Monday, December 19, 2011

Just trying to help....

So I took the day off, Noah had school and Dianne, well she just had energy.  So I was up early and then we got Noah to his Mom's house to take him downtown to school.  After a leisurely breakfast we had planned to go shopping when my cell phone rang. An electronic voice told me my Bank of America debit card had been reported missing and I had to push 1 to talk to security about reactivation.  Since I bank at the National Bank of Indianapolis and don't have a debit card I assumed it was a scam.  So I called Bank of America.  Of course I got a computer and after pushing several buttons and trying to avoid having to give them the account number I don't have with them I finally got someone.  After explaining the situation she seemed to question why I would call, so I explained that someone is using BofA's name to apparently fraud people she tried to transfer me to another division, she couldn't, then tried something else, only to have the phone cut me off.  Being the nice guy I am I tried again, called the fraud line, went through the phone menu, got ahold of someone who listened, looked up the number to make sure it wasn't a BofA number and then seemed to be clueless.  So I asked who would be contacting authorties to investigate.  He said he would pass it on to the right department.  What struck me was just how hard it was to report this.  This was not the first time I have had to investigate a phone call from someone who seemed to suggest that there was a problem with an account of mine.  But what really is amazing is how difficult it is to report such things.  I have called or emailed the Attorney General's office over calls received as we are on the no call list.  The form is mindnumbingly long and the only action they seem to take is to send a letter to you.  It doesn't stop the calls (but a low whistle into the phone does).  Law enforcement and the financial institutions want us to do our part about fraud and identity theft and many other crimes in which technology is used to glean information from others.  However it seems that when you want to help stop such things you are met with difficulties and red tape.  Why is it that they just don't make it easy to report such things.  If follow up is needed they could certainly call me.  But if someone were calling people, telling them he was me and trying to steal from them I know I would be interested in finding out who it was and if someone were to tell me I wouldn't play 20 questions to get the information.  Maybe BofA is just too big to be bothered with people getting robbed in their name.  Either way I may have to call the number that called me sometime from a public phone and see what I can find out.  You should too, the number is 701-509-8703.  Enjoy and stay legal. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Look deeper, it may give you more insight

This is another Torah minute I write for my families in the Religious School...please to enjoy:

Earlier this week, a viral email reminded me of a story from last summer that had a minute of fame and a lot of egg-covered faces around the world.  The original story was that a group of rabbis in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem had condemned a dog to death, thinking he held the soul of a former secular critic of the rabbis from twenty years earlier.   Reported in both the British and some Israeli press, the story was quickly found to be wholly untrue and in fact a very particular lie--a slam on the Orthodox who populate the neighborhood that is often called “ultra-orthodox” because of its adherence to strict and sometimes difficult to understand Chassidic practices.  The fact that this story, debunked over and over again, still has legs makes me question why.  Was it anti-Semitism?  Was it anti-Orthodox?  Was it simply a hoax played for fun?  Or was it, in a culture of instant communication and a telephone game-like media where reporters are “sources” for each other, that any story can find the light of day and be seen as true.  Let me be clear, no Bet Din, Jewish court, condemned a dog, but my guess is if you search certain anti-Jewish websites you will find references to it.  It doesn’t take much for a story to be set in the closed minds of people.   It is easier to believe a stereotype of a particular type of person than to question a story.
We can see that in this week’s Torah portion.  Part of the story is the triumphant return of Jacob to Canaan and the meeting with his brother Esau after a long absense.  When last we left Esau, he had threatened to kill Jacob over Jacob’s manipulation in taking Esau’s birthright and his trickery in getting his father’s blessing.  For more than twenty years the brothers have been apart, and Jacob is nervous.  Esau is coming with armed men.  Will there be war?  What happens is remarkable: Esau accepts Jacob’s apology.  They hug and kiss, and, by the end of the portion, they are together, like their father and uncle before them, to bury their own father Isaac.  But ask many people about Esau and he is seen as a enemy of the Jewish people, in part because his decedents become the classic enemies of the Israelites.   So Esau, who showed forgiveness and grew beyond his anger, is marked for all time as an evil foil to a good Jacob.  But Jacob had a lot for which to be forgiven.  Jacob had been not such a nice guy.  Arrogant and a bit full of himself, Jacob wanted the keys to the kingdom and is humbled, first by being tricked by his father-in-law, Laben, and later when his is crippled in a wrestling match with one of the Torah's most enigmatic characters.  I recently read a book on this very story in which the author wanted to have the good and evil be cut and dried with no shades of gray.  For this author, Esau was a stand-in for all that was evil.  In order to get around the seeming humble gesture in this Torah portion, the author said Esau poisoned his children with stories of hate of Jacob and that is why they didn’t believe the reconciliation was real and carried the hatred of all things Jacob (thus the Jewish people) throughout history.  Easy to believe, especially when we paint certain people to fit our understanding. 
The Torah is not that simple.  It is a book that requires a deeper look.  Rashi said there is nothing in there by mistake.  We as Jews need to figure out why something is in there.  Take some time with the stories.  I promise you will be surprised, and I can promise no dogs are going to be stoned. 
Have a wonderful Hanukah and happy and healthy New Year.

Why Hate Crimes Laws Are the Right Thing To Do

Indiana is one of a handful of states without a hate crimes (or bias crimes) law.  For many legislative cycles a bill was killed by the Re...