Volume 12, Number 6 Election 2022
Serving the Local New Orleans, Northshore, and Baton Rouge Jewish Communities
Jewish Communities In Southwest Florida Scramble For Safety After Hurricane Ian Brings ‘Biblical’ Storm Surge
Fort Myers Beach, on the western coast of Florida, was one of areas hit hardest when Hurricane Ian made landfall Wednesday. (Getty)
(JTA) — On Monday, after finishing Rosh Hashanah services, the congregants of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands headed to the beach to perform the Jewish ritual of tashlich, letting symbols of their sins be swept away by the warm gulf water that surrounds Sanibel Island. By the following day, almost every single person there had
headed off the island, fearing the wrath of those same waters as Hurricane Ian bore down on their swath of Florida’s coast. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sanibel Island experienced “biblical” destruction when the storm hit on Wednesday, bringing with it a predicted 12 to 18-foot surge and punishing winds. The bridge linking the island with the mainland
was damaged so severely that no one can access the island — striking fear into Bat Yam members about what has happened to the two couples from the synagogue who stayed despite a county-wide evacuation order. “Nobody has heard from anybody on the island since a little after 3 p.m. Eastern Time yesterday,” Janice Block Chaddock told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I’m happy to be alive, happy that my husband and my mom are alive and I’m on pins and needles about other friends on Sanibel.” While the island appears to be among the places hardest hit by Ian, the storm cut a path of devastation up and down Florida’s west coast and across the mainland. About 2.5 million people are without power in Florida, where officials say there could be many casualties from the storm and that rebuilding could take years. Florida’s most substantial Jewish population centers, in the south near Miami, experienced only
heavy rains and wind. But the cities of Sarasota, Orlando and Naples, all hard hit by Ian, are home to at least 70,000 Jews, according to a 2020 analysis of American Jewish population data, and other cities have smaller Jewish populations. Rabbi Yitzchok Minkowicz of the Chabad of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers rode out the storm at home, not by choice but because the evacuation order had come during Rosh Hashanah, when Orthodox Jews refrain from using technology. “We couldn’t leave because we only found out after yontif and it was too late to leave,” Minkowicz said, using the Yiddish term for a Jewish holiday. Fort Myers suffered severe flooding, but by Thursday morning, the storm surge had rescinded back into the Gulf of Mexico, and Minkowicz had mobilized, opening a temporary shelter at the See HURRICANE on Page
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HURRICANE Continued from Page 2 Chabad House in Fort Myers, launching a fundraiser and providing video updates on the community’s relief efforts. By midnight Wednesday night, three ambulances from Hatzoloh, the Jewish emergency service, had arrived, and volunteers from Miami and Boca Raton are now working on logistics such as setting up a generator and Wi-Fi at the temporary shelter. On Thursday, Minkowicz’s group hosted a barbecue dinner for people who are out of power or low on supplies, and will also deliver 200 Shabbat dinners to members of the community. “Now it’s a matter of helping people get back on their feet, helping them fix up the houses, getting them food, getting them what to drink, getting them supplies,” Minkowicz said. “That’s our next big job.” Relief efforts from beyond Florida are already underway. The Jewish Federations of North America is opening an emergency collection for donations and preparing to provide emergency grants to affected communities.
“While we’re still assessing the damage, it’s clear that many communities in Ian’s path will have significant needs,” Julie Platt, the group’s chair, told JTA in a statement. A resort town known for its abundance of seashells and brightly colored buildings and whimsical street, house, and restaurant names, like The Blue Giraffe and the Lazy Flamingo, Sanibel has suffered catastrophic damage from hurricanes before. In 2004, Hurricane Charley divided Sanibel’s northern neighbor, Captiva Island, into two parts, permanently changing the geography of the area. Block Chaddock, who became a full-time Sanibel resident in 2018 but spent decades visiting her grandparents and mother on the island, remembers the devastation after Hurricane Charley. So many trees were torn down that the islands looked “barren and different,” she said. With what little she does know so far, Block Chaddock has a feeling that the devastation from Hurricane Ian will be much worse. Apart from the collapse of the causeway, which hasn’t happened before, street cam footage from the
The Sanibel Lighthouse is a 138-yearold iron structure listed in the National Registry of Historic Places that has so far survived the destruction from Hurricane Ian. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Hajdenberg)
beginning of the storm Wednesday shows one of Sanibel’s main streets, Periwinkle Way, flooding several feet within one hour. Bat Yam Temple of the Islands, which only meets for Shabbat services from November to May, is housed in a local church just off of Periwinkle Way. Congregants have no idea if the structure where Rosh
Hashanah services took place on Monday is still standing or if their prized Czech Torah rescued from the Holocaust has survived. Congregants don’t expect access by Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday that begins Tuesday night at sundown. So, Rabbi Nicole Luna of Temple Beth El in Fort Myers has invited the Bat Yam community to join her congregation for services. For now, residents of southwest Florida are in shock, hoping the communication systems will be back online soon so they can check in with their friends, neighbors, and family members. Block Chaddock, who chairs Bat Yam’s governance committee and is currently in France with her husband for a work obligation, could account for the locations of several members of Bat Yam’s leadership, many of whom are sheltering in nearby Fort Myers or Naples. But she wishes more of her neighbors had chosen to evacuate. “All I can think about is their healthEARLY and safetyVOTING right now,” she OCT. 25-NOV. 1 said.
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Does UC Berkeley Really Have ‘Jew-Free Zones? We Explain. By Andrew Lapin
Students walk past a building at the University of California-Berkeley's law school, Jan. 30, 2020. (Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images)
(JTA) – It seemed like a headline out of the 19th century: a warning of “Jew-free zones” at the University of California-Berkeley. That’s the phrase being employed by some prominent pro-Israel groups this week to describe a dispute at UC Berkeley’s law school, where nine student groups recently voted to adopt by-laws that state they will not invite any visiting speakers to campus who “hold
views in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine.” But is the “Jew-free” label accurate? Not according to Jewish leadership at the university. Here’s a rundown of the controversy, and where people have come down on it. How did the UC Berkeley situation start? In August, nine student groups at
the UC Berkeley law school (out of more than 100) signed a statement authored by the group Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine. Under the justification of “protecting the safety and welfare of Palestinian students,” the statement pledges not to invite “speakers that have expressed and continued to hold views … in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine,” as reported by J. The Jewish News of Northern California. The student groups who backed the pledge include Women of Berkeley Law, Berkeley Law Muslim Student Association, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and the Queer Caucus, according to the organizing group. The statement also expressed support for the goals of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement targeting Israel. Opposition was swift and came from the highest office at the law school. Erwin Chemerinsky, the school’s Jewish dean, wrote to the student body to condemn the pledge, calling it “troubling” and noting that “taken literally, this would mean that I could not be invited to speak because I support the existence of Israel, though I condemn many of its policies.” Chemerinsky further pointed out that UC Berkeley’s chancellor,
Carol Christ, has denounced the BDS movement in the past, and that the school has an Antisemitism Education Initiative specifically designed to parse anti-Zionist rhetoric. The law school’s Jewish Students Association board also authored an Aug. 27 statement opposing the petition, writing that it “alienates many Jewish students from certain groups on campus,” and noting that their group was “one of the few affinity groups not contacted during this process.” Even as all of this was happening, Chemerinsky insisted publicly that UC Berkeley’s law school was still a welcoming environment for Jewish students and speakers, calling the petition “a minor incident” and any outside attempts to spotlight it as indicative of campuswide antisemitism “nonsense.” Does the story end there? No. Last week, about a month after the law student petition circulated, Kenneth Marcus, formerly the head of the federal government’s Commission on Human Rights, published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal claiming that Berkeley now has “Jewishfree zones.” “It is now a century since Jewish-free zones first spread to the See BERKELY on Page
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BERKELY Continued from Page 4 San Francisco Bay Area,” wrote Marcus, who is also a Berkeley Law alum and founder and chairman of the pro-Israel legal group Louis Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. He compared the Berkeley Law petition to 19thcentury signage in American cities with phrases like “No Jews, Dogs, or Consumptives,” and added that the incident was a sign of “university spaces go[ing] as the Nazis’ infamous call, judenfrei. Jewishfree.” Other pro-Israel groups quickly followed suit in condemning Berkeley. Hadassah CEO Rhoda Smolow said the students’ actions “are not only antisemitic; they are anti-education.” StandWithUs repeated Marcus’ “Jew-free zones” comment in the subject line of a press release, threatening legal action against the school in the form of filing a Title VI civil rights violation complaint with the U.S. Department of Education. The Jewish Journal op-ed also occasioned several open letters opposing the Berkeley student groups who signed the by-laws, from the American Association of Jewish Lawyers & Jurists (which accused the law school of having “tolerated, condoned, and by such inaction, encouraged” an antisemitic environment); more than 100 Jewish student groups nationwide, including more than a dozen Hillel THE
and Chabad chapters as well as several Jewish fraternities; and a number of pro-Israel groups including AIPAC and the World Jewish Congress, alongside the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish National Fund. Among others rising up in anger following the publication of Marcus’ op-ed: Barbra Streisand, who tweeted Oct. 1, “When does antiZionism bleed into broad anti-Semitism?” Streisand then linked to Marcus’ article. So, is Berkeley Law actually banning ‘Zionist’ speakers? No. The law school’s policies around guest speakers remain unchanged, and the vast majority of law student groups have not backed the pledge to oppose such speakers. Many of the law school’s faculty have condemned the student drive, with more than two dozen professors signing an open letter “in support of Jewish law students” that calls the proposed bylaw “discriminatory” and “antithetical to free speech and our community values.” The letter, spearheaded by Mark Yudof and Steven Davidoff Solomon, the Jewish law student group’s faculty advisor, further says that “many Jews… experience this statement as antisemitism because it denies the existence of the state of Israel, the historical home of the Jewish people.” Jews at UC Berkeley are mad, too — but mainly at Marcus, and others who claim the school is now a breeding ground for antisemitism.
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“The idea .. that the Berkeley law school has ‘Jewish-free zones’ is preposterous,” two Jewish faculty members, Ron Hassner and Ethan Katz, wrote in an op-ed in J. Hassner is the Helen Diller Family Chair in Israel Studies and codirector of the law school’s Helen Diller Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies, while Katz is chair of an advisory committee on Jewish student life and co-director of the Berkeley Antisemitism Education Initiative. They wrote that fears about an antisemitic environment at Berkeley don’t hold up to scrutiny, pointing to the law school’s recent hosting of Zionist speakers including Yossi Shain, a member of the Israeli Knesset. The pair added that the actions of nine law student groups don’t change “Berkeley’s deep institutional commitment” to Jew-
ish studies and Israel studies. “Panic-mongering around antiZionism on U.S. campuses serves no purpose, other than to offer free advertisement for extremist ideas, and to erode needlessly Jews’ sense of basic safety and security in places where Jewish life is actually thriving,” Hassner and Katz wrote, while also condemning the law student anti-Zionist campaign as “nakedly discriminatory,” “bigoted” and “an outrage.” Chemerinsky also spoke up, again, both in a response to the Jewish Journal and in his own op-ed in The Daily Beast. “There is no ‘Jewish-Free Zone’ at Berkeley Law or on the UC-Berkeley campus,” he wrote. Why Berkeley? See BERKELY on Page
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BERKELY Continued from Page 5 For one, there’s the Bay Area city’s reputation as an incubator for progressive activism, which has made it a regular target of rightwing campus free speech protests. But there’s something else, too. The Berkeley law school’s Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies is a recent recipient of a $10 million donation from the Helen Diller Institute, money which was used to expand its Israel Studies programming — including guest speakers. When the donation was announced last year, pro-Palestinian law student groups, including the group that later organized the petition protesting Zionist guest speakers, called on the school to reject the money. They pointed to a long list of past objectionable donations by the Diller family, including to Canary Mission, an anonymous group that has published the personal information of Israel critics; the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group led by Jewish anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller; and to efforts to oppose a rent control ballot initiative. At the time, the school rejected
students’ calls to return the money, possibly laying the groundwork for the intra-campus dispute today over Zionist guest speakers, some of whom (including Shain) were funded by the Diller endowment. The Dillers’ foundation had previously donated $10 million to UC Berkeley across two separate donations: half to fund the campus’ Center for Jewish Studies, and half to endow the Helen Diller Family Chair in Israel Studies. Since the work of faculty like Hassner and Katz is made possible in part by the Diller family’s generosity, donor concerns are another factor at play. Donors to university Israel studies programs are increasingly looking for assurance that their money is going toward research and political speech they agree with — often with the encouragement of groups like StandWithUs, who push donors to build proIsrael safeguards into their large-dollar donations. Reassuring the public that all is well with Israel-related matters at Berkeley also reassures the donors. Earlier this year at the University of Washington, a donor withdrew a $5 million gift from the school’s Israel Studies program because she
didn’t approve of its endowed chair signing a letter critical of Israel. Katz signed a letter sent at the time to UW’s president supporting the affected professor. What could happen now? As of now the initial student letter hasn’t prompted much action on campus, apart from a strong rebuke from UC Berkeley administration. But the reactions to it could be a signal of something more. The forceful public tactics being employed by pro-Israel groups well versed in campus controversies are a sign that their approach to UC Berkeley may follow a by-now familiar playbook, much to the chagrin of Jewish faculty on campus who would prefer to keep things quiet. StandWithUs, which is threatening to file a Title VI complaint, brings to mind several similar investigations that the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights has opened up against schools in recent years for allegedly fostering antisemitic environments on campus. Most recently, the Brandeis Center and campus antisemitism watchdog group Jewish On Campus succeeded in opening an investigation at the University of
Vermont by filing a complaint about ad-hoc student groups that said they wouldn’t admit Zionist students, among other things (the school’s administration has vigorously denied the allegations). Marcus declined to tell JTA whether the Brandeis Center would also be looking to file a complaint against UC Berkeley. But the organization argues that any campus anti-Zionist speech or activity is tantamount to discriminating against Jewish students, and that universities have an obligation to oppose such speech by any legal means. The Brandeis Center wants the federal government to define anti-Zionist activity in the same way, and uses Title VI as a means of pressuring universities to take action against students who may be engaging in such activity. Will they do so in this instance? Marcus told JTA in a statement that the center is “prepared to take whatever action is required,” but did not elaborate on what that action could be.
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Israel To Build A Museum Dedicated To Albert Einstein At University He Helped Found By Asaf Elia-Shalev
Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, meeting with Albert Einstein at Princeton University, New Jersey. (Universal History Archive/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
(JTA) — An $18 million museum dedicated to the legacy of Albert Einstein will be built in Jerusalem. The Israeli government approved a plan Sunday to establish a new home for Einstein’s extensive materials, including some 85,000 documents, on the campus of the Hebrew University, which Einstein helped found a century ago. It’s the largest collection of papers and objects related to Einstein in the
world and includes his Nobel Prize and the original notes he produced while developing the general theory of relativity in 1916, according to Benyamin Cohen, who is writing a biography of the physicist. “Albert Einstein is an asset, the biggest brand name in the world for intelligence, science and genius,” Israel’s alternate prime minister, Naftali Bennett, said on Saturday, adding that he expects the museum
to become “a pilgrimage site for anyone who wants to become familiar with Einstein, Jewish intelligence, and intelligence in general.” A third of the funding for the museum will come from the Israeli government and the rest from the university and its donors, including art collector Jose Mugrabi. Einstein was one of the earliest and most important champions of Hebrew University, using his profile as one of the world’s leading scientists to raise money for the institution. At a fundraising conference in 1954, a year before his death, he said in a speech that the university would be critical to Israel’s trajectory as a young country. “Israel is the only place on earth where Jews have the possibility to shape public life according to their traditional ideals,” Einstein said. “We are all greatly concerned that its final shape will be worthy and gratifying. To what extent this goal will be reached will depend significantly on the growth and development of the Hebrew University.”
His support for the university and for Israel was so deeply appreciated that Einstein was asked to become the country’s president in 1952, but he declined. After Einstein died in 1955, the Hebrew University inherited his papers, letters, medals and “all other literary property and rights, of any and every kind or nature whatsoever,” per Einstein’s will. The announcement of the Albert Einstein Museum adds to a spate of new and planned museums and other cultural institutions in recent years in Israel, which are being funded to a large extent by philanthropic dollars from Jews living in the United States. In Jerusalem, it will join the new Museum of Tolerance and the nearly completed new home of the National Library of Israel. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv has seen a recent $100 million renovation that created the ANU Museum of the Jewish People, as well as the opening of the Israel Innovation Museum at the Peres Center for Peace and the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.
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Israel Vows ‘Diplomatic War’ Over Booking.com Plan To Add Safety Warnings To West Bank Listings By Andrew Lapin
Housing in the Jewish settlements of Nokdim and Kfar Eldad, in the West Bank, September 11, 2022. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)
(JTA) – Israel’s tourism minister has threatened a “diplomatic war” with travel site Booking.com over the company’s decision this week to display a safety warning on any listings in Israeli-controlled territories in the West Bank. A Booking.com spokesperson told the Associated Press on Monday the company would implement the warning as a reaction to recent unrest in the region, which
has has included Palestinian attacks on Israeli citizens, attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinians in the West Bank and Israeli military raids in the territory that have resulted in deaths. The company said it planned to display “banners and notifications to customers related to relevant local safety considerations” to let customers know they may be entering “disputed, conflict-affected or
high-risk” areas. The warning banner is like the one the company currently shows for listings in Ukraine, a country at war, Booking.com said. Yoel Razvozov told a local Israeli outlet that the Booking.com decision was “political,” and that the Israeli government was prepared to fight it, according to a Reuters report. He disputed the company’s stated reasoning that areas of the West Bank had become unsafe for travel. “Millions of tourists visit Israel, including this area,” he said, adding that at “the end of the day, there is no problem.” The Palestinian Liberation Organization told Reuters it supported the Booking.com move but said the company “must focus on the colonial settlements of the Israeli occupation.” A Booking.com spokesperson did not respond to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency request for comment. Based in Amsterdam, Booking. com is one of the world’s largest travel booking sites and boasts
more than 28 million listings. The site currently has warningfree listings for lodging in Israeli West Bank cities including Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim (both of which are referred to as “Palestinian Territory, Israeli Settlement”), as well as for lodging in the Golan Heights, which is considered part of Israel only by Israel and the United States because it is outside Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Booking’s row with Israel is reminiscent of a 2018 controversy involving Airbnb, when the travel startup announced it would delist properties from West Bank settlements before reversing its decision in the face of criticism and a lawsuit. The reaction by Razvozov, a former Israeli judo champion from a centrist political party, is also redolent of the Israeli government’s forceful response to Ben & Jerry’s effort to stop selling its ice cream products in the West Bank.
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Israel And Lebanon Sign US-Brokered Maritime Boundaries Deal By Ron Kampeas
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid shakes hands with U.S. negotiator Amos Hochstein at the defense ministry in Tel Aviv, Oct. 27, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom/ Israel Government Press Office)
(JTA) — After years of negotiation and military posturing, Israel and Lebanon signed a U.S.-brokered agreement that establishes maritime boundaries between the countries, allowing each to explore for fossil fuels unthreatened by the prospect of an attack. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, heading into an election next Tues-
day and under fire from his rival, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who says the deal concedes too much, cast the deal as a historic breakthrough. “This is a diplomatic achievement,” Lapid said at the start of the Cabinet meeting which approved the deal. “It is not every day that an enemy country recognizes the State
of Israel, in a written agreement, in view of the international community.” Lebanon has been among Israel’s most implacable enemies for decades, influenced to a large degree by the Hezbollah terrorist militia which holds sway in much of the country. Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, sought to downplay any diplomatic significance to the deal. “Demarcating the southern maritime border is technical work that has no political implications or effects contradicting Lebanon’s foreign policy,” Anadolu news agency quoted him as saying. Hezbollah backs the deal but casts it simply as a means to accelerate development in gas fields that are now under Lebanese sovereignty. Lebanon is currently deep in an economic crisis. The sensitive nature of the agreement was evident in how it was finalized. Officials from both sides met in the Lebanese border town of Naqoura to finalize it, but media was barred from covering the event. Amos Hochstein, the Biden administration offi-
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cial brokering the deal, then traveled to Beirut and Jerusalem to obtain the signed documents from the country’s leaders, each of whom posed with him for photo-ops. Lapid thanked Hochstein and President Joe Biden, who has been criticized by Republicans for pressuring Israel into the deal. Lapid has said there was no pressure and has said the deal is in Israel’s interests. “Amos, I want to thank you and your crew for all the great work — nothing less than great work — in making the deal between us and Lebanon happen,” Lapid said at their meeting. “It wouldn’t have been possible without you and without the support of President Biden who was there for us all the way. His commitment to Israel is deeply appreciated and your commitment to the whole process is deeply appreciated.” Israel is ready to start mining at the Karish gas field south of the boundary, and Lebanon is planning to soon set up mining at its Qana field.
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Across Ukraine, A Somber High Holiday Season Captures How War Has Ravaged A Growing Jewish Community By David Saveliev and Nicholas Bennett
A synagogue built last year at the Babyn Yar memorial site near Kyiv is meant to resemble a pop-up book. It can fold up and open with a winch. (David Saveliev)
KYIV, LVIV and UMAN, Ukraine (JTA) — For some of the tens of thousands of Hasidic pilgrims on their way to the raucous Rosh Hashanah celebrations in Uman, the western city of Lviv acts as a stopover in a long journey to the eastern part of the country from access points in Central and Western Europe. But so far this year, Lviv has enjoyed an unexpectedly vibrant High Holidays season of its own. Rosh Hashanah was celebrated by larger numbers of Jews than usual, from all over Ukraine — many of them taking part in celebrations for the first time ever, according to the head of the city’s Hillel center. “In previous years it was hard to get people to come, but now we don’t have enough seats” for services in the Hillel’s building that fits 50-60 people, said Nataliya Tolok, the head of the local chapter of the organization for young Jewish adults around the world. The change was not spurred on by a natural revitalization of the local community. Rather, the Russian invasion in the east has turned Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine, which sits right next to
the Polish border, into a hub of refugees looking to escape violence. More than seven months into the war, the local Hillel and the only functioning synagogue in town are still distributing tens of thousands of food parcels. They primarily help the local Jewish population but also aid non-Jews in need.
The Brodsky Synagogue in Kyiv is one of the country’s largest, but it is now often empty. (David Saveliev)
“Everybody was solemn and serious” this Rosh Hashanah, said Rabbi Mordechai Bald, the city’s chief rabbi and leader of the Tsori Gilod Synagogue, which had a high turnout on Rosh Hashanah. “We don’t know what is waiting for us in another year, especially here in Ukraine. There’s a fear of another wave of attacks because of the Russian mobilization, this fear just looms over us. This sense of emptiness was tangible. It was so real.” While the Jewish migration to Lviv is symbolic of how the war has displaced so many Ukrainians, High Holiday services there have proven to be outliers in a country that has seen thousands of Jews leave for Israel and elsewhere since February. In the capital Kyiv, which before the war was home to a large and thriving Jewish community, the his-
toric Brodsky Synagogue is now half empty. In winter and spring, it housed hundreds of refugees, but by now many Jews have fled the country. The city’s other synagogues also saw their High Holiday numbers slashed to fractions of the usual. “Now it is quiet, but I know it’s a temporary quiet,” said Rabbi Moshe Azman, who leads the Brodsky synagogue and is one of multiple men to claim the title of Ukraine’s chief rabbi. He added that his synagogue has also spent upwards of $2 million evacuating Jews from all over the country. “Russia mobilized soldiers, but we prepare for the holidays and do what we can, send care packages to Jewish soldiers and so on,” Azman said. “We will do everything to bring people a smile in these hard times.” Despite the somber atmosphere, an event two days after Rosh Hashanah symbolized the warming of Ukraine’s relations with its Jewish population — ties that historically have been fraught with bloodshed. On Thursday, the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory — a government-affiliated body that had been run by controversial nationalist voices from 2015 to 2020 — held an event at Babyn Yar, commemorating the 81st anniversary of the Nazi massacre of over 30,000 Jews there in 1941. The event symbolically tied Jewish suffering in Ukraine with the current war, drawing parallels between the Holocaust and Russia’s invasion. Several religious leaders, including
Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, left, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Sviatoslav Shevchuk, center, and bishop of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine Ahapit Humeniuk, right, attend an interreligious prayer at the Babyn Yar National Historical Memorial Preserve in Kyiv, Sept. 29, 2022. (Pavlo Bagmut / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
The war also hasn’t derailed the work of the Sholom Aleichem Museum in Kyiv — the country’s only public Jewish Museum that studies and preserves Jewish history in Ukraine — according to a See UKRAINE on Page
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Christian Orthodox and Catholic priests, stood alongside Azman. Volodymyr Tylischak, deputy director of the Institute, told JTA that especially during the High Holidays, one can “sense the connection of Ukraine and the Jewish people,” and that he “believed that reconciliation is possible.”
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GlobAl UKRAINE Continued from Page 11 researcher there who wished to remain anonymous over privacy concerns. Despite the war, the work of studying the Jewish community continues “as usual,” he said. “Now we are all united, Jews and non-Jews, in fighting Russia,” he added. There is one spot where Jewish rejoicing commenced almost as normal: Uman, the site of an annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage for thousands of Jews, most of them Orthodox, who travel to the gravesite of the 18th-century sage Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Although the estimated visitor total was down from highs of 40,000 to 50,000 in recent years,
A scene from the Jewish celebration in the street in Uman, Sept. 25, 2022. (David Saveliev)`
before the COVID-19 pandemic, some 25,000 braved the dangers of traveling into a warzone this year.
They were met with heightened security measures and a curfew, among other new rules — which many flouted. While Uman pilgrims are often stereotyped as haredi Orthodox followers of the Breslov Hasidic sect, the small town draws a diverse swath of Jewish visitors. Everyone finds something for themselves in Uman: For some, it is a place of quiet Hasidic learning. For others, like Jacob, a libertarian from Florida who did not give his last name, Uman is like a festival where there’s always music and dancing circles. “This is the Jewish Woodstock,” Jacob told JTA.“I knew I gotta be here.” Many pilgrims arrived weeks in advance, fearing that the borders would once again be shut like in the early days of the COVID pandemic. Since February, there have been no flights to Ukraine, so the Breslovers had to fly to neighboring countries, from where they took grueling and costly bus or taxi rides to Uman. Benyamin, an Orthodox 39-yearold from upstate New York, said that he constantly felt like he was “in a dream” while in Uman. “It’s a country at war with a superpower,
but I wasn’t scared,” he said. When he arrived in Uman, Benyamin raised money by asking for tzedakah from friends and passersby, since he spent his savings on a plane ticket to Moldova. But as he told JTA, “the more trials and tribulations we go through to get to Men line up for free food in Uman’s Uman, the greater is our achieve- Jewish quarter, Sept. 25, 2022. (David Saveliev) ment. I am so happy I spent my spend 2 million hryvnias [roughly Rosh Hashanah here.” $55,000] just on trash management every time the Breslovers come. We also have to pull hundreds of police from all over the region to contain them,” Deputy Mayor Oleh Hanich told JTA. “Have you been to Israel? There is a war there. Here it’s nothing,” Tourists look for souvenirs at a bazaar in Uman. (David Saveliev) said Guy, a tall and dark Israeli who For local officials, Rosh Hasha- has been living in Uman with his nah is seen as a liability, especially daughter for years. Over in Lviv, Tolok is trying to in wartime. “Every time Jews come, they look for a bright spot in dark times. bring bad weather — with their cry- She feels that Ukrainian Jews are ing, their prayers — this is what feeling a sense of solidarity that they say in Uman,” said one of the they haven’t felt in a long time. “It felt more united than norfive heavily armed Ukrainian guards at a checkpoint separating mal,” she said about Rosh Hashathe Jewish quarter of Uman from nah services. “This communal energy feels necessary especially now. the rest of the town. The city council is not too fond Now that there is a war everything feels more sincere and warm.” of the Jewish tourists, either. Noah Frank contributed “We get no help, only words, reporting. from Israel and elsewhere. We
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In London, A Special Needs School Is Rare Meeting Point For Haredi Orthodox And Secular Jews By Cnaan Liphshiz
Students at the Gesher School in London watch a theater show, March 7, 2022. (Cnaan Liphshiz)
LONDON (JTA) — When her son was diagnosed with autism, Ali Sultman was faced with a difficult choice. To give him the Jewish education her family believed in, she could either enroll him at a regular day school that wasn’t set up to accommodate his needs, or she could put him in what was then London’s only Jewish school for children with special needs. But the latter,
Kisharon, catered mostly to children with more severe disabilities than her son faced. “Like many others, we needed a middle option that just didn’t exist at the time,” said Sultman, a 45-year-old mother of three and former insurance executive. So, she and another Modern Orthodox mom whom she had met on a playground in 2013 set about opening a new Jewish school called
Gesher, Hebrew for “bridge.” Since its opening in 2017, the school has filled a gap in London’s otherwise robust array of Jewish education options — and in doing so, it has emerged as a rare hub of interaction among Jewish families of vastly different religious observance. Gesher has students from insular haredi Orthodox communities who normally never consider non-haredi yeshivas, and it also enrolls children from secular homes. The school aims to make everyone comfortable by committing to a Modern Orthodox approach. “Haredi communities are very protective of outside influences. You wouldn’t find haredi Jews with other Jews,” said Josh Aronson, a Manchester-based Jewish journalist and activist for people with disabilities who comes from a haredi home and has an autism spectrum disorder. “Maybe at restaurants they’ll be sitting at separate tables but the children especially don’t mix. So, a place like Gesher is very,
very rare.” A boutique school of about 50 students ages 4-12 in northwest London, Gesher is in some ways a testament to the shortcomings of London’s Jewish day schools. Many of them cannot adequately serve students with autism, attention disorders and other learning disabilities. But the school also adds to an increasing number of programs that suggest the Jewish education sector is taking special education more seriously. Like Shefa, a Jewish school founded in 2014 in New York City that serves children with language disorders, Gesher aims to ensure that children don’t have to give up Jewish education to have their disabilities addressed. Housed on the grounds of the recently closed Moriah Jewish Day School, Gesher has inherited a spacious location complete with play See LONDON on Page
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Global LONDON Continued from Page 13 rooms and a large auditorium, as well as a formidable security arrangement that is characteristic of Jewish schools in much of the world amid rising reports of antisemitic crimes. The new building to which the school moved in 2020 is a major upgrade to the small, one-story building where the school first opened. “It’s roomy but it looks like a normal school, which helps create a feeling of normalcy that many of our students need,” said Tamaryn Yartu, the school’s South Africaborn principal who, like many of the educators on staff, is not Jewish. One of her students, she recalled, recently said proudly that Gesher “looks just like my brother’s school” after the move into the new building. But there are some special adaptations at Gesher’s classrooms. Wobble cushions, for example, are never too far away, and chairs have rubber bands on their legs — a setup developed at the school to accommodate fidgeting and to help children with ADHD and similar issues sit through classes. There is also often some animal at Gesher — usually a dog — that volunteers and staff bring for the children to interact with as a form of therapy. The school’s website lists one canine staffer: a trainee therapy cockapoo named Puplinda Gurney. During a recent show, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” a production that’s part of the Spoek Ivrit theater festival for British Jewish
school organized the the United Kingdom branch of the Jewish National Fund, or JNF, children who found it difficult to sit through a play were allowed to “chill out,” as one teacher termed it, in a seating area until they were ready to return. When a child was being too disruptive, a teacher escorted the student out to one of the school’s multiple play corners. One girl was wearing “ear defenders,” or muting headphones meant to alleviate her sensitivity to noises. The Israeli actors in the show were made aware that Gesher is a special needs school and adapted the show so that children in the audience would be engaged — they were encouraged to shout out answers to the question raised by the actors — but not put on the spot. Shows and other special class events are an opportunity to find middle ground “between children of different backgrounds, like the ones at Gesher,” Samuel Hayek, the chairman of JNF-UK, told JTA. “These events are inclusive, empowering and having Gesher take part was a must for us,” Hayek said. The school has made a difference in the life of many of its students and their parents, including Ali Durban, the cofounder whose chance encounter with Sultman on a London playground resulted in Gesher’s creation. Durban’s son was “miserable” at the Jewish school that he had attended before Gesher’s creation in 2017, she said. “He was isolated
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A teacher soothes a student during a theater show at the Gesher School in London, March 7, 2022. (Cnaan Liphshiz)
socially” in his class, where there was only one other child with special needs. “He was bullied because he was different and the experience left a mark on him,” Durban added. She calls her son’s time in school before Gesher “the dark years.” Gesher is a private school and charges about $45,000 a year in tuition. But many of the parents have arranged for the tuition to be reimbursed or to be paid directly by their local council, which in the United Kingdom provides subsidies for special education to those eligible. The school’s program combines a curriculum required by the English education ministry, known as Ofsted; Jewish and Hebrew-language studies; and therapy sessions designed to help the children develop their own techniques for overcoming learning and other disabilities, Yartu said. “Many of the parents are very interested in preparing the children to be able to come to synagogue without being disruptive,” she said. “But being spoken at for an hour is asking a lot from a child with attention issues. It takes a lot of work and preparation.” Gesher’s approach, small classes and abundance of staff — there are almost as many staff as there are students — are appealing to parents beyond the Modern Orthodox community. One such couple is the Feldmans, haredi parents from northern London whose 8-year-old son enrolled at Gesher last January. The child was unhappy at his haredi school, said the mother, who agreed to be identified only by her last name, citing privacy concerns. The couple was paying thousands of dollars for therapy sessions that seemed to only slightly help, she added. But the couple were still reluctant about sending the boy to Gesher, which they felt fell short of meeting their community’s religious standards. “It’s less strictly Orthodox. It
wasn’t like how I was brought up, and it was overwhelming for us,” she said. The haredi school where the Feldmans initially enrolled their son recommended moving him to Gesher and the couple’s rabbi approved the switch, she said. But leaving the haredi education system took some getting used to, she added. “Once we got over that, we realized, like it’s not for us, it’s for our child,” the mother said. “This is what we need to do for the school to be right for him to be happy and confident and you know, be a member of society.” They experienced almost instant relief. “From the first week at Gesher, he’s suddenly become happy. He’s blossomed like I’ve never seen before. He’s so confident, he’s in the classroom, he’s got friends for the first time. Finally he’s in an environment that understands him,” Feldman said. Now, for the first time in their lives, the Feldmans have made friends who are not haredi — a Modern Orthodox couple whose child also goes to Gesher who live near them. “It’s kind of inevitable because it’s a small school and there’s a community of parents around it that we belong to now,“ she said. On the other end of the observance spectrum, Pamela Sneader, a Glasgow-born Jewish mother of two, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that her daughter, Daisy, is going to Gesher “because it’s an excellent special needs school, not because it’s Jewish. That’s just a bonus.” Sneader arrived at Gesher after multiple schools told her they were not equipped to teach her daughter, who is autistic. “I came to Gesher and it was like ‘no problem, we can totally handle it,’ which was a huge relief. My daughter has blossomed there, mostly in terms of confidence and having friends and playdates for the first time in her life,” Sneader said. After visiting Gesher for the first time this year, Aronson, 36, came away wishing such a school had existed when he was growing up. “I was bullied by teachers and students at the regular haredi school I went to,” said Aronson, who has 13 siblings and whose father is a rabbi. “Nobody knew what I had and I desperately needed the kind of support you see at Gesher.” THE
Top 5 Trends In Kosher Travel For 5783 By Rachel Kops
Even people who were not into traveling before COVID are looking to get away for vacation, so be sure to book early. (Shutterstock)
“I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel’s sake.” — Robert Louis Stevenson It doesn’t matter why you travel as long as you are traveling these days. People just want to go somewhere. Anywhere. As long as it is not nowhere. Even people who were not into traveling before COVID are looking to get away for vacation. Being forced to stay home for long periods of time during the pandemic brought out this need in people to travel. “Revenge travel” is the term used to describe this strong desire to travel and make up for what people felt they lost out on during the COVID pandemic. Kosher travelers are no different, as they took to the skies this past summer and are quickly filling up Sukkot and Passover programs. There are many kosher tours, kosher cruises and kosher winter vacations being planned for this year. People are still traveling but the kosher travel landscape is different than what it was five years ago. The effect of COVID on the cost of travel: Travel Trends Influenced by COVID and recent geopolitical developments • Book early: With so many people traveling for business and pleasure, it is imperative to book early. Flights sell out quickly, especially during the holiday and vacation seasons. This is true of hotels as well, depending on the destination. The best advice we can give is for you to plan your vacation as far in advance as possible when there is more availability and you can lock in prices. • Increased cost of travel: Travel costs have gone up over the past THE
year, along with many other goods and services. Providers can charge more money because there is greater demand and people are willing to pay the price. The world is still grappling with supply chain issues and the rising price of oil that has affected many industries. These costs are passed on to the consumer Rising Popularity of Europe and Dubai Strong U.S. dollar vs. weak European currencies (Euro, Sterling Pound, etc.): More people are choosing to vacation in Europe, beyond the typical summer tourist season. Ticket prices are lower than at the height of the summer season, airports are less crowded and the weather is more pleasant. While there are still limited flights to Asia, flight schedules to Europe are back to pre-COVID numbers. • Dubai and the UAE: With the signing of the Abraham Accords, Dubai and the UAE have become a very popular kosher vacation destination for Israelis and also for kosher seeking global travelers. Kosher food is readily available
Since the United Arab Emirates made peace with Israel two years ago, Dubai has become an increasingly popular travel destination for Jews. (Envato)
and the kosher scene continues to grow. With so many exciting sights and activities, it’s no wonder that vacationers have been flocking there for the past year. Travel Insurance: Don’t Leave Home Without It Travel insurance is not a new concept but while many skipped it in the past, that isn’t really an option anymore. Most travelers routinely purchased travel insurance, even before the COVID pandemic. They would purchase insurance for medical issues, expensive items, extreme sports, flight cancellations, lost luggage etc. COVID reminded everyone that it is impossible to know what the future holds and it is best to plan for contingencies. Some countries require tourists to show proof of travel insurance including a policy covering COVID-related illnesses. Most cruises have the same requirement. When joining a Sukkot or Passover program, the tour operators strongly recommend that guests purchase travel insurance.
It is very important to read the fine print to clarify what is covered and what is excluded from the policy. Some policies specifically exclude COVID so you need to be sure to purchase COVID insurance, both for medical and flight changes or cancellation. If you cannot fly home because you get COVID then you want to be covered. The policy should cover hotel, medical expenses and costs to change flights to return home. Many travel insurance agents and Passover program operators recommend getting “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) coverage. This doesn’t reimburse 100% of the costs of your vacation but it’s definitely the best option since it allows you to cancel for reasons not specified in the standard travel insurance contract. Naturally, this coverage is more expensive than your standard travel insurance. Increasing Popularity Of Sukkot Programs Sukkot programs are finally See TRAVEL on Page
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TRAVEL Continued from Page 15
catching on in the Jewish community. The Passover programs industry saw massive growth over the past 20 years, except for the two years affected by the COVID pandemic. However, the Sukkot programs market has only recently begun to gain wide traction. Israel has long been a popular vacation destination for Sukkot, one of the three pilgrimage festivals (along with Passover and Shavuot). Israel will be open for Sukkot 2022, for the first time in two years, and many tourists are expected to take advantage of the opportunity. Sukkot is a long holiday with a lot of meals to prepare and the children on vacation from school. This provides a great opportunity to take a family vacation. By joining a Sukkot program, all meals and religious services are taken care of, as there is a sukkah and minyanim. Many programs also provide child care, lectures and entertainment. Chol hamoed is a great time to tour the area, sit by the beach and enjoy the hotel amenities. There are Sukkot programs in Mexico, Dubai, Morocco, Greece, Italy, Montenegro. Cyprus, Prague, Israel, Tunisia and the USA. Passover Programs Selling Out Fast It might seem like it is too early to be thinking about Pesach but many programs have started filling up. The Passover program industry is coming back strong
after the shock of COVID almost three years ago. Pesach is a holiday that involves a lot of work: cleaning, shopping and cooking, to name a few. Many people prefer to close up their homes and join a Passover program. There are programs to suit a range of budgets, from basic programs to high-end luxury programs. With so many programs to choose from, it is just a matter of doing a bit of research to find the Pesach program to best meet your family’s needs. Last year, Pesach programs sold out early and many programs had waiting lists. There will be more programs this year to accommodate those interested in joining a program but the earlier you book, the better. Pesach programs in the United States have been very popular over the last two years, especially in Florida. Now that all countries have opened up and international travel has returned in full force, there are more programs in more locations. There are Passover programs in Europe, Morocco, Dubai, Mexico, Panama, Caribbean, South Africa and Israel. We expect
Italy is one of the many European countries that now offer kosher Sukkot programs. (Shutterstock)
programs in the Far East this year, for the first time since before COVID. Conclusion The main trend we have seen in kosher travel is that people really want to travel. Whether it is “revenge travel” to make up for what they missed or just seeing new places, people are flying. Airports were packed and flights were booked all summer long. Kosher tours and cruises booked up quickly. Vacationers are willing to pay the higher costs of travel that the industry has seen post COVID. With no sign of slowing down, kosher
travel programs are booking up early. TotallyJewishTravel.com is your one-stop-shop for all your kosher and Jewish travel news and information. Start researching now for your next vacation. This post is sponsored by TotallyJewishTravel.com, a leading provider & resource of kosher travel & Pesach programs online. This is a paid post. JTA’s editorial team had no role in its production. production.
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Arts & Culture
Hulu’s ‘The Patient’ Gets At A Dynamic Rarely Seen On TV: Orthodox-Reform Tensions By Linda Buchwald
Laura Niemi as Beth Strauss and Steve Carell as Alan Strauss in "The Patient." (Suzanne Tenner/FX)
(JTA) — Episode three of “The Patient,” the well-received psychological thriller series on Hulu about a serial killer who kidnaps his therapist, involves a flashback to an Orthodox wedding. Ezra, son of the protagonist therapist Alan Strauss and Reform cantor Beth Strauss, is marrying an Orthodox woman named Chava. Guitar in hand, Beth sings “Dodi Li,” a traditional Jewish wedding
song, knowing that women are not allowed to sing in the presence of men in this Orthodox community. As she performs, some men get up to leave. Ezra and his bride stay but look uncomfortable. The moment gets at the tension that Ezra’s transition out of the Reform lifestyle of his upbringing and into Orthodoxy has wrought within the Strauss family. But the scene was not originally written
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this way. Although the show’s creators Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg are both Jewish, they weren’t aware of the Orthodox prohibition against women singing in front of men and had first written the moment as a nice memory of a mother singing at her son’s wedding. The show’s consultant, Rabbi Menachem Hecht, a teacher at the Modern Orthodox YULA yeshiva high school in Los Angeles, informed the duo of the rule — which thrilled them because they said it made the scene more interesting and complicated. The final product got across the viewpoints of both denominations in a fair way, Hecht said. “There’s definitely a way to run that scene where it just makes Orthodox Jews look anti-women and bigoted,” Hecht said. “The point wasn’t just to make them look bad. It was to show how there could be real tension here.” The scene and the consultation behind it points to the level of Jewishness that Fields and Weisberg wove into the fabric of “The Patient,” which debuted on Aug. 30 and is still releasing weekly episodes on FX on Hulu through the finale on Oct. 25. The pair, who also created the acclaimed Cold War spy drama “The Americans,” have spoken at length about their Jewish backgrounds — Fields as the son of a Reform rabbi and Weisberg as the son of Reform parents who attended a
Conservative Synagogue. In “The Patient,” Alan — played by the non-Jewish Steve Carell, a casting choice they were asked to defend on a press tour — is a widower, having lost his wife Beth (Laura Niemi) to cancer. She was a cantor at a Reform synagogue and their son Ezra (Andrew Leeds) turned to Orthodox Judaism in college, a path that his parents didn’t understand. A deranged new patient named Sam (Domhnall Gleeson) kidnaps Alan in an attempt to cure his own murderous impulses. Part of Alan’s work with Sam is getting him to understand other viewpoints — just because someone says something that Sam doesn’t like or perceives as rude, it doesn’t mean they deserve to die. “I think on some level consciously and on some level unconsciously, we were dealing with general and specific themes of intolerance, and it seemed interesting to explore the challenges of differences that from the outside might seem relatively small but from the inside seem like a chasm,” Fields told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Fields and Weisberg don’t spend screen time educating the viewer on the intricacies of Orthodox practice that show up in the series. In another scene, Ezra, his sister and their families are having dinner at Alan and Beth’s house. Beth serves her See HULU on Page
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Arts & Culture HULU Continued from Page 17 daughter’s children ice cream as Ezra’s children look on, unable to partake, eating food they brought in Tupperware. The entire scene is less than a minute long, so the audience needs to understand quickly what is happening. “We are not believers in exposition. We don’t want to spell it out. We used to joke on ‘The Americans’ that ‘who could understand this? We barely understand this.’ Nobody’s going to understand it, but as long as they feel it, that’s what’s good,” Weisberg said.
Fields and Weisberg worked with the production design and set decorating team to ensure that all the details were right, such as paper plates for Ezra’s family, who could not eat on the dishes that are normally used to serve unkosher food. Though Beth’s actions in that scene might seem cruel to some, they fit the character of a woman who devoted her life to Reform Judaism. Reform Rabbi Robyn Frisch, of Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai in Philadelphia, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that when her son turned to Orthodox Judaism at age
16, she felt rejected at first. “We raised our kids we thought with this meaningful Jewish life. He never said it straight out, but there clearly things we did that were not what he wanted,” Frisch said. She said her work with interfaith couples as the director of the Rukin Rabbinic Fellowship for 18Doors — a national nonprofit organization that helps interfaith couples and families — helped her eventually accept her son’s choices. She added that she wants to start a nonprofit like 18Doors for families with children who become Orthodox, to help them through the challenges and blessings of such a change. “To be a Jew in America is to know a bunch of people who have gone through similar iterations of this sort of family dynamics,” Fields said. In addition to the family divides, Judaism plays an important role in other aspects of the story. In one episode, Alan dreams of himself in the barracks of Auschwitz. “It seemed obvious to us that a Jewish person locked in a guy’s basement facing death as Alan Strauss was would associate with that imagery,” said Weisberg. “We grew up with that imagery and that history really infused in our lives, in synagogue, in Sunday school, in our regular schools, and at home. Anybody tries to kill me, I’m going there.”
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As Alan tries to teach Sam about empathy, so that he can start thinking of his victims as people and consider what their families need, he talks about Jewish rituals associated with death, including the Mourner’s Kaddish. The episode released this Tuesday is titled “Kaddish,” for the prayer that holds significant meaning to Fields and Weisberg. “I remember my dad telling me about the Kaddish when I was very young. It’s not like he sat down and explained prayers to me, but I remember him saying that it was a prayer that began as students giving thanks for their teachers, and then it became something that we said to give thanks for everybody, for those who meant something to us in life,” said Fields. “And it was a prayer of thanks, not a prayer of loss, and that always stuck with me.” Fields and Weisberg recorded versions of the prayer for Carell, who had to recite it in its entirety in the show. “I loved being able to assure him that he sounded great when he was saying it, because in any American congregation, it’s not like there’s the right way,” Weisberg said. “Every Jew is saying it differently and pronouncing all the words differently, so he sounded a lot like me and everybody else I knew.” When the pair first reached out to Hecht, he assumed that the main plot of the show revolved around Jewish themes. “They put so much thought into it and so many resources into this Orthodox story, and I figured that was the show. And then when I finally saw the script I was like, ‘Wait, this isn’t the show at all, this is like a minute and a half of the show across the whole season,’” Hecht said. “I just thought this speaks to who these folks are who are putting this together and the degree to which they’re approaching this with a sense of respect and with seriousness and with rigor.” Fields said it was a product of how deep their Jewish identities run. “It’s been really meaningful to be able to tell a story that we hope is relatable to everybody, that we hope ultimately is about everyone’s common humanity and common experience, but is expressed through particular character dynamics that are just deep inside us culturally,” he said. “One doesn’t often get the chance to do that, so it means a lot.” THE
Arts & Culture
In ‘Last Flight Home,’ A Jewish Family Helps Their Father End His Life By Andrew Lapin
Ondi Timoner and her father Eli Timoner in "Last Flight Home," Ondi's film about Eli's assisted suicide. (MTV Documentary Films)
(JTA) – When Rabbi Rachel Timoner’s dad Eli told his family of his decision to end his life, Rachel knew what would soon be asked of her: to officiate his funeral, something he had told her he wanted since she became ordained. This presented a challenge for Rachel, the senior rabbi at Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim. Being her father’s rabbi “wasn’t what I wanted,” she says in the new documentary, “Last Flight Home,” which chronicles Eli’s final days from the perspective of his family. The film, directed by Rachel’s sister Ondi Timoner, is a raw, intimate document of the realities of end-oflife care, as well as a meditation on the ways Jewish law encourages setting one’s affairs in order before the moment of death. A former airline executive and prolific fundraiser for Miami’s Jewish federation, Eli Timoner was felled by a stroke in his 50s and spent 40 years of his life with a physical disability — the first in a series of painful steps that led to
him losing much of his wealth and stature in the business and philanthropy world. (He suffered his stroke a few months after a plane operated by his airline, Air Florida, crashed into the Potomac River, killing 78 people; the film doesn’t discuss the crash, but January, one week before its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, marked 40 years since it happened.) When Eli’s health began to get markedly worse in 2020, he began to insist that he end his own life and began the legal process by which he could acquire the lethal medication in California. “He made a sudden decision, and he was very adamant about it,” Ondi Timoner told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “He would go from calling one of us to the next, to the next: ‘Please, help me die. If you love me, help me die.’ He was saying the Shema to Rachel.” Ondi’s first instinct, she said, was to grab a camera. As a prolific director, her documentaries (including “We Live In Public” and “Com-
ing Clean”) have won awards at the Sundance Film Festival. But at first, she didn’t think she was filming anything more than a memorial video, and only wanted “to bottle up and capture his personality, his voice, for the family.” So she filmed gatherings even as she grieved along with her subjects (including her dutiful mother Lisa and apprehensive brother David), who often pop out from behind the camera to share a tender moment — or even attempt to “direct” a scene. It was only in the months after Eli’s death, as Ondi was editing the footage and seeing the gut reaction her friends and family had to watching someone in pain make the decision to end his own life, that she decided to try to turn it into a feature film. The film chronicles the two weeks in early 2021 before Eli takes the “goodbye powder,” as a series of doctors sign off on his death and he bids farewell to his family and friends from the comfort
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of his Pasadena home, where he is on bedrest. It also depicts the “T-team,” as the Timoners call themselves, helping Eli go through the traditional Jewish end-of-life ritual of viddui, or seeking forgiveness for one’s sins before death. Later, after his death, we also see them performing the act of tahara, or cleaning his body for burial. “I’m more of just a generally spiritual person, but it was these rituals. They were like touchstones for us,” Ondi said. During the process, Rachel finds herself less and less willing to be her father’s rabbi. “As he’s getting closer and closer to death, I am more and more clear that I am his daughter,” she says in the film. But there was a happy coda after all the grief, Ondi said. Six months after Eli’s death, the “T-team” reunited at the Telluride Film Festival to screen the documentary — where Rachel, in her capacity as
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Filmmaker Ondi Timoner, second from right, marries her partner Morgan Doctor in Telluride, Colorado, in September 2022 following a screening of “Last Flight Home,” a film about her father’s death. Her sister, Rabbi Rachel Timoner, center, officiates. (Courtesy of Ondi Timoner)
LAST FLIGHT HOME Continued from Page 19 rabbi, officiated Ondi’s wedding to her partner, Morgan Doctor, who composed the music in the film. “It was the most perfect hour of our lives,” Ondi said. She recalled how Eli had blessed their union on camera, on his deathbed (a moment that made it into the film). Now they were getting married at an event celebrating his life, under a makeshift huppah that included a tablecloth from Eli’s mother, with
the entire family present once again. “If you think about the film, and you think about what Dad says to me the night before he dies: I say, ‘So wasn’t it important to say goodbye to all these people?’ And he says, ‘Yes, but look forward. Don’t look back,’” Ondi recalled. “And I feel like that was the energy that this occasion brought.” For a Jewish family that was never particularly spiritual growing
up, Ondi said, their patriarch dying brought everyone, including Eli, closer to Judaism. That was true even though “Last Flight Home” captures the Timoners helping someone end his life, which is emphatically discouraged by Jewish law and tradition. The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical arm of the Reform movement that includes Rachel Timoner, announced in August that it would support Canada’s laws permitting medical aid in dying. It said it would not support California’s law, which the Timoners relied on, because America’s lack of universal healthcare “means that we cannot be certain that an individual in the U.S. considering medical assistance in dying is not being affected by their own or their family’s financial situation, or by obstacles to obtaining necessary and appropriate treatment.” Though Rachel Timoner is a prominent activist on a range of social issues, she didn’t anticipate end-of-life care being one of them. But knowing how the image of a rabbi paying for her father’s lifeending drugs on film would seem to the Jewish community, she wrote
an op-ed in the Forward prior to the movie’s release explaining her decision. “I do not wish to create controversy on this issue, and I would not have chosen to make this film,” Rachel Timoner wrote. “I would not have chosen for my father’s death to be viewed by the public at all, and I would not have chosen to champion this issue. But I have cared for others who desperately wished for this choice at the end of their lives, and I think it might be time for the Jewish people to reconsider our views on this important matter.” Now there’s a good chance “Last Flight Home,” and the Timoners’ story, will become a Jewish face of the right-to-die debate. Death With Dignity, an organization that advocates for policies allowing medically aided death, reached out to Ondi Timoner after the film’s screening to ask if they can use it in their own materials. It’s a prospect she welcomes, she said, adding, “It’s a dream for me as an artist, and as a daughter, that my father’s suffering could come to this kind of healing for people.”
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Documentary ‘Four Winters’ Recounts The Hell And Fury Of Jewish Partisans Who Fought The Nazis By Andrew Lapin
Jewish partisans shown in the documentary "Four Winters." (New Moon Films)
(JTA) — In 1944, Faye Schulman, a young Jewish partisan, emerged from the forest into her hometown of Lenin, Poland, on a mission to burn houses the Nazis were using as their wartime offices. One of those houses, she soon discovered, was her own. As she wandered through her childhood home, she spied an old potato peeler still on the floor. Schulman thought of the rest of her family — already murdered by the Nazis by that point — and realized, even if she survived the war herself, that she would never be able to live in that house again. “Burn it,” she told her fellow partisans. She lit the match herself.
Then she posed for a photograph among the ashes. The new documentary “Four Winters” is full of riveting accounts like Schulman’s. Written and directed by Julia Mintz, the film recounts the story of several Jewish partisans: women and men from the ghettos who escaped Nazi roundups to the concentration camps, fled to the woods of Eastern Europe and carried out guerilla attacks on Nazis and their collaborators for the remainder of the war. It’s told in an oral history style, with eight former partisans sharing their accounts of wartime survival, accompanied by some remarkable archival images of the partisans in action (Schulman was a photographer). The sight of these Jews huddling together in the woods in winter, men and women alike armed with repatriated Nazi weapons and fed with stolen food, makes for a potent rejoinder against partisan Michael Stoll’s comment, early in the film, that “Jews have a reputation” for not being “fighters.”
The film explains that there were more than 25,000 partisans who fought the Nazis from the forest during the war. On camera they’re a hardened sort, as you might imagine, having survived brutal conditions without adequate supplies while carrying out several successful operations. (The documentary takes its title from how the partisans measured time, the winters being the most difficult stretches.) Interviewee’s recount stealing food and supplies from farmers and rural villagers on the outskirts of the Nazi strongholds, taking rations meant as offerings to the occupiers even knowing that, by doing so, they were likely dooming the residents to harm at the Nazis’ hands. They also tell Mintz they don’t like to think of themselves as brave — more that, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt’s famous quote, they had bravery thrust upon them, because they couldn’t allow themselves to be carted away to die without a fight. It can be painful to hear their accounts of, for example, leaping from a
moving train bound for the Treblinka concentration camp after failing to convince the other passengers, who knew they were being carried to their deaths, to jump with them. Mintz largely trusts her subjects to carry the film themselves, though she occasionally dresses things up with stylish techniques: modern drone footage of the forests, or cross-cutting between a particularly gripping account and stock footage to heighten the tension. But her focus on the storytelling reveals something else. Holocaust stories, rightly or wrongly, routinely portray Jews as defenseless victims — not as gutsy combatants capable of stabbing Nazis to death with makeshift knives so as not to waste precious bullets. With its attention to these and other grisly details of combat and survival, “Four Winters” ultimately feels like a kind of Holocaust counter-narrative, a rebuke to the hundreds of stories of Jews who, the stories often imply, simply allowed themselves to die.
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The Jewish History Of Candy Cigarettes By Ally Sass
Photo Credit Ally Sass
This retro candy has a surprising Jewish legacy behind it.
While visiting Provincetown, Massachusetts, I make my way to the Penny Patch, a store that has been a vendor of vintage candies since 1956. In the large plastic bins, one can find retro sweets such as wax bottles, candy dots and — to my surprise — candy cigarettes. I spot a box of “Lucky Lights” and am caught off guard by how much
the confection resembles the real thing. I buy a pack. Inside the box are 24 white candy sticks of gum, loosely resembling cigarettes. While perhaps a little controversial, the novelty candy is nostalgic and, let’s face it, pretty fun. I had the chance to chat with Drew Cohen, Vice President of World Confections, Inc., who let me in on the surprising Jewish history of the candy. “My grandfather, Sam Cohen, and his brother, Leon Cohen, built the World Confections factory in 1952 in Brooklyn, NY.” World Confections, Inc., is the vendor responsible for just about every box of the white candy sticks you see on the market today. And yes, the candies were never advertised as “cigarettes” — in fact, “sticks” was the preferred term. “My grandfather and his brother had both served in World War II,” Cohen tells me. “When they returned, they founded this company together. They were both proud Jewish men and first-generation Americans. Our family is 100% Jewish.”
When I ask Cohen if there was ever an attempt to conceal that the product was really supposed to be mock cigarettes, Cohen tells me, “They weren’t concealing anything. The idea behind the candy sticks was it worked as it fit into different brands. At one point we had a product called dinosaur bones, shaped to look like dinosaur bones, and that’s how they marketed it. At one point, they had licensing to feature certain cartoon characters on their containers.” I ask Cohen what he feels is inherently Jewish about this legacy. “They were first generation Jewish men, enterprising. Everything about this is Jewish. From the work ethic, to the way that they were raised. To the
families that they raised.” “Originally, the product was sold domestically. Now that the company is in its third generation and my brother and I have taken it over, we make many other products. We make mints, powder and pressed candy. Carrying on the company legacy is extremely important, not only to my brother and I, but to our entire family. I know our grandfather would be proud to see it growing into the next generation and thriving in a competitive global market. If you happen to be in Brooklyn, NY, make sure to visit the the original factory, on 30th Street between 4th and 5th Avenue in Sunset Park. And if ever you find yourself in a retro candy shop like I did, be on the lookout for “Victory’s,” King’s” or “Lucky Lights.” You’ll be transported back to a time of fun, novelty and nostalgia.
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The Surprising History Of Pepperidge Farm’s Jewish Rye Bread By Joanna O'leary
This hearty classic has become an indelible staple among Jewish kitchens and delis alike.
Jewish rye “party bread,” once sold seasonally by Pepperidge Farm in the late 1980s early ’90s is most easily remembered by its uniquely small size. The tiny squares offered the perfect base for hors d’oeuvres, while also delivering that signature rye taste. Although Pepperidge Farms no longer vends the mini “party-size” style loaf, the company does still include “Jewish Rye & Pumpernickel Deli Swirl” bread among its regular offerings. What is noteworthy about this particular item is not so much the novel combination of rye and pumpernickel swirled together, but rather that in the age of politically correct packaging, Pepperidge Farm would continue to explicitly label the bread as “Jewish.” Not that the association (while based on a stereotype) is completely unfounded. During the 19th century, Jewish immigrants from Northern and Eastern Europe, especially those hailing from poor shtetls, brought their familiar style of bread with them. As intrepid baker and culinary historian Amy Emberling of Zingerman’s Bakehouse deftly explains, “the poorer the community, the darker the bread.” The bread of these humble immigrants was often made with mostly rye flour, a little wheat, and maybe some seeds for texture. Many Jews used roshtshine, a sour rye starter as the base for their bread, then glazed the loaves with a mixture of sifted rye flour and water called kharmushke before baking them in the oven. This savory glaze imparted a nutty flavor and gave the rye bread its signature crinkly surface crust. In the New World, Jews continued to practice these techniques while making bread for their families and then eventually extending production of such loaves as they opened bakeries, delis and factories. Thus, the indelible edible link between Jews and rye bread was forged. I reached out to the master bakers at Pepperidge Farm to follow the trail THE
of crumbs with regards to the origin of their rye bread. I discovered tear Pepperidge Farm has a long history of offering hearty carbohydrates, because its founder, Margaret Rudkin, was an early adopter of wholegrain baking. In 1926, Rudkin and her husband purchased over 100 acres of land (which they called “Pepperidge Farm” due the pepperidge tree on site), where they raised animals. It was during this time Margaret began experimenting with different types of bread. The story goes that following a conversation with her son’s allergist regarding the healthful benefits of stone-ground wheat flour, she switched to baking exclusively with grain flours, eschewing other more mainstream processed ones. Her baking business developed over the decades into the company we know now as Pepperidge Farm. Rudkin, a seminal American female entrepreneur in her own right, went on to become its leader as well as the first female board member of the Campbell’s Soup corporation following its purchase of Pepperidge Farm in 1961. Although Pepperidge Farm became famous for some of America’s most beloved snacks and confections (e.g., Goldfish crackers, Milano cookies), their bread remains, well, the company’s bread and butter. The rye-pumpernickel hybrid has been part of its carbohydrate clan since
1999, and according to corporate leadership, continues to be specifically labeled as “Jewish” because of its kosher status. It has always been very popular, though in recent years has seen some unprecedented growth in a surprising demographic: millennials! It seems the young folk have become quite smitten with the swirled
starch. The bread serves as the accoutrement of choice for traditional Jewish fare like the reuben sandwich and chopped liver; other more novel deployments include French toast and croutons. However, you slice it, Pepperidge Farm Jewish rye bread is edible nostalgia and deserves a spot in any kitchen larder.
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Try This Holocaust Survivor’s Beloved Honey Cake Recipe By Ruth Webber • ½ cup sliced almonds • 3½ cups plus 1-2 teaspoons • all-purpose flour • 1¼ cups packed brown sugar • 4 eggs • 1 tsp baking powder • 1 tsp baking soda • ¼ tsp salt • ¼ tsp ground cloves • ½ tsp ground ginger This decadent honey cake will be your new favorite.
This honey cake represents not only tradition and renewal in the New Year, but the endurance of survivors. Holocaust survivor Ruth Webber crafts this dessert with rich ingredients like brandy, almonds and brewed coffee. This decadent honey cake will be your new Rosh Hashanah standard. This recipe is reprinted with permission from “Honey Cake & Latkes: Recipes from the Old World by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Survivors.”
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• ¼ tsp ground nutmeg • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
INGREDIENTS • ½ cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pans
• 1 Tbsp orange zest
DIRECTIONS Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease two 5-by-9-inch loaf pans and line • 1 cup strong brewed coffee them with wax paper, then grease • ½ cup dried cherries, cut into the paper. small pieces (If you don’t have In a saucepan, bring the honey cherries, you use something and coffee to a boil; set aside to else and improvise. What can I cool. tell you!) Soak the dried cherries in the • 3 Tbsp brandy brandy for about 30 minutes, then • 1½ cups honey
drain. In a small bowl, mix the almonds and cherries with 1 to 2 tsp flour to coat (this prevents them from sinking to the bottom of the cake). In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend ½ cup oil, sugar, and eggs. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining 3½ cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir the dry ingredients into the mixer alternately with the coffee mixture until smooth. Fold in the almondcherry mixture and orange zest. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a rich golden brown. Do not remove. Turn off the oven and leave the cakes in the oven to gradually cool for at least 10 minutes, to prevent them from caving. Continue the cooling for another 15 minutes out of the oven. Run a knife around the inside of the pan, then put a plate over the pan and flip it over. Slice and serve.
Jews And The Occult: 5 Myth-Busting Insights From A NYC Museum Exhibit
Focus Issues on
By Emily Jaeger
Steve Marcus' "Consequences," left, and Maxine Hess' "The Slap," are two of the 50-plus artworks on view at the current exhibit at the Dr. Bernard Heller Museum at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. (Courtesy of the artists)
(New York Jewish Week) — If you take the Torah’s word for it — not to mention generations of rabbinical literature — astrology, witchcraft, ghost-busting and the like are expressly forbidden in Judaism, and have no place in Jewish practice or culture. And yet, as the current exhibit at the Dr. Bernard Heller Museum at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion highlights, the occult has always been an integral part of Judaism — and continues to be today. “In every civilization there’s evidence of belief in superstition, mystical characters that can both protect and harm or rituals that can ward off evil,” Jeanie Rosensaft, the museum’s director, told the New York Jewish Week. “It’s just a fascinating thing, and we wanted to investigate.” For the exhibit “Magical Thinking: Superstitions and Other Persistent Notions,” Rosensaft and her curatorial team put out an open call to hundreds of contemporary Jewish artists for artwork exploring Jewish superstitions. The result showcases the work of more than 50 artists in a range of mediums — including oils, watercolors, acrylics, collage, paper cuts, multimedia and photographs. From hamsas to “the menstrual slap,” the artworks grapple intimately with Jewish practices that have been both painstakingly preserved across the generations and, at the same time, discounted as merely “old wives’ tales.” Taken as a whole, however, the aesthetic diversity of the pieces reflect the complicated reality of Jewish tradition: encompassing many varying and sometimes opposing perspectives that nonetheTHE
less remain in conversation. Inspired by the exhibit, which is on view through Jan. 5, 2023, the New York Jewish Week chatted with Rosensaft, participating artists and other scholars in the field of Jewish material culture and demonology about the place of the occult in Jewish culture, both past and present. They helped us debunk five critical misconceptions. 1. The occult has no place in Judaism. One of Rosensaft’s favorite quotes from the 13th-century Sefer Chasidim — an ethical and legal guide to Jewish daily life in medieval Germany — perhaps best encapsulates Judaism’s true approach to the occult: “One should not believe in superstitions, but still it is best to be heedful of them.” In other words, just because the Torah prohibits belief and participation in the occult, that doesn’t mean that you should look a gift golem in the mouth. According to Sara Ronis, author of the recent book “Demons in the Details: Demonic Discourse and Rabbinic Law in Late Antique Babylonia,” the supernatural has actually long been a meaningful and powerful element of Jewish life. “Many Ashkenazi Jews today have an understanding of Judaism as highly rational, scientific and spiritual more than material,” she told the New York Jewish Week. “That understanding emerges out of particular conditions of 19th-century western Europe, and is an important part of Jewish history. But it’s not the only part.” “[Even] the rabbis of the Talmud recognized that the world was filled with phenomena beyond their understanding,” she added, “and demons and other intermediary beings play important roles in rabbinic narrative and law.” The truth is, from the first mention of the demon Lilith in the Book of Isaiah to the red strings sold at the Western Wall today — presumably to ward off ayin hara, or the evil eye — the occult has a long history in Judaism. 2. Jewish superstitions are just old wives’ tales. PSA: Old wives’ tales — bubba meises, as they are known in Yid-
dish — are a derogatory term for the carefully preserved and transmitted traditions and material culture of Jewish women (you know, half of all Jews).
Claire Jeanine Satin’s mixed-media work, “Hamsa,” is one of many on view at the exhibit “Magical Thinking: Superstitions and Other Persistent Notions.” (Courtesy of the artist)
These customs and traditions — preserved and transmitted from one generation to the next over the course of centuries — are actually very significant. From this perspective, a hand-shaped hamsa amulet could hold the same religious significance as a kiddush cup or prayer book. According to Noam Sienna,
author of “A Rainbow Thread: An Anthology of Queer Jewish Texts From the First Century to 1969,” “reading” objects (aka examining Jewish material culture) in addition to Jewish texts is crucial to painting an inclusive image of Jewish tradition. “Reading objects is a way of giving voice to subjects perhaps otherwise denied the ability to speak through the textual tradition — women, artisans, farmers, practitioners of folk magic — and making room for experiences and perspectives not expressed by the literary record,” he said. The hamsa, as well as other amulets and incantation bowls, are also deeply tied to that textual tradition: “For a Maghrebi [North African] Jewish viewer, the hamsa hand conjures up a dense web of Biblical and rabbinic associations all centering around the twin concepts of See OCCULT on Page
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OCCULT Continued from Page 27 protection and blessing — warding off bad energy and attracting good energy,” Sienna said. 3. If you have a tattoo, you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery. While many are quick to dismiss the role of superstition in Jewish practice and tradition, the opposite can also occur: Sometimes a superstition becomes so embedded in Jewish culture and imagination that it’s mistaken for fact. When illustrator Steve Marcus received the exhibit prompt, he immediately thought of the widespread belief that tattooed Jews could not be buried in a Jewish cemetery. That’s what inspired his piece in the exhibition, “Consequences,” which depicts a heavily
tattooed man in a kippah, crying. The truth is, while the Torah does include a proscription against tattoos (Leviticus 19:28 states: “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the LORD”), it does not actually prevent Jews from being buried with their community. “The misconceptions I wanted to convey in this piece are beyond superstition,” Marcus told the New York Jewish Week. “No matter what kind of Jew one is and what choices they have made, they are Jewish. They are Jewish regardless of race, whether they’re kosher or shomer Shabbat or if they are tattooed or not.” 4. Jews can’t have baby showers. Many of the items in the exhibit relate to Jewish superstitions about
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Deborah Ugoritz’s “Bubba Meises” is one of the many works on view as part of “Magical Thinking: Superstitions and Other Persistent Notions.” (Courtesy of the artist)
childbirth, a potentially dangerous moment in the lives of parents and babies. Like the misconceptions around tattoos, many of the Jewish superstitions related to childbirth — such as the Jewish aversion to baby showers — have been widely accepted as law. Actually, this practice stems from the superstition that making a fuss over the unborn child might provoke the evil eye. Deborah Ugoritz’s collage “Bubba Meises” combines the traditional elements of a Jewish birth amulet (intended to protect a mother and her newborn from the demon Lilith, who might take the child away), but also adjusts the tradition to a contemporary setting. “Ugoritz celebrates the role of women as artists and activists and includes the name of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, calling upon her as a kind of protective force for our present, for our future,” said Rosensaft. While Ugoritz said she doesn’t believe in these Jewish superstitions, she does believe in their transmission — she didn’t have a baby shower either. “I am not religious,” she said. “I don’t believe in superstition, but it can’t hurt. I feel like I’m honoring my parents so I continue the traditions.”
5. This exhibit caused the COVID-19 pandemic. Rosensaft was working on the catalog for “Magical Thinking: Superstitions and Other Persistent Notions,” when the pandemic hit. Originally set to open in May 2020, the museum postponed the show because of COVID-19 until fall of 2022 — next in line after an exhibit honoring the 50th anniversary of female rabbinical ordination. Which sort of makes us wonder: Just like the infamous hoard of mummies excavated in Saqqara in 2020 had some wondering if the curse of the Pharaohs had something to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, did this exhibit accidentally attract the evil eye? Rosensaft argued that perhaps the opposite is true: the pandemic has actually reignited our relationship with the occult. “I think that the experience with COVID has made it clear to us that there are limits to human understanding,” she said. “Human beings want to find meaning or solutions, or remedies for the things that are literally plaguing us. And I do believe there is this undercurrent of superstition, a belief in magical thinking. Humanity longs for a sense of protection and safety.” That “Magical Thinking” ended up perfectly aligned with this societal sentiment — not to mention the current season to be spooky — was just a lucky coincidence. “Magical Thinking: Superstitions and Other Persistent Notions,” is on view at the Dr. Bernard Heller Museum at Hebrew Union CollegeJewish Institute of Religion, 1 West 4th St., through Jan. 5, 2023.
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‘We Must Speak To The Zionist Lobby’: Mahmoud Abbas Urges Palestinian Americans To Engage With AIPAC By Ron Kampeas
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, Sept. 23, 2022. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
(JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has emphatically encouraged dialogue with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, despite his disagreements with the center-right proIsrael lobby and calls among the pro-Palestinian community to disengage from the group. In a recording of his meeting last month with Palestinian Americans on the sidelines of the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York City obtained by The Times of Israel, Abbas also faulted the current Biden administration for not doing enough to pressure Israel into reopening Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. “You must talk to everyone in order to arrive at your goal … You must not exclude anyone … including the Zionist lobby,” Abbas said. “There are many people who say that the Zionist lobby is the most dangerous. No! We must speak to the Zionist lobby.” He added that George Mitchell, the former Maine senator who led negotiations with the Israelis and the Palestinians in the first Obama administration term, told Abbas not to meet with AIPAC. Mitchell denied that narrative in a statement to The Times of Israel. “President Abbas’ recollection is incorrect as to me. I don’t know about his conversations with others, but I can state categorically that there never was any such conversation with me,” Mitchell wrote. Abbas’ endorsement of engagement with AIPAC is significant as calls from the left and among pro-Palestinians to boycott and disengage from the group grow louder — in part because it is friendly with Republicans who are close to former President Donald Trump and in part because it was seen as an enabler of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who largely abandoned the Israeli-Palestinian peace process over the course of his tenure. THE
Abbas said J Street, the Jewish Middle East policy lobby set up as a dovish counterweight to AIPAC, was “nice,” but he emphasized that it was important to reach out to the predominant voices, noting that he prioritized meetings with Netanyahu’s Likud Party and has also maintained outreach to U.S. Republicans, who are among the Palestinian Authority’s fiercest critics. Hussein al-Sheikh, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, an affiliate of the Palestinian Authority, as recently as Sept. 13 met with an AIPAC del-
egation and posted about it on Twitter. The Trump administration cut off all funding to the Palestinians, shut down the PLO’s Washington office and closed the U.S. consulate in eastern Jerusalem that attended to the Palestinians. President Joe Biden has restored funding, reestablished dedicated diplomatic relations with the Palestinians and hopes to reopen the Washington office. Abbas told the Palestinian Americans that See LOBBY on Page
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Orthodox Jewish Groups Are Joining An Evangelical Christian Mailman’s Supreme Court Case By Ron Kampeas
Stock photo of the U.S. Supreme Court. (Joe Daniel Price/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (JTA) — A number of Orthodox Jewish groups are filing friend of the court briefs on behalf of an evangelical Christian postal worker who is taking his case to get Sundays off to the Supreme Court. The case, Groff v. DeJoy, seeks to expand the standard the Supreme Court set in a 1977 ruling regarding what constituted “undue hardship” to an employer in providing religious accommodation. Five years earlier, Congress had expanded the 1964 Civil Rights Act to guarantee freedom from discrimination based on religion, as long as employers would not face “undue hardship.” But it did not define the term. Groff v. DeJoy involves a Pennsylvania mailman who sought
accommodations after the U.S. Postal Service in 2013 started Sunday deliveries on behalf of Amazon. At first, Gerald Groff was able to work around Sunday deliveries, but as demand for the service grew, USPS disciplined him for declining Sunday shifts. He quit and sued. (Louis DeJoy is the postmaster general.) Lower courts have ruled in favor of the post office, which is arguing that not being able to schedule a mail career to work Sunday shifts represents an undue hardship. Groff last month appealed to the Supreme Court, which has yet to say whether it will consider the case. Three conservative justices — Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch — have indicated an interest in revisiting the 1977 decision, but the court requires four of its nine justices to agree to consider a case. Now, the Orthodox groups are joining a number of conservative religious groups filing amicus briefs this week in support of Groff. They see the case as a chance to overturn Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, the 1977 decision that ruled for the airline over
a member of a Christian sect who sought Saturdays off, rejecting as “undue hardships” three possible accommodations posited by a lower court: allowing the employee a fourday work week; paying other employees overtime to fill his shift; or setting aside in certain instances a seniority system negotiated with the union that would have allowed the employee to leapfrog more senior employees in seeking Saturdays off. Religious groups have since then been seeking opportunities to reconsider TWA v. Hardison, saying that by rejecting those three accommodations the Supreme Court rendered meaningless the 1972 expansion of the Civil Rights Act. The Orthodox Union joined the Seventh Day Adventist Church in one amicus brief. (The Adventists mark Sabbath on Saturdays). The Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, which represents a number of Orthodox groups, including Agudath Israel of America, spearheaded another amicus brief. (Nathan Lewin, a seasoned Supreme Court lawyer representing the Jewish Com-
mission in the Groff case, also represented the group in the 1977 case, and delivered oral arguments on behalf of the employee, Larry Hardison.) The Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, a politically conservative nondenominational group, joined the Thomas More Society, a Roman Catholic legal advocacy group, in another amicus brief. The Jewish Commission in its brief said that the 1977 TWA v. Hardison decision “has curtailed careers, closed avenues to success, and damaged the lives of many individuals who are unwilling to compromise their faith.” The Orthodox Union-Seventh Day Adventist brief notes that minority faiths which do not mark the Sabbath on Sunday are likelier to face discrimination because society tends to accommodate Sunday worship. “Majority religious practices are accommodated by default, while minority religious practices — like observing the Sabbath on Saturday rather than on Sunday — are not,” the brief says. “And that is where Hardison hurts employees the most.”
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these measures were not enough and that the Biden administration should pressure Israel. He said in his most recent conversation with Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, he derided Blinken for saying that Israel was not ready to resume talks and leaving it at that. “I told Blinken, ‘You little boy, don’t do that,’” he said. A source familiar with the conversation told The Times of Israel that Abbas’ characterization of the Biden administration’s work
on the issue was not accurate. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid has until recently argued that his fragile right-to-left coalition of parties is not in a position to advance talks with the Palestinians. However, Lapid appeared to modify that position speaking to the U.N. General Assembly last month, when he embraced the two-state outcome for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That effectively reversed the policies of Netanyahu, who rejected Palestinian statehood, and aligned Israel with Biden’s policy, which the president emphasized in his own U.N. speech.
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