Shabbat shalom everyone! And happy birthday to my number one son and number one roommate!
Good to be back in good ole Sharon, MA even if there are no palm trees and the average temperature is more suitable for polar bears. Sandy was definitely ready to return, but as for myself, not so much. Fortunately, the lack of warmth here was more than compensated for by the warmth of the greetings we received from room mates and others. And slowly, and despite a broken toilet, my transitional grumpiness is being replaced by my normal curmudgeon-like persona.
Despite our west coast respite, the news churned with just as much ferocity. And while I was floating in pools, sipping on float-inis and soaking in a desert tan, the culture wars raged on while brinksmanship diplomacy helped prevent or at least delay a real war. Big kudos to Biden and company for their statecraft so far. His leadership and administration have made a tremendous impact on bringing our allies together after 4 years of you know who and what. And it’s the strength of that alliance that will hopefully deter Putin from invading, unless the crazy, calculating Russian decides to double down on his ego-driven motivations. I frankly could care less if we agreed to keep Ukraine out of NATO, I don’t think that concession represents any kind of existential threat to the US and I don’t think I would want my kids fighting in that kind of war. So, this is a tricky one, and so far, I think sleepy Joe is alert and playing a good middle chess game. Let’s hope the end game results in a diplomatic offramp and not a deadly and devastating war for the Ukrainians and the NATO alliance partners.
The other war I have been following with some interest and slanted eyebrow is the culture war kindled by the Joe Rogan controversy. I am not a regular listener of his show, but I do like his no holds barred 3 hour deep dive interview format. And he does have that “everyman” appeal, which in this day of distrust in all things, has its charm and appeal. What bugs the shit out of me is the right wing cries of “cancel culture” any time someone has the temerity (or wisdom in most cases) of criticizing stupid and/or racist behavior or speech and then conflating free speech issues with responsible editing and journalism. Rogan’s apology seemed sincere, but for me the bigger issue is how Spotify handled the situation. Kudos for them being transparent that it was a business decision for them and also targeting $100M for marginalized talent, but they are hiding behind the “we are a platform” position, joining the irresponsible crowd of Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok and others using Section 230 to avoid making responsible and hard decisions about content. Spotify is not a public square, they are a private business. Hence, there are no “free speech” issues here. Folks conflating this are being purposely disingenuous for political reasons. Neil Young (a polio survivor) and his support of 250 healthcare workers that objected to Rogan providing airtime to anti-vax nonsense without any meaningful challenge to that nonsense, is a demonstration of capitalism at work. And I am hopeful another outcome of this will be a better, less sloppy Joe Rogan. Let him bring on whomever he wants, as long as he challenges them fairly and with facts. He claims he does not prepare for his interviews. Well Joe, now that you are making $200M and reaching millions of young people, you might think about being better prepared. You are not just a pot smoking, funny man any more. Welcome to the real world Joe.
I am rambling, and so far, nothing Jewish about any of this. So, let’s get on with some of the news relevant to us Jews this last week. Here are a few of the more interesting Jew news items for the week:
- Ukrainian President Zelenskyy – Can his Jewish optimism beat back the crafty Putin? I revived this article from January due to the current situation, and as a reminder that Zelenskyy is Jewish! Pretty amazing that a country that was so complicit with Nazi anti-semitism actually voted in a Jew for President! Reminds me of Obama! click here for more
- New Iran deal in the offing? Lost in the Ukrainian madness has been the Biden administration push to get Iran back into the agreement the Orange Turd pulled us out of. Since the Turd decision, Iran has proceeded to build up their nuclear capability. Will the new deal roll things back to square one? This opinion piece does not think so. click here for more
- From the Culture Cabinet – The Kosher Beach – This new Israeli movie is about a gated 100-meter strip of beach in Tel Aviv with dedicated days for women and men to bathe separately. “It’s only a half hour drive from Bnei-Brak, a closed Orthodox city, but for the “Brave Bunch”, a female Orthodox sisterhood from Bnei-Brak, it’s light years away. It’s their source of quiet sanity; their own private haven of freedom where they can be themselves, take a deep ocean breath and open their hearts to the sea.” For a trailer, click here
- NHL Star Adam Fox anything but normal for this nice Jewish boy – Fox, 24, has become a star in the NHL, his play earning him the James Norris Memorial Trophy for the league’s best defenseman last year, and a 7-year, $66.5 million contract — the largest in NHL history for a defenseman leaving his entry-level contract. He was selected for his first All-Star game earlier this year (but didn’t play because of an injury). Who said Jews couldn’t skate? Read more about Adam here.
- Purim is coming up, are you ready for a few good baking tips? Check out this zoom interactive baking class to make the traditional Hamentaschen holiday cookie from a pro, Rachel Sundet from Mamaleh’s Delicatessen click here. And, if you are up for the best bubka in Boston, you must get to Bakey’s and try out their chocolate or raspberry babka offerings…..OMG. click here for babka nirvana
- 🏫 Massachusetts school hit by antisemitic vandals — again. An elementary school in Marblehead, about an hour north of Boston, was vandalized with swastikas and slurs against Jews three times in January, including on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “It isn’t isolated to the kids,” said a local rabbi, David Meyer. “It’s a reflection of what’s going on in the world.” (Boston.com, Salem News)
- Justice served to accomplice of anti-semitic arsonist – Ending on a more positive note, the jerk brother of an even bigger jerk was brought to justice. According to the grand jury indictment, Giannakakis’ now-deceased younger brother was the prime suspect in two fires at the Chabad Center in Arlington, one at the Chabad Center in Needham, and one at a Chelsea business, all set in May 2019. Click here for more
That’s all I’ve got this week. And let’s continue to be careful out there.