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.

The Jew News Review – Not Quite Maskless Week 13 – Nerdfest on the Vineyard

Shabbat shalom!  What a beautiful weekend!

The Forward editorial staff are engaged in an off-site management meeting this week planning the future of the publication. Hence, sadly, there is no week-in-review roundup of the news regarding Jews this week. But, the staff of the Jew News Review are ever diligent and have made the supreme sacrifice on behalf of the membership to have our own management offsite on the lovely Island of Martha’s Vineyard.  Unfortunately, Obama’s birthday bash was reduced to just the A list, and despite our JNR Press credentials, we didn’t make the cut.  The good news is that our room at the Charlotte Inn in Edgartown was upgraded, due to Jay-Z and Beyoncé cancelling their attendance.   So every cloud has a sliver lining, I guess.  Our room came with a private garden/patio, pictured below. 

We are primarily on the Island to attend the bi-annual book festival, an absolute nerd-must attend event that primarily takes place at tents set up in Chilmark, the up-island zip code for many celebs and wannabes. Last night, by virtue of my JNR Press credentials, we were invited to attend a special session regarding the future of Journalism, introduced  by the editor of the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette, and featuring well-known and Pulitzer Prize nominated journalists. Let me summarize my impressions of the discussion and the future of journalism thusly: we are fu_ked! My take: Fox News and Big Tech algorithms are now responsible for the current existential threat to our democracy. If you don’t believe me, read any of the books from the authors on the panel: Jelani Cobb, Cecilia Kang and Andrew Marantz, or read this article from a recent issue of Mother Jones  The insights on Facebook and the other Big Tech Titans that dominate our social media and account for most of the misinformation spewing on these channels was scary. And as long as the mostly juvenile men that own and manage these unregulated monopoly platforms hide behind Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, they will continue their “growth at any cost” strategy and continue to imperil our democracy. 
Today is a beach day, heading out to the sandbars and walking trails of Wasque reservation on Chappaquiddick. Life is tov, despite the dark times of COVID and right wing fear mongering. 

Stay safe everyone. Let’s be more than careful out there. 
Brad out. 

The Jew News Review – Not Quite Maskless Week 12 – Get a shot for f_ck sake!

Shabbat Shalom. And apologies for the expletive, but I have a rant I need to get off my pounding chest.

What kind of  bullshit twisted thinking leads so many of our fellow citizens to think getting a jab in their arm in order to save themselves, friends and family members from insufferable pain and potential death, is some kind of imposition on their personal liberties? Please explain to me the logic of the 40%, yes I am not exaggerating, 40% of hospital staff/employees who are supposedly caring human beings, deciding not to take a vaccine that prevents a virus that could be deadly to their patients or themselves? Please explain to me why, (based on polling and statistical modeling conducted recently by The Economist), the greatest predictor of whether an American has been vaccinated is whether they voted for Joe Biden or Donald Trump last November?  The polling and model shows that Biden supporters were 18 % points more likely to get a jab.  When are the leaders of this country, yes you Uncle Joe, and the rest of the blithering morons in Washington posing as leaders, going to start getting a backbone and instituting mandatory vaccinations and some kind of Vax Passport program? Or should we just continue to sit by while the right wing a-holes push their anti-vax propaganda and lies. It’s time we smartened up and got a little tougher on the jackasses that think their right to be a moron is more important than the health and economy of our country. If these “freedom lovers” want to continue to conflate an absence of oppression with an absence of responsibility, throw the fuckers in jail! Just like we would If they decided to not pay their taxes, or if they dodged a draft to an unpopular war! I have no patience any more for this nonsensical thinking, and just sitting by while the country continues a fall into Delta depravity and masking madness. Apologies if I have offended anyone here, but please, if you haven’t already, save yourselves, your loved ones, and our economy, and get a goddamn shot. 

On a more positive vibe, the olympics continues to provide us all with a respite from the daily barrage of Covid bullshit.  Katie Ledecky is a swimming machine, and is clearly one of my new heroes, but the big story, which so far The Forward has completely missed, is Alix Klineman, a 6’5” Jewish Olympic beach volleyball superstar!  I know they tend to grow them bigger and blonder in California, but jeesh, what Jewish Olympic-sized gene pool did her parents swim in? But even bigger than Alix, (but not quite as tall), is my other new Olympic hero, 40 year old Women’s basketball superstar, Sue Bird (no relation to Larry), now competing in her fifth Olympics. The women’s basketball team has not lost a game since 1992, and has been led by Bird since she was the WNBA’s No.1 draft pick in 1998. Go USA! 
Now, on to the news of the Jews, everyone’s favorite weekly summary of Jewish news and culture, courtesy once again of The Forward. This week features a hodge-podge of topics: baseball, faux pets, Jackie Mason, Jewish mothers, and other fun stuff! So here you go:

  1. Build it, and they will come, and they did! Israel’s own Field of Dreams story, features an Israeli olympic pitcher and the interesting back story of how his parents came to Israel, helped launch a kibbutz, and led the building of Israel’s first baseball field in 1983. They had to convince the Kibbutz elders that replacing cotton and corn with a diamond would be a good thing for kids. Good thing they were convincing! Unfortunately, the Israel team got whipped by the Americans, 8-1 in yesterday’s Olympic games. The Israelis need to win their next game,  or face medal elimination, leaving me in a quandary about who to root for. 
  2. Jackie Mason and his impact on the world of Jewish humor – Mason passed away this week, but left a significant impact on Jewish comedy. While most of his peers eschewed emphasizing their Jewishness in their comedy, Mason embraced it. A former Rabbi, Mason’s views on younger, more assimilated Jews began to color his routines later in his career but he was never quite able to bridge the generations, staying mostly popular with his own generation. “Why does a Jew have a boat? The Jew takes you to the waterfront, shows you his boat, then says “let’s get something to eat.”
  3. A Ben and Jerry’s franchisee pushes back – Last week I mentioned my own opinion that we should support the decision by Unilever to pull their ice cream from West Bank shelves. This New York franchisee is protesting that decision, and donating 10% of profits to State of Israel education causes. Publicity stunt? Or is he just a knee-jerk schmuck? You decide.
  4. Hollywood Jews weigh in on “My unorthodox Life” – For those not in the know, this is a relatively new Netflix show depicting the life and family of a woman who left her Orthodox community to eventually run a top modeling agency. Apparently the show is generating some noise and loud objections from some in the community. Does the show unfairly represent the Orthodox? Beats the hell out of me.  I have always felt its cool to be a jew, but I do wonder what the latest fascination seems to be with the Orthodox given the plethora of shows featuring them lately.
  5. Faux pets helping holocaust survivors? Yes, cheaper and cleaner than the real thing, these pretend pets retail for around $130 and come in both cat and dog models. But a non profit is providing them free to holocaust survivors, many of whom live on meager fixed incomes and could not afford the real thing. Too bad, because there is no robot or AI toy that could possibly replace my Nox and the absolute joy and tongue licking I get whenever he greets me. 
  6. Who was baseball’s first Orthodox player? The debate rages on in this battle over who was the first. If you guessed Sandy Koufax, you are way wrong. No, the right answer is Morrie Arnovich, who played in the Majors from 1936 – 1942, ending his short career to go fight the Nazis of course. Morrie, who played left field for the Cincinnati Reds, not only refused to play on the high holidays, but also refused to play on Shabbat! Some really cool backstory elements here regarding the city of Superior Wisconsin and the Hammonds, but I loved the reference to a classic historical matchup that occurred during the 1940 World Series which pitted the Reds against the Detroit Tigers in the backdrop of the Holocaust and WWII. Arnovich had just sat out a couple of games in observance of Yom Kippur, but in the next world series game,  the other great Jewish baseball hero, Hank Greenberg, stepped up and belted a ball that Arnovich chased down in left field. Arnovich and the Reds went on to win the World Series. I am sure if Greenberg were a more observant Jew, the series might have ended differently. 
  7. University of Wisconsin apologizes, but is it enough? Go to classes or go to shul? That is the dilemma facing the approximate 4,000 Jewish students attending U-Wisconsin, as administrators and teachers neglected to incorporate the high holidays into the school calendar, starting classed this year smack dab on Rosh Hashanah. My biggest take-away here is how come so many Jews are going to Wisconsin? Do they have something there I don’t know about? Perhaps a world champion shofar player?
  8. Two Jewish moms take their advice column to the podcast world – An interview with the Forward’s own Bintel Brief ladies. While I sometimes read the Bintel Brief’s, and have cited a few of their columns in prior reports, I was not interested enough in these two to slog through this rather long interview. Take my advice, skip this one. 
  9. A Jewish millennial becoming a Civil War historian – Hmmmm. Not sure about this one. Kid is either a whack job, or some kind of history savant. He does suffer from Aspergers but his passion for Civil War history is genuine and if you know of a nice Jewish girl or guy seeking his or her bashert, keep Nils Skudra in mind. Or not. 

And so ends this week’s JNR. Next week, The Forward will not be publishing the weekly, so the JNR staff may take advantage of the break and have a little off-site planning session on Marthas Vineyard. But until then, let’s be sure to stay safe in this Delta ridden land.

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – Maskless Week 11 – Occu-Pied Cherritory

Shabbat Shalom everyone!
Shout out this morning to my brother-in-law David, continuing his recovery from neck surgery to relieve his perpetual pain in the neck. Once the drugs wear off, may the scotch pour anew.
My sleep-deprived brain is spinning with so much going on, I honestly don’t know where to start. Olympics, Ben & Jerry’s, Delta variant, fires, floods, spyware, Ron DeSantis, Ted Lasso, Oy. My head hurts already. Fortunately, the JNR editorial staff is here to boil it all down for you and expose the naked truth amidst the chaos clothed in the news of the week. 
But let’s begin with Bob Dylan. America’s greatest songwriter turned 80 years young this year, and took a slight pivot on his Never Ending Tour by offering a $25 live streamed concert, which turned out not to be so live, but rather a well choreographed music video. Well, the Jew from Hibbing, Minnesota still can transcend like the best of them, and this faux concert was actually pretty good! I wouldn’t pay $25 for it, but you can get it for free on Youtube. May he always stay, “Forever Young.”

Now let’s jump into the Ben & Jerry’s controversy. Much ado about nothing would be my summary here. Maybe a distraction from a real issue, the Israeli spyware being used for illegal purposes by governments across the globe. But for those of you not following this item, the makers of Cherry Garcia decided to pull the plug on sales of their creamy concoctions in the occupied West Bank. There is some squirrelly language in the policy added at the last minute by their corporate owner, Unilever, that suggests some alternative arrangements, but that doesn’t matter. The liberal Jewish press has latched onto this as another example of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) run amok. I say bullshit. First of all, this is not a total boycott of sales in all of Israel, just the West Bank.  Furthermore, I think we should be supportive of the B&J position as it is a reminder to the right wing Israeli leadership to reverse the destructive path it has taken in recent decades toward de facto annexation of the West Bank and destruction of the possibility of a two-state solution. The American Jewish Committee, (full disclosure, I am a former Board member of the Boston Chapter) and otherJewish organizations need to re-assess their positions if they are truly supportive of a two-state solution. So, buy and binge your favorite flavors, (Yasso Arafudge?) guilt free while you watch Season 2 of Ted Lasso, now playing on Apple + TV. 
I tried like hell to stay awake for the Olympic parade of nations last night, but fell asleep before team USA made it to the stadium. I was on and off the fence a few times wondering if they should have just cancelled or postponed the event in order to have live audience and a truer experience, but even though my slumber got the best of me, I saw enough to stoke the excitement and renew my interests in this magical event. And I even enjoyed the uniquely Japanese opening ceremonies, although I am a bit perplexed about what was going on half the time. And I am now rooting for the Bangladesh team, after learning that they have never won a single medal in the history of their participation since 1984. And I was especially stoked by the IOC’s decision, finally, to honor the Israeli’s killed in the 1972 Munich games. The families of the 11 athletes and coaches murdered by Palestinian terrorists had pressured the IOC for many years to do something, and they finally did.  Enjoy the games!
Now, on with the News of the Jews, courtesy of The Forward:

  1. The Forward coverage of Hitler’s 1936 Olympics – The Forward picks up on the Olympic theme with this piece looking back at how they covered Hitler’s games promoting the Aryan race. As you may have surmised, there was scant coverage by the Forward, with a focus instead on a competing sporting event taking place in NYC, The World Labor Athletic Carnival, sponsored by the Jewish Labor Committee. The IOC, although pressured to move the games to Rome, chose to capitulate to Hitler instead, risking the normalization of the Nazi regime, and spawning protests and boycotts from Jewish organizations around the globe.
  2. Ben & Jerry’s testing American anti-BDS laws – Believe it or not, several states, most of them red, have passed laws that attempt to penalize companies that refuse to do business with Israel. Silly stuff actually, as they have little to no impact and have been shot down in courts. Wait till they figure out Unilever also owns Hellman’s mayonnaise!
  3. What was lost in the B&J meltdown – I am glad The Forward included this piece looking closer at the prevailing attitudes about the West Bank Settlements in Israel. The majority of Israelis now support continued settlements, despite them still being illegal under international law. The argument on the Israeli right is not about whether or not, but how far they should go. Should be interesting to see how the new government, even further to the right of Nuttenyahoo, plays with the new coalition and American Jews,  25% of whom believe Israel is promoting apartheid policies with regard to the Palestinians. Oh what a tangled web they weave. 
  4. A Rabbi reflects on his years playing baseball for the Israeli Tel Aviv Lightning and the hope he sees for Israel in their Olympic baseball team – The team is bound by their ties to Israel, Judaism, and “uniquely poised to expand the definition of hope in an increasingly diverse Israel society”. An interesting factoid: the word “southpaw” describing a lefty pitcher originated from the design of ballfields to align the pitcher facing west to avoid sunlight shining directly into the hitter’s eyes. If the pitcher is facing west, their arms are toward the southern side fo the field, hence the nickname “southpaw”. You learn something new every week with the JNR!
  5. Bob Dylan’s new music video overblown? You already know my feelings on this latest release from Bob Dylan. This critic was left disappointed overall, since he had high expectations and was expecting a live concert. I thought it was kind of cool how they made the venue look like a smoky jazz club. 
  6. Mayoral candidate, Stacey Prussman, wants to be “the Jewish mother of New York City? Serious candidate? A stand-up comedienne for the last 20 years, Prussman wants a shot at helping New Yorkers feel good again. Running on the Libertarian ticket, Prussman thinks there needs to be more vegan delis in New York and is not a big fan of the BDS movement. And she wants to fight anti-semitism by teaching more high school students how to cook (“Food is love”). Vegan deli?
  7. Kurdish Jews gone but not forgotten – Levi Meir Clancy, a Los Angeles native, is trying to resurface the 27 centuries of Jewish history in this region of the world where all the Jews left under pressure from the government following the establishment of Israel. Clancy established a foundation to restore and preserve Jewish history, as well as establish a synagogue for Jewish visitors and ultimately pilgrims who may one day visit the region. 
  8. A Yiddish professor (and female orthodox rabbi!) shares Yiddish children’s literature with the world – Emory College professor, Miriam Udel, a self professed Hebrew school nerd and Harvard Divinity school graduate, teaches Yiddish and has published an anthology of Yiddish stories and poems for children, “Honey on the Page”. Interesting to me was the fact that early Yiddish literature was imbued with progressive political values and Udel is not shy about continuing the tradition in her selections (Labzik: The communist puppy, eg). I am sure there is a lot to learn in these Yiddish children’s tales, but Udel’s anthology may not make it onto my Grandson’s reading list this summer.

That’s all for now, maybe too much already, but hey, let’s not forget to be careful out there!
Brad out.

The Jew News Review – Maskless Week 10 – Billionaire Ego Trips

Shabbat Shalom!
Lots going on this weekend!  
But first, some sad news.  One of our JNR crew, Mildred “Millie” Berman passed away a few days ago from liver cancer.  Millie was our resident Yiddish expert, and all around wonderful human being.  Many use the Yiddish word “Mensch” do describe a “stand up guy”, but the word is more aptly described by a Yiddish scholar as “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being ‘a real mensch’ is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.” Putting a picture of Millie next to that definition would only begin to do her and her legacy justice. Many were touched by her acts of kindness and charity through her involvement with the Council on Aging, the Sharon Mens Club, Meals on Wheels and others.  Our thoughts and deepest sympathies to all her family and many, many friends. “Ha’makom yenahem etkhem betokh she’ar avelei Tziyonvi’Yerushalayim. May God console you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”.

On a happier note, I am pleased to welcome a few new members to the JNR tribe.  JNR policy, like the Jewish religion, does not believe in promotion or proselytizing. Hence, while new members are always welcome, we rely on word of mouth advertising to increase our readership even though the JNR is now available on multiple social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Substack and or course the JNR website).  So, a big welcome to a couple of new JNR members, Janet Frank, a long and dear friend of me mum’s, and Louann Carlan, David Hirsh’s significant other. 
We are also pleased and excited about getting together today with the Millstone crew, who will make the long journey from the North Shore to JNR headquarters in Sharon in order to have a visit with me mum, a kibbitz, some BBQ, and a few laughs. And joining us all the way from New York, we are excited to welcome my first cousin, Beth Lilac, for a long overdue visit. We hope the weather will hold!

Now, on with the show.
Billionaires and rocket ships. Does anyone really think that the Branson, Musk, Bezos space ride is an attempt to “democratize space travel’? Who are they kidding? Such bullshit. Literally billions of us saw the Branson show and out of those billions there are 600 on the waiting list to spend $250k for 3 minutes of weightlessness and a glimpse of the Karman Line?  Crigie! The money wasted on these vanity voyages could certainly be put to better use than wasting it on some billionaire space age ego trip. But, hold the fort. While the investor class has raised millions for these supposed “business ventures”, I am proposing we launch our own JNR rocket man venture. With the proceeds from our JNR swag sales, combined with a SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) I am currently establishing, we can launch our own rocket and bring the JNR weekly to the outer limits of space. How cool would it be to see a JNR mug sitting on the window portal of a sleek new rocket ship with the JNR logo proudly emblazoned on it’s hull? Stay tuned for further investor details.

Today marks the Jewish holiday Tisha B’av, a holiday I don’t much recall in my early Jewish education. It is a day of fasting, to reflect on the destruction of the two temples way back when.  So there’s that, but let’s put that aside for now and focus on other Jew News of the week, which I know is foremost in the minds of most. So here you go, courtesy of The Forward:

  1. Anne Frank revisited: Keeping the story alive – Ari Folman’s new film “Where is Anne Frank” premiered to acclaim at this year’s Cannes festival. Great idea to help keep the story alive for younger generations. Sounds like some weirdness interspersed with imaginative ways of capturing and engaging a younger audience. And Folman wraps a message around the film to honor the Holocaust memory by stopping deportations and not turning our backs on the millions of immigrants and refugees seeking to remain in wealthy European countries like Holland and Germany. 
  2. TikTok and Antisemitism – I am no fan of these cat video inducing social media platforms, but TikTok quickly took hold and is growing rapidly. They apparently have one of the best algorithms on the platforms. They recently featured a few Jewish creators, and low and behold, lot’s of antisemitic comments flourished. Shocking. The question posed by this piece is whether this is more than the normal level, or has the reporting of a 900% increase by the media overblown the issue? How are they counting? 
  3. Psychiatrist takes over this man’s life – now coming to a screen near you – And you thought Britney had it bad? Wait till you read this gem about a prominent psychiatrist that takes over the life and bank account of Martin Markowitz. Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd have made this story into a limited mini-series set to premier November 12 on Apple TV+. Looks like it could be interesting!
  4. Williamsburg’s first Hasidic Art Gallery – No, not that Williamsburg.  Meet the husband and wife team behind the hasidic communities first art gallery. Portraits of eminent rabbis, scenes of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, sculptures of men kissing their tefillin…..what could be more compelling to get you to visit this community just off Flushing Avenue in New York? 
  5. Angry professors make a statement about anti-Israel union – The professional staff union at CUNY passed a resolution last month condemning Israel. So, these professors decided to make their voices heard and resigned from the union. Good for them. I know Israel is not winning the hearts and minds of American Jews these days, but when a recent poll showed 25% of us American Jews believe Israel is running an Apartheid policy, there is much work to be done. 
  6. How to be sad on Tisah B’av – I just learned how to spell it, never mind figure out how to be sad during it. The halachic rules of the holiday are straightforward: don’t eat or drink, bathe or have sex, sit or sleep in comfortable positions, wear leather shoes or put on makeup or lotion. Little did i realize that except for the eating and drinking part, I was already following the rules! That really is sad.
  7. How to follow Team Israel at the Olympics – There is a social media page dedicated to following the Israeli athletes, aptly named Follow Team Israel. Great idea conceived of by an Australian transplant and a few other passionate followers. When asked about which Israeli athletes to watch in Tokyo, one of the founders, David Wiseman responded, “It’s like asking which of your kids is your favorite. The answer is all 89 of them.”
  8. A Colorado shul at 9,000 feet – A real rocky mountain high, they have dubbed themselves the “Shul with Altitude”. Cool story, makes me want to join up with the crew! There is also a deep history of Jews in Colorado, dating back to the early 1800’s miners and trappers that settled the area back then. Of course the Jews were not the miners and trappers, but the business folk in the mining camps and towns who also spearheaded the fight against tuberculosis with the founding of the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives in Denver in 1899, leading Golda Meir to the city as a teen when her sister fell ill with the disease. So there you go.

Finally, Delta variant be damned,  please be careful out there.
Brad out. 

The Jew News Review – Maskless Week 9 – Tummy Time

Shabbat shalom! I hope all you JNR peeps are having a great weekend! Shout out to my Mom, who arrived from Virginia for a visit, and had some great company for the long schlep in the Subaru. Thank you Marcia!
Today is about tummy time. And I don’t mean the ever expanding waistline kind of tummy (especially mine), due to any over-indulgence in those expensive chicken wings I mentioned last week.  No, I am talking about the tummy time of my incredibly talented grandson, Max, who will be winning gold this year at the tummy time Olympics. I know, this is a shameless show off which I promised I would try and avoid, but think of this as my Mulligan for this half of the year. Couldn’t resist. And also couldn’t resist sharing this photo of Max with his great grandmother, Carol. 

Max and Great Grandma Carol

Max is especially interested in this week’s JNR, and has been all squirmy in anticipation thereof. I am sure all of you are just as squirmy, so let’s get on with the show, courtesy of The  Forward:

  1. Team Israel an Olympic ticket for American Jews – We have highlighted a few of these stories in past issues of the JNR, The Israeli Baseball team, the weird and colorful Equestrian rider, and of course, myself and Michael Stone’s never-executed plan to sign up for the non-existent Israeli ski team. (I am still game Michael, as long as they have a “one run and done” event) All of these stories share a common thread, which is the focus of this piece, the need to become an Israeli citizen and the new connections that result from the experience. Good thing Israel’s Law of Return offers Jewish athletes and expedited path to dual citizenship!
  2. A New York Hasid and Ohio Christian farmer team up to feed the needy – If ever there were strange bed-fellows, this would be the iconic picture. They have done great things together since meeting at a culinary conference seven years ago: A kosher recipe book, fund raising for a Brooklyn soup kitchen and the Surfside families. 
  3. “There is no Kohen” for the Surfside Minyan – More and more sad stories emerging from this disaster, that has devastated this heavily Jewish Florida community.  This is another of those sad stories about a few of the families from this minyan group that are among the missing and presumed dead.
  4. The search for vaccines in Latin America leads to another diaspora – Desperate to get vaccinated and unable to do so in their home countries, many Latin and Central American Jews, and non-Jews, are finding create ways to game the system, jump the line, or do whatever necessary to protect themselves and their loved ones.
  5. University of Chicago Jewish student killed by stray bullet – I hate these stories. God awful. Poor kid is on a train doing his normal commute and a stray bullet enters through the window and hits him in the neck. Paralyzes him, puts him on a ventilator, and the courageous kid and his family decide to pull the plug and he dies hours later. A beautiful kid’s life cut short and a family is devastated. Sucks.
  6. Israeli banks turn you down for a loan? More and more are turning toward a non-profit finance group, the Ogen Group. Why is this relevant here in the good ole US of A? Beats me. But good for the Israelis.
  7. The tricky path to Torah ownership – I have been particularly keen on getting my own Torah for the JNR office, so this one caught my eye. But really it’s about a congregation in Nigeria who can’t afford to buy their own Torah. Apparently a new Torah these days costs upward of 30-60k$! that got me thinking, is there a secondary market for Torah’s in good shape? So I checked eBay and found a mini on sale for $19!! And of course Amazon had them with free delivery! (Prime members only)

That’s all for this week, and hey, it’s still a mad and crazy world, so let’s be careful out there!
Brad out. 

The Jew News Review – Maskless Week 8 – Feed your head with chicken wings

Shabbat shalom JNR community! And happy July 4th weekend! And a shout out to Beth and Michael Stone, whose daughter Samantha is getting married tomorrow in Chicago! We will miss you all!

This grey dreary morning, I begin with lyrics from Jefferson Airplane’s classic “White Rabbit” (from the 60’s, when music meant something)

“When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knight is talking backward
And the red queen, she’s off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head, feed your head”

Despite what you may think, the mushrooms in my omelette this morning were not of the psilocybin variety. The song popped into my head after literally chasing rabbits out of my garden. The furry little bastards were making a meal of our vertical phlox! Shortly after my Elmer Fudd-like pursuit of these garden munching wabbits, I heard the news that Bill Cosby, the world’s most notorious sexual predator, had been freed by the courts on a technicality. Holy shit, what the F is going on in this country when a confessed sexual predator is allowed to roam free while Brittany Spears is confined as a ward of the state and demented father! Logic, at least in this matter, has clearly “fallen sloppy dead”. 

So, in order to try and return my world order back to some semblance of sanity, I ran to Costco. Feeling somewhat guilty that I have not planned our usual display of fireworks to celebrate our nations birth, I elected to assuage that guilt with the purchase of some traditional garlic seasoned Costco chicken wings. Nothing better symbolizes and celebrates the birth of a nation than a finger food platform for blue cheese and other fine condiments. Somewhat shocking to me was the price I had to pay for those patriotic pleasures, apparently the result of supply chain issues impacting the entire chicken wing industry!  Who could have predicted that chicken wings would become the new toilet paper in this post-pandemic time! The JNR investigative reporting team has determined that the shortage is the result of a combination of bad weather, higher demand, and labor shortages.  But, fear not people, supply is slowly returning, and eventually, logic and the world order will return to normal. But until then, remember what the dormouse said, feed your head –  with lots of high priced chicken wings.

Now, onto the news of the Jews, which I know is top of mind for most of you. Lots of coverage of the Surfside tragedy, and some other interesting tidbits, which are summarized thusly:

  1. Surfside Tragedy coverage – There are 3 stories about this horrible disaster in this week’s edition.  The reason for the coverage is that the building is/was located within a fairly vibrant Jewish Community. I can’t imagine what the families are going through as it’s kind of a mini-9/11, only the cause appears to be negligence vs terrorism. One story is about a Rabbi who used to live in the building, and is now helping the families to grieve and heal. Another is an opinion piece likening the tragedy to the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in 1911 that saw 148 people perish within 18 minutes due to structural flaws and lack of responsive emergency personnel. The writer raises questions why there is no outrage and mandate for regulatory change. Lastly, there is a short blurb from a kosher market in Surfside, somewhat a waste of space, but provides some insights about the growth of Jews (app 5,000) and latinos in the area and the kosher markets and restaurants that support them. 
  2. The Jews of Japan – Why am I picturing kimonos with Jewish stars and Samurai mohels? But this is a pretty cool story about a small and somewhat remote Jewish community in this intensely homogeneous land.  While the community, located near this year’s Olympic village  was originally composed of mostly Russian Jews, the demographic has shifted to mostly Jewish men (many expats and Israelis) that have married Japanese women.  Many of the women convert to Judaism since there is no inherent conflict with Buddhism, unlike Christianity. 
  3. What to do about a boyfriend who admires someone that is anti-semitic? Dump the a-hole? It’s a bit more nuanced, as this “Dear Bintel” letter writer tries to grapple with her long term black boyfriend who has been getting active in a Black Lives Matter chapter with a leader that promotes anti-semitic opinions. Where should she draw the line? If you care, read all about it and Bintel’s response/recommendation.
  4. LGBT Synagogues confronting a changing landscape – To wrap up Pride month, this article explores the history of LGBT synagogues and gives a sense of the tremendous progress the Reform and Conservative movements have made in acceptance and integrating the community. Gay members in those synagogues look more toward advocacy vs acceptance, but the Orthodox still have a ways to go. While they have not yet sanctioned marriage equality, some at least are open to performing “commitment ceremonies”. 
  5. A Jewish comic’s golf stunt gets attention — from the Feds – Jake Adams thought his idea to hit a golf ball at a park in every state was a good idea, until….Now it’s going to cost him $5,000 and up to six months in jail! And i thought my golf game needed a redo!
  6. Andrew Young, civil rights icon: A reflection on his relationship with the Jewish community – A nice look back by the son of an activist rabbi, (who claims his Dad was the most arrested and jailed rabbi during the civil rights movement) at Andy Young’s close ties and relationship to Jews. He is partly one himself (his maternal great grandmother married a Polish Jew) and Young’s father was a dentist and one of his patients was none other than Louis Armstrong, who wore a Star of David necklace as a tribute to the Jewish family that bought him his first cornet. This anecdote and others make for an interesting read. 
  7. Can Shabbat be #selfcare? Are there ways to use Shabbat to unplug, be more mindful, and make it the centerpiece of Jewish self care? Lord only knows. As long as it includes the ritual reading of the Jew News Review, I am a big believer in promoting such self care. So read on, and feel better about yourself.

All for now folks, and I shouldn’t need to remind you, be careful out there. 
Brad out.

The Jew News Review – Maskless Week 7 – Rock and Roll baby!

Shabbat Shalom!
And how about those Canadians, eh? The last time the Habs made the Stanley Cup finals: 1993. Can’t believe I will be cheering for one of the teams I love to hate.

No politics today as I am trying to stay positive and deal with a bit of a wine head, an unfortunate side effect from a lovely evening with a few favorite Bermans. 

L’dor v’dor and Bruce Springsteen. That’s what I am thinking about this morning, as I just listened to the Killers new cut of “Dustland Fairytale” which features Bruce singing along with the Killers lead, Brandon Flowers. Ok, I have tormented my nieces and nephews on more than one occasion about the state of music, in particular the millennials infatuation with hip hop and my lack of enthusiasm for that particular genre. It’s not that I don’t like hip hop, but I don’t think it has any staying power. Name a classic hip hop song that you might hear playing 50 years from now….see what i mean? Now back to Bruce. Yes I grew up listening to him, and yes, I am a classic rock and roll kind of guy. It’s part of my DNA, much like my enlarged prostate. But JNR peeps, I am sorry to report that rock and roll is dying a slow death and that void is being filled by mostly hollow commercial pop and too much country western crap. Anyone who watches The Voice or American Idol these days can see the trend clearly. What does Bruce have to do with this lame lament? I look to the Boss, as Brandon Flowers has, to continue to be a major influence on young bands around the world, anxious to plug their Gibson or Stratocaster into their garage amp and rip a riff that will “melt your face off” as Jack Black so eloquently described in the great movie, “School of Rock”. So tee up a few cuts for your Spotify playlists from The Killers, or Foo Fighters, or White Stripes, and do your bit to save rock and roll. 

Now, on with the news for the Jews this last week, courtesy of The Forward. Lot’s of interesting stuff including Israeli baseball, a requiem for the backyard minyan, a retrospective on PRIDE in The Forward archives, and more: So let’s get to it, shall we?

  1. Israel’s Baseball Olympic hopefuls – There may be no joy in Mudville, but there are happy baseball fans in Israel ready to cheer on their boys of summer with lots of mazel to help them win gold in Tokyo. The core of the team is comprised of retired Americans (Ian Kinsler, eg) but the big story of the team is how they have come together and developed great team chemistry despite the pandemic. Team mascot: Mensch on the Bench. Down the road, maybe the team will develop more local talent, but for now just “enjoy a couple of sabras garnishing a roster of yankees, led by a head coach, Eric Holtz, who had his Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall.”
  2. Jewish summer camps and how they are dealing with the topic of Israel: It’s complicated – Many young Jewish kids form a strong bond with Israel from their summer camp programs.  With the ongoing dilemma of the Palestinian question creeping more and more into social media platforms, the camps have tried to develop a more nuanced approach. Camp alumni have been causing a stir at some, and the younger ones are asking increasingly tougher questions.  The oldest Zionist camp in the US, Young Judea in New Hampshire, (my sister Phyllis worked there one summer long ago) hopes to use the current issue and elections to launch educational sessions on the topics. Whatever happened to archery and volleyball? Can you weave a Jewish star out of gimp?
  3. We’re here, we’re queer, we’re Yiddish! Yes, you read that right. The Forward this week recognizes PRIDE month with this interesting look back in the Forward archives at how LGBTQ was reported or not. Some good stuff here from the wayback machine provides some context on the progress we have made in the last 30 years or so. But, one of the gems here is the story of Helen Hull Jacobs, world champion tennis star and 10 time grand slam title winner. There should be a movie in the works based on her life. She later became a Navy Commander in WWII, but is more well known for defying the sexist Wimbledon rules requiring women to wear sanctioned tennis skirts on the court by donning a pair of mens short pants!
  4. A requiem for the backyard minyan? What’s a requiem anyway? During the pandemic, synagogues were closed, so many of the more religious Jews scrambled to find 10 men to fulfill the requirement for conducting services where else –  in their backyards. While some may have been challenged to hear the prayers over the neighbor’s leaf blower, others found new ways of connecting and observing. We Jews can be especially creative when it comes to observance! I wonder if any of my neighbors would volunteer to be the shamash goy?
  5. A fuller history of Alderney, a Nazi concentration camp on British soil – Seven miles off the coast of France, this British land is one of the Channel Islands occupied by the Germans from 1940-45.  Evidence has recently been uncovered from Russian archives confirming the awful presence of a Jewish concentration camp where thousands died in slavery, building the fortifications on the island that the Nazis used to pound the beaches of Normandy. Holocaust researcher Marcus Roberts has given the story legs, and it is now getting much attention in the British press. 
  6. A mother writes about her sons that never call – Let this be a lesson to you boys out there. Read this story and then call your mother!
  7. Vaxxed, waxed, and ready to go? – Will the relief of protective vaccinations give rise to an era of debauchery? Slide left or slide right, whatever floats your boat, but apparently there is a lot of sliding going on out there. But, are we ready to be social again? Or, as my sister said a few days ago, do we need to re-learn social skills after so long a social drought? Apparently Israel is in full single-mingle swingle, so my guess is we are not too far behind them. I know I am ready to Rock and Roll!

That’s all for now people. And hey, even if you are ready to party like Charlie Sheehan, please be careful out there!
Brad out.