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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confronted quite a challenge when the Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg quoted Obama administration officials calling him a “chickenshit.”
Israeli reporters, in turn, faced their own challenge: How to translate “chickenshit” into Hebrew.
Modern Hebrew is rich with phrases alluding to the Bible and rabbinic literature. Swear words, not so much. A 2004 song by Israeli hip-hop group Hadag Nachash says “Here, everyone speaks Hebrew/And curses in Russian, English and Arabic.”
So Israeli papers, reporting the anonymous comments Wednesday morning, had to settle on something less evocative than “chickenshit.” The consensus translation that emerged among major news sources was “pachdan,” or coward. Haaretz did a little better, using “pachdan aluv,” or “lowly coward.”
As any poultry farmer can attest, none of these are chickenshit. “Coward” lacks the crude, sandlot insult quality that “chickenshit” conveys. “Coward” is what you’d call someone before a duel. “Chickenshit” is what you’d call someone before a bar fight.
To compensate, Israeli news articles put the word, in English, in their articles, such that “chickenshit” is clearly visible in the opening paragraph, running counter to the Hebrew text.
A friend of mine suggested that Israeli reporters could have avoided all this by translating the phrase to Hebrew literally: “Hara shel tarnegolim.” Of course, that’s also not quite Hebrew: “Hara” is a swear word in Arabic.
As of next month, Israel will operate separate buses for Palestinian residents of the West Bank returning from jobs as day laborers in Israel, thanks to political pressure from West Bank settlers who donʼt want to ride on the same buses as “Arabs.” The question is: Should we care?
Settler leaders claim that the move was due to aggressive and uncouth behavior by Palestinian passengers, coupled with an overall concern for Jewish passengersʼ security. According to a report in Haaretz, one settler told a meeting of a Subcommittee on Judea and Samaria, convened by MK Motti Yogev of the Jewish Home party, about having been sexually assaulted by a Palestinian rider. Another complained that his pregnant wife was not given a seat by Arab passengers. Others were worried that Palestinians on buses could lead to hijackings, or worse. But IDF officials insisted they did not see the Palestinian presence on board these buses as a security threat.
In a democracy, of course, an official report of sexual assault should result in an investigation and possibly individual charges being laid. An informal report — as this one was — might lead a municipality to intensify its safety and surveillance measures. But to collectively deny an entire ethnic group the right to travel on some buses would be collective punishment, rightly considered prejudicial.
Israelʼs rule in the West Bank, however, is far from democratic. Palestinian residents of the West Bank arenʼt Israeli citizens, which means that the normal democratic channels arenʼt open to them from the get-go.
Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera
Rudy Giuliani, Benjamin Netanyahu and Moses. One of these men is not like the other, and yet here they all get equal time. So does a Top Chef contestant. And so does Bubbie.
Jay Michaelson has it wrong. AIPAC is not, as he argues, anti-Israel.
Most of what the lobby does is focused on strengthening the bond between the United States and Israel — various aspects of this relationship, including the U.S.-Israel security cooperation — which is undisputedly pro-Israel.
But not only AIPAC. All American Jewish organizations that focus on Israel, including the ones on the extreme right, are pro-Israel. They support Israel, and they do so wholeheartedly. They care deeply about Israel, and they are deeply concerned about its future.
The deep disagreement between such groups and organizations such as ours (Americans for Peace Now) is not over who is more pro-Israel, who loves it more or who cares more about its future. The dispute — a deep and thorough dispute — is about Israel’s future. It is about the kind of Israel that we want to see. It is about what kind of Israel we are “pro.” Or, more precisely, what vision for Israel we support.
MTKL’s Israeli Army Women Calendar
Just a couple of months after the Gaza war, Israel has found a new way “to show the world the beauty of Israel and its people” — via the power of a pin-up calendar featuring real IDF soldiers.
Or, as the creators of the MTKL Israeli Army Women Calendar like to call them, “the chosen amongst the chosen people.”
These chosen women, brought together by two former (male) soldiers who “scoured the ranks of the powerful Israeli army,” would like you to donate $25 to their Indiegogo campaign so that they can not only ship you this calendar, but also create a whole line of clothing and accessories that will blend “the best of military and street into must-have urban fashion.”
Their goal is to make $30,000 off the calendars, enabling them to bring their clothing line to production in early 2015. So far they’ve raised about $3700 — which means that a bunch of people are already walking around wearing jewelry “fashioned after the official IDF Dog Tag.”
I say that because, if you ask me, this fashion line — and the pin-up calendar being used to showcase it — is pretty much the most unsexy thing I can imagine.
It’s not just that this product is the work of two men using a bunch of women’s bodies to make a quick buck. Leave aside for a minute the obvious feminist objections to pin-up calendars writ large — and hone in on this calendar in particular. It doesn’t take long to see that we’re being sold more than your average “male gaze” sexual fantasy. What we’re being sold is an ideology that equates sexiness with militarism, and Israel with both.
Palestinian mourners carry Orwa Hammad to a prayer session at a Silwad school / Naomi Zeveloff
On Sunday afternoon, the main street in Silwad, a village north of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was lined with parked cars for as far as the eye could see. Palestinians from all over the area had come to pay their respects to Orwa Abd al-Wahhab Hammad, the 14-year-old killed in clashes on October 24 with the Israeli military. Posters with Hammad’s photo — a serious-looking teen with his black hair combed forward — were plastered on bumpers, windshields and on fences throughout the town, each one bearing the imprint of Hamas, Fatah or the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
According to news reports, the Israeli Defense Forces said it opened fire on Hammad after he was getting ready to hurl a lit firebomb toward Route 60, an account which Palestinian officials dispute. A family member said that Hammad was with a group of boys throwing rocks when he was killed.
Hammad was raised in Silwad, a village of around 6,000 people marked by a stone Arabic sign and a marquee advertising a USAID-sponsored road project. But Hammad was also a United States citizen, the second one claimed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the past week. On Thursday, an East Jerusalem Palestinian named Abdel-Rahman Shaloudi plowed a car into the Ammunition Hill light rail station, injuring seven people and killing three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun, an American citizen whose family had taken her to the Western Wall for the first time that day. Shaloudi was killed by Israeli police as he fled the scene. On Sunday, an Ecuadorian woman injured in the attack died from her wounds.
Nine workers at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport lost their jobs yesterday because they refused to interact with passengers who arrived from Ethiopia.
The workers, contractor employees of the Israel Airports Authority, were asked to hand out Ebola information pamphlets to the Ethiopian Airlines passengers and to direct them to an area where they could have their temperatures checked. The workers were reluctant to do so out of fear that they would contract Ebola. They argued that they weren’t properly protected.
These nine workers weren’t the only ones afraid to come into contact with the passengers. They told Ynet that they were asked to perform the task only after the airport’s permanent employees refused to do it. The contract workers were threatened, and when they still insisted they would not perform the procedure, they were fired on the spot.
Eventually, cops stationed at the airport were the ones who agreed to undertake the procedure.
This incident follows a new directive that was issued three days ago. According to the latest decision, passengers coming to Israel from any country in Africa have to fill out a questionnaire and have their body temperature checked. This new protocol is an expansion of a procedure that included only passengers from countries with incidences of Ebola: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leon.
As part of the new protocol, even passengers coming from Cairo ¬— only about an hour flight from Tel Aviv — are getting tested, as they come from “Africa.”
Shootings in Canadian Parliament captured on film / YouTube
As I write this while at home in central Ottawa, my husband is in lockdown at work and my kids are being kept indoors all day in their secured school.
Ottawa residents joined by onlookers the world over are still trying to piece together today’s events, after a shooter opened fire this morning at the War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, killing a Canadian Forces Soldier, before apparently entering Center Block building on Parliament Hill where shots rang out. A third shooting was reported outside Rideau Centre, the shopping mall two blocks away. At the time of this writing, one shooter has been reported killed, and another one or two remain at large.
All this on the same day that Malala Yousafzai was due to receive honorary Canadian citizenship at a ceremony with Prime Minister Harper in Toronto.
Nine kilometers west of Parliament sits the Jewish community campus. Jewish Federation of Ottawa President and CEO Andrea Freedman said that she has been in contact with the Ottawa Police Services and mayor’s office. There doesn’t appear to be any imminent threat to the Jewish community, but the campus is taking precautions, including locking down schools community buildings.
“The important thing is not to jump to any conclusions about why these atrocious acts are taking place, but obviously there’s shock, dismay and anger that our country is being attacked like this,” Freedman told me by phone.
Freedman is right that we don’t yet know what motivated the attacks. It could be insanity, murderous crime, or politically motivated terrorism. If it is an act of terrorism — meaning a politically motivated action rather than a random crime — it is possible that it is of the Islamist variety. Or not.
What is the responsibility of the media, policymakers and commentators in both reporting facts and keeping passions calm, both among potential targets who need to be kept safe, and among innocents who may face backlash by virtue of presumed ethnic association?
International affairs commentator Hayes Brown tweeted:
We are now entering the “conflicting information” stage of the Canadian shooting crisis, with a sprinkling of “assign ethnic blame”— Hayes Brown (@HayesBrown) October 22, 2014
Even more direct was Alex Kane, tongue firmly on cheek:
REMEMBER: If the Canada shooter is Muslim, he's a “terrorist.” If he's white, he's “unstable.”— Alex Kane (@alexbkane) October 22, 2014
(JTA) — Monica Lewinsky has come full circle. The Jewish woman who, with some justice, described herself as “the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet” returned to the cybersphere on Monday with a Twitter account.
Is she a glutton for punishment? She’s reentering the e-public eye just as Hillary Clinton is apparently gearing up for a presidential run, meaning that Lewinsky’s name inevitably will be back in the political scrum. It’s a scrum that has become, if anything, more vicious and relentless since the late 1990s, when her every predilection, rumored and otherwise, was smeared across the Internet in graphic detail.
But Lewinsky has left no question that she’s willing to own her past. In a June essay for Vanity Fair, where she is now a contributing editor, Lewinsky reflected on her time in and out of the scorching klieg lights and declared, “It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress. And move forward.” For whatever reason — a desire for closure, purpose, fame, money or some combination thereof — she’s ready for another close-up.
Editor’s Note: The following 2011 Yom Kippur sermon by Jack Moline has been edited for style and length. Below, you will find a brief survey allowing you to send us your end-of-life stories, a selection of which may be published. We hope to prompt conversation on that most difficult question for the living: How are we to die?
Before I say anything else, I want to say that I am healthy.
I begin that way because I am going to be talking about my death. More specifically, I guess, I am going to be talking about my dying. We are all going to cry, especially the members of my family who already know what is in this sermon. But if I can do this in front of all of you, emotional coward that I mostly am, then you can do this privately with the people you love. And you must.
Universal Studios Hollywood
(JTA) — Halloween this year falls on Shabbat. On a Friday night, trick-or-treaters, even Jewish ones, will be knocking. Should we open the door? Or should we be spooked about joining the celebration?
After reading that on Oct. 31, Urban Adama, a Jewish-oriented educational farm and community center in Berkeley, Calif., would be holding a “Challahween Kabbalat Shabbat” — chanting and meditation plus a potluck dinner and Halloween dessert candy bar — I wondered: Should I have a Halloween Shabbat dinner as well?
Yes, I know that when it comes to costumes and treats, Purim is our holiday, and that Halloween has murky pagan and Christian origins. But the multi-billion-dollar Halloween costume, decoration and candy industry has morphed so far beyond that I wondered what I could pull from that bubbling commercial cauldron and adopt to season my Shabbat.
Not that I would want to serve brisket with candy corn, but what about trying pumpkin spice challah? I didn’t have to cast a spell to find a recipe online.
But what to wear, especially since I would be greeting the neighborhood children as they came calling? Could I use the opportunity to dress up as someone more shul-ish than ghoulish?
For ideas, I hit a neighborhood costume warehouse, Halloween City, not expecting much in the way of Jewish population. Was I wrong.
Mordechai Lightstone demonstrates the proper use of a lulav
I was harassed by the police outside of Kalamazoo, Michigan for using my lulav and etrog.
Last Tuesday, while traveling between Chicago and Detroit, my family and I stopped at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo. Traveling with small children is always a challenge, and the museum offered a needed break from the drive.
The autumn air was cool and crisp, redolent with the earthy smell of dried leaves and moist soil. The parking lot was deserted. I decided to pray next to our car among the changing maples and oaks.
Some people like to flaunt their public prayers, waving their tallis in the air, practically shouting the words. Others seek to hide from the public, searching for empty rooms and dark corners. I believe I’m somewhere in the middle, not afraid of my Jewish beliefs but hardly ostentatious.
At end of the Hallel prayer, I was surprised to hear someone say: “Oh. It’s some sort of Star Wars sword.”
I turned to see two police officers approaching me cautiously.
Apparently a guest at the museum had approached the front desk — where someone had actually seen me earlier when I got a pass to enter with my family — and complained about “a man donning multiple cloaks and brandishing a sword in some sort of ritual.” The front desk called the Portage Police.
“What are you doing?” one of the officers asked me, his hand on the firearm holstered at his side.
Rabbi Avi Weiss
“Retire is a word I’d like to retire,” said my rabbi, Rav Avi Weiss, from the pulpit he has held for over 40 years.
Over the holiday of Shemini Atzeret, Rav Avi announced that he would step back from his position as senior rabbi at the synagogue he helped found, The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, or as it’s affectionately known, The Bayit (Hebrew for “home”). Rav Avi has had an illustrious career as a political activist and progressive voice within Orthodoxy. Now he plans to write and teach more, as well as spend more time with his family.
I sat in the pews with my family nearby as I have the honor of serving this year as a rabbinic intern at The Bayit. I am at the beginning of my rabbinic journey, about to complete my studies at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the rabbinical school Rav Avi founded.
As he gave his speech, my eyes were glued to the scene. It is hard to imagine a more joyous transition, with Rav Avi’s words beginning and ending in song and dance. Many congregants expressed sadness as well, seeing as Rav Avi has been there for so many of his congregants’ lifecycle events. Some congregants even remembered The Bayit’s original days, back when it was housed in a cellar; the synagogue now seats several hundreds of people.
This past Shabbat, shortly after delivering this talk, Rav Avi gathered a group of men and a Torah scroll to go pay a visit to an elderly congregant who has been homebound for the past few months. This was at the end of a three-day holiday marathon, but Rav Avi managed to gather a group.
As we walked across the street, I asked Rav Avi where we were headed. It turns out we were visiting a noted linguist and dear friend of my grandparents, Dr. Fishman (or Shikl, as my grandfather called him) and Gella, his wife. We entered their home and Rav Avi began with a tune.
Shikl and Gella’s faces lit up. We cleared the coffee table so as to put the Torah down. We set up our synagogue in their apartment, calling Shikl up to the Torah for his aliyah. Lifting the Torah so it would be easier for Shikl to kiss and to see, Rav Avi said each word of the blessing quietly but loud enough for Shikl to hear and then repeat. A loud amen followed Shikl’s blessing — and with that, the Torah portion. “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.”
Lisa, left, and Ilsa Klinghoffer, the daughters of Leon Klinghoffer / Haaretz
(JTA) — On Oct. 8, 1985, our 69-year-old wheelchair-bound father, Leon Klinghoffer, was shot in the head by Palestinian hijackers on the Achille Lauro cruise ship. The terrorists brutally and unceremoniously threw his body and wheelchair overboard into the Mediterranean. His body washed up on the Syrian shore a few days later.
Beginning on Oct. 20 for eight performances, a baritone portraying “Leon Klinghoffer” will appear on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera and sing the “Aria of the Falling Body” as he artfully falls into the sea. Competing choruses will highlight Jewish and Palestinian narratives of suffering and oppression, selectively presenting the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The four terrorists responsible for his murder will be humanized by distinguished opera singers and given a back story, an “explanation” for their brutal act of terror and violence. Opera-goers will see and hear a musical examination of terrorism, the Holocaust and Palestinian claims of dispossession — all in fewer than three hours.
Since the Met Opera’s decision to stage “The Death of Klinghoffer” by composer John Adams became public several months ago, much has been said and written about our father. Those opposed to the opera’s appearance in New York have elevated his murder at the hands of terrorists into a form of martyrdom. To cultural arbiters and music critics, meanwhile, his tragic story has been seen merely as a vehicle for what they perceive to be artistic brilliance.
For us, the impact and message of the opera is much more deeply felt and tragically personal. Neither Mr. Adams nor librettist Alice Goodman reached out to us when creating the opera, so we didn’t know what to expect when we attended the American debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1991. We were devastated by what we saw: the exploitation of the murder of our father as a vehicle for political commentary.
Rabbi Barry Freundel / PJC Media
(Haaretz) — Kesher Israel, a prominent Modern Orthodox synagogue in Washington D.C., is reeling from a terrible scandal. Their rabbi, Barry Freundel, was arrested on charges of voyeurism and it is alleged that he installed a camera in the equivalent of a women’s locker room where he filmed potential converts in varying degrees of undress before their ritual bath. The shockwaves in the aftermath of this scandal reverberate well beyond the District and are being felt across the entire Jewish world.
Generally, rabbinic “scandals” come in one of two varieties. Some scandals merely involve flawed human behavior that is only considered scandalous because of the stature of the rabbinic figure. If a non-rabbi would commit the same acts, there would be no story. In my opinion, these are not scandals. Human beings behaving in a manner consistent with other human beings are not news. After all, rabbis are people too.
Rabbis are often subject to an artificially constructed angelic standard. This is the flip side of the coin that deifies and attributes clairvoyance or miracles to rabbis. Rabbis are viewed as being capable of the supernatural because they live supernatural lives and therefore are not like the rest of us. They are a more perfect kind of person. Under this standard, the public feigns surprise when rabbis share their struggles or flaws with their followers and critics. After all, rabbis are supposed to be above the petty concerns of the masses.
Such a standard is not fair or realistic and we are setting ourselves up for inevitable disappointment. Rabbis should be held to an achievable human standard.
The other kind of scandal — as appears to be the case in Washington — is when a rabbi commits an act that would be destructive or unethical regardless of one’s clergy status. Or alternatively, when a rabbi exploits his position of authority to manipulate or harm others. These scandals are worthy of our outrage.
N.Y. Jews kick off the ‘Simchat Torah Across Brooklyn’ celebration / Dove Barbanel
In the Grand Army Plaza, at the entrance to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the circle dance threatened to close me in. I had avoided it for some time, but the energy was contagious. I gave in and danced in one of the joyful concentric circles.
This was the third year of “Simchat Torah Across Brooklyn,” an outdoor celebration spearheaded by Rabbi Andy Bachman and Cantor Joshua Breitzer of Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Over 500 people from over twenty Jewish organizations and synagogues (from the Park Slope Jewish Center to Repair the World: NYC) stopped by over the course of the night to sing, dance and meet friends. Jews of all denominations and ages were present, but the majority of people in the crowd were younger than 40. It was safe to call it a party.
“I think it’s important what’s going on here, young people coming out and celebrating the Torah,” said Rachel Grossman, 24.
A few dancers lugged Torah scrolls around with them as they circled. Cantor Breitzer wore a headlight on his forehead and never left the center circle.
“As you can see,” Bachman said, “it’s impossible to hold him down.”
Mango’s new shirt
After Sears’s swastika ring and Zara’s concentration camp shirt comes another piece of fashion that has incensed the internet: The lightning-like black symbols on the women’s shirt ‘Rayo’ by Spanish fashion company Mango look suspiciously like the runic insignia of the Nazi SS units and the youth organization Jungvolk.
“Why does Mango have this model only for women — weren’t there also male Nazis?” Martin Sonneborn, a German satirist and member of the European Parliament, wrote underneath a photo he posted on his Facebook page on Thursday.
On Twitter, users joked about Mango’s “Eva Braun Collection” and the “total fashion war,” and referred to the shirt as “Nazi chic.” And Ambros Waibel of the left-leaning German daily newspaper taz suggests that the shirt should cost 33,45 instead of 35,99 euro.
The stylized rune, which stands for “Sieg” (victory) was used in its single form by the German Jungvolk of the Hitler Youth, which was the Nazi party’s organization for boys aged 10 to 14. At age 14, they became members of the Hitler Youth.
The paramilitary SS, which used the double rune as their emblem, was founded as Adolf Hitler’s personal guard unit. During the Third Reich it was led by Heinrich Himmler, and was most notorious for being in charge of the concentration camps.
Mango reacted promptly. Several German newspapers quoted a statement from Mango in which the company said that they regret the “unfortunate association.”
Hossam al-Dabbus makes art out of remnants from the Gaza war / Getty Images
As donors pledge billions to rebuild Gaza in the wake of Hamas’s war with Israel, one Gazan is engaged in another type of construction: turning remnants of the war into works of art.
Hossam al-Dabbus, a 33-year-old who works in Gaza’s honey industry, has collected shells, rockets and missiles from the war that killed around 2,2000 Gazans and more than 70 Israelis — and turned these objects into flower vases.
Dabbus, who lives in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, first found his materials by combing through the Gaza wreckage. As orders poured in for his art, he asked Hamas police for more defunct projectiles from the war.
“When my children grow up I’ll be able to show them these and tell them — here are remains of the 2014 war that left over 2,000 people dead, and this is how I transformed an instrument of death into a vessel of life, making these bombs into flower vases,” Dabbus told Agence France-Presse.
Illustration by Lily Padula
A respected rabbi installing cameras in the preparation room of the mikveh in the building next door to his synagogue? The sensationalistic story of alleged voyeur Rabbi Barry Freundel seems tailor-made to go viral in our internet age. So what can be done to counteract the negative publicity this gives to the observance of mikveh, the Jewish ritual bath, and to general trust in rabbis? How can we ensure this type of situation (assuming the allegations are true — that has yet to be legally corroborated) doesn’t happen again?
It’s simple: Put women in charge of the mikveh system.
I’d like to see a world where the mikveh and all questions about it are totally overseen by female scholars, who possess the relevant Jewish legal wisdom and are permitted to be part of that authority structure.
This is an area where we women need to be trusted with the knowledge of our own bodies and how they function. This is an area where we should be the main experts.
Illustration by Kurt Hoffman
Yesterday, prominent Modern Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel was arrested on charges of voyeurism. The police report obtained by the media indicates that he had used cameras to record women showering as they prepared to use the mikveh.
Freundel should, and will, have his say in court. These charges are serious, though, and there are implications to the fact that this allegedly took place in the mikveh, of all places.
The mikveh is sacred space. All of it, including the rooms in which women prepare to immerse. The act of preparation is, in fact, part of the ritual. And the profound, complex, and deeply personal feelings that can be part of mikveh immersion can manifest in the preparation room as well as in the water itself.
Picture a woman returning to the mikveh for the first time after a miscarriage. She’s swimming in grief, still, maybe. Judaism doesn’t traditionally have a formal ritual to mark the loss of a pregnancy — except the mikveh. Her first immersion after first a time of hope, and then one of what’s all too often an unnamed bereavement is her ritual to mark what’s happened inside her body and her heart, everything she’s feeling and everything that’s different now.