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

Shabbat shalom! 

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

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

Spring here and there

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

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

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


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

Brad out. 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad out.


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

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

The swag here at this new gig is pretty decent!

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

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

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

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

Brad out.

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

Shabbat shalom one and all! 

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

Yours truly in the JNR office

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

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

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

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

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

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – February 26, 2022 – Ghosts…new and old

Shabbat shalom.

A serious shout out to our Ukrainian friends which include a team of developers from my old company. Resurrecting the ghosts of Soviet leaders past, Darth Putin has the Death Star pointing at Kyiv as I write this entry. Russian missiles are dealing death blows to a free, democratic country which will be decapitated probably before we get to read the Sunday paper. Thousands of innocent civilians are fleeing their homes, hundreds have already been killed. The Ukrainians are resisting, and there are already stories of heroes like the “Ghost of Kyiv”, a Ukrainian pilot who has already shot down six Russian planes. President Zelenskyy has vowed to fight til his death, which is likely imminent. 

This is some serious shit going down. I never thought in my lifetime I would witness such evil on a global scale. There were norms, and treaties, and a balance of power that created guardrails for peace over the last 80 or so years, since the end of WWII. The question remains, why is Putin doing this? Putin gave his version of an answer in his televised speech Wednesday night, announcing a “special military operation” whose “goal is to protect people who have been abused by the genocide of the Kyiv regime for eight years.” Ultimately: “We will strive for the demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine, as well as bringing to justice those who committed numerous bloody crimes against civilians.” This is of course nuts on the face of it. There is no genocide in Ukraine, and the country is run by a Jewish President, and has the 4th largest Jewish population of all the countries in the world! Hillary Clinton has reportedly likened the Russian president’s excuse for invading Ukraine — the defense of ethnic Russians — to Hitler’s claim that he needed to protect ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia. And the Putin-Hitler analogies do not end there. (Thanks to Charles Lane for the following:)

  1. As young men, both Hitler and Putin zealously served their countries on the front lines of international conflict, one as a German soldier on the Western Front in World War I, the other as a Soviet KGB officer in East Germany during the Cold War.
  2. Each was cast adrift when the empire upon which he had staked his future collapsed. In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that “everything went black before my eyes” when he heard of Germany’s capitulation in 1918; his heart filled with “hatred for the originators of this dastardly crime.” Putin has recalled the dramatic moment when he felt obliged to hide his Soviet Communist Party membership card in a desk drawer; he has said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “a genuine tragedy” for the Russian people.
  3. Each considered his nation no more culpable than any other for the global conflict that precipitated its downfall — its humiliation therefore not only undeserved but also inexplicable, except as the product of weakness, betrayal and conspiracy. For each man, post-imperial chaos in their respective countries bred profound contempt for Western-style freedom and democracy.Having attained power in their respective societies, Hitler and Putin both set their sights on economic and military renewal and on reversing their respective nations’ unjust humiliation, by force if necessary.
  4. The latter co-opted some former Soviet republics and militarily occupied others, just as Hitler marched the Wehrmacht into the Rhineland in 1936, took Czechoslovakia in 1938 — and, well, you get the idea.

It was Churchill who said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Last week I wrote that I wouldn’t want my kids fighting in this war, and now I am not so sure. Putin’s evil has so many analogies to Hitler, I am reconsidering my position on whether we should be in this fight with NATO troops on the ground. Will sanctions be enough? Can we just sit by and watch the brutal slaughter while we contain the worlds largest arsenal of weaponry that could help defend and save the lives of thousands of innocent people? Are we, in effect, repeating our mistake from WWII entering years too late? These questions are popping up in my mind as the world watches and witnesses an evil man project his will of death and destruction on the innocent. It makes me sick.

Lost in all this horror was a ray of bright sunshine and good news: President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, elevating a well-regarded federal appeals court judge who, if confirmed, would make history by becoming the first Black woman to serve as a justice. She appears to be a brilliant legal mind, and a lovely human being. She is qualified, has been previously vetted, and should easily be confirmed, and will be the first public defender to be elevated to the SJC. Congrats to her and to President Biden for sticking to his campaign promise and delivering an excellent candidate.

Now, on to the news of the Jews. It was of course, dominated by the war in Ukraine. And Israel in particular has some splainin’ to do with regards to its official position on the war. Here are some selected headlines:

  1. Israel playing Switzerland on the Russia-Ukraine War issue – Hard to believe, but Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has not been critical of Russia as of yet. He has focused more on providing Ukrainian Jews and Israelis living in Ukraine with support. There are close to 500,000 Soviet Jews of Ukrainian descent, and another 500,000 Russian Jews in Israel. So why the reluctance to denounce Russia publicly? The reason for that is that Russia has been preventing Syria from obtaining the defensive weapon systems that Israel should be providing to Ukraine! For more, click here and here.
  2. Why Putin’s “De-nazification” claim is abhorrent – In October, the former president of Russia and current deputy chairman of its Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, published “an expletive-laden article aimed at Ukraine and at President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, describing his country as a vassal state of the U.S. with whom it is impossible to negotiate,” according to Stephen Blank, an expert on Russia and Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.Medvedev went as far as comparing Zelenskyy to the Sonderkommando, Jewish prisoners forced to perform a variety of duties in the gas chambers and crematoria of the Nazi camp system. Evil knows no bounds. For more click here.
  3. Ukraine has one of the Europe’s largest Jewish communities – With a 2020 estimate of 43,000 residents who identify as Jews, and perhaps quadruple that number with Jewish ancestry. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency have put together this explainer about where they live, how they feel about the rising conflict, how Zelensky being a Jew plays into things and much more. Read the story ➤
A wounded woman stands outside a hospital after the bombing of a town in Ukraine on Thursday.
  1. Irony on steroids – 👶  A prominent member of a Jewish supremacist group in Jerusalem has  discovered that her biological parents are Muslim. Or Leibler, 22, confronted Arabs during Israel’s war with Gaza last May, and once said that “anyone who supports Palestine is a potential terrorist.” After giving birth to her son, Leibler decided to sift through the files of her own adoption. And that’s when she realized her Islamic roots. “At that moment, my whole world fell apart,” she said. (Times of Israel)
  2. From the culture vulture – How Jews helped win the wild west! Another impressive offering on Jews impact on culture and history, this time in the wild wild west. Imagine Wyatt Earp putting down his guns to put on a yarmulka, and you get the gist of it. But, this is just one of a plethora of Jews featured in “Jews of the Wild West,” a fascinating new documentary, which premieres this month at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and is likely headed to a Jewish film festival near you. Phyllis, take note. Could be an offering at your local movie house! For more, click here.
  3. Jewish Women’s History Month: Who knew? In celebration of Jewish women’s history month, this online lecture sponsored by the Lappin Foundation will look through history into Jewish women’s kitchens, drawing rooms, storefronts, women’s organizations and classrooms. Professor Pamela S. Nadell, Patrick Clendenen Chair in Women’s and Gender History and director of Jewish studies at American University, will take us on an exploration of the evolution of the American Jewish woman’s experience over the past 400 years. Register by clicking here.

That’s all for now. Say a few prayers for Ukraine, and continue to be careful out there!

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – February 19, 2022 – Retail wars, culture wars, and Boston’s best babka!

Shabbat shalom everyone! And happy birthday to my number one son and number one roommate!

Good to be back in good ole Sharon, MA even if there are no palm trees and the average temperature is more suitable for polar bears. Sandy was definitely ready to return, but as for myself, not so much. Fortunately, the lack of warmth here was more than compensated for by the warmth of the greetings we received from room mates and others. And slowly, and despite a broken toilet, my transitional grumpiness is being replaced by my normal curmudgeon-like persona.

Daniel’s handiwork hanging in our kitchen

Despite our west coast respite, the news churned with just as much ferocity. And while I was floating in pools, sipping on float-inis and soaking in a desert tan, the culture wars raged on while brinksmanship diplomacy helped prevent or at least delay a real war. Big kudos to Biden and company for their statecraft so far. His leadership and administration have made a tremendous impact on bringing our allies together after 4 years of you know who and what. And it’s the strength of that alliance that will hopefully deter Putin from invading, unless the crazy, calculating Russian decides to double down on his ego-driven motivations. I frankly could care less if we agreed to keep Ukraine out of NATO, I don’t think that concession represents any kind of existential threat to the US and I don’t think I would want my kids fighting in that kind of war. So, this is a tricky one, and so far, I think sleepy Joe is alert and playing a good middle chess game. Let’s hope the end game results in a diplomatic offramp and not a deadly and devastating war for the Ukrainians and the NATO alliance partners. 

The other war I have been following with some interest and slanted eyebrow is the culture war kindled by the Joe Rogan controversy. I am not a regular listener of his show, but I do like his no holds barred 3 hour deep dive interview format. And he does have that “everyman” appeal, which in this day of distrust in all things, has its charm and appeal. What bugs the shit out of me is the right wing cries of “cancel culture” any time someone has the temerity (or wisdom in most cases) of criticizing stupid and/or racist behavior or speech and then conflating free speech issues with responsible editing and journalism. Rogan’s apology seemed sincere, but for me the bigger issue is how Spotify handled the situation. Kudos for them being transparent that it was a business decision for them and also targeting $100M for marginalized talent, but they are hiding behind the “we are a platform” position, joining the irresponsible crowd of Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok and others using Section 230 to avoid making responsible and hard decisions about content. Spotify is not a public square, they are a private business. Hence, there are no “free speech” issues here. Folks conflating this are being purposely disingenuous for political reasons. Neil Young (a polio survivor) and his support of 250 healthcare workers that objected to Rogan providing airtime to anti-vax nonsense without any meaningful challenge to that nonsense, is a demonstration of capitalism at work. And I am hopeful another outcome of this will be a better, less sloppy Joe Rogan. Let him bring on whomever he wants, as long as he challenges them fairly and with facts. He claims he does not prepare for his interviews. Well Joe, now that you are making $200M and reaching millions of young people, you might think about being better prepared. You are not just a pot smoking, funny man any more. Welcome to the real world Joe. 

I am rambling, and so far, nothing Jewish about any of this. So, let’s get on with some of the news relevant to us Jews this last week. Here are a few of the more interesting Jew news items for the week:

  1. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy – Can his Jewish optimism beat back the crafty Putin? I revived this article from January due to the current situation, and as a reminder that Zelenskyy is Jewish! Pretty amazing that a country that was so complicit with Nazi anti-semitism actually voted in a Jew for President! Reminds me of Obama! click here for more
  2. New Iran deal in the offing? Lost in the Ukrainian madness has been the Biden administration push to get Iran back into the agreement the Orange Turd pulled us out of. Since the Turd decision, Iran has proceeded to build up their nuclear capability. Will the new deal roll things back to square one? This opinion piece does not think so. click here for more
  3. From the Culture Cabinet – The Kosher Beach – This new Israeli movie is about a gated 100-meter strip of beach in Tel Aviv with dedicated days for women and men to bathe separately. “It’s only a half hour drive from Bnei-Brak, a closed Orthodox city, but for the “Brave Bunch”, a female Orthodox sisterhood from Bnei-Brak, it’s light years away. It’s their source of quiet sanity; their own private haven of freedom where they can be themselves, take a deep ocean breath and open their hearts to the sea.” For a trailer, click here
  4. NHL Star Adam Fox anything but normal for this nice Jewish boy – Fox, 24, has become a star in the NHL, his play earning him the James Norris Memorial Trophy for the league’s best defenseman last year, and a 7-year, $66.5 million contract — the largest in NHL history for a defenseman leaving his entry-level contract. He was selected for his first All-Star game earlier this year (but didn’t play because of an injury). Who said Jews couldn’t skate? Read more about Adam here.
  5. Purim is coming up, are you ready for a few good baking tips? Check out this zoom interactive baking class to make the traditional Hamentaschen holiday cookie from a pro, Rachel Sundet from Mamaleh’s Delicatessen click here. And, if you are up for the best bubka in Boston, you must get to Bakey’s and try out their chocolate or raspberry babka offerings…..OMG.  click here for babka nirvana
  1. 🏫  Massachusetts school hit by antisemitic vandals — again. An elementary school in Marblehead, about an hour north of Boston, was vandalized with swastikas and slurs against Jews three times in January, including on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “It isn’t isolated to the kids,” said a local rabbi, David Meyer. “It’s a reflection of what’s going on in the world.” (Boston.comSalem News)
  2. Justice served to accomplice of anti-semitic arsonist – Ending on a more positive note, the jerk brother of an even bigger jerk was brought to justice. According to the grand jury indictment, Giannakakis’ now-deceased younger brother was the prime suspect in two fires at the Chabad Center in Arlington, one at the Chabad Center in Needham, and one at a Chelsea business, all set in May 2019.  Click here for more

That’s all I’ve got this week. And let’s continue to be careful out there.

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – February 12, 2022 – Harmony Hangover

Shabbat shalom one and all! 

Well, everyday is groundhog day here in Palm Springs, but instead of waking up to Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe”, we have been waking up to this scene out our bedroom window every morning.

Good Bye old friend

But alas, this will sadly be our last posting from Palm Springs, as this coming Tuesday we head back to the harsh reality of winter in New England. Yesterday we said good bye to the Gekows after some good food, great fun and a few good laughs floating in the pool and battling on the cribbage board. Then Sandy and I had the pleasure of watching a fantastic, spine tingling performance by the Ten Tenors, an Australian singing troupe very popular here in PS. The harmonies around Leonard Cohen’s “Haleluya” were inspirational, and their overall karma was so positive, I have a harmony hangover!

Ten Tenors Selfie at last night’s performance in Palm Springs McCallum Theater

So, in order to continue that harmony hangover, I have decided to ignore all the negativity in the news this week, and provide some good Jew news for a change of pace. So, without any further ajieu, here you go:

  1. Pray Ball! Unlike previous years, there are no Jews playing in Superbowl LVI, (Edelman, Ali Marpet, eg) but fear not, there are of course a few Jewish angles to report, courtesy of The Forward. 
    1. First, before the Super Bowl begins on Sunday, a student from Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles will help with the coin flip at midfield. The school is one of eight with girls’ flag football teams that the NFL will honor in order to promote the game to the younger generations. With youth tackle football participation plummeting amid concerns of costs and safety, the NFL is counting on the continued growth of flag football to build new interest in the professional game, and its success at Jewish schools across the country shows why. One coach reported that a student came to tryouts wearing ballet shoes! 
    2. The second Jewish Super Bowl connection has to do with the historical Jewish roots of the two teams’ home cities, LA and Cincinnati – two of America’s most storied Jewish communities. Los Angeles is home to America’s second-largest Jewish population, behind only New York City, and includes the largest enclave of Israelis outside of Israel. Eric Garcetti, who was elected in 2013 and is leaving his post soon to become U.S ambassador to India, is the city’s first Jewish mayor. Then there’s Cincinnati, the home of some of the earliest American Jewish institutions. The American Israelite, the longest-running English-language Jewish newspaper still publishing in the U.S., was founded in Cincinnati in 1854. The first association of American synagogues, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations — which is now the Union for Reform Judaism — formed there in 1873, followed by the first Jewish institute of higher education, Hebrew Union College, which opened in 1875. Before it moved to the East Coast, the popular kosher food producer Manischewitz was founded in Cincinnati. For some interesting reasons on which team should win, here is a link. click here
  2. On this day in history – The Great Jewish Hope –  Max Baer, a heavyweight champion boxer, was born on Feb. 11, 1909. Perhaps his most famous bout occurred in 1933, when he fought Max Schmeling, a world champion from Germany, at Yankee Stadium. Hitler himself reportedly coached Schmeling to downplay Jewish persecution in Germany when talking to American journalists. More than 60,000 people attended the fight, with millions more listening on the radio. Baer knocked out Schmeling in the 10th round, a win that, many years later, the writer David Margolick described as a symbol for “Jewry’s struggle against the Nazis.”
Max Baer flexing for some young fans in Asbury Park, New Jersey in 1935.
  1. Midge is back! We were devout and enthusiastic fans of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, but for some reason we lost interest after season 2. Could be a pandemic gap issue, or it just got a little too silly/zany. Whatever. Here is a link to a recap of the previous seasons and a review of the new season. Click here
  2. For National Bagel Day, finally, the ultimate bagel book. Sure, you can get a decent bagel at Life’s a Bagel. But there’s nothing quite like the homemade article, and my daughter-in-law Kalie bakes a perfect example. In “Bagels, Schmears and a Nice Piece of Fish: A Whole Brunch of Recipes to Make at Home,” Cathy Barrow gives bagel lovers an incentive to learn the craft of bagel making — or, at least, an opportunity to pontificate on the delights of the world’s roundest carbohydrate. Read the story ➤ 
  3. 🌕  Making the moon a better place – Is it time to grow chickpeas in space?Yes, according to the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL, which has teamed up with NASA to try growing fresh produce in space. Kale and cabbage were already grown successfully, but the potential galactic hummus market had, until SpaceIL’s introduction, been overlooked. Hummus “is a perfect food,” said author Ariel Rosenthal, who consulted on the project. (JTA)


Be safe out there everyone! 

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – February 5, 2022 – Making Whoopie, the “A” word, and the Jewish spin on Wordle

Shabbat shalom from sunny Palm Springs! And welcome to new subscriber and friend of the family, Zach Gekow! 

What a week! If the desert sun isn’t enough to cause me a stroke, the news certainly will. Just when you thought the Republican Party could go no lower, they censure two of their own who dare to tell the truth and defend the constitution, and in the same breath claim the insurgents who ransacked our capital spreading feces on the walls and leaving several dead and countless injured were engaged in “legitimate political discourse”!!! And before you get up in my craw for being too negative, according to a recent study, relentless positivity can be more toxic than you think and there are healthy elements of being a curmudgeon and seeing the glass half empty! I’m in fashion at last! But enough negativity, check out this fabulous Palm Springs attraction also known as “Sandy’s favorite place to visit.” 

Pictured below is yours truly at Sunnylands, the historic home of the Annenbergs, who built their wealth on the trio of once dominant publications, TV Guide, Seventeen andThe Daily Racing Form. Walter Annenberg’s father, Mo, was a Jewish immigrant and self-made millionaire who was eventually thrown in jail for tax evasion by the same judge who threw Al Capone in jail. Mo, who loved his son, cut a deal to keep Walter out of jail with him. Walter then dedicated himself to making money legitimately, and clearing the family’s good name. There is some great history at this amazing home that if you ever get to this area, I strongly suggest you check out. It is considered the Camp David of the west coast and continues to be an active center with a mission to facilitate peace, democracy and social equality, as well as a tourist attraction. The museum happened to be featuring Israeli artist, Yaacov Agam, who is well known for his sculptures and kinetic art.


Now, let’s talk Jew news, and there was plenty of it last week. 

Whoopi-doo – Whoopi Goldberg made a few comments on her ABC show, The View, that were clearly stupid in the best case, and while I am sure she did not mean it with any malice, anti-semitic in the worst case. After making the stupid comments about the Holocaust not being a race issue, she proceeded to double down on that concept in her apology tour on the Colbert show, saying even more dumb things, which really ignited the social media frenzy that followed. ABC’s response was to suspend her for two weeks. I think ABC had to do something in response, but many have pointed out that the media giant missed a learning opportunity, and rather than suspend her, they could have assigned a few camera men and editors to join her on a tour of the Holocaust Museum and really leverag the issue as a learning opportunity. 

Whoopie said some stupid things, hopefully some positive comes out of it, enough said.

The “A” word in Amnesty International Report – And I don’t mean “Amnesty”. The global defender of human rights recently released a report that Israel’s treatment of people subjugated under their rule in the West Bank is a form of Apartheid. The very word, for those of us old enough to remember, was originally applied to the legal and social structures that supported white supremacy in South Africa. In my humble opinion, it is not an appropriate analogy, but when something looks like a duck, walks like a duck and squawks like a duck, you are probably dealing with a duck. I have not read the full report, and do not intend to, but I have been watching reactions in the US and Israeli press and punditry. Amnesty makes a convincing case that they are taking a very legal view of the definition in international law. The Israeli and Jewish press call out a double standard. Seems like groundhog day to me. Wherever you fall on this “A” word debate, there are clearly social and legal mechanisms and structures in place that discriminate against the Palestinian people. And the Israeli government has been doing very little about this issue for decades, so the argument that this is a “temporary” situation carries little weight in my opinion. So, if this report can in any way move the parties forward in negotiating a two state solution, then it could be a good thing. So, another example of the power of positive thinking!

The hot new word game – Just as Wordle is going viral, there is of course a Jewish spin on this new word game called, you guessed it, Jewdle! There are many spinoffs, but this one originated in Australia, and is a bit more difficult since it is based on a six letter word vs the original 5 letter version. Here is a link to a story on this new game from The Forward. Click here for more on Jewdle

We are rushing out to drop off a Hirsh at the airport, so will end it here without the usual links to other Jew News. So, please continue to be careful out there!

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – January 29, 2022 – “Never Again”

Shabbat shalom from sunny Palm Springs! And greetings to our new subscriber, Jamie Agins, friend of Phyllis and glass artist extraordinaire. Link to Jamie’s website

Last Thursday was International Holocaust Remembrance day which was pretty widely noted by the mainstream media, and of course, The Forward and other Jewish media. I don’t usually get a chance to mention the Pope in my scribblings, but I do like this Pope (relatively speaking) and I found this photo of the Pope meeting with a holocaust survivor especially poignant.

Wrapping up Holocaust Remembrance Day, Pope Francis reflects on the importance of historical memory with Auschwitz survivor, Edith Bruck.

If you think we have made progress at combating anti-semitism, think again. As I have noted in just about every edition of the JNR, the reports of anti-Semitism around the world, and recently here in the United States have been on a steady and worrisome rise. Growing up Jewish, I do not recall going to synagogue and worrying about where the exits are, nor do I recall Rabbis getting trained in “active shooter” responsiveness. These are all recent and horrifying phenomena that should worry Jews and non-Jews alike. 

The responsibility to rectify this terrifying trend is our own. Each of us has an obligation to say something and/or do something. And we must continue to educate the younger generations to make sure a Holocaust never happens again. A 2020 survey of Millennials and GenZ’ers in the United States is particularly scary. Amongst those cohorts, there is a clear lack of awareness of key historical facts; 63 percent of all national survey respondents did not know that six million Jews were murdered and 36 percent thought that “two million or fewer Jews” were killed during the Holocaust. Additionally, although there were more than 40,000 camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, 48 percent of national survey respondents could not name a single one. The work to educate must continue. Enough said.

In the secular world, I am happy to report that, in my humble opinion, the Orange Turd’s popularity and power over whatever is left of the “Republican Party” has reached a tipping point, and should steadily continue its descent into the primordial muck and cesspool of its origins. In a recent survey, 27% of Republicans say Trump should not run again and 21% say they would vote for Florida governor Ron DeSantis instead of The Orange Turd. And as the news of the Orange Turd’s guilty hand in his depraved coup attempt continues to unfold, those negative numbers should grow even higher. Of course, DeSantis is not much better.

So, that wraps up my good news for this week. What about the news of the Jews you may be asking? Well, here is a carefully curated selection from The Forward and Times of Israel I hope you find interesting. 

  1. A Tennessee school board voted unanimously to remove “Maus,” the iconic graphic novel about the Holocaust, from its curriculum – Board members had raised objections about curse words, nude drawings and “not wise or healthy” content within the book by Art Spiegelman, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. “It shows them killing kids,” one board member said. (JTA)
  2. A group of Orange Turd supporters, some identifying themselves as “Christian veterans,” gathered outside the Ohio home of Rep. Casey Weinstein, a Democrat who accused them of antisemitism – They held signs that read “Stand for the flag, kneel for the cross.” They were “trying to intimidate me,” Weinstein said. The ADL is investigating the matter. (Columbus Jewish News)
  3. Bradley Cooper confirmed he will be portraying the Broadway composer Leonard Bernstein in an upcoming biopic – Cooper, who has been researching the subject for more than four years, also revealed that Steven Spielberg was initially attached to the project, but that Cooper decided to direct it himself. (Variety)
  4. On this week in history: J.D. Salinger – war vet, author, recluse – died on Jan. 27, 2010. He was of Lithuanian origin and the grandson of a rabbi of the Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Louisville, Kentucky. Salinger was later described in biographies as the son of a New York businessman who imported, quizzically, kosher cheese and ham. After his “The Catcher in the Rye” was published, comedian Jerry Lewis wanted to star in a movie version, calling himself the “Jewish Holden Caulfield,” but Salinger, thankfully, refused to sell him the rights.
  1. Joni Mitchell to join Neil Young in protest over Spotify antivax podcast – Young was the first to challenge Spotify in their support and airing of Joe Rogan’s “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast for his continuous airing of Covid mis-information. The streaming service has pulled thousands of podcast episodes that carry Covid mis-information, but seem to draw a different standard when it comes to Rogan’s hugely popular show. Click here for more details

Well, that’s all I’ve got this week. And hey, let’s remember to be safe out there.

And Daniel, please don’t forget to shovel the driveway, the front walkway, the back patio and clean off the roof. 

Brad out.

The Jew News Review – January 22, 2022 – A glitch in The Matrix?

Shabbat shalom. 

My late father-in-law was a snowbird and invariably, during every snowstorm or patch of bad weather we suffered through in Sharon, he would call us with very self satisfying remarks on what great weather he was experiencing in Florida. So, only out of great love of that memory do I sit here in Palm Springs letting you all know that the sunny and warm temperatures continue unabated here, and we are shortly leaving for a round of golf. Life can be tov, but it can also rear it’s ugly head, as it did last week in a Texas synagogue.

Apologies to Sandy. She has chided me recently for not being positive enough in my recent postings. We do have a lot to be thankful for in our sweet, bubble of life we have created through hard work and good fortune. But there apparently was some kind of major glitch in the matrix last week, and I cannot just turn a blind eye. Each week I regretfully include a link to a news item about anti-semitism as my own way of keeping the “never forget” slogan alive. It’s usually about some hateful speech or action on a US campus, where anti-semitism seems to be running rampant these days. But this week some anti-semitic nut job decided to take some hostages at a Texas synagogue, where thankfully, the potential nightmare scenario ended without any loss of life. More remarkable in my mind was the FBI and mainstream media response to the clearly anti-semitic attack. The FBI seemed to do backflips in trying to avoid calling it what it was, and the mainstream media, with the exception of the Washington Post seemed to follow suit. “He was singularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community, but we are continuing to work to find motive,” the F.B.I. special agent in charge, Matthew DeSarno, said shortly after the standoff ended, presumably referring to the assailant’s bid to free the imprisoned terrorist. Both The Associated Press and the BBC parroted the line, with the BBC tweeting, “Texas synagogue hostage standoff not related to Jewish community — F.B.I.” 

Seriously? WTF? A moron singles out and attacks a synagogue believing Jews have the power to release a prisoner, and that is not considered an anti-semitic attack? We clearly have more work to do. 

A glitch in The Matrix?

The events in Texas brought to my attention another bit of Jewish news which has not received much attention. Stupid-ass Republicans have been blocking the nomination of Deborah Lipstadt as the new “Ambassador on Anti-Semitism”, a post the ADL worked to elevate and fund at the Ambassador level, which is pretty cool. Her nomination is supported by just about every Jewish group in the world, which in itself is a major accomplishment. So, what’s the hesitation by Republicans? For months, it seemed that Sen. Ron Johnson, a far-right Republican from Wisconsin, was blocking Lipstadt’s confirmation over a tweet in which she correctly described as “white supremacy/nationalism” Johnson’s assertion that he would have been more concerned about the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol if the protesters were connected to the Black Lives Matter movement. The Times reported that Senate Republicans might demand Lipstadt apologize. Then Johnson, in announcing his campaign for reelection, said he was not aware he was holding up any nominations. Still, no hearing has been publicly announced. Again, WTF?

I will end this week with a quote from Lipstadt herself which she penned eloquently and recently in an op ed for the NYT, “ “It is not radical to say that going to services, whether to converse with God or with the neighbors you see only once a week, should not be an act of courage.”

That’s all this week everyone. Off to golf, but hey, please continue to be careful out there.

Brad out.