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Updated: 32 min 52 sec ago

How Jewish summer camps are talking about consent in the age of #MeToo

2 hours 8 min ago

(JTA) — Every summer, Jewish parents spend thousands of dollars to send their children to summer camp to learn about Judaism, make friends and be part of a community. They sometimes have another hope, too: that their child will meet his or her future spouse at camp.

It’s not an unattainable dream. Many articles have been written about couples who met at Jewish summer camp. At Canada’s Camp Moshava in Ontario, all four siblings in one family met their future spouse.

Camp Ramah, the Conservative movement’s network of 15 overnight and day camps, even has a blog dedicated to couples who met through camp. In 2015, Ramah partnered with JDate to create a dating service for alumni.

But in recent years — as the #MeToo movement and other events have led to increased awareness and discussion of gender norms and relationship dynamics — camps are examining the darker side of summer romance.

“I think that once you’re starting to make your camp’s goal — secretly or underlying — the continuity of Jewish children, then hookup culture is something you’re intrinsically accidentally doing,” said Sheira Director-Nowack, director of Camp Havaya in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains.

Director-Nowack said that her camp, which is affiliated with the Reconstructionist movement, has shied away for years from a focus on romantic relationships. The staff has taken measures to prevent campers from feeling pressure to engage in relationships or hookups, such as by not putting on dances where kids are encouraged to partner up.

“That has dramatically changed certain things,” she said. “We don’t offer that as an activity.”

At Camp Ramah, too, the staff is told not to emphasize dating.

“Staff is openly talking about this idea of healthy relationships, of making sure that they are not suggesting to campers, or even among themselves, that camp needs to be a place where you are looking for your romantic partner or any type of partner,” said Amy Skopp Cooper, the camp network’s national associate director.

Last year, the Foundation for Jewish Camp cited the #MeToo movement in launching an initiative to prevent sexual harassment and abuse. As part of the Shmirah Initiative, the organization conducts staff training at Jewish camps about sex, gender and consent.

Marina Lewin, the foundation’s chief operating officer, said that developing relationships — friendships and romantic ones — is “part of the joy of Jewish camp.”

“The key is to make sure that it’s age appropriate and appropriate for living in a situation where you’re living in close quarters with others,” she said.

Camp Bob Waldorf in Los Angeles partners with the UCLA Rape Treatment Center to train staff about issues of consent, boundaries and harassment.

“We’re not trying to build a community that’s free of romance or exploration in that way,” director Zach Lasker said, “but what a golden opportunity if that is what happens at camp, to try our best to ensure that it’s done with respect and consent.”

Rules regarding romantic relationships vary at camps.

At Camp Havaya, there are no specific rules dictating what types of activities are off-limits aside from sex.

“I always say to our staff, for some kids kissing is really, really involved, for another kid it’s not, so we’re not a huge fan of policymaking in that area,” Director-Nowack said.

At Camp Tawonga couples have to abide by the “CHAKWACO” rule — an acronym that stands for “consensual hugging and kissing with all clothes on.” (Courtesy of Camp Tawonga)

At Camp Tawonga in Northern California, kids have to abide by the “CHAKWACO” rule — an acronym that stands for “consensual hugging and kissing with all clothes on.” Any physical contact has to occur in public areas and campers cannot go into bunks that aren’t their own.

Campers also attend sessions about consent and relationships tailored by age. The very youngest kids learn about consent in the framework of friendship. As the kids get older, the sessions also address relationships and dating. For the oldest campers, ages 16-17, the discussion may touch on sex.

Camp Tawonga’s executive director, Jamie Simon, says it is “more challenging” to address the issues with counselors, who are ages 18-24.

“For a lot of them on their college campuses, they are having sex and they are having romantic relationships, so the ‘CHAKWACO’ rule wouldn’t work,” she said.

Counselors are allowed to date each other, but they are not allowed to talk about any relationships in front of campers.

In recent years, Simon has noticed that counselors come into training sessions with more knowledge about the topic.

“[A decade ago,] it was the first time they had ever heard about consent,” she said. “So it was a lot more revolutionary or cutting edge in that a lot of the sexual health curriculum in the high schools in the mid-2000s was about protection, was about using a condom, was about slut shaming and not doing that and why that was bad, but there wasn’t a lot about ‘You have to ask me before touching my body.’”

She wants to lessen societal pressure that campers may feel to form romantic connections.

“We try to take the pressure away from feeling they have to find a mate or a partner,” she said, “because they have that everyday. They’re inundated with that pressure.”

(This article was made possible with funding by the Foundation for Jewish Camp. The story was produced independently and at the sole discretion of JTA’s editorial team.)

The post How Jewish summer camps are talking about consent in the age of #MeToo appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

UN condemns Hamas for using force against Gaza protesters

2 hours 23 min ago

(JTA) — The United Nations has condemned Hamas for using force to squelch protests by Gaza Palestinians over new taxes, unemployment and electricity shortages in the coastal strip.

Hamas, which took control of Gaza in 2007, has arrested dozens of protesters and journalists.

Youth movements and groups that reject the militant group’s rule over Gaza have organized the demonstrations and are marching in the streets under the banner “We Want to Live!”

Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, criticized the Hamas tactics.

“I strongly condemn the campaign of arrests and violence used by Hamas security forces against protesters, including women and children, in Gaza over the past three days,” he wrote. “I am particularly alarmed by the brutal beating of journalists and staff from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) and the raiding of homes. The long suffering people of Gaza were protesting the dire economic situation and demanded an improvement in the quality of life in the Gaza Strip. It is their right to protest without fear of reprisal.”

Other Palestinian factions over the weekend called on Hamas to allow peaceful public demonstrations and to release the jailed protesters. The factions also called on Hamas to halt the high taxes on goods entering Gaza, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Mladenov called for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, as well as the other Palestinian factions.

The post UN condemns Hamas for using force against Gaza protesters appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Thousands hold silent march through Greek city of Thessaloniki to mark 1943 Nazi transport

2 hours 48 min ago

(JTA) — Some 2,000 people held a silent march through the Greek city of Thessaloniki to mark the anniversary of the first Nazi transport of the city’s Jews to Auschwitz.

The marchers ended up at the city’s old railway station — the site where the transport started on March 15, 1943 — carrying white balloons reading “Never Again,” AFP reported. Two Holocaust survivors were honored at the memorial.

Sunday’s march was the largest by far of the commemorations held in recent years, according to the report.

Thessaloniki was a vital center of Sephardic Jewry for 450 years following the Jews’ expulsion from Spain. Known as the “Flower of the Balkans,” the city was the center of Ladino culture in the region.

Fewer than 2,000 of the city’s prewar Jewish population of 55,000 survived the Holocaust.

A marble Holocaust memorial monument on the campus of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki was smashed and broken into several pieces in an act of vandalism in January. It also was vandalized twice last summer.

Unveiled in 2014, the monument commemorates the city’s historic Jewish cemetery, on which the university is built, and is dedicated in memory of the Jewish students who were killed in Nazi death camps.

The post Thousands hold silent march through Greek city of Thessaloniki to mark 1943 Nazi transport appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Thousands hold silent march through Greek city of Thessaloniki to mark 1943 Nazi transport

2 hours 48 min ago

(JTA) — Some 2,000 people held a silent march through the Greek city of Thessaloniki to mark the anniversary of the first Nazi transport of the city’s Jews to Auschwitz.

The marchers ended up at the city’s old railway station — the site where the transport started on March 15, 1943 — carrying white balloons reading “Never Again,” AFP reported. Two Holocaust survivors were honored at the memorial.

Sunday’s march was the largest by far of the commemorations held in recent years, according to the report.

Thessaloniki was a vital center of Sephardic Jewry for 450 years following the Jews’ expulsion from Spain. Known as the “Flower of the Balkans,” the city was the center of Ladino culture in the region.

Fewer than 2,000 of the city’s prewar Jewish population of 55,000 survived the Holocaust.

A marble Holocaust memorial monument on the campus of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki was smashed and broken into several pieces in an act of vandalism in January. It also was vandalized twice last summer.

Unveiled in 2014, the monument commemorates the city’s historic Jewish cemetery, on which the university is built, and is dedicated in memory of the Jewish students who were killed in Nazi death camps.

The post Thousands hold silent march through Greek city of Thessaloniki to mark 1943 Nazi transport appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Facebook rolls out tool in Israel to make political ads transparent

2 hours 56 min ago

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Facebook released its political advertisement transparency tool in Israel.

The rollout of the new tool came on Friday, less than a month before the country’s national elections.

Already in use in the United States, Brazil, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, the tool makes it easier for the media and public to identify who is paying for an ad.

Political advertisers will have to supply identity verification before publishing any ads relating to political figures, political parties and elections.

Election ads will appear with a ticker on the top left corner that states who paid for the ad. The ads also will be archived for up to seven years and include information on exposure and demographics, according to reports.

Israeli election law dealing with advertisements was written before the advent of social media.

Late last month, the Central Elections Committee chairman, Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, announced a ban on anonymous election ads on social media and in all other media. It went into effect on March 1.

The post Facebook rolls out tool in Israel to make political ads transparent appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Facebook rolls out tool in Israel to make political ads transparent

2 hours 56 min ago

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Facebook released its political advertisement transparency tool in Israel.

The rollout of the new tool came on Friday, less than a month before the country’s national elections.

Already in use in the United States, Brazil, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, the tool makes it easier for the media and public to identify who is paying for an ad.

Political advertisers will have to supply identity verification before publishing any ads relating to political figures, political parties and elections.

Election ads will appear with a ticker on the top left corner that states who paid for the ad. The ads also will be archived for up to seven years and include information on exposure and demographics, according to reports.

Israeli election law dealing with advertisements was written before the advent of social media.

Late last month, the Central Elections Committee chairman, Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, announced a ban on anonymous election ads on social media and in all other media. It went into effect on March 1.

The post Facebook rolls out tool in Israel to make political ads transparent appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Muslim and Jewish Democrats are holding meetings together. Rashida Tlaib cried at one.

3 hours 50 min ago

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish and Muslim members of the House sought to defuse tensions during a meeting held by the Democratic caucus.

The second of  three meetings on minorities and discrimination, held March 5, specifically addressed anti-Semitism and the fallout over accusations that Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., had engaged in anti-Semitic language, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

Rep. Dean Phillips said Omar, his fellow Minnesotan, should apologize for saying she felt pressure to pledge “allegiance” to Israel. Jewish Democrats said it invoked the anti-Semitic slander of dual loyalty. Phillips is Jewish.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat and Palestinian American who rejects Israel’s status as a Jewish state, became emotional as she spoke of her grandmother’s suffering in the West Bank at the hands of Israelis, the newspaper reported.

“She would treat you like a grandson,” she said to Phillips, according to two people in the room.

That meeting, which included a facilitator from Bend the Arc, a liberal Jewish activist group, came two days before the U.S. House of Representatives voted to condemn expressions of various forms of hate in a resolution initially inspired by Omar’s comments.

Two Jewish Democrats — Reps. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Andy Levin of Michigan — launched the meetings to talk about issues of discrimination in an informal atmosphere. This is believed to be the most diverse Congress ever, and Raskin wanted members to know more about each other’s background. Omar’s comments partly inspired the meetings, the organizers said.

Participants have included the three Muslims in Congress: Tlaib, Omar and Rep. Andre Carson of Indiana.

Those who attended the meetings have since then informally convened on the House floor, and more meetings are planned.

The post Muslim and Jewish Democrats are holding meetings together. Rashida Tlaib cried at one. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

British Holocaust denier David Irving leading tour of Nazi death camps

3 hours 57 min ago

(JTA) — British Holocaust denier David Irving is planning to lead a tour of Nazi death camps.

Irving is taking deposits on his website for the tour of Nazi historical sites scheduled for September, the U.K. Jewish News reported.

The nine-day tour, which costs $3,650, is scheduled to visit Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec and Majdanek. Publicity for the tour calls the death camps “controversial.”

It also will visit the bunker headquarters of Adolf Hitler known as “The Wolf’s Lair” and the headquarters of SS chief Heinrich Himmler.

Irving is described on the promotional material as a Hitler expert. He led a similar tour in 2013.

Irving lost a libel suit he brought against Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt in 2000. The suit was dramatized in the movie “Denial” starring Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt.

He initially claimed that Hitler was not aware of the program to exterminate the Jews and retained his credibility as a historian. Irving later transitioned to outright Holocaust denial, including claiming that there was no evidence to prove the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz.

The post British Holocaust denier David Irving leading tour of Nazi death camps appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s views on a Palestinian state, explained

4 hours 44 min ago

(JTA) — It wasn’t so long ago that most major Israeli politicians supported establishing a Palestinian state.

Now it’s not clear that any of them do, including the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu began his political career in the 1970s opposing a Palestinian state, an idea that once had been off the table but was gaining traction. Three decades later, in 2009, he gave a pivotal speech endorsing the idea in principle. In 2015, however, Netanyahu retreated from the idea on the eve of the last Israeli election.

Since then, he has made his position clearer: The prime minister opposes full Palestinian statehood, including Israeli withdrawal from any of the West Bank. In Netanyahu’s meetings with his ally, President Donald Trump, both leaders have avoided committing to the idea of a two-state solution. Netanyahu’s right-wing partners are even more opposed to Palestinian statehood, instead pushing Israeli annexation of the West Bank settlements — perhaps with an “upgrade” of Palestinian autonomy with borders and military affairs still controlled by Israel.

Netanyahu’s rivals also haven’t come out in support of a Palestinian state. Blue and White, the centrist coalition running against Netanyahu, has not endorsed the idea. One of Blue and White’s leaders is a longtime opponent of the two-state solution.

Here’s a short explanation of how the solution that was once taboo, then seemed inevitable, has faded from Israeli politics.

Does Benjamin Netanyahu support a Palestinian state?

Netanyahu was against a Palestinian state. Then he was for it. Then he was against it again.

In 1978, as a 28-year-old private citizen, he argued against a Palestinian state in a debate on local Boston television.

“The real core of the conflict is the unfortunate Arab refusal to accept the State of Israel,” he said, using the Americanized name Ben Nitay. “It is unjust to demand the creation of the 22nd Arab state and the second Palestinian state at the expense of the only Jewish state.”

Netanyahu argues against a Palestinian state on Boston local television in 1978. (Screenshot from YouTube)

As Netanyahu shot up the ranks of Israel’s right-wing Likud party over the next 15 years, his position did not change: He saw a Palestinian state as an unacceptable danger to Israel’s security and territorial integrity.

“I fear for my home, for my land, I even fear for my son,” he said in a speech to supporters following the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, which was meant to lead to permanent-status talks on the issues of borders, refugees and Jerusalem. “What is at issue here is the essence: The land of Israel is at issue, and we are all standing for the land of Israel.”

That changed in 2009. He returned to office that year, and endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state under certain conditions.

[I]f we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state,” he said in a landmark speech at Bar-Ilan University.

But actual negotiations toward a peace treaty went nowhere. A short round of talks in 2010 ended after a few weeks, and a longer nine-month negotiation in 2014 was just as fruitless. Then came the kidnapping of three Israeli teens and the 2014 Gaza War. Since then, there have been no negotiations.

All along, Israeli West Bank settlements have expanded. Even during a 10-month settlement freeze in 2009, Netanyahu said, “You might think we’re going to dismantle the settlements, but you must understand that we’re going in the exact opposite direction.”

In 2015, Netanyahu was in a tough race to win another re-election. To rally his right-wing base one day before the election, he came out against a Palestinian state, again.

“Anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and withdraw from territory is giving territory to radical Islam to attack the State of Israel,” he told the Israeli news site NRG. Asked whether that meant a Palestinian state wouldn’t be established on his watch, he replied, “Indeed.”

So what does he believe now?

Netanyahu says he wants Palestinians to have autonomy, but not a fully independent state.

In October, well before the current election campaign, he said he wanted a Palestinian “state-minus, autonomy-plus, autonomy plus-plus.”

And that means?

“A potential solution is one in which the Palestinians have all the powers to govern themselves but none of the powers to threaten us,” he said at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. “West of the Jordan” — that is, in the disputed areas where 2.5 million Palestinians and 623,00 settlers live — “Israel and Israel alone will be responsible for security.”

Netanyahu added: “It’s not just a question of hot pursuit. It’s also having the ability to be there all the time.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is interviewed by Jewish Federations of North America Chairman Richard Sandler at the General Assembly in Tel Aviv, Oct. 24, 2018. Part of the discussion included Netanyahu’s thoughts on a demilitarized Palestinian state. (Kobi Gideon/Israeli Government Press Office)

That means Israel’s military will stay in the West Bank, where a Palestinian state has been envisioned. Netanyahu has also said he will not uproot any Israeli settlements. Palestinians have long demanded a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank as a condition of a peace treaty.

Many of Netanyahu’s allies on the right want to go further. Education Minister Naftali Bennett for at least six years has supported formal Israeli annexation of all the settlements. Now plenty of politicians in Netanyahu’s own Likud party also support annexation, which would make the settlements — but not Palestinian cities — officially part of Israel.

So do Netanyahu’s opponents believe in Palestinian statehood?

That’s unclear. Benny Gantz, the main rival to Netanyahu in next month’s elections, wants a peace agreement with the Palestinians. But like Netanyahu, he has stopped short of endorsing a Palestinian state.

All the Israeli leftists and American pundits will look up and shout: Save us.

And Benny Gantz will whisper: No. pic.twitter.com/356plbPWcU

— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) March 13, 2019

The Blue and White platform, in fact, sounds a lot like Netanyahu: promoting economic development, strengthening the large settlement blocs and a “security border” in the Jordan River Valley, which is on the eastern edge of the West Bank. The platform says the party will stay open to an agreement in the future, but also rules out a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank.

One of Blue and White’s senior politicians, former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, explicitly opposes Palestinian statehood.

Does that mean Israelis don’t want peace with the Palestinians anymore?

Israelis as a whole still want peace. But they don’t believe it will happen anymore.

A majority of Israelis (57 percent) want negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which has civil administrative and security responsibility in parts of the West Bank. But only 23 percent believe those negotiations will go anywhere, according to a December survey by the Israel Democracy Institute, a think tank.

Support for the two-state solution has also fallen among both Israelis and Palestinians. As of last August, only 43 percent of both populations supports independent Palestinian and Israeli states existing side by side.

That’s “the lowest in almost two decades of joint Palestinian-Israeli survey research,” according to the groups that conducted the survey — Tel Aviv University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

So what should I expect after the Israeli election?

Israelis go to the polls on April 9. As of now, no one knows who will win. But no matter who the next Israeli prime minister is, he probably won’t come into office explicitly supporting a Palestinian state.

The post Benjamin Netanyahu’s views on a Palestinian state, explained appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Supreme Court will not hear case over Touro Synagogue and its silver Torah ornaments

4 hours 48 min ago

(JTA) — The U.S. Supreme Court will not rehear a case that gave control of America’s oldest synagogue building and its pricey artifacts to the building’s historic trustees.

The high court on Monday declined to take up the case over who owns the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, and its $7.4 million silver Torah ornaments called rimonim.

In August 2017, the Boston Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Manhattan’s Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in the country, giving it control of the 250-year-old Touro Synagogue, the religious home of Congregation Jeshuat Israel.

That decision also gave the Manhattan synagogue ownership of the historic rimonim that Jeshuat Israel had hoped to sell to build an endowment.

Touro was founded in the 18th century by a Sephardic Jewish community whose numbers declined over the years. Shearith Israel, a Sephardic congregation that was established in 1654 and has worshipped at various sites in Manhattan, has served as trustee of the Touro Synagogue since the early 19th century. Jeshuat Israel, founded in 1881 as Ashkenazi immigrants began flooding America from Eastern Europe, has worshipped at Touro for more than a century.

The current dispute began in 2012 when Jeshuat, which still holds regular services at Touro, attempted to sell one set of the silver ornaments to establish an endowment to maintain a rabbi and care for the building, which was designated a national historic site in 1946. Shearith Israel sued to stop the sale and threatened to replace Jeshuat with another tenant.

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Ilhan Omar calls Israel ‘historical homeland’ of the Jews in op-ed calling for more balanced US policy

4 hours 51 min ago

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. Ilhan Omar in an op-ed defended her critiques of Israel as calling for a more “balanced” policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also described Israel as the “historical homeland” of the Jews.

“The founding of Israel 70 years ago was built on the Jewish people’s connection to their historical homeland, as well as the urgency of establishing a nation in the wake of the horror of the Holocaust and the centuries of anti-Semitic oppression leading up to it,” Omar, D-Minn., said in a piece that appeared Monday on The Washington Post website.

“We must acknowledge that this is also the historical homeland of Palestinians,” Omar said, reiterating her support for a two-state solution. “And without a state, the Palestinian people live in a state of permanent refugeehood and displacement. This, too, is a refugee crisis, and they, too, deserve freedom and dignity.”

Omar has come under fire from Jewish Democrats and others for making statements that critics have said invoke anti-Semitic slanders, including saying that she felt pressured to pledge “allegiance” to Israel. Her staff said the op-ed was a bid to explain her positions.

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Blair Braverman becomes first Jewish woman to finish the Iditarod sled dog race

6 hours 1 min ago

(JTA) — Writer and adventurer Blair Braverman appears to be the first Jewish woman to race in — and complete — the historic Iditarod sled dog race, finishing the grueling 1,000-mile course in 13 days, 19 hours, 17 minutes and 2 seconds.

The 30-year-old musher crossed the finish line Sunday in Nome, Alaska, in 36th place. Her sled was pulled by 14 dogs.

“WE DID IT!!!!!!” she tweeted Sunday. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And also the most beautiful. The dogs and I took care of each other the whole way. Stories to come, but for now we plan to nap (and eat) for days. All dogs and humans are doing great.”

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And also the most beautiful. The dogs and I took care of each other the whole way. Stories to come, but for now we plan to nap (and eat) for days. All dogs and humans are doing great. xoxo pic.twitter.com/r30l9k9H7x

— Blair Braverman (@BlairBraverman) March 17, 2019

Braverman told Alma last year that the Iditarod is “something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid.” She grew up in Davis, California, and now lives in northern Wisconsin with her husband, Quince Mountain. They run BraverMountain Mushing (a portmanteau of their names).

On Twitter, where she has a dedicated following of over 70,000 people, Braverman tweets long-form stories. She shares her life raising dogs, racing and being the only Jew in her rural Wisconsin community. She’s become somewhat of an internet sensation: Her fans call themselves the “Ugly Dogs” following a Twitter troll that told Blair to “Go back to your ugly dogs, Karen.”

In an NPR profile of Braverman, she explained that she believes her Twitter popularity is due to the inaccessible nature of the rural sport.

Logging off for Yom Kippur. Shana Tovah, and wishing an easy fast to all my (fasting) Jews out there! pic.twitter.com/NzgtCmPwBu

— Blair Braverman (@BlairBraverman) September 18, 2018

She also reminds her followers time and again that all her sled dogs are Jewish (with the exception of one). As she told Alma, “they are proud Jewish sled dogs.” She also tweets about feeling “like a Jewish grandmother” when she watches her dogs eat.

Meanwhile the dogs are like pic.twitter.com/q9RIMvdnYQ

— Blair Braverman (@BlairBraverman) February 13, 2019

“My dogs are my family,” she wrote in Vogue. “I love them like pets, but we also have a different, deeper connection that comes from relying on each other in the wilderness. That bond with my dogs — the love we share and the things we can do together — is the whole point of all of this.”

Braverman graduated from Colby College and received her master’s degree in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. In 2016, she published her memoir, “Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North,” about navigating the arctic as a woman. She also writes an advice column for Outside magazine called “Tough Love,” and has contributed to Vogue, BuzzFeed, Smithsonian and others.

“I’ve lived in places where I’m the only Jew, particularly in rural Norway. And it’s dangerous, I think, for people to think they’ve never met certain kinds of people. Like if you think you don’t know any queer folks, or immigrants, or Jews — that’s how groups of individual humans are reduced to symbols and ideas. If I know someone, if I’ve lived with them, I don’t want them to be able to tell themselves that they’ve never met a Jew,” Braverman told Alma.

Braverman joins a small group of Jews to have completed the Iditarod, now in its 47th year. In 2009, the Forward reported that 11 Jews have raced in the competition’s history; JTA could not independently verify that statistic.

Braverman came in 36th place in the 1,000-mile race. (James Netz)

The first Jewish musher to complete the race was Fred Agree, who raced in 1984 and 1985. His lead dog was named God and his wheel dogs — the ones in the back — were named Sodom and Gomorrah because, as his wife, Nona Safra, wrote in an email to JTA, “you should never look back.”

The 2011 Iditarod champion, John Baker, is of Jewish and Native Alaskan heritage. He is the only Inupiaq — and only Jew — to ever win the Iditarod. Baker competed in the Iditarod 22 times. His Jewish grandmother, Clara Levy, was born in 1914 in Kiana, Alaska. In 2002, Rabbi Mark Glickman traveled to Kotzebue, Alaska, for her funeral and wrote a moving account of her life and her family.

Jake Berkowitz is a three-time Iditarod finisher (in 2008, 2009 and 2013); he now covers the race for the Anchorage Daily News. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Forward reported that he attended Talmud Torah of St. Paul Jewish day school and studied at Hebrew University for a year after graduating high school.

Braverman’s fans have been vocal in their support for her throughout the race. They also started a campaign to support Alaskan schools as she races (naming the campaign “Igivearod”). As of this writing they have raised over $80,000 for Alaskan teachers and schools, funding over 100 projects.

Braverman had no idea that her fans were going to take on the fundraising project.

After finishing the race, she tweeted, “A few hundred miles into the race, teachers started hugging me in villages. ‘We haven’t been able to buy new glue sticks in six months, but now my classroom will have a garden and a project to get girls into engineering!’ one woman told me. I happy cried all the way up the Yukon.”

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Pittsburgh protected my family after the synagogue massacre. Now we must do the same for Christchurch families.

6 hours 36 min ago

PITTSBURGH (JTA) – The universe cracks. That’s how you feel when a beloved family member is violently torn from this world while she or he is at prayer. That’s how 50 families half a world away feel right now in the wake of Friday’s violent attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which claimed the lives of at least 50 people.

I know because only six months ago, I was in their shoes. It’s like I am stuck in a cruel time machine taking me back to Oct. 27, 2018, when my mother-in-law, Joyce Fienberg, was among the 11 Jews murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue here.

New Zealand may be halfway around the globe, but it’s the same story of hate and violence against people peacefully praying to their Creator.  I wish I was there to comfort the families and help support them in their pain and agony. I can’t stop crying for those left behind, especially the children. Children who are old enough to understand that there is loss, but don’t understand the meaningless and utterly insane hatred that spawned it. Remembering the look on your children’s faces when you told them that their grandmother is dead from hatred haunts you every day.

To the families that are reeling, I want to say that we in the Jewish community are your siblings; we are all children of Abraham. We are appalled at this attack and mourn your loss deeply. We pray for peace, and I personally will pray today that your families are sitting beside Allah in paradise.

In October and November, the biggest gift that the Pittsburgh community gave to my family was space and deep love. We had space to mourn – the reporters and politics were kept away from us in a bubble made of love and unbreakable Pittsburgh steel. We continued to feel this love through boxes and boxes of letters, stories, poems and even quilts – all sent to us from strangers around the world, including our friends in the Muslim community. This ongoing love is what still helps me get out of bed every day.

Regardless of the distance, these families in New Zealand need your love, respect and space. They need to know that 99 percent of the people in this world are amazing, loving people. They need to know that their families are not defined by the way they died, but by the way they lived.  

Today I don’t have an answer, any more than I did six months ago. Today all I have are tears. Tomorrow, maybe, we can all work together to find a solution and a way to protect all of us, especially when we are at our most vulnerable.  

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Karlie Kloss confirms conversion to Judaism to marry Joshua Kushner

6 hours 39 min ago

(JTA) — Supermodel Karlie Kloss made it official: She converted to Judaism in order to marry Joshua Kushner.

Appearing on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen,” Kloss was responding to a viewer question about whether she converted before her surprise and small Jewish wedding ceremony in October, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“I joined the tribe, mazel,” Kloss said, raising her glass in a toast.

“Nice, you’re a nice Jewish girl!” replied Cohen, who is Jewish.

People magazine had reported after the couple’s engagement in July following a six-year courtship that Kloss had converted in June.

Kloss, the new host of “Project Runway,” isn’t the first to embrace Judaism in order to marry a Kushner. Jared Kushner’s wife and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, converted before the couple tied the knot in 2009. She studied with New York-based Orthodox rabbi Haskel Lookstein.

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Deadly Utrecht attack leads to heightened security for Dutch Jewish community

6 hours 59 min ago

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Security around Dutch Jewish community buildings was increased significantly as police searched for the gunman suspected of killing at least three people in what the prime minister said may have been a terrorist attack in Utrecht.

The incident, in which several people were wounded, happened Monday morning inside a tram in the central city near Amsterdam. Police released a picture of a 37-year-old Turkey-born man named Gokman Tanis whom they suspect of shooting multiple people before fleeing.

Using the handle “HateDemocrat,” Tanis has threatened violence in the past against PowNed, a right-wing news website.

The Federative Jewish Netherlands group wrote on Twitter that elite police troops are patrolling Jewish community buildings with semi-automatic weapons.

In Utrecht, the government for the first time ever raised the terrorism threat level to 5, its highest state.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it “may be a terrorist attack and an an attack on our democracy.”

Mosques in Utrecht were temporarily shuttered, De Telegraaf reported.

Utrecht’s Chabad House also was not operating on Monday, but only because there were no activities scheduled for the day, a spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. But Chabad Utrecht said Purim celebrations are to take place later this week as scheduled.

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Israeli forensics team arrives in Ethiopia to help identify crash victims

8 hours 36 min ago

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A forensics team from the Israel Police arrived in Ethiopia in order to work with local authorities to identify the remains of two Israelis killed in the crash last week of an Ethiopian Airlines plane.

The team arrived on Monday as forensic work began on the remains unearthed after the crash.

It could take six months to identify remains from each of the victims of the crash, according to reports.

The 157 victims including passengers and crew, came from 35 different countries.

The Israelis killed in the crash were identified as Avraham Matsliah, 49, from Ma’ale Adumim, and Shimon Re’em, 55, of Zichron Yaakov.

“We are embarking on a national mission and joining the international effort and other delegations that will arrive in the field,” Chief Superintendent Ilan Peer, the head of the delegation said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “Our goal is to identify the two Israelis who perished in the disaster.”

Airline officials in recent days reportedly began delivering 2-pound bags of scorched earth from the crash site to the bereaved families to bury in place of their loved ones’ bodies. Death certificates are expected to be issued in the next two weeks.

The Israeli forensics team, which includes senior crime scene investigators, dentists, DNA analysts and an anthropologist, will join Interpol and a team from Britain to work with local officials to identify the bodies. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has sent a delegation to assist in the investigation.

Immediately after the crash a delegation from Zaka, the Israeli rescue and recovery group, left for Addis Ababa to help identify the remains of the Israeli victims. They were kept from the crash site for several days and were not allowed to remove any material once they did visit the site.

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Man shouts ‘Heil Hitler’ at Estonian chief rabbi and children on their way to synagogue

8 hours 47 min ago

(JTA) — Estonia’s chief rabbi and two of his children were accosted on the street on their way to synagogue by a man who shouted anti-Semitic insults at them.

Police on Sunday arrested the man, who is 27 and was not named in Estonian media, at a shopping mall in the capital Tallinn, the Estonian Public Broadcasting Service on Monday reported.

Rabbi Shmuel Kot said the man shouted “Sieg Heil” and “Heil Hitler” at him on Saturday while Kot was walking to synagogue with two children aged 7 and 12. Kot filed a complaint with police, who used security camera and other footage to identity a suspect and arrest him ahead of an indictment, Kot said. He added such incidents are “very rare” in Estonia, the northernmost Baltic state, situated just south of Finland.

The incident was the first time the two children had witnessed any such harassment, Kot said, but “I were not too shaken, and frankly I think this whole incident was overblown in how it was covered in the media,” he said.

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Man shouts ‘Heil Hitler’ at Estonian chief rabbi and children on the way to synagogue

9 hours 10 min ago

(JTA) — Estonia’s chief rabbi and two of his children were accosted on the street on their way to synagogue by a man who shouted anti-Semitic insults at them.

Police arrested the man, who is 27 years old and was not named in Estonian media, on Sunday at a shopping mall in the capital Tallinn, the Estonian Public Broadcasting Service reported on Monday.

Rabbi Shmuel Kot said the man shouted “Sieg Heil” and “Heil Hitler” at him on Saturday while Kot was walking to synagogue with two of his children ages 7 and 12. Kot filed a complaint with police, who used security camera and other footage to identity a suspect and arrest him ahead of an indictment, Kot said. He added that such incidents are “very rare” in Estonia, the northernmost Baltic state, located just south of Finland, on the other end of the Gulf of Finland.

The incident was the first time the two children had witnessed any such harassment, Kot said, but they “were not too shaken, and frankly I think this whole incident was over blown in how it was covered in the media,” he said.

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Ehud Barak’s cell phone and personal computer hacked; information sold to Iran

9 hours 24 min ago

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The cell phone and personal computer of former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak were hacked and the information sold to Iran, an Israeli television news channel reported.

The head of the Israel Security Agency informed Barak of the breach about six months ago, Israel’s Channel 12 reported. The news comes just days after Channel 12 reported that Iran had hacked into the private cell phone of Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces.

In the case of Barak, Iran did not do the hacking, but paid afterward for the information found on the device, according to the report citing sources close to the case.

The stolen content reportedly did not contain anything embarrassing or sensitive from a security perspective. The breach was not due to any negligence on Barak’s part, the report also said.

Like Gantz, Barak is a former IDF chief of staff and also served as defense minister.

In January, Israel Security Agency head Nadav Argaman said that the meddling in the April 9 vote will come through cyberattacks and hackers. Argaman said he could not name the suspected country and that “I know what I’m talking about, I just don’t know in whose favor.”

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Israeli father of 12 dies of injuries from West Bank attack

11 hours 1 min ago

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli father of 12 shot during a terror attack in the West Bank died of his wounds.

The death of Rabbi Achiad Ettinger of Eli on Monday morning brings to two the number killed in the Sunday morning attack at the Ariel and Gitai junctions in the northern West Bank.

Ettinger, who managed to fire four bullets at the attacker from his car after being shot in the head and neck, was the founder of the Oz V’emuna hesder yeshiva in south Tel Aviv.

Ettinger’s family asked that his organs be donated.

“Rabbi Ettinger’s life’s work will continue and be amongst us even after his passing, and the strength he gave his pupils and the community he led will continue to strengthen us through the enormous grief and sorrow,” President Reuven Rivlin, who visited the family at the hospital on Sunday, said in a statement.

A soldier hit by the shooter at the Gitai Junction remains in serious condition.

Gal Keidan, 19, the soldier who was stabbed by the attacker, was buried Monday morning at the Beersheba military cemetery. He was promoted posthumously to the rank of sergeant.

The suspected attacker has been identified as Omar Abu Laila, 19, of the Az-Zawiya village. He reportedly does not belong to a terror organization nor have a history of security violations. He remains on the lam, though Israeli security officials reportedly arrested his father and 16-year-old brother.

On Sunday morning Abu Laila stabbed Keidan and stole his gun, shooting at passing cars at the Ariel Junction where he hit Ettinger, before getting in a car abandoned by a frightened driver and heading to the next junction where he shot at soldiers waiting at a bus stop.

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