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 https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/07/american-anger-polarization-fox-news/ 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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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. https://pdfhost.io/v/RTjujFWBa_ForwardYourWeekendReads073021.pdf
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:
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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:
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!
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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?
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!
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?
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.
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!
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!
Shabbat shalom! And happy Juneteenth! And happy Fathers Day! First, Sandra and I wish to thank you all for your kind expressions of sympathy. As the Rabbi said to me recently, life quickly pulls you back into the ebbs and flows of daily routines, and hence, I sit here in our lovely back yard, moving on from the sad events of last week by ginning up another edition of the Jew News Review. Life is Tov, and it’s good to be back in the saddle. Life can also throw you curve balls, and this week, The Forward hurled one at me in the form of a glitch on their website that prevents me from downloading this weeks pdf version of the weekly edition. I will, however, provide a link to their website where you can drill down deeper into this week’s stories, as I am sure you are all deeply committed to do. What a week. While Uncle Joe was gallivanting about the world stage, playing footsie with Putin, the Delta Covid-19 variant spiked new virus concerns abroad, and raised concerns it could end up here as well. The Republican party continues its spiraling descent into depravity and lunacy, with a new poll showing 65% of them think that Biden’s win was solely the result of election fraud, and 29% have indicated they will never accept Biden as their President. Makes me want to puke. But, what you may ask, of the news for Jews this week? Well, one story I will not revisit is Marjorie Taylor Wackjobs visit to the Holocaust Museum. Thankfully she apologized for comparing Capital Hill mask wearing rules to the Holocaust, but this nut job needs to disappear. And, now, on with the show we go:
Juneteenth and the analogies to The Exodus – It was Juneteenth, and not the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, that marked the end of slavery in this country, and will now be recognized as a Federal holiday. The story draws the obvious parallels to The Exodus. Kind of a meh story, as clearly the more interesting story around Juneteenth was the effort by a 96 year old black woman, Opal Lee, who lobbied for several years to make it happen. When she was 89 she walked from Texas to Washington DC to raise money and awareness around establishing the holiday. But for her, this new Federal holiday would not be.
Geek on the run: A Black Jewish Ivy Leaguer trying to make the Olympics – Raised by a mixed race Jewish couple in Illinois, this former Brown student and avid comic book fan is running 93 miles a week in an attempt to make it to Tokyo for the Steeple Chase event. I am always impressed by the many ways Jews find to excel in our culture and society, and this story about Jordan Gershon Mann offers another such example.
Using God to get laid – You read that right. This Dear Bintel letter is from a guy who once lied about his belief in God in order to have a reverential evening with a young lady. Don’t get me wrong, who hasn’t spun a tale or two in order to schmooze their way into the hearts, minds and private parts of a potential mate? For example, I recollect with a self-satisfied smile the time I asked a Jewish college friend to check out my Torah etchings in my dorm room. Sound familiar? As for this letter writing schmuck, why he is feeling guilty about it after so many years, one can only guess. But there is a reason if you care to read about it.
Jews in Ballet – Again, you read that right. Another epic entry in the “did you know Jews did that?” book, this time on the role Jews played throughout the history of this boring dance/art. Ok, other than the obvious Guglielmo Ebreo (William the Jew, who eventually converted to Christianity), name a few other Jewish Ballet dancers. Coming up short? Follow Beatrice Waterhouse’s Jewish Ballet blog if you want to learn about more of them.
Kosher Ham? – Again, you read that right. Your really can’t make this stuff up. Paul Finkelman of Albany, NY was shopping at his local Price Chopper and ran across the Kosher symbol clearly labelled on some processed ham offering. He started sharing the picture with some friends, it went viral, and then the OU authorities reached out to him and admitted it was a mistake. The company pulled the items from the shelf. So, for those of you keeping kosher, don’t go using that non-kosher ham in your ham and cheese sandwich!
Shabbat Shalom. Yesterday we buried my father-in-law, Bernard “Sonny” Hirsh. He died unexpectedly Monday evening at the age of 89. He was eulogized beautifully by his three sons, Daniel, David and Stephen, and by his two grandchildren, Michael and Adam. We will miss him dearly. It is very sad to lose him, but we are grateful for the wonderful years we had with him, and will always cherish the memories of a life well lived surrounded by an adoring family and many friends. Everyone loved Sonny and if you ever met him you would know why. He was always charming, especially with the ladies, and he had a great positive vibe about him that was never dampened by the many medical issues he dealt with over the last decade or so. We had a great relationship, and he helped fill a “Dad” hole left by my own father’s passing over 20 years ago. I never tired of his stories about his past even though I probably heard the same ones a few times over. And I was always happy to drive him to hospitals and doctors appointments, as I was sure to get a few more pearls out of him. So, Sonny, we will keep your spot on the couch reserved for you during Patriots games, but I know your soul is running “north” to join your beloved Norma. Brad out.
Shabbat Shalom! Last Monday we honored those that have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedom, liberty, democracy and way of life. Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated in the years following the civil war and became a federal holiday in 1868. For me, I will always connect it with World War II, when the greatest generation landed on the beaches of Normandy and saved the world from Nazi authoritarian rule. Over eighty percent of those brave souls that landed on those hallowed beaches were cut down and killed by German gunfire. I just can’t even wrap my head around what that must have been like for those young, courageous boys, may they rest in peace. And try not to throw up when you juxtapose that enduring image of courage under fire against the spineless and shameful attempts by a certain party to overthrow the very same democracy those young heroes fought for, with their cowardly efforts to enact voter restriction and other laws to preserve their shrinking minority power. They truly suck, but let’s move on, no negative energy.
On this sunny and beautiful Saturday morning, for some unknown reason I am spinning Little Feat’s “Time Loves a Hero” album on the turntable. The first cut on the B side is “Old Folks Boogie”, and the chorus lyrics are:
And you know that you’re over the hill, When your mind makes a promise that your body can’t fill. Doin’ the old folks boogie, And boogie we will‘Cause to us the thought’s as good as a thrill
Now I am sure they were referring to really old farts, because the sporting world is chock full of very recent examples of the old folks boogieing their way to victory: Phil Mickelson (age 50) wins the PGA, Tom Brady (age 43) wins the Super Bowl, and Helio Castoneves (age 46) wins the Indy 500, and now Serena Williams (age 39) is taking the French Open by storm. The old folks still got it, and they are kicking the young one’s butts, teaching them a lesson. So, sorry Little Feat, “the second greatest generation” ain’t quite over the hill yet. Now, what about the news of the Jews? Are we finally rid of Netanyahu? I used to like the guy. I admired his toughness, his mastery of English and ability to reach out and connect with American Jews. But his deadly decisions and continued descent into authoritarian rule have gone on long enough. Most of the secular Jews in Israel want him gone. And the new coalition seems to have achieved just that! But wait, do not underestimate the cunning of this man and his wanton lust for holding onto power. He may yet pull a rabbit out of his yarmulka and start the Israeli version of The Big Lie. But, let’s move onto the news, courtesy of The Forward:
Inventor of the cell phone? A jew of course – The father of the cell phone, Martin Cooper, completed a book about the invention that has connected the globe and zombified teenagers throughout the world. The book will soon be premiered as a movie, which of course, you can stream to your phone. Just don’t drive while you do! This is a neat interview with the 92 year old inventor, who’s still as sharp as a ginsu knife and doin’ the old folks boogie! The most surprising thing to him about the way we use cell phones today? “People don’t use the cell phone for talking anymore”.
Conservative Jews and ethics: A gut check needed? The article takes the Conservative movement to task for the way they handle ethical issues of rabbis. My view on ethical questions and decisions is very simple. When you are faced with a moral or ethical dilemma, ask yourself this very simple question: “Would your mother approve?” If more people followed that simple rule, the world would be a much better place for Jews and Gentiles alike.
How a non-Zionist child deals with a Zionist dad – Can’t say this has been much of an issue in my household, but, I can see where the politics on this can get passionate and cause family feuds. After all, there are countless stories of families splitting up over differences of opinion regarding the orange turd. This “Dear Bintel” entry includes some very good explanations of both sides of the issue.
Holocaust survivor stories as self-help books – the good and the bad – I found this a tough read, because we all love the redemptive and life affirming tales of survivors that endured horrible suffering. But is there a flip side to those redemptive feelings? Are these books committing literary malpractice? Certainly makes you think. You decide.
A literal giant in Brooklyn politics – At 6’10”, Robert Cornegy clearly stands out in the field running for Borough President in Brooklyn. First of all, I didn’t know Jews could ever get that tall, and secondly, I don’t much care about Brooklyn politics. Suggest you skip this one.
Sephardic Jews should thank Spain for kicking them out? Apparently, Spain has been dealing with their guilt over Ferdinand’s deportation of Jews to Turkey back in the day by granting them Spanish passports. These passports are now being used to vet vaccines in Bulgaria, where apparently there is a surplus. Made me think I would like to visit Turkey one of these days, or at least go to the island of Buyukada, where Turkish Jews go for the summer.
Meet Shana Frankel: Jewish, single, and a farmer – Why this profile of Shana? I have no idea.
Black Orthodox Jews launch Kamocha – Motivated by the George Floyd murder and Black Lives Matter protests, this organization runs daily virtual Torah classes and monthly separate events for men and women; a recent women’s group meeting included a lesson about how to make Louisiana bread pudding, while men held a special gathering before Passover. I would prefer the women’s group, frankly.