On the disinvitation of Ayan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis

I wrote this comment in response to a posting by Don Ellis on his blog, about the dis-invitation of Ayan Hirsi Ali to speak at Brandeis’ graduation, and present it here with nearly no editing.

I have assigned her book in an introductory Islam course, and then did not in large part because of reasoning similar to something Klein HaLevi said in an opinion piece written together with Abdullah Antepli that has been widely circulated, supporting the disinvitation , Although not the comment that is so widely quoted: Her approach to Islam is her own and not broadly representative of mainstream approaches to Islam by people born into Islam. Of course, that is why her opinions matter! 

What’s more, although there are a lot of Muslim-Jewish interactions, the collaboration of Klein Halevi and Antepli can be seen by some as not so very indicative of the broad mainstream either, and certainly reflect the realities in some segments of Israel and the USA, but rejected in many other areas.

My own reactions to the dis-invitation issue were shaped in part by dis-invitations and a presidential caving to various interests on my university campus. Klein Halevi and Antepli were right about the dis-invitation being a learning experience: I am not sure this is anything at all what he met, but the learning experience should be that Brandeis has the resources to properly vet any speaker they plan for commencement. Once having made a decision to invite her, the Brandeis administration should have been able to stand by this choice. The learning experience: don’t invite someone you will have to dis-invite, and stick by your choice or look foolish.

I am also wary of CAIR, Council for American Islamic Relations, which protested vociferously–but after all, that is what they do: protest any speaker seen as negative to Islam. With all due respect, this is something like some Jewish responses to anyone perceived as being even slightly anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. The situation at Brandeis suggests that they are much more powerful than the “Zionist lobby” that they might object to, which could not get speakers dis-invited.

HIrsi Ali is an important voice, and many of her controversial opinions about Islam are voiced by Muslims as well–many Muslims emphasize readiness for death over life, or the subservience of women or of women’s honor, and other things to which she objects–and do so saying that these are Islamic teachings.

The saddest thing about this is that there are strong Muslim voices who criticize the same things Hirsi Ali has criticized, and argue strongly for Human Rights in terms recognizable to the international community–but they are often also marginalized as well. Hirsi Ali has been more effective in her work.

I think the dis-invitation has created a great deal of interesting discussion.

But Brandeis should have vetted the speaker well enough to be able to stand up to and argue effectively against any campaign by CAIR, or not invited her in the first place. The dis-invitation has robbed Brandeis graduates of an historic opportunity to interact with a unique and important writer, thinker and activist.


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Passover Links and Youtubes

This is a copy of http://www.uwyo.edu/sward/passoveryoutubes.htm – a page I posted at UW several years ago. Most of the links still work.


Happy Passover

חג כשר ושמח

From Seth Ward




From my teaching: A note about Moses

Moses in the Passover story.

Based on the prominence of Moses in the movie retelling of the Exodus, it is perhaps surprising that the ritual and liturgical retelling of the Exodus gives him almost no role at all. Moses is mentioned only once in the traditional Haggadah, the order of prayers, psalms, and ritual foods for Passover eve, in the context of recalling the “Song of the Sea.”

This is not particularly surprising, as Moses does not play a large role in the daily, Sabbath or festival liturgy. On a daily basis, the prayer book recalls that Moses and the children of Israelrecited the Song of the Sea. On the Sabbath, the evening Amida service recalls Creation, with no reference to Moses, but the morning Amida service recalls revelation, with Moses depicted as rejoicing that he was called a “faithful servant” and through his agency, the Two Tablets of the Decalogue were given, with their command concerning the Sabbath. (Interestingly, this passage introduces a selection from Exodus 31 about observing the Sabbath, not the passage on the Sabbath from the Ten Commandments). All in all, the ritual and liturgy emphasize divine revelation and redemption, not Moses’ role.

Contrast this, of course, with the depiction of Moses in all the movies and bible stories. Paul Flesher suggests one possible reason why: http://filmandreligion.blogspot.com/2007/08/ten-commandments-christian-tale.html. Moses’ role is the archetypical figure for Protestant America, basing law on revelation—but revelation of the heart—and foreshadowing both the Christian savior and the American enterprise of freedom. (Flesher’s point is not less valid even though some of the motifs he points to are mirrored in Midrashic texts glorying in the miraculous birth and career of Moses; these may themselves be responding to Christian themes, or themselves be the models on which those themes are based.)

One could say, too, that Moses’ role in the Biblical books of Exodus through Deuteronomy is greater than that in the Jewish ritual. Nevertheless, these books are not simply narrative or celebration of Moses’ role in the escape from slavery, and leading the way to the Promised Land. All have very lengthy descriptions of building the Tabernacle, ritual worship, social legislation, and religious exhortations that usually do not play a role in the American retelling of the story. A typical explanation of why Moses is downplayed in the Haggadah is to emphasize the divine role in the Exodus. Passover is not about human leadership but about divine intervention—and about the redefinition of a tribe knit together primarily by memories of common ancestors,  into a coherent people. Freedom from slavery is only the starting point. While, to paraphrase the haggadah, it “would have been enough for us” simply to leave Egypt, that was not enough for the divine purpose: the journey necessarily led to definition of social and religious values, a way of worship and a way of life, and a way forward to the fulfillment of the national promise and purpose.  Hag kasher vesameah.




Passover Links and Texts.



Among the more compelling arguments: http://www.projectingfreedom.org/5-magid You may find the Projecting Freedom website quite useful in exploring the holiday.


MISHNA Chapter 10 of tractate Pesachim http://www.bmv.org.il/shiurim/pesachim/pes10.html – this chapter is the basic guide to the Seder.

My discussion of the Seder Plate http://uwyo.edu/sward/SederPlate.doc

Text of my brochure on Passover http://uwyo.edu/sward/An%20Order%20for%20the%20Passover%20Eve%20Service.doc


Full text of the Haggadah—with transliteration! http://siddur.arielbenjamin.com/texts - look at the bottom of this page for a link to the Haggadah! (other links are to the full text of the Siddur).

Passover Tunes (with sheet music)—free access http://siddur.arielbenjamin.com/tunes


A historic Performance of Israel in Egpyt by G.F. Händel. The recording was made by the Jerusalem Symphony with a choir from Edinburgh. The setting: the Red Sea (Gulf of Eilat) overlooking Jazirat Far’un “Pharoah’s Island” – or Coral Island, as it was called by the Israelis. It is about ten minutes’ drive south of the current border. The castle on the Island was built by Saladin. The full oratorio includes a setting of the complete Song of the Sea (Ex. 15).



For fun.


Who was responsible for the Exodus?


The fundamental question in Exodus narrative, and in the Passover Seder, is “Who precisely was responsible for letting the Israelites out of Egypt?”  The Haggadah’s answer is unambiguous, restated in different ways over and over. The video poses this question, but does not really reply to it.

Deliver Us—song by Ofra Haza in Prince of Egypthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GbI2Tlt55w  Ofra Haza recorded this in multiple languages, so that every release would have it in the language, sung by her, not dubbed.


We may not know much about Moses, but we know how he would have done the Exodus if he had had facebook! http://www.aish.co.il/v/ch/118904474.html

The same in English: http://www.aish.com/h/pes/mm/Passover_Google_Exodus.html


All you really need to know about the importance, taste, and ramifications of eating Matzah: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Olg1efSlvLg

http://www.projectingfreedom.org/7-motzi  Projecting Freedom project. This is a Matza Music Video for “Motzi Matzah.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMSEFCQCKPo&feature=related  Michele Citrin (“Rosh Hashana Girl”)

The Passover Seder:

The Singing Seder Plate: scroll down on the radio on the right side of Menorah’s little seder:

http://faujsa.fau.edu/children/children_music.php?jsa_num=400942&queryWhere=jsa_num&queryValue=400942&select=children&return=children_albums .

The recording is from the 60s I think. Stanley Sperber (founder of Zamir Chorale) is conducting the Camp Massad choir, precursor to the Zamir. The original is usually called the “Orchestra Song” and apparently is by Willy Geisler. Here is a version from Hollywood: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwqmFBttKW8&feature=related (For Hebrew readers interested in this song:http://www.zemereshet.co.il/song.asp?id=1566)

60 Second Seder http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_htcl7LCuK0 (Hebrew)

Arab Labor: hit Israeli TV show. This is most of the Passover episode, and has a sendup of almost every group within Israeli society: Haredim, Israeli Arabs, Secular Jews, Reform Judaism, “traditional” Jews (in this context, neither religious nor secular); the Reform Jewish woman is depicted in very “Beautiful-People-Leftist” terms as being something like a “flower child” in her approach. http://www.linktv.org/programs/arablabor_meals

When do we eat? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFbEMTUROGc&feature=PlayList&p=863562F1FDD75DD5&index=23

Songs in English (parody texts):

There are quite a few of these. Here is one: http://www.jr.co.il/humor/pass01.txt  Sample: “haggada wash that man right out of my hair” and “afikomen round the mountain”

A large number of these and quite a few jokes: http://www.harryc.com/j-jokes01-passover.htm (and a program that appears to download a “sense of humor” to your computer!)

Songs from the end of the Seder:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYAI0Fqi_Z4&feature=related Who knows one—The “Glick/Tasky girls”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6zMGUDCwp0&NR=1 same—Sydney and Andrew.

Moishe Oysher’s most famous Passover performance piece http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAY_j2u3csE&feature=PlayList&p=863562F1FDD75DD5&index=17

Chad Gadya—a Jewish/Arab choir from Jaffa, singing Chad Gadya in Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic, with an extra verse by Chava Alberstein: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoAw_J3CnUQ

Other materials:

Fountainheads http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=iv&src_vid=E_RmVJLfRoM&annotation_id=annotation_574298&v=mIyKw_GiAA8


Write me with your suggestions! sward@uwyo.edu


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Famous Seth Wards of the World

I was sent a note about this book, with the following description

Pirate Treasure (The Kansas Pirates Saga, book one)

By Kotar Gessler
Series: Kansas Pirates Saga, Book 1. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 102,380. Language: English. Published: January 29, 2014 by Tirgearr Publishing. Category: Fiction » Romance » HistoricalThe townspeople of Lawrence, Kansas, want nothing to do with widower Seth Ward or his two children. Barbara Nelander answers a help-wanted ad and finds herself living in the shadow of a dead woman and the haunting of her son. Nelander transforms the Ward home into a figurative pirate ship and uses her wiles to bring peace to the family. The harsh Kansas summer threatens all they fight to preserve.

I’ll recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand me better!

And maybe my wife will ask me to see if we can get a cut of the royalties.

I am, nevertheless prouder of Seth Ward, Bishop of Salisbury (d. 1689), who was among other things a Hebraist along the lines of people like Selden and Milton and others of his time.

There was also the Methodist Bishop (d. 1909) from Texas, after whom a college in the Texas panhandle was named; the college folded but the area near Plainvew, Texas is still known as Seth Ward, TX 79072. Apparently some people considered Jimmy Dean’s original name or one of the names he used to be Seth Ward, after the town. In my office, I have a photo of the Seth Ward Baptist Church.

Occasionally I am asked about Seth Edmund Ward (1820-1903), who, among other things may have been, together with a business partner, the first rancher in Wyoming. He was from Indiana and active in the Fort Laramie area, although he later moved to Kansas City. A shout-out to Margaret Grant, of the Glenrock, WY branch of the Converse County Library, who wrote me to tell me that in the Annals of Wyoming, Vol. 5, 1927-29, the first article, from July, 1927, is entitled, “Seth Ward.”

The most famous other Seth Ward was involved in the Whitewater scandal.

Then there was the Seth Ward who was an undergraduate at Yale when I was a grad student, whose credit problems occasionally made problems for me, and whose future mother in law called my number instead of his and was surprised when Carol identified herself as my wife.

Facebook reports over 100 hits for “Seth Ward.”

Not sure about other fictional Seth Wards though–the Pirate Treasure book has the first fictional Seth Ward of whom I am aware.

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On the “new” wording of Ha-Tikvah

I have always wondered how the current wording of Hatikvah came about. The wording of Ha-Tikvah as it is sung today (and as officially adopted as the National Anthem of the State of Israel) concludes with “Ha-Tikvah bat shnot alpayim…,” whereas the “original” wording was “Ha-Tikvah ha-noshana….” The “old wording” was sung for many decades, especially outside of Palestine.

It’s common enough to assume that the wording was changed when Israel became a State and adopted Ha-Tikvah as the National Anthem. But in fact the “new” wording is much older, and the official adoption did not occur until 2004.

Naftali Hertz Imber (1856-1909) wrote the original poem in the 1870s, which he called “Tikvatenu.” Imber later traveled throughout Palestine 1882-1887, and made some changes to the poem during this time.

Imber’s visit to Rishon Le-Tzion was particularly important. The poem made a great impression there, and Shmuel Cohen (1870-1940) set the poem to music, more or less in the form we know it today.

The text apparently also received some edits in Rishon Le-Tzion. According to the Wikipedia article in Hebrew about Hatikvah, David Judelovitch (1863-1943) recalled in his memoires that he edited the poem, together with Yisrael Belkin and Mordechai Lubman Haviv, when Imber was in Rishon LeTziyon, and that Imber approved the edits. http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%94%D7%AA%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%95%D7%94 (viewed Feb 26 2014). The Hebrew Wikipedia text makes it appear that Judelovitch and his friends were in fact responsible for the “new” words. This reference to the “new” words is most likely an editing mistake. There is no reference to editing Ha-Tikvah in the Hebrew Wikipedia article on Yudelovitch. It does not appear to have any further details about the adoption of the “new” wording, and nowhere else did I find a reference to Yudelovitch and associates creating the words we use today. It seems most likely that the Wikipedia editing removed or corrupted a reference to the educator who produced the wording used today, and that the edits made by Yudelovich et al. were very minor, and may have concerned better fitting the original wording to the melody Shmuel Cohen used.

The English Wikipedia says “The text was later revised by the settlers of Rishon LeZion, subsequently undergoing a number of other changes” and seems to imply this was after 1897. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatikvah. (Yudelovitch’s memoire about the Hebrew school in Rishon Le-Tziyon was published in Yaari’s Zikhronot EretzYisrael 1:42, but I have not been able to check this to see if the story is found there.)

The more usual credit for the new words is to Yehudah Leib Mettman-Cohen (1869-1939), who later Hebraicized his family name to Matmon-Cohen. Mettman-Cohen was one of the founders of Ahuzat Bayit, which soon changed its name to Tel-Aviv, and was one of the pioneers of Hebrew-language education in Israel. He became Principal of an elementary school in Rishon le-Tziyon in 1904, but left and opened a school in Jaffa in 1905; this school formed the basis of the Gymnasium Hertzliyah that stood in the center of Tel Aviv. According to Eliyahu Cohen, in 1905 he changed the last three lines of the poem to the words we know today, with the exception of “bat” (in “ha-tikvah bat alpayim”) which was added to the choral arrangement done by Hanina Krachevsky in early British Mandate times. (Article is in Hebrew). http://library.osu.edu/projects/hebrew-lexicon/hbe/hbe00341.php . I have not been able to determine whether Mettman-Cohen made the changes while still in Rishon or as part of his activities in the new school in Jaffa.

None of the articles I looked at discussed the degree to which the “new” words were disseminated in the Zionist movement or in the Land of Israel, but the version sung in Gymnasum Hertzliyah in Tel Aviv would easily have engendered broad dissemination throughout Palestine.

The Wikipedia article on Matmon-Cohen states simply that “most of the words of the second stanza of Ha-Tikvah are ascribed” to him. http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%99%D7%94%D7%95%D7%93%D7%94_%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%99%D7%91_%D7%9E%D7%98%D7%9E%D7%95%D7%9F-%D7%9B%D7%94%D7%9F

Of course the hymn had already been sung with the “old” words in the Zionist Congress in 1897, and the “old” words continued to be sung widely for decades. But it seems that Mettman-Cohen should be credited with nine of the twenty eight words of what is now the official text, about 1/3 of the total.

Seth Ward

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On the Yahrtzeit of Louis Lewandowski

This note was originally written for the Colorado Hebrew Chorale Facebook page.


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The late Ofra Haza

This note was originally posted on Facebook, Feb 16. 


Monday night February 17th — Tuesday February 18 corresponds with 18 Adar I in the Hebrew calendar, the Yahrtzeit (anniversary of the death) of Ofra Haza. 

Ofra Haza was an Israeli and international singing sensation, actress and recording artist of Yemenite ancestry. She came from an impoverished area in Tel Aviv and started her career in the Army performance troupe and in… children’s television. She moved easily between traditional Yemeni songs in Arabic and Hebrew, Israeli standards, international, and popular music, and was voted the 32nd most important Israeli of all time. Her music, including songs in Arabic, was popular in the Middle East outside Israel, and she achieved international recognition, including “platinum” recordings. She died February 23 2000, age 42.

One of the pieces she is most closely associated with is a traditional wedding song “im nin’alu” by the Yemenite author Shalom Shabazi, To give you an idea of the basic song, here it is performed by Aharon Amram. http://www.chayas.com/imni.asf Here are the words: http://www.imninalu.net/YemeniteSongs.htm
In 1978, singers from Shekhunat Ha-Tikvah, a dirt-poor section of Tel Aviv performed this on television: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2xNTzlFSk0&feature=related .

This was one of the first appearances introducing Ofra Haza to Israeli TV audiences, where she became a regular on Israel educational TV. Soon, her recordings were reaching gold status in Israel.

Five years later, in 1983, she performed Chai (“Alive”) at the Eurovision Contest, narrowly missing the number 1 spot. The performance was in Munich, the place where in 1972, Israeli athletes were killed in a terrorist attack at the Olympics). I cannot find a video with subtitles in English so here is the translation: http://www.hebrewsongs.com/song-chai.htm. Here is a video of her performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sza9ZsP4u9U
This is a youtube of her singing the same song at an Air Force event:

Another five years later, in 1988, Ofra Haza was an international sensation, with her music video of Im Nin’alu, sung in Hebrew, Arabic and a little English, was at the top of the charts in Britain, Germany and elsewhere in Europe. http://www.metacafe.com/watch/304915/ofra_haza_im_nin_alu/

For many in the US, her most famous performance was: Deliver us, sung at the beginning of the animated film Prince of Egypt. Ofra Haza recorded it herself in 17 languages, although Yaldi ha-tov ve-ha-rakh (my good and tender son) was kept in Hebrew, at least in some versions.
Ofra Haza’s solo entrance is about minute 2:00.

Haza died of AIDS in February, 2000; possible from a tainted blood transfusion when she was hospitalized for complications of a miscarriage.

Here is a tribute site: http://www.haza.co.il/eng/ and there is a park devoted to her memory at the end of the street where she grew up. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ganhatikva050.jpg

May her memory be a blessing.

Seth Ward

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Introduction to Islam for the Equality State – Cheyenne WY

introduction to Islam.cheyenne

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