We are currently cruising at an altitude of about 34,000 feet, on our way to balmy Palm Springs, leaving behind Boston temperatures that were somewhere in the zero kelvin range. While the laws of thermodynamics inform us that absolute zero is not physically possible, we have certainly come close to the point where atoms simply stop moving, and, to put it less scientifically, the point where we freeze our asses off. Even the poor penguins are shivering.
Stormy weather is smothering much of the country, and it’s probably also a good metaphor for the state of our nation. I have a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach about where things are heading. David Brooks, one of the more level headed and conservative NYT columnists wrote recently that the “country is falling apart at the seams”. Violent crime is up, hate crimes and anti-semitism are way up, religious affiliations are way down, gun purchases are sky-rocketing, rudeness is on the rise, and on and on. “As a columnist, I’m supposed to have some answers”, he writes, “But I just don’t right now. I just know the situation is dire.” This from a guy who usually sees the glass as half full.
And to darken my mood and thinking even more, I listened to Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti Defamation League, discussing his new book, “It Could Happen Here”, the title being the inverse of Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel about the threat of unhinged despotism, “It Can’t Happen Here”. Sadly, Greenblatt makes a convincing case that our democracy is in peril. “In recent years”, he writes, “we’ve seen democratic norms shattered again and again, particularly by right-wing authoritarians who recklessly have normalized a toxic brand of conspiratorial extremism. The attempted January 6 insurrection spurred by accusations of a stolen election and encouraged by the rhetoric of President Trump himself and aided and abetted by conservative media outlets; freshman members of Congress repeating antisemitic QAnon conspiracies and the big lie about the 2020 election, or trumpeting hate through efforts like the short-lived America First Caucus calling for “common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.” The recent efforts to sanitize the violence on January 6th literally have no parallel in modern times but evoke the legacy of laundering the crimes of Confederates after the Civil War.”
So, hello Palm Springs! Maybe a warmer climate and some desert hiking will distract me from my routine of consuming news and writings that might darken my mood or deepen my angst. Or maybe the Patriots will surprise us all and beat the Bills in Buffalo (Go Pats!) and really turn my mood in the plus direction. I am not sure what else I can do to help turn this feeling around, other than voting for Dems and being a decent, respectful and caring Jewish American human being. We Jews call the idea of fixing what is wrong in the world, “tikkun olam”. It’s time the whole country embraced the spirit of tikkun olam.
Now, what about the news of the Jews this week? Well, lots to talk about and pour through. Here are a few of the items I have curated and carefully selected for your reading pleasure.
- On TikTok, she offers a spicy daily take on Talmud: Miriam Anzovin – coquettish and often profane – might not look like your typical Talmud teacher. Hers is a profoundly new take on the century-old practice of Daf Yomi, the page-a-day, seven-and-a-half-year study cycle that draws tens of thousands participants worldwide. Her mission is to make the long, dense, and often arcane texts more accessible and inclusive. Her approach is pretty simple — make it funny — and her process fully digital. Read the story ➤
- 🐬 They call him Flipper with a Kipah – Hamas claimed it has captured a dolphin that was sent by Israel to spy on and assassinate fighters in Gaza. Camera equipment and weapons were allegedly mounted to the aquatic secret agent. (Jerusalem Post)
- Shiva call – Rabbi Israel “Sy” Dresner, a leader in the civil rights movement, has died at 92. He was one of 16 Reform rabbis arrested in 1964 in St. Augustine, Florida, where they had gone to protest segregation at the request of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at the end of 2021, Dresner spent the past few weeks checking off items from his bucket list, including a final pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Deli. He even picked out his casket, in which he will be buried on Sunday.
- 📺 This week’s episode of “The Wonder Years” reboot featured a bar mitzvah, 33 years after such a ceremony was featured on the original show. The new series, which takes place in Alabama in 1968, focuses on the friendship between two boys – one Black, one Jewish – and how they bond over being bullied at school. (JTA)
- For you dog nuts and in honor of National Dress Up Your Pet Day – Check out these celebrity dogs we’d like to see Bark-Mitzva’d – Adam Sandler’s dog, Matzah Ball, and many others featured here. Do not miss this one! Click here.
- Today is National Bagel Day! The Forward has been writing about this circular delicacy for over 125 years. In honor of National Bagel Day, Chana Pollack, the Forward’s archivist, dug up two items – both ads for that most perfect of bagel toppings, Philadelphia Cream Cheese. The first, from 1922, extols the virtues of the product being “untouched by human hands!” The second, from 1955, says that Philadelphia is the only brand uniquely intended for bagels (and matzah).
- Nutten-yahoo cutting a deal? Hot off the presses, according to the Times of Israel, the former Prime Minister has copped a plea deal to avoid wearing orange. Read about it here. Click here.
That’s all for the week everyone! And I know I shouldn’t have to repeat myself, but hey, let’s be careful out there!