The Jew News Review – Maskless Week 3 – Milestones and Memories

Shabbat Shalom!

It’s a gray, rainy and dreary day here in the Boston area. But this week my spirits were lifted when a good friend of mine presented me with a beautiful golf jersey as part of my induction into the “No Negative Energy” club. I was informed that membership in this very select (there are currently 4 of us) club was predicated on a demonstration of unbounded positivity in the face of whatever adversity may come your way. I am honored to be a part of said group, but now must deal with the pressure that comes along with it.  So this week I am resisting any mention of turds with an orange hue, or any group of politicians whose name begins with R, and whose treachery continues to explore new depths of depravity. Thus, I will remain focused like a Jewish laser beam on being my usual positive self.

Thanks to Uncle Joe’s leadership, operation warp speed, and millions of our fellow citizens, today marks a major milestone in our journey to the “new normal”. Governor Baker has announced that beginning today, we can return to pre-pandemic activities, including full attendance at sports and concert venues, restaurants etc, and masks are only required indoors for the non-vaccinated. Sounds liberating, and I think there is a palpable excitement among the citizenry, but I will continue to worry about any policy that relies on an honor system and its potential impact on those among us with underlying health problems. So, enjoy the new freedoms, but I would still advise some caution.

Another milestone this week: My grandson Max turned one month old last Saturday, and putting all bias aside, he clearly is an amazing child. His brilliant eyes are beginning to sharply focus on everything, and i think he may be right-handed, as he reaches for the squid-like mobile hanging over his crib with the right hand. It didn’t take me long to put the sharp focus and right handed-ness together to speculate that, like his grandfather, he will likely be a great shortstop someday!  So, I have started shopping for a baseball glove befitting of the world’s greatest grandchild, the Wilson A2000. I am dating myself here, but for those of you that didn’t play baseball, every little leaguer growing up always dreamed about owning the Wilson A2000, as at that time it was the best glove in the world, worn by most professionals. But it also had a hefty price tag, so was out of reach for most of us that lived in the real world. But for Max, well, what’s a grandparent for anyway. And call me old fashion, but what better memories can one have than tossing the ball with your son or grandson in the back yard, or side yard, as I did with my Dad many moons ago. In my personal “field of dreams”, how amazing would it be for my Dad to emerge from the woods behind my house and play 4 generation, 4-way catch with me, Michael, and Max? 

Another milestone this week:  One year ago on the 25th of this month, the story of another man, a father, a brother, a son, stopped the world in its tracks and made us all take a deep look at who we truly are, and the racism embedded deep in our history and society, and for a while I felt the path to justice took on a new, re-invigorated arc. A change in our police methods is long overdue, and my hopes and unbounded optimism believe that change is possible. Let’s hope that the death of George Floyd, and so many others at the hands of our police, will lead to this long overdue change. 

And now, what about the news of the Jews this week? Well, your weekly wait is over! Thanks to The Forward! But, first a word about Israel and Palestinians. Thankfully, the cease-fire has held but what are we to make of what happened, and what happens next? How should we feel about Israel amidst all the terrible publicity and popular, political shift toward support of the Palestinian cause? This is complicated shit for sure, and it is getting more and more difficult to stand by Israel, right or wrong. It is possible to still love Israel, and be critical of current policies and politicians. One American Jew called this a ““convergence moment”, fueled by the Trump and Netanyahu years, the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and, of course, the explosion and polarization of social-media conversations about all of it.” I regret, and will not defend, some of the decisions made by Netanyahu as I have written previously. But I will always defend Israel’s right to defend herself, and strongly disagree with some of the recent criticisms about Israel as an “occupier” and certainly would never equate apartheid with the Israeli imposed restrictions and limitations on Palestinian freedoms in certain areas. Not that it makes it right, but Palestinians have more rights in Israel than most others in Arab countries! Nuf said. No Negative Energy. 

  1. The money trail that led to the Israel-Palestine conflict – Fascinating investigation into the web of holding companies behind the real estate issue that kindled the latest conflict. What started out as an Israeli effort to evict Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem and ended in an 11 day war, has connections to a lawyer in New York. But otherwise, the investigation hit a few dead ends. 
  2. Jewish jokes in Friends that didn’t age well? I was a decade too old for Friends, but maybe many of you can recall and validate whether the show has aged well in general, or the Jewish humor has become a little stale. Move on if you don’t care.
  3. Olympic-bound brothers competing in Triathlon for Israel – What i like about this story is that the 3rd younger brother is the best triathlete, but not competing since he is currently serving his commitment in the Israeli military. But, even better, is the fact that no Israeli women qualified for the competition. Sandy? Beth? If Michael Stone and I commit to the ski team, maybe we can all compete in Beijing in 2022 and Paris in 2024?
  4. George Floyd Square one year later – The prominent location where George Floyd was murdered has become a popular tourist spot, and location of a gazillion selfies. It is also a place of solace within the pain and anguish of waiting to see how much Black Lives really matter, as we await the sentencing of Chauvin. 
  5. Scott Stringer, Jewish NYC Mayoral candidate’s wife is standing by her man – In a Forward exclusive, an interview with the candidate and his wife. Stringer has been accused of sexual harassment that occurred decades ago, and it has led to a number of supporters and endorsees pulling the plug on their support. Can he make a come-back? I don’t know anything about the accusations, but he seems like a nice Jewish boy?!
  6. A Jewish drag king walks into a bar…..(Victor, Victoria vs Faigel, Faigela?) – I never even knew there was such a thing as a “drag king”  so learned something new. “Make Me a King”, a new Jewish British film, is attempting to re-define the Jewish cultural narrative. According to the author, the art of drag dates back to the early 1800’s but those making the big bucks back then were woman dressed as men poking fun at male stereotypes. The movie recounts a fictional story of Ari, a Jewish drag king rejected by her family, “who is enamored with Pepi Littman, an early-20th century Yiddish vaudeville singer and comedian, know as the fist Jewish drag king performer.” Holy shit, the first? Apparently there is a Jewish drag king genre/community and as the author points out, Jews come in all shapes and sizes. Good information here on the Jewish LGBT community in London as well. The film will air at the UK Jewish Film Festival in December, before making the international rounds. 

That’s all for now, and hey, new freedoms or not, be careful out there!
Brad out.

The Jew News Review – Maskless Week 2 – “Cease and Persist”

Shabbat shalom! 
Thankfully, the week ended with a promising attempt to end the killing and violence in Israel. And as of this writing, the fragile cease fire appears to be holding. I love Israel, as I am sure all of you do as well, but frankly the last few weeks have not been a good look for our team. It’s very easy sitting in my comfortable and secure home in the Sharon burbs, to take Bibi to task for his handling of this crisis. What seemed to start as a real estate dispute erupted into the worst violence in the area since I can’t remember when. But the scariest aspect is the internal Arab-Jewish violence plaguing Israel’s so- called mixed cities that many have worried could spiral into a civil war.  I won’t bother to describe how we got to this ugly point, (click here for an excellent podcast on the origins but I do feel that Bibi should fade away and retire to Florida after the crisis is settled.  I work with many Israelis at my company, many of whom did an aliyah in the last 10 years, and are now experiencing something they have never seen or felt before. Most of them are typically secular Jews and are not supportive of Bibi and the direction he has taken the country. They are anxious, and scared, and some even accuse Bibi of  a “wag the dog” conspiracy to deflect attention from his legal and political issues, and believe he should have left the political arena long ago.  Whatever you may feel about Bibi, the current crisis, or how Israel is handling and managing the Palestinians in general, Israel cannot allow Hamas to continue firing rockets randomly into civilian areas. So, the cease fire is an opportunity to change the dynamic, and try and find a path toward peace or at least some kind of detente or entente cordiale. There is a science behind cease fires and data that supports the idea that cease fires, even if they fail, help in the long run (Syria, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, eg).  I still believe a two-state solution is possible, but as you know, I am the ultimate optimist. And while I am not the praying type, I am sending positive thought-waves and a blog or two in that direction. 

Meanwhile, this latest crisis has brought further attention to the plight of the Palestinian people, prompting protest marches around the world, and the political winds seem to be shifting toward support of the Palestinians. Biden is probably the most experienced President in my time in dealing with foreign affairs, and he has an excellent staff around him, so it should be interesting to watch how he handles this tough political dilemma. His first real test in the foreign affairs arena, and it aint an easy one. 
On a lighter note, how about them Red Sox! And the Bruins win again, now up on the Capitals 3 games to 1. Go Bruins!
Now, onto the news of the Jews for the week, courtesy of The Forward. As you can imagine, a lot of coverage on Israel, and a few other goodies.

  1.  Bringing back Jewish life at Babi Yar  – Probably the worst massacre of WWII occurred at this location in Ukraine. Over two nights in 1941, approximately 34,000 Jews were executed by SS officers. An international organization, including Senator Lieberman, have now built a holocaust memorial on the site, starting with a synagogue. The pictures above depict the structure, resembling a pop-up book. An interesting idea to bring back life to such a deadly site, and some interesting architectural ideas.
  2. Media censoring posts about Israel and Gaza? – Lot’s of reporting on this from both sides of the political spectrum, and its not just a conspiracy theory. Due to the complicated nature of the situation, algorithms and tagging systems have had a tough time discerning what is acceptable and what is not. Instagram and Facebook have actually issued apologies and are trying to rectify the situation with actual human beings that might be better than bots understanding the nuances of the situation. 
  3. An interview with an Arab – Interesting piece of excerpts from Jodi’s interview with an Arab leader of a Co-existence group who ran a failed campaign for Knesset this spring for a new party called “Ma-an”, which means “together” in Arabic. If only we could find more centrists and reasonable people on both sides, we could get to peace in no time. Worth a read.
  4. Rabbi Zimmerman investigation – Was there an attempt to sweep this under the rug? This not so nice Rabbi is now persona non gratis in the community and was forced to step down from his role as President of Hebrew Union College.  As Sandy would say, another incident of a man using his small brain.
  5. “Zoom fatigue” worse for Jewish women? – Horse poop. Maybe it’s my hormone injections, but i don’t think gender plays a difference here. 
  6. Can progressives relate to what it’s like for Israelis currently? A good read. Those calling out Israel as the apartheid oppressor should read this.

Well, that’s all for this week. And hey, as always, be careful out there, mask or no mask.
Brad out.

The Jew News Review – Mask-less Week 1 – Thinking about Israel

Shabbat shalom.
My thoughts are with our Israeli friends, and, if I had any Palestinian friends, those same thoughts would be with them as well.  There are no winners in this violence and, sadly, there seems to be no end in sight.  A perfect storm of bad shit has resulted in an eruption of violence in Jerusalem and Gaza and many other areas with an intensity we have not seen in the area for some time. I hope the US and others can broker some kind of cease fire and at least prevent a further escalation of violence, or worse, an all out ground war.  I am saddened at the loss of innocent life, and that the prospect of peace is now probably another generation away. I am not happy with Bibi and Israeli decisions that have clearly helped to escalate the conflict, and have even managed to unite the Palestinians. And I hate that Hamas thinks that dropping bombs is a justified response to those decisions, no matter how stupid or misguided they were. But here we are, and as an optimist, I am worried that I don’t see a happy ending here.  But, I will remain hopeful that maybe this will be an inflection point for something positive.  And I will close this topic with a slightly modified reminder from Golda Meir, “If Hamas puts down their weapons, there will be no more war. If Israel puts down her weapons, there will be no more Israel.”

On a slightly less serious note, if you are reading this, I can assume you were not flattened like Wile E Coyote in a Roadrunner cartoon by uncontrolled Chinese space junk falling from the sky. Luckily, it missed Sharon by a whisker, and fell harmlessly into the Indian Ocean. It was Karl Marx who said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” The whole Chinese space junk episode that occurred earlier this week reminded me of another very similar historic space dump that occurred back in 1979. For the younger ones on this post, a US space station called Skylab lost its orbit and was mostly incinerated before dropping some of its debris on parts of western Australia and the Indian Ocean. NASA warnings of the pending Skylab junk-drop sent many of us on a quest to protect ourselves by any means possible. Yours truly found a perfect solution, which I am modeling below. I was able to resurrect this historic helmet from a dusty basement bin in time to, once again, protect myself from uncontrolled falling space debris.  Needless to say, the helmet was, thankfully, never truly tested.

 It certainly was a Jew newsy week. Besides the escalating Israel-Palestinian violence, lot’s to read about this week, including some interesting statistics about Jews, courtesy of the Pew Research Center.  Now, what about the rest of the news for us Jews this week you may be asking? Asked, and now answered, courtesy of The Forward:

  1. American Jews (statistically speaking) – Our friends at the Pew research center provided some interesting tidbits based on their survey of over 4,000 interviews with Jews across the country. Generally, the trends seem to correlate to the population in general and there seems to be a growing divide between those that consider themselves Orthodox, and the rest of us. A few stats of note:  The rate of intermarriage continued to grow, now at 72% of non-orthodox Jews, but nearly 70% of those families are raising their children Jewish either religiously, culturally or otherwise. The tribe has grown in abslolute numbers,  but stayed stable as an overall percentage of the US population with a significant growth in diversity as the % of non-white Jews in general is 8%, but 15% among 18-29 year olds.  Overall, denomination remained about the same, 9% of us identify as Orthodox, 17% as Conservative, 37% as Reform, and the balance “Jews of no religion”. Interesting stuff.
  2. What to tell your kids about Israel-Palestinian violence – Kids understanding differs on these matters, depending on their age. Duh. Based on my deep understanding of child psychology, my recommendation is: talk to your children and make sure you don’t scare the shit out of them. If they are frightened, you can always provide them with a Skylab Protective helmet for additional security.
  3. Will you stand with Israel? A passionate piece from the son of a US Jewish dad who put his life on the line to protect Israel for over 30 years. I remember well the many years we donated money to plant trees in Israel and the many years the kids were asked for Tzedakah at Hebrew school. There are many ways the Jews of the diaspora support the Jewish state, but, would I actually put my life on the line, and die for Israel? Good question to ponder, but let’s hope it never comes to that.
  4. Jews of Color Shabbaton this weekend! You heard it here first. What started as a Facebook post has now grown to an event, sponsored by, The Jews of Color Mishpacha Project. And now that we know the facts behind our growing Jewish diversity, makes sense for these kinds of social networks and events to evolve and grow in popularity.  For more information, click here
  5. Jews on horses? In the Olympics? – Bet you thought you would never see a headline like that! Meet “Flying Feathers” Danielle Goldstein Waldman, an upper east side New Yorker preparing to compete in the Equestrian competitions this summer in Japan. With a style all her own, she weaves hand-dyed feathers from 10 different bird breeds into her hair, wears yoga pants instead of the traditional jodhpurs, and basically sounds a bit weird. But good luck to her! And don’t get hurt! Jews are not suppose to be riding on horses! She could lose an eye for goodness sakes. 
  6. Van Morrison makes me puke – Just one more moon dance my ass. If you have any of his albums, chuck them in the garbage. This guy is a nut job anti-semite, and his latest album really sucks anyway. Cancel this jerk.

Sorry to end on that note, but, hey, please be careful out there!
Brad out.

The Jew News Review – Quarantine Week 61 – Hope springs eternal?

Shabbat shalom, hey! (or eh? for my Canadian friends). 

It seems as though spring has sprung in a major way over the last week. Even the lazy, late-blooming oak trees have come to life, and most of our garden perennials are popping. So, all this new life and growth and warmer weather has lifted my spirits, and I hope all of yours as well.  Alexander Pope (yes, I was a nerdy English Major in college) wrote in his Essay on Man in 1733 that  “hope springs eternal”, which has transcended the centuries as a popular expression of hope even in the face of adversity.  Thus, I will remain hopeful that these harbingers of Spring will offset the creeping darkness that is surrounding and threatening to destroy our democracy. The orange turd thankfully may have been evicted from social media platforms, but while he stews and whines in Florida, his treasonous followers continue to perpetuate the Big Lie, and evict anyone from the party that does not subscribe to it faithfully. Webster’s defines treason as “the crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government”. That is precisely what these morons are attempting to do, by ridding the party of anyone not buying the Big Lie, pushing and passing voter suppression laws around the country, and eventually putting themselves in a position where a republican controlled congress would not validate any election they did not win. That is a direct threat to our Democracy, our constitution, the rule of law, and the peaceful transference of power that separates us from the banana republics and dictatorships of the world. We need to call out and remove from office anyone in Congress that still subscribes to the Big Lie, and the mainstream media needs to wake up to this reality, and start asking why these folks are not considered traitors and removed from office. And real Republicans, the few that still believe in facts and live in the real world, should hold a massive press conference and call for the Big Lie proponents to be removed from office. This shit has gone on long enough and needs to be ended before it’s too late. Hope springs eternal?

Other than those cheery thoughts, what else is happening in the news for Jews this week you may be wondering? Well, your wait is over, courtesy of The Forward:

  1. The Yeshiva University not inclusive of LGBTQ? A thorough, well written, but lengthy piece about discriminatory behavior and the lack of inclusion at this Jewish institution of higher learning. What does the Torah say about homosexuality you may ask? Well, to sum it up for you: Sex Good, same gender sex Bad. But, in the most traditional sectors of Orthodoxy, empathy has grown only in a very limited way, but in the center and left of the movement there is a slow but steady shift toward more understanding and inclusive attitudes and policies. Hope springs eternal?
  2. Cicadas and Jews: what could we Hebrews possibly have in common with this cacophonous breed of insect? They emerge every 17 years around Shavuot, but did you know they are the only insect considered kosher? And their low level, high decibel buzzing is actually a mating call? (I am thinking of trying to use a shofar to attract Sandra) But not only do they make music, they also inspire it, think Dylan “Day of the Locusts”.  Come to think of it, Dylan’s nasally vocals do sound a bit similar to the sounds of the Cicada. 
  3. George Floyd’s Yahrzeit: “Say his name” – May 25th marks the yahrzeit for George Floyd and the author suggests one way to honor his death and is to light a candle, say the kaddish, or just say his name. 
  4. The streets of New York – Where did those street names come from? A new book “Names of New York” has all the answers, and probably not the answers you expected. But, who really cares? Another New York- biased story from The Forward. One interesting tidbit: There is a street near Manhattan beach called Corbin Place, named for a raging anti-semite and real-estate developer, Austin Corbin. It so happens that Corbin was a prominent member of something called the Society for the Repression of Jews. In 2007, residents of the now heavily Jewish neighborhood hit on an unexpected way to address Corbin’s legacy: they added the initial “M,” renaming the street for Margaret Corbin, one of the few female soldiers in the Revolutionary war. 
  5. Did getting the Covid vaccine change the way you pray? Well, I am not much of a praying type, but I do confess that there are moments and events that somehow instill a sense of wonderment that transcends the physical. And while we are greatly relieved to now be vaccinated, getting the second shot was not one of those moments for me. Should it have been?
  6. TikTok and Jewish heritage month – For the life of me I still do not understand this particular platform. How many silly pet videos can anyone tolerate? Is this the equivalent of 15 seconds of fame? Anyway, this story is about how TikTok tried to do a good thing, but it ended up creating an anti-semitic backlash of sorts. 
  7. “Here Today” reviewed – A Billy Crystal produced and acted new Jewish-themed movie, sounds like it might be good. Being a Crystal fan, I might not be as critical as this critic and just try and enjoy it for what it is, a schlocky comedy with alot of Jewish characters and themes.

Well, there you have it. That’s all for now, and hey, let’s still be careful out there.
Brad out.

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast; 
Man never Is, but always To be blest. 
The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home, 
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

The Jew News Review – Quarantine Week 60 – The good, the bad, and the horrible

Shabbat shalom one and all!
We are all still glowing a bit from the arrival of Max, the world’s most brilliant and beautiful grandchild, who now has an entourage of followers and admirers fawning over every yawn and involuntary movement. To be honest, the kid is pretty cool, and handsome, and  it’s really amazing to think about the beginning of a new generation in the family and all the nachas ahead. I promise this will be the last baby picture posted, but i really couldn’t help myself. The advertising people at Gerber have already contacted Kalie and Michael who are seeking an agent to negotiate his first contract. 

Continuing with the good news, President Biden continues to maintain high approval ratings, vaccines continue to ramp up, the economy is humming, and the country continues to move steadily toward opening up again. Amazing that just 4 months ago the country was subjected to an insurrection led by an orange turd. And we can all breathe a sigh of relief, at least for now, that the blue line has finally cracked, and at least one police officer will go to jail for murdering a person of color without cause. I am hopeful this may finally turn the tide toward meaningful police reform, and the use of murder as a deterrent will end. However, on the bad news front, all of this progress will come to an abrupt end if we let the knuckle headed Trumpian Republicans get away with voter suppression and gerrymandering as evidenced by recently passed laws in Georgia and now Florida. And lord almighty, has the world seen a bigger asshole than Tucker Carlson? I never condone violence, but when you see his face, don’t you want to just punch it?

On the Jew news front, the news out of Israel this week was horrible. While the picture below of the gathering Haredi on Mount Meron may seem like a different species of Jew from you and I, we are all cut from the same cloth (hopefully less black cloth for most of us) and this horrible news shook Israel, as many scrambled to find a missing son or daughter.  It reminded me of the equally horrible Muslim Hajj a few years ago that resulted in even more tragic deaths. I had to Google Lag B’Omer, the holiday being celebrated during this tragic event, to learn that it marks the end of a plague that killed thousands of disciples of Rabbi Akiva, who the Romans assassinated for defying their rules against teaching Torah. So my thoughts are with those lost and their families, as at least for this week, we are all Lag B’Omer.
Well, what of other Jew News this week you may ask? Here is your weekly dish, courtesy of The Forward:

  1. A hole in the wall music Shop in Greenwich maintains the link to the towns Jewish past – Often seen in episodes of Mrs Maisel, and with links to Bob Dylan, this funky shop and it’s even funkier owner ties the village to a Jewish past despite decades of gentrification. I would love to visit this place!
  2. What Ultimate Frisbee can teach us about John Ossof – Who knew? Apparently the Jewish Senator from Georgia, a gifted athlete who switched from baseball to ultimate frisbee in school, can “lay out” with the best of them. That particular move, and the sport in general, has some interesting metaphors to building character and promise in the world of politics. “Ultimate’s culture is centered on the ethical core of self officiation, but a large part of the spirit of the game is about being willing to truly play with your opponents.” 
  3. Pudu Pudu Pudding part of a Nazi plot? First of all, what the hell is Pudu Pudu pudding? And what in the world is its connection to Nazis? I made up the bit about a Nazi plot, but apparently pudding has become trendy in certain hipster sections of urban centers. The shop is apparently owned by a family with connections to the Nazi party, and use to provide everything from baking powder and hand grenades to the Nazis, but this fascinating piece goes into the larger issue of companies (Volkswagen, Daimler-Benz, eg), opening up their history and exposing their connections and collaborations with the Nazis. Good stuff and worth a read. 
  4. Farewell Bob Fass, radical radio rabbi – Say that 5 times fast. And who the hell is Bob Fass you may ask? The dope smoking, anarchist was a passionate Dylan fan, and led a wacky congregation called The Cabal, that mostly existed in the radio waves ether. Sounds like my kind of congregation actually. Big Bob passed away last week, but left behind an interesting and bazaar legacy that included everything from live performances by Tiny Tim and Joni Mitchell to conspiracy theorists proclaiming coups in San Francisco. I wish i knew about him sooner.
  5. The bingeing pleasures of Jewish Clergy? What TV shows do Rabbis watch? – A burning question on my mind for sure. And now we have the answer! Read about it here. And yes, Tiger King is among the list.

That’s all for now. And hey, it never goes without saying, be careful out there!
Brad out.


The Jew News Review – Quarantine Week 59 – “Let the word go forth…”

“from this time and place, that the torch has passed to a new generation of Govermans!”

Shabbat Shalom, and please welcome my new and first grandson, Maxwell Parker Goverman (MPG). Born this morning at 4:58 to a very happy and healthy Kalie and Michael. Max weighed in brilliantly at a lean 7.9 pounds. In honor of Max, and with respect to my complete lack of sleep, the JNR staff have elected to take the day off in order to focus on savoring and celebrating the happy occasion. Unfortunately, still no visitors allowed, so we will await Max’s arrival in Sharon, hopefully Sunday. 

All for now, and hey, let’s be careful out there.
See you all next week!

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – Quarantine Week 58 – A backhoe and the meaning of life

Shabbat Shalom! 
And good morning to everyone.  I am looking out the window from the JNR office here in Sharon, and surveying our neighbor’s property where a backhoe has been excavating their backyard in order to install an in-ground swimming pool.  This monster backhoe seems out of place in our bucolic suburban woodlands, a mechanical Godzilla literally scraping away an entire hill leaving a messy, muddy hole in its place.  And it makes me think about what it’s like to be the guy running the backhoe, how his job has an immediate, significant and lasting impact on the earth, and hopefully one that will leave it better than it was before.  Hence, and sorry for this introspective indulgence, I ponder a philosophical question:  How does our work, our parenting, our relationships effect change in the landscape of our lives and the world? Not sure why this popped into my coffee addled brain this morning, perhaps the endless stream of mass shootings, police killings and other recent reminders of our mortality fired off a few somber, deep-thinking neurons. Whatever. Talk amongst yourselves. 

On a lighter note, how about those Red Sox? I am still skeptical, but will hold out hope they really have a pitching staff that will continue their winning ways. And how about the news of the Jews this week? Well, let’s get to it, courtesy of The Forward:

  1. “Family Business”: The new TV series about a French Jewish family now streaming on Netflix – My big question is why the sudden interest in all these shows about Jews? I haven’t seen this one yet, but I can’t recommend the new season of Shtizel enough. Put it on your watch list for sure! The new show is about a Jewish family in France that tries to convert the family owned Butcher shop into an underground marijuana operation. Sounds like it could be interesting/funny, but be prepared for lots of placement ads for Carhartt! 
  2. Whatever happened to the famous New York Knish? Inquiring minds certainly want to know more about this story, and the deep history of the knish in New York politics. Invented centuries ago in eastern Europe, eating the pastry encrusted potato or meat treat on the campaign trail became a symbolic staple of mayoral candidate schmoozing, much like walking in the St. Patricks Day parade. 
  3. Clever pandemic tax deductions for Rabbi’s and others? Working or worshipping from home might provide a few tax deductions for more than just rabbis. Can you really deduct your dining room table?
  4. Transgenders the new boogey-person for Republicans – Looking to pick more culture war fights, Republicans are passing laws limiting rights of transgender people. This is one story how the new law in Arkansas that Republicans, with an override of the Governor’s veto, will harm people by inhibiting access to healthcare for the transgender community.
  5. Robin Washington joins the editorial staff at The Forward – A “Jew of Color”, Robin Washington brings a rich history of accomplished journalism, as well as some diversity, to The Forward. Some locals might recognize him as he worked on the Boston Herald as well as the Boston Globe and WGBH.
  6. A Rabbi who “puts the bourbon in suburban” – Great story about how Rabbi Chaim Litvin went from inspecting distilleries for kosher certification, to launching his own Bourbon label, “Bourbon Rabbi”. My first question here was what a Rabbi would be doing in Kentucky since there are probably more horses than Jews there, but there is an explanation. So, read on! And head to your nearby liquor store to pick up a bottle for yourself! And stay tuned for his next Bourbon offering, “Pashta Von Pupik”.

All for now, and hey, let’s be careful out there!
Brad out.

The Jew News Review – Quarantine Week 57 – The new normal, DMX and the ramblings of an old fart

Shalom everyone! And disregard my first email for the JNR this week as I mistakenly pushed the send button before I even had my first cup of coffee! Sorry about that.

Yesterday I spoke with my Brazilian colleagues and got an earful about how horrible their Covid situation is right now, and it reminded me of the moronic approach our previous administration had taken to managing the crisis. And that in turn led to more thoughts about how different things are now, that despite Republican attempts to continue disrupting progress with divisive culture wars, I feel much more positive about the direction of the country and am starting to get a sense that, outside the beltway, we are starting to pull together as a country! Go USA! Don’t get me wrong, we have many a crisis brewing on multiple fronts, but at least we don’t have a president insulting and picking fights with friends and foes alike. We are making our way back to “normal”, i think. 

One more sign of normality was that I ventured out to Newbury comics and picked up a few new albums, Bruce Springsteen’s latest “ Letter to You”, and an iconic classic from Bob Dylan “Blood on the Tracks”, which I already own on CD, but wanted to add it to my vinyl collection as well. While both albums present deeply brooding tones and reflections of loss, they also present an interesting contrast to sounds of the recently departed DMX, a famous rapper who the NYT dubbed “Snarly and Soulful”. I am not a huge fan of rap and hip hop, (call me an old fart if you wish), but I made an effort to listen to DMX’s greatest hits on Amazon Music, and can honestly say, I was not impressed, and did not hear much in the way of “soulful”. My rap to the younger generations on this has always been wether any of his music, or any rap music for that matter, will be played 200 years from now? Will it last the test of time? I will stick with Dylan, Bruce and the Beatles on that front. 

Now, many of you are by now thinking, enough of this drivel, and let’s get to the good stuff! What of the news for the Jews this week, you ponder? Well, ponder no longer, here you go, courtesy of The Forward”

  1. In search of the perfect Bagel – Brooklyn’s finest bagel spots are reviewed with a very anti-hipster and discerning eye. Is it really the NYC water that makes them so special? Can our former Brooklyners weigh in here? Molly? Ben?
  2. Will Evangelicals be allowed to visit Israel? Evangelicals have consistently made pilgrimage to Israel for religious and other reasons. Israel has strict requirements around proof of vaccine to enter, and the Evangelicals in general (45%) have said they will not take the vaccine. Should make for some interesting dynamics as Israel will need to decide on letting them in or not. Stay tuned.
  3. The Hatfields vs McCoysteins? Crazy and idiotic behavior in a predominantly Jewish and wealthy gated community in west Del Ray beach, Florida, pitting one christian family against the Jews. You really can’t make this shit up. But, it is Florida….
  4. Shtizel and it’s presentation of issues around reproductive rights – An interesting look at how the 3rd (and very good!) season of Shtizel deals with abortion, and other reproductive issues within the orthodox community. Spoiler alert: The Torah sides on the side of the health of the mother. 
  5. Hunter Biden’s book and what it says about his Jewish wife, Melissa Cohen – Love at first sight apparently. They were engaged about 3 days after they met and share a tattoo of “Shalom”.  Interesting story.
  6. Paul Simon a historical footnote? – No way says this music critic and fan of the singer/song writer. I happen to agree with the writer, Paul will get more than a footnote, maybe an entry in the bibliography.
  7. The Rabbi bringing Judaism to Saudi Arabia? First of all, i thought it was against the religion to proselytize? Originally from Greenwich Village, Rabbi Yaakov Herzog is helping the Saudi’s frame what religious community life will look like in the new Egypt-bridging city being built there, specifically working with the many Jewish expats, tourists, and business people that will be living and working there. 

Well, that does it for the week. And hey, it never goes without saying, be careful out there!
Brad out.

The Jew News Review – Quarantine Week 56 – “Play Ball” Just don’t do it in Georgia…

Shabbat Shalom everyone! 

Passover ends today for Israel and most reform Jews, but lasts an eighth day for other Jews. Yet another thing we can’t seem to get all Jews to agree upon. Apparently the rift goes way back to the world’s first ever phishing scam. Based on physical observation of the crescent moon, the rabbis used signal fires to announce the start of a new month. But, those silly Cutheans decided to undermine this process and set signal fires on the wrong days to deliberately throw people off.  The rabbis responded to this phishing scam by sending foot messengers to announce the new month. Since it sometimes took days for that communication mode to work beyond Israel, it was decided that, to play it safe, the first and last days of Passover would be 2 days. Hence, the first and second seder’s, and the eighth day of Passover came to be!
Seems like today’s Republicans, and I use that term loosely these days, don’t like to play ball by the rules, and rather than compete in the free market of ideas, they have adopted the strategy of competing by changing the rules to suppress voting around the country in their last desperate attempts to hang onto their power base:  old white guys, racists, and fringe lunatics. Do we need secure elections? Of course, but this sham is so transparent, and so wrong, even the business community is rejecting it, and Major League Baseball just announced it has pulled the All Star Game from Atlanta. Shit’s getting real, and this is just the beginning. Republicans are doubling down on the strategy and, rightly and shamefully so, view this as an existential issue for the party. Fasten your seat belts everyone. And let’s hope some moderates within the Republican party can step up and save the grand ole party from self annihilation. 
So, what’s new with Jews this week you ask? Well, here it is, your weekly summary, courtesy of The Forward.  This being a holiday week, I would say that Jodi (Forward editor) deliberately selected some light fare for the week. Enjoy!

  1. King Kong vs Godzilla: Who should Jews root for? I have never been a Godzilla fan (reptiles creep me out in general), and I always respected the overgrown ape for his taste in women. He also seems to have more Jewish connections than Godzilla!  And there is some credence to the big ape helping to create the empire state building as the iconic symbol of New York and the world. So, despite some vague, unproven reference to Hitler being a big Kong fan, my money is still on Kong, but you should read this fun piece and draw your own conclusions.
  2. American Jews doing enough for social justice? We do a lot now, but the point is, if you have watched any of the trial this week, we clearly need to do more. Seeking justice is inherent in the Jewish philosophy and religion, encoded in Deuteronomy “tzedek, tzedek, tirdof,” or “Justice, Justice, you shall pursue.” The black Jewish author of this piece asks the question, “We Jews are no strangers to injustice. So isn’t this our fight too? Or has the pursuit of justice become another empty slogan?” Good question. Read on if you want to add a little Jewish guilt to your matzah this week. 
  3. The role of live streaming in synagogues post Covid – Pandemic, shmandemick. Enough already. I skipped this one.
  4. Cool Jew: A Black female Rabbi in Brookline, Mass – Good to see one of our locals making headlines in The Forward! Interesting little bio about this black rabbi, a former southern Baptist who converted to Judaism in her sophomore year of college. What took her so long? Despite converting over 20 years ago and now a rabbi at Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, she is still regarded by many in the community as an outsider. Some interesting insights here.
  5. Plastics: the eleventh plague? A little over the top treating plastic as chametz? Maybe not. We’ve come a long way in understanding the harm this common substance causes to the environment. 
  6. Name the first Jewish Major League Baseball pitcher – It’s not Sandy Koufax! Hint: his name is Leo Fishel. Leo pitched his first and only game in the Majors for The New York Giants on May 3, 1899. His mother made him quit baseball to become a lawyer! 
  7. Shtisel: Season 3 – Sandy and I started watching the new season, and enjoying it! Timeless themes intertwining life and art set in this orthodox community, well acted and written. Kind of a soap opera, following the trials and tribulations of the family, but much better. 

That’s all for this week! Yom Tov! And hey,  everyone be safe out there. 
Brad out.

The Jew News Review – Quarantine Week 55 – Happy Passover!

Chad Sameach, and Shabbat shalom one and all! 
Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday for a variety of reasons, among them the themes of freedom, redemption and the telling and retelling of a great story for generations to come (L’dor v’dor!). And bringing family and friends together for a great meal aint so shabby either! Add to that the many hopeful signs of recovery on many fronts, and I had a really great feeling heading into the weekend. And then came Georgia. And I just can’t get the image of 6 old white guys in the Governor’s office signing a voter suppression law under a portrait of a slave plantation out of my head.  So, on this beautiful Saturday Passover morning, I have mixed emotions as I spin Randy Newman’s “Redneck” album on the turntable, but I am hopeful that in the end, the theme of freedom (and some gefilte fish with Davora’s home made “purple chrain”), so inherent in the Passover celebration, will carry the day and my mood to a better place. 

As you can imagine, the news of the Jews this week has been dominated by Passover as well as the Israeli elections. I am not a close follower of Israeli politics, but it seems they are stuck in a spiral of “Bibi, rinse and repeat”, without a clear majority to remove him. The risk is that Bibi will continue to embrace even more radical right wingers in his bid to form a coalition and those radical fringe groups will gain strength. Sound familiar? Anyway, here is the news of the week, courtesy of The Forward:

  1. Was “The Last Supper” a Seder? Were Jews really slaves in Egypt? For answers to these and two other offbeat questions, this is a must read!
  2. RGB’s influence lives on – The story of how RGB inspired and influenced one of the newest members of New Jersey’s Supreme Court
  3. The impact of Covid on the grandparent-grandchild relationship – Read all about the need to “honor thy father and mother” during this difficult time, or at any time for that matter!
  4. Boulder’s Jews dealing with the mass shooting – More than holding vigil, they have also reached out to the islamic community
  5. How macaroons became a must for Passover – Not for me. Give my Ruth’s chocolate covered matzah any day of the week! But if you are interested in the origins of this traditional Passover treat, read on!
  6. Jewish publications on Substack? What the hell is Substack anyway? – Read about one person’s Jewish publication she launched on this user-friendly newsletter publishing platform. Sounds like a new platform for the JNR? Probably not, as I am now investigating creating a Non Fungible Token (NFT) on the Ethereum platform to monetize the JNR. More on this in future blogs!

All for now, and hey, let’s keep being careful out there, vaccine or no vaccine.
Brad out.