“You wanted to be a doctor, a soldier, a taco factory manager. It was your favorite food, and no doubt you wanted to ensure that the world kept producing tacos,” Veronique Pozner said in a eulogy for her son Noah at his funeral on Monday.
Six-year-old Noah, who was murdered in the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., will tragically never get a chance to fulfill any of his dreams.
However, people can honor his memory by making the Mexican dish he so enjoyed. Some have posted online that they will have actual taco dinners and parties. Alternatively, others are making imaginary tacos as a sort of virtual comfort food for his bereaved family.
Tacos For Noah went online Tuesday, allowing anyone to post via Twitter the kind of taco they would like to make for Noah (or the variety they would have ordered from Noah’s taco factory).
“Noah Pozner wanted to work at a taco factory when he grew up. Tacos were his favorite food, and no doubt he wanted to ensure that the world kept producing tacos,” reads the introductory text on the website. “Help us create a virtual taco in his memory. Add your special ingredient below and tweet it. Voila! Tacos for Noah, all in memory of this very special Little Man!”
A number of Jewish community activists are sending warning signals to the White House about a leading candidate to become President Obama’s choice for the next Secretary of Defense.
Former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, who reportedly is President Obama’s top pick for replacing Leon Panetta at the Pentagon, has a long record of tensions with the pro-Israel community. And now, after a period of rumblings below the surface, a high-profile Jewish communal leader has fired off a strong salvo in opposition to Hagel’s prospective selection.
“Chuck Hagel would not be the first, second, or third choice for the American Jewish community’s friends of Israel,” Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman told Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin December 18. “His record relating to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship is, at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling. The sentiments he’s expressed about the Jewish lobby border on anti-Semitism in the genre of professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, and former president Jimmy Carter.”
Foxman’s comments follow several attacks on Hagel from Jewish activists on the right of the political spectrum, such as Noah Pollack of the Emergency Committee for Israel, as the possibility of his nomination has emerged. But even beyond the hardcore right-wing, Hagel has not been viewed as a strong supporter on issues of concern to many who align with the positions taken by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the large, establishment pro-Israel lobby.
Media reports are full of examples of his departures from AIPAC’s views: Hagel opposed Senate legislation toughening sanctions on Iran; he called for increasing efforts to negotiate with Tehran; and, in general, refrained from supporting the use of sanctions as a means to pressure other nations.
Like thousands of others, I read the headlines and Tweets from the Forward and other Jewish publications about the Newtown school massacre.
One read, “Rabbi consoles relatives of #Newtown shooting victims … fears one victim could be #jewish..” And I read replies on Facebook, which lambasted the paper for focusing on Jewish victims. They apparently interpreted highlighting Jewish victims as downplaying the grief we feel for all the victims, whatever their religion.
While part of me agrees that we should not write such ethnocentric headlines, another part of me wanted to read those stories first. And when I did, the tears came faster because the connection was a little more direct.
As outsiders not directly impacted by the events, we search for a way into the story. Since I grew up in a small town near Newtown and have a child in kindergarten, the news hit home on many levels.
We all search until we find a connection. Until that moment when it hits home and we can imagine our own children, our own schools, and, for a moment, our own grief.
The Orthodox rabbi who oversees the Western Wall has vowed not to soften his confrontational approach toward Jewish women seeking to pray at the holy site in Jerusalem.
On Friday, police detained four women for wearing prayer shawls as they tried to start a prayer service. There have been numerous similar incidents in the past.
In an article that Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz sent to journalists Tuesday, but apparently written before Friday’s incident, he said that women trying to pray at the wall represent a “liberal-zealous” agenda.
Rabinowitz, who is an Israeli state employee, is the man behind the ban on female public prayer that the police enforces. He presents himself as caught “between two types of zealotry.”
He wrote: “From the side of the traditionalist zealots, I have been attacked because of my vigorous actions t bring thousands of groups of students and soldiers to the Western Wall. Many of these groups do not live a traditional Jewish lifestyle. From the liberal-zealous direction.”
The “zealotry” from the other direction is that of the Women of the Wall, the inter-denominational group that wants the right to wear prayer shawls, to pray, and to read out loud from the Torah at the Wall.
Discussing a Talmudic passage he wrote of zealotry: “With pretty words it asks for our protection – in the name of tolerance, of course. Under the protection of tolerance, it grows and flourishes, until it is impossible to prevent the disaster that it brings upon all of us.”
He went on to state “loud and clear” that “[a]s long as I have authority, placed upon me by the State of Israel, over the Western Wall, there will be no place for zealotry there. The stones of the Wall can teach us about the cost of zealotry. They still remember the heat of the flames, lit by the zealotry of the residents of Jerusalem, each man against his brother. Before these glorious stones, we are charged never to make the same mistake again.”
As soon as I heard the name of Great Britain’s newly named chief rabbi, I knew it sounded familiar. I met Ephraim Mirvis back in 1986, when I was a foreign correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer based in London, and he was the relatively new chief rabbi of Ireland.
I was young for my job. So was he.
We met when I interviewed him for a story about the remaining Jews of Ireland, prompted by the closing of one of Dublin’s three synagogues and the opening of a tiny museum about Ireland’s Jews. It seemed a perfect metaphor for what was happening to this small but determined community: its young were leaving, as Ireland’s young do, and the elders were struggling to do more than live out their own history.
Ancient Greek and Latin, yes. Hebrew, no.
That’s the headline from a new British government proposal that excludes Hebrew from plans to encourage primary school children to learn a second language. The plan, which remains under discussion and would come into effect in September 2014 if implemented, would mandate that pupils aged 7 to 11 learn one of either French, German, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, Latin or ancient Greek, as to “make foreign languages a key part of every child’s education, and to stop the slide in standards and take-up.”
In response to further enquires, a spokesperson for the Department for Education (DfE) told the Forward: “We want to give young people the skills they need to compete in a global jobs market. This is why we introduced the Foreign Languages Plan, which will ensure that every primary school child has a good grasp of a language by age 11.
“Whilst French, German and Spanish were the modern languages identified by respondents to the consultation as the most popular choices, we have been clear that primary schools will be free to teach any other language.”
The DfE’s consultation document indicates the government hopes the latter is not the case and aims to prevent “any potential proliferation of very low take-up languages, and would focus schools’ attention on a sample of important languages.”
Rabbi Shaul Praver moved many to tears when he recited El Maleh Rachamim, a prayer of mourning, at last night’s vigil for those killed in the deadly rampage in Newtown, Conn.
Today, he will oversee the funeral of Noah Pozner, the youngest victim of the shooting.
What do Charlie Sheen’s children, an Israeli gangster, and Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto have in common? They were all at one Los Angeles wedding.
The bride was C.C. Fontana, reportedly a former Ford model. Sheen’s kids were apparently members of the wedding party.
And the groom? That would be the Israeli gangster, Hai Waknine, who pled guilty to extortion in U.S. federal court in 2006. The prosecutor in the case called him “a shakedown collections guy.”
The report that puts all three in the same place comes from Posta.co.il, an Israeli news site. According to the site, Pinto wasn’t actually at the wedding, but rather officiated remotely. The language is unclear, and it’s uncertain how that would work. The arrangement could have something to do with Pinto’s legal situation.
The story does not indicate whether Sheen himself showed, or perhaps stayed home sipping tiger blood.
Has Jodi Rudoren allowed the Gray Lady to muzzle her?
The New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief has steered clear of controversial topics since the paper’s brass ordered her to submit all social media posts to a special editor on the foreign desk last month.
A Forward review of her Twitter and facebook posts reveals that hard-edged comments about the Mideast conflict have been replaced by links to articles in the Times, and to personal news like Rudoren’s wedding anniversary and her parents’ visit to Israel.
Rudoren insists she is just taking a breather from making news on social media, and is not sulking after being put on so-called Tweet-watch.
“Don’t read too much into it. I’ve taken a few days off…I’m definitely planning on continuing to post substantive things related to Jerusalem/Israel/Palestinians,” Rudoren wrote to The Forward via Facebook.
Rudoren says she has no complaints about the arrangement imposed by the Times.
The French media are feasting on this week’s revelation that the fading star Gérard Depardieu, who brought to the screen such icons of French patriotism as Astérix and Cyrano de Bergerac, is settling in Belgium. The move, it appears, is dictated less by the scenery (there is none) than the lower tax bracket, an issue of sharpened interest now that the Socialist government has introduced a new marginal rate on the nation’s wealthiest citizens.
Amidst this distraction, the press has scanted the most recent triumph of a rising star: the Socialist Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls. This week the country’s parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of an anti-terrorism bill that Valls had championed since he took office in May. The legislation reinforces an already impressive array of police powers, allowing the state to arrest anyone who has attended terrorist training camps abroad even if they have not yet committed a crime on French soil.
The law was a direct consequence of Mohammad Merah’s horrific murder spree earlier this year in Toulouse. Merah had trained at such a camp in Pakistan — a fact apparently know to France’s intelligence service, yet not acted upon. The government of Nicolas Sarkozy, in power at the time, had proposed a similar law, but it was shelved then abandoned during the elections that brought the Socialists to power.
Though many French Jews worried at first if the Socialists would act with the same vigor as the Gaullists, they were quickly reassured. In part, this was the work of François Hollande, who has repeatedly reassured French Jewry that his government will do everything in its power to repel the growing tide of anti-Semitic activities and rhetoric. His recent speech at Drancy, marking the 1942 round-up of French Jews under Vichy, was one notable instance of this commitment.
Standing by Hollande’s side at Drancy was Valls.
How Orthodox should Israel’s Orthodox university be?
There’s a major controversy at Bar Ilan University about the institution’s policy of compulsory yarmulke-wearing during Jewish studies classes.
It has long been policy that male students should cover their heads when studying sacred texts, though many professors turn a blind eye when they don’t. However, a recent incident saw a professor, Haim Talbi, insisting that a student donned a yarmulke or left class, and the student leaving. “How is it possible that a lecturer tells a student to get out of class for not wearing a kippah, and the university backs that teacher?,” the student posted on Facebook.
The university has said that students sign on the rule when they enter the establishment, so Talbi was perfectly justified. But the real question isn’t whether it’s justified on paper but whether it makes sense. Bar Ilan isn’t like Yeshiva University where students study religion in yeshiva alongside their degree, but rather a place where Jewish studies are treated academically. For many Orthodox Jews, the reason it’s important for a man to wear a yarmulke when looking at sacred texts is that it draws a distinction between reading as a purely intellectual activity and one with metaphysical importance. And this is exactly the distinction that some of Bar Ilan’s secular students think they shouldn’t have to make.
The precise way that it sees the balance in Jewish studies between academia and doctrine has long been a grey area at Bar Ilan. This controversy looks set to force some significant internal debate and some clear conclusions.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced plans to shed light on the so-called “dark money” groups that spent millions during the 2012 election cycle.
The move follows demands for regulation by good government groups - and by this newspaper.
A proposed rule change that could go into effect by the 2013 elections would force not-for-profit groups that spend more than $10,000 on local and state elections in New York to disclose their donors to the state’s Attorney General.
“There are proposals in Congress to deal with this, they haven’t gone anywhere,” said Viveca Novak, the editorial and communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics. “This is a significant step by a state attorney general to try to address it. New York is just one state, but it’s an important state.”
As was widely noted during the 2012 election cycle, certain nonprofits fall into a quirky regulatory loophole that allows them to make almost unlimited political donations without disclosing where they are getting their money. The phenomenon was the subject of a blockbuster expose by the investigative journalism shop ProPublica, which used the Republican Jewish Coalition as an example of one tax exempt group spending money on the presidential election and not revealing its donors.
In an editorial in the Forward calling for closing the “dark money” loopholes, Jane Eisner highlighted other Jewish groups taking advantage of the loose regulations, including the Emergency Committee for Israel.
In this week’s issue, we profile Nechama — Jewish Response to Disaster, a not-for-profit group from Minnesota that has been helping clear debris from buildings damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
We didn’t realize that the little-known group had a famous friend in the form of football superstar Eli Manning.
While Nechama volunteers were working in northern New Jersey in early November, they got a very special visit from the Giants quarterback, a resident of Hoboken, who stopped by the Hoboken Multi-Service Center and thanked them for an All-Pro effort in helping the community.
“He could come back anytime to volunteer and swing a hammer and we’d do the best to protect his arm,” said Bill Driscoll Jr., Nechama’s executive director.
During the storm, a photo of Manning surveying the damage in his apartment building went viral, thanks to actress Kate Mara, granddaughter of Giants founder Tim Mara.
Everyone was happy for the Big Blue booster.
But Driscoll Jr. admitted having mixed feeling about meeting Manning. After all, Driscoll is from Boston and a fan of the New England Patriots, the team Manning has dismantled in two Super Bowls.
“I’m a Patriots guy and he’s caused us some pain,” Driscoll Jr. said. “But I was happy to see this guy.”
Is it “Palestine” yet?
Following the November 29 United Nations vote recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state, the Palestinian Authority reportedly decided to officially change its name, and from now on to be referred to simply as “Palestine.” The term Palestinian Authority is a product of the 1993 Oslo Accords in which Israel and the PLO agreed to establish an entity which would rule the occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza.
It is one of many monikers used by the international community to describe the Palestinians. The Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) is widely used by the U.N. and other international organizations. The Palestinian Territories is commonly used by the United States and European countries. The media, including the Forward, usually strives to simply refer to the Palestinians. Some Israelis call the West Bank by the Biblical names Judea and Samaria, which ignore the Palestinians and refers only to the area.
Should the U.N. vote put an end to this discussion? After all, if an overwhelming majority of nations voted to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state, then one could deduce that it is a state, the state of Palestine.
Eli Valley’s provocative comic about the controversy caused by Bnai Jeshurun’s rabbis continues to garner controversy of its own. I’ve been reading comments and posts like this one that are sympathetic to Eli’s scathing look at the rabbis and their stand on Palestinian statehood, and try to grapple with the larger issue of when and how rabbis should speak their minds.
But there are other readers who continue to be dismayed by Eli’s message. Here is another one of those letters.
The point of the Eli Valley cartoon is that Rabbi Rolando Matalon, the main target, planned a groveling apology as he drafted his original statement. In other words, the point of the cartoon is that Roly is a hypocrite and a liar. There is no other reading of the text of the cartoon. The Forward would never run an op-ed saying, “Rabbi Matalon is a liar and a hypocrite” because the Forward knows that is not true. So why publish an editorial cartoon saying the same thing? Even if blog standards are lower than print, they cannot be that low. This cartoon should not have been run. Kathleen Peratis
And a second:
I was shocked and dismayed to see the Forward pile on to denigrate the BJ rabbis in this awful cartoon. With friends like you, progressive Jews, trying to love both Israel and express their Jewish social justice values. certainly need no enemies which as you know are not in short supply. With sadness and disappointment. Deborah Sagner
More thoughts? Send them to us.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is setting himself up for a most almighty clash with the British religious establishment this week, as he prepares to amend the laws on marriage.
The leaders of all three main parties support government plans to afford same-sex couples the right to civil marriage, plus permission to wed in churches and other religious buildings. While the proposed law is designed to allow churches and congregations the flexibility of opting in or out of officiating same sex ceremonies, it is nonetheless opposed by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.
Orthodox Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and the London Beth Din also oppose any alterations to the traditional definition of marriage. The United Synagogue, of which Rabbi Sacks is the spiritual leader, maintains that “marriage from time immemorial has been that of a union between a man and a woman”, and as such “any attempt to redefine this sacred institution would be to undermine the concept of marriage.”
Yet progressive Jewish denominations, along with Congregationalists, Unitarians, and Quakers, have been leading the push to host same-sex weddings in their places of worship. Liberal Judaism was the first branch to back the Coalition for Equal Marriage – the umbrella organisation lobbying in favour of same-sex marriage – asserting that, “as Liberal Jews, we want to support positive celebrations of life that help the individual to revel in life’s joys as well as to support them through life’s difficulties.”
Eli Valley’s satirical drawings often elicit critical comments, but they usually come from the political right, his frequent target of ridicule. His latest comic, published on this blog the past Thursday, has drawn the ire of the political left. A basic journalistic calculation would say that Eli is just doing his job, with no fear or favor to any ideological or political cause, and I agree.
I also feel that basic journalistic fairness requires us to air those criticisms, and respond to them.
Some of the critics strongly objected to Eli’s characterization of the rabbis of B’nai Jeshurun, who stirred up controversy with a letter to the congregants of their progressive Upper West Side synagogue supportive of the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations. After the New York Times ran a story about the controversy on Page One (which I, for one, thought was over-hyped and overblown), and an outcry from some of their members, the rabbis issued a partial retraction.
This is what caught Eli’s scathing eye.
Move over Bud Lite and GM, SodaStream is coming to the Super Bowl XLVII. While the Israeli-made home soda maker will not be seen in the stands, it will be viewed on TV screens across the country and around the world, making it the first Israeli product to be advertised in a Super Bowl commercial.
With record third quarter revenues and sales increases, it appears that SodaStream is ready to drop something in the environs of $3.8 million on a 30-second spot.
Those who follow the advertising business may be wondering if the company, which has been publicly traded on Nasdaq since November 2010) will change concepts for its Super Bowl ad, given the frustration it has endured recently as a result of its current commercial showing hundreds of soft drink bottles exploding when a person uses a SodaStream machine. The message is obvious—you can save a lot of plastic (2,000 bottles per year, the ad tells us) and a lot of money by buying a SodaStream.
SodaStream claims it is simply “setting the bubbles free,” as it slogan goes, but Clearcast, the organization that pre-approves television advertising in the UK, banned the commercial on the grounds that it “denigrates” the bottled drink industry. In response, SodaStream is investigating its legal options.
Here’s a thought: When you start asking lots of rhetorical questions, chances are you’re failing to understand that such questions often have answers.
In Alan Dershowitz’s criticism of B’nai Jeshurun’s recent endorsement of the UN Palestine (non-member) statehood vote, he asks nine such questions. Here are some answers to them.
Q: Did the rabbis realize that, according to the vote, the Western Wall (the holiest site in Judaism) is being illegally occupied by the Israeli government?
A: I am sure they did. However, as Elisheva Goldberg has pointed out [http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/06/why-dershowitz-is-wrong-on-bj.html], this fact did not change with the UN statehood vote. So why mention it?
Q: Did they realize that the decision of the government to set aside the area for Jewish prayer could now be deemed a war crime punishable by the International Criminal Court?
A: The ICC has already deemed Israel’s separation wall a violation of international law (in a ludicrously bad opinion), without any need for Palestinian statehood status. Once again, the UN vote changes nothing.