We have watched the meteoric rise of Benjamin Netanyahu’s nemesis in the ruling Likud party with considerable interest. Moshe Feiglin has been battling for years to represent the party in Knesset for years, and finally in this year’s general election, he was too strong for the party establishment to stop him.
However, his fight was never just for a Knesset seat, but to institute his agenda in the party — and he seemed of recent to be making progress. This week, however, Feiglin finds himself more marginalized in his party than for years, and stripped of his position on an important Knesset committee.
Close to the top of Feiglin’s agenda is the issue of Temple Mount — he ascends monthly, and strongly argues against the site’s management by a Muslim trust and against the Israeli regulation that Jews can’t pray publicly there.
Earlier this month, Netanyahu banned Feiglin from going to the Mount, claiming that given his lawmaker credentials his visits there could prove a threat to public security. Feiglin reacted by suspending himself from the coalition. “I knew there would eventually be a crisis of confidence between me and the coalition over one diplomatic move or another, but I certainly did not think it would come so soon,” he said..
With no end in sight to his coalition rebellion, he has been replaced on the Knesset Education Committee. But there’s no sympathy from the rest of Likud, even lawmakers who are ideologically drawn to Feiglin’s position on Temple Mount.
Why? Because Netanyahu has strategically brought other right-wingers in the party close to him. For example, the keen rightist Yariv Levin, who would’ve been an obvious candidate to side with Feiglin, is now the coalition chairman whose job it is to discipline Feiglin for his boss Bibi. And Levin is also his replacement on the Education Committee.
It seems that Netanyahu has used the Temple Mount, the cause that many expected Feiglin to employ to catapult his political career forward, to rein him in.
So Jeffrey Goldberg thinks that publishing lists of Jews is a bad idea. The fiercely smart, often snarky and well-travelled columnist is with Bloomberg Views now, and wrote a provocative piece calling on the Jerusalem Post and the Forward to, in his words, stop with the ranking, already.
The occasion for his complaint was the publication of the Jerusalem Post’s annual ranking of the world’s 50 most influential Jews. (Alas, I am not on it. Neither is Goldberg. This year.) The Forward 50, our list of the Jews who we believe had the greatest impact on the American Jewish story in any given year, is generally published in early November.
“Why are these publications aping a practice of non-Jews — singling out Jews for their special prominence in society?” he asks.
Well, the short answer is: We are Jewish publications! As any Bubbe would ask: You want I should publish a list of non-Jews?
What do Mel Gibson, Joyce Brothers, Barbra Streisand and Stephen Hawking have in common? Almost nothing! And yet, here they are, all together in this week’s news quiz, along with Isabella Rossellini, Anthony Weiner and the Zionist Organization of America. It’s got all the makings of a terrible movie — but a great quiz!
Anthony Weiner’s entry into the New York City mayoral contest further crowds a packed Democratic primary field and gives the race its first major Jewish candidate.
The disgraced ex-lawmaker, who resigned from Congress in 2011 after he sent racy pictures of himself to women online, announced his comeback candidacy in a YouTube video posted late Tuesday.
He enters the race late, giving opponents a major head start in building constituencies and attracting support. He also faces steep hurdles in overcoming the still-fresh sexting scandal.
A Quinnipiac poll posted today found that 49% of New York City voters think that Weiner should not run for mayor.
Jewish political insiders say that it may be too late for Weiner to amass major Jewish support, particularly in Brooklyn’s large Orthodox community. Orthodox political operatives are already long-committed to Weiner’s Democratic opponents.
“I think [Christine] Quinn, [Bill] de Blasio and [Bill] Thompson all have made major inroads into the Orthodox community,” said Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the Friedlander Group, a political consultancy, who backs Quinn in the race. “Weiner at one point was very popular and energetic representative for the community, but it’s going to be quite difficult for him to carve out his niche.”
You can’t call me an anti-Semite. My grandparents were Jewish.
That’s the message from newly elected Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, who rejected charges of anti-Semitism by revealing his Jewish roots in an interview with pro-government news site Apporea.
But even if the Venezuelan president is a member of the tribe, some observers are questioning his intentions.
“Why is Maduro so interested in making a claim about Jewish ancestry? If it’s true he will have to prove it,” said Caracas-born Yolanda Potasinski, whose family “helped establish the Jewish community” there after emigrating from Poland and Austria.
“I’m suspicious of his motives. He was handpicked by a predecessor who hated Jews and surrounded himself with leaders of other countries who are anti-Semites. Maduro is following in the footsteps of Chavez,” said Potasinski, who emigrated to New York 20 years ago, is now executive director of LGBT synagogue Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in Manhattan. “We know the name Maduro has Jewish origins but I think his grandparents might have been baptized.”
After the head of the Latin American Jewish Congress accused Venezuela of “driving the rise of anti-Semitism in the region”, Maduro hit back by revealing his Hebraic roots.
“My grandparents were Jewish, from a Moorish background, who converted to Catholicism in Venezuela … The mother of [Minister of Communication and Information] Ernesto Villegas, also comes from that tradition,” according to a transcript on ArutzSheva.
A Romanian opera singer dressed like Dracula and wailing falsetto. Dancers in a Perspex boxes and drummers dosed in baby oil. Moustachioed Greeks dancing and singing about the joys of free alcohol. A Russian plea for world peace in three minutes with a key change.
In case you missed it, that was the Eurovision Song Contest, Europe’s annual festival of music, costumes, and lights that at once unites, divides, and simply baffles the continent. And the winner wasn’t half bad this year. Denmark’s Emmilie de Forest sang “Only Teardrops,” a steady tune with a smattering of drums and Celtic pipes, and won 281 points, including the maximum points from eight countries, beating out Azerbaijan and the Ukraine respectively.
Absent once more from the spectacle was Israel. Since Harel Skaat placed 14th in the 2010 final with “Milim” (“Words”), Israel has failed to make it out of the semi-finals on three successive occasions. This year, Israel entered the talented if unknown reality show winner Moran Mazor, and her ballad “Rak bishvilo” (“Only for him”) fell flat in the semi-final, finishing 14th out of 17 acts.
For its size, Israel has a very strong record in Eurovision. Since it first entered in 1973, Israel has won on three occasions – including back-to-back in 1978 and 1979 with “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” and “Hallelujah” – and has come second twice and third once. This is more remarkable given Israel hasn’t even submitted an entry every year, missing the contest when it has fallen on the memorial days Yom HaShoah or Yom Hazikaron.
For Mother’s Day, the Forward challenged you, our readers, to write six-word memoirs encapsulating your mothers — and then we picked 12 winners who penned sweet and silly salutes.
In the process of sifting through your six-word submissions, we learned something important: mommy issues abound in the Jewish world. While most of the memoirs were warm and loving, some were downright disdainful.
Read the Forward’s full coverage of Mother’s Day, from stories to blog posts.
Below, we’ve published the best (or perhaps worst) angst-ridden submissions. We’ve kept the entrants anonymous this time in hopes that they will be able to patch things up with mom later on. Till then, here’s what we discovered:
Some of you think your mother isn’t the brightest crayon in the box:
Yes Mom, I do smoke “marinara.”
Stop texting reminders to call you.
Some of your mothers lay on the guilt and criticism:
Sacrificed her own happiness for ours.
Pressure? Criticism? Guilt? Russian-Jewish mother’s expertise.
Guilt is her paintbrush. Masterpiece. Me.
She expected me to be perfect.
You’re 25! Where are my grandchildren?
That’s not very becoming young lady.
Some of you feel mistreated by your moms:
“My whole family is dead.” Hello??
My mother was an insane monster.
“I’m bored.” “Go play in traffic.”
Mom raged, for she wasn’t adored.
Some of you find your moms supremely irritating:
Mom, why are you so obnoxious?
Listen. Mom is always right. Always.
Mom says, “What’s wrong?” for hello.
Some of you have contentious relationships with your mothers-in-law:
Righteously earned her Gold Meddle Award.
Evidently, I’m not bad for shiksa.
But no matter how you feel about your mother, all of you can probably relate to this one:
It’s complicated, yet I love her.
Are the days numbered for second-class citizenship for women in Israel?
Following two announcements in two days, it seems the exclusion of women from Israel’s public sphere may finally be nearing an end. The Attorney General Wednesday recommended criminalizing behavior that stops women from receiving “public services with equal conditions.” And today, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said that she is starting work on the legislation.
Israeli politicians should write Haredim who demand segregated buses a letter of thanks. They have provided them with the ultimate fits-every-occasion always-grabs-a-headline cause for whenever they need a bit of love from liberals or for when news is quiet. Women’s exclusion was never a popular story until it became about the ever catchy “back of the bus” and there is a seemingly endless supply of political points for anyone who condemns them.
But in the past we have seen the issue of gender exclusion disappear from the headlines as suddenly as they appeared. At the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012 gender segregation and women’s exclusion topped Israel’s national agenda. “They will be huge issues in the next general election,” went the common prediction. Yet soon after the international community finished its New Year vacation and news picked up again, it became yesterday’s story.
Now, once again, the “back of the bus” story has been wheeled out. The changes being promised are important and welcome. The subject is better for the government than having people talking about Syria or Prisoner X.
But will it survive the next big new story or will it just fade away? Only time will tell.
It’s no surprise that Johns Hopkins geneticist Eran Elhaik stirred a hornet’s nest of controversy with his claim to have debunked the scientific theory that Jews are mostly members of a single race, with origins in the land that is now Israel.
But as Rita Rubin, the science writer who penned the Forward’s piece on the dispute, points out, Elhaik isn’t really saying Jews aren’t a distinct race — he’s questioning which race. And that makes all the difference.
“I think what’s at stake is how we Jews view ourselves,” Rubin told the Forward’s Paul Berger during the paper’s weekly podcast. “The conventional wisdom is that we are a people descended from the indigenous Jews of Judea and Samaria …. This new study says that’s all wrong even though it’s been backed up by well-respected scientists in well-respected journals.”
Elhaik’s study flies in the face of 15 years of studies by notable scientists and geneticists who found that Jews — and Ashkenazi Jews in particular — bear more genetic similarities to fellow Jews than their non-Jewish neighbors.
The theory, most strongly promulgated by Yeshiva University geneticist Harry Ostrer, asserts that Jews are mostly descended from a group of people who lived in what is now Israel during Biblical times. That theory, of course, is a critical emotional and political cornerstone of the Jewish claim to Israel.
In an effort to push forward stalled gun control legislation, Vice President Joe Biden met on Monday at the White House with faith leaders, including three representatives of the Jewish community.
In the meeting, which lasted two and a half hours, Biden discussed at length the current status of the background check legislation which failed its first test in Senate last month. Biden encouraged the group of 22 clergy members to continue their work in all states to make lawmakers know of their support for the legislation. He noted it is still not clear when would be the right time to bring the bill back to a vote on the Senate floor and made clear he believes it would happen only after debate over immigration reform is completed.
The event, organized by the White House office of faith-based initiatives, included Christian, Jewish, Sikh and Muslim religious leaders. The Jewish community was represented by Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, Jared Feldman who heads the Washington office of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly.
“It was an unusual meeting in it duration, intensity and thoughtfulness,” Schonfeld said after the meeting. In the meeting, Rabbi Schonfeld used a Hebrew phrase, roughly translated to “we will cross the bridge when we reach it” to address claims by those who voted against background checks that it will lead to further limitations on gun ownership if passed. “Our country is so divided in anticipatory anxiety,” she said, suggesting that all can agree on background checks and later deal with other aspects of gun control.
In the legendary days of the Yiddish Forward, Ab. Cahan, the founding editor, could leave his office at 175 East Broadway and roam the streets, synagogues, restaurants, schools yards and tenements of the Lower East Side to listen to his readers. And he did, often. It helped him keep a finger on the pulse of his community and enabled the newspaper to directly connect with and reflect the ongoing concerns of his readers’ daily lives.
Now my office is on the eighth floor of a building in Lower Manhattan, largely removed from most of our far-flung readers. But I am able to tap into a virtual Lower East Side in cyberspace — a shtetlsphere, if you will — where engagement with readers can produce an ongoing conversation and some terrific journalism.
That’s what we’ve been doing this year. I hope you’ve noticed.
We began by asking you to nominate your most inspiring rabbi, and the result was a mesmerizing set of profiles of spiritual leadership across the nation. Then we asked for “Six Words on the Jewish Mother” and the result is published in this week’s paper — 18 charming, concise, hilarious odes just in time for Mother’s Day. A similar project for Father’s Day, also in conjunction with Smith Magazine’s Six-Word Memoir®, will commence soon, with a May 29 deadline for submissions.
But before then, we invite you to take part in a different kind of conversation on the brit milah, the circumcision ritual that has been a staple of Jewish life for millennia and is now under assault, from within and beyond our community. It’s a ceremony that inspires emotions ranging from rejoicing to repugnance — with dissonant combinations of everything in between. We would like you, our readers, to share your experiences as parents of a Jewish newborn facing this ancient, primal rite, or as an adult who chose to enter the convenant. Were you conflicted or inspired? Was it a moment of discovery or of disgust? Or did you, perhaps, walk away from it? What were the consequences?
As you can see, our efforts to engage readers span from the celebratory to the serious, as befits a publication that seeks to capture the many facets and challenges of American Jewish life today. Join us.
Welcome, readers! This week’s news quiz will have you kicking yourself — or at least thinking about Jews who kick, even as you also think about the sea, the South, the shekel and… breasts. (If you weren’t already.) Enjoy!
Sid Schwarz’s new book has a rather ambitious title, but then, this rabbi/entrepreneur is a rather ambitious man. In “Jewish Megatrends”, he aspires to do nothing less than, as the subtitle says, chart the course of the American Jewish future. He’s not doing it alone, of course. That’s where I came in.
Schwarz asked me to moderate a panel at the JCC Manhattan with him and just some of the 14 Jewish leaders and thinkers who contributed essay to “Megatrends.” The event took place last night and what could have been an unwieldy gabfest — there were, after all, seven of us with microphones — instead turned into a coherent, stimulating discussion.
The framework was provided by Schwarz when he posits in the book that there are “tribal” Jews and “covenantal” Jews and that American Jews in their 20s, 30s and even 40s are much more the latter than the former. Theoretical attachment to the Jewish people, the state of Israel and the legacy of the Holocaust is no longer enough to get American Jews to join a synagogue and contribute to Federation.
Judaism, he argues, needs to be seen as a path “to help us live lives of sacred purpose.”
And, in what he terms a countercultural statement: “Jewish community should be the place where people and relationships count.”
What if you had to sum up your feelings about your mother in six words? That’s right, exactly six words. No more, no less.
We know, some famous writers take hundreds of pages to work out their mommy issues. But the Forward’s challenge to you, dear readers, is to capture your Jewish mom in a simple six. Consider it the shortest, sweetest Mother’s Day present you could give your yiddishe momme.
The Forward is partnering with Larry Smith, editor of SMITH Magazine, home of the Six-Word Memoir®, in our Mother’s Day challenge. Submit your six-word memoir on your mother or grandmother below before April 24th. Larry and the Forward staff will pick our 12 favorites and publish them in the Forward for Mother’s Day. Those people will receive a copy of the new book “Oy! Only Six? Why Not More? Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life,” published in collaboration with the Jewish cultural mavens at Reboot. We’ll also print another six from noted members of the Jewish community.
For inspiration, here are a few examples about Jewish moms culled from SMITH Magazine’s library of six-word memoirs. For more examples check out smithmag.net/jewish.
Mom and God had boundary issues.
— Marty Kaplan
Cooking chicken soup stirs mother memories.
— Carol Smith
Saying Kaddish. Missing you. Remembering. Remembering.
— Debra Darvick
SMITH Magazine may contact you about inclusion of your Six Words in a future book or other media project.
I have an Orthodox Jewish friend here in New York who is always yapping about Dallas (not the television show).
“The people are so nice,” he says. “The weather is better… The houses are cheaper.” He’s been there only once in his life, but would like nothing more than to find a job northern Texas and move to the city known for Cowboys and (kosher?) Tex-Mex cuisine.
My friend is in his mid-30s, married, and has a soon-to-be 2-year-old son with another on the way. He has a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan and recently had to build a wall in his living room to accommodate for sleeping space for his growing family. He wakes up at dawn to prep his son for daycare and then go to work. After cleaning the apartment until about 1 a.m., he gets about four hours of sleep, if he’s lucky.
It is a life that I could not fathom living at this point. It is also a lifestyle that is increasingly the norm for thousands of young couples in New York, especially observant Jews. That’s why places like Dallas don’t sound so bad after all, even for those accustomed to walking around the corner and finding dozens of options for food, prayer and friends.
The urge to find greener pastures outside the high rent, small space environment of New York was on full display Sunday as the Orthodox Union held its fourth Jewish Communities Home and Job Relocation Fair. A record-high 1,300 participants spoke with Jews from places like Portland, Ore., Long Branch, N.J., and yes, even Dallas. There were representatives from 41 cities in 18 states, each touting the myriad advantages of moving there.
Louisville has high tech jobs and 120 years of Jewish roots. “The cost of living and safety is unmatched,” said Brian Wallace, who moved to Kentucky six years ago from Monsey in Rockland County.
On Sunday, April 14, Venezuelans will vote to replace their late president, Hugo Chavez. And while Chavez may have succumbed to cancer last month, his shadow looms large from the grave.
The campaign of Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s handpicked successor, continues riding the intense emotions around the longtime strongman’s death. That has made the campaign an uphill battle for Henrique Capriles Radonski, the opposition leader whose Jewish background has been fodder for ever-escalating levels of anti-Semitic rhetoric.
In previous elections, the tireless Capriles led Venezuela’s opposition to some of its best poll results. Though he’s shrunk Maduro’s lead to 10 points, according to Reuters, many observers believe Chavez’ legacy may prove the election’s deciding factor.
For Venezuela’s Jews, any hope of change means a positive sign. As the Forward reported last month, the late president derided Capriles, whose grandparents were Polish Holocaust survivors, as “imperialist,” a “capitalist,” a “little bourgeois,” and “Zionist.” And a campaign-related article in state media – headlined “The Enemy Is Zionism” – said Capriles “represents Israeli ideology covertly,” according to CNN.
For an inside perspective on what the election could hold for the country as a whole and the Jewish community in particular, the Forward spoke with David Bittan, Caracas-based president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations.
During the Chavez regime, Bittan provided a fearless voice against anti-Semitism. On the night of the death of ‘El Commandante,’ Bittan went on national television to express condolences.
A ho-hum New York City mayoral race just got a whole lot more interesting.
Sext scandal-ridden former congressman Anthony Weiner announced, a few paragraphs into a laudatory New York Times Magazine profile, that he’s considering joining the crowded Democratic field.
That could shake up allegiances among New York City’s political clans, including some city Jews. And analysts warned against betting against Weiner, given his potent resume and proven vote-winning prowess.
“Before his difficulties, before his personal troubles, he was going to be mayor,” said Michael Tobman, a New York City-based political consultant, alluding to the pervading sense prior to Weiner’s 2011 scandal that he was the frontrunner in the mayoral race.
Weiner ceded that leading spot in the Democratic field to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. In a race without any Jewish candidates, Quinn and the progressive Public Advocate Bill De Blasio have been contending for the city’s non-Orthodox Jewish votes.
Quinn’s strength is in Manhattan, where her City Council district is located. De Blasio, who previously represented parts of Brooklyn in the City Council, has built support in Brooklyn and Queens.
“Weiner makes trouble for Public Advocate De Blasio and Speaker Quinn,” said Hank Sheinkopf, another New York City political consultant. “He’s got the right name and a history in the outer boroughs, in places where the bulk of the Jews live.”
The sprawling Texas county where two prosecutors have been shot in recent weeks has the unlikeliest of Jewish roots.
Kaufman County, a 780-square-mile jurisdiction just 20 miles southeast of Dallas, is named for David Spangler Kaufman. He holds a place in history books as a lawmaker in the Republic of Texas and was the only Jewish Texan to serve in the U.S. Congress until the 1970s.
The county, in which dog bites and escaped cows usually make up the police blotter, has made national headlines for the shocking recent killings of local law officials. County district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found shot to death inside their home in the Kaufman County town of Forney on Saturday.
UPDATE: The Texas prosecutor and his wife who were shot at their home on Saturday each suffered multiple gunshot wounds, and sheriff’s deputies found cartridge casings next to their bodies, according to an affidavit reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday.
On Jan. 31, one of McLelland’s lead prosecutors, Mark E. Hasse, was shot and killed in a parking lot as he strolled to his office at the county courthouse.
The murders took place in an area named for a Jewish pioneer who did his home state proud. According to the Texas State Historical Association, David Spangler Kaufman (1813–1851) was a “lawyer, Indian fighter, and politician.” Pennsylvania-born, Princeton-educated Kaufman began his legal career in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in 1835. Two years later he settled in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he continued practicing law.
The arguments over Proposition 8 – the California ban on same-sex marriage – gave tantalizing hints about the thinking of Supreme Court justices hearing the case.
After a lawyer in support of the ban, Charles Cooper, argued that procreation and child-rearing were fundamental to a state’s interest in marriage, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg brought up a previous Supreme Court case in which justices ruled prison inmates have a right to marry even though they may be prevented from procreating, according to the BBC.
“There are lots of people who get married who can’t have children,” Justice Stephen Breyer reportedly told Cooper.
And Justice Anthony Kennedy, often seen as a swing vote, suggested children of same-sex couples would suffer an “immediate legal injury” under the ban.
Despite the intriguing clues, a Jewish leader of the marriage-equality movement cautioned against reading too much into the arguments.
“Today’s argument was lively as the justices grappled with the mix of substantive and procedural questions raised in this challenge to Prop 8.,” Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, told the Forward in an e-mail.
“Now they are going to dig into the mountain of briefs and evidence from a who’s who of America … all showing there is no good reason for denying committed same-sex couples the freedom to marry. It’s always tempting, and often misleading, to speculate about oral argument, but the truth is that it’s in the opinion-writing and circulating process that the justices reach their result,” said Wolfson, widely regarded as a pioneer in marriage rights in the U.S.
Many analysts said the justices appeared to be considering a narrow ruling in the case and avoiding a pronouncement about whether a fundamental right to gay marriage exists in the constitution.
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