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Administrator at NY Jewish day school arrested for ‘production of child pornography’

7 hours 48 min ago

NEW YORK (JTA) — An administrator at a prestigious Modern Orthodox Jewish middle school in New York City was arrested for production of child pornography.

In an email to the school community on Monday, the principal of Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy in the Bronx, known as SAR, informed parents that Rabbi Jonathan Skolnick, the middle school associate principal of Judaic studies, was arrested late Friday night. The email said that the school had reason to believe that SAR students may have been victims of Skolnick.

“I know that this is an extremely difficult message to read and process on many levels,” wrote the principal, Rabbi Binyamin Krauss. “It is shocking to know that someone who we have trusted with our children has been accused of harming them. Despite the practices in place to protect our children, we are not immune to breaches such as the one that seems to have taken place at SAR.”

SAR has fired Skolnick, who was at the school for 14 months. The school is cooperating fully with the FBI. Beyond the claim of “production of pornography” and a mention of “inappropriate photos,” the email did not contain more detail.

Last year, the school commissioned a report about its previous employment of a teacher who abused at least a dozen students at the school, according to the report. Stanley Rosenfeld, now 84, who has admitted to abusing hundreds of boys throughout his lifetime, worked as an assistant principal at SAR in the 1970s and also taught English there a decade later. The school commissioned the investigation in January, soon after learning of allegations against Rosenfeld.

“We strive to create a learning environment in which students feel comfortable coming forward with concerns or reports of misbehavior of any kind,” Krauss wrote to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last year following the release of the report. “Nothing is more important than the safety of our students. If we were to learn of a report of abuse, we would work quickly to begin an investigation and ensure, throughout the process, that students are safe.”

Krauss wrote in his email Monday that the school’s administration will be discussing the arrest with students in the middle school on Tuesday, as well as students now in ninth grade who were under Skolnick’s authority last year. The school also encouraged parents to discuss the situation with their kids, and administrators are making themselves available to speak with parents on Tuesday and in the coming days as well.

The school instituted a sexual harassment policy in 2014. The policy requires reporting credible allegations of sexual misconduct to law enforcement, as well as guidelines for reporting allegations within the school and investigating them.

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New Women’s March board member has called Israel a ‘racist’ state that ‘engages in terrorism’

Mon, 2019-09-16 21:59

(JTA) — Three of the founding and most prominent board members of the Women’s March stepped down from their positions, the organization announced Monday.

But that was not the only shakeup for the group — 17 new board members have been appointed.

One of them, Zahra Billoo, a lawyer who serves as executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has repeatedly made comments sharply critical of Israel.

On Twitter, Billoo has said several times that Israel engages in war crimes and terrorism, and that it is an “apartheid, racist state.”

The three women who resigned in July — Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland — along with co-chair Carmen Perez, had been at the center of a controversy over allegations that they failed to condemn and in some cases fostered anti-Semitism in the movement. Perez remains on the board)

Israel commits war crimes and terrorism as a hobby.

— Zahra Billoo (@ZahraBilloo) April 12, 2015

ONE MORE TIME FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK: Israel is an apartheid, racist state, which engages in terrorism against Palestinians.

— Zahra Billoo (@ZahraBilloo) July 9, 2018

In one tweet from 2015, Billoo wrote that she was “more afraid of racist Zionists who support Apartheid Israel than of the mentally ill young people the #FBI recruits to join ISIS.”

I'm more afraid of racist Zionists who support Apartheid Israel than of the mentally ill young people the #FBI recruits to join ISIS. #CVE

— Zahra Billoo (@ZahraBilloo) February 18, 2015

believes God is ever present, Zionism is racism, and Israel is a settler colonial nation engaged in ongoing apartheid.

— Zahra Billoo (@ZahraBilloo) May 11, 2018

Last year she tweeted that her comments on Israel led to an interfaith group withdrawing an award it was set to give her. In a series of tweets, Billoo wrote the unnamed organization told her “that pressure opposing my award was mounting. The organization’s institutional funding was being threatened and their Jewish members were threatening to leave.”

To be clear, I understand that this was not representative of all Jewish individuals, but there was indeed vocal opposition from certain Jewish leaders and organizations.

— Zahra Billoo (@ZahraBilloo) June 9, 2018

I explained that I could not remain silent when my tax dollars fund the ongoing theft of land and Israeli killings of Palestinians, and that I do indeed oppose Zionism. I see it as racist, just like I do any other ethnic nationalism.

— Zahra Billoo (@ZahraBilloo) June 9, 2018

But Billoo also has ties to the Jewish community. In 2015, she wrote an article in the Huffington Post about her decision to speak at a conference organized by the American Jewish Committee that said while her views on Israel differed from those of some in attendance, she also shared many of their goals on other issues.

“Some of us may disagree on politics in the Middle East, but there is no disagreement that the rise of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the U.S. is, in its simplest form, the growth of hate against faith, and both our communities are impacted,” Billoo wrote.

The anti-Semitism accusations against the Women’s March date back to Mallory’s ties to and refusal to disavow Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has a long history of making anti-Semitic comments. An article in Tablet last year also alleged that Mallory and Perez made anti-Jewish comments at Women’s March planning meetings.

Sarsour, who is Palestinian American, has also made statements implying feminism and Zionism are incompatible.

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For blacks and Jews, annual Crown Heights festival takes on greater significance following string of attacks

Mon, 2019-09-16 21:38

NEW YORK (JTA) — At the end of August, the New York Police Department Hate Crimes Task Force investigated an alleged anti-Semitic attack near Brower Park in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Someone had allegedly thrown a block of ice at a Hasidic man driving a car. It was the second allegedly anti-Semitic attack that week, coming days after an assailant had bashed a Hasidic man’s head with a brick.

Two weeks later, at the same park, the famously fraught neighborhood projected a much different image: one of a diverse and peaceful community.

At a community festival on Sunday, a popular Orthodox Jewish children’s singer shared the stage with a Caribbean dance group on stilts. Jewish and African-American children played together on a closed-off street. And inside a tent behind the stage, attendees sat in a circle and discussed contentious issues like hate crimes and gun violence.

This was the fourth annual #OneCrownHeights festival, but it felt especially relevant this year following a string of attacks on Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn that has heightened tensions in the area.

Crown Heights, a majority African-American neighborhood with a sizable Hasidic Jewish community and a growing population of hipsters, was the site of some of those attacks.

The violence has sparked painful memories of the 1991 riots there, which began when a black boy was killed accidentally by a car escorting Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late head of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement headquartered in the neighborhood. The death touched off three days of rioting in which black youths attacked religious Jews, killing one.

Laurie Cumbo, the New York City Council majority leader who represents Crown Heights, said the festival could lead to more interaction between African-Americans and Jews. (Ben Sales)

“When you have very diverse communities coming from very different cultures living in one environment, we can’t simply think that living together, everything is going to be harmonious,” Laurie Cumbo, the New York City Council majority leader who represents Crown Heights, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to live in a diverse community.”

Cumbo was among a number of local politicians who spoke at the event, which was co-sponsored by a range of groups, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. The American Jewish Committee sponsored the conversation tent behind the stage.

Several participants said they understood that a single festival doesn’t mean that all is well on the ground, but they hoped that events like this would lead to more organic interaction day to day.

“After the Crown Heights riots there was a lot of engagement, and so the communities were getting along a lot better,” said Duane Joseph, a festival volunteer who grew up in Crown Heights and lived through the riots. “But I think over the years there’s a bit of apathy and decline in the conversation, so that’s what they’re trying to do now, to bring back the conversation.”

Some on hand disputed that the attacks on Jews represented a wider problem in the neighborhood.

Rabbi Eli Cohen, executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Center, said he’s mostly heard his African-American neighbors condemning the attacks and believes that officials have responded appropriately. He says the neighborhood is a lot more united now than it was in 1991.

Rabbi Eli Cohen said relations have improved in the neighborhood since the 1991 riots. (Ben Sales)

“I think there’s a trend we have to deal with, we can’t ignore it, but on the other hand, overall community relations are really good,” Cohen said. “The incidents that have taken place are not between communities, they’re within a community shared by a lot of different people.”

Still, some people at the event raised festering issues.

At the discussion about gun violence, one woman talked about how she was surprised to feel more comfortable when she learned that there were firearms at an apartment she was visiting on a dangerous block. And Cumbo said that recently, in addition to the attacks in Crown Heights, a park just down the road has been the site of repeated incidents of gun violence.

“Every person should be able to go out with their family and experience a safe environment wherever that is,” she said. “There is a community that has been underserved, under-resourced for generations, so gentrification and new coffeehouses and new boutiques don’t pop up and the problem is solved.”

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7 things to look for in Israel’s elections on Tuesday

Mon, 2019-09-16 21:16

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israelis head to the polls for the second time this year on Tuesday. Exit polls from the country are notoriously fickle, so the real results of the election may leave onlookers in suspense for a bit.

Here are some of the more important things to look for on Election Day and their consequences going forward.

Are Netanyahu and Gantz heading for another tie?  

It sure looks that way. Two major polls that came out Friday — the last day permitted for survey numbers to be released — showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White alliance deadlocked at 32 seats apiece – below the 35 each party received in the April vote. Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, will determine which candidate to tap to form the government based on which he thinks has the best chance of forming a stable governing coalition. Sixty-one seats in the 120-member Knesset is the number to reach. Netanyahu’s failure to form a coalition was what triggered this second election.

Will Avigdor Liberman get enough votes to be the kingmaker?

It seems likely. Both the right- and left-wing blocs appear to need his Yisrael Beiteinu party’s seats to hit the magic 61. Liberman was firmly in the right-wing camp until the last election, when he refused to join a government with his party’s five seats unless a draft law obligating haredi Orthodox men to participate in the mandatory military draft remained intact. Now Liberman is expected to pick up eight or nine seats, and he has said he will only support a candidate for prime minister who is willing to negotiate a unity government of Likud and Blue and White. It’s a tricky scenario, too, because Gantz has insisted that he will not form a unity government with Netanyahu remains at its helm. That’s one of those consequences we mentioned.

Will the far-right Jewish Power party pass the electoral threshold?

The short answer is maybe. Final polls show the party eking past the 3.25 percent minimum to acquire four seats in the Knesset after garnering a total of five seats in April as part of a Netanyahu-brokered coalition. Still, Israeli voters aren’t always square with pollsters, and some could change their mind on Election Day if it looks like Blue and White will surpass Likud. Netanyahu has been calling on Jewish Power voters for days to cast their ballots for Likud after sowing fear that the small party will not pick up enough votes to enter the Knesset and thus  waste right-wing votes.

Will Netanyahu sound the alarm on Arab voters again?

In the hours before the polls closed in the 2015 elections, the prime minister warned in a video posted on Facebook that Arab Israelis were turning out to the polls “in droves” and thus threatening the formation of a right-wing government. That didn’t go over very well internationally. In the April election, Netanyahu appealed to right-wing voters by saying that if they voted for the smaller parties, he would not have enough mandates to be tapped to form the next government. It’s an appeal he has been making with regularity during the current campaign. Maybe this time Netanyahu will try both tactics.

Will Arab-Israeli voters turn out this election?

Arab-Israeli turnout is traditionally lower than the national average, since their parties never sit in Israeli governing coalitions and are usually at odds with both the Israeli Jewish left and right. But in 2015, the four major Arab-Israeli parties put aside their own differences to form the Arab Joint List, enabling them to become Israel’s third largest party. For April’s election, the list split into two, factions, lowering the voter turnout to 49.2 percent and the combined Arab party seats to 10 from 13. The Joint List is back together for Tuesday’s election, and there has been a major push to get Arab-Israeli voters to the ballot box.

How about general voter turnout?

Political experts believe that Israeli voters, frustrated by the need for an expensive and redundant second election in five months, may stay away from the polls.  The election with the lowest voter turnout, 63.5 percent, was in 2006. April’s balloting, meanwhile, had a 68.5 percent turnout, down from 72.3 percent in 2015. Thousands of Israelis reportedly are taking advantage of the day off from work to leverage vacation time to travel abroad, and with only a lead time of a few months, some Israelis had trips scheduled that they were unwilling to cancel.

Will there be cameras in the voting booth?

Not this time. For the April elections, Likud placed 1,200 hidden cameras in polling places, mostly in Arab communities. Party officials said the cameras were aimed at preventing voter fraud, but critics said it was a tactic meant to scare away Arab voters. Proposed legislation that would have allowed activists from any party to have cameras at polling places failed to pass prior to the elections.

RELATED:

Here we go again: A beginner’s guide to Israel’s 2nd election in 2019

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Religion and science don’t contradict — they just answer different questions

Mon, 2019-09-16 20:15

CHICAGO (JTA) — It has been 60 years since C.P. Snow delivered his scathing Rede Lecture, “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.” Snow lamented the fact that scientists and humanists had little knowledge or appreciation of one another’s disciplines.

Many years later, one of us attended a gathering of STEM professors and self-described faculty of faith, some from the humanities and some from other disciplines. The discussion was no more fruitful than the ones Snow described attending decades earlier.  

Near the end of the meeting, one of the participants, a devout Christian, put his finger on the core issue.

“The problem is that those of us who have an abiding religious faith also believe in science,” this participant said. “We recognize that you present an objective truth, and that your approach is worthy of careful deliberation. But we get little in return. When you look at us, you can barely conceal your contempt. What you see is little more than confusion, superstition and folly.”

In our lives, and in our teaching, we reject that divide. As the Jewish New Year approaches and we welcome in the Hebrew year 5780, we don’t feel at all confused about when the world was created: It was formed around 5 billion years ago, and it is also 5,780 years old. Why, we ask, must we choose?

But how can one believe two contradictory things? If the world is really 5,780 years old, then evolution must be false. And if the universe is governed by laws that make humanity a mere accident of physics and chemistry, what can biblical stories of Hebrew patriarchs and matriarchs possibly teach us?

Scott Fitzgerald put it beautifully: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” And John Keats praised what he called “negative capability,” the capacity to entertain mysteries and contradictions without any “irritable reaching” for some system to impose on the world’s complexity. We take these messages to heart in an undergraduate class we co-teach, where we try to impress on our students that the greatest questions tend to have the most elusive and incongruous answers.

So thought Leo Tolstoy, who was impatient with all systems.  His most interesting and autobiographical characters seek the truth but, like Tolstoy himself, cannot accept ready-made answers. 

Tolstoy’s greatest admirer, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, explained that neither science nor philosophy is a sort of super-theory to be applied outside its appropriate realm. Take any theory outside its proper context, outside its proper “language game,” and it yields nonsense.

Then “language goes on holiday,” Wittgenstein memorably observes. With scientific disciplines, “problems are solved (difficulties eliminated), not a single problem. There is not a philosophical method, though there are indeed methods, like different therapies.”

This tension is palpable in both Tolstoy’s life and work. At the conclusion of his masterpiece “Anna Karenina, the hero, Konstantin Levin, falls into despair. The death of his brother has brought him face to face with his own mortality, which he feels not as some abstract fact but as a profound horror, making nonsense of everything he does. 

Tolstoy is famous for his descriptions of such a mood, and he himself, like Levin, could hardly resist the impulse to suicide.

“The power which drew me away from life was stronger, fuller, and more widespread than any mere wish,” he wrote. “It was a force similar to the former striving to live, only in the opposite direction.” 

Both Tolstoy and Levin hid rope so they would not be tempted to hang themselves, and stopped hunting lest they yield to so easy a method of ending life.

A student of the natural sciences, Levin searches there for an answer. But he finds that words like “the indestructibility of matter, the law of the conservation of energy, and evolution… were very useful for intellectual purposes,” but were incapable of addressing questions of meaning, of life’s purpose and of right and wrong. 

No matter what laws it discovers, science can only say of each person’s life: “In infinite time, in infinite matter, in infinite space, is formed a bubble-organism, and that bubble lasts a while and bursts, and that bubble is me.”

For Levin, talking to scientists about such issues was like conversing with a deaf person who kept answering questions he had not been asked. Levin “was in the position of a man seeking food in a toy shop or at a gunsmith’s.” He realizes that in casting off his old religious convictions, he was like a man “who has changed his warm fur cloak for a thin muslin garment, and going for the first time into the [Russian] frost, is immediately convinced, not by reason, but by his whole nature that he is as good as naked and must inevitably perish.”

The sense of life’s meaning dawns on Levin in a way that only Tolstoy could describe. It comes from a realm of thought completely different from science. Levin does not reject science, but he no longer asks it to address questions of meaning, which by its very nature it excludes. 

When Levin realizes that he must think about astronomy with one set of tools, and about meaning with another, he finds himself lying on his back gazing up at the high, cloudless sky. He muses: “Do I not know that that is infinite space, and that it is not a rounded vault?” And yet, where everyday life is concerned, “in spite of my knowing about infinite space, I am incontestably right when I see a firm blue vault, far more right than when I strain my eyes to see beyond it.” And with this insight, Levin realizes that he has found faith.

So if asked how old the world is, the proper reply is: Are we doing geology or something else? By the same token, a biological explanation of how homo sapiens arrived at its ethics is one thing, and the question of what is right or wrong is quite another.  

The world is billions of years old, and it is also 5,780 years old — not an average of the two, and not one or the other, but both, depending on what question we are asking.

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Josh Gondelman is the nicest guy in comedy

Mon, 2019-09-16 19:47

(JTA) — Comedian Josh Gondelman wants you to know up front: He’s a nice Jewish guy.

“I’m Jewish. I was bar mitzvahed, and I enjoy the ritualized eating of carbohydrates. But more than that, I was raised nice,” he writes in the opening meditation on “nice guys” in his new book, “Nice Try: Stories of Best Intentions and Mixed Results,” which comes out Tuesday.

In that way, Gondelman, 34 — who won three Emmys for his work on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” and currently works as a writer and producer for the Showtime series “Desus & Mero” — is a bit of an outlier in the modern world of comedy, which often values mocking and R-rated themes.

Why open with talking about being a nice guy?

“It sets the tone for the overall arc that’s going to happen,” Gondelman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “There is a strong element of Judaism, which is obviously important to me, but the book really focuses on niceness versus goodness.”

It’s a deeply enjoyable arc: The essays cover everything from Jewish summer camp to working as a preschool teacher to romantic failures, and they are laugh-out-loud funny. Which makes sense — in addition to working on those shows, he has also had a successful stand-up career and back in 2012 started the popular Modern Seinfeld Twitter account, which won hundreds of thousands of fans by imagining what contemporary episodes of “Seinfeld” would involve.

Gondelman spoke with JTA about the concept of “niceness,” his favorite Jewish holidays, discovering the Wu-Tang Clan at Jewish sleepaway camp and his evolving thoughts on Twitter.

JTA: How do you distinguish between niceness and goodness?

Gondelman: Niceness is pleasantness and politeness and the kind of surface-level things you do to get by, which are important. And then goodness is kindness and righteousness, and sometimes it’s the same as niceness, and sometimes it’s in conflict.

I really resonated with your chapter about trying to apologize less. 

Oh, yeah.

It is something that I find so challenging. You write about how your favorite part of Judaism is that time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and how you used to write a mass apology email. What was in those emails? And why did you stop sending them? 

It was a recurring thing that I did. I would try to be very sincere [and] email a lot of people in my life. It was a vast mass email. I would give a little primer on Yom Kippur, and then say, so in that spirit, if I have done anything that was hurtful to you that I didn’t realize, I want to say that I’m sorry and I would love to restore whatever was breached. It’s different than [writing], “I’m sorry if you were offended” because there’s a value to being like, “Hey, if I did something that I didn’t realize, like please let me know. This is the time where I would like to clean the slate.” It’s nice to have a moment [where] it’s easy to explain why am I hitting the reset button today. It’s a nice excuse, as opposed to just doing it on like a random Sunday afternoon. I don’t know, people might go ‘why is this? What is this?’

Yeah, it gives it context.

It does. It gives it a context, which is a really beautiful thing about Judaism. There’s moments that are like structures for being a good person. [It’s] the kind of thing that I appreciate most about any kind of religion: These opportunities to go and do better and be reminded of the best ways to behave and treat people.

One of my favorite parts of “Nice Try” was when you wrote about your time at sleepaway camp. You talk about discovering rap music. I love how you connect studying for bar mitzvahs and learning rap music with “learning and parsing dense, opaque lyrics,” but “only one felt like it prepared you for adulthood.” How formative were those years for you?

Some of my best friends are the guys that I went to camp with those years. We’re still in super close touch. I have a couple of close friends from high school and college, but numerically a disproportionate amount of the people that I still consider really close to my heart were the guys [from camp].

That brings me to my next question: You write a lot about the impact of the Beastie Boys on you. Why do you think the Beastie Boys were so important to you and to young Jews more generally?

I think the Beastie Boys are like the cool Jewish kids that you know. They were visibly and clearly — by their proclamation and by their heritage — Jewish, but were also doing cool stuff. Their music was both really enmeshed in the broader hip-hop culture, but also didn’t feel like they were putting on airs or pretending to be people they weren’t. They were goofing around and having a good time. It was like, oh there’s a place to be a sarcastic Jewish kid. [Their Jewishness felt] more modern than the Mel Brooks and, at the time, the Woody Allen version of popular culture male Judaism.

They’re very important to me. They felt like such an entry point into this world that I felt like I didn’t have access to; there was a point of commonality being white guys, but being Jewish guys specifically. When I heard Eminem, I wasn’t like, oh that guy is me! When I heard the Beastie Boys, I was like, oh, there’s a way to appreciate and have access to this world in a way that’s not appropriate or disrespectful and that feels related to my own life experience.

What’s your favorite Beastie Boys album? 

Oh, man, I think it’s become “Paul’s Boutique.” It’s just so out there and so silly. I think [they] made it in L.A., but there are parts of it that [are] nitty-gritty New York stuff, so it feels like this weird hybrid of West Coast sonics and East Coast reference points.

Switching gears a little: You’re very visible on Twitter, and the social media platform has been a large part of your career. What’s your relationship to Twitter these days?

I’ve had so much good fortune with it, professionally and personally. It’s like if you fell into a sewer and found $100, and you fell in a second time and found a diamond ring, and you’re like, wow, this sewer has been really good to me. Even though it is full of human waste.

Can you talk about the origins of your Modern Seinfeld account? 

I started one afternoon — I think while I was seeing a tutoring client, while they were doing a practice test — I started tweeting a couple things of like, here are some Seinfeld plot lines that might happen if the show was on now. I was doing it kind of idly and my friend Jack saw it, and [said] “This should be its own thing.” He immediately jumped on the Twitter handle [@SeinfeldToday]. People really latched onto it, which was very incredible. A lot of credit to Jack Moore’s vision. It was a lark that turned into something that people really got into. Part of it is that we did a nice job executing it, but the other part is that people just have so much affection for “Seinfeld” — and “Curb.” [It’s] a specific, beloved thing for a generation of people, if not more than one generation. It was very nice to stand on the shoulders of giants in that respect.

One thing you still do on Twitter is give pep talks to strangers. You write about this in “Nice Try,” but could you talk about why you decided to start?

I started doing it [when] I felt kind of down about certain things. I [thought], I could ask for something online and say, “Hey, does anyone have any ways to feel better?” Or, you know, “Is there anyone that wants to book me for a show?” But [I thought], I bet I’ll get the same charge out of trying to do something for someone else. So, I said, “if anyone needs to hear a kind word, I’ll be here for five minutes.” This is maybe six, seven years ago. So I did that, and it went well, and it was fun. And I got the thing out of it that I wanted.

Hi! If anyone needs a pep talk I’m here for five minutes! Just let me know!

— Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) July 13, 2019

What do you hope readers take away from “Nice Try”?

I hope that, first and foremost, they have a fun time reading it. That it feels warm and funny. I want people to enjoy it thoroughly, and to come away being like, wow, what a good time, I feel better than when I started because it was invigorating and entertaining.

The second thing is, if there’s a good another level to it, I want people to take away that things are often hard and bad, [but] they can get better. There are things to latch onto amongst how difficult things are. One thing that is really inspiring to me is people doing really hard activist work, and people really standing up for what they believe in. So I hope that there’s like a little bit of encouragement.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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Final polls show Israeli election is neck and neck — again

Mon, 2019-09-16 19:03

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Five months later, the numbers apparently haven’t changed a whole lot in Israel when it comes to elections.

In the final polls before Tuesday’s vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud is again running neck and neck with Blue and White, a party launched this year and led by Benny Gantz, a former military chief of staff. Both parties finished with 35 Knesset seats in national elections held in April.

Israel’s main commercial news channels, Channel 12 and Channel 13, show Likud and Blue and White polling at 32 seats each. The surveys have Netanyahu’s potential right-wing bloc gaining seats but still falling short of the 61 needed to form a government.

The last polls allowed by law were published Friday. Exit polling results will be unveiled at 10 p.m. Tuesday Israel time.

The Channel 12 poll predicted that Netanyahu would have 59 lawmakers for a potential government; Channel 13 reported 58. A potential left-wing bloc is predicted to have 53 seats.

The potential kingmaker, Yisrael Beiteinu, is polling at eight or nine seats. Led by Avigdor Liberman, the party stymied Netanyahu’s bid to form a governing coalition in April, when it won five seats.

Both polls show the far-right Jewish Power, or Otzma Yehudit, crossing the 3.25 percent electoral threshold needed for the Knesset and winning four seats. The party was part of a coalition with the Jewish Home party in the April election garnering a total of five seats.

Also on the right, the Yamina coalition of religious Zionist and more rightist parties polled at eight or nine seats. The Ashkenazi haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism party had at seven or eight seats, its total from April. The haredi Orthodox Shas Party had six or seven seats after receiving eight in April.

On the left, the Democratic Union — a combination of the Democratic Israel Party of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and others along with the Green Movement — received five or six seats. Meretz won four seats in April.

Labor, which saw the liberal star Stav Shaffir leave and join forces with Barak, polled at four or five seats after taking six in April. This time it’s running with the Gesher party.

The Arab Joint List polled at 10 or 12 seats. Its four parties ran in two groups in the April election and received a combined 10 seats.

The Kan national broadcaster’s final poll, which was released Thursday, gave Blue and White 33 seats and Likud 31.

Paper ballots cast throughout the country will be counted on Tuesday night, with a preliminary total on Wednesday morning. Votes cast by soldiers on their bases, patients in hospitals and diplomats working overseas are added later.

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‘Seinfeld’ will move to Netflix in 2021

Mon, 2019-09-16 18:51

(JTA) — Starting in 2021, Netflix will officially be the master of the “Seinfeld” domain.

The iconic “show about nothing,” whose episodes are currently available to stream on Hulu, will move to Netflix the year after next. It will stay on Netflix for five years.

The move comes after Netflix lost the rights to two other mega-hits that aired on NBC, “The Office” and “Friends.” But Netflix negotiated with Sony, which owns “Seinfeld,” and — yada, yada, yada — the deal was struck. Netflix also streams creator Jerry Seinfeld’s latest show, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

“Seinfeld is the television comedy that all television comedy is measured against,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times. “It is as fresh and funny as ever and will be available to the world in 4K for the first time.”

“Seinfeld,” a sitcom about four unsympathetic but lovable people living the single life in New York City, ran from 1989 to 1998 on NBC and was immensely popular and culturally influential. It was created by Seinfeld and Larry David, who are both Jewish, as is co-star Jason Alexander. (Beyond that, if you don’t understand why a Jewish publication is covering this news, watch literally any episode of the show.)

Even in the decades since the show ended its run, viewers have continued to find it sponge-worthy. According to the L.A. Times, its reruns have generated billions of dollars in revenue.

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US diplomats pressed lawmakers in Ireland and Germany to oppose Israel boycott

Mon, 2019-09-16 18:27

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. diplomats in Dublin and Berlin pressed lawmakers and officials in Ireland and Germany to oppose bids to boycott Israel or the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

A State Department report delivered last week to Congress and obtained Monday by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency lists actions taken by U.S. diplomats to oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel in compliance with a 2015 law mandating such periodic reports.

According to the report, the diplomats engaged senior government officials and party leaders in Ireland “strongly urging them to drop their support” for a bill that would target for penalties the importing of goods from settlements in the West Bank.

The bill passed a reading in January but has not fully completed the legislative process. The State Department document says it is not clear if the measure will advance. Ireland’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Simon Coveney, opposes the bill, the report says, as he fears it would limit Irish influence in the region.

In Germany, the report notes that a court last year dismissed a lawsuit filed by an Israeli against Kuwait Airlines because it would not allow the passenger to board a flight. Following the ruling, the report says, “Embassy Berlin engaged senior officials,” adding that the embassy routinely “conducts outreach” to German officials, as well as federal and state lawmakers, with respect to Israel and Jewish life.

Subsequently, the parliament approved a resolution designating BDS as anti-Semitic.

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Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland are no longer on Women’s March board

Mon, 2019-09-16 18:15

(JTA) — Three of the organizers of the Women’s March have stepped down from its board.

Co-chairs Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland left in July, The Washington Post reported Monday. In a news release, the Women’s March said they “will transition off of the Women’s March Board and onto other projects focused on advocacy within their respective organizations.”

The three women, along with co-chair Carmen Perez, had been at the center of a controversy over allegations that they failed to condemn and in some cases fostered anti-Semitism in the movement. Perez is remaining in her position.

The website still had the photos and titles of the three co-chairs through this week, when the Women’s March announced the board turnover.

The group has chosen 17 women, including three who are Jewish, to serve as board members, and they will elect new leaders, according to the Post. Among them are Rabbi Tamara Cohen, the chief of program strategy at Moving Traditions, and Ginna Green, the chief strategy officer at Bend the Arc.

The accusations date back to Mallory’s ties to and refusal to disavow Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has a long history of making anti-Semitic comments. An article in Tablet last year also alleged that Mallory and Perez made anti-Jewish comments at planning meetings. Sarsour, who is Palestinian American, has made statements implying that feminism and Zionism are incompatible.

Prominent activists and Jewish leaders have criticized the co-chairs for their actions, while others have defended them. Some local chapters, many of which are not affiliated with the national group, have also distanced themselves from Sarsour, Mallory and Bland.

The march was founded as a protest against President Donald Trump’s election in 2016. Millions of women, and men, marched at the inaugural event in 2017, making it the largest one-day protest in U.S. history.

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By chilling out on Rosh Hashanah, I made my Judaism truly meaningful

Mon, 2019-09-16 16:42

MONTREAL (JTA) — Picking through gefilte fish in the kosher department, searching for the freshest packages, I think of my Grandma Fanny. She made her gefilte fish from scratch, lovingly combining the cod, whitefish, pike and whatever other secret ingredients she threw in that made it so good.

“This is delicious,” my brother’s roommate remarked one year. “I’ve never even heard of a gefilte fish before.”

When my grandmother hosted Rosh Hashanah, it was an affair. There could be upward of 25 people around the table, which would be set with the finest china and freshest flowers. The food was first class and the conversation lively. What I don’t remember was much religious content.

As my grandparents aged, my mother took over hosting duties. The table was still a decent size, but it wasn’t the same lavish affair. Now that my husband and I have taken on the responsibilities of hosting, the table has become even smaller, maxing out at 11 if all my in-laws are in town. I don’t have fine china or exquisite silver flatware. I don’t have crystal glasses or homemade gefilte fish. Frankly, I don’t have the money to “do Jewish” the way my grandparents did.

But even though our table has gotten smaller and my place settings would have my grandmother rolling in her grave, the whole holiday has become much more meaningful to me. I’m grateful for the time spent with my family and the time spent in reflection at shul. 

While many Jewish communal leaders warn about how younger generations are drifting away from traditional Judaism, I believe they have missed the mark: Even though I “do Jewish” much differently than my grandparents did, the older I get, the clearer Judaism’s contributions to my life become.

Stripping away the excess of the High Holidays has made me see what’s important, and going through the ritual and ceremony of putting the evening together has brought me closer to its true significance. Yes, the meal is a celebration, but it’s also a solemn entry into the 10 days of introspection and repentance before Yom Kippur. As I age, my thoughts are less on what wine I’ll be serving and more on how I need to make things right. 

The 2013 Pew Portrait of Jewish Americans suggests Jewish identity is changing, and that 22 percent of Jews claim to have no religion. Fourteen percent of my parents’ generation, born between 1928 and 1945, falls into this category, along with 26 percent of my fellow Gen Xers and 32 percent of millennial Jews. 

Far from being distressing, these numbers make sense to me. Young people just don’t define Judaism and religion in the same way as earlier generations.

To get a more accurate picture of American Judaism, we must adjust the parameters to match today’s realities. The options aren’t just Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or “nothing” anymore. 

I couldn’t tell you what denomination of Jew I am. My synagogue has a mission statement that says “while guided by Orthodox tradition, our approach is one that embraces everyone, regardless of their level of knowledge or observance.”

I feel like I belong there. I have relationships with many members of the clergy. My son is a bimah boy, working with the gabbai every Saturday calling up members of the congregation receiving an honor;. He attends a private Catholic school for financial reasons but has embraced Judaism with a fervor. 

For years I focused on all the things I did wrong as a Jew — not keeping kosher, not sending my kids to Jewish school, not observing a whole bunch of the fasting holidays, etc. Yet I still identify as Jewish. My family doesn’t meet the definitions of Orthodox or Conservative, or even Reconstructionist. There is no box for us.  

Despite my relatively “secular” upbringing, my parents and grandparents would certainly consider themselves Jews of religion, at least by Pew’s count. But in many ways, I consider my revitalized traditions to be what brought me back into the fold. 

Despite the dwindling extravagance of our holiday celebrations, I feel a closer connection to Judaism than ever. How do I get counted?

There’s so much fear in the Jewish community about the dangers of intermarriage and assimilation. But diversity isn’t the problem. My inclusion of non-Jews in traditional celebrations gives me the chance to revisit their significance. Diversity doesn’t dilute my feelings toward religion — it strengthens them.

Planning my dinner this year, I added a non-Jewish friend and her 9-year-old daughter to the guest list. They came last year and added a whole new layer to the evening. They loved learning about our traditions, and we got to see the holiday through fresh eyes.

This Rosh Hashanah, instead of worrying about fitting into a traditional mold, I’m going to focus more on defining my own Jewish identity and what informs it. 

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Suspect in shooting of 68-year-old man outside Miami synagogue charged with hate crime

Mon, 2019-09-16 15:56

(JTA) — A man arrested last month in the shooting of a 68-year-old man outside a synagogue in Miami, Florida, was charged with a hate crime.

Carlints St. Louis, 30, was arraigned last week in criminal court in Miami on charges that include one count of attempted first-degree murder with a deadly weapon with prejudice; one count of discharging a firearm in a vehicle; and one count of battery of aggravated battery of a person 65 years of age or older.

In late July, Yosef Lifshutz was shot six times in the leg as he stood outside the Young Israel of Greater Miami waiting for daily prayers to begin. Lifshutz, also known as Warren, required surgery.

St. Louis was taken into custody by Miami-Dade Police on Aug. 21, a day after he filled out a report with a nearby police department claiming that a firearm had been stolen from his black Chevy Impala — the car police were seeking in the synagogue shooting.

He was ordered held in jail without bond. A trial date has been set for Dec. 2, the NBC Miami affiliate reported.

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Israel’s election campaign has been a religious war of words

Mon, 2019-09-16 15:43

JERUSALEM (JTA) — One Israeli campaign ad depicts an Orthodox politician demanding “all the money in Israel.”

There’s one of a secular Israeli man knocking the candles and challah from a children’s Shabbat dinner table.

Another ad plays ominous music as crowded images of Jews in black hats flash on screen, while one features secular, left-wing politicians in grainy, brown photographs being called “rubes.”

Ahead of Israel’s election on Tuesday, the vitriol is flying over the place of Orthodox Judaism in the Jewish state. Secular politicians are warning of a theocracy. Religious politicians warn of anti-Orthodox persecution. Both sides seem to suggest that the soul of the country is at stake.

Government and religion are deeply intertwined in Israel, where public transit mostly doesn’t run on the Sabbath, the state does not recognize liberal Jewish weddings and many Orthodox Jewish men are exempted from the country’s mandatory draft. Parties have long appealed to their religious or secular constituencies to either protect or reform these laws.

But in this election, those issues have taken center stage, captivating the attention of politicians and sparking a fierce fight. The rhetoric has has attacked individual politicians and demonized whole groups. In 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made headlines for warning of “Arabs streaming to the ballot box in droves.” This year, his main rival, Benny Gantz, tweeted out an ad warning of high voter turnout in the Orthodox city of Bnei Brak.

“When religion and state get more space in elections, it’s always vitriolic,” said Einat Wilf, a secular centrist former Israeli lawmaker. “People understand the implication that their way of life is in danger. So the rhetoric in many ways plays into real fears.”

This election in fact was triggered by conflict over religious policy. Following elections in April, Netanyahu was poised to form a right-wing governing coalition with a combination of Orthodox and secular parties that are hawkish on defense. But one of the secular party leaders, Avigdor Liberman, would only join the coalition if the country’s military draft was expanded to include more haredi Orthodox men — they can use a religious exemption to avoid being conscripted in the army. The haredi parties balked, the coalition never formed and a second round of elections was called.

While Israelis usually vote on national security and the economy, there is little difference among the major parties on those topics — including Netanyahu’s ruling Likud and the upstart Blue and White led by Gantz. So while there is still heated debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Netanyahu has tried to garner support by promising to annex part of the West Bank, the competition in the current  race primarily revolves around domestic issues like the role of religion.

Fighting over religion appears to help both sides. Wilf said that Gantz, Netanyahu’s rival, was explicitly promising a broad secular coalition because it polls well with Israeli voters. Liberman, who earlier this year was well on his way to seeing his political influence wane, has seen his support in the polls spike and has doubled down on his promise to keep Israel from becoming a theocracy run according to Jewish law.

An Orthodox lawmaker, Yaakov Asher, said that Liberman’s campaign will end up driving his Orthodox constituents to the polls.

“From our point of view, they are doing the best campaign possible for us because you can’t be apathetic when you see parties using motifs of hatred against you,” Asher told The Jerusalem Post.

But Wilf pointed out that plenty of Israeli elections have featured heated debates over religion. In 2003, the now-defunct Shinui party ran on reducing Orthodox influence in government. A decade later, an ad from Shas, an Orthodox party, caricatured a woman with a thick Russian accent getting a fake Jewish conversion as she was about to get married.

“When the haredi parties are in power, they take as much as they can take, then at one point they tend to overreach,” Wilf said. “Secular Israelis are feeling their way of life has been threatened, and then they’re fighting back.”

The religious war of words comes alongside Netanyahu’s recent inflammatory statements on Arab Israelis. His party sent thousands of observers with cameras to Arab polling places in April. When the Central Elections Committee outlawed the tactic, Netanyahu pushed legislation to allow the cameras, alleging widespread Arab-Israeli voter fraud and stating that his opponents, who opposed the measure, “want to steal the elections.” His effort failed.

Earlier this week, visitors to Netanyahu’s official Facebook page were greeted by an automatic message sent by a chatbot warning of a “secular left-wing weak government that relies on Arabs who want to destroy us all — women, children and men.”

The rhetoric has become so charged because Israel is in the middle of a “cultural war,” said Yedidia Stern, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute think tank. Stern worries that the verbal conflagrations could end up delegitimizing Israel’s electoral process.

“The main threat is what will happen after the election when the losing side may say for the first time that it will not accept the outcome,” he said. “It might happen this time. I am afraid that Netanyahu or [opposition candidate Ehud] Barak will say it doesn’t represent the will of the people. The question is, do you accept the rules of the game?”

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Sackler family-owned Purdue Pharma files for bankruptcy

Mon, 2019-09-16 15:16

(JTA) — The Sackler family-owned Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy as part of a tentative $12 billion settlement with dozens of state and local governments that filed lawsuits accusing the company of fueling and profiting from the opioid epidemic.

The company’s board met Sunday evening to approve the move, Reuters reported, and the bankruptcy was filed in White Plains, New York.

Twenty-four states and five U.S. territories, as well as 2,000 cities, counties and other plaintiffs, have sued the Connecticut-based company. Two dozen other states have not committed to the settlement and are being encouraged to do so, according to Reuters.

The prescription painkiller OxyContin, introduced by Purdue in 1996, helped make the Sacklers America’s 19th richest family with a combined net worth of $13 billion, according to Forbes. The company has been accused of aggressively marketing the powerful and addictive painkiller even as it became clear that the drugs were not as safe as advertised.

The bankruptcy filing will turn the private company into a “public beneficiary trust,” allowing the profits from all drug sales, including OxyContin, to go to the plaintiffs in the lawsuits.

The company also would agree to give its addiction treatment drugs free to the public. Those drugs are currently under development.

The Sacklers, who are Jewish, would cede control of Purdue in the proposed settlement. They have offered $3 billion in cash and at least another $1.5 billion from the proposed sale of another company they own, called Mundipharma, Reuters reported, citing the company.

“It is our hope the bankruptcy reorganization process that is now underway will end our ownership of Purdue and ensure its assets are dedicated for the public benefit,” the family said in a statement.

The reorganization and settlement will require approval by a U.S. bankruptcy judge.

The Sackler family has supported Tel Aviv University’s School of Medicine and the Jewish Museum in Berlin among its philanthropic endeavors.

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Teenager sporting fake Hitler mustache performs Nazi salute outside Scottish synagogue

Mon, 2019-09-16 13:11

(JTA) — A teenage boy in Scotland was filmed performing the Nazi salute in front of a local synagogue while wearing a fake Hitler mustache.

The STV station on Monday reported that the incident outside Giffnock & Newlands Synagogue, which was exposed in social networks but whose exact date is not known, is being treated as an anti-Semitic hate crime by local police.

“Police Scotland is aware of a video circulating online on various social media channels which shows a teenage boy conducting actions of an anti-Semitic nature outside a synagogue. Inquiries are ongoing to trace the persons responsible for making and distributing the video,” a police spokeswoman was quoted as telling STV.

A spokesperson for Police Scotland told the Jewish Chronicle later on Monday: “A 16-year-old-boy has been charged and is the subject of a report to the Procurator Fiscal and the Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration in connection with the incident.”

The video is believed to have been created via the TikTok social media video app, and reportedly was circulated among students at the end of last week, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

Paul Edlin, president of Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, told STV: “The Glasgow Jewish Representative Council are appalled at this anti-Semitic hate crime and we understand that the police are pursuing it vigorously and hope that the alleged perpetrators will be brought to justice quickly.

“The fact that it is now posted on social media makes it an even more significant hate crime,” he added.

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Belgian university posts hooked nose gesture for ‘Jew’ in sign language dictionary

Mon, 2019-09-16 13:00

(JTA) — A Belgian university included in its sign-language dictionary a gesture meaning “Jew” which involves signaling a hooked nose.

The European Jewish Association on Monday protested in a statement the gesture’s inclusion in online videos on the website of the dictionary compiled by the University of Ghent.

The first videos, that function as sign language definitions for Jew, “seem standard,” the Association’s director, Menachem Margolin, wrote in the statement. Both videos show a presenter stroking an imaginary beard. “The second involving side-locks are borderline acceptable if misleading, and the last two are simply racist and demeaning to Jews, using a gesticulation of a large and hooked nose to define Jew,” he added.

Margolin asked campus authorities to remove the two gestures from their dictionary.

 

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Netanyahu says he will annex Hebron

Mon, 2019-09-16 12:32

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will annex Hebron and the adjacent West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba.

He made the statement on Monday morning during an interview with Army Radio, 24 hours before the opening of the polls for national elections in Israel.

Netanyahu was responding to a question from Army Radio host Efi Triger, who asked if Kiryat Arba and the Jewish community in Hebron would be annexed. Netanyahu’s response was: “Of course. They will be part of Israel. But I need a mandate to execute this plan.”

The response comes days after Netanyahu promised to apply sovereignty to all West Bank settlements, though he said he would first wait for the unveiling of the Trump administration’s peace plan. He also promised in a Thursday night statement carried on television to annex the Jordan Valley.

Netanyahu visited Hebron earlier this month for a ceremony to mark the 90th anniversary of the massacre of Jews in Hebron, a mostly Palestinian city about 18 miles from Jerusalem.

At the ceremony Netanyahu vowed that Hebron “will never be empty of Jews,” but did not announce any new Jewish building in Hebron or suggest applying sovereignty over the city, as many expected he would.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries to blow the ‘holy shofar’

Mon, 2019-09-16 09:12

(JTA) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempted, and failed, to blow a shofar while on a visit to northern England.

During a visit on Friday to meet voters in Doncaster, Yorkshire, the newly minted prime minister was approached by a woman who invited him to “blow the holy shofar.” She explained that the instrument, which she said is “like a trumpet,” is from Israel.

Johnson expressed concern about whether he is allowed to blow the holy instrument, used by Jews on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and during the month leading up to the high holy days, and the woman responded that “God has authorized you.”

The exchange was posted in a video online by Britain’s Channel 5 News.

Johnson was not able to get a sound out of the instrument, but managed to utter the age-old pun “Shofar so good,” before handing it back to the woman.

Johnson previously tried to blow the shofar in 2011, when the mayor of London, during a ground-breaking ceremony for London’s new Jewish Community Center building in Finchley, North London, which took place the day before Yom Kippur. He managed to get a sound out of it that time, after a short tutorial by then-chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

A strange moment for Boris Johnson in #Doncaster as he was asked to blow a holy Shofar horn.

His adviser was not keen but the PM gave it a good go anyway, only to be let down by his technique. pic.twitter.com/6jywCGQicQ

— Channel 5 News (@5_News) September 13, 2019

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Celebrity Israeli chef Eyal Shani raps to help feed schoolchildren

Mon, 2019-09-16 08:50

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Celebrity Israeli chef Eyal Shani rapped in a YouTube video in an effort to raise money to provide sandwiches for Israeli school children who can not afford to bring their own from home.

“There are some things that, for them, I am ready to sing,” he says at the start of the video, while seated in an empty classroom.

Shani, who was a judge on Israel’s Master Chef, is volunteering on behalf of NEVET: Sandwich For Every Child, which every day provides sandwiches in schools for thousands of Israel children, including Haredi, secular, Arab, Bedouin and Druze.

NEVET, which means sprout, was founded by the food rescue organization Leket Israel.

Shani is known for his restaurant chain Miznon, which has branches in New York, Paris, Vienna and Melbourne.  He opened a branch of his high-end HaSalon restaurant, which is known for its party atmosphere, this year in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City,  which was skewered by a food critic for a $24 tomato appetizer .

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf honors Tree of Life victims at Auschwitz

Mon, 2019-09-16 08:26

(JTA) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf honored the 11 victims of the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue building while on a visit to Auschwitz.

Wolf signed the guestbook at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial on Sunday by writing the names of the victims of the shooting nearly one year ago, and under that wrote ““Pennsylvania mourns for the people who were murdered on October 27, 2018 in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.” He also wrote  “100% tolerance; 0% hate.”

Hours later he tweeted: Thank you @AuschwitzMuseum for the opportunity to memorialize the Tree of Life victims. Pennsylvania was founded on the principle of tolerance. And we are #StrongerThanHate.”

Prior to leaving on the visit, Wolf said in a news conference that he would carry  to the Nazi camp the mezuzah that hung on the door of Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers office and which was broken in the attack.

“What I’m hoping for is that this act will bring solace, some solace to the survivors, and will remind them that we Pennsylvanians will never forget their loved ones,” Wolf said during the news conference.

Wolf this week is visiting 600 Pennsylvanians stationed with the National Guard in Lithuania and Poland and was scheduled to meet with Lithuanian government and business leaders, the Associated Press reported.

He is also scheduled to visit the Paneriai Holocaust Memorial, in the forests outside Vilnius, Lithuania later in the week.

Pennsylvania Governor @GovernorTomWolf visited @AuschwitzMuseum today. He placed a wreath at the Wall of Death to honor the victims of Auschwitz.

In the Gestbook he wrote names of the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting.

'100% tolerance; 0% hate.' pic.twitter.com/b9IWK430rC

— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) September 14, 2019

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