ISRAEL’S NBA HOPE: Boston’s Jewish Advocate profiles Israeli basketball star Omri Casspi, who, it suggests, could be the next Israeli star to play in the NBA and is thus, as the paper awkwardly puts it in its headline, “The great white Israelite.”
DEPT. OF FUNNY HEADLINES: Other headlines in this week’s Jewish Advocate include the stereotype-evoking “Sales tax holiday moved to accommodate Jews” (We certainly wouldn’t want to miss out) and the odd “Economy and intermarriage worry Zionist organizations” (I’ll bet they’re worried about that whole Mideast issue, too).
‘BAFFLING’ OBAMA: Obama adviser and former congressman Mel Levine tells the New York Jewish Week that his preferred presidential candidate is perplexed by concerns about him within the Jewish community. “I’ve heard him say that some of the things that have been raised about him in the Jewish community are baffling and ironic, in light of the depth of his relationship with the Jewish community in Illinois,” Levine explains.
GOODBYE CROCS, HELLO HOKI? The fashion mavens at the New York Jewish Week suggest that the next big thing in uber-casual footwear could be an Israeli import.
‘KOSHER GYM’ KERFUFFLE: Brooklyn’s Jewish Press reports on a brouhaha at the borough’s “Kosher Gym.”
DRUG DENIAL: Kansas City native and would-be Israeli Olympic swimmer Max Jaben tells the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle that he is fighting to go to Beijing, despite flunking a urine test for performance-enhancing drugs. “I have never taken a steroid. It’s absurd that this is going on,” he tells his hometown paper. “At first, I was devastated by it. Now I’m still devastated, but I am starting to become very angry about it. I know I didn’t do this.”
BATTLE IN SEATTLE: Pro-Israel activists are gearing up to fight a Seattle ballot initiative that would require the city’s retirement system to divest from corporations that assist in the U.S. military presence in Iraq, that “provide direct material support for activities of the Israeli government within the occupied and besieged territories of West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights” or that have “a presence… in Israeli settlements” in these areas. Seattle’s Jewish Transcript has the story.
PRESIDENT TYLER’S GRANDSON: Dan Pines of San Francisco’s J. newsweekly writes about a brush with history: Back in 2000, he met the grandson of America’s 10th president, John Tyler. He’s no relation to the Forward’s Gus Tyler, although our Tyler does allude to the long-gone president in the title of his occasional column.)
JESSE JACKSON’S FUNNY FOE: The Rev. Jesse Jackson should practice what he preaches. At least that’s what Jamie Masada thinks. Masada is the owner of Hollywood’s Laugh Factory, where back in 2006 Michael Richards famously launched into a racist rant, prominently featuring the “n-word.” Masada tells the L.A. Jewish Journal that, following the Richards incident, “Jesse told me I couldn’t use the n-word in my club” and even threatened to march on his clubs. Ever since, Masada has been doling out $50 fines to performers who use the “n-word” or other hateful language, the proceeds of which go to L.A.’s Museum of Tolerance. But now that Jackson has used the same word in his own infamous on-mic tirade against Barack Obama, Masada wants the veteran activist to pay up. “He’s a civil rights leader, and now he’s using the n-word himself,” Masada tells the Journal. “It’s a double standard. It’s hypocritical.” The Journal reports that the club owner has issued more than 1,000 fines so far, and that he also plans to bill comedian Whoopi Goldberg for her use of the “n-word” word on “The View.”
JEW GLUES P.M.: Britain’s Jewish Chronicle reports that a 24-year-old Jewish environmental activist recently glued himself to buttons being worn by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to protest against a new airport runway. “After 20 seconds, he tore my hand away — it really hurt,” the activist recalls.
LONDON JCC CAPUT?: Plans for an American-style Jewish community centre building for London have hit the skids, according to Britain’s Jewish Chronicle.
BLAMING THE VICTIMS?: New York Jewish Week editor Gary Rosenblatt writes about the recent resurfacing (first reported by JTA) of controversial spiritual leader/seeker and former rabbi Mordechai Gafni. Gafni, who has long been dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct, now seems to be affiliated with a non-Jewish New Age community in Utah, and he’s pointing an accusatory finger at his accusers. “He now says that he wrote his public apology for his behavior two years ago under stress, and that the women accusers banded together to destroy his career,” Rosenblatt writes. But Rosenblatt, for one, ain’t buyin’ it.
MEDIA MONITOR TURNS 10: The right-wing Jewish Press’s Media Monitor column celebrates a decade of airing a mix of legitimate grievances about anti-Israel bias and unfair slurs against pro-Israel columnists with which its author happens to disagree.
CHABAD’S IVY CRED: A Chabad rabbi has received official recognition from Princeton University as a campus chaplain. The New Jersey Jewish News has the story.
RETURN TO CHINATOWN: The Baltimore Jewish Times looks at how Washington Chinatown’s historic 6th & I synagogue has been transformed into a vibrant cultural destination.
JEWS CAN SWIM: The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle profiles local Beijing-bound swimmer Garrett Weber-Gale and notes that there will be three additional Jewish swimmers representing Team USA at the Olympics.
10 JEWS, ONE MUSEUM: There may only be about 10 Jews left living in Stevens Point, but that didn’t stop the central Wisconsin city from getting its own Jewish museum. The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle reports that a local historical society has converted the town’s old synagogue into a mini-museum.
HULK’S JEWISH VALUES: Writing in the St. Louis Jewish Light, Jewish educator Michael Raileanu finds Jewish meaning in this summer’s blockbusters — from “Kung Fu Panda” and “Wall-E” to “Hancock” and “The Incredible Hulk.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME?: Denver’s renowned National Jewish Medical and Research Center has changed its name to “National Jewish Health.” The move, of course, was made under the expert guidance of a marketing firm. The Intermountain Jewish News has the story.
FAREWELL HAGGADAH HUB: When Berkeley’s Cody’s Books closed recently, Northern Californians lost not only a beloved local institution and literary hub, but also a store that historically had managed to assemble an incredible selection of Passover Haggadahs. San Francisco’s J. has the story.
JAPANESE AND JEWISH: “It’s not easy being a Japanese Jew,” Francesca Biller-Safran explains in San Francisco’s J.
CHOOSING A GENDER, FINDING A JOB: San Francisco’s Jewish Vocational Service has launched a new program to help the transgendered find employment, according to local Jewish weekly J.
WHAT NEXT?: The L.A. Jewish Journal reports on Birthright Israel co-founder Michael Steinhardt’s effort to find something for alumni of the program to do next.
JEWESSES CLIMB EVEREST: Two Aussie Jews have become the first mother-daughter climbing team to reach the summit of Mount Everest, according to Jewish Times Asia (via JTA).
FRUIT FIT FOR A KING: Israel has given 120 pomegranates to the king of Thailand, Jewish Times Asia reports.
INFILTRATORS FOR JESUS?: Members of a proselytizing Messianic Jewish group are volunteering in an Australian Jewish nursing home, and some folks are pretty peeved. The Australian Jewish News has the story.
CHRISTMAS IN JULY?: Britain’s Jewish Chronicle reports that a Jewish worker for a Jewish burial society has settled his racial discrimination claim against his employer. Part of the worker’s complaint was that he allegedly didn’t receive as much additional money as his non-Jewish colleagues for working on Christmas.
Hat tip for a couple of these items goes to JTA’s talented Fundermentalist blogger, who, I feel, sort of stole my newspaper roundup idea (which I can’t really complain about too much, since I had sort of stolen it from Slate in the first place).
ALL WE ARE SAYING, IS GIVE ISRAEL A CHANCE: Some Jewish activists are complaining that the city-sponsored Cambridge Peace Commission in Harvard University’s uber-liberal hometown is biased against Israel. Boston’s Jewish Advocate has the story.
RABBINATE TUG-OF-WAR: New York Jewish Week editor Gary Rosenblatt chats with Rabbi Benjamin Lau, a prominent religious Zionist who is challenging the Haredi dominance of Israel’s official rabbinate. “We are the Zionists and we should be the ones with the power,” Lau explains. “It’s not normal for the state to be the captive of the haredim.”
CELEBRATING IN SAVANNAH: The New York Jewish Week heads down south to Savannah, where the local Jewish community is celebrating its 275th birthday.
JEWS AND CHESS: The New Jersey Jewish Standard looks at the longstanding Jewish connection to the game of chess.
JEWS WITH GUNS: The Washington Jewish Week visits with local Jewish gun owners and finds the following: “All told, Jewish gun ownership in the Washington area appears to be a mostly male phenomenon. Interviewees said they were unaware of local women who independently own guns. The wives of gun owners declined comment.”
REFORM FOR ODESSA: The Baltimore Jewish Times reports that the local Jewish community federation is sending $50,000 to the Ukraine to help fund a Reform congregation in the Black Sea port city of Odessa.
HONORING JOE DUMARS: The Michigan region of the Anti-Defamation League recently honored the Detroit Pistons and the club’s president, former Pistons star Joe Dumars. The Detroit Jewish News reports that Dumars was on hand to pick up the award and spoke about how growing up in the South influenced the way he treats others. I wonder if the event’s emcee introduced the basketball legend as “Joe Duuuuuuuuumars,” (like in the good old days).
ELIE WIESEL TESTIFIES: Elie Wiesel, one of our most eloquent witnesses to the Holocaust, recently took the stand as a witness in the trial of a Holocaust denier who is charged with attempting to kidnap him in a San Francisco hotel. San Francisco’s J. was in the courtroom.
NEW HOPE FOR CAMP SWIG?: The collapse of a real-estate deal in which the Reform movement was to sell a beloved Northern California Jewish camp to a Methodist group has given new hope to former campers trying to save a beloved community spot. San Francisco’s J. has the story as well as an editorial expressing admiration for the “exhausted heroes” trying to keep Camp Swig Jewish.
CAPITALISM OR CRETINISM?: In an opinion article for the L.A. Jewish Journal, USC professor Marty Kaplan writes that cost-cutting L.A. Times owner Sam Zell is treating an important civic institution as if it were a bagel store. (Meanwhile, he notes, a local landlord isn’t treating a cherished area bagel store much better.)
JOAN RIVERS SPEAKS: Joan Rivers has kind words (for Rosie O’Donnell, Nicole Kidman and Howard Stern) and some less kind ones (for Russell Crowe, Tommy Lee Jones and Diane Keaton). The Canadian Jewish News speaks with a comic legend with a legendarily sharp tongue.
WINEHOUSE’S KOSHER SPREE: Amy Winehouse must have had a hankering for some Jewish soul food. The troubled songstress recently swung by a number of kosher food shops in London’s Golders Green and seemed to be in good spirits, obligingly posing for pics with fans. Britain’s Jewish Chronicle has a photo, but I found a better one. (I imagine she was having the following epiphany: “All this time, I could have been high on rugelach…”) There are more photos here.
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.”
HAGEE THE ‘STALKING HORSE’: The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent’s Jonathan Tobin argues that critics of John Hagee are using the controversial pastor as “a stand-in for the smear that the tens of millions of Christian conservatives who love Israel are closeted Jew-haters.”
FLIP-FLOP FOR FREE SPEECH: The proprietor of D.C. literary hub Politics and Prose is opening her bookstore to an academic who advocates a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — after she initially withdrew an invitation that had been extended to him. The Washington Jewish Week reports that bookseller Carla Cohen attributes her prior decision to ban UCLA English professor Saree Makdisi — which drew e-mail protests — to “dumbness” on her part. She explained her latest turnaround by saying that people “can listen to him, can make their own decisions [and] debate whether they agree or disagree with him.”
RELIGIOUS LICENSE: The Washington Jewish Week doesn’t approve of a new official South Carolina state license plate option featuring a cross and the words “I Believe.”
DAVID DUKE’S CONTRIBUTION TO JEWISH LIFE IN ATLANTA: An article in the Atlanta Jewish Times begins as follows: “David Duke is a former Ku Klux Klan leader and neo-Nazi. He also played an important role in making Jewish Atlanta the thriving community it is today.”
JUSTICE DEFERRED?: Seattle Jews are still waiting for justice in the wake of the mistrial of the gunman who rampaged through the offices of the local Jewish federation two years ago, killing one woman and wounding six others. Seattle’s Jewish Transcript reports on the trial’s aftermath.
GIANTS’ ‘RABBI’ SPEAKS: Brian Horwitz of the San Francisco Giants has started his big-league career with a hot bat — and he already has been given a silly nickname by his teammates: “the Rabbi.” But, San Francisco’s J. learns, the rookie outfielder doesn’t mind his moniker. “I’m kind of used to it, always being the only Jewish guy on my team and getting noticed for that,” he tells the paper. “So if that’s what makes them happy, I’m not going to be a buzzkill. It’s all in good fun. I enjoy my teammates and being in their company. I don’t think it’s being rude to the religion of Judaism.”
DEBRA WINGER SPEAKS: San Francisco’s J. chats with silver-screen star Debra Winger, who shares her thoughts on prayer (“Having a conversation or an argument with the God I am sure doesn’t exist keeps me a Jew.”) and explains that Internet rumors about her serving in the Israeli army are false (“This was just an Internet snowball. I was just on a typical Israel program for young people. Actually I’m a peacenik. My biggest action is between the sheets.”).
FRAUD DOWN UNDER?: Jews in the southern Australian city of Adelaide are reeling after police accused a local rabbi of fraud over Hebrew school funding applications. “The Adelaide Jewish community is struggling…,” one local Jewish communal leader tells The Australian Jewish News, “there is a general level of distaste keeping people away from shul and from involvement in Jewish community affairs.”
INDIGENOUS FOR ISRAEL: The Canadian Jewish News reports on the founding of a new group, World Indigenous Nations for Israel, with the motto, “Wherever we stand, we stand for Israel.” “No one in the aboriginal community has ever done this before,” explains the Rev. Raymond McLean, the group’s founder and the pastor of the First Nations Family Worship Centre in Winnipeg. “We will go from church to church, and I believe that within two years we can have one million people registered as members.”
LONG-LIVED JEWS: Britain’s Jewish Chronicle reports on a new study that found British Jews are more likely than their countrymen to live long lives. “I would estimate that, proportionately, there are nearly three times as many Jewish centenarians as there are in the general population of England and Wales,” David Graham, a demographer with British Jewry’s Board of Deputies, tells the J.C.
EAST END DOESN’T END: Britain’s Jewish Chronicle reports on the revival of Jewish life in London’s historic East End.
KABBALAH CENTRE TARGETS KIDS: Two Orthodox rabbis are sounding alarms over efforts by the celebrity-chasing Kabbalah Centre to introduce its ideas into Britain’s schools through its Spirituality for Kids program. “It was quite a shock to read that these people are being allowed into schools,” Rabbi Barry Marcus tells Britain’s Jewish Chronicle. “They have an agenda which is getting to the adults and their money through the children. They have become a lot more sophisticated since they started in the 1990s and are exploiting the naïvete of schools, which are playing with fire.”
FAIR TRADE: Britain’s third-largest union has rejected calls for a boycott of Israel. Britain’s Jewish Chronicle has the story.
HAMPTONS ERUV HULLABALOO: A proposal to erect an eruv in tony Westhampton Beach, N.Y., has prompted an ugly backlash from some quarters. The New York Jewish Week has the story.
HILLEL’S SUPER SAYING: Iron Man, Batman, Will Smith’s “Hancock,” Adam Sandler’s Zohan — this is the season of the “reluctant superhero,” Rabbi Simcha Weinstein writes in The Jewish Press. Weinstein, author of “Up, Up and Oy Vey! How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero,” argues that such heroes are particularly inspiring. “The reluctant superhero speaks to that urge we all have to be something greater, to selflessly serve others and make the world a better place,” he explains. “It is as if all these fictional characters have taken to heart the haunting words of Hillel: ‘If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?’”
FILLING AIPAC’S COFFERS: Who is filling Aipac’s coffers? Writing in The New Jersey Jewish News, former Aipac chief lobbyist Douglas M. Bloomfield credits the U.S. Department of Justice, Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Arab media.
SPEKTOR SERENADES ISRAEL: An eclectic lineup of performers, including Mandy Patinkin, Oscar the Grouch and quirky singer-songwriter-pianist Regina Spektor, took to the stage earlier this month at Washington D.C.’s Israel at 60 celebration on the National Mall. The Washington Jewish Week caught up with the Moscow-born, Bronx-bred Spektor and found out what Israel means to her. “So many times in history, Jews seem to [be] living in harmony and [to] be accepted,” she told the paper, “and all of a sudden, [the] tide turns and they’re not welcome anymore, and in that way it’s so nice to know there’s one place in the world where that can’t happen.”
MILWAUKEE’S FROZEN FALAFEL: Milwaukee may be best known for its beers, but a local company is setting its sights on the frozen falafel market. The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle has the story.
CELEBRATION TIME: San Francisco’s J. kvells over the city’s new Contemporary Jewish Museum.
FREE LUNCH: L.A. Jewish Journal editor Rob Eshman attends a Birthright Israel mega-event and has “a flash of insight into how to get disaffected Jews excited and involved in Jewish life: Make it free!” Among his proposals for programs in the same vein as Birthright, the wildly successful program that has sent tens of thousands of young Jews on free trips to Israel, are: a free year of Jewish education for kids (“Schoolright”), a free week of summer camp for teens (“Campright”), a free year of synagogue membership (“Prayright”) and a free year’s membership in an online dating service (“Dateright”).
RICH DOWN UNDER: The Australian Jewish News finds that members of the tribe are well represented on BRW magazine’s annual list of the wealthiest Aussies. The paper reports that Australian Jewish billionaires occupy the second, fourth, sixth and seventh slots on BRW’s “Rich List.”
ENLISTING CANADA’S JEWS: Canada’s military is stepping up its efforts to recruit Jews. General Walter Semianiw, chief of military personnel of the Canadian Armed Forces, tells the Canadian Jewish News that the recruiting campaign will include appearances at synagogues and schools, “part of a broader effort as part of a diversity piece.”
TORY TOUTS CO-EXISTENCE: Former leader of Britain’s Conservative Party and current Jewish member of Parliament Michael Howard lends his stature to the cause of Jewish-Arab co-existence in Israel. Writing in Britain’s Jewish Chronicle, Howard urges his fellow Britons to “support projects which encourage Jews and Arabs to live and work together and to build that degree of trust between the two communities which can be so important in the wider context of peace.”
BRITAIN’S JEWISH BEAUTIES: The bevy of beauties competing to be the next Miss England include a pair of lovely Jewesses: 22-year-old Miss London, Leah Green, and 19-year-old Miss ModelZed, Samantha Freedman. Britain’s Jewish Chronicle discovers that the two are queens with causes. Green is hoping to show that it’s okay to be shapely, like her. “I thought that maybe I could try to get the message out that it’s not a bad thing to be voluptuous and a size 12,” Green tells the J.C. “I would like to promote real women, curvier women.” Meanwhile, Freedman notes that all the pageantry has a higher purpose. “A lot of people don’t know that the competitions are charity-based,” she says. “All the contestants have to raise money for a particular charity.”
KOSHER MEAT REVOLTS?: The New York Jewish Week attempts to gauge reaction among kosher consumers to the controversy surrounding America’s largest kosher meat plant in the wake of a massive federal immigration raid. Among both Conservative and Orthodox Jews, the paper finds an uneven response, with pockets of anger and calls for boycotts, juxtaposed with the seeming indifference of many congregations. “In the end,” the paper concludes, “the boycott campaign may reach only those in religious Jewish populations who are inclined toward activism.”
A SCHOOL SHRINKS IN BROOKLYN: The New York Jewish Week reports that America’s first Orthodox girls’ school is looking to sell its main Brooklyn facility. With the borough’s Orthodox population shifting religiously rightward, officials at the Shulamith School for Girls point to falling enrollment at the Brooklyn campus and say they need to focus their resources on their newer Long Island branch. While school officials say they intend to reopen the Brooklyn branch in a new location, some local parents are up in arms and fear that the sale will spell the school’s demise in the borough.
BLACK ON JEWS: Constantly yelling comedian Lewis Black tells Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent that Judaism “provided a real basis for life. I’ve had some wonderful rabbis over the years. It’s all given me a strong ethical outlook.”
EAST VS. WEST: As leaders of Cleveland’s Jewish federation consider moving its headquarters from downtown to the heavily Jewish eastern suburb of Beachwood, The Cleveland Jewish News takes the temperature of the rank-and-file. Most of those queried, particularly those who live in the city’s western suburbs, say that they want the federation to stay downtown.
BEFORE JACKIE ROBINSON: In the years before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, it wasn’t easy for blacks and whites to play ball together. Sam Gordon, 84, reminisces about his experiences playing with a black softball club in an interview with Columbus’s New Standard. “Some of my Jewish counterparts, people here in town, word got back to me, said it was terrible that I was playing with a black team because it looked bad for the Jews in town,” Gordon tells the paper.
SILVERMAN SIS SPILLS THE BEANS: Writing in San Francisco’s J., Rabbi Susan Silverman explains how her famous comedian sister was always good at edgy humor. Even as a toddler, Sarah Silverman could crack up a room — by swearing. “Our mother rolled her eyes in mock disapproval as our father beamed,” the rabbi writes regarding one particular incident. “And we, her big sisters, couldn’t believe our luck — in Sarah we had found the perfect juxtaposition of adorable and crude. It was genius.” Rabbi Silverman also explains how her younger sibling is “Like the Jewish prophets.” (It turns out this essay is an adaptation of an article that appeared in the L.A. Jewish Journal back in November.)
‘SEX’ JEW SPEAKS: Actor Evan Handler — who plays Charlotte’s adoring Jewish husband, Harry Goldenblatt, in “Sex and the City” — tells the L.A. Jewish Journal “I am not that guy.” He also says that he is often stopped on the streets by Jewish men who praise his work on the hit show. “I don’t know whether most of the thanks were offered because they thought [Harry] was a positive portrayal of a Jewish character or if they were thrilled I’d defiled television’s ultimate rendition of another cultural stereotype: the shiksa goddess,” Handler says.
NO CITIZENSHIP FOR SEMITES: The L.A. Jewish Journal has the story of a local judicial candidate who has apparently advocated limiting citizenship exclusively to non-Hispanic whites. (That means no citizenship for “Semites,” either!) The Journal reports that his campaign manager is also the state coordinator of Ron Paul for President.
JEWS AGAINST BOREDOM: Underwhelmed by offerings for Jewish 20-somethings in the San Diego area, two young men decided to do something about it. The San Diego Jewish Journal reports on the birth of Jews Against Boring Activities. “We’re tired of people complaining about things and not doing anything,” group co-founder Brian Geffen tells the paper. “We’re doing it. We’re making it happen. We’re making Jewish events a want-to experience, versus a have-to experience.” According to the Journal, ideas for events include “a dinner cruise, a day at the Del Mar Racetrack, and cocktails, appetizers and live jazz at a trendy restaurants [sic].”
SHOSHANAH EATS SEAL: The San Diego Jewish Journal catches up with Shoshanah Jacobs, “a 29-year old Jewish girl from Ottawa, Ontario with a PhD in Arctic seabirds” who works as an Arctic expedition leader.
KINKY FRIEDMAN SPEAKS: Country music singer, mystery writer, former Texas gubernatorial candidate and (most recently) cigar manufacturer Kinky Friedman tells Britain’s Jewish Chronicle that Israelis are “very much like Texans.” “They both like to wear their hats indoors,” he explains, adding: “They’re also both gypsies, wandering in the raw poetry of time.” He’s less charitable, however, in his estimation of some varieties of Diaspora Jews: “The American Jew is a very uncomfortable creature. So is the British Jew. They’re wimps.”
IT’S GOOD TO BE AN OLIGARCH: Mikhail Friedman, the Russian “oligarch” whom Forbes magazine ranked the world’s 45th-richest person, chats with Britain’s Jewish Chronicle about the situation of Jews in Russia. “I would say that now antisemitism is not a big problem. Xenophobia is a bigger problem,” he tells the paper. “The problem of Jews are solved, but those of others such as the Armenians and the Uzbeks are not. On a social level, people far more often face competition with non-ethnic Russians and it’s much more problematic. It’s very important to express clearly our solidarity with non-Russian people fighting for their rights.”
NAZIS CROSS CHANNEL: Jewish leaders in Manchester are fuming over a 1940s-themed event in a heavily Jewish part of town in which some participants showed up wearing Nazi uniforms. Contacted for comment by Britain’s Jewish Chronicle, an event organizer responded: “I am making my tea and I do not want to speak to you. I do not have to. This is a free country and I speak to who I want to.”
SHTREIMEL SNATCHERS: Britain’s Jewish Chronicle reports on a slew of muggings in which London Hasidim have had their expensive fur hats stolen. One 19-year-old thug who snatched a 50-year-old teacher’s shtreimel was caught by onlookers. “A number of people were in the street at the time, and saw a man running off with the hat,” a Hackney police spokeswoman tells the J.C. “They pounced on him and detained him prior to police arrival. The hat was recovered by some members of the Jewish community and was returned to the victim.”
POWDER PLEA: A man who sent an envelope to Britain’s Jewish Chronicle that was filled with a harmless white powder and a note saying “All Jews Die,” “World Trade Centre” and “Pentagon” has pleaded guilty to a slew of charges, the J.C. reports.
SPOOKED BY SPY SCANDAL: The spying charges leveled against retired Army engineer Ben-Ami Kadish are dividing the Jewish War Veterans chapter that he once led. Meanwhile, the New Jersey octogenarian is being shunned by some of his friends and neighbors. The New York Jewish Week has the story.
FOXMAN PUTS HAGEE ON ‘HOLD’: John McCain has repudiated the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee following the surfacing of controversial remarks about the Holocaust made by the Christians United for Israel founder. Now, the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman, who had previously defended the Jewish community’s ties to the controversial pastor, is telling The New York Jewish Week that such ties should be put on “hold.”
36 UNDER 36: The New York Jewish Week flags 36 Jews under the age of 36 who it thinks are doing important Jewish things. “They’re the community’s new young guns — forward-looking rabbis, social-justice junkies, campus crusaders, arts entrepreneurs, bridge-builders, new media mavericks and hedge-funders with heart — who are reshaping the landscape of Jewish life. They’re all grass-roots, bottom-up thinkers and doers who are (mostly) bypassing the Establishment and pushing for change — now. Brace yourselves,” The Jewish Week explains without so much as a hint of excitement.
MARRYING MOSAICALLY: A couple immigrates to Israel and decides to have a second wedding. The bride and groom just happen to be, respectively, 88 and 97 years of age, and hail from a remote region of northeastern India. The Jewish Press reports on an exotic yet traditional Jewish wedding in Kiryat Arba.
WHERE’S THE PLAN ON IRAN?: New Jersey Jewish News editor Andrew Silow-Carroll suspects that neither Obama nor McCain “has a clue about what to do about Iran.”
TRIBE IN TAIWAN: The Baltimore Jewish Times visits with Taiwan’s tiny Jewish community. The island nation’s Jewish population numbers some 100 to 150 individuals and is led by Ephraim F. Einhorn, an 89-year-old Orthodox rabbi originally from Vienna. “I’m the rabbi, president, treasurer, shamash, ba’al koreh and I pay all the bills,” Einhorn explains.
SHORT IN SHUL: Comedian Martin Short is swinging by a Maryland synagogue, despite being a Roman Catholic. The Baltimore Jewish Times chats with the Canadian-born comic about comedy, Jews and his upcoming performance at Pikesville’s Beth Tfiloh Dahan Sanctuary.
DASHING DETROIT’S HOPES: Detroit Jewish News editor Robert Sklar explains how indicted Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick dashed the high hopes of his city — and of local Jews.
‘ROUGH RIDIN’ RABBI’: In an article for the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, Morris B. Margolies relates how he got dubbed the “Rough Ridin’ Rabbi” during his service as an Army chaplain in the Korean War.
UNITED BY PLATITUDES: Two months ago, the Rev. Eric Lee and Daphna Ziman were embroiled in a high-profile feud. Ziman, a Jewish philanthropist, had written a widely circulated e-mail accusing Lee of having launched into a hateful tirade attacking Jewish influence in Hollywood at a banquet she attended. (She also, somewhat strangely, pointed a finger of blame for Lee’s speech at presidential hopeful Barack Obama.) For his part, Lee, head of the L.A. chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, denied Ziman’s characterization of his words, even as he apologized to her for any offense he had given. Now, the two are making nice in a jointly written opinion article for the L.A. Jewish Journal that is composed almost entirely of platitudes about black-Jewish relations and doesn’t shed any light on the mystery of what Lee actually said at that banquet.
UNFRIENDLY SKYS: The best thing that can be said for the airline is that it didn’t lose her luggage. Instead, when 29-year-old Brit Emma Pelta got her baggage back after her British Airways flight from London to Orlando, Fla., she found it marked with a large swastika. She then spent five months trying to get an apology out of the airline, London’s Jewish Chronicle reports.
SPRINGTIME FOR BRITISH JEWRY?: British Jewry has been shrinking in size for more than a half-century — down from 450,000 in 1950 to somewhere in the neighborhood of between 270,000 and 280,000 today. But is Britain’s Jewish population now growing again? One demographer thinks so. Yaakov Wise of the University of Manchester believes that Britain’s growing ultra-Orthodox sector, with its high birthrates, has tipped the demographic balance for British Jewry as a whole, and that the community’s overall numbers are now trending upward. A researcher with British Jewry’s official Board of Deputies, however, disagreed with Wise’s assessment. “There is no evidence to show that the total number of Jews in the UK is on the rise,” Board of Deputies demographer David Graham says. London’s Jewish Chronicle has the story of the demographic dispute.
OBAMA’S NO ‘OGRE’: Brooklyn’s right-wing Jewish Press hasn’t been too keen on Barack Obama. So perhaps it’s something of a victory for the Democratic presidential hopeful that this week’s Jewish Press editorial concedes that Obama “is not some ogre with a hidden anti-Semitic agenda.”
MEL BROOKS SPEAKS: The New Jersey Jewish Standard chats with the great Mel Brooks, who talks about his Jewish identity, and explains that “it’s good to be a Jew.”
CROSSING DELAWARE: The Baltimore Jewish Times chats with Jack Markell, Delaware state treasurer and gubernatorial hopeful.
BACK TO WORK: The Cleveland Jewish News speaks with a native Ohioan who was shot by a Palestinian sniper while accompanying his boss, Israeli public security minister Avi Dichter, and a group of Canadian Jews near the Gaza border. “It was important to me to get back to work. [My injury] was played up in the Palestinian press as a huge success because they were able to hit an adviser to a senior security minister who has put a lot of their guys in jails and in graves,” says 28-year-old Mati Gill, who was shot in the thigh. “I wanted to show them that this isn’t going to keep me from going back to work.”
STRIKING SENIOR: The St. Louis Jewish Light profiles 94-year-old Sam Fox, “the oldest bowler in the St. Louis Senior Olympics.” Fox recalls when he first started going to bowling alleys after attending hockey games with friends. “It was a great place to meet girls,” he explains.
JACKIE MASON BOMBS: Perhaps organizers of Britain’s Israel at 60 gala celebration didn’t make the smartest choice when they tapped Jackie Mason as a headliner. Indeed, one British rabbi, writing in advance of the event, called Jackie Mason “a terrible choice,” noting that the lofty values contained in Israel’s Declaration of Independence “are far removed from the kind of stereotyping of which Jackie Mason’s work is full.” And, sure enough, the American comic’s ethnically charged shtick didn’t seem to play well with the crowd at London’s Wembley Arena. The Jewish Chronicle’s reviewer wrote that Mason “went down like a lead gefilte fish.” Some attendees who spoke to the J.C. also weren’t laughing along with Mason’s act:
“It was outrageous, racist and not very politically correct. I was embarrassed,” said Hannah Kleinfeld. “I couldn’t bare it,” said Donna Sherrington, 31, of Hampstead. “I didn’t want to watch. I can’t believe people still say things like that.”
WAR ON WANT — AND ON ISRAEL: War on Want, a British anti-poverty group, has taken up the Palestinian cause, backing a rally that featured a video message from Hamas bigwig Ismail Haniyeh. London’s Jewish Chronicle has the story.
OPENING ORTHODOXY: London’s Jewish Chronicle speaks with Simon Hochhauser, president of Britain’s main Orthodox body, the United Synagogue. Hochhauser is running for reelection on a platform of promoting women’s equality in lay leadership roles and allowing individual synagogues greater financial autonomy.
SMOOTHER THAN HITLER?: Jewish groups were outraged by a South Korean cosmetic company’s TV commercial that used Nazi imagery and referenced Hitler to promote its skin-care products. The idea behind the campaign was to illustrate the product’s “revolutionary” benefits. While the ad campaign was eventually yanked, the Jewish Times Asia reports that “the battle is far from over.” “The use of Nazi and Hitler themes is becoming increasingly more common throughout the Far East,” the paper explains. “In the past year, there have been reports of Nazi themed bars and eateries, clothing lines, comic books, advertising campaigns and even a bedding collection.”
‘SISTINE SECRETS’: The New York Jewish Week speaks with the Yeshiva University rabbi whose book on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel has the media buzzing, antisemites foaming and some scholars seething.
IMAM’S DEFENDER: A New Jersey imam facing possible deportation over alleged ties to Hamas has found a defender in an area rabbi, who vouches for his interfaith bridge-building. The New Jersey Jewish News has the story.
BEARISH ON BEIJING BOYCOTT: Brooklyn’s Jewish Press says that Jewish leaders who are calling for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics are “way off base” — singling out for scorn analogies that have been drawn between the upcoming Games and the 1936 Berlin Olympics. “Not only is it disappointing and somewhat insulting for Jews to so casually invoke Nazism, it reflects an amateurish effort to couple a one-dimensional expression of evil with one of the more complicated political phenomena of our time,” the paper’s editorialist writes. On the other side of the country, San Francisco’s J. calls the comparisons with the Berlin Games “all too apparent — and valid.” Nevertheless, J. is also skeptical of Jewish calls for a boycott. “[T]he idea of a boycott is simplistic, and a boycott limited to Jewish tourists is foolish,” J.’s editorialist explains. “China’s daily infusions of billions of dollars are propping up the U.S. economy, while cargo ships arrive hourly teeming with Chinese products. But if the Goldfarbs from Schenectady don’t show up for the Olympics? Yeah, that’ll show ‘em.”
ISRAEL’S LIKE MIKE: Writing in Brooklyn’s Jewish Press, Yoram Ettinger makes the case that Israel has been a boon to America’s national security. Among other things, he notes that Israeli upgrades to American military systems have added value, prompting other countries to purchase them. “Israel, one might say, has been for the U.S. what Michael Jordan has been for Nike,” he writes.
WHO IS A JEW (IN PRISON)?: A Missouri inmate’s white-supremacist ties don’t mean that he doesn’t have a right to kosher food. The inmate claimed that he had converted to Judaism and stopped affiliating with white-supremacist prison gangs. The inmate’s court papers argued that kosher food was a necessity, because without it he “”must choose between eating non-kosher food and death, every bite he takes is done at the peril of his very soul.” St. Louis Jewish Light reports on a federal judge’s ruling in the case.
NEWSOM IN ISRAEL: San Francisco’s high-profile mayor, Gavin Newsom, headed to Israel — and San Francisco’s J. tagged along. The mayor of the famously left-leaning city tells J. that some of the anti-Israel speech that occurs in the Bay Area is antisemitic.
STARS DON’T COME OUT AT NIGHT FOR ISRAEL: For Israel’s 60th birthday, Los Angeles Jews are hosting a big concert at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre, home of the Oscars. But, the L.A. Jewish Journal finds, Tinseltown’s stars won’t be much in evidence. “”We did not get a great response,” Genie Benson, an event producer, tells the Journal. “I was very surprised. I thought more people would want to jump on board.” Concert organizers did, however, do okay among the older celebrity set: Larry King and Kirk Douglas are both expected to appear.
MORMON MISSIONARIES, MEET JEWS: Several L.A. rabbis are working to explain Judaism to Mormon missionaries — but the missionaries had best be careful how they use their newfound knowledge. “I want to be clear,” Rabbi Isaac Jeret told the students. “I’m not here to help you missionize. If you really want to build a bridge between the Mormon and the Jewish communities, understand who we are and how vital and important and precious the Jews are to the Jewish people.” The L.A. Jewish Journal reports on these inter-religious encounters.
KEVIN MACDONALD HAS SOME THEORIES: The L.A. Jewish Journal has a lengthy profile of the man it dubs “the professor the anti-Semites love” — California State University Long Beach psychology professor Kevin MacDonald.
SACKS ON FIRST: The Jewish Chronicle’s “JC Power 100” is to British Jewry what the Forward 50 is to American Jewry. Topping the J.C.’s second-annual list of “those who wield the greatest influence on British Jewry” is Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, who topped last year’s list as well (I’m sensing a tradition in the making here). In contrast to the rules of the Forward 50, one doesn’t have to be Jewish to make the J.C.’s list — Prime Minister Gordon Brown clocks in at No. 29.
KOSHER CHICKEN CHALLENGE: Things got messy when the British version of “The Apprentice” — hosted by Jewish businessman Sir Alan Sugar — challenged contestants to procure a kosher chicken in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. London’s Jewish Chronicle has the play-by-play:
How do you kosher a chicken? According to Jewish Apprentice candidate Michael Sophocles, by taking a halal chicken from the Marrakech soukh and then having an extra blessing muttered over it by a Muslim butcher.
This desperate failure to achieve one of the 10 must-have items on Sir Alan Sugar’s list in this week’s BBC One programme achieved a new low back in the boardroom. Sir Alan, with an unerring talent for homing in on disaster, snarled at Sophocles and his fellow chicken-collector, Jenny Celerier, with equal wrath. “I thought it said on your CV you were Jewish? Did you put that on just to impress me? If you’re Jewish, how can you not know what a kosher chicken is?” Sophocles wriggled. “I’m only half-Jewish, Sir Alan,” he muttered. Wrong answer.
Meanwhile, there was some unlovely wriggling from Ms Celerier, who first told Sir Alan that she did not know what kosher meant — a statement he plainly did not believe — and then claimed that she thought that Sophocles knew all about kashrut. Even more of a wrong answer, and it got her fired, only moments after the other Jennifer had also been despatched to the great taxi-stand outdoors. Two firings in one week, and neither of them the Jewish candidate — unbelievable!
The BBC has more on the contest.
I MAKE MISTAKES: In last week’s column, I suggested that the decision by a Toronto synagogue to leave the United Synagogue Conservative Judaism was part of a larger exodus of Canadian congregations sparked in part by dissatisfaction with the movement’s increasingly liberal stances on the religious roles of women and gays. In fact, the synagogue’s leadership had said that concerns about resources and dues were what prompted the split, and that ideology was not a factor. Last month, I mistakenly reported that Rabbi David Gruber, who specializes in interfaith marriages, lives in San Francisco, Calif., when he actually lives in Frisco, Texas.
FOUNDING FIREFIGHTERS: Connecticut’s Jewish Ledger explores the history of Lake Waubeeka, a summer community that was founded in 1950 by Ner Tormid, a fraternal organization of Jewish firefighters. The society’s name, the Ledger explains, was a misspelling of the Hebrew ner tamid, or “eternal flame.” Apparently, the firefighters were better at fighting flames than spelling them.
HASIDIC VIGILANTES?: The New York Jewish Week reports that Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes is likening a Hasidic community patrol group to the Bloods and the Crips following an attack on a black man by a group of Jews in Crown Heights. Meanwhile, some Hasidim are complaining that while Hynes is coming down hard in response to this incident, a string of attacks on Jews in the neighborhood remain unsolved. But this isn’t Hynes’s only Jewish problem. The Jewish Week also reports on the aftermath of a controversial plea bargain in which critics say Hynes let a rabbi accused of molesting yeshiva students off easy.
A CLUB THAT WILL HAVE THEM: Rabbis Marc Angel and Avi Weiss have launched a new Modern Orthodox rabbinic association as an alternative to the established and rightward-drifting Rabbinical Council of America, which recently adopted more stringent conversion policies. But, The Jewish Week notes, the new association will also serve another purpose, providing a home to graduates of Weiss’s Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, who have been denied membership by the RCA.
‘REPELLED’ BY BEN STEIN: Ben Stein’s new pro-“intelligent design” documentary “Expelled” repels the editorialist of the New Jersey Jewish News with its linkage of Darwinism and Nazism. “Expelled draws a direct line between Darwin and Hitler, between natural selection and the Selektions of the Holocaust,” the editorialist writes. “It’s like blaming Shakespeare for the English major who committed the Virginia Tech massacre.”
BAT MITZVAH HISTORY: The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle catches up with two women who, 62 years ago, were among the first five girls in the city’s Jewish community to have a bat mitzvah ceremony. “Practically the whole Pittsburgh showed up,” recalls former bar mitzvah girl Gerri Ash Bronk, now 75. “The shul was absolutely packed. Some people thought it was a fantastic idea, some didn’t.”
BALTIMORE’S LIST-LOVERS: In February, the list-lovers of the Baltimore Jewish Times offered up their “Favorite 54” — chronicling the best things about Jewish life in their town. Now, apropos an important anniversary, they’ve come up with a list highlighting on 60 aspects of Israel that they thought their readers should know about — from an all-chocolate restaurant in Rosh Pina to “Jews” (“They’re everywhere and permeate everything”).
IRAQ VETS SPEAK: The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle speaks with some local Jewish veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
TWISTED SISTER CITY: Kansas City chose the Israeli town of Ramle as a sister city of in part because of its diverse population of Arabs and Jews. But then Ramle’s Jewish mayor was quoted in an Israeli newspaper cursing his city’s Arab citizens — and the controversy came to Kansas City. The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle has the story.
IT BEATS EGYPT: The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix reports that Arizona has become a hot spot for Passover vacations:
Like the Israelites who journeyed through the desert and whose story is retold each year during the seder, nearly 3,000 people made their own journey to the desert this year to commemorate this occasion.
However, this time it was a little different.
Instead of tents, today’s “wanderers” celebrated in luxury at four Valley resorts: The Arizona Biltmore, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, the Millennium Resort Scottsdale McCormick Ranch and the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.
They dined on modern-day manna in the form of bagels (made from potato starch), made-to-order omelets, Belgian waffles, chocolate soufflés, pancakes, pizzas, pastries and sushi (made with quinoa instead of rice).
Wandering in the desert has never been easier.
TEHRANGELES ON OBAMA: The Los Angeles Jewish Journal finds that some leaders of the local Iranian Jewish community are wary about Barack Obama’s calls for engagement with Iran. “Any agreement to negotiate with the [Iranian] regime will give it the sort of legitimacy that it does not currently have but so desperately needs in order to put the last nails in the coffins of those who still have hope for a democratic Iran,” Sam Kermanian, secretary general of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, tells the Journal.
GOING POSTAL: The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has passed a resolution backing the use of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, making it, according to The Canadian Jewish News, the first national union in North America to do so. But will they deliver mail addressed to Israel?
‘RIDE TO REMEMBER’: Members of the Jewish Motorcycle Alliance mount their bikes to memorialize the Holocaust, as part of the fourth-annual “Ride to Remember,” which will take place later this month in Omaha, Neb. ““For a Jewish group, we have a unique way of honouring the Holocaust,” Steve Stein, past president of Toronto’s Yidden on Wheels, tells The Canadian Jewish News.
CONSERVATIVES LOSE LARGEST: The biggest Conservative-affiliated congregation in North America has left the movement. Toronto’s Beth Tzedec Congregation is the latest in a string of Canadian synagogues to split with the American-dominated United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. While there have been some complaints by Canadian Conservative congregations over the larger movement’s increasingly liberal stances on the religious roles of gays and women, the rabbi of Beth Tzedec tells The Canadian Jewish News that ideology didn’t play a role in his synagogue’s decision. Rather, he said, the split was prompted by issues having to do with the movement’s allocation of resources.
BLAME MY WIFE: A mayor from New South Wales in Australia is apologizing to Jews after he made the following statement at a public meeting: “Why don’t you jack up the price, why don’t you be a good Jew, why don’t you screw the last dollar out of it like public enterprise would?” The mayor, however, also had a ready explanation for why his remarks were not motivated by malice toward Jews. His wife is Jewish, and the phrase he used is “a phrase my wife uses a lot at home.” The Australian Jewish News has the story.
TEL-AVIV GOES QUACK: Residents of Tel Aviv have fallen in love with a giant inflatable duck that has been perched on top of their city hall. When a municipal worker accidentally pulled the plug on the big bird, causing it to deflate, “hundreds of concerned citizens called us,” one of the project’s organizers tells London’s Jewish Chronicle.
PRINCELY PATRON: London’s Jewish Chronicle reports that Britain’s Prince Charles “was so taken by his involvement in creating a new Polish Jewish community centre, which he opened in Krakow on Tuesday, that he now intends to become involved in another Jewish project in Eastern Europe.”
YESHIVA BIDDING WARS: The New York Jewish Week reports on how local Modern Orthodox yeshivas have begun offering merit scholarships to compete for top students — a trend that has some saying the new policies ape those of elite secular schools and could ultimately undermine the focus on need-based financial aid.
BOYCOTT BEIJING: While China may be making arrangements for kosher kitchens to draw Jewish tourists to the Olympics, two leading Modern Orthodox rabbis argue in The New York Jewish Week that the communist regime’s policies toward Sudan and Tibet make the Games treyf. Rabbis Irving “Yitz” Greenberg and Haskell Lookstein say that Jews should not attend the Beijing Olympics. “We remember all too well how Nazi Germany sought to attract visitors to the 1936 Olympics in order to distract attention from its persecution of the Jews,” they write. “Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, called the 1936 games ‘a victory for the German cause.’ The Chinese government is hoping for a propaganda victory of its own.”
COMIC DAVENING: One can imagine bored kids hiding comic books inside their Siddurs during Saturday morning services. Now, Brooklyn’s Jewish Press reports, there’s a Siddur that is a comic book.
WHAT WOULD NOAH DO?: The Washington Jewish Week reports on a small sect of philosemites that is focused on upholding the seven laws that, according to Jewish tradition, God expects the non-Jewish descendants of Noah to keep. Meet the Noahides.
FIVE DECADES OF MAHJONG: The St. Louis Jewish Light checks in with a group of local women who have been playing mahjong together for 50 years.
SAVAGE BACKLASH: An interfaith coalition of Kansas City residents is pushing to have hateful right-wing radio host Michael Savage pulled off the air. The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle reports on the Jewish community’s response.
‘J-STREET JIVE’: JStreet, Washington’s new dovish Israel policy lobby, has already drawn its fair share of boosters and critics. Count the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent’s Jonathan Tobin among the second camp. “[T]he notion underlying the whole initiative is based on belief in a creature as mythical as the unicorn: Palestinian peaceniks,” Tobin writes. In The New York Jewish Week, Hannah Rosenthal, former executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, expresses considerably more enthusiasm for the project, writing, “The progressive voice in our community has been far too quiet on Israel for far too long.”
NOT MUSIC TO HIS EARS: A Jewish music aficionado was sitting in a church enjoying a concert based on Christian liturgy — until he read the translation of the lyrics. The Baltimore Jewish Times reports on a contemporary crucifixion controversy.
THE THREE D’S: Writing in the L.A. Jewish Journal, a Methodist bishop and an activist for Afghanistan — both recently returned from a trip to Israel — say that “the destructive D words of Divorce, Dissolution and Divestment” aren’t the right approach to dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
WHERE’S THE MATZO?: San Francisco’s J reports on the local impact of the nationwide matzo shortage of 2008. Down the coast, the L.A. Jewish Journal finds that while area chain supermarkets may be out of matzo, no such scarcity exists in Jewish specialty stores.
AUSSIES RIDE AGAIN… IN BEERSHEVA: Beersheva has a new ornament — a statue of a leaping Australian horseman. The Australian Jewish News reports that the statue commemorates a 1917 victory of an Australian light horse unit in Beersheva that “set in train a series of events that included the liberation of Jerusalem, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate in Palestine and ultimately the establishment of the State of Israel.” Israeli President Shimon Peres and a slew of Israeli and Australian officials are expected to be present at a ceremony inaugurating the statue.
YORK’S ANTI-ANTI ISRAEL STUDENTS: According to a new survey, students at Toronto’s York University are overwhelmingly irked that their student government is using their fees to fund pro-Palestinian activism. The Canadian Jewish News has the story.
HUCK’S HARDLINE: Former GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee told an audience at a Montreal synagogue that he doesn’t think Israel should be pressured into giving up land. “It is foolish to ask Israel, with its tiny piece of real estate, to give it up to those who are avowed to destroying the nation of Israel,” he said. “It makes no sense at all.” The Canadian Jewish News was on the scene.
BOB GELDOF, MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER: Asked whether he was proud of his Jewish ancestry, rocker turned international humanitarian Bob Geldof told Manchester’s Jewish Telegraph, “I could not give a f****** sh**.” Geldof was being interviewed prior to giving a speech at the Manchester Jewish Federation’s annual dinner. In the speech, he recounted a conversation he once had with his Jewish agent in which he said, “I was a quarter Catholic, a quarter Protestant, a quarter Jewish and a quarter nothing — the nothing won.”
RED KEN SPEAKS: London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who has had a rocky relationship with his city’s Jewish community, in part due to his outspoken criticism of Israel, tells London’s Jewish Chronicle that he’s being treated unfairly.
KOSHER AT FENWAY: The home of the Boston Red Sox has long been famous for its Green Monster. Now, it’s getting kosher dogs. Boston’s Jewish Advocate reports on what may be the greatest moment for Jewish Red Sox fans since 2007.
BRANDEIS DISROBES: Students at Brandeis university get naked for the Earth. Boston’s Jewish Advocate reports on “BARE: Brandeisians Advocating Real Environmentalism,” a new calendar featuring an eco-friendly message and photos of students posing au naturel.
QUESTIONING CONVERTS: Critics are warning that a new Rabbinical Council of America policy streamlining Orthodox conversion could result in heightened scrutiny of the Jewishness of people who have converted to Judaism in the past. The New York Jewish Week has the story.
WEAK PLEA: A plea bargain given to a rabbi who had been charged with sexually molesting students at a Brooklyn yeshiva has some crying foul. According to The New York Jewish Week, the deal has “resurrected questions in some quarters about [Brooklyn District Attorney Charles] Hynes’ competence or his political will in pursuing allegations of wrongdoing involving prominent institutions and individuals in Brooklyn’s politically powerful Orthodox community.”
CUTTING CARTOON: Two New Jersey pols, Rep. Steve Rothman and Senator Frank Lautenberg, are urging Bergen County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Ferriero to back the senator’s reelection. Political cartoonist Rob Tornoe’s take: He puts a butcher’s knife into Rothman’s hand as the county chairman is pinned to an operating table by a yarmulke-clad Lautenberg. The title: “Rothman the Mohel or Ferriero’s Bris.” Suffice it to say, as The New Jersey Jewish News reports, some folks aren’t impressed by Tornoe’s wit or wisdom.
EXODUS FROM CLEVELAND?: A battle is brewing in Cleveland over a controversial proposal to move the local Jewish federation’s headquarters from downtown, where it has long been located for a century, to the ’burbs, where most of Cleveland’s Jews live. Now, The Cleveland Jewish News reports, some 50 civic leaders are urging the federation to stay put as the city works to revitalize its urban core.
RABBI KASHERS COKE: Houston’s Jewish Herald-Voice speaks with Rabbi Yehoshua Wender, who provides kosher supervision to Coca-Cola’s local bottling plant, one of eight nationwide that produces kosher-for-Passover products, including soda with liquid cane sugar instead of the usual corn syrup. “The ‘connoisseurs’ of Coke tend to favor the cane sugar products,” Rabbi Wender tells the paper, “especially the people who have been working at the factory for a long time — they all rush out and buy the Passover Coke. They say it tastes much better, and the ‘balance’ is much better.”
AIRLINE RUINS PESACH: With bargain airline Skybus going belly-up right before Passover, some Seder-goers have been left stranded. Columbus’s New Standard swoops in for a look at this travel nightmare.
PEARL ON DIALOGUE: A recent surge in high-profile overtures from Muslim leaders prompts Judea Pearl “to take a sober look at the enterprise of Jewish-Muslim dialogue” in an article for the L.A. Jewish Journal.
YIDCORE TO ZION (SANS HUMMUS): The Aussie Jewish punk rockers of Yidcore are headed to Israel for a tour. But don’t expect to see any of their signature hummus-throwing this time around. “I used to strip down on stage and schmear it all over myself before stage diving,” the band’s pierced frontman, Bram Presser, tells The Australian Jewish News. It was disgusting but pretty funny. That ended after we destroyed the stage at legendary New York club CBGBs, and I was forced to stay after the show and scrub the floors.” A Tel Aviv club was similarly irked by the band’s wild ways and rowdy fans; Presser says it took five years to convince the venue to allow them back. “Now, Presser says, “what we do with hummus in the privacy of our own homes is our own business.” In anticipation of its Israel tour, the band has recorded a new release, “The Hummusexual EP.”
POWER FOR PESACH: Following protests from local Jews, an Australian electricity company postponed electricity disruptions that were scheduled to begin during the run-up to Passover. The Australian Jewish News shines some light on the subject.
CRUMBY SEA OF GALILEE: A week before Passover, London’s Jewish Chronicle reports, Israel’s water company disconnects Jerusalem from the national water pipeline that brings water from the Sea of Galilee. For a period of two weeks, residents of the capital city rely solely on water piped in from local reservoirs and wells. Why all this trouble? Because some Haredi Jews are wary of the crumbs that fisherman and picnickers leave in the Sea of Galilee. Apparently, extremism in avoidance of chametz is no vice.
KINDER GENTLER HAGEE?: Pastor John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel, has had a rocky past few weeks. First, he landed in the national media spotlight after being accused of being anti-Catholic. Then, last week, the leader of the Union for Reform Judaism urged the Jewish community to steer clear of the philosemitic preacher. Now, some Jewish communal activists say, it appears that Hagee is trying to smooth his rougher edges in an apparent bid to strike a more respectable profile. The New York Jewish Week has the story.
MRS. KAHANE REMEMBERS: The wife of assassinated Jewish extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane speaks with Brooklyn’s Jewish Press about her late husband. The firebrand rabbi’s widow has put together a new book, “Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought, Volume One: 1932-1975.”
SCHIZOPHRENIC ON EDUCATION: New Jersey Jewish News editor Andrew Silow-Carroll let’s us in on the vigorous debate that took place between his head and his heart when it came time to choose either public schools or Jewish schools for his kids.
AFTER ‘SHOWGIRLS’: Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent chats with “Step It Up & Dance” host Elizabeth Berkley about life after “Showgirls.”
WHO NEEDS RABBIS WHEN…: A headline in Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent: “Study: Consultants May Hold the Key to Future of Synagogues.”
NO TIME FOR GAMES: Among the voices protesting the Olympic torch’s passage through San Francisco were American Jewish World Service prexy Ruth Messinger and novelist Michael Chabon. San Francisco’s J. reports on the convergence of advocates for Darfur and Tibet on the streets of Baghdad by the Bay. Meanwhile, on a coast far far away, the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent’s Jonathan Tobin writes that the Games are no fun while people in Darfur, Tibet and China are suffering human rights abuses.
SIZE MATTERS: Columbus singles say its hard to meet a mate given their city’s relatively small Jewish community. “It’s just a numbers issue,” Rabbi Michael Unger tells Columbus’s New Standard. “We don’t have the same numbers as places like Chicago, New York or even Cleveland.”
‘YES’ MAN: Rabbi David Gruber, a self-described “Orthodox rabbi turned secular humanist Jew,” has found a niche performing interfaith weddings. The Texas Jewish Post talks with a rabbi who, as the paper puts it, “will say ‘yes’ when others have said ‘no.’”
THE BRIDGE IS OURS: For many months, pro-Palestinian protestors have commandeered a local highway overpass to display anti-Israel signs to passing motorists. Now, pro-Israel activists are demonstrating that two can play at that game: They showed up at the bridge with their own signs shortly before the pro-Palestinian vigil was set to begin. Houston’s Jewish Herald-Voice declares victory in the latest round of the battle for the Mandell Street bridge:
When PAA [Progressive Action Alliance, the group behind the anti-Israel protests] activists began to arrive for their protest, at 4:45 p.m., they appeared dumbfounded and confused. Some simply returned to their vehicles and drove away, while a few others paced back and forth on the bridge, grumbling on cellphones or sat pouting on the adjacent concrete barrier. Though the remaining PAA activists were invited to stage their own protest on the other side of the bridge, or on another bridge nearby — which would have juxtaposed their messages of hate with those of peace and tolerance — they, instead, left.
METHODISTS OVER JEWS?: The Union for Reform Judaism is negotiating to sell a beloved Northern California Jewish camp to a Methodist group for $6 million — even though area Jews had raised $5 million to buy and save the facility. San Francisco’s J. doesn’t seem pleased with the URJ’s single-minded focus on the fiscal bottom line — and notes that along with a camp, the movement will be abandoning a Holocaust memorial on its premises,
SOKATCH TO SAN FRAN, TARSY FACES HISTORY: As head of the Los Angeles-based Progressive Jewish Alliance, Daniel Sokatch quickly built up the newbie activist group into a left-leaning powerhouse. Now, the L.A. Jewish Journal reports, he’s headed up the coast to San Francisco and to a new job as the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation’s numero uno. In other migrating Jewish communal activist news, Boston’s Jewish Advocate reports that former New England Anti-Defamation League director Andrew Tarsy — who famously crossed swords last year with national ADL big kahuna Abe Foxman over the Armenian genocide issue — is taking a job with Facing History and Ourselves, a local nonprofit that promotes tolerance through (what else?) genocide education.
THE VANISHING CANADIAN JEW: The most recent Canadian census shows a steep drop in the number of people identifying themselves as ethnically Jewish, The Canadian Jewish News reports. In five years, the count declined from 348,605 Jews to only 315,120 in 2006. “It’s difficult to interpret. My initial reaction is surprise… It’s very strange, shocking, really,” demographer Charles Shahar tells the paper.
QUMRAN IS A PLACE IN…: The Jewish state’s tourism office recently got slammed in Britain for false advertising over a magazine ad that seemed to imply that the West Bank locale where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered is in Israel. London’s Jewish Chronicle reports on how Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority tried to teach Israel’s Government Tourist Office a geography lesson.
POSH PARTY IN CASTLE: Shimon Peres was a no-show; the host, the Duke of Edinburgh, was absent because of a chest infection; there was kvetching about the high ticket prices; someone apparently neglected to invite the president of the Zionist Federation, and many of British Jewry’s leading lights stayed home. Other than that, things seem to have gone pretty well at the historic — and historically unprecedented — 60th birthday celebration for the State of Israel at Windsor Castle. They even managed to kasher the royal household kitchens. London’s Jewish Chronicle has the story.
SINO-SEPHARDIC SYNAGOGUE SURGE: The Jerusalem-based Shehebar Sephardic Center is opening new synagogues in Beijing and Shanghai, Jewish Times Asia reports. In other Shanghai news, the Chinese government opened Shanghai’s historic Ohel Rachel Synagogue for its first Jewish wedding in 60 years. Jewish Times Asia has the story of the simcha.
A ‘STOUSH’ OVER ISRAEL: Leaders of two leading Australian unions are trading angry words, with one blasting the other for signing onto a newspaper advertisement criticizing Israel. The Australian Jewish News characterizes the exchange as “a stoush,” which, according to Answers.com, is Aussie-speak for “a brawl or fight, a scrap.”
BEWARE FACEBOOK: Australian Jewish groups are being warned by the Community Security Group to not promote their events on Facebook because of security fears, The Australian Jewish News reports. The warning comes on the heels of an incident in which an Australian Jewish woman received a death threat from someone who said he was a member of Hezbollah after she rebuffed his online friend request. Fortunately, the newspaper reports, the individual “was, in fact, a 16-year-old from Lebanon with no real links to the terror group.”
SOLIDARITY UNDER FIRE: A group of travelers from the Canada-Israel Committee came under sniper fire while they were touring near the Gaza-Israel border with Israel’s security minister, Avi Dichter. While none of he Canadians were hurt, Dichter’s bureau chief, Mati Gil, was hit by gunfire and hospitalized in stable condition. The Canadian Jewish News has the story.
ALTERNATIVE AIPAC?: The New York Jewish Week reports on the impending launch of a new Israel lobby. Jewish doves are flocking together to form the “J-Street Project,” which, the newspaper reports, “is expected to raise money for congressional candidates who advocate a stronger U.S. leadership role in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and multilateral solutions to the region’s problems.”
‘THIS FARCE ISN’T FUNNY’: The editors of The New York Jewish Week say it’s time for the federal prosecution of two former Aipac staffers to end.
FRANK COMEDY?: The New Jersey Jewish News speaks with two 26-year-olds who wrote a musical comedy whose central conceit was that Anne Frank’s sister, Margot, kept her own diary that told a decidedly different story than the one written by her famous sibling.
ANNALS OF MATZO-MAKING: Being the great-granddaughter of the founder of America’s most famous Jewish food company doesn’t stop the kids in school from teasing a girl for having a funny name like “Manischewitz.” “When I was small, I just wanted to be like everyone else,” Laura Manischewitz Alpern tells The New Jersey Jewish News, which interviews her about her new book “Manischewitz: The Matzo Family — The Making of an American Icon.” The tome tells the story of the storied company through “a narrative that blends fact and fiction,” as the paper puts it.
‘HAYMISH’ HOCKEY: Floor hockey is no longer just for yeshiva bokhers now that the Hockey Association of Yeshiva Middle Schools (HAYMISH) has launched a girls division. The New Jersey Jewish Standard knows the score.
SEGREGATING THE SEXES: A co-ed Baltimore yeshiva splits into two single-sex schools in a bid to boost enrollment. The Baltimore Jewish Times has the tale of two campuses to be.
SPEKTOR AT 60: Singer-songwriter-pianist Regina Spektor — whose latest album went gold and featured her sporting a Star of David pendant on its cover — is performing at the Israel at 60 celebration on the National Mall, The Washington Jewish Week reports.
FINKELSTEIN SPEAKS: In the 1960s, it took several years for Students for a Democratic Society to go completely bonkers. The new edition — re-launched in 2006 — is trying to make better time down that road. According to The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, a recent speaking appearance by Hezbollah booster and ex-academic Norman Finkelstein at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was sponsored by the campus chapter of SDS, along with the Muslim Student Association, Students for Justice in Palestine and the Student Labor Action Coalition. (I wonder what Hezbollah’s record is on labor issues?)
SAYING SORRY: A group of Kansas City Christians took out an ad in a local newspaper apologizing for the “anti-Semitic past which inflamed the Crusades, pogroms, forced conversions, unspeakable depravations and annihilations.” The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle reports that the ad ran on March 20, in recognition of Purim. “I felt that the time had come for us to seek to meet with the Jewish people and ask the Lord to forgive us and seek to restore relationships with the Jewish community,” the ad’s initiator, Marilyn Lake Griffin, director of Ministries of New Life, tells the Chronicle.
HUNDRED-YEAR HERALD: Houston’s Jewish Herald-Voice turns 100.
AT YOUR SERVICE: A Scottsdale, Ariz., Jewish community campus has dropped its ban on… Jewish religious services. The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix has the story of the Jewish facility that’s now open for davening.
FENCE AROUND THE TORAH: The San Diego Jewish Journal profiles an Orthodox Jewish teen who has followed her fencing dreams to an Episcopalian boarding school and is now making a bid for the Olympics.
POLITICS IN THE PULPIT: In the wake of the recent controversy over the polemical pronouncements of Obama’s former pastor, the L.A. Jewish Journal interviews some local rabbis on the topic of preaching politics from the pulpit — and recalls an 1861 incident in which a Baltimore Reform rabbi was run out of town by an angry mob after he spoke against slavery.
WEIRD SCIENCE: The heads of the Jewish studies program at California State University-Long Beach have written a letter scoring their campus administration for allegedly failing to speak out against psychology professor Kevin MacDonald, whose evolutionary theories about Jewish behavior have found favor with antisemites. The L.A. Jewish Journal has the story.
ASK ABBY: San Francisco’s J. has some questions for Dear Abby.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE ‘BECKS’ OF YESTERYEAR?: London’s Jewish Chronicle investigates the disappearance of the “becks” — a term which, apparently, describes individuals belonging to a subculture of somewhat materialistic Jewish youths who hung out and kibitzed in big groups on the streets of British cities during the 1980s and 1990s. One theory is that they were driven off the street by “yobs” — Brit-speak for loutish young people, derived from an inversion of the word “boy.” “Becks,” the J.C. notes, is thought by some to be derived from the name “Rebecca,” though it is a gender-neutral descriptor. Gotta love that class-conscious British slang! (I also dig Aussie slang; last year I wrote about how Jews in the “Land Down Under” were under attack from “sledgers” and “hoons.”)
CONMAN WITH CHUTZPAH: A conman who has been dubbed the “Shekel Scammer” is preying on Orthodox Jews on London’s subway. One of his routines, according to London’s Jewish Chronicle: He tells his victims that he’s an Israeli who needs to buy life-saving medicine for his son, but that he only has shekels. He asks them to exchange their British money for his shekels, but when they get to the ATM, he confesses that he actually doesn’t have cash on him, but will mail it to them when he gets back to Israel. Needless to say, the victims never get their money back. The most galling part of the racket is the way the conman begins his conversation with his visibly Jewish marks: He tells them they “did not look Jewish.”
CAKE FIGHT: Jewish newspapers on two continents are reporting on the story of a woman in her 80s who was injured after a fracas with staff of a kosher bakery in Melbourne, Australia. According to The Australian Jewish News, the woman contends that she was pushed and kicked after she asked about the ingredients the bakery uses. The bakery workers dispute her account and counter that she made antisemitic remarks and threw tzedakah boxes at a bakery worker. According to London’s Jewish Chronicle, the woman is Jewish and denies making antisemitic remarks.
CONSERVATIVE CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM: Several synagogues in Montreal and Toronto are moving toward severing their ties with the American-dominated United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism over the movement’s increasingly liberal policies on the religious roles of women and gays. “[W]e find the chasm between Conservative Judaism in the United States and Conservative Judaism here to be growing larger and wider,” Rabbi Steven Saltzman of Toronto’s Adath Israel Congregation tells The Canadian Jewish News.
ARTISTS’ EXODUS: Many Israeli artists are taking their creative juices elsewhere. The Jewish Week chats with New York’s Israeli expat artists.
HIGH PRIEST, HIGH PRICE: Tired of Bush masks and Batman costumes? Now, you can dress up like the high priest from the ancient Temple instead. In response to a Purim request from a local rabbi, a Maryland costume-shop owner — consulting Jewish texts — managed to create a high priest costume, which she sells for $400 (and rents for $150). The Washington Jewish Week has the story of the priestly vestments — and the Purim business boom for costume shops.
DAVID SCHWIMMER SPEAKS: David Schwimmer — aka Ross from “Friends” — tells San Francisco’s J. that in the early days of his career, his Jewishness was a barrier. “When I first came out to L.A. after college [at Northwestern University],” he says. “I felt like I was getting a lot of feedback in auditions: ‘He’s really good, but he’s a little too ethnic.’ I’d be like, ‘You mean Jewish. What are you talking about? You’re saying I’m a Jew, so I can’t play the lead?’ I kept thinking, ‘Well, dammit, Dustin Hoffman has a pretty great career. Elliot Gould had a pretty magnificent career. Well, screw it. I’ll find the right role someday.’”
MORT SAHL SPEAKS: Comic legend Mort Sahl, the L.A. Jewish Journal notes, is often cited as a forerunner to Lenny Bruce. But Sahl, it seems, doesn’t see the resemblance. “Lenny was neither profound nor political,” the 80-year-old comic tells the Journal. “Comics today look at humor as escapism. I look at it as confrontational.”
BETTER LIVING THROUGH BAMBA: Israeli children are three times less likely to have peanut allergies than their peers in Britain. Some researchers are suggesting a possible explanation: Bamba. London’s Jewish Chronicle has the story of a popular snack food that’s prompting some scientific inquiry.
DON’T FORGET WALES!: The J.C. drops by an academic conference devoted to Welsh Jewry — and hears some griping. “Just by using the term ‘Anglo-Jewry’, we are neglecting Jews in Wales,” said conference organizer Nathan Abrams. “We tend to focus on the larger communities, such as Manchester, Leeds, London and Bournemouth, but the smaller communities are just as vibrant.” The 2001 census counted 361 Jews living in Wales — down from a peak Jewish population of 5,000 in 1914. Prominent Jews who can trace their roots to Wales include world-renowned funnyman Sacha Baron Cohen, who, the J.C. informs us, is “descended from leaders of Pontypridd Jewry.”
CHINA’S GREAT JEWISH HOPE: Can 29-year-old Shi Lei bring Kaifeng’s ancient Chinese Jewish community back to life? Boston’s Jewish Advocate profiles a young man whose exploration of his heritage “has taken him from Kaifeng on the banks of China’s Yellow River to Israel, where he studied at Bar Ilan University and Machon Meir yeshiva in Jerusalem.”
EXPLAINING AN ABSTENTION: The Orthodox Union has faced fire from some right-wingers over its decision to abstain — and not vote “nay” — when a resolution backing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was voted on (and adopted) by the Jewish Council on Public Affairs. Nathan J. Diament, director of the O.U.’s Institute for Public Affairs, explains his group’s decision in an article in Brooklyn’s Jewish Press.
IRISH JEWS ARE SMILING: Connecticut’s Jewish Ledger looks at how Irish-Jewish expats the world over celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
EMBRACE ME, I’M INTERMARRIED: Paul Golin doesn’t like the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly’s policy banning intermarried speakers from its conference — and he takes it personally. Writing in the New Jersey Jewish News, Golin — the Jewish Outreach Institute’s associate executive director — argues that Conservative Judaism needs to be more welcoming toward intermarried families such as his.
ISRAEL IS OUR ETHANOL: Just as Iowans use their presidential caucuses to push for farm and ethanol subsidies, Jonathan Tobin of Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent argues that Pennsylvania Jews should “use every rally, town-hall meeting and fundraiser as a chance to have the candidates further define their stands on points like negotiating with Hamas, U.S. aid to a Palestinian Authority that foments hate against Jews and supports terror, as well as the right of Israel to self-defense against those who attack it.”
TAKE OUR WIVES, PLEASE: The folks behind television’s “Wife Swap” are looking for some Jewish mothers to trade. The Washington Jewish Week has the details.
The Muslim scholars want dialogue based on the assumption that the Palestinians will and should have their own nation and that violent deaths are a bad thing, regardless of how they happen. That’s not good enough.
If they want fruitful dialogue, they must start by declaring that firing rockets at civilians is terrorism and is a crime against humanity and against Islam. Further, they should begin with intra-Muslim dialogue; the ignorance of history and the teaching of hate and violence are problems almost entirely on their side.
CHICAGO IN ST. LOUIS: Famed feminist artist Judy Chicago dropped by St. Louis for a women’s Shabbaton. The iconic artist — renowned for her “Dinner Party” (and less renowned for being a descendant of 23 generations of rabbis, including the Vilna Gaon) — talked about her heritage in her keynote address. “”My father broke with that long rabbinic tradition by refusing to go to religious school as a child,” Chicago said. “However, I believe his choice to become a labor organizer is consistent with his Jewish values, since a rabbi told me that Moses himself was perhaps the first labor organizer among the Israelites.” The St. Louis Jewish Light was on the scene.
‘BRO MITZVAH’ BOYS: “Will ‘Bro Mitzvah’ find roots in African American community?” the L.A. Jewish Journal asks.
RICHARD LEWIS SPEAKS: Comedian and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” character Richard Lewis chats with L.A.’s Jewish Journal about addiction, sobriety, “the blank from hell,” comedy, faith and resentment. “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies,” he tells the Journal.
JDL SUES: The head of Canada’s militant Jewish Defense League is suing the Canadian Arab Federation for defamation. According to The Canadian Jewish News, the suit is in response to a document posted on the Arab federation’s Web site that accused the JDL’s chief of being “part of a right-wing terrorist group, a racist and a supremacist.” Say what you will about the lawsuit; it’s certainly preferable to certain tactics used by the JDL in the past.
FLIGHT OF THE PRINCIPAL: The principal of an Australian ultra-Orthodox school has split for Israel amid allegations of inappropriate behavior toward students. The Australian Jewish News tells the sordid story.
CAUCUSING FOR PALESTINE: Houston’s Jewish Herald-Voice reports on an anti-Israel resolution that was raised in some Texas Democratic presidential caucuses. The paper finds that the resolution was beaten back in some caucuses, but passed in at least one San Antonio caucus.
HOME FOR PESACH: A leading British Orthodox rabbi is taking aim at the popularity of Passover vacations, explaining that going to a hotel for the holiday diminishes the holiness associated with “the many preparations that you perform before the festival” (i.e. housecleaning). London’s Jewish Chronicle has the story.
SPLIT DECISION: Jewish students won notable victories in student union elections at universities across Britain — a blow to aggressive anti-Israel campaigners on these campuses. At the same time, pro-Palestinian students at University College London succeeded in passing a student union motion twinning it with two Palestinian universities, while rebuffing an effort by Jewish students to also pair with Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. London’s Jewish Chronicle has the yin-yang stories.
FLIGHT OF THE KVETCHERS?: More than 100 passengers who were aboard an Israel-to-London Israir flight have signed a petition demanding compensation for what they say was “inadequate food and terrible service.” Ironically, London’s Jewish Chronicle reports, one passenger who isn’t complaining is the author of the book “How to Complain.” “People don’t know how to complain properly,” lawyer and author Mel Stein tells the J.C. “Some passengers were getting aggressive, agitated and making a nuisance of themselves, but this isn’t my style. I was quite embarrassed by the petition going round. It was a bad flight, but there was nothing the airline could do.”
CONVERSION DEFECTION: A new, more strict conversion policy adopted by the Rabbinical Council of America has already prompted some leading Modern Orthodox rabbis to set up their own rabbinic organization and threaten to set up their own conversion courts. Now, a member of the RCA committee that fashioned the conversion policy, leading New York Orthodox rabbi and educator Haskel Lookstein, is airing his own dismay with the new standards in an interview with The Jewish Week. “I oppose the system,” he tells the Jewish Week. “I am very much afraid of this system. The RCA is making it more difficult for people to convert just as the Chief Rabbinate has made it more difficult for people to convert in Israel. We are replicating their mistakes.”
GEE, SORRY ABOUT THAT ASSASSINATION EXHORTATION: The head of Yeshiva University’s rabbinical school, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, says sorry for saying that Israel’s prime minister should be shot if he tries to give away Jerusalem. The New York Jewish Week has the story.
BREAKING THE HILLEL: Jews at Harvard are split over a photo exhibit that the campus Hillel is hosting that offers a critical look at the Israeli army’s actions in the West Bank, The New York Jewish Week reports.
CALIFORNIA’S CAMEL FARM: The San Diego Jewish Journal visits with Gil Riegler, an Israeli army veteran who has established a camel farm in Southern California. Riegler takes the opportunity to dispel a common misconception about camels: that they are prone to spitting at people. “It takes a lot to get a camel to spit,” he tells the paper. “You really have to work to make it angry for a long time before it will demean itself with spittle.”
BOBBY FISCHER, LEFTIST? In Brooklyn’s Jewish Press, John-Paul Pagano psychoanalyzes Bobby Fischer and concludes that that the troubled chess-master’s antisemitic rants were more than simply the ravings of a madman. Instead, he makes the case that they echoed certain ideas that have been circulating on the political margins.
CROSS-DRESSING CLOWN: The New Jersey Jewish News profiles Barry Lubin, also known as “Grandma,” the Big Apple Circus’s lead clown. “I used to think of my performance as something apart from me,” he told the newspaper. “Now I know this is my real life, just in a heightened form, and more enjoyable than doing taxes — not that I’d normally start lip-synching to ‘The Best of Barry Manilow.’”
TEXAS-SIZED APPETITES: Competitive matzoh-ball eating has arrived in the Lone Star State. The winner of the Inaugural World Matzoh Ball Eating Championship, Joey Chestnut — who has previously won hot dog, chicken wing, burger and asparagus contests — managed to scarf down 78 matzoh balls in eight minutes. Houston’s Jewish Herald-Voice was on the scene.
NO JOB FOR THE RAF: “No military unit is better equipped and trained to protect the Jewish homeland’s borders than the Israel Defense Forces,” Boston’s Jewish Advocate reports.
JEWS ON ‘BODIES’: The controversial “Bodies Revealed” exhibit comes to town, and the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle asks local rabbis what Judaism has to say about this display of plasticized corpses.
‘COOTIES’ FROM CADAVERS: San Francisco’s J. visits the local health-sciences branch of Touro University in an article titled, “A Jewish-run university in the Bay Area? Who knew?” In the course of the article, Yitzchak Kaufman, the staff rabbi of the mostly non-Jewish campus, explains how the school addresses the Jewish legal requirement that kohanim (or descendants of priests) keep clear of cadavers because of tummah, or impurity. “Tummah is best described as cooties,” Kaufman said. “With a dead body, these cooties go out wherever they can, but walls and doors can block it. So the entrances and exits of the anatomy lab have two doors, with a vestibule in between and an electronic setup so you can’t ever have both doors open at the same time. It keeps the tummah inside the lab, so it can’t spread throughout the building.”
PURIM WITH A DIFFERENCE: Black, Asian, Latino and other “Other” Jews will gather in San Francisco for a Purim festival devoted to diversity, the first such celebration sponsored by Be’chol Lashon, Hebrew for “in every tongue.” J. has the story.
ISRAEL STUDIES GO WEST: Jewish studies are booming out West, the L.A. Jewish Journal reports.
NOT TO BLAME: L.A. Jewish Journal editor Rob Eshman writes that nobody should blame Israel if it decides to invade Gaza.
PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS HITLER: An artist’s self-portrait of himself as Hitler, — a finalist for Australia’s prestigious Archibald Prize — has sparked an uproar. “What I wanted to say is far from trivialising or glorifying, it’s really the exact opposite,” says artist Sam Leach, according to The Australian Jewish News. “I wanted to underline the monstrosity of what occurred with the Nazis and to say that there is something in Western European culture that allowed that to occur, or at least didn’t prevent it, and we can’t take it for granted that whatever it was, is now gone.” While the president of the country’s Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre calls Leach’s effort a “dismal failure,” the chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission says that the artist seems to have had good intentions.
KIPPAH BASHING: A Jewish inmate is alleging that he was beaten by guards in an Australian prison for refusing to remove his yarmulke, The Australian Jewish News reports.
EASTERN EXPOSURE: I’m pretty excited to have recently stumbled upon the Jewish Times Asia, a relatively new monthly publication that bills itself as “Asia’s first community newspaper for the region.” Among its stories: El Al rides the tram in Hong Kong, a Beijing kosher restaurateur gears up for the Olympics, Chabad buys a new home in Tokyo, young Hong Kong Jews form “Asia’s first ever Jewish school football (soccer) team” and hundreds gather in Jerusalem for the 12th-annual Chabad-Lubavitch Thailand reunion.
BANNED IN BRITAIN: Israeli far-rightist Moshe Feiglin is professing to be perplexed after being informed in a letter from a British official that he has been banned from visiting the United Kingdom. ““This is all very strange because I have no plans to visit Britain either in the short or long term,” he tells London’s Jewish Chronicle. Noting that an editor of a Hezbollah journal was allowed into Britain for a speaking tour, Feiglin says, “I almost feel honoured, because of the way that the British government is behaving, to be marked as the bad guy by a government that supports terror. I see it almost as a compliment.”
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: The Jewish Chronicle reports on a court case in which a publicly funded, Orthodox-aligned Jewish school has been accused of racism for refusing to admit a student whose mother wasn’t born Jewish but converted under Reform auspices. The school, the newspaper notes, has found a surprising defender in the head of the British Reform movement.
ENOUGH WITH THE ‘LOST ARK,’ I WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT THE CANNIBALS: A British academic believes he has solved the mystery of the “lost ark” from Solomon’s Temple — and that the answer is in Zimbabwe. Tudor Parfitt, a professor of Hebrew at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies, follows the trail of the “lost ark” to the Lemba, a southern African tribe whose members have been found to be genetically related to the Jews. Today’s ark, according to Lemba tradition, is a drum, constructed from the remains of the original ark (which, according to the professor, may also have actually been a drum-like object). London’s Jewish Chronicle has the story of this latter-day Indiana Jones (in an article that also makes a passing reference to Parfitt’s encounter with New Guinea’s Gogodala, “a python-eating tribe of ex-cannibals who also claim to be Jewish”).
CAMERON SPEAKS: The J.C. reports on Conservative Party leader David Cameron’s address at the annual fundraising dinner of the Community Security Trust, the communal agency dedicated to ensuring British Jewry’s safety. “We are here for a profoundly serious reason: to raise money to protect the Jewish community, which comes under attack to a greater degree than any other faith or ethnic group in Britain. All minorities are at risk from bullies, thugs, racists, but Catholics can stand outside the church after Sunday mass, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists can chat outside their temples,” he told attendees. “Even Muslims, who certainly suffer from abuse and discrimination, can gather outside the mosque after Friday prayers. It is only Jews who are advised not to linger outside synagogues before or after services: and this is not paranoia, it is a precaution against very real threats.”
FIRST SHAKESPEARE, NOW POEMS: First, students at a London Orthodox girls’ school refused to answer national exam questions on Shakespeare because they feel the Bard was antisemitic. Now, the J.C. reports, another Orthodox school is kvetching that poetry practice sets for the exam are too racy.
DIVIDED WE STAND: The New York Jewish Week’s Gary Rosenblatt looks at the growing divide between Orthodox and other Jews.
AT YOUR SERVICE: Israel’s Arab citizens like a new national service program — even if their leaders don’t. The Jewish Week has the story.
KOCH ON BUCKLEY: Former New York City mayor Ed Koch remembers William F. Buckley. “What did a Jewish Democrat like me have in common with a conservative, Catholic Republican like William F. Buckley, Jr.? More than you might think,” he writes in The Jewish Week.
KOCH ON BAKER: Raphael Medoff previews a new book on which he collaborated with Ed Koch — including a revelation from New York’s former mayor about some infamous remarks purportedly made by James Baker.
CHARMING MAN: A headline in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle: “Syrian ambassador uses charm, humor while slamming Israel.”
ENFRANCHISED IN MARYLAND: The Baltimore Jewish Times looks back at the day in 1825 when Maryland Jews were granted the right to vote and hold public office.
APROPOS ITS NAME: From an article in The Baltimore Jewish Times: “The Baltimore Zionist District has a sole agenda, according to Chairman of the Board W. James Schiller, and that’s Israel.”
MAY I HELP YOU REMOVE THAT SWASTIKA TATTOO?: L.A. Jewish Journal editor Rob Eshman meets a man in a hot tub with a swastika tattoo and wants to help him get rid of it.
GETTING THEIR LEARN ON: Los Angeles has seen a boom in Jewish secondary-school education — with 2,600 students now attending 14 local Jewish high schools. “More teens in Los Angeles are now enrolled in full-time Jewish education than in supplementary Jewish education,” the L.A. Jewish Journal reports.
‘HIP,’ ‘DARING,’ ‘EDGY’: Five Conservative synagogues are creating a new program for their teens called “ATID: Alliance for Teens in Detroit”. The Detroit Jewish News reports:
The ATID curriculum includes the study of Jewish texts and tradition, the pursuit of social action, the embrace of Israel and its people, and the principles and practices of Conservative Judaism. Electives will include cooking, music, yoga, Israeli sports, drama and other offerings that teens request. Confirmation is part of the program. So is a travel component to places like Chicago and New York.
Jewish News editor Robert Sklar dubs it “hip,” “daring” and “edgy.”
CHICAGO’S GAON BLOOD: Feminist art icon Judy Chicago is a descendant of the Vilna Gaon, The St. Louis Jewish Light reports. I wonder what the giant of Lithuanian Orthodoxy would have thought about his descendant’s “Dinner Party.”
QUEBECERS DON’T LIKE US: Residents of Quebec have markedly more negative views of Jews than do other Canadians, according to a new poll. The Canadian Jewish News has some of the results.
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: B’nai Brith Canada has expelled eight of its members, including a man who has belonged to the group for 68 years, The Canadian Jewish News reports.
PIONEER SHUL: In Alberta a building that was once a pioneer prairie synagogue is being restored and moved to a Calgary historical park, The Canadian Jewish News reports.
BLAST FROM THE PAST: One finds the strangest things when one’s ripping up a former synagogue building. A builder found a time capsule from 1890 in a hole in the wall of the former West Kensington and Hammersmith Synagogue. The capsule contained copies of two now-defunct newspapers, as well as an edition of London’s Jewish Chronicle, which is still around to report the story 118 years later.
ARCHITECTS VS. ISRAEL: First it was British academics and journalists. Now, London’s Jewish Chronicle reports, it’s architects who are seeing a surge of anti-Israel sentiment in their ranks.
WITH US AND AGAINST US: Controversial Oxford Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan has signed onto a letter reaching out to Jews, even as he calls for a boycott of the Turin Book Fair for its decision to honor Israel. (To be fair, Ramadan does stress that he isn’t calling for a boycott of individual Israeli authors.) London’s Jewish Chronicle has the story.
PARTY POOPERS?: Israel is gearing up to celebrate its 60th birthday. But some Israelis think the money that is going to the extra-special gala celebration could be put to better use. The New York Jewish week has the story.
‘ANTISEMITISM 2.0’: The Jewish Week searches Facebook, YouTube and other popular interactive Web sites for antisemitism — and finds plenty of it.
LENO’S JEWISH JOKER: Brooklyn’s Jewish Press has a great interview with Marvin Silbermintz, a kippah-clad Orthodox Jewish writer for Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.” His advice for an aspiring young Jew interested in writing for Hollywood? “Aspiring young Jews? Take a shower.”
WE ARE RIGHT: The divide between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews has been a hot topic of discussion — and hand-wringing — of late. The Orthodox-oriented Jewish Press, however, thinks it’s a simple matter: “it’s the Orthodox who are getting it right and should be emulated — not the other way around.”
A LITTLE BIT KOSHER: New Jersey Jewish News editor Andrew Silow-Carroll explores the ways in which Jews set their own dietary practices, noting that many of us pick and choose from among the laws of kashrut, sticking to a regimen one might call “kosher lite.”
BEST OF BALTIMORE: The Forward may have the Forward 50, but the Baltimore Jewish Times has its “Favorite 54” — a list of the best things about Jewish Baltimore — from hometown boy gone Hollywood Barry Levinson to the “everything bagel” at Goldberg’s. Given the well-known culinary predilections of the Baltimore area, crab is an important presence on the list — at least in variations more acceptable to the kashrut-keeping consumer, such as the imitation crab at Seven Mile Market and the Utz Crab Chip.
MORTGAGE MESS: Robert Sklar, publisher of the Detroit Jewish News, reports on a local Jewish effort to address the mortgage crisis in his hard-hit metropolis.
BRIDGE TOO FAR, PART III: A new development in the ongoing saga of a Houston highway overpass that has been commandeered by sign-holding anti-Israel protestors: Houston cops have decided it’s protected speech. The Jewish Herald-Voice has the latest.
FROM KAIFENG TO SEATTLE: A descendant of the ancient Chinese Jewish community of Kaifeng pays a visit to the less ancient Jewish community of Seattle. The Jewish Transcript is on the scene.
HEBREW FOR ‘ABRACADABRA’: Visiting scholar Arthur Kurzweil tells Portland Jews about the Jewish origins of “abracadabra” — and performs a few magic tricks himself. But as an observant Jew, he’s careful to tell his audience that he doesn’t have any special powers, Portland’s Jewish Review reports.
STANLEY SPEAKS: Stanley Gold, the business titan who saved Disney, is now turning his attention to saving Los Angeles’s Jewish community federation. The federation’s new chairman lays out his battle plan in an opinion article for the L.A. Jewish Journal.
SCHOLAR SAVED: Hebrew Union College pays to bring an embattled moderate Muslim scholar from Macedonia to Los Angeles, the Jewish Journal reports.
NO CAMPUS FOR YOUNG JEWS: An independent task force charged with examining antisemitism at the University of California at Irvine — where the established Muslim student group regularly brings extremist speakers to campus — concludes that Jewish students “should consider enrolling elsewhere.” The task force was originally convened by the local Hillel, though its connection to the panel was eventually severed. In addition to blasting the response of the university’s administration to the climate on campus, the task force also criticized the local ADL branch, the Jewish Federation of Orange County, the American Jewish Committee and Hillel, according to the L.A. Jewish Journal.
MATCHMAKER, MATCHMAKER, MAKE ME RICH: The San Diego Jewish Journal speaks with Patti Stanger, host of the new Bravo series, “The Millionaire Matchmaker.” Stanger’s Millionaire’s Club, which she started in 2000, serves busy millionaire men and the women who want to marry them. And she appears to have a decidedly old-fashioned (and mercenary) understanding of what these ladies like. “The women want the covenant relationship which means that they get to stay home and raise the kids while their husband goes off and slays the dragons at work,” Stanger tells the Journal.
GLASGOW FOR VANUNU?: The Glasgow City Council is planning to debate a motion praising Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli scientist who was jailed for 18 years for divulging secrets about Israel’s nuclear weapons program to a British newspaper. Scottish Jewish leaders are not pleased, London’s Jewish Chronicle reports.
LONDON PHALLUS FRACAS: A Christian group is leafleting outside a London synagogue and assailing Britain’s chief rabbi over a sculpture owned by a Jewish art collector that depicts Jesus with a phallus. The Jewish Chronicle has the story.
HARD TO BE A PIMP: An Israeli brothel owner has been fined and sentenced to prison time by a British court, the J.C. reports.
OBLIVION IN BABYLON: Diaspora Jewry is dying, argues Calev Ben-David in an essay for the Jewish Chronicle.
HEBREW BEATS YIDDISH: For the first time, more residents of Canada are now native Hebrew speakers than native Yiddish speakers, The Canadian Jewish News reports.