Shabbat shalom everyone! What a beautiful day in the neighborhood!
The high holidays are now behind us, and the new Hebrew month, Cheshvan, represents a pause in the holiday calendar until Chanukah rolls around in late November. So consider this a time to get back to the normal routines of the week, be that work, school, caring for kids, or if you are like me, spending too much time listening to podcasts and news shows.
And the news keeps on moving at a pace that is consistently overwhelming. My sister has committed herself to a newsless week given the sausage making going on right now in congress and the mainstream medias crack-like addiction to making headlines and money off the process. During all this legislative mayhem, the country reached a new and disturbing milestone: 700,000 deaths from Corona. That’s a lot of death. To put it in perspective, that staggering number exceeds the estimated deaths from the 1918 influenza pandemic and is greater than the number of Americans who were estimated to have died of cancer last year, one of the nation’s leading causes of death. It’s higher than the total number of American troops who have died in battle throughout the recent history of the country, and it is about the same as the population of the City of Boston.
Each death is a unique tragedy and an irreparable loss. An analysis, tracking the extensive reach of COVID-19 loss of kin with a bereavement multiplier, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates that 6.3 million family members may be grieving the loss of a loved one due to the virus. We have probably all been touched directly or indirectly by this gruesome toll. Right now, for example, one of our elderly cousins is fighting for his life in the ICU at a local hospital. The really sad story here is that a lot of this was avoidable had our leaders united around this common enemy, instead of making it a political issue, as the Orange Turd and his partisan followers unfortunately did.
So, other than this gloomy bit of news, what are some of the more interesting stories in the Jewish world this last week, you may be asking? Well, The Forward did provide a weekly summary, but, its all focused on Lox! Now, if there were ever a food group worth writing 7 stories about, this would be one of them, and I have attached it for your reading pleasure. Most of them are repeats from prior issues, and knowing that you probably have read them all already, I decided to stick with selecting my own stories for the week. So, here you go:
- John Stewart is Back! I watched the first show the other night (Apple+ TV), and it was refreshing to see his now scruffy face back on TV. He was our guiding light through the Bush years, and we really could have used him to get through the Orange Turd years for sure. The show format is less comedic, focusing on one topic/issue and then bringing on experts to discuss. In this format, he may not be as funny, but he gets my kudos for being a mensch.
- Porn sites and anti-semitism – After alot of personal research, I have concluded that most porn sites could do a better job of removing anti-semitic material from their site. No mom, not really. This is the conclusion of the nonprofit group, Fighting Online Antisemitism, or FOA, who have identified dozens of videos on major adult content sites, including xvideos and XNXX. Some feature actors dressed as Nazi officers acting out rape scenes of actresses portraying Jewish women. Videos featuring underage subjects or revenge porn are pulled off quickly, according to Tomer Aldubi, the founder of FOA. But when it comes to antisemitism about Jews, he said, “the porn giants seem to not want to address it.” Needless to say, I am not providing any links for further analysis.
- Tony Soprano was Jewish! Just kidding. But there was a strong vein of Jewish characters throughout the Sopranos TV series, and given the prequel is out and the younger generations are now streaming the series, I thought the JNR team would find this one interesting. To read more, click here. And if you liked the Sopranos theme and rich portrayal of the personal and business conflicts facing a latter-day, all-Italian gang of New Jersey mobsters, then I strongly recommend the Australian black comedy/crime show (Amazon Prime), “Mr. Inbetween”, which features the personal conflicts of a criminal for hire.
- Fighting for abortion rights Jewishly – The new law in Texas is disgraceful, and the Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene is scary. But it has motivated a lot of organizations to begin preparing for a fight, and this story is about one of those organizations, The National Council of Jewish Women. They have just launched 73Forward, a campaign to keep abortion legal, and help those who don’t have the means to travel and pay for an abortion in a place where it’s less restricted. (The campaign’s name refers to 1973, the year Roe was decided) “Taking away abortion access is a religious freedom issue,” said Shiela Katz, leader of the Council. “It’s directly connected to our text and it’s so critical right now that we don’t allow one particular faith perspective to dictate when life begins.” Click here for more on the story.
- Judah Benjamin: A Jewish slave owner and consigliere to Jefferson Davis – “Arguably the most important American Jew of the 19th century, he deserves our attention, but not our admiration.” It troubles me to think that a Jew could own slaves and support slavery given our history, and the author of this new biography on Judah Benjamin, James Traub, explores that troubling theme in great depth. For more on this book review from the WSJ, click here.
- “Titans of Tonnage”: Celebrating Fat Bear Week – Finally a national holiday to which I can directly relate! Forget about Hispanic History month, and be prepared to cast your vote for the plumpest of these hibernating creatures. Check out this link and cast your vote here. Apparently yours truly is on the leader board!
That’s all I have this week, probably more than you wanted. But hey, let’s not forget to be careful out there, and please feed the bears! (“Hey Mr. Ranger, sir, I did not steal that picnic basket!”)