Thursday, December 29, 2005

Who Knew Tim Rice Was So Zionistic?

From Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat:
(lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber)

Close Every Door
(the Yoseif-in-Jail song)

Close every door to me,
Hide all the world from me,
Bar all the windows
And shut out the light;
Do what you want with me,
Hate me and laugh at me,
Darken my daytime
And torture my night;

If my life were important I
Would ask,
Will I live or die?
But I know the answers
Lie far from this world.

Close every door to me,
Keep those I love from me,
Children of Israel are never alone —
For I know I shall find
My own peace of mind,
For I have been promised
A land of my own.
    Close every door to me,
    Hide all the world from me,
    Bar all the windows
    And shut out the light—
Just give me a number
Instead of my name;
Forget all about me
And let me decay.
I do not matter —
I'm only one person;
Destroy me completely,
Then throw me away.

If my life were important I
Would ask,
Will I live or die?
But I know the answers
Lie far from this world.

Close every door to me,
Keep those I love from me,
Children of Israel are never alone —
For we know we shall find
Our own peace of mind,
For we have been promised
A land of our own!

Btw, just wondering, at the risk of DiqduqGeekification, how do yall pronounce the English version of the Hebrew name יוסף?
Joe-siff or Joe-ziff?
I think I've always said Joe-siff, and remember being a bit confused when I noticed people pronouncing "Joseph" with a Z-sound. Could it be Hebrew influence of the samekh in "Yoseif"? Or an internal English dialect difference?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Betcha Can't Take Just One!

Not that long ago, the Judeoblogosphere was taken by storm by Lamed Zayin's Orthodoxy Test.

Now, though, thanks to Deitybox over at Jewschool a.k.a. ג'וסקול nee דזשוסקול, we are all also privilaged to take a Shidduch Score Test, to see how shidduchable we are. So crank up Blue Fringe's Shidduch Song, and click some petty distinctions!

I came out with two different Shidduch Scores:
31 or 39
depending on what I picked on the following question:
12) What's your normal attire? (If you're a guy)

    a) White shirt, black pants, black jacket, black hat
    b) Black hat, shirts occasionally blue or pastel
    c) Business suits and ties, no hat   »»» 39
    d) Jeans and T-shirts   »»» 31
    e) I'm female, don't count this question.

Who knew my shidduchability score could vary so much depending on whether I'm going to shul, at work, or hanging out? Three cheers for externals and image-based judgments! Oh wait...

Well, it doesn't matter so much anyway, either way my score only gets me a Below-Par rating: User Test: The Shidduch Score Test.
Your shidduch ranking is below average, nebach. With much Tehillim and tears and brochos from the Munchausener Rebbe, there is a slight chance that you will be set up with someone who might deign to consider you (but don't get your hopes up too high.)

If you need me, I'll be over here reading Tehillim Mishley and getting brochos dating advice from the Munchausener Rebbe (the who?) successfully engaged/married friends.

And to think they didn't even ask whether I believe in evolution or not!
(or if i'm — nebech hazit — a BT, or a geir...)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

For the Last Time: Nomen Omen

People always ask me about my name.

I get emails.

I get comments here and on other people's blogs.

Even in person, people who recognize my picture — or otherwise know or figure out that I'm me — ask what the heck does "Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)" mean?

So in order to save myself the trouble of explaining it over and over again, I've decided to put up this post and link to it somehow in my profile.


...has nothing whatsoever to do with stegosaurus dinosaurs. However, due to the fact that it seems like every time someone sees "Steg" they think of hordes of rampaging platey-backed dinosaurs, I eventually embraced the connection. After all, dinosaurs are pretty cool, although when I was your typical nerdy little dinosaur-loving kid my favorite was triceratops, not stegosaurus.

Steg is actually nothing more than a nickname my cousin made for me in middle-school, as part of a reciprocal nickname-bestowing game between him and my brother. The names started with part of our names, and slowly mutated — always in sync with each other — through such stages as Septagon, Octagon, and Hexagon. Eventually, at the end of the game we were (the much more concise) Steg, Ag, and Jag. And Steg is the only one that stuck.

(DOS IZ NIT DER ŠTEG) a transliteration of the Yiddish sentence דאָס איז ניט דער שטעג (dos iz nit der shteg), which means "that is not the way". I once took some Yiddish classes, and encountered the word שטעג šteg [remember: š (S-haček or S-caron) is the same thing as sh], meaning way or path. I thought it was cool that it looks like a Yiddish version of my nickname, with sh instead of s, and so used the expression dos iz nit der šteg (which can also be understood, btw, as "you're off the derekh!") to mean something along the lines of hey, nice to meetya, my name is Steg — not Šteg — and don't you forget it!

that Goblin King theme because in college I was in a LARP (Live Action Role Playing) group, with a fairly typical medieval-fantasy theme. My character was a human monk who grew up among goblins (in order to have an interesting backstory) and therefore cast his 'spells' in the Goblin language (which I made up). Unfortunately, there were infighting/politics problems in the gaming group and it fell apart. A year later, me and a few friends decided to bring back the game, but with a somewhat different setting and storyline. We took the same fantasy world, and changed it a bit — including making the new game take place 20 years or so after the events of the old game. So all our old characters became big important figures in the new game, who we could use as plot devices while usually playing new regular characters. My old char became the [non-goblin, as i've mentioned] Goblin King.

If it comes out as anything other than boxes, under "THE HALL OF THE GOBLIN KING" at the top of the page there should be something that looks like (make sure your webbrowser is set to Unicode!)
ㅁㅇᆘㄴㅡㅏㄴ ㄷㅠㅡㄴㅛㅈㅡᆘㄱ ㅁᆘㅡㄷㅠ ᆘㄱㅡㅁㄹㅜㄷ
This is as close as I was able to get at writing in Goblin the first line of one of my old character's spell-chants, Pwét-et Dá-tíy-Ék pé-Dá Ék-prad "Person who I see before me..." It was used for turning potentially-dangerous random encounters into harmless bumps in the road. Consider it a birkat habayit for making my blog a generally non-confrontational space.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Meaning of Hhanuka

I've mentioned a few times so far on this blog that in college I was a member of the local Live Action Role Playing group. Most of the time I was the only observant Jew there, and got to explain stuff to the other gamers about Jewish holidays and practices; you know, the usual stuff like "I'm just getting a soda here at the diner we're hanging out at after the game because nothing here's kosher" and "technically I could come to the game/event on Saturday, but since it's outside I'd be pretty useless not being able to carry objects around"...

The college LARP group I was part of (there was another semi-related group I also played with, but it wasn't directly chartered by the student association) had two different aspects:

BOFFING Practice = fighting with foam weapons
L.A.R.P. Events = grown-up games of make believe

Technically, the way it was set up was that the boffing practices were for the purpose of training for the events. Our game had a (stereo)typical medieval-fantasy setting, and so there was a lot of sword-fighting. At the practices we played all kinds of beat-your-friends-up-with-foam-weaponry games, including mass melees, capture the flag, one-on-one rotating duels, and team vs. team battles.

So one night, we're having boffing practice with our PVC-pipe-covered-in-foam-and-duct-tape swords (and axes, staffs, daggers...) in a large wood-floored event room in the University Union building, and it happened to be some night of Hhanuka. And right on the other side of the doors, in one of the Union building's main lounges, the local Chabad was having a big menora-lighting ceremony with music, free food, and their distinctive straight-armed hhanukiya.

We take a break from running and slaying each other, and I'm watching the lighting through the open door (a bit self-conscious as to the spectacle Chabad was making), and "Hando" (one of his characters' names) comes up to me and watches also. Now, Hando is not Jewish in any way, and is also a really big imposing guy with lots of piercings, tattoos, and spiky accouterments. Piercings, tattoos, and spikiness notwithstanding, he's actually the kind of guy you can describe as a "big teddy bear". Really nice guy. Just a bit scary-

Anyway, "Hando" comes over, looks at the hyooge Chabadian straight-armed menora, and remarks, "Y'know, if we could get that thing and wrap it in foam and ducttape, it'd make a crazy nine-bladed weapon!" And then he got all quiet and sheepish, and said, "Oh no, I'm sorry, that wasn't sacrilegious was it?"

My response?

"No, not at all, don't worry about it. After all, while Christmas may be about 'peace on Earth and goodwill towards men' — Hhanuka is all about guerrilla warfare! So it'd be perfectly appropriate to turn a menora into a giant nine-bladed sword!"

So remember, people.

Don't let anyone tell you that Hhanuka is about peace and love.

Hhanuka is all about the guerrilla warfare.

(and burning stuff)
so hhave a


Saturday, December 24, 2005

There Is No “War On Christmas”, Doofus

But There Is A War On Mentschlichkeit.

All of you, right now!
Gutvokh / Shavua‘ Tov, by the way.
Anyway, go read this column by Joseph Aaron.

"Happy Holidays Indeed"

Happy Holiday(s)
of various kinds
to various people
all year long!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Sic Transit Gloria Estefan

The New York City transit strike is now over.


...or maybe not...

A Hhanuka miracle would definitely involve
a lot more blood, guts and gore than this.
And definitely lots of stuff burning.

Meanwhile, for your pseudo-listening pleasure,
I present a quote from Hadag Nahhash's song Shevita:
אני מוכן
למשא ומתן
בלי תנאים מוקדמים
אבל אני מזהיר אתכם
אני לא כמו המורים
אצלי שביתה זה שביתה
לא עיצומים

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Still Uncategorizable

Women who cover their hair and wear pants.

Colorful knit yarmulkas under black hats.

Modern Orthodox hhasids.

Orthoprax reconstructionists.

Well, I'm not quite that uncategorizable (or category-F'd as some call it), but according to Lamed Zayin's Orthodoxy Test, I am stam "Modern Orthodox" (whatever that means). User Test: The Orthodoxy  Test.
You're Modern Orthodox all right, but wait!
Just when you were ready to live an idyllic happily-labeled life they announce Left Wing and Right Wing Modern Orthodoxy. What the heck is up with that? Maybe you need to rethink and refine some of your positions, and then take the test again so I can put you in a little box.

Hat tip (although i hate that expression): OrthoMom

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Eat My Tricky Kugel, RenReb!

So those of you who are fans of the ever-exciting Renegade Rebbetzin may remember how in November she was informed by a commenter named Holly that her, by the way, is being read by a graduate class at Trinity College in CT as part of this week's assignment on religious blogs...

Now, however, I would like to inform the honorable Rebbetzin that she is not the only one whose blog is being used for academic purposes. Cris, a university student taking an Anthropology of Religion class, contacted me about a week ago to see if it'd be okay to use my Tricksterism post as a resource for a paper she was writing on the Trickster archetype, and the way various cultures around the world make use of it! So I said sure, go ahead, and gave a little explanation about the quote she wanted to use in her paper, and what I meant by describing Hashem as a Trickster.

She also asked about the loose Goblin King theme I've got going here, and when I explained that it comes from a Live Action Role Playing Game I helped run in college, she responded:
...after reading your webpage, now knowing that you are a RPGer the personality that comes out in your words makes a lot of sense.
Now, I'm not sure what it means to have a gamer/RPGer personality, but hey, if the Kuribo's Shoe fits... ;-)

Anyway, I just wanted to inform the Renegade Rebbetzin that, with all due respect, bppthpbptþptþphtbt!!!

Oh, and Cris got an A on her paper, and her instructor wants to talk to her about revising it and getting it published! Yay for Cris! Yay for blogs! Yay for Anthropology of Religion! Yay for the Supreme Trickster-Artist, yitbarakh shemo!

In case anyone is thinking of objecting to my description of The One And Only God — who begets not, nor is begotten, and who is completely non-corporeal — as a "Trickster" or an "Artist", I invite you to first open up the liturgical poem anthropomorphism-fest An‘im Zemirot (which I led for the first time ever this Shabbos) and count the number of differing 'modes' in which God interacts with the world. Just as God's will is expressed in the world in such a way that leads us to describe God as Warrior, Judge, and Parent, so too do I see expressions of God acting as Trickster and as Artist.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Mixed Blessing, A Brilliant Insight

The material covered by one of my classes' Tanakh final this just-ended semester includes that section of Melakhim part 1 that discusses the reign of Shelomo, King of the United Kingdom [of Israel, duh, not that other 'United Kingdom'!].

One of the choices for a short essay question on the final was:
Was שלמה actually the wisest man who ever lived?

One of my students (pseudonym: Norachuga) wrote an essay that I really liked a lot. It was informative and creative, and brought a new viewpoint to the issue which I hadn't encountered before.
(all emphasis is editorial)

King Solomon did many wise and good things. He was visited by God twice, he built God a house on Earth, and he (with the help of some people) brought up the Ark of the covenant of the Lord. He also built a royal palace and could even claim that he had been given the gift of wisdom from God. Solomon, however, did not get the characteristic of foolishness taken away and a person can be both very very wise, but not wise enough to make grave mistakes.

On the surface, Solomon seems almost perfect, when the woman [Queen of Shebha’] came to question him and see for herself all that she had heard about his knowledge, she was impressed but no one expected him to force labor upon his people and to love foreign women. His wisdom must have fooled everyone because no one expected him to begin worshipping idols either. Solomon reigned for 40 years, so he must have been pretty good, but he was most definitely not the wisest man who ever lived because the wisest man would not have made some of the choices that he did.

What a brilliant idea! Just because Shelomo was blessed with wisdom, it doesn't mean that his foolishness was taken away! We see this a lot in the world, otherwise genious people making seemingly simple mistakes, and I think "Norachuga" has a great way to look at such situations.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Funeral Update

I don't have that much experience at funerals.

A rabbi spoke, and some relatives did also. It was just a funeral home memorial service, because they're burying her in Canada, where she's from. My students and their father will be coming back here soon to finish up the shiv‘a.

There were a lot of students and teachers at the funeral.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Today two of my students' mother died.


The funeral is tomorrow.

I have no frikkin clue how to deal with this.

One of the brothers is an EMT. Barely old enough to drive, he's been cruising around on ambulances saving people's lives. Maybe because he knew he couldn't save his mother's. He doesn't do so well in school, doesn't get his work done, because he stays up all night saving lives.

I should grade their finals.

The funeral is tomorrow.

We may not have classes.

המקום ינחם אותם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Spring Valley 4 Ever

Okay, I admit it.

For the first half-decade or so of my life I lived in Spring Valley, NY.

Since I left, Spring Valley has become swallowed up by Monsey, so all the Jews who live there just simply say they're from Monsey — similar to how many Jews in Sheepshead Bay, Midwood, and Marine Park associate themselves with Greater Jewish Flatbush. However, Spring Valley also seems to have some kind of ghetto reputation. That's 'ghetto' as in gangsta rap, not ghetto as in golem of Prague. Which makes the Jews of Spring Valley even more averse to identifying themselves as Spring Valleyites. When I went downtown to catch the bus back to NYC, though, it didn't look like such a bad area. I don't know what they're so scared of.

Anyway, this past Shabbos I went back up to visit "My Progressively More Yeshivish Friend" (who needs a better pseudonym) at the Ohr Somayach yeshiva in Greater Jewish Monsey Spring Valley.

I took the Monsey Bus up on Thursday night, which was an... interesting... experience. It had a mehhitza. A mehhitza! On a bus! The mehhitza was hung vertically down the aisle, which was somewhat annoying due to the way it got in the way when anyone was trying to walk up or down the aisle. I guess they knew better than to stick all the women in the back of the bus, since then Rosa Parks zç"l would come back to kick all their butts. There were many people on the men's side, and very few people on the women's side. So I sat on the "wrong" side of the mehhitza, in the back, and no one said a word.

Unfortunately, I got up there too late to attend RYG"B's class, and so I just hung out in MPMYF— henceforth to be known as Ághám's room, with him and his roommates, and then we found me a spare mattress. And I put up the previous blog post. And I was Ághám's hhevruta for some hhazara review he had to do.

On Friday we made fun of each other's having flipped out (he wears a jacket for davening and a velvet yarmulka, I wear a jacket and tie for davening), went to mínyan, ate breakfast, went to a class or two, argued about whether snow is good (me) or bad (him), ate lunch, and got ready for Shabbos. Me and one of the other yeshiva bochurs I met there went on a search for galoshes at an evil Walmart (but aren't they all?), but couldn't find any. I did buy a new winter hat, though.

Friday Night, Ághám, two other students, and I went to eat dinner by one of their teachers' house. The teacher who lives in my old house! So I got to eat Shabbos dinner in my old house. Which was very surreal. The teacher/rabbi is a really nice guy, and his family are really cool, and the food was great, but it was so damn surreal to be getting random flashes of familiarity whenever I looked around. I remembered tracing the relief pattern on the walls with my fingers, climbing on the wrong side of the stairway banister, and sledding down the driveway. The layout of the rooms was familiar, the kitchen cabinets were familiar, and the snow-covered deck out back was familiar. And then I went to the bathroom, where I felt a strangely weak sense of familiarity. I looked down at the floor tiles, and the pattern looked familiar. But not familiar enough. And then I bent over to get a closer look, and the closer my view of the tiles became, the more they looked familiar — since after all, when I lived there I was much shorter than I am today!

Saturday Day, me, Ághám, and another yeshiva bochur went to RYG"B's(!) house for Shabbos lunch. His family is also really cool, and the food was also great, and it was also somewhat surreal. How so? Because even though I wasn't eating a Shabbos meal surrounded by random memories of my early life, I was still eating a Shabbos meal with a teacher at a friend's yeshiva who also just happens to be a fellow blogger! Among the topics discussed at the meal were the world of teaching and Jewish edumacation; the life of Orthodox Jews in 'Secular Colleges'; Yekkedom and the community of Frankfurt-de‘al-Hudson; and of course (what Jewish blogger could resist?) Rav Slifkin. We also sang a Shabbos zemira written by RYG"B, and I did mayim ahharonim Torahumaddachic-style. Which is a big deal since until recently I would categorically refuse to ever do it, thanks to a bad Chabad experience in college.

Shabbos nap, Minhha, Ma‘ariv, Havdala, Rockland CoachUSA bus home (from the bus station in supposedly-sketchy downtown Spring Valley).

Once again, my Shabbos in Greater Jewish Monsey Spring Valley was an overall positive experience. But i still don't get the Yeshivish world. I just don't understand it. And I know that it's not for me.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dead Man Walking

Let's go back...

Back one week...

Back to Parashat Toledot...


We've got ‘Eisav — the big hairy hunter, out in the fields all day with his bows and arrows. And we've got Ya‘aqov — soft and innocent, holed up all day in the tents and studying (according to Oral Tradition).


Set the scene:
We've got Ya‘aqov, the younger one, sitting at home, cooking a meal of lentil soup. And his brother, big brother ‘Eisav comes back from the fields with his hunting tools slung over his shoulder, huffing and puffing from running around all day fighting the animals and the elements and he says:

"Yo bro, (huff) I'm tired, (puff) why dontcha just pour me some of that red stuff ya got there?"

And Ya‘aqov, ever the clever one, the one whose name means [H/h]e is a trickster, replies:

"I'll give it to you... for your birthright!"

And ‘Eisav seals the deal with these words:

הנה אנכי הולך למות
ולמה זה לי בכרה
Behold — I'm going to die!
What use to me is a birthright?

(Bereishit/Genesis 25:32)

There are two ways of saying "I" in Biblical Hebrew:
אני and אנכי

They say that anokhi is a more intensive, emphatic "I". Ani is 'me'. Anokhi is 'me', myself, my identity. Me at my core.

Brother ‘Eisav doesn't say Ani holeikh lamut, "I'm going to die" — he says Anokhi holeikh lamut, I am a person whose entire identity is bound up with death; I'm out there in the fields, fighting beasts and nature, trying to bring home food and resources for my family. I risk my life every day out there. Death is my life. Danger is my life. I am out there trying to survive — and when your entire life is centered around the continuation of that life, centered around survival itself — what use is a birthright to me?

The bekhora, the firstborn's birthright, is a thing of the future. It's a promise, a hope, a destiny waiting to realize itself. ‘Eisav had no need of such things. He was a man who lived on the edge, risked his life every day. He didn't need a Future; all he needed was a Now.

Note: In college, the kosher dining hall had lentil soup one day, and I got a bowl and sat down to eat. Before I could begin eating it, my [older, and self-described evil] twin brother walked in and, well, you know, i'm Ya‘aqov, he's ‘Eisav... let's just say that it was a meqahh ta‘ut and leave it at that. ;-)

(this post was posted from postmark 10952)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Music Meme'd by Mom

I've just been tagged by (Ortho)Mom(Of4) to do a certain musical meme that she says has been floating around the Blogosphere, but until she tagged SEVEN PEOPLE AT A TIME(!) had not yet entered the Judeoblogosphere (insert comment about hhuqot ha’umot or something here).

  1. Turn on your mp3 player.
  2. Hit shuffle.
  3. Put the first fifteen songs that come up in a post. No matter how embarassing. No cheating!

Okay, here goes...
1. My Girlfriend's Deadthe Vandals*
2. AdrianJewel — Pieces Of You
3. NyaraiThomas Mapfumo and Blacks Unlimited — Worlds Of Music (Disk 1)*
4. Ahavat YisraelBlue Fringe — Live in Silver Spring
5. New IntroBuffy the Vampire Slayer Cast — Buffy - Once More With Feeling***
6. Different TownTBC / They Might Be Giants — HomestarRunner****
7. Erev (ערב)Rita
8. Just A GirlNo Doubt — Tragic Kingdom
9. AcheinuKaskeset — Made From The Best Jews On Earth*****
10. SixteenNo Doubt — Tragic Kingdom
11. So AloneThe Offspring — Smash
12. Engal KalyanamM.S. Viswanathan and Vali — Worlds Of Music (Disk 2)
13. There I GoJason Spitz — Anything You Want******
14. CeciliaSimon & Garfunkel — Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits*******
15. Build Me Up, ButtercupVibrations — We Can't Afford Instruments

*A brilliantly funny band I was introduced to in college, by MPMYF and the guy cropped out of my present profile photo.
**A set of three CDs that came with a textbook for a "Musics of the World" class I took in college
***The Buffy musical episode. Ya gotta problem with Buffy?
****HomestarRunner for my friend PomestarTunner!
*****Mmmm... Jewish Acapella music...
******Young (Jewish) folk singer my brother met at a Hillel something or other years ago
*******First CD my family ever owned!

Where's all the rap? All the rock? All the rap-rock? The contemporary Israeli music?

Just so yall don't have a skewed impression of my musical tastes, I recently downloaded seven songs:
JerusalemDan Bern — Dan Bern
Lighters UpLil' Kim — Naked Truth
An Mhaighdean MharaAltan — Island Angel
No More DramaMary J. Blige — No More Drama
The AnthemGood Charlotte — The Young and the Hopeless
Numb / EncoreLinkin Park and Jay-Z — Collision Course
Ue wo Muite Arukō (上を向いて歩こう) [I Look Up When I Walk] / "Sukiyaki"
  — Sakamoto, Kyū (坂本九)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Academic Freedom and Accountability

Alan [not Scott] asked me to do a little advertising for a Roundtable at Yeshiva University hosted by their Middle East Forum.

Dr. Ellen Schrecker
(Professor of History at YU)
Dr. Alexander Joffe
(Director of Campus Watch)
will discuss issues such as
Academic Freedom: Meaning and Application
the Controversy at Columbia University
the Role of "Watchdog" Groups

i do not know who these people are
 i do not necessarily endorse or anti-endorse their views 

Monday, December 5, 2005
8:30 PM in the Levy Lobby

(33rd & Lexington, Beren Campus)
ליל יום שלישי, 'ה' כסלו, ה'תשס"ו

Back at my college we used to say that the problem with "roundtable discussions" is that round tables only have one side. I guess we'll see how many sides this round table has. Not sure if I'll be able to make it, though (sorry Alan); I'm giving finals on Tuesday.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Mormons (or Latter-Day Saints as they call themselves) have been known to call non-Mormons — even Jews — 'gentiles'. They also believe that they have some kind of connection to Beney Yisra’eil, and that the Americas were settled by Israelites sometime before the Destruction of the First Jewish Commonwealth (Hhurban Bayit Rishon).

They also encourage their young men (and women?) to go out as missionaries and spread their religion.

Yesterday, Shabbos morning, there were two Mormon missionaries in shul. They approached me when I arrived, and said that a Jewish friend of theirs said that it would probably be okay if they visited this shul, but they just wanted to make sure that they were welcome. I had no idea what to do, since I usually go to a different shul (I was going to eat lunch by someone who goes to that shul). So I went looking around for someone in charge (bad idea when you don't even know who the rabbi is). Luckily, someone else found them and explained everything to them throughout davening (without disturbing the people around).

I thought it was okay that they were there. After all, they weren't at the shul trying to convert anyone (they were carrying Spanish copies of the Book of Mormon, indicating that they were probably out proselytizing to the local Spanish-speaking community) — they just wanted to see what Jewish prayer is like.

At lunch someone said that they should have been kicked out, because they're evil missionaries out to steal people's souls. I said that they're not so bad, since after all they're equal opportunity missionaries, out to convert everyone. They're not like Jews for Jesus, who specificly target Jews for missionizing.
Random Anecdote:
I was once on a bus in Brooklyn, when two Mormon missionaries got on. I really wanted to ask them why their religion is called "Mormonism" but I couldn't. Whenever I looked towards them, and saw their nametags, I couldn't avoid seeing that one of them was named Flanders. Yes, you heard me. Flanders. I could barely keep myself from laughing, much less ask a serious question of comparative religion.

So what do yall think?
Should the visiting Mormon missionaries have been kicked out of shul?