The Jew News Review – October 16, 2021 – Diamonds are Forever … and so are Bubkas!

Shabbat Shalom everyone! 

A couple of quick shout-outs: Big shalom to new members Karen Kane (Jack’s mom), and Reade Brower, an old UMass friend and fellow Bell’s Pizza delivery alum! Sandy and I are here in our nation’s capital helping to celebrate our dear friends Beth and Michael’s son’s wedding! Mazel Tov to Corey and Jocelyn! Lots of shnibsies and schmoozing on the docket tonight!

If there is a Jewish version of a whirling dervish, that is my brain this week from the landslide of news and events that flow at me faster than my brain can cope. But, baseball brings me back to a wonderful equilibrium, as the marathon that is the summer game’s regular season races down Heartbreak Hill to the exciting fall finish line. If you have been paying any kind of attention at all, or even if you are one of those millennials that think the game is too boring, you must agree that the playoffs have been one exciting ticket so far! Let’s hope these baseball diamonds are forever and the sport continues to entertain for the generations that follow. And for you Red Sox fans, let’s put last night’s tough loss behind us, and hope our team can overcome the big bats and bad juju of Houston and bring home the American League pennant!

I know you are all probably getting a bit squirmy wondering when I am going to get to the fun stuff and talk Jew news. So, squirm no more. Lots to choose from this week, and once again my friends at The Forward decided to skip the weekly summary and offered up some boring alternative, so, you get to suffer through another week of picks from yours truly. But, before I get to the list, the big issue of the week was one that kind of crept up on the Jewish establishment press: Sally Rooney and her decision not to publish her latest book in Hebrew.

For those not in the know, Sally Rooney is a young, Man Booker award nominee whose three novels documenting the unfulfilled and dissatisfied lives of millennial women have rocked the literary world. She is a brilliant debater and author, and I confess that I have not ready any of her works, so far. She just released her latest novel, “Beautiful World, Where are You” on September 7th, and quietly made the decision to not have her book translated in Hebrew as a sign of support for the BDS (Boycott, Divest,Sanctions) movement and the plight of the Palestinian people. “I simply do not feel it would be right for me under the present circumstances to accept a new contract with an Israeli company that does not publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the U.N.-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people,” her statement said. “If I can find a way to sell these rights that is compliant with the BDS movement’s institutional boycott guidelines, I will be very pleased and proud to do so.” 

Well, the response from the Jewish media was at first muted, but then picked up steam, and now has became hotter than a latke fried in Chile sauce and dipped in hot mustard. There are so many dimensions to the issue that I won’t go into detail here. But, even though I have previously voiced my opposition to the liberal knee-jerk reaction to Ben and Jerry’s decision to halt sales of their creamy concoctions in the West Bank (Occu-pied Cherritory), I am still contemplating my position on Sally Rooney’s decision. But, I usually come back to the idea that Israel is always treated differently in this matter than many other countries with much worse oppression and suppression of basic human rights than Israel. Will Ms Rooney not allow her book to be published in Arabic to protest the treatment of women in most muslim countries for example? And should we indeed hold Israel to a higher standard? All good questions. What do you think? 

Let’s move on to other issues and news of the Jews for the week:

  1. The death of McBagel: what does it all mean? When Covid hit and many commutes halted, the McBagel was one of more than 100 menu items the fast-food chain scrapped. And McDonald’s is not alone: Chick-fil-A also discontinued its bagels earlier this year. “Is the bagel no longer worthy of cultural appropriation? With the fast-food bagel in retreat, the Jewish breakfast is at a crossroads. Does it return to its hard-boiled immigrant roots or remain an empty vessel for crispy bacon and mysterious “breakfast sauce””? The author of this piece raises some serious questions about the bagel as a metaphor. For more, click here.
  2. What the new Hollywood Museum left on the cutting room floor – After years of delays, the $484 million Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened to grand fanfare, but the author of this piece was struck by what was left on the cutting room floor – especially because her great-grandfather helped run Fox Studio in the first half of the 20th century. She says the omissions reveal a historical amnesia regarding the antisemitism Hollywood Jews faced. The museum’s main exhibit does a good job of referencing the contributions of diverse peoples to the industry, but makes little mention of the Jewish pioneers that helped build the very foundations of the industry. If these moguls were alive today, they would probably react with “What are we, chopped liver?” Is this a gripe piece or big omission? You be the judge, and click here for more.
  3. The Sally Rooney boycott brouhaha is right out of a Sally Rooney novel – The writer of this piece, Taylor Zax, actually read the book, and had this to say, as well as other thoughtful analysis. ““Beautiful World, Where Are You” is an occasionally uneven but largely brilliant reflection on the question of whether, in a modern world defined by political and environmental peril, it’s possible to live a meaningful life. And the fuss over Rooney’s choice of where to let the book be published has somewhat masterfully illustrated one of its central points: That the way we have learned to exchange ideas about the world in this very online, very alarming modern world erases meaning, rather than creates it.”
  4. Speaking of Hebrew writing, this major league manager has it written all over his body – The latte-drinking, bodybuilding, overachieving manager of the San Francisco Giants and former Red Sox hero has a Star of David tattoo on one leg and a “Never Again” tattoo on the other. He defies the stereotype of Jewish people being unathletic, and of the Actually Athletic Jew. His office walls are adorned with pictures of Gandhi, Einstein, Ali and Lincoln. “He’s aggressively, almost goofily urbane,” Louis Keene says of the manager, Gabe Kapler. Want to read more? Click here.
  5. The great JNR Bubka challenge 2021 – There is nothing more satisfying then the moist, chewy, chocolatie baked Bubka right after it comes out of the oven. Babka was eternally memorialized in pop culture in a 1994 episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry and Elaine camp out at Royal Bakery  (based on real-life Royale Pastry Shop in NYC) to wait their turn to buy a babka to take to a dinner party. When they finally reach the head of the queue only to learn the bakery is flush out of chocolate babka, Jerry is convinced by the attendant to purchase a cinnamon variant, which Elaine deems a “lesser babka.” He valiantly defends its potential merits, noting “Cinnamon takes a back seat to no babka. People love cinnamon. It should be on tables at restaurants along with salt and pepper.” Ride on Jerry! So this year the JNR is sponsoring it’s first virtual event, The Great Big Bubka Bake-off. Just send me an example of one of your favorite bakes, and I will make the supreme sacrifice of trying each one and providing my honest and humbled feedback. 

That’s all I’ve got this week. Time to put on my tux and dancing shoes. Hope you all have a great week, and hey, let’s be careful out there!

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – October 9, 2021 – “What would your mother think?”

Shabbat shalom one and all. 

Earlier this week I sold my Facebook stock. I am a big believer in high tech, and have made a good living from it for almost 40 years. I also believe there is some goodness in social media platforms in their ability to enable and build connective community tissue and make the world a flatter place. But the morons running and ruining Facebook have been revealed as unethical, greedy, immoral and uncaring. After the revelations this week from the whistleblower testifying before a congressional committee that the platform knew about the harm their product was causing to teenage girls and others, but did nothing to stop it, well, that was the last straw for me. Unfortunately, I don’t think their behavior will change until someone from Facebook does a perp walk, and that won’t happen as long as they can hide behind Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Hence, a strong “Sell” recommendation from yours truly. What really gets my goat is the fact that both Zuck and his suck-up COO sidekick, Sheryl Sandberg, are both Jews. I don’t care how much Zuck donates to Jewish charities, his lack of a moral compass to guide the good ship Facebook is deplorable. When I worked at Arthur Andersen many moons ago, I was required to take an ethics in business course (talk about irony!) and I still recall one of the major take-aways from the course was a simple rule: when faced with an ethical or moral decision, be guided by the question: “What would your mother think?” 

Well, I know what my mother thinks about the Jew News Review (I don’t think she has sold her stock yet), and by now I am sure she is probably wondering “when the hell is he going to get to the news of the Jews this week”. But this week The Forward decided to dedicate their weekly to questions you may have about God. Some interesting stuff, but not that interesting. Besides, to steal a joke from Woody Allen, “not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on Sundays”. So mom, you are stuck once again with my own selections. 

  1. Baseball’s 12 greatest Jewish playoff moments – It’s playoff time for America’s favorite past time (Go Red Sox!). Of course, when we think of Jewish baseball heroics in October, we immediately (and understandably) think of Sandy Koufax. But while the “Left Arm of God” certainly ranks high on any list of incredible World Series performances, Koufax is hardly the only member of the tribe to make a memorable mark in the postseason. After all, Ken Holtzman (not Koufax) is the winningest Jewish pitcher of all time. But he wasn’t the first Jewish pitcher to appear in a World Series. That was … well, you’ll have to read the story > to find out.
  2. Yiddish in Guatemala? Oy! – A group of former Christians and descendants from the Central American Maya people have converted to Judaism – and are speaking Yiddish (potential JNR subscribers?). Jewish activists from Brooklyn discovered the community, known as Ohr Chadash and affiliated with the Hasidic Satmar sect, on the outskirts of Guatemala City while on a mission to save members of the radical Lev Tahor sect who were hiding out in that country. (Mishpacha)
  3. Rembrandt’s “The Great Jewish Bride” lands in a Montreal museum – Supposedly Rembrandt used his wife as the model for this masterpiece, now hanging in the Montreal Museum of Modern Art courtesy of the Brown family. Geesh, if this lovely lady is the best we can do, I am surprised the tribe has made it this far! Read more here.
  4. Raiders of the lost Crapper – A 2,700-year-old toilet from the days of the First Temple in Jerusalem has been discovered by Israel’s Antiquities Authority. Built as a private stall at a time when few could afford such a luxury, the toilet was unveiled to the public this week at an archaeology conference, though for viewing only. Read the story >
  5. On this week in history: “The Jazz Singer,” the first prominent “talkie” movie, premiered on Oct. 6, 1927. The film depicts the fictional story of Jakie Rabinowitz, a young man who defies the traditions of his devout family (his dad is a cantor) to become an entertainer. Underscoring the film’s tug of war between the secular and the divine, the premiere took place at Warner Bros.’ flagship theater in New York City on the evening of Yom Kippur.
  6. Ending with an A-hole – Fox News’ Tucker Carlson announced he has an hourlong special coming in December on how Jewish billionaire George Soros is “harming civilizations around the world.” The Hungarian-born Soros, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor, has long been a Carlson target: “If you’re wondering why so many people are being robbed, raped and killed in American cities right now,” he remarked on an episode last year, “George Soros is part of the reason for that.” Meanwhile, Tucker A-hole and is campaign of virus misinformation, is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands. I would honestly cold cock his stupid face if I ever met him in person. ” (Twitter)
Blind painter Rembrandt’s beautiful, blushing “The Great Jewish Bride”

That’s all I have this week. And hey, please remember to be careful out there.

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – October 2, 2021 – Not so good news and JNR Fat Bear leadership

Shabbat shalom everyone! What a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

The high holidays are now behind us, and the new Hebrew month, Cheshvan, represents a pause in the holiday calendar until Chanukah rolls around in late November. So consider this a time to get back to the normal routines of the week, be that work, school, caring for kids, or if you are like me, spending too much time listening to podcasts and news shows. 

And the news keeps on moving at a pace that is consistently overwhelming. My sister has committed herself to a newsless week given the sausage making going on right now in congress and the mainstream medias crack-like addiction to making headlines and money off the process. During all this legislative mayhem, the country reached a new and disturbing milestone: 700,000 deaths from Corona. That’s a lot of death. To put it in perspective, that staggering number exceeds the estimated deaths from the 1918 influenza pandemic and is greater than the number of Americans who were estimated to have died of cancer last year, one of the nation’s leading causes of death. It’s higher than the total number of American troops who have died in battle throughout the recent history of the country, and it is about the same as the population of the City of Boston. 

Each death is a unique tragedy and an irreparable loss. An analysis, tracking the extensive reach of COVID-19 loss of kin with a bereavement multiplier, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates that 6.3 million family members may be grieving the loss of a loved one due to the virus. We have probably all been touched directly or indirectly by this gruesome toll. Right now, for example, one of our elderly cousins is fighting for his life in the ICU at a local hospital. The really sad story here is that a lot of this was avoidable had our leaders united around this common enemy, instead of making it a political issue, as the Orange Turd and his partisan followers unfortunately did.

So, other than this gloomy bit of news, what are some of the more interesting stories in the Jewish world this last week, you may be asking? Well, The Forward did provide a weekly summary, but, its all focused on Lox! Now, if there were ever a food group worth writing 7 stories about, this would be one of them, and I have attached it for your reading pleasure. Most of them are repeats from prior issues, and knowing that you probably have read them all already, I decided to stick with selecting my own stories for the week. So, here you go:

  1. John Stewart is Back! I watched the first show the other night (Apple+ TV), and it was refreshing to see his now scruffy face back on TV. He was our guiding light through the Bush years, and we really could have used him to get through the Orange Turd years for sure. The show format is less comedic, focusing on one topic/issue and then bringing on experts to discuss. In this format, he may not be as funny, but he gets my kudos for being a mensch. 
  2. Porn sites and anti-semitism – After alot of personal research, I have concluded that most porn sites could do a better job of removing anti-semitic material from their site. No mom, not really. This is the conclusion of the nonprofit group, Fighting Online Antisemitism, or FOA, who have identified dozens of videos on major adult content sites, including xvideos and XNXX. Some feature actors dressed as Nazi officers acting out rape scenes of actresses portraying Jewish women. Videos featuring underage subjects or revenge porn are pulled off quickly, according to Tomer Aldubi, the founder of FOA. But when it comes to antisemitism about Jews, he said, “the porn giants seem to not want to address it.” Needless to say, I am not providing any links for further analysis. 
  3. Tony Soprano was Jewish! Just kidding. But there was a strong vein of Jewish characters throughout the Sopranos TV series, and given the prequel is out and the younger generations are now streaming the series, I thought the JNR team would find this one interesting. To read more, click here. And if you liked the Sopranos theme and rich portrayal of the personal and business conflicts facing a latter-day, all-Italian gang of New Jersey mobsters, then I strongly recommend the Australian black comedy/crime show (Amazon Prime), “Mr. Inbetween”, which features the personal conflicts of a criminal for hire. 
  4. Fighting for abortion rights Jewishly – The new law in Texas is disgraceful, and the Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene is scary. But it has motivated a lot of organizations to begin preparing for a fight, and this story is about one of those organizations, The National Council of Jewish Women. They have just launched 73Forward, a campaign to keep abortion legal, and help those who don’t have the means to travel and pay for an abortion in a place where it’s less restricted. (The campaign’s name refers to 1973, the year Roe was decided) “Taking away abortion access is a religious freedom issue,” said Shiela Katz, leader of the Council. “It’s directly connected to our text and it’s so critical right now that we don’t allow one particular faith perspective to dictate when life begins.” Click here for more on the story.
  5. Judah Benjamin: A Jewish slave owner and consigliere to Jefferson Davis – “Arguably the most important American Jew of the 19th century, he deserves our attention, but not our admiration.” It troubles me to think that a Jew could own slaves and support slavery given our history, and the author of this new biography on Judah Benjamin, James Traub, explores that troubling theme in great depth. For more on this book review from the WSJ, click here.
  6. “Titans of Tonnage”: Celebrating Fat Bear Week – Finally a national holiday to which I can directly relate! Forget about Hispanic History month, and be prepared to cast your vote for the plumpest of these hibernating creatures. Check out this link and cast your vote here. Apparently yours truly is on the leader board!
This bear has just started preparing for hibernation!

That’s all I have this week, probably more than you wanted. But hey, let’s not forget to be careful out there, and please feed the bears! (“Hey Mr. Ranger, sir, I did not steal that picnic basket!”)

Brad out. 

The weekly stories on Lox

The Jew News Review – September 25, 2021 – A Jewish chicken farm, matchmaker mom App, and a trip in the wayback machine

Shabbat shalom everyone! I hope you have been shaking your Lulav and Etrogs and having a swell Sukkot! And don’t forget to stock up your Sukkot with extra toilet paper as disrupted supply chains once again wreak havoc on some basics. And how many of you celebrated the little-known American Jewish holiday, National Fried Rice day last week?

Before I dive into the Jewish end of today’s story-pool, indulge me in a trip in the wayback machine. The date is September 2, 2004, and I was on a business trip staying at a very upgraded room on the top floor of the Hilton Hotel on 6th Ave, NYC. I was there on business, but coincidentally, the Republican National Convention was taking place that same week in Madison Square Garden where the delegates were scheduled to confirm the Bush-Cheney ticket. Turns out that Dick Cheney was staying on my floor, which explained the crazy amount of security present in the hallway. Walking into the normally sparsely occupied executive lounge for breakfast, I am greeted by an overflow crowd and nowhere to sit for my morning coffee and buffet breakfast. Seeing my plight, a few kind folks at a crowded table of about 6 invite me to take an empty chair, and me being the friendly type, accept their kind offer. Normally the Hilton TV’s are set to CNN, but that week, for obvious reasons they were all tuned to Fox News. Pleasant conversations ensue, and I discover my new breakfast friends are delegates representing various states at the convention. “Am I a Republican?” one of them politely asks. They seem harmless, and although I was not a huge fan of John Kerry, that year’s Democrat choice, I am ready to engage, so I tell them no, I am a Dem. The response blew me away: “You know that Teresa Heinz (Kerry’s wife and heir to the Ketchup fortune) is a terrorist and financed the terrorist organization that launched 9/11?” Ok, had I been staying near a convention for the National Lunatic Association, maybe that comment would not have been so alarming, but these were delegates to the Republican National Convention!

The point of this story from the wayback machine is this: there has always been a fringe group of whack jobs in the Republican party, but until the orange turd, they were always on the fringe, not running the show. So, when the fringe is allowed to become the mainstream, we end up in a country where as Heather Cox Richardson so aptly put it, “leaders of the Republican Party have embraced authoritarianism, and their once-grand party—the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party that saved the United States in the 1860s, the party that removed racial enslavement from our fundamental law—has become an existential threat to our nation.” 

Given the latest news revealing the orange turd’s plans and intentions to perform a coup, I can’t fathom why they haven’t yet arrested the A-hole for sedition and treason, but, let’s change swim lanes and talk Jew News. This week, The Forward is once again, NOT providing the usual weekly roundup of Jew news in the form of a tidy pdf. Hence, for another week, you will be subjected to my own selections, with links to read more if you like. Enjoy.

  1. Tucker Carlson is worse than an A-hole – The Anti Defamation League (ADL) has renewed its call for Fox News to fire Tucker Carlson after Carlson again promoted the racist “great replacement” theory and embraced other white-nationalist talking points this week. “To use his platform as a megaphone to spread the toxic, antisemitic, and xenophobic ‘great replacement theory’ is a repugnant and dangerous abuse of his platform,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. Tucker is not just an A-hole, he is an angry, raw, stinking cyst on an A-hole that needs to be lanced. Click this for more
  2. Playing the “Mom Matchmaker” card – Having trouble finding your bashert? Tapping into a longstanding Jewish tradition, this new Jewish dating site, JustKibbitz, puts parents in charge. They can make accounts for adult kids and, through digital gift cards, even pay for the dates at places like Starbucks, AMC theaters and Chili’s. Baby back ribs and your mom? Who said romance was dead. Better than mom cat-fishing for you? Click this for more
  3. Israeli Government Coalition: Holding strong at 100 days – The good news is that so far, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has managed to keep the coalition together. But, lurking in the shadows, former PM Benjamin Nutjobyahoo is scheming for a comeback. Will Ganz take the bait of the PM position and swing his way? Time will tell, but my Israeli friends remain encouraged at a period of normalcy and less lying. Sound familiar? Click this for more
  4. Iron Dome funding debacle – A part of me admires AOC for her youth, strong opinions and her appeal as a role model to the younger generations. But she really pulled a knuckle-headed move last week by leading 8 of her progressive friends to force leadership to pull $1B in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system from the latest stop-gap funding bill snaking its way through congress. With Bibi gone and a new more moderate coalition in place (one that includes support of the Arab-Israeli party), the move was dumb and was replaced immediately with a separate measure that got overwhelming bi-partisan support, which is not easy to do these days. AOC changed her vote on the later bill from “No” to “Present”, and wept on the House floor. Please spare us the crocodile tears AOC and Click this for more.
  5. Spending Sukkoth at A Queer Jewish Chicken Farm – There aren’t many headlines I get to write, or that I have seen, that include the words “queer”, “Jewish”, and “chicken farm” all in one headline. So, I felt compelled to include this story about a group that set up a farming cooperative called “Linke Fligl” (yiddish for left wing) nestled at the base of the Taconic Mountain Range outside Millerton, New York that purports to create a “land-based” Jewish observance through Adamah. “What we’re hoping to do,” said Ollie Schwartz, a co-director on the farm, “is give people one version of what it means to live Jewishly in connection to the land.” In a normal, non-pandemic year, the farm plays host to visitors and volunteers all year long. Queer college students host retreats on its premises. Local neighbors show up for garden work days followed by text learning. For years, the farm has hosted one of its biggest events on Sukkot, when dozens of guests come to camp and celebrate for several nights. Last year, of course, that didn’t happen. But now, the crew at Linke Fligl is ready to (cautiously) party. So there you go, a queer Jewish chicken farm. For more, Click here

That’s all I have for this week. So, remember to be careful out there!

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – September 18, 2021 – Sukkah Hopping and Democracy as a Service (DaaS) California Style

Shabbat shalom my fellow atoners and a big happy, healthy new year to all! And a shout out to a new JNR subscriber, Robin Winston, a dear cousin on the Berman side. 

This week we celebrate another important Jewish holiday, Sukkot, but before I get to that, a quick riff on the election results in California. 

Twice as many voters (about 7 million) voted “No” on the question of removing Governor Newsom from office. Over $400M of the Golden State taxpayer money was spent to indulge a small minority of Republicans who, knowing they are and always will be a small minority, took advantage of California’s liberal recall rules and found a Trumpian judge that helped ease the way for them to gather enough signatures to put this wasteful attempt to grab power on the ballot. Newsom’s main competition was from a black whack job radio host who actually stated that slave owners could get reparations for their losses when their “property” was taken from them. I think “none of the above” would have made a stronger candidate, but sadly, that’s the state of the Republican party these days. Being a Mass resident, I have no dog directly in this fight, but crigie, WTF! This is just another example of the desperate attempts being made by Republicans all over the country to hold onto the levers of power instead of winning at the ballot box with ideas and policies supported by voters. We can only hope the state changes the rules to avoid further attempts at instituting DaaS, Democracy as a Service!

Now, about Sukkot. Yesterday I was discussing the holiday with friend and JNR subscriber, Smadar Gekow. I told her I was surprised that Sukkot was considered such an important holiday in Israel when my own experience growing up was thinking it was mostly about building huts and waving silly symbols in honor of the fall harvest. Well, Smadar schooled me a bit, and also motivated me to run to wikipedia for more of an explanation. And I learned that I got it part right in that it has both agricultural and religious roots. The former is like I thought, a celebration of the harvest where farmers and field workers built huts (sukkah) in the fields for protection during the harvest. The more religious part relates to the commemoration of the Exodus and the dependence of the people on the word of God. The holiday lasts for 7 days in Israel (eight in the Diaspora) and we still wave the etrog and lulav each day in celebration. 

It may not be as spiritually meaningful as shofar blowing, or apple-in-honey dipping, but for Jews in the Diaspora, and notably here in Sharon, MA, sukkah-hopping is one of the most widely anticipated activities of this time of year! So, still early in it’s construction, here is the best sukkah I have visited so far.

Best Sukkah evuh!

Enjoy the holiday everyone! 

This week, because of the high holidays, The Forward did not publish a weekly recap, but did include a collection of holiday recipes, which I include here for all of you as well. It did not include my own recipe for Philly Cheese steak, which I am preparing today for the ballgame. Go Red Sox!

That’s all for the week, and hey, i know you are probably sick of this Covid shit, but don’t let your guard down and be careful out there.

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – September 11, 2021 – We will never forget

Shabbat shalom! Shana tovah, and chag sameach!

This morning, as I did my usual tour of our backyard gardens, I looked up into an amazing blue and cloudless September sky and couldn’t help reflect on the eery resemblance it had to the sky on the exact same day 20 years ago, that started in such a beautiful way, but ended in such tragic horror. I recall the popular phrase at the time, “We will never forget” what happened on 9/11. Etched in our psyches, it was a national trauma that left most of us wondering how anyone, how any people, could hate us so much. And I think about my cousin, Robin Kaplan, a then 33 year old beautiful human being, on her way to California on American Flight 11, to help TJX set up a new store in the San Francisco area. She had recently spent a month in the hospital battling Crohn’s/colitis, but was working again and feeling better, and was also recently engaged to a fellow TJX employee. Her dreams, her aspirations, her life, were all incinerated as her plane became a missile in the arsenal of terrorism that struck our country that day and ruined so many lives and forever changed America. RIP Robin. 

We are also in the midst of the Jewish high holidays, with Yom Kippur just around the corner. The days between Rosh and Yom Kippur are considered the “Days of Awe” and are meant to provide enough time for repentance in order to clean the slate of your soul and start the new year Jewish guilt-free, if that is at all possible. After researching several talmudic scholars on the topic, I have developed my own short cut process on the whole repentance thing: Say “I am sorry” three times to yourself for all your shortcomings and off you go. My research indicated that asking for forgiveness 3 times gets you off the hook, even if the subject of those transgressions does not officially accept your apology. So there you go, repent now, and you can thank me later.

Now, what about the news of the Jews you may be asking? Well, due to the high holidays, there is no pdf version to share with you all, but I will provide a link to a few interesting stories and news items for the week. By far, the biggest story capturing Israel this week, and one which I heard a lot about from my Israeli friends, is the stunning escape by 6 hard core Palestinian terrorist from a maximum security prison! Yikes! So, without any further ajieu, here you go:

  1. The greatest holocaust film ever made – It debuted on 9/11/2001, so largely went unnoticed. The film, “The Grey Zone”, stars Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel and others, and is not your typical Hollywood style holocaust film. Roger Ebert called it one of the best films of the year, and Steven Spielberg considered distributing it himself, less than a decade after making “Schindler’s List.” “The Grey Zone” is about the moral and philosophical conundrums faced by the Sonderkommando: the Jews in the death camps who worked to dispose of the victims’ bodies in exchange for slightly better treatment from the Nazis. Pretty heavy stuff. You can read more about it here Click here to read the story
  2. Josh Mandel is an A-hole – While we may sometimes think of ourselves as the “chosen people”, there are plenty of fellow hebrews that punch gaping holes in that unfortunate theory (think Steven Miller, for one). And now add Josh Mandel, a Jewish Republican candidate running for Senate in Ohio, to the list of those dishonoring the faith. Mandel is among the latest in a lengthening list of public figures, including Republican lawmakers, who have compared vaccine mandates and other public health regulations to the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. Holocaust scholars are united in categorically opposing such statements, explaining that there’s no comparison between public health measures that save lives and the genocide of six million Jews. Duh. What an a-hole. Click here to read more, but trust me, you don’t need to. 
  3. Afghanistan’s last Jew: a follow up story – Mentioned on Bill Mahar’s show yesterday, this is an update from the JNR a few weeks ago. If you recall, there was concern over what would happen if the Taliban regained control of Kabul, where he lived in the only remaining synagogue. Well, Zebulon Simantov has left Afghanistan, and is headed for the US of A. Word is he rebuffed pleas from philanthropists to leave earlier in an effort to hold out for money to do so. A shrewd, and whacky man indeed. 
  4. Jewish population on the rise! The stats are a bit confusing, but according to this Jewish agency, the number of those “identifying as Jewish” went up about 100,000, Max not yet included. So, the total worldwide now stands at 15.2 million, of which approximately 6.9 million live in Israel and about 6 million live in the US. France has the world’s third largest Jewish community with 446,000 people, according to the report, followed by Canada at 393,000 and the United Kingdom with 292,000. Next largest population? Ukraine! but the numbers don’t jive. Read more here.
  5. Oops!!! How the hell did six Palestinian terrorists escape from a maximum security Israeli prison??!!  Six men, belonging to two separate prison cells, were found to have escaped. Inside one of the cells, the guards discovered a hole that led to a crawl space under the floor tiles. Through the crawl space, the prisoners appear to have moved under the building, which is considered one of Israel’s best-guarded penitentiaries. They hammered their way above ground once they were outside the prison perimeter, according to Ynet. As of this writing, they are still at large. This will be a movie some day, but let’s hope they catch the bastards soon so the movie doesn’t have a tragic ending. Read more here

Thats all for the week. And hey, please be careful out there, this covid variant shit is real. 

Brad out. 

The Jew News Review – September 4, 2021 – The Slippery Slopes of Texas

Shabbat shalom!

While I have been enjoying my family for the week in Martha’s Vineyard (summary: Max is adorable, Nox is the best dog in the world, and my kids made great spouse decisions), the awful and ugly truth about elections having consequences reared it’s Supremely non-judicial head in the form of a late night “shadow” decision made possible by justices appointed by the orange turd. To wit, in a 5-4 decision, our Supreme A-hole justices decided to let stand a flagrant violation of precedent that essentially, at least temporarily, annihilates a women’s control over her own body and makes it virtually impossible to get an abortion in the never great state of Texas. As far as I know, there are no mountains in Texas (other than the state’s collective ego), but this is one extremely slippery slope that could lead to every other conservative state “slip-sliding away” into a legal rights-denying abyss and handing over control of our rights to vigilantes. 

So, I would normally be teeing up a bunch of stories related to Rosh Hashanah and yom Kippur, and including a few vacation pictures, but that will have to wait. Instead, I am imploring you all to read yesterday’s offering from Heather Cox Richardson, linked here for your convenience Link to Heather Cox Richardson. There is no weekly update from The Forward this week, so you will need to get through the day without my smarmy commentary. 

And now, off to the kayak. But hey, please be careful out there!

Brad out

The Jew News Review – August 28, 2021 – A Witch, a Drummer and a Survivor

Shabbat shalom everyone! 

A few reminders: This is the first edition of the JNR enabled by the Substack platform. Hopefully you have received this in a nicely formatted email and you are reading it while donning your JNR t-shirt and enjoying your coffee in a JNR mug. Also, The Forward’s Shabbat reader is not published this week, so you will have to suffer through some of my own selections. Next week the JNR staff will be publishing from our Martha’s Vineyard location and we will return to a full version, courtesy of The Forward.

Shout out this week to our younger generation, but more specifically, my nieces and nephews who are always smart and entertaining, and continue to provide me with some hope for our country and planet, which is rapidly descending into a pit of despair and dark politics.

My niece Carrie was perusing my old Bar Mitzvah photo album and offered up this gem I share with you at the risk of much embarrassment. That’s my dear old dad standing next to me, providing some editorial advice while I advance my torah studies and build the solid jewish foundation the JNR rests upon. 

But enough about me, let’s get to the good stuff!

  1. The wicked witch of the west is Jewish! Ok, I am pretty sure Frank Baum, who wrote the Wizard of Oz, was not an anti-semite, and no, Margaret Hamilton, who played the wicked witch in the original movie, was not Jewish. But, if you go to Broadway to see the latest version of Wicked, that witch is played by a very Jewish young woman, Talia Suskauer. The story of the Broadway musical “Wicked” is rife with Jewish resonance. Unlike the hook-nosed villain of “The Wizard of Oz,” the witch in “Wicked” begins the musical as a likable outsider. But she’s mocked and rejected for her green skin throughout her youth and scapegoated for societal chaos as an adult. This month, “Wicked” became the first tour of a Broadway show to resume performance, and its star, Talia Suskauer, is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. Read the interview
  2. Another one bites the dust – Legendary drummer and the rock of the Rolling Stones, Charlie Watts, passed away this week and will be remembered for his amazing talent and driving rhythms behind so many classic Stones songs. Of course, The Forward found the many Jewish connections in Watts life, which you can read about here, but here are a few I liked the best: When he first started out, he played with a so-so band that did alot of Bar-mitzvah’s and jewish weddings. Said Charlie on those gigs, “I never knew what the hell was going on, as I’m not Jewish.” And of course, he was know as a snazzy dresser. The Daily Telegraph and Vanity Fair named him one of the World’s Best Dressed Men, who favored classic, traditional suits (although not while drumming). In an interview, Watts gave credit to his father for taking young Charlie to his tailor. “In those days you’d have a little Jewish guy in the East End in London, who made you things,” said Watts. Read more here
  3. Shiva call: Inge Ginsberg – What an interesting lady! A holocaust survivor who helped spies and eventually became a heavy metal musician, died last week at the ripe old age of 99. The New York Times summed up her eclectic existence like this: “Her rich life, spanning three continents and 11 decades, entailed wartime espionage, volumes of poetry, songwriting and a late-career turn as a rock band’s frontwoman.” In recent years, she appeared on “Switzerland’s Got Talent” and in a documentary called “Death Metal Grandma,” which you can watch here. “We have no doubt whatsoever that she died because of boredom, loneliness and depression,” said Pedro da Silva, a friend and bandmate.

That’s all for this week. And hey, get your booster, and be safe out there!

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – No longer Maskless Week 1 – Afghanistan, butt lifts, and rubber ducks

Shabbat shalom!
This morning, as they say, is the calm before the storm, as New England prepares for the first hurricane to hit the area in 30 years. So New Englanders, if you haven’t been battered enough lately by all the shitty news, add hurricane to your list of worries, and try and sneak in a round of golf, or some other outdoor activity, before the winds and rain commence to ruin the rest of our weekend. 
Before I get to the usual JNR rant, a quick shout out to Gary G for a quick recovery from surgery and a “Hoo-ah” to my sister Phyllis for her loving presence this week, a short but fun visit with some great Max time and a trip down memory lane. Secondly, a few administrative updates for everyone:

  1. Substack Platform –  Going forward, (starting next week) I am moving all of you to Substack, which is a popular writers platform designed to easily organize and manage a newsletter or blog. You will still receive an email from me, (specifically from, “Brad Goverman from The Jew News Review”) only the formatting may be a little better than the usual email. You will still be able to respond and I will receive your email responses just as always, the only caveat is that you won’t be able to “respond all”, but you will be able to post comments and share across a number of social platforms, if you so desire.
  2. The Forward is on vacation – Starting this week and next week, Jodi is on vacation, hence, there will be no weekly editions of The Forward to provide the usual platform for my smarmy commentary. I will however, try and pick out a few stories to highlight that may or may not support my rants of the week. 

Not to belabor the weather metaphor, but this has been a particularly stormy week for the country. Most of us are old enough to remember the images from Saigon of helicopters falling off of ships, and the mad scramble of humanity to board helicopters on the roof of the US Embassy in order to get the hell out of Vietnam before the Viet Kong took over. Unfortunately, Uncle Joe will now have the image of Afghans clinging to American planes as an enduring image of his presidency. My prayers and sympathies go out to all the families of soldiers that gave their lives or limbs to this failed effort, and to the Afghani people, especially the women, who are surely going to be the target of serious abuse from a brutal regime with a history of treating women as chattel. There has been a serious piling on of criticism that this should never have happened, that we should have been better prepared for the evacuation, that our intelligence was bogus, blah blah blah. My take: Both the end result and the ensuing chaos was inevitable. From what I have read, the only viable shot we had at making any kind of lasting change in this “graveyard of empires” was in 2001/2002, after we cleared the country of al Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban asked to negotiate a settlement for them to take part in forming a government.  Then president George W. Bush basically told them to F off, and that, in my opinion, was the beginning of the end. But, most likely, any attempt to nation-build in a country that only values family and clan would likely have failed. What a sad, and horrible waste of life and treasure. 
Three other stories I want to highlight this week are far less tragic and hopefully offer up a bit of levity in an otherwise brutal week of news.

  1. Zebulun Simantov: The last Jew in Afghanistan – This is a real whacky story about, literally, the last Jew in Afghanistan.  People are worried about his whereabouts as the last time the Taliban were in control, they threw him in jail, tried to convert him, and treated him as an infidel. He normally resides in Kabul’s only synagogue, but apparently he has gone into hiding, and according to several journalists that have had some sort of contact with him, he wants to stay, or wants to be seriously compensated with money and alcohol if he leaves. This is a strange dude, apparently a carpet dealer and former restaurant owner who grew up in Herat, and for decades has refused to grant his wife, who with his daughter moved to Israel in 1998, a divorce. Simantov had a famously bad relationship with Kabul’s other remaining Jew, Ishaq Levin, until Levin died in 2005. The two lived at opposite ends of the synagogue, and would only exchange curses. When the Taliban took over the first time, each of them went to the Taliban and accused the other of criminal behavior. According to one account, the two argued so much in prison that the Taliban released them both! Netflix needs to make a series about this guy! Read more here via this link.
  2. Butt lifts in Brazil – Brazil is known for revealing bikinis which led, of course, to the well known pubic haircut required for wearing said bikinis. Butt, did you know Brazil is also know for it’s butt lifts? In case you are worried about how your new thong sets off your posterior view, worry no more. This New York Times story explains the recent phenomenon that started with a doctor in Brazil, but slowly migrated north and eventually was made more popular by Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez and others. Although technically, nothing is being “lifted”, the procedure (not covered by insurance) involves moving fat from flanks and tummy and lower back to the derriere. Or as one happy recipient put it, “It’s like moving money from your checking to savings account”. The BBL, as it is now commonly referred, goes for about $15,000, but don’t go running to the local chop shop as there are serious medical risks involved and apparently the mortality rates for this form of vanity are very robust!  Despite my hormone treatments, I may skip this trend and just stay away from my thongs until my butt is ready for public display.Stay tuned for more photos!
  3. Rubber Duckie, you’re so swell! – Finally, my good news of the week comes from Maine. A 25 foot high rubber duck with the word “Joy” printed on its chest appeared suddenly, and without attribution, floating in Belfast Harbor. It has since become quite the tourist attraction and has indeed brought some joy to the locals. 

That’s all for now folks. And hey, now more than ever, keep up the vigilance, keep on the masks, and let’s be careful out there!
Brad out.

The Jew News Review – Not Quite Maskless Week 14 – Red Alert on Blue Planet

Shabbat shalom everyone!

On this hot and humid morning, I can’t help but think about my grandson. Not because I haven’t seen him in over a week (hint, hint) but, despite my “No Negative Energy” commitment, I can’t help but think about his future on our beautiful, but over-carbonized planet Earth.  I am not a climate alarmist, but the “code red for humanity” warning just issued by the UN’s IPCC on the dire state of our planet’s ability to continue absorbing carbon emissions was the cherry on top of a pretty shitty news week. That news, combined with the report of July being the hottest month in the history of the planet, and the book I just completed (Under a White Sky) about humans making mistakes on trying to correct environmental mistakes made by humans, got me thinking too much about the grim climate situation, and what it might mean to Max and his grand children. However dire the predictions, I am a believer that technology, market forces, and our genetic wiring to survive and evolve will drive a solution, or multiple solutions to our current carbon catastrophe.  So, just try and be chill over this climate crap, and try to keep all your emissions to net-zero, please. 

And what about Cuomo? What a shit-head. This is a guy with three daughters, who of course he invoked in a lame non-apology apology, and one of his daughters, Michela, was/is very active in the #MeToo movement. Apparently, at Brown, she was a sexual assault peer educator! And there is an image of her online showing her with “STILL NOT ASKING 4 IT” written in black marker on her upper chest, a declaration that women’s clothing choices are never an invitation for unwanted advances! You really can’t make this shit up.  
On the good news front, I am finishing up my radiation therapy treatments on Monday (yeah technology!) and my sister Phyllis will be in for a visit this week as well. So, much to look forward to, including this week’s review of the news for Jews, courtesy of The Forward. So, without further ajieu, here you go:

  1. 5 Things Jews can do to help stop climate change – I kid you not, there is a Jewish spin on climate change. And of course, The Forward is on top of it. And no, it’s not about reducing CO2 emissions from more efficient shofar blowing, or using matzo dust particles dropped into the stratosphere to absorb sunlight. Suggestions such as taking it seriously, sermonizing about it at Shul, eating faux meat, and other cockamamie ideas are offered up by this wise Jewish climate sage.
  2. Jewish wisdom and Cuomo – WTF? This is actually a decent piece on how shitty his apology really was, and what he might have actually done to make it real. As the book of Proverbs puts it, “When arrogance appears, disgrace follows; wisdom is with those who are unassuming”. 
  3. Who is the “most-watched Jew in television history”? Ah, I have often pondered that precise question. And now I have an answer! This was my favorite story of the week. The answer is, Don Francisco, host of Univision’s “Sabado Gigante” which signed off after 53 years broadcasting – a Guinness World Record. His real name is Mario Luis Kreutzberger Blumenfeld, originally a German Jew whose family fled to Chile after Kristallnacht. This is an interview with him that originally appeared in Forbes. Fun read and great George Bush anecdote. 
  4. Disney star Raviv Ullman wants to be your rabbi – Who the hell is Raviv Ullman? I never heard of him or the show he starred in, but kudos to him for carrying on his Judaism via hosting Shabbat dinners at college and now via his podcast that tries to bring Torah to life. 
  5. Shabbat sermons a casualty of the pandemic? So, another silver lining to the pandemic? Apparently Orthodox rabbis have gotten the hint that less is more when it comes to sermons. God bless them! They should remind themselves that the average attention span of an American Jew is about as long as a tweet. 
  6. Holy Land theme park being replaced by a medical building – Just down the street from “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” museum in the Orlando area, this kitschy theme park was originally built by a Jew who converted to Christianity and became a Baptist minister. However, not surprisingly, the theme park has not done so well, and was recently sold to a Seventh-Day Adventist health system for $32 million. Reverend Marvin Rosenthal, raised Jewish in Philadelphia, sought to use the museum to educate Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, and to proselytize Jews to abandon their faith. The latter goal clearly not a good business model.
  7. Yiddish theater and rock and roll! The Fillmore East, long known as “The Church of Rock and Roll”, celebrated the 50th year of its closing in 2021. However, before it became known for launching famous rock groups, it began life as the Commodore Theater, a mixed use 2,200 seat entertainment complex for movies, vaudeville, and Jewish night school. Built by Jewish entertainment entrepreneurs, Elias Meyer and Louis Schneider, the architect was known for building oriental and Deco styled theaters. With the rise of talking pictures and the fall of live entertainment, the Commodore became a mecca for local talent, including many yiddish speaking performers. Yawn.
  8. California gives $15M to a synagogue – The money will be used to restore this historic synagogue in east LA, and hopefully spur collaboration among the Jewish, Latino and other minority communities in the Boyle Heights section of the city. Good to see some of the historic budget surplus in California going to a Jewish cause. This Shul used to be the largest west of Chicago, and this 18,000 square foot Byzantine revival structure with a Jewish star above its main entrance is a remnant of a bygone time when Eastern European Jewish immigrants populated the area alongside Latino, Japanese, and Black working-class neighbors. 

That’s all for the week! And hey, let’s not forget Delta madness, so mask up out there, and be safe!
Brad out.