FINKELSTEIN’S BROOKLYN EXILE: The New York Jewish Week catches up with Hezbollah-boosting ex-academic Norman Finkelstein, who, since losing his high-profile tenure battle at Chicago’s DePaul University, has been holed up in his late father’s Brooklyn apartment (that is, when he’s not visiting with his favorite Lebanese armed extremist group). But while the author of “The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering” may have given up his dreams of tenure, he’s still churning out books. His next will be titled — in characteristically polemical fashion — “A Farewell to Israel: The Coming Break-up of American Zionism.”
SWIMMING MITZVAH?: Is teaching one’s kids how to swim a religious commandment? Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent examines whether swim lessons rise to the level of a mitzvah.
EXODUS, TAKE TWO: Eighty-eight-year-old Pittsburgher Frances Greenberg was a passenger aboard the famed Exodus, which attempted to take Jewish refugees from postwar Europe to Palestine, only to have them sent back by the British. Now, 61 years later, she’s fulfilling her dream of making aliyah. The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle has the story.
DOMESTIC SPYING: When family members of residents at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington complained about the quality of care there during the 1990s, they didn’t get quite the response they had hoped for. The Hebrew Home hired a security company that proceeded to spy on them, The Washington Jewish Week reports. The paper’s editorialist renders the following verdict: “shame.”
DAY SCHOOL JOHNNY APPLESEED: The Chicago Jewish News profiles Rabbi Morris Esformes, who helped start a Chabad-affiliated day school for a small Jewish community in Florida and is now trying to do the same in Anchorage, Alaska.
THEY LOVE L.A.: The L.A. Jewish Journal publishes its “Best of (Jewish) Los Angeles 2008.”
HE WOKS AWAY: The owner of Britain’s first kosher Chinese restaurant is calling it a day, Britain’s Jewish Chronicle reports. Meanwhile, in other Anglo-kashrut news, the J.C. also recently wrote about Britain’s first kosher pub.
MAN WITH A MISSION: New Jersey native Etan Flatow, who was only 12 in 1995 when his older sister was killed in a suicide bombing, talks to The New Jersey Jewish News about moving to Israel and becoming a soldier. “In high school and college, I was always the guy whose sister was killed in a terrorist attack,” he tells the paper. “All I had to say was ‘Flatow’ and people knew. But where I am now, I’m not just known for my last name. Now I’m just another soldier. But I’m also a soldier who has a greater mission, thanks to my sister.”
AGAINST HEBREW CHARTER SCHOOLS: Writing in The New York Jewish week, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, pans recent efforts to establish publicly funded, Hebrew-language charter schools. While some advocates of such charter schools may see them as an alternative to pricey private Jewish day schools, Yoffie writes: “The obvious problem with this strategy is that charter schools cannot have the promotion of Jewish identity as an educational goal without running afoul of church-state restrictions. The most likely result is that the educational process at these schools becomes an elaborate charade.”
KIDDUSH FOR THE CUSTODIAN: The New Jersey Jewish Standard reports on a local synagogue that is honoring its beloved custodian of 20 years by dedicating its kiddush room in his honor. “A synagogue can last a long time without a rabbi, but not without a custodian,” explains Rabbi Noam Marans, former spiritual leader of the Temple Israel/Jewish Community Center of Ridgewood. L’chaim José Serna!
BLACK AND YIDDISH: Colleen McCallum-Bonar is a pioneer — in more ways than one. According to Columbus’s New Standard, she is the first person to receive a Ph.D. in Yiddish and Ashkenazic studies from Ohio State University. The paper also notes that she “may be the first African-American ever to receive a Ph.D. in Yiddish literature.” “I can count on one hand the other African-Americans doing Yiddish: none,” McCallum-Bonar tells the paper. Her doctoral dissertation is titled “Black Ashkenaz and the Almost Promised Land: Yiddish Literature and the Harlem Renaissance.”
NAZIS AGAINST CINEMA: It’s no secret that Nazis didn’t like Jewish art — and, apparently, they still don’t, as some 15 members of the National Socialist Movement made clear when they picketed the opening day of the St. Louis Jewish Film Festival. Seriously, don’t these members of the master race have anything better to do with their time? The St. Louis Jewish Light has the story.
IRVING IN OREGON: Portland’s Jewish Review reports that notorious Holocaust denier David Irving swung by the Eugene campus of the University of Oregon at the invitation of the Pacifica Forum, a group headed up by a 92-year-old former professor (who also happens to be a ubiquitous local music maven). Craig Weinerman, chairman of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Lane County, tells the paper that the groups says it stands for free speech but that its activity “always involves bringing in Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites.”