The Jew News Review – September 18, 2021 – Sukkah Hopping and Democracy as a Service (DaaS) California Style

Shabbat shalom my fellow atoners and a big happy, healthy new year to all! And a shout out to a new JNR subscriber, Robin Winston, a dear cousin on the Berman side. 

This week we celebrate another important Jewish holiday, Sukkot, but before I get to that, a quick riff on the election results in California. 

Twice as many voters (about 7 million) voted “No” on the question of removing Governor Newsom from office. Over $400M of the Golden State taxpayer money was spent to indulge a small minority of Republicans who, knowing they are and always will be a small minority, took advantage of California’s liberal recall rules and found a Trumpian judge that helped ease the way for them to gather enough signatures to put this wasteful attempt to grab power on the ballot. Newsom’s main competition was from a black whack job radio host who actually stated that slave owners could get reparations for their losses when their “property” was taken from them. I think “none of the above” would have made a stronger candidate, but sadly, that’s the state of the Republican party these days. Being a Mass resident, I have no dog directly in this fight, but crigie, WTF! This is just another example of the desperate attempts being made by Republicans all over the country to hold onto the levers of power instead of winning at the ballot box with ideas and policies supported by voters. We can only hope the state changes the rules to avoid further attempts at instituting DaaS, Democracy as a Service!

Now, about Sukkot. Yesterday I was discussing the holiday with friend and JNR subscriber, Smadar Gekow. I told her I was surprised that Sukkot was considered such an important holiday in Israel when my own experience growing up was thinking it was mostly about building huts and waving silly symbols in honor of the fall harvest. Well, Smadar schooled me a bit, and also motivated me to run to wikipedia for more of an explanation. And I learned that I got it part right in that it has both agricultural and religious roots. The former is like I thought, a celebration of the harvest where farmers and field workers built huts (sukkah) in the fields for protection during the harvest. The more religious part relates to the commemoration of the Exodus and the dependence of the people on the word of God. The holiday lasts for 7 days in Israel (eight in the Diaspora) and we still wave the etrog and lulav each day in celebration. 

It may not be as spiritually meaningful as shofar blowing, or apple-in-honey dipping, but for Jews in the Diaspora, and notably here in Sharon, MA, sukkah-hopping is one of the most widely anticipated activities of this time of year! So, still early in it’s construction, here is the best sukkah I have visited so far.

Best Sukkah evuh!

Enjoy the holiday everyone! 

This week, because of the high holidays, The Forward did not publish a weekly recap, but did include a collection of holiday recipes, which I include here for all of you as well. It did not include my own recipe for Philly Cheese steak, which I am preparing today for the ballgame. Go Red Sox!

That’s all for the week, and hey, i know you are probably sick of this Covid shit, but don’t let your guard down and be careful out there.

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – September 11, 2021 – We will never forget

Shabbat shalom! Shana tovah, and chag sameach!

This morning, as I did my usual tour of our backyard gardens, I looked up into an amazing blue and cloudless September sky and couldn’t help reflect on the eery resemblance it had to the sky on the exact same day 20 years ago, that started in such a beautiful way, but ended in such tragic horror. I recall the popular phrase at the time, “We will never forget” what happened on 9/11. Etched in our psyches, it was a national trauma that left most of us wondering how anyone, how any people, could hate us so much. And I think about my cousin, Robin Kaplan, a then 33 year old beautiful human being, on her way to California on American Flight 11, to help TJX set up a new store in the San Francisco area. She had recently spent a month in the hospital battling Crohn’s/colitis, but was working again and feeling better, and was also recently engaged to a fellow TJX employee. Her dreams, her aspirations, her life, were all incinerated as her plane became a missile in the arsenal of terrorism that struck our country that day and ruined so many lives and forever changed America. RIP Robin. 

We are also in the midst of the Jewish high holidays, with Yom Kippur just around the corner. The days between Rosh and Yom Kippur are considered the “Days of Awe” and are meant to provide enough time for repentance in order to clean the slate of your soul and start the new year Jewish guilt-free, if that is at all possible. After researching several talmudic scholars on the topic, I have developed my own short cut process on the whole repentance thing: Say “I am sorry” three times to yourself for all your shortcomings and off you go. My research indicated that asking for forgiveness 3 times gets you off the hook, even if the subject of those transgressions does not officially accept your apology. So there you go, repent now, and you can thank me later.

Now, what about the news of the Jews you may be asking? Well, due to the high holidays, there is no pdf version to share with you all, but I will provide a link to a few interesting stories and news items for the week. By far, the biggest story capturing Israel this week, and one which I heard a lot about from my Israeli friends, is the stunning escape by 6 hard core Palestinian terrorist from a maximum security prison! Yikes! So, without any further ajieu, here you go:

  1. The greatest holocaust film ever made – It debuted on 9/11/2001, so largely went unnoticed. The film, “The Grey Zone”, stars Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel and others, and is not your typical Hollywood style holocaust film. Roger Ebert called it one of the best films of the year, and Steven Spielberg considered distributing it himself, less than a decade after making “Schindler’s List.” “The Grey Zone” is about the moral and philosophical conundrums faced by the Sonderkommando: the Jews in the death camps who worked to dispose of the victims’ bodies in exchange for slightly better treatment from the Nazis. Pretty heavy stuff. You can read more about it here Click here to read the story
  2. Josh Mandel is an A-hole – While we may sometimes think of ourselves as the “chosen people”, there are plenty of fellow hebrews that punch gaping holes in that unfortunate theory (think Steven Miller, for one). And now add Josh Mandel, a Jewish Republican candidate running for Senate in Ohio, to the list of those dishonoring the faith. Mandel is among the latest in a lengthening list of public figures, including Republican lawmakers, who have compared vaccine mandates and other public health regulations to the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. Holocaust scholars are united in categorically opposing such statements, explaining that there’s no comparison between public health measures that save lives and the genocide of six million Jews. Duh. What an a-hole. Click here to read more, but trust me, you don’t need to. 
  3. Afghanistan’s last Jew: a follow up story – Mentioned on Bill Mahar’s show yesterday, this is an update from the JNR a few weeks ago. If you recall, there was concern over what would happen if the Taliban regained control of Kabul, where he lived in the only remaining synagogue. Well, Zebulon Simantov has left Afghanistan, and is headed for the US of A. Word is he rebuffed pleas from philanthropists to leave earlier in an effort to hold out for money to do so. A shrewd, and whacky man indeed. 
  4. Jewish population on the rise! The stats are a bit confusing, but according to this Jewish agency, the number of those “identifying as Jewish” went up about 100,000, Max not yet included. So, the total worldwide now stands at 15.2 million, of which approximately 6.9 million live in Israel and about 6 million live in the US. France has the world’s third largest Jewish community with 446,000 people, according to the report, followed by Canada at 393,000 and the United Kingdom with 292,000. Next largest population? Ukraine! but the numbers don’t jive. Read more here.
  5. Oops!!! How the hell did six Palestinian terrorists escape from a maximum security Israeli prison??!!  Six men, belonging to two separate prison cells, were found to have escaped. Inside one of the cells, the guards discovered a hole that led to a crawl space under the floor tiles. Through the crawl space, the prisoners appear to have moved under the building, which is considered one of Israel’s best-guarded penitentiaries. They hammered their way above ground once they were outside the prison perimeter, according to Ynet. As of this writing, they are still at large. This will be a movie some day, but let’s hope they catch the bastards soon so the movie doesn’t have a tragic ending. Read more here

Thats all for the week. And hey, please be careful out there, this covid variant shit is real. 

Brad out. 

The Jew News Review – September 4, 2021 – The Slippery Slopes of Texas

Shabbat shalom!

While I have been enjoying my family for the week in Martha’s Vineyard (summary: Max is adorable, Nox is the best dog in the world, and my kids made great spouse decisions), the awful and ugly truth about elections having consequences reared it’s Supremely non-judicial head in the form of a late night “shadow” decision made possible by justices appointed by the orange turd. To wit, in a 5-4 decision, our Supreme A-hole justices decided to let stand a flagrant violation of precedent that essentially, at least temporarily, annihilates a women’s control over her own body and makes it virtually impossible to get an abortion in the never great state of Texas. As far as I know, there are no mountains in Texas (other than the state’s collective ego), but this is one extremely slippery slope that could lead to every other conservative state “slip-sliding away” into a legal rights-denying abyss and handing over control of our rights to vigilantes. 

So, I would normally be teeing up a bunch of stories related to Rosh Hashanah and yom Kippur, and including a few vacation pictures, but that will have to wait. Instead, I am imploring you all to read yesterday’s offering from Heather Cox Richardson, linked here for your convenience Link to Heather Cox Richardson. There is no weekly update from The Forward this week, so you will need to get through the day without my smarmy commentary. 

And now, off to the kayak. But hey, please be careful out there!

Brad out

The Jew News Review – August 28, 2021 – A Witch, a Drummer and a Survivor

Shabbat shalom everyone! 

A few reminders: This is the first edition of the JNR enabled by the Substack platform. Hopefully you have received this in a nicely formatted email and you are reading it while donning your JNR t-shirt and enjoying your coffee in a JNR mug. Also, The Forward’s Shabbat reader is not published this week, so you will have to suffer through some of my own selections. Next week the JNR staff will be publishing from our Martha’s Vineyard location and we will return to a full version, courtesy of The Forward.

Shout out this week to our younger generation, but more specifically, my nieces and nephews who are always smart and entertaining, and continue to provide me with some hope for our country and planet, which is rapidly descending into a pit of despair and dark politics.

My niece Carrie was perusing my old Bar Mitzvah photo album and offered up this gem I share with you at the risk of much embarrassment. That’s my dear old dad standing next to me, providing some editorial advice while I advance my torah studies and build the solid jewish foundation the JNR rests upon. 

But enough about me, let’s get to the good stuff!

  1. The wicked witch of the west is Jewish! Ok, I am pretty sure Frank Baum, who wrote the Wizard of Oz, was not an anti-semite, and no, Margaret Hamilton, who played the wicked witch in the original movie, was not Jewish. But, if you go to Broadway to see the latest version of Wicked, that witch is played by a very Jewish young woman, Talia Suskauer. The story of the Broadway musical “Wicked” is rife with Jewish resonance. Unlike the hook-nosed villain of “The Wizard of Oz,” the witch in “Wicked” begins the musical as a likable outsider. But she’s mocked and rejected for her green skin throughout her youth and scapegoated for societal chaos as an adult. This month, “Wicked” became the first tour of a Broadway show to resume performance, and its star, Talia Suskauer, is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. Read the interview
  2. Another one bites the dust – Legendary drummer and the rock of the Rolling Stones, Charlie Watts, passed away this week and will be remembered for his amazing talent and driving rhythms behind so many classic Stones songs. Of course, The Forward found the many Jewish connections in Watts life, which you can read about here, but here are a few I liked the best: When he first started out, he played with a so-so band that did alot of Bar-mitzvah’s and jewish weddings. Said Charlie on those gigs, “I never knew what the hell was going on, as I’m not Jewish.” And of course, he was know as a snazzy dresser. The Daily Telegraph and Vanity Fair named him one of the World’s Best Dressed Men, who favored classic, traditional suits (although not while drumming). In an interview, Watts gave credit to his father for taking young Charlie to his tailor. “In those days you’d have a little Jewish guy in the East End in London, who made you things,” said Watts. Read more here
  3. Shiva call: Inge Ginsberg – What an interesting lady! A holocaust survivor who helped spies and eventually became a heavy metal musician, died last week at the ripe old age of 99. The New York Times summed up her eclectic existence like this: “Her rich life, spanning three continents and 11 decades, entailed wartime espionage, volumes of poetry, songwriting and a late-career turn as a rock band’s frontwoman.” In recent years, she appeared on “Switzerland’s Got Talent” and in a documentary called “Death Metal Grandma,” which you can watch here. “We have no doubt whatsoever that she died because of boredom, loneliness and depression,” said Pedro da Silva, a friend and bandmate.

That’s all for this week. And hey, get your booster, and be safe out there!

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – No longer Maskless Week 1 – Afghanistan, butt lifts, and rubber ducks

Shabbat shalom!
This morning, as they say, is the calm before the storm, as New England prepares for the first hurricane to hit the area in 30 years. So New Englanders, if you haven’t been battered enough lately by all the shitty news, add hurricane to your list of worries, and try and sneak in a round of golf, or some other outdoor activity, before the winds and rain commence to ruin the rest of our weekend. 
Before I get to the usual JNR rant, a quick shout out to Gary G for a quick recovery from surgery and a “Hoo-ah” to my sister Phyllis for her loving presence this week, a short but fun visit with some great Max time and a trip down memory lane. Secondly, a few administrative updates for everyone:

  1. Substack Platform –  Going forward, (starting next week) I am moving all of you to Substack, which is a popular writers platform designed to easily organize and manage a newsletter or blog. You will still receive an email from me, (specifically from, “Brad Goverman from The Jew News Review”) only the formatting may be a little better than the usual email. You will still be able to respond and I will receive your email responses just as always, the only caveat is that you won’t be able to “respond all”, but you will be able to post comments and share across a number of social platforms, if you so desire.
  2. The Forward is on vacation – Starting this week and next week, Jodi is on vacation, hence, there will be no weekly editions of The Forward to provide the usual platform for my smarmy commentary. I will however, try and pick out a few stories to highlight that may or may not support my rants of the week. 

Not to belabor the weather metaphor, but this has been a particularly stormy week for the country. Most of us are old enough to remember the images from Saigon of helicopters falling off of ships, and the mad scramble of humanity to board helicopters on the roof of the US Embassy in order to get the hell out of Vietnam before the Viet Kong took over. Unfortunately, Uncle Joe will now have the image of Afghans clinging to American planes as an enduring image of his presidency. My prayers and sympathies go out to all the families of soldiers that gave their lives or limbs to this failed effort, and to the Afghani people, especially the women, who are surely going to be the target of serious abuse from a brutal regime with a history of treating women as chattel. There has been a serious piling on of criticism that this should never have happened, that we should have been better prepared for the evacuation, that our intelligence was bogus, blah blah blah. My take: Both the end result and the ensuing chaos was inevitable. From what I have read, the only viable shot we had at making any kind of lasting change in this “graveyard of empires” was in 2001/2002, after we cleared the country of al Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban asked to negotiate a settlement for them to take part in forming a government.  Then president George W. Bush basically told them to F off, and that, in my opinion, was the beginning of the end. But, most likely, any attempt to nation-build in a country that only values family and clan would likely have failed. What a sad, and horrible waste of life and treasure. 
Three other stories I want to highlight this week are far less tragic and hopefully offer up a bit of levity in an otherwise brutal week of news.

  1. Zebulun Simantov: The last Jew in Afghanistan – This is a real whacky story about, literally, the last Jew in Afghanistan.  People are worried about his whereabouts as the last time the Taliban were in control, they threw him in jail, tried to convert him, and treated him as an infidel. He normally resides in Kabul’s only synagogue, but apparently he has gone into hiding, and according to several journalists that have had some sort of contact with him, he wants to stay, or wants to be seriously compensated with money and alcohol if he leaves. This is a strange dude, apparently a carpet dealer and former restaurant owner who grew up in Herat, and for decades has refused to grant his wife, who with his daughter moved to Israel in 1998, a divorce. Simantov had a famously bad relationship with Kabul’s other remaining Jew, Ishaq Levin, until Levin died in 2005. The two lived at opposite ends of the synagogue, and would only exchange curses. When the Taliban took over the first time, each of them went to the Taliban and accused the other of criminal behavior. According to one account, the two argued so much in prison that the Taliban released them both! Netflix needs to make a series about this guy! Read more here via this link.
  2. Butt lifts in Brazil – Brazil is known for revealing bikinis which led, of course, to the well known pubic haircut required for wearing said bikinis. Butt, did you know Brazil is also know for it’s butt lifts? In case you are worried about how your new thong sets off your posterior view, worry no more. This New York Times story explains the recent phenomenon that started with a doctor in Brazil, but slowly migrated north and eventually was made more popular by Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez and others. Although technically, nothing is being “lifted”, the procedure (not covered by insurance) involves moving fat from flanks and tummy and lower back to the derriere. Or as one happy recipient put it, “It’s like moving money from your checking to savings account”. The BBL, as it is now commonly referred, goes for about $15,000, but don’t go running to the local chop shop as there are serious medical risks involved and apparently the mortality rates for this form of vanity are very robust!  Despite my hormone treatments, I may skip this trend and just stay away from my thongs until my butt is ready for public display.Stay tuned for more photos!
  3. Rubber Duckie, you’re so swell! – Finally, my good news of the week comes from Maine. A 25 foot high rubber duck with the word “Joy” printed on its chest appeared suddenly, and without attribution, floating in Belfast Harbor. It has since become quite the tourist attraction and has indeed brought some joy to the locals. 

That’s all for now folks. And hey, now more than ever, keep up the vigilance, keep on the masks, and let’s be careful out there!
Brad out.

The Jew News Review – Not Quite Maskless Week 14 – Red Alert on Blue Planet

Shabbat shalom everyone!

On this hot and humid morning, I can’t help but think about my grandson. Not because I haven’t seen him in over a week (hint, hint) but, despite my “No Negative Energy” commitment, I can’t help but think about his future on our beautiful, but over-carbonized planet Earth.  I am not a climate alarmist, but the “code red for humanity” warning just issued by the UN’s IPCC on the dire state of our planet’s ability to continue absorbing carbon emissions was the cherry on top of a pretty shitty news week. That news, combined with the report of July being the hottest month in the history of the planet, and the book I just completed (Under a White Sky) about humans making mistakes on trying to correct environmental mistakes made by humans, got me thinking too much about the grim climate situation, and what it might mean to Max and his grand children. However dire the predictions, I am a believer that technology, market forces, and our genetic wiring to survive and evolve will drive a solution, or multiple solutions to our current carbon catastrophe.  So, just try and be chill over this climate crap, and try to keep all your emissions to net-zero, please. 

And what about Cuomo? What a shit-head. This is a guy with three daughters, who of course he invoked in a lame non-apology apology, and one of his daughters, Michela, was/is very active in the #MeToo movement. Apparently, at Brown, she was a sexual assault peer educator! And there is an image of her online showing her with “STILL NOT ASKING 4 IT” written in black marker on her upper chest, a declaration that women’s clothing choices are never an invitation for unwanted advances! You really can’t make this shit up.  
On the good news front, I am finishing up my radiation therapy treatments on Monday (yeah technology!) and my sister Phyllis will be in for a visit this week as well. So, much to look forward to, including this week’s review of the news for Jews, courtesy of The Forward. So, without further ajieu, here you go:

  1. 5 Things Jews can do to help stop climate change – I kid you not, there is a Jewish spin on climate change. And of course, The Forward is on top of it. And no, it’s not about reducing CO2 emissions from more efficient shofar blowing, or using matzo dust particles dropped into the stratosphere to absorb sunlight. Suggestions such as taking it seriously, sermonizing about it at Shul, eating faux meat, and other cockamamie ideas are offered up by this wise Jewish climate sage.
  2. Jewish wisdom and Cuomo – WTF? This is actually a decent piece on how shitty his apology really was, and what he might have actually done to make it real. As the book of Proverbs puts it, “When arrogance appears, disgrace follows; wisdom is with those who are unassuming”. 
  3. Who is the “most-watched Jew in television history”? Ah, I have often pondered that precise question. And now I have an answer! This was my favorite story of the week. The answer is, Don Francisco, host of Univision’s “Sabado Gigante” which signed off after 53 years broadcasting – a Guinness World Record. His real name is Mario Luis Kreutzberger Blumenfeld, originally a German Jew whose family fled to Chile after Kristallnacht. This is an interview with him that originally appeared in Forbes. Fun read and great George Bush anecdote. 
  4. Disney star Raviv Ullman wants to be your rabbi – Who the hell is Raviv Ullman? I never heard of him or the show he starred in, but kudos to him for carrying on his Judaism via hosting Shabbat dinners at college and now via his podcast that tries to bring Torah to life. 
  5. Shabbat sermons a casualty of the pandemic? So, another silver lining to the pandemic? Apparently Orthodox rabbis have gotten the hint that less is more when it comes to sermons. God bless them! They should remind themselves that the average attention span of an American Jew is about as long as a tweet. 
  6. Holy Land theme park being replaced by a medical building – Just down the street from “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” museum in the Orlando area, this kitschy theme park was originally built by a Jew who converted to Christianity and became a Baptist minister. However, not surprisingly, the theme park has not done so well, and was recently sold to a Seventh-Day Adventist health system for $32 million. Reverend Marvin Rosenthal, raised Jewish in Philadelphia, sought to use the museum to educate Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, and to proselytize Jews to abandon their faith. The latter goal clearly not a good business model.
  7. Yiddish theater and rock and roll! The Fillmore East, long known as “The Church of Rock and Roll”, celebrated the 50th year of its closing in 2021. However, before it became known for launching famous rock groups, it began life as the Commodore Theater, a mixed use 2,200 seat entertainment complex for movies, vaudeville, and Jewish night school. Built by Jewish entertainment entrepreneurs, Elias Meyer and Louis Schneider, the architect was known for building oriental and Deco styled theaters. With the rise of talking pictures and the fall of live entertainment, the Commodore became a mecca for local talent, including many yiddish speaking performers. Yawn.
  8. California gives $15M to a synagogue – The money will be used to restore this historic synagogue in east LA, and hopefully spur collaboration among the Jewish, Latino and other minority communities in the Boyle Heights section of the city. Good to see some of the historic budget surplus in California going to a Jewish cause. This Shul used to be the largest west of Chicago, and this 18,000 square foot Byzantine revival structure with a Jewish star above its main entrance is a remnant of a bygone time when Eastern European Jewish immigrants populated the area alongside Latino, Japanese, and Black working-class neighbors. 

That’s all for the week! And hey, let’s not forget Delta madness, so mask up out there, and be safe!
Brad out.

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

Shabbat shalom!  What a beautiful weekend!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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