SHOAH’S NO LAUGHING MATTER: Writing in the New York Jewish Week, Rabbi Joshua Hammerman says that with time the Holocaust is becoming assimilated into the larger Jewish story — becoming “normalized.” While he sees this process as healthy, he notes one unfortunate side effect: the emergence of crude Holocaust humor that is offensive to survivors. “Just as the ancient rabbis believed in building a ‘fence around the Torah’ to safeguard the commandments, so must we build a ‘fence around Auschwitz’ to protect the memory of the slain,” he writes.
Also in the Jewish Week: What’s behind the recent wave of Jews who have been fingered in antisemitic hate crimes?
FROM KAIFENG WITH LOVE: Brooklyn’s Jewish Press relates the story of the wedding of a nice Jewish boy from Florida and a nice Jewish girl who traces her descent to the millennium-old Chinese Jewish community of Kaifeng. “I thought it impossible to marry a Jewish woman from China,” says the 25-year-old groom, Ami Emmanuel. “However, it seems miracles do happen, and this is the biggest miracle of my life.”
Also in the Jewish Press: Joseph Schick explores Orthodox Jews’ love affair with sports — and the religious debate it has engendered.
NEOCONS’ BAD RAP?: The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent’s Jonathan Tobin defends the much-maligned neoconservative worldview.
LIKE BIRTHRIGHT FOR THE INTERMARRIED: Non-Jews can go to Israel for free — all they have to do is get romantically involved with a Jew. Israel Encounter is taking mixed couples to Israel, with the non-Jewish party going for free. It’s an attempt to encourage intermarried couples to raise their kids Jewish, the Atlanta Jewish Times reports.
KOLLELS OF L.A.: L.A. Jewish Journal columnist David Suissa takes a tour of his city’s kollels, the Orthodox adult-learning institutions that have nurtured a vibrant Orthodox community in Southern California. The tour includes a stop at what Suissa’s guide refers to as the “holiest street west of the Mississippi.”
Also in the Journal: Editor Rob Eshman shares a story about the time he hired an illegal immigrant, and had his stereotypes shattered; and L.A. Times Op-Ed editor Nicholas Goldberg talks about how he handles “the issue of Israel,” which, for most papers, he says, “is the most controversial subject there is.”
DIVESTMENT DUD: San Francisco’s J. reports that anti-Israel divestment efforts have fizzled on college campuses — even as they have gained steam in some mainline Protestant churches.
Also in J.: Veteran local Jewish community activist Earl Raab reexamines the strengths and weaknesses of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Jewish community, which a Commentary editor once dubbed “the most backward Jewish community in the country.”
FINKELSTEIN’S FLIP-FLOP: It was an odd debate — from the topic to the choice of panelists. To the chagrin of many in Britain’s Jewish community, the Oxford Union — the once-venerable and now-sensationalistic debating society — decided to take up the following proposition: “This House believes that the State of Israel has a right to exist.” As if debating whether or not a sovereign state has the right to exist weren’t bad enough, the Oxford Union selected two fierce critics of Israel to defend the proposition, including “Holocaust Industry” author and Hezbollah booster Norman Finkelstein. Unsurprisingly, Finkelstein proved to be a poor advocate for Israel, voting at the debate’s conclusion against the proposition he had been tasked with defending. London’s Jewish Chronicle has the story. (UPDATE: Blogger Jerry Haber reports that Finkelstein actually didn’t intend to vote against the proposition he had defended.)
Also in the J.C.: Miriam Shaviv looks beneath the burkas that a handful of Israeli ultra-Orthodox women have taken to wearing (in defiance of their rabbis), and sees a symptom of a larger problem: the fact that in the contemporary Orthodox world “women are already being pushed out of the public sphere”; Windsor Castle will be the venue for a celebration of the 60th anniversary of Israel’s birth; a march through London’s East End to commemorate the Holocaust is met by stone-throwing; an anti-Israel resolution before the student union at the London School of Economics is narrowly voted down; a prominent Muslim activist tells an Israeli to “go back to Germany”; and the J.C. looks at the Jewish identity of Britain’s “best-known soul singer” — and it’s not Amy Winehouse.
AN ISRAELI IN DUBAI: First, Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram made history at the Australian Open as the first Israeli doubles team to win a Grand Slam title. Now, the tireless tennis watchers at The Australian Jewish News report another milestone: Tzipi Obziler will be the first Israeli to play in Barclays Dubai Tennis Championship, notwithstanding the general policy of the United Arab Emirates to prevent Israelis from entering the country.