The Jew News Review – February 25, 2023 – “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”

Shabbat shalom everyone! 

It used to be that talking about the weather was a safe bet for small talk, but lately it seems to be making headlines more often than not. A blizzard in Los Angeles? Snow in the desert? Weird, right? Check out these pictures from California:

Weather weirdness was hardly the only abnormality highlighting this last week. You may recall in last weeks JNR the report of two separate instances of Jews being shot on their way to or from synagogues in California. Like a bad version of groundhog day, I report every week in this blog on acts of anti-semitism which are unfortunately rising at an unprecedented rate here in the USA and around the world. We get used to it, our reactive senses numbed to the harsh reality that people hate us, for no particular reason other than being a Jew. So, it was not shocking to me that a hodge podge of fringe groups decided to hold a “National Day of Hate” today, on shabbat, to harass Jews at synagogues around the country. Who the hell signs up for attendance at a celebration of hate? WTF! More on this later, but when Sandy raised the topic the other day, she was suggesting we do something about it: Go to our synagogue as a sign of support, or attend a “love” rally in opposition. But should we? Or by doing so, do we lend more oxygen to the flame of hatred and provide them more media attention than they are worth? Is the juice worth the squeeze?

It’s a legitimate question, and one that puts me in the wayback machine to 1977, when as a political reporter for the UMass Daily Collegian, I wrote what I thought was an exposé  on the US Labor Party, a radical fringe group led by Lyndon Lerouche that believed Rockefeller, the banks, and the Trilateral Commission were running the world. The full page piece was edited severely and ended up focusing on their challenging Mass PIRG to a debate on energy policy. The next day I received an enormous amount of hate mail from liberal groups questioning my judgment and the editorial decision to promote the group in any way. It was the “any publicity is good publicity” mode of thinking and I had fallen into the trap of my byline being more important than the good of the commonwealth. In a sense, it was an early warning sign of cancel culture, but it raised an important and legitimate question on handling fringe groups. Hence, my answer to Sandy’s question about what to do in response to the “National Day of Hate” was, at least this time, to just blog about it, and avoid giving it any more oxygen with the mainstream media, lest we normalize this shit any further. Keep it on the fringe, but also, be cautious. And curiously, the main stream media has not covered it much at all. 

I nearly got cancelled after crafting this article in 1977.

Keeping with the abnormal theme, and onto something a bit lighter and distracting from the latest culture war nonsense or World War III news: What is all the fuss about this Cocaine Bear movie? Is this possibly the decade’s answer to Snakes on a Plane? I admit I got a good laugh at the official trailer which you can watch below. Would I pay money to see it? Is the juice worth the squeeze? It probably won’t make any Academy Award nominations, but could be fun!

Now, what about all the news for Jews around the world and across the Jew S of A? Inquiring minds want to know more, so without any further ajew, here is your carefully curated smorgasbord of offerings this week, from The Forward, Kveller, Jewish Boston, JTA, Times of Israel, and other Jewy journals. Enjoy!

  1. Jewish communities brace as white supremacists plan ‘Day of Hate’ this Shabbat: Police departments in New York, Chicago, Denver and other cities across the United States warned local synagogues that extremist groups are calling on supporters to harass Jews with antisemitic banners, flyers and graffiti on Saturday. The Anti-Defamation League said it has been hearing online chatter about the event for a few weeks. An NYPD spokesperson said that “out of an abundance of caution, the department will deploy additional resources to sensitive locations, including houses of worship.” Read the story ➤
  2. Cocaine Bear has roots in a Bat Mitzvah – The dark comedy loosely based on a true story is the talk of Hollywood! And did you know that its leading guy is Jewish? By this point, the film’s title might only be unknown to those who have been hibernating: “Cocaine Bear,” a black comedy very loosely based on a true story from 1985, is the talk of the town in Hollywood and beyond leading up to its theatrical debut on Friday. One of the movie’s stars, Alden Ehrenreich, was discovered by Steven Spielberg at a friend’s bat mitzvah. Ehrenreich, now 33, made a scrappy home movie that he and other friends showed at the bat mitzvah ceremony in 2009. Spielberg was in attendance at the Los Angeles synagogue and afterwards invited Ehrenreich, who is Jewish, to meet with fellow directing legend Francis Ford Coppola. Ehrenreich would then get his first acting credit in a Coppola drama called “Tetro.”
  3. “No schticks or tricks” Perspectives on Israel’s proposed judicial overhaul – Israelis should recall the infamous “schticks and tricks” words from Bibi Nut-and-yahoo when he promised Benny Gantz that when Gantz joined his coalition he would rotate his leadership to him half way through the term. Of course it was a lie, and now Israelis are expected to trust Bibi and his radical coalition that the changes they are proposing to reshape the balance of power are good for the country. While most agree some reforms would be beneficial, a majority of Israelis and diaspora Jewish organizations oppose the extreme nature of the proposed changes. The issue continues to grip the nation and has the potential to rip the country apart. Here are links to two interesting pieces on the pros and cons of the proposed legislation Bibi is ramming through the Knesset.
    1. Two Jews on the News – Two guests, two perspectives – Yonit and Jonathan talk to two Israelis with sharply conflicting views of the current state of their country. Legal activist Yonatan Green is a staunch advocate of the judicial overhaul – while New Yorker writer Ruth Margalit has profiled the hard right nationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who she calls the Minister of Chaos. Click here.
    2. Why are liberal Israelis so terrified of Bibi’s judicial reforms? An opinion piece from Amichai Cohen laying out the dangers inherent in the proposed legislation. Amichai Cohen is a senior fellow of the Israel Democracy Institute and a member of the law faculty of Ono Academic College.
  4. 🇮🇱  Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday that the government’s push to overhaul the judiciary put the country weeks away from becoming a “de facto dictatorship,” and that citizens may need to disobey what he called “an illegitimate regime.” Meanwhile, a middle school teacher in a Tel Aviv suburb was fired for “incitement” after leading a class discussion about the government’s planned judicial overhauls. (Times of IsraelHaaretz)
  5. ‘I had to form a minyan’ | Broadway’s Jews gather to grapple with neo-Nazi incident: After antisemitic protesters harassed theatergoers attending Parade, a musical about the lynching of Leo Frank, about 50 Jews who work in New York theater met up for what they compared to “Jewish AA.” They shared their fears and ideas for increasing security, and floated ideas for counterprotests, educational initiatives and an industry group focused on fighting antisemitism. “If you listen to the room, it is an energized hum, and it’s not a funeral-like dirge,” said Ari Axelrod, the actor who organized the gathering. Read the story ➤
  6. On culture: Walter Mosley talks about his latest book — and his Jewish mother:The themes in Mosley’s 60 books often reflect his experience as a Black man in America. But Mosley is also a Jewish man whose mother had a profound influence on the complicated stories he tells about love and loyalty, race and power, wealth and capitalism. In a wide-ranging conversation with our Beth Harpaz, Mosley talked about racism, antisemitism, and his Uncle Chaim. Read the story ➤
  7. National Banana Bread day – This last week we celebrated National Banana Bread day. Ever wonder what to do with those over-ripe bananas? Just ask my brother-in-law Daniel, or as we lovingly refer to him as, Banana-Dan. National Banana Bread Day celebrates a perfect pairing of fruit plus bread. Admit it, few things are quite as comforting as walking into the house and smelling a freshly baked loaf of banana bread. It’s certainly a dessert staple in Dan and Ruth’s house, one in which they generously share with the rest of the Sharon clan. And we still use the recipe my Mom gave to us many moons ago! The best things in life deserve an entire day devoted to celebrating their existence!

Let’s end on that sweet note. And by the way Dan, we could use a new loaf! And let’s be careful out there everyone!

Brad out.

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