Shout out this week to those suffering in the wake of the horrible earthquake, now responsible for over 20,000 deaths in Turkey and Syria, and hundreds of thousands of injured and homeless. The powerful and deadly 7.8 richter quake was felt in Tel Aviv as well, which is actually closer to the epicenter than Istanbul! If you want to help, here are a few links, one for the Red Cross, and one for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Link to Red Cross Link to JDC
In the midst of earthquake carnage and the fall of Israeli democracy (more on that later) we get to indulge this weekend in one of the few truly remaining cultural events that taps into our innate desire to be part of something larger than our social media accounts and personal, tribal bubbles we all tend to inhabit. One of my favorite culture writers, JD Heyman (Culture Wag) described it thusly:
So we are left with the Super Bowl—bloated, problematic, and yet reassuringly middlebrow, a cherished relic of collective diversion. If you are from Kansas City, it is exciting. If you are from Philadelphia, it is epic. If you are from most everywhere else, it is an opportunity to half-pay attention, eat nachos, check out Rihanna, and dissect the ads. The Super Bowl was first held in Los Angeles in 1967. It is not some hallowed sporting tradition but the spawn of 20th-century mass media. It grew and become more preposterous with network television and its gargantuan ad budgets. The Super Bowl clings on not because those elements still dominate the culture but despite their decline.
There’s some sadness in that. The Super Bowl isn’t classy, and it might even be a little bad for us. And yet, we still crave shared spectacle and heroes, however imperfect, to root for. As much as human beings are susceptible to individual vanity, we require opportunities to blur into the enormity of a crowd. The big tent liberates us from the tyranny of isolation, and stifling obsession with the self. So, appreciate the razzle-dazzle and cheese. Indulge in lavish commercials for things you don’t want. For one day it may all be gone! Isn’t it nice, once in a great while, to be brought together instead of riven apart, even if only for a silly game?
So, enjoy the ads (but don’t get too annoyed by the “He gets us” campaign), check out Rihanna (or Adele watching Rihanna), root for MVP Patrick Mahomes, chow down on chicken wings (much cheaper than last year – yay disinflation!), win your Squares pool, and just enjoy being part of something bigger than yourselves.
As I write this post, thousands of Israelis are once again lining the streets in order to protest Nut-and-Yahoo’s “coalition of crazies” attempt to upend democracy in Israel by minimizing the power of their Supreme Court to check the power of the executive branch. Despite what you hear from Bibi, and despite the Wall Street Journal editorial claiming otherwise, this is a big F-ing deal. There is no question that the laws governing the powers of the Court could be changed and updated to reflect a more balanced, modern and nuanced system of justice. But, what Bibi and the crazies are proposing essentially throws the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. And this issue was never presented to the Israeli public before the latest vote that brought the coalition of crazies to power.
In an appeal to Diaspora Jews to get educated and get involved, well known diaspora authors Matti Friedman, Yossi Klein Halevi, and Daniel Gordie, penned”An open letter to Israel’s friends in North America” published yesterday in the Times of Israel.
Even if elements of the proposed changes may seem similar to practices in other democratic countries, as the government maintains, all of those democracies have powerful institutional checks and balances, absent in Israel, that limit unbridled executive or legislative power and protect individual rights. Israel has no formal constitution and no second legislature. It has no federal system or regional elections. The prime minister’s plan effectively concentrates nearly all power in the hands of one person – the prime minister himself.
This is no “judicial reform,” but a dramatic alteration that would bring Israel’s governing system closer not to the US and Canada but to Hungary and Turkey.
A major strike is planned for Monday across Israel, and employers have already given the green light for employees to participate. Let’s hope that Nut-and-Yahoo will at least try and listen to reason, and slow the process down so that the people can and will be heard.
Now, what about all the good stuff? Is he done with his blathering portion of the JNR? What else is new this week in Israel and across the JewSA? Well, here you go peeps, your carefully curated news for the Jews, courtesy of The Forward, Times of Israel, Keller, Jewish Boston, and several other worthy Jewie journals.
- Tens of thousands to rally Sat. night ahead of nationwide anti-overhaul strike Monday – The protest will be held in West Bank settlement for 1st time; Tens of thousands of Israelis were expected to take to the streets in mass rallies on Saturday evening against the government’s legislative efforts to dramatically weaken the High Court of Justice and secure political control over judicial appointments. Click here for more
- What does the Talmud say about sports betting? Did you get your Squares picked before the big game? Betting on the Super Bowl is an American pastime on par with the Thanksgiving Day nap, if not the dinner itself. But in Jewish tradition, gambling is like shrimp: Just because it’s popular, fun and usually harmless, doesn’t mean the Torah feels good about it. Most rabbis frown upon gambling, citing a line in the Talmud that says a dice player cannot be accepted as a witness. That teaching is generally interpreted as applying only to those who gamble professionally, not recreationally. So, don’t feel immoral when you collect your winnings this weekend, and good luck! Click here for more
- Forget beer and deodorant commercials. A new product is advertising at the Super Bowl this year – Jesus: A nondenominational Christian campaign called “He Gets Us” will run two ads during the Super Bowl, costing about $20 million. The spots strive to make Jesus more relatable to modern-day liberal Americans, writes our Mira Fox, who spoke with a professor of marketing about the commercials. “It’s hard not to see the campaign as a conversion drive,” she writes. Does Jesus need to rebuild his personal brand? Read the story ➤
- Say a little prayer for Burt – Burt Bacharach, the legendary songsmith behind “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” and countless other hits, died Wednesday at the age of 94. Born to Jewish parents in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in Queens, New York, Bacharach made his name as a composer of virtuosic and immediately identifiable tunes. Bacharach’s career spanned seven decades, enduring cultural shifts and finding a new audience in the 1997 film Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, where he served as a stand-in for the mood of the 1960s. In the second Austin Powers film, Bacharach appeared alongside Elvis Costello, a longtime fan. With Costello, Bacharach recorded 1998’s Painted from Memory, which earned Bacharach one of his six Grammys. Their final collaboration, The Songs of Bacharach & Costello, will be released March 3.
- On culture: Remember, it’s a comedy! In this opinion piece, Ilana Kaufman, CEO of the Jews of Color Initiative, analyzes You People, Jonah Hill’s attempt at RomCom, and is not a fan. She was expecting a modern retelling of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but she was dismayed to discover that the film was full of stereotypes of both Black and Jewish Americans — and that the existence of Black and brown Jews were completely absent. “Jews of color are not mysterious and unknown,” Kaufman writes, “and yet their erasure from You People, when an actual Black woman with Jewish heritage is in a leading role, is painfully paradoxical.” Read her essay ➤
- More culture: 📕 Barbra Streisand has written a memoir, My Name is Barbra,that is set to publish on Nov. 7th. According to the description, it will include, among other things, the behind-the-scenes story of how, with Yentl, she became the first woman to write, produce, direct and star in a major motion picture. (Twitter)
- And more: On a witty new TV show, American Jews lust after Israel — literally:Chanshi is a nice religious girl from Brooklyn with one not very Orthodox desire: to sleep her way through the IDF. The eponymous new series Chanshi follows her misadventures — at one point she walks down Jerusalem streets screaming for “tall dark Israeli men.” It’s hilarious, writes our Mira Fox in a review, and it’s also a smart look at the rough experience many American Jews have as they attempt to reconcile their idealized — and slightly fetishized — visions of the Holy Land with an often grimy, rude reality. Read her review ➤
That’s all for the week everyone! Enjoy the game tomorrow, and hey, let’s continue to be careful out there!