Forward Thinking

Fall of Mizrachi Singing Sensation Eyal Golan

By Nathan Jeffay

Eyal Golan, one of Israel’s most famous singers, is under house arrest, suspected of having sex with underage girls.

Golan is a bestselling artist from the mizrachi or Eastern music genre, as well as being a television star. He has his own show, and serves as a judge on the talent show Rising Star.

The case of a “famous singer” who is under investigation for sex acts has been the talk of Israel for a week, but a gag order has prevented proper reporting on the case, and prohibited revealing the name of the suspect.

The lifting of the gag order yesterday, as the singer was released to house arrest, allowed what had been floating around blogosphere for days, namely that it was Golan, to appear in the media. During the gag order there was the same sense of an absurd situation reminiscent of when the Anat Kamm case couldn’t be reported by the media in Israel but was known to everyone with an internet connection.

One of the weirdest aspects of the Golan case is that that his father is suspected to have been involved. A news report posted following his 61-year-old father’s appearance in court today suggested that he used the prospect of access to his son as a lure and that he gave at least one girl money and gifts to get her to sleep with him.

And so, In Israel, two weeks after one scandal ends, another begins. Eyal Golan’s appearances on his shows have been cancelled since the news broke, but his life has now become the ultimate reality television show, and the country is well and truly gripped.


Housewife From Cleveland Who Stole GA Show

By Ben Sales

(JTA) — It was, perhaps, not the most auspicious setting for Ronit Peskin’s first-ever public speech.

The 25-year-old self-described housewife stood in front of a crowded room at the biggest Jewish conference of the year, the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Jerusalem. She was about to verbally assail Women of the Wall — a group most in the audience supported. On the stage with her were Yesh Atid Knesset member Aliza Lavie, representing a party that championed religious pluralism; Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who’s spearheading a compromise on the Kotel; and Women of the Wall’s chairwoman, Anat Hoffman, a confident public speaker with decades of experience.

By the end of the event, Lavie was telling Peskin she should run for Knesset.

A Cleveland native and mother of three who moved to Israel at age 18, Peskin says she generally tries to avoid the spotlight. Most of her frequent Facebook posts are about cooking and household economy — publicity for her blog, Penniless Parenting.

But since April, Peskin has also served as co-founder of Women for the Wall, a traditionalist group that aims to maintain the status quo at the Kotel and that opposes Women of the Wall — helping to draw thousands of girls to the women’s section to counter WOW’s monthly services.

In her GA speech last week, she didn’t hold back.

“When Anat Hoffman and other WOW board members mistakenly compare Israel to Saudi Arabia, claim that women here are oppressed and have no rights, and that Conservative and Reform Jews get arrested for praying in their way, it’s doing irreparable harm to our nation,” she said. “The answer is not to let a tiny but vocal minority ruin the experience for everyone else.”

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Millennials Must Grab Keys to Jewish 'Car'

By Juliana Schnur

Juliana Schnur

As a first-year rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), I read a lot about the challenges facing “millennials.” With the recent outpouring of analysis relating to the Pew report on American Jewry, the amount of content may have quadrupled, but the number of young voices has not.

I’m often frustrated by the dearth of meaningful commentary from my generation about how we plan to transform apparent challenges (Think: dues to synagogues, intermarriage and collegiate Jewish disaffection) into our greatest opportunities. We are blessed to have so many articulate and expert Jewish leaders seeking the secret sauce for our engagement. But this is not their task — it is ours.

Recently, I was privileged to join four other millennials on a panel at the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual General Assembly in Jerusalem. Learning that I might be speaking in front of a few thousand people prompted me to spend a good chunk of time dreaming about how best to use this incredible platform to contribute to the conversation about next generation Jewishness.

My path to the rabbinate has been shaped by three vibrant themes in American Jewish life: contagious leadership, nurturing community and social justice. Dynamism and creativity defined the clergy at the synagogue of my youth, but the love for the Jewish people, the infectious excitement about the vibrancy of Jewish tradition and identity made the deepest impact throughout my years there. My role models truly loved their work.

The other day I overheard someone quip: “No one in the history of the world ever washed a rented car.”

A car, like a religious community, only sparkles when people take ownership of it. I was inspired to pursue a position of leadership in the Jewish community because I was taught from childhood that it is mine to lead. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the former spiritual leader of my synagogue (and now the president of the Union for Reform Judaism), told me so many times that I would make a great rabbi that I actually began to believe him. He turned my responsibility to my community into my own great opportunity.

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We Are All the 'Other Israel'

By Dan Friedman

At some point in the evolution of American national thought Martin Luther King Jr. went from being a political firebrand to being a national icon. You have to be pretty far outside the mainstream in 2013 to object to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Likewise the Other Israel Film Festival started out as a way to cover those aspects of Israel that mainstream media didn’t talk about, mostly the Arab experience. Watching DAM, the Israeli-Palestinian hip hop group, rap in the auditorium of the JCC in Manhattan on November 10, 2007, felt subversive: What would Michael Steinhardt think?

But no longer.

This is the seventh annual festival and I’ve covered it as a film critic and journalist before (full disclosure) helping out on the advisory committee a couple of times. Welcoming four times world ballroom dancing champion Pierre Dulaine to introduce “Dancing in Jaffa,” the film about his dream of having Jewish and Palestinian children dancing together in his Jaffa birthplace, doesn’t seem contentious. It seems sensible, patriotic.

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Meet Max Levin, Teenage Stock Pick King

By Anne Cohen

Max Levin makes more money sitting in his high school math class than most people do during a day at their office.

At 11, the Jewish boy from Voorhees, N.J., was making his first stock picks, guided by his grandfather, a day trader in New York City.

Two years later, he used his bar mitzvah money to move to the big leagues, buying and selling stocks daily in between classes on his phone.

It paid off. Big time.

When his grandfather died in 2012, Levin memorialized him by launching StockPick101.com, a website devoted to helping young people learn the ABCs of stocks, investing and trading. What started as Levin writing about topics he found interested has grown into a national network of college-age writers and readers, who weigh in and discuss financial strategy. Trending topics this week include “Hot Mutual Funds,” “Marijuana Stocks to Invest In,” and “Tips and Tricks for the Young Investor.

“What we’re trying to do is reach out to the younger generation of new investors,” Levin said in a phone interview with the Forward. “The younger you do it, the better it is [and] the more familiar you’ll be with the stock market and the economy.”

Now 16, Levin also writes weekly articles for MainStreet and TheStreet, online publications connected with Jim Cramer (host of CNBC’s “Mad Money”), under the name “StockPick Whiz Kid.”

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Ken Burns Teaches Jewish Side of Gettysburg

By Anna Goldenberg

Exactly 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln said: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”

On its anniversary, the Gettysburg Address, which is often considered the most important speech of American history, is anything but forgotten: Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns launched a mass participation project, in which he invites Americans from all walks of life to film themselves while reciting the Address, and upload the video to the project’s homepage.

More than 300 videos are online already, which include the performances of around 60 prominent people. There are the five living ex-presidents; Bill O’Reilly and Rachel Maddow; giants of business such as Bill Gates; and celebs like Stephen Colbert and Uma Thurman.

Stephen Spielberg, Senator Chuck Schumer and Rabbi Peter Rubinstein are a few of the several notable Jewish figures who have joined in.

Burns came up with the idea for the Learn the Address project while filming a documentary for PBS at the Greenwood School, a boarding school for boys with learning difficulties, which holds an annual competition in which the boys memorize and recite the Address. Burns observed the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment among the boys that followed successful memorization and thought he could turn this challenge into something bigger.

“Mass participation does the same healing like singing in church,” Ken Burns told the Forward. “We are such a fractured society. As a famous historian [Arthur Schlesinger Jr.] said, there is too much pluribus, and not enough unum.” In addition to doing something together, he said, participants get access to “the most important speech of all of American history.”

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Did You Get Invited to Obama's Hanukkah Party?

By Nathan Guttman

It’s time to check your inbox. The White House has sent out invitation for this year’s Hanukkah reception hosted by President Obama.

It is a good way of measuring one’s status in the world of Jewish leadership. If you’re not invited to the White House reception you’re either from the wrong party (in that case you might want to check out the RJC’s party) or you’ve just no longer a “Jewish leader.”

The good news is that this year’s list of invitees, which usually reaches 300-400 members of the tribe, is expected to be even bigger. In fact, the traditional White House Hanukkah reception will, for the first time, be divided into two receptions, one after the other.

The events, an administration source promised, would be identical, so no need to fret over which reception is better. They’ll be plenty of Jewish VIP’s at both events. Israeli-born Grammy winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari is expected to perform, and, just as in previous years, the White House kitchen will be made kosher for one day, to provide for the crowd.

For those who did not get a White House invitation, they’ll be a host of other opportunities to light the Menorah with Washington movers and shakers: at the Congress, the Pentagon, and of course the traditional lighting of the National Menorah sponsored by Chabad at the Ellipse just south of the White House, next to the national Christmas tree.


One Man's Jewish Temple Mount Crusade

By Renee Ghert-Zand

There is no single place in Jerusalem as politically sensitive as the site that Jews call the Temple Mount, and Muslims call the Haram al-Sharif, or noble sanctuary.

In the past couple of decades, there have been riots and violent confrontations there. The Second Intifada erupted in 2000 after Ariel Sharon, then leader of Israel’s right-wing opposition, visited the Temple Mount.

While Israel annexed the Temple Mount and all of East Jerusalem after their capture in the 1967 Six Day War, the Muslim group known as the Waqf manages the site. Freedom of access to the area is enshrined in Israeli law. However, for security reasons, Israeli police enforces a ban on Jewish and other non-Muslim prayer there.

Recently, right-wing religious Zionists have been pushing to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. They want the Israeli government to assert its sovereignty over what Jews revere as the site of the first and second holy temples. These activists have gained support from elements within the current government, especially members of the Jewish nationalist Habayit Hayehudi party.

While the Waqf is in favor of tourists of all kinds visiting the area, it is wary of Jewish religious fanatics who might want to damage or destroy the Dome of the Rock and other Muslim sites. Some ultra-religious Jews believe it’s their responsibility to do so in order to clear the path for construction of a third temple.

Yehudah Glick, an American immigrant to Israel, professional tour guide and Temple Mount activist, was arrested on October 10 and barred by the Israeli police from the site. He began a hunger strike in protest, ending last Thursday after 12 days, when his permission to ascend to the Temple Mount was reinstated.

The Forward asked Glick about his being barred from the Temple Mount, his hunger strike, and why he believes Jews should have full access to the site.

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Road to Jewish Success Runs Through Failure

By Julie Wiener

David Bryfman

(JTA) — At most Jewish conferences, speakers and participants are careful to focus on sharing only their successes and accomplishments. After all, you never know when a potential donor might be listening.

But on Monday, 120 Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders are gathering to focus on something very different: failure.

Sponsored by New York’s Jewish Education Project and San Francisco’s Upstart, Monday’s event is being touted as the Jewish world’s first-ever “Fail Forward” conference. “Fail Forward” is a new buzz phrase in management circles: the idea being that fear of failure stifles innovation and that failure is a learning opportunity.

Ashley Good, the founder of a consulting group called Fail Forward, will facilitate Monday’s events, where participants and speakers will share some of their biggest failures and learn how to “bring intelligent failure” to their organizations, according to the program schedule.

David Bryfman, director of the Jewish Education Project’s New Center for Collaborative Leadership, told JTA that “if you establish a culture whereby talking about failures is acceptable and dominant, it allows you to take more risks moving forward.”

He also emphasized that a “failure” is different from a “mistake,” in that it’s bigger and more measurable.

And what failure does he plan to share? “One of our Jewish Futures conferences in Denver was a complete bust,” he said. “We over-programmed and had too many speakers, we forgot the people in the audience were actually smart. “

Since then, he’s made sure to schedule more time for interaction at conferences, including Monday’s.

Here’s hoping the conference is a success. But if it’s a failure, well, maybe that would ultimately lead to success.


Terror Crosses the Green Line

By Nathan jeffay

When an Israeli soldier was murdered on a bus last week, it didn’t just mark the continuation of a wave of Palestinian-perpetrated killings of Israelis.

It moved the violence to a new setting. It’s now crossed the Green Line.

Since the summer, a soldier was murdered in Hebron, a restaurant worker was murdered by a colleague, and a retired army colonel was murdered outside his home. All of these incidents were in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

There has been an increase in non-fatal terrorist incidents — which has been largely concentrated in areas that Israel captured in 1967. September 2013 saw a sharp increase in the overall number of terror attacks, 133 as opposed to 99 the month before. The number of attacks in October was even higher — 136.

Yesterday’s attack took place in Afula, a city well within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. What is more, it was, in a psychological sense, very close to home for many Israelis. It was perpetrated against a young man doing what virtually every Israeli does now and again — taking a sleep on a Tel Aviv-bound bus. Eden Atias, 19, died shortly after a 16-year-old Palestinian stabbed him.

The attacker acted alone. His crime did not follow the deliberations of a terrorist group to restart terror within the Green Line. But nevertheless, it is significant.

It is important for the sense of safety among Israelis — it challenges the widespread feeling among non-settlers that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has its expression “there” in the Wild West Bank while things are calm on their side of the Green Line. And it is important for the atmosphere among militant Palestinians — one man has taken their fight over the Green Line; others will want to follow.


Heartbreak and Hope in the Philippines

By Nathan jeffay

Ofer Merin had just overseen the labors of three preterm pregnant women when the medical manager of Israel’s field hospital in the Philippines took a few minutes to discuss his work this morning.

“If we wouldn’t have been here there would have been one nurse or one physician treating all of them,” he said in a phone call interview.

After Typhoon Haiyan struck, the physician delegated his responsibilities as deputy director of Jerusalem’s Shaarei Zedek Medical Center after the typhoon, and on Wednesday flew with the Israeli military’s field hospital, the only medical aid facility in the island of Cebu.

The 125-person delegation which operates the hospital arrived with everything they need. “We are a self sufficient operation,” said Merin. “We bring everything from our generator and our gasoline to our food.”

Some 11 babies have been delivered since the hospital’s first birth on Friday — a boy who has been called Israel in recognition of the doctor’s efforts. This morning’s births were two girls and a boy, the youngest of whom was born at 33 weeks and weighed less than 5 pounds. All babies are healthy.

One of the medics found himself in the Philippines instead of on honeymoon — he got married just two days before the delegation left, and cancelled leave to join it.

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Scholastic Puts Israel Back on 'Stilton' Map

By Dave Goldiner

Scholastic had already apologized for publishing a children’s book in its popular Geronimo Stilton series that included a map of the Middle East leaving out Israel.

Stung by the fierce reaction, the publishing giant has gone one step further.

It reworked the animated map to include Israel. It also told parents it would replace copies of the book, ‘Thea Stilton and the Blue Scarab’ with a new updated one including the new and improved map.

Or you can download a copy of the new Israel-friendly map and paste it on top of the old offending map. Plus there are options for getting a new e-book if you purchased the book online.

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Sarah Silverman, Miley and the Pope: Quiz

By Lenore Skenazy

Miley Cyrus, Sarah Silverman and Paula Abdul appearing together? Yes indeed – right here, in this week’s quiz. And joining them? The Pope himself!

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Scholastic Erases Israel in 'Stilton' Book

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Comedian Benji Lovitt made light of recent news that Scholastic had published a children’s book with a map omitting the State of Israel with a satirical blog post in The Times of Israel. He joked that Iran was behind the illustration that showed the Jewish State (as well as the West Bank and Gaza) as part of Jordan. But others are taking the error — if it was indeed unintentional — much more seriously.

Scholastic, the largest publisher of children’s books, is a brand parents, teachers and students rely on for a steady stream of quality reading material through the company’s book fairs and monthly book order clubs. It has many Jewish-related titles, including the first-ever fantasy fiction novel set at a Jewish summer camp.

As soon as Scholastic became aware of the inaccurate map, it issued an apologetic statement:

As you have probably heard, Thea Stilton and the Blue Scarab Hunt, a title in the Geronimo Stilton series, published by Scholastic, includes a map that inadvertently omits Israel. Scholastic is immediately stopping shipment on this title, revising the map, and going back to reprint. We regret the omission which was in the original version of the book published in Italy and was translated by our company for English language distribution.

Rachel Aranoff of White Plains, N.Y., the mother of four school-age children doesn’t think the company’s plans go far enough. “Scholastic’s decision to stop selling the book was the right one, but it is not sufficient. They should also investigate how this ‘error’ occurred,” she said, implying that the omission of Israel was intentional on the part of someone along the chain of production.

Calling what happened “an anti-Semitic incident,” she will consider not buying any more Scholastic books, unless a thorough investigation is conducted and the results publicized.

Not everyone is jumping to the conclusion that the incorrect map was intentional. Allison Kaplan Sommer, a writer and mother of three in Raanana, Israel, is fine with Scholastic’s apology and promise not to sell the faulty books anymore.

“For me, they were clearly unaware. It was more of a mistake than an intentional act. If they had hesitated or tried to justify, I would feel differently of course,” she said.

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Don't Pull 'Jewish' From Montreal Hospital Name

By Evan Kovac

As many of you have heard, Tania Longpre, the [Parti Quebecois] candidate in the riding of Viau, stated that the word “Jewish” should be removed from the “Jewish General Hospital” and that circumcision should be outlawed.

In a hastily typed response, here is a letter that I sent directly to Mme. Longpre. I think the response matches the comments:

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Editor's Choice: Lou Adler; Baltimore's Anti-Semitic Schools

By Forward Staff

Courtesy of Herb Alpert Presents
Herb Alpert in the studio with Lou Adler in 1970.

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.

Lou Adler: The Midas Touch

By Tom Teicholz

About a mile north of Duke’s in Malibu, a right turn takes you up to a bluff with its own driveway, which leads to a large parking lot. There, on the day I visited, a tour bus was parked in front of a modest ranch house, alongside several other cars, none of them too fancy. The front door was open, and I walked in unannounced, past stacks of books and vinyl records, and walls lined with posters from albums, movies and concerts. Beyond was a large living room overlooking a pool, and, beyond that the most amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. A bunch of people were milling around, seemingly working there. The house itself didn’t seem like much — it could have been either a teardown, given Malibu real-estate prices, or a midcentury relic.

It is, in fact, the office of legendary music producer Lou Adler, and its lack of pretension is, I discovered, much like Adler himself: down-to-earth, casual and extremely cool.

Read the complete story at The Jewish Journal

Veteran Math Teacher Says Anti-Semitism Forced His Early Retirement

By Mark Shapiro

A teacher in Baltimore County has lost his job. He says it is because the school administration is anti-Semitic. Now, Dr. Bert Miller is taking the district to court.

Read the complete story at The Baltimore Jewish Times


Hear Sam Kellner — In His Own Words

By Paul Berger

getty images
Sam Kellner

For this week’s story about the cases of accused molester Baruch Lebovits and accused extortionist Sam Kellner, the Forward was provided with a trove of secretly-recorded conversations.

Among the recordings is a conversation Sam Kellner had with the family of a man who had already pled guilty to abuse charges.

Over the course of 80 minutes, Kellner counsels the family that the man could avoid jail by getting ultra-Orthodox rabbis to pressure Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes and by bribing prosecutors. (A spokesman for the DA’s office said assertions of possible wrongdoing are “ludicrous.”)

The Forward made a commitment to protect the identity of the family involved, therefore we have provided two excerpts from the recording. Passages where people other than Kellner talk have been bleeped out.

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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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