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Yiddish Printer Wins National LOUIE Award For Piglet Card

The Forward - 2 hours 8 min ago
Is that kosher? Yiddish printer wins a LOUIE (national greetings card) Award for a ‘piglet’ baby card.

Jewish Activists Welcome Scandals Slowing Trump Agenda

The Forward - Tue, 2017-05-23 22:51
A White House preoccupied with the Russia scandal has enabled Jewish organizations to push back harder Trump’s domestic agenda.

The 7 Most Awkward Moments From Trump’s Israel Trip

The Forward - Tue, 2017-05-23 22:45
He had an “amazing” time at Yad Vashem, which the White House called “Vad Vanshem.” Oh, he apparently wants “lasting peach” in the Middle East.

In Manchester, Jews Have Been Preparing For An Attack For Years

The Forward - Tue, 2017-05-23 22:30
Jewish groups in Manchester have long been on alert, training residents and organizations in security and disaster response.

Tel Aviv is the ‘home of Judaism.’ So is Boston, Sao Paulo, Marseille …

JTA - Tue, 2017-05-23 21:32

Ivanka Trump praying at the Western Wall, May 22, 2017. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

(JTA) — Donald Trump and his staff may have left Israel feeling pretty friendly to the Jews, but man, we don’t make it easy for them.

Flying with reporters from Saudi Arabia to Israel on Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that they were “[o]nto the second stop, Tel Aviv, home of Judaism.” Critics were not kind.

Jordan Schachtel of Conservative Review noted that because Tel Aviv does not have the religious significance of Jerusalem, Tillerson “managed to insult the people of Israel — and Jews worldwide.” Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin accused the former ExxonMobil CEO of “bumbling his lines and committing gaffes a junior Foreign Service officer would never make.” And Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of American fumed that “Only those who are blind cannot point to Jerusalem as the center of Judaism and Israel.” (I am anxiously waiting a comment from the Jewish Institute for the Blind.)

Granted, “Tel Aviv, home of Judaism,” is about as awkward as it gets. Besides sounding like the world’s least promising tourism slogan, it’s inaccurate for all the reasons Schachtel and Klein pointed out. And there’s a backstory here that makes people worry that it wasn’t a simple mistake on Tillerson’s part.

In the days leading up to the president’s big trip to Israel, there was much conjecture about how Trump would and wouldn’t tweak U.S. policy toward Israel, and especially Jerusalem, which no president has officially recognized as Israel’s capital or even, technically, part of Israel.

The back and forth on the issue was enough to give you whiplash. Trump seemed pretty committed to moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv — until he wasn’t. A White House live feed of Trump’s meetings was briefly labeled “Jerusalem, Israel” — until it wasn’t. Trump became the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall — but only days after some U.S. Consulate staffers managed to tick off Israelis ahead of the trip by sniping that the Western Wall doesn’t belong to Israel.

As for Tillerson, when he was asked aboard Air Force One whether he agrees with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley that the Western Wall is part of Israel, he replied, “The wall is part of Jerusalem.” That, to be fair, is a fine bit of Jesuitical rhetoric, which Cullen Murphy once defined as “language that on its face was unassailably true and that all parties could solemnly accept, even as it deliberately settled nothing whatsoever.”

It really isn’t up to Tillerson to set new U.S. policy on the fly, and Haley was definitely going rogue when she tried. As maddening as it can seem to Jews who feel Israel should be able to pick its own capital, Israel stands virtually alone in insisting that the status of Jerusalem is a settled matter.

But I am less interested at the moment in the political discussion than the theological one. The idea that even Jerusalem is the “home of Judaism” is both obvious and contentious. Obvious because, as Klein points out, it is the site of the First and Second Jewish Temples, the seat of King David’s Jewish kingdom and the focus of a people’s 2,000 years of longing for return. Contentious because, while a Jew’s eyes “gaze toward Zion,” they also have settled on places and communities around the world where Judaism has found a home. It was Heinrich Heine who called the Torah “the portable homeland for the Jews,” and Judaism flourished in places — from Babylon to Brooklyn, as it were — when the Land of Israel seemed out of reach.

The idea that God dwells in one place is hardly alien to Judaism. The building of the Mikdash (the Holy Place) is a central theme of the Torah, and Jerusalem is understood as the place where God was to dwell among the people — specifically, the Holy of Holies. The Western Wall — actually a retaining wall built to shore up the Temple Mount — is revered because of its proximity to what would have been the seat of the Holy of Holies, whose exact location was lost to history after Rome sacked the city in 70 C.E.

These were the terms of the debate that sprang up after Ivanka Trump tweeted, in all innocence, “It was deeply meaningful to visit the holiest site of my faith and to leave a note of prayer.” Observers harrumphed that the wall wasn’t the “holiest site” — that would be the Temple Mount itself. Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg, saying Ivanka’s people “botched an important piece of Jewish tradition,” suggested that the mistaken idea that the Western Wall is Judaism’s holiest site is a result of the custom, widely but not universally observed, that Jews are not to set foot on the mount lest they trample the original site of the Holy of Holies.

David B. Green, writing in Haaretz, defended Ivanka.

“For Jews who focus their religious devotion on physical locations, it is indeed the holiest spot in the world,” Green wrote, “certainly the holiest place they may visit, because it is part and parcel of the Temple Mount, and because the exact coordinates of the holy of holies are unknown and would be off-limits if they were known.”

So there.

There is a camp that worries about all this focus on place ends up fetishizing walls and stones and archaeology in a way that feels — well, un-Jewish. Folks like these often quote Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the 20th-century theologian who insisted that Judaism is a religion of time, not space, and that Jews were given a temple only as a sort of concession after they showed their weakness by worshipping the Golden Calf.

“The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn,” he wrote.

According to this view, the “home of Judaism” is wherever a Jew learns Torah, or performs a mitzvah, or sits down to a Shabbat meal.

Judaism needs its holy places as much as it needs the flexibility and creativity to flourish wherever Jews find themselves. I feel an extra measure of holiness whenever I visit Israel, but honestly that’s more likely to be when I see kids romping in a playground in a Tel Aviv suburb than when I stand among the tourists at the Western Wall.

The late great Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai has a lovely poem, “Tourists,” about how our focus on space can distract us from what’s really holy. The narrator is shopping for groceries in the Old City of Jerusalem when a tour guide points out the Roman arch just above his head.

Amichai writes, “I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them, You see that arch from the Roman period? It’s not important: but next to it, left and down a bit, there sits a man who’s bought fruit and vegetables for his family.”

Yasser Arafat Fast Facts - KBZK Bozeman News

The Murder of Yasser Arafat - Tue, 2017-05-23 21:28

Yasser Arafat Fast Facts
KBZK Bozeman News
Francois Bochud, director of the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, says they found high levels of toxic polonium-210 on Arafat's toothbrush, clothing and keffiyeh, the trademark black-and-white headscarf he often wore. November 27 ...

and more »

In Manchester, Jews have been preparing for an attack for years

JTA - Tue, 2017-05-23 21:16

Emergency responders arriving at the Manchester Arena following a bomb attack at an Ariana Grande concert, May 22, 2017. (Dave Thompson/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Britain’s bloodiest terrorist attack in over a decade occurred Monday just two miles from Rabbi Yisroel Cohen’s synagogue.

Yet one day after the deadly bombing in Manchester, Cohen told JTA he has no intention of changing security arrangements at his congregation.

In fact Cohen, a Chabad emissary who works in a Jewish enclave in the northern part of the city surrounded by a heavily Muslim area, said there is little room for improving security across his tight-knit community.

After all, the Jewish community in Manchester — one of the U.K.’s fastest-growing spots thanks to an influx of immigrants and young couples seeking alternatives to pricey London — has been on its highest alert since long before the explosion that killed 22 people and wounded 50 at an Ariana Grande concert. On Tuesday, ISIS claimed responsibility for the act.

“Well, the radio equipment is working, the residents have been briefed, police are patrolling, security professionals from the Jewish community have been in place since the attacks in Belgium” last year, Cohen said when asked about security. “There is only so much you can do – except pray.”

On Kings Road, a busy street of the heavily Jewish borough of Prestwich, residents keep an eye out for strangers. Any abnormal behavior – particularly photography or the gathering of information — quickly invites polite but firm inquiries by both passers-by as well as shopkeepers who cater to the local population of haredi and modern Orthodox Jews.

The vigilance in Jewish Manchester owes much of its preparation and training to the local police, the Community Security Trust organization and other groups. But it is also born of circumstance: Manchester’s some 30,000 Jews are concentrated in a relatively small area. This makes them an easy target, but it also means that the community’s institutions are easier to protect and vigilance is easier to instill.

While there are also concentrations of Jews in North London, in Manchester — a city of 2.5 million, where 15.8 percent of the population is Muslim — there is added tension because the Jewish and Muslim communities live in close proximity. Kings Road, for example, is sandwiched between the Judaica World bookstore on its western end and the Masjid Bilal mosque on its eastern one.

This juxtaposition in recent years has generated some friction, including in the harassment of Jews on the street and the occasional violent incident.

At least one more premeditated plan to attack Manchester Jews was uncovered and foiled five years ago. In 2012, a British judge imprisoned a Muslim couple, Mohammed Sajid  and Shasta Khan, for seven years for gathering intelligence on Manchester Jews for an attack.

“That incident came at a time of reassessment about the threat to Jews in Manchester, and it was one of the reasons that led to a complete overhaul,” Cohen said.

“So today, we in the Jewish community are perhaps less surprised than others at what happened,” the rabbi added, though he also said that Mancunian Jews are “shocked at the horror” witnessed at the concert.

Paul Harris, editor of the city’s Jewish Telegraph weekly, told JTA he generally agrees that Manchester’s Jewish community is well prepared to deal with any emergency or fallout thereof, but he also flagged one weak point: On evenings and afternoons, observant Jews in the city congregate outside synagogue — a habit that makes them an easy target and which, for that reason, has largely been abandoned in at-risk communities in France and beyond.

“Maybe that will change now,” Harris said.

In a statement Tuesday following a suspect’s arrest, Prime Minister Theresa May said the bombing was a “callous terrorist attack” that targeted “defenseless young people.” Police believe a homemade explosive vest was detonated by a suicide bomber who may or may not have been working alone.

The explosion ripped through the 21,000-seat Manchester Arena at 10:30 p.m. after Grande, a 23-year-old pop singer from the United States, had already left the stage. At least 12 of the 22 killed in the attack were children younger than 16. News of the explosion sent worried parents to the arena, where children, teenagers and young adults streamed out of the main exit in a state of panic.

Cohen said that Chabad was not aware of Jewish fatalities in the attack.

The attack happened a little over two weeks before the June 8 general election in which hardliner Theresa May from the Conservative Party is running against Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party. The attack may further increase May’s lead in the polls on Corbyn, a left-leaning promoter of outreach to Muslims who has called Hezbollah and Hamas his friends.

Last year Corbyn — amid intense criticism in the media and from members of his own party for his perceived failures in curbing expressions of anti-Semitism within Labour’s ranks — said he regretted expressing affection to the two Islamist terror groups. Following the attack Monday, all parties agreed to suspend campaigning for three days.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint news conference Tuesday in Jerusalem with President Donald Trump, who was visiting Israel, referenced the attack in criticizing incitement to terrorism by the Palestinian Authority under its president, Mahmoud Abbas.

“President Abbas condemned the horrific attack in Manchester,” Netanyahu said while standing next to Trump. “Well, I hope this heralds a real change, because if the attacker had been Palestinian and the victims had been Israeli children, the suicide bomber’s family would have received a stipend from the Palestinian Authority. That’s Palestinian law. That law must be changed.”

Speaking in Bethlehem, Trump joined other world leaders who condemned the attack.

“I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term. I will call them losers,” he said.

Back in Manchester, Rabbi Shneur Cohen of the Chabad Manchester Center City organized a food and drinks distribution to police officers who were stationed outside the arena where the attack took place.

“We are Manchester, we stand together,” Cohen told reporters at the scene.

But Harris, the Jewish Telegraph editor, said that despite such gestures, “there is definitely a silence, a shocked silence” in the city following the attack.

The 2018 World Lacrosse Championships Will Be Played In… Israel?

The Forward - Tue, 2017-05-23 21:09
Israel and lacrosse go together like peanut butter and… lacrosse.

Monica Lewinsky Writes Obit For Roger Ailes, Who Built Fox News Off Her Scandal

The Forward - Tue, 2017-05-23 20:58
— Monica Lewinsky said the late Roger Ailes’ success in building Fox News was directly related to his capitalizing on the affair involvin…

SodaStream’s Negev Plant Rehires Palestinians Laid Off Due To BDS Pressure

The Forward - Tue, 2017-05-23 20:50
Seventy-four Palestinians had been left unemployed after the company closed its West Bank factory under pressure from boycotters.

Fox News removes stories on WikiLeaks link to slain Jewish DNC staffer Seth Rich

JTA - Tue, 2017-05-23 20:48

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Fox News Channel removed stories based on unfounded allegations that Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer slain last year, was targeted because he was leaking information to WikiLeaks.

“On May 16, a story was posted on the Fox News website on the investigation into the 2016 murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich,” Fox said Tuesday on its website.

“The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed. We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted.”

The Daily Caller, a conservative news site, removed a similar site; the story now redirects to a not found page. Breitbart, a conservative news site that had picked up the Fox story, still has its story online.

Last week, Rich’s family had called on Fox to retract the stories and threatened legal action.

Rich, 27, a Jewish Nebraska native, was shot dead while walking home before dawn on July 10, 2016. Police have speculated that he was the victim of a robbery gone awry. Rich’s body was found about a block from his home with his wallet, watch and cellphone still in his possession.

His death sparked several conspiracy theories, including that he was a source for WikiLeaks.

Several days after Rich’s death, WikiLeaks released a collection of Democratic National Committee emails that U.S. intelligence officials now say was related to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Fox’s Washington affiliate in its original story linked Rich’s death and the email dump, citing statements from Rod Wheeler, a private investigator who said he is working with the Rich family. Wheeler said, among conflicting comments, that there is evidence of emails between Rich and WikiLeaks.

The report also cited an unnamed federal agent, though Rich’s family told BuzzFeed that no federal agency is working on the case. Wheeler has since backed off his claims.

In August, WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 award for information leading to the conviction of Rich’s killer. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in an interview on Netherlands TV suggested that Rich may have been a source for the leaks clearinghouse, reigniting conspiracy theories. Assange refused to substantiate his implication.

It was not clear whether Fox pulling the story from the website will stop some of its commentators from trying to advance the story. Fox personalities, including Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich and Geraldo Rivera, in recent days have fervently embraced the conspiracy theories.

Trump Foreign Aid Cuts Would Be ‘Devastating,’ Advocates Warn

The Forward - Tue, 2017-05-23 20:47
Cuts to foreign aid laid out in the White House’s proposed 2018 budget could have a dramatic effect, advocates warn.

Mark Zuckerberg: National Tour Doesn’t Mean I’m Running For Office

The Forward - Tue, 2017-05-23 20:40
“My personal challenge this year is to visit every state I haven’t spent time in before to learn about people’s hopes and challenges,” he explained.

Trump’s Twitter profile features his Western Wall prayer

JTA - Tue, 2017-05-23 20:29

President Donald Trump’s background picture on his Twitter feed, May 23, 2017. (Screenshot)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Donald Trump changed his Twitter profile’s background picture to feature a photo of his prayer at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

Trump or one of the people he trusts with his personal Twitter account posted the photo on Monday after Trump had prayed at the wall. The previous picture showed Trump seated in the Oval Office surrounded by staff.

Trump’s feed also included tweets reflecting his assessment that his Middle East tour this week was a success.

Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East were great. Trying hard for PEACE. Doing well. Heading to Vatican & Pope, then #G7 and #NATO.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2017

He thanked Israel’s leaders for their warm reception.

Thank you for such a wonderful and unforgettable visit, Prime Minister @Netanyahu and @PresidentRuvi.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2017

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens Finally Answers ‘Dark Money’ Claims

The Forward - Tue, 2017-05-23 20:16
Greitens explained that just like voters don’t have to publicly disclose who they vote for, political donors shouldn’t have to disclose their names.

Israel gave Trump the royal treatment he longs for back home

JTA - Tue, 2017-05-23 20:09

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin guiding President Donald Trump at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, May 22, 2017. (Avi Ohayon/Israeli Government Press Office/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) – President Donald Trump must have felt like he was back behind his desk at Trump Tower.

During his whirlwind visit to Israel and the West Bank on Monday and Tuesday, the U.S. leader was treated with the deference befitting a CEO. His words were greeted with rapturous applause and vows of support.

After one of multiple standing ovations during his speech Tuesday at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, a beaming Trump joked with the crowd, “Thank you. I like you, too.”

And instead of headlines describing the latest twist in the Russian elections probe or his firing of FBI Director James Comey, he woke up to the front pages of Israel newspapers celebrating his visit to the Western Wall. Trump even made a photograph of his brief moment of solitude there the cover image on his Twitter page.

Beyond the niceties, Trump won some real concessions during the trip. As he noted repeatedly, both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to work with him toward his “ultimate deal” – without mentioning preconditions. But there is little faith in either leader’s ability to deliver much for peace and no specifics were announced.

Speaking ahead of Trump at the Israel Museum, Netanyahu said, “President Trump, working with you, I believe we can advance a durable peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, as well as the Palestinians, because of the common danger that the Arab world and Israel face from Iran, and because of the leadership that you bring to this process.”

In Bethlehem hours earlier, Abbas said he hoped Trump “will go in history” as the president who finally achieved Middle East peace.

Daniel Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Barack Obama, said both leaders appeared eager to accommodate the new president — partly in fear of how he would react to rejection.

“Because he’s an unusual person and unpredictable, he has some leverage,” Shapiro told JTA. “Nobody wants to get caught saying no, and they haven’t. They haven’t necessarily said yes, but it explains why the initial resistance others have encountered, that we encountered, may not be as strong this time.”

Trump made it relatively easy for his hosts to agree with him by demanding little during the visit. Apparently satisfied with recent tweaks in Israel’s West Bank policy, Trump made no reference to Jewish settlements in the territory. Nor did he mention the Palestinian state that the United States and Israel officially support establishing there, but which Netanyahu has ceased referring to.

On Monday, responding to a request by Education Minister Naftali Bennett at Ben Gurion Airport to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which would reverse decades of U.S. neutrality on the city, Trump replied simply, “That’s an idea.”

Trump did, however, subtly repeat his admonition of the Palestinian Authority to stop encouraging terrorism, telling Abbas, “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded. We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single unified voice.”

And he seemed to reject Netanyahu’s preferred plan to normalize Israeli-Arab relations as a step toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians, describing the reverse chronology: “I also firmly believe that if Israel and the Palestinians can make peace, it will begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East.”

Shapiro said that Trump has already said enough to make clear his vision of peace is not much different from Obama’s: direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks toward a two-state solution, with Arab support from the outside. While Trump benefits from growing Arab interest in working with Israel to counter Iran and the Islamic State group, Shapiro said, not much could be inferred from Israeli and Palestinian acquiescence to talks.

“The parties are very well practiced at making generally positive noises without really changing their behavior,” he said. “It’s possible the president and his team are going through a learning process where that’s the nature of the conversation they’re having.”

Shlomo Brom, the head researcher on Israeli-Palestinian relations at the Institute for National Security Studies, said if and when Trump presents a more concrete peace plan, Israel and the Palestinians would likely go along — each waiting for the other to play spoiler. But ultimately, he said, they would struggle to summon the necessary political will.

Netanyahu, who leads a pro-settler government, struggled much of Sunday to get his ministers to approve even modest measures aimed at improving the Palestinian quality of life. Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, both of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, voted against a measure to boost Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank, which Israel fully governs.

It does not help that Netanyahu is under police investigation for alleged corruption, which he denies.

For his part, Abbas is historically unpopular with his people and, at 82 years old, likely in the twilight of his presidency. Popular discontent in the West Bank has taken the form of violent protests on behalf of a mass hunger strike of prisoners in Israeli jails that has now gone on for six weeks.

Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador who served as the deputy chief of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., said Netanyahu and Abbas are not the only ones who are perceived as weak. He said Israel and the Palestinians do not expect Trump to be around for long given the investigations into potential collusion between his associates and Russia.

“If I put myself into the shoes of the ministers or MKs [Knesset members] right now, why should we get excited?” he said. “The clock is ticking, the countdown has begun and all we have to do is wait and see – and not get into too many confrontations with the administration.”

But Brom and Shapiro agreed that Trump’s domestic situation does not affect his clout with Israel and the Palestinians. They said if Trump managed to convince each side to call the other’s bluff for long enough, he might just end up making significant progress toward peace. But that would require skillful diplomacy.

“When the United States has a serious policy and people who are good at moving forward this policy, to some extent it can move the two sides to agree on things they didn’t previously agree on,” Brom said. “So far there is no reason to be optimistic that this administration is capable of doing that. We’ve seen complete chaos.”

Moscow’s Gogol Center And Center Director’s Apartment Raided By Police

The Forward - Tue, 2017-05-23 19:54
As of yet, Serebrennikov has not been charged or arrested with any crime, and the Gogol Theater plans to perform tonight despite the police action.

Republicans Behind Brutal Budget Cuts Must Read The Book Of Job

The Forward - Tue, 2017-05-23 19:42
Being poor, being ill, being, even momentarily, not blessed in every way, is not a moral failing.

‘Oslo,’ ‘Indecent’ Take Home Obie Awards

The Forward - Tue, 2017-05-23 19:23
A number of themes can be identified in the seemingly endless sequence of New York theater awards.

Fox News Retracts Report Suggesting Seth Rich Leaked DNC Documents

The Forward - Tue, 2017-05-23 18:59
Fox News retracted a report that floated conspiracy theories about Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was killed last year.
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