As an expected 50,000 Breslov Hasidim descend on Uman, Ukraine for their annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nachman there, they are being met with protests from local Ukrainian nationalists.
According to reports by the Moscow Times and Kyiv Post, the Svoboda nationalist party held an “Uman Without Hasidim” rally to demand stricter controls on the Hasidic pilgrims. Tetyana Chornomaz, head of the local Svoboda branch, was adamant that the protest had nothing to do with anti-Semitism. However, she did say that “we have many questions regarding their [the Hasidim’s] stay in Ukraine.” In particular, she and other activists are concerned about security and sanitation while the pilgrims are in the area. During the 2010 pilgrimage, 10 Hasidim were deported back to Israel and banned from returning to the Ukraine for disrupting the public order and causing bodily harm to Uman residents.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been spending quite a bit of time in Israel since becoming the Quartet’s representative there. According to the Daily Mail (which in turn cites Maariv), the married Englishman has been spending a noticeable amount of that time with 51-year-old, twice-divorced Israeli “tycoon” Ofra Strauss.
Blair has apparently known Strauss, who is the chairperson and former CEO of the Strauss Group, which she inherited from her father, for some time. The company makes dairy products, snacks and sweets, and was one of the targets of the popular protests in Israel this past summer.
The students at Associated Hebrew Schools of Toronto are tooting their own horns now that it looks like they have broken the world record for the largest shofar ensemble.
Last week, the school’s community gathered together to blow 1,406 shofars simultaneously, shattering the prior record of 796 set in Boston in 2006. The new record will not be official until the school submits evidence of the feat to Guinness, and it is approved.
What was that, Mr. President? You meant to say “janitor,” but out came “Jew.” Those words starting with the letter “J” can really trip you up.
In a speech President Obama gave this past Saturday evening at the Congressional Black Caucus annual awards dinner in Washington, it seemed as though he was saying that there is a special tax rate for Jews. In making the point that the very wealthy should pay more taxes, he said, “If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a Jew — as a janitor — makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that as a badge of honor.”
In an exclusive report, the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia has revealed that Josh Fattal, one of the two American hikers released from Iranian prison last week, is Jewish. This information had been purposely kept out of the press for the 26 months of his captivity for obvious reasons.
Although local friends, acquaintances and rabbis in suburban Elkins Park, Pa., Fattal’s home town, knew of his being Jewish, it was a deliberate decision on the part of the Fattal family to decline offers of assistance from Jewish organizations. The hiker’s Jewish identity was kept almost completely under wraps, and the Exponent refrained from reporting the story. “When it comes to someone’s physical safety, we’ll always err on the side of caution, even if it means suppressing such a dramatic and important story,” said Lisa Hostein the paper’s executive editor.
Fattal, 29, had been in Israel just prior to meeting up with friends Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd in Syria and then continuing on together to visit Iraqi Kurdistan. It was as they hiked in Iraqi Kurdistan in July 2009 that they allegedly — according to Iranian officials — crossed the Iranian border, prompting Iran to claim they were U.S. spies and arrest them. Shourd was released in September 2010.
Who said the Arab world has something against the Mossad?
A wave of Arab volunteers has asked to join Israel’s spy agency, according to an article published in Sunday’s Yediot Aharanot. Under the headline “They All Want To Be Agents,” the newspaper reports that Israel’s foreign ministry has received “thousands” of e-mails since the start of the Arab Spring, a notable increase in correspondence that has originated mostly in the Arab countries of north Africa — in particular Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco — as well as Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Jeff Weinberger would like to see the California State Employment Development department do some teshuvah this High Holiday season.
The San Francisco resident, who was laid off from his executive-level hi-tech marketing job last month, received a notice to attend a “re-employment eligibility assessment appointment” on September 29, the first day of Rosh Hashanah. When he notified the EDD that he would need to reschedule for religious reasons, he was told that he was at risk of losing his unemployment benefits if he did not show up on the 29th.
Columnist Masha Leon, who has covered social events for the Forverts and then the Forward for more than 30 years, was honored Thursday night by the government of Poland for her articles and other work that have helped further the understanding of Polish-Jewish lives, history and culture.
The president of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, pinned a blue-ribbon medal with a silver eagle, the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, on her chest in a ceremony held in the grand salon of the Polish consulate in New York City. The award has been given since 1974 to foreigners or Polish citizens living abroad.
Jacob Susskind “gave it a shot to just walk on” to the University of Maryland’s NCAA Division 1 basketball team, and that is exactly what this talented athlete ended up doing. The 18-year-old recent graduate of the Golda Och Academy (formerly known as the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex & Union) in West Orange, N.J., is looking forward to a good freshman year playing for the Terps.
Susskind’s initial efforts to be recruited by Ivy League and Patriot League schools ended in the summer of 2010 when he was sidelined after tearing ligaments in his lower back at Nationals. After he tore both the anterior cruciate ligament and the medial collateral ligament in his knee in January 2011, he had to stop playing altogether.
One of the most glaring pieces of data was the fact that Arabs in Israel vaccinate their children at a higher rate than do Jewish Israelis. The overall vaccination rate in Israel is high (around 70-90%, depending on the specific vaccine), but fewer Jewish children are vaccinated against hepatitis A and polio than are Arab ones. Inoculation against meningitis, diptheria, pertussis and tetanus is almost completely universal in both communities.
The lower vaccination rates among Jewish children is speculated to be a result of the prevalence of ultra-Orthodox families who do not vaccinate, as well as the growing numbers of other families who embrace a natural lifestyle that eschews vaccinations. Haaretz reports that just two weeks ago there was an outbreak of measles at a kibbutz because the children there had not been vaccinated against the disease.
The execution by lethal injection late last night of Troy Davis, a Georgia death row inmate convicted of the killing off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989, gained the attention of many in the U.S. and throughout the world. Among those protesting the impending execution earlier this week were a number of celebrities, including Jewish comedian, singer and actress Sandra Bernhard.
During the countdown to the execution, Bernhard furiously tweeted to her followers to take action by calling the President and the Georgia parole board (for which she provided phone numbers).
A pair of Jewish comedians are going the extra smile for the father of a friend.
Sarah Silverman and Adam Sandler are both endorsing Supersmile, a tooth-whitening product invented by dentist Irwin Smigel, whose website proclaims him “the father of aesthetic dentistry.” The pair provided testimonials in keeping with their comic styles, with Sandler claiming his teeth “were starting to look like cheese doodles” before he began using the product, and Silverman declaring, “Holy crap, my teeth are definitely whiter!”
The well-connected Dr. Smigel has an impressive roster of famous endorsers: others include Jimmy Fallon, Ivana Trump and Kelly Ripa.
It turns out an Indian-born tailor has a yiddishe kop when it comes to making suits for observant Jews. He has attracted many customers concerned about upholding the prohibition against wearing shatnez by making a line of suits that are certified as free of the mixture of wool and linen forbidden by the Torah.
Mohan Ramchandani, the owner of Mohan’s on East 42nd St., near Grand Central Station in Midtown, Manhattan, is doing a brisk business in the sale of shatnez-free suits ranging in price from $500 to $5,000. Like any good businessman, Ramchandani spotted a niche market, and he honed in on it.
For our upcoming special section on philanthropy, the Forward will profile American Jews aged 21 and under who are making a difference, locally or globally, with cool new approaches to helping others. We are looking for young people who are having a direct impact on their community in the novel way they are confronting poverty, violence, injustice, discrimination and ignorance. Post your nominations here, or email TopTen@forward.com, and be sure to include your contact information. Then watch for the final list in the November 11 issue of the Forward, and be inspired.
Though actress Natalie Portman has hinted that she might retire to be a full-time stay-at-home mom to little Aleph Portman-Millepied, she definitely hasn’t quit show business completely.
It was recently announced that Portman will executive produce a new TV series that will be a follow-up to the 1980s miniseries, “Scruples,” about a wealthy Boston family. The new series will be adapted from two books by Judith Krantz: the 1978 novel “Scruples” and its 1992 sequel.
Comedian Judy Gold is following in the footsteps of Henny Youngman and Woody Allen, with a Carnegie Deli sandwich named in her honor.
Gold, who’s starring in the one-woman, off-broadway show “The Judy Show: My Life as a Sitcom,” provided inspiration for the Gold E. Lox (get it?) — a bagel with cream cheese, lox, tomato and creamed onions, served with a side of creamed herring. It’s a sandwich Gold’s been eating since the “fancy bagel breakfasts” of her childhood. “It’s my favorite sandwich in the whole world,” she said.
And for $22.95, you too can give it a try.
For a Jewish New Yorker, her very own Carnegie Deli sandwich is a pretty big deal. “You know, it’s kind of like the Jewish version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame,” she said.
Jewish news junkies will be pleased to know that they will very soon be able to get TV news covering Israel and the Jewish world 24/7. On September 21, Jewish News 1 will go on the air and reach viewers in North America, Europe and the Middle East via satellite.
The network is already being dubbed “the Jewish al-Jazeera” for its aim to gain the attention of Jews all over the globe, just as its Arabic-language counterpart has won the hearts of Arabs spread out in different countries.
Jewish News 1 will have its headquarters in Brussels, but will also have studios and correspondents throughout the world. It already has studios in Brussels, Tel Aviv and Kiev, and will soon open ones in London, Paris and Washington.
With all the heightened security and anti-terrorism measures in place these days, we are all pretty sick of bureaucratic problems at border crossings. But people with “Immigration Delay Disease,” however, face a unique challenge when traveling from one country to another.
Those with “Immigration Delay Disease” (its scientific name is adermatoglyphia) have no fingerprints. In fact, they don’t have dermatoglyphs, or ridges, on their palms, toes or soles of their feet, either. Aside from confounding border crossing officials and police detectives, this condition has also confounded the medical and scientific community.
But now, researchers at Tel Aviv University, led by Prof. Eli Sprecher, have worked with colleagues at the University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, to solve the mystery of the missing fingerprints.
It looks like iTunes must have been snoozing during Comparative Religions 101. The Jerusalem Post found that the world’s largest online music and video vendor doesn’t seem to know the difference between Jewish and Christian music. Or maybe it just doesn’t care.
The newspaper reported that it found most popular Jewish singers’ songs and albums were classified as “Christian and Gospel,” and that there was no separate category for Jewish music. Some Jewish songs were listed in the “World Music” section of the iTunes store.
Barack Obama may be America’s “first Jewish president,” this week’s New York magazine cover provocatively suggests.
The publication sets the phrase in quotation marks, placing it over a cover photo of Obama’s kippah-wearing head. The accompanying article — entitled “The Tsuris,” and written by staff political analyst John Heilemann — looks at at Obama’s relationship with both Israel and American Jews. Is the latter group truly up for grabs in next year’s election because of the president’s Middle East policy, as some Obama critics suggest? The article explores the issue via interviews with commentators on both sides, taking its cover quotation from Obama supporter and former White House counsel Abner Mikva, who in 2008 joked, “When this all is over, people are going to say that Barack Obama is the first Jewish president.”