Shabbat shalom one and all! Quick shout out to my nephew Jake who landed his first college acceptance this week. Mazel Tov Jake! May those big envelopes keep rolling in! (it’s probably all email these days, so no more big envelopes?)
And Chappy Chanukah to all my fellow Hebrews! What a great holiday: gifts, greasy latkes, candle lighting, a few prayers over the Chanukiah. But I can’t help thinking that the holiday would have remained obscure at best if it weren’t for the coincidence of the Christian calendar. And what of the myths surrounding the holiday: The great Maccabees re-dedicating the temple and all that oil lasting eight days? A closer look at the history would probably reveal an internal civil war between the more Hellenic Jews and those Pharisees and Zealots getting a bit fed up with the Sadducees. But hey, lets not split Hanukah hairs. Regardless of what actually happened, the way it is celebrated and commemorated is where things get interesting—so keep dipping those ancient latkes in applesauce and down a few jelly doughnuts, and, unlike yours truly, try to avoid the horror of an expanding waistline and that creeping Mendoza line on the scale.
Meanwhile, the news of the week continues its daily onslaught on our senses. The Orange Turd’s wake continues to create historical turbulence, as we now find the moral arc of history bending AWAY from justice and toward back alley abortions and the loss of freedoms courtesy of the Turd’s conservative judges on SCOTUS. The Republican party continues its moral decay and depravity and steady descent into the very inner rings of Dante’s Hell where hopefully they will rot for a few decades before being reborn with a revitalized sense of decency and a moral backbone. But hope is not a strategy, as my business professors would remind me, so please do whatever you can to support both democrats and democracy!
Now, what of the news for the Jews you may be asking? Ask and ye shall receive. Here are a few nuggets selected for your Jewish reading enjoyment:
- Superman was circumcised! This book, by Roy Schwartz, just won an award for most odd book title. Roy is also a contributing editor to The Forward. “Superman is the original superhero, an American icon, and arguably the most famous character in the world–and he’s Jewish! Introduced in June 1938, the Man of Steel was created by two Jewish teens, Jerry Siegel, the son of immigrants from Eastern Europe, and Joe Shuster, an immigrant. They based their hero’s origin story on Moses, his strength on Samson, his mission on the golem, and his nebbish secret identity on themselves.They made him a refugee fleeing catastrophe on the eve of World War II and sent him to tear Nazi tanks apart nearly two years before the US joined the war. In the following decades, Superman’s mostly Jewish writers, artists, and editors continued to borrow Jewish motifs for their stories, basing Krypton’s past on Genesis and Exodus, its society on Jewish culture, the trial of Lex Luthor on Adolf Eichmann’s, and a future holiday celebrating Superman on Passover.” If you want to learn more about the “Mensch of Steel” read this book with the award winning odd title. Link to buy book
- Chanukah finally in Hollywood? I don’t know about you, but I am often jealous of all the great goyim Christmas-themed movies compared to the dearth of comps on the Jewish side. My family used to watch Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol every year and my father would embarrassingly yell out the window at the newspaper boy to get him the turkey in the window of the butcher shop, and then to the bewilderment of the poor kid, yell out “An intelligent boy, a remarkable boy!” This ritual has given way to my family watching “Love Actually” and “Die Hard” every season as a tradition of our own. Well, now Hallmark and a few other studios are starting to get into the Chanukah movie biz, and this year there are more than a few offerings worthy of your consideration. Hallmark’s holiday movie “Eight Gifts of Hanukkah” airs this weekend. It’s being billed as the channel’s first film entirely about the Jewish festival, and stars Israeli actress Inbar Lavi and Canadian Jake Epstein, who also appeared in the 2019 film “Mistletoe & Menorahs.” Seriously.
- Antisemitism Blotter – I hate that every week I see more and more of these reports, but I also feel obligated to let everyone know, this shit is not getting better. Chicago police have launched a hate-crimes investigation after someone scrawled racist and antisemitic graffiti on a synagogue … Near Miami, officers are searching for a suspect who vandalized a Jewish community center … and in Carlisle, Penn.,the authorities are trying to find out who’s responsible for placing Hitler stickers around the Jewish center at Dickinson College. (Chicago Sun-Times, WSVN, JNS)
- A Holocaust Tree grows in Brooklyn, (or at least near Brooklyn) – I was always fascinated by the idea of planting trees in Israel to support its birth and development. I vaguely remember our Hebrew School collecting money for such donations. This is a great story of a tree that survived the holocaust, and its saplings now being spread around the world. And now New York City — home to the largest community of Holocaust survivors and their descendants of any city outside Israel — will also nurture a descendant of the original tree. Dr. Roger Pomerantz, a Jewish philanthropist who owns a farm in Pennsylvania that holds seven trees grown from cuttings of the original tree, has donated one to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City. “The Children’s Tree,” as it will be known, was unveiled to the public last week during a dedication ceremony held jointly by the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Battery Park City Authority. Currently 15 feet tall, the silver maple tree will have a permanent home in the park.
- A Bat Mitzvah delayed – Let’s end this weeks JNR edition on a positive note. Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords stood before the congregation in Tucson, Ariz., and kissed her tallit, preparing to chant from the Torah for the first time, Rabbi Stephanie Aaron placed her hand atop Giffords’ hand, her voice rising and falling along with Giffords’ own. It was an emotional moment two decades in the making. Giffords – whose Hebrew name is Gavriella, meaning “my strength is God” – is the granddaughter of a rabbi, descended from a long line of Lithuanian rabbis, but did not become bat mitzvah at the traditional age. She first thought about having an adult bat mitzvah in the early 2000s, but life – and a near-fatal shooting – got in the way. Here is a link to the full story. Full story, click here
And that’s all for the week folks. As usual, remember to be careful out there!