Shabbat shalom one and all! Quick shout out to our newest readers, Sandy Yaffi, a dear friend of me mumsy, and Dan and Ruth’s friends, the Tarlins and the Gardners. Welcome to the JNR Sandy, Dan, Lora, Neil and Beverlee!
Amidst the fog and rain of this weirdly warm winter day, and as I peer out my JNR office window at the life-affirming site of birds fluttering around our feeders, my thoughts switch to the death and destruction that occurred last night in the midwest where they are still pulling bodies from the rubble of homes, factories and warehouses devastated by tornados and storms that wreaked havoc across a wide swath of the country. It’s a reminder of the power of nature and the fragility of humanity in nature’s awesome shadow. And I am reminded of Blake’s Tyger, Tyger poem, “When the stars threw down their spears And water’d heaven with their tears: Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” Apparently the lord does work in mysterious ways, and I hope for the best for our neighbors in the midwest.
Not to get too religious here, but I had a great meeting with our Rabbi last week. Hard to believe I just wrote that. It’s the first time I have been in a synagogue for something other than a funeral in a long time. I met with Rabbi Meszler to discuss our plans to launch our community service project, Mensches with Wrenches, and to pick his proverbial brain on the idea. It was great to get to know the Rabbi a bit more and learn about him as a person as well as better understand and appreciate his place in the community and his dedication to serving it. And staying on the Rabbinical theme, in The Forward this week, editor Jodi Rudoren reminds us of a special group of Rabbis, the “Augustine 17”, who were jailed in 1964 for their support of MLK and the civil rights movement. They jointly penned this famous letter on the back of a KKK protest brochure, which you can read here. More on this topic later, but for now, let’s get to the Jewy Newsy stuff, which I know you are all waiting for on the edge of your seats:
- Bagels in the news! A few stories this week regarding those delicious golden brown dough rings we all love so much. First, bagel wars are boiling over in LA where the idea of preserving the old fashion bagel methods has ignited a personal bagel battle. Two bagel-shop owners in Los Angeles are arguing with each other over whose delicious doughs are more authentically Jewish. The bagel wars have become so heated that it’s led to threats and – a shonda! – a couple of one-star reviews on Yelp. Read more about it here. And then, we have the great cream cheese supply chain issue plaguing the bagel industry, but hitting the New York schmearers particularly hard. Zabar’s estimates that it only has enough cream cheese to last 10 days. Could it be another Chanukah miracle? Read more here.
- Contestants in camel beauty pageant disqualified for using Botox – In my dogged pursuit to bring you only the news that matters the most to Jews, I ran across this gem regarding a Camel beauty contest. You read that right. And yes, this is real, and something I have just added to my bucket list! Saudi Arabia’s popular King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, which kicked off earlier this month, invites the breeders of the most beautiful camels to compete for some $66 million in prize money. Botox injections, face lifts and other cosmetic alterations to make the camels more attractive are strictly prohibited. Jurors decide the winner based on the shape of the camels’ heads, necks, humps, dress postures, and of course, personality. I am thinking of being the US agent for the event and bringing it to Westminster in 2023.
- Alex Edelman has tried cocaine, but not bacon – I am not a huge fan of stand up comedians, but this caught my eye, so I explored some of his bits on YouTube. Except for the yelling, he can be pretty funny! Edelman grew up Modern Orthodox and his religion has always been part of his act. But his new show dives deeper into issues of race and identity. He is a local boy, having grown up in Boston and apparently attended many bar mitzvahs in Sharon, MA! Here is a link to a bit he did on Conan’s show a few years ago. In his intro he says, “I am from a racist part of Boston called…..Boston.” Check it out if you have the time. Click here
- Antisemitism at Mount Holyoke College – The third such incident at the prestigious women’s school in Massachusetts this fall. “We join you in both anger and grief,” Sonya Stephens, the school’s president, said in a letter to the community after a prior incident, in October. “And condemn in the strongest terms this provocation and all symbols of hate.” Investigators believe all the incidents are the work of one student on campus, and let’s hope they nail the jerk sooner rather than later.For more, click here.
- Blacks and Jews, and the St. Augustine 17 – Mentioned earlier, the reason for resurrecting the St. Augustine 17 is due to the release of a relatively new documentary,”Shared Legacies,” a 2020 film about the Black-Jewish civil-rights alliance. To watch the trailer click here, it’s worth 5 minutes of your time. The film, written and directed by Shari Rogers, a psychologist and social activist out of Detroit, “is bursting with incredible interviews and fascinating footage about an era that seems starkly distant amid the divisions of today,” according to Forward Editor, Jodi Rudoren. The film tells the story of Kivie Kaplan, the Jewish businessman-philanthropist who was president of the NAACP, being inspired to civil-rights work by a vacation in Florida where he saw signs barring Jews and dogs from country clubs. It explains the resonance of the Exodus story for Black protesters and the connections both Jewish and Black leaders felt between Nazi Germany and Jim Crow.“We came as Jews who remember the millions of faceless people who stood quietly, watching the smoke rise from Hitler’s crematoria. We came because we know that, second only to silence, the greatest danger to man is loss of faith in man’s capacity to act.” Amen.
That’s all for now folks! And hey, as always, let’s be careful out there.