Chanukah is just around the corner, and since our family is holding our pirate themed Chanukah party today (Chanukah on the Chai Seas), and since our editorial staff is slightly under the weather and still recovering from a massive food coma, yours truly is taking the day off!
So, enjoy the rest of the weekend everyone!
And hey, this omicron variant is some serious shit, so don’t let your guards down and be careful out there!
It’s Thanksgiving week, historically one of my favorite holidays, since it is simply a weekend of being thankful by eating gobs of good food, watching the Detroit Lions lose, and spending time with family. A pretty good recipe for an enjoyable weekend. And, did you know that this year marks the 400th anniversary of the day a shipload of undocumented aliens came to Plymouth, met some unidentified friendly Indians who welcomed the Pilgrims to America, taught them how to live in this new place, sat down to dinner with them, then handed over America and disappeared?
Well, with apologies to the Wampanoags, I really do enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, and usually the only guilt I feel is over the crazy amount of food I consume and the risk of my body weight crossing the Mendoza line in the wrong direction. And this year, to continue my steady drip of sarcasm, I am also thankful for the laws of Wisconsin that allowed a jury to clear a racially motivated vigilante teenager of murdering and injuring several people. Seriously, those laws need to be changed, but perhaps the most reprehensible aspect of this case is that it represents yet another data point in the long and sordid history of the right making heroes of white vigilantes who use violence against people of color and their white friends. Honestly, if Kyle Shittenhouse was a black man, do you think he would have been found innocent and then received accolades and job offers from Republicans?
But, we still live in one of the greatest countries on the planet, so let’s have a great Thanksgiving everyone! And let’s get to some good Jew news! So, here you go!
A Mensch with a hammer? You heard it here first! Kamala Harris and hubby Douglas Emhoff hung a mezuzah on the doorpost at the vice president’s residence. The scroll is on loan from The Temple, the oldest Jewish congregation in Atlanta, known for its involvement in the civil rights movement. Harris and Emhoff, who is Jewish, also selected a second silver mezuzah from the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at the University of California Berkeley to be hung inside. I don’t recall the history of our home’s mezuzah, but I still think I prefer Amy Klobuchar. Read the story >
Culture Vulture: Why ‘Checkout’ is the Israeli sitcom that we didn’t know we needed – Israel’s No. 1 comedy – which has echoes of “Superstore” – follows the employees and eccentric regulars at a grocery as they banter and snipe their way through daily life and workplace politics. It also includes confession booth-style interviews with the characters – think “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation.” Mira Fox, the Forward’s culture reporter, says the show is “tightly written with bits of sharp social commentary slipped in between ludicrous storylines and slapstick.” Watch the trailer and read her review >
QAnon’s Jewish connection – QAnon conspiracy theorists traveled to Dallas earlier this month, claiming that JFK Jr. would return from the dead to Daley Plaza – where his father was assassinated – appear at a Rolling Stones concert, and proclaim former President Trump the “king of kings.” (Some are still awaiting his return at the grassy knoll.) Turns out, they were led there by a popular antisemitic social media influencer who calls himself the “Gematria General”because he uses Jewish numerological techniques to make his predictions. (Vice)
Zucker-schmuck having trouble discerning hate speech from it’s opposite – Facebook rejected an ad for a class called “Outsmarting Antisemitism” being taught by Chabad. One rabbi said the response he got was that the ad was about “sensitive social issues” that could influence elections or pending legislation. “They have not yet figured out how to discern hate speech from its opposite and instead choose to shut down all conversations on the topic,” he said. Come on Mark, how about fine tuning those algorithms! (Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle)
Ice Cream Watch – Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery has released three new flavors for Hanukkah: Halva with Cherries, Sufganiyot and Challah Bread Pudding. They’ve also partnered with TV host Andy Cohen, for a special run of “Peppermint Andy.” Proceeds will go to Doorways, an interfaith non-profit. (St. Louis Jewish Light)
How do you hide a nine foot Menorah? 🕎 A 9-foot menorah was stolen from outside the Chabad of Huntsville, Alabama. The same congregation was vandalized with antisemitic graffiti in 2020. But the Rabbi is doubling down and has announced, undaunted, that they will install menorahs all over the city. You go Moshe! (AP)
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
That’s all I’ve got. And hey, let’s stay safe out there.
Shabbat shalom to you all! Quick shout out to new member, Steve Holtzman, who will be my partner in a new enterprise we will be launching soon, “Mensches with Wrenches”. More to come on this exciting new chapter in my career!
But today, I want to talk about the metaverse. You have probably been reading a bit about it, especially after Facebook’s Zucker-moron announced Meta as their new name. To his credit, Zuck-for-brains legitimately wants to dominate the virtual and augmented reality space, a frontier where he can push his own branded VR headgear and thereby own and dominate the channel. Immediately following Zucker-jerk’s announcement, Nike followed with one of their own. The Oregon-based company has filed several new trademarks this week that indicate its intent to make and sell virtual Nike-branded sneakers and apparel. For the elderly among us still trying to master Zoom, what this means is that in online gaming, shopping, and anywhere else you can go with your virtual “self” (think of it as a 3-D emoji, or “Bitmoji”) in virtual/digital worlds, you can now buy digital versions of Nike sneakers, clothing and other branded accessories to dress up your Bitmoji. In the video gaming world, it’s called buying skins. There are other more interesting applications, but the digital shopping space will surely be the first with large venture capital and entrepreneurs rushing to make their millions. Does your bitmoji need a new Gucci handbag?
Why am I raising this “nerdy” topic? As a technologist, I am more than a bit worried that we are already too immersed in screens, and two dimensional digital realities. The latest stats show that Americans spend over seven hours per day on screens of some form or another. And most are spending 2-3 hours on social media, which we all know is designed to appeal to our “lizard brain” as Jaron Lanier, one of the early founders of Virtual Reality stated on Kara Swishers “Sway” podcast the other day. (Click here for Sway podcast) Lanier posited that the goodness that can come from VR technology is that no matter how close to reality it may become, you will appreciate reality even more. So, put down those game controllers, delete your social media accounts, and take a walk in the woods today. According to Japanese scientists, a walk in the woods, or ‘shinrin-yoku’, provides preventive medical effects by relieving stress and recovering the immune system diminished by stress. You can’t get those effects in the virtual world.
Speaking of reality, how great was it to hear the DOJ indicting one of the leading a-holes in the country, Steve Bannon? I would love to see that traitor behind bars, but you know he will become a martyr for the right as soon as that happens. But, let’s talk Jew News for the week. Chanukah is quickly approaching, and this year our themed party is “Chanukah on the Chai Seas”. Really looking forward to donning my pirate costume and downing several latkes. But, back to the news, here are some stories for the week:
Shiva call: Colin Powell was not the only famous Shabbas Goy – My sister pointed this one out to me, and I missed posting it in last week’s JNR. This is a great piece and lesson about interfaith understanding. Colin Powell, who was buried a few weeks ago, grew up in a Jewish community in the Bronx, and in addition to other duties forbidden to observant Jews on Shabbat , he was given a quarter for each night he shut off the lights in the neighboring temple. The really interesting part of the article is the revelation that Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall also was a Shabbas Goy! And his writings reflect the learnings from that interesting history. For more, click here
770 Eastern Parkway: The most copied building in the world – Around the world, construction is underway on at least six more replicas of 770 Eastern Parkway, the Brooklyn-based headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. And, when the building in Abuja, Nigeria, is finished, there will be at least one on every continent except Antarctica. Why, you may be asking, is this building so popular? Click here to read more and find out!
David Halbestram on the greatest Jewish Broadcasters of all time – A great retrospective and historical piece on the emergence of specialists in the sports broadcasting world. From the early days to post war television, Halbestram covers them all, and there are surprisingly so many, including Howard Cohen, aka Howard Cosell. “He described himself as, “arrogant, pompous, vain, verbose, a showoff.” Cosell was hardly an observant Jew, but he didn’t hide his ancestry. Many loathed him and others, particularly younger viewers, loved him no matter their faiths.” He also covers the emergence of Jewish women broadcasters as well. For more, click here.
Trust your therapist? You might think twice after watching this just released movie – Marty Markowitz thought he was just going to see a psychiatrist for a routine appointment. Was he ever wrong. Over 30 years, the doctor inserted himself into every aspect of Markowitz’s life. The story is so wild that it became the basis for a true-crime podcast and, now, a TV series starring Will Ferrell as Markowitz. And his psychiatrist is played by none other than the world’s most sexiest male (passed me over again) Paul Rudd. For more, click here.
Pelicans stopping by Israel for a quick brunch are biting into fishery profits – 🇮🇱 When Israeli officials opened their borders after a 19-month pandemic shutdown, I’m not sure this is what they had in mind: Thousands of pelicans are making a pit stop in the country. Apparently, Jews are not the only animal with a genetic pre-disposition to salty fish! Read more here.
That’s all I’ve got this week gang. Remember to take a walk in the woods, and whether you do or don’t, let’s be careful out there!
A fall chill is in the Sharon air but I remain toasty in the JNR office, spinning some Steve Goodman on the turntable. Sandy and I just got our Covid booster shots yesterday, so my arm is a little sore but my mood is even more pained due to the email I was compelled to send this morning to The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC). The group, formerly led by the now deceased Sheldon Adelson, has invited the disgraced former President and current Orange Turd to speak at their annual conference. Thankfully, only approximately 20% of our fair tribe admit to being Republicans, but still, a number that is about 20 points too high, IMHO. I politely reminded the knuckleheads at the RJC that perhaps they should rethink validating the treasonous acts of the world’s most horrible human being.
But what a way to end this crazy week, with the passage of a bi-partisan infrastructure bill that should lay the foundations for a better, safer and prosperous nation! It would have been nice if the libs hadn’t shackled the bricks and mortar version with the Build Back Better human infrastructure version, but whatever. The tactic only cost one Governorship but maybe one positive outcome of the tactic will be a better Build Back Better law? Wishful thinking?
The week also saw the exciting conclusion of the most Jewish Baseball World Series evah! Thankfully the Atlanta Braves whipped the Astros in game 6 and sent the Astros packing with their inflated Texas-sized egos between their legs. But the Jew crew clearly came to play: Max Fried gets special kudos for an amazing outing in an era where starting pitchers average under 5 innings per game. With six shutout frames, he didn’t just go deeper into the game than any pitcher in this year’s series, he got more outs than any pitcher without allowing a run in a World Series clincher since 1985. The game contained what might have been the most Jewish play in any Major League Baseball matchup evah! In the bottom of the second inning, Astros star third baseman Alex Bregman stepped up to the plate and sliced Fried’s second pitch to right field, where Braves outfielder Joc Pederson easily caught it for out number two. That play marked the first time in baseball history that 3 bar mitzvah boys were involved in a single play. I am thinking of establishing an NFT of the video clip! Now if we could only get Joc to leave the pearls at home…..
Now, what of the news of the Jews? I can hear you all impatiently mumbling something under your breaths, so mumble no more and enjoy these items selected once again by yours truly for your reading enjoyment:
Royal Jewish Mitzvah – ♠️ In another world series, Jews were once again making history. Gershon Distenfeld, an Orthodox Jew from New Jersey, and a noted backgammon player, won the World Series of Poker and said he will donate his winnings. “My wife Aviva and I have been blessed with financial means and it’s a core value of ours to give both our money and our time to help make the world a better place,” he said. What a mench! (PokerNews)
A Native American Jew speaks her mind on the The Braves’ ‘tomahawk chop’ –Last week we reported on Rabbi’s who didn’t find the practice offensive. This week, we post an opposing viewpoint. The Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians have both changed their names. But the popular fan chant in Atlanta lives on. “Rather than destroying a team’s traditions, Jews – who know all too well the dangers of stereotypes – can take part in transforming a destructive pop culture phenomenon into one that is healthy and positive,” writes Mahrinah Shije. Read the OpEd >
This week included National Sandwich Day – One of my fond father memories is my dad’s love of a fatty frank (Hebrew National or Pearl, of course) encased in a fresh bulky roll, smothered with mustard and relish. MMMMMMM! check out this roundup of 9 super Jewish sammies curated by Molly Yeh, a Food Network host and Forward contributor. Click here for sammies.
Fiddler turns 50! The movie adaptation of “Fiddler on the Roof” premiered 50 years ago this week. But no-one played a better Tevye than my son-in-law, Ian Worgaftik at his Avon High School production. For the right amount of money I am willing to provide a link to the famous video. Or, read about this story of a young woman who converted to Judaism after playing a role in the now famous play at her summer theater camp. Click here for more.
Old antisemitic tropes found new life in Phoenix – I hate that every week I read more reports of anti-Semitism on campus’s and just about everywhere around the globe. Here is another one. It’s getting scary out there. After a woman went on a rant about how Jews are profiting from unsafe vaccines at an Arizona school-board meeting last week, the board president shrugged it off, saying “this is not something we can do something about.” In this OpEd essay, Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, argues that was a missed opportunity. “What’s most shocking about this episode,” is not what the speaker said, Greenblatt notes, “but that not one single person at the meeting had the courage to stand up and denounce her words as hateful, hurtful and untrue.” Read the OpEd >
Our “charming” new ambassador to Israel finally confirmed – 🇮🇱 The Senate confirmed Tom Nides as U.S. ambassador to Israel on Wednesday after Republican lawmakers lifted their hold on his nomination. Nides, a banker and former official in the Clinton and Obama administrations, ran Sen. Joe Lieberman’s vice presidential campaign in 2000, but we won’t hold that against him. Our senior political reporter, Jacob Kornbluh, says Nides “brings both political and diplomatic experience to the job, and has been characterized as ‘charming’ by people who have worked with him.” (JTA)
That’s all I have this week everyone. And hey, don’t let your guard down and continue to be careful out there!
Shabbat shalom everyone! A quick shout out to the JNR, as we officially turned two years old last week. In honor of said anniversary, I will be putting together another order for the ever popular JNR swag. So, in case you are new to the forum, or missed the last order, fear not! There are always second chances in life and in JNR swag! More details to follow next week!
It’s a dreary and soggy morning here in Sharon, MA, but I won’t let the rainy weather dampen my sunny disposition. I started out feeling that some Steely Dan “Aja” on the turntable might match my mood, then on second thought, switched to The Eagles to try and hopefully “loosen my load”, as I continue to worry about the fate of our nation’s democracy at the hands of the domestic terrorists we historically and respectfully called “Republicans”. While the lame stream media continues to focus on the rifts within the Democratic party over the infrastructure sausage making, (as if there could ever be any unanimity on such sweeping legislation), the only thing Republicans want to talk about are contrived culture wars, and they seem hell bent on turning our democracy into something resembling Hungarian autocratic goulash (or should that be “ghoul-ash”?) I am confident the infrastructure sausage will be made, and it will probably taste pretty good, but hopefully not too rich to cause economic heartburn. Interest rates may be low now, but I am not one of those liberals who believes we should continue to spend trillions without getting the approval of the generations that follow who will have to pick up the tab. I would prefer we cancel all the human infrastructure programs if we could replace them with just one – universal health care – but that is politically impossible in this crazy F’d up country. End rant here.
On the Jew news front, nothing alarming jumped out at me this week. Israel announced more settlements, drawing the wrath of just about everyone interested in a two-state solution. The Knesset passed their own infrastructure bill which includes a new airport and lots of other transportation projects. And they continue to posture and spend defense funds to paint the Iranians as the boogey-people who constitute an existential threat to the jewish state. So, as I stated, nothing new or notable this week. Nevertheless, here is a sampling of some Jew news you may find interesting, entertaining, or both!
“Jewglers” united in protest? “Jewglers” is one of many employee groups at Google, where there are also “Gayglers” (for LGBTQ+ employees) and “Greyglers” (for older ones, like me). The Jewglers’ 2,800 Jewish members mostly use its listserv to seek travel advice, share recipes and plan the company Hanukkah party. But over the past year, Jewish employees of the search giant have split as Jews in so many communities have, over politics surrounding Israel. An open letter published this month by Google and Amazon employees demanded the two companies withdraw a $1.2 billion cloud computing contract with Israel. The day after the letter was made public, Google announced a $5.8 million commitment to combat antisemitism online. Frankly, this is just another example of how Israel’s Palestinian problem divides the community. But I love the “Jewglers” name, and included the story just for that reason alone. Enjoy the details here.
The “Last Jew in Afghanistan” follow up story – You read about it here first in the JNR, now you can read the full story of the dramatic rescue of this knucklehead who finally gave his ex-wife of 20 years a gett (divorce) in exchange for his dramatic rescue by a minivan with gunshots sounding in the distance. To read the full story, click here.
Nazi Landlords in Maine? – 🏠 Not all is happy in “Vacationland” as this week landlords in Maine evicted a Black Jewish man for placing a mezuzah by his front door, an apparent violation of the lease. The Maine Human Rights Commission is slated to discuss the case Nov. 8, after an investigator found it likely a case of discrimination. Read all about here.(News Center Maine)
Meta? “This Zucks” should have been the new name for Facebook! Thanks to Kara Swisher for that name idea, but it looks like the shitheads at FB have landed on Meta, which does not translate well in Hebrew. Apparently the closest translation is the feminine form for “is dead”. Some business folks think the Google-like name change is one way to insulate Zuck from doing a perp walk. The tech giant does provide an important role in the world, if they would only act more responsibly and stop amplifying bad things, I might say something nice about them. But until then, The Zuck is dead to me, no matter how many Jewish charities he supports. For more on the story, click here.
World Series Schmucks: Rabbis supporting “The Chop”? The tomahawk Chop — often called “the chop” — is a back-and-forth motion of the arm, accompanied by a sing-song war chant, and often cued by stadium music and a drumbeat. Native Americans have characterized it as both bigoted and an insensitive appropriation of their culture and all the more offensive in Georgia, where the U.S. government in the 19th century forced thousands of Native Americans off their land and onto the Trail of Tears — for many, a death march. But not so for Rabbi Ilan Feldman, head of Beth Jacob, an Orthodox synagogue in Atlanta, grew up listening to baseball games on a transistor radio and has been going to Braves games for decades. He said he would do the tomahawk chop “every time I have the chance.”“The whole point of the tomahawk Chop is that a Brave is a courageous warrior for a good cause,” Feldman said, “and therefore it’s honoring Braves, not dishonoring them. It’s saying ‘I want to be like a Brave.’” I don’t know about all of you, but despite my trying to resist the PC knee jerk reaction to this disgusting Atlanta fan chant, I think the custom sucks and should be banished. But despite that, I am hoping the Atlanta Cowards prevail over the Houston cheaters. For more on this story, click here.
That’s all I have this week. A big BOO! to all of you, and a reminder to be careful out there!
A couple of shout-outs this morning. First, congrats to my niece Molly for her promotion at Pinterest. And, props and congrats to Michael and Beth on the marriage of their son Corey to Jocelyn. We had an amazing time at the posh, black tie affair held at the famous Willard Hotel in DC! My tux was a little tight, but hey, my bride looked pretty damn nice!
After a regular-season roller coaster ride and some exciting playoff baseball, our Red Sox petered out last night resulting in the horrible Houstonians advancement to the World Series. God I hate all things Texas. (My first executive order as President would be to sell the whole damn state back to Mexico!) But big thanks to our home town team for some exciting, and unexpected post-season baseball!
Meanwhile, life continues to move on at a torrid pace, and the news cycle whirls faster than my age-challenged brain can absorb. An unfortunate and recurring theme this week was the Republican efforts to halt any progress on anything and to make it harder for people to vote. Something new, and dangerous, however, was the orange turd’s move to create a social media platform ironically named Truth Social. It was promptly hacked, and no, I had nothing to do with the hack. It will likely turn into another of his failed ego trips and fleece the stupid SPAC suckers of their money.
The news from Israel, on the other hand, got a bit more interesting with the latest brouhaha over Defense Minister Gantz and Prime Minister Bennet’s decision to declare six Palestinian rights groups terrorist organizations. Under a 2016 statute, the declaration enables Israeli authorities to close the nonprofits’ offices, seize their assets and ban supporting their activities. The international outcry has been deafening, and the Biden administration, who had not been informed prior to the public announcement, has requested an explanation. I have a lot of respect for Benny Gantz, but this move is questionable, and if Israel has proof of these groups’ connections to terrorist activity, they better bring it forward, or the backlash could be costly, and only fuel the worldwide opposition to the treatment of the Palestinians. Anyone who thought Bennet would be a breath of fresh air compared to Nutten-yahoo, better think again.
In the midst of all this, the JNR marches on. And I am very aware that you are all by now chomping at the bit for more news for Jews, so, here you go:
Moe, Larry, Cheese – Yesterday marked the birthday of my favorite Jewish Stooge, Curly Howard. Born Jerome Lester Horwitz, he was an American vaudevillian actor and comedian but became famous for his role as Curly in the Three Stooges television shorts, along with his brothers Moe, and Shemp, and Larry Fine. Their slapstick schtick became hard-wired in my adolescent brain and I can still recall many of the episodes we watched before heading to school in the morning.
Dreaming of Kosher Chickens – 🐓 New Zealand has weathered the pandemic better than most, but travel restrictions have meant that rabbis who usually perform conversions and butcher meat have had a tough time flying in – and the country ran out of kosher chickens months ago. “I miss chicken so much, sometimes I dream of eating it,” said one resident. (Tablet)
Temporary Tats: are they kosher? ✍️ A company has figured out a way to make tattoos that disappear after a year. Which raises the question: are they allowed under Jewish law? As usual, there are multiple interpretations, but most Rabbis believe the Torah prohibits them. I now have 3 permanent tattoos which were approved by Sandy as well as my radiation therapist. But, will millennials rush to take advantage of this new tat tech? Is there a 4th tattoo in my future? (NYT)
On the lighter side: National Mother-in-Law Day is tomorrow! The fourth Sunday in October (i.e. this Sunday) is always National Mother-In-Law Day, which means it’s the perfect time to read this 2011 essay from Itzik Gottesman about his mother-in-law, an accused spy. Or, if you’re looking for something a little on the lighter side, watch this classic Jewish mother-in-law joke, as told in Yiddish.
Guess who is coming to dinner? In the spirit of All Hallows’ Eve, I have included this charming piece on which classic movie monster would make the best Shabbat dinner guest. My pick: Frankenstein and his beautiful Bride! Here is a sample, enjoy! “Now, I’m sure we’re all sick and tired of the “who’s the real monster” debate (spoilers: it’s not the jigsaw puzzle of cadaver parts), and it’s much more fun to imagine Frankenstein’s Monster offering to help with the dishes. In Mary Shelley’s book, he’s a decent guy! He’s friendly, he’s well-read, he’s misunderstood. I’ve had worse dates. Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein’s Monster is more unpredictable, but in the fiction of my mind, his wife evens him out. They bring homemade bagels, which are very good. 8/10.” For the whole story, click here
That’s all I’ve got this week. Hope you enjoy, and hey, let’s make sure to be careful out there, there are monsters about!
A couple of quick shout-outs: Big shalom to new members Karen Kane (Jack’s mom), and Reade Brower, an old UMass friend and fellow Bell’s Pizza delivery alum! Sandy and I are here in our nation’s capital helping to celebrate our dear friends Beth and Michael’s son’s wedding! Mazel Tov to Corey and Jocelyn! Lots of shnibsies and schmoozing on the docket tonight!
If there is a Jewish version of a whirling dervish, that is my brain this week from the landslide of news and events that flow at me faster than my brain can cope. But, baseball brings me back to a wonderful equilibrium, as the marathon that is the summer game’s regular season races down Heartbreak Hill to the exciting fall finish line. If you have been paying any kind of attention at all, or even if you are one of those millennials that think the game is too boring, you must agree that the playoffs have been one exciting ticket so far! Let’s hope these baseball diamonds are forever and the sport continues to entertain for the generations that follow. And for you Red Sox fans, let’s put last night’s tough loss behind us, and hope our team can overcome the big bats and bad juju of Houston and bring home the American League pennant!
I know you are all probably getting a bit squirmy wondering when I am going to get to the fun stuff and talk Jew news. So, squirm no more. Lots to choose from this week, and once again my friends at The Forward decided to skip the weekly summary and offered up some boring alternative, so, you get to suffer through another week of picks from yours truly. But, before I get to the list, the big issue of the week was one that kind of crept up on the Jewish establishment press: Sally Rooney and her decision not to publish her latest book in Hebrew.
For those not in the know, Sally Rooney is a young, Man Booker award nominee whose three novels documenting the unfulfilled and dissatisfied lives of millennial women have rocked the literary world. She is a brilliant debater and author, and I confess that I have not ready any of her works, so far. She just released her latest novel, “Beautiful World, Where are You” on September 7th, and quietly made the decision to not have her book translated in Hebrew as a sign of support for the BDS (Boycott, Divest,Sanctions) movement and the plight of the Palestinian people. “I simply do not feel it would be right for me under the present circumstances to accept a new contract with an Israeli company that does not publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the U.N.-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people,” her statement said. “If I can find a way to sell these rights that is compliant with the BDS movement’s institutional boycott guidelines, I will be very pleased and proud to do so.”
Well, the response from the Jewish media was at first muted, but then picked up steam, and now has became hotter than a latke fried in Chile sauce and dipped in hot mustard. There are so many dimensions to the issue that I won’t go into detail here. But, even though I have previously voiced my opposition to the liberal knee-jerk reaction to Ben and Jerry’s decision to halt sales of their creamy concoctions in the West Bank (Occu-pied Cherritory), I am still contemplating my position on Sally Rooney’s decision. But, I usually come back to the idea that Israel is always treated differently in this matter than many other countries with much worse oppression and suppression of basic human rights than Israel. Will Ms Rooney not allow her book to be published in Arabic to protest the treatment of women in most muslim countries for example? And should we indeed hold Israel to a higher standard? All good questions. What do you think?
Let’s move on to other issues and news of the Jews for the week:
The death of McBagel: what does it all mean? When Covid hit and many commutes halted, the McBagel was one of more than 100 menu items the fast-food chain scrapped. And McDonald’s is not alone: Chick-fil-A also discontinued its bagels earlier this year. “Is the bagel no longer worthy of cultural appropriation? With the fast-food bagel in retreat, the Jewish breakfast is at a crossroads. Does it return to its hard-boiled immigrant roots or remain an empty vessel for crispy bacon and mysterious “breakfast sauce””? The author of this piece raises some serious questions about the bagel as a metaphor. For more, click here.
What the new Hollywood Museum left on the cutting room floor – After years of delays, the $484 million Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened to grand fanfare, but the author of this piece was struck by what was left on the cutting room floor – especially because her great-grandfather helped run Fox Studio in the first half of the 20th century. She says the omissions reveal a historical amnesia regarding the antisemitism Hollywood Jews faced. The museum’s main exhibit does a good job of referencing the contributions of diverse peoples to the industry, but makes little mention of the Jewish pioneers that helped build the very foundations of the industry. If these moguls were alive today, they would probably react with “What are we, chopped liver?” Is this a gripe piece or big omission? You be the judge, and click here for more.
The Sally Rooney boycott brouhaha is right out of a Sally Rooney novel – The writer of this piece, Taylor Zax, actually read the book, and had this to say, as well as other thoughtful analysis. ““Beautiful World, Where Are You” is an occasionally uneven but largely brilliant reflection on the question of whether, in a modern world defined by political and environmental peril, it’s possible to live a meaningful life. And the fuss over Rooney’s choice of where to let the book be published has somewhat masterfully illustrated one of its central points: That the way we have learned to exchange ideas about the world in this very online, very alarming modern world erases meaning, rather than creates it.”
Speaking of Hebrew writing, this major league manager has it written all over his body – The latte-drinking, bodybuilding, overachieving manager of the San Francisco Giants and former Red Sox hero has a Star of David tattoo on one leg and a “Never Again” tattoo on the other. He defies the stereotype of Jewish people being unathletic, and of the Actually Athletic Jew. His office walls are adorned with pictures of Gandhi, Einstein, Ali and Lincoln. “He’s aggressively, almost goofily urbane,” Louis Keene says of the manager, Gabe Kapler. Want to read more? Click here.
The great JNR Bubka challenge 2021 – There is nothing more satisfying then the moist, chewy, chocolatie baked Bubka right after it comes out of the oven. Babka was eternally memorialized in pop culture in a 1994 episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry and Elaine camp out at Royal Bakery (based on real-life Royale Pastry Shop in NYC) to wait their turn to buy a babka to take to a dinner party. When they finally reach the head of the queue only to learn the bakery is flush out of chocolate babka, Jerry is convinced by the attendant to purchase a cinnamon variant, which Elaine deems a “lesser babka.” He valiantly defends its potential merits, noting “Cinnamon takes a back seat to no babka. People love cinnamon. It should be on tables at restaurants along with salt and pepper.” Ride on Jerry! So this year the JNR is sponsoring it’s first virtual event, The Great Big Bubka Bake-off. Just send me an example of one of your favorite bakes, and I will make the supreme sacrifice of trying each one and providing my honest and humbled feedback.
That’s all I’ve got this week. Time to put on my tux and dancing shoes. Hope you all have a great week, and hey, let’s be careful out there!
Earlier this week I sold my Facebook stock. I am a big believer in high tech, and have made a good living from it for almost 40 years. I also believe there is some goodness in social media platforms in their ability to enable and build connective community tissue and make the world a flatter place. But the morons running and ruining Facebook have been revealed as unethical, greedy, immoral and uncaring. After the revelations this week from the whistleblower testifying before a congressional committee that the platform knew about the harm their product was causing to teenage girls and others, but did nothing to stop it, well, that was the last straw for me. Unfortunately, I don’t think their behavior will change until someone from Facebook does a perp walk, and that won’t happen as long as they can hide behind Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Hence, a strong “Sell” recommendation from yours truly. What really gets my goat is the fact that both Zuck and his suck-up COO sidekick, Sheryl Sandberg, are both Jews. I don’t care how much Zuck donates to Jewish charities, his lack of a moral compass to guide the good ship Facebook is deplorable. When I worked at Arthur Andersen many moons ago, I was required to take an ethics in business course (talk about irony!) and I still recall one of the major take-aways from the course was a simple rule: when faced with an ethical or moral decision, be guided by the question: “What would your mother think?”
Well, I know what my mother thinks about the Jew News Review (I don’t think she has sold her stock yet), and by now I am sure she is probably wondering “when the hell is he going to get to the news of the Jews this week”. But this week The Forward decided to dedicate their weekly to questions you may have about God. Some interesting stuff, but not that interesting. Besides, to steal a joke from Woody Allen, “not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on Sundays”. So mom, you are stuck once again with my own selections.
Baseball’s 12 greatest Jewish playoff moments – It’s playoff time for America’s favorite past time (Go Red Sox!). Of course, when we think of Jewish baseball heroics in October, we immediately (and understandably) think of Sandy Koufax. But while the “Left Arm of God” certainly ranks high on any list of incredible World Series performances, Koufax is hardly the only member of the tribe to make a memorable mark in the postseason. After all, Ken Holtzman (not Koufax) is the winningest Jewish pitcher of all time. But he wasn’t the first Jewish pitcher to appear in a World Series. That was … well, you’ll have to read the story > to find out.
Yiddish in Guatemala? Oy! – A group of former Christians and descendants from the Central American Maya people have converted to Judaism – and are speaking Yiddish (potential JNR subscribers?). Jewish activists from Brooklyn discovered the community, known as Ohr Chadash and affiliated with the Hasidic Satmar sect, on the outskirts of Guatemala City while on a mission to save members of the radical Lev Tahor sect who were hiding out in that country. (Mishpacha)
Rembrandt’s “The Great Jewish Bride” lands in a Montreal museum – Supposedly Rembrandt used his wife as the model for this masterpiece, now hanging in the Montreal Museum of Modern Art courtesy of the Brown family. Geesh, if this lovely lady is the best we can do, I am surprised the tribe has made it this far! Read more here.
Raiders of the lost Crapper – A 2,700-year-old toilet from the days of the First Temple in Jerusalem has been discovered by Israel’s Antiquities Authority. Built as a private stall at a time when few could afford such a luxury, the toilet was unveiled to the public this week at an archaeology conference, though for viewing only. Read the story >
On this week in history: “The Jazz Singer,” the first prominent “talkie” movie, premiered on Oct. 6, 1927. The film depicts the fictional story of Jakie Rabinowitz, a young man who defies the traditions of his devout family (his dad is a cantor) to become an entertainer. Underscoring the film’s tug of war between the secular and the divine, the premiere took place at Warner Bros.’ flagship theater in New York City on the evening of Yom Kippur.
Ending with an A-hole – Fox News’ Tucker Carlson announced he has an hourlong special coming in December on how Jewish billionaire George Soros is “harming civilizations around the world.” The Hungarian-born Soros, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor, has long been a Carlson target: “If you’re wondering why so many people are being robbed, raped and killed in American cities right now,” he remarked on an episode last year, “George Soros is part of the reason for that.” Meanwhile, Tucker A-hole and is campaign of virus misinformation, is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands. I would honestly cold cock his stupid face if I ever met him in person. ” (Twitter)
That’s all I have this week. And hey, please remember to be careful out there.
Shabbat shalom everyone! What a beautiful day in the neighborhood!
The high holidays are now behind us, and the new Hebrew month, Cheshvan, represents a pause in the holiday calendar until Chanukah rolls around in late November. So consider this a time to get back to the normal routines of the week, be that work, school, caring for kids, or if you are like me, spending too much time listening to podcasts and news shows.
And the news keeps on moving at a pace that is consistently overwhelming. My sister has committed herself to a newsless week given the sausage making going on right now in congress and the mainstream medias crack-like addiction to making headlines and money off the process. During all this legislative mayhem, the country reached a new and disturbing milestone: 700,000 deaths from Corona. That’s a lot of death. To put it in perspective, that staggering number exceeds the estimated deaths from the 1918 influenza pandemic and is greater than the number of Americans who were estimated to have died of cancer last year, one of the nation’s leading causes of death. It’s higher than the total number of American troops who have died in battle throughout the recent history of the country, and it is about the same as the population of the City of Boston.
Each death is a unique tragedy and an irreparable loss. An analysis, tracking the extensive reach of COVID-19 loss of kin with a bereavement multiplier, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates that 6.3 million family members may be grieving the loss of a loved one due to the virus. We have probably all been touched directly or indirectly by this gruesome toll. Right now, for example, one of our elderly cousins is fighting for his life in the ICU at a local hospital. The really sad story here is that a lot of this was avoidable had our leaders united around this common enemy, instead of making it a political issue, as the Orange Turd and his partisan followers unfortunately did.
So, other than this gloomy bit of news, what are some of the more interesting stories in the Jewish world this last week, you may be asking? Well, The Forward did provide a weekly summary, but, its all focused on Lox! Now, if there were ever a food group worth writing 7 stories about, this would be one of them, and I have attached it for your reading pleasure. Most of them are repeats from prior issues, and knowing that you probably have read them all already, I decided to stick with selecting my own stories for the week. So, here you go:
John Stewart is Back! I watched the first show the other night (Apple+ TV), and it was refreshing to see his now scruffy face back on TV. He was our guiding light through the Bush years, and we really could have used him to get through the Orange Turd years for sure. The show format is less comedic, focusing on one topic/issue and then bringing on experts to discuss. In this format, he may not be as funny, but he gets my kudos for being a mensch.
Porn sites and anti-semitism – After alot of personal research, I have concluded that most porn sites could do a better job of removing anti-semitic material from their site. No mom, not really. This is the conclusion of the nonprofit group, Fighting Online Antisemitism, or FOA, who have identified dozens of videos on major adult content sites, including xvideos and XNXX. Some feature actors dressed as Nazi officers acting out rape scenes of actresses portraying Jewish women. Videos featuring underage subjects or revenge porn are pulled off quickly, according to Tomer Aldubi, the founder of FOA. But when it comes to antisemitism about Jews, he said, “the porn giants seem to not want to address it.” Needless to say, I am not providing any links for further analysis.
Tony Soprano was Jewish! Just kidding. But there was a strong vein of Jewish characters throughout the Sopranos TV series, and given the prequel is out and the younger generations are now streaming the series, I thought the JNR team would find this one interesting. To read more, click here. And if you liked the Sopranos theme and rich portrayal of the personal and business conflicts facing a latter-day, all-Italian gang of New Jersey mobsters, then I strongly recommend the Australian black comedy/crime show (Amazon Prime), “Mr. Inbetween”, which features the personal conflicts of a criminal for hire.
Fighting for abortion rights Jewishly – The new law in Texas is disgraceful, and the Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene is scary. But it has motivated a lot of organizations to begin preparing for a fight, and this story is about one of those organizations, The National Council of Jewish Women. They have just launched 73Forward, a campaign to keep abortion legal, and help those who don’t have the means to travel and pay for an abortion in a place where it’s less restricted. (The campaign’s name refers to 1973, the year Roe was decided) “Taking away abortion access is a religious freedom issue,” said Shiela Katz, leader of the Council. “It’s directly connected to our text and it’s so critical right now that we don’t allow one particular faith perspective to dictate when life begins.” Click here for more on the story.
Judah Benjamin: A Jewish slave owner and consigliere to Jefferson Davis – “Arguably the most important American Jew of the 19th century, he deserves our attention, but not our admiration.” It troubles me to think that a Jew could own slaves and support slavery given our history, and the author of this new biography on Judah Benjamin, James Traub, explores that troubling theme in great depth. For more on this book review from the WSJ, click here.
“Titans of Tonnage”: Celebrating Fat Bear Week – Finally a national holiday to which I can directly relate! Forget about Hispanic History month, and be prepared to cast your vote for the plumpest of these hibernating creatures. Check out this link and cast your vote here. Apparently yours truly is on the leader board!
That’s all I have this week, probably more than you wanted. But hey, let’s not forget to be careful out there, and please feed the bears! (“Hey Mr. Ranger, sir, I did not steal that picnic basket!”)
Shabbat shalom everyone! I hope you have been shaking your Lulav and Etrogs and having a swell Sukkot! And don’t forget to stock up your Sukkot with extra toilet paper as disrupted supply chains once again wreak havoc on some basics. And how many of you celebrated the little-known American Jewish holiday, National Fried Rice day last week?
Before I dive into the Jewish end of today’s story-pool, indulge me in a trip in the wayback machine. The date is September 2, 2004, and I was on a business trip staying at a very upgraded room on the top floor of the Hilton Hotel on 6th Ave, NYC. I was there on business, but coincidentally, the Republican National Convention was taking place that same week in Madison Square Garden where the delegates were scheduled to confirm the Bush-Cheney ticket. Turns out that Dick Cheney was staying on my floor, which explained the crazy amount of security present in the hallway. Walking into the normally sparsely occupied executive lounge for breakfast, I am greeted by an overflow crowd and nowhere to sit for my morning coffee and buffet breakfast. Seeing my plight, a few kind folks at a crowded table of about 6 invite me to take an empty chair, and me being the friendly type, accept their kind offer. Normally the Hilton TV’s are set to CNN, but that week, for obvious reasons they were all tuned to Fox News. Pleasant conversations ensue, and I discover my new breakfast friends are delegates representing various states at the convention. “Am I a Republican?” one of them politely asks. They seem harmless, and although I was not a huge fan of John Kerry, that year’s Democrat choice, I am ready to engage, so I tell them no, I am a Dem. The response blew me away: “You know that Teresa Heinz (Kerry’s wife and heir to the Ketchup fortune) is a terrorist and financed the terrorist organization that launched 9/11?” Ok, had I been staying near a convention for the National Lunatic Association, maybe that comment would not have been so alarming, but these were delegates to the Republican National Convention!
The point of this story from the wayback machine is this: there has always been a fringe group of whack jobs in the Republican party, but until the orange turd, they were always on the fringe, not running the show. So, when the fringe is allowed to become the mainstream, we end up in a country where as Heather Cox Richardson so aptly put it, “leaders of the Republican Party have embraced authoritarianism, and their once-grand party—the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party that saved the United States in the 1860s, the party that removed racial enslavement from our fundamental law—has become an existential threat to our nation.”
Given the latest news revealing the orange turd’s plans and intentions to perform a coup, I can’t fathom why they haven’t yet arrested the A-hole for sedition and treason, but, let’s change swim lanes and talk Jew News. This week, The Forward is once again, NOT providing the usual weekly roundup of Jew news in the form of a tidy pdf. Hence, for another week, you will be subjected to my own selections, with links to read more if you like. Enjoy.
Tucker Carlson is worse than an A-hole – The Anti Defamation League (ADL) has renewed its call for Fox News to fire Tucker Carlson after Carlson again promoted the racist “great replacement” theory and embraced other white-nationalist talking points this week. “To use his platform as a megaphone to spread the toxic, antisemitic, and xenophobic ‘great replacement theory’ is a repugnant and dangerous abuse of his platform,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. Tucker is not just an A-hole, he is an angry, raw, stinking cyst on an A-hole that needs to be lanced. Click this for more
Playing the “Mom Matchmaker” card – Having trouble finding your bashert? Tapping into a longstanding Jewish tradition, this new Jewish dating site, JustKibbitz, puts parents in charge. They can make accounts for adult kids and, through digital gift cards, even pay for the dates at places like Starbucks, AMC theaters and Chili’s. Baby back ribs and your mom? Who said romance was dead. Better than mom cat-fishing for you? Click this for more
Israeli Government Coalition: Holding strong at 100 days – The good news is that so far, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has managed to keep the coalition together. But, lurking in the shadows, former PM Benjamin Nutjobyahoo is scheming for a comeback. Will Ganz take the bait of the PM position and swing his way? Time will tell, but my Israeli friends remain encouraged at a period of normalcy and less lying. Sound familiar? Click this for more
Iron Dome funding debacle – A part of me admires AOC for her youth, strong opinions and her appeal as a role model to the younger generations. But she really pulled a knuckle-headed move last week by leading 8 of her progressive friends to force leadership to pull $1B in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system from the latest stop-gap funding bill snaking its way through congress. With Bibi gone and a new more moderate coalition in place (one that includes support of the Arab-Israeli party), the move was dumb and was replaced immediately with a separate measure that got overwhelming bi-partisan support, which is not easy to do these days. AOC changed her vote on the later bill from “No” to “Present”, and wept on the House floor. Please spare us the crocodile tears AOC and Click this for more.
Spending Sukkoth at A Queer Jewish Chicken Farm – There aren’t many headlines I get to write, or that I have seen, that include the words “queer”, “Jewish”, and “chicken farm” all in one headline. So, I felt compelled to include this story about a group that set up a farming cooperative called “Linke Fligl” (yiddish for left wing) nestled at the base of the Taconic Mountain Range outside Millerton, New York that purports to create a “land-based” Jewish observance through Adamah. “What we’re hoping to do,” said Ollie Schwartz, a co-director on the farm, “is give people one version of what it means to live Jewishly in connection to the land.” In a normal, non-pandemic year, the farm plays host to visitors and volunteers all year long. Queer college students host retreats on its premises. Local neighbors show up for garden work days followed by text learning. For years, the farm has hosted one of its biggest events on Sukkot, when dozens of guests come to camp and celebrate for several nights. Last year, of course, that didn’t happen. But now, the crew at Linke Fligl is ready to (cautiously) party. So there you go, a queer Jewish chicken farm. For more, Click here.
That’s all I have for this week. So, remember to be careful out there!