Forward Thinking

Reclaiming the Swastika, One Tattoo at a Time

By Cnaan Liphshiz

getty images

(JTA) — As the sun began to set over Copenhagen, Peter Madsen realized he would not be able to serve the dozens of people still waiting in his shop for a free swastika tattoo.

“We had to stop taking in people after the 54th client,” Madsen, artistic designer at the Meatshop tattoo parlor, said on Tuesday — the day that more than 120 similar businesses worldwide offered free tattoos of the ancient Indian symbol as part of campaign titled “Learn to Love the Swastika.”

For the occasion, the Meatshop announced that anyone who enters the shop on Tuesday would be entitled to a $180 swastika tattoo on the house, on a body part of their choosing.

The idea, Madsen said, is “to reclaim this symbol, which the Nazis abused, and restore it to its original meaning in India, where is has served for thousands of years as a sign of peace and goodness.”

In Russia, Europe and the English-speaking world, swastikas are popular with white supremacists, given the symbol’s association with Nazism. The symbol has been banned in several European countries with limitations on hate speech, though not in Denmark, where a strong liberal tradition has trumped even the bitter memories from the Nazi occupation during World War II.

Still, the Meatshop’s swastika stunt drew emotional reactions from Danish Jews. “I believe that a symbol that was once something else, but which the Nazis took hostage, cannot just be washed clean,” Finn Schwarz, president of the Jewish Congregation of Copenhagen, told the news site mx.dk. The Meatshop’s attempt to do just that was “cheap,” he added.

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Marijuana Goes Local in Israel

By Talia Lavin

thinkstock

(JTA) — Taking a puff is going local in the Jewish state.

According to a Bloomberg report, Israel’s tightened border security — aimed at curbing the influx of African migrants, as well as securing the country against potential threats from Lebanon and Syria — has also had the effect of hampering the country’s supply of marijuana and hashish.

The result has been a surge in home-grown product, which some Israeli marijuana enthusiasts describe as more potent than the version smuggled in from neighboring Arab countries. According to David Wachtel, head of the Ale Yarok marijuana-legalization party (which memorably teamed up with Holocaust survivors in a Knesset campaign), this is good news.

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The Girl Who Broke Your Heart — A Year Later

By Anne Cohen

Ayelet Galena’s death at the age of 2 from a rare bone marrow disease launched a wave of grief around the world. For months, thousands followed the little girl’s fight for her life with the Eye on Ayelet blog, set up by her parents, Hindy Poupko and Seth Galena.

But more than a year and a half after Ayelet’s death — and a year after Hindy Poupko made the Forward 50 — the little girl’s memory lives on.

“People continue to give to her donor circle without us even asking,” Poupko told the Forward in a phone interview. “We’re always surprised that it’s still on their radar.”

This silent but constant support is what helps the still-grieving mother find the strength to move forward. Most of these acts of kindness are subtle, more substantial than grand, but often empty, gestures.

Ayelet’s story first grabbed the attention of Forward readers with a series of touching stories by then-Director of Digital Media Gabrielle Birkner. Hindy Poupko’s inspirational effort to harness the grief landed her a spot on the Forward 50. And readers made her the surprising choice as the most clicked-on profile in the package, outpacing dozens of far more well-known figures.

Poupko recalled that even this week, she was cc’d on an email chain as part of her role as Managing Director and Director of Israel & International Affairs for the Jewish Relations Council of New York. Scrolling through the exchange, she noticed something peculiar:

“By the way, December 5 is Ayelet’s birthday,” someone had written to the others involved.

Poupko was stunned. “It was such a beautiful thing,” she said. “It’s one thing to remember a yartzeit, it’s another to remember a birthday, especially in such a work environment. I was really moved by that.”

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Gay Jewish Trailblazers Set Forward 50 Mark

By Anne Cohen

For the first time ever, the Forward 50 was launched with a profile celebrating a gay Jewish woman — and the kvelling was just starting for gay Jewish achievers.

Edie Windsor made the Top 5 for her role in the fight for marriage equality: on June 26, she won her suit at the Supreme Court, a decision that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

While the most visible victory for gay rights this year, it was far from the only one, a fact reflected in this year’s list. Six of the honorees are gay, reflecting a more general acceptance of gays in the wider Jewish community, as well as the prominence of Jews in the struggle for equality.

“As a former F50 honoree myself, I think it’s a combination of two factors,” Jay Michaelson, author of “God vs. Gay: The Religious Case for Equality,” wrote in an email to the Forward. “The struggle for equality is among the great civil rights issues of our time, and so it’s natural that those involved with it are recognized in this way.”

Three of the honorees won their place on the list because of their work promoting LGBT issues. As executive director of Keshet, Idit Klein has turned what started as a grassroots group advocating the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Jewish life into a national organization that has educators in more than 200 communities around the country; Alan Van Capelle has a long record of fighting for gay rights and headed a New York lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights lobby before stepping in as CEO of Bend the Arc.

But Michaelson identified a second trend at work, namely that “more LGBT people are out of the closet — there were almost certainly past honorees whose sexual identities were unknown to us.”

Three of the honorees reflect precisely that: Glenn Greenwald, Harvey Fierstein and Mitchell Davis were all chosen for their outstanding contribution to their respective fields: Greenwald for breaking one of the biggest stories of the last decade; Fierstein for his Midas touch when it comes to Broadway hits, and Davis for his achievements in the tasty realm of Jewish food. In the past, they would have been recognized for their achievements, completely independent from their sexuality, but with a part of their identity cloaked in silence.

It’s a small step in the right direction.


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Why We Picked the Pope — and Angelina Jolie

By Jane Eisner

The New York Times’ Laurie Goodstein had a fascinating story on Sunday about how Conservative Catholics have felt left out of their new pope’s embrace. Pope Francis may have soaring approval ratings because of his humble demeanor and inclusive language, but American Catholics in the church’s conservative wing are feeling abandoned and deeply unsettled, Goodstein wrote.

And this was before the Forward 50 went online.

We didn’t pick Pope Francis as our “Plus One” just to further rattle Catholics concerned that the leader of their church isn’t sufficiently doctrinaire about abortion, gay rights and other touchstone issues. But I imagine that being cited by a Jewish news organization for exemplary contributions to the American Jewish story will not help the pope’s popularity among his more conservative flock.

That’s the thing about lists. Especially this list. It’s only effective if it is surprises.

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Hunt for Brother of Jesus Christ

By Renee Ghert-Zand

It’s written in stone, but still not everyone believes it. There are still those who maintain that the Aramaic inscription on a First Century limestone ossuary that says, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” is a forgery. Nonetheless, the Israeli courts determined that the inscription could very well be authentic, and that the bone box should be returned to its owner, collector Oded Golan.

The artifact was seized from Golan in 2003 by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which accused him of adding “brother of Jesus” to the inscription and trying to dishonestly pass the ossuary off as the first and only known artifact pointing to the actual existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Golan was arrested and tried, and after a protracted legal battle, was exonerated in 2012. The bone box was recently returned to Golan by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which had kept it out of the public’s view for a decade.

Matthew Kalman, a Jerusalem-based journalist who has been covering this case for a decade, told Forward Thinking that the 20-inch long by one-foot wide box should have been released to Golan quite some time ago. “The judge ordered its release, and the appeal process was exhausted three months ago,” he said.

According to Kalman, Golan intends to show the ossuary to the public, but that he has no specific plans as of yet. The last time the ancient artifact was on public view was in 2002 at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. It’s appearance sparked major interest, including the making of a Discovery Channel documentary by “Naked Archeologist” Simcha Jacobovici.

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Miss Israel Falls Short of Ruling Universe

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Titi Aynaw may not have been crowned Miss Universe 2013, but she did Israelis proud by representing her country in the international pageant in Moscow, Russia.

The first black Miss Israel failed to make it in to the semi-finals of the competition, despite our urging everyone to vote online for her. Gabriela Isler, Venezuela’s beauty queen, beat out other finalists from Ecuador, Brazil, Spain, and the Philippines to take the title.

It was a bit disappointing that Aynaw did not even make it in to the round of 16, especially since she was an early favorite among many. Nikkiii, a Brazilian beauty expert from the Missology website, who has an accurate prediction track record, even projected Aynaw as the winner.

Nonetheless, it looked as though Aynaw had a good time at the pageant, taking part in the preliminary national costume, swimsuit and evening gown competitions. We, for one, thought she looked fetching in her national costume, a white and gold ensemble seemingly inspired by two very different biblical personages: Aaron, the High Priest, and the Queen of Sheba. In a parade of what can only be described as a colorful explosion of national motifs on sexy steroids, Aynaw looked relatively demure and classy.

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Live Tweeting the Kristallnacht Pogroms

By Anna Goldenberg

Exactly 75 years ago, between November 7 and 13, 1938, a wave of anti-Semitic pogroms swept across Germany and Austria. This year, a group of German historians chose to commemorate the events, which marked a turning point in the Nazi’s persecution of Jews, using an unconventional medium: Twitter.

On October 28, the five historians who stem from different German universities, started live-tweeting the events of 1938 in German, as if they happened now, using the handle @9nov38 and relying on historical data that include newspapers and postcards.

The first tweet reads “Starting on October 28 more than 15,000 Polish Jews were expelled from the Deutsche Reich, immediately effective.”

On the morning of November 8, the group posted a picture of the headline of the Nazi party’s newspaper “Der Völkische Beobachter” announcing the assassination of the German ambassador in Paris, Ernst von Rath, by 17-year-old German-born Jewish Herschel Grynszpan: “Jewish Assassination in Paris. Member of the German Embassy Perilously Wounded By Shooting. The Murderer Boy: A 17-Year-Old Jew. Villain to Europe’s Peace.”

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News Quiz: Kosher Starbucks, Anthony Weiner

By Lenore Skenazy

Anthony Weiner, Elliot Spitzer and Bernie Goetz. They’re back, in this week’s quiz. The latest item to wow visitors to Kosherfest? It’s here, too, because, like those men, it’s as Jewish and strange as it Goetz.


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Editor's Choice: Remember Kristallnacht, Torah of Drones

By Forward Staff

David Stuck
Eva Slonitz was 12 years old in 1938, but she still remembers that night — and how after Kristallnacht, “we hardly ever left our house.”

The Forward is partnering with other Jewish newspapers to offer our readers a peek at some of the best stories from around the country, as selected by the editors at those papers. We will offer a selection of unedited links with brief introductions from the editors of the papers.

From the Baltimore Jewish Times: “Kristallnacht: 75 Years Since the Night of Broken Glass”

Editor Maayan Jaffe talks with area survivors who witnessed the events of Kristallnacht. On that night (and into the morning), the Nazis staged violent pogroms — state-sanctioned, anti-Jewish riots — against the Jewish communities of Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland. They broke synagogue windows, demolished and looted Jewish-owned stores, community centers and homes. Instigated by the Nazi regime, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, rioters burned or destroyed 267 synagogues, vandalized or looted 7,500 Jewish businesses and killed at least 91 Jewish people. They also damaged many Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools and homes, as police and fire brigades stood aside. Said survivor Johanna Neumann, “So often, you hate for the sake of hating, but you don’t really know why you are hating. … It still gives me the shivers when I talk about it.”

Read the complete story here.

From the LA Jewish Journal: “The Torah of Drones: Examining the Complex Morality of Drone Warfare”

In 2009, an Israeli drone flying over the Gaza Strip transmitted back to its command station an image of a telltale rocket trail streaking toward Israeli territory. Many kilometers away, a young Israeli operator, Capt. Y, quickly maneuvered the unmanned aircraft to get a look at the young Palestinian who had just launched the deadly missile. Y’s drone squadron already had authorization to take him out. In an instant, a rocket struck the hidden launch site, followed by a flash of fire.

When the smoke cleared, Y saw images of the shooter lying flat on the ground. Twenty seconds passed. And then Y saw something even more remarkable — the dead man began to move.

Severely wounded, the Palestinian began to claw his way toward the road. Y could clearly see the man’s face, and in his youth and determination Y must have recognized something of himself. So, now Y and his team had a decision to make: Would they let the wounded terrorist escape, or circle the drone back and finish him off?

Read the complete story here.


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Who Poisoned Yasser Arafat? The Palestinians.

By Matthew Kalman and Matt Rees

Inside Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters, the top military and political and money men of the Palestine Liberation Organizaion would speak about their leader in hushed, nervous tones.

They told of a chairman who was falling apart. He wore unwashed clothes. He rambled about the old days in Beirut.

Then he was gone. Poisoned with polonium, as Swiss scientists all but confirmed this week after a study of his exhumed bones. But that’s only the start of the tragic tale of Arafat’s death.

For almost a decade Palestinian leaders have sought to avoid acknowledging that the symbol of their resistance to Israel was poisoned. Now they face a new challenge: to escape the inescapable conclusion that they themselves administered the poison.

The deadly tensions that would ultimately kill him were created by Arafat himself. He was a larger-than-life leader whom no novelist would dare to fashion. His regime consisted of a cast of surreal Dickensian characters: brilliant thinkers, wily money-men and desperate rogues. He set his favorites against each other, like gladiators in an arena where weapons were never far from reach.

The Palestinian Authority had collapsed around Arafat as the violence of the intifada swept 3,000 of his people to their deaths and drew Israeli tanks into every town and village. To the dismay of those around him, Arafat chanted daily about the “millions of martyrs” he expected––though in reality by the time he died, Palestinians had ceased to court death and were hunkered down for the end of a rising they acknowledged was a mistake.

“He’s always talking about the old days in Beirut, when he was in his bunker,” one of his police chiefs told us. “He thinks this situation is the same.” But someone knew how different, how desperate the situation was. That the Palestinians needed a different kind of leader if they were ever to achieve freedom.

And for that, Arafat had to go.

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Brad Ausmus Talks Jews and Baseball

By Larry Ruttman

Brad Ausmus was named the Detroit Tigers manager this week, making him the sixth Jew to lead a Major League club.

As a player, he was an All-Star catcher for the Tigers, a three time Gold Glove winner playing for the Astros and possessor of the third-best lifetime fielding average of any catcher in major league history with a minimum of 1,000 games played.

The handsome and well-spoken Dartmouth grad’s conditioning and durability enabled him to catch over 100 games for 11 seasons in a row — even though his name flew under the radar of many fans fixated on the big hit.

Baseball insiders have long known Ausmus as a thinking man’s player as well as a catcher’s catcher. He spoke tp Larry Ruttman about anti-Semitism in the big leagues, the Jewish baseball heroes, and how his accomplished Jewish mother is his biggest role model.

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Fight for Chained Wives Goes Online

By Talia Lavin

(JTA) — The websites look like those of political prisoners.

Under the caption “Free Tamar Now!” there is a close-up photo of demonstrators with signs and megaphones. “Stop the abuse,” one sign reads.

But FreeTamar.org and the Free Gital Facebook group seek emancipation not from literal bars or chains. Rather, they seek liberation for agunot — so-called chained women being denied religious writs of divorce from their husbands.

Under Jewish law, divorces are not final until the husband gives his wife the writ, known as a get. If a husband refuses, the woman cannot remarry; any intimate relationship with another man is considered adultery. Children born from such a relationship are considered mamzers, a category of illegitimacy under Jewish law that carries severe restrictions.

Under Jewish law, women chained to recalcitrant husbands have little recourse, and the problem of agunot long has plagued the Jewish community. In one recent case that garnered broad media attention, the FBI arrested several men in New York who allegedly kidnapped and tortured recalcitrant husbands — for fees of tens of thousands of dollars.

A more common and increasingly popular tactic agunot advocates are adopting to try to compel recalcitrant husbands to relent and grant their wives gets is the public shaming campaign.

Gital Doderson, 25, of Lakewood, N.J., brought her divorce fight to the front page of the New York Post on Tuesday. After three years of pursuing but failing to obtain a get from her husband, Dodelson wrote, “I’ve decided to go public with my story after exhausting every other possible means. The Orthodox are fiercely private, but I am willing to air my dirty laundry if it means I can finally get on with my life.”

The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, known as ORA, is at the forefront of a campaign to harness public remonstrance as a means to thwart recalcitrant husbands.

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Tall (Reform) Rabbi in Sea of Black Hats

By Eliyahu Federman

More than 5,000 Chabad rabbis and supporters gathered on Sunday for the 30th annual conference of international Shluchim, or messengers of the Hasidic movement. Former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman addressed the crowd as the first keynote speaker.

Rabbi Dov Greenberg, Chabad rabbi at Stanford University, told the crowd that you are more likely to find an atheist, secular, or humanist Jew at a Chabad house than you were to find an Orthodox Jew.

And one lanky man in the sprawling crowd of black-hatted men summed up what he meant.

Among the guests was Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the congregational arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in North America.

Chabad strictly follows Orthodox Judaism’s central belief that the Torah was given directly from God to Moses and applies in all times and places. Reform Judaism, on the other hand, maintains that Judaism and Jewish traditions are not divine and can be modernized, changed, to reflect surrounding culture.

Chabad’s invitation to Jacobs reflects the movement’s philosophy to embrace everyone on the human level, without regard to creed or denominational differences.

Jacobs returned the sentiment, telling Lubavitch.com that it was “inspiring to be with a group of Jewish leaders who feel so passionately about bringing the love of yiddishkeit [Judaism] and the life of commitment to the widest possible circle.”

If the Reform president and Chabad Shluchim can sit at the same table to connect as one people, who knows: Maybe there’s hope for other denominations of Judaism to sit together notwithstanding their deep theological differences.


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The (Chabad) Rebbe's Army

By Ben Harris

(JTA) — So far as I know, there are two major roll calls each year in the Jewish world. One takes place each spring at the annual AIPAC convention in Washington, in which the names of hundreds of members of Congress are read aloud from the rostrum. The other took place last night, at the annual gathering of Chabad emissaries, or shluchim, in Brooklyn.

The former is a display of political power, showcasing AIPAC’s ability to get more than half the members of the world’s most powerful legislative body to show up and demonstrate their pro-Israel bona fides. The second is a show of another kind of power, the spiritual strength of a group of rabbis who sacrifice much in terms of comfort and convenience to connect thousands of far-flung Jews to their heritage.

At a time of angst in the Jewish world over the falloff in Jewish affiliation, the ranks of Chabad shluchim continue to swell. There are currently more than 4,500 around the world (twice that number if one counts, as one should, the rabbis’ wives). More than half of those have been dispatched in the nearly two decades since the death of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, whose eyes peered down on the gathering from a massive portrait above a rotating speakers’s podium.

The bulk of those shluchim assembled Sunday night in a marine terminal along the Brooklyn waterfront for their annual banquet, the capstone of a days-long conference, or kinus. Emissaries traveled from such remote locales as the Cayman Islands, Laos, San Martin, South Korea and Martinique, arriving at the cavernous warehouse by bus, taxi, subway and limousine. (So far as I could tell, I was the only attendee who arrived by bicycle.) And their strength was evident not only by the sea of bearded men in black suits and hats, but by the presence of their benefactors — billionaire Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev and the financier George Rohr foremost among them — political figures like Joe Lieberman and the former CIA director James Woosley, and representatives of other major Jewish streams, including the Union for Reform Judaism’s president, Rabbi Rick Jacobs.

The convention theme was zarach b’choshech or, a phrase from the Psalms meaning “radiate light into darkness,” and the speeches and videos were replete with metaphors of luminescence — sparks of yiddishkheit ignited, torches lit, Jewish souls set aflame. Rare in the Jewish world is a group as fired up and self-assured as this one.

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U.N. Rights Council's Israel Embarassment

By Aaron Magid

The goals of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) are laudatory: a non-partisan forum designed to promote the highest levels of human rights adherence by nations around the world. Unfortunately, the current council fails to perform its mission as it has descended into concerning itself more with local politics and decades old ideological conflicts. Due to the council’s disproportionate condemnation of Israeli policies, the body loses legitimacy to honestly judge human rights performance and weakens the stature of the United Nations around the world.

After an 18-month boycott, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ended his country’s boycott of the council by participating in the country’s annual review earlier this week. Haaretz reported that German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle sent a harsh letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding Israel appear before the UNHRC or face “severe diplomatic damage.” The New York Times harshly criticized Israel for previously refusing to appear before the tribunal in an editorial saying, “it (Israel) unwisely set itself further apart with a decision to withhold cooperation from a United Nations Human Rights Council Review of its human rights practice.”

It is true that Israel has from an ideal human rights record. Netanyahu’s insistence on continuing to build settlements on the West Bank plays a destructive role to the peace process. Furthermore, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank must end and allow for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Nonetheless, the council’s obsessive focus on Israel and the hypocrisy of its member states makes the legitimate criticism of Israel sound unwarranted.

In Iran’s vicious attack on Israel’s record, its U.N. representative called Israel the “regime” and refused to acknowledge the name Israel even when interrupted by the Israeli official asking him which regime he was discussing. If Iran is not willing to recognize another UN member state’s right to exist for political purposes, it should not sit on the UNHRC and judge Israel’s performance as Iran is clearly biased. The representative from the non-democratically elected Omani regime called for all Palestinian prisoners be released from Israeli jails. This is despite many of the Palestinian prisoners are incarcerated for engaging in brutal terror attacks killing Holocaust survivors, women, and children in cafés and buses.

No other country would ever be asked to release all of its prisoners, especially those who have committed such horrible atrocities. Possibly, the most absurd rebuke came from Syria who called for all “Syrian citizens” living in the Israeli Golan Heights to be permitted to visit their families in Syria. The hypocrisy of a nation whose leader has murdered tens of thousands of his own people and used chemical weapons on innocent civilians is unspeakable. Only at the U.N. would such a spectacle of such repressive regimes criticizing Israel be tolerated.

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From Gaza Battles to the New York Marathon

By Peter Hellman

Aharon Karov barely survived his time as an Israeli soldier in the 2009 Gaza operation Cast Lead. When he was transferred from hospital to rehab and first tried to walk, he took just one step and fainted. This Sunday, he took his place among the 47,000 runners in the ING New York Marathon and finished the 26.2 mile course in four hours and 14 minutes.

Jackson ran along side Yitzchaka Jackson, the wife of the neurosurgeon whose 11 hour surgery had saved Karov’s life. Yitzchaka Jackson has been Karov’s coach and running partner for the last six months, during which he lost over 50 pounds.

At the 23rd mile mark, Karov did stop — but not because he couldn’t go on. “I just want to dedicate the distance so far to your husband who saved me,” Karov said. “The rest of the race is dedicated to you.” Jackson, who had planned to shepherd Karov right to the finish, now found herself thinking that her charge was ready to be independent of her. “You have my blessing to run ahead,” she told him. And he was on his way.


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Vote Titi Aynaw (for Miss Universe)!

By Renee Ghert-Zand

The Forward is a non-profit news organization and as such is barred from telling you whom to vote for. There’s also this little thing called journalistic integrity. But we have decided to toss both policies out the window — just this once.

Vote for Titi! There, we said it. Let the IRS do what it may.

Israel’s reigning beauty queen, Ethiopian-born Titi Aynaw needs your support.

Aynaw, 22, is in Moscow to compete for the 2013 Miss Universe title. If she gets the most votes in an online public poll, she will automatically have a guaranteed place in the semi-final level of the competition.

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Editor's Choice: 6 Million Recalled With Stamps

By Forward Staff

Melissa Gerr
Special education teacher Janna Freishtat (left) and English teacher Cyndie Fagan have been instrumental in moving the Six Million Stamps Project forward.

The Forward is partnering with other Jewish newspapers to offer our readers a peek at some of the best stories from around the country, as selected by the editors at those papers. We will offer a selection of unedited links with brief introductions from the editors of the papers.

Stamping Out Intolerance

By Melissa Gerr

Students at Mount Hebron High School are working to collect six million stamps in commemoration of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. Said teacher Cyndie Fagan, “Each of those postage stamps tells a story, just like each person who died had a story.”

Read the full story at the Baltimore Jewish Times.


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Is Jewish Home Overplaying Hand?

By Nathan Jeffay

In Israel over the last few months, the religious-Zionist right wing has been buoyant.

Its political party, Jewish Home, reached an all time low in the 2009 general election, winning just 3 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, but then in this year’s election won a remarkable 12 seats. It had finally managed to galvanize the support of the non-Orthodox right wing.

Since the election, as the other big election winner, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, has very quickly ended its honeymoon and seen its support drop, Jewish Home has only got stronger. In recent weeks its strength in the polls peaked at 15 seats. But it seems that the party may have pushed its luck over the last few day

It hoped to be the political star this week. It bitterly criticized the release of Palestinian prisoners yesterday, expressing fury over the move and making disparaging comments about Israel’s chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, who also serves as Justice Minister. It was very strong stuff given that Jewish Home actually sits in the government that is freeing the prisoners.

And there lies the conundrum of Jewish Home. It sits in the government that is negotiating with the Palestinians even though it objects to everything involved in doing so — giving status to the Palestinian Authority, talking about evacuating settlements, and considering establishing a Palestinian state. Its awkward decision is to participate fully in the coalition, but distance itself from hard decisions related to the Palestinians.

This strategy seemed to be working. The party tried to present itself, during discussions about the prisoner release, as the only faction with the courage to speak out. But it seems that the public didn’t see it like this.

A new poll puts its support at 13-seats, which may be more than its 12 seats in Knesset, but is real dip from previous polling in September. Instead of boosting its support, the attempt to show indignation while remaining in the government has chipped away at its support. This shows the weakness in its balancing act and raises the question: at what point may its obligations to the coalition and to its supporters cause a crisis for the party?


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  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
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