to the Lubavitcher chassidim and maintains an appreciation of popular musical styles. He generally performs with an acoustic guitar, rather than with a full band. He composes both his own lyrics as well as the music. I am pleased to present his latest song “Illuminated”. The lyrics to the song are below.
Skies are grey,
shadow things don’t cry
Thoughtless things, they sway,
immune to all the lies,
[My] Soul’s not still as I’m trying
The earth You make where i’m lying,
All these things I’ve been trying
For You
And when I stand tall,
You’re walking,
You’re walking beside me
What I wish for,
I hope for,
I pray for you to see
A light has found a way,
Illuminating glow,
A light has found a way
To my heart, yeah
And when I stand tall…