B is for The Disputation of Barcelona

“The Jews were forced to listen to the sermons preached by the Dominican friars. “

DisputationHere’s something I’ve only known about for a few weeks.

“The Disputation of Barcelona (July 20–24, 1263) was a formal ordered medieval debate between representatives of Christianity and Judaism regarding whether or not Jesus was the Messiah.” Apparently, these disputations, over matters of faith, and other important topics, took place from time to time.

“Martin Luther opened the Protestant Reformation by demanding a disputation upon his 95 theses, 31 October 1517. Although presented as a call to an ordinary scholastic dispute, the oral debate never occurred.”

The Barcelona disputation “was held at the royal palace of King James I of Aragon in the presence of the King, his court, and many prominent ecclesiastical dignitaries and knights, between Dominican Friar Pablo Christiani, a convert from Judaism to Christianity, and Rabbi Nahmanides (Ramban), a leading medieval Jewish scholar, philosopher, physician, kabbalist, and biblical commentator.

“During the Middle Ages, there were numerous ordered disputations between Christians and Jews. They were not free and authentic debates (like modern ones), but were mere attempts by Christians to force conversion on the Jews. They were connected with burnings of the Talmud at the stake and violence against Jews. The Disputation of Barcelona was unique, in that it was the only occasion on which the Jewish representative was allowed to speak freely.”

So it sounded like a respite from the general persecution of the Jews on religious grounds, and the rigging of the system. However, the aftermath, according to the Jewish Virtual Library:

The [Barcelona] disputation… prompted the Dominican Raymond Martini to devise a better method of providing christological interpretations to the aggadah. In 1280 Martini concluded his book Pugio Fidei (Paris, 1651), and henceforward it was used indiscriminately by every Christian controversialist wishing to invalidate Judaism.

The king cooperated with missionary activities throughout the realm and the Jews were forced to listen to the sermons preached by the Dominican friars. An order was issued by the latter between August 26 and 29 directing the Jews to erase from their copies of the Talmud any passages vilifying Jesus and Mary. Failure to do so was punishable by a fine, and books which had not been censored as required would be burned…

This was, functionally, a less bloody event of the centuries-long Inquisition, “one of the great blights on the history of Christianity.”

And what, you may reasonably ask, piqued my interest in this arcane topic? It was the death of the actor Christopher Lee at the age of 93 in early June 2015. A Facebook friend posted a reference to The Disputation, a 1986 TV movie starring Lee as King James of Aragon.

Better still, you can watch the hour-long drama here or here.
abc 17 (1)
ABC Wednesday – Round 17

August Rambling: Punctuation, Crowdfunding

As someone who has funded a dozen Kickstarter projects, I recognize the insight.

Listen to the KunstlerCast podcast #212: Health & Technology Update. James Howard Kunstler gives listeners an update on his recent health issues, and discusses the importance of advocating for oneself when dealing with medical professionals, rather than taking their word for it.

Keyboard Waffles. (But if they were REAL nerds, they would have spelled nerd’s correctly!)

My favorite new blog: Grammarly, from which the accompanying graphic was purloined. I’m also fond of this description about an English professor who wanted students to punctuate this sentence: A woman without her man is nothing.
The men wrote: A woman, without her man, is nothing.
The women wrote: A woman: without her, man is nothing.

26 Indispensable Writing Tips From Famous Authors.

That’s Progressive, Charlie Brown: On Schulz, LGBT Issues and Integrity.

Arthur links to The Lion and the Mouse II: This Time, It’s Personal,, an interesting essay about “Christian bashing” and LGBT acceptance.

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: George Takei.

Paul Rapp, in writing about Pussy Riot and Julian Assange, notes: “Newspapers used to be the vanguard, the line of defense against any incursions to the freedom of speech. Or at least they pretended to be. They printed stuff they weren’t supposed to, they challenged authority and corporate power, they called out politicians who lied. Newspapers had our back. No more.”

SO BUTTONS: SO MIGHTY a true story by Jonathan Baylis, with art by Fred Hembeck, about Jack Kirby, John Romita, and Thor.

Muppet Thor.

Kevin Marshall believes That botched painting of Jesus Christ is art in its purest form. And maybe it is; it’s generated its own Tumblr page, Beast-Jesus Restoration Society.

Fractured fairy tales.

Saturday morning nostalgia of the 1970s

Someone I know sent me this edition of the comic strip One Big Happy Family. Actually, I have a MUCH better percentage.

Here’s an article about crowdfunding. Even though the topic is Role Playing Games, and I’m not a participant in that world, I thought the discussion about why people do or do not choose to fund a project is right on. As someone who has funded a dozen Kickstarter projects, I recognize the insight.

Saying ‘please’ in restaurants – US v UK, with a link to Lynneguist’s TEDx talk .

A Date With a Countess.

Mary Ann Cotton, Britain’s first recognised serial killer.

I woke up on August 20 to discover that actor William Windom, singer Scott McKenzie and director Tony Scott had all died; my wife had no idea who any of them were, the problem of having a child bride. Here’s Mark Evanier on Windom, though he doesn’t mention either The Farmer’s Daughter or Murder, She Wrote; and Dustbury on McKenzie, who performed one of the most famous songs about San Francisco. The Wife actually has seen some Tony Scott pics, including Unstoppable with Denzel Washington; my favorite of his films is Crimson Tide, also with Denzel. At least she knew who Phyllis Diller was. Thom Wade on Scott and Diller. Also, SamuraiFrog on Muppeteer Jerry Nelson, and more on Joe Kubert by Steve Bissette.

Dinosaur poems, including one by Carl Sandburg.

Status of the Shark Infographic.

Binghamton addresses urban farming, a story featuring friends of mine.

The Doors Sing “Reading Rainbow” Theme (Jimmy Fallon as Jim Morrison).

Take that, Nazi scum! How Moses became ‘Superman’ and other exciting tales from the annals of comic books, a Jewish-American art form.


“Smalbany” is not a pejorative term to me – which was printed in the paper in toto
Nicknames for Albany: “Allah Born” and “The 518″
Let me see your reading list – sorry, not available
Chuck Schumer should can the Yenta/Michael Scott schtick

J is for Jubilee

People of Christian faith often ask God to “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

“Proclaim liberty throughout the lands and to all the inhabitants thereof, it shall be a jubilee for you.” – Leviticus 25:10. In the Judaic tradition, during the Jubilee year, debts were forgiven and land that had been sold to repay debts was returned to the original owners. “What was sold shall remain with the purchaser until the year of jubilee; in the jubilee, it shall be released, and the property shall be returned.” – Leviticus 25:28. In both Judeo-Christian and non-Biblical traditions, there has been an understanding that forgiveness of debt, when that debt becomes so onerous that one cannot ever get from under it, is both fair and practical.

Julius Nyerere, former President of Tanzania, asks, “Must we starve our children to pay our debts?” As Jubilee USA Network notes: “In the world’s most impoverished nations, the majority of the populations do not have access to clean water, adequate housing, or basic health care. These countries are paying debt service to wealthy nations and institutions at the expense of providing these basic services to their citizens. The United Nations Development Program estimated in 2003 that 30,000 children die each day due to preventable diseases. Debt service payments take resources that impoverished countries could use to cure preventable diseases. Debt cancellation frees up resources to reverse this devastating reality.” And, in many cases, the debt has already been paid, or would have, had the interest rates been reasonable.

The primary argument against debt jubilee is the notion of moral hazard; i.e., “situation where the behavior of one party may change to the detriment of another after the transaction has taken place.” People who enter into contracts should fulfill contracts, lest others be tempted to renege as well. Too often though, the original loan was consummated without the borrower having all the information. Or that the borrower is a nation that generated debt under a previous regime. This writer submits that when debt is essentially fraudulent, then debt forgiveness is both the logical and the only remedy.

People of the Christian faith often ask God to “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” To me, that suggests that the way to show God’s love involves showing much more compassion than many financial institutions have shown to their customers. The United Church of Christ, for one, “has joined with other faith communities and organizations to call on governments to cancel the debts of poor countries and restore just economic relations between nations.”

Many US householders understand this concept on a micro-level. They buy a house, lose their job, and, instead of the banks agreeing to negotiate interest rates with the borrowers, the lenders choose to foreclose. And this mass seizure of homes has forced cities such as Cleveland, Ohio to raze some of its housing stock, since banks, by their nature, are ill-equipped to actually protect and take care of the buildings in their ownership. How much more reasonable and mutually beneficial it would have been if money lenders had been able to agree on a lower interest rate with homeowners,as some of the largest banks have finally been forced to do.

The business magazine Forbes asked last year if a debt jubilee might help kick start the American economy. As any good accountant will tell you, debt or credit which cannot be paid back is never an asset; it is always a liability.

ABC Wednesday – Round 10

J for Jewish History Museum


I saw a segment on CBS Sunday Morning earlier this year about the National Museum of American Jewish History, which opened in November 2010. I was unfamiliar with the facility, but I assumed it was somewhere in New York; I assumed incorrectly.

It is in fact located in Philadelphia, not far from Independence Hall. This was deliberate, a reflection of, initially, a “tiny minority [who] sought, defended, and tested freedom—in political affairs, in relations with Christian neighbors, and in their own understanding of what it meant to be Jewish.” Then “the migration of millions of immigrants who came to the United States beginning in the late 19th century and who profoundly reshaped the American Jewish community and the nation as a whole.”
“On the Museum’s first floor, the Only in America® Gallery/Hall of Fame illustrates the choices, challenges, and opportunities eighteen Jewish Americans encountered on their path to remarkable achievement.”

The first eighteen individuals to be featured in the Only in America® Gallery/Hall of Fame are:
Irving Berlin
Leonard Bernstein
Louis Brandeis
Albert Einstein
Mordecai Kaplan
Sandy Koufax
Esteé Lauder
Emma Lazarus
Isaac Leeser
Golda Meir
Jonas Salk
Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Rose Schneiderman
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Steven Spielberg
Barbra Streisand
Henrietta Szold
Isaac Mayer Wise

How many of the 18 can you identify? I knew 12.

And for no particular reason, here are:
America from West Side Story
There’s No Business Like Show Business, sung by Ethel Merman
A pivotal scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor

ABC Wednesday – Round 9


The quintessential Purim treat is hamantaschen.

I’ve long had a certain affection for the Jewish holiday of Purim. Partly, it’s because it always seems to fall somewhere around my birthday, or at least during Pisces. This year, it’s today (or last night), which, like Easter, et al., is particularly late in the season; next year, it’ll be March 8 (or the night before). You can find out when it falls each year here.

But it’s also because it’s based on a story from the Old Testament book of Esther, one of only two books in the Bible named for a woman, the other being Ruth. I always liked the story of palace intrigue involving Esther, though secretly Jewish, getting to marry king Ahasuerus. Meanwhile, the king’s prime minister, Haman, gets ticked off with Esther’s cousin Mordechai and plans to get all the Jews killed. Through some clever strategy, which you can read about Purim here, it is Haman who ends up being executed. The Jews’ deliverance led to the celebration of Purim.

In a church miniplay about 20 years ago, I got to be the evil Haman. Always more fun playing the bad guy.

As part of my wife’s birthday present to me, she let me have a card party, specifically HEARTS party, at our house yesterday. My friends Jeff and Sandy said they would come, but they would have to leave early because of Purim, a fact that I mentioned to my friend Mary. So one of my friends, who is a gentile who likes to bake, considered making and bringing hamantaschen. What?

The quintessential Purim treat is hamantaschen. This Yiddish word means “Haman’s pockets”; the name of these triangular-filled cookies in Hebrew — oznei Haman — means “Haman’s ears.” They are served as a reminder of the triumph over Haman, whose name is also symbolically drowned out by the children using noisemakers during the synagogue recitation of the Purim story.

Hamantaschen with poppyseed filling

Total time: 6 1/2 hours; much of it is chilling time

Servings: This makes about 3 dozen hamantaschen

Creamy poppyseed filling with raisins

3/4 cup poppyseeds (3½ ounces)

1/2 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons mild honey

2 to 3 tablespoons sugar, divided

1/4 cup raisins

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (from about 1 orange)

1. Using a spice grinder, grind the poppy seeds into a fine meal but not to a paste. This will need to be done in batches.

2. In a small saucepan, combine the poppy seeds, milk, honey, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Stir over low heat and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat, stirring often until the mixture is about as thick as peanut butter, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the raisins and butter, and stir over low heat just until the butter is blended in. Remove from heat and stir in the orange zest. Taste, and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar if you like.

4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set it aside to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate it until cold before using, at least 1 hour. This makes about 1 cup filling, enough for about 3 dozen hamantaschen.

Hamantaschen and assembly

3/4 cups flour (12.4 ounces)

1 cup powdered sugar (3.5 ounces)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter or stick margarine, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 egg, beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (from about 1 large orange)

1 to 3 tablespoons orange juice

Creamy poppyseed filling with raisins

1. Combine the flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process briefly to blend. Scatter the butter pieces over the mixture. Pulse the mixture just until it resembles a coarse meal. Add the orange zest. Pour the beaten egg evenly over the mixture in the processor. Pulse again, scraping the sides down occasionally, just until the ingredients are blended.

2. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon orange juice and pulse briefly until the dough begins to stick together but does not quite form a ball. If the dough is too dry to stick together, add another tablespoon of juice and pulse several times to blend. If necessary, add the last tablespoon of juice 1 teaspoon at a time, pulsing after each addition.

3. Transfer the dough to a work surface and divide it into 4 portions. With the heel of your hand, knead each portion lightly to blend. Using a rubber spatula, transfer each portion of the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap, form it into a fairly smooth flat disk and wrap tightly. Refrigerate it for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.

4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. If it is very firm, let it soften for a few minutes at room temperature. Meanwhile, butter a baking sheet, or line it with foil and butter the foil.

5. Unwrap 1 quarter of the dough at a time. Push to form it into a rough circle. Tap it firmly a few times with a rolling pin to soften it and to begin flattening it. Roll it on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, turning it often and flouring lightly as necessary, until it is about one-eighth-inch thick.

6. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter or a glass, cut the dough in rounds. Brush water lightly along the rim of each one. Put 1 teaspoon filling in the center of each. (Do not add the extra filling, or it may come out during baking.) Pull up the edges of the round in 3 arcs that almost meet in the center above the filling, to form a triangular pastry with the filling showing slightly. Pinch the edges to seal them firmly.

7. Put the pastries on the greased baking sheet and refrigerate them. Push the trimmings gently together; wrap and refrigerate them.

8. Roll the remaining dough into 3 more portions and shape more hamantaschen. After refrigerating the trimmings for at least 30 minutes, you can roll and shape them also. Refrigerate the shaped pastries for 30 minutes or up to overnight to firm the dough.

9. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees.

10. Bake the hamantaschen until they are lightly golden at the edges, about 10 to 14 minutes.

11. Cool them on a rack, then store them in an airtight container.

Each of 3 dozen cookies: 128 calories; 2 grams protein; 14 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 7 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 21 mg cholesterol; 6 grams sugar; 27 mg sodium.

As it turned out, my friend opted for another treat that was likewise DELICIOUS.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial