THE COMPANY THEY KEEP: The New York Jewish Week reports on the sniping over the various presidential aspirants’ Mideast advisers. And the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman expresses annoyance at Jews who are injecting the issue of Israel into the campaign. “I don’t understand why our community is making Israel an issue at this point,” Foxman tells the Jewish Week. “None of the candidates has made it an issue; their public statements have all been very good. So why are we shadowboxing and making this an issue?”
SARIS IN SHUL: Brooklyn’s Jewish Press speaks with the leaders of the only American congregation of Jews from India, which currently meets in a Manhattan synagogue. Among the tidbits interviewees reveal about their community: One of the first mayors of Bombay was an Indian Jew, women wear saris in synagogue (though not of the belly-baring variety) and young people have arranged marriages — frequently to their second and third cousins.
TALENTED TALMUDIST: The New Jersey Jewish Standard profiles Rabbi David Weiss Halivni, who recently was named the winner of the prestigious Israel Prize in Talmud. Previously a professor at New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary, Halivni, who now lives in Israel and prays at a Hasidic shul, has struggled to bridge the worlds of contemporary scholarship and traditional Judaism. “In my letter of resignation to the Jewish Theological Seminary,” he tells the Standard, “I wrote, ‘My destiny is that the people I talk to I cannot daven with, and the people I daven with I cannot talk to. However, when the chips are down, I will always side with the people I daven with, for I can live without talking but cannot live without davening.’ Now the people I daven with are talking to me.”
O.P.P.:: While many Jews are outraged over the Catholic church’s altneu Good Friday prayer, the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent’s Jonathan Tobin says “this is not the time to pick fights over other people’s prayers.”
KINDNESS DAY: The Chicago Jewish News speaks with Norman Kozak, the Skokie man who is pushing the idea of a National Kindness Day.
STRAUSS’S SPIRITUAL SIDE: While Leo Strauss has entered the popular imagination as an intellectual influence on the neoconservative movement, Yale political scientist Steven B. Smith says there’s much more to the late German Jewish refugee scholar. Houston’s Jewish Herald-Voice interviews Smith about Strauss’s views on reason and faith — and Athens and Jerusalem.
THE ANTI-SEINFELD: San Diego Jewish Journal editor Debra Kamin lets loose on Jerry Seinfeld and his wife — and says their bad behavior reinforces negative stereotypes about Jews.
RANTING RABBI: A beloved local Los Angeles rabbi hosts heimishe dinners at his home for spiritual seekers. But beware to those attendees whom he regards as non-Jews — they’re likely to get a nasty follow-up e-mail. The L.A. Jewish Journal has the story (and excerpts from the rabbi’s unhinged-sounding e-mails).
KAHANE LIVES: It has been almost 18 years since militantly anti-Arab rabbi Meir Kahane was assassinated. But his followers in the Jewish Defense League are still around and kicking. The Canadian Jewish News reports that 50 members of the “on-again, off-again” Jewish Defense League of Canada showed up at Toronto’s Ryerson University to protest Israel Apartheid Week. Meanwhile, the L.A. Jewish Journal’s Brad Greenberg reports that when Hezbollah cheerleader and erstwhile academic Norman Finkelstein went to speak at Cal-State University Northridge, he was met by Shelley Rubin, widow of late JDL leader Irv Rubin, who called him a “sick puppy.”
SHARIA AND SELF-INTEREST: The head of one of Britain’s rabbinic courts, Rabbi Yisroel Lichtenstein, is defending Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who set off a firestorm of criticism after suggesting that Britain should give greater legal standing to Islamic Sharia law. “If some of his ideas were adopted, the Jewish community would gain and the role of the Beth Din could be more effectively used for the benefit of the Jewish community,” Lichtenstein said. Meanwhile, Britain’s widely respected chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, is staying above the fray, declining to comment on the Sharia controversy, although he has written: “There is, and can only be, one law of the land.” London’s Jewish Chronicler has the story.
IRISH JEWRY VS. MAD MAX: Irish Jews are reportedly objecting to the Irish Film and Television Academy’s decision to give Mel Gibson its Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema Award, according to the J.C.