The Jew News Review – May 7, 2022 – If men could get pregnant…

Shabbat shalom! 

Shout out today to my grandson Max, the world’s most amazing, brilliant and beautiful grand child, who celebrates his first complete orbit around the sun later this afternoon. I just wish some of that sun would shine down on us today!

Before I take a dive into the murky and deep end of the political pool, let’s continue with some more good news. I am pleased to announce, and you heard it here first on the JNR, that Mensches With Wrenches had our first customer! For those not fully informed, myself and Steve Holtzman recently launched a community service here in the Sharon area that provides handy man services to elderly folks in exchange for a small donation to a local temple or church, or in the case of our first client, a small batch of chicken matzah ball soup! Here is a link to our recently launched, and award winning website Mensches With Wrenches. So, if any of you JNR locals know of anyone in our target demographic that might need some help, spread the word!

What a crazy week! Some refer to it as the week of the womb, while others have warned to buckle up your IUDs, as we are definitely in for a crazy roller coaster ride. For over 50 years, Roe has been the law of the land, but stare decisis be damned, the right for a woman to chose is about to be unchosen by a Supremely conservative court whose pending opinion in the best case will make getting an abortion difficult for low income women, and in the worst case, lead to a slippery slope of crazy ass red state legislation. For those right wingers who think the libs are exaggerating these claims, 11 states are already proposing there won’t even be exemptions for rape and incest. A bill moving through the Louisiana Legislature would allow prosecutors to charge those having abortions with homicide, and a Missouri lawmaker has introduced a measure that would let private citizens sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident get an out-of-state abortion. Under a Texas law passed last year, people in other states sending abortion pills through the mail to Texas residents could be extradited to face felony charges, though the authorities in liberal states are unlikely to cooperate. And women are being warned to delete their period tracking apps as they could be used against them by red state crazy prosecutors. Crazy? Not according to Ray Walsh, a digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy. “There appears to be a real danger that if anti-abortion laws are passed in the US, menstrual cycle tracking app data could potentially be exploited to place women under surveillance and single them out if they become pregnant and are later suspected of terminating their pregnancy.”

If you thought this country was already hopelessly divided, and if this opinion ends up as currently written, things will only get worse. I am already envisioning protesters and crazies on both sides amassing at state borders. My closing thought is actually a quote from Gavin Newsom, “If men could get pregnant, this wouldn’t even be a conversation”.

You are all, by this time, wondering about the Jewish angle to this issue? Well, wonder no more. Here is a quick summary of where Jewish law stands on the issue of abortion. While a majority of non-orthodox, 4 in 5 according to Pew, support a woman’s right to abortion, not surprisingly, there is not much legal source material to go on here. And interpretations will vary depending on denomination, and even then, depends on who you ask. But, in general, there appears to be agreement on the edges, that it should be done as a last resort, and, to protect the life and health of the mother if she is in imminent danger. 

Jewish legal opinion begins with a verse in Exodus 21 that institutes a financial penalty against a man who injured a pregnant woman, causing her to miscarry. As Rashi, the 11th-century commentator notes, that the consequence is only monetary indicates the Torah’s view that a murder has not been committed. Modern scholars extrapolate from Rashi that abortion is at worst not a capital crime.

But in the core, opinions and legal interpretations vary. For the sake of brevity, let me over-simplify it the best I can:

  • Conservatives – The Rabbinical Assembly — the international organization of Conservative rabbis — codified in 1983 a ruling that a fetus does not have legal status as a human until it is born. In the case of a Tay-Sachs child, abortion would be permitted “not out of mercy for the baby, but out of compassion for the mother.” In its seven-page decision, however, the RA made clear that abortion was anathema to Jewish concepts of the sanctity of life. Abortions to ensure the mother’s quality of life, it said, were impermissible. 
  • Reforms – On the other end of the Non-orthodox spectrum, the Reform movement, which holds that a woman’s bodily autonomy is a matter of “kavod ha’briyot,” the Jewish principle of respect for life, has been advocating for reproductive rights for decades.Inveighing against a George W. Bush administration ban on late-term abortions, Rabbi David Ellenson, a national leader of the Reform movement and chancellor emeritus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, said in 2003 that “Jewish religious tradition surely accords the fetus status as potential life. However, Judaism does not regard the status attached to the fetus as potential life as morally equivalent to the condition enjoyed by the mother as actual life.”
  • Orthodox – Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, a leading American halachic authority of the late 20th century, said that the monetary punishment did not necessarily prove that killing an unborn child was not murder — in other words, that the seriousness of a crime could not be derived from its punishment. In his view, abortion would be prohibited even with the knowledge that the child would be born with a life expectancy of just a few years. In spite of the prevailing opinion within Haredi Orthodoxy that abortion is only permitted in the case of immediate risk to the mother, an umbrella Haredi organization has weighed in against abortion bans. “Blanket bans on abortion, to be sure, would deprive Jewish women of the ability to act responsibly in cases where abortion is halachically required,” wrote Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel wrote in 2019. “And so, what Orthodox groups like Agudath Israel of America, for which I work, have long promoted is the regulation of abortion through laws that generally prohibit the unjustifiable killing of fetuses while protecting the right to abortion in exceptional cases.”

The week has been hijacked by the abortion issue, and my time is fleeting. But, here are some other Jew News highlights worth knowing about from the week:

  1. Jews and weed: get the straight dope or the dope straight? A special selection sure to get the attention of certain people named Nathan Hirsh, this article describes a new exhibit at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research dedicated to Jews and cannabis. “Am Yisrael High” displays texts and artifacts tracing the connections — some speculative and most very real — between Jews and weed, and how an often taboo subject and substance has intersected with religion, politics, crime and science. Click here for more.
  1. Culture vulture: Ridley Road on PBS – “Ridley Road,” a gripping and provocative four-part miniseries debuting on PBS’s “Masterpiece” on Sunday after airing on the BBC last year, is a fictional story set in the very real world of British neo-Nazis in the early 60’s. Sandy and I watched the first episode, and give it two thumbs up! Click here for more.
  2. Why are Bob Dylans archives in Oklahoma? Good question. Might have something to do with Woody Guthrie, but read here for more.
  3. Anti-zionism and anti-semitism – An interesting follow up to my piece last week about the uptick in anti-semitic reports. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, blasted “radical left” anti-Israel groups as being the “photo inverse” of the extreme right, in opening remarks at the ADL’s virtual national leadership summit on Sunday. Greenblatt pointed to a rise in anti-Zionism as a root cause for the uptick in antisemitic incidents across the U.S. and Canada. “If you demonize another group enough,” he said, “there are more than a few people out there who will act, who will think it’s OK to slur a classmate during a pick-up basketball game, or spray paint a synagogue, or jump the Haredi man walking down the street in Brooklyn, or – God forbid – do even worse.” Read the story ➤

I am running off to Max’s birthday party, so that’s all I can do for now. But, hey, there is a huge uptick in Covid going on, so let’s continue to be careful out there.

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – April 30, 2022 – Never forget

Shabbat shalom! 

It was a busy week caring for the world’s most adorable grandchild, and ended with a haircut and a therapeutic massage, so no complaints from me. It’s been rather cool here in Sharon weather-wise, but as I gaze out the JNR office this morning, I am loving the spray of violet myrtle blossoms and yellow daffodils in one of our gardens which just reinforces my longing for more warmth, lush gardens, and backyard ballgames. 

This week the world marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, and the heroism of survivors and rescuers. Yom HaShoah opens in Israel at sundown in a state ceremony held in Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Authority, in Jerusalem. During the ceremony the national flag is lowered to half mast, the President and the Prime Minister both deliver speeches, Holocaust survivors light six torches symbolizing the approximately six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and the Chief Rabbis recite prayers.

The arrival of Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz

The journalism world was chock full of inspiring, tragic and compelling stories about survivors, Jews and non-Jews, all contributing in various ways to keep this history lesson alive for the generations to come. On that front, a big shoutout to my sister Phyllis, who back in 2009 taught the Holocaust to her high school class culminating in a field trip to the Holocaust Museum, and was so inspired by the experience, passed up an opportunity to work at the New York Times in order to continue her teaching career. I have always been very proud of her work as a teacher, and never more so than when she was honored by her school for her work on that project. 

Nothing underlies the importance of this work more than the latest statistics on anti-semitism released this week by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Scary stuff. Each week in the JNR, I try and feature at least one story about anti-semitism, as my small way of carrying the torch of history. And now, according to the ADL, the number of antisemitic incidents in the United States in 2021 reached an all-time high. The 2,717 incidents identified in news articles by the ADL or reported to the ADL directly in 2021 represent a 34% increase from the 2,024 incidents of antisemitism tallied by the group in 2020. Previously, the 2,107 incidents in 2019 were the highest total since the ADL began publishing annual counts in 1979. It is possible that part of the increase can be attributed to better reporting, but at least 20% is attributed to right-wing actors, according to the report, which notes a sharp rise in the distribution of antisemitic pamphlets by groups such as the Goyim Defense League. And I won’t get all wound up about my gut instinct that connects the orange turd and his minions to mainstreaming the radical right, which I believe constitutes a large portion of the increase.

Now, more on the Jew news front.

  1. Shoah Foundation shares ‘lost’ testimony of Holocaust survivor who died in Mariupol – The 91-year-old Holocaust survivor Vanda Semyonovna Obiedkova died near her home in Mariupol, Ukraine, April 4, while the city was under a devastating Russian attack. Her family believed that her survivor testimony died with her. Obiedkova died, reportedly cold and emaciated, while sheltering in the basement of a store near her home; her daughter and son-in-law fled the city after burying her. The house they shared burned during the attacks, and the VHS tape containing the video testimony Obiedkova had recorded of her Holocaust experience for the USC Shoah Foundation in 1998 was destroyed along with the family’s other possessions, her family told Chabad.org.
  2. Ben Foster pulls no punches playing a Holocaust-survivor-turned-boxer in HBO’s new movie“The Survivor” — Airing this week on Yom HaShoah, after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, “The Survivor” is not your typical Holocaust movie. Though it does tell the improbable story of a single Jew’s survival, it doesn’t linger on the misery of the camps themselves. Most of the film (which was co-produced with the USC Shoah Foundation) takes place after the war, as Harry attempts to resettle in an immigrant-heavy Brooklyn Jewish community suffused with loss. He uses his survivor’s status to create a marketable ringside identity (“In this corner, the pride of Poland, the survivor of Auschwitz!”) even as he remains haunted by his time in the camps. For more on this, click here.
  3. Shiva call: Senator Orrin Hatch wore a mezuzah?!!! Former Sen. Orrin Hatch, who died on Saturday at 88, wore a mezuzah around his neck for more than four decades, wrote a catchy Hanukkah song with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, and admired Jewish megastar and actress Barbra Streisand. He also sat in for then-Vice President Joe Biden on the dais during Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial joint address to Congress against the Iran deal in 2015. Who’d a thunk?
  4. Hasidic rapper? Now I’ve seen everything –  HBO Max is currently producing a new comedy series based on the life of former gang member-turned-Hasidic-rapper Nissim Black.  Black, who lives in Israel, announced the upcoming show on Twitter on Monday, writing that he hopes “this series brings Joy, and dispells [sic] a lot of the misinformation going on out there.” Not sure what is being dispelled, but check out this rap version of Hava Nagila! click here.Hava nagila I’m breathing, hava nagila we even
    Got a Mazel Tov for the game, but I really do the thang
    Dance homey, G-d’s only, G-d’s man how they know me
    Call me NIS in the street’s, but we nobel like peace
    I ain’t tryna hurt nobody, we just came here to party
    Like it’s 59.99, they gone see us in our prime
    Big house coming down, from thе sky to the crowd
    We gon’ sing it out loud, Black Jewish and I’m proud
  5. President Joe Biden is expected to travel to Israel in the coming months, the White House said on Sunday, following a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Biden first visited Israel 49 years ago – in 1973 – and met with then-Israeli prime minister Golda Meir. Timing is interesting, as both Bennett and Biden could use some good press. Bennett recently lost his Knesset majority and could be facing early elections, so a visit from the president of the United States could help boost his stature. Biden could also use the visit to bolster support among Jewish voters – his approval rating among Jews has fallen to 63% from a high of 80% last summer – before November’s midterm elections, when his party is projected to suffer heavy losses.

That’s all folks! And hey, let’s remember to stay safe out there. 

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – April 23, 2022 – Spaceship Earth

Shabbat shalom! I hope everyone had a great Passover! This year’s celebration seemed especially delightful with my mom, sister and niece joining us from Virginia and California combined with a few other special visits with friends and family. And of course, my incredibly delicious short ribs and Ruth’s savory chicken served with grace and elegance at a beautiful seder table. Next year in Jerusalem? Sharon would be ok with me. 

It’s good to be back in the writers saddle after taking the week off. It was a busy week all around, with Putin’s poison, culture wars, and economic news dominating the headlines. Lost in that cacophony of news noise was the celebration of Earth Day this last Friday. Since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22, a date selected since it fell between spring break and final exams for college kids, its original targeted demographic. US Senators Pete McCloskey and Gaylord Perry, along with environmental advocate Denis Hayes started Earth Day as a series of teach-ins across college campuses in the US. The first Earth Day inspired more than 20 million Americans to demonstrate against the harmful impacts of industrial development on both the planet and human health, including thousands of university protests and city rallies from coast-to-coast. That momentum helped lead to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and eventually the celebration caught on globally where it is now the most widely observed secular holiday around the world. 

My first recollection of Earth Day came in 1978. As a reporter for the UMass Daily Collegian, I was covering the event and a conference associated with it called “Learning Tomorrows”. I met and interviewed 82 year old R. Buckminster Fuller, otherwise known as “Bucky”, an eccentric inventor (expelled by Harvard not once, but twice!), who was better known for his invention of the geodesic dome (inspired by the structure of a fly’s eye), and who was a featured lecturer at the event. It was Bucky who coined the term “Spaceship Earth” to describe our planet, a cosmic metaphor underlying the idea that all human beings were passengers on Spaceship Earth, and, like the crew of a large ship, people had to work together in order to keep the planet functioning properly. Well, according to the latest from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the ship is not functioning well at all, and we may be careening into galactic space junk unless the crew makes some course corrections sooner rather than later.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the IPCC report showed “a litany of broken climate promises” by governments and corporations worldwide. “It is a file of shame, cataloging the empty pledges that put us firmly on track toward an unlivable world,” Guterres said.

Earlier this month, the IPCC published a report warning of the dangers of rising global warming levels – noting that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could be “beyond reach” if significant emission reductions across all sectors are not taken immediately.

What can we do? Buy an electric vehicle if you can afford one. Or keep working from home! As stewards of this great planet, it is incumbent upon all of us to reduce our carbon footprints and advocate for leaders here in the US of A to adhere to our commitments we made in the Paris Accords in 2015. The consequences of not doing so are dire. Nuf said. 

And on that humble and happy note, let’s move on to news for Jews! What’s happening in the Jewish world beyond Passover you may be asking? Let’s get to it:

  1. Hava Nagila” played after every Utah Jazz win in the Mormon Capital – Another entry from the “you can’t make this shit up” category. I haven’t been following the NBA for a few years now (go Celtics!), so this one took me by surprise. For a team with no Jewish players, in a market with relatively few Jewish residents, the choice has long baffled and amused basketball fans in Utah and beyond. The Jazz organization cites the song’s “memorable beat” in explaining the phenomenon. I think it’s a great tribute to what was originally a zionist song, but not everyone thinks its appropriate. Go figure. For more, click here.
  2. Book about Jewish kid with two dads removed from Florida school district – In another sad sign of Rotten Republicans Run Amok, the Walton County school district has banned a Purim picture book about a Jewish child whose fathers are gay. “The Purim Superhero,” by Elisabeth Kushner, is one of 58 titles removed in the Walton County School District, located in Florida’s Panhandle. It appears alongside books dealing with race, sexuality and mental health that are more common targets of the book-removal activists who are often affiliated with Moms for Liberty. “The Purim Superhero” is also not the only book by Jewish authors on the Walton County list. The list also includes “Forever” by Judy Blume, a frequent target for censorship because of its portrayal of teen sexuality, and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel about a child whose father dies on 9/11. That book was also on a list of 16 proposed for removal in Polk County, Florida, earlier this year. For more, click here.
  3. AIPAC, the largest pro-Israeli political action committee in the United States, supports Republicans who support the “big lie” – Anticipating renewed criticism over its new endorsements, AIPAC struck a defensive posture in its statements on the new round of endorsements. “Our goal is to make America’s friendship with Israel so robust, so certain, so broadly based, and so dependable that even the deep divisions of American politics can never imperil that relationship and the ability of the Jewish state to defend itself,” AIPAC PAC said on Twitter. “In an increasingly polarized environment, sustained support from both parties makes our alliance with Israel stronger.” To be fair, they also support a boatload of Dems as well, but they view support of Israel above and beyond any sense of moral duty to our country. This dude can’t abide that. For more, click here.
  4. Continued violence in Israel – Sadly during this time of Ramadan, Passover and Easter, the violence on the Temple Mount and Gaza seems to be picking up rather than subsiding. There are jerks on both sides provoking stupid behavior in Jerusalem and beyond. The Iron Dome has been activated a number of times this last week protecting against rockets coming from Gaza targeting Israeli communities, and Israel has retaliated with their heaviest airstrikes since last May. Let’s hope Arab and Israeli leaders can quell things and restore some hope for more peaceful times. For more, click here.
  5. The Twitter activist behind the far-right ‘Libs of TikTok’ is an Orthodox Jew. Should that matter? Chaya Raichik says she’s responsible for getting teachers who discuss gay and transgender issues in the classroom, whom she calls “evil,” fired. She helped pioneer the term “grooming” to describe teaching about sexuality. Her Twitter account has hundreds of thousands of followers, and she has influential fans, including the spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and podcaster Joe Rogan. Anyone shocked that an orthodox Jewish person could be an unhinged right-wing maniac has clearly not been on social media very much. And some conservatives are not happy that the Washington Post outed her. Yossi Gestetner, a haredi Orthodox political activist who for years has posted on social media, blasted the Post for identifying Raichik as Orthodox, saying it was not germane. “Opposing the destruction of basic standards for what is spoken to young kids is a popularly held view that is not necessarily Orthodox Jewish-based, so why did the paper mention it?” For more, click here.
  6. Ending on a sweet note – It is synonymous with Passover treats, an iconic Jewish dessert known to all — chewy, colorful, candy fruit slices. The fruit jelly slice is an American product invented sometime between the two World Wars in either Winnipeg, Manitoba, or in Boston (two companies claim to have invented it). While there are competitors, Boston Fruit Slices is the best known brand. The sweet confections have a unique production process. First the sugar and gelling mixture is boiled and immediately cooled. Next, the flavor and color is added to the mix and the thick syrup is poured on waxed paper. Then, the mixture that makes the rind is poured on top. More syrup is poured into wedge shaped molds, which are later put through a slicing machine. Once the wedges are sliced, they are tossed into vats of sugar to coat each slice. Finally, the slices are dried before being packed. More importantly, they are delish!
These goodies are a tradition in Passovers all over the world – and probably invented here in Boston!

Well, I think I have harassed you all enough at this point. But hey, let’s be careful out there. And for goodness sakes, help the good ship Earth make it to the next millennial!

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – April 16, 2022 – Happy Passover!

Shabbat shalom!

I am taking the weekend off to prepare and celebrate the holiday. I hope everyone has a safe, enjoyable weekend with family and friends. 

Chag sameach!

Happy Passover from Brad and Sandy!

This latest surge seems to be everywhere, so hey, let’s remember to be careful out there!

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – April 9, 2022 – Chametz-gate, smoked fish, kosher chickens and Happy Passover!

Shabbat shalom! 

Shout out this week to Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was confirmed as the first black female Supreme Court Justice this week. No amount of Republican hate can detract from what is a profoundly good thing for our country and was clearly a high point for me in the news this week.

Otherwise, the news was mostly not so good. While the baseball season started this week, bringing some sense of normality and “hope springing eternal” for our Red Sox, the despicable Yankees put a damper on opening day for our hometown team, eking out an extra inning, walk-off victory with the help of the crappy “ghost runner” rule, a rule the morons in charge of the league left in place to help speed the games along. Despite the loss, it’s good to see baseball back in action and I look forward to attending opening day at Fenway with family next week. And for my Canadian friends, the lowly Jays started on a good note, but once again, they look great on paper and will undoubtedly finish poorly. 

And in Israel, the news was also grim. Yet another terrorist attack left several dead and injured at a Tel Aviv bar Thursday. Israeli forces raiding the home of the terrorist responsible for the attack were met by gunfire. In the midst of this new wave of terror, Prime Minister Bennet’s coalition fell apart following the shocking resignation of the party’s coalition whip Idit Silman, a move that deprived the government of its parliamentary majority, amid murmurs of further potential defections from party members. Silman’s main excuse for her defection was a letter from the Health Minister to remind hospitals in Israel of a Supreme Court ruling a year prior that allows for chametz to be brought into hospitals during the Passover holiday. There are obviously more reasons for her defection, but who would have thought some leavened bread could help topple a government? Will Chametz-gate open the door for the return of Nutten-yahoo? Stay tuned for further developments in this breaking and developing scandal!

All of this in the deathly shadows of the continuing atrocities in the Ukraine made for a dreary week. Speaking to reporters this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the future he sees for his country in unusual terms: as “a big Israel.” Gone, he said, are hopes for “an absolutely liberal” state—replaced by the likely reality of armed defense forces patrolling movie theaters and supermarkets. “I’m confident that our security will be the number-one issue over the next ten years,” Zelenskyy added, eloquently stating, “My high expectations of Israel are more than Israel can provide”

So, let’s get to some happier news. My selections this week will hopefully be a bit more uplifting, and bring some enjoyment and maybe a smile or two. So here you go:

  1. Kosher chicken shortage: What the cluck is going on? While anyone who wants kosher chicken at their Passover seder should be able to get it, doing so might require more effort, cost or compromise than usual. That’s because an unusual array of forces have conspired to depress chicken production in the United States, and kosher plants have suffered alongside everyone else. Read more here.
  2. Smokey fish, or a fishy fire? Barney Greengrass, the beloved Jewish deli, famous for its smoked fish, was one of five suspected targets of arson on Thursday. The other four fires were outdoor rubbish fires, the FDNY told West Side Rag, and appear to have been set between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. The NYPD confirmed that the fires were “intentionally set.” Though antisemitic hate crimes have been the rise in New York City — including an incident on the Upper West Side last Saturday, when six Jewish kids were threatened by teens brandishing weapons — Greengrass told the New York Jewish Week that he didn’t believe the fire was antisemitic. Click here for more.
  3. Jews in baseball and a statue honoring “the left arm of god” – Despite its diminishing audience and aging fan base, I still love the summer game. And there seems to be an increasing amount of Jewish ball players making the “bigs” these days. In addition to Max Fried, Alec Bregman and Joe Pederson, there are at least a dozen others and more coming up the ranks in the minors. And we couldn’t talk Jewish baseball without mentioning the legendary Sandy Koufax, who will be immortalized with a statue at Dodger Stadium this summer. Play ball! Click here for more.
  4. A Jewish Doctor takes on Santa Claus for Alaska Congressional seat – You really can’t make this stuff up. There are about 50 candidates in the election being held to replace Don Young, the longest-serving Republican in House history, who died last month while in office. But the real attention in this race is on the Democrat, Al Gross, a physician who was raised in the Last Frontier’s close-knit Jewish community. He is one of the leading Democrats, but opposing him for the Democratic vote is Santa Claus, a city councilman in the city of North Pole (outside Fairbanks) who changed his name legally to Santa Claus from Thomas O’Connor in 2005. Claus, who did not declare a party affiliation, is a self-described “independent, progressive democratic socialist” who loves Jewish Sen. Bernie Sanders, and he told the Anchorage Daily News that, if elected, he might wear his Santa suit to Washington, D.C. He says he does not accept campaign contributions. Who knew there were any Jews in Alaska?
Sarah Palin, left, Al Gross, center, and a man who legally changed his name to Santa Claus, right, are all fighting for a U.S. House seat in Alaska.
  1. 🚀  Over the moon for Matzah! – An Israeli astronaut is making a decidedly low-tech delivery to the International Space Station: handmade matzah.Eytan Stibbe, 64, is one of three astronauts paying for the privilege of launching into space on Friday, in an initiative of Axiom Space, a private company based in Houston. Chabad of the Space and Treasure Coasts in Florida delivered Stibbe a Passover food package, noting that he will be on the space station when Passover starts on the evening of April 15, Chabad.org reported.Stibbe explained the significance of the holiday in a Zoom press conference earlier this week.“The seder, Passover, is all about freedom which is a value we celebrate annually and remind ourselves about the importance of freedom,” he said. (CNNJTAChabad)
  2. Blue and yellow macaroons? Jews find ways to add Ukraine to their Seders:Rabbis and other leaders are encouraging people to incorporate readings, symbolic foods, and charitable gifts relating to the war into their holiday observance. One person has created name cards in the shape of sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine. Another has bought kosher wines from Moldova, one of the border countries welcoming thousands of refugees. The Krakow JCC is hosting a Seder for displaced Ukrainians. “Doing nothing is not an option,” said a Jewish activist. Read the story ➤

That’s all I’ve got this week. Time to start sweeping out chametz from all the nooks and crannies! Have a great Passover everyone, Chag Sameach! And hey, let’s continue to be careful out there!

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – April 2, 2022 – And the award goes to…..nobody.

Shabbat shalom! Quick shout out to our cousin Ari Berman, joining the JNR community this week. And a tip of the hat to Chris Rock, the only person involved in this most tawdry affair worthy of any commendation. 

What a crazy week. Amidst the 24/7 Ukrainian news cycle, there seems to be an endless flow of other notable news events that may be falling under our collective and cluttered radar screens (Ginny “whacko” Thomas, Israeli terror, Republicans voting against reducing the cost of insulin, and on and on). But, certainly one event that did not fall under the radar is the infamous “slap heard around the world”. I hate using that reference, as though you could ever equate the ignominious events during and after the Academy Awards with a real gunshot that led to the creation of the greatest democracy in world history. Nevertheless, something about Will Smith’s smackdown ignited the country and lit up social media and water cooler conversations across the nation. Hence, despite my lowly opinion of all things Hollyweird, I offer this rant: “F-you Will Smith!” I think my father’s favorite Muslim (he hated Kareem when he played for the Lakers) summarized it best in his Substack piece, “With a single petulant blow, he advocated violence, diminished women, insulted the entertainment industry, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community.” But, I reserve my more harsh criticisms for Smith’s “enablers” in Hollyweird: First, the majority of hypocritical morons that gave him a standing ovation, second, the nincompoops at the “virtuous” Vanity Fair that let him in to their post party to celebrate and dance away to his music all night, and lastly, the executives (Hudson and Rubin) at the Academy who sent Smith’s agent to ask him to leave, rather than asking him directly (why do these morons get paid over $1Million if they can’t at least do their jobs!) There was so much wrong on so many levels….this kind of nonsense can only in happen in Hollyweird. 

On the Jew news front, the headlines out of Israel have been mostly ugly. After 20 years without any major acts of terrorism, a recent wave of attacks by Arab-Israelis has left at least 11 dead and many wounded, and have put the normally resilient Israelis on edge. While there was hope for calm before the start of Ramadan, that hope gave way to scenes of knifings and terrorist gunmen shooting randomly at victims. Most don’t believe this is a 3rd Intifada, as the Palestinians have mostly condemned the violence, but older generations with muscle memory of the violence that erupted after the Oslo Accords in the mid 90’s and after the failure of the Camp David peace agreement in the early 2000’s are worried about revenge attacks and an escalation of copy cats and other extremist events. 

Now for the good news. As you all know, I have been a harsh critic of the orange turd and his sycophants ever since the a-hole descended from the Trump Tower escalator and announced his candidacy for President. And I do still believe, and always will, that he is a supreme a-hole. And I am also not a big fan of his douchie son-in-law, Jared Kushner. However, the Abraham Accords are proving to be the one bright spot on an otherwise dark and depraved four years of Trumpian torture. So, I will eat some crow on this and agree that yes, there appears to be progress on normalizing relations, commercial and political, with many other countries in the middle east as a result of the Accords negotiated by Jared and crew. I hope the momentum on that front continues to bear fruit.

My other bit of bright news on the Jew front is from listening to an interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. It was refreshing to hear him advocating strongly for a two-state solution, which he thinks is still very much within reach and will probably look a lot like what was discussed at Camp David many years ago. He also spoke eloquently of Israel’s moral role in the Ukrainian Russian war, saying in essence that, Israel, more than any other country, has a moral responsibility to take sides against a country threatening the existence of another country, and that doing so would not jeopardize Israel’s current detente with Russia regarding Syria and other Iranian proxies since Russia has keen interests in those regions that may be more serious than it’s detente with Israel.

Here are a few other news items carefully curated for your reading pleasure:

  1. Mensches With Wrenches (MWM) wins “Webby” Award – Sharon, MA – Launched earlier this year, the website for Mensches With Wrenches was awarded a “Webby”, the internet’s highest website design achievement. The site was recognized in the Webby “Weird” category, for sites that just seem strange, offbeat, or odd. This category includes sites that “reflect a fresh perspective in thought and action strong enough to start a revolution, change a behavior pattern, or provide a platform for a few old fogies to do something constructive with their free time — or that are just plain weird.” Upon accepting the award, the ever-so-humble co-founders Brad Goverman and Steven Holtzman, thanked their mom’s and then promptly slapped each other. April Fools!
  2. Give a “Get” or go to prison? As a follow up to last week’s note on this topic, here we have Britain throwing an Israeli ex-pat schmuck in jail for controlling and manipulating his Israeli wife for many years by refusing to grant her a divorce. Rule Britannia! Click here for more
  3. Bennett vows ‘Israel will overcome’ this wave of terror too – An update from the Times of Israel from Friday’s edition – With security forces on high alert, PM says authorities taking the initiative to thwart attacks, hunt down illegal weapons. In a series of tweets, Bennett said “Israel has known waves of severe attacks such as the Second Intifada that lasted several years, or the [wave of attacks in 2015 and 2016] in which 47 Israeli citizens were murdered, and after a little over a year we defeated the wave. “We will overcome them this time too, and we’ll strive to do so as fast as possible,” he said. For more click here.
  4. A scripted TV series about Russ & Daughters is in the works –  Polish-Jewish immigrant Joel Russ opened the store in New York in 1914, and moved it to its still-operating location at 179 E. Houston St. in 1920. With his daughters Hattie, Ida and Anne as business partners, Russ & Daughters became the first business in America to add “& Daughters” to its name in 1935, according to its website. Now run by the 4th generation of the family, the iconic deli will be the subject and backdrop for a new television series. “What started as an immigrant story about pursuing a new life in America grew into generations of family members with their trials and tribulations set against the backdrop of dozens of critical moments in our society,” said Time Studios’ vice president of film and TV, Kaveh Veyssi. While their story is so specific and unique, there are elements of it that will appeal to everyone.” For more, click here.
  5. 👍  The Senate confirmed Deborah Lipstadt as the State Department’s antisemitism ambassador in a unanimous vote late Wednesday. Finally! The much-delayed confirmation occurred after an impassioned four-minute speech by Sen. Jon Ossoff, a Democrat from Georgia, in which he talked about his family that perished in the Holocaust. Lipstadt told the Forward following the vote: “This is a tremendous honor and responsibility and I pray that I will prove worthy of the task.” (Forward)
  6. It was never an advantage to be Jewish in Ukraine — until nowUkraine may be a country bloodstained in the imagination of American Jews by a succession of pogroms and centuries of anti-Jewish prejudice. But with more than 10 million Ukrainians displaced by Russian aggression over the past month, Larry Cohler-Esses found during a week in the border region that those who are Jewish are finding they have advantages over their neighbors. For more, click here.
  7. 🇺🇦  Russian shelling on Saturday struck a Holocaust memorial, damaging a nine-foot menorah in Dobitsky Yar, near Kharkiv. “During World War II, the Nazis executed about 20,000 people there,” President Zelenskyy said. “Eighty years later, they are killed a second time.” (JTA)
A view of the memorial, set on the place of a mass killing of Jewish people by Nazis during WWII, a day after it was damaged in a Russian shelling, at the entrance of the Drobitsky Yar Holocaust memorial complex on the eastern outskirts of Kharkiv, Mar. 27, 2022.

That’s all I’ve got for you this week. But hey, make sure you continue to be careful out there. This Covid crap is still amongst us! (Get well soon Judy!)

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – March 26, 2022 – Spring, ancient curses, and Israeli marital shackles

Shabbat shalom! 

Shiva shout out out this week to Madeleine Albright, who passed away at the age of 84. A remarkable woman, feminist, diplomat, first female Secretary of State, was raised a Catholic but found out late in life that her parents were Jewish and converted to Catholicism to avoid being killed by the Nazis. If you havnt’t heard her interviews with Terry Gross, I strongly suggest you take a listen using this link. Click here. But one of my favorite Albright stories came from Kara Swisher from the Pivot this week. She was at a dinner with Albright, and later in the evening, when the two were in the ladies room, Albright was approached by a drunken admirer, who kept saying to her “you go girl!” repeatedly and annoyingly. Albright gracefully acknowledged the woman and without missing a beat said, “thank you, but I really do have to go”, and proceeded to the stall to do her business. That’s diplomacy!

Spring has definitely sprung in New England as evidenced by these nest eggs situated in our fall basket outside the front door. And as I ponder this pending new life, as well as the budding plants in our gardens, I can’t help but reflect on the death, destruction and cloud of war hovering over eastern Europe. Maybe it’s the 24/7 news cycle that creates this Felliniesque fascination for us all, or maybe it’s our innate humanity that catches up with our conscience. Whatever it is, like this crazy evil war, it continues to haunt the world and nag at my normally sunny disposition. And I wonder, will there be spring in Ukraine this year? How many generations will it take before spring in Ukraine looks more like the picture on the left vs the right?

Spring here and there

President Zelesnkyy has been busy doing his world tour, desperately and passionately seeking assistance and weaponry to beat back the forces of Putin’s evil. He got an interesting reception in Israel where in his short speech to the Knesset he drew analogies to the holocaust as a way to drive home a point and lay an effective guilt trip on the Israelis. “I have the right to make this comparison”, he said. I personally think the analogy is not much of a stretch, but that sentiment was not shared by many Israeli’s who rightly see themselves as the custodians of the Shoah. Needless to say, his comments set off quite a public debate. Meanwhile, nine of the ten Arab-Israeli MK’s boycotted his presentation completely, mostly due I think to their historical and political ties to Soviet Russia, but don’t quote me on that. I think the Israeli’s of all people, should cut the guy a break and maybe instead of debating the issue, share some Iron Dome defense systems with them instead! Nuf said.

So, what else is happening in the Jewish world you may be asking? And to honor your insatiable need for news of the Jews, here are the carefully curated items selected by my random brain from the pages of The Forward, The Times of Israel, Kveller, JewBelong, and a few other sources that invade my inbox with daily news items. Enjoy!

  1. Chained woman released from marital bondage – I should have added this item last week, as the day before Purim, known as “The fast of Esther”, is also Yom HaAguna, the annual day denoted by Israel for women whose husbands refuse to grant them a “get”, a religious divorce. The issue of “chained women” is a complex one, particularly in Israel where all marriages and divorces are overseen by a national rabbinate and must conform to its views of Jewish law. There is no such thing as civil marriage or divorce. Under the rabbinate’s interpretation, there is no way to dissolve a legally valid marriage without the consent of the husband. Come on Israel, you can do better than this. But here is a happy ending story of one woman who got her freedom. Click here for more.
  2. Newly recovered ancient tablet reveals Snidely Whiplash (Bullwinkle show: “Curses, foiled again”) was Jewish – Not really. But, the oldest known Hebrew inscription, found on Mt. Ebal, contains the word “curse” 10 times in a 23-word English translation. “Cursed, cursed, cursed—cursed by the God of YHWH, you will die cursed, cursed you will surely die, cursed by YHWH cursed, cursed, cursed.” What was that all about? To learn more about this ancient discovery, and its meaning beyond the Bullwinkle show, click here.
  3. Israel sets up field hospital in Ukraine – There are a lot of heroes in wars, and I give some kudos here to these brave front line Israeli health workers risking their lives to help Ukrainian civilians deal with the collateral damage to their bodies and souls. Bravo team Israel! True Mensches!  Click here for more.
  4. Madeleine Albright’s Jewish Roots – As I mentioned earlier, Albright learned of her Jewish roots later in her life. In a series of books, she described how she progressively grew to accept the fact that, although brought up in Catholicism until she converted to the Episcopalian faith to marry the scion of a newspaper fortune, her parents were Jews. Read more here.
  5. On this week in history:  Ehrich Weisz, an escape artist and illusionist, was born on March 24, 1874. You may know him better by his eventual stage name: Harry Houdini. The son of a Hungarian rabbi, he was raised in Appleton, Wisconsin, where, according to legend, he wore tefillin and spoke Yiddish. “Some Houdini historians trace young Ehrich’s interest in magic to his father’s sermons,” Michael Kaminer wrote in 2018. “After seeing the rabbi hold a congregation rapt, the power of performance became clear.” Houdini led the Rabbis’ Sons Theatrical Benevolent Association, which raised money for charity during World War I; Irving Berlin and Al Jolson were also members. Here are some Houdini stories you may not have heard ➤
  6. ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ undercuts its own Jewish identity: “The new season of the hit show often relied a little too lazily on Jewish comedic stereotypes,” says the Forward’s digital-culture critic, Mira Fox. But the final episodes, available on Amazon Prime Video, give a more sensitive and accurate portrayal of religion, she says, when a major character is in the hospital pondering the existence of God. “It’s too bad that the show doesn’t emphasize the Jewishness of this moment the way it does for nagging or matchmaking,” Fox writes. I have been enjoying the new season, more so than the last. Read her essay ➤
  7. The 33 greatest Jewish pop songs of all time : The Forward published their version of the 150 greatest Jewish pop songs, then invited readers and music aficionados to nominate their own favorite Jewish tracks. Here’s the list of the songs missed by The Forward, including the Louis Armstrong classic “Black and Blue” — which reader Harold Pupko calls “one of the quintessential expressions of what it feels to be on the receiving end of racial meshugas” — and Judy Garland’s iconic “Over the Rainbow.” Read the story ➤ 

Deyanu. 

And hey, there is a new variant making the rounds these days, so take my word for it, and continue to be careful out there!

Brad out. 

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The Jew News Review – March 19, 2022 – March Madness

Shabbat shalom! Good luck with your brackets if you are following NCAA’s March Madness (basketball at its best) and, happy Purim to one and all!

Growing up, I don’t remember ever celebrating Purim, at home or at Hebrew School. That could just be my withering memory. For in Israel, it is a widely celebrated holiday, with kids dressing up in themed costumes 4 days before and 4 days after the actual holiday commemorating the saving of the Jewish people from the evil Haman by Queen Esther and Mordecai. The day of deliverance has become a day of feasting and rejoicing among Jews around the world. Perhaps this year, the story has more resonance, and we can pray that the people of Ukraine will be delivered from the evils and March madness of Poohtin, the Russian turd.

My shout out this week is to the people and government of Poland, who are working at the grassroots level on up through the government to tirelessly help the Ukrainian refugees with settlement in Poland. With the help of relief agencies from all over the world, the Polish people have built tent cities, are providing food, diapers, Sim cards, and free train services for the thousands of desperate Ukrainians entering their borders every day! Civilians are literally picking up people at the borders and bringing them into their homes. 

The response in Israel is a different, more complicated story, and one which is setting off serious internal debate within the country. Israel’s public position is that they will accept all Ukrainian Jews based on the “law of return” and 5,000 other presumably non-Jews. While others opposing this policy have just said, let them all in and sort it out later. Does Israel have a moral imperative to do more? What does “never again” mean in this context? Talk amongst yourselves. But if you want to get a better flavor for this debate, listen to the last 12 minutes of this weeks “Unholy: Two Jews on the News” with this link. Unholy: Two Jews on the News.

In other news for the Jews around the world, here are some of the carefully curated stories I have selected for you, courtesy of The Forward and Times of Israel. 

  1. Can an Orthodox Jew make it to the NBA? Yeshiva University’s Ryan Turell is trying to become the first Orthodox Jew to make it in the Bigs. Of course there have been other non-orthodox Jews in the NBA (Red Holzman, Dolph Scheys, Amar’e Stoudemire, eg) but Ryan would be the first to wear a Yarmulka while lighting up the 3-pointers. “Being the first Orthodox Jew in the NBA would mean the world to me, and a dream come true, God willing,” Turell told ESPN this week. “But, just as importantly, it would mean the world to others that never saw this as a possibility.”  Click here for more.
  2. This week in history: Albert Einstein, the world’s most famous Jewish genius, was born on March 14, 1879. When traveling, he was stopped everywhere he went by photographers and autograph seekers. On a visit to Tokyo in 1922, thousands of Japanese fans took part in an all-night vigil outside of the hotel where Einstein and his wife were staying. When he walked out onto the balcony, the throngs cheered with rapture.  Einstein’s mother, however, had a different opinion of her son. According to a 1947 headline from The Forward, “Albert Einstein’s Mother Thought He’d Grow Up To Be A Gornisht.” Gornisht is Yiddish for “nothing” or “zilch.”
  3. Polish Yeshiva now houses Ukrainian refugees – The basement is now crowded with boxes of clothes, strollers and diapers for babies, as well as food and medical supplies. A swarm of volunteers fold up clothes for the Ukrainians who arrive only with the things they were able to carry. In the city of Lublin, between winding cobbled streets, stands a bright yellow building that’s impossible to miss. It has eight columns out front and a wide staircase that leads to large, carved wooden doors that let out a long moan as they swing shut.It was built almost a century ago as a Jewish house of study, but today is being used for a purpose that no one who designed it would have ever imagined. Click here for more.
  1. 🏝️  Aloha-Mitzvah – A Jewish woman who moved to Maui in 2017 is turning the island into a destination for beachfront bnei mitzvahs. It’s drawing families frustrated by COVID restrictions at synagogues and party venues, and, as the pitchwoman put it: “It’s much more spiritual than being in a space with fluorescent lights.” (JTA)
  2. The Batman’s Jewish Origins – Batman (originally “The Bat-Man”) debuted in May 1939’s Detective Comics #27. He was created by artist Bob Kane (Robert Kahn) and writer Bill (Milton) Finger (who also co-created Green Lantern), in response to the runaway success of the first superhero, Superman, the year prior, by the same publishers. DC, Batman’s publisher, was owned by Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz (Yakov Lebovitz), Jewish street toughs from the Lower East Side turned entrepreneurs. They also published nudie mags, and before that Donenfeld made his living bootlegging moonshine during Prohibition. For more on the Bat Jew, click here.
  3. ✈️  Oops, Sierra Club changes its mind – Well, that was fast. The Sierra Club has reversed its decision and reinstated trips to Israel after a backlash. The environmental nonprofit – which has long offered trips to explore Israel’s biodiversity, bird migrations and desert landscape – had canceled them under pressure from anti-Zionist groups. Then the pressure reversed. “We cannot allow an existential issue as critical as combating climate change to be derailed by toxic political infighting,” said Tyler Gregory of the Jewish Community Relations Council. (Times of Israel)
  4. Culture tip of the week – We’ve all heard about President Zelenskyy’s previous career as an actor. Well, now’s your chance to see it for yourself. The first season of Zelenskyy’s political satire series, “Servant of the People,” arrived on Netflix Wednesday. In it, Zelenskyy portrays a teacher who unexpectedly becomes president after a video of him complaining about corruption goes viral. When he ran for president of Ukraine in 2019, he named his political party after the series. Watch it on Netflix here ➤

That’s all for now. And hey, let’s be careful out there. And don’t eat too much hamantaschen!

Brad out.

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The Jew News Review – March 12, 2022 – On the Road with our new JNR Staffer

Shabbat shalom! My new JNR staff member requires a lot of supervision, so this posting will be short, as Sandy and I are pretty busy making sure the new kid has adjusted to his temporary quarters for the weekend.

The swag here at this new gig is pretty decent!

Amidst the gloom and doom of Putin’s war on the world order, and amidst the whirlwind of other news items (International Women’s Day, Trillion $$ budget approved, Floridian morons passing “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, a pause in Iranian nuclear deal, Major League Baseball and the players agreed to a new deal, etc etc etc)) I caught this neat essay on the recent death of Mr. Charles Entenmann, the last of the great baking family. He and his brothers and mother took over the business originally delivering baked goods in their Brooklyn neighborhood on horse-drawn carriages. Two big headlines on this essay: Entenmann’s were not Jewish, and, Charles hated baked goods and never ate any of his product! I always thought Entenmann’s had to be Jewish, since the iconic brand was always present at Shiva’s and other Jewish gatherings. But I will always remember the raspberry danish and coffee cakes that provided an amazing sugar high, and had that amazing crumbly topping. Rest in peace Charles, you prince of sweets. Read the essay here.

Here are a few selected items for your Jew News of the week, courtesy of The Forward:

  1. Alan Dershowitz: Smart Schmuck making good? Dershowitz is helping build a Martha’s Vineyard Chabad house – with your money: Dershowitz, a former Harvard law professor, is now on Cameo, an app where civilians can buy video greetings from B-list celebrities. He joins luminaries like the Tinder Swindler, Michael Cohen and the guy who played Lyle in “Blazing Saddles.” Dershowitz said he will be donating his proceeds to build a shul near his summer home. In a few sample videos, he talks about Jewish day schools and Israeli politics. “Ask me any questions,” he said. “Call me.”Read the story ➤
  2. Green eggs and sperm? 🥚  Scientists at Hebrew University have discovered a way to reverse the aging of a woman’s eggs, a breakthrough that could help women over 40 have healthy babies. In the peer-reviewed study, published Tuesday, the doctors were able to make older eggs appear closer to those belonging to a 20-year-old. Can they do the same with my knees? (Times of Israel)
  3. Leonard Cohen’s estate sells his songs for big bucks – Hipgnosis Songs Fund—which also owns works from Lindsey Buckingham and Neil Young—purchased the catalog for an undisclosed sum. The sale includes the “songwriter’s share” of 127 songs in Cohen’s Stranger Music catalog, which includes everything published from the start of his career through 2000—such as “Hallelujah” and “First We Take Manhattan”—as well as an additional 84 derivative works.
  4. 📃  Representatives from the U.S. Holocaust Museum are in New England this week collecting artifacts from survivors and their families. Fred Wasserman, the museum’s acquisitions curator, recalled speaking with a survivor who donated a Star of David pendant that “she had put in her mouth” when she arrived at Auschwitz. “And then 75 years later, to be talking to her at the kitchen table, and to have her turn this over to me, and to hold this in my hand,” he said. “I’m getting chills just talking about this.” (Boston Globe)
  5. ✈️  Birthright Israel is lowering its age limit back to 26, after a five-year experiment aimed at attracting older participants. One of the reasons? Extending the age range caused people to put off going. This summer will be the last time people aged 27-32 can participate in the program. (JTA)
  6. Jack Kerouac turns 100 today – Nothing terribly Jewish about this piece, other than he was good friends with Alan Ginsburg. But this was a great interview with a biographer friend of Kerouac that aired on NPR yesterday, in honor of what would have been the famous beat generation author’s 100th birthday. Click here for the interview

That’s all folks! Gotta run and get my new staff member out of his crib! But, hey, let’s keep staying safe out there.

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – March 5, 2022 – Bullies, Babyn Yar, and Barkley doing the Hora

Shabbat shalom one and all! 

Birthday shoutouts to Alyssa Hirsh and my sister Phyllis. And send your good thoughts and financial support to our friends in the Ukraine. Here are links to a few deductible charities to help the Jews in Ukraine.  Chabad-Lubavitch Ukraine Relief Fund and the Mishpacha OrphanageAmerican Jewish Joint Distribution CommitteeAmerican Jewish Committee. And when our gas prices climb even further, feel patriotic in paying for the Ukrainian price bump.

Yours truly in the JNR office

My rant this week is about the fascination with, and the disturbing trend, especially among young men, to accept and even worship bullying, toxic male behavior and personalities. It partially explains the popularity of the orange turd and his minions, Republican fascination with Putin and other authoritarian leaders, right wingers who want to “own the libs”, Fox blowhards like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, etc etc etc. To this day, I still have a hard time understanding how 75 Million Americans could be duped into voting for the orange turd, but maybe PT Barnum was right about a sucker being born every minute. Or maybe these bullies have tapped into something that has been building for years. For example, this is the first year that 30 year olds are not doing as well as their parents did at 30, breaking a long held unwritten social contract, and this is especially true of young men. Colleges are now 60/40 women to men, and graduates are 2-1 women to men, as many more men than women are dropping out. Why are so many young men failing? The statistics are alarming: young men are 3x more likely to overdose, 4x more likely to commit suicide, 9x more likely to end up in prison. Women tend to mate with men that are socio-economically horizontal or upward from them, while men tend to go horizontal or downward. That leaves a boatload of failing young men without degrees and without a mate. Great recipe for bad shit to happen. 

It’s this backdrop of bad news for young men that the orange turds of the world prey upon. I suspect that many of these young men are feeling broke, alone, with not much hope of a future with the normal kinds of attachments that most of us enjoy and that keep us civil. They look for culprits to blame, and the fake masculinity, bravado, “blame the other guy” or immigrants for your problems becomes an appealing explanation for their own failures. But enough of this rant, it’s too damn depressing, and we have enough depressing news to deal with already. To end it on a more positive note, perhaps our white hot economy will provide some relief in the form of meaningful work opportunities for these young men. 

Now, moving onto the news of the Jews, here are some carefully curated selections for your weekend enjoyment. 

  1. What to do about those Jewish Russian Oligarchs – A few stories emerged this week about boycotts of products, confiscation of yachts, etc, tied to Russian oligarchs. The Forward has a story about Yuri Shefler, CEO of Stoli Vodka, and how some restaurants and liquor stores want to ban Stoli from their shelves and menus. The hitch: Stoli is made in Latvia, not Russia, by a company whose owner is a Russian Jew with UK and Israeli citizenship. For more, click here.And then there is Roman Abramovich, big time supporter of all things Jewish, who donates a handsome amount every year to keep the doors of the Yad Vashem museum open. Ironically, Israel has reached out to US diplomats in order to excuse Abramovich from sanctions that would freeze his assets. Read more here.
  2. Jared Kushner needs a good beating – This according to the right and honorable Roger “Dirty Trickster” Stone, who had a Danish camera crew follow him around for 2 years. Apparently, Roger was not too keen on Jared’s follow-thru on all the wonderful pardons Stone requested. Stone is a clown, and not worthy of any JNR space, but this one I added for pure weirdness. Click here for more. 
  3. Putin’s Rabbi? Believe it or not, this Rabbi claims to be close to Ras-Putin and has offered to mediate a peace settlement. Berel Lazar says he’s ready to do anything ‘to silence the guns and to stop the bombs,’ after Ukrainian rabbis rail against invasion. Lazar, a follower of the Chabad movement, has served as chief rabbi of Russia for some 20 years — though the position is somewhat contested — and has long been known to have the ear of the Russian president, occasionally earning him the moniker “Putin’s rabbi.” You go Rabbi! Click here for more from the Times of Israel.
  4. Contemplating Babyn Yar – The Forward devoted a lot of space to the attack by Putin on this holy site. The Russian bomb that hit part of the memorial complex of Babyn Yar – the ravine in central Kyiv where more than 33,000 Jews were massacred in 1941 – was not the week’s most deadly. But the symbolism of such a site being struck was powerful for Jews worldwide. Here is an essay by Batya Greenwald reflecting on the irony of Putin bombing the site of a former Nazi atrocity. Click here for essay.
  5. ⛷️   Some Uplifting News! The Paralympics begin today in Beijing and will feature Israel’s first-ever winter participant, 20-year-old Sheina Vaspi. She lost a leg as a toddler when a bus hit the family’s car and will ski in multiple events on her remaining leg. “My leg didn’t survive,” she said. “No big deal.” Vaspi, who is Hasidic, got permission to compete wearing a skirt over her ski pants. (Times of Israel)
  6. Last year on this day, Charles Barkley joked that he was losing weight so that he could dance the hora at his daughter’s Jewish wedding. “I’ve been really working out hard because apparently they’ve got to pick me up in a chair,” he said. His daughter said the 250-pound basketball star had a great time on a chair at the Jewish celebrations after initial worries his fellow dancers wouldn’t be able to lift him!
Sir Charles doing the Hora!

That’s all I’ve got this week. Remember, be careful out there. And if you have an open shot, take Putin down!

Brad out.