Shout out this week to my favorite football star, Kylian Mbappé! And apologies to all my British friends, but I will be cheering for the defending champs in today’s classic matchup which starts at 2pm. Allez les bleu! Allez les Bleus on est derrière vous!
I had intended to start this week’s entry with a rant about the death of the GOP. After all, it’s not every week that a former, now disgraced US President and orange turd calls for the termination of all rules, even those found in the Constitution, as a way of mollifying his bruised, fragile, massive ego. No, I will not go there, as tempting as it may seem. Instead, I will provide you with this summary and link to Andrew Sullivan’s rant on the topic, which you can read at your leisure.
Their reaction (GOP) to his call to terminate the Constitution was laughable in its cowardice. (The invaluable Will Saletan has a summary of their pathetic gestures here.) The only thing that has in any way damaged Trump has been the sanity and wisdom of some moderate Republican voters, most crucially in Georgia, who used the elections of 2020 and 2022 to vote against Trumpists, while still supporting other saner candidates.
Instead, and keeping with a “no negative energy” pledge, I want to share some good news. First, let’s celebrate a too close victory for common sense in Raphael Warnock’s victory over the dimwitted, walking insult to human dignity, Herschel Walker. But don’t celebrate too much, as Walker was able to get 1.7 million republican Georgians to think he was capable of chewing gum and representing them at the same time. Secondly, lets also celebrate the return of Brittney Griner in exchange for the Russian “Merchant of Death”, and hope that the Biden team can get Paul Whalen back as well without giving away the store.
But for real happy news, let’s talk about impressionist art and the story of Van Gogh, the rescue dog. This heart warming rescue story has gone viral on social media platforms. If you are a Tic Toc person you probably get an endless stream of these algorithm-fed stories, but since I am not very present on these platforms, the story only came to me via one of the many Substack newsletters I receive.
The story of the one-eared rescue dog named Van Gogh went viral for his uncanny ability to create impressionist art reminiscent of his human namesake – with a little help from peanut butter. The 7-year-old pit bull mix had previously been exploited by a dogfighting ring in North Carolina before being rescued by a shelter. Jaclyn Gartner runs a nonprofit called Happily Furever After Rescue, and she found Van Gogh’s story online. She brought him to her home in Connecticut, where she tried to find him a furever home. Initially there were no takers, so Gartner got creative. She put a few dollops of paint on a canvas and put the canvas in a plastic baggie, then coated the baggie with peanut butter. Van Gogh immediately began licking off the sweet treat, and in the process created beautiful impressionist art. After repeating this process a few times, Van Gogh created a gallery worth of masterpieces. Gartner staged an art show for Van Gogh, but only two people attended. When she posted about it on Facebook, requests for Van Gogh’s artwork began pouring in, raising thousands of dollars for Happily Furever After Rescue. One of the organization’s regular foster carers, Jessica Starowitz, volunteered to adopt him. Now Van Gogh lives happily with Starowitz and her family, and you can even find him on Instagram.
By the way, the human Van Gogh was well known to the Jewish community, and if you go to the High-tech ‘Immersive Van Gogh’ exhibition now touring the globe you will learn that it was a Jewish art collector, Paul Cassirer, that helped launch the Dutch painter to stardom. But that’s a story for another time, or one you can read more about here.
Before I get to the carefully curated news for the Jews this week, a few words about Israeli politics. President Herzog granted Prime Minister-delegate Netanyahu a 10 day extension to tie things up with his coalition partners – but the agreements reached until now between said parties have already been a source of much dispute. From giving the authority of the Civil Administration in the West Bank to Smotrich, to supplying extremist Avi Maoz with access to the Ministry of Education, the Likud has complied to a list of demands that may be the key to keeping everyone happy – but are also potentially flammable. I am afraid our worst fears are being realized and there may be dark days ahead in Israel.
Now, what about all the news for Jews you may be asking? Where are all those carefully curated stories we look forward to week after week? Well, as the dying ducks say, your wading is over. Here you go:
- 🙏 Prince Harry said that dressing up in a Nazi costume at a party in 2005 was “probably one of the biggest mistakes of my life.” In the highly anticipated docuseries (yawn), Harry & Meghan, which debuted on Netflix on Thursday, Harry said that after the incident he met with Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who was then chief rabbi of England. “I felt so ashamed afterwards,” he said of the costume. “All I wanted to do was make it right.” (Vanity Fair)
- 🎭 A new stage musical is a very Jewish adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The plot of A Hanukkah Carol centers around Chava Kanipshin, a social media influencer who is visited by spirits of the past, present and future to reckon with her life’s work — namely, her pursuit of internet fame by posting mean and embarrassing videos of her friends and family — before it is too late. (NY Jewish Week) I, for one, will not be attending this stupid appropriation of Christian tradition. I am a huge fan of Magoo’s version of this holiday classic, but am very uncomfortable with a Jewish version, especially given Dickens’ portrayal of Jews in his works.
- Why is there still a bust of Charles Lindbergh, antisemite in Rockefeller Center?Monuments to other problematic historical figures have been removed in the U.S., yet Charles Lindbergh remains in a prime NYC tourist spot, nearby the famous Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree. Is it time to take it down? After all, he was no casual anti-semite, he was unabashedly a Nazi sympathizer. In September 1941, Lindbergh, speaking on behalf of the isolationist America First Committee, singled out the Roosevelt administration, the British and the Jews for leading the U.S. into war against Nazi Germany. “Instead of agitating for war, Jews in this country should be opposing it in every way, for they will be the first to feel its consequences,” he said. “Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.” I am on the fence regarding removal of historical artifacts, but this one should at least be raised as an issue for discussion.
- On this week in history (1980): John Lennon was assassinated. Many Jewish people played a crucial role in Lennon’s career, including the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, who discovered the Fab Four in Liverpool, and the New York radio host Murray Kaufman, who was an early and passionate supporter of the band. Lennon also sang in Hebrew as a part of a 1969 radio broadcast for Voice of Israel. Read his secret Jewish history ➤
- From the Tech files: Computers can write Torah now — should we be excited or terrified? Type in a single sentence like “Harry Potter stood up, tapped the bimah with his wand, and began to say kaddish for Sirius Black” into newly available artificial intelligence software, and you’ll get back an entire story about everyone’s favorite boy wizard. “In the time since I gained access to the current cutting-edge text-completion engine,” writes David Zvi Kalman, “I have seen it compose bar mitzvah speeches, Yehuda Amichai poems, proverbs, midrash, mystical texts, and even — sometimes — a little bit of Talmud.” Will AI be able to replace the Jew News Review? Impossible! Read the story ➤
- 📚 The author of the 2006 Holocaust novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas has written a sequel, All the Broken Places. The first book sold 11 million copies, was turned into a movie, and is taught in classrooms all around the globe, though some Holocaust scholars think it should not be used in schools because it is a work of fiction and full of stereotypes. The author, John Boyne, said the new book is aimed at adults, and defended the original: “If they weren’t reading Striped Pajamas, it’s more likely they would be reading something that has no relevance to this subject at all.” (JTA)
- Coup attempts in Germany and the US confirm it: the key terror threat is the far right – A disrupted terror plot by armed would-be “citizens of the Reich” and the legitimizing of extreme racism by the de-facto leader of one of the US’s two governing parties – point to a rising global threat, one that is too often regarded as either too ridiculous or too marginal to be menacing. That threat lives almost entirely on the internet, its regular foot soldiers neither European nobility nor rap superstars but, says one who monitors it closely, “young, white, anti-immigrant neo-Nazis, networked in an online subculture that glorifies and generates terror”. Read more on this ugliness from Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian.
Yabba-dabbaduh-dubbadah that’s all folks! Have a great week, and let’s continue to be careful out there! Next week, we will be publishing from Palm Springs! Allez les blues!