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sean elder

Back to school days
Our media columnist offers a satirical look at campuses presidential candidates should skip if they want to avoid a Bob Jones University scandal of their own.

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By Sean Elder

March 3, 2000 | NEW YORK -- In the wake of George W. Bush's Bob Jones University controversy, I would like to offer the presidential candidates a list of other schools they might wish to avoid in their campaigns. All of the institutions listed below are in states where the electorate will vote Tuesday. Tune in, turn on, but stay away from these campuses.

California: Nowhere is life's box of chocolates chewier and nuttier than in my native state. While New York boasts myriad splinter groups of nearly every ethnic origin, at least their members are generally of this Earth. The Center for Greater Awareness, headquartered in Ojai, has an intergalactic reach. The school's Web site comprises a series of "global meditations," and finding the center in its physical manifestation may prove difficult.

Check out the video of the woman in white who presumably writes these meditations. Even on a T-1 connection, one look will tell you that this is an institute run by aliens, and I don't mean the illegal type, either. She addresses "the children of Earth" and encourages us to communicate via "the spirit within" with "those of us who have chosen to be on the path of Earth service."

The folks at the Center for Greater Awareness have seen "the blueprint for planet Earth," it seems, and are willing to share a few of the details -- to those willing to ask.

"Think about reaching out for assistance," says the woman in white in a rather disembodied voice. "We are ready, we are available." As wack as she sounds, there are no specifics, no space ships hiding behind comets. And these Earth-service beings are believers in free will, after a fashion. (You chose yours light-years ago, it seems, so stop your whining, Shrub.)

Though Vice President Al Gore was recently voted most likely to be from another planet, a dip into the center's meditations left me thinking that Bill Bradley might benefit most from its programming. In one missive entitled "Giving," Ms. Earth Service 2000 declares, "This is an excellent way of forming thoughts and determining directions and purpose, rather than haphazardly meandering through life."

New York: Hillary and Dubya learned the hard way that New York politics is street-tough, more like ringolevio -- in which real prisoners are captured as in war -- than a game of Hit-the-Penny. (The first lady, you may remember, famously air-kissed Mrs. Arafat after the latter accused Israel of gassing Palestinians, while Bush confused the racist Nation of Islam with Islam itself.) Other candidates might be lulled into thinking a visit to a respected yeshiva such as NYC's Jewish Theological Seminary would be safe. They would be meshuga.

Billing itself as "the academic and theological center of Conservative Judaism worldwide," the school features discussions and lectures on topics such as a woman's place in the brit milah (ritual circumcision). That lecture will take place Monday, the day before the election -- but any candidate caught passing through will suffer the eternal wrath of the vocal anti-circumcision movement. How would you like to go through the primaries with people howling about your foreskin?

Though courses in "Finding Spirituality in Prayer" should be less controversial (especially for "uniters" like Bush), "A Kabbalistic Perspective on the Exodus" could open a can of worms. Best to follow the advice of Rabbi David Saperstein: "Speak little, do much."

And keep it up if you get elected.

. Next page | Pitfalls lurk in Missouri, Vermont and Connecticut

Illustration by Zach Trenholm

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