It was a busy week caring for the world’s most adorable grandchild, and ended with a haircut and a therapeutic massage, so no complaints from me. It’s been rather cool here in Sharon weather-wise, but as I gaze out the JNR office this morning, I am loving the spray of violet myrtle blossoms and yellow daffodils in one of our gardens which just reinforces my longing for more warmth, lush gardens, and backyard ballgames.
This week the world marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, and the heroism of survivors and rescuers. Yom HaShoah opens in Israel at sundown in a state ceremony held in Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Authority, in Jerusalem. During the ceremony the national flag is lowered to half mast, the President and the Prime Minister both deliver speeches, Holocaust survivors light six torches symbolizing the approximately six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and the Chief Rabbis recite prayers.
The journalism world was chock full of inspiring, tragic and compelling stories about survivors, Jews and non-Jews, all contributing in various ways to keep this history lesson alive for the generations to come. On that front, a big shoutout to my sister Phyllis, who back in 2009 taught the Holocaust to her high school class culminating in a field trip to the Holocaust Museum, and was so inspired by the experience, passed up an opportunity to work at the New York Times in order to continue her teaching career. I have always been very proud of her work as a teacher, and never more so than when she was honored by her school for her work on that project.
Nothing underlies the importance of this work more than the latest statistics on anti-semitism released this week by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Scary stuff. Each week in the JNR, I try and feature at least one story about anti-semitism, as my small way of carrying the torch of history. And now, according to the ADL, the number of antisemitic incidents in the United States in 2021 reached an all-time high. The 2,717 incidents identified in news articles by the ADL or reported to the ADL directly in 2021 represent a 34% increase from the 2,024 incidents of antisemitism tallied by the group in 2020. Previously, the 2,107 incidents in 2019 were the highest total since the ADL began publishing annual counts in 1979. It is possible that part of the increase can be attributed to better reporting, but at least 20% is attributed to right-wing actors, according to the report, which notes a sharp rise in the distribution of antisemitic pamphlets by groups such as the Goyim Defense League. And I won’t get all wound up about my gut instinct that connects the orange turd and his minions to mainstreaming the radical right, which I believe constitutes a large portion of the increase.
Now, more on the Jew news front.
- Shoah Foundation shares ‘lost’ testimony of Holocaust survivor who died in Mariupol – The 91-year-old Holocaust survivor Vanda Semyonovna Obiedkova died near her home in Mariupol, Ukraine, April 4, while the city was under a devastating Russian attack. Her family believed that her survivor testimony died with her. Obiedkova died, reportedly cold and emaciated, while sheltering in the basement of a store near her home; her daughter and son-in-law fled the city after burying her. The house they shared burned during the attacks, and the VHS tape containing the video testimony Obiedkova had recorded of her Holocaust experience for the USC Shoah Foundation in 1998 was destroyed along with the family’s other possessions, her family told Chabad.org.
- Ben Foster pulls no punches playing a Holocaust-survivor-turned-boxer in HBO’s new movie“The Survivor” — Airing this week on Yom HaShoah, after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, “The Survivor” is not your typical Holocaust movie. Though it does tell the improbable story of a single Jew’s survival, it doesn’t linger on the misery of the camps themselves. Most of the film (which was co-produced with the USC Shoah Foundation) takes place after the war, as Harry attempts to resettle in an immigrant-heavy Brooklyn Jewish community suffused with loss. He uses his survivor’s status to create a marketable ringside identity (“In this corner, the pride of Poland, the survivor of Auschwitz!”) even as he remains haunted by his time in the camps. For more on this, click here.
- Shiva call: Senator Orrin Hatch wore a mezuzah?!!! Former Sen. Orrin Hatch, who died on Saturday at 88, wore a mezuzah around his neck for more than four decades, wrote a catchy Hanukkah song with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, and admired Jewish megastar and actress Barbra Streisand. He also sat in for then-Vice President Joe Biden on the dais during Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial joint address to Congress against the Iran deal in 2015. Who’d a thunk?
- Hasidic rapper? Now I’ve seen everything – HBO Max is currently producing a new comedy series based on the life of former gang member-turned-Hasidic-rapper Nissim Black. Black, who lives in Israel, announced the upcoming show on Twitter on Monday, writing that he hopes “this series brings Joy, and dispells [sic] a lot of the misinformation going on out there.” Not sure what is being dispelled, but check out this rap version of Hava Nagila! click here.Hava nagila I’m breathing, hava nagila we even
Got a Mazel Tov for the game, but I really do the thang
Dance homey, G-d’s only, G-d’s man how they know me
Call me NIS in the street’s, but we nobel like peace
I ain’t tryna hurt nobody, we just came here to party
Like it’s 59.99, they gone see us in our prime
Big house coming down, from thе sky to the crowd
We gon’ sing it out loud, Black Jewish and I’m proud
- President Joe Biden is expected to travel to Israel in the coming months, the White House said on Sunday, following a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Biden first visited Israel 49 years ago – in 1973 – and met with then-Israeli prime minister Golda Meir. Timing is interesting, as both Bennett and Biden could use some good press. Bennett recently lost his Knesset majority and could be facing early elections, so a visit from the president of the United States could help boost his stature. Biden could also use the visit to bolster support among Jewish voters – his approval rating among Jews has fallen to 63% from a high of 80% last summer – before November’s midterm elections, when his party is projected to suffer heavy losses.
That’s all folks! And hey, let’s remember to stay safe out there.