The Jewish Light Summer 2022 Issue

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Volume 12, Number 3 Summer 2022

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Landmark Survey Of Jewish LA Reveals An Increasingly Diverse And Engaged Community By Asaf Shalev and Jackie Hajdenberg

Map of Jewish households in Los Angeles, according to the new population survey (Courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles)

(JTA) – When the results of the new population survey of Jewish Los Angeles came in, Rabbi Noah Farkas was stunned by the data on Jewish identity and affiliation. Like many community leaders, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has long heard warnings about a decline in Jewish involvement and a gradual shrinking of the community. But the data told Farkas that the opposite was happening.

Younger Jews in the Los Angeles area might be moving away from the denominations that dominated in previous generations, but they are more likely than their elders to be engaged in Jewish life. That includes discussing Jewish topics, studying Jewish texts and consuming Jewish media. Young people in the survey are also more likely to mark Shabbat. “What surprised me the absolute most is that a younger demographic is more engaged in Jewish life in almost every category than an older demographic,” Farkas told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview. “They might not be considered themselves Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, Orthodox Jews as denominational categories of identities seem to be fading, but they do Jewish activity by and large more than the people who are 55-plus. It was a total shocker to me.”

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The Study of Jewish LA is the community’s first demographic survey in a generation. Spearheaded by the city’s Jewish federation and funded by an array of partners, the study was announced Wednesday and will be released in stages throughout the summer. With an estimated 565,000 Jews living in 294,000 households in the area, the community has grown by 9% since the last survey in 1997. The area has the second highest number of Jews in the United States after New York City. One particular focus of the study was on diversity of race, ethnicity, language and national origins. About half of Jewish households include someone, not necessarily Jewish, who was born abroad or whose parents were born abroad — chiefly from Latin America, Israel, Iran and the former Soviet Union. Nearly 20% identify as Sephardi or Mizrahi. About 6% identify as Jews of color, but for children the number is 9%, suggesting that the overall number will increase over time. “While L.A.’s Jewry has been less white and Ashkenazi than other cities for decades, the future of Jewish Los Angeles is even more diverse,” Farkas said. In line with Los Angeles’ overall geography, the Jewish community is spread out across a vast area. But in two areas where they are most concentrated, the western San Fernando Valley and West L.A., Jews make up about 25%of the population. Health and well-being were another focus of the study, with mental health services identified as “one of the most significant needs in the community,” especially among young adults. Meanwhile, a portion of the community is struggling financially, and an equal portion is wealthy.

USA

The study divides the population into five categories of financial well-being. While only 1% percent said they “cannot make ends meet,” an additional 18% are “just managing to make ends meet.” About 60% have “enough” or “extra” money, while a fifth of Los Angeles Jews said they were “well off.” The study is intended to serve both a general audience and leaders in the community, according to Farkas. “We are providing tools to the Jewish community to know itself and to help institutions evaluate their work and think about who are our people, so we know how best to serve them,” he said. “In a datadriven world, we need good, relevant data to do this.” While this survey examined Los Angeles’ unique population, there were two other major recent efforts at documenting the Jewish community in the United States. The results of these kinds of demographic studies can have political and other broad ramifications, as demonstrated by the 2020 Pew research study on American Jews, which found an increase in the number of Jewish Republicans. A survey from the Jews of Color Initiative found that 80% of the Jews of color who participated have experienced discrimination in Jewish settings. Carried out by a research team from the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University and NORC at the University of Chicago, the study was based on surveys with 3,767 households between June and September 2021. Researchers contacted a random sample of households in the Los Angeles area via mail, email and telephone.

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What Do Jews Say About Abortion? Your Primer As The Supreme Court Has Overturned Roe v. Wade By Philissa Cramer

Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building during the Right To Life March in Washington D.C., Jan. 18, 2019. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

(JTA) — The Jewish Telegraphic Agency and our partner sites at 70 Faces Media have answered the question many times over the years, a testament to its persistence in political life and its significance to American Jews: What do Jews believe about abortion? After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, the question is relevant yet again.

Here’s what we know: American Jews favor abortion rights, more than any other religious group, according to public polling. And traditional Jewish law permits (and even requires) abortion in some circumstances, particularly when the life or health of the pregnant person is at stake. That means Jewish women in dozens of states will almost certainly become unable to access care that they might well decide is required religiously. “What Jewish community would want to continue to live in a place where they are potentially barred from following halacha (Jewish law)?” Ephraim Sherman, an Orthodox Jew and health care professional, wrote in JTA in 2019. “Is a community even allowed by halacha to continue living in such a place?”

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Liberal Jews in America have been advocating for reproductive rights as long as they have been contested — so, forever. Here are stories from 1967, pre-Roe; 1989, when American Jews attended a rally protesting calls to roll back abortion rights; and 1998, when Jewish groups responded to the murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, a New York abortion provider who was killed just after returning home from saying Kaddish for his father. Those groups have stepped up advocacy as threats to Roe v. Wade were mounted. The National Council of Jewish Women formed Rabbis for Repro to bring abortion talk to synagogues and other Jewish spaces; Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, the group’s scholar in residence, has articulated Jewish views on abortion in essays and on national TV. Meanwhile, Orthodox Jews in America have shifted rightward in recent decades. Our 2020 exploration of that shift suggests that one reason it didn’t happen earlier was Republicans’ focus on abortion in the 1980s, which didn’t resonate with Orthodoxy. But recently, the alignment of Orthodoxy and Republican politics has led to more vocal participation by Orthodox Jews in abortion discourse. In 2019, when New York widened its abortion law, several Orthodox groups condemned the move. Some

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Orthodox women questioned why they would oppose a change that made it easier to follow rabbinic advice. At the time, an Orthodox leader argued in a JTA essay that “rights” are the wrong way to talk about the Jewish stance on abortion. “Blanket bans on abortion, to be sure, would deprive Jewish women of the ability to act responsibly in cases where abortion is halachically required,” wrote the leader, Rabbi Avi Shafran. “And so, what Orthodox groups like Agudath Israel of America, for which I work, have long promoted is the regulation of abortion through laws that generally prohibit the unjustifiable killing of fetuses while protecting the right to abortion in exceptional cases.” An estimated quarter of American women will have an abortion by age 45, many Jews among them. We’ve published first-person accounts from a few of them: Here’s one that our partners at Kveller, the Jewish parenting site, published last year, from a rabbi and mother who desperately wanted the pregnancy she ended. And here’s a self-described “very Jewish” story from a rabbi who says she had an abortion “simply” because she didn’t want to be pregnant — a choice that she says Jewish tradition protects, too. “If anyone tries to argue that abortion restrictions are justified under the prerogative of religious freedom, we can explain that our religious freedom demands that we have access to abortion care when it is needed and wanted,” wrote the rabbi, Rachael Pass. And a longtime Jewish feminist, Barbara Dobkin, recalled how she helped a friend get an illegal abortion in 1966. “What about the crisis of losing the right to make decisions about our own bodies?” she asked. “Where is the communal outcry about that?” That outcry is being felt today, as the Supreme Court opinion resonates across the country. Legal analysts are already envisioning a Jewish woman as the perfect plaintiff for a case challenging a ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. We know that the National Council See SUPREME COURT on Page

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$1.2 Billion Surfside Settlement For Families And Unit Owners Approved Day Before One-Year Anniversary

backing Republicans and defending Jewish law and the right to follow it just got harder. of Jewish Women is planning a Jewish We plan to cover all of these Rally for Abortion Justice in Washingangles, and more, in the coming ton, D.C., on May 17, and that Jewish days. Thank you for turning to us in reproductive-rights advocates are this moment and others, and as planning for a post-Roe world. always, please let us know what By Caleb Guedes-Reed And we know that for Orthodox you want to know. groups, the balancing act between

SUPREME COURT Continued from Page 4

Table of Contents USA

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Israel

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Global

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Education

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Bookshelf

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Arts & Culture

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Entertainment

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Jewish Life

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Opinion

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In an aerial view, a cleared lot where the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building once stood is seen in Surfside, Florida, June 22, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

SARASOTA, Fla. (JTA) – A judge in Florida approved a $1.2 billion settlement just hours before the one-year anniversary of the residential tower collapse in Surfside on June 24, which killed 98 people. Condo owners will split the estimated $96 million in proceeds from the sale of the land where the Champlain Towers South stood. The victims’ families and residents who were injured from the building’s collapse will share an additional billion dollars in compensation. While Miami Judge Michael

Hanzman said this was the most complicated case, he had seen in his 35-year career, he called the outcome “remarkable.” No victims or their families chose to opt out of the settlement, and Hanzman said the decision avoided the need for a trial that could have lasted a decade. Family members of the 98 victims gathered Thursday night to mark the moment at 1:22 a.m. when the building began to collapse last year. First lady Jill Biden is scheduled to speak at a public memorial event on the site on Friday. The town of Surfside, where nearly half of the 6,000 residents are Jewish, has for decades served as a meeting place for geographically-separated Jews. Miami has a large percentage of Hispanic Jews, many of whom come from families that came to the area after leaving Cuba, Colombia, Argentina and Venezuela.

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A 5th Israeli Election In 3 Years? Here’s How We Got Here And What Happens Next. By Gabe Friedman nd Ron Kampeas

From left: Naftali Bennett, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yair Lapid. (Getty Images/ Design by Grace Yagel)

(JTA) — It has become a common refrain: Israel is heading towards another national election. A whopping five times since 2019, to be exact. On Monday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the two men who had cobbled together a historically diverse coalition to oust Benjamin Netanyahu from power a year ago, announced that they will help fasttrack a bill to dissolve the Knesset, or Israeli parliament. New votes will likely be cast in October. Many readers have had the same questions: Why does this keep happening? What happens next? Could

Netanyahu make a comeback? Read on for the answers. Why are Bennett and Lapid calling for new elections? The short answer: they have lost their parliamentary majority after multiple politicians defected from their coalition. The government, formed almost exactly a year ago, had a shaky foundation from its start, combining a slew of parties that historically would have not worked together: Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s national religious Yamina, Lapid’s centrist secular Yesh Atid, the left-wing Meretz and the Muslim Arab Ma’an. As soon as the new government was in place, lawmaker Amichai Chikli quit Bennett’s Yamina Party to join the opposition, citing the presence of Meretz and Ma’an in the government. That gave the Bennett-Lapid government a 61-59 majority, which lasted until April, when Idit Silman, also in Yamina, quit because of a court ruling allowing families to bring food that was

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not kosher for Passover into hospitals. That made it 60-60. The final blow came as the result of behind-the-scenes maneuvering by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been leading the Knesset opposition and whose veteran politician wiles had helped him remain Israel’s leader for a record 12 years. Netanyahu, who reportedly had been meeting with Yamina members to try and lure them away, seized the opportunity to create a crisis. Normally, he and his Likud Party would vote to extend Israeli legal protections to Jewish West Bank settlers. But Netanyahu realized that he could anger Yamina politiTHE

cians by helping to tank the measure, which has been passed repeatedly since just after the 1967 Six-Day War. Without Likud votes and the votes of coalition members on the left who oppose the occupation of the West Bank, the extension did not pass, infuriating Yamina members and other right-wing politicians in parliament. It was the ultimate example of an issue that split the coalition’s diverse parties into poles that could not be reconciled. Nir Orbach, another Yamina Knesset member who had been twisting himself into See ELECTION on Page

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Send editorial to us via e-mail at jewishnews@bellsouth.net or reach us by phone at (504) 455-8822. Our mailing address is United Media Corp. P.O. Box 3270, Covington, LA 70434 • To place advertising in THE JEWISH LIGHT, call United Media Corp. at: New Orleans (504) 455-8822 Northshore (985) 871-0221 Baton Rouge (225) 925-8774 THE JEWISH LIGHT carries Jewish Community related news about the Louisiana Jewish community and for the Louisiana Jewish community. Its commitment is to be a “True Community” newspaper, reaching out EQUALLY TO ALL Jewish Agencies, Jewish Organizations and Synagogues. THE JEWISH LIGHT is published monthly by United Media Corporation. We are Louisiana owned, Louisiana published, and Louisiana distributed. United Media Corporation has been proudly serving the Louisiana Jewish Community since 1995. Together, we can help rebuild Louisiana. We thank you for the last 27 years and we look forward to an even brighter tomorrow.

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ELECTION Continued from Page 6 Hamlet-worthy knots since the coalition’s launch, finally defected. That left a 59-member coalition, an unsustainable number in the 160seat parliament. Why does this keep happening in Israel? In a proportional representation system, no one party usually musters enough of a presence to lead a government on its own. Parties, and sometimes political rivals, need to come together to form coalitions that agree to work together to pass legislation; there is often just one ruling coalition and one opposition coalition. For years, Netanyahu’s conservative coalition defeated any contenders, usually a mixture of liberal and more centrist parties, pretty soundly. But by 2019, Netanyahu had alienated some more traditionally conservative voters — and some of his political allies — after being indicted on multiple corruption charges, being seen as beholden to haredi Orthodox demands, and through a perceived imperiousness and willingness to shatter norms to stay in power. The schism gave centrist and liberal parties, led by former Israel Defense Forces chief Benny Gantz, an opportunity to challenge Netanyahu’s reign. The final voter math, though, led to repeated deadlock; neither the Netanyahu or Gantz coalitions could eke out a firm majority. As the COVID-19 hit in 2020, Gantz said the pandemic required sacrifice and agreed to a unity government with a rotating prime ministership. Netanyahu dissolved the government before Gantz got his turn. By last year, many politicians across the spectrum could not contemplate another minute of Netanyahu in power. Bennett, who made his name as a staunch settler supporter, and Lapid, a former TV anchor who is liberal on social issues but more hawkish on military issues, formed a historic coalition that included a majority Arab party for the first time. Israel is not the only country with a parliament that has failed to form a government; for example, Italy has long been plagued with similar issues. But the vast array of conservative parties combined with Netanyahu’s polarizing modus operandi has made the proposition particularly difficult in Israel. So, what happens now? THE

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Netanyahu, who has been champing at the bit for a chance to return to power, has immediately gone to work. In fact, the aforementioned Orbach chairs the Knesset’s procedural House Committee, and The Times of Israel reported that he is using his discretionary powers to delay the dissolution of parliament for a few days so Netanyahu could potentially form an alternative government based on parliament’s current makeup, without a need for new elections. Netanyahu currently controls 55 of the Knesset seats.

Netanyahu getting to the 61 he needs is unlikely, however. Six members of the opposition are in the Arab-majority Joint List Party — and as frustrated as they were with the Bennett-Lapid configuration, many Arab lawmakers revile Likud and Netanyahu even more. Additionally, the folks who hated Netanyahu — well, they still hate Netanyahu. Gideon Saar, who leads the six-member right-wing New Hope Party, told Army Radio that there was no way he would join a Netanyahu-led government. “I

won’t be bringing Bibi back,” he said. “All of the party members are with me.” Liberman, who heads the secular right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party, which has seven members, wants to go further: he is determined to pass a law before the next elections that would keep anyone under criminal indictment from becoming prime minister. Even if that kind of bill becomes law, Netanyahu would still run, said See ELECTION on Page

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Israeli Academy Of Sciences Sues US Fundraising Arm For Withholding Donations By Madeline Fixler

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The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities supports a wide variety of researchers across many fields in Israel. (JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

(JTA) — The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities is suing its American fundraising affiliate for refusing to hand over donations. Two Jewish Nobel laureates, Mike Brown and Roger Kornberg, who were serving on the board of the U.S. fundraising arm, the American Foundation for Basic Research in Israel, have resigned in protest over its actions, according to the lawsuit. Lawyers for the academy, one of Israel’s most distinguished research bodies, alleged that AFBRI, created by the academy in 1990, has refused to approve the distribution from the $17 million currently in its coffers. The academy is a collective of scientists and scholars established by Israeli law in 1961 to encourage scholarship and maintain connections with the international scientific community. It grants awards and fellowships, in addition to generating reports for the government assessing the state of science in Israel. The law firm representing the academy, Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP, maintains that, since AFBRI was created for the purpose of financing research in Israel, “any attempt to divert AFBRI’s funds away from [the academy] is a breach of the agreements with the donors.” AFBRI did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. According to the claim, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities was also denied access to AFBRI’s financial

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records. AFBRI was established as a means to fund basic research in Israel by a committee that included Meir Zadok, an Israeli who specializes in the economics of education and science policy. The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on June 8, traces the existing dispute between both entities to Zadok’s failure to resign from the board of directors of AFBRI after his position as director general of the academy expired in 2016. The academy is seeking the funds being held and is asking to establish control over the assets of the U.S. charity through a special trust. It is also seeking the removal of Zadok from AFBRI’s board of directors. In a complication likely to come up in court, U.S. law requires that the fundraising arms of foreign charities — so-called “Friends of” organizations — maintain independence from the charities they support, an expert on nonprofit law told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. In this case, the original arrangement appears legal, according to Cliff Perlman, a lawyer with Perlman and Perlman. Even though AFBRI always handed donations over to the academy, it was not required to do so. “It looks like they were set up correctly to not be a conduit organization,” he said. “One of the ways to avoid being the conduit is to be able to say no” to the foreign organization. But by suing to assert control, the academy will be testing the rules on conduit organizations in what could become an important legal showcase, Perlman said. Christopher J. Sullivan, a lawyer representing the academy, said it was too early to discuss the matter. “I wouldn’t want to comment at this early stage of the case except to say that the lawsuit will deal with any aspect of the tax issues present in this case,” Sullivan said. THE

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ELECTION Continued from Page 7 Gideon Rahat, a political science professor at Hebrew University and a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. He could still lead the Likud Party and then repeal the law should he cobble together a majority in the new Knesset. “Israeli politicians are always changing the rules of the game,” Rahat said. “It’s like changing the U.S. constitution for every immediate need, something that you wouldn’t imagine.” Various Israeli TV channel polls show Netanyahu’s bloc earning 59 or 60 seats if a vote was held right now, just short of the 61 needed for a majority. It’s unclear what kind of group would reemerge to take Netanyahu on; Bennett is reportedly mulling a break from politics. Lapid’s Yesh Atid is polling at 20 seats, Gantz’s Blue and White at 9 and Yisrael Beiteinu at 5. What does seem most certain for now: Lapid will take over as prime minister in the interim caretaker government, thanks to a clause written into his agreement with Bennett. Can Lapid be a transformative prime minister in just a matter of months? Probably not. It is true that Lapid will be the first center-left prime minister since Ehud Olmert left office in 2009. Lapid is committed to a two-state outcome and rode to popularity as an outspoken opponent of the role of the Orthodox rabbinate in public life. As foreign minister, he has reversed Netanyahu policies, repaired ties with the American left and cooled down relations with European nationalists (which Netanyahu had strengthened). Nothing will technically prevent Lapid from initiating bold, sweeping moves before elections take place. Legal restrictions on a caretaker government do not kick in until after election day. But in the past, according to the Israel Democ-

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racy Institute’s Assaf Shapira, attorneys general and Israel’s high court have limited what interim governments can and can’t do, citing norms that apply to lame duck administrations in democracies. Lapid said in his statement he will pursue a robust foreign and domestic policy — he is keeping the foreign minister portfolio — and hinted that he will cast Netanyahu as a threat to democracy. “Even if we are going to elections in a few months, the challenges we face will not wait,” Lapid said in a statement Monday. “We need to tackle the cost of living, wage the campaign against Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, and stand against the forces threatening to turn Israel into a non-democratic country.” Lapid will likely be in place as prime minister when President Joe Biden visits Israel in mid-July. It will be an occasion for Lapid to show how his government has moved past tensions with U.S. Democrats that flared when Netanyahu was prime minister. Could this affect Israel’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine war? The reason for Israel’s relative reticence in joining the U.S.-led isolation of Russia over its invasion of Ukraine has to do with security considerations, which in Israel transcend politics. Russia, still present in Israel’s region after assisting the Assad regime in quelling Syria’s civil war, controls the airspace over Syria and Lebanon. Israel needs Russia’s approval for its airstrikes aimed at keeping enemies such as Iran, Hezbollah and Syria at bay. But Lapid, at least rhetorically, has been more outspoken than Bennett in condemning Russia for its war. How he positions himself on this issue in the early days of his short PM stint could be telling.

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In 1st, Pope Hosts Yad Vashem Director At Vatican — But Didn’t Discuss Catholic Church’s Holocaust Controversies By Cnaan Liphshiz

Pope Francis receives Yad Vashem Director Dani Dayan at the Vatican, June 9, 2022. (Courtesy of Yad Vashem)

(JTA) Amid controversies concerning the Vatican’s Holocaust-era record, Pope Francis and the head of Israel’s state museum on the Holocaust, Yad Vashem, met for a first-of-its-kind talk. Yad Vashem Director Dani Dayan met with the pope Thursday at his office in the Vatican. During their 30-minute talk, they spoke about ways to “bolster collaborative activities” in areas of “Holocaust remembrance, education and documentation, and to discuss efforts to fight antisemitism and racism worldwide,” Dayan’s office wrote in a statement. Dayan thanked the pope for his 2020 decision to open the Vatican’s archives related to the wartime Pope Pius XII, whose critics say did too little to intervene on behalf of

the 6 million Jews that the Nazis murdered in the Holocaust. But they did not discuss the Holocaust-related controversies that for years have been straining Jewish-Catholic relations, Dayan told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Instead, Dayan focused on areas of consensus and on strengthening ties with the Vatican, he said. One of these controversies is the ongoing beatification of Pius XII. Another concerns other archives that Holocaust researchers say are still inaccessible to them. And another is centered on the debate on whether the Vatican should acknowledge and provide more details about what Pius XII did during the Holocaust. “You don’t sit with the pope on specific files. You sit with the pope on the big issues, on the principles, on the headlines,” Dayan, a former consul general of the State of Israel in New York who became the head of Yad Vashem last year, said when asked whether he brought up any of these issues during the meeting. Asked whether he had made any requests, Dayan replied: “No need to make requests — for sure, not demands — when all our requests

are answered diligently. We are completely satisfied with the attitudes of the pope personally and the Catholic Church, the Vatican.” Not all Holocaust historians share Dayan’s satisfaction. Certainly not David Kertzer, a professor of Italian Studies at Brown University whose 2014 book on the pope’s ties to fascism won a Pulitzer Prize. Kertzer this week published a new book titled “The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler” based on archives opened in 2020 by the Vatican. He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Thursday that he hopes the pope will consider “changing the course of the Vatican with respect to the continual denial of the role of the church in the demonization of the Jews that helped to make the Holocaust possible. And also to perhaps reconsider whether they really want to make a saint of Pius VII.” A 1998 commission set up by the Vatican concluded that the centuries during which the Catholic Church espoused anti-Jewish sentiments as official policy did not lead to the antisemitism that fueled the Holocaust.

The commission’s findings, which have been Vatican policy, is that the church’s theology-based “anti-Judaism” was essentially unconnected to the Nazi “anti-Semitism based on theories contrary to the constant teaching of the Church.” Kertzer is among the many critics of this reading of history. Those critics argue that the centuries of persecution of Jews led by the Catholic Church paved the way in some ways to the Nazi genocide. “Forcing Jews to wear yellow badges and keeping them locked in ghettoes were not inventions of the Nazis in the twentieth century, but a policy that the popes had championed for hundreds of years,” Kertzer noted in a 2001 op-ed in the New York Times. On Thursday, Kertzer said the Vatican was worthy of praise for that decision. But, he added, “there are limitations” on accessing other archives, including the Vatican’s Secretary of State archives and some archives connected to the Inquisition. Still, Kertzer said that he is “not in a position to say what Mr. Dayan should or should not have said during the meeting” with the pope.

The Vatican Will Release WWII-Era ‘Jewish Files’ Online, Including Unanswered Pleas To The Pope By Andrew Lapin

Documents on the pontificate of Pope Pius XII are seen at the Vatican Secret Archives in Vatican City, Vatican, February 27, 2020. The Vatican Apostolic Library opened the Holy See’s wartime archives on the pontificate of Pope Pius XII between the years 1939 to 1958. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Pope Francis has ordered 170 volumes of Jewish requests for help from the Catholic Church during World War II to be published online, two years after making their physical copies available to historians. His decision is the latest development in the Vatican’s newfound reckoning of its legacy during the Holocaust. The correspondence contains 2,700 files specifically recounting

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Jewish groups and families requesting assistance from the Vatican in avoiding deportation or trying to free relatives from concentration camps, both in the run-up to and during the Holocaust. Pope Pius XII, who served as pope during the most pivotal years of the war, is often charged by historians with ignoring Jewish pleas for help and cozying up to Hitler and Mussolini in order to preserve the influence of the Church. The Vatican itself has long insisted that Pius XII should be celebrated for secretly advocating for Jews via diplomatic means, but that narrative is changing as more information about his papacy has been revealed to the public. The Church opened its secret files on Pius’s archives to historians in 2020, but by publishing its Jewish-related files online, it opens them up to

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easier access and greater scrutiny by the public. “The Pope at War,” a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Kertzer, the son of a rabbi, draws on these new archives to make the case that Pius largely ignored pleas from Jews (while keeping a secret back channel to Hitler). Pius did, however, concern himself with trying to save the small number of Jews who had converted to Catholicism or who were from mixed families, categories that were still considered “Jewish” under Hitler’s racial laws. Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister, wrote in a church newspaper that the digital release of the files was also intended to help provide closure to the descendants of Jews who had implored the Vatican for help. THE

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University Of Haifa Celebrates 50: An Israeli University Expands Its Global Impact By American Society Of The University Of Haifa

Students conduct research in University of Haifa’s cancer lab. (Courtesy of University of Haifa)

This post is sponsored by the American Society of the University of Haifa, which is dedicated to increasing awareness and financial support for University of Haifa to ensure its continued excellence in innovation, sustainability, and shared society. Home to 17,000 students, University of Haifa is uniquely interwoven with Mount Carmel, the City of Haifa, and the Mediterranean Sea. For 50 years, we have fostered academic excellence through interdisciplinary research and innovation in a community built on collaboration, tolerance,

and diversity. Today, University of Haifa is seeking to expand its global impact by setting ambitious and essential goals for the wellbeing of our global society. Our academic strategic plan aligns with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of eliminating poverty, hunger, and discrimination. The renowned Times Higher Education Impact Rankings lists University of Haifa as Israel’s sole representative on the global survey evaluating institutions’ work toward meeting these goals. Our inimitable proximity to the mountains, city, and sea has inspired the approach to problem-solving that we are implementing amid the University’s 50th anniversary: think locally, act globally. Working out of “living laboratories,” we are able to access and harness the talent and resources that extend beyond our immediate communities to study and implement global solutions.

Around the Community ED U C A T I ON

Building Upon 50 Years Of Success For our 50th anniversary, we are embarking on a $150 million fundraising campaign to build infrastructure and expand research in the areas of equality, environment, health, and humanities, as well as the technology to maximize our impact on 21st Century global challenges. Through this investment, the University will build upon the successes of the past 50 years and reach further than ever before to provide access and resources for our diverse student body, establish new areas of study, recruit and retain top faculty, and expand our spaces for innovation. Our ultimate campaign goal is to unlock groundbreaking discoveries within our natural “Mountain-City-Sea” laboratories with global implications for the planet’s changing climate and evolving societies. Thinking Locally At University of Haifa, the road to global impact begins locally. We are committed to creating a new broad and inclusive middle class — a community of Israeli citizens who are prepared to meet the challenges of the future.

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Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, international students, and security personnel study and socialize together in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect on our campus. The faculty is 50% women, and 40% of the student body consists of Arabs (of whom 70% are women). Many students are recent immigrants, others represent the first generation in their families to attend university. University of Haifa also runs various initiatives that proactively foster coexistence — including the Jewish-Arab Community Leadership Program, which facilitates dialogue and multicultural social interaction between Jewish and Arab students through joint community projects, and the Haifa Innovation Labs, a start-up incubator whose programs focus on social innovation and impact entrepreneurship. Further, as a multi-campus institution integrating disciplines, people, and places, we function as a driving force for economic development that secures and stabilizes See UNIVERSITY OF HAIFA

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Education UNIVERSITY OF HAIFA Continued from Page 11 the North of Israel. Acting Globally By leveraging the talent that we cultivate on a local level, we are able to tackle pressing global challenges, in line with the U.N.’s SDGs. It starts with climate change, which is widely recognized as the most urgent problem facing humanity. University of Haifa is engaged in interdisciplinary research that will reverse the negative effects of global climate change and restore our ecosystem for a safe and healthy future. Our laboratory for combating climate change is the Mediterranean Sea, an optimal research setting due to its semi-closed basin and its status as one of the most responsive seas to climate change. In January 2022, University of

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Haifa’s Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences launched a new five-year program with the Germany-based GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. The two institutions formed the new Eastern Mediterranean Sea Centre, where a core team of 30 researchers and students study the Mediterranean as an early-warning model system that informs us about future conditions in oceans worldwide. Another partnership, between our Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies and the Scripps Center for Marine Archeology, is investigating the impact of longterm climate change and rising sea levels on the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean. This research will help us better understand how environmental changes affect ancient societies worldwide.

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Our global mission continues with the issue of water scarcity. The Charney School recognizes the importance of seawater desalination to the future and has identified two important issues that will have major environmental and health implications — the quality of water as a source of drinking water must be ensured; and desalination byproducts must be considered and reduced. The school monitors these issues in order to protect the coastal and marine environment in Israel and provide guidance for how to do this globally. The Charney School is also focusing on feeding the world’s growing population, by exploring the flora and fauna of the oceans as potential food sources. Evolutionary biologists within our Faculty of Natural Sciences, meanwhile, are cultivating fava beans as the next generation of superfoods. Recognizing Our Partners And Friends In recognition of the University’s milestone 50th anniversary, the American Society of University of Haifa wishes to recognize and thank our foundational partners and friends whose generosity and commitment have shaped and supported 50 years of discoveries for the advancement of global society.

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Prof. Assaf Distelfeld and researchers at the Institute of Evolution are contributing an important piece to the food security puzzle. (University of Haifa)

Visionary philanthropic leadership recently came to life through the inauguration of the Bloom School of Graduate Studies, which establishes a pioneering interdisciplinary academic structure for PhDs and postdocs. Additionally, the Lady Barbara Davis Wild Cereal Gene Bank also supported by the Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation, along with the dedication of the Herta and Paul Amir Tech Campus, the Herta and Paul Amir Health Sciences Building, and the Herta and Paul Amir Faculty of Social Sciences, will expand the University’s research to maximize its impact on 21st Century global challenges. Thank you for making the University’s 50th year a time of significant growth and expansion, as together, we plan the next 50 years and impact future generations.

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A New Book Explores Abusive Rabbis And The Jewish Institutional Culture That Protects Them By Andrew Lapin

"When Rabbis Abuse" author Elana Sztokman. (Courtesy of Sztokman; photo illustration by Mollie Suss)

(JTA) – In the global reckoning with sexual abuse by powerful leaders, no religious movement has escaped scrutiny and censure, including the broad spectrum of Jewish denominations. Major Reform and Conservative bodies have mounted investigations or issued detailed reports on abuse and cover-ups within their ranks. Lawsuits have been brought against longtime accused abusers such as Baruch Lanner and institutions such as the Orthodox Union for protect-

ing them. The rabbi heading Germany’s largest Liberal Jewish group recently took a leave of absence following allegations he had ignored or covered up harassment allegations leveled at his husband. Orthodox leaders in Canada and Australia who sheltered in Israel for years to avoid being tried on multiple counts of child sex abuse have been arrested, and are now awaiting trial in their home countries. Jewish anthropologist, educator and activist Elana Sztokman has been researching the specter of rabbinical abuse for years. Her new book “When Rabbis Abuse: Power, Gender, and Status in the Dynamics of Sexual Abuse in Jewish Culture” is an effort to peel back the curtain on abusive power dynamics across every denomination. She is publishing it through Lioness Press, a feminist imprint she founded. “We have lots of communal stud-

ies of engagement and continuity and belonging and all kinds of stuff, but not a single one has ever examined the connection between experiences of abuse and people dropping out” of Judaism, Sztokman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “And that’s a big, gaping hole.” Sztokman, who received her master’s degree and PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has twice won National Jewish Book Awards for her books exploring gender dynamics in Orthodox spaces. She also recently spoke up about alleged workplace abuse she experienced, by a former board chair of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, where Sztokman formerly served as executive director. While not a quantitative analysis, Sztokman’s book is informed by her interviews with 84 survivors of alleged abuse, and includes around 200 additional survivor testimonies gleaned through various Jewish archives. “When Rabbis Abuse” attempts to understand the manipulative personality type of abusive clergy, their methods and means of exploiting victims within Jewish spaces, and the ways in which their

behavior is protected or excused by Jewish power structures. Raised in the Orthodox movement, Sztokman no longer identifies with the denomination. She briefly enrolled in rabbinical school at the Reform-affiliated Hebrew Union College, but is no longer in the program; she now runs a new organization called the Jewish Feminist Academy. A Brooklyn native, Sztokman spoke to JTA about her new book from her home in Modiin, Israel. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. JTA: You have been thinking and writing about abuse in Jewish spaces for a while. Tell me about your journey to decide to write a book entirely focused on abusive rabbis. Sztokman: I didn’t plan to write a book about rabbis abusing. I really just wanted to dig a little deeper into what was really going on in the community. When the Barry Freundel story happened [a Modern Orthodox rabbi in Washington, D.C., Freundel was convicted in 2014 for secretly videotaping peoSee A NEW BOOK on Page

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Best Wishes to my many friends and supporters in the Jewish Community. Thank you for your continued support! Judge John Molaison Louisiana 5th Circuit Court of Appeals THE

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Bookshelf A NEW BOOK Continued from Page 13 ple in his synagogue’s mikvah and ultimately reached a $14.24 million settlement with his victims], that really struck a nerve with me and with a lot of people, because it was so many violations of a space that was meant to be sacred. I went to a conference for Jewish leadership about a year before the scandal broke, where he was the featured speaker. It was all about issues around conversion, and he was featured as the macher. He promoted himself as controlling the entire discourse between the American and Israeli rabbinate around who gets to be a true convert. And then a year later it comes out that he was controlling all this because he liked access to converts, in order to be able to watch them naked. He had this whole system, telling them where they should stand and how they should stand, all for his personal arousal. This person had all this access and all this authority, with this roomful of people hanging on his every word. It really illustrates how, when a rabbi is abusive, the abuse takes place in a location where a person’s religious and spiritual life is meant to be sacred. That’s really what pushed me to start talking to people. My book proposal, I wrote in 2015. That’s how long I’ve been working on this. Were you surprised by how many rabbis have been accused of abuse, across every denomination and every conceivable Jewish space? It was quite shocking. I shouldn’t say “surprised,” because the truth is that anyone paying attention to the news sees these stories all the time. These are people we’re supposed to be able to trust, we give them our hearts, we give them our spirits, we give them our Jewish identity, and this is happening. In many cases, it’s very destructive to the relationship between Jews. Even though many people have rebuilt their relationships to Judaism, it doesn’t mean that they can recover. It takes a process. If the person who’s the gatekeeper for your Jewish spiritual practices is this narcissistic abuser, then that has impact. You offer a character study of an abusive rabbi, or an abusive Jewish spiritual leader. How do you define this personality type, and why are they able to operate in those spaces? The biggest takeaway was about charisma. We define leadership very closely to charisma. And we know that charisma is one of the signs of a narcissistic personality. Charisma is basically a person who can walk into a room and manipulate people. And the Jewish community tends to give a lot of awards to that person, to that personality. That’s not to say that every rabbi is a narcissist; I’m not making that claim. But I am saying that there is overlap between the qualities that tend to be culturally valued in rabbis and some of the qualities that define narcissism. The other point that came up very strongly is about pastoral care as an opportunity for preying, for targeting victims, and also the use of Jewish lingo to have an “in” with their targets. A 14 Summer 2022

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whole bunch of abuse stories had rabbis talking about “teshuva” [forgiveness] and about “bashert” [soulmates]. A lot of abusers will find the spiritual openings that they’re looking for. We need to be aware of this, and we need to start thinking about ways to handle the qualities that we want in leadership, versus the qualities that we tend to be starstruck about. Are these simply narcissistic personality types who are just finding the ways to exploit the system they’re in, and that system happens to be Judaism? Or is there something about our current organizational Judaism that actually encourages this kind of behavior? I’m reluctant to make that second point, even

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though it could be concluded from the research. My point is that a lot of people try to say, “Oh, Orthodox culture encourages abuse, because there are so many messed-up things about sexuality.” Or on the other hand, “Oh, look at Reform, it’s so permissive, look at how the girls are dressed,” that kind of stuff. Everybody’s always looking for the cultural hook, to say, “That’s what happens in that culture.” But “that” happens everywhere, and nobody’s immune. Abusers know how to manipulate whatever tools they have at their disposal, and they know how See A NEW BOOK on Page

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A NEW BOOK Continued from Page 14 to be these chameleons that are able to use language that they know will speak to their targets. Your book explores rabbis who commit both child sexual abuse and also adult relationship or power differential abuse, and you often talk about them interchangeably. Is it important to distinguish between these, or do you think they’re all under the same category of abuse? I think they’re on a spectrum, for sure. I think that there are a lot of efforts to distinguish them from both sides: You see a lot of child sexual abuse advocates saying, “I don’t want to deal with the women’s issues. I deal with children.” I’ve also had experiences with feminist groups who are like, “Yeah, we deal with feminist stuff, we don’t deal with child sexual abuse.” Both of those attitudes strike me as misdirected, because these are very, very similar dynamics. It all has to do with control and it has to do with emotional manipulation. Who the target is may change from one abuser to another, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still damaging, and it’s still dynamics that we need to be recognizing and observing. These distinctions are, I think, not helpful. They’re not two different phenomena. It just comes down to the particular case of a particular abuser. Just recently, Rabbi Shlomo Mund was arrested and charged with sexual abuse of minors in Montreal, dating back to 1997. The former day school principal Malka Leifer’s trial for child sexual abuse in Melbourne is scheduled for later this summer. Both cases involve charges more than a decade old, where the accused perpetrator was protected to some degree by their communal leadership, and evaded arrest for years by moving to Israel. What lessons can we draw here?

One is structural and one is cultural. Structurally, yes, communal structures protect abusers by placing them in another shul or another school or whatever. For all kinds of reasons. Because abusers often are people with power, so power protects power. It’s really hard to push back against, because you’re pushing back against networks of power. The other level is cultural: whose lives are valued and which people do we see as worthy, which people we think of as deserving of our support. Someone who comes forward is seen as someone who’s a nobody, so we can dismiss them as a disgruntled employee. If they move to a new congregation, nobody’s crying. If the rabbi leaves, wow, that will be so damaging. But who cares about the victims? It’s a cultural dysfunction around whose lives are considered valuable. How can, or should, Jewish institutions change their approach to thinking about rabbis in order to counter this kind of abuse? We need to disconnect concepts of leadership from performance, versus actual kindness and empathy. Too often as a community we overemphasize performative things like charisma. But this is not a salient definition of leadership, or of the kind of person we should want to put on a pedestal. So culturally we need to change our definitions. Rabbinical schools should rethink some of the ways rabbis are trained, and hiring committees should also be rethinking what kinds of qualities we’re looking for. Policy-wise, organizations should be more self-aware about who is being supported, how abusers are being supported, and how victims are treated.

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Arts & Culture

Hot Dog! A Lower East Side Art Exhibit Explores The Jewish Roots Of An All-American Food By Lisa Keys

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the Lower East Side for more than 25 years. He has drawn inspiration from the diverse urban landscape as well as the deep Jewish roots of the neighborhood and the time he spent studying Torah locally at Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem, one of the oldest yeshivas in the city. Over the years, Marcus has also created a bunch of illustrations and posters for the cannabis legalization movement — you may be familiar with his work if you’ve checked out or read about YIVO’s groundbreaking new exhibit, Am Yisrael High: The Story of Jews and Cannabis. Marcus created the poster for the exhibit, and he also has seven pieces in the exhibition, all created in the 1990s and early 2000s, that he said will be included in YIVO’s archives.

“Steve Marcus: Top Dog of Kosher Pop Art” is a collection of cartoon-like, hand-drawn illustrations about hot dogs that run the gamut from history to fantasy. “Little Nathan’s Dream” depicts Nathan Handwerker — the Jewish immigrant who started Nathan’s Famous — fantasizing about a colorful, crowded storefront on Coney "Rabbi Frank and the Frank Tank" is one of several hot dog-themed illustrations by Island’s Boardwalk. Steve Marcus on view at the Museum at Another illustration, “Rabbi Frank Eldridge Street. (Steve Marcus) and the Frank Tank” shows a kosher version of Oscar Mayer’s Wienermo(New York Jewish Week) — bile parked outside the Lower East Award-winning Jewish artist Steve Side stalwart Katz’s Deli. Marcus, 50, has made a career cre“Steve’s drawings are crammed ating artwork for publications like full of detail, wry observations and Rolling Stone, the New York Times nuggets of history,” curator Nancy OCTas2012 and Esquire, well as for clients Johnson said in a statement. “His like MTV and Random House. work tells a story with deep roots in And now, in an exhibition of new Jewish life and immigrant culture work that opens Thursday, May 12 — it’s the American dream on a at the Museum at Eldridge Street, bun!” “It was an outlaw scene filled Marcus has turned his attention to Though he’s had brief stints in with a memorable cast of characters, SG/JDF/1/6V something quite a bit more worka- Northern California and Brooklyn, but now it’s mainstream,” Marcus day and humble: the hot dog. Marcus has lived and worked on told the New York Jewish Week, PLEASE CHECK YOUR reflecting on the movement to legalAD CAREFULLY FOR ize weed. “It’s incredible that my SPELLING & GRAMMAR, AS work from the Cannabis Reform WELL AS ACCURACY OF ADMovement is now included in the DRESSES, PHONE NUMBERS & American History collection at the OTHER VITAL INFORMATION. Harvard Library, and is also in the permanent collection at the Oakland Your ad will run FLOOR INSTALLATION/SALES Museum of California, because AS-IS unless changes when I created this body of artwork Oak • Pine • Prefinished are made and I didn’t imagine it would become approved with your Laminate • Bamboo • Ceramic part of history and change America.” Account Executive by When asked if he ever thought his affinities for cannabis culture SANDING & FINISHING and Jewish culture would align this way, Marcus quoted a famous EDWARDNOON YOUNG floorcrafters@gmail.com Grateful Dead lyric: “What a long, 4715 S. CARROLLTON @ CANAL www.floorcraftersnola.com 9/7 strange trip it’s been.” On the eve of the opening of his LANDSCAPE After this deadline, hot dog show, Marcus responded to OCT 2012 • the New York Jewish Week’s “Four the only changes CONSTRUCTION Questions,” sharing with us his that may be made takes on America’s love for hot Courtyards • Pools are to correct dogs; how Jewish history informs Driveway Renovations PUBLISHER’S ERRORS. his contemporary art, and how his Landscape Refurbishing SG/JDF/1/6V This is a low-resolution 6-year-old nephew inspired this After Storm PDF proof of your exhibition. Small Carpentry PLEASE CHECK YOUR This interview has been edited advertisement AD CAREFULLY FOR for length and clarity. (may not be true to actual size). SPELLING & GRAMMAR, AS Support the New York Jewish It is property of WELL AS ACCURACY OF ADWeek Renaissance Publishing DRESSES, PHONE NUMBERS & Our nonprofit newsroom depends (orVITAL the original creator) and OTHER INFORMATION. 866-0276 on readers like you. Make a donacannot be tion now to support independent Yourwww.exteriordesignsbev.com adreproduced, will run Jewish journalism in New York. AS-IS unless changes duplicated or used in any

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DONATE 1. New York Jewish Week: First things first: What inspired you to do a series of works about kosher hot dogs? Steve Marcus: This particular series of works was inspired by my 6-year-old nephew, Nate “Nati” Gottlieb, who in the summer of 2021 came to visit me at my offthe-grid cabin on 30 acres in the middle of nowhere to celebrate my birthday weekend with a camping trip. He drew me a birthday card that pictured us roasting hot dogs on a stick over a campfire and, upon seeing his drawing, I quickly made a fire and put hot dogs on sticks. He proceeded to roast a hot dog on a stick over the open flame for the first time — and, as he was doing this, he looked over to me while sitting on a rock and said, “Uncle Steve, this is one of my dreams coming true.” It was then and there that I decided to make a series of art based on hot dogs, that people of all ages could relish. 2. You’ve lived and worked in the Lower East Side for some 25 years. Tell me about the connection between your hot dog project and the museum, which is housed in the 19th-century Eldridge Street Synagogue — were you inspired by the venue, and what connections do you make between the synagogue, the neighborhood and this exhibit? As I walk from my apartment to the Museum at Eldridge Street, I stroll past addresses that are landmarks in hot dog history. My daily morning routine brings me past the original site of the Hebrew National kosher sausage factory, founded at 155 East Broadway in 1905, and when I return home, I pass 37 Essex Street, the address of Isaac Gellis Provisions. Isaac Gellis was the “kosher sausage king of America” and known as the richest person on the Lower East Side, and who was also a congregant at the Eldridge Street Synagogue. The Lower East Side is so rich with history and trivia, every nook and cranny has a story to tell. I love to create artwork that is fun and humorous yet connected to history and my roots and culture. 3. Freud famously said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Is a hot dog ever just a hot dog? What does the imagery mean to you as a Jew, a New Yorker and an artist?” Today, in America, over 7 billion hot dogs, or 818 hot dogs per secSee HOT DOG on Page THE

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Entertainment

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Is ‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’ The First Good Bar/Bat Mitzvah Movie? By Andrew Lapin

Cooper Raiff as a bar/bat mitzvah "motivational dancer" in “Cha Cha Real Smooth.” (Courtesy of Apple)

(JTA)– It seems hard to believe, but there’s never been a truly great bar/bat mitzvah movie — mostly because there just haven’t been that many bar/ bat mitzvah movies, period. Yes, there have been plenty of one-off TV episodes centered around the Jewish ritual, ranging from “Big Mouth” to “And Just Like That” to “The Wonder Years.” And sure, one could make an argument for “A Serious Man,” the Coen brothers’ 2008 masterpiece about a Jewish physics professor undergoing an existential crisis, except the hero’s son’s bar mitzvah only factors into the story

tangentially. But after that, things get pretty sparse. “Keeping Up With The Steins,” the 2006 Jeremy Piven comedy about warring bar mitzvah families, got lukewarm reviews, at best. And the less said about “Donny’s Bar Mitzvah,” the better. Now, though, we have a serious contender: “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” a low-key charmer from 25-yearold writer-director-star Cooper Raiff that opens Friday in theaters and on Apple TV+. (Apple acquired the film for a record sum at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, just like it did with last year’s eventual Best Picture Oscar winner “CODA,” and seems to be adopting a similar release strategy here.) Named after a lyric in “Cha Cha Slide,” a 2000 hit by DJ Casper that has become a standby of bar mitzvah playlists everywhere, it’s a film that seems to understand something subtle about the dramatic potential of bar and bat mitzvahs — even

though Raiff himself isn’t Jewish, we never see the inside of a sanctuary, and the R rating aims the move at a post-bar mitzvah audience. So, what makes this one special? “Cha Cha” takes the bar mitzvah’s central coming-of-age idea, that a single ritual at the appropriate time marks the true threshold of adulthood, and runs with it in an unexpected manner. Its hero, Andrew (Raiff), isn’t a bar mitzvah boy but rather his hype man: the guy the parents hire to make sure the hormonal honorees (and all their friends) are having a good time at their own party.

a decade and we watch Andrew himself become a motivational dancer, once again falling in love with an older woman (Dakota Johnson, playing depressed single mother Domino). He spends his evenings among the pubescent, caught

“Charge Nothing and You’ll Get a Lot of Customers” (Steve Marcus)

between the carefree world of his youth and the unanswerable tensions of adulthood. The chance to liven up some b’nai mitzvah parties, and extend Cooper Raiff and Dakota Johnson in “Cha Cha Real Smooth.” (Courtesy of Apple) adult-ish confidence boosters to his 13-year-old brother in the process, In a sign of what’s to come, is the lone motivator in this recent Andrew is first seen as a teenager college grad’s otherwise deeply hopelessly in love with an adult directionless life. Bunking back in “motivational dancer” at a friend’s his New Jersey childhood home bar mitzvah party, oblivious to their See CHA CHA 18 age and maturity gap. Fast-forward on Page

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Entertainment CHA CHA Continued from Page 17 with his bipolar mother (Leslie Mann) and self-serious stepfather (Brad Garrett, playing against type as a humorless scold), Andrew can’t quite figure out whether he wants to be an adult at all. He continually seems to be glitching back and forth between maturity (launching his own party-starting business) and debasement (drinking on the job; spinning the adults-only Cardi B hit “WAP” for a roomful of junior high school kids). Raiff’s publicists did not respond to multiple Jewish Telegraphic Agency requests for an interview. But he’s told other outlets that his inspiration for the film came from growing up in a wealthy, heavily Jewish community

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in Dallas, where most of the kids at his school were Jewish and the bar mitzvah party was a major marker of social status. Raiff was less interested in the easy jokes one could make about elaborate, expensive parties than in the undercurrent of the ritual itself: what it means to put so much attention and so many expectations on a 13-year-old. “The whole experience is, you see your close friend and the fruits of his or her labor. And so you’re seeing this whole new life of people that you’ve known for so long,” he told The Playlist. “They were such huge, huge events in my mind.” This outlook translates on screen into a curious outsider’s perspective on Jewish pathways to maturity. Its main characters aren’t preparing for bar/bat mitzvahs themselves (Domi-

Best Wishes to all of my friends in the Jewish Community. Thank you for your continued support.

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Vanessa Burghardt (left) and Dakota Johnson in “Cha Cha Real Smooth.” (Courtesy of Apple)

no offhandedly remarks that she’s also not Jewish), yet they still treat the parties as rites of passage: important social engagements that will determine whether they can have meaningful relationships with their peers. Andrew might think he’s the one teaching these teens how to do that, but actually — as regular viewers of the prototypical “Sundance dramedy” have likely already deduced — they’re teaching him. Case in point: One significant character, Domino’s autistic teen daughter Lola (played by newcomer Vanessa Burghardt, who is herself on the autism spectrum), explains to Andrew why she’s less comfortable in social situations than he is, and why she often needs to recharge by sitting in an empty room. Andrew’s acceptance of this information conLAW_full Size_2019_print.pdf

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stitutes what, for him, is growth: the realization that confidence can come in many different forms, and doesn’t just show up on the dance floor. (The disability rights nonprofit RespectAbility, which often works on disability inclusion issues within the Jewish community, consulted on Lola’s representation in the film.) What can “maturity” mean to a drifter like Andrew; to a lost adult like Domino; to their young charges decked out in their awkward formal wear; or to someone like Lola with an entirely different outlook on life? “Cha Cha” explores the different aspects of this question with wit and insight, if not a particularly Jewish perspective. But it’s not entirely without Jewish insight. When the non-Jewish heroes witness a bar mitzvah boy call his family up to lead the motzi and kiddush, they get emotional: This image of a family coming together to mark a life stage means something grand, even if they don’t have the words for it. “Cha Cha Real Smooth” opened June 17 in theaters and on Apple TV+. 1

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HOT DOG Continued from Page 16 ond, are consumed during peak grilling season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council — which obviously proves that people love hot dogs. I love things that bring us together rather than divide us, so whether your preference is a kosher, all-beef, pork or meatless hot dog, I look forward to the day that we can respect and recognize the common links that connect us all, and finally and eat the hot dog of your preference together in peace. 4. You’ve been recognized as a culturally influential resident in the anthology “Jews, The People’s History of the Lower East Side.” How does your Jewish identity inspire your work? My art is heavily influenced by cartoons and underground comics and I’ve maintained that style throughout my career. I call my new work “Kosher Folk Art,” “Pop Judaica” or “Contemporary Ethnic Art” because it’s an expression of my traditional culture and rooted in the traditions that come from my community and its history while still maintaining my contemporary aesthetics and style. It expresses and shares my cultural and religious identity by conveying its shared communal values with the viewer while linking my quirky sense of humor with my passion for my own roots and culture. Like it or not, no one can accuse me of cultural appropriation. 18 Summer 2022

Bonus question: What’s your favorite place in NYC to get a hot dog? My favorite place to eat is home because, for me, nothing can compete with home cooking. “Steve Marcus: Top Dog of Kosher Pop Art” will be on view at the Museum at Eldridge Street, 12 Eldridge Street, through Nov. 6, 2022.

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Which European Countries Are Best For Jews? A New Study Offers Unexpected Answers. By Cnaan Liphshiz

Hungarian Jews celebrate the opening of a new synagogue in Budapest on Aug. 27, 2021. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

BUDAPEST (JTA) — Antisemitic sentiment is especially prevalent in Italy and Hungary, according to multiple surveys. But a first-of-its-kind index combining different measures of Jewish experience found that they are also the best countries in Europe for Jews to live in. The index, unveiled Monday, is based on a study that combines polling data and policy information to create a single quality-of-life metric for Jews in the 12 European Union countries with sizable Jewish communities, according to Daniel Staetsky, a statistician with the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research who wrote the report for the European Jewish Association in Brussels. “The goal with this report is to take the excellent data we already have about how Jews feel, about how prevalent antisemitism is, and combine it with government policy measurables,” Staetsky said during a conference held by the European Jewish Association in Budapest. He said the results may challenge preconceptions about which EU countries are most hospitable to Jews. For example, Germany scored high when it came to government policies relating to Jews. But Jews there report a weak sense of security, leading to an overall middling score. The index is primarily a tool “to demand concrete action from European leaders,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association. “We welcome statements against antisemitism by European leaders. But more than statements is needed.” The European Jewish Association will make individual recommendations to each country Seafood & PoBoy Restaurant surveyed, MarDine in...or Take Out! golin added at the press event. Family Owned for over 30 Years It was part of a Family Style Cooking two-day event sponsored by * Cuban Sandwich * multiple Jew* Muffalettas * ish organiza* Black Beans * tions, including * Fried Plantains* the Consistoire Call 985-893-9336 in France, the Monday-Friday 10:00 - 8:00 Jewish Agency for Israel and 515 E. Boston St. Covington the Israeli government, about Menu Express Delivery Available how European vazquezpoboy.com THE

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Jewish communities can aid the one in Ukraine. Titled “Europe and Jews, a country index of respect and tolerance towards Jews,” the study ranks the 12 countries surveyed as follows: Italy: 79, Hungary: 76, Denmark: 75, the United Kingdom: 75, Austria: 75, the Netherlands: 74, Sweden: 73, Germany: 72, Spain: 70, France: 68, Poland: 66, Belgium: 60. To come up with the ranking, Staetsky gave each surveyed country grades on multiple subjects, including the Jewish sense of security, public attitudes to Jews and the number of Jews who said they’d expereinced antisemitism. The grades were based on major opinion polls in recent years, including those conducted by the Action and Protection League, a group that monitors hate crimes against Jews in several European countries, and the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency. The study combined those scores with scores the author gave to countries’ government policies, including their funding for Jewish commu-

nities, whether they had adopted a definition of antisemitism, and the status of Holocaust education and freedom of worship. Under that scoring system, Germany received an overall score of 72 despite having the best score (89) on government performance on issues related to Jews and a solid 92 when it came to the prevalence of antisemitism. But a relatively low score on Jewish sense of security (46) hurt its overall score, among other factors. In the case of Hungary, “the score it received reflects the reality on the ground,” according to Shlomo Koves, the head of the Chabad-affiliated EMIH umbrella group of Jewish communities in Hungary. “Jews can walk around here, go to synagogue, without the slightest fear of harassment,” he said. But the prevalence of antisemitic sentiments in Hungarian society — an Anti-Defamation League survey from 2015 found that about 30% of the population hold them — “shows there is work to be done here, too, in education and outreach,” Koves said.

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The Supreme Court Just Made Sure Religious Institutions Won’t Be Left Out Of Government Funding By Michael A. Helfand

The inscription on the Supreme Court building reads "equal justice under law." (Jens Grabenstein/Flickr Commons)

(JTA) — On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision prohibiting government from excluding religion and religious institutions from government funding programs. This decision in Carson v. Makin follows on the heels of two other high court decisions in the last five years emphasizing that such exclusions constitute religious discrimination prohibited under the First Amendment. But what makes this decision important is its rejection of the so-called “statususe” distinction: government may not

discriminate based on the mere religious status of an institution, but could discriminate if funds would be used for a religious purpose. That distinction had left the door open for government to prevent funding, available to other private institutions, from flowing to religious institutions — and in particular religious schools. Yesterday’s opinion closes that door. At stake in Carson was Maine’s tuition assistance program. Over half the school districts in rural Maine do not have their own secondary schools. Maine solved this problem by allowing parents in those districts to select an approved private school for their children. In turn, the state would pay tuition to the parents’ chosen private school on the student’s behalf. However, Maine’s program expressly excluded “sectarian” schools from the tuition assistance program, even if they satisfied all other criteria for being an approved school.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, the Supreme Court’s doctrine would have deemed it unconstitutional to include religious schools in such a program. At that time, the Court viewed nearly all funding of religion and religious institutions as violations of the separation of church and state. But at the turn of the millennium, the Supreme Court’s views shifted. Instead of viewing separation of church and state as requiring a general prohibition on the funding of religion, the Court’s decision emphasized that the doctrine simply required neutrality. That prohibited funding designed specifically for religious institutions, but allowed government to fund religious institutions alongside other comparable private institutions. This shift, however, exposed the discrimination question at stake in yesterday’s decision. If government is now allowed to include religious institutions in funding programs on equal terms with other comparable private institutions, what happens when it refuses to do so? Is that sort of refusal the kind of religious discrimination that the First Amendment prohibits? In recent years, the Court has tried to walk a fine line in answering this question. In 2017, in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, the Court’s majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, held that when government makes funding generally available, it

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cannot exclude institutions based on their religious status. In that case, Missouri rejected a church-run school from an environmental grant to resurface a playground. The Court ruled that the state had violated the First Amendment by excluding an institution “because of what it is — a church.” By contrast, the Court implied that government could exclude religious institutions from programs in which the funds would be used for specifically religious purposes. Resurfacing a playground is one thing; rebuilding a church sanctuary quite another. Maine deployed this distinction in defending its tuition assistance program. In its view, the religious schools would presumably use the funds — that is, at least in part — to teach religion. Excluding religious schools from the program was thus constitutional. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that excluding religion and religious institutions from generally available government funding programs — whether it is based on religious status or religious use — violates the First Amendment. In the majority opinion, written by Roberts, the Court held that Maine “pays tuition for certain students at private schools — so long as the schools are not reliSee SUPREME COURT on Page

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SUPREME COURT Continued from Page 20 gious. That is discrimination against religion.” And importantly, the Court argued, it would be a mistake to read past cases as suggesting “that usebased discrimination is any less offensive to the Free Exercise Clause.” Describing the precedents in this way is a bit of a stretch: The Court’s prior decisions had certainly implied that government could exclude religious institutions from funding programs on the basis of religious use. But there is good reason to think that the distinction was a mistake from the getgo. After all, it is all-too-easy for government to play semantics: When they exclude a religious school, is it because of its status as a religious school or because the funds will be used for religious purposes? Those permeable categories open the door for government to rebrand discrimination as needed to avoid constitutional obstacles. What will be the likely impact of the decision? By its terms, it applies to cases where government is providing funding to private institutions for secular reasons and doing so on neutral terms. Notwithstanding concerns expressed by Justice Stephen Breyer, it does not allow government to simply fund religious institutions. And it does not

allow government to fund religion unless it is part of a broad funding program available to all comparable institutions — religious and non-religious alike. But that doesn’t mean its impact will be narrow both with respect to existing funding programs and new funding initiatives. To see the likely impact on existing funding programs, consider a 2018 decision issued by the New Jersey Supreme Court. New Jersey had announced a historic preservation grant program and awarded funds to, among other institutions, some churches that had historic value. The New Jersey Supreme Court concluded, however, that doing so violated the state’s rule against funding religious institutions. In the court’s view, these churches could be excluded because some of the funding would be used for a religious purpose — for example, to repair church sanctuaries. Going forward, this sort of analysis is no longer good law. As long as the funding program advances a secular purpose — protecting historic buildings — the fact that some of the funds will incidentally be used for religious purposes will not authorize religious discrimination. When it comes to new initiatives, yesterday’s ruling provides a strong incentive for religious communities

to work alongside other groups to create new funding programs that advance important public policies. With all forms of religious exclusions now constitutionally prohibited, religious communities can rest assured new funding programs will not provide for the general public while excluding them. Not surprisingly, given these bolstered constitutional protections, the Orthodox Union — consistent advocates for Jewish day school funding — has already expressed its commitment to “proactively pressing for policymakers . . . to ensure that any state and local education funding programs are fully available and accessible to nonpublic schools and their families as the Supreme Court has clearly mandated.” However, maybe the most important feature of yesterday’s decision isn’t the impact on funding. Yes, the door is now open not just for including religion in a host of funding programs, including historic preservation grants, environmental grants, security grants, and, maybe most importantly, school funding programs. But the decision also speaks to core constitutional principles of neutrality and equality. It states unequivocally that religious citizens need not worry that the price of their religious commitments will be exclusion from

funding programs geared towards solving secular policy interests that impact everyone. In this way, the decision protects not only the funding prospects of religious communities, but it protects the underlying principles that ensure the equal citizenship of all — religious or not. All told, when it comes to both the principles and pragmatics of funding, yesterday’s decision ensures that religious institutions will no longer be left behind.

Michael A. Helfand is the Brenden Mann Foundation Chair in Law and Religion and Vice Dean for Faculty and Research at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law; Visiting Professor and Oscar M. Ruebhausen Distinguished Fellow at Yale Law School; and Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.

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Religion For Non-Believers: It’s A Jewish Thing By Andrew Silow-Carroll

A Chabad emissary helps a man don tefillin at Tel Aviv’s Allenby Street, Jan. 20, 2017. (Amir Appel/Flickr Commons)

(JTA) There is an old joke about the Jewish atheist who is excited to meet the Great Heretic of Prague. He arrives at the great man’s house on a Friday night, and is immediately told to shush while the Heretic lights Shabbat candles. Then they sit down for the Shabbat meal, during which the Heretic says the motzi over the bread and the kiddush over the wine. The atheist visitor can’t take it anymore. “You’re the Great Heretic of Prague and you follow the Shabbat commandments!?” “Of course,” says his host. “I’m a heretic, not a gentile.” The joke is about the gap between Jewish belief and Jewish practice, and the old chestnut that belief in God is less important to a religious Jew than performing the mitzvot, the commandments. In truth, the most observant Jews tend to be the most God-fearing, but the joke celebrates a worldview that I only recently learned actually has a name: fictionalism. Fictionalism, according to the philosophy professor Scott Hershovitz, means pretending to follow a set of beliefs in order to reap the benefits of a set of actions. In a recent New York Times essay, he asks why he continues to fast on Yom Kippur and observe Passover

when he doesn’t believe in God. The short answer, he writes, is this: “It’s just what we Jews do, I might have said; it keeps me connected to a community that I value.” The longer answer is a defense of, well, pretending: “When it feels like the world is falling apart, I seek refuge in religious rituals — but not because I believe my prayers will be answered,” he writes. “The prayers we say in synagogue remind me that evil has always been with us but that people persevere, survive and even thrive. I take my kids [to synagogue] so that they feel connected to that tradition, so that they know the world has been falling apart from the start — and that there’s beauty in trying to put it back together.” The British philosopher Philip Goff describes fictionalism this way: Religious fictionalists hold that the contentious claims of religion, such as “God exists” or “Jesus rose from the dead” are all, strictly speaking, false. They nonetheless think that religious discourse, as part of the practice in which such discourse is embedded, has a pragmatic value that justifies its use. To put it simply: God is a useful fiction. Moral character is cultivated and sustained, at least in part, through emotional engagement with fictional scenarios. The fictionalists I know are maximalists when it comes to Jewish behaviors and minimalists when it comes to God talk. As a synagogue friend once put it, “I don’t believe in God, but I wouldn’t want to disabuse my fellow worshippers of the

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notion.” And it seems he’s not alone: According to the 2020 Pew study, 47% of Jewish adults say religion is very or somewhat important to them, while only 26% believe in the “God of the Bible.” My hunch — backed up by zero data — is that Jewish fictionalism is strongest where deep Jewish engagement meets liberalism. By that, I mean in the more observant Conservative (and Conservativeadjacent) congregations and the more liberal Orthodox congregations. A few years back, in a Commentary essay, the attorney Jay Lefkowitz described himself as a “Social Orthodox Jew”— that is, a Jew who practices Orthodoxy but isn’t “really sure how God fit into my life…. I certainly wasn’t sure if Jewish law was divine or simply the result of two millennia of rabbinical interpretations.” “And so for me, and I imagine for many others like me, the key to Jewish living is not our religious beliefs but our commitment to a set of practices and values that foster community and continuity,” he writes. For some, this might sound like Humanistic Judaism, a movement with a small but devoted following. But Humanist Jews eschew deism in favor of “human reason and human power.” The key to fictionalism, however, is that God stays very much in the picture, as the “useful fiction” Goff describes or as a sort of organizing principle that sets the boundaries of the community. Hershovitz happily calls it “pretending,” which “breathes life into stories, letting them shape the world we live in.” Humanism, in that sense, is the more “honest” approach; fictionalism is principled self-deception. Fictionalism is also a rebuke to the “New Atheists” of a few years back, who found religion to be meaningless ritual centered on a non-existent deity. By contrast, Alain de Botton, in his book “Religion for Atheists,” described the kinds of

things atheists could actually learn from religions. Religion offers “morality, guidance, and consolation.” Religions build a sense of community, create enduring relationships, offer means to escape the constant appeals of media and consumerism, and create rituals and institutions to address our emotional needs. “The error of modern atheism has been to overlook how many sides of the faiths remain relevant even after their central tenets have been dismissed,” he writes. I’ll admit that fictionalism hardly has the appeal of secularism. Getting someone to take on a series of demanding and often inexplicable behaviors in the name of “community and continuity” is a hard sell. But I know of at least one fastgrowing and successful Jewish stream that offers fictionalism as a lure: the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic outreach movement. I doubt I could get a Chabad rabbi to agree with me, but the Chabad outreach model (as opposed to the practice of its core followers) is centered on Jewish action, not belief. That’s the impulse behind all those mitzvah tanks and advertisements imploring women to light Shabbat candles. The kids on the street offering tefillin ask if you are Jewish; they don’t ask if you believe in God. In an ethos that is part mysticism and part pragmatism, Chabad holds that doing precedes believing. “Aside [from] the intrinsic standalone value that each mitzvah has, mitzvah observance can also be contagious,” is how one Chabad rabbi once explained the “one off” approach. “Agreeing to opt in, even just once, can have far-reaching effects. There have been untold thousands of Jews who have made permanent changes in their lives for the better, just because they agreed to try it once.” He might even agree with Hershovitz, who says that “pretending makes the world a better place.”

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