Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Special Yiddish Hour this Sunday

For those of you who celebrated the holidays, a sweet and healthy new year.

This Sunday, Oct. 4, I hope you can tune in to a special edition of the Yiddish Hour at 10am on KBOO 90.7fm (for those of you outside the Portland area, you can stream the program live online at I'll be featuring performances from "Happy Hour with Sholom Aleichem," stories by the incomparable SA read by actors from the Jewish Theatre Collaborative, directed by Sacha Reich. Sacha herself will be on the air for a special story about Sukkot, and will fill us in on the JTC's upcoming programs for Jewish Book Month in November and December.

This program is part of KBOO's fall membership drive. I know, I know, nobody wants to listen to a radio show during a membership drive, with its constant demand that you, the audience, step up and support the station. Believe me, as a 20+ year non-commercial radio listener and member, I get it. I'd be happy to never be subjected to another membership drive again, either as a listener or a host.


Without audience support during the membership drive, programs like the Yiddish Hour and radio stations like KBOO will cease to exist. That is not hyberbole, just an inconvenient truth (sorry, Al). These are desperate times for grass-roots-run organizations like KBOO, which gets more than 80% of its funding directly from listeners who become members. I know that many of you tune in regularly, whether or not I am hosting, to hear the music and interviews we present on the Yiddish Hour every week. I know that you value the unique programming we offer on the Yiddish Hour. A lot of you have gone out of your way to tell me how much you enjoy listening to the show, and that you have made us "destination radio" on Sunday mornings. That means a lot to me, and to my co-hosts. Without KBOO, a whole lot of unique programs will disappear, including the Yiddish Hour.

Here's the thing: what we offer on the Yiddish Hour can't be found anywhere else in NW Oregon. If that matters to you, please make a point of calling us during the drive on Sunday and becoming a member of KBOO. The specific amount is unimportant; it could be as little as $5 or as much as your personal financial situation allows. What matters is that you show your support for the show and the station. If you're in Portland, you can call us at (503) 232-8818; if you're outside of the Portland metro area, you can call us toll-free at 1-877-500-5266. We'd prefer you to call if you can, because the ringing phones really give a boost to those of us at the station, not to mention all the volunteers who are waiting to take your call, but you can also become a member online at If you join online, please mention the Yiddish Hour in the comments section.

For those of you who have issues with some of KBOO's other programs, I understand and share your concerns. My co-host, Ed Kraus, is working on a new show about Jewish news and current events to offer different perspectives about Jewish issues than what is presently available on KBOO. I encourage you to listen to his debut show, Shalom Portland, and let the Program Director, Chris Merrick, know that you'd like it to stay on the air. You can contact him at

In addition, I think it's important to remember that KBOO is a community radio station, which means it presents all kinds of programs with all kinds of viewpoints. I don't agree with or even like a fair amount of what I hear on KBOO, but I look at it this way: Bernice Johnson Reagon, co-founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, once said, with regard to building coalitions, "If you're comfortable with everyone in your coalition, then your coalition isn't big enough." The same is true of community. You don't have to agree with everything KBOO puts out on the air; I certainly don't. But I don't need to agree with or even like everyone in my community to support and value the uniqueness of that community.

Thanks for your help; hope you'll join me on Sunday.

Best news I've heard today

The Oregon Symphony has done something totally unexpected. I must say, after reading so many awful stories about symphonies in dire straits, this is welcome news, and not just 'cause I write for them.

Monday, September 21, 2009

White House Farmer's Market opens

Thanks to Michelle Obama for spearheading this effort. She rocks my food world. Check out the video:

Here's a great post, with pics, from Sam Fromartz' Chewswise.

I can't think of a better way to mark the new year, myself. Shana tovah.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Did you know...?

Whodathunk it? It's a start. For a good explanation of what this means, check out Sam Fromartz' post here.

Michael Pollan's latest

If you haven't already seen it, here's Michael Pollan's latest article in the NYTimes from Sept. 10, about the necessity to address the American diet when talking about reforming health care. As always, well written and worth reading.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tikkun Olam/Pikuach nefesh on Shabbat

Yeah, I know, as Jews we're supposed to rest from our weekday labors on Shabbat, even including the practice of tikkun olam, repairing the world. Jews who observe Shabbat more traditionally than I do tend to refrain from social action on Shabbat. However, there is a ruling in Talmudic law (isn't there always?) that allows us to sidestep Shabbat prohibitions against typical activist activities, called pikuach nefesh, saving a life (soul). Here's a more complete explanation of the concept.

So why am I violating Shabbat by posting on my blog today? I should explain that my personal level of observance allows me to use my computer on Shabbat, but I do try to create a separation between how I spend my time on Saturdays and what I do the rest of the week. It's my way of making Shabbat different and special, even if I don't adhere to the traditional prohibitions on work.

So what's such a big deal that I choose not to wait til tomorrow to write about it? Taking down Monsanto. You think I'm being funny? I'm as serious as a heart attack. IMO, Monsanto is currently one of the most dangerous companies operating on the planet, for innumerable reasons. Here are some:

• The folks at Monsanto gifted us with Agent Orange, aspartame (otherwise known as NutraSweet) PCBs and bovine growth hormone, among other products.

• Monsanto controls 90% of the soy, 65% of the corn, and 70% of the cotton market, and has a rapidly growing presence in the fruit and vegetable market. That's just in North America. Their influence in developing nations like India is even greater (check out this 2006 article in the New York Times about Indian farmer suicides for a direct link to the need for pikuach nefesh). India Together, an independent online news outlet based in India, reports that there have been 182,936 farmer suicides in that country since 1997. Other news outlets and blogs, including The Daily Mail and The Ethicurian, attribute these suicides directly to debt incurred when the farmers were urged by the Indian government to plant GM crops, like those engineered by Monsanto. (In the interests of balance, here's a different take on this issue in a study cited in The Guardian, which suggests the farmer suicides are a result of lack of financial support rather than GM crops specifically.)

Percy Schmeiser is a farmer from Saskatchewan, whose canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto's genetically engineered Round-Up Ready Canola by pollen blown by the wind from a nearby farm. Monsanto said it didn't matter how the contamination took place, and demanded Schmeiser pay their Technology Fee (the fee farmers must pay to grow Monsanto's genetically engineered products). Monsanto outlined their request for patent infringement seeking damages totaling $400,000. Click here to learn more about Schmeiser's case.

• In order to be productive, the entire line of Monsanto's seeds essentially require the use of Roundup herbicide, forcing all of their customers to purchase it. Roundup is owned by Monsanto.

• In the middle of a recession, while farmers' incomes are dropping, Monsanto recently announced a 42% price hike on its most popular genetically modified seeds. In many areas of the country, seed distributors carry only Monsanto's GM seeds.

Can you spell M-O-N-O-P-O-L-Y, boys and girls?

CREDO Action is calling for a federal investigation of Monsanto for violation of anti-trust and monopoly laws. They're circulating a petition to be sent to President Obama's antitrust chief Christine Varney. If you're interested, you can sign it here.

I'm the first to admit an online petition is a relatively spineless form of activism, but it's a start. Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


This is a bit far afield from my usual blog topics of late, but it's so absurd I just had to post about it. Except I'm not actually posting about it, I'm just posting the article 'cause I'm late and procrastinating again.

My favorite quote:  "The fact that people want to keep their kids from hearing the President of the United States encourage them to do well in school shows a true level of ignorance."

Seriously??! Am I really a citizen of this country? Hey Canada, can I move in? Pretty please? I'll be your best friend...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


This is what's happening in India to farmers there. This situation is ongoing and largely unknown to the food communities here in the U.S. Raj Patel's book, Stuffed and Starved, is a scathing critique of the global industrial food system and its catastrophic consequences for farmers and eaters around the world. If you care about food and justice, it's really worth reading.

I find it not at all ironic, but really sad, that this follows my previous post. It just highlights how broken our food system really is. For every feel-good story like the White House garden, there are so many others, like this one, that go largely untold. While I believe the United States is experiencing a food revolution, a radical rethinking and re-educating about what we eat, I also believe that the rest of the world will continue to suffer under the kinds of conditions detailed in Patel's book for a long time to come. So it goes...