Shabbat shalom! I hope everyone had a great Passover! This year’s celebration seemed especially delightful with my mom, sister and niece joining us from Virginia and California combined with a few other special visits with friends and family. And of course, my incredibly delicious short ribs and Ruth’s savory chicken served with grace and elegance at a beautiful seder table. Next year in Jerusalem? Sharon would be ok with me.
It’s good to be back in the writers saddle after taking the week off. It was a busy week all around, with Putin’s poison, culture wars, and economic news dominating the headlines. Lost in that cacophony of news noise was the celebration of Earth Day this last Friday. Since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22, a date selected since it fell between spring break and final exams for college kids, its original targeted demographic. US Senators Pete McCloskey and Gaylord Perry, along with environmental advocate Denis Hayes started Earth Day as a series of teach-ins across college campuses in the US. The first Earth Day inspired more than 20 million Americans to demonstrate against the harmful impacts of industrial development on both the planet and human health, including thousands of university protests and city rallies from coast-to-coast. That momentum helped lead to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and eventually the celebration caught on globally where it is now the most widely observed secular holiday around the world.
My first recollection of Earth Day came in 1978. As a reporter for the UMass Daily Collegian, I was covering the event and a conference associated with it called “Learning Tomorrows”. I met and interviewed 82 year old R. Buckminster Fuller, otherwise known as “Bucky”, an eccentric inventor (expelled by Harvard not once, but twice!), who was better known for his invention of the geodesic dome (inspired by the structure of a fly’s eye), and who was a featured lecturer at the event. It was Bucky who coined the term “Spaceship Earth” to describe our planet, a cosmic metaphor underlying the idea that all human beings were passengers on Spaceship Earth, and, like the crew of a large ship, people had to work together in order to keep the planet functioning properly. Well, according to the latest from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the ship is not functioning well at all, and we may be careening into galactic space junk unless the crew makes some course corrections sooner rather than later.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the IPCC report showed “a litany of broken climate promises” by governments and corporations worldwide. “It is a file of shame, cataloging the empty pledges that put us firmly on track toward an unlivable world,” Guterres said.
Earlier this month, the IPCC published a report warning of the dangers of rising global warming levels – noting that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could be “beyond reach” if significant emission reductions across all sectors are not taken immediately.
What can we do? Buy an electric vehicle if you can afford one. Or keep working from home! As stewards of this great planet, it is incumbent upon all of us to reduce our carbon footprints and advocate for leaders here in the US of A to adhere to our commitments we made in the Paris Accords in 2015. The consequences of not doing so are dire. Nuf said.
And on that humble and happy note, let’s move on to news for Jews! What’s happening in the Jewish world beyond Passover you may be asking? Let’s get to it:
- “Hava Nagila” played after every Utah Jazz win in the Mormon Capital – Another entry from the “you can’t make this shit up” category. I haven’t been following the NBA for a few years now (go Celtics!), so this one took me by surprise. For a team with no Jewish players, in a market with relatively few Jewish residents, the choice has long baffled and amused basketball fans in Utah and beyond. The Jazz organization cites the song’s “memorable beat” in explaining the phenomenon. I think it’s a great tribute to what was originally a zionist song, but not everyone thinks its appropriate. Go figure. For more, click here.
- Book about Jewish kid with two dads removed from Florida school district – In another sad sign of Rotten Republicans Run Amok, the Walton County school district has banned a Purim picture book about a Jewish child whose fathers are gay. “The Purim Superhero,” by Elisabeth Kushner, is one of 58 titles removed in the Walton County School District, located in Florida’s Panhandle. It appears alongside books dealing with race, sexuality and mental health that are more common targets of the book-removal activists who are often affiliated with Moms for Liberty. “The Purim Superhero” is also not the only book by Jewish authors on the Walton County list. The list also includes “Forever” by Judy Blume, a frequent target for censorship because of its portrayal of teen sexuality, and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel about a child whose father dies on 9/11. That book was also on a list of 16 proposed for removal in Polk County, Florida, earlier this year. For more, click here.
- AIPAC, the largest pro-Israeli political action committee in the United States, supports Republicans who support the “big lie” – Anticipating renewed criticism over its new endorsements, AIPAC struck a defensive posture in its statements on the new round of endorsements. “Our goal is to make America’s friendship with Israel so robust, so certain, so broadly based, and so dependable that even the deep divisions of American politics can never imperil that relationship and the ability of the Jewish state to defend itself,” AIPAC PAC said on Twitter. “In an increasingly polarized environment, sustained support from both parties makes our alliance with Israel stronger.” To be fair, they also support a boatload of Dems as well, but they view support of Israel above and beyond any sense of moral duty to our country. This dude can’t abide that. For more, click here.
- Continued violence in Israel – Sadly during this time of Ramadan, Passover and Easter, the violence on the Temple Mount and Gaza seems to be picking up rather than subsiding. There are jerks on both sides provoking stupid behavior in Jerusalem and beyond. The Iron Dome has been activated a number of times this last week protecting against rockets coming from Gaza targeting Israeli communities, and Israel has retaliated with their heaviest airstrikes since last May. Let’s hope Arab and Israeli leaders can quell things and restore some hope for more peaceful times. For more, click here.
- The Twitter activist behind the far-right ‘Libs of TikTok’ is an Orthodox Jew. Should that matter? Chaya Raichik says she’s responsible for getting teachers who discuss gay and transgender issues in the classroom, whom she calls “evil,” fired. She helped pioneer the term “grooming” to describe teaching about sexuality. Her Twitter account has hundreds of thousands of followers, and she has influential fans, including the spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and podcaster Joe Rogan. Anyone shocked that an orthodox Jewish person could be an unhinged right-wing maniac has clearly not been on social media very much. And some conservatives are not happy that the Washington Post outed her. Yossi Gestetner, a haredi Orthodox political activist who for years has posted on social media, blasted the Post for identifying Raichik as Orthodox, saying it was not germane. “Opposing the destruction of basic standards for what is spoken to young kids is a popularly held view that is not necessarily Orthodox Jewish-based, so why did the paper mention it?” For more, click here.
- Ending on a sweet note – It is synonymous with Passover treats, an iconic Jewish dessert known to all — chewy, colorful, candy fruit slices. The fruit jelly slice is an American product invented sometime between the two World Wars in either Winnipeg, Manitoba, or in Boston (two companies claim to have invented it). While there are competitors, Boston Fruit Slices is the best known brand. The sweet confections have a unique production process. First the sugar and gelling mixture is boiled and immediately cooled. Next, the flavor and color is added to the mix and the thick syrup is poured on waxed paper. Then, the mixture that makes the rind is poured on top. More syrup is poured into wedge shaped molds, which are later put through a slicing machine. Once the wedges are sliced, they are tossed into vats of sugar to coat each slice. Finally, the slices are dried before being packed. More importantly, they are delish!
Well, I think I have harassed you all enough at this point. But hey, let’s be careful out there. And for goodness sakes, help the good ship Earth make it to the next millennial!